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“A study group? Hm...”

 

Mari was holding a phone that was not hers, but might as well have been. Sunny had received a rare text, and, of course, Mari had heard the notification sound—he was not allowed to have it on silent.

 

The text was only one sentence—wanna come study with me and a few other people on friday?—but Mari stared at it for quite a long time before asking, “What class is this person from?”

 

“Calculus,” Sunny said. His voice was raw from lack of use. He didn’t talk that much at school. Mari thought that a beautiful voice like his was wasted on his classmates.

 

“Oh! Well, you don’t need to worry about that, Sunny. Don’t you remember? I got a five on my AP exam,” Mari replied, smiling. He didn’t smile back. He never did. It was even harder to smile when he saw Mari typing out a text on his phone, then turning the screen off and handing it back. He had hardly talked to the girl that had texted him, but she’d taken an interest in him for whatever reason and asked for his number...and now, she had to deal with whatever cryptic response Mari had sent her, and he had to deal with looking her in the eye at school the next day.

 

Sunny didn’t know what overcame him. Maybe he was just tired. School had never been easy for him socially, but it had only gotten worse once he’d moved in with Mari. Maybe he was tired of being glared at, maybe he was tired of hearing I don’t remember Sunny being this weird, maybe he was tired of not talking.

 

So, he said, “I-I thought that it might have been fun.”

 

Mari seemed genuinely surprised. She tilted her head, raised her eyebrows, and for a moment, Sunny wondered if he should explain. But why should he? He wanted to hang out with someone his age other than Kel and Basil and Aubrey. He wanted to have a normal high school life. That was normal, wasn’t it? 

 

Quite suddenly, Mari laughed. “Don’t hurt my feelings, Sunny! Don’t you find it fun being here with me?”

 

Sunny wanted nothing more than to move back with his parents, to free himself from whatever spell Mari had trapped him in, but she didn’t want him to answer that question. 

 

He quickly remembered why he didn’t talk back anymore.


Mari didn’t give his phone back. She said it was a distraction to his lessons. He did his homework while she talked to their parents on the phone—yes, he’s doing great, he’s really starting to love the violin again, I think him moving with me was a really good idea—and then they had dinner. While she was in the shower, he practiced violin, making sure to play loud enough so that she could hear how his hard work was paying off. After she came out and praised him (on good days) or smiled pitifully at him (on bad days), he would take a shower next.

 

And then, they would get in bed together.

 

Their parents were under the impression that Sunny slept in the second room in Mari’s apartment, but the bed had never been slept in. Instead, she took him by his hand and led him into her room, into her bed, and cuddled him close with his face resting against her chest. When he was younger, sleeping like this was the only way the nightmares went away, but after the recital...

 

Still, it was better than the alternative. At the very least, Mari was considerate of his day most times. If he was busy, or seemed more morose than usual, she would hold him, and nothing more. If he was “normal”—whatever that meant—or only mildly upset, she would push her luck.

 

She won every time.

 

For a moment, Sunny thought that he was going to be able to sleep peacefully that night. Mari went silent, and Sunny had closed his eyes, trying to remember the better days. That always helped him fall asleep. Thinking about when he could talk to his friends for more than an hour, when he could see his parents every day, when he didn’t have to practice violin until his fingers were calloused because I won’t let you embarrass me like that again, Sunny—

 

“Are you still upset about earlier?”

 

Sunny swallowed. She was awake. And, now, so was he. “Not upset.”

 

“It’s okay if you are. I know you miss things like that,” she said, stroking his hair. He knew that she knew it, but he didn’t want to think that she did, because then that meant that she just didn’t care. “But it’s best if you stay with me, and just focus on school and your violin. Don’t you think so?” Another question that he was not meant to answer. “I didn’t like getting angry at you like that, Sunny...back then.”

 

“I know.”

 

“Maybe it doesn’t matter to you, but getting on stage in front of everyone—our friends, our family, everyone—and having them see a performance like that...it really hurt me.”

 

It did matter to him. He had been hurt, too. In the car on the way home, when she would barely look at him, he was hurt. When his parents finally left them alone and she screamed at him, grabbed him by his arms and dug her nails in so hard that he bled and told him that she hated him, he was hurt. When she got in his bed the next night and kissed him in a way sisters weren’t supposed to kiss their brothers and told him she’d forgive him if she did this one thing for him, he was hurt. When she left home for college and he thought he was going to be free again until she asked him to move in with her, he was hurt.

 

But his hurt didn’t matter. His hurt wasn’t as important as hers. He knew this by now, and didn’t dare complain. “I know. I’m s-sorry.”

 

“Oh, I know you are, Sunny. I’m not mad anymore.” Mari kissed the top of his head. He wanted to cry. She was still mad, wasn’t she? He had talked back earlier. She hadn’t yelled, but he could tell that she wanted to. He could tell that it was going to take a lot more for him to be forgiven tonight. “I just need you to stay focused. Going to hang out with people like that, people we don’t know...well, it’s just not a good idea. Don’t you like hanging out with me, and Hero, and Kel, and Basil, and Aubrey? Hm?”

 

No. He didn’t like it anymore. He didn’t like it because they’d started to notice that something was wrong between him and Mari and they didn’t speak to them the same way. He needed to get new people, new friends. He knew he was bad at talking, but he’d figure it out, he’d figure it out if it meant escaping her.

 

“I-I do.”

 

“That’s good,” Mari cooed. She was touching him in the way that told him he wasn’t going to sleep yet. She was rubbing his back, then rubbing lower until her hand was at his hip. “Maybe we can all get together sometime. You’ve been so good; you deserve a break.”

 

“Okay.”

 

“It’ll have to be before midterms, though...if you don’t do well, Mom and Dad will want you to come back home.”

 

Sunny had already considered flunking, but somehow, he hated the idea of Mari looking at him like that again—screaming yelling angry hating him—more than the idea of staying with her forever.

 

“Okay.”

 

“...Come here, Sunny.”

 

Come here, she always said. The first night, he didn’t know what that meant until she pulled him closer, but now, he knew what to do. He was always on top of her. She made him do it all, as if this was just another playing test. With practiced fingers that were still shaky, he pulled her panties down and off from beneath her nightie, finding that she was already wet. Like she’d been looking forward to this.

 

It made him sick thinking about how much she loved him, how much he loved her. That it could culminate to this, that she would want it to happen, that he would let it, it overwhelmed him to the point where he had no choice but to play along and pretend that this was what he’d wanted all along and pray that it was just an act. 

 

Sunny’s body was a better actor than he was; Mari only had to run her fingers along the front of his boxers, and he was hard. She praised him for responding to her so quickly, and he only grew stiffer.

 

“Keep going,” she said.

 

As if he could suffer the consequences of stopping. He fed his cock through the hole in his underwear, trying his hardest not to look at it as he did. That wasn’t hard to do; before long, it was buried inside of her, and she was wrapped around him. Mari cried out loud, too loud. It pierced his ears and made it hard for him to forget what they were doing.

 

But even if she’d been completely silent, he wouldn’t have been able to forget how good it felt. Mari was beautiful, she was wet and hot and like nothing he’d ever felt before. These were things he couldn’t deny, as much as he wanted to. Detached from any emotion, fucking Mari felt good. Sometimes, she would undress herself, and he would get to look at her breasts. Do you like them, Sunny? Would you like to suck on them? Go ahead. I don’t mind.  

 

Whether he liked them or not, he wouldn’t take off her gown if he didn’t have to. He planted his hands into the mattress and moved his hips. Mari loosely hooked her ankles around his waist, cupped his face in her hands.

 

“Oh, Sunny—I love you, I love you,” she breathed. He moved faster so that he didn’t have to hear her ask for it. Instead, he heard, “Good boy. Good, good, just like that...”

 

Was he better at this than the violin? He couldn’t be sure. He just had to hope that it would be enough for her to forgive him one day, for her to let him go. The primal pleasure that fucking her gave him and the slimmest odds of her finally forgiving him drove him to keep going, harder, faster, clenching his teeth.

 

While he struggled to keep his voice down, Mari sung her praises loudly, sending a twist to his gut that might have been good or bad—he couldn’t tell. She was saying words that he wanted to hear and words that he didn’t. So good, Sunny. I love you, Sunny. Right there, Sunny. You can do it a little harder, Sunny. Sunny, Sunny, Sunny, please.

 

His sister’s voice sounded foreign to him now, fragmented into bits that he hardly understood. There was angry Mari that screamed and made him cry, cold Mari that gave him one-word answers to let him know that he was shunned, kind Mari that cooed and apologized, and this Mari, that made him hard and hot and nauseous.

 

The first time they did this, Sunny finished within seconds. She had looked frustrated, disappointed, but after she touched herself until she shuddered then went still (whilst he laid in his bed, reeling, trying to figure out if it was all a bad dream), she was kind Mari again. Since then, she didn’t bother waiting for him; when Sunny’s strokes started to get weaker and more erratic, she would grab one of his sweaty hands and guide it between her legs, letting him fumble around searching for her clit until he found it and her back arched.

 

Mari gripped his wrist, keeping it in place. It was hard for him to keep going when his vision was getting blurry with tears and heat, but he couldn’t stop touching her, couldn’t stop thrusting into her, because he didn’t want her to get angry again and he wanted it. He wanted it to feel good, he wanted it to be over.

 

Sunny didn’t pull out of her, even when he got close. He didn’t know if Mari was on birth control, if she knew something that he didn’t, but the first time he tried to pull back, she didn’t let him. Since then, he didn’t bother—he kept going, kept fucking her as deep as he could, even harder when he felt his gut tighten and molten heat pooled into his groin. Mari liked it that way. 

 

That night, he was skilled enough to make her cum before he did. Her heels were pressing into his back too hard, and it hurt, but he kept going through the pain; she wouldn’t have liked it if he stopped without finishing inside of her. In the throes of her climax, she roughly grabbed him by the shoulder of his tank top, pulled him down closer, and kissed him—he hated kissing, he hated being reminded how twisted this love was, but she loved to do it, so he did it—and didn’t let him go until she felt his seed pooling inside of her. Her legs tightened around him, kept him buried inside her.

 

She kept him there until he couldn’t hold himself up anymore and he collapsed on top of her, trying to be gentle even when she wasn’t. Mari probably wouldn’t have minded either way; he was still frail, much tinier than her, and he felt even smaller when she held him to her quickly rising and falling bosom.

 

“I’m so proud of you, Sunny,” she whispered. She kissed the top of his head. He was starting to feel cold, even with her fever-hot body pressed against his. “Don’t worry, okay? I forgive you. You’re going to be perfect.”

 

Going to be. Not yet. A year since he’d moved in with her, four since he’d ruined her life and she’d ruined his, and he was not yet perfect. Because he talked back, because his hands hesitated at his violin strings, because he was trying to run away from her.

 

Sunny let himself be cuddled again, and into the sweat-sticky fabric of her nightgown, he mouthed, I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry.