Michael was drunk, or close to it. We were alone in the model home. I had no idea where everybody else was. I was half asleep on the uncomfortable couch that was the smaller of the two, and my back was aching from the position I'd been in for hours. I thought I might get up and leave when Michael came into the room clutching his amber glass of something.

"Gob," he said, narrowing his drunken eyes at me. I already didn't like the tone in his voice. He was about to tell me how much he did and how hard he worked while I did nothing for this family, I could feel this lecture coming.

"Save it, Michael, I was just leaving," I said, standing up, trying to find my shoes.

"Come here," he said, his tone changing, and maybe I liked this tone even less.

"No," I said, intending to leave barefoot since I couldn't find those sandals anywhere. I started for the front door and he grabbed my arm and yanked me with more force than I would have figured him capable of back into the room. Now my back ached and my arm ached where he had nearly wrenched it from the socket.

"What?" I said. He still held onto me, and I saw in his eyes that he wasn't as drunk as I thought.

"I said to come here," he said, and he pulled me to his bedroom. It was lit by one dim lamp and he shoved me inside, shut and locked the door, and I just stared at him as he fiddled with his belt.

"What are you doing?" I said, anger and confusion warring in my voice. Maybe there was some fear in there, too.

"What I've wanted to do for a long time," he said, sliding his belt from the loops, and I looked at it in his hand, dangling like some vicious snake. I backed up but there weren't many places to go with him blocking the door. I felt the thick carpet beneath my feet, and I could smell the alcohol on his breath.

"What?" I said, feeling my heart start beating hard in my chest. This was Michael, my younger brother, the person I had wrestled with and fought and chased after and played video games with and ate a thousand dinners with, the person who I had seen with his hair in sleep corkscrews and who I remembered when he was in diapers, for Christ's sake. Was I actually feeling afraid of him?

"I'm gonna kiss you," he said, and I knew he meant it sexual, and I knew he meant more than just a kiss, and I wished that I was drunk, too. Maybe this would be easier if I was drunk, too.

"No," I said, backing up until I was against the bed.

"It's not a question," he said, and he raised the belt and swung it down. The lash of it against my shoulders stung, and I felt tears coming to my eyes and I blinked them away.


"Lay down on the bed," he said, raising the belt again, and I shook my head no. He swung, and it lashed across my back and I cried out involuntarily. He was hitting hard, and the leather hurt.

"Now lay down like I told you to," he said, stepping toward me, the belt raised again.

"Michael, stop…" I said, shaking my head, cringing as I anticipated getting hit again. He hit harder this time, the belt cracking in the air, and the lash struck the same place on my back and I felt this searing pain, stinging and searing and I groaned as the tears stung my eyes and I felt them slide down my cheeks.

"I'll beat you until you do what I say," he said, raising the belt again, so I obeyed and laid down on the bed, feeling the welt on my back rubbing uncomfortably against the material of my shirt. He dropped the belt to the floor but I could see that it was still right by his hand, easily accessible. He straddled me, sitting on my stomach, and every muscle I had tensed up. He leaned in to kiss me and I closed my eyes, my eyelashes wet from the tears. I felt his lips against mine, felt his tongue in my mouth, and I didn't dare pull away or not kiss back. Three lashes with that belt was enough, and I'd do what he wanted to avoid a fourth.

He pulled away and I didn't want to open my eyes, afraid of what I'd see. I felt him unbuttoning my shirt, felt the last button being undone and the shirt opened, and I felt his hands on my chest and stomach, felt his hands trail down to the waistband of my pants. I opened my eyes and saw him looking at me as he undid the button to my pants.

"Michael, no…" I said, and he leaned over and grabbed the belt he'd let fall to the floor. I buttoned my pants and sat up as he raised the belt again, but I moved to avoid it and it came down on the mattress. I stood up, buttoning my shirt as fast as I could, watching him narrow his eyes at me again and swing the belt again, grazing my side with it, and even that glancing blow hurt.

"Goddamnit, Michael, cut it out," I said, not ready to relinquish all the rights of being older.

"No," he said, but he let the belt fall again and it thumped against the floor, and he came at me, wrapping his arms around my waist to knock me over like he did when we were kids, and we were back on the bed. Every twist against the mattress and material of my shirt hurt my back where the belt had struck twice, and I imagined this raw bleeding welt.

He pinned me down, my arms trapped over my head. I was taller but he was stronger, and he leaned in to kiss me again. Maybe he'd punch me if I didn't comply, or hit me with the belt again. There wasn't a choice, I was realizing. Maybe he'd let me get a drink or two to dull my senses, and I jerked both wrists to free myself, but he anticipated and tightened up, and I felt the full weight of his body on top of mine.

"Let me up," I said between being kissed, my lips feeling bruised from the force of it.

"No," he said, reaching for the belt, and I didn't move even when he hit me again.