Holding Dizzy that night, I never wanted to let him go. I’ve never seen anything like this, I’ve never felt anything like this. Is it worry? Is it guilt? Should I have just let him spend the night here? I know I wanted to spend time with Adam, but I still could’ve let him come over after. I had no idea his home life was so, rocky.
When I finally pulled it together enough to let him go, I looked back at Adam but saw only a determined look. He’s working something over in his mind. Like some type of super computer, he’s taking everything in, and slowly analyzing every last detail. He gave me a supportive nod before leaning back against one of the kitchen counters.
“I think you two should go to bed,” He suddenly announced. “and I’m sorry, but I, I still can’t have you boys sharing a bed.”
“But this is different,” I began to protest. “you really think we’d do anything right now? I mean,”
“It’s fine.” Dizzy interrupted, looking back at me. “Let’s not push our luck tonight.”
“Alright.” I gulped, hearing the exhaustion in his voice.
“So, it’s pretty late,” Adam began to think over. “and I’d say you guys don’t have to go to school, but I don’t really have the power to do that with you Dizzy.”
“You don’t need it,” Dizzy exhaled, looking back at him. “they’ll call my Mom tomorrow asking where I am, and she’ll just say she forgot to call. It happens all the time.”
“Oh.” Adam nodded his head. “Does she know you’re here?” He asked, but as he saw Dizzy’s hesitation began to lock up. “I’m sorry, I, I shouldn’t have asked that right now. That’s a question for tomorrow.”
“She doesn’t know I’m here.” Dizzy answered in a sigh. “But she doesn’t need to. She, she should stay away for a little while.”
I looked back towards Adam with a panicked look, but felt his hand drop on my shoulder to calm me down. “Why don’t you go grab Dizzy a pillow and extra blankets from the hall closet?”
“Yeah.” I quickly nodded, rushing up the stairs. As I reached the hall I could hear some muffled talking from downstairs. It didn’t sound like anything substantial, but I could tell Adam had earned a new respect from Dizzy tonight. It was like up to this point Dizzy only saw Adam as a friend, but now, well now he sees Adam the same way I do.
“You’re sure I can’t spend the night with him?” I asked Adam as I walked back down the stairs and reluctantly handed Dizzy the bedding.
“It’s fine.” Dizzy answered for him. “I promise, I’ll be lying right here when you wake up in the morning.”
“Alright.” I sighed, feeling Adam’s hand lightly hit my shoulder one more time.
“Good night boys, I’ll see you both in the morning.” Adam dismissed, allowing us to have a few moments alone.
“Good night.” We both let out in unison as we patiently waited for him to disappear up the stairs.
“Stop looking at me like that,” Dizzy finally spoke when he was sure we were alone. “I’ll be okay.”
“Sorry, I, I’m not sure I can look any other way.” I stuttered, unable to stop staring at the discoloration on his face. “I’m sorry I didn’t let you spend the night here. I should’ve, I, I just,”
“Stop.” Dizzy dismissed, throwing on his usual calming tone. “None of this is your fault. I had to stay a night at home eventually.”
“But nothing.” He finished for me. “Nothing short of going to my house and beating up Trevor would’ve stopped this from happening.” He let out a small laugh as he saw a combination of anger and reflection beginning on my face. “He’s a big guy, don’t be getting any ideas.”
I let out an embarrassed laugh but couldn’t find any words to say. “Why don’t you go to bed?” Dizzy suggested. “We can talk about everything tomorrow, it, it’ll all be okay. I promise.”
“Alright.” I slowly nodded. “I, I like you a lot Dizzy.”
“I like you a lot too.” A smirk began on his face, but quickly faded as he winced in pain.
As I walked up stairs I couldn’t help but keep looking back at him. What kind of animal attacks a teenager? What kind of monster do you have to be to take your day out on your girlfriend and her son? Back in Texas some parents spanked their kids, but I never saw anything like this. It was never this, barbaric.
The rest of that night I could barely sleep. I just couldn’t get the image of Dizzy out of my head. Every now and then I would get out of bed and check on him in the living room. I just needed to know that he was staying put. That he was safe. A few of those times he even heard me and smiled as he caught me watching from the stairs. Even now, he’s trying his hardest to keep his normal high spirits. He’s a warrior, there’s no doubt about it.
When the sun finally rose, I could feel the questions from last night starting to rise with it. There was so much Adam and I both wanted to know. So much we needed to know to make sure Dizzy was safe.
“Good morning.” Adam greeted as we both stepped out of our rooms.
“Morning.” I replied, watching him closely. “How long are you staying home for?”
“However long I need to.” Adam shrugged. “Lindsay’s got the shop handled.”
“You sure you believe that?” I teased, trying my hardest to lighten the heavy mood.
“Nope.” He played along, leading me downstairs to find a wide-awake Dizzy staring at the ceiling.
“Did you sleep at all last night?” I whined, noticing the bruises on his face had only grown worse.
“What is sleep?” Dizzy asked with a small smile. “I kept my eyes closed and rested for a while, does that count?”
“Why can’t you ever just answer a question?” I complained, taking a seat at his feet.
“I answer questions.” He shrugged.
“Sure, with other questions!” I yelped, helping him to relax into the moment.
“Speaking of questions,” He began in a brave voice. “I’m sure you have a few.” His eyes focused on Adam’s as he took a seat on the other side of the couch.
“You could say that.” Adam slowly nodded his head. “But I’ll wait for you to be ready.”
“I’m ready now.” Dizzy explained. “But first I have a question of my own.” Adam’s gaze turned confused, but he nodded allowing Dizzy his moment. “How much damage were you actually going to do with Artie’s baseball bat?”
“Oh my God!” Adam rolled his eyes. “I thought this was going to be a serious question!”
“It is!” Dizzy happily exclaimed. “What if an intruder has a gun? You’d be shot before you even got into swinging range!”
“I had to do something.” Adam defended, trying his hardest to take the conversation seriously. “Plus, I played baseball as a kid, my swings pretty good if I do say so myself.”
“I’m sure it is.” I teased in a sarcastic voice. “We could,”
“Don’t say get a gun.” Adam finished for me.
“Get a gun.” I let out anyway.
“No.” Adam quickly shot down. “This isn’t Texas Artie. There are no guns allowed in this household.” I clicked my tongue but let it go as I saw how serious Adam had grown. “If people want to own guns, that’s fine, I respect that, but not in my household. Especially not with you and Dizzy crawling around here.”
“What do you think we do?” I defensively asked. “Rummage through your stuff?”
“Like a pig through mud.” He nodded staring me down.
“We don’t touch any of your stuff!” I insisted as a troubled smirk took over Dizzy’s face.
“Except your bong.” He cackled with mischief in his eyes.
“Artie!” Adam yelped in a strict voice.
“Your what?” I asked as a blush filled my face. “What’s a bong?”
“It, it’s nothing.” Adam nervously stammered.
“You have a bong?” Dizzy giggled to himself.
“I, no, Dizzy, I don’t own a bong.” Adam continued to stutter, but it was clear Dizzy had caught him.
“What’s a bong?” I asked once more in a loud voice.
“It’s a sex thing.” Dizzy nodded drawing a bright red blush from my face.
“It is not a sex thing!” Adam yelped as he began to lose control over the room.
“It’s not a sex thing.” Dizzy laughed, clearly loving every second of the moment. “It’s a filtering thingy you smoke weed out of.”
“Adam!” I gasped in shock. “I knew I smelt something the other night!”
“Oh please, like you even know what weed smells like.” Adam rolled his eyes.
“I do, because I smelt it the other night before I fell asleep!” I insisted, beginning to stare him down.
“I’m so sorry.” Adam sarcastically replied. “Would you like a warning next time?”
“So you did smoke!” I yelped, beginning to enjoy the chaos flying around the room myself.
“Can I join you next time?” Dizzy excitedly asked.
“What? No! Why am I still entertaining this conversation?” Adam asked, reminding himself he was the one in charge. “What I like to do in my free time, is up to me.”
“Of course.” Dizzy happily nodded. “You’re getting awfully defensive about smoking. We’re both fine with it.”
“I don’t know.” I began to sway my head. “I’m not sure how to feel about this.”
“Okay, correction, one of us doesn’t care, the other is undecided.” Dizzy continued drawing my eye contact. “I think you should be a fan though. It’s actually kind of fun.”
“Really?” I asked with a smile.
“Yeah, it’s totally relaxing and kills anxiety,” He explained. “and based on how wound up Adam’s getting from this conversation, well I think he could use a smoke right now!”
“Would you stop glorifying drugs to my nephew!” Adam warned in a loud voice. “We have actual important things to talk about!”
“I change my answer.” I decided, ignoring Adam’s words. “I’m okay with you smoking weed for now.”
“Artie!” Adam yelped. “Stop fueling Dizzy and focus!”
“Geez, sorry for accepting you.” I teasingly rolled my eyes. “Next time you smoke I’ll just call the police.”
“It’s legal in California genius.” Dizzy explained, looking back over to Adam with a proud smile.
“Oh my.” I exhaled as I began to think it all over.
“In fact, doesn’t The Price is Right sell a certain fun donut?” Dizzy continued to push, but this time received only a stern look back. “Alright, alright, we’ll drop it.” He giggled, drawing more laughter from me.
Adam rolled his eyes, but I could tell he was glad all the tension in the room had been broken. After all, it’s not like I’m all that shocked he smokes weed. Like I said, I smelt it the other night, and when I first moved in the place was practically buried in beer cans! I guess he just eats and lives like a college student!
Dizzy took a deep breath as silence filled the air and nodded. “Whatever you want. Ask it.”
“Whatever?” Adam repeated as Dizzy nodded once more. “Alright,” He exhaled a heavy breath. “was this honestly the first time you’ve been abused?”
“Yeah.” Dizzy replied, letting his eyes fall to the coffee table. “I mean, my Mom takes swings at me, but I wouldn’t really call that abuse. Just her being my Mom.”
“And her boyfriend,”
“Trevor.” Dizzy clarified.
“Trevor.” Adam repeated. “How long have they been dating?”
“Like a year and a half.” Dizzy swayed his head. “But she’s usually had guys coming around. They’ve just never been as scummy as this one."
Adam took a second to process Dizzy’s answer before drawing enough courage the ask the next question. “Has Trevor always been abusive towards your Mom?” Dizzy hesitated before only nodding his head. “Physically or verbally?”
“I don’t know.” Dizzy let out a heavy breath. “I’ve heard verbally a few times, but I, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was physical too.”
“Do you know if she’s thought about leaving him?” Adam asked but Dizzy quickly shook his head no. “It’s not that simple, is it?” Adam continued, understanding the thoughts racing through the young teen’s head.
“Never is.” He replied before falling quiet once more.
“What about you,” Adam began once more, capitalizing on the moment the best he could. “why don’t you want to press charged against him for abuse?”
Dizzy stayed quiet for a few moments, but as I gently grabbed his leg for support he looked back up at us. “He makes my Mom happy.” He finally answered. “I don’t want her to have to choose between the two of us.”
“But he’s the one forcing her to choose!” I couldn’t help but interrupt. “He’s the one starting the problems, not you.”
As he looked back up at me I couldn’t help but be frozen by the cold look in his usual lively eyes. “It’s just not that simple.” He exhaled, repeating Adam’s words from a few moments ago.
I let out a deep breath but stayed quiet as I noticed another question forming in Adam’s eyes. “What did you mean when you said your mom should stay away for a little while?”
He shrugged his shoulders as he carefully thought over his next few words. “Because she just let me walk out of the front door without checking on me.” Dizzy finally answered in a quiet voice. “I get she was scared, but she just let me go. She didn’t chase after me. She didn’t call for me. She just let me go.”
“And you’re angry?” Adam poked, trying to get a good idea of the emotions swirling around inside of Dizzy.
“No.” He exhaled, trying his hardest to hold back his emotions. “I’m, I, I’m crushed.” He managed out, but this time I could tell that was his last answer.
Adam gave Dizzy a few minutes to recollect himself as I slide closer to him, letting him rest against my shoulder.
“I’m not going to push this too hard,” Adam broke the silence. “but I think you should take pictures of your injuries just in case something else happens.”
“Something else?” I repeated in a concerned voice.
“Nothing else is going to happen.” Dizzy whispered to me before looking up at Adam.
“It’s a good back up to have.” He tried to explain. “Kind of like a plan B.”
“Alright.” Dizzy nodded, having enough trust in Adam to not say no.
“And maybe you should call your Mom?” Adam squeaked out as he moved closer to take a few photos. “Or not.” Adam quickly dismissed as he received nothing but a cold and angry look from Dizzy.
As I watched Adam take picture after picture of Dizzy’s bruises I couldn’t help but feel my mind start to race. How could anyone do this to family? What kind of man is that? Is that what awaits me back in Texas? Is that what’s going to happen to me if my grandparents win custody?
Is everything starting to fall apart at once, or is that just what I’m telling myself? It’s like things were going so well for so long, but now the house of cards is starting to crumble! Like everything I’ve build is being threatened to fall apart!
“Woh.” Dizzy let out as he heard my breathing start to grow quicker and quicker. “It’s alright Artie, I promise it doesn’t even hurt anymore.”
“And Dizzy can stay here whenever he wants.” Adam tried to comfort. “We’re not letting him go back to a place where he’s in danger.”
I shook my head but kept quiet, not wanting to feed Adam problem after problem. “It’s alright.” Dizzy insisted, but as he moved closer and our eyes connected he saw right through me. “It’s not alright, is it?”
“No.” I finally managed out. “Sadie called a few nights ago, and she, she said your parents are trying to get custody back.” I confessed, looking over at Adam. “I know I should’ve told you earlier, but, but there was so much going on, and I know you have your own issues. There’s so much getting thrown your way at once, and it’s like you’re stuck trying to clean up after everyone else. You didn’t ask for this, so,”
“Stop.” Adam commanded in a loud voice. “How many times do I have to tell you, you’re not a burden on me at all, and you never will be Artie.”
“But still, there’s just so many bad things happening at once.” I shook my head as Dizzy held me tightly.
“There’s also so many good things happening.” Adam corrected as he forced a smile. “Your first baseball game. Your birthday party. Our trip to Chinatown. You and Dizzy dating. Mason giving me his number. It’s just all about how you look at it. It’s all about perspective.”
“And that goes for you too Dizzy.” Adam shifted his gaze. “I know, this is really hard for you, but life’s not out to get us. We’ll work all of this out, I promise we will.”
“So then what’s the plan?” Dizzy asked, looking from me to Adam.
“I guess you should wait for your house to calm down a bit, and maybe sit down with your Mom and talk about everything. I know it won’t be easy, but it’ll be something you have to do.”
“No.” Dizzy interrupted as Adam began to rant. “What’s the plan to keep Artie here?”
“Plan?” Adam asked as his mind began to tackle one problem after another. “I feel like we don’t really need a plan. My sister’s will clearly states I’m his guardian. I’ve signed all the custody forms, and so has the attorney and judge. If my grandparents force this issue, they’ll just have us flying to Texas for a trial that will never happen.”
“How can you say that so confidently?” I asked as my anxieties started to get the better of me once more.
“Because, I’m never letting anyone take you from me.” Adam explained in a strong confidence voice. “Plus, when they hear you’re gay they’ll drop the custody suit all together.”
“They hate gay people that much?” Dizzy asked, watching me closely.
“They hate anyone different from them, no matter how minor it is.” I exhaled a deep breath, knowing Adam was right. I hate to think like that, but the second they hear I’m gay, well I’ll be shunned forever! I just wonder how Sadie will react.
“You teach a person to hate and it’s all they’ll ever do.” Adam lectured, keeping his voice as strong as possible. “But I’ve had enough talking about serious things for one day, why don’t we watch something?”
“Or play something?” Dizzy excitedly suggested. “Maybe even teach Artie how to play?”
“Alright.” Adam accepted with a growing smile.
“Wait,” I began as Adam tossed me a controller. “I never agreed to this.”
“For me?” Dizzy asked as his smile continued to grow.
“Fine.” I sighed as I rolled my eyes. “But if I don’t like it I’m stopping.”
They both let out a short laugh as they began to run through the controls with me. I could tell it was something they had both been waiting for for a while. It was like I was finally entering their weird nerdy world! Eventually I was able to get the hang of it, but I was nowhere as good as the two of them.
I’m not even sure I liked it that much, but it was a good distraction from the weight of our day. Like we were all able to just forget our problems for a while and just have fun together. Pretty soon the three of us were shouting and laughing along with one another.
As the clock ticked away and the sun began to set I heard a loud knocking beginning on my front door.
“Ughh.” They both groaned, not wanting to get up.
“Who is it?” Dizzy grumbled, looking towards the door.
“Probably just Charlotte.” I shrugged, slowly getting to me feet. “Probably here to tell us what homework is due tomorrow or something.”
“Wait,” He let out, quickly jumping up off of the couch. “I don’t want her seeing me like this.”
“Why?” I groaned in a sigh.
“I just don’t want her worrying, and I don’t know, I, I’d rather what happened last night stay between the three of us.” He shrugged.
“I understand.” I nodded, letting him dart into the hallway before I pulled the door open.
Yet who I saw standing there nearly made my heart stop all together. “Mrs. Armstrong.” I called out loud enough for Dizzy to hear. “What a surprise, can I help you ma’am?”
“Look, Artie, I-I don’t need the act.” She nervously began. “Can you just tell me where Dizzy is? I’ve been looking for him all day, and Ky said he’d probably be here.”
“I don’t know.” I lied, trying to keep as straight a face as possible. “I haven’t seen him all day.”
“I know you both cut class today.” She began to plead with me. “Can I please just see him? Even for a few minutes?”
I let out a deep sigh before motioning her out of the door way. I felt my heart begin to race as I stepped outside and shut the door behind me. “He’s not here.” I lied once more. “But he was here before. He, he’s perfectly safe.”
“Do you know where he slept last night?” She asked as worry engulfed her face. “Do you know where he’s going to sleep tonight? Do you know if he’s eaten?”
“I promise you everything is taken care of.” I answered, trying not to give away too much.
“You must think I’m the worst mother in the world.” She shook her head as the heaviness of the situation began to show in her eyes.
“I don’t,” I quickly tried to reject. “I, I get it, it’s not that simple.”
“It’s not.” She tried to emphasize. “Trevor, he’s the only stable income we have. We already live off of food stamps as it is, and my unemployment ran out a month or two ago. San Francisco is just so expensive, it’s like he’s my only option here.”
“I, I think this is a conversation you need to have with Dizzy.” I gulped as she began to show me the weight on her shoulders.
“I want to, but I, I’m worried it’s too late.” She let out a heavy breath.
“It’s not.” I tried to comfort. “We’re talking about Dizzy after all. You, you’re the most important person in his life. He just needs some time and space, you know?”
“I guess.” She nodded her head. “If you see him, just tell him I’m sorry. Tell him Trevor’s sorry, and that it, it’ll never happen again.”
“Alright.” I hesitantly agreed, knowing that was nothing but a lie. “I promise I’ll keep him safe for now.”
“Please, please do.” She pleaded, afraid to put her full faith in me. “And if you see him, tell him to call me or come home, or just, something. Anything but this silence.”
“Okay,” I agreed, but as she went to turn around reached out. “If I, if I could maybe help you get a job, would that help?”
“How would you do that?” But as I stayed quiet she nodded her head. “Anything helps.”
Before I could say anything else the door behind me opened. I froze but relaxed as I felt a familiar large hand rest on my shoulder. “Adam Price.” The man let out, extending a hand towards Mrs. Armstrong.
“Colleen Armstrong.” She greeted, shaking back.
“I recognize you.” Adam nodded his head. “You’re a regular at my shop.”
“Yeah, I guess I am.” She replied, still too worried about Dizzy to think about it.
“I know you’re probably worried about Dizzy,” Adam began once more. “but I promise if he’s here, he’ll be safe.”
“You’ll take care of him?” She asked as their eyes locked.
“Like he’s my own.” Adam quickly answered.
“Why?” She shook her head in disbelief.
“Because I understand what he’s going through more than most.” Adam cryptically replied. “Just give him time, he’ll be back before you know it.”
“Can I, can I at least give you my number?” She offered as she scanned Adam up and down. “Just so, just so you can keep me updated if something happens.”
“Of course.” Adam quickly took the phone out of his pocket and offered it to her. “I’ll text you so you have my number, and if you need anything, don’t be afraid to reach out.”
“Thank you.” She nodded as she handed the phone back to him. “Thank you.” She repeated, not knowing what else to say before turning around and walking down the stairs.
“She knows he’s staying here.” Adam sighed as he forced the door open and led us back inside.
“Is that a good thing or bad thing?” I asked in a gulp.
“Good thing.” Adam forced a smile. “Now she at least knows he’s safe.”
“Yeah.” I agreed as Dizzy slowly walked out of the hallway. “She’s worried about you.”
“I know.” He exhaled. “But I, I still need some space.”
“You can have as much as you need.” Adam encouraged, waiving him back to the couch. “Now where were we?” He asked, tossing Dizzy the controller.
He really does understand where Dizzy is right now. He knows what it’s like to feel rejected and alone, and he won’t let that happen to anyone else. We’ll all work this out. Soon all our problems will pass and things will go back to normal. I just have to keep a good perspective. I just have to keep focusing on the good things. Mom watch over us. We’re going to need you.