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“Why are you opposed to me sleeping in the same bed as Eli?” I asked Alex that night as we lay in silence again. I was curled into his side and listening to his heartbeat.
“You’re old enough that you two shouldn’t need each other for comfort in a physical sense. It’s just not right. Maybe if you’d just undergone some traumatic situation it’d be okay, but you haven’t.”
“You’re letting me use you as a teddy bear to sleep. How is this any different?”
“I’m not Eli.”
“That doesn’t make sense.”
“I’m older and I know what I’m doing. I also don’t have to make sense.”
“Wait… You actually think Eli would try something on me?” I lifted up my head to look at his face even though I couldn’t see anything but an outline.
“I didn’t say that, Holly. I just want to be careful is all.”
“Eli doesn’t think of me like that. We talk about other girls for Christ’s sake.”
“Okay.” His voice told me he wasn’t convinced.
“You’re way too overprotective; you know that? There aren’t enough people asking for a death wish from you guys around here that you’ve started in on family.”
“That’s not what I said.”
“You know what?” I sat up and searched blindly for the small flashlight I brought. “I’m sleeping in the other tent.”
“You’re seriously overreacting. Lie back down and go to sleep.”
“No. I won’t have you insinuating the one sane brother I have is interested in fucking me.”
He pulled me back down and I pushed at him. “I didn’t say that, Holly Elizabeth. Stop being a brat, okay? Those two are probably already asleep.”
“Let me go, Alex. I’ll sleep outside then.”
“No. If you’re dead set on not sleeping beside me, I will sleep outside. I won’t have you getting kidnapped.”
The fight went out of me at the thought of him getting kidnapped. “Let go.” He did and I rolled over away from him. “Just go to sleep.”
“Are you mad at me?” I didn’t say anything and he touched my arm. “Holly?”
“Leave me alone.”
“If a pretty girl is in a guy’s arms when they wake up with morning wood, everything’s not always so black and white. That’s all I meant by it. On normal circumstances, no, I do not think Eli would ever think of you that way. I’m just being realistic.” I pushed his hand off my arm, but he took my hand in his before I could pull it away. “Holly, come here.”
“No. I won’t have you thinking in gray when you wake up.”
“I won’t have you going to sleep angry to wake up angrier.” He tugged on my hand, and I rolled over to face him, knowing he’d keep being insistent. “One sane brother? How come he gets to be the sane one? I think I’m pretty damn sane.”
“Don’t cuss. It sounds weird coming from you. It’s like seeing a teacher at a bar.”
“Now you know how I feel about the thought of you with a man.”
“That’s not something you get to be a part of the decision making for. I’m going to have sex sometime in the next two years. You’re not stopping me.”
He was quiet a long time and I rolled back away from him. “Does this mean you’re not angry anymore?” One of his arms went around my hips and pulled me back to him.
“On one condition: you make the same promise and mean it tonight.”
“That if you meet a girl you like, you’ll try for her.” He nuzzled into the back of my neck and I poked his arm. “Alex.”
“I promise I will.” He wrapped both arms around me and held me to him as he pressed a kiss to my neck that made my stomach flutter. I wondered if it was because of the darkness that made it feel differently and un-brotherly, and if he felt the same. “Goodnight.”
I hesitantly let my arm fall over his and closed my eyes. He squeezed me and I bit my lip. We both needed someone terribly. “Night, Alex.”
“Oh my God, she’s going to kill you, JT. You obviously don’t know why she grew her hair out, do you?”
“Because she wanted to look like all the skinny, long-haired sluts in our town?”
“Mom always wanted her to.”
“Oh shit.” There was scrambling around beside me and I finally pulled my head out of the dream that wasn’t making sense anymore. JT held my shoulders down as I went to sit up and I frowned at him.
“What’s going on? What are you doing?”
“I am so sorry, Holly. I didn’t know. It’s not much. Just like five inches on the right.”
“What are you talking about? Let me sit up, this ground isn’t so amazing on your back.” As soon as I sat up and noticed the lack of hair brushing against my elbow on the right, I knew. “You didn’t. No. No.” I felt tears well up and I shut my eyes, forcing my hands to stay by my sides.
“It’s only five inches. They’ll grow back. Really. You can hardly tell.”
“I can tell, JT. I can’t… I can’t believe…” I trailed off in a whisper and heard more scrambling come into the tent.
“Come here,” Alex said and pulled me to him. He pushed my head to his shoulder and petted my recently cut hair. “JT, go help Eli get the marker off his face.”
“What did he do to Eli?” I asked once he was bakırköy escort gone.
“He drew a penis on his cheek and wrote penis lover on his forehead.”
“JT’s a jerk.”
“You think I haven’t tried?”
I pressed my face to his chest and sighed. “I’m okay. It’s just hair. I just… I can’t believe he did that. You smell good, Alex.”
He hugged me closer to him. “You smell good, too. You always smell like apples and strawberries.”
“You are what you eat and wash with I guess. You know, at least he didn’t write pussy lover on my face.” I shivered. “Gross thought. I personally understand the beauty of women, but the idea of another woman’s vagina is not for me.”
“Well, I guess you’re okay.” He removed his arms from me. “Get up and go eat breakfast.”
“Fine. Kick me out of your arms why don’t you.” I crawled off him and out of the tent. Eli was glaring at JT over the picnic table when I walked up. His face was red, but there was still a light gray outline of where the black marker had been. “I have astringent that will take that off.”
He looked over at me and scanned me, eyes alighting on the right side of my hair. “So he got you, too.”
“Yeah. Come on, I’ll get this off your face.” I tugged at his arm and he threw another dirty look at JT before following me back to the tent. “What did Alex say?”
“Alex laughed his ass off along with JT.”
“Awh.” I wrapped my arm around his waist and hugged his side. “I won’t laugh at you.” I crouched down and went to unzip the tent, but Alex caught it on the other side.
“Give me a minute, and you can have the tent.” His voice sounded strange and I looked at Eli who had an equally strange look on his face. We sat there for a minute before Alex unzipped it and I leaned out of the way so he could crawl out. He was wearing different clothes, and I figured he had been changing. “All yours.”
I crawled in first and rummaged through my bag as Eli sat down beside me. “You’re a liar. You have your other swim suit.”
“Hush. They don’t need to know these things.” I pulled out a cotton ball and the astringent. “Alright, close your eyes so the fumes don’t hurt them.” I had to rub it over the gray lines several times before they went away.
“I heard your conversation with Alex last night.”
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to be so loud. He just made me mad.”
“I could tell. Were you talking about me or JT?”
“You of course. Would I ever call JT sane?”
“Good point.” He paused as I held his chin and scrubbed harder at a darker place. “I’m sorry if I ever make you uncomfortable.”
“You don’t, Eli, shut up. Alex was just being stupid.” I looked over his face, checking to make sure I got it all and he opened his eyes. “I think I got it all.”
“Thanks.” He watched me put my things back how they were. “He had a point.”
“Alex. About how sometimes in the morning judgment can get clouded.”
“Don’t tell me, you really do want to jump my bones.” I rolled my eyes and looked at him when he didn’t say anything, about to crawl out of the tent. “Eli, seriously.”
“You’re beautiful, Holly.” He brushed my hair behind my ear and I pulled away from his hand.
“Thanks… Come on, I’m hungry.” I crawled out first and Eli was right behind me.
We were playing poker and using pebbles as our chips when the sun started going down. Alex and I held the most and Eli was about to go out. “Since when were you good at this game,” JT asked me.
I smiled at him. “Amy showed me.” I winked at Alex and Eli before looking back at him. “She wanted to make sure that if she chose me as her partner in strip poker we wouldn’t lose.”
“She what?” JT’s eyes seemed to pop out of his head. “Please tell me that’s never happened.”
“Of course not—we win every time, which is why you and Alex don’t stand a chance.”
“Holly Elizabeth Sparks, you had better be joking. If you’ve been playing strip poker, I will make your ass so red.”
“Promises, promises.” I tossed two more rocks in and monitored how quiet it had gotten. Once Eli had tossed in his last two pebbles, I called.
“Damn it to hell, Holly.” JT glared at my cards.
“Told you, we never lose.”
“Get up.” He pushed himself off the ground and my eyes widened as he pulled up on my arm, forcing me up, too. He pulled me about five feet away before laying a hard swat onto my bottom. I yelped and he did it again, holding me in place with his arm across my stomach.
“JT I was kidding!” I yelled as he laid the third and fourth on me. They stung, but it wasn’t just that that was making my mind fuzzy. It felt kind of good, in a way I knew I shouldn’t be feeling. He gave me another to make five and let me go. I stumbled and fell, rolling onto my back and putting an arm over my eyes in embarrassment.
“Now you know what will happen if you ever do it for real then.”
“That wasn’t necessary, JT.” Eli dropped down beside me and pulled on beşiktaş escort my arm. “You okay?”
“Yeah, contrary to what you’d think, JT kinda hits like a girl.” I smiled up at my little brother.
“You sure you’re okay?”
“Mhm.” I sat up and smiled at the other two. “So who’s going to lose next? Am I going to knock you out in order of increasing age?”
Sure enough JT went out next, leaving Alex and I about even in chips. “So where did you learn to play?” Eli and JT had wandered off to take showers and we were alone.
“Dad taught me a long time ago all the basics, but Drew and I used to play for extra cash.” He tossed in about five pebbles and leveled his gaze with mine. It was dark and we had the lamp out which cast shadows on his face.
“I don’t like playing in the dark. I can’t see if you’re bluffing.”
“Please, I have a fantastic poker face.” He cracked a grin.
“No you don’t. How do you think I’ve won so many times? I can read all three of you like looking at myself in a mirror.” I decided to chance it and tossed in five to match him before calling. He had four of a kind and I had three.
He started dealing out the next hand. “You are aware that if you ever do play the strip version of this game, it won’t be JT’s girl swings that paddle your ass. In fact, I’d be even inclined to buy a sturdy wooden board to get the point across.”
I smiled despite the threat. “I’m not going to do that, but thanks for the heads up.”
“I know you are. I’m just not scared of you. Plus, I don’t intend to play strip poker. I don’t like the idea of so many people seeing me naked.”
“I don’t like the idea of anyone seeing you naked. Not even yourself.”
I laughed at his serious expression. “Now you’re just being ridiculous.”
“I’m not. You’re my baby sister. I want you to stay under that status. Not mother of someone else’s baby sister. Or some man’s girlfriend who gives him sex.”
I wrinkled my nose. “Those statuses don’t seem so very glamorous. I’ll be the loving girlfriend who waits or the loving wife who’s open to suggestion.” I laughed at my add on.
“That’s not funny.” He just stared at me, waiting for me to place a bet.
“I think it’s funny. And true.”
“Way too much information, Holly. Play already.”
It was hot during the night. Normally it was kind of cool during the night, but not this night. I sighed and sat up to unzip my sleeping bag. “What are you doing?” I jumped at Alex’s voice. I thought he had fallen asleep already.
“It’s hot. I’m not sleeping in this thing.” I finally got out from the thing and Alex sat up beside me to do the same.
“It is unusually hot. I was just too lazy to ask you to move so I could get out.” He lay back down and I curled back into his side, the lack of padding in between us a little odd at first. “That’s a whole lot better.”
I wasn’t for sure if he meant the cooler air or lack of sleeping bags between us, so I didn’t say anything. I let my eyes stare into the darkness, trying to make out where the side of the tent was. Alex’s thumb rubbed on my hip and I scooted closer to him, moving a leg over his. The melancholy part of my brain told me this is what I’d always wanted with a guy—just someone to hold me and make me feel loved and cherished.
“Eli heard what you said last night.” Alex’s hand paused a second.
“What did he say?”
“That he was sorry if he ever made me feel uncomfortable, which I told him he didn’t. And then he said something about how you were right about things not being so clear in the mornings.”
“I see.” He let his hand drop to lay on my sleeping bag behind me. It was nice to feel cool air where his warm arm had been, but it soon irked me at the difference—a side-effect of my strange OCD.
I pulled his arm back and held it there. “Alex, I want someone to love me.”
“We all three love you, Holly.”
“That’s not what I mean. I need someone to love me in a different way and not make all these stupid rules for me.” I felt a tear roll down my face and hope he wouldn’t feel it through his shirt.
He didn’t say anything for a long time and I thought maybe he’d fallen asleep. “Sex won’t give you love. I promise. I know.”
I let go of his arm and pulled away to lay with my back to him. “I didn’t say anything about sex.”
He pulled me back against him like he’d done the previous night. “I just want to make sure you know that. Giving out your virginity to a guy will seem special to you, but to him you’ll most likely just be a conquest.”
“I don’t want to talk anymore.”
“I love you.” He hugged me closer but I didn’t respond and closed my eyes to try to sleep.
“He’s lonely,” I observed to Eli the next day as we sat on a wooden dock and let our feet graze the water. JT and Alex had gone down to pay for the days we’d already stayed, so it was just him and me.
“I think we’re all lonely. At least, I tell myself that’s why JT sleeps around like a common beylikdüzü escort whore.” He picked up my hand and turned the ring around that I’d had since I was little. I’d gotten it when I was seven and now it only fit my pinky. “I picked this out.”
“I didn’t know that.”
“I was five and Mom took us all out to pick you out something for your birthday. She seemed surprised when I picked it. But it has dolphins on it and you’d told me it was your favorite animal.”
I smiled at the thought as he curled my hand in his and looked out over the water. “You’re so sweet, Eli.”
“I used to like being called that. You know, until every girl used that line when turning me down.”
“Well, you’re nice on the eyes, too. And smart. Would you like me to say those more instead?”
A small smile went across his face. “Yes and that will help calm Alex so much.”
“Even more reason to. I live to get under his and JT’s skin. Otherwise life would be too boring.”
“Man I’m happy I’m the nice brother. I don’t think I could handle putting up with you bothering me purposely all the time.”
“Eh. I think they secretly enjoy it. They feel needed when they’re punishing and lecturing me.” I pulled his hand over into my lap and pressed mine to his, seeing the difference in size. “I don’t want to be with Michael.”
“Did he try something?”
“No. He was the perfect gentleman. I just… I don’t know. I have this idea of the guy I want, and he’s just not it.”
“What’s your idea of the guy you want?”
“Just… Smart in a way, strong for that whole protector thing, loving and willing to just hold me when I need it, and…” I blushed. “Never mind. There are some things I really just shouldn’t tell you.” Never mind the fact that I just described any of the three men in my life.
“Eli! Holly! Come on!” Alex yelled out the window of the truck. They said they would give us a ride back, so Eli and I scrambled up and climbed into the back of the truck.
“Oh my God,” I backed out of the shower as the two inch spider lowered itself from the ceiling. I still had conditioner in my hair, but I didn’t care. “Alex!” My voice hitched up in panic as it touched the ground and started running for me. I screamed and pushed out of the curtained stall, grabbing the towel out of his arms and hurriedly wrapping it around me. “Kill it. Kill it right now!” I stared at the creature on the floor and felt relief rush through me at the crunch it made when Alex stepped on it. “Thank you.” I stepped around it and back into the stall, handing out the towel again. “Just another second, I have to wash the conditioner out.”
I shut the water off and proceeded like always and we left the shower without another incident a couple minutes later. “Maybe it came out because it’s night,” I pondered aloud as we walked back to the fire. It was late and Eli looked like he was about to doze off. JT blew on the marshmallow he’d just caught on fire and looked over at Eli. “Don’t you dare do anything to him.”
JT jerked his head around to us and he grinned at me. “I wouldn’t dream of it.”
“I think I’m going to go to sleep,” Eli mumbled and got up, walking over to me and giving me a hug before going to the tent.
“What was that scream for?” JT asked after I’d hung up my towel to dry.
“Holly was being chased by a spider.”
“It was giant and squishy. It literally made noise when he stomped on it.”
JT looked at his brother. “She actually made you go in and kill it?”
“More like it followed her out.” Alex kept his gaze on the fire and I watched JT as he slid his gaze back to me.
“I should have put a spider on you instead of cutting your hair.”
“Don’t make her paranoid, JT. You know that would require you to actually touch it, and you don’t like them either.”
I smiled as Alex scolded JT. “Shut up, Holly.” He stood up and ran a hand through his hair. “I’m going to sleep, too. And yes, I’ll be nice to the kid. Goodnight.” He patted me on the head as he passed me.
“Want to put out the fire and go to sleep, too?” I asked Alex as I picked up my brush and started pulling the tangles out.
“Are you tired?” He watched the brush move down my hair.
“Kinda. After I brush my hair and sit still for a while, I’m sure I’ll fall asleep.”
“Then I’ll put the fire out after you get done.” He picked up the metal stick JT had set down and stabbed a marshmallow on it. He turned it over and over, letting the fire barely lick it. When he was finally satisfied with it, he pulled it out of the fire and it was a golden brown and sliding down the stick slowly. I sat my brush down and watched him as he ate the sticky mess.
“You have…” I tried my best not to laugh and got up to stand in front of him. I wiped at the skin above his lip that his tongue apparently couldn’t reach. “There. Now, clean your sticky fingers so we can go to sleep.” I squeezed my eyes shut at my words and turned to fill dirt in the bucket we had to put out the fire.
“I know how to solve our problems.” I jerked down on Alex’s shirt collar so that we were face to face. “I can fuck you and then you don’t have to worry about me getting hurt and we’ll both stop being lonely.” I pressed my mouth to his and felt one of his hands move down to maul my breast while the other held my neck.
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