Authors: J. Lilley
If he thought Mr. Connor might put obstacles in the way of his and Rach’s friendship he’d look, and if necessary try to give him a wee push in the right direction. Nothing major, just try to open his mind to the thought of him and Rach together. However, for now he’d conduct himself as an adult. As, he told himself humorously, befitted a future Patriarch.
He felt the telltale itch that told him he needed to stretch, to run, be his other self. “What date is it?” he asked as they drew up in the drive of their old, traditional Scottish Laird’s house on the edge of the village. He could see their mum working at her loom in the converted coach house. She waved, and as he waved back he made a mental note to talk to her later.
“Three before Shalean,” was his sister’s sympathetic response. “Want to run later?”
He nodded. “I need to. Will you come?” It wasn’t really a necessary question because Leira always covered his back; as he did hers. Soon, he would hand that role over to Donny. He dreaded to think what sort of dance she’d lead his friend on once she was sixteen and Donny made his intentions known to her; but, he looked forward to seeing the fur fly—literally he suspected—before his best friend and his sister sorted out their alpha and beta roles. Now, however, he had his own problems to sort out.
He needed to figure out how to be a real friend to Rach—knowing what he knew and she didn’t. What made it worse was that he suspected her Dad knew more than he was letting on.
“So, how was your day?”
“Sheesh Dad, you sound so American, ‘How was your day?’” Rach parroted. “ My day was fine. You know I met some cool friends, and one of them has a fit brother.”
“Now you sound so American,” he retorted. “Or is that just teen-speak? Don’t forget I’m a poor old man who doesn’t understand these things.”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever.” Rach rolled her eyes and made a face. Instead of laughing like he usually would, or tweaking her nose or something, he grimaced.
What’s wrong now?
Her dad, who had always been open and honest, was holding something back. She’d bet her Lady Gaga download on it.
“Dad, are you okay? You look weird.”
He nodded, but Rach wasn’t convinced. A weird dad was so
okay with her. She knew something was grossly up, with a capital ‘U’.
“Da-ad.” That usually guaranteed the answer she wanted, but not this time. Instead he kissed her nose and said absently, “Chicken, it’s all fine.”
Chicken? Chicken, why on earth does he always call me chicken? It might be just a pet name, but I don’t like it!
She wondered what he was worried about. She’d be sixteen in a few months. She bet he’d had friends of both sexes at her age.
Probably indulged in, whoa—don’t go there Rach, too gross.
She liked everyone she’d met today. Well, nearly everyone she amended silently; that Struan guy had seemed a bit off, but Leira and Brios had been great to talk to, and had waited until her dad turned up to get her. Brios had even introduced himself; shook hands with dad and told him who he was, where he lived and stuff; really mature and adult like.
Her Dad had acted really strange though; quite short and not very friendly, not like him at all. When she asked him whether he liked Brios and Leira he’d just said he didn’t know them, and changed the subject.
“What’s for tea?” she asked to take her mind off Brios and how good he looked; and how he made her go all tingly. She’d bet another download, or ten, that he was a great kisser. Not that she thought he’d want to show her. She might be nearly sixteen, well fifteen and a bit, but he must be nearly eighteen. He probably just thought of her as his sister’s friend.
Pity! I’d love to see him in boardies. Gah Rach, stop thinking about Brios in boardies; so un-cool.
“Shall I cook?” She wrinkled her nose hoping he would say no. He was a way better cook than her.
“No need. I made fish pie and it just needs heating. There’s salad to go with it, and don’t screw your face up. I didn’t put radishes in it, I kept them separate.” She watched as he seemed to hesitate, and then he asked, “What do you know about that boy today?”
‘That boy’ … Oh dear …
She’d guessed that her dad wasn’t too sure about Brios; but, it wasn’t like him to jump into something just like that; usually he’d be more subtle.
“Brios? He’s Leira’s brother, and he’s nice.”
Her dad looked at her impatiently. “Rachael Marie Connor, that tells me precisely nothing.”
What on earth is this all about?
He only called her by her full name when he was really mad about something. She couldn’t think of anything she’d done, or forgotten to do, that warranted the whole name bit.
“How do you mean?”
Her dad repeated impatiently, “Define nice … Alan Kitchen was nice, and he killed his girlfriend with a rock. Rory Smith killed his girlfriend here in Scotland—people said he was nice. You know precisely nothing about him, and you wanted me to let him drive you home.” He shook his head. “I really thought I’d taught you better than that. How many times have I told you? You do not go off with people you don’t know—never, ever!”
Wow, he’s seriously pissed.
This was not like her usual calm and levelheaded dad.
“Um, did you have a good day at work?” Rach said, trying to distract him.
He stared at her and she felt goose bumps on her arms.
Oh-oh, something’s not good.
“Thank you, yes. Do not change the subject. This boy—this Brios Parde—how old is he?”
“I don’t know seventeen, eighteen, I guess. He’s doing Highers, why?”
What? Now he’s asking about Highers?
“Scottish A level exams. He’s bright.”
“If he was that bright he’d know you’re too young for him to be bothering with.”
She couldn’t believe what she was hearing.
“Dad, it’s his sister I’m friends with. Well, I guess I’m friends with him too, but that’s because of Leira, she introduced us; she was really great. Without her I’d be the nerd sitting in the corner; Billy no-mates and all that. Now, I’ve got people I can say hi to and spend time with. Leira has friends of all ages. It’s not such a big school, so everyone hangs out together.” She hoped that would help him understand, after all he’d been with her when she’d had a tour before starting, but it only made it worse.
Her dad slammed the glass salad bowl down onto the table so hard that it was a wonder it didn’t shatter. As it was, some of the lettuce and tomatoes flew over the edge and landed on the floor; pity they didn’t have a dog.
‘Or a leopard?’
Where the heck did that come from?
“You think that makes it all right, ‘She has friends of all ages’,” he parroted. “I suppose her parents think it’s fine if their daughter is messing around with a boy a lot older? He’s too old to want you just as a friend.”
A lot older? It’s only two years! Okay, maybe two years is a lot at our age, but for heaven’s sake, it isn’t like he’s going to see me as anything other than his sisters mate… more’s the pity.
Rach realized then that she’d better not mention Donny fancying Leira; or Andy and Alison…
Her dad wasn’t finished though. She loved him, but boy could he get over protective!
What on earth will he be like when he finds out I’ve ‘done the deed’? Not that I have, but one day . . .
“A seventeen-year old sniffing around a fifteen-year old is decidedly dodgy. You’re to have nothing to do with him. Do you understand?” He was shaking.
Rach just stared at him; she knew her mouth must be open. Did men go through the change? Was that what was wrong? After all forty was supposed to be a dangerous age and her dad was forty-two…
Gah, now I’m whining, I hate that.
“But Dad nothing, you will
see that boy! I’d prefer you to have nothing to do with his sister either, but I suppose
She was indignant. “No, it isn’t. We’re in the same class, and I like her. I like Brios as well. For God’s sake, Dad; he’s just a boy at school.”
“No, he isn’t. He’s a man dressed as a boy—or something. Seventeen-year old boys are men with hormones in overdrive. Hell, I might be getting on, but I can remem…” his voice trailed off, and he shook his head.
Hmm, too much information; yup Dad, don’t go there.
“I mean this Rach. Do you understand me? You won’t speak to him. I want your word on that. Oh, and don’t blaspheme.”
He was glaring at her; so unusual from his normally supportive dad role.
What on earth made him go off like that? Anyway, he swore as well! Though maybe now isn’t the time to point that out to him.
“Okay, okay. I’ll ignore him.” She crossed her fingers.
she added silently, and then jumped. She could have sworn she heard Brios’ voice saying, ‘Thank you.’
Nah, must have been Dad.
“I won’t speak to him Dad, even though that will make me seem really rude and stuck-up. I’m new here don’t forget, and a lot of the girls in my class think he’s really cool. They were dead envious when he shook my hand, and introduced himself.”
Oh heck, now I’ve done it. Here’s dad not happy about him at all for some reason, and I’m busy telling him he made a point of coming over to introduce himself. I must start thinking before I open my big mouth and put my feet in it.
Her dad’s face looked like thunder. “I was sitting with his sister at the time,” she said hastily, “he’d come to speak to her.”
‘No, I hadn’t. I was there to meet you.’
Rach jiggled her ear.
What on earth is up? Is Dad picking mushrooms again?
“That’s as maybe, Love, but he’s a man and you’re a young girl. He doesn’t need you as a friend; he’s got friends his own age—so no contact.”
She nodded and tried not to think about Brios. For the first time ever she was interested in a boy—really interested in a boy-girl way, not in a football or rugby teammate sort of way—and her dad was being all caveman about it. There must be some reason other than the age difference, but she had no idea what it was. Did he not want her to get into boys? She was fifteen for goodness sake; loads of her friends at her last school had boyfriends. Even Stacy had gone out with a boy a few times, but according to her, stopped after he’d tried
Definitely not something she should tell her dad. She wondered how she would feel if Brios tried
. Rach thought about it; and then decided she’d better think about it a lot more later when she could concentrate. This growing up business was getting complicated. The feelings she’d experienced when Brios took her hand had been entirely new. Like nothing she’d ever felt before.
They sat in silence. Her dad looked like he was deep in thought; and she didn’t know what to say. There was no way she was not going to speak to Brios; even if it meant defying her dad for the first time ever. Well, not really the first time she thought guiltily, remembering when she’d had her ears pierced and snuck make-up to school; or the time she’d had a back-ey on the mudguard of a friend’s bike. However, for the first time she
she was deliberately going to defy him—big time.
“Do you remember much about mum’s family?” her dad asked.
Weird, that’s twice today mum’s family has been mentioned
Rach shook her head. “Not a lot. Why?”
“I just wondered that’s all.”
“Dad.” She put her hands on her hips and glared at him. “You never just wonder; everything you do or say has a reason. You’ve been acting strange since you picked me up at school. Are you worried about your new job, or trying to find a way to hide radishes in my salad?” They both knew she hated the taste of radishes with a passion.
Rach watched his face crinkle up as he laughed. “No Love, neither of those I promise. I just realized you’re growing up that’s all.”
“Er, Dad? You’re not going to give me
are you?” She mimed quote marks. “’Cos I’ve had it at school, and I am so
interested in anything like that.” She had another thought, “You don’t think I fancy Brios like
do you? Oh, Dad!”
She gave her dad a hug, hoping the fact that she really did fancy Brios didn’t show in her face.
The voice in her head sounded just like Brios’s sexy Scottish burr. . .
She tried to concentrate on her dad, and not freak out about the fact that she was hearing voices in her head.