Xander Excerpt

EXCERPT
Xander, Rockstar Book 9
©Anne Mercier 2017

XANDER
The first day of school is always easy. The teachers are still unprepared and we’re not ready to settle in. A day of screwing around is a pretty cool way to ease back into the thought of having to spend every day here until next summer. Lame.

We’re walking outside on the playground and I realize we’re the big kids on this side. See, Roosevelt Elementary has two playgrounds: One for kindergarten through second grade; and the other for third through fifth grade. This year we’re kings. I’m going to enjoy it before we get knocked back down next year.

Jesse and Ben Kingston, Ethan Ashcroft, and Kennedy Caldwell are the guys I hang with. They’re cool. None of them care that I come from money and I like that. My dad always warned me against the kids who like you only because you have money, so I’m always cautious with new people.

Speaking of new people. Jesse lifts his chin in the direction of the monkey bars. There’s a girl lying at the end of one side, her legs bent, feet swinging. Her long black hair cascades down between two of the bars and I watch as the strands get caught in the breeze, blowing in a haphazard pattern. I lift my gaze to the girl’s face and I see she’s wearing sunglasses with a white frame that are way too big for her face. Somehow she makes it work.

She blows a bubble. We’re not supposed to have gum, but she doesn’t seem to care because she blows another bubble. If she’s not careful, when the wind picks up her hair might blow up into that wad of gum.

“Who is she?” I ask Jesse.

He shrugs a shoulder. “New kid. Tera Ramirez. She’s got brother in the same grade. She said they’re twins but they don’t look too much alike.”

I grunt in response.

“Seems like she doesn’t give a shit about anything,” Ethan says.

“Yeah,” Kennedy agrees.

I ignore their stares as I walk over to where she’s butchering Alanis Morrisette’s You Learn.

“You can’t sing for shit,” I tell her with a laugh.

She turns her head and looks down at me. “Yeah? You can do better?”

“Hell yeah, I can.”

She lifts a brow. “Go on then.”

So I do. Her nostrils flare. Bam! I win.

She rolls her eyes.

“What’s your name?” I ask.

“Tera. Yours?”

“Xander.”

“Nice to meetcha,” she tells me while chomping on her gum.

“Where are you from?” I ask, because obviously she’s not going to tell me anything without my prodding her.

“St. Louis. Dad’s job transferred us here.” She turns her head. “Those your friends?”

I turn and see Jesse and the guys walking over.

“Yeah.”

“Cool.”

I introduce them and a kid with the same black hair as Tera comes walking up. He’s big for a second grader and he’s got an attitude.

“Who are these guys?” he asks Tera.

“Xander, Jesse, Ben, Kennedy, and Ethan. And this is my brother, Lincoln, but we call him Linc.”

“They giving you a hard time?” Linc asks.

“Nope. They’re cool.”

Linc nods, and his fists uncurl.

“Were you going to kick our asses if we were?” I ask.

“I would’ve tried.”

I nod. He just gained my respect.

That was the day we all became inseparable—including Tera. We found out pretty quick that Tera and Linc’s parents were nearly as fucked up as my mom. They all spent most of their time at my house—and then one night when we were in fifth grade the shit hit the fan.

“Matthew, you know as well as I do this isn’t working anymore. Why do you pretend?” my mom shouts.
I sit mute, staring at the blue wall of my bedroom, listening to my mother scream at my father. She’s moving out, divorcing him—us.

“What about Xander?” dad asks.

“What about him? He’s safe here and all his friends are close by. I don’t want to uproot him and move him to Paris where he knows no one.”

Well, at least that’s a plus. I was afraid for a minute she was going to drag me with her—and her boyfriend. She thinks she’s so slick, but I know. I hear her on the phone sometimes and I know it’s not my dad because he’s either at the hospital or sleeping.

“I knew it was coming,” I murmur to my silent room of friends. “It was just a matter of time. She was screwing around.”

“That sucks, Xan. What can we do?” Ben asks.

“You’re doing it,” I answer.

It’s the truth. Just them being here is making it easier for me.

Tera scoots next to me, her arm intertwining with mine, holding my hand that’s resting on my thigh.
“I’m sorry Xander,” she whispers as she rests her head on my shoulder.

I suck in a breath, the pain of hearing what’s going on outside my door. It hurts more than I thought it would.

“When will you see him?” my dad asks.

“He can come visit for holidays and for the summer,” she tells him.

“You want him to fly across the ocean by himself?” Dad’s tone tells me he can’t believe she’s serious. I can’t blame him.

“Screw that. I’m not flying to Paris and spending my summer eating slimy snails. I won’t go. She can’t make me. If she leaves, she can’t make me go, right?” I ask them.

“I don’t think you have to. Your dad won’t make you do anything you don’t want to. Your dad’s cool as hell,” Jesse answers.

I nod. “Yeah. My dad’ll have my back.”

“Heck yeah, he will,” Linc agrees.

“I’ll come back for the rest of my things later in the week,” mom announces and I hear her high heels click as she walks down the stairs.

“You’re not going to say anything to Xander before you go?” dad inquires.

“Not tonight. He’s got his friends over. I don’t leave until next week.”

“Don’t worry about it, Lynn. I’ll talk to him. Besides, I’m sure he’s already heard you with the way you were carrying on,” my dad bites out.

“Seriously Matthew,” she scoffs.

“What about your practice? You’re just going to leave your patients high and dry?”

“I’m taking a three month hiatus and then hopefully I’ll have my credentials so I can open my practice in Paris.”

“You’ve got it all figured out. I hope it all works out for you, Lynn. Sincerely. But I want the keys to the house and the cars. They are, after all, in my name.”

Mom huffs. “Fine.”

Tera snickers as we hear keys jingle. “Your dad is so awesome.”

That makes me smirk. He really is.

“I’ll have someone pack up your shit this week. Call on Monday. Your stuff will be waiting for you.”

“You’re being petty, Matthew. I expected better of you.”

“Petty? No. That’s not what I’m being at all. I’m being logical. You no longer live here. You don’t get a key. The security code will be changed. Your boxes will be waiting on Monday. Have your movers come during the day when Xander’s in school so he isn’t subjected to that as well as this,” dad scolds.

Mom takes a breath. “Fine. I thought we could be civil—”

“Lynn, this is civil. Less than civil would be me dragging you down these stairs and throwing you out on your ass like you deserve. Instead, I’m having a calm discussion, which is now over. You can get the fuck out now,” Dad tells her and I laugh.

“Go Dad.”

We’re all laughing quietly in my room—even if it’s totally screwed up right now. My mom’s pretty much abandoning me. It’s not like I see her much anyway. It’s Dad who takes care of me, who’s always there when I need him, who makes sure my clothes fit and are clean—he even makes sure I wash behind my ears.
The front door clicks shut and I hear footsteps coming up the stairs.

“My dad.”

Everyone nods.

There’s a knock. “Xan?” Dad probes.

“Yeah, Dad. Come in.”

The door opens and there’s my dad. He’s pretty darn tall for just a doctor. I think he could have played basketball or something but he said he couldn’t make a basket if he was standing right beside it. His black hair matches mine, as do his ice blue eyes.

He always makes my friends feel welcome. Always.

“I take it you heard?” he asks, looking around the room at all of us.

“Yeah. She was pretty loud.”

“Your mother has a flare for the dramatic.”

I just nod.

“We can talk more about it later or tomorrow—whichever works out best for you.”

“Okay,” I answer.

“You going to be okay, Xan?” he asks.

I nod again. “Yeah, Dad. I’ll be fine. It’s not like it was a surprise.”

Dad shakes his head. “No. I suppose not. Are you all finished with your homework?”

We all tell him ‘yes’.

“I’ll order some pizzas. Let’s take over the TV room tonight,” he invites.

“Cool, Dad. Thanks.”

“See you in a few,” he replies.

As he begins to close the door, I call out to him. “Dad?”

“Yeah, bud?”

“I don’t have to go over there do I? To Paris? I don’t want to spend my holidays and summers over there where I don’t know anyone. I want to spend it here with you and my friends. You’re my family—she’s not,” I tell him honestly.

“You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. I’ll fight for you, Xander. Don’t worry. It’ll all be okay.”

I stand up and walk over to my dad and hug him.

“It’ll be okay. I promise,” he murmurs again.

“I love you, Dad.”

“I love you too, Xander.” He kisses the top of my head. “Now for those pizzas…”
***
My dad was true to his word. He fought for me. Mom tried to get me over there more than once and each time I said no. We went to court and she lost. She left. In truth, she’d left a long time ago and that’s what I told the judge. He gave my mom one of those looks that you hate to ever get from anyone, but she still acted like she didn’t do anything wrong.

When we hit eighth grade, my mom had been married and divorced again. I wasn’t surprised. I didn’t go to her wedding and I didn’t ever take her calls.