Ian made a barely audible groan, and Rowan’s eyebrows knit in confusion. “I’m sorry, but I was under the impression that you two had met? Addie, meet Ian Bennett, esteemed teen music journalist. Ian, meet Addie, parking lot tackler extraordinaire.”
Music journalist? I jammed my knees into the back of Ian’s seat. “This is a joke, right?”
Rowan cleared his throat. “Um, sorry, but is this a joke?”
“Addie, I write articles, okay?” Ian propped his feet up on the dashboard and yanked irritably at his shoelaces. “I used to have a blog, but now I get paid to write articles for online publications.”
“Ha ha,” I said. “And you also love My Little Pony, right?”
“What are those guys called?” Rowan asked. “Bronies?”
Ian shot me a dirty-as-mud look, and I flinched. He was serious—and hurt. I could see it in the way he jutted his chin out. “Wait. You really do have a blog? Like online?”
“Yes, it’s online. Where else would it be?” He scowled.
“But . . .” I hesitated, waiting for the pieces to fall into place, like they usually did. They didn’t. “You have a blog blog? Like the kind you add entries to?”
“Yeah . . . like a website run by an individual? They’re usually pretty informal,” Rowan said helpfully, his voice kind. “It’s pretty easy to sign up for one.”
I blinked a couple of times. Anyone else would have made fun of me. He was too nice for his own good. “Thanks, Rowan, but it’s not the idea of a blog that’s tripping me up. I’m just having a hard time believing that Ian has one.” The thought of Ian coming home from practice to pour his feelings out in an online diary was so far in the realm of not possible that it technically didn’t exist.
“Why can’t you believe it?” Ian demanded, his mouth pressed into a tight line. He sounded exactly the way I had when talking to Archie last night. Why, you think it’s impossible that a popular football player would like someone like me? “Because jocks aren’t allowed to do anything but play sports? Thanks for stereotyping me.”
“Ugh. Ian, no one’s stereotyping you.” Lately, Ian had had a huge chip on his shoulder about being seen as The Jock—impossible when he worked so hard to look alternative. And why did he mind the role anyway? It raised him to the level of high school god. “I just don’t get how you’d even have time to write. During the school year you’re either doing homework or playing sports.”
“I make time,” Ian said. “And what do you think I’ve been doing all summer?”
Finally, something clicked into place. Except for when he was at practice, Ian had spent most of the summer stationed at his computer. “Mom said you were working on college admissions essays.”
He let out one of those harsh noises that sometimes passes as a laugh. “I have definitely not been working on college admissions essays. Unless you count creating a portfolio for journalism schools as a college application. If so, then yes.”
“Journalism school? Does Washington State even have a journalism program?”
Ian slammed his hands on the dashboard, making Rowan and me jump. “I’m not going to Washington State.”
“Whoa. Ian, you okay there?” Rowan asked. Ian lifted his chin slightly, as if he was rearing for a fight.
“What do you mean you’re not going to Washington State? They scouted you earlier this summer. They’re going to offer you a full-ride scholarship,” I reminded him. And if this scholarship didn’t work out, then another one would. Great grades plus incredible player equals money.
“I don’t care about the football scholarship,” Ian said, lowering his voice to a simmer.
“Why, because you won the lottery?”
“So fill me in here,” Rowan broke in, his voice confused. “You two are obviously brother and sister, but were you separated at birth? Mom took one, Dad took the other? Or did one of you only recently learn English so that’s why you’ve never communicated before?”
The tips of Ian’s ears suddenly turned red. “It’s pretty hard to communicate with someone who spent their whole summer lying to you.”
I grabbed the back of his seat, my ears as red as his. They were our ultimate anger indicators. “Don’t try to make this about Cubby. And besides, you’re one to talk. You apparently have a whole secret life.”
“It’s not a ‘whole secret life,’” he snapped, imitating my tone. “It was just this summer. And I would have told you if you weren’t so busy sneaking around with Cubby.”
“You have to stop bringing him up,” I yelled.
Rowan tapped Clover’s brakes firmly, lurching both of us forward. If we hadn’t been the only ones on the road, we would have been rear-ended for sure. “Look, guys,” Rowan began, “I get that you’re dealing with some issues here, but I’ve been around enough arguing to last a lifetime. So, Ian, how about you bring Addie up to speed on what is apparently your dual life? I’m pretty curious myself how you’ve managed to keep this a secret from your family.”
“It isn’t that hard to keep it a secret. Unless it’s about football, no one cares what I do.” Ian dropped his shoulders, tension framing his eyes. “Fine. Addie, what do you want to know?”
Where to begin? “What’s your blog’s name?”
“My Lexicon,” Ian said.
“How do you spell that?” I pulled out my phone and typed it in as Rowan spelled. Not only did the blog exist, but it looked way more professional than a seventeen-year-old’s blog should, with a sleek monochromatic theme and MY LEXICON spelled out in all caps across the top.
“It’s a reference to a Bob Dylan quote,” Rowan explained before I could ask. “‘The songs are my lexicon. I believe the songs.’”
Ian crossed his arms angrily. “My blog is how I got my gig with IndieBlurb. I do a weekly column with them.”
“It’s called Indie Ian’s Week in Five,” Rowan said.
“Indie Ian? That’s, like, your handle?” I kept waiting for one of them to crack a smile, but neither of them did. “Fine. What are the five?”
“They’re music categories.” Ian listed them off on his fingers. “Worth the hype, overhyped, covered, classic, and obscure. Every week I choose a song to fit into each.” He exhaled loudly. “Why are you having such a hard time believing this? I’ve always liked writing. And music. I tried to be on the school newspaper last year, but Coach wouldn’t let me do it. He said he didn’t want me to lose my focus.”
Coach had said that? A flurry of sibling protectiveness roared in my head.
Rowan jumped in. “Ian has a huge following on Twitter. Every time he publishes something, a hashtag goes around—#IndieIanSpeaks. That’s how I found him.”
“It isn’t a huge following,” Ian said modestly, but pride ringed the edges of his voice.
“You have ten thousand followers; how is that not huge?” Rowan said.
Ten thousand? Not bad.
Ian shook his hair into his eyes. “No, it’s never been ten thousand. Every time I get close, I post something in the ‘overhyped’ category that offends people, and there’s a mass exodus. My tombstone’s going to say, ‘Always fifty followers short of ten thousand.’” Rowan snorted.