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Wednesday, May 26


     Reese woke up at 8:30 the next day, evidently having overslept his alarm, and rushed to put on his clothes and pack his bag so he could rush out the door. He stormed downstairs and into the kitchen, looking just to grab a protein bar and an apple to eat on his way to school. “There you are,” Olivia commented, her head peeking over the couch. “Judging by how hungry I still am, and how rushed you seem, I’m assuming you overslept?”

     “Yeah,” he mumbled, frantically searching a few more cupboards for the box of protein bars before giving up.

     “So does that mean no breakfast this morning?” she teased. “Not even a coffee?”

     “I’ll make you lunch when I get home,” he called out as he ran past her. “Bye,” he added hurriedly, before the door slammed behind him on his way out the front door.

     “I don’t wanna eat lunch at 3:30,” Olivia said to herself, trying to remember exactly when school had ended when she was in high school. Then she remembered that Wednesdays were half days, so he’d probably be home closer to 1. Still a little late, but she could manage as long as she ate a late breakfast, which it looked like she was about to do anyways.

*    *    *    *    *    *

     The two of them sat together at their usual spot on the couch, Reese enjoying his first chance to relax that day, while Olivia munched on the sandwich she had made for herself. “You not hungry?” she asked, casually lifting her socked feet up onto his lap, crossing them as she took another bite.

     The weight of her large feet resting on his smaller body made him struggle to lean forward as he tried grabbing the remote, but luckily he was still barely strong enough to hold them off his lap with one hand under her ankles while his other grabbed the remote from the floor. “We had pizza in Chem today,” he answered, sighing with relief as he turned on Hulu and started an episode of The Office.

     Olivia looked to the TV, and then her feet. “What, so no foot rub today?”

     Reese sighed, but grabbed her feet and uncrossed them. “I didn’t know you wanted one,” he reluctantly answered, and started grinding his thumbs against the balls of her feet.

     “I’m always OK with getting a foot massage,” she giggled. “There’s literally never a time when one wouldn’t feel good.”

     “Guess that’s probably true,” he absentmindedly replied, trying just to ignore her and watch the show. As if he would know what one felt like anyways. 

     Tracy came downstairs, and passed by the two siblings on the couch. “Well look at you two,” she commented with a smile, hands on her hips in admiration. “A foot rub? Gee Reese, I wouldn’t mind one of those either,” their mother smirked, glad to see her children getting along better than one might normally hope. Reese noticed her smile, and inwardly felt like he had scored a hundred points. This was just what he wanted, to have his family look at him in an overly positive light again. His grades had been slightly improving lately, but it still wasn’t a sure bet that he’d be graduating in a few weeks’ time. But he also just realized his mom had borderline asked if he could rub her feet too, and, knowing he didn’t want to say no, his heart almost skipped a beat at the thought of having to service both of the prominent women in his life.

     “They’re just for me,” Olivia jokingly replied, her eyes squeezing shut as she dawned a comically big grin. “Because he loves me a ton and I’m his favorite sister.”

     “Well I would hope I’m his favorite mother,” she retorted back, secretly jealous of the treatment her daughter was receiving.

     “Mmm, not the same,” Olivia said with a smile. “He’s just doing this as a favor for me anyways, it’s not something he volunteered.”

     “Alright, alright,” Tracy said, rolling her eyes and heading to the kitchen to grab a cup of water. 

     Olivia waited until their mom was back upstairs, then pounced at the opportunity. “You know, you should be thankful I just got you out of rubbing mom’s feet too. That’d probably be a bit embarrassing.”

     “What, but it’s totally normal for me to give them all the time to my sister?” he bit back, a playful tone in his voice but somewhat serious about the hypocrisy she seemed to be touting. 

     “I don’t know, is it? At least mine are a lot softer and nicer looking, if that makes a difference.” She wiggled her toes, appreciating how pretty she thought her feet looked whenever she wasn’t wearing socks. “And you don’t give them to me ‘all the time,’ this is like the third time, ever. But I wouldn’t mind if you wanted to give me one every day. Not like you’re doing anything else while you watch TV.” Reese paused, wary to accept her offer. “You can look at it as a daily thank-you for me getting you out of having to massage mom’s feet too.”

      Reese inhaled, then slowly blew it back out through a small hole his mouth had formed. His way of thinking. She’s kinda right. I didn’t want to have to say no to mom, and she came to my rescue without me even asking for it. And it’s not even really for forever, I’ll be graduated in a couple weeks and then I can stop. So she’s not really asking for every day as much as just like two weeks. It’s the least I could do. “Sure. I guess. That sounds kinda fair.”

     Despite getting what she had asked for, Olivia scoffed. “You’ve been such a yes man ever since I came home. Not just to me, but to everyone.” Reese’s heart rate increased. There she was, picking up on his intentionally overly-kind behavior again. “There has to be a reason behind it. Did you do something wrong? Did mom and dad punish you?” He bit his lip, trying to avoid her eyes, but that just made him seem more suspicious the longer he averted her gaze. “I know something’s up,” she said, softer this time. “You can tell me.” She retracted her feet from his grip and scooted forward, sitting next to her brother. She wrapped her arm around his shoulders and pulled him into her, nestling his head into her neck. He did his best not to glance downwards at her cleavage. Luckily their height difference wasn’t as evident when sitting down, and she didn’t have to press him against her breasts like their hugs when they stood. He felt comforted by her maternal actions, safe in her hold. I can probably trust her. What’s the worst that can happen if I tell her the reason why? She probably won’t tell mom and dad. 

     “I’m failing US History and AP Lit,” he confessed. “And I need to pass them in order to graduate next month. So in addition to all the normal homework and end-of-the-year projects I have to do, I’ve been doing make-up work for those classes. But I still might not finish everything in time.” He shifted uncomfortably in her grasp, but she held him tight and close, reassuring her brother that she was listening. “So I thought there might be a risk that I fail. Which might mean retaking my senior year. And… I don’t know how mom and dad would react… So… I’ve just been trying to act really good around them for the past month or something. Then they might, like, be easier on me. Like I don’t want them to kick me out, you know?” It felt good to get the truth off his chest, to have a confidante in his sister now.

     Olivia paused, taking in what her brother had said. It wasn’t as horrible as she imagined it might have been, but it was still kinda serious. “Well, I don’t think mom and dad would kick you out,” she mused, “but I guess I don’t know for certain.” She released him from her embrace, and rested a hand on his shoulder. “I’d never kick you out though.” She smiled half-heartedly, trying to cheer him up. “But I’m not mom and dad.” She bit her lip, thinking of a solution. “You know, it’s been 4 years since I took those classes. And you might not even have the same teachers I did, but they might still be working from the same curriculum.” Reese was started to see where she was going with this, and he felt like his heart was beginning to shine brightly with the glow of hope. “I… think I might be able to help you out with some of your homework.” Their school district had started a laptop pilot program when she was a junior, but Olivia would often use her own laptop when working at home since it didn’t have all the restrictions and firewalls of the school-given one. Then she’d transfer all her files over using her Google Drive. She was horrible about getting around to deleting old files, so there was a pretty good chance that she’d still have old copies of her homework.

     She explained all this to Reese, whose eyes lit up as he realized that being able to graduate come June 9th seemed like a real possibility now. “OK, so what do you want in return?” he asked. Would she tack on an abundance of new chores to her new daily task of a foot massage? Or a one-time dare to do something humiliating or funny, just for fun? Maybe she’d just want regular old money in compensation.

     “Nothing, silly!” she laughed. “I’m your sister. I love you, I’ll do it for free. You don’t need to give me anything or even keep up your little charade or whatever. Although, I definitely wouldn’t mind if you kept it up,” she made sure to remind him. “The foot rubs and daily breakfast are a nice treat!” She assumed a more serious tone. “You might need to change some wording around, I don’t know how advanced TurnItIn is.” (Reese’s homework submission website; Olivia had used the same one when she was in high school) “So it might flag you as plagiarizing someone else’s work even if it’s years ago.” Reese nodded in understanding. “So you just have a bunch of old homework that you never did that you need to do now? It’s not new assignments, right?”

     “Definitely not, my teachers aren’t gonna be that keen on making new assignments during the last few weeks of school just for me and a few other students. We should be good.” He reclined back into the couch. “This might actually work.”

     “Hell yeah it will,” she grinned, laying back into her own seat.

     “Well just because you said I don’t have to do anything in return doesn’t mean I won’t,” he added, truly appreciative. “Do you, like, want another sandwich or something? Or another back rub like yesterday?” He stumbled across the wording, not used to offering up kindness so freely. But just because his sister offered to help him out for free didn’t mean he didn’t feel like he owed something to her. And he hated that nagging feeling that comes when you owe someone something.

     She shrugged, “Nah, I’m not hungry, and my back feels fine. But I still like taking relaxing baths. If you really want, you can start a bubble bath for me,” she said eagerly. “Like yesterday. But with bubbles!”

     Not too big of an ask. “Sure thing.” He got up, and turned to head upstairs. 

     “But can you stay to test the water this time?” Olivia asked. “I think after you left the bathroom yesterday, it continued to get hotter. It was practically steaming by the time I got in. Just warm feels a little better to me.”

     “No problem,” he replied, and bound up the stairs, a newfound energy in his step. His mind was racing as he started the bath for his sister, pouring in the bubble solution and sitting on the edge while he felt the temperature. He wasn’t even thinking about what he was doing, it was like his body was on autopilot while he thought about his school situation. Olivia’s offer gave him renowned energy and hope. He might actually graduate now. And for less work than he was even doing now. He shut the bath off after several minutes, once it was all ready for her, and headed back downstairs. “It’s all ready,” he proudly told her, and she got up with a smile, giving her brother a quick side hug for her gratitude before heading upstairs. Giving her brother her old homework files would barely be any work, and with how warmly receptive he was being ever since admitting his secret, she felt like she was going to be benefitting from this new development in their relationship just as much as him.


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