Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Melissa: Goodbye Isn't Forever

*NOTE* This is the first story in the Melissa series. I don't have many stories for any of my series yet because I've only just begun to write these kinds of stories. But there will be more ASAP!!!

*ANOTHER NOTE* This story contains themes of self-injury. If you are sensitive to this, please DON'T READ.
I never realized how much he meant to me until he was gone. I never knew it'd feel this bad when he finally died. Why does time take everything away? Why do we lose it all?
I banged my head against the steering wheel of my car repeatedly. I was pulled along on the shoulder of the highway with my hazard lights on. It was pouring down rain outside and water was streaming down my car and over my windshield like it does in a drive through car wash. I was struggling to not let water fall from my own eyes like it was falling from the sky, but it was to no avail. Within seconds of getting the phone call from my brother about my grandpa's death, I was crying and I'm not sure if I could stop or if I could even drive home in my condition.

"Are you sure you're okay to drive home, Melissa?" my brother, Mark, had asked.
"I'm fine, Mark," I had told him, barely holding back the sobs in my throat.
"Melissa, it's okay if you can't drive. I can come pick you up from Angela's house if I need to." He paused. "I know you were close to grandpa."
"Mark, for the last time, I'm fine," I lied. "I'm perfectly capable of driving home on my own."
I wasn't so sure I could do that anymore.
"Okay, well, if you change your mind, let me know," he had said. There was a pause in the conversation then he spoke with deep concern, "I don't want you getting into a car accident, Issa. It's pouring down rain outside. You just got your license a month ago. I'm sure you're upset. I can pick you up, honey. It won't be a problem."
I'm sure he was trying to push me in his direction but at the time I didn't notice it. "Mark, don't worry about me. I'll be just fine, okay?"
"Okay," he replied hesitantly.
"I'll see you soon. Bye."
"Melissa, please be careful," he pleaded with me.
"I will be, Mark. Please stop worrying."
"I never stop worrying about you."
"I know," I half shouted. "Look, I'm gonna get off the phone so I can get home sooner."
"Good idea. The storm is getting worse."
"Bye, Mark. Love you."
"Love you too, Issa. Bye."
The line went dead. I explained things to Angela, said goodbye and left. Oh how I wished I had let my brother pick me up instead of trying to drive in this treacherous storm while sobbing violently. I didn't have much experience with this. What was I supposed to do? Drive? Call him and let him know what was happening? I had no idea.
"You can do this, Melissa," I told myself. "You can do this"
Who was I kidding, I couldn’t do this. I was in no condition to drive, absolutely none. By now it was a torrential downpour and I could barely see out of my windshield with the rain by itself let alone trying to look through tear filled eyes. I leaned my head against the steering wheel again, crying softly. This wasn’t how I had envisioned my night going when I went over to my best friend’s house to de-stress from quarterly exams. Yeah, we had quarterly exams first, then semester exams. So basically, we had quarterly exams only except for the fact that semester exams were worth more for your final grade. I still didn’t quite understand how my school’s grading system worked, even after four years in the area’s only private school.
After about 5 minutes of sitting there with my hazard lights on, pulled alongside the highway, I finally decided to call Mark and tell him what was going on. I heard the phone ring only once before he picked up.
“What’s going on, Melissa?” he asked urgently, an overtone of worry in his voice. “Are you okay?”
 “I’m fine, Mark,” I told him gently, “But, I’m really in no condition to drive home right now. I can’t even see out my windshield or stop crying long enough to…” I briefly broke, “To actually be able to drive.”
“Hey, it’s fine, Melissa.” He paused. “Where are you? Matt and I can come pick you up.”
Oh yeah, in case I forgot to mention it, I had another brother. He was almost exactly 2 years older than me and had just turned 18. I, on the other hand, was still 16 and still under our eldest brother’s custody and well, the reason for that is another story for another day. Basically, all you need to know is my mother died when I was only 5 years old. She had leukemia. And my dad, well, my dad was a sorry excuse for a father and took to drinking and drugs right after my mother died. He abused us horribly and I can’t tell you how many times Mark protected me and Matt from him. He ended up murdering someone in a drunken rage and was sentenced to life in prison. Mark was left to take care of Matt and me from the time I was 13 and Matt was 15 at the age of 20. Mark never went to “real” college, just a night college so he could have a decent career in the future and get a decent job during the day to provide for his siblings. He’s a great brother. I’m lucky to have him.
“I’m on I-68 near our exit, exit 13,” I said then paused. I could hear Matt in the background, asking what was going on, where I was. I heard Mark answering him but couldn’t tell what he was saying. The sound was muffled.
“Okay, Melissa. I want you to stay put and keep your hazard lights on. Matt and I are coming to pick you up. You’ll come with me and Matt will drive your car, okay?”
“Okay,” I whispered meekly.
“Everything’s gonna be alright, Issa.” I smiled. It always made me feel a little bit better when he called me that.
“I know, Mark. Thanks.”
“We’re coming.”
“Love you. Bye.”
“Love you too. Bye.” And then the line went dead.
I sighed loudly and leaned my head against the steering wheel for probably the 500th time that night, trying to keep myself from crying to no avail. It wouldn’t work and I knew that. I just had this crazy idea in my mind that maybe I could keep myself from thinking about the situation for more than just a minute. Yeah, right. The only person in the world besides my grandpa who had such a huge influence on me was Mark and maybe Matt, but not really. I barely remembered my mother and my father was the sorriest excuse for a human being I had ever met. Fuck him. I hope he burns in hell.
I must have fallen asleep somewhere in my thoughts because I awoke to someone knocking on my car window. It was Matt. I quickly unlocked my door and got out, leaving the key in the ignition. “Hey,” he said.
“Hi, Matt.” I paused before giving him a huge hug.
“It’s okay, kid sis,” he said, patting my back gently. “Mark’s waiting in the car. He’s right behind us.”
I looked back at the car and I could barely make out the fact that he was waving at me but I shyly waved back. “I see,” I said.
“Go on and get in with him and I’ll drive this one home.”
“Thanks, Matt. I appreciate it.” I quickly turned and ran towards the passenger side of the other car, getting in and buckling my seatbelt in a hurry as Matt got into the car that we technically shared and put it into gear.
“You okay?” Mark asked me.
“I’m fine.” I replied, probably a little nastier than I intended.
He nodded, probably not sure what to say. “I’m glad you called instead of getting into a wreck.”
“Well, I figured another dead person wouldn’t help the situation any.”
He smiled at my remark as we began to pull into the rightmost lane. “You’re right,” he said, “it wouldn’t. It would just make everything five million times worse. I don’t know what I would do if my only sister got into a car wreck.”
“Be angry at me.”
“Not at you, at the situation.”
“Right,” I said.
“Seriously, Melissa. I wouldn’t be angry at you unless you did something to cause it and even then, I still probably wouldn’t be angry so much as disappointed.” He paused, “But it’s all hypothetical, isn’t it? You haven’t gotten into a car accident and you won’t.”
“Yeah, it’s hypothetical,” I agreed with a hint of sarcasm in my voice.
He sighed and shook his head at me. “What am I going to do with you?” he asked. “You have the exact same sense of humor as grandpa did, dry sarcasm.”
“And you and Matt don’t?” I asked.
“I never said we didn’t. Yours is so much more pronounced though.”
I shook my head, “Of course.”
“I love you, kid sis.”
“I know you do.”
“Just making sure you knew.”
“Well, I do, so you don’t have to worry.”
“Good,” he smiled over at me. “I’m glad.”
I didn’t respond and we remained silent for the rest of the ride home. I didn’t have much else to say and I’m sure he didn’t really either. The only semi-fatherly figure any of us had ever had was dead. What could we say? I’m sure my brothers were just as baffled and struck speechless as I was.
We pulled into the driveway before I knew it and by that point, by some odd miracle, the rain had almost stopped, going down to only a drizzle. My oldest brother unlocked the front door and I walked upstairs to my bedroom after saying goodnight and ‘I love you’ to both Mark and Matt, plopping straight down on my bed and falling asleep in my soaked clothes with the light still on.
I woke up to the sound of my cell phone ringing, seemingly blaring through my medium sized bedroom. I groaned, miserably, and dug it out of my right front pocket. Looking at the caller ID, I noticed it was my best friend from my last school. I had actually started going to private school, er… Matt and I had, to get away from the intense drug influence in the area. Mark didn’t want us around that and quite honestly, I wasn’t too thrilled about the situation either. Wasn’t a drug addict/alcoholic father enough to deal with?
I wanted to just ignore it but for some odd reason, I couldn’t, and I ended up picking it up and saying in a husky voice, “Hey, Laney.”
“Hey, Melissa, what’s up?”
“Not much,” I replied, completely ignoring the fact that my grandpa was dead. I paused for a moment before speaking again. “What did you call for?”
“Can’t I just call to check up on my best friend from elementary school?” Laney and I had been best friends from kindergarten until sixth grade. It wasn’t until seventh grade when I started going to the K-12 private school that we lost touch and Angela and I made friends and eventually became like sisters.
“Sure you can, but what for?” I asked.
“Okay, okay, you got me. I called to see if you wanted to go to a party tonight. It’s the hugest one of the year… and it wouldn’t be the same without you there.”
“Lacey, I don’t know how I feel about that. There’s always drugs and alcohol at those parties. You know I don’t like being around that shit.”
“Oh, Melissa, I know. But you don’t even have to drink anything there or accept anything from anyone. You can just bring your own drinks or something.” She paused. “Please, pretty please,” she begged.
Although it took everything in me to say no to someone who had meant so much to me in the past, I did. “No,” I replied, flat out. “I’m not going, Lacey. Mark would kill me and I don’t want to go anyway.”
I could tell she was pouting at that moment. “Okay,” she said sadly.
“I’m sorry,” I said, “But I just can’t do it.”
“It’s fine, Melissa. I understand.” She paused. “Bye.”
“Bye, Lacey. I’ll talk to you later.”
She didn’t respond, just hung up. I could tell she was angry at me but what did I care? I was sick of her trying to get me to try shit that I didn’t want to and I was glad I wasn’t going to public school anymore. I didn’t want to deal with drugs and alcohol anymore. They’d ruined my life enough without me even trying them myself.
I stared at the ceiling and held my still open cell phone in my hand, slowly shutting it. It was a new day but last night wasn’t a dream and my grandpa was dead and my dad was still who he was, still in jail and my mom was still gone forever and Mark was still my guardian and always would be and we would never have a normal family. As much as I wanted my mom to still be alive and as much as I wanted my dad to have been a normal father and as much as I wished my grandpa wouldn’t have died, none of it would change. You can’t change the past, just the future.
Suddenly, I heard a slight knock on the door. “Come in,” I whispered loud enough for the person on the other side of the door to hear.
Matt walked in and motioned for me to sit up so he could sit down beside me. “How you feeling?” he asked. Matt may as well have been my second guardian; he was so protective and fatherly towards me as it was. Again, I wished our family was normal.
“I’m fine, Matt. Just go away.”
“Hey, Melissa, calm down. I just wanted to make sure you were alright, okay?” He paused. “Mark is really worried about you. So am I.”
“There’s nothing to worry about,” I said. “I’m perfectly fine.”
“Okay, well, like I said, I was just making sure,” he stopped talking and at that moment Mark appeared in my doorway, knocking on the frame.
“Knock, knock,” he said. “Can I come in?”
I nodded and moved my feet so Mark could sit beside me as Matt scooted over. “You doing alright?” he asked as he sat down.
“Mark, I’m doing fine. Why does everyone keep asking me if I’m okay?” I was getting angry. “Do I look like I’m not fine or something? Because I’m perfectly fine. I don’t know why you’d think otherwise.” Clearly, I was very defensive about my emotional state.
“Okay, okay, calm down, Melissa. I just worry about you a lot.”
“I wish you would stop worrying,” I told him. “I’m not 5 anymore and dad’s in prison for life anyway and he’s not coming back and I’m not getting hurt anymore like I was. There’s absolutely no reason to worry about me.”
“There’s plenty of reason to worry about you.”
“Whatever, Mark.”
“You’re my baby sister. Of course I worry about you.”
I sighed, “Mark, I’m 16 now and I think I know how to take care of myself without you worrying so much. I don’t need big brother Mark or big brother Matt watching me like hawks all the time anymore.”
He sighed, “Alright, Issa, whatever you say.”
There was a pause in the conversation before I said, “Was there anything you actually wanted to talk to me about?”
“Well,” he began, “you need clothes for the funeral, don’t you?”
“I don’t want to think about it, Mark. Besides, I have plenty of dress clothes. I’ll just…” I paused, breaking up for a second, “I’ll just wear grandpa’s favorite color, blue. I have plenty of blue dressy shirts and a black pair of dress pants. That’ll work.”
“Alright,” he replied, patting my leg. “That’s fine then.” He paused. “Did you guys want to go get breakfast?”
“Since when do we ever have the money to eat out?” I asked.
“Since I decided we could eat out,” Mark answered.
I raised my eyebrows at him. What he had just said didn’t make any sense.
“You know,” Matt began, “I’m all up for breakfast. You snatch the opportunity when you get it, Issa,” he whispered towards me.
Mark smiled at our brother’s statement, chuckling a bit. “He’s right. I wouldn’t pass up the opportunity, Melissa.”
I rolled my eyes. “Alright,” I said. “Just let me take a shower and get dressed and I’ll be ready.”
“Okay, we’ll leave you alone. Come get me when you’re ready, Issa,” my brother, Mark told me.
“Sure thing.”
“Come on, Matt, let’s go.” Mark motioned for Matt to follow him. “See you in a few, Issa,” he said.
“Bye,” I spoke, waving as they closed the door behind themselves.
I had my own bathroom. Despite the fact that my father was an alcoholic and drug addict, my family had been pretty well off and had a nice house and it was paid off completely by the time my father was in jail and the house was handed over to Mark. So I had my own bathroom and so did Matt and so did Mark. There was also a fourth bedroom with another bathroom so growing up, we all had our own rooms with our own bathrooms plus the two downstairs. There were no bathrooms in the basement though. Not that we needed it considering the fact that we already had 6. Before my mom died, things were good and my family was probably upper middle class. Then my dad got involved in drugs and alcohol and everything went downhill. Luckily though, the house was already paid off. Then, when my dad was thrown in jail for life with no parole, everything was handed over to Mark since he was going to be taking care of Matt and myself. It only made sense.
I sighed as I went into my bathroom, closing the door behind me and peeling my still wet clothes off my skin, turning on the hot water and stepping in the shower, letting the water spill over me and relax my sore muscles. I took my time in washing my hair, slowly lathering the shampoo in my hair, rinsing then putting the conditioner in and washing my body. I was in the middle of washing my body when I noticed the razor on the inside rim of the tub.
Now, here’s something you need to know. I’m a self-injurer but my brother has never known because I’ve been very careful with hiding it. I clean up my mess and I throw away my own band-aids and trash so he never knows. I cut where the scars will never be seen and I make sure that they are always covered up around my brother. I never have to wear pants in the summertime because of where I cut and I never have to wear long sleeves either. Consequently, my brother has never found out. But honestly, it’s been a miracle, considering how concerned and worried he gets about me. You’d think he would have found out by now, but he hasn’t and I planned to keep it that way.
That razor was so tempting. So tempting that in the middle of washing my body, I just stopped and grabbed it and slowly drew it across the skin on my leg and it felt just as great and painful as any other time but this time it was different, somehow. Yes, it was still releasing every bad emotion but something… was different. And that’s when I noticed where the razor was and how it wasn’t in a place that the cut could be hidden easily from Mark. I had cut on my calf, the front of my calf, not at the very top of my thighs where I usually cut. And that’s when I realized, it would be hard to hide this from him. And then I realized, I was screwed. But he wouldn’t find out, right? He wouldn’t be looking for it and it was cold out in October so surely wearing pants wouldn’t make a difference anyway. But then, that’s when I heard my brother’s voice calling into my room and I could just barely make out the words, “Melissa, it’s really hot outside today. You might want to wear shorts.”
I called back, “How hot?” I asked.
“79 degrees,” he said.
What the fuck? 79 degrees at the end of October. Well, it was Michigan and Michigan, like any other Midwestern state, is bipolar in the weather. But still, that completely screwed things up for me and now I was going to have to explain to my brother why, exactly, I was wearing long pants, on this hot of a day at the end of October. It wouldn’t make sense but surely, I would come up with something. And my brother was oblivious, I hoped.
But I knew he wasn’t and I knew that the only reason he hadn’t found out yet was because I had been careful and because he also trusted me a great deal. I’d been a good kid my entire life. I got good grades. I was on the honor roll. I would be applying for National Honor Society come junior year. I already got academic scholarship offers for a few colleges and I was just into my sophomore year. I made the right choices. I’d never gotten demerits in my life or any detentions. I hadn’t cheated on a test since I was in seventh grade. I always did my homework. I studied for every test. I didn’t party. I didn’t drink. I didn’t do drugs. I didn’t have sex. I didn’t steal or lie. I had friends just like me. I followed the rules he had set for me. When I did go out, I came back before my set curfew. I didn’t date until I turned 15, just like Mark had said I couldn’t date until then. I made it a point to be involved in as many extracurriculars as I could. I volunteered at the animal shelter during the summer and I did odd jobs in the neighborhood to earn a little extra cash. I had only been punished by him once where I was spanked because I got into a physical fight with Matt, which only happened once in our lives. I was a good student and overall, a good kid. Why wouldn’t Mark trust me? Surely then, he wouldn’t question the fact that I was wearing pants. Surely, I was just overreacting. I certainly hoped so.
“Alright,” I called back.
“Just wanted to let you know!”
“Thanks, Mark!”
“You’re welcome,” he replied.
I was panicking for absolutely nothing, I reasoned. Things would be fine. I’d just have to convince Mark that I was unusually cold, that I was probably coming down with something. Yeah, that would work, right? Yes, it would. It would have to work. I didn’t have any other options.
I finished washing my body and slowly turned off the water, opened the curtain and grabbed a towel off the towel rack beside the shower, drying myself off quickly and carefully. Then I wrapped a towel around my body and a separate towel around my hair. Quickly, I began attending to my cuts on my calf and cleaned up the mess I had made, grabbing a plastic bag from under my sink and putting all my trash in there, then putting it back under the sink. He wouldn’t look there. He never looked there. But, as you should know, I was probably going to be wrong.
After I had taken care of my cuts, I went into my room and quickly threw on a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt. I didn’t bother drying my hair completely or putting on make-up. It was pointless and besides, I never really cared about that stuff anyway. Only a few minutes passed before I grabbed a jacket and was on my way out of my room and down the stairs to the kitchen where Mark, most assuredly, was with Matt.
“Hey,” I said, forcing a smile on my face, “I’m ready.”
Mark gave me a look, “Didn’t I just have a conversation with you about how hot it is outside?”
“Yeah, what about it?”
“You’re wearing pants.”
“Restaurants are always cold, aren’t they?”
He gave it some consideration, “Well, yeah.”
“That’s why I’m wearing pants.”
“Alright, Issa, whatever you wanna do.”
I sighed, “Let’s just go.”
“Yeah, Mark,” Matt began with a teasing smile. “Let’s just go.”
“Okay, okay, I’m going. See, I’m walking to the door. I’m heading out of it and now we’re getting into the car,” he said narrating the scene.
“You remember that sarcasm you were talking about me having?” I asked him.
“Yeah?” he glanced back at me as he started up the car.
“You have it too.”
“Thanks for pointing that out, sis. I wouldn’t have figured it out on my own.”
“You’re welcome, big brother Mark,” I replied, grinning like the Cheshire cat. I hoped he didn’t suspect anything.
Within moments we were pulling into the local IHop’s parking lot, getting out, walking through the door, getting seated and eating. I’d love to go through the boring details with you but I’m not interested in writing about every little bit of what happened so part of this will be just like that where I give you a general idea of what happened.
When we first got our food, I took a few bites but quickly, I slowed down, to the point that I was just picking at my food and to the point that first Matt then Mark noticed the fact that I was just picking at my food.
“Issa, are you okay?” my youngest brother first asked me.
Mark looked up, “Issa, why aren’t you eating?”
“The simple answer to that would be that I’m not hungry, Mark.” I paused, trying to think of something to add. “I fill up really fast.”
“That’s a load of bullshit, Melissa. You do not fill up really fast. Sometimes you eat more than I do.”
Well, he was right and that was true. On several occasions I’d eaten 6 pieces of pizza whereas Mark had only eaten 3. So yeah, that was probably a bad choice of an answer on my part.
I looked down at my food, trying to think of something to say. But I couldn’t think of anything, so I just stayed quiet.
Mark had stopped eating and was still looking at me, expecting some sort of answer. “Melissa, I want you to eat a little more, just a little more and then you can stop, okay? But we’re taking whatever you don’t finish home with us.”
I sighed. “Alright,” I replied, resigning to defeat. I didn’t want to eat but I suppose only a few more bites couldn’t hurt. Besides, it was better that I ate so that Mark wouldn’t suspect anything. But he probably already suspected something, considering the fact that I wasn’t eating that much. Maybe he would just dismiss it as being related to the death of our grandpa. Well, that was why I had cut anyway. But maybe he wouldn’t suspect the cutting. He didn’t know my history. At least I didn’t think he knew my history. God, I was getting paranoid again. I had to stop that.
We were finished within an hour and on our way home. When we pulled into the driveway, Mark put the car into park and turned off the ignition then turned to Matt and said, “Go on inside, Matt. Melissa, I want you to stay here.”
“What did I do?” I whined.
“Relax. You didn’t do anything wrong. I just want to talk to you.” He paused then turned to Matt again, who was looking at him hesitantly. “Go on, Matt.” Matt, in turn, did as he was told and went inside, probably up to his room to blast music or read.
“Come on up, here, Melissa,” my brother told me, patting the front passenger side seat.
“Can’t I just sit here?”
“I want to talk to you face to face.” I groaned and he gave me a look. “Don’t make me tell you again, Melissa.”
“Alright,” I replied and got out of the car then got back in on the passenger side and plopped down, closing the door in the process. “You happy?” I asked, crossing my arms.
“Yes, very,” he replied. “Now tell me, what’s up?”
“The ceiling.”
“That’s not what I meant, smart aleck.”
“I know, but I thought the literal definition might work well in this situation for comedic relief.”
“You definitely are your grandpa’s granddaughter.”
“Don’t say that,” I said.
“I don’t want to think about it.”
“So then this is all about grandpa?”
“What else did you expect it to be?”
He smiled sadly, “I guess nothing.”
“Look, Mark, I don’t want to talk about this. This is the last thing in the world I want to talk about.”
“Seems like you need to talk about it though.”
“Maybe I’d rather grieve silently, without you on my case 24/7,” I snapped at him.
He took it surprisingly well. “Maybe you’re right, Melissa. Maybe I am on your case a little too much lately.” He paused. “But I just want to make sure you’re alright. Even before grandpa died you started to get depressed.
“Because he was declining.”
“Well, fair enough,” he replied.
“What was the point of this conversation?”
“We haven’t gotten to it yet,” Mark answered.
“Oh, I see. Care to get to it then?” I asked smugly.
He took in a deep breath and sighed. “Melissa, you need to eat, okay? I don’t want to hear that you haven’t been eating from people.” He paused, expecting me to say something, I guess, but I didn’t so he just continued on. “It’s important for you to get food in your system. I know you’re depressed but don’t let it get the best of you and don’t let it keep you from eating or do anything else destructive. You don’t need to go down that road, okay?”
“Okay. Whatever you say, big brother Mark.”
“And I’m here if you need to talk to me, Issa. I’m always here. You know that don’t you?”
I nodded, “I know, Mark. You’ve always been there.” I paused, almost crying before I said, “thank you.” I didn’t want to make this a sappy moment and I was determined to make sure that didn’t happen.
“Come here, baby,” he said, opening his arms. “Let me give you a hug.”
I did as he said and took his embrace for all it was worth, wrapping my arms around him and burying my face into his shoulder, as he kissed my head and pet my hair. “It’s gonna be alright, Issa. I promise.”
I nodded, tears falling from my eyes, wanting to believe his words, but not being able to.
So much for that not being a sappy moment.
I was sitting in front of the t.v. on the couch in the living room, watching “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” with Matt. I swear to God, I’m such a nerd. It’s ridiculous. I laugh at all the appropriate times and actually enjoy it. What’s even more fun though, is watching Fox News with Matt and making fun of how intellectually disabled/inferior (or dumb/stupid) all the news anchors/people are. Oh, I hate Fox News so much. It’s nice that my brothers agree with me and that we can enjoy making fun of the stupidity of a news station. Sometimes though, I wondered if I was actually a 30 year old in a 16 year old’s body.
Jon Stewart had just made a wisecrack about something involving gay rights and the government when my phone rang. I picked it up, laughing hysterically. “He.. hello?” I choked out, laughing. “Wh… who is this?”
“Hey,” the voice on the other end of the phone was clearly drunk. Their words were slurred. I could already guess who it was. “This is Lacey.”
“Hey, Lacey, what’s up?” I asked.
“Melissa, can I ask you a favor?”
I hesitated. I could guess what the favor was going to be but I still said, “Sure, what is it?”
“I’m a little drunk,” she said. Drunk? How about wasted. “And I really don’t want my parents to find out. Can… can you come pick me up? And can I crash at your place tonight?”
“Hold on a second,” I cupped my hand around the receiver. Matt looked at me strangely, wondering what was up. “Matt, Lacey is wasted. You know that party that was tonight?” He nodded. “She went to it and apparently got wasted and now wants me to come pick her up and bring her back here so she can crash here.”
“I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to go pick her up and bring her back here. Mark would throw a fit. But maybe you can tell him you’re going out to pick some ice cream up or something and take her somewhere else.” He paused. “I should go with you just to make sure nothing bad happens.”
“Lacey,” I began.
“You can’t crash here. Mark would freak the hell out and he’d probably tell your parents anyway. But I can come pick you up and take you somewhere else.”
“Can you? That would be awesome!”
“Yeah, I can.” I paused. “I’ll be there in a few, Lacey, just stay put.”
I turned off the t.v. “Let’s go,” I said.
At that moment Mark started coming down the stairs, trash bag in hand. A look of horror spread across my face as Mark came up to me, taking out a bloody disposable razor and said, “Care to explain this, Melissa?”
“How did you even get that?”
“It doesn’t fucking matter how I got it! What matters is that my little sister has apparently been cutting herself and hasn’t even bothered to tell me what’s going on!”
Matt just had a look of shock on his face. Hell, he didn’t even know I did it.
“Look, Mark, I don’t have time to talk to you about this. I need to go help a friend out.” So much for the going out for ice cream theory.
“Oh, you’re not going anywhere, young lady, not until we settle what’s been going on for God only knows how long.”
“Mark, please!” I begged. “Lacey really needs my help right now!”
“What’s so important that you need to go help her out right now?” he asked angrily.
I hesitated. “Um… she, she… she thinks she’s pregnant?” I said that with too much of a questioning tone. He would never believe me.
“Stop lying, Melissa. You already didn’t tell me about this cutting. You may as well tell me the truth about Lacey.”
“Fine,” I said. “She’s wasted and she needs someone to pick her up from the party and a place to crash. I told her I’d pick her up but that she couldn’t crash here.”
“Oh, well in that case…” he said sarcastically. “Call her back and tell her that she needs to find another ride.”
“Mark, you’re being irrational.” I told him frankly.
He sighed, “Fine,” he said. “But you’re not picking her up. Matt, go pick her up and take her back home. Make sure you don’t take her anywhere else and come right back. Straight to the party, straight to her house, straight back home. If I find out you’ve been anywhere else, Melissa won’t be the only one in trouble.”
He nodded, grabbed his jacket and headed out the door. God, Mark was being unreasonably irrational tonight. This wasn’t like him at all. Had the sudden realization that I was a self-injurer really done this to him? I almost wished I could take back all those years of self-injury.
He grabbed my wrist and yanked me towards him. “You, young lady, are coming with me.” He pulled me with him up the stairs and into his room, closing his door behind him. “Sit down.” I took a seat. “Explain,” he said.
“What is there to explain? You seem to have discovered the truth. It’s right there in front of you. There’s no need for any explanations.”
“This is not the time to get smart with me, Melissa Anne Carter.”
“Fine. You want the truth. Here it is. I’m depressed. I have been for years and I’ve been cutting and burning since I was 8 years old. I used to take mom’s old razors and cut myself until I needed to shave. Then I’d use my own to cut. I used the lighters in the kitchen too, to burn myself. I always cut where no one ever has to see it except this time I cut in a place that wasn’t easy to hide so I wore pants today. Oh and while we’re at it, I’ve also tried to commit suicide like 10 times. And I never wanted to tell you because I never wanted to hurt you but here we are and you’re mad at me for no goddamn reason, yelling at me for something that you shouldn’t be yelling at me for and being an irrational ass. There, you happy?” I had said all of that in one screaming breath and was now fighting to get air.
He remained silent, dumbfounded. “Stand up, Melissa.”
“Just do it.” I stood up. “I want you to show me each and every one of your scars. If you have to take off your pants or your shirt, go ahead, but I want to see each and every one of your scars.”
“What the fuck do you need to do that for?”
“It’s so I know how bad this situation is.”
“You don’t fucking need to see that.”
“Would you rather I forcibly remove your clothes?”
“Isn’t this bordering on abuse?”
“Abuse was what dad did to us, not what I’m doing now.” He paused. “Just show me your scars, Melissa.”
“No, you don’t fucking need to see them.” I didn’t want him to see how badly scarred I was. It was an embarrassment and I knew he’d freak out on me.
“Say that word one more time and I swear to God…”
“You swear to God what?”
“Melissa,” he said softly, his tone changing from angry to worried. “Please just show me. I need to know how bad things are so I can take care of this.”
I rolled my eyes, sighed and began to cry. “Fine,” I said and began to peel off my clothes: first my shirt and then my pants and then my socks. I felt so exposed, even though I still had my underwear on. But to be this exposed in front of my brother… it was a strange thought and even stranger when it was reality.
He looked at me and shook his head, crying. “You have scars everywhere. On your stomach, on your thighs, on your shoulders, on your upper chest, on your feet. Why wouldn’t you just come to me?”
“I didn’t want to worry you,” I said.
“And you thought it would be better that I find out like this?”
“I didn’t think you’d find out.”
“Well, apparently you were wrong.” He pointed to my calf. “Is that where you cut today?” he asked.
I nodded. “Yeah,” I replied, “it is.”
“Did you put antibiotic ointment on it?”
“No, I just rinsed it under warm water and put soap on it.”
“I want you to go put antibiotic ointment on it right now so it doesn’t get infected. And I want you to put antibiotic ointment on any of your recent cuts. There’s antibiotic ointment and band-aids in my bathroom cabinet. Go grab it and bring it back out here with the band-aids then you can take care of it while I’m watching.” He paused. “You can be sure that anything you could use to harm yourself with will be locked up from now on.” He paused again because I was just standing there, not doing anything. “Go on,” he said.
I scurried into the bathroom and grabbed what he told me to then brought it back into his room and took care of my cuts. It felt like he was just standing there, scrutinizing me. I didn’t like that feeling but I guess there wasn’t much I could do about it.
“Go put your pjs on and come back here, Issa. I still want to talk to you.”
I nodded. Mark wasn’t usually this demanding so I figured now would be a good time to follow his orders. I was done with being a rebel. It didn’t feel appropriate anymore. So I went into my room and put my pjs on, then came back into his room where he sat on his bed, head in hands, silently crying. I felt awful. What had I done?
“Mark,” I began gently, “I’m sorry. Really, I am.”
“Come here, Issa,” he told me, patting his lap and reaching out his arms to me. I complied and sat on his lap, letting him embrace me as I sobbed and he sobbed and we just sobbed together. “I love you so much,” he said. “You don’t need to do this. There’s other ways to handle depression. Get lost in schoolwork. Write. Draw. Paint. Play your guitar. Do something. Just don’t do this. You HAVE to break this habit. I’m not going to allow you to continue doing this.”
I nodded, “I know, Mark.”
“Promise me you won’t do this anymore, baby? Please.”
I nodded. “I promise.” Unfortunately, I wasn’t sure I could keep that promise.
“Good girl,” he replied.
As I sat there in my brother’s embrace, the guilt of what I had done for all these years manifested itself within me and before I knew it I was asking, “Are you going to punish me? I feel really guilty,” I added.
“Do you feel like this warrants a punishment?” he asked.
I paused in consideration before answering, “Yes, I do.”
“Alright, what do you suggest?”
“The last time you punished me you…” I hesitated before saying the word, “you spanked me.” I paused. “You could do that again.”
He paused, “I could… but it doesn’t seem appropriate.”
“Please?” I begged.
He nodded. “Alright, baby, I understand. Stand up and lay over my lap.”
I did as he said and before I knew it he was pulling my pj pants and panties down and resting his hand on my bare bottom. “Do you have anything to say?” he asked me.
“No,” I answered.
“I never want you to do anything to endanger your life ever again, Melissa Anne Carter. Do you understand me?”
“Yes, sir.”
With that he lifted his hand and smacked me square in the middle of my bottom. He continued spanking me over and over again, first on one cheek, then the next, then on my left sitspot, then on my right, then on my left thigh, then on my right. I eventually lost count of how many smacks he had given me and just let him spank me as I sobbed and sobbed over his knee. It felt like hours that I just laid there, submitting to my punishment but honestly, it was probably, in reality, only 5 minutes at the most. More likely it was 2 or 3 minutes.
When he was done he began gently rubbing my back and saying, “shh… shh, honey, it’s alright, I’m all finished. I’m all finished, Issa. I’m not going to spank you anymore. I love you. I love you so much.”
I nodded, still crying and not able to say anything. He pulled up my panties and pj pants and sat me in his lap, wrapping his arms around me again. I knew he was worried about me. I’d be worried about my little sister too, if she did the sort of things I did.
“I’m sorry, Mark. I won’t do it, ever again.”
“I’m glad,” he said. “You have no idea how relieved I am to hear that.”
I wrapped my arms around his neck and whispered in his ear, “Thank you for everything, Mark. For taking care of me and Matt when dad wouldn’t, for protecting us, for being there, for loving me. I love you so much. Thank you.”
He smiled. “You’re my baby sister. It’s my job.”
I smirked. “Nevertheless, thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” he whispered. “You ready to go to bed.”
“Can I sleep with you tonight?” I asked.
“Yeah, sure, whatever you want, Issa.”
“Thanks,” I said as he pulled back the covers for me on his queen sized bed.
“Goodnight, Issa, I love you,” my brother told me as he kissed me on the forehead. “Sleep well. Don’t let the bed bugs bite.”
I smirked and whispered, “I love you too. Thank you.”
Within moments, I fell asleep. My brothers were the best gift I was given. I may have lost my grandpa and my dad may have been a horrible excuse for a human being but at least through it all, Mark and Matt had been there and I knew they always would be, even if I ended up giving them tons of trouble in the end and was always a smart aleck. At least things would always be entertaining.
What’s up? The sky. What’s in the sky? My grandpa and my mother. They were waiting for me and until I got a chance to be with them again, I had my brothers and that was the best gift I had ever been given and they were the best people to spend the next 70 or so years with.
Even if we lose, we will always, in the end, gain.

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