Now you may notice that this title is a little weird, but I will explain. I recently decided that my novel What If It All Means Something was getting too long to not be divided by chapters, so I did just that. I had originally posted four parts as just that, parts. Now, however, I have broken up the novel into chapters and the first four parts that I posted have become Chapters 1-3. This is Part 5 and, now, officially Chapter 4. That means from now on I’ll be posting it as chapters not as parts. I wanted to include the Part 5 in there just so I didn’t confuse any of you and get this look:
(Photo Credit: http://lorir.uibc3.com/files/2012/09/deer-in-headlights-e129671831068111.jpg)
I’m not assuming you’re all stupid or anything…
Here’s Part 5, now Chapter 4, of What If It All Means Something. Please forgive any grammar/punctuation/spelling/etc. mistakes as this was written for NaNoWriMo this month.
I didn’t feel like going home right after school was done at three, so I went for a short walk around town. I already knew the place pretty good, but it was nice just to walk and think. I couldn’t believe that only one day of school had gone by; so much happened today, it’s awesome. I think I’m going to like Gold Beach. Definitely going to like my new friends today. But they weren’t on my mind so much.
I was thinking about what mom said this morning. About me finding a ‘nice girl’, and I keep thinking Laura is the kind of girl she would want me to be friends with. I didn’t want to be friends with Laura. Or was I just telling myself that? If I really didn’t want to be friends with Laura, why am I not able to stop thinking about her?
I tried to clear my head before heading home. I didn’t want to have to dwell on any of this tonight. Or ever. I tried to not let things bother me, or worry me, but sometimes I can’t help it.
By the time I got home – shortly after four – Brett and Sherry were already home. I barely got in the door before I heard Brett’s voice from the coach in the living room. “Where’ve you been?”
“Since when do you care?” I asked, pretending to be upset. Brett could tell I was joking.
I walked into the living room and dropped my backpack on the floor. Sherry wasn’t in the room. I assumed that she was probably in her bedroom. Besides, I didn’t really care where she was.
Brett turned his attention away from the television and stared at me, feigning an unimpressed look on his face. “I thought you’re school ends at three. Where’d you go for an hour?”
“Oh, sorry mom, I thought you were Brett for a second,” I joked, walking towards the couch. “Let me just tell you my life story.”
Brett shook his head. “Man, I really just want to know if you stayed behind with a girl. To, you know, “study”.” His face was overtaken by a sheepish grin and he started to giggle.
“Is that all you think about?” I asked him, falling down on the black coach beside him. It was true, though. He was always talking about girls. How he wanted a girlfriend or how just how great they are. I mean I get that’s he’s just starting puberty and the girls are…developing. But was I this horny and excited at twelve years old? God I don’t even know.
“Really, Darren?” Brett asked me, this time his boyish voice was free of sarcasm. “Of course that’s all I think about. There’s nothing else worth thinking about.”
“You think they’re hot now? Wait a few years.” I figured that would get him going, which was funny to see, and it did.
His brown eyes went wide and he looked a little embarrassed. “I wish I was seventeen. You get all the babes.”
I had to laugh. He really was obsessed. I wasn’t this bad, was I? No way I was. I reached over and punched him playfully on the shoulder. “Come on, man. Keep it in your pants. I don’t want to be an uncle yet!”
Brett looked at me, his face showing a mixture between a smile and a look of shock. “And you say I’m bad?” Then, without warning, he jumped up so he was standing on the couch and dived at me like a suicide bomber.
I caught Brett half-way, pulled him back down to his seat and put him in a headlock. He started to laugh as I started to squeeze. The tighter I squeezed my arms around his neck, the more he was giggling. His thin arms were flailing wildly until, finally, I let go. He was laughing for a few seconds as I fell back into my spot on the couch, until he punched me in the gut. It wasn’t very hard, but I cried out anyway and we both started laughing. It had been a long time since we’d had any fun together. A very long time. Last time we wrestled like that was more than a few years ago.
“That was fun,” Brett said as he sat back down. “But weird.” He looked at me with an expression of curiosity that I was very familiar with. “You’ve been different lately.”
“What do you mean?” I asked him, not sure how to feel about that.
“I don’t know,” Brett said with a shrug. The smile left his face.
I tapped him on the shoulder, trying to encourage him to talk. “Come on, you can tell me.” My eyes met his and I nodded my assurance. “I’m your brother, man. We’re buds. You can tell me if you want.”
He looked at me with a sudden sadness in his eyes. I wasn’t sure exactly where it came from, but a had some pretty good guesses. “Since dad left, you’ve been different. I don’t know how. And I know you and mom don’t get along.”
Oh, this was what he wanted to talk about. Great! “It’s just a lot to deal with,” I tried to explain. “Lots of stress and sometimes stuff happens. Me and mom fight just to relieve the stress.”
“She talks about you when you’re not around,” Brett said, like it was his duty to tell me. “It’s not nice things.”
“Brett, please,” I started, trying to find the right way to phrase what I wanted to say. “It’s not mom’s fault. She can say whatever the hell she wants. I’ve been a dick to her. I know that.” It was definitely hard for me to say, but I had to. If not for me, then for Brett. “It’s just a stress reaction. A lot going on and I take it out on mom sometimes.”
Brett nodded. I think he understood. Everyone was stressed from the divorce, but it bothered me so much more. Maybe because I was older and I’ve been in relationships before? I don’t know. I could tell though, from the expression on his face, that Brett wasn’t finished.
“Can I ask you something?” He was avoiding my eyes for some reason. What was up now? What the hell did mom tell him now?
“Yeah, man,” I said, nodding. “Anything. You know I’ll tell you the truth.” I would, too. Just for him. Brett really was a good brother, and he deserved to know the answer to any question he wanted to ask.
“Earlier this year, when we still lived in Washington,” Brett started. I noticed he was fidgeting with his fingers. Why was he nervous? “One night, you were out, mom was on the phone with Aunt Carrie. I was supposed to be in bed, but I couldn’t sleep and wanted some water. I got halfway down the stairs when I heard mom talking on the phone. I knew I wasn’t supposed to hear, so I didn’t want mom to know I was up.” He finally looked at me, a little guiltily. “I knew I should’ve just gone back to bed, but I sat there and listened because she was talking about you.”
“You don’t have to feel bad for that,” I said, feeling a little sick. My stomach felt like it was turning and my mind was running through all the different things she could have possibly. “If it’s something I did, it’s my fault, not yours for overhearing.”
“Mom just said some stuff about you and your friends that I couldn’t believe.” Oh shit. I could feel my stomach work against me. What did he hear? I tried to not let my nerves show as I waited for him to finish. “She said you and your friends liked to drink a lot and party and….” he looked away again, and he looked to be in deep concentration, like he was contemplating telling me or not. “She said you guys did drugs, too.”
And there it was. It was like someone stabbed a knife in my side. Now it was me who couldn’t look Brett in the eyes. I tried to find the words to speak, but nothing came. I didn’t know what to say, and I felt awful that he had to hear that. I mean, I wasn’t a druggie. I smoked a few joints, is all. There were a couple times when it maybe got out of hand, but just a couple. I didn’t even know mom knew…
“So you did do it, then?” Brett asked me when I hadn’t answered for nearly a minute. “I thought it wasn’t true.”
“No, man,” I said right away as the guilt I was feeling increased. What kind of role model am I? A downright shitty one, no doubt. But now I better tell him. I can’t lie to him. “Listen, Brett.” I finally found the courage to look back into his eyes and all I saw was a helpless look. I felt like I betrayed him. “Stuff happens, alright.” I had to take a deep breath, hoping it was going to calm me down. I could feel my hands shaking, vibrating on my legs. “It was only a couple times. When I was really down and I thought there was no way I’d be happy again. I was never addicted, or anything. It was only a couple of times.”
When he looked at me after I spoke, I couldn’t tell if he was upset with me or feeling sorry for me. I really hoped it was neither. I don’t want him to be mad with me, but I’d rather have him angry than feeling sorry for me. I don’t need anyone’s pity. “You don’t do it anymore, do you?”
“No man,” I told him, putting on a fake smile. “Not since we moved.” It was true. I didn’t have any friends who smoked. I wonder if Alex and those guys do?
“Darren,” Brett said, interrupting my thoughts. Why was I so easily distracted these days? My thoughts always seem to be wandering on nothing in particular.
“I want you to promise me, Darren, that you won’t do it again.” His face was stern. Whenever I forgot how old he was getting, it was moments like this that reminded just how mature he was.
I took a deep breath. Promise him? What if Alex smokes? I’ll look like a loser if I turn it down. Crap. Whatever, Brett’s right. “You know what, man? We have a promise.”
“Really?” Brett’s face lit up and the smile returned. I was glad that he was glad, and I tried not to think about Alex. My brother is more important than some guy I don’t even know. “Good,” Brett continued to say. “’Cause that shit is bad for you.”
What? Did he just say ‘shit’? “Excuse me, young man?” I said in a mock authoritative voice. “Watch your mouth.”
“Oh like you never swear, man!” Brett argued. He had a good point. Guess I’m not much of a role model. “And, come on. I’m in Grade 8 now. Everyone talks like this at school.”
“Really?” I asked. Really? Did we start swearing that young, too? I can still remember when we used to swear just because it was cool.
“Just a little,” Brett said, nodding. “The other kids swear way more than me. I think every second word out of their mouths is ‘fuck’.” Again, what? Fuck? Where is this coming from? Where’d my brother go?
“Okay man. I can’t really lecture you on swearing because, well, obvious reasons. No one wants to be a hypocrite.” That got him laughing again and made me smile. “But,” I said, raising a finger, “don’t let mom hear you or she’ll rip you a new one.”
“Yeah, I know,” Brett sighed. “Besides, I only feel like swearing when I’m at school. It was the same back in Washington. I guess I just wanted to fit it.”
“There’s nothing wrong with not fitting in,” I told him. That’s when I realized, though, that the people who don’t ‘fit in’ are the same people I always say are losers. What’s gotten into me lately? Why do I care so much about all of this crap? “No matter what people think of you at school, you’ll always be my brother and you’ll always be my buddy.”
“Darren, you’re a sweet brother.”
I couldn’t help but smile.
Not The End
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