"But… But, you NEVER let me have ANY fun WHATSOEVER!" Fourteen year old Rose Callahan shouted at her older brother.
"I don't care, you are not going out! Jack Callahan yelled back, using his height and bulk to tower menacingly over his little sister. She retaliated by throwing the first object she could find on their dining room table at him, which happened to be a heavy copy of "War and Peace" that Jack managed to catch before it hit his face.
"I don't care if you're big tough Diesel or whatever the hell you sissy gang calls you. I'm too little to be left at home…" Rose whined, blowing a stray brown curl out of her eyes before settling her face into her best pout. Jack sighed before kneeling down in front of his little sister.
"Look, I don't want you getting hurt all right? It's a rough world on the streets. I know I can't keep you locked up forever, but just for a little while longer. " Rose's pout vanished, and she hung her head.
"No buts. I love you Rosie." Jack finalized, kissing his sister on the forehead before leaving their apartment. Rose sighed and took a seat at their dining room table, cradling war and peace to her chest.
Jack and Rose's mother had died on Rose's tenth birthday, on her way home from work. A man ran a red light and hit Mrs. Callahan as she crossed the street. Her father lost his job as a car salesman a week later.
Things had gone downhill from there. Mr. Callahan started drinking, withdrawing from his children as much as possible. He worked the 14 hour shift in the steel factory across town, and slept the other ten hours of the day. All Rose had to do was make sure dinner was in the fridge and that Jack remembered to leave out enough money for a few beers, and her father wouldn't hit either of them.
Rose could remember the first time her father hit them. Her brother had come home from the ice shop, where he worked, and fell into bed sick and exhausted. When he reported in sick the next day, their father had blown a gasket. There was a huge fight in the living room that had Rose in her room with her hands over her ears.
There had been a loud crash, then Jack had come into her room, nose bleeding heavily. That was the first time she had ever seen him cry.
Jack had been the strong one after their mother's death, getting a job at the Ice Shop downstairs so they could have some extra money and taking care of Rose. When he wasn't home, he was with the neighborhood gang, his real family aside from Rose. Even though he took care of her, there were still times when she stood up for him.
After she made sure Jack's nose wasn't broken, Rose went into the living room to where her father was sitting, and stood up for her brother.
"Don't you hit him. He works just as hard as you do" She said quietly, hugging the door frame. Their father stormed across the kitchen towards her, crossing the little room in two strides.
"Keep your mouth shut, girl. What goes on between me and your brother is none of your damn business" Rose stared up at him calmly. She heard Jack's footsteps in the hall.
"It's my business all right. What happened? You HIT him… You hit your boy."
Mr. Callahan strode back across the kitchen, running his hands through his messy hair.
"You going to hit me too?" Rose asked quietly, holding on to the door frame for dear life.
"I have half a mind to" Her father growled. Rose realized her knees were beginning to shake.
"Don't. Hit. My. Brother. Again" Rose said, surprised at how brave she felt.
Rose staggered back through the door to the hallway, her cheek on fire. Jack caught her before she could fall to the floor, and she could feel him shaking in anger.
Mr. Callahan took a step back, as if realizing what he had done. Jack and Rose just stared at him in shock. Mr. Callahan took one more step, then turned around and left, slamming the door as hard as he could behind him.
Since then, Their father had kept completely to himself. They left food and money for him, and lived their own lives.
Rose completed her studies at home, supervised by her brother when he returned from work in the ice shop downstairs. When she was done with school work, she did chores and then read until Jack came home to keep her company.
Jack was the best brother she could ask for; though he was tough and angry when he was Diesel, as Jack he was quiet and kind. Tall, muscular, and blonde, he had the local gals fluttering around like twitterpated birds. At least, Rose thought they did. He never told her anything about women or the Jets unless he was sure it was appropriate enough for her.
Small yet willowy with long brown curls, Rose looked the exact opposite of her brother in features. Her mother had often told her that she had the face for pictures and the feet of a dancer.
Sometimes, she turned on the radio and danced around their small kitchen, pretending she was at one of the community dances that went on at the gym or in a private ballet studio.
It was a lonely life in the apartment, but someday she would get out.