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Sibling Rivalry

It had been a beautiful service.

Jonathan was standing in the corner, clutching his glass of whiskey, wondering how long it would be before it was polite to leave. He adjusted his collar and glanced around at the mournful room. Family and old friends were standing about swapping stories about her, all eulogising her in their own way. The conversation in the room gave the air a bittersweet flavour as everyone strived to remember the best about her as they stifled any negative thoughts that may have popped into their heads.

Jonathan was trying to avoid any such conversation. Moments prior, one of his uncles had come up to him and after a few minutes of chatting, asked him what his favourite memory of her was. It had struck Jonathan as a very personal question to ask a person you haven’t seen in years, one’s favourite memory of one’s mother. Then again, Jonathan hadn’t spoken to anyone in the room in years.

Jonathan looked into his drink and swished the ice cubes round.

“Hey, little brother.”

Fred’s voice had sneaked up on Jonathan. For a second Jonathan wondered if Fred had waited until he was distracted before coming up and speaking to him – he always did enjoy getting the drop on him. He considered the thought for a moment before concluding that maybe he was projecting a bit.

“Hey, Fred.”

The smell of Fred’s expensive perfume glided in around Jonathan’s head as Fred loosened his designer tie and undid the top button of his personally tailored shirt. Jonathan couldn’t help but notice how perfectly composed Fred was with his mournful yet dignified air and his perfectly gelled hair that looked like it could pop off his head like a Playmobil.

“You gave a great eulogy.” Jonathan said, knowing his brother would be expecting a compliment.

“Thanks. You could have said something too, you know.”

Jonathan shrugged. “Didn’t have anything to say.”

Fred put his hand on Jonathan’s shoulder and gave it s slight squeeze. Jonathan immediately resented him for it.

“Uncle Jack’s getting drunk.” Jonathan said, trying to divert his brother’s attention away from him.

“Yeah, that’s what he does.” Fred said, an annoyed look coming over his face. Jonathan got a little kick out of slightly spoiling Fred’s perfect day. “How have you been though. How’s the bookshop holding up?”

“It’s alright, yeah.” In fact, Jonathan had to permanently close the store months ago. He knew Fred knew this and he knew Fred wouldn’t call him out on the lie. That wasn’t the point of the question. The point of the question was to plant the memory of his failed store in his head, to remind of where he stood in relation to Fred.

“Cool, cool. Listen, I need to talk to you about the will.”

“Aren’t we meeting the lawyer tomorrow?”

“Yeah. Mom basically told me what’s in it though. And I just wanted to let you know one thing about it now so you don’t have to find out about it tomorrow.” Immediately, Jonathan knew what Fred was about to say. This was the whole reason why Fred came up to speak to him in the first place. “She’s leaving me the book collection.”

And there it was.

The collection Fred was referring too was an antique collection of serial novels from the 1800s. They were fragile, valuable things and Jonathan loved them. He remembered reading through all of them as a child, carefully following his mother’s instructions on how to properly handle them. He remembered the last time he had been allowed to touch them when he was 14 and Fred violently snatched the book out of his hand to annoy him, tearing it in two. Their mother was livid, possibly the angriest they had ever seen her, and the books had been locked away ever since.

And now they would belong to Fred.

Jonathan felt mocked by his brother’s look of sincerity. He had delivered the news perfectly, making sure to leave a small dramatic pause before getting to the punchline. Jonathan knew exactly how the rest of the conversation would play out. He felt like a puppet, acting out a cruel script written for him by his brother.

“I see.”

“Sorry buddy.”

“Can’t you give them to me? After everything is signed for and handed over?”

“I would, you know I’d love to. But she entrusted the books to me, you know how much she loved them. I’m taking the responsibility seriously.”

“They’d be fine with me. I’d keep them safe.”

“I know, brother, I believe that but still, it’s probably better if they’re with me.”


“It’s just…like I said, it’s a big responsibility and I don’t want burden you with a responsibility you don’t need right now.”

Another shoulder squeeze.

An image of smashing his glass down on Fred’s smug little forehead flashed through Jonathan’s head. He envisioned all the gory details, the way the little shards of glass would slip underneath his skin and tear into his flesh, the way the impact of the tough object would thump against his skull, the way the alcohol would splash into his eyes and cause searing pain.

Jonathan gripped his glass as hard as he could.

“Does that make sense?” Fred asked, his head leaned forward slightly, effectively feigning concern.

Jonathan didn’t say anything, just nodded, his lips shut tightly together.

“Great, I just wanted you to hear it from me, rather than find out in the lawyer’s office tomorrow.”

For a moment, Jonathan didn’t say anything. He had one more line in this twisted play and his part in Fred’s script would be over. He rebelled against it, the urge to dramatically break away from the text surged within him. However, right as he felt like he would follow through on that urge, he was gripped by an intense feeling of futility. His righteous indignation quickly left his system and he delivered his line with all the pity it was meant to invoke.


Jonathan felt defeated.

“Great, I know you’d understand.” Fred ruffled Jonathan’s hair. “You should have put some gel on. Right, I’m going to go make sure Uncle Jack doesn’t get too out of hand. I’ll see you at the lawyer’s office tomorrow”

Fred walked away, leaving Jonathan alone in his corner once again. Jonathan swished the ice cubes in his drink again and conjured up all the vivid imagery from those books in his head.

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