I used to dream of siblings. Now, I can honestly say that thank you very much, I preferred my life as an only child.
Tony laid on the black couch in Vince's office and stared at his phone, not really moved by our conversation that made me, on the other hand, cry. I tried to at least whimper quietly. My head started to hurt. Is it possible that like fifteen minutes ago I was the happiest person in the world and now I feel nothing more than an endless sadness?
All because of my brothers. Because of Tony. And Vince.
"Hailie, I don't think I can make myself clearer. You are not allowed to keep meeting with this... kid." said Vince after the moment of silence.
"Jason" muttered Tony.
"Jason." repeated slowly Vince, like if he was tasting this name in his mouth.
I raised at him my teary and full of resistance eyes.
"Don't look at me like that and don't pretend to be surprised. First of all, this boy isn't a suitable company for you. Secondly, you're fifteen and it's too early for dating. Is that clear?" His voice gave me goosebumps.
"Who said that fifteen years old is too early?" I stammered in a weak but determined voice.
Vince clicked his tongue, annoyed that I argue.
"I did, Hailie. You don't have to agree with it. You have to accept it. Is. That. Clear?"
I pursed my lips in a straight line, refusing to answer. I held Vince's icy stare, not thinking about the consequences. I just wanted to show them that I had a right to have my own opinion. It wasn't a good move though because Vince's eyes darkened out of displeasure.
"Dear child, you can rebel as much as you want but in the end, we'll have it my way. Time for you to learn it."
I was looking at a side now with my puffy eyes. My cheeks were wet because of tears. Lips still pursed. I felt like a toddler that refuses to be fed. Inside, I was terrified. I didn't want to test Vince but the feeling of injustice, that I was full of, was stronger.
"Is that clear?" he repeated.
"What if I say no?" I asked a bit sassily, finally looking back at him, tired of his possessiveness and constant cornering me.
Vince smiled. Smiled. And it wasn't a wry smile. It was actually amused. He put both his elbows on the desk and laid his chin on clasped hands, leaning slightly towards me. He was smiling and looking at me through squinted eyes.
"Are you challenging me, little Hailie?" he answered with a question. He was speaking quietly, in a low but clear voice.
"What are you going to do, beat me?" I asked again. I wanted to sound quizzical but my voice betrayed me and trembled a bit.
Vince's smile widened.
"If it's necessary..." broke in Tony. I wasn't looking at him but I could hear he was amused too.
"Quiet, Tony." said Vince, gazing me all the time. "No one will beat you, dear Hailie, that's a privilege you can enjoy due to being my little sister. However, I don't really care about others. Let's take, for example, your friend."
"Tony, do you remember what you told to this boy when you warned him from getting anywhere close to Hailie?" asked Vince, glancing at his brother.
"I don't know, something like that I'll break his whatever..." replied Tony carelessly.
Vince looked back at me.
"You do understand what I am talking about, right?" he made sure.
I understood too well. My bottom lip started to shake dangerously and my widened eyes watered quickly again. My courage left me as fast as it appeared. It's always like this. It shows up, persuades me to dissent and then leaves me with the whole mess.
"Don't hurt him, please" I whispered finally.
"What was that?" asked Vince, cocking an ear.
"Please, don't hurt him!" I repeated louder, not caring anymore and accepting my defeat.
"You won't date this or any other boy again, not at your current age. Is that clear?" Vince asked one more time the question from a few minutes ago.
"Yes, that's clear." I answered quietly, looking on the floor. My words were a bit inarticulated because of the tears that were choking me but it was good enough for Vince.
"I'm glad we finally have an understanding." summed up my brother, leaning back in his chair.
"Wait, but what about this kid? It's not just about Hailie but also the fact that he disobeyed us. He has to get it." said Tony, getting up to a sitting position.
"Of course, he's going to get it." stated coldly Vince.
I immediately raised my head, alerted.
"But you said that..." I started, panicked, but he broke in.
"I didn't say anything particular, Hailie. The only thing that you negotiated for him is us going easier on him."
"But I want to keep my promise." muttered Tony.
Vince looked at him slightly irritated.
"You, on the other hand, have to learn to keep your temper. Leave this whole Jason to Dylan. He has to get it for not listening to you but it's just a kid, it won't be hard to scare him." instructed him Vince.
I was feeling like in some different dimension. Did I really hear him well? Did Vince say what I think he said? I couldn't see anything anymore as my vision became blurry. Tears came back to my eyes and now there were twice as much them. I was shaking and weeping loudly, not able to do anything else. I didn't know what to do nor say, how to stop my brothers. I couldn't just sit and listen to them talking about beating people. Beating my Jason. I wanted to yell at them. That they are sick, that they are psychopaths but I didn't have the energy for that. I could only cry.
"Take her away." I heard Vince saying to Tony.
"What am I supposed to do with her?"
"Put her to bed and call Eugenie, she'll help her calm down. And tell Sanchez that he can come in."
Then I felt a grip on my arm. Tony caught me and it hurt again but I ignored the pain.
"No!" I screamed in a voice deformed because of tears. I didn't want to go anywhere, I had to stay here and talk with Vince more, persuade him not to hurt Jason. I couldn't leave yet. However, no one was listening to me. Tony easily pulled me behind him and I had to follow him, otherwise, I'd have fallen down. I couldn't see anything with my watery eyes.
"Vince's waiting for you, Mr. Sanchez." I heard Tony saying in the corridor.
"Is she all right?" asked a stranger voice, probably some old man's.
"Teenage drama" answered casually Tony.
The stranger just laughed politely.
Everything was happening fast. Without Tony's help, I wouldn't be able to get to my bedroom. The only thing I could do was shambling. When I finally landed in my own bed, my wail turned into silent crying.
I don't even know when Tony disappeared and Eugenie took his place. She was stroking my head, brought me some water and offered food. I wasn't able to answer her verbally. I was just shaking my head in a reply and staring blindly into space, sniffing from time to time. My head was throbbing and the only thing I agreed for after some time was a painkiller.
I remember that in the evening Will came to my room. He was way nicer than earlier, in the car. He looked at me with compassion but he also threw a pretty smile at me. He sat at the edge of my bed and tucked a strand of my hair behind my ear.
"How are you feeling, little one?" he asked in a soothing voice.
I was in such a poor state that I could barely talk.
"Bad." I muttered. I kept thinking about Jason.
"As often happens after hysterics." he remarked, smiling slightly.
I peeked at him, still burrowing my cheek against the pillow. Hysterics?
"Be careful, don't get sick." he said and kiss my temple. He gave me some joy with it but I wasn't even able to show it.
"Will?" I asked after a moment of silence.
"What's going to h-happen with Jason?" If only I could, I'd start crying again.
"Don't worry about that."
"They'll beat him, right? Please, stop them!" I squealed, ripping my cheek of the pillow to see him better.
"Shhh. Get some rest, Hailie. He'll be fine." said Will, gently forcing my head back to the lying position. I let him do that but he didn't calm me down.
"I don't want him to get hurt."
"He'll be fine." repeated Will "Jason is a kid, Vince is mindful of it. Don't worry."
Of course, I was still worried but Will's presence was very soothing. He was accompanying me in silence. Suddenly, another thought appeared in my head.
"How Vince got to the truth?"
"Don't worry about that either." replied Will after a while.
I gritted my teeth. His answers were completely unuseful but I really didn't have energy to fight.
"I want my mom." I said out of nowhere. I don't even know how it entered my mind. My brain had to remember that every time I felt bad, my mom was there to comfort me and take care of me like no one else. Another wave of pain attacked me when I made myself aware that it's impossible for my mom to even hold my hand. If she was alive, my hysterics wouldn't even happen. She wouldn't have threatened to hurt Jason. She was a good woman.
"I know, baby, I know." he whispered and kissed my temple once again, which gave me a lot of relief, again. I blindly found his free hand and started to play with his fingers.
I don't even know when I finally fell asleep.