Anyone But Her

By: Allie Everhart

Chapter One

Ten Years Ago

Luke, Age 10

"I told you to pay the rent last week!" my mom yells from the kitchen.

"And where the hell am I supposed to get the money?" my dad yells back. "You spent it all at the goddamn store!"

Hiding under my sleeping bag on the couch, I turn up the volume on the TV. "Dennison is set for eight under par if he sinks this shot," the announcer says in a hushed tone.

I watch as Dennison taps his club against the tiny white ball, then am mesmerized as it makes its way along the perfectly manicured green, pauses just briefly along the edge of the hole, then teeters a little before finally sinking into the hole.

"And it's in!" the announcer says as the crowd claps. "That shot may have just won him the tournament."

"Get out, Dan!" my mom yells.

My dad's loud voice booms back, "I'm not leaving my own damn house!"

"It's not your house if you don't pay the rent!"

I hear loud footsteps heading my way and quickly turn off the TV.

"Get your lazy ass off the couch and get a job!" my dad yells as he yanks the sleeping bag from me.

"I'm only 10," I say, hurrying to stand up. "Nobody would hire me."

My dad crosses his arms over his chest. "At 10, I had a paper route every morning and was helping my old man every night at the shop. You haven't contributed a damn thing to this family. It's about time you started earnin' some money."

"But what would I..." I stop when I notice the clock on the wall. It's almost four. I always go see Albert at four and am back by six, before my dad gets home. Why is he home so early? Did he get fired? Is that why my mom was yelling at him about the rent?

"You're coming to work with me," he says. "Starting next week."

"Next week?" I ask, looking back at him. "What about school?"

"You'll take the bus after school to the shipyards. You'll work there until we go home."

"Doing what?" I ask, feeling panicked and scared. I don't know how to work at a shipyard and a job will interfere with my golf lessons with Albert.

"There's always shit to be done," my dad says. "Painting. Cleaning. Running errands for the crew. I'll talk to my boss tomorrow. We'll figure something out."

Is he serious? I can't work there. I'm too young. Too inexperienced. And I need time to golf. It's the only good thing I have in my life, aside from Albert.

"I'm not old enough to work there. I'll get in trouble."

"You let me worry about that. I guarantee Bronson won't blink an eye at the idea. He's desperate for help and your mom and I need the money. And I'm tired of you sitting around here doing nothin'."

"I'm not doing nothing," I say, trying to hide how nervous and scared I am. It's how I always feel when my dad gets angry like this. "I, um...I already have a job."

He cocks his head. "Since when?"

"Today," I say as though my lie is absolutely true. "I start tomorrow."

"Doing what?"

"Working at the golf course. Doing lawn maintenance and stuff."

His brows draw together. "Did you tell your mom this?"

"No. I wanted to wait and tell you first. I thought..." I swallow and look down. "I thought it'd make you happy."

"How much you making?"

I raise my eyes to his. "Minimum wage. And I can golf for free whenever I—"

"I don't care about the golf. You know how much I hate that fuckin' game. Rich snobs wasting time and money hitting a ball around some grass."

"It's more than that," I say, defending my favorite sport. But I shouldn't have said it. I have to hide how much I love golf or my dad will make sure I never play it again. He hates that I even own a set of clubs. He only lets me keep them because my mom made him, because she didn't want to offend Albert, our neighbor, who gave them to me for my birthday a few years ago.

My dad glares at me. "Are you making this up?"

"No. I really do have a job."

"You better not be lyin' to me, kid, or I'm gonna be takin' you out to the garage with my belt."

My dad's only whipped me with his belt one time but I never want him to do it again. When it was over my backside hurt so much I couldn't even sit down. I had to sleep on my stomach that night.

My mom appears, tying her apron on as she walks over to us. "What's going on in here?" she asks my dad. "Why you yelling at him?"

"I want the boy to get a damn job. I'm sick of him not contributing."

"Dan, he's only ten," she says. "He's too young to get a job."

"Apparently not because he already has one." My dad puts his eyes on me. "Isn't that right, son?"