Approaching the Bench
Five Years Later
“DO YOU KNOW HOW much sugar is in that cereal?” I ask my younger brother. It’s not always easy living with a kid who’s seventeen and in high school, especially a kid who isn’t even yours.
“You sound just like Mom,” Justin grumbles, then ducks his head like he always does when Mom is mentioned, the black cap he’s wearing shielding his green eyes from me. Our mother passed away two years ago, a heart attack taking her from us way too soon. Justin has lived with me ever since. And even though Justin and I have different fathers, I’m all he has left now. He never knew his biological father, and while mine is still around, it’s not the same. I’m more than happy to have him here; although sometimes it sucks that I can’t just be the cool big brother.
It is what it is though. And I wouldn’t change a thing.
“I can help you with that English homework when I get home from work tonight.”
He has to write an essay on worldviews and how they shaped his life and opinions. I usually always help when he asks me, which he does particularly in English. I always excelled in school, and I’m great at writing and talking about my opinions; it’s why I became a lawyer.
It’s my first day at my new job, and I’m pretty damn excited. I’m going to miss everyone at Bentley & Channing, the law firm where I interned while in school, but since I recently graduated, I need this next step for my future. Being a law clerk is not only something I’ve always wanted to do, but it can also open doors and set me up for a prestigious career. Besides, being in a courtroom excites me. I don’t know why, but the courtroom is my happy place. I know most people don’t have the same opinion, but ever since I was a little boy, watching all those legal shows on TV, that’s where I wanted to be. I’m fascinated by how the justice system works. I want to be right up in the action, and a clerkship is the first step.
“Thanks,” he replies, pouring milk into his sugary breakfast and giving it a stir. “Do you want me to make us something for dinner?”
“I can grab something on my way home,” I suggest, not wanting him to have to cook after being at school all day, followed by soccer. I want him to be a kid for as long as he can, and I know it sounds stupid, because all teenagers should be helping around the house, but I should be looking after him, not the other way around. He already does the gardening for me, and mows and waters the lawn. He has a green thumb, so I’m thankful he’s here and takes care of all that. He also washes his own clothes and cleans up after himself. That’s plenty. “You have
practice, and I won’t be back much later than you.”
“I vote Mexican,” he adds, taking a spoonful and crunching away.
I move around him and put my now-empty mug in the sink. “Mexican it is.” I glance at my watch and grab my keys and wallet off the table. “I better get going.”
I want to be early, it is my first day after all, and I need to make a good impression on Judge Williams. Jaxon and Tristan, my old bosses at Bentley & Channing, warned me that apparently this judge does not fuck around. I stop in front of the mirror, taking in my crisp white shirt and black slacks, and run my finger along the buckle of my black belt.
I look the part.
Now I just need to prove myself to the judge.
A quick run-through of my black hair with my fingers and I’m walking out the front door, only to stop dead in my tracks.
“Justin?” I call out to my brother, tone giving nothing away, as I stare at his black Tucson. Mom’s old car that he now drives. “Did you cheat on a girl?”
“What?” he calls back, sounding confused as he moves to stand next to me. “Oh, fuck . . .”
My thoughts exactly.
There, on the side of his car, someone, assumingly female, has spray-painted the words cheating asshole in silver.
I turn to him, scowling. “Justin—”
“I didn’t do anything,” he immediately says. “Girls are crazy, Callum. How can I cheat on someone if I don’t even have a girlfriend? I haven’t even brought any girls over here in months.”
I open my mouth, then shut it.
I’ll have to deal with this situation another time. There’s something going on here, and I’ll figure it out. Women can be
crazy, yes, but they usually have a reason—at least in my experience.
“Don’t need to bring them home to . . . do stuff,” I tease, watching Justin scowl at me. He hates when I talk about sex in front of him. I’m his older brother, and I’ve had plenty of sex. I know he has too. He’s seventeen. I know what I was up to at that age. My brother has a shyness about him that I’m lacking. He’s a very private kid, whereas I’m more loud and obnoxious.
I’m sure nothing Justin has done validates vandalism, but there has to be a reason this has happened. Luckily my best friend, Eddie, owns his own mechanic shop and will be able to fix the paint to cover up the damage. He’s definitely going to get a kick out of this one.
“Do you know who did this?” I probe further, not wanting him to go on the defensive but kind of curious. He must know something. He can act innocent all he wants, but he has to have an inkling as to who did this. An ex? A current hookup? A stalker? Shit, give me something.
“I can guess” is his reply, as he crosses his arms over his chest, looking completely unimpressed with the situation before us. “I can’t believe this shit. Who does this? This is what women do when their husbands cheat on them or some shit, not when you’re in high school and not even in a relationship.”
My lip twitches, but I try to hide my amusement. “Maybe this is all some kind of miscommunication.”
Justin makes a scoffing sound, clearly disagreeing with my theory.
“She has pretty nice writing,” I mutter under my breath.
Justin turns to me with narrowed eyes and tight lips. His green eyes, identical in color to my own, flash with anger. “Seriously?”
I shrug and approach the car for a closer inspection,
bending forward and then straightening. Knowing that he can’t drive to school in that until I ask Eddie to handle it, I sigh and nod to my car, which is parked a few feet away and thankfully unscathed.
“Come on, I’ll give you a lift to school. You’ll have to catch the bus home though. Or maybe one of your friends can give you a lift.” I pause and snicker to myself. “Probably not whoever did this though.”
“Callum,” Justin whisper-yells, then heads inside to grab his schoolbag.
I open my car door and slide in, waiting for him. His school is about a fifteen-minute drive in the opposite direction of where I’m heading.
And traffic is going to be insane.
Fuck. I’m going to be late for my first day.