“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.”