“I thought you told me you were taking care of your teeth!” my brother Aaron yelled at me as he slammed his car door shut.
“I was?” I tried, whispering meekly.
“Bullshit, Maria. You have 11 cavities and 2 crowns. Bullshit you’re taking care of your teeth.”
“Sorry doesn’t cut it, Maria.” He paused, sighing as he turned on the car and pulled out of the parking lot. “Where do you expect me to get all the money to take care of this? My dental insurance only pays for 3000 dollars a year. When you’re talking about 2 crowns and 11 fillings, that’s not a lot.”
“I can’t change what’s already happened, Aaron,” I muttered, mostly to myself.
“I know that, Maria,” he paused, concentrating on his driving as we crossed one of the most dangerous intersections in the city. “But we’ve talked about this before. You need to take good care of your teeth. Do you want them to fall out?” That was obviously a rhetorical question because he continued on. “You need to cut back on the soda and sweets which you’re supposed to do anyway because you’re pre-diabetic, might I add. But no, you can’t possibly listen to me because I’m your older brother, not mom or dad. Of course not. I want you to listen to me, Maria, and listen to me good. I’m your legal guardian. As much as neither of us likes it, mom and dad are gone and they’re probably never coming back. So you need to start listening to me. When I tell you something, I’m not doing it for my own health. I’m doing it for your own good and you need to listen to that.”
“There’s still a chance that mom and dad will come back, Aaron. We don’t know for sure.”
“It’s been two years, Maria. And you’re missing the point,” he snapped.
“Whatever,” I replied.
He sighed again, exasperated with my behavior. “I’m going to be checking to make sure you’re taking care of your teeth every morning and every night. And if you’re not, you’ll be sorry.”
“Whatever,” I muttered.
“Do you have to be sassy about everything?”
“Yes.” Simple as that.
He sighed for the umpteenth time as we pulled into the driveway. “Go up to your room, Maria. I’m going to go fill your prescription. Then I’ll be back. But I want to talk to you when I come back so don’t even think of leaving your room. You can work on homework but that’s it, alright?”
“Alright,” I replied, opening the door and getting out of the car.
“Bye, Maria. I love you,” my brother called after me.
“Bye, Aaron. Love you too.”
He pulled out of the driveway and went down the street towards the nearest Walgreens. He’d probably pick up something to eat while he was gone. We didn’t have much food in the house.
I sighed as I unlocked and opened the front door. This wasn’t exactly how I had envisioned my life unfolding two years ago, before my parents disappeared into thin air. What 13 year old girl even thinks that her 25 year old brother will be taking care of her within a matter of months from her thirteenth birthday? I certainly didn’t. Back then, all I could see was going into high school, having my parents beside me at my graduations and my dad walking me down the aisle on my wedding day. That all ended two years ago when my life was changed forever.
My parents had gone vacationing for their anniversary in the Caribbean. They were uber excited to be getting away from the cold winter weather of Minnesota where lows could get to 40 below in the worst case scenario. That was a particularly cold winter so they were even more excited for cruising in the Caribbean. It meant sandy beaches and sunscreen, snorkeling and dining at sea. It also meant that my 25 year old brother would be watching after me for about a month, a fate I deemed worse than death. Aaron and I had never gotten along. He was my definition of old and I was my definition of young. I mean, he was 12 years older than me. That made him pretty old. I mean, come on, 25 compared to 13 IS old. At least, that’s what I thought; back when I still had my parents.
But Aaron really wasn’t as bad as I made him out to be. Sure, he was a bitch about me getting my homework done and he made sure that I followed all the rules mom and dad had set out for me, like coming in at a reasonable hour, getting my homework done at a reasonable time, eating all my vegetables… yata yata. But, really, as much as I made it seem like he was a complete asshole, he wasn’t. He was just doing what my parents had asked him to do and being a good brother. Could I really fault him for that? Well, yes, I could but rightfully so? No, probably not.
So here’s the scenario. It’s my parent’s anniversary and they’re on this multi-million dollar cruise down in the Caribbean. They have tons of fun, go snorkeling and swimming; probably had a few glasses of wine too. Then they get off one night when they’re stopped at a port for an evening. They go to a fancy restaurant, have a romantic dinner and never get back on the boat. They searched for them for hours and halted the departure of the ship for a little bit. But no matter what police did, they couldn’t find them. They had disappeared. And here we are, 2 years later, they’re still gone. After they had been missing for a year, I was put into the permanent custody of my older brother, Aaron Lyle Daniels. But I still held onto that slight hope that they would turn up someday, that they weren’t gone forever. Aaron had given up on hope but I hadn’t. I wouldn’t submit to defeat. Even after their memorial service, even after years had passed, I didn’t give up. I wanted so much to believe that daddy would be there to walk me down the aisle on my wedding day and that mommy would be there to help me through my first pregnancy. But no, they were gone, and as much as I held onto that dim hope, it was useless. If two years go by after someone has disappeared and they don’t show up, chances are they’re gone forever. But I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t be like Aaron, hopeless. I would not and could not succumb to defeat. My parents were alive. I just knew it.
I stared up at the ceiling, counting the seconds as they went by. I knew that Aaron would want me to be doing my homework but I really wasn’t feeling it. It was a Saturday. I mean, come on, who does homework on a Saturday? Really? Well, maybe Aaron did, but that’s because he was a super nerd. Well, actually, maybe it was just because he knew his priorities. Whatever, I’d rather believe the first.
My brother and I had a complicated relationship. It’s not like I didn’t know he loved me because I did know that. It’s more like… well, I don’t really know. We were two opposite sides of a coin, very different but very much the same. But Aaron could just be so strict about some things, even if I know now that he really wasn’t then. I knew the reason he was the way he was, was because he was concerned about me. He wanted to make sure I didn’t stop living just because of what had happened with our parents. I knew he always wanted the best for me. It just didn’t click all the time. And although I was somewhat compliant, I also fought with him on a lot. Why should I listen to him? He was just Aaron, just my older brother. He wasn’t my dad and he wasn’t my mom. He had no right to tell me what to do. Mom and dad were the only ones who had that power and if they weren’t here, then no one did. Aaron could just go jump off a cliff for all I cared.
But part of me knew that he was right. He was my legal guardian and I should have listened to him more than I did. Just because he was my older brother didn’t mean I shouldn’t listen to him. He had to substitute for mom and dad while they were gone, even if it was only temporary. But I didn’t want to believe it. I didn’t want to believe they were gone for good. And if I listened to what Aaron told me, that meant he would be taking the place of my parents which meant they were gone… forever. That wasn’t something I could handle.
So instead… I was more defiant than I should have been and my teenage years were fraught with disappointing Aaron and breaking the rules and getting into trouble a lot. Mostly, it was for doing things that were harmful to myself, like not taking care of my teeth. I was an overall good kid because my parents had raised both Aaron and I to be good people and they had succeeded. However, I had this slight problem where I didn’t really care much about myself or my health. Yeah, that’s where Aaron got pissed off at me.
“Knock, knock,” I heard him say as he knocked on the door.
“Come in,” I croaked as I sat up on my bed, rubbing my head. I always did that when I was frustrated or nervous… or both.
“Hey,” Aaron began as he sat down next to me. He sighed, “What am I gonna do with you, kiddo?”
“You tell me.”
“You gotta start taking care of yourself. First of all, you need to keep yourself healthy so you can do well in life and live longer. Secondly, I can’t keep affording these huge bills.”
“I know, Aaron.”
“Good. I’m glad. Now you just need to follow through on that. Unfortunately, I don’t think you’re very good at following through on things. So I’m gonna be keeping an eye on you.”
I rolled my eyes at him. “I’m 15 years old, Aaron. You don’t have to treat me like a child.”
“Again with the sassiness. Cut it with the attitude, Maria Lane Daniels.”
“Aaron, you aren’t mom. You aren’t dad. So stop acting like you are.”
“Mom and dad are gone, Maria! What don’t you understand about that? They’re gone and they’re not coming back!” he yelled at me furiously. “I don’t know what you’re waiting for.”
“A miracle,” I muttered.
“Exactly. A miracle that isn’t likely to happen. I know you don’t like it and you should know I don’t like it either but I AM your legal guardian and I am in charge of your wellbeing. So you need to start listening to what I have to say, Maria. Mom and dad aren’t coming back. I know I’m not mom. I know I’m not dad either. But I am your older brother and we’re all each other have left so if you don’t start listening to me, you’re going to get in serious trouble one day.”
“We still have grandparents,” I muttered.
“Would you cut it with the attitude already! God!” he yelled, aggravated as he threw his hands in the air and started pacing around my small room. “What am I supposed to do with you? You don’t listen to anything I say. You don’t take care of yourself. You’re pre-diabetic and you keep eating and drinking stuff you shouldn’t fucking be eating or drinking because of the pre-diabetes and poor teeth. Maria, you are 15 years old. You’re not old enough to take care of yourself yet. So unless you want to keep having issues, you’re going to start listening to me, whether you like it or not.”
“I don’t have to listen to anything you say!” I yelled, standing up. “You are my BROTHER. That’s all you are. You’re just Aaron. Just Aaron Lyle Daniels. You are my sibling. You are not my mother or my father or a parent of any kind. YOU ARE AARON. AARON! And that’s it, alright? And mom and dad ARE coming back. I don’t care if you’ve lost hope but don’t make me lose mine!” At this I started crying. “Great, you made me cry. Thanks, asshole.”
He came over to me and sat me down on my bed then sat down beside me and wrapped his arms around me and tried to shush me and help me calm down. I was sobbing by this point. “I know it’s hard for you, Maria, but I am trying to be there for you. I just want to be the best brother I can be and you’re not letting me do that. I’m not trying to take mom or dad’s place. I’m just trying to take care of you for them while they’re gone. You need to let me do that, alright?” He rubbed my back gently.
I nodded and buried my face into his shoulder. “I miss them,” I cried.
“I miss them too, honey. I miss them too.”
We sat there for a few more minutes until I had eventually calmed down enough to stop crying. “I’m sorry, Aaron,” I whispered. “I’ll try harder.”
“Good,” he replied. “Because you really need to start doing that.” I could feel him smile as he lifted me up off him and looked into my eyes.
“And trust me, if you don’t start taking care of your teeth and doing what I say, you are in so much trouble, more than you’d probably think.”
I nodded, not feeling like being defiant. “Alright, Aaron.”
He kissed my forehead. “Do your homework and then we can eat and I want you to brush your teeth afterwards.”
“Okay,” I muttered.
“I’ll leave you to do your homework,” he said as he started going out of my room.
“Hey, Aaron,” I called after him, causing him to stop in his tracks.
“You’re welcome, sis,” and then, he left my room, closing the door behind him and leaving me to do only about an hour of homework which, for high school, wasn’t a lot.
I sighed, getting my backpack out and starting on this dreaded math I hated so much. Algebra was not my forte. I’d say I was much better at art. I wasn’t very academic in general. More of an artsy type of person. I wasn’t very good at language either so I couldn’t wait to get all of my main credits out of the way to do more artsy things. At this point in my life, I planned on majoring in art in
college, unbeknownst to my older brother.
college, unbeknownst to my older brother.
Stupid algebra problems. They need to grow up and do themselves.
“Maria!” my brother called up from downstairs. “Are you ready for dinner?”
“Yeah!” I yelled back, as I closed the door to my bedroom and ran down the stairs. “What is it?”
“Just some lasagna I picked up.”
“Sounds good,” I said, sitting down at the kitchen table across from my brother and taking some lasagna out of the aluminum “dish” then taking a bite of it with my fork. Aaron did the same.
We remained quiet for quite some time. I didn’t really feel like talking. In fact, I’d much rather think than talk half the time, which is what I was doing for the majority of that time, until Aaron spoke.
“How are your classes going?” he asked out of nowhere.
“Fine,” I muttered.
“You doing ok in math? I know it’s not easy for you.”
“I’m doing fine, Aaron.”
“Well, if you need help, you know where to find it.” Aaron was like the exact opposite of me. He was an academic genius all around. I was the artistic one, though he did do a little bit of writing in his spare time.
“Yeah, I know,” I whispered, taking another reluctant bite of my lasagna and a sip of my water. Much to my disdain, my brother had insisted that I was grounded from pop for awhile. I’m sure I’d figure out a way around that soon enough.
“What about your other classes?”
“History, okay? What about English?”
“It’s all fine, Aaron. Now would you stop asking me,” I snapped.
“I’m just trying to make sure you’re doing ok in school.”
“I am.” I wanted to add that the only thing that mattered anyway was my art class. That’s what would matter for my future. But I didn’t. The time would come for when I would tell Aaron that I was going to pursue my dreams of being an artist but today was not that day. He was going to flip when he found out anyway.
“Good,” he replied.
We remained silent for the rest of the meal. I guess neither of us really felt like talking. Then again, my brother and I had never absolutely needed to have conversation to get through a meal. Maybe we were both introverts at heart.
“Go brush your teeth,” Aaron said as I got up to put my dishes in the sink and rinse my plate off. “And you’re on dish duty tonight, remember?”
“Ugh,” I groaned. “Alright. And yes, I remember.”
“Go on,” he told me, ushering me up the stairs. “And I’ll be checking later.”
Well, at least I had a master plan. Brush my teeth without toothpaste and then chew some gum. It would have to work, right? He would never notice, right? Right.
I nearly leapt up the stairs as I went, trying to make Aaron think I was overenthusiastic about brushing my teeth, when in reality, I was anything but. I didn’t want to brush my teeth any more than I wanted to do algebra homework or take classes that didn’t apply to art. I hated the aftertaste of toothpaste. It bugged the shit out of me.
I went into the bathroom and closed the door behind me then turned the cold water on all the way and put my brush underneath it, then quickly went to work, pretend brushing my teeth all the way. When I was done, I spit the water residue out, rinsed the pretend toothpaste off my brush and popped a piece of gum I had in my pocket in my mouth. The only thing left to do was open the door which I did, immediately. Unfortunately, guess who was on the other side of that door. You got that right. Aaron.
I quickly stopped chewing my gum and pushed it to the back of my mouth with my tongue then smiled at him wide. It was a very cheesy smile. “Hi, Aaron,” I said through gritted teeth and squinty eyes.
“What are you up to, Maria?” he asked.
“Nothing,” I answered, now opening my mouth. Unfortunately, the gum just happened to pop out of my mouth at that moment that I decided to open it. Great. Perfect. Wonderful. Fantastic. All words I wouldn’t use to seriously describe my situation.
I quickly closed my hand that the gum had fallen into, attempting to hide it from Aaron and smiled again, cheesily. Yeah, that wasn’t going to hint him off at all.
“Maria, open up your hand,” he ordered sternly.
“Just open your hand, Maria,” he ordered again, raising his voice.
Instead of saying no, like I normally would, I decided to be cunning this time. My hands were behind my back, so I switched the gum over to my other hand and put it in the back pocket of my jeans (bad idea) while I opened up the hand it was originally in.
“Open up your other hand,” he said. I did. “Maria! I know you were chewing gum. Don’t play games with me.”
He’s smarter than I give him credit for. Okay, not really. I actually give him a lot of credit for being smart. The last time he took his IQ test it was like a 145. I on the other hand, was average, which pissed me off. Ah well, at least I had artistic talent.
“I’m not playing games, Aaron. Why would I play games?”
“Because you don’t actually want to brush your teeth and because you don’t want to get in trouble for not brushing them, that’s why.” I couldn’t help but smirk and laugh a little at that one, which was probably what gave me away for good.
“Turn around, Maria,” he commanded, his voice sterner than before.
“Do you want me to take the gum out of your back pocket or would you rather do that?”
I rolled my eyes and scraped the gum out of my back pocket which had already stuck a little. That was a bad idea. It was pretty messy now. “Fine,” I said. “Yes, I chewed gum to make you think I brushed my teeth when I didn’t. Although technically I did, just without toothpaste.”
“The whole idea of brushing your teeth is to do it with toothpaste. Otherwise it does absolutely nothing, Maria!” He paused, taking a deep breath in to try to calm his anger. “What is it going to take to get you to start taking care of yourself?” he asked.
“A miracle,” I replied. “But you know, it probably won’t happen. Just like mom and dad won’t ever come home.” I felt like being a smartass and using his earlier comment against him.
He raised his hand up to slap me across the face and I turned it but his hand never came down. He stopped just in time. Sighing, he said, “I guess I deserve that.” He paused. “But you still need to take care of yourself. And I can’t let you keep making decisions that are hazardous to your health.”
“So what exactly do you have in mind?” I asked.
“Considering the fact that groundings have never worked before, I’d say I’d prefer to go for something a little more old-fashioned.”
He didn’t look like he was happy and I could only guess what that old-fashioned thing might be but I didn’t want to believe it. “Groundings are old-fashioned.”
“Oh, come on, Maria, you know what I’m talking about.”
“No, I’m afraid you don’t and if I’m not informed I can’t take the punishment.”
“Well, then I’ll inform you, in your room. Come on, let’s go,” he said, grabbing my arm and dragging me to my room. He slammed the door behind him. “Sit down,” he said, clearly very angry with me.
“I’m sorry, Aaron. I’ll go brush my teeth right now if it makes you happy.”
“Oh, you will be brushing your teeth, as soon as we deal with this.”
I said nothing.
“What goes through your mind when you do things that are hazardous to your health exactly? I’d just like to know. I’m pretty sure mom and dad wouldn’t be so happy with you right now and neither am I.”
That hit me square in the stomach if nothing else did. “I’m sorry, Aaron,” I murmured.
“I’d just like to know what’s actually going to get through to you. Does it even matter what I do? Can I even help you? Because I’m starting to think that you’re a hopeless case.” He paused. “But that doesn’t mean I’m going to give up on you.”
“Aaron, look, I’ll go brush my teeth right now and you can even watch,” I started getting up.
“Sit back down,” he barked sharply.
“Okay,” I answered in a whining tone.
“I wish I could just talk this through with you and you would learn from it because I’d rather not do to you what I’m about to do. But clearly it doesn’t work. It hasn’t before and it probably won’t ever. And I can’t just let you keep making poor decisions. I know it seems trivial to you now, but if you keep making decisions like this regarding your health, it’s going to build up and you’re going to have massive problems later. Look at what’s already happened to your teeth!”
“Aaron, I’ll just go brush my teeth and everything will be…” he cut me off.
“No, it won’t be fine from there. Because you’ll just come up with excuse after excuse after today to not do things or to get out of taking care of yourself and I’m not going to let that happen.”
“What are you saying?” I asked, genuinely concerned now.
“I’m saying that you’re getting a spanking, Maria Lane Daniels.”
“Wait, what? That’s totally not fair, Aaron!” I whined.
“Of course it’s fair. You didn’t brush your teeth and haven’t been taking care of yourself in general so you have to face the consequences. Maybe you’ll take better care of yourself after this.”
“I’ll do better even without one!” I whined, attempting to convince him.
“No, I think I’d better give it to you.”
“But, Aaron…” I whined again.
“But nothing, Maria,” he sat down on my bed. “Now over my lap.”
This was too weird. It was bad enough to have to deal with Aaron taking the place of my parents, however temporary it may have been but him spanking me completely crossed the line.
Still, I decided it would be better to comply. I had a feeling Aaron would make it worse for me if I didn’t just comply. He WOULD do that. “Fine,” I muttered, lying myself uncomfortably over his lap.
He readjusted me so my bottom was closer to the center of his lap. “Do we need to discuss why you’re getting this, Maria Lane?”
“No, Aaron, we don’t. Can we just get this over with?”
“We’ll start when I’m ready to, young lady,” he told me, slapping my backside. Doesn’t that completely contradict his point? I’m just saying.
“Do you mind telling me why you’re getting a spanking?”
I cringed at the word, but answered anyway. “Because I didn’t brush my teeth when you told me to and because I need to take better care of myself so you’re going to give me something to make me remember.”
“Exactly,” he replied. “I hope we don’t have to repeat this anytime soon.”
With that he began, slowly building up the intensity and speed of the slaps. He only spanked for about 2 minutes before he began pulling my sweatpants down. Up until then, I wasn’t really feeling much of anything on my backside so I guess afterwards, I understood why but yeah, I wasn’t just going to let him do it without a fight. What kind of person would do that?
“Aaron, no!” I whined. “Don’t do that!” I began kicking my legs and squirming violently, doing anything I could to get away from him.
“Maria, stay still!” he yelled, adding a very sharp swat to my bottom.
That got me to stop. I immediately gave up, fearing the worst. “Sorry,” I whispered.
“Not as sorry as you’re going to be,” he answered, roughly tugging my pants down and then my panties down after that. I was surprised, but I didn’t act like it. I decided not to fight. I was trying desperately to trust that Aaron was doing this for my own good and that he was just doing it because he cared about me. That didn’t really help me feel any better though.
He immediately started the rapid-fire smacks. I didn’t know he was capable of hitting so hard. Although I should have known. He’d done boxing in his spare time when he was a college student. It was a way for him to relieve stress and boy, was it paying off now. It hurt like fucking hell.
“Oww… okay, Aaron, I’m really sorry!” I screamed, tears now beginning to fall down my cheeks.
“Are you really?” he asked.
“Yes,” I cried, “I’m really sorry.”
“Alright, just a little more and we’re done here.”
He spanked me for about one more minute then stopped, ending with two hard swats to each of my thighs. He lifted me up and looked me in the eyes, putting his hands on my shoulders and not even allowing me to pull my underwear back up. “Maria, I only did that for your own good, okay? You know that don’t you?”
I nodded, crying. I did know that.
“I just love you so much. I don’t want to see you deteriorate, health or otherwise. So you need to take good care of yourself and you need to start doing what I tell you to. You don’t want to repeat this, do you?”
I shook my head.
“Then do as you’re told and take care of yourself and we won’t have that problem. But seriously, there are worse things that could happen than a spanking. If you don’t start taking care of yourself, you won’t just be pre-diabetic, you’ll be diabetic, and you won’t just have crowns and fillings, you’ll need dentures. Do you understand, Maria?”
“Yes, I understand, Aaron.”
“Good.” He gave me a peck on the forehead then patted my shoulder and told me to go brush my teeth which I did. No way was I going to get another one.