"It's a galley, not a kitchen," Seth corrected. "You always say it wrong."
"Whatever. You should have to do it."
"Quit whining or I'll make you clean the head."
"Why call it 'the head' and not, you know, something like 'the ass'?"
"Don't be a trash-mouth, Mandy," he said, turning away so she wouldn't see him laugh.
"It's not trashy. Even donkeys are called asses."
He wouldn't take the bait, and so they worked quietly for a few minutes. They heard their father's footsteps as he moved overhead, heard the thumps and thuds and other sounds of gear and life vests being stowed, rigging secured, decks hosed and scrubbed. Seth carried two duffel bags filled with camping gear toward the hatch, setting them near the companionway to be carried up later.
He was athletic; broad-shouldered and tall for sixteen. Dark-haired and green-eyed and a little shy. Mandy could make him blush furiously by using one of her nicknames for him: Mr. Babe-Magnet. "Every girl who becomes my friend develops a major crush on you," she once complained to him, "unless she already had one on you and became my friend just so she could get next to you."
"No, they like you for yourself."
She shook her head and said, "Right. Try to catch the next flight back to planet Earth."
He still thought she was wrong. At fourteen, she was slender but gawky, more bookish than he. The only reason he had started lifting weights was because he worried that without his father in the house, the duty of fighting off her unworthy would-be boyfriends would fall to him. He expected them to arrive by the busload once his redheaded little sister filled out a little. The only after-school fight he had ever been in -- the one their mother chalked up to "Seth adjusting to the divorce" -- had actually started when the other kid made a "see what develops" crack about Mandy. Seth had pummeled him.
"Where does this go?" Mandy asked, startling him out of his reverie. She was biting on her lower lip as she held up an oven mitt. Fretting over exactly where everything belonged. He didn't blame her. No use shoving things any-old-where they would fit. Their dad was a neat freak. Seth showed her the compartment where such things were stored and went back to work cleaning the head.
"Mom's probably called Dad's house," she said as Seth started polishing the mirror. When he didn't respond, she added, "She's going to be mad."
"Mom's always mad," he said, not pausing in his work. "He'll take us to school on time tomorrow, don't worry. She doesn't need to know we're up this late on a school night -- right?"
"Right," Mandy agreed. "But if she calls -- "
"Even if she finds out, she'll still have to let Dad take us every other weekend."
Mandy gave a little sigh of relief, a sound not lost on her brother.
A noisy boat pulled up nearby. They could hear the loud thrumming of its engines. A little later, above them, mixed in with the engine noise, they heard voices. Male voices. Their father and another man.
"Who could that be?" Mandy asked, moving toward the companionway.
Seth shrugged. "The guy from the other boat, probably."
The voices grew louder. They heard snatches of conversation, their father's voice as he strode angrily past the hatch: "...trouble...get up...not what police should...you think I'm going to...then..."
"I'm going to see who it is!" Mandy whispered.
"Some politico," he said, using a term they applied to most of their father's newest associates. "Can't you tell? Dad's making a speech to him."
"They bug him at all hours. Stay put."
Copyright © 2001 by Jan Burke
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