It’s weird, I’ve been nervous about speaking to Ezra since he reached out. Things have just felt awkward and a bit, wrong. But something about this last call, something about hearing him try and coach me through a loss, it felt almost, natural. Then, the excitement in his voice when he realized he was allowed the come visit. It just feels so different than how I imagined him. This whole time I figured he’s been after something, but now, it’s starting to feel like he just wants to meet me.
“You seem happy.” Adam observed as he glanced over at me.
“Yeah.” I spoke in an uncertain voice as I continued to think over the conversation. “I don’t know, that call just felt more, genuine.” Adam nodded along with my words, but I could tell he didn’t agree. “Why?” I couldn’t help but ask. “What did you think?”
“No comment.” He dismissed as he looked back towards the T.V.
“Come on,” I began to whine. “you don’t buy it?”
“No comment.” He repeated once more. “Because what I’ll say is either going to cause a fight, or upset you.” He complained. “And I really don’t want to do either.”
“Alright.” I reluctantly accepted, as my eyes stayed focused on the side of his head.
“Just keep your head on straight.” He finally exhaled. “Advice about baseball doesn’t make someone a good father.” He warned as he started to go back on his word. “My dad used to give me baseball advice all the time, and look at the kind of father he is.”
“I understand.” I accepted as his words began to sink in. “How about you?” I started to question. “How come you never give me baseball advice?”
“Because I was never that good at baseball.” He shrugged his shoulders and kept his stare at the T.V. “Besides, I tried and Mason shot it down.”
“That wasn’t trying.” I disagreed as I continued to stare at him. “You gave me that cookie cutter, one game at a time advice.”
“That’s the type of player I was.” He dismissed, trying his hardest to work his way out of the conversation. “I took it day by day.”
“So you don’t have any advice on how I played today?” I asked one last time, knowing if I pushed the right buttons, he’d open up.
“I don’t.” He rejected, but finally looked over to me. “I just want you to enjoy playing baseball.” He shrugged his shoulders. “I know you boys really want to make the playoffs, but just getting to be a part of a team is special.” He began to lecture. “I see how much fun you’ve all had this season and that’s what it should be about.” He shook his head. “When I look back, I think about my teammates a hell of a lot more than any of the games we won.”
“So winning isn’t important?” I baited, knowing if I kept him talking, he wouldn’t realize he was giving advice.
“I’m not saying that,” He began to back-peddle. “I just don’t think it’s the only thing.” He said as he placed his controller down and moved over to comfortably face me. “Realistically, a lot of your teammates won’t get to play baseball in college.” He said, breaking it down to a harsh reality. “So I’d much rather see them enjoying their last few years, and learning how to be a good teammate.”
“You don’t think I could play in college?” I couldn’t help but ask.
“I never said that.” He quickly replied as concern entered his eyes. “If you want to play baseball in college, I have no doubt that you’ll find a way to.” He clarified. “But there’s no pressure to either.” He explained. “I want you to chase whatever makes you the happiest.”
“I think I understand.” I accepted as a smile grew on my face. “It’s a shame.” I began again as I rose to my feet. “I think you could’ve given some really good baseball advice.” I teased as he started to think over his rant.
“It’s not cool when you force me to ramble, you know that right?” Adam groaned as he watched me head towards the stairs.
“I know,” I nodded my head. “but that’s when you give the best advice.” As my words hit him, I noticed a small smile form on his face. “Goodnight Adam.”
“Night.” He replied, still reflecting on our conversation.
He says he wasn’t that great at baseball, but I think that’s a lie. In fact, I bet he was one of the best on his team. Because whether he realized it or not, he’s a leader. I mean, he was practically saying the same thing as Jose after the game! We need to get back to having fun with it. And that’s exactly what we’ll do.
That weekend we all tried our hardest to act as normal as possible. Sure, some moments were a little harder than others, but Dizzy did his best to distract me from the week ahead. I mean, state testing, the last two baseball games and Ezra’s visit, all in one week? That’s enough to drive anyone crazy! But when Monday morning rolled around, we had survived and a tired Dizzy was waiting at my front door.
The whole walk to school Dizzy prepared me for what state testing would look like at Wells High School. Honestly, it wasn’t that different from the state testing back home! Everyone stays in homeroom and is forced to take standardized tests subject by subject. The good news? We get out an hour and a half early every day and honestly, our scores don’t affect us that much. So I guess in a way, it should be an easier week than usual!
“Okay,” Dizzy began as we reached the front steps of the school. “you don’t have baseball today, right?”
“No,” I answered in a cautious voice. “we’re practicing Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday so it’s closer to game day.”
“That’s still so many days.” Dizzy whined as he quickly reimagined the plan he was trying to form. “Just do me a favor, the second testing ends we’re both going.” He warned as he locked eyes with mine. “Don’t wait around for Ky or Charlotte, just go.”
“Okay,” I agreed as I shot him a confused stare. “you realize we’re getting out early, right?”
“I know.” He replied, finally starting to lead me to the classroom again.
“Then what’s the rush?” I couldn’t help but laugh as he refused to let me in on his plan.
“You’ll see.” He shrugged his shoulders. “You just need to listen to me on this.”
I thought it over for a moment as I saw his usual smirk form on his face. “Oh, I get it now.” I nodded my head. “Price is Rite doesn’t close until one, so we’ll finally be getting out before Adam.”
“By thirty minutes.” Dizzy warned in a serious voice. “So we really have to move it.”
“Okay, okay,” I backed off as I finally got on board with the plan. “you just lead the way.”
“What are you two whispering about?” Ky asked as we walked into homeroom.
“Just afterschool plans.” I shook my head as I took my seat.
As Dizzy heard my answer he shot me a serious look. “Shhh.” He hushed before leaning in closely. “We don’t need him trying to join us.” Dizzy whispered. I shot him a confused stare before dismissing it as a bad joke.
“Me and Charlotte have our own plans anyway.” Ky shrugged as he noticed how secretive Dizzy was being.
“I guess.” Charlotte agreed, not even bother to look up from her phone.
“You guess?” Ky complained in a groan. “You promised to come shopping with me.”
“And I will.” She forced out as she finally looked up from her phone. “If Jose can come.”
Ky let out a long groan as he slid lower in his seat. “I third wheel around them enough, do I really have to third wheel around you two?” He complained as Charlotte began to nod her head. “Whatever.” He grumbled.
“All the high schools will be out early,” Dizzy began as he tried to draw Ky’s gaze. “there should be plenty of guys at the mall.”
“I bet Jose’s a really good wingman too.” I encouraged as Ky finally looked back towards us.
“And best of all, Artie has practice most of this week.” Dizzy nodded his head as their eyes met. “So we’ll have plenty of time to hang out, just you and me.”
“Why is that best of all?” I asked as I looked over to him, but his eyes stayed locked with Ky’s.
“Alright.” Ky accepted in a sigh. “But if Charlotte and Jose get too coupley today, I’m leaving.”
“I’ll try not to take it too personally.” Charlotte dismissed, looking right back down at her phone.
Before another conversation could start, Mrs. Mowry walked in with a stack of tests in her hands. She announced we would start in five minutes and try our hardest to get through the testing as quickly as possible. And she wasn’t kidding! The second the testing started, Mrs. Mowry’s approach to our homeroom changed completely! I mean, since she teaches AP English, I had heard she’s really tough, but I didn’t expect her to be so, efficient. She kept the test moving as fast as she could, and shut down Dizzy any time he started acting up.
Today’s test was English and Language Arts. It wasn’t anything too difficult, just the typical standardized test nonsense! Read the question, fill in the bubble and try your hardest not to get tricked by the test! Every now and again Dizzy would glance over to me when he got stuck, but for the most part we all stayed as focused as possible.
When the test finally ended and we were dismissed, I got to really see how little Dizzy was joking about rushing out. He impatiently waited outside the classroom as I said goodbye to Ky and Charlotte before grabbing my arm and practically pulling me out of the school!
“We have more than enough time.” I complained as he quickly led me out of the school and towards the house.
“Trust me, we really don’t.” Dizzy complained, keeping his focus forward.
“I guess Adam probably does rush home.” I began to think it over. “But even then, he moves kind of slow.”
“We need every minute we can get.” Dizzy shook his head. “Worst case, you might have to call him and try to slow him down.
“I guess that could work.” I nodded my head as my house appeared in the distance. “You’re usually pretty excited, but this is the most eager I’ve seen you in a little while.” I couldn’t help but blush. “It’s kind of nice.”
“Could you blame me?” He asked as his smile grew.
“Not at all.” I shook my head as we finally reached my house. I went to take a step towards the stairs, but felt Dizzy pull me the other way. “We’re getting on the bus?” I asked in a confused voice.
“Well yeah,” Dizzy shook his head. “how else would we get there?”
“So we’re going to your house?” I asked, trying my hardest to figure out his plan.
“What?” Dizzy replied, growing even more confused than I was. “What do you think is happening right now?”
“I thought we were trying to beat Adam home.” I answered as the bus pulled up to our stop. “And, well, you know.”
“Is that all you think about?” Dizzy shook his head as he pulled me onto the bus with him. “I guess I can sneak into your room tonight if you really want.” He shrugged as he walked up and swiped his card.
“Yeah, I guess.” I accepted, walking up and swiping my own card before joining him in an empty booth. “But Dizzy,” I paused as he handed me one of his headphones. “where are we going?”
“To get donuts before Adam closes his shop.” Dizzy finally explained as our eyes connected. “It would’ve been easy to figure out if you didn’t have such a dirty mind.”
“I don’t even want to hear that from you.” I couldn’t help but laugh.
“You were really excited too.” Dizzy began to proudly nod. “Remember when you were embarrassed because you fell asleep on my shoulder?” I nodded my head and couldn’t help but feel my face turn red. “And now you’re trying to rush me into your room after a half day to,”
“Stop.” I warned as I cut him off. “Or I’ll lock my door tonight.”
Dizzy nodded his head, but I could tell he knew I was bluffing. The rest of the bus ride was a bit quieter as we let Dizzy’s music fill our ears. It wasn’t all that hard to get to Adam’s shop. We had to transfer onto another bus, but it was obvious Adam wanted to live close to his job.
The second our bus stopped Dizzy grabbed my hand and pulled me off the bus. “Made it with five minutes to spare.” Dizzy exhaled as he pointed towards the shop.
“You know, we could’ve just called Adam and asked him to bring home donuts.” I pointed out in a sigh.
“He always picks out the crappy ones.” Dizzy dismissed with a wave of his hand.
“We also could’ve just asked him to stay open a few minutes later so we could make it without running out of school.” I spoke up as Dizzy rolled his eyes.
“You coming up with ideas after we’re already here, doesn’t help.” Dizzy warned as we reached the door of the shop.
“Then maybe you should’ve told me your plan this morning.” I argued as our eyes connected.
“I thought you knew.” He shrugged as he finally pushed the door open. “But your mind was elsewhere.” He smirked before taking a step inside.
As I followed Dizzy inside, I was shocked to see the store was empty. Last time I was here, there was barely any room to stand! I mean people were everywhere! But now it’s like a ghost town, and there are barely any donuts left!
“Welcome to Price is Rite,” Adam began in a tired voice as he stepped out from the back. As he looked up towards us, he froze and had to do a double take. “Hey.” He let out in a confused voice.
“State testing.” I replied before he could even ask the question.
“Oh, yeah,” He nodded his head as a small smile began to form on his face. “how was that?”
“Not too bad.” I shrugged my shoulders, but Dizzy stayed quiet as he grew distracted by the left-over donuts.
“Where’d they all go?” Dizzy complained as he looked back at Adam.
“We’re five minutes to closing.” He answered, looking at the near empty case. “The breakfast and lunch rushes cleared them out.”
“Okay, but there must be like, some good one’s left.” Dizzy began to plea as his plan started to crumble.
“What you see is what we’ve got.” Adam shrugged his shoulders. “Colleen!” He called out towards the back. “There’s a surprise here for you.”
“Don’t get her.” Dizzy continued to whine. “I want donuts, not my Mom.”
“Z!” She exclaimed as she stepped out from the back. “What are you doing here?”
“Just visiting I guess.” He grumbled as Adam began to laugh.
“There’s still some crumb cake and blueberry donuts left.” I pointed out as I took my first real look into the case.
“Those donuts suck.” Dizzy commented. “Why do you think they’re left over?” He asked as Adam began to stare him down. “Sorry.” Dizzy nervously laughed.
“Those two were Lindsay’s idea anyway.” He dismissed as he began to straighten up the counter.
“Be respectful.” Colleen warned as her eyes locked with Dizzy’s. “We’re closed, so you’re lucky if you get anything.”
“She’s got a point.” Adam laughed as Dizzy let out a sigh. “You should’ve called when school ended, I might’ve been able to put some aside for you.”
I made a face at Dizzy but he just rolled his eyes and looked back to Adam. “I guess we’ll do that later this week.” He grumbled.
“Are you going to be like this for the rest of the day?” Adam asked as he looked over to Colleen, who shook her head no. “Come on.” He groaned, waiving us both towards the back.
“You don’t have to do this,” Colleen warned. “he’s a big boy, he can handle getting whatever’s left for him.”
“I know,” Adam agreed as he opened the gate to let us through. “but I need taste testers anyway.”
“We tried it before, there’s just too much peanut butter.” Colleen started to argue.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Dizzy began to perk up. “but I’m in”
As Adam led us into the kitchen, a few left-over bakers looked over to us. “You guys are free to go.” Adam dismissed, but noticed their stares staying on Dizzy and me. “This is my nephew and Colleen’s son.” He explained. “You’ll get to know them better when they come help out over the summer.”
“I didn’t sign up for that.” I teased as I looked back up to him.
“I did!” Dizzy excitedly replied as he looked back to Adam. “Do I get one of those shirts too?” He asked, looking at the black employee t-shirt with the shops logo in white on the upper left side.
“If you wear it to school tomorrow, I’ll give you one right now.” Adam shrugged his shoulders.
“I would’ve been wearing it all school year if you gave it to me earlier!” He quickly agreed as Adam walked over to a nearby rack and began sorting through a box. The left-over employees said their goodbyes as Adam finally pulled out a couple shirts and gave one to Dizzy and me.
“Alright,” Adam began again as he led us into the kitchen area. It was a little cramped, but spotless as different stations were set up all around. The more I looked around, the more I realized it was like every kid’s dream. Boxes and boxes of candies and snacks sat all around us, along with the other ingredients needed for the more basic donuts. “this is the only one left, so you two will have to split it.” Adam warned.
“It’s a peanut butter cup donut.” He explained as he pulled what looked like a chocolate covered donut off a rack. “I came up with the idea a while ago, but I just started trying to make it today.”
“I’m good,” I backed off as Dizzy quickly moved towards the donut. “I don’t like peanut butter.”
“Something is wrong with you.”Dizzy teased, his eyes now locking onto the snack in front of him.
“Go ahead.” Adam instructed as he took a step back.
Dizzy nodded his head, before quickly picking up the donut and digging in. “That’s amazing!” He exclaimed, barely even done with his first bite.
“Don’t talk with food in your mouth!” Colleen yelled as she began to stare down her son. “I’ll take it away.” She warned as he went to respond. Instead he went in for a second bite and nodded his head.
“It’s really good Adam.” He praised with a wide smile. “You should sell this one.”
“There’s not too much peanut butter?” Adam asked, reminding him of Colleen’s concern.
“It’s a peanut butter cup donut! It’s supposed to have a lot of peanut butter!” Dizzy encouraged as their eyes connected. “Don’t listen to her, she is so wrong!”
Colleen rolled her eyes and walked back towards the front. “Come on Artie,” She began. “I’ll go get you a donut you want.”
“You’re missing out.” Dizzy teased me, but I shook my head and followed his Mom.
“What do you want?” She asked as she threw on a glove and opened the case.
“The crumb cake sounds good.” I smiled as she placed it on a napkin and handed it to me.
“Its really nice you boys decided to come visit.” Colleen encouraged as she grabbed a box, and began to pack away the leftovers. “I think it means a lot to your Uncle.”
“I had no idea we were coming.” I shrugged my shoulders before taking my first bite of the donut.
“So you two really did just come for donuts?” She asked as I nodded my head. “I guess it counts all the same.” She decided as I leaned against the counter. “It’d be nice if you two visited again this week while you can.”She said as our eyes connected. “Between what I hear from Adam and what I hear from Dizzy, it sounds like this is a big weekend for you guys.”
“Yeah.” I forced out, before growing quiet once again.
“Sorry, I don’t mean to pry.” She quickly apologized. “I just figured I know a thing or two about Dads who come and go.”
I nodded my head as I thought it over. “Do you think I’m crazy?” I finally asked.
“For wanting to see him?” Colleen asked as I nodded once more. “No, I don’t think so.” She confessed, keeping here eyes locked on mine. “You’re curious and he reached out to you, I think you’re doing what most people would.”
“That’s not how Dizzy sees it.” I complained, more to myself than her.
“Dizzy can’t even handle being called Ryan.” She pointed out in a serious voice. “Just because he’s scared of his dad issues, doesn’t mean you need to be too.”
“Is just trying to defend you the way a good parent should.”She cut off as she saw how badly I was second guessing everything. “Because at the end of the day, that’s what he is, a parent.”She continued to lecture. “Adams ready to support you through it, but you have to be the one to see this through.”
Things grew quiet as her words began to sink in. “So, what do I do?”
“Have confidence in yourself.” She shrugged her shoulders. “The only way your birth father can shake you, is if you let him.” She warned. “Blood can mean a lot,” She taught as she looked towards the kitchen. “but it can also mean nothing.” She looked back to me. “If you don’t like what you see, kick him out and move on with your life.” She flashed me a smile before taking a step forward and pulling me in for a hug. “You’re the one giving him a chance, and you can take it away just as easily, don’t forget that.”
“Uh oh.” Dizzy teased as he stepped out from the back. “Did you two just have a moment?”
“Adam, if you ever want to trade kids, just let me know.” Colleen joked as she finally let me go.
“I’m good for now.” Adam rejected as Dizzy rolled his eyes. “But how about we all go out for lunch, my treat.” He offered with a growing smile.
“I’ve gotta run these to the shelter.” Colleen shook her head as she proudly held up the box and a half she had managed to assemble.
“That’s like, eight donuts.” Dizzy tried to argue. “It’s barely even going to make a difference over there.”
“Where’s that big heart of yours Z?” Colleen asked, surprised by her son’s words. “Even if it only helps one person, it’s worth doing.”
Dizzy sighed but nodded his head, knowing his Mom had a point. As Adam watched Dizzy’s reaction, I noticed him think something over. “Alright,” He began again. “then why don’t you come over for dinner tonight at my place?”
“I don’t know,” She nervously replied. “I didn’t mean to put you on the spot here.”
“It’d be no problem.” Adam insisted as she looked over to him. “We always wind up making too much food anyway.”
“Your boss is offering you dinner.” Dizzy pointed out with a devious look. “Can you really turn that down?”
“Alright,” She finally accepted in a sigh. “but at least let me bring dessert or something.”
“You’re welcome to bring whatever you’d like.” Adam said as Dizzy flashed him a thankful smile.
As we walked out of the shop and headed home, the day started to have a different feel to it. It just felt like, like they all had my back. Adam is supporting me, just like he said he would. Colleen made me feel like I’m not insane for wanting to meet Ezra. And Dizzy, I know he’s not happy, but he’s yet to let that show. They all just want what’s best for me, and that’s exactly what I needed this week.
Day by day, things started to become easier. Sure, testing was a pain, but it’s the same old stuff year after year. Besides, I’m pretty sure colleges don’t even see our scores! As for baseball, well it turns out Jose wasn’t kidding when he said he’d bring the fun. All during our practices, he made sure to prank as many of our teammates as he could. Blowing bubbles from bubble gum and sticking them to people’s backs, using the gum as glue to hold paper cups to our teammates caps, even sneaking in water guns and spraying people for sloppy plays!
At first, I thought our coaches were going to get mad, but they seemed to understand exactly where Jose was coming from. Besides, he always knew exactly when to stop. The second I started to lead defensive drills, the pranks paused and all focus was on what we were doing. I mean, I’m not exactly the greatest coach ever, but with the help of my actual coaches, well I think what I was trying to teach was sinking in.
Everything was going well, hell even Ezra’s phone calls felt a bit more, upbeat! We didn’t talk about anything important, just more tips about baseball or stories about Ezra’s playing days, but things still just felt more, personal. But when Thursday rolled around, things started to change.
“Ezra’s calling.” Adam complained as Dizzy, him and I sat around the T.V., just like every night before.
Dizzy rolled his eyes and grew quiet as I took the phone from Adam and picked it up. “Hello?” I called out as I placed the black rectangle on the table in front of us.
“Arthur!” Ezra exclaimed in an excited voice. “I just touched down in San Francisco a little while ago, and I’m on my way to the hotel now.”
“That’s great!” I tried to encourage, much to Dizzy’s disapproval. “How was your flight?”
“Wasn’t bad at all.” Ezra replied, much happier than any of the times he’d called before. “I’m actually here an hour earlier than I thought I’d be.”
“Well that’s good, maybe you can go walk around the city for a little bit.”I offered, but as Adam glanced over at me, we both knew Ezra was looking for something bigger than that.
“I was actually thinking,” Ezra began, forcing the excitement in his voice to grow serious. “maybe you and Adam could come meet me for some coffee tonight.”
“No.” Adam immediately shutdown. “We agreed Friday, Saturday and Sunday.”
“I know.” Ezra exhaled, but I could tell he was preparing for an argument. “But all I’m asking for is an extra hour.” He tried to plea. “Just sixty minutes Adam.”
“Absolutely not.” Adam maintained, but as he saw my stare, I could tell he was second guessing himself. “I’m sorry,” He apologized to me. “this isn’t what we agreed to.”
“I know.” I reluctantly spoke, half wishing Adam would just give in.
“I’m just looking to get all the awkward introductions out of the way.” Ezra argued, now taking a different angle. “I mean, I don’t even think I’ll get to say hello to Arthur before his game tomorrow,” He reminded us. “So I just want to do that tonight.”
Adam let out a deep sigh, but looked over to me. “It’s up to you.” He offered in a near defeated voice.
“What?!” Dizzy exclaimed, nearly jumping out of his seat.
“I want to, but I don’t want to break your rules.” I replied, trying my hardest to respect Adam’s wishes while still getting as much time with Ezra as possible.
“It’s only sixty minutes.” Adam grumbled as Dizzy began to stare him down. “The mill is probably the only coffee shop still open.” He spoke to Ezra. “So I’ll send you the address and we’ll meet you there in twenty.” He dismissed as his gaze drifted over to Dizzy. “And Dizzy is coming with us.”
“Arthur’s friend that came to Texas?” Ezra asked in a confused voice.
“That a problem?” Adam asked as Dizzy rolled his eyes.
“Whatever makes you guys comfortable.” Ezra responded without hesitation. “I’ll see you boys soon.”
As Adam hung up the phone without responding, Dizzy nearly flew out of his seat. “What the hell is going on right now?!” He yelped, looking from me to Adam. “You said three days! You’re just letting him break that rule?”
“It’s one hour.” Adam mentioned, but I could tell he agreed with Dizzy.
“It’s him breaking your rules the second he gets here!” Dizzy argued, finally letting his opinions on the situation out. “I mean, you have to see this too Artie.”
“I know, but I also get where he’s coming from.” I spoke up as Dizzy began to shake his head. “I’ll be at school all morning, then the game right after, we’re just making up for the missed time tomorrow.”
“This is absolutely ridiculous.” Dizzy complained as he continued to grow more and more aggravated.
“I know.” Adam agreed as he looked past me and towards Dizzy. “But you have to trust Artie right now, and I know you can do that.”
“Yeah.” Dizzy grumbled as Adam finally had him beat. “But I’m not happy with you right now.” He said as our eyes connected.
“For wanting to see my Dad?” I asked as he stood up.
“For not having Adam’s back the way he has yours.” He muttered as he walked over to the door and grabbed his jacket. “Now can we get this over with already?”
“Yeah.” Adam accepted as we both stood up and started to get ready.
The walk to the coffee shop was quiet. Every now and again Dizzy would look over at me, then away. He’s pissed off, like really pissed off. But he won’t yell at me. That’s not who he is.I just hope he lets this out one way or another, because if he bottles it up, well, I’d be scared to see how that ends.
As the coffee shop came into view, so did a tall man in a dark suit. As we came into the light, I couldn’t help but feel my hand start to gently shake. Ezra looked just as intimidating as he did at the courthouse. His stare felt heavy as his dark brown eyes began to study us closely.
“Arthur,” He called out as his southern accent whistled through his teeth. “it’s good to actually get to see you son.” He forced a smile and offered his hand. It took everything in me to keep my hand steady as I reached out and shook.
“It’s good to see you too Adam.” Ezra shifted his attention. “It’s been far too long, but you still look like the Adam I knew.” He reached out his hand, but Adam refused to shake.
“I’m not here as your friend.” Adam reminded him. “I’m here for my nephew.”
“Alright.” Ezra accepted as his gaze shifted over to Dizzy. “It’s nice to see Arthur has such supportive friends.” Ezra commented, now offering his hand to Dizzy.
As Dizzy shook his hand, I saw a combination of anger and frustration cooking in his eyes. Yet, he held it back and stayed civil. “It might sound funny,” Ezra began as we made our way into the café. “but down south Dizzy isn’t all that rare a name.”
“I’ve heard.” Dizzy replied, but grew quiet as we got in line.
“If it’s okay with you Adam, I’d like to pay.” Ezra suggested with a smile. “I dragged ya’ll out of your home late at night, it’d only be right.”
“I can pay for me and my kids.” Adam shut down, making sure to emphasize his words.
“Alright.” Ezra accepted, taking a few minutes to think over the situation as we made our orders.
When we finally got our drinks and found a table, I noticed a smile crack Ezra’s face. “Thank you for letting us do this.” He said to Adam before looking back to me. “I’ve been thinking about this day, well, for a long time now.” He exhaled. “And I still don’t know what to say.”
“Sorry would be a good start.” Dizzy commented as I quickly glanced over to him.
“Sorry would be a good start.” Ezra agreed, but his eyes stayed on me. “I’m sorry Arthur, there’s nothing in the world that can make leaving you and your mother okay.”
“Then why’d you do it?” I forced out in a shaky voice.
He grew quiet and thought it over as his eyes lowered to the table. “Because I was a stupid kid, who thought his parents knew everything.” He shook his head. “The last time I spoke to Sarah, like really spoke to Sarah,” He began, drawing Adam’s full attention. “we had decided to put you up for adoption.”
I nodded my head, already knowing it was something my Mom had seriously considered. “Me and her agreed, all our parents agreed, and it just seemed like it was set in stone.” He shook his head. “So to make sure it stayed that way, my Mom took me to Dallas and we stayed there.”
“And when she kept Artie?” Adam pressured, reminding me that it wasn’t that simple.
“I wanted to come back,” Ezra said as our eyes connected. “but my Mom convinced me that after a few weeks, Sarah would make the right decision.”
“Putting me up for adoption was the right decision?” I asked in a concerned voice.
“It was that, or growing up out of wedlock to teenage parents in our hometown.” Ezra shook his head. “And to me, at the time, the latter sounded like a death sentence for you.”
“So better he grew up with just a Mom?” Adam continued to question.
“That’s not what I’m saying.” Ezra answered, starting to get frustrated with all the pressure he was feeling. “When I saw she was keeping him, I started sending letters, even before I had this job I tried sending her money.”He paused for a second as he reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out three square envelops. “Here.” He offered them to me. “These are some of the ones your Mother sent back.”
I hesitantly took them from his hand as my eyes began to scan them closely. “I was trying my hardest to be there for you any way I could, I promise you I was.”
“Well, except in person.” Adam continued to point out, further getting under Ezra’s skin.
“I couldn’t just leave my parents in Dallas like that. Adam, you were raised in Texas too.” Ezra pushed back. “You know what parental expectations and pressure feel like. You know I couldn’t disrespect them like that.”
“It’d be crazy.” Dizzy nodded his head, seemingly taking Ezra’s side. “I don’t think anyone here has run away from their Texan parents to have a better life.” He spoke, staring down Ezra, the same way Adam had.
Ezra exhaled a deep breath as he saw the turn the conversation was taking. “I was never as brave as Adam growing up, and I’m sure he can agree with that.” Ezra said, looking over to Adam. “Whenever things got risky, I was the first to back out and you know it.”
“So I’m sorry, I just didn’t have the backbone to leave my family the way you did.” He continued to explain. “But you should know how incredibly difficult that is, and that as a young man, walking out on my parents was never me.”
“So you walked out on Sarah and Artie instead.” Adam spoke, showing that no amount of words would make him back off.
“I guess I did.” Ezra finally accepted in a sigh. “But I’m here now, and I plan to make that up to you Arthur,” He said as he looked over to me. “I swear to God, I do.” I couldn’t help but nod my head as I heard the overwhelming conviction in his voice. “Any questions you have this weekend, no matter what that question may be, you ask away.”
I nodded my head as a million different thoughts began to swarm my mind. Yet, there was one that kept rising to the forefront. One that needed to be thrown out there. One he needed to accept if he was going to be part of my life.
“I’m gay.” I suddenly blurted out as my face turned pale. My hand began to shake and for a second, I thought I was going to throw up but as I looked over to Dizzy, I found a moment of calmness. “And me and Dizzy have been dating for the past few months.” I shook my head. “If you’re really going to come into my life, that’s just something you have to accept.”
For a second, Ezra’s eyes grew wide but before he could say anything he drew in a deep breath and centered himself. “Well I sure wasn’t expecting that,” He let out as both Adam and Dizzy shot me concerned looks. “but I,” he stuttered. “can work on understanding and accepting it.” He nodded his head. “I think at the very least I owe you that.”
Adam glanced over and gave me a proud nod as I felt Dizzy reach under the table and grab my hand. “Good,” I was able to force out. “because its non-negotiable.”
As Ezra heard those words, I saw a smile return to his face. “He sounds just like you.” Ezra said as he looked over to Adam.
“Because he’s gay?” Adam asked in an unamused voice.
“Because he’s confident.” Ezra corrected, looking back over to me. “You’re not as much trouble as Adam, are you?”
“Adam’s not really trouble anymore,” I explained as our eyes met. “but no sir, I don’t cause much trouble.” As I spoke, another question popped into my head. “Did you ever try and check on me and my Mom?”
“From a distance.” Ezra responded as he began to think over my question. “After a while of sending letters that kept coming back, Sarah made it pretty clear I wasn’t welcomed.” He began to explain. “And just showing up felt, cruel.”
“Why’s that?” I probed, as his choice of words sparked even more curiosity.
“Well, if I showed up at your front door, but Sarah chased me away, how would that look to you?” He asked, but I stayed quiet. “Sarah had enough on her plate, she didn’t need me turning her into the bad guy.”
“You saved that honor for me.” Adam remarked, drawing a smirk from Dizzy.
“Well that was always our thing growing up,” Ezra teased as Adam rolled his eyes. “I was good cop, and you were bad cop.”
“Wait,” I called out, not wanting their chatter to distract from his original answer. “then what do you mean by from a distance?”
“Well I still had some friends in town who could check up on you if I needed.” Ezra said as his focus shifted back to me. “I always made sure you had work to keep you busy in the summers, and a good man as a role model if you needed.”
“Hold on,” I let out as his words began to click in my mind. “so Mr. Brook’s farm?” Was all I could manage out before he started to nod his head.
“James is a good man.” Ezra happily replied. “He told me you and his son were becoming friends, and offered to train you along with him.”He explained. “I heard you were a pretty big help too.”
“It was a fun job.” I replied as memories of riding scout, feeding the animals and even cleaning their pens filled my head. “I think it’s one of the things I miss most about Texas.”
“I’m happy to hear that.” He replied, yet as he heard my answer I saw concern enter into his gaze. “I just hope when you graduate high school, you look to become more than a farmer.” He warned, drawing another unamused glare from Adam.
Ezra went to say something else, but stopped himself to avoid conflict. “So I have to admit,” He began as he sat back in his seat. “I’ve never been to this part of the country, what’s it like?”
At first I looked to Dizzy or Adam to answer the question, but as silence filled the air, remembered neither would be sharing much. “A lot busier than Texas.” I shook my head. “I’m pretty sure the airport itself is busier than all of North Texas.”
“You’re telling me.” Ezra agreed in a laugh. “I nearly got swept away by the crowd.”
“It’s like a stampede,” I continued as a smile grew on my own face. “I thought herding cattle was bad, but I’d take that any day over trying to handle that crowd!”
Ezra nodded his head along with my words. “So what about the city itself, what’s that like?”
“Just as busy,” I continued. “but a lot more colorful and every corner there’s something new to see.” I cheered as I thought over my new home. “I’ve been here for months, and I haven’t even seen half the city yet.” I warned. “But my favorite places so far are Chinatown, Castro district and the bridge.” I answered, looking over to Dizzy as I finished my question.
He nodded his head, but made his disinterest in the conversation clear. “So then,” Ezra began, looking over to Dizzy anyway. “were you his tour guide?”
“Guess so.” He answered as I began to shoot him a disappointed gaze. He mirrored the look on my face, before letting his eyes drop to his drink.
“Well even with everyone helping you around, it still must’ve been intimidating.” Ezra offered me, as he realized Dizzy wouldn’t be giving in anytime soon.
“Extremely!” I confirmed as we looked back to one another. “Sometimes when there’s big crowds, it still is.” I confessed. “Is Dallas like that?”
“I don’t know if it attracts as many people, but it is a busy city.” Ezra replied. “It feels a bit like our hometown, just on a bigger scale.”
“Really?” I asked, surprised by his answer. “So do people act the same out there?”
“Depends on where you go,” Ezra began to answer. As our eyes locked we couldn’t help but share a smile. I could see Adam’s dissatisfaction in the moment, but he refused to interrupt. Instead, he and Dizzy let Ezra and I swap stories about our cities for the next half hour!
Every time I told him about a restaurant or attraction here in San Francisco, he brought up one in Dallas. Pretty soon we were smiling and laughing as though we had met before. He’s just like all those big businessmen in the shows and movies Adam has shown me. He has a million different stories about a million different things, hell, I’m pretty sure I could’ve sat there all night talking with him! Why the hell didn’t he bring any of this up over the phone?
When it was finally time to say goodbye, I was the only one to shake his hand. Yet, I could tell none of that bothered Ezra. It was as though he expected it, and honestly, he kinda seemed used to it.
The walked home from the coffee shop was quiet. Dizzy held my hand, but refused to look over to me, while Adam stayed a few steps ahead. I don’t think either of them are angry with me, but I could tell they definitely weren’t happy either.
As we approached the house, I noticed Mason’s truck pull up. “Looks like I got here just in time.” He yelled as he lowered the window. “All righty then,” He remarked as he saw all the empty stares looking back at him. “tonight should be fun.” He said to himself as he rolled the window back up.
“Oh, it’s been barrels of fun already.” Dizzy commented as began to walk up the stairs to the house.
“I enjoyed it.” I shrugged my shoulders, but Dizzy only rolled his eyes. “Maybe if you talked, you would’ve too.”
“Don’t even start with me.” Dizzy replied as he began to shoot me an angry look. I snickered and shook my head as I felt my own frustration began to mount. “Really?” Dizzy asked as he saw my reaction. “Okay Artie.” He commented as we began to butt heads.
Adam shot us both a concerned look, but stayed quiet as he patiently waited for Mason at the door. “Everyone alright up here?” Mason asked as he finally came inside.
“Never been better.” Dizzy sarcastically replied.
Mason looked over to Adam, but he simply sighed and shrugged his shoulders. “It’s been an eventful night.” Adam finally spoke.
“Mhm.” Dizzy hummed as he looked over to Mason. “You really missed out.” As I looked over to Dizzy we both began to angrily stare one another down. “What?” He finally asked.
“Nothing.” I lied with a shake of my head. “Just glad you found your voice again.”
“I never really lost it.” Dizzy shrugged his shoulders as the situation began to escalate.
Once more I noticed Mason glance over to Adam. This time Adam let out a deep sigh and joined us on the couch. “I know that tonight was a lot for all of us, but fighting won’t help anyone.” He began. “If you guys are mad at one another, you need to communicate that.”
“He’s not going to listen.” Dizzy mumbled as his eyes lowered to the table in front of us. “He lives in his own world when it comes to Ezra.”
“That’s not true.” I immediately replied as I began to stare at him. “Why do you act like I’m so delusional for giving him a chance?”
“Because you are!” Dizzy exclaimed, finally looking back at me with wide eyes. “It’s his first night here and he’s already breaking Adam’s rules!” He yelped, barely able to sit still. “And for some reason, you’re just okay with it!”
“I already told you he had good reason.” I replied, trying to keep my voice lower than his. “I’m not going to see him again until tomorrow night, the least I could do was meet him today!”
“The least you could do?” Dizzy repeated in an almost laugh. “Like you’re not already doing him a huge favor by letting him visit!”
“It’s not a favor if I want him to visit!” I responded as my voice began to grow louder. “I want this Dizzy and for some reason you’re so, so, dismissive of it!”
“For some reason?” Dizzy asked, repeating me once more. “Adam warned us how many times about Ezra? There’s your reason!”
“It’s been sixteen years! People change Dizzy.” I continued to argue. “Remember earlier this week when you were talking about how much I changed in just a few months?”
“That’s so different and you know it!” He shouted as I began to shake my head.Mason and Adam shared one last look before Adam stood up and led Mason to the kitchen. I know Adam wanted us to talk this out, but I don’t think he expected it to really blow up!
“Maybe we should just stop.” I finally surrendered as I realized how uncomfortable this must’ve been for both of them to watch.
“No, I mean if you’re so right, lets do this.” Dizzy egged on. “Because I’m not going through this weekend pissed at you.”
“No one’s asking you to.” I shook my head as I let out a deep sigh. “Lets just, go to my room then.”
“Fine.” Dizzy accepted as he quickly stood up.
“I don’t think that’s such a great idea.” Adam called out from the kitchen. “It might help to have me and Mason around, just to help guide things if we need to.”
“Oh please.” Dizzy rolled his eyes. “We don’t need everyone getting involved.”
“Yeah Adam,” Mason couldn’t help but tease. “mind your own business.”
“Don’t encourage them.” Adam groaned as he looked over to me. “Just please, remember who you guys are talking to.”
With greatfrustration once again Dizzy shook his head as we both stood up. “My boyfriend who is being extremely stupid right now,” He complained. “but still my boyfriend.” He said to satisfy Adam.
“If it helps, I think you’re being extremely stupid right now too.” I forced an annoyed smile. He mimicked my look before we both finally started climbing the stairs.
“They’re going to kill one another.” Adam groaned as Mason began to nod his head.
We both stayed quiet until we finally entered my room and I shut the door behind us. As I noticed the anger in Dizzy’s eyes, I couldn’t help but sit on my bed and grow quiet.
Dizzy went to say something, but stopped himself as he saw the look on my face. “Don’t think you can just, flash that puppy dog look and I won’t be angry anymore.” He warned as he sat across from me. “You’re acting like, like a spoiled brat tonight.”
“How?” I finally asked as our eyes connected. “I just wanted to have a conversation with my Dad, why is that so hard to understand?”
“Because you’re doing it at the expense of everyone else.” He answered, trying his hardest to calm down. “You immediately threw Adam under the bus today and I know, tomorrows a busy day and you want to see Ezra.” He shook his head. “But tonight, it was a choice of meeting your father or having Adam’s back.” He finally explained.
“Why can’t I have Adam’s back and meet Ezra for an extra hour?” I asked, still struggling to understand his point. “Why does it have to be one or another?” I questioned. “Because of a rule he set? Well, you’re the king of breaking rules!” I shook my head. “You should understand that more than anyone else.”
“I break school rules, and this, this was well past a school rule!” He said as he moved a little closer to me. “I’m not the one making you choose, and Adam isn’t either.” He insisted. “If you’re mad at anyone for making you choose, it should be Ezra!”
“How did he make me choose?” I asked as my frustrations began to rise again.
“By calling out of the blue and asking to meet on a night he knew he damn well shouldn’t.” Dizzy confidently answered. “Come on Artie,” He pleaded. “you’re so much smarter than this.”
“I guess I’m not.” I shrugged my shoulders as I broke eye contact. “Because maybe it wasn’t right for him to ask, but I still don’t blame him for wanting an extra hour with his son.”
“He could’ve had hundreds of extra hours with you if he wanted!” Dizzy pointed out as he accidently began to yell once more. “You’re talking like he was kept from you!”
“Well maybe that’s how it feels.” I answered, unsure how else to put what I was thinking. “I know he messed up, but he was young and, and by the time he was old enough to realize what he had done, he wasn’t allowed to make it right.”
“Maybe there’s good reason for that.” Dizzy argued as I saw him look over to the pictures on my nightstand. “I know, I know I never knew your Mom,” He said, almost nervous to finish his statement. “but I’m willing to bet good money she didn’t let him back for a reason.”
“Well it’ll be a long time until I get an answer to that bet.” I forced out as my eyes lowered to the bed. “And I cant wait for a sign to tell me either way,” I shook my head. “I trust myself enough to see for myself, and if, if you don’t,” I hesitated as I looked back up to him. “then I guess we aren’t as close as I thought.”
Dizzy grew quiet for a few moments as he let my words sink in. “That’s not fair.” He finally broke the silence. “You know for a fact I trust you, I, all I’ve done these past few months is trust you.” He said, struggling to keep his voice from breaking.
“Then you have to trust me on this.” I pressured as our eyes connected. “Because tonight I came out to him so that maybe, maybe you could get to know him too.”I explained as my own voice began to shake. “I needed him to accept it, but I was also hoping coming out meant you could be with me through this.” Dizzy’s eyes lowered as he heard my words. “But when he gave you a chance, you didn’t say anything.”
I let out a deep sigh as I thought it over. “Do you know how rare that is?” I asked him. “For a man from my home town to not only take it in stride, that his son is gay, but then try and talk to his boyfriend?”Dizzy began to bite on his lip as he heard my questions. “I know we haven’t been seeing eye to eye tonight, but you have to at least see my side here.”
Things stayed quiet until finally, Dizzy moved close enough to pull me in for a hug. “I don’t think I see your side.” He confessed in a defeated voice. “But, you, you’re so freakin hard headed about this,” He let out in an almost laugh. “and, I, I,” He stuttered as he held back some words. “I really really care about you.” He finally said. “So I, I’ll follow your lead.”
“I’m so lucky to have you.” I said as I held him tightly. “Even the bad stuff, there’s no one else I’d rather go through this with.”
We stayed quiet and held one another for a few minutes, until finally, hugging turned to kissing and well, lets just say kissing let to some other stuff! But that’s exactly what we needed tonight. We were at one another’s throats for the past hour! It’s time to repurpose that energy in a more constructive way!
Soon after we wrapped up, Dizzy passed out, leaving me to think everything over. I tossed and turned for a little while, until finally I decided to get up for a drink. Yet, as I worked my way through the hallway, I could hear Adam and Mason talking from downstairs.
“Well I took off all weekend,” I heard Mason explain. “so I can go home tomorrow, pack my bag, and prepare to stay here for the next few days.”
“I can’t ask you do that.” Adam exhaled. His voice sounded the most exhausted I had ever heard it.
“You don’t have to.” Mason replied without hesitation. “I’m not going to leave you alone like this, especially not if everything is just starting.”
“But still Mase,” Adam tried to argue. “taking off from work, you were just saying you barely get enough shifts as it is.”
“Then I guess I’m lucky you make enough money for the two of us.” Mason teased, drawing a tired laugh from Adam. “Besides, if you ever listened, you’d know I have that interview next week.”
“You’re gonna kill it.” Adam encouraged. “I can even help you practice if you need.”
“You have enough on your plate.” Mason declined in a supportive voice. “You focus on your family. I’ve got the rest covered.” Things grew quiet and I went to take a step forward, but heard Mason let out a deep sigh. “I didn’t mean it like that.” Mason suddenly began, seemingly reading Adam’s silence.
“It’s not fair to you.” Adam finally spoke. “I mean, I, I have a kid now, basically two kids.” Adam corrected himself. “I’m holding you back.”
“Would you stop with that!” Mason warned in an almost frustrated voice. “Sure you have Artie and Dizzy, but they take care of themselves!” Mason argued in a confident voice. “Besides, we’re not kids anymore, I don’t want a man who goes out drinking every night.” Mason shut down. “I want a man who puts his family first, I want a man that has his shit together.” Mason explained. “And that’s exactly what you are!”
“I don’t have my shit together.” Adam let out in a broken voice. “Artie’s father is a few blocks away and I just, I have this terrible feeling about everything.” He confessed. “Ezra’s here and he’s prepared but I’m stuck on the defensive and I, I have no idea what to do.”
I went to turn back and give them privacy, but felt my legs lock as I heard their words. “You do.” Mason tried to encourage.
“I don’t.” Adam shot down once more. “I really, really don’t.” Adam insisted. “Already tonight he put me on the spot by asking to meet.”
“He tried to make you the bad guy.” Mason agreed in a sigh. “It’s not fair, but Dizzy was right, Artie should’ve seen that and shut it down.”
“Artie’s mature, but he’s still just a kid.” Adam rejected. “I can’t blame him for wanting to see his father and after seeing them together tonight,” Adam’s voice continued to shake. “I know that’s all he’s going to want to do.”
“He just seemed so happy when they actually started talking.” Adam complained, trying his hardest to stay on top of his emotions. “He’s usually pretty happy, but it’s been a while since I’ve seen him smile and laugh that much.”
“I’m sure he’s just being friendly.” Mason tried to argue.
“Friendly or not, they clicked.” Adams voice only grew more defeated as he spoke. “I just, I have this nightmare of him walking out that door and going back to Texas.”
“You know that can’t happen.” Mason reasoned in an attempt to keep Adam’s feet on the ground. “You just got full custody and you made Ezra sign away any claims.”
“Artie’s sixteen,” Adam replied. “I may have custody, but if he fights to move with his father, how could I stop that?”
“By saying no.” Mason replied without hesitation. “But that’s not even going to happen.” Mason said as he pulled them back to reality. “Artie’s going to leave everything he has here? You? Dizzy? His baseball team?”
“It just, it feels like I’m losing him right now.” Adam let out. “And I just don’t know what to do anymore.” He began to break down. “I’ve been trying my hardest to make my sister proud, I’ve been trying to do everything the way she would have.” He confessed as his voice broke more and more. “but I keep falling short.”
“When he moved in,” Adam began to cry. “I thought he’d be more like a roommate than my kid,” He began to ramble. “but now, now I’d do anything to keep him safe and happy.” He exhaled, barely able to speak. “But now Ezra’s here and I’ve failed Sarah and I’m starting to fail him.”
As silence filled the air, I could tell Mason had pulled him in close. I quietly walked back to my room as my mind began to drift in hundreds of different directions. What have I done to make him feel like he’s losing me? What have I done to make him think he’s failing me?
Is Dizzy right? Have I been that ungrateful lately? I couldn’t help but lay awake as all these ideas ripped into me. I opened a can of worms by letting Ezra visit, and as much as I enjoyed meeting him, I ignored what it was doing to everyone around me, even when they tried to point it out.
But Adam trusts me enough to let me handle this, so that’s exactly what I’ll do. Come tomorrow morning, I’ll be ready for whatever comes my way. Because right now, I think that’s the only way to prove Adam hasn’t failed me.