Bronwyn’s back door banged open. Velvet walked in first, in full flow, while Jake shuffled morosely a few paces behind.
“I warned you, Jake. You know the rules. If you misbehave, then no drums.”
“That’s not fair.”
Velvet laid her hands on the kitchen table and sighed. “Don’t be naughty, then.”
“You didn’t give me my three chances.” That was the usual deal: Jake got three chances to be good.
“No, you didn’t.”
“Jake, I’m not standing here arguing the toss with you. You’re banned from drumming ‘till Thursday. End of.”
“I’m not even allowed them back for band practice?” Jake wheedled, even though he knew the answer.
“It was her fault.” Jake’s blue eyes turned the same shade as gas flames. “All this: It’s time you got over this silly vegetarian phase, Jacob-I’ll be you a burger. I don’t call the things she believes a silly phase, do I? She can’t even be bothered to get my name right. I hate her.”
“You shouldn’t let her get to you,” Velvet told him lamely.
“Well\, she does.”
“I could have figured that one out for myself, thanks. After the paddy you threw.”
“It wasn’t a paddy. I was just cross.”
He pressed his fists in to his sides so hard it hurt. “Babies throw paddies. I’m not a baby.”
“Could’ve fooled me. And don’t give me that angelic hard-done-by look, you practically screamed the place down. ‘Cos that’s really gonna make you seem mature.”
They stood in silence for a minute, back to back, like two cowboys in an old movie having a face-off. “I’m cross with you now, Vel.” Jake mumbled
“Yeah, well, I’m cross with you, too.”
“And you’re not getting me to apologise ‘cos I’m not sorry. Not about any of it.”
There was a pause. “Vel?”
“And I know what you’re gonna say, you love me too, but you love me best when I behave.” He gave her an anxious look. “You do love me, don’t you?”
“I have to, don’t I? I’m stuck with you.”
Jake’s mouth contracted in to a pout. “Don’t tease.”
“Sorry. Wanna come for a walk later?”
“Jake, if you’re gonna go off in to a mood, then I’m not talking to you.”
“I’m not in a mood.”
“I’m not in a mood,” Velvet mimicked. “What is wrong with you today?!”
Velvet’s hands began to shake. Pretty soon, her whole body was skaking, right down to the tips of her toes. Then, her eyes began to water. Only a bit at first, but then, tears began to trickle down he cheeks.
Jake rushed to her. “Don’t Vel! Come on, sshh! It’s OK.”
He gently rested her head on his shoulder, running his fingers through her wild black curls. “ Alright, alright..all…right.I know. I know”
Velvet snuffled wordlessly, in a way that made him think of class guinea pigs. Looking after them in the holidays in one of their primary schools. Although he wasn’t a very good looker-after. Velvet did most of it.
He figured that was why she went off the handle so much . She had to take care of him, take care of everything, and she was only little. She pretended like she was tough, but she wasn’t. Not really.
And, sometimes she had to stop pretending and be little and that could be really scary. He liked it though, in a funny kind of way, because he got to be ‘brave big brother’ then. Not ‘the big brother who couldn’t do his Maths homework without help’ or ‘the big brother who was scared of spiders.’ He got to be the knight in shining armour for a change.