I received the text right before the climax of the movie. Of course.
I couldn't leave it. I'd left it once before and Jace had staggered into the room, in full view of Dad and Roseanne. God, he was grounded for a long time after that one.
I made some excuse about going to the toilet and dashed out of the room. It was quite a distance to the front door; the hallway was vast and wide, stretching on for the longest time, branching off to various rooms.
I softened my step as I reached the end of the hall, hoping the parents couldn't hear me treading on the tile. So far, we hadn't been caught doing this.
As usual, once I'd cautiously pushed open the door far enough to enter, Jace was slumped limply outside on the porch. He looked up at me through his fringe as I approached, pleasure crossing his features. "Hey, La-"
"Shut up," I hissed, wrenching him to his feet. He had no sense of silence in this state. He stumbled as I did so, but I had no patience. Sure, it was a little unreasonable for me to blame him for missing the ending of the movie, but that night I just felt like it.
Really, I wasn't missing that much. It was just Titanic, and while it possessed the most epic of endings, I'd seen it a million times before. In fact, if I wanted to, I could recite the entire ending in my head word for word. A convenient form of entertainment.
Despite this, it's just so much more fun to blame our siblings for our bad moods, is it not? I wasn't missing much of the movie, in all honesty, but finding a negative feeling to direct at Jace was soothing after a long year at school.
I celebrated the end of the school year staying in with my parents for movies. Jace celebrated it by getting legless. I would remark on the fact that you'd hardly know we were related, but technically we aren't. In fact, he'd only been my brother for about four years.
It's funny how families are formed, isn't it? Two people wearing black and white recite promises to one another, sign a few forms, and suddenly their children are forced to live together. Me and Lily were dragged all the way from Adelaide to a small town in Queensland, because precious Roseanne lived there. Okay, so Roseanne isn't so bad, but she wouldn't be my first choice as a Mum. It's a bit ridiculous that Jace is seventeen and still needing to sneak around to drink.
So yeah, as I was saying, Jace is my stepbrother. So is Darren, but he's in university in Sydney, so I only see him a few times a year. Been that way since Dad moved me and Lily in. I wonder if his choice of university's was at all affected by the family addition.
Jace leaned on me heavily as I pulled the front door shut. I grunted under his weight and shifted his arm for my own comfort before I began to trek him up the two flights of stairs. My Dad the gold-digger. Maybe he had married Roseanne for her millions. It would make more sense than if he married her for her personality. Or lack of.
Getting Jace to jump the creaky step of the staircase was always an experience. Tonight, it was an impossibility. I ended up settling for pushing him roughly from behind. He did a rather commendable job of stumbling over it. Impressive, considering his state.
In his room, I did my best attempt at helping Jace to remove his shirt. I drew the lines at his jeans, however, and stubbornly turned my back. I was forced to turn back after the deafening crash that followed.
I whipped around, annoyed. Jace looked at me sheepishly from where he lay on the floor, and then let his had fall against the carpet. There was no point telling him off; he wouldn't understand what I was saying to him. How he let himself consume this amount of alcohol was beyond me.
"I am the best sister in the world, and don't you forget it," I said quietly. I proceeded to peel off his skin tight jeans with some element of difficulty.
When we first moved in, I had the impression Jace was gay. He dressed too nicely for a straight guy. Well, that was my logic, anyway.
With his fitted jackets and shirts, nice jeans, groomed hair... that is, until he began to bring home a parade of girls. I called this his man whore stage. It stopped abruptly around six months ago. I attribute this to a growing sense of maturity. I would be proud of him, save the excessive partying.
"You aren't my sister, Laine," he slurred as I helped, or rather, forced him to his feet once again. I led him to his bed, at which point he flung himself backwards gratefully.
"I'm the closest you're likely to get," I replied crisply.
Jace let out a weak groan, pulling the pillow over his head. "Get under the blankets," I ordered.
"It's too hot."
The abruptness of this response brought an unwilling smile to my lips. Without another word I tramped back downstairs to the kitchen.
"By the way," I called out to the parents in what I hoped was a casual tone. "Jace is home."
"Tell him to come and say hello!" Roseanne.
"He looked really tired, I think he's already gone up to bed. You know how exhausting Twister can be."
I believe Dad was the only one in the room intelligent enough to pick up on the sarcasm in my voice. "You haven't missed the end," he called out, tactically changing the subject. "Rose is about to never let go of Jack!"
I hesitated. Jack or Jace? I decided Jace was probably more important, being real and all, and continued pouring water into a glass. "I'll be there in a minute," I replied, before hurrying up the stairs.
I had to shake Jace awake to hand him the water. "Drink."
"I'm not thirsty."
"I'm not giving you a choice."
Jace gave me a resentful look and brought the cup to his lips. Water spilled down his bare chest, soaking into the sheets below him. Well, at least he wouldn't be hot anymore.
"My head feels like death," Jace moaned, resting his forehead on his hands.
I pushed Doritos across the kitchen counter at him. "Grease. This will help."
A small smile played across his lips as he ripped the bag open. "You should consider a job as the hangover fairy."
"Why is it so dark in here?" Lily asked as she entered the kitchen.
"Because Jace's head feels like death," I replied helpfully. Lily looked at me quizzically, and then opened the fridge for milk. I've never known her to have a breakfast that consisted of anything other than Coco Pops. Probably not the best start to a day, but it wasn't my business. I was the sister, not the mother.
Before I began to think of my own breakfast, I rummaged through the cupboards and brought out some Nurofen, throwing two tablets at Jace.
The hangover fairy. It might not pay well, but it was most certainly my occupation. I was well versed in nursing Jace, who usually needed it at least once a weekend.
Before our friendship, his hangovers had actually been a source of entertainment for me. There was no better way to start a Saturday than to watch him hunch over the table, suffering for the world to see.
But that was back in the days I still thought him a gay prick. Gay, because of the clothing. Prick because, well, we just never talked. Not at school, not at home. My attitude towards him only went downhill when he came home halfway through my losing my virginity. He didn't interrupt it, mind you, which was a godsend at the time. But he commented on it, which cheapened the whole experience for me.
The experience was further cheapened when the guy dumped me the following week. I came home crying, and to my surprise, it was Jace who sat me down and demanded an explanation. At the time, he hadn't reacted much, and I assumed he didn't really care.
Until he broke the guy's nose the next day at school.
It's hard not to be friends with someone after something like that, isn't it?
I didn't look after him because I felt like I owed him, mind you. The nose incident had been almost a year ago, back when I'd newly turned sixteen. I was turning seventeen soon. It was Jace himself; he was actually extremely hard not to adore once I'd bothered to get to know him. Rather than snobbish, I instead found him reserved and mild tempered. Sweet and patient. I could say with certainty that if I were the type to go out and get smashed, he'd look after me in the same way, if sober.
"Doritos for breakfast isn't very healthy," Lily told Jace sternly as she scooped another spoonful of Coco Pops into her mouth, crunching loudly.
"Neither is chocolate cereal," Jace replied weakly. He ran his hand through his hair in an attempt to ruffle it, and then clutched his head in pain. Poor dear.
"It's better than Doritos."
"It is so! Tell him it's better, Elena!"
"No, Laine, tell her Doritos are better," Jace argued, looking at me sweetly. "Corn and cheese versus chocolate?"
"At least mine has milk."
"Both of you should try a banana sometime," I replied in mediation, before grabbing myself one from the fruit bowel.
"Spoil sport," Jace muttered.