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Contemporary Drama Fiction

There’s a theory that goes like this; you can think of a relationship like two bank accounts. If you are helping and supporting each other, then you are making deposits and withdrawals with each other’s emotional accounts. If you need a hand and call on someone to help, then you are making a withdrawal. If you are helping someone else out, then you are making a deposit. Happiness, it is said, relies on the two accounts being in balance. It goes without saying that every now and then it’s possible for family and friends to go overdrawn. That’s to say – they are taking more than giving. But there’s a point, right? A point where someone is so far overdrawn that they leave you no choice but to cease trading. If we value the relationship, breaking ties like this is not normally a place we would want to get to. So, the key question to ask ourselves is; where on the scale of being overdrawn do we draw a line under the relationship and say, no more. Take my brother for instance, let’s call him Danny, not his real name, but who knows – I’m not sure if suing me is beyond him. Danny is older than me by five years. As I see it, the older sibling that I should be looking up to. A month ago, Danny calls me up on the weekend. He knows I am likely to be at home catching up on a stack of domestic admin, like home maintenance.

  “Hey bro, how are you? How are the wife and kids?”

I know this is a preliminary – he could care less how I or my wife and kids are.

 “Hey Danny, we’re fine, ticking along. How are things with you?”

 “That’s great to hear. Things with me are ok…”

The pause is the lead in, the now it’s your turn to ask about the pause.”

  “Hmm, why the hesitation, is something wrong.”

  “Honestly, now you ask, I am in a bit of a jam and could do with a hand.”

Honestly¸ he says that a lot – it makes me wonder how honest he is the rest of the time. My emotional blackmail alarm should be on full alert – red lights flashing and warnings shouting Danger, incoming request for more assistance with a chance of it being financial. But, my response is as sympathetic as usual.

  “Nothing serious I hope, is there anything I can do?” As if this isn’t the response he was hoping for – does he jump straight in or play the line a little bit to get the hook further embedded.

  “That’s great of you to offer, I hate to ask but there may be something you can do.”

The hook gets pushed a little deeper. The emotional bait starts to taste stale in my mouth, but not bad enough to halt the process.

  “Tell me what it is, and I’ll see what I can do.”

  “Thanks Bro, the thing is, I have to go away next weekend and don’t get paid until the end of this month. Which means I’ll miss the trip and may lose work because of it. I hate to ask but could you lend me some money? Not a huge amount, just enough to cover the trip. I can pay you back at the end of the month.”

  Money – normally where this ends up. He always goes with the not a huge amount line and the you’ll get it back at the end of the month follow up. This is so I can’t say I don’t have it, or I need it for something.

 “How much do you need? I don’t have a lot to spare. Kelly is going to a convention, so she needs the money to fund her trip.”

  “Literally it’s just 250 dollars, I know it may sound a lot, but I can definitely pay it back next month.”

I should add at this point, that Danny currently owes me 600 dollars. Am I counting? I wasn’t at the start, but it’s starting to build up. As the amount grows, so does my concern about the return and the fact that Danny seems to think our family bond is a credit card without a limit or payback clause. I get it that our parents are dead, and I am his only family, but I shudder when I think of how much they gave him.

  “Can you promise that I can get it back, and plus the other 600 you borrowed?”

There’s a hesitation on the line. Danny lives in the now, he tends not to calculate consequences until reminded of them by someone with a conscience. I imagine his wheels are spinning while he figures out if the lie he is about to tell can be lived with, and consequences avoided – at least until he needs something else.

  “Sure thing, absolutely. The money will come in at the end of the month and I can pay the rest with what I make from the deal I’m going to close.”

Going to, how many going to deals has he told me about. It feels like Danny trades on some imaginary future which seems to get him from a series of past failures, through to the how the hell can I survive in the present with enough wriggle room to continue existing.

  “OK, but you have to promise it’ll be paid back at the end of the month.”

  “Sure, sure – no problem.”

  “Can I come over for it this afternoon?”

  “Sure, I’ll set it aside.”

It’s probably better for him to come this afternoon, Kelly is out and if she knew I was lending him more money, I’m sure she’d be annoyed. She generally has a soft spot for Danny, everyone does – he’s the charmer but when it starts to impact our family – I expect that where she draws the line.

Danny collects the money, making small talk about his trip and the deal. Pats the kids on the head, all smiles and charm until he’s hung around long enough to justify the visit.

  “Thanks again bro, can’t tell you how much this means.”

Or he could but it would mean hanging around and he clearly has somewhere more important to be.

It’s a week later, the weekend has come around again, and I am looking after our two children.

  “Daaaaad!” My daughter Holly shouts me from the yard. This doesn’t sound good, there is panic in that shout. I run out to see her standing next to her little brother who is lying on the floor, tears running down is face and a nasty cut on his leg.

 “OK son, let me take a look.” It’s not life threatening but a trip to the hospital for stitches is looking likely. I bundle the kids into the car, and we head to accident and emergency. Sure enough, Jake, our son, has 5 stitches and I have to put in the call to his mom, so I am not accused of keeping her out of the loop.

I call her mobile, no answer, I leave a message. I then call the hotel of the conference and ask to be put through to her room, but they don’t have a record of her staying. Odd I’m pretty sure this was the right hotel. When we get home, I settle the children in front of cartoons with snacks and check my details. I call her mobile again, she answers this time.

  “Did you get my message?”

  “Yes, sorry it’s been very busy here.”

  “Jake’s fine just needs to rest and keep the cut clean. Holly is doing her nursing routine and getting paid in snacks. How are things there?”

  “Great, the presentations are really thought provoking.”

  “And the hotel? Hopefully it’s not the usual dump they put you in. When they put the word quality in the name of a hotel – it’s generally a bad sign.”

  “Er, no, no – it’s fine. Better than I expected to be honest. Listen I have to run, they’re heading back in for the next presentation.”

We both hang up. Am I wrong to be suspicious? Kelly didn’t say that she wasn’t staying in that hotel, but they had no record of her. Something’s not adding up. I put it to the back of my mind and call Dianne, Kelly’s co-worker, and a family friend. I tell her Jake won’t be able to come over to play, explaining the accident. Dianne says she understands and then asks if she can have a quick word with Kelly. When I say she is away for the weekend, Dianne reacts with surprise and asks where she went. When I explain it is work related, Dianne does what feels like a backtrack and says that Kelly probably mentioned it, but she must have forgotten.

OK, now the paranoia is kicking in. I make a third call, this time to Sienna, Danny’s girlfriend. We talk for a few minutes, now I am the one making small talk to get to my real reason for calling. I ask her if Danny mentioned where he was going for his business meeting. Sienna is not to clear on the facts, something Danny is good at – leaving no evidence of his movements. She tells me the name of the town she thinks it is, and I have to bite my tongue. Same place as Kelly.

My mind is whirling, overall, it could be coincidence but why didn’t Kelly tell me about the hotel? I should call the hotel again only this time I won’t ask for Kelly, instead I ask for Danny by his full name. Then it dawned on me. When I spoke to Kelly on the phone she said, to be honest, she never said that before – that is definitively, a Danny thing.

I dial the hotel again, this time I ask to be put through to Danny’s room. The phone rings two maybe three times, then the voice on the other end.

  “Hello?”

  “Kelly?”

The phone goes dead. I know that was Kelly’s voice and if it wasn’t her, why would the person just put the phone down. I call her mobile, no answer. I leave a message, a ploy I still feel guilty about, but I say that Jake is not feeling any better and would like to talk to his Mom. Kelly doesn’t call, completely out of character. I have no choice but to wait for her return.

It’s Sunday, the kids are in bed. Kelly’s car pulls into the drive, she grabs her bag and comes in the house. I can tell by her face that something is wrong, she can no more hide her guilt than a child with its hand in the cookie jar.

I don’t feel anger, not toward Kelly, just bone-deep disappointment. On the scale of how bad things are, an affair is up there with the worst – an affair with someone’s brother is breaking point. We talk for a few hours and agree that it is best to go our separate ways – we can figure out what happens with the children once we take some time to think things over. I am furious with Danny, all the help he’s been given, and he just takes more. Well, this time, even someone like me cannot forgive or forget. Sienna will find out soon enough, although I know Danny will be able to talk his way out of it. As far as my relationship with him is concerned, it’s gone too far. There isn’t a way back on this, I must break the tie and start again.

February 05, 2021 15:39

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3 comments

Andrea Itt
13:01 Feb 17, 2021

Hello! The intro was brilliant, the way it was written made it feel like an actual theory. The story had a really good plot and the ending was a nice twist. I feel as though you could have put in some more small details like what kind home maintenance was your character doing, or how he was holding the phone as he was talking. You do very well on how they felt emotional so maybe less E and more motion... get it? Cause of the E and... forget the last sentence. There wasn't a lot proof that his wife was cheating on him with Danny other th...

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Josh C
08:13 Feb 11, 2021

Hi Michael, I got your story from the critique circle email and had a read over. Wow, that was not where I had expected the story to go. Doubly emotional. Having said that, if you're up for some friendly critique I did find that the true conflict of the story was quite late. We only really know about Kelly being on a work trip right when it is a major part of the story, which I felt could have been set-up a little earlier, and given hints at the end of the story for the reader. For example, when Danny calls he would probably be so used to ...

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Josh C
08:13 Feb 11, 2021

Oh, and by the way that opening about bank accounts and credit and overdrafts was excellent, great way to hook someone in and tell a lot in a metaphor.

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