tagNon-EroticFly in the Ointment

Fly in the Ointment


Isn't it funny how things we try to bury under the years of simple silence can have a way of clawing their way to the surface? Sometimes I wonder if there really is such a thing as a secret, or if all these things we don't say are just waiting for the right time to spring up on us. Can a man even hope to conceal his worst sin in this so called information age, or is it inevitable that it will find that perfect time to suck the wind from him and ruin his life?

The classic 'ding dong' of my front doorbell sounded through the house and brought me slowly out of my trance.

Maybe it's best that our secrets always seem to find us. Maybe that's how the universe corrects itself, how it overcomes our failures. Karma, or something like it, that works at the lower level. The in your face and making you hurt level.

Another 'ding dong' and I was forced out of my introspection altogether. I looked around for a moment before unwrapping myself and moving gingerly from my perch on the bed. Immediately I was assaulted by grey swirls that obscured my vision and made my knees mush. It was strong enough to force me to lean against the door frame to my bedroom long enough to recover before continuing on down the hall toward the door.

The doorbell sounded again and I felt like yelling at whoever it was to just shut up and wait a bit but my throat wasn't ready to form words yet. Instead I just trudged onward, feeling the return of my mind as it slowly filled my robotically moving body. By the time I was at the door I was myself again, ready to tell whoever it was that came all the way out here in the desert to scram.

"Cedric!" she said as I opened the door. She was much too enthusiastic for my taste, though I guess that happens when you haven't seen someone in somewhere around six years. "It's been so long!"

"Uh..." I was stunned. Of all the people I thought might someday wander out here to my little desert retreat, Candice was the last one I expected to see. "Yeah, nice to see you too."

"Can I..." she looked suddenly shy and I was struck by how damn cute my sister had always been. "Can I come in?"

"Oh, yeah. Come on in." I grunted out as I realized I was blocking her way. I stepped back and let her step hesitantly into the living room. 'What was that about?' I wondered silently.

"You want something to drink?" I asked after I closed the door quietly. I headed toward the kitchen before she could even answer so she just shadowed me there.

"Sure," she answered, sounding less enthusiastic with every syllable. "Got any beer?"

"Nope, sorry," I grunted, irritated that she would ask me that. She knew I didn't drink and even though she was twenty five I kind of hoped she didn't either. "How about some water?"

"Ah, sure I guess," she replied, sounding not only unenthusiastic but downright disappointed.

I dug around in the fridge and pulled out a jug of water, then quickly filled a couple of glasses that I placed on the counter. She took one and I grabbed the other before we made our way in silence back to the living room to sit down.

"You look good," she said as she settled on the couch to my right. I sat in an old recliner and shifted uncomfortably in it for a second, trying to figure out how I was supposed to respond to that.

"You do too," seemed like the best option. I place my glass on the table beside me and eyed her a bit. It was no lie, she looked good. But then, she always was too damn pretty.

"Thank you Cedric, I appreciate that." She always was better at taking a compliment than me too. I guess she had more practice at it.

"So..." I started. I wasn't sure what he hell was going on, so I was hesitant to get things started.

"So..." she replied. Now we were both shifting in our seats and looking for something to distract each other with.

"What, ah...?" I couldn't seem to find a way to ask it that didn't sound accusatory in my head. "Why are you....I mean what are you doing here?"

She frowned and I realized I'd failed to find the right words to use. Once again we were uncomfortable and I struggled to keep my eyes on her as she looked away and clearly fought with herself.

"I could ask you the same thing," came her long awaited reply. I ground my teeth and tried not to immediately engage her in a fight. After all, this was my baby sister who I hadn't seen in a very long time. It wouldn't be very nice to start fighting with her right away. Maybe after a few more minutes, but not right away.

"Ok," I forced out in place of the sharp tongued snap I'd wanted to use. "It's good to see you I guess."

"You guess?"


"Don't call me that. You know I hate that nickname," she bit off at me. I fought the urge to roll my eyes but didn't bother to tell her I knew no such thing.

Once again a heavy silence fell about us, holding the air still and keeping my lungs from working properly. I felt like I was drowning in things unsaid as she eyed me with a confusing look that had so much in it I couldn't begin to understand any of it.

"Why are you out here Cedric?" she finally asked. She was obviously looking for a big explanation on all things me, but I wasn't about to give it to her.

"Because I live here," I shot back at her. "Your turn."

"Don't be an asshole," she implored.

"Can't help it. Must be genetic or something," I replied with a smirk. She just shook her head, clearly frustrated with me. I was happy to have had the desired affect on her.

"Seriously. Why did you suddenly move away like that?" I'll give her credit; she was just as stubborn as me when she wanted to be.

"I had to."

"Why did you have to?"

"I couldn't stay there Candice, you know that. I never fit in. I was never really..." I caught myself and fell silent.

"You were never really what?" she pressed, her dark eyes boring into me as if intent on digging out my confession.

"Come on, you know." I tried to be vague but she wasn't having it.

"No, I don't know. Tell me. Explain it to me."

"Why does it matter?" I snapped back at her. I grit my teeth again and had to make a note of it so I would stop.

"Because it does."

"That's not a reason."

"Yeah, but it's my reason." She finally placed her glass down, still full with water, on the same table as mine. She shifted forward so we were as close as the two pieces of furniture allowed and leaned in, showing me her determination.

"Candice I..."

"Don't bother" she cut me off, suddenly leaning back as if defeated. "I don't want to hear some bullshit about how Mom was driving you crazy or something."

"It's not bullshit."

"Bullshit!" I had to smile at that, even though she was calling me out. I shook my head and after a moment the intensity dropped as she smiled too.

We languished in silence again, no more comfortable than before, and she reached for her water. I watched her full lips purse at the edge of the glass as she poured a bit of the liquid between them before lifting it away to replace it on the table. I wanted to tell her, to confess everything, but I knew better. What would it accomplish?

"I'm serious Cedric." She tried again. "You've been hiding out here for like, six years. There has to be a reason you haven't kept in contact with anyone at all. I just want to..."

"I'm not gonna tell you," I stated flatly. "I know you're curious, but my mind is made up so don't bother with it."




Like a thick unwelcome blanket wrapped around us in the heat of summer, we sweat and suffocated beneath it. There had always been distance between us, at least for as long as she'd been old enough to think like an adult, but now it finally seemed impossibly wide. Neither of us had ever had the inclination to bridge it before, or at least the determination to put forth the effort required. Now I wondered if that was what she was trying to do as we both felt it more than ever.

"You know I love you Cedric, right?" she started again. I just grunted and shrugged as if fulfilling my family obligation. She hung her head at that, not pleased with my lack of response.

"Why are you here Candice?" I said again. "I know you didn't come out here to satisfy your curiosity about me. So why did you come here?"

"I want..." she seemed to run out of words for a moment. "I want to know you again. It's been so long..."

"Bullshit," I softly countered and this time there was no mirth in either of us. She looked away and brought a hand up to her face as if about to cry. Before I could say anything she dropped the hand and looked at me fiercely.

"Why is it bullshit? Why do you think I want something other than to...?"

"If you wanted to get to know me, to have me be your brother again, you would have done something about it a long time ago," I answered plainly. She hissed in a breath and pulled both hands up to her face to hide the tears. I wanted to press her, to find out what she really wanted, but all I could do was sit there and feel like shit for making my little sister cry.

"Why do you always assume the worst?" She sobbed out as she pawed at her face to wipe away the tears.

"More genetic flaws I guess."

"Shut up!" she yelled suddenly. "Just shut the fuck up! You asshole! God damn it Cedric!"

We sat in incomplete silence this time, the only sounds the little whimpers she made as she tried to get her emotions under control. I felt like a heel, but I couldn't take any of it back. The worst part was I couldn't figure out why she was so pissed off. I hadn't really said anything so bad had I?

"I'm getting a divorce," she said out of nowhere. I just blinked at her as the shock settled in. I glanced down at her ring finger but there wasn't a band there. I hadn't even known she was married.

"I'm sorry to hear that," I muttered. I was hoping she wouldn't realize that I had no idea she could even divorce someone, but it wasn't to be.

"No you're not. You didn't even know I was married," Candice accused me as she finally looked up at me again. Her eyes were red rimmed and watery, but they held anger and defiance in them nonetheless.

"Well, I have been out of your life for a while."

"Yeah, whose fault is that?" she spat at me.

"Mine," I answered truthfully and she seemed to deflate a bit.

"Aren't you gonna ask me when I got married? Don't you want to know how all this happened?" she asked in frustration.

"If you want to tell me you can."

"You are such an asshole Cedric" she said, though this time she didn't seem as upset about it.

"I think we already established that."

"Fine. Since you're not interested I won't tell you the story." I was reminded of a little girl trying to exact some sort of petty revenge by hurting herself to get back at someone who hurt her. I frowned at the image that popped into my head and she puffed up a bit again.

"Suffice it to say, I don't want to be around him right now and I wanted to see you," she said in a haughty, nearly regal tone. "By the way, you are a very hard man to find."

"I know. I did that on purpose." I shouldn't have said it, but it was out before my brain had the chance to tell my mouth to stop moving.

"I figured as much," she grumbled. "Why?"

"Candice we've already been through this."

"I don't care. I've got all the time in the world Cedric, you can't stall forever."

"Wanna bet?" I growled at her, feeling rising anger at her insistence. Most people I know, which aren't many, know better than to test my determination. Candice certainly should have.

"Explain it to me, please!" She changed tactics and became the vulnerable little girl I'd known so long ago. "I know it's my fault, just tell me what I did!"

"Don't be ridiculous, it's not your fault and you know it."

"Isn't it?" she replied, still with the vulnerable act going. "If it wasn't something I did then why haven't you ever tried to talk to me? Why do you avoid me just like you avoid Mom and Dad and Sean?"

"I guess I'm just fair-minded like that," I replied dryly.

"Don't pull that shit with me," she brushed aside my attempt at wit. "I remember the way we used to be. I remember it was just you and me against the world. What did I do to change that?"

"You know you didn't do anything."

"Stop telling me what you think I know and answer the question!"

"I'm being honest Candice, you didn't do anything wrong."

"Then why did you cut me out? Why did you just disappear one day and never tell me anything? I understand everyone else, but why me?" She was practically begging me now but I just couldn't tell her. I wasn't ready for the fallout the truth would bring.

"Candice I'm telling you, it wasn't anything personal. I've always kinda been the fly in everyone else's ointment and I just couldn't stand it anymore. I happened to get lucky enough to be able to move out here so I took the opportunity and ran with it."

"I don't even know what the fuck that means!" she shot back at me. "The fly in what?"

"The point is I never fit in there or anywhere else. I'm an outsider so I did my best to get outside society." I shrugged as I did my best to explain at least a part of it to her. She shook her head but didn't seem to be buying it.

"That still doesn't explain..."

"I had to get out. Completely," I said firmly and she finally let it end, at least for the moment.

"I could have used you, you know? It sure would have been nice to have my big brother around for all this shit I've gone through in the past few years."

"What shit?" I only realized after I'd said it that I was giving her a victory. 'Oh well, she looks like she needs one,' I thought.

"You have no idea what I've been through Cedric," she said. I knew she wasn't really trying to rub it in, but that's the way it felt.

"So enlighten me."

She took a deep breath and sighed before spilling her guts to me.

"I got married about three years ago to a guy named Steven Strong," she began. "He seemed so right for me, but it didn't last." She paused and took in another big breath before trudging on. "About six months into it, he started to hit me."

"What?" I was shocked. My sister wasn't the type of girl who would put up with an abusive asshole, or so I thought.

"It wasn't like, I don't know, gradual or anything. He just one day got really pissed off about some stupid shit and beat me so bad I couldn't get out of bed for days." She looked down at her hands as they writhed in her lap, tears starting to fall again. "I don't even remember what I did wrong. I guess it doesn't matter."

"Fucking A! It sure as hell doesn't matter!"

"Does it piss you off to hear your little sister was getting beat up by her husband?" Candice asked. I could only think she was trying to goad me for some reason, but there was no way for me to resist.

"Fuck! How could you....fuck! Of fucking course it fucking pisses me the fuck off!" I was fighting the urge to pound my fists down on the armrests of the recliner when suddenly I was up on my feet and pacing in front of her.

"Do you want to go kick his ass and teach him a lesson for me?" she asked in that same taunting tone.

"God damn, I'll fucking kill him!"

"Too bad Cedric!" She snapped. "It's too fucking late now! Maybe if you'd been there for me you could have saved me from three years of being his punching bag, but you weren't. You were out here. Hiding!"

I looked at her, surprised at how cruel she could be, and saw raw agony all over her. It wasn't just in her eyes, which were dark and watery and blazing with pain, but in her face and hands and everything else. It was bad enough that she'd been married to someone who'd put her through all that, but the fact that she had no one to pull her out of it was somehow worse.

"Don't give me that shit!" I snarled at her, feeling rage pumping through my veins at her and him and everything else. "I'm not the only big brother you've got. You could have gone to Sean at anytime. Don't put this shit on me!"

"Sean's a fucking pussy and you know it!" she shot right back. "He wouldn't have risked his wife and three kids for me! He would have just told me to go to the police."

"Sounds like good advice to me!" I turned and stormed from the room, done with the conversation and looking for an escape. Unfortunately, Candice just followed me into the kitchen.

"You think it's that easy? You think all I had to do was pick up the phone? Just get up off my lazy fat ass and make a call and everything would be fine?" she shouted after me as I made my way through the kitchen to my bedroom. I had no idea where I was trying to go as I just kept fleeing her.

"I didn't say that!"

"No, but you were thinking it. Why doesn't she just grow some fucking spine and get rid of the guy? If it's so bad why don't you just leave? I've heard it all before Cedric!"

"Then answer the fucking question and tell me why!" I rounded on her so fast she nearly ran into me. We were by the front door now, between the living room and dining room, and for a moment I considered throwing her out.

"Because..." she trailed off and didn't seem able to go on.

"There it is again," I hissed and made my way back to my seat. She deflated and then followed, plopping down on the couch again.

"It's hard to explain," she started. "I thought I loved him. I mean, when he wasn't beating me up he was such a good guy. He took care of me, especially after he hurt me real bad. He was so sweet and I just couldn't help but to forgive him for it. Everything would be fine for a while and then I'd do something to piss him off and it'd start again."

"You were caught up in it," I mumbled.

"Yeah," she sighed. "I wanted out but I was so scared of what it would be like without him."

She paused then and we fell into another painful silence. This one didn't last as long though, and she was talking again in a few moments.

"I was...scared he'd...ah he'd...kill me if I left," she confessed, head down and hands wringing again.

"Did he threaten you?"

"Yeah," she muttered softly. "He used to say if I ever told anyone about his temper he'd kill me. It was so scary because it was always when he was being really sweet. He'd apologize over and over again and then once I'd accept it he'd tell me if I ever told anyone or tried to get away he'd kill me. Just like that, as if he was making normal conversation."

"I'm sorry Candice. I wish...I wish things were different." I wanted to say I wish I could have been there for her but managed to stop myself. It was just too confusing for me to confront the reality of why I couldn't right then.

"Me too Cedric," she whispered as tears dripped into her now cupped hands. I watched her cry into her hands for a while before my curiosity got the better of me.

"How...um, how did you manage to get away?" I asked as gently as I could.

"Someone reported him," she answered. "I don't know who."

"How did that happen?" I asked in surprise. How could she not know who had saved her? She drew another deep cleansing breath but didn't look up as she launched into her story again.

"I was at work a few months ago and he suddenly showed up. He was angry because I forgot to turn out the porch light that morning and it had been on all day. He went home early and found it so he went to see me at work. He never did that before, it was always a private thing when he treated me like shit." Candice paused and wet her lips with her tongue before going on.

"Anyway, he started yelling at me right there in the office. It was so humiliating, being treated like a little girl by my husband in front of everyone like that. I knew he wouldn't hit me so I told him to calm down and go home so we could talk about it later." She stopped again and shifted uncomfortably as she gathered her thoughts.

"He just got so angry at me then. He kept calling me names, things that were so nasty and so evil it scared me. When I told him he had to go so I could finish my work he just lost it.

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