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Sunday, May 23 

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     Reese didn’t sleep well on Saturday night despite how exhausted he felt, so by the time he woke up on Sunday morning, he felt so weary that he didn’t even want to bother making breakfast. He just made sure to get Olivia’s coffee started, and then fell on the couch. He was awake enough to come downstairs so he could eventually start the day, but still too tired from the mediocre sleep to want to do anything just yet. Olivia wasn’t so impressed though. 

     “Mmmmm, no breakfast today?” she asked, walking over the couch and standing over her brother. He slowly inhaled, always a bit in awe at the sheer size of his sister, now looming far over him as he sat down. It was admittedly a little intimidating.

     “Uh, yeah, I mean… I’m just like, too tired. For now.” Maybe she’ll accept that answer. Wait, why did it even matter if she accepts my answer to begin with? I should be able to do what I want.

     Olivia was visibly disheartened by this. “Aw, I was hoping you’d make eggs or something again,” she said, scratching the back of her neck as she looked down at her feet. “Or pancakes,” she added, a little more chipper.

     “Well, I’m… tired,” he replied. He didn’t know what else to say. It was the truth.

     Olivia rolled her eyes, “Well yeah, everyone’s tired when they wake up doofus. Getting food and water into your system helps to wake you up because your body has to work to digest it.” Reese didn’t say anything back. I mean, nutrition is kinda related to what she majored in. I guess she’d probably know that better than I would. “Come on,” she said, reaching out and pulling her brother up. “You need to eat something. You don’t need to make me anything, but you should eat something yourself.” She lightly pushed her brother towards the kitchen, where he begrudgingly walked towards, not wanting to fight back. “Like, I obviously wouldn’t object if you made me breakfast too. I haven’t eaten yet either. So…” she trailed off. 

     Reese sighed. “Alright, what do you want to eat?”

     “I told you, you don’t need to make—“

     “Just tell me what you—”

     “Eggs and bacon!” She honestly wasn’t trying to trick her brother or use reverse psychology, but she was certainly glad he had decided to make her food anyway and obviously wouldn’t object to the morning service. Just then, the espresso machine beeped. “Oh, and my coffee’s done too!”

*    *    *    *    *    *

     Reese was in the living room later that afternoon, browsing TikToks on his phone, when Olivia came home from the grocery store. She headed to the kitchen to put away the items she had bought, before waltzing over to the couch to take her own seat. Just as always, she wasted no time in getting up to her antics, and raised her feet—still with her shoes and socks on—up in front of her brother. She darted the tip of her Nikes back and forth in front of Reese, trying to pull his attention away from his phone. “Hey, can you take my shoes off?” she asked, and arched her ankles back so her shoes’ soles directly faced Reese. 

     I can understand her wanting foot rubs, and for me to make her breakfast. I can even, just barely, understand her wanting to just play around when she tries to see if I can fit in her clothes. But why oh why would she need me to take her shoes off? Is she really that lazy? Reese sighed, deciding to stand up for himself for once. “Why?”

     Olivia shrugged, “Why not?”

     “Is it really that hard for you to just do it yourself? Like, I can rub your feet,” he said, beginning to verbalize his thoughts and confusions to her. But she spoke up before he could finish his point.

     “Reeeeeaaally?” she cooed, and grinned widely, her bright white teeth sparkling with happiness, and settled back into the couch as she lowered her feet into Reese’s lap. “Thank youuuu,” she sang. 

     But she didn’t kick her shoes off for him, and he rolled his eyes. “Fine…” he grumbled, and gripped the heels, prying the red and black running shoes off her feet. 

     “At least I haven’t gone on my run today yet,” she said, and kicked them behind her sporadically, with the hopes they’d land somewhere in the realm of the house’s foyer. “Did I make it?” Reese rolled his eyes at her quirky behavior but nodded, and began rubbing his thumbs in circles into her left sole. “But yeah, I haven’t worked out yet, so I think they’ll smell fine.” 

     “Well as long as you don’t stick them near my nose again like you did a few days ago…” he muttered, and she giggled, remembering when she had stepped on him on Thursday. 

     She raised up her socked foot in front of his face, but heeded his wishes and kept it a moderate distance away still. “Ahh, so just don’t stick them on your nose? But I can still scratch your ear with them...” She darted it towards the side of him and rubbed the side of her soft, fuzzy socks against his ear… “Or put them on your head…” She extended her foot and raised her large, heavy heel, settling her giant foot atop her brother’s dome… “Or rest them on your shoulders…” Lifting her other foot right out of her hands, she shifted her feet until her ankles now lay precariously perched on her shoulders, giving her brother a view right down the center of her long legs… “Or just like, try and wave their smell in your general direction!” Lastly, she bent her legs and pulled them back now, then bobbed them quickly up and down like she was trying to fan the air around her feet to push their scent towards his face. “See, they’re not actually on your nose, right? So there’s no problem?” Why does she have to be so weird? he thought, closing his eyes momentarily so he could regain his composure. She’s definitely just trying to tease me about it now. Maybe if—

     “Hey you two, whatcha guys doing down here?” Reese’s eyes snapped open and glanced towards the stairs to see their mom coming down. Olivia waved her feet a few more times just for emphasis, then dropped them back into his lap to allow him to continue rubbing them.

     “Reese is just being a nice little brother again,” Olivia called back as their mother passed them on the way towards the garage. Reese noticed Tracy 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. Good thing I didn’t get mad at Olivia just now. 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 just started, so in case you were wanting another one, you’ll have to wait til some other time,” Olivia continued.

     “Alright, alright, maybe I’ll catch him some other time,” Tracy said, continuing towards the garage. “I have to head to Katherine’s anyways, I’ll see you guys later tonight, mkay?”

     “OK Mom, see ya,” Reese replied.

     “Love you,” Olivia added as Tracy headed out the garage door. After they heard the car start up, Olivia chimed in again. “You know, you should be thankful I just got you out of rubbing mom’s feet this time. I’m sure you wouldn’t wanna be doing double duty.”

     “What, you think I wanna be doing ‘single duty’ just for you all the time as it is?” he bit back, a playful tone in his voice but somewhat serious about the hypocrisy she seemed to be touting. 

     “Well I don’t know, do you? I mean, I think mine are a lot softer and nicer looking, so I’m sure it’s not as bad.” She wiggled her toes, appreciating how pretty she thought her feet looked whenever she wasn’t wearing socks. “But you don’t give them to me ‘all the time,’ I mean, I’ve barely even been home for a week.” She paused, catching onto a specific part of what he said. “Like, do you not wanna massage them at all though? I figured you liked being nice, why do you do it then if that’s not the case? You’ve been such a yes man ever since I came home. Like not even just to me, but to everyone in the house.” 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, but definitely still curious as well. “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 against the side of her chest. Reese 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 so. 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 when Olivia was still in high school, sh’d 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 would 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 is fine for now!” she laughed. “Although I might change my mind in the future if I think of a good idea. But I’m your sister, Reese! I love you, so I’ll do it for free. I love helping people out, and obviously my little brother is no exception,” she gleamed, pinching his cheeks between her fingers. “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. “I mean, I definitely wouldn’t mind. Like, the foot rubs and daily breakfast are a nice treat!” She assumed a more serious tone. “But if we’re really gonna do this, 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,” he replied, “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 me to make you a snack or something? Or another back rub like I did the other day?” 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 you can give me a proper, royal thank you,” she said, extending out her hand in a dainty manner before her.

      “Uh…?” He assumed she wanted him to ‘kiss the ring,’ so he bent forward and held her large, soft hand, planting a delicate kiss on the top of it while she looked down at him gladly. But inside, Reese wasn’t even thinking about his little display of gratitude. Olivia’s offer gave him renowned energy and hope. I might actually graduate now. And for less work than he was even doing now. 

     She scooted back away from him, and placed her feet back on his lap, “Do you wanna get back to it though, lil bro?”

     She sure seems to like calling me her little brother now, although that is what I am. But fuck it, she can call me whatever she wants considering how much she’s about to save my ass. “Of course, big sis,” he answered sarcastically, and gave her a wink. She actually felt happy about their little deal too. 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 (and how easy she knew she could push him around), she felt like she was going to be benefitting from this new development in their relationship just as much as him. Perhaps even more.

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