Summary: Fred goes home over Christmas Break, where he has to face his abusive father, betrayed brother and ignorant mother. When he comes back, he is not the same person he was before he left and therefore he doesn’t feel the same about the love he had for his girlfriend.
Rating: R – for language, child abuse and general maltreatment.
Dedication: To Kristine. Thank you for being my inspiration, and for coming up with a great title for the story. And sorry for writing prequels when we’re not done with the main story yet. You know how annoying sidekicks can be... Forgive me? *pouts*
Disclaimer: Fred, Catalina and Fred’s family belong to Cimmy. Lex O’Leary and Jeff Delricci belong to NYgoldfish54. Any other mentioned people belong to Disney.
Chapter 1. Welcome Home
I put down my bag outside the door. The hesitation I feel before I open the door is enough to drive a person out of their mind. Hesitation, mixed with regret. Why did I have to go home?
My father would’ve killed me if I stayed back at school. That’s the reason. His whole speech of ‘caring about ones family’ wasn’t completely lost on me. For the first time in years, my whole family is getting together for a real Christmas celebration. This really translates ‘the outside world must never know that we actually despise each other’. I guess Dad is having some business associates over. Must keep up a good front.
Last time I went home was in June. Can’t remember why, really. School had ended, but that’s no reason for going home. I could’ve stayed back at school. A friend of mine offered to take me in, and my girlfriend told me we could do something together, but I still went home. Maybe I just wanted to meet my brothers again? I’m still not sure.
I can hear a noise on the other side of door. I’m not surprised. There’s always screaming and fighting in my house. That’s why I never go home. I didn’t have to cave in to my father’s request this time either, but I felt guilty because my brothers had to be here alone with both of my parents at the same time. I am after all the oldest.
While I know that my two year younger brother would manage fine by himself; there’s still my baby brother Alexander. We’re four brothers; we used to be five, but that was a long time ago. I’m the failure; the other three are spoiled rotten. My dad never lays a hand on them, which is a good thing, because I’d kill him if he ever tries.
Of course, that leaves me with the verbal assault. And the always so lovely occasional beatings. Why am I here again? Oh, right, Christmas. Holidays are fun, aren’t they?
I decide to quickly open the door before I change my mind. I’m not going all the way back to the States. It took me eighteen hours to fly here, and two hours by train. Then thirty minutes by local bus around the neighborhood. I could’ve walked and avoided the extra distance, but I was too tired. The bus went by Catalina’s house. I had to look closer at it, and I almost fell off the seat when I tried to see if I could spot her family.
She’s back at school. I think Adam offered to let her stay in Edina with him over the holiday. I assume they are all getting together, celebrating. I wish I was there. I wish she was here. But she didn’t want to go home, even though I offered to pay for her ticket. Maybe she’s feeling bad because she can’t pay me back, but I don’t care about that. I just want her company.
This time, the shouting is provided by my brother Sebastian. The middle child, if you don’t count me. I often compare him with my girlfriend because they get the same dangerous outbursts from time to time. But she’s a bit more emotional. My brother is just bad tempered. Gee, I wonder where he got that from?
Okay, so I have a bad temper too. A really awful one. When I snap, it’s not very fun to be me. I always scream at people, insulting them or just yelling mean things. When I later regret myself, I’ll do almost anything for forgiveness. Frustration and anger are my main emotions. At least when someone makes me mad.
My mom spots me right away, the minute I enter the hallway. I don’t even have time to take off my jacket before she opens her mouth. “There you are! Where have you been? Could you take care of your brothers for a while?”
What happened to ‘nice to see you’? ‘I’ve missed you’? No, I’m here to pay off the debt to my parents. Sorry for being born at all. “Sure. Hey, Sebastian, what’s up?”
My dear brother stops howling when he hears my voice. “I told you he’d come!” he exclaims with a superior tone in his voice. I’m not sure who he’s talking to until my brother Marcus looks up from behind the couch.
“Good, now shut up.”
Still no welcoming phrase of any kind? “What are you fighting about?” I say, clasping a hand over Sebastian’s mouth to keep him from objecting to the ‘insult’.
“Alexander broke his stupid Game Boy. I’m trying to find the pieces to the broken plastic thing on the back,” Marcus answers from the floor. “But he’s not appreciating my help at all. Could you put him out in the snow?”
“No one’s going to be put outside,” I mutter. I take away my hand before Sebastian decides to bite me. “Why did he have that in the first place?” I’m trying to mediate the best I can. I’m the one who has to keep us all together. I’m so sick and tired of it.
Sebastian starts bellowing a long explanation on how Alexander took the device from the living room table ‘without asking’. “Did you ever think of the possibility that he might not have asked because he can’t talk yet?” Marcus snorts.
More shouting. My regular migraine is back. Haven’t had those in a while. Welcome back. “Calm down,” I suggest. Yeah, that line only works on mature people. Not on pre-teens who’s had too much sugar.
So, I’m home again. And it’s funny how Goddamn at home it feels. I’m almost about to lose my temper and join in on the screaming when someone tugs at my jeans. “Fred!”
It’s Alexander. One year old, almost exactly. His face lights up when he recognizes me. I don’t know how he can remember me, because I’ve heard that small children forget real easy. Maybe he likes me or something? “Hi, Alex. What’s up?” I kneel down next to him, hoping that I won’t make him cry or anything. He puts his tiny little hand on my knee, trying to keep himself steady.
“He’s the one who did this,” Sebastian explains. “It’s his fault.”
“What do you want me to do about it?” I ask. “Maybe you want me to put him out in the snow?”
Sebastian seems to ponder over this, before he laughs. “Yeah, put him out!”
Okay, mission accomplished. I made my brothers laugh. No more yelling for at least five minutes. Yay me. Alexander gives me a hug, wailing whenever I try to put him down. Fine, I’ll carry him around for a while. He is after all my brother.
My room looks the same. No dust or anything, the housekeeper my mom drives crazy every other day must’ve known about my arrival and cleaned up. At least she likes me. I always pick up my stuff, and don’t leave laundry all over the place, like some people. It’s always good to know that if your own mother doesn’t love you, you always have the housekeeper to turn to.
I pack up my things, ignoring the instant screams from my brothers the minute I leave the living room. I didn’t bring much with me home. I figured I could buy whatever I need instead of carrying endless amounts of bags with me.
The backyard looks the same too. Covered in snow, making it impossible to see the scattered toys my brothers have planted out on the lawn. We live in the more wealthy part of town. Our house is of the same size as a small castle. Okay, maybe not. But it’s a mansion, built in the early 70’s. Very luxurious. And it’s located right next to the shore of the grand river. Very expensive.
There’s a knock on the door. Can’t be any of my brothers. They would just burst right in. “Yeah?”
“Your father is home. You need to wash up before dinner.”
Yes, Mother. I will. Not like I ever do that, ever, but sure. Since when does she order me around anyway? Last time she spoke to me was in 1991. ‘Bad Fredrik, don’t get into fights with other classmates, their parents might be important’.
I hate when they call me Fredrik. No one ever calls me that anymore. Catalina started to call me Fred, I never really knew why, but it stuck with me. Now everyone calls me that. It’s like with Lex. Her name isn’t really Lex, but everyone calls her that anyway.
Now I start to wonder what they’re doing. My friends, I mean. According to the time, it should be morning over in USA. They’re probably sleeping. Maybe I should call and find out?
No time for phone calls. My brother’s voice is too sharp for me to ignore. “What?” I growl, opening the door. Marcus is standing right outside with my rucksack in his hand. He’s obviously been going through my stuff, several times, before letting me know he has the bag. “Marcus, come on. Leave my things alone.”
“If you were home a little more often, you’d know that this is how it is to have brothers. They go through your stuff, ruining your belongings, just destroying things in general. Be glad I only finished your candy bar,” Marcus points out, pushing past me to get into my room.
There’s no need to give a lecture. There’s no need to lose your temper. There’s no need to shout. “Get out of my room now!” I snap. Okay, to hell with logics.
“Isn’t your girlfriend coming to visit? She could baby-sit Alex.”
“She’s in Minneapolis.”
“I like her. She seems like a clueless chick.”
Thanks. It only took me years to find someone who likes me for me. It only took me months to realize that she was in fact interested in me. If anyone’s a fool here, it’s me. I better not mention that, though. That would only result in some more taunting. “And why are you still in my room?”
“The babies are driving me crazy. I thought I could hang with you for a while. To catch up on the brotherhood sort of feeling.”
What does the little brat want this time? “So, you just missed me? Aw, how sweet.”
“I guess. Also, I want to know why you came home. Don’t you know that Dad’s going to be here?” Marcus asks, sitting down on my bed. I shut the door, rolling my eyes. “He asked about you. Alex I mean. He remembers you. You should come home more often.”
The guilt strikes again. “Sorry. You know how it is.”
“No, seriously. You should live here. Dad is never home anyway. You could go to school in town, and play hockey with your old team. And we could help you if you need it. Sebastian could run your errands. And Alex could be trained to fetch things.”
I have to laugh. His logic is as bad as mine. “I know. But I can’t stay here. I’m sorry. But I’m here now, right?”
“Yeah, but for how long? The minute Dad takes off, you’ll leave,” Marcus sighs. He’s right. I can’t stay here longer than necessary, no matter how much I love my brothers.
“Fredrik, did you hear me? I want you to get ready for dinner!” my mom hollers on the other side of the door. Marcus turns his betrayed look away from me, gazing down into the floor. And I tear my guilt away from him.
Christmas has never been a favorite of mine anyway.