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Based:A Stepbrother Romance(6)

By:B. B. Hamel

I laughed. “Like I said, it’s what I do, Brie baby.”

“Quit calling me that.”

“Why? Anyway, what do you care if I jump?”

She shook her head, struggling for a reason. I could tell she was getting frustrated, and I loved it. She was exactly the sort of person that would admonish me for jumping again; she had probably never taken a risk in her entire life. Aubrie was daddy’s little princess, the straight-A, academic golden child. Full ride to Notre Dame plus great grades in whatever bio-related program she was going through. It was apparently some brain-drain thing for the best of the best. It was probably pretty easy for her to look down on what I did, but she would never understand the feeling I got as my body first shifted from solid ground to nothing and the air roared all around me.

It was like a cocoon of screaming freedom. Or something like that.

“I guess I don’t care. It’s just stupid.”

“Easy for you to say, nerd. Everyone is stupid compared to you.”

She looked confused. “I’m not sure if I should be insulted or not.”

I laughed again and slowly stood up, carefully keeping the pain off my face. “Both, probably,” I said.

She watched silently as I hobbled over to the refrigerator, got out the milk, and poured myself a bowl of cereal. I hobbled back to my spot and hopped back up onto the stool. The last thing I wanted was for Brie to see me in pain, but there was no helping that. My PT may have been going well, but I was still at least another few months from walking completely normally again.

“Does it hurt?” she asked, breaking the silence.

I shook my head. Typical Brie, saying exactly what she was thinking.

“Sometimes. I can handle it, though.”

I took a bite of my cereal while she watched me. It felt weird sitting at the table with her after all those years. Though we hadn’t exactly spent a lot of time together before my mom and her dad found each other, we had gotten pretty close very fast. And then that night changed everything, or at least made it obvious what was happening.

“What do the doctors say?”

“They say a lot of stuff.”

“But, about your recovery?”

I stopped eating and looked at her. “What’s with all the questions?”

“I’m curious, I guess.”

“Well, don’t be. I’m fine.”

She looked surprised, and I instantly regretted the harsh tone. I knew she was just trying to engage with me, maybe even show a little concern in her own way, but I hated pity. I hated pity more than anything, which was why the wheelchair was so terrible. And the last person I wanted any pity from was Aubrie.

Before I could apologize, maybe cover my shitty reaction by talking about the PT, my mom made her typical, perfectly-timed entrance.

“Good morning, children,” she practically sang as she took a yogurt from the refrigerator and leaned up against the counter.

“Good morning, Jules.”

I nodded to her. “Mother.”

“And what are you two doing today?”

“The usual,” I said before Aubrie could chime in. “Exercising my crippled legs while some dudes stick a camera in my face.”

Mom smiled uncertainly, and I felt bad. I knew she didn’t get sarcasm and I should probably lay off. What the hell is with me this morning? I thought to myself. It was probably just the pain rearing its ugly head.

“Well, that’s nice, Lincoln,” she said.

Aubrie gave me a look. “He’s pretty cranky this morning,” she said.

I laughed. “Cranky? I’m practically chipper.”

“When are the cameras arriving?” Mom asked, cutting off what was bound to be an incredibly witty retort from Aubrie.

I looked at her. “About forty minutes or so.”

“Better get on my face.”

Aubrie laughed and I grinned. Mom wasn’t kidding one bit, but she gave us a sheepish smile anyway.

“By the way,” Mom continued, “about that charity thing.”

I glanced at Aubrie, assuming she knew what was going on.

“Yeah, about that,” Aubrie said.

“I have a task for you in mind, but I need to clear up a few details first. Do you mind just hanging around?”

I raised an eyebrow. Aubrie was helping my mother with her hundreds of different charity projects? That could be interesting.

“Okay, sure. Whatever you need.”

“Thanks so much, dear.”

“By the way, where’s Dad?”

Mom paused, which was odd. I had been wondering the same thing, but I knew better than to ask.

“Your father is in L.A. working on a new script.”

“Oh, okay. When’s he getting back home?”

“Soon. Very soon, I think.”