Miss Perfect and Her Brothers (Part I&II)

41. Threat

"Be careful with her," Will cautioned unnecessarily Shane and Dylan when the first time after my recovery break I was about to go to school with the boys. 

I rolled my eyes. His overprotectiveness started to be a bit heavy to me lately. 

"No attitude," He told me off, pointing his finger at me. 

I didn't reply and just ran from his stern look to the back seat of Dylan's car.

After the happenings with Jerry, I was forced to stay at home for at least a few more days. I had to lie in the bed to finally get some real rest. At the end of my arrest, I was sick and tired of boredom. I wanted to come back to school. On the one hand. On the other, I was a bit scared because since my sleepover at Audrey's, I exchanged just a few very general messages with Mona and Marshall. Audrey didn't answer when I asked her how she was. I didn't want to push her so I tried not to attack her with thousands of texts. I needed to meet with her face to face. I felt so bad with her being angry at me and I hoped to explain to her all the misunderstandings.

We took just one car as Tony was still healing and he, unlike me, wasn't in a hurry to come back to school. Therefore, there was no point in splinting into two cars just between Dylan, Shane and me. 

My welcoming committee was waiting for me at the parking lot and consisted of Mona and Marshall. I got sadder when I understood that Audrey really didn't want to see me. I tried to hide my disappointment when we were looking for a spare bench that would be located in a discreet place outside. During my recovery, the weather changed a lot and now even the mornings were warm and sunny. 

"I really tried to convince her into coming to welcome you with us. Sorry, Hailie," Mona whispered right after we hugged each other. 

"That's all right. She's angry, I got it. I need to talk to her," I said trying to sound optimistic. 

Mona bit her lip and Marshall avoided my look. 

"What?" I asked, getting anxious. 

My friend took a deep breath. 

"I don't know what's happened to her but, Hailie, she's so tenacious! She said she wouldn't talk to you. That there's nothing to talk about. And that we shouldn't as well," she pointed at her and Marshall. 

I fought myself really hard not to show them how much it hurt me. 

"But then... what's going to happen to us? We're friends, right?" I asked pitifully, looking at them both. Their faces expressed the same kind of sadness.

"Audrey made us choose. She said that if we're going to keep hanging out with you, she doesn't want to have anything to do with us too." 

"Oh," that's the only thing I managed to choke out while looking at my hands. I felt sick. 

Mona caught my arm. 

"Hailie, you have to tell us your story. Because it doesn't look good. Audrey says your brothers broke into her house and attacked Jerry. With my own eyes, I saw how Dylan was punching him repeatedly. You have to explain it to us.," Mona almost begged me. I could see that she was ready to listen to me.

"Why would my brothers barge into her house just like that? And beat Jerry?" I asked her dryly. I decided to start with my explanation from the logical side. 

To this question, Marshall was the one, who answered. 

"Audrey believes it's your fault. Jerry told her that when the girls fell asleep, you were the only one conscious and you started to reproach him about the New Year's Eve happenings. Jerry tried to calm you down but meanwhile, you called your brothers and started to make drama. Then they came and well... the rest Audrey witnessed herself..." Although he didn't directly take part in that incident, he was obviously worried. Probably especially because his band was falling apart. 

I stared at him dumbfounded. 

Did I hear him well? Did Jerry really feed Audrey with such a dumb tale? Did she really believe him? 

I swallowed, feeling the anger rising inside me. 

"You. Have. To. Be. Kidding...." I managed to hiss through my gritted teeth. I was preparing to explain to Audrey why Dylan hit Jerry but I never thought that I'd have so many things to clarify. 

"We'll be late for classes," Marshall muttered, peeking at his watch. 

"For God's sake, forget about the classes! Hailie, you have to tell us your version. Here and now!" Mona called out, dismissively waving her hand at him. 
I was the last person out of our group who normally would agree to skip classes but this time the circumstances were too important to just ignore them and postpone our conversation. I wouldn't have focused on studying anyway. We moved from the bench towards the farthest part of the school area. Close to the place where I used to meet up with Jason. We hid between thick bushes and then it started.

I told them everything that I knew. Mona and Marshall were gasping out of shock every single moment. For example, when I told them that Jerry added some sleeping pills to the champaign. Or that he aimed at me with a gun. Or that he made a deal with some dangerous guy. Or that I almost shot him. 

They were so surprised that they didn't even say anything until I finished, although they surely had tons of questions. 

"Hailie, this story... sounds so unbelievable..." Mona started as soon as I closed my mouth. 

I was boring into her intensively, trying telepathically prove her my innocence. 
"Come on, you know me. Do you really think I would bring up the New Year's Eve topic in the presence of Jerry? To what, irritate him? Do you think I would call my brothers because of it? Seriously? That's even more unbelievable!"

We got quiet and the silence was full of tension. Finally, Marshall spoke. 

"I believe you, Hailie," he whispered and my heart stopped for a moment, "I wasn't there with you when all of it happened but I know you. You are good. I can't imagine you lashing out at Jerry just like that. It just... doesn't fit. And he... Jerry... I remember him, what he was speaking to you and how he was doing it." 

Tears found their way to my eyes. I couldn't resist myself and I threw my arms to Marshall's neck. I wasn't as close with him as with the girls but he was a part of our group and I was more than happy that he trusted me. 

Mona started to nod, gazing at the grass. 

"Your version of the story is crazy. But so is Audrey's..." She mumbled. 
"Mona! Answer me one question. Why you and Audrey drifted away and I didn't?" I asked, pulling away from Marshall to give her a desperate look. 

Mona shared it with me. I could say she was having an inside fight. 

"Audrey said that's because you didn't drink your champaign. She said that we got sleepy because of alcohol." 

Once again I got angry. 

"Oh please! It was just one freaking glass!" 

Mona caught her head with her hands, trying to think straight. 

"I know, Hailie! It doesn't make sense! I was surprised when Audrey told me that because honestly, last summer I was drinking wine with my cousin and I had much more of it than just one glass. And we had a lot of fun until the sunrise. I thought that I don't know, champagne works differently or something... I would never suspect that Jerry wanted to drug us!"

I looked with sympathy at her lost expression. 

"And the fact that you fired at him?" She asked. 

"It was self-defense! He wanted to hurt me! I was protecting myself!" I shouted a bit too loud but I was too nervous to care.
"That's why Dylan beat him? When you left I tried to help Audrey to take care of Jerry and he looked terrible." 

I nodded. 

"Actually, what happened when I left?" I asked, suddenly realizing that I was missing that information to have a full picture. 

Mona, before she answered, was chewing the inside of her cheek for a moment, apparently trying to gather her thoughts. 

"Well... all those guys started to leave. Vincent was speaking something to a few of them. That guy who was sitting with your brothers at the table was led out by someone... Then, Audrey and I stayed in the kitchen alone with them and Jerry. Dylan pulled Audrey away and Vince got closer to him... He grabbed a cup from the sink, filled it with water and just splashed it on Jerry's face to awaken him. Then he leaned down a bit, caught the front of his T-shirt and lifted him a little... He looked into his eyes and told him to get out of the state... And that if he sees his face or hears about him again, he'll personally take care of him. And then... he added that if he tries to hurt you one more time, he'll make sure that everything that happens to you because of him, will happen to Audrey as well."
Mona was a great speaker. Her story was accompanied with lively gestures and facial expressions. It worked for my imagination and I could almost see with my own eyes how Dylan tightens his fingers on Audrey's thin arm. How she tries to break free. And how Vince looks at Jerry with his blank eyes. How, in the end, he whispers to him that terrifying threat...

I slouched. Why would Vince say that? Audrey didn't do anything wrong... 

"Hailie, I'm sorry that all of it happened... Audrey's version is nothing more than just repetition of Jerry's words. And I don't believe him. I believe you. If I have to choose, as Audrey wants, then I'm choosing you."

I knew how difficult it was for her to say out loud the last sentence. I couldn't blame her. She was friends with me just as much as with Audrey. For all those days the only explanation she had was shared by her. Mona had time to think through and get used to that version. She accepted it and now it turned out that the truth may be different. 
"I'll try to talk with her anyway..." I promised, now hugging Mona. 

After that, we had a long discussion. We were in a gloomy mood. We missed Audrey. Now, our group seemed to be kind of deficient. When the first period finished, we got up and turned towards the school building. We didn't plan to skip more classes. That's when my phone vibrated. 

"Great," I muttered resigned, letting the air out of my lungs. Vince's name appeared on the screen. I didn't dare to ignore this call so with a stiffened finger I tapped the green button, "Yes?" 

A moment of silence. 

"You better be going to show up at the next classes," he spoke sternly and I could hear a threat in his voice at which the sound I bit my lip. 

"Yes, yes, right now I'm heading to..." I started to reply but the call stopped. I looked at the screen. He hung up. I shut my lids and took a deep breath. 

"How did he know so fast?" Marshall asked when I gave to my companions an account of the short conversation I just had. 
"I have no idea," I sighed. We speeded up. Mona got worried that her mom got notified about our little cut. I didn't know that for sure but I believed that it's just in case of my oldest brother, the information flow was so fast and efficient. 

"By the way, nice earrings," Mona complimented me when we were splitting in the corridor. I smiled at her. I was still wearing them. 

The first time I saw Audrey was in the Math class. She ignored me, didn't even look at me and even spat with contempt when she noticed Mona and Marshall talking with me. It hurt me and as soon as the school bell rang, I wanted to speak to her but I heard only "fuck off" in a reply. Audrey never was aggressive or vulgar and that's why it sounded even meaner. 

Well, that'd be it about this well-planned conversation. At the lunch, she sat at the table with the girls she had the English with. Mona tried to speak with her but Audrey was indeed tenacious and, greatly offended, she mumbled only to her that "together with Marshall, they made their choice". 
To be honest, that's not how I imagined today's day. I thought rather positively that I'd come back to school and clarify everything with Audrey. That our friendship would overcome everything. But it looked like I lost her forever. When I understood it, I felt endless warmness towards Mona and Marshall. They were on my side. They picked me. So sad it is that they had to pick at all...

That's what I've been thinking about while coming back home. I was sitting in a car with my brothers. We didn't talk much. I was in my own world. When we arrived and parked in our garage, I was ready to disappear in my bedroom but I was told to eat first. So, reluctantly, I was just about to enter the kitchen, when I heard Vince right behind me. He called me to wait for him. I stopped obediently and was passed by Dylan and Shane who rushed to the table. Today, Eugenie prepared home-made burgers, so that's why they were in such a hurry. 

At the sight of my oldest brother, I dropped my gaze immediately. I remembered the call he gave me earlier. I hoped that I wouldn't meet him today and that he'd be too busy which would end up in him forgetting about this situation. But no. He stood right next to me, towering over me as always and tilted his head slightly. 
"What did I say would happen if you skip classes again?" He asked casually but I knew him well enough to recognize the ominous shade his voice had. 

I glanced at him shyly. His light, intensive eyes were looking at me with intimidating power but at the same time, I had a feeling that he wasn't very angry with me. 

"That was just one period..." I started defensively but he broke in. 

"What did I say?" 

I sighed. I knew the answer to his question. I remembered every conversation I ever had with Vince. 

"That you would have me homeschooled."

My brother nodded. 

"Why can't you skip school?" He kept on. 

Will went down the stairs and passed us, saying a quick "hi" to me. Surely, he had to hear my confrontation with Vince and he had to know what it was about. However, he wasn't going to save me because he directly entranced the kitchen and I was left alone with my oldest brother once again. I could just hear the boys' voices and laughs. 

"Because that's dangerous?" I mumbled questioningly. 
"Didn't you go through enough lately? Do you need more adventures?" He asked coldly. 

"Vince. That was just one period." I protested, bravely looking back at him. 

"I asked you if you need more adventures?" 

I clenched my fists out of impotence and stared at my shoes. Why do all the talks with him always have to be so difficult?

"No," I sighed finally. 

He didn't speak for a moment. Not even moved, so at some point I raised my eyes at him, checking what's next.

I got surprised because he was gazing at me with a visible amusement. He was playing with me! That annoyed me a bit but I also felt relief. 

"You said I cannot leave the school area. But I didn't. Technically, I was at school all the time. Just outside and not in the class," I pointed out, encouraged by his attitude. 

Now even the corners of his lips twitched. 

"I know, Hailie, otherwise we wouldn't be joking and you'd be in trouble." 

I gulped. Although (as he said himself) we were just 'joking', in his tone I could still hear a warning. But I understood that this time he wasn't going to fulfill his threat. He just showed me he knew every step of mine. That's for me to remember for the future. What a man... He didn't stop surprising me. I wasn't sure if he was more impressing me or scaring. 
And then I recalled a business I needed to discuss with him. I was wondering how to put it into words. Finally, I decided to start from the end.

"Audrey doesn't want to know me," I stated out of nowhere. 

The topic of my friends or my school life wasn't really something I used to tell Vincent about so he raised his eyebrows, not knowing what to answer me. 

"Jerry told her some lies and she believed him. Now she doesn't want to talk to me and she says it's the end of our friendship." 

My brother was looking at me with absolutely no interest. He wasn't the type of consoler so (seeing his reaction) I changed my mind and decided to get to the point. 

"Is that true that you threatened to Audrey?" I asked quietly, still intimidated but desperate to know the truth. 

Vincent's face stiffened. He wasn't so amused anymore. His eyes darkened and didn't look at me as like at a sister anymore. He raised his chin. That sudden change in his posture gave me anxiety. Every time he put on this mask when I was asking about uncomfortable topics for him. 
Maybe I could have stayed quiet. 

"I threatened to her brother," He replied icily, folding his arms on his chest.

"That you would hurt Audrey," I finished for him. I didn't mean to attack him, I knew it wouldn't do any good. I just tried to understand what was his point. 

"Exactly that." 

Vince was looking at me kind of challengingly. 

"Audrey is my friend, you cannot hurt her whatever happens..." I informed him. I have no idea where I got this courage from because here I was, standing in front of him feeling smaller than ever. It took me a lot not to step back from him when he leaned towards me. I dropped my gaze, suddenly feeling huge discomfort caused by his closeness. 

"Dear Hailie, do you really want to tell me what to do when you can't even look into my eyes?" He asked in a low voice that was similar to a whisper at the sound of which the shivers ran through my body. 

I tried to have an eye-contact with him to prove him wrong, I really tried. But I held it only for a few seconds and then again, gaped at my shoes. That's when his fingers touched my chin and lifted it a bit so I was forced to meet his glare again.
"Do you believe you are the right person to tell me what to do?" He repeated, restating his question a little. 

I wanted this conversation to end so badly! When after all those months I thought that I started getting used to him, he just proved to me how afraid of him I still was. 

"N-no," I stuttered. Honestly, right now I was ready to say anything he would want me to. 

"That's what I thought," He whispered. 

I felt totally exposed to his cold, scrutinizing look and I was pretty sure I started to blush. 

"A few months old, school friendships are nothing compared to family bonds. Your friend Audrey knows that and she'll always stand behind her brother. And behind you, I will stand. I don't always play fair but at least I win. Time for you to understand it and compose yourself. Is that clear?

I stared at him speechless. Barely noticeable, I nodded and mumbled a quiet "yes". He straightened up and was watching me carefully for one more moment and then with an open hand he pointed at the kitchen in kind of inviting gesture. A clear message that our conversation is done and it's time to eat. 
I didn't have to be told twice and with great relief, I ran away from Vince's attention.