I put the phone down as soon as my brothers appeared on the terrace. I didn't want them to catch me on staring at the picture of my mom. All three of them were shirtless and somehow they already managed to tan their six-packs. They were making a lot of noise, laughing out loud and talking.
Shane went to the kitchen straight away but came back after a few seconds, carrying a package of chips that he almost ripped off and immediately popped into his mouth a handful of them. He sprawled on one of the chairs and put his legs on the other. Tony jumped into the pool, splashing water onto me by the way. Dylan, on the other hand, gave me a look and I sighed inside when he headed towards me and lied on the sunbed that was previously taken by my converser.
"Who bought you this bikini?" He asked, gesturing with his chin at my blue swimming suit. I let the towel, that I was wrapped with earlier, to slide away as soon as the man left so I was uncovered again. I'm mean, come on, I had the bikini on and I was at the pool...
"I bought it online," I shrugged.
"But who paid for it?"
Will didn't have time to take me to the shopping center but he compensated it when one day he gave me his laptop and allowed me to do a big shopping via the internet which later he paid for. I remember how ashamed I was when I saw the total price.
"Did he at least check the things you chose?"
Well, yeah, he did. Some of them he didn't accept so I had to delete them from my list. But he had no problem with the bikini as it's... bikini? It's obvious it shows more body than normal clothes but come on... The beach and pools have their own laws. Did I really have to explain it?
"He did, what's the problem?" I asked, getting annoyed.
Dylan raised his brows at my tone.
"The problem is I don't like it."
"Dylan... You don't have to." I sighed, tired.
"Tony doesn't like it too, right?"
Tony, still in the pool, was relaxing resting his elbows on the edge of it. He peeked at me reluctantly and then he turned his face back to the sun, shrugging indifferently.
"Leave me alone," I grunted. After the talk, I just had with Mr. Father, the last thing I needed was an argument with Dylan.
"I think you should go and change," he suggested politely (but only apparently), successfully testing my patience. Was he doing it on purpose?
My blood boiled inside me in rage at these words and I almost exploded. I planned on telling him that I, on the other hand, think that he should get lost but then I remembered how malicious my brothers can be, especially Dylan, so at the last moment, I changed my strategy.
I dropped my head, looked at my blue bikini and put my hands on my flat stomach. I bit my lip too, to get a better effect.
"You're right, I'm fat, that's disgusting..." I whispered, pretending to speak to myself but I made sure that my words reached all my brothers' ears as well.
When I raised my eyes at them again, I could barely stop myself from laugh. Dylan was staring at me with a terror written all over his face. His mouth was parted. Tony had the same reaction. Even Shane wasn't crunching anymore.
"What?" Dylan gasped finally, getting visibly angry.
I shrugged, grabbing my towel again and covering myself with it just so Dylan could tear it off me and throw it on the ground.
"Hey!" I protested loudly.
"Quiet. Have you had breakfast?"
A few seconds of me being silent was enough for him to lose his patience.
"I'm asking if you've had breakfast???"
"You told me to be quiet," I mumbled.
"Yes or no?!"
"Yes!" I yelled, overwhelmed, irritated and exhausted with his damned interview. Dylan had such a difficult character! I stood up and run down the terrace stairs, moving fastly towards the beach.
"Ey! Where do you think you're going? You can't leave alone!" My beloved brother shouted after me.
"We are on a freaking, private island!" I screamed back, not even giving him a look.
The island indeed was private and much smaller than it seemed to be in the beginning. Apart from me, the boys, the stranger man who purported to be my father, and the visiting us service, there was no one.
I calmed down only when I got to the beach. I was stomping on the sand just to suddenly stop and sit, staring at the beautiful blue sea. Its view was everything I needed right now.
It was the second day of my holidays, or actually the first full one. And I already had thoughts that it would be better to stay at home. I knew that vacation with three youngest of my oldest brothers would have its ups and downs but at this moment there were only downs...
From the thoughts about my annoying siblings, I went fluently straight to analyzing the conversation with my... father. Even in my mind, it was hard to put this man in the role of my parent. It just wasn't fitting. My father left my mom a long time ago and then he died. That was the right version. It was so difficult now to accept the new one.
Lost in musing, suddenly I heard crunching sounds. I imagined some terrifying crab creeping right behind my back but when I turned my head away, I recognized Shane casually walking towards me with the same package of chips in his hands.
Shane wore white shorts, had a fine, silver chain on his neck and this huge tattoo on his chest. His short, dark hair was ruffled and brow pierced. It amazed me how similar to and, at the same time, different from his twin he was. Although they both were muscular, Shane seemed to be a bit bigger. They had identical eyes: big, light and framed with thick, black lashes. But the type of look was something that distinguished them. Tony's one was darker and almost always huffy while Shane's one usually was indifferent and laid-back as if he didn't care about many things apart from good fun.
I sighed deeply. That'd be it about a moment for myself.
Shane got to me in this annoyingly slow pace and sat right next to me. He shared his snack with me but I just shook my head, looking back at the sea.
"I wanted to be alone," I muttered when the peaceful sound of the waves became interrupted with his smacking.
"I know, sorry," he answered.
I turned my head away again just to make sure that the rest of the boys didn't follow us. Fortunately, the path was empty. Well, I should be grateful that out of three of them it was Shane who dragged himself here after me.
"You don't have to be here with me. I will sit here a while and come back," I promised calmly.
He didn't move.
I took a deep breath. Well. I lifted my hand and pushed it into the package of chips. There weren't many left but I managed to grab something.
"Ey, listen..." he started after a few minutes of silence. "Dylan didn't mean that you are fat."
Another moment of uncomfortable quiet.
"Where were you in the morning?" I asked, wanting to break it and, by the way, make use of the fact that I was alone with Shane. He was nicer than the others so it was a good chance to have some small dialogue with him.
"Why didn't you take me with you?" This question was sudden and I was surprised to hear a letdown in my own voice.
So was he.
"We didn't know you wanted..."
"You didn't ask," I spat, disappointed with his stupid answer.
"Yeah but... climbing isn't easy and you're not athletic. You would've slowed us down and we'd have had to be careful with you."
At least he was honest.
"And dad wanted to talk to you," he added.
"Ah, right. Dad," I muttered under my nose with unintended contempt.
Shane scrutinized me with his bright eyes.
"What did he tell you?"
I was chewing my bottom lip, wondering if I wanted to talk with him about that.
"That he left me at my mom's wish."
A few seconds of silence.
"Surely she wanted the best for you," he shrugged.
An annoying rustle sounded as Shane squashed the empty package in a little ball and put it under his thigh so the wind wouldn't carry it away. I appreciated that he wasn't going to litter such a beautiful place.
He rubbed his palms together and cleared his throat. He seemed to be willing to talk with me, he just didn't know how to start.
"Shane, when were you told about me?" I asked, taking charge. Let's try to get some answers from him.
He sniffed and was silent for a while as if he wondered what he can actually tell me. Finally, he decided to answer.
"We? Two days before your arrival."
I shot him a surprised look. I didn't expect it. I noticed also the satisfaction that I felt when I realized that I wasn't the only one who has been lied to for so long.
"But Vince and Will knew earlier. Dad told them when he was leaving. There was a whole fuss about it," he continued.
"Who made a fuss?"
"Well.. we all were pissed off but Dylan lost it the most. He almost set about Vince," Shane shook his head at the memory. "I had to draw him away with Will. Not that Vince couldn't take care of himself but you know... You just don't go at Vince."
"Why not?" I asked, frowning at just the imagination of their argument. I remembered a similar situation when the twins had a fight and Vince stood between them. I almost winced at the memory of the hard slap that Shane earned from our oldest brother.
"Vince is... kind of a boss. You don't challenge his decisions, you don't disrespect him, you don't discuss with him, nor fight. Even if you're his siblings."
It sounded like a bit more than a boss but I concentrated on another thing. The thing that I couldn't stop thinking about.
"Why was everyone claiming that... our father... is dead? Even Will told me he'd died. Died. These were the exact words he used, not my interpretation."
Even at school a lot of people knew that both my parents were dead. Someone even once offered me their sympathies in the corridor which was very uncomfortable for me.
"Why would Will lie to me?" I added quietly, getting sad at my own words. Will, who I trusted so much, indeed lied to me. I didn't want to believe it and I felt somehow hurt.
"It's not really that he lied to you, it's just... Eh, that's something that dad himself should explain to you, huh?"
I turned to my brother making the best puppy eyes I could muster.
"Shane, please, you tell me, please," I begged him.
He breathed out, clearly overwhelmed with the conversation.
"Vince already told you something about the business, right? What exactly did he say?"
Oh, so he wanted me to admit how much I knew so he wouldn't spill out something accidentally? Hm, all right, fair enough.
"That you have a lot of businesses and that not all of them are legal," I replied almost automatically.
"Yeah... When our grandfather and great-grandfather were starting, none of them were legal. Dad managed to legalize most of them but he worked really hard for it and he almost paid for it with his life. FBI was following his every step and if he hadn't faked his death, he would have had to serve a life sentence and our small empire would have collapsed."
"He faked his death?" I repeated dumbfounded.
Shane sniffed again and turned away as if checking if no one was eavesdropping.
"Everyone thinks he's dead so it's the end of the story. FBI let go, Vince leads the business with a clean sheet and dad's not in jail. Happy end."
"And that's why he's hiding here? In Thailand?" I figured out loud.
"Kind of. He's hiding in many places. Usually on islands, similar to this one. Now we are here to spend some time together. That's all we have left. He can't come back to the States. It would be too risky."
It doesn't really sound like a happy end for me.
Shane was playing with sand, definitely preferring to focus on it than to look back into my eyes.
And I simply started to laugh. I burst into a laugh so clear and silvery that Shane finally lifted his head with confusion. I leaned back so my back touched the sand and I lied there, covering my face with my hands, still guffawing.
"It can't be truth. Shane, tell me it's a joke," I giggled again and then, suddenly, I sat back straight, getting serious in one second. "I'm sorry but what is it supposed to be? An action movie?"
"Our family isn't ordinary and you already knew it, right?"
"Oh yes, I started to suspect something when some guy almost shot me in the forest."
"You see how you're reacting? It's too much for you. That's why it doesn't make sense to let you in on more secrets. Come on. Let's go back. It's almost lunchtime." Shane said, getting up and in the last moment he grabbed the package before it flew away.
I stood up too but just to keep on with him and make sure he would hear my reply.
"If you told me right away the whole truth, it would be easier for me to accept everything. It's harder though when you just every time give me some small piece and then you are surprised that I reacted the way I do..." I shouted but he just waved his hand at me.
Shane, although nicer than Dylan or Tony, was still annoying and I could officially confirm it today. I couldn't even rightly appreciate the fact that indeed he answered at least two of my important questions. So the father was really formally dead. It was the first time that I thought that the history of my family must be more complicated than I have ever expected.
There was no chance that I could avoid lunch, especially after my previous exchange with Dylan, so we all sat together at the table. This time we ate in an air-conditioned dining room as it was too hot outside. Dylan was irritating me as he was glancing all the time at my plate. Luckily for me, the served food was quite light. I loved this spicy salad with prawns. It occurred to me that apart from yesterday's salad, the one I was having today and a banana I didn't eat anything and I felt a bit of guilt. I promised myself that I would eat something more concrete for dinner.
Our father was joining us too, of course. He seemed to be a bit downbeat. He was speaking with the boys but he left me alone. However, I still felt his eyes on me from time to time.
After lunch, my siblings took their sunbeds outside, ready to have a nap. I sat there with them and started to read a book. There was no better moment to spend time with my brothers than when they were so satisfied with the food that they were just drowsing away. They are like bears that, once full, become gentle and don't try to murder you anymore.
Soon it got a bit windy so I went to the chalet, to my bedroom, to get something to wrap myself with to get warmer. Somehow, I didn't come back to the terrace, just stayed inside, threw myself onto my bed and also drifted away. I woke up around two hours later, stretching gracefully. That was a good nap.
Still half-asleep, I decided to get my book from the terrace. Rubbing my eyes, I was going through the corridor. One of the bedroom doors was open and out of curiosity, I glanced inside. Wow, the room was amazing. Similar to mine but bigger and the first thing I noticed was a huge balcony. But the most impressive was the view. You could see the inside part of the island with all those enormous rocks. It was so astonishing that I just stepped inside and crossed the room to get to the balcony. The doors were open anyway.
Oh, why no one showed me this before, it was awesome! The balcony was wide and long with beautiful garden furniture and the landscape with a sight of rocks and exotic plants that seemed to be making cozy walls around it.
I sighed with admiration. These kinds of pictures were worthy of all those struggles with my brothers.
It turned out that the balcony was getting more narrow but it was still going along the left side of the chalet. I followed it further, wanting to know if the view at the end will reach the sea. If it will, then this balcony is the most perfect one I have ever seen.
I was taking step after step. I passed one door and then another. Hm, maybe I should take it back. Maybe after all this balcony isn't that perfect. It seemed that it connected a few rooms. I immediately appreciated my small but private one.
And then I twitched because I heard someone's quiet mutter. I turned away quickly but I was alone here. Then I took a step back and before I stopped myself, I perked through the window that I just passed by.
Dylan was standing in his room, next to the bed. He had his eyes closed. I raised my brows but before I asked myself what he was doing, my look lowered and I saw some dark-haired girl in a white, working uniform, kneeling with her back turned to me but with her face next to...
Dylan looked down at her and whispered something again, grinning. He put his hand on the side of her head.
I was more than ready to escape. I moved away from the window, doing my best to be as quiet as possible but it didn't matter because when Dylan lifted his head back, he didn't close his eyes yet when they landed on me.
The last thing I remembered was how wide they opened. And then I just ran away. I could hear the wave of loud swears escaping the mouth of my dear brother but I wasn't listening. I didn't even check if he was chasing after me. I dashed inside the first bedroom and stopped there with hesitation.
God, why can't I just delete from my head what I saw? My cheeks were burning, oh how red I had to be!
From the end of the corridor, I could hear some steps. Ok, that's it, I'll be dead. I knew it was Dylan looking for me. I could stay in this bedroom where he'd most likely find me in any second or I could take a risk and run downstairs. Maybe I'll manage to get outside and then find some bushes where I could hide for the rest of the holidays.
I chose the second option. Before he was too close, I rushed towards the stairs, ignoring his callings. I was in the kitchen, ready to step to the terrace when I felt him grabbing my arm.
"I didn't see anything!" I screamed immediately. He turned me so now I was facing him but my lids were squeezed.
"What the fuck were you doing there? Look at me!" He growled.
"I can't!" I whined with embarrassment, dropping my head and hiding my face in my hands.
"You didn't see anything, huh?" Dylan spat and his grip got tighter before he loosened it as if he warned himself to calm down.
"What the hell is happening there?" An irritated voice from the terrace asked and we both looked towards its source. It turned out that the father was sitting there, at the table, with a book and he was leaning back to see who was bothering his peace. He looked angry but his expression softened as soon as his eyes landed on me.
"Nothing, we're just talking," Dylan grunted, wrapping his arm around my tiny body in a friendly manner. I stiffened at his gesture.
"Aha," the man raised his brow at Dylan, and then looked back at me. "Hailie, everything's all right?"
I felt my brother's arm hugging me tighter.
"Yes. Yes," I rushed with an answer, nodding additionally.
The man shot us a suspicious look but finally, he just sighed quietly and came back to his reading.
Dylan pulled me deeper inside the house and raised his finger at me.
"It better stay between us," he whispered to me ominously.
And I smiled.
A wide, honest smile appeared on my lips because that was the moment when I understood that it was finally me who had an ace up my sleeve. Oh, how wonderful taste the power over Dylan had! It was something I could try for the first time in my life. Vince and Will, who (until now) seemed to be the only people in the world who had some authority over Dylan, have never let me enjoy it. Therefore, I have never felt I could threaten him somehow. But today I learned that there's the third person who Dylan was respecting enough not to want to mess with them. And that person was ready to listen to me and to take my side much more eagerly than my guardian.
There was no way I was going to let this little piece of power go. It was a gift from fate. Even if it meant that at some point I would have to interact with my father.
Now I just had to remove the memory of what I saw. Gross.
Dylan knew exactly what I was thinking about and, to say the least, he didn't look over the moon.
"Did you hear me?" He hissed a bit louder, moving his face closer to mine.
"Yes, I did, Dylan, of course," I answer as politely as I could, not able to stop grinning widely.
He was looking at me for a moment without a word and then, he passed by me, pushing me lightly and coming back upstairs. I lost my balance and I had to hold the wall but I didn't stop chuckling anyway.
At least I discovered today that there were ways to deal with my brothers. They can be stronger than me. It can be impossible for me to outtalk them. But being their younger sister I could always try other tricks. Like making them feel bad for me or, if it doesn't work, I can always look for support at my father's. The man that would do anything to gain my attention. Much less defend me.
For the first time in my life, I had such a clever smile on. A/N To my favorite readers: Wherever you live, I hope you are safe and healthy. Please, take care of yourself and think about the elder part of our society and #stayathome. Sending best wishes and a lot of strength!