Growing up, I thought I knew everything about my Mother. She was my best friend, and nothing will ever change that. But now that she’s gone, well I’m learning all the things she kept from me, and I’m meeting all the people she didn’t want me to.
Not because I lost trust in her, but because I need to start trusting myself. She was protecting me, but I’m old enough to protect myself. And if I can’t, well I have Adam here to help.
Adam’s head quickly turned from the T.V. to me as I reached for the controller on the coffee table. “Artie!” He shouted as I paused the movie. “You can’t just stop a movie during a fight scene.”
“Really?” I asked, trying my hardest to force a shocked face the way Dizzy would. “I mean, the world doesn’t seem like it’s ending, so I think we’re okay.”
Adam rolled his eyes and leaned back in his seat. “You spend too much time with Dizzy.” He complained, but fell quiet as he waited for my explanation.
I hesitated for a moment or two, before finally forcing out the question stuck on my mind. “Do you think Sadie would know about any letters Ezra sent to my Mom?”
“I don’t know.” Adam shrugged before exhaling a deep breath. “Have you been thinking about that for the last hour?”
“Maybe.” I mumbled as I looked away from him and towards the paused movie on the screen.
“That’s not healthy, you need to learn to turn off your brain and just relax.” He warned, but took out his phone and tossed it to me anyway. “Go ahead.” He waived his hand.
“Right now?” I asked, surprised by his willingness. “I haven’t even told her I met Ezra yet.”
As soon as he heard those words, I saw the look on Adam’s face change. “She doesn’t know?” He asked, beginning to stare me down. “I thought you told her before you told me.”
“Why would I do that?” I asked, but Adam fell quiet as he thought it over.
“I don’t know.” He finally replied as he fought off a smile. “But you should probably tell her, don’t you think?” He pressured as I reached for his phone on the cushion next to me.
“You’re just happy I told you first.” I complained as I picked up his already unlocked phone and pulled up her contact. “It’s not too late to call?”
“If you keep waiting it will be.” He pressured as he watched me work it over in my mind.
Finally with a brave hand I pushed the call button and put the phone on speaker as ringing filled the air. “Adam?” Sadie asked as her end clicked on. “Is everything okay?”
“It’s me.” I answered as I placed the phone between me and Adam.
“Why are you using Adam’s phone?” Sadie asked as confusion grew in her voice.
“Because his is upstairs, dead and covered in dust.” Adam complained. As I shot him an unamused look, he made sure to make a face at me.
“I take it to school every day.” I corrected as Adam and I began to stare one another down. “Just because I’m not on it all day, doesn’t mean I don’t use it.”
“I’m not on my phone all day, besides, I’ve heard Dizzy complain that you leave him on read.” Adam shot back as our stare down only grew stronger.
“Is this why you called me?” Sadie asked, already tired of our games.
“No ma’am.” I replied, realizing it was too late at night to waste any of her time.
“How come she get’s ma’am but you never call me sir?” Adam suddenly asked, taking another chance to push my buttons.
“Do you really want me to call you sir?” I asked in a sarcastic voice. “You already get weird whenever I call you Uncle.”
“I don’t get weird.” Adam defensively let out. “I’ve just never been called Uncle before, and it takes some getting used to.”
“Okay, sir.” I replied, making sure to emphasize the word.
“You two are very cute,” Sadie interrupted in a serious voice. “but can you guys focus?”
“Sorry.” I offered, realizing Adam and I were getting carried away again. “I just, I have something important I need to tell you,” I nervously began. As Adam finally grew serious, he nodded his head, showing me I had his support. “When, when you were in the bathroom at the courthouse,” I began but hesitate once more. “Ezra Green found me and Dizzy and gave me his business card.”
A sigh escaped Sadie’s lips as my words began to sink in. “Ezra Green?” She repeated as she tried her hardest to wrap her mind around my words. “How did he know you were there?”
“I ran into Sam Brooks the first day we visited, and Ezra said his dad called him.” I answered, but could tell that the news was only causing Sadie to worry more and more. “It’s alright, I promise, Adam has it all worked out.”
“Well you’re lucky he earned my trust last time you were here,” She warned as her voice began to grow annoyed. “or I’d be flying all the way to California to force some sense into that thick Price head of yours.”
Adam lightly nodded along with her words. “You’re welcome to come try that anyway.” He encouraged as he leaned back in his seat.
“So have you spoken to him at all?” Sadie finally asked as she grew serious.
“Twice over the phone.” I answered as I began to prepare for my next hard question.
“Artie’s been really giving it to him though.” Adam suddenly began to encourage. “Ezra started bragging about his job today, and Artie shut it down right away.”
“Yeah,” I agreed as I realized Adam was trying to help me ask my question. “but then, then he said he tried sending my Mom money,” I forced out. “and he said it was more than child support would’ve been.” This time as Sadie let out a sigh, she stayed quiet for a few moments. “Do you know if he’s telling the truth?” I pressured, hoping to get any answer I could.
“I know he sent her a few letters.” Sadie finally began to speak again. “She never showed me them, or told me what they were about, but I know she would open them, read it and send it back.”
This time it was my turn to sigh as I realized we had hit another dead end. “She never showed you them?” Adam began to speak as he noticed me grow quiet. “Didn’t she show you everything?”
“It was a rocky time for us, for everyone involved.” Sadie tried to explain, but I could tell she was choosing her words carefully. “It was just a very hard decision for her.”
“You think she was considering talking to him?” Adam asked, even more surprised than me.
“I, I was trying to get her to.” Sadie confessed as Adam and I quickly looked at one another in surprise. “I know, Ezra’s a jerk and he, he really screwed her and Artie over.” She said, still stuck in her own head. “But getting raised by a single Mom, especially in our town, we all know how hard that was for her and Artie.”
“Probably easier than having Ezra around.” Adam commented, before catching himself. “Sorry.” He offered me, but I shrugged it off, understanding where he was coming from.
“Was it?” Sadie challenged, but I could tell it took everything in her to force that out. “Would having someone who could keep the lights on really be that bad?” Sadie asked. “Even if she only accepted the money and kept him at arm’s length away.”
I stayed quiet, but I could tell Adam already knew his answer. “Maybe we should save this conversation for another time.” He offered.
“Just say it.” I muttered as I realized how hard this conversation was becoming. “I know you don’t want to keep bashing Ezra in front of me, but if it’s the truth, just say it.”
Adam nodded his head but hesitated as he thought over his words. “Sadie,” He finally began. “name one-time Ezra did something selfless without expecting something in return.”
Sadie took a few moments to think. “I can’t.” She finally answered. “But this is his kid, it’s different.” She tried to argue. “Shouldn’t he have had a chance to be a father?”
“If he wanted his chance, he could’ve knocked on her door.” Adam replied, this time not even having to think. “It’s easy to send letters. It’s hard to be there.”
“You’re right.” Sadie surrendered in a sigh. “I just, wish it wasn’t so hard for her.” Sadie complained. Even after these past few months without her, Sadie is still worried about my Mom. “So why are you so okay with letting Ezra talk to Artie?” Sadie suddenly asked, causing the smile forming on my face to instantly fade.
“Because this is something Artie feels he needs to do.” Adam began, once more showing no hesitation. “And when it comes down to it, I trust him to make the right choices.”
“And if Ezra breaks his heart?” Sadie continued to pressure, speaking as though I wasn’t there.
“Then he learns from it.” Adam replied. “He’s not a child anymore,” Adam warned before Sadie could protest. “He’s got some really good friends here who will help him through whatever happens.”
“I can’t believe you’re the person I trust with this.” Sadie remarked, but I could tell she really did believe in Adam’s decisions.“You’re still the same annoying kid from Texas, you know that right?”
“Ugh, it’s terrible!” I complained, taking the chance to lighten up the conversation.
“From what I’ve seen from you lately, you’re not much better.” Sadie warned. “I swear, if Adam continues to rub off on you, we’re going to need to have a serious conversation.” She teased as Adam shook his head.
“I’ll try not to,” I replied as I made a face towards Adam. “but that means you have to visit soon.”
“As soon as work calms down, I promise you I will.” She agreed as she started to relax. “But until then you have to call me more, okay?”
“I will, I promise.” I agreed as Adam shook his head.
“You’re better off writing him a letter.” Adam warned as he drew a laugh from her.
“I use my phone!” I insisted as Adam began to restart our argument from the start of the call.
“Good night boys!” Sadie interrupted, trying her hardest to avoid having to hear us bicker. “I love you Artie.”
“Love you too.” I offered back as her end clicked off.
“Feel any better?” Adam asked as I handed him his phone back.
“Not really.” I grumbled as I began to replay the conversation in my head.
“Me neither.” He agreed as he picked up the controller and turned off both the console and T.V. “And we interrupted a perfectly good movie.” He teased as he stood up.
“Sorry sir.” I shot back as I rose to my feet.
“Good night Artie.” He dismissed, ignoring my teasing and walking towards the stairs.
“Good night sir.” I replied as he shook his head and continued to ignore me.
When I finally made my way upstairs and got into bed, I found the conversation with Sadie replaying in my head. I still don’t know if Ezra sent money, but he reached out to us. And sure, Adam’s right, if he wanted to be my Dad he should’ve come knocking on our trailer door, but sometimes life isn’t that simple.
Don’t get me wrong, something about this still doesn’t sit right with me. But Ezra’s trying right now. He called on back to back days, and was patient even when I started to lose my temper. Everyone deserves a second chance, and Ezra, I really want to believe he’s starting to earn that.
When I woke up the next morning, something about me was off. I was distracted and in my own head, I even put my shirt on inside out! But none of my friends pried. Dizzy made a few jokes, but the truth is it was nothing they hadn’t seen before! I mean, who doesn’t have off days when they have a lot on their mind?
I tried my hardest to keep my head down, and just work through it, but when baseball practice rolled around, I knew that wasn’t an option. I did everything I could to not show it, but after a sloppy play or two, even my coaches could tell I was distracted.
When practice finally wrapped up and I started walking back towards school, I noticed Jose trying to catch up to me.
“Artie,” He called out as I slowed down enough to let him next to me. “you’re walking back to school, right?” He asked, drawing a nod from me. “Cool, I’ve gotta go that way too.” He forced a smile before falling quiet.
There were a couple times I noticed him go to speak before catching himself and staying quiet. “Artie,” He finally began again. “I know we don’t really talk outside of baseball,” He said, forcing himself to look over to me. “but you seemed kinda off during practice.”
“I know.” I exhaled as my missed plays began to replay in my head. “I’m sorry.” I shook my head, as though that would erase the scenes replaying in my mind. “I’ll be better before our game tomorrow night, I promise.”
“Oh, that’s not, I’m not really worried about that right now.” He stuttered as he tried his hardest to find confidence in his words. “I just want to make sure you’re good.”
I had to fight off a small smile as I heard those words. “I’m good.” I forced another nod. “I’ve just got some stuff going on and needed a day to think, ya know?”
“Yeah.” Jose agreed. I could tell checking on me felt awkward for him, but he was pushing through it anyway. “On days like that, I need practice to help get me out of it.” He said, breaking eye contact and looking forward. “It distracts me from being distracted I guess.”
“I think I only get distracted more during baseball.” I confessed as Jose looked back over to me. “It’s just so much time to think, and then suddenly a ground ball is coming in but my heads somewhere else and I just, hesitate.”
“I used to do that too.” Jose supported, now starting to find confidence in his words. “But then one of my coaches taught me a breathing exercise to center myself.” He snickered as his own words as he shook his head. “It sounds like bullshit, but it really works.” He encouraged. “It like, puts all my focus on my breathing and lets my mind just react to the play.”
“I don’t think I’d be good if I ever just reacted to plays.” I shook my head as I thought his words over.
“Sure you would.” He encouraged, this time without hesitation. “You have the best plate discipline on the team, and a lot of that is reaction.” He argued with a shrug of his shoulders. “I wouldn’t force you to do anything,” He began to wrap up as we reached the school. “but if you’re distracted again tomorrow, I can teach you the breathing exercise I use.”
I thought it over for a few moments before nodding my head. “Alright.” I accepted with a forced smile. “I guess it couldn’t hurt.”
“It couldn’t.” He agreed as his voice grew a bit more excited by the opportunity. “Besides, you can use it to keep calm during anything.” Jose shook his head. “I use it all the time during finals.”He explained, but looked over towards the front door of the school as he noticed Dizzy walking out.
“Before dates with Charlotte?” I couldn’t help but tease.
“I don’t get nervous around her.” He lied, forcing his voice to grow a little louder. “Me and her stay cool.”
“Mhm.” I hummed as my smile grew. “If there’s one thing I know about Charlotte, it’s that she’s an expert at staying cool.”
“Worry about your man.” Jose teased as Dizzy finally joined us. He offered Dizzy a fist bump before reaching out and giving me a friendly shove. “I’ll catch you tomorrow Price.” He dismissed as he turned around and began to walk away.
“I veto whatever this is.” Dizzy began as we began to walk home.
“You what?” I sighed, not fully prepared for his normal craziness.
“Whatever is going on with you and Jose, I veto it.” He joked around with a smile. “You’re only allowed to be friends with me, Ky and Charlotte.”
“Getting jealous?” I couldn’t help but laugh as he bumped me with his shoulder.
“Jealous?” He asked as our eyes connected. “Never.” He shook his head. “I just think all your time should be spent with me and my friends.” He continued with a smirk. “Is that so crazy?”
“Your friends?” I asked, beginning to playfully stare him down.
“I knew them first!” He childishly defended.
“Tough,” I shrugged my shoulders. “because I’m pretty sure I’m stealing them,” I teased, this time it was my turn to bump into him. “and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
“Trust me, there’s plenty I can do about it.” He replied as his smirk grew. “I’ll steal Adam.” He warned as my house came into view.
“You can have him.” I said, as though I didn’t care. “He’ll just make you watch bad movies until he has enough beer to rant about them and go to bed.”
Dizzy couldn’t help but laugh as he heard that. “I’m telling him you said he watches bad movies!”
“Don’t you dare!” I yelped as Dizzy began to walk a little faster. “Dizzy!” I shouted as he started to put space between us. I tried to catch up, but the bag on my back with all my baseball gear was weighing me down.
When we finally reached the house, he ran up the stairs and started fiddling with his keys. “It’s over.” I warned as I finally climbed the last few steps up to my front door.
“I’m gonna tell him.” Dizzy taunted as he finally found the right key. “First thing I’m going to say.”
“You won’t.” I shook my head, trying my hardest to call his bluff.
“Okay.” Dizzy shrugged his shoulders, knowing it’d get under my skin. As he tried to unlock the door, I grabbed onto him and pulled him in for a kiss, knowing it’d shut him up.
As soon as our lips connected, the front door finally opened. “Uck.” Lindsay remarked as she walked away in disgust. “Congratulations Adam.” She sarcastically cheered. “You turned the kid into a mini you.”
“Well played.” Dizzy remarked as I pulled away and a blush coated my face.
“I told you not to get the door.” Adam dismissed, unfazed by our actions.
“Artie said you watch bad movies!” Dizzy yelped. This time Adam immediately looked over at me.
“He’s lying!” I forced out as Adam shook his head in disappointment.
“They wouldn’t be bad if you actually paid attention.” He began to lecture. “I always give you options and let you pick, but you read through them!” I looked to Lindsay for help, but she shrugged her shoulders. “And last night, you paused it halfway through!” He continued to rant. As his words continued to drone on, I looked over to Dizzy and shook my head.
“I’ll remember this.” I warned him as Adam’s rant finally came to an end.
“I’ll make it up to you.” He winked before turning his attention back towards the adults in the room. “Lindsay,” Dizzy began as he dropped his bag at the door.
“Here we go.” She sighed, knowing Dizzy well enough now to brace for his personality.
“My Mom said you’re her favorite boss.” He complimented, once more drawing Adam’s attention.
“Keep going,” Adam forced out as he locked eyes with Dizzy. “but one of these times, I’m going to shoot the messenger.”
“Then I guess now isn’t the time to tell you how bad you are at video games?” Dizzy asked, as he began to laugh at his own question.
“Artie, you smell,” Adam remarked. “go shower.” He dismissed with a waive of his hand. “And Dizzy, you have to go start your homework.” He warned as Dizzy rolled his eyes and picked his bag back up. “At the kitchen table.” He instructed.
“By myself?” Dizzy asked in an unamused voice. “What if I need help?”
“If you paid attention in class, you shouldn’t need help.” Adam shrugged his shoulders as I began to walk towards the stairs.
“Have fun.” I teased, happy with the payback Dizzy was getting.
Dizzy turned to me and began to stare me down as he heard my words. “Judas.” He called me as he finally walked towards the kitchen.
By the time I was done with my shower, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel better. Like always, Dizzy distracted me from being distracted. Sometimes I wonder just how much of that is intentional. If he banks on his attitude helping to pick up my mood.
When I got back downstairs, Lindsay had already gone home, but Adam promised both her and Mason were coming over for dinner after my game tomorrow. Dizzy tried to volunteer to cook, but Adam shot that down as soon as he could!
When things eventually calmed down and all my homework was done, I gathered up enough confidence to ask Adam if I could call Ezra. He let out a sigh, the same way he always does when he hears Ezra’s name, but handed me his phone anyway.
“Hello?” Ezra began as he picked up the phone.
“Hey,” I forced out as I placed the phone on the table in front of me. “it’s me.”
“I had a feeling.” Ezra encouraged, but I could tell he was surprised to get a call. “How was school today?”
“Good, no different from yesterday.” I answered. As I looked around the room, I noticed Adam and Dizzy more focused on the game they were playing than the phone call. It’s only our third call, but somehow this is already becoming normal for us.
“You have baseball today?” Ezra asked, looking for anything to start a conversation.
“Yeah, just fielding drills today though.” I answered as practice replayed in my head. “We’re preparing for one of our last games tomorrow.”
“That’s exciting.” He tried to encourage. “You boys any closer to a playoff spot?”
“Not really.” I thought it over. “A lot of it depends on what happens tomorrow, but even then, we have two more games after that.”
“Well you keep preparing, but I got a feeling you’re ready for it.” He said, leaning on the usual common ground for conversation. “You’re from Texas, when it comes to baseball you’ve got plenty of notches on your gun.”
“I know.” I agreed as the call grew quiet for a moment. “How was work for you?” I asked, unsure of what else to talk about.
“Boring.” He answered without hesitation. “If I can offer you any advice, it’s to do something exciting with your life.” He lectured. “Pick something that keeps you moving, and makes you a lot of money.”
“Money isn’t the most important thing in the world.” Adam spoke up, showing he was listening. “Do what makes you happy. That’s what’s matters.”
“Yep.” Ezra agreed, but I could tell he was just saying it to avoid any arguments. “Speaking of money,” He began, as his deep southern voice began to grow louder. “I’m not happy with the way I handled our call yesterday.”
“No?” I asked as I noticed Adam roll his eyes.
“No.” Ezra repeated in a strong voice. “I should’ve realized how I was coming across and I don’t blame you for not being happy with me.” He continued as his voice stayed confident. “This is a difficult situation we’re in. I don’t really know you, and you don’t really know me.”
“Yeah.” I agreed, interested to see where he was taking it.
“And having these conversations over the phone is tough.” Ezra exhaled, causing Adam to quickly look over at me. “Call me old fashion, but how do you know you can trust me, when you can’t even see my face?”
“Get to the point.” Adam forced out, growing frustrated by what he was starting to hear. Dizzy looked over at us with a concerned gaze, but stayed quiet.
“If it’s okay with you, I think one weekend soon I should come to San Francisco.” Ezra suggested drawing a loud laugh from Adam. “I know it’s early, and it sounds ridiculous.” Ezra continued, ignoring Adam’s reaction. “But I know Arthur has some difficult questions for me,” He hesitated as I began to nod my head. “and I know they’re questions best asked in person.”
“Well you kind of missed that boat,” Adam replied with some venom on his tongue. “don’t you think?”
“I did,” Ezra agreed in a sigh. “but I’m asking your permission to make that right.” He continued to pressure. “Just three days, that’s all I’m asking for.”
“Don’t you think you should earn those three days?” Adam challenged, doing his best to stay on top of his temper.
“I’m trying to, but I need some sort of base before I can.” Ezra insisted. “I’ve only seen my son in person once, and I know that’s my fault, but if we’re going to get to know each other, I need more than that.” He continued to argue. “Arthur, what do you think?”
“It’s up to Adam.” I quickly answered, showing that no matter what, I’d side with Adam. Dizzy nodded his head along with my words, showing I had answered it correctly.
“Adam,” Ezra began. “if you’ve made up your mind, you’ve made up your mind.” He exhaled, still not ready to give up just yet. “but can you at least take the next few days to think it over?” He asked. “For Arthur’s sake.”
“We’ll discuss it.” Adam agreed, knowing it wasn’t a decision he could make in just one night. “But I would expect a no if I was you.” Adam warned, staring down the phone as though Ezra could see it. “And next time you ask that question, don’t try and put it on Artie.”
“Alright, I understand.” He accepted, but didn’t apologize.
“It’s a school night, and Artie has a game tomorrow.” Adam began again. “I think it’s time to say goodnight.” He excused, now looking to rush Ezra off the phone.
“Yeah.” I agreed in a sigh. “Goodnight Ezra.” I forced out.
“Goodnight.” He repeated as the other line disconnected.
Dizzy looked over to me with a concerned gaze, but stayed quiet, knowing it wasn’t his place to talk. “Adam,” I forced out.
“Later.” Adam shook his head, too frustrated with the conversation to talk about it. “It’s nothing you did, I just, I can’t talk about this right now.”
“I understand.” I accepted, trying my hardest to ease the weight that was falling on his shoulders. “You’re doing a great job.” I tried to encourage as Dizzy moved closer to me.
“You handled it well.” Dizzy agreed with a forced smile.
Adam nodded his head, but picked up his controller and changed the game on the T.V. to a movie. “Yes Adam,” Dizzy teased. “a bad movie is exactly what we need.”
“You’re really pushing it today.” Adam warned, trying to relax and play along with Dizzy’s joke.
“It’s what I do best.” Dizzy replied, drawing a nod from Adam.
As we all fell quiet, I found myself growing even more distracted than this morning. I knew that the phone calls weren’t going as well as they could, but I didn’t expect Ezra to offer to fly here! I know Adam’s worried, but he has to at least see that Ezra is trying. I may not be sure of his intentions just yet, but it seems like he wants to be a part of my life. For the first time in my life, my birth father is trying. And I’m sorry, but I don’t think I can reject that.
Hey everyone, after receiving some feedback from readers, I'm concerned there was some miscommunication regarding future stories. I apologize if I was ever unclear, but to those who have read books 1 and 2 of The Hidden Ones, there will be a book 3 titled Ascension. However, details about that will stay under wraps until this story gets it's proper ending. For now, I just wanted to help share my future plans with readers asking!
Whether it's just this story, or the ones before, thank you for reading!