Even though we all believed we could win the case, well the feeling in the room was still changing. Almost like an underlying nervousness, no one dared to bring it up. Adam and Dizzy continued to play their game, but neither yelled the way they had before. Every now and again one would glance over at me, but stayed quiet, even if we made eye contact. Are they as worried as me? Whether the case is in our favor or not, everything is on the line. All that I’ve built up over this past month and a half, it can all be taken from me like it was nothing. I won’t let that happen. Even if I have to run away from Texas just like Adam did. I won’t let them take me.
I thought I saw Dizzy nearly jump out of his seat as a knocking began on the front door. “Who could that be?” Adam groaned as I slowly rose to my feet.
“Lindsay,” I replied, not paying him too much attention. “she said she’d stop over after she finished up her errands.”
Adam nodded before turning back to his game without a word. The second I pulled the door open, I could tell Lindsay was in a completely different mood than us.
“I’ve got pizza!” She exclaimed, being careful not to bump the door with the food in her hands. “And wings!” She added, hoping to get at least some kind of reaction.
“Cool.” Adam replied, keeping his eyes on the T.V. “Thanks Linds.”
“They been plugged in all night?” Lindsay asked as she turned to me.
“Yeah.” I forced out, taking the boxes from her hands so she could get settled in.
“I was thinking we could all watch a movie or something.” Lindsay suggested, still trying to understand the mood in the room.
The room stayed quiet for a few moments until Adam finally turned towards her. “Maybe.” He responded but turned back to the T.V. before she could say anything.
“Am I missing something?” She asked but got no response. “Did you guys have pizza for lunch?” She teased but got only straight faces back.
“Adam’s parents are fighting for my custody.” I explained as I walked back into the living room.
“They’re doing what?” Lindsay asked as the smile fell from her face. “Adam why didn’t you tell me?”
“Because it’s not even worth talking about,” He lied, doing his best to avoid the situation. “we’re going to go to Texas, win, then come home like nothing happened.”
“Well this doesn’t feel like nothing is happening.” Lindsay warned as the look in her eyes began to grow concerned. “You guys all look like you’ve already surrendered, I mean where’s the fight here?”
“We’re saving it for Texas.” Dizzy shrugged, still not looking anywhere but at the TV.
“Alright,” Lindsay decided, fed up with the way Adam and Dizzy were behaving. “this is going off.” She announced, snatching the remote off the couch and turning the TV off.
“Come on Lindsay!” Adam complained as Dizzy let out a groan. “We’ve already talked about it, there’s nothing else to say here.”
“Yeah, another one of Adam’s secrets might come out,” I sneered, flashing some of the frustration I was still feeling. “and we can’t have that.”
“That doesn’t sound like nothing to say.” Lindsay observed as she grabbed a seat next to me. “What secret did you learn?” She asked, locking eyes with mine.
“That he used to have a record.” I muttered, looking down at the table in front of us.
Lindsay nodded her head before looking to Adam. “Is that going to be a problem?”
“It shouldn’t.” He quickly rejected, looking to Lindsay then away. “I’ve never had any other run in with the police, and we run a successful business. They can open the record, but they can’t question my character.”
“Is he telling the truth?” I asked, looking up at Lindsay.
“Yeah.” She confirmed, shooting Adam a concerned look. “He hasn’t gotten into any big trouble here in California.”
“Don’t trust me Artie?” Adam spoke up, trying to draw my gaze.
“Not when it comes to Texas.” I forced out, refusing to look over.
Adam let out a sigh but stayed quiet. “You can’t say that’s not fair.” Dizzy supported me.
“I know it’s fair.” Adam quickly replied with some anger in his voice.
“Alright, everyone relax.” Lindsay advised as she took another good look at the three of us. “If you go into this fight at each other’s throats, you might not win. We all want the same thing here, even if we don’t understand where certain people are coming from.”
“Sorry.” The three of us grumbled to one another.
“Adam,” Dizzy began in an uncertain voice. “do you guys have any spot for me at the shop for the next few weeks? Just enough so I can get a plane ticket to Texas too?”
“You want to come?” Adam asked, I could tell the question caught him off guard but didn’t surprise him.
“Yeah.” Dizzy answered in a confident voice. “I’m going to be there, and if, if things don’t go our way, I’ll help Artie run back to California.”
Adam shared a concerned look with Lindsay before looking back to the two of us. “You did the same thing when you were my age,” I pointed out. “and at least I won’t have to do it alone.”
“We’re not going to lose, so I’m not even going to address that.” Adam dismissed, but I could tell it was hard for him to shut down the idea. “Artie is it okay with you if Dizzy comes? It would mean he’d meet Sadie and maybe even some of your old friends.”
“I’m okay with that.” I nodded my head, grateful to have as much support as I could get.
“I’ll buy you a plane ticket Dizzy,” Adam decided, looking over to the teen next to him. “don’t worry about the cost.” He warned as Dizzy went to speak. “Don’t worry.” He emphasized as Dizzy went to speak again.
“Thanks.” Dizzy was able to manage out, still trying to wrap his head around the situation himself.
“Do you know when this is happening yet?” I asked as I finally made eye contact with Adam.
“Could be this upcoming weekend, could be the next one.” Adam exhaled, as the underlying panic began to grow worse.
“That quickly?” I gulped, looking to Dizzy for support.
“It’ll be like ripping off a band-aid.” He shrugged, trying to keep a positive attitude. “Better to get it over with then wait weeks and weeks. Besides, you’re coming back here no matter what.”
“I am.” I agreed without hesitation.
“It’ll be over before you know it.” Adam supported as he rose to his feet. “But for now, the foods getting cold, why don’t we eat?” He suggested, trying his hardest to end the conversation.
“He’s right.” Lindsay supported, motioning for us to head towards the kitchen with them.
The feeling in the house slowly began to return to normal as we all sat around the table, but even then, you could still feel an uneasiness in the air. We tried our hardest to ignore it, but it was there, and there was no denying it. As we wrapped up dinner Lindsay did her best to be as supportive as possible. The three of us are struggling to be strong, so she’ll be here for us. That means so much more than she could imagine.
“I should probably get going.” Dizzy announced as the last of the plates were put away.
“You, going?” Lindsay teased with a smile. “You sure you’re feeling okay?”
“I promised my Mom I’d spend more time at home since I moved back in.” He shrugged with a forced smile.
“She had a long first day of work, don’t run in guns blazing.” Lindsay warned with a serious look.
“How do you think she did?” He asked as even more concern than before overtook his voice.
“She did good.” Lindsay happily supported. “It was a lot all at once, but she held her own. I think she’s going to fit in fine.”
“Adam said the same thing.” Dizzy forced a smile. “Thank you guys.”
“It’s your Mom’s hard work,” Adam spoke up from the couch. “don’t thank us.”
Dizzy nodded as his smile turned genuine and proud. “I’ll see you guys later.”
“Later.” They both replied as Dizzy and I approached the door.
“Let me walk you to the bus stop.” I decided, grabbing a sweatshirt from the rack and slipping on a pair of shoes.
“What a gentleman.” Dizzy joked, but I could tell the idea meant a lot to him.
“I’ll be back in a few.” I dismissed as I opened the door for us before slowly shutting it behind us, making sure not to close it fully.
“You worried?” Dizzy asked the second we reached the sidewalk. “And be honest.”
“Yeah.” I confessed in a sigh. “What about you?”
“Yup,” He confirmed as he locked eyes with me. “but we’ll figure it out. Even if we have to run for it.”
“You can’t be serious about that.” I laughed, but as our eyes met I could tell he wasn’t kidding.
“We’ll do what we have to get you home.” He shrugged, not showing any doubt in his plan. “We’ll be like outlaws.” He smirked, trying to lighten the mood once more.
“Because that’s what I need.” I played along with a roll of my eye. “A city boy trying to play country. You’ll just slow me down.”
“Hey!” He laughed as he saw a smile begin on my face. “I am a little excited to see where you’re from though.”
“I’m a little excited to show you where I’m from.” I agreed as he wrapped his hand around mine. “You can’t hold my hand there.”
“Why? Will we get stoned?” He teased, giving my hand a squeeze.
“Wouldn’t be the first time.” I joked, drawing a loud laugh from him, but suddenly the smile fell from his face.
“I can’t lose you.” He suddenly let out. “I, I’ve never had anyone understand me like this. I mean sure, I have Ky, but he’s not you.”
“You won’t lose me.” I tried to shut down. “We’ll run away before that happens, remember?”
“Yeah.” He agreed as we finally reached his stop. “Well while we’re there I expect to see horses and cows and chickens and whatever the hell else there is in Texas.”
“You will.” I forced a smile as his bus pulled up.
“I’ll pick you up tomorrow before school,” Dizzy offered before stealing a kiss from my lips. “so don’t make us late.”
“I’ll try not to.” I smiled as I watched him disappear onto the bus.
I know he’s acting like it’s a joke, but if I have to, I will run away from Texas with him. Adam did it and his parents didn’t care. Why would I be any different?
As I made my way back to the house, I could overhear Adam and Lindsay talking from the other side of the almost closed front door.
“I can’t do that to you Lindsay.” Adam argued in a loud voice.
“You are.” Lindsay insisted, matching the intensity of his voice. “It’s really not that big of a deal. If you have to go to Texas this weekend, you’re taking the week off. That’s that.”
“It’s not though.” He continued to debate. “I’m going to work until the day we fly out.”
“Well it’s not about you, is it?” Lindsay shut him down as Adam grew quiet. “You have to think of Artie, alright?”
“He’ll be fine,” Adam forced out.
“Will he?” Lindsay interrupted. “Because he seemed pretty upset over the whole thing tonight.”
“Yeah.” Adam sighed as the room grew quiet for a few seconds.
“I know he’s mature for his age, but he’s still just sixteen. He needs someone to help guide him.” Lindsay began to lecture. “Coffee with him kind of reminded me of that.”
“Why? Did he say something?” Adam asked in a concerned voice.
“Nothing in particular.” Lindsay rejected as they both began to calm down. “He’s just still learning and growing. You have to remember that.”
“Yeah.” Adam sighed, growing quiet once more.
“And right now, his whole world is in jeopardy.” She continued, refusing to let up. “These past couple months, they couldn’t have been easy for him. He lost his mom, moves in with a complete stranger in a whole different city, discovers his sexuality, and then suddenly that’s all at risk.” She exhaled. “He needs you Adam.”
“You’re right, I’m sorry.” Adam agreed in a quiet voice. “I’ll find out tomorrow when court is, and take the week of it off.”
“Good.” She encouraged in a strong voice. “I, I wish I could come too, but this way your only worry is him.”
“Yeah.” Adam let out once more. “Am I fucking him up?” Adam suddenly asked, catching Lindsay completely off guard. “I’ve seen him upset, but today it was like, like he was disappointed in me.”
“He wasn’t disappointed.” Lindsay tried to dismiss. “Like I said, he’s just overwhelmed, and you keeping secrets from him doesn’t help. He needs to feel like he knows you better than anyone else in his life.”
“I know.” Adam sighed as he began to beat himself up over it. “I don’t know what I’m going to do if I lose him.”
“You won’t.” Lindsay forced out as my heart began to beat faster.
“But I might.” He insisted in a strong voice. “Even if it’s a small chance. I might.”
“Then he’ll make a break for it with that boyfriend of his.” Lindsay tried to lighten the mood.
Adam let out a small laugh as he tried to relax. “My parents would lose their minds.”
“They’d have their money,” Lindsay tried to rationalize. “isn’t that what you think they’re after.”
“Yeah.” Adam agreed as he thought it over. “From there we could try and help get him emancipated or something.”
“But it won’t come to that.” Lindsay reminded him in a strong voice.
“No, it won’t.” Adam confirmed trying his best to sound confident.
I stayed outside for a few more moments, letting them both ease up before I finally walked back inside. As the night went on, Lindsay continued to be the voice of reason, keeping us both calm the best she could. When she finally left I noticed Adam watching me closer than he ever had before.
“I should probably go to bed.” I announced as I stood up from the couch.
“Me too.” Adam agreed, following my lead. “Artie,” He began as I turned back towards him. “I know I’ve said it a million times before, but I didn’t mean to upset you. I’m sorry for keeping one last secret.”
“You promise this is the last one?” I asked, not knowing whether to believe him or not.
“I swear,” He replied in a confident voice. “and soon this will all feel like a bad dream.”
I nodded my head as I thought it all over. “I can’t believe you vandalized a church.” I teased, trying to lighten the mood the same way Lindsay had. “You’re so edgy.”
“You don’t even know what that word means.” Adam shook his head as he began to laugh.
“Yes I do, Dizzy taught it to me.” I proudly explained.
“Of course he did.” Adam continued to laugh. “You know, Lindsay and I were talking and if court is this weekend, well I’ll take the week off from work.”
“You don’t have to do that.” I offered, seeing what he’d say.
“I know, but I should.” He confidently began. “This is all a lot for you, and if you need me, I want to be there. Even if you’re in the middle of class and suddenly you get worried about it all, just call me and I’ll come get you.”
“Thank you.” I let out, before quickly hugging him. I know it was Lindsay’s idea at first, but I could tell Adam really understands it. I could tell he’s really taken all she said to heart. “You really think it’ll be this weekend?”
“Yeah.” He slowly nodded as he let me go. “I’m sure we could push it back if we needed, but it’s a small town so there’s not too much going on, and I figure it’s best to get it over with.”
“Alright,” I agreed, trying to sound as confident as possible. “Let’s get it over with.”
“Well be alright.” Adam tried to comfort me. “And if not, you’ll just take the scenic route home.”
“I’ll get to take the same trip you did.” I encouraged with a smile.
“Well it’s not as fun as it sounds.” He played along before slowly growing serious once more. “Everything will be okay, I promise.”
“Are you sure?” I couldn’t help but ask, growing serious myself.
“I’ll make sure of it.” He confidently spoke.
We shared one more smile before both heading off to bed. Tonight was rocky to say the least, but Adam’s not fucking me up. Lindsay was right, my time here has been overwhelming, but I bet Adam feels the same. He went from only being worried about himself to being responsible for a kid! I have to imagine he’s just as overwhelmed as me, maybe even more!
The next morning, I did my best to keep a positive attitude, and when Dizzy picked me up he tried his hardest to feed into it. We both know what’s at risk, but we’re not going to let that ruin our week. San Francisco is my home, and nothing will change that.
When we made it to school, I did my best to explain the situation to Ky and Charlotte without worrying them. I could tell it hit Charlotte the hardest, but somehow she kept faith that everything would be okay. She was going to be strong for me, the same way Lindsay is strong for Adam.
And when I noticed Jose lurking outside the homeroom door, I knew I had to return the favor.
“Jose!” I shouted from my desk waiving him in, and flashing Dizzy a look.
“Ky,” Dizzy began, trying to find an excuse to get them both away. “can I borrow your history book, I forgot mine at home.”
“Yeah.” Ky nodded, shooting Dizzy a cautious look. “It’s in my locker, you know the combo.”
“Opening someone else’s locker is rude,” Dizzy began, trying his hardest to get Ky moving. “you should really open it for me.”
“I swear to God,” Ky sighed as he stood up. “if you messed with my locker, I’m going to kill you.”
“I didn’t mess with anything.” Dizzy flashed me a wink as he stood up. “I’m just trying to get an education.”
“Sure you are.” Ky groaned as they both disappeared out of the door and Jose took their place.
“How’s it going Artie?” Jose asked, placing a hand on my desk. “Ready for the game tonight?”
“Been waiting for it since the last one.” I proudly nodded. “Charlotte you’re going right?” I asked, pulling her into the conversation.
“Yup.” She forced out. As our eyes connected, I could tell she was trying her hardest to keep her nerves from showing.
“You like baseball?” Jose asked her as I tried my hardest to hide my own anxiousness.
“A little bit.” She replied, unsure how to answer. “I never really watched until Artie joined the team.”
“He’s fun to watch.” Jose encouraged with a friendly smile.
“You’re pretty great too.” Charlotte tried to compliment. “I saw your homerun last game.”
“Artie set it up by getting on base.” Jose said, showing off his more humble side.
“Really?” Charlotte asked, trying to draw more out of him. “I didn’t know baseball worked like that.”
“Sure, the pitcher gives you different looks when they have a man on base.” Jose began to explain. “But I’m sure you don’t want to hear about all that.”
“It couldn’t hurt to learn more about baseball.” Charlotte smiled as she finally began to find her footing.
“Artie could explain it to you I’m sure.” Jose let out, seeing how she would respond.
“He’s not a great teacher.” She teased, as her smile spread to Jose’s face.
“Then I guess I’ll have to.” He shrugged but silence filled the air as their eyes connected. “Maybe Wednesday after school we could go get food and I’ll teach you more.” Jose finally spoke.
“I’ll see you then.” Charlotte agreed trying her hardest to hide her excitement.
“See you then.” Jose nodded as he turned back to me. “And I’ll see you tonight for another win.” He encouraged, landing a friendly pat on my arm.
“You were nervous.” I couldn’t help but pester as Jose left the room.
“Was not,” She lied, finally letting a wide smile shine through. “I was just playing it cautious.”
“Because agreeing to a date right away is cautious.” I giggled, receiving a quick death stare from her.
“Says the guy who fell for two guys at once in his first week here.” She shot back in a friendly voice.
“Hey,” I continued to laugh. “I’m on your side here.”
“I know.” She nodded, leaning over and letting her head fall against me. “Thank you, Artie.”
“Happy to help.” I grinned but we both quickly dropped it as Ky and Dizzy walked back into the room.
Ky shot us both a strange look, but didn’t read too much into it, figuring that Charlotte and I were just being weird again. I could tell Dizzy wanted to know what happened, but was forced to stay quiet about it until he finally got me alone. I did my best to give Charlotte as much privacy as possible while also trying to answer Dizzy’s questions. By the end of the conversation I thought Dizzy was going to go ask Jose himself!
The chaos of the school day was exactly what I needed to help keep me distracted from what was going on at home. Goofing around with Dizzy, Charlotte and Ky, it was exactly what I needed. And when baseball rolled around, I figured it would be the same way, but as my country walk up song began, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Texas.
Suddenly all the questions from yesterday swirled around my head as I tried my hardest to fend off incoming pitches. With a frustrated swing I struck out before I could even get myself into a good count.
“It’s all good.” Jose shouted as I returned to the dugout. “Shake it off.” He encouraged as the next batter took the plate.
But all the anxieties stayed swirling around my head, and no matter what, I couldn’t shake them off. That game was one of the worst in my life. It was like I was second guessing everything! I couldn’t even throw to first without taking an extra second to make sure the ball was in my glove! I ended the game having never got on base and nearly causing an error in the field! Despite my short comings, my team rallied and won the game by a couple runs, but this win didn’t feel good. Not for me.
My teammates and coach all told me to forget about it but I could tell that was going to be tough. Just as my week was turning around, I go and bomb it in the one place I feel confident! I’ve got to pull this together and get a better grip on myself!
“It’s alright.” Adam tried to support as he found me outside of the high school field. “We all have bad games from time to time.”
“Yeah,” Mason spoke up from next to him. “this kind of stuff happens. You just have to work through it. Team got the win, that’s what’s important.”
“I know.” I forced out, trying not to sound as upset as I was. “But I didn’t do anything to help. I was just a passenger.”
“Use that as motivation.” Mason tried to encourage. “If you’re upset now, carry that into your next practice and work your ass off.”
“Yeah.” I nodded as someone finally began to speak my language. Yet I couldn’t help but gulp hard as I saw Charlotte approaching with her dad. Of all games for him to come see, this was it?!
“Sorry I couldn’t give you a good game Mr. Charles.” I began as he approached.
“No need to apologize.” He rejected, taking a closer look at me. “You made some good plays in the field, I’ll have to come to another come to come see that bat of yours though.”
“Yes sir.” I nodded, relieved at how understanding he was. “This is my Uncle Adam and his boyfriend Mason.”
“Ron Charles.” Mr. Charles greeted as they reached over and shook hands.
“You did good today Artie.” Charlotte tried to comfort as the Adults briefly spoke to one another. “You’ll figure it out, don’t worry.”
I nodded, but stayed quiet as I noticed Mr. Charles’ eyes fall back on mine. “Artie, you mind if we talk for a minute?”
“Sure.” I forced a nod as we began to step away from the group.
“Don’t be weird Dad!” Charlotte called out as she shot him a cautious look.
He ignored her words but looked back into my eyes as we finally stopped walking. “You looked distracted during your game.” Mr. Charles immediately began, cutting right to the point. “Like you were second guessing yourself.”
“Yeah, I was.” I forced out as I began to think it over once more.
“I know I haven’t known you for very long, but of all of Charlotte’s friends you’re the most impressive.” He tried to encourage. “You’re strong, and a man of integrity. I wanted to tell you that without putting you on the spot in front of your family.”
“Oh, I,” I hesitated not knowing how to respond. “thank you.”
“Whatever is on your mind, you will solve.” He continued to comfort. “And if you need another person’s opinion, our home is always open to you. We go to church as a family, and you’ve joined in on that, so to me that means you’re becoming a part of my family.”
I couldn’t help but smile as his words began to sink in and calm me down. “Thank you sir.” I repeated as our eyes connected once more and the smile fell from my face. “Right now I live with my Uncle, but my grandparents in Texas are trying to get custody.”
“I see.” Mr. Charles replied as his mind went to work on the situation. “You don’t want to go back?”
“No sir.” I quickly shook my head. “San Francisco is my home now.”
“Then make that known to any lawyer or judge that will listen.” Mr. Charles advised in a serious voice. “Our justice system is not always fair, but it’s rare they ignore the opinion of a child in a custody case. I understand not having faith in the situation, but have faith in yourself and your Uncle. You will figure this out.” I nodded as I tried my hardest to take his words to heart. “God didn’t take you all this way to leave you behind. He has a plan for you, and I think that plan is right here in California.”
“Yeah, I think so too.” I agreed as I finally felt a sense of calm start to fill me.
“If you need anything else, you know where my house is.” He offered as he gave me a friendly smile.
“Thank you sir.” I accepted as I reflected the smile back at him.
With all these people in my corner, how could I lose this fight? How could I even dare to second guess everything? I’ll make sure that court hears my words. I’ll make sure they know my grandparents wouldn’t even come to their daughter’s funeral. That they called her a whore before she was even buried. I’ll make sure that court hears all of it. I’ll make sure California is my only home from now on.