IN THE CLUTCHES OF ENVY

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Max came running towards me, his head held high and breathing loudly. I could clearly see the anger, lust and greed in his eyes and I knew one thing would come next-a fight. I didn’t even finish my thought when he pounced over me and let his sharp teeth dig deep into my skin. I let out a loud scream before mum and dad rushed to my room with worried faces.

“What’s happening here?” dad boomed. Max quickly let go of me and immediately started talking,

“Dad, you know that Jack never liked the idea of me ever coming here. That’s why he is doing all this to me,” Max said with so much sorrow and pretense.

“No dad, don’t listen to him. He just came over to me and bit me with no clear reason. I don’t even know what I have done,” I said with pain as I looked at the bite mark left on my hand.

“I know you will never believe me coz he is your only son but come let me show what he did…” Max said as he pulled both of my parents to the back yard. And there stood the new bicycle he was bought for just the previous night but it wasn’t new anymore. It was just an image of a bicycle with parts of it far apart. I was running out of words and I stood there in shock.

“What happened Max?” I quickly asked, still staring at the bicycle.

“Stop pretending Jack, I saw you knock it down yesterday night with that metal hockey stick of yours that you made.”

“What are you saying Max?”I asked as my mouth formed an O with what I was hearing.

“Jack, how could you do that? Didn’t I promise you that I’m going to buy you too another bike?”My mum was already agitated.

“But mum…”

“No! I don’t want to hear. How could you do that to this poor boy? Was it wrong that I wished to have another child in this house? Was I wrong that I wanted you to have a partner and a friend? I can’t believe it! You are grounded this weekend. No TV, no going for hockey matches, no phones, no nothing. You hear me?”

“MUM!!” I screamed, “Please listen to me. He is lying; I didn’t do anything that he’s saying.”

“Jack! That’s enough. Your mum has said what she needed to say,” my dad said and they left the backyard leaving me still in shock. Now, I really regretted ever agreeing to my parent’s idea of adopting another son and here was my reward for it. I just walked to my bedroom and slammed the door loudly. That night I went to bed early and I didn’t even have my dinner hoping mum would come and force me to eat but she didn’t.

Next morning, I went downstairs to the dining hall and found the table already deserted and the breakfast still on the table.

“Mum! How could you have breakfast without me! This isn’t fair at all!”

“Sorry Jack, you woke up late and Max was in a hurry so we sat and ate together,” mum shouted back from her bedroom.

“And where did he go so early today? Its weekend right?” I said as I sat down to have breakfast. I was so angry that I was seated alone for the first time in my life, but my stomach was rumbling from hunger. I had no other choice but sit down and eat.

“He said today the homeboy hockey players will be recruiting new members so he decided to join too.”

“What!?”

“Isn’t it so nice that he is getting adapted to this town? I’m so happy for him. By the way, what you did to his bicycle was never right,” she shouted, still from her bedroom.

“Mum, I told you I didn’t do what he said. How can you believe a stranger rather than your own son? And about the hockey players, there was only one new member needed and it was reserved for me.”

“Yes he told me that the chance was reserved for you but you are grounded, remember? So you won’t have the chance to go for the practice. So when he asked if he could go instead of you, I allowed him. Anyway, you are both my sons. And Max is not a stranger anymore. He has stayed with us for more than a week now.”

I stood up from my seat with rage, feeling so helpless and out of words.

“Mum! How could you do that to me! At least you should have left that chance for me. You know how much I’ve waited for this chance!”

“Jack! Max is your brother now. You should learn to share your opportunities.”

I didn’t say anything anymore and I didn’t even eat my breakfast. I took some pan cakes from the refrigerator and went with them to my room. I locked myself in there the entire day. I did my homework, read a novel, painted, played games and spent the rest of the afternoon dozing on my bed. How unfair! I thought to myself. Max was trying to live my life as he could. I knew that he envied the perfect life I was having before he came into our family. He was going to take all my chances, all my dreams…but I won’t let him do it! I never will!

My worst weekend passed by and I woke up happy Monday morning, ready to go out from the house at last. On the way to school, I met Tanya my best friend, neighbor and my desk mate in class since kindergarten. I cheered up a little bit and we walked together to school. I listened to her interesting stories which never ended. I always wondered where she got them from. We finally arrived in class and I was still listening to Tanya when the teacher came in with Max.

“Excuse me class, this is Max, Jack’s brother. Please welcome him.”

I shrugged my shoulders and looked away.

“Is this the Max you were telling me about? Oh! He looks totally innocent, not as you seem to talk about him.”

I glared hardly at her and she realized her mistake.

“Okay Jack, of course I believe in everything you say but just look at that angelic face. Is he 12 years old like us?” Tanya said anxiously.

“No, he is one year older and please let us not talk about him anymore. I don’t want to remember what a horrible weekend I had because of him.”

“What did he do this time?” Tanya asked, her eyes widening.

“Not now, I’ll tell you later. Just continue telling me about you weekend with Prisca at your aunt’s place.”

“Oh yes, where was I?” she scratched her head and continued narrating…

School was fun and at least I got distracted from Max. He had started befriending some of the boys in the class and he was busy with them. I left the school compound with Tanya and as usual, she was the one talking. Then she suddenly stopped talking.

“Oh my God! I almost forgot! Now what am I going to do?” she started whining.

“What happened?”

“Tomorrow is my mum’s birthday and I haven’t yet bought her anything yet.”

“So what? We can go buy her something after we change our clothes right now.”

“That’s exactly the problem. I didn’t save any money to buy her the present. I used my money during the weekend with Prisca.”

“Oh! And I also finished my money buying the materials to make the metal hockey stick.”

“Ah! I got a wonderful idea. My mum has always loved your paintings. Why don’t you try painting her?”

“Painting her? I’ve never painted anyone.”

“You can do it! I’m sure you can. Just try, please. I am so helpless right now.”

After a lot of persuasion, I agreed to try. Right after dinner, I went and locked myself in my room. I looked attentively at the photograph Tanya had given me of her mum and soon started painting. It was a peaceful moment and I was enjoying how I was doing it. Before I realized it, I had finished the painting and I was amazed myself how good it was. It was already past my bedtime, so I hurried and kept it safely by the window and covered it well with a piece of cloth before dropping myself on the bed and immediately dozed off.

The next morning, I was so anxious to show off my painting to Tanya. I quickly went into the bathroom to take a shower when Max called out to me.

“Jack, may I please use your laptop for a moment? I want to download something from the net. You know I wouldn’t borrow if I had mine.”

I listened and shrugged, if I was to deny then my mum was going to give me another confrontation which I didn’t want. So I let him use it. When I was out, mum shouted at the door that Tanya was there to talk to me. I quickly dressed up and let her in.

“Did you do it? Please tell me you did,” she said anxiously.

“Come here,” I said as I pulled her to where I had left the window.

“Surprise!” I slowly pulled out the piece of cloth while looking at Tanya. Her eyes widened up and she held her hand to her mouth.

“What? Didn’t you like it?” I said, surprised with her reaction. I slowly turned to look at my painting and I stood still too. The painting had been renovated! The eyes were painted red and flowing from it were red tears; looking so evil and scary. I slowly moved my hands to touch the tears that looked so fresh, but it wasn’t paint. I looked at Tanya as fear crept on my face and we both realized something…it was real blood!

TEN YEARS LATER…

“Jack! Jack! Wake up…you forgot what day it is today?” my mum came and raised the curtains to allow the sun rays fill the room.

I stretched myself and yawned loudly with a beautiful smile on my face.

“Mum! How can I forget today?” I stood up from my bed and hugged her tightly.

I walked along with her to the backyard which looked so beautifully designed and the fresh flowers bloomed so well under the dawn sunlight.

I took a deep breath and I just couldn’t stop smiling.

“Today is my engagement day…I just can’t believe that Tanya accepted my proposal.”

“You deserve it son! Okay now, before we start having emotional scenes, go…go and prepare yourself. This is your day.”

I once more took a deep breath and let the cool breeze slap my face before going back into the house…I had finally achieved what I wanted in life. To be a famous hockey player and marry Tanya, what more did need? I started sorting out my clothes, I knew the press would not miss coming to the great engagement ceremony of the hockey player of the century, I smiled to myself.

Half an hour later, mum was back in my room to check up on my progress.

“Hey, your friends have started coming in and I just talked to Joe, the press is on its way too. You better hurry and ask Tanya how far is she with the preparations. I’ll be checking the food preparations with the cooks and…”

“Okay, okay mum, relax dear. Everything is going to be alright.”

“Okay, I’m leaving and ah! By the way, your brother Max is here from the city. You’ve got to see him before the ceremony starts..isn’t it nice to meet him after nearly eight years?”

“Oh mum, can’t I just talk to him later on? This is not the right time to meet anyone…especially not him!”

“Jack, please don’t say that. He was just a young boy when…”

“When he made you guys take me to a boarding school right? Mum please, I don’t want to hear any of that right now. You can’t say he was just a young boy while he was older than I and…didn’t you think that I was also a young boy to be sent to a boarding school so far!”

“Son, son please listen to me, didn’t we come visit you every weekend? We thought that was the best for you.”

“And the best chance for him to stay around here and win over your innocent heart isn’t it? Only God knows what stuff he made you do in my absence.”

“Jack please, Max has nothing against you…and he never will. Please meet him before the ceremony for my sake. You just graduated and it’s been years since you met, don’t you think it’s high time you cleared up the air? Please Jack…” Mum said with a shaky voice. A tear was already about to drop from her eye. She quickly gave me a kiss on my left cheek and hurried out.

I sat down heavily on my bed with a sigh. I didn’t want to see Max at all. My childhood had been a living hell all because of him. I was sent to the boarding school at fourteen and I spent the darkest days of my life in a totally different city. After completing high school I joined college the same city and Tanya had been my encouragement all the time. We kept in touch and sometimes met and here, today was my engagement day and I wouldn’t want to spoil it by any chance. Not even with the presence of my so called brother…but I had to do it, for the sake of my mother.

I let out another loud sigh when I saw a figure by the door staring at me with a crooked smile.

“Hey small brother, our hero, what’s that big sigh for? Isn’t it your big day?” Max said, coming towards me and hugged me without getting a response from me.

“It’s been so long I have to admit. There’s a lot I got to catch up about your school life and…Tanya, hell! How were you able to convince her to marry you? I have to admit you did quite a good job. You were even able to become the famous hockey player you always wanted to be!”

“Yah, sometimes we earn what we want the hard way. Now please if you’ll excuse me, I got to get things ready and call Tanya too…”

“Okay small brother; see you out there later on.”

“Hey, don’t call me small brother and… please close the door behind you.”

He let out an enigmatic laugh and closed the door rather loudly behind him. I let out another loud sigh and immediately dialed Tanya’s cell phone number.

“Hallo Darling, how far are you with the preparations? The visitors have started arriving.”

“Hey dear, I’m just winding up. My friend Esther is just checking up on the last tiny details. Don’t worry, I’ll make it on time…Okay, have to go, you are delaying me even more…Ciao!”

I wore my sparkling clean coat and left the room. The environment outside was so welcoming. Soft music was being played and a cool breeze met me. I smiled again, this is my day and I won’t let anyone destroy it.

Slowly, the visitors started approaching me in ones and twos. Happily congratulating me, meeting old friends and trying to catch up on their lives. I moved around, ensuring everything was at its place. Then I checked my watch with a frown. It was more than one hour since I had talked to Tanya and she hadn’t yet arrived. Before I could give more thought to the matter, mum hurried to me.

“I’ve been looking for you. Tanya called half an hour ago, the car had a problem and since I couldn’t find you to pick her up, I sent Max.”

“What?! What problem is with the car? I checked everything last evening and I made sure everything was okay, including the car…and how could you allow Max to go pick her up?!”

“I don’t understand too what happened to the car…and come on Max, he offered to help and you were nowhere near.”

“I just don’t trust him mum!…and why didn’t Tanya call me directly?”

“she said she tried to call you but you weren’t picking your cell phone. Where did you leave it?”

“Oh! I forgot it in my room after talking to her earlier on. I’ll just pick it up.”

I took my cell phone from my room and went to the backyard once more. I was in high demand already. Everyone was asking on my whereabouts. I smiled and tried to be happy but I was really worried about Tanya. Another half an hour had flown and they weren’t here yet. My cell phone’s ringtone alerted me and I could see Tanya’s number on the screen. I hastily picked it up.

“Tanya, where are you? Are you okay?” I asked, panicky.

“Jack, please come take me…I need your help…” she said slowly with heavy breaths, as if in pain.

“Tanya what happened? Where are you right now?”

“I’m… at your family’s green orchard farm…please hurry…I’m in pain…”

“Tanya!” but the line was already dead.

That was enough to drive me crazy. Without saying anything to anyone, I picked my car keys and drove marathon speed, wondering how Tanya got to our family farm. It was miles far from her home. Thoughts were pondering in my brain and I could feel a tough headache coming up. I don’t know how fast I was but in half an hour, I was already there. I banged my car door and rushed to the bungalow that is there.

There was complete silence in the place, that I got a strange chill in my spine. The trees were bending and moving with scary whispers I had never heard before.

“Tanya! Tanya! Where are you?” I hurriedly moved across the rooms looking for her but I just couldn’t find her, when I suddenly heard a low groan from upstairs. I rushed up taking two stairs at a time and there she was, in the main bedroom looking all a mess!

Tanya was lying on the bed, her beautiful and elegant dress all torn up. Her make-up messy all over her face and tears were flowing continuously. I stood there in shock before I realized where Tanya’s hand was covering. Blood was freely oozing out from her stomach and she was trying to cover the wound. And then I suddenly realized what had happened, she had been shot. I quickly hurried to her while my head spinned.

“Tanya, what happened? How did you get here?” I said as I tore my shirt to cover the wound.

“Jack…it’s Max. He did all this…” she said in slow but painful sobs.

“Max?! I just knew I shouldn’t trust him! I’m going to kill him!”

“Jack, you have to know some things…while you were away, he was after me. He envied you so much and wanted all you had for himself, including me…I made it clear to him that I won’t abandon you for him. That…that always angered him…and today, he got the chance to revenge on us…” she then broke down again only this time, heavy sobs.

“Tanya, we’ll talk about that later. We got to rush to the hospital before you lose too much blood,” I said as I bent down to carry her to the car, but she held my hand and continued,

“Max came home after Esther had gone, saying you wanted to show me a surprise before the ceremony…and I trusted him enough to come here with him. When we got here…”

“What did he do to you?”I asked angrily.

“He raped me then shot me before he left. He didn’t want to see us together by the end of the day…I pretended to have died and luckily, that got him to leave…” she said in small pauses.

I wasn’t going to listen to any of that anymore. I could feel my pressure rising fast and I was about to explode from anger. Without listening anymore, I picked her up carefully and hurried downstairs then to my car. I slowly kept her beside me and quickly drove away.

“Tanya, please don’t close your eyes…try to stay awake,” I begged.

“I’m trying…” she said as her eyes lazily blinked.

“Do you know where Jack went?” I asked, trying to keep her awake.

“No, he just walked away not so long ago…he could be heading back home right now, thinking I’m dead…” she swallowed hard.

“Please Tanya…try staying awake,” I continued begging. I wasn’t really focusing on the road ahead of me. I was so confused and angry. My phone was continuously ringing and I knew it was mum…but how was I going to explain this situation to her; that her beloved other son was a monster like I said?! I had to concentrate on Tanya right now. There was no hospital nearby therefore we had to get to town. I drove faster; my hands were shaking and sweating the same time. I turned to look at Tanya and I could see her take small, light breathes before she slipped down the chair, so helpless. I crazily stepped the brakes and the car stopped with a screech.

“Tanya! You can’t die now, not today!” I shouted, shaking her by the shoulders but there was no response from her. Her hands were getting cold and her face so pale. Without realizing it, painful tears were rolling down my face…I was not going to let this pass by unrevenged!

I took a deep breath and started driving once more…to the place the ceremony was to take place, my home.

Just then, my phone buzzed. It was a text message from my mum. I opened it.

“Max, where the hell are you?! It’s getting late, and Tanya is not here yet. Jack said he didn’t find her at her house and Esther says she left her a few minutes earlier; she wanted to get ready for the occasion too. What is happening? Are you with her? Please call me back, I’m dying with worry!”

I switched off my phone angrily. Jack was playing with his cards well, but I was not going to play games with our minds. He probably thought Tanya was long dead…that it would a perfect crime with no witnesses, in a far away land, full of trees and no neighbours around. But what he didn’t know was that Tanya had enough time to call and even explain to me in details what had happened. I could finally see my home ahead of me. I went and parked my car at the front gate knowing everyone was at the backyard. No one was to see me the way I was, in bloody clothes and my face full of grim. I hurriedly entered the house through the kitchen door. I immediately spotted Jack going inside my room. I tiptoed to the nearby window and I could see how crowded the place was. At a corner was my mum with the inspector, a family friend. I could see the fear in her face and how the inspector was trying to console her.

I swallowed a bitter lump of saliva and tiptoed to my room. I peeped at Jack who was now busily perusing through my laptop. I walked in loudly and he quickly stood up in surprise.

“Little brother? You are here? …” he said, giving me an enigmatic smile.

“Mmmh… I was just checking…your progress here. Mum has been looking for you…” he then suddenly paused, as if realizing for the first time how bloody I was.

“Oh my God! What happened to you little brother?!”

Without a word, I continued to approach him.

“You happened to me… you are the one who has ever caused all the mess in my life! What did you do to Tanya?” I asked as I finally reached him. He took a few steps backwards.

“Tanya? I’ve not seen her today. Stop being paranoid little brother…I’m sure she’ll come right away.”

Without thinking twice, I pushed him onto the bed and let my hands reach his throat. I mercilessly strangled him, letting out all the rage in me.

“You killed Tanya, damn you!”

I could feel the heat from my body as hate and anger filled my heart.

“Jack, stop it!”Max struggled with me. We were on a head to head struggle, each one of us trying to outdo the other. Then I saw a gun beneath his sock, probably the same gun he used to kill Tanya. I quickly pulled it out before he could snatch it from me, and then mercilessly, I pulled the trigger on his forehead.

There was a sudden hush in the background. Screams then silence…they were probably wondering where that gunshot was coming from.

I could see pain all over his face and I slowly muttered in his ear,

“This is for all the damage you ever caused this family, and for Tanya…”

“Jack…” before he could say anything more, he fell back again on my bed.

I let out a heavy sigh of relief and went back to the window. Mum was still there, fear all over her face. She was busy fidgeting with her cell phone, taking quick steps towards the house with the inspector. She would soon know and she was not going to believe it. Her one son was a monster, and the other, the little brother, had become a murderer!

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A freelance writer, journalist, poet and blogger venturing mainly in social and community issues, study and analysis of behaviour and life, and the plight of the under-dogs in the society. 'I feed on human stories.'

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