Mixed Signals – Chapter Two

8 Feb



“So you found that your brother Luke was forcing kids to stop using drugs?” Stevenson walked in front of the stand.


“With a gun?”


“And you tried to stop him, did you not?”

“Yes, I did.”

“Why didn’t you tell anyone when he wouldn’t listen to you? Your parents, the police?”

“Well, I really don’t know why I didn’t tell anyone. I guess I didn’t want him to get into any trouble.” I shrugged.

“So what did you do next?” he questioned, making a turn in front of the jury.

“I went on praying nothing would happen to him.”

“Tell us about Adam. What happened to him through all of this? How did he handle it?”

“Well, Lance was Adam’s favorite, so he took it very hard. He locked himself in his room for days. Adam never went to college like he planned. He just stayed home. Didn’t get a job or anything.”

“What did he do?”

“I don’t know. I went to school. I think he just sat at home around the house. He never did anything.”

“Your parents let him stay?”

“Yes. Well, eventually they would have told him to get a job or go to college, but . . . ” I trailed off.

“So, he was just there. All the time.”


“I’m home!” I called, my voice carrying throughout the house. I threw my book bag onto the floor in the hallway and started looking for my mother. I walked into the living room.

“Where’s Mom?” I asked Adam, who was lying on the couch in front of the TV


“Out where?”

“Out.” He didn’t change his position or look at me when he talked to me.

“What did you do today?”

“Watched TV”

“All day?”


“Nothing else?”


“Don’t you have any friends to go bother?” I sat down on the couch next to him.


“Would you look at me when I’m talking to you?” I asked, frustrated. He looked at me dully.

“Thank you,” I said. Then he looked back at the TV

“I give up.” I threw my hands into the air and walked into the kitchen.

“Anybody home?!” I heard a familiar voice call.

“John!” I ran to him and hugged him.

“Hey, sweetie, how are you?” He kissed me on the forehead.

“OK.” We walked into the living room to sit down. As soon as we walked in there, Adam got up, threw John a dirty look, and ran up the stairs.

“He’s been a little moody these days.” I explained and pulled John down onto the couch with me.

“Where’s Luke?” he asked as he put his arm around me.

“Out drug busting, probably.”

“Oh. Where’s your folks?”

“Mom’s ‘out,’ and Dad’s at work.” I smiled.

“Oh.” He smiled back and came toward me for a kiss. Our time alone was short-lived.

“I’m home!” my brother Luke called out. He came into the living room, took one glance at John, and left the room. But not before giving him a somewhat dirty look.

“What is going on?” John asked, bewildered.

“I don’t know. I’ll find out, though. I’m sick of them behaving like morons.” I stood up and started pacing.

“Maybe Lance’s opinion of me rubbed off on them.”

“Who knows?” I was exasperated. “Neither one of them will talk straight with me anymore.”

“Well, maybe I should leave before I cause any trouble.” He got up and came over to me.

“I’m sorry.” I lowered my head, ashamed at my brother’s behavior.

“Hey, it’s not your fault. I love you anyway, even if your family hates me.” He lifted my chin and kissed me tenderly.

“What would I do without you, John?” I asked gratefully.

“I don’t know. You’d probably be lost, kid, lost.” He smiled and walked out the front door to his car.

After he left, I walked over to the stairway and looked up intently. I then prepared myself for verbal warfare with Adam and Luke. I narrowed my eyes and headed up the stairs toward Luke’s room.

“Come in,” Luke called when I knocked. I opened his door and walked over to him.

“Why don’t you like John?” I decided to be blunt.

“He gives me the creeps. I don’t know how you can be around him all the time.” He shuddered disgustedly.

“Why does he give you the creeps?” I asked, my hands on my hips.

“He just does. Lance never liked him and I trusted Lance’s opinion of people. He was right about them 99 percent of the time.”

“Well, John is the 1 percent he was wrong about. There’s nothing wrong with him. He’s very sweet and I love him,” I defended him.

“Excuse me while I gag,” he rolled his eyes. “I think you’re making a big mistake. Don’t you ever wonder about him? Where does he get all that money? And that snazzy car of his?” Luke sat down on his bed. It was no secret that John had money.

“He told me that his parents gave him the car. He gets the money from working for his father’s company. You’re just jealous, Luke.”

“Does he care about you? Or are you just another one of his showpieces? A cute blonde to drive around with him in his fire engine red convertible?” he asked me scornfully.

“He does care about me. Why did he come over all the time and bring us food when Lance died? Why would he do that if he didn’t care? You’re starting to sound like Lance. He was always suspicious of John like he was a thief or a murderer or something. He’s not! Get that through your thick skull!” I ran from his room to mine. I wish I could shake some sense into him sometimes. I wasn’t even going to try to talk to Adam. I’d probably only get one-syllable answers anyway.

I threw myself on my bed after turning on my stereo full blast. Oh good, it was music Luke and Adam both hate. I hoped they got an ear full.

A second later I heard a pounding on my door and I called, “Who is it?”

Luke threw open the door and burst into the room. “Turn that crap off now!” He yelled over the “crap.” I cupped my hand around my ear and gestured that I couldn’t hear him. That made him mad, so he went over to my stereo and turned it off himself.

“Keep it off, too,” he commanded.

“Why should I listen to you? You never listen to me!”

“Come off it, Alex, this is different!”

“How so?”

“When I tell you to do something, it’s for the benefit of mankind. You just tell me stuff because you think you can boss me around.” He clenched his jaw.

“I tell you to do stuff for your own good. You’re going to get yourself killed one of these days! But sorry I care!” I yelled as he left ans slammed the door.

I walked over to my stereo and turned it back on again.

“Alex!” I heard my so-lovable brother’s yell.


“What about John? Your brothers clearly do not like him – why do you?” Stevenson looked at me with narrowed eyes. “What has he done to get you on his side?”

“Well, I’ve always liked him. When Lance died, he tried to help in any way he could. He came over a lot to see how I was doing.”

“What was his reaction to Lance’s death?”

“I really didn’t notice how he reacted. He seemed sorry and regretful that he and Lance were never friends. He sympathized with me and helped me cope.”

John was really great during the period after Lance’s death. He knew how I was feeling and didn’t pressure me to do anything. He knew I needed time to adjust to my terrible loss. He was really there for me. And despite what Luke thought, he really cared.

Sometimes he would bring over food for us because he knew we didn’t make anything. Half the time we didn’t eat it anyway, but it was good to know he was there.

“Come on, Alex, you have to eat something. Please?”

“I’m just not hungry, John. I think if I ate it wouldn’t stay down. I don’t want anything, OK?” I had muttered.

“Want to talk about Lance? Maybe it will help,” he suggested gently.

“OK,” I whispered. He then put his arm around me and we talked for an hour about Lance. About how much I missed him.

“Did you know that his middle name was Lot? Lance Lot?” I smiled faintly. “Mom was into Tennyson when she had Luke and Lance. And her favorite movie was Star Wars. So that’s where she got Luke. Luke Sky, and Adam’s is just plain, old Michael, can you believe it? My mom was pretty wacked back then.” I snuggled in closer to John. “Lance always hated his name. He said he would never name his kids something like that.” I was quiet for a while. Lance would never name his kids at all. He would never get to have kids.

It’s funny, but I never really believed Lance killed himself. I always subconsciously thought that somehow, some way, his life was taken from him unfairly. He didn’t want to die.

“I miss him, John. It’s so unfair. Why did he do it? Why did he ruin his life? And ours?” I cried softly into his shoulder. He patted my back.

“Alex, you couldn’t help it. You didn’t know he had a problem.”

“But I should have! Luke should have. Luke would have known! Lance told him everything. He would have told him!”

“Maybe he was too ashamed to tell anyone. Maybe he didn’t want anyone to know.”

“Lance wasn’t like that. He could never keep secrets. He would have said something. It wasn’t beyond him to get help for a problem. He would have asked for help.” I paused. “He would have said something,” I insisted stubbornly.

“I don’t know, kid. No one knows why he did it.” He shook his head and ran his fingers through my hair absently.

“I should know,” I whispered.

Copyright 2009 by D.M. Wright


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