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Aceinthehole

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  1. Aceinthehole

    Divide

    Chapter 37: Divide That night I could tell Adam was in his own head, just like I had been all day. Every now and again he’d get up and pace around the kitchen, or just sit and scroll through his phone. A few times I tried to make eye contact with him, but I could tell he was avoiding it. “Has he ever done this before?” Dizzy finally whispered to me as we heard Adam beginning to clean any plates or cups left in the kitchen sink. “Clean?” I asked, trying to avoid the conversation. “I don’t think so.” As Dizzy shot me an unamused look, I couldn’t help but sigh. So not even he’s joking around tonight? I know it’s a big deal, but they had to figure he was going to ask to visit sooner or later. Sure, it’s kind of early for it, but it’s not the biggest shock he could’ve dropped on us! “Usually he gets mad when either of us even sneezes during a movie.” Dizzy finally began again. “He’s really freaking out about this.” “Yeah.” I agreed, finally growing serious. “Adam.” I called out as I picked up the controller and paused the movie. “Why don’t you come relax?” “I’ll be there in a minute, just let the movie play.” He instructed, not even bothering to look over at us. “If you need, you can take a smoke break.” Dizzy offered as we stared at Adam’s back. “Neither of us will judge you.” “I don’t need to smoke.” Adam responded without hesitation. “Are you sure?” I challenged in a concerned voice. “It’s not the healthiest way to cope, but it’s better than this.” “I’m not trying to cope with anything, and I don’t need to smoke.” He insisted as his voice began to fill with frustration. “I just need to finish some stuff while I have the energy, so finish the movie or go to bed.” He instructed, finally turning back and staring at Dizzy and me. “Okay.” Dizzy accepted in a reluctant voice. As the movie began to play again and Adam finally returned to his seat, I noticed him become glued to his phone. Every few minutes he would frantically tap away before placing it down, only to pick it back up within seconds. Normally I’d be more worried, but I think he’s texting Mason or Lindsay. I mean venting to people is at least helpful, right? So, this is some progress, I think. When the movie came to an end Adam quickly said goodnight before rushing up the stairs and to his room. Dizzy waited for a moment or two to make sure the coast is clear before finally looking back to me. “Okay,” He began in a confused voice. “what the fuck was that?” “That’s an ugly word.” I warned, avoiding the larger question. Dizzy rolled his eyes but grabbed my arm as I went to stand up. “This is serious Artie.” He pressured as our eyes connected. “I know.” I exhaled as I glanced back towards the stairs. “He’s really freaking out.” “You think?” Dizzy sarcastically asked, relieved I was finally accepting everything that was going on. “I’ll go talk to him.” I forced out as I rose to my feet. For a second I could tell Dizzy thought about following me, but stayed behind, understanding this was something Adam and I had to work out. Yet still, as I started climbing the stairs, I couldn’t help but look back at Dizzy for support. He forced a smile and gave me a nod as my mind raced with things to say. When I finally reached Adam’s room, I had to force myself to knock on his door. “Adam?” I called out, but got no response. “Adam?” I repeated but he stayed quiet. “Adam, I really think we should talk.” I insisted as I finally heard movement in his room. “What?” He groaned as he opened his door and began to stare me down. “I think we should talk.” I repeated. As our eyes locked, I noticed his gaze had only grown more concerned than it had during the movie. “I told you, we’ll talk tomorrow.” He argued, reaching for his door. “I know,” I replied as I put my foot in the doorway. “but I think this is something you need to work out tonight.” “I know you’re worried,” Adam said as he held onto the door tightly. “but believe it or not, I’ve handled much bigger issues.” “I know you can handle it,” I offered, trying my hardest to show I was on his side. “but that doesn’t mean it won’t keep you awake, and it doesn’t mean it’s not going to bother you all tomorrow.” “I’m a big boy, I can handle it.” He argued, now trying to shut the door. “Well I,” I began searching for the right words. “I can’t.” I confessed as his gaze began to soften. “I can’t think about this or worry about you all night.” He went to argue more, but stopped himself and leaned his head back. “Shit.” He exhaled as he realized there was no way out. “Come in.” He surrendered as he took a few steps back and sat on his bed. I’ve lived in this house for a while now, but I’ve still never really been in Adam’s room. It was a bit bigger than mine, but he didn’t have much furniture. Just a bed, a dresser and a T.V. stand with a large flat screen on it. On the dresser I noticed a few pictures of him, Lindsay and the Rites over the years and even one of the old pictures of him and my Mom that Sadie had sent us. “You can sit, you know?” Adam offered as he moved over to give me more room. I nodded my head and took my seat as I tried my hardest to think of ways to start the conversation. “You want Ezra to visit.” Adam finally broke the ice. “I, I don’t know about that yet.” I began as I thought it over. “That’s a really big step to take and I hardly know him, it’s just,” “I could see it in your face when he brought it up.” Adam interrupted in a sigh. “Maybe you don’t know it yet, but deep down, you want him to visit.” I stayed quiet for a few moments as his words began to sink in. “Would that really be the end of the world?” I finally asked. “I know you don’t like him and I know I can’t trust him yet, but what better way to find out what he wants?” “What better way for him to manipulate you?” Adam muttered, more to himself than to me. “Sorry.” He quickly offered as he saw the look on my face change. “But maybe he knows you’re already catching onto his bullshit, and maybe he knows he can wow you a lot easier in person.” “Those are big maybes.” I pointed out as we began to stare one another down once more. “Besides, what he said was right, getting to know one another over the phone isn’t working.” I shook my head. “It just feels really, awkward.” “And you don’t think it’s going to feel awkward in person?” Adam asked, making sure to challenge every point I tried to make. “Can’t be any worse than over the phone.” I mumbled as I finally looked away from Adam. “Look, clearly we’re just going to be at one another’s throats tonight.” Adam warned as he rose to his feet. “So maybe we should just cut our loses, and table the conversation until tomorrow. “ “Sure.” I rolled my eyes as I stood up and began to walk towards the door. “You don’t think so?” Adam asked in an annoyed voice, as my reaction began to rub him the wrong way. “It’s not like we’re suddenly going to agree tomorrow.” I groaned as I turned back to face him. “So if we’re going to argue about it, we might as well argue right now.” “I’m not looking to argue with you.” Adam insisted, but his voice only grew more frustrated. “I just don’t want Ezra visiting right now.” “So then when do you want him visiting?” I asked as I felt my arms fold across one another. “I don’t know,” Adam shook his head. “six months, maybe a year.” “A year?” I repeated, shocked by his answer. “You think I should talk to him over the phone for a year before we actually have a face to face conversation.” “I do.” Adam nodded his head. “Because I think before that even happens, you’ll see through him and drop it all together.” “You don’t think he’s changed?” I asked as Adam shook his head. “You don’t think he’s at least trying to have a relationship with me?” “Honestly, I don’t know what he’s trying to do.” Adam shrugged his shoulders. “It’s really that unbelievable that he could want a relationship with his son?” I asked in disbelief. “He’s doing everything you wanted. He’s agreeing with your rules, and he even signed those papers!” “So you’re on his side?” Adam asked with a roll of his eyes. “Why do there have to be sides?” I challenged as my own anger began to rise. “I know he hurt you and my Mom, but it’s been sixteen years! And he, he’s still my Dad!” “I’m sorry, I don’t trust him.” Adam maintained as my words fell on deaf ears. “I know that’s not the answer you want to hear, but it’s the one I have.” “I’m not looking for an answer I want to hear.” I argued as my frustration rose. “I’m just looking for him to have a chance here.” “I’m giving him a chance.” Adam shrugged his shoulders. “You just don’t like how I’m doing it.” I let out an annoyed groan as my mind continued to race. “You said you’d trust me here,” I finally began. “and that you’d support the decisions I wanted to make about Ezra.” “That’s before I knew he wanted to visit.” Adam warned as he saw where I was taking the conversation. “Okay, but you also told Sadie that if he was serious about being my father, he would be there, in person.” I said, finally finding a solid point. “And now he want’s to be here and you’re going to tell him to go away?” “No one’s telling him to go away.” Adam said as his voice began to grow louder. “I just don’t think it’s the right time.” “I thought you trusted me.” I complained as I started to match the level he was talking at. “You told Sadie, I’m not a kid anymore, and that in the end, I’d make the right choices.” “Would you stop throwing what I said in my face!” Adam snapped as he finally reached his limit. “I trust you, and you’re not a child, but you’re still only sixteen!” He shouted in a booming voice. “I know you want a father, but I keep trying to warn you, Ezra is not a good guy!” He continued to yell. “God damn it Artie, why can’t you just trust me on this?” As soon as he saw the look on my face, I could tell Adam regretted his words. “I do trust you,” I forced out in a voice much weaker than just a few moments ago. “I just, I don’t know.” I stuttered as my emotions began to overwhelm me. “I know I have a lot here, and I should just cut my loses.” I shook my head as I spoke without thinking. “But for the first time ever, my Dad wants to be a part of my life.” Adam stayed quiet as concern replaced the anger on his face. “You and Dizzy think it’s so simple,” I continued to ramble. “but your Dads were there at the beginning. You got a chance with them.” I shook my head. “I never got my chance with him, and I’m supposed to just pass on that because it’s scary?” “I love you, and I trust you,” I forced out as our eyes connected. “but I can’t do that.” I rejected as I walked out of his room and turned the corner into my own. I noticed Adam follow me, but as Dizzy appeared in the hallway, Adam took a step back and let him handle the situation. As I laid out on my bed, I felt Dizzy do the same as he tried to grab onto me. “What happened?” He whispered to me, but I stayed quiet. “Come on Artie.” Dizzy tried to encourage, but got nothing back. He looked back over and shot Adam a puzzled look, but as he went to get up, I grabbed his arm and let my head lean against his shoulder. I heard Adam take a few steps forward, but stopped as he reached the edge of my bed. “I love and trust you too.” He offered as I felt his hand rest on my side. “And I’m so sorry I lost my temper,” He apologized, but I could tell he was unsure of what to say. “I just, I need to think this all over.” He explained before looking over to Dizzy who nodded his head. Adam lingered around for another few moments before letting out a deep sigh. “Good night boys.” He offered before turning around and heading back to his room. “Goodnight.” Dizzy replied, but I stayed quiet. Dizzy tried his hardest to get me to talk a few more times that night, but I stayed quiet and just held onto him. I’ve said all I can for one night, right now, I just need to be quiet and think for a while. Dizzy tried his hardest to stay up until I fell asleep, but as the clock hit 1 A.M. he passed out while I was still wide awake. Adam’s and my argument kept replaying in my head, only making me feel worse and worse for pushing him so hard. What I said was true, but Adam just wanted to go to bed. He knew this would happen and tried to avoid it. After all he’s done for me, why couldn’t I just accept that? I’m not sure what time it was, but eventually I passed out. When Dizzy’s and my phone alarms started to ring out, I noticed Adam slowly open my bedroom door. “Go back to sleep.” Adam instructed us as I slowly began to sit up. “We’re gonna be late.” I forced out in a grumble, but Dizzy stayed down. “I know, it’s alright.” Adam accepted, trying to talk as quietly as possible. “Get an extra hour or two of sleep, I already spoke to Colleen, I’ll write you guys late notes.” “Best. Morning. Ever.” Dizzy remarked from next to me, but I couldn’t tell if he was asleep or awake. Adam nodded to me once more, trying his hardest to show me it was okay before quietly shutting the bedroom door and giving us more space. This time, I was way too tired to have trouble sleeping. I passed out instantly, and by the time I woke up it was already nine-thirty. “Good morning.” Dizzy smirked as our eyes connected. “Feeling better this morning?” “I don’t know.” I exhaled as I slowly began to wake up. “Well, I know something that can change that.” He smiled as I felt his hands lightly grab my sides. “You think I’m in the mood for that right now?” I mumbled as I fought through a yawn. “I figured you’ve still got some frustration you need to work out.” His smirk continued to grow. “Think about it, how often does Adam let us sleep in your bed together?” “You say that every time this happens.” I rolled my eyes, but would be lying if I said I didn’t appreciate the distraction. “You’re a pig.” I couldn’t help but smile. “No, a pig would’ve sucked your dick until you woke up.” Dizzy couldn’t help but giggle to himself as the words escaped his lips. Hope began to grow in his eyes as he saw me laugh along with him. “What a stand-up guy you are for having self-control.” I teased as he began to win me over. “I try my hardest.” He played along before moving close enough to force his forehead against mine. “Not that it gets rewarded.” He teased once more causing me to laugh. “Don’t blame me, it’s getting kind of late.” I excused, seeing what he’d say. “It’s nine-thirty, that’s still early!” He argued as his smirk grew. “Besides, I only need a minute or two.” “Trust me, I know.” I teased with a joke of my own. “Like you’re much better.” He challenged as he faked offense. “Go ahead, I’ll prove it right now.” I finally agree as Dizzy quickly leaned in for another kiss. Without any more words his head disappeared under the covers and found exactly what he was looking for. I don’t think I would’ve ever expected the morning taking this turn, hell, I thought I was going to be a mess today! But Dizzy started hitting the right buttons early enough in the morning, and I did need to work some stuff out. Besides, I’m sixteen and sharing a bed with my boyfriend! I don’t need to justify this! When we wrapped up and finally managed to pull it together Dizzy looked back to me with his normal smirk. “I think that times in at two minutes for you and five minutes for me.” “That was the quickest five minutes of my life.” I rolled my eyes, knowing he was exaggerating the time. “Time flies fast when you’re having fun.” He teased as I got out of bed and started to get some clothes together. “I was right,” I nodded my head. “you’re a pig.” He nodded his head but stayed quiet as he watched me get dressed. “Pig.” I warned as his smile grew. “I just needed another minute.” He lied as he got out of bed. “Besides, I’ve caught you staring.” He smiled as he slowly walked over to his backpack. “See.” He teased as he noticed my gaze. “I guess,” I played along as I tried to play stupid. “but there’s really not much to see.” Genuine surprise filled his face as he heard my joke. “That was mean Price!” He yelled as I made my way towards the bedroom door. “The truth hurts,” I continued to tease with a smile. “now get changed so I can go shower.” He nodded his head, but hesitated and walked over to me. “Really though,” He began in a serious voice. “it’s good to see you smiling.” “Is this really the time?” I asked in a sigh. “The second the shower goes on, Adam will know we’re up and rush us to school.” He explained as our eyes connected. “He only wants what’s best for you, you know that right?” “I know.” I agreed as I forced a nod. “I’m not mad at him, I think we both just needed to air some stuff out.” “And now it’s out.” Dizzy encourage with a forced smile. “Yeah.” I agreed with another sigh. As he leaned in and stole a kiss, I couldn’t help but smile. “Go put pants on.” I teased as I pulled away from him and headed towards the door. Yet I couldn’t help but look back and smile. He may be crazy, but there’s always a method to his madness. I don’t know if I could’ve made it this far in such a short time without him by my side. -- -- When I did finally shower and we made it downstairs, Adam was ready with a box of donuts on the table. “Artie,” He called out as our eyes connected. “I screwed up last night and I’m sorry.” “No you didn’t.” I tried to reject. “You told me to wait, but I kept pushing.” I said as I aired my guilty conscious. “It wasn’t fair to you, so I’m sorry.” “That’s still no excuse.” Adam insisted. “You started making good points and I lost my temper, just like my Dad used to.” He shook his head. “I don’t want to be that type of man. I’m sorry.” He took a few steps forward and pulled me in for a short hug before letting me go. “Whether Ezra visits or not,” He forced out in a strong voice. “is up to you.” He exhaled. “But I have ground rules I want to work out, and he’s not visiting you for more than three days.” “Really?” I let out in shock as Adam nodded his head. “Mhm.” Adam hummed. I could tell he wasn’t thrilled with it, but he really does trust me. “If you’re really not okay with this, you can say it.” I tried to offer, giving him one last out. “It’s up to you.” He insisted, but I could tell he was having to force the words out. “I’ll support you either way.” I nodded my head, but as I looked over to Dizzy I noticed his focus was on the donuts. “I picked them up while you two slept in.” Adam exhaled as he noticed the same thing as me. “Now grab one and head off to school.” “Best. Morning. Ever.” Dizzy exhaled, just like he had earlier this morning. Adam and I couldn’t help but laugh as he carefully looked through the box. I promise you Adam that you’re making the right decision. If Ezra’s intentions are bad, Ill figure it out and drop him on the spot. I have too much here to let him get in the way. But if he wants to be a part of what I’m building, then I’ll be happy to have him.
  2. Aceinthehole

    Trust

    Chapter 36: Trust Growing up, I thought I knew everything about my Mother. She was my best friend, and nothing will ever change that. But now that she’s gone, well I’m learning all the things she kept from me, and I’m meeting all the people she didn’t want me to. Not because I lost trust in her, but because I need to start trusting myself. She was protecting me, but I’m old enough to protect myself. And if I can’t, well I have Adam here to help. Adam’s head quickly turned from the T.V. to me as I reached for the controller on the coffee table. “Artie!” He shouted as I paused the movie. “You can’t just stop a movie during a fight scene.” “Really?” I asked, trying my hardest to force a shocked face the way Dizzy would. “I mean, the world doesn’t seem like it’s ending, so I think we’re okay.” Adam rolled his eyes and leaned back in his seat. “You spend too much time with Dizzy.” He complained, but fell quiet as he waited for my explanation. I hesitated for a moment or two, before finally forcing out the question stuck on my mind. “Do you think Sadie would know about any letters Ezra sent to my Mom?” “I don’t know.” Adam shrugged before exhaling a deep breath. “Have you been thinking about that for the last hour?” “Maybe.” I mumbled as I looked away from him and towards the paused movie on the screen. “That’s not healthy, you need to learn to turn off your brain and just relax.” He warned, but took out his phone and tossed it to me anyway. “Go ahead.” He waived his hand. “Right now?” I asked, surprised by his willingness. “I haven’t even told her I met Ezra yet.” As soon as he heard those words, I saw the look on Adam’s face change. “She doesn’t know?” He asked, beginning to stare me down. “I thought you told her before you told me.” “Why would I do that?” I asked, but Adam fell quiet as he thought it over. “I don’t know.” He finally replied as he fought off a smile. “But you should probably tell her, don’t you think?” He pressured as I reached for his phone on the cushion next to me. “You’re just happy I told you first.” I complained as I picked up his already unlocked phone and pulled up her contact. “It’s not too late to call?” “If you keep waiting it will be.” He pressured as he watched me work it over in my mind. Finally with a brave hand I pushed the call button and put the phone on speaker as ringing filled the air. “Adam?” Sadie asked as her end clicked on. “Is everything okay?” “It’s me.” I answered as I placed the phone between me and Adam. “Why are you using Adam’s phone?” Sadie asked as confusion grew in her voice. “Because his is upstairs, dead and covered in dust.” Adam complained. As I shot him an unamused look, he made sure to make a face at me. “I take it to school every day.” I corrected as Adam and I began to stare one another down. “Just because I’m not on it all day, doesn’t mean I don’t use it.” “I’m not on my phone all day, besides, I’ve heard Dizzy complain that you leave him on read.” Adam shot back as our stare down only grew stronger. “Is this why you called me?” Sadie asked, already tired of our games. “No ma’am.” I replied, realizing it was too late at night to waste any of her time. “How come she get’s ma’am but you never call me sir?” Adam suddenly asked, taking another chance to push my buttons. “Do you really want me to call you sir?” I asked in a sarcastic voice. “You already get weird whenever I call you Uncle.” “I don’t get weird.” Adam defensively let out. “I’ve just never been called Uncle before, and it takes some getting used to.” “Okay, sir.” I replied, making sure to emphasize the word. “You two are very cute,” Sadie interrupted in a serious voice. “but can you guys focus?” “Sorry.” I offered, realizing Adam and I were getting carried away again. “I just, I have something important I need to tell you,” I nervously began. As Adam finally grew serious, he nodded his head, showing me I had his support. “When, when you were in the bathroom at the courthouse,” I began but hesitate once more. “Ezra Green found me and Dizzy and gave me his business card.” A sigh escaped Sadie’s lips as my words began to sink in. “Ezra Green?” She repeated as she tried her hardest to wrap her mind around my words. “How did he know you were there?” “I ran into Sam Brooks the first day we visited, and Ezra said his dad called him.” I answered, but could tell that the news was only causing Sadie to worry more and more. “It’s alright, I promise, Adam has it all worked out.” “Well you’re lucky he earned my trust last time you were here,” She warned as her voice began to grow annoyed. “or I’d be flying all the way to California to force some sense into that thick Price head of yours.” Adam lightly nodded along with her words. “You’re welcome to come try that anyway.” He encouraged as he leaned back in his seat. “So have you spoken to him at all?” Sadie finally asked as she grew serious. “Twice over the phone.” I answered as I began to prepare for my next hard question. “Artie’s been really giving it to him though.” Adam suddenly began to encourage. “Ezra started bragging about his job today, and Artie shut it down right away.” “Yeah,” I agreed as I realized Adam was trying to help me ask my question. “but then, then he said he tried sending my Mom money,” I forced out. “and he said it was more than child support would’ve been.” This time as Sadie let out a sigh, she stayed quiet for a few moments. “Do you know if he’s telling the truth?” I pressured, hoping to get any answer I could. “I know he sent her a few letters.” Sadie finally began to speak again. “She never showed me them, or told me what they were about, but I know she would open them, read it and send it back.” This time it was my turn to sigh as I realized we had hit another dead end. “She never showed you them?” Adam began to speak as he noticed me grow quiet. “Didn’t she show you everything?” “It was a rocky time for us, for everyone involved.” Sadie tried to explain, but I could tell she was choosing her words carefully. “It was just a very hard decision for her.” “You think she was considering talking to him?” Adam asked, even more surprised than me. “I, I was trying to get her to.” Sadie confessed as Adam and I quickly looked at one another in surprise. “I know, Ezra’s a jerk and he, he really screwed her and Artie over.” She said, still stuck in her own head. “But getting raised by a single Mom, especially in our town, we all know how hard that was for her and Artie.” “Probably easier than having Ezra around.” Adam commented, before catching himself. “Sorry.” He offered me, but I shrugged it off, understanding where he was coming from. “Was it?” Sadie challenged, but I could tell it took everything in her to force that out. “Would having someone who could keep the lights on really be that bad?” Sadie asked. “Even if she only accepted the money and kept him at arm’s length away.” I stayed quiet, but I could tell Adam already knew his answer. “Maybe we should save this conversation for another time.” He offered. “Just say it.” I muttered as I realized how hard this conversation was becoming. “I know you don’t want to keep bashing Ezra in front of me, but if it’s the truth, just say it.” Adam nodded his head but hesitated as he thought over his words. “Sadie,” He finally began. “name one-time Ezra did something selfless without expecting something in return.” Sadie took a few moments to think. “I can’t.” She finally answered. “But this is his kid, it’s different.” She tried to argue. “Shouldn’t he have had a chance to be a father?” “If he wanted his chance, he could’ve knocked on her door.” Adam replied, this time not even having to think. “It’s easy to send letters. It’s hard to be there.” “You’re right.” Sadie surrendered in a sigh. “I just, wish it wasn’t so hard for her.” Sadie complained. Even after these past few months without her, Sadie is still worried about my Mom. “So why are you so okay with letting Ezra talk to Artie?” Sadie suddenly asked, causing the smile forming on my face to instantly fade. “Because this is something Artie feels he needs to do.” Adam began, once more showing no hesitation. “And when it comes down to it, I trust him to make the right choices.” “And if Ezra breaks his heart?” Sadie continued to pressure, speaking as though I wasn’t there. “Then he learns from it.” Adam replied. “He’s not a child anymore,” Adam warned before Sadie could protest. “He’s got some really good friends here who will help him through whatever happens.” “I can’t believe you’re the person I trust with this.” Sadie remarked, but I could tell she really did believe in Adam’s decisions. “You’re still the same annoying kid from Texas, you know that right?” “Ugh, it’s terrible!” I complained, taking the chance to lighten up the conversation. “From what I’ve seen from you lately, you’re not much better.” Sadie warned. “I swear, if Adam continues to rub off on you, we’re going to need to have a serious conversation.” She teased as Adam shook his head. “I’ll try not to,” I replied as I made a face towards Adam. “but that means you have to visit soon.” “As soon as work calms down, I promise you I will.” She agreed as she started to relax. “But until then you have to call me more, okay?” “I will, I promise.” I agreed as Adam shook his head. “You’re better off writing him a letter.” Adam warned as he drew a laugh from her. “I use my phone!” I insisted as Adam began to restart our argument from the start of the call. “Good night boys!” Sadie interrupted, trying her hardest to avoid having to hear us bicker. “I love you Artie.” “Love you too.” I offered back as her end clicked off. “Feel any better?” Adam asked as I handed him his phone back. “Not really.” I grumbled as I began to replay the conversation in my head. “Me neither.” He agreed as he picked up the controller and turned off both the console and T.V. “And we interrupted a perfectly good movie.” He teased as he stood up. “Sorry sir.” I shot back as I rose to my feet. “Good night Artie.” He dismissed, ignoring my teasing and walking towards the stairs. “Good night sir.” I replied as he shook his head and continued to ignore me. When I finally made my way upstairs and got into bed, I found the conversation with Sadie replaying in my head. I still don’t know if Ezra sent money, but he reached out to us. And sure, Adam’s right, if he wanted to be my Dad he should’ve come knocking on our trailer door, but sometimes life isn’t that simple. Don’t get me wrong, something about this still doesn’t sit right with me. But Ezra’s trying right now. He called on back to back days, and was patient even when I started to lose my temper. Everyone deserves a second chance, and Ezra, I really want to believe he’s starting to earn that. -- -- When I woke up the next morning, something about me was off. I was distracted and in my own head, I even put my shirt on inside out! But none of my friends pried. Dizzy made a few jokes, but the truth is it was nothing they hadn’t seen before! I mean, who doesn’t have off days when they have a lot on their mind? I tried my hardest to keep my head down, and just work through it, but when baseball practice rolled around, I knew that wasn’t an option. I did everything I could to not show it, but after a sloppy play or two, even my coaches could tell I was distracted. When practice finally wrapped up and I started walking back towards school, I noticed Jose trying to catch up to me. “Artie,” He called out as I slowed down enough to let him next to me. “you’re walking back to school, right?” He asked, drawing a nod from me. “Cool, I’ve gotta go that way too.” He forced a smile before falling quiet. There were a couple times I noticed him go to speak before catching himself and staying quiet. “Artie,” He finally began again. “I know we don’t really talk outside of baseball,” He said, forcing himself to look over to me. “but you seemed kinda off during practice.” “I know.” I exhaled as my missed plays began to replay in my head. “I’m sorry.” I shook my head, as though that would erase the scenes replaying in my mind. “I’ll be better before our game tomorrow night, I promise.” “Oh, that’s not, I’m not really worried about that right now.” He stuttered as he tried his hardest to find confidence in his words. “I just want to make sure you’re good.” I had to fight off a small smile as I heard those words. “I’m good.” I forced another nod. “I’ve just got some stuff going on and needed a day to think, ya know?” “Yeah.” Jose agreed. I could tell checking on me felt awkward for him, but he was pushing through it anyway. “On days like that, I need practice to help get me out of it.” He said, breaking eye contact and looking forward. “It distracts me from being distracted I guess.” “I think I only get distracted more during baseball.” I confessed as Jose looked back over to me. “It’s just so much time to think, and then suddenly a ground ball is coming in but my heads somewhere else and I just, hesitate.” “I used to do that too.” Jose supported, now starting to find confidence in his words. “But then one of my coaches taught me a breathing exercise to center myself.” He snickered as his own words as he shook his head. “It sounds like bullshit, but it really works.” He encouraged. “It like, puts all my focus on my breathing and lets my mind just react to the play.” “I don’t think I’d be good if I ever just reacted to plays.” I shook my head as I thought his words over. “Sure you would.” He encouraged, this time without hesitation. “You have the best plate discipline on the team, and a lot of that is reaction.” He argued with a shrug of his shoulders. “I wouldn’t force you to do anything,” He began to wrap up as we reached the school. “but if you’re distracted again tomorrow, I can teach you the breathing exercise I use.” I thought it over for a few moments before nodding my head. “Alright.” I accepted with a forced smile. “I guess it couldn’t hurt.” “It couldn’t.” He agreed as his voice grew a bit more excited by the opportunity. “Besides, you can use it to keep calm during anything.” Jose shook his head. “I use it all the time during finals.” He explained, but looked over towards the front door of the school as he noticed Dizzy walking out. “Before dates with Charlotte?” I couldn’t help but tease. “I don’t get nervous around her.” He lied, forcing his voice to grow a little louder. “Me and her stay cool.” “Mhm.” I hummed as my smile grew. “If there’s one thing I know about Charlotte, it’s that she’s an expert at staying cool.” “Worry about your man.” Jose teased as Dizzy finally joined us. He offered Dizzy a fist bump before reaching out and giving me a friendly shove. “I’ll catch you tomorrow Price.” He dismissed as he turned around and began to walk away. “I veto whatever this is.” Dizzy began as we began to walk home. “You what?” I sighed, not fully prepared for his normal craziness. “Whatever is going on with you and Jose, I veto it.” He joked around with a smile. “You’re only allowed to be friends with me, Ky and Charlotte.” “Getting jealous?” I couldn’t help but laugh as he bumped me with his shoulder. “Jealous?” He asked as our eyes connected. “Never.” He shook his head. “I just think all your time should be spent with me and my friends.” He continued with a smirk. “Is that so crazy?” “Your friends?” I asked, beginning to playfully stare him down. “I knew them first!” He childishly defended. “Tough,” I shrugged my shoulders. “because I’m pretty sure I’m stealing them,” I teased, this time it was my turn to bump into him. “and there’s nothing you can do about it.” “Trust me, there’s plenty I can do about it.” He replied as his smirk grew. “I’ll steal Adam.” He warned as my house came into view. “You can have him.” I said, as though I didn’t care. “He’ll just make you watch bad movies until he has enough beer to rant about them and go to bed.” Dizzy couldn’t help but laugh as he heard that. “I’m telling him you said he watches bad movies!” “Don’t you dare!” I yelped as Dizzy began to walk a little faster. “Dizzy!” I shouted as he started to put space between us. I tried to catch up, but the bag on my back with all my baseball gear was weighing me down. When we finally reached the house, he ran up the stairs and started fiddling with his keys. “It’s over.” I warned as I finally climbed the last few steps up to my front door. “I’m gonna tell him.” Dizzy taunted as he finally found the right key. “First thing I’m going to say.” “You won’t.” I shook my head, trying my hardest to call his bluff. “Okay.” Dizzy shrugged his shoulders, knowing it’d get under my skin. As he tried to unlock the door, I grabbed onto him and pulled him in for a kiss, knowing it’d shut him up. As soon as our lips connected, the front door finally opened. “Uck.” Lindsay remarked as she walked away in disgust. “Congratulations Adam.” She sarcastically cheered. “You turned the kid into a mini you.” “Well played.” Dizzy remarked as I pulled away and a blush coated my face. “I told you not to get the door.” Adam dismissed, unfazed by our actions. “Artie said you watch bad movies!” Dizzy yelped. This time Adam immediately looked over at me. “He’s lying!” I forced out as Adam shook his head in disappointment. “They wouldn’t be bad if you actually paid attention.” He began to lecture. “I always give you options and let you pick, but you read through them!” I looked to Lindsay for help, but she shrugged her shoulders. “And last night, you paused it halfway through!” He continued to rant. As his words continued to drone on, I looked over to Dizzy and shook my head. “I’ll remember this.” I warned him as Adam’s rant finally came to an end. “I’ll make it up to you.” He winked before turning his attention back towards the adults in the room. “Lindsay,” Dizzy began as he dropped his bag at the door. “Here we go.” She sighed, knowing Dizzy well enough now to brace for his personality. “My Mom said you’re her favorite boss.” He complimented, once more drawing Adam’s attention. “Keep going,” Adam forced out as he locked eyes with Dizzy. “but one of these times, I’m going to shoot the messenger.” “Then I guess now isn’t the time to tell you how bad you are at video games?” Dizzy asked, as he began to laugh at his own question. “Artie, you smell,” Adam remarked. “go shower.” He dismissed with a waive of his hand. “And Dizzy, you have to go start your homework.” He warned as Dizzy rolled his eyes and picked his bag back up. “At the kitchen table.” He instructed. “By myself?” Dizzy asked in an unamused voice. “What if I need help?” “If you paid attention in class, you shouldn’t need help.” Adam shrugged his shoulders as I began to walk towards the stairs. “Have fun.” I teased, happy with the payback Dizzy was getting. Dizzy turned to me and began to stare me down as he heard my words. “Judas.” He called me as he finally walked towards the kitchen. -- -- By the time I was done with my shower, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel better. Like always, Dizzy distracted me from being distracted. Sometimes I wonder just how much of that is intentional. If he banks on his attitude helping to pick up my mood. When I got back downstairs, Lindsay had already gone home, but Adam promised both her and Mason were coming over for dinner after my game tomorrow. Dizzy tried to volunteer to cook, but Adam shot that down as soon as he could! When things eventually calmed down and all my homework was done, I gathered up enough confidence to ask Adam if I could call Ezra. He let out a sigh, the same way he always does when he hears Ezra’s name, but handed me his phone anyway. “Hello?” Ezra began as he picked up the phone. “Hey,” I forced out as I placed the phone on the table in front of me. “it’s me.” “I had a feeling.” Ezra encouraged, but I could tell he was surprised to get a call. “How was school today?” “Good, no different from yesterday.” I answered. As I looked around the room, I noticed Adam and Dizzy more focused on the game they were playing than the phone call. It’s only our third call, but somehow this is already becoming normal for us. “You have baseball today?” Ezra asked, looking for anything to start a conversation. “Yeah, just fielding drills today though.” I answered as practice replayed in my head. “We’re preparing for one of our last games tomorrow.” “That’s exciting.” He tried to encourage. “You boys any closer to a playoff spot?” “Not really.” I thought it over. “A lot of it depends on what happens tomorrow, but even then, we have two more games after that.” “Well you keep preparing, but I got a feeling you’re ready for it.” He said, leaning on the usual common ground for conversation. “You’re from Texas, when it comes to baseball you’ve got plenty of notches on your gun.” “I know.” I agreed as the call grew quiet for a moment. “How was work for you?” I asked, unsure of what else to talk about. “Boring.” He answered without hesitation. “If I can offer you any advice, it’s to do something exciting with your life.” He lectured. “Pick something that keeps you moving, and makes you a lot of money.” “Money isn’t the most important thing in the world.” Adam spoke up, showing he was listening. “Do what makes you happy. That’s what’s matters.” “Yep.” Ezra agreed, but I could tell he was just saying it to avoid any arguments. “Speaking of money,” He began, as his deep southern voice began to grow louder. “I’m not happy with the way I handled our call yesterday.” “No?” I asked as I noticed Adam roll his eyes. “No.” Ezra repeated in a strong voice. “I should’ve realized how I was coming across and I don’t blame you for not being happy with me.” He continued as his voice stayed confident. “This is a difficult situation we’re in. I don’t really know you, and you don’t really know me.” “Yeah.” I agreed, interested to see where he was taking it. “And having these conversations over the phone is tough.” Ezra exhaled, causing Adam to quickly look over at me. “Call me old fashion, but how do you know you can trust me, when you can’t even see my face?” “Get to the point.” Adam forced out, growing frustrated by what he was starting to hear. Dizzy looked over at us with a concerned gaze, but stayed quiet. “If it’s okay with you, I think one weekend soon I should come to San Francisco.” Ezra suggested drawing a loud laugh from Adam. “I know it’s early, and it sounds ridiculous.” Ezra continued, ignoring Adam’s reaction. “But I know Arthur has some difficult questions for me,” He hesitated as I began to nod my head. “and I know they’re questions best asked in person.” “Well you kind of missed that boat,” Adam replied with some venom on his tongue. “don’t you think?” “I did,” Ezra agreed in a sigh. “but I’m asking your permission to make that right.” He continued to pressure. “Just three days, that’s all I’m asking for.” “Don’t you think you should earn those three days?” Adam challenged, doing his best to stay on top of his temper. “I’m trying to, but I need some sort of base before I can.” Ezra insisted. “I’ve only seen my son in person once, and I know that’s my fault, but if we’re going to get to know each other, I need more than that.” He continued to argue. “Arthur, what do you think?” “It’s up to Adam.” I quickly answered, showing that no matter what, I’d side with Adam. Dizzy nodded his head along with my words, showing I had answered it correctly. “Adam,” Ezra began. “if you’ve made up your mind, you’ve made up your mind.” He exhaled, still not ready to give up just yet. “but can you at least take the next few days to think it over?” He asked. “For Arthur’s sake.” “We’ll discuss it.” Adam agreed, knowing it wasn’t a decision he could make in just one night. “But I would expect a no if I was you.” Adam warned, staring down the phone as though Ezra could see it. “And next time you ask that question, don’t try and put it on Artie.” “Alright, I understand.” He accepted, but didn’t apologize. “It’s a school night, and Artie has a game tomorrow.” Adam began again. “I think it’s time to say goodnight.” He excused, now looking to rush Ezra off the phone. “Yeah.” I agreed in a sigh. “Goodnight Ezra.” I forced out. “Goodnight.” He repeated as the other line disconnected. Dizzy looked over to me with a concerned gaze, but stayed quiet, knowing it wasn’t his place to talk. “Adam,” I forced out. “Later.” Adam shook his head, too frustrated with the conversation to talk about it. “It’s nothing you did, I just, I can’t talk about this right now.” “I understand.” I accepted, trying my hardest to ease the weight that was falling on his shoulders. “You’re doing a great job.” I tried to encourage as Dizzy moved closer to me. “You handled it well.” Dizzy agreed with a forced smile. Adam nodded his head, but picked up his controller and changed the game on the T.V. to a movie. “Yes Adam,” Dizzy teased. “a bad movie is exactly what we need.” “You’re really pushing it today.” Adam warned, trying to relax and play along with Dizzy’s joke. “It’s what I do best.” Dizzy replied, drawing a nod from Adam. As we all fell quiet, I found myself growing even more distracted than this morning. I knew that the phone calls weren’t going as well as they could, but I didn’t expect Ezra to offer to fly here! I know Adam’s worried, but he has to at least see that Ezra is trying. I may not be sure of his intentions just yet, but it seems like he wants to be a part of my life. For the first time in my life, my birth father is trying. And I’m sorry, but I don’t think I can reject that.
  3. I'm happy you're enjoying them! I've had fun reading through your comments, and hope you continue to enjoy the story!
  4. Aceinthehole

    The New Kid

    Sorry I hadn't seen this until now! Welcome to GA! I'm very happy that I could be the first Author you read here. I recommend sharing your writing here if you haven't yet. It's a very supportive environment!
  5. Aceinthehole

    Hopeful

    Great points! Especially about saving the money in an account. That would show how much Artie is actually on Ezra's mind.
  6. Aceinthehole

    Hopeful

    If Ezra is telling the truth, I think you phrased why Sarah wouldn't accept the money really nicely. That being said, I also agree that there's nothing wrong with taking enough money to survive or keep the utilities running. Every child deserves to grow up in a stable environment.
  7. Aceinthehole

    Hopeful

    He's been a little too creepy fro my liking!
  8. Aceinthehole

    Hopeful

    I agree! I think I'd lose my patience with him after an hour! It is strange that Sarah would turn down money, especially since Ezra claims "it was more than child support". Artie's home life growing up sounded like it got stressful, so I'm sure that money would've helped a lot! Perhaps Artie needs to do some investigating.
  9. Aceinthehole

    Hopeful

    Artie's come a long way! His new friends have really given him the courage to stand up for himself. Gotta wonder what Ezra was thinking when Artie wasn't amazed by his cushy job perks.
  10. Aceinthehole

    Hopeful

    Glad you enjoyed the chapter! I'm glad you can relate to Artie, especially about such a difficult situation.
  11. Aceinthehole

    Hopeful

    Chapter 35: Hopeful As the movie wound down, and we all got ready for bed, I noticed Adam and Dizzy watching me a little closer than usual. I understand why they’re worried, but they really have no reason to be. I’m no longer that naïve country boy that would get scared of the fog from the bay, like they said, I’m a city boy now! Yet still, I noticed Adam lingering around as I said goodnight to Dizzy. And when I finally went upstairs he followed close behind. “Artie,” Adam began in an uncertain voice. “think we can talk for a few minutes before bed?” “Sure.” I accepted with a forced smile. I pushed my bedroom door open and took a seat on my bed as I led him into my room. “I really am happy with the way you handled the call with Ezra.” He said, but I could tell he was still struggling to put confidence behind his words. “You have your guard up, and I, I know there will come a time when you want to lower it,” He hesitated as his gaze slowly moved around me. “Don’t.” He warned, finally finding strength behind his words. “It’s not fair to ask, but, but you have to give it years before you can fully trust him.” This time as he spoke, Adam finally looked me in the eyes. “You’re okay with it taking years?” I couldn’t help but ask, as I watched him walk over and sit next to me. “Yeah.” He let out in a sigh. “This is your birth father Artie.” Adam shook his head. “I may not like him, but I’m not going to get in the way.” A million different questions began to swarm my mind, yet all I could force out was “No?”. “No.” Adam repeated with a shake of his head. “I, I grew up hating my father.”,” Adam hesitated as he thought over his words. “I still hate him.” Adam snickered as his face grew serious. “And the weight that can put on a person, it’s heart breaking.” Adam confessed as his eyes lowered to the floor. For a few moments he fell silent as his words stained the air. “I know I said I don’t understand why you need to talk to Ezra.” He began once more. “But I, I do.” Adam shook his head. “So I’m still not happy about it,” He made sure to clarify. “but if it gets confusing or disappointing, and you don’t know what to do,” He hesitated as he forced himself to look back up into my eyes. “I will always be here to help you piece it together.” In that moment, when his words hit me, and our eyes connected, all I could see was my Mother. I’m not exactly sure why the first tear fell from my eyes, but once it did, the rest were impossible to stop. Once more Adam hesitated at first, but before he could say anything else, instinct kicked in and he pulled me in for a hug. He held me for a few moments, until finally I regained control over my emotions. “Sorry.” I sniffled as I tried to wipe the last few tears from my eyes. “I, I just want this to work out.” I confessed, as my eyes began to fall from his. “I know I have you and Lindsay and Dizzy and Charlotte and Ky,” I began to ramble as my emotions once more got the better of me. “but I, I’ve been wondering about my dad my whole life.” I shook my head. “And for the first time ever I have hope that he’s not some deadbeat who doesn’t care.” Concern began to enter Adam’s gaze, but he pushed it back and kept listening. “I know that probably sounds stupid,” I shook my head as reality began to sink in. “I know you know Ezra better than me.” I continued to force out. “And I know when it comes down to it, he’ll probably disappoint me.” I exhaled, surprising even myself. “But if I, if I can get my dad out of this, that’s worth the risk.” I spoke as I finally looked back up to Adam. “Right? For a second Adam let out a light laugh before catching himself and growing serious once more. “I don’t know.” He answered as he looked into my eyes. “But when I was your age, I hated when people told me what to do.” He shook his head. “So I’ll let you decide how this goes, even if it disappoints you in the end.” I forced a nod and couldn’t help but nervously tap my fingers against the bed as I heard those words. “But I’ll be here supporting you the whole way.” He reminded me as he reached out and bumped me with his elbow. “No matter what.” Once more I nodded my head, but this time instead of speaking, I reached out and gave him another hug. Just like always he refused at first, before finally hugging me back. Our situations are different, but I know Adam has felt what I feel. I know he understands where I’m coming from. And with him behind me, I know, for better or worse, I can survive this. -- -- The next morning when I woke up I felt a lot, lighter. If I’m normally an upbeat person, well today I was even more smiley than usual. Dizzy made his jokes, but I ignored them and pushed through our normal morning routine until we finally made it to homeroom. “Prepare yourself,” Dizzy teased Charlotte as we took our seats. “I think your best friend has finally lost it.” “I’m totally fine.” I insisted as I tried to force a serious face. “I don’t know, I just feel, good.” Charlotte made a face before looking over to Dizzy. “Did you two, ya know?” She asked, trying to dance around the words. “Forget it!” Charlotte exclaimed as Dizzy went to speak. “He’s just happy, that’s all I need to know.” “We didn’t do it.” Dizzy denied as he rolled his eyes. “Trust me, when I saw he was in a good mood that’s the first,” “She gets it!” I interrupted drawing a laugh from her. “He’s just happy because he spoke to Ezra last night.” Dizzy finally explained, cutting right to the point. I shot him an unamused look as I let out a deep sigh. “You were going to tell her anyway.” Dizzy shrugged his shoulders. “Besides, I need someone to vent to too.” “You can vent to me.” I reminded him as I forced another small smile. “Vent to you, about how much I think this is a bad idea?” Dizzy asked as he grew serious. “You know how I feel, anything on top of that, it would just cause a fight.” He pointed out as his eyes fell from mine. “Well if it ever really starts to bother you, you need to come to me.” I insisted as I reached my leg out and began to nudge his foot with mine. “But that’s not even why I’m happy.” I shrugged my shoulders. “Me and Adam just had a really nice moment after.” “When?” Dizzy asked, instantly looked back up to me. “After you went to bed.” I smirked as he dramatically threw his hands in the air. “So what?” He asked, playing up the situation. “I go to bed and you two just have a family moment?” He shook his head. “Ya know, I like family moments too.” “Adam hugged me too.” I instigated, eager to see where he would take it. “He never hugs me!” Dizzy exclaimed, drawing a concerned look from Mrs. Mowry, but she shrugged it off and went back to grading papers. “The first thing I’m doing when I see him, is give him a hug.” “One of these days, you’re going to push your luck a little too far with him.” Charlotte warned as she forced eye contact with Dizzy. “He really doesn’t have to be so nice to you.” “Adam likes him too much for that to happen.” I shot down, saving Dizzy the lecture. “I think Adam was like Dizzy as a kid.” “He was worse!” Dizzy exclaimed, nearly jumping out of his seat. “Like a lot worse!” “You keep telling yourself that.” I rolled my eyes as I looked over to Charlotte. “Where’s Ky?” “Why?” Charlotte asked as she began to laugh. “Looking to hand off Dizzy?” “Something like that.” I muttered as Dizzy shot me an unamused look. “Well if either of you ever check your phone, you’d know he texted us that he’s out sick.” She warned as she began to stare me down. “You’d also know that you left me on read, last night.” “Sorry.” I nervously laughed with a forced smile. “I suck at texting.” “I know.” She groaned as she rolled her eyes. “But you both have a chance to make that up to me.” “Both?” Dizzy repeated in an unwilling voice. “Since it’s just us for lunch, I told Jose it’d be nice if we could all eat together.” She shrugged her shoulders as a smile began to form on my face. “Isn’t Jose a junior?” Dizzy began to tease. “Doesn’t he have junior lunch?” He asked, causing me to laugh. “He has study hall when we have lunch, so he can meet us.” She excused, making sure to stare Dizzy down. “Study hall.” I repeated in a doubtful voice. “Sure.” I sarcastically giggled, as Dizzy began to laugh along with me. “He’s your teammate.” Charlotte warned as her gaze quickly darted over to me. “And I don’t even want to hear it from you!” She shut Dizzy down as he went to speak. “Charlotte has a boyfriend.” Dizzy whispered to me, making sure to speak loud enough so she could overhear. “Where have you been?” I teased, taking her side. “They’re not official yet though, first she wants him to,” “Artie!” Charlotte warned in a shout. “You can’t stop there!” Dizzy yelped as I turned away from him. “Come on!” He insisted as I turned back to Charlotte. “I’ll get it out of him.” He decided as he saw I was keeping my silence. Charlotte went to tease him, but Mrs. Mowry began to take attendance before she could. The morning went by quickly, but it was weird not having Ky with us. Even on days when he’s quiet, he still helps change the dynamic. At least his text said he’ll be back tomorrow! So I guess for now, we can at least fit in a double date! -- -- When lunch rolled around and we approached the table, I noticed Dizzy eye up Jose. Jose shot me a look of disbelief before finally looking Dizzy up and down the same way. I don’t know what stupid plan Dizzy has, but he better cool it. Jose’s a nice guy, but he spends a lot of time in the weight room, and I’m not sure he’d find Dizzy’s games as charming as me! “Jose,” I began as we finally reached the table. “This is my boyfriend Dizzy.” I introduced with a smile. “Dizzy this is Jose.” “It’s nice to finally meet you.” Jose lightly nodded his head. “I’ve heard a lot about you.” As their eyes connected, a stare down began to take place. “We’ve met during Gym class.” Dizzy replied. As their eyes connected, they began to have more of a stare down than a friendly introduction. Charlotte flashed me a concerned look, but I forced a smile and pretended to ignore it. “So Jose,” I began as Dizzy and I took our seats. “we’ve got some pretty big games coming up, huh?” “Three left on the season.” He answered, breaking eye contact with Dizzy and looking over to me. “It’s looking like we’ve gotta win two to make the playoffs.” “That’s not so bad!” Charlotte cheered as she flashed Jose a smile. “You two have been talking like it’s impossible!” “The situation could change based on what happens with other schools.” Jose explained as he looked over to me. “We need other teams to lose to really give us a good shot.” He complained with a shake of his head. “If only we had you at the start of the season, then we would’ve made it for sure.” “I just get on.” I shrugged my shoulders as a smile began to creep on my face. “You’re the one who clears the bases.” “You do a lot more than that, and you know it.” He encouraged as we started to get lost in our own world. “Remember that diving play you made a couple games ago?” “I only had to dive because I reacted late.” I shook my head. “And that’s nothing compared to how you gunned down that guy trying to get home last game.” I supported. “Your arms a cannon!” “Hey Dizzy,” Charlotte spoke up. “maybe we should leave these two lovebirds alone.” “Maybe you should.” Jose teased back, unashamed of how close, as teammates, we are. “It’s even worse that they love their bromance.” Dizzy playfully rolled his eyes. “Bromance?” I repeated looking over to Jose. “It’s like when two guys are really close friends,” Jose explained as he looked back towards Charlotte. “and our bromance is only starting, so you better get used to it.” “He’s right.” I couldn’t help but tease Dizzy. “Besides, if we didn’t become friends, you two wouldn’t be together.” I teased, looking back towards Charlotte. “Lucky me.” She teased, but kept her eyes on Jose. They both fell quiet but shared a smile, until finally a blush filled Charlotte’s face and Jose turned back towards us. “So Dizzy,” Jose began, trying his hardest to ignore their moment. “you play any sports?” “Do video games count?” I jokingly answered for him. “You’re just full of jokes today, aren’t you?” Dizzy asked as he nudged me with his elbow. “But no, I don’t play any sports.” He shot down. “I’m more of a computer guy.” “Like video games,” Jose couldn’t help but continue to tease. “or silicon valley?” “Little bit of both.” Dizzy shrugged his shoulders, but began to grow serious. “He’s actually like, really good with computers.” Charlotte began to explain, as Dizzy grew quiet. “He says it helps him plan out his art.” “It does!” He exclaimed as he began to jump to life. “You have to take things one step at a time, and look from all different angles.” He warned as he finally started to act like his normal self. “One wrong piece of coding and the whole program is toasted!” “And that connects to art?” I asked in a doubtful voice. “One wrong color or line, and your whole drawing or painting is toasted.” He teased with a proud smirk. I thought it over, but couldn’t help but laugh to myself as I realized how little sense he was making. “So you’re like, one of those crazy geniuses?” Jose asked, taking his chance to win over Dizzy. “Oh God.” Charlotte groaned as she heard Jose’s choice of words. “Yes, except I actually have a personality!” He exclaimed as his excitement got the better of him. “Please never call him a genius again.” I complained as I looked back over to Jose. “Because I’m never going to hear the end of this.” “It’s too late!” Dizzy yelped, finally showing Jose his crazier side. “I’m a genius, and we all heard that!” He shouted, drawing the attention of some nearby students. “Dizzy,” A nearby teacher called out. “tone it down before you get yourself in trouble.” He let out a slight laugh before lowering himself in his seat and falling quiet. “I’ve heard stories about you, but since you’re dating Artie I figured they were exaggerated,” Jose shook his head as he looked at the two of us. “but they’re not, are they?” “Nope.” Dizzy answered in a proud voice. “Artie’s just a lot crazier than people think.” “Maybe you’re just a lot calmer than people think.” I argued, as he looked over to me and our eyes began to lock. “We both know that’s definitely not it.” He smirked, letting silence fill the air as our eyes stayed connected. “You’re crazy, and you know it.” “Okay!” Charlotte exclaimed, breaking up our moment. “I think that’s a conversation you two can have later.” She teased as her and Jose began to laugh. Dizzy flashed me a grin, but the lunch bell rang, putting an end to the conversation. “We should do this again sometime.” Charlotte decided as we all stood up. “Except, at an actual restaurant and not the lunch room.” “If you ask me, the lunchroom is perfect.” Dizzy teased as he took the lunch tray from my hands. “You know your boyfriend might be crazy, right?” Jose laughed as Dizzy wandered away to return the trays for us. “I think that’s why I’m dating him.” I played along with a laugh of my own. “To each their own.” Jose nodded his head. “He seems like a good guy though.” He clarified as he looked back to Charlotte. “And once the season’s over, we should do this again at a real place.” “Sounds like a plan.” I agreed as he gave me a strong pat on the back before leading Charlotte towards the exit. She turned back and flashed me a wink before turning her full attention to Jose. “Ahhh, kids in love.” Dizzy exhaled from behind me, nearly causing me to jump. “What could be better?” “You’re so weird sometimes.” I complained as I led him towards a different exit. “That’s why you keep me around.” He laughed as he bumped shoulders with me. “Don’t remind me.” I complained as he let out another laugh. Suddenly he grabbed my arm and stole a kiss from my lips. “Not in school!” I whined, but would be lying if I said I didn’t like it. Another smirk filled his face as he bucked shoulders with me once more. “Sorry,” He finally apologized. “but it’s getting really hard not to do that whenever I see you.” I rolled my eyes but stopped walking as we reached the door of my classroom. “I like you, you know that?” I couldn’t help but ask. “I was wondering why you’ve kept me around so long.” He replied as he continued to walk to his own classroom. I couldn’t help but shake my head as I noticed him glance back and take one more look at me. Charlotte and Jose make a cute couple, but they’ve got a while before they can catch up to Dizzy and me! Hell, I think I still need to catch up to Dizzy and me ! But as long as he keeps creating moments like that kiss, well I know I’ll be there in no time. -- -- The rest of the day went by quickly from there. School, practice, even Adam watching Dizzy and me do our homework, it’s just become my daily life. Dizzy stayed for dinner, but after he helped clean up, left to go check on Ky. I was going to tag along, but Dizzy convinced me against it so I wouldn’t catch whatever Ky had. Dizzy claims that he never gets sick, but I have a bad feeling it’s going to spread to Dizzy, then right to me and Adam soon after! Either way, a quiet night with Adam was exactly what we both needed. Neither of us mentioned our conversation from last night, but I don’t think we needed to. We aired it all out then and right now, it just feels like we’re on the same page. Even as a call from Ezra began to ring on Adam’s phone, he picked up, placed it on speaker and handed it to me without judgement. “Hello?” I forced out, surprised that Ezra would already call again. “Arthur,” He began in his usually stern voice. “I just got back from a business meeting at the Rangers game, and it made me think of you.” Adam tried his hardest not to, but I noticed him roll his eyes as he heard those words. “You work with the Rangers?” I asked in a confused voice. “No,” He replied in an almost laugh. “I just took some clients there to talk business and keep them happy.” He explained. “I’m a CEO for a local bank called the McNeil Corporation.” He began to explain. “It can be boring, but we have some really cool perks. We have season tickets for the Rangers and all.” “Nice.” I remarked in a sarcastic voice. As soon as Adam heard my tone, he looked over at me. Ezra hesitated for a moment, as he let my response sink in. “I’m sorry Arthur,” Ezra paused as he thought over his words. “did I say something wrong?” “No, it sounds like a nice job.” I answered as I felt my mood began to sour. “My Mom had a nice job too.” I remarked as the reality of his job began to rub me the wrong way. “She even got to make minimum wage, and the trailer we lived in, it was real nice.” “Arthur, I’m sorry,” He forced out, caught off guard by how honest I was being. “but I did try and send Sarah money.” He said as I looked over to Adam. “I swear it.” “Child support?” Adam spoke up as our eyes connected. “More than just child support.” Ezra shot down before I could get the wrong idea. “And with no strings attached either.” He insisted. “She sent back the checks every time, I, I even still have them.” “I’m sure you do.” Adam sarcastically replied, nearly using the same tone as I had before. “I know what I did wasn’t right,” Ezra began, forcing confidence into his voice. “but I’ve tried my hardest to make up for it, I swear I have.” “Like I said yesterday, you’ll have time to prove that.” I reminded him, still not happy with the way the conversation was going. “I will.” He replied without hesitation. For a few moments the call fell quiet until finally, he began to speak again. “So, how was your day Arthur?” “Same as usual.” I answered, unsure how to answer the question. “School then practice.” “I trust they work you hard in both?” Ezra asked, looking to steer the focus of the conversation onto me. “Hard enough.” I said as I thought it over. “Baseball is more focused on getting us ready for the next few games though.” “Sounds like the right decision.” Ezra supported, trying his hardest to stay on my good side. “Are your teachers that smart?” “I think so.” I forced out as he continued to turn the conversation to small talk. “I’m doing pretty good in school.” “That’s great to hear.” He tried to encourage. Once more, silence filled the call. “Arthur,” He began again. “I really am sorry if I offended you at the start of the call.” He apologized. “I didn’t mean to offend you, I just thought you’d like to hear more about what I do.” “I do,” I confessed in a sigh. “I want to get to know you,” I clarified, hoping not to have tanked our relationship already. “but I’m sorry, there are just going to be things I’m not happy about, even if you did try and make up for them.” “I understand that, and as hard as it may be, it’s probably what we need to form a healthy connection.” He offered, as my mood once more began to lighten. “I’m sorry I left you Arthur.” He apologized. “If I could go back and do it differently, I would.” As he heard those words, I noticed Adam try and discreetly peer over to watch me. “Well we’re here now.” I exhaled a heavy breath. “So we’ve gotta work with what we have.” “You’re a very mature kid Arthur.” Ezra complimented as he thought over my words. “I’m a lucky man.” He said, more to himself than me. “But it’s late, and I’m sure you’ve had a long day, so I’ll let you go.” He continued. “We’ll talk again soon?” “Yeah.” I answered, as I realized I should probably put in the same effort as him. “I’ll call you tomorrow if I can.” “Sounds great.” He encouraged as his voice grew louder. “Goodbye Arthur.” “Bye.” I replied as he clicked off the phone. I let out a deep sigh and leaned back in my seat as I thought it all over. “That was good.” Adam supported as he reached over and gave me a light push. “I know it wasn’t easy, but you said the right things.” “I feel like a jerk.” I grumbled as I kept my eyes on the T.V. in front of us. “You put Ezra in his place, that’s not being a jerk.” Adam quickly denied. “I still can’t believe you said that.” Adam smirked, trying his hardest to hold back some laughter. “You were in such a good mood, I thought you’d let him walk all over you.” “It just, it, bothered me.” I shook my head. “He was out with clients at baseball games while my Mom could barely keep the utilities on.” I complained as I felt the same anger from before start to rise. “I know he said he tried to send money, but I don’t know.” I sighed. “Would she really turn that away?” “Sarah Price?” Adam asked as he tried to draw my gaze. “I think you already know the answer to that questions.” I couldn’t help but smile as I heard his words. “I’m surprised she didn’t set the checks on fire and send back the ashes.” I felt a small laugh escape my lips as I thought it over. “I miss her.” I exhaled, the words escaping my lips without me even thinking about them. “I do too,” Adam agreed as he reached out an arm and pulled me in for a hug. “you’ve got her brain though,” he encouraged. “and that’s something Ezra could never outwit.” I nodded my head but let silence fill the air. Just like late last night, a comfortable quiet filled the air. Even now and again Adam would glance over to check on me, but didn’t say anything. I pray every night and morning that my Mom will watch over me, and right now, I know that’s exactly what’s happening. I know you didn’t want me to have a relationship with Ezra, but it’s something I need to work through right now. I’ll do it right, and make you proud. I swear I will.
  12. Aceinthehole

    City Boy

    Don't even get me started! Even worse are the rumors that George RR Martin will never finish the books! Huge kudos to those actors though. They put on unbelievable performances, even when they knew the story should've been better!
  13. Aceinthehole

    City Boy

    I'm very happy to hear you're still enjoying the story! Especially the pacing. Looking back at my previous stories, it's been the area I think needs the most improvement. I would love if I could devote my time exclusively to writing! Who knows, maybe one day I'll win the lottery and be able to 😂
  14. Aceinthehole

    City Boy

    He's grown so much, but in a lot of ways he's still the same kid from Chapter 1.
  15. Aceinthehole

    City Boy

    Very helpful to know! I'll have to make an edit for the final draft of the story. Public transport has always been challenging to me, it took me a year just to learn the basics of New York's and I lived there for 4 years!But there is something very exciting about exploring it, public transport is almost an adventure in itself! To avoid spoiling anything (even little details), I won't say much other than I agree with what you're saying here. I think above all, Artie needs time before he could hit Ezra with big questions.
  16. Aceinthehole

    City Boy

    I'm sorry to hear you're disappointed, but I think @droughtquake makes some great points regarding why the conversation happened the way it did. Additionally, I don't think it'd be like Artie to ask his father hard hitting questions the first time they spoke. Instead, I think he used the phone call to try and understand what his father's like. In Artie's mind, there's no reason to rush things. He's fought for the right to speak with his father (under Adam's rules) and pressing too hard with big questions could scare Ezra away. Artie's a smart kid, I'm sure he's just waiting for the right moment. From a writer's perspective, I'm sorry this feels slow and I'm sure that's partially due to the break I took. However, I think the worst thing I can do after coming back is rush the ending. I promise the answers to your questions are coming.
  17. Aceinthehole

    City Boy

    Chapter 34: City Boy That evening I noticed Dizzy acting more caring than any time before. Even in bed, he was slower and more gentle than usual. At first, I thought he was just trying to be quiet, but after a while I realized he was trying to show me something. Trying to show me just how much he cares about me. It hurt to tell him I’m not ready for that next step. But I’ve never dated anyone before. I’ve never known what it felt like to love someone other than family. I’m not even sure I do now. So as much as it hurts to hold back, even if it’s only slightly, it’s something I need to do. I’m not going to rush this. I’m not going to force myself into a situation I’m not ready for. I’m going to do this right, not because I don’t love Dizzy, but because when I finally can, well I want him to be the only boyfriend I ever know. I know that sounds crazy. I know even Adam would smirk at that. But it’s the truth. And if I want this to be more than just some high school romance, I need to take my time with it. I need to deal with everything still holding me back. “Are you sure you don’t need me to ride home with you?” Dizzy complained as he led me out of his front door and towards the bus stop. “Positive.” I nodded my head, but could see his concern eating away at him. “I have to start taking the busses by myself eventually.” “I know.” He sighed, holding my hand tightly. “But it’s late and my neighborhood can be a bit, sketchy.” “Its nothing I haven’t seen before.” I tried to comfort him with a soft smile. “Besides, it’s not even that late. The sun just set and there’s still some light out.” “Yeah.” He reluctantly agreed. “I guess I just miss getting to show you around.” He complained as his eyes dropped from mine. “I’ve only been here a couple of months.” I couldn’t help but laugh as I bumped shoulders with him. “There’s still plenty left to show me,” I encouraged as his eyes rose back up to me. “so save your bus fare and show me somewhere new sometime soon.” “So needy.” He rolled his eyes as he finally grew comfortable with the idea. “You’re becoming a regular city kid, you know that?” “Okay.” I laughed, not even believing it myself. “When you first got here, I had to convince you to go to the bridge,” He began with a smile. “and now you’re asking me to take you on an adventure.” “I said somewhere new, not adventure.” I warned as I saw trouble replace the concern in his eyes. Yet the longer I looked into his eyes, the more I began to freeze. Something new seemed to form in the bright blue of his eyes but before I could figure out what, he leaned in and stole a kiss from my lips. “You sure about that?” He asked as the sound of a nearby bus began to fill the air. “Yes.” I was finally able to force out as a light shade of red came over my face. “I haven’t seen you blush in a couple weeks now Arthur Price.” He continued to tease as he finally let me go and took a step back. “I know, it’s been disappointing.” I shot back, drawing a laugh from him as the bus finally reached my stop. “Goodbye Dizzy.” “Goodbye Arthur.” He smirked, causing me to roll my eyes and finally step on the bus. As I took my seat, I couldn’t help but watch him walk away, from my window. I’m doing this right for you Dizzy. I promise I am. -- -- The ride home alone really wasn’t that bad, I mean he only lives a couple stops away! It’s kind of silly he rides with me as much as he does! Like he said, I’m becoming a city boy now. Whether I believe it or not, it’s time for me to start embracing that. If I want San Francisco to be my home, I have to be the one to make it that way. Dizzy and Adam have done their part. Now it’s time for me to take the initiative. “No Dizzy tonight?” Adam asked as I walked through the front door. He glanced towards me, then quickly back to the T.V. “His Mom wants him to spend some time with her tonight.” I explained, dropping my bag at the door and walking towards the couch. “That’s nice.” Adam nodded his head. “I really should refill his Clipper Card for all the rides he takes with you.” “I actually rode home alone tonight.” I bragged as I took a seat. The second Adam heard those words, I noticed him quickly turn to me. “Already?” He asked, trying to hide the surprise in his eyes. “I mean, that’s great,” He forced a smile. “I’m just, do you, are you sure you’re ready?” “I made it home, didn’t I?” I shot back with a grin. He softly nodded his head as he began to work it over in his mind. “Just don’t go too far on your own yet.” “I don’t know,” I let out in a sigh. “I’ve always wanted to explore San Francisco by myself.” I teased as he shook his head and looked back towards the T.V. “Say what you want, but you’re not exactly the quiet kid I was promised.” He shrugged with a smile “I thought I’d have to force you out of the house.” “I thought so too.” I nodded my head as a smile formed on my face. “Guess I just needed something bigger than I had.” “Guess so.” Adam agreed as a smile began to grow on his own face. I let silence fill the air for a few moments before I began to think over something different in my mind. “Hey,” I started in a nervous voice. “after you moved here,” I hesitated as I thought over my next few words. “and started actually dating guys,” I paused once again. “how long did it take you to feel comfortable with a real relationship.” “A real relationship?” Adam asked in a cautious voice. “Yeah.” I forced out, as my heart began to beat a little faster. “Are you just now realizing you’re in a real relationship?” Adam couldn’t help but laugh as he paused his game and moved so he could comfortably face me. “I, I don’t think it was real until we got back from Texas.” I shot back as I began to speak openly with him. “And not because of sex.” I shot down before he could get the wrong idea. “It’s just, all of this became so much more real after you got custody.” I exhaled, speaking thoughts even I wasn’t aware of. “And now, this is my home.” I shook my head. “And Dizzy is my boyfriend but as close as we are, I, I’m not as comfortable with it as he is.” I complained as my eyes fell from Adam’s. “I think you’re a lot more comfortable with it than you give yourself credit.” Adam spoke, drawing my eyes back up. “You wouldn’t have brought him to Texas and came out to Sadie if you weren’t.” He explained as his face grew serious. “But right now, I don’t think it’s about comfort. I think you’re wondering if you love him.” “I never said,” I quickly began. “It’s okay.” Adam interrupted with a forced smile. “You didn’t need to.” He comforted as our eyes met. “It’s natural, and something everyone goes through in their relationship.” His smile grew a little wider as he thought over his next few words. “It won’t be the first time you wonder it either, you can date someone for years and keep wondering if you love them.” He explained. “But if you do love them,” He began once more. “life, it’ll show you, and somehow, you’ll always be pulled back to them.” He lectured in a confident voice. “So, if you’re wondering if you love Dizzy, give it some time.” He encouraged. “I think you’ll find the answer is a bit clearer than you think.” I nodded but sat there speechless as he turned back towards his game and picked his controller back up. Eventually I reached for my book on the coffee table, but even then, I couldn’t’ shake his words from my head. Sure, I expected good advice, but I didn’t expect him to totally make my head spin! I mean, he’s playing a video game like a teenager right now! But just like usual, he’s a lot more complicated than I thought. If I’ve grown into a city boy over these past few months, well Adam has turned into more than just my Uncle. I mean sure, he acts a lot more like an older brother at times, but in moments like this, well, he’s the man I’ve always needed in my life. -- -- As the night grew later, Adam put on a movie and Mason even stopped by. Usually I’d go upstairs to give them some privacy, but tonight, well I found myself watching them a little closer. They always start the night so stiff and proper, but by the end they’re whispering and giggling to each other just like me and Dizzy. “So, what’s new with you?” Mason asked me as Adam got up and walked over to the kitchen. “School and baseball.” I shrugged, still too in my own head to give him a real answer. I tried to bury myself in the book I was holding, but could tell Mason wasn’t going away that easy. “That’s it?” Mason teased as he forced a friendly smile. “You and Dizzy usually have something exciting up your sleeves.” “He rode the bus by himself for the first time tonight.” Adam spoke up from the kitchen, showing he could hear our conversation. “I haven’t even done that yet.” Mason quickly tried to encourage. “Got any advice?” “Know the stops.” I shrugged, keeping my eyes on the book in my hands. “You’re right Adam,” Mason began to tease. “this kids a genius.” “He’s just stressed over his relationship.” Adam explained as he reentered the room. The second I heard those words, I looked over at him and shot him an annoyed look. “It’s just Mason.” Adam remarked, handing Mason a glass of water as he took his seat. I let out a sigh but stayed quiet. “He and Dizzy are fine, but apparently reality is setting in for Artie.” Adam explained before Mason could get the wrong idea. “What?” Adam asked as I began to stare him down once more. “Mason gives good advice too, ya know?” “It’s alright.” Mason awkwardly laughed. “If he doesn’t want to share, it’s cool.” He comforted, trying to pull my stare away from Adam. “Growing up is hard, hell, I was dating a girl when I was your age.” Adam let out a stifled laugh, as their focus finally shifted off of me. “You weren’t?” Mason asked, this time it was his turn to stare down Adam. “No.” Adam denied, happily leaning back in his seat. “I’ve never dated or had any interest in dating a girl.” “Remarkable.” Mason sarcastically replied. “I guess you’re just the perfect gay man.” “Well yeah,” Adam played along with a grin. “but I try not to brag too much.” The second the words left his mouth, I saw trouble rise in his eyes. “So what was her name?” “Jenny Lewis.” Mason answered without hesitation. “I’m actually pretty sure she’s gay now too.” “So you just went around infecting the mid-west?” Adam teased with a smirk. “Nasty.” Mason shrugged his shoulders and held back a slight laugh. “It was only the girls.” He shook his head, drawing more of Adam’s gaze. “You, you’re kind of my first boyfriend.” As Adam heard his words, his face started to go blank. “Yeah?” Was all Adam could force out before Mason began to burst out into laughter. “Ha. Ha.” Adam sarcastically replied with a roll of his eyes. “You should’ve seen your face!” Mason exclaimed, still struggling to hold back his laughter. “What if I was being serious? What kind of reaction is that?” Mason continued to tease. “An honest one.” Adam answered, unsure what else to say. As Mason’s laughter calmed down, their eyes connected and they began to share a smile. I rolled my eyes and stood up, but before I could slip away without them noticing, Adam broke eye contact and looked over to me. “Artie,” He began, forcing me to stop moving. “it’ll work out for you, I promise.” Mason nodded along with his words. “I’m not too sure what’s going on,” He spoke, trying his hardest to connect eyes with mine. “but I know this isn’t a problem you can think away.” He shrugged his shoulders. “Sometimes romance makes no sense, so stop overthinking it and just, live.” “I’m not overthinking it.” I defensively let out, eager to just get to bed. “You haven’t turned a page of that book for the past twenty minutes.” Mason pointed out with a grin. “I’m a bartender. I know an overthinker when I see one.” Mason studied me closer as he realized I wasn’t backing down. “You know, sometimes we think we’re worrying about one problem, when we’re actually worried about another. “Like you think you’re worried about Dizzy,” Adam began to clarify. “but you’re actually,” “I understand what he’s saying.” I shut down before he could finish the thought. “I’m just tired.” “Alright,” Adam backed off, realizing he had actually struck a nerve. “sorry, we’ll leave you alone now.” “Good night.” I forced out as they both echoed it back to me. I know they apologized, but I could tell by the look on their faces that they know they’re right. Maybe I am worried about more than just Dizzy. Don’t get me wrong, I think what Adam said before is right too. That if I keep living the way I have been, life will show me just how much I care about Dizzy. But my life isn’t that simple right now. Any day now, I expect Ezra to send Adam paperwork waiving any sort of rights to custody. And as much as I keep trying to forget about it, well it’s been in the back of my head eating away at me. I know Adam doesn’t want me to meet him. I know Dizzy and Charlotte don’t understand why I want to. But this is something I have to do. A step I need to take. My faith raised me to forgive. My Mom raised me to forgive. No matter what you believe in, God, Jehovah, Allah, the universe, I know something is out there taking care of me. A few months ago, I was in a car accident that took my Mom. But now, as much as I miss her, I’ve been given a second chance. I have real friends, and an Uncle who checks on me constantly! Life has taken a lot, but it’s given even more. And now, now I have the chance to forgive my father. I’m not saying I need to like him. I’m not saying we need to be some close father son duo. But life has given me the strength to confront Ezra Green. Life has given me the support to guide me through it. If I have all that, and still don’t try to forgive my own father, then I’m no longer the man my mother raised me to be. -- -- My mind seemed to stay locked on those thoughts as I worked through the next few days. Yet, I tried my hardest not to let it show. I worked my ass off during baseball practice, and was there for my friends as much as I could be. Dizzy and Charlotte could tell I was a little off, but gave me the space I needed and instructed Ky to do the same. But when the day finally came, well, I found that no matter how much I was preparing, it still shook me and my beliefs. “So,” Adam began, clutching a stack of papers tightly in his hands. “this was delivered to the shop early this morning.” He exhaled, letting it drop onto the coffee table in front of me. Dizzy leaned forward to get a good look at the paper, but I didn’t even bother looking. I didn’t need to. “How’d he find the shop?” Dizzy asked, looking from the papers to Adam. “You’re supposed to be the computer genius, you tell me.” Adam teased, trying to stop the conversation from starting off too seriously. “I mean, I guess he could just search your name followed by San Francisco.” Dizzy muttered as he began to overthink it. “If he could find us at the courthouse, I guess he could find a donut shop.” “Mhm.” Adam hummed as he nodded his head. He let the room fall silent for a few moments before looking over at me. “Balls in your court Artie.” “Yeah.” I nervously replied as my mind began to work over what the paperwork meant. I mean, it should be a good thing, right? The last person who might be able to contend custody just signed it away. So why am I still so nervous? “No one would blame you if you wanted to walk away from this now.” Dizzy suggested, but I could tell he knew this wasn’t ending that easily. “Can we call him now?” I asked, looking over to Adam as I ignored Dizzy’s words completely. Stress started to mount on Adam’s shoulders as he slowly nodded his head. “But I have some ground rules.” He started as he took a seat on the couch. “We only call him from my phone. He only talks on speaker and I have to be there for your conversations.” I shot Adam a cautious stare, but as I saw the weight on him growing, let it go. “Deal.” I agreed. I don’t love the idea of my conversations being monitored, but I understand where he’s coming from. Ezra needs to build trust with Adam. With both of us. As Adam pulled out his phone, I felt my heart only beginning to beat faster. Dizzy lightly rested his hand on mine, but I could tell he was even more nervous than I was. It took a few seconds but when the ringing finally filled the air, I took a deep breath and grabbed onto Dizzy’s hand. “Hello?” A deep southern voice asked as the other end of the phone picked up. “Ezra.” Adam answered in an unamused voice. “Adam.” Ezra replied, this time his voice growing a little louder. “I take it you got what you wanted.” “I got the papers this morning.” Adam answered, forcing the strongest voice he could manage. “But I’m giving you the same rules I gave Artie. You two only talk on speaker and only when I’m in the room.” Adam warned, his voice growing louder and louder as he spoke. “And don’t ask for his number. You’re not getting it.” At first, I thought I heard Ezra chuckle, but he quickly covered it with a clear of his throat. “You’ve got yourself a deal Mr. Price.” He replied, making sure to put even more life into his deep southern voice. “Is Arthur there now?” “I’m here.” I answered in a trembling voice as Adam looked over to me. “I’ve been waiting to talk to you for a long time now.” Ezra began, letting his voice turn softer as he spoke to me. “I’m sorry if I scared you back in Dallas, I just didn’t know what to say.” “You didn’t scare me.” I lied, trying to sound as strong as Adam. “But you shouldn’t have come up to me without Adam or Sadie there.” I forced out. As much as I want a good relationship with him, I need him to know I have boundaries too. I need him to know Adam’s my guardian, and that’s the way I want it. “I know.” Ezra replied in a sigh. “I was just trying to avoid a scene and give you my card, I swear.” The more he spoke, the more I couldn’t help but focus in on his voice. I’ve never heard a Texas accent that thick, yet it was as though some of the words were whistling out of his mouth. “Besides, you had your friend with you, and he wasn’t afraid to chase me away.” I noticed Adam quickly looked over at Dizzy and hide a smile as he heard those words. “Yeah,” I replied, unsure how much to share. “that’s Dizzy. We’re close.” “Good. I’m glad you have people in your corner fighting for you.” Ezra encouraged, speaking as though it was just us on the phone call. “I’m sorry I could never do that for you.” “My Mom and Sadie handled that just fine on their own.” I shut down, surprising even myself. But the truth is, I don’t want his pity. I don’t want him feeling bad for me. “They shouldn’t’ve had to.” He insisted from the other end of the phone. “It was my responsibility and I blew it.” He complained, but I could tell he wasn’t getting much sympathy from Adam or Dizzy. “No one tells you how hard it is to go against your families’ wishes.” He continued, this time causing Adam to roll his eyes. “but that’s an excuse and I, I’m not trying to make any of those. I’m sorry Arthur. I really am.” “You’ll have plenty of time to show that.” I responded, as Dizzy heard my words, he squeezed my hand, happy with how I was handling the situation. “Your Sarah’s son.” Ezra remarked in an almost laugh. “There’s no denying that.” “Don’t mention her.” Adam warned from next to me. He quickly sat up and began to stare down at the phone in front of us. “I’m sorry?” Ezra asked, caught off guard by the sudden interruption. “Keep my sister’s name out of your mouth.” Adam doubled down as anger began to enter his voice. “Alright.” Ezra accepted, but offered no apology. “So then Arthur,” He began once more. “tell me about yourself. What do you like to do?” “I read a lot,” I answered, unsure how much to share. “and play baseball.” “Baseball?” Ezra repeated as his voice jumped back to life. “What position do you play?” “I’m a short stop.” I replied, surprised by his sudden excitement. “But baseball isn’t as big in California, so it’s not like back in Texas.” “That’s alright, baseball is baseball.” He supported, more eager than at any earlier point in the call. “I don’t know if Adam will be happy with me saying it, but we played baseball together as kids.” He shared as Adam shook his head. “I played outfield though, and Adam pitched.” “You were a pitcher?” I couldn’t help but ask, as my attention quickly turned to Adam. “For a few years. “Adam answered, clearly not as into the conversation as his former teammate. “We would get smacked around by the towns around us, so I wouldn’t say we were really a team.” “We strung together a few good games.” Ezra tried to encourage but Adam wasn’t taking the bait. “How’s your team Arthur?” “We’re okay.” I said, putting more thought into the team than my words. “We’ve got a shot at making the playoffs, but it’s not looking great.” “Then take it one game at a time, and keep grinding.” He began to coach through the phone. “You can’t control what goes on with other teams, so just keep your focus on your at bats and what you’re doing in the field.” He concluded as he realized how carried away he was becoming. “Sorry. I really like baseball.” He couldn’t help but laugh. “You play while in Texas?” “A few pickup games in the fields, but not on a real team.” I shot down before I could get his hopes too high. “I wasn’t good enough to make the school team.” “I’m sure you just needed some fine tuning to your game.” Ezra said in a confident voice. “Hopefully you’re getting that out in California.” “I am.” I answered, but left it at that as the conversation began to wind down. “Well Arthur, it’s getting late and it’s a week night, so I better let you go.” Ezra exhaled, causing Adam to sit up once more. “But you call me whenever you want. I’d love to hear more about your team sometime soon.” “Alright.” I accepted, unsure how to end the call. “Goodbye Arthur.” He let out as Adam began to pick up the phone. “Goodbye.” I forced out, before Adam finally ended the call and left the phone lying on the table. “That wasn’t so bad, right?” I asked in a nervous voice. “I still don’t like him, or this situation.” Adam warned as he turned to face me. “But I’m proud of the way you handled it.” “You shut his apology down!” Dizzy exclaimed, hiding his fears in an effort to pick up everyone’s mood. “I’m not looking for his sympathy.” I clarified through a nervous voice. “I want a chance to forgive him, but not because he feels bad for me.” I shook my head. “I’m not a kid anymore.” “Don’t you forget that.” Adam warned as he locked eyes with me. “You don’t need him in your life if you decide against it, you’re strong enough.” “I know.” I forced a smile as Dizzy moved a little closer and began to cuddle against me. “Can’t you go do that on the other side of the couch?” Adam groaned as things slowly began to turn back to normal. “We were sitting here first.” Dizzy defended, taking the chance to push Adam’s buttons. “I always sit here, and you two always sit there.” Adam warned, pointing to the other side of the couch. “So go, before I get a spray bottle or something.” Dizzy rolled his eyes but we both stood up and moved so Adam could sit comfortably. “So Adam,” Dizzy began once more, showing he wasn’t going to go away that easily. “No.” Adam dismissed, refusing to even look over to us. “No more stupid questions tonight.” “It’s not a stupid question.” Dizzy insisted, but I could see the trouble in his eyes. “So you used to play baseball?” Dizzy continued as Adam tried his hardest to tune him out. “Did you pitch to a lot of guys in Texas?” Before he could even get the words out of his mouth, Dizzy began to laugh. “Because you know, that comes with risks.” “If that wasn’t so disgusting, I would tell Colleen.” Adam turned to him, but Dizzy only began to laugh harder. “I don’t get it.” I spoke up as I tried to think it over. “Oh God.” Adam groaned as he shook his head and turned back towards the T.V. “What?” I asked, looking from Adam to a still laughing Dizzy. “I don’t know.” Dizzy shrugged his shoulders as his laughter finally calmed down. “I was just making sure he didn’t tear a ligament.” “Conversations over.” Adam warned us both as he glanced back over. “Nope.” Adam shutdown as Dizzy went to speak. “Not another word for five minutes.” “Alright.” Dizzy giggled, but we both knew those five minutes of quiet wouldn’t last. “I’ll call Colleen right now and send you home.” Adam warned, picking his phone up and pulling up his Mom’s contact. “I can have a nice quiet evening with my nephew.” Dizzy could tell he was bluffing but nodded his head and fell quiet as Adam put his phone back down and began to pick out a movie for the night. A few more giggles escaped Dizzy’s lips but when the room finally grew silent Adam put a movie on and Dizzy let me lay against him. As much as I want a relationship with Ezra, I’ll make sure it doesn’t cost me this. The love, the laugher, even the teasing, how could I ever let this slip through my fingers? I’ve come to far to let any of it fall apart now.
  18. Aceinthehole

    The Next Step

    Ha, that'd be a great game. If the topic ever got started, I'd be happy to have my phrases in it.
  19. Aceinthehole

    The Next Step

    Thank you for the feedback! When writing, I sometimes get into habit of relying on certain phrases. I'll make sure to keep that in mind while writing next chapter. Thanks again!
  20. Aceinthehole

    God Forsaken

    I appreciate you continuing to read this story. I don't oppose criticism and am happy to receive comments/messages/emails. My issue with your comment was more about it's phrasing. For example, "shall I embarrass you in public or in private, ". To me, that sounds as though you're commenting to make me or my editor look foolish instead of offering fair criticism. I just want to keep my comment sections as fair and friendly as possible.
  21. Aceinthehole

    The Next Step

    I think the next step is a bit hard to describe, but is a deeper love than Artie has been showing up to this point. In the past couple chapters we've seen Dizzy seem to fall harder than he already has. He's overtly affectionate and almost dependent on Artie. However, Artie's been assuming it's for physical reasons and even Charlotte has to steer him away from that idea. Dizzy has been in numerous relationships, while this is still Artie's first. So I guess what I'm saying is, while Artie has shown a mature sense of love, he still needs to grow into it and learn how to fully understand what it means to be in more than a typical high school relationship. I rambled a bit, but hopefully that helps!
  22. Aceinthehole

    The Next Step

    It's definitely an odd need for Artie, especially considering all he's gained over the past few months. However with his overthinking mind, I think running into Ezra and being given the business card has thrown him for a loop. Either way, his judgment seems to be clouded.
  23. Aceinthehole

    The Next Step

    Glad I could bring them back already! Unfortunately, I'll have to leave your second question unanswered, but I think you'll enjoy the upcoming chapters! 😉
  24. Aceinthehole

    The Next Step

    I'm really glad you enjoyed it! More chapters will be out next week. Hope you enjoy them!
  25. Chapter 33: The Next Step As I sat across the couch from my Uncle, I couldn’t help but study him closely. I know everyone says he looks like me, but I’ll always see my Mom. And just like with her, I hate seeing him worried. But this time I can’t help it. This time I need some answers. I’m sorry for what Ezra did to you, but he’s still my birth father. I still need to meet him, because this, it might be my only chance to. Me and Adam spent a little more time hanging out on the couch, trying our hardest to keep things normal but I could tell there was a layer of worry slowly starting to build between us. It may not be as bad as the Texas trip, but there’s no denying how much this business card has us both on edge. “Alright,” Adam finally groaned as he stood up and stretched. “we should both be headed to bed. I’ve gotta watch you and Dizzy do homework tomorrow.” “About that,” I began with a forced smile. “Dizzy was hoping his Mom could watch us at his house tomorrow.” “Why?” Adam asked, now shooting me a worried look for different reasons. “Her turn isn’t until Wednesday and even then, we planned on her watching you guys here.” “Is it fair she has to come all the way here?” I answered with a question of my own. “Artie,” Adam sighed as our eyes connected. “haven’t you two been in enough trouble lately?” “We’re not looking for trouble!” I quickly tried to clarify. “Just a change of pace.” Adam narrowed his gaze and began to stare me down, not believing a word I was saying. “I’ve only been to his house once, and I barely even know his Mom.” “You barely know her?” Adam repeated, still not believing me. “Today was like, the most she’s ever said to me!” I exaggerated, hoping it would finally convince him. “Besides, tonight seemed like it hit you pretty hard.” I swayed my head as I began to turn the table on him. “Maybe you could use a quiet night with Mason.” “He works Tuesdays.” Adam taunted, seeing what I’d say next. “He’s a bartender.” I shrugged my shoulders. “Go get yourself a drink and relax.” “You do realize this whole arrangement is about making sure we can trust you and Dizzy, right?” Adam asked, but I could tell I had already convinced him. “So you two already trying to twist it, might not be your best idea.” “We’re not trying to twist anything.” I swore, trying my hardest to manage an innocent look. “Like I said, we just want a small change of pace for a night.” “Fine, if Colleen is okay with it, so am I.” He surrendered as a genuine smile crept across my face. “but you can’t force this on her.” “We won’t.” I promised, trying to sound as calm as possible. “Good.” Adam nodded his head as he approached the stairs. “Because you need to start getting on her good side.” I saw him shake off a smirk as the words left his lips. “Good night.” “I know you’re teasing me.” I let out but began to chase him up the stairs anyway. “Okay.” Adam shrugged, not even bothering to look back as he reached the top. “It’s not funny.” I continued to pressure. “I know she likes me.” “Then why are you following me?” Adam teased as we reached his bedroom door. “I’m going to my own room.” I lied, walking past him and opening my door. “She likes me.” I insisted in a whine. “Sure.” He nodded before slipping into his room and locking the door behind me. “Adam!” I shouted, wishing he would just give up on the joke already. “Adam this isn’t funny!” I continued as I took a step out of my room and back into the hall. “I don’t mess with you and Mason!” “Can’t hear you!” I heard him yell from the other side of the door. “Good night!” “I’m telling Mason you’re a bully!” I let out, trying to at least get some kind of reaction out of him. “I love you too!” I heard him call out from his bedroom as I finally walked back into my room and shut the door. He can mess with me all he wants, but Colleen likes me. Sure, Dizzy still gets into trouble, but since we started dating, it’s not nearly as bad as before! Everyone says it! I bet even Dizzy’s going to think this joke was stupid! Yet as I tried to fall asleep, I couldn’t help but over analyze it. Don’t get me wrong, Adam’s joke wasn’t keeping me up, it’s just when I get a thought in my head, well sometimes I can’t help but worry! When I finally did fall asleep, I woke up nearly having completely forgotten about it, that is, until I saw Dizzy! “Good morning.” He smirked before leaning forward and planting a kiss on my lips. As our kiss broke, he watched me closely. “Worried about Ezra?” He sighed as his smirk faded and concern began to enter his gaze. “Maybe a little.” I swayed my head as Dizzy began to lead me down the steps. “Does your Mom like me?” I suddenly asked, drawing a slight giggle from Dizzy. “Why are you laughing?” I groaned, frustrated by his response. “Are these the kind of things you worry about when I’m not around?” He teased, as I rolled my eyes. “Oh, come on!” He laughed once more. “I’m just busting you.” I felt his hand reach over and wrap around mine. “Of course, she likes you. I mean, maybe you’re a little too country for her, but it’s not like she hates you.” “Too country for her?” I repeated in a panicked voice as I tried to pull my hand from his. “I’m just saying you’re different people!” He quickly tried to comfort as he tightened his grip on my hand. “Isn’t that why you’re asking?” “No.” I grunted as my eyes fell from his. “Adam said I needed to get on her good side.” “Why would he say that?” Dizzy asked, as he began to search his mind for any answers he could find. “He was just messing with me.” I complained with a sigh. “But then it got me thinking, and I don’t know. It’s not like I really talk to her.” “You’re letting Adam’s joke get to you this bad?” He teased, this time trying his hardest to hold back his laughter. “It’s not getting to me!” I exclaimed, louder than I had intended. A few students glanced over to us as we finally began to approach the school. “Alright, alright.” Dizzy tried to comfort, finally able to control his laughter. “You are a little, shy with my mom.” He swayed his head. “But only because she intimidates you.” He said in an almost joking way, but as our eyes met, I could tell he was being serious. “She doesn’t intimidate me.” I lied, as I lowered my eyes once more. “I like your Mom.” I insisted as we entered the school. “Okay.” He accepted, just hoping to satisfy me. “I’ll tell you what,” He suddenly began. “today when you come over for homework, you can prove it.” “Deal.” I forced a smile and looked back up to him. “I can even leave you two alone for some real quality bonding time.” He teased as his usual smirk returned to his face. “You and Adam really have to work on your jokes.” I rolled my eyes as we reached our homeroom. “Bonding time with my Mom is a joke to you?” Dizzy asked, trying his hardest to seem serious. I rolled my eyes and looked over to Charlotte who was quietly sitting at her desk. “Want to eat lunch alone again today?” I teased as I felt Dizzy give me a playful nudge with his elbow as he sat. “Trouble in paradise?” Charlotte asked, looking past me and over to Dizzy. “He thinks my Mom doesn’t like him.” Dizzy shrugged his shoulders, causing me to quickly look over and stare him down. “What?” Dizzy asked in disbelief. “The one thing you don’t want to tell her!” “You and her do seem like different people.” Charlotte spoke up, drawing my attention away from Dizzy. “But she’s a nice lady, I don’t know why she wouldn’t like you.” “See.” Dizzy supported as he reached over and lightly grabbed my arm. “You’ve got nothing to worry about.” “Just don’t let her see you’re nervous.” Charlotte shook her head. “That woman can smell fear.” “Gee,” I groaned as worry once again began to build up. “Thanks Char.” She let out a light laugh as I began to shake my head. “Why are you grumpy today?” She asked, leaning over and wrapping her arms around me. “I’m not grumpy,” I insisted, but didn’t push her away. “you guys are all just messing with me.” “You make it easy.” Dizzy explained as he rested back in his seat. “Mhm.” Charlotte hummed as she let me go. “Your reaction is kind of funny too.” “He knows we’re joking, but convinces himself it’s real.” Dizzy giggled as I shot him another annoyed look. “It’s one of my favorite things about you.” He tried to comfort with a smile. “Better be.” I grumbled. I could tell by the look in his eyes that he wanted to kiss me, but had to settle for a wink as Mrs. Mowry took her seat at the front of the room. “What’s going on?” Ky asked as he entered the room and took his seat. “We’re bullying Artie.” Charlotte shrugged drawing another slight laugh from Dizzy. “Oh.” Ky accepted as he looked over to me. “That’s how you know you’re no longer the new kid.” Ky said, drawing a nod from Dizzy, who was just happy to have an out. “You’re one of us now.” Charlotte encouraged as she nudged my foot with hers. “That means you have to get teased just as much as the rest of us.” “Yeah, yeah.” I accepted, but before I could say anything else Mrs. Mowry started homeroom. As much as their teasing this morning frustrated me, I’d be lying if I said part of me didn’t enjoy it. Ky is right. This is just what friends do. They’ve stopped seeing me as the kid from Texas, now I’m just as much in their group as any of them. I just hope Colleen sees it that way too! The school day went just like all the ones before it. Me and Dizzy tried our hardest to behave, but every now and again Dizzy would break through and make me laugh. At least today it was only three or four times! That’s progress, right? Before I knew it, I found myself holding Dizzy’s hand as we stood outside his house. I usually try and enjoy my off days from baseball, but right now I wish I could just be at practice! “Relax.” Dizzy comforted with a friendly smile. “We were all just teasing you this morning, my Mom likes you.” “Okay.” I forced a nod. As I let out a deep breath, Dizzy couldn’t help but laugh. “Stop.” I whined as he led me to the front door and began to fumble around with his keys. “Stop.” He mocked through his laughter. “It’s alright.” He began again, this time actually growing serious. “I’ll be with you the whole time.” I nodded but as he pushed the door open, I felt even more nervous than before. This is even worse than when I first met her! What did Adam do to me?! “Ma.” Dizzy called out as he pulled me inside. “Artie thinks you don’t like him!” “Dizzy!” I quietly forced out through gritted teeth as I began to stare him down. “Why?” She yelled from the staircase. “Because he’s taking your favorite son from you.” Dizzy shouted back as he led me through the tight hallway and into the kitchen. “He can have you!” Colleen exclaimed as she finally began to descend the stairs. “Why do you think I don’t like you?” She asked as she finally reached the hallway. “It’s just Dizzy playing around again.” I lied, giving him a good nudge with my elbow as we sat down. “Adam said it to mess with him last night.” Dizzy shrugged his shoulders. “Then we all piled it on this morning to see how he’d react.” I let out a groan and looked away as Dizzy began to double down. “And now I think he actually believes it!” “I do not,” I insisted as I looked back at him. “but that doesn’t mean you come home and blurt it out!” “I was just clearing the air.” He replied with a proud smile. “Better to get it out of the way now, so we can focus on homework.” “I don’t know what you’re playing at,” Colleen dismissed as her gaze landed on Dizzy. “ but you need to actually get serious and start your homework.” She warned him before looking over to me. “Don’t listen to Adam. He spouts as much nonsense as Dizzy when he wants.” I stayed quiet and began to unzip my backpack as I realized there was more she wanted to say. “You helped convince Adam to give me a job, and take care of Dizzy when I can’t.” She supported as she laid a hand on my shoulder. “Of course I like you, even if you do get a little quiet around me.” “It’s because he’s intimidated by you.” Dizzy quickly added in as the smirk returned to his face. “You’re actually annoying today, you know that right?” I replied as I turned to him. “He’s annoying every day.” Colleen complained as she finally took a seat across from us. “Now both of you get your homework done, or neither of you is eating dinner.” “In that case we should probably leave some questions blank.” Dizzy whispered over to me, purposely talking loud enough for his Mother to hear. “Keep talking.” Colleen nodded as she began to stare down her son. “I just came up with something for me and Artie to do while you’re busy goofing around.” “You can’t make him cook for you.” Dizzy continued with a wide smile, but Colleen simply shrugged her shoulders and sat back. Dizzy made a face at her before finally looking down at the work in front of him. As the room finally grew quiet, we were both able to get to work. However, just like Colleen expected, I was an assignment or two ahead of her son. Every now and again I’d hesitate, or try and help him so the gap wasn’t as wide, but by time I wrapped up my last assignment, Dizzy still had two left! “You done?” Colleen asked from the stove as she glanced over to me. “Just about.” I forced a smile as I began to pack all my books into my bag. “Good because I need help.” Dizzy spoke in an attempt to slow me down. “You need less distractions.” Colleen warned as she walked away from the stove and waited at the opening of the living room. “Come on.” She encouraged as ours eyes connected. “I’m being serious,” Dizzy tried to argue as he realized his mother and I were actually going to have some one on one time. “I need Artie to explain this to me.” Colleen looked over to him and began to study her son closely. “He can look it over when you’re done.” She concluded as he let out a groan. “He can be such a bullshitter.” She complained as she led me into the living room. An older love seat sat next to a reclining chair as they both faced a TV on a busted-up table. In the middle of the room sat two big storage bins filled to the top with what looked like paper. “Wonder where I learned that from!” Dizzy replied, showing he could still hear us. He glanced into the room and made another face before redirecting his attention to his homework. “See, you’re not that far from him.” Colleen teased as she began to watch me closely. She could tell I was growing a little uncomfortable, but kept pushing me anyway. “You get squirmy like your Uncle.” She judged as I took a seat on the small couch. “Squirmy?” I repeated as she pulled the bins closer. “You get all anxious or uncomfortable and can’t sit still.” She explained as she pulled the lid off of the closest bin. “You should see what happens during the morning rush.” She shook her head. “There’s no keeping up with your Uncle.” She exhaled, finally pulling the bin close enough for me to see. As soon as I looked in, I realized it was full of pictures, not papers. “I used to be a photographer.” She explained, seeing the confusion on my face. “When I stopped all those years ago, I shoved all my pictures into bins and forgot about them.” She shook her head. “But I think it’s time to sort back through them, and see if there are any keepers.” “You’re getting sentimental.” Dizzy teased in a childish tone. “You need more pictures of me?” He flashed her a grin, but quickly looked back at his work as her face grew serious. “I was hoping you could help me.” She encouraged as she pulled out a few pictures. “Right now I just need three piles, one for pictures of nature, one for pictures of the city and finally any of the ones of Z.” “I can do that.” I nodded my head as she handed me some pictures. As Dizzy heard my words, I noticed him glance over to see what we were doing. “No comments.” Colleen shut down as she noticed his gaze. “You guys can go do your own thing after dinner, for now you’re going to do your homework while he helps.” Dizzy stayed quiet but forced eye contact with his mother as an unspoken conversation took place. Colleen let out a small sigh, but suddenly dug into the bin in front of us. “You may even be able to find some ammo for the next time he annoys you.” She teased as she handed me one more picture. As I looked down, I found a picture of Dizzy from when he was a toddler. Even then he proudly wore his normal smirk, except in this picture he was covered in paint. “Even then he was an artist.” Colleen teased as Dizzy watched us closely. “If you ask me, his painting was better then.” “Ha. Ha.” He sarcastically groaned as he looked back at his work. “Are there are more like this?” I couldn’t help but ask as I studied the picture closely. “Plenty.” Colleen answered. She let out a laugh as she saw how quickly I placed down the photo and began to scan through the others. As we created a small system for the piles, Colleen and I began to quickly sort through the photos. “Is this him and Ky?” I excitedly asked as I found a picture from elementary school. They both stood outside a school building with wide smiles. Dizzy had braces on to remedy some messy teeth as an early version of his current haircut sat on his head while Ky just looked like a younger version of his current self. A genuine smile spread across Colleens face as she saw the picture. “That was back when he first got the haircut and flight jacket.” She reminisced as she studied it closely. The second I placed it into the pile of family pictures, she quickly picked it back up. “I think I might frame this one and put it up.” She decided as she created a pile of its own. I couldn’t help but smile to myself as I saw her actions. I have a feeling that this might take a lot longer than it needs to! “Get a look at this!” She started again as she flashed me another picture of Dizzy from his childhood. This time Dizzy was with Charlotte, and it must’ve been Halloween. Charlotte was wearing a bright pink dress as though she was a princess, while Dizzy was dressed as a superhero. “I’ve gotta send this to the Charles!” She decided as she added it to the fourth pile. “Mom.” Dizzy couldn’t help but laugh as he walked over and took a seat in the recliner. “I know I was a cute kid, but you can’t suddenly hang up a million old pictures!” He teased, but I could tell it meant a lot to him. “You’re going to seem like a crazy lady!” “I don’t care.” She shot down as she kept her eyes on the pictures. “I’m hanging some up, and putting others in photobooks.” “You could always scan it and put it on your laptop like a normal person.” He continued to tease, clearly enjoying all the attention he was receiving from her. “Don’t you have homework to finish?” She asked as she finally looked over to him. “Finished it.” He shrugged his shoulders. “Don’t you have to watch dinner?” “It needs to cook for a little while.” She shook her head. “Are you going to help, or just add commentary?” “I might just watch.” He smirked as he leaned back in the chair. “It’s not every day that my boyfriend and Mom talk about how cute I am.” “How cute you were.” I corrected as I joined in on the conversation. “You kind of lost it when you straightened your teeth.” Colleen nodded her head along with my words. “You’re lucky you’ve got a good personality.” “Even then he can be annoying!” I yelped as the smile began to fade from Dizzy’s face. “I liked it better when you were scared of my Mom.” Dizzy complained as he realized how friendly we were acting. Sure, I may not be talking to her as much as I do with Adam, Lindsay or Mason but I’m starting to feel just as comfortable. “She’s a lot like you.” I let out, even surprising myself. “Careful.” She playfully teased. “I was just starting to like you.” “You guys both have the same,” I hesitated, looking for the right word. “spirit.” I decided, unsure how else to phrase it. “I’ll take it.” Dizzy shrugged his shoulders, but I could tell he knew what I was trying to say. “Wait!” He suddenly exclaimed. “Does that mean you drive Adam crazy like I do with Artie?” “I hope not.” She lightly laughed. “We don’t fool around like you two, we get our work done and go home.” “What’s Adam like at work?” I couldn’t help but ask. “I’ve asked Lindsay, but she always talks around the answer.” “He’s a very good boss.” She replied, giving me the safe answer. “Come on,” Dizzy whined in protest. “he’s not going to tell on you.” Dizzy pressured, being just as curious as me. “There’s really not much to say.” She shrugged her shoulders. “He’s like a machine, he’s already there by the time I come in and he’s just going.” She began, racking her brain for ways to describe it. “He gets there first thing in the morning and helps make the donuts then sticks around and makes sure we sell out or donate them.” “Are we talking about the same Adam here?” Dizzy asked in a laugh. As much as I respect Adam, I’m kind of with Dizzy here. I just can’t imagine him running nonstop! From the way he acts at home, well, he just seems kind of lazy! “Last night I watched him drink a beer he left out all day because he didn’t want to get up.” I supported, drawing a laugh from Colleen. “I don’t know what he’s like to live with, but he’s a very good boss.” She doubled down as she looked over at me. “And he works his ass off every time he comes in, I heard he used to work every day too!” “He just started taking time off when I moved in.” I supported, reminding myself that even that was a hard decision for him! “No better reason to take off.” She agreed as she started sorting through photos once again. “He’s so happy to have you.” She suddenly let out as she quickly looked back up to me. “He talks about you more than anything else.” All I could do was smile and nod as words escaped me. Maybe one day soon I should start helping out with the shop. It’d be good to see what Adam is like at work, and maybe even make some money if he’ll let me! We helped Colleen sort through the pictures for a little bit longer until finally dinner was ready. I wouldn’t say she’s the greatest cook ever, but after weeks of eating mainly frozen food from Adam, any homecooked meal tastes perfect! “So,” Dizzy began to hum as he collected our plates. “What do you want?” She sighed and went to stand up, but Dizzy motioned for her to sit as I grabbed the utensils. “I was thinking after Artie and I finish cleaning up, we can go hang out.” He shrugged, but kept a serious face as to not draw too much suspicion. “Alright.” She accepted, not understanding what the issue was. “In my room.” He clarified, but she stayed quiet and waited for the real question. “And since you took away my power cables the other day,” He finally started. “I was hoping I could get it back so we could watch a movie.” She let out a deep breath as he finally got to the point. “Since Artie is here, I’ll give you the one for your computer.” She nodded her head. “But I’m taking it back when he leaves!” “Thank you Mom.” Dizzy smiled, walking over and giving her a big hug. “Yeah, yeah.” She muttered as she got up and went to retrieve the cord. Dizzy flashed me a quick wink before helping me finish up the dishes. “No funny business up there.” She warned as she handed Dizzy a black wire. “The walls are thin.” She reminded us before allowing us to go on our way. “Now do you believe she likes you?” Dizzy teased as he led me up the stairs. “I’ve only been saying it all day.” “You’re so annoying today!” I complained through a laugh as we made it to his bedroom. It was a bit cleaner than the last time I was here. However, old pictures and empty spray paint cans still filled his counters. “Still smells like cats and body spray.” I teased as I took a seat on his bed. He locked his bedroom door before crawling under his desk and starting to plug his computer in. “You didn’t have to lock the door.” I shrugged my shoulders. “Nothings going to happen.” “Mhm.” He hummed as he began to fumble the wire around. “This is such a pain in the ass.” He complained in a sigh. “She knows she can’t hide my stuff, so she just takes the damn power wires so it doesn’t work!” “I don’t know, that sounds pretty clever.” I laughed as he only began to struggle more. He let out another frustrated groan until finally his computer started to kick to life. “Got it!” He exclaimed as he crawled back out from under his desk. “Come here.” He called out in a high-pitched voice as he stayed seated on the floor. “Come here.” He repeated using the same tone. I shot him a strange look as he began to rub his fingers together until finally a cat came running out from under his bed. He laughed to himself as he noticed me jump back from surprise. “You think I was talking to you?” He asked, lightly petting the cat as it began to purr. “I thought you were losing your mind.” I shook my head as he stood up and joined me on the bed. Before we knew it, the cat followed and took a seat between me and Dizzy. “She doesn’t like you.” Dizzy teased as he stood up once more and began setting up the computer. “You say that about everyone.” I shook my head, but made sure to keep my distance from the cat. “Well I mean it this time.” He laughed as he pulled up Netflix on the center screen. “Don’t pet her, or she’ll scratch you.” “That’s not funny.” I exhaled as I moved further back on his bed and away from the cat. “I’m not trying to be funny.” He insisted as he chose a movie and headed back towards the door. “Catniss.” He called out, as the cat slowly got back up and started to head out of the room. “She’s a good girl though.” He encouraged as he pulled the door open for the cat. “You don’t have to lock it.” Dizzy mocked as he once again shut and locked the door. “I’m trying to watch the movie.” I excused, redirecting my attention to whatever Dizzy had put on. “What is this anyway?” “Just some horror movie.” He shrugged his shoulders. “I just put on whatever it recommended.” “How do you know it’s going to be good?” I teased as he finally laid next to me. “Just a feeling.” He played along as he leaned against me. “Besides, if it’s not I think we can find other ways to keep busy.” “So that’s what this is about.” I pressured as I extended my arm around him. “I thought I was lost and you were going to help me.” “I’m planning on helping with that too.” He comforted as he snuggled his head against me. “Because I think we kind of need you to find yourself.” “We?” I repeated, not exactly sure what he meant. “Promise you won’t take this the wrong way?” He asked as I slowly nodded my head. “I think part of you is still holding back on all of this.” “Because I won’t sleep with you?” I asked in an unamused voice. “No.” He quickly dismissed. “You keep up with that pretty well.” He bashfully smiled. “It just,” He hesitated once more. “It feels like this still isn’t normal for you yet.” “Is that a problem?” I prodded as he shrugged his shoulders. “Because I don’t think getting in trouble and sneaking around with a boyfriend will feel normal to me anytime soon.” As the words left my lips, I started to understand what he was trying to say. “Not that it’s a bad thing.” “I know,” Dizzy slowly nodded. “but I want it to feel normal to you.” He explained as he carefully thought things over. “I don’t want you coming over and talking to my Mom,to feel weird.” He swayed his head. “I don’t know, does that make sense?” He’s at a loss for words, but I could tell this is something he’s been thinking over for a little while now. He always acts so confident, but this has been eating away at him I can tell. “Kind of.” I answered, choosing my own words carefully. “You do feel normal to me.” I tried to comfort. “I always wait to walk to school with you and look forward to doing homework together after.” “I must just be tripping then.” He tried to dismiss. “I, forget it.” “That’s not what I’m saying.” I quickly clarified. “Because I think part of what you’re saying is right,” I nodded. “but I think you also want to get more serious than we already are.” “Yeah.” He realized as a blush began to fill his face. “But I,” I paused and took a gulp. “I’m just not ready for that yet.” I answered, trying to be as honest as possible. “It’s not even because you’re a guy,” I tried to clarify. “I just don’t know if I’m ready to let someone in that much.” “You think you’ll ever be able to?” Dizzy asked, but this time I couldn’t help but laugh. “Sorry, Sorry.” I apologized as he looked away from me. It’s so rare I get to see him being serious, but when I do, well it only makes me like him more. “You’re just in such a rush sometimes.” As he heard those words, I noticed him only grow more serious. “It’s cute.” “You don’t have to lie.” He grumbled, still not looking back up to me. “I know I come on too strong.” “You think?” I teased, messing with him just like he had with me this morning. “We hang out most of the day, you sleep over two or three times a week, you hang out with my Uncle even when I’m not home, and you still want more?” I asked, as he finally looked back up at me. He stayed quiet and quickly looked away but before I could say anything else, I laid a kiss on his cheek. “I must be the luckiest person in the world that I have a boyfriend who does that and still wants more.” I encouraged as I pulled him in closer. “I’m just not there yet, but I promise you I will be.” I forced a smile as he looked back up at me. “It’s a little past two months and you’ve got me laying in your bed cuddling, just wait see where we are in four months.” “In our own place.” He joked, finally letting his mood pick back up again. “I thought I was supposed to help you.” “You have.” I comforted once more. “You gave me something to work towards.” I forced a smile and landed another kiss on his cheek. “But to get there, I, I need to meet my birth father.” I confessed, mentioning a subject we had both been avoiding. “But why?” He whined, still not fully understanding my motives. “He’s the last person in Texas I need to make peace with.” I shook my head. “I just, it’s something I need to do before I can really be happy here.” He nodded but I could tell he was leaving a few questions unspoken. “I’ll be there for you no matter what.” He suddenly began as he sat up. “I, I may not understand it, but I won’t leave you alone. I promise.” As I heard those words, I couldn’t help but lean forward and land a kiss on his lips. It started innocently, but the more excited we got, the deeper our kiss became. There’s no denying that I need more time to grow with him emotionally. I mean he’s the first person I’ve ever dated! It’ll take time before I can fully understand what it means to take the step he wants. But seeing how much I trust him physically. Being able to surrender my full self because I know he won’t hurt me. It shows me I chose the right person. It shows me that when I’m ready, I’ll understand just how much I love him.
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