Everything's changed. Not long after we left, Dad and michael left the house I remember living in and moved into a bigger place in a different, nicer town. It was their way of dealing, of moving on from the past. Our parents got a divorce and mum took me to live with her new family. My stepfather was abusive. I don't like to think about it. Don't like to think of the way mum neglected responsibility and pretended like things were okay. Mum, that lady, gave up on me. She saw me as a trouble child and send me back to my father for him to deal with me.
"You want her, take her. Maybe you can straighten her out. She's nothing but a worthless thorn in our sides."
She neglected her duties as a mother. I watched her retreat from me more and more over the years. She gave me away so easily. Sometimes I wonder if she let me go to save me, or if she really didn't see the things going on around her, enough that she just didn't care.
"Are you alright, Katrina?" One of the new guys I just met asked me as we were getting out of the van. I turn to him, the one with the bandanna, Ashton. I'm confused by his worry, but realize I had tears running down my face. I swipe at it with the back of a knuckle.
"Yeah, fine," I mumble, pushing past him, following the others into the house. It was a big house, not insanely so, but still bigger than any I've ever personally been in. And I'd be living there, along with Michael, our father, and Luke. I didn't ask any questions, but from what I've heard, Luke moved in with Micheal not long after I was left. So for almost four years. I don't know why. I wonder if it had to do with his family. Or how much it did have to do with them, anyway. I take a glance over at him, sunglasses on his face now. I don't know if he saw me looking at him, but I was quickly distracted from being embarrassed.
"Micheal, is that you?" The voice, belonging to our father, sounded like it was making its way toward the main hall, towards us. My body tenses and I force myself to gulp down my nerves. Micheal grabs my hand in his, squeezing it reassuringly and smiles down at me.
"It'll be okay," his eyes tell me, but I'm not so sure. Our father might be used to the boys, the way they look, but I'm not at all how he could imagine me to be, even after four years of separation. I was always the hardworking, goody-girl who faded into the background as to not be any bother. That's all changed. I'm nothing like I used to be, inside or out.
I'm sure my mother's told him about all the grades I've failed and the bad crowds I'd fallen in with. She thinks I'm a bad girl just because of the way I look. Everyone does, but that doesn't make me bad on the inside. Inside, I'm a crumbling shell surrounding a locked box of hidden away feelings and memories ready to burst out at any moment. I've hung on for as long as I could, and now I'm just broken. That's how you could describe it. I'm broken. I stopped talking after a while, and that's one reason why the abuse started getting worse, another reason mother gave up on me. I was a freeloading teenager, a broken freak she no longer wanted to waste her time on. Not a lost cause, but a useless cause.
I'm not the same physically or emotionally. It's not as surprising that the boys let me back in as simply as they did, but I have no doubt that it'll be harder with Dad. Different on the inside and the outside. How could he love me again? Why would he want to?
"Kat?" he asks hesitantly as he walks through the entryway, hands being wiped on a dishtowel. Then he exclaims more excitedly, "Kat!" tackling me in a big bear hug that becomes a group hug with the added addition of my brother, as well as Calum, just being Calum, the big goofball that he is.
"Look at you" Dad gushes, holding himself back to take me in, a big smile on his face rather than the expected disappointed one. "You've grown so much! You aren't my little girl anymore, Kat, but I'm proud of the woman I see before me!" Then his eyes go sad as he extends his arm toward the living room, steering us towards the couches. "I've spoken with your mother. She's rather disappointed with you, had enough with your Teenage Rebellion and whatnot. but you know what? Your mother is a fool. There's nothing wrong with you, she just failed to see the beauty, neglected her duties as a mother and refused to care. That had nothing to do with you, that's all on her. And it's in the past. Your home here with us, where you belong and have all along. I hated letting you go, but your mother didn't want to see you turning out like your brother, didn't want to see you break into an actual trouble child. None of you five children are trouble, only troubled, but the past is behind us and there is no need to feel insignificant here, okay my dear?"
I only nod, bored by his speech, but also moved. He cared, he really did. He was going to accept me just like any of the boys, tattoos, piercings, dyed hair, loud new aged music, and all. Now all I have to do is hide the bruises, scars, and we'll get along fine. I remember how my stepsister was when she found out about the scars, fresh wounds back then. She freaked, never left me alone no matter where we were. Except for at home. She couldn't be there all the time, especially when she didn't even live with her father. And that was where she got away lucky. Nonetheless, she was my best friend, and the only negative thing about leaving America and moving back to Australia. I had to leave her behind.
Remembering her, I race across the room to where I had boxes piled up and dig through them until I come upon the one containing my laptop. I need to get everything set up before tonight, so I can call and video chat her, tell her I made it okay and reassure myself that she still is okay.
"Whoa, where's the hurry, speedy?" Mikey jokes, catching me at the top of the steps when I almost tripped and Calum catching the box before it could drop.
"Sorry," I breath, out of breath from excitement and embarrassment. "I just want to get all unpacked so I can Video call my sister."
"Sister?" Micheal asks, confused, face looking hurt. I look down, "Sorry, um stepsister. She's not my real family, Michael. Nobody could ever replace you! But she is my best friend."
"Hey!" Calum shrieks, faking offence. I slap his shoulder, moving to take my box back from him. He moves, not allowing it. "Nope, you go and have a seat, we'll handle the boxes."
I protest, but they only go ignored. Opening the door to what I was told was my room, end of the hall, I suck in a breath, taking in the beautiful sight that is my room. Snickers come from behind me, laughing at me. I set to work emptying the boxes already in the room. Between the three boys bringing me boxes and helping me unload them, I was all unpacked within an hour.
"There," Calum claps his hands together, "all done." Then he and Ashton simultaneously collapse onto my bed. I laugh, collapsing myself into my computer chair, beginning to log on. Michael stands beside the desk, watching me.
"Sorry about Luke."he says, making me cock my head at him in confusion. "He's not usually this rude. It takes a while for him to let a new person in. And trust me, I'll pummel him for being such a jerk to you."
"It's fine. I get it. This is his house, too, and you are his family, too, and he's gonna have to learn to share. But he also needs to know that I like being alone most of the time and I won't be a problem to him in any way. I'll stay out of him way. Done and done."
"Well, I do hope you can get along, eventually. But goodnight, sis. We'll see you in the morning. Bright and early." I groan in response and he only laughs, closing my door behind him. I grab my computer, having every intention of sprawling out in bed with it, when I see a Calum knocked out asleep. Seriously? But he was so cute, I just had to leave him be. So I tiptoed across the room, grab a spare blanket from my closet, and retreat, shutting the door quietly behind me.
I sit in the hall, back against the wall, and call Carla. She actually doesn't even answer, although she promised she would, and even though it's no biggie, I have no clue what to do now. Go to bed, maybe. Except that there's a sleeping Calum in it. In the old days, I would have curled up right beside him, but that would have woken him up and we're practically strangers. I'm not comfortable with that. So I quietly creep down the stairs, curl up on the couch, and fall asleep.