“Remind me again why we’re throwing a party right after Dad’s death? Isn’t that like some kind of social taboo?” William scowled, watching his sister help her wife prepare cake and refreshments.
“Because it’s your birthday and Johnny’s birthday and Dad would not have wanted us to spend it being sad and depressed over him,” Morgan explained with a sigh. “We’ve all had a really hard time but now we have something to celebrate. Making the most of it will be good for all of us.”
“We don’t even know anyone here,” William grumbled.
“Madeline and Avery have friends from school and so does Johnny,” Savannah reminded him. “Plus a few of their parents are showing up. It’s a smaller party than what the Charms have been used to in the past but it’s still a party so please try to enjoy it, Will. It’s your birthday party, too,” she reminded him.
“Hey Will! Happy birthday!” Johnathon walked into the kitchen and wished his brother a happy birthday while he got himself a glass of orange juice from the fridge. William rolled his eyes.
Despite William’s surly attitude, Charm Manor seemed to liven up once the guests started arriving. People had drinks and laughed and told jokes and even Morgan found herself smiling more than a few times, something she felt like she hadn’t done in years. When the kids couldn’t be persuaded to wait another minute for cake, Savannah got the birthday candles lit while William and Johnathon took turns blowing them out to the tune of “Happo Borfnah!”
William didn’t look much different as a young adult than he did as a teenager but Morgan hoped he’d act better than he had before, at least. Johnathon’s change was much more drastic.
“You look so handsome, Johnny!” Morgan gushed and hugged him.
“He looks like a nerd,” William drawled. Morgan glared at William but Johnathon just shifted uncomfortably and gave a nervous chuckle, trying to keep the mood light.
“Thanks Morgan but I think I’d like to just be John now,” he told her, adjusting his glasses. “I’m a little too old for Johnny, I think.”
Morgan had hoped that for once, William wouldn’t ruin a happy occasion and for a while, she thought she’d miraculously gotten what she wished for. Everyone sat around the dining room table, enjoying Savannah’s chocolate cake, Savannah and Johnathon were having an animated discussion about what extracurricular activities Johnathon wanted to take in high school and even William was making Madeline giggle across the table by flashing her silly faces in between mouthfuls of cake. Madeline and Avery seemed to be the only people in the house William wasn’t a complete jerk to. Maybe it was because he helped raise them from newborns to school children. Maybe he felt responsible for them because of that. Morgan could only guess at the reasons.
She should have known not to let her guard down around William, however. As the party went on, the adults moved from the dining room to the bar downstairs in the basement and by the time the party was just beginning to wind down, William was thoroughly hammered.
“Will, I think you’ve had enough to drink,” Morgan told him, trying to take his glass away but William yanked it back from her, spilling some on himself before he gulped the whole thing down.
“Lookit, you made me spill my drink!” he snapped. “Back off, Morgan, you can’t tell me what to do anymore, I’m eighteen now. You can’t pretend to be Mom with me anymore, okay? Shove it.”
Johnathon heard his brother from upstairs and bit back a groan. Here we go… he thought. He made his way downstairs to defend his sister and hopefully save the tail end of the party from exploding in a giant mushroom cloud of William’s wrath.
“Will… come on,” he pleaded with his brother. “It’s been a good party so far, don’t ruin it now. Why don’t you go sleep it off? You’ll feel better when you’re sober,” he tried to reason politely with him. “I’ll even have a pot of coffee ready for you when you wake up in case you get a hangover. Sound good?” he offered.
“Shut up, John!” William slurred. He waved a hand at Johnathon, accidentally knocking his empty glass onto the floor where it shattered. “You’re not Mom, either! You killed Mom, didn’t you? Guess that makes you a double murderer, huh? Well sorry but I don’t think I have to listen to the asshole who killed BOTH my parents!”
“WILL, SHUT UP RIGHT NOW!” Morgan shouted. Johnathon looked like he’d just been slapped.
“What?” he murmured, shaking his head. “I didn’t… Mom… Mom died when I was a baby!” he turned to Morgan with a look of betrayal on his face. “You told me she got sick when I was a baby and died, Morgan, so what’s he talking about?”
“She died giving birth to you, you ugly runt,” William spat. “She wasn’t supposed to have another kid! She was too old, she was in her forties but she got pregnant with you and you killed her! You want to know the worst thing? The doctors could have saved her! That’s right, they could have saved her life or yours but they couldn’t save you both so they saved you instead of her! She’s dead because of you!”
“That’s… That’s why you hate me so much, isn’t it?” Johnathon stammered in horrible realisation. “All my life I wondered what I did to make you hate me the way you do… but no one ever told me…” he turned back to Morgan and Savannah who had come rushing downstairs when she heard the commotion going on. “You never told me! Why?! Why didn’t you tell me something like that?! I deserved to know!”
“You’re damn right that’s why I hate you. You’re damn right you deserve to know you’re a good-for-nothing murderer who shouldn’t have lived. It was supposed to be Mom, not you!” William shouted. “Mom was supposed to live but you stole that from her just like you stole Dad’s life! You’re a walking bad luck charm, you ruin the lives of everyone around you just by existing!”
“THAT’S ENOUGH WILL, I SWEAR I WILL DECK YOU ONE IF YOU DON’T SHUT THE HELL UP!” Savannah screamed at her brother-in-law.
“We didn’t tell you because we didn’t want you to blame yourself, we were trying to protect you, Johnny, I–” Morgan stepped forward to reach out for Johnathon but he pushed her away from him as if she were contagious.
“It’s John and don’t touch me! Just… leave me alone! Everyone just get away from me and leave me alone!” he shouted. Before anyone could even try to call him back, he was running up the stairs and out the front door.
There was a moment of silence before Morgan looked at her drunken brother with disgust. “You know, John’s not the one who makes everyone around him miserable. It’s you. You’re the curse on this family. Congratulations on ruining both your birthdays. I hope your petty revenge was worth it,” she told him bitterly.