I glanced back and looked through the window. Something shattered in the living room. Mom had thrown a wine bottle at Dad’s head, but she’d missed—she always missed.

Housekeeping was going to have the time of their lives getting that red wine out of the carpet again.

“Just leave, Greg! Go!” she hollered at him. “Go be with that whore!”

Like always, Dad stormed out of the house.

I think it worked best for him when she told him to leave. Then he was free to go to whoever he was sleeping with behind Mom’s back.

He paused when he saw me sitting on the front porch. “Greyson. What are you doing out here?” He pulled out a cigarette and lit it.

Avoiding you.

“Just got home from hanging with Landon.”

“Your mom’s acting like a nutjob again. I’m wondering if she’s been taking her pills.”

I didn’t comment, because any time he called her crazy, I wanted to punch him square in the face.

Dad narrowed his eyes and nodded my way. “I heard Landon started an internship at his father’s law firm.”

“Yeah.” I knew where this conversation was headed.

“When are you going to come down to EastHouse and learn something, huh? I can’t run that place forever, and it’s about time you figured out the basics. The sooner you learn, the sooner you’ll be ready to take over one day.”

Here we go again.

My father was determined to have me work at EastHouse Whiskey headquarters, because he was certain I’d be taking over the company one day. My grandfather had started EastHouse, and he’d run it with all his heart and soul for years until his retirement. My father had followed in his footsteps.

It was a family business, and I intended to take over someday to honor Grandpa.

I just didn’t want to do it any time soon.

“Are you deaf, boy? Am I not speaking English?” he hollered.

I stood up and stuffed my hands into my pockets. “I just don’t think I’m ready for that yet.”

“Not ready? You’re sixteen years old, and you don’t have any time to waste. If you think this basketball thing is going be your one-way ticket out, you’re fooling yourself. You don’t have what it takes to make it on basketball alone.”

There were three things to note about his comment:

I was seventeen, not sixteen.

I didn’t want to be a basketball star.

Piss off, Dad.

I pinched the bridge of my nose and walked past him and straight into the house. He hollered that we weren’t done talking about the internship, and we’d pick it up at a different time, but I wasn’t too worried about it. He never stayed home long enough to really hammer into me.

As I walked inside, I saw Mom picking up the shattered pieces of glass from the bottle.

“Mom, here, let me get that before you cut yourself,” I said, watching her sway drunkenly back and forth.

“Back off,” she said, pushing my arm away. She looked up at me, with mascara cruising down her cheeks, and frowned. She placed her wine-soaked hand against my cheek and parted her lips to speak. “You look just like your father. You know how angry that makes me? It makes me hate you almost as much as I hate him.”

“You’re drunk,” I told her. She was the kind of drunk where she didn’t even look like herself. She looked wild in the eyes, and her hair was tangled. “Let’s get you to bed.”

“No!” She pulled her hand back and slapped me across the face, muttering, “Fuck you, Greg.”

My eyes shut as my cheeks stung. Her eyes watered and she placed both of her hands over her mouth. “Oh, my gosh. I’m so sorry, Greyson. I’m so sorry.” She began to sob into her hands, shaking. “I can’t do this anymore. I just can’t do this.”

I wrapped an arm around her, and squeezed lightly, because I was pretty sure if I didn’t hug her, she wasn’t getting any hugs at all. “Yeah, it’s fine, Mom. You’re just tired. Just go to bed. Alright? Everything’s okay.”

I gathered the large pieces of glass and tossed them into the trash can as she wandered off to bed. She’d probably be gone before I woke the next morning, off to catch a flight to her next adventure. But we’d cross paths again when she needed her monthly fight with Dad, and a bottle of wine to toss.

I headed to the bathroom to wash the wine from my hands and face, and when I glanced in the mirror, I hated what I saw.

Because I did look like my father, and I kind of hated myself for it, too.

When I went to bed, I tried to shake my parents from my mind, but when I did shake them, Grandpa entered my head, and that just made me sadder.

So I thought about Eleanor Gable.

The girl who read books at parties, and really liked dragonflies.

Those thoughts weren’t as heavy as all my others.

So, I let them stay.



It had been two days since the party, and I hadn’t even finished reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. My focus was shot, and I couldn’t shake Greyson from my mind.

It wasn’t even the way he looked or the things he said. It was just small things about him.

I didn’t talk to a lot of people, but I noticed them well enough.

I noticed the way he became uncomfortable with certain things, the way he’d tap his fingers against his legs and never stood still.

I noticed the way he kind of smelled like red licorice.

Thinking about him was like a bad daydream I couldn’t wake up from. A part of me wondered if he thought about me, too.

This was a whole new concept for me.

I didn’t do crushes, unless we were talking about fictional characters. I always found guys my age to be idiotic and shallow. Everything about high school was the worst kind of cliché.

To me, everything seemed so contrived and fake. It was all based on superficial things like looks, popularity, and how much money your parents made. I just didn’t want any part of it.

Until Greyson and that stupid grin showed up. Now I was one of those girls, wondering about him when I shouldn’t have been, and reading one too many articles about having a crush.

“Hey, Snickers,” Dad said, popping into my room while twirling a pencil between his fingers.

“What?! Nothing. Stop. Huh?” I huffed quickly, hurrying to close the internet browser on the desktop computer. My breaths went in and out as I tried to cover up my nerves. “Hi, Dad,” I said on an exhale, giving him a wide, toothy grin.

He cocked an eyebrow. “What are you hiding?”

“Nothing. What do you need? What’s up?”

He rubbed his hand against his stomach and narrowed his stare. My father had a nice gut on him, and he called it Doritos, after the cause of the creation of said gut. Mom was a vegan and she always tried to get him to go down that line with her, but he was completely against giving up bacon—which I understood.

For the most part, Mom was good at keeping Dad’s diet in check. He’d been pre-diabetic before she’d gotten him to somewhat follow her eating plan. She’d tell him it would make her happy if he had a salad with dinner, so he’d have the salad, because making her happy was his favorite activity.

I always giggled a bit when he’d rub Doritos as he tried to figure something out, as if his belly was a magic lamp with all the answers.

“I just wanted to let you know it’s just you and me for dinner tonight. Your mom’s not feeling great.”

My gut tightened as worry took over. “Oh? Is she okay?”

“Just a little tired.” He smiled. “She’s all right, Ellie. I promise.”

He called me Ellie and not Eleanor, so I believed him.

He scratched his chin. “So, dinner?”

“I can’t tonight. I’m babysitting Molly.” I’d been babysitting Molly Lane twice a week, Mondays and Fridays, for the past few months after school. She was a spunky five-year-old girl who lived a few blocks away, and she kept me on my toes. “I should actually head over there soon.”

“Oh, it is Monday, isn’t it?” He wiggled his nose. “Well, I guess it’s just me, Frasier, and Mickey D’s for dinner tonight.”

“Does Mom know about the McDonalds?” I asked, knowing about Dad’s latest diet plan.

He pulled out his wallet and held up twenty bucks. “Does she have to know about it?”

“Are you bribing me?”

“I don’t know—is it working?”

I walked over and took the money from his grip. “Yup, it sure is.”

He wrapped his hands around my head and kissed my forehead. “I always knew you were my favorite daughter.”

“I’m your only daughter.”

“That we know of. There were a lot of rock concerts in the early eighties.”

I rolled my eyes, a small chuckle coming from my lips. “You know Mom will smell the French fries on you. She always does.”

“Some things are worth the risk.” He kissed my forehead one last time. “I’ll see you later. Tell Molly and her parents I said hi!”

“Will do.”

“Love you, Snickers.” He’d nicknamed me after his favorite candy, a term of endearment.

“Love you, too, Dad.”

After he left, I began getting ready to head over to Molly’s. I always took some of the old chapter books I’d loved as a kid to read to her before she went to bed. Molly loved books almost as much as I did, and I secretly felt a bit of jealousy that one day she’d get to read the Harry Potter series for the first time ever.

What I wouldn’t have given to once again experience the feeling of reading those books for the very first time.

Raine, Illinois was split into two parts, divided by a bridge—the east side and the west side. I lived on the west side, but Molly was on the east, off Brent Street. Even though I lived only a few blocks away, once you crossed over the small bridge, you could tell the difference in income level. My family was well-off, but we weren’t as well-off as those east of the bridge.