As soon as I heard that door slam, I knew tonight would end like every other.
No sooner had I heard it, then I heard my mother scream at my sister from the kitchen to get her ass in the kitchen right now. It had always been that way; my sister always did things my parents didn't approve of. Most times she did things just to piss them off, since she had nothing better to do after not going to college after she graduated, and since she couldn't keep a job or a man longer than a month. My parents where finally reaching the end of their wits, since five years of constant bickering is enough to send anyone off the deep end.
"Kassi, get in the kitchen NOW! I'm not asking again."
I watched her trudge through the living room, where I was, back towards the kitchen where my parents were finishing their dinner. I had only come home 15 minutes before, and my brother was out with some friends, so they were trying to enjoy some alone time when they got the call from the police.
"Kassi, what the hell are you doing? Are you trying to get yourself killed, because if you are there are easier ways of doing it."
"Maybe I am, it'd certainly be better than listening to you two argue all the time."
Now it was my dad's turn. "We only argue with you, because you're making dumbass decisions and acting like a spoiled brat all the time, expecting us to bail you out of jail all the time!"
"Well, God forbid you just be thankful that I'm still alive and not a corpse somewhere, and spare me the lecture I've gotten since I was 18."
"If you learned some sense, we wouldn't have to lecture you! And you should be doing things that get you landed in jail in the first place!"
This was hardly the first time I'd overheard these conversations. Ever since she had decided to stay home and work for a living, she'd dabbled in every illegal activity you could think of. She'd been busted for having pot at work twice, and before she was 21 got arrested for drunk driving three times. She'd been busted for solicitation, petty misdemeanors too numerous to mention, and almost got arrested for trying to bribe a cop on one of her drunk driving charges. The cop decided she was too drunk to understand what she was saying, and didn't book her for it.
"IF YOU TREATED ME LIKE YOUR DAUGHTER AND NOT SOME STRANGER, MAYBE I WOULDN'T HAVE TO GO LOOKING FOR WAYS TO GET MY MIND OFF MY PROBLEMS!!"
"How is that an excuse?! We raised you for 18 years and gave you the best education we could!" bellowed my dad. It always got to him that she accused him of not treating her like 'daddy's little princess', since spending her first twelve years working overtime at two jobs to send her to the best Catholic prep school in the state left him little time for family.
"Did it ever cross your mind that there was more to raising me than just having me get taught at some uptight bullshit prep school? You never took me anywhere, did any family stuff with me, and once Craig was born I got pushed aside like some contagious puppy or something!"
That was her other sore point with our parents. I was born when she was 5, and she never forgave me for being the little boy my parents had always wanted. It got even uglier when, a year later, my brother Scott was born. He got babied like the youngest always are, and she would always scream that no one loved her and that she would run away, and one time threatened to take us with her. My parents never paid attention to her, since she'd always made empty threats like that.
"We never loved you any less once Craig and Scott came alone, and you know it! We may not have had the same attitude with you because you were always in trouble!"
"Like they were little saints!! How about when Craig got caught cheating on that test, or when Scotty was in those fights?!"
"Craig was punished appropriately, and you know that Scott was pulled into those fights after those boys wouldn't stop harassing him."
"BULLSHIT! He STARTED those fights with them, and just told you they were bothering him so he wouldn't get in trouble!!"
Once one of The Arguments turned to the subject of Scott or me, I knew it was my cue to make myself scarce. One time Kassi stormed into the living room in the middle of one and started screaming at me about how I'd lied to them about various things, got them distracted on me, and got me grounded for a month. After that, I knew better than to stick around too long.
As soon as I started to walk upstairs, I heard the front door open, and Scott walked in. He hadn't even shut the door when Kassi ran out of the kitchen and got right in his face.
"Oh yeah? Well, I wonder where Wonderful Smart Handsome Perfect Scotty-boy was all evening! Got anything you want to tell us Scott?? HMM?!"
He was so taken aback, all he could do was just stand there and let himself be berated.
My mom interjected this time. "Why do you have to go off attacking your brothers when this doesn't involve them?! Why can't you ever accept responsibility for your actions instead of blaming someone else?"
"Because I do stuff and get caught, and they do stuff and get away with it!"
Scott immediately turned white, and looked at Kassi with a look of terror, like she was going to attack him. I was the only one who noticed, since Kassi was busy screaming at Mom about how not everyone in the family was perfect.
"Scott doesn't always go where he tells you he's going, and he never gets caught, because you guys never check on him since you think he's just your perfect darling angel and he doesn't do wrong! And I know Craig doesn't spend his time at the library!! No one reads that much, EVER!!"
"Christ Kassi, you just don't quit do you?!"
"I KNOW WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT!! Craig's hardly ever at the library. He just tells you he goes there so he can go off with his football buddies and drink and party and have sex all the time! I've seen him do it! So much for your perfect little boy, huh?!"
Why was I a target now? "Jesus Kassi, what the fuck are you talking about?" I said.
"You know what I'm talking about, Craig! I followed you one day! You went to some girl's house that had a bunch of cars outside, and you were there for like two hours!!"
I couldn't believe she brought that up. The only time I'd gone off without telling them was when one of my friends was having some superficial breakdown about her boyfriend, and wouldn't calm down no matter how much I talked to her and told her it'd be all right. She kept demanding that I come over and help her get over him, so I spent two hours trying to console her, which didn't work anyway, cuz you know how teenage girls get.
I tried explaining that to the parents, but all I was getting was skeptical looks, and I wasn't going to take part in their little shouting match.
"This is ridiculous Kassi, you don't even know what happened, so why don't you leave me the hell out of this and keep trying to defend yourself, cuz God knows no one else will"
"FUCK YOU CRAIG!! I KNOW WHAT YOU'VE DONE!!" she screamed up the stairs behind me, but I just ignored her and kept going. Damned if I'm gonna get sucked into it.
After I went upstairs, I threw in one of my movies and blasted the sound to try to drown them out. I had barely put it in when I heard my mom yell "OH MY GOD!! THIS CAN'T BE TRUE!! TELL ME IT'S NOT TRUE, SCOTT!! DON'T LIE TO ME!!" I opened the door to see what was going on when I heard Kassi again.
"I can't believe he didn't tell you! He's been doing it for over a year, and he didn't tell you?!"
I started walking to the stairs, but before I got there, Scott came bounding up the stairs, right in to me, and ran into his room. I tried to follow him in, but he locked the door as I got there.
"Scott? Scott! Open the door!"
"Go away Craig."
"Scott, what happened down there?!"
"Nothing Craig, Kassi's just being a bitch."
"NOTHING! FUCK OFF!!"
I could still hear Kassi screaming at my parents for ruining her life, and a little while later I heard the front door slam and rattle the house. The silence was deafening. After all the yelling that had happened, the house felt like a field after a battle had ended. I couldn't take the quiet, and I went back into my room and turned my movie on, if for no other reason than to distract myself for a little while.
By the time it ended, it was almost 11 at night. I turned off my TV, and was about to head to bed when I heard a soft knock on my door. I expected it to be my parents, so I shouted "What?"
"Craig?" It was Scott. His voice was so soft I could hardly recognize it. "You still awake?"
"Yeah, Scott, come on in."
As he opened the door, I saw his face was tear-streaked, and he was visibly trembling. He silently walked across the room and sat on the bed next to me. I was so surprised seeing at seeing him so crushed, I was completely speechless.
Finally, he broke the silence. "I'm sorry I yelled at you Craig, but I just…I feel horrible."
"It's all right, Scotty. What did Kassi say after I left?"
He jerked his head up when I asked. He had a look of fear in his eyes that seemed as though he saw his terrors everywhere.
"I…I don't want to tell you Craig. I can't take you hurting me too."
"What are you talking about? I would never hurt you."
"You might. Craig, I can't, I'm too scared…"
He couldn't even look at me while he talked. He just stared at the floor. I tried to ask him again, but the door opened, and slammed shut; Kassi was back. And as soon as the door opened, The Argument started all over. I looked at Scott and saw him tense up, and he started to sob silently into his hands. I had never seen him so helpless. I put my arm around his shoulders, and he collapsed into my arms as he continued to cry.
Behind the backdrop of his tears, I could hear my parents and Kassi continuing where they had left off. As his sobs lessened, he sat back up, and tried to compose himself.
"I'm sorry Craig, I don't mean to do this to you…"
I still had no idea what he was referring to, but whatever it was obviously eating away at him.
"Scotty, what's going on? What did mom scream about?"
He took a deep breath, and said "Craig, Kassi told them about me. She told them that I'm…gay."
For a moment, I couldn't speak. Not because he had just come out to me, but that Kassi was cruel enough to out him in the middle of an argument he wasn't even a part of. Sometimes it was hard to believe we were actually related.
"Scotty, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry"
He suddenly sat straight up and recoiled from me. He stared at me for a second, and then started muttering "Oh my God, oh my God…I can't believe I told you that…"
"No! Craig, please don't hate me! I'm sorry I told you, it's just that Kassi made me feel so horrible and Mom took it badly and I just couldn't stop crying and please don't hate me, please…"
He had pushed himself into the corner of my bed, and was still backing up like I might reach out and punch him. I moved closer to him, and he shouted "NO! PLEASE!!" and bolted for my door. I jumped up and grabbed him by the arms as he reached the door, and pulled him in towards me, and held him in an embrace. He tried to wriggle free, but soon stopped and just leaned forward and started sobbing against me as I held him.
"It's gonna be ok, Scotty, I promise…"
We stood there for an eternity, letting him release the fears he'd pent up for so long. As his crying began to slow, I brought him back over to my bed and we sat next to each other, my arms around him. He looked up at me and looked like he wanted to ask me something, but couldn't think of the words. He started to ask, but I just held him tighter, and said "Scotty, I don't hate you. I'm your brother, and I'll always be there for you, and be willing to fight for you. Don't apologize for who you are."
He looked up and gave me a weak smile, and then glanced over at the clock. It was now well after midnight, and after everything that had transpired, we were both worn out. Scott lay down on my bed, and I lay down next to him and put my arms around him, trying to keep him safe from what he was afraid of, though I could still feel him tremble slightly. As we started to drift off to sleep, I hugged him tighter, told him I loved him, and that everything would be all right in the morning.
The events of that night are still fresh in my mind, even now, a year later. Even my promises to Scott couldn't stop what came next. After Kassi's outburst, Mom practically disowned Scott, declaring that no son of hers was gay, and made him move out a week later. Eventually, my parents acted like Scott never existed, and never mentioned him again. I tried to keep track off him, but my parents forbade me to speak to him because they didn't want him associated with our family. Even though I promised him I would always protect him, it wasn't enough. His whole life had been ruined, and he couldn't see anything worth believing in. He threw himself off an overpass so he wouldn't have to be tormented by us anymore. He never got a funeral, or an obituary. About a month later, Kassi got picked up for possession of cocaine and crystal meth, as well as concealing loaded firearms, and got 25 years for her sentence. I went off to college a couple states away, and my parents were left alone in our house.
They'll move out someday soon, when the memories get to be too much for them, when the phantom voices and thoughts start to drive them mad. I don't know where they'll end up, but I really don't care. We're not a family anymore.