1. Chapter One

Chapter One


The room still looked like I remembered, minus the blue choo-choo train curtains and sheets. My toddler bed with rails was replaced with a small twin sized mattress laying directly on the floor, but the grungy, stained salt and pepper carpet was the same, along with the dull gray wallpaper. I had no clue what led me back to this house, or why I had to sleep in my old childhood bedroom, but here I was, unpacking my clothes into the same dresser chest I used when I was three. My closet was much too small to hold all my belongings, so I left a lot of them still folded in my suitcase.


My dad poked his head in to check on me periodically, but I never answered him. He’d ask if I was “feeling at home” or if I was “happy to be back in the old room”. Of course, the answer was no to both of those questions. He’d been acting weird since I got here, but I didn’t care enough to ask what the problem was. Probably just disappointed that I’m back. I can’t say that I blamed him. It seems as if I was the cause of most of his problems, or so he’d told me last time I was in this house.


My bedroom was almost untouched since the last time I was here, but that’s the only room that remained unchanged. The rest of the house appeared completely different, from the type of flooring, to the pictures on the walls, and even the furniture. I can’t be too surprised that things have changed. It has been nine years, after all.


I’d been hiding in my room for around three hours now, and after not eating all day, I was beginning to get hungry. I planned on ordering a pizza and not telling my dad until the delivery boy knocked on the door so he’d have to pay for it (because I had to pay for my own plane ticket here, so I’m broke other than a crumpled five-dollar bill and a nickel), but I was trying to tread as lightly as I could here. If my dad kicked me out, I was screwed and he knew it too. So instead, I left the safety of my bedroom and headed for the kitchen. My dad must’ve head my bedroom door open because not long after, his door opened too and he was following me to the kitchen.


Flashbacks of my childhood flooded back to me and I couldn’t help but flinch when I saw the corner of the doorway leading to the kitchen I’d gotten my first concussion from. He’d been drinking and I didn’t do the dishes like I was told. When I was six, that was a mild punishment. They only got worse from there.


“Michael?” My dad spoke softly when he noticed me staring at the dent in the wall, something I didn’t even think my head was capable of, “I think we should talk about some stuff.” I turned around and gave myself a chance to study my dad. He has certainly changed. His beard was shaved, he was dressed in khakis and a collared button-down shirt instead of his old ripped blue jeans and a t-shirt that always reeked of vodka. His features were warm and inviting now instead of harsh and intimidating.


“Sure,” I murmured, “Okay.”


We sat around his new kitchen table and he started out by sighing.


“Look, Michael. I know you must have some…” he scratched the back of his neck as he tried to find the correct word to say, “hard feelings towards me for what I did to you when you were younger. Now, I don’t blame you one bit, but I’d like it if we could move past that and start over. You are going to be here for at least a year, after all. I’d like it if we could get along for that year.”


Hard feelings? That’s what he was going to call it? It’s a little more than “hard feelings”. Try a deep-seeded fear of this main because of the shit he put me through as a kid? That’s more like it. When I glanced up, he was looking at me, waiting for an answer.


“I-I don’t know what to tell you. I guess I can try to get over it,” I told my dad. Everything I said was a complete lie, but like he said, I would be here for a year. I don’t want things to go like they did last time I lived here.


“There’s one more thing I should tell you, son.”


“What’s that?” I question, trying to hold back the shudder that wanted to happen when he called me son.


“I got remarried. She’s at work right now,” he tells me with a sheepish smile, “and she has a son. He’s around your age, just a year younger. He lives here with us and his name is Calum.”


My cheeks flush and instantly I fill with rage. How could he do this to me? To my mum? He made our life a living hell but when we leave, he suddenly straightens up and plays perfect husband and dad? I bury my face in my hands and try to calm myself down. My dad reaches out and rubs his hand up and down my back, something I’m sure was meant to comfort me but I flinch instead and he removes his hand.


“I know this is a lot to get used to, but you can trust me, Michael. I’m not the same person I was to you and your mother. I got help. I don’t drink anymore. And I really think you’re going to like Calum. He’s a good kid. I want you to spend the day with him when he gets home from school,” He clicks his teeth, something he used to do when I was a child, “Now, what’s for lunch? I’m sure we’re both starved.”


He let me pick what we ate, and I, of course, chose pizza. He wanted to go out and eat, but I opted for just having it delivered. I wasn’t quite ready to be back in my hometown. It’s still a bit touchy for me, and I was hoping my dad would understand that. I was just glad I wouldn’t have to go to school here, as I’d tested out right before I moved. No point in switching schools my senior year.


I went back to my room after we ate our pizza (which came from an old mom ‘n pop joint that I ate at when I was a kid) and laid down on my “bed”. I’d forgotten to ask my dad about when or if I was ever going to get an actual bed with a frame and everything, since he basically ran each conversation. I hoped the awkwardness between us didn’t last very long, but it was hard to act comfortable around him because I most certainly wasn’t comfortable with him.


Around an hour later, I heard the front door open and close and my dad, with his ever so cheery voice, say, “How was school, son?” I snorted to myself and sat up. Of course, he’d be calling this boy his son. He probably even takes him bowling and gives him pep talks before first dates. You know, dad stuff. The stuff I never got.


“Hey Michael,” my dad called not even a minute later, “can you come out here?” I knew I couldn’t tell my dad no, and that I’d have to meet this guy eventually, so I made myself stand up and walk to the living room. Before I turned the corner, I paused to hear what they were talking about.


“Listen, Calum, you just gotta be patient with him. He’s gotta loosen up a little bit and that’s what I’d like your help with,” My dad spoke softly, almost as though he was talking to a child.


“Of course,” Somebody else said and I couldn’t help but notice his lisp. That must be Calum.


“Michael, I know your standing there,” my dad tells me and I sigh before giving away my position and walking into the living room. My eyes remain on my feet, my arms crossed across my chest, and a glare on my face. My dad could make me meet my “brother”, but he couldn’t make me be polite about it.


I expected a lot of things from Calum: I’d expected the fancy, expensive clothes I’d never gotten, I’d expected the forced smile, and I’d expected the preppy attitude. One thing about Calum that I hadn’t expected, however, was how obnoxiously attractive he was. Out of all people I could be attracted to, it just has to be my stepbrother.


And, friends, that was chapter one. Let me know what you think!


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