My first smile was for Andrew. Or so Mom told me. I don't remember, obviously. The first memory I had of him was his shrill voice shouting: "No," as my tubby hand reached for his stuffed dinosaur. He'd batted my fingers aside and clutched the dinosaur to his chest. I'd balled up my tiny fists and shrieked. I don't remember if I got the toy or not. I was three. He was five. I think I did. Our parents were big on sharing, Mom in particular. She'd always tell us: "Sharing is caring."
I hadn't believed her.
"Are you listening?" Mom shook my shoulder.
"Of course." I nodded.
She and Dad had seated themselves on the couch opposite me. Her fingers rested on the cushion. Like they had reached for Dad's hand but hadn't made it all the way. Dad had bunched up in the corner, looking at his phone. He scowled. Crap.
Mom sighed. "What did I just say?"
I shifted. Mom had called a family meeting, the third this month. What was this one about? School? Chores? Andrew? I crossed my fingers. Don't let it be Andrew.
I tried not to make it sound like a question. "You were reminding me to do the dishes."
"No." Mom shook her head. "Not even close."
I dug my nails into my palm, leaving little crescents. Family meetings brought bad news. I had picked the least bad. I should have guessed differently. She'd called this meeting at five o'clock, which meant Dad would miss football. Dad wouldn't miss football to hear her nag me about the dishes.
My stomach growled. Mom wouldn't be making dinner. We were lucky if she remembered to get take out. Dad ate pretzels and beer. I'd tried to make dinner a couple of times, but it hadn't gone well. I'd first used the oven when I was thirteen, making a birthday cake for Mom. I'd poured all the batter into one pan instead of two and it had dripped all over the oven, setting off the fire alarm. I hadn't improved much since.
"Sorry." I winced.
Mom looked me in the eye. She had watery blue eyes. She wished me or Andrew had inherited them, but we had brown eyes, like Dad. Neither one of us blinked. What had she said?
I flinched. "Stop staring. You're creeping me out."
"Andrew's coming home." She smiled wide. It looked like it hurt.
"Yes." I nodded.
"Andrew's coming home," she repeated.
I rolled my eyes. "I didn't think rehab was going to keep him forever."
She sucked in a breath. "No, I mean Andrew's coming home next week."
"Oh," I said. Oh fuck, I thought.
* * *
A week later, I stood in the driveway, getting ready to meet Andrew. Mom had made a welcome home sign and hung it over the door. I thought it was silly. He'd been at rehab, not summer camp. Besides, he was seventeen and I was fifteen. We were too old for welcome home signs. I took a piece of gum from my pocket and began to chew.
Mom and Dad had gone to see him a few times, as part of his therapy. I only went once. Everyone there was slump shouldered and sad. Andrew didn't need me there anyway. Since he'd started drinking, he'd ignored me. I was…fine with that, completely fine.
Dad steered Andrew up the walk, one hand on his shoulder. Andrew scowled. He hadn't changed much since I saw him last. He'd even managed to stay fit. How had he done it? Push-ups between meetings? Andrew was obsessed with exercise. Before he left, he'd bear hug me so hard it hurt. It was one of the ways he tried to annoy me. But that afternoon he didn't hug me. He stood there with his arms at his sides.
"Andy!" Mom hurried down the driveway and seized him in her arms. He paused and then hugged her back. I stayed where I was.
She looked him up and down. "It's so good to have you home."
"It's good to be home." He smiled.
"I hope you learned your lesson." Dad tightened his grip on Andrew's shoulder. I sighed. Learned his lesson? Could Dad have said anything more useless?
"That place was expensive." Dad gave Andrew a hard look.
"I know." Andrew shrugged off Dad's hand. "I'll make it up to you."
How often had we heard that before? This will be the last time. I'll do better. I promise. Still, if Mom and Dad chose to believe it, it would make things easier. Until he relapsed again.
Mom shot a glance at Dad behind Andrew's back. "We agreed not to discuss this until Andy's settled."
I sighed again. Mom should have known better. Dad would always do exactly what he wanted. Usually, it was something that annoyed the crap out of everyone else. That was how we ended up taking booze cruises two years in a row.
"I don't mind." Andrew leaned back, his hands dangling at his sides. His fingers twitched. "I wanted to ask you. My group leader suggested I keep seeing a psychiatrist. What do you think?"
"A psychiatrist? They're not even real doctors." Dad snorted.
Mom pursed her lips. "We'll discuss it later."
Dad rolled his eyes. "You want to see a psychic too?"
Andrew turned to face Dad. He balled his fists at his sides. I took a step back. When he looked at Dad like that, it meant he was getting ready to fight. He'd be grounded for a month, but he would say his piece. "No, I want to see a psychiatrist. Not a psychic. A psychiatrist."
"I said we'll discuss it later." Mom put her hand on Andrew's shoulder and drew him back. "Come say hello to your sister."
"Hi, Cami." He waved and gave me a shaky smile.
"Andrew." I nodded. What was there to say? How was rehab? Try not to get arrested this time.
"It's good to see you."
"It's good to see…" I stopped. "It's good to see you looking healthier." There, that wasn't a lie. I tensed my shoulders as we walked into the house. Mom had said this would be a fresh start. I sincerely doubted it. We'd be at each other's throats by next week, latest.
* * *
Next week actually wasn't bad. I stayed in my room, watching RWBY, my favorite anime. It was a Brothers Grimm meets Harry Potter kind of story. The characters had special powers and no one was addicted to anything. They could crash into rocks, get attacked by giant wolves, and fall miles through the air, but by the end of the episode they would be fine.
Someone knocked and I tensed.
"Cami?" It was Andrew. "Can I come in?"
I paused. "Okay."
He came into the room, stepping around the clothes on the floor. I was never neat. When I was younger, you couldn't see the carpet. Even now, papers covered so much of the desk that I had to work on the floor instead. I hadn't made my bed in a week. Andrew raised an eyebrow. "Did a bomb go off in here?"
"You should talk." I rolled my eyes. "Your boxing gear smells like something died in it."
"Does not, it smells like roses."
"Yeah," I nodded. "Roses growing on manure."
He picked up a sweater from the floor and threw it at me.
I put my hands up. "Hey!"
"Hay is for horses." He smiled.
I looked at him. He was wearing a pair of running shorts and the blue mesh t-shirt I got him for Christmas. Did he choose that shirt for me? His eyes were clear and his cheeks didn't look red. I was too far away to smell his breath,
I took a deep breath. "It's about these girls who go to a school for huntresses. They all have powers and they fight enormous creatures called grim. The lead is called Ruby Rose…"
* * *
Andrew had been home for a month and a half when his psychiatrist asked us to come for a family therapy session. After two weeks of Mom's lobbying, Dad had finally caved and let Andrew see one. My stomach flipped when I heard. It wouldn't be like talking to Andrew one on one. Family therapy wouldn't be any better than family meetings. Mom would smile and nod, but the smile wouldn't reach her eyes. Dad would scowl in the corner. I didn't know what Andrew would do. He would either sit in the middle with a frozen look on his face, or worse he would argue with Dad. Mom and I knew arguing with Dad was futile, like Don Quixote tilting at wind mills, but Andrew hadn't grasped that. Mom maneuvered around him. She'd nod her head and say "yes dear," but later she'd work a compromise behind his back. I ignored him. And Andrew got hurt when he argued with Dad. I'd caught him crying in his room once, and he'd made me promise I wouldn't tell. Men, Andrew said, didn't cry.
The psychiatrist's office was cozy and well lit. A selection of children's toys sat on a bookshelf: dinosaurs, Legos, a little sand garden with a miniature rake. There was a couch and three poufy chairs. The psychiatrist sat in one of the chairs. I made sure to snag one of the other ones. I didn't want to get stuck on the couch with Mom and Dad.
"Thank you for coming in." The psychiatrist smiled.
"Of course." Mom twisted her wedding ring around her finger.
"Would you like a glass of water?"
"No thank you, Dr. Rosenthal." Mom smiled.
Dr. Rosenthal looked at me. "How about you?"
"I'm fine." I willed myself to fade into the back of the chair. If I didn't move too much, they might forget I was there. I could be a caterpillar blending into the leaves around it, avoiding predatory birds. Or I could pretend to be one.
"Okay. Shall we start?"
Andrew gave a stiff nod.
Dr. Rosenthal smiled at Mom and Dad. "We've asked you here today because Andrew has something he'd like to share."
I ground my teeth. The session had barely started and I was already counting the minutes until the end. Then it would be a long uncomfortable car ride home. But after that I could make a grilled cheese and disappear to my room. No one would notice.
"Are you ready?" Dr. Rosenthal looked at Andrew.
"Go ahead, sweetie." Mom brushed her hair back from her forehead.
Andrew's face was pale as sour milk. "Dr. Rosenthal thinks I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder."
There was a long pause. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder? Did that mean Andrew wanted to clean stuff? Had he started to pour boiling water over his toothbrush like Monk? I couldn't see it. Mom had to nag Andrew to get him to Lysol his boxing helmet. His room was only a little cleaner than mine. He put his clothes in the laundry whereas I forgot and left them on the floor. That was the one difference.
"Can you explain?" Mom leaned towards Dr. Rosenthal.
Dad grunted. "He drinks too much. If he cut back, we wouldn't be here."
"It's not that simple."
"Sure it is." Dad raised his voice.
"I hate to say it, but this sounds like an excuse. This isn't the first time. " Mom looked down. "Unless he takes responsibility, I don't believe he'll stop."
"It's not an excuse." Andrew's fists clenched. "Not this time."
I glanced at him. When Andrew lied, he'd look you in the eye. He'd either keep his voice light or he'd lower it—trying to convince you he knew the situation was serious. This time the words came out in a rush. Like if he paused, he wouldn't get them out at all.
I opened my mouth. "But he doesn't clean anything."
"Your brother is closer to the obsessive end of the spectrum. His OCD manifests itself in the form of invasive thoughts."
Dad raised his eyebrows. "He drinks because he has invasive thoughts?"
Dr. Rosenthal soldiered on. "Sufferers of this kind of OCD experience thoughts of harming self or others, snapping or losing control, or behaving in an inappropriate sexual manner."
I swallowed. Did that mean Andrew would hurt himself? His drinking hurt him, but I didn't think that was what Dr. Rosenthal meant.
"He's going to snap?" asked Dad.
"No, these are thoughts, nothing more. Your son is no danger to himself or anyone else."
"So he's crazy?"
"I'm not crazy!" Andrew stood up.
Dr. Rosenthal looked at Dad. "That's not what I'm saying. Your son isn't crazy."
"Really? Because this sounds like an insanity defense." Dad glared at Andrew.
Uh, oh, I thought. This wasn't going to end well. Andrew gritted his teeth. "This is why I didn't tell you before. I knew you wouldn't listen. You never listen."
"I would, if you said anything worth listening to." There was an ugly twist to Dad's mouth. I tucked my legs under me and scooted further back in my chair.
"Honey…" Mom reached up and tugged Dad's elbow. He shrugged her off.
Andrew set his shoulders. Don't, I thought, it won't help. I knew he would though, he always did. "If you got your head out of your ass, then you'd—"
Dr. Rosenthal stood up. She tried to steer Dad back into his seat. "Why don't we calm down?"
Dad pushed her away. "I didn't come here to be insulted."
"This isn't helping," replied Dr. Rosenthal.
"Something we agree on."
"Dear…"Mom reached for Dad's hand again.
"I'm tired of his excuses." He pointed at Andrew, voice raised. "Do you know what you put this family through?"
Andrew looked down. "Yes."
Dr. Rosenthal cleared her throat. "I can see this isn't going to be productive. Andrew, could you wait outside while I speak with your parents?"
Dad spoke over her. "What makes you think you'll stop this time? Huh?"
Andrew met Dad's eyes. I could have sworn he was smiling. "Because I don't want to end up like you."
My jaw dropped. Dad drank. He could usually get through a couple of six packs over the weekend. I remembered him draping his arm around my shoulders at Uncle John's wedding, how sour his breath smelled. He'd had both wine and beer that night. But he'd never lost control like Andrew had. Except for the time when he'd been drinking and he'd yelled at us that, "we don't lock doors in this house." One of us had locked the bathroom and forgotten to unlock it after we left. It was me, but I didn't say anything. When you see a charging bull, you don't step in front of it.
Dad's face turned purple. "You little—!"
"Enough!" Dr. Rosenthal shouted. I jumped. Surprisingly, she had a set of pipes on her. "Andrew, will you please wait outside? Mr. Wilson, I need you to calm down."
Andrew raised his hands like someone had told him to stick em up. "Fine, I'm leaving." He wrenched the door open and slammed it shut behind him.
Well shit, I thought.
* * *
Later that evening, I slipped downstairs to make some frozen macaroni. I prayed that no one would see me. Talking would be excruciating after what happened. Dad was upstairs, glued to the football game, and Mom was in their room reading Better Homes and Gardens. I didn't know where Andrew was, probably in the garage hitting his speed bag. Or out getting wasted. If he wasn't planning on it before, this morning's "therapy" session would get him started again. Had he been trying to get sober? Was the OCD another excuse, like Dad said, or was it real? Neither Dad nor Andrew was reliable. But the psychiatrist had said it was real and she'd gone to med school. How good a liar did you have to be to fool someone who'd gone to med school? The microwave beeped and I opened it. I'd eat in my room while I watched some more RWBY. Ruby Rose and her friends were about to confront a shitload of monsters.
I paused outside Andrew's door on my way up and, against my better judgment, I knocked. What was I going to say? Before he'd started drinking, I'd come to his room and we'd watch Mission Impossible together after he fought with Dad. Sometimes, he'd let me hold his hand. But since he'd started drinking last year, we hadn't spoken much. He'd deteriorated fast and I'd tried to stay out of his way. But now…I knocked again.
No one answered. I knocked louder. I pushed the door open and looked inside. No one was there. The room was even messier than usual. He'd even taken everything out of his underwear drawer and left it pulled out of the dresser. Why would he do that? He couldn't go through a whole drawer of underwear in a day. I looked over the rest of the room. My eyes stopped at his closet door where his backpack hung. It wasn't there. I stepped inside. Andrew kept a stash of money under his bed. Not the most original place, but our parents had never found it. I took a quick peek. It had vanished. Why would Andrew take his backpack, his money, and a ton of underwear? I froze. Damn.
I hurried through the hall and tapped on Mom's door. "Mom, have you seen Andrew?"
She put down Better Homes and Gardens. "No sweetie, why?"
I took a deep breath. "Because I think he ran away."
Her face went white and she leapt from the bed. How did Andrew cause this much trouble when he wasn't even here?
* * *
The next morning arrived and Andrew still hadn't come back. Mom and Dad went down to the police station and filed a missing person's report. My brother was now officially a missing person. I rubbed my temples and walked down the hall to the bathroom in search of Advil. A monster headache had started to build up in the front of my skull. I used to get migraines a lot. Once, I threw up on the floor of my third grade classroom. Andrew soaked my forehead in cold wash cloths. Then, when I got better, he called me barfy until Mom made him stop. It wasn't a very creative taunt, but then I'd always been better at those things than him. I wondered if his life would have been easier if he'd known more about smart remarks—the kind that stung people if they got too close. I opened the bottle of Advil.
A hand touched my shoulder and I jumped. "What the—!"
"Hey, sweetie," Mom spoke quietly, like she was at a sickbed. "Do you want me to make scrambled eggs?"
She thought scrambled eggs would help? I sighed. "Sure, Mom."
She tried to smile. "That way there'll be a nice breakfast ready for Andrew when he gets home."
I ducked my head. Andrew was probably on the Greyhound, getting as far away from us as possible. If he wasn't sitting on a corner, drinking his way through a six pack. How could I break this to Mom gently? "You think he's coming back?"
She nodded. "He'll come home when he calms down."
"He and Dad had a big fight. It might be awhile."
"I can warm them up." She looked me in the eye. "Your brother is coming home."
Oh boy. The sooner she accepted that Andrew was gone, the easier things would be. "He left home because Dad yelled at him. Why would he come back and have Dad yell at him more?"
Mom blanched. "I'll talk with your father."
I stopped myself from rolling my eyes. When had Mom talking to Dad done any good whatsoever? She hadn't been able to do anything in Dr. Rosenthal's office. Why did she think she'd be able to do anything now? I ran my tongue around my lips, searching for the right words. "Dad might not, he doesn't usually…"
Mom squeezed my shoulder. "Sweetie, I promise you it will be fine."
I sighed again. If only I could believe it.
* * *
Later that night, I slipped out of my bed and crept downstairs. I'd had trouble sleeping and I wanted a glass of warm milk. My brother was missing and my parents didn't have a better strategy than making scrambled eggs. Voices came from the kitchen and I paused. Why were Mom and Dad up? They usually went to bed at ten. I rubbed my eyes and shuffled closer to the kitchen. To get my milk, I would have to go past them. What if they were talking about Andrew? Some things you couldn't unhear. But if I didn't get warm milk, I would keep tossing and turning—stupid insomnia. I could see their silhouettes at the kitchen table. Dad sat with his head in his palms, a half-empty beer glass by his side. Mom held one of his hands in both of hers. I stepped closer.
"I didn't think he'd run away." Dad mumbled. Shit, this was about Andrew. I bit my lip.
"You were hard on him."
Dad swigged his beer. "You think this is hard? My father hit me with a belt. Mean old bastard."
I gasped. His father used to hit Dad? We'd never met our grandfather on Dad's side. Dad had joked that he was a two-headed monster who ate kids for breakfast. Was this why?
"That doesn't mean…in those days…" Mom trailed off. It was never good when she stammered like that. She started again. "When we first married, you told me you wanted to be a better father to Andrew than yours was to you."
"And I am. I never laid a hand on him."
Mom sighed. "There's more to being a good father than not hitting your children. You need to be supportive."
Dad's voice rose. "I support him. I paid for rehab. Didn't I?"
"I never said you weren't a good provider. But when was the last time you told Andrew you were proud of him?"
"When was the last time he earned it?"
Mom put up a hand. "Answer the question."
Dad looked down at the table. "I don't remember."
I'd heard enough. I banged my shoulder into the wall, hard. Mom jumped and turned to see me in the doorway. "Sweetie, you startled me."
Dad looked like he'd aged ten years since this morning. A flush crept up his neck. "Did you hear that?"
My heart beat fast. "No."
Dad's face relaxed. "Why are you up?"
"Getting some warm milk." I shrugged. "Couldn't sleep."
"I'll make you some." Mom poured a cup and put it in the microwave. We waited in silence until it beeped. She took it out and handed it to me. "Careful, it's hot."
"Sure, Mom." I forced a smile. "Good night."
"Good night, sweetie." Mom hugged me. "Sleep tight."
"Good night, Munchkin." Dad waved from the table. He still called me munchkin. It had started when I was little. I'd been obsessed with the Wizard of Oz and Dad used to watch it with me. He'd started calling me munchkin and it stuck. I wrapped my hands around the cup. Its warmth seeped through my fingers.
* * *
Even with the milk, I didn't sleep well. I kicked the blankets into a lump and used the sheet. Then it got too cold and I pulled them back up. My chest tightened and I had to take deep breaths to get it to unclench. It was three in the morning before I closed my eyes.
It seemed like only a few minutes later when a hand shook my shoulder. I pressed my face into the pillow. If they thought I was still asleep, they'd go away. Play possum, I thought. I did it all the time in middle school. I was good at it. Mom never got me out of bed. She'd send Andrew in to tickle me. But Andrew wasn't here. I yanked the covers higher.
"It's time to get up." Mom took the blankets and pulled. I blinked in the sudden light.
"But it's summer," I mumbled.
"We need your help looking for Andrew." She tugged on my arm.
"Hey!" I pulled away.
"What if I don't want to help?" I muttered, too softly for her to hear.
"Take some of these." She thrust a stack of papers at me. I looked down at them. They read: Have you seen this boy? Great, I thought, my brother's face on a missing poster. Were we going to put this on the telephone poles? Like a lost pet?
"Good. We'll be downtown. Come join us when you're ready." Mom turned on her heel and left.
I oozed out of bed and pulled on a summer dress. My feet dragged behind me as I lurched down the stairs to the outside. It was eight o'clock in the morning and seventy-five degrees. I wiped the sweat from my forehead. If Andrew was in town, where would he go? Somewhere shady, I answered myself. What shady places did he know? I ran my fingers through my hair. There was the old swing set in the woods a couple of blocks down. We'd played there as kids. We'd pretend that he was a knight and I was a wizard, and we had to defeat the evil tree gnomes. Dad had let him watch Lord of the Rings when he was seven. He was fine with the Orcs, but the Ents freaked him out. I shrugged. I didn't have a better place to start.
I'd been tramping through the woods for ten minutes, trying not to get scratched, when I saw the outline of the rusty swing set and the curve of a familiar back. I caught my breath. When Mom had turfed me out of bed, neither she nor Dad had mentioned what to do if I found Andrew. He hadn't noticed me, even though I was right behind him. Now I was closer, I could see an empty beer bottle on the ground. I gave him a hard shove.
He grabbed hold of the chain links to keep from falling off. "What the…!"
"You asshole," I hissed.
He turned around. "I can explain."
"Sure you can." I rolled my eyes.
"I meant to do better. I meant to stop. Only I didn't." He looked at his shoes.
"Were you gone an hour before you started drinking?" I raised my voice.
He blushed. "Yes."
I smelt the alcohol on his breath. "Dammit! You say you'll change. You get my—everybody's hopes up. Don't you get sick of bullshitting?"
He recoiled. I had never spoken to him like this before. When he and our parents argued, I stayed silent. So he didn't like me now I challenged him? Fine, I didn't like him now he drank. I made my voice icy. I heard the tremor in it, but he didn't. "Go ahead, drink yourself into a stupor."
I blinked rapidly as I tramped away. Mom would have wanted me to stay and convince him to come home. Dad would have said worse than I did. He would have thrown in some choice remarks about Andrew's OCD. Had Andrew been faking that? I tripped over a tree root and stubbed my toe. "Shit!"
I limped out of the woods and onto the street. I would let Mom and Dad know where Andrew was. If they wanted Andrew home, they could go and argue with him. Should I call 911 too? Andrew wasn't hurt, but if he stayed out longer he would be. I wouldn't put it past him to fall down drunk and get run over. Seeing him in the back of a squad car had its appeal. If I called 911, they could connect me to the police department. I dialed.
Fuck you Andrew, I thought.
The police brought him home that morning. I watched from the window. Mom was clamped so tightly to Andrew's side she made him stagger. Even Dad looked happy see him. They didn't hug, but he gripped Andrew's shoulder in a manly way.
I stayed inside.
* * *
After he got back, I spoke to Andrew as little as possible. I'd said what I wanted to say. I'm not good at arguing, but I'm a master at the silent treatment. I didn't wish him good morning or good night. If he asked me to pass the salt, I did it without speaking. Andrew was home, but to me he was still missing. There was an Andrew shaped space under my ribcage where he normally fit.
He didn't have time for me anyway. He was busy with Dr. Rosenthal, trying to control his "issues." Mom read OCD literature: The OCD Workbook, Freedom from OCD, and so on. She'd recite portions of it at dinner. Andrew would blush. Dad would grunt, but he may have listened to some of it. He no longer accused Andrew of faking. Mom sent an apology card and bouquet of roses to Dr. Rosenthal, which she made Dad sign. Andrew got his thirty days sober chip. I started watching YouTube clips of people playing video games. Because it was summer, I could stay up late. I still had trouble getting to sleep and the screen entertained me.
One night, a month after Andrew's return, I shuffled downstairs for a drink of milk. My throat was sandpaper dry. I didn't turn the lights on and walked as silently as possible. The only sound was Dad's snores. He snored like a grizzly bear, but he'd never admit it. And it was never a good idea to wake him up. He'd start yelling.
I reached on tiptoe for the mugs. My favorite mug was at the back, behind the coffee cups from our Alaskan cruise. That year, Andrew had vomited on my shoes. I stretched up higher. If I could brush the cups aside…
Crash! The cups shattered on the counter. I jumped backward and fell, twisting my knee. "Shit!"
I clapped a hand over my mouth. If the crash hadn't woken people up, swearing would. Had I said it loudly or had I yelled? One thousand, two one thousand, I held my breath. Please be asleep.
Footsteps thudded on the stairs. The light came on. Not only had I woken Dad up, but Mom and Andrew were there too, standing behind him. Dad's cheeks were red. Uh oh.
"Are you okay?" Mom asked.
"Fine." I eased myself up.
"Then why did you yell?" Dad growled.
Andrew cleared his throat. "It was me who yelled. I saw her on the floor and got worried."
I froze. Andrew was lying for me? Since when did he cover anyone's ass but his own? I hid my expression. Would Dad realize that because Andrew was in the back that meant he'd gotten here later—after the yell? Dad didn't think clearly at night. But who was I to let Andrew take the blame? I opened my mouth, "What Andrew—"
Andrew interrupted me. "I thought she hurt herself so I yelled. I'm sorry."
Dad turned towards Andrew. "You—"
Mom interrupted him. "Honey, it was an honest mistake. Let's go back to bed."
Yes, please go back to bed. I rubbed my knee. It hurt where I'd banged it against the floor.
"Sweetie, are you okay?"
"Fine." I nodded. "You already asked."
"Are you sure, Munchkin?" Dad looked at me closely for the first time.
* * *
The next morning, I sat at my computer when a knock came at my door. I froze. Had Dad found out? I logged off. My eyes had started to strain and I could feel a headache coming on. "In a minute."
I shuffled over and opened it. Andrew stood there, hands in his pockets. "Hey," he said.
"What are you doing here?" I propped my hands on my hips, like Mom used to when one of us tracked dirt in the house. It was hard to give someone the silent treatment when they started bothering you in your room.
"I wanted to talk. Can I come in?" Andrew pushed open the door.
"I'm busy now. Can it wait?" I forced a smile.
Andrew looked down. "I wanted to apologize for when you found me. I was an asshole."
"It's fine." I started to close the door.
Andrew pushed back. "You've barely spoken to me."
"Like you said, you were an asshole."
"I should have followed you. I should have…"
"Not started drinking in the first place." I raised my eyebrows.
"The OCD wasn't a lie. I do have it, even if I don't clean all the time."
"So I don't get to call you Monk?" I tried for a joke and then winced. Why should I try anything for Andrew? He was a jerk. He didn't deserve anything from me. But I would give him something. I always had. If he asked for one of my kidneys, I would hand it over.
"One of the guys in rehab told me everyone lies for a different reason. Some people lie because they're greedy. Some people lie because they're scared." He took a deep breath. "I lied because I was ashamed."
"Why?" I burst out. "After you started drinking you were a jerk, but before…"
He clenched his jaw. "I started hearing these voices, telling me I would…do bad things. They stuck in my head."
"So OCD is like schizophrenia?"
"No, not that. It's different from schizophrenia, but it made me scared of myself. I'd look around at all the normal happy people. They weren't afraid of snapping."
"Like a rubber band?" The more Andrew spoke the more confused I got. I understood that it wasn't cleaning, but that was all. And I understood that Andrew was scared. I flinched. Andrew had never been scared. He'd always been the first one down the slide. He'd liked to scrabble up the boulders at the beach. When someone yelled at him or called him a name, he always fought back.
"You don't get scared. You don't even get nightmares."
Andrew's mouth twisted. "I get nightmares. But mine happen when I'm awake."
"Oh." I could hear my heart beating.
"I wanted to say sorry." Andrew turned to go.
I put my hand on his arm. "Wait, I'm sorry too."
"You didn't do anything."
"No, I'm sorry this happened to you."
Andrew loosened his shoulders. "Thanks, that means a lot."
"You're welcome. I guess." I shrugged, and then wrapped my arms around him. What was I doing? Andrew could relapse and it would be worse if I got my hopes up. But it felt good to hold him. Something under my ribcage loosened. I tried to scowl. "Don't think because I'm hugging you it means I've gotten mushy. This is a onetime offer."
But I gripped him very hard all the same.
"Wouldn't dream of it." I looked up at Andrew and saw him smile. I hadn't seen him smile in a long time. When he was little, he had this goofy grin, like a puppy dog. As he got older, I watched it fade away bit by bit. Now, I saw it flit across his face again, like a ghost or a strand of sunlight.