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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Unspoken - 4. Broken

It's finally here! Some notes will be at the bottom, to avoid giving anything away.

I wasn’t happy. Despite it being a weekend, Bryce should not be awake, so what gives? I stood in the living room watching him out there, and wondered if the problem was me. Would he have said anything last night if Nicolo had been the one to wake up? It’s not easy for me to communicate at the best of times, and not for the first time in the last year, I wondered if I’d really made the right choice when it was presented to me. As much as I love him, I wonder if I’m able to be as good a father for him as Nicolo has been. I’ve been having these thoughts randomly pop in the back of my mind for a couple days now, seeing Bryce happier than he’d been in the past year and a bit. It’s been a long road, and he’s truly on the mend. To the finish line? Not by a long shot; he’s making strong progress though, and that’s better than we’d hoped for.

How can I help him when I can’t help him? I can listen, and I can communicate, with time and effort. It’s that very additional time and effort required that has me so vexed. A boys mind is easily distracted. Who’s to say I could keep up and keep his attention? I rather think of myself as a coward right now. I’ve carried since I was 21, and unfortunately enough I’ve had to exercise the skills I’ve practiced so hard for more than once, but sometimes I feel like that’s not me. I’ve always been unassuming and largely ignored, and I’ve been fine with that. I had my family, and I had my few friends, and for the last third of my life I’ve had Nicolo. I never needed anyone else.

When Nicolo and I first discussed fostering, it was more of a plan to help out those kids unfortunate to be labeled ‘unwanted’ by those who should love them. We never really aimed for adoption, more of a helping hand, or home, rather, to recover and grow. I think we were both instantly hit, as cliché as that seems, when we saw Bryce sitting in the corner of the group home’s common room looking like he was trying to push himself through the wall. I think we both knew right then we’d be adopting this boy, if he’d have us. And we did, too. Within a month we’d come to an undiscussed agreement that we wanted to adopt. Nicolo called his one sibling living in the US, and through her we were able to find the best family lawyer in the area. Note to self: it’s mid-July, and I need to start making travel arrangements to get us all to Italy for the Bucello family Christmas. Shit! Bryce needs a passport too! His parents will kill us if we miss it this year. We were able to justify skipping the year before, as we were dealing with Bryce but his Nanna and Nonno especially would have our balls if we miss another one. Well, Nicolo’s anyway they still treat me like I’m Peter fucking Pan or something. Everything aside we had to be in Firenze this year.

I shook my head, filing those thoughts away for later, as they were important, but back to Bryce, who was still out there, waiting on...something. Nicolo was fast asleep, or he would have come down by now, so it would have to be me, despite my unlooked-for and unexpected little bouts of insecurity.

I nodded to myself. Bryce would have the two loving fathers he deserved, dammit, even it took me longer to communicate. I would be a father to this boy. I was determined. Nicolo once said to me of my height that “Alex, you don’t have to stand tall to Stand Tall, and you Stand Tall above many other people I know. Don’t let them push you to your knees.” Of course, he followed that with a sultry grin and a “that’s my job,” the pervert. I digress. I strode purposefully into the kitchen, and pressed my thumb against the pad on a drawer. It popped open and I placed the pistol and mag inside. I grabbed another small bottle of orange juice for Bryce and a diet soda for me. I unreservedly made my way to the sliding doors, and slid them open without delay. This time Bryce turned to behold me with a somber smile, and accepted the juice with a small nod. As I sat in the same chair as the previous night I thought to myself that regardless, Bryce had to know that I would be there for him like Nicolo had. I would quash this insecurity and be a father.

After sipping his eyes returned heavenward, so I reached out, and gently as I could, tapped him on the shoulder. The love and adoration that shone through his eyes broke me, though. I always saw myself as beyond lucky that Nicolo had taken the initiative and introduced himself to me, but this was nothing compared to the love and trust that this boy had somehow found for me. How could he trust me so much, when I’ve literally never spoken a word to him? He shifted so he was sitting sideways in the chair, cross-legged and hands on his feet.

B-rice,’ my hands spoke for me, ‘when I was thirteen my doctor contacted my parents about an experimental treatment that could potentially give me a voice. I was born mute, and my doctor wanted me to consider looking into it. My brothers were excited at the possibility, my friends were too, but my parents surprisingly didn’t tell me one way or the other. They said to me that I shouldn’t do it because it’s what my brothers want, or what my friends want, or what society wants. I should only do it if I want to for myself. My dad told me never to change who I am for other people, not even them. That if you change for anyone other than yourself, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. They told me that yes, it took me longer to express myself, but if people aren’t willing to take the time, then they’re not worth my time. Do you understand me so far?’

Bryce nodded. “Yeah dad. It’s like papà said, right? I wouldn’t heal from my,” he swallowed thickly, “my abuse unless I wanted to, right?”

I nodded fervently, smiling. ‘Yes. It took me a month to decide not to try.’

“What did everyone say?” Bryce asked, wide eyed.

‘My parents understood immediately. My brothers, well, they understood after much yelling and explaining. It took them a bit longer but in the end they supported me. That was twenty years ago. I have never regretted that decision,’ I took a long deep breath, and took the plunge, ‘until you came into our lives.’

His eyes widened, but I continued before he could speak.

B, no. You have done nothing wrong. Nothing. You have been the most amazing son. You have done so well with us and we couldn’t be more proud. You learned sign faster than N-big. Much faster! You’re learning Italian faster than I did! You’ve done so amazingly well in your therapy. You’re smiling and laughing and having so much fun. I don’t think you realize how insanely happy this makes us. No, the reason I regret that decision is because I feel like I haven’t been there for you like N-big has. You can’t come to me when you need a conversation. You can’t come to me when you need certain things. I can’t be as good a father to you as N-big has been. I’m sorry for that. I’m sorry.’

My control broke, and my elbows dropped to my thighs, hands handing loosely between my legs. My face, eyes wet with tears of regret, dropped to look at the deck. This didn’t go as planned, but I think I managed to say what I wanted to.

There was a light creaking as Bryce stood. I thought he would go around me and into the house, but I looked up to see his face staring tearily right at me. He leaned forward, and pulled me tight. “Dad…” he whispered, “y-you’ve been great to me! W-when I need quiet you’re there. When I n-need calm you’re t-there. When I need strength, you’re there! Dad you s-shot someone for t-trying to h-hurt me! You saved my life twice! And and and! You don’t need to talk! Your face,” he raised a hand, and poked me in an eyebrow, the corner of my mouth, my nose, a cheek, “says more to me than anyone else can say! You’re the best, dad! You and papà!”

I reached out and pulled him tight, probably soaking his shoulder with how long the hug lasted. He held me as if he were afraid I’d leave if he let go, my shoulder was getting soaked too.

Eventually I slowly released him, and pushed him away so I could speak.

‘B-rice, when did you get so wise?’

He laughed. “My therapist.”

I smiled, and he grabbed my left hand, and pressed my palm to his chest right over his heart, and with his own left hand, pressed his palm to my heart. Everyone has their own little quirky ways of expressing love. Nicolo calls me midge and bello, and I kick his shins and rub his shoulders. When we first told Bryce we loved him, this is what I did. Nicolo had to explain it to him for me, but he understood. ‘My heart beats for you.’ A bit corny even for Nicolo and I, but the message and intent sunk in. I need to stop calling him ‘Little Bryce’ in my head if he’s being this mature.

Our hands dropped after a second, and Bryce spoke in a soft voice. “You... you okay now dad?”

‘Me?’ I asked, confused. ‘What about you? You’re the one waking up in the middle of the night,’

He clasped his hands behind his back, lightly scuffing the deck with a foot. Puppy dog eyes made an appearance. Oh lord, he was acting like a character in an animé. I told Nicolo it was a bad idea to tell him what he’d been in!

“Yeah about that. Uhhhhh” he trailed off. “You can’t be mad at papà! It was my idea...” he trailed off again. I placed a hand on his shoulder, giving him a small smile and a short nod. “See! This is what I mean! You give me a smile and a nod and I know that you’re not angry! Right?!” I nodded again. “And I can see that you’re not lying! So much better than if you glared and said ‘I promise not to be mad.’ We, I mean papà and me could tell something was bothering you, so I came up with this plan. I knew you sleep reeeeeeeeealy lightly since the break-in so I figured you’d wake up. We thought maybe a calm night or two would help you figure it out. You’re not...you’re not mad are you? Will you tell me more stories, dad?”

I shook my head. What an amazing boy. I threw and arm across his shoulders, giving him a light kiss to his temple before leading him inside. The sliding door locked behind us, and I released him to sign ‘go to bed B-rice I’ll tell you all the stories you want,’ before patting him on his lower back. He scampered off without another word, and I went into the kitchen to retrieve the pistol and mag, heading back up myself without delay. Definitely have to think up a good reward for being so perfect.

Crawling into bed, I glanced over to see Nicolo with sleepy half-lidded eyes looking at me. I schooched myself up against his chest, clutching at him and smashing my cheek against him. He wrapped his arms around me tight, and a sleepy mumbled “va bene?” was replied to with a nod. With a sleepy “ti amo Alex,” we both drifted back to sleep.

'This is ASL (American Sign Language)' if anyone hasn't figured that out already.

Many deaf persons will use the first letter of someone's name and a word in place of spelling out someone's name repeatedly. It saves time and energy. 'B-rice' refers to Bryce, obviously. 'N-big' is a reference to how much bigger Nicolo is compared to the narrator, Alex. Actual ASL isn't quite so wordy, and the syntax can be different, but I didn't want to have such choppy and jumpy "speech."

Thanks for reading! I have a number of ideas of events to add, but they likely won't be linear.

Copyright © 2021 Late to the party; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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A compelling and powerful chapter, well done!

There was a light creaking as Bryce stood. I thought he would go around me and into the house, but I looked up to see his face staring tearily right at me. He leaned forward, and pulled me tight. “Dad…” he whispered, “y-you’ve been great to me! W-when I need quiet you’re there. When I n-need calm you’re t-there. When I need strength, you’re there! Dad you s-shot someone for t-trying to h-hurt me! You saved my life twice! And and and! You don’t need to talk! Your face,” he raised a hand, and poked me in an eyebrow, the corner of my mouth, my nose, a cheek, “says more to me than anyone else can say! You’re the best, dad! You and papà!”

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1 hour ago, drsawzall said:

A compelling and powerful chapter, well done!

There was a light creaking as Bryce stood. I thought he would go around me and into the house, but I looked up to see his face staring tearily right at me. He leaned forward, and pulled me tight. “Dad…” he whispered, “y-you’ve been great to me! W-when I need quiet you’re there. When I n-need calm you’re t-there. When I need strength, you’re there! Dad you s-shot someone for t-trying to h-hurt me! You saved my life twice! And and and! You don’t need to talk! Your face,” he raised a hand, and poked me in an eyebrow, the corner of my mouth, my nose, a cheek, “says more to me than anyone else can say! You’re the best, dad! You and papà!”

Awwwwww thanks! *blush*

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I have to agree with drsawall - a very compelling and powerful chapter!  Also, many questions were answered!  And hence,  the title "unspoken"!!  Very well done.  Thank you late-to-the-party!!

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On 7/4/2021 at 10:14 AM, starboardtack said:

I am an adoptive father and this chapter really touched my heart! Thank you.

Awwww thanks!

(Sorry I missed this before, haven’t checked in on the story in a bit.)

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