“What are you up to?” Fran was trying not to get irritated. But she did get very irritated with Joey very quickly these days.
“Just looking for something,” Joey said.
It was the way he said it, with too much innocence. Fran shivered with suspicion. She knew he was up to something. Again.
Joey, her husband, had come down and started rooting about in all the drawers and cupboards in the kitchen. She’d already heard him upstairs, moving about in the spare bedroom they used as a home office. He then moved on to the bedroom, opening and closing everything that could possibly be opened and closed.
“Looking for what?” Fran was getting dinner ready—it was her turn—and all the noise had set her nerves on edge. And now he was getting in the way. “That thing.” Joey opened the drawer with the odds and ends in and rifled through the assorted contents.
“You know, that thing. The whatsit. You use it for … Ah, here it is.” He held up something that looked like a stunted misshapen screwdriver. Fran had no idea what it was and couldn’t guess what its function might be. Much like a lot of stuff in that drawer. That was where Joey stashed items that he saved in case they one day turned out to be useful. Today was clearly that one day.
“Why were you looking for it upstairs first?”
“I wasn’t. I was looking for something else then. I’ve been on a gathering mission.”
“Right. And why do you want all these things you’ve gathered?”
Joey hesitated, giving Fran a strange look, as though considering what she would be happy with as a response. Then he said: “You don’t want to know.”
It chilled her blood, the way he said that.
“This is about Jamie, isn’t it?”
Everything was about Jamie. Everything that went wrong was Jamie’s fault. Everything that went right was one in the eye for Jamie. Hardly a day went by without Jamie’s name being mentioned for one reason or another. Fran had taken about as much of it as she could and she was beginning to wish she didn’t know either of them—not her husband nor his brother. This wasn’t a marriage any more. Not really. Joey had become obsessed with getting back at Jamie to the exclusion of all else.
“Fran, honestly,” Joey said, “you don’t want to know.”
She grabbed his arm, forcing him to face her. “No, go on, tell me. I do want to know.”
Joey smiled. “I’m going to kill Jamie.” Like saying it relieved the pressure inside him.
Joey and Jamie hated each other.
And they hated each other because of Fran.
Joey and Jamie Carran were brothers. Joey was two years younger than Jamie. They were similar in so many ways, almost like twins, and yet so different too. Fran met Jamie first. He was handsome, fun and intelligent. One date led to another, and another, and several more. But six weeks later, although Fran was enjoying herself, she didn’t really feel the spark that keeps two people together. She knew it wasn’t going anywhere.
Then she met Joey. He returned from some month-long business trip abroad and stepped into her life by accident when she met Jamie by surprise at his office.
Joey was also handsome, fun and intelligent. But more so, somehow. The spark was there immediately. Joey felt it too. It was a tricky thing, exchanging one brother for the other, but she did it as gently and as kindly as she good. And for a while, right up until the wedding 18 months later in fact, Fran thought Jamie was cool with their relationship. Though she did realise, when she looked back later, after Jamie’s meltdown, that the signs were there he was simmering unhappily.
Then, at the reception, an argument started between Joey and Jamie. Jamie called Fran some terrible names. He accused Joey of stealing her from him. He said that he couldn’t ever forgive either of them for what they had done to him.
Deep and long-repressed rage exploded out of him with such vehemence and bitterness.
“I loved you,” Jamie screamed. “And you betrayed me. You both betrayed me. I hate you. I wish you were dead!”