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    Sasha Distan
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Direct Confusion - 26. Chapter 26

For the first time, Erin does not call or text me goodnight and I don’t call him either. Lying in bed staring at the ceiling and knowing he drove away in tears makes me hate myself. I want to drive over to his house and do something ridiculously insane to show him I love him, but at the same time part of my brain is telling me that I was right, and if I hadn’t gone to my boyfriend’s house, my brother would still be alive.

I manage to avoid speaking much to my parents. I bow and scrape and apologise for missing dinner and abandoning my phone. I don’t tell them I walked out of school, and practice, and basically quit the swim team all in the space of ten minutes. I have no idea how to deal with the situation I’ve gotten myself in. I can’t quit soccer, because I love it, and I need an athletic scholarship to afford college; but I have no idea how I will be able to walk back into training tomorrow. And we have a game on Friday.

I wake early, with no clear plan of what I should actually do, and so I go about my morning routine as normal. Teeth, shower, shave, and then I stand in front of my wardrobe and stare at the host of shirts and jackets that all have some sort of connection to the school, the team, my friends… I can’t bear the idea of wearing any of them. I am just pulling on jeans and a non-descript sweater when there is a single knock on my door.

“C’mon in!” I turn, expecting to see my mother. “Jame?”

Two long strides and Jameson slaps me around the cheek just about as hard as he can. I know that, because it hurts.

“OW!”

“Too fucking right ‘ow’!” Jameson is fuming. “What the hell do you think you’re playing at?”

“What the hell Jameson?” I shake my head a little, trying to settle my brain back in place. “Don’t you know you outta warn a guy before you bitch slap him into next week?”

“Do not get cocky with me, Luke.” Jameson steps back, hands on hips. “Not unless you actually want Erin out of your life.”

“What?” The words snap me back into focus really quickly. “Whoa! I never said-!”

“No.” Jameson rolls his eyes. “You just blamed him for your brother’s death. How do you think he feels?”

“Oh…” I feel horrible. Jameson’s words have reached into my abdomen and wrenched out my stomach. I’ve been gutted as efficiently as a hunter with a sharp knife and dead rabbit. I bury my face in my hands. “I don’t know what to do.”

“Apologising would be a good start.” Jameson relaxes fractionally. “Why aren’t you wearing your letterman jacket?”

“I sort of left it at school. I quit the swim team.”

Jameson blinks at me.

“Well you’d better not be fuckin’ quitting soccer too!” Jameson strides past me to my wardrobe and pulls out a long sleeved baseball style tee from last year’s soccer camp. This one is red and white, but it does have my name across the back and the school’s intitals on the front in large block letters. “This one. Get changed.”

“Jame…” I take the shirt from him and hold it tight in one hand. “I don’t think I can. I doubt Coach is going to let me back in the locker rooms.”

“So you’re going to throw away all the good stuff in your life?” Jameson cocks his head at me in disbelief. “For what? Because you feel guilty for enjoying your life when your brother didn’t get to live?”

“Jame!” I am suddenly livid that he has brought my brother into this. He’s right though, and he knows it.

“Your brother would not want you screwing this up. You’d better be at practice.”

I look at my friend and wonder. Of everyone I know, he is probably the easiest target for getting bullied. He’s a male cheerleader and he acts camp as anything; he should have way more to fear from the other jocks than I do.

“Maybe it’s just a waste of time.” I sigh. “Coach hasn’t wanted to let me in the changing rooms since Erin and I got together and now he has an actual excuse. I’m not showing up just to get humiliated.”

“I can’t believe you!” Jameson pushed my shoulders ineffectually. “It’s not a waste if you can make a difference. You know how many people look up to you? Fight for what you want Luke! If you give up now, then you may have well as not tried in the first place. You can be the first openly gay high school soccer all-star to quit too! You quit and the jerks who made my brother hate himself will have won.” He exhales sharply. “If you keep letting meathead jocks win it’ll never get better.”

“They’ll always win.” I mutter despondently.

Jameson’s slap is as hard as the first, and more unexpected.

“Only if you keep acting like a damn girl! Where is the strong, confident, funny guy who won my brother’s heart? Did he quit too?”

“No.”

“Oh that was convincing…”

“NO!” I want to get mad at him, but I can’t. The only anger in my head is directed at myself.

“Good, now get dressed and get to school buddy. You’ve got some serious grovelling to do.”

*

Jameson takes off in the pick-up. As I watch him swerve onto the road, it’s easy to see why Erin doesn’t like him driving much. The boy needs lessons badly.

I want to call Erin before Jameson gets back, but a quick pat-down of my pockets does not reveal my cell, and I lean into the back seat of the Dodge to fetch it from where it was thrown last night. I return to a standing position with something else in my hands.

Greg’s flat topped army cap, khaki-camouflage pattern, with seemingly random patches of greys and yellows. The texture is soft under my fingers, and I turn the thick drill-cotton over and stare at the name written on the inside band. MCBRIDE. I wonder if Greg put it on when the sharpie was still wet and ended up with his name printed backwards on his forehead. The sudden though of my brother being teased by his army buddies, sitting out in the desert under the hot sun, for doing something so stupid makes me smile. He might have died… I swallow, unwilling to finish the thought even in my own head. He might have died in pain, he might have died in an all too clichéd manner, but that doesn’t take away from the fact he had a good life.

I think of his voice on my answering machine. He tells me he loves me, tells me that I made a good choice with Erin, and doesn’t begrudge me for missing dinner. Greg could never stay mad at anyone for very long, he was forgiving like that. I take a deep breath: I used to be like that too.

I walk back into the house, and climb the stairs to my parent’s room. They are getting up, Dad is in the shower and mom is dressed, selecting earrings to go with her red skirt-suit. I pick up a pair of dangly silver salmon-shaped ones she bought on our last ever family holiday together when I was thirteen, Greg was home on leave and we all went to Canada for two weeks.

“These.”

“Thank you honey.” Mom smiles at me in the mirror. “You OK?”

I am still holding Greg’s army cap in one hand. Very quickly, I wrap both arms around my mother’s waist and hug her hard.

“I love you mom. I’m sorry.”

“Try not to miss dinner too often sweetie. I made mac and cheese.”

“No more meatloaf?” I query in a slightly too-excited tone.

“Alright, alright!” She throws up her hands in exasperation. “I’ll leave all the meatloaf making to Erin in the future.” She glances thoughtfully in the mirror. “You think your boyfriend would teach me how to cook?”

“I’ll pay him.” Dad’s head appears from around the bathroom door. “Anything. Everything.” He strides across the room in a towel to hug his wife. Mom slaps his arm, because he is dripping on her suit. “All the money in the world if you promise not to try and feed us that thing you call meatloaf again.”

“Mean!”

I laugh. Both my parents are smiling, and for a moment I forget the other reason I came up here.

“Mom? Dad? Is it OK if I go in Greg’s old room?” Mom notices the cap I’m holding. “I just wanted-”

“Luke, sweetie… He’s your brother. He always will be. You don’t need permission to go into his room.”

Dad takes the cap from my hands, glances at the inside quickly, then positions it on my head.

“I suppose you grew up.” He sighs. “Most of his stuff must fit you now. Go on, go do your thing.”

“Thanks dad.” I hug my father very quickly, because after all he is just wearing a towel. “I’ll be home late. Gonna take Erin out.” I take a deep breath. “If he lets me. Bye guys.”

It’s dark in Greg’s room, so I open the curtains. My brother was weird in that he never really liked sleeping with the curtains closed, so kipping in a tent in the desert probably suited him just fine.

Yeah, ‘cause the army doesn’t like, build actual barracks or anything over there you dolt. My internal voice sounds almost exactly like my brother, and I remember him saying something similar when he returned from his first tour. I imagine his life looking like a cross between Jarhead and Good Morning Vietnam, even though I’ve seen photos and it doesn’t really.

I never fully understood why my brother joined the army. I asked him once over a game of kick about soccer, which at fourteen, I was already good enough at to be winning easily.

“I like being outside: I like physical stuff, staying fit.” Greg had knuckled his rock hard abs. “I like the company, the routine. I’m not really very good at much else… I’m a damn good shot.” He shrugged. “You get to see the world and met new and interesting people. It’s not a bad life.”

“You think I should join the army?”

“Nah…” Greg had grinned at me. “Little brother, I think you are destined for much greater things.”

Greg’s duffel is in his room, and I sit on his bed, which is technically my old bed, and unpack the clothes he brought home while I look around the room. There are still a few of my old things in here, many of which were hand-me-downs anyway, and with Greg’s stuff strewn between them, it really looks like the room of two people who share everything. On a shelf are a few painted plastic cowboys, a bunch of track and field and soccer awards from middle school, Greg’s framed high school graduation certificate and a photograph of him with me in his olive green dress uniform on the day he made it out of basic training. We look like a right pair with me in my very first letterman jacket. Mom had begged me not to wear it, but dad said that it had made him proud to see both his boys doing what made them happy.

In the bottom of Greg’s duffel is his lightweight field jacket. I pull it on and leave the front open like an over-shirt before patting down the pockets. Greg always had a stick of gum somewhere in every damn piece of clothing he ever owned. In the left breast pocket I find a little wedge of paper, and pull it out. The gum falls to the floor, and I don’t notice.

Greg couldn’t draw for beans, so I know he must have paid or traded with some guy in his squad who knew how to hold a pencil properly and make it do beautiful things to get these. They are, or were at some point, blank backed playing cards, and Greg must have used pictures from his phone to give the artist some reference for what he was doing. There’s one of the house, one of mom and dad, a few of people I don’t really recognise, probably army guys and friends of Greg’s. There are one or two abstract designs that look like cool tattoos and military insignia, and then, there’s one of me. It was a photo I took to send Greg one day when mom bugged me that I hadn’t emailed or written to my brother in ages. It was just after I’d shaved off all my hair for the first time, and the artist has rendered in the stubble with dots of his biro, and shaded in the background of the picture too. I look like a dozen other cute boys you’d find online taking their photo in a darkened bedroom with their phone. After all, it’s exactly what I’m doing. On the back of the card, which happens to be the seven of hearts, Greg has written ‘I am proud of my little brother’.

I leave the other cards arranged on his desk, where I know my mother will find them, and I tuck the one of me back into the shirt pocket. After another two minutes of deliberation, I open the back of the photo frame and take out the spare photograph of me and my brother in his formal uniform. Mom always gets two copies of everything printed and keeps the extra behind the other photo, just in case. I figure she won’t mind too much. With both items safely in my pocket, and wearing my brother’s shirt and cap, I finally feel ready to face going to school.

Remember to come and join us in the discussion forum for questions, answers, and all sorts of silly supposition.
Copyright © 2014 Sasha Distan; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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Chapter Comments

Tears again...what the hell! I have never had the experience of being bitch slapped, but good for Jame, doing it twice and good for Luke for taking it. I hope Luke finds the strength he is going to need today at school. With what Erin has been through, I hope Luke can get through and make things up to him. Wearing Greg should help him. This was a beautifully written chapter Sasha, especially the scene in Greg's old room...hence the reason for more tears....cheers and thanks...Gary

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Just beautiful. The scene in Greg's bedroom made me sad but also made me smile.

When I become ruler of the world every gay man will have a brother like Jame.

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Some write stories but you breathe life and through the words put before us we are made to dwell with these people.

No tears for me this time, though this chapter is nearly overwhelming with emotion.

We knew that Jame would show up with an opinion of Luke's behavior. Not at all surprised with his approach.

What struck me most was Luke... he took the first steps to becoming the man his brother expected him to be. I was cheered watching him draw strength as he armored himself physically in Greg's clothes... wrapping himself emotionally in the love and pride that Greg felt towards him... Woe be to those who oppose him...

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Very well done. Jame's confrontation is just what Luke needed. A trip to Greg's room, a remembrance of his brother, and the realization he's not in control was necessary. Lovely scenes and so touching. Thanks Sasha. :)

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Wonderful chapter! And I´m crying again :/

 

Jameson was a great brother and a great friend, and he made Luke think about things. The scene in Greg´s room was so sad, but it also promised something better for Luke in future. He seemed stronger in there and in Greg´s clothes.

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On 08/14/2014 08:15 AM, Headstall said:
Tears again...what the hell! I have never had the experience of being bitch slapped, but good for Jame, doing it twice and good for Luke for taking it. I hope Luke finds the strength he is going to need today at school. With what Erin has been through, I hope Luke can get through and make things up to him. Wearing Greg should help him. This was a beautifully written chapter Sasha, especially the scene in Greg's old room...hence the reason for more tears....cheers and thanks...Gary
thanks Gary, sorry to make you cry. again.

The bitch slap is actually surprisingly painful, let me tell you, and if properly executed can make even the hottest head cool down and listen.

I love the idea of "wearing Greg" - nice.

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On 08/14/2014 09:54 AM, Bucket1 said:
Just beautiful. The scene in Greg's bedroom made me sad but also made me smile.

When I become ruler of the world every gay man will have a brother like Jame.

thank you.

I really like writing that scene. for Luke to be able to go somewhere to visit their shared past is a special thing. he's lucky, though he doesn't realise it yet.

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On 08/14/2014 11:10 AM, dughlas said:
Some write stories but you breathe life and through the words put before us we are made to dwell with these people.

No tears for me this time, though this chapter is nearly overwhelming with emotion.

We knew that Jame would show up with an opinion of Luke's behavior. Not at all surprised with his approach.

What struck me most was Luke... he took the first steps to becoming the man his brother expected him to be. I was cheered watching him draw strength as he armored himself physically in Greg's clothes... wrapping himself emotionally in the love and pride that Greg felt towards him... Woe be to those who oppose him...

you always say the nicest things.

nothing quite like seeing the disappointment you have for yourself reflected in someone you like a respect to make you wanna get your boots on and move forwards.

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On 08/14/2014 11:13 AM, Cole Matthews said:
Very well done. Jame's confrontation is just what Luke needed. A trip to Greg's room, a remembrance of his brother, and the realization he's not in control was necessary. Lovely scenes and so touching. Thanks Sasha. :)
You are more than welcome, and thank you too.

Luke going to Greg's room was a good thing, once you admit you need help, then things get better right?

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On 08/14/2014 01:07 PM, C.K. said:
Jameson is awesome. If only he were gay then I think he'd be just what Luke needs.
I don't agree. Jameson is a great guy, he's lovely and understanding and full of fire, but if he were gay (oh gods, the stereotypes), he'd be too camp and too high maintenance for Luke. Erin is exactly what Luke needs, now he just has to get him back.
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On 08/14/2014 04:19 PM, Suvitar said:
Wonderful chapter! And I´m crying again :/

 

Jameson was a great brother and a great friend, and he made Luke think about things. The scene in Greg´s room was so sad, but it also promised something better for Luke in future. He seemed stronger in there and in Greg´s clothes.

thank you.

You're right about Luke being stronger in Greg's clothes, as others have pointed out, it's like armor, wrapping himself in the love his brother had for him and the strength his brother had in general. I think Luke needs all the borrowed strength he can manage right now.

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Fantastic chapter! I am happy Luke has A friend like Jame who cares about him enough to bitch slap him. Everyone needs a friend who will tell it like it is, even if it's not what you want to hear at the time. Looking forward to the next chapter and the grovelling.

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On 08/15/2014 07:48 AM, LitLover said:
Fantastic chapter! I am happy Luke has A friend like Jame who cares about him enough to bitch slap him. Everyone needs a friend who will tell it like it is, even if it's not what you want to hear at the time. Looking forward to the next chapter and the grovelling.
thank you. You're right, everyone needs a brutally honest friend sometimes.
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Terrific chapter, Sasha, though another tearful one for me.

 

Your readers are so insightful. I LOVE the idea of Luke wrapping himself up in Greg like physical armor and emotional stability. That was really beautiful.

 

His parents seem to be doing better.

 

And of course I LOVE Jame! What a terrific brother and friend! Luke needed to be bitch-slapped like that! He needed Jame telling him that Greg would NOT want him quitting the soccer or swim teams, quitting everything he loves, and quitting life.

 

I am very much looking forward to the next chapter to find out what happens with Erin and Coach (and of course his shit teammates - I hope they redeemed themselves and had Jim kicked off the team).

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On 08/15/2014 11:45 AM, Lisa said:
Terrific chapter, Sasha, though another tearful one for me.

 

Your readers are so insightful. I LOVE the idea of Luke wrapping himself up in Greg like physical armor and emotional stability. That was really beautiful.

 

His parents seem to be doing better.

 

And of course I LOVE Jame! What a terrific brother and friend! Luke needed to be bitch-slapped like that! He needed Jame telling him that Greg would NOT want him quitting the soccer or swim teams, quitting everything he loves, and quitting life.

 

I am very much looking forward to the next chapter to find out what happens with Erin and Coach (and of course his shit teammates - I hope they redeemed themselves and had Jim kicked off the team).

thank you hun. I promise the next chapter will make you smile!

My readers are awesome, including you.

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Bitch slapped twice by a cheerleader. :) What could be wrong with that? :P Every man want's a slap from a hot cheerleader. ;)

I found the symbolism of Luke putting on Greg's jacket more profound and moving than anything in this story. My heart cried for the boy and the man/brother he's lost. So much hurt to get over and no real idea how it should be done. We just bumble along doing the best we can.

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On 08/31/2014 05:48 AM, Yettie One said:
Bitch slapped twice by a cheerleader. :) What could be wrong with that? :P Every man want's a slap from a hot cheerleader. ;)

I found the symbolism of Luke putting on Greg's jacket more profound and moving than anything in this story. My heart cried for the boy and the man/brother he's lost. So much hurt to get over and no real idea how it should be done. We just bumble along doing the best we can.

my friend once said something rather profound to me:

We never get over loss, we just get further away from it.

 

Greg's jacket is Luke armour, it keeps his brother close and keeps his death further away. he needs that.

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Kind of ironic how when Luke punched Jim, Erin made the jump to the (horrible and totally uncalled for) thought of Luke possibly harming him, yet here we have Jame bitch slapping Luke twice. And Luke is the bad guy? Luke has done nothing but try to protect Erin and fix all the nasty situations at school. What has Erin done but cook and have great comfort sex? I think he is emotionally much less mature than Luke and this certainly shows - it's all about him and how he is feeling, not Luke. When we are grieving we do some pretty strange and uncontrolled things - believe me I've been there - I think Erin and Jame can be more understanding. Tears for Luke as he goes into Greg's room, brings back memories as I had to do the same twice when I lost 2 spouses. Maybe that's why I feel so protective of Luke.

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On 12/11/2016 02:24 AM, Petey said:

Kind of ironic how when Luke punched Jim, Erin made the jump to the (horrible and totally uncalled for) thought of Luke possibly harming him, yet here we have Jame bitch slapping Luke twice. And Luke is the bad guy? Luke has done nothing but try to protect Erin and fix all the nasty situations at school. What has Erin done but cook and have great comfort sex? I think he is emotionally much less mature than Luke and this certainly shows - it's all about him and how he is feeling, not Luke. When we are grieving we do some pretty strange and uncontrolled things - believe me I've been there - I think Erin and Jame can be more understanding. Tears for Luke as he goes into Greg's room, brings back memories as I had to do the same twice when I lost 2 spouses. Maybe that's why I feel so protective of Luke.

I an glad you made it to the end, but I am sorry you feel that way. Erin cares deeply about Luke, but expecting him to understand everything Luke is going through is unrealistic - the same as there has been stuff Erin has gone through which Luke can't understand - like his fear in the face of sudden anger and violence.

Just because they've not been dealt the same hand in life, doesn't mean they can't support each other in times of need.

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