Kelan tapped his pencil against the paper, trying to work something out. “Not quite right,” he muttered, erasing the lines he’d just drawn. He wasn’t sure why he couldn’t get this. He didn’t usually have so much trouble drawing up a plan.
“What’s up, brother?”
Kelan shifted so his older brother couldn’t see what he was working on. “Nothing, Tate,” he said, rolling up the paper. He didn’t want him seeing this, not until it was right.
He really needed some other workspace beside the kitchen table. But, his younger brother, Nolan, had moved into his room when Tate, the oldest, had moved out to get married the previous summer. So now, the twins, who were about twelve years younger than him, each had their own rooms. And Nolan was doing his homework in theirs right now. So, this was the only place he could work on it. Now, that would have to wait.
“Rebekah’s coming in,” Tate said. “Are you going to be nice to her today?”
“That depends,” Kelan said as he pushed back from the table. “Is she going to be a bitch today?”
His brother’s face hardened. “That’s no way to talk about my wife, Kelan. I’m not going to take it. You really upset her.”
“And what about me? You don’t think the things she said upset me?” He slapped the end of the rolled paper against the table. “Damn it, Tate. She said-”
“I don’t really care. She’s my wife, and-”
“And I’m your damn brother.”
“No swearing,” their mother said as she swept into the kitchen. “Go put your drawing back in your room, Kelan. Dinner will be ready soon.” Her gaze shifted between the two of them. “And there will be no arguing at the table tonight. Do you understand?”
“Yes, Mom,” they both said at the same time.
“Good. Now, go get cleaned up. And don’t even tell me you don’t need to. I know you just came from the job site, Tate, and you’ll be filthy.”
He stopped with his mouth open, about to say just that. He closed it again and headed for the bathroom down the hallway. Kelan couldn’t quite hide his smirk. “And Kelan,” she said softly, “you will be kind to your sister-in-law. I know she can be a bit…brisk, but-”
“Mom, she called my drawings crap. Said she wouldn’t let me design a dollhouse, let alone one for her to live in.”
His mom’s eyes hardened at that. “You never told us what she’d said.” She drew in a long breath. “But,” she added, “you know they’re just words. And you know the truth. You shouldn’t let it get to you.”
And yet he did. And he felt that irritation and shame rise up when the woman herself walked into the kitchen. He could barely stand the sight of her. He turned and started away then realized he’d left the drawing sitting on the table. He turned back, but Rebekah was already unrolling it.
“Don’t,” he said, but it was already too late.
She started laughing. “And how is a house supposed to stand with only two walls, Kelan. Really, I can’t believe your brother actually thinks you’d make a good architect. You can’t even design a simple house. You’re certainly no artist.”
“It’s not finished yet,” he growled, snatching the paper from her hands.
“Hey,” she snapped. “I was looking at that. And you nearly gave me a paper-cut.”
“Too bad I didn’t,” he hissed.
Tears came to her eyes, but even I could see they were faked. Then, Tate was right by her side, an arm around her. “It’s okay, Bekah,” he soothed. “Kelan’s just having a tantrum. Ignore him.”
His look wasn’t faked, though. Tate was pissed. Well, Kelan wasn’t too happy either. His hand tightened around the paper, and he snatched his pencils up from table. “Can you save some dinner for me, Mom. I’m really not hungry right now.”
She didn’t say anything just nodded, and he marched off to his room. Nolan glanced up at him, awareness in his eyes. “Rebekah is here, isn’t she?”
“Oh, yeah,” Kelan said, tossing his stuff onto his bed. “And in her typical mood. You might want to go out. Dinner’s almost ready, and you can probably calm them. You’ve always been the voice of reason around here.”
Nolan’s brow wrinkled. “You’re not going to eat with us?”
“No. I asked Mom to save some for me. I can’t deal with her right now.”
“You shouldn’t let her run you out of our own kitchen,” Nolan said, but he seemed distracted about something. “And no matter what she says, it doesn’t change the fact you are good.”
Kelan just turned away from him. When Nolan left the room, Kelan unrolled the drawing. “God, she’s right,” he muttered. “It does suck. I freaking suck.” He tore the drawing right down the middle of the page. And he kept ripping until the picture lay in tatters. He could try again. He would try again.
But, he was never going to let anyone else see something until it was absolutely perfect.