Not Meant To Be Broken

By: Cora Reilly

His expression made it clear that my best behavior might not be enough. I'd never seen him so tense or anxious before. He was definitely more uptight than me, especially since we started law school a few weeks ago, but this was extreme. We’d been friends since our first year in college four years ago and we'd spent a shitload of time together. He was pretty much the only reason why I hadn’t dropped out of college in my first year to spite my father, or why I actually started law school. He worried more than I did but I'd never seen him like this.

Brian hadn’t told me all that much about his sister; he hardly ever spoke of her at all. It had taken more than a year of sharing an apartment until he’d finally told me that she’d experienced hell when she was only sixteen. Brian didn’t like to speak about what happened and he hadn't mentioned the word rape once.

After Brian’s constant words of warning, I was a bit worried about our new living arrangements, but not nearly as much as Brian. Of course we'd have to stop having parties in our apartment, at least the ones with girls and booze. We'd just have to hold them at Kevin’s and Bill’s place instead.

The sound of a car pulling into the street caught my attention; a black Jeep came to a halt about thirty feet from us and a man in his late forties got out. He walked toward Brian and pulled him into an embrace but that wasn’t what had my attention.

Brian’s sister pushed open the door and climbed out of the car, a black cat pressed to her chest. After hearing Brian talk about her, I’d expected her to be a shell, a shadow – someone your eyes passed over. I hadn't imagined her to be so beautiful. She had long wavy, caramel brown hair and pale skin, and was probably a head smaller than me. Her body was covered in an oversized hoodie and bootcut jeans. The most startling thing about her were her eyes. Huge, brown eyes. She looked like a deer, fearful, jumpy, ready to run at the slightest sign of danger.

I couldn't quite explain it, but I felt an overwhelming sense of protectiveness then. I wanted to keep her safe.


I stopped a few feet from Dad, Brian and Zachary, not sure what to say or do to make this less awkward. Dad shifted nervously, running his hand over his bald head, his eyes flitting between Brian and me. I met Brian's gaze and forced a smile. Maybe it would have been a real one of he and Dad weren’t watching me as if I was going to collapse at their feet any moment. After several heartbeats, Brian finally gave me a small smile but he didn’t try to move closer or even hug me. And his smile wasn’t the smile I remembered from when I was little or even from four years ago. He always seemed on the brink of a frown with me.

It had been two months since I’d last seen him. He’d cut his visit during the summer short and had instead spent three weeks in Mexico with a couple of friends. His friend Zachary had been one of them. I risked a quick glance at him. He hovered behind my dad and Brian, but regarded me over their heads. He was missing the caution and worry I usually saw reflected on the faces of people around me. He smiled in response to my scrutiny and I quickly looked away. Embarrassment crawled under my skin at my inability to do something as simple as meet his eyes. The awkwardness turned up another notch and I tightened my hold on my cat in search of comfort.

“It’s good to see you again Brian,” I said eventually, then cringed at how formal that sounded. As if we were distant acquaintances and not siblings. His expression almost brought tears to my eyes. He looked hurt and disappointed. Maybe he’d hoped that I'd changed in those last couple of months, that we could finally be close again.

“Yeah, it’s good to see you too, Am,” he murmured, staring at anything but at my face.

It hurt to see him, to see his disappointment, hurt more than I thought it would. Maybe coming here had been a mistake. I could still turn around, get back into the car and ask Dad to take me back home with him. I could keep hiding, could keep hating every breath I took, could live in my tiny lonely shell of a life until it crushed me.

A feeling of dread settled in my chest, threatening to choke me. All eyes were on me, watching, waiting, worrying. I couldn’t leave now. I couldn’t do that to Brian and Dad.

Top Books