“What the hell do you want Max? Your timing couldn’t have been worse,” May snarled as she packed her things into her old coupe’s trunk.
Max hovered behind her, trying to make eye contact. He leaned on the lip of her open trunk, peering into her face. “I wanted to see you,” he said. “I’ve missed you, sis.”
She scoffed and slammed the trunk shut, forcing Max to remove his hand with a yelp. “Well you’ve seen me and I’m not dead. I’m all grown up, so you can fuck off forever now. Your guilt is assuaged.”
Her brother followed close behind as she went to her driver door. Just as she started to open it, he slammed it shut. “Hey, goddamnit, I’m still family!”
May glared at him, livid he had the audacity to stall her. “Is that so!? You’re family now, Max? Would family bail out when their mother sinks into alcoholism and their grandmother fades with Alzheimer’s? Would family leave their twelve year old sister to swindle tourists just so she could buy school supplies?”
Max wilted, but May dug in deeper, invading his space like an angry goose. “You leave for more than ten years of my life, then show up with your tail tucked between your legs and I’m supposed to just accept you? Is that how this works? Do you have any idea what I’ve been through by myself? Do you know anything about my beliefs to understand just who the hell is standing in front of you today?” May thrust out her arms and shouted. “Do I look like your little sister anymore, Max!?”
Max bowed his head. “I…I don’t know what to say to you. I’m sorry?” He laughed sardonically. “It doesn’t even cover it! And I’m being even more unfair because I’m at my all time low, sis.” Max looked at her, and she could see the lack of sleep in his eyes, the lines of wear that were years too early in his face. “I’m out of rehab and I ain’t got no where to stay.”
May shook her head slowly. “You bastard. Are you seriously asking me this?”
He pressed his hands together. “May, look at me! I’m a bum! I couldn’t make it on my own and it was wrong of me to leave the family, especially when you needed me most.”
May shoved Max and spat on his shirt. “Get away from me.” She turned and slipped into her car.
Max appeared at the window, tapping it desperately. “May! Come on, please! I’ve got nothing! No one! Just you!” A tear trickled down Max’s gaunt face.
May sneered at him as she turned on her car, “And whose fault was that?”
“I want to make it up to you! Please, sis, let me make it up to you!”
“You can’t,” she spat. With that, she shifted into gear and pushed her gas pedal to the floor.
Max danced away as the car chewed up the gravel driveway before shooting forward toward the street. May glared at her rearview to find Max running after her car, his face contorted with emotion. As she sped to the street’s end, her brother became a small figure, shouting unintelligible things. May stopped with a squeal at the stop sign as a truck rumbled past. When the other car was gone, she didn’t move, still glaring into her rearview mirror as her brother approached.
May wrung her steering wheel, teeth bared. “Bastard. Stupid cheeky bastard,” she muttered angrily.
Why should I give him a second chance? He never gave me any choice when he disappeared and left me to deal with Mom and Nana! She thought. He’s a junkie! What if he just steals my money or hocks my TV and vanishes? And god, the questions! He’ll want to play catch up, and ask why I look the way I do, and what my job is like and—
Max appeared at May’s window, sweating and with his duffel bag in hand. He said nothing, just stood gasping and gazing at her helplessly.
With a tense jaw May leaned over and unlocked the passenger door. Without a word, Max hurried to it and slipped into the car. Before he even shut the door, May started talking. “I am not leaving some ex-junkie alone at my house, so you’re going to come with me until I finish my job at Normantown. You aren’t going to bother me, get in my way, or even breathe loudly while I’m there. When we get back, your ass is getting a job and getting out of my house, pronto.”
May shifted the car into gear and started to accelerate, but then she stopped abruptly causing them both to jerk forward. Max looked at her in confusion, and she pointed a finger in his face. “And let’s just get two things straight since I don’t feel like dealing with annoying questions, which you’ll no doubt try to ask. First, I don’t identify as a girl or a boy, and just because I accept that the English language is binary and people call me whatever they feel like, that does not mean that I will accept any notions you might have of how I ‘should’ behave, so keep your mouth shut. Next, the only damn reason I’m doing this is because I don’t want to be like you. I do not like this, I do not want this, and I want you gone. Understand?”
Max sighed and nodded again. Satisfied, May shifted and fed the gas, and their first family trip in over a decade began.