2. Chapter Two

Chapter Two


“Uh, hey, Michael. I’m Calum,” The tan boy thrust his hand out, waiting for me to shake it. I do so quickly, giving it one firm pump.


I lick my lips before responding with, “So I gathered.” When I looked back up at Calum, he was biting his lip and looking awkwardly at his feet.


My dad cleared his throat.


“So, boys, why don’t you go talk in Calum’s room? He can tell you what to expect here,” he suggests and Calum and I make eye contact. I was about to look away when he smiled at me. I couldn’t quite tell if it was a real smile, but it was good enough for me.


“Yeah, that sounds great,” I say, returning the smile before I add, “You know, if Calum is okay with that.” I know, believe me I know, this sounds totally cliché but for some reason, I was drawn to Calum. I’m not saying this was love-at-first-sight-call-the-priest-we’re-getting-married, but I did feel the urge to get to know him.


“Sure, I’m okay with it. Come on,” Calum tells me and begins leading me out of the living room and towards the hallway. Turns out, his bedroom was the one right across from mine; the one we used for “storage” when I was a kid. I tried to push the flashbacks away as I stepped into the room, but the memory of my dad crushing my hand in the door because I backtalked him couldn’t be held back. I shudder and take a few deep breaths. Come on, Michael, I tell myself, pull yourself together.


I force myself to follow Calum all the way to his bed after my quick pep-talk and I sit down next to him.


“So,” Calum turns to me, “tell me about yourself. Your dad never really talked about you.” I scratch the back of my head and sigh.


“Of course, he never talked about me. Ignore your problems and they’ll go away,” I mumble to myself before directing my attention towards Calum. “Well, I’m seventeen, play too many video games, and never really got the whole ‘making friends’ thing. Your turn.”


Calum chuckles, “I’m sixteen, and I’ve never much been into video games, but I do feel the same as you do about making friends.” I try to avoid eye contact with my stepbrother but I couldn’t help it. His eyes were a deep hazel color, and if I looked closely enough, I could see my reflection in them. His eyes were kind and I could only hope his personality was the same.


I looked around his bedroom, taking everything in. There was a ginormous flat-screen TV mounted to his wall, and a bass in a stand in one corner. A huge stereo took up an entire desktop, and a thin, shiny silver MacBook was sat on his bedside table. I didn’t know how my dad had been able to afford all of this stuff; he couldn’t even hold down a steady job when I lived here.


“How long have you and your mum lived here?” I bite my lip as I ask, nervous of the answer for some reason.


“A while,” he responds, “Close to five years now.”

I couldn’t believe that my father was capable of handling a family for this long. Maybe he really has changed. Still, I didn’t want to give him the benefit of the doubt.


I couldn’t think of anything to say to Calum, so I responded with a simple, “Huh.”


I wanted to be open and comfortable with Calum, but it’s difficult when he knows nothing about my childhood. He doesn’t know about the mental and physical abuse my dad, the same guy that plays super-dad to him, put me through. And I can’t tell him. What would my dad do to me?


“What’s the matter?” Calum asks, “You’ve seemed awkward since we’ve gotten in here. Do you not want to be here? At your dad’s, I mean?” He leans back and rests on his headboard and stretches his legs out in front of him, one leg on either side of my body. I wanted to open up to him. I wanted to as soon as his deep brown eyes met mine, but I just couldn’t do it.


“I guess I just haven’t processed everything that’s happened, you know? Never thought I’d be back in this old house,” I tell him. It wasn’t a lie, just entirely vague.


“I guess I understand. Well, if it makes you feel any better, I didn’t really want to move here either,” Calum admits, “but it’s not so bad when you get used to it. Your dad’s a great guy, and I think you’ll love my mum.”


I felt a heavy pang of sadness and frustration when he mentions how great my dad and his mom are. Of course, he thinks my dad’s amazing and of course he would’ve remarried to a wonderful woman. He loses his real family but he’s got no problem replacing them. Sounds about right.


“I don’t plan on being here long. Just a year and I can move out.” Calum sits up and rests his arm on my shoulder.


“Give it a chance here. It might surprise you. You may like it better than at your mum’s,” he tries to comfort me. I’d like to say that it helped, and maybe, for a quick second while I was staring into his dark brown eyes, it did. I might’ve believed for a split second that everything was going to be okay, and that I was going to love it here. But then reality took back over and I heard a door open and close before my dad’s voice sounded throughout the house.


“Michael! Come here and meet your step-mum!”


When I look back at Calum, he’s smiling from ear to ear and clapping me on the back.


“Come on,” he tells me, “really, she’s great.”


Reluctantly, I follow Calum once again, this time in the opposite direction. As we get closer, my dad and his wife’s voice get louder and louder and it isn’t until we’re already in the living room that I realize they’re talking about me.


“And here he is! Marybeth, this is Michael!” I expected this girl to be tan and brunette like Calum, but she was the opposite: Pale skin, blue-eyed, and blonde. She also looked to be only about ten or fifteen years older than him. Something wasn’t adding up.


“Michael? Are you going to say hello?” My dad nudges me with a smile.


“Uh, hi,” I greet her nervously. I didn’t like her solely because this was the girl that my dad chose over my mum? She has to be at least ten years younger than her! How shallow is the bastard?


“Hello sweetie!” She envelopes me in a hug and I can’t help but notice she uses vanilla perfume, “Your dad has told me so much about you!”


“Really?” I comment when she finally releases me, “He’s told me absolutely nothing about you…In fact, I hadn’t heard anything from him before I moved here...”


My dad clears his throat uncomfortably before Calum cuts in, breaking up the awkward silence.


“So, dad, when’re we going to start setting Michael’s bedroom up? I think he’ll start to feel more at home when he’s got a bedroom he likes,” Calum puts his arm around my shoulders and walks both of us towards them.


“You know what?” Marybeth speaks for my dad, “That’s a great idea. You boys go get ready and we’ll take Michael shopping.”


Nobody had stopped to ask me what I wanted. If I’d had a say in it, I would’ve told them not to bother with my room because I wasn’t waiting a whole year to leave. I was going back home whether they liked it or not. I just needed money for a plane ticket, and I planned on getting it soon.

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