Path of Endurance chapter 03
The next few days were pretty calm. Baseball season had begun, so either Cary was passed out or too concerned with the game to even notice Bryan or Brianna. Brianna, however, made sure Bryan was never alone with Cary anymore. She told Bryan to stay out of the house when she wasn't in ? he didn't need to be told twice. The tree of the mockingbird became his shelter, since Cary was way too fat and clumsy to try to climb into the tree. Not that he hadn't tried; when his favorite team lost, he once again sought someone to blame. But Brianna was at Bruce's gym and Bryan had climbed into the tree. When Brianna wasn't there, Bryan was always in the tree. It was the only place he felt safe when his sister wasn't present. So there he was, let it rain or shine, and it rained AND shone. Bryan always waited patiently for Brianna to arrive.
It was one rainy day when Bryan was sitting on one of the branches again. Mrs. Mockingbird had actually gotten used to him hanging around, so she took care of her hatched offspring without being bothered. Bryan tried to keep himself warm by tucking his legs near him. Air was chilly and he was already soaked wet when he saw Brianna jogging home again from Bruce's gym. She, too, was quite wet as she walked to the tree. "Bryan!" she hollered. "You ok? You look kinda pale."
Bryan just looked down at her. He felt too cold and too tired to reply, not to mention too tired to climb down again. Brianna saw all the way down from there that Bryan wasn't ok ? he was ill. He shivered with cold and had a bad-sounding cough seizure. Without hesitating, Brianna grabbed a branch she reached well and climbed up. Her moving surprisingly slender despite her unusual muscle size. In no time she reached the branch where Bryan was sitting. After shooing the attacking Mrs. Mockingbird, Brianna tried Bryan's face with the back of her hand. He was burning hot; he must have had a high temperature. He, however, reacted to Brianna's touch. He lifted up his sight to meet his sister's eyes. He didn't say a word, but his eyes told everything; he was pleading for help.
Brianna kicked herself into action. "Try to get a hold around me", she said. Bryan tucked his hands around Brianna's neck and wrapped his legs around her thin waist. Snuggling the same way he always had, he kept himself as near as possible. Now that Bryan squeezed himself towards her, Brianna felt how high his temperature must be. But the hard part had yet to come; how could he get back down with Bryan in her arms? The branches were slippery and probably wouldn't hold both of their weights at the same time. Brianna found no other way but to drop down, as far from the tree as possible. She grabbed a strong-looking branch and traversed away from the tree only with her hands. Seeing herself monkey-swing with ease, Brianna understood now herself that her powers had grown massively. With this new dose of courage, she let go of the branch and dropped down softly; first on her feet, but the impact forced her on her knees ? it would have ultimately made her drop on top of Bryan, but on the last minute she twisted her waist to land on her back so her weight would not crush him. Not the most graceful sight, but Brianna had never bothered her mind about making her movements graceful and slender; her focus was on the power and efficiency. Even now she jumped on her feet and brought Bryan inside from the rain. Luckily Cary had passed away once again, so she could potter about in the house without any disturbances. First off she helped Bryan take off his wet clothes and wear new, dry and warm ones. The episode was disturbed by another fit of merciless coughing that tore Bryan's little body. The coughing triggered a painful tearing in his head; he felt like his head would be pierced in two from inside. Brianna helped him to lie down on his bed and pulled a willow over him, tucking him in warmly. He cried the tormenting pain he felt all over his body; his muscles ached so hard he couldn't move. Still, he grabbed Brianna by her hand; he looked at her, his eyes pleading her not to leave him. Brianna had no intention to. She sat down onto Bryan's bed and began running her fingers through his hair again. Her touch soothed Bryan more than anything else ever could; for so many times had Brianna helped him when he was in troubles, healed him when he was injured, even stood up to defend him when he was attacked. Brianna was the name of God on his lips and heart. There was no other person in the world he trusted like he trusted her; his attitude towards her was close to worshipment..
He listened to Brianna's silent singing until he finally fell asleep;
Now hush, my brother, don't you cry
Everything's gonna be alright
Stiffen up that upper lip, my brother, I told ya
I'm here to hold ya through the night
After Brianna was sure Bryan was asleep, she stood up carefully and walked into their cramped kitchen. She placed a bowl of water on their heater and searched cabins for tea or juice or anything that could be warmed up and given to Bryan. She blamed herself for leaving Bryan out in the cold for so many times, accusing herself of his illness. After a few desperate rounds around the kitchen Brianna finally found Japanese green tea from a drawer. She dropped a little less than handful of the dry tea leaves into the boiling water. A warm, sweet scent filled her senses the instant she inhaled the steam of the water. She let the water boil lightly for a few minutes before picking the tea leaves from the bowl and pouring the tea into Bryan's mug. Brianna had bought it to him on his 5th birthday. It had been originally a plain white mug, but Brianna had painted black, a little flame-like tribals on the sides of the mug, both a mirror-image of each other. Upon Bryan's inquiry about them, Brianna had explained she had seen a dream of him ? he was older, an adult in the dream, and he had two tribal tattoos in his neck. Brianna remembered the tribal tattoos so clearly she had been able to draw them later on.
Brianna brought the mug of tea to Bryan. She hated to wake him up, but knowing the hot tea would only do good to him, she gently shook him off his dream. "I brought some tea to you", she said softly. "Please, drink it when it's hot."
She helped him to sit up. He leaned heavily on her, and was barely able to hold the mug by himself. Brianna lifted him into her lap and leaned against the wall next to Bryan's bunk while Bryan slowly drank the tea. When he finished it, Brianna placed the mug onto Bryan's bedside table and leaned back on the wall. Automatically she began running her fingers through Bryan's hair without noticing it herself.
Suddenly, Bryan's weak voice broke the silence.
Brianna smiled at her brother.
A long silence.
"... nothing, sis," Bryan finally said. "Wanted to know if you're still here... don't leave me, sis."
Brianna was touched by this sudden attention. She gave a kiss to Bryan's hair and wrapped her hands around him. She kicked her boots off and lay down onto the bunk with Bryan. She tucked Bryan inside the willow, and it didn't take long before Bryan fell asleep again. Brianna didn't feel like going to sleep yet, so she stealthily got up and attended to her duties. She was cleaning the kitchen when she heard heavy footsteps approaching the kitchen. After a while, Cary stumbled in, still as drunk as a pig. Brianna didn't say a word ? she hated Cary with all her heart, she hated him for accusing Bryan of their mother's death, hated him for beating her and Bryan, but what's most, she hated him for hating Bryan, who was too young to understand why. A blind rage engulfed her mind every time she saw Cary.
Cary opened up their fridge in search of a new bottle of beer. Upon finding one, he cracked it open and drank like he hadn't drunk ever before. Brianna was disgusted; she turned her back on Cary and tried to mind her own business. Cary let out a belch loud enough to send a cat running with its tail between its legs. "Hey Brianna," he hollered. "What's for dinner?"
"Eat your nails," Brianna muttered.
"What was that!?"
Cary pulled Brianna by her hair. "Don'tcha dare to speak to me like that, woman!" he shouted at her face.
"Let go of me!" Brianna cried out and tried to shove Cary away from her. Cary only pulled harder for that. He rose up his hand and slammed it hard down on Brianna's face. But while he was on downswing, Brianna was on upswing, and she sent her knee fast into Cary's balls.
Cary let go of her hair immediately, his eyes had bugged out, his mouth formed a little mis-shaped O and his voice pitched up a little. Brianna backed down, trying to keep her breathing calm and her panic at bay. "That does it!" she snapped. "I don't have to take this from anybody, especially not from you! I'm getting outta here, and I'm taking Bryan with me!"
She walked quickly towards the kitchen's door, but Cary had recovered faster than she had thought. He rised up the half-empty bottle and broke it hard into Brianna's head. She let out a shriek as she slumped onto the floor and ceased moving. Cary watched as a pool of blood formed to the floor around her head. Only then it struck to him what he had done. He felt his legs couldn't stand any longer; he sat down onto a chair to think what to do. All that came to his mind was to get rid of the body and tell the people Brianna ran off without a trace.
But what about Bryan? He sure would begin to question around.
Bryan, that little pest! Had he never been born, Cary's wife would still be alive! He couldn't care less what would happen to that little brat. On the other hand, wouldn't it be great to re-unite the siblings again?
Cary snickered at the idea. Yes, to kill Bryan, too. Or, frame him as a murderer. You know what TV does to the youngsters of these days. But as Cary planned, he began feeling sleepy. Not willing to spend night in the same house with a dead woman, he stumbled into the darkening evening to spend his night somewhere else.
It kept on raining all evening and all night. The clock struck 3 ? it was Devil's midnight, and thunder roared outside. A bolt of lightning lit Brianna's dead-pale face for one, tiny moment. The pool of blood had grown bigger by the time being, and it grew bigger all the time. It almost waved like an ocean when winds hit it, creating an illusion that she would have breathed.
Except it was not an illusion.
Brianna was acutely aware of a throb on the side of her neck. Her pulse. She forced her eyes to open up, even if only just a halfway up. She saw the lightnings stricking outside, the thunder roar faded in and out of her sound threshold. There was only that, and an endless, tormenting pain at the back of her head. But no memory whatsoever of what had happened. She remembered tucking in Bryan... oh, how she loved Bryan. She loved her brother more than anything else in the world, she would do anything for him. And now the poor thing was ill. Still, while being awake, he had called her name just to make sure she was still there.
But then Brianna's mind darkened. She remembered going into the kitchen to mind her own business. Cary had come ? and when Cary's face popped into her mind, Brianna became enraged. A blind fury took over her mind. She remembered clearly that he had taken a bottle of beer from the fridge. A glass bottle. They had argued... she had been about to leave when she had felt a piercing pain in her head just before everything had blacked out.
Brianna looked around her. Not only the smell of beer was strong and clear, but she saw shattered pieces of glass near her, as well as half of the broken bottle. She now understood clearly what had happened ? Cary had tried to kill her. But somehow, she was still alive... he had failed. Brianna felt a pervert satisfaction somewhere at the back of her mind. An insane sneer crept upon her lips as she turned over in her blood. She was alive. Cary had failed. She was still alive. And as long as she was alive, Cary would always fail. Her chest began to vibrate as something began to ooze out from her. Brianna crossed her hands tight over her torso and arched her back, as if she had enjoyed bathing in her blood. The pain in her head had become a secondary nuisance, in plain English she had quit caring about it. She smiled and snickered ? until she reached towards the ceiling with her arms and let out a maniacal, cackling laughter.
A psychopathic glimmer had appeared into her eyes. She stood up from the blood, licking it from her hands and arms as she walked into their bathroom, enjoying its taste. Then she began filling their tub with water at the same time as she filled the sink with cold water. She undressed and sank her bloody clothes into the cold water, and then she sank herself into the tub. She allowed her head to sink under the surface; she was able to hold her breath for quite long. The shattered glass dropped down from her hair to the bottom of the tub, and the water gradually turned red for all the blood she was bleeding. Even though she hadn't even bothered to turn the lights on, she noted that all the color from her skin had drained. She was pale as if she truly was dead. Maybe she was. If only a little.
Her head popped up above the surface. She didn't gasp for air; she breathed in and out through her nose like she had never held her breath. Something inside her mind reminded her that Bryan was still there, and that he needed her. Brianna washed the blood away from her skin and hair, got out from the tub and dried herself. When drying her hair with a white towel, she realized she still hadn't fully quit bleeding. Luckily her long, brown hair absorbed the blood quite well. She combed the rest of the glass away from her head and wore new clothes. She chose her brownish, snake-skin trousers and a tight, black t-shirt along with her black pair of boots. After that, she cleaned up the blood from the floor before it had a chance to dry out. Everything must look normal, for Bryan's sake. He must never know what happened.
Brianna took a final glance at a mirror. No matter how hard she tried, she wasn't able to see herself normal. There was something off, she just couldn't point her finger at it. Her eyes were dark and filled with hate, her skin was almost white and lifeless. Still, she silently entered her and Bryan's room. The boy was still asleep, cuddling the willow in his sleep. Brianna smiled warmly. She sat down next to him and gave a gentle stroke on his face. Bryan muttered something and tightened his grasp around the willow. Brianna kissed her brother's cheek and continued caressing his hair.
As the morning came, Cary was - surprisingly enough - sober as he returned home. Still a bit shaken of the night, he prepared himself to see Brianna's body still lying on the floor. His astonishment was unmeasurable as he saw nothing on the floor, not even bloodstains. He searched the place where Brianna fell thoroughly, but found nothing. And he was too into his search to notice Brianna who came up from behind him.
"Something lost, Cary?" she said, stressing his name. Cary leapt up from the ground and screamed as he saw Brianna, alive and standing. Brianna took a newspaper from their dining table and shoved it slightly into Cary's mouth.
"Shut up. You're waking up Bryan."
Cary was too shocked to even spit out the paper from his mouth. He just kept staring at Brianna, with his eyes wide on his face. Brianna continued making porridge and Cary finally calmed down a bit and took the paper off his mouth.
"Bri... Brianna!?" he cried out.
Brianna didn't react. She finished making the porrige and filled a plate with it. She put some sugar on it and grabbed a spoon from a drawer.
"Brianna?" Cary's voice still trembled. "Brianna....!"
Brianna laid a murderous glance on him. "My name is Bryan-ah. Call me Brianna again and I'll shove that newspaper so far up your throat you'll be shitting headlines."
It was then when it struck Cary as well. Brianna was no longer herself ? she had always been quite careful of things she had let out of her mouth, and she would never have spoken like that, not even to her worst enemy. The strike to her head must have damaged her brain, and thus altered her behaviour. He had also noted the insane look in her eyes ? thus he knew he had to get rid of her before she would strike back. And she wouldn't strike back as long as she had something else on her mind... as long as Bryan would be sick. Cary had to make sure Bryan would keep Brianna preoccupied long enough for him to gather enough strength or manpower to silent her and Bryan forever. It was clear she had become a psychopath; a walking time-bomb that would be dangerous to herself and to others.
Brianna left the kitchen with the plate of porridge. She went back to her and Bryan's room, where Bryan already sat on his bunk. He had been feeling hungry the whole morning and he emptied his plate pretty quickly. Feeling satisfied, he let out a silent belch. Brianna snickered.
"You little piggy!" she teased as she tickled Bryan. Their laughter carried out into Cary's ears, making sweat drops fall from his forehead. The laughter was soon interrupted by Bryan's coughing. Brianna laid the back of her hand upon Bryan's cheek and felt that even though his temperature had cooled a bit, he was still sick. "You're not going to school today, you hear me?" she said. "You must rest so you'll get better."
Bryan nodded and lay down. Brianna tucked him in again, gave a kiss to his cheek and left so he could sleep. She was about to pick up her bag and leave for Bruce's apartment as usual, but then she realized that Cary was at home. There was nothing, NOTHING in the world that would have made her leave Bryan alone with him anymore. So instead, she grabbed the phone and called him.
Bruce was finishing his morning coffee and waiting for Brianna to come when his phone rang. "Hello?" he answered.
"Bruce? It's me, Bryan-ah."
"Ah, morning, girl. Whazzup?"
"Bruce, I can't come today. It's Bryan, he... he's sick. And Cary's here, I can't leave him here with that bastard."
Brianna's harsh language caught Bruce's attention.
"You alright, girl? You sound a bit strange..." he said.
"Yes, Bruce. I am fine. I just can't come today. I will make it up to you someday."
Feeling something was definitely off, Bruce became nervous. Not only Brianna's crude language caught his attention, but also the note of her voice. Her voice was deeper than usual... even rougher someway. Something had definitely happened.
"Uh, listen, Brianna."
"Bryan-ah," Brianna corrected.
"Right, Bryan-ah. Look, don't stress yourself about it. Your brudda needs you more now than I do, besides, I've taught you everything I can so we're pretty even now, aren't we?"
"Yeah, we are. Thank you, Bruce."
"Don't mention it, girl. Now go and make your brudda feel better, you dig?"
"I'll do that."
Brianna hung up. Bruce put his phone away and sank deep into his thoughts. He was sure that something had happened to Brianna, but he wasn't sure should he interfere or not. Perhaps it would be wise of him to stay out of it.