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When Cooper’s parents divorce, he finds himself landed in Week About—one week with his mum and one week with his dad.
Resisting the realities of his new life, Cooper and Jace get off to a rocky start. But rocky start or not, after hundreds of shared memories together, they forge something new. A close . . . friendship.
But how does that friendship evolve under the pressures of life?
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This is the story of how I fall in love.
This is the story of how my home breaks and is rebuilt.
This is the story of how I became a rock.
part one: igneous
igneous: of and pertaining to fire.
New day, new stone.
Today’s is a small trapezium of coarse-grained gabbro that’s spilling through the fence of our neighbor’s yard. I squat to pick up the grey-black stone, jumping when a fresh raindrop slides across it and splashes onto my wrist. I squeeze the stone. Stone 3621.
The gabbro’s subtle weight increases as I tell it all the crap that happened today, my last day of intermediate school. Nothing dramatic, just saying goodbye to my teachers and high-fiving my mates going to St. Patrick’s and Scott’s College next year.
I drop the stone into my pocket and breathe in the perfumed air rising from the magnolias that flank the street. Today smells different, like the cusp of summer.
Home looms before me, and I swing my backpack off before peeking into the letterbox. Emptied already. I fling our gate open. Its squeals match the rickety fence and clumps of wildflowers I trample as I walk across the front lawn. Ivy climbs the wooden pillars that support the veranda roof and give our home a cottage-like look. Small and cozy.
Except something is off. The door is held open by a faded kitchen-appliance box and—
A high-pitched gurgle. I quicken my steps toward the sound.
My older sister Annie is sitting at the end of the veranda, huddled against the side of the house in a crimson sundress, head bowed into her hands.
“Annie?” I drop my backpack onto the cracked brick path. Annie’s tears drop onto her Roman sandals. “What happened?” I crouch and grab her knees.
Her green eyes resemble mine, flecked with hazel, one ever so slightly brighter than the other. Enough to make strangers look twice.
Except now, as Annie blinks, she looks different. The skin around her eyes is swollen and red, and the mascara she’s not allowed to wear weaves complicated webs over her cheeks.
Her mouth opens and shuts, and another sob rattles her. I don’t know what to do. She’s my big sis; she’s usually the one comforting me.
I pat her shoulder. She rests her head against my arm, smudging her black tears across my skin. It tickles, but I shake it off. “Did . . .” I swallow. “Did someone die?”
She shakes her head and relief sweetens my next gulp of air. I rock back on my feet. So long as no one is dead, I can handle anything. Maybe her first boyfriend dumped her? Two days before her fourteenth birthday, though? I’m only twelve, but getting dumped like that would have to suck.
Annie sniffs hard, as if trying to regain control. She wipes her tears, drawing the mascara outward so it resembles cat whiskers.
“Our home is breaking, Cooper,” she says. All thoughts of cats flee my mind.
The appliance box that’s propping the front door open takes on a new significance. “What do you mean?” I ask. But I already know.
My sister’s voice grows taut, strangled and angry. “It means a week here, a week there. It means choosing Mum’s side or Dad’s. It means we have a new family.”
I don’t understand this last part; in fact, I can’t quite grip the first part either.
Clouds pass over the afternoon sun, and the veranda darkens like a bad omen.
“They’re getting a divorce?” It comes out like a question, but it isn’t. Of course that’s what she means. They’re getting a divorce.
“It’s more than that.” Annie glares at me. “Dad has someone else. Do you understand? He has this whole other life we don’t know about. He wants to move in with her, because she’s the real love of his life. All those business trips? It was him being with her. With them.”
My breath comes in and out fast. I’m not sure I want more details, but I ask anyway. “Them?” This can’t be real. Sure, Dad leaves for two weeks out of the month, but he always brings back gifts for us. Always says he loves us to the moon and back. “Them?” I ask firmly.
“The bitch has a son and is pregnant.”
I flinch. “A son? Dad’s?” Our . . . brother?
“The son isn’t his, but the baby—” Her voice breaks. “I’m staying with Mum. I don’t want anything to do with him. I hate him.”
Footsteps creak over the wooden boards. I don’t know how long Dad’s been standing there, but his expression is tight and pain flashes in his gaze—green like ours. We are our father’s children.
But for how much longer?
Dad folds his arms across his old, oil-smeared shirt. He’s fit for thirty-eight, but the creased skin around his eyes can’t be denied. I’d like to believe that his crow’s feet came from endless smiles, but all I ever see are frowns.