Roxie tries to peek around my mass for a better view. I just lean back and forth blocking her at every turn.
“You need something Rox?”
I guess my expectant tone made her remember what she needed to ask. Her lips turn into a small ‘O’ before spreading into a sheepish smile.
“Sorry, uhm...breakfast is ready,” She nods to punctuate the sentence.
“Okay, let’s go--Wade’s still getting dressed.”
“Sure,” Roxie nods but steps in front of me, now blocking my way. “Walker says... ‘last chance, idiot’.”
“Tell Walker to ‘play his part and shut up’.” I snarl.
Roxie winces, and shirks out of the way. Her shock of pastel rainbow hair bobs with the rest of her Afro, and I immediately feel bad. Roxie has a lot of trauma from her past, and one thing that sets her off is aggressiveness in men.
“Sorry, Rox, just...I’m not backing down because he’s holding a grudge.” The reply feels lame, especially since she’s just staring up with me with wide eyes laden with tears.
“Go, KIll--I got this,” Wade comes up from behind me and pats my arm to get me to move from the doorway. I step away, and Wade immediately gets to work comforting Roxie. He takes her hands and gives them a squeeze before muttering something about ‘grounding’ and they both shut their eyes and take a deep breath in unison.
A few minutes later I’m at the bottom of the stairs, and padding off to the kitchen where I can hear mom chatting to dad and Walker. There’s a noticeable lack of response from both men. Dad isn’t surprising because it’s before noon, and he is nothing near a morning person.
But Walker? Usually mom and him are having some sort of back and forth. Ever since Doreen walked out and quit talking to the family, Walker was mom’s new BFF.
It only gets worse when I come into view. Mom’s smile, the one she always gets when she sees Walker or I, appears on her face telling my brother that I’ve arrived.
The cold front coming off Walker gets sub-zero immediately. Though he doesn’t turn to face me, i know he probably has that stupid baby pout he gets when he’s not getting his way. Not to mention the dramatic little bitch is white knuckling his spoon looking like a goddamned neanderthal.
“Morning ma,” I smile back at the woman who chose to love us unconditionally from the moment she met me and heard our story. Crossing the kitchen to give her a hug, I put a hand on my father’s shoulder. Amazingly I get a grunt of recognition and a pat on the back of my hand in return...along with a huff from Walker.
Choosing to ignore him, I wrap my arms around my mother and give her a big squeeze. I dwarf her. Mom, Doreen and Mikael were more normal sized, where as I was pushing six-foot-six and Walker came in at six-three. I have to lean over so mom can rest her head on my shoulder like she used to be able to do before I grew near half a foot in Junior year. She pats my shoulders and kisses my cheek before letting me stand upright.
“Morning, baby love,” she coos. “Where’s my fourth son, and second daughter?”
“They’re talking upstairs. I’m sure they’ll be down in a few,” I offer and head to my seat to my dad’s left. Where Mikael used to sit, but since Mik has been at school, we shuffled things. Dad and I like to talk about King’s Army stuff despite the fact I no longer trained with them. I think it helped that one of us was interested in at least part of his work, so it just made sense for me to take the chair next to him.
Walker glares at me pointedly the entire time mom is getting food to the table. She went all out like she does every Saturday. Usually we have people stay over Friday nights to make practice happen on time, so mom’s used to feeding extras.
“Mom, can you ask Killian if he’s going to do the right thing and un-invite the girl?” He says, finally speaking when mom sits down with a heavy sigh.
“Mom, can you tell Walker to stop trying to control something that isn’t about him?” I ask as I go to grab for bacon. Walker, however, grabs the plate from my reach and pointedly takes a bite out of the piece I wanted.
“Bacon is for people with loyalty,” bacon bits spray out as he speaks, “right, mama?”
“Walker,” she sighs. “Your brother isn’t setting out to hurt you, you know that right? He needs closure, and if that means staying in touch with Siouxsie, then why can’t you just let it be?”
“Because she’s the worst kind of person,” Walker insists. “She abandoned us. People like that don’t deserve to be in our lives.”
“She had to go to the hospital, dude--” I cut in, leaning forward in my earnestness. “It wasn’t her--”
“Killian, it doesn’t matter--okay? I nearly died because your head was too far up your ass over her. You’ve been an idiot about her from the beginning, and I have no reason to believe it’ll change.”
Letting the bacon plate clatter to the table, Walker scoots back from the table while mom tries to get him to stay. She asks us both to call a truce for while Mikael is home, or until we can get a session with our long term therapist.
Walker just shakes his head:
“Ball’s in his court,” he says as he walks off. “I’m not the one fucking things up, here.”
I just grit my jaw and say nothing when he passes Roxie without a word and heads upstairs. A couple minutes later there’s the slamming of his door, and music starts blasting.
Roxie walks into the kitchen, repeatedly looking between Walker’s empty spot and the top of the stairs as Wade, now composed and dressed sits to my left and surreptitiously puts a hand on my knee under the table to give it a squeeze.
Relief flows through me at his reminder that he sees me and has my back. At least I always have Wade on my side. He wasn’t throwing a tantrum at me re-connecting with this girl. He actually encouraged it saying essentially what mom did: I need the closure.
I’m honestly not out to hurt Walker, and yeah I fucked up back then. I had latched onto Siouxsie hard after our mother abandoned us in that park. When Siouxsie just didn’t come back one day, it threw me back to when it hit six p.m. the day mom was supposed to pick us up.
She’ll be back...right?
I put off taking Walker to the hospital until it was bad enough he could have died because I didn’t want to disappear and not have Siouxsie not be able to find us. It wasn’t until Walker’s breathing sounded so wet that he was constantly crackling that I folded and told an adult there with their child what was going on.
That was all on me, though. That was being eight-years-old and terrified despite being ‘in charge’. I wanted so desperately for someone to take that title from me at the time. So badly that the first girl that put two-and-two together and started bringing us extra sandwiches to keep us fed became a surrogate for the nurturing presence I craved.
“He’ll calm down,” mom tries to reassure me in a soft tone, but she sounds just as broken up about our fighting as I feel. “It’ll take time.”
“No,” I mumble. “He won’t.”
Before mom can try and console me any further, her saddened expression morphs into horror as she looks past me out one of the large windows on the back of the house.
“Nik--” She gasps, her hand shaking his arm clumsily. His newspaper rattles and I guess he loses his place, because he finally looks up at her and grunts. “Outside!”
Wade and I whip our heads around to check out what had mom looking like she’s seen a ghost. I see Mikael stumbling up from the back driveway. He looks haggard as fuck. His under-eyes are deep purple circles, and he looks...stoned?
“The fuck?” I start to stand to go check him out when his arm swings forward showing off the nearly empty bottle of whiskey on his person.
My brother doesn’t drink--at least not that I was ever aware. He was too much of a square for that.
Dad clears his throat to get my attention. As soon as i make eye contact he’s pointing for me to sit back down as his paper is collected quickly by mom.
“All of you, stay in here.” He mutters, his throat still dry and crackly from lack of use. Dad walks off after leaving the table to the Arcadia door. The lock flips easily and the pane of glass rolls back silently.
“Daddy!” I hear the over-jubilant greeting Mikael gives. That’s definitely not him. Not the brother I grew up with, anyway. I don’t understand what’s going on as Dad tries to barter for the rest of the bottle from Mik, who sways there like a Mortal Kombat character, staring dumbly up at our father.
Finally dad resorts to just grabbing it from him. Mikael’s drunken hands can’t take purchase on the glass, so dad easily acquires the alcohol and begins to dump it out on the pool’s deck, his lips moving as he talks to a newly disheartened Mik.
“Babs,” I Dad’s resonant voice is only slightly muffled by the window between the table and the back yard. “Give them a call.”