My step-father was a large man. Big, strong, tall, burly, forceful, not the type of guy you'd look at and think you'd have a chance at winning if you got in a fight with him. He was never abusive, but believe me, if you disobeyed him, he wasn't afraid to smack you across the butt with his huge palm or slap your mouth for talking back to him. He watched my brother and me like a hawk and hung over my sister, his true daughter, like a shield so as never to let her get into anything he deemed wrong.

Isabella, my sister, was a tom-boy. My step-dad always joked around that he and his ex-wife should have known they'd get another son if they named their daughter such a girly name. I guess growing up with Ethan and me, she was forced to be tough. If she was too chicken to climb a tree, we made fun of her until she proved us wrong. She played with worms, made mudpies, went fishing and could pop one hell of a wheelie on her pink bicycle. However, none of that stopped her from being Daddy's little girl.

When she got old enough, around 11 or 12, Dad started teaching her all about cars, just like he had done with us boys. Every Sunday, after church, you could find all four of us out in the garage working on Mom's sedan or restoring Ethan's T-Bird and later, my vintage mustang.

Two years after my brother went off to college, my little sister and I had finally settled into being close. She had always been closer to Ethan than she was to me, but with him out of the house, I was all she had to turn to for brotherly advice. One evening, we were sitting out in the backyard, in our childhood treehouse, talking about school. We trusted each other with most of our secrets and always looked forward to the time that we got to spend together. At the time, I had just turned 18, and she was 15, almost 16.

We were sitting there alone, knowing that our parents couldn't see us. We both lit up a cigarette and looked across the creek at the sun setting against a sky of reds and oranges. She started humming "Summertime," the Janis Joplin version, not the original.

I laughed. "Izzy, for a kid sister, you're pretty cool. Pretty crazy," and in turn, I began to sing "Brown Eyed Girl."

"You know Cole, for a geek brother, you're not so bad yourself."

Many nights, this is what we would do. We would sit out here, watching the sun go down. And Sunday mornings, once we were allowed to stay out on Saturday nights, we would come home to sit in the tree house and watch the sun come up as we sobered up.

We began to talk about how ever since Ethan had left the household to move out on his own and pursue higher education, Isabella had been acting up. I accepted it; my parents on the other hand tried to control it. She told me she was just tired of being the good kid, but I assumed it was because she missed Ethan. Maybe she was thinking if she acted up enough our parents would ask Ethan to come home for a while and help her with her behavior problems. After all, Ethan had always been the only one who could reason with her when she was younger, and still is the only one to this day.

Dad was getting tired of getting calls from the school about Isabella's actions.

"Isabella refused to pay attention or do her homework in class today." "Isabella acted up and continuously disrupted the class today." "Isabella is not obeying us. She is sentenced to dentention and doesn't attend." "We are running out of options for punishment against Isabella. Nothing seems to affect her."

This upset my dad more than probably anything else. Sure, Ethan and I did our fair share of damage to Dad's heart, but Isabella was breaking it. He had just gotten another one of these phone calls when Isabella and I heard him call her name from the back porch.

"Isabella, can you come up here, your mom and I need to talk to you."

"Oh drag, man," She squished her cigarette against the tree, putting it out. "Hold on, I'll be there in a second, Dad," she shouted. "No, come up here now!" "In a minute, give me time." "NOW!" My dad's voice boomed over the neighboorhood. She looked at me, but I wasn't looking back. I was watching my dad stomp towards the tree house. I put out my cancer stick and waited. There was nothing I could do to defend Isabella yet, and nothing that I was getting in trouble for, so I just leaned up against the wall to see what was going to happen.

"What the hell is this about you being caught with a pack of smokes at school?" He looked at my sister, with his eyes staring straight into hers.

"I don't know, Dad. I don't smoke."

"Then why would you have a pack of cigarettes?"

"I didn't. They must have confused me with someone else."

"Who else is there to confuse with you? It's not like every authority figure in that school doesn't know your name, and my name for that matter by heart."

"Well, I don't know Dad. Don't know what to tell you. You're being dumb to believe them, come on, believe me, I'm your daughter. I don't fucking smoke."

My dad lifted his arm and slapped her across the face. It was the lightest he could hit, but it was powerful enough to leave an immeadiate red mark on her cheek. "Don't ever back talk me. And watch your mouth young lady."

"Oh what the fuck was that? I wasn't back talking you."

I watched my dad hit her again, harder. It was still light compared to the force I remember him smacking me with. "I said watch your mouth."

Isabella stumbled backwards from shock and then tripped on a tree root and fell backwards to the ground. Sitting in the dirt, hands planted at her side, knees up, Isabella looked at him in surprise, not expecting to have had that happen.

My dad came over to her to offer her his hand to help her up. Angrily, she pushed him away. Again, he held out his hand and when she refused this time, he grabbed her from the sides of her stomach and pulled up.

"Damnit, get off me daddy, you're crushing my cigarettes. I can get up on my own."

"I thought you said you didn't smoke."

She rolled her eyes back in her head, defeated. She had known that she almost had him on her side, being Daddy's little girl and all, but had then given herself away. She sat there for a moment before standing up, brushing herself off and then climbing back up the treehouse ladder. Our dad was still standing in front of it, looking at the both of us.

She reached the top, then turned around. With a simple, innocent smile, she looked at him and said, "I don't." Then she pulled out her lighter and lit another one. If ever I knew a girl with balls, it is my sister.

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