“I got a job today.”
I answer with a forced smile, keeping Shawn’s name buried down deep. Sunday nights are family dinner nights, and I typically eat just as much and just as fast as my two-hundred-plus pound brothers—but tonight my stomach is in knots, and Shawn Scarlett’s name is written all over every single one of them.
My mom’s mouth crinkles at the corners. She’s built like a ballerina, with soft brown eyes and fuzzy brunette hair, and those brown eyes light up when she says, “That’s wonderful! Doing what?”
When she sets her silverware down and gives me her undivided attention, I lose the good fight and divert my eyes to my dad. “It’s in Mayfield. I’m thinking of moving there.”
My brothers and I inherited our mother’s lean frame and smooth features, but our father’s dark hair, dark eyes, and height. He’s a big man with a way about him that just makes you want to spill your guts, so when he sets his silverware down too, I know I’m in trouble.
“What job’d ya get, hun?”
Great, it’s like he and my mom are tag-teaming me and I’m on my own in the ring.
“Probably a stripper,” Bryce throws in, which is so the opposite of helping. I swear he stopped maturing at the same time he stopped growing. If the past six years have taught me anything, it’s that Bryce will forever be an eighteen-year-old trapped in a grown man’s body.
I kick him hard under the table without ever breaking eye contact with my dad, and Bryce does just what I expect him to.
“FUCK, Kit! What the fuck! That fucking—”
My mom starts screaming about his language while Kale, Ryan, and Mason all snicker under their breath. I interrupt the chaos to finally answer my dad.
“I auditioned for a guitarist position in a new band, and I got it.”
My mom stops in the middle of telling Bryce to watch his “darn mouth” to stare at me, a frown hiding behind her guarded expression.
“Another band?” my dad asks, but before I can answer, Ryan pushes me down the rabbit hole.
“Isn’t that where that band you guys went to high school with went?” he asks. “Mayfield?”
Adam, Shawn, Joel—those names were infamous within the hallways of our school. With the exception of Mike, the guys were all players, with well-earned reputations that I have no doubt my brothers would remember. Because who could forget the whispers, the rumors, the long lines of batting eyelashes that followed them wherever they went?
I shrug my shoulders as fast as they can possibly shrug, but Mason’s fork clanks onto his plate before I can change the subject. “You’re not in a band with those douchebags, are you?”
“I don’t even know what you’re talking about.”
I lie to prevent my brothers from going all vigilante on my ass and demanding I quit the band, but when Mason’s eyes narrow, I realize the mistake I’ve made.
“Oh, come on, Kit,” Ryan says with his mouth half-full. “You used to love them, remember?”
Mason’s eyes are dark slits when he says. “What’s the name of the band you joined?”
“They’re still really small,” I lie.
“So they don’t have a name?”
With my brothers calling me out and a spoon in my hand, the first name that comes to mind is—
“The Murderspoons,” I answer, mentally berating myself for my complete lack of originality—and then praising it when Mason merely lifts a silent eyebrow.
“And what are the guys’ names?” he continues, interrupting my sigh of relief before it can even begin.
“Bill, Ty . . . ” I take a big bite of spicy chili to buy myself some time. “Paul . . . and . . . ” I choke into my hand while drowning out of water. No name is coming to the top of my head, not even to the tip of my tongue—none, nada, zero, zilch, oh God. I’m so fucked.
“And Mike,” Kale finishes for me, and I nod vigorously because Mike Madden’s name is just generic enough to work.
“And Mike,” I agree, and then I turn to my dad before Mason can ask me anymore valid questions that I might just have to commit fratricide over. “They’re still building their fan base, but they’re really good, and I think it’s worth going after.”
“Kit,” my mom says from the other end of the table, in that soft voice that means she knows I’m not going to like what she has to say next, “wouldn’t you rather be a music teacher or something? Maybe give guitar lessons to kids? My friend Laura’s husband does that, and he makes some decent money . . . ”
“Come on, Mom,” I plead, not wanting to rehash a conversation we’ve had a thousand times before.
“How are you going to afford to move?” Bryce asks, and I rub at a pain that’s rooting in my temple.
“I have some money saved up from working while I was in school. It’s not much, but it’ll last a little while.”
“So this band,” Mason says, “they’re all guys?”
My parents and each one of my brothers lock their sights on me, and I roll my eyes and sigh. “No, Mason, Paul is a girl’s name now. Are you serious?”
My dad: “Can’t you find a band with girls?”
Mason: “I want to meet them.”
My mom: “Why do you have to move to Mayfield?”
Bryce mumbles something about Mason and him needing to make a trip there, Kale and Ryan nod vigorously while insisting they’re going to come along, and then I’m standing up before I know it. My wooden chair scrapes against the hardwood floor, dousing the torches of the rapidly forming pitchfork mob.