The late afternoon sky was just beginning to darken when Morgelo stepped from the University building. Leaning against the wall, he pulled a pack of cigarettes from his back pocket; half remained, with a lighter tucked into the carton. Taking one of the sticks and the lighter, the man lit the cigarette and then put the lighter and pack back into his pocket. For a moment he stayed there, watching the people moving around the lawn; a few of the younger students were busy making a snowman, complete with a scarf, hat, and carrot nose.
He was relaxing, having spent nearly the entire day studying for the upcoming finals. Being out of his room and breathing fresh air, along with the cigarette, was almost immediately a balm to his stress. He was feeling hungry, and his thoughts turned to his sister, and what she’d be doing right then- not studying, if he knew her. She always put that off until the last possible moment and then begged for his help. And for his part, he couldn’t ever say no.
Maybe she’d like dinner. Taking a last drag at the cigarette, Melo rubbed it out against the brick wall of the building, making sure the last ember was out before tossing it into a trash can and heading across the lawn to the Owls’ House. A few of the kids waved at him, those he had come to know since arriving. Waving back, he called a greeting to them but didn’t stop on his way to Mey’s room. He knocked on the door and waited for her to call him in or open up.
“Who is it?” she called out, sounding annoyed at the interruption. “I’m busy, go away!”
“It’s me, Mey, and I come with an offer- but if you’re so adamant about being left alone…”
“Oh, shut up, you,” she replied, a note of amusement in her tone; the door swung open a moment later, the girl’s green eyes flicking up to his. “What offer?”
“Dinner, if you’re hungry. I thought we could go to a place in town, your choice. What’s that?” he added on, his gaze flicking to the packet she was holding.
Mey glanced down too, but she only shrugged and tossed it away toward her bed. “Nothing. Dinner sounds good, I’m hungry. Chinese?”
“Yeah, okay. But don’t try to distract me. What is that?”
Mey glanced away, taking a step back with another shrug. “It’s… it’s stupid, okay? I just thought- they’re holding auditions for a play in a couple months and I thought I’d try out. It’d be for a big part; t’s actually a musical, and there’s no real lead, but the part I’m going for isn’t bad.”
“That’s not stupid,” Melo replied. “That’s great. I’m glad you’re trying out, at least. Don’t sweat it, you’ll get it. Have faith.”
“Yeah, right. I’ll keep at it. So, we going?” Waiting for Melo’s nod, she turned to grab a coat from her closet and wrapped it around herself, tucking her feet into a pair of warm shoes and then following her brother out of the room. She was pleased to find that while it was cold, it wasn’t snowing, though the powder still lay thick on the ground, making the walk to the parking lot a bit difficult. But the truck Melo drove was high enough to clear the snow, and with the heater turned on, the cold was no longer a factor.
It wasn’t a long drive, but she still had curfew and homework, so Melo settled on a place in town, instead of trying for anything bigger. Parking outside of the restaurant, the man cut the engine and slipped from the vehicle, with Mey on the other side; they met at the front of the truck. “Maybe we can catch a movie afterward?” Morgelo offered, glancing at his sister as they stepped into the warm room, quickly shrugging off their coats.
“Oh, I don’t know. It’s already getting late and I have a paper I have to work on. Dinner’s enough, Melo, you don’t have to do any more- and besides, we already went last week. There was only that one movie we could agree on and I don’t want to see it again so soon.”
A shadow of disappointment darkened the older sibling’s eyes, before he gave a shrug. “Well, there’s always my collection. You can’t say no to the movies you’ve collected over the years, right? And it doesn’t have to be tonight. Just- whenever. My door’s always open for you.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Xeremey replied; she was grateful when the hostess appeared. She greeted them both by name and led them to their booth. There was no point to the menus she gave, they both knew what they wanted, but Mey took one anyway, to give herself something to focus on besides her brother, sitting across from her.
Morgelo was quiet, glancing around the restaurant for a moment before facing his sister again. “Tell me more about the play. What’s the name of it? What part are you trying for?”
Deliberate change in topic or not, Mey was still readily seizing on it, lowering the menu to meet her brother’s gaze. She hated any distance to come up between them, and this was a safe thing to discuss. “It’s called Les Miserables,” she began, enunciating the word with her best attempt at a French accent. “I’m trying for the part of Eponine, who’s got a thing for one of the main guys, but he’s apparently blind and stupid and somehow falls for some other chick he lays eyes on for like, two seconds.” Pausing for a moment before going on: “How’s your studying going?”
“Well enough,” Melo replied, relaxing to slouch a bit in the seat. “And pretty much over, thank God. I’m still going at it, trying to keep everything in my mind fresh for next semester, but I don’t need to worry too much now that it’s break for me. What about you? Your finals aren’t too far off. Are you studying?”
“Oh- I…” Mey began, only to be interrupted as their waiter paused by the table.
“What’ll you have to drink tonight?” he asked, notepad and pen in his hand.
Once more, Mey leaped on the distraction and turned to the young man with a too-bright smile. “Cherry coke, if you’ve got it. Thanks.”
The man made a note on the pad and then turned to Morgelo with the same question; he requested a water, and then gave his order, as did Mey. The waiter gave a smile to both, a smile which lingered a second too long on the girl. Shoving Mey’s menu at him, Morgelo shot a cool glare at the waiter as he spoke. “That’ll do, thanks.”
“Oh- right. Sorry,” the other apologized, taking the menu and heading to the kitchen to put in their order.
Melo switched the glare to Mey. “Do you have to keep doing that?” he demanded. “I know you’re half siren and all, but it gets a bit old, you turning all the men stupid over you.”
“I don’t do it on purpose,” the girl retorted. “And I can’t help it if they’re attracted to me. I’d turn it off if I could. Besides, you can’t really talk, because you do it too.” The two of them eyed each other, and the all-too-unwelcome appearance of the waiter was the last straw for Melo, even though he was bringing their drinks.
“I’m going to the bathroom,” he snapped, firing a nasty look at the waiter, who blinked back warily in confusion. Morgelo, still in a foul mood, disappeared around the corner to the restrooms, his arms pushing the door open hard enough to make it rebound against the wall, and the same with the stall door. Each movement rough and angry, and in a way it helped: taking his anger out on inanimate objects eased the desire to hit the waiter.
Back in the dining room, Mey heaved a sigh as she glanced up at the young waiter. “I’m sorry about him- he’s sensitive.” She glanced wryly after Morgelo, and then back at the young man as he gave a snort.
“Yeah, I noticed. Is he your brother? You look a lot alike.” Pleased at the girl’s nod, he went on. “Can I get your name? I’m Jared.” An almost shy sort of smile crept onto his face as he flicked his eyes toward where Morgelo had disappeared.
“Xeremey,” the girl replied, enjoying the easy-going conversation and leaning her chin into her hand, her elbow propped on the table. A smile graced her face as she went on: “It’s nice to meet you, Jared.”
“You- you too,” the boy replied, a gleam entering his eyes and his own grin widening. “Well, Xeremey, I kind of wanted to ask earlier, but not with him sitting there…” Trailing off, almost a bait, and Mey took it, though she was sure she knew where the boy was going.
Another moment of hesitation before he shifted a step closer. One hand lifted, wavered for a moment, and then reached forward to brush a strand of hair behind one of her ears. He spoke just as Morgelo came back around the corner. “Could I get your number?”
“Excuse me?” the older man asked, the moment of relaxation from his short absence vanishing in a heartbeat; he stepped up to come face to face with the young waiter, glowering. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing? You’re not here to flirt with my sister, you little fuck, you’re here to serve food!”
“Morgelo-” Mey started, but she was drowned out by the brunette waiter, who squared up to the taller man.
“Hey, chill out. You can’t talk to me like that, and you don’t own her, she’s free to date who she likes. So back off, got it?” Turning back to Mey, who was staring at him with an expression he couldn’t place in her eyes. Foolish, perhaps, but not expecting any further trouble from the taller man. “So, Xeremey, about that number…”
Which was as far as he got before there was a heavy blow to the side of his face and an outcry from the few people in the restaurant. “Morgelo!” Xeremey shrieked, leaping to her feet and bending over the younger man who was now on the floor, one hand pressed over his cheek and a stunned look in his eye. “What did you do that for?”
But the taller had already turned away, fists clenched and fury throbbing through him- the barest bit of sanity he had left urging him to leave before he broke and hit the little shit again and again. In a rigid walk, the man made his way out of the restaurant. Nobody tried to stop him, but they seemed to be quite glad to see him leave. And, the biggest thing, Mey wasn’t following. One glance back revealed her still kneeling over the boy on the ground, and it was clear then that she’d made her choice. And it wasn’t him.
Mey, however, was torn. Concerned for the waiter, but he wasn’t bleeding and he wasn’t unconscious, and Melo meant more to her than some stranger, no matter how charming. “Sorry- I’m sorry,” she blurted, scrambling to her feet and trailing after her brother, just as another waiter came over to give a hand to his coworker. She called after him as she ran out of the restaurant. “Melo?”
Morgelo paused, glancing back at her, still tense and fighting to control himself; the last was a bit easier now that she was here, back with him instead of with the other boy. Still, he couldn’t help a jab. “Oh, remembered me, have you?” he snapped, turning to face her. “Why aren’t you still in there, with that kid? You like him, don’t you? Let him put his hands all over you. Go on back to him, blind him, make him fall in love with you, and don’t give a second thought about me, okay?” He noticed the annoyance that crossed her face as she replied, just as heated.
“I haven’t forgotten you,” she retorted, stepping closer and keeping her eyes on his. “I’m not going back to leave you alone…”
Melo broke in, a near snarl in his voice, “You have! Going off and dating people, you’ve hardly spent any time with me lately and when I ask, you’ve always got excuses! ‘I’m too tired, I’ve got to study, I’ve got homework.’” The rage faded from him, a flash of hurt passing over his face as he sagged, glancing away from her and struggling not to give up completely to the pain of the thought that she was drifting away from him. “I miss you,” he went on. A softer tone, sending a spike of guilt through Mey. “After everything, I can’t stand the thought of losing you, too.”
Biting her lip, Mey sighed. She understood it, really, but he couldn’t expect her to never find someone; he couldn’t keep her to himself all through their lives. She wanted more than that, and yet she wasn’t sure how to tell him. “You won’t lose me,” she promised him instead. “We’re family, and I’ll never leave you on your own.” Accepting the man’s hug, his arms looped around her and pulled her close, his head tucking over hers; for a moment they remained that way, before Mey eased away from him. “Come on, let’s head back. We can get something to eat and then maybe watch a movie?”
Catching his grin and nod, she allowed him to grasp one of her hands as they set off toward the school. Mey paused, glancing back as she asked, “Your car?”
Melo shrugged it off, tugging her along again. “It’ll be fine. I want to walk, if that’s okay with you?” The girl gave an agreeable nod, and then pulled Morgelo over to another restaurant; a half hour later, they were back in his private room, a movie set up to play. Comfortable, light-hearted banter and comments on the movie, which they’d both seen more times than they could count, and a sense of companionship between the siblings that both enjoyed and that Melo hoped he would never lose.