I could remember the day Jack officially became a Mercer. It was sometime in the middle of April, and Jack had been with us for about six months as a foster kid. I teased him a lot, but it's always been because I care about him. I'd been around plenty of other foster kids before, but Jack was different. Not only did I see him as my real brother, but so did Angel and Jerry. He completed the family before he even developed our last name. I never really knew too much about his past, but when I first saw Jack, I knew he had a troubled up-bringing. He had cuts, bruises, and plenty of scars just about everywhere. I remember feeling extremely angry, even though I had no idea how he got them. But of course, I had plenty of my own experiences with bad foster homes. In fact, every foster home I ended up in was no good. I was always either beaten or neglected; most likely both. Although, it didn't matter who it was that did it. Anyone cruel enough to hurt someone like Jack, couldn't possibly be any good. Jack was only eleven when he came to Evelyn, and he looked very innocent. He was a shy, skinnny little white boy. And now that I think back to it, he was a little awkward, too. He always had a hood over his face and he never looked anyone in the eyes, except for Evelyn once he finally got used to her. She had always liked to look people in the eyes, so Jack had to get used to it at some point; whether he liked it or not. Not to mention, he always had either a sweatshirt or a long-sleeved shirt on. If he was forced to wear a short-sleeved shirt, he always had his arms crossed. He had these big blue eyes that seemed to bore a hole into your face whenever you actually got to see them. He had almost the same hair as he does now, only a little lighter shade of blonde that was also shorter.
It took him a while to get used to everyone, but eventually Jack came around and got comfortable around us. He would no longer jump over every little noise, and he started wearing short-sleeved shirts more often. He would never admit this now, but he actually used to knock on one of our doors whenever he had a nightmare and didn't want to sleep by himself. I always felt bad for the kid; he'd knock on my door in the middle of the night crying, looking up at me with those big bue eyes of his. I'd ask if he had a nightmare, and a simple nod was just enough for me to let him stay with me for the night. It could take up to a half hour for him to calm down, but once he did, he fell asleep faster than an alcoholic could get drunk. That may sound dumb, but it was true. Jack had a tendancy of coming to my room over Jerry's, Angel's, or even Ma's. Truth is, I got a little jeilous whenever he chose Angel or Jerry over me. Not because I thought I could comfort Jack better than them, but because Jack was my little brother and I just wanted to make him feel better myself. The kid never had it easy, and our lives were almost similar. So in a way, I felt very connected to him. To say the least, Jack was like a younger version of myself. Just maybe a little more rational; and smarter. But to be honest, not as smart as he could have been when he was around thirteen, and I was eighteen. I picked the lock to his room one day to tell him to turn the music down, and I found him with a kitchen knife and huge gashes across his wrists. It amazed me that I had never realized what he was doing to himself until that day. It practically broke my heart to know that Jack felt the need to self-mutilate to feel better.
When he realized I was there, the knife slid out of his hand and onto the floor along with a few drops of blood. I ran to him and started yelling, telling him how stupid he was and that he should have talked to me while also dragging him to the bathroom in the hallway downstairs. I pushed past Jerry on the way there, nearly knocking him down the stairs. He yelled something, but I honestly didn't even hear him. All I was focused on was helping Jack, and later smacking some sense into him. I shoved his hand under the sink and flipped on the cold water, holding it there while trying to reach the first aid kit under the shelves on the other side of the bathroom. Once the blood was rinsed off and I could control the bleeding, I covered his wrists with a towel and frantically tore open the packages to the biggest bandaids that were inside the first aid kit. After that, my heart was still racing and I could tell Jack's was, too. I was staring at him until he finally looked up at me, and when he did, I couldn't help but smack him as hard as I could across the face. He screamed 'Fuck!' and held his hand up to his face. That night, I had to tell Evelyn about what Jack had been doing. I made sure someone was keeping an eye on him while I talked to her, making sure that he didn't try to leave. Before I went into the dining room, I looked back at him and the only thing he was doing was staring down at the floor and playing with a stray piece of string from his shirt. I could tell Evelyn was worried when I saw her, but I was certain any thoughts she had didn't even compare to what I was actually going to tell her. I sat down slowly at the dining room table with her, wishing I had changed my mind about telling her. But when she looked up at me and into my eyes, I couldn't just turn around on her. Her care for Jack was stronger than my will to just forget about what he had done.
"Ma, I can't keep this from you without driving myself crazy", I started, then continued when she didn't say anything. Although, her attention was still on me. Which didn't make it any easier, "Listen, I walked in on Jack today. And..." I almost couldn't finish, but had to, "And I saw him cutting himself", her eyes widended, and I could see the strong concern in her eyes. There was a long moment of silence bfore she said anything.
"Where?" she asked, looking down at the table as she said it.
"His wrists", she closed her eyes tightly for several seconds before standing up.
"Jack?" she called in an almost hushed tone. I knew that was my cue to leave. As I walked away, I passed Jack on my way out and his way in. He looked up at me, fear and shame clear in his eyes. I looked away then, not wanting to see how much I had hurt him personally. But in the end, I knew it was for the best. He couldn't just go on doing that to himself forever. After all, Evelyn was bound to find out sooner or later, whether she had my help or not. I knew I shouldn't have, but I couldn't help but listen in. It was quiet for several seconds after Jack sat down, but soon Evelyn spoke in a very quiet tone, almost like a whisper. My hearing wasn't that great, but I was still able to hear her.
"Jack, I can't honestly tell you I know what to say to you..." she paused for a moment before continuing in a louder voice, "But why couldn't you just talk to me about this?" she wasn't yelling, but I could hear Jack's chair legs screech against the floor. It wasn't often that him and Evelyn had a heart-to-heart, but when they did, Jack seemed to turn into that little kid from what seems like so long ago.
"I don't know!" Jack yelled, his voice cracking slightly at the last word, "I just... I needed an escape. I didn't want to talk to anyone, I just wanted to feel better. If even for a little while. The feeling of the blade and the sight of blood made me feel like less of a fuck-up. I don't know why I can't just talk to people. Maybe... maybe I just don't deserve to live! Obviously I'm not worth anything!", he was nearly screaming now. I waited for more, but momentary silence filled the room before I heard muffled sobs. I peeked around the corner, watching as a close-eyed Evelyn smoothed Jack's hair and held him like a small child as he cried into her.
After that day, Jack and I had an un-spoken understanding that I needed to tell Evelyn. Him and Ma needed that kind of bonding, and I was glad I could help him in some way. Even if that wasn't the exact intention to begin with, I still felt good aferwards.