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Growing Up A Stafford (The Trouble With Brothers Book 1) When Kat Meets Billy

By @MCourtney

Chapter One - The Party

“Kat!” She could barely hear her name over the thumping music. She turned to the familiar voice. Sean, her middle brother, was bounding down the stairs. He stopped at the base of the stairs, then waved, beckoning her over toward him.

Kat pressed the red solo cup to her lips taking a quick sip before she tugged on her best friend, Dee’s shirt, beside her.

She glanced at Dee, then nodded toward the stairs. Kat couldn’t imagine what he wanted; the only time he wanted to talk to her, was when he needed something. It was too early for him to goad her into cleaning up his party, and she was absolutely not going to fetch him another beer, like a dog, he could get it himself, this time she was having fun.

“This better be important.” Kat groaned to Dee. Tonight, she and Dee were on the hunt for some cute high school boys and Sean was cutting into their valuable time.

The two swam through the sea of kids; talking, drinking and making out, to Sean. He ran his fingers through his short wavy brown hair as Kat approached.

“Yes?” Kat asked in her high-pitched perky voice. She swayed to the pulsating beat of the same Led Zeppelin song she had heard a hundred times, played at every Garden City party and now had memorized as she waited patiently for an answer.

“Where’s Scott?”

“I don’t know.” She shrugged. She wasn’t exactly keeping track of her middle brother. She was trying to enjoy the party, but she had caught glimpses of him. “I saw him walking into the dining room a while ago.” Kat loosely threw out her arm and flicked up her finger in the direction of the dining room.

“Alright. Listen, if Steve calls do not tell him about the party.” Sean strongly advised as he firmly pointed at her. This was what was so important that he pulled her away from one of the best parties of the summer? This was a conversation for tomorrow, not now.

“What if he asks? I can’t lie to him.” She readily admitted. She threw her hand out palm up. There was no way she was getting caught lying to Steve and obviously Sean did not want to get caught telling the truth to him.

And yes, truthfully, she did usually tell Steve everything. The two became close after their father died. Steve became more than a parent and big brother, but a best friend that helped her cope with the loss of their dad.

Sean slapped his forehead with his palm and rubbed his eyes with his fingers. Then blew out a deep breath of air between his lips. It was a mixture of minty gum and beer.

“Just give me, or Scott the phone.” He cleverly instructed motioning to himself. Kat knew Sean was just trying to avoid getting a long lecture from Steve about throwing a party at the house, but she couldn’t understand the big deal.

“Steve isn’t going to care about us having a party,” Kat crinkled her nose. “He’s at college, he probably parties every night.” She explained and gave him the look of a know it all, defiant teenager.

But it was true. Sean would be crazy to think that Steve; Mr. Popularity, Mr. Football star is actually sitting in his dorm room every Saturday night. No way! Sean, especially, should know. He was partying right beside Steve every weekend in high school and she would catch bits and pieces of their stories when they bragged about their wild nights.

“Kat! I’m serious, don’t tell him, and you know I’ll find out. Steve tells me everything and if he asks if mom has been home, tell him she was just around.” Sean pressed as he pointed sharply at her.

“Ok! Fine, gees.” She conceded throwing her head back and groaning. He obviously wasn’t going to give in, so she just agreed, winning her a one way ticket back to the party to complete her mission – boys.

When you have siblings, especially three older brothers, knowing you won’t always win and to pacify them with a ‘yes’ is key to your survival.

“**** Kat, when are you going to grow up.” He grumbled as he stepped by her.

Kat darted a tongue out at him as he stepped passed her and Dee. The two belted out a muffled giggle in unison. Their eyes followed Sean as he stepped onto the coffee table; littered with ashes that missed the ashtray, beer bottles and half-empty red Solo cups.

Sean pointed his finger at a boy on the sofa, then threw his thumb out behind him for the boy to get out of his seat. Sean took a swig from his beer bottle as he waited for the boy to move. Then dropped into the worn brown cushion between his girlfriend Stephanie and his best friend Dave. 

He pulled Stephanie into his chest and kissed her as if no one else was in the room. Then he turned to Dave with deliberate looks of frustration on his face. Obvious signs of complaining about the conversation with Kat. Not that she cared.

Dee’s eyes lit up and a wistful smile formed on her lips.

“Sean is so cute.” Dee practically slurred together words. She stared at Sean longingly. Her eyes wide and her lips slightly parted as she froze her gaze upon him.

“Gross! My brother is the farthest thing from cute! Have you seen his bedroom? He’s a slob.” Kat sneered.

“I don’t care. I’d clean it for him.” Dee chirped. Kat rolled her eyes and looked toward the living room.

“Come on. Let’s go find some cute guys.”

The girls weaved through the maze of teenagers in the smoke infused living room toward the kitchen. Arrowsmith belted out of the radio and filtered into the dining room. The floorboards vibrated beneath her feet as they squeezed by kids huddled around her old wooden dining room table.

The legs were scuffed and the top was laden with intricate spirals and oblong circles of water stains from spilled drinks. Smoke swirls streamed from ashtrays to the ceiling from smoldering cigarette butts. The chairs were filled with girls cupping solo cups and boys gripping beer bottles and silver beer cans in front of them.

Kat caught bits of the conversation about some kid getting his by a car at the illegal street races in the city on Front Street and how he was on life support and won’t be coming back to school, if ever.

Kids stood in rows surrounding the table listening intently to the gossip, as if it were a stage and the story was a song performed by their favorite rock band.

Chris brushed by Kat he headed toward the living room.

“Hey Kat!” He said.

She snapped her head around to see who had called her. It was Chris. Dave Middleton’s little brother. Cool and cute. He was definitely going to be popular in high school.

“Hey Chris!” Kat replied. In response she smiled and gave a cordial wave. Enjoying the flirtation and attention by the leader of the group of boys their age.

Chris flashed her a grin and swept his shoulder-length, brown hair back from his face. He was a good option. The girls around there found him attractive, sweet, yet rebellious. A typical hot badass and had the most obvious crush on her.

Tonight Kat and Dee were going to engrain their name on the lips of every popular kid at this party to ensure their social status before school even began.

They stepped into the kitchen where wispy clouds of white smoke had unfurled from ashtrays creating a thick white fog. The two settled against the refrigerator and counter. Kat scanned the room to all the familiar faces from the neighborhood. They crowded into the modest kitchen, leaning against the walls, sitting on the counter, and piled around the stainless steel table.

“Kat!” Dee gushed, the moment that the two of them were out of earshot of Chris. “Chris is so totally in love with you! You’re so lucky. He is so cute.”

“Yeah. He is.” Kat quipped. The two giggled. Kat had known for some time that Chris had a crush on her. She liked him too, but not in that way. They grew up together. They were friends. That was where her feelings ended.

Kat picked up the red Solo cup and pursed her lips. She took a sip considering the Chris situation.

“You should totally go out with him. He’s the best in the group.” Dee pointed out.

This is where she and Dee differed. Kat was looking forward to boys different from here; athletes, rich boys with hot cars and muscles. Dee loved the neighborhood ********; boys with leather jackets, attitudes, and streetcars. Not that it was a bad combination, it just wasn’t what excited her.

Kat’s mother always kept them fashionably dressed and that was what she got used to. The only fashion around here for boys was a new black concert t-shirt or flannel.

“It’s pretty difficult to get past the time we played in the mud with his matchbox cars.” Every time Kat looked at him she was flooded with embarrassing childhood memories. Like the time she cried when stung by a bee, or split her pants in Kindergarten. How could he not remember. He should be running in the other direction.

Kat put out her hand. She pointed each finger as she counted and recited each name, “Well, it looks like the only viable candidates for us tonight are: Chris, Danny, Paul and Fred. You should go for Chris. He’s the best pick.”

“No way. He likes you, I can’t do that to you.”

“You’re not doing anything to me. I don’t want him.” Kat pushed her forward. Dee swatted her back. Chris was a good catch. But Kat was going to hold out for someone she really loved. She believed in romance, fairy tale endings, and long-lasting relationships. She couldn’t see herself with any of these guys. High School had to have her knight in shining armor.

“I can’t wait until school starts! High School boys are so cute.” Kat squeaked as she squeezed her arms tight into her chest. This was it, no more little middle school boys that she had known since grade school.

“I know! I know! Just one more month! It’s going to be so awesome!” Dee agreed. Dee wrapped her fingers around Kat’s arm and the two bounced up and down.

Mark strutted in with an air of confidence that screamed bad ass. He was a notorious rebel and a best friend of the family. Mark grew up next door, attached to the Stafford’s. He and Steve were best friends growing up. He had a reputation as one of the toughest bad boys in town. His father was an abusive alcoholic. His mother left Mark and his older brother behind and his dad took it out on him and he took it out on the world.

Trailing closely behind Mark, was his best friend, Brad. At well over six feet, he towered over everyone in the room. Mark moved in with Brad and three other guys at sixteen, sharing an old house on the main road. He seemed kind, soft spoken, generally a nice guy.

“Hey, Kat.” Mark said in a slow deep voice walking toward her.

“Hi Mark!” she chirped. “I’m so glad you came!”

Mark cupped his cigarette in his hand shielding it from burning her then leaned in for a hug. She stood on her tiptoes and wrapped her arms around him. She got a whiff of his leathery cologne and the faint smell of cigarettes.

He pulled back and tapped his ashes into an overflowing ash tray on the sticky counter. A stand of black hair tumbled across his forehead, hiding his face. He whipped his head to the side, flipping his hair from his face.

“Talk to Steve lately?” He asked. Mark leaned his rough hand against the lip of the countertop, getting comfortable. His eyes were dark chocolate, almost black, sealing his badass image.

“Yes! a few days ago.” She bubbled. The trouble he got into was hard for her to imagine because hewas so sweet in front of her. It almost seemed they went out of their way to be extra polite in her presence with hugs and rarely a curse word.

“How’s he doin’?”

“Great! He loves college!” She eagerly answered, proud of her favorite big brother. There weren’t many things Kat could be boastful of about her family these days, but Steve going to college was definitely one of them.

“Yeah, I’m sure, college boy.” Mark scoffed and grew a smile. “That’s cool.” Kat sensed a bit a happiness in Mark’s response. He looked proud of his longtime friend and maybe even a slight bit envious, but always supportive.

The neighborhood kids all knew Steve was different than them. Steve had direction and a purpose in life. Instilled by our dad. He studied hard, worked hard and played hard, well, not as hard as these guys, but he kept up. He kept out of trouble by befriending the athletes in high school. They got in their fair of trouble too, but minor compared to this group.

Mark and Steve had been best friends when they were young. Once the two hit High School, Mark and Steve separated, yet remained friendly, settling into different cliques. Steve settled into the jocks and rich kids, Mark stayed with the neighborhood kids, delinquents called ‘burnouts’.

“Hey Dee.” Mark turned his gaze to Dee, giving her a cordial hello.

“Hi Mark!” Her eyes glowed being acknowledged by the badboy as well.

“Alright, don’t be a stranger,” He throw an arm around her shoulder again and pointed to her. “You need anything let me know, ok? I’m gonna grab a drink.”

“Ok, bye.” Kat said. With a quick rub of her back he headed off.

“Gees girl, you’re friends with everyone.” Dee said admiringly. Her eyes wide as saucers, memorized as Mark stepped over to the refrigerator and grabbed two beers, passing one to Brad.

“Yeah. Pretty much.” Kat replied assuredly. It was true, there were some perks that came with having three annoying brothers.

Kat had to admit, Sean threw great parties at their house. The entire downstairs was packed with the town’s most infamous badboys and coolest girls. Of course it helped that they all lived in the same neighborhood together, the Garden City projects.

She knew for sure she was going to be propelled into popularity when school started and she was every bit ready.

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