All We NeedbyXarth©
However thick my parents thought the walls in our house were, they weren't thick enough. I'd lost count of how many times I'd lain in bed listening to mom and dad fighting when they thought we wouldn't overhear them. I was at a point where I almost didn't care anymore, but I couldn't say the same for my little sister.
Once the yelling started it was usually only a matter of time before Monica would be up and looking for something to take her mind off of our parents' increasingly obvious issues with each other. Most of the time that distraction was me since I was the only other person in the house.
As if on cue I heard the floorboards creak right outside my room, then a brief pause. Slowly the knob on my door turned and it swung open just far enough for Monica to peek in. She always seemed to worry about waking me up, but even as detached as I was getting I still couldn't sleep through the yelling.
"Come in," I said.
Monica stepped carefully into the room, making sure not to step on anything in the dark. She closed the door behind her and padded closer to my bed. I reached for my bedside lamp and missed, finding the switch on the second try. By the light coming from the bulb I could make out my sister's face enough to tell that she was upset, though I didn't need to see her to know that.
"They're fighting again," she said, as if I didn't know.
"Yeah, they are," I said.
She looked so much younger than her eighteen years, like a frightened girl wanting everything to be okay. I hated when she got like this, so unsure of her world and not even able to go to her parents for comfort. More to the point, I hated that there was nothing I could do about it other than providing a temporary illusion of security.
"Why can't they just... stop it?" she said.
"I don't know," I said.
She took another tentative step toward me and I finally sat up, pulling off my covers and pushing them to the side. I knew she'd want to stay for a while, at least until things were quiet again, but she'd never ask. It was as if she was afraid I'd reject her one of these times and I didn't even want to consider what that might do to her.
"Sit down," I said. "It'll be over soon."
"I wish it never happened."
That'd be nice, if little more than wishful thinking under the circumstances.
My bed was next to the wall and as Monica climbed in with me I shifted so we could both lean up against it. As soon as she got comfortable she tugged on the end of my blanket and pulled it around her body. I was sitting on the other half and it wasn't really cold enough that I felt the need for it just then.
"You remember when we were little?" she asked. "You think they were always like this and we just never noticed?"
"No," I said after thinking about it for a second. "I think they really did love each other for a while, and maybe they still do. I don't know. But things change, lots of stuff does."
"It does, doesn't it? I think that's what scares me most." Monica pulled her knees up to her chest, huddling into a protective ball. "'Cause if stuff like that can change, then lots of other things could too. Like maybe they won't always love me either."
"Or maybe you won't."
She turned her head toward me with a neutral expression, but her eyes gave her away. She was truly worried about the possibility.
"Never happen," I said, shaking my head with absolute certainty.
"Why not?" she insisted. "If mom and dad could stop loving each other then... maybe anybody could."
"No way. You forget, I had to grow up with you and I know all the most annoying things about you already. If we were gonna hate each other we'd be doing it already."
"Hey, I'm not annoying," Monica said with just a hint of a smile.
"If you say so Miss takes-my-books-without-asking. Strange how those pages get dog-eared all on their own isn't it?"
"I can't help that you've always got all the good ones," she grumbled. "And you're the one who always finishes the cereal and doesn't put it on the grocery list."
"But you deal with it don't you? That's what I'm talking about, we've lived together all our lives and if stuff like that hasn't driven us apart it never will."
"I don't know, you really think it's just little things like that?"
"It has to be, they fell in love before right? So unless it's some big secret then it pretty much just has to be stuff building up over time."
"Maybe you're right."
Monica fell silent and I had nothing else to add so we just sat together for a while. In the quiet minutes that followed I noticed at some point that the sounds of our parents' fighting had disappeared. If my sister also realized it then she didn't say anything.
"Seems safe again," I said eventually, hinting that she could go but not pushing her out.
"Yeah," she said, giving me the impression she had caught on too. "Do you mind if I stay for a bit longer though? Like just a few more minutes. I'm not really ready to go back to bed yet."
"If you want."
I was getting tired, but sleep wasn't a big issue for me. I guessed Monica was sleepier than she wanted to admit as well when she leaned on me and rested her head on my shoulder.
"M'just gonna stay for a little bit, don't let me go to sleep," she said.
"Okay," I said.
Predictably we both fell asleep where we were. I woke up mildly disoriented in a slumped over sitting position exactly where I'd been last night. Monica was curled up in my blanket with her head on my lap like it was a pillow.
She looked happier in the morning light, much more like she normally did. Any worries or fears she'd had were erased by sleep and she seemed at peace. I just wished she could feel that way all the time.
I didn't need to get up right away, although I couldn't stay there forever either, and moving would have meant waking up Monica. I decided I'd give her a little while to awaken on her own before I did that.
With nothing better to do I softly stroked her hair, smoothing it out from its nighttime disarray. Unfortunately, as gentle as I was the contact was enough to disturb my sister and she shifted slightly where she lay before cracking open one eye.
"Is it morning already?" she asked.
"Yes," I said.
"Mmph, sorry. Didn't mean to stay here all night. Told you not to let me fall asleep though."
I shrugged. "It's okay, I don't mind."
Monica rolled over off of my lap, still wrapped in my blanket but allowing me to move from what had become a somewhat uncomfortable position.
"I think I like your bed better, you know," she said. "Don't know why though."
"The mattress maybe?" I suggested.
"Yeah, maybe. Could just be 'cause you're here too, it's nice not being alone when I wake up."
"There's something to be said for it alright."
I maneuvered myself toward the edge of the bed, shuffling around Monica who seemed less inclined to start her day just yet.
"Are you getting up now?" she asked.
"Yeah, I'm going to go see about breakfast. You want me to get you anything?"
"Nah, I don't know how long I'll be."
She might just go back to sleep in my absence, but that wasn't really my problem. And my stomach was beginning to seriously insist on food.
I hadn't quite reached the kitchen when I realized someone else had beaten me there. The faint sound and smell of something cooking registered in my brain just before I turned the corner and had my suspicions confirmed. Mom was standing by the sink with a cup of coffee in her hands and a tired expression on her face. There were pancakes on the stove cooking next to a bowl of batter and by the look of things they needed to be flipped.
"Oh, good morning," mom said, seeming caught off-guard by my appearance. "I didn't realize you were up yet."
"Just got up," I said.
I crossed in front of her and grabbed the spatula to save the pancakes from burning.
"I thought making breakfast for you and your sister would be nice," she said. "But I'm not sure I'm really as up to it as I thought."
That she didn't even mention dad told me something, although it wasn't anything I couldn't have guessed. The driveway was visible out the kitchen window and when I looked I saw his car was gone. I wasn't sure whether he'd left last night or early in the morning. Either way, it had been a long time since all four of us had eaten breakfast together and that wasn't going to change any time soon.
"I can get it from here," I said.
"Are you sure?"
"It's pretty simple, even I can flip things over when they start going brown."
Mom gave me a small smile and set her cup down on the counter.
"Okay, thank you. I might just go lie back down for a few minutes. Make sure Monica gets up in time to eat okay?"
Standing there waiting for pancakes to cook was not what I felt like doing, but somehow I'd ended up stuck with it anyway. I was tempted to only make enough for Monica and me right now and leave the rest of the batter until later since I didn't expect mom back any time soon. The only thing was I really had no idea how well it would keep.
Fortunately my sister did show up before too long so I wasn't waiting around on my own. She hadn't dressed for the day yet and was still in her nightshirt and bare legs. She perked up instantly when she noticed what I was up to.
"You made pancakes?" she said. "I didn't even know you knew how."
"Mom made them," I said. "I'm just cooking them. She went back to bed."
"Oh." Monica frowned for a second as she caught some of the subtext. "Well thank you anyway."
She grabbed a plate and helped herself to a couple already done pancakes as well as the syrup out of the fridge before sitting down at the table.
"It might not actually be such a bad idea for us to do more cooking you know?" she said as she poured some syrup on her plate.
"Oh yeah? Why's that?"
"Well just 'cause things are getting a little, you know, chaotic around here."
"You might be right, but you know my talents in that area are limited."
"That's okay, I can teach you some stuff. You're not going to have someone to look after you forever you know, you'll have to learn someday."
"If you say so."
When I got home that evening nothing seemed any different at first from when I left. It wasn't until I found Monica in the kitchen that I knew something had happened. There were some opened cans on the counter and evidence of supper being started, but then left unfinished. My sister was sitting on the floor against one of the cupboards hugging her knees and staring vacantly at the floor. She looked about ready to cry any second.
"So, uh, what's going on?" I asked, trying to keep my tone neutral and wait to see what her response was.
"Was gonna make supper," she said. "Dad was back and he and mom were talking, thought maybe he was gonna stay. We could've all been together and everything. Then he left. Angry. Haven't seen mom yet, she might have locked herself in her room again."
"Dammit," I said quietly, more to myself than to Monica.
I was really losing patience with our parents. They needed to work something out to stop their problems being our problems. We shouldn't have to constantly deal with this, especially Monica who definitely wasn't taking it well. Within a couple of seconds I reached a decision.
"Come on," I said. "Let's go."
I held out my hand to help her up and she took it with a bit of hesitation.
"Go where?" she asked.
"Anywhere. Somewhere that's not here. We'll go eat and then maybe come back, or maybe not. I don't know."
Monica tilted her head slightly as she stood, then shrugged.
"Okay," she said.
I led her back out to my car that I'd only stepped out of a few minutes ago and started driving, not entirely sure where I was going. She mostly stared out the window and didn't say anything without prodding.
"So anywhere you want to go?" I asked.
"I'unno," she said. "Doesn't really matter."
"Exactly, it doesn't matter. So we may as well go somewhere you want to."
She turned toward me for a moment with her vaguely sad expression fading to one of thoughtfulness.
"Do you remember that place we used to go sometimes when we were younger?" she asked.
"The one mom and dad took us when they didn't feel like making anything?"
"Yeah. Is that still around?"
"We could find out."
I knew the place she was talking about instantly since it was the only restaurant we used to go to on a semi-regular basis. It was kind of a family place, a step or two up from fast-food but where you could take your kids and not worry too much about trying to dress them up and make them behave. I was pretty sure it was still there although it had been a couple years anyway since I'd last been.
We'd started out going the wrong way so I had to take a roundabout route back to the area I wanted to go. Monica still wasn't saying much, but every now and then when I glanced over I noticed that she was paying more attention to where we were. That seemed like a good sign to me.
The place was exactly where I remembered it being, although with a few minor changes since my last visit. The table layout was different from what I pictured in my head and some of the wall decorations were unfamiliar. Nothing too huge though.
Once we were seated, across from each other in a booth, I was able to study my sister's reaction more closely. She kept looking around and her lips would twitch upward occasionally, happy memories of the past I assumed. I was glad she could focus on them rather than how things had changed since then.
Before long a waitress came by and gave us each a menu. Monica opened hers right away and browsed through the options while I held off for a moment.
"Can I get you anything to drink while you decide?" the waitress asked.
I made eye contact with Monica, but didn't wait for her answer.
"Yes, could we get two milkshakes please?" I said. "One chocolate, one strawberry."
I had some memories of my own and I knew that a strawberry milkshake was always Monica's goal to get out of our parents. She was successful more often than not too.
"You don't have to-" Monica started.
"Two milkshakes please," I repeated to the waitress who nodded and turned away. "Come on, you really going to tell me you don't want one?" I asked, raising an eyebrow at my sister.
"No, but... I don't know. You didn't have to do that is all. I mean, I know you're paying and all since I don't have money with me so-"
"So I can get you a milkshake if I want," I interrupted. "Seriously, don't worry about that stuff right now okay? We're just going to have some time where we do what we want to and fuck the consequences."
Monica giggled a little as I swore and looked around instinctively to see if anyone heard me.
"You're supposed to be a good influence on me you know?" she said.
"No, I'm supposed to be your brother and sometimes that means setting a bad example if it's in your best interest. Like sometimes you need to just forget about your problems for a while even if it's not actually going to help solve them."
"I don't know, that sounds like kinda bad advice. Or maybe fucking good advice, I'm not sure."
We both grinned conspiratorially, like kids who'd just discovered the word for the first time and knew we shouldn't say it. We really didn't swear that much most of the time even though we were more than old enough that there was no reason we couldn't if we wanted to. There was something about the place too, something about how we'd only ever been there with our parents that made misbehaving slightly seem more than it really was.
"And here's your drinks," said the waitress, reappearing almost unnoticed by our table.
"Thank you," Monica and I said at the same time.
My sister immediately took an experimental sip through her straw and nodded approvingly at the result. Then we had to order, which I hadn't properly prepared for. I went with a burger and fries since it was usually a safe enough choice, and I wasn't really there for the food anyway.
"You know, with just the two of us here this feels a little bit like a date," Monica said once we were alone again. "I mean, except for you being my brother obviously."
"Yeah, I guess it is kinda. 'Cept if it was I might have taken you somewhere there weren't kids running around," I said, looking pointedly toward a family a couple tables away where the parents were having difficulty keeping their children in their seats.
"Oh it's not that bad. Besides, I picked remember?"
"I remember. I guess I'm lucky you're a cheap date then."
"Or maybe I just have plans for later and I'm luring you into a false sense of security."
I smiled and rolled my eyes, not believing her for a second. If she actually did want to do stuff after we were done that was fine by me though, as long as she was happy I didn't have to worry about her.
We ended up just sitting and talking for far longer than I would have expected, long enough we probably would have been quite a nuisance if the restaurant had been a little busier. When we got back in the car Monica immediately took over the radio, locating a station she liked and turning up the volume. She looked at me almost daring me to fight her over it, but I let it go.
When we got home I wondered briefly if anyone would be wondering where we went. Dad still wasn't there and when it came down to it I didn't know for sure if mom had even noticed we were gone.
Monica walked beside me to the door, then skipped ahead and stood in front of it blocking my way. She clasped her hands behind her back and looked at me innocently.
"If this was a real date, now's when you'd have to kiss me you know," she said.
"You think so do you?"
Her eyes twinkled with a hint of mischief and I knew she was only teasing me. Maybe that's what made me do it, the knowledge that she wasn't truly expecting anything more than getting a reaction out of me. Whatever the case, I kissed her.
Her body registered only surprise at first as I closed the gap between us and snaked my arms around her waist. Her lips too were unresponsive, then suddenly they melted into mine as she got over the initial shock.
I hadn't planned on holding the kiss for very long, just enough to make some kind of point, but that went out the window pretty fast. For some reason once I started I couldn't let go right away, I couldn't simply back away from my sister even if I probably should. There was supposed to be something inherently weird about kissing her, something physical or mental that differentiated her from other girls, and it just wasn't there.
Eventually we did run out of air and had to separate briefly, but I never let go of her and our faces didn't go more than a couple inches from each other the whole time. We just stared at each other, panting and searching for clues as to what the other was thinking. Then, as if it was agreed upon ahead of time, we moved together again.
Monica's hands went to my shoulders and it felt like she stood up on her toes a little to negate her slight height disadvantage as all of a sudden her face was even with mine. I pulled her tighter to me, feeling her breasts against my chest and the warmth of her body through her shirt under my hands. She felt just like a girl is supposed to feel; just as wonderfully soft and perfect as any of my previous experiences, only somehow more so.
It was only when her lips parted, whether in invitation or otherwise, that I snapped out of it. Kissing my sister was one thing, using tongue was taking it to a completely unjustifiable level. I pulled away as she tried to hang on to me for a second, then abruptly backed away too and looked away embarrassed.
"That might have gone a bit too far," she said after a moment of awkward silence.
"Yeah, probably," I agreed. "I mean it's not a big deal right? But if someone saw something like that they'd probably get the wrong idea."