Chapter 29: Second Chance
The next few days I tried my hardest to hold onto that feeling from Monday night. Those quiet nights in with Dizzy, Adam and now Mason, those are what I look forward to most when Adam wins custody. There’s just something special about them, something that makes us feel like a family.
Sadie tried her best to calm me down too, but at the end of the day I’m not sure if it made me feel better, or gave me something new to worry about!
“Hey Artie,” I heard her cheerful voice sound through the phone. “how are you doing?”
“I’m alright,” I began in a nervous voice. “I-I’m actually flying out to Texas in a few days.”
“Oh, are you now?” She asked in a playful voice, figuring I was just joking around.
“Yeah.” I replied as the nerves stayed in my voice. “You were right, my grandparents filed for custody.”
“Oh.” She exhaled before growing quiet for a few moments. “How are you handling that?”
“I don’t know, I, I really don’t want to leave California.” I stuttered, scared of how she would take my answer.
“You’re happy there?” She asked, but I could tell she already knew the answer.
“Yeah,” I quickly replied. “it’s so amazing here, I can’t go back to Texas. I can’t go back to living like that.” I let out before catching myself. “Sorry.”
“It’s alright,” She supported. “I don’t know what’s happened to you, but before you moved you never wanted to leave Texas. Now, now you’re scared to even come back.” She complained in a sigh. “But you sound happy there, like really happy and that, it’s what Sarah wanted.”
“So you’re not mad?” I couldn’t help but ask.
“Mad?” She repeated in a light voice. “How could I be mad that you’re happy Arthur? That’s what I’ve been praying for every night.”
“Thank you.” I said as I felt a sigh of relief escape my lips.
“Now where are you staying when you fly in?” Sadie asked, beginning to shift topics. “I can’t have you staying in some run-down hotel!”
“I don’t know, Adam’s not telling me much. He thinks I’ll worry less if he keeps it to himself.” I answered, trying to recall anything he had let slip. “But I’m pretty sure he said the case is in some Dallas County Family Court.”
“Well Dallas is only like an hour away.” She began to argue. “You get Adam in here, I want to speak to him.”
“Are you sure about that?” I asked, surprised by her sudden enthusiasm.
“Absolutely positive.” She replied as her mind began to race.
I placed the phone on speaker and dropped it on my bed before walking towards my bedroom door. “Adam!” I shouted as I pulled the door open. “Adam!”
“What?” He shouted back, but before I knew it, I heard him rushing up the stairs. “You okay?” He asked, concern covering his face as he made it to the hallway.
“I’m fine.” I answered, having to hold back some laughter. “Sadie just wants to talk to you.”
“Don’t scare me like that.” Adam warned as he followed me into my room. “You’re gonna give me a heart attack.”
“Running up the stairs while you’re out of shape is going to give you a heart attack.” I corrected as he shot me a serious look.
“Alright, we’re back.” I announced to the phone on my bed.
“Adam,” Sadie instantly began. “where in Texas are you planning on staying?”
“I don’t know,” He answered with a shrug. “probably some place in Dallas close to the court house.”
“Don’t be stupid.” She warned, immediately shooting down the idea. “You’re going to stay at my house. Dallas is an hour drive, but it’ll be free and you’ll get some good home cooked food.”
“That’s very nice of you Sadie,” Adam began, trying to figure out a polite way to say no.
“You’re not weaseling your way out of this Adam.” Sadie interrupted in a strong voice. “Save your money and stay with me.”
“Money’s not really all that tight,” Adam began to tease, taking the opportunity to push Sadie’s buttons.
“Well good for you.” She sarcastically cheered. “Save it for Artie’s college. I’ll get the spare room and couch ready.”
“I know it’s far,” I began looking over to Adam. “but it’d be nice staying somewhere I know.”
Adam nodded but quickly muted our end of the line. “But what about Dizzy?” He asked as my face began to blush. “You’re going to take him to Sadie Barnes’ house?”
“Crap.” I groaned as he unmute the phone.
“I’m sorry Sadie,” Adam exhaled as he looked from me to the phone. “we really can’t.”
“I’ll drive you if you need it.” She offered, trying to come up with any way she could to make Adam feel okay with it. “Please Adam I,” She hesitated as she thought over her next few words. “It’s been months since I’ve seen Artie, and I don’t know when I’ll get to see him again.”
This time it was my turn to let out a sigh as I heard her words. “I’m bringing a friend though, we just don’t know if you have space for him too.” I announced as Adam shook his head.
“I have space.” Sadie quickly let out. “We can totally squeeze in here. It’ll be nice and cozy.”
“Alright,” Adam finally caved, not having the heart to tell her no. “we’ll stay at your place.”
“Thank you, Adam.” I let out with a smile.
“You won’t regret it.” Sadie chimed in. “I’ll make sure it feels like home!”
“Lovely.” Adam groaned as he made a sour face.
“I’ll let you two go and start getting ready, when do you fly in?” Sadie excitedly asked.
“Friday morning, then we fly out Sunday morning.” Adam answered in a confident voice. “All three of us.”
“Well good.” She cheered as the excitement peaked in her voice. “I’ll take Friday off and see you then!”
“See you then!” I repeated as she ended the call.
“That’s a bit of a hole you’ve dug yourself.” Adam observed as our eyes connected.
“You don’t give Dizzy enough credit. “ I shrugged with a forced smile. “He’ll behave himself.”
“You better hope so.” Adam shook his head. “My plan was to keep us in Dallas, not where we grew up.”
“It’ll be a nice trip down memory lane.” I encouraged as I forced my smile wider.
“I’ll try and remember that.” He rolled his eyes.
When I broke the news to Dizzy, I could tell he understood but for some reason, that didn’t make me feel any better. I can’t afford for him to slip up, I can’t afford to slip up! Sadie can’t know we’re dating, I, I don’t know if I can handle that right now! We just have to take things one step at a time. Worst case, I’ll just try and keep Dizzy quiet the whole time. That won’t be too hard, right?
These anxious thoughts seemed to follow me into the next few days, until finally I found myself on the flight to Texas. As I looked back at the San Francisco airport, I couldn’t help but think back to my first time there. How the crowd scared me so much, I couldn’t even move! I’ve changed so much since then, I’ve grown so much. I won’t let myself fall back into the person I was in Texas. I won’t forget everything I’ve learned here.
Every now and again Dizzy would grip my hand, but I could tell his focus was more on the music in his ears than anything else. As for Adam, well he was fast asleep! I guess this week has hit him as hard as me.
When we finally touched down, found our luggage and got into the rental car I couldn’t help but feel a noticeable tension in the air.
“Alright,” Adam began as we began to drive into suburban Texas, leaving the city of Dallas in our rearview mirror. “this weekends going to be a little rough, but we have to band together here. Everything will be perfectly fine if we cover each other’s backs.”
“So no flirting with or kissing Artie.” Dizzy nodded his head. “Not even if he’s being cute.” He announced as Adam let out a sigh.
“You sure you made the right call?” Adam asked as I turned to Dizzy and noticed him begin to play around with his phone.
“I don’t know.” I teased, knowing what was about to come next. I watched patiently as Dizzy messed around with his phone for a few more minutes before looking up and watching the suburban neighborhoods turn into quiet plains.
“Woh, woh,” Dizzy let out in a gasp. “where did all the people go?”
“Welcome to Texas.” I announced with a proud smile
“What do you mean welcome to Texas?” Dizzy repeated as he turned back to me. “There’s nothing here!” “Beautiful, ain’t it?” I teased as it all began to connect in his brain.
“So my phones not breaking?” He asked, finally putting it down. “There’s just barely any service?”
I couldn’t help but laugh as I saw panic starting to rise in his eyes. “You get service, it just depends where you are.” I swayed my head. “But where we’re going, you’re not gonna get service.”
Dizzy let out a long groan as he threw his head back and stared at the roof of the car. “All that screen time isn’t good for you anyway.” Adam began to lecture. “I may not love all of Texas, but man, there’s just something about this state that gets me sometimes.”
“How could you not?” I asked, looking out the window. “Look at that! Just miles and miles of nothing but God’s creation.”
“Here we go.” Dizzy rolled his eyes. “You know, we have miles and miles of nothing in California too?”
“Well it’s not as special as this.” I smiled, refusing to look anywhere else.
“Can you at least put on the radio?” Dizzy complained in another groan. “None of my music is playing.”
“Didn’t I tell you to download it?” Adam began to lecture once more.
“I was going to, but then the plane had free Wi-Fi, and I didn’t want to waste any space.” Dizzy explained, reaching forward to hit the radio himself.
“I’ll do it,” Adam insisted, swatting his hand away. “and this should teach you to listen to me more.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Dizzy groaned as Adam finally clicked on a station and country music began to blast through the speakers. “Please no.” Dizzy shook his head as he slouched down in his seat. “Can’t you connect your phone?”
“I’ve gotta save battery.” Adam rejected as Dizzy looked at me.
“I don’t have music on mine.” I shook my head. “Just enjoy Texas.”
“This is how Artie felt when he moved from Texas to California.” Adam observed as he used the mirror to lock eyes with Dizzy. “Maybe this will help you understand him better.”
“If I don’t die from boredom first!” Dizzy complained in a loud voice before finally falling quiet again.
From there it didn’t take long to get to my hometown, but I could tell the quiet rural town only put Dizzy into a deeper state of shock.
“This is where you grew up?” Dizzy asked in a quiet voice.
“Yup.” I proudly replied as my eye quickly darted all over the small town. It’s as though time stands still here, as though nothing has changed. Then again, I hadn’t expected it to. I looked to Adam and noticed him shaking off a similar expression as we slowly drove through the center of town.
“What do you think?” I couldn’t help but ask Dizzy.
“There’s just, nothing” He remarked as the culture shock only hit harder.
“Mhm.” I agreed but stayed quiet, allowing Dizzy to take it all in.
“How many people live here?” He finally forced out as Adam turned down a side street.
“Maybe like, five thousand people.” I shrugged my shoulders. “If that.”
“Holy crap.” Dizzy exhaled as Adam finally found Sadie’s driveway.
“Welcome to Texas.” Adam smirked, enjoying the quiet shock Dizzy was in.
I noticed the front door to her small house swing open the second Adam opened his car door. “Arthur Price.” She called out as she saw me take a step out of the car. “It’s been a while.” She remarked with a wide smile on her face.
The second both my feet hit the ground I rushed over and wrapped my arms around her. “I’ve missed you like you were my own.” She exhaled as she held me tight.
“I’ve missed you too.” I forced out, holding on for a few more moments before finally letting go.
“Adam.” Sadie greeted as she looked over at him.
“Sadie.” Adam replied as she reached out a hand and he shook it.
“This is my friend Dizzy.” I announced, trying to squash any awkward tension before it could grow.
“Dizzy?” Sadie repeated as she looked over at him. I could tell she nearly jumped back as she got her first good look at him. From the way he dressed, to his intricate haircut, I know she’s never seen anyone like him around this town. “You’re certainly a city child, aren’t you?”
“Yup,” Dizzy answered, managing some pride of his own. “and so far Texas is terrifying.”
“You get used to it.” She swayed her head. “Now come on, lunch is ready.”
“Lunch? I already like you.” Dizzy teased as the shock seemingly began to wear off.
“Here we go.” Adam sighed to himself as we all grabbed onto our luggage and made our way inside.
“Arthur and Dizzy, you’ll be sharing the spare room if that’s alright.” Sadie announced as she led us into the hallway. “Adam you’ve got the couch”
Dizzy flashed me a quick smirk before trying his best to hide it. “Sadie,” Adam quickly began. “I don’t know,”
“Oh please.” She interrupted with a roll of her eyes “The couch is comfortable so I don’t even want to hear your whining.”
“Yeah Adam,” I said, trying to hold back laughter of my own. “no whining.”
Adam shot me and Dizzy a stern look, seemingly getting his message across with no words needed. “You gotta watch those two though.” Adam finally spoke. “They’re trouble makers.”
“Not my Arthur.” Sadie rejected as she threw her arm around me. “Now come on, let’s go eat.” She encouraged, leading us back towards the kitchen. “Your getting taller already?” She teased as we reached the table. “You’re already bigger than me!”
“Don’t worry, it’ll end soon.” I smiled, looking over at Dizzy to make sure he was adjusting all right. Yet I couldn’t help but notice him distracted by a picture on the wall.
“You like that one?” Sadie asked, noticing the same thing as me. “That’s me, Artie and his Mom when he was little.”
Dizzy nodded but I noticed a question forming in his eyes. “Was he always so, mature?” He asked, looking over to Sadie.
She let out a small laugh and nodded her head. “We always had to remind him to be a kid growing up.” I noticed her smile fade as she thought something over. “You making sure to do that?” She asked, glancing over to Adam.
“Yeah.” Adam replied but looked over at Dizzy. “Besides, I think this ones taught him well enough.”
“You really a trouble maker?” Sadie asked, as we all looked at Dizzy.
“Artie prefers to call me adventurous.” Dizzy answered with a grin.
“I said that once,” I defended in a laugh. “and it immediately went to your head!”
“Still said it.” Dizzy shrugged, keeping the grin on his face.
“So he’s like you then?” Sadie asked as she glanced to Adam.
“Me?” Adam repeated as he began to blush “Oh I, I don’t know about that.”
“He is.” I confirmed. I may not have known Adam when he was young, but from all the stories I’ve pieced together, well him and Dizzy would’ve been best friends growing up!
“What was Adam like as a kid?” Dizzy couldn’t help but ask.
“Trouble.” Sadie quickly answered. “Every single time we hung out, it ended in trouble.”
“I still think you needed the push.” Adam shrugged his shoulders. “Remember the cornfield maze?”
“How could I forget?” Sadie sighed. “Adam blind folded me and Sarah, and forced us in the middle of a cornfield to find our way out.”
“Oh please,” Adam began to dismiss. “I was in there too.”
“To scare us!” Sadie exclaimed in a laugh.
“Yeah.” He swayed his head. “Mr. Milton was so angry with us, made me work on his fields the whole next summer.”
“Your prank destroyed some of his crops!” Sadie exclaimed with a shake of her head.
“It was worth it.” Adam shrugged his shoulders.
“What else did Adam do?” I couldn’t help but ask.
“One story was enough.” Adam forced out, but I could tell Sadie had other plans.
The rest of lunch was filled with Sadie telling us stories about Adam growing up. From more pranks on her and his sister, to him having some blowout fight with the local priest about whether God could’ve been a woman or not! Adam might have been kicked out for being gay, but along with vandalizing the church, I think there were many other reasons everyone here hated him!
“Alright,” Dizzy started as the last of the stories ended. “I might get in trouble, but I don’t get in that much trouble!”
“That’s because you live in a city.” Adam shrugged his shoulders. “It’s a small town, it was my job to entertain everyone.”
“I don’t know, we may live in a city but Dizzy still tries to be the entertainment.” I teased looking over at him.
“Only because you like it so much.” Dizzy shrugged, and went to say something else but quickly caught himself.
“My first day of school he crawled through the classroom window.” I explained, looking over at Sadie.
“He did what?!” Adam exclaimed, focusing in on Dizzy.
“I was late to school and the doors were locked.” Dizzy rationalized. “It was either get a detention at the front office or take my chances with the window.”
“And how’d that end for you?” I giggled as our eyes connected.
“I got detention,” Dizzy sighed. “but at least I got this great story out of it.”
“And I got some introduction to you.” I shook my head. “You know, Principal Wright told Ky to keep me away from you.”
“I bet Ky wished he had listened to that.” Dizzy teased drawing a loud laugh from me.
“That’s a low blow.” I shook my head as we both began to get lost in the moment. “Maybe I wish I listened.” I let out, before having to quickly catch myself like Dizzy had. Sadie looked to Dizzy then me as she began to work something over in her mind.
“You think city life has changed him?” Adam spoke up, trying to stop Sadie from reading too much into our exchange.
“We used to have to load Artie up on sugar to get him this loud.” Sadie shook her head. “He’s really come out of his shell, hasn’t he?”
“Oh yeah.” Adam laughed as he took another look at me. “Who would’ve guessed?”
Dizzy went to say something, but bit his tongue worried about what would come out. I noticed Sadie watch me closely before glancing over to Dizzy then back to Adam. “If you want, I can testify for you in court.” She suddenly suggested. “You know, if you need the support.”
“Really?” Adam asked as a wide smile began on his face.
“You and that smug grin” She complained in a sigh. “But I’m doing it for him. He just, he seems really happy with you.”
“I was happy here with you and my Mom.” I spoke up, not wanting her to get the wrong idea.
“I know,” She nodded her head. “but when everything happened, well that’s a big blow to take.” She shook her head. “And somehow, somehow you’ve come out of it better than before.”
“These two were pretty good at putting the pieces back together.” I shrugged my shoulders.
“They better continue to be.” She warned as she looked back to Adam. “I know your address, and I won’t hesitate to fly to California just to kick your butt.” She quickly turned towards Dizzy and forced eye contact with him. “That goes for you too.”
“Message received.” Dizzy played along, pretending to be intimidated.
“So then,” Adam began in a nervous voice. “would you mind repeating that to a judge tomorrow?” I watched as he nervously began to tap his fingers against the table, trying his hardest to stay on top of all the doubts within his head.
“You think that’ll help?” She asked as Adam quickly nodded. “Then I’ll do it.” She said as a weight fell off of Adam’s shoulders. “But for the record, I’m still not your biggest fan. I just want what’s best for Artie.”
“You love me.” Adam began to press her buttons. “You know you do.”
“I’d love you a lot more if you ran to the store and picked me up some more eggs for tonight.” Sadie dismissed in a partially joking tone.
“I can go do that.” Adam nodded his head.
“Seriously?” Sadie asked, taken back by how quickly he had agreed to help.
“Sure.” Adam shrugged his shoulders and stood up.
“Can I come?” Dizzy excitedly asked.
“I guess.” Adam groaned, now more hesitant about the trip than before.
“I’m gonna stay here and help clean up.” I said as they both looked at me.
“Your loss.” Dizzy teased. “I heard town is where all the action is.”
“Oh yeah,” I nodded my head. “So much action.”
Sadie watched as they both slipped their shoes on and disappeared out of the door. “I guess you’re not the only one who’s grown up.”
“You don’t give Adam enough credit.” I defended as I helped her clear the table. “He’s a lot more responsible than a lot of the men I’ve met around here.”
“I hope so.” She encouraged as she took a seat at the table.
“You don’t want to start the dishes?” I asked in a cautious voice.
“I want to talk to you for a few minutes.” She shrugged her shoulders. “I meant it when I said you seem really happy with him.”
“I am.” I confirmed as I took a seat across from her. Yet, as I sat down I noticed there was something she had in mind. Something that had begun to eat away at her.
“You seem like you’ve got a really good friend there too.” She encouraged, seeing what I’d say.
“I do.” I let out as my heart began to beat a little faster. “He and his other friends really welcomed me in to California. It’s like we all got really close right away.”
“That’s good.” She forced a smile on her face. “But you and Dizzy, you’re especially close, aren’t you?”
“I don’t know.” I gulped as my heart began to race.
She hesitated for a few moments as she thought it all over. “Do you like him?” She finally asked.
“Sure, he’s my friend.” I tried to side step the question.
“Arthur, you know what I meant.” She pressured, causing me to immediately look down at the table in front of me.
“I want Adam.” I suddenly forced out, refusing to look up.
“What?” She asked, caught off-guard by my words.
“I want Adam.” I repeated, as my heart beat so fast it felt like it was going to explode.
“Why?” She asked, but I stayed quiet. “It’s alright Arthur.” She tried to comfort but my eyes stayed on the table. “Do you think I’m going to be upset?” She asked but got nothing back.
“Look,” She exhaled, trying her hardest to get eye contact. “I know, I know what happened with Adam, and I’m sure that scares you, but I, you think I wasn’t going to notice the chemistry between you two boys?” She asked. “You think I wasn’t going to notice the way you look at one another?”
I shook my head but didn’t say anything. “I, I don’t know if that’s right or wrong,” She finally spoke again. “and thank God that’s not up to me. But I saw where rejection got Adam, and I saw what that did to Sarah.” Her voice began to shake as her emotions peaked. “And damn it Arthur, I don’t want to lose you!” She shouted as the first few tears fell from her eyes.
“If you’re gay, you’re gay.” She shook her head. “That might be something I have to work to accept, but I love you and I’m not letting anything get in the way of that.”
“But you, but you hated Adam.” I let out, finally looking up at her as water pooled in my own eyes.
“People grow Arthur.” She managed out as I finally looked into her eyes. “Maybe I was wrong for that, maybe, maybe I was right, but I’ve seen what hate does to families and I won’t let that happen again. Not to mine.”
She pulled me in for a hug as she held me for a few moments as our emotions began to settle. “Would my Mom have felt the same?” I let out through sniffles.
“I can’t speak for her, but I know she would’ve never stopped loving you.” Sadie shook her head. “Besides, she left you with Adam because she knew he could give you something she never could.” She forced another smile on her face as she saw confusion in my eyes. “Freedom Arthur.” She answered. “You’re free from this way of life. From all the weight this small town puts on people. She wanted that for you, even if she was too scared to get it for herself.”
“You think so?” I couldn’t help but ask.
“I know it.” She confirmed in a confident voice. “Maybe it would take time to accept, but she would be proud of you Arthur. I promise you that.”
“I love you Sadie.” I let out as I pulled her in for another hug.
“I love you too.” She replied, holding me close.
When Sadie finally let me go, and we started actually cleaning up from lunch I could feel a change in how she was looking at me. Not in a bad way or anything, it just felt like she was a lot more reflective than before. As for me, it felt like another weight was removed from my shoulders. I mean, we should’ve known she would figure it out! Sadie’s practically a second mother to me! But still, her acceptance, her love, it means the world to me.
We tried our hardest to enjoy some of the only alone time we would get, but before we knew it Adam and Dizzy were pounding on the front door.
“How’d you like town?” Sadie asked Dizzy as she pulled the door open.
“Please don’t get him started.” Adam groaned as he handed Sadie a small bag of groceries.
“You guys didn’t tell me everyone in there would have a gun!” Dizzy exclaimed, concern still covering his face. “How do you leave that out?”
“Not everyone had a gun.” Adam rolled his eyes.
“I saw at least eight people with a gun on their belt!” Dizzy continued to shout. “You know how many people in San Francisco I see grocery shopping with guns? None!”
“That’s just the way of life around here.” I shrugged as Dizzy began to stare me down.
“Are you all insane?” He asked, falling into one of the seats at the table. “Do you guys have duels in the streets too?”
“You’re in a farming town.” Sadie tried to explain. “Some people here live on the outskirts of town where it would take the police a while to reach them, or they’re worried about predators attacking their livestock.”
“Yeah, but he’s got a point.” Adam finally spoke up. “You need them at home or on your farm, fine, but at the grocery store?”
“They probably forgot they’re even carrying.” I argued, looking back at the both of them.
“That makes me feel better.” Dizzy sarcastically replied.
“Adam, you lived here how long?” Sadie asked as their eyes connected. “How many times did you hear that a stranger shot another stranger over nothing?”
“All it takes is one incident.” Adam answered without hesitation. “I just get where Dizzy’s coming from.”
“I get it too,” Sadie supported. “but you could at least let him know town is safe.”
“If it helps at all, the only times I’ve heard a gun fire is when someone is hunting or doing target practice.” I explained, but I could tell Dizzy was still on edge.
“Texas is so much different than California.” Dizzy shook his head, ready to move on with the conversation. “How’d you even adjust so quickly?”
“I think you forget his first couple of weeks there.” Adam said as his gaze shifted over to me. “He was scared of even getting on a bus at first.”
“I was not, it was just, intimidating.” I defended, trying my hardest to recall all the details from my first few days in California.
“So how’d you get over that?” Dizzy pried, as all their eyes fell one me.
“You kind of forced me to.” I shrugged my shoulders. “You just kept taking me around the city, and I don’t know, it started to feel normal.”
I saw a smile begin on Sadie’s face as she heard those words. “Then maybe you could show me around Texas?” Dizzy asked as he raised his eyebrows.
“No!” Adam tried to quickly to shoot him down.
“Just to the creek?” I asked but he shook his head no. “It’s just a few minutes away, right outside Mr. Brooks farm.”
“They’ll be fine.” Sadie argued, drawing a sigh from Adam. “Artie grew up around here, what are you so worried about?”
“I just don’t want the two of them roaming around Texas alone.” Adam explained as he watched me and Dizzy begin to slip our shoes on. “It’s just complicated.”
“Because they’re dating?” Sadie asked, managing to finally fit her newfound knowledge into conversation.
“Dating?” Adam repeated as he shot me a panicked stare.
“We’re not dating.” Dizzy tried to shoot down. “I’ve got a girlfriend back home.”
“You do?” I asked in an unamused voice.
“It’s alright,” Sadie tried to comfort as both Dizzy and Adam began to panic. “me and Artie spoke about it while you guys were out.”
“You told her?” Adam asked, quickly looking over at me.
“He didn’t tell me anything.” Sadie dismissed. “I’ve known that boy since before he could walk, you thought I wouldn’t notice when he’s head over heels for someone?”
“She’s got a point.” I shrugged my shoulders.
“That’s why I didn’t want to stay here!” Adam exclaimed, now in full panic mode.
“Alright, don’t get all excited.” Sadie exhaled. “It may take some time, but it’s alright with me.”
“Really?” Dizzy asked, shocked by her words.
“For Arthur? Of course!” Sadie answered without hesitation. “It’s bad enough I never really get to see him anymore. How could I kick him out of my life for good?”
“You know what this means?” Adam let out as it all began to connect in his mind.
“It means I love my family, and I’m not letting anything stop that.” Sadie insisted, not wanting to hear anything else.
“You’re taking this really well.” Dizzy skeptically pried. “Even some city people freak out when they hear their kid is gay.”
“Maybe if I hadn’t lost so much already, I would too,” Sadie shrugged her shoulders. “but I’m not losing my best friend and her son within three months.”
“You didn’t seem very surprised though.” I spoke up, seeing what else I could learn.
“Like I said, I’ve known you since you were a baby.” Sadie exhaled, looking to Adam for some help in the conversation.
“What’s that mean?” I couldn’t help but ask.
“I don’t know.” She forced a laugh as she tried her hardest to play dumb.
“Sadie.” I let out as I began to stare her down.
“It means most teenage boys don’t come home and tell their Mom their friend’s swimsuit calendar is inappropriate.” Sadie finally answered, drawing a loud laugh from Dizzy.
“That’s so Artie!” Dizzy cheered with a proud smile.
“So then Sarah,” Adam led, unsure what to make of the story.
“Thought Artie was a very naive and innocent boy.” Sadie finished for him. “We never spoke about sexuality. Although, it was in the back of my mind, especially after everything with you Adam.”
“You’re so bad at hiding it.” Adam shook his head as his eyes landed back on me. “How did you even fool yourself for so long?”
“I don’t know.” I mumbled as I began to fall into my own head. “I just didn’t think about it I guess.”
“Until you got to California,” Dizzy teased with a smirk. “and you had two boys fighting over you.”
“He had what?!” Sadie exclaimed as she quickly looked to Adam.
“He’s a heartbreaker.” Adam shrugged his shoulders. “What do you want me to say?”
“That’s a story for another day.” I finally managed out in a clear voice. “You knowing I’m dating Dizzy is enough for now.”
“Alright.” Sadie agreed, willing to give me as much time as I needed. “But you two aren’t sharing the spare room anymore. That’s for sure.”
“I tried to tell you.” Adam teased as he formed a smile of his own. “You told me no whining.”
“And you still almost let it happen!” Sadie shouted as she began to scold him. “Are you out of your mind?”
“You wouldn’t let me say anything else!” He argued back.
“Well you could’ve found a way.” She insisted as Dizzy and I began to sneak out of the house. “You two be safe and come back before supper, I’m not going to be your best friend the way Adam is.”
“I’m not their best friend.” Adam tried to debate but we slipped out before we could hear any more of their argument.
“Yes he is.” Dizzy laughed as we walked down the old dirt side street. “What do you think of all that?”
“Of Adam being our best friend?” I teased, taking a moment to push his buttons.
“You know what I mean.” Dizzy sighed as our eyes connected.
“I think I’m lucky,” I let out, unsure what else to say. “and I think we did a bad job of keeping our secret.”
“You’re the one that got all flirty!” He tried to defend.
“You did it first!” I laughed as our eyes met. “I’m just glad we can be ourselves around her now.”
He nodded his head but took another long look at me. “You two are really close, aren’t you?”
“Well yeah,” I confirmed as my smile grew. “she helped raise me.”
“She did a good job.” He bucked me with his shoulder as he caught my smile.
“Watch it.” I warned in a laugh. “Trust me, we don’t want the whole town finding out. Especially with court tomorrow morning.”
“Yeah.” He exhaled as he nodded his head. “Are you still nervous?”
“A little bit.” I confessed in a sigh.
“Well don’t be.” He tried to comfort. “If Sadie helped raise you, and is saying Adam should keep you, that’s pretty damn powerful.”
“That’s true.” I nodded, as his words began to calm me down even more.
“But for now, I want to see where you grew up.” He smiled, bumping me one last time with his shoulder.
“Well right there is the house I grew up in.” I pointed out as I saw the old trailer in the distance, but felt sadness begin to set in as we grew closer to it.
“It’s alright.” Dizzy supported as he picked up on the emotion in my voice. “We don’t have to do this if it’s too hard on you.”
“No, I, I’m okay.” I forced out as I finally forced my eyes away from the trailer. “Besides, right up here is the woods and creek I used to play in as a kid, and then the farm behind it is the one I worked on.”
“And all your beloved chickens.” Dizzy teased, trying his hardest to help me crack another smile.
“And all the chickens.” I played along as I helped lead him into the woods. “You see, outside of cities we have these crazy things called trees. We didn’t even plant them, they just started growing here.”
“Alright.” Dizzy rolled his eyes as I began to pull him through the woods.
“And right here,” I paused as we heard the sound of running water. “is the creek. I know it might be shocking to find water without an ocean nearby, but they do exist.”
“You know we have forests and rivers and lakes in San Francisco too, right?” Dizzy asked shooting me an unamused look.
“You got snakes too?” I asked, pointing at a long reptile slithering through the running water.
“Shit!” Dizzy exclaimed as he jumped behind me. “Shouldn’t we like run or something?” He asked
“Maybe.” I shrugged taking a step forward to get a closer look.
“Maybe?” Dizzy repeated in an alarmed voice.
“We’re fine.” I dismissed as I turned back towards him. “It’s just a blotched water snake. It’s not venomous.”
“How do you know that for sure?” Dizzy asked, nervousness still in his voice.
“Look at it.” I began to teach. “That blotchy pattern on it’s back and side don’t connect,” I lectured as the snake finally began to slither through the water and past us. “and most importantly its tail isn’t black.”
“That means almost nothing to me.” Dizzy shook his head, unable to fully relax.
“Well a copperhead has blotches that connect all the way through, and a cottonmouth has a black tail.” I explained as our eyes connected. “That snake won’t hurt us, it’s just looking for frogs or fish.”
“It’ll find that in water this shallow?” Dizzy asked, watching the snake disappear into the distance.
“Probably more frogs than fish.” I smiled, happy to have had the chance to show off some of the knowledge my mom and Sadie had taught me.
“So like, are we in danger out here?” Dizzy forced out, worried his question was stupid.
“Maybe a little bit, but I’ve never had anything attack me out here.” I answered the question, trying my hardest not to downplay what he was feeling. “Biggest concern would be snakes or spiders, but I don’t think we’ll have a problem.”
He went to say something else, but before he could we heard the galloping of horses in the distance. “Hold on.” I hushed as I began to naturally move towards the sound.
“That’s it, Artie.” Dizzy sarcastically cheered. “Let’s walk through the snake infested water!”
“I told you to bring boots, didn’t I?” I teased, but knew I couldn’t stop myself. Dizzy nervously followed along until finally, we found ourselves at a wooden fence at the edge of a large plain.
“That’s the farm you worked on?” Dizzy asked, pointing at the buildings in the distance.
“Yeah.” I forced out, but my eyes were on the two horses and their young riders close by. “Hey!” I let out in a loud shout as I forced myself against the fence. “Hey!” I shouted even louder as I finally grabbed a rider’s attention.
“Is that Artie Price?!” I heard one of them excitedly shout as the two horses began to race towards us. I noticed Dizzy take a step back as the horses grew closer, then flinch as they made a last minute stop at the fence.
“Well Howdy there Mr. Price.” Zach teased as he got a good look at me. “Didn’t expect to see you back around these parts again.”
“Yeah, I thought you’d be too busy with your new life in the city.” Sam agreed, but I noticed them both hesitate as they looked over at Dizzy. “Who’s this?”
“This is one of my friends from San Francisco.” I happily introduced. “Dizzy, these are my best friends from Texas, Sam and Zach, Sam and Zach this is my friend Dizzy.”
“Hey.” Dizzy forced out, taking a long look at both of them.
“So he’s a yankee?” Zach teased, looking over at Sam.
“Oh yeah.” I quickly nodded my head. “A water snake nearly had him running back to California.”
They both let out a laugh before looking back at me. “So what are you doing here? You moving back to Texas?”
“I hope not.” I confessed, as they began to shoot me strange stares. “My grandparents are trying to get custody back, so we’ve got family court in Dallas tomorrow.”
“And you don’t want to move back to Texas?” Zach asked in a surprised voice.
“It’s time for me to move on.” I shrugged my shoulders. “I’ve got a new life now.”
“With your uncle?” Sam asked, but this time I could feel disgust in his voice.
“With my uncle.” I confirmed, trying my best to hold strong.
“There were rumors that went around after you left.” Zach tried to explain. “I heard he was some sort of devil worshiper.”
“He vandalized the church you know?” Sam asked as the conversation took a less friendly turn.
“That’s just gossip.” Zach tried to shoot down.
“No it ain’t.” Sam argued in a confident voice. “My Dad swore to it.”
“He’s not a devil worshiper.” I finally forced out. “He just doesn’t think the way people around here do.”
“People around here do?” Sam repeated. “Aren’t you one of the people around here?”
“I was.” I shrugged my shoulders.
“You was?” Zach repeated in an annoyed voice. “I guess you was a lot of things Artie.”
I had to hold back some laughter as Dizzy made a face at Zach’s grammar. “Boys!” A strong voice suddenly called out from a horse in the distance.
“We gotta get back to work.” Sam shook his head. “Take care of yourself Artie.”
“Yeah.” Zach grunted as disapproval filled his stare. “We’ll be praying for you.”
“Alright.” I forced out. “Tell your dad I said hi Sam.”
“Sure.” Sam dismissed and with a quick movement they and their horses were off to join Mr. Brooks.
“So do you guys not have English class in Texas?” Dizzy teased, with a smirk.
“That’s just Zach.” I shrugged my shoulders, as their words began to sink in.
“You alright?” Dizzy asked, growing serious as he saw me begin to fight against the emotions rising in my head.
“Just fine.” I tried my hardest to force a smile before leading Dizzy back to the creek.
“Why don’t we go back?” He suggested, watching me closely. “It’s getting late, and I don’t want to see what comes out at night around here.”
“Yeah.” I nodded my head as we made our way through the creek and back towards Sadie’ house.
“You sure you’re alright?” Dizzy pried with a concerned look.
“Yup.” I insisted, but fell quiet once more. They seemed so excited to see me at first, but the look they were giving me at the end of the conversation, it was like they didn’t even recognize me anymore. I know I’ve changed a lot over these past couple of months, but I’m still from Texas. I should still fit in around here, shouldn’t I?
I could tell Dizzy wanted to pressure me a little more, but gave me space as I tried to work it out on my own. When we finally made it back to Sadie’s street he tried to ask one more time, but once again I quickly shut it down.
“How was your walk?” Sadie asked as she and Adam sat on other sides of the couch watching T.V.
“It was nice.” I forced out, trying my hardest to seem okay.
“We ran into a couple of Artie’s friends at their farm.” Dizzy explained, shooting Adam a concerned look.
“That must’ve been cool.” Adam led as he quickly looked over to me to see how I’d respond.
“It was.” I lied, now drawing a worried stare from Sadie as well. “I’m kind of worn out though, so I’m going to lay down before we eat.”
“Sure.” Sadie encourage as I headed towards the spare room. “Just yell if you need anything.”
“Thanks.” I forced out before slipping into the room and closing the door behind me. It didn’t take long before I could hear a few mutters outside the room, and the door slowly opening. I watched quietly as Dizzy slipped into the room and shut the door behind him.
“They were too worried to give you quiet time,” Dizzy shrugged his shoulders. “but I was able to talk my way into being the one to check on you.”
“I’d rather someone else.” I teased, moving over in the bed to make room for him and show I was kidding.
“Like one of your friends back home?” He shot back as he laid down next to me. I let out a deep sigh but didn’t respond. “So I’m right then?”
“They got weird at the end, didn’t they?” I suddenly asked, turning to look at him.
“Little bit.” He agreed, encouraging the earful he knew he was about to get.
“I mean, they weren’t really that great of friends anyway.” I confessed. “But it feels like they rejected me. I know I said San Francisco is my home now, but still, I don’t want to lose touch with where I’m from.”
“Artie,” Dizzy exhaled as our eyes connected. “right before running into them you fearlessly walked up to a snake to identify it. I’ve seen you more afraid of fog than snakes. I don’t care what they think, you’re still a Texan.”
“Thanks.” I let out, moving even closer to him. “Really,” I insisted as he kept a concerned stare. “that helped.”
“But not fully.” Dizzy dug, seeing right through my act.
“Not fully.” I confirmed in a sigh. “I think I still need some time.”
“Alright.” Dizzy accepted but I could tell he was only getting more worried. “Just remember there are people back in California who accept you. Me, Ky, Charlotte, Adam, Lindsay, Mason, we all want you there. We all really care about you, and that’s not changing any time soon.”
Without words I moved forward a little bit more and just let him hold me for a little while. He really knows how to comfort me, doesn’t he? Even if his words can’t fix things, they help me to find that first step. They help me start piecing things back together.
After a little while Adam began to lightly knock on the door to let us know dinner would be ready soon. I don’t know how he convinced Sadie to let us have so much alone time, Dizzy and me alone with a closed door must have killed her! But it was exactly what I needed, besides, we behaved ourselves, well, for the most part!
“It smells good in here!” Dizzy exclaimed as we stepped out of the spare room and into the hallway.
“Why thank you.” Sadie smiled as we turned the corner into the kitchen. “It’s all Arthur’s favorite foods.”
“This Arthur?” Adam asked, shooting me a surprised look.
“Yup.” Sadie happily confirmed. “Chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes, biscuits and a side of fried okra.”
“Seriously?” Dizzy asked, just as thrown off as Adam.
“I’ve told you guys I love barbeque.” I shrugged my shoulders as I walked up to Sadie and wrapped my arms around her. “You didn’t have to do this.”
“Yes I did.” She smiled as she held me close. “How are you feeling?”
“Better.” I reflected her smile as a spare hand reached up and gently combed my hair.
“Why don’t we eat?” She asked as she finally let me go and took a seat at the table.
“So you’re favorite food is meat fried like other meat?” Dizzy asked as his gaze turned into a stare. “And you’re still like, barely one-hundred and twenty pounds?”
“The Price curse.” Adam happily bragged. “I used to eat this stuff until I puked, and I would barely gain a pound.”
“He’s not kidding.” Sadie complained in a sigh.
“Well I’ve never seen anything like this.” Dizzy shook his head as he finally got some food onto his plate.
“It’s real good.” I encouraged as my smile widened.
“Especially since Adam doesn’t know how to cook.” Dizzy teased, drawing a stern stare from Adam.
“What do you feed these boys?” Sadie asked, causing Dizzy to fidget as he realized what a deep hole he had dug for Adam.
“Plenty of stuff.” Adam lied, putting more focus on the food on his plate than the question.
“Artie.” Sadie pressured, glancing over at me.
“Man, this is really good.” Dizzy tried to distract, hoping to throw Adam some sort of lifeline.
“You’re not getting out of this one.” Sadie warned as she started to stare at me. “What does he cook?”
“He makes a really good breakfast.” I defended, finally looking up at her. “But for dinner, I think he only know how to cook chicken.”
“That’s not true.” Adam lied as I drew his stare as well.
“Yeah, we’ve had fajitas, and corn dogs and stuff like that.” Dizzy hesitated, unsure what else to name.
“So all freezer foods?” Sadie sighed, seeing right through their act. “How often does Artie cook?”
“As much as I did with Mom.” I answered for him. “He’ a single parent too.” I defended before looking down at my plate.
“I know, but he still has to be able to feed you right.” Sadie warned as she looked from me back to him. “You were that size growing up, you should know it’s not healthy.”
“I’ve got it under control.” Adam said, trying his hardest to get Sadie to ease up. “He already eats more than when he got there. Plus, my friends teaching me to cook more.”
“Lindsay?” Dizzy asked, drawing a nod from Adam. “She is a great cook.”
“You just like the donuts she makes.” I teased, looking back up at him.
“Adam makes good donuts too!’ Dizzy exclaimed, trying his hardest to get back on Adam’s good side.
“Adam makes donuts?” Sadie asked, not believing his words.
“He owns a gourmet donut shop.” I explained shooting her a proud grin.
“You do?” Sadie questioned in disbelief.
“I have for over ten years.” He nodded his head.
“Really?” She let out, still trying to wrap her head around it. “I mean, I knew you owned some business, but I didn’t know it was donuts.”
“How did that happen anyway?” I dug, realizing I had never actually asked him that.
“Lindsay’s a good baker, and she thought it was funny how I always combined junk food.” He answered, putting his focus back on the food rather than his words. “So Geoff gave us a little push and things started taking off.”
“That is the most Adam Price answer I have ever heard.” Sadie teased with a shake of her head. “Would it really kill you to add details to your answers?”
“That’s what happened.” Adam shrugged his shoulders. “What more do you want me to say?”
“See what I deal with every day?” I smirked as I looked over to Sadie.
“Just eat your food.” Adam sighed causing the rest of us to laugh.
Dinner conversation from there stayed a lot friendlier. I could tell all wasn’t forgiven between Sadie and Adam, but they tried their hardest to make it work. They’re both willing to put aside past grudges or beliefs just for me, if that’s not enough proof as to why I deserve to be with Adam, I don’t know what is!
When dinner was finally finished, we all helped clean up, before spending the rest of the evening just sitting around and catching up. Once more I could tell it was difficult for Sadie to watch me joke around with Dizzy, but she never said anything. After a little while, she even tried to get to know him!
As it got later, it was decided I would share the spare room with Adam while Dizzy slept on the couch.
“You better not snore.” Adam warned as we all got ready for bed.
“He does.” Dizzy replied with a smirk.
“I do not.” I whined, as I gave him a light shove.
“You do.” Sadie confirmed as she walked past the spare room and towards the kitchen.
“Told you so!” Dizzy exclaimed as I rolled my eyes and followed after her.
“Need something?” Sadie asked, glancing back towards me as she laid out sheets and pillows for Dizzy.
“I just wanted to say goodnight.” I shrugged as I walked up and gave her one last hug for the day.
“You sure that’s it?” She asked, knowing there was more on my mind.
“You sure you’re okay with me and Dizzy?” I forced out, unable to look her in the eyes as I asked the question.
“I’m starting to adjust, and it’ll take more time, but I love you and I refuse to put any conditions on that.” She proudly answered. “Plus I’ve never seen anyone make you laugh so much.”
“He’s goofy, isn’t he?” I asked with a smile as she let me go.
“So goofy.” She shook her head. “But he seems really sweet too.”
“He is.” I happily nodded my head.
“Sarah’s going to love him.” She said, pulling me in for one last quick half hug. It was hard to hide how wide my smile had grown when I heard that. “Don’t you forget, she’s in heaven watching and waiting.”
“I know.” I happily agreed. “One day you, me, her and Adam are going to sit down for a good family dinner.”
“Sounds good.” She agreed finally letting me go. “I love you.”
“I love you too.” I replied as she made her way to the hallway. “Goodnight.” She said to Adam and Dizzy as Dizzy passed her on his way to the living room.
“Goodnight.” They both let out in unison
“What do I have to do for you to hug me as much as you hug her?” Dizzy teased as he reached out for a hug.
“Guess I just like her more.” I pestered, taking a step forward and letting him wrap his arms around me.
“Well I’m a pretty good hugger.” He insisted, holding me close.
“You’re alright.” I played along, but jumped as I felt his hand reach down and lightly grab my butt. “Dizzy!” I yelped, trying to keep my voice down.
“I thought I’d add a little spice to this one.” He let out through some laughter. “You enjoyed it.”
“Did not.” I lied, landing a quick kiss on his lips and pulling away.
“I see right through you Artie Price.” He winked as I began to walk back towards the spare room.
“Goodnight Dizzy.” I dismissed as I slid into the room and shut the door behind me.
“You get the right side of the bed.” Adam explained as I walked towards it.
“What if I want the left?” I asked, but he refused to answer.
“Just stay on your side.” He finally let out as I crawled into bed.
“You really don’t want to share the bed, do you?” I couldn’t help but ask.
“I just like my space,” He exhaled. “and no that doesn’t mean I’m going to switch with Dizzy.”
“I know.” I sighed. “Besides, I think that would give Sadie a heart attack.”
“She was freaking out enough when we let you guys have time alone.” He said, reaching over and turning off the lamp. “She’s taking it well though.”
“I still can’t believe it.” I confessed.
“Me neither.” He agreed. “But I don’t blame her, I don’t want to lose you either.”
“You won’t.” I supported in a serious voice. “Everything is going to be alright.” I forced out, not even sure I fully believed it myself.
“It will be.” He tried to confirm before falling quiet. After a few minutes I could tell he had fallen asleep, but me, I was still wide awake. My mind raced with everything that could happen tomorrow, from the best, to the worst. I really hope Dizzy was serious about running, because if we have to, well I’m not afraid to. Not anymore.
At some point I finally fell asleep, but even then, it felt like Adam’s alarm rang out only a few minutes later. There was a noticeable nervousness in the air that morning, but Dizzy did his best to help ease it.
“Nice suit.” Dizzy giggled, as I stepped out of the spare room. “Too bad it didn’t grow with you!” He taunted, noticing the length of my sleeves and pants didn’t quite match my body.
“Thank you, it’s actually very expensive.” I tried to play along. “It’s from the designer store known as Good Will.”
“Now that’s classy.” Dizzy nodded his head. “Mine’s not as nice, it’s from community thrift.” He explained, proudly showing that his suit had just as many issues as mine.
“Wow, very expensive.” I teased as I heard Adam let out a sigh.
“So they’re like this every day?” Sadie asked, glancing over to him.
“All day, every day.” Adam explained in another sigh, but I could tell he was relieved to see us joking around.
“We’re just a couple of poor boys finding our way through Texas.” Dizzy shrugged his shoulders.
“That’s great.” Adam remarked as he stood up and headed towards the door. “We all ready to get this over with?”
“Yup.” I answered for me and Dizzy.
“As ready as I can be.” Sadie supported, helping Adam to get me and Dizzy out of the door.
Adam watched closely as we all piled into the car before jumping into the driver’s seat. “Alright,” He began, trying his hardest to hide how nervous he had grown. “we have nothing to worry about. Everyone just stick to the plan and this case will be over before we know it.”
“And what is the plan?” Dizzy asked, giving Adam a confused look.
“Well I’ve been practicing answers with my lawyer over the past two weeks, and I spent some of yesterday working with Sadie on it too.” Adam explained, trying to sound as confident as possible.
“No one practiced with me.” I interrupted as my anxiety slowly began to rise.
“Because it’s better if you don’t sound rehearsed.” Adam clarified.” Same goes for Dizzy if he gets called to the stand. You’re both smart boys, so just say what you’re feeling and it’ll be fine.”
“So you can sound rehearsed, but I can’t?” I asked as we pulled onto the small dirt road.
“We don’t want the judge thinking I told you what to say, we want him thinking you’re speaking your thoughts and no one else’s.” Adam said, looking over to Sadie for confirmation.
“And in Texas a child gets to add input past age twelve, so you really won’t even have to say that much. Just who you want to live with.” Sadie nodded.
“Exactly,” Adam encouraged. “our lawyer will be able to explain it better when we get there. He’s an associate of the one I have in California,”
“So you’ve never met?!” I couldn’t help but interrupt again as my anxieties got the best of me.
“Take a deep breath.” Adam instructed, glancing at me through the rear-view mirror. “We’ve spoken on the phone a few times, but no we’ve never met.” He finally answered. “It wouldn’t make sense for our lawyer to fly out to Texas with us, especially since he may not be familiar with Texas law.”
“The legal system is stupid.” Dizzy spoke up as he tried to make sense of Adam’s words.
“Not the time for that.” Adam sighed as the conversation began to trail off in all different directions. “You two just relax for now. Everything is under control.”
I nodded, but no matter what I did, my heart wouldn’t stop racing. Dizzy tried to hold my hand, but I was just too fidgety. Even worse, the more I moved, the more nervous I got! When we finally arrived at the family court, I thought for sure I was going to freak out. But Dizzy and Sadie did their best to stay close and calm me down while Adam met up with our lawyer.
His name was George Wood, and in many ways, he reminded me of all the older Texas men from my town. He wasn’t too much taller than Adam, but undoubtedly decades older.
“Son,” He started as he finally turned to me. “Where do you want to be right now?”
“California sir?” I answered, caught off guard by his question.
“Say it like you mean it.” He instructed, keeping a stern gaze on me.
“California sir.” I repeated in a stronger voice.
“Then let’s pray that happens.” He said before finally starting to lead us towards the court room. “Now I understand your grandparents said a few demeaning things about your mothers during your time with them.”
“They called her a whore, and said she’d burn in hell sir.” I said as I began to look away.
He nodded his head as he quickly thought it over. “That may be hard to repeat in a court,” He finally spoke. “but it will go a long way with a judge. Even if you have no one who witnessed it.”
“Yes sir.” I nodded as we finally reached a small room at the end of a crowded hallway.
“Let’s finish this quickly.” Mr. Wood said, finally addressing the whole group. “This place is pretty busy lately, and this is a pretty open and shut case so it should only take twenty minutes.”
“That quick?” Dizzy blurted out, finally speaking.
“Well we sure as hell aren’t trying to stick around here.” Mr. Wood teased as he pushed the door open and led us inside.
It’s funny, when you hear the word court room you imagine those big extravagant one’s you see on T.V with rows and rows for people. Yet this one was nearly the size of my classrooms, with only two long desks for both sides and a Judge’s bench against the back wall.
The second we walked in I could feel angry stares coming from the plaintiff table, but tried my hardest not to look over to them. Instead I stayed between Adam and Dizzy and kept my head down as we walked to our table.
From there it didn’t take long for things to get started.
“All rise.” A man dressed in uniform boomed. “Dallas Family Court is now in session, the honorable Noah Joseph, judge presiding. Please be seated, come to order.” He announced as everything grew quiet.
“Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen,” The judge began as he took his seat. “this will be the first and last hearing on the custody of Arthur Uriah Price.” He continued as he scanned the room, making sure to stare at me a little longer than the others. “John and Lillian Price,” He continued as he looked at my grandparents. “it is my understanding you would like to challenge your daughter’s will as to the custody of Arthur.”
“Yes, your honor.” Their lawyer spoke up before either could say anything.
“At this time, I would ask if you’re ready to proceed.” The judge said, trying to get things underway as quickly as possible.
“Yes, your honor.” The lawyer repeated. “I call my client John Price to the stand.” The judge stayed quiet but motioned for my grandfather to take a seat in the raised box next to him.
“Raise your right hand.” The judge started once more, this time just running through the motions. “Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?”
“I do.” My Grandfather answered as he lowered his hand and took his seat.
“Sir, can you please share the last time Arthur was in your custody?” The lawyer asked.
“March 2nd.” Grandfather responded.
“And what happened after that?” The lawyer led.
“The lawyer in charge of the will stated that Sarah was leaving custody of Arthur to our son Adam,” Grandfather explained. “and then Adam just took him. No warning or explanation. Arthur was just gone.”
“If the will stated that Adam had custody, why did you believe custody would be left to you and your wife?” The lawyer asked.
“Well that’s what we were told at the hospital after our daughter passed,” He answered. “and we took him in without hesitation right from there.”
“And where was your son Adam when this happened?” The lawyer questioned.
“Probably out in California,” Grandfather began but stopped himself. “not at the hospital.”
“So you were there to comfort Arthur from the very start? Even when Adam wasn’t?” The judge pried.
“That’s right.” Grandfather confirmed. “We were with Arthur from the moment his Mom passed, until Adam took him from us.”
The lawyer nodded his head as he got the answer he was looking for. “And why is it that you want custody of Arthur even with the odds stacked against you?”
“Because we’ll be damned before we let Arthur get screwed up the way our own children were.” Grandfather answered. “We let our children’s minds get twisted by television and music, to the point where they turned against us and one of them against their own religion.”
“And how would you make sure that wouldn’t happen with Arthur?” The lawyer continued to guide him.
“We’ve picked out an all-boys military school close by our home for Arthur to stay at, to protect him from these temptations.” Grandfather explained. “No media to warp his mind, only discipline, honor and education.”
“Do you have concrete plans to send Arthur to this school?” The judge interrupted, not believing what Grandfather had been saying.
“Yes, your honor.” He quickly replied. “We even brought a pamphlet to court with us.”
“Proceed.” The judge waived as the bailiff grabbed the small pamphlet from grandmother and brought it back to him. I couldn’t help but gulp hard and look over at Adam, but with a steely-eyed stare his focus stayed on his father.
“So you want Arthur for the good of your family?” The lawyer asked, trying to get things back on track.
“Yes.” Grandfather nodded. “Lillian and I may not be perfect, but we know the type of person our son is and he is wildly unfit to be a parent. Arthur deserves stability Adam just can’t provide.”
“What makes you say that?” The lawyer dug.
“He’s a delinquent who nearly failed out of school multiple times, and had disciplinary problems throughout his whole life.” Grandfather said, almost enjoying the words as they rolled off his tongue. “When he was just fifteen, he vandalized our family’s church with satanic imagery. We had to beg the police not to arrest him.”
“Was that the biggest disciplinary issue you had with Adam?” The lawyer continued.
“No sir.” Grandfather rejected. “A few days after that Adam declared that he was a gay man. We tried discussing it, but he became violent and packed his bags before running away from home.”
“Did you chase after him?”
“We wanted to, but Adam said if we brought him back to Texas, he’d kill himself.” Grandfather exhaled. This time as I looked at Adam, I noticed Dizzy and Sadie join me. Yet, the same determined look stayed on his face. “You don’t know the type of pain you feel when your own child threatens suicide.”
“Did you hear from him again after that?” The lawyer asked.
“No, we didn’t see him again until our daughters wake nearly sixteen years later.” Grandfather spoke, trying to play up his sadness as much as possible. “He never bothered to reach out and tell us he was safe, he just disappeared. Because that’s what he does when things get hard. He runs. He always has and he always will.”
“I have no further questions your honor.” The lawyer wrapped up, satisfied with the line of questions he had provided.
“Mr. Wood,” The judge began. “do you have any questions for Mr. Price?”
“Yes, your honor.” Mr. Wood replied, as he walked over to the podium the other lawyer had just been standing at.
“You said both your children turned against you?” Mr. Wood questioned.
“Yes.” Grandfather replied.
“So that includes Sarah Price?” Mr. Wood continued drawing another “Yes”. “We heard why Adam left, but can you expand on why Sarah did?”
“She felt a blind loyalty to her brother. She may not have followed him, but she certainly followed in his footsteps.” He answered, clearly not as talkative as before.
“So she ran away because he ran away?” Mr. Wood asked in a skeptical voice. “And I’d like to remind you you’re under oath.” The judge shot him a cautious look as he hard those words but didn’t say anything.
“Partially.” Grandfather finally clarified. “She said being around his stuff gave her too much grief, and she was worried about the stress that would put on the baby. She was pregnant with Arthur at the time.” He explained.
“So when your pregnant daughter left, did you check up on her?” Mr. Wood asked.
“We did.” Grandfather nodded his head.
“Where was she staying?” Mr. Wood gambled, betting my grandfather wouldn’t know.
“She stayed a few roads down.” Grandfather answered as Mr. Wood’s gamble began to pay off.
“Do you know who’s home your pregnant daughter stayed at?”
“It was,” He began but hesitated. “it was her house.” He finally managed out pointing to Sadie. “Sally’s home with her parents whom we went to church for years with and trusted.”
“Do you mean Sadie’s home?” Mr. Wood corrected but only got a nod back. “And how old was Sarah during this time?”
“Seventeen.” Grandfather begrudgingly answered.
“That’s all the questions I have.” Mr. Wood finished up, satisfied with the answers he had received.
From there the case turned more into a battle, as my grandmother tried her hardest to discredit Adam while on the stand. She echoed her husbands’ words that he was selfish, and even went as far as to call Adam mentally unfit to have a child. Yet, when Mr. Wood questioned her, she seemed just as clueless as her husband. And finally, it was our turn to plead our side, yet when Mr. Wood got to call up his first witness, we couldn’t believe his choice.
“I’d like to call Ryan Armstrong to the stand.” Mr. Wood announced as Dizzy stood up and headed to the same box my grandparents had just sat in.
“Raise your right hand.” The judge repeated from before. “Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?”
“I do.” Dizzy accepted. I could see some nervousness on his face, but he was trying his hardest to keep it hidden.
“Can you tell me your relationship to Arthur Price?” Mr. Wood asked.
“I’m best friends with Artie.” Dizzy answered, knowing it would be best to keep our relationships under wraps.
“And how long have you known him?”
“Close to two months.” Dizzy replied.
“During those two months, have you spent any time with his Uncle Adam?”
“A lot of time sir.” Dizzy forced out. “Sometimes Adam takes us out to dinner, or we’ll watch movies and play games as a group.”
“Would you say his parent’s words accurately reflect the Adam Price you know?” Mr. Woods pried.
“Not at all.” Dizzy replied.
“Can you expand on that?”
“Adam’s always there for us.” Dizzy began. “I’m not even a relative and he’s still just a call away when I need him. Some nights I’ve even seen him refuse to hangout with friends because he doesn’t want to leave Artie home alone.”
“So how do you respond to claims that he’s selfish?”
“They’re wrong.” Dizzy confidently stated. “I don’t know the person Adam was when he was younger, but it sounds nothing like the Adam I know. He’s bought me dinner night after night, and still refuses to take my money!”
“Have you noticed he treats Arthur in a similar way?”
“Well that’s not all.” Dizzy suddenly spoke up. For the first time all court I noticed Adam tense up, worried about what Dizzy was about to say.
Mr. Wood looked to the judge, uncertain how to respond. “Go ahead.” Judge Joseph encouraged, interested in what he had to say.
“Three weeks ago, I, I had to run away from home because my Mom’s boyfriend beat me.” Dizzy forced out, trying his hardest to manage the emotions running through him. “I had nowhere to go, so I went to Arties house.” Dizzy shook his head. “And Adam, Adam gave me the key to the front door.” Dizzy exhaled. “He let me stay there for two weeks, and would’ve let me keep staying if I needed it. He fed me, and looked after me like I was his own kid.” Dizzy shook his head. “And when I was finally ready to go home, he gave my mom a job at the business he owns.” Dizzy quickly reached up to stop water from forming in his eye as he reached the end of his story. “Maybe, maybe Adam wasn’t the perfect teenager, but I dare you to find someone in California who can say something bad about the man he is today.”
“Do you have police reports documenting this abuse?” The judge asked as he forced eye contact with Dizzy.
“I, we didn’t call the police.” Dizzy gulped, as he racked his brain for options.
“Do you have any proof?” The judge asked. I could tell he wanted to believe Dizzy, but knew he needed some type of proof to put his full faith in him.
“Pictures!” Adam suddenly blurted out from next to me.
“Yeah!” Dizzy exclaimed. “Adam took pictures in case we did call the police! They’re on his phone!”
“Your honor,” The opposing lawyer began as Adam pulled out his phone and quickly began to swipe through it.
“I let you give me a pamphlet.” The judge dismissed, already predicting his words. “I think I can allow them to provide some pictures.”
“No, you’re honor,” The lawyer began again. “this lacks any type of relevance.”
“Your clients called into question the character of Adam price.” The judge analyzed as the bailiff walked over and took the phone from Adam. “They have a right to defend that.”
I could feel Dizzy’s nerves rise as the phone finally made its way to the judge. It took a moment, and some guidance from Dizzy on how to work the phone, but pretty soon it was clear the judge was examining the pictures closely.
“And these bruises were from your Mom’s boyfriend?” The judge asked.
“Yes, your honor.” Dizzy forced out. “I went to Adam’s house the same night and he took me in.” Dizzy repeated.
“You can step down.” The judge dismissed as he turned back towards our table. “Arthur Price.” The judge called out. “Do you mind leaning forward to the microphone in front of you?”
“Yes sir.” I nervously spoke as I leaned forward.
“Where do you want to live?” The judge asked, properly looking into my eyes for the first time all morning.
“With my Uncle in California.” I forced out in a trembling voice.
“Do you feel you’re provided for there?”
“Yes sir.” I let out once more. “Every morning Adam makes sure there’s breakfast for me before he leaves for work, and by time I get home from school he’s already back from work. He even changed his work schedule to have time off on weekends so I wouldn’t be home alone.”
“Adam Price.” The judge called out as he glanced over to the man next to me. “Why do you want to retain custody of Arthur?”
“Over the past two months, I’ve started to love Artie like he was my own son, but that’s not the only reason.” Adam said in a confident voice. “I failed as a brother your honor.” Adam confessed in a deep breath. “I should’ve never let my pregnant sister leave home on her own. I should’ve never left her alone to figure out parenting. But I did.” Adam said, locking eyes with the judge. “And somehow, somehow I’ve been given a second chance. Be that by God or the universe, or whatever, I have a chance to make it up to my sister, and to Artie. I won’t let that pass me by.”
The judge exhaled a deep breath as he leaned back slightly in his chair. “We could continue with this hearing, but I see no point. Sarah Price’s will clearly leaves Arthur under Adam’s care, and nothing I’ve heard today has made me doubt his abilities as a caretaker.”
“Your honor,” The opposing lawyer tried to argue.
“You have almost no case here.” The judge cut off, shooting him a strict look. “The only reason the court even heard this case was because Arthur resided in Texas within the past six months, and that is not even close to enough reason to change custody.” The judge clarified. “So, unless you have any concrete evidence proving Adam is an unfit guardian, I suggest you show it now.”
The court stayed quiet as the Judge let out another sigh. “Adam Price remains sole managing conservator of Arthur Uriah Price. This case is closed.” The judge announced, clearly no longer interested in anything anyone had to say.
“All rise.” The bailiff announced as I felt a wide smile cover my face.
Before I knew it I could feel Dizzy wrap his arms around me as the Judge walked down from his bench and out the back door.
Pretty soon Dizzy let me go and Adam quickly took his place. “Told you there was nothing to worry about.” Adam forced out, trying his hardest to keep his voice as steady as possible. All I could do was hug him back as I fell speechless from everything that had just happened.
Everything happened that quickly? The case is really over? My grandparents went through all that trouble for what?!
Mr. Wood led out a loud groan as he checked his watch and looked over at us. “Sorry, this one took thirty minutes and not twenty like I had said.” He announced.
“It’s really over?” Sadie asked in disbelief. “Dizzy’s the only one who spoke.”
“It doesn’t matter how many words are spoken, just the power of the ones that are.” Mr. Wood explained. “Mr. and Mrs. Price created a great story, but they lacked heart. That’s something young Ryan over here has in spades.”
“I prefer Dizzy.” He corrected, already having enough of hearing his legal name.
“But he barely even spoke to Adam.” Sadie continued, trying her hardest to sort through her confusion.
“Didn’t need to.” Mr. Wood dismissed. “Actions speak louder than words. Adams actions with this young man are all he needed to hear.” Mr. Wood gestured towards Dizzy. “Boy was that a curveball, I just wanted a non-family member to defend Adam first. I didn’t even know all that happened.”
“Probably should’ve told you that I guess.” Adam nervously laughed.
“You think?” Mr. Wood exhaled, but before anyone could say anything else my grandparents passed by our group to walk towards the aisle.
No words were said, but Adam locked eyes with his father and refused to look away until he started walking towards the door. In that moment, I swear I could see years of anger built up, and behind it all, fear.
Before I could say anything about it, Dizzy wrapped his arm around me and followed our group as we made our own way out the door.
“You’ve been quiet.” He teased as the smile returned to my face.
“I’m just happy.” I shrugged my shoulders. “I, I barely even know what to say.”
“Then just enjoy it.” Sadie encouraged, just as relieved as the rest of us.
“Well Mr. Price, I hate to jump back into the nitty and gritty of it.” Mr. Wood began. “But we should probably discuss payment while I still have you here in Texas.”
“Yes, of course.” Adam quickly nodded his head.
“I have to use the bathroom.” Sadie decided. “Why don’t you two help me find it?” She suggested, hoping to help give Adam privacy.
“Yes Ma’am.” I agreed before looking back up at Mr. Wood. “Thank you, sir.”
“It was an easy case.” He smiled as he reached out and shook my hand. “Just go easy on your Uncle for the next few weeks, I think that’s always the best thanks.”
“Yes sir.” I let out once more before turning and following Sadie.
Once more excitement seemed to buzz through the three of us, until finally we found a bathroom near the front lobby.
“So,” Dizzy began as Sadie finally left us alone. “I’ve got some idea on how we could celebrate back in California.”
“We’re in public!” I laughed, but knew the people passing didn’t care about our conversation.
“Who cares?” Dizzy shrugged his shoulders.
“I’ll tell you what,” I finally caved. “if you tell Adam you’re going home after our flight, then sneak into my room Sunday night, we’ll see who has ideas on how to celebrate.”
“Sneak in so I can sleep in your bed?” Dizzy asked with raised eyebrows. “Didn’t the lawyer just say to go easy on Adam?” He teased with a smirk.
“Guess I’ll just have to celebrate alone.” I taunted with a laugh.
“No! No! No!” He quickly blurted out. “I’ll be there!”
I went to say something else but before I could a tall man in a fancy black suit stepped up to us. “You look like someone who just won a case.” He let out in the strongest Texas accent I have ever heard. “Congratulations.”
“Yes sir.” I hesitantly let out.
“You also look like a couple of people I grew up with.” The man observed. “You’re a Price, aren’t you?”
“And who are you?” Dizzy spoke up before I could say anything.
“My names Ezra Green.” The man greeted causing my face to lose all its color. “And you must be related to Sarah and Adam? It’s alright, I grew up with them.” He let out as his eyes connected with mine.
“That’s nice.” I dismissed, unsure what else to say. “We should probably get back to my Uncle though.”
“Yeah.” Dizzy supported, just as spooked as me.
Ezra let out a deep sigh as he picked up on just how scared we both were. “So you’ve heard of me?” He asked.
“Artie doesn’t need this right now.” Dizzy began in a brave voice. “You need to leave.”
“Alright,” Ezra accepted before quickly pulling a small card out of his pocket. “but at least take this.” He instructed, offering me the card. “Please Arthur.”
“Yes sir.” I forced out in a weak voice as I took it from him.
“You don’t have to reach out if you don’t want to.” Ezra said, staring right into my eyes. “But one day I hope you’re ready to. I’d love to get to know you son.” I nodded once more, but gulped as I watched him disappear into the crowd moving past us.
“Alright,” Dizzy gulped as he turned back to me. “what the fuck was that?”
“I, I have no idea.” I shook my head as I slid the card into my pocket.
“You can’t actually be keeping that?!” Dizzy exclaimed as his face only grew more shocked.
“What else am I supposed to do?” I asked, just as scared as him.
“Throw it out and tell Adam!” Dizzy yelped. “Somethings not right here!”
“That was the Ezra from the pictures,” I shook my head. “you, you know who he is to me.”
“I know,” Dizzy confirmed in a nod. “and I’m telling you, somethings not right!” He insisted in a panicked voice. “How did he even know we were going to be here?”
“I don’t know.” I forced out.
“And that doesn’t scare you?!” Dizzy pressured as his nerves got the better of him.
“It does,” I nodded my head. “but, but it’s not like he’s just some person trying to find me. Wouldn’t you do the same to find your kid?”
“I don’t trust this.” Dizzy echoed once more.
“You think I do?” I managed out. “Let’s just, let’s just keep this between us until I can think about it.”
“Please Dizzy.” I interrupted. “I’ll tell Adam once I figure it out.”
“For the record, I hate everything about this plan.” Dizzy warned one last time, but fell quiet as Sadie walked out of the bathroom.
“What’s the matter?” She asked, seeing the looks on our face. “You two look like you saw a ghost.”
“I think we’re still just really surprised.” I shrugged my shoulders.
“Me too.” She smiled as we all patiently waited for Adam.
When he finally returned Dizzy stayed true to his word and kept quiet about Ezra. He wasn’t kidding when he said he hates this idea, but I know he understands where I’m coming from. I mean that was my birth father! I can’t just dismiss him like he’s no one! I have to think about this, I have to figure out what he wants from me!
As the day went on I managed to put it all in the back of my mind, and just enjoy our celebration. Adam took us out to a nice steakhouse in Dallas before letting us explore the city. I don’t know if it’s as colorful as San Francisco, but boy is it beautiful! I’ve driven past it only a couple times in my life, but never really had the chance to admire it. Besides, back then I would’ve been way too scared to explore it the way we are now!
When we finally made it back to Sadie’s house, we all got changed before most of us fell asleep on her couch! I woke up to find another amazing homecooked meal from Sadie, and even more celebrating until finally Sadie announced she had a surprise for us.
Adam complained when he realized it would involve driving somewhere but caved as he saw the excitement on me and Dizzy’s face.
“Are we there yet?” Dizzy whined as the sun dipped down past the horizon.
“If you ask that again, I’m going to make you get out.” Adam warned in a sigh.
“But we’re in the middle of nowhere!” Dizzy continued to complain.
“Exactly!” Adam exclaimed as Sadie let out a short laugh.
“I should’ve mentioned this side of you during court!” Dizzy teased as Adam shook his head.
“Would you both hush already.” Sadie dismissed. “We’re here.”
“We’re nowhere.” Dizzy corrected, looking out at miles and miles of green plains.
“Exactly.” I spoke up as I climbed out of the car.
“I hate to rain on your parade, but he knew this whole time.” I heard Adam tease Sadie.
“I know.” She nodded her head. “He’s been here a million times, but I wasn’t about to blindfold the poor kid!”
“So where are we?” Dizzy asked once more as I pulled the trunk open and grabbed the blanket out of the back.
“Star gazing.” I finally answered, finding a plot of flat land and laying the blanket down over it.
“Alright, that’s pretty cool.” Dizzy admitted as we both sat down.
“And of course,” Sadie began as she placed a bag down and pulled a box of cookies out of it. “cookies.”
“You’re the best.” I exhaled as she handed me the box.
“You’ve got some competition Adam.” Dizzy teased with a smirk.
“We can find something in California to beat this.” He shrugged his shoulders as he took a seat on the blanket between Dizzy and Sadie.
“No you can’t.” I rejected as I laid back and stared up at the night sky. “Nothing can.”
Adam let out a small laugh before things grew quiet for a little while. “Artie,” Adam finally spoke up again. “Me and Sadie were talking before, and if you want to get up early tomorrow morning, well we can go visit your Mom’s grave.”
I took a deep breath as I heard those words and turned to him. “I would like that.”
“Me too.” He nodded his head.
A few more moments of silence filled the air, but this time it was Sadie’s turn to speak. “I was wrong about you Adam.” She forced out. “You’re doing a good job with Artie.”
“What was that?” Adam teased as a smirk filled his face, but I could tell the words meant a lot to him.
“Why do you have to make everything so difficult?” She complained, drawing another laugh from Adam.
“Just like old times.” He happily spoke, avoiding her question.
“I guess so.” She agreed with a smile.
“You know, if you ever want to visit Artie,” Adam began. “you’ll always have a place to stay at our house.”
“Yeah!” I couldn’t help but exclaim as I sat down.
“How could I say no to him?” She sighed as our eyes connected. “What if I visit at some point this summer?”
“I can show you around!” I exclaimed as my excitement got the better of me. “You have to see the bridge, and the wharf, and the malls, and Chinatown…” I began to ramble as Dizzy and Adam laughed.
I guess I just couldn’t help myself! San Francisco is my home now, and I can’t wait to show it off like I’ve been showing off Texas. I’m a Californian now, and I won’t let anyone tell me otherwise.