“What do you think about your new brother?” Dad asks once we are inside the car. He doesn’t start the car. I wish he would so we can be out of here and away from anything that reminds me of Calum. “Your brother seems cool.”
The relief I’ve been feeling since we left the house melts away. I click my seatbelt into place and tuck my bag between my legs.
“He’s not my brother.” All it takes is one stern look from my dad for me to say, “I don’t think anything about him. Can we just go already?”
Dad’s hand reaching for the key in the ignition drops. My head hangs in shame. “Sorry, Dad.”
“Sorry for what?”
“For raising my voice at you.”
Since that day, he has been so conscious. Both of us. We have to hold each other accountable. He doesn’t look away and I lift my gaze to blue eyes matching mine. I have naturally black hair while he has brown. Dad takes my hand, the one with the tattoo. His finger hovers above the semicolon tattoo but he doesn’t touch it. He knew when I got it.
“I just want you two to get along, Catherine,” Dad says. My mum used to call me by my full name if it was super important and Dad took over after her death. I chew on my upper lip to avoid speaking. If Calum and I didn’t have history, I might not have a problem with being called his sister. But we kissed and I want to kiss him again. “You already get along well with Dani, it will be good to extend that niceness to her son. It will make both of us very happy.”
In a blink, he’s hugging me. I hug him back and everything is forgotten. Or not. Calum rushes out of the house as Dad’s car backs out of the driveway, waving like someone trying to catch a bus on the move. Dad slows for him to meet up and I curse under my breath. I hate this boy—man.
“Need a ride?” Dad asks once Calum is close to the car.
Calum nods. The wind blows through his curly hair, scattering it all over his face. He flicks them out of his forehead, showing off his toned biceps. I bet that’s the reason he keeps his hair that long, so he can show off his muscled arm any chance he gets.
“Yes, sir,” he replies, a little flustered.
Dad laughs. “Pete or Dad will do just fine.”
Oh, God. Please choose Pete. Calum looks at me, then back at Dad. “Pete will do just fine.”
I offer him my first genuine smile since today but Calum doesn’t flinch. Calum might be mad about my lie but we both know he wouldn’t have kissed me if he knew my real age. I’m not even that young. In less than two years, I’ll be the nineteen year old girl he was excited to kiss.
Dad says nothing but unlocks the backdoor for him. The car is silent for most part of the ride. Dad is usually chatty but I guess both of us don’t know how to handle the latest addition to our family.
“How are you finding our small town?” Dad asks when we are at a traffic light. The town is not that small. “I’m guessing it’s not as boring as where you come from.” Calum shakes his head and a part of me wishes he will reply so I can hear his voice again. His voice is smooth with an underlying vibration only a singer would have. I know that because I sing too. I’m in the school’s choir. “When did you get into town?”
“Two nights ago.” I dart him a glance. I actually kneel on the chair and look behind me to see the handsome face of the liar. Calum cocks his head as if daring me to counter him. I guess we are both liars. I settle into my seat but I still feel his gaze behind my head, even Dad’s. He’s curious. “Do you have something to say, Cat?”
“My name is not Cat,” I snap. Dad gives me the look. I take in a breath. “Please don’t call me Cat. My name is Catherine. Cathy for short.”
“Your sister prefers being called Cathy,” Dad chips in to save me. Calum mumbles something we don’t hear. “Do you have a nickname?”
“No. Just Calum.” Just Calum. But he was C for that night. I smoothen the invisible creases on my jeans. Why did he lie? The light turns green and our car is finally on the move. I take out my phone and login to my other account to make a post on the Girls Code site. “Pete, is it common for girls around here to lie about their age?”
Dad honks at a Toyota Camry trying to switch into our lane. I clench my fists. Calum won’t out me. He can’t out me. “Yeah. Met one?”
“I think I might have. Said she was nineteen.” A lump clogs my throat. I cough into my hand, forehead pressed against the window to avoid meeting Dad’s gaze. To him, his daughter is a good girl who doesn’t hang around at pubs. “I think she lied about her age. She looked like your daughter, Catherine.”
I detonate. I erupt in a coughing fit. Dad slows the car but I wave for him to continue driving. “Are you sure you are okay?” Dad asks. I nod feverishly. “We can stop for a bit if you don’t feel good.”
His brows draw together in worry as he takes in my reddened face. I force a faux smile to my lips. “No, no need. I’m fine. Just peachy, Dad.”
My smile must have convinced him. He kicks the car into drive and resumes his conversation with the slimy bastard at the backseat. I drum my fingers against the dashboard, trying and failing to tune them out as they talk about teenage girls wanting so desperately to act above their ages.
“You should be careful of them,” Dad tells my stepbrother in a friendly voice. I hide my face in my palms. This is the slowest school ride ever. “We had a case like this once. She lied about her age and it almost got the dude into trouble.”
“Didn’t hear about it,” Calum says.
“It was wild.” Too wild. It was the talk of town for a long time and the news made it incredibly difficult for us to use our fake IDs at any pubs. The fifteen year old was at a club and she hooked up with a nineteen year old. Dad goes on with the story. “...he was lucky the policeman had already seen her ID earlier because the whole city was ready to nail him to the cross for statutory rape.”
“That’s fucked up,” Calum murmurs. There’s a mix of sadness and anger in his voice and a pang of guilt hits me. I could have gotten him into trouble if he was caught, maybe that’s what he’s thinking. I slip my hands between my legs. “But it wasn’t the guy’s fault. How was he supposed to know?”
“No idea,” Dad finishes. “But be careful. A lot of wayward girls are out in the street instead of getting a good education. Good God. It’s a pity all of that beauty and brain will go to waste.”
I almost roll my eyes. Dad is such an old school. According to him, the only way is going by the rules, no exceptions. In my opinion, rules are meant to be broken once a few times in our lifetimes.
A few seconds later, as the car is about to take a left turn, Calum says, “Here. This is my stop.” Dad slows at the curb and he gets out. His boyish grin is present. “Thanks for the ride.”
“No need to thank me, son.” Dad needs to stop this immediately. Calum is not his son. He has only one child and that child is me. Calum is about to walk away when Dad stops him. “Son, whatever you do, stay away from Becky’s.”
That’s the name of the pub we met. It’s owned by a rich, black woman none of us has met. They are the most relaxed about IDs and they serve really good cocktails.
“They are the most notorious for letting kids in their bar.” Not true. Kids these days are just smarter. My fake ID looks so real and it wasn’t hard to get it. With a big, proud smile directed at me and an arm on my shoulder, Dad says, “Cathy knows better than to be on that side of town.”
“Right? Thanks, Pete.” He gives us a mock bow, eyes locked on mine. “I’ll make sure to stay away from Becky’s and girls that lie about their age.”
The tall building of Carlton’s High stretches into the blue sky. Dad drives on to park his car, a smile on his lips as he tells me to have a good day. I walk up the stairs but the door opens before I reach it. Rose steps out first. Taylor is right on her heels. They flank me on each side, linking their hands through mine as we fall into step. “Amelia called us, she’s not coming today,” Rose says with a pout. “Who drove you?” “My dad.” They snicker. I elbow Rose in the rib but Taylor jumps out of my reach. I might have complained once or twice about my dad’s long talks during the rides to school. “It was not that bad.” As a matter of fact, it was going well until he-who-shall-not-be-mentioned showed up. Just the thought of him and the teasing kiss make my cheeks warm. What if Dani had stumbled in? “Next time, call me,” Rose says. I pout and she pinches my cheeks. “I’ll come pick you up, alright?” “Yeah, thanks.” The three of them might dare me to do the most ludicrous thin
“You’re late. Both of you,” Calum murmurs. His expression doesn’t crack as his gaze rakes over us. I’m newly reminded of his handsomeness and a blush rises to my cheeks. It’s unfair to be tortured this way. What’s he doing here? Rose grabs my hand. Calum’s head jerks up. “Excuse me?”Did I say that out loud?“Yes, you did,” Rose whispers. Her cheeks redden with second-hand embarrassment. Body flush against mine, she asks, “Do you have a death wish?”Calum watches our interaction for a bit. Feeling the annoyance rolling off him, I lace my fingers behind my back. “Are you done, both of you?”He keeps saying both of you but I think he means only me. “Yes, sir.” Sir feels so wrong coming from me but I’m not sure how to address him. And the main question still remains, what’s he doing here? Rose pokes me. “We&rsq
Never ever get your choir director upset if you already lied to him once. I’m learning that the hard way. And Dad can’t help me in this case. Dinner is a tense affair. Calum is seated beside me. Dad and Dani are on the other side of the table. I roll the spaghetti around my fork, half-waiting for Dad to say something in my defence or use his position as principal so Calum rethinks my punishment. “Calum,” Dad finally says. I try not to get too excited but a grin spreads to my lips. Dani catches my eyes and looks away but I see her smile before it disappears. “Don’t you think Cathy’s punishment is too harsh? Maybe reduce it to a week or two?” My stepbrother takes a bite from his dinner, then drops his fork on the plate. He clasps his hands on the table and levels Dad with a look that might have gotten me into trouble if I did the same. “Would you appreciate it if someone told you how to do your job?” Too low. Too fucking low. Dad raises his hands in surrender and my heart dips to
CALUMHow do you punish a liar? By ignoring her or taking away her most valuable items. In this case, it’s the choir. With her dad on my side, there’s no pressure to put that miscreant back on the team. In her absence, today’s practice goes by without any hiccups. The students are already warming up to me. I didn’t think that would happen so fast. But everything has been moving so fast since I agreed to come here. All Pete wanted to know after Mum told him about letting me handle the singing was if I had any music experience. I had ton shit of that. And it almost ruined me. Didn’t it? This is my first real gig since Mending Hearts crashed. The choir wasn’t part of my plan. My plan was to be low-key until I sort my shit out and decide my next move. But Mum hopes it will get me to sing and play again. So far, it’s working. Being a choir director involves showing off what you’ve got so the choristers can believe in themselves. I haven’t played the gui
One week later and I’m still not allowed to join the choir. This was not how I envisioned my last year in high school turning out. Rose claims practice is going on fine without me. How’s that possible when their lead solo singer is missing?Calum is a meanie. My stomach tightens at the thought of him. He has been ignoring me. He’s gone before I wake and only returns late in the evening to smoke. I should have reported him to Dad but I haven’t. He wanted to kiss me again that day. As much as I strongly dislike him, I like his lips. So, I wouldn’t have minded another kiss.I force one foot in front of the other till I’m at the door of my chemistry class. Mr Andy is at his desk waiting for the rest of the students. I am too early for the class and as I watch the bald man through the narrow pane of the door, I seriously consider running out of the school.Chemistry is too complicated. Maybe if Calum taught chemistry, I
Shock stops Amelia from acting fast. She shifts gears but it’s too late to do anything, so we are forced to stay put. I try to play it off with a smile but my heart is in my throat. Sweat breaks out on my forehead as Calum’s car slows to a stop directly beside ours. I look away. We are in big trouble. “Are you stalking me?” he asks, still in his car. This is our chance to race out of here. Calum slams his door shut and storms towards my side. No. I’m not the one driving. He should face Amelia. He wrenches the passenger door open. “Get out of the car.” I plant my foot firmly on the car floor. “No.” “Well, I asked nicely.” A scream escapes me as he drags me out of the car like I’m a ragged doll. I swallow my fears and force my face into a neutral mask when our eyes meet. His eyes are wide with anger and I know I have something to do with his temper. “I’ll ask again, were you stalking me?” “No. We came here for Rose.” “Rose, huh?” I nod again because it’s all I can do with
I’m not dumb, just different. Sitting in front of the mirror in my bathroom, that’s what I tell myself as I apply a new batch of pink dye to my hair. Is different good? Is it bad? I don’t know but I like the way Calum said it. I finish up soon and the dark roots of my hair are completely pink by the time I wash off the dye my hair. “Cathy. Calum. Lunch is ready,” Dani screams from downstairs. “Be down immediately.” I step out of my room and wait by the door for Calum to show up so we can go together. He doesn’t. If he had gone downstairs, I would have known or heard him, all thanks to the not-so-thin walls. He has to pass by my room since it’s closer to the staircase. I start towards Calum’s room. I’ll only tell him lunch is ready and leave. Easy to do. His door is slightly ajar. I slip in and stand still, trying to adjust my eyes to the darkness. The curtains are drawn, the lights are switched off. I know he’s in the room. Calum doesn’t go out on Saturdays. A phone vibrates
A comfortable silence reigns over us. I push the tray under the table and hand him his guitar.Calum laughs. “You’re not giving up on this.”“Nope. I really want to hear you play.” His face softens. He fingers a chord and stops. I try not to say anything but my mouth sometimes works faster than my brain. “What is it? I liked it.”“Oh, please. I didn’t do anything.” I make a zipping motion across my lips and toss the keys out the window. “Fine. I haven’t played since…”His lingering statement piques my curiosity. I forget everything about keeping quiet. “Since when?”“Since the band broke up. Don’t expect much.” When the music is in you, it doesn’t matter how long you stay away from it, you’ll feel it when you return to it. Calum leans forward, cradling the guitar in his hand as he readies himse