When I checked the time again, it was almost four, and I was beginning to worry about my siblings. Usually, it only takes Evelyn ten minutes to walk back from EastLand’s junior high, but Eric wasn’t there, either. I knew that Mom was picking Emmanuel up from elementary school, which is why I wasn’t as worried, but it still bothered me.
After another three minutes, I just decided to text Evelyn.
Evelyn, where are you?
In less than a few minutes, she responded.
Think Mom and Dad would be mad if I spent some time at a friends house?
I’d be back before dinner ended.
Depends...who is the gender of this friend, do I know them, and what’s their full name?
Jesus...when did I get a third parent?
Answer the questions, then you’re off the hook.
You’re ridiculous. 511Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡJ7Nt88dtcz
Her name is Harmoni R. Cross, and she’s fifteen. The two of us have math, science, and lunch together (plus she’s on the volleyball team). You may know her half brother, Yael Cross. Harmoni doesn’t do anything bad, though.
Yael Cross? If he actually did go to EastLand, he wasn't in sports. I knew all the football, basketball, track, soccer, and baseball team, but his name didn’t ring any bells. I’d heard the name being announced during an assembly for second place (I was first, and Dad bragged about it the whole way home) but it wasn’t someone I knew.
Then again, Evelyn was trustworthy. She’d never done anything bad before, and when she did, she never actually got caught. And last month she had gone to a party that had alcohol at it, and she came back sober. She’d never been suspended, and always did what Mom and Dad told her to do. But I did just the same thing, though half of my life is an entire lie - because I don’t even deserve the treatment I get. I’ve lied to Mom and Dad more than I should’ve, and I’m hiding who I actually like from them. My parents knew nothing about who their real son is, they just know what everybody else expects from me - perfection.
And that's why I couldn’t let Evelyn do anything. Though I think it’s better that she asked, if Evelyn is caught doing anything bad, our parents will question the ⟴ out of us, and I can’t have that. It was selfish, sure. But nobody’s perfect.
Probably not the best idea. I’m not the adult in the house, anyways.
I knew that you never trusted me.
I rolled my eyes and left my sister’s message on read. I knew that you never trusted me. That’s a lie, and she knows it. I trusted her more than I trusted Eric, which is why I came out to her first. I waited a few seconds and then checked my phone again. Eric hadn’t texted back, and he hadn’t even read the text. What was he doing?
Pressing the call button, I put my phone against my ear and waited. It’d been a while since school ended, and he had no reason not to be driving us home right now.
After a few rings, he finally answered.
“Hello?” he whispered.
“We need to get home before Mom and Dad get all of us grounded,” I said. “Just so you know, curfew is at 5:00 for you.” It was dumb how our curfews worked. Evelyn could stay out until 9:45, I could stay out until about 10:30, and Eric was only allowed out until 5:30 (unless he had a pretty good excuse. He got in some deep trouble at a party, so Dad’s going hard on him).
Eric sighed annoyingly before he whispered into the phone again. “Kinda busy, man,” he said. “Tell Mom and Dad I’m...studying at the library.”511Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡnxW4x5CuZZ
“Because that’s believable,” I said sarcastically.
I would’ve said bye back, but he’d already hung up. I was actually thankful that things hadn’t changed ever since I told Eric. He still was annoyed with me all the time, and I was thankful that nothing has changed between the two of us.
Evelyn showed up five or ten minutes later, her arms crossed over her chest. She looked angry, especially at me - but it wasn’t completely my fault.
“We gotta go,” I said, pulling my keys out of my jean pocket. I was the only one who had another key to Eric’s car, and it was because of situations like this. Also because Eric doesn’t like sharing anything. “Mom and Dad will be asking where we are.”511Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡI1VczyUetp
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“Then come up with an excuse,” Evelyn said, opening the car door. “I’m sure Delcan taught you all about those.” I hesitated for a moment before getting into the car. There was no reason to argue over something that probably was true in the first place.
The entire car ride, neither of us said a word to each other. It was only weird because Evelyn was always cheerful, and now she was acting like Emmanuel when he doesn’t get his way. I don’t get how not going over to a friend’s house bothers her that much. I’m used to Dad saying no. “Study,” he’ll say. Or, “You need to practice your throws, Ace. Try harder. No friend’s house.”
When we finally reached our house, Emmanuel burst out the door, running to me with all of his power. As he wrapped his arms around me, Evelyn slammed the car door shut, and stormed inside, ignoring Emmanuel.
“Where were you two?” my younger brother asked, pulling away from me. “And where is Eric?”
I shrugged. “No worries,” I said. “We’re here now.” Emmanuel pouted his lip but didn’t say anything to me until I was about to walk into the front door. And then, in a small whisper, he talked back like Eric does to our parents.
“I have three siblings, not two,” Emmanuel said. But he kept his voice quiet enough to where he didn’t think I heard him. I smiled and shook my head, then walked inside. In the living room, Evelyn was sitting on the couch, scrolling through her social media accounts.
She must’ve noticed my presence because she turned around and looked for the TV remote. “Where’s Eric?” she asked, her voice sounding dull as she turned on the TV.
“Detention, I think,” I said. Evelynn looked at me then, and she immediately smiled. We were both thinking the same thing. Just like Eric. After giving her a friendly “smile” back, I continued talking. “Hey, think you could cover for me after dinner? I have something important to do.”
She raised her eyebrow, this time. “For..?”
It wasn’t my business to explain it to her. If Callie wanted my sister to know, she would’ve told her herself. “It’s just something really important,” I said. “I just need you to cover for me for two hours. Can you do that?”
Evelyn sat up, her smirk seeming like it was a challenge. “And if I say no?”
“Try me,” she challenged.
I straightened my back. “This is actually important, Evelyn,” I said. And it was because I hated breaking promises. “This isn’t just a little hang out - it matters.”
She rolled her eyes, obviously caring less. “Convince Mom and Dad to let you go, not me.” She stood up then, and left the room, leaving the TV on some weird drama show. Brat, I thought to myself. Turning off the TV, I looked around the house for my parents.
It wasn’t shocking that they weren’t together.
Mom was sitting in the backyard, reading a book that’s title was covered. I moved to her slowly. What could I even say? I sat down next to her as she looked over to me. Because she was that type of mom, she gave me a kind smile, and I smiled back to her. Gosh, this was so hard.
“Hi sweetheart,” she said. “What is it?”
I thought of a lie quicker than I expected, and the words came out of my mouth just as fast. “Haven asked me if I wanted to come over for dinner, and I already said yes. I hope that’s okay with you.” She sat up almost instantly when she heard the words Haven and dinner rolled into one sentence. But I knew she couldn’t give me permission, and her answer already came into my head before she said it.
“Just ask your dad first, honey,” she said. I nodded, and then waited for her to tell me where dad was. She caught onto my face and smiled. “Upstairs, in our room. Just knock, and if he isn’t opening it, then he’s asleep. Long day at work.” She patted my leg, and I nodded.
“So if he doesn’t open the door..?” I asked.
Mom shrugged, her dirty blonde hair bouncing off her shoulder. “Then I’ll tell him at dinner. Want me to save anything for you?”
“Whatever I like,” I said, giving her my kindest smile. Mom laughed, and then allowed me to leave. As I walked up the stairs, I was praying that Dad would be asleep. If he was, it wouldn’t be so hard to lie to him. I knocked on the door as softly as I could, and when there was no response, I let out a breath of fresh air.
But I had to be quiet walking out because Dad could hear basically anything. I left the hallway quietly and came back outside the back door. I had made some type of promise to Mom, and I hated breaking it.
“I’m leaving,” I called out her. She didn’t turn around but seemed like she heard me. I just needed to grab one more thing out of my room before I left, and then I’d make up some excuse to my parents for why I’m not at dinner. I still had a load of homework to complete, too, but it wasn’t as hard as last semester.
When I entered my room, it was more than a surprise to see Emmanuel in my room. He wasn’t on my computer or anything, but he was reading an old book series that I still had from 7th grade. His dirty blonde hair stayed on one side of his face, and his eyes were drawn to the page. Emmanuel wasn’t a typical reader (he has a short attention span) but the minute he noticed my presence, he closed the book and smiled to me.
Even though he’s only ten, and even though he hardly understands things as I do, I sometimes worry about Emmanuel treating me differently if he knew. I mean, no, he doesn’t even understand most about other communities (or rights, because Mom and Dad never want him to learn about “other cultures”) but I’m sure he knew things from school.
There aren’t many schools that will tell you a lot about the LGBT community, but whatever he does know, it hasn’t been good news. On top of that, Emmanuel has been taught to agree with everything that Dad wants him to, and I don’t know what his reaction would be if he knew who West Young really is.
“Whatcha doing?” I asked him.
Emmanuel jumped up from my bed and wrapped me in another hug. He was still clingy, but it wasn’t like I knew how to fix that. Though I knew it was time for me to get tougher on my younger brother, I hugged him back the best I could.
“How was school today?” I asked.
Emmanuel pulled off of me and gave me a smile. “I met someone new today,” he said, his voice sounding full of cheer. Usually, when Emmanuel was all goofy smiles (which isn’t often) he likes someone. But Evelyn is always first to know before me.
“Okay?” I asked him. I did care, honestly. But he needed to understand that even though I care about his life (sometimes), I can’t always sit down and have a conversation with him about everything.
Emmanuel showed a sign of annoyance, but then he shook his head. “Her name is Sam,” he told me. “She isn’t like any girl I’ve ever met before, Zi. She’s kind, and funny, and nice, but she hates when people say her full name. But she’s cool.” I nodded to him.
At least he wasn’t ashamed of who he liked.
“Do you like her?” I asked him. Though I knew the answer, it was funny to see his cheeks turn red.
“Maybe,” he muttered. Then, it was like he got an idea, and he perked up. “Imma ask her to be my girlfriend.”511Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡx1eBJo1YGg
I’m, I thought to myself. But then his words actually replayed in my head, and I realized how dumb of an idea that would be.
“Don’t think that’s the best idea, Manny. Maybe try becoming friends, see if you like her, then ask her out. You don’t wanna come on too strong.” I said.
Emmanuel glared at me like Evelyn would when I mentioned she shouldn’t date yet. “Don’t tell me what to do,” he said. His voice wasn’t angry or anything, but it was like he was trying to act how Eric and Evelyn did when they began arguments.
I shrugged. “Don’t blame me when you’re single.”511Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡEP47witXwp
511Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡmw5yEkPIfm
Emmanuel bit back a smile, and then pushed past me as he left my room. In the process, he hit my stomach lightly and then slammed the door behind him. I chucked to myself because Emmanuel isn’t like that. It’s natural in my family to feel the need to fit in, and Emmanuel feels out of place because he never gets in fights with any of his older siblings. I heard Dad talking about it one night to Mom (not really talking, more like clamorous arguing) about how Emmanuel never fights like how Eric, Evelyn, and I do.
I just never cared. Because the fewer siblings on my back, the better.
When I arrived at Delcan’s house, I sent him a quick text, and then thought about how this would happen. I probably knew less about the entire Callie thing than their own parents did, so I don’t understand why they’d want to ask me about it. On top of that, if Delcan wasn’t a fan of the idea at all, I don’t know how it happened.
But whatever the case was, I’m already in the driveway, so there’s no turning back.
Once I’d knocked on the door, both Mr. and Mrs. Heslop seemed to have greeted me. Delcan’s mom looked like she’d been on the computer all day, with her hair in a messy bun and an outfit that my sister wears when she’s lazy (typically, it’s Evelyn’s Saturday outfit. Or, her outfit on days she’s not allowed to play sports) but Mr. Heslop seemed like he’d just gotten home from work moments before I came here.
I gave both of them a kind smile and kept my posture nice. If there were going to let me in, they were taking their time with it. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure what there was to even say - but I knew that there’d be no chance for stuttering, or any “I don’t know” answers.
“Come in, Ezra,” Mrs. Heslop said, his voice sounding dull. Delcan’s dad slightly had an accent, but I only hear it when he speaks Spanish (which is the same with Delcan). Mr. Heslop didn’t seem to like me at all, and I wondered if this would be how my Dad would treat Delcan and I being together.
Or, it could be a lot worse.
I sat down at the dining table, where both Delcan and Callie were sitting. Callie didn’t even look up from her phone when I got situated, but Delcan did for a second, and then his amber eyes moved back down to the screen. When Mr. and Mrs. Heslop came back to the dining table, both of them sat down, and then looked at their children.
“Teléfonos arriba. Ahora,” he told them. And just like that, both Delcan and Callie put their phones away, sighing at the same time.
Callie crossed her arms over her chest, and she looked nervous. I’ve never even seen the look her eyes had, but just like her brother, she was always trying to pretend that everything was okay.
“Okay, Ezra,” Mrs. Heslop said to me. “Just tell us what you know, and then you can leave.” I knew she wasn’t trying to, but the way everybody was looking at me, it felt like some type of cop show or something. Like, where somebody is accused, and the cop is saying things that aren’t even true. It was how I felt right now. I’m sure that no matter what I said, there would still be another load of questions for me to answer.
But all I needed to do was be truthful.
“All I know is what Callie had told Delcan about a month ago,” I said. Callie looked over to her brother, while Delcan kept his eyes on his parents' faces. “Other than that, I know nothing else.”
Mr. Heslop nodded slowly. “Lo sé-sorry. I know, Ezra. But there’s something that neither of them will say, and we were thinking that maybe you would know. And since you spend a lot of time around here-”511Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ3cNTcjKZ5l
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“A lot,” Callie muttered under her breath. Delcan hit her with his elbow, and she bit back a yelp. Mrs. Heslop glared at Callie, but her look was enough for no words to even be exchanged. Slouching, Callie stopped.
Mr. Heslop seemed like he was about to laugh, but I kept a straight face, and made sure I didn’t look at Delcan. “But if the two of them have told you something,” Mr. Heslop continued. “We need you to tell us now.”
And then I knew what this was about.
He wanted me to sell them out.
He wanted me to tell him some type of secret about the whole Callie situation where I would not only be ratting out Delcan, but also his sister. That was pretty cold. But Delcan didn’t talk to me for a straight month after that, and I saw no reason why I would know any information about it. And on top of that, I couldn’t say anything, because I had no idea what Delcan and Callie had told their parents.
“I’m not sure I know what you’re talking about,” I said, trying to make it seem like I’m confused. Both Mr. and Mrs. Heslop nodded before Mrs. Heslop looked over to Delcan, who seems a bit annoyed with what I said.
“Go on,” Mrs. Heslop said, looking at her son. “Say what you told us this morning.”
Delcan looked at me, and our eyes met. It wasn’t until I actually noticed that there were brown specks in his eyes that I realized he was nervous. We both looked at each other for another few seconds, and then he looked back over to his mom, while I looked down at the hand-crafted wooden table.
“Alright,” he said. “So Callie made a false report to the police in order to get her arrested, but she did it because of the fact that she was getting drugged, and these men in a gang were-” he paused for a moment, and I knew that he suddenly did care about what happened. Clearly, he didn’t want to say what happened to Callie, but his parents seemed to understand as he skipped that word, and kept talking. “Another person in the group told her how she could possibly get out if she made a fake call to the police, which got her arrested for her actions. She was arrested, and let out a few weeks later.”
Now I understood what the lie was. Mr. and Mrs. Heslop wanted me to tell them how Callie would’ve gotten out of jail so fast. But I wouldn’t tell the truth, because it wasn’t fair for me to say any of that.
“What we want to know is how Callie really got out,” Mrs. Heslop said. She patted her Delcan’s shoulder as he sighed. “I love you, Delcan, but I don’t believe that remark for a second. A false report would’ve been a lot longer than that.” Once Mrs. Heslop had finished, I looked over to Callie, who had her head down.
“I don’t know anything about that,” I lied. It’s odd that lying becomes easier the more and more you do it. “The only thing I knew was about the gang, and the drugs, and Callie calling for a false report.” Delcan looked at me the entire time I talked, which Callie would look up sometimes, but never made actual eye contact.
For a moment, there was silence. And then, Mr. Heslop cleared his throat.
“Are you sure, Ezra?” he asked me, his eyebrows raised. He was intimidating, of course, but I’d faced people so much worse than Mr. Heslop. And he never seemed to get mad at Delcan, no matter what he did.
“Yes,” I said. And that kind of was the truth because I hadn’t learned about any bailing out until Delan told me about it during passing period today. “And I don’t know the name of the people in the group either.”
Mr. Heslop simply nodded and stood up from the dining table. He left the room and went up the stairs. The three of us that were left all looked at each other, but there seemed to be no words between any of us. After some time, Mrs. Heslop stood up to come after her husband.
But she stopped and turned to me. “Don’t take this personally, Erra,” she said, giving me a kind smile. “I’m sure your father would be the same if it was a situation with Evelyn.” And with that, she left the room.
Though, what she told me, in the end, wasn’t true, at all. There were these guys in 8th grade that harassed my sister when she was in 7th, and my dad did nothing to stop any of it. He actually told Evelyn that she was a beautiful girl, and she honestly had no reason to even do good in school, because in a matter of time, she’ll have a husband who will buy her whatever she wants.
My dad doesn’t give a crap.
“Well,” Callie said, standing up. “That was horrible.”
“Your face is worse,” Delcan said.
Callie looked over to her brother, and then messed up his hair. He instantly went from chill to angry really quick, and almost turned around fast enough to slap his sister. But she pulled away just in time, laughing. “Too slow, Delcan. That’s why you’re second place.”511Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ2eY0u0NB8G
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“Says the girl who’s never even had a boyfriend!” Delcan called out as Callie walked up the stairs. But as she was walking back up, she turned around and looked at her brother.
“Él no cuenta como un verdadero novio,” she said in Spanish.
And this is when I realized the pattern between their arguments. It was always in Spanish, so I never knew what they were saying.
“Could you-”511Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ8U0UecO5WX
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“Why didn’t you just tell them?” Delcan asked, making sure I wouldn’t have a clue about what they said. I hesitated for a moment before I understood what he meant.
“I didn’t think y-you actually wanted me to,” I stuttered. “I thought you didn’t want them to know. Plus, you told me you took money out of your dad’s wallet.”
Delcan rolled his eyes. “He hates me enough as it is right now,” Delcan said. He didn’t collaborate on that, instead, he just half continued. “And until somebody else tells him the truth, I’m under house arrest.”
I raised my eyebrows. “House arrest? Dang, next level.”
He nodded. “Yeah,” he said, rolling his eyes.
“I should probably go,” I said. The entire conversation between Delcan, Callie, and his parents was just odd enough as it is, and being around Delcan alone just made me feel so much more awkward. As I stood up, I felt Delcan’s hand wrap around my arm.
“Wait,” he said. I turned around and looked at him. “I need your...help with something.”
“And what would that be?”511Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡp2wvRTWwii
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Delcan pulled out a binder, which had papers shoved in it. Clearly, he was a bit behind on work. He looked up at me, his eyes sort of desperate. “It doesn’t make any sense,” he said, giving me one of the worksheets. It was from normal science, which I didn’t take, but I still knew it wasn’t hard at all.
To show that I was smart, I laughed. “It’s the same at Oakwood, right?”
Delcan shrugged. “Yeah...but I need help,” he said. “And someone who actually understands it, not my sister.”
“Your sister is pretty smart,” I guessed.
“Oh come on, Ezra,” Delcan said. “I want you to stay, please.” I smiled and finally gave in. Sitting down next to Delcan, I moved closer to help him understand molecules.
Hey Dad. I got caught up at the library studying, and might not be home until 9:30. I’ll work hard when I get home, though. Won’t be past curfew.ns 18.104.22.168da2