The Cliche: Falling for your big brother's best friend

The Anticliche: Falling for your little brother's best friend

Tell me what my chance is, romance is under rated.
Stare on.
Don't let a glance be too short.
Don't stop.
Glances are a playground.

5 Times Out Of 100 - Hot Hot Heat

The sun is flaming against the sycamore branches and the battered radio is screeching out reedy tunes over the heads of the red-gold weeds - and you are smiling. "Danielle, c'mon," you say, jingling the truck-keys. "Let's go for a ride." And I rise and follow.

"C'mon!" I scream, "Last one to the lake's a rotten egg!" You and Quincey are just little kids with stubbly, stumbling little-kid legs but I'm eleven and I'm faster'n than you can ever be. I never let you forget that.

You are four and a brat. When you lose the race and Quincey and I scream, "Rotten egg! Rotten egg!" in your face you sit down by the edge of the lake and sulk till Mom comes over.

"Danielle," she says, "Be nice to Adam - he's littler than you and you should know better." You're a big girl, be nice to the babies. So I play nice and share half of my Mars Bar with you, wondering whether you'll ever grow up, past the stage of puppy-dog-eyes that make the adults melt. Somehow I can never imagine you my age.

"I like Adam," Quincey, my little brother, says. "I like him a lot."

"That's because you're five," I inform him, the superiority of the world-weary edging my voice. "You haven't learnt yet that friendship is deceptive." Ellie hadn't sat next to me in the cafetaria for a week - she'd joined the 'popular group' over by the bleachers - and I thought I was old enough to know what deceptive meant. Mom laughs and tells me that I'm too young to be seeing the glass half-empty right now, but I think I know what I'm talking about.

The truck shudders into life, sullen and recalcitrant. It's so friggin' ancient that it's bypassed the scrap-metal pile. But you're sixteen and so road-crazy, so look-at-my-shiny-new-license that you'd drive anything with four wheels. I know - I've been through that stage too.

"So," you say, your arm winding around the back of my seat. "How's the boyfriend?"

"There isn't one, Adam," I tell you. More like remind you. You've been asking me the same question since you were eight, and I've always had the same answer. God, how embarrassing.

Your only response is a smug grin, the sort of grin a little brother would give.

We always spent our summers at the beach-house by the Lake. So did the Carrolls. Our parents played golf at the country club in the mornings. They watched the fireflies at night by the mosquito-infested lake and talked about poetry and the Sensex. Quincey and Adam planned elaborate treehouses which were never built and pilfered cookies from the kitchen. And I fantasized about the hot newspaper-boy or the gas-station attendant and read soft porn on the hammock on our crazy, weed-chocked lawn.

"Danielle, how much you've grown! How're you doing in school?"

Mrs Carroll greeted me the same way every year, because I couldn't help but grow and do spectacularly in school. Those were the safe questions to which I could give safe answers. She used to draw me aside and whisper furtively, "So how the dating scene?" but she learnt to stop.

You have the worst bathroom-singer-voice I've ever had, and you love to sing along to the radio. It's kind of cute. In a gruesome, massacre-of-small-animals way. "Stop that," I say, turning from the window. You're looking at me. You look like you've been looking at me for a pretty long time. "And keep your eyes to the road, kid."

"Yes ma'am," you say. You steer apathetically, with one hand. Strong, large brown hands, the lines of your veins just perceptible under the skin. A man's hands now. I remember them when they used to be a child's - small and sticky and fitting trustingly into my hands when we crossed the road together. I swallow and look away.

"Remember how Quincey and you picked up driving while I was learning?" I say. I want to remind you of how much older than you I am - just like I used to when we were little kids.

You chuckle. "Yeah... hey, remember when we took the Rambler out for a spin one night?"

You're nine. Quincey's ten. I'm sixteen.

You think you know everything there is to know about driving, just because you were around when Dad was giving me a few preliminary lessons.

"Morons," I tell both you idiots when you come back. "You could've been killed."

"But we weren't," Quincey assures me. "Hey, sis, are you gonna start on us? Mom looked like she was gonna have a seizure."

"If I were her, I would," I tell him. "Reprobates," I mutter and stalk to the kitchen. "Here, pests." I hand out the lumpy chocolate muffins I spent the morning baking.

"Gee thanks," you say. You lick it tentatively.

"Not poisoned," I tell you. You don't look convinced.

"Wait," you say suspiciously. "Why're you being so nice to us?"

I put my arm around you and kiss your forehead. "Because I'm glad that you didn't get yourselves killed. And I thought the way to show you that was by feeding you." I snatch the muffin out of your hands. "Apparently, I was wrong." But I wasn't and you kiss me - even though you don't want to - to let me know that I wasn't and in the end I let you have your misshapen, gooey muffins.

"Where are we going?" I ask, while the russet fields zip by. You shrug.

"As long as we have gas we'll be fine," you say.

It's nippy for August, and the afternoon sky is cloudless, frost-blue. It's the color of your eyes. "How's the girlfriend?"

I only see you during summer but I know you've never been like me - dateless on a Saturday night.

In answer, you make a slitting gesture at your throat. "She was a vegan," you say. "Jesus, I couldn't eat a pizza without her looking at me like I was-" You gesture helplessly.

"Like you were torturing little baby pepperonis, and the soul of the deep-fried cheese crust would get you one of these days."

When I go to college, you're still in middle school. While I learn about Aristotalian philosophies and contemplate higher planes of thought you struggle to memorize the names of the fifty states in alphabetical order. You're like the little baby brother whom I tutor in algebra over the summer. You're like the kids I babysit, for a few dollars, during winter - whiny, selfish, irrational and half-a-foot shorter than me.

But you grow and there comes a time when you understand Vectors and Integration better than I ever did. You grow taller and your voice cracks and when you smile that insolent smile of yours, somehow I don't feel like swatting your face anymore. I almost feel like, well, like kissing that smile off your face.

The truck huffs and puffs uphill. With a malovalent crackle of farewell, it shudders to a stop. In the middle of nowhere. I swear picturesquely. "D'you have your cellphone?" I demand.

You shake your head. "The nearest call-booth'll be a mile round from here," you say comfortably, as though you couldn't care less. "We'll walk."

"No way," I say incredulously. "No frigging way." I wrestle with my seatbelt. You lean over and wrap your fingers around my wrist, your strong, brown fingers over my thin, purple-veined wrist.

"Wait a minute," you say. "Look at that." Your arm sweeps in an arc over the firescape that the sunset makes of the sky. Gilded leaves float down from willowy trees. Time comes to a standstill. Space stretches and stretches, but there is room for nothing more.

"I feel like a priest in nature's cathedral," I murmur. It's the sort of thing my English professor would say, but it sounds alright.

"For many are called, but few are chosen." Your eyes are glassy and pale, for the sky has drained you of color and you sit, humble, your head bowed. I glance at you sideways.

"Mom's been trying to drill religion into me, again," you say apologetically. "God, I sound lame. Tell me how lame I sound, sweetheart."

"It's kind of cute," I answer. I can't say the words you probably expect me to say. "Don't call me sweetheart." They scratch my throat. They come out in a soundless mumble.

"What?" You're too close. Way too close. I can smell your deodarant and the smoke of your last cigarette on your breath. I feel the roughness of your fingertips, still pressed to my wrist. It should be embarrassing but it isn't.

"I-" but it doesn't matter what I say, because your lips press against mine and your hair seeps into my skin and nothing has ever felt so right before.

A/N: I read many of those cliched I'm-in-love-with-my-older-brother's-best-friend, so I thought why not subvert the cliche and see what turns up? The result is before you.

This was originally written for the September WCC. The prompt was: "For many are called but few are chosen."