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Apparently, I’d hit a nerve.
The effect of whatever it was I’d said was somewhat akin to sandpapering a badger’s butt in a telephone booth as she launched herself across the top of the desk with a half strangled, enraged scream. She collided with me before I had a chance to leap from the chair, and we both went crashing to the floor along with it as Ashleigh yelled something that didn’t much matter to me just then.
Unfortunately, Kitten landed on top, a crying, screaming, punching, scratching and smashing lunatic who was all over me. The sheer fury and ferocity of her attack actually stunned me and all I could do was try to shield my face against her frenzied, all consuming hatred of me until I remembered I could take the situation in hand.
One bloody nose for me later, I had her in a basic ankle lock and she was screaming for a whole different reason, waving a fistful of hair she’d quite painfully ripped out of my head while pounding the floor with the other. I wasn’t hurting her that bad, only enough to make her submit, and most of her crying and screaming was probably due to her emotional state, but I suppose it looked a lot worse than it was.
During the scuffle, her blouse had been torn half open and one of her bra bound tits were hanging out in its skimpy, lacey maroon cup and jiggling a bit. I couldn’t believe I’d be distracted by that at such a time, but Ashleigh’s appearance right in my face proved it.
“Let her go, you asshole!” she shouted, suddenly and repeatedly bashing me with her open palm until I did.
Luckily, Mum and Sheila were also there by then to barely hold Kitten from going at me again the instant she was free. But I caught the look in her face then as she was spitting furious nonsense words at me. She wasn’t just mad, but also deeply hurt by whatever it was I’d said, and the look in the poor little devil’s face almost broke my heart. As mad and freaked out as I was just then, a part of me berated myself worse than what Ashleigh was doing. I suppose I should have just let the little freak go ahead and maim me for life?
The misery sisters dragged her, kicking and screaming, from the room while I angrily shoved off Ashleigh’s attempt to help me to my feet with a curse.
“Fuck! What the fuck were ya doin’?” I demanded.
“What was I doing? You were tearing her leg off-!”
“I was not tearing her leg off! Gimmie just a little fuckin’ credit, will ya!?”
“Well, it looked like- Wh- … Is that your hair on the floor?”
” … Aunt Ashleigh, I really like you. God help me, I even love you, but right now… I could kill you. Yes, it’s my fuckin’ hair!” I thundered.
“Alright!” she said, holding her hands up in an ‘I don’t want any trouble’ gesture, “It just looked like you were going way over the top with her there!”
“Well, I am fuckin’ trained, y’know!”
“Shut up, I said alright!”
I expelled a frustrated grunt as she grabbed my chin and took a look at my face and nose. Following this, she inspected my scalp in a brief and unsuccessful attempt to find where the hair on the floor was pulled from while Kitten continued sobbing from somewhere outside the den.
“Jesus,” she swore under her breath as she grabbed my hand. Leading me to one of the small doors behind her desk, she complained, “Why do all my family meetings have to go like this? Shit! First it was your mother, now it’s you!”
“Me? In case you didn’t notice, Kitten’s the one who was making all the trouble!”
“And if you hadn’t interfered with Gina, she wouldn’t be acting like that! She’d probably be purring in your lap!”
I sighed, not replying because of the futility of it all and the fact that, once again, she was right. Inside a fair sized, oddly shaped bathroom that utilized space in some necessarily ingenious ways, she shoved me in front of the vanity and started running some water into the sink.
“Now the whole night’s probably ruined,” she fumed. “Don’t you see what I’m trying to do here? Can’t you see how I’m trying to bring you all to some very delicate realities with a minimum of stress? I know you’re bright enough to see where this is going, and if I was worried about how you’d take some of this stuff, imagine how I feel about them. Especially Kitten! Do you really think this shit makes it any easier? God-dammit, Steven, you’re supposed to be helping, not-“
“Please stop bitching?” I requested in a low tone with a hard edge.
“I’m sorry, but it’s just so frustrating!”
“Isn’t it, though?” I sarcastically noted.
“Well,” she stiffly decided as she took my chin in her hand again to start cleaning the blood off my face with a soaked facecloth, “you’ll just have to do something about it, won’t you?”
“Do something? Do what?”
“You have to fix Kitten and Gina.”
“What!?” I demanded as though she suggested I cut off my own penis. “How in everlasting fuck am I supposed to do that!?”
“That’s for you to figure out,” she scolded as she took a different amatör porno grip at the back of my head while scrubbing at my chin. “You created this mess, now you’re going to clean it up. It’s time you stopped depending on Mummy to come to your rescue.”
“Yeah, well I think you’d better get the real Ashleigh back, because I don’t think you’re really getting this concept of reality!”
After a short, dangerous pause in her ministrations, “I’m going to let that go because I know you’re upset, but know this: This issue is not going to go away any time soon and I expect you to deal with it in some way as soon as you can, because timing is crucial for me here. That means it’s crucial for you, so I suggest you start by unreservedly apologizing to Kitten and telling her you’ll fix things up with Gina.”
I was laughing, but there was no humour in it whatsoever.
“I fail to see what’s so funny.”
“There is no way in hell I’m gonna do that. Fuckin’ never, Ashleigh.”
“Oh, you’ll do it,” she assured.
“You’ll do it because she’ll never let this go, and the longer you hold off, the harder it’ll be to turn things around with her when you’ve finally had enough.”
“Not gonna happen.”
“We have to have accord in this house, and I am telling you it will happen!”
“May as well forget it.”
They thought I was crazy. Both of them did, but Sheila’s silent assessment was written more clearly in her features and I found myself having to explain how and why Stevie had set me off like he had. Between sobs, I gave them a quick summary of how Janice Kerwin and the kids at school treated me and why, including that awful nickname they gave me, ‘Airhead’. Infuriatingly, I was crying even harder by the time I was done and I hated Stevie all the more for doing this to me in front of Auntie Kathleen and Sheila.
“Oh my god, I’m so sorry.” Auntie said, taking me in her arms where we stood by the railing, a ways from the open doors of Auntie Ashleigh’s den. Her older sister closed her eyes and expelled a sigh as Auntie went on. “Kitten… if I could, I’d kill every one of those kids who treated you like that, but just because you weren’t that good in school doesn’t mean you’re stupid. You know that, right?”
She held me at arm’s length, hands on my shoulders and with a concerned expression as she looked at me, waiting for an answer. I nodded with a sniff and she went on.
“Take Sheila for example: She never would have made it out of junior high were it not for me. Her report cards were laughable. Simply laughable! Our cat could’ve done better, even after the poor thing got run over and killed, but she’s obviously far from stupid.”
“Gee thanks, Kathy.” Sheila rewarded with a flat, completely unimpressed tone.
“I don’t think you’re stupid, and I know Steven doesn’t think that of you either. I’m sure it was just an unfortunate choice of words and if he knew about how the kids used to call you that, he’d never have used that word. As his mother, I guarantee you that he’s just not that kind of a kid and never was. Because, y’know what? If I thought for one second he said that on purpose, I’d be in there taking two or three inches out of him right now.”
“It’s true, sweetie pie,” Sheila confirmed. “He can be a bit of a jerk sometimes, but he’d never do anything like that.”
“(Sniff) well, why would he be saying stuff like that to me, anyway?” I pouted.
“You were poking at him pretty hard,” Sheila said, actually taking his side.
“He deserved it! He ruined things with Gina! He ruined everything! You don’t realize; I can’t go home now!”
“Yeah… I know. Neither can I.”
She walked away, my irritation with her flagging as I attempted to decipher that. Auntie also watched her go for a moment before turning back to me with a funny expression in her eyes before speaking.
“She, uhh… I’ve learned to overlook what she did. I mean what happened with Dad. She knows she did wrong. She knows she messed up and it’s enough.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, my blubbering beginning to subside in the interest of what she and Sheila were trying to get across.
“Well, regarding Gina… Steven did what he did because he honestly thought it was the right thing to do. We all know about his moral compass by now, most especially him because even he can’t succeed in holding himself to it no matter how he tries. The thing is… sweetie pie, if he felt strongly enough about the situation to actually do what he did, then maybe you should look at his reasons. Maybe you should give him a chance to explain his side of things.”
“Auntie, I-! (Sigh!) Okay, I know you’re probably just saying that cause you’re his mummy, but from my perspective, he-“
“No. I say that from the perspective of his moral compass. What’s more, I’m the person who instilled that in him, so I can’t very well side against him for it now, no matter how things have changed or how inconvenient anal porno it’s been at times. What I’m saying is that he’s not stupid either, and maybe he has a point. Jeez… so hard to believe that it was only six months to a year ago that I was beating him half senseless for his stupid stunts at school. Now he’s trying to keep us in line.”
“So… You’re saying he might be right?” I asked.
Doubting that very much, I wondered if this was one of those times that Auntie Ashleigh told me about where Auntie Kathleen had to be guided for her own good.
“I’m saying that maybe it’d be wise to give him enough credit to hear him out. It’ll give you a chance to tell him your side and- Oh great, here comes Mistress Ashleigh.”
Our matriarch had removed her blazer, but her lightly bouncing boobies in no way took from the attitude of conciliatory determination as she stepped up to me, asking if I was okay. Auntie answered before I could with the usual acidic reception for her older sister that I still couldn’t quite understand.
“Obviously, she’s alright. Did you think Sheila and I were standing out here with our-?”
“Shut up, Kathleen. He didn’t really hurt you, did he?”
“No, Auntie,” I pouted just for effect as her little sister shot her a smoldering scowl. “He’s not that tough.”
“Well, that’s the spirit,” she said with a slight grin, looking me over as though to make sure I really was intact. “You’ll be happy to know you’ve extracted your pound of flesh. Or, in this case…”
She held out her hand, opening it palm up, offering the thick lock of dark hair in it. She kept smiling while I put two and two together and came up with Stevie’s hair by the roots.
“Oh,” I said, a little surprised and dismayed. “Oh boy.”
“I’ll set it here in case you want it,” she said. “You know, as a trophy or whatever.”
She laid it out on the railing for me with that little smile, sincere in her humour, but not enough to cover the fact that she was taking the issue seriously. Auntie Kathleen, distracted by her son’s hair, seemed to forget about showering spite on her sister as she picked it up with a slightly awed expression.
“Sweetie pie, I thought we agreed earlier that you’d be civil for at least the duration of the meeting?”
I pouted some more when I explained, “I can’t help it, Auntie. Everything I ever knew is gone and it’s all because he interfered. Every time I look at him, that’s all I can think, that he ruined my life and I hate him! How dare he do that to me? Auntie Kathleen, I know you mean well when you say I should hear him out, but I don’t want to. I’m sorry, but I don’t want to do him any favours at all after what he did, and I don’t think I should have to.”
“Granted,” Auntie Ashleigh began before her blonde sibling could get a word out, “he did stick his nose in where it didn’t belong, but that’s an issue that doesn’t belong in my family meeting unless we all decide to address it in that forum.”
“But you heard him! He was acting like a fuckwart!”
“He was listening and offering his viewpoints. Yes, he can be offensive at times and I wish he’d use a little more sense before verbally blundering into places- I’m just saying that he was more or less behaving and I had him under control. You were the one who was attacking him.”
“You were encouraging it!” Auntie Kathleen accused.
“I was encouraging healthy debate, not WWF Smackdown. What set you off like that, anyway?”
“-and that’s why she charged you,” Sheila finished soon after my nose had stopped bleeding.
I was back behind Ashleigh’s desk, Sheila sitting on it right in front of me in such a way as to showcase that long slit up the side of her semi elegant gown. Looking away from that, I tossed the blood spotted Kleenex into the wastepaper basket as I replied with a disbelieving hiss.
“No way I could’ve known that.”
“I know,” she sympathized.
“Shit, it’s like… fuuuck!”
“Yeah, she’s… different. What she really needs is someone to answer to but, despite that, I do have to say that I’ve come to like her. Yes, she’s a lot like Mum at times and that’s a bit unsettling, but she lacks that really frightening… thing that Mum had. I can easily see Gina falling for her. Y’know, that was a really shitty thing you did to them.”
“Oh god, here we go.”
“It was. I spoke to Gina after you left to go find your Mum that night. She was very forthcoming and I found out that those two have quite a history. Kitten’s not going to be the same without her and Gina’s not going to be very happy either. I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so before you started fucking around in their personal-“
“Okay, okay, I get it,” I irritably confirmed. “I remember you told me, but… back then was back then and now’s now and…”
“And hindsight’s twenty-twenty.”
“Shut up,” I gloomed.
“Yes!” I admitted. “Don’t worry, Ashleigh’s been beating me over anal breakers porno the head with all the reasons I was stupid to do what I did, and I’m now fairly convinced that you’re both right. She even wants me to apologize and- get this- actually get things between Kitten and Gina fixed up. Can you fuckin’ believe that?”
“Good idea,” she said.
“What!? Not you too!?”
“I would if I were you.”
“No, you wouldn’t!” I accused.
“Not if I were me, no. But if I were you, I’d be at least capable of having an ongoing relationship with someone who I could love and trust. Kitten would be that someone because she has the very same vulnerabilities that I’d have if I were you. I’d do it because I’d be capable of not only having that immeasurable treasure and asset in my life, but also of holding on to it. If I were you.”
“Oh boy,” I moaned, putting my face in my hands.
She leaned over and rubbed the back of my head, laughing a little and saying, “Now you’re getting it. It’s not about who’s right and who’s wrong. It’s about making things work for all the right reasons.”
“I hate my life,” I muffled.
“Sure ya do,” she said, now playfully shaking me by the shoulder. “That’s why you’re gonna go apologize and do what you have to do to make your crazy little chickie happy again. So you can be happy again. And so, by extension, the rest of us can be happy again, too.”
“What if I asked Mum what she thought?” I challenged, already resignedly convinced anyway, but grasping for that one last escape route.
“It’s your life, not your mother’s. Don’t run to her authority and opinion just because it takes weight off your shoulders. Make up your own mind and act accordingly.”
Taking my face out of my hands, I returned, “No offense, but you’re the last person I’d expect a lecture like that from.”
“None taken. I’ve broken a lot of homes, but nowhere near as many as those who only used me to do it. If it wasn’t me, it would have been some other slut because they were willing to let it in. I could tell you stories, believe me, but it’s enough to say that I’ve seen pride, selfishness and unrealistic expectations bring an end to more potentially good relationships than I ever did or could have. Don’t let those things ruin you and Kitten before you two can even get off the ground.”
“Look,” I tried to reason, “apologizing and going along for the sake of getting along is one thing, but how in hell am I ever supposed to fix Gina and Kitten? And even if I can, what about the original reason I did what I did in the first place, that being the protection of Gina herself and her- as of yet- untouched home life?”
“Me and your mother could’ve accomplished that when we were in grade eight. You’re a smart kid; you’ve got resources at your disposal; figure it out.”
“Mum will kill you,” I moodily warned.
“Get with the program, kid,” she laughed.
“I understand,” Auntie Ashleigh said, looking through the gloom below the chandelier to the moonlit ceramic tiles of the first level.
Auntie Kathleen remained silent throughout the second telling of why I freaked out. She seemed contemplative, her brow slightly furrowed as she gazed across the crystal fixture to the opposite railing.
“Did he know about that name?” Auntie Ashleigh asked.
“Not unless he got it out of Gina.”
“Kitten, I seriously doubt he’d have used that word if he knew. He might be an insulting and callous little fucker at times, but I really don’t believe he’d ever do anything like that.”
“He was talking at me like he thinks I’m stupid.”
“No, he’s never said that.”
“What has he said?” I asked.
“Nothing. Look, I know he’d never intentionally hurt you like that. He cares deeply for you.”
“Did he say that?” I asked.
” … Well no, but-“
“Oh, real smooth, sis,” Auntie Kathleen sneered.
“Kathleen, I thought I told you to shu-“
“Oh, bite me you great cow. I think when it comes to Steven’s feelings for Kitten, his mother is best suited to speak for him. “Sweetie pie, he does have feelings for you. He had them from the moment he laid eyes on you and he’s been trying to deny them ever since. Look how he reacted when he found out about you and I. He even asked me to leave you alone the very first day we were here.”
“He did?” I asked.
“Yes, he did. I saw it in his eyes right away. I even teased him with it, and you can take it to the bank when I tell you that he thinks about you all the time.”
“Well, how come he doesn’t say this stuff instead of ruining my life?”
Here, Auntie Ashleigh jumped back in with, “Because he’s having trouble accepting that you are now his number one concern. Not Gina or what his morality thinks is best for her, not anybody,” she said, glancing at my other scowling auntie. “Also, you have to remember that he’s a few years younger than you. He’s just out of school and in a world he never would’ve expected to be in, with unique responsibilities that he’s managing very well for someone his age. It’s not surprising that he’d feel a little overwhelmed at times, and if you were to be incredibly gracious enough to make an allowance for him on that, I’ll bet you’d be glad you did.”
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