As I’m sure most of you have realized, I skipped out on Snippet Saturday. Truthfully, there hasn’t been much writing this week due to various real life issues and other things I’ve put on the back burner for AHW6. However, I didn’t want to leave you all with nothing after I’d promised to do my best and keep this up, so decided to give you a snippet from yesteryear, a little clue into what used to be the dynamics of the Hamilton household. Hope it makes up for a snippet-less day, enjoy!
MY BROTHER’S KEEPER
Jeremiah had always loved the boathouse.
Family trips to the palatial Hamptons estate were a rare occurrence in his life, but the splendor of his family home was wasted because, for the most part, Jeremiah wasn’t allowed to touch anything. His father had instilled that very early on; both Jeremiah and his older brother Lucas were punished for even moving the smallest of items. The brothers had learned early on to fear their father and did as they were told, knowing full well even at a young age what the consequences would be if they didn’t obey.
But for all his insistence that the house itself stay perfect, Rufus Hamilton didn’t seem to care about the boathouse.
The building had always been old, the wood siding and deck shrunken and warped by years of coastal living and sun. It creaked and shook when you ran across it, feeling for all the world like it was going to collapse at any minute. Jeremiah loved it. There were numerous places to hide or ways to use the old building as a fort, battleground, or anything else in his imagination. On the rare instances they visited the estate, he preferred to play out there with his older brother, leaving the big house to the adults.
There was an open area above the small living quarters on the top floor. Derelict canoes from long before Jeremiah’s time lay across the slats, none of which looked seaworthy. Down in the water below, Rufus kept a huge yacht which he used to entertain guests and potential investors, but it was the canoes that held the youngest Hamilton’s fascination. His young mind could imagine they went through countless journeys, battling turbulent waters to carry brave men to untold adventures.
So it wasn’t a huge surprise when, on Jeremiah’s seventh birthday, Lucas came into the boathouse to see his baby brother giggling from the rafters, crawling across one thick beam toward a green canoe. “What are you doing,” his older brother hissed, looking all about for adults.
Jeremiah ignored him. He already knew where everyone else was. His mother was tanning down on the beach and his father was inside the house, locked away in his office. The coast was clear, but he didn’t feel like telling Lucas that. Making him sweat was more fun, especially since his older brother regularly played pranks of his own.
“Remi, get down! What if dad sees you up there?”
The element of fear in his brother’s voice and almost made Jeremiah stop his undertaking, but the canoe was literally within reach. He hadn’t realized until he got up to the rafters that the upright canoe wasn’t merely sitting atop the rafters but instead hanging from hooks on the ceiling. The straps holding it up looked old, but the whole contraption looked sturdy enough to Jeremiah’s young eye. Grabbing the edge of the long boat, Jeremiah stepped gingerly into the green canoe, sitting down on the ancient plank bench near the center. Layer upon layer of dust billowed around him when he moved, but the thrill he got peering down at his brother was enough reason to think this was a great idea. He blew a raspberry at his brother, who seemed to finally be finding his sense of adventure again.
“Bet you’ve never been this high off the ground,” he crowed down to Lucas. In actuality, the distance scared Jeremiah; he kept a firm hold on the canoe, which swayed uneasily beneath him. The wood roof above creaked and groaned, leaving Jeremiah on edge and spoiling some of his triumph.
Lucas, however, seemed suitably impressed. “Yeah, because I’m not a stupid dork.” His words held no bite though, and he circled the small apartment. “How’d you get up there anyway?”
“You figure it out, butthead.” It was a rare treat for Jeremiah to watch his older brother fumble around. Usually, the older boy had an advantage of one sort or another, and was quick to lord it over his younger brother. Lucas was the only one he really cared to play with, even though he usually lost; despite being more than three years apart in age, they were close to the same height and weight. Still, the older boy usually managed to get the best of his gullible younger brother; Lucas didn’t play fair, a concept that Jeremiah’s young mind was only starting to understand.
Gripping the sides of the wobbly boat, Jeremiah leaned over to see what else was up there. Beside him, resting on the slats, were two faded oars that seemed to match the canoe’s colors. Moving over to one side of the bench, Jeremiah reached down to pick up one of the oars. They were just out of reach, and he had to hang out of the boat to go those last few inches.
“Remi, what are you–”
A loud crack came from above, following by the sound of splintering wood. Jeremiah launched himself back into the canoe, making it sway from one side to the next, and that was enough for the old ceiling boards to finally give way. The strap holding the front of the canoe tore free from the roof, sending the watercraft crashing down onto the rafters, before lurching sideways. Jeremiah barely missed having his hand crushed beneath the boat as he was dumped sideways, his shoulder striking the wood slat roof. The back strap held, tilting the canoe up at an angle, and the boat slid forward through the widely spaced beams, taking Jeremiah with it.
What happened next was too much of a blur for Jeremiah to remember, but the jolt from the wood ship hitting the ground propelled the young boy forward to lie face down in the long boat. There was a crash and the sound of glass breaking, then the canoe listed sideways, spilling out its sole human occupant. The sudden silence was deafening, but all Jeremiah could think about was how much his ribs and head hurt.
“Hey, you okay?” Lucas pulled his brother away from the canoe, laying him out on the slat floor and shaking one shoulder. “Remi?”
Jeremiah groaned, rolling over onto the side of his body that didn’t hurt, then sat up. “What happened?” he mumbled, the room fuzzy.
“We gotta go. You broke the glass coffee table and put a big dent in the wall. Dad’s going to be pissed when he finds out.” Lucas tugged at Jeremiah’s arm desperately. “C’mon Remi, we gotta…”
Footsteps tampend outside the door, shaking the floor. Both boys turned fearful eyes to see their mother slam open the door, staring at the scene in horror. She still wore her bikini and wide-brimmed hat from sunning herself down by the water. “What did you boys do?” she asked faintly.
They looked at one another, then back at their mother, both too stunned to answer. Lucas usually had a ready answer for these situations, but he’d been caught unprepared as well. Georgia stared at them, then darted a look back at the house. “Quick,” she urged, moving across the room and hauling Jeremiah to his feet. “You need to get out of here before your father comes.”
Jeremiah tried to walk but the world spun and he collapsed in his mother’s grip. Georgia looked frantically at Lucas. “Tell me what happened,” she demanded. “Now!”
“Remi wanted to ride in the canoes. They fell down with him inside.”
Georgia’s hands trembled around Jeremiah as she hauled him to his feet. “Stupid, stupid,” she muttered, long fingernails biting into the flesh of his arm. The woman seemed more interested in running than punishing them however; she moved quickly to the stairs and down to the lower level. “What are we going to do?” she muttered to herself. “Your father’s going to want to punish somebody for this.”
“Over here.” Lucas pulled his mother toward the back of the boathouse, then pulled open a ratty door. Darkness lay beyond, and all three of them peered into the gloom uncertainly. Lucas went back behind the stairs and rummaged through some cabinets until he found a flashlight. “Take him to the house.”
Confusion lit in Georgia’s eyes, and Jeremiah looked between the two of them. “What is that?” he asked in a groggy voice, nodding his head toward the passageway.
“It’s a secret passageway, leading up to the house. I found it a long time ago, that’s how I’ve always beat you down here.” Lucas pushed his mother and brother toward the dark entryway.
“I’m not going in there.” Revulsion tinged Georgia’s words. She took the flashlight from Lucas’ hands and shone it into the gloom. “Ugh,” she groaned as the beam highlighted the grimy walls, “that’s going to leave me muddy from head to…”
Heavy footsteps came from above them, then the door crashed open. “What the fuck,” came a familiar male voice, and all three people downstairs cringed in varying shades of fear.
“Go!” Lucas whispered, pushing his mother again, and this time Georgia didn’t hesitate. “It leads to the kitchen pantry.”
Jeremiah looked at his brother. Lucas’ face was white as a sheet, sweat already forming across his pale brow. An inkling of what his brother was doing began to form in Jeremiah’s young mind, but Georgia hustled him into the darkness as Lucas shut the door. “Get him to the house,” he told his mother, as if he were the adult and not her. “I’ll take care of father.” Then he shut the door, and darkness swallowed them whole. Pinpricks of light came from between the slats of the old door, and Rufus’ cursing echoed through the small chamber.
Georgia didn’t move a muscle and for a long time Jeremiah followed her example, but when he heard his brother cry out he struggled to get free of his mother.
“I should have known it was you.” Rufus’ voice came through the door as if he were just outside. “So you’re the one who destroyed the entire goddamn room?”
Both boys knew their father only cursed when he was really angry, and Jeremiah quailed in his mother’s arms at the sound.
“Leave me alone,” came Lucas’ muffled reply, then the sound of flesh striking flesh. Jeremiah tried to pull himself out of his mother’s arms, and she clapped a hand over his mouth before he could shout his brother’s name.
“I’ll teach you how to speak to your elders, you little shit.”
Jeremiah howled into his mother’s hand, his screams drowned out by Lucas’ cries beyond the door. Jeremiah knew the sound of leather on flesh; the belt was Rufus’ favorite mode of punishment, sometimes even using the buckle. Above him, he could hear his mother quiet sobbing as she moved blindly backwards, keeping a firm grip on the struggling boy as they made their way back to the house. When at least the muffled cries ceased, whether through distance or the end of punishment, Jeremiah sagged in his mother’s arms and let her drag him the rest of the way to the house.
Happy birthday, Jeremiah Hamilton.