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Dedicated to Jay for being my own personal enthusiastic cheerleader for pretty much all of my stories and always being a little sweetheart.

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My plan for damage control didn't work. If anything, my parents are more mad than they probably would've been if Mr. Stewart had called first.

"The first day, Colton, and you've already been in a fight. Unbelievable. Do you know how this is going to make us look? Or have you not been noticing the way people treat us in this town anymore?"

I watch from the table as Mom lays into Colton, her words sharp and her expression cold. His hands are clenched at his sides, but he doesn't look angry like he did with Mr. Stewart. He looks afraid. I'm not sure of what since Mom is pretty much all bark and no bite, but he's not saying anything back to her.

Willa, Dad, and I are seated in our usual spots, except there's no talking and very little eating going on. Willa's stared at her plate for the past twenty minutes and I can hardly stomach anything with the argument happening in the other room. Even Dad's eating slower than usual.

"You know, I'm not hungry," Willa says, pushing herself away from the table. She throws her napkin down and shoves her chair back into place. "I'll be upstairs."

We both watch as she stalks up the stairs, the slam of her bedroom door enough to silence Mom's yelling in the living room. I pause, my fork in midair, while I wait for her to make her entrance into the dining room with an air of anger still surrounding her. That's how she is after she's let everything out. She stays quiet and refuses to speak to anyone, but she won't leave the room. She just makes everything awkward until she's cooled off and ready to talk again.

Colton goes to his room, as expected. Mom sits in her chair beside Dad and after a few seconds of staring at her, he lays his hand on top of hers, his thumb moving in calming circles against her skin. She shakes her head and pulls away, massaging her temples in an attempt to sooth the headache she's pretty much brought onto herself. I look away, finally allowing myself to take a bite out of a single green bean. I'd usually eat these in no time, but like Willa, I kind of don't have an appetite anymore.

"I think I'm done too," I finally say, grabbing my plate and empty glass from the table. When neither of them says anything, I move my chair back and head into the kitchen, dumping my dishes into the sink to wash later. I pause in the doorway to the dining room, watching as they lean in close, speaking in whispers too low for me to hear. "He didn't mean to get into a fight," I say. "A stupid kid at school made him angry and he couldn't handle it."

"And that's an excuse?" Mom says. "Honey, people say things we don't like all the time. That doesn't mean we beat them up."

"I know. And he knows that too. But it hasn't exactly been easy for us and you know that. It was one slip-up; Willa and I'll make sure it doesn't happen again."

She doesn't say anything and looks away, turning to whisper to Dad again. I shut my eyes to resist rolling my them and leave the dining room. She's trying her hardest, I know she is. So is my dad. But, they don't have to deal with other high schoolers all day and listen to things they say. That's something they're not understanding and something we can't exactly prove to them and it's frustrating for all of us. Colton handled it poorly, but Willa and I have our own moments as well.

I'm almost to my bedroom when I hear Willa and Colton talking in her room. "Who was that kid?" she asks. "Is he new or something?"

"No," he says. "He's a junior, his name's Ronan. I guess you could say we're friends, but I was getting my ass beat so the help was nice," he says with a snort.

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