Narrator: Kieth Penningway
I couldn't slow my breathing. I couldn't close my eyes. I couldn't sleep. I could not, would not, think about nothing, nor anything other than Greg. It wasn't just because of my evening nap. After all, I had had some wine. I swear, Dad would have gotten out the malt liquor if Mom hadn't been so obtuse tonight. He had eyed it in the cabinet for a moment.
These thoughts, of course, were in the back of my mind. I was thinking, first most and foremost, about Gregory Cartier.
I could picture him on a camp-rest mattress on the floor, next to the empty guest bed where a pile of extra pillows lay beneath the sheets in the shape of a body. A blanket was all that caressed his sculpted body.
I could see the sweat on his brow, and the hand running loosely through his short-cropped hair. And my clothes, discarded from his body in disarray.
And that gentle snoring, so familiar from high school sleep-overs, which certainly wouldn't be keeping CJ awake. Heh heh, we never did much sleeping - they were just overs. Overnights.
I remember coming home from one of those visits, with shadows beneath my eyes, to meet a stern lecture from my father, who was afraid we'd spent the night watching pornography. Well, some very pornographic things did happen... but not on any screen.
His hair was a bit longer then, near the end of grade nine. He was always sweaty, but never stinky. A jock. I'd sit in the bleachers and watch his practice, and then I'd head home with him on the late bus.
Sometimes the summer heat came, and they'd practice shirtless. Afterwards, I couldn't even get up off the bleachers, without embarrassing myself. I was too turned on. So, he'd go inside and change. But he never showered, at my request.
And it gave him such a rich tan. All those muscles on his back, clenching and unclenching beneath me...
I knew I wasn't going to fall asleep like this. Not tonight. Too much excitement and euphoric nostalgia was pumping through my veins.
It throbbed upon my lower abdomen, aching mercilessly from overuse and too much stimulation. It drove me wild. It wasn't even the kind I could push in one direction or another; it was too solid. Attempts to move it hurt, almost enjoyably so.
For a moment, I nearly understood why pain, in such a context, drove CJ wild. But I'm not like that.
Tomorrow was Saturday. Plenty of time to sleep. Well, actually, Saturday had technically begun already, and this was early morning. But nevermind that.
I put on a pair of briefs, and my housecoat.
My hand turned the doorknob slowly, and pulled the door inward too slow for the creaking hinges to be audible to anyone but me.
My father's heavy snoring came down the hall, from through their door. I was glad he wasn't sleeping on the couch tonight, and not just because that would mean I had someone person to sneak past.
Maybe her Bible is sleeping on the couch tonight. Immediately after thinking this, I stifled a laugh that nearly betrayed my presence. Then again, right now, all it looked like was a trip to the bathroom.
However, my feet were on the stairs soon enough, avoiding the creaky step. And, no, it wasn't lust that drove me to him. It was loneliness. I wanted a warm body beside me when I feel asleep, that was all. I wanted to sleep with him in the most literal sense of the phrase. The vernacular euphemism, well, we'd done quite enough of tonight.
Slowly, restraining my fleet of foot, I padded my way across the carpet towards the door to the basement stairs. Gently, I opened the door without much of a sound at all. It swung open, and I descended into the darkness.
Before my eyes could adjust, and before I was more than three steps down the stairwell, I heard a voice from the platform three quarters of the way down.
"You're pushing it," came a stern whisper.
My erection fell limp. My heart stopped.
Then my heart started again, triumphantly, when I realized it was Joshua. It was scary how much his voice had deepened and sounded so similar to our dad's.
"Kieth, go back upstairs," he told me.
"It's not what you think," I whispered defensively.
"How is it possibly not what I think?" he said, his voice just above a whisper in a way that threatened to draw attention. Surely, mother would be in a state of near-insomnia.
"I just want a warm body I love beside me as I sleep, it is not a sexual that drives me to him now."
"But it would be," Joshua gave a sneering pause, and his voice rose in volume, "if you hadn't done so evening!"
Instead of chaperoning the party. My mind said what he did not. The words that surely hung in his mind as well. "What's wrong with my current intentions, then?"
"You'd wake to indulge each other in the morning. In a room where CJ is supposedly sleeping," Joshua said, thankfully in a whisper but not for my sake. He hissed, "You shall not pass!"
"This is no time to be quoting Gandalf the Gay," I told him. "I am no Balrog, this is no Khazadum, nor Endless Stair. Were I such a demon, the Reverend would have performed an exorcism."
"Hah," said Joshua in false amusement. "You don't bother to think about the future much, do you?"
"You know precisely why. And what does my future have to do with this?"
"Do you want Greg in your future, or is it a fling?"
"Of course I want Greg in my future, you know I don't do... flings."
"But Greg does."
"He's not what he seems," I countered.
"I concur." The words stung. "If you want him in your future, I suggest that you forgo this risky venture. Even if you don't get caught, the look on your face tomorrow will. Suffer the agony, and let that show instead."
"How can you be so sure?"
"Dad knew, when I came home and had lost it. He read me like a book," Joshua whispered in a saddened tone. I knew instantly what he was talking about. "And we both know that you're more readable than I am."
"Of course," I mused, "you're the actor, after all. I'm... the artist... or was." We'd both made it into that school of the arts. It tended to work like that for some families, those with creativity in their blood. I took a step back. And then another. "Are you here to guard CJ?"
"I came here to guard them both, figuring at least one would need guarding. Didn't know which one. But now I'm satisfied," he said, as he began to follow me up the stairs.
"Avoid the creaky step," was all I said. Too many thoughts ran through my head. And yet, I yawned.
I love my brother. We keep each other in place.
We each returned to our own rooms.
I slipped into bed, beside him. Then, I kissed him on the forehead and whispered to him, "Greg, I love you, but please... go back downstairs. For our own sake. The stairs are clear now."