Page 23 of Chaos (Mayhem 3)

Just playing? Just playing? I haven’t spared a glance at Kale yet, but I can already see the look on his face. I can feel the hurt.

“It’s not fucking funny.”

“Kit,” my mom warns this time, but I make no apology. Bryce is lucky my fork is still lying on my napkin instead of lodged in the meat of his shoulder.

Dismissively, he says, “Okay, sorry, jeez.” But it does nothing to cool my temper, and I finish my dinner faster than everyone else, tapping Kale’s knee under the table before excusing myself.

I’m waiting for him in my old room upstairs when my phone dings and Shawn’s face flashes onto my screen.

Can I come over?

And if I thought I couldn’t hate my brothers more right now, I was wrong. I’d give anything in the world right now to be at my apartment, with Shawn just a twenty-minute drive away, but here I am, stuck with a bunch of bigoted jerks who unfortunately share my last name.

The first time I called Shawn was three days ago, when I had a riff playing over and over on my fingers. My excitement about the sound outweighed how nervous I felt about dialing his number, and it wasn’t until the phone was ringing in my ear that I nearly passed out from the blood that rushed to my head. I knew he wouldn’t answer. I knew he wouldn’t call me back. I knew—

He picked up on the first ring, showed up at my door less than half an hour later, and stayed until I was almost too tired to keep my eyes open.

I never would’ve asked him to leave, but sometime after midnight, he ended up on one side of my door while I stood on the other. The good-bye was awkward as hell. No goodnight kiss. No promises to call. No promises to text.

But I did text—the very next day, and the next. And never once did he leave me hanging.

Now, he’s texting me, and asking if he can come over?

God, that shouldn’t make me as giddy as it does, but I find myself smiling down at my phone anyway.

I’m at my parents’. :(

Why the sad face?

I kind of hate everyone right now.

Why?

It surprises me how badly I want to tell him all about what happened downstairs, but that would require telling him about Kale, and I’ve never told anyone about Kale. My thumbs twitch over my phone until I finally type, Why do you want to come over?

Because I want you to tell me what happened at your parents’.

I smile down at my phone, because that is so not why he texted me in the first place, but the fact that he wants to know why I’m sad makes me feel all tickly inside. I roll my eyes at myself, and when my door begins to open, I wipe the grin from my face and shove my phone under my pillow.

Kale’s shoulders are slumped, the fight drained from his expression when he closes the door behind him and leans back against it. And just like that, the butterflies in my chest are gone, replaced with a quiet aching that I always feel when I know my twin is hurting.

“I am so, so sorry about what happened down there,” I say, and Kale closes his eyes and rests his head against the wooden frame.

“It’s not your fault.”

“I shouldn’t have brought it up.”

My twin sighs and opens his eyes, sliding to the floor with his bony elbows propped on his big knees. “You shouldn’t have to keep secrets just because I do.”

This is normally where I’d try to convince him to just come out—to be who he is, who he has always been—but after what happened downstairs . . .

“They’re just being stupid,” I say, like that makes things any better.

The look Kale gives me says that it doesn’t. I read his expression like a book—one that says in bold italic letters, I don’t believe you. Stop kidding yourself. They meant every word.

“They’re always stupid,” he counters, and I desperately want to argue with him. I want to insist that what happened downstairs isn’t how our brothers—or our mom—really feel, but Bryce’s lispy impersonation is still fresh in my mind, and maybe Kale is right. Maybe I give them too much credit.

“Do you know what Leti would have done?” I ask instead of disagreeing. Every morning since we met at Starbucks last week, when he predicted we’d be third-best friends, we’ve met up there, and now I guess it’s become our thing.

Kale looks up from the floor to catch my answer, and I use my hands to demonstrate. “He would’ve responded extra flamboyantly just to make everyone uncomfortable.”

When I finish flicking my wrists around like Bryce did downstairs, Kale cracks a smile and lets out a little chuckle. I join him on the floor a moment later, my back resting against the door and my shoulder attaching itself to his.

“They wouldn’t act like that if they knew,” I say.

“You don’t know that.”

“If they did, I’d beat the shit out of them. You know I would.”

“I know,” Kale agrees, resting the side of his head against mine.

We sit like that forever, neither of us admitting that we miss the hell out of each other. Even after three years of sleeping under different roofs, I miss being able to sneak over to my twin’s room at night to share blackmail on our older brothers or watch scary movies that leave us both too terrified to sleep.

Sometimes, Kale works on my nerves. But most of the time, he makes me feel . . . whole. Like a piece of my heart that sometimes leaves my chest.

“I want you to meet Leti,” I say with my head still resting against his.

Kale doesn’t budge. “You’re not setting me up.”

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