Filthy Foreign Exchange(7)

By: Angela Graham & S.E. Hall



“Perfectly, sir.”

“And as far as your honesty, I appreciate it. So, uh…” My father smiles, slowly. “I’ll tell you a little secret about my boy Sebastian. His mother thought it was best he leave a certain run-in with the law he had last year off his application. He and his buddies thought cow-tipping was all fun and games. The cows won, of course—they were still standing on all fours, watching as my son was arrested for trespassing.”

I can’t bite my lip any harder without drawing blood, desperate not to laugh as I usually do when this story is retold. But Kingston doesn’t refrain, chuckling freely as his shoulders relax.

“Listen, nobody’s perfect, and my rules are pretty basic: I don’t tolerate drugs, alcohol, or truancy. Curfew is nonnegotiable. And if you so much as make one move on my daughter, your father will need to send a separate search party for each of your missing limbs. We clear?”

“Extremely, sir,” Kingston replies with a shaky nod.

Somehow, the conversation takes a sudden turn from dismemberment to my father’s fascination with the Autobahn, and how Kingston vacations in Germany often to enjoy this so-called “superhighway.” I’m not surprised, as Sebastian already had that particular destination mapped out before he left as a day of travel he plans to take during his holidays.

Unable to forget my father’s mention of Kingston living here, I butt in and ask, “What time are you taking Kingston to his dorm? I’m sure he’s anxious to get settled in.”

My parents exchange a glance, my mom unable to look at me as my father explains.

“The college called. Seems they’re not so organized over there, and wound up short a room. So we agreed, as his host family, for him to stay here. I’m sure you can understand and make him feel at home, right?”

It’s more a statement than a question, which I simply nod in answer to. But my stomach clenches at the idea of spending an entire school year with Kingston only a room away. We’re going to need some ground rules.

“Echo?” My brother spits food crumbs as he talks. “Will you help me with my magic tricks today, pleeease?” Lots of food escapes with the “p” sound.

“Sure, as soon as I’m done cleaning the bleachers. That might take a while, though.”

I continue eating, but with my eyes cast downward now as I feign aloofness and mask any trace of smugness, sure of what I’d find if I looked up.

And…

“I suppose,” my father grumbles, “Sammy can help you clean to get it done faster, so you can help him. But this is for Sammy’s benefit, young lady. You’re not being let off the hook by any means.”

“Yes, sir, of course not.” I nod, my head still slightly lowered since I know I can’t tame my knowing smirk.



~~~~~



After breakfast is cleaned up, I change into ratty clothes. Just as I’m heading out to the pavilion, there’s a knock at the front door.

“Come in!” my father hollers from his recliner.

That’s the nice, yet-sometimes-annoying thing about our town, Kelly Springs: no need to check a peephole, because everyone knows everyone.

And in walk Savannah and Clay—neither of whom I was expecting to see today, but I know why they’re here. Not many new or exciting things ever happen in this town, and the arrival of a young, hot guy with a hypnotic accent is too tempting for Savannah to resist checking out, or Clay to resist sizing up.

And how do they know he’s here instead of at the dorm, as previously planned? Because of another phenomenon in Kelly Springs: Everyone knows everything.

“What brings you two by?” my father asks as he turns down the TV. “You just missed breakfast.”

“Thought it’d be polite to come meet your visitor,” Clay answers him, though he stares at me. It’s no secret Clay has always harbored a small crush on me—one Sebastian has shut down several times, with both words and fists. And if Clay thinks my brother’s absence has changed my unreciprocated feelings, he’s dead wrong.

“That’s mighty kind.”

My dad starts to get up, to go find Kingston I assume. But the latter saves him the trouble by choosing that moment to descend the stairs, with Sammy at his side.

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