Brandon shrinks, and even though he’s as tall as me, he reminds me of when we were children and I held his hand as we rode the elementary bus because he was scared.
“I don’t like the way the lady at the ticket booth looks at us. I’ve seen her around town and she makes me feel like I’ve done something wrong when I haven’t.”
My heart sinks, and my fingers play with the bracelets on my wrist. “Any dirty look she gives is for me, not you.”
That’s only partially true. The woman working the ticket counter enjoys giving both of us her evil eye. I could claim that’s her resting bitch face, but when she doesn’t notice me or my brother, she actually smiles.
We live in a small town. Brandon’s the weird kid, and after a picture of me making out with a guy made the rounds on social media, I’m the town whore.
Before the infamous picture, I had forever been labeled a child of the Reign of Terror Motorcycle Club because my father was a member. I can’t decide if in the ticket taker’s eyes whore is better than Terror spawn. She probably assumes the two are related.
“Vi,” he starts again, but my muscles tense as my patience wears thin.
“It’s just a ticket.” This time the calm in my voice is forced and so is the smile. “I need you to be able to buy a ticket.”
Brandon’s shoulders slump forward, and I hate that I snapped, but if he can’t buy a ticket to a football game, how can he buy himself food when he grows older?
There are months remaining until I graduate from high school, and even if I figure out how to take him with me when I leave, I won’t be around to take care of him forever. He needs to learn to take care of himself. It’s what we all have to learn.
The people in front of us walk off with tickets. A mom, a dad, a brother, a sister. Middle class and grinning from ear to ear. I seriously hate each and every one of them for being happy. I know, that makes me bitter, but sometimes bitter happens.
“You can do this.” I take Brandon’s hand in mine and give a reassuring squeeze. “I know you can.”
Brandon swallows hard, but nods. A combination of nervous energy and pride rushes through my veins as he grasps my hand in return and fists the cash in his other hand. He’s going to face his fears. The lift of my lips is genuine now. My brother believes in himself, and I believe in him and maybe we’re both going to be okay.
Right as Brandon takes a courageous step forward, two black leather vests slip in front of us and staring back at me is a half skull with fire blazing out of its eye sockets.
The world surrounding me turns red, and my blood begins to boil. “There’s a line and you just cut.”
Eli, one of my father’s once best friends, glances over his shoulder and winks at us as he pulls out his wallet. Like always, he has dark hair cut close to his head, plugs in his ears and a huge grin like we should be glad to see him. “I got you covered.”