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This story is connected to the ‘Nia’ series, all the main characters are here, but this is not part of the ‘Nia’ story thread, so it can be read either as a separate and complete story series in it’s own right, or in conjunction with ‘Nia’ as a sort of ‘stocking-filler’, as it does cover some aspects of Jamie and Nia’s earlier relationship, and will continue in parallel with the main thread up to the conclusion of both series. But this is Julie’s story, not Nia’s, so Jamie et al will only make fleeting appearances.
Much appreciation to Mriceman1964 for editing, proofing and commenting, as well as sanity-checking me on numerous occasions!
PS. If you liked it, please rate it, if you didn’t, please tell me why!
When I was very young, my hero was my big brother. Mark was three years older than me, tall and handsome, and he scared away the boys who teased me or picked-on me, picked me up when I fell over, wiped my nose and dried my eyes and made it right when mum made me cry, even made my breakfast and pressed my little school pinafore because mum hadn’t done it the night before. His big warm hand holding mine as he walked me to school, his quick ruffle of my hair as left me at the gate and watched until I went inside, even the way he’d call me cootie-magnet and tell me knock-knock jokes as he brushed and tried to braid my hair in the morning, these were the things that defined my childhood.
As I grew older, I began to notice that mum wasn’t quite…right. I knew she took a lot of medicine, she’d have a bottle next to her most nights on the table by the couch, and she’d pour herself a glass and slowly drink it all, until eventually she’d fall asleep. Then Mark would sigh, and ask me what I wanted for dinner and he would open some tins, and make some toast, and we’d have eggs or beans on toast, something a nine year-old could cook. After dinner, Mark would make sure I had a clean towel so I could have a shower, wait for me to come out so he could dry my hair and put the wet towel on the dryer rail, and tuck me in bed, reading to me for a little while. My favourite book was ‘Peter Pan’, and Mark would always tell me that I was really Tinkerbell, I was a green-eyed golden fairy princess, that he was one of the Lost Boys, come to look after me, and that one day Peter would come and find me and take me back to Never-Never Land.
When I was small, I’d wait to see if Peter came; every night I’d lie and watch the window, waiting for him to come looking for me, maybe he’d leave his shadow behind again and I could be the one to give it back to him this time, get my wings back so I could fly with him, second star to the right, and straight on ’til morning, or maybe I would find the home of all the other fairy princesses, perhaps in the castle east of the sun and west of the moon, where I would find a fairy prince for my very own.
Mark kept me from knowing the truth about mum, and protected me for a long as possible from the reality of the family life we had. I never picked up on anything; Mark made sure my only worries were school, or whether Peter Pan would come and find me and take me home again, the facts about my mother were something a six year-old didn’t need to know or understand. I thought we were a happy family; oh sure, mum was sometimes nasty, but she never hit me, or neglected me, she bought me the things I needed, and sometime things I had no possible use for, but we always had food, heat, comfort, warm clothes, and I had Mark.
It wasn’t until many years later that I realised, poor Mark had nobody to look after him, nobody to make it right for him, he was just a little boy himself, but he had to bring himself up, mum was always too ‘sick’. No-one really cared for him, but he never stopped caring for me; in all the ways that mattered, Mark brought me up, and taught me everything I should know, and a few things I shouldn’t, like where to stick a knee if a boy gave me too much grief, or how to slap someone in the fork hard enough to make their eyes cross, or how to belch the alphabet, useful stuff, but definitely not ladylike. I would still hear him in his room at night, though, crying, all his fear and loss and need catching up with him as he tried to be an adult when he hadn’t had a chance to be a little boy yet. That woman, our so-called mother, robbed him of all it meant to be a child, made him her care-giver when he needed care the most. I would cry along with him, understanding then that he truly was a lost boy, that he’d lost the most important part of his life, and that no-one was coming to save him, there was no Peter Pan to sprinkle Fairy-Dust on him and take him to Never-Never land so he could be a boy again. Unlike Peter Pan, he had to grow up far too soon, long before he was ready, or even knew how.
Gradually, as the years progressed, my understanding of mum’s ‘sickness’ gelled; she was an alcoholic, but a well-disguised one. To all outward appearances, şişli escort bayan she was Mrs. Jameson, Office Manager and model of businesslike efficiency, but once she came home, the thirst took over, and the drinking would begin, and then the sniping and nasty comments would soon follow; mum was not a happy drinker, and the more she drank, the more bitterness and anger spilled out of her, most of it aimed at me, until at last I would hide in my room, crying at the things she said and blamed me for. Then my hero, my big brother Mark would hold me tight, hug me while I cried in fright, trying to understand why mum hated me so much, why she couldn’t just be like the happy mums my friends all had, who played with them, talked to them, cooked dinner for them, acted like a mother was supposed to act.
From the time I was 11, she seemed to assume that she’d finished bringing me up (not that she’d ever actually done that; Mark was my real parent, not her), and so her bingeing began in earnest, and Mark tugging her passed-out frame into a prone position on the couch and throwing a quilt on top of her became a nightly occurrence.
One saving grace for me was my friends at school, and two in particular, Shelagh Kennedy and Nia Morrison; between them they kept me balanced enough to deal with the increasingly dysfunctional life I was living at home. Nia and Shelagh were warm, funny, achingly good looking, and all the boys flocked around them, with Shelagh lapping it up, while Nia, as beautiful as she was, kept them all at arm’s-length; she only ever came alive when she mentioned her big brother, Jamie, and she mentioned him all the time. When I saw him, I understood why; he was tall and devastatingly cute, quiet, funny and patient, and obviously devoted to her, taking shit from her that Mark would certainly never have taken from me. He seemed to know instinctively when she’d had a trying day, and his hug when she sniffled at him always seemed to have an extra something that made it a special hug, one that only she could ever have.
I saw the way her eyes followed him around, and the way his hand would automatically reach out for her if she looked like she was going to stumble, ready to catch her and keep her from harm, or carry her things, take her hand if she reached for him, his hand reaching out for her without him ever looking to see if she was reaching for him, they just knew when the other wanted that, almost like they were connected together inside their heads. Jamie obviously adored her, and I found myself wondering if Mark felt like that about me, or if he was just being kind because I had no-one else to be kind to me.
Shelagh, Nia and I were inseparable through our entire school life together, and I took to staying at Nia’s house after school until I absolutely had to go home, if only to go to bed. Nia’s mum fed me, hugged me, made me feel like I belonged somewhere, and her dad with his terrible jokes kept me relaxed and in one piece when I felt like the world was too grim for me to deal with.
Nia, however, would pace around, a tetchy ball of nervous energy, until Jamie came in, somehow knowing 5 minutes before he walked in the door that he was on his way, then she’d relax, unwind, have a barbed remark to throw at him when he walked in. Poor Jamie always looked so hurt when she threw one of those at him, but that didn’t stop her leaning against him when we watched TV after dinner, his arm draped around her without him even being aware he was holding her, and she hugging him around the waist, huddling as close to him as she could get; or the look almost of distress on her face if Jamie had to get up and leave the room, even if he were only leaving for a few seconds.
It was obvious to me that Nia was connected to Jamie in ways that I could never understand, a closeness that I couldn’t describe, but wished with all my heart I could have with Mark. When I had to leave, Jamie would walk me home, he was too much of a gentleman, even at 14, to let a girl walk home at night unaccompanied, wait until I went inside, then wave, turn and stroll home. When he did that, I always thought Nia was the luckiest girl in the world to have someone as lovely as Jamie to lean on.
Mark once asked me why I didn’t ask him to come and get me.
“Jules, I’d come get you if you wanted, Nia’s brother doesn’t have to drop you home every night, and it’s not like I’m busy, you know!” he grinned wistfully, referring to the fact that once mum had settled into the couch to drink, he was pretty much out of the picture as far as things to do, except to make himself some dinner. I felt guilty about eating with the Morrison’s, while poor Mark was here alone with something out of the freezer or a tin for dinner, still looking after himself, still no-one caring for him.
I felt another dull spike of hopeless anger at the woman who’d so abandoned him, left him out of her life to pursue her hobby, drinking herself senseless, and a welling-up escort mecidiyeköy of deep sorrow for him for the life we’d given him. He’d looked after me so well, and I hadn’t ever given him back anything, now I was even denying him some companionship, leaving him even more lonely and isolated than ever; on impulse I hugged him, Mark looking surprised at the sudden affection, then he hugged me back, ruffling my hair.
“Bedtime now, Jules, school in the morning, there’s some bacon in the fridge, do you fancy bacon and eggs for breakfast? I’ll do you some if you want…”
I went to bed, grieving again for poor Mark, only fourteen and the weight of the world on him still, a little sister who ignores him except when she needs him to care for her, then takes all he’s got to give, and a mother who forgot about him years ago, no wonder he still cried in his room at night, when he thought I was asleep…
As time wore on, things began to change, for the better; at first, anyway. Mum seemed to have made some kind of decision about her drinking; maybe she’d seen the light…
Anyway, I began to get used to seeing her sober and upright for longer and longer periods, finding the laundry done, Mark in his room instead of in the kitchen trying to assemble me a proper meal out of a collection of tins, and hot meals at night and on weekends.
Usually on weekends mum never made an appearance at all, she’d remain in her room, probably passed out, and Sunday lunch for Mark and I would be soup and French-fries, his poor face so sad because he didn’t know how to cook a beef roast, or how to make a stew or casserole. Besides, we never had any fresh meat in the house; mum would go shopping and buy only frozen or tinned food, things she could dump in the pantry or the freezer; I’d forgotten what roast beef tasted like, it had been so long since I’d eaten it, and suddenly we’d be having roast beef with all the trimmings on Sundays.
Mark began to change. He grew taller, for starters, almost by the day. His face changed as well, his softly rounded boyish features slowly turning into angles and planes, cheekbones becoming more defined, and he started shaving regularly. He still looked after me on occasion, though; periodically mum would go on a jag, and I’d come home from school to find her home, passed out on the couch, a half-bottle of vodka on the table next to her; if she’d climbed on the wagon, she clearly wasn’t doing too much to stay there.
I changed as well, going through the expected changes as I moved out of my pre-teens and into adolescence, Mark bearing-up under my mood changes and temper tantrums, my changing moods a puzzle to me as well, until it was explained to us in Human Biology in school, things I should have learned from my mum, that all the other girls already knew, and I was appalled; it was going to be like this every month, 12 weeks a year, for the next 40 or so years? God really must be a man, there was no other explanation…
When I was 13, at an age where boys were of more than slight interest, the object of mine, and nearly every other girl in the school, was Jamie Morrison. He was the same age as Mark, and at 16, a real hottie. Nia was furious, and had several slanging matches with older girls who’d asked her for his number, as well as a few girls in our year who really should have known better. Nia went out of her way to make it abundantly clear that Jamie was strictly Off-Limits, Verboten, Ne Vous Approchez-pas, but we talked about him, of course, how could we not, he was sweetly gorgeous!
Shelagh even said something along the lines of “Well, I don’t care what Nia thinks, Jamie’s too cute to pass-up, one day I’m snagging him, and if I have to beat you lot off with a club to do it, I will, so hands off, he’s mine!”
Yep, until Nia finds out and hands you your ass, I thought…
One girl said something odd to me, though, which got me thinking.
“Look , it’s no use talking about Jamie Morrison, Nia’s obviously keeping him for herself, so do you have any objections if I call up your Mark, see if there’s any chance of a date there?” leered Charlotte Pryce.
I was caught a little off-guard, and said “Why would you ask him?”
She looked at me like I was simple. “Because he’s a babe, or hadn’t you noticed?”
To be honest, I hadn’t; Mark was Mark, the end. I’d never looked at him in that way before, why would I, he was my brother?
Charlotte spoke up again. “Look, Jules, Mark is dead cute, he’s tall, he’s blonde, he’s got big, grey, sexy eyes, and if I had the chance, I’d hang off his face for a while, and so would most of the girls here. You’re so lucky, your brother’s drop-dead gorgeous; my twerp brother looks like a ferret in a hedge! Are you really telling me you never noticed him, or even thought about giving him a snog, just to see? No? Girl, there’s no hope for you, the Nunnery beckons!”
I was more than a little intrigued. Mark? But then, when merter escort I looked at him in my mind’s eye, without the ‘big-brother’ filter on, I could see she was right. His golden hair, always falling down over one eye, and that unconscious gesture of his when he flicked it back out of the way, big, clear grey eyes, fair skin, his straight nose and killer cheekbones, his square jaw and even, white teeth, and of course his lovely, shy, vulnerable smile.
I had always thought, when I was a little girl, that my big brother was the bravest and handsomest of all the Lost Boys, but now I could see that Charlotte was right, he really was lovely, that air of deep sadness about him making him doubly attractive.
I had to think about this; here I was, mentally ogling my big brother, the boy who used to read me to sleep and make me beans on toast, blow my nose and fix my cuts and bruises, and wondering what it would be like to snog him? I must be out of my mind!
When I got home that afternoon, Mark hadn’t arrived back from school yet, and mum was still at work, so I had the place to myself for a little while, giving me time to think. Charlotte had struck a chord with me, and I wanted to explore why I’d had such a weird feeling when I thought about Mark, and how the thought of kissing him suddenly seemed…not so odd.
Mark chose then to come in from school, and I studied him with the new perspective I had been given by Charlotte, and she was right, he was a babe! My 16 year-old brother was just too cute!
Mark looked strangely at me. “You Ok, Tink?” he asked, grinning at me, “You’re staring at me like I grew another head, something wrong?”
I blushed, and cast around for something to say, what actually popped out of my mouth was what was buzzing around in my head. “You’re beautiful!” I blurted out, and then clapped my hand over my mouth, flushing scarlet as I realised what I’d just said.
Mark stared at me, his eyes wide in shocked amazement, and then he smiled that beautiful, slow, shy smile of his, the one that always, always made me want to hug him, ever since I was a very little girl.
He came over to the couch and sat next to me, putting his arm around me, like he used to when I was little.
“No Tink, you’re beautiful, you’re Tinkerbell, our very own beautiful little golden fairy princess! Now, what do you want to eat? We have sausages, or I can put a pasty in the oven and make you some fries, would you like that?”
He hugged me once more, then rubbed my hair, and stood up, grinned at me, and went off to the kitchen, to start getting a meal ready for when mum got home.
When mum came in, something about her told me how this evening was going to go, and sure enough, she headed straight for the bureau, unlocked it and pulled out her trusty vodka bottle. I stood next to her and put my hand on her arm.
“Please mum, don’t…please?” I asked her softly, she just sneered back and I smelled it on her breath; she’d already been drinking; now she was just topping-off.
I tried again.
“Please mum, just have something to eat with us, not this, please?”
She shook me off, and next thing I knew she hit me on the side of the face hard enough to knock me over. I sat there, stunned, my face feeling numb and hot at the same time, as she loomed over me, and then she started.
“You little bitch, it’s all your fault, it was fine, everything was fine, and then you had to ruin it, you sent him away, he left me with you, why didn’t you leave, I never wanted you, you little bitch, get out of my house, get out, GET OUT!!”
Suddenly, Mark was there, pushing her back away from me, standing protectively over me, my eye starting to close and water as my face got hotter.
“Leave her, Mum, why don’t you go to your room, lie down or something, I’ll bring you something to eat later, OK?”
Mum smiled at him. “Yes, Mark, you’re a good boy, you always were a good boy, he couldn’t take you away from me, I think I’ll go and lie down for a while, just a little bit…!”
She turned and shuffled away, and Mark lifted me up, turning my head to look at my left eye, a look of shock on his face at what he saw.
“Jesus, Tink, why did she have to…!” he muttered, hugging me as I trembled with shock and fear; fear of my own mother, that she’d do something like that to me; all I wanted was to bolt out the front door and keep running, I was too afraid to stay there a minute longer.
Mark came to a decision, grabbed my coat and hustled me out the door.
“M…Mark, where…?” I stammered.
“Nia’s place, you can stay there tonight, you’ll be safe there, I…I don’t know what to do about your eye, Mrs. Morrison, she’ll know…”
Muttering under his breath, he tugged me to Nia’s place, Jamie opening the door and looking shocked at what he saw.
“MUM! Mum, need some help, now, quick!” he called out, Nia running and slamming to a halt when she saw my face.
“Mark, what happened, what the bloody hell did you…?”
Mark cut her off. “Mum hit her, she was drinking, I didn’t…!”
Nia’s eyes blazed. “Look at her, Mark, your mother’s so big and she’s so tiny, LOOK AT HER!! Where the HELL were you?” she screamed at him.
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