Pretense

Shay Sheridan

For the "Voyeur" challenge


She knows she’s supposed to pretend the two of them never met; she’s been pretending since Ray, her brother Ray, that is, went away, and even though she has to bite her lip sometimes to keep from spilling what she knows, she’s good at pretending. She always has been. She pretended she’d been with a girlfriend when she’d actually been in bed with Gino, and nobody ever had a clue. And when she was supposed to pretend that Ray, not her brother Ray, really was her brother Ray, she pretended he was. She actually felt like he was. She’s good at pretending.

Of course, she also pretends Fraser is interested in her, though down deep she knows it’s a lie. It’s getting harder to pretend that.

But now she’s watching the two of them go at it, her brother Ray and not her brother Ray, and their voices are getting louder, their faces more flushed, and though she knows that Ray, her brother Ray, is still doing that macho mob boss attitude crap he’s been doing since he came back -- which she hates, by the way -- she can tell by his voice and the tendons in his neck how tightly wrapped he actually is, like any minute he’s gonna pull out a knife or a gun or use words to kill the other Ray. And the other one, her pretend brother, well he’s pretty near incapable of speech; he looks like he’s about to crack into a million pieces, in fact she thinks she can hear the cracking, hear him breaking up, and when he goes there’s going to be an explosion that will take her brother with him, and maybe some other people as well, because things are complicated now, Ray's not himself, he's nobody, and Ray her brother isn't who he was.

She watches from the doorway, sees how they circle each other, hears how their voices strain, senses the shockwaves from the coming earthquake, and then clenches her own fists as the papers go flying and her brother coils and pounces and the man who’s played her brother tightens his muscles and explodes into violence. It’s her cue, her cue to break it up before things get done, things get said, secrets get revealed, pretenses get shattered.

“Work, work!”

She commands; they back off. She steps away, still listening as each goes to his corner. There’s testosterone in the air, but there’s more; there’s electricity. And though the two men are now quiet, trying to act friendly, trying to accept the hands fate has dealt them, the air still crackles between them. She’s felt it, seen it before, back when the Ray who is her brother and the Ray who wasn’t yet her brother would meet to grope each other furtively in the basement when Ma wasn’t there and neither knew that a little sister was watching from the stairs, listening breathlessly, touching herself, as the two teenage boys pawed and sucked each other to completion. They never knew, not Ray or the other Ray, and all these years she’s pretended she never saw anything.

But she sees it now. She sees what’s still there, and she sees the hopeless look in both Rays’ eyes.


redchance @ aol.com
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