"Michael"

By Mersera Alvaro

"-- went for the pass and --"

"-- tried to get help for our daughter. No one --"

"-- Come on kids! Count to three. One, two --"

"Mikey, Gabriel, what are you doing?"

"Nothing," he said from the other end of the couch, and I might have made some noise to back up his statement, as fuzzy as my mind was feeling. The screen was burning my eyes to watch, but there was nothing else for it. It was keeping my thoughts occupied.

"-- made a mistake! We're not --"

"Boys, look at me when I'm talking to you, please."

Gabe stopped flipping the channels and craned his neck to see over the high back of the sofa. I reached over to jerk the remote from between his slack fingers, smirking when he reacted too slowly and had to exact his revenge by moodily kicking my side.

"Boys!"

"What, mom?" Gabe asked, turning back around with an almighty roll of his eyes.

She frowned, her new lipstick looking oddly… brown compared to the cherry-red that she was practically trademark for. I couldn't tell whether or not it was an improvement from the constantly grinning clown-lips. Like she'd been sneaking large, messy bites of chocolate when we weren't looking or something, more and more until it covered everything. That obnoxious, fire-engine red was nowhere to be seen.

"You'll be good while I'm gone? You'll be in bed by eleven?" Why was she chewing her lips? Did that stuff actually taste like chocolate, too?

"'Course we will, mom," Gabe flopped back down into his seat, grabbed the remote back from my hand, where it rested, elbow bent over the back edge of the couch, and went as if to set his feet on the streak-free coffee table, before thinking better of it, "We're you and dad's little angels."

There was a joke in there, somewhere.

Mom didn't smile, more like grimaced.

"Yes. Yes, your daddy named you..."

This time, I kicked Gabe. He set his jaw and dug his thumbnail into the soft, grey rubber of the "Up" button, making the TV frizz and make spitting noises for a second, as it tried to catch up with his sudden demand, the channels blinking on and off the screen again in a matter of milliseconds.

"-- other news --"

"-- try out brand --"

"-- the morgue runs--"

"I'm sure you'll have a great time," I said, and she seemed to lighten a bit at that.

"You're very sweet, honey. I'll tell Casey that you boys said 'Hi.'"

She crossed the room, black skirt making swishing noises as she rustled by the back of Gabe's ducked head to the hall mirror. To check her lipstick again. She used the bony point of her ring finger to wipe imaginary smudges from around the crest of her lips and the corners of her mouth, turning her head this way and that to inspect herself from every possible angle.

"You know my cell. Number of the restaurant is on the fridge, if you need it."

"We won't," Gabe said.

"-- Need the number. We'll be fine," I gave him a look, frustrated, and mouthed a quick, 'Shut up!'

He flipped the channel back down, turning up the volume by three notches.

"I just want to make sure. Gabriel-- Gabriel, honey, if your brother's fever goes back up there's medicine in the cabinet, all right?"

"Yeah, okay."

She gave a worried smile and fussily bent to kiss me on the head. I tried to dodge, but Gabe was in the way, and I was too far into my recline against the side of the armrest to have anywhere else to go. Gooey lips were smooched against the crown of my scalp, and my brother sent a snicker at me, resting on a family sit com while he watched from a safe distance, trying to look unimpressed.

"Mom, I'm fine!" If I had known my encouragement would get her that worked up, I might have just pretended to be another lumpy malformation of the thirty-seven year old love seat.

She smoothed down my hair, and gave a little smile. The lipstick had come off a little from her unexpected attack; small, pink patches had reappeared within the dark brown gunk. I ran a hand over my head and brought it back in front of my face, a matching smudge running down the center of my palm. Ah, gross…

Gabe was shaking by now with an effort to now react, eyes squinted and head leaning back, though no sound really came out of his mouth, which was really trying not to grin.

I leaned forward and wiped my hand off on his pant leg.

"Hey!" he said, sitting up quickly.

"Funny, isn't it?"

"These were new! I just got them!"

"It'll wash right out, Gabriel," mom said, kissing his head as well, while he was distracted by the stain on his right knee, "I love you both. See in a few hours."

"Fine."

"See you."

Before I turned back to the screen, I sat up in my seat and called after my mom.

"What, sweetie?" She paused in the doorway, a crisp, cool air circulating through the hot, humid room from the outdoors, making Gabe sink farther into the couch with a grumble at the change in climate.

I fumbled with the words, and pointed to my mouth, drawing a little circle in the space in front of it, "Your makeup. It's kinda-- "

Gabe twisted his head to see what I was talking about.

"Yeah," he agreed, mimicking my pattern, "I think you left most of it in our hair."

She blinked, closed the door with only a gap left, and checked the hall mirror, going oddly quiet at her reflection.

"It did come off." With one hand, she reached up to her mouth and scrubbed the rest of it off on the back of her wrist, uncovering the bubble-gum pink flesh beneath, "There. That's better?"

"Much," I said, going back to watching Gabriel flip through mind-numbing fuzz.

OoOoOoOoO

A/N: This was a practice piece for class, to write from the perspective of the opposite gender. If the boys in this seem, in any way, feminine, please review to tell me.

Thanks!

As Always,

-Mersera Alvaro