Avery and his little sister don’t get along in Instalove. This might be part of a normal sibling dynamic, though love spells and the hellhound she gave him as a gift are less normal.
During breakfast, the family discuss the rules for Stella’s birthday dinner. This is a different version of this scene than the one in the novel.
“It’s a good time to go over the rules for dinner tonight,” Dad interjected. Ah, how to behave in front of polite company. It used to be a long series of items, written on parchment paper and permanently affixed to the fridge. That didn’t quite yield results though, so now there were two easily digestible points.
“Don’t be nightmare children unless our cousins are doing it first,” Stella said. Those were their words, ‘nightmare children.’ And they called us dramatic when we got going. So unfair. To me at least. Stella was definitely the nightmare.
My family all looked to me.
“It’s Stella’s birthday,” I said the next rule. They kept looking at me. “Don’t be awful to Stella,” I finished reluctantly.
“Don’t be awful to Stella,” Dad repeated.
“I said that.” Why even have me say it if he was going to say the same thing?
“It bears repeating,” he said firmly.
Why did it even matter what I did? The remaining pastries we hadn’t eaten had abandoned their spot on the obnoxious floating platter and were doing a little dance for my sister’s amusement. Everything literally catered to her; I didn’t have to do the same. Our cutlery didn’t normally levitate, but Stella liked these little extra touches on her special day.
‘Extra touches’ were how my parents referred to them. I called them pointless and unnecessary. We get it, Stella had magic. Stella liked magic. There was nothing wrong with magic, but there was a whole world out there and magic was just a small part of it. Magic wasn’t everything.
That was a lesson I’d learned firsthand.
Anyway, these rules were useless. “Stella didn’t abide by the rules on my birthday,” I muttered. My parents exchanged ‘here we go’ looks.
“It was a gift!” Stella hollered.
“That tried to eat me,” I pointed out.
Stella rolled her eyes, like she was annoyed I brought that up again, but a birthday present from her had tried to devour me. I had the right to bring that up for, like, the rest of time. “How was I supposed to know it would be so mean?” she asked rhetorically.
I answered anyway. “It was called a hellhound.” She was the supposed magical savant; she should have known. The kid had no common sense.
She rolled her eyes. “I just thought it would be red.” Also, she often put too much stock in her abilities. Sometimes she didn’t read the instructions fully; she thought she was a little magic expert that knew everything. It would be hilarious when things went wrong if I wasn’t usually dragged into the side effects with her.
And my Dad found Stella’s magical appetite so charming. He encouraged her to explore the magical world. Yet he wouldn’t buy me alcohol when I wanted to explore the regular world… Okay, I didn’t fault him for that one, but I had to try.
Stella and Mom left for school while Dad floated the serving tray down to the table. He grabbed my attention before I could make my escape to school. “Hey, really, go easy on Stella tonight.” He put a hand on my shoulder as he sat down in the chair next to me and looked me in the eye, his I mean it look.
“We already went through thy hallowed, revered rules,” I told him with only a little sarcasm. It was too early for more.
His sass game was strong, undeterred by the early hour. “If they’re so hallowed and revered, how come they never get followed?”
“Maybe tonight will be the first time?” I offered. Magic existed, so miracles could happen too.
“You’re the older brother,” Dad reminded me, turning serious again. Like I didn’t know that. Though maybe sticking my tongue out at her wasn’t the height of maturity. “Treat her with respect and she’ll do the same to you.”
“You have no proof of that.”
“I’m an eternal optimist,” he quipped.
–the book is available here.