I've been impatiently counting time to the weekend. Mostly, I was staying alone in the living room, watching tv or reading books. My brothers were constantly appearing and disappearing, usually too busy to exchange more than a few words with me. At least now they were asking about my well-being more often but I was just answering them shortly and optimistically. My bruise, although it was slowly healing, was still so huge that every sharper move resulted in pain. And my leg also still had to be taken care of.
One time, I needed my colorful pens from my bedroom and no one was around who I could ask to bring them for me so, very slowly, I got out of the sofa and headed to my room. Unfortunately, on the stairs, I bumped into Vince who (half-jokingly, half-seriously) commanded me to go back to bed immediately and stay there and if he saw again that I'd disobeyed him, he'd tie me to it.
Dylan almost carried out this threat himself when it was time to change my bandage and (although Eugenie did her best to be as gentle as possible) my oversensitive me was making a huge drama about that for the first half an hour. I didn't want to let her even touch me.
The nicest were the evenings when I was falling asleep accompanied by Will who got worried when he heard about my nightmares and me sleeping at Dylan's. He was staying in my bedroom until I drifted away.
When the weekend finally came, I was super excited. I couldn't wait to have a break from this all and to spend time with my friends. I felt bad thinking about how much fun I was going to have while one of my brothers was still lying in the hospital but Will told me that Tony's body is getting stronger and now doctors daringly share their good predictions. That was a huge relief for me.
Vincent wasn't exactly happy about me going out but (maybe seeing with how much joy I was expecting it) he didn't change his mind and this is how on Saturday afternoon Will gave me a ride to Audrey's place. I noticed a big, dark car following us the whole way. It stopped not that far away from the drive next to my friend's house where Will parked. Of course, I asked about it, being cautious after all that happened to me recently.
"Don't worry about it," Will answered me shortly and I accepted disappointingly the fact that apparently we came back to the moment where my brothers again put my questions off with no concrete reply.
Will didn't just lead me in front of the door but also got inside with me and demanded us showing him the place where I'd be lying as it was one of the conditions of him agreeing for my stay here. That I'll lie, surrounded by friends and not in my house but I'll lie. Audrey did a good job because it turned out she planned everything perfectly. As her parents weren't home, we could have our little party in the living room so all the snacks were placed on the coffee table, on the tv screen YouTube was already prepared and on the couch, there was a place of honor for me.
My brother sensitized Mona and Audrey that he trusts us - me and them - that we'll be careful. Then, he talked to Jerry a bit who was around since we came, apparently trying to play a responsible guardian. As soon as I saw him, I felt uncomfortable.
Jerry was the only disadvantage of this amazing plan. After what I'd heard from him on New Year's Eve, I couldn't just like him. I was worried that he'd be rude towards me, especially that Audrey's parents wouldn't be home but my friend made me sure that Jerry actually offered to invite me himself and that he felt ashamed because of what he'd said the last time. It was hard to believe for me but I had to admit that he really did behave impeccably. At least in front of Will, although he seemed to be a little tensed up when he talked to my brother. On the other hand, people always were tensed up talking to any of my brothers...
I quickly stopped bothering myself with him because I went with a flow with girls and we were having a lot of fun together. They were treating me like a princess, desperate to show Will that I'm in good hands. So I lied down and Audrey put the music on. Mona started to tell me some stories from school that happened during my absence.
Soon, my brother left and Jerry disappeared and for more than two hours I had a great time with my friends. Everything was perfect, just like I imagined it would be. I didn't even care about how many calories I threw into me this evening together with crisps, jellies and other junk food which we had tons of.
Those were the last happy moments we could share in our company.
I don't even remember now what we were laughing about. Some stupid, little thing but it made us literally roar with laughter and all the three of us couldn't catch a breath. Mona started hiccuping, Audrey covered her face with hands and I caught my stomach because it almost hurt. My bruise pounded warningly.
We didn't notice when Jerry joined us in the living room.
"What's wrong with you?" He asked, raising his eyebrows but he also smiled with slight amusement. He was leaning nonchalantly against a bookcase and I couldn't get rid of the impression that it's nothing more than a well-trained pose.
"Nothing, what do you want?" Audrey choked out when we finally calmed down a bit.
"Just checking if everything is ok."
My friend rolled her eyes.
"We don't need a babysitter."
"William Monet told me something else," Jerry pointed out and I didn't like that the way he spoke out my brother's full name. Too quizzical as for my taste. Maybe I was exaggerating but I was just annoyed with him in general.
"Since when do you listen to Hailie's brothers?" Mona asked viciously.
"I don't. Actually, I wanted to tell you," Here Jerry moved his eyes to me, "that I'm sorry for the New Year's Eve. I was a jerk, Audrey was right. That's why I told her to invite you today. I wanted you to know that it's ok that you're my sister's friend. It's not your fault that your brothers are idiots."
I felt a weird desire to defend my brothers. I, myself, often thought that my brothers were behaving like idiots but I didn't like that Jerry was calling them names. It was like he didn't have the right to talk about them this way.
I didn't comment on it though. I decided to appreciate that Jerry apologized at all. I mean, I didn't expect it.
"I already forgot about it, Jerry," I lied politely.
Mona's face was skeptical but Audrey looked pleased.
"By the way, they seem to be a bit possessive, am I right? Will was talking with me as if he was your father, not a brother. It has to be tiring, doesn't it?"
I shrugged. It wasn't a topic I wanted to discuss with him.
"You know what I'm saying. A bro is a bro," He continued, laughing to us and winking at Audrey, who rolled her eyes but the corners of her lips lifted.
"I'll show you the difference between a brother and a parent."
Jerry left us for a moment and we exchanged a look. Mona and I were a bit suspicious, Audrey, on the other hand, very confused. However, we didn't have time to talk because he quickly came back with a bottle of champagne in his hand.
I raised my brows at its sight. It wasn't champagne for kids, that's what I could say.
"Have you ever tried it?" He asked, presenting an elegant bottle to us.
I bit my lip and noticed with disapproval that Mona's eyes sparkled with excitement. Audrey, however, kept her distance.
"What are you doing?" She asked, squinting her eyes.
"You're fifteen and it's a matter of time when you start getting interested in alcohol. It's better if you try it the first time here, at home, with me than hiding somewhere in the bushes," Jerry said generously, peeking at me.
"Shouldn't you be the responsible one here?" I asked skeptically, not even imagining that, for example, Dylan or Will or even Shane or Tony would ever offer alcohol to my friends and me. Not mentioning Vince.
"That's the difference between a brother and a parent. A brother can be responsible like a parent but not that boring."
If Jerry was trying to be impressive, he was failing. At least for me. But I couldn't say the same about the girl. A half-smile played on Audrey's lips and Mona was grinning openly.
"Why do you suddenly care to be a cool brother?" Audrey asked with raised eyebrows.
"Better late than never, so, are you ready?" Before I could say something, Mona nodded vigorously and Jerry immediately popped the champagne. The cork let off the bottle and hit the ceiling with a bang. We screamed, hiding our heads so we wouldn't get hit. The cork rolled somewhere under the table and Jerry leaned down to catch it.
"Just don't tell mom and dad, eh?" He called out to Audrey, smirking at her and he disappeared in the kitchen with the bottle still in his hand.
"You really want to drink champagne now?" I whispered as soon as he left the living room. I wasn't down for it. Maybe my reaction would be different if I was fully recovered and if it wasn't Jerry's idea.
Mona shrugged, visibly excited and Audrey bit her lip.
"I don't know what's with him but I definitely prefer this version of Jerry. I think he feels really bad after how he was on New Year's Eve," She explained.
At least for Audrey, I wanted to relax and I accepted a filled, tall and slim-shape glass which Jerry handed me. I stared at the bubbles for a moment. They were pretty but made the drink look dangerous.
"For you, girls!" Jerry raised his glass.
They all put the glasses to their mouth, so I did the same but actually, I just wet my lips. The taste of champagne was gentle but slightly bitter. It wasn't a problem for Mona, who just emptied the whole glass in one draft.
"Jesus..." Audrey giggled but took quite a big sip herself.
Jerry noticed my scruples and motioned his head at me.
"The toast won't count unless you drink," He said, smiling innocently at me.
I smiled back, hoping it didn't look too fake.
"I'm drinking," I muttered and as a proof, took a tiny sip which I spit back immediately as soon as Mona drew everyone's attention laying her empty glass on the table with way too much force which ended up in breaking with a loud crash.
"Are you already drunk?" Jerry teased and went to the kitchen to bring a broom. Audrey moved too because, by the way, Mona nudged her glass with Pepsi which spilled on the table, floor and her jeans. This brief confusion was all I needed to pour my champagne into my own Pepsi.
In turn, the next time, Jerry glanced at me, it looked like I just finished.
"That's enough for you," He decided and left us alone, taking with him this stupid bottle. I wasn't a saint, I mean I was a bit but it's been a while since I was thinking it would be cool to try alcohol. However, as I mentioned before, surely not accompanied by Jerry who I just didn't trust.
I knew that if my brothers found out I drank, I'd be in trouble. Their punishment for smoking was enough. I didn't want a repetition. Especially, that they barely agreed to let me come here and Will specifically asked me to be responsible. I so didn't want to let him down.
I'd prefer it didn't happen. Jerry should have left us alone. Mona started to be annoying. She wasn't drunk after one glass but it put her in this intoxicated mood when all she wanted was dancing and laughing at every dumb, little thing that wasn't necessarily funny. Audrey tried to keep up with her, obviously enjoying the fact that her brother finally stopped being a puffy idiot. At least, that's what she thought. For me, he still was a puffy idiot.
Quite quickly, we decided to put on a movie. Just for me, the girls agreed to abandon the idea of watching horror and we chose some comedy. To be honest, I had to admit that its plot was mediocre but anyway, I was surprised when I saw that Mona fell asleep. I wanted to nudge Audrey and make some fun of our friend together with her but she was slowly drifting away too.
I couldn't believe it. It wasn't that late. Some minutes after ten! I was convinced it has to be the champagne's fault. I didn't feel sleepy at all. I tapped Audrey's shoulder but lack of reaction from her just confirmed my guesswork. The party was over.
I sighed quietly.
And then I heard some silent steps. Different than those earlier, when Jerry lumbered happily to the kitchen and back. I didn't want to talk to him, I didn't want to excuse my friends, so I closed my eyes too. I expected that Jerry would have a peek into the living room and would immediately leave when he saw us sleeping but he stopped for a while.
With my whole willpower, I prevented myself from frowning. I was doing my best to control my breathing and hold my facial expression as neutral as possible.
When I started doubting if Jerry even still stood in the living room, I heard how he inhales deeply and shakily. Not knowing why I got goosebumps. What was he doing here so long? Was he staring at us?
When I was almost decided to open my eyes and sass at him, I heard some rustle and then a dialing sound. Slowly and quietly, Jerry moved to the kitchen. I dared to have a look and saw his skinny back and how he was pushing his mobile to his ear.
"As I promised, Hailie Monet is lying unconscious in my living room," He informed with no 'hello'.
I felt my body stiffened up. Cold shivers went through it and my heart started pounding so fast that if Jerry wasn't concentrated on his converser, he'd probably hear it.
"Yes. I'm almost sure there's some Monet's guy watching the house," He said and I had to focus to understand him because he was going too far away and his words got unclear.
Oh my God, but what was happening???
I looked around, panicked. The windows were covered, the room was lightened dimly, the movie was still played on the tv and I could see only the bright light from the kitchen.
I felt I was in danger. Jerry's intentions weren't good. He wasn't surprised we were asleep. He didn't try to wake us up or to turn off the tv. Instead, he just called somebody and told them that I'm unconscious. Me. Why me? Unconscious.
With no hesitation, I started to shake Audrey, mutely begging her to wake up. Not a chance. She breathed and looked as if she was lost in a deep sleep. It was a nightmare. I got to Mona, trying to make no noise. I almost kicked her, knowing inside that she wouldn't wake up anyway. My friends were dead to the world.
They were unconscious. The champagne.
This time my brain didn't let me down and quite quickly managed to put two and two together. Terrified, I was gazing at the girls and then at the way to the kitchen where Jerry disappeared. Am I dreaming?
Okay, take a deep breath. You should get out of here. And notify someone about what's happening. My phone. Where's my phone? I left it on the table. I looked at this side. Yep, and it was still there.
It was uplifting because if Jerry was really trying to kidnap me then he wasn't too clever.
I almost laughed at this thought. Almost because in reality, it scared me. Was Jerry really going to hurt me? I didn't trust him, I didn't even like him but I didn't think he'd ever be able to do something like this. He's my friend's brother, for God's sake!
It had to be a sick joke. But Mona and Audrey were really unconscious. And I didn't fancy Jerry's words on that call.
Quietly, I got up and on my tiptoes, I moved towards the table, watching the kitchen all the time. Step after step. If Jerry comes here now, I'll be dead. I extended my hand and without making any noise, I grabbed my fingers on my mobile. Having it in my grip, I immediately made another decision. I headed to the door to the corridor.
Audrey's living room could be escaped in three ways. Through the kitchen - that way was the easiest and most comfortable one. Therefore, it was mostly used. The terrace door - but I quickly understood that its loud shuffle would turn me in. And the door to the corridor. It wasn't used a lot, as far as I knew. I decided to take a risk, not that I had much choice. Escaping through the kitchen would be suicide.
I was still moving on my tiptoes, as quiet as I could but the pounding of my heart was echoing in my ears. I thought that maybe it was all just a bad dream but I nipped myself a few times and nothing happened. I felt like a character in a terrifying horror movie...
Before I pushed the doorknob, I hesitated. I glanced at the girls but they were obviously still sleeping like a log, in the same poses. I had remorse because of leaving them here but that was the only way I could help them. Besides, Jerry wanted to hurt me. He didn't mention Mona and he wouldn't rather touch his own sister.
I made sure to open the door with the hugest caution but in the end, there was no difference because they cracked horribly. I squeezed my eyelids tightly at the sound of my failure. My friends didn't even twitch but alerted Jerry jumped out of the kitchen into the corridor right away. My heart froze for a moment when we shared a look. We both had widened eyes. Mines were additionally scared and his - panicked.
I took a step back, wanting to reenter the living room and I turned around, ready to escape from his sight but before I managed to even think what's next, I felt him grasping the back of my blouse and pulling me to him.
I yelled out loudly but he quickly muffled my protests, pushing his hand to my mouth. I tried to pull it away, tightening my fingers on it but although Jerry was skinny, he was still a boy that was older than me so he had enough strength to make me quiet. My back was touching his chest when he was pushing me through the corridor. I was struggling a lot, so I didn't make it easy for him but he still managed to push me into another room.
"Shut up!" He hissed ominously.
It was a guest bedroom. He threw me here with such force that I fell down to the floor with a gasp when I felt my bruise's protest.
I raised up my head to look at him, ready to scream at the top of my lungs.
And this inconspicuous boy, a teenager of a feebly appearance, my friend's brother, just clumsily took the gun out of his waistband. He aimed it at me.
Please, not this again.
My scream stuck in my throat and I froze.
Jerry's hand (the one that was holding the gun definitely too tight) was shaking dangerously and he was just staring at me blindly with a clenched jaw. I noticed sweat drops on his forehead.
I started to tremble too.
"Jerry..." I whispered softly, wanting to talk him out of this trance he was in.
"Not a peep," He hissed barely audible.
Slowly, I extended both my arms in front of me to show him with my body language that I just need to sit more comfortable. My leg went to sleep and I had to stop leaning against my left side because I had no idea how much more time I could ignore the pain.
When I started to think that we would stay like that forever - me, sitting on the floor in the guest bedroom in the Audrey's house with her nervous brother towering over me and aiming at me with his gun, a phone rang.
Jerry jumped and looked behind himself frantically, still holding his weapon pointed at me. I tensed up additionally out of fear that he'd shoot me even accidentally. He didn't control himself.
"Fuck, fuck, fucking fuck..." He was repeating those words like a prayer, clearly not dealing with the stress and I was watching him with growing fear. That's when I understood that he's unpredictable.
"That's your phone!" He exclaimed suddenly. Now I jumped. Yes, that was my mobile's ring that was now sounding in the corridor where I dropped my phone during my struggle with Jerry. Still holding his gun in front of him, he took some steps back. I sat obediently as I could see no chance to escape. Boring into me, he kneeled and took my iPhone from the ground with his free hand. Then he stood up and came quickly back to stand in front of me.
"Answer and say that you're having fun," He commanded me, getting closer and passing me my phone. His gun also got closer. I was shivering. I glanced at the screen.
Will was calling.
It was my lifeline.
"One wrong word and I'll shoot," Jerry threatened, reading in my mind.
I looked into his eyes, checking if he was serious. He couldn't be. But they were full of madness. I wasn't ready to take the risk. Not with a gun almost touching my forehead. He wasn't thinking straight. I had to please him now.
I nodded stiffly, reaching for my phone.
Jerry passed it to me and aimed the weapon at me even more precisely, making a grim face.
I tapped the green button.
I could barely breathe, leave alone speak calmly but I did my best to control myself.
"Yes?" I mumbled and every cell in my body was screaming for me to beg Will for help.
"Hi, little one, everything's all right?" My brother asked cheerfully and tears sprang into my eyes.
A few seconds of silence.
Will was bright and overprotective and I didn't really sound as he expected I would, having a fantastic evening with my dear friends.
"Yeah, we're watching a movie, quite a tearjerker," I stuttered. I even forced a laugh at the end to mark my words. My voice trembled though.
"Ah, well, okay then. I'm calling to tell you that Tony just woke up."
My chest sloped down as if someone took the burden from it. I didn't expect that being in that kind of situation I could feel so much relief but Will's news worked like that. Tears appeared earlier in my eyes because of fear but now were rolling down my cheeks boosted with happiness.
Jerry was frowning, not knowing what's going on and how to read my reactions. I wanted to tell Will how awfully joyful I just got when, looking at Audrey's brother, an idea came to my head.
"Oh, no..." I sighed.
"Hailie?" I almost saw how Will frowned.
"Are you calling to spoil my mood?" I groaned.
"Did you hear me?"
"You know very well that I don't care."
Jerry threw me a meaningful look and shook the gun impatiently, suggesting that it's time to finish the conversation.
"Hailie, are you ok?" Will asked again, this time alerted.
"No, didn't I tell you we are watching a movie? We'll talk tomorrow, okay?"
Will wasn't answering and I didn't have time, so I said "bye" and hanged up, giving the phone back to Jerry, who immediately reached his hand for it.
He looked relieved. He threw it at the bed and I looked at it, praying that Will won't call back. Jerry wouldn't like it. I was also praying that my older brother would read my hidden message correctly. I knew he's intelligent. He had to know something's wrong. Right?
I didn't have time to think about it because Jerry fully caught my attention. I sat on the floor, looking at him who was standing over me and it was the second time this week I wondered if I'll die.