Stepbrother Dearest

By: Penelope Ward

His mouth spread into a rare genuine smile that made me feel as if something were squeezing at my heart. Then, he chuckled, causing me to laugh at myself, too. He was right. I had been sitting there stiff as a board tonight. I was acting ridiculous.

Victoria interrupted my moment with Elec when she slid past my legs and sat down, once again obstructing my view. She leaned into him, and that was my cue to stare back at the screen.

I wanted to be the one with him.

It didn’t make sense, but it was proof that desire and logic were two very separate things.

What if Victoria tried to kiss him tonight? What if he responded? I couldn’t deal with this jealousy already, and nothing had even happened yet. His dating girls from school had become something I’d forced myself to accept. I mean, he was my stepbrother, supposedly disliked me and would be moving back to California after graduation. The reality was, nothing could ever happen between us. Despite that, his messing around with my best friend would not be okay for me. She’d tell me every last detail and wouldn’t hold back.

Somewhere in the midst of my thoughts, the movie finally finished. Drew Barrymore was smiling, so it must have been a happy ending.

Bentley’s hand rested on my lower back as we exited the theater. In the bright florescent lights of the crowded lobby, Elec looked even more stunning. Victoria grabbed onto his arm possessively. I wanted to hate her for it, but she had no clue about my feelings for him.

This situation was overwhelming me. I needed to be alone for a few minutes. “Guys, I’m just gonna go freshen up. You should decide where we’re going to eat.”

Upon entering the safety of the bathroom, I let out a deep breath. After I peed and washed my hands, I was reluctant to head back outside, so I stayed staring at myself in the mirror.

Anger and frustration coursed through me the more I thought about this fucked up date. I picked up my phone and texted Elec.

Why are you really here? Do you even like Victoria?

I immediately regretted that impulsive move. My phone vibrated.

Elec: What if I do?

Wishing I’d never said anything, I had no answer and just stared at my phone. He texted again.

Elec: I don’t.

I hadn’t realized I was holding in so much breath until a massive sigh of relief escaped me.

Greta: Then, why are you here?

Elec: To get a rise out of you.

Greta: Why?

Elec: Because I get off on it.

Greta: Why?

Elec: I can’t answer that question any more than you can tell me why you look at me the way you do even though I’ve treated you like shit.

Oh. God. Until now, I hadn’t realized how obvious my feelings were, how stupid and desperate I must have looked to him all this time.

Elec: Have some self-respect.

What. The. Fuck. Now, he’d seriously pissed me off. Wow.

Greta: Don’t worry. I won’t be looking at you anymore.

I just couldn’t believe he’d said that to me. My eyes started to water, but I was determined not to let him see me upset. It took a few minutes to compose myself before walking back out to the lobby. As hard as it was, I refused to look at him. Refused.

“What the heck took you so long?” Bentley asked.

“I ran into a little glitch. But it’s over.”

Victoria put her hand on my shoulder. “Everything okay?”

“Yup. Let’s go.”

Victoria and Elec walked in front of us. She was still hanging onto his arm while both of his hands were in his pockets.

The four of us packed into Bentley’s Prius and drove to an all-night diner. Avoiding my stepbrother became a much bigger challenge in the confines of a small booth where he was sitting right across from me. Still, I kept to my word. I’d focus on his sleeve tattoo or play with the salt shakers but never looked up. I pretended to enjoy being immersed in conversation with Bentley, who was sitting to my left.

We ordered our food, and so far, I’d been successful in not making eye contact with Elec.

“So, Greta, there’s this party next Friday at Alex Franco’s house. I wanted you to come with me,” Bentley said.

“Sure. Sounds like fun.”

“Good.” He leaned in and lightly kissed the side of my face.

Elec was mindlessly playing with some sugar packets. If I were Victoria, I’d find it peculiar that my “date” wasn’t even talking to me. But what did I know?

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