Chapter 5 - A Love Song For Liars (Triology)

"You see the car out front last night?" I ask my Dad over coffee Tuesday morning before school. "Friend of Timothy's." I cut him a look. "And you don't mind?" "I mind that he went and screwed his hand." Haley comes into the kitchen dressed in jeans, a tank top, and a tidy ponytail, Sophia on her hip. I find a smile for my half sister until my Dad asks, "You see much of Timothy lately?" I swallow my coffee the wrong way. It was easier to keep him at a distance before I learned Timothy hit Chris. Before he untangled my hair as if it was his job. Oh yeah, and before I walked in on him naked. Timothy Adams is hot. The well-tailored prep school clothes don't do him justice. The boy I grew up with is a man, imposing and beautiful and dangerous. Anyone who's ever made the mistake of thinking Timothy Adams is all brooding prettiness with nothing to back it up needs to think again. Would he even fit? Some part of me is desperate to know the answer, but I'm sure as hell not about to ask him. I'd gone to the pool house already upset about rehearsal and left even more confused. It wasn't seeing all of him that threw me, it was the shock on his face when I told him what I'd heard back in January. That single expression has me wondering if I'm missing something that would explain why Timothy's been so secretive all year. I thought he might've been about to open up to me until that girl showed up and every spark of hope in my chest extinguished. "Where are you off to in such a hurry?" My Dad asks as I jump out of my chair. 'I was working on some things for rehearsal last night." I grab a piece of bread and drop it in the toaster. I check the clock and, on second thought, take the bread back out. "Uncle Rudy gave me some trade secrets, and I kind of missed doing my calculus homework." Dad slings an elbow over the back of his chair. "Rehearsal doesn't take precedence over homework." I pat my father on the cheek. "Tell it to your Grammy's Dad." For good measure, I tap Sofia, now in her high chair, on the nose. "Can you say Grammys? Grammys." She gurgles and beams, which is the most positive response I've gotten from the universe all week. "Make good choices." I tell her before turning for the door. Three hours later in second period, I'm cursing calculus, wishing for the life of me Avery was here. Jessy leans over me. "You stuck? I can help. No one should suffer proofs in silence." I glance up at the front of the class. The teacher's gone for a few minutes. Jessy shows me how to work through the proof, and I try to keep up. "What do you even need this class for?" she asks. "Avery and I are going to Columbia together. She wants to do journalism. I'm going to start in liberal arts and niche down later." I want to do something that helps people, but I can't decide if it's through journalism or social science or even psychology. "I'm going into engineering at Stanford University. I need math. You don't. Are you taking the musical for credit?" I shake my head. "There's an evaluation component if I want credit, and I didn't think I'd have time." "If I had the lead in the musical and an extra course, I'd for sure drop calculus and get the credit for drama instead." I'm still turning that over when the bell rings and she falls into step next to me on my way to my locker. I don't mind suffering for my craft, but I'm not gonna lose sleep suffering for someone else's. I'd never thought seriously about getting credit for the musical, but given that I'm at risk of losing the lead, it's time for desperate measures. "I'm sorry about what happened with Chris." Jessy's voice pulls me back. "I was with Carla, so I didn't see what went down, but I can't picture you hitting on him and him prying you off." "Thanks. Are you and Carla hanging out now?" She shrugs. "We're not best friends or anything, but she's nicer to me than she has bee. She's pissed at you, though. More than usual. Timothy was crazy-fierce Saturday night when he kicked everyone out." I'd been so caught up in the fallout with Chris I hadn't thought about that. I hug my books and glance down the row of lockers without him because he's at home, suspended. It still means nothing. But after school, I scan my first period English notes and leave the copies on the doorstep of the pool house. "Got your speech?" Haley asks my Dad in the back of the limo that night. "Tell me you're not winging it." "I've played sold-out shows at Horseshoe. That's a hundred and five thousand seats. I think I can manage a room full of rich donors." She stares him down until he pulls the marked-up sheet of paper from his pocket. "So, you had your agent spend half a day writing that," she says dryly. "and you won't use a word. That's a borderline sadistic." My Dad flashes her a grin. "Come on, Haley. I'm a songwriter. And it's only sadistic if he'd be at the fundraiser tonight." I can't help smiling. I like my stepmom a lot. She's smart and funny and bold. She runs her own software company with a guy in Philly who's Tom Hiddleston hot and used to be her professor. It kills my Dad that she won't leave Carter and go out on her own, which he insists is because Haley could do better solo, not because Carter's younger than my Dad with a panty-dropping smile. Dad and Haley met back when he was still on tour and she was interning. However it happened, he looks at her like the sun rises and sets out of he ass. It's the real fucking deal. "You look fantastic, Emily." Haley comments. "Thanks, Mom." "Eddie?" Haley nudges my Dad with her elbow. He frowns. "It's not a dress. It's a wardrobe malfunction waiting to happen." My jaw drops. "It is not Daddy!" "Could we not afford more fabric?" Dad asks Haley, who narrows her gaze at him before turning to me. "Ignore your father, Emily." The black dress Avery and I picked out skims my body, has a little spaghetti straps, and ends mid-thigh. It's sophisticated and fresh, especially with strappy sandals. I left my hair down, taming the waves that tickle the bare skin between my shoulders. I feel older, grown-up. More confident. I stare out the window and hum under my breath. "Is that from the musical, sweetheart?" Haley asks me. "It's sounding good." "Thanks, Mom." I look at my Dad, but he's on his phone. "Don't forget to line up security for the night of the show." Assuming I still have a role, I think, but I'm not about to say that. He glances up, blinking. "Emily, it's on the list." I shake my head. When we pull up in front of the venue, my Dad grunts, adjusting his tux. "It's not too late to turn around." he mutters. "We can grab the bourbon, head home, and fund this entire project ourselves." "That's not the point. The point is to collaborate." Haley pauses. "If you've never heard of it, a collaboration is where you compromise and work as a team---" "Funny, Haley." My Dad said to her. The charity event is a fundraiser for music education at some gallery in Fort Worth with a bunch of people my Dad knows,. Sophia's at home with Uncle Rudy playing babysitter, which I think he secretly loves,. The frustration I left in the car ebbs as we make our way around the event. My Dad glad-hands people. It's not in his nature, but despite Haley's joke, he's come around to it. Usually, he doesn't invite me to these things, but tonight, he introduces me around. "This is my daughter, Emily Carlton. She's a junior at Oakwood." he tells one producer.. "And taking two AP courses." "One, actually." I say. My Dad frowns. "Since when, Emily?" I shift, twirling the drink in my fingers. "Since I've decided to drop calculus." "Excuse us." He stalks toward a spare room and yanks the door shut behind us. "You can't drop calculus, Emily" "I can. I checked the school's drop policies, and even though it's late in the semester, they'll allow it. And I wouldn't be losing a credit. I can get one for the musical. I have to turn in an assignment, but basically, it's as good as done." "You're not dropping calculus for a musical, Emily." His commanding tone sets my teeth on edge. "Calculus isn't a pre-requisite for Columbia University. Even if it was, I still have time to take it next year." "You're in school to learn, not to mess around on stage." He spreads his hands. "You can do that anywhere. Anytime. The education you're getting right now is important." I want to blurt that I can't think about proofs and second derivatives when I'm trying to hang onto the lead of the musical, but I know if I tell him, he'll just tell me it's better that way. Or look at me as if it's obvious that I could never command a stage like he could, like Timothy can. "Do you even get the irony?" I ask. "You're telling your own child music isn't important at a music education fundraiser you're keynoting." "I didn't say it's not important," he retorts. "But music's not the world." "It's your world, and you won't let me near it." The words hang between us because that's the crux of all of this. I'm the daughter he keeps at a distance, the one he shuts out from part of his life when he lets other people like Timothy into it. "You don't get to decide this, Dad. I've already made my choice. If you won't give me permission, I'll stop showing up to calculus." "Do that and you're grounded." I scoff. "You don't know what that means." "I'll figure it out. And so help me, you won't leave the house except to go to school for the rest of semester." I yank the door open and start into the hall. "Where are you going, Emily? We're not finished our discussion here!" Dad growls at my back. "If I'm going to be grounded next week, I'll enjoy my freedom while I can."