This story is by Lina Wrangert and was part of our 2018 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“Greg! I know you’re in there, just open will you?” Andy’s raised voice passed through the door, but his hollering plea was left ignored.
Greg maintained his slouched posture on the sofa, draped inside his white blanket and kept his deadened gaze to the television but Andy kept thumping on the door. Greg’s lips flickered an ounce in response.
“Stop being such an ass and let me in you idiot!” Andy’s muffled shout vibrated through the wood. The insufferable pounding continued. The sound crunched his gut and his dark eyebrows winced together.
Greg inhaled a sharp breath before he pushed himself off the sofa. He threw the door open and nearly smacked it in Andy’s face.
“What?” Greg groaned and beamed his striking glare at his half-brother.
“I tried calling you…” Andy’s shout had subsided into a low murmur. “Everyday.” His brows snapped together when he roamed his gaze across Greg’s unkempt hair. It was tousled and sprouted in every direction. His chin wasn’t properly shaved and left ragged stubbles with uneven measures submerging from his jaw. Andy´s lips parted but Greg responded before Andy could get the chance to comment Greg´s unsanitary state.
“Yeah, I know you tried to call me.” Greg cleared his rasped tone. “And I stealthily ignored it.”
Andy´s attention fell to the blanket clinging around Greg´s form.
“Are you wearing anything under that?” Andy shot him a look.
Greg scoffed but sustained his stiffened composure without the usual faint trace of a grin that would curl at the edge of his lips.
“Actually, this time I am.” Greg whipped the blanket open with an arm but the immediate taunt and twisting lips from Andy reminded him that that was not the case.
“Well, I thought I was.” Greg muttered and wrapped himself inside the sheet again.
“Look.” Andy exhaled. “I’m worried about you.”
Greg fluttered his eyes down the floor and compressed his lips. “Well, don’t be.”
“Greg, we’re brothers, I just -”
“No, Andy. We´re not.” Greg snapped back with a harsher tone this time. “You were never my brother.”
Andy’s brows dropped. His head gave a light shake.
“You don’t mean that.” He whispered, but Greg let out a scoff with a vast smirk lifting the corner of his lips.
“Do I look like I don’t?” He emitted a long and deep breath. “Look, you and I are not friends. Stins stuck us together but… He’s dead. He got shot. We don’t have to stick together anymore.” Greg´s voice was always this gruff and laid-back murmur somewhere deep in his throat. Passive anger rounding its way to the surface.
Andy´s shoulders sunk. His eyes descended to the ground. The short-lived silence after that was filled in by Greg’s rough tone.
“I’m fine. I can handle it. Just leave me alone, will you?”
But that was not enough harm to draw Andy away from the door.
“Fine – you’re fine!?” Andy almost shouted. Greg straightened his posture and strained his eyes at him.
“Look at you. You’re a mess and you’ve locked yourself in here for days only wearing a blanket cuz you wont get your ass off the couch. It even got your butts imprint and you’re fine?” Andy huffed with an eyebrow shooting up and put his hands on his waist. “Why can’t you just accept help for once in your life?”
“I don’t want your help.” Greg snarled. “I’ve seen what happens when you help people. Everything goes to shit. I mean look at what happened to -” His throat snapped dry and his shoulders caved in further. Greg’s fingers fumbled at the blanket’s material around his body.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Andy’s voice broke in a quiver.
“Well, you hardly helped when Stins went into that allay.” Greg proceeded with a murmur only empowered by a husky breath. “He was drunk, looking for a toilet and you said he would be fine on his own and that we should wait at the beginning of that fucking allay.” His eyes darkened like a shadow swallowing all light. “Then what? He got shot in the chest by some robber. I ran to him. Held him while he died and you should have seen that look. He always smiled. Even then he tried to smile before he – ” Greg’s throat tensed and he went silent before his attention rose back to Andy. His gaze was like charged particles of flames in colors of blue. “And what did you do?”
Andy’s chest jerked. He rubbed the end of his checkered shirt sleeve over his eye. “Don’t you make it sound like I killed him.” He sniffled. His lower lip twitched and his fingers trembled like leaves shuddering in the wind. “Don’t you dare!”
“Oh, I do.” Greg’s indistinct grumble came through the tightening jaw. “Because you know what? You did -”
Andy´s fist broke Greg´s sentence. It collided with his chin with such strength, Greg’s balance strayed and his back plunged to the floor. A shivering breath gusted through his lips in the harsh and unexpected collision. He managed to slip his elbows beneath him and sit up. He sunk his teeth into his bottom lip to sense that bitter taste of salty blood sipping through the cut where Andy’s fist had made its impact.
“You know, it sucks.“ Andy’s words were drained beneath the sob that ripped his chest.
“Having one brother dead and the other one treating me like I’m dead!”
Andy had never loathed anyone before, but the menacing tone of his voice cutting through the night with not even a trace of anxiety over what he had done to Greg´s face indicated he had reached a point where he finally did loathe someone. Greg´s eyes sunk to the floor. When that spark of fire that fed his anger burnt out, he was left crumbling to ashes in what remained.
“You know what?” Andy scoffed and chewed at the inside of his cheek. “Screw you, Greg. We´re done!”
Then he exited the door and scurried down the steps until he was gone. Silence flooded the apartment. A moment later Greg detected footsteps operating in his direction from the kitchen. He glanced up from the floor to see his wife with almost the same expression Andy had carried when he left. She´d probably overhead their shouting from the bedroom.
“You’re an idiot.” Annie folded her arms and leaned against the kitchen counter. “Here he comes to look after you and you send him off. Sure, he’s messed up plenty of times but so have you. He looks up to you Greg, just like he looked up to your brother and you’re throwing that down the drain because you’re too stubborn to admit that you´ve also screwed up.” She sniffled and gave a light shake of her head. Greg´s gaze traveled to the ground again. He winced when his fingers brushed against the wound, though he knew he had very well deserved it.
“You gotta stop looking at the things you’ve lost and realise what you have here. Otherwise you’re gonna lose them too.” Annie pushed her back away from the counter. She curled her fingers around a pillow which had been laying around on the kitchen table and then tossed it to Greg. “Here. You can sleep on the couch.” She muttered and headed back where she had previously been.
Greg´s form was spread across the sofa with an arm tucked beneath his head. His sharp stare cut through the darkness and hovered over the table where his phone sat. This was the time Andy called each night, but the bickering sound of him ringing had turned into a void of silence. He found it was far more unpleasant than Andy´s frequent telephone calls. He pushed himself upright and hunched over the table. His head sunk down. His fingers trailed up his neck and dug at the roots of his short and messy hair.
He peered at the cell phone for a long time before he took a deep breath and picked it up. He darted Andy´s number but the ringing only led to an answering machine as expected.
“Hey, Andy, it’s me… Can we meet?” Greg ran his fingers through the rough patches of stubble across his chin. “I know you have every reason to not pick up but the truth is… I need you… Actually, believe it or not, you´re the only thing that makes me smile when I don’t want to and I – I´m sorry. I’ve learned my lesson just… I can’t afford to lose you too…” Greg´s eyes crinkled shut at his own choice of words. “God, I’m an idiot.” He let out a huff and lowered the phone but right then an indistinct voice echoed through the line.
“Yeah, you kinda are. This isn’t voicemail, Greg… Come meet me at the bar in forty minutes.”