“Stop it,” I said through my teeth.
“What do you mean which job?” Dad asked. “She only has one job, at the bar, you know that.” When no one agreed, he looked to Trenton. “You work at the Red?”
Dad nodded. I sighed in relief, grateful Trenton wasn’t giving any more information than necessary.
“Didn’t you say you were working a second job?” Chase asked.
I pressed my palms flat against the table. “Why? Why are you doing this?”
Coby caught on to what was happening, and stood up. “I just remembered. I have a . . . I have to make a phone call.”
“Sit down!” Dad yelled. “You don’t just stand up at the dinner table! What the hell’s wrong with you?”
“Is this true?” Mom asked in her quiet voice.
“I took a part-time gig at Skin Deep Tattoo. It’s not a big deal,” I said.
“What? You can’t pay your bills? You said that bartending job makes you a month’s worth in one weekend!” Dad said.
“So you’re spending more than you’re making? What did I tell you about being responsible? Damn it, Camille! How many times have I told you not to get the credit cards?” He wiped his mouth and threw his napkin on the table. “I didn’t whip your ass enough as a child! If I had, you might listen to me once in a goddamn while!”
Trenton was staring at his plate, breathing faster, and leaning a bit forward. I reached over to touch his knee.
“Then why in God’s name would you get a second job when you’re still in school? That doesn’t make any sense, and I know you’re not stupid! No daughter of mine is stupid! So what is the reasoning?” he asked, yelling as if I were across the street.
Mom looked over at Coby, then, who was still standing, and the rest of my family did, too. When recognition lit my father’s eyes, he stood up, pounding the table as he did. “You’re on that shit again, aren’t you?” he said, holding a shaking fist in the air.
“What?” Coby said, his voice raised an octave. “No, Dad, what the f**k?”
“You’re on that shit again, and your sister is paying your bills? Are you out of your f**king mind?” Dad said. His face was red, and there was a line so deep between his eyebrows, the skin around it was white. “What did I tell you? What did I say would happen if you got near that shit again? Did you think I was joking?”
“Why would I think that?” Coby said, his voice shaking. “You don’t have a sense of humor!”
Dad ran around the table and attacked Coby, and my mother and brothers tried to intervene. There was yelling, red faces, pointing, but Trenton and I just watched from our seats. Judgment and shock were absent from Trenton’s face, but I was sunk back against my chair, completely humiliated. No amount of warning could have prepared him for the weekly Camlin circus.
“He’s not using again,” I said.
Everyone turned to me.
“What did you say?” Dad said with labored breath.
“I’m paying Coby back. He was short bailing me out a while back.”
Dad took a step toward me. “You couldn’t say anything until now? Let your brother take the blame for your irresponsibility?” He took another step. Trenton turned his entire torso toward my dad, shielding me.
“I think you need to sit down, sir,” Trenton said.
Dad’s face morphed from anger to rage, and Coby and Clark held onto him. “Did you just tell me to sit down in my own f**king house?” he said, screaming the last bit.
Finally Mom yelled, her voice breaking. “Enough! We’re not a bunch of wild animals! We have a guest! Sit down!”
“See what you’ve done?” Dad said to me. “You’ve upset your mother!”
“I’m so sorry,” Mom said to Trenton. Her voice was shaking as she nervously situated herself in her seat. She dabbed her eyes with her cloth napkin, and then put it gently in her lap. “This is very embarrassing for me. I can just imagine how Camille must feel.”
“My family is pretty rowdy, too, Mrs. Camlin,” Trenton said.
Under the table, his fingers began to ease up from where they had dug into my knee. I hadn’t even noticed until that moment, but my fingers found their way to his, and I squeezed his hand tight. He squeezed back. His understanding made a wave of emotion crash over me, and I had to choke back tears. That feeling vanished quickly when Dad’s fork scraped against his plate.
“When were you going to tell us that you were mooching off your brother, Camille?”
I looked up at him, suddenly angry. I knew the blame was coming, but having Trenton beside me made me feel a surge in confidence I’d never felt around my father. “When I thought you would behave like a mature adult about it.”
Dad’s mouth fell open, and so did Mom’s.
Dad put his knuckles on the table and stood.
“Save your voice,” I said. “We’re leaving.” I stood, and Trenton stood with me. We walked to the front door.
“Camille Renee! Get your ass back to this table!” Dad said.
I pulled opened the door. It had chips and dents in the bottom of the wood where my father had kicked the door open or closed during his many tantrums. I paused before pushing the lever on the screen door but didn’t look back.
I pushed open the door and tried not to sprint to the Intrepid. Trenton opened the passenger door, I got in, and then he walked around. He was rushing to get the keys into the ignition.
“Thank you,” I said, once he pulled away.
“For what? I didn’t do a damn thing,” Trenton said, clearly unhappy about it.
“For keeping your promise. And for getting me the hell out of there before Dad came out to get me.”
“I had to hurry. I knew if he made it out there and yelled at or threatened you one more time, I wouldn’t be able to keep my promise.”
“That was a waste of an afternoon off,” I said, staring out the window.
“Why did Chase push the issue? What was the point in starting all that shit?”
I sighed. “Chase has ongoing resentment toward Coby. My parents have always treated Coby like he could do no wrong. Chase loves to rub Coby’s addiction in everyone’s face.”
“So why did you bother going if you knew that he knew?”
I looked out the window. “Because someone needed to take the blame for it.”
It was quiet for a few moments, and then Trenton grumbled, “Coby sounds like a good candidate.”
“I know it sounds crazy, but I just need one of us to think they’re good parents. If we all hated the way we were raised, it makes it more real, you know?”
Trenton reached over for my hand. “It’s not crazy. I used to make Thomas tell me everything he remembered about Mom. I just have a few vague precious memories of her. Knowing his memories were more than just dreamlike, fuzzy moments made her more real to me.”
I pulled my hand from his and touched my fingers to my lips. “I’m so embarrassed but so grateful that you were there. I never would have spoken to my dad that way if you weren’t.”