When I woke up, I got a mini heart attack. I didn't recognize immediately the room I was in. Only after a moment, I heard a cute snore right above my ear and then I remembered how Dylan let me stay with him last night.
I was staring at him for a while. Now, calm and well-rested, I could appreciate his yesterday's gesture even more. No matter how annoying he usually was to me, I had to admit that he had his moments.
While asleep, Dylan looked quite sweet. Without that smirk nor irritated look. I considered quietly leaving his bedroom now but decided to try to fall asleep again. I liked the closeness I could share now with my brother. I needed it and I didn't usually get it a lot, so I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity.
Three hours later, I woke up again this morning. This time, I was in bed alone. I was lying in a fetal position, covered with a comforter. Well, time to get up.
Firstly, I felt pain in my leg. It was bigger than yesterday. I didn't take a good care of it, I guess. Next, my bruise woke up. I took a look at it and I winced because it was getting more and more awful.
All stiffen up, I went downstairs. I wanted to go to the living room to watch tv or something but I heard a conversation in the kitchen and sighed quietly. I wasn't hungry but if I hadn't shown up to have breakfast, I'd have been in trouble.
Vince and Dylan were sitting at the table with mugs with coffee in front of them and were talking about something in hushed voices. At their sight, especially at Vince's sight, I shivered. Even in such an innocent scenery like our kitchen, drinking such a mundane drink like coffee (out of the mug with "Star Wars" written on it), he seemed to be threatening.
Maybe that's because I still remembered how he leaned over the bald guy with a gun in his waistband. Or how he almost stabbed his eye with a knife. Puff.
I tried not to share eye contact with Dylan to avoid his possible taunts of the last night's topic.
I felt their gazes on me. We politely said 'hello' to each other and I wanted to prepare cornflakes with milk but Eugenie appeared out of nowhere as if she was called and started to do it for me, sending me to sit at the table with my brothers.
Vince pulled the chair next to him for me so, unfortunately, I had no other choice and had to take it.
"How's your leg?" He asked and I did my best to hide how nagging its pain was.
"Good. How's Tony?"
I dropped my head.
"Can I visit him today?" I mumbled. I felt I should do that. I wanted to do that.
"I prefer that you stay at home and rest."
"You'll stay at home at rest."
I frowned, unhappy.
"I'm fine..." I sighed.
"You barely can walk."
Eugenie put the bowl in front of me and I looked at it with reluctance.
"What happened to the man who attacked us?" I blurted out after a moment, looking back at my brother. I didn't even care that Eugenie was around and could hear me. I was pretty sure that she knew much more of my brothers' secrets than me.
"What do you think should happen to him?" Vince answered me with a question. That was a surprise, I thought he'd reply me curtly, as always.
I wondered and shrugged.
"I dunno, go to jail?"
Dylan and Vince both smiled with amusement.
"And when he'll get out? What then?" Dylan asked, tilting his head.
"He won't... won't get out. He should get a life sentence. He was shooting to us, Tony's at a hospital because of him and that boy's dead..." I listed.
"And who killed him?" Vince broke in, looking at me with leniency.
I got silent.
Tony killed him.
"B-but... but that was self-defense! That's different," I stuttered, trying to find logical arguments which would confirm my brother's innocence.
"At courtroom the only thing that matters is evidence. The guy that attacked you would get a dozen or so years for an attempt to kill. Most likely much less if he had a good lawyer. He'd be released earlier for good behavior. Unless he escaped the country before," Dylan explained to me.
"And Tony would be in trouble for gun ownership and killing," Vince added.
I was moving my widened eyes from one of my brothers to another.
"That doesn't make any sense!"
"Let's say he's in that jail. The first thing, he'd do after getting out would be revenge," Vince continued.
"And you'd never be able to sleep peacefully. Just like last night," Dylan finished, smirking at me.
I blushed at his words. He just couldn't let it go.
I fixed my eyes on the counter.
"So what's the other option?"
"There's only one option and you know it very well," Vince said and his voice got cooler, "You've seen too much for me to pull the wool over your eyes, dear Hailie."
A shiver went down my spine and I gulped.
He scared me. He scared me so much that suddenly, I wanted to run away from this kitchen. Discomfort which I felt at that moment was unimaginable. There I was, sitting next to a man who was speaking so freely about a murder. This man happened to be my brother and guardian together. It was too much.
I started to slowly eat my cereals. Spoon after spoon, grateful for having an excuse for not speaking. My brothers left me alone and I had a weird feeling that Vince spoke to me like that on purpose so I wouldn't ask more questions.
After some time, they both stood up and disappeared upstairs. When they left the kitchen, I felt relief. Although, soon, I heard them coming downstairs again, apparently read to leave the house.
"You'll lie and rest. When I'm back, I'll ask Eugenie if you obeyed," Vince told me, showing up in the doorframe for a moment to throw me a meaningful look. He had his dark coat on and he held a black, leather wallet in his hand.
"Ok," I muttered, wondering if they were going to this cabin now.
After they left, I moved to the living room. Just like yesterday, I lied on the couch and turned on the tv. At my request, Eugenie brought me some of my schoolbooks from my room. I was skipping classes because of all that happened, so the perfect side of me was nudging me to start catching up.
At the same time, I was annoyed because of the lack of my mobile. When I asked for it yesterday, Will told me that it was found in the woods with a broken screen. It was the second time my phone broke. I got scared because I got used to my new iPhone and I knew that it was very expensive. I wouldn't dare to ask Vince for another one or even for fixing the old one (what was also quite costly). I was aware of the fact that my brothers didn't care much about money and they had a disgustingly huge amount of it but I, for fourteen years of my life, was being raised in a not really wealthy family and I was used to worrying about unexpected spendings. Besides, I still had some distance to my brothers' money. It wasn't mine.
Tat's why I was afraid that I'd have to live without contact with an outside world for a while. But Will came to me, about an hour after Vince and Dylan left, and handed me my phone that was looking brand-new.
"Thank you!" I sighed with relief. Firstly, I pulled the device to my chest, hugging it and then gratefully gazed up at Will, who was towering over me with a slight smile.
"You're welcome," He answered and I started immediately to dig in my unread messages. There was a huge mess in my group with Mona, Audrey, and Marshall. They knew that Vince excused my absence in school but they didn't know why.
I was about to text them back but Will sat on the couch next to me and gently pushed my hands aside. I dropped my phone somewhere in the depths of my comforter and looked at him confused.
"One more moment, Hailie. Can we talk?" He asked politely but I was pretty sure I didn't really have a choice.
I nodded, focusing my attention on his blue eyes. I was melting, especially when they were looking at me with so much shine. I had no idea how was it possible that Will felt such affection to me.
"Firstly, I'm sorry about yesterday, little one," He said honestly.
I frowned, not understanding.
"I shouldn't have lost my patience, surely not with you. It's not your fault. You've been through a lot lately and you have the right to ask questions. I'm sorry you don't get answers for most of them but believe me, it's better this way," He explained.
I blushed. His irritation with my person from yesterday hurt me a bit but just for a moment. Later, it was all right and I forgot about it quickly. However, it felt incredibly kind that he respected me so much to apologize to me now.
"It's all right," I mumbled.
Will smiled at me gently.
"We do what we can to protect you, little one. And then something like that happens. You wounded. Tony in hospital. Too much stress. I'm sorry I took it out on you."
I shook my head.
"It's ok, really," I whispered and reached towards Will with my skinny arms to hug him. It was just too sweet. I liked him so, so much! I didn't think that any other of my brothers would ever feel need to apologize to me for such a small thing. They were treating me like that all the time.
Will gave me the hug back and kissed me at the top of my head. I loved when he was doing it. I never had a father and Will, sometimes, behaved the way I imagined my dad would.
"One more thing," He said when we finally looked at each other again.
He spoke again when he was sure he got my whole attention.
"Your friends must be worried about you," He started, motioning his head towards the place where my phone had to lie. "Unfortunately, no matter how much you trust them, I have to ask you to hide the details of your accident. The official version we stick to is that you were going back home with Tony and you two just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. There was a shooting, Tony got a bullet and fell from the motorcycle. You lost consciousness. End of story."
I frowned. It didn't sound credible. On the other hand, the truth was quite unbelievable too.
"It's very important that Tony is innocent," Will kept on, "Do you understand?"
I nodded, biting my lip. My brother tilted his head, noticing my inner fight.
"It's gonna be ok, Hailie."
"I know, I just... Will... you know I can't lie," I sighed, imagining skeptical faces that my friends will make when they hear my pitiful explanation. Everyone was aware of the gossips about the Monet brothers. No one would believe that we accidentally landed in the heart of some random shooting...
Will smiled again.
"That's true, you can't lie. Just say you can't remember anything. Don't speak too much then you'll have nothing to clarify. You can blame us. That your terrible brothers don't tell you anything," He advised and I giggled. Oh yes, that sounds authentical. I was complaining really often to my friends about how my brothers keep secrets from me.
Later that day, the idea of Mona and Audrey visiting me after school came up. They were supposed to bring me their notebooks and cheer me up a bit. I hadn't been allowed to welcome any guests at home since the day when I stole Dylan's gun with girls. How stupid we were back then! Well, anyway, Vince said that I was banned from having visitors till he says otherwise and finally he did say otherwise. Will reminded me again to button my lip and asked me to welcome my friends in the living room, where Eugenie could keep an eye on us. And he repeated a few times that I have to stay on the couch and not to get up.
After a few hours, everything was set up with the girls' parents and soon there we were - sitting together in our living room. Audrey took a seat on the couch, somewhere in my legs and Mona sat on the floor right next to me, admiring the fluffiness of the carpet. Later, Will left the house wishing us to have a nice afternoon and reminding us to be good. I saw Mona blushing. My brothers didn't know it was her who snuck to Dylan's room but apparently, she still felt guilty anyway.
I was curious where Will went to. Will he join Vince and Dylan? Or maybe he'll meet Shane who (as far as I heard) was constantly sitting next to Tony?
My friends quickly made me stop thinking about that because, as I expected, they started to question me about the incident's details.
"Girl, you have no idea what kind of gossips are going around school now!" Mona exclaimed.
"Everyone's talking about your accident," Audrey added.
"The first version was that you're dead," Mona said deadpanned.
"Seriously, you don't know how scared we got when you weren't texting back to us."
"Some dumbass claimed to see your ghost."
"And those guys who always share the table with your brothers were making jokes and they said that Tony took part in an illegal race and he was winning so they opened fire at him. They said that despite being shot, he got first to the finishing line anyway."
"At the beginning, everyone believed them but the more stuff they were making up, the less plausible it was."
"Jerry said that apparently it was Tony who started to shoot at some guy who owed him money."
I stared at them with my mouth wide open.
"That's why it's so important that you finally tell us the truth!" Mona sighed almost beggingly.
Ok, Hailie, you can do it.
"I.... don't remember," I whispered with remorse.
On their faces in a split second appeared disappointment.
I sighed and considered for a one, short moment to tell them what really happened. After all, they were my friends. I even opened my mouth to start but quickly closed them again. Will would be disappointed if I ignored his warning. He was so good to me, I couldn't let him down...
And Tony? What if somehow I'd get him in trouble? I didn't want to doubt my friends' faithfulness but for some reason, I remembered Dylan's words he once said to me. "... family is the most important to us. Never forget it." Tony was my brother. He defended me. I could be loyal to him, Will and my other brothers, my family, or to my friends.
A bit guilty, I looked at them and bit my lips. Tears showed up in my eyes. They were caused by the difficulty of the choice I just made but I decided to use them for making my companions feel sorry for me.
With a tightened throat I told them how I had no idea about what happened. How I was heading back home with Tony on his motorcycle, feeling freedom and happiness until I suddenly woke up in a hospital. I sniffed from time to time for a better effect. I was a bad liar in general but this time the thought of Tony motivated me to do well.
The girls were looking at me shocked.
"Is there a chance that you'll get your memories back?" Audrey asked in a whisper.
"And what did your brothers say?"
I passed them the official version which earlier Will had told me.
"It's rather not the whole truth, right?" Mona commented.
I shrugged again and when Audrey and she started to discuss eagerly on that topic, I pulled up my blouse.
"Look at this," I muttered, knowing very well that my bruise was so huge and terrifying that it'll have to be talked through. Both girls gasped at its sight and stared at me with pity.
Generally, their visit passed in a very pleasant manner. We talked a lot and laughed. Eugenie even served us ice cream. The girl stayed at my house until the evening. When Vince and Dylan came back and noticed how they tensed up. Especially because of the first one. They didn't see him really often. They knew him mostly from my stories. They greeted him extremely politely and he replied them equally suave. Not so much later, my friends were picked up by their parents and left me alone in a much better mood than I had been before.
Audrey also made us an offer. Her parents were going away on the weekend and they planned to leave her alone with Jerry. It's a great opportunity for us to have a sleepover. My accident ran on our parade but in conclusion, we agreed that I was fine. Therefore, there was no need to cancel those plans. I had to rest a lot and that wasn't a problem. Because what's the difference if I rest in my house or Audrey's.
For permission, I asked Will first. I knew that mainly I should consult it with Vince but he was a real hornet's nest. One false move and his answer would be 'no'. And any further tries to change his mind would meet his sharp look and irritation. But Will was a different story. With him, I could negociate. I presented him with my point of view and arguments which, in the end, persuaded him. It was a fact that my friends' visit made me feel better and after such terrible events that happened to me I needed more moments like that. Will agreed with me and he promised to support me in front of Vince.
And this is how my oldest brother (a bit reluctantly) agreed for my sleepover. How over the moon I was! A weekend with my friends meant a weekend without stress, fear, and overwhelming sadness. And I could finally relax away from my brothers.
But what was about to happen was very opposite from my imaginations.
The message confirming my attendance at Audrey's I sent to the girls with a huge smile on my face. I wouldn't be so happy if I knew that after that weekend one of them won't be my friend anymore.A/N: Guys, I hope you've had happy holidays and I want to wish you all the best in the new year. Always keep going and never stop! I'm sending you loads of positive energy!