I enjoy getting exercise almost as much as I love being at the bookstore, it allows me to get away from the house. I didn’t bring my glasses with me, instead I wore a pair of Gareth’s many shades he had lying around throughout the house. I didn’t need my glasses to see normally as much as I need them when I read; I was more farsighted. Running around town gave me a sense of peace, as much as I loved reading biographies, it was just as interesting to watch people live out their lives in person and I often made my own hypothetical stories of their lives within my mind as I ran. I’d see a mother pushing her toddler in a stroller, seeing her eyes exhausted and it was obvious she hadn’t had much sleep. I imagined she had the toddler and at least three older children at home, seeing her walking around the park doing just as I was; getting away from it all.
Sometimes, there would be no one out, a day like today. Bennu’s birthday. It was odd barely seeing anyone around town, especially around early evening like it was now. Usually things would be more lively the later it got into the day.. Maybe the fact that it was a Sunday kept people from leaving their homes and choosing to relax on a day that normally no one had work. Sunday is a day for calm minds and rejuvenation, a time to collect yourself and restore tranquility to any hectic, unstable life. The view of the mountains every which way I would turn provided something to look at, I always felt so nostalgic staring at them as I ran along the sidewalks of the inner part of the small town. Nature was something I thought people took for granted, and even surrounded by such beautiful structures, I doubted that people looked at them in such awe as I did every time I saw them.
I jogged for about an hour around town, getting home around 3:00 pm with enough time to continue a little more exercise before I needed to get ready to go to Bennu’s with Gareth. I went inside and walked towards the living room, breathing heavily through my nose as I tried to catch my breath after my run and I came in seeing Gareth upon the floor. I let out a quick, loud chuckle when I noticed him, he looked dead as he laid there. “You okay?” I questioned, not seeing him move at all and continue to look exhausted.
“Hung…Over..” He struggled to reply.
I lost my smile from my chuckle and gave him a serious expression, “Wait, you still drank after I told you to get some sleep last night? What the hell, Gareth? It’s Bennu’s birthday.. She can see this kind of stuff from a mile away. Why couldn’t you have just not drank last night so you wouldn’t have to go there in this condition?” I questioned with slight agitation.
“Whatever.. I came up to find you and collapsed on the couch instead.. I think I fell off about twenty minutes ago and I just.. I can’t get up..” He replied, his voice still weary and struggling to answer me.
“You’re hopeless,” I said with a long eye roll, continuing into the living room to finish off my exercise.
I proceeded to the center of the living area with the most room and stood straight up, falling down with a stiff body and my hands caught the ground at the precise time, catching myself and I began doing vigorous push-ups while counting the seconds in my head. One, two, three, four.. Every second I counted, I did a push-up and my breath began to grow heavy, eventually forcing myself to speak the numbers out loud with each push-up I performed, “Thirty five, thirty six, thirty seven..” I continued, hearing Gareth let out a heavy sigh as I kept counting.
“How in the hell can you be so alive right now..? Uuuuggghhh..” He asked with a strained voice, as if complaining that he himself was doing the effort that I was.
I continued counting each push-up in my head as I replied, “You’re hungover,” forty two, forty three, “Exercise is good for you when you’re this way, too. Have you been drinking plenty of water?” Fifty, fifty one, fifty two..
“Yeah, of course I have.. I’ve been drinking fuckin’ water like crazy since.. Since.. Like..” He replied, though still didn’t answer me, “I.. I don’t know..”
Sixty four, sixty five, sixty six, “Well, get up and get in the shower. It’ll wake you up and we’re supposed to go soon, anyways,” Sixty nine, seventy…
“Uugghhhhokaaayyy…” He answered with a groggy tone, hearing him let out numerous more groans before he actually got up.
“I’ll be quick..” He hesitated a moment, “You’re psycho for doing that shit, too.. Pace yourself, bro.. Take a load off once in a while, it might help that huge stick in your ass you’ve had lately,” Gareth added with a snicker when he stood up, teasing me and I hear him bump into the half-wall of the kitchen as he made his way towards the bathroom and I smirked amusingly to myself at his inability to walk straight. My arms began to burn as I reached into the 80’s count of my push-ups, but I didn’t stop. I always forced myself to 100 every time I did push-ups after my cardiac runs and I felt so much more accomplished when I reached the final triple digit. The feeling my arms would produce at the end of these sessions was a wonderful burn and I loved the slight pain it gave me, but it only made me feel like I had more energy and I felt so much more alive compared to the the ending result of my jogs. After my push-ups, I went into the kitchen and vigorously cleaned the dishes that were within the sink and I wiped down the cabinets and the counter tops as I waited for Gareth to be done with his shower so I could take one myself.
After Gareth showered, I did so after him and got ready to go to Bennu’s, reminding Gareth that he should look rather presentable for the occasion. He gave me an irritated expression when I had told him what to wear, but he reluctantly agreed and he had gone to his room to put something on that was more appropriate. After my shower, I went up to my room and changed into a casual suit. Blue colors were my ‘go-to’ when attending something a little less than the extreme formal, otherwise black would be my first choice when wanting to utterly impress the company I was expecting. I took pride in looking specifically good for every occasion that was presented to me.
I grabbed the present I had gotten for Bennu and put it into one of my pockets, going downstairs then and seeing Gareth meet up with me in the living room. “Feeling any better?” I asked.
“Not really.. The shower just woke me up, my head’s still killing me though,” he replied, shrugging sheepishly. I continued to stare at him, my eyes looking at his attire and a smirk ran over my lips, “What the hell are you smiling at?” Gareth wondered with a defensive tone.
“It’s always so weird to see you dressed up, I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it,” I said with a chuckle.
“Good, I don’t want you to get used to it, and I don’t want to get used to it either.. Let’s just go so we can get this over with,” Gareth replied and I shook my head softly, walking out of our home first as Gareth followed behind.
“It’s not all that bad, aren’t you even a little excited to see them? It’s been months since you’ve been over there for a visit,” I said.
“Ehh, I dunno.. I guess it’s going to be nice to see them, I just can’t stand being there for more than an hour. Bahiti barely ever says a word, I don’t like how she’s changed from being our cute, shy little sister to this mute, depressing girl. It’s annoying, to be honest,” Gareth replied and I sighed softly.
“She just didn’t take the news of Dad’s actions well, he was always there for her, and us, but if you think about it, Bahiti is Dad’s baby girl since Lucy isn’t actually his. Fathers are always more protective and caring to their daughters, at least that’s what I took from the experience. Now with him not around, I can see how she feels a little lost,” I retorted, trying to give Gareth a more understandable conclusion, yet he brushed it off and I looked to him as he spoke.
“Lost? Whatever, man.. She’s 23 and she still lives at home, she just needs to get the hell over it already, being sad about it isn’t going to change anything,” Gareth replied shortly and I didn’t answer him, listening to our steps upon the wooden dock from our dress-shoes as we walked to the car. Gareth’s reasoning made sense to say the least, there is no point of still being sad for Dad when he only did it to himself, but I can also understand not forcing one’s self to forget things when it isn’t time to fully let go yet. Bahiti just happens to be taking longer to get over it than the rest of us, but now that I think of it, Lucy’s desertion proves that she’s in even worse condition than Bahiti is. I wasn’t about to bring her up to Gareth, however.. Lucy was a touchy subject for us.
Bennu and Bahiti’s house was a bit lavish for my taste, though there was a certain elegance about it that I admired. Architectural wise, I didn’t much care for the design at all, but Bennu had great taste when it came to decorating; the kitchen and downstairs living room were probably my two favorite rooms. The house was a little large for them as well, with four bedrooms and 4 baths, I didn’t understand why they didn’t relocate to a smaller home after Gareth and I moved out. We started out here when we first moved here after Dad’s transfer, but Gareth and I left a few months into getting here and got a place of our own. I don’t know why Bennu doesn’t move. Maybe it was because these richer neighborhoods were closer to the general hospital and also the mental hospital where Dad was at.. Yeah, that was probably it.
When we got to the door, Gareth knocked loudly but no one answered, watching him check the door and it was open, so we both walked in. Bennu came out from the dining area into the large hallway, smiling when I saw her and she still looked amazing for being 45 years old. “I’m so sorry, boys.. I’m slow but I’m glad you let yourselves in,” she began and Gareth chuckled.
“You shouldn’t leave the door unlocked,” Gareth began, “What if some psychos walked through the door, huh?” He asked with a serious tone, though his expression was welcoming and humorous.
Bennu came up to me first and hugged me, “Happy birthday, Bennu,” I cooed sweetly as I hugged her.
“Thank you, Gibson, you both look so handsome,” she replied, releasing me from the hug and going to Gareth, hugging him as well and he wished her a Happy Birthday as I had done.
“Where’s Bahiti at?” Gareth wondered.
“Oh, she’s in the living room watching television with her friend, Julie, go on in and make yourself comfortable, boys, please,” she gestured in a warm, welcoming manner and I watched as Gareth left to go see Bahiti. Knowing Gareth, there was no doubt he was also wanting to see what Bahiti’s friend looked like.
Before Bennu could walk with Gareth to the other room, I caught her attention, “Bennu, hey..” I began, watching her turn back around and she smiled at me, “How are you today? Has your birthday been nice?” I asked, making small talk with her for the moment.
“Oh, yes.. Bahiti made me breakfast in bed, it was so wonderful,” she replied and I smiled, hearing the joy in her tone, yet there was still a little something she was holding back and I knew already that she was missing my Dad, wishing he could be here with all of us.
“That’s great.. Are you ready for Bahiti and I to make you dinner?” I asked.
“Yes, I really am! Thank you again for doing that, Gibson, it really means a lot,” she replied, giving me another warm smile and I thought of something to make her day even better.
“Turn around, I have something for you,” I continued, seeing her expression go surprised and then a calm happiness as she turned around and followed my request.
“You didn’t need to get me anything, Gibson, your boys’ company is all I need, sweetheart,” she tried to contest before I even got her present out from my pocket. Bennu was so lovely, I adored her and I felt she deserved anything and everything good that came to her. I removed the necklace I had bought her and I put it around her neck delicately, holding up the two ends that connected in the back and trying to secure it.
Bennu pulled at her hair a little to make it easier for me to secure and I smiled as I clasped the necklace for her; I knew this was a present I had agreed to share with Gareth, but I had planned on giving it to her without him anyways. “Please, I love treating you, especially on your birthday. You deserve it,” I replied, clasping the necklace and fixing the back of her hair so it laid over her nape comfortably.
I watched as she looked up after I had secured it and her eyes widened when she looked to the necklace I put on her, her lips curling up slowly into a large smile and she let out a giddy laugh from her excitement. I adored hearing and knowing she was happy without her using any words, I wanted to give her something special for her birthday and I wasn’t about to share it with Gareth when he never puts forth the effort at all. “Gibson.. It’s beautiful! Thank you so much, sweetheart,” she finally expressed her gratitude when she could find the words through her excitement. I smiled warmly and placed my hands on her arms, looking at her in the mirror in front of her as she continued to admire it.
“I wish Dad could see you with this on, he’d stumble all over the place from how beautiful you look,” I added and I watched her expression show immense appreciation, her fingertips tracing over the beetle and the large white jewel of a body it had.
“Gibson.. I can’t thank you enough, I love it,” she replied, looking at me in the mirror and we shared a warm smile together. She turned around and gave me the warmest hug I’ve ever felt from her, both of us then walking towards the dining area to join Gareth, Bahiti and her friend in the living room. I loved that Gareth wasn’t a part of this gift even though I told him otherwise, I deserved this recognition and I loved that my gift and my gift alone made her feel so good. I loved making Bennu happy when my father wasn’t around to do it, I sometimes felt I had a responsibility to provide happiness for Bennu since she hardly ever got treated now with Dad gone; I had always watched him giving her rings, necklaces and even the gift of a love-filled kiss whenever he felt it was needed.. I felt I needed to pick up his accidental slack for her, but I enjoyed doing it none the less. Bennu was more of a mother to me than my own Mom was and I was glad to have Bennu in my life.
I followed behind Bennu as she made her way passed the dining room, through the kitchen and into the living room, but I stopped near the fridge and waited there for Bahiti to join me. “Bahiti, come and greet your brother,” Bennu called out to her. As I looked at all of them, I was already a little irritated; I could see Gareth from where I was and I kept catching him stealing glances at Bahiti’s friend, knowing the small talk and flirting was about to commence not knowing even what she looked like myself, but I knew it still didn’t matter to Gareth. I wasn’t really a fan of diving right in, putting myself out there like a dog with a bone wasn’t my style and I was proud to admit I was a bit of a romancer. I feel that women get more out of being complimented properly while being spoiled with a wine and dine kind of date, but I think that’s where all of the reasoning behind it lied. I liked women, smart and well-mannered women, women with a strong passion in their lives, and a good education didn’t hurt. Gareth? He liked girls. Girls that don’t know any better, girls with more shoes than books and girls that had little experience so he could fulfill his own desires in getting them to experiment. If I was in the position of Bahiti’s friend, I’d run now while I could.
Bahiti came into the kitchen with a smile on her face, something I hadn’t seen in a long time. “Hey, Bahiti.. You look great, how’ve you been?” I asked, greeting each other with a warm hug and she was still smiling after it. I liked seeing her this way.
“I’ve been good.. I’m actually seeing a new psychiatrist and he has me on some meds that make me feel like floating,” she replied with a soft chuckle and I laughed, not liking the idea of her on medication, though I loved to admit I was excited to see her so happy. It was a nice change from the norm.
“Well then, at least you’re doing better,” I replied, seeing her nod in agreement.
“So, what are we making?” She wondered, walking more into the kitchen and opening the fridge.
“Well, I was going to make hot and sour mushroom soup, maybe you could just make starter dishes and let me handle the soup? It’s a little difficult to get it to turn out just right,” I replied and she looked to me and nodded.
“Okay, sounds good, Gibs,” she replied, beginning to pull things out from the fridge that she could prepare easily while I made the main dish.
“So, how have you been?” Bahiti wondered, “I just noticed I didn’t even ask.. How’s the girlfriend of yours? Was she unable to make it tonight?”
A knot formed in my throat and I sighed, “I’m doing okay, I suppose.. And we broke up not too long ago,” I replied, hoping to leave it at that, but Bahiti still questioned it.
“Oh, what happened? It seemed like you really liked her,” she continued.
“She was.. Unfaithful.. But it’s fine, I’m over her,” I replied, wanting to get off the subject of my ex. They had asked about her the last time I visited two weeks ago, but I didn’t tell them that we had broken up two weeks prior to that, I was still hurting and the last thing I needed at that time was to be pitied, so I never brought it up. I could never admit, too, that Gareth was the ultimate demise of the relationship. It seemed almost as a defeat on my part, admitting that my brother had taken such a humble woman from me..
“Oh.. I’m sorry, Gibson,” Bahiti replied with a remorseful tone.
“I said it’s fine.. Have you been painting or playing your guitar lately?” I asked, changing the subject to prove how over her I was.
After being in the kitchen for a little under an hour, dinner was getting closer and closer to being done and my soup was turning out quite nice. I had always loved my father’s cooking and also Bennu’s, you could tell they took pride in each dish they made for us back in Bridgeport and I eventually grew into loving cooking just as much as they did. What I would give to taste my father’s Ratatouille dish once more.. It was my comfort food, my favorite dish I’ll ever eat and I’ll never get tired of eating it. It made me calm and had a homey feeling. I loved all of the different smells and flavors it provided and how it was made in a thinly sliced kaleidoscope effect the vegetables gave off, making it quite a beautiful dish as well. I was beginning to regret making this soup and I felt a Ratatouille craving beginning to kick in.
Dinner wasn’t an awkward silence, that’s a phrase I’d never use.. Pleasantly content, that describes it a little better. With the lack of talking and only the sound of utensils tapping against plates and bowls, it was a quiet yet enjoyable dinner. Everyone seemed pleased by what Bahiti and I had made, finally hearing it from Bennu, “You two, this is so wonderful, thank you so much for cooking,” she said with a warm smile, looking at me and smiling as she placed her hand on top of mine momentarily and then doing the same to Bahiti. I loved how happy Bennu was and how appreciative she was towards us. She was always this way, but ever since Dad was diagnosed and sent to live at the mental hospital, she’s been upping herself and trying to be an even better person than she already was, like she’s making up for my Dad not being there. Keeping up with someone like him must be tiring though, I wish she wouldn’t stress about it so much.
After dinner, I offered to clean up for Bennu so she didn’t have to do anything, everyone going back into the living room to spend time with one another as I rinsed every plate and filled the dishwasher while packing up all of the leftover food and putting it into her fridge. Bennu and Bahiti walked towards the lavender couches and decided to enjoy a little bit of television together, putting on a show they religiously watched together and I could her them giggling and talking as they watched. Behind the couches, I looked to the middle-left of the room and noticed Gareth, already hypothetically prodding into Bahiti’s friend. I watched in dismay from the kitchen, my expression judgmental and I couldn’t understand what was going through his mind on how hitting on his sister’s friend on our step mother’s birthday was at all appropriate.
I watched from the kitchen as he wooed and wowed her.. His large, gentle, light hand playing with her hair, his fingertips brushing down her cheek when complimenting her, the way he was able to uphold his flirtatious and lustful expression the whole time when I was the only one that knew he didn’t mean a lick of it. It was his own art form that I didn’t care for at all. The way he was so willing and able to manipulate women into thinking he cared was baffling and every time I was both impressed and disgusted. Had he used such techniques when taking my ex from me? I’ve seen this act so much that I had lost count of how many times it’s worked.
I was thinking many things while watching this game play out. Why doesn’t Bahiti care, does she just assume it’ll happen no matter who she brings over when Gareth is expected to be there? It’s almost as if she brought her just to distract Gareth and keep him out of her and Bennu’s way, but why? Bahiti is coming off as if her friend isn’t even there.. Is this person even her friend at all? I knew that Bahiti knew Gareth’s type, it was obvious when it came to how shallow he was; usually blonde or dirty blonde, and if not that, a wild hair color such as Nina’s. Slow, easily impressed, gullible.. They were all the same. Now that I thought back on it, my ex was a dirty blonde.. But, she had so much potential, she wasn’t stupid or ill-mannered. She had an elegance and grace about her that I loved looking at, yet she fell prey to the mind games of Gareth.. But, she was passed his level and more on mine while I was dating her, so.. Why? As much as I loved my brother, I’ll now always resent him for still being better than me in that one aspect. He can manipulate people to the point that he could pull off and do anything he wanted. I’m not jealous, am I? Jesus, that’s pathetic.. To be jealous of my half-wit, perverted brother.
I was sick of it. Done. I couldn’t just sit with Bennu and Bahiti and watch this play out. We’d be watching a television show and the next thing you’d know, I’d look behind me and Gareth and Bahiti’s friend would be gone, sneaking off to hookup in one of the bathrooms the first chance that they could based on his way on convincing them.. “Ugh..” I let out silently, sick of the situation entirely and all I wanted was to leave now. I called out to Gareth in front of everyone, making it less conspicuous as to why we needed to leave suddenly, “Hey, let’s get going.. I got work early tomorrow morning,” I voiced, seeing only Gareth’s eyes looking up to me as he kept his suave posture over Bahiti’s friend and I could tell he was asking me with his eyes to stay a little longer, but I refused to acknowledge it, “Ready?” I pressured.
He pulled slowly away from Bahiti’s friend and gave me a rather threatening glare, “Sure.. Let me just say goodbye to everyone,” he replied, his words strong and defensive, but my harsh and unrelenting expression didn’t waver and I could tell he recognized my displeasure with how the evening was going.
I watched with immense satisfaction as Gareth painfully said his premature goodbye to Bahiti’s friend, then make his way towards Bennu and Bahiti to wish them goodbye as well. I walked into the living room more and hugged Bennu and Bahiti as Gareth had done, keeping my eyes on him as he kept his on mine and I knew an argument was about to ensue the moment we left Bennu’s place.
I walked out before Gareth and my pace was quicker than normal, my anger driving me to leave and get further away from the house as I can so no one inside would hear us. “Gibson,” Gareth called out with a short tone and I kept walking. “Gibson, would you stop already? What the hell was that all about?” He continued.
“What? You said yourself you don’t like staying here long, so let’s go,” I replied after, keeping my pace and I heard his quicken behind me in hopes of catching up.
“Gibs, stop!” He called out a little louder than before, my steps slowing down finally as I almost reached the sidewalk and I stopped like he had asked.
“What the hell’s your problem?” Gareth asked when he had finally caught up to me.
“What are you talking about?” I replied in return, my lips sarcastically smirking and I watched as his expression twisted into slight anger.
“Cut the bullshit, Gibson.. You knew I wanted to stay a little longer,” he pointed out.
“Why? So you could ruin that girls life like you’ve ruined so many others?” I retorted angrily.
“You’ve been such an ass lately! I know this still has to be about your fucking ex, isn’t it? I’ve already said sorry, what more do you want?” He asked in return.
“I just want you to be able to be a decent person in front of people, especially our family. It’s Bennu’s birthday and all you can think to do is spend time with Bahiti’s friend! Do you even remember her name?”
“Yes, it was Jillian!” He replied quickly and I scoffed.
“It was Julie, actually.. Jesus, Gareth.. When are you going to grow up and stop acting like you’re in fucking high school?” I retaliated.
“You’re too serious all the time! Why don’t you stop worrying about what other people think of you and live your life? Stop living in the past, get over it, and stop worrying about what I do with my life and focus on your own!” He retorted and I bit my bottom lip in anger.
“With how you live, there needs to be someone at the sidelines keeping you straight, you’ve just gotten so dependent on me that you even take advantage of the fact! You do whatever the hell you want and expect no repercussions, you can’t live like that forever and I don’t want to be chained to you the rest of my life to take care of you!” I yelled back.
“Again, what the hell are you talking about? I never asked you to take care of me! Besides, it’s supposed to be the other way around.”
“Yeah, and a reeeaaally good job you’re doing with that..” I replied sarcastically.
“What, so now you think I’m a shitty brother?” Gareth asked with a humerus tone and I stood there, hesitating a moment.
“Those aren’t my words,” I replied and turned around, walking towards the sidewalk slowly, “I’m going home, find your own ride,” I replied harshly, making my way to the car and not hearing Gareth make a noise or any sign that he was following me. Maybe I was a little too harsh, but I couldn’t go back on what I said so quickly. There was some truth to it, and once he’d look passed my words into what they could mean, I was sure he’d understand eventually. For now, I’ll give him time. I need time away from him just as badly. Living together for the past 23 years has finally taken it’s toll, I believe, and I contemplated moving out if Gareth refused to show any sign of changing. He’s destructive and he’s been losing my trust more and more as the years pass. I didn’t know how much longer I could live with it.