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