“I sent out an invite to everyone in your email contacts. You now have to wait and see if the rest of your contacts will actually follow.”

My stomach rolls. Great. A popularity contest and my senior year hasn’t even started yet. “I can delete the account, you know.”

“You could,” Addison responds. “But you won’t. I know you’ve wanted on Bragger but have been hesitant to do it. Consider this your push.”

“Why are we friends?”

“Because I’m pretty,” she says to me, then cocks an annoyed hip as she assesses Joshua. “That Reign of Terror stuff wasn’t bull. We were terrified.”

He eyes Addison in a way that suggests he’s thinking things involving her that seriously gross me out. “You could have called me. I would have given you a ride.”

I toss my arms out to my sides. “I asked for a ride! I texted, remember?”

“I said her, not you. Besides, Liam picked you up. FYI, I overheard Zac and Elsie conspiring to act like you don’t exist again. That should make bedtime fun.”

Pretending I don’t exist. It’s a fun game all my siblings have played on me. Liam started it when he was eight—mad we were forced to share a bike as a Christmas present. To this day, I’m not sure how he felt slighted. It was a boy bike.

“Then do me a favor,” I say. “You give them baths and get them in bed. I’ve got dishes.”

Joshua claims his keys from the hook by the door. “No can do. Mom called. She forgot her checkbook and told me to tell you to make sure they’re in bed by the time she gets home.”


“Ask Clara to get Mom.”

He grimaces. “That would mean Clara would have to stop living in a dark room feeling sorry for herself. I don’t do angst. You want her help, you ask for it.”

We both know the result of that conversation. I’m envious of Joshua, always have been. He’s an island in our family. Calm. Tranquil. Maintains his distance from everyone he’s blood-related to. Joshua learned quickly to befriend people outside of our family and he sticks closely with them—not us. And my family believes I’m the smart one.

“Have fun.” Joshua waggles his eyebrows as he opens the door. I launch a wet dishrag in his direction and Joshua dodges it by racing out. The rag hits the door frame with a wet splat.

Glass crashes in the living room. I hold my breath and a split second later Elsie’s screaming. It’s not her fake cry for attention, it’s the real one. I’m across the kitchen, slamming my hand so hard on the swinging door that it stings my palm, and breathe a sigh of relief when I don’t spot blood pouring from her head.

Mom’s last nonbroken vase is in pieces on the floor and Elsie is nursing her elbow. There’s a small trickle of blood, but no bone sticking out of the skin. The small child who was bent on ignoring me for the rest of the night holds her hands up to me. I swing her up on my hip, then scan the room for Zac.

He’s crouched on the other side of the sofa, waiting for someone to tear into him because his younger sister is hurt. Elsie sobs and sobs in my ear like someone ripped off her arm. A heaviness descends upon me and the urge is to go upstairs, crawl into bed and pull the covers over my head, but that isn’t an option. At the moment, I’m the designated parent.

“Zac.” Even I detect the exhaustion in my tone.

He stands and looks like a puppy someone hit with a rolled-up newspaper. I should ask what happened. I should tell him he has to play more carefully with our sister. I should tell him he knows better than to have that plastic sword in the living room, but I don’t. I may be the closest thing they have to a parent, but I’m only seventeen and right now seventeen-year-old me wants to run away.

“Let’s go upstairs and start baths,” I say.

With his head hanging, Zac trudges up the stairs in silence. Middle-school-demon Paul watches me with wide eyes from his spot on the couch. I very much notice the controller in his hand and the paused game on the TV. He didn’t listen to me. He didn’t take a shower. He didn’t even attempt to police our younger siblings or help Elsie when she fell.

A cell vibrates and I turn to see Addison offering me a face full of sympathy. “My dad wants me home.”

She lives a block away. I nod and she slips into the kitchen. The outside door shuts and Elsie wipes her snotty nose on my shoulder, then sucks in a shuddering breath.

I have glass to clean up, a boo-boo to kiss and bedtime routines to keep. I have dishes in the kitchen, garbage to take out and a social media account currently tracking my popularity.

In my bare feet, I gingerly step over the broken vase and ask a hollow question. “Can you at least pick up the broken glass, Paul?”

He doesn’t say yes. He doesn’t say no. I’m going to pretend that he’s going to do it anyway because he cares or feels guilty. I’ll accept either as an excuse.


OZ AND I mount our motorcycles at the same time, but I block his path forward with my bike. “You’re not on this.”

“Last I checked, you don’t call the shots.” Oz revs his motor.

“You’re not allowed near the Riot.” This summer, Oz pointed a gun at the president of the Riot Motorcycle Club and it appears our unsteady peace treaty with them is cracking. He shouldn’t be the Snowflake welcoming committee. Besides, our clubs are about to go Fat Man and Little Boy, and I’m ready for this fallout.

“Last I heard,” Oz retorts, “neither are you. Only board members are allowed to approach.”

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