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CHAPTER 5

          Having a big Sunday lunch once a month all together had always been a tradition in the Walsh family. It was her father’s way to gather her brothers from wherever they were and kinda force them to touch base and share the latest news, good or bad, with the whole family. Annalise wasn’t a fan of these gatherings, but she loved her father very much, and to keep him happy, she would’ve moved heaven and earth.

          But since her father died, doing these lunches had become a cruel and unnecessary punishment. She and her mother weren’t great fans of each other, so coming home faking to be ok, was every time, quite painful. Her brothers were living in different cities, and their jobs were very demanding, so most of the time, they were excused from taking part in this pitiful show.

         

Well, the boys yes, but not her… Annalise was back in Los Angeles for a few years now, so, once a week she was summoned by Martha Walsh. And their… lunches weren’t happy encounters. For hours, Annalise was forced to listen to her mother’s endless list of complaints about her personal life and the fact that she was putting her work in front of the idea of having a husband and kids.

          Since that Sunday was more special than the others, Annalise took the situation into her own hands and asked her brothers to be present or face her wrath. It was Martha’s birthday, which every year was another occasion to point out her daughter’s flaws compared to her big brothers’ greatest accomplishments. Brandon agreed, but Jeremy told her that he was totally swamped with work and that this year he’s not going to make it.        

          She even called John, her ex-boyfriend from high-school and the fourth ‘unofficial’ Walsh child. Even if they broke up before her going to college, she and John parted amicably, and in time they become the best of friends. John, who started playing soccer since he was ten years of age, became in time one of the greatest soccer players in the country and the captain of ‘LA Cali FC’, the only soccer team to win the MLS Cup 6 times in a row.

          While the cab was pulling on her mother’s driveway, Annalise saw a car she knew well parked in front of the house. She felt relieved to see that Brandon was already there. Fantastic! At least just for this once, she won’t be her mom’s punching bag. Who knows if Jeremy would come home too…? He told her something about an important case he needed to take care of…

         The cab stopped near Brandon’s car and after paying, she got down. Someone honked and startled her. A smile appeared on Annalise’s lips the moment she saw who the driver was. She turned towards the vehicle and started to shake her head in disbelief. Jeremy was finally home!

          He was working for a law firm in Washington DC and lately, to have him in town, was such a rare occasion. But this was their Mom’s birthday, so, it was the tradition for all the Walsh children to get together in their childhood home and celebrate her.

“Hi there, Princess Ann!”

          Jeremy yelled at her while opening his arms widely.

“You thought I would leave you alone in this day before the firing squad?”

“First of all,” she exclaimed, “could you stop calling me with this childish name, you, knucklehead!”

          Annalise ran straight to him.

“And secondly, thank you for being here! At least today she won’t attack me every single second. She will have you to bother with her one million questions.”

          Jeremy grinned just before she launched herself into his arms. Annalise hit his chest and as she knew he would, Jeremy caught her and whirled her around. They started to laugh together and continued to twirl. Big brother and little sister reunited at last after so many months.

“I had too… I don’t want to be the first amongst us three to become the victim of our Mom’s scary look,” Jeremy said giving her a peck on the cheek. “No way, babe! Her birthday is sacred, you know it and I know it!”

          He kept his sister in his arms and Annalise looked at him for a few seconds more. She loved Brandon too, but her relationship with Jeremy was unique and it was like this since her first day of life. They were what people would call ‘Irish twins’. Jeremy was born first and Annalise almost a year after.

          The duo had always been inseparable. Jeremy was her confidant, her partner in crime, her conscience. Once when she was talking to their mother, Annalise said to Martha Walsh that having a brother close to her age felt like ‘having a twin, because she didn’t feel separated from him at all.’ He was the best brother Annalise could’ve ever asked for.

          Later when he got accepted to Columbia Law School and he went to study all the way up to New York leaving her behind in Los Angeles, Annalise wrote in her diary:   

          ‘Today, my best friend in the whole world, my protector, my better half, left the house and the pain I’m feeling is excruciating. I felt like this only when Daddy died. And maybe even then, since we kinda had the time to accept his illness and afterward his death.

          Yes, Jeremy got accepted at a great school, and I’m very proud of him, we all are. But knowing that he’s leaving the house and this city to go so far away, is heartbreaking.

          Being a lawyer is his dream since forever, and being accepted to Columbia Law School is a great deal for him. I can’t be happy for my brother, without being sad for myself. Maybe I’m being selfish because I want him to study here; because I want things to go back to being like they were when we were kids.

          I felt sad when Brandon went away first, all the way to MIT, but it was bearable because apart from Mom, I had Jeremy still in the house. And now, 3 years later, he goes away too. I wanted so much to go to New York with him and study there, but I need to stay close to Mom. I can’t leave her alone, not when her condition is so fragile.

          Since she lost Daddy, she changed so much and her heart just broke. Now that Jeremy went to New York, she shot down. She barely speaks to me.

          At least she allowed me to go to college with the condition to come home every day. That’s ok, I will go to college here. I’ll sacrifice myself so that my brother could be able to follow his dream. It’s ok, he deserves all the best in the world.

          It’s midnight. Jeremy is on his way to New York, and I’m here, crying my eyes out. The thought of not having Jeremy around the house all the time, not being able to tell him all my secrets is making me anxious.

          Today I’m like this, but I promise that tomorrow I’ll be better.”

          After Jeremy graduated summa cum laude, he was recruited by a famous law firm in Washington DC. Annalise was expecting him to come back to Los Angeles and work here, but the best opportunities were there since Jeremy was deeply interested in politics also.

          After working for a few years in New York, Brandon chose to come back to California and for three years now, he was working for a big company in Silicon Valley. He recently got engaged to Alicia Witt, his boss’s daughter, while Jeremy moved to Washington DC, working his tail off to become one of the youngest partners that his law firm ever had.    

“How come I never get greetings like that?” Brandon grumbled as he was walking out of the house, and taking a few steps towards them.  

“Because you have Alicia to hug you,” they both yelled at Brandon.

          Annalise gave a last hug to her Irish twin.

“I’m so glad to have you here,” she whispered. “We barely see you. You should come home more often; Mom would love this. She… We miss you so, Mr. Hot Shot!”

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