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Brother's Keeper

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One Year Ago

 

“Give me that,” Beth sighed as she stole the bottle from her brother’s hands. He threw his arm out, trying desperately to steal it back. Only, he started wobbling in his chair. Chris started to laugh, but Beth wasn’t laughing.

“You’re no fun, Lizzie.” Josh’s breath reeked so much Beth recoiled back. His words were slurring together, but not enough for her to miss her least favorite nick-name.

“Don’t call me that,” Beth sighed as Josh stated pouting. Chris was still laughing, only stopping for the occasional hiccup and burp that interrupted him. He hadn’t even drunk that much. God, he was such a lightweight.

It was just the three of them in the kitchen together. The other’s had disappeared to start gossiping or something, which left Beth alone to watch over the two drunk babies. That was her punishment, all because she hadn’t thought to stop them from having a drinking game so early in the night.

It was only three months ago Josh had to have his stomach pumped for the third time, and Beth was not going to have to relive that horror on top of their family mountain hours away from the nearest hospital. She knew very well she couldn’t stop her brother from drinking, but she could stop him from drinking more when he was already drunk.

“Th-then don’t steal my” he burped “my drink.” Beth rolled her eyes as Josh, once again, sluggishly tried to reach for the bottle. She started walking towards to fireplace, the bottle still firmly in her grasp. Chris was still laughing to himself, but now quieter and with his head down on the table.

Josh laid his head down too, but not before yelling, “Fuck you, Lizzie.” Beth had always hated the nick-name. No one was allowed to call her that, well, one person was, but that sure as hell wasn’t Josh.

Beth set up the fireplace by the kitchen, not the one in the main hall, where she believed everyone else was. She heard a few people walk in and out while she was setting up the fire, but Beth ignored them. Josh’s drunk behavior put her in a less then social mood.

I’m trying to help, you fucking dick, she fumed as she struggled to get the fire lit. Hannah and their dad were he only ones actually good at getting the fireplace to work. No matter how much Beth tried to figure it out, she could never quite get the gas to work right.

Once it was lit, Beth took a seat in front of it, enjoying the warmth. She heard Josh silently snoring from the other room. Even so, Beth was still pissed. She kept hearing Josh calling her Lizzie and telling her to fuck off over and over again in her mind. She hated that she always did this, obsessed over the smallest of stuff. After all, Josh was drunk and probably won’t even remember it in the morning. Beth would, however.

"Fuck forgive and forget, resent and remember is our family motto", Josh would joke every time the two of them were pissed at something other then each others. "Our Game of Thrones house", Beth would add on, "House Washington". Josh would laugh, and then say, "Our house symbol could be a fucking butterfly since Hannah’s been obsessed with them since forever".

After a moment of staying more pissed then she should, Beth decided she needed to relax a bit. Without thinking, she took a sip out of the bottle. It was disgusting, but she swallowed it down anyways.

But you’re in charge, a voice in the back of her head said.

Oh well, Beth thought as she drank a few more mouthfuls.

But what if something happens? Her annoyingly persistent voice asked.

It’ll be fine, she told herself, it always is.

 


 

Present Day

 

Her stomach was filled with butterflies, and at that realization, she wanted to start crying again. Of course, Beth thought as she forced herself to take one step after the other. It would be butterflies I think about here of all places.

The mountain hadn’t changed a bit, and somehow, that made it all the worse. For the briefest second, her mind pictured Sam and Hannah at the top. They would be in Hannah’s room, sharing a hot chocolate on her bed. Hannah overanalyzing something Mike said to her a few hours earlier. It was moments like these that were the worst parts of grief. The briefest moments you forget about it, small moments when the weight of your guilt was gone, and then reality hits you again with a vengeance and things become a million times worse then before.

Beth had to climb over the rock wall, and she barely managed to keep her mind from thinking of Sam. From thinking of their climbing trips together. Sam was always a master climber, but Beth wasn’t half bad either. It helped she had the upper body strength of a professional body lifter.

Beth found Chris’s bag at the ski lift, and Beth was so caught up in her own mind, she didn’t realize Chris’s phone was ringing until after the vibrating had stopped. She took a seat next to his bag, looking down at the ground, trying to keep the tears in her eyes.

“Beth, you made it!” Chris said. Beth had snapped up, and she did her best to wipe away her teary eyes. Chris was kind enough to pretend not to notice, and for that Beth was thankful.

“Hey, Chris,” Beth said forcing a smile. She rose to her feet and pulled Chris into a tight hug. She’d know Chris since she was ten. Chris was basically a second brother to her. It genuinely made her feel a little better seeing him there. She hadn’t seen him much since he went off a college. The last time she’d seem him, it had been when Josh- well, Beth didn’t want to think about that now.

“Dude, did you know you’re dad’s got this really cool shooting range behind here?” He asked, a wide grin on his face. So he’s just going to pretend this isn’t the fucking worst/most morbid idea ever, Beth realized. She knew she should do the same. Their mom had said as much after Josh suggested it.

"It’ll help him", Melinda had said.

Well what about me? I can’t go back up there, Mom!, Beth wanted to say, but then she probably would have been called selfish by her mom, because Josh was in a much “worse” state then her and Beth was simply expected to ignore her grief for the sake of helping Josh deal with his own.

First Hannah’s the favorite, and now Josh, She bitterly thought the day after she agreed to go back to the stupid fucking mountain. They’d probably adopt a dog and declared it their only child if anything happened to Josh too. Then the thought of losing Josh too made Beth cry the whole night.

No, focus on now, she told herself.

Chris led her to the shooting range, more so he could play with the gun then anything. Beth did her best to be friendly, but it was hard in such a place. Chris didn’t seem to mind though, he kept making stupid jokes and worse puns to try to make her feel a little better. Beth did manage a smile when he started dancing and declaring what a “bad ass” he was.

“Chris, I watched you trip over nothing, and break your wrist,” Beth said with an actual grin on her face. “You are the least bad ass person I know.”

“You’re just jealous over my gun skills,” Chris joked.

“Yeah right!”

“You wanna try to prove me wrong them?” Beth had a large pride, but not that big.

“We both know I suck majorly at guns, Christopher,” She said rolling her eyes. Everyone in their family did. Even Mr. Bob I-Love-Guns Washington. That didn’t stop him from constantly practicing however. He’d even spent half of Hannah and her’s – well it was just Beth’s this time – birthday in the shooting range. She had bitterly asked him if she managed to hit anything when he finally came back drunk.

“So you admit you’re jealous,” he laughed. Chris may have been only a month older than her, but he defiantly felt like her annoying younger brother. Good, she thought, I seem to be running short on family lately.

“Cable car’s almost here,” Beth said as she looked toward the skyline. She started walking away, only to hear Chris complain. Boys and their guns, she would never understand them. Well, she’d never understand boys, period. They weren’t really her area of expertise.

“If you’re not here by the time the cable car is, I’m leaving your ass out in the cold,” she joked as she heard Chris take another shot. She did end up having to get Chris, sadly not finding it in her to live up to her promise.

When Chris called her out on it, in the most loving/joking way he could, she told him that he’d “never survive on this own without internet and cell service to keep him company”. He laughed, but they both knew it was a lie.

I can’t be alone on this mountain, she knew, If I am, I’ll explode. Beth wasn’t sure how Josh managed to spend a week up here alone.

 

She met Jess next, and that was by far the most painful. Emily had no problem pointing her out as the mastermind and ringleader of the prank after Jess “stole” her boyfriend.

I hate you, was her first thought as Jess unlocked to door for them. Chris started joking about gnawing off his own leg, but Beth had her eye’s glued on Jess the whole time. She never looked her way.

Good, Beth thoughts raged, I hope you can never look me in the eyes again.

Her best fucking friend.

Jess was her best friend, and yet, her stupid prank had cost her the two women she loved most. Did you even think about what would happen? Beth wanted to ask her, did you even cry or feel bad in the slightest?

There had been a time her and Jess were almost a thing, but that time had passed, and her feelings along with it. You’re more dead to me than they are.

Jess and Chris talked for a bit, but Beth paid them no mind. After a second, she decided she had enough of Jess and her stupid voice and fucking letter. She left Chris behind with her, wiping away a stray tear as she did.

 

Josh was next. Chris had managed to catch up to her, one her walk to the cabin, explaining that Jess was waiting for Mike. Beth nodded, but didn’t say a word. I hope the fuckers are miserable together. She wanted to tell Chris, but she knew Mike and Jess were still his friends. Chris was the only person (other then obviously Josh) who she didn’t want to upset.

Everyone else, they could all get fucked for all Beth cared.

They met up with Josh, who was walking back from the shed on his way to the cabin. Beth hugged her brother for only a second, but she never wanted to let go. For the briefest moment, Beth was afraid she’d loose him too on this damned mountain if she weren’t clinging to him. Even so, she let go, but couldn’t keep her eyes off of him.

“Oh man, this mountain feels bigger every time I climb it,” Chris said after he pulled out of a hug of his own.

“Oh yeah?” Josh said, “feels the same too me.” He sounded better then usual, though that wasn’t saying much. He was always good a lying, Beth reminded herself. Hannah and Josh were always so good at pretending. So artsy and smart, no wonder their film producing father loved them more. Beth wasn’t nearly as smart and not half as creative.

“C’mon, you grew up here. It probably feels like it’s shrinking.”

They kept talking about stupid stuff of a while, the mountain, cell service, something about Chris having a spare million. Beth wasn’t listening to any of it. She had her eyes glued to Josh the whole time.

Suddenly, the hairs on the back of her neck stood up, and Beth realized that her horrible feeling was a bit more than grief.

Instantly, she looked around. Franticly searching for whoever or whatever made her feel so afraid. But she saw nothing. Grief can make us paranoid, her therapist had said. With the words running though her mind, she did her best to ignore the dread and looked back at her brother.

He was staring at her, noticing the worry on her face no doubt. There was concern in his eyes, but something else too. Beth could have sworn he looked excited about something, and that made her stomach twist and turn.

Chris said he seemed pumped about the trip, she reminded herself as the three of them made their way to the cabin. It’s probably just that. It was horribly unthinkable to her that anyone would find this trip exciting, but who knew with Josh. He was her brother, but even she struggled to understand half the things he did and why he did them.

The only way I would is if I was like him, she guessed, I guess that makes me lucky then. Part of her knew that wasn’t true though. Sam always seemed to understand Josh, and if she didn’t, she was empathic enough to understand most of what he was feeling. It always made Beth a little jealous. He was her own brother, and she had no clue how to help him.

It also made her jealous, because Josh’s not so subtle crush on her started after Sam had helped him through an episode, and it had put a strain in their relationship. Sam wasn’t like Beth. She was bi. It wasn’t fair, she knew that, but she often was scared they would get together behind her back. You’d think Sam being gone would only make all the tension go away, but it didn’t. It only made it worse.

“Hey guys,” Josh said, waving to the first two arrivals. “Get up here okay?” Ashley was sitting on the stairs, Matt off to the side a bit, looking like he was trying his best to keep it together.

“Yeah!” Ashley said. Her smile wavered for a moment. “Well,” she added, significantly less enthusiastic. “More or less, but it’s so good to see you!”

“What’s wrong with him?” Josh muttered to the two of them as they noticed Matt. I hope he can’t dare to look me in the eyes either.

Ashley shot her a small grin, but it was weak at best, and filled with guilt. She’d been on of the few to try to apologize to her after everything (Matt being the only other), but Beth had told her to fuck off. The two hadn’t spoken since.

They were never close, and now, Beth never wanted to be.

Josh and Chris hurried up the steps to unlock the door. Beth was about to follow, but she froze as she felt that overwhelming since of dread again. She looked around, almost 100% sure they were being watched, only, there was nothing that looked out of place. Then again, nothing looks out of place in the dark.

“How are you doing?” Ashley asked. Beth jumped a bit, half convinced Ashley wouldn’t dare to talk to her. As pissed off as she still was with Ashley (and well, everyone) the question took her off guard so much she forgot to ignore her.

“Fine,” she muttered. It was become an instinctual thing. Everyone will constantly ask how you were, and you’d just tell them you were fine. It’s not like they cared anyways. She wondered if her voice sounded as robotic as saying the words felt. By Ashley’s slight frown, she guessed that did.

“You know,” Ashley tried again, “I was, well, ah, looking through some of my old stuff and...” she rummaged through her parka jacket. “I found this.” She held out a half wrinkled Polaroid picture.

Her Polaroid camera had been a gift from Josh for her birthday two years ago. She’d used to carry it around with her everywhere she went. Then the ink became too expensive, and Ashley only brought it out anymore for special occasions.

“I wasn’t…” she looked teary eyed, but Beth didn’t feel a single bit of empathy. She felt nothing for Ashley anymore, which in a way felt worse then the hatred she felt for the likes of Jess and Mike. Probably because I trusted them not to hurt me. “I thought you might want this.”

Beth took a step closer, and Ashley held it out for her to see. It was of her, Hannah, and Sam. Ashley had probably taken it the day of the birthday considering Sam and Hannah were wearing party hats. Beth was in the middle of the two, Hannah smiling at the camera, and Sam kissing Beth on the cheek. They had only just recently started dating, Beth remembered. They were still so awkward around each other, unsure of how to take that jump from friends to lovers.

Beth snatched the picture from her hands the second she realized what it was. She pulled it close to her chest, and looked at Ashley, eyes filling with tears. For a moment, she almost thanked her, but there was a lump in her throat, and all that came out was a small croak.

Josh and Chris walked down the steps, and Beth turned away to keep her brother from noticing her crying. Josh seemed more concerned with opening the door, but Chris stopped to speak to Ashley.

They headed off shortly after at, and Beth took a moment to compose herself. She took a few deep breaths, and then dared to lift the picture off of her heart. Beth spared a glance back at Ashley, who was staring at her with big, sad eyes.

Without a word, Beth started walking to the front door, waiting for Josh and Chris to finally get the damn thing open. Ashley followed a moment later. They were silent, but Beth felt a bit more comfortable in her presence. It was only a sliver, and Beth still didn’t give a damn about her, but she didn’t not care as much as before.

A few minutes went by, and Beth could barely feel her legs anymore. Damn Canada.

“We’re freezing our buns off out here!” Ashley sighed, her face as bright red as a tomato. Beth was used to trips up to the family lodge. For Ashley, however, this was only her second time. Being from LA, that gave her very little experience with being cold. Beth might have even laughed at the poor girl if it wasn’t for the fact they were standing on the mountain her sister and the love of her life died on.

“There he is,” Beth told her as she spotted Chris though the door.

“Thank God,” Ashley muttered. Beth noticed her smile a bit from the corner of her eye, and for a moment, she questioned if it was because of Chris, the thought of getting warm, or the fact she had spoken to her again. Probably a bit of all three.

Chris unlocked the door using a homemade flamethrowing, something that didn’t really shock her. Scared her a little, yes, but surprised her, no. He pulled open the door, wincing as he shook his hand in the air. Idiot, Beth thought rolling her eyes slightly.

“Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I’ll be here all wee-EEK!” before he could finish his though, something small and fast ran out of the cabin. Beth jumped back, Ashley doing the same just in time. It was out of sight by the time Beth realized what it was.

For a moment, Beth actually laughed. Ashley joining in, though a lot quiet then Beth was. It was weird laughing considering where they were, but Beth couldn’t help it, his face and his little “eek!”

“Jeeze,” Chris muttered under his breath as the two girls kept laughing. “Crap. That thing freaked me out.”

“What was it?” Ashley giggled, “Are you okay?”

“It was like a bear or a tiger or something –“ Beth couldn’t help but roll her eyes.

“Dude, It was just a little wolverine!” Beth said, mocking him just a little. Sam was the only reason she knew. The second time the Washington’s had brought her along, Sam has been so excited she memorized every animal that you could find on the mountain. She’d shown Beth pictures of them on her phone the whole ride there, telling her now she wanted to see them all.

The memory made the smile fall from her face, and Beth felt her arms cross on their own as he eyes fell to the ground. She heard footsteps behind her.

“Don’t worry, buddy, you’re going to be a big boy soon,” Josh laughed. The four of them made their way inside, and it was just as cold as it was outside, minus the wind, which at least made it feel a little warmer.

Ashley was still smiling as they walking in, but Beth stood by the door. Matt and Josh made their way past her, but Chris stood by her, a small understanding frown on his face.

I want to burn this whole fucking place to the ground, she thought. Her eyes burned at the hypnotically fire, and she did her best to keep her face dry. Fuck. She’d only been on the mountain for half an hour and she had almost cried, what? Ten times? She wasn’t sure how she was going to make it through the night.

“Home, sweet home,” Josh said as they entered the main hall. He lifted his arms in the air, a small grin on his face. It made Beth was to puke, but if Josh was half as okay as he was pretending to be, she could ignore it.

“Sweet is not the word I’d use,” Matt muttered under his breath. Yeah, same here, Beth thought.

“Oh my gosh, it’s SO GOOD to be inside. Even if it’s still kinda freezing in here.” Ashley said.

“I’ll get a fire going”

Beth didn’t want to be here. She wanted to be a far away from this damn cabin as possible, and she sure as hell didn’t want to be with these people. If it was just Chris and Josh, maybe, but not Jess, and if she saw Mike, Beth was half convinced she'd punch him.

“This place barely looks any different,” Matt said.

“Nobody’s been up here,” Josh explained. Beth frowned for a moment. You have been, she wanted to say, but she just ignored it and figured her brother just misspoke. Beth made her way towards the steps to get away, but Ashley and Chris seemed to be wandering near her.

“Even with all the police coming in and out?” Ashley asked. Beth tried not to flinch at that. She could still see it in her mind. The police, the mountain rangers, a giant search party. Everyone was all cramped in the cabin, Beth constantly looking half dead herself. She was always crying, in fact, she had even fainted once or twice from crying so much. Every time she looked into the mirror, it was the horror of seeing her own sisters face staring back at her.

No one should outlive their twin, she’d thought a few weeks after the case went cold. We were born together, I should have died with her. Maybe they’d all be better off.

“Not a lot of action up here lately,” Chris said, pulling her from her stupid memory.

“Nope,” Josh said. The casualness of his tone made Beth want to scream. Instead she took a seat on the stairs and tried to prepare herself for the enviable rage the night would bring. Just as she took a seat, the most obnoxious sound in the world filled the room.

“What’s up party people?!” Mike asked throwing his arms into the air, rocking his signature smug grin.

“Heeeeeeyy!” Jess said as she entered right behind him, an equally punch-able smirk in her face.

“Hey!” Josh said, greeting them as if they were old friends. “Make yourself at home, bro”

“Will do,” Mike said, saluting Josh.

“Yeah, come on in. Take a load off. Have whatever you want.” Matt said. He rose to his feet and slowly made his way closer to Mike. Wait, Matt being aggressive? What were him and Emily having trouble? Good, she thought, her rage cooling a bit. Let’s see you fucking deck him, Matt. Beth decided she might just forgive Matt right then and there if he did.

(In reality, she knew it wouldn’t. She knew watching Mike get hit won’t make her feel any better in the long run and it wouldn’t bring her any closer to forgiving Matt for taking part in the prank. Him and Hannah were so close after all, how could he do that to her? No, it wouldn’t help. Didn’t mean she did want it to happen thought.)

“You just take whatever you want anyways, right?”

“Whoa, easy there, cowboy.” Mike said, looking genuinely shocked for being called out. Please, knock out a tooth or something!

Of course, as expected, Matt let her down. He said something about staying away from Emily, Mike played innocent (because Mike is never innocent), and Matt backed down like he always does. He’s got a thin spine and a big heart, like Hannah.

Matt took a seat away from the group, while Mike joined Jess on the couch. Beth wanted to gag. Then she looked over her shoulder to see Ashley and Chris standing there, looking just as uncomfortable as she felt. Each shot her a glance, and Beth looked away to the ground.

Just when Beth thought she couldn’t feel any worse. Emily came in. Beth heard the all to familiar tapping of her fancy boots on the ground, and Beth knew they were in for a ride.

“Oh my god.” Emily said, trying to sound disinterested even thought everyone knew just how painful this was for her. Good. “That is so gross,” she added crossing her arms. “Are you trying to sallow his face whole?”

“Em…” Matt tried. Of course Emily didn’t listen to him. Emily did whatever she wanted and never let anyone tell her what to do. She didn’t have the excuse of the meeker Matt and Ashley (thought Beth didn’t count it as an excuse). She could have easily stopped Mike and Jess. Which in Beth’s eyes made her just as guilty as the two of them.

“Seriously? Can she be more obvious? No one wants in on you’re territory, honey.” Clearly you do.

“Excuse me? Did you say something?” Jess said, getting to her feet. They fought, saying bitchy things to each other. Matt tried to defend Emily, but really, he didn’t do much. Mike sat out the whole time, watching, as Jess was busy bragging about her looks.

She’d expected a fight between Mike and Matt, but the fight between Emily and Jess, there was nothing slightly satisfying about it. None of them care, Beth realized, They’re all fighting over their stupid petty love triangles. They don’t care Sam’s dead. My sister is dead.

There was no respect for their memory, and no looked for remorse. Ashley at least had the decency to be guilty. But these fuckers.

"You’re such a bitch!” Emily shouted.

“Holy fuck!” Beth shouted as she stood up. Everyone’s eyes landed on her. “Shut the fuck up!” She shouted at only Emily and Jess, though it was meant for all four of those assholes. “NO ONE GIVES A FUCK ABOUT YOU’RE STUPID DRAMA!”

“Beth!” Josh shouted. She looked over at him, and saw his eyes were wide with concern. It was only then Beth realized she was shaking. I must have been shaking the whole damn fight, she realized.

A shame spread through her chest and she took a seat again, only to feel Ashley gently touch her shoulder. It was only a quick pat, and it did little to make her feel any better, but at least Ashley was trying.

“This is not why we came up here,” Josh said, addressing the fighting teens in front of him. “This is not helping. It’s not what I wanted.” The way he said ‘wanted’ made Beth feel uneasy, but she shrugged that off to her nerves. She was still shaking with rage, and it was hard to see slightly. She felt to overwhelming urge to punch something, (preferably Mike) but she did her best to suppress that.

The last time she listened to the urge, she ended up punching Josh. It wasn’t exactly an accident, but Josh wasn’t exactly an innocent party either. He’d said something horrible, what Beth couldn’t remember clearly, but then Beth said something horrible back. Which lead to a shouting match, each one of them trying to blame the other, and Beth lost it. Josh didn’t speak to her for a week after that. Beth didn’t want him to at the time.

“If we can’t get along for ten minutes then maybe we need a bit of a break, right?” He said, “Mike, why don’t you check out the guest cabin? The one I told you about?”

“Yeah… Yeah, alright,” Mike said, as he held out his hand for Jess. “Wanna go do that?”

“Any place without that whore,” Jess muttered as she took Mike’s hand.

“Good riddance,” Beth muttered, not realizing she was saying it out loud. Mike pretended not to hear her, but Jess shot her a glare. Beth wasn’t sure if she was still riled up on the fight with Emily, or she actually hated Beth now, but she didn’t care. Beth felt calmer with them leaving already.

“Beth,” Josh said, still having that concerned look on his face. “You cool?” Nowadays, they seemed to fight, just as much as they worried about each other.

“Yeah,” She said, taking a deep breath in. 1, 2, 3, 4, she thought taking a deep breath in, 1, 2, 3, 4, nope. “Actually,” Beth said, glaring at her brother. “I’m not.” She stood up again, shaking just as much as before. “I don’t even want to fucking be here! And I sure as hell don’t want to be with these people!” He pointed around to everyone, Chris looked upset, Ashley and Matt to the ground, Emily looked her right in the eyes, but didn’t have any animosity in them. They were just blank and emotionless.

“Beth, please don’t be like this,” He said taking a step closer. “It took forever to set this up I think it’s really going to help us-“

“NO!” Beth shouted, “THIS IS FUCKING BULLSHIT! HANNAH AND SAM ARE DEAD AND THIS IS NOTHING! THIS ISN’T GOING TO HELP ANYTHING! PRETENDING EVERYTHINGS FINE WON’T BRING THEM BACK!” Josh stared at her, with his eerie blank face that he sometimes would get. The room was so quiet, Beth could swear, she could hear a pin drop from the other side of the mountain.

“I only came up for you’re benefit, but I’m done,” Finally, a tear fell down her face, but it didn’t make her feel any better, it just made her feel like even more shit. I’m supposed to be the strong one, she knew, I’m supposed to always keep it together so everyone else can be weak.

No, but standing in the cabin… Being there, she could hear the echoes and feel the ghosts breathing on the back of her skin. Every sight made her want to scream and shout and cry. So many horrible memories here, and even more wonderful ones. Those memories were harder, the happy ones. If I stay here, I might just fling myself from the balcony.

“Fuck, this,” she muttered, mostly to herself, “I’d done.” She started to make her way towards the door, and Josh didn’t stop her. No one did, but Josh would have been the only one to actually make her consider staying.

“Beth,” Ashley said as she stomped back her. “wait-“

“Fuck off,” Beth growled.

“Beth!” Chris said, getting all defensive. “Hold up.”

“No!”

“Beth, the next bus isn’t even scheduled to come until the morning.” She stopped, not daring to look at them. Fuck, Chris’s right. She’d what? Get to the bottom of the mountain, then walk twenty miles in below freezing temperatures in the middle of the night to the next town? Yeah, she wouldn’t make it far.

She let out a huff, turning around to face the group again.

“Fine,” she muttered. “But I’m gone by morning.” She bumped, not so accidently, into Emily as she passed, who didn’t say as much as a word about it. Beth decided to take that as a sigh of guilt, but she couldn’t be sure.

Josh, the meanwhile was staring at the floor, a dead look in his eyes. “Beth, I think this one night will help. I swear.” He muttered at she made her way up the stairs. There was something not quiet right about his voice, but Beth didn’t notice it until later when she had calmed down a bit.

“Yeah,” She said, “sure, whatever.”

 

Beth ran off to her room and locked the door behind her. She didn’t want to see anyone. Not even Chris or Josh. If those fucker hadn’t played their stupid drinking game! If they didn’t need a fucking babysitter! Beth forced herself to stop that thought. Her therapist always reminded her she had a problem of blaming everyone around her.

You blame you’re parents, your brother, your friends, even yourself. But in reality, there is no one to blame for what happened. It was an accident nothing more. Beth then accused her therapist of being bad at her job and demanded a new one. Her parents wouldn’t let her stop seeing one after Josh’s . . . attempt, and they wouldn’t let her change without a valid reason, so Beth was stuck with the idiot lady.

Her room in the cabin was so much smaller then Hannah’s and Josh’s. She’d been the last to get her pick at the room, so of course, they left her the smallest. Beth didn’t really mind. She didn’t need a lot of space and she slept in Hannah’s room more often then not. Her walls were a dark dull green, her bed neat and untouched for years. There was a TV, but she never used it.

At least my dresser’s still filled up. She’d left all of her clothes from last year there untouched, which meant her thick, thermal leggings and thick, red-and-black flannel shirt was there. She quickly changed into them, already feeling frozen in her unheated room. Just as she buttoned the last button of her flannel, Beth saw one of her hats in the drawers. It was the same knitted, white one she’d worn last year. Trying not to think about it, she put it on.

Staring in the mirror for a moment, Beth tried to see herself, not Hannah. It was something her idiot therapist always told her to do, and while it never worked, Beth always felt the urge to keep trying.

You’re more then Hannah’s twin, she always tried to tell herself, That’s you in the mirror, not her. Beth didn’t really look like Hannah at the moment luckily. Hannah hated flannel, said it was too manly, and Beth was wearing her contacts, which Hannah never wore because they hurt her overly sensitive eyes. Her bangs were still there, something Hannah swore to never get, but Beth’s bob cut was gone. She’d started to grown it out a bit, and now it was long enough to tie back into a ponytail, which it current was.

“You’re Beth,” She told her reflection, but the longer she stared at herself, the longer her hair looked, and the more she thought she saw the rims of glasses around her eyes. She pulled herself way, climbing under the covers to get away from her own reflection.

You’re so pathetic, she shout and she buried her face into the pillow, sobbing. After about an half an hour, Beth differed off to sleep. She dreamt of Sam.

 


 

Two Years Ago 

 

“The fuck is this?” Beth asked as she pulled her lips from Sam. She frowned, her eyebrows knitting together in the cutest of ways. Sam smirked at her slightly, looking at Beth who was fumbling with her shirt.

“The buttons are fake,” Sam explained, a mixture of awkwardness and humor in her voice. “There’s a zipper on the back.”

“Why the fuck would someone put fake buttons on a shirt?” Beth scoffed.

“To look nice!”

“Then just make the buttons functional!” Beth said, actually getting worked up about it. “The zipper in the back is so pointless.” Sam laughed.

“We have a ten minutes before you’re siblings get home from Hannah’s tennis practice, and you want to debate the functionality of my shirt?” Beth blushed a little, and quickly moved her hands to the zipper in the back. The shirt slip off fairly easily after that.

They had only been “together” for a month, well, if you could count what they were together. No one knew, especially Hannah, and the closest the two had had to a date was cuddling after Hannah fell asleep early at a sleep over. Then, just before Josh left to pick up Hannah, a burst in courage hit her, or maybe she was just horny, who knew? Either way, she called up Sam, and Sam rode over on her bike as fast as she could.

I’m undressing Samantha Giddings, Beth’s young mind raced. She is on top of me, and she is shirtless. If it was a dream, Beth hoped she never woke up. Sam slammed her lips against her and ran her hand under her shirt. Beth felt a smirk appear on her lips, which made kissing a little more difficult, but she powered through. Luckily, Beth’s T-shirt was a lot less complicated to get off, and it hit the ground a moment later.

With their lips never breaking, Sam unclipped her bra and let it slide down. The fabric felt so warm on her stomach, and Beth felt her hands travel to Sam’s hips. Her hands fumbled with the back of Beth’s bra, but Beth broke their kiss just before she got the latch off.

“What?” Sam asked, looking genuinely afraid something was wrong. It was so cute, Beth’s smirk grew wider.

“Nothing,” she answered, as she lifted one of her hands to caress the side of Sam’s cheek. She’s so warm, Beth’s mind race, so beautiful. “I just want to freeze time.” Beth explained, “Never leave this moment, you know?” Sam left out a noise that sounded like a mix of a sigh or relief and a laugh.

“What? Wanna enjoy the view before you climb it?”

“Yes,” Beth laughed, “I’m going to climb it so hard, but, you gotta stop and smell the roses every now and again.” She didn’t smell like roses, Sam smelt of lilacs and vaguely like sweat. It was the sexist scent Beth had ever smelt.

“What this?” Beth said, moving her hand from Sam’s cheek to a large scar just under her lest breast. I’m touching her boob. Her horny mind raced as Sam answered.

“Oh that?” She said, “When I was little my parents got into a car accident, I was in the back seat and a piece of glass hit me. Apparently, I almost bleed to death, but they managed to get to the a hospital just in time.”

“How come you never told me that?” Beth asked frowning. Sam rolled her eyes. Her sparkling green eyes.

“I was, like three, I don’t remember it, and if it wasn’t for a scar, I wouldn’t even know about it.”

“Yeah, but you almost died, that’s the kind of things you at least mention off hand in a conversation. Like oh when I was ten I feel out of a tree and broke my wrist. Or, when I was three, I almost died in a car crash.” Sam rolled her eyes again, a large grin never leaving her lips.

“It doesn’t really matter,”

“It does to me. What if you had died? Then I would never have had the honor of having the most beautiful girl in the world straddling me on my bunk bed.”

“Oh god, don’t be so corny.”

“I’m not,” Beth held up three fingers, “Scouts honor, you are the sexiest woman alive.”

“What about Beyoncé?” Beth playfully winced.

“Okay, you’re tied for first, but that still makes you first!” Sam laughed, and Beth realized she loved Sam at the moment. I’ve always loved Sam. Always have, always will. In her young mind, Beth even thought she might marry her.

“Well, boy scout,” Sam said, pulling Beth from her fantasies. “If you’re going to keep staring, you could at least let me take you’re bra off so I can enjoy the view too.” Beth laughed, and Sam undid her own bra, both of them giggling as they did so.

Beth pulled Sam into a deep kiss and moved her hand down and under her skirt. Sam’s moaned, and it was the only thing she wanted to hear for the rest of her life. She grabbed a hold of her, making her moan a little louder, With her free hand, Beth started to pull down the hem of her skirt, just as she did so, Beth hear foots racing up the stairs.

“BETH!!” She heard Hannah cry.

“Fuck!’ Beth shouted shooting up, “Their home early!” She’d meant to only push Sam off of her, but instead, she pushed her over the side of her bed. Luckily, they were on the bottom bunk, so Sam wasn’t hurt.

“Ow,” She muttered as Beth franticly looked for where Sam had thrown her bra. No time, she realized as she settled for throwing on her shirt. Sam quickly did the same, just getting her shirt on by the time Hannah threw open the door.

“Beth! You wont believe- Sam?” Hannah said, her enthusiasm fading to confusion.

“Hey!” Sam said, her causal friendliness sounding forced. “I figured and stop by to see if you wanna hang out, but Beth said you weren’t home.”

“No… I had practice, you knew that…” Sam shot a worried grin at Beth.

“I just totally forgot,” Sam lied. “But you’re home early! Awesome!” It was the opposite of awesome, but only Beth and Sam knew that.

“Oh, okay, anyway!” Hannah said, her enthusiasm starting up again. “You won’t believe who I saw at practice!!”

The three of them took a seat of the bottom bunk of the bed, Hannah never noticing just how messy it was, and never noticing that neither of them were wearing bras. Beth was, for once, glad she had such a gullible sister.

“Mike?” Sam said, a slightly groan in her voice.

“YES!!” Hannah squealed. “and you’ll never guess what he said to me!”

“That you’re good at tennis?” Beth asked rolling her eyes.

“Well, his exact words were…” Beth stopped listening and looked at Sam. She had the same look of disappointment in her eyes, but she still wore a wide grin. Beth crossed her arms, and she did her best to hide how upset she was, but it wasn’t very hard. Though they didn’t get very far, Beth couldn’t remember ever feeling so happy.

I love her, Beth mused, I love Sam.

 


 

Present day

 

Beth was always a light sleeper. Another thing her and Hannah shared. Josh could sleep though a hurricane, but not the twins. Even the slightest noise was enough to wake them.

Beth heard the wiggling of the door handle, and she sat up, groggy and confused. Sam’s name was on her lips, and the sudden burst of reality made her want to cry. She wished she never dreamt again, maybe then she wouldn’t feel so dead inside every time she woke up.

The door handle giggled again, but it was locked.

“What-” Beth muttered to herself, but froze when she heard the person speak.

“Fuck,” she heard them mutter. It didn’t sound right though. It wasn’t a voice Beth recognized. The feeling of being watched flashed back into her mind, and the hairs on the back of her neck stood up once again.

Slowly, Beth rose from her bed, making sure not to make a noise. She tiptoed over to the door, avoiding the squeaking hard wood boards on her room floor. She’d snuck out for too many times to be caught in such an amateur way.

As she reached the door, Beth knelt down and looked under the crack of the doorway. The person was wearing boots. Steel toed ones, Beth guessed. He was also wearing jeans judging by the fabric around his ankle, but it was too dark both inside of the room and out in the hall to be sure.

Who ever it was, started to walk away, but Beth couldn't shake the feeling in her gut. If it had been last year, Beth might have assumed someone was playing a prank on her, but no one would dare to do that now, and if they would, Beth would make sure they’d be the last too. No, something wrong, she’d known it since she’d first stepped onto the mountain, but now she was sure.

Beth held her breath, waiting to see if whoever it was was really gone. Are they waiting for me to leave? She wondered, Do they know that I know? What do I even know?

Suddenly, and eye appeared under the doorway and Beth jumped back.

“Beth,” An unfamiliar voice said in a mockingly joyful voice. She didn’t get a good look at them, but Beth saw enough. A white mask, cold eyes, and what was that? teeth? It didn’t matter, she jumped to her feet as she heard the man fumble with the lock.

There’s a key hidden in Dad’s room, Beth remembered as the blood drained from her face. Without a second thought, Beth slid on her sneakers. She looked around for a weapon, but her room was basically empty. Fuck I should have stayed in Josh’s, he’s probably got twenty knifes hidden in there! No, Beth, Focus!

With nothing to fight with, that left only one option, flight. Beth flew open her window, a blast of cold air hitting her like a punch to the face. She was on the second floor, too high to jump if she wanted to run. Then, her eyes fell to a drain pipe linked to the wall just outside of her window. Beth wasn’t sure it it would hold her weight, but she knew she could reach it, and the sound of the stranger fumbling with the lock reminded her she had no time to waste.

Beth stuck one arm and one leg out of her window and did her best to get a grip of what she could. Her figurers burned from the cold, and the snow made it impossible for her to get a comfortable grip, but Beth didn’t have time to care and threw the rest of her body out.

Beth fell almost immediately. Her grip was still tight on the storm drain, but her weight and the ice made her slide down so quickly, she might have well have been falling. Her hand quickly became numb and her back hit the snow first. For a moment, she struggled to gain her breath, but nothing was broken. That she knew of yet at least. But she was alive.

Get up, Her mind screamed, Get the fuck up. Her body seemed to be moving too slow however, by the time she managed to lift her back off the snow, she saw the intruder stick his head out of the widow. It was defiantly a mask, his hair looked black, but she couldn’t make out much more in the dark.

The man quickly drew his head in, and Beth knew he was coming for her. Her body ached, and the cold made it hard to move, but she threw herself to her feet. Stumbling through the freshly fallen, and slippery snow, Beth spirited off to freedom.

The Shed! There’s got to be a weapon or something in the shed! Beth made it to the trail before she froze.

Josh, she remembered, Oh god! Where is he? A million things started running through her mind, half of them didn’t make sense, but one thought rank clearly above the others. It was the only thing that made sense. I can’t leave him! I have to find my brother!

Beth then found herself running up the stair. Her lungs were burning she she couldn’t feel her fingers, but she fumbled with the door aways. It looked her a moment’s longer to get a grip on the door handle, but once she did, she threw herself into the house.

She locked the door behind her, and made her way through the hall she found herself in. But of course, no power, and it was the middle of the night. Her phone was still in her room so she couldn't see much of anything. She'd have to stumble through the hall, hoping not to make any noises because the intruder could very well still be in the house with her.

A part of her was sure he wasn’t, however. He’d seemed pretty hell bent on getting her, and no sane person would run into a house knowing there was an intruder in it. But Beth was never sane when it came to her family. Something she and Josh seemed to share.

I’ve been coming here since I was five, Beth told herself, I can find my way through the dark.

She placed her right hand on the wall, and her left directly in front of her. Slowly, Beth moved forward. She managed to avoid almost everything, but she did knock into a small coffee table. The corner his her right in the ovary, and Beth held in a wince. Oooohhh, keep going, she thought as she took another deep breath.

A moment later, she felt her hand move across something wet on the wall. She didn’t think much of it first, probably just some snow, only then she realized it was thicker then water. Slowly, she moved her hand up to her face, an overwhelming sense of dread filling her with each second. In the darkness, she could just barely make out the color red.

Her left hand threw to her mouth, and Beth stopped breathing. Ohmygodohmygodohmygod, a part of her mind raced, while the other told her not to scream. Instead, she stumbled back, feeling all the strength in her legs vanish. Her back hit the other wall (luckily didn’t make a noise) and Beth felt herself gag at the liquid on her hand.

Please don’t be Josh’s, Beth prayed as tears stung her eyes. Please, God, I can’t lose him too. For the briefest moment, Beth was so caught up in shock and worry, she didn’t move. It was only when her lungs started burning did she realize she wasn’t breathing either.

She tried to do some of the breathing exercises her therapist had taught her, but her mind was drawing a blank. Instead, she shook her head, trying to snap herself out of her own panic.

“Find Josh,” she muttered, not even realizing she was speaking out loud. “Just find him and the others.” She pulled herself together enough to start walking again. A second later, she was in the main hall, and there was just enough light from candles for Beth to make out shapes in the darkness.

Other then the cold, dread, and candle, nothing seemed slightly out of the ordinary. No blood, no bodies, none of her friends. Emily’s bags had moved, but that was about it.

She searched the bottom floor first.

“Josh,” she whispered as she walked around. “Chris?”

She checked the dinning room, the library, everywhere she could think of in her panicked haze, but she didn’t find anyone. Only their old spirit board, and emptiness. Now jogging slightly, Beth hurried back into main hall. The first floor was empty of everything, even any signs of a struggle. They might be upstairs.

She only made it halfway before two strong arms rapped around her.

“Oh Beth!” the man shouted in her ear. Beth threw her arms up to pry of the arms of her attacker, but he was stronger than her, that much was clear. He lifted her slightly as she started squirming and kicking. He was trying to drag her down the stairs, but she refused think about what would happen once her got her to the bottom.

She fought back with sore arms and aching legs, screaming every second along the way. Beth tried stomping down on his foot, but it was steel toed boots, and he wasn’t even hurt. In fact, it he almost seemed to laugh.

Nonnonnononononono, her mind screamed. Is this what happened to Hannah? To Sam? Nonononono.

“Stop!” the man said, but Beth was never good at listening. She kept trying to kick back at his legs, maybe cause him to trip in some way. Beth’s heart was racing by the time he got off of the stairs, and one arm let go of her. She tried to elbow him with the few found looseness of her arm, but something covered her face just before she could.

It was cold, and it made her lungs burn even more. A gas mask! She realized. With each breath, Beth felt herself growing weaker and weaker as while room became darker and darker.

No.. she thought at what she thought was her last moment. NO!

Beth threw back her head, hitting the masked intruder right in the nose. The mask slipped off her face, and as he jerked back. With her loose arm, she pushed him back. He stumbled back, gripping his face, and Beth collapsed on the stair, coughing and struggling to breathe.

Move, her mind growled, but her thoughts were slow and cloudy. Ever movement she made felt as though she were moving through jelly.

“Really?!” The man hissed. Beth tried crawling up the stairs, but the man grabbed at her ankle. Beth took ahold of the railing of the stairs. She let out a small groan as the man tried to pull her down, her leg still throbbing from the fall. She kicked at him, trying desperately to get free.

She managed to kick one of his hands, and his grip lessened as he pulled that hand away. Wincing slightly. She kicked again, only to feel him grab her other leg. With one violent whip, Beth’s grip slipped and she started being dragged down the stairs.

“STOP!” Beth screeched as she arms hit each step with a painful back. Once she was finally off, the intruder tired again to put the mask on her face. Only he was in such a hurry to sulfate her, he forgot about her arms.

Just as the mask touched her skin, Beth punched him right in the dick. He recoiled back, falling to the floor, making much louder cry of pain then before. Beth didn’t have time to celebrate.

You’re trapped upstairs, she remembered, he has the keys. Beth rose to her feet, ready to race towards the back door, but filled with adrenaline and still dizzy from the gas, her legs gave out on her after only a couple of steps.

She stumbled forward, and only ended up tumbling down the stairs leading to the basement. Her arms took the worse of it, but her whole body ached and her head was ringing.

“Lizzie!” She heard the intruder yell, sounding a little more than a little pissed off, and all Beth knew was that she had to run.

She stumbled to her feet, using the guardrail to stabilize herself. Just as she was about to hurry up the stair to make her way back onto the ground floor, the intruder was at the top of the stair.

His steps there slow, and Beth could tell he was still feeling the pain of her punch. She might have been proud of herself if she wasn’t so damn terrified.

On unsteady legs, and a foggy mind, Beth found herself running deeper into the basement. She ran through the theater room, and down the broken stairs and towards the old hotel. All the while she heard footsteps trailing behind her, and her loudly beating heart, or perhaps it was her sharp panic breaths, she couldn’t be sure.

She locked the door behind her, and was ready for the drop into the hotel. The door was just as heavy as she remembered, but filled with terror, opening it felt just a little bit harder.

Run, she commanded her still fuzzy mind. Fucking run.

So she did. Beth ran down the hall, but then froze as she reached the end of it. Feeling the weight of the world on her chest, she stopped to catch her breath, trying to make sense of the madness.

No one else was there, she realized, or if they were, they were caught by the guy. Her skin crawled at the thought, but she refused to accept Josh was captured. Not him, I can’t lose him too.

She leaned against the wall, and waited for her eyes to adjust to the darkness. Moments later, things started to become clearer and her memories of the place started flooding back.

The three of them were always banned from exploring the old hotel. It was too dangerous, or something, and sadly, vacations were the only time Bod and Melinda Washington ever bothered to watch their kid.

Josh would always swipe the keys from them when they were sleeping, Beth remembered, and we would come down in the middle of the night. Hannah was always terrified of the place and would squeal at every noise.

Beth and Josh, on the other hand, they loved it. Josh loved the terrifying atmosphere, and Beth saw it as an adventure. She felt like Lara Croft, exploring a long forgotten city with mountains of gold at the end. It made her feel brave. It made her feel powerful.

Standing there now, all she felt was helpless. A stupid, weak little girl who wasn’t as brave as she thought. It was her sibling that made her brave. She was brave so Hannah felt safe, and she was brave so Josh wouldn’t tease her. They’re all I am, and now their gone.

Of course there was Sam, but she never made Beth feel brave. She made her feel safe and vulnerable. Like she didn’t keep to be the strong one anymore.

But I’m alone, and I need to find Josh.

Feeling a little clearer and a little stronger too, Beth was about to make her way deeper into the hotel, when she swore she heard the slightest noise, followed by the slightest movement down the end of the hall. It was hard to tell in all the darkness, and her mind could very well be playing tricks on her. It was then, another memory popped into her mind.

There’s more than one way in here! She remembered. Josh always told her and Hannah about it, but he never showed them where. He always did love his secrets.

Beth held her breath as she backed up to the wall.

I’m fucked, I’m fucked. I’m fucking fucked. She her back touched the wall, she felt the cold smoothness of metal through her shirt. Turing around, she saw and empty old elevator shaft.

It’s nothing, just run! Her head told her. But her gut was singing a different song, and Beth knew all to well the effects of listening to her head over her gut. Without a second thought. She climbed it, and a moment later, she heard footsteps coming towards her.

They echoed off the empty walls, and Beth couldn’t tell from which direction they were coming from, and Beth shut her eyes and held her breath and prayed she didn’t just get herself killed.

“Ohhh, Lizzie.” The intruder seemed to purr. He smacked something against what she assumed was the gas tank, and called out her much hated nickname again. This time much, much angrier.

“LIZZIE!”

The beating of her heart filled her ears. It was so loud, she was sure he would hear it, and so she slowly placed her hand over her chest. Too afraid to open them, she kept her eyes shut, and waited.

There was a clanging noise, and shortly after, she heard the man shout “fuck!”. Even then she did not open her eyes, she waited and waited. She still didn’t move after his footsteps had faded away.

She wanted to scream, she wanted to cry, she wanted her brother, she wanted her sister and her girlfriend back, but all she could do was sit and wait. Only daring to breath when her lungs burned too much not too.