Broken and screwed 2, p.33
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       Broken and Screwed 2, p.33
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         Part #2 of Broken and Screwed series by Tijan

  be fine. I loved him.

  He lingered over my lips and whispered back as he continued thrusting into me, “I love you too.”

  My eyelids flew up. I hadn’t meant to say that, again, but I was caught by his gaze. I saw the love in him as he quickened the tempo. Something settled in my chest. Peace. Contentment. Whatever it was, it felt good. It felt right.

  When we were done, I murmured without thinking, “I can’t think about what Ethan did.”

  His arms tightened around me, but he only kissed my shoulder.

  My chest filled. The pain was right there. I let it go. I had to. “I don’t want to think about him wanting to kill himself. That’s not the brother I knew. The one I knew watched over me. He took care of me. He wouldn’t want to hurt me and dying was the worst way to do that. I can’t think of him like that.”

  “He was sick, Alex.”

  I heard the thick emotion in his voice. I didn’t look up. I was swallowing my own back.

  His voice was rough as he continued, “He went into a dark depression. He wouldn’t get help. I tried to push him, but Ethan refused. He stopped talking to me towards the end.”

  My eyes closed. An invisible hand was on my chest, pushing down. My ribcage felt like it was going to break. “That was when he started hanging out with Jeremy Benson and Barbie?”

  “Yeah.” His chest rose up and down as he took a deep breath. “Yeah.”

  Flashes of him came to me. As he ruffled my hair, the same way the bartender had done to Bri’s hair earlier. As he rolled his eyes at something our mom said or how he smacked a towel against my butt when we were forced to do the dishes together. I gasped. More pain flooded in. I couldn’t hold it back and the tears started. They slid down my face, down to Jesse’s arm that he had wrapped around me. He felt them, but neither of us said a word.

  “I miss him.”

  “I do too.”

  “I can’t think of him sick. I can’t think of him like that. It breaks me, Jesse. I can’t do it. I have to think about him as he was to me. I loved my brother.” I corrected myself, “I love my brother.”

  I love you too.

  I never heard those words, but I imagined them.

  Then I took another deep breath and tried to push some of that pain away. I moved onto the next topic, one that I figured would always leave a hole in me. “My parents are never going to be there for me. I know this now.” My voice grew hoarse and I faltered. My lungs filled with air. My throat burned at the same time. “I don’t know why my dad acts how he does. I have no idea, but I can’t love them. They don’t love me. It’s going to be hard, but I have to somehow move on without them in my life. I just won’t have parents. That’s the best way for me to handle it. They’re never going to get better. They’re never going to want me in their lives and dote on me like loving parents. That’s just not who they are. It might’ve been them before, but not anymore. Ethan’s death changed everything. I think it broke my mom. It almost broke me.”

  I heard Tiffany’s words again. ‘The chick is a survivor.’

  I’d survive. I had to.

  “You have me.”

  “I know.”

  My heart split again, but not from pain, from overwhelming warmth. I had Jesse. It was the first time I allowed myself to trust in him. He wouldn’t leave me. He hadn’t, even though I always felt like he would go. Angie had been wrong so long ago. I’d been wrong. But there was one thing I’d been afraid to ask. Biting my lip, I asked it now, “Jesse?”


  I felt his answer rumble through his chest and my back. It soothed me for some reason. “Why didn’t you tell me about Ethan? I know I said I can’t think of him like that, but why didn’t you ever say anything?”

  “I felt guilty.”


  “Because I should’ve stopped him.”

  “What do you mean?”

  “I knew about Claire and the baby. I knew how your parents handled it and that your dad scared Claire away, but I never spoke up. I should’ve helped somehow and then you didn’t know. I couldn’t tell you. I mean, I knew about the baby and Ethan didn’t want you to know, but I should’ve told you.”

  “That he killed himself or about his baby?”

  “About both. I was scared that you’d blame me and I’d lose you.”

  My heart began pounding. I swore he felt it through my back. I couldn’t stop it. “Why would I blame you?”

  “Because I’m the reason he got in that car.”

  I froze. My heart stopped.

  He felt it, tensing as he said further, “Claire went into labor that night. I called him to tell him. He got in the car to go to her.”

  “What?” The word ripped from me. “What are you saying?”

  “He took drugs that night. He was going to intentionally overdose, but when I called him, he decided to try to get to the hospital. He wanted to see his baby before he died.”

  My mouth gaped open. No sound came out. None could come out. Searing pain rippled through me and it paralyzed me. I couldn’t do anything, but lay there in his arms. Then Jesse finished, his voice thick with guilt, “I didn’t know he had taken drugs. I thought maybe he had, but I had no idea he was going to kill himself that night. I should’ve called the cops on him. I should’ve done something, but I didn’t. I went to the hospital to meet him. I thought he was in the room when she gave birth, but he wasn’t. I didn’t realize it until later that he’d been in the ER the whole time. He had already crashed by the time I left Sarah’s and got to the hospital. He died from the car accident before they realized his body had already shut down from drugs too. I didn’t know. I’m sorry, Alex.”

  I couldn’t move. I couldn’t do anything, but imagine that night again. And I cried. I didn’t stop the entire night.

  It was another month before I finally called Ethan’s lawyers. They wanted verification of my name. I sent them a copy of my passport. It was another month after that when they told me they wouldn’t be able to give me Ethan’s inheritance. The spelling wasn’t correct. I didn’t understand it, not at first. His will and testament said all of his monetary assets would go to Alexandra Claira Connors.

  I never blamed Jesse for any of my family problems. It took me a while to fully understand that Ethan had been sick. He wanted to die. I remembered the day of his graduation when he hugged me. It had been long and he wouldn’t let go of me. He’d been saying goodbye in his way. I never remembered it until recently. It woke me during the night, but Jesse was with me. He held me the rest of the night. We had a lot of those nights. I’d remember new information about that last year with Ethan. It would send me spinning. I’d cry. I’d tell Jesse about it and he’d tell me how much my brother loved me. It helped me accept that my brother was gone in a new way. It was different ever since I learned the truth about him. I would never accept that he killed himself. That wasn’t right, but I accepted that he was gone. It probably didn’t make sense to anyone else so I never tried to explain it. It was how I coped with it.

  After another week trying to stay at the dorms, I eventually moved back in with Jesse. And because I was on better terms with Tiffany, I started going to the games with her and Kara. Chandra joined us as well, but she never took up with Cord again. He always had a new girl every few weeks. One night, when he was drunk, he confided to me that there was a girl from our school that he always loved. She never reciprocated his feelings, or at least that’s what he told me. I wondered if he knew for certain that she didn’t. He refused to tell me who it was, but she was the reason he never settled down.

  I only knew it wasn’t Marissa.

  She and Angie came a few times for basketball games. She had hit on Cord, but he never took up her invitation. I was thankful that she never brought Sarah, Jesse’s ex-girlfriend, along because she hadn’t reacted well when she heard about the exclusive status of my relationship with him. Marissa told me a few weeks later that Sarah was now dating a fraternity guy. She seemed h
appy. And surprisingly, Marissa and Angie even seemed friendly with each other. Justin stayed behind and the two planned girls’ weekend with me. They remained cautious around Beth and Hannah. Beth never talked to them and Hannah was the opposite. She got into people’s faces too much. Eventually they asked not to hang out with them. That was fine. Beth and Hannah told me they were fake. The dislike was reciprocated.

  Jamie and Tiffany broke up at the end of the year. He cheated on her and she didn’t want an open relationship anymore. Hannah started taking care of her sister instead, and Tiffany fought back like Hannah had earlier in the year. The two bickered almost daily.

  Jesse’s sister came to his championship game. She sat beside me this time instead of her father, who sat courtside with my parents. She was relieved when I told her I wouldn’t be going to the dinner afterwards. Then she confided that night had been too much for her. Unlike her mother, she liked normalcy and quiet moments. She stayed at the house a few weekends and I came to learn she really was a quiet girl. And she worshiped her brother. When she applied for Grant West the following year, I wasn’t surprised. I caught Jesse staring at her at random moments. It was like he was trying to figure her out, but maybe that was how Ethan stared at me too. Jesse never had a family, but he did with her now. He took her home one weekend and introduced her to Zala. His housekeeper instantly took her under her wing.

  I told him one night that it was ironic. He had grown up as if he didn’t have a family, but now he did. I was the opposite. I had grown up with a family, but now I didn’t. He rolled his eyes and lifted me on top of him. Then he proceeded to undress me and show me how I was still his family, no matter what. And then one day I headed towards my old dorm room. My last final had been turned in and I had left a bag in my room. I needed to get it before I headed back to Jesse’s.

  I heard in the distance, “Alexi, come back here.”

  A little girl was running down the sidewalk towards me. A high-pitched giggle came from her as she pumped her arms harder. Her legs went too fast and fierce determination came over her next. A slender girl raced after her. They shared the same blonde curls, but when the little girl saw me, she braked suddenly. Her eyes got big and her cheeks puffed out. The mother hurried and caught up, lifting the girl in her arms. Fat arms and chubby legs wrapped around her, but she twisted back to me. Her eyes didn’t look away. Her thumb slipped up and popped in her mouth. Her other hand caught hold of some of her curls and she hung there. She pulled on her hair as she continued sucking her thumb, all while she never looked away from me.

  I couldn’t either.

  I felt the breath knocked out of me. Someone took a sledgehammer to my chest. I was batting practice.

  This was Ethan. Or she was Ethan. This was his little girl. I knew it. Every cell in my body told me that and I jerked forward. The mom started to turn, but I called out, “Wait!”

  She turned back, frowning at me. Her free hand went to cover her eyes. As she saw me, her eyes got big. Her mouth fell open to form a small o and she suddenly went rigid.

  This was Claire.

  My eyes shifted to the daughter. That was Alexi.

  I hurried towards them, fearful she’d decide to scramble. I caught up before she could have that thought and I stuck my hand out. My heart was pounding out of my chest. I hoped my voice was sturdy as I said, “I’m Alex. I’m Ethan’s sister.”

  She chewed on her lip for a moment and then she nodded. She never shook my hand. “I know.”

  “You’re Claire.” But my gaze couldn’t leave the little girl. She had Ethan’s eyes. She had Ethan’s mouth. She was Ethan. I just knew it. It was like my brother was back with me and not in a haunting presence anymore. “And who are you?”

  She smiled, still sucking her thumb, before she twisted and buried her head into her mother’s shoulder. Claire’s smile was sad as she covered her daughter’s head. She blinked away some tears and cleared her throat before she could say, “This is Alexi.” Regret flared over in a second and she amended, “Alexandra. Her name is Alexandra.”

  A huge knot formed at the base of my throat. Did she mean…

  “We talked about names, Ethan and me. He wanted her named after his little sister.” She rolled her eyes, but in a good way. A small grin came over her. “He always talked about you. He adored you, you know.”

  I bit my lip. I was trying to keep from sobbing. I had done so much over the last few years.

  “Anyway,” she took a deep breath and forced a brighter smile. “I came here to introduce you to your niece. This is Alexandra Claira Connors.”

  “You took his name?”

  She nodded, and then shrugged before she turned away. “He wanted that. I wanted my daughter to have a piece of her daddy. And of her aunt. Stupid, I know, considering that I haven’t wanted anything to do with your family. But whatever. I came here to tell you not to blame Jesse. I threatened him if he told you about us. I knew Ethan hadn’t. I threatened him too. Both of them wanted you to know, but I couldn’t handle it. Not then, anyway. I can barely handle it now.”

  I was struck speechless.

  And then I realized how beautiful this girl was. She had almond eyes with freckles over her complexion. A small mouth was adorned with pastel pink lips. When she turned in the sun, her hair framed her face. It gave her the illusion of a halo. I knew why my brother had fallen for this girl. She was an angel. In his romantic ideal, that’s why he loved her. If she had the kindness that I figured she must’ve, Ethan would’ve made this woman his wife. Being torn apart from her gave me some understanding of why he did what he did.

  If only he had fought. If only he had stood against our father.

  “Listen, uh…” She brushed at her eye.

  Alexi turned back. She hunched down between her shoulders before she darted back to her mother’s shoulders. She was playing peek-a-boo with me.

  I tried to keep from grinning too much.

  Her mom took on a serious tone. “Jesse’s been begging me to tell you about Alexi, but I refused. I thought you were like your parents and I don’t want them anywhere near her.”

  I nodded.

  “And, uh…” she turned away again. Her throat was trembling and she bit her lip again. “Anyway, I threatened Jesse. I knew about all of the affairs Malcolm had when he was married to Evelyn. My dad worked with Malcolm for years. I said I’d go to the press and ruin his mom’s memory if he said anything to you. To give him credit, I think he stayed quiet out of loyalty to Ethan, but I knew it was hurting him. He loves you. He always had. Ethan talked about it. I was sick and tired of hearing him moan about his best friend and his sister. Once we got pregnant, he stopped caring so much about that. But anyway. God, what am I doing here? That’s right.” She hoisted her daughter higher up, adjusting for a better hold on her. “So this is your niece. Alexandra Claira Connors. I’m a sap.” She gave her daughter a soft smile, one that showed her love and she tucked some of Alexi’s curls behind her ear. “Ethan wanted her named after you and I gave her my name. That’s how we started talking, about you. He said your middle name was my first name. But I gave her different spelling. I wanted her to be different. Special. Oh my word.” She fanned herself. “I’m just rambling. I’m so nervous. You’re not what I thought you’d be.”

  My own nervousness came out. I couldn’t even laugh normally now.

  Her eyes pinned to mine. She heard it and relaxed. She was able to breathe normal again. “So, uh, what now? Do you want to be her godmother?”

  My eyes got big again. My chest was starting to hurt, too much to speak.

  It wasn’t a problem. Claire kept going, “I know it’s late. Three years late, almost, but we’re having a birthday party at my mom’s. She helps her out a lot. I live with her and go to the community college in Clarkson. That’s where we live. I do what I can. I’d love if you and Jesse would come. Please not your mom. Your mother hasn’t stopped calling me for the last two months. I can’t handle it anymore. I think that’s another
reason why I came here. Can you talk to her? Although Jesse said you don’t see them either. I think that’s when I decided to reach out. Maybe you’re not like them. Ethan always said you weren’t. He said you were so kind and so gentle. He said you’re nice. There are so many people who aren’t nice. So many people are so selfish, but I can see he was right. And I’m kicking myself for not listening to him. I was so mad at your family. Then I was mad at Ethan. We broke up and he never tried to see me—”

  My hand grasped her arm. “He did.”

  “What?” She fell silent.

  “He did. Jesse called him when you gave birth. He was coming to see you.” I swallowed back the pain. “I think he was coming to save himself too.” I never said those words to Jesse, but I wondered. It felt right to say it to her now.

  Her bottom lip started trembling. Her throat strained and I could tell she was trying not to lose it. Then she rushed out, “Can you take her?”


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