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Authors: Rachele Alpine

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BOOK: Canary
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“Forget you,” I said to the team. “I'm done with this.”

And I was.

I ran outside the gym and spotted Mom on a bench. She was drinking a bottled water.

Dad was standing beside her, talking on the phone. He said a few more words and hung up. “What are you doing out here?”

I knew he was confused, but I didn't have the energy to say anything. He'd find out soon enough when everyone started talking about it.

I turned to Mom. “Are you okay? I saw you walking out, and you didn't look good.”

“I'm fine. I got a little hot and dizzy.”

I started to cry. I couldn't help it. I was scared.

“What happened to the game?” Dad asked.

I just shook my head. “There won't be any more games, and don't bother trying to change my mind.” I clutched Mom's hand. “Can we go home? I don't want to be here anymore.”

We stood and walked to the car.

Basketball was never mentioned again. Not by me. Not by Dad. Not by the teammates who walked past me every day for the next year and a half as if I didn't exist.

Chapter 20

Jack and I were sitting outside the school a few days later, waiting for Luke to finish a history test so we could give him a ride home. The leaves were changing, and we watched as red, orange, and yellow ones twisted to the ground.

I pulled my hoodie's zipper up to block the cold air, and my necklace caught in it. I worked to pull it out but couldn't seem to get it loose.

“Here, let me help,” Jack said and stood in front of me, gently tugging on the necklace. He got it out and let the chain drop outside my top. “Is this new? I've never seen it before.”

I shrugged. “It's not new. I just don't put it on often.”

The truth was I didn't wear it a lot because I was afraid something would happen to it. It was my baby locket. Mom bought it for me when she was expecting me, and there were pictures of me
wearing it the day I was born. I'd gotten a longer chain for it, and I wore it on days when I was missing Mom really bad.

“So why are you wearing it now?” He tugged at it again.

I gently pulled it out of his hand and made a fist over it. I moved the locket side to side against the chain, listening to the faint zipping sound it made. “My mom gave it to me,” I whispered.

“What was she like?”

The perfect response. Usually when I mentioned Mom, people acted all sad or asked me how I was doing.

“Well, she was nothing like Dad. I mean, she watched his teams' games to be supportive, but she liked doing crafty stuff more. She was always sewing quilts or knitting us scarves and hats. I swear, I have enough winter items to keep the whole city warm during a blizzard.”

“Great. It's good to know I'll stay warm during any massive snow storms.”

“She was crazy about us. She loved to do things with Brett and me. Cooking, trips to the zoo, movies and popcorn in our basement. We were always doing something with her. I'd come home from school, and she'd be waiting there, so excited to have us back.”

“She sounds like my mom. She used to have a snack ready for me in the afternoons.”

“Mine too.” I felt good sharing stories about Mom and was surprised how easy it was to talk about her without getting upset. “You'll think I'm crazy, but when I saw you that afternoon in the parking lot before the cookout, your mom reminded me of her.”

“When did you see my mom?”

I bumped his shoulder with mine. “Remember? She warned you not to eat all the food.”

“Oh, geez, that's totally my mom.”

“And totally you. I had to guard my dinner the other night so you didn't devour it.”

Jack pulled me against him. “I bet I would've liked your mom.”

“You would have.” I didn't feel sad but happy Jack was willing to talk to me about her. It made me feel a little bit guilty that I hadn't brought her up before.

We both turned when someone yelled our names.

Luke headed toward us. I thought about what Jenna said about him and wrinkled my nose. Ali talked about him nonstop, and they'd hooked up a few more times when we'd gone out with Jack and some of the guys on the team.

“Thank you,” I said before Luke reached us.

“For what?”

“For letting me talk about my mom. Most people either don't listen or get all weirded out when I bring her up.” 
Like my Dad,
 I thought but didn't say it.

“She's your mom. It would be strange if you didn't talk about her.”

Jack stood and offered a hand to me. I took it and stood, and we walked to meet Luke.

Chapter 21

Brett came down the steps Saturday afternoon
wearing khaki pants and a dress shirt with a sweater a bit too small for him. He also had a new slicked-back haircut and a piece of Kleenex stuck to a section of his chin he'd cut shaving.

I spurted milk from my mouth, surprised at his appearance. “Whoa, sexy,” I said. “Don't tell me your jeans and T-shirt are in the laundry. Better yet, where's the wedding?”

“Shut up.” He stopped in front of the mirror, trying to straighten his collar.

“Really, why are you dressed like that?” I asked a little nicer, hoping this strategy would get me an answer.

“Don't worry about it.”

Brett walked out of the kitchen and stood in front of the closed door of Dad's office. “I'm going out. I'll be home later tonight.”

“Dad, get out here. You need to see this,” I yelled, unable to resist.

“I gotta go, Dad. I'll see you tonight,” Brett said louder.

Dad's door opened, and he walked into the hallway. “What's so important that you had to interrupt me?”

“Listen, I have to go,” Brett said, shaking his keys and backing out of the hall.

It was then, apparently, that Dad noticed him. “And where is it you're going? A wedding?”

“Good one,” I said, reaching to pull the tissue off Brett's face. “I asked him that too.”

Brett swatted my hand away. “Leave me alone. I'm going out with someone. I'll be back by eleven.”

“No way. Are you going to homecoming?” Believe it or not, Beacon did have a football team, but they didn't get much support. The school celebrated homecoming, but my friends said it was lame and not worth their time. Brett must not have gotten that memo.

I shook my head at him. This was my brother. Brett hiked in the woods and played warcraft games. Brett didn't date. “How much did you have to pay her to go out with you?”

“I'm leaving. I'll be home by curfew.” Brett made his exit quickly, before we could say or do anything else.

Dad and I were left standing in the hallway.

My nose twitched at the lingering cologne.

“Well,” Dad said, smiling slightly, “I guess if he forgot to put on deodorant, that'll cover the smell.”

“True,” I said, happy to be joking. I wanted to stretch the moment out. “And if he's not back by curfew, we can just follow our noses.”

“I didn't know Brett was dating anyone.”

“I didn't know he was aware girls even existed,” I added.

Dad frowned. “I better get back to my work. I have some plays to go over.”

“Right, plays. Very important plays,” I said, knowing he would miss my sarcasm.

“Yep,” he said and dissolved into his office as quickly as he had appeared.

Chapter 22

“Your brother is a flick,” Luke said at lunch. He was all over Ali. His hand rested in her lap, and she kept giggling and slapping his hand away when he tugged on her uniform skirt. He used his other hand to toss carrot sticks at a bunch of freshmen boys sitting near us.

The five of us crowded around the table. Lunch trays, drinks, cell phones, homework papers, and other odds and ends covered the surface. Our legs
tangled in the mess of book bags and purses beneath it. Jenna was writing on the bottom of my shoe, drawing stars across the sole. Other people watched us, and I liked it. It felt good to be part of a group, especially the group other people would die to belong to.

“A flick?” I watched my brother move through the lunch line. The same line I just cut with Jack. He'd pushed past about twenty other students and joked that the basketball team didn't need to wait to eat. It was kind of badass to be able to do stuff like that. I felt a twinge of guilt, but Jack and the rest of the guys did it with such ease that it seemed the
natural thing to do.

Brett's book bag bulged on his back, and he walked slightly hunched as if the weight pushed him down. His shirt was untucked, and I wondered how long he'd go until a teacher would give him a discipline slip for breaking dress code. White cords snaked out of his collar and up to his ears, his iPod no doubt hidden in his shirt.

“Yeah, a flick.” Luke flicked at Ali's ear. “Get it. You could flick him out of your face. He's such a loser. I can't believe you're related to him.”

“That's harsh,” Jenna said, pausing in the middle of filling in a shooting star.

“Are you sure he's your brother? He can't even make a basket in gym. Everyone tries to pass him the ball to see how bad he'll mess up. He never disappoints.”

“Seriously?” I asked. “Are you for real?”

“Come on, Kate,” Luke continued. “You can't tell me you haven't noticed.”

“Why do you even care about my brother?”

Luke scowled, and I was glad I'd put him on the spot. No one was laughing with him. He just looked like a jerk.

Jack put an arm around me. “Forget Brett. What matters is that we have the best Franklin at the table with us.” He kissed me in front of everyone.

Jenna whistled while the rest of the group groaned.

Brett walked toward our table on the way to Julia, a girl in my choir class he'd started to sit with. The same girl I assumed he'd gone to the dance with the other night. I willed him to go a different route, but he was walking straight to us.

I gave him a brief smile as he neared, and he
nodded slightly, refusing to show any emotion
toward the people he disapproved of the most. He headed past us to Julia.

“What's up, Flick?” Luke said. “Too good to say hi?”

Brett paused, probably confused by Luke's lame nickname. I kicked Luke under the table, hoping he would get the hint. Instead, he stood and grinned at all of us, as if to say, 
And for my next trick, I'll screw with Kate's brother.
 He stuck a hand out, apparently planning to flick Brett's neck, but caught his headphone cord. The buds were jammed deep in Brett's ears. Luke tugged harder, causing them to fly out and smack Brett's face.

Brett's hand went to the spot they'd struck. “Asshole,” he hissed.

Luke wasn't listening. He was too busy laughing with Ali.

“Do you really think that's funny?” I looked straight at Ali. Luke was a lost cause, but I couldn't believe Ali thought it was okay to join in. I wanted to say something in my brother's defense. I remembered all the times he'd stood up for me: when I was six and the boys next door made fun of my height, when his friends wouldn't let me play soccer with them, when I hit a home run on the playground and one of the boys tripped me as I rounded third base. I wanted to repay Brett for all the times he'd fought for me.

Ali stopped laughing. She wrapped a piece of her hair around a finger and shrugged.

“If you don't know why you're laughing, then why would you?”

Jack placed a hand on my shoulder. “How about we go grab some fresh baked cookies?”

“Yeah, sounds good.” I knew what he was trying to do. I pushed back my chair and grabbed my stuff, but before following Jack, I turned to Luke. “Brett's my brother. You're an asshole.”

Chapter 23

“Why do you hang out with those freaks?” Brett asked me as we headed toward the parking lot after school. Jack was staying late to work out in the weight room, and Ali had to babysit, so I followed Brett to catch a ride. He walked quickly, head down, straight toward the car. If I stopped to wave at people or make a comment about weekend plans, Brett muttered for me to hurry up.

To spite him, I walked slower and talked to more people.

He leaned against the trunk of his car, waiting for me.

“Beacon is changing you, Kate,” he said when I caught up. “And it's not in a good way.”

I knew Brett was talking about what had happened at lunch, and I didn't blame him for being mad. He had every right to hate Luke. I would've felt the same way, but I wasn't about to be the one who brought it up.

Instead, I questioned Brett's new view of me. “What's wrong with wanting to have a life at Beacon? I like being at a school where I fit in. You know how awful everyone treated me at Olmstead High when I quit the basketball team.”

“Couldn't you have picked a better group? Maybe people who don't treat me like a big joke.”

I closed my eyes. His words stung, even though I'd known they were coming. “Luke's a jerk, but not everyone is like him.”

“Really? Because I don't buy that.” Brett threw his book bag into the trunk. He closed it but kept talking to me instead of unlocking the door. “It looked to me like the entire table thought Luke was a goddamn comedian.”

 did, but 
 didn't think he was funny, and I let him know that.”

“Yeah, a lot of good that will do.”

“Do you really think I'd stoop to Luke's level? That hurts. You know me better than that.”

“I thought I knew you, but now I'm not so sure. Did you ever consider they might be hanging out with you because Dad's the coach?”

“You mean they might be using me?” I'd be lying if I told him the idea hadn't occurred to me. Sure, some of my friends might not have been sincere, but Ali and Jenna were and Jack liked me for who I was. There was no denying how great it felt when he kissed me or when Ali and I laughed forever over the phone. They were my friends. Even when they pissed me off, as they had today at lunch, it was
because I knew they liked me for who I was, not who Dad was.

BOOK: Canary
13.27Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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