Part 5 in my Christmas blog story set on Christmas Eve night, around one building, twelve characters, and six relationships - some lovers, some friends, and some family.
Thank you to everyone who read the first four parts Santa Baby, Red, Time and I'd Say Yes.
"Mark. Just stop." Evan Clarke had had enough. He had dragged the case down two floors of stairs and that was it. Dropping the handle of the suitcase, he stopped and looked down at his brother. "This is stupid."
"Stupid?" Mark halted and spun around. "Thanks a lot." He shook his head and continued down the stairs.
"Mark. I didn't mean… Mark," he called, abandoning the suitcase as he started after him. "Just stop for a moment." With a frustrated grunt, he swapped the lamps he carried to his other hand and held onto the railing, following it as he looped downward in pursuit. "Mark."
"What?" Mark said and stopped abruptly.
Surprised, Evan missed his footing and tripped awkwardly down a handful of steps, crashing into the back of his brother. "Crap," he said as he held onto his brother with both hands and listened to the sound of broken glass as the lamps bounced downward, landing on the next floor.
"You okay?" Mark asked and tried to free himself from Evan's hold.
"Just great," Evan said and straightened himself up. "Mom's gonna be pissed." He eyed the twisted lampshades. They had been a gift when he moved into the apartment last year form his parents. As ugly as they were, he didn't have the heart to get rid of them, and so had hidden them away in the guest bedroom, or as it had been for the last three months, Mark's room.
"Mom? They're my lamps," he insisted.
Evan went to correct him but changed his mind. They had argued plenty already tonight without a misunderstanding about two lamps Evan knew they both equally hated. "Come back upstairs. I'll call the front desk and get someone to come and clear the mess."
Shaking his head, Mark descended the handful of stairs. Sadness seemed to descend over him as he stared down at the broken lamps.
"Where will you go? It's Christmas Eve," Evan asked as he stepped down behind his brother. He didn't know what to say anymore. His words always seemed to get twisted into something they weren't meant to be.
Mark crouched down beside the lamp and gently pushed the broken glass of the bulb in circles across the floor. "Clara's invited me to her and Steve's. I can crash on the couch a couple of nights until I figure out what to do."
Why was Mark so stubborn? "You don't have to go." He really didn't.
"You heard, Mom." Mark glanced over his shoulder and met Evan's eyes. "It's easier if I go."
When did Mark start paying attention to what their mother said? "So, what?" Evan shrugged. "It's my home, not hers."
"Maybe she's right." His blue eyes held tears and he turned away from Evan. "I'm useless."
Evan closed his eyes. Sometimes he couldn't believe they had the same mother, and he hated how she would talk down to Mark. "You're not. You've just had some bad luck." In the last year, Mark had lost his girlfriend, his job, his car, and his apartment.
"Yeah, twenty-six years of it."
He supposed Mark was right. There was always something going wrong for him. Evan smiled to himself as he remembered the T-shirt he had bought Mark last month for his birthday, 'Shit happens' printed across its front. "Look, forget about Mom. I want you here." He really did. He liked to come home to someone he could relax, talk about sport, and play crappy video games with. They had always been close and he didn't plan on letting anybody come between them, especially not their mother. He wanted to be the big brother Mark needed.
Crouching down beside Mark, he rested his hand on Mark's shoulder and smiled. "So, what do you say?"