Thank you to blackrandl1958 for creating this gothic horror event. When I heard about the theme, I just about cried because I love gothic horror very much. So much, in fact, that I had to write two stories. Thank you to Pixel the Cat for editing, and thank you to D for the feedback.
This one is an ode to V.C. Andrews. I loved the way she incorporated gothic horror into her stories, and they always stayed with me.
I hope you like it.
The bus rolled into my hometown around dinnertime. I was wide awake, but I had been still for hours. When the bus driver finally parked, I felt like I was waking from a dream. In many ways, I was. It had been ten years since I had visited my little hometown in the dusty South. So much had happened, but my town looked exactly the same.
I grabbed my bag and exited the bus. There was a crowd of cars waiting, but I didn’t recognize any of them. It wasn’t like my brother to be late.
Then I spotted him, long after he spotted me. From his expression, I could tell he’d been watching me. A self-conscious flush spread across my cheeks.
He looked almost exactly the same, but his features had taken on an adult quality. Black hair, gray eyes, sharp nose. He had grown a bit of a beard, and he seemed leaner than I remembered. I made my way over to him, ignoring my shaking knees.
We regarded each other silently when I caught up to him.
“Good to see you, Addison.” He hesitated for a moment, like he debated saying more. Whatever her wanted to say, he swallowed it down.
“How are you, Beau?”
He took my bag from me and gave me his old smile, though it didn’t quite meet his eyes. “Surviving. How are you?”
“I’m a little hungry.”
“Yeah, well, I started dinner before I came to get you. Hope you’re okay with chili.”
“Sure.” I shifted on my feet.
I followed him to the car and remained silent as we wound through familiar streets. Beau watched me from the corner of his eye, but I pretended I didn’t notice. Eventually we pulled up in front of the old mansion that was my childhood home. Our parents were old school wealthy, and Daddy had inherited the place from his uncle. All of the kids were jealous of it when I was growing up, but to me, it had always been a prison. It looked exactly the same, and for a moment I felt like the eighteen year old girl who had fled from it all over again. I could almost hear my mama’s honey-dipped southern drawl again, whispering that I disgusted her.
“Will Dad be around?”
Beau turned to me as he parked and shrugged. “He spends a lot of time with his new wife and their family. I see him maybe one or two times every month.”
“So this is all yours now, then.”
“Yes.” He tried to smile.
I didn’t answer. I pushed open the car door and carried my bag with me. Beau walked into the house first. For a moment, I considered leaving. I’d hardly been back for twenty minutes and already it was too stifling, too emotional. Then I heard him call my name, almost so low that I wondered if he meant for me to hear it. I walked into the dark house, took a deep breath, and tried not to get overwhelmed.
It was not the same on the inside. Gone were Mama’s trademark eggshell walls; the living room was a deep passionate red. The kitchen was a rich golden yellow. Mama always kept decorating to a minimum, but Beau filled the house with various pieces of furniture and knickknacks. I liked it. At least it looked like people lived there.
“Wait until you see upstairs. Your room is blue.”
I tried to avoid Beau’s stare, but my eyes met his as soon as I looked up. “Thank you.”
We stood there for a moment, waiting for the other to say something. He rubbed his arm, which was one of his nervous gestures, and then reached forward to take my bag from me.
“Let me show you upstairs.”
I climbed the steps behind him, admiring the little changes my brother had made to the house. He had done a good job, I had to give him that, and if Mama were still around, she probably would have thought so, too. Of course, Beau was an architect; it was in his nature to be able to look at a space and visualize the best way to showcase it. The last I heard, he worked from home but travelled to visit important clients at least twice a week. He was a big deal. I always thought he would be.
“Here’s your room.”
I followed him into what used to be his room and tried to hide my reaction. The walls were sapphire; the bedding was a dreamy cream color. The curtains were billowy and matched the bedding. It was the bedroom of my dreams; the bedroom I’d desired since I was a little girl. I never thought he was listening when I described it, but he must have absorbed every word.
“What do you think?”
I didn’t know what to think, so I forced a smile. “It’s beautiful. Thank you.”
Beau walked over to me and slowly took my hand. “This room will always be yours,” he swore.
We looked deeply into each other’s eyes. Finally I stepped away, drained by the intensity.
“I better get dinner ready,” he said. He turned around and left me alone.
I took the room in, touching things here and there. Yes, Beau had done a great job with the mansion, but memories crept back startlingly vivid and oppressive. The place felt haunted. It was as if any moment, Mama would barge right in and start smacking me with a brush because I was sinful and horrible, the ultimate disappointment of a daughter.
Something creaked in the corner and I jumped. The light from the window didn’t reach that part of the room, and the corner was nearly black. A shadow flickered there, and I swore I could smell Mama’s old perfume.
“Mama?” I whispered with a shaky voice, feeling partly ridiculous.
I rushed over to the light switch, only to reveal a coat hanger with one coat haphazardly draped across it. The relief was so extreme that I wanted to cry, but I held myself together. Mama loved it when I cried, and if there were any trace of her still left in these walls, I wouldn’t give her the satisfaction.
Ten years earlier...
“Don’t you think blue is the prettiest color?”
Beau laughed lightly. “You’re drunk.”
I spun around until I collapsed onto the grass beside him. “Maybe, but that doesn’t change the fact that blue is gorgeous.”
Thousands of fireflies hovered over the field, crisscrossing in the dark night. It was peaceful out, and it was peace I craved. Daddy and Mama fought fiercely all the time then, and it was rare to find a few spare minutes with my older brother. He was enrolled in college, so he was gone most of the day, and when he wasn’t in class, he went out partying with his friends or working at the hardware store on Oak Street. No one worked as hard as Beau, and certainly no one played as much, either.
I admired him immensely. Maybe I even idolized him. I was his complete opposite. While Beau was gregarious, loud, unstoppable, I was meek, silent and afraid of my own shadow. Still, he found the time to spend with me, even if I was eighteen and awkward.
He had surprised me that night, rolling up to the house with a twelve pack of beer. Mama had stepped out and Dad was God knows where. We knew we had the house to ourselves, so Beau and I went out into the fields behind our house and got drunk. It was the most fun I’d had in ages.
Summer had been crawling by, my best friend was on vacation, and I was aching for some fun. College seemed like years away rather than just two months.
“Is that why you’re wearing a blue dress?” Beau asked, his eyes dropping down to my toes and then back up to my loose blonde hair. It might have been shameful, but I preened before his obvious approval, and the smile that spread across my face was sinful.
I ran my hands down my sides and then playfully flipped the hem of my dress side to side. “Yes. Every girl should have a blue dress.”
Beau leaned onto the grass with his elbows and laughed again. “You’re something else, Addy. One day, I’ll build you a great big blue house with a blue bedroom.”
It was a horrible thing to admit, but no man mattered as much to me as Beau. I felt their eyes moving over my body frequently as I matured, but it didn’t cause the sensation of fluttering in my stomach like Beau’s attention did. He made me feel proud and confident. He made me feel like I was worth something, though Mama spent much of her time trying to prove to me that I wasn’t worth much at all.
I sank onto the earth and took his big hand in mine. “So are you, Beau. And I’d love that blue house.”
The lids were heavy over his gray eyes, and he had almost as many lashes as I did. He lowered his gaze to my breasts, and a blush came over my cheeks when I realized he was studying them. No. Not studying. Admiring.
“Sometimes it feels like a dream when I’m with you,” he whispered, leaning closer to me. “You don’t feel real.”
“I’m real.” On impulse, I put his hand on my thigh. It wasn’t meant to be a sexual gesture, just me wanting to reassure him. As soon as his warm and calloused fingers touched my soft skin, everything changed. A charge of something zapped between us that balmy night, forever changing the connection we shared. Perhaps it was a switch that always had the potential of being flipped on, but it never sat right with me that I was the one that set it in motion.
Beau’s hand skimmed up my leg, bringing the fabric of my blue dress with it. He touched my face with his other hand, then paused as if to give me a moment to stop him. I might have been tipsy, but I understood fully what was happening and I didn’t want him to stop. My first and only kiss had been with Matt Frasier, an awkward and quiet boy who lived down the street. He had been all tongue and no lip, as my friend Victoria liked to say, and our uncomfortable make-out session still made me cringe.
It wouldn’t be that way with Beau, I thought, even if he was my brother. I licked my lips and moved my face closer, but he shot back. He stood in one quick movement and backed up with the fireflies. I could make out headlights turning onto our driveway and figured it was Daddy.
“We have to head back,” Beau said, not sounding all that sorry.
I got up, wiping the grass from my body, and followed him back to our house. I was sure that as soon as I closed my bedroom door, I’d crawl into bed and begin weeping, but I didn’t. Once I was safe in my bed and sobered up, I played the scene over and over again. I turned on some music, and melted into my bedsheets. Embarrassed, but wildly turned on, I looked around my room as if someone might spring out and accuse me of being attracted to my brother. Then I put my hand into my panties and closed my eyes, imagining Beau with me as someone sang plaintively about an elusive lover.
I nearly came hard to the thought of Beau touching me, kissing me, holding me, but I couldn’t imagine him doing the things to me that Victoria claimed happened to her. Beau was too pure for that, and I was too silly.
Besides, it was all ridiculous to fantasize about; Beau was my brother. Nothing would ever happen. It was a sick, gross thing to imagine, and I was deeply ashamed after.
Even if I was smiling.
Beau vanished the next day and I didn’t see him again until nearly a week later. He sauntered into the house in the middle of the night, clinging to some girl I didn’t know. Mama was asleep, thanks to her sleeping pills, and Dad wasn’t home. Daddy was almost never home.
I watched them from the stairs, hidden in the shadows. Beau fondled her breasts and leaned her back against the couch. This wasn’t the type of lovemaking in the movies Victoria and I watched late at night during sleepovers; this was rough and to the point. He yanked her clothes off and then noisily undid his buckle. My heart thumped with confused rage and arousal. I must have made a noise, because he peered back and frowned.
“What’s the matter?” the girl asked, writhing impatiently beneath him.
Beau did his jeans back up and sighed. “I think my mom is awake. You better get going.”
“But ... you drove me.”
“I’ll call you a cab.” And he did. The two sat silently together in the living room while the girl fumed and let out angry bursts of air from her nose.
As soon as the cab came, she hustled out of there. I spun and flew up the stairs, terrified that Beau had seen me. I put on my music and pretended to be asleep.
A little while later, Beau pushed the door open and turned on the light. “I know you’re awake.”
My eyes fluttered open and I tried to look apologetic. “Sorry. I was coming down the stairs and...”
“Yeah, yeah,” Beau said, a grin tugging up the corners of his mouth. “You’re a pain in the ass.”
“Mama could have caught you. That would have been a lot worse.”
My brother snorted. “With all those pills she takes? That’s highly unlikely.”
“You’ve never brought a girl home like that before. I was ... startled.”
Something flickered in Beau’s eyes. “I’m sure. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be. I was just taken aback.”
A moody song came on the stereo, and Beau moved closer to me on the bed. The flare of whatever passed between us that night came back and I was helplessly caught in his heated gaze.
I blinked. “Well, I don’t know, exactly.”
Beau smiled, but his eyes were serious and dark. “You have to know I’m not a virgin, Addison.”
I braided a portion of my hair for something to do and avoided looking at him directly. “Obviously.”
“But you are. Hence your reaction, right?”
Embarrassed, I looked at him finally. “That’s none of your business.”
“I know you’re a virgin, Addy. Nothing to be ashamed of.”
“I am not ashamed.”
Beau leaned forward with ruthless satisfaction. “So, you admit it?”
I took my pillow and smacked him in the face. His laughter only infuriated me further. “Shut up!”
“Nothing wrong with it, baby,” he said, pulling my pillow away. “I’m only teasing.” His eyes sparkled as he stared back at me. The endearment he used caused a flooding of warmth into my stomach, and I tried to hide my blushing by digging back into my sheets.
“I was trying to go to bed before you rudely barged in here. Please leave me alone.” I sank into bed and half-hoped he’d leave me alone with my embarrassment, half-hoped for something else. Something I couldn’t even begin to understand.
“And I was trying to get laid before you rudely interrupted me. Fair is fair.”
My mouth dropped. “You’re so gross.”
“Yeah, but you like me that way.” He sat on the edge of my bed and tugged on the end of my braid. “What else have you been up to lately, besides spying on your older brother?”
Beau grew serious. “Mom and Dad?”
Sighing, I pulled on a thread of my comforter. “Worse than ever.”
“Sorry, Addy. I hate leaving you with them.” He lifted his hand as if to reach toward me for comfort, but then let it rest on my covered knee. A shock of electricity sped through my body and ignited a fire between my thighs in a place I was too embarrassed to even think about. I jerked at his touch and he quickly pulled his hand away.
I was panting and I knew my cheeks were completely flushed. I tried to clear the lust and shame from my voice before speaking. “Fine.”
He spread out on my bed and leaned against the wall. “It’s only natural for you to be curious, you know.”
“What do you mean?”
“About guys. You never date and you have practically no experience, and I’m the closest man around.”
Oh, God. He was acknowledging it. That was just like Beau. If I thought I was blushing before, I was wrong. Flames spread across my cheeks, throat and chest. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
He eyed the redness of my skin for a moment. There was something brewing in those gray eyes of his, but I was too young and innocent to identify it. “I think you do, but if you don’t want to talk about it, it’s okay.”
We heard a car door slam. Daddy. Beau stood and fixed my sheets so they were completely covering me, then gave my forehead a kiss so sweet I nearly cried. “I love you, Addison. You’re a good sister. Okay?”
“Okay,” I whispered.
He left the room, and left me muddled and yearning for something I still couldn’t name.
I had a nightmare that night. Mama was in the kitchen cooking, which was extremely unusual. Normally Eleanor, our cook, prepared the meals. Mama whipped up batter and sneered at me when she saw me.
“Lord, you’re completely naked.”
Horrified, my head whipped down and I saw that she was right. My long hair just brushed the tips of my nipples, and nothing covered my body below.
“Get dressed before someone else sees you,” she spat. “No one wants to see that. How desperate and disgusting.”
I turned to leave, but Beau walked in with a plate. He did a double-take when he saw me, and I turned red from head to toe.
“Don’t look at that wicked thing,” Mama said. “Come over here and let me give you a nice hot plate.”
Beau did as she asked. I trembled watching them, frozen and humiliated. Mama put whatever she cooked on the plate, then smirked at me as she brought Beau closer.
“I know what you want, whore.”
She snuggled Beau, then kissed him deeply until he responded. The sounds of their kissing filled the silent kitchen. When she finished, her trademark red lipstick and severe bun were all over the place. “If this is what I need to do to protect him from you, I will.”
“Mama, I don’t know what you mean!” I sobbed.
“I see how you watch him. I’m making him mine so you can’t have him. If I don’t, he’ll fall under your slutty spell. I can’t let you two mate. That’s unholy. Don’t you understand?” She grinned and her teeth appeared sharp in the harsh kitchen lighting, like a bunch of white knives. “What kind of mother would I be?
“Beau, don’t listen to her. Please. Please, Beau.”
But he ignored me, clinging to our mother and initiating another kiss.
I woke up, drenched in sweat and completely sickened.
Mama made me do most of her errands, but she was never happy with the result. One morning, a few days after my horrific nightmare, she called me down to the kitchen. I was less than thrilled to enter the room given what had happened there in my dream, but I certainly couldn’t say no.
Mama sat at the table, a cigarette in hand and a glass of whiskey in front of her. It was 9AM. While it wasn’t unheard of for her to drink, or even to be drunk, so early, she normally hid out in her room.
“Take a seat.” She pointed at the chair across from her with her cigarette, then took a long puff of it. I stared at its glow rather than look straight at her.
She tapped a red nail on her glass and seemed to be deep in thought. I fidgeted in the chair, wondering what the hell I had done wrong this time. Then her green eyes, the eyes I’d inherited, narrowed on me. Beau always said I looked just like our mother, except Mama’s green was cooler and mine was warmer.
“Your father is leaving us.”
The words wouldn’t process. I knew they fought all the time, but Dad would never divorce Mama. It just wouldn’t do, not in our town, not with our last name.
“No,” was all I could manage to say.
My mother finished her glass before responding. “Indeed, he is. Moved out this morning.” She poured more and a brittle laugh escaped her perfectly painted lips. She was still so put together, in spite of everything. Still the beauty queen she’d once been. A part of me hated her for it. “He was fucking Alicia. My friend from the country club. You know her, right?”
I was startled to hear my mother speak so bluntly, but I nodded.
“She’s ugly as hell. Fat, giant nose, big thighs. And he fucked her. Loves her, he says. Wants babies with her.” She flicked the ash off of her cigarette and scoffed. “Just because she’s younger. Just because she flatters him. How pathetic.”
Mama’s harsh eyes narrowed. “I don’t want or need your pity, Addison. I’m just informing you that when you go to college in a month, everyone is going to be talking about it. We need to talk about what you’ll say.” She squashed her cigarette and lit another. “Never forget men are beasts. Nasty, selfish, destructive. You’re plain and you don’t have much experience, but one day a man will do a doozy on you, too, if you let him.” Mama laughed again. How I hated that sound. She only laughed when she was intent on doing harm. “You know, I let that bitch borrow the pearls your daddy bought me. I bet she had a lot of fun with that. Steal my husband, wear my jewelry. Next, she’ll be moving in here.” She shuddered. “Over my dead body.”
“Mama, what do you want me to do?”
“I want you to do nothing. If people ask you about it, you say nothing.”
“Okay, I’ll do that.”
She dismissed me with a wave of her hand, and I climbed back upstairs, tears falling from my eyes.
Dad had been absent for most of my life, but besides Beau, he was the only ally I had. We were a lot alike, and he always defended me when Mama was being particularly cruel. Leaving my mother, I could understand, but leaving me without a word? Packing up in the early morning like a coward? The desertion was a blow to my already fragile self-esteem. If my own father didn’t love or want me, who could?
“Fuck him,” Beau gritted out, hoisting a box up onto a shelf. “And that’s how she told you? What a bitch. I bet she didn’t even say anything comforting, right? All about herself. Good ‘ole Mom.”
Even though I knew I shouldn’t, I sought Beau out at work and told him the news. My devastation outweighed the awkwardness I felt around him.
“But how could he do this?” I blinked back tears and tried to remind myself I was in a public place. “He didn’t even sit us down to tell us. He let her do it. I mean ... how is that possible?”
Beau put his hands on my shoulders and squeezed. “Fuck them both, Addison. Seriously. All we need is each other, okay?”
In spite of my numbness, a little warmth seeped into my heart. “Okay.”
“I have to get back to work, but we’ll talk more about this later. It’s going to be fine. Probably even better. Maybe the whole thing will put her in a better mood.”
I tried to smile at Beau’s attempt at a joke, but I was afraid it would just set me off crying again.
After leaving Beau’s, I swung by Victoria’s. She’d just returned from visiting her aunt in New York and was eager to see me. I comforted myself that I wasn’t totally alone in the world; I had Beau and Vic, and they were wonderful.
Victoria was tall and curvy, and she was always smiling with genuine kindness. The boys loved her, and even the girls found it hard to be jealous of the kind and gentle girl. She had long wavy black hair and dark blue colored eyes that always seemed to be sparkling. I loved her tremendously, and was honored to have her as a friend.
She knew all about my home life and was a constant comfort, even if her problems were different from mine. While she had a happy family, they struggled with finances all the time. Victoria had to borrow clothes from me just so she would have something to wear to school without holes. She had received a college scholarship to the same school I was attending, and we vowed that there we would lead much happier lives.
Victoria was waiting for me on her porch when I pulled up. We hugged without saying a word, and I felt tears seeping unbidden from my eyes. I was tired of crying, but my body wasn’t finished yet. After a minute, she led me inside and straight into her bedroom.
“Tell me,” she said.
I told her everything about my dad. She just shook her head. “That’s wild. I know you said they were having problems, but it’s just really surprising. I can’t believe he didn’t tell you face-to-face.”
“Beau said he’s a dick.”
Victoria smiled sadly. “Parents can be disappointing, I guess. I’m sorry.”
“I’m sorry, too. Beau thinks this’ll make Mom better somehow, but I think she’s going to get worse.” Even at that young of an age, I knew there was nothing more dangerous than a narcissist not getting their way.
“Let’s not think about that. Let’s think about something really exciting instead.”
“Right. Tell me all about your trip. I’m sorry I dumped all of this on you and...”
“Oh, forget it. New York was amazing and my aunt is super cool, but that’s not why I’m excited!” She did a cute little dance and then told me the news. “Gavin Holmes invited us to his party tonight and we are going. No excuses.”
“You mean Gavin invited you to a party and I’m just tagging along. Thanks, Vic, but I’m really not in the mood.”
“Hey! No moping allowed. What happened is sucky, but we haven’t been able to go to one party together this summer and that’s bullshit! This will take your mind off of it and you can have a few drinks, socialize. You know. Act eighteen.”
“I don’t know...”
“College kids are going to be there,” she said in a sing-song voice. “Probably some boys from our college. Think about it.”
I sighed, then wondered why I was being so resistant. It wasn’t like Mama would mind. She wouldn’t even know. I was tired of sitting around all summer, worrying about things needlessly and waiting for my life to begin. I needed a distraction from Daddy, from Beau, from everything, and a party at Gavin’s house sounded perfect.
I grinned so wide it hurt. “All right, I’m in.”
It was storming by the time we reached Gavin’s house. Lightning snapped in the sky, and thunder growled forebodingly in the distance. I felt like the storm was a sign that I should head back home, that bad things came in threes, that this was all a bad idea. It was almost like something or someone was whispering to me, but I couldn’t make out the words.
I was completely soaked in the red dress I picked to wear, and Victoria’s pale pink top was nearly pasted onto her chest. Gavin would love that.
Gavin Holmes almost had as much money as I did. The difference between us was that he showed it off. He loved his lifestyle. I found him to be an arrogant prick, but Victoria had nursed a crush on him ever since elementary school. He ran around with the same group of friends my brother did, but I knew Beau didn’t care for him much. Gavin had mixed feelings about me. He was nice enough to me, but I had the suspicion he was irritated that I didn’t fawn over him like the other girls. A few times, he hinted he’d like to take me out, but I ignored him out of respect for Vic and because I had zero interest in him. He was a snake, and I hoped Victoria figured it out soon.
We walked into the house where the music was already blaring and girls were already teetering around drunkenly. A few couples were making out on the sofa, and Gavin stood in the middle of it, loudly bragging about the new car his parents bought him for getting into college.
Gavin saw us and raised his glass. I didn’t like the way his eyes ran over my body. “Addy! Vicky! Come over here.”
“I’ll get us a drink,” Victoria said in my ear, then vanished in the direction of the kitchen.
I knew some of the people there, but we weren’t exactly friendly. I was regretting every second of being there before I spotted Tom Donnelly. We were in the same group of friends in high school, and there were a few times I wondered if he was going to ask me out. It never happened, and Victoria summed it up as him being weird. He was extremely intelligent and always spouting philosophical stuff none of us understood. Even if I knew he was smarter than me, I was a bit bummed that our connection fizzled.
Regardless, I was happy to see him and went over to say hi. He was already smiling at me from across the room, and gave me a quick hug when I reached him.
“Wow, as I live and breathe ... Addison York at a naughty party.” He took a swig of beer from a red cup and shook his head. “Climbed down from the ivory tower, did you?”
“Shut up,” I laughed. It felt good to laugh. Maybe Victoria was right.
“I’m surprised you picked Gavin’s party to make your summer appearance. Victoria here?”
“Yeah, she’s just getting us drinks.”
A silence fell between us. Then he turned toward me. “I’m really glad you’re here,” he shouted over the music. “You’re the only one who can actually have a conversation.”
“I doubt that,” I said, but I was flattered.
His dark eyes moved over my body. “Why don’t we go out back so we don’t have to keep screaming?”
I was even more flattered, and desperate to do anything that would help me forget. “What about Victoria? Let’s wait for her.”
He grinned and pointed across the floor. “I think she’s busy.”
I looked and saw her lips locked with Gavin’s. They were definitely having sex later. I was so going to give her hell for ditching me.
“Come on. I’ll get you a drink and we’ll go stargazing.”
“Stargazing? Did I hear that right? You’re so unusual, Tom.”
He smiled and poked my nose. “So are you.”
“There’s a storm going on out there.”
He looked out the window and shrugged. “Must have stopped.”
He poured me beer from the keg, then dragged me out into the hot night air. It was a beautiful night, and we could actually make out the stars in the storm-cleared sky. Tom named a few constellations, which made me laugh. I wasn’t even sure if he was telling the truth, but I was having a good time.
“So, really,” he said after a while, “why did you come tonight? This isn’t really your scene.”
I hid behind my cup. “Not really your scene, either.”
His eyebrows lifted. “True, but I’m expected to be here. Bro code, or whatever.”
“I guess I just felt like having a good time. I don’t know why you think that’s so weird.”
He reached over and stroked my hair, which felt so nice. I didn’t move away. “I know how you feel about Gavin. Victoria talked you into it, I guess.”
“Something like that. Can we talk about something else?”
“Of course. Like what? The theory of multiple universes?”
I giggled. “Geek.”
“I prefer nerd, actually.”
I laughed harder. We sat on some chairs and he pointed out more stars. At one point, I realized we were holding hands. We were having such a great time that I didn’t even notice the shadow looming above us until he spoke.
“What the fuck are you doing here?”
I sat up and stared back at Beau’s furious face. “What are you...”
“Get up. I’m taking you home.” He grabbed onto my arm and ripped me out of my chair. “I cannot believe you are here, of all places.” He looked me over. “And with your tits out.”
One of my hands involuntarily flew up to cover my cleavage. “My tits are not out, and why can’t I be here?”
Beau ignored me. He took me by the forearm and dragged me behind him through the house. He wasn’t listening to my pleas, that I was embarrassed, that he was hurting me, so I kicked him in the shin. He spun around and his gray eyes flashed like cold silver. He changed course and pulled me upstairs with him, locking us in the bathroom.
“Have you lost your mind?”
I glared at him incredulously, rubbing the angry red marks on my pale skin. “Excuse me? Shouldn’t I be asking you that question?”
“So, Dad leaves and you decide to come out, dressed like a whore, and fuck Tom Donnelly? Do you have any idea how sleazy that kid is?”
I froze. “You did not just call me a whore.”
For a moment, regret flickered across his face. Then his expression turned hard. “You’re my sister. I can’t let you act like this.”
“Act like what? A teenager?” I burst into tears.
He stood there uselessly for a minute before putting his arms around me. I tried to shrug him off, but he persistently held onto me. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it.”
“What the hell is your p-problem?”
“I saw you with him and I didn’t like it.”
“What? Why not?”
He pulled away so his eyes could meet mine. “Why do you think?”
I could smell the alcohol on his breath, and saw how unfocused his gaze was. He held his liquor well, but it was obvious he was drunk.
“I don’t know,” I said, feeling helpless and lost. I was feeling like that around Beau all the time and I hated that something between us was changing. I felt like I was losing him.
His eyes fell to my lips. “Should I show you?”
“Beau, what are you...” but my words were cut off when my brother bent his head and kissed me.
Everything stopped. Everything started. All of the secrets I didn’t know or couldn’t understand were revealed to me. Beau felt exactly the same way I did, and he was telling me that the only way he could. I returned his kiss, shaking and holding onto him desperately like he was the only thing keeping me grounded to earth.
His tongue glided against my lower lip, and even with my limited experience, I knew what he wanted. I opened my mouth and took his tongue in, stroking it with my own. How sweet it was. It didn’t feel wrong, or wicked, or sinful. It didn’t feel anything but natural and right. He backed me up against the sink and deepened the kiss. I felt thoroughly corrupted and wanted more.
Someone banged on the door, causing us both to jump. Beau backed away, running his tongue over his swollen lips. I was doing the same, committing his taste to memory.
“Get the fuck out of my bathroom!” someone ordered. Not just someone—Gavin.
Beau smoothed my hair and rearranged my clothing, then checked his own reflection. He muttered something under his breath, but reached for the door.
“My sister was sick,” he said to Gavin, who stood there assessing us with cool blue eyes.
His gaze swept up and down my body, and I actually began to feel ill.
“Sick, huh? I thought someone was making out in there.”
He knows, a paranoid voice whispered in my mind.
“I’m taking her home.” Beau’s voice was remarkably calm.
“Good idea.” Gavin gave me a last once-over, then looked at Beau. “She’s all red. And her lips are...”
“Yeah, well, sorry, man. Heading out now. Talk to you later.” Beau took my arm, this time much more gently, and led me down the hallway.
I peered over my shoulder and saw Gavin still watching us, something ugly painted on his face.
We drove home in silence and the storm returned. I had to drive because Beau was too impaired, and I had barely finished one cup of beer. I was nervous navigating the slick roads. Rain poured endlessly and angrily on the windshield, but at least the thunder and lightning had stopped.
I parked the car in the street, but Beau made no sign that he was ready to get out of the car. “I don’t think it’s a good idea if I come inside right now.”
He looked over at me and his expression said that it should be obvious. “Because I want to fuck you.”
I gasped and tried not to make a complete fool out of myself by swooning. I tried to think of something to say, but I was completely without words. I tried, anyway. “Look, we’re both just confused. Everything is a big mess and we feel...”
“I’ve wanted to for a long time, Addison. Since we were in the field that night and you had on that blue dress. Maybe longer.” He rested his head back but kept his eyes on me. In the darkness of the car, I couldn’t really make out the rest of his face. “You know, I could basically see through that dress.”
“You could?” I whispered.
He only nodded.
“I want you, too.”
He nodded again. “I know.”
“What are we going to do? It’s not like I can avoid you, Beau. I need you, more than anything.”
“We can’t fuck,” he breathed, more to himself than to me. “I’m your big brother. You mean everything to me. Everything. You’re my responsibility, and I can’t do something like that to you. It’s beyond fucked up. It’s sick.”
“Definitely,” I said, but I didn’t mean it. That kiss didn’t feel sick at all. None of it did, though it should have.
He sighed and rubbed his face, and I could tell he was exhausted. “I’m sorry for before.”
“You don’t need to apologize. I love you, Beau.”
He signed again. “Go inside, Addison. I’ll come in soon.”
I did as he asked, feeling torn up and raw. What I really wanted to do was kiss him a thousand times and force him to show me all of the mysteries of his body.
The house was dark and Mama was asleep on the sofa. I took the still-lit cigarette from between her fingers and tossed it into the ash tray. She was going to set the mansion on fire one day. Sometimes I wondered if that wasn’t her intention.
My room was cold when I made it upstairs. I tugged off my dress and put on a nightgown Mama had bought me for Christmas the year before. It was dark blue and really too mature for me. Dad hadn’t liked it, and they fought over it. I had quietly brought it upstairs and folded it neatly in a bottom drawer, never intending on wearing it, but on impulse it felt appropriate that night.
My cell phone vibrated. It was Victoria, apologizing for ditching me and telling me she heard from Gavin that Beau and I had a fight. I shuddered.
I’m okay, I texted back. I ignored her response and crawled into bed. I couldn’t deal with anything or anyone else.