Chapter 5

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Tears streaked down the faces of the five family members.
"Hav-have fun in California," Rose squeezed out, her voice rough.
"Thanks, but it won't be the same without you guys," He managed to respond with little wavering in his tone. "Trust me, if I could've taken college in my bed, I would've."
Smiles escaped around the room, the family knowing he meant what he said-especially the second part.
After saying their goodbyes, Tony gave Byron a bro hug, and a gentle 'I'll miss you' hug for the others. When a sliver was left between the door closing, Byron shot back for one last glance at their oldest brother and role model. Tony's stare back formed a sixth sense in Byron's soul, Rosemary capturing a glimpse from behind him. Lost in the moment, neither of them waved their hands at their brother who was now thousands of miles away.
***
"Is that you...?" Rose questioned.
"Depending on who 'you' is," He responded, a beautiful grin across his tough jaw. "And you?"
"It's me," she said, an irresistible smirk forming. Just by those few words, she was now sure that the man she feared seconds ago was indeed her brother. Realizing now that she was still placed on the cold floor, Tony offered his strong hand, placing her to her feet with ease.
At that moment, a question began crawling through her mind. Why is he here? She thought. Her mouth began to open, but something told her to leave the inquiry for the moment. "So...how's California?"
A long pause of awkwardness raised between the two. This was the longest conversation they'd had since Rose was 12. Tony always excused himself from family reunions and gatherings, claiming that the cost was too much for a plane trip plus time off college and work. Rosemary was certain that he had finished college over two years ago, yet he still hadn't made any effort to visit until now. "Hot, but good," He responded in a jokingly, yet nervous manner.
Rose nodded her head, acting interested. The question still bothered her and bounced in her head every time she breathed. It seemed like she had to make a great effort to hold it in and not be straight forward to get her answer.
"Um...well, I'm kind of in a dilemma," Rose was shocked to hear both Tony using the word 'dilemma' and the fact that she let the question on her mind slip out without her knowing.
"Dilemma? I've never heard you say a word like that."
Blowing off a fake smile, he continued, "Yeah, that's because I'm never serious. But now...I need your help."
By the sound of it, Rose knew this was something really bothering him. Part of her wanted to help her brother, but the other part wanted to stay out of it just as he did with her life. "Tony...I don't know. There's a lot going on right now," She saw his eyes soften and his body exhale a deep breath. "Fine, what is it?"
One broad word came out at first. "Everything." Rose felt a connection to her own life at that point. "An arsonist burnt down my apartment. That's the rumor, at least. The lawyers can't do anything until there's evidence. That was a couple weeks ago, though. I slept in my car the last while, but my image hasn't really been the best and I can't focus on work. Rose...everything went with that fire. I lost my job and my house, and I really have nothing left."
Her heart flipped. At least she hadn't been the only one with a terrible week. "Then how'd you get here?" She realized how unsympathetic that sounded immediately after the words transferred.
"Uh...I sold my car and used what was left of my emergency savings. To be honest, I only thought of coming here yesterday."
Rose gently nodded, thinking over the situation. "I guess you can stay for a bit, if that's okay with Byron."
A relieved and thankful sigh exited from the oldest Amberline child. A noise didn't come between the two for a good ten seconds, before a creaking broke up the silence, startling the both of them.

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