Greg agrees to let Allison help Jeff overcome his depression.
Chapter 80 Surprising Compromise
Allison tried her best to ease the tension in the family. She spent a good deal of time trying to comfort Brit and Jeff, or at least trying to get them to talk to each other. It helped a little, but not much. Throughout most of February, the children probably said less than a dozen words to each other each day.
One night while Brit was over at Crystal's, Jeff lay in bed staring at the ceiling as he was wont to do these days. Allison knocked at the door and came in. He sat up, and she sat down on the bed next to him.
"How are you feeling?" she asked.
"About the same as before. I really don't feel anything right now."
"I know. Sometimes you go into kind of an emotional shock when you break off a relationship. The only comfort I can give you is to tell you that it doesn't last. Sometimes you need to just go out there and find someone else to love. In your case though, I still think you need to spend more time with Kari. I know she wants to help you through this more than anything."
That brought up another thing that he had been thinking about lately.
"Allison," said Jeff, "I was wondering, Brit's about the same age as I was when you first started encouraging me to get a girlfriend. So why aren't you encouraging her to get a boyfriend?"
"I would think that would be obvious," Allison replied.
"Well, it's not."
"All right. The reason I'm not encouraging her to get a boyfriend is that I would rather see you as her boyfriend."
"What? But I thought... I mean, Dad said..."
"Forget about what your father said. I've been working on him. Maybe eventually he'll come around. I just know that Brit was happiest when you two were in love, and I want her to find that same happiness again. And I want you to be happy too. I love you, Jeff."
"I love you too, Allison. I just... sometimes I just need..." He could feel the tears welling up in his eyes. For some reason, it didn't bother him to cry in front of her.
Allison reached out and drew her to him, hugging him tightly. He hugged her back, and suddenly a part of the old Jeff came through, the Jeff that remembered how to feel. He had shut off that part of him because it hurt too much, but now, sitting there with Allison's arms around him, he could let the pain come, to be swallowed up in his love for her. She had been many things to him: playmate, mother, and even lover. He didn't know which he needed right now, only that he needed to be held by someone who loved him the same way he loved her.
He drew back then and gazed into her eyes, and he could see the same expression on her face that he knew he must have on his own. For the moment at least, they felt exactly the same thing. As one, they leaned in and pressed their lips together in a beautiful, tender kiss.
The door suddenly opened. Jeff and Allison pulled back, but it was too late. Greg stood there, a look of shock on his face.
For the longest time, nobody said anything. Jeff and Allison sat there on the bed, too stunned to think. The surprise on Greg's face slowly transformed into a cool yet stern look.
"I want to see you two in my office immediately," he told them with an icy tone.
Allison and Jeff nodded, then rose to their feet and followed him down the hall to the office.
Jeff couldn't remember ever feeling so scared. Even that day when he had had to talk to Allen Williams about his relationship with Kari wasn't as bad as this. As he took a seat next to Allison, he glanced at her for moral support, but she seemed as scared as he was. That was the most frightening thing of all. Ever since he had known her, Allison had been strong, bold, indestructible even. Now seeing her like this made his own fear all the more potent because he couldn't lean on her for support.
Greg sat down in his office chair and stared at the two of them for the longest time, as if sizing them up. Jeff felt so uncomfortable under his gaze that he wanted to jump up and run out of the room. But he couldn't do that to Allison. He decided right there that whatever happened, he would do what was best to keep the family together. He would take the blame if that meant letting Allison stay.
"I'm going to assume," Greg finally said, "that you two have been having an affair behind my back. Don't try to deny it, because I wouldn't believe you anyway."
Jeff and Allison glanced at each other once more. It sounded as bad as they had imagined it would be.
"Now I'm going to say a word, just to get it out in the open," Greg continued, "so that there will be no ambiguity about what we're talking about. That word is 'divorce.'"
"But she didn't--" Jeff blurted out, but Greg raised his finger to cut him off.
Now Allison looked ten times as scared as before. She even looked on the verge of tears. Jeff had never seen her lose control like that before.
"Let me use another word," said Greg, staring straight at him. "'Disown.' Either of these would be a perfectly acceptable response to a situation like this. In any conventional family, I would be well within my rights to either divorce you, Allison, or disown you, Jeff. Or both.
"But this is hardly a conventional family," he said, in a somewhat softer tone. "Let's look at the facts. Allison, you're closer to Jeff's age than mine. You married me for my money, but later you told me you're in love with me. Even so, you've shared me with other women. Jeff, you've recently had an affair with your little sister. You've also been attracted to your stepmother from the moment you first met her. Yes, I know all about that. Even I'm not exactly a typical father; I took some dirty pictures with my own daughter. Add these all up, and the result is that we're a family that's as far from conventional as it's possible to get. What does this mean? It means that we can't play by the usual rules."
"Dad," said Jeff. "You can do what you want with me, but I want you to know that Allison's not to blame. Please don't punish her for something that was my fault."
"If I decide to punish either of you, I will do it on my own terms."
"Then you might as well know," said Allison, "that our 'affair' consisted of one night of passion, after which we decided not to continue it. Since then, we've done a little groping, and had one good night kiss that you happened to walk in on. If you ask me if I'm ashamed of what I did, then the answer is yes. Greg, I'm still in love with you, and I'll do anything to keep you, but I also know I've hurt you badly and I deserve whatever you decide to do with me. I'm not begging for mercy; I just wanted you to know the truth because I hate lying to you."
"Well you may be above begging," Jeff told her, "but I'm not. Dad, please don't break up with Allison. She's the best thing that ever happened to us. I've betrayed you twice, and if you want to kick me out of the house, that's fine. But you and Brit need her every bit as much as she needs you."
Greg sighed. "The thing that I'm mad about," he said, "is that you did this behind my back. I don't blame you; it's not exactly the type of thing you would tell me up front. So I guess that much at least I can forgive.
"Now as to the affair, need I remind you, Allison, that you let me have sex with your sister?"
Allison nodded. "But what does that have to do with this?"
"It has everything to do with this. You told me from the first day that you weren't the jealous type. You said that if I wanted to have a mistress or two, you wouldn't mind. Now that we've fallen in love, does that still hold?"
"Well... yes, I suppose. I would hope that you would never love another woman the way you love me, but if we're just talking about sex, I don't really see what the big deal is."
"Then I would be selfish if I didn't allow you the same privilege."
"I don't want another lover," she insisted. "Only you."
"And Jeff," he corrected.
"And as for you, Jeff," said Greg, "I was furious when I found out that you were sleeping with Brit. And so I told you in no uncertain terms that it had to end. But I hadn't taken into consideration just what kind of pressure a teenage boy is under. I remember that when I was your age, I was pretty much driven by my hormones. I thought about sex twenty-four hours a day. So you need an outlet for your desires. And having a woman like Allison around certainly couldn't have helped things. But you're a good kid; you've been trying your hardest to forget your sister, and I appreciate that.
"I guess my primary concern is for Brit. Jeff, you're old enough to make your own decisions, but she's still a little girl as far as I'm concerned. She's only on the verge of turning fourteen, after all. And although it's a little sexist of me, I'll admit it bothers me more to think of my daughter having sex than my son. So what you choose to do, or who you choose to spend your time with, is your business. As long as you don't start up your affair with Brit again."
"Greg, just what are you saying?" asked Allison.
He stared at them for another minute, as if trying to make up his mind.
"I'm saying that maybe the best thing for everyone is if you two continue your relationship."
Jeff was shocked. His father was actually giving him permission to have sex with his stepmother! He couldn't believe it; it was so unlike Greg, who had always been so conservative.
"But..." Allison stammered. "Greg, do you still love me?"
He smiled, then cupped her cheek in his hand. "Absolutely," he said. "It's just like you said, sex isn't as big a deal as most people make it out to be. It's going to take some getting used to, but I refuse to let it bother me. After all, you shared me with your sister. Why shouldn't I share you with my son? Especially since I think this will be the fastest way to help him get over Brit."
Allison, who had been on the verge of tears through the whole lecture, finally broke down. She threw her arms around his neck and sobbed into his shoulder. "I was so afraid of losing you," she said.
"You're going to have to do a hell of a lot more than that to lose me," Greg told her, stroking her hair. Then he waved Jeff over, and the three of them hugged each other for a long time.
"Just do me one favor," Greg told Allison.
"Anything," she replied.
"I want you to break the news to Brit. I feel she deserves to know, but I don't know how I could possibly tell her. You're so much better at that sort of thing than I am."
"I will," she replied.
"Good. Now, I'm still a little overwhelmed about this whole thing, so I need some time alone to think things through. I'm going to take a nice, long drive, say, about three hours. In the mean time, you two feel free to take advantage of my absence."
"Are you serious?" asked Jeff.
"I've made up my mind, so I might as well get used to the idea of you two together."
Brit took the news as well as could be expected, which is to say, not well at all. Allison took both children into her room the next day and told Brit the situation, and Brit's face darkened. She nodded when Allison asked if she understood, but it was clear that she wasn't pleased.
Jeff could understand how she felt. Up to this point, Allison had been a part of their relationship; she had helped to instigate it after all. Brit had been more than happy to let her make love to Jeff the night he took Brit's virginity, so there was a kind of intimacy there. Now Allison was continuing that relationship while leaving Brit behind.
She continued to stay away from Jeff as much as possible. She spent more and more time at Crystal's house, leaving Jeff home alone. Allison's presence comforted him in these times. Now that his father had given his approval, Jeff's relationship with his stepmother grew more sexual. Jeff still didn't have much enthusiasm for anything, including sex, but he did need to cling to someone once in a while. Allison was nice to hug and kiss, and sometimes it did lead to full intercourse, but usually when they were alone together in the house they just lay together in each other's arms, either in his bed or hers. Sometimes they left their clothes on, but sometimes they undressed.
One time, Greg came home from work early and walked in on them while they lay nude together in the master bedroom. Allison and Jeff both sat up guiltily, but Greg merely sighed in resignation and ducked back out of the room, closing the door behind him to give them some privacy.
The therapy helped. Over the next few weeks, Jeff regained more and more interest in life. At first content to just cuddle with Allison, they started making love more often, until it became almost a daily routine after school before Greg got home. Now that Greg had given his permission, Allison let go of her inhibitions and was enthusiastic about it. She loved to go around nude when he was about to arrive home from school just so that he could walk in on her. Then she would either get down on her knees right in the front room and suck him off, or he would strip off his clothes and they would head downstairs to the hot tub, or they would retire to the bedroom to make love.
Brit's reaction to his newly awakened interest in his stepmother threatened to spoil it all for him though. She could have moped, or argued, or thrown tantrums. He could have handled any of those, because as long as she was angry or sad, it meant she was jealous of all the time he spent with Allison, which meant she still loved him. But she retaliated with the one thing she knew would hurt him. She grew more affectionate with their father.
Sometimes after coming home from an evening at Crystal's house, she sought out Greg to sit in his lap and cuddle up against his chest. Greg didn't mind; in fact, he enjoyed it. He would sit there stroking her back as she closed her eyes and let herself fall asleep in his arms. She tended to make a big deal of it in front of Jeff, which really angered him. The worst part of it was that he had no right to complain. A girl could sit in her father's lap if she wanted; it was natural and wholesome and far more innocent than what Jeff had been doing with Allison.
Sometimes at night after getting ready for bed, she would slip out of her room, making sure not to be too quiet about it, then descend the stairs and make her way into Greg's and Allison's bedroom. Although Jeff kept his door closed, he could hear her footsteps as she passed, then his jealousy would spike as he thought of her downstairs snuggling with Greg. He would stare up at the ceiling for ten minutes, or twenty, or half an hour, before he heard her footsteps returning back up the stairs and down the hall.
He got his revenge one night when she did that, because after Brit had made her way downstairs, Allison left her alone with Greg and came up to visit Jeff. Though he wasn't in the mood for sex, he made love to Allison that night just to spite Brit. He didn't know whether it worked, but just the thought that it bothered Brit as much as her time with Greg bothered Jeff made him feel a little better.
The weekend before Brit's fourteenth birthday, she spent Friday and Saturday night at the Williams house. Greg had some extra work to catch up on at the office that weekend, something that had almost never happened until his discovery of Jeff's and Brit's relationship. Now it seemed to come more frequently. Jeff suspected that it wasn't a coincidence; Greg was just looking for excuses to get out of the house. He was having a hard time dealing with the fact that his family was falling apart around him.
On a positive note, that left Allison and Jeff alone together. Since Jeff still hadn't recovered completely, she was determined to make the most of it. As soon as Greg left, she took him into the bedroom where she treated him to a slow striptease. Despite his recent lack of enthusiasm for pretty much anything, the sight of her bit by bit exposing her sexy body was enough to excite even the most uninterested of men.
As soon as she finished, she set to work undressing him as well, and soon they lay naked together on the bed kissing and fondling each other. They didn't have sex then; there was plenty of time for that during the rest of the day, and they wanted to draw it out as long as possible. They both knew that on a good day Jeff was capable of performing multiple times, but with his lack of enthusiasm lately, even two orgasms might have been asking too much of him, so they had to assume he would only be capable of one.
After half an hour on the bed, Allison suggested they jump in the hot tub. They left their clothes upstairs, a dangerous thing to do in case Greg should come home early, but since he had already reluctantly given his approval, the consequences if that should happen would be limited to a bit of embarrassment.
In the hot tub, Allison sat on Jeff's lap, which had the effect of pressing his erection up against her back side. That felt really nice, especially when she leaned back against his chest and had him reach around to fondle her tits. Jeff loved the feel of them in his hand; especially damp like this. He could just sit and play with them for hours if she were willing.
He let his fingers tease her nipples, and in no time they were hard. Allison mewled with delight as the stimulation, her body reacting by wriggling and squirming unconsciously. The motion against his cock was almost too much for Jeff, and he nearly climaxed right there.
To prolong it, they climbed out of the tub and made their way into bathroom for a shower. Of course, they couldn't keep their hands off one another, but at least they toned it down by mostly limiting their touching to washing each other's backs and fronts. Allison seemed to love having Jeff wash her like that; she smiled as he let his hands roam all over her body. She even slipped her hands between her legs as he worked, moaning in pleasure from the self-stimulation. After a few minutes of that, Jeff pressed his body up against hers and slipped his hands around to replace hers. She let him take over, placing her own hands on her breasts.
It took only a couple more minutes for her to climax, which hit her so strongly that her legs gave out and Jeff had to grab her to keep her from falling. He held her in his arms as the orgasm passed through her, supporting her weight almost entirely by himself. After it was over, she gave an embarrassed laugh, then turned around and kissed him.
"Would you like me to do the same for you?" she asked. "Just keep in mind that I expect you to give me a proper fucking later."
"I think I'll be up for it," he grinned.
"Good," Allison smiled. She poured some liquid soap into her hand, then slipped her fingers around his shaft and stroked up and down on it. He loved the slippery feeling of her hand running over it, sending waves of pleasure through him. He closed his eyes and moaned at the sensation.
"Does my Jeff like that?" asked Allison. "Is Mommy making you feel good?"
"Oh god yes, Mommy!" he exclaimed.
"Good. Now cum for Mommy. Let me see a nice, big cum so that I know how much you love me."
Between her stroking and her dirty talk, he didn't stand a chance, and within seconds he felt the pressure building. He groaned as the pleasure spiked, and his cock jerked as it shot its load all over Allison's stomach.
"That's my big boy," she smiled as she continued to stroke him until he stopped spurting. "I love the feel of your hot seed all over me. Mommy loves her big boy."
Gradually he descended from the high, and Allison released his deflating cock. She turned and let the water wash away the evidence of their sex play.
With a recent orgasm each, they could now relax and enjoy each other more slowly. After finishing cleaning themselves, they turned off the water and stepped out of the shower. Jeff had a sudden idea, and asked Allison if she wanted to do Rachael's trick with the blow dryer. She grinned and nodded, then reached into the cupboard under the sink to retrieve the device.
They spent the next several minutes drying each other's bodies. Jeff loved this game; even after his orgasm, he still enjoyed the sight of Allison's nude body, especially since the task required long looks at it. He was growing familiar with every detail of it, from the creamy bronze color to the soft and silky texture.
As he ran the hot air over her, he allowed himself to touch her as well. His hands caressed her skin gently, lingering especially long on her breasts. He even leaned down and sucked one of her nipples into his mouth momentarily, causing her to moan again.
Without any clothes on it took hardly any time for her to dry, so a few minutes later they switched places and Allison ran the hot air over his own body. Like him, she wasn't shy about touching, so she let her hands run all over his body. She started with his shoulders, then worked her way down his chest, then his stomach. When she reached his thighs, she cupped his balls in her hand, gently fingering them as she ran the hot air all over the region. Despite his recent orgasm, her touch had its effect on him, and in just a few seconds he was hard again.
"Ready for me already, are you?" she grinned.
"Maybe not just yet," he replied. "I'm still a little tired."
"Well, maybe we can take a nap together for a while and then continue where we left off."
"That sounds nice."
They headed back upstairs to the master bedroom, where they lay down together, relaxing in each other's arms. Allison pulled him over on top of her so that he could lay his head down on her breast, and he snuggled up next to her with a contented smile on his face. He fell asleep to the peaceful sound of her gentle breathing.
They both awoke about the same time, about noon. Allison suggested they have lunch to build up their strength before making love again, so without bothering to put their clothes on, they descended the stairs and made their way through the dining room into the kitchen. Since neither of them wanted to spend too much time fixing the meal, Allison simply threw some leftover chicken stir fry into the microwave to reheat while Jeff grabbed a couple of plates for them and set them on the dining room table. They sat down to eat, sitting across from one another where they could see each other's bodies and give each other suggestive grins and playful winks.
There was something surprisingly erotic about doing ordinary household things in the nude, Jeff realized. Of course, that could just be because of Allison's presence, but he would probably feel the same way if it were Kari or Crystal with him instead.
After lunch, Allison took his hand and they returned to the master bedroom to make love. They lay down on the bed and began kissing each other on the lips. It soon spread to other parts of their bodies, and they pleasured one another with their mouths for a while to get themselves warmed up for the main event.
Jeff climbed on top of her and gently guided his cock into her waiting hole. She sighed in pleasure as he slid inside of her. He took it slowly, letting himself enjoy the feeling of her body surrounding him. There was no rush, so he thrust gently as he continued to kiss her. She wrapped her arms and legs around him, holding him to her tightly.
Jeff was the first to climax, but Allison wasn't far behind. This time she didn't scream or cry out; she merely groaned as shudders ran through her body. It wasn't the most intense orgasm for each of them, but it was very fulfilling.
They took another nap afterward, this one much shorter. Then they showered together for the second time, and afterward Allison changed the sheets on the bed, throwing the soiled ones in the washer. Greg might have given his approval to their relationship, but he certainly wouldn't appreciate sleeping in the dirty bed.
Since they weren't sure when he would arrive home, they got dressed and spent the rest of the afternoon just sitting on the couch watching TV with their arms around each other. They were still in that position when Greg arrived home. They immediately drew apart when he walked in the door, but he simply came over and sat down in the chair on the other side of the room.
"Did you two kids have fun today?" he grinned.
Jeff and Allison glanced at each other in surprise at his change of attitude.
"Um, yes," Allison replied, staring at him. "You seem... well, you seem a little more cheerful than I would expect."
"I've had some time to think," he explained, "and I've come to the conclusion that I can take two attitudes about this. I can let it bother me, in which case I'm going to have to deal with a lot of pent-up frustration. Or I can simply accept it as a new lifestyle. You don't mind sharing me with other women after all, and you seem to be happy about it. So I suppose I can do the same for you. I don't mind you two making love, I don't mind you being affectionate with each other even in front of me. Just promise me one thing."
"I don't want to know any details. Don't tell me any more about your sex life than you would tell a perfect stranger." Then he chuckled. "Actually, let me rephrase that. Don't tell me any more about your sex life than a typical person would tell a perfect stranger."
"You got it," she smiled.
At bedtime, Greg surprised them again by suggesting that Allison sleep in Jeff's bed that night. Allison was reluctant; she was worried that it was a subtle hint that he no longer wanted to sleep with her. But he assured her that it was only because he still needed some more time to get used to the idea of Allison and Jeff together, and the more it happened the faster he would get over the final lingering remnants of jealousy. He promised to make it up to her the next night, but with Brit sleeping over at Crystal's house tonight it was a perfect opportunity.
Jeff was in favor of it, and when Allison joined him in bed, the two of them made love for the third time that day.
In the morning he awoke to the wonderful feeling of her body pressed against his. For a moment he forgot what had happened and thought it was Brit, but then all of the memories of the past couple of months returned. Unfortunately, the reminder put him back in a bad mood, though not as serious as before. Still, it lingered for the rest of the day.
Kari drove Brit back home that night. When she arrived, Jeff and Allison were sitting on the couch in the living room watching television while Greg sat nearby in his favorite chair. As soon as she came in, Brit skipped over and sat down on her father's lap. He chuckled, and wrapped his arms around her.
Jeff's mood instantly darkened. Brit hadn't even acknowledged his existence. No "hi Jeff" or "I missed you Jeff" or even "Kari says hi." He would have even settled for "I hate you Jeff." Anything to show that she still felt something, anything toward him. He even missed fighting with her. At least then he could apologize and she would come over and give him a hug and then they would be friends again. But he had no weapon against this indifference.
As she snuggled up next to Greg, he felt a surge of jealousy. Well, two could play at that game. He scooted in a little closer to Allison and put his arm around her. Allison glanced at him and smiled, then turned her attention back to the show. Out of the corner of his eye, Jeff caught a glimpse of Brit looking at him, but managed to suppress his grin of satisfaction.
Brit, however, had never backed down from a challenge. She retaliated by turning over on Greg's lap and laying her head down on his chest. Greg smiled down at her, holding her tightly. If he realized what she was trying to do, he didn't say anything or try to stop her.
Jeff refused to be outdone. With his free hand, he reached over and took Allison's, holding it in his lap. Once more, she gave him a quick smile. Now it looked less like a mother and son sitting together on a couch, and more like a romantic date between two lovers. There was no way Brit could beat that, because Greg would never cross that line. Greg, in fact, stared at Jeff and Allison for a moment with a disapproving glare, but said nothing.
As it turned out, Jeff had underestimated his little sister's determination. She sat back up on her father's knees, her body facing forward, but she turned her head to the side and said in her sweetest tone, "Daddy, would you rub my back?"
"Of course, angel," he replied. He put his hands on her shoulders and gently rubbed them. Brit smiled and sighed, but Jeff could see a victorious look in her eyes. She had still managed to beat him at this game.
Now he was really getting mad. He remembered how he used to rub her back like that, how one incident like that had led to his private vow never to hurt her. He knew he was breaking that vow even as he sat there with Allison, but Brit was pushing him to it! He should be the one with her on his lap, running his hands all over her and giving her simple pleasures like that. Now Greg had stolen even his fond memories of those beautiful, intimate moments with her.
He knew he should give up this stupid game. He should get on his knees and beg Brit to forgive him for being so affectionate with Allison. If he thought it would work, he would do it in an instant, but since Brit's transformation back into the bratty little girl that scorned him at every opportunity, he wasn't sure she wouldn't just laugh at him and ridicule him. He had his pride after all. So he was forced to continue, to attempt to win this game at any cost.
He yawned and stretched. "I'm getting sleepy," he commented.
"It's not bedtime yet," Greg replied.
"I know. Maybe I'll just lie down here for a minute. You don't mind, do you Allison?"
Instead of answering, he moved over to the other side of the couch, then lay down on his back and put his head in her lap. "That feels nice," he murmured. "I must be the luckiest man alive, to get to rest here in the arms of the most beautiful woman in the world."
"Well, I'm the luckiest girl in the world, to be having my back rubbed by the handsomest man in the world," Brit retorted with a vicious smile. Jeff glanced over at her. As soon as she confirmed that he was watching, she turned around one last time, threw her arms around Greg's neck, and kissed him on the cheek.
That did it. Jeff's anger overflowed now, and he was likely to get violent if he didn't do something about it. He sat up, then leaned in and kissed Allison directly on the lips.
She pulled back in shock. "Jeff!" she exclaimed. "What's gotten into you? I mean... right in front of your father and your sister!"
"Dad's already given his approval," he replied, deliberately not mentioning anything about Brit. He wanted to make it clear that he didn't care about what she thought of it.
"That's okay," Brit smiled. "You two can do whatever you want. As long as I have Daddy to cuddle with. I'll never love anyone as much as I love you, Daddy."
Those words stung Jeff worse than anything he had ever felt before. She had found his weakness and attacked with viciousness he never knew she possessed. She had once given him her heart, even claimed to belong to him. Now she had not only taken back her heart, but in one instant ripped his own right out of his chest.
Somehow he managed to keep his temper. He rose to his feet and calmly said, "I think I'll go to bed now after all."
Allison glanced up at him. "Would you like... would you like me to join you?" she asked.
"No thanks," he replied. "Not tonight. I just feel like getting to sleep early."
"Good night, Jeff," said Greg.
"Pleasant dreams," Allison added.
Brit said nothing.
Jeff headed up the stairs and down the hall to his room. Without even changing out of his clothes, he lay down on the bed on his side and stared at the wall, wishing he could go to sleep and never wake back up.
Unfortunately, he did wake up in the morning, and in no better mood than when he had gone to sleep. Brit was being so selfish. He really didn't want to have anything to do with her, despite it being her birthday.
She was turning fourteen today, but he really didn't care. The last thing he wanted was to spend the day with her and her stupid friends. He ate breakfast in silence, not even speaking to her. Although he drove her to school, he didn't say one word to her during the trip, and she didn't try to make conversation either.
His mood remained the whole day. Even Kari couldn't cheer him up. She remained as cheerful as ever, but lately she had been giving him a lot of worried looks, not that he blamed her. Jeff wasn't anything like he used to be. Now he acted like he didn't want anyone's company, even hers.
The weather seemed to reflect his mood. Clouds gathered overhead, threatening to soak anyone unfortunate enough to be caught outside. It wasn't good weather for a birthday party, but fortunately they weren't planning any activities outside.
He drove Brit home after school, again without talking. She kept glancing at him as if wanting to say something, but the angry look in his face deterred her each time. Eventually she gave up, and just stared forward.
When they arrived home, Jeff announced that he was going to his room, then did just that. He had a lot of homework to catch up on, and the truth was that with Brit's birthday party soon to start, he didn't want to be anywhere nearby. He would have gone over to Kari's to avoid it, except that he was sure Greg and Allison would tell him he couldn't. Not on his little sister's birthday.
Still, he could at least stay up in his room the whole time. When her friends started arriving and he could hear the sounds of the girls having fun downstairs at the party, Jeff simply tuned them out by putting on headphones and listening to music while reading a book.
About an hour later, the bedroom door opened, and Crystal poked her head in. He hadn't heard her knock because he had the music cranked up, but he took off the headphones and glanced at her.
"Aren't you going to come join the party?" asked Crystal.
Jeff shrugged. "I'm not in the mood."
"You sure? We're all having a lot of fun down there."
"I'm happy for you," he mumbled.
"I for one miss having you there, and I'm sure Brit does too."
"No she doesn't."
Crystal sighed. She stepped into the room and closed the door, then came over and sat down on the bed next to him. She tried to put an arm around his shoulder, but he pulled away.
"Jeff, don't do this," she said. "Remember when I had boy problems and you helped me through them? I want to help you through your girl problems."
"I don't want help. I just want to be left alone."
Crystal stared at him for a while, and Jeff began to feel guilty about being so rude to her.
"I'm sorry," he apologized. "I really appreciate what you're trying to do. But this is just something I need to get over on my own."
"Okay, but I'm not giving up on you. And neither is Kari."
"Thanks," he said, managing a weak smile. "And tell Kari thanks for me too. I just need some time, that's all."
Crystal nodded, then impulsively leaned in and gave him a kiss on the cheek. She rose to her feet and left the room, leaving Jeff once more alone with his thoughts.
He stayed in his room during supper that night, and Allison brought him a plate of food including a piece of leftover birthday cake. He barely acknowledged her presence with a mumbled thanks, and she nodded and left him alone.
The storm broke just after bedtime. It wasn't a particularly strong one, just a drizzle of rain and the occasional roll of thunder in the distance. He really didn't mind; the sound of the rain on the rooftop actually helped him sleep.
During the night he dreamed of Brit. That wasn't surprising; she was on his mind a lot lately. In the dream, she crept into his room, then stood over his bed for a minute or two. Finally she leaned down and kissed him on the forehead. "Goodbye," she whispered, tears in her eyes. Then she disappeared out the door.
He woke up the next morning feeling horrible. He hated Brit for being so affectionate with his father, he hated his father for coming between them, he hated Allison for making Brit jealous, and most of all he hated himself for taking his frustrations out on his little sister by not being there for her birthday.
Why did things have to be this way? For a couple of months, he had been truly happy. Life had been going well for him. Now it was all falling apart, and the worst part was that he shared in the blame. His jealously and anger were hurting his little sister, and she didn't deserve that. She deserved an older brother who cared for her and looked out for her and protected her.
There was one thing he could do for her, he realized. He got out of bed, quickly dressed, then headed across the hall to knock on her door. Maybe he couldn't make it up to her, but at least he could apologize to her, and let her know how much he loved her.
There was no answer, so he knocked again. Again, no answer. Well, Brit was sometimes a sound sleeper. He opened the door and peeked in.
She wasn't in her room. That was unusual; she usually took a shower as soon as she got up, and didn't make her bed until it was almost time to leave for school. But maybe she had gotten up early for some reason. Maybe she had taken her shower while Jeff was still asleep. No, that couldn't be it. The bathroom door was open, and he could clearly see the mirror, and it had no lingering fog on it. Unless it had been an hour or two ago, it would be obvious that she had already showered. Furthermore, her towel was dry and hanging on the rack.
He was about to head back into his room when he spied a sheet of paper on her desk. It wasn't like her to leave things lying around like that. She was usually meticulous about cleaning up after herself. He strode over and glanced down at it. Immediately he froze.
"Goodbye," it read. "I can't take it any more, so I'm running away."