Tobi swallowed hard against the rising feeling of nausea that crept up inside him. She’s your Schwester. He told himself firmly. You’ve gotta do this. He raised one large fist and knocked sharply against the bedroom door.
“It’s open!” a voice called from the other side, barely audible over the pounding bass blasting through the stereo.
Tobi took a deep breath and entered.
His sister raised an eyebrow curiously at the sight of him. Clearly he had not been the visitor she’d been expecting. “Oh, hey.” Clara’s surprise was evident. “What’s up?”
Tobi suddenly found himself wishing he’d been blessed with his daughter’s acting ability. “N-nothing, uh… I just wanted to say hi, I guess.”
She looked at him like he had two heads. “Okay… Hi?” Clara rolled her eyes for a moment, then her fingers were back on the keys of her computer once more.
Shit. Tobi felt like he was going to be sick. Guess I just need to go for it. “Look, Clara.” He reached out toward the stereo, flicking its power switch with a soft click. The room fell into silence. “Can we talk for a minute?”
A flicker of confusion crossed the girl’s face. Then in an instant, her entire expression darkened. Clara rose to her feet, her fists clenched at her side. “That little bitch.” She hissed. “I knew she’d say something. I’m gonna kill her.”
“Hey!” Tobi snapped, his deep voice booming across the quiet room. “Don’t you talk about my Tochter like that.” He narrowed his eyes slightly at his sister. Guess there’s no point in trying to pretend anymore.
“That’s right.” Clara said, crossing her arms across her chest. “Jocelyne is your Tochter. You’re her Papa, not mine. So do us both a favor and stay out of this, Tobi.”
Tobi sighed heavily. Things were already going so much worse than he’d anticipated. “Clara, please. Just hear me out, okay? You’re right. I’m not your Papa. But I’m your Bruder. And I love you.” He said desperately. “Please, just give me five minutes.”
Clara was silent for a few moments. Then finally, she crossed over to her bed and took a seat on the edge of it. “You have two.” She said at last.
That’s… better, I guess. Tobi thought uncertainly as he sat beside her. “Okay, so… Can we just get a couple of things straight?”
“This guy… Julian, right? He’s really 24?”
Jesus. “And… you’re really, uh… seeing him?”
“For how long, exactly?”
“I dunno. Like a month-ish?” Clara shrugged.
Tobi shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “Come on, Clara. Don’t you see what’s wrong with this whole thing?”
His sister shook her head. “Look, if you’re talking about all those bullshit rumors people are spreading about him, I suggest you stop worrying. None of it’s true.” She insisted.
Tobi did not immediately reply. He felt a sudden warmth come to his cheeks. “S-so… So you mean you guys haven’t…?” He bit his lip uncomfortably. Was he seriously asking his little sister if she’d had sex?
“Jesus Christ, Tobi!” Clara burst angrily. “As if that’s any of your business!”
“I know, I know.” He hung his head for a moment. “I’m sorry. I’m just worried.”
The girl sighed sharply. “Well for your information, no. We haven’t. Happy?” She looked almost embarrassed.
Tobi felt a wave of relief crash over him at his sister’s words. “Very.” He admitted.
“He’s not like that, Tobi. End of story.”
He leaned forward, holding his face in one of his hands for a moment. Why doesn’t she get it? “It’s only been a month, Clara. Anything can happen. You’re still getting to know this guy. You need to be careful…” Tobi shook his head slowly. “And it’s not fair for you to keep this from Mama and Papa. You have to tell them the truth. Keeping a secret like this… it’s not right.” He said seriously.
To his surprise, Clara began to chuckle softly to herself. “I really didn’t wanna go there…” She muttered under her breath. “But I guess I don’t have a choice.” She locked eyes with her brother, her scowl growing. “You wanna talk about secrets, Tobi? You expect me to let you sit there and judge me for dating someone behind my family’s back?!” Clara laughed bitterly once more. “That’s a good one.”
A wave of powerful nausea washed over Tobi’s stomach at her words, though he could not quite explain why. “W-what are you talking about?”
“Oh, you know exactly what I’m talking about.” Clara assured him. “Julian goes to the same gym as this girl… Anna?” She paused, and Tobi knew she was searching his face for a reaction. He tried his best to remain calm as she continued. “Julian says she works as a physical therapist down at the stadium. And apparently she’s been all excited, telling everyone who’ll listen how she’s been going out with the famous Tobias Rosebrook.” There was a cruel, mocking edge to her voice as she spoke.
“What?!” Tobi felt all the blood drain from his face. Oh my God. He’d been SO careful about dodging the paparazzi every time he was out with Anna. He’d never imagined SHE might be the one he had to worry about. “No! We’re not dating… J-just hanging out. That’s all!” He insisted. “She’s wrong.”
“Uh-huh. Sure.” Clara’s scowl had been replaced with a small smirk. “If you’re ‘just hanging out’, then how come you haven’t told Colette about her?” She asked. “I hear you telling her you’re ‘going out with the guys’ all the time. But you aren’t, are you?”
There was a sudden heaviness in Tobi’s chest. What was happening? How had Clara managed to turn the tables on him like this? And why do I feel so goddamn guilty?! “Look, Lettie wouldn’t get it. I know she wouldn’t.” He explained, his tone almost desperate. “That’s why I can’t tell her. But it’s not what you think, okay? She just… wouldn’t understand.”
His sister appeared thoughtful for a moment, then nodded. “I think I get it.” She said at last.
“Of course. I mean, it’d be hard for anyone to understand why their husband’s off banging someone younger and cuter than them, wouldn’t it?”
In an instant, Tobi was on his feet. “It’s not like that!” He cried. “She’s just a friend!”
“What the Hell is wrong with you, Clara?! Why are you doing this?!” He closed his eyes and took a few slow, deep breaths before speaking again. “What do you want from me?” His voice was suddenly much calmer than before.
Clara shrugged slightly. “A deal.” She replied.
The girl rose to her feet as well, looking her brother directly in the eye. “If you tell Mama and Papa about Julian, I tell Colette about Anna.” She said simply.
This time, Tobi actually came close to vomiting. He swallowed back against the painful sting of bile in the back of this throat. “Y-you wouldn’t.” He choked out. “You wouldn’t dare.”
“Oh yeah?” Clara smiled. “Try me.”
In that moment, Tobi wanted nothing more than to hit her. He clenched his fists at his sides, fighting the urge to do so. “You little bitch.” He whispered.
Clara narrowed her eyes. “Oh, so it’s okay for you to say that, but not me? You’re an even bigger hypocrite than I thought.” She shook her head slowly. “I’m not trying to be a bitch, Tobi. I swear to God, I’m not. But if you want me to stay out of your business, then you need to stay out of mine.” She shrugged. “It’s that simple.”
Then she turned around and returned to her computer without another word.
Tobi stood there for a long time, still stunned at how quickly the tables had been turned. He opened his mouth several times to try and speak, but no words would come.
“Oh, and if I were you,” Clara muttered as he finally headed for the door, “I’d tell that little girlfriend of yours to stop running her mouth so much. It’d be a real shame if the wrong person found out, don’t you think?”