“MELISSA ELIZABETH GREY!”
She sat up on her bed and groaned. Her mother only said her name that way when she was in trouble. And since her mother had a tendency to get mad about trivial things, she couldn’t even begin to guess what she had done this time. Just as she was about to respond, the voice got louder and more insistent.
“Missy Beth get down here right NOW!”
She could almost hear her mother roll her eyes when she said that. Most of the time Melissa would say that word like that just to annoy her mother. It seemed only fair since her mother lived to torment her. When her pleased smile finally dissipated, she went downstairs to see what her mother needed to yell about this time.
She finally made her way into the kitchen. She found her brother, Daniel, sitting at the kitchen table with a guilty look on his face. Her mother, Patricia, was digging through the pantry trying to figure out what to make for dinner. When she looked up and saw Melissa standing there, she immediately switched gears.
“Do you have any idea why your brother missed the bus today young lady?”
“I assumed he missed the bus again and was walking home like he always does when he’s running late.” She looked at her brother who mouthed the words ‘I’m sorry’ to her. She searched his face for an answer.
“Well, that’s NOT what happened! You should have known he received detention today. And then you should have called me and told me. Instead the school called me AT WORK and told me that I had to come pick him up. I had to leave work early to go and get him. Do you have ANY idea how embarrassed I was?”
“Mom, this isn’t my fault, I…”
“Why is it I can’t count on you to take care of your brother while your father and I are at work? You ARE the older one and should be able to demonstrate some maturity and responsibility.”
“I don’t even know why you’re angry with me. I’m not the one who had detention.”
“That’s not the point. You should always be looking out for your brother.”
“Why? I’m not his keeper! He IS fifteen years old mom, and capable of taking care of his own problems!”
“That tone of voice just earned you a ticket to your room where you will stay until dinner is ready.”
“But nothing, now GO!”
As she walked away, Melissa grumbled to herself.
“It’s not like I hadn’t already planned on being in my room till dinner just so I wouldn’t have to be around you mother.”
“You had better stop your grumbling Missy or there will be no television for you tonight.”
She climbed the stairs, walked into her room and closed the door. She turned on her stereo, popped in her Purple Rain tape and sat on her bed. She sighed and then lay down. As the music washed over her, she began to talk to herself.
“Why can’t she just leave me alone? All I ask is for just one day, ONE DAY, without her bitching and moaning! It’s not enough that she gets upset at me when I do things wrong, but now I’m also responsible for Danny’s mistakes. When did I suddenly become the scapegoat of the family? As soon as something goes wrong around here, I’m the first one who gets the blame. Ugh! I hate my life!”
The music finally lulled her to sleep and she felt much better when she awoke an hour later. A few minutes later her dad called her down for dinner. She ran downstairs because she was hungry and because, second only to Danny, he was the one person she was almost always happy to see.
“Hello Meg. (This was his pet name for her which he derived from her initials.) I hear that your brother had detention today.”
“Dad, not you too. Am I supposed to keep tabs on Danny twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week?”
“I’m not saying that Meg, but just try and humor me and help out your mom where he is concerned. Danny is mostly a good guy, but you know how he doesn’t always think things through.”
“Hey, I knew my ears were burning for a reason,” Danny said as he walked in still displaying a guilty look on his face.
“Hi Dad. Beth, can we talk for a minute?” Danny took Melissa by the hand and walked out to the back porch.
“Beth I am SO sorry about that. I was gonna call you and have you come get me, but they insisted on calling one of our parents, so I chose mom.”
“Danny it’s okay. I don’t blame you. I know by now that mom just likes to have something to get mad at me for. If she can’t have an argument with me or yell at me at least once a day, she goes into withdrawal or something.”
“Can we make a deal?”
“Depends on what it is.”
“From now on, let’s leave mom and dad out of our relationship. It’s very obvious that they treat us differently and a lot of the time I feel you get the short end of the stick. You know I love you and that I wish things were different. If we always focus on who gets what kind of treatment it’s gonna rip us apart. And you’re the only true family I have.”
Mr. & Mrs. Grey had adopted Melissa and Danny when they were very little. They had known each other their whole lives.
Melissa reached over and hugged him. “I love you too Danny. You can always count on me to back you up and take on the whole world for you. I think we have a deal!”
They stepped back from each other and smiled. As Danny held onto her hands, he smiled and said, “You’re the best sister in the whole world.”
“I know. And I’m sure there’s no better brother around, but if I ever find one, I may have to replace you.”
Danny smacked her playfully on the arm and tried to look hurt. Then they both laughed.
“Shall we?” Danny crooked his arm and escorted Melissa back into the house.
Henry Oscar Grey watched his kids together. He was always amazed at how connected they were. They fought a lot as siblings were prone to do, but their unique bond was hard to miss. He knew that no matter what, those two would fight to the death for each other. And everybody needed at least one person like that in his or her life. He smiled as they hugged. It grew as he watched Meg say something to Danny and saw him playfully smack her on the arm. At first he almost got mad at Danny for even hitting her. But when he could tell it hadn’t been meant in harm, he relaxed. As far as Henry was concerned, no man EVER had ANY right to hit a woman. He made sure that Danny knew this. He looked away when he saw Danny escorting Meg back inside. He didn’t want them to know he had been watching.
He looked over at his wife who was on her third glass of wine. He wished she wouldn’t drink so much. He loved Patricia dearly, but this was one thing that was hard for him to take. It bothered him because for the most part, there was nothing he could do about it. But it also bothered him because after she drank a certain amount, Meg was always her first target. It always seemed that once she was drunk enough that she would find ways to hurt Meg with her words. It was almost as if Patricia got some sick pleasure out of tormenting her. Sometimes he would wince when he would see the flicker of pain in Meg’s eyes when she said something that really hurt her. But Meg was strong. She didn’t let that look of pain last for long. She didn’t want Patricia to know just how much she was hurting. And lately it seemed as though Meg had felt she had taken enough and had started fighting back. There were times he couldn’t believe the words that Meg said to her mother. But as much as he truly loved his daughter, it was hard for him being in the middle all the time, so most of the time he took his wife’s side over Meg’s.
Danny and Melissa walked back into the kitchen giggling, but were soon interrupted by their mother. “Missy you need to set the table. Get to it so we can eat this food before it gets cold.” When she didn’t respond quickly enough, her mother slammed her hand on the counter. “We’re all waiting on YOU, so move it!”
Melissa had two choices; she could either ignore her and set the table, or she could make a smart mouth comment. Pleading looks from Danny and her father made up her mind.
“Sorry mom, it will only take me a minute.”
Both Danny and Henry breathed a silent sigh of relief. Another war of the words had been avoided, at least for now.
Dinner went pretty smoothly and everyone discussed the events of their day, everyone except Melissa. She gave very short and somewhat vague answers to the questions she was asked. Henry knew better than to pry, but Patricia had other ideas. She didn’t see any need for Melissa to keep anything from them. In her mind, the less information given, the more reason to be suspicious. His hopes for a nice, quiet dinner went out the door when he heard Patricia start to dig a little deeper.
“Melissa, tell me more about school. What did you learn in your art class today?”
“Well mom, I learned that I’ll never make it as an artist.”
Patricia looked up from her food and gave Melissa a strange look. “I didn’t ask for your sarcasm.”
“I wasn’t being sarcastic, I was being realistic. BIG difference mom.”
Patricia placed her fork down on her plate. “You know Missy, I wish that just once you could stop being so nasty about everything.”
“Speaking of wishing mother, sometimes I wish you could stop being so nosy about everything.”
“That’s IT young lady! I want you to clear your dishes and then go up to your room. I don’t have to take this kind of garbage from YOU in my own house!”
Melissa got up and slammed her dishes into the sink. She gave her mother a mean look to mirror the one she was being given. “You know what mom?”
“Never mind, it’s not worth my breath OR my effort.”
As she walked away her mother yelled after her, “No TV for you tonight!”
“Why am I NOT surprised!”
“And no phone EITHER!”
Melissa closed her bedroom door and threw herself on her bed. She would have liked to slam the door, but she knew her dad would get very pissed off if she did.
“Great! Just FREAKIN great! Now if Chris calls, I won’t be able to talk to him. Why can’t I just leave it alone sometimes?”
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