Christmas time was as amazing as it could be without my mom and grandma. I've had a few attacks of sadness caused by longing but I've never been alone. There was always someone around me ready to cheer me up or distract my attention from gloomy thoughts.
I was helping Eugenie in the kitchen with all the cooking as I was really enjoying it. I also baked my spectacular cake which I used to make every year with my grandma. I played a bit on play station with boys. And together with Shane and Dylan, we hung some ornaments on the Christmas tree. We bantered a lot and that was something great because it meant we finally felt more comfortable in our company. I thought that my brothers have been feeling comfortable since the beginning of my stay here but now I could see the difference in their behavior. They weren't stopping themselves anymore from stuff like shoving me or mocking. Earlier they weren't like this and now I could say that I am officially a younger sister whose older brothers are truly annoying.
Not that I wasn't hitting back. I was snitching a bit (mainly to Will), sometimes I tried to shove them back (what usually ended badly for me) and soon I even mastered my puppy eyes that were quite useful.
I still had many doubts though. From time to time I came back with my thoughts to all those guns, Andy, to Tony's fight, a threat that Jason's heard from my brothers, a bloodstained shirt or that old man kissing gratefully Vince's signet as if my oldest brother was a god. Then usually I was getting shivers but in a moment someone always would yell something like "Let's order some food!" or "Are we watching some movie?" or give my braid a pull and distract me with it.
And seeing this picture of my brothers all sprawled around in the living room, eating pizza... Dylan, who was just muttering some cusses because of the salami that landed on his T-shirt. Shane, who was complaining that there's no double cheese. Tony, who put into his mouth almost the whole piece at once. Will, who brought juice for me and beers for the rest. Vince, who just throw paper towels at still cussing Dylan. Is it how dangerous men look like?
They were hiding something from me and that was a sure thing but maybe it's better not to know what exactly it was?
"Hailie!" called out Mona with disbelief. "How can you say that?!"
Thanks to being a good little sister, as I was expected to be, I could spend New Year's Eve with my friends. We were sitting in Audrey's kitchen and were catching up as it was the first time in a while since we could talk together with no rush.
"When I'm obedient, everything is perfect. No punishments, no talks with Vince..."
"But it's fake, you know it very well. You prefer to live in a lie than to discover the truth?"
"What am I going to do with this truth? I'll get to know some stuff that I won't like and what will I do? My brothers are my only family..."
Every little while we were mentioning the Monet brothers topic with short breaks to gossip a bit about school and Netflix tv series. We were just arguing if it's better to watch Elite with the original soundtrack and with subtitles or with English dubbing. I, developing my love for the Spanish language, obviously was defending the first option. Mona was just rolling her eyes at my arguments when to the kitchen entranced some older boy. I recognized him straight away - he was Audrey's older brother, Jerry.
Jerry is very similar to his sister. His complexion is pale and heigh is just a tiny little bit taller than his sister's. He is skinny and quite bony, looking very ordinary with his mousy hair, checked shirt and jeans. I knew him from school, but I have never talked to him before. Anyway, I've heard enough stories from Audrey to understand what kind of person he is. She often complained about his big headedness and incapability in life. Well, I'm not a big fan of judging people but seriously, he really looked very bumptious. Especially, when he glanced at me through his rectangular-shaped glasses and twisted his face a little. He reacted like this only at my sight. He took a packet of popcorn out of a cupboard and without a word he left. Like a shadow.
"Hi, was nice to meet you!" muttered Mona after him.
"He's a weirdo." Audrey spat dismissively.
"Have anyone else seen him twisting his face at me?" I asked.
"I have!" admitted Marshall.
"Don't take it personally, Hailie. As I said, Jerry's a weirdo. He has his own beliefs."
"You know..." Audrey started unsurely, but after a look, I gave her, she continued her explanations. "When I asked my parents if I can invite you, this morone broke in and said that it's dangerous to guest the Monets' sister under our roof."
"What?" I asked surprised.
"Jerry's an idiot, I've told you he's prejudiced to your brothers. That's why. He told my parents that you never know what to expect from them and that it's better not to play with fire. Idiot."
"Does he actually know m brothers?"
"He's in the same year as Shane and Tony. They even have some classes together. Anyway, he's known them for a long time and doesn't really hold them in high repute. But remember, it's Jerry. He really is an idiot.
"You're idiot yourself." said an unknown, angry voice. Jerry came back to the kitchen and has heard our conversation.
"How other can I explain your stupid behavior towards Hailie?" hissed Audrey, getting annoyed too. Usually, she was very calm but apparently her brother had an exceptional ability to make her lose her temper easily.
As a reaction to her words, Jerry fixed his look at me. I felt a bit uncomfortable as a guest at the house where one of the hosts despised me so much but apart from this, I wasn't affected by his behavior. I live with five older brothers who could kill with their glares when they were mad. The pseudo-threatening eyes of Jerry weren't impressive to me at all.
"Now you call it a stupid behavior because you're such great besties. Just wait. One day, you'll understand that it's better to keep away from ALL the Monets." he said to Audrey in a serious voice.
"Give me at least one reason." She spat in response and her face was quickly becoming red out of anger.
"They're dangerous, a dirty-players, superior, violent, ruthless, arrogant..." counted Jerry and every next word was like a gunshot. I looked at him and felt a growing lump in my throat as each one of his accusations was nothing else than a said out loud thought that have already appeared in my head many times.
"How can you even say such things, especially at Hailie's presence?!" broke in outraged Mona.
"Oh, your poor Hailie will always duck and dive with the Monets at her side. In your relation, when the conflict comes, you'll be the ones to pay for it." Jerry laughed humourlessly.
I was staring at him with wide eyes, not able to stutter even a word.
"What are you talking about? What conflict? You don't even know Hailie! You're insane!" yelled Audrey, now red just like a tomato.
"You'll surely get insane when the Monets' brothers sort you out!"
"You should see a doctor!"
"What's actually your problem?" asked Mona. It was really nice that together with Audrey, they were defending me so much.
"You'll see one day." grunted Jerry, fixing his glasses on his nose.
Suddenly Audrey laughed dryly.
"I know. I know why you have a problem with Hailie. Tell her how Tony gave you a swirlie."
I froze, shocked, just like Mona and Marshall. Jerry bored into his sister with pursed lips. It was a blow below the belt. Audrey shared his look challengingly.
"How do you know about it?" He finally asked quietly. I felt like I wasn't present there. Right now, in the kitchen, there were only Audrey and Jerry who together participated in their clash to which no one else had right to join.
"I've eavesdropped our parents' talk."
"It was years ago."
"Why do you even mention this situation? You know what, nevermind. It's good. It's just another proof that her" here Jerry pointed at me with his finger "amazing brother sank low long time ago."
"Why don't you tell the whole story? Weren't you doing Tony's homework almost for the whole first year?" continued Audrey, smirking at him. I didn't know this side of her.
"...because he forced me?!" yelled Jerry, taking a step forward his sister. She was also good at making him lose his temper.
"Bullshit! You wanted to impress him to be his friend!"
Jerry was breathing fast and I could see lightenings in his eyes. Audrey bravely held his stare, waiting for a fight-back that didn't happen.
"Do whatever you want but you'll mark my words." He said coldly and then he left the kitchen. All the four of us shared tensed looks.
I felt bad after what I have heard. I didn't find Jerry's attitude towards me fair. His only reason to put me in a bad light was because of bitter memories of my brothers. Fortunately, I had around amazing friends who immediately made my mood brighter and helped me forget this unnecessary incident so we could truly enjoy welcoming the new year.
The next day, in the morning, Audrey's parents made a delicious breakfast and we all sit together at the table to have it. All means all so Jerry was there too but at his parents' presence, he wasn't so eager to reproach me. He was just chewing silently in a huff, avoiding looking at anyone, especially me.
I reminded myself that he tried to set his parents against me, at least that's what Audrey said so I was a bit scared that they will keep some distance towards me but they turned out to be extremely kind and lovely people. The only time I felt a slight discomfort was when Vince showed up to pick me up. That was unexpected because he usually was too busy to deal with this kind of stuff.
I felt the discomfort not because of him but because of Audrey's mom's reaction at his sight. I understood her though. Vince appeared at the threshold of her ordinary house, not matching the surroundings at all. He was wearing his elegant, dark coat, his hair perfectly swept-back as always and with those light, cold eyes and a quite fair complexion. Everything was contrasting. Adding his tall height, grace and luxurious watch partly sticking out of his sleeve... Well, let's say that his person was impressive.
Audrey's mom froze for a few seconds just staring at him but I had to admit she quickly came back to herself and with a wide smile invited him for a coffee. Vince politely and gentlemanly rejected the offer. I did notice that she was peeking nervously at his big signet which was impossible to miss.
At home, I found out why Vince was the one to bother to pick me up. The rest of my brothers weren't able to sit behind the wheel. I don't know how they spent their New Year's Eve but surely there was a lot of alcohol.
When I saw Tony who, sprawled on the couch, was curing his hangover with a cold beer, I remembered Audrey's words turned to Jerry. Was he really bullying him like that? Forcing to do his homework for him? I hated kids teasing cruelly the others but the thought that Tony could be one of them wasn't shocking for me.
I decided not to ask about it. Probably I wouldn't manage to get the truth out of them and I didn't want them to think I'm even nosier. Besides, I had a feeling that I could get Jerry into trouble. Who knows how my brothers would react to that story? I knew them well enough already to understand that sometimes it's better to just stay quiet. So I stopped thinking about it, just like that.
In general, I stopped thinking about all the dangerous stuff and secrets hanging around them. Of course, deep down in my heart I knew that there was something wrong with them but I decided to ignore it. Let's say I had better things to do than getting into trouble with them because of breaking their rules.
For example, breaking another of their rules.
"We'll go to the cinema because it's dark there and no one will see us." announced me Jason, caressing my tight. We were sitting in the bathroom, on the floor, me on his knees. He had his hand under my skirt. Since the new year, he became even braver.
"We'll meet in the mall. Mona and Audrey will come as well..." I started but he broke in.
"It's supposed to be a date, not a class reunion."
I rolled my eyes and clucked my tongue. Sometimes he wasn't very bright.
"I'll tell my brothers that I am going to meet with the girls, otherwise they won't let me go at all. One of them will take me to the mall and see them, so he won't get suspicious. Then, the girls will go shopping or have some ice cream and I'll meet you. We'll go to the cinema, spend some nice time together and in the end, I'll let them know when were finished and we'll go back home."
Jason nodded with a smile that was getting bigger and bigger with my every next word.
"Genius" he summed up.
My plan was brought into effect on Saturday in the afternoon. Will stopped at the parking lot and I got off the car. He smiled at Mona and Audrey who were grinning at him stupidly. As I expected, he didn't suspect anything.
I thought that I outsmarted him, that I outsmarted all my brothers. That my plan is really good.
Well, it wasn't.