My favorite TV show is a superhero one. About a vigilante that tries to do good in his city, even though it usually costs him. He loses family, friends, lovers, and even his own identity. Sometimes I feel I am walking the same line. My brother and I are 4 years apart, or more like 3 years and 4 months. He was always rumbling and grumbling and never picked up after be himself. One of the few things I put up with it. Khol was tall, lanky and didn’t know how to brush his hair. He was loud, obnoxious, but everybody seemed to like him. And I was left in the back row of the family picture. My parents favored him, for being the oldest or being the coolest. Girls in my class rolled up next to me and pretended to be my friend to get into my brother’s pants. He was the favorite even though I always cleaned up my room and set the table and did the dishes. He didn’t do anything, as if lifting a finger can ruin the I-am-so-cool vibe that he charmed everybody with. But that’s not what I minded. You see I don’t need my parent’s attention, I don’t need a lot of friends or a party to get invited to every weekend. What I need is my brother. He could be the favorite, and have everything, but he was my best friend and I trusted him, and he trusted me. And all that went away freshman year.
I was 14, first year in high school. He was a junior with tanking grades. (My parents didn’t care though. Why would they? It’s not like it affected his future.) I had a few friends, but I always sat with him and his group. He invited me, let me tag along in wherever they went or whatever they did. His friends didn’t mind me, and Kohl made sure I didn’t feel uncomfortable as being the only 9th grader there. I never minded though, as long as he was there, I was fine. There was a Sophomore in my Geometry class. Tall, plump, and always had her hair up. She had brown eyes and long black hair. She always smiled and winked at everybody. I don’t really know what drew my attention to her, maybe because she always inspected my hands when she sat next to me or always joked that I had bushy eyebrows or that she called me “Champ.” Whatever it was, it caught my brother’s attention as well. We never talked about crushes or people we liked, it never seemed to come up.
Her name was Gina and she invited me to her house going in the third month of school. She pulled me up to her bedroom covered in Tweety Bird stickers and glow-in-the-dark stars. She yanked me on her bed, but I was busy admiring her decorations. I didn’t know she was a fan of Pixar. She squeezed my hand, hard and I finally glanced over to her. She was grinning and leaned over, grabbing my face in her ample hands. She pulled me towards her and left a kiss on my nose. She giggled, her red lips stretching wide. She pushed me down so I laid next to her and she grabbed my hands to play with them.
“I want to be an actress.” She said, weaving her fingers with mine. Her nails were painted forest green and reminded me of the Arrow poster on my wall.
“Really?” I asked, expecting someone like her to have abstract dreams.
“Mm-hm.” she said, turning on her side to stare at me. I never felt comfortable with someone’s gaze on me but her’s made me feel empowered. She ran a finger across my cheek, digging a little, probably leaving a red streak.
“I like you.” she whispered.
I nodded, having figured it out when she asked me to come over. She looked over at me, expectantly. I don’t why I hesitated, why I didn’t say the words. I felt the same way. She looked away and I knew she felt rejected, but I couldn’t bring myself to speak. She finally reached over and grabbed my neck, pulling me until our lips met. It was my first kiss and I had nothing to compare it too, but I never felt something like that before. Her lips were soft, and moved slowly, and I felt warm. She broke away and gazed at me silently.
“There you are Champ.” she said. But I never knew what she meant and I never asked why. But she was different, I could tell.
“I met someone.” Kohl said on a Wednesday afternoon. I looked up from the English essay I was brainstorming. He also had one due but he didn’t bother.
“Who?” I asked. I was surprised, he never seemed interested in people before.
“Her name is Gina.” I froze, the only one coming to mind was her brown eyes, and forest green nail polish.
“How did you guys meet?” I asked. I knew this was going to be a blow for me but I asked anyway.
“Last week, she tutored me in Spanish. Did you know she is fluent? And, I don’t know we just connected.” The only thing I focused on was last week. I was with her just that weekend, did that change anything?
“I asked her out and she said yes. We are going out tomorrow night. Sorry I didn’t tell you, but I was caught in the moment.” I didn’t listen anymore. All the words were ringing in my head.
I ignored her Friday morning. She came up to me but I kept my head straight. We walked together to Spanish, where yeah, I knew she was fluent.
“I am sorry.” The first words to me since her date with Kohl. I glanced at her. She had her lips pursed and eyes sad.
“I didn’t know he was your brother.”
“How did you find out?” We sat together, and she immediately reached for my hand. The nail polish chipped and faded on her fingers. I took down the Arrow poster.
“You guys have the same eyes. Gold.” I scoffed at the color. Gold? I had gold eyes? I ignored her for the rest of the period, but she kept my hand.
Saturday Evening my brother was on the phone with her and I can tell by the sound of his voice it was a good conversation. He hung up the phone and sat next to me on my bed, pulling the textbook away from my hands.
“2 dates.” He said. I nodded, having going further with her by a kiss but I couldn’t bring myself to tell the damaging news.
“Good for you.” As far as I can tell, Gina had moved on, the 2nd date a confirmation. He patted my leg, “Now we got to find someone for you.” I gave a meek smile, not by a longshot.
It was a week, and Gina and Kohl had rumors circling the school. The friends who knew my secret gave me pitying looks but kept silent. Gina still sat next to me, in Geometry and Spanish, but was quiet and “Champ” became less frequent. She still grabbed my hand though, and made sure to squeeze it whenever she let go, her nails freshly painted green. The Arrow poster was stuffed under my bed. Khol was happy and constantly chatting my ear off about her. Gina this, Gina that. I knew she was amazing, I had her first. This went on for about a month, Then everything crashed. It was Tuesday, few days before Winter Break and I was walking by the lockers when I felt a hand clamp around my arm. Gina stared at me, her gaze distant and weary.
“I never asked if you were ok with me and Kohl.” I shrugged. What was I supposed to say? I moved on? I still think about her even though we were apparently a one time thing?
“I am cool with it.” I said, schooling my features. Even in my own ears they sounded artificial.
“Are you though?” she asked. And I finally knew what she was doing. She was giving me and her a way out. If I said no, she could be with me and me with her. But I didn’t have the heart to do that to Khol. I nodded. She sighed, looked away.
“I like him, he is a good guy but…”
But he wasn’t me. I didn’t want to sound selfish or self-centered, but I felt it was true. She looked up at me, before standing on her toes and pressing her lips on mine. I knew it was wrong and I knew someone could see us, but it felt so nice. I was thrown back to that pink room with Tweetie birds and me and her. It was a while before we broke apart and I kept my arms around her. She looked up at me, “You know, you are only 14 but you act so much older.” I grinned, the first in a long time, and the last one for a long time, because I knew someone saw us and would report to my brother. But at that moment, everything felt alright.
Kohl yelled at me. I had never been fully yelled at by him before. It was a new experience, and it hurt more than I thought it would. He was upset and stung and emotional, and I allowed him to take it out on me. He broke up with Gina, and told me that if I wanted his forgiveness then I wouldn’t talk to her again. I agreed. I stayed away from her, and she stayed away from me. We still sat next to each other, but didn’t utter a word because there was spies everywhere. But every once in awhile she would wink at me, or the name ‘Champ’ slips through her lips or she holds my hand, and squeezes real hard to remind me of her. My brother still hasn’t forgiven me, and I am still in the back of the family photo. But now I am a Sophomore, and she is a Junior, and she still paints her nails forest green, and she still winks. And I put my Arrow poster back on my wall.