Chapter 9 - The Adopted Brother


Damn it. I blindly walked into that one. It’s been five years since I was subjected to playing these stupid games, but how could I forget my own rule? Here I am talking about we’re not kids anymore and childishly let Jay bait me like a toddler. I wasn’t even tipsy enough to blame it on that.

I allowed my emotions to get the best of me and I have no idea what that is going to cost me. These games were fun when we were kids when we were young and dumb. It was thrilling, adding excitement to the bubbled life our parents confined us to, but we were adults now. Playing anything with Jay was not in my best interest.

“Since it’s been a while and I’m feeling quite generous. How bout we play a game of cards, dominoes, or Uno? Your choice and If you win, you get your rule one and will even be allowed to pick the first game. If you lose, rule one remained forfeit and It’ll be my games, my rules. No questions and no backing out.”

“Sounds like a game within itself.”

“At least I’m giving you a chance to gain your dignity back. Take it or leave it.”

I have a feeling I’m going to regret this.

“Fine. Remember that card game Pa thought us?”

“You mean the one he made us play for a month before we went to the islands because he wanted us to be prepared to go against Uncle Joe?”

“Yeah, that one. Best out of three”

“Game. You can have the honor of shuffling.”

About an hour later, I was fuming. The score ended up being two to one. I lost, terribly. I remembered how terrible he was at playing cards, that game especially. I always used to win and the one time I needed the win is the one time he wants to be an expert card player. I should have known that smirk on his face had nothing to do with fond memories.

Due to my carelessness, I have no choice but to take the defeat. The reason I even made rule one was for the sake of winning. No matter what I’ll always be in control and work things in my favor. Even if we get in trouble afterward, I’d still be the winner.

I hated losing and made it my mission in life not to. My parents always talked about how failure was part of life and a requirement to make you stronger. I didn’t agree because the only thing l ever agreed to lose was him, even when it hurts.

“Ladies and gentlemen, as we start our descent, please make sure your seat back, and tray tables are in their full upright position. Make sure your seat belt is securely fastened and all carry-on luggage is stowed underneath the seat in front of you or in the overhead bins. Thank you.” The pilot exclaimed.

We found a seat and fastened our seat belts. I was more than ready to jump out of this plane. With a smile on his face, Jay leaned his head against the seat with his eyes closed and humming. He seemed happy. I bet he was since he just played me like a fiddle. I wanted to wipe that smug smirk off his face, but I’d never choose violence when it came to him. Being a few months older, it was always my responsibility to protect him, not hurt him.


The villa was stunning. It was located amidst delightful tropical gardens and overlooked a sandy secluded beach with sun lounges and a hammock. It had three bedrooms and three baths. Unfortunately, my room was right across from Jay’s.

My parents chose the farthest room possible to dwell. Ma might be able to drag pops out of the villa a few times, but I doubt it’ll be every day for the two weeks as planned. The way they’ve been acting, I don’t even want to think about it. I’m already disturbed enough.

I took a quick shower, got dressed in yoga pants, a sports bra, and sneakers before sneaking out for a short run. With my headphones on, I lost myself in the music and the pounding of sole hitting the same. The jog turned to a full run around the beach. What was planned for a thirty-minute run turned into an hour. I could have kept running until my lungs gave out, but pa came out of nowhere flagging me down.

“Hey Pa”

“Hey, baby girl. I figured you’d be out here once we couldn’t find you.”

“Yeah. I needed to run.”

“You tend to do that a lot when you have a lot on your plate.” He said with a look of concern.

“That did save us having to pay for my college.” I lightly laugh to ease the uncomfortable tension in my heart.

“Money was never the problem. So, tell me, what is it you running away from this time?”

“Nothing just wanted to stretch my legs.”

“You’ve always been a terrible liar.” He laughed

“Let’s go enjoy this vacation so I can run back to Clearwater,” I said as I kissed his cheek, walking back toward the villa. I was hoping for a quiet stroll back, pa had other plans.

“You know you can always talk to me and tell me anything without the fear of ever being judged or disowned.”

“I know pa, that’s why you’re my favorite.” I smiled, desperately trying to hide the guilt I felt.

“So, Nick?”


“Good, I was beginning to worry.”

We laughed and talked as we made our way to the Villa. We found Ma and Jay hurdled up having an intense hushed conversation. Pa and I looked at each other before shrugging it off. They’ve always been like this. Leaving them to whatever they were up to, I headed to my room and took another shower.

I wished that I could have stayed in bed listening to the waves as I read a Stephen King book. Unfortunately, I didn’t have that luxury. I was forced on a boat where I could have my books or phone to drown out those around me.

Listening to ma rave about her extra plans for this vacation, I watched pa and Jay laughing and fishing. Every time they caught a fish, ma would stop talking just to squeal and clap. Every time pa would just laugh harder with the widest grin on his face. It was cute.

I would catch Jay eyeing me a few times before I’d quickly look away. I tried focusing on what ma was saying but my mind was elsewhere. This vacation, this so-called game Jay was playing was going to be the death of me.

“Are you even listening to me?”

“Sorry, kind of zoned out. Guess I’m still a little jet lag.”

“How so, when you just ran more than an hour after getting here?” Here she goes again.

“Ma, please repeat what you were saying.”

She studied me for a moment. I was expecting her to start scolding me like she always does. To my surprise, she kept on talking. The more I focused and processed what she was saying, the more uneased I became. Why do more than half of her plans only include her and pa? And why do the majority of them include them not being around which could potentially mean them spendings days and nights away?

“Wait, you’re telling me that you dragged me all the way out here for a family vacation, yet You and Pa are going M.I.A for the majority of it? If that was the plan all along, I could have stayed home and enjoyed the beach there.”

“Watch you tone young lady. You’re never too old to catch these hands. I don’t see the problem. It’s your father’s and my wedding anniversary, it only makes sense we spend the majority of our time together. You’ve been M.I.A. for five years, it wouldn’t hurt for you to spend time with us and fix whatever is going with you and Jaylen.”

“I have spent time with you all and there is nothing to fix because there is nothing going on.”

“Yeah, and pigs fly. It also snows in the summer.” She bitterly remarked

“You never know ma.” I smiled

She didn’t find me amusing whatsoever. If it was Jay that has said it, she would have been laughing her head off and patting his back like it was the funniest response she ever heard. I wasn't Jay.

Shaking off the bitter thought. I simply smiled getting up to remove the dress I had on. We weren’t too deep into the ocean; I could swim back to shore if needed. Lord knows I wanted to. I put my braids in a bun, jumping into the water before I could hear what was said.

I stayed down a little longer, holding the scream that wanted so badly to escape. Once I finally reached the surface, I found ma staring at me. Those judging eyes judging me. I wonder what the verdict was this time. Instead of pondering on it, I did a few laps around the boat until my body couldn’t take it anymore.

Pa helped me climb back on the boat, handing me a towel and beer. His oversized grin warmed me up. He never needed to say much to let me know that he understands. Smiling back, I went to pick up my dress and shoes picking the farthest chair from my judging mother.

We made small talk as dad and Jay barbecued. Well, they talked, and I drank. I responded and smiled when it was required of me to do so, silently praying we’d head back soon. When have I ever been lucky?

The three of them decided to take a swim. I enjoyed the quiet even though I could hear them talking below. I focused on the sound of the water, curled into a ball eventually, I fell asleep curled into a ball.

The sun was already down when I was finally woken up. I walked behind the others enjoying the night sky and the crashing of the waves. It felt peaceful, yet lonely. As I watch the three talking and laughing ahead of me, I felt lonely. In a way, I have myself to blame. I detached myself from them five years ago without a simple explanation.