“Are those two up?” my mom yells from the bottom of the stairs.
“They’re bleeding all over Kit’s comforter!” Bryce shouts back, and I sneer at him when he rats us out.
“WOULD EVERYONE SHUT THE HELL UP,” Mason hollers from behind his closed bedroom door. A split second passes before he quickly amends, “NOT YOU, MOM,” but my mom is already trumping up the stairs, and I’m already laughing myself breathless again.
There are the familiar sounds of her feet pattering down the hall, Mason’s door squeaking open, and my brother grunting while my mom smacks the crap out of him. The whole thing is punctuated by Kale’s socked feet thudding past Mason’s room to get to the bathroom, because he’s laughing too hard to keep the blood from spurting from his nose. Bryce continues rubbing the sleep from his eyes like all of this is normal—because it is, and the tears that wet the corners of my eyes are only partly from laughing so hard.
It feels good to be home . . . safe—bloody noses and all.
“Kit,” my mom says after she nudges Bryce out of my doorway. She crosses the distance to my bed and wraps me in her arms. “You’re in so much trouble, young lady.” She rubs her hand up and down my spine before pulling away and capturing my chin in her hand. She turns my face from side to side to side. “What have you been eating? Have you lost weight? You look like you’ve lost weight . . . ”
“Kale kicked me in the face,” I snitch, and she huffs at me.
“Come downstairs so I can feed you something.” She pats Bryce on the shoulder before she leaves my room, and from the hallway, she scolds Kale. “Don’t kick your sister in the face.”
“She broke my nose!” Kale shouts after her as her footsteps clack against the stairs.
“You probably deserved it!”
“KALE, YELL ONE MORE TIME AND YOUR NOSE IS GOING TO GET BUSTED FOR REAL,” Mason bellows from his room, and this time, Kale and I both shut up. But when Bryce winks at me and disappears, I know nothing good is about to happen.
Bryce becomes a drummer as feverish as Mike as he pounds bloody murder against Mason’s freshly closed door, and he gets a nasty case of karma when he slips on the hardwood while trying to escape down the stairs. Mason is on him two seconds later, and by the time Kale and I descend the stairs to get to the breakfast my mom is setting on the table, Bryce is nothing but a groaning, battered heap on the floor. We gingerly step over him and take the seats we’ve had since we were old enough not to use high chairs.
The morning is filled with my mom’s own personal brand of interrogation, which I’m guessing is where my brothers learned it. Why’d I lie about the band I was in? Because I knew my brothers would overreact. Why didn’t I tell anyone about the tour? Because I knew my brothers would overreact. Why didn’t I tell her about the tour? . . . Because I’m a bad daughter, I’m sorry.
Did I meet anyone special while I was away? Are any of the boys in the band cute? Do I like any of them?
No. No. Not in a million years.
I lie by the skin of my teeth, and if she can tell, she doesn’t say anything. My brothers provide commentary after every question and answer, and eventually, my dad puts his daily paper down and tells everyone to let me eat in peace.
“Did you at least have fun, Kitten?” he asks, and I force a smile at him that eventually becomes genuine.
The tour was unforgettable. I’ll never forget the bad parts, but I’ll never forget the good parts either. I’ll never forget the shows, the fans, the friends I made. I’ll never forget how insane opening for Cutting the Line was, or how ridiculous rating groupies afterward with the guys felt. I’ll never forget getting my ass handed to me by Mike at Call of Duty, or nights spent taking shots with the rest of the guys every time he made a headshot. Part of me missed my brothers back at home, but the other part of me already misses the ones I gained on tour.
“Yeah, Dad, I did.”
“Well, good then. Now eat your eggs. You’re getting scrawny.”
I finish breakfast thinking of Mike, of Joel, of Adam. And even though I try not to, I think of Shawn. My mom’s coffee doesn’t taste like his, and I find myself wondering what he’s doing as I sip it. I check my phone once, twice, a million times, and throughout the day, Kale mirrors my every move. He never hears from Leti, I never hear from Shawn, and as the hour hand on the clock ticks up—one, two, three, four—I type a million texts I never send.
Don’t come tonight.
Are you still coming tonight?
What does sorry for *everything* mean?
Why didn’t you want anyone to know about us?
What the fuck does *everything* mean?
I hate you.
Please don’t come tonight.
I loved you.
I never wanted this.
At five ’til six, I type two words and finally press SEND.
But at 6:02, the doorbell rings and my heart plummets through the floorboards beneath my feet. Ryan answers the door, and I let the sound of voices draw me to the foyer.
Shawn’s eyes find mine across the room, giving no indication if he read my text yet or not. His shirt isn’t faded. His jeans aren’t torn. He looks . . . nice. God, really nice. He looks like someone I could bring home to meet my mom and dad.
I wish someone had slammed the door in his face.
“Is this them?” my mom asks from behind me, and I silently squeeze myself against the wall to let her pass. The rest of the band is making their way into my house, all looking equally as presentable—all except for Joel’s blond Mohawk, and Adam’s black nails, torn jeans, stacks of bracelets, and . . . well . . . yeah, everything about Adam, who would probably show up at his own grandmother’s funeral wearing the same stuff.