Thoughts - A Story In Six Voices
By Debbie B
Adam seemed so…different. The last few days, since he and Leilani went their own ways, has surprised me. In the very beginning, Adam was quiet…withdrawn…angry…and hurt. Since my older brother has always been the quiet one, I wasn’t totally taken back by his actions on that part of his personality, and since most folks think he’s a withdrawn individual, that didn’t faze me much either. But the anger…well, I can’t say that I blamed him. I mean, after all, the poor boy gave his heart away. How was he to know beforehand that she’d rip it into a million pieces and then throw it back in his face? I knew she was a hussy from the very beginning…too bad big brother hadn’t seen it. Now…if he had only asked me…well…Adam wouldn’t have; he thinks of me as a kid still, and for sure wouldn’t ask or even WANT my advice on women…not that I had much experience in that category.
And then there was the hurt…and I think most of that was my fault. Remember? I laughed at him that evening at the supper table. Oh…I didn’t mean to…and to be honest, I wasn’t really laughing AT Adam…I was laughing because I found it odd that HE was the one getting dumped this time instead of ME! But Adam hadn’t seen it that way and when I saw the pain in his eyes, I instantly regretted opening my mouth in the first place. That’s always been one of my many vices…speaking first and thinking later.
But a day or so later, Adam seemed to have put the entire matter behind him. I suspect that it must have been because of the talk Pa had with him. I’m not sure, but I was glad to have my brother back. Oh, I still felt guilty about my part in hurting him, and though he made point after point to make me laugh when we were together, I just couldn’t find the courage to broach the subject to him. Inside, I felt like a heel…a traitor… and I so wanted to tell him that I was sorry, but something kept holding me back. Too bad that unexplained ‘something’ couldn’t hold my mouth shut when it needed shutting!
And then last night I was out in the barn putting my horse up. I noticed that Adam hadn’t come in yet, so I lingered, finding little things to keep me busy, hoping that Adam wouldn’t be too late in getting home. After about half an hour, I heard him ride into the yard. I was standing in the shadows when he led Sport into the barn and stabled him. I watched for a moment as Adam unsaddled his mount. He looked tired and I wondered if perhaps his sadness wasn’t still lingering just a bit, inspite of the fact that he put on a happy face when one or all of us were about.
Anyway, I stepped from the shadows and said hi to him.
Adam spun around, pistol drawn and pointed at me. I was startled!
“Hey big brother…you ain’t gonna shoot me now, are you?” I said in a trembling voice, recognizing my mistake of not letting my presence be known the instant my brother had entered the dimly lit barn.
For a moment, a dark angry glare crossed my brother’s face but the expression died instantly when he realized whom he was pointing his gun at.
“You little fool,” he said with a twinge of annoyance lingering in his tone. “That’s a damn good way to get yourself shot!” he stated as he turned to finish grooming his horse.
“Yeah…I know…I didn’t mean to take you by surprise…I’m…sorry.”
“Forget it, kid…just don’t do it again,” Adam said, this time lightly as he cast me a lopsided grin. “How come you’re out here…you aren’t waiting for me, now, are you?” Adam said teasingly.
“NO,” I said too quickly. I have no idea why I denied it; I had been waiting for my brother. “I was…um…working…yeah, that’s it, I thought I’d get a head start on the tack room…it’s my turn to clean it, you know.” I knew I was stumbling over my words, but did he?
Adam stopped what he was doing and turned to look at me. I felt the guilt I’d been carrying, wash over me like a dose of cold water.
“You, Joe? Working when you don’t have to…no…” he said, leaning against the wall. “Why don’t you just come out with it…and tell me what’s on your mind?”
I lowered my head…damn this guilt…damn my big mouth!
“Alright Adam,” I said, knowing my voice was low and soft. “I was waiting up for you…I…was…er…um…”
“Come now, little brother…don’t tell me that you’re having trouble saying what’s on your mind? You sure haven’t had that trouble anytime in the past?”
I looked up at him then, stunned. Was he referring to me laughing at him? God, I hope not. I felt the words rushing into my mouth and all I had to do was open wide and they spilled out, like milk from the bucket when the cow kicks and knocks it over.
“I’m sorry, Adam…I didn’t mean to laugh at you and…I…I didn’t mean to hurt you. Anyone with any common sense -- except me, of course -- could tell you were hurting and it wasn’t my intention to make you feel worse than what you were already feeling. I’m sorry; I don’t know why I can’t keep my shut. I’m always blabbering when I should just shut up, just like Pa says; I’ll never learn when to talk and when not to. It’s been eating me up inside, how I made you feel and I’ve even lost sleep and I can’t eat…I feel just plain stupid and I can’t stand the guilt anymore… I’m sorry. Did you hear me…I said I’M SORRY! Damn it, Adam, say something!”
He surprised me then and HE started laughing. I know I must have looked like an idiot…I certainly felt like one. But then he surprised me further when he came over to me and placed his hand at the back of my neck and pulled me close to him. We were eye to eye.
“I will say something…now that you’ve managed to stop talking,” Adam said and then grinned at me. I noticed his dimples and I relaxed some, lowering my head.
“Joe, I know you didn’t mean to laugh…and I know that you didn’t intentionally mean to hurt me. Oh…at first it did hurt, but it wasn’t because you laughed. The hurt was caused because…well…because I knew exactly WHY you were laughing. You saw, for the first time, me…in a situation more fitting for yourself…well…it’s true…” Adam snickered then. “I brought all of this on myself…I know that…now I know it. I acted like…a kid…I reacted to Leilani more so like…you would have. I should have known right from the start what you…even Hoss… knew; she was…rotten to the core!”
I felt myself start to giggle. When I looked up into my brother’s eyes, they were dancing with merriment. “I’m sorry, Adam…honest.”
“I know, pal.”
I felt his fingers gently squeeze my neck and then Adam did something he hadn’t done in many years. He pulled me into his embrace and hugged me tightly. When we pulled apart, he was still grinning at me.
“You know, Joe, I did learn one thing…”
“What’s that?” I remember asking.
“I learned that just because something is beautiful, shaped well, and smells nice…doesn’t mean it’s all rosy. Even roses have thorns!”
“Heh?” I muttered. “Oh…I get it…I think.”
Adam blew the lamp out and slipped his arm about my shoulders. Together we walked to the house. I knew that he’d forgiven me and things would be right between us once again…at least until the next time.
When we got to the porch, he stopped me. “Well,” he said with surety. “It was fun while it lasted!”
He left me standing alone in the dark.
“What was fun?” I called after him and then hurried inside. I was dying to know…what had been fun…did he mean…NO…Adam wouldn’t do THAT…would he? And if he had… WHAT on earth would Pa say if he found out that Adam…my quiet, reserved, private older brother had had himself a “fling”?
“ADAM…” I had to know the details…for future reference, of course!
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