I’m six years younger than my brother; he’s the smart one.
For as long as I can remember, it’s always been Billy in the spotlight, totally eclipsing me. And this has always struck me as strange; it’s normally the new kid that gets all the attention, and the ones that are already here get jealous of all the “coochy-coochy-coo-ing” the little squib gets from parents and relatives. Maybe I received that attention in the early months of my life — I can’t remember, naturally. But then later, it was all him. All the time. Everywhere.
At Christmas parties for instance, when uncles and aunts and cousins came round to ours. I’d offer up my drawings expecting interest, perhaps admiration, and all I’d get would be patient, condescending mutterings. Then my mother would start bragging about Billy’s exam results, and there’d be wide-eyed ooh-ing and aah-ing from all and sundry.
He was so bright, in fact — I can’t take it away from him — that he skipped a year in Primary school, and then again in Secondary. I followed him in the same schools but entered just after he left both. I remember starting Primary, all excited and eager to impress. The first thing my very first teacher said to me, when she was taking the register, was this:
“So you’re Billy’s brother, then?”
They all loved him there: from every single teacher, for his precocious intelligence, right down to the caretaker, for his cheekiness. There were girls who’d been class-mates of his before he went into overdrive and leapt up the levels. They’d accost me in the playground, ruffle my hair and ask after Billy. I think they were fishing for me to mention them to him. I never did, of course.
At home, both my parents were in thrall to him. They treated him like he was a rare egg or something, almost too precious to handle. He took advantage of it, milking their esteem for every present and favour he could wangle — as I would have done in the same situation, if I’m honest. I got second dibs on everything.
All of this helped to harden me, and by the time I was fourteen, I was getting into trouble — minor acts of vandalism to begin with, then moving up to shoplifting, burglary, drug-pushing, assault. I spent some time in juvenile detention, where I learned to commit those crimes better. And when I came out of correctional institutions in my late teens, I was beyond saving. I’m not proud of it; it’s just the way it was.
After a while, I stopped caring if people liked me or not, respected me or not. Even if they did, which was rare, they never liked or respected me as much as Billy, and that stuck in my craw like a chicken bone.
We’d never been close, because of the gulf in the way we were treated I think, and by my early twenties, I’d all but lost touch with him, and my parents.
But I’ve learned from the odd meeting with cousins and other people who know him, and from some research on the Net, that he’s doing very well for himself now as a lawyer, and is married to a very classy woman from the better part of town. They have two kids, who I’ve never met but have seen; I found out their address and have driven past the house more than once, just to see how the other half lives. From what I can tell, they all seem very happy.
For my part, I’ve shifted from low-paid job to low-paid job, and from one petty crime to the next, never able (nor willing, it must be said) to put enough by to settle down. I’ve had brief flings with women of varying levels of repute, but nothing serious or long-lasting. In short, my life’s a bit of a mess, and certainly nothing to compare with Billy’s perfect little world.
So anyway, the other day I was coming out of Clarke’s snooker hall in the centre of town, feeling pretty up because I’d won twenty quid off Pete Wood; he can’t play snooker to save his life. I’d just got into the car and was about to drive to Stan’s to score some weed when I saw him — Billy. He didn’t see me.
He was getting out of his BMW, parked in an alleyway next to a particularly dodgy hotel that I’ve used before myself, so I know why most people go there. He skipped round to the other side of the car and opened the door for … let’s just say a woman who wasn’t his wife. He hurried her into the hotel.
I actually laughed out loud, sitting there in my car. My fine, upstanding brother, Billy. In a hotel of that calibre. With a woman who looked like she might be quite expensive. But why here? He was slumming it a bit, wasn’t he? I figured it was because anywhere classier, he might bump into someone he knew. It made sense.
An idea flashed into my mind. I went to the boot of the car, popped it and opened up a box I’d put there: a dozen stolen cameras, good quality, primed and ready to go. I took one and sat back in the car.
I didn’t have to wait long; about half an hour later (less stamina than me, I noted), they emerged and I started snapping away: them coming out; him with his arm around her; him opening the car door for her; his smile as he skipped to the driver’s side again and got in; their long kiss before he drove away.
I’ve thought about what to do with the photos. Blackmail crossed my mind — God knows I need the cash — but all things considered, that’s really a recipe for disaster. No, what I’ve decided to do is simply print out the photos and send them to his house, addressed to his wife. It’ll be perfectly anonymous, there won’t be any demands for money, they won’t have a clue who’s sent them.
But the conversations and arguments they’re bound to have — oh my! Imagining them has brightened my days, I can tell you — her accusing, him making convoluted excuses. And hopefully my parents will get wind of it, and in their eyes perfect Billy won’t be so perfect any more. Maybe word will get to his firm, too — or maybe I’ll simply send them copies as well. Ah, the possibilities, the possibilities.
And if I monitor the situation and discover all of this has happened — that Billy’s pedestal has started to wobble — then perhaps I’ll make a re-appearance at home.
Yep. Perhaps it’s finally time to step out of Billy’s shadow.