TW for incestuous sexual abuse.
I could have been braver ˑ I could have been smarter ˑ lock it up and forget why it matters
You learn to be scared of your brother – properly scared – when you and Perry turn twelve. Alex is nine, as gentle and strange as he’s always been. And you assume that everything is fine. There’s four of you, all told, the older, the younger, and the middle twins, and you have to wonder if your mother planned it that way, it’s so perfectly symmetrical.
It’s not a realization that comes quickly. All four of you go to an event together – one of those god awful gala party things that are all politics – and smile and look pretty to make your parents look good. Mom the movie star. Dad the politician, protector of family values. And you, the set of Russian dolls to complement their outfits and platforms and speeches.
The event itself doesn’t matter. But Perry and your parents leave early, and it’s you, Alex and Jason. Jason your eldest brother, your goal, everything that you would want to be if you were a boy. You want to impress him, so you sit in the front and talk about the things you noticed at the gala, and Alex plays on his phone in the back –
Jason waits until you’re pulled into the driveway. “Alex, head inside, let them know we’re home.”
And suddenly something feels wrong. You look at him, at his blond curls, at the sharp curve of his mouth, sixteen and already so much taller than you.
“That dress looks good on you.”
You nod quietly, trying to place what’s wrong. Nothing’s wrong. You should leave. You should go inside.
You shouldn’t be so nervous around your brother.
Jason leans on the steering wheel, fingers doing that little scrabbling motion that happens every time he’s craving a cigarette. “You have fun tonight?”
“I – I suppose. The food was nice.”
“The food, huh?” He grins, teeth so white and wide in his face that you don’t know where to look. But his eyes are holding yours. “That’s a pretty hot dress you have on.”
Your mother picked it out, of course, because she dresses all of you. It’s mid-calf, black, simple.
Then Jason’s eyes move, down to where your breasts are just beginning to grow. They’re so sensitive that you have to wear a training bra just to avoid yelping every time something brushes you the wrong way. “Cut a little low, don’t you think?”
“I – Mom said it was normal.”
“Yeah, true. You look like a whole adult in that thing.” His eyes are lingering on your chest. “Pull it down.”
“You heard me.”
He looks like a shark. A shark with blood in the water. “I don’t… understand.”
“Sure ya do. Give me a flash, come on. I know they’re bigger than they look.”
“Jason, I don’t… I’m – I’m going inside.”
You unlock the door – he just locks it again. And suddenly, you’re scared. He’s fine most of the time. But he has a temper, which means leave him alone when he’s failed an exam, or lost a soccer match. If you don’t, him shoving you around is just natural, so you do! You avoid him.
He’s never asked you for this before.
“I don’t – I don’t want to -”
He groans, rolls his eyes, like you’re a stubborn child throwing a temper tantrum. “The fuckin’ moaning’s gotta stop. I’m just asking to look, you baby.”
Why? You want to ask. You’d rather die than do it.
You tell yourself, for longer than you should, that your parents had no reason to believe you. That you should have just laughed it off. It was such a small thing, and for heaven’s sakes, people go through worse all the time. Jason was sixteen, he was curious, and besides, breasts aren’t inherently sexual –
You tell yourself this, in a running cacophonous commentary, while going out of your way to make sure you’re never alone with him again.