This is the scene where Kennedy outs her brother, Theo. This piece got written (for me) then put in, then taken out, then put back in (edited shorter) then removed, and well, then just left it to fragmented memories here and there, but you get the gist. I warred with this one a lot. I ultimately decided to leave it out, because I felt that this was better left for another story (wink, wink).
And that’s all I’m saying about that, because, spoilers.
I even debated NOT sharing this scene because I don’t want to ruin it for the next story, but after I mulled it over the past few weeks, I decided to give this to my readers. I think it gives a lot of insight into Kennedy’s headspace that night, why she did what she did, and how her sanity just frayed.
Fair warning, this one is…heavy.
I looked over to Ibrahim as he pulled around the large fountain in the cobblestone, circular driveway to my childhood home in Weybridge.
“This is where you grew up?” Ibrahim blinked several times looking at the sprawling estate.
“Unfortunately, yes.” I frowned looking at the opulent, French chateau home that had been in my father’s family for decades, now completely renovated and decorated by Elizabeth. She’d made sure of that as soon as she moved in, removing every memory of my mother, every piece of furniture she sat on. I may have only been ten years old when they married, but thankfully I had the wits to stash away the few personal keepsakes of Mum’s before they disappeared forever. “Trust me, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.”
“I should have worn a suit.” He grimaced as he turned off the engine, looking at the other guests filing in the door.
To me, he looked amazing, wearing a tight-fitting, burgundy mock-turtleneck. His snug, black trousers hugged his muscular legs. His dreads were pulled back into a ponytail, showing off his two gold hoop earrings that I thought were sexy as sin.
He was a beautiful man. The perfect mix of elegance and edge, brains and brawn. Just my taste.
“Ibrahim, you look dashing.” He could have worn the finest linens imported from Paris, and it still wouldn’t be good enough for Elizabeth. Hopefully, with Theo brining his new boyfriend, Emerson, for once, my stepmother wouldn’t be focused on me. It was the only reason I agreed to come, to support Theo as he came out.
Mummy was going to have a fit. Part of me was nervous, for Theo. Part of me was proud for him being so brave, and yes, a big part of me was ready to sit back with a drink in hand and watch the drama unfold.
I dug into my purse, pulling out two small bottles of vodka. “Here,” I passed one to Ibrahim. “A little pregame to thaw the frost.”
“You’re mad, Kennedy.” He laughed and we toasted quickly, both downing our shots. He breathed heavy as the liquor burned our chest. “But I like how you think, you little rebel.”
“And I like you,” I leaned across the car, planting a kiss on his full lips. He was the first man in a long time that I’d fancied enough to bring to such an event, and I was hoping he’d stick around. Although I did fear I how this evening would weigh on him. Ibrahim was a poetic peacemaker at heart, about to walk into a room full of vultures.
“Well, let’s crack on,” I said, grabbing the handle.
Hand in hand we walked up the marble steps and through the front door. Ibrahim’s jaw dropped open as we entered the large foyer, slathered in holly, garland and sparkling ornaments. One of the many Christmas trees stood floor-to-ceiling, probably twenty feet tall.
“Magnificent…” he whispered.
“Would you like me to check your coat, sir?” One of the staff greeted us.
“Yes…” He swallowed the lump in his throat as he shedded his coat. “Thank you.”
I grabbed his hand and walked him into the reception hall, which was just as ornately decorated. Dozens of flocked trees lined the perimeter with glittering white lights, large red ornaments, and golden bows. Fairly lights hung from every inch of the ceiling, as soft Christmas jazz played in the background. Everything was perfectly coordinated and absolutely spectacular.
A butler passed by with a tray full of champagne and I quickly grabbed us each one as Theo came flittering over. “Hello, sister,” he said, snagging his own flute. “Long time no see.” He winked and gave me a kiss on the cheek. I’d been living in his flat nearly a year and we still kept up this charade, coming separate to any gathering. If Elizabeth knew I was living with him, she’d have a fit, considering I was technically cut off, financially.
Pinky finger lifted he took a long sip. “You must be Ibrahim.” He extended his hand. “Nice to meet you, mate.”
“Pleasure to meet you as well,” my handsome date replied.
I glanced around the room for his partner, Emerson, who was nowhere to be seen. I’d seen photos of the bloke, much older than Theo, but that made sense for my brother.
“Ibrahim, would you mind grabbing me a plate?” I motioned to the buffet. “I’m famished.”
“Of course.” He nodded.
“Oh this will be fun,” Theo whispered in my ear. I turned to my brother, the gold in the center of his bright, green eyes swirled with mischief as he eyed Ibrahim’s arse. “He is delicious. Well done, sister.” His head tossed back in maniacal laughter.
“Where is Emerson?” I hissed.
Theo shrugged sipping his champagne. “Couldn’t make it.” Obviously, a lie.
You chicken-shit little prick.
“You look lovely tonight, sister,” he said, toying with my hair.
I swatted at his hand and growled. “Theo, we had a deal! It was the only reason I came. Elizabeth wouldn’t dare make a scene in front of her guests. She’ll have no choice but to put on a brave face. You finished uni last spring! You have a doctorate in music theory for fuck’s sake. It’s time to grow up and get a job!”
We stood there, arguing, nasty words being slung between the two of us until I saw Elizabeth weave her way over to Ibrahim.
Fucking hell. This was going to be a disaster.
I quickly downed my entire glass in one gulp and exchanged it for a second then elbowed my way through the crowd, hoping to save my date.
“And you are…” Elizabeth had already started in on him.
“Ibrahim Abioye.” He offered his hand. “I’m here with…”
“Me,” I said, snaking my arm around him. “This is my date, Ibrahim.” I shot Elizabeth a pointed glare that hopefully conveyed shut-your-bloody-trap.
Her brown eyes blinked several times and she plastered on a smile singed with acid. “Of course he is.” She lifted her chin. “Welcome.” Oh she was dying inside. Just as I suspected.
“Thank you for the hospitality.” He nodded with a slight bow. “You have a lovely home Ms. Murphy.”
“Lady, Elizabeth Murphy,” she corrected.
“My mistake.” He placed a hand across his chest.
I rolled my eyes. The hag only got that ridiculous title thanks to my dead father being a landowner. She used me to get to his money, then cut me off.
“And what is it you do, for a living, Ibrahim?”
“I teach history and government at the same secondary school as Kennedy.”
“Finally have a steady job now, do we? Still an aide, are you?” Elizabeth looked to me, cocking her head to the side.
“No. I finished uni.” No thanks to you. “I’m teaching orchestra full time now.” I squared my shoulders. And I’m a much better instructor than you ever were.
“Hmmph. Interesting.” Oh Elizabeth was seething inside at my minor success. “Well, enjoy your evening.” With a quick patronizing pat on his shoulder, she continued to work the room.
The evening wore on and several “guests” came over to talk with Ibrahim and I. I suspected Elizabeth kept sending them our way to discuss history and politics, to try and throw him off balance.
Ibrahim held his own very well, and stuck to his beliefs, but my entire life I’d listened to politics, and frankly, I was over it. So much arguing and nothing was ever accomplished. It all made my head spin. Finally, I couldn’t listen anymore. I turned and went to the bar to grab another drink. “Vodka, neat.” I strummed my fingers on the counter and tried not to dive too eagerly when the glass was placed in front of me.
“Had quite a few tonight, haven’t you?” Ibrahim appeared behind me as I sipped my drink.
“Can you blame me?” I motioned to the room.
He snorted and bobbed his head. “I think I’m going to call it an evening, Kennedy.”
“That sounds like a good plan.” Now that I knew Theo didn’t need me, I was more than ready to leave. I quickly swallowed several gulps. “I’ll go fetch our coats.”
“No. I’m going to call it a night.” He rubbed my shoulder. “I’ll pay for your cab.” He dug into his wallet.
I shook my head. “No, it’s fine, I can get a ride with Theo back to the city.” I swallowed hard. “Call you tomorrow?”
He frowned. “I think we both know this isn’t going to work out. I can’t put on fake pleasantries and hold my tongue. It will only cause problems in the future, and I’m not a man who cares for drama. Long-term, our families would never mesh.”
“Elizabeth is barely family,” I mumbled into my drink.
I should have never brought him. Elizabeth’s political status scared off the decent blokes, and the ones who didn’t care to impress were not that impressive to begin with.
“Add to it your drinking. Your stepmother said—”
“She said what?” I cut him off.
“Nothing I didn’t already suspect. It just seems like every time we’re together, a drink is in your hand.”
I nodded, staring into my glass. “Understood.”
He kissed me on the cheek. “I’ll see you at work Monday, Kennedy.”
Oh yes, working together after a breakup would be loads of fun.
And with that, he was gone.
I finished my drink and ordered another. I was already beyond pissed, may as well go for blackout, just to forget.
I stood in the shadows, watching as my stepmother called everyone to attention. Theo waltzed up and took the seat at the grand piano. “I’m so very proud to announce that my son, Theodore, has just finished university…” she droned on with his entire CV of accomplishments for quite some time “…and now, he is going to grace us with a performance.”
Rounds of applause came from the room and my brother beamed, with a slight nod and half-bow.
With a deep breath he placed his hands on the keys and began to play “Carol of the Bells.”
I loved him and hated him in that moment. The way that he so effortlessly was in his element. His ability to focus, like he’d forgotten the entire audience was watching him. He was fucking brilliant.
As the song played I looked above the mantle to our family portrait. It used to be me, Mum and Dad, which Elizabeth immediately replaced with an image of Dad, herself, myself at ten, and a young, smiling, adorable little Theo front and center.
It was as if my mom never wandered these halls. Erased from existence.
I tried not to think too much about what my life would be like had she lived, because it would send me spiraling. Unfortunately with the drinks coursing through my system and the high emotion of the evening, it was all transporting me to my dark pit of despair.
I closed my eyes and imagined a very different Christmas Eve. Mum never was one for fancy soirees. Christmas to her, was about the family. She’d of given the staff a few days off and cooked for us herself. Dad of course would still be alive, reading me The Night Before Christmas by the fire. He only started drinking heavily to numb the pain of her illness, and then her loss.
Ding-dong, ding-dong. My brother’s deft fingers played the melody flawlessly.
But then there was Theo. If mom hadn’t died, then I wouldn’t have him. Maybe I’d still have a little brother, or sister, or both. If she wouldn’t have gotten ill, surely, they would have had more children.
Ding-dong, ding-dong. He was mixing up the composition, adding in a bit of the Harry Potter theme. It was…perfection.
Yes Theo, we all know you’re brilliant.
Swaying to the music, I swallowed more of my drink as the room spun around me.
“Maybe it’s time to stop the drinks, Kennedy.” Elizabeth stopped me from spinning and pulled me to the side.
“You’re not my mother.” I chuckled, taking a long gulp.
“Like father, like daughter.” She scoffed. “It’s ruined you, just like it ruined him.”
I growled under my breath. Speaking of fathers and being ruined…that is when I noticed Father Wilson was in attendance. The bastard. He always fancied Theo far too much. I had a hunch he got my brother all twisted in the head, making Theo forget the fact he’d liked boys far before Father Wilson did well, whatever it was I suspected he did to my little brother.
She sighed. “Where did your friend Abraham go?”
“Ibrahim,” I corrected. I took another gulp. “He’s gone.” You made sure of that.
“Can you fault him? You’re a mess, Kennedy.” She pulled the cup from my hand. “If you could just put down the drinks and get your life right, you’d find someone of good status.” She passed my empty cup to a waiter passing by. “Look at your brother.” She beamed at her little boy. “Theo has always made the right choices. Worked hard in school. Went to uni, stayed focused on his studies and far away from women until the time was right. Now he’s found Emerson,” she said right as my brother finished up. “I only hope she’s good enough for him.”
I laughed like a woman possessed. So loud, in fact, that people turned and stared.
“Kennedy!” Elizabeth hissed.
I clutched my belly, unable to contain my giggles as the room spun around me. “You’re fucking delusional.”
She blinked, utterly confused.
“Emerson. Is. A. Bloke.”
Elizabeth’s jaw flopped open and she shook her head.
“Look at him!” I pointed to my brother as he stood from the piano wearing his prissy little, red and black, paisley, sport coat, that no straight man could ever pull off. “Theo. Is. Gay.”
Theo’s green eyes widened as he paled. “Kennedy…no…” Tears rolled down his cheeks. “Please stop…” he begged.
But no, my drunken mouth wouldn’t close. “You’ve always been blind to it.” My last thread, frayed. I was delirious with rage, laughing like a madwoman so much, I could barely catch air. “You sent him to an all boys Catholic school! Do you have any idea what really happened there? Tell her, Theo!” Tears rolled down my cheeks as gasps came from the crowd. “Your perfect little angel told me every sordid detail! Every fondle under the desk. Every fellato in the coat closet!” I screamed from the bottom of my lungs. “You didn’t protect him from girls! You let him loose in the candy store!”
Elizabeth snapped her fingers. “Get her out of here!” She hissed at her staff, her minions.
“Now, he just wants to be himself, happy with another bloke, and he’s too fucking twisted in his head due to his mommy issues to even accept himself for the beautiful gay man he is!” Two arms grabbed me, dragging me out of the room kicking and screaming like a toddler having a tantrum. “So frightened he’ll disappoint you! Terrified he’ll be like me, cast out, discarded, with nowhere to turn, no safety net, not a soul in the world who cares.”