Hello! Jean can't spend the entire quarantine grounded. The question of his dynamic with the aunt and uncle came up not too long ago, though it's something that I've thought of for a long time. More at the end.
"Cécile! Cesser d'être un gosse insupportable!"
Aunt Maddy's exclamation rang out from the living room, eliciting a grimace from Jean, who had frozen on the stairs the second he heard the elevated voices of his aunt and his big sister, who was either on speaker phone or FaceTime (he couldn't tell which one it was).
"Moi?! Insupportable?! C'est riche venant de toi tu veux dire vieille salope!"
Jean's eyes widened; Céc must have been really pissed.
"Cécile!" Aunt Maddy gasped.
Uncle Gary, who was sitting next to Aunt Maddy with an arm draped across her shoulders, sat straight up and leaned toward the phone, which must have been on the coffee table in front of them.
"Cécile," he bellowed, "that is your aunt and you will not —"
"Ferme ta gueule espèce de goule fasciste!"
At that, Jean had to throw a hand over his mouth to help suppress a wayward snicker. His sister was clearly in top form, and he had to wonder what it was that Aunt Maddy and Uncle Gary said to her that had her that riled up.
"I don't know what you said," Gary retorted, "but you will not talk to your aunt — or myself — like that! Do you understand?!"
"You know what?" Cécile asked, abruptly switching languages, "I don't understand. Why don't you explain it to me Gary?"
"Your aunt and I —"
"I made a promise to my brother," Aunt Maddy started, "to take care of you and Jean —"
"What the hell does that even have to do with anything?!"
"Because your disrespect over the years —"
"My disrespect?!" Céc shrieked, her voice full of disbelief. "Incroyable!"
"Stop being so dramatic, Cécile," Aunt Maddy snapped. "It's not helping your case."
There was a pause as Céc took a very deep breath, and Jean instantly pictured her sitting in her living room, squeezing her eyes shut while tightly pressing her lips together in an attempt to calm herself before she said anything else.
"I'm hanging up now," she said — clearly through gritted teeth, "Do not call me unless it's important. And wear your fucking masks."
Silence. And then:
"That girl," Aunt Maddy growled. "Always with her self-righteous nonsense! Who does she think she is?!"
"I don't know. Definitely a piece of work, though."
"After everything we've done for her!" Maddy fumed. "She continues to stomp on us with her…! Her disgusting habits, and her… her lewdness! All of that fighting — like she deserves some kind of medal for hitting people! And her drinking, and the other things she must do in her spare time. It's repulsive, Gary!"
Jean watched with narrowed eyes as his uncle placed a reassuring arm around Aunt Maddy's shoulders. The way they talked about his sister was terrible — especially since she had never done anything particularly wrong. Sure, she beat up a lot of kids when she was in high school, and, yeah, she did join the mob for a little while, but that last one was only because she wanted to help pay for his surgery — which he never could have gotten without her.
He suddenly remembered a conversation the two had, where he asked when things got so bad between her and the other adults.
"It was always bad, kiddo," she had told him sadly. "You're just older now so you're aware of it."
But the big question was why. Why was it so bad? What did Céc do to them that made them want to treat her the way they did? He had brought it up before, of course — on more than one occasion. Unfortunately, his guardians did everything they could to shut the discourse down before it even started.
"You're too young."
"It's not your concern."
"Please go to your room."
All bullshit responses to force him to drop it.
"I don't understand how Jean can look up to her the way he does," Aunt Maddy was saying. "I hope he doesn't turn out anything like her."
"No, Jean's got a good head on his shoulders," Gary replied. "He's far too good to fall into any of the bad habits she has."
"Thank God," Aunt Maddy replied. "I don't know what I'd do if he ended up like her."
Jean held his breath while the couple continued to talk, unaware of his presence. The more he listened to them the more upset he became. It wasn't the first time he had heard them talk so poorly about his sister, but it seemed like it was so much worse than usual.
"And that 'rape' nonsense a while back," Aunt Maddy complained. "I still can't get over that one. Of all the lies she's told us, that one — that one! — takes the cake! It's young women like her that make it harder for the women who are actually assaulted and abused to step up and report it! Despicable!"
That was it! Jean stomped down the stairs — loudly — and crossed his arms over his chest when his aunt and uncle turned to face him.
"Hey, buddy," Gary started with a cheerful smile. "What's —"
"You guys are jerks," Jean snapped.
"You heard me! Stop talking shit about Céc! She doesn't —"
" — deserve to be talked about like that or treated like garbage!"
Aunt Maddy jumped to her feet and put a hand on her hip, stone-faced. She opened her mouth to say something but Jean wasn't about to let her (or Uncle Gary) get another word in until he was done.
"I know you're gonna tell me to drop it like you always do, but I'm not gonna do that this time! I wanna know what it is that Céc did to you that's so awful! What did she do to you that made you hate her so much?! And don't say the mob thing because you were jerks to her before she did that!"
"Listen, Jean —" Gary stood up and removed his glasses — "we know that you love your sister very much, and she loves you, but —"
"What. did. she. DO?!" Jean exclaimed.
"She's not a good role model," Aunt Maddy replied. "She has always been very entitled, and dramatic. Furthermore, there are things that you don't know about — things she has said or do —"
"Like what?! I already know about the Big Bad — which you keep holding against her even now — and I know that Jess was her girlfriend, and I know she was raped, so what?! What did she say or do that I don't know about?!"
Aunt Maddy and Uncle Gary exchanged a look.
"Where did you hear that?" Uncle Gary asked.
"Hear what? The girlfriend thing? Or the rape thing? Because she told me about both."
"First of all —" Maddy held a finger up — "your sister was never raped. She only said that because she made a poor decision — as she's prone to doing."
Jean felt his jaw slacken; he wondered if it was possible for 12-year olds to have aneurysms because what his aunt said was maddening on every level imaginable.
"Yeah, because she's definitely the type of person to say a traumatic thing happened to her for no reason," he shot back with an eye roll.
"Cécile has a nasty habit of exaggerating, if not outright lying. The truth is that she is violent, and her drinking and… other habits… are unbecoming. Your parents worked hard to make sure that you two were raised properly," Aunt Maddy necessitated. "And when your father got sick, he put his trust in myself and your uncle to see to it that the two of you were okay. But then your sister —"
"Didn't do anything wrong!" Jean cut across her. He set his jaw and glared at his aunt, still unsure of how her and her husband could be so great to him, and so hateful to Céc.
"Jean," Uncle Gary sighed while stepping forward. "Sometimes some types of people just… don't get along. And, unfortunately, your sister is one of those people that your aunt and I… don't see eye to eye with."
"So you just don't like her."
There was an uncomfortable lull in the conversation as Uncle Gary wiped his glasses on the bottom of his shirt.
"Do you even love her at all?"
The question appeared to spook the couple. They both tensed up and looked to each other with wide eyes before turning to Jean.
"Cécile is family," Aunt Maddy began slowly. "And, as family… she's… important…"
"Your sister loves you very much," Uncle Gary stated. "Her relationship with us doesn't change that. Now, is your room clean?"
Jean narrowed his eyes; obviously that was as far as the conversation was going to go.
This time, anyway.
"Yeah, it's clean," he grumbled as he turned and started back up the stairs.
"Where are you going?" Aunt Maddy called up after him.
"Back to my clean room."
It only took a minute for Jean to reach his quarters and shut the door. He plucked the charger from his phone and sat down on the bed, angry at his aunt and uncle for their treatment of Céc, and for giving him half-assed answers to his (very valid) questions. Again.
He navigated the appropriate screens and menus, hit the little button, and waited.
One ring, and then:
"Uh-oh. How much of that did you hear?"
Alright, let's get right to it, yes? Yes:
* Cesser d'être un gosse insupportable = Stop being an unbearable brat!
* Moi?! Insupportable?! C'est riche venant de toi tu veux dire vieille salope = Me?! Unbearable?! That's rich coming from you, you mean old bitch!
* Ferme ta gueule espèce de goule fasciste! = Shut the fuck up you fascist ghoul!
* Clearly King gives zero fucks when it comes to how she talks to her aunt and uncle.
* Incroyable! = Incredible/Unbelievable
* The conversation with King that Jean is thinking back to actually happened in Oxygen to Breathe's fifth chapter (Edit the Sad Parts)
* Jess is King's non-canon girlfriend of two years (from 19 to 21) who cheated on her like whoa
* In case the subtext has failed, or you haven't been going here, King's importance to Jean is what keeps Gary and Maddy from totally cutting all ties with her.
* It has been mentioned previously that King got in a lot of fights at school after moving to America with her aunt and uncle. I haven't really gone into the reasoning (at least, not in any of the actual stories) but it was definitely a Thing™
Welp, that's it for this installment. Not as much fun as the others, I know, so I guess I'll have to fix that next time...