Tangled Page 2

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Her voice is so achingly worried, she reminds me of my mother. When I was a boy and sick at home, Mom would come in my room with hot chocolate and soup on a tray. She would kiss my forehead to see if it still burned with fever. She always made me feel better. The memory and Alexandra’s similar actions bring moisture to my closed eyes.

Am I a mess or what?

“I’m fine, Alexandra.” I tell her, though I’m not sure if she hears me. My voice is lost in the sweet-scented pillow. “I have the flu.”

I hear the opening of a pizza box and a groan as the stench of rotting cheese and sausage drifts from the container. “Not exactly the diet of someone with the flu, Little Brother.”

I hear further shuffling of beer bottles and garbage, and I know she’s starting to straighten the mess up. I’m not the only neat freak in my family.

“Oh, that’s just wrong!” She inhales sharply, and, judging by the stink that joins the putrid pizza aroma, I’m thinking she just opened a three-day-old ice cream container that wasn’t as empty as I’d thought.

“Drew.” She shakes my shoulders gently. I give in and sit up, rubbing the exhaustion from my eyes as I do. “Talk to me,” she begs. “What’s going on? What happened?”

As I look at the troubled expression of my big bitch of a sister, I’m thrown twenty-two years back in time. I’m six years old and my hamster, Mr. Wuzzles, has just died. And just like that day, the painful truth is ripped from my lungs.

“It finally happened.”

“What happened?”

“What you’ve been wishing on me all these years,” I whisper. “I fell in love.”

I look up to see the smile form. It’s what she’s always wanted for me. She’s been married to Steven forever, has been in love with him for even longer. So she’s never agreed with the way I live my life and can’t wait for me to settle down. To find someone to take care of me, the way she takes care of Steven. The way our mother still takes care of our dad.

But I told her it would never happen—it wasn’t what I wanted. Why bring a book to the library? Why bring sand to the beach? Why buy the cow when you get the milk for free?

Are you starting to see the picture here?

So, I see her beginning to smile when, in a small voice that I don’t even recognize, I say, “She’s marrying someone else. She didn’t…she didn’t want me, Lex.”

Sympathy spreads across my sister’s face, like jam on bread. And then determination. Because Alexandra is a fixer. She can unclog drains, patch dented walls, and remove stains from any rug. I already know what’s going through her head at this moment: if her baby brother is busted, she’ll just put him right back together again.

I wish it were that easy. But I don’t think all the Krazy Glue in the world is going to piece my heart back together again.

Did I mention I’m a bit of a poet too?

“Okay. We can fix this, Drew.”

Do I know my sister or what?

“You go take a long, hot shower. I’ll clean up this disaster. Then, we’re going out. The three of us.”

“I can’t go out.” Hasn’t she been listening? “I have the flu.”

She smiles compassionately. “You need a good, hot meal. You need a shower. You’ll feel better then.”

Maybe she’s right. God knows what I’ve been doing for the last seven days hasn’t made me feel any better. I shrug and get up to do as she says. Like a four-year-old with his wooby, I bring my prized pillow with me.

On my way to the bathroom, I can’t help but think of how it all happened. I had a good life once. A perfect life. And then it all got shot to shit.

Oh—you want to know how? You want to hear my sob story? Okay, then. It all started a few months ago, on a normal Saturday night.

Well, normal for me anyway.

Four months earlier

“Fuck, yeah. That’s good. Yeah, like that.”

See that guy—black suit, devilishly handsome? Yeah, the guy getting the blow job from the luscious redhead in the bathroom stall? That’s me. The real me. MBF: Me Before Flu.

“Jesus, baby, I’m gonna come.”

Let’s freeze-frame here for a second.

For those ladies out there who are listening, let me give you some free advice: If a guy who you just met at a club calls you baby, sweetheart, angel, or any other generic endearment? Don’t make the mistake of thinking he’s so into you, he’s already thinking up pet names.

It’s because he can’t or doesn’t care to remember your actual name.

And no girl wants to be called by the wrong name when she’s on her knees giving you head in the men’s room. So, just to be safe, I went with baby.

Her real name? Does it matter?

“Fuck, baby, I’m coming.”

She removes her mouth with a pop and catches like a major leaguer as I jizz in her hand. Afterward, I move to the sink to clean up and zip up. Redhead looks at me with a smile as she rinses with a travel-sized bottle of mouthwash from her bag.

Charming.

“How about a drink?” she asks, in what I’m sure she thinks is a sultry voice.

But here’s a fact for you—once I’m done, I’m done. I’m not the kind of guy who rides the same rollercoaster twice. Once is enough, and then the thrill is gone and so is the interest.

But, my mother did raise me to be a gentleman. “Sure, sweetheart. You go find a table, I’ll get us something from the bar.” Redhead put in quite an effort sucking me off, after all. She’s earned herself a drink.

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