Author's Note: Here is chapter six, as fast as I promised. I just want to remind all my readers that this was effectively a 'double' update, and thus, you may have forgotten to read chapter five…It is highly advisable that you read that one before you move on to this one.
Brian's arms pushed down on the green linen couch as he waited for his siblings to arrive. He could hear them coming down now, thundering down the stairs with eager excitement. He turned his head to see Damien's little body leading the way, followed by his slightly taller- but much rounder- sister and her bloated belly.
Once on the lower level, Damien, not even taking a moment to glance at his older brother, leapt into the kitchen, and looked at the stove expectantly. Surprised, Damien turned to face Brian.
"Where's the food? I thought you said that dinner was ready?" the small boy asked.
As Brian gazed at his brother, he could not help but notice a nasty black bruise encircling his right eye. The words 'what happened' were on the tip of his tongue, but he kept his mouth shut in better judgement. His father had always advised him to ignore Damien's bruises.
"Oh the food won't be ready for another fifteen minutes," Brian replied, pushing his worries aside. Ignorance will only benefit him; just pretend you don't see it.
"Then why did you call us down?" Jen asked.
"Because we don't spend enough time together as a family," Brian responded, as he moved to sit down on the couch. So he had lied? He was fairly certain that a little white lie was acceptable when all you wanted to do was spend more time with your siblings. "So as of now, every day at five forty-five, we will have family time."
"Family time?" Jen exclaimed.
"Yeah," Damien began, "I'm busy enough as it is, with Youth Group and Church and Art Club and French Club and Classics…"
"Damien, you haven't been to your Youth Group or to Church in weeks!" Brian replied.
"But I still go to Youth Group and Church!" Jen moaned. "Why don't I just go back upstairs to my room and you guys can have a little bit of male bonding time, okay?"
"All I'm asking for is fifteen minutes out of your lives, can't you give me that?"
Brian watched as his little brother and sister let out heavy sighs, hunched their shoulders, and shuffled over to the other couch to take their seats. He could never understand why they never seemed to want to spend time with him. When they were alone, without the other being around, they did not mind having him as company. The problem was that they were like twins- well, they were twins by some stretch of the definition, being only ten months apart- and thus they were virtually inseparable. It always seemed that together, they were against him.
Perhaps if he moved Damien out of their shared bedroom, that would solve part of the problem. With the baby coming, he would have to move out eventually anyways. Perhaps if he sped it up, he would break their bond a little bit.
Brian immediately suppressed that thought. Despite the fact that Damien would have to leave the bedroom, speeding it up for his own personal gain would just be cruel and selfish.
He needed to change his approach, treating them like a unit rather than treating them like individuals. No, that was a horrible idea. Perhaps this whole family time idea was a waste of time. What he probably needed was more time with them one on one.
No, he needed to try 'family time'. Jen was a perfect example of that. If he had started this earlier, Jen probably would not be pregnant. If she had known that she had a big brother who cared about her, she would not have had to go looking for it in a boy. She had been crying out for attention, and he had turned a blind eye to her. Thanks to his idiocy, we would be expecting a little niece or nephew in June.
Family time was there to stay. He could not decide against something unless he actually tried it, right?
"So, are we going to talk about anything in particular, or are we just going to sit here in silence?" Jen asked, knocking Brian out of his stupor.
Brian jumped, and looked at his sister. Say something, fast, he cautioned himself, you can't mess this up before it's begun. "How was your day?" Oh, so generic!
"Fine," Damien murmured, not even bothering to look up at his older brother.
"Liar!" Jen said, mirroring Brian's thoughts. "You can't fall into a locker, get up, and then fall right back on your ass, and get a black eye and still say that your day was 'fine'"
Damien had not been beaten up. Brian let out a sigh of relief at this revelation. Humiliated, probably, but being bullied, no. Why had he jumped to that conclusion in the first place? Could Damien not come home injured without him immediately blaming the boys at school?
"Well, it was just that one thing, after that everything else was fine," Damien replied in his soft, sweet voice.
"You mean after that guy made that comment about you pissing your pants?" Jen scoffed.
"How'd you find out about that?" Damien snapped, turning his head around right at that instant to face his sister.
Brian sighed inwardly. He had not been far off in his assumption that Damien was being bullied, even though he had been wrong to think that the bruising was from an attack. He had forgotten about the psychological aspect of bullying. He should have realised that there would have been witnesses to the event; witnesses who would have taken up on the opportunity to tease Damien about it.
"Damien, the entire school heard about that. News spreads fast you know."
Damien sighed and shrugged his shoulders. It never ceased to amaze Brian how nonchalant Damien could be at times. "How was your day, Jen?" Brian asked, looking his sister in the eye, deciding to take the attention away from Damien's humiliation.
"It sucked. I was so sick this afternoon," she moaned.
"And you aren't sick right now?" Brian asked, perplexed.
"No. It comes and it goes."
"'It comes and it goes'? Are you coming down with something?"
"Yes. It's called pregnancy."
Brian sighed. He should have seen that one coming.
"But I thought you could only get sick in the morning." he replied.
"Actually, having done some research on our sister's condition, I have discovered that morning sickness is quite the misnomer," Damien chipped, startling Brian who had not expected him to add to the conversation. It was a very odd choice of wording as well, Brian noted; but then, it was not uncommon for Damien to come off sounding like a book at times.
"My condition? Damien you make it sound like I'm going to die!"
"Well, you could die. You never know what could happen. You could bleed to death, have an infection. Luckily, those things are rare in this day and age, but you never know."
"Wow, that's really reassuring! Now I'm going to die! Gee, great!" Jen said, flicking her golden blonde hair to the side and rolling her eyes.
"Jen, you're not going to die," Brian replied. A chill overtook his body as he remembered saying almost those exact words little over four and a half years before."
Don't worry, mom isn't going to die. He had been reassuring himself more than his siblings when he had said that though. However, this was an entirely different situation. The chances of anything going wrong with Jen during or before the delivery were slim at best.
"So how has the new semester been?" Brian asked, once again opting for a change of subject.
"Okay," Jen replied, shrugging her shoulders, and Damien mimicking that action. "Nothing special really. Just like last semester, and that one before that. Same boring shit."
"Excuse me?" Brian cautioned, raising an eyebrow.
"Oh don't act like you've never heard that word before."
"It doesn't matter. You know the rules of the house…"
"And you weren't a teenager once? I remember hearing you say those same words once upon a time," Jen replied casually.
"And part of maturing is learning how not to use those words…" The open timer rang at that moment, cutting Brian off.
He immediately leapt up from his seat, and ran to take the pizza out of the oven. It was another one of the store-bought variety, topped only with pepperoni. As he put the oven mitts on to take it out, he heard his brother and sister shuffle to their seats behind him.
He was already beginning to see that there certainly would not be any easy solution to the problems that he and his siblings had in their relationship. However, they had opened up to him a little bit. At least Jen had; Damien had left him with vague responses.
As he took the pizza out of the oven, Brian began to realise that there was still a lot that he did not know about his little brother. For instance, why did he change the way he spoke so suddenly, before going back to his old speech pattern? Was he trying to hide something, a part of himself? Did he not want to come off as too bookish, too smart?
He had thought that Jen was the 'crisis' area, but the more he thought about it, Damien was equally needing of attention. He was almost certain that Damien was lying about needing to do homework whenever it came time to go to Church or Youth group. He could not afford to make the same mistakes with Damien that he had made with Jen.