Ch. 1

"Ugh!" I grunt as I land hard on the floor.

"You're such a wimp," my older brother, Alex, says standing over me.

He had literally picked me up and all but threw me onto the floor. "Oh and by the way," he continues. "You're gaining a little weight."

Oh, this makes me mad. I jump up, charge at him, and fake a punch, dead-legging him instead. Losing his balance, he falls down on one knee. Seeing my chance, I make an attempt to kick him again, but he catches my foot in mid-air and twists my leg. Seeing that my leg cannot twist all the way around, I have to fall and turn myself with it. I finally catch the chance and kick his shoulder. He falls backward.

Just then, Dad walks into the living room. "Hey! You guys know better than to fight in the house. Go outside to do that stuff."

Alex and I look at each other, sigh, and help each other up. He follows me to and out the front door. Now, you might be thinking 'What in the world is their father doing letting them fight at all?'

He knows I can take it.

"Now, you little brat," Alex utters. "You're in for it!"

He runs at me and I prepare to land another kick. He sees this and attempts to dodge it but I still make contact with his side. He twists onto the grass. I put myself on top of him and pin him down. "Hey Al?" I say as he struggles to get free.

"What?" he growls, his eyes narrowed at me.

"I am not a brat."

I land a punch to his face. He shoves me off and we both jump to our feet. I go to punch him again, but he catches both my hands in his and we strain to push each other over. Wanting to irritate him, I begin to tease him a little bit. "Dude, I bet your stupid girlfriend would want a stronger man, maybe one who didn't get a beating by his little sister?"

He manages to shove me to the ground and pins me down. "Jen, don't you ever call my baby 'stupid'."

"Aw, is that what she is, a baby? Do you change her diaper? Do you give her a bottle at feeding time? Does she suck her thumb?"

"Shut up!"

He punches me and I shove him off. I start to run because I know that Alex will surely get me for ragging on his girlfriend, even if it is just stupid stuff that I say. He hates when I do that.

I run back through the front door and fly up the stairs. Alex is just one step behind me. I run to my room, slam the door shut, and lock it. Alex hits the door with his fist. "I'm going to get you for that, Jen! I'm going to get serious payback!"

There is silence. Well, that is except for my panting.

I guess now would be a good time to introduce myself. I'm 16 going on 17 and Alex is almost 22. You may think it's a little odd I can hold him off so well when we're wrestling, but believe me; I've had a lot of practice. Alex and I have been wrestling since I was I don't know how old, but since he's really a great athlete, he sometimes still gets the upper hand. He ran track, played baseball, basketball, and football in school. He did it all. I would say it gives him a fair amount of advantage.

And though I leave him a few little marks to remember, he is quite a handsome guy. My best friend Malisa has a huge crush on him. He hates her.

He's doing some extra school stuff for a better job he's trying to get. I don't really understand what it is he's trying to do. I just know that he's doing school stuff and that he's almost always working.

Oh, one more thing I want to get straight: my name. My full name is Jennifer Gwendolyn Estella Anya Palm and I despise it. My question is: Why does it have to be so long and weird?

Most people just call me Jen, though. Well, only the people who know me such as friends and close family call me that. I tend to get pretty cranky when people that don't know me just call me Jen without asking or whatever. It's just a weird pet peeve of mine.

I think the coast is clear, so I decide it is safe enough to venture back out. I unlock my door and creep downstairs hoping that Alex isn't around. Soon, I am on the last step. My heart is pounding for I know that if he sees me, I am in for it. He'd do something horrible.

As I am rounding the corner from the stairs, Alex slips up behind me and starts to tickle me. I shriek beginning to squirm and laugh. "Take back everything you said about Jamie!" he commands.

"No!" I choke out flailing. "Never! Not in a million years!"

He continues to tickle me and I am laughing hard. I am brought to my knees but the tickling does not cease. "Do it!" he presses.

I know he will not stop until he gets what he asked for. I also know that I will die do to lack of breath or a busted gut from laughing so hard. "I take it back!" I blurt.

"What? I can't hear you!"

"I take it back!" I cry.

He stops.

I turn around to face him with a smile and hold up my crossed fingers. You can almost see the smoke coming out of his ears. You can definitely see the redness in his face. "I should run shouldn't I?" I question.

"Only if you want to live," Alex growls through clenched teeth.

Taking his advice to mind, I dart out of the house as fast as my legs will allow. It doesn't matter much for Alex is such a good athlete that he easily catches up with me and tackles me. He is just about to break my arm when Dad calls, "Dinner's ready!"

We all sit down to an Alfredo pasta dinner with a side salad and some breadsticks. It is good for Dad's cooking. Usually I'm the one who cooks. Alex doesn't know how and Dad's hardly ever home on account of work. I don't know how he managed to actually get home early today, but I know it won't happen again for a while. I don't complain thought. Tonight's dinner is nice with everybody home and being able to eat something edible.

As I am finishing up washing the dishes, Alex returns from picking up Jamie for some 'quality time' together. I roll my eyes.

Jamie is Alex's girlfriend. They've been together since sometime in middle school and it's a total mystery to me. Alex, for some reason unknown to me, loves her, but she is like a demon, in my opinion. We have never been able to along and she always tries to put me down someway or another. Alex just can't see it. I think he refuses to and it bugs me sometimes when I'm trying to point out something to him or just make a point.

Jamie walks through the front door and anger suddenly swells up inside me. I want to escort her right back out, but Alex will surely be on my case. I should just let him enjoy this night, as much as I can.

I sigh and decide I should just go upstairs before I do anything to disrupt the peace or before Jamie says something to make me mad.

Luckily, Dad is in bed. He always likes to go to bed early when he can. There's no telling what can happen when Jamie comes over and she and I are in the same room. Dad refuses to deal with chaos and chaos is usually what happens with Jamie and me.

After a grueling hour or two of staying up in my room doing homework I didn't understand, I venture back downstairs. I shake my head as I see Alex sitting close to Jamie on the couch in full love mode. Shouldn't she have gone home by now? popped into my head. Her time is up. I want her out. I want her out right now.

I pause for a second as a thought enters my brain. I have just the idea of how to ruin Alex's little 'paradise' and Jamie's as well. I grin evilly.

Just as I'd hoped, Alex goes in for a kiss.

I stroll into the den. "Yuck!" I exclaim. "Gross! You actually touch those lips? There's no telling where those have been. I have never seen a man so desperate for a girl before. This could actually be the lowest of the low."

Alex separates the kiss and sighs. "Sugar, I'll be right back after I get rid of this pest."

He stands up from the couch, walks over to me, grabs my shirt collar, and leads me into the nearby hallway. He lets go of my collar, places his forearm on my throat, and presses me against the wall. It is not enough to fully hurt me, but enough to give me some type of clue as to how serious he is. "Don't you screw this night up for me," he warns.

He looks hard into my eyes for a moment before releasing his hold on me. "Why?" I question rubbing my neck. "What's so important about tonight?"

He reaches into his pocket and pulls out his hand. In it is a small, black, velvet box. I know what is coming. My heart sinks. I feel like I have been betrayed. I feel as if I have been slapped. I feel pain.

"You're going to marry her?" I try to ask as steadily as I can with a fair amount of success. I clear my throat.

Alex places the black, evil box back into his pocket. "Yeah," he answers and when he raises his head to look at me, he can see I'm quite upset. "What's wrong, sugar?"

My jaw clenches, my hands ball into fists. Anger and pure annoyance burn up inside me. I turn on him. "Don't call me that! That's what you call FN."

"What? What does FN stand for?"

"Freak of Nature, a.k.a. Jamie."

"Okay, but you still haven't answered my question. What the heck is wrong with you? You've been touchy all day and I just don't get why. It's really starting to grate on my nerves."

I guess I have to give him a little yelling room. I haven't told him why I am angry or what is bugging me and it always makes him edgy when he doesn't know what is wrong. "I'm not ready to give you up just yet," I whisper and bolt upstairs to my room where I lock the door shut.

He follows me, stopping when he's reached my door. He tries to come in, but finds he can't. "Jen? Come on, talk to me and stop acting like a little brat."

I don't respond.


A moment goes by.

"Jen, are you still alive? Don't tell me you jumped out the window."

"Just shut up and go away!" I yell.

"I'm not leaving this door, not until you let me in and talk to me." He sits on the floor with his back against my door. Brothers can be so annoying and this doesn't really help the state I am in. It's not good to add kindling to an out-of-control fire.

After trying to calm myself a little bit, I open my door. Alex, not expecting it, tumbles backwards into my room. I simply walk back to my bed, lay down, and hold Mr. Bun Bun, my stuffed rabbit.

He gets up off of the floor, comes, and sits down on my bed beside me. "What is wrong with you, Jen?"

"With me? Wow, what a heck of a thing to say, Alex…"

"You know what I mean."

I sigh. "It's just- You remind me so much of Mom. I don't know why, but you do. You getting married means you'll move away. If you move away, it just… I don't like it. I want you right here with Dad and me. Besides, I'd miss having somebody wake up at 2:00 in the afternoon and make gross stuff in the blender in his boxers."

"You could always ask Dad to do that."


Alex smiles a little, but soon the smile is gone. "Okay, you know what? Fine. I'll do you a favor, little miss. I won't ask Jamie to marry me tonight, but at some point I will. Hopefully, you won't cry like the baby you are and be happy for me."

"I am not a baby!" I argue.

"Oh really? Then what's this?" He takes Mr. Bun Bun from me and continues. "It looks like a stuffed rabbit named Mr. Bun Bun. Oh, look at me, Mr. Bun Bun, me and my fluffy tail."

I can't help but laugh. "Give me that!"

I reach for the rabbit, but Alex pulls it away and smiles. "Oh yeah, you're a baby alright."

"Are not."

"Are too."

"Are not!"

"Are too!"

We both hear Jamie call, "Alex, I'm leaving!"

Alex drops the rabbit, runs out of my room, and down the stairs. I have to admit it hurt my feelings a little bit, being dropped like that.

I creep downstairs and peer around the corner. I see Alex giving Jamie a goodnight kiss. Anger swells up inside me again. I walk over and push between them, making sure to step on Jamie's high-heeled shoe.

She tears away from the kiss and glares at me. "Ow! What did you do that for, you little twerp?"

"Oh," I say. "I guess I'm just clumsy that way."

"Well, I'll say."

Alex comes around to me and places his arm around my shoulders, which I think is unusual behavior for him. He gives a fake little smile, pinches the soft skin of the back of my upper arm, and says, "I'm sure she didn't mean to, sugar. I'm also sure that she's sorry, right?"

He looks at me.

"Sorry? Um, excuse me, you've got to be kidding."

He pinches harder. "Yes!" I cry. "Yes, yes, yes!"

He releases me and I rub my arm. "Here, I'll drive you home," he says to Jaime.

I roll my eyes in disgust.

After they leave, I flip the television on finally having access to it. After seeing that there are no interesting shows on, I climb the stairs to my room to get ready for bed. When I have changed into my pajamas and done my nightly routine, I think it might be a good idea to write in my diary and let a little steam out. My mother had given it to my Dad to give to me. She knew she wasn't going to make it past a second child… I stop my thoughts from wandering even further and flip open the smooth white cover. I write about dreading school tomorrow, Jamie, Alex, my crush, almost everything I can think of that happened that day, but before I can finish getting it all down, I hear someone knock on my door. I know it is Alex.

Just as he is coming in, I stuff my diary under my bed and get under the covers just as I would if I were going to sleep.

Alex catches a glimpse of me acting sneaky. "Okay, so I don't only have a sister that is a freakazoid, but she hides things."

"Do not," I bat back.

"It's not drugs is it?"

"No!" I cry.

"On account of the way you just answered, I really don't believe you."

I give him a look.

He sits down on my bed and leans in towards me. "Hey, just between you and me, it's nothing like porno magazines, is it? If it is, I won't tell."

I gasp and kick him with my foot under the covers. "Alex! You freak! Gosh, no! That's gross."

He laughs and then leans over to search under my bed. "Oh, what do we have here?" He pulls out my diary.

My eyes go wide and I reach to try and get my diary back. Alex pulls it away with a grin. "Give it back!" I demand. "Al, give it! You're always taking my stuff and its time you stopped, now give it back to me, right now!"

He just turns his back to me, opens my diary, flips through a couple of pages, stops, and starts reading aloud. "Hey, it's me. Oh, my gosh! Today, at school, Tony Derek actually smiled and talked to me! He's the cutest guy in the grade! Maybe in the whole school! I have the hugest crush on him ever! Oh, if he only knew how I felt-"

Alex smiles and laughs. "Pathetic."

I am furious now. I try to get my diary again, but Alex blocks me just as easily as you can squish a slug, not that you'd want to.

He turns to another page and starts reading again. "Tonight, Jamie came over. I can't stand her! Alex is going to marry her, but I really don't want him to. He calls Jamie 'sugar' and then when he calls me that, I hate it. It makes me think that I'm like Jamie somehow. I wouldn't be like her if it cost me my life. I just hate her! I don't want Al to go away, and that's what he's going to do if he gets married. He reminds me so much of Mom and I don't want to lose him. I love him."

We both are still. "Al," I say just above a whisper. "I'm sorry for what I wrote about Jamie, but you have to understand my feelings. I'm sorry, I really-"

"Shut up," he interrupts.


He turns to face me. "Shut up and give me a hug."

I wrap my arms tight around his neck.

"I don't care what the heck you say or think about Jamie. I just care that you love me."

We separate the hug. "I love you, too, little sis."

"So, you aren't mad?"

"No, heck no."

He puts the diary back under the bed and tucks me in for the night. Just before he leaves, he says, "Get some sleep, you have to go to school tomorrow and I have to go to work. Good night."

"Good night, Alex."