“How was your first day of school, guys?” Mom asked when we walked in the door.
“Wasn’t my first day of school,” I mumbled, dropping my backpack in the mudroom and heading straight for the refrigerator.
“That was probably the best day of school ever in my life,” Kade said. He leaned against the kitchen island and reached for a banana from the fruit basket. “You’d be surprised how much you miss something as mundane as school when you’re kept away for two years.”
“Your own fault.” I couldn’t help being rude even though I knew to reign myself in.
“Tay, enough of that.” Mom pointed her finger at me and gave me that look.
“Sorry, Mom,” I said under my breath, not nearly as sorry as I should have been.
“Apologize to your brother, not me.”
“What, are we in preschool?” I asked.
“You tell me. You’re the one acting like a four-year-old.”
I ignored my mom and glared across the room at my twin brother, daring him to demand an apology. He took the initiative to change the subject, essentially letting me off the hook.
“Grand Haven High School has a great band program,” Kade said, releasing my gaze and looking over at our mom. “I wish I’d been here during basketball season because they apparently have a jazz band that rocks. Right now, the seniors aren’t doing much except hanging out while the kids practice songs for graduation and crap like that. A couple of the guys and I went into one of the practice rooms and jammed. Totally took me back, ya know?”
“Are they good kids?” Mom didn’t even try to hide her suspicion. I was sure she was just as leery of Kade getting involved in the wrong crowd as I was.
“Doesn’t matter.” Kade’s tone was defensive. “I’m not gonna do nothin’. Geesh, Mom. Besides, I just met ‘em today. How would I know?”
“I just want you to be careful.” She reached for her oven mitts and opened the door, allowing the heavenly aroma of lasagna to waft into the kitchen.
“Yeah, make new friends, Kade.” Kade’s statement dripped with sarcasm. “But only the right kind of friends, is that it?”
“You don’t need to be all defensive,” Mom said, closing the oven door. She placed the mitts on the counter and turned to my brother. “We just got you back and I don’t want to lose you again.”
“I’m not goin’ nowhere, okay?” Kade pushed past me and reached into the refrigerator for a Perrier, his strange go-to drink. I always suspected he used sparkling mineral water to hide a shot of vodka, but there was no alcohol in our house, that I knew of anyway. “I got homework. I’ll be in my room.”
Kade stopped in the mudroom to grab his backpack and headed for the stairs.
Mom sighed and I felt bad for snapping at her. “You need to let up on him, Tay. You’re going to push him away and he may never come back.”
“What if I didn’t want him to come back?” I couldn’t meet her gaze.
“You don’t mean that.” Her soft voice offered compassion. “He’s your twin brother. If you weren’t meant to be together you wouldn’t have been born at the same time.”
I’d heard that argument all my life. “Mom, we have nothing in common.”
“That’s not the real issue, though, is it?” Mom saw right through me.
My answer was barely a whisper and I was afraid I’d start crying if I wasn’t careful. “I don’t know if I can forgive him,” I admitted.
“Let him prove to you that he’s changed, Tay.” Mom came around the kitchen island and took me in her arms. I reluctantly let her hold me, inhaling the subtle French perfume that reminded me of home.
“I’ll try, okay?” I settled into a comfortable hug with my mom, allowing a rare show of affection. “Maybe I can go see if he needs help with homework or something.”
“That’s a great idea.” She gave me one more hug then released me from her arms.
I grabbed my backpack and headed up to Kade’s room. Without knocking, I opened his door and found him laying on his bed, a copy of The Great Gatsby in his hand.
“Need the Sparknotes version?” I asked, knowing that book was dreadfully dull to most seventeen-year-old boys. But more importantly, knowing that our midterm test was next week. He would need to cram several weeks’ worth of reading into only a few days.
“I really like it so far.” Kade turned the book around and glanced at the cover. “I’ve grown to appreciate good books.”
“Who are you and what did you do with my twin brother?” I dropped my backpack on the floor and pulled out my own copy of The Great Gatsby knowing I had about ten pages left and was behind. Might as well join him. I climbed over Kade and laid down on the other side of his queen bed.
“Your twin brother went to juvenile detention center and came back as your cousin, remember?” His sarcasm barely hid the hurt that was probably clawing at his heart.
“If only we could turn back time.” I settled onto his extra pillow and we read in companionable silence until mom called us down for dinner.
Book club discussion question: What could Kade have possibly done two years ago that Taylor still can't forgive him?? Discuss in the comments below. -Julie