Everyone has their weak moments. Even the brave strong souls that are supposed to protect us. They all have to have their moments, a safe place to lose it. That’s what I am for him. A place he can turn to and lose it.
After all, I am his sister. And what are families for if not a place to turn when you’re weak.
I knew this week had been particularly difficult. You could see his stress written all over the headlines of the newspaper. So I wasn’t surprised at all to walk into my apartment and find him silhouetted against the living room window. “Hello, Andrew.”
In spite of the hood and mask, I could still see him smiling, just slightly, his relief at seeing me not hidden. “Mara.”
“I am allowed to keep calling you Andrew, right?” I teased, dropping my keys into the dish by the door and taking off my scarf and coat like I often found brother dressed like a superhero in my living room. “I mean, you have gotten some great names recently. The Saint? Angel? The Great Protector? Did you prefer one of those?”
Andrew groaned, stepping away from the window and lowering his hood. “Ugh. No. No please. Always use my name.” I came into the living room and he stepped towards me, his arms half raised for a hug, “I’ve missed you, Mara.”
“Ack. Hand check,” I stepped away so that he couldn’t pull me into a hug, and Andrew laughed. Slightly sheepishly, he raised his hands to show them to me. As I had expected they were covered in dirt, grease, mud, and possibly even blood, but I tried not to think about that. “Yeah. That’s what I thought. You know where the bathroom is, spare towels and spare clothes are in the same place.” I pointed down the hall.
Andrew slumped his shoulders like the moody teenager he once was. “Yes, Mom.” He whined as he shuffled in the direction of the bathroom.
He met me in the kitchen fifteen minutes later, every bit my brother, all traces of the Saint Protector Angel washed away with the grime. He tossed his wet towel down on the island and pulled me away from the dinner I was making us to pull me into one of the tightest hugs. I hugged him back as tightly as I could. He rested his chin on the top of my head, and I knew what was coming. I reached out to turn off the hob before returning to holding him as tightly as I could as I felt his shoulders start to shake. Carefully, I pulled away again, to lead him to the couch, where we sat as he began to properly sob.
I let him cry for twenty minutes, reaching out to stroke his hair the way our mother used to, whispering encouragement and trying not to let my own tears fall.
When he finally covered his face with both hands, I knew we were nearing the end of the breakdown. He wiped the tears from his cheeks with a sense of finality and tried to give me a smile. “Sorry, Mars. It seems like every time I come to see you, this happens.” His voice was gravely from the sobs.
“It’s okay, Andy. I’m just a catalyst for bursting into tears. I get it.” I tried to make a joke, but Andrew locked me in a stern look.
“No, I’m serious. I’m really sorry that I keep doing this to you.”
“And I’m serious, it’s okay. You have to be brave for the rest of the world, but you never have to be brave for me if you don’t feel like it. And if crying to me is what you need to keep strong, then I’m literally a shoulder to cry on. We came into this world together, Andrew, and I will never turn my back on you when you need me. Do you understand?”
Andrew gave me a proper, if teary-eyed, smile at that. He leaned forward and kissed me softly on the forehead. “Thank you. You are more of a Saint or an Angel then I will ever be. “
“True. But you can keep that protector thing. Not really my bag.”
“And so modest,” Andrew teased, reaching out to flick me gently on the nose as if we were ten years old again. I swatted his hand away, and we settled into silence again. After a few minutes, Andrew leaned back against the couch cushions. “Go ahead. Ask, I know you want to.”
I hesitated only for a second because that was as long as my self-control lasted. “How’s Colin?”
“He’s fine. Hasn’t been injured in ages, and I think he’s got his reckless streak back under control. I think he’s doing better, you know, in his head too. Y’all had some tough decisions, huh?”
I hesitated again, trying to decide how much I wanted to push my luck. “He could come and see me sometimes…if he wanted.”
“I—“ Andrew paused as if he was trying to think of what he was going to say. No, he knew exactly what he was going to say, but he didn’t want to hurt me. “I don’t think he could, Mars. Not that he doesn’t want to. I think if it were up to him he’d be here right now. But I think if he came back he couldn’t leave again. And we need him out there. A clean break was good for him.”
“Right. Right. I know. You could lose him or me but not both.” I could feel the blush creeping up on my cheeks, embarrassed for even bringing it up, “Of course. I just miss him and wasn’t thinking for a moment there. I know he can’t come back.”
I gave Andrew my best smile. “No, I’m sorry. Forget it. You need him more than me, I know.” I stood up and wiped my hands on my pants, eager to do anything else. “Are you hungry? What I started is probably ruined now, but I can find something else. Staying the night? I think the guest room is still suitable. Need any supplies while you’re here?”
“I’ll stay the night if that’s all right. But, I insist, let me cook. As payment for taking care of me. You go wash up, change out of your work clothes. Get comfortable. I’ll take care of dinner.” Andrew shooed me towards the back of the apartment.
It would be good to get out of his sight for a moment, just to get my head on straight again, so I accepted his offer and started towards my room. Just as I passed the door frame, Andrew called my name. I paused, but I didn’t turn around. Andrew took that as his cue and said softly, “He does love you. With all his heart.”
A lump rose in my throat, and I could say a thing. I couldn’t acknowledge what Andrew had said at all. I wouldn’t be able to recover if I did. I just kept walking towards my bedroom, and I hoped that Andrew understood that when I returned, the conversation had to be on a new topic.