Summary: Justin drinks champagne at an Ojai party at age 12
“Where’s Justin?” Tommy asked as he ushered past busy crowds of businessmen. He dodged a waiter with a platter full of champagne flutes in order to get to his older sisters. They were sitting at an empty table in the middle of the garden whispering to each other and swatting mosquitoes away.
“I think he went to the bathroom.” Kitty said nonchalantly as she drowned another flute of champagne. She slammed it down on the table and motioned for a waiter to come by with a new one.
“What’s up with her?” Tommy asked Sarah worriedly.
“Forget it. Why do you want Justin?”
“I have a feeling our darling little brother is drunk off his ass. I don't want dad to find out and make a scene.” Tommy mumbled. “I’m going to go look for him. Cover for me.” Tommy took off back inside the cabin, away from the noise in the garden where Nora and William were entertaining guests. He closed the door behind him and snuck up the stairs so the catering staff wouldn’t see him.
He knew before he even knocked on the bathroom door that Justin was in there. He heard soft sobbing and retching noises. He also heard Justin’s quiet pre-pubescent voice telling himself to ‘suck it up’ and ‘be a man.’ The very words Tommy had yelled at him earlier that day when Justin had tumbled over some tools in the garden and scrapped his knee pretty badly.
“Justin?” Tommy called. Justin grew quiet. It got so quiet that Tommy could clearly hear the wait staff shouting orders to one another in the kitchen down below. He could also hear his mothers tittering fake laugh from outside in the garden. It was the laugh she used when she was uncomfortable but knew she had to be respectful in front of company. Tommy heard it a lot when businessmen, who William was trying to strike a deal with, used racist slurs or gay taunts.
“Justin, I know you’re in there.” Tommy called again in the hopes that he wouldn’t have to unscrew the door hinges to get through.
“Go away,” Justin’s voice still had the softness of childhood but mixed in with it was the scratchy, gravely, raspy-sounding voice of someone who had just purged a lot of alcohol.
“I won’t tell dad.” Tommy bargained.
Justin snorted. “Ya because we keep ssssecretsss sssso well in thissss family.” Justin’s slur gave him away and Tommy knew he was right about his little brother’s state of being at that moment.
“Justin.” Tommy said in a warning tone.
“You know, I ssssee Kitty sssshooting down alcohol like it’sss her job and I don’t ssssee you giving her a hard time.”
“Kitty is an adult and can make her own choices and, unlike you kid, she’s above the legal age.” Justin mumbled something unintelligible back. Tommy was getting worried that his baby brother was in a more dangerous state then he’d first anticipated and the need to get the door open intensified.
“Justin, open this door NOW! I know you’re drunk, there’s not use hiding it kid.”
“How did you know?” Justin asked, clearly admitting defeat.
“I’m not as oblivious as you like to think Justin.” Tommy sighed. “How about letting me in now?”
A beat passed and Tommy was about to ask again when he heard the lock click and the door swing open. Justin was kneeling on the floor, his hair askew and his cheeks red with sweat, in front of a toilet.
“Oh wow,” Tommy coughed to hide his scowl at the stench. “Let’s open a window.” He stepped over Justin to open the small square shaped window above his head.
“Want a Tylenol?” Tommy offered. He opened up a drawer under the sink and pulled out a little red and white capsule. He pulled two pills from it and twisted the lid closed. He then took a Dixie cup and filled it to the brim with water
“I think I need to get my sssstomach pumped.” Justin slurred.
Tommy chuckled, “I don’t think it’s that bad.” He sat down on the edge of the bathtub, which made him situated behind his brother. “Maybe now you’ll learn to take the legal age more seriously. Dad won't want a drunkard helping with the family business. Do you ever think of your future more than just when the next meal will be? How are we related?” He handed the Dixie cup to Justin while gently chiding him.
“Drink that slowly.” He ordered. Justin nodded and continued to sip. “You’ll still have a killer headache tomorrow but maybe mom and dad won’t notice.” Justin nodded and gulped down the pill. “Continue drinking.” Tommy ordered.
“Isssn’t ssssomeone gonna misssss you?” Justin asked with a slur again. With the window open, the sounds of the party were much clearer then before. It sounded like it was in full swing.
“Nah, “ Tommy shrugged it off. He knew Sarah and Kitty would cover for him. He felt that Justin needed him more then his dad did. His dad just wanted to show him off to his friends anyways. When he was with Justin he felt like he was actually doing something and wasn’t just a ‘trophy son’. It was nice to know someone was dependant on him, even if that someone was his drunkard little brother who shouldn’t have been drinking in the first place.
“Feel like puking anything else up?” When Justin shook his head Tommy patted him on the back. “Alright, let’s get you to bed.” He put his hands under Justin’s armpits and hoisted him up. Justin leaned heavily on his for support and with a more dragging then walking system Tommy got Justin into his room.
“I’ll get you a glass of water and a garbage can.” Tommy said as Justin laid all loose limbs on his bed.
“Aren’t you gonna yell at me?” Justin asked Tommy when the older boy came back.
“I think tomorrow will be punishment enough.” Tommy scoffed as he ran his hands through his little brothers sweaty hair.
“Tommy?” Justin asked in a tiny voice. “Can you ssstay with me?” Tommy spun a chair around and sat on it in front of Justin’s bead.
“Ya I guess so.”
Justin smacked his dry lips and Tommy brought the glass of water to Justin’s parched lips. Justin sat up slowly so the water wouldn’t dribble down his face.
“I can go get a straw.” Tommy offered.
“No.” Justin put his hand on Tommy’s leg. Tommy wasn’t usually Justin’s caregiver when the younger boy was sick, that fell on the smother mothers Nora and Sarah, but it was well known that Justin was a clingy puppy when he was feeling under the weather.
“Steady sips.” Tommy told Justin. Justin took three short sips before collapsing back into bed. “Try getting some sleep,” Tommy suggested in a softer tone then he used at work. In fact, his colleagues would be surprised by how gentle he could be when around his younger brothers. He was known as a ‘hard ass’ but if Justin or Kevin were in trouble he’d become as big of a mothering hen as his mother and sisters.
“Mmhmm.” Justin said as he nodded off. Tommy chuckled as he saw Justin’s tense face relax as he drifted off to dream land. It was amazing how innocent he could look when asleep, while when he was awake he was a monster.
“Look can be deceiving huh Just?” Tommy chuckled to himself. He flinched from the sudden noise of glasses crashing to the floor. The wait staff his father hired were obviously incompetent. He gave a quick look at Justin to make sure he was sound asleep before storming into the kitchen to give the waiter who let his baby brother get drunk a piece of his mind.