Daniel was the most difficult family member to cut out of my life for sure and it is for Daniel, only, that I keep this blog anonymous.
I thought he would always have my back and when the stark realisation came that he, in fact, had never really looked out for me it was a really bitter pill to swallow because I always wanted to see the best in my brother. In many ways, I still do.
I have already gone into what happened with the festering, moronic turd my mother married and this really marked the beginning of the end of the relationship between my brother and I. I suppose a great stake had been thrust through the heart of our sibling bond and, try as I might, I couldn’t salvage anything thereafter. If I ripped the metaphorical stake out, a haemorrhage of emotions would plunge forth from which there would be no recovery for either of us. But to leave it in situ meant it rankled and fettered over time, rigor mortis setting in to solidify the contempt I felt for his lack of loyalty but did not express.
When Daniel introduced us all to his new girlfriend, Charlotte, at the age of 17 I tried my best to like her. My feelings on her were irrelevant anyway – she was Daniel’s choice and it was nothing to do with me; besides, at 17 and 16, there was no way this was going to last so there was no need to give the girl anything more than distant friendliness.
Charlotte was a very beautiful girl and I thought this was clearly all Daniel could find appealing about her because aside from her prettiness she was void of anything even close to a personality. However, despite the fact I found her vapid and innocuous, she did strike me as the sort of girl who comes to a relationship with a clear plan and I warned Daniel on a plethora of occasions that he must take stringent precautions with her as she had ‘young mum’ written all over her lovely, vacant face; I wanted better than that for him, even if he didn’t want better than that for himself.
Unfortunately, it became clear Charlotte was going nowhere. Like her own parents who had been childhood sweethearts, she and Daniel seemed destined to while away their youth together. Both more in love with their own reflections than anyone else could ever have been, on the surface they made the perfect, vain, bland couple. However, running beneath this was the gut feeling in everyone around them that she just was not right for him. I can’t tell you why – there was nothing specific that made her a bad match for him, she just wasn’t a likeable person. She had an air of arrogance about her that seemed to suggest she saw herself at the top of a hierarchy that didn’t exist. She had become aloof and haughty as their relationship went on and it made the features that had once been so attractive on her face pinched and judgemental. I harboured a hope, against the odds, that he might realise she was not right for him on his own. However, her unique selling point for Daniel was her family and I couldn’t begrudge him this, having been the basis of the reason his own family was such a shambles. Charlotte had a mother and father very much in love; her father treated Daniel as if he were his own son and I genuinely believe Daniel was more in love with her family than he was with Charlotte.
There was a point a couple of years into their relationship where I thought Daniel might just unloose the chains of his relationship and take up the opportunities open and available to a young man with every asset except a functioning IQ. I was concerned that in settling himself down too young my brother had circumvented all the rites of passage he should have been indulging in; parties, women, fun, lad’s holidays. He enjoyed none of this and I felt sad for him because I thought he might end up regretting his choices one day in the future. I kept my opinions to myself; I knew ultimately it was Daniel’s life and his choice to make. But I can’t say I wasn’t delighted to learn that, on a holiday to America to visit his best friend Daniel had finally humoured all those missed opportunities. He regailed me with tales from across the pond of many, many sorority girls and lots of fun times. I was simultaneously disgusted to hear the stories, thrilled that he was finally living like a normal 20 year old guy and ashamed that he hadn’t done the decent thing by Charlotte and finished the relationship before he poked himself into a buffet of American pie. I advised he think about what he really wanted in life and whether Charlotte was part of that because if she wasn’t, and she clearly wasn’t, he needed to do the right thing and not continue to make a total prick out of her. I assured him they might come back to one another when the time was right but for this moment they were travelling in different directions – and that was totally OK.
So upon landing back on UK soil it became very obvious that the holiday had kindled in Daniel a fire that could not be put out. He realised he was a nice looking young man who many women liked and he took full advantage of this. He began to go out more than he ever had before and was regularly bringing different girls back to the house afterwards. He was finally living the life of a young, single man…except he had neglected to take my advice and tell Charlotte this. And so the power dynamic of their relationship evolved. Daniel was now dictating what he would and would not be doing and Charlotte, insecure and left at home to pretend she was not worried about the choices her better half was making, had to toe the line or else she would lose the future plans she had worked so hard to secure.
It was at this point Daniel began a relationship with a family friend. He and this family friend had always had a thing for one another and my understanding was that she was seen a multitude of times sneaking into our house with him and sneaking out again in the morning leaving Daniel with love bites our Mum had to put make up over before he wandered over to Charlotte’s for an afternoon of sex she did not realise was an apology from her cheating little scumbag of a boyfriend.
Mum was, in fairness, livid with Daniel for the level of disrespect he was showing Charlotte – she was the only member of our family who actually liked her and she urged Daniel to change his ways. She forbade him from ever bringing the family friend back to our house again. This rare show of sisterly solidarity flummoxed me; where the fuck was that ‘I’ve got this girl’s back,’ attitude when I needed it?
Around this time, Charlotte and I went for a drink together. I felt sorry for her and I wanted to gauge how much she knew so I could advise my brother accordingly. If she was a beautiful little fool, as Daisy Buchanan recommends, I’d let it slide. But if the knowledge was decaying deep within her like a cancer of the confidence gland then I would need to do something. I’d never ever tell her of my brother’s shenanigans, of course, but I’d make damn sure my brother did. So we talked. We talked about what had happened with my stepfather and I was surprised to learn Daniel had confided some, if not all, of the story in Charlotte. I didn’t mind this, it was his story to tell as much as it was mine.
She also let on that she knew Daniel had been cheating on her though I suspect she had no idea about the extent of his disloyalty. A story surfaced about a friend having spotted Daniel kissing another girl in a club and when she had confronted him about it, he had told Charlotte the girl was whispering something in his ear and he turned to ask her to repeat herself and she used it as an opportunity to kiss him…how anyone could believe such a pile of heinous horse shit is beyond me but as I said, she was a girl with a plan and she wasn’t exactly blessed in the brain stimuli department. I decided she and Daniel could get on with their dysfunctional relationship as they saw fit – neither would thank me for my involvement so I bowed out.
Mere weeks later, Daniel and Charlotte announced they were having a baby. She was 21. He was 22. I was devastated for him.
‘Well, how did that happen?’ I asked when they told me. Of course I understood the logistics of how it happened, but I was flabbergasted that anyone could ‘accidentally’ fall pregnant in this day and age.
‘We used an app to tell us when was safe to have sex,’ was Charlotte’s smug, stupid reply. I could see the victory written as plainly on her face as heartbreak was written all over his. Charlotte and I rarely shared the same thought, I am sure, but clearly we had both been suspecting Daniel was heading towards a break up with her and she had pulled her finger out and done something very final about that.
‘An app!? A fucking app? How could you be so stupid?’ I asked. Daniel looked down, wringing his hands. By all accounts when Charlotte had broken the news to him he vomited and insisted they tell my Mum with immediate effect. He had been a broken boy ever since.
I am not so severe on my own sex as to suggest that Charlotte did this by herself – of course, she did not climb atop herself and get pregnant. But tricking a man into impregnating you against their will or knowledge is a low and devious trick and I felt absolutely certain that this is exactly what had gone on. I look back now and actually feel sad for her, sad that she could sell herself so short that she tied herself to an absolute bastard who fucked everything that moved, and most likely still does, behind her back. But at the time I felt like a defensive sister. Everyone seemed so thrilled about the prospect of a lovely little baby in the family but I could see my brother was utterly stupefied by the prospect of fatherhood.
Daniel told me that the news had made him completely impotent. He remained this way throughout the pregnancy but Charlotte, in a bubble of delight, did not see this as a strange or concerning feat. Nobody did. Only I felt this was a very clear manifestation of his despair at becoming a father and it worried me more than I had ever worried about a family member before. I am fiercely protective of those I love, none more so than my little brother, and I could see the negative effect this was having on him. He became a snappy, shadow of the arrogant arsehole he had been. It was like someone had smashed him into tiny bits and then pieced him back into some semblance of a human.
It went from bad to worse when the baby was born. Daniel was dejected, doing everything he could to avoid being at Charlotte’s side. She came round with their newborn to moan about how uninvolved my brother was and how he would rather sit playing with his friends on the X-Box than engage with their child. I sat there while she groaned and grumbled about him and I couldn’t help but ask myself what this girl expected? She had trapped him with a child he didn’t want, a child he loved but had never asked for. And now, she expected him to be father of the year? At 22 years of age? I felt it was unfair and unreasonable.
Mum disagreed. When Daniel arrived at our house that evening she tore him to shreds, telling him he was a father now and he needed to step up and be a man. ‘Support that girl – she’s the mother of your child,’ she growled at him. Typical of her to take Charlotte’s side given she had done the exact same thing with me some 20-odd years before. It’s not that I didn’t see her point, I definitely did. But the sense of injustice I felt for my poor brother who had asked for absolutely none of this just rang right through me like a bell. He was no angel; all the cheating and the lying was inexcusable. But trapping him with a baby felt like a strange and incongruous punishment for his sins.
Daniel left the house furiously, telling our mother to mind her own business. My anxiety around the inner turmoil he was burying intensified. I sent him a long text message outlining my thoughts on his situation. I told him I was there if he needed me, and that the situation was not hopeless, regardless of how he felt. He text back to thank me, that was the end of it. I thought.
The next day I got a text message from Charlotte. It said:
‘Stop slagging me off to your brother.’
I have spoken before at length about how vile and disgusting my temper can be when I lose it. I become vicious and hurtful; like a lioness I strike right for the jugular and I don’t let go until I have torn my victim to the floor. I had never felt any sense of warmth towards Charlotte and what I now felt for her was bordering on an intense dislike and contempt. I’m not proud of the things I said to her that day, but in the argument that ensued I will say that I would not want to have received the abuse I threw in her direction. She gave as good as she got (well…she’s not a bright girl so she had an answer for everything would probably be closer to the truth) but I absolutely assassinated her character.
‘Daniel and I tell each other everything. We’ve got each other’s backs,’ was her main argument. I can’t convey the level of inner strength it took not to respond to that stating that Daniel, in reality, did not tell her even a smidgeon of the truth; that while she was busy pretending to be calculating her menstrual cycle he was hammering his way along a line up of Windsor’s vaginal offerings. But I refrained. I did admit to believing she got pregnant on purpose because I saw no reason to lie about that – she knew I, and my entire family, believed that so what would be the point in falsely reassuring her that I believed she was so stupendously stupid she used a menstrual app to prevent her from falling pregnant? She was academically challenged but nobody could be that inane.
On and on the argument went, venom spattering across the 3G network as I beat down Charlotte’s advances with malicious ease. In the end, I decided this was fruitless and that she would never sense she had been crushed so I text Daniel and asked him to pull his girlfriend off and reign her in before I lost control totally and verbally blew her entire life apart. He knew I was capable and he knew the constraint I was exercising in not doing this. But, true to form, what did Daniel do?
That’s right. He once again buried his head in the sand. He refused to get involved, other than to say Charlotte could say what she liked and that I should stop attacking her back. I tried to reason with him, to tell him that this had all come from a place where I was trying to defend him, to be there for him. And then it dawned on me. How did Charlotte know I had been ‘slagging her off’ to my brother in the first place? He must have told her. In my fury, my sense of betrayal never higher than in that moment, I asked him why he told her about my text message of support from the night before. He denied he had done this, saying she had gone through his phone and found the message…I’m not sure whether I believe that or not.
From that day to this, my brother, Charlotte and I have not spoken. I have not been allowed to see their child in years though I always send birthday and Christmas treats to her. I can only hope that one day she is able to think for herself, make her own mind up about the auntie that is never seen or spoken about. My brother has very publically made a statement since this time to assert that all is forgiven with our Dad. He saw no problem uploading testaments on social media on what a tragedy it is that his father misses out on a wonderful grandchild. I found this repugnant and in very poor taste. Yet another exemplification of any lack of regard for my own feelings. I was also surprised, knowing Charlotte knew what had happened between myself and Daniel’s father, that she would allow her daughter to be involved in such a moment – it seems the thrill of Instagram likes was too strong to override a sense of familial loyalty to anyone but the paedophilic dead.
I understand my brother’s predicament, caught between a sister trying to defend him when he was unable to defend himself and a girlfriend he loved but who deceived him in an unforgivable way. I can see why he chose Charlotte’s side over mine – what else could he have done? But what I do not understand, and what I can never forgive, is the consistency with which he turned his back on me over and over and over again. First with Jim, then with other smaller bits along the way until this final, last hurrah and to add insult to injury, the ode to Dad in the months after. I felt as though I was that fish that lay at the bottom of the ocean allowing other fish and sea-life to take bites out of it until one day it snaps and turns to consume everything around it. In this final snap, I lost my brother forever but I found emancipation and freedom from an entire family who saw no value in me, and nothing worth standing by.
There is no moral to this story, only the hard, sad reality that this one argument blew apart the bonds and ties I held with my favourite family member. It truly was the final straw, the tip of a bitter iceberg frozen with resentment and hurt, on both sides, and it was inevitable it was always going to end this way. I look back now and thank whatever mysterious element intercepted at my birth to make me so different to those around me – I see I had to be the black sheep to break the mold of weirdness and conceit that diseases every person who shares my DNA. Being of the same generation I had thought my brother and I survived the same terrible childhood but it seems we perceive the time quite differently. I will say this though: no matter how difficult the choice, how low your regard is for a member of your family, it takes a particular kind of person to take their child to the grave of a paedophile and wax lyrical about what a wonderful person the deceased was…and the smallest circle of hell, or karma’s cosmic equivalent, is probably lighting up it’s ‘Vacancy’ sign for those kind of people.