Chapter Two: Broken Home
Everything around the three of us seemed to move in slow motion suddenly. My sister's hands moved to her mouth in a failed attempt to mask her horror, her eyes bulging almost two times their normal size. Our mother was sobbing, as she sank down to her knees on the floor. She looked broken and older than she was. I noticed all these things in the blink of an eye, yet I did nothing to fix the things going on around me.
I sat paralyzed; my water bottle suspended in the air a few inches from my mouth the cap hidden under my free hand. I guess you could say I saw this coming, not that I was all knowing or could see the future or anything like that. It's just…if you knew the things I did; you would know this was bound to happen. It was one of those inevitable things that is impossible to escape. That didn't mean I was happy about it.
"What do you mean, mom?" Vicky's voice managed to rise to an octave that made my ears ring, "You cannot be serious!"
Vicky jumped up from her chair so fast you would think the seat was on fire. With a loud thud it hit the floor, making me flinch at the impact. I knew her anger wasn't directed at me, but it still didn't help that I thought I was partly to blame. How long have I been keeping our mother's secret from her? For too long now that I thought about it.
"Vincent Michael you better say something damn it!" Vicky shrieked, "I can't believe you are just sitting there!"
"Victoria!" Mom gasped, "What have I told you about swearing?"
"Does it really matter, mom?!" My sister snapped before turning her glare back in my direction, "Well…say something!"
So much for being the silent observer, I guess I should probably do something. Once the feeling returned to my limbs I chugged what was left of my water, before crunching it in my hands. I'd wanted to avoid this moment for as long as I could remember. Well maybe not that long but still ten years of keeping it locked away had to count for something. Oh well…here goes something, or was it nothing?
"Calm down Vicky. Why don't you let her explain herself before you start throwing a fit?" I smirked at her, "You should never reject an idea until you know all the facts. Honestly Vicks."
Her face was priceless, though the look of betrayal she was now flashing me stung a little more than I thought it would. I actually drew back as if it were a physical. After a moment she picked up her chair and planted herself back down, her arms crossed over her chest, and a glare fixated on her face as she stared at her untouched food. I glanced at my own plate wishing I could finish the rest of it, before turning back to our mother.
"Go on." I muttered.
The room fell back into its silence after I spoke, the kind of bleak quiet where you could hear a single piece of hair hit the floor. Mom dabbed at her eyes with her apron and my sister continued to stew in her own personal hell she'd manage to create. So much for trying to clear the air and get back to eating, maybe I should have just ignored them. Vicky's phone started singing some sissy pop star boy's song about some girl, but she made no move to see who was trying to get her attention.
I sighed and looked at the opening that would lead to the stairs and my bedroom. I wonder if they would notice if I made a run for it. The sound of fabric rustling drew my attention back to my mom. Mom was very carefully picking herself off the floor, though as she made her way across the floor and eventually disappearing into the living room, she said nothing. I watched her lightly squeeze Victoria's shoulder as she moved pass her.
"Shall we, Vicks?" I said, coaxing her to follow mom's example.
She sighed, "I guess so."
"I really am sorry you two." Mom muttered as she twisted the ends of her apron, "I found out some time ago I was…sick. I just wasn't sure how to tell you."
Well this was news to me, though I am sure that my expression hadn't changed since I took the seat beside Victoria on the couch. Then again even if I did let my facial features lax into one akin to one of the two people near me, I doubt they would notice. Judging by my sister's shell-shocked look and how miserable one mother wore I knew I was right. The pain in my chest was surging upward now and I couldn't help but wish I could convey the feeling in the pit of my stomach. It hurt almost as much as the sharp burning pain that attacked me earlier.
Was this fear or worry? Maybe it was a combination of both or maybe just indigestion? Either way I wasn't sure how much more I could take.
"How sick are you?" I asked ignoring my mental war.
"Are you going to be ok?"
Vicky's voice distracted me, the way it cracked and made her sound far more fragile than she was. She was crying again, her head almost close enough to make contact with my shoulder. She was far too close for my liking but what kind of brother would I be to shove her away when she needed me? I'm not that callous and cruel and I knew this was the best I could do.
As if reading my mind she looked up at me, her golden eyes bright even in the heat of sadness. She smiled, though it wasn't big enough to draw her lips off her teeth. I tried to return her smile before ruffling her hair.
"I don't know Vicky. All I know is my doctor wants me to stay in the hospital for a while. I've put in for medical leave but I wouldn't be surprised if they decide to just fire me." She looked at me but didn't answer my question. That might have slipped by my sister but I noticed it.
"Why do we have to move in with Aunt Donna and Uncle Brandon?" I asked feeling something heavy settle in my throat, "This makes no sense."
"I agree with Vince, mother." My sister spoke up, "I mean if you are only going away for a little while then we should be fine on our own."
"It'd be like when I baby-sat when Victoria was a baby" I added.
"Hey I'm only a year younger than you, jerk head." She pouted at me and punched my shoulder.
"Enough you two, this is serious." Mom looked genuinely angry, "Quit being absurd you two neither of you will be staying alone. Vincent won't be seventeen for another six months and besides all that I am your mother and this is what I want."
"We are not kids anymore, mom." I stated evenly.
This really made no sense and even worse she was avoiding answering my previous question. She was keeping something just out of our reach and it was far worse than what I already knew and what she'd already said. Her face wasn't giving anything away, but her posture was rigid and stiff. Yes, she was indeed hiding something and I was not going to give up without a fight.
"Mom." I tried again, this time pulling off the stern voice I was going for, "Tell us, we deserve to know why you are shipping us overseas to stay with our aunt and uncle, which might I add we haven't seen in seven years."
Vicky nodded, "Tell us mom, we can handle it."
Our mother looked to be at odds with herself as her eyes darted between her stubborn teens. Her once flushed face reddened with anger was now reverted back to its starkness. The bright sunshine streaming through the sheer powder blue curtain bouncing off her eyes making them shine more than usual hinting that she was at the brink of fresh tears. Geez, what is with women and showing their emotions so freely?
The look of defeat that seemed to engulf her face made me cringe, her frame slumped forward. It was actually quite sad. Suddenly she sighed heavily.
"The doctor said there is a very high risk I will not make it." Her voice was soft, "There is no cure for what I have."
My sister's fake press on nails bit into my arm, but I didn't feel it. If it hadn't been for the deep crescent moon cuts I found later that night I wouldn't have known. There was also the faint pressure of her palms forcing my arm into the armrest. Mom's words bounced around the sudden emptiness of my head. I felt light and almost weightlessness, my nerve endings numb as if my brain had stopped working. Wait would that mean I was dead or was I about to pass out? Oh hell no! I so was not about to lose consciousness and look like a punk. Sure my sister and mother wouldn't fault me; it was the principle of the matter.
I felt a sudden heaviness settle in my lap. The first thing I noticed was black…black hair that belonged to none other than Vicky. The fact she was gasping for air and her fists were pressing almost painfully into my thigh was the last thing. Oh shit!
"Mother. Inhaler." It was all I needed to say.
My sister was cough so hard her body was shaking as she tried to force air into her good lung. This wasn't the first time she'd had a fit like this, according to the doctor who she saw regularly this was going to continue to be a regular occurrence in her life until she eventually drew her last breath. I only hoped I didn't live long enough to see that day, sure Vicky and I had our moments where we were at the other's throat but in the end she was my little sister. I had a duty to protect her and I would be true to that mission no matter what.
"Breathe Vicks, just like me. You can do it." I took a slow deep breath before exhaling just as slowly, "One…two…three…"
Mother returned seconds later, pressing her daughter's bight orange special inhaler into my extended hand. I placed the spout in her mouth and just like the perfect team she followed my lead. She took a deep breath as I pressed the plunger down. After two repeats of this process she was breathing normally but still weak. I moved a pillow under her head before covering her up with the thin blanket over the back of the couch.
"Thanks Vince." She smiled weakly up at me.
"Anytime Vicks, you know I'm here for you." I ruffled her hair, "Get some rest I don't think we will be leaving for a few days."
"Monday." Mom said so low I could barely hear her.
"Four days to be exact." I added trying my best to smile down at her.
It must have worked because she closed her eyes after expelling a long yawn. I gave her one last look before rising to my full height and turned so I could look at the woman who brought me into this world. Something must have been hidden in my eyes, because she visibly stiffened for like the fourth or fifth time today. Great now my mother is afraid of me. The thought made me sigh deeply, before closing the distance between us in a matter of two steps.
The hug surprised the both of us. It surprised me because I am not one of those guys and her because she wasn't expecting it. It took her a full minute before she returned the pressure, but when she did she was squeezing like her life depended on it. It was at that moment the dam broke and she cried into my shoulder.
"I'm so sorry." She cried, "I-I am so very sorry, honey. I've put so much strain on your sister and you. I am even more ashamed for what I've done to you, you must hate me."
"You worry too much, mom." I mumbled.
She pulled away from me and gave me a weird look, "Like hell I do. I am the mother and it's my job to worry. Plus I need to take care of you two and your sister…I just don't know anymore."
"Oh mom." I said with a snort, "I will do whatever it takes to take care of Victoria until she no longer needs me. So all you need to do is focus on getting better."
Mom smiled at me, the first real smile she's given me in a really long time. Given all the hardships she's been through it's a wonder she can still remember how and I only know what she told me. She says nothing more to me before flashing me one last smile before she heads in the kitchen to finish the dishes and more than likely to avoid Vicky and I until we can come to turns with what she's just told us.
Once she is gone, I can't help but to scan the room I'm standing in. The thought that this will most likely be the last time I see my childhood home leaves a heavy ball of emotions in my chest I just don't feel like showing. A heavy sigh escapes me as I head for the stairs leading up to the second floor and also my room. Oh what a sucky way to start out the second day of summer break.
I was bored out of my mind and I just couldn't think of anything to do to occupy my time. Glancing through m dusty window it looked to be mid-afternoon. The idea of packing was able to entertain my thoughts and hands for a little over three hours. As I piled the last of my boxes into corner of my room where I shoved the others it occurred to me that I was able to pack everything I owned into four regular sized boxes.
How sad. I thought glumly.
I shook my head at my lack of possessions, before falling back onto my bare bed. It probably would've been smarter to wait before I packed my sheets and blankets, but I so wasn't in the mood to go digging through boxes. So instead I covered my eyes with my arm and yawned. The smooth leather of my bracelet made my nose itch and I sneeze. It smelled like real leather and something floral.
Lifting my arm from my eyes I studied the bracelet. It was made with thick leather and was a faded tan color flanked by a very dark brown almost black ring on the outer edge of the band. It kind of reminded me of a Reese Cup someone bit into. Four tan ties dangled from the underside of my arm, beads hung from their ends; two blue two yellow. I had the vague memory of small pale hands tying the ties so the bracelet was secure on my arm, but I couldn't quite remember whose hands they were.
Guess it not important if I can't remember. I thought before rolling onto my stomach and glaring at my empty room in its entirety.
"I wonder how many boxes my sister will fill up." I mumbled while eyeing the stack of boxes I made.
It'd be my luck Vicky would need a full moving truck for the amount of junk she had. The thought made me chuckle, before I rolled off my bed and headed for my door. After heading down the hall and finding Vicky's room I paused just outside the door. The huge white painted wooden plaque with her name painted in the center of it in pink that was nailed to her door made me twitch a little. I swear do all girls have to love the color pink? Even before I knock I can hear her favorite pop boy band playing just on the other side of the door.
"Hey Vicky, are you in there?" I called as I knocked, "I finished my packing and I was just wondering if you needed or wanted any help."
A brief silence and then, "Sure and it's open."
Her door made a soft creak as I pushed it open and stepped inside. The overwhelming scent of a vast variety of perfumes ranging from food scented and floral made me almost sneeze. Vicky's room looked every bit the way you would imagine a girl's room to look. Pale almost faded lavender walls with pink borders and stenciled flowers and butterflies. Her bedroom furniture was wood painted white with hand drawn flowers and butterflies painted the colors of the rainbow. Might I add I drew them myself? I had nothing to do with the posters of pop stars and actors she taped up though.
That was all her.
"You act like this is your first time in my room." She pointed out with a laugh.
Victoria was lying on her stomach hidden just behind the sheer purple curtains of her 'princess' bed. Her name for her overly girly bed, I prefer over the top bed. From what I could tell she was flipping through a magazine. Just looking at her you never would've guessed she just found out we were moving and she had an asthma attack.
I laughed, "Just saying good-bye I guess."
From what I could tell she hadn't even started packing. Everything was just the way it was last time I was here. Also her untaped boxes lay untouched resting against the same wall her dresser and desk was placed. The silver laptop on her desk was flipped open, the screen lit up with an image of a girl holding a microphone to her lips. After a moment of staring I realized the image was frozen in place and hadn't moved in all the time I was watching.
Must be paused or something. I thought feeling lame that my boredom had reached the point to where I was staring at stuff that wasn't moving.
The sound of her curtain moving across its rod drew my attention from the computer screen. Vicky sat on the edge of her purple comforter cover bed, her feet just barely touching the floor. She was looking at me with a curious expression, one eyebrow raised. The face she was making at me looked overly humorous or at least it did to me so I laughed. This made her eyebrows fall into a glare.
"Excuse me brother but do you mind telling me what is so funny?" She snapped, her hands gripping the sides of the bed enough for the cover to winkle.
"It's your face." I tease, "You really shouldn't do that eyebrow thing. It makes you look too much like me."
She began to pout, "Stop reminding me how much we look alike. It isn't my fault."
"As a matter of fact it is your fault since I was born first and all." I stated matter-a-factly.
"Though who could honestly blame you." I winked at her as an added effect, "I am dead sexy."
She laughed and threw a pillow at me which missed entirely, "You are a legend in your own mind."
"Nah, I am a legend in everyone's mind and the sooner they realize that, then everyone can be happy." I flashed my sister the world famous cocky smirk I was best known for.
Victoria continued with her barrage of cotton fluff filled pillows until she ran out, which surprised me since she already seemed to have an unlimited amount. She finally decided to move onto something she did have an unlimited supply of, her collection of stuffed animals. I ducked as a soft powder blue elephant sailed by my head and hit the wall behind me. It was at that moment I decided some return fire was in order. After knocking her in the side with a yellow stuffed duck with and orange bill, I started laughing. This is what I…change that, we both needed. Sure it would appear juvenile in anyone else's eyes, but we were having a blast. Sometimes you just need to have fun.
I caught a fuzzy pink bunny effortlessly as if it were moving in slow motion before it could make contact with my face. It was time to end this, but something drew my attention for the battle with my sister and my hand never released the projectile. My sister's desk light reflected off the blue gem beads hanging off my bracelet and it was enough to trigger something in my brain. Something I'd forgotten a long time ago.
"The beads have to be blue because you said your most favorite thing about me was my eyes." Someone said.
The image that followed the words in my mind was a small hand pointing at the clear plastic square bowls that held the blue beads. I remembered looking at the dark green ones and remembered I secretly wanted those and gazing in wonder at the sheer color spectrum that surrounded me. Yet the person who bought me the bracelet insisted on the light blue ones. I tried to look at the person only for the bright sun rays to temporarily blind me.
A loud crash threw me from my thoughts and I jumped at the sudden noise. Worried, I glanced at my sister to make sure she was uninjured. She looked fine to me, maybe a little paler than usual almost like she'd seen a ghost. Confused I followed her line of vision and gulped at what I saw. It appeared in the heat of battle her tall floor lamp was knocked over and was now in pieces on the floor.
Mom is going to kill us.
The rest of the day and the following day went by in a blur of silence and solitude. I decided to ignore my weird thought, mom wasn't too upset about the lamp and Vicky stayed in her room. It was night of the second day she graced us with her presence and it was just to announce she was going to spend the remainder of her time at a friend's house. Mom raised no quarrel about it since I helped Vicky finish her packing earlier that morning and after she promised me she'd meet me at the train station I decided to bid her good-bye. It was to be expected since she was still in her funk. Mom decided to keep a low profile, maybe she was still feeling guilty or something.
The day Victoria left, mom decided to kick me out the front door as well.
"I'm sure you would like to spend some time with your friends before you leave as well." She called from the cracked door.
I groaned not liking the turn of events, "Mother, I don't have any friends. They are nothing but a hassle."
"Maybe you have a girlfriend?"
Mom pouted and shoved some money into my hand, "Go see a movie or go to the arcade. I need some time along, honey."
"Whatever you say." I groaned before shoving my hands deep into my jeans pockets.
I didn't look back, but I knew she was waving at me from the door. I also knew that before I even shoved the crumpled 5000 yen in my pocket, she'd shut the door to do whatever it was she didn't want me in the house to see. It was just one of those things you know, like a feeling or instincts. The idea that she was more than likely crying was enough to make me sigh, but not enough for me to go back. Maybe she just needed some alone time to cope with the fact she was losing her kids and was more than likely going to die. I didn't like either of the possibilities, but there was nothing I could do about it.
I glanced at the chipped paint peeling off the beige wooden door, before scanning my surroundings. There wasn't a single soul roaming the sidewalks that ran parallel to the street. Even odder was the fact there were no telltale lights of cars, startled I tilted my head to the side and noticed the fading orange and pink of the setting sun. I also noticed the tall black iron street lights hadn't cut on yet. I groaned grumpily when I realized why I was the only person standing alone in the summer heat.
"It figures mom would kick me out so close to dinner time." My stomach rumbled in agreement with my words.
There was always the possibility of eating at my favorite café or getting something at the convenient store. Though the latter of the two would be cheaper and I'd still have just enough for a movie ticket seemed to be the better idea. The little store was known for their beef bowls and pork buns. Not to mention there was an ice cream stand not too far. My mouth started to water just thinking about it.
The time I spent pondering over what to stuff in my stomach soon ended as I turned the corner and was met by a harsh gust of wind so frigid it chilled me to the bone and almost ripped my shirt off as it blew by. I wrapped my arms around myself and shivered involuntarily. After a moment I shook off my confusion and continued down the sidewalk. The freezing tempest nipped at the back of my mind, with each passing step. Where did it come from? I know it's an odd thought, but it's summer and summers in my little corner of Japan are beyond toasty. So much so you wish for a light breeze but it never happened.
A second gust assaulted me before I could come up with an answer. This particular wind was different than the first, reason being it didn't leave as the first had but circled me. It wrapped around my frame and nipped at the exposed skin on my arms, legs and face. My teeth chattered loud enough to make my ears pop, as my skin tingled in the telltale hint of oncoming goose bumps. Just what the hell is going on?
I don't know what made me do it, or why I had the urge to glance sideways at the tall potted tree on my right. I guess in the end it never really mattered. Confusion tore through me as I noticed with curious intrigue that the green leaves on the plant weren't moving, though I was mere centimeters from it. The branches didn't sway and the leaves didn't shift from their original position. Oh and did I mention the breeze was freezing?
I spun around in a complete circle, my heart pounding roughly in my throat and threatening to choke off my air supply. I know I heard someone call my name, though the fact there was no one around did have me a little unnerved. No cars speeding down the street and nobody walking on either side of the sidewalk. After my hysterics died down, I dismissed the sound as my stomach playing tricks on me with a shrug. There was also the reason I haven't slept well since the whole 'moving to America' bomb mother dropped. My stomach growled in obvious aggravation and propelled me forward and out of the circling wind.
Now I know I heard that.
"What do you-who are you?" I sounded every bit as on edge as I felt. Would the disembodied voice catch it?
You forgot your promise!
"What promise?" Great now I'm talking to myself.
A fresh gust of wind wrapped around me, this time so cold I was finding it hard to breathe. I gasped and coughed the wind stronger then the first two. The sounds from the world outside seemed nonexistent to my sore ears. The only sounds reaching me were the whooshing of the wind and the echo of the soft voice in my head. My eyes stung and I could feel the water collecting in the ducts before tear rolled down my cheeks.
A sharp pain that felt more like burning and not the generic stinging bloomed in my chest, feeling like it was stemming from my heart and stilled my breathing momentarily. My hands moves as if on instinct and clutched at my shirt just over my heart. It hurt something fierce, like flaming claws ripping at my insides. I could feel my heart racing under my fingers, but the pain was making it hard to focus on anything but the searing agony brought about by the voice in my head.
"Arrrgh!" I groaned in pain.
How could you forget…?
I fell to my knees hard, the sting of skin tearing and blood escaping from the cut was enough to send the pain in my chest into a crazed frenzy. I want to yell and let the world feel my pain, but no sound escaped my throat. Or was it that no sound reached my ears. I couldn't be sure, all I knew was if I spent any more time in this hell I don't think my sanity would manage to remain unscathed.
Please…stop it…I can't breathe…
I will never forgive you for forgetting your promise…
The wind was uncontrollable now, whipping around me and lashing out. I could feel it cutting into the exposed flesh on my face. I couldn't help but wince as I felt the forming of a somewhat deep gouge across my cheek just under my visible eye. Blood ran in rivets until it collecting on my chin and eventually dripped off and onto the ground. Great how am I going to explain it to my mom and sister how I got hurt?
You are such a liar…
"I-I…" I just don't know what I am supposed to do. Am I going to die?
There has to be a way to escape this weird mini tornado and make this intense pain go away. I didn't do anything wrong, nor did I forget anyone or anything. This has to be some extension of all the weird dreams I've been having lately. That is the only logical excuse I can come up with at this point and time. Now that I think about it the voice does sound familiar. The sort of soft feminine voice I used to look forward to hearing when I was younger. Though this one has a certain biting chill to it, where the voice I remember was soft and dare I admit…sweet.
I miss you so much.
"I didn't mean to forget!" I yelled at the top of my lungs.
The sudden stillness that quickly followed was every bit as troubling as the events prior to the utter silence. The circling wind ebbed before dissipating completely. It became nothing more than a soft evening breeze. The crushing weight I thought was going to end my existence soon following, leaving me feeling to weak lift myself off the ground and beyond drowsy. Instead of pushing my body, I closed my eyes and succumbed to the comfortable darkness that beckoned me with outstretchedarms.