He grabbed his keys and shook them in front of her, “you ready to go?” he asked.
She shoved her hands in her pockets and kicked a pebble with her ballet flat, “I guess.”
“It”ll be fine, I promise.” He assured her, always having that kind of convincing confidence.
He offered her his hand and she hopped up into the passenger side of his Jeep. It was old and the black paint was starting to show rust, but it fit him. He was so charismatic, so attractive, and yet down to earth and as good hearted as they come. He walked around the other side and lifted himself up into the driver’s seat. He looked over and gave her a charming smile, lifted his eyebrows as if to say “you ready for this?” and started the car.
It was a beautiful night, she had to admit, and she didn’t give herself many opportunities to feel the Summer air on her skin lately. As the wind whipped through her hair and the night sky shown brighter with stars above her, she closed her eyes and let the roar of the engine overtake her thoughts. Despite the fact that she found him somewhat pushy, his presence made her feel more alive, more in touch with what it was she knew life could be.
He drove in silence, not turning on the music, and she was grateful for that. He might have been immature in a lot of ways, but sometimes he surprised her with his serenity. By the time they pulled into the driveway, she was feeling a little better about the night.
He leapt out of the Jeep and around to her, always a gentleman. Sometimes, more often than she cared to admit actually, she was jealous of him. He seemed to have it all- the social life, the confidence; everything just seemed to work out for him. She knew that wasn’t true, though. And she had to continue to remind herself of that when she found herself trying to stay away from him because she could barely stand how easy he had it. Besides, never once had he put her down in front of his friends, never once did he question her or walk away from her when times got tough. He was there for her, unrelentingly. Sometimes he even told her how beautiful she was, no matter how terrible she felt that day.
She stopped at the end of the sidewalk and he walked ahead. She could feel herself growing more and more hesitant to go in, “this doesn’t feel ok” she thought to herself, “I shouldn’t be here.” He turned around when he realized she wasn’t next to him, “Come on,” he said firmly, “you said you wanted this.” Her heart dropped. He was right, but now she was second guessing it.
The feeling of dread reminded her of the times that she and her brother would hear their dad coming home at night and hide under her bed until they were sure he passed out. They never knew what Dad they were going to get- the one who was sweet and loving or the one who came home angry and drunk. The worst nights were the ones when he was so determined, he didn’t just go to bed. The worst ones were the ones he wouldn’t give up looking for them. When that happened, she always shushed her brother, climbed out from under the bed, and took the fate for both of them. Her stomach churned with the memory.
This is why she was here, because of those memories. She found herself in this place because she had no idea how else to cope with what happened. In her late teens, she started to numb herself with the pain killers she found in her mom’s bathroom. By her early twenties, she was spending most of her paycheck on alcohol. It made her sick to think that she got that from him, that they shared something in common. She had always thought of him as a monster, and now here she was, fearing that she too would turn into a monster. Her brother, on the other hand, learned to channel his anger through sports. It’s what got him that full ride scholarship and an excellent education that was leading him to medical school. Although she was often jealous, she felt intense pride at all that he had become. She had promised to take care of him.
He was waiting for her at the entrance with the door propped open for her to enter. Her heart raced faster, willing her not to go inside. He didn’t look nervous at all, he looked like he knew exactly what he was doing. She glanced at the sign on the door in disbelief that she had gotten here: AA MEETING TONIGHT, 8PM.
She looked up at him with shame and said, “I’m supposed to be taking care of you.”
He shook his head and whispered, “It’s my turn, big sis.”