Brother’s Keeper: Episode 8

New to Brother’s Keeper? Read Episode 1

Jay and Alan smile at each other.

***

Alan turns and walks along the hall towards the living room as Jay steps into the house. Jay takes his time walking through the hall, anxiously observing his surroundings – he looks like a stranger in the only place he’s called home; he has been away for years, but nothing has changed.

He steps into the living room. Same exquisite furniture, but the room is very untidy – cans of beer and cartons with left over slices of pizza litter the room. Alan switches on a 78” curved television – which is obviously new – hung on the wall and is immediately engrossed by the sports news. Jay glances at him and then carefully walks around the room, observing. There are no family pictures or memorabilia on the wall, just a few really good abstract paintings.

‘Forgive the mess,’ Alan says, without looking away from the television. ‘I had a poker night a couple days ago.’

‘Couple days,’ Jay repeats.

‘Yeah, I know. I been busy.’

Jay nods and attempts to step out of the room.

Alan glances at Jay and asks, ‘Where you going?’

‘My room.’

‘Well, gimme a minute. That’s not …’ He suddenly pumps his fist and exclaims, ‘Fuck yeah!’

‘What was that?’

‘I had 50 on the Red Sox last night.’

Jay is visibly perplexed. ‘Red Sox?’ he inquires. ‘Since when did you start watching baseball?’

Alan chuckles.

‘I don’t. I back heavy favourites. It’s a good system. And the Red Sox are pretty good, right?’

Jay nods; he knows the Red Sox usually are good, but not this season.

‘You were saying about my room?’

Alan blindly tosses the remote on a sofa and leads Jay out of the living room through the hallway and up the exquisitely designed – by their mother – staircase.

‘It’s not exactly your room anymore. Most of the rooms are pretty much guest rooms now. Well, besides mine … not mine as in my room back in the day, but the room I sleep in now – mum and dad’s old room.’

He glances quickly at Jay to gauge Jay’s response, but Jay remains stoic. He leads Jay along the upstairs hallway.

‘If you still want to sleep in your old room you might have to clean it up, cos I think …’

He pushes open a door, and looks inside – the large room is very untidy.

‘Yep, you’ll need to clean it up.’ He points to a room further along the hall. ‘But, I think my old room is clean.’ He turns to Jay. ‘So, what’s it going to be?’

‘I’m good with either.’

‘Don’t gimme that shit,’ Alan says jovially, and leads Jay towards his old bedroom. ‘It’s not like I knew you were coming. I’d have paid somebody to clean it up.’

Alan pushes the door into the room open – the room is smaller, but not considerably, and it is tidy.

‘This is fine,’ Jay says.

He drops his bag on the bed and carefully observes the room.

‘Where’s all my stuff?’ he asks.

‘Well … you left and never asked for them. So I threw them away.’

Jay is visibly surprised, and Alan smiles broadly, revealing his perfect white teeth.

‘Follow me,’ Alan says.

Alan, still smiling, leads Jay back down the stairs to the cellar door. He opens the door and slowly, like a showman, leads Jay down into the cellar, and gloriously steps aside so Jay can take in the entirety of the room.

The room is a shrine to Jay and their parents. On one side there is a large cabinet filled with several family portraits – Jay, Alan and their parents, as the boys grow up from babies and abruptly stops when the boys are in their late teenage years. Two beautiful urns are set on top of the cabinet.

On the other side is a much smaller cabinet, filled with a framed picture of Jay in fatigues with other merry soldiers in Sangin, Afghanistan; another framed picture of Jay in Royal Marines uniform receiving a Conspicuous Gallantry Cross; four encased military medals and decorations, including the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross; and an encased bullet proof vest with an indentation of a large calibre bullet on the left chest.

‘What do you think? You like it?’ Alan eagerly asks.

Jay forces a smile and nods. He is completely uncomfortable and needs to be out of the room, ASAP.

‘Cos it cost me shit loads. I had the cabinets made. Fucking top range oak there.’

‘You curse a lot.’

‘Fuck you.’

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