Chapter Eight: Aretha

It’s 3:45 in the morning and I know it is a bad sign Taylor isn’t home. Isaac lies asleep on his bed- his guitar on his lap and a page of lyrics on his chest. I can’t sleep though. I guess I’ve always been the worrier in the family. I’ve always felt like the father figure who has to protect my brothers- even though I’m the youngest. I peel myself off Isaac’s bed and drag myself down the hallway to my room, searching around in the darkness for my cell phone. I run my hand over my messy desk until I feel it underneath my fingers. I open it up and squint at the piercing light burning my eyes. No new messages.

I go to my contacts list and click on Taylor’s name- waiting for it to ring.

“You’ve reached Tay’s cell. If you don’t know me personally savor the sound of my voice, hang up the phone, and destroy my phone number. I’ll hold you to that too. Otherwise- leave a message.” I roll my eyes at this arrogant voice mail and flip the phone shut. He’s just lucky very few fans have ever called him. Surprisingly, he’s only had to change his number once. I’ve never had to but that’s because I rarely use my phone. I’m not really a phone person.

I wander back down the hallway to Isaac’s room. He is in the exact same position- unmoved. I nudge him with my knee. “Ike, get up.” I whisper to him.

He stirs but does not open his eyes.

“Isaac, get up. Seriously.”

Finally he opens his eyes and rubs them. “What the hell, Zac. What?”

“Tay’s not home yet. It’s almost four in the morning.”

“So? Tay always stays out late. Go to bed…” He closes his eyes again.

“Yeah but he said he would be home at two o clock! And he usually is home when he says. He has a mind to be on time because he thinks I’ll tell dad if he isn’t.”

Isaac doesn’t seem to care. I slam my knee into him harder. “Isaac! Seriously!”

“Alright!” he yells at me. I jump a bit- shocked by the loudness of his voice. He gets up and looks around the room, running his fingers through his hair. He finds a pair of sandals and steps into them.

“Where is he?” He asks me.

“I don’t know…some party.”

“Jesus Christ, Zac!” He shakes his head in frustration, “You don’t even know?”

“He didn’t say!”

“So what do you expect us to do about it? Send the police out looking for him? Find our Taylor radar and see if it’s working properly today?”

I look at him. I feel stupid. I guess I have no plan at all. I think for a moment about how to find Tay. “Hold on a sec,” I tell him.

I make my way in the darkness to Taylor’s room. A small night-light shines from a plug in the hallway guiding my way. Making my way to his computer, I assure myself invading Taylor’s privacy in these circumstances is acceptable. I wiggle the mouse on his computer to get rid of the screen saver. His screen pops up but I have to enter a password to log back onto his computer.

Great…I think carefully about what Taylor’s password usually is for thing. I try “jagger”. He’s a big Rolling Stones fan. That isn’t it. I look around his room and spy his Aretha Franklin poster. Taylor has a very strange (and mildly creepy) obsession with Aretha. I type in “Aretha” and it is confirmed. I grin and shake my head at my brother. Aretha!? Really Taylor…Can’t you at least pretend not to be such a loser?

I look at his buddy list. His away message reads, “Partying with Connor. Ring me.” I was holding out on his away message revealing his location.

I look around his room and spot his journal on his dresser. I know I shouldn’t. It’s not right. That is a house rule we all abide by. How would I feel if someone completely invaded my private thoughts? Desperate times call for desperate measures…I remind myself- snatching his leather bound notebook off of his shelf and opening it to the last page.

“I’m only going to read the final page…” I quietly remind myself. Having all of my brother’s thoughts in my hand is tempting me to read more- and opening the bookis even more tempting. But I am really only going to read his final entry.


Dear Leather Therapist Of Mine,

Mom and dad pay 100 dollars a week for me to go to therapy and I paid 40 dollars for this journal total. And you know where I feel I am getting the best therapy? Good things come in small packages right? That is what Isaac likes to remind himself…;)

I chuckle. Leave it to Taylor to make cracks at Isaac while he isn’t around.

Today was an especially shitty day. This morning Mom made me help her clean out the attic. At first it wasn’t so bad. It was actually kind of nice to talk to Mom. We were catching up on everything and listening to Eric Clapton together. But then Mom started to ask about it. I didn’t want to talk about it! I have to think about it enough. When I’m just trying to enjoy my time with Eric Clapton I don’t want to ruin my mood. But she kept prying despite my very obvious annoyance. She doesn’t know when to stop. In the end I threw my hands up, told her to clean the attic herself, and walked off for a cigarette where she couldn’t see me.

I roll my eyes at his nasty habit. Cause a cigarette fixes everything Taylor. Nicotine- world’s most dangerous Band-Aid.

Then Jessie was giving me a hard time about not taking my anti-depressants.

I freeze in my spot. I feel a funny feeling run through my body. Taylor is on anti-depressants too? Because of Anna? I had no clue he was so upset…

Jessica- if I wanted someone to sit around and nag me I would have stayed in the Attic with mom. I spent the rest of the afternoon laying around in my room all day trying to resist the bag of weed in my backpack. I probably wouldn’t have been able to if I wasn’t fully aware that I had little siblings in the house that I love. I was just counting down the hours until I could go out and party- pretend it’s all gone for one night- step out of reality and into a fabricated, carefree escape. It’s 9 and I’m going to shower and get ready. Anna will be there tonight. A bunch of people are going to Justin O’Leary’s house. I haven’t seen her in a week (since we’re taking “a break”) and I need to do my best to seduce her. Haha.


The Seducer

A feeling of guilt runs through me. I have just totally violated Taylor’s privacy. I feel dirty about it and close the journal quickly, placing it where I found it. I don’t want to get caught. A very small part of me wants to get caught actually. Then I wouldn’t feel so guilt-ridden. But Taylor would kill me and I know it.

I walk back to Isaac and he’s standing there impatiently with his keys in his hand. “What took you so long?”

“I was finding out where Tay went. Justin O’Leary’s house.”

“Doesn’t he live near Yale Avenue?”

I shrug. I don’t even know this Justin O’Leary character.

“Yeah, he lives near Yale…near that old hot dog stand that they took down…you know the one where we used to get to go to after the doctors…” Isaac rambles.

Together we hurry down the stairs.


We pull into Justin’s driveway at 4:09. We get out of the car and walk over to the front door. Justin is lucky he lives on the end of the road near hardly any other houses- otherwise the Tulsa cops would have been called hours ago I’m sure. The music is loud and it seems like every light in the house is on.

I knock on the front door- an action that receives a classic “are you stupid?” look from Isaac- who just pushes the door open. I look out at the cars parked on the lawn. I frantically search for Taylor’s 4-runner. I spot it and a feeling of relief sweeps over me. Thank God. I close the door behind me and follow Isaac through the people. There seem to be something like 30 halfway naked bodies in the room. The room is smoky. Some people lean against the corners puffing intoxicating cigarettes while others are passing around what seems to be pot. I’m pathetic…but I’m never around drugs.

Isaac and I search for Taylor. Jamie Mitchell walks over to Ike and pats him on the back, “Hey Ike,” he says to him. “You looking for your brother?”

Ike nods and continues looking around the room.

“Last I saw him he was upstairs having sex with his girlfriend.” Jamie smirks and it bothers me that he is thinking about my brother having sex. “But she took off a couple hours ago and then Taylor came down and drank a whooooole lot. A whole, whole lot. I couldn’t even tell you how much of a whole lot it was.”

Isaac nods, “Thanks Jamie. I’ll look for him.”

Isaac and I are both thinking the same thing. He had problems with Anna and now he’s drinking them away.

We wander around the living room. A lot of people acknowledge Isaac. Isaac used to hang out with some of these people- especially when they were sober- occasionally when they partied. A couple people say hi to me but I don’t recognize them. They just know I’m Tay’s brother. We’re still searching for Taylor.

I glance out the window and see him on the back deck. He is laying on the picnic table on his back shirtless and smoking a cigarette. A couple people are seated around him talking. A couple people are sleeping (or passed out- one or the other) in chairs near by.

I grab Ike’s shirt and nod my head in Tay’s direction. We pull open the sliding door to outside and step outside. Taylor doesn’t notice. He is concentrating on blowing smoke into the air- looking at the contrast of the white nicotine puff against the black sky.

One of the girls sitting on one of the benches on the picnic table looks at me and then looks worriedly at Taylor.

“Uh Tay, isn’t that your brother?” She says to him.

Taylor sits up quickly and locks eyes with me. He is staring deeply into me. He stops to look at Isaac. “What the fuck are you doing here?”

“What? Suddenly we can’t be around you in public?” Isaac says, taking the role of the bold one. He knows I need him to. I can never seem to work up a lot of courage.

“You know what I mean. Why are you here?”

“Why are YOU?” Isaac snaps back at him, stepping closer to the picnic table.

“Because I was drunk and didn’t want to drive home!” He glares at me. Maybe he is smarter than I thought.

“So you should have called or answered your cell phone or gotten a ride Taylor!”

“I’m an adult Isaac! Leave me alone! Let me live my own damn life without you having to chase me around like the father I never had.”

Taylor takes himself by surprise when he says this. The fact that our father was a workaholic when we were growing up is something we never speak of. We all stand frozen by the statement.

“You’re an adult when you start acting like an adult.”

“What sitcom did you get that from?” Taylor barks, sucking in on his cigarette and blowing smoke in Isaac’s direction.

Isaac puts his hands on his hips and glares at him, waiting.

“Taylor had a really rough night,” one of the girls speaks up.

“Taylor always has a really hard night,” Isaac says. Isaac is implying that he has his own pity parties all the time. And this evening I would have agreed when I screamed at Taylor before he left. But after reading his journal about the anti-depressants I am starting to notice the hurt in Taylor’s eyes.

To everyone else he seems angry. His once brilliant sparkling blue eyes have been replaced by an icy, squinted stare. His eyes are still brilliant- they always will be. It’s something I’m reminded of everyday when I look at pictures of the three of us- Isaac and I with our plain brown eyes and Taylor with eyes bluer than the bluest sky. But the icy stare isn’t so cold when you really look at it. It melts. He’s sad.

“Let’s go,” Isaac says, “We’ll pick up your car in the morning.”

Taylor stands there debating what to do. He knows he could keep fighting it- but in the end when Isaac wants to be the demanding father figure he always succeeds. Besides, it’s two against one. I cannot seem to even open my mouth to speak though.

Taylor looks back at his friends and holds out a peace sign with his fingers, turning and stomping past Isaac and I. He stumbles through the back door.

Everyone says goodbye to him and we follow him inside. We watch him go upstairs and wait for him at the bottom. He returns with his belt and his shirt, pulling it on as he walks carefully down the stairs. He’s careful not to burn his shirt on his cigarette. Once again he storms past us and towards the front door.

One kid calls out to him, “Tay! You leaving?”

Taylor stops and turns to him, “Yeah. Justin, is it okay if I leave my car here? I’ll get in the morning.”

“I don’t know man…My parents are going to be home tomorrow morning. I’m picking them up at the airport at 9. I want this place cleared out by then.”

Taylor takes a drag of his cigarette and just stands there blankly.

Isaac turns to this Justin kid, “We’ll take it tonight. Don’t worry about it.”

Taylor examines his face and waves to Justin. He continues clomping towards the front door.

As he pulls the door open a girl calls out to him, “You’re leaving Taylor? Why?”

“Yeah, my brothers decided tonight was asshole night so I gotta go.”

Isaac shoves by him and steps outside. “You decided that when you stormed out on Zac earlier…” he mutters.

Taylor waves to the girl sloppily and storms out after Isaac. I follow him.

“You know what? Shut up Isaac! What happened between Zac and me doesn’t have to do with you.”

“When he comes up into my room upset it does have to do with me.”

I stand there dumbly. They’re talking about me like I’m not even there.

“Give me your keys,” Isaac says, putting his palm out.

“What for!” Taylor is more defensive than usual. Something must have really happened with Anna.

“So Zac can drive your car home!”

“I don’t trust him with my car…” Taylor mutters, opening Ike’s passenger side door.

“Taylor just stop being a dick and give Zac your keys,” Isaac demands, walking over to him.

Taylor raises an eyebrow at him, takes a drag from his very small cigarette, and puts it out on the roof of Isaac’s BMW. You can see he finds himself very hilarious.

Isaac smacks Taylor in the back of the head. “You asshole…” Ike mutters.

Surprisingly Taylor doesn’t lose his temper. He just stands there and chuckles- clearly quite drunk. His laughing grows louder as he looks harder at the cigarette on top of Isaac’s car. Before long Taylor is standing there with his hands between his legs trying not to pee from laughing so hard.

Isaac stares at him and then glances at me. “I guess it’s better than…being mad?”

I smile faintly, amused by Taylor’s antics. Taylor cups the cigarette into his hands and tosses it onto the grass, pointing to it and grinning.

Isaac shakes his head, “Gimme your keys,” he says and reaches into Taylor’s pocket.

Taylor’s grin disappears and he jumps, shoving Isaac as hard as he can. “Get away from me…Sick bastard…” Taylor yells. Taylor, always the drama queen and always ready to make anyone feel stupid.

Isaac catches his balance and frowns at him. “What? Just gimme your keys.”

Taylor takes his keys from his pocket and tosses them at Ike. Ike then tosses them to me.

Taylor closes Ike’s door and comes over to me. “I’ll ride with Zac to make sure he takes care of my car.”

I pray Isaac doesn’t fight him on it. Who cares where Taylor rides? Lets just go home. I walk over to this car and get in the driver’s seat. Taylor follows, without Isaac saying a word, and gets in next to me.

His vanilla, yellow tree hangs from the rearview mirror- swaying side to side when I pull off the lawn, over the curb, and onto the pavement. Taylor rests his head against the glass window, rubbing his forehead after we go over a couple bumps.

“Why did you guys come to get me?” He frowns at me.

I shrug, “We were worried.”

“Well I always party. And I’m always okay. Don’t come after me in the future.”

I glance at him for a second before looking back at the road, being careful not to slam into the back of Isaac’s car.

“I was just scared you were in a fiery car wreck on the side of the road,” I say quietly to him. And that is the truth. Isaac is the father figure in the family in the sense that he lays down the rules for all us siblings, does his best to keep us out of trouble, and gives us guidance when we need it. I do all the worrying for him.

I can feel Taylor’s eyes on me. He is studying me as I drive- probably trying to make sure I don’t crash his “baby”. He loves this car.

“Thanks for caring…” He says quietly, leaning his head back against the glass and looking out. I know it’s genuine. These days it’s rare that Taylor says a thank you that isn’t sarcastic. But I can feel that he means it.

“You’re welcome,” I whisper- barely making a sound. I know he hears me.


Chapter Nine