About the book: Hannah Capin’s Foul is Fair is a bloody, thrilling revenge fantasy for the girls who have had enough. Golden boys beware: something wicked this way comes.
Jade and her friends Jenny, Mads, and Summer rule their glittering LA circle. Untouchable, they have the kind of power other girls only dream of. Every party is theirs and the world is at their feet. Until the night of Jade’s sweet sixteen, when they crash a St. Andrew’s Prep party. The night the golden boys choose Jade as their next target.
They picked the wrong girl.
Sworn to vengeance, Jade transfers to St. Andrew’s Prep. She plots to destroy each boy, one by one. She’ll take their power, their lives, and their control of the prep school’s hierarchy. And she and her coven have the perfect way in: a boy named Mack, whose ambition could turn deadly.
For every girl who wants revenge
The primary thematic material of Foul is Fair centers on sex- ual assault (not depicted), rape culture, and violence. Addi- tionally, the book includes an abusive relationship, a suicide attempt, and a brief scene with transphobic bullying. For a more detailed description of sensitive content, please visit hannahcapin.com/foulisfair.
Sweet sixteen is when the claws come out.
We’re all flash tonight. Jenny and Summer and Mads and me. Vodka and heels we could never quite walk in before, but tonight we can. Short skirts—the shortest. Glitter and high- light. Matte and shine. Long hair and whitest-white teeth.
I’ve never been blond before but tonight my hair is plati- num. Mads bleached it too fast but I don’t care because tonight’s the only night that matters. And my eyes are jade-green to- night instead of brown, and Summer swears the contacts Jenny bought are going to melt into my eyes and I’ll never see again, but I don’t care about that, either.
Tonight I’m sixteen.
Tonight Jenny and Summer and Mads and me, we’re four sirens, like the ones in those stories. The ones who sing and make men die.
Tonight we’re walking up the driveway to our best party ever. Not the parties like we always go to, with the dull-duller- dullest Hancock Park girls we’ve always known and the dull-
2 Hannah Capin
duller-dullest wine coolers we always drink and the same bad choice in boys.
Tonight we’re going to a St Andrew’s Prep party. Crashing it, technically.
But nobody turns away girls like us.
We smile at the door. They let us in. Our teeth flash. Our claws glimmer. Mads laughs so shrill-bright it’s almost a scream. Everyone looks. We all grab hands and laugh together and then everyone, every charmed St Andrew’s Prepper is cheering for us and I know they see it—
for just a second—
—our fangs and our claws.
The first thing I do is cut my hair.
But it isn’t like in the movies, those crying girls with mas- cara streaks and kindergarten safety scissors, pink and dull, looking into toothpaste specks on medicine cabinet mirrors.
I’m not crying. I don’t fucking cry.
I wash my makeup off first. I use the remover I stole from Summer, oily Clinique in a clear bottle with a green cap. Three minutes later I’m fresh-faced, wholesome, girl-next-door, and you’d almost never know my lips are still poison when I look the way a good girl is supposed to look instead of like that little whore with the jade-green eyes.
Foul is Fair 3
The contact lenses go straight into the trash.
Then I take the knife, the good long knife from the wed- ding silver my sister hid in the attic so she wouldn’t have to think about the stupid man who never deserved her anyway. The marriage was a joke but the knife is perfectly, wickedly beautiful: silver from handle to blade and so sharp you bleed a little just looking at it. No one had ever touched it until I did, and when I opened the box and lifted the knife off the dark red velvet, I could see one slice of my reflection looking back from the blade, and I smiled.
I pull my hair tight, the long hair that’s been mine since those endless backyard days with Jenny and Summer and Mads. Always black, until Mads bleached it too fast, but splin- tering platinum blond for the St Andrew’s party on my sweet sixteen. Ghost-bright hair from Mads and jade-green eyes from Jenny and contour from Summer, almost magic, sculpt- ing me into a brand-new girl for a brand-new year.
My hair is thick, but I’ve never been one to flinch. I stare myself straight in the eyes and slash once— Hard.
And that’s it. Short hair.
I dye it back to black, darker than before, with the cheap box dye I made Jenny steal from the drugstore. Mads revved her Mustang, crooked across two parking spots at three in the morning, and I said:
Get me a color that knows what the fuck it’s doing.
Jenny ran back out barefoot in her baby-pink baby-doll dress and flung herself into the back seat across Summer’s lap, and Mads was out of the lot and onto the road, singing through six red lights, and everything was still slow and foggy and almost like a dream, but when Jenny threw the
4 Hannah Capin
box onto my knees I could see it diamond-clear. Hard black Cleopatra bangs on the front and the label, spelled out plain: #010112 REVENGE. So I said it out loud:
And Mads gunned the engine harder and Summer and Jenny shrieked war-cries from the back seat and they grabbed my hand, all three of them, and we clung together so tight I could feel blood under my broken claws.
REVENGE, they said back to me. REVENGE, REVENGE,
So in the bathroom, an hour later and alone, I dye my hair revenge-black, and I feel dark wings growing out of my back, and I smile into the mirror at the girl with ink-stained fingers and a silver sword.
Then I cut my broken nails to the quick. Then I go to bed.
In the morning I put on my darkest lipstick before it’s even breakfast time, and I go to Nailed It with a coffee so hot it burns my throat. The beautiful old lady with the crooked smile gives me new nails as long as the ones they broke off last night, and stronger.
She looks at the bruises on my neck and the scratches across my face, but she doesn’t say anything.
So I point at my hair, and I say, This color. Know what it’s
She shakes her head: No.
I say, REVENGE.
She says, Good girl. Kill him.
About the author: Hannah Capin is the author of Foul is Fair and The Dead Queens Club, a feminist retelling of the wives of Henry VIII. When she isn’t writing, she can be found singing, sailing, or pulling marathon gossip sessions with her girl squad. She lives in Tidewater, Virginia.
On the third day of the convocation, two of the Slonimi scouts killed a calf, and the herbalist’s boy wept because he’d watched the calf being born and grown to love it. His mother stroked his hair and promised he would forget by the time the feast came, the following night. He told her he would never forget. She said, “Just wait.”
He spent all of the next day playing with the children from the other caravan; three days before, they’d all been strangers, but Slonimi children were used to making friends quickly. The group the boy and his mother traveled with had come across the desert to the south, and they found the cool air of the rocky plain a relief from the heat. The others had come from the grassy plains farther west, and were used to milder weather. While the adults traded news and maps and equipment, the children ran wild. Only one boy, from the other caravan, didn’t run or play: a pale boy, with fine features, who followed by habit a few feet behind one of the older women from the other caravan. “Derie’s apprentice,” the other children told him, and shrugged, as if there was nothing more to say. The older woman was the other group’s best Worker, with dark hair going to grizzle and gimlet eyes. Every time she appeared the herbalist suddenly remembered an herb her son needed to help her prepare, or something in their wagon that needed cleaning. The boy was observant, and clever, and it didn’t take him long to figure out that his mother was trying to keep him away from the older woman: she, who had always demanded he face everything head-on, who had no patience for what she called squeamishness and megrims.
After a hard day of play over the rocks and dry, grayish grass, the boy was starving. A cold wind blew down over the rocky plain from the never-melting snow that topped the high peaks of the Barriers to the east; the bonfire was warm. The meat smelled good. The boy had not forgotten the calf but when his mother brought him meat and roasted potatoes and soft pan bread on a plate, he did not think of him. Gerta—the head driver of the boy’s caravan—had spent the last three days with the other head driver, poring over bloodline records to figure out who between their two groups might be well matched for breeding, and as soon as everybody had a plate of food in front of them they announced the results. The adults and older teenagers seemed to find this all fascinating. The herbalist’s boy was nine years old and he didn’t understand the fuss. He knew how it went: the matched pairs would travel together until a child was on the way, and then most likely never see each other again. Sometimes they liked each other, sometimes they didn’t. That, his mother had told him, was what brandy was for.
The Slonimi caravans kept to well-defined territories, and any time two caravans met there was feasting and trading and music and matching, but this was no ordinary meeting, and both sides knew it. After everyone had eaten their fill, a few bottles were passed. Someone had a set of pipes and someone else had a sitar, but after a song or two, nobody wanted any more music. Gerta—who was older than the other driver—stood up. She was tall and strong, with ropy, muscular limbs. “Well,” she said, “let’s see them.”
In the back, the herbalist slid an arm around her son. He squirmed under the attention but bore it.
From opposite sides of the fire, a young man and a young woman were produced. The young man, Tobin, had been traveling with Gerta’s people for years. He was smart but not unkind, but the herbalist’s son thought him aloof. With good reason, maybe; Tobin’s power was so strong that being near him made the hair on the back of the boy’s neck stand up. Unlike all the other Workers—who were always champing at the bit to get a chance to show off—Tobin was secretive about his skills. He shared a wagon with Tash, Gerta’s best Worker, even though the two men didn’t seem particularly friendly with each other. More than once the boy had glimpsed their lantern burning late into the night, long after the main fire was embers.
The young woman had come across the plains with the others. The boy had seen her a few times; she was small, round, and pleasant-enough looking. She didn’t strike the boy as particularly remarkable. But when she came forward, the other caravan’s best Worker—the woman named Derie—came with her. Tash stood up when Tobin did, and when they all stood in front of Gerta, the caravan driver looked from one of them to the other. “Tash and Derie,” she said, “you’re sure?”
“Already decided, and by smarter heads than yours,” the gimlet-eyed woman snapped.
Tash, who wasn’t much of a talker, merely said, “Sure.”
Gerta looked back at the couple. For couple they were; the boy could see the strings tied round each wrist, to show they’d already been matched. “Hard to believe,” she said. “But I know it’s true. I can feel it down my spine. Quite a legacy you two carry; five generations’ worth, ever since mad old Martin bound up the power in the world. Five generations of working and planning and plotting and hoping; that’s the legacy you two carry.” The corner of her mouth twitched slightly. “No pressure.”
A faint ripple of mirth ran through the listeners around the fire. “Nothing to joke about, Gerta,” Derie said, lofty and hard, and Gerta nodded.
“I know it. They just seem so damn young, that’s all.” The driver sighed and shook her head. “Well, it’s a momentous occasion. We’ve come here to see the two of you off, and we send with you the hopes of all the Slonimi, all the Workers of all of our lines, back to the great John Slonim himself, whose plan this was. His blood runs in both of you. It’s strong and good and when we put it up against what’s left of Martin’s, we’re bound to prevail, and the world will be free.”
“What’ll we do with ourselves then, Gert?” someone called out from the darkness, and this time the laughter was a full burst, loud and relieved.
Gerta smiled. “Teach the rest of humanity how to use the power, that’s what we’ll do. Except you, Fausto. You can clean up after the horses.”
More laughter. Gerta let it run out, and then turned to the girl.
“Maia,” she said, serious once more. “I know Derie’s been drilling this into you since you were knee-high, but once you’re carrying, the clock is ticking. Got to be inside, at the end.”
“I know,” Maia said.
Gerta scanned the crowd. “Caterina? Cat, where are you?”
Next to the boy, the herbalist cleared her throat. “Here, Gerta.”
Gerta found her, nodded, and turned back to Maia. “Our Cat’s the best healer the Slonimi have. Go see her before you set out. If you’ve caught already, she’ll know. If you haven’t, she’ll know how to help.”
“It’s only been three days,” Tobin said, sounding slighted.
“Nothing against you, Tobe,” Gerta said. “Nature does what it will. Sometimes it takes a while.”
“Not this time,” Maia said calmly.
A murmur ran through the crowd. Derie sat up bolt-straight, her lips pressed together. “You think so?” Gerta said, matching Maia’s tone—although nobody was calm, even the boy could feel the sudden excited tension around the bonfire.
“I know so,” Maia said, laying a hand on her stomach. “I can feel her.”
The tension exploded in a mighty cheer. Instantly, Tobin wiped the sulk off his face and replaced it with pride. The boy leaned into his mother and whispered, under the roar, “Isn’t it too soon to tell?”
“For most women, far too soon, by a good ten days. For Maia?” Caterina sounded as if she were talking to herself, as much as to her son. The boy felt her arm tighten around him. “If she says there’s a baby, there’s a baby.”
After that the adults got drunk. Maia and Tobin slipped away early. Caterina knew a scout from the other group, a man named Sadao, and watching the two of them dancing together, the boy decided to make himself scarce. Tash would have an empty bunk, now that Tobin was gone, and he never brought women home. He’d probably share. If not, there would be a bed somewhere. There always was.
In the morning, the boy found Caterina by the fire, only slightly bleary, and brewing a kettle of strong-smelling tea. Her best hangover cure, she told her son. He took out his notebook and asked what was in it. Ginger, she told him, and willowbark, and a few other things; he wrote them all down carefully. Labeled the page. Caterina’s Hangover Cure.
Then he looked up to find the old woman from the bonfire, Derie, listening with shrewd, narrow eyes. Behind her hovered her apprentice, the pale boy, who this morning had a bruised cheek. “Charles, go fetch my satchel,” she said to him, and he scurried away. To Caterina, Derie said, “Your boy’s conscientious.”
“He learns quickly,” Caterina said, and maybe she just hadn’t had enough hangover tea yet, but the boy thought she sounded wary.
“And fair skinned,” Derie said. “Who’s his father?”
Derie nodded. “Travels with Afia’s caravan, doesn’t he? Solid man.”
Caterina shrugged. The boy had only met his father a few times. He knew Caterina found Jasper boring.
“Healer’s a good trade. Everywhere needs healers.” Derie paused. “A healer could find his way in anywhere, I’d say. And with that skin—”
The boy noticed Gerta nearby, listening. Her own skin was black as obsidian. “Say what you’re thinking, Derie,” the driver said.
“Highfall,” the old woman said, and immediately, Caterina said, “No.”
“It’d be a great honor for him, Cat,” Gerta said. The boy thought he detected a hint of reluctance in Gerta’s voice.
“Has he done his first Work yet?” Derie said.
Caterina’s lips pressed together. “Not yet.”
Charles, the bruised boy, reappeared with Derie’s satchel.
“We’ll soon change that,” the old woman said, taking the satchel without a word and rooting through until she found a small leather case. Inside was a small knife, silver-colored but without the sheen of real silver.
The boy noticed his own heartbeat, hard hollow thuds in his chest. He glanced at his mother. She looked unhappy, her brow furrowed. But she said nothing.
“Come here, boy,” Derie said.
He sneaked another look at his mother, who still said nothing, and went to stand next to the woman. “Give me your arm,” she said, and he did. She held his wrist with a hand that was both soft and hard at the same time. Her eyes were the most terrifying thing he’d ever seen.
“It’s polite to ask permission before you do this,” she told him. “Not always possible, but polite. I need to see what’s in you, so if you say no, I’ll probably still cut you, but—do I have your permission?”
Behind Derie, Gerta nodded. The bruised boy watched curiously.
“Yes,” the boy said.
“Good,” Derie said. She made a quick, confident cut in the ball of her thumb, made an identical cut in his small hand, quickly drew their two sigils on her skin in the blood, and pressed the cuts together.
The world unfolded. But unfolded was too neat a word, too tidy. This was like when he’d gone wading in the western sea and been knocked off his feet, snatched underwater, tossed in a maelstrom of sand and sun and green water and foam—but this time it wasn’t merely sand and sun and water and foam that swirled around him, it was everything. All of existence, all that had ever been, all that would ever be. His mother was there, bright and hot as the bonfire the night before—not her face or her voice but the Caterina of her, her very essence rendered into flame and warmth.
But most of what he felt was Derie. Derie, immense and powerful and fierce: Derie, reaching into him, unfolding him as surely as she’d unfolded the world. And this was neat and tidy, methodical, almost cold. She unpacked him like a trunk, explored him like a new village. She sought out his secret corners and dark places. When he felt her approval, he thrilled. When he felt her contempt, he trembled. And everywhere she went she left a trace of herself behind like a scent, like the chalk marks the Slonimi sometimes left for each other. Her sigil was hard-edged, multi-cornered. It was everywhere. There was no part of him where it wasn’t.
Then it was over, and he was kneeling by the campfire, throwing up. Caterina was next to him, making soothing noises as she wrapped a cloth around his hand. He leaned against her, weak and grateful.
“It’s all right, my love,” she whispered in his ear, and the nervousness was gone. Now she sounded proud, and sad, and as if she might be crying. “You did well.”
He closed his eyes and saw, on the inside of his eyelids, the woman’s hard, angular sigil, burning like a horse brand.
“Don’t coddle him,” Derie said, and her voice reached through him, back into the places inside him where she’d left her mark. Caterina’s arm dropped away. He forced himself to open his eyes and stand up. His entire body hurt. Derie was watching him, calculating but—yes—pleased. “Well, boy,” she said. “You’ll never be anyone’s best Worker, but you’re malleable, and you’ve got the right look. There’s enough power in you to be of use, once you’re taught to use it. You want to learn?”
“Yes,” he said, without hesitating.
“Good,” she said. “Then you’re my apprentice now, as much as your mother’s. You’ll still learn herbs from your mother, so we’ll join our wagon to your group. But don’t expect the kisses and cuddles from me you get from her. For me, you’ll work hard and you’ll learn hard and maybe someday you’ll be worthy of the knowledge I’ll pass on to you. Say, Yes, Derie.”
“Yes, Derie,” he said.
“You’ve got a lot to learn,” she said. “Go with Charles. He’ll show you where you sleep.”
He hesitated, looked at his mother, because it hadn’t occurred to him that he would be leaving her. Suddenly, swiftly, Derie kicked hard at his leg. He yelped and jumped out of the way. Behind her he saw Charles—he of the bruised face—wince, unsurprised but not unsympathetic.
“Don’t ever make me ask you anything twice,” she said.
Kelly Braffet is the author of the novels Save Yourself, Last Seen Leaving and Josie & Jack. Her writing has been published in The Fairy Tale Review, Post Road, and several anthologies. She attended Sarah Lawrence College and received her MFA in Creative Writing at Columbia University. She currently lives in upstate New York with her husband, the author Owen King. A lifelong reader of speculative fiction, the idea for The Unwilling originally came to her in college; twenty years later, it’s her first fantasy novel. Visit her at kellybraffet.com.
Categories: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary Fiction
1 | TRICE
Getting shot isn’t the worst part. It’s the aftermath that really fucks you up.
Six months ago, on a dark December night, I was lying in a pool of my own blood on the living room floor. Six months later, I was sitting in a car on the way to a new town to start fresh. In some ways, yeah, the wound had healed. In others, it never would. I didn’t care, though. The last thing I’d cared about got me where I was.
“You’ll like it there, Tyson. The Smiths have prepared a new home for you,” Misty from social services was saying as she drove the long stretch of highway toward Pacific Hills. It was only an hour away from where I used to live in Lindenwood, California.
I didn’t respond. Home was a meaningless word to me now.
Misty peeked at me. “Aren’t you going to say anything?”
“I can leave as soon as I turn eighteen, right?” That was all that mattered. Fuck the rest. Five months, aka one hundred and sixty days, to go. On November twelfth, I’d be free.
Misty sighed. “Look, I know what you’re going through—”
“Word? You’ve been shot too and all’at?” I glanced her way. This lady was going home to a million-thread-count sheet-and-pillowcase set, resting easy once I was off her hands.
Fuck outta here.
“Well, no, but—”
“Then shut up.” I faced the road ahead, done talking.
Misty let out a breath, her light tan skin no doubt holding a blush upon her cheeks. “Do you kiss your—” She caught herself, as if realizing where she was about to go. “I—I’m sorry. You just shouldn’t speak that way.”
I felt an ache in my chest, but I let it go.
I didn’t care.
Half a beat later Misty was rambling on about food. “Do you wanna stop and get something to eat, you must be starving.”
“I told you I wasn’t hungry.”
“Oh, well, are you nervous?”
I hadn’t thought about being nervous or the fact that I would never return home again and lead a normal life. Not like I’d ever led one to begin with.
“Well, good. Think of it as going to a sleepover at an old friend’s house.”
One thing was true, the Smiths were old friends, but this setup was for the next five months.
“It’s been ten years since I last saw them,” I spoke up. “This ain’t no damn sleepover, and it’s not about to be all kumbaya, neither.”
At least they were black. Moving into the uppity setting of Pacific Hills was sure to be hell, but at least I would be with a black family. Even if I wouldn’t exactly fit in.
I didn’t look the same. I didn’t act the same. I wasn’t the same. And I didn’t care.
“It’s Trice.” I had asked her to call me that from jump street. No one called me Tyson.
I didn’t want to think about that. I didn’t want to think about anything. I didn’t care.
“Trice, please, try? I know it’s been rough these past few months, but you have a chance at something fresh. The Smiths are good people, and Pacific Hills is a lovely town. I’m sure soon you’ll be close to your old self.”
Misty had no clue what she was talking about. My old self? She obviously hadn’t paid attention to my file, or she would’ve been smart enough to leave it at fresh and not bring up my past.
Tyson Trice was dead.
He died on the f loor in the living room that day, and he was never coming back.
When I didn’t respond, Misty let up, probably getting that I didn’t give a shit either way.
I didn’t care.
2 | Nandy
I told myself I didn’t care about the juvenile delinquent my parents were moving into our home. I told myself it was no big deal an ex-con would be sleeping right next door to me. I told myself that my parents hadn’t made the worst decision in everdom.
It was just an everyday occurrence in the Smith household.
Still, it wasn’t fair.
As I paced around the pool in my backyard and complained to my best friend, Erica Yee, over the phone, I expected her to be on my side and console me.
“This was supposed to be a great summer and they pull this?” I whined.
“You can still have a good summer,” Erica responded. “This doesn’t have to be the end.”
But it was the end. My parents hadn’t gone into detail about the boy’s situation, just that he was in a “rough spot” and would be living with us for now. And that he was from Lindenwood, otherwise known as the ghetto.
I’d never gone there, but I’d heard enough stories to know to be cautious. When my parents watched the news, there was always a segment on some tragedy that had happened in Lindenwood. Some high-speed chase, or little kids killed during a drive-by, or a robbery gone wrong among the usual clutter of crime that kept the LPD busy. Lindenwood was notorious for its drugs, thefts, assaults, and murders.
It probably hadn’t been the best idea to stay up lurking on the local news feeds right before the delinquent moved in.
Everything would be ruined.
“It is the end,” I insisted. “I mean, they spent all this time whispering and having these hushed conversations behind closed doors, and they barely revealed last night that he’s from Lindenwood!”
Maybe I was acting childishly, but I felt like a kid with the way my parents had shut me out on the biggest detail of all when it came to the boy coming to stay with us out of nowhere. For two weeks, they’d been scarce on the topic and evaded any and all questions. Now it felt like they’d dropped a bomb on me.
For all I knew, this kid was a total ex-gangbanger and my parents were intent on opening our home to wayward souls.
Precautions? I was definitely taking them.
“Right now, you’re probably pacing around your pool in a Gucci bikini while your happily-in-love parents are inside preparing dinner together. God, Nan, your life is incredibly boring. You could use this delinquent to spice things up.”
Well, it was a Sunday evening, and the sun was beginning to set. My parents always made dinner together on Sundays, because they were both off work and able to do so.
I stopped pacing and glanced down at my white Gucci bikini. “Yee, you try new hobbies to spice things up, not invite ex-cons to move in with you. Look, whatever, let’s just get away for a few hours. The longer I put a halt on this, the better.”
“When is he supposed to show up?”
“Sometime today. I just wanna blow it off. Maybe you, me, and Chad could grab a bite at the club or something.”
My boyfriend’s family had a reserved table at the local country club. Anything would be better than dinner with the delinquent. I wasn’t 100 percent sure he was a criminal, but I wasn’t taking any chances. When it came to Lindenwood, you couldn’t be too sure.
“You in?” I asked.
“If we must.” Erica pretended to sound exasperated. “Call me with the details in twenty, okay?”
“Deal.” I hung up and sighed, tilting my head back toward the darkening sky and questioning what I had done to deserve this.
It was the first week of June, and school had ended last week. I intended to spend this summer before senior year going to beach bonfires and parties with my friends, lounging around, preparing for cotillion, and just staying as far away from home as possible.
With a plan in motion, I went around my pool and stepped into our family room through the patio doors.
“Shit!” I jumped back, dropping my phone and barely registering the sound of its rough slap against the hardwood floor.
My parents were standing in the room with an Asian woman who was dressed in a violet-red pantsuit. But it was the boy beside her that startled me. He towered over my father, with broad shoulders and a wide chest, and arms that let me know he worked out, even though he seemed drenched in black with his long-sleeved shirt and matching pants. He had deep, dark brown skin with a clean complexion. But what really stood out was his hair. The boy had cornrows braided to the back of his head—well-aged cornrows.
Ugh, he looked so unpolished.
Suddenly I remembered my fallen phone and looked down to discover the screen was cracked. Because things aren’t messed up enough already.
“And you remember our daughter, Nandy.” My mother played it cool, gesturing toward where I’d frozen near the patio doors.
Everyone faced me, looking just as uncomfortable as I felt.
Great, I was making my first impression completely inappropriate in a bikini.
Awkwardly, I waved and forced a smile onto my face, showing off the result of two years of braces.
“Nandy, this may be a little bit of a surprise, but you remember Tyson Trice, don’t you?” my father asked, looking between the two of us.
At first, the name vaguely rang a bell, but then it hit me. Tyson, the boy I’d played with when I was younger. He used to come by in the summers when his grandfather would do lawn work around our subdivision. There’d been a few times during the school year when he’d come by too, but it was mostly a summer thing. Until he stopped coming altogether.
The revelation brought a sense of relief followed quickly by a foreign anger that I couldn’t explain.
That was then; this is now.
Now Tyson Trice had hit a mega growth spurt and stood before me nearly a man, appearing not at all like the seventeen years young that we both were.
“Right.” I nodded my head. “Tyson, hey.”
Tyson didn’t shift focus to my body. He stared straight into my eyes and bore no friendly expression or a tell of what he was thinking. He was far across the room, but I didn’t need to be right up on him to know that he had the angriest eyes I’d ever seen. Dark, soulless abysses stared at me, making me shiver.
Right on, Dad. Thanks for inviting a possible murderer into our home.
“And this is our son, Jordy.” My mother didn’t miss a beat as she went on, downplaying how awkward everything was.
Jordy, my eleven-year-old little brother, was sitting against the ottoman, playing a video game on his handheld.
Tyson glanced at Jordy, and I felt protective, seeing curiosity briefly cross his face as he laid eyes on my Thai brother.
Jordy looked up from his game. “Hey.”
Tyson lifted a brow and turned to face my parents in that familiar way most outsiders looked at my family once they realized a black family was raising a Thai son.
Jordy smirked, shaking his head. “They wish they could’ve spawned a kid as good-looking as me.”
My father chuckled. “We spoke about adopting for years after having Nandy, and right around the time she was eight, we got approved and Jordy came into our lives.”
“He was just two years old,” my mother gushed. “He was so adorable, we fell in love with him instantly.”
I came more into the room, wanting to shield my brother from Tyson. Someone had to think of the kids.
“Nandy, why don’t you go put some clothes on.” It wasn’t a question. My mother was ordering me to cover up and look more presentable for our guests.
“I was actually on my way out to meet up with Erica, we’ve got this—”
“Right now?” she asked. “We’ve got company.”
I glanced at Tyson, hating him again for spoiling my summer. I’d seen him, and I’d spoken to him. What more did she want?
“Yeah, but Erica and I had plans to go to the country club and talk about cotillion.”
My mother pursed her lips. “Nandy—”
“You know what,” my father stepped in, “that’s a great idea. Nandy could take Tyson and the two could get reacquainted, and that’ll give us time to talk to Ms. Tran here.”
My eyes practically shot out of their sockets. There was no way in hell I’d share a car with Tyson.
After thinking it over, my mother seemed to agree. “That is a great idea. We can all sit down together later.”
My jaw hit the ground.
I shook my head. “You know, never mind, suddenly I’m not as hungry as I thought. In fact, I feel sick to my stomach. I think I’ll go lie down.”
By the way my mother narrowed her eyes, I knew she’d be giving me hell later about my behavior. I didn’t care. It wasn’t fair to me to force some scary-looking guy into my hands to be babysat.
With one final look at the newest arrival to the Smith household, I picked up my phone from the floor and made my way up to my room.
Long after Ms. Tran had left and my mother had scolded me in our family office, I sat in my room, maneuvering with a broken phone as I texted my boyfriend. Going on a hunger strike didn’t last long for me. After having refused to go down for dinner, I was starving.
My cell phone chirped as Chad texted me back.
Me: Thank God
My parents were probably still up, no doubt discussing either my punishment or how we were going to work Tyson into the family.
With their bedroom being in a different wing of our house, sneaking out was always an easy feat. Still, I made sure to keep extra quiet as I crept out of my room and slipped down the staircase.
Chad was waiting for me out front. He’d been pacing back and forth in front of our walk as he waited, and as I stepped outside I was elated to see him.
“I’m thinking sushi, you in?” I asked as I walked past him, heading for his car.
“Yeah, sure. What’s going on?” Chad asked as he caught up to me and fell into step.
I peered up into his blue eyes. “You don’t want to know.”
Chad ran a hand through his auburn hair, appearing confused but conceding. “O-kay, let’s go get some sushi.”
At the feeling of being watched, I glanced back at my house. On the second floor, through one of the large bay windows, I caught sight of a silhouetted figure.
It was him.
I turned back to Chad and reached out and caught his hand. “Yeah, let’s get out of here.”
This was my summer, and no one was getting in the way of that.
Whitney D. Grandison was born and raised in Akron, Ohio, where she currently resides. A lover of stories since she first picked up a book, it’s no surprise she’s taken to writing her own. Some of her works can be found on Wattpad, one of the largest online story sharing platforms, where she has acquired over 30,000 followers and an audience of over fifteen million dedicated readers.