“Thank you,” Corin said quietly. “I feel kinda stupid….”
“Never. You know how many times Aiden had to save my ass? Creeps have to learn that they don’t f**k with any Partridge. I’ll show you some tricks sometime, when Mom’s not around. She’d have a cow. Aiden showed me that duck and punch.”
“Right in the gut!”
“You kidding? I got him in the dick. He’s gonna pee sideways for a month.”
They exchanged a knuckle bump.
“You think Aid’s okay?” Corin asked very quietly.
“Don’t know. Aid doesn’t talk much. It freaked him out, finding her like that. He liked her a lot.”
“How do you know that, and I don’t?”
“You were still a little kid, he wasn’t gonna talk about stuff like that with you.”
“Duh—he had sex with her.”
“You’re a dweeb sometimes,” Burl said affectionately.
“Thanks. Have you—ever?” Corin wouldn’t look at his brother, his ears burned red.
“No. Almost. You’re too young to think about stuff like that.”
“Aiden was younger than you!”
“And he was too young, too. He even said so when he told me. But you know, stuff happens….”
“Yeah. I guess.”
“So, show me how you do that,” Burl said, changing the subject.
Corin warmed to the subject change, and they played until dinner time. The meal was leftovers. They chose what the wanted from the array of containers, and warmed it in the microwave. On days like this, they did their own dishes. If they ate the last of something, they washed the empty container. They were just finishing up when Aiden walked in the door. Saying nothing, he went to his room, slamming the door. Deirdre peeped out of her office. “Aiden?”
“Yes?” he called, not opening his door.
Deirdre tapped on it, waiting for him to answer. He did so, looking worn out.
“Are you all right?”
“Where have you been? I thought you’d be home ages ago.”
“I had some thinking to do. I took the bus to the beach.”
“Call next time, I’ve been worried sick.”
“I tried to text.” He pulled out his phone. “Crap, it saved as a draft.” He showed it to her. “I’m sorry. I really thought I’d told you.” He spotted Corin and rushed to his brother’s side, examining him carefully. “What happened? Burl?”
His middle brother explained the altercation.
“Burl took care of it,” Corin said. “He was super spooky, nailed Moe in the nuts and scared the crap outta Xander and Oliver! And Mom! Wow, she was kick ass.”
“But you’re okay?”
“Bruised, not broken,” his mother assured him. “Dinner is leftovers.”
“I ate at McDonalds.”
“Okay, if you’re sure. What did you find out?”
“Mom, I don’t really want to talk right now. I’m beat. I’ll try to do school tomorrow. Do you think I could drive the boys in Dad’s car?”
“It hasn’t got a sticker.”
“I can buy one in the office. Please?”
Sighing, she couldn’t think of a good excuse. He was a good, safe driver. “Be careful and cautious. Don’t take chances and don’t let your temper get you in trouble.”
“I promise to behave—as badly as possible. Sheesh, Mom. You act like you don’t trust me.”
“I trust you fine. I don’t trust anyone else. Drive defensively.”
“I promise. If I don’t, Corin will rat me out.” He ruffled his brother’s hair.
“Can’t I take a day?” Corin whined. “I’m bro-hen!” He made his fingers like twisted claws, bending over like Quasimodo.
“No. You’re not broken. You’re bent,” Aiden said, pinching his ribs.
Corin squeaked, jumping away. “Ow! Ow! Ow!”
“Sorry, I’m sorry, kid. I’m so sorry!” Aiden burst into tears, falling to his knees. “I’m so sorry.”
His little brother dropped to the floor beside him, hugging him almost savagely. “I’m okay. I’m fine. It’s gonna be all right, Aid. It really is. Just—we do this together, okay? Nothing and no one comes between the Partridge Boys.”
“Nothing, no one,” Burl said, squatting by his brothers. He didn’t hug them, but he was beside them adding his support. “They will find who killed her, and bring the bastard to justice. Belief.” He held out his knuckles for his brothers to tap.
© 2018 Dellani Oakes
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