Interlude 4.1: Brotherly Love

Our usual Sunday morning phone calls this week are almost enough to undo all the calm I gained after that weird dream. Mama and Dad are so excited and happy that I can feel it right through the phone. I'm happy, too. Why wouldn't I be? I'm going to get married to the most wonderful man I know in just a few weeks.

It just seems like other people's emotions have been grating on my nerves these last two days — at least people who aren't the Pentad. What? So I've traded insanity for irritability? I don't really think I like that, and I also don't think it's fair. Maybe I need to work more on that shielding stuff Red taught me.

Momma Garcia is a little more restrained, but Pablo's little sister is so much worse than anyone else... well, I almost feel a headache coming on. Oh, don't get me wrong! I love Blanca. She's smart and sweet and adores her big brother. As a bonus, I think she has the potential to be a snark like her soon to be sister-in-law. She hasn't tapped into it yet, but it's there.

Pablo and I are just sitting on the sofa... his arm is curled around me, and I've tucked myself close against him as we pretend to watch whatever movie is playing on the TV. I know we're pretending because my eyes are closed, and I'm fairly certain Pablo's are too.

So when the house phone rings again, I actually groan.

"Do you want to just ignore it, dear?"

I sigh. "Yes. But who calls the house phone besides family? Well, and telemarketers." I sit up and look at the phone on the table as it rings a second time. It's Justin. Well, he can't be any more nerve-wracking than the rest of the family, right?

I pick up the phone but lean back against Pablo as I answer it. I don't bother with the speaker phone this time.

"Hey, little brother. I hope you're not going to work my nerves like everyone else has this morning."

"Perish the thought, dearest sister mine. I wanted to see how you're holding up. Mom said you sounded tense."

"Damn. I thought I was hiding that better."

"Andi, come on. It's Mom. She's not like you and Tali and Billy and Tommy, but I swear she's got some kind of super sense."

I chuckle. "I think it's called 'motherhood.' At least she was nice enough not to call me on it, and just call you to check in on me."

"Eh, it's how families work, right?"

"You know what, Justin? I haven't a clue how a typical family works. I think they're all different."

"Well, that's fine then. But are you okay?"

I sigh, and Pablo hugs me.

"Mostly. Yeah. I guess things are just snowballing at a faster rate than I thought they would. Did you know I'm getting married in a couple of weeks?"

"Yeah, I'd heard something about that. Is that still on? You haven't kicked Pablo to the curb yet, have you?"

That gets me to laugh, and most of the morning's tension slips away. Laughter is some powerful medicine after all, I guess.

"Of course it's still on, you ninny. But thank you for banishing the stress demon, even if it's only for the length of this phone call."

"It's what little brothers are supposed to do. Or so I've heard. I'm giving it a whirl to see if I like it."

I snicker.

"Keep it up. It suits you."

"You think so?"

"Oh, definitely. Especially when you've got a big sister who's practically certifiable."

"Oh, you're not either! If anyone's certifiable, it's Henry. And he's not. So you're not."

"If you ask Pablo, he'd argue you on that point."

"Which point?" Pablo asks.

I look up at his face... and smile at all the love I see there.

"Henry being certifiable."

"If your brother is taking the position that your cousin is not bat shit crazy, then yes... I'll argue the point."

"I heard that!" Justin says. "Why didn't you put me on the speaker, by the way? You usually do. Oh, and just because Henry's bat shit crazy, as Pablo puts it, doesn't mean he's certifiable. Quite."

"Because you usually call when I'm here by myself. I can't have a semi-private conversation with my baby brother?"

"I'm not sure you're making sense right now, but that's okay. And you do sound fine so I can report back to Mom that you haven't jumped off the cliff or gone off the deep end or whatever the generation-specific term is for snapping." Justin's voice holds all the humor one could add without actually laughing.

"Oh, I think the term 'snapping' is cross-generational. Everyone understands that." I smile... and definitely feel more relaxed.

"Cool. Hey, Sis? Remember my buddy I told you about? Chris? The guy I work with?"

"Sure. What's up? Is he okay?"

"Yeah, yeah... he seems to be fine. Well, you know, as fine as anyone can be given the circumstances."

"Well, it sounds like he had it easier than some people I could name, but I get your point. The poor guy's probably freaking out some."

"You know... unless he's doing it all on his own time, his freaking out isn't as much as you'd think. He's handling this really well, all things considered."

"That's great! It's nice to see you have a level-headed friend for a change."

"Andi! Stop it. I do worry about him, you know."

"Well, of course you do, Justin. You're a good guy. You remind me of your sister... thinking about other people before you think about yourself."

"Is this a new development or have I just been oblivious? When did you start referring to yourself in the third person?"

"As far as you know, this is a one off thing. Trust me... you don't really want to know."

"Andi... why do you hide so much from me? Do you think I can't handle it?"

There is silence for a moment. Wow, from silly to utterly serious in no time flat.

"Maybe that's what I was thinking in the beginning, that I was trying to protect you. Now? Gods, Justin, there's so much weird that even I have a hard time grasping it!"

"Well... okay. But you know I can handle weird, right?"

"I know, best little brother of mine. Maybe we'll have a chance to chat while you and Nicole are out here. Not that I want to scare her, of course."

"Of course. And I wanted to talk about Chris anyway."

"What, right in front of him?"

"No, doofus! Now. I swear, Andi, you're turning into the flake you always claim I am."

"Oh, you have no idea!"

"And what is that supposed to mean?"

"Ugh. Can we talk about it when you're out here, and not on the phone? Please?"

"Yeah, okay. Just don't blow me off."

"Promise. So what's the deal with your buddy?"

"Well, you know he just jumped at the idea of flying out to Denver to chat with my family members who've gone through something similar. I didn't mention you in that category, just that you were trying to out-crazy Henry..."

"Oh, gee thanks, Justin."


"Okay, sorry. You were saying?"

"You don't tell me everything, but I hear enough tidbits from other members of the family to suspect you could run circles around Tali and Billy and probably Tommy, too."

I process all that for a few seconds. I'm probably the one who's most out of the loop when it comes to what's happening in the family... if Justin is hearing tidbits from others and coming to that conclusion.

"Have you talked to Tommy?"

"Not directly, no. Mostly I talk to Tali, Charlie, and Billy."

"Hmm. Well, I probably could run circles around Tommy, but he'd never admit. I don't think."

It was Justin's turn to be silent for a few seconds. Then he sighed.

"See, Andi? That's what I'm talking about. I don't feel like I know what you even do!"

"Okay, Justin, I get it. It's always been kind of complicated... and it's getting more complicated all the time. It's not really a conversation for a phone call, though."

"Sure, a long and complicated conversation. Fine. But damn it, Andi, stop hiding from me."

I sigh, and press closer to Pablo. "I will tell you as much as I can explain. Even I don't have words for some of this, Justin. Or maybe I'm just a little overwhelmed by more than a wedding. But I promise we'll talk when you come out here, okay?"

I pause to smile. I have Pablo to keep me steady, and maybe it is time to treat my baby brother like the adult he is, and tell him some of the less horrific things his sister gets caught up in. I do so much good stuff... I think he'd like to hear about it."

"You said you wanted to talk about your friend Chris?"

"Yeah, I wanted to let you know he'll probably catch a ride in with Pablo's family, unless his arrival time doesn't mesh very well with theirs. I warned him that Blanca would try to talk his ear off. He's cool with it. Although sometimes I think he might be safer riding in with Henry."

Andi laughs.

"I love Blanca, but dear gods... she can talk for an hour without breathing!"

Pablo pokes me. "Hey. No need to tell all the family secrets. And no, I don't know how she does that either." He's grinning though.

"Well, at least she'll talk science at him and not the incomprehensible flood we got today on dresses. Oh, did I tell you Deb and Clara are going to be coming in?"

"Really? Awesome! I can't wait to meet these mysterious college roommates of yours!"

"I'm pretty sure you met them once. Unless you were off somewhere that summer when they came out to Flagstaff."

"If that was the summer before your senior year, yes. I was back in Japan on that People to People Ambassador trip that summer, remember?"

"I remember you did that. All the years seem to smoosh together sometimes."

"Huh. And I thought you had the super power of remembering everything."

"Ha. Well, nearly everything. Not necessary every when, though."

"Lame. Anyway, Chris is going to need a place to stay. I offered him your sofa."

"Gee, that was sweet of you, Justin. Are you sure he wouldn't be more comfortable sleeping in the garage?"

"Ha ha, very funny. And you know what I mean."

"I do. Don't worry, we'll find a place for him. And something more comfortable than my sofa, too. I happen to have quite a few friends, many of whom have guest rooms. Or we'll just book another hotel room."

"I think he'd say not to go to any trouble."

"I'm just being a good host. Come to think of it, I'm not sure Pablo's buddy Carlos is staying in the room we reserved for him. I guess he's got friends in town, too. Chris might be able to take his room. Carlos isn't going to need it."

"Did you mention this guy before? You two have so many friends that it's hard to keep track."

"Sort of. Remember that day you first called to talk to me about Chris? And I mentioned Maddie's first husband was going to attend the reception, too?"

"I thought you were kidding. You weren't kidding?"

"Justin... I'm not Henry. I'll tell you how he came to be a Spirit when you come out here but wasn't kidding then... and I'm not kidding now. Also, his name isn't actually Carlos."

"Help, I've falling into a mystery magazine and I can't get out!"

I snicker.

"Oh, it gets better, but..."

"I know... it will have to wait."

"Exactly. But the point is that Chris will have a place to stay, and he won't be obligated to hang out with this zany family any more than he wants. If he wants to stay through the New Year with you and Nicole — since you didn't mention when his return flight was — I can call the Brown Palace and ask them to extend the reservation on that room."

"Cool." Justin laughs. "You know, he didn't mention his return flight. I'll have to get back to you on that one. Oh... and since he's going to be here for the reception, is it okay if I bring him along?"

"Hey, Nicole is your plus one!"

"Nuh uh. You sent the invitation to each of us. Both of us. You know what I mean. Shouldn't we both get a plus one?"

"You have no idea how this works, do you?"

"Nope! Not a clue!"

And I laugh again.

"I love you, Justin! You're crazy. And Carlos who's not Carlos isn't bringing anyone. He can be Carlos' date. Except not. I don't think Carlos is his type. Or he isn't Carlos' type. One or the other."

"Probably both."

"Right. There's that. But I'll make sure there's a chair for him somewhere, and food in front of him. Will that work?"


Justin pauses.

"You know, you could have just said no to the whole thing."

"I could have, but you know I can't really. Hostess with the mostest, remember?"

"You're nuts, sis."

"You got that right, little brother!"

"But I meant the part about saying no to helping him at all."

Again, I have to stay silent for a moment. Remembering. And then I shake my head.

"No, Justin. I couldn't say no to that either. If I can help, I have an obligation. And for once, it's not a Diné thing. I've seen too many who didn't have the help they needed until it was almost too late. And sometimes not at all, and then it was too late. So..."

I feel Pablo's love pouring over me. He's only hearing half the conversation, but it's enough.

" if your friend is willing to come all the way out here to talk to your family, then your family — in this case, me... but I think I can speak for Billy and Tommy and probably Tali, too — is going to do everything we can to help him out."

I can almost see Justin shaking his head, and that helps me smile, too.

"I don't know how I got so lucky with having the family I have, but... you're going to turn me into a sap, sis. I love you."

"I love you, too, Justin, but you're already a sap. And we're all lucky. Give my love to Nicole... and go call Mama and let her know her darling daughter is fine."

© Kelly Naylor