Love Pollution

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic
Growing up is never easy. In fact, it's, well, pretty damn sucky for just about everyone.
But for Opal, it was ten times worse. Bratty as teenage girls can be, she can't possibly be the worst of them. Can she?

Submitted: September 15, 2012

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Submitted: September 15, 2012

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"She's not crazy..."
"Then what the hell is wrong with her? Huh? She is nowhere near the girl that used to be our sister!"
"That doesn't mean she's crazy! Look, Vince, we can get through to her, we just have to try a little harder."
"Harder?! Mike, how can we possibly try harder, I said one word to her yesterday and she nearly threw a chair at me!"
"Vince." I spoke sternly, the way dad would have. Using ‘dad’s tone’ always worked, even on my twenty six year old brother. "Trust me."
"Why? Why, what can you see here in this situation that I clearly can't?"
"Well, for one thing, she's my sister too, and another; I'm her twin, Vince, of course I know stuff that you don't know."

Vince raised his eyebrows cockily before he turned away. "I want my sister back. I want the girl in the baggy jeans and tank top’s back."

"She's sixteen, Vince, she's growing up..."
"Yes, Mike, I know, I know she is; I was sixteen once too you know, and believe me, I know what teenagers are like. But that?" Vince pointed up the stairs to our sisters room, staring at me. "That is not growing up, I don't even know what the hell that is, but it's not teenage mood swings, that I can tell you.”

I looked down. I sometimes wondered if this was our fault. She did, after all, grow up as the only girl in the house after our parent’s died; leaving Vince, and our other older brother Alex to raise us. Maybe she finally cracked. Or maybe she just missed mom and dad.

"You might think I’m reading too much into this,” Vince continued, "But that’s my job. She's my little sister, I'm supposed to look out for her and protect her from everything; and I can't even protect her from herself."

With that, he turned and walked towards the kitchen, calling "Alex!" as he went. "It's your turn."

Alex emerged from the study where he had been working on college work. He was looking down, mentally preparing himself. He bounded up the stairs, towards our sisters room.
He knocked on the door softly, opening the door with extreme caution, as though there was some kind of psycho wielding a gun inside.
"Opal, dinner's ready."

He had barely opened the door before he shot right back out, fast as a bullet, slamming the door just in time to hear something heavy bounce off it. A chair, most likely. He sighed, traipsing back downstairs.

"Vince, I don't think she's coming out."

"Will someone please take all the chairs out of that room? And anything else she thinks she can throw."

I sighed at my hopeless brothers and followed them into the kitchen. It wasn't long before I heard the stairs creaking. Seconds later, Opal appeared in the seat beside me and began eating without a word to anyone. Her mascara was running as though she had been crying, the dark streams smeared across her pointed cheekbones.
Pain. All I could sense was pain. It was so strong, so strong that I couldn’t believe it.
Had she always felt this way?

Vince looked up from his food for a moment.

"So, Miss O'Neill called," he said directly to Opal. "She said you're failing all your classes. All of em'. All seven of em'."
"That's nice." Opal mumbled, uninterested. Alex looked between them cautiously, but said nothing.
"Oh, yeah," Vince said, his tone mocking and bitter. "It's real nice, real damn nice that you're failing every single class you take. But you know what?" he said, getting up from his seat and pushing it out of the way. "That's not what I'm mad about, 'cause hey, I was like that and I always knew you weren't the kind to sit and take orders in class, I know, I get it." He paused, taking in her run down appearance. "You're scaring me, Opal, and you know I don't scare easy. You spend your time screaming and throwing things at us whenever we try to help. Opal you are sixteen. Sixteen years old, if you don’t grow up and start acting like it, you might as well kiss your university dreams goodbye!”

Opal simply sat and stared at him for a moment, her features hard, eyes cold. I’m almost sure that had I of reached out to touch her face, her skin would have been below freezing point.  She then got up, and faced Vince. Their face to face stance somewhat reminded me of a cadet reporting to his sergeant. Only, in this situation, Vince was the cadet.
"Opal, I'm sorry, I-"

He was cut off mid-sentence as she spat directly in his eyes, before turning around and storming out of the room, knocking her chair over in typical Opal fashion as she left.
The stony silence in the kitchen was momentarily broken by the dim sound of her slamming her bedroom door.

Vince stared after her, stock still. I knew what he was thinking. I knew it had hit him.
He had finally realized that he could not fill our father’s shoes – not by a longshot. He couldn’t keep us in line, provide for us, keep us safe. He wasn’t the flawless man we perceived our father to be, and he was no longer the heroic big brother that could chase away the school bully. He was just Vince. The college drop out. The underpaid mechanic. The brother who had lost control of his family. Most importantly, his little sister. The little angelic sister who used to sit on his shoulder’s at dad’s baseball games. The tiny bundle of bones that had so tightly clung to his legs as he left for college. That dream, that pure dream of a girl who turned every thunderstorm into a sun shower.
Where did she go?

“This isn’t working,” He murmured, so quietly that he was barely heard. “None of this. None of this is working.”
“Are you okay?” Alex always was the woman of the family, even when mom was alive. “Should I go talk to her? I’ll go talk to her.” He bounded up the stairs two at a time, leaving Vince and I to observe the damage done to our already broken family.

“Really, Vince,” I said, handing him paper towels to wipe his face. “Are you alright?”
“I’m fine. It’s spit, not bullets. She’s done it before.”
“That’s not what I meant.”
He was silent. He never was one to open up, but I suppose he didn’t have to. I knew.
We all knew.
 

Hours passed. Alex had been attempting to get through to Opal, but seemingly, was not having much luck. All Vince and I could do was listen and wait. It was mostly quiet, with voices only being raised once or twice. Nothing had been thrown, which was progress in itself, but I could feel Opal's reluctance to open up. I could feel her fear, her sadness. She felt cornered, trapped, scared. She felt as though something was missing. There was a void, and nothing could fill it.
What was missing? Was it mom? Was it dad?

Another hour of coffee and Friend’s reruns passed, before Alex reappeared. He looked, quite frankly, like he had been hit by a bus.
“Her best friend died.” He said it so bluntly, that at first, I didn’t quite register the severity of the statement. “That’s why she’s been acting out. Her best friend is gone.
Vince blinked. “What? Who? Why didn’t we know about this?”  He blinked again. “How could we possibly have not known?”
“Matthew Benedict. Apparently there was some accident downtown-“
“Wait, the kid who got hit by the bus? That was Matthew? That was little Matty Benedict?”
“That was Matty Benedict. Worst part is, she was there. She seen it happen.”
Alex seemed exhausted. It was as though squeezing this information out of Opal had drained him of all emotion. I knew it would hit him in the morning.

We all knew little Matty Benedict. He was that kid you couldn’t help but love, even though he was unbearably annoying. He had dreamed all his life of being a professional skateboarder. Even built his own ramp in his back yard.
These dreams had been cut short, severed by a crude force that I couldn’t understand.
Was that it? Had she lost her faith? It made sense to me. Her best friend had been suddenly yanked from her arms, his soul had drifted away right in front of her. He had been taken from her, and no matter how hard she shook him, or how loud she screamed, she couldn’t bring him back.
She couldn’t save him.

Vince let his head fall into his hands, “Why didn’t she tell us? Why didn’t she say something?”
I felt compelled to speak, to cry, to scream, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t think, I couldn’t move. I could barely breathe.
It was like a complete system failure.

“Where is she?” Vince stood up, composing himself.
“Sleeping,” Alex had his head between his knees, breathing deeply as though he was going to be sick. “It took a while, but I managed to convince her to go to sleep.”
“Bed, the both of you.” Vince had adopted that stern, determined tone again. I hadn’t heard that tone in months.
He almost sounded like dad. He almost sounded like he had regained his control. Like he was a little less broken, now that he understood.

I didn't protest. I was exhausted, emotionally drained, and devastated. My twin sister, my other half, had been through so much that I never knew. She had lost her safety net, her shoulder to cry on. She had lost a part of her. I simply couldn't get my head around it. I, of course, knew she was troubled, but like Vince, I believed it to be a phase. She'd rise above it, move on. I never, not once, suspected such a huge loss.
I never realized the extent of the damage.

Sleep proved to be useless. Six AM ticked around slowly, and I eventually decided that I could no longer stand staring at the same four walls of my bedroom. As I passed Opal's open door - an extreme rarity in itself - I couldn't help but peer inside.

There she was, still dressed, sleeping soundly. There was a shadow behind her, a solid mass that my blurry, sleepless eyes could not quite focus on. Looking closer, I could see Vince lying beside her, snoring softly, a hand wrapped softly around her tiny wrist.

An eight year old Opal flashed across my mind’s eye. She had been suffering with night terrors in the months after our mother’s death. Vince would climb into bed beside her as she cried out in her sleep, usually screaming incoherent words. He'd pull her close to him and rub delicate circles into the veins of her wrists, a comforting touch that seemed to pull her out of every nightmare.
A comfort that only a big brother could offer.

It struck me that, maybe, this was Vince's way of dealing things. He perceived Opal's troubles to be nightmares. He may have thought that he could chase them away. That every problem Opal had ever had would be banished at the touch of his fingers. That he could save his little sister from herself, and be the heroic big brother once again.

I couldn't help but allow a tiny glimmer of hope to ignite inside me. It would be hard, but Opal could get through this. She needed us, and we'd be there for her, every step of the way.
Maybe it was possible to overcome this.
Maybe, just maybe, things would work out this time.
She deserved that much, at least.

 

You pick the pieces up again.
You're like the song that never ends,
And you're the reason I wake up,
And you're my vision,
You're my touch.

- ‘Love Pollution’ by Feeder.


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