They put us alone in this room. White and empty. Is this how Mark lived now? Of course it was. And I'd put him here.
"Mark, I-I'm sorry. I didn't mean... I shouldn't have..."
He cut me off. "But you did."
"Mark..." I tried.
"What Bryon? You've been pushing me away for months now. I should've seen this coming."
His golden eyes were harsh, uncaring. What had I done to him?
"You screwed me, man. But I get it. You been messed up since you met Cathy. That chick changed you, man. Pulled us apart. Look where it got us."
"Cathy's with Curtis, now..." I mumbled.
He looked only slightly surprised. "Good. When I get outta this place, maybe we can hang again. Like it used to be. No chicks to mess up our good times."
I remembered what I'd told him months ago. That was then, this is now. Did it have to be like this, though? Could we go back? Maybe I could learn to dig fights again, and we could get back at the Shepard's. Could we really do that? Could I go back to the way I'd been a year ago, before Cathy? Before Charlie, and before M&M? Before the cops came to take away my brother?
"Ah, shoot man, why don't you hate me?" I wondered. He should've hated me, then. I don't know why he didn't.
"Because the less I care, the more you hurt."
I knew what he meant. If he acted like he didn't care that I'd turned on him, then the guilt would eat away at me.
"Mark, you know I feel lousy for what I did." I was desperate. "Stop making trouble and get out of this place. Mom misses you. I miss you. You can come back home and we can be brothers again. Do everything together, just like old times."
"Can we?" he asked. "Can we be brothers again? We can fight together, smoke together, but how much more before you turn on me again? I dealt for you and for your mom. I coulda stopped. But you didn't care. You care about a brother, Bryon."
I put my face in my hands. My thoughts were a mess in my head and I couldn't sort through them to save my life.
"I care, Mark." I was finally able to say things like that now, and it felt good. "I was messed up that night. M&M's bad trip and Cathy's hysterics. Everything got real hard all at once. You can't hate me for that."
"Never said I hate ya, Bryon. Just can't call you family anymore. Family don't turn their backs on family. My parents did that and I gotta believe it's because after me, they weren't really a family. Maybe one day we can be brothers again. Maybe I'll be able to trust you again."
We sat there in silence and I tried to think of something to say. There was nothing, really, because words were too late to fix us. I said bye to Mark, but the Mark I'd used to know wasn't really there anymore. It was just that golden lion that everyone adored. Except no one adored him in that place.
I heard Mark stopped making trouble for the reformatory when they sent him to the state pen. I wasn't so sure about that, though, because I could've sworn I'd seen him once or twice on the streets.
I was sure it was just a rumor, though, after someone waltzed into the house and then into my room. He grabbed the pack of cigarettes from under the mattress of Mark's bed that we still had not gotten rid of.
He came back into the kitchen where I sat, eating dinner. "Hey, Bryon."