She snatched the cell phone off the coffee table and got to her feet, swiping the button to answer the call. “I am not your goddamned fairy godmother. You got your drunk ass to that party, hitch a ride back home.” Stopped in front of the decorative mirror where it hung on the narrow space separating the living room from the galley kitchen, she waited for a response. None came. She glared at her reflection. Her tattered NYU t-shirt, frayed at the collar after six years of washing, hung like a shapeless tunic. A loose thread unravelled at the ribbed edge and she resisted the urge to pluck it between her fingers and pull.
A bottle clinked against his teeth. She heard him lap at the beer. His five o’clock shadow and the slightly bleary-eyed look he wore after a night spent drinking till three in the morning was clear in her mind. A familiar echo of the last two times he’d called her for a rescue.
“Does that mean you’re not coming to get me?”
She ignored his plaintive tone. What had happened to her brother since he’d come home from Afghanistan mystified her. Gaze dropping to the floor, she studied her toes for half a minute, considering options. “I’m not. You’re combat trained, Jeremy. Brooklyn shouldn’t be to much of a challenge. I have to be up for work in less than three hours.” She closed her eyes, shutting out the guilt. Somebody had to pay the rent.
“Aw, c’mon Jo-Jo,” he wheedled, pausing to suck on the beer again. “I just needed to blow off some steam.”
“You were bare-knuckle boxing again.” She inhaled deep and steadied her voice. “It’s illegal. It’s dangerous. We’ve lost enough, Jer. Come home and get your shit together.” She didn’t say the rest but he heard it anyways.
“Like you did.”
His voice came so soft she strained to catch the words. “You have to try, Jeremy. The war is over for us.” She fingered the raised lines of flesh trailing down the left side of her rib cage. Her scars might be visible, yet they proved less damaging than the injury to her brother’s psyche. He sighed. The sound broke her heart a little bit more.
“I’m really going to try, okay?”
She nodded, remembered he couldn’t see her reaction, and opened her mouth to speak. Before she got the words out, the line clicked and went dead.
* Every week I get together with a group of writing friends to explore new story content. We write for a brief period of time and use prompts for inspiration. This piece might someday become part of a longer work. Please let me know if you enjoyed this tidbit and would like to hear more.