Filthy Foreign Exchange(2)

By: Angela Graham & S.E. Hall

My own selfish frustrations are annihilated when I witness her sincere pain. “Sorry. I know you’ll miss him,” I say, offering a reassuring smile. “But you can’t honestly be worried. You know he’s crazy about you.”

“Of course I’ll miss him. I already do. And I was just trying to point out something—anything—that you’d take as a positive and would make you quit complaining.”

She’s back at the ladder, ready to descend, when I stand up too.

“Where are you going?” I ask.

“Seriously, Echo, between the rain and your weird mood, I’m done with practice. This poor Kingston guy deserves to be made to feel welcome, not your piss-poor attitude. And as distracted as you are, you’re not a safe partner right now.” She reaches the bottom and looks up, her arms crossed over her chest. “You should go inside and practice a few nice things to say when you meet him. Start with ‘Hi,’ and see where it takes you.”

I ignore her advice. “Fine, give up then.” I grab the bar and swing out, pike to mermaid—one of my favorite moves. I can hang here all night, storm be damned, and she knows it. “Won’t be as unique, but I’m sure Clay will do the routine with me.”

“So it’s like that, then? Dropping me for Clay of all people?” She stares up at me, chewing on her left thumbnail.

“No offense,” I say, surprised she’s buying into my empty threat, “but we have a show coming up soon, and I just don’t think we have enough time for the practice we need together.”

“I really want to do this act, Echo,” she throws back. “Let’s just try again tomorrow, okay? Plus, Clay’s probably going to be pretty busy, you know, helping your dad with the grounds work and other stuff Sebastian did.” She grabs her jacket. “We’ll get it—we always do. Just not tonight.”

“You want the act? Then we keep practicing now!” I shout as she heads toward the exit, thinking quickly of a plea to her pride. “Come on. Does Sebastian let you quit this easily?”

She pauses, then looks back over her shoulder. “As a matter of fact, Sebastian loves it when I call it a day. Why do you think I’m so comfortable in that net, hmm?”

She gives me a saucy grin before continuing forward, adding a little skip to her step.

“That’s my brother! Jesus, Savannah, I don’t want to hear that crap!” She’s already outside when I yell, “You know what? You win! Now I’m done practicing, too. That’s a wrap, you big nasty!”

She pokes her head back in. “Don’t knock it till you try it,” she says before blowing me a mocking kiss. “See you tomorrow. Good luck with your family…and your guest.”

I stay and continue to practice, despite my threat—and the disturbing image that pops into my head every time I hit the net, thanks to Savannah’s oversharing.


By the time my muscles demand I call it a night, the storm is long gone and the family car is parked in our driveway.

I creep silently into the house and find a tinfoil-covered plate on the kitchen counter: the dinner my mom saved for me, even though I’m sure my father said something along the lines of, “If she wants to eat, she can sit down, on time, with the rest of us.”

I smile to myself at the small victory. My dad may think he rules the roost, but he doesn’t call the last shot when it comes to my mom taking care of her babies.

After I finish off the still-warm chicken and potatoes as quietly as possible, I tiptoe past my parents’ bedroom, paying special attention to each step I take—or, more specifically, avoiding the floorboards that creak.

My father’s stern voice pierces the darkness. “We’ll talk in the morning, young lady.”

Damn, he’s good. I literally wobbled left to right like a drunk person, nailing the silent boards, and he still heard me.

“Yes, sir,” I spit out before hurrying up the staircase to my bedroom.

My grandfather, smart man that he was, built this house after he had children. With the master suite on the bottom floor and the kids’ rooms upstairs, there was no getting past the parents. But somehow, Grandpa had forgotten to take into account that our family has studied the art of Aerialism for generations. So once you’re up in your room, getting out of it undetected isn’t much of a problem—a caveat I know for a fact my older brother Sebastian has taken advantage of often (mostly because he’s used my balcony to do so nine times out of ten).

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