The door rattled in its frame as the cool evening breeze drew across the open flame.
“You were out late.” The smooth, sly undertone to his words gently steered Jay towards to fridge.
“Had to go see someone about a problem. Did Jacque come by yet?”
“No but someone else did.”
“Your brother.” Jay nearly chocked on his drink.
“Clayton?” Basel just pulled up his shoulders as he turned his attention back to his blade in the dancing flame.
“Clayton, come here!” A shy young man came forth from the hall and approached Jay, yet kept his distance.
“You – you called, brother?”
“Yeah what the hell are you doing here?”
“I’m not going away again. I’m not going back!”
“You can’t stay here either. It’s not a place for family.”
“I’ve stayed with you before.” Jay gave an exasperated sigh before he looked back at Clayton.
“Clay you know me, you of all people should know that nothing good can come of this.”
“They will send me away Jay.”
“Why aren’t you staying with mom anymore?”
“Mom has a new boyfriend.” As they spoke Jay tried to reach Clayton as he slowly backed away.
“Why are you avoiding me?”
“I’m not avoiding you.” Fear crawled into his voice.
“Spit it out Clayton.” He felt the wall against his back and at once gave a step forward. His breath catching beneath his ribcage as Jay pinned him against the wall.
“What aren’t you telling me?”
“Let go of me!” His sudden outcry caught Jay of guard as he quickly let go of his shoulders. Stepping away Clayton gave a sigh before he spoke again.
“Father hasn’t been improving lately. He lost his temper again last night after he went out drinking. When he came back and found my stuff packet....” He pulled up his shirt to reveal the bruises on his skin. “See for yourself.”
“He then chased you out?” Jay almost breathed a laugh as he imagined the scenario.
“Locked me up is more like it. I later crawled out the window when he passed out.”
“It won’t be better here, you know that right?”
“It’s alright, you demand respect not drunken fear.”
“Just go to bed, Clayton.” Obediently Clayton left the room as Jay stood staring off into space.
“Will you be needing me tonight?”
“Maybe later is she settled yet?”
“Yes I made sure of it.”
“You got somewhere to be?”
“I was considering it.”
“Don’t make her wait.” Without waiting for Basil’s response Jay left to go find Clayton.
Closing the bedroom door behind him Jay led Clayton into the adjoining bathroom.
“Take off your shirt.”
“Really this isn’t necessary.”
“Yes it is. Now take of your shirt.” Taking off his shirt Clayton went and sat down on the side of the bath as Jay took the disinfectant from a nearby cupboard.
“You take the back way out?”
“From the house. Did you use the back way?”
“Then you better drop your pants to.”
“What? No, that really isn’t necessary.”
“I know of the wires, glass and junk back there. There is no way you are going to go through there and not get hurt.”
“How do you know I didn’t make it?”
“Your pants are bloody at the back.”
“O.” Clayton’s face fell as his brother stepped back to give him space.
“Stand still now, ok?” Silently Clayton stood with his arms spread while his brother disinfected his open cuts. He felt exposed and humiliated yet said nothing and didn’t winch as the cloth touched his wounds.