Home > The Theory Of Second Best (Cake #2)(5)

The Theory Of Second Best (Cake #2)(5)
Author: J. Bengtsson

And now here I was about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime. Thirty-nine days on a deserted island, living off the land, scrounging for my own food, and surviving with just the clothes on my back. There would be no bathrooms, stifling heat, and cameras in my face 24/7. Damn, that sounded awful. I mean really, just… yuck!

The truth was, I was far from an adventurous person. The only reason I’d applied in the first place was because the money I could potentially win on the reality show far outweighed the misery I was about to endure. That cash would not only provide for my family and secure their future, but it would be just the push I needed to finally make my stand and escape this monotonous life.

I looked up to find my dad still staring right at me with that surprised look in his eyes.

“What?” I asked impatiently.

“I never really noticed how much you look like your mother until today.”

A lump instantly formed in my throat, and I fought the urge to cry.

“You’re so much like her. Do you know that?”

“I know,” I whispered my response. “You tell me all the time.”

“But I never really saw the uncanny physical resemblance until today.”

The far-off, pained look in his eye softened my resolve. I walked over and hugged him. “You still miss her so much.”

“You don’t just get over the love of your life, Mackenzie.”

“No, I don’t suppose you do.”

We stayed quiet for a moment, remembering the woman we both loved.

“I know you’re going to argue, but I’m just putting it out there again. You need to start dating.”

“No one can replace her.”

“I’m not saying replace. I’m saying move on. It’s been sixteen years, Dad. Someday we’ll all be grown and out of the house, and then you’ll be alone.”

“You’ll never leave.” My little brother Cooper burst into the room in order to make his thoughtless observation. I glared at him, bristling at his suggestion that I’d be an old maid living at home with Dad for the rest of my life. He flashed me his signature cocky smile as he ran his fingers through his brown wavy hair. Cooper was in dire need of a haircut, and at that moment I wouldn’t have minded shaving it clean off his head for him.

“Well, theoretically, Coop, I could find a guy and get married and have a family of my own.”

“Yeah, I guess, theoretically,” he shrugged, grabbing a snack from the cupboard.

I didn’t know what I’d been hoping for, but it certainly wasn’t such an apathetic reply. But then what could I expect from Cooper? He was the world’s most self-absorbed sixteen-year old.

“You looking for a date?” He asked our father. “My English teacher, Miss Marshall, is single, and she’s sort of hot if you like them old.”

“Miss Marshall’s in her early forties,” Dad chuckled. “I’d hardly call that old.”

Cooper shrugged again. “Whatever floats your boat, Pops.”

Dad looked like he wanted to argue, but there was no winning with Cooper. He didn’t have enough going on inside that brain of his to have a decent debate. “Anyway, let me know. I’ll hook you up.”

“Wow, so tempting. Where’s your other half?”

Dad was referring to Cooper’s twin brother, Colton. The two were identical in every way and never far from each other. When they were babies, the only way to tell them apart was by tying a length of colored yarn to their ankles. To this day I’m not sure if we switched them around a few times in the beginning.

“Locked in the shed,” Cooper replied, matter of factly. He graced us with his third noncommittal shrug of the day.

Both Dad and I gaped at him.

“Is there a reason he’s locked in the shed?” I asked, still unclear if I needed to be worried or not.


“Cooper,” I scolded. “Why is your brother locked in the shed?”

“Because he was trying to shove me in there first.”

My sister Caroline breezed in. “Hey, does anyone hear that banging noise?”

“That would be Colton. Apparently he’s locked in the shed.”

She startled at the information. “And we’re okay with that?” she asked, with a raised eyebrow.

“Not necessarily,” Dad said. “Cooper, you have thirty seconds to explain before I lock you in there myself.”

“He got mad because my clothes were on his side of the room, so he threw them out the window. I made him go get them, but then he tried to shove me in the shed, so I pushed him in instead. The lock was hanging open, so I swung it shut and locked him in.”

Cooper seemed to think it was a perfectly legitimate excuse for imprisoning his sibling. Dad’s face turned hard. “Get him out now.”

“You want me to go out in the rain?” he protested.

Dad gave him the death stare.

“Fine.” Cooper stomped off.

We hurried over to the big window facing into the backyard and watched Cooper set his brother free. Colton came out swinging, and the two boys began rolling around in the mud and rain. Dad shook his head, disappointed but resigned, and then calmly walked over and locked them both out of the house.

“You look pretty,” Caroline said to me, seemingly unfazed by her brothers’ shenanigans. Certainly she was used to them. Caroline was six minutes older than Colton and ten minutes older than Cooper. Yet despite the miniscule age gap, she was more grown up than the two of them combined, although that wasn’t saying much as Caroline was hardly the model of maturity. She was a typical impassioned teen with a flair for the dramatic, as evidenced by her repeated use of the words ‘basic’ and ‘squad.’

As Caroline complimented me, she flipped her long brown hair back with the flick of her hand. I soaked in her youthful beauty. It had taken me all day to look presentable, yet she made it seem effortless. Caroline and I shared the same overall features, but that’s where our similarities ended. My sister had the confidence of a girl who’d lived her life in the limelight. Being a triplet made her unique. When they were little, the three were like little shining stars. Wherever they went, fanfare followed. Of course everyone in this close-knit community knew our story. My parents had grown up here, and my mother’s untimely death had been a blow to the entire town.

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