As we sat down for dinner Adam kept looking at me closely, then away.It’s like he’s trying to figure out something, as though he’s trying to crack some type of code. When he finally looked at me once more I forced eye contact and held it.
“What?” He asked, trying his hardest to play it cool.
“You keep staring at me.” I shrugged with a smile.
“I’m not staring.” He shook his head. “I’m just, thinking.”
“Do you need to look at me to think?” I teased as he rolled his eyes.
“You just, you look so much like Sarah.” He finally confessed.
As his words began to connect in my head I found myself having to fend off different emotions. “Everyone tells me I look like you.” I said, trying to change the direction of the conversation.
“Well people used to say I look just like her.” He shrugged. “She looks like me, I look like her, we both look like our uncles and father, and he looks like his uncles and father, and so on and so forth until the beginning of time.”
“Why?” I asked, looking back up at him.
“Genetics.” He replied in more of a guess than an answer. “Even our cousins on my father’s side look like us. Just the way it is.”
“Oh.” I exhaled as my mind began to race. As I felt a particular question rush into my mind I tried my hardest to fight it off but couldn’t. “Have you, do I, do I look like my Dad at all?”
Adam’s eyes locked with mine as he heard those words. For the first time since I met him the carefree attitude seemed to drop from his face. “No.” He coldly shook his head.
“You didn’t like him?” I asked in a gulp.
“We all grew up together, but I can’t say I had anything against him until he left Sarah.” He answered, looking back down at his food.
“She never spoke about him.” I suddenly explained.
“Did you want her to?” He asked as the room grew quiet.
“No.” I finally answered. “He left us. It was his choice, and he, he chose not to be there.”
“Good.” Adam remarked, letting the room fall quiet once more. After a few minutes of the awkward silence he looked back up at me. “I’m sorry.” He suddenly began. “I wish I could’ve filled those shoes earlier.”
“It wasn’t your job.” I shook my head, shocked by his apology.
“I know,” He sighed. “but you’re my nephew, and Sarah’s my sister. Someone should’ve stepped up. I’m sorry I didn’t.”
“It’s alright.” I accepted looking into his eyes. “Besides, me and my Mom were pretty good at making it on our own.”
“She did a good job with you.” He agreed with a smile. “You’re responsible, smart, and by the looks of it popular.”
“I’m not popular.” I quickly tried to dismiss. “Kids at school are just being nice to the new kid.”
“Is that why one showed you how to surf, and another read with you in the park?” Adam asked, but got no response. “Being nice is lending a pen in class. They’re your friends for a reason Artie.”
I nodded my head and had to fight my smile from growing wider. “I’m going to some coffeehouse tomorrow afternoon with another friend.” I suddenly explained.
“See!” He exclaimed relieved at the turn the conversation had taken. “You’re Mr. Popular now a days.”
“I’m sure that’s what’s happening.” I said in a sarcastic tone.
“It is.” He happily nodded. “Can you be home by like six though?”
“Sure.” I accepted, shooting him a cautious look. “Why?”
“We need to go grocery shopping, and I could use the help.” He answered. “Lindsay and her parents are coming for dinner Monday night.”
“Oh.” I exhaled as I got more questions than answers. “Do they come over often?”
“Every now and then.” He replied, starting to clean up his plate. “They, they’re important to me, and they want to meet you.”
“Me?” I asked, as he stood up and headed toward the sink.
“Yup!” He loudly spoke. “Like I said, Mr. Popular!”
“Why do they want to meet me?” I poked, getting up and handing him my plate.
“Because you’re my nephew.” He shrugged, as though it was the answer to everything. “Don’t stress about it. They’re laid back like her, and they can answer all your questions when you meet them.”
“Even about you?” I asked in a brave breath.
“To a degree.” He teased, looking over to me. “Why? What questions do you have about me?” I went to speak, but instead shot him a stern look. “Alright, I get it!” He laughed. “They’ll answer some, then over time I’ll answer the others.”
“Sure you will!” I sarcastically said, walking towards the living room.
He let out a loud laugh before falling quiet and cleaning the last of the plates. That night was just like the nights before, we watched the second Harry Potter movie, then I read while he played video games. We didn’t necessarily talk much, but it was nice just to have someone to hang out with. In a way, I think he feels the same.
That night when I laid down to go to sleep I couldn’t get my mother out of my head. I felt a few tears fall from my eyes, but didn’t cry myself to sleep like some of the nights before. There’s a line from a song my Mom used to love. It was something like, you have to get lost before you can get found. Well lucky for me I wasn’t lost long. Lucky for me Adam stepped up and found me, even if he didn’t mean to. Sarah Price, you knew what you were doing when you left me to him. You always knew what you were doing. I love you now more than ever.
The next morning I woke up to another empty house. Just like on school days I found some breakfast waiting for me on the table, with a note nearby it.
“Have a fun day with your friend. Please don’t drink too much coffee! I left some money on the table, feel free to treat yourself. Text me if you need anything.
Just like every other morning I grabbed pop tarts before seeing the twenty dollar bill he had left behind.Twenty dollars?! I don’t need that much for tea! Is he crazy? I know it may not sound like much, but to me and my Mom it was! I know he told me not to worry about money, but how could I not? I threw it in my pocket, knowing I would only spend the bare minimum possible.
It took some time for Charlotte to arrive, but I just spent it laying back and reading.
“Ready to go?” She asked as I pulled the door open.
“Yup.” I happily nodded. Just like Ky she tried her hardest to take a look inside without making it too obvious. “You can come in if you want.” I offered, unlike with Ky and Dizzy.
“Okay.” She happily accepted, too curious to say no. “It’s a nice place.” She nodded, stepping inside and looking around the living room and kitchen. “That all you?” She teased, pointing to empty beer cans on the counter.
“You know me, big drinker.” I teased, looking over at the cans that had been sitting there for a few days. “I hate beer.” I confessed as she looked back at me.
“You’ve tried it?” She asked, shooting me a skeptical look.
“Unfortunately.” I sighed. “My Uncle let me, it’s like, like, like carbonated dirty sox water.”
She let out a small laugh and nodded her head. “Good to know. Your uncle,” She slowly began. “do you live with him?”
“Yeah.” I nodded as we left the house. “Dizzy tell you?” I sighed.
“Dizzy? No.” She lied, trying her hardest to cover it up. “Why would Dizzy tell me that?”
“You’re a terrible liar.” I shook my head as she led me to nearby a bus stop.
“Am not.” She went to defend, but as she saw the look on my face began to cave. “Sorry.” She sighed. “He was texting me last night, and he said he put his foot in his mouth pretty bad.”
“So you know we hung out after surfing?” I asked as our eyes connected.
“Yup,” She nodded her head. “and I want to hear about all of it.”
“Fine.” I groaned, pretending as though it was a big inconvenience.
“He felt bad about yesterday though.” She pressured, forcing eye contact. “Said he was just trying to goof around with you and kind of overstepped.”
“It was fine.” I shrugged as the bus pulled up. “I wouldn’t even call it overstepping, he just connected some dots I guess.”
“Like what kind of dots?” She asked as we stepped on and swiped our cards.
“Did he tell you and now you just want to hear me say it?” I asked, as we sat in a small two seat booth.
“Maybe.” She shrugged as I fell quiet. “You don’t have to.” She quickly clarified. “I’m just here to talk, you know?”
“Okay,” I nodded my head. “and you’ll open up too?”
“Of course.” She quickly agreed. “My brother was being an absolute dick today! I have so much to vent about, but I want you to go first.”
“Alright.” I accepted, looking more out of the window than at her. “He figured out that I moved in with my uncle by myself.”
“I don’t know if he figured out the, by yourself part.” She clarified, trying her hardest to make eye contact. “Can I ask why?”
“Just needed a change of scenery.” I lied, beginning to pull back from her.
“You can tell me.” She offered, noticing the reluctance in my eyes. “Unlike Dizzy I don’t tell everyone everything.”
I shrugged and stayed quiet as she nodded her head. “Well my brother Jamaal was being a complete asshole this morning.” She began, filling the silence with her own story. “He offered to drive us to the coffeehouse, then completely went back on it when his dumb girlfriend wanted to hang out! Like she can wait, you know?”
“Yeah.” I nodded, unable to relate.
“He always does it too,” She began to vent, happy just to have someone listening. From there she told me all about her brother. He was a year older and they were close, even if she gets fed up with him from time to time. Her Dad worked in the tech industry, while her Mom was the stay at home type. She vented about them too, but I could tell they were a tightly knit family. In a lot of ways they sounded just like some of the families I knew back in Texas. All these people, they’re not that different, I just wish they all could see that!
“Okay,” Charlotte wrapped up as we sat down with our coffee and tea. “so that’s my family.” Gee! For someone who’s usually so quiet, she just ranted from my house all the way here, and then in line for our drinks! She may have needed this more than I thought!
“They sound nice.” I forced a smile.
“They can be,” She nodded her head. “just not today!” She emphasized. “So what about you, what’s your family like?”
“My Uncle’s pretty cool.” I shrugged, thinking of the man I was just starting to really meet.
“Have you guys always been close?” She asked, but I fell quiet once more. “You can talk to me. I promise I won’t judge.”
I nodded as I thought it all over in my head. “We just met last week.” I confessed.
“Oh.” She exhaled. “Then that’s pretty exciting.”
“Yeah.” I played along, trying my hardest to keep a fake smile on my face.
“Was he excited to have you moving in?” She asked, trying her hardest to get a better understanding of my situation.
“I don’t know. It all happened so fast.” I replied, trying my hardest not to fall into my own head. “It was like one moment I was in Texas, and the next I was in the plane with him.”
“I’m sure he was.” She forced eye contact and flashed the warmest smile she could manage. “Dizzy said he looks just like you.”
“Yeah, I guess he does, I thought he looked more like my Mom though.” I began to explain.
“That’s sweet.” Her smile grew. “What’s your Mom like?” This time when I fell quiet I broke eye contact and looked down at my drink. “Are you two not close?”
“She passed away last week.” I suddenly answered, surprising even myself. “She was my best friend.”
“Last week!!?” Charlotte asked, as I looked back up I saw a look of horror enter her face.
“Yeah.” I forced out. “We got into a car accident, and that, it was the last time I saw her.” I explained, trying my hardest to stay on top of my emotions.
“Artie,” She began as water began to well in her eyes. Is she crying? She just met me, how does she already care that much? “I can’t even imagine how that feels, but, but I’m here for you, okay?” She asked as I began to nod my head. “You’re so strong, I-I could never move so far after something like that.” Before I knew it I felt her hand reach out and lay on top of mine.
“She always told me no matter what happens keep pushing forward.” I began to explain. “She wouldn’t want me to sit around and sulk about it. She’d want me to grab onto this adventure with both hands, so that’s what I’m doing.”
“Well she sounds like a very smart woman.” Charlotte encouraged, quickly reaching up and wiping the water from her eyes. Somehow, someway, she already cares more than my friends back in Texas ever did. She tried to put herself in my shoes, and feel how I feel. That’s something no friend’s ever done for me. “If you ever want to talk about it, you know how to reach me.”
“Thank you Charlotte.” This time when a smile grew on my face it was genuine. “She left me with my Uncle Adam, and even though they haven’t spoken in years, I think she knew what she was doing.”
“Wait,” She began, trying her hardest to piece it together. “you hadn’t met your uncle before last weekend, and your Mom hadn’t spoken to him, but she left you with him?”
“Yeah.” I slowly nodded. “It was him or my grandparents, and my grandparents, well they’re crazy people.” Charlotte nodded her head, but figured I was just being dramatic. “Really crazy! They’re like racist Christian extremists.”
“Oh.” Charlotte exhaled. “Then where’d you come from?”
“My Mom didn’t talk to them either.” I shrugged. “She, she had me when she was eighteen. They kicked her out and we did it on our own.”
“Is that why your Uncle didn’t talk to her?” Charlotte asked, trying her hardest to take all the information in stride.
“No.” I quickly shook my head. “He got kicked out before she even had me, then my Mom wouldn’t talk to him. I have no idea why, and anytime I start asking questions he gets kind of weird. My Mom’s friend said it’s because he’s an atheist.”
“And I thought my family was complicated.” She sighed, taking a long look at me. “Well, it sounds like you were made to be strong.” I shot her a curious look as I heard those words. “Your Mom made it on her own with a kid. It sounds like your Uncle made it on his own in a new place. I know it’s not easy, but it sounds like you were built for this.”
“I never thought of it like that.” I confessed as I felt my smile grow. “Thank you Charlotte.”
“Anytime.” She nodded, meeting my smile with one of her own. “Now if you don’t mind, you owe me a conversation about Ky and Dizzy.”
“I don’t know what I’m going to do with them.” I confessed, more than happy with the change in conversation. “Ky, he was so kind all day. He was so patient when he taught me how to surf, then I get back and Dizzy is there waiting.”
“Typical Dizzy move.” Charlotte rolled her eyes. “He’s just asking for another fight with Ky.”
“But I don’t want that to happen.” I quickly forced out.
“It wouldn’t be your fault.” She tried to clarify. “Trust me, when they get like this there’s no stopping them.”
“So what do I do?” I groaned.
“Go after which one you like more.” She shrugged.
“But I don’t know which one that is yet!” I complained. “Ky was so nice to me yesterday. His Dad even bought me lunch!”
“You got to meet Mr. Iwata!” Charlotte exclaimed in a jealous voice. “You’re so lucky! He’s like, the coolest!”
“He’s like Ky.” I agreed in a nod. “And Ky, he’s just like, like connected to life or something. He’s so smart, and just, insightful.”
“But Dizzy.” She led, eager to see what was coming next.
“He’s Dizzy!” I groaned. “He’s like lightening in a bottle. He’s so full of life and excitement. It’s like there’s never a dull moment with him, not even reading in the park was boring!”
“You could just have both.” She teased in a laugh.
“Charlotte!” I yelped as a blush formed on my face.
“They’ve messed around with each other, a third just makes it a party!” She couldn’t help but provoke in laughter.
“I can barely handle the idea of, well, you know, going out with one guy!” I began, scared of the words rolling off my tongue. “I could never go along with two!”
“Well do you think you can handle Dizzy?” She asked as she grew serious.
“He’s been more calm than crazy around me.” I shrugged. “He’s so sweet and deep when he wants to be.”
“Well I, I’ve heard some stories about him from the girls who’ve dated him.” She began in a cautious voice. “They say over time he’s a lot to handle, and that in bed,”
“Charlotte!” I whined once more.
“In bed he can be crazy too.” She proudly finished her sentence. “That’s something you should probably think about! It totally matters!”
“Well I don’t want to think about anything like that with another guy.” I pouted, breaking eye contact and looking out of the nearby window.
“You’re such a liar.” She giggled with a devious smile. “But it seems like your choice is either play it safe with Ky who’s kind and patient, or go for the adventure with Dizzy, who’s, well, Dizzy!”
“I don’t have to decide anytime soon, right?” I groaned, letting my head dramatically fall to my hands.
“Nope,” She shook her head. “and I’ll be here to help you plan it every step of the way.”
“Thank you Charlotte,” I said, looking back up into her eyes. “for everything.”
“Of course.” She accepted as her smile grew. “I’m glad to finally have a best friend.”
“Me too.” I nodded.
The rest of the conversation was a lot tamer. I told her all about surfing, and how much fun I thought it was. In return she told me about her art, and even showed me a few pieces. She tried her hardest to be humble about it, but it was all so beautiful. She really is an amazing person, from how deep she thinks, to how she can empathies with anyone she talks to. Dizzy and Ky should be ashamed for not seeing this side of her!
When it was finally time to head home she made sure to make the ride with me. I can tell it meant a lot to her that I had opened up, and honestly, it meant a lot to me too. She promised not to tell anyone for as long as she lived. She respected that it was my story to share with the others when I feel comfortable enough.
The rest of the afternoon flew by a lot faster than I wished as my weekend seemed to slip through my fingers. Until finally I found myself in the grocery store with Adam.
“Okay.” He began, pushing me a cart. “So you do your half of shopping, I’ll do mine and then we can meet back here.”
“You haven’t told me what to buy yet.” I pointed out, shooting him a confused look.
“Well, like, I don’t know, buy what you’ll eat.” He shrugged. “Just don’t go overboard with anything.”
“Okay.” I cautiously nodded my head.
“Break!” He shouted before I could ask anything else, and just like that he was off.
I rolled my eyes and slowly began shopping. I didn’t really care, I mean me and my Mom had gone grocery shopping what feels like a million times together! I was used to it. Sorting through all the shelves, trying my hardest to find the freshest foods for the lowest price, and capitalizing on every single deal I can.Before I knew it my cart was full of a rainbow of different fruits, vegetables and meats, all at the lowest prices the store could offer.
“Adam.” I groaned as I ran into him in one of the aisles. His cart seemed to be full of chips, frozen foods, candy and beer.
“What?” He asked. “I’m not judging your cart!”
“Because my carts actual food!” I argued. I noticed one of the other shoppers laugh as they overheard our conversation. “Come on, your, you can’t eat like that!”
“I’m fine.” He complained in a sigh.
“Adam I’m serious. You have to start eating better.” I warned, recalling all the fast and frozen food I had eaten this week. “You’re going to get sick.”
He went to say something but as our eyes connected dropped it. “Alright.” He conceded. “I’ll put some of it back, but not all of it.”
“That’s all I ask.” I teased. From there on out we did the rest of the shopping together.
He seemed to be amazed by all the deals I could find, but that’s just how my Mom raised me. It’s not being cheap, it’s being smart. Besides, when you only have so much money, you need to figure out how to make it last. Above all, you need to figure out how to eat properly on it. Adam may have more money, but he’s been eating crap, crap and more crap! I’ll make sure that changes, even if he kills me over it!
Hey everyone, I noticed a lot of really interesting speculation and theories in the comments of last chapter. I just thought I'd let you guys know that since I'm now a Promising Author you guys can start a discussion forum in the Promising Authors forum. This could be a place where you all share ideas on Adam's past, or debate Ky vs Dizzy. Thanks for Reading!