Fighting For You (The Callahans #5) by Monica Murphy

The Past





Diego





“Hey loser.” My big brother Mateo nudges me hard in the ribs, sending me stumbling forward. Lucky enough, I catch myself before I fall. “I dare you to go tell Marty he’s a homo.”

All of Mateo’s friends crack up the moment he makes the dare, and he laughs too, the loudest one of all.

I frown, glancing over at where my cousin Marty is playing with all of our girl cousins. He’s laughing and having a good time, and I don’t want to go over there and call him a homo. He might tell. And my Aunt Lisa—his mama—she can be mean.

Besides, who cares if he’s gay? It doesn’t matter to me.

It’s my brother’s birthday party. He just turned fifteen, and most of our family is here to celebrate, along with his friends. Mateo complained about having a party with the family, calling it kid stuff, but Mom wouldn’t hear of it. She’s always looking for an excuse for the family to get together.

Mateo was mad that he didn’t have a choice. It didn’t matter that Mom let him have as many friends over as he wanted. It didn’t matter that she bought him two video games that he wanted instead of just one. He didn’t get his way, so he’d show her.

He and his friends have been stealing beers out of the ice chest all afternoon, sneaking off and drinking them in his room. I can smell the beer on his breath right now, and I would never say it out loud, but knowing he’s a little drunk scares me.

Alcohol makes my big brother meaner. And he’s already mean enough.

All of the adults at the party are oblivious to Mateo and his friends stealing the beers. Mom’s having too much fun hanging out with her sister. They’re drinking and laughing, having a good time. It makes me happy to see her like that. She’s always so sad, or mad. Angry with Mateo.

Angry with me.

“Please tell me you’re not a little chicken shit,” Mateo snarls and I jerk my gaze to his, staring at him.

He stares back, until I’m the one who looks away first. I’m always the one who does that.

Marty is my age. We’re eleven, and in the fifth grade. And while Marty has never come right out and said it, we’re all pretty sure…

He’s gay.

“Are you going to tell him he’s a homo or not?” Mateo asks, his rough voice jolting me out of my thoughts.

I glare at him, realizing quickly all of his friends draw in closer, until they’ve formed a tight circle around me. It’s me against them.

And I’m going to lose.

“Why don’t you do it?” I toss at my brother, stalling for time. My stomach hurts. I don’t like calling people names, or causing problems, especially at family parties. But Mateo has been pushing me a lot lately. Daring me to say things. Do things. I stole a soda from the grocery store for him last week. He said he would beat me up if I didn’t, and I thought if I could catch a break for at least a couple of days, it was worth it to steal.

I was scared the whole time I snuck that Pepsi in my jacket, afraid I’d get caught, but I didn’t.

“I dared you first, asshole. Think of it as your birthday gift to me.” Mateo smiles, his eyes dark and a shiver moves through me. He looks hard. Almost…

Evil.

“Go. Do it.” He grips my shoulders and forcefully turns me around. His friends part without a word and Mateo shoves me. Hard. “And since you’re being such a pussy about it, now you get to tell him he likes to suck dick.”

I frown, glancing over my shoulder at the boy I idolize more than anyone else in this world. I don’t want him mad at me. I hate it when he’s like this.

I just want him to like me.

“Go on.” Mateo waves his hands, like he’s shooing a pesky animal away. “I triple dog dare you, you little pussy ass.”

His words, and his friends’ laughter, spur me on. Determination sets in my shoulders and I stalk over to where Marty is with the girls. He’s telling them a story, his words and gestures exaggerated and they’re all laughing at him, and he’s laughing too. I catch a little bit of what he’s saying, and I think it’s funny. I even smile.

But then I remember what my brother said, and my smile fades. If Marty really is gay, then that means he likes to suck dick, and that’s disgusting.

Marty notices me standing near them and he smiles, waving his hand. “Diego! Come here!”

“No,” I tell him defiantly, my voice hard.