Chapter 1: The “Bad” News
It was a brisk summer morning, and Saturday was finally here.
Shawn dismissed his alarm with a yawn. His bedroom window was still open, and a cool breeze gently swept in as he collected the strength to get up. The summer air smelled refreshing, and the cool breeze of the early morning made it hard for him to wake up. He would have preferred to lay there and let the gentle breeze carry him back to sleep, but the weekend excited him, and they were always too short. Shawn knew he would rather enjoy himself than sleep in.
With some effort, he hoisted himself out of bed and went straight for the bathroom to begin his morning routine. The first thing he noticed was how pitifully empty his toothpaste was. Shawn was a natural-born procrastinator, and this morning he’d have to coil it up to get enough out. He sighed, tossing the empty tube into the bin next to the sink, realizing it was finally time to go shopping for toiletries again. Shawn hated this, as he was painfully introverted and preferred to stay home as often as possible.
He curiously analyzed his physic in the mirror as he brushed his teeth. Shawn’s figure was average. He wasn’t skinny, overweight, athletic, or anything else but wasn’t the most confident with his appearance. He managed himself well and tried to make healthy choices but considered himself a generous seven at best. He knew he wasn’t ugly, but his geeky interests and social awkwardness made him feel undesirable. Growing up, he didn’t have many friends, and everyone thought he was strange. But he had a good heart and could get along well with anyone.
Shawn stood six feet tall with dark, shaggy hair and brownish-green eyes. Kendall always told him he’d never have issues with girls because of his looks; in her opinion, he was handsome. To his disappointment, this couldn’t have been more inaccurate. Shawn tried dating a few times, but none of his relationships ended well. He could never seem to get the attention of those he was interested in, and any who showed interest weren’t what he was looking for. That was the story of his love life.
On the other hand, Kendall seemed to get lucky with Bradley, though Shawn did not like him. His dislike for Bradley was a mixture of jealousy and disapproval for how he treated Kendall. Bradley didn’t know how to be wrong about anything and blamed Kendall for everything. He was an egotistical only child who grew up wealthy and the walking definition of toxic masculinity. However, his athletic build, high income, and desirable looks could get him any girl he wanted in today’s excuse for a dating pool. Kendall sometimes had insecurities about this, which likely caused her to put up with more than she had to. In truth, she could easily have anyone she wanted, but Bradley’s twisted control over her clouded Kendall’s awareness of the fact.
After rinsing his mouth, Shawn kicked his boxers off and twisted the shower handle, waiting for the water to reach the perfect level of molten hell. He enjoyed blistering-hot showers. Kendall always told him it was terrible for his skin and hair to take showers like that, but he never listened.
He wondered why Kendall hadn’t responded to his text messages lately as he rinsed his hair and body. It had been over a month since they had last seen each other. Her text message responses were getting less frequent as they lived apart over the last year. Shawn never expressed it directly to her, but this bothered him greatly. Kendall was his only source of interaction, as most of his friendships were through a device. Shawn’s friends were a combination of coworkers he had met virtually due to working remotely and people he had met online while gaming. They had a chat server he logged into daily to goof around with them. He didn’t engage with people in person often but secretly wanted to be better about it. Even introverts crave social stimulation at times.
Shawn finished his morning routine with fresh clothes on and began heading downstairs to start his weekend correctly with coffee. He headed straight for the kitchen and immediately opened the fridge, looking for a particular pitcher of cold brew that he was looking forward to breaking open. Cold brew was his dominant preference year-round, and Shawn refused to drink hot coffee in the summer. He poured the coffee into his favorite mason jar over some ice, smelling its wonderful, unique roast. Then he added a splash of oat milk and squeezed in caramel syrup before stirring vigorously. Shawn was very proud that he had effectively found a way to enjoy his favorite coffee shop beverage without driving to one and paying six dollars.
As he put the oat milk back in the fridge, he noticed a pitcher of filtered water on the counter that wasn’t there the night before. It was Kendall’s electric pitcher that she always used to make hot tea. He figured his mom or dad may have used it to make their coffee since Kendall didn’t live at home anymore. Part of him almost perked up at the thought of Kendall şahinbey escort being there, but he knew that was unlikely. She would have told him she was coming home, or so he thought.
Shawn walked over to the living room to assume his Saturday morning ritual of destroying people online in his favorite fighting game with his coffee, only to be completely surprised by Kendall sitting on the couch playing. As expected, she had her tea with her. So she was here after all.
Trying not to seem overly happy to see her, Shawn deliberately suppressed his emotions and reset himself as he approached her.
“Hey,” he mumbled casually, sitting beside her.
“Hey,” she responded dryly, glancing at him once, trying not to break concentration.
Kendall was every bit as good as he was at fighting games. They practiced on each other for years growing up, and they were highly competitive about it. She didn’t take them as seriously as Shawn did, but she could beat him when it came down to it.
Shawn couldn’t help but stare at her momentarily as he sat down. It had been a while since they had seen each other. Her long, brunette hair, light brown eyes, and supple skin captivated him as she delivered hell to her opponent on the screen. The way she bit her bottom lip in total concentration drove him mad. Shawn couldn’t understand why, in his mind, Kendall was so perfect. Nobody else made him feel the way she did. Something about her ignited his very cells. She was objectively attractive, but it was more than that for him. He loved the way she laughed and how kind but witty she was. Her personality was warm and genuine, and she would do anything for anyone.
Shawn knew Kendall would still be way out of his league, even if they weren’t siblings. He couldn’t imagine someone like her going for a dorky, average-looking guy like him. Like any other attractive woman, Kendall cared greatly about her health and appearance. She exercised regularly and took care of herself. She didn’t smoke and rarely drank. Her smile was perfect, and her eyes could level someone. She was the “hot friend” in her group, and Shawn grew up watching her ignore the ocean of boys constantly pursuing her.
He admired her beauty as he watched her fight, wondering if there was some plane of existence where the sibling boundary didn’t separate them, and they could have been together. But that always leads to his biggest issue.
Enter the source of Shawn’s existential anxieties: constantly fantasizing about having sex with Kendall. Shawn spent more time thinking inappropriate thoughts toward his sister than he could ever freely admit to someone. He had an overwhelming taboo fetish, and Kendall lay at the heart of it. He knew how wrong it was to be this way and had spent his entire life hiding it from her the best he could. The one thing he feared more than anything else in the world was Kendall finding out how he felt toward her. It would ruin them forever, and Shawn didn’t want to live in a world where Kendall wasn’t his best friend.
Shawn caught himself gawking and looked away just in time as she won her fight and reached for her mug of tea.
“Working on your setup combos, I see,” Shawn said as he set his coffee on the table, trying to make conversation.
“Yeah, I can’t figure out the spacing on this one. So I figured I’d practice while I’m here,” Kendall responded plainly, seeming uninterested in talking.
Something was off with her, and Shawn knew it. He could always tell when something was going on with Kendall. His gut wanted to ask her but felt reluctant because they had not seen each other in over a month. The last thing he wanted to do was irritate her by prying into her problems, but it bothered him that they were interacting so foreignly. He gradually built the courage to say something with each sip of coffee as he watched her steamroll people left and right. Watching the skill gap between Kendall and her opponents was also amusing to witness, and seeing her as good as ever despite living away from home the past year made Shawn slightly proud.
After several matches of near silence between them, Shawn finally excavated the courage to break the awkwardness. It was dreadfully uncomfortable to be shoulder to shoulder with her and not say a word to each other. He felt almost unwelcome by her side. This wasn’t like them at all.
“Hey. Is everything okay with you?” He asked.
Kendall wouldn’t even look away from the screen to answer him.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” she said without any thought.
That was the last straw. Shawn was all but sure now that something was going on with her, and it bothered him that she didn’t want to be open with him about it.
“Huh, okay,” Shawn said with an attitude, deliberately sounding skeptical as he took a drink.
He knew his sister. He knew she’d take the bait.
“What,” she said defensively, looking right at him, “I said I’m fine! Why?”
Shawn didn’t şahinbey escort bayan want to upset Kendall, but he knew he would at least get somewhere like this.
“I don’t know,” he continued, “you’re acting differently. You seem distant. I mean, you’re home. That’s weird?”
Kendall became more defensive.
“So I’m not allowed to come home now!?” She retaliated, “I still technically live here, you know!”
Shawn raised his hands in passivity, realizing she was becoming upset, and took his opportunity to pry.
“Whoa, whoa, hey!” He went on, “look… If something’s bothering you, I’m here if you need to talk to someone. That’s all I’m saying, okay?”
Kendall rolled her eyes and huffed in frustration, looking back at the TV.
“Not this time, Shawn…” She mumbled under her breath as she continued pounding her opponent.
Hearing this pushed Shawn over the edge.
“Wait, what?” He demanded, looking over at her sharply.
Kendall gave a nervous glance at him. Her face was distressed as she focused on the game. She knew he wouldn’t respond well to such a blow, but she didn’t want to discuss why she was home.
Shawn reached over and grabbed the controller, holding it away from her hands.
“What did you just say?” He demanded again.
“Give it back, Shawn! I’m going to lose!” Kendall shouted in frustration.
“No, forget the game, Kendall!” He fired out, “why did you say that? What do you mean not this time? What the hell’s that supposed to mean!?”
Shawn berated her, revealing his emotions. He was feeling a level of betrayal at this moment that he had never experienced with her. They told each other everything, probably even too much for siblings. This sudden change in energy was very upsetting to him. Kendall stared into his eyes as his emotions surfaced. She knew he was being serious.
“If there’s one person you can trust who cares about you, it’s me. Right?” Shawn pled with her, “but you haven’t even been answering me lately when I call you. You don’t text back, we don’t hang out, and you never come home. I don’t even know what’s going on with you anymore! So now you randomly show up mad and won’t even talk to me?”
Kendall’s eyes wandered down to the couch as she realized he was right. She had been distant lately, and Shawn didn’t deserve that. It was vital to him for them to communicate, and she knew it. They were supposed to be best friends no matter what. She recalled promising Shawn nothing would change between them when she moved in with Bradley the year prior, only to reflect for a moment and realize many things had changed without her noticing it.
“So just talk to me,” Shawn quieted his tone, setting the controller on the table in front of the couch.
Kendall sighed through her nose as she leaned to the right, looking over Shawn’s shoulder towards the study, where she knew their mom was having her coffee and surfing social media on the computer.
“You have to promise me!” Kendall whispered aggressively with a severe face.
Shawn was almost surprised that she caved so quickly. Jackpot.
“Promise what? Why are we whispering?” Shawn whispered back, hunching in front of her as if it were some game.
“Promise me you won’t tell a single soul any of what I’m about to say to you,” she hissed, trying to avoid their mom hearing them.
Shawn raised his pinky.
Kendall gripped his pinky with her own.
The best friend’s pinky promise was a special handshake they developed as small children. When they fought, this was how they made up. When exchanging the deepest and darkest of secrets, this was how they trusted each other. This unique promise was sacred between them. It may seem silly, but they took it more seriously than a blood oath. Not once in their entire lives had its sanctity ever been broken.
Kendall scooted closer to Shawn until their knees almost touched, sitting cross-legged before him. His eyes wandered over her as he adjusted himself to listen. He missed being so close to her.
“Soooo, Bradley and I have been… Trying,” Kendall said awkwardly, fiddling with her thumbs and fingers, unable to look Shawn in the eye until a few moments passed.
Shawn knew all of her nervous behaviors, and this one was the most prominent. When her thumbs and fingers began picking and fidgeting with one another in her lap, it meant she was stressed out. Their parents tried counseling her alongside many other treatment methods over the years, but this was one nervous habit that Kendall couldn’t shake, no matter how old she got. Some of her fingertips were slightly scarred from her habit, and she was highly self-conscious about it. So Shawn took it upon himself to help her whenever he saw her doing it.
“Trying?” Shawn repeated, instinctively reaching forward and separating her hands to stop the picking.
Kendall nodded reassuringly, burying her hands in her lap escort bayan şahinbey to avoid fidgeting again. Her eyes scaled Shawn for a moment, realizing her habit was easier to manage when he was with her, and she missed him.
“I don’t get it. What are you trying? Like, keto? Yoga?” Shawn asked.
Kendall cracked a smirk as they both giggled.
“No, you dork,” she said with a growing smile.
Seeing Kendall smile reminded Shawn of how much he missed being around her. Even during a serious conversation, he was happy to spend time with her again. His eyes wandered her face, admiring her perfect smile and gorgeous eyes. He sometimes wondered if Kendall could see how he looked at her, hoping it wasn’t obvious how crazy he was about her.
“You know, like, trying?” Kendall said, making a deliberate face and raising her eyebrows.
It finally sank in for Shawn.
“Oh! You mean…” He said, looking down towards her belly.
Kendall slowly nodded her head in confirmation.
“A baby!?” Shawn thundered by mistake.
Kendall’s head immediately jolted toward the study as she nervously braced for their mom to overhear.
“Sssshhhhh!!!” She silenced him violently, “Mom’s over there!”
Shawn nervously looked over in the direction of the study before apologizing profusely under his breath.
“I mean, is that what you want? Are you sure about this?” He whispered, concerned.
“Yeah,” Kendall said softly, “he’s been telling me how much he wants to start a family. I love him, and I want to give him that.”
“Wow,” Shawn said, rubbing the back of his head, “you guys have been together for almost four years now, right?”
“It’ll be four years next month,” Kendall replied.
Shawn processed this new, scary information as he scratched the back of his head. What was this feeling inside of him? What was causing him to feel so agitated and resentful? Any supportive brother would be happy for their sister. She had found the person she wanted to marry and build a family with, so why couldn’t he be happy for her? Why was he filled with frustration and fear of losing Kendall? Why did the twisted, perverted part of him that yearned for her not want to let him accept this new development?
Shawn swallowed hard and choked down his feelings. He knew this was not the time or place to wrestle with his emotions.
“Well… Congratulations?” He said awkwardly, forcing himself to smile and be positive.
Kendall knew her brother. She may not have understood his true feelings toward her, but she knew something was wrong. But, of course, Shawn wasn’t pleased about any of this, no matter how hard he tried to fake it. It made her wonder for a second as she silently analyzed his face.
Things like this were the mysterious gray area in their relationship that loomed between them for years now. Kendall could never pinpoint why Shawn seemed almost jealous of her boyfriend. She never thought about it too hard, but the concern had been there since she first met Bradley. Kendall didn’t understand why Shawn’s behavior changed when she started dating. She couldn’t figure out the fleeting nodes of jealousy and resentment from her brother. Bradley sometimes made snide comments about it to Kendall, which irritated her. Kendall was highly protective of Shawn and didn’t like it when Bradley joked about her brother being in love with her. She knew they were much closer than other siblings, but nothing weird had ever happened between them. Even so, Bradley’s mean jokes about it made Kendall subconsciously aware of her brother’s behavior, and even she sometimes began to wonder.
“Thanks…” Kendall said awkwardly, looking down at her lap.
“So, what’s the bad news?” Shawn asked with a chuckle, “I mean, that sounds like a good thing! You always said you wanted to have a cute little girl.”
Kendall slowly looked up into his eyes. The look on her face was harrowing. It melted Shawn’s smile away as he braced for a harsh response.
“We’ve been trying for almost five months…” She said, unable to look at him.
“Oh,” Shawn replied, looking down at her stomach, “then you’re not…” He mumbled, not wanting to say the words.
Kendall shook her head with a distraught face, confirming she was not pregnant. Everything made sense now. It had not been going well for them.
A calm breeze of relief flowed through Shawn momentarily, but he could not let Kendall know. So instead, he pressed her to make it seem like he was also disappointed, even if he wasn’t.
“Well, have you looked into it? Maybe see a doctor?” Shawn asked, trying to appear as genuine as possible.
“I saw my doctor after the third month of no results,” Kendall answered, “she said I’m perfectly capable of having kids. No issues.”
“So then what about Bradley,” Shawn continued, “what did his doctor say?”
Kendall’s expression changed. She continued looking down at her hands, but she appeared irritated now.
“Well,” she sighed, “that brings us to where we are now.”
Shawn listened closely without interrupting. He knew he was at the root of her behavior of late.
“Bradley won’t see a doctor,” she said with an attitude, “he doesn’t think anything is wrong with him. So every time I tell him he needs to go just so we can be sure, he refuses, and then we fight about it.”