As the silence from Dizzy’s return home continued to blanket the house, I couldn’t help but enjoy it. Sure, I miss him, but I don’t miss all the yelling he and Adam do! Every time they sat down to play video games it was like they were bringing the virtual war to life! But him staying here, somehow, it was good for the both of them. They had grown closer than I ever could’ve expected in Dizzy’s two weeks here. I don’t know if Adam will ever admit it, but he sees part of himself in Dizzy.
“Missing your friend?” I couldn’t help but tease as Adam turned off the T.V. and stood up.
“I just miss having someone to play with.” He shrugged as he glanced towards me. “Unless you want to play?” He suggested with a forced smile.
“We tried that already,” I reminded him, thinking back to when Dizzy and Adam had tried to teach me. “I don’t really understand it and you guys are bad teachers.”
“You just need practice.” Adam tried to encourage but could tell he wasn’t winning me over. “I should probably go to bed anyway.” He groaned as my eyes stayed on him.
“Wow, actually going to work tomorrow?” I joked with a grin.
“Dizzy’s gone, I don’t need you acting like him.” Adam warned as he slowly walked towards the stairs. “I need to train Colleen, and besides, Lindsay’s had tomorrow off for a few days now.”
“How inconsiderate of her.” I played along, not knowing whether she had told him about our plans.
“It’s fine,” He sighed. “Sundays aren’t that bad anyway. I don’t even know why she wants off.”
“I hear she’s grabbing coffee with a cute guy.” I shrugged, looking back down at my book.
“What do you know?” Adam quickly asked, taking steps back towards the couch. “Is she seeing someone?” He asked, starting to grow too excited for his own good. “And she didn’t tell me?!” He exclaimed before I could even answer.
“I’m playing around,” I rolled my eyes and looked back towards him. “she’s grabbing coffee with me after church.”
“Oh,” He exhaled as he began to think it over. “that’s fine, I don’t like coffee or anything.” He whined turning back towards the steps.
“Someone has to work tomorrow.” I teased with a smile. “Besides, we’ve never had a conversation one on one. We just want to get to know each other.”
“Yeah, yeah,” He grumbled, finally starting to ascend the staircase. “but I’m leaving enough money for both of you, don’t let her pay.”
“Okay.” I cautiously nodded, worried about the situation I had just gotten myself into.
“Oh, and make sure she enjoys her last Sunday off.” He said with a wide smirk overtaking his face.
“What’s that mean?” I sighed as he tried his hardest to buy a few more minutes before bed.
“It means from now on I get Saturdays and Sundays off, and Lindsay gets Thursdays and Fridays off.” He explained, excited to share the news. “We decided we’ve each earned two days off a week.”
“Oh, good,” I nodded my head as I thought it over. “but aren’t you getting the better days?”
“I’ve got a kid to worry about on the weekends.” He shrugged, finally allowing himself to disappear up the stairs.
I couldn’t help but laugh and shake my head. I swear sometimes he’s so childish. He’s a grown man, if he doesn’t want to go to bed yet, he doesn’t have to! Plus, he totally used me as an excuse to get weekends off! I bet Lindsay wants to kill him! Yet as silence took over the room again, I couldn’t help but think about these past two weeks, about just how much Adam had stepped up. If that’s the man I grow up to be, well, I think I’ll be alright.
The next morning when I woke up, I quickly pulled myself together and showered before meeting the Charles family outside my house. Mr. Charles kept the serious look on his face, but I could tell I was winning him over.
“Jose was saying you guys had a huge game a few days ago.” Jamaal finally started to speak as we made our way towards my new church. “He said you might actually have a good shot at playoffs.”
“We might.” I shrugged my shoulders. “For now we’re trying not to get too ahead of ourselves.”
“You could learn something from Artie’s focus.” Mr. Charles lectured as he stared down his son through the rearview mirror.
“What else did Jose tell you?” I instigated, watching Charlotte out of the corner of my eye.
“That he hit a two-run blast?” Jamaal guessed as Charlotte reached over and gave my arm a sharp pinch.
“Yeah,” I forced out, trying my hardest to hide both a yelp and laughter. “we thought it was out of the park at first, but it landed at the top of the stands.”
“That’s because he’s a beast!” Jamaal yelped. “Come lift with us one day, you should see the weight he benches.”
“I see enough of him at practice,” I shook my head. “the look he gets on his face, it’s scary.”
“Oh please,” Charlotte interrupted. “you get the same look on yours when you play. I totally thought you were going to fight that pitcher last game.”
“Fight?” Jamaal excitedly repeated. “Guess I’ve got you pegged all wrong.”
“I’m sure there’s good reason.” Mr. Charles spoke up. “Violence for the sake of violence is reckless.”
“Yes sir.” I agreed, reminding myself both of Charlotte’s parents were listening in on our conversation.
“Then give it to us.” Jamaal encouraged. “What were you going to fight him over?”
“We’re here.” Mrs. Charles warned as the car pulled to a stop. “No talking about fights in church.”
“The pitcher threw at Artie and he didn’t like it.” Charlotte provoked, returning the favor from just a few minutes ago.
“What’d you do about that?” Mr. Charles asked, shifting his stare towards me.
“Put the bat on the ball sir.” I replied, figuring the best answer was a disguised one.
“Good answer.” Mr. Charles nodded, returning his stare towards Jamaal. “He silenced the other player with his play, not his fists.”
“I know.” Jamaal sighed, stepping out of the car to avoid a lecture.
As I began to follow him Charlotte made sure to grab my arm. “Jose doesn’t know I’m Jamaal’s sister.”
“How does he not,”
“Because they didn’t become friends until last year, and he’s never been over our house.” Charlotte continued to whisper in my ear. “So just shh.” She hushed, playfully ramming me with her shoulder.
I let out a small laugher before quickly pulling myself together as we entered the large church. Just like last time, the service was a bit different from what I was used to in Texas, but I think I could get used to it. The pews seemed filled with all different kinds of people, I even think I saw a gay couple or two! I wonder if I could ever convince Adam to come with me. He’d put up a fight, but one service wouldn’t kill him, right?
When service ended Mr. Charles offered to take me out to lunch with his family, but I explained I was meeting Lindsay for coffee. I could tell he didn’t quite understand my relationship with her, but didn’t want to pry any further.
“Artie, Charlotte has been insisting I don’t have to,” Mr. Charles began as a groan sounded out from his daughter. “but I’d like to go to one of your games before the season ends.”
“Thank you sir.” I quickly replied, not knowing what else to say. “I have one in a few days, I’ll text Charlotte the details to give you.” Charlotte let out another groan as she heard my words but still flashed me a wink as I made my way out of their car.
“See you next Sunday?” Mrs. Charles asked, turning towards me as I stepped out onto the curb.
“Yes Ma’am.” I happily replied. “Thank you for the ride.”
“Anytime.” Mr. Charles encouraged as I flashed them all one more smile before shutting the car door behind me.
As their car pulled away, I noticed another one quickly taking their place. “Perfect timing.” Lindsay cheered as she began to roll down the passenger’s side window of a car I had never seen before.
“You have a car?” I asked, taking a long look at the small blue sedan. “But I’ve seen you taking the bus.”
“Sometimes the bus is just easier.” She shrugged as I opened the door and took a seat. “But I like having a car when I need one. Like all morning I was running errands, and I didn’t want to depend on the bus for that.”
“Then how come Adam doesn’t have a car?” I provoked, drawing a short laugh from her.
“Adam? Drive?” She asked, glancing towards me. “Do you have a death wish?”
“He was an okay driver in Texas.” I offered in an uncertain voice. “Kind of.” I swayed my head as she started to laugh again.
“Okay country driving doesn’t get you very far in a city as busy and hilly as San Francisco.” Lindsay explained as she pulled out into traffic.
“Oh.” I slowly nodded my head. I began to tap my fingers against my seat as a question began to bounce around in my head. “Do you think you could teach me to drive?”
“If you want.” She accepted, taking another quick look over at me. “Geez, you’re that excited to drive?” She asked, noticing the wide smile that had begun on my face.
“Not just that.” I shrugged. “I don’t know, it just, it feels like I get more and more comfortable here every day.”
“Well I’m glad.” Lindsay nodded her head before starting to put more focus on her GPS than our conversation.
When we finally arrived at the place, I was happy to find she had picked a place that served both food and coffee. I think she could even see the relief on my face, because she let out a small laugh as she pulled into the small parking lot.
I followed her lead as we left the car and found a quiet spot within the small restaurant.
“So, I hear Adam weaseled his way out of work on the weekends?” I teased as we began to look over the menus.
“Don’t even get me started.” Lindsay rolled her eyes. “The worst part is I can’t even complain!”
“Why’s that?” I asked, eager to learn more about their arrangement.
“Because I’ve been telling him for years to start taking days off,” She explained. “then he comes up with a plan for us both to get two days off a week, and takes the weekend!”
“It’s alright, I’ll have Dizzy drive him crazy on the weekends so he picks a school day instead.” I teased with a smirk.
“That’s very nice of you.” Lindsay played along. “But I kind of do want him to have weekends off with you.”
“I’m pretty good at taking care of myself.” I swayed my head.
“I know,” She agreed in a nod. “but at least now he only really works when you’re in school, so if something goes wrong, he can act. Plus, Sundays are one of Mason’s days off.”
“I should’ve guessed.” I giggled, thinking of how Adam had neglected to tell me that. “What do you think of him?” I asked as I quickly grew serious.
Lindsay carefully thought it over before looking up into my eyes. “I haven’t known him for too long, but considering the guys Adam usually dates, I think he’s a really good match.” I nodded along with her words as she began to smile. “Plus he’s hot.”
I felt a bright red blush fill my face as I heard those words, but before I could reply a waiter came to take our order. The second he left I saw Lindsay’s eyes return to mine with a devious smile on her face.
“So you agree?” She instigated with trouble in her eyes.
“Agree?” I repeated, trying to worm my way out of the conversation.
“That Mason’s hot.” She shrugged but began to laugh as she saw the blush return to my face. “Alright fine, he’s not your type.”
“I mean he’s good looking.” I finally began to speak. “But not my type.” I shook my head.
“So then what guys do you like?” She provoked as the blush stayed on my face. “Oh come on, me and Adam used to talk about guys all the time when we were your age.”
“Really?” I asked, trying to imagine what Adam was like at sixteen.
“Oh yeah.” Lindsay smiled as she thought back on it. “He doesn’t seem it, but he’s smooth with guys too. There’s just something cute about his goofy attitude I guess.”
“So, he dated around?” I pried, happy someone was willing to give answers about his past without it feeling like pulling teeth.
“You could say that.” She nodded her head. “Not that he was like crazy wild or anything, he just enjoyed being young.”
“Did he like,” I began but hesitated. “slow down a lot since then?”
“Why do you ask that?” She asked, but I could tell she already had an answer ready.
“It just feels like he’s so different than you used to describe him.” I replied, trying to choose my words carefully.
“He grew up.” She finally began. “I think back then he was just trying to work everything out, just trying to find who he was. Then partying turned to the business and it started to take off, so he went from going out every night to working all day.”
“So he found himself in his work?” I asked, not understanding her point.
“No.” She shook her head. “I don’t think he started to find himself until you got here.” She answered, instantly silencing me. “But that’s enough about Adam, I want to hear about you.”
“Well I guess I like guys like Dizzy,” I finally managed out. “Although I guess my friend Ky is kind of cute too, we’re not as compatible.”
“I see.” Lindsay let out as she tried to hold back a small laugh.
“That’s not what you meant, was it?” I groaned as once more I found myself blushing.
“Not really,” She finally began to laugh. “but you and Dizzy do make a cute couple. You like artistic guys?”
“I guess so.” I shrugged my shoulders as thoughts of him began to take over my mind. “He just won me over is all.”
“You’re in love?” She asked, but I stayed quiet as I thought it over. “It’s alright, you don’t have to answer that.”
“How,” I began but stopped myself. “How would I know if I am?”
“I don’t know if anyone has the answer to that,” She said as our eyes met. “but it’s like, even they’re imperfections are beautiful. To me, that’s when I know I’m in love.”
“Yeah.” I giggled thinking about Dizzy even more. Everyone seems to grow annoyed with him after a few hours, but I could spend all night with him. His overexcitement and loud voice, it’s not annoying to me, it’s, exciting. Lindsay laughed a little more as she saw the look on my face change, but didn’t say anything.
“Love or not, very few people get what you have,” She finally spoke. “and I don’t just mean teenagers either, you really care about Dizzy, don’t you?” I shrugged but found myself unable to answer once more. “Enough even to get his Mom a job as our assistant.”
“Yeah.” I finally forced out as my cheeks turned red once again.
“You’re a very thoughtful kid Artie,” She proudly observed. “we’re lucky you came into our lives. All of us.”
“Oh I don’t know,” I nervously began once more. “I just, I just do what any other person would.”
“Mhm.” She hummed, but I could tell she didn’t believe it. “Do you usually blush this much? I think your face has been red since we walked in.”
“I, Lindsay!” I yelped, not knowing what else to say.
“You sound just like Adam!” She began to laugh even more. “Lindsay!” She let out, doing her best to mimic Adam.
“Lindsay!” I repeated, trying my hardest to sound even more like Adam.
“Just like that.” She giggled as our waiter stopped by with our lunch.
Conversation seemed to slow a little more as we ate, but there was still a certain level of comfort that stayed. It was like somehow, I see her as family just as much as Adam. Like if I needed, I could go to her too.
When lunch finally did end, we took our time making our way back home. I think she really was enjoying the afternoon just as much as me!
“You can come in and hang out if you want.” I offered, but knew the invitation wasn’t necessary.
“I know,” She nodded her head. “but I have more errands to run. Maybe I’ll stop by tonight.”
“Sounds like a plan.” I smiled as I opened the car door and took a step outside. “Thank you for spending the afternoon with me.”
“Anytime.” She reflected my smile. “We should do this again soon.”
“Whenever you want, I can even convince Adam to swap a Sunday with you for it.”I teased as she shook her head. “We can make it a Saturday if you want.”
“Now you’re talking.” She laughed watching me a little closer than before. “I’ll see you later.”
“See you later.” I nodded before shutting the door and finally making my way up towards the house.
As I began to push the front door open I could already hear the shouts from the other side.
“Take a left!” Dizzy shouted to Adam, neither even noticing I had opened the front door.
“Stop back seat gaming!” Adam replied just as loud. “Especially since you’re already dead!”
“Because of your bad play!” Dizzy defended as their focus stayed locked in. “See!” Dizzy cried out as a giant “Game Over” filled the screen.
“Maybe if you weren’t yelling I would’ve heard the car coming!” Adam replied, immediately looking over at Dizzy.
“If you guys can’t place nice, you can’t play at all.” I spoke up, letting them both know I had gotten home.
“Artie!” Dizzy cheered, as he turned back to look at me. “Finally!”
“I told you I’d text you when I got home.” I said as our eyes met.
“Yeah, but I figured Adam would be home from work already.” He shrugged, looking back towards the T.V.
“So you decided to come over and fight with each other?” I asked, confused by the way they had been behaving.
“Well we were winning before.” Dizzy explained, trying to start another game.
“And now you’re playing too risky because of your confidence.” Adam warned, pausing the game before Dizzy could get any further.
“Alright, alright, I’ll do it your way.” Dizzy complained. “Let’s just go again.”
“Not yet,” He warned as I walked around and took a seat on the couch. “I have to talk to Artie about something.”
“Uck.” Dizzy rolled his eyes, but quickly corrected himself as he saw how serious Adam was being. “I, I’ll go get some fresh air.”
“No,” I forced out, grabbing Dizzy’s arm before he could stand up. “you can stay.” I offered before looking back to Adam. “If that’s okay with you.”
“If that’s what you want, but it’s about my parents.” Adam explained, trying not to give away too much.
“Dizzy can stay.” I forced a nod as my heart began to race. “Did you hear something from your lawyer?”
I noticed Dizzy quietly move closer to me as he heard my words. “My parents are definitely going to fight for custody.” Adam forced out. “But our lawyer says there’s virtually no way it happens. The age a child gets to add input in Texas is twelve, so you saying you want to live here in California, along with Sarah's will, it’s just all too much for them to fight.”
“But they’re going to try anyway?” I asked, worried there was something Adam was leaving out.
“I, I think they want the money from the state for taking you in.” Adam guessed, trying his hardest to think of a clear motive.
“Why not just tell them Artie’s gay?” Dizzy wondered. “They kicked you out because of it, why wouldn’t they make Artie go too?”
“I brought that up.” Adam sighed. “My lawyer said it’s too risky of a move, for all we know they could think I’m the one who made him gay and they need to save him.”
“It would only make them fight more?” Dizzy asked as he drew a nod from Adam.
“Okay, but if they’re going to fight it, they must think they can win, right?” I pressured, trying my hardest to get to the bottom of it.
“Yeah.” Adam forced a nod but began to look away.
“Why do they think they can win it Adam?” Dizzy spoke up, noticing the same thing as me.
Adam let out a deep breath as he finally looked back up to us. “Because I used to have a criminal record in Texas.”
“What?” I forced out, as shock began to overwhelm me.
“Be serious Adam.” Dizzy said, refusing to believe a word of it.
“I am.” Adam insisted. As our eyes met I couldn’t help but gulp hard, I’ve never seen him like this before. A shiver ran down my back as I tried to piece it all together.
“So, so what’d you do?” I finally forced out.
Adam let out a deep sigh as he prepared to explain himself. “It wasn’t anything dangerous,” He began. “they were just vandalism charges, and it’s been sealed since I was a teenager”
“Then what’s the problem?” I questioned, as my concern began to grow into frustration.
“Because it’s still a sealed record. The judge can still look at it if they want to, and we think that’s what my parents are pursuing.” Adam finally exhaled, just as upset with the situation as me.
“But it’s just vandalism!” Dizzy spoke up. “It’s not like you hurt anyone! Plus, it was forever ago, they can’t punish you for it, can they?”
“My lawyer doesn’t think so, but the case is in Texas and it’s just, complicated.” He explained. “I’m sorry Artie, it shouldn’t be, but it is.”
“We’re still going to win, right?” I forced out in a trembling voice.
“I promise you we will.” He replied without hesitation. “But it, it might mean going there for court.”
“Back to Texas?” I asked as even more shock set in.
“Back to Texas.” He nodded his head. “Things look good for us,” he tried to clarify. “They’re just,” he hesitated.
“Complicated.” I finished for him. “I’ve got that.”
“You’re mad at me?” Adam asked, forcing eye contact with me.
“Well yeah.” I replied, as my frustration began to rise. “We’ve had the conversation about honesty how many times?!”
“This is different Artie,” Adam shook his head. “you, I didn’t think you were ready to hear about that yet.”
“Why? You always talk about how mature I am, don’t you?” I forced out as I began to grow angry.
“Relax.” Dizzy warned as he reached over and grabbed my hand. “This isn’t some small secret we’re talking about. Is it?”
“Depends on who you ask.” Adam muttered as he tried to keep his eyes on mine.
“What did you vandalize?” I questioned, making sure to keep the intensity in my voice.
“The church.” He forced out, shocking me even more.
“You vandalized a church?” Dizzy echoed in surprise. “That’s kind of hardcore, don’t you think?”
“I was just a kid, and I was, I was pissed alright?” He defensively spoke, trying his hardest to explain. “It was just a stupid mistake.”
“How bad did you hit it?” Dizzy asked, but Adam refused to answer.
“Is that why everyone hates you?” I interrogated, as things began to add up even more.
“Vandalizing their church just put a target on my back,” Adam tried to clarify. “It wasn’t until I came out that I was thrown out of town.”
“Which did my Mom struggle with more?” I couldn’t help but ask.
“I don’t know,” He shook his head. “that’s a question for Sadie.”
“Did you go to Juvy?” Dizzy couldn’t help but ask.
“No.” Adam quickly shot down. “It was just a couple hundred dollars in damage, so we had to pay few fines and they sealed the record.”
“What did the vandalism look like?” Dizzy continued, but received a fed-up look from Adam.
“It’s a good question.” I supported, wondering the same thing.
Adam let out another deep sigh as he thought it over. “I turned all the crosses upside down and spray painted a pentagram or two.”
“Woh!” Dizzy exclaimed in a loud voice.
“It was just to scare them.” Adam clarified. “I, I figured if being gay meant I was going to hell, I was going to own it.”
“That’s kind of bad ass.” Dizzy remarked, causing me to give him a shove.
“It was stupid.” Adam corrected. “I’ve regretted doing it ever since. They were in the wrong too, but I, I should’ve been bigger than that. Hate only brings more hate.”
I stayed quiet and thought it over as it all began to sink in. In the town we grew up, religion is more than a belief, it’s how you live. What Adam did, it must’ve shaken that town to its core. People, they’re probably still too scared to talk about it.
“I’m sorry Artie.” Adam apologized as he tried to force eye contact once more. “It was a mistake”
“I know.” I forced a nod. “You, you’re not that kind of person.”
“So you’re not mad at me?” Adam asked in a nervous voice.
“I’m mad about you keeping secrets, but what else is new.” I let out in a sigh. “We’ll go to Texas if we need to, and we’ll put a stop to all of this.”
“We will.” Adam agreed as we began to bounce around ideas of what the trip would look like.
It’s scary knowing my grandparents are pursuing custody, but sealed record or not, my Mom trusted Adam with me and they can’t change that. The judge is going to take two looks at us in court and throw it all out.