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“Jonathan?” Titus was surprised to find his brother standing on his doorstep.
“Hey.” Jonathan had both hands plunged into the pockets of his khaki shorts. He hadn’t shaved in days.
Titus stepped back to let his brother come into the house, and asked, “What are you doing here?”
“I just wanted to talk to you.” Jonathan’s bloodshot eyes were pleading.
“What’s wrong?” Titus shut the door, not sure where to go.
“Are the boys here?” Jonathan looked around the open interior of the house.
“No,” Titus answered, “it’s Saturday. They’re out.”
Jonathan walked over and sat on the sofa. Titus followed and sat across from him in his leather recliner. He watched his brother clasp and unclasp his hands. Finally, Jonathan looked up and said, “I’ve got a situation, and I don’t know what to do about it.”
Titus sighed. “What’s going on?”
“A man who’s been coming to my church molested Emma.”
“Oh, God!” Titus leaned back against his chair. He didn’t know what to say. After a moment, he asked, “What happened?”
Jonathan recounted the story Abigail had told him, and then said, “I’m not sure what to do.”
“Call the police,” Titus said. “There’s not another option.”
“Are you sure?” Jonathan massaged his temples. “I keep going back and forth. I just can’t stand the thought of people talking about Emma. You know how the story changes as it gets passed around. There’s no telling what people will be saying happened to her.”
Titus sat quietly, contemplating what his brother was saying.
“I’d like to kill the bastard.” Jonathan’s eyes flashed with anger.
“I know, but you can’t,” Titus said quietly. “You going to jail is the last thing this family needs right now.”
“What do I do, Ty?” Jonathan pleaded.
“Let me think about it. I’ll sleep on it, and we’ll talk about it some more tomorrow. Okay?”
“Okay.” Jonathan nodded. “I just keep going around in circles in my head. I’ve never felt so helpless to protect my family. I know what I want to do. I want to kill him. I know what makes the most sense in general. I should call the police. But I just keep thinking about how people will spread rumors. What if they get back to Emma? What if she hears people saying stuff about her? I start thinking about that, and then I just want to murder him.”
Titus nodded. “I understand, Jon. It’s an impossible situation. We’ll figure it out, though.”
Jonathan let his head drop into his hands. After a moment, he looked up and said, “I heard about you and Jamie. I’m sorry, Ty.”
“Thanks.” Titus tried not to withdraw from the conversation. “I’ll be okay.”
“I know you will. You’re the strongest man I know. You hold this family together.”
“I do my best.” Titus rubbed his hands over the three day’s growth of stubble on his own cheeks. His eyes were just as bloodshot as his brother’s. He hadn’t had a good night’s sleep since Jamie ended things with him two weeks ago.
“I really am sorry.” Jonathan’s eyes were filling with tears. “It feels like everything is falling apart all at once. I know it must feel even more so for you. I know you know I have a hard time with the gay thing, Titus, but I hope you know that I love you and I want you to be happy.”
The familiar feeling of despair flooded Titus when his brother said “the gay thing.” He knew Jonathan was trying his best to be loving and supportive despite his belief system, but it still hurt to have his entire existence boiled down to “the gay thing.” To his brother, he simply said, “Thanks, Man. I love you, too.”
Jonathan reached out and gripped his brother’s shoulder. “I’m sorry for all the times I let you down, Little Brother.”
“It’s okay.” Titus offered a small smile.
Jonathan let his hand fall away, and began the nervous clasping and unclasping routine again. “The boys are doing okay?”
“Yeah.” Titus nodded. “They’re fine.”
“And you’re hanging in there?”
“I’m fine,” Titus lied.
“Okay.” Jonathan nodded, as if trying to convince himself everything really was fine. He stood up, and heaved a sigh. “I better get home. I didn’t tell Abby where I was going.”
“Okay.” Titus stood, and faced his brother. “It’ll be okay.”
“I hope so.” Jonathan awkwardly embraced his brother. “Thanks for being here for me. I didn’t know who else to go to.”
“You can always come to me.” Titus felt his heart swell with affection for his older brother. “We’ll figure it out together, one way or another.”
Titus watched his brother drive away from his house, and then shut the front door. He was exhausted. Just as he was starting to get a hold of himself after his breakup and things were settling down with his nephews moving in, he had another family crisis to deal with. Sinking into his recliner, Titus began mentally working over the problem of Emma. He wasn’t sure how her parents should handle the situation. If it were him, he would call the police, but Jonathan’s worries of how rumors would circulate added another dimension to the problem.
He wasn’t sure what mode of action he would suggest to his brother the next day, and he certainly had no idea it would be a moot point anyway. A decision had already been made, and Jonathan had nothing to do with it.
©2015 Rachel Holbrook
Rachel Holbrook writes from her home in Knoxville, TN. She is the author of the syndicated serial, Little River, Volumes 1 & 2. Her short fiction and poetry have appeared in Burningword Literary Journal, *82 Review, Ink in Thirds, Akitsu Quarterly, The Avalon Literary Review, and various other literary journals. When she’s not writing, she enjoys going on literal and literary adventures with her husband and six children.