It took everything in me to hide my smile as my uncle filled out the remaining custody forms. Don’t get me wrong, I know absolutely nothing about the man, but anything is better than being stuck with my grandparents. I took a closer look as I realized just how much he looked like my mother. He has her eyes, her nose and that weird eye twitch she had whenever she was anxious. Leaving her is going to be hard, but at least now I know a small part of her will be with me, even if he doesn't realize it.
“Come on Lillian,” My grandfather began in an angry tone. “let’s get out of here.”
“Woh,” Uncle Adam forced out as they approached the door. “aren’t you going to take him?”
“Uncle!” I quietly yelped.
“What? They have all your stuff.” He argued. “I’ll be there to pick you up within the hour.”
“No way.” Grandfather rejected. “You can come pick up his suitcase and backpack on our porch, and that’s it.”
“He’s just a kid!”
“I don’t care what he is.” Grandfather interrupted. “He’s not welcome in my home anymore.” I froze as his eyes locked with mine. “Remember this moment when you’re burning in hell. You chose to live with this heathen, no one else.”
“Sarah was the one that,” Uncle Adam began but they slammed the door before he could finish.
The lawyer looked from Uncle Adam to the door then back to the paper work. “You uh, have an intense family.”
“They’re not my family.” He dismissed dropping the pen and looking up. “That’s it?”
“That’s it.” The lawyer nodded his head. “I’ll have all the legal documents, including his birth certificate and will sent to your home in California. Good luck Adam, raising a kid is one of the most fulfilling things in life.”
“So they say.” He grumbled, getting up and walking towards the door. “Come on Arthur.”
I nodded towards the lawyer before quickly following after my Uncle. I don’t know what changed since he found out he’s my guardian, but he hasn’t looked at me since. I know he’s nervous, hell, I am too! But we’re in this together, aren’t we?
“Uncle Adam,” I began.”
“You can just call me Adam.” He interrupted as he led me to his rental car.
“Oh, okay.” I nodded, trying my hardest to keep up with him.
“Do you have to sit in the back?” He asked, placing his hand on the door handle.
“I’m fifteen.” I nervously laughed. “You only have to sit in the back until you’re like eight.”
“Oh.” He exhaled, letting it go and opening the driver’s side door. “But you’re scrawny.”
“Gee, thanks.” I sighed, walking around to the passenger’s side.
“I didn’t mean anything by it.” He nervously clarified as I pulled the door open. “I was the same way when I was your age.”
I nodded my head but grew silent at his words. As he clicked on the radio I felt a sigh of relief leave my lips as the normal Christian rock station filled the air. I know I said I don’t believe in God, but I, maybe I do. I don’t know! I’m fifteen! That’s a big decision! Either way, Christian rock just has this way of comforting me. Of making me feel like everything will fall into place.
Without warning my uncle clicked another button before tapping his phone. The music warped into a fast beat and slightly distorted guitar, a combination I had never dared to listen to before. The singers voice seemed flat and angry, yet so full of life. I was never a big music guy, I only really listened to what my mom or school put on, which was always well, the Christian rock station!
I know that sounds insane. I know we all have phones and laptops, but you try getting a solid connection in the middle of some small town in Texas! Besides, I was never one to push the boundaries anyway. I was happy with everything being the way it was. That was, until the boundaries shifted all on their own.
“You like this type of music?” Adam finally spoke, glancing over to me for the first time since he found out I was his.
“I don’t know.” I shrugged. “I’ve never heard it before.”
He nodded his head and returned his eyes to the road. “Well San Francisco is full of all different types of music.”
“Oh,” I exhaled. “how different is it from Texas?”
“It’s like a different planet.” Adam shook his head. “If you’re like your mother, you’ll love it there.”
I grew silent for a few seconds as I thought it over. “How come she never moved there then?”
“She was too scared.” He replied in a low voice. “Big cities like San Francisco, New York, hell, even Paris, excited the hell out of her, the both of us I guess. But she never found the courage to leave Texas.”
“Were you two close?” I asked in a brave voice. “You know before…” I trailed off, not knowing how to phrase it.
“She was my best friend.” He answered, keeping his eyes forward.
I felt my heart race as I thought over my next few words. “Mine too.” I finally spoke silencing the car.
As we pulled up to the old dilapidated house I saw my Uncle look to it, then quickly away with nothing but disgust in his eyes. My Grandfather wasn’t kidding when he said my stuff would be on the porch. Just like my Uncle and Mother I was getting thrown out, and nothing in this world could make me happier right now.
As I grabbed onto my suitcase and backpack I took one last look through the screen door. There they sat, just a few feet away, staring mindlessly at the T.V. How my Mom ever came from those two, I have no idea, but thank you for that. Thank you for unknowingly raising the greatest women I’ve ever met. And please, I hope you made the same “mistakes” with my uncle.
“Ready?” He asked as I threw my bags into the trunk and jumped back into my seat.
I nodded my head before looking over to him. “Where do we go now?”
“The motel I guess.” He shrugged. “I was supposed to fly out tonight, but I guess I can change it and pick up an extra ticket. Plus you should go to school tomorrow, right?”
“I don’t know, isn’t that kind of your call?” I offered, trying my hardest to see what kind of guardian he’d be.
“Oh, yeah, I guess it is.” He anxiously accepted. “You’re going to go to school tomorrow, and I’ll talk to them about transferring your information to your new school in San Francisco.”
I nodded my head and tried my hardest to draw eye contact. “When do you think we’ll fly out?”
“What’s today? Monday?” He asked as he thought aloud. “Wednesday morning if that’s okay with you.”
“That’s fine.” I quickly accepted.
“I know it’s going to be hard to leave your friends but,”
“I don’t have any friends.” I interrupted. “Well I guess I have friends, but, I don’t know, we’re not close or anything.”
“Oh.” He exhaled, still staring off at the road. “Then California will be a good thing for you.”
I stayed quiet but nodded my head. The idea scares me, but he’s right, it will be good for me. I need a fresh start. I need somewhere new to explore. The only thing left for me in Texas is the painful memories of my Mom. I know leaving them right now might not be the healthiest thing I can do, but what other choice do I have? It’s time for me to start pushing boundaries. To start learning who I am.
The motel room was cramped, and held two old small beds, but anything was better than the room I stayed in last night. Anything is better than the negative energy in that house!
When dinner time rolled around I could tell Adam didn’t know what to do. At first he thought about taking me to some fast food place, but changed his mind as he remembered the old diner that sat in the center of town.
As we walked in the front door I saw the hostess roll her eyes and grab two menus. Without a word she led us to a small table and slammed the menus on the table.
“What’s her problem?” I asked him, but got nothing back. I don’t know her well or anything, but every time I came here with Mom that hostess was so friendly.
“Drinks?” A waiter asked as he reached our table.
“Water.” I forced out, shocked by how curt the staff was being. Adam repeated my words, but looked down at the menu as though he had expected this behavior.
“Does everyone know about you?” I finally asked.
“It’s a small town Arthur.” He sighed. “Everyone knows everything about everyone.”
“Oh.” I exhaled.
“Dare to think differently and you get shut out.” He complained, opening up more than I had expected. “Challenge their thoughts and they’ll try and burn you at the stake.”
“Is California like that?” I asked, not knowing much about my new home. I heard it was different, that it was freer and accepting, but that sounds like a folk tale to me.
“Not at all.” He shook his head. “You could pass by a hundred people and never see any of them again. Here you see the same five everywhere you go.”
“Yeah.” I forced a laugh. “And you can just call me Artie.”
“What?” He asked, glancing at to me.
“You said Arthur before, but, I don’t know, you can just call me Artie.” I tried to explain.
“Oh, okay.” He said, caught off guard by my correction. “You’re like her, you know that right?”
A soft blush filled my cheeks as I heard those words. “How’s that?”
“Soft spoken, but there’s a weight behind the words you do say.” He explained, pretending to still read his menu. “You think a lot, but keep it to yourself. Just like she did.”
“I guess so.” I nodded my head, as I forced my smile to stay hidden. I wonder if he knows how much that meant to me. To be compared to the best person I’ve ever known. “I miss her.” I suddenly confessed, shocking even myself.
“I do too.” He agreed, finally looking into my eyes. “I wish I got the chance to talk to her one last time.”
“Me too.” I supported as I tried my hardest to fend off my emotions. “Whatever she was mad at you for, she forgives you, you know that right?”
“Why?” He quickly asked. “Did she say something?”
“No.” I shook my head. “But she left me with you, and that has to count for something, right?”
“I guess so.” He offered in a sigh. “She was always one to keep secrets.”
“I thought I knew everything about her.” I began, looking down at the table. “I thought we told each other everything, but now, I don’t know anymore.”
“I think she told you as much as you can tell a fifteen year old.” He offered. “Anything she kept from you, it was for your own good.”
In that moment I wanted to pressure him. I wanted to ask a million things at once. I wanted to know exactly why everyone here hates him, but fell quiet as I looked back up at him. Sadie already told me it’s because he’s an atheist, so I guess I should just leave it at that for now.
“So, what do you like to do?” He asked, not knowing what else to say.
“I don’t know.” I uncomfortably spoke, not knowing how to answer the question. “I read a lot, and sometimes Mom would take me to museums, but that’s really it.”
“That can’t be it.” Adam laughed, but as our eyes connected he saw I wasn’t kidding. “Then you’re going to love San Francisco, the museums there are going to make these look like a grandparent’s attic.” I nodded but fell quiet once more. “What books do you read?”
“Anything I’m allowed to.” I shook my head. “Mom, she, she even let me start reading A Song of Ice and Fire.”
“Those are big books.” He supported, noticing how secretive I was about it. “How do you think they compare to the show?”
“I’m not allowed to watch the show.” I answered as it finally clicked in his head.
“That’s right, you’re only fifteen and we’re, well, in hell.” He teased finally drawing a smile from me. “When I was a teenager they wouldn’t even let me read Harry Potter.”
“They still won’t let me.” I complained. “That’s why mom upped the ante with A Song of Ice and Fire.”
“She didn’t break the rules a lot, but when she did she really went for it.” Adam laughed as he got lost in the conversation. “I’ll tell you what, when we get to California we’ll have movie nights, and we’ll watch all the Harry Potter movies.”
“Really?” I excitedly asked. “But we were told we’re not really supposed to watch any…”
“Forget what you were told.” He rejected. “They still monitor all the movies in the theater?”
“Yeah.” I nodded my head. “We only get like two new movies every few months.”
“What else is new.” He rolled his eyes. “Well we’ll watch Harry Potter, and then I’ll show you all the Marvel movies.”
“Marvel?” I asked with a titled head.
“Like the super heroes.” He offered. “You know Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, all those guys.”
“Oh.”I exhaled. “They told us those movies are against the second commandment. You know, not to worship any false gods”
“Glad to see they still brainwash people around here.” He teased in a nod. “They’re heroes, and sure some of them have super powers, but some of them are just like us. Like Iron Man, he’s a normal man in a powerful suit. It just makes you think about what you would do in that situation.”
“I don’t know.” I nervously laughed.
“Me neither.” He shook his head. “But it’s fun to imagine.”
“Yeah.” I accepted in a nod. “Is that what you like?”
“Superheroes or movies?” He asked.
“Both.” I shrugged.
“Well I like them both.” He finally smiled. “I just like anything creative. Music, movies, even books just like you. That’s why I love San Francisco. Anybody can be anything they want.”
“You make it sound like heaven.” I couldn’t help but tease.
“To me that’s what it is.” He shrugged. “There’s a place in the world you’ll find and just be at peace with everything around you, and to me that’s what San Francisco is.”
I nodded my head and listened as he began to tell me more and more about my new home. He’s a lot more outspoken than my mom, but he thinks exactly the same. He dares to dream big, to chase after the stars. Something that no matter how hard my mom encouraged, I was always too scared to do.It makes me wonder what would’ve happened to her if she was as brave as her brother. Maybe we would’ve moved to San Francisco a long time ago. Maybe then there would be no car accident. Maybe then she would still be here.
The waiter’s continued their harsh treatment of us, but he didn’t mind, so neither did I. We’re officially rejects from Texas. Officially no longer welcome in my home town. It’s a scary feeling at first, but the more I think about it the more I realize just how free I am.
As night rolled around the gravity of the situation fell back onto my shoulders. The pain from my loss slowly wrapped back around me as I began to miss my Mother more and more. Adam noticed, and tried his hardest to cheer me up, but there was nothing he could say or do to fix it. I just need to feel this pain. I just need to grieve for a while. That night when I laid my head on the pillow I felt the same tears from the other nights fill my eyes, but fought them off. I’ll be okay. I have family now. I’ll be okay.
When the next morning rolled around I got as ready for school as I possibly could’ve. Adam watched me, but bit his tongue, hoping to avoid stirring any of my emotions from last night. The drive to school was just as quiet, and when he arrived I made my way to home room while he made his way to the front office.
As I walked through the halls I noticed lingering stares and whispers as people murmured about the poor orphaned boy making his way through the halls. They always used to make fun of me for being a bastard, but I wonder what they’ll say now.
“Artie.” Sam let out in surprise as I took my seat. “I didn’t think I’d ever see you!”
“Yeah.” I grumbled, staring straight ahead.
“Hard morning?” Zach asked, but got a swat from Sam to shut up.
“I heard your moving in with your uncle.” Sam offered.
“Yeah.” I nodded my head. “I’m flying to California tomorrow morning.”
“Oh, that’s cool.” Sam forced a smile.
“But aren’t you worried?” Zach pressured. “I heard your Uncle is some kind of zealot.”
“So?” I asked looking over to him. “Everyone here is a Zealot, what does it matter what he is?”
“He’s not a zealot.” Sam shook his head. “I heard a rumor he’s an abomination.” I finally turned to him as I heard those words. “You know, that he’s gay.”
“He’s not gay.” I shut down as quickly as I could.
“I heard everyone in California is a little gay.” Zach nodded his head.
“I don’t think that’s how it works.” I asserted, staring them both down. “Where did you hear he’s gay?”
“I don’t know.” Sam shrugged. “That’s just what I heard. That’s why your grandparents kicked him out.”
“He’s an atheist.” I tried to explain. “That’s why they kicked him out.”
As they heard my words they both seemed to grow pale. “Like he doesn’t believe in God?”
“No.” I shook my head.
“That’s crazy!” Zach shouted. “How could someone not believe in God? Where the hell does he think we came from?”
“I don’t know.” I shook my head.
“That’s totally worse than being gay.” Sam decided in a sigh.
“It is not.” I rejected. “At least if you don’t believe in God you can still be a good person, gay people, they’re just, abominations.”
“You can say that again.” Zach nodded his head.
The conversation froze as a shadow rose over us. “Would you look who came to school today?” I heard a strong voice taunt.
“It’s little orphan Artie.” The girl standing next to him teased, drawing laughs from the group. “That’s your new nickname, what do you think of it?”
I stayed quiet and looked straight ahead. “She asked you a question.” The first voice said, slamming a fist on my desk, but I stayed quiet.
“Just leave him alone Andrew.” Sam spoke up but fell quiet as he drew a hostile stare.
“What’s wrong? Lose your tongue in that little car accident of yours?” Andrew demanded, reaching down and grabbing the collar of my shirt. “My dad was the officer at the scene,” He began as he picked me up by my shirt, freeing me from the desk under me. “He said you were crying like a little bitch, and that,” Before he could finish the sentence I pulled back my foot and kicked him right between the legs. With a big groan he let me go and fell to his knees.
“What the hell you psycho?!” The girl demanded. “Did losing…”
“Shut up, you’re just, just a white trash bitch!” I finally began to lash out. “And you two.”I began turning towards Sam and Zach. “Where were you this weekend? You guys say you’re my friends, but you didn’t even come to my mom’s funeral!”
“I wasn’t allowed to,” Sam began but I could only shake my head at his words.
“I don’t care what your parents think of my mom.” I interrupted. “I’m supposed to be your friend, but when I needed you, you were nowhere to be found.” They both looked down as they heard my words. “I’m done here.” I decided, grabbing my backpack and heading for the door. As I headed out I didn’t even look back, instead I walked right past my home room teacher as she made her way through the hallway and to the classroom she would soon find in disarray.
I let out a big sigh of relief as I saw my Uncle standing at the front desk filling out paper work. “I’m ready to go.” I suddenly let out, before he even knew I had entered the room.
“What?” He asked, but as he turned back and saw my wrinkled shirt connected the dots. “Okay.” He nodded his head.
“Well that’s too bad.” The secretary began. “You can’t just leave school because,”
“He wants to leave school, so I’m taking him out.” Adam ordered, shooting her a serious look.
“There’s a way things are done,”
“Don’t tell me what to do with the kid in my care.” Adam warned, shooting her an angry look.
“This is the same attitude that got you thrown out of this town.” The secretary began to lecture. “And it’s the same attitude that will,”
“Go fuck yourself.” He dismissed, pushing the finished paper work at her and heading towards the exit. I couldn’t help but gasp at his strong language. Sure, I had read it in books, but I’ve never actually seen it in person!
I quickly followed after him as the secretary fumed with anger. As we reached his car I couldn’t help but gulp at all the thoughts racing through my head. “Are you gay?” I forced out, freezing him in his tracks. “I, I guess I’ll get over it if you are, but I, I just,”
“No.” He shook his head, refusing to even turn around. I waited for him to say more, but he simply opened his door and slammed it behind him. There’s something there. Something he’s not telling me. But he’s all I have right now, and I won’t risk losing him because I was pushing the line.
“Sorry.” I forced out as I climbed into my side of the car. “Where are we going?”
“Home.” He decided with a nod of his head.
The rest of the ride was quiet as we each worked out the situation in our heads. I guess the secretary had said a lot more to him than what I had heard because he was pissed! But then again so was I. I hope that bastard Andrew Johnson is still on the floor in pain. I hope I kicked him so hard I burst his balls. I hope he can never have kids of his own and spread that gene. I know it sounds extreme, but I hope very few people in this town can.
When we finally arrived at the airport we had to wait a few hours for a flight to San Francisco, but it was kind of peaceful. Adam listened to music as I finished up the second book in the series I had grown to love. Adam even bought me the third book for the flight home! I can tell he’s nervous about our new arrangement, but I have a feeling he’ll actually be kind of good at this.
He even tried his hardest to help me cope with the fear of my first flight! My heart raced and sweat seemed to coat my palms, but the truth is that even if this plane goes down it’ll be better than being stuck in my hometown. Eventually I got used to the way the plane moved and even fell asleep on the three hour flight to my new home.
“Look at that.” Adam explained as he slowly shook me awake.
When I opened my eyes and looked out the window I saw the sun setting on a golden city. I felt a gasp escape my lips as I saw a bright orange bridge with light bending around it. I’m finally here. I’m finally getting a fresh start.