Cliff had really just turned thirty. His childhood had forced him to grow up faster then he normally would have, and the traces had remained.
His parents had died in a car crash when he was sixteen and left him with three younger brothers.
His parents had both been only children, so he had no aunts or uncles to call for help.
The upside to the family had been that both sides of the grandparents were very rich.
His grandparents on his mother's side, the Hamilton's, had been the typical hating type. They hadn't wanted his mother to marry his father, so besides the letter and twenty dollars that had been sent every birthday they ignored the family.
His grandparents on his father's side, the Charleston's, were sweet, but naïve people who loved to travel. They had made a fortune on Wall Street back in the day and had invested it wisely. Now they were spending it by traveling all over the world.
As soon as they had heard about their son's death they came back from a trip early to claimed custody of the children and take care of the funeral.
They decided that Cliff was mature enough to bring up the children, so they moved them from the house in Brunswick, Maine to a small house in Woodbury, Georgia; far from were he had grown up.
They did this so they could get the children settled into school and take off. They had no desire to raise a family, again.
They left Cliff with a bank account which had a certain amount of money in it to use for groceries, clothes, and other needed supplies. The house had been completely paid for and the utilities and car payments were automatically withdrawn from a checking account.
His grandparents visited once a year, until he was twenty, then had the papers arranged so that he would have legal custody of the children, and he hadn't seen them since.
They gave him the money his parents left him, gave him a large some from themselves, deeded the house to him, and closed the checking account.
He had taught all the boys to drive, had given up football and wrestling to work a part time job, a job he had worked for six years, corrected piles of homework, took care of the house, and did everything else that that came with raising three boys.
Andy was thirteen, and Tom fourteen
Those two had been very close while growing up, especially after their parents had died.
When Cliff was left take charge of the family their attitude toward him began to change.
He knew he was rather callous, but he had too many things on his shoulders to worry about being nice. He did what he thought was best, and they treated him like teens would treat an unwanted authority.
Marty had only been eight years old when they died. He had had nightmares for a week after the funeral.
Cliff was the only one who had been able to calm him down. Marty would cling to him for his life, and sobbing he would tell Cliff his dream. It was always a dream about his parents dying; sometimes in an exploding car, or in an airplane crash, and once they were eaten by sharks.
It had been two days before they were going to move, the neighbors had came over earlier and packed the house for them.
Marty was sitting on a pile of boxes, swinging his legs, when he saw Cliff come in.
He scrambled down. "Cliff! Cliff" he said, running over to his brother.
Cliff set his boxes down.
"What?" He asked, plopping onto the couch. Marty climbed up beside him.
"Cliff, why do I have bad dreams?" Marty looked eagerly into his brothers eyes, sure he would know the answer.
"I'm not….," he paused, the question had caught him off guard; but the look in the little boys eyes told him "I don't know" wasn't going to be enough.
"Sometimes, when your head needs to figure something out it dreams about that thing."
Marty pondered that. "What does my head need to figure out?"
"Well, do you know why Mom and Dad died?"
"Because, someone's car smashed into their car and they couldn't get better, so they died," he said, remembering what someone had told him at the funeral.
"Will we die in a car accident?" That was something he had been wondering about.
Cliff smiled. "I don't think so."
"Do miss them?" He saw his brother's face change again.
"Yes, I miss them, very much."
"Does it make you sad?"
"It does sometimes."
"How will you stop being sad?" If Cliff knew how to stop being sad maybe he could stop having bad dreams.
"I'll let them go." His brother said, suddenly staring at the wall.
"How do you do that?"
"You just say goodbye."
"Okay," he nodded "can I say goodbye when I go to bed?"
Marty smiled at his bother as he scooted off the couch, and then ran out of the room.
He would grow up seeing Cliff as his hero.
That night Cliff came into Marty's room. Marty was getting his pajamas on.
"Cliff, are you going to take care of us now?"
"I guess so."
When he was done getting dressed he sat down on his bed. He closed his eyes.
"Goodbye Mom and Dad. If you are sad you can say goodbye to us too. I love you."
He got under his covers.
Cliff went out and closed the door. He went to his room and, for the first and last time since his parents had died, he bawled his eyes out.
Now his brothers were grown up and had followed their own paths.
Marty was a senior in college, and the only one he really cared about looking out for.
Tom and Andy were both married. Tom and his wife were expecting their second child and Andy and his wife their first.
He had played the caring older brother at their weddings, had helped them move into their first homes, and he hadn't visited either one since.
They both e-mailed him every so often to update him, but otherwise they didn't speak to him.
As for himself he had been training the last six years as a professional assassin.