Filthy Foreign Exchange(9)

By: Angela Graham & S.E. Hall

“It did, thank you for asking. And on a very important side note, you best knock before you ever come through to my room again. Got it?”


His shoulders slump just a fraction, and Lord knows why, but I find myself offering him some helpful advice.

“My dad’s bark is much worse than his bite. As long as you’re not a repeat offender, he won’t mention this again. He’s a fair man—not one of those parents who holds things over your head and keeps reminding you of past mistakes. If he says it’s settled, it’s settled.”

“That’ll be bloody refreshing.” He walks farther into my room, and motions to have a seat on my bed. “May I?”

“Uh…” I hesitate, but then I think of how I hope Sebastian is being made to feel welcome, and guided kindly through his blunders.

“Sure,” I sigh in surrender as I move my legs, scooting back as far against the headboard as possible. “So, are you just bummed about the run-in with my dad, or was your lil’ journey around our town not the bee’s knees?” I smirk at my use of the phrase I found in my translation research and thought funny.

“You’d have to ask my nan, since only she would ever call or think something to be ‘the bee’s knees.’ But no.” His smile, having only just formed, fades back to a sullen frown. “I’d have preferred to clean the circus tent with you.”

“Holy shit! We got a circus tent?” I feign giddy surprise. “This I’ve gotta see!”

“Is ‘tent’ not the right term for the large, colorful…tent across the way?”

“It could be, I suppose, although we refer to it as the pavilion. But circus? Not correct at all. Do you even know what a circus is?”

“I believe so. Your parents told me about your family’s history: trapeze acts, ropes, and air dancing. A circus, yes?”

“A circus, no. You see any elephants running around? Tigers? Bearded women?” I cock my head to the side, my tone edged with affronted sarcasm.

“Well, no. But—”

“But nothing. My family and I are skilled performers—aerial artists. Our shows are a town legacy started by my great-grandmother, the renowned Daisy Kelly—hence the name of the town being Kelly Springs. We don’t have sideshows, four-headed snakes, or a bunch of clowns climbing out of one small car. We work damn hard on our artistic expressions of dance, flexibility, and balance.”

I cross my arms over my chest as I wait for him to absorb the distinct difference. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve delivered this same speech after enduring ridicule for being a so-called “circus freak.”

“You’re quite breathtaking when your knickers are in a twist,” he responds with a chuckle. “I apologize for my ignorance, and I look forward to seeing a performance. Sounds absolutely brilliant.”

“Well, thank you, I guess.” I don’t let him off easy, though, my body language saying I’m still slightly offended. And I’m undecided whether his words are genuine or he’s just reciting magnetic apologies out of habit. “Are we done now, or did you want to talk more about your shitty day?”

And why it was shitty. Which I’d never admit I’m dying to know.

He falls onto his back across my bed and throws one arm over his eyes.

“Oh my God, are you drunk?” I hiss.

He uncovers his eyes and turns his head toward me. “Do I smell pissed?”

Pissed? Sure, he seems a little upset, but what exactly does pissed-off smell like? Or does he mean he pissed his pants? I swear to God, if he’s lying on my bed with piss on…

Then it dawns on me. The language-barrier thing is rearing its puzzling head again. “Pissed” means “drunk” to him.

I answer casually, as if I knew what he meant the whole time. “No, but you’d have to be either drunk or insane to think it’s okay to lie down on my bed.” I kick him in the leg. “Sit up! If Sebastian could see you now…” I shake my head. “Let’s just say there are boundaries—and you just crossed a big one.”

He pushes himself up slowly, showcasing the corded strength in his arms while shining a coy smile my way. “Ah, yes, Sebastian. Tell me more about this famous brother of yours.”

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