4 years earlier

"Jacob is coming home this weekend," Maria Nielsen said to her daughter Nikki.

"To visit? Or he's coming back home for good?"

"He says he is coming home for good. I don't think that he likes to be away from home. Even with as many problems as there are, he likes to be around family."

Nikki sighed. She missed her brother Jacob terribly when he had left to move from Chicago to Arizona. They had a strange connection between the two of them that no one else really noticed or could have understood.

Nikki was the only girl surrounded by four brothers. Three of them were older and one was younger. Jacob was the closest in age to Nikki. She had mixed feelings though about him coming home. It had been good for Jacob to get away. He had too many problems at home. He and her other older brother, Jared, had a hard time getting along. A lot of that had to do with Jared's fiancé. But it was also because of many mistakes that Jacob had made.

Jacob had a problem and everyone knew it. The entire family tried to help him and hoped that when he had moved to Arizona, he would get better. Nikki was scared that if he moved back home, the problems would start all over again, and she didn't want to be caught in the middle again. Any time that Jacob and their mom fought, Nikki got caught in the middle because she had to listen to both of them vent.

"It will be good to have him home," Maria said with a smile.

"Yeah, I'm sure," she agreed as she walked up to her room. But she was scared.

Nikki's biggest fear was that one day someone would tell her that her brother was dead. He always seemed to get himself into so much trouble. And she was scared that one day, someone would just get fed up and that would be the end of it—of his life. Or that someone would go after his family to hurt him. There were times when Nikki even feared for her own life.

As her cell phone rang, Nikki tried to get those thoughts out of her head.

"Hey baby," she answered. Jordan Taylor was Nikki's boyfriend. After all the bad choices in guys she had made, Jordan was definitely a winner. They really loved each other and he treated her in a way that no one she had dated had ever done before.

"What's up?"

"My brother is coming home. I don't know how I feel about it. I almost don't want him to. Does that make me a bad sister?"

"Why don't you want him to come home?" Jordan asked.

Nikki sighed. "I don't know. I guess I just don't want everything to start all over again. I'm scared that he's going to get in the same old shit and get himself in trouble."

"He is a big boy. He needs to take care of himself."

"I know. But he's my brother. I have a hard time telling him no. He hardly ever has money, so I just know that he's going to ask me for some."

"Don't give him any money," Jordan stated sternly.

"I don't want to. But he always uses this guilt trip. I'm his sister. I should be willing to help him."

"Help him, yes—not support him. He's 23 years old. He is old enough to support himself. You have a job to pay for things for you and you have enough of your own bills to pay for. You don't need to pay his too."

"I know. But still…"

"No. Nikki, stop it! You just need to stand your ground and make sure you don't give him money. Don't let him use your car. You're his sister, not his nanny."

"Okay. Okay."

Jordan sighed. "I don't mean to be mean, but it's time he grows up. You're 20 years old, and you're more mature than he is. You have a full-time job on top of going to school full time. You pay your own phone bill, your car payment, your car insurance, rent, and your own credit cards. It's time he learned some responsibility, and if it means using tough love, than so be it."

"I have to go," Nikki said quietly.

"Are you mad about what I said?"

"No. I just don't want to talk about it. I'll talk to you later. Love you."

He responded with the same, and Nikki hung up the phone.

She was scared of having Jacob move back home. She was scared that he was going to end up in the same crowd of people as before. She was scared that she was going to lose her brother, somehow. She knew that some of the people that he had hung around with before Arizona had not been good people. And she prayed that he would have the strength to stay away from them. Time would only tell.


Nikki woke up on Thanksgiving Day to her phone ringing.

"Hello?" she answered groggily.

"Hey, little sis, want to come pick me up?" It was Jacob. He had come back from Arizona the week before, and was living in their mom's old condo that she hadn't sold yet.

Nikki groaned. It was a 45-minute drive just to get there to pick him up, but she agreed to it. She got dressed, and headed out to get him.

Once there, he got out to the car, and the first thing he did was ask her for a few dollars.

She sighed. "And what is that for?"

"Well, mom asked me if I could bring just some rolls or something for dinner, and I said I would."

"Yeah, but I only have my debit card, so I'll just pay for it. Cool?" When he nodded, she said, "And don't worry, we'll keep it between us."

He smiled at her and thanked her.

When they got back to the house, Jacob handed Maria the rolls. "Hey mom!"

"Hi, honey!" she said. When she saw the rolls, she grinned. "Oh, you were able to pick them up! Well, now we have extra. I picked up some just in case you forgot or something."

He smiled a little and gave his mom a hug.

Jacob walked around saying hi to the siblings that he hadn't seen in a while. Jared and his fiancé Gabby was there, as well as Paul and his 3-month-pregnant wife, Carrie. Nikki re-introduced him to Jordan, as they had only met a few times before he left for Arizona. Jordan and Jacob seemed to get along very well, seeing as they were both very interested in electronics—phones, laptops, anything they could play with.

Nikki listened to her brother talk to people. He seemed so happy to be home. She wondered if maybe this was how things could be from now on. Maybe there wouldn't be so many fights between her brothers. Maybe Gabby and Jacob would finally get along. At this point, Gabby constantly told Jared that Jacob was not going to be attending their wedding because she wouldn't allow it. Jared just constantly rolled his eyes, and told her that he was his brother, and was going to be there. There just seemed to be so much drama in the family.

At one point, Nikki glanced over at Jacob, who was currently sitting by himself. He seemed lonely, and she suddenly felt a pang of guilt. She felt guilty for ever thinking anything negative about her brother. After all, no matter what, he was still her brother, no matter what he did.

Nikki leaned over Jordan, and whispered, "Do you think Jacob is lonely?"

Jordan shrugged. "I don't know. He's got Chloe, doesn't he?"

Nikki shook her head. "They're off right now." Chloe was Jacob's on-and-off girlfriend for the past ten years. They loved each other, but they seemed to have a love-hate relationship. It worked for them, somehow. Even if they began to date other people, they always went back to one another. They loved each other unconditionally.

Nikki realized at that point, that she felt sorry for Jacob. He was alone.