Chapter 9: The Older Brother
Matt was silent but his emotions held a furious demeanor. He was unhappy and ever since he had gotten home he just sat on the couch with the same blank expression settling on his face, not saying a single word even when I had said his name or asked him what was wrong. My voice just went over his head like his didn’t even hear me at all.
His eyes were fixated on the wall the entire time he sat, which had been forty-five minutes now. He came home shortly after ten o’clock without a word and just sat there, staring at the wall. It was kind of creeping me out and giving me a possessed feeling like the horror movies, but I waited it out for when he was ready to speak.
His eyes stayed focused on the wall and his furious gaze turned sad, it wasn’t until I turned around to actually look at the wall that I noticed he wasn’t just looking at a plain wall - he was staring at a photo of him and Thomas. The photo was from the holidays last year, around Christmas time. Thomas has been here to ‘help’ Matt decorate the Christmas tree and right after it was complete, they took a photo. Matt knelt beside him with a charming smile while Thomas looked at the camera with a huge smile that hid most of his eyes. I could remember his screaming “Cheese!” as I took the photo of them.
I looked back at Matt who still hadn’t moved and I grew concerned. Was this about Thomas? I had no idea what was going on, “Matt, is this about Thomas? Is he okay?”
Nothing but silence filled the room and Matt didn’t bother to respond, but I did notice his jaw clench at the mention of Thomas.
“Please talk to me...” I begged him, taking a seat next to him on the couch and reaching for his hands. He kept his hands still but didn’t bother to hold mine back, “Matt, did something happen today?”
Matt’s head turned to look at me, causing him to make his first bit of movement in almost an hour. He looked at me silently before answering, ”I’m just sick and tired of not being able to see my son as much as I would like to.”
I felt everything inside of me turn, my heart tighten in pain for Matt. “Alexandra can’t... She can’t keep you from Thomas...” I said softly, unsure what else I could possibly say. Nothing I said could ever make Matt feel better, all I could do was be here for him.
Matt shot me an annoyed look, seeming frustrated with my comment, “She can and she will, Allison. She’s his mother, no one gives a damn about the father wanting time with his kid. And you know why?” Before I could reply Matt was already answering the question for me, ”Because the mother automatically gets more rights to the child no matter how good of a father I am.”
He stood up from the couch and I reached out for his hand, attempting to stop him, “Matt, I’m--”
“Allison, I just want to go to bed, okay?” He tugged his hand away and walked out of the living room without another word, leaving me stunned.
Our relationship had always been a fight against the world, I was always on Matt’s side and Matt was always on mine, but Thomas could be the one thing that could cause Matt to throw his hands up in surrender.
“Are you sure you don’t mind being here?” I turned to Matt as we reached the front step of my parent’s house. I wouldn’t blame him if he didn’t want to be here, I didn’t even want to be here but my brother had just gotten back from France. Normally I wouldn’t be invited to the family dinner since I’m practically banned from the family, but my brother wanted me here and with me comes Matt.
Matt reached up to adjust his tie out of habit only to realize that he wasn’t wearing one. Since my family wasn’t as high maintenance as his, he wore jeans and a t-shirt rather than his usual suit. He let his hand drop to his side, clearing his throat, “I don’t mind, Allison. This is your family, as long as you want to be here so do I.”
Well, I guess this is obligation for the both of us.
“Thank you for coming with me,” I smiled at Matt before holding my hand up and gently knocking on the door.
I hadn’t seen my parents in months. Not since my mother’s birthday, I had come by with a birthday card and said hello. Matt wasn’t with me at the time so the last and only time he met anyone from my family was when my father had a meeting with him at Reid Enterprises over six months ago. From what I heard it didn’t go so well and Matt was less that pleasant during the course of my father’s interview.
I noticed that Matt moved his shoulders like he would if he were wearing a suit jacket and I snickered lightly, “You wear too many fancy suits. This is proof that you need to be average sometimes.”
His eyes narrowed to mine and he chuckled, “I am average, the suits are my work attaire. You know that.”
“You wear them at more than just work, but hey, no complaints here. They’re sexy.” I grinned at him, leaning up to kiss him just as the front door opened.
I pulled back to see my mom standing there, wearing an apron and her light brown hair pulled into a messy ponytail, “Allison, Matt... Hi. Come on in.”
Matt smiled at my mom politely and held out a bouquet of flowers that he had bought on his own, “Thank you for inviting me, Mrs. Prescott. It’s lovely to meet you.”
“Oh goodness, thank you.” My mom looked surprised by the gesture, surely she was used to my dad’s perspective on life - not even buying her flowers on Valentines Day or their Anniversary, but Matt was a gentleman all around. Every single day, “Please, call me Joanne.”
I managed a little smile and walked inside with Matt following behind me. I could smell the scent of my mom’s cooking filling the air, “Dinner is smelling good, mom.”
Oh, my old house. The memories you hold. Good and bad.
“Thank you, Allison.” She answered with a smile before turning back to look at us, “Make yourselves at home...” Her eyes shifted to Matt and she tilted her head, confused, “Did you not bring your son? I told Allison to invite him also.”
I clenched my teeth together tightly and sighed softly. Of course my mother would be the one to make an impossible situation even worse. Matt had told me that he asked Alexandra if he could have Thomas for the night and she once again rejected him. While Matt is managing to fake a smile during, potentially, the hardest time in his life, she just manages to bring it up without realizing.
“He couldn’t make it, Thomas is with him mom tonight,” I replied before Matt was forced to answer her.
My mom frowned, “That’s too bad.”
I turned my attention back to Matt and took his hand, “Let’s go upstairs so I can show you my old room.”
The look on Matt’s face changed from disappointment to a hint of happiness. I didn’t want him to be constantly reminded of the lack of time he had with Thomas. He nodded his head and followed me as I pulled him towards the staircase.
We headed up the stairs case, feeling eagerness soar throughout my body at the thought of showing Matt the room that I had spent my entire teen years growing up in. From all of the slumber parties, the singing into hairbrushes, jumping on my bed, and the pink! Oh god, the pink was nauseating. It would be humiliating but I wanted Matt to see this part of my life, it was a huge part of my life.
We reached the second door on the second story hallway and I turned to face Matt with an excited grin on my face, “Okay. Don’t laugh... It’s really girly and... Well, stupid.”
Matt chuckled and kissed my forehead gently, “It isn’t stupid. Come on, I wanna see where Allison Prescott became the woman she is today.”
I bit my lip, taking ahold of the doorknob and twisting it to push my bedroom door open. Instantly, the smile left my face and was replaced with an expression of confusion. The once pink walls were now white, my twin bed was gone along with my white high dresser, the space was now taken up with a computer desk and bookshelves. Nothing in the room resembled me or the way I had left it.
“They... changed it...” I said softly, frowning at the realization of my childhood bedroom being changed to some kind of study or computer room without a second thought.
I heard Matt approaching me from behind, “Babe, it’s okay... Knowing this was your room, that’s meaningful enough.”
Turning to face Matt, my lips curved into a smile and I nodded my head, “Yeah... I suppose. It would have been embarrassing anyway, it was too girly it was disgusting.” I managed a small laugh, “Plus, I’m sure every parent renovates their child’s room after they move out.”
His arms snaked around my waist, pulling my body against mine as he hugged me, “Of course, baby.”
I stayed there, holding onto Matt and losing myself in my thoughts. Did every parent do that or was my parents just so thrilled to get me out of the house that they got rid of all of my things instantly?
I pulled away and looked up at Matt with an eyebrow raised, “Did your parents change your room?”
Matt looked down at me, running his tongue over his teeth hesitantly before responding, “Well... No, but they have plenty of extra room. Maybe your parent’s just needed the space, Allison.”
I know them and it isn’t about space with them. We have a basement that is relatively large for being a middle class family. They didn’t need to take the one place that was mine whether I had moved out or not.
“One second,” I answered before walking out of my ‘once bedroom’ and across the hall to where my brother’s childhood room had been. With a twist of the doorknob, I pushed it open to reveal just what I had expected.
Ryan’s bedroom was exactly how he had left it. The stupid football banners, the posters of girls in bikinis, his bed - which he was currently laying on with a Playboy magazine in his hands.
“Hey, Tinkerbell. Long time no see!”
Though it felt like I’ve only heard that nickname not so long ago, here my older brother of three years was in front of me and reminding me of the old days when my biggest concern was getting picked on my my big brother and getting called a stupid Disney name.
“Ryan, please stop with the nickname.” I laughed awkwardly, hoping that Matt wouldn’t hear but by the time I looked over my shoulder he was already standing next to me.
Ryan walked over to me and lifted me from the ground, squeezing me tightly, “I feel like I haven’t seen you in years. How have you been?”
As he set me back on my feet, I looked up at him and grinned, “It’s been a year... But I’ve been good. And what about you? How was France?”
Ryan casually shrugged, “It was fine, but it’s not home...” His eyes averted to Matt, “You must be the boyfriend?”
Matt nodded his head without hesitation, “That I am. Matt Reid, good to meet you...”
As Matt extended his hand to Ryan, Ryan shook it firmly, “Ryan. Good to meet you, Matt. So, hey. How did you guys meet anyway? Tink here has never been in a relationship, this just blows my mind.”
Ryan laughed, giving crazy hand gestures with his words and I looked at Matt quietly, “We uh...”
“We met through work,” Matt answered for me, nodding his head at Ryan, “Well, kind of. Allison worked for me.”
My brother seemed impressed when Matt mentioned me working for him. Possibly because the last time he had seen me I hadn’t had a job in my life, “Nicely done, Tink.”
It seemed crazy to speak to someone, my family of all people, that didn’t know how the situation between Matt and I started. My brother seemed completely clueless and I couldn’t be happier to talk to someone about our relationship without them instantly judging us. But I wanted him to know the truth, because either way someone would eventually tell him and it is the true story of how Matt and I started.
“Your family’s company is Reid Enterprises, correct?”
Matt nodded his head, “Correct.”
“Ah, so were you a secretary or something for him?” He asked me, a smirk playing on his lips, “Work place relationships get complicated. But kudos to you for surviving it.”
You have no idea.
“Actually, she was my nanny.” Matt admitted, “She watched my son while I worked and I suppose you’ll hear it anyway so I might as well tell you now. I was married when Allison and I became involved, so yes, I had an affair. Is it as simple as that? Absolutely not. But I love her and I’m getting divorced so we can be together.”
Matt had left both Ryan and I speechless. It wasn’t that he said a lot, he just said the truth and the truth was crazy. Literally crazy. But it was our reality and he wasn’t hiding it.
Ryan nodded his head, “Okay.”
The silence was more than awkward and I couldn’t help but wondering how Ryan’s reaction had been so mellow compared to everyone else’s, but I wouldn’t complain, instead I would be grateful for the non-verbal judgement.
“You took that better than everyone else,” I let out the deep breath I had no idea I was even holding.
Ryan casually shrugged his shoulders, “Well, I did have time to try and understand the situation. You’ve been together for what, five months now?”
“Seven... But, wait. You knew?”
“Of course, I didn’t say anything because I wanted to see if your boyfriend here would tell me straight up. I’m pleased that he isn’t ashamed,” Ryan flashed Matt a smirk, running his fingers through his blonde hair.
Immediately Matt wrapped an arm around my waist protectively, pulling my against his side and giving my brother a challanging stare, “Is there a reason I should be ashamed? I fell in love with your sister. Of course it wasn’t under ideal circumstances, but it happened and I wouldn’t change meeting her.”
Without a word, Ryan’s smirk grew and he nodded his head with a seemingly impressed look on his face. He walked towards me and gave my shoulder a slight pat, “You got a good one.”
As Ryan walked out of the room I turned my attention to Matt who seemed more confused than anything, he turned his gaze to me and furrowed his brows, “I can’t tell if he likes me or hates me...”
“Me either,” I admitted.
Sitting around the dinner table was weird to say the least, for me it wasn’t as awkward as it was when I had dinner with Matt’s family, but it still wasn’t fantastic. I was used to this kind of uncomfortable feeling though. Sitting with my dinner while my parents rambled on about Ryan, or just the sound of the silverware hitting against the plates, it was a normal dinner at the Prescott home. My dad hadn’t spoken to Matt, clearly still being bitter after the meeting they had months ago.
“So, Tinkerbell...” Ryan started, but I was quick to cut him off.
I shot him a warning look across the table, “Enough with that.”
Matt’s voice spoke next, seeming intrigued by the sibling bickering, “How did the nickname come to be?”
He watched Ryan and I as he took a sip of his water, my eyes narrowed towards Ryan knowing that he would take advantage of the opportunity to humiliate me. “Funny story. Allison was four and I was seven, for Halloween I was Peter Pan and she was Tinkerbell. Normally that would be the end of it, right?”
I rubbed my index fingers over my temples and groaned, “Keep in mind that I was four. A child, yet I haven’t been able to let this down to this very day.”
"Anyway... After Halloween, Allison refused to take off her costume. Every day for months she would put the costume on and put some stupid golden glitter in her hand, blowing it around on people, even strangers.” Ryan began chuckling at the memory, “Not only was she acting like a fucking lunatic, but she would only respond if we called her Tinkerbell.”
Matt wrapped his arm around the back of my chair, laughing along with Ryan and scratching his stubble as he leaned back in his chair, “Oh, wow... That’s something alright.”
“The name stuck after that,” Ryan nodded as he took a sip of his soda.
“And you’ve never let me live it down,” I pointed out, looking over at Matt, “I was four. Children do stupid things.”
He smiled charmingly at me and kissed my forehead, “I think it’s cute. Little Allison dressed up as Tinkerbell, I can almost imagine it.”
“Please don’t,” I begged.
“You really don’t have to,” Ryan chimed in, “I’m sure we have photos here somewhere. Right mom?”
I looked towards my mom with a frantic look on my face, not wanting to be humiliated with my childhood photos today. I knew how this happened in the movies, you show one photo and it leads to the entire album including ones of you standing up naked in the bathtub when you had chicken pox at the age of five. Yes, my mom was that kind of mom when I was little. She had photos of every horrible event in my life. Every flu, every scratch, every fucking thing.
My mom tapped her chin in thought, “You know, I’m sure there here somewhere... I’ll check after dinner.”
“That’s okay, mom. Really.” I insisted.
Ryan obviously wasn’t taking no for an answer because after dinner we ended up in the living room, sitting on the couches while mom my went to get the box of photo albums from the hallway closet. I had stopped begging at this point because it obviously wasn’t going to get me anywhere. I muzzled into Matt’s arms as he wrapped one around me while we sat on the couch, waiting.
“This isn’t how I expected dinner with my family to go...” I whispered for only him to hear.
Matt traced his fingertips along my arm and smirked at me, “Oh, come on. I can’t wait to see photos of you when you were younger. I bet you were the cutest Tinkerbell there ever was.”
“Mhm,” He winked at me, “You can’t hide those photos from me forever.”
That was true. Especially with Ryan around, he seemed set on humiliating me in front of Matt, maybe that’s what older brothers are supposed to do, but I wouldn’t go down without a fight. My dad walked into the room, passing Ryan a beer, then extending his arm to give one to Matt.
Matt glanced in his direction before nodding his head and accepting the beer, “Thank you, Mr. Prescott.”
Without a word my dad took a seat on the arm chair in the corner of the room and faced the sofa Matt and I were sitting on, “So, how is your relationship going?”
That was forward. I managed a smile anyway through his blunt words, “It’s wonderful, dad. We’re happy... I’m happy.”
Taking a sip of his own beer that he already had waiting for him on the coffee table. After taking a few gulps of his beer, he set the bottle down and let out a satisfied ahh before proceeding, “And how is your family company going? Still running smoothly on your end, Matthew?”
“Dad, that’s none of your business.” I warned him, he was clearly still bitter after his previous run in and Matt rejecting his business idea.
“Allison, sweetheart. Let the adults talk,” My dad responded with a taunting grin, “So Matthew, your company. I hear there’s some changes being made.”
Changes? Matt didn’t make me aware of any changes, but then again I didn’t exactly understand the business anyway, the changes probably wouldn’t be something that I would make sense of anyway.
“Well, Mr. Prescott, businesses are always making changes,” Matt stated another fair point, “However, professional businessman don’t explain them outside of the workplace.”
My dad began to chuckle which sent me off ease, I felt Matt tense and when I looked over at him his jaw was clenched and he was glaring at my dad. For some reason he seemed agitated and I had no idea why. I should know, but I didn’t.
“Funny you should mention that, I was speaking with your father the other day, Matthew. After he contacted me and asked me to come in for yet another meeting to give him my pitch directly, I asked if you had a change of heart,” my dad raised both of his eyebrows and I recognized the look on his face, he was taunting Matt, “And do you know what he said?”
“Dad, can we not ta--”
“He made me aware that you are no longer employed at Reid Enterprises,” My dad cut me off mid sentence.
The room fell silent and even Ryan who had been watching TV had turned his head in our direction, his beer half way to his lips. Of course my dad had to be lying because if Matt wasn’t working with his family anymore, that’s something he would tell me. I’m not a professional when it comes to relationships but that seems like common sense.
“Matt is working with his family’s company, dad. He goes to work every day and--” I began, only to explain cut off again.
“Allison... Don’t.” Matt stopped me, “Your dad is right. I quit the company over a week ago.”
A rush of feelings swept through my body, some good and some bad. But mostly bad. I was confused, I didn’t understand why Matt didn’t tell me about this earlier, then I was humiliated that my father was the one who exposed this and I looked like the idiot who had no idea about her boyfriends work like. And worst of all, I began to feel nervous. Where the hell did Matt go every day when he left for ‘work’?
Before I could respond my mom entered the room with a box of photo albums in her arms, “I’m pretty sure that Allison’s photo albums are stored in the attic, but we do have most of Ryan’s here. She’s probably in some of these.”
I let out a dry laugh, “Of course.”
My mom glanced over at me in confusion as she set the box down, “What’s wrong now, Allison?”
“Oh, nothing. I’m thoroughly amused with the fact that my photo albums are stored away while Ryan’s are lying around to look at. Not to mention I’ve been gone less than a year and my room is now a computer room, while Ryan has been gone nearly six years and his room is exactly the same,” I casually shrugged my shoulders, shaking my head to myself, “Just a thought, next time you invite me for dinner, at least make an effort to pretend that you care.”
I stood up from the couch and made my way towards the door, I didn’t have to give Matt a heads up or anything because he knew right away that I was ready to go and he followed me.
The drive to Matt’s place was quiet, I know personally that I was lost in my own thoughts, maybe he was also. I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that Matt had kept leaving his job from me for an entire week, it was his choice and if he didn’t want to work there any longer I could care less, but what really concerned me was where he was going every day when he pretended he was going to work.
Even the sound of Aerosmith on the radio wasn’t making the drive any less quiet in a figurative sense. I hadn’t said a word and neither have Matt, though I had noticed him glance over in my direction a few times.
“You’re not saying anything which makes me believe that you’re upset for some reason,” Matt finally said, sparing me another glance.
I shifted my gaze from the window and looked over at him, “I’m not upset... I’m just confused, Matt. I don’t understand why you wouldn’t tell me.”
“Because it isn’t important,” He said with a simple shrug, keeping his gaze fixated on the road, “It’s a job, Allison. There’s other jobs.”
I furrowed my eyebrows, turning more to get a better view to argue with him, “That’s not the point. The point is that every morning you woke up and put on your suit, grabbed your briefcase and acted like you went to work anyway!”
Matt’s eyes shifted to mine before he moved them back to the road, clearing his throat, “I’m sorry I didn’t say anything.”
“Where have you been going every day?” I asked blatantly, I had a right to ask because if this relationship was going to work secrets weren’t going to be kept.
“Stop lying to me. What happened to be open and honest with each other?” I stared at him, waiting for some kind of answer though I wasn’t sure if I wanted the answer at all. I didn’t know what to expect or if I wanted to hear what he had to say.
The car stopped at a red light and Matt tapped his fingers on the steering wheel casually, I noticed his pressing his lips together in a irritated manner and finally he looked at me, “What do you think I’ve been doing, Allison? I’m genuinely curious. Go ahead and tell me what you’re so worried about.”
His sudden shift in attitude had taken me off guard and I furrowed my eyebrows, shaking my head, “I... I don’t think...”
“You think I’m cheating on you, right?” He laughed dryly, shaking his head in disbelief, “Funny how the tables have turned, huh? You think I’m slipping out of the house every morning and going to God knows whose house and fucking them all day behind your back just like I did with Alexandra. That’s what you think, right?”
As I blinked, I felt a tear leave my eye and my vision blurred. I haven’t seen Matt like this, he was mad at me and I didn’t even know why. I didn’t know what I did but he was angry and he was taking it out on me in a way I’ve never seen before. I shifted back in my seat and pressed my back against the seat, turning my head to face the window so I was no longer looking at Matt.
I closed my eyes tightly. Couples argue, I reminded myself, they fight and they say things to each other but they just end up stronger. I was new to this relationship thing when I got involved with Matt, but I knew that not everyone day was supposed to be perfect, seven months of perfection was a pretty good job. We were bound to have one bad day. I could only hope that tomorrow would be better.
The only thing that concerned me was that Matt hadn’t answered my question.
Where did he go every morning?