“Pizza,” says Felix promptly.
“We can’t put pizza.”
“Pizza!” wails Felix. “I love pizza!”
“I can’t put, ‘We love each other because of pizza.’ ”
“I think that’s a pretty good answer,” says Dad, shrugging.
“I’ll do it,” says Frank, grabbing the page, and we all look up in shock. Frank spoke! He takes a black Sharpie from his pocket and reads aloud as he writes:
“ ‘We love each other because we respect each other’s choices and understand when a person has a hobby that they love, and would never deliberately damage their property.’ Oh, wait.”
“Frank, you can’t write that!” says Mum sharply.
It’s a bit late to say that, since he’s already written it. In permanent ink.
“Great!” Mum glares at Frank. “So now you’ve ruined your brother’s homework sheet.”
“I’ve spoken the truth.” Frank glowers back at her. “You can’t handle the truth.”
“A Few Good Men,” says Dad promptly. “I didn’t know you’d seen that.”
“YouTube.” Frank gets to his feet and heads over to the dishwasher.
“Well, marvellous,” says Mum, looking totally pissed off. “Now we can’t send this in. I’ll have to write a note in his link book. ‘Dear Mrs. Lacy, unfortunately Felix’s homework was…’ what?”
“Chewed by rats,” I suggest.
“ ‘Inapplicable to the Turner family as they do not understand the concept of love beyond their own self-serving version,’ ” comes Frank’s sonorous voice from the sink.
As he slouches out of the kitchen, Mum and Dad exchange glances.
“That boy needs a hobby,” mutters Mum. “We should never have let him give up the cello.”
“Please not the cello again,” says Dad, looking alarmed. “I think he’s beyond the cello.”
“I’m not saying the cello!” snaps Mum. “But something. What do teenagers do these days?”
“All sorts of things.” Dad shrugs. “Win Olympic medals, get into Harvard, create Internet companies, star in blockbuster films…” As he trails off, he looks a bit depressed.
“He doesn’t need to win a medal,” says Mum firmly. “He just needs an interest. What about the guitar?” Her face brightens. “Can he still play that? Why don’t you two jam together in the garage?”
“We tried that once,” says Dad, pulling a face. “Remember? It wasn’t a success…but we can try again!” he amends quickly, at Mum’s expression. “Good idea! We’ll have a bit of a jamming session. Father and son. We’ll play some tracks, get in the beers—I mean, not the beers,” he adds hastily as Mum opens her mouth. “No beers.”
“And he should volunteer,” says Mum with sudden determination. “Yes! That’s what Frank can do. Volunteer.”
I’m sitting in the kitchen later that evening, fiddling with the playback on my camera, when Frank shuffles in.
“Oh, hi.” I raise my head, remembering something. “Listen, I haven’t interviewed you yet. Can we do it?”
“I don’t want to be interviewed.”
Frank looks like he hates everyone and everything. His face is pale. His eyes are bloodshot. He looks less healthy than when he was gaming all the time.
“OK.” I shrug. I reach for a Dorito from the bowl still sitting on the table. We had Tex-Mex for supper tonight, which is the only time Mum buys crisps. It’s like, if they’re Doritos and scooping up guacamole then they don’t count as junk food. “So…” I try to speak casually. “I was wondering…”
My voice is letting me down. It doesn’t sound casual, it sounds over-alert. On the other hand, I don’t think Frank is in a noticing mood.
“Is Linus coming over?” It comes out in a hurry and I sound the opposite of casual, but there you go. I’ve asked.
Frank turns his head to give me a murderous glare.
“Why would Linus come over?”
“Well…because…” I’m confused. “Have you had a fight?”
“No, I haven’t had a fight.” His eyes are so bleak and full of anger, I flinch. “I’ve been dropped from the team.”
“Dropped from the team?” I stare at him in shock. “But it was your team.”
“Well, I can hardly play now, can I?”
His voice is all muffled and low. I have a horrible feeling he wants to cry. I haven’t seen Frank cry since he was about ten.