The sharp click of heels echoed off the scorched pavement of downtown Toronto. Chord scurried after his older sister, ducking and dodging pedestrians as he struggled to keep pace with her confident stride. She was a woman with a mission, and far be it from Chord to get in her way – but maybe she could slow down, just a little.
Ayla Lefèvre carried a plain manila folder tucked under her right arm, her black pencil skirt was pressed, her white summer blouse spotless, and her hair artfully curled and bouncy, even after a 5-hour flight across the country and a brisk stroll in southern Ontario humidity. Chord both hated and loved her. She was everything he wanted to be, and everything he could never be.
Ever since Chord had discovered his drained account, he pestered his father intermittently for answers, but nothing had ever been produced. No explanation beyond a curt, ‘I’m looking into it’ followed by immediate dismissal. He got the sense that maybe his dad was hiding something. Thousands of dollars pulling a disappearing act should have caused more alarm than a casual dismissal.
As a minor, Chord didn’t have full access to his money, but he had done a little digging. With his girlfriend back home growing increasingly agitated, a penniless Chord had done the only logical thing he could think of; he picked up the phone and called the one person he knew would produce results – his sister.
A recent graduate student of UBC’s business program, Ayla lived with her best friend in the downtown West End of Vancouver. While Chord rarely saw his sister due to her hectic schedule, he adored her. Worshiped the very ground she walked on.
After the death of their mother, Ayla practically raised him. Their father had never had an active role in his life, even before their mother died – that is until Static Shadow had been discovered at a local rock show. Suddenly, he was worth something. He had potential.
His father never had much respect for the arts or his tapette son. But when he saw dollar signs, he steered his Chord into the national spotlight.
Less than twenty-four hours after calling his sister, Chord had been close to shitting himself when his sister rang him back to demand he pick her up at Pearson International. She had caught the next flight out.
“Dépêche-toi,” Ayla said. Chord was several steps behind her, the distance growing the closer they drew to the parked tour bus.
Chord shuffled past her and opened the door, but when she shoved past him, storming up the short set of stairs, he was once again left to scramble after her.
The scene inside the bus was typical. Tan was sprawled on his stomach on the bench seat to the right, leaving no room for anyone else. This left Kian camped out on the floor beside him, nose buried in a history textbook while Tan’s fingers played with the deflated spikes of Kian’s hair. Chord had given him a faux-hawk for their show the previous evening. No easy feat. Chord had nearly resorted to zap-strapping him to the chair.
Seated at the fold-out table, oddly devoid of the usual clutter of Kian’s schoolwork, Chord’s father read the morning paper. He didn’t even look up from the day’s headlines, but managed to drawl an unconcerned “Où étais-tu passé?”
Shouldn’t a father be concerned, or even aware that his son had hopped in a cab three hours prior, and driven across the city to the airport?
Before Chord could reply, Ayla slammed the closed folder down on top of the newspaper. Their father looked up, eyes widening when he saw his daughter glaring down at him rather than his son. Not a completely unreasonable reaction considering she was supposed to be back home in Vancouver preparing to sit the LSATs.
“Hello, daddy dearest,” Ayla said. The level of malice that dripped from her voice sent a shiver down Chord’s spine.
Tan sat up. Moving quicker than Chord had ever seen him, Tan tugged Kian by the arm, and they disappeared into the back of the bus. The door snapped closed behind them leaving the members of the Lefèvre family alone. Chord tried to follow them.
“Assieds-toi!” Ayla jabbed a perfectly manicured finger at the empty seat Tan had vacated seconds ago. And Chord sat.
Tongue flicking at his silver snake bites, Chord twisted the ring on his pointer finger to avoid direct involvement in the ongoing confrontation. When she wanted to be, his sister was more terrifying than facing down Michael and Lucifer in Lawrence with a holy oil Molotov. Even Kian was terrified of her, and he had grown up with his mother.
“Here’s what is going to happen,” Ayla said slowly. She placed one hand on the table and leaned forward. “You’re going to sign guardianship of Chord over to me, and then, you’re going to walk away.”
Their father’s mouth opened, but Ayla cut him off before he could even utter a single syllable.
“Consider the money… a severance package, or a retirement bonus. I don’t care. Just walk away.” Ayla opened the folder and slammed a pen down on top of the legal forms inside. “Sign it.”
Chord had to remind himself that this was what he wanted. He wouldn’t be a legal adult until December. Until then, his father could steal another 1.2 million dollars from him. This had been Chord’s solution. He trusted Ayla. He never would have asked her if he didn’t.
“S’il te plaît, papa,” Chord said. His voice fell. “I won’t press charges if you do this. You can keep the money.”
For several long minutes, the bus was silent. The hushed sound of a guitar could be heard from the back of the bus, muffled by the two closed doors. Chord’s father wasn’t budging. Chord could feel the anger rolling off his father in waves that threatened to knock him over. He picked at his cuticles. If he didn’t stop soon, they’d bleed.
“Chord,” Ayla said. A quick reminder to him on what he had agreed to do earlier.
Nodding, Chord pulled his phone out of his pocket and sent a quick text.
It took a few moments of curt silence before the bus door opened. Two bulky security guards from their team ambled in, and Chord’s father exploded spectacularly in a torrent of slurs and profanity. He shoved the folder of legal documents off the table, and a blizzard of paper obscured their vision.
Security couldn’t react in time. They were too far away, but Chord saw it when his father reared back. Chord threw himself between his father and his sister, and his father’s open palm caught him across the face. He fell. His head cracked against the corner of the table. The blood trickled down his cheek, hot and wet.
Ayla caught Chord the best she could, wobbling a little as she lowered him to the ground as security wrestled Static Shadow’s ex-manager off the tour bus. From somewhere, she produced a kitchen towel and pressed it to what Chord could only assume was a profusely bleeding head wound.
At some point, Kian had joined in the fray. Chord could hear him yelling, and Tan was now crouched at his side talking to him in a soft, even tone. Details were a little fuzzy, but his father’s voice still echoed loudly in his head.
Chord covered his sister’s hand holding the towel to his head with his own hand. “Ce n’est pas fini,” he said, repeating his father’s shouted threats. “C’est un vrai cliché.”
Laughing, Ayla hugged him tight. “T’es un imbécile, petit frère.”
His head ached. his vision blurred, and Tan mumbled something about a possible concussion, but Chord felt lighter as if a weight he had been carrying had lifted. Maybe it was the blood loss.