Notes: Just trying to get a grip on Mike’s relationship with his family. This seemed like a good place to start. Also trying to prove to myself that I can write a family that’s not dysfunctional.
Tina waited, enjoying the cool spring breeze that rustled the leaves around her hiding place. Mikey would be coming home from football practice, soon, and this time, she’d surprise him. She listened to the sounds of cars passing on the street, waiting for the one she knew was her brother’s.
"You hear that sound?" he’d said to her, once, "That’s the sound of a well tuned engine."
And she remembered that sound well enough to know her brother’s car when it turned onto their street. Tina could hear some rustling and slamming as Mike got his bags out of the trunk, and then his footsteps on the stone path to the house. He stopped just in front of the door to find the right key, and she launched herself at him, from the bushes.
"I got you! I got you, this time!" Tina shouted with glee, as her brother staggered backward a few steps.
Mike laughed and scooped his little sister up in the arm that wasn’t holding his bag. "You sure did, Tiny, but who’s got who, now?" He draped the little girl over his shoulder, unlocked the door, and stepped into the house, carrying his cheerfully squealing sister. "I think I got you," he remarked, tickling her as he walked into the kitchen where his mother stood, cooking dinner.
"Michael," Mrs. Sorrentino sounded exasperated, "put your sister down and go wash up. How many times do I have to tell you not to wind her up right before dinner?"
Mike set Tina down with a wink and a smile. "Yes, Mom. I love you, too." He ruffled his sister’s hair and left the room.
As Tina started to climb into a chair, Mrs. Sorrentino interrupted. "Go wash your hands, Tina. Don’t think I don’t know what you were doing, out there."
With a stifled grumble, Tina went to wash her hands at the kitchen sink. She just didn’t understand why her mother was so insistent about being clean. Certainly, not being dirty was important, but she couldn’t see any dirt on her hands. Mom was just weird, she decided at last, but that was okay, because she was still Mom. As she moved to wipe her hands on her pants, Mrs. Sorrentino gave her a dirty look and held out a dishtowel. Tina took the dishtowel from her mother’s outstretched hand, and dried her own hands with it, before dropping back into a chair beside the kitchen table.
Mike returned, damp, but cleaner, and took the chair beside Tina’s. He raised an eyebrow at her, teasingly, and she kicked him in the shin. He crossed his eyes and poked Tina in the ribs. When she jumped, he began to tickle her.
Mrs. Sorrentino turned around immediately at the hysterical laughter. "Michael! Stop that this instant! How many times do I have to say it?"
Struggling to keep a straight face while Tina stuck her tongue out at him, Mike looked up at his mother. "But, Mom, she started it!"
Tina giggled, but her mother was less amused. "It doesn’t matter who started it, Michael, you’re older, and you’re supposed to be more responsible. Your sister looks up to you. How is she ever going to learn if you’re always goofing around? It’s not fair to your sister, and it’s not fair to me."
"Sorry." Mike stood up and headed out of the room. "Just call me when dinner’s ready."
"Sulking is not going to solve anything. You need to start acting your age." Mrs. Sorrentino went back to stirring the pasta sauce as Tina slipped out of the room to follow her brother.
When Tina caught up with him, Mike had just pulled out a book, intending to do his homework. She sat down on his bed, leaning against the wall, and grinned up at him. "So, how’s Quentin?"
"Older than you." Mike rolled his eyes. "Trust me, you don’t want Quentin."
"Maybe I do! He’s just …" Tina sighed.
"He’s also my best friend. I know him better than anyone." Mike sat down on the bed next to his sister. "First of all, you’re too young. And more than that, he’s… well … he’s kind of a slut."
"You mean a stud." Tina nodded, sagely.
"No, I know what I mean. There’s definitely a difference, and Quentin is a slut." Mike rubbed the back of his neck with one hand and tried to choose his next words carefully. "For other guys, most of the time."
Tina laughed. "Now, I know you’re making it up! That doesn’t even work! Where does he put it? They’re not girls."
"Tiny, you’re nine. I’m not answering that." Mike looked a bit unsettled. "But, I promise you it works. I know it in more vivid detail than I ever wanted to."
"Oh, my god! You did it with Quentin!" Tina cackled and pointed at her brother. "That’s why you never come home with girls! You’re doing it with Quentin!"
Mike turned bright red and stared at his sister in stark horror. "I did not! I’m not! That’s … No!" He shuddered theatrically. "Quentin just talks too much. I have to hear about it, all the time."
"You just don’t want me to steal him from you. I see how you are." Tina snickered and poked her brother.
"Tiny, that’s completely disgusting. I don’t ever need either of those images in my head. Ever." Mike pushed his sister off the bed and picked up his textbook.
"Jeez," she protested, leaning her elbows on the foot of the bed. "You’re no fun."
"Nope," Mike agreed, "no fun at all."
"Tina!" Mrs. Sorrentino called, from the kitchen. "Get in here and set the table! We’re going to eat soon."
Tina walked out of the room, looking defeated. After a few steps, she turned back. "Hey, Mikey, I’m gonna ask Quentin."
With a terrified grimace at the things Quentin might say to his little sister, Mike lunged for the phone as Tina left, again, laughing.