I broke the speed limit all the way home, but thankfully no cops stopped to question me. I pulled into the parking lot, slammed the car into park and got out, working very hard to keep from bursting into a run. I got my apartment door and went to unlock it, but it was already unlocked. Thinking that was strange but that maybe I had forgotten to lock it when I left that morning, I walked in. I was taking a look around, just in case someone had broken in, when I felt an arm go around my waist and a hand cover my mouth. I swallowed a scream and prepared to kick backwards, hoping to injure the man holding me enough so that he would let go. Just as I was bringing my leg up to deliver the kick, Billy walked into view, eating one of my yellow apples.
“I always like this kind best. Thanks kid,” he said as he grinned at me. “So, how ya been sis? You never write, you never call, if you’re not careful I’ll think you hate me. Let her go Bruce, she won’t do anything.”
“Billy Dean McKlain isn’t it just like you to break into your little sister’s house when all you had to do was knock. Oh, and for the record I don’t hate you, I just severely dislike who you you’ve become, old man.” Like I said, I was never good at holding my tongue, especially when my brothers had smirks on their faces like the one Billy was sending my way. “So are you going to tell me what you want or can I go ahead and throw you out?”
“There’s no need to get snippy, I thought we could chat a little before we started in on business. After all, we haven’t seen each other in a very long time.” Billy continued to smirk at me; he threw the apple core out of an open window nearby and motioned to the doorway entering the living room, “After you.”
I paused in the middle of the doorway. Looking back at him I thought of the house I had visited and all of the happy memories our family had made there. I couldn’t help but wonder, and in wondering ask, “Billy, what made us become this way? We used to be so happy living at that old house with momma and daddy. We used to laugh together, not break into our sibling’s houses and threaten each other.”
Billy glared at me, dropping that cool demeanor in front of me for the first time in years, “You want to know what happened? I’ll tell you what happened, Daddy died and left us all. He just left us and we had to live with the facts that he never had the nerve to tell us when he was alive. His own friend shot him for money and left us without a father. Maybe you can overlook our past and the ties that bind us to each other, to him, to momma, but I can’t. That’s what happened Kit, open your eyes and see it. There’s nothing outside for any of us. Not since then anyway. I know you don’t even use Dad’s name at work so you can keep a job and that hurts me. You’re living a life of deceit trying to make it on your own without the family’s help Kitten.”
His use of the old pet name softened my resolve to kick them out and call the cops, now I wasn’t going to call the cops. That monologue of his seemed real enough, but in our family you can never be sure whether someone is acting or telling the truth. The tension in the living room was building up so thick you could have built up muscles just trying to walk through it.
“I’ll think about that later. Right now, why don’t you tell me why you’re here?” Before he could say anything Rollo burst out of a backroom (he knows how to open doors) and headed straight for Bruce, who had been standing in a back corner of the room, watching our discussion. Bruce, being incredibly afraid of dogs, did the one thing any red-blooded American man would have done at that point. He screamed like a little girl, jumped on top of a side table, and huddle all three-hundred pounds of his massive frame into the fetal position while Rollo sat and barked at him.
After finally getting over our laughter, I pulled Rollo back and Billy talked Bruce down from the table. Bruce absolutely refused to stay in my apartment after that (to my delight) despite all of my reassurances that Rollo was perfectly safe. He went out back to wait in Billy’s car and we got back to our conversation. “So why are you really here Billy?” I asked again, somewhat exasperated with the hold in my plans for the night. There was no way I was going to let Billy know about the box I had in my bag.
“Can’t I just come by to visit?” He asked innocently, giving me that little smirk that had had all of the girls in our school and at college chasing after him.
“Cut the crap Billy, I’m tired of your mind games. To answer your question though, you haven’t just dropped by to see me since before you graduated college and took over the family from cousin what’s-his-name.”
“Randall, and you haven’t visited me either you know,” he replied, a little annoyance edging his usually calm voice.
“I had no reason; you made it perfectly clear that I wasn’t needed in the family since I didn’t jump up to become a crime boss. I had so many other things that I wanted to do, but with you it was always all or nothing. So I chose both, all of my own life and nothing from you.” I was on the verge of tears, but I wouldn’t let him see that, our family was tough and I would never admit that I was softer than him, even after all the years apart. “Now tell me what you want or get out. I have no more time or patience for you today, big brother.” The sarcasm all but dripped from my lips as I said those last two words. Billy had stopped being my big brother years ago, when he had let me know that I wasn’t important to the family if I wasn’t willing to be a part of the family business.
“I just came by to personally invite you to attend the family cookout in a week and a half. I know Dee called you, but I wanted to make sure you were coming. I’m not going to threaten you with Bruce, because quite frankly, I don’t think he would come back in this house anyway. At least not with that dog here.” Billy laughed at that then turned to head out the door, “I’ll see you there sis! Oh, and I will be here to get you if you don’t go. Remember kid, you don’t want to make me mad.”
With that last threat, my big brother walked out of my apartment and left me in a fog of defeat. I had lasted years on my desire to not interact with my mob family, but now I was left with no choice. If I didn’t show Billy would come get me, if I wasn’t at my apartment he would search until he found me; and his wrath would be far worse than spending a few hours with murderers and thieves. At least at the cookout there would be barbecue!