Dave Campbell's life was good. He was 25, married, and had a good job that his father-in-law had set him up with after the wedding. He had left work early this Friday, bought some flowers, and headed home. He wanted to surprise Sharon, his wife.
It turned out he certainly did! When he walked in the front door, he found his boss's boss balls deep in his wife. He stood stock still for a second and watched until they realized someone was there. Sharon looked up at him and laughed. "This is how real men do it, Dave. Get out until we're finished!"
The next few days passed in a blur for him. He had one bank account she didn't know about, but everything else was taken from him. Her attorney gave him an agreement in which he got nothing and she got everything. He signed it. He just didn't care anymore. He just wanted it to go away.
He moved to a small dump of a one-bedroom apartment and lived off of his last account, as his ex-father-in-law had fired him. He sat on the sofa and watched tv or played games. He was as low as he'd ever been.
One day there was a knock at the door. He ignored it. Whoever it was continued until he was finally aggravated enough to answer it. He jerked it open and found his sister Elena looking at him.
She was 18, had recently graduated high school, and was a cute lithe redhead. She stared at him for a second, then finally spoke. "Mom said she thought this divorce was going to be hard on you, but… damn Dave! What the fuck?"
"Sorry Els, just not really in the mood to talk, ok?" He started to shut the door and she just pushed him back and walked in.
"Sorry, that's not gonna work. You… Damn… You need some help, Dave. This place is a wreck and so are you. What the hell, Dave? First things first, do you have any clean clothes?"
Dave looked down at his stained t-shirt and pajama pants. "I dunno."
Elena pushed past him and went to his bedroom, opening drawers and closets until she found enough clean clothes for him to wear. "Put this on AFTER YOUR SHOWER! You stink. We are starting there, but… Just… Dave, we all care about you. I won't let you go down like this, 'kay?"
Dave silently went to get a shower, spending a fair amount of time trying to get clean. Elena started picking up trash, mostly fast-food wrappers and pizza boxes, from the living room. She had the dishes organized in the sink ready to wash when he finally came out of the bathroom, hair combed and teeth brushed. She gave him a quick appraising look, then spun around. "Dave, how can you live like this? It's… gross. I thought I was gonna come take you out for lunch, but… there's a lot to do here." She sighed and put her hand on her face. "How did we not know what was going on? How… Dave, we're family. You have to talk to me! What's going on?"
"Els… it's hard. I just don't care anymore, I guess. She took everything. I… I don't really know what to say."
"Dave… why are you giving Sharon this power over you? You know there are other people who care… hell, you should care about you!"
Dave never saw it coming, but he felt his face sting and saw the furious look on her face. "Dave… Damnit, I care. Mom and Dad care. You above all should care. Wake the fuck up, Dave. I'll slap you again!"
"Elena… look, I'm tired, I'm hungry, and I'm pretty fucked right now…"
"Dave… Mom gave me some money to take you out for lunch. This place is too… eeew… and I have to go, so let's get out of here and to someplace clean so we can eat!"
Dave agreed, and they went out. She looked in his car and shivered. "That's actually grosser than your apartment! We're using mine!" She drove him to a local diner and they sat down. "Mom gave me plenty, so if you want to order enough for you to have dinner as well, I won't tell."
"Els… this is fine. I… I'm actually kinda embarrassed right now. I certainly didn't want you to see me like this. I just… I went to a dark place. I'm still there… I… thank you for this."
"Dave… I'm coming back tomorrow…and every day for a while. You need some help getting that shithole clean, but the car is all yours. I know you lost your job, how are you paying for this?"
"Had one account that she didn't know about, so she didn't empty it. Money runs out in two or three months… then I don't know."
Elena let out a big sigh. "How am I suddenly the adult in this relationship? OK, Dave, be ready tomorrow. I'm not telling Mom and Dad how bad this is, but… you need some help. Maybe more than I can give, I dunno. I just want you to be happy again."
"Don't know if I can be happy again… but thanks." They ate their lunch and went back to Dave's. She gave him the two trash bags she had filled to dump and sat on the couch alone for a minute thinking. She knew that this was suddenly her summer project, and she was far out of her element.
When Dave returned, she was up at the sink filling it to wash dishes. He looked at her and realized how much she had grown up, that she was now pretty much a woman. He walked up behind her and gave her a hug. "Thanks, Els. You're the only woman I can count on, I guess."
"Well… probably not true, but we are going to have to get your shit together. I'm coming back tomorrow, so be ready."
"You can't come every day, it's a two-hour round trip! Just… I'll be ok. Really."
"You lost that argument when I first walked in and saw you. I'm gonna help you, and you're gonna get better… and I owe that bitch. Big time. She's going to get a visit one day…"
Elena finished what she could clean for the day and gave Dave a hug. "See you tomorrow, you'd better be bathed and ready or I'll do it myself! I'll use steel wool on your bare ass though, so you might want to be bathed."
"I'll… set my alarm. I don't think I'd like that much. Thanks again, Els…"
The next morning at 9 am sharp she pulled into his apartment complex. She really hoped that he was up and moving but had serious doubts. She knocked on the door and he opened it quickly.
She took a quick look around and realized he had been up cleaning already. It was a massive improvement on yesterday. All of the dishes were washed and there were three more trash bags to be taken out. He was clean and bathed. He still looked a bit ragged, but it was a distinct improvement!
"Dave… good job. Things aren't disgusting now… Let me put my stuff down and we can get to work!"
"I noticed the bag… what's in there?"
"You were right, I don't want to do a two-hour drive every day… so I'm staying here for a few days. No, I didn't ask… I'm telling you. You need help, and I'm here. So, let's get to work!"
At the end of the day, things were finally looking good in the apartment. The floor was clean and mopped, the bathroom was clean, even his bedroom was done. They had a large pile of laundry to do tomorrow, but they were definitely making progress. She noted a bit of a spark in Dave's eyes that wasn't there yesterday as well. Dave had ordered a delivery pizza for dinner so they could finish the cleaning, and after they were done eating, she looked around with a sense of pride.
"Dave… tomorrow we do laundry, but… probably more important… you need to get a job again. You have to pay for this somehow. Do you have a resume, have you even looked?"
"Well… no. I haven't. Wasn't planning on going back to work, I guess. I… you… look, having you here really helped. Having someone to talk to, someone to laugh with… I need to rejoin the world of the living, and you helped me realize that. Thanks, Els… You're pretty smart for just a kid, y'know." This was something he had told her for years, mostly just to tease her.
"Dave… tomorrow, I will take your laundry out. You work on the resume, and I can show you how to find jobs online. They actually have a class in high school now about that. You're not fixed yet, but I see some of the old Dave in there again…" she smiled at him.
When it as late, Dave had a sudden realization. He only had one bedroom, and the couch was… kinda nasty still. "You take the bed, Els, I can sleep on the couch."
"No way. The bed is yours, you're much bigger than me. I get the couch."
"Els… the couch is gross. I mean, it probably can't be clean ever again kinda gross. I'll use it."
"No, not if it's that gross. You have a queen size, we can share, right? I mean, we're adults, and we're siblings, so it's fine."
That surprised Dave, but he agreed. She got ready in the bathroom and he used the bedroom. He put on his pajama pants and slid into bed, waiting for her. She came out in a long t-shirt that he recognized from years ago. "You still wear my old shirt to bed?"
"Yeah… it's comfy, and it covers the necessities. You are wearing something, right?"
He pulled back the covers to show his pajama pants and laughed. "Normally not this much, but it'll be ok for now!"
Both tired from all the work, they went to sleep quickly. The next morning, Elena woke up first and felt a warm presence behind her and a hand on her breast. She thought briefly about her boyfriend before she woke up enough to remember that they had broken up and she was in her brother's bed. She froze for a second and listened to his breathing, realizing he was still asleep. Moving very slowly, she moved his hand and climbed out of the bed and went to the bathroom. "That was close!" she thought. "He was asleep, no biggie." It had made her feel warm and cozy though. She began to make breakfast when he stumbled out and went to the bathroom, coming out with a t-shirt on with his pajama pants.
"Mornin' Els. Did you sleep ok?"
"Yeah. Your bed's pretty nice. I'm staying a few more days, so I guess that's how we will sleep. I have some eggs made, you don't have much. We're going shopping today too. Once I get ready, I'm going to do laundry, when I come back we can work on your resume and shit. We can shop before dinner and get you some food in the house to eat."
"Sounds like a plan, but… I'm just going to bring my laptop with us to do laundry. The laundry's all mine, you shouldn't have to do it alone."
"As long as you do what you need to, it's ok… let me clean up the dishes and myself, then we can go."
They went to a laundromat and used nine washers (!) to get all of his stuff in. Once it was in, he went to work on his resume. He realized how good his last job was going to look and made a couple of quick phone calls to make sure his references were in place. His ex-immediate supervisor was glad to give him a good reference and had been upset to lose him.
After putting the clothes in the dryer, she helped him post his resume on several sites such as Monster and Indeed. By the time the dryers were done, they had finished tweaking his resume. They folded for a long time, getting it done and loading the car and taking it home.
They dropped the laundry at his apartment and went for a fast-food lunch before going grocery shopping. She had him stop at a department store so they could buy him a few other items before shopping. He bought a blender for smoothies and some better pots and pans, a few baking pans, with a few utensils as well. He let her pick out groceries with just a few additions of his own, and they came home and put it all away. "Whatcha makin' me for dinner tonight, Els?"
"Like I haven't done enough for you today! You owe me something nice here soon! Anyway, I bought some pasta for tonight, but tomorrow night you're taking me out. Just sayin'. And Dave? I just want to say welcome back…."
"Thanks for bringing me back… I sorta forgot about everything including my family for a while… sorry."
"You should be. You missed my graduation and everything. I forgive you, but… I just want you to stay in touch, OK? I thought I'd lost you…"
"I promise, Els… and again, thank you."
She made pasta primavera for dinner which Dave found delicious. They watched a movie on TV and then tiredly got ready for bed. "G'nite Dave."
"Good night, Els… sleep well."
The next morning was a carbon copy of the first, with the exception of the dream Elena awoke from. This was quite a switch, no longer dreaming of her ex but instead Dave had a starring role. As she became conscious, she realized something was poking her butt this morning as well. She laughed silently to herself about the absurdity of it all, then gently untangled herself from him. After she was up and through the shower, she realized just how well she had slept and how comfortable she was with him. She knew she needed to find a guy more like him and a lot less like her ex, the cheating bastard. She also was trying to figure out how to get Dave to put himself out there again. He deserved a good woman, she knew.
The following days were slower, Dave getting some bites regarding jobs and seeming to keep his spirits up. At the end of the week as she prepared to leave in the morning, she realized that every morning Dave was waking excited. She had taken a few pictures of him, so she quietly placed his picture on a dating website. When she got home, she would text him the account and password so at least he might give it a try. She needed to find a man herself soon too, but she was going to college soon. It wasn't going to be a problem, she thought.
When she left, they shared a long hug and promised to keep in touch. She came back a few times during the summer, spending the night a few times. Dave agreed to use the dating site but deleted himself after a couple of weeks without telling her. He wasn't ready yet. By the end of the summer, he had a job that actually paid more than his previous one and with better perks too. She was proud of him and took him out for lunch to celebrate since this would also be her last visit before college. They shared a long hug and she kissed his cheek goodbye when she left. He watched her walking away, not realizing how long it would be before he saw her again.
She went to college and fell into her social life there. Dave missed her at Thanksgiving and she didn't come home for Christmas. She took classes the next summer. There were some phone calls and emails, but even they began to peter out. He received an invitation to her marriage one day the next year and made plans to attend, going in with his parents on a honeymoon vacation for them. He talked to her very briefly at the reception and managed to get one dance. "Why didn't you bring your girlfriend, Dave?"
"In between right now…" he lied. "I'm just happy to be here for you."
"Thank you… for everything."
"You did everything… give me a call when you get back from your honeymoon, 'kay? It's been a while."
Dave met her husband, Wyatt, and was unimpressed. He hoped he just didn't know him well enough. He watched his sister circulate through the crowd and wondered if she had settled for Wyatt. She was looking good, too.
She called once after the honeymoon, but that was it. She moved in with Wyatt only about 30 minutes away, but he never saw her. She would only sometimes respond to his texts. He missed her, just hoping she was happy. She always claimed she was, but something always bothered him.
Their mother called one day as he was leaving work. Could he go check on Elena? She hadn't heard anything in a couple of months and was worried. He agreed and took a side trip to her place on the way home. He'd never been there, so he hoped he had the correct address.
When he pulled up, Wyatt came out of the front door followed closely by a blonde of porn-star proportions. Dave immediately got angry and walked up.
"Can I help you, dude?" He obviously didn't recognize Dave.
"Yeah, where's my sister?"
"Which whore is she?"
At that point, Wyatt's laughter was cut short as Dave's fist hit his nose. Blood began to spew as he sat on his sidewalk. "Who the fuck you think you are? I'm calling the cops, man!"
"You have to survive long enough first, bitch-boy. I asked you where my sister was… you may remember her, you married her."
"I kicked that bitch out two days ago. I don't know where she is."
Dave's foot connected with Wyatt's crotch, and Wyatt began to retch. When he was done, Dave knelt down with his knee on his chest. He used his finger to flick his swollen nose to punctuate each word. "Where." Flick. "Is." Flick. "My." Flick. "Sister." Flick "You." Flick. "Bitch?"
"I think she went to the Motel 6, but I don't know for sure. Just get off me, man… You're going to jail!"
"If you hurt my sister, it'll be for murder…. Think about that." He pulled a quarter out of his pocket and flicked it to the blonde. "That should cover your services for the night. You didn't see shit, didja?"
"No… no I didn't."
Dave went back to his car, steaming mad, and left, finding the Motel 6. He checked under her married name and there was no one there, so he tried her maiden name and was told she was in room 116. He walked slowly to the door and knocked. No answer. He knocked louder and longer and heard movement inside. Something hit the door and he heard her say "Wyatt, leave me alone! Go back to your whores! I'm calling the police!"
"Els, babe, it's me… open up."
He heard a frantic scramble of door locks, then the door jerked open. Mascara streaked down her face as she fell into him, squeezing him tight. He let her go for a second then began to squeeze back when he felt her wince. "What's wrong, Els? Did I hurt you?"
"N-no… everything's fine. Come in."
"Els…this place looks like my old apartment when you came over. What the hell, what's going on?"
"He… kicked me out. I had to go somewhere…"
"Why the hell didn't you call me? I'm 30 minutes away!"
"Same reason you didn't call me back then… I guess I was embarrassed…"
"Get your shit together… we're going back to my place."
"You don't want me there…"
"I won't take no for an answer, just like you. Come on, I'll help you pack."
They picked up her stuff all around the room, and when she was leaning to pick up her shoes off the floor her t-shirt came up over her back. Dave saw some purple and black. "Els, come here for a sec. I want to see something."
She came over and he put her back towards him. "Look up there, Els." He pointed, then he put his hands down and suddenly jerked her shirt up. Her back was covered in bruises, and he saw some on her front as well.
"Awwww Els… What the fuck…."
She slowly pulled her shirt down. "You weren't supposed to see that."
"I'm going to kill him, Els… I… I have a promise I have to keep. He's going down. Just for what it's worth, I kicked his ass just before I came here. I hated him since the day I met him, now… I'll be back in a few minutes."
"No! He's not worth it!" She grabbed his arm. "Please?"
He deflated a little. "For you, ok… Now, just go get in the car. I'll get the bags. We have some things to do."
He drove her home to his new condo and got her inside. He brought her bags in and looked at her. "Els… you're a mess. You want a shower, or, I have a whirlpool tub. Which one would feel better?
"The tub, I guess."
"I'll start it filling and put your stuff in the bedroom."
Once he started the bath, he called a friend of his who was a police detective to find out just what he had to do. When he had his answers, he went to the bathroom, pausing only briefly at the door. He went straight in and she looked up at him in shock. "Dave! I'm naked! Get out!"
"Sorry, Els, but I have to see how bad you are…"
She bowed her head and stood. She had bruises on every part that was hidden by clothing, and he could detect a fading black eye as well. He studied her body, knowing she was still a beautiful woman underneath the bruises.
Dave had never been so angry in his life…he knew in that moment that he could kill another human being without remorse. He stared at his feet for a second. He held her hand and arm as she lowered herself back in the water. "When you're finished, call me to help you out. We have some place to go. Dress comfortably, OK?"
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