“Stop telling me what to do!” I exploded, my heart hammering in my chest. “And who are you to talk about secrets, Indie Ian?”
I spat the name off my tongue, and his eyes hardened. “Don’t turn this on me.”
“Why not?” I opened my arms out wide, encompassing the room. “Secret Irish friend. Secret writing career. Secret college plans.” I needed to pause, reel it in, but I was too angry. I reached into my pocket and then thrust my phone in his face. “And this. What is this about?”
He yanked the phone from my hands, his posture deflating as he read Olive’s text. “How does she know?” he said quietly.
His words stopped me in my tracks, sending my brain spiraling. “Wait, are you saying it’s true? You got kicked off the team? Why didn’t you tell me?”
He tossed the phone onto the bed. “It was because of you, okay? I’m off the team because of you.”
I backed out of the room, my hands shaking as a mountain formed in my chest, heavy and brand-new.
Now his voice was pleading. “Addie, I got kicked off the football team. Mom and Dad don’t know yet, but I can’t keep it a secret forever. You have tell Mom. You have to tell her about the photo, and about Cubby passing it—”
“Ian, stop!” I yelled, clamping my hands over my ears. My body spun around, and suddenly I was running, the steps rising up to meet me, Ian at my back.
I made it all the way down to the harbor before I slowed. My chest was heaving, the tears making it hard to breathe, and I fell heavily onto an iron bench, the cold slats pressing into my spine.
Here’s the thing that shouldn’t have happened this summer, not to me, not to anyone. After weeks of Cubby asking, I’d sent him a topless photo of myself. I hadn’t felt completely okay about it because one, all his joking about it had started to feel uncomfortably like pressure, and two, no matter how many times I swatted at Ian’s warning, it refused to stop buzzing in my head. I hear how he talks about girls. You don’t want to hang out with him.
But Cubby and I had been together all summer. Didn’t that mean I knew him better than Ian did? Didn’t that mean I could trust him? And besides, maybe this was how you went from secret late-night meet-ups to walking down the halls of your high school together. You took a leap of faith.
So I’d hit send. Even though my hands were shaking. Even though the buzzing in my head got even louder.
And then two days later, Ian had come home from football camp and all but thrown himself through my bedroom door, angry tears pooling in his eyes. You know what he’s been doing, right? He’s been showing everyone your photo. Why didn’t you listen to me?
I’d been too stunned to even ask what happened next, but now I knew. After Ian walked in on Cubby passing my photo around to the entire varsity team, he’d fought him. Of course he had. And then he’d gotten kicked off the football team. And the fact that I hadn’t meant to involve my brother—hadn’t meant to let my life spill over into his—didn’t matter, because that came with being family. Whether you wanted them to or not, your actions always affected the entire unit. I took a deep, shuddery breath. I needed to tell Ian why I hadn’t listened to him. The real reason. He deserved to know.
A few seconds later I heard his footsteps behind me, just like I knew I would. “Addie . . . ,” he started, but I whipped around, forcing the words out before they could retreat.
“Ian, do you know how hard it is to be your little sister?”
He froze, a searching expression moving over his face. “What do you mean? This summer excluded, I’ve always felt like we had a great friendship.”
“We have.” I shook my head, groping for the words as he slid onto the bench next to me. “What I mean is, do you know how hard it is to be Ian Bennett’s sister?”
He shook his head almost imperceptibly. “I don’t understand.”
“You’re the star of our high school. Star of the football team. The star athlete in a house filled with star athletes.” My voice wavered, and I picked a spot in the ocean to stare at, steadying my gaze. “You’re good at school, and sports, and writing . . . and of course you were right about Cubby. You were completely right. And deep down I knew it all along.”
Ian dug his hands into his hair, his face confused. “Then why—”
I cut him off again. I really needed him to listen. “Ian, I was with Cubby this summer because I wanted someone to see me. Really see me. And not just in comparison to you three.” I took a deep breath. “I just wanted to be someone other than Bennett number four—the one who’s just mediocre.”
“Mediocre?” Ian’s eyes widened in disbelief. “Why didn’t you ever tell me you felt that way?”
“Why should I have to tell you? It’s so embarrassingly obvious.” A bird hopped happily over, a french fry clamped in its beak. “And, Ian, I’m really sorry that I sent the photo, but—”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa. Back up.” Ian’s hands shot into the air. “You think I’m mad at you because you sent the photo?” He looked me square in the eye, his knee bouncing. “Addie, that’s not what this is about. Sending a photo was your decision. It’s your . . . body.” We both grimaced. This was firmly out of the realm of brother-sister conversations. At least it was for us.
“Sorry,” he said quickly, blush forming on his cheeks. “I don’t know if I’m saying this the right way, but what I mean is that I wasn’t mad that you sent the photo. Your picture getting passed around the team wasn’t your fault—Cubby’s the one who did that.” He kicked at a loose pebble on the sidewalk. “I was mad that you didn’t trust me when I told you to stay away from him. I’ve been around Cubby for years. I’ve seen how he’s changed, and I just wanted to protect you.”
Tears prickled my eyes, and I leaned over, resting my elbows on my knees. The knot in my chest felt like it would never unravel. “Ian, I’m so sorry about football,” I whispered.
He exhaled slowly. “Okay, now it’s my turn to come clean on something else. I didn’t mean what I said back there in the room. I was just angry. And trying to make a point.”
I shot up quickly. “You mean you’re still on the team?”
He shook his head. “No, I am one hundred percent off the team. What I mean is that’s on me, not you.”
“So it wasn’t about the photo?”
“Well . . .” He hesitated. “I wouldn’t say that exactly. But more happened than just me confronting Cubby in the locker room. I mean, I definitely lost it that day. But it was all the other fights that put things over the edge.”
“Fights?” My head snapped up. “As in plural? How many did you get into?”
He hesitated. “I’m not really sure. And I’ll be honest, at first they were about you, guys making stupid comments to get under my skin. But then it was like I just snapped. I couldn’t handle my teammates anymore, and everything set me off. Coach kept giving me warnings and then . . .”
He straightened up, throwing his shoulders back. “But it’s okay that I got kicked off, because I hate football. Always have, always will.”
“What?” I ripped my gaze from the ocean. Enjoying writing more than football was not the same as hating football. And he couldn’t hate it, could he? Not when he was so talented. “Like you hate practice or . . . ?”
***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com