Miss Perfect and Her Brothers (Part I&II)

28. Unlucky

My adventure with nicotine turned out to be quite short and not very pleasant.

The next day, on Sunday, I smoked the first cigarette in my life. I locked myself in my en suite and there, all stressed, I did it. It was awful. I coughed a lot and till the end of the day, I felt a disgusting smell of it, although I made sure to air my room and bathroom out, wash my hair and change clothes. I couldn't let myself get caught.

You could say that smoking under my own roof was stupidity but after thinking it through I came to the conclusion that it was my only option. Would it be better to smoke in our garden? I still didn't know the location of all the cameras we had. At school? Well, then I could straight away just blow smoke into my brothers' faces. If they'd not caught me, then probably some teacher would have and I don't really know what'd be worse. Should I have smoked somewhere outside of school and home? With some bodyguard following my steps that wouldn't be smart.

No one nailed me that day but the amount of stress that this whole operation costed me wasn't worthy of it at all. Firstly, to keep the cigarette in cache itself was nerve-wracking and, although the chances that my brothers would find it hidden under the carpet in the corner of my room were low, I still remembered that one time I already took something from them, then I hid it and later it disappeared and I got in trouble.

To the top of it, I had to snatch a lighter what meant another dose of nerves and risk. Some time ago, I'd found a little, narrow drawer in the kitchen that was filled with several dozen different lighters. Small and big ones, unicolor and patterned. Cheapest ones and those more expensive, luxurious. I lifted the one that seemed for me to be the plainest and the least conspicuous.

In the big short, a cigarette didn't help me to lose my weight and I'd known about it before I even tried it. I wasn't stupid. Nicotine is a poison. It's harmful. I had an A in Biology as well as Chemistry. It was about something else. About a quiet voice in my head that kept saying to me it might be worth a try, that maybe it'd work. It's like if I fancied something sweet and someone gave me a cookie that looks delicious but I knew it's distasteful. I'd have a bite anyway because maybe this time it'd be good. To my information for the future - it'll never be good.

But back then I was on a close-to-depression stage. I barely could deal with surviving after the death of my mom and grandma, my brothers were the hardest people to coexists with and Jason, who I had high hopes of, turned out not to return my feelings on the same level.

Now, I was sure that my would-be boyfriend wasn't so into me as I was into him. I could understand that he didn't want to approach me in fear of my brothers' reaction but the fact that he so quickly managed to replace me with some other girl was just a dick move. One week he caressed my tight and the next - Lavinia's one.

That's why I was regularly limiting my meals. Sometimes I even threw them out untouched, when no one could see, with huge remorse. Sometimes, I was just spreading my food on the plate, surprised how easy it was to trick people around me. And I didn't even have to worry too much about pretending in front of my brothers because (despite their controlling habits) they trusted me with mundane things like eating, waking up to school or doing homework.

But on one Friday, after classes, I sat in Tony's car and couldn't stop gaping at the packet of cigarettes laying together with keys and wallet on his seat. Tony was outside, leaning against the car door, busy with his phone. He just put out his cigarette and turned away to open the door on the driver's side. As soon as I heard its click, I raised my eyes.

"Wait here." He muttered to me and slammed the door again. He moved towards one of his friends.

I followed him with my sight. He was now standing a dozen steps away from the car, talking about something with this guy I knew from the cafeteria, whose name I couldn't remember. I had a look around the parking lot that was slowly getting empty. No one was paying attention to me. I peeked at the cigarettes again.

Smoking was disgusting, making me nervous, harmful but despite all of it, a moment ago I saw Lavinia's instastory. She was driving and putting her tongue out from time to time while Jason was sitting next to her, recording a video and constantly giggling like a little girl.
Somehow I stuff my head with a belief that a cigarette will make me feel better. I had no idea why but it could be the result of helplessness and sadness and maybe, maybe a try to draw some attention. I just don't know whose attention I wanted to draw, as my brothers' one wasn't always good to have.

I carefully followed Tony's every move with my eyes. His every step, every gesture, every, even the slightest, nod. Everything, just to make sure he's not coming back to the car yet. He was speaking. He spat. He scratched his left arm. At that moment, still not moving my eyes from him, I reached blindly to the driver's seat side. I opened the packet and took out two cigarettes. Two. Not one but two.

Why did I take two?

I closed the packet and popped the cigarettes into my pencil case. Not the best place to hide them but none of my brothers have ever thought about checking my pens...

Heart almost jumped out of my chest when Tony came back to the car, opened the door and instead of getting inside, he grabbed the packet to treat his friend (who came right behind him).
Then I thought that I am really, really stupid.

It's the same, again. I do things before I think.

But Tony had a lot of cigarettes and one moment later he was sitting next to me, starting an engine, not saying a word. I was still tensed up though. I was looking through the window at the thick wall of trees we were passing by. My palms almost started bleeding because of the wounds I was digging with my nails, clenching my fists out of stress. As it turned out a few minutes later, I wasn't nervous without a reason.

At some point, Tony turned into some woody road. It was similar to the one that we stopped at with Vince two weeks ago when I run away and we had a talk. But this one was even emptier, darker and creepier.

"Get out." He grunted and before I could react, he was outside too.

I got scared a bit but took a deep breath and did as he ordered. Not that I had a choice.

Hesitantly, I stood next to the car and looked at my brother with wide eyes, wrapping my arms around myself. It was chilly. I had to look like a lost child. Tony, on the other hand, leaned against the car's mask and took out a cigarette from the same packet I just stole two of them from. I still hoped that maybe he stopped in the middle of the forest because of his whim or he had something to get done here, something irrelevant to me but when he reached out his hand with a packet towards me, I knew already that he found out I stole from him.
"Want one?" He asked casually.

I stared at the packet in his hand, not daring to even open my mouth. Then he looked at me, raising his eyebrows, shaking his hand impatiently.

"I asked you a question."

I shook my head with a gloomy expression on my face. I knew I was in trouble and apparently, Tony was going to torture me a bit.

"Oh yeah, my bad, you've already helped yourself." He muttered and theatrically patted his forehead with his free hand as if he just remembered.

I was silent, feeling shivers all over my body. Slowly, I was gathering what was happening.

He lightened up his cigarette and took a deep breath in. He pocketed the lighter, spat at the direction opposite to me, sniffed and combed his hair with his fingers.

When I heard his next words, I felt like flying into the forest that was surrounding us.

"You know that you're fucked, right?"

"Tony, I..." I started quietly but he broke in.

"Give it back."

This time the hand that he was extending was empty and open. I thought about playing a fool and pretend that I don't know what's going on.
I waited too long because Tony pushed himself off the mask and came closer to me, facing me now.

"Or you want me to find it by myself?" A clear threat sounded in his voice.

Tony was the brother I had the weakest bond with if we could speak here about any bond at all. He was also the least predictable of them all and as a result, I was afraid of him almost as much as of Vince. But Vince was calm and intelligent while Tony was hot-tempered and reckless.

I could see in his eyes that he was ready to grab my backpack and rake it. He'd find it right away. I was doomed.

Reluctantly, I reached to the inside of the car to get my stuff. Tony was watching me, smoking his cigarette. With the corner of my eye, I could see how he cocked up his eyes when he saw me opening my pencil case.

I gave him two thick cigarettes, trying to stop my hands from trembling. I didn't want to come too close to Tony, I didn't trust him. Not mentioning the fact that we were here alone, in the middle of nowhere, with no witnesses.
When he grabbed his possessions our fingers touched and I pulled my hand away quickly. I took a step back and lost my balance for a moment. Tony looked at me with a raised eyebrow.

"Chill out, it's not like I'm going to murder you or something..." He said with a smirk. Oh, how not funny at all that was for me!

"They're just cigarettes." He added, waving them.

I didn't really know how to read him. So was he angry or not? I observed him all tensed up while he was completely relaxed and leaned against the car again.

"You were unlucky, Hailie. Normally, I wouldn't even notice but those..." Tony patted his pocket with the packet inside. "Those were precisely counted."

I hung my head feeling the burden of stupidity and failure.

Suddenly, I heard Tony's laugh, so I looked back at him, confused.

"Now everyone will see how fucking perfect our little sissy is." He muttered to himself, shaking his head with disbelief and amusement on his face.

"Tony, please, don't tell them." I whispered, panicking even more.
He looked at me with inscrutable expression but then again, a smile started to gradually appear on his lips.

"It won't happen again, I promise, please." I begged, looking for mercy in my brother's insensitive attitude.

He rolled his eyes.

"You're such a baby."

Although I didn't like this remark, I didn't comment on it. I had to humor Tony instead of making him annoyed. Especially that (as far as I could say) something in the way he looked at me gave me hope that maybe I'd manage to persuade him to take my side.

"Please"

"What are you so afraid of? Vince?" Tony laughed.

I looked down.

Mhm.

"Think, what can he possibly do to you? He'll talk some shit and that's it." He continued and I bit my lip. A part of me agreed with Tony's words and wanted to relax but another part, the smarter one, reminded me that Vince "talking shit" was scary and very unpleasant and it was my bag to be on good terms with my guardian.

"Can you... not tell him?" I asked, trying to make puppy eyes.
Tony was looking at me for a while, considering my request. Then he blew smoke out of his mouth and answered me.

"All right."

The relief I felt was indescribable. I took a deep breath, preventing myself from closing him in a tight and full of appreciation hug.

"Thank you." I said quietly. I didn't think back then why Tony agreed to keep silent. I was just naively grateful for his mercy.

He didn't answer, just threw the cigarette butt on the ground and got back in the car, waving at me to do the same. On the way home, he didn't speak at all and what I could only think about is that I managed to get away with troubles. And it was Tony who let it slide. Wow.

It was a bit cold and I was grateful that my brother turned the heating on. Maybe, after all, he wasn't that bad. Maybe someday we'll get along. This is what I thought.

Other stuff that occupied my mind was mainly based on my guilt. Every time I was remembering my mom it was because of longing or when I wasn't agreeing with some of my brothers' decisions. Then I'd imagine how my mom would solve the specific problem. I knew that in this case, she wouldn't let go. She'd be disappointed and she'd want to punish me. It was the first time when I was really happy that one of my brothers did something differently than she would.
We came to our house and I headed towards the stairs to avoid dinner. My brothers got used to that I had my own schedule for meals. Or that's what they were thinking. Tony went to the kitchen straight away. I heard some conversation from there and I recognized Vince's and Will's voices. Oops, I started to walk faster to disappear upstairs as fast as I could. I was almost at the top of the stairs when I heard Tony greeting them and saying:

"You won't believe what Hailie did."