There was a secret that Murphy was hiding. "You're going to tell me."
There were pencils and erasers and paper towels all over the floor. Murphy's hands were black from his special pencils and Connor still didn't know what the fuck his brother was drawing. The secret Murphy was hiding had nothing to do with his art.
"What are you having nightmares about brother?" Connor asked and got nothing for an answer. "Is that it? Now you're not talking to me?" These are things that Connor is afraid of. He is afraid in the middle of the night when he gets woken up by his twin sobbing. He is afraid when his twin feels he can't tell him about something that bothers him. And he is afraid the day will come that Murphy will decide he doesn't need any of his family anymore and he will run away to America like he is always saying he is going to. He is afraid that time is coming soon because they will be finishing their senior cycle at the end of the year.
"If you are going to not talk to me, then I am not going to talk to you." Connor grinned at the look Murphy shot him.
"It's just a stupid fucking Dream Conn." Murphy answered, but it is already too late. Connor thought it was a perfect way to get back at Murphy for not trusting him enough to share his dream. He read about shunning in a book, about someone living in a household he was getting shunned in. It kind of sounded interesting, and he knew it would drive Murphy right up the wall. Murphy would be begging to tell him what the dream was about then.
But right now Murphy was still too involved in his drawing. Fine. It was on
At supper Connor refused to even look at his brother.
"Pass the butter?"
Connor pretended Murphy didn't even exist. Their mother huffed out a long suffering sigh and slammed the butter in front of Murphy, and Murphy had been so intent staring at Connor that he flinched. And even though Connor wouldn't look at his brother he was aware of every move that he made. Murphy ate quickly and ran upstairs.
"Connor, what are you boys up to now?"
"Nothing Ma." Connor smiled what he hoped was innocently. Of course it wasn't.
She gave him the eye, but left him alone. She knew better than to interfere in her son's battles. The best she could hope for was to catch them before either of them got into too much trouble.
In their room Murphy was back on the floor drawing, and occasionally looking up at his brother who was pointedly not looking at him. He started looking more frequently, and as Connor knew he would, he broke under the slightest pressure.
"I'm sorry OK? Ask me again and I'll tell ye. Don't do this." Murphy watched him and waited, but Connor didn't look or even seem to hear what he said. "Conn, please." Murphy asked once more, and then turned back to his drawing. Connor stayed silent, and wondered how long he could make this shunning thing last for. The rest of the evening passed and neither of them said a word to each other.
He kept it up for three days without Murphy freaking out, and even after the initial fun went out of it he kept it going just to see where it would go.
Connor was tired of it because there were about a million things a day he thought about telling his brother before remembering that he wasn't speaking to him. Murphy for his part wasn't begging or following him around or nothing, but he'd pulled away and sat alone outside with his damn sketch book when not in class and refused to speak to anybody. They walked to and from school together, but silently and without looking at each other.
On day three Murphy finally snapped just like Connor knew he eventually would. They were walking home, ignoring each other as they had the last few days, and then Murphy started glancing over at him. Connor watched him out of the corner of his eye and was careful not to let Murphy see that he was watching.
Murphy skipped ahead a few steps and put himself in front of Connor and pushed him. Hard. Connor stumbled back a few steps, then stepped around like he was going to just keep going, but before he could pass Murphy grabbed his arm.
"So what? I don't exist anymore? That it?" Murphy yelled.
Connor kept looking past him.
"I am so fucking tired of this shit Conn. What's your fucking problem?" Murphy shook his arm. "I told you I'd fucking tell ye. Why are you keeping with this shit for so long? You like torturing me? That what this is all about?"
Murphy let him go. And Connor walked away, and that was when Murphy tackled him.
It took a while, and they both got some good shots in, but Connor ended up on top. He held Murphy down, practically sitting on him, and trapped his wrists against the dirt. Murphy didn't submit quietly though and Connor had to struggle to keep him down.
"If I had a nightmare, I'd tell you what it was about." Connor said, his first words to Murphy in three days. Murphy took a breath and forced himself to relax. Connor didn't relax his hold on him; he was used to this tactic. Murphy would pretend to settle down only to try and catch him unawares.
"And what about if that dream was about me? An you thought telling me would be worse than not?" Murphy asked.
"I'd still tell ye."
"No fucking way Conn."
"If you asked me. I would."
"Get the fuck off me." Connor let him go. Murphy sat up and brushed the dirt off his arms and shirt. Murphy stared at him. "It's so fucking important to you, fine. We were by a river, watching things float past on the current, and then you turned to me and pushed me in, I was drowning, but you walked away."
Connor sat and stared at him. "It was just a stupid fucking dream. I'm not going to drown you Murph."
"It's not just a stupid dream. Dreams tell ye things. Like in the bible, happens all the time."
"So what, you think God told you I'm gonna drown you?"
"You're applying for universities. I'm getting a job. This is the last year we're going to be together."
"You're supposed to be coming with me." Connor said.
"I don't want to keep going to school Conn."
"Come with me anyway."
"Even if I wanted to I can't. It's not my fucking choice." Murphy said. "It's already arranged. I'm gonna work at the docks."
"Why? That's fucking stupid. That's Jimmy's territory." Jimmy Maliki, well known for smuggling and generally anything illegal going on. At the look Murphy gave him, Connor felt his stomach turn. "You're going to work for fucking Jimmy. Are you fucking insane?"
Murphy got up and walked away. Connor could always read him too well and this was already more than he wanted Connor to know. If Connor hadn't driven him so fucking insane with the silence treatment he never would have found out in the first place.
Connor of course followed, ran in front and stopped him. "You said you've got no choice. Why'd you say that?"
Murphy looked ready to burst from inside. And Connor felt his stomach turn. After torturing his brother with the silent treatment all week, and the nightmare and apparently Murphy thinking he was going to kill him or something, and the prospect of working for Jimmy Maliki right after school was done... Connor wasn't surprised Murphy was ready to break. "Murph, what's going on?"
And as much as Murphy wanted to answer because he never kept secrets from Connor, he didn't want to talk about this one. He was afraid either way. He was afraid that Connor would leave him. He was afraid that Connor wouldn't leave him. Murphy had no idea how he could so badly want both things and be afraid of both things at once. Connor stared at him, and finally Murphy broke. He sat down right where he was in the field and pushed at the tears threatening to gush out his eyes.
"Why do you want to work for Jimmy?" Connor asked.
"I'd rather fucking die, Conn."
Connor sat beside his twin. "So why then?"
"Ma owes him money. Aunty Net, she got a loan years back for something and then drowned in the fishing boat accident. So the loan went to Ma, and she's been paying it. I didn't know anything about it til Jimmy stopped me in town. Said he could use someone like me on his team, and he'd consider the debt paid for every month I come and work for him plus my own pay."
"Why would you agree to that Murph?"
"I don't have a plan Conn. I don't have any big dream for the future like you do. I don't fucking care what I do."
"I'm not. I really don't fucking care. You do. And I'm not fucking that up for you."
"So this is it? This is your big fucking nightmare that I'm going to head off to university and leave ye to drown with the likes of Jimmy?"
By then Murphy was crying outright and couldn't hold it back any longer. "I don't fucking care. I want better things for ye Conn. You can do better things."
"So can you." Connor insisted. "Just look at the fucking art you do, brilliant stuff. If you were to find an art gallery that would show it, you'd be set. Why are you so set that there's only the one way? We could get jobs, help Ma pay."
"He's already got me on his list Con. No one is going to be willing to take me on now and risk crossing Jimmy."
"Then we look further. We'll look all the way to America if we've gotta. New York or Boston where there are tons of people who don't give a shit about fucking Jimmy Maliki. We could do it Conn."
They thought about it for a long time and it began to set in and they realised, they could.