“What if you’re late?” I asked as I got up and began dressing.
“Then I get sent back to juvie.”
“You’ve been locked up?” He hadn’t told me about being in trouble, only that his mother was in jail.
“A couple of times,” he stated. “Nothing bad, though. I’ve been caught shoplifting a few times.” He thought for a minute. “Oh, yeah. There was that assault on a teacher.”
“You hit a teacher?” My voice kind of shrieked. He leaned down and tied his shoes.
“She called me stupid,” he said angrily. He stood and faced me. “What would you have done?”
“I wouldn’t have hit her.”
“Right,” he replied as he studied my face. “Did you hit the guy who gave you that bruise on the side of your face?” Instinctively, I reached up and rubbed it.
“Well, no,” I said.
“Why not? They must have hit you pretty hard. So, you let them do it without doing anything?” He looked skeptically at me.
I turned and started walking up the side of the embankment. I didn’t feel like discussing what had happened earlier in the day. He ran up and stopped me. “Did your old man do that?”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” I replied as I quickened my pace.
“Hold on.” He grabbed my arm and stopped me. “My mom had a boyfriend who used to knock the shit out of me almost every night. You don’t have to put up with that shit.”
“But you just said he hit you every night.”
“Yeah,” he responded. “He did until he came in drunk one night and started hitting my momma. I hit him over the head with a ball bat.”
My eyes widened. “Did you kill him?”
“Pert near,” he laughed. “Took sixteen stitches to stop the bleeding. He left the next morning and we never saw him again.”
“Well I can’t hit him with a bat,” I insisted.
“Sure you can.” He took the stance of a batter. “Just swing hard and hit the son of a bitch over the head.” I started laughing when he swung and almost fell down.
“You’re an idiot,” I laughed as I threw my arm around his shoulder and started walking away. He wrapped his arm around my waist as we continued to stumble down the sidewalk.
“Seriously, Richie.” He pulled me tighter into his body. “You can’t let him hit you like that.”
“I can deal with it,” I insisted, but he looked over worriedly.
“Whatever you say, Rich,” he said skeptically. A smile appeared on his face and he wrapped his arm around my back. “Come on, I’m going to be late.”
We walked for several blocks without saying much. I was trying to regain some of my senses before I returned home. I could still feel the effects of the weed, and my head was starting to throb from the vodka.
“This is my street,” he announced after we had walked a few more blocks. It was a nice part of town about two blocks from our school. The homes were close together with a driveway separating them. He pointed down the street. “I live in the fourth house on the left, the green house with white shutters.” He looked at me and wiggled his eyebrows. “Want to spend the night? We could get into something again.”
“No,” I laughed. “As much as I’d like to, I’d better get home. I’m sure the police are still looking for me.”
“The offer still stands,” he said. “Not the sex. If you ever need to get away, you’ve got a place to stay. I have a room in the basement, and it has a door to the outside. No one will see you. Just tap on the basement window.”
I nodded and then we stood looking at each other timidly. He approached me and held out his arms. “I had a good time tonight,” he said. “I’m glad we met.”
“Me too,” I said as I hugged him tightly. He leaned back and gave me a quick kiss on the cheek before turning and skipping down the street. I smiled as I watched him hurry away. When he neared his house, he stopped and waved. I waved back and then he disappeared down the driveway.
I turned and headed back to the place I now called Hell.
It was a twenty-minute walk back to my house. I paid attention to the route, just in case I might need to use it again. I had no idea what to expect when I arrived home. Since he had the police at the basketball game looking for me, I was sure he wouldn’t like me coming home sometime after midnight.
No lights were on in the house when I walked up the drive. I crept behind the garage and peered into the window to see if his car was parked inside. It wasn’t. A car I didn’t recognize was there, so I assumed it must be hers.
It angered me that he had already moved her and her sons into my house. When he left, Mom told me that I was now the man of the house. It seemed logical to me that now that she had died, the house should be mine. She wasn’t dead a week, and he was already moving his ‘other’ family in.
I took out my key from my front pocket and went around to the back door. It didn’t work when I turned the key. He had changed the fucking locks! I hurried around to the front door and the same thing occurred. I couldn’t get into my own home.
I considered walking down the block to Gabe’s house, but he was surely asleep. After many sleepovers, I knew he could sleep through a tornado if it picked his house up and carried it a few miles away. He would wake up hours later and wonder what happened.
I walked around to the back of the house and looked up at my room- or what used to be my room. I guess it was now her son’s room. A light was dimly flashing, so I knew he was watching my television. At least I had a password on my computer so he wouldn’t be able to access it. It’s a good thing too, or he would have seen my favorite sites. Some were gay sites that a fifteen-year-old boy shouldn’t have access. However, they had come in handy earlier in the evening when I was with Wade. At least I had some idea what to expect when he pulled down my pants.
I walked over and lay down on one of the chaise lounge chairs on the deck. My body sunk into it, and I realized just how tired I was. My head had cleared some, but my temples still throbbed. When my stomach growled, I became aware for the first time that I was hungry- very hungry. However, I couldn’t get into the kitchen to get anything to eat. The thought of food almost made it worthwhile to get up, walk over to Gabe’s and throw stones at this window. Although a boulder probably wouldn’t have awakened him.
I toed off my shoes and let them fall to the deck floor. I then rolled on my side and fell asleep. I don’t know how long I had been sleeping when I heard a car pull up into the driveway. I crawled out of the chair and crept around to the side of the house to see who it was. It was him. He got out of the car, looked around and then slammed the door shut. I watched as he stomped up the sidewalk and went into the house. A minute later a light came on in my mother’s room.
The son of a bitch was sleeping with his whore in Mom’s room! He had no right to come into our house and defile it. I don’t think I had ever felt as much hatred for anyone as I did at that moment. After several minutes I walked around to the back of the house and collapsed onto the chaise lounge. Within minutes I was asleep.
“What the fuck!”
The chair I was sleeping in was being raised, and I was being dumped into the cold water of the pool. After shaking the water from my face, I looked up, and he was standing staring down at me. He was dressed in his pajamas. I looked over and saw her racing through the kitchen door.
“Where have you been!” he screamed down at me. “I’ve been looking all over this goddamned town for you tonight!”
I shook my head again, trying to wake up. He reached down to grab my collar, but I went under the water and swam to the center of the pool. “I asked you a question!” he hollered. She grabbed his arm and tried to calm him down.
“I don’t have to answer to you!” I shouted back as I treaded around in the water.
“I’m your father, Richard!” he shouted angrily. “Until you are eighteen, you’ll do as I say.”
I knew from his reaction earlier in the evening that he resented me saying it, but I shouted it anyway. “Fuck you!”
His face reddened and he broke from her tight grip. The next thing I saw was a large splash of water and then I was being pulled under. I gasped for air as I kicked my feet violently at him. However, since I was wearing street clothes, it was almost impossible to move in the water. He wrapped his thick arm around my neck and dragged me back to the side of the pool. He grabbed the side and breathed heavily, but he didn’t release his grip.
After a minute he released me and had me stand in the water. He looked angrily down at me. “Why are you acting like this, Richard? I’m here to help you, not fight with you.”
Tears welled up in my eyes as I looked at him. “I don’t need your help!” I screamed. “You weren’t here when we needed you. Why are you here now?”
“Because you’re my children and I love you.”
I started laughing hysterically. “Love us?” I couldn’t stop laughing. “We haven’t seen you in two years. Where were you when Mom was dying? Did you love us then?”
He looked at me sadly and said, “People make mistakes.”
I couldn’t control my anger. “Mistakes? You Fucker! You think you can come back in here and act like nothing happened now that Mom is dead.” My eyes narrowed in anger. “That’s it! You were just waiting for her to die so you could bring your whore and her children here to live.”
He raised his hand to hit me, but she shouted loudly from above us, “Richard! Don’t!”
He turned and put his head in his hands on the side of the pool. “Go to your room, Richard,” he spoke softly. “We’ll deal with this in the morning.”
“I don’t have a room anymore,” I replied angrily as I climbed out of the water. I looked up and saw Freddy watching the spectacle below. “Her son now lives there,” I hissed as I walked past her. I thought about leaving, but it was late, and I was exhausted from swimming around in the water.
I walked through the kitchen. My wet socks were sloshing on the floor. I removed them and then headed down to the family room on the lower level. There was a leather sofa which I decided would become my permanent bed, at least until I could think of some way to leave.
I entered the bathroom and relieved myself. When I was done, I looked over at the walk-in shower. I removed my clothes, turned on the faucet and stood under the warm water.
“I hate him,” I thought as the water cascaded down my body. If I were just a little older I could leave and move in with Aunt Barbara. But for now he had complete control over my life. The only thing I could do was to make his life as miserable as mine was.
When I got out of the shower, there were a pair of pajamas and a stack of clean clothes lying on the sofa. It appeared like enough clothes to last me several days. There were also a two blue blankets and pillow beside them.
I put on my pajamas and then made the sofa into a bed. I looked over at the digital clock on the flat screen television. It was after two in the morning. Exhaustedly, I fell onto the sofa and closed my eyes.
I was almost asleep when my stomach started to growl again; only this time it was much louder. “Shit,” I moaned as I got up and tiptoed up the stairs. A dim light was on in the kitchen. When I entered, Freddy was sitting at the kitchen island eating a bowl of cereal.
“Hey,” he said timidly as I entered. I nodded and walked over to the refrigerator and looked inside.
“There’s some chicken left over from KFC.” He got up and walked over. I stepped aside as he pushed some items around and then pulled out something wrapped in aluminum foil. He opened it up and looked over at me. “It’s a leg and breast,” he announced as he took a plate out of the dishwasher and put them on it. He then walked over, put them inside the microwave and turned it on.
I reached for a glass and returned to the refrigerator and poured myself a glass of milk. The microwave timer rang, and Freddy took the chicken out and placed the plate at the seat beside him. I walked over and sat down. I took a piece of chicken from the plate and hungrily nibbled on it. He sat down but neither of us said anything. I noticed him keep looking at me from out of the corner of his eye.
“Thanks,” I mumbled as I took another bite.
“It’s okay,” he said softly. He turned and faced me. “I hope I brought you down the right clothes.”
“Yeah, thanks a lot,” I replied sarcastically as our eyes met. He was wearing a pair of thin, designer glasses. He took them off and laid them on the counter.
“Look, Richie,” he said as he turned in his seat and faced me. “I’m not the enemy here. I don’t like what’s happening any more than you do.”
“Right,” I replied. I felt bad treating him so rudely because he seemed to be as angry as I was.
“You can have your room back,” he said. “I’ll be happy to sleep in the family room. Mom and I argued for hours when she made me move into your room.” I didn’t say anything as I continued eating.
“She’s not really a bad person.” I looked over and rolled my eyes. “She loves your father a lot.” Again, I rolled my eyes. He sighed deeply. “My life has been hell since they met. This is the third time we’ve had to move.”
I looked at him. There was a sadness in his eyes that I could identify with. He was right. He wasn’t the enemy. However, he was here, and he had moved into my room. I couldn’t pretend like nothing had happened.
“Look,” I said as I pushed myself away from the counter. “I’m really tired. I’m going down and get some sleep.”
“Sure, Rich,” he responded sadly. “Like I said, anytime you want your room back, you can have it. I shouldn’t be there anyway.”
“Right,” I muttered as I got up and headed downstairs.
I was dreaming about Wade when someone sat down on the sofa. I opened my eyes and Andrew was sitting looking down at me. He was sniffling, so I knew he had been crying.
“What’s wrong?” I reached out and pulled him toward me. I opened the blanket and he snuggled in beside me.
“I miss Mommy,” he cried. I put my arm around him and held him tightly. “Why did she have to leave us?”
I kissed the top of his head. “I don’t know.” Tears were starting to fall down my cheek. I fought hard to let him know that I wasn’t crying too. He needed me to be strong.
“I miss her,” he sobbed louder.
I took his hand and held it up. “See this?” He nodded. “That’s Mommy in you.” He stopped sobbing. I reached down and took his foot and held it out from under the blanket. “See this.” He nodded and giggled when I tickled the bottom of his foot. “That’s Mommy in you.”
I rubbed my hand through his head. “What color is your hair?”
“That’s the color of Mommy’s hair,” I said. “That’s Mommy in you.”
I reached around and poked him under his eye. “What’s the color of your eyes?”
He turned around and smiled. “That’s Mommy in me.”
“That’s right.” I gave him a big hug. “So anytime you miss Mommy, you just look in a mirror. Mommy is there.”
He threw his arms around me. “Thanks, Richie. I feel better.”
“Now go back to bed.”
He started to pout. “Can I sleep with you tonight?” He didn’t even wait for an answer. He turned and snuggled against my body. I threw my arm around him and nestled back into the sofa. A few minutes later he started to snore lightly. I ran my hand through his blonde hair.
‘You may look like Mommy when you look in a mirror,’ I thought, ‘but I look like him.’
When I awoke, I was alone in the room. I looked at the clock, it was after eleven. I could hear Andrew and Harley splashing around in the pool outside. I got up and put on a pair of board shorts and a yellow shirt. After slipping on my sandals, I headed upstairs. I was going to get something to eat, but when I peeked into the kitchen she and Freddy were sitting quietly talking. I tried to hear what they were saying, but they were speaking too low for me to hear. I turned to leave, when she called out my name.
“Richard?” I turned and glared at her. Her face softened, “I mean Richie.” She approached me. “Would you like some breakfast?”
“I don’t think so,” I responded angrily. I looked over at Freddy. He had a sad expression on his face.
She reached out and touched my arm, but I quickly pulled away. “I’d really like for you to sit down with us,” she said. “I’d like to get to know you better.”
I stood and stared angrily at her. “Look, Mrs…what’s your name again.”
“Linda,” she replied softly. “You can call me Linda.”
“Yeah, sure,” I replied rudely. “I don’t want you to know me better. Got it? I’m not in the market right now for a new mother.” As I walked away, I looked over at Freddy. He seemed very hurt by way I was speaking to his mother. I turned and glared at her. “I’d really appreciate it if you’d just stay out of my life.”
I turned and stormed out of the kitchen. I hurried out the front door, slamming it loudly as I left. I headed over to Gabe’s house.
He was shooting a basketball in the driveway. He stopped when he saw me approaching. “Where the hell were you last night?” He seemed upset with me. “I looked all over for you after the game. A bunch of us guys went out for pizza and I was hoping you would go.”
I picked up the basketball and shot it. As usual, it missed the rim and hit the back of the garage. “When I got there the cops were looking for me, so I didn’t go in.”
“How do you know they were looking for you?” he asked. “The police always patrol the games.”
“Because his car was parked behind theirs,” I informed Gabe.
“His?” He gave me a puzzled look and then started laughing. “Damn, Richie,” he laughed. “You can’t even say father.” I scowled at him. “Okay then, how about Dad or Old Man?”
“How about sperm donor?” He fell to the ground and laughed. When he saw the upset look on my face he stopped laughing and patted the ground beside him. I sat down and crossed my arms.
“You’ve got to get over this obsession, Richie,” he said worriedly. “You said yesterday he’s not going to let you go live with your aunt, so you might as well start getting along with him.”
I stood up and looked down angrily at Gabe. “Fucker!” I yelled. “Now you’re going to take his side?”
“Naw, Rich.” He stood up and grabbed my arm. “I’m just worried about you, is all. You’re my best bud,” he squeezed my arm tightly. “After the way you left yesterday, I really worried about you. I thought you might...” He looked at me with tears in his eyes.
“Might what?” I asked. “Kill myself?” He nodded and wiped tears from his eyes.
He turned and sat back down on the ground with his back to me. I walked over and sat down beside him. I scooted closer to him until our legs were touching slightly. “I’m all right,” I tried to assure him.
He looked at me sadly. “Maybe you should get some help, Richie,” he suggested. “You’ve been through a lot of shit the past couple of years.”
“I don’t need any help,” I assured him.
“You lost your mom, Richie,” he said sadly. “Now your dad comes back and fucks your life up even more.” Tears again welled up in his eyes. “You’ve changed, Rich. You’re not the same guy I used to know.”
“What do you mean?” I asked defensively.
“I can’t explain it,” he said. “You’re just not the same Richie anymore.”
I reached out and touched his arm. “I’ll be okay, Gabe, I promise.” He looked at me and nodded.
We sat silently for a few minutes. He grabbed the basketball and then scooted a few feet away from me and passed me the ball. We did this for several minutes. Things were beginning to feel like old times again.
“You never did tell me where you went last night,” he said as he dribbled the ball between his legs before tossing it to me.
I shrugged my shoulders. “I just walked around for a while and then met this guy and we hung out.”
I was entering dangerous territory. I knew I had to be careful what I said. I didn’t want Gabe knowing what I had done. Being an athlete, he was very opposed to teenagers drinking and taking drugs. I could only imagine what he would say if he knew I had sex for the first time.
“What guy?” he asked again when I didn’t answer.
“Said his name was Wade,” I replied.
“Wade?” A puzzled look appeared on his face. “Wade Chenoweth?”
I shrugged my shoulders. I couldn’t remember if he’d told me his last name. “Why?”
“Is he a freshman with long blonde hair?” I nodded. “Why you hanging with him for?” He glared at me angrily.
“I just met him last night,” I said defensively. “Why are you getting so upset?”
“He’s a loser, Richie.” He looked at me and shook his head. “If it’s the guy I’m thinking of, he’s always high and hardly ever comes to school. I also heard that he’s…”
I cut him off because I knew where he was heading. “He seemed like a nice guy to me,” I said quickly. “Besides, I only talked to him for a while.”
Gabe looked over and frowned. “I just don’t think you should see him again.”
“What?” I jumped up. “What are you now, my fucking father?” He stood and reached out to touch me, but I stepped away.
“I’m just trying to protect you, Richie.”
“I don’t need your protection!” I shouted as I began to walk away. I turned and faced him. “Fuck you, Gabe! I don’t need you to tell me who I can and can’t see.”
“I didn’t mean it like that.”
I started walking angrily down the driveway. “Go to Hell!” I mumbled loud enough for him to hear. He shouted out my name, but I continued walking away from him.
‘Who needs friends?’ I thought to myself as I stormed off.