By: Tijan

A part of me had felt sorry for her. Kevin was rarely home.

The nights he did come home alone, it wasn’t until nine or ten. I’d heard him stop to talk to Sheila and my dad only a few of those times before going to his room. A few times I’d gone downstairs and sat in the kitchen, hoping maybe he’d want a late night snack or glass of water, but that rarely happened. Once he was in his room, it was for the night. Or maybe he saw me and came back later when I wasn’t sitting there.

There were the occasional family dinners, but those were congenial. Thinking back on it now, I realized everything had always been polite. That didn’t seem normal. I wondered—watching as Sheila released me and hugged her son—if Kevin really had been okay with getting a new dad. It had always seemed like it to me.

My dad came over to give me a hug now, and then he and Kevin shook hands.

That was it.

It was like a mask fell from my face, and I could see things differently. I saw a lot of stiffness and distance between Kevin and my father, but then my dad caught my gaze, and all of that went away. Warmth shone from his eyes, and my concern slipped away.

“You okay, pumpkin?” He rested his arm around my shoulder and pulled me close.

I nodded, my head brushing against the top of his arm. “I’m good.”

“Ready to start college?”

Sheila harrumphed. “Hell. That’s what it is,” she mumbled, but she was trying to hold back her grin at the same time.

“Yeah.” I nodded. “I’m ready.”

Kevin was watching me, and my body tingled. That was my normal reaction around him, but it felt different, like so much else this day. I snuck a peek. He looked at me like I was a stranger, or like he saw something new in me. Whatever it was, well—I didn’t know how I felt about it, but right now I had a dorm to move into.

“You got here ahead of time and checked in already?” Sheila turned to me, her arm now around Kevin’s back. He didn’t seem to mind and leaned into her.

I nodded. “Yeah. I’m all checked in. I met my resident advisor and everything too.” She’d been fine with me moving in ahead of time.

“What’s her name?”

“Avery. I’ll introduce you when we go up there.”

“And your new roommate? Is she here already? When do you meet her?”

“She’s not.” Classes would start on Thursday, and final registration was Wednesday. Today was Saturday. “I have a few days yet.”

“Oh.” Her eyebrows knitted together. “What are you going to do? Maybe you should come back for those days.”

“No.” I shook my head. “I’ll take my time, look for a job on campus or something.” I glanced at Kevin. I’d come up early to spend time with him, and as if sensing my thoughts, he looked away, his Adam’s apple moving up and down.

He stepped out of his mom’s hold. “I actually need to get going.” He gestured toward the campus behind him. “I have to meet my academic advisor about declaring my major this year.”


He nodded to his mom. “Going pre-law, Mom. You proud?”

She smiled, but it look stilted, like she wasn’t sure how to feel. “Pre-law, huh?” She nudged him with her hip. “My son’s following in his father’s footsteps.”

He continued to hold her gaze. This had been the only topic not talked about since we’d moved into their house: Kevin’s dad, Sheila’s ex-husband.

Glancing at my father, I saw the same tight-lipped expression and knew that Mr. Matthews was still not going to be talked about.

An unspoken look passed between Kevin and his mother before he sighed, cracking a side grin. “Hoping to, anyways.”

“Well.” She lifted her chin. “I’m proud of you, Kevin.”

He pressed his lips together, showing a slight grimace. “Thank you, Mom.” He looked to my dad. “It was nice seeing you again, Daniel.”

My dad held out his hand. “You too, Kevin. We don’t see you enough at the house.”

The two shook hands, and I felt I’d stepped into the Twilight Zone. Things were so stiff and…just awkward with them. I was mystified. I’d really thought everything was fine over the last year, that the two of them were close like Sheila and me.

Kevin swung his beautiful eyes my way, and his voice softened. “See you later, Summer?”

“Uh, yeah. See you later.”

“You two will have such a great time. You’re both at the same college. My son going pre-law. My new daughter already deciding on sports medicine. You’ll have to have weekly dinners.” Sheila pulled Kevin in for a last hug. “You take care of your stepsister, okay?”

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