I was so tired when I came in I crashed on the couch. I woke up almost an hour ago, but I was too lazy to move to my room. I would have to get up soon though. I promised Kailee I’d dress like a cowboy and take her line dancing. She was supposed to teach me. We only practiced twice, but she wouldn’t let me out of it. But if I lay on this couch long enough, I’d find out what my little sister was up to, and it couldn’t be good. She had come out of her room several times, walked toward the door, realized I was here, and gone back to her room. She wasn’t stupid enough to try to slip past me.
Her door creaked as she came out of her room with her eyes on the front door. She flicked them to the couch to make sure I was gone, and her face dropped. “Don’t you have to work tonight?”
If I didn’t already know she was up to something, I was sure now. “I’m off.”
“How did you get a Saturday night off?”
I was really putting a dent in her plans. “It’s happened before but other people always wanted off, and I never have anything else to do so I covered. But tonight, I’m going to dinner.”
“Someone from the gas station.”
“The someone who asked about me?”
She was mad because I had known more than once when she skipped school. Yeah, that someone. I looked at my shoes. “No.”
“Abrahem, we’ve always been friends. I don’t care who you’re hanging with. It’s your life, but stop lying to me.”
“I’m not lying. It’s a guy from the gas station.”
“What are you doing tonight?”
“Going to the library to finish my project. I’ll stay there until it closes, and I might hang out with Morgan after that.”
It was prom night. I found it hard to believe she was going to the library. “Do you want a ride?”
“I don’t think I can pick you up tonight, but I don’t really want you walking in the dark.”
“Well, if you’re okay with it, Caleb’s mom offered to drop us off and pick us up. It’s the government project, and you know he shouldn’t be walking.”
“If his mom is around, it’s fine. I don’t want you alone with him.”
She raised her eyebrows and glared at me.
“Don’t look at me like that. I haven’t accused you of anything, but you know better than to be alone with a boy.”
“You’re not Baba.”
“No, I’m not. But he wouldn’t want you alone with boys either, and I am the man of this house.” And believe me being totally responsible for keeping you in line was never on my bucket list.
“Goodbye, Abrahem.” She stormed out the door.
That went well. But hopefully she got the message. I didn’t believe her story about the library, but I didn’t see that punk limping into prom either. It was late enough his mom would be home, if they were at his house. Neither of them could drive, so I wasn’t too worried about it.
A couple of hours later, I dropped Ommy off at the hospital where she worked. I was almost home with just enough time to get dressed in that stupid cowboy getup and go pick Kailee up, when my phone rang.
“Abrahem, you must come pick me up,” Ommy said.
“It hasn’t been twenty minutes since I dropped you off.”
“I know, but I’m sick.”
I rolled my eyes. Get a license. This is not Iraq. We don’t have a driver anymore. “Yes, Ommy.” I sighed as I hung up. I shouldn’t have been so annoyed by this. She was sick, but between taking care of her and Mirriam I never had time for anything.
Now she would be home when I left. She would want to know why I was dressed like a cowboy. I’ll tell her I’m going to a rodeo with a guy from the gas station. She’ll believe that.
I texted Kailee, “Running late. Give me another hour. I’ll still pick u up.”
She texted back, “Ur house is on the way out of town. I’ll pick u up. My car is cooler. ;)”
That probably wasn’t a good idea. But people were honking at me, and I needed to put the phone down, so I would text her when I got home.
As Ommy and I came up to our house, a limo pulled away. That’s odd. But what was even odder was when I put my key to the door, I realized it was slightly open, and I could see light from the living room pouring out of the house. “Wait, Ommy,” I said.
“Why?” She asked shoving ahead of me. She was in front of me, when I charged in. Ommy stopped and gasped. She shouted in Arabic then covered her mouth. I peered around her to see what was wrong. Mirriam was on the couch in a prom dress that had nothing in the way of sleeves, and that punk was pressed up against her sliding his hands all over my baby sister.
“Get your hands off my little sister!” The punk was smart enough to takes his hands off of her and move away, before I could spring to the couch. I glared at Mirriam. “We should have stayed in Iraq. That would have been better than this.”
I grabbed the jackass and threw him against the wall. I would be damned if he played my sister the way he played Kailee. He’d already hurt one girl I loved. It wouldn’t happen again.
“Abrahem!” Mirriam shrieked.
“Go to your room.” I knew she was angry with me, but she would get over it. I would talk to her. I would tell her why she needed to stay away from him, but right now he was going to pay for this.
“I will not! Stop!”
“What the hell do you think you’re doing? In my house? Are you crazy? I gave you fair warning.”
Mirriam leaped from the couch as I punched the punk. She grabbed my arm, but she was too late. It connected.
“What do you want to do about that? Huh, soldier boy?” I asked.
“Stop it! Abrahem!” Mirriam tugged at my arm, but she was so much smaller than me it didn’t matter. At least one of them had guts.
“I gave him fair warning. I told him my sister doesn’t date.” I looked away from the jackass pinned to the wall without loosening my grip. “Mirriam, you should be ashamed of yourself. I can’t believe you would let this loser talk you into something so stupid.”
“He didn’t talk me into anything.”
“I don’t believe it.” I made eye contact with Caleb until the gutless piece of shit had the nerve to open his eyes and face me like a man. “What do you have to say for yourself?”
“Umm, I should have talked to you about it. I’m sorry.”
Was that a joke? “Do you think I would have let you date my sister? God, white boys are stupid.” I brought up my fist again but stopped mid-swing, because with the way Mirriam grabbed my arm this time there was no way I could hurt him without hurting her. And I wasn’t Jackson.
“He hasn’t tried to defend himself or you once. What do you want with this coward?”
“I love her,” Caleb shouted. “Do you really think I’m going to hit her brother?”
Love her. Yeah, right. Everyone calls Kailee a whore, so the jackass has no clue I know the truth. “It wouldn’t end well if you did.”
But then my sister said the words that changed everything. I dropped my fist, because I had to. “He’s not a bad guy. It was his dad who saved me.”
Duh, Abe. That punk on that video Kailee made you watch. I sighed. “I heard something about that. That dumbass that killed himself shot some guy trying to save a girl whose dad got killed. I never thought she was you.” God, I knew it was too close. I knew it. “Your dad saved your ass tonight.” My eyes darted to Mirriam. “How long exactly have you known we’re living among murderers? Were you ever going to say anything?” We need to leave. We can’t stay here with those same guys. It’s out in the open now. Mirriam will be blamed—but I can’t leave Kailee. I’m the only person she can depend on.
Before Mirriam answered, the sweetest voice I knew called, “Abe?” at the worst time possible. This was not the right time for Ommy to find out about us, and a few seconds ago everything changed. I have no idea what it meant for me—for us—but I doubted we would stick around Killeen.
I let her name slide off my tongue because it felt good. Mirriam and Caleb spat out her name at the same time, and I knew this would only get worse. “Kailee.”
“You have the worse timing,” I added.
“What’s a Kailee?” Ommy asked, throwing her arms around frantically.
We all spoke at once again. “A girl,” I said.
“A whore from hell,” Mirriam said.
“A manipulator,” Caleb said.
“Don’t talk about her like that,” I growled at Mirriam. I didn’t like Caleb’s answer either, but I knew from the way she kissed me the night we met Kailee wasn’t afraid to play a game when she was on a mission.
“It’s true. Zmal! You’re playing with Kailee Hill, and you have the nerve to talk about me because I’m dating someone?”
“Mirriam, Kailee wasn’t on the couch being groped. That was you.”
She threw her arms up in the air. “It was a kiss. She’s been with every guy at school. You know that, don’t you? They all talk about her.”
I was so glad she said that, because I wouldn’t have to explain anything now. I’d let this punk explain it for himself. I grinned at Caleb. “No, just one, and he broke up with her two days later. That was how it happened, wasn’t it?”
Caleb gave me a sheepish smile and shook his head. “If that’s true, it’s news to me.”
Kailee walked in wearing a denim skirt, a fitted shirt that hugged her body in all the right places, boots and a pink cowboy hat. My lips turned up in a smile, when I saw her, even though things would only get worse.
“Abe, what’s going on?”
“You were going to be a cowgirl for prom?” Mirriam asked. “Only in Texas.”
I glared at her, but she didn’t appear apologetic.
“I—I didn’t want to go to prom. We were going line dancing.”
“What about your precious crown?”
“Mirriam,” I snapped.
“It’s okay, Abe.” Kailee adjusted a strand of hair under her hat. “You’re not the only person who calls me a whore from hell.” She shrugged. “I thought it might be fun to do something else, since there is no one there I care about anymore.”