[ busted open ]
He sits down next to her and takes the newspaper right out from underneath her hands, and it’s not like that’s not normal. It’s something he’s always done, it’s something they’ve all done. They’re family, they just take. They take what they want and they hardly ever ask for it. it’s always been normal, it’s always been okay. Because there was love. When there’s love, you don’t need to ask.
This time though she glares at him and takes it back, makes him spill the glass of orange juice he’s pouring while reading the headlines on the front page. Orange pulp spatters all over the table and onto his white wife-beater and he’s up like a flash, cursing and batting at his chest.
“Shit that’s cold,” he’s saying, and “why the hell did you do that?” and “what’s your problem?” He’s saying “did you wake up on the wrong side of the bed?” and “Jesus, Colleen, this was a perfectly good tank top” and “this is pms time, isn’t it?”
She was going to bite her tongue, she was, because her plan was to just ice him, not speak to him ever again, but she’s too angry, she’s too furious to keep her mouth shut, and she’s saying “I woke up fine” and “you woke up in the wrong bed though” and when he looks at her, frozen to the spot she smiles that nasty little smile that her Dad always told her made him proud because he knew no man stood a chance against it and then she leans forward, plants her hands on the table and says “you know, since you’re fucking my mother?”
Johnny’s mouth shuts and he straightens up and he looks like for one second he wants to run, just turn tail and jet out of the door, like maybe that’ll fix things. Like a skittish little rabbit. “Colleen,” he says, swallowing convulsively, and then he’s sitting back down, his eyes gone wide and he’s doing the ten-mile stare at the far end of the kitchen and sitting there, just shocked. “Shit.”
“Yeah,” she says, and she can hear her father in her voice, that sarcastic biting tone that she hated except for when she didn’t. “Cause I’m not an idiot, Uncle Johnny. I actually have ears.”
His eyes blink slowly and finally he looks at her and his mouth twists up into a thin line. “Colleen.”
“No,” she yells, standing up so fast her chair barks on the floor when he reaches for her hand. “No, fuck you!”
He actually has the gall to look angry at her language and he tries to reach for her again. “Listen, kiddo… come on, sit down…”
“Kiddo,” she spits, laughing, and yeah, she sounds just like her father. Just like him. “How could you? How could you do this? I don’t even know what to call you anymore!”
He puts his head in his hands, heels digging into his eyes and she just glares at him, wishes she had the guts to haul back and hit him. She thinks he’d let her get away with it, because Johnny would never hit her back. But then again, she’d never thought he’d sleep with her Mom, so maybe she doesn’t know her uncle quite as well as she thought she did.
“You call me what you’ve always called me, Col. I’m still the same--”
“No, I mean, do I call you Uncle Johnny, or do I call you asshole,” she hisses, because her Mom and sister are still asleep and somehow she still cares right now because her Mom doesn’t sleep very well.
“It’s not what you think,” he says, looking over at her, and he sounds miserable. He sounds miserable like he did when his wife left him, and normally she’d shut up now. Normally she’d say she was sorry and she’d made him some eggs, because he’s Uncle Johnny and she loves him almost as much as she loves her own father, and she can’t stand to see him miserable.
He’s not that Uncle Johnny anymore though, he’s the Uncle Johnny that stays over four nights a week and kisses her and her sister on the forehead and says ‘goodnight sweetheart’ and then he settles into the couch, and she’d thought for months that that’s where he stayed. Except last night she woke up and went to the kitchen to get something to drink and she heard them. She heard them. The fuck and the oh yeah, and the god Johnny, and yeah Janet, and she’d puked right outside the window.
“I heard you,” she says, shaking, and she doesn’t know if she’s seconds away from puking, hitting him or crying. “I heard you and my Mom last night. There’s no way it’s not exactly what I think!”
“Jesus,” Johnny says, scrubbing at his face and letting out a few breaths. “Fuck.”
“And it’s bad enough,” she says, and her voice trembles, she can feel her tears coming again, and she’d spent half the night crying in the bathroom about this and now they just make her more angry. “It’s bad enough that you’re screwing around with my Mom, but to do it now?” She shakes her head, hands spreading out as the first tear falls. “Now? How can you do this now? He’s your brother!”
Johnny’s mouth turns down in that angry frown and it looks so much like her Dad’s that she actually has the urge to take the pitcher of orange juice and smash it into his head because he shouldn’t be allowed to remind her of her Dad anymore, ever. “Your father--”
“You know the way she talks about him,” Colleen hisses, and she reaches up to wipe angrily at her tears, because she wanted to be strong right now, she wanted to be adult. “You know the things she says to him. How can you do this to him?”
“I’m not doing anything to him,” Johnny spits out, tapping a finger against the table, and now he’s full on angry. “I didn’t do shit to Tommy, he did this to himself!”
Colleen blinks and sits back in her chair, stares at Johnny like she’s never seen him before. “Ya know, Mom I get. Kind of. I get that she’s upset. That she needs someone to blame about Conner. But. For you to think that he--”
“This has nothing to do with Conner,” Johnny says, and he actually sounds hurt, shocked that she’d think it did, but what else was she supposed to think? “He lost your mother a long time ago, Col.”
She swipes at her face again and glares at him. “So it’s just okay that you’re having sex with your brother’s ex-wife? When you know he still loves her. When you know how much pain he’s in. It’s okay?”
Johnny’s eyes narrow at her and she knows she’s hit a chord because Johnny’s just like her father and he tries to be tough and indestructible but there are moments when their eyes can’t hide anything. “So what did you think about him and Sheila--”
“That’s completely different.”
His eyebrows raise. “Huh. Really? Because him and Jimmy were like brothers and--”
“And Jimmy’s dead!”
Johnny looks at her and there’s something about the way his mouth twists that reminds her of pictures of him and her Dad when they were kids, like the one where her Dad was standing in front of a new bike and Johnny was in the background pretending like he wasn’t jealous, like he wasn’t about to cry. “We didn’t plan this, Col, it just happened.”
She rolls her eyes. “Right, the whole thing about how you tripped and your--”
“Hey! We didn’t plan this! I’m sorry if it upsets you, and we didn’t mean for you to find out, and I’m sorry you did, okay, but you don’t get to sit here and preach at me about your father because--”
“He would never do this to you,” she yells, punctuating her words by pounding on the table, and her tears have started up again because this is Johnny, and they’ve always been so close, but now it’s like she can’t even look at him, and she hates him for that. “Never. He would never do this to you.”
Johnny’s eyes close and he heaves a sigh, running a hand roughly through his hair. “Look.”
“Fuck you,” she hisses, because she can hear her Mom’s door opening and closing, and then she’s pushing back from the kitchen table because it was hard to face Johnny but it’s impossible to face her mother. “I hate you.”
She doesn’t look back when she leaves out the side door because she knows she won’t be able take the hurt in his face.