Dancing With DangerBy: Cristina Grenier
Andrea, on the other hand, had stayed.
Ben encouraged her to leave, too. To stop working long shifts to take care of Leandra because she didn't appreciate it.
He'd found her exhausted and stressed out, crying from tiredness and from things their mother had said, more times than either of them probably wanted to count, and yet Andrea couldn't bring herself to leave.
"She needs us, Ben," was what she always said, and then when Ben had left, it turned into "She needs me."
And that was even more true now than it had been before. Leandra was so deep in her bottles that it was hard to remember who she had been before. It was hard to remember that there had once been good times when they'd been a family. Aside from Ben, Andrea was worried she'd never know what it was like to have a family again.
Now Ben sighed, shaking his head at her. "She doesn't deserve you, Drea," he said. "Not even a little bit. You can't keep... Putting your life on hold because you're taking care of her. She needs help, but you're not in anyway obligated to be the one to help her."
"If I don't, who will?" Andrea asked, looking up at her brother. "She doesn't have anyone else."
"Because she chased everyone else away! She had family and friends, but she chose drinking over them." Ben ran fingers through his close cropped hair. "Andrea, you're my sister, and I love you. I want better things for you than playing babysitter to a woman who doesn't appreciate any of it. She threw something at you today. Do you think she cared whether it hit you or not?"
Andrea opened her mouth and then closed it again. Her instinct, even now, was to defend her mother, even though she knew that there wasn't a reason to. She already knew the answer to Ben's question, after all. "No."
"No. Exactly. She could have cracked your head open with that bottle and she would have just kept drinking. Aside from you deserving better than her, it's not safe for you there."
As much as she wanted to argue, it was hard to deny that he had a point.
"So what do you suggest, Ben? You want me to run out on her?"
He shook his head. "No, I don' t... I think. I think you need to give her an ultimatum. She's our mother, yeah, but without you she has nothing, like you said. You leave, and the bills don't get paid and no one goes grocery shopping, and she doesn't eat. You leave, and she'll have to come out of that stupor long enough to realize that she can't live on her own. It's a start."
It was a start, but it seemed cruel to her. They both knew that their mother couldn't stand on her own two feet. She didn't have anything left in her to do that, and with Andrea gone... She tried not to picture her mother starving or begging in the streets.
"What am I supposed to do, exactly?" she asked.
Ben shrugged. "Tell it to her straight. Tell her she's either got to get her act together, or you're gone. You can come stay with me until you find a place of your own, if you want. Show her you mean business." His brown eyes were kind, but firm as he looked at her. "I'm not going to let her hurt you, Drea."
Andrea nodded. It was going to take her some time to be okay with this, that she already knew, but at least she wasn't alone.
Her stomach growled loudly, breaking the tension and making them both laugh.
"Let me guess," Ben said, hand on his hip. "You haven't eaten today."
She shook her head sheepishly. "I'd like to see you manage to cook breakfast while trying to wheedle vodka from a grown woman."
"The difference is that I wouldn't have tried," he pointed out. "Pizza?"
"Do you even need to ask?"
"Nope, just making sure you were alright. The day you turn down a ham and pineapple pizza is the day I know something is actually wrong with you."
His words made her grin, and she found herself laughing for the first time that day. That was one really good thing about Ben. As firm as he was about things, he also knew how to make her feel better almost instantly. He knew her better than anyone else (and she never could decide if that was sad or not), and he genuinely cared about whether she was happy or not.
He'd been trying to get her to take his advice for years now, and maybe it was finally time she took it.
By the time the pizza had arrived, she'd made up her mind to do just that, no matter how much she would have to psych herself up to do it.
They ate together, laughing and enjoying each other’s company. With how much both of them worked, they didn’t always have time to spend with each other, so it was nice to take it where they could, even if it was because Andrea was hiding out at Ben’s place.
Andrea was debating another slice of pizza when Ben’s phone rang. He groaned and fished it out of his pocket, covering his mouth to muffle a belch before he answered.