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The Boy I Grew Up With
Author: Tijan

Prologue

HEATHER

First grade

* * *

Channing Monroe is a selfish prick.

I could think that because I’d heard my mom use the phrase. If adults said it, so could I. So I said it, to his face. And I glared. I didn’t care who overheard me.

Until I heard: “Heather Jax!”

I tried to explain to Mrs. Buxton that he wanted to use my Trapper Keeper, but it was mine. I wasn’t giving or sharing or loaning, and when he’d growled at me, that’s when I hit him in the head.

A girl has a right to defend herself was another phrase popular with my mom. I mean, she said it when she was grumbling to herself and smoking on our new house’s front porch.

But back to what happened earlier today.

Mrs. Buxton sided with Channing, for the first time ever.

She never sides with Channing. He’s trouble, with a big T. See? Grammar. I’m learning. But anyway, he gets into trouble more than me. I only get in trouble when it has to do with him.

Go figure.

But I guess violence “wasn’t the answer.”

I disagreed. So did Channing. He told me after class that violence could end any fight. That made it seem like it was always the answer. He whispered that to me at recess, and then he gave me a weird look.

He stepped back, eyeing me, and before I could ask what was wrong with him, he hit me square in the chest. “You’re it!”

He took off running.

So did I.

Game on, sucker.

I chased him down, tackled him, and got in trouble again.

Mrs. Buxton was everywhere! Or the chaperone for recess was, but still. Ev-er-y-wh-errrrre.

After that, I had to promise something to get out of trouble. At that point, I was willing to promise anything, but when I told her I’d give Channing one of my brother Brandon’s old Trapper Keepers, she gave me a weird look too.

Then she knelt down and whispered in my ear, “That’s very kind of you, Heather. Not everyone has the necessities at home.”

Necessi…teeth?

I didn’t know what that had to do with me needing new teeth, but I’d say anything to get out of a phone call to my parents.

I was thinking about that promise as I got out of bed that night to go the bathroom. I needed to ask Mom about where Brandon’s old ones were. She’d been gone all day, even after supper and when we went to bed.

I didn’t know where she went. Her bags and clothes were gone too, but I heard voices as I slipped into the hallway. That meant Mom was home.

She was talking to Dad.

I needed to pee, then go tell her about the Trapper Keeper thing. If I didn’t do it now, I’d probably forget, and she never got out of bed before we went to school. Mrs. Buxton would follow up with her threat and call home. No way, no sir!

I was halfway to the bathroom when I heard my dad. “I am not disrupting their life any more than it’s already going to be.”

“Come on.” A female voice.

I paused. That wasn’t Mom.

I didn’t know who that was.

“You’re not thinking straight,” she continued. “Heather—”

“If you’re going to tell me Heather is young, that she’ll bounce back, you can leave this house right now. Their lives are going to be uprooted enough. I’m not pulling them out of one school and putting them in a different one.”

“You don’t have a choice. The district line—”

My dad overrode her, again. He was speaking so harshly.

“Manny’s is on the border. We moved here because of her mother. I will not disrupt her life again because of her mother. I have friends in the county office. I will pull in favors if need be, but I am not moving my children—not unless they decide they want to change.”

Wait.

What…?

1

Heather

Present day

I don’t even want to say how much later this is. I’m old. That’s when.

Mid-twenties.

Or early-twenties.

Around that time frame.

You don’t need to know any more.

I’m old.

That’s it.

Wait—not that old.

I mean…

We’re done here.

* * *

“GET OFF HIS DICK!”

Those words, being screamed at—hold on, I have to roll over—at six in the morning were what woke me up. I’d had a whole three hours of sleep—three hours after I sent my night manager home and said I’d close Manny’s, and three hours after I took pity on my entire night staff and sent them home too. I’d decided drinking a bottle of bourbon and cleaning was the ultimate adulting job to do.

Stupidest. Adult. Ever.

“Ugh.” I groaned as I pulled myself to a somewhat upright position. I couldn’t fully sit up because my stomach was threatening to come out of my mouth. Letting my head fall with gravity was the best option for not spewing out the two pieces of toast I’d had before falling into bed three hours ago.

I am an idiot.

“I mean it!”

A second scream, followed by a thump from below me.

“Get off his dick! Get your dick out of her, you, you, you classless vixen!”

“Holy fuck, Brianna—”

“It’s Rebecca! Proper names are just respectful.”

“Rebecca—holy shit!” my brother roared.

Then came a crash, a second thump, and “STOP!”

“Get her out of here!” said a new voice, more shrill.

Even upstairs I could tell the new girl didn’t have the twinge of hysteria the first girl had. She wouldn’t cut it—not long term, not with my brother. Brandon moaned constantly about not finding his “girl,” but the truth was, he found her in a new female about three times a week. And I knew that because he brought them home to the house I shared with him—the house he and I had lived in all our lives.

We were both adults now. We should’ve moved out and into our own places, but neither of us ever brought up the topic. Though, mornings like this, I was tempted to.

”HEATHER! HELP ME!”

The T-rex roared. I almost felt the floorboards move. No. I peered closer. That was just dust. My breath made it move.

I tried to yell back, but a garbled burp left me instead, and I nodded to myself.

Totally can do this.

Oh yes.

My older brother needed my help fighting off his two one-night stands.

“HEATHER!”

“Shut up,” I yelled back, finally heaving myself up and toward the door.

Wait. Backtrack. Grab the robe.

I slept in the nude. We didn’t need that very awkward and uncomfortable scene—clearly it already was all kinds of that.

I was up and making it down the stairs, trying not to tip over, but I wasn’t quite prepared for what I walked into.

I could see Brandon’s bare ass in his doorway as he held a towel in front of his dick. Thank God.

I must’ve grunted or made some sound because he looked over, and the relief was evident. His whole face relaxed, and his shoulders seemed to lower.

“Can you help me?” He nodded toward his room, moving over so I could see.

His bathroom door was shut, the light showing underneath.

There was only one girl in the room, so I assumed the other had taken flight. She showed some smarts. Maybe he could keep her around for a second night.

But the Get-Off-His-Dick girl was a problem.

Hands on her hips, she stood with frayed and frizzy blond hair that was either a bad attempt at an eighties hairstyle or she was embracing the lion part of “I am woman, hear me roar.” Either way, this girl wasn’t one to screw over—dilated eyes, beet red face, and very bright and slightly smudged red lipstick.

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