Cousins I

From: Stefanie ([email protected])
 
 
 

I'd like to ask anyone wishing to use my story for anything but personal reading to please contact me at my e-mail address: [email protected] or [email protected] Thanks again,

Stef.

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Dan, Alex and I had been bouncing off the walls all morning, and just when it seemed that neither we nor my parents could take it any longer, the big, black SUV came lumbering down the driveway. “They’re here!” Alex announced, running out onto the porch.

“Thank God,” I heard my dad mutter as Dan and I ran past him to join Alex. The vehicle had barely come to a stop before my cousin, Samantha, having shoved her brothers aside, was running toward us. Alex and Dan exchanged grins as I almost fell on my face, trying to get past them and down the steps. Sam was not just my cousin, she was my best friend and I had missed her terribly during the past year. My Uncle had moved his family to Arizona immediately after my Aunt had died, hoping for a fresh start in a town where there were not so many memories. Now they were back, at least for the summer.

I reached the bottom of the steps just in time to throw my arms around her. She returned the embrace enthusiastically. We were both half laughing half crying and Sam was trying to get her breath too. “God, I’ve missed you!” I said.

“Oh, me too!” She returned. Then she whispered conspiriationally “My dad doesn’t know it yet, but I’m not going back. Not if they try to drag me.” I laughed and hugged her again.

“Good god! The siamese twins have been reattached!” The sarcastic draw belonging to my cousin, Matt was almost as welcome as the sight of Sam had been and finally induced me to let her go. As I did, I looked up and grinned to see Matt and Nathen coming toward us.

“Yeah, Jess,” Dan had to chime in, “do you mind if we say hello to Sam, now?” With that my older brother jumped the steps and swept Sam up in his arms. She clung to his neck and laughed as he swung her around. “It’s great to see you, kiddo! Jess hasn’t been the same since you left.”

“Not the same huh?” Nate got that familiar gleam in his eye and I backed away. “I wonder if she still screams the same.”

“Well, she hasn’t changed that much,” laughed Dan as he set Sam down.

“Oh yeah, let’s see.”

“Nate, No!” I panicked and tried to run, but Nathen caught me in his strong arms and before I knew it I was over his shoulder being spun around, much to the delight of the growing audience. I screamed and smacked Nate on the butt.

“Put me down you imbecil! Sam did you have to bring them?” My question was greeted with hoots of laughter from my brothers.

“Hmm...seems like the same old Jessica to me,” said Nate, finally setting me on my feet. I playfully clubbed him one before I wrapped my arms around him and hugged him tight. He returned the hug and sighed, “I’ve been waiting a whole year to do that. Sam just can’t scream the way you can.”

“Sorry, Jess. I really did try to get Dad to leave them at home,” Sam grinned.

“That’s all right,” I returned “fair is fair. You’re going to have to put up with those two goons all summer,” I nodded toward Dan and Alex who immediately took on looks of injured innocence, “so I guess we’re even.”

Matt laughed and caught me up in his arms, lifting me off my feet, as I placed my arms around his neck. “It is really good to see you guys, and Sam has not been the same without you either, Jess.”

“She’s not the only one,” Nate smirked.

Matt’s grin widened and so did mine as I looked into his incredible blue eyes.

”All right, all right. Break it up!” My oldest brother ordered playfully as he came down the walk to greet Matt and Nathen.

Matt set me down, but kept his arm around me and I cuddled up next to him. There had always been talk about me and Matt, “if we weren’t cousins etc....” and we always took ribbing, particularly from Nathen and Dan. We were the same age, and we had similar senses of humor and the same moody temperment, but we were cousins and I was glad we were because it made it safe for us to be close.

Alex had been hanging back a little shyly as he always did at first, but now Sam asked him if he was ever going to say hello, and grinning his response, he bounded down the stairs to give her a hug. Sam then ushered him over to where the rest of us were standing. Matt smiled at him and Nate reached out to ruffle his hair. “How’s it goin’ kid?”

“Ok,” Alex smiled back, still a little shyly. Alex was everybody’s little brother. Not just because he was the youngest of our little family clique, but because he was the most affectionate and laid back as well. No one fought with Alex. He was always trying to be the peace maker, and sometimes he had his work cut out for him.

I had a feeling that this summer would definitely try his talents as all my cousins visibly tensed, and I followed their gaze to see my uncle with a woman that must be the new wife they had written us about. Cynthia was her name, and Sam had told me in her letter that she had been making life miserable for all of them, especially Matt and Nathen. Behind them were Cynthia’s two children, Sean and Amy. Sean was described by my cousin as, “overall pretty cool,” but Amy was apparently even worse than her mother. I narrowed my eyes and silently examined her as she came down the driveway behind her mother and my uncle. All I knew was that she better not cause any trouble here. I tightened my arm protectively around Matt. He responded by giving my shoulder an affectionate squeeze and kissing the top of my head, and I caught the anxious glances the exchange caused Dan, Nate and Sam to give one another. Sam had written me that of them all, Matt had had the most problems and was harboring a bitter grudge against Amy. My cousins and brothers were aware that the day I read that letter, detailing the circumstances of the trouble Amy had caused, was the day Amy had made another bitter enemy.

At that moment, my parents emerged from the house, followed by my younger sister and brothers. They had hung back out of respect for our long awaited reunion, Carry and the twins being kept at bay by my parents, but now they bore down upon us and there was a flurry of commotion. Introductions were hastily made, greetings exchanged and bags were unloaded. Finally there was a lull and my Dad suggested “Jess, maybe you and Sam could show Amy to her room. You boys can show Sean where he is sleeping and then maybe you can all take them on a tour of the farm. Just be back by noon for lunch.” My dad’s tone was one that was not to be argued with and he punctuated it with a glare which he directed at me. He did not know of the trouble my cousins had had with Amy. At least, he had not heard it from me, but he was clearly sensing my resistance and trying to head it off.

“OK,”I shrugged. I motioned Amy to follow and Sam fell in step beside me as we made our way up the winding staircase from the living room, where we were gathered, to the bedrooms. The boys followed.

We had rented three large, comfortable cots for the summer. Two of them were set up in Dan and Alex’s room. That was where Matt and Nathen would sleep. The other was in Toby and Dennis’ room, where Sean would sleep. Amy would take my bed in the room I usually shared with Carry, and Sam and I would share the upstairs guest room which contained twin beds. Cynthia and my uncle would sleep in the downstairs guest room next to my parents’ room.

The boys turned into Toby and Dennis’ room to show Sean his sleeping quarters and Sam and I led Amy across the hall. Carry and the twins had joined us and were chatting up a storm in their customary way, so things were not too awkward, especially as the three had seemed to take an immediate liking to Sean and Amy. Good, I thought, privately seething at the idea of this girl staying in my bed, maybe they will all leave us alone this summer and bug each other instead. I, of course did not say this, but smiled politely as Carry eagerly showed her new roommate where everything was.

The tour of the farm was torturous. It became clear very quickly that Amy and Sean were not at all farm people or interested in living on one even for a summer. Sean was disinterestedly polite, but Amy was intolerable. She had something nasty to say about every little thing. There were too many bugs, too much dirt and mud, it was too humid and sticky, mine and Alex’s horse, Natasha, was smelly and nasty just like Snoopy and Whiskers back home. With this remark, Amy managed to offend even my unoffendable little brother, who had been, up to that point, amused. We were all glad when the tour was over, and Carry who had not accompanied us on the tour (not being much of a farm girl herself), bounced in to reclaim Amy. I had to smother a smile as my sister led her new pet off by the hand and for a moment I almost felt sorry for Amy, almost but not quite.

Sean decided to wander off by himself for a bit, and though I felt kind of bad, knowing we were not making either him or Amy feel very welcome, I couldn’t help feeling relieved as the tension lifted and we got our cousins to ourselves again. The year without them had been very hard for me and my brothers. We had always shared a special bond with them. We had practically grown up together and we were all so close in age. Nate was the oldest, now 18. Dan was just a year behind him at 17. Sam was 16, Matt and I were both 15, and Alex was 13. We had always taken their presence in our life for granted, until they moved away.

After Amy and Sean had left us, we hung out in the boys’ room for awhile trading stories and enjoying being together again, but it wasn’t long before Sam whispered that she had things to tell me and led me off by the hand. “Don’t talk too much about us,” Dan quipped. I turned to look at him as Sam continued pulling me to the door.

“Oh,” I returned sarcastically, “and what else could we possibly have to talk about after a year.” I rolled my eyes at Sam and then we left my grinning brothers and cousins behind to talk about whatever it is guys talk about when we’re not around.

Sam and I went to our room, flopped on our beds and indulged ourselves in girl talk until we were called to lunch. Mostly we talked about light things, our most recent crushes, our friends and enemies at school, how great it would be if Sam and her brothers moved back permanently. Talking about that made Sam a little sad and she admitted that she was really worried about Matt.

“He hasn’t adjusted well at all, Jess, to anything. Not to the move, not to Mom’s death. He’s gotten to be really sour a lot of the time. He is so unhappy. I’m hoping that this Summer...that you...will be able to snap him out of it. The two of you have always been so close...”

“We are the same age and we understand one another’s moods, that’s all, Sam,” I said gently, sensing the agitation in her voice. “You know how much he loves you!” Sam was quiet. “As much as I love Dan and Alex, sometimes when things are really bothering me, I can’t talk to them because I am afraid they will worry.”

“I know,” she seemed to relax, “Nate and I just feel so helpless sometimes. Dad and Cynthia are always on his back and Matt’s moods don’t help his case. I just want him to be happy again.”

“Give him time,” I said quietly, “and try not to worry.” Then to lighten things up, I added “We’ll cheer him up this Summer. When you and I put our heads together, we never fail. It will be our mission.”

Sam laughed. “I have missed you,Jess.”

“Me too,” I replied, “so much.” It was then that we heard Carry bellowing that it was lunch time, so we got up and went downstairs.

It was about a week later that the real problems started. Everyone had settled in by then and things had become routine, almost boring, and boredom always spells trouble. Amy had actually been relatively quiet and had so far not caused any problems, at least that I could see. I was even beginning to think I’d misjudged her. Cynthia was on the other hand absolutely living up to her reputation. She was always after Matt about something. “Matthew, sit up, you’re slouching.” “Matthew, get your feet off the furniture.” “Matthew, why don’t you turn off the tv and do something outside for a change.” It wasn’t exactly that she was mean. If she had been making the same demands of us all, no one would have thought twice about it, but it was always Matt. We began to refer jokingly to him as “Matthewrella” when we were by ourselves and Matt laughed with us, at first, but after awhile I could see it was getting on his nerves.

One afternoon Matt and I were playing pingpong downstairs in the game room. Alex and Dan were there too, playing video games, when Cynthia wandered in. Everyone else had gone down to the pond for a swim. She glanced around the undeniably cluttered room, and then spoke to my cousin as if he was solely responsible. “Matthew, this place looks like a sty. Please take a minute to pick up some of these things.”

“Ok,” said Matt as he returned the ball to me.

“Now! Please!” The sharpness of her voice caused Matt to miss the ball and my brothers to turn their heads to look at her.

I conjured up all the sweetness I could muster which admittedly wasn’t much and adressed my Uncle’s wife. “Aunt Cindy, we all have stuff everywhere. It’s ok. Don’t worry abbout it.”

“You may call me Cynthia,” she snapped, “and maybe all you kids should be a little neater, but I certainly will not allow my kids to be slobs in a house where we are guests.”

“My cousins are a lot more than guests here,“ I fired back.

“...and I am not your kid,“ Matt interjected.

“Well, we can discuss the technicalities of the situation all day, but I am your stepmother and you are bound to do as I ask, and I am telling you to clean up your mess...unless you’d like me to take it up with your father.” As she was talking my eyes had fallen on a pile of stuff that I knew was Amy’s and I was about to point this out when I felt my brother’s hands settle on my shoulders.

“Ok, Aunt Cynthia, we’ll clean up,” Dan spoke before either Matt or I could respond.

“It’s Cynthia, just Cynthia,” she retorted, but she seemed to relax a little as she looked at my brother. He was a real charmer when he wanted to be.

“Ok, Cynthia, don’t worry. We’ll do it right away... right now,” he added before she could respond.

“Fine, “she said, and then as an afterthought, “thank you.”

“What a witch!” I fumed, when she was gone, and I turned to yank whatever stuff was mine off the floor and from over chairs.

“You two better be careful,” Dan cautioned gently as he too started picking up his stuff. Alex was already cleaning up in a state of quiet shock. Matt was too angry to say anything as he jerked the couple of small things that were his off the floor. As we were cleaning, the rest of the crew returned and Sam and Nate came downstairs to look for us.

“Boy that was fun. You guys should have come...” Sam started. No one answered.

“What’s going on here? Cleaning, On a Saturday? Are we in the right house?” Nate quipped.

“Do you always have to be so sarcastic?” I snapped, picqued by the condescention in his voice.

“What’s your problem?” he returned in an injured tone.

Just then Cynthia called from the kitchen. “Matthew, would you come and set the table, please.”

“Oh, Matthewrella...” Nate smirked.

“Don’t...” Dan looked up and tried to cut Nathen off, but it was too late. Matt had already stormed out, giving his brother a shove as he passed. I glared at Nathen and then followed him.

“What’s with them?” I heard Nate ask.

“They had a run in with Cynthia,” returned Dan miserably.

“Shit!” That was all I heard as I caught up with Matt.

“Matt, wait! I’ll go.”

“No, it’s ok, Jess.”

“Matt, really, you’ve had more than your fair share of chores to do this week. I’ll do this.”

“Are you sure?”

I nodded and grinned at him. “You better take me up on it. My selfless moments are few and far between.” He smiled a little in return.

“All right if you’re sure..`.”

“I’m sure.”

“Ok, thanks.” So we walked the rest of the way down the hall to the kitchen and then he went upstairs and I continued through the swinging door.

“Where’s Matthew?” Cynthia demanded.

“He was busy with something so I offered to come instead.”

“Well, I was asking him.”

“What’s the difference?” I asked testily as I gathered the mats and silverware.

“Watch your tone, Jess...” my mom warned from where she was cutting tomatoes.

“The difference is... that boy better start obeying me and showing me some respect.”

“He WAS obeying you. I offered to come!”

“Jessica!”

”No, Mamma! What’s her problem!? Who cares who sets the table so long as it gets done!”

“Jess! You are way out of line!”

“Well, so is she!”

“You are excused, young Lady! Send Alex up to help with the table!”

“Whatever!” I slammed through the kitchen door.

“And you better believe that I am going to talk to your father!” I looked up to find Matt standing on the stairs. He had obviously heard it all.

“Alex! Mamma wants you!” I called for my brother and then headed for the door, fighting back tears. Matt caught up with me on the porch steps. I didn’t slow my pace, but was glad when he stayed beside me.

“Are you ok?”he asked softly. We were now about halfway down the driveway. I shook my head, not really trusting my voice. We walked a little farther in silence and then finally I looked at him. Tears started to streak my face and Matt wrapped his arms around me. I pressed my face against his shoulder and he held me tight.

“It’s not fair, Matt. I didn’t even do anything.”

“I know, baby. If it’s any consolation, you can bet that I am in just as much trouble as you are.”

“You! For what?”

“Well, for starters, you can be sure that my Dad’s going to hear all about the “attitude” I gave Cynthia when she asked us to clean up, and I’m sure she will also tell him that it was my disobedience that ultimately got you into trouble...”

“But that’s not even a little bit true!”

“Doesn’t matter. That’s the way she’ll see it, and the way my dad wil hear it. Mark my words.”

Matt and I did not go back inside, as we waited for my Uncle and Father to come home. We knew that by now everyone would have heard some version of the afternoon’s events and neither of us were in a hurry to confront either the patronizing concern of our older cousins and siblings, or the smug satisfaction of our younger family members. Instead Matt offered to take a look at the engine of Dan’s truck.

My brother had bought the truck, used, about a month ago, just after his seventeenth birthday. He had worked hard and saved a long time, but he hadn’t had it a week when the engine started to act up. A few times, it had completely refused to start. I had written Sam of the difficulties he was having and she had written back that when they came, Matt, who knew something about engines, having worked part time the last year or so for a mechanic, would gladly take a look at it. Now I think we were both grateful for anything that might serve as a distraction for the next hour or so.

We walked in silence toward the back of the barn where the truck was parked and when we reached it, Matt opened the door and popped the hood. Quickly, he became absorbed as he began checking fluids and examining hoses. I watched him entirely in awe of the smooth, systematic way he checked one thing and then another. It had all clearly become second nature to him. As he became lost in his examination of the truck, I became lost watching him. I had never seen anything hold Matt’s attention so completely before. He asked me a few questions and at one point got down on his back and slid under the truck. He asked me if there was a wrench handy and I responded that I thought Dan kept a tool box in the cab. So, saying I got up from the paddock fence where I was perched and opened the driver’s side door again to look for it. I wasn’t altogether sure why my brother chose to keep tools when he had not the least idea how to use most of them, but there it was, and now it appeared they would come in handy afterall. I found the box behind the driver’s seat, opened it and handed the wrench to Matt who was still under the truck. Neither of us were watching the time.

Finally Matt slid out and pronounced his diagnosis. “Well, I can’t say for sure, without starting her up, but my guess is there’s something going on with the fuel line. Tomorrow, I’ll get the keys from Dan and play with it a little more. If that’s all it is, nothing could be easier to replace. I’d be happy to take care of it for him.” Matt was finally on his feet again by now and facing me. He had a couple of grease smudges on his face and on his shirt.

“Look at you,” I smiled. “You’re a mess.”

Matt grinned, slightly as he swiped at the grease on his face, only succeeding in smearing it more. “That’s what everyone says. I’m afraid I’m a hopeless case.”

I approached and put my arms around him, brushing some hair strands away from his face and smiling at him affectionately. “Not completely hopeless,” I reassured, pecking him on the cheek. He kissed my head and wrapped his arms around me.

“How did I ever survive this year without you, Jess?”

“I don’t know,” I returned softly, cuddling close to him. I felt his chin drop gently to the top of my head and I nestled in even closer.

“Crap, Jess! It’s starting to get dark! What time is it?” I looked at the sky which seemed, somehow, much duskier than it had 5 minutes ago and then with a sinking feeling looked at my watch.

“Shit! It’s 5:20!” Dinner was at 5:00 ‘sharp!’ every evening.

“So much for making a subtle entrance,” Matt remarked bitterly.

“I’m sorry, Matt! I should have been watching the time!”

”Jess, it’s not any more your fault than it is mine. I think trouble just follows you and me around.”

“What are we going to do?”

“I guess there’s not much to do, but go back and face the music. If we miss it altogether, we’ll really be in trouble.”

“We’re already in a lot of trouble, Matt.”

“I know, baby girl, but do you want them to come out here, looking for us?”

“No.” I swallowed as the pitt in my stomach grew larger.

“Me either,” he released me from his arms and took my hand. “Come on,” he coaxed. “We’re together. We’ll be ok.” We walked in silence all the way back to the house, but Matt never let go of my hand, even as we reached the porch and as quietly as possible opened the door. Despite our efforts, the screen door betrayed us by creaking and the old wooden door followed suit. We started down the hallway and the chatter that had been coming from the dining room ceased. I felt a chill go through me and Matt squeezed my hand, as he continued to lead the way. We got to the doorway and paused. I stood just behind my cousin. Everyone looked up, that is everyone except our four potential allies. They were, all four, looking down at their plates and poking at their food without eating.

“Well,” my father started “so you decided to put in an appearence, afterall. How nice.” I cringed. This sarcastic tone of my father’s was his most dangerous. “Perhaps we could review the rules for the benefit of our wayward late comers. Daniel!” My brother looked up, but did not look at me. Instead he looked at my father.

“Sir?”

“What time is dinner every night?”

“5:00, Sir.”

“5:00... ? And don’t tell me. Tell your cousin and sister. They are the ones who seem to have forgotten.”

Finally, Dan looked at me and when he did, there was such rebuke in his eyes that I looked away, stung. “5:00 sharp! Sir.” He was still answering my Dad even though he was now looking at us.

“And Samantha, what time is it, now?”

“5:30, Sir,” she responded timidly without looking up.

“Look at your brother and cousin. Tell them!”

“It’s 5:30,” she looked at us and the anxiety on her face was almost as hard to bear as Dan’s disapproval had been.

There was a long, awkward pause and my father looked hard at Matt, “What have the two of you been doing all this time, that has deprived us of your company?”

“I was looking at Dan’s truck, Sir,” Matt mumbled.

I had barely grasped what he had said, so I was not surprised when my father inquired sharply,”What? I didn’t hear you.”

“I was looking at Dan’s truck to see if I could figure out what the problem was.” Matt’s voice rang out now, so nobody missed what he said. I touched his arm to steady him and glanced around to see the affect his words had on my brother. He paled, chastized, no doubt, for the scolding look he had given us earlier.

“Well that was generous of you. I’m sure Dan is grateful. In the future, however, you will remember to be on time to dinner.”

“Whatever,” Matt muttered.

“Excuse me?!”

“I said ok!” Matt returned obnoxiously. Nate placed his head in his hands and Sam turned deathly white, as my uncle got to his feet, his eyes flashing. I tightened my grip on Matt’s arm, and he shrank against me.

“Are you looking for a taste of this, Son?!” He touched his belt buckle. “Don’t you imagine that I won’t give it to you, just because we are not in the privacy of our own home! You apologize to your uncle, this minute!”

“I’m sorry, Uncle Steve,” Matt’s voice was cowed in the presence of his father’s temper, and I could feel him trembling.

“All right, now you take your sorry self to your room. You’re not fit to be seen anyway. I don’t know how you had the nerve...coming in here like that...Late!...With grease all over you...”

“We just lost track of the time!” my own temper flared.

“Jess...!” I caught Dan’s horrified whisper.

“Jessica Eliza! You were not being adressed! Stay out of it!”

“Well it’s not fair! Everyone’s always after Matt about something, and it’s not as if the rest of us are perfect!”

“No, Ma’m, Young Lady! You’ve got that right, anyway!!! Both of you get upstairs!” For a minute, Matt and I just stood there. “Go on! Get out of my sight, before I decide to take the belt to both of you!” He started towards us, and I grabbed Matt’s hand and ran for the stairs, pulling him after me. My father chased us to the end of the hallway and then let us go. I pulled Matt up the stairs, into the room Sam and I shared and slammed the door. “You two stay away from me, tonight! You hear?” Matt and I did not respond and after a minute we heard my father’s retreating footsteps.

“I’ve got to get out of here!” I cried. “I can’t be in here, knowing they’re all down there! And I just can’t face a lecture from Dan and Nate tonight!”

“I know! I feel the same way,” Matt responded. “But what can we do?” Without answering, I went to the window and slid it open. I then, as quietly as possible started to remove the screen. My brothers and I had been in the habit, for years, of sneaking out by shimmying down the large oak tree that loomed outside the guest room window. Once, Dan and I had gotten caught, on the way back in, and we had payed dearly for it, but it had not stopped us from doing it again. When the screen was off, I beckoned to my cousin and without another word he followed me out the window and down the tree.

We walked a little ways in silence and ended up by the secluded pond at the far end of our farm. It was a beautiful early summer night. The moon was full and the gentle breeze that ruffled the tree leaves was a warm one. The crickets were beginning their evening serenade and the fireflies were putting on a light show. Matt and I had always come here to be alone or to enjoy some quiet time together. “I almost forgot how beautiful it is,” Matt whispered as we stepped through the trees and hedges that surrounded the quiet grove.

I eyed him thoughtfully as we sat down near the edge of the pond.He stared into the water without looking at me, and for a minute neither of us spoke. Then I reached for his hand. “I know you’re unhappy, Matt.”

“Yeah? What gave it away?”

I ignored his tone and pressed on. “Sam’s worried about you.”

“Well, there’s a big surprise! Did she ask you to speak to me?”

“Not in so many words,” I hedged. “She just wants to help, Matt, and so do I.”

“Well, I’m fine!” He tried to pull his hand away, but I held on.

“Matt...” He looked at me and his eyes filled with tears which he quickly wiped away “Talk to me,” I coaxed. He looked away again as tears started streaking his cheeks.

“There’s not really anything to tell...,” he responded, continuing to fidgit. “I just hate Arizona,” he began and his voice was husky. “It’s hot and dry and it’s all so open...there’s no private place to find a moment for yourself, and Dad and that bitch of a wife of his are always riding me about something.” He smiled wryly “If we were here, I feel confident that the heat would be pretty evenly dispursed between you and me and Dan, and then I’d at least have you guys to talk to... I’d at least have you. Right now it’s all pretty much coming down on me and I don’t even really have anyone to talk to...” Matt’s voice broke and finally he looked at me again. His tears started to come faster and I reached for him. He started to let go as I closed my arms around him.

“What about Nate and Sam?” I asked quietly, after a minute.

“You know the answer to that. It’s the same reason you used to talk to me sometimes instead of Dan and Alex. Nate is great, but he’s gotten a little preachy at the ripe old age of 18 and I always feel like I have to be some sort of tough guy around him. As for Sam... you know I love her to death, but she just worries so dam much...they both do. I can’t help my moods, Jess. That’s just how I am...” Matt began to cry really hard, “...and there is nothing like Cynthia and her bitch daughter to bring them out... that little shit, Amy, has gotten me in trouble now more times than I can count...”

“Oh, Matt...” He clung to me and I held him, softly stroking his hair, wishing I could think of something comforting to say. Just then I heard a rustling sound from behind. I turned my head, but didn’t see anything. “What was that?”

“What was what?” Matt responded, lifting his head from my shoulder.

“I thought I heard something.”

“It was probably just the wind, or an animal,” Matt suggested.

“Maybe...” Just then the rustling sound came again and the leaves on the bushes behind us stirred.

“That’s no animal,” Matt retracted.

“Whose there?” I demanded, getting to my feet. There was a moment of silence and I repeated “I know there is someone there. Dan, Nathen, if this is a joke, it’s not funny. Come out right now!”

“It’s not your stupid brothers,” came the reply. “It’s me,” and Amy stepped out of the shadows.

“I should have known,” scowled Matt as he quickly swiped at his dwindling tears.

“You followed us? You little bitch!” I responded indignantly.

“I have a right to be here the same as you do.”

“You had no right to sit and listen to our private conversation when we didn’t even know you were here! Why did you come down here anyway?”

“I heard that their might be a little hanky panky going on between you two and I wanted to know if it was true.”

“Why?” Matt snarled. “So you could go running to my father and my uncle?”

“Oh, For God’s Sakes! Matt is my cousin, Amy!”

“So. I heard that that was not slowing the two of you down much,” Amy replied to my comment and ignored Matt.

“Who told you that?”

“Your charming little sister.”

“Yes, well in the future you might try to remember that Carry is only ten and with that in mind you may not want to take her word as gospel truth.”

“On the contrary, I think your sister is pretty insightful for her age. I was really loving your conversation. Too bad you discovered my presence just when it was really starting to heat up. I was beginning to wonder just what all that pent up passion was going to lead to.” She smirked at Matt and I curled my fingers into a ball. “Tonight has been quite revealing. It really has provided me with so much insight, that I hardly know what to do with it.”

“I’ll tell you what to do with it, you bitch!”

“Jess, just let it go, “ Matt pleaded, but my blood was up now and there was no chance of that.

“You listen and listen good! Because I am only going to say this once. If you do not want trouble this summer then you stay away from me, my brothers and my cousins! If you start snooping around and causing trouble here, the way you did in Arizona, you are going to regret it!”

“Is that a threat?”

“It’s a promise, little girl!”

“Gee, you are almost as much fun to razz as Matt. No wonder you two get along so well.”

“You just keep this in mind you little wise ass!” Matt was no longer able to control himself. “You are dealing with twice as many of us now and things will not go quite so easily with you if you start messing around! No one here is going to put up with your bullshit!”

“Says you!” retorted Amy. “I know two people who are very unlikely to see my side of the story as bullshit.” With that she turned and stalked off.

“Fuck!” Matt exclaimed when she was gone. “She’s going to go running right to Mommy. Then Cynthia will go to my Dad and my Dad will go to your Dad and we’ll both be in trouble.”

“She’s really that petty?”

“Just wait and see! You have no idea what you’re dealing with until you tangle with it once and then you constantly trip over yourself trying to avoid it. Shit! I can’t believe that little bitch. I knew she was going to pull something like this!”

“Matt, I really hope you’re wrong! We’re not even supposed to be out of our rooms.”

“I know, Baby Girl, I know.” I sat down again beside my cousin and he placed his arm around me, pulling me snugly against his side. After another moment of silence he said again “At least here I have you.” I sighed and snuggled closer.

We sat like that for awhile longer and then finally Matt got to his feet and offered me his hand. I took it and he pulled me up. Then we walked in silence back to the house.

It was dark by now and the flood light on the front of the house had been turned on. That was the first bad sign. We had definitely been missed. Then as we got closer we could see that Dan, Nathen and Sam were all on the porch and we could also see even from this distance that they looked worried. Dan was the first to see us and as we stepped into the light, he volted over the rail and came quickly towards us, waving us back into the shadows. Sam and Nate had seen us too by then, but they stayed where they were. “You guys are in trouble.” Dan’s forhead was creased with worry,

“Shit! I can’t believe it!” My stomach turned and I felt queasy.

“I knew it! Dam that little cunt bag!”

“What were you thinking? Sneaking out like that, on top of everything else!”

“Oh, please spare me the lecture!” I retorted and I started to turn away, but my brother pulled me back.

“Ok, I’m sorry! Just tell me what happened,” Dan said.

“Nothing!” I exclaimed, exasperated. “Nothing happened! Matt and I were talking privately down by the pond and that little witch hid in the bushes. She intentionally listened to our conversation. Naturally we were a little PO’d and we told her so.”

“Did you threaten her?”

“No, not really,” I looked at Matt.

“Well what did you say to her?”

I swallowed hard as I thought about it, “Well I guess, she could have taken what we said as a threat...”

“Shit!” Dan pressed his hands against his head,”Oh, my God! Jess!”

“... but she was threatening to reveal our conversation and she tried to imply that there was something going on between us. Dan, she came down for the express purpose of spying on us!”

“Jess, don’t you understand!? Dad and Uncle Rob are not going to see it like that! First of all, you guys were supposed to be upstairs, not pouring your hearts out by the pond. Second of all, Amy has been up here for the past half hour spilling her guts to her mom. She got the water works going and everything. And now Cynthia is talking to Dad and Uncle Rob together.” I felt the blood drain from my face as I realized how worried my brother was. Dan looked at Matt “Please, man tell me you have something to add that could help.”

Matt shook his head glumly, “Nothing that’s the truth. It all happened pretty much the way Jess said.”

“All right, well we’ll figure something out,” Dan said, reaching to put his arm around me as he looked at my face. I was scared now and I clung to my brother as he pulled me close. “Let’s get back to the house. Sam and Nate are pretty worried too. They would have come down with me, but we didn’t want to attract too much attention to your arrival.”

“What about Alex?” I asked.

“Alex doesn’t even know there’s anything going on. We only know because Sam happened to overhear Amy talking to her Mom, and we thought it was better not to worry Alex if we could avoid it.”

“Where is everyone else?”

“Right now, they are all in the living room watching a movie.”

“Everyone?”

“Yeah. Even Amy. She dried her tears pretty quick, huh?”

“Figures,” Matt muttered.

“Aren’t they wondering where the three of you are?”

“Probably. But so far no one’s sent out a search party...,” he pulled me even closer and tried to smile. We had reached the porch by this time and Sam came up to hug Matt.

“We’ve been so worried about you guys...” Nate got up from the railing where he had been sitting and came to join us.

“When are you guys not worried about me?” Matt replied.

“When do we not have reason to be?” returned Nate.

“I don’t understand why she can’t just leave me alone!” Matt cried.

“Hang in there, bro.” Nate replied softly. “At least we’ve got our cousins on our side now. Even Alex, Carry, and the twins are going to catch onto her sooner or later.”

At that moment the screen door flew open with a bang, to reveal my Uncle Rob’s heavy frame. “Dad, can I explain please...” Matt started. He didn’t get far as my Uncle strode over and took him roughly by the arm.

“Explain what!? What did I tell you about getting along with Amy and Sean this summer?”

“Why do you always believe her?!”

“Don’t you raise your voice to me! You expect me to believe that all the instances of your bullying this past year have been wild stories made up by Amy? For what reason? To alienate herself still further from a situation where she already feels like an outsider?”

“I don’t know!” retorted Matt. “I don’t know how her infantile mind works!” My Uncle’s free hand went to his belt buckle and Sam and I both began to cry.

“No! Oh God No! Please, Daddy! Please!” Sam pleaded.

“Stay out of it, Sam!”

“Uncle Rob, please! Amy was eavesdropping on us. We were a little mad, but we didn’t do anything!”

“And where were the two of you supposed to be, Jess? If you had stayed in your room as you were supposed to, she would never have had the opportunity to eavesdrop.” He glared at both me and Matt, “The pair of you, together, are nothing but trouble.”

“Dad,” Nate started.

“I don’t want to hear it, Nathen!” With that my uncle dragged Matt down the porch steps and around the corner of the house.

“It’s not fair!” I screamed and I tried to go after them, but my brother held me back.

“Let it go, Jess! It’s better for Matt if you let it go.”

“I can’t believe this is happening! It’s not fair!” I choked. Dan put his arms around me and I pressed my face into his chest. I felt his chin drop gently to the top of my head and I clung to him. Sam’s sobs had reached a nearly hysterical pitch and Nate wrapped her in his arms, settling with her on the porch swing as she buried her face in his shoulder. As Sam and I grew quieter, the awfulness of Matt’s humiliation became more real. We could hear his cries and the other sounds of his punishment, coming from the side of the house.

Not long after I heard the screen door creak slowly open and though I did not look around I knew it was Alex as I heard his timid voice. “Hey, what’s going on?”

“Matt got in trouble,” Dan answered him softly, though the question had already pretty much answered itself. The door creaked close as Alex stepped outside.

“What’s he in trouble for?”

“Some things he said to Amy.. “

”For being a jerk!” A new voice joined the conversation from inside.

“Amy!!” Cynthia’s rebuke came from the kitchen, but it did nothing to pacify me. I lunged for the door, catching my older brother off guard. He recovered just in time to catch me and pull me back. Only the door was between me and Amy and I was determined to eliminate that obstacle. Dan had hold of my arms and I strained against him.

“You evil little bitch!! I’ll get you if it’s the last thing I ever do!!” I snarled. I was still struggling with my brother when I saw my dad come up behind Amy. I was so angry that I didn’t even care. He pushed past her and stepped onto the porch.

“All right, Jess! Now, you and I are going to have a little talk of our own.”

“No!” Alex protested as my father took hold of one of my arms, forcing Dan to release it. I was still struggling but as my dad pried my other arm away from my brother the vigor of my efforts subsided. It was dawning on me that my father was a much stronger, not to mention more dangerous adversary than Dan was. It was also starting to occur to me that I was probably already in big trouble and that the way to mitigate the situation was not by continuing the struggle. By the time my father was escorting me down the stairs, with both my arms pinned behind my back, therefore, I had given up the fight altogether. It was useless anyway. Both my brothers fell in step beside us as my father pushed me in the direction of the barn.

“Go back to the house, boys!” my father ordered sternly.

“What are you going to do?” demanded Dan desperately.

“That is between me and your sister.”

“Daddy, please!!” Alex begged. Both my brothers were loathe to cry in front of other people, even if it was only our cousins and other siblings, but they were both on the verge now. Finally my dad stopped and without releasing me, turned to look at them.

“You three are something else, you know that,” but his voice was not rough. “Go back to the house,” he repeated in a kinder tone. “Tonight, Stef and I are just going to talk, so let’s save the scene for another night. All right? Go on.” Both Alex and Dan seemed unsure and they did not turn back immediatedly, but when after a minute my father pushed me forward again they did not stay beside us. I looked back at them as we reached the barn and saw that they had not moved. Clearly they didn’t believe my father. I wasn’t sure I did either.

Once we were in the barn my father released me and I stood, rubbing my wrists and waiting.”You can relax,” my father started, “I wasn’t lying to your brothers.” He watched me as I continued to rub my wrists and look at the ground. “What has gotten into you, Jessica?”

“Amy is ruining our whole summer!” I scowled.

“Come on now, the summer’s just started and you are not giving her much of a chance to fit in.”

“Dad, you have no idea how devious she is.”

“‘Devious,’ Jess? Isn’t that a little strong?”

“No, Dad. That describes her exactly, particularly when it comes to Matt.” Thinking of tonight’s scene all over again started fresh tears, and I was unable to continue.

“Ok, Jess. Now look! I don’t know what’s going on between Matthew and Amy, but I want you to stay out of it, you hear me?”

“But dad...”

“No, ‘Buts’! I mean it. I know how close you are to your cousin and how his punishment must have affected you. That is why we are going to leave things just as they are tonight, but let this be a warning to you: I will not have you fanning the flames of this war taking place between Matt and Amy. Do you understand me?”

“Ok.”

“Ok, what?”

“Ok. I’ll try to stay out of it.”

“You better do more than try, Jess! Next time I hear of trouble that involves you, I am not going to be so understanding.” Having warned me sufficiently my father turned and walked out of the barn, and I started to cry really hard. I didn’t want to face Alex and Dan just yet and I was definitely not ready to see anyone else, so instead of leaving I turned toward the back of the barn and the security of Gypsy’s stall.

I opened the door and stepped in. Gypsy nickered a welcome and pushed her face into my chest. I half laughed through my tears and then wrapped my arms around her neck, pressing my face into her fur and sobbing. She nickered again and turned her head to look at me. Her expression was so soulful that I couldn’t help laughing again, a little. I reached around for a curry comb from the grooming box that hung on her door and went to work, feeling that a thorough grooming would do us both good, though Gypsy had had one from Alex, not three hours before. I was halfway through, I had not gotten to the soft brush (my favorite part as well as Gypsy’s), and I was completely absorbed. I was therefore, somewhat startled, when I looked up at one point to find that I was no longer alone.

“Hey,” I whispered, “are you ok?”

Matt nodded and smiled slightly. His face still bore some tell tale signs of tears as did his puffy eyes. “The expression on your face just now was worth a picture.”

I smiled back, “I guess you startled me a little. Are you sure you’re ok?” I asked, stepping out of the stall and putting the brush away. I latched the door behind me, without ever taking my eyes off my cousin. He started to nod again, but I could see the tears welling up in his eyes. “Oh, Matt.” I wrapped my arms around him and he put his head on my shoulder and began to cry.

“I hate her, Jess! She’s making my life hell!”

“I know,” I soothed, I couldn’t think of anything particularly comforting to say, so I just held him.

Finally, he calmed down some and he asked “So, how about you? Are you ok?” I nodded against his shoulder, not trusting my voice anymore, but Matt knew me too well to let it go at that. “Did you get licked?” His voice was barely audible and full of worry. I could only shake my head as tears started to spill quietly down my cheeks. “Thank God! That’s quite the point of speculation at the house, you know. Your brothers are going out of their minds with worry.”

“Dad told them he wouldn’t...” I sobbed unable to hold it in any longer.

“What’s up, Baby Girl? This isn’t all about me is it? ‘Cuz I’ll be all right.”

“I just feel like it’s my fault, Matt. If I had only let it go like you said...”

“If you had only let it go, Jess...we’d be in the same exact situation and I would never have gotten to hear you give that girl a piece of your mind. Don’t you get it, sweetie? She does this shit for fun. It has absolutely no basis in reality whatsoever. Nothing could have prevented tonight’s scene... Nothing! But you stood up to her and that’s something.” I clung to him, and cried, no longer holding anything back. He was quiet for a minute and then he asked “So, what did your dad do?”

“Nothing,” I sobbed, finally looking up at him, “he just warned me, in no uncertain terms, to stay out of the ‘war’ between you and Amy.”

“He’s right, Baby Girl. This should stay between me and Amy. Please don’t pull anymore stunts like tonight. I love that you want to stand up for me, but you know how both our fathers feel about fighting, especially within the family. If Dan had not succeeded in pulling you back... I don’t want to think what could have happened.”

“How’d you even know about that?”

“I overheard some of it, and then the rest of the clan filled in the details, with extremely vivid language, I might add.”

“The rest of the clan, our clan? Or the rest of the clan, the whole clan?”

“Everybody. Gese, the way you gave it to that girl, the neighbors are probably going to be supplying details come tomorrow.” Matt grinned at the thought.

“Oh, that’s great. Just what I need, everyone keeping it fresh in my dad’s head for a couple of weeks or more.”

“Aaa, I wouldn’t worry about it. I think your Dad must be onto Amy at least a little bit or you already would have gotten in much bigger trouble than you did. I mean you’ve got everyone, even Carry, refering to Amy as ‘the evil bitch,’ behind her back (not in front of the adults of course).”

“Oh, great! That’s great! All I need now is for Carry or one of the twins to slip...” even as I was protesting the thought struck me as funny and I couldn’t help giggling.

“See,” Matt responded. “I knew you’d see the humor eventually.”

“All right. Well, I guess we’d better get back to the house before they send out a search party,” I suggested dismally.

The thought sobered us both so much that after a minute of looking at one another, Matt grinned. “Aaa what the hell, let ‘em send out a search party.” I grinned in return and we headed to the sink in the back of the barn to wash up. Matt reached the sink first and turned the water on. He cupped his hands and began to wash his face. Next thing I knew he took the water in his hands and instead of splashing it on his face, splashed it at mine. The cold water was a shock and I shoved him. He continued washing and did it again, laughing at my expression.

“You brat!” I admonished. While he had his face and hair down under the water the next time I quickly ran for the hose from the wash stall just a few feet away. As soon as Matt turned to splash me again, I shot him a good one right in the face and laughed at his expression.

“Oh, you’re bad!” He exclaimed. “I think that deserves a spanking.” His suggestion caught me off gaurd, only because of the night and the sexual tension that was rising between us. We had played around before, giving one another playful spanks now and then, but somehow I knew that this was on a whole new level. I recovered my composure and grinned at him.

“You’ve got to catch me first,” and I gave him another shot in the face.

“You little...” I took off and Matt followed me, trying to catch me without ever being within range of the hose, which was impossible. I kept turning around to spray and he was beginning to look like a drowned rat, though by this point I was pretty wet too, from accidentally shooting myself and finally it was my laughter that did me in. I was too out of breath to be able to laugh and run at the same time anymore, so finally, I just fell in the dirt laughing, barely able to hold the hose. I laughed harder as the drowned rat himself appeared above me wearing a smug expression. He took the hose out of my pathetically loose grip and gave me a couple of good hardy sprays to even the score, but I still couldn’t stop laughing. So, Matt sat down beside me and put his hand under my arm, helping me to sit up. Finally I calmed down a little, took a couple of deep breaths and brought my laughter under control. My stomach and side hurt now, but it felt good too. I grinned at Matt.

“Well, looks like you caught me.” I looked at him, my heart racing. He smiled a little shyly.

“Jess, we don’t have to. I was just kidding . . .”

“Don’t you think I deserve it?”

“Well, do you?”

“It seems only fair” my tone was much more serious now, “since you got one.”

“Jess, that’s not what this is about.”

I smiled slightly. “I know. But, it would make me feel better, Matt.” He looked silently at me for a long minute, with an expression that I could not figure out.

Finally he said softly, “All right. Let’s go up into the loft, though, in case anybody comes in.” He got to his feet and then gave me his hand, helping me to mine. In silence he followed me up the rope ladder to the hayloft and watched as I pulled the rope up after us. Then I turned to face him and we stood awkwardly for a moment, looking at one another. Without a word he walked to the back of the loft by the open door that faced the back of the barn. He sat down on a bale of hay. The moonlight was streaming in. It was our only light. Then he patted the hay beside him. I walked slowly toward him, pausing when I stood in front of him. I looked down and Matt reached up to guide me over his lap. A shiver went through me as I felt his hand on my jean covered bottom. He gave me a couple of light, playful smacks and then settled into warming my bottom for real. After awhile he really began to spank hard. My bottom began to tingle and then became so hot that I was beginning to squirm. I was enjoying it and finally I felt my guilt at escaping with nothing begin to lift, and then he stopped.

“Jess, this doesn’t seem right . . .”

“Matt, it’s all right. I deserve it.”

“No . . . I mean, you were extremely foolish tonight. Knowing the kind of temper both of our father’s have, knowing how they feel about fighting and knowing the trouble I was already in, you still chose to act in a way almost guaranteed to make the situation worse.” He flattened his hand and gave me a couple of hard spanks to punctuate his words.

“Oww, Matt! You know if the situation were reversed you would have done the same.”

His hand came to a rest again as he replied, “Very likely Jess, but then Amy and I already have a history, and I am constantly finding myself with my hands against the wall, waiting for the strap. I want you to avoid falling into the same pattern with your father. I need to impress upon you how important this is. I think, therefore that I need to take your jeans and panties down and give you a real spanking.”

I looked up at him, incredulously. “Are you serious?” He nodded and I knew he had never been more serious. He was not even playing now.

“I think it’s been awhile since you’ve really been spanked, Jess, and I want you to remember what it is like so that you will not be so quick to invite it next time, ok?”

“But you didn’t get yours on the bare . . .” I protested weakly. There was a short pause and then Matt spoke so quietly I could barely hear him.

“Actually, I did, and I got the belt. ”

“You got it on your bare tonight?”

“It’s the only way my dad ever gives it to me anymore.”

“Matt, I’m sorry . . .” I choked.

“Jess, don’t worry about me please. I just want you to understand what we’re up against. Stand up.” I did so, feeling my cousin’s reasons were good and that furthermore, I deserved it. I allowed him to undo my jeans with his steady hands. They were still soaked with water and I shivered as he slid them to my knees. He then guided me back to his lap and began to spank in earnest over my panties. I clutched his leg as the sting became more intense.

“Oww, Matt!” I whimpered “Oww, it hurts!”

“I know Baby Girl, and Iwant you to remember how much it hurts, so you will not be so quick to start trouble with Amy in the future.”

“Oww, Matt! Oww!” My bottom was really starting to sting now, and I tried to reach. Matt just grabbed my wrist and continued to spank. By the time I felt his fingers lightly tracing the waistband of my panties, I was wriggling from side to side trying to get away, but Matt held me fast. I was no longer enjoying the experience at all. It was really starting to hurt. I felt my cousin’s cool hands brush my bottom as he gently pulled my panties down. Then, he continued to spank until I squirmed to get away from him. “Oww Matt! Stop!Oww! Please! I’m sorry!” I cried, tears stinging my eyes. “I’m sorry! I won’t do it again! I promise!” I whimpered, feeling the hot tears as they began to streak my face. Matt continued to spank despite my increasingly vehement protests. “OWW!! OWW! I’m Sorry!”

“Are you going to remember this?”

“Yes!”

“Are you going to leave Amy alone and let me handle her?” For a moment I was silent. I felt ten more hard smacks as Matt delivered them to my already smarting bottom.

“Yes! Ok! Ok!Matt, Please!”

“All right, Baby Girl,” Matt delivered another ten stinging spanks with his hand, and then finally stopped. “I guess that is enough to give you a taste that you will remember for awhile.” I slipped sideways and fell to my knees in front of him, placing my head in his lap and sobbing. Matt gently stroked my hair and his soft, warm hands were soothing.

“I’m sorry, Matt! I’m so sorry for everything!”

“Shh! Jess it’s all right! I just wanted you to remember what this felt like! And you know I didn’t even come close to anything your dad or my dad would do!”

“I know,” I sniffed, starting to grow calmer as Matt’s fingers continued to trail through my hair.

“Jess,” he said softly, after another few moments. I looked up at him, my tears beginning to dwindle. Matt’s hands cradled my face. “I would never do anything to hurt you,” he whispered, “I hope you know that.”

I felt my tears start to flow faster again “Of course I do,” I whispered back. He looked at me a moment and then slowly he leaned in and kissed me.

I returned the kiss softly and then looked up at him. It was my first kiss and I knew it was his too. “Dan would kill you, you know!” I couldn’t help smiling just a little through the remainder of my tears.

“I know, “he returned seriously. Then he helped me pull my pants up and after buttoning them, I settled on the haybale beside my cousin. He propped himself against the wall and held out his arms. I snuggled up against him and felt his arms close around me, and like that, snuggled in the warmth of my cousin’s arms, I drifted off to sleep.
 

The End
 
 


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