Authors: Kimberly Fox
I shrug. I still don’t get why he’s getting all amped up over the opinion of a cranky old man. “He’ll get over it. And if he doesn’t then fuck him. You don’t need his approval.”
Ethan shakes his head. “This is your fault, Chase. I said no strippers.”
Now he’s starting to piss me off. “Nobody held a gun to your head.”
“No, you just dragged me there.”
I roll my eyes. “Tell him that we were only in there for a few minutes. Less than a song.”
“I tried,” he says, starting to pace again. “He won’t even talk to me.”
I huff out a breath. “So then fuck him.”
“No fuck you,” he snaps. His arms are flexed as he points down at me. “This is my chance at having a family. A real family. For the first time in my life. And you’re blowing it for me.”
Ouch. That hurts.
I always knew I wasn’t considered family to Ethan but it still hurts to hear him say it. Us Taylor brothers always give as good as we get. It’s time to hurt him back.
not the family type, Ethan. The quicker you understand that the happier you’ll be.”
Ethan shakes his head. “No. That’s you.”
,” I say standing up and getting in his face. “We’re the Taylor boys. We’re always the bad boys. The good girls like to fuck us and have some fun but they go off and marry the nice guys.”
Ethan takes a deep breath trying to stay calm. This is usually about where we break out the fists and start swinging. “That’s not me anymore.”
“That will always be you,” I say, feeling my blood start to boil. All of the stress of the past few weeks with my knee and my unclear future is starting to overflow. I know I shouldn’t take it out on Ethan but I can’t stop it. It’s so easy to fall back into those old patterns. “Your own parents abandoned you. Your parents-in-law don’t accept you. You’ll always be on the outside.
always be on the outside.”
Ethan squeezes his hands into fists and steps forward, staring down at me with a clenched jaw.
“See?” I say, raising my chin. “You want to hit me. Do it. Turn your back on the one family member that you
have. Show everybody what a real family man you really are.”
The fire in Ethan’s eyes dim. He steps back and releases his fists as he exhales. “That’s not me anymore,” he says with a calm voice. “And it doesn’t have to be you either. Our past does not have to be our future. People change. People grow. There’s more to life than fucking and fighting.”
The adrenaline is still pumping through my veins as my body prepares for a fight.
“Like what?” I ask. “Being a pathetic family man?”
“Yeah,” he says bluntly. “Exactly.”
He really thinks he can change. He’s in for a rude awakening.
“You’ll always be my brother, Chase,” he says with a calm voice, “and I’ll always love you. But you’re a real asshole.” He walks away leaving me stewing on the beach.
My heart pounds as I watch him walk away. He always thought that he was better than me. We’ll see how long this family man act lasts before he fucks another girl and shows his true colors.
He’s heading over to the beach bar where Tanya and the other girls are talking and laughing. He walks up to her and slides his arm around her shoulders. She looks so happy as she wraps her arms around his waist and rests her head on his ribs.
Maybe he’s right. Maybe there is more to life. I hope for their sake that I’m wrong.
If he can do it maybe I can change too.
No. That’s for other people. Not for me.
I’m not the family type.
I can’t stand being around anyone right now so I grab my things and head for my room. These people are too happy and every smile I see makes my blood boil a little bit more.
Cynthia catches up to me as I walk by the pool.
“Hey you,” she says leaning in to kiss me.
I jerk my chin to the side and she pulls back with a surprised look on her face.
She’s exactly the kind of girl that I was talking about. She talks about wanting a relationship but she’s really just using me for some fun. She’ll go off and marry some Ivy league scholar and leave me the second she can. I saw her talking to that doctor last night. How long until she drops me for someone like that?
She’ll never end up with someone as fucked up as me no matter what story she says. I come from a broken home, I’m a broken man with a broken knee and she’s going to leave me with a broken heart.
“Your friends are at the beach,” I say walking past her, ignoring her questioning eyes.
“Where are you going?” she asks.
“Does it matter?”
She catches up with me and walks beside me. “Are you mad at me or something?”
I exhale long and hard. “This isn’t going to work out.”
She huffs out a breath. “I knew it,” she says with her chin trembling. “You were just lying the entire time.”
I don’t have time for this drama bullshit. “I’m just saving you from wasted time.”
“What are you talking about?” she asks. “Did I do something?”
But one day you will.
She’ll leave me when she finds out how broken I am.
“I don’t understand,” she says shaking her head. “We were having such a good time. I really like you and I thought that you liked me.”
I just keep walking with my eyes staring straight ahead.
“So that’s it?” she asks, her eyes starting to glaze over with tears.
“No explanation? Just it’s over?”
“It’s for the best,” I say. “Believe me when I tell you that.”
“You know you’re a real asshole,” she says in a raised voice. Her anger catches me off guard. “I just tried to get to know you and you shut me out from day one. You won’t even tell me what’s wrong with your fucking knee.”
That’s it. I’ve had enough of this conversation.
“Have a nice life.”
She finally stops following me.
“Fuck you!” she calls out after a few seconds.
A mother sitting on a beach chair covers her child’s ears and frowns at me.
I stomp up the stairs of my building, this time enjoying the pain in my knee. I deserve the pain. I feel like I’m self-destructing in a tailspin.
I slam the door of my room and limp right up to the phone. I’ve just had two bad events. Might as well make it a hat-trick.
My knee burns as I dial the number for the Navy medical office. The lady answers and I give her my ID number.
“What can I do for you Mr. Taylor?”
she asks on the other end of the line.
“Medical results,” I snap. “Are they in?”
“Let me check.”
I bite my fingernail as the shitty hold music assaults my ear.
“They are in Mr. Taylor,”
she says when the line clicks back on. Her voice is tighter than before.
“I regret to inform you that the extent of your injuries is above the allowed threshold for the United States Military. As of today, you are honorably discharged from the Navy SEALs and from the United States Military. As a representative, I would like to thank yo-”
The cheap plastic phone explodes into a gazillion pieces as I smash it down on the nightstand over and over again. “FUCK!” I scream at the top of my lungs.
I storm over to the mini fridge and rip the door open as my head starts to pound. I grab a can of beer and chug it in one gulp. I toss it at the wall and I already have my lips to a fresh can as it clatters on the floor. I finish this one faster than the first.
There are only two beers left. Not nearly enough to drown out all the negative shit racing through my mind right now.
I’m nothing without the military. Nothing.
I go into the hallway to where I saw a maid cleaning a room a couple of doors down. Her cart is parked in the hallway and I walk right up to it and grab a twelve pack of beer.
“Señor, señor,” she calls out as she sees me limp away. “You can’t take that.”
I just ignore her and slam the door in her face.
“I’m sorry if I’m putting a damper on your wedding weekend,” I say as tears roll down my cheeks.
Megan, Tanya, and Julia are all sitting on the bed, each with a comforting hand on me.
“Not at all,” Tanya says, running her fingers through my hair. “I can’t believe he did that. He seems so nice.”
“Well, he’s an asshole,” I say, even though I don’t truly believe that. “He told me what I wanted to hear and then he used me. I feel like such an idiot. I thought that I was passed that kind of stuff once I grew out of my teenage years.”
“You’re not an idiot,” Julia says as she rubs my back. “You’re just trusting and you look for the good in people. That’s why we love you.”
Megan jumps up off the bed and starts hitting her fist into her open palm over and over again. “Want me to punch him for you?” she asks, with a fierce look on her face.
“No,” I say, shaking my head. “You’ll probably just break your hand.”
“Then I’ll kick him,” she says, practicing her awkward karate kicks against the curtain.
“Let’s just drop it,” I say, wiping my eyes. “He’s not worth crying over and he’s definitely not worth ruining Tanya’s wedding week over.”
“You should go on a date with that sexy doctor you met last night,” Julia says. “That will cheer you up.”
“I threw out the number,” I say dropping my head. I wonder if I can find it if I go dumpster diving behind the club.
“Why would you do that?” Megan asks. “He was so hot.”
Because I only want Chase.
At least I wanted him before I found out his true colors. Right now I don’t know what I want.
Julia smiles as she rubs my back. “That’s okay. There can’t be that many pediatricians in Buffalo. We’ll find him for you.”
Maybe I’m just in denial or I haven’t had enough time to process this properly but I still haven’t completely given up on Chase. There’s something there that he’s not telling me. I feel it in my gut that he cares.
There must be a reason for all of this.
I get back to my room after a quick dinner feeling worse than ever. Chase wasn’t at the restaurant. I was hoping to see him to maybe get some answers but instead, I got a feeling like I was about to throw up.
There’s a red sock hanging on the door handle.
What did the red sock mean again?
I put my ear to the door and grimace. It sounds like a gaggle of gorillas are having a wrestling match in there.
I just want to go home. In three more days I’ll be back in my bed and Chase will be wherever the hell Chase is but at least he’ll be out of my life. He’ll just be a distant memory. A sharp pain in my gut every time that someone brings up Tanya’s wedding week in Belize.
I curl up on the cold tiled floor in front of the door and fall asleep. I only wake up hours later when the door opens and the chef from the buffet walks out, adjusting his belt.
Ophelia looks down at me with a surprised look on her satisfied face. “I left the red sock on the door,” she says as I get up on stiff legs and walk inside. “Why didn’t you join us?”
Kill me now.
I open my heavy eyes when the incessant knocking on the door doesn’t stop. My head is pounding and my stomach feels like I drank a bottle of Drano. The knocking continues.
Who the fuck is that?
The early morning sun is burning my eyes through the crack in the curtains and I rub them until it’s bearable. The sound of a dozen or so empty beer cans crinkle and ching together as I get off the bed, ready to snap the neck of the person behind that door.
My knee jerks in pain as I place the weight of my hungover body on it.
. Every morning I forget to go easy on it and every morning it jerks me back to reality like waking up into a bad dream.
I open the door and Tanya is standing there all dressed up and looking perky.
I don’t have the energy for this.
“Hi brother-in-law,” she says with a big smile on her face.
“Ethan’s not here.”
She barges past me into the room, walks right up to the curtains and rips them open. The bright sunlight feels like it’s tearing my heavy eyes. “I’m not here to talk to Ethan,” she says, opening the patio door to get some much-needed air in here. “I’m here to talk to you.”
I cross my arms and watch her, leaving the front door open beside me. “Then talk.”
She clears the cans off the bed with her arm and sits on the edge of the mattress. “Come here,” she says tapping the bed.
I let out a frustrated breath and close the door. She looks so sweet and innocent sitting there. I want to yell at her and kick her out but I limp over to the bed and sit down beside her.
“Tomorrow we’re going to be family,” she says, softly. “I want us to be close.”