“I’m your brother,” his voice dripped with venom even as his eyes pleaded for understanding, sympathy, and forgiveness once again, “you can’t turn your back on me, Laura.” His shoulders strained with the rage that was boiling under the surface.
“Okay, we share genetics. What does that have to do with me laying down on the ground every time you need a mat?” I watch his reaction closely. My brother wasn’t used to little sissy standing up to him. All my childhood he walked on me to get what he wanted. I might as well have not existed unless my existence benefited him. The people we called parents were of no help. For whatever reason, they had chosen. In stories and movies mommies and daddies didn’t choose between their children, there weren’t supposed to be favorites.
I learned in life that if it’s a story or a movie it’s probably because it never really happens and someone knew that people wished it were true. Guess what… parents do make a choice and do have favorites. I wasn’t the favorite.
He stepped forward, oozing threat, his nose inches from mine. I stared him down, not acknowledging his challenge, not accepting it but not giving in to him, either. I kept my arms loose at my side, fingers relaxed.
“You cannot walk away. I am family.” He no longer pleaded with his eyes. His look now said, “give me what I want or you’ll be sorry.”
“I can and I am.”
His stance weakened and he stepped back. “Family doesn’t…”
“Why do you think you can call yourself my family?” I interrupted. His mouth hung open a moment then his teeth snapped closed. “You think because we shared biological parents, because we’re genetically linked, that it makes us family? Really?”
I waited a moment for a response but I think for the first time I had shocked him into silence.
“Tommy, family is something much deeper than simple genetics. Family is all the things that you will never, ever be to me. Family is loyalty, trust, commitment, integrity, love, protection and… and…” I inhaled deeply. He’d never get it. “Families are not born. Families are made. You had the chance to be family but you are not. I refuse to be your mat any longer. I refuse to be hurt by you, over and over again and tell myself it’s okay because you’re “family”. You may be a part of my biological tree but it ends there. Don’t come around ever again.”
I turned away from him knowing that to give him my back might give him my life, but I knew he needed to see that I was strong. I walked across the street and as my friends stepped out of the shadows, they moved around me, hugging me close and I knew I was with my family now. He wouldn’t have hurt me this time because my family was there to help me stand if I needed them. This family didn’t share a drop of my blood but their roots ran deeper than any family tree did.
Families are made, even the ones that are first born out of blood.
(Fictional- Writing Prompt: What is family?)