This story is one I've held off on posting, but I figured I'd put it out there and see what happens
Chapter 1 - Accidents happen
You probably won’t want to hear my story. A lot of people have given me shit for a long time about me and Dane, and to be honest I think it just freaks them out. It’s nothing as nefarious as what they think is going on in their heads. ‘Oh, that poor little black boy must have been sexually abused’ blah blah blah. Dane would say “Ignore them TyTy.” but I still want them to say that to my face so I can knock their mother fucking teeth in. Granted some of what they say is true, I’ve had my fair share of abuse in my life, but that was before I ever met Dane and he would never have added to it. He saved me, from myself, from the system, I love him and I don’t care what anyone says — Love is so much more complex than that, it’s multidimensional.
November 13th, 2013
“What do you mean they’re dead?” I stared up at the uniformed officer standing in the front doorway. It was late, maybe midnight and he’d woken me from my spot of the couch where I’d fallen asleep.
“I’m sorry. It seems they were in a car accident on the way home. Do you have anyone we can call?” The officer asked with as much compassion as he could seem to muster up. How many times had he had to do this — Tell someone that their entire life was about to change?
“N-no I. They adopted me...it’s only been six months ago. Their other son Dane…. I haven’t met him yet, he’s still deployed but he’s coming home this week.” Dead? How could they possibly be dead? Jane and Mark Huntsman had been my one moment of hope when they’d petitioned to adopted a struggling youth of thirteen. I’d been living at the youth center, my last round of foster homes hadn’t worked out for various reasons. I’d been in the system since I was eight and I’d had my fair share of hardships before becoming an orphan. I hadn’t realized I’d wanted or needed a family until I’d met them for the first time.
“You’ll have to come with me then to the station.” The officer said before he said something into his radio that I didn’t catch.
They were dead. The family that had wanted to give me a second chance was already gone. At thirteen years old I’d never thought I’d be lucky enough to be adopted and brought into someone's home, but now it was like the whole thing had been a cruel trick. It had been too perfect…. they had been too perfect. “Can I get some things?” My voice sounded far away as everything started to sink in. Where would I go? Would I have another foster family? Was I supposed to forget them?
“Only a few things. I’ll wait for you by the car.” The officer said lightly as he turned back towards his patrol car.
So I went to my room upstairs at the top of the Victorian house that had only been my home for six short months. Would I ever get to see it again? No, I couldn’t let the pain creep in. I’d let it ruin me before and if I let it in now I would never recover. I’d never had much to lose in my life but this was a lot to lose. A black thirteen-year-old orphan from the streets taken in by an affluent white family was already not something that happened often, but now I was back to being alone. I wouldn’t have Jane’s homemade meals or Mark’s steady presence. I’d never had a family before them and now they were… I grabbed a bag and shoved my newest clothes into it. If this was the last time I was in my room I wanted to get everything I needed. Clothes were a necessity that I would need if I went back into the system. Shoving into the back quickly I packed it tight before zipping it up and looking around the room and seeing how many memories I’d made in only six months. Out of all of the things, only one item caught my eye. A picture frame sat on my bedside table with a picture of me, Jane, and Mark smiling at the camera the day they’d officially adopted me. Reaching out I touched the frame with a shaking hand as I take in that moment again.
“Ty, it’s so good to see you again.” Jane gives me a warm hug, her small body wrapping around me in a motherly hug. I think about pulling away, but I hold still and for once I accept the affection she is offering me. After a few seconds, she pulled back and smiled brightly at me, her auburn hair shining in the morning sunlight. “We know this is a big change for you and we hope you’re as excited as we are.” She gushed with her excitement, her cheeks pink and her eyes sparkling.
“It’s good to meet you again, Ty.” Mark put his hand out, a grin spreading his face as he took my hand in his and gave it a firm shake. Was this real? These people couldn’t be for real. That’s what I thought as they looked at me with open acceptance.
“Would you like me to take a photo?” Sherrilyn my social service agent of the month asked as she watched us with a disinterested smile. It was obvious this was of little concern to the woman who most likely had hundreds of cases she had to attend to. Sherrilyn was a good representation of the world I belonged to. She was hardened by the system, only she was hardened by the endlessness of the cycle it created. It was so rare for kids like me to be adopted and when it did happen we doubted the authenticity of their choices.
“Yes, that would be perfect. What do you think Ty?” Jane said happily as she looked at me. I nod but I don’t say anything else. A part of me wants to believe they aren’t full of shit, but it’s hard for me to hope for something like that. Jane, Mark and I all huddle up for the photo while Sherrilyn takes our photo in front of the youth center, my new parents smiling while I look on with a confused face.
I hold the frame with shaking hands as I stare down at their faces, so happy to have me join their small family. I hadn’t believed in them then, but it hadn’t taken them long to convince me of their altruistic nature. Jane and Mark had only been able to have one biological child and they’d put all their time into raising Dane, but when he left for the military they’d wanted to raise another child. Unlike most couples they didn’t look for babies or younger children, hell they didn’t even close off their search for the just the same race. I’d asked them once “Why me?” and Mark had said “Why not you Ty? You deserve a family.” It was that simple for them. I’d deserved a family, and they wanted to give me a new life.
Sucking in a pained breath I opened my backpack and shoved the frame inside. It might have been only a year, but I wouldn’t forget them. Slinging my bag over my shoulder I didn’t linger any longer as I walked out of my room. Walking back downstairs I walked outside to the waiting patrol car where the officer sat in the driver seat talking on his radio.
“Tyler Green. Right? Sit in the back.” He said pointing to the empty seat behind him.
Grinding my teeth I hiked my back higher on my shoulder. “Ty Huntsman. I don’t go by Tyler Green anymore.” I would never go by that name again. I got in the backseat not waiting for the cops reaction. He didn’t say anything as he pulled out of the driveway my family's home faded away in the background. As it disappeared I couldn’t help but feel all my hope disappear with it.
November 14th, 2013
I slept at the youth center. My social service worker, Karren, had gotten me from the police station early that morning. She’d spewed some bullshit about family being contacted and that the Huntsman didn’t have any other extended family that they could find outside Dane. I wasn’t surprised to hear that. I’d known that Jane and Mark had no other family, that’s why I knew I would be back in foster care, again. Six months had been too short, I wanted to fucking scream at the injustice of the whole situation. I’d loved them— no that wasn’t right— I still loved them even though they were dead they had been the only parents I’d ever had in my life. All I had to prove they’d existed was a bad photo in my backpack.
“Tough shit. Did they bring your black ass back?” Marcus cackled from his seat at the table where he was pretending to be productive.
I sat at the same table not really sure what else to do. It was the middle of the day at the youth center and I’d somehow ended up in the rec room with my sketchbook staring at the blank piece of paper for hours. Schools were out for summer so it wasn’t like I could go there and forget about everything, not that I wanted to or could. So I sat at the youth center with Marcus who I’d met in the past. He was a teenager around my age who I’d learned - when I was last here - had been in the system since he was five and bounced around to more foster homes than racquetball in play. There was an air of anger that always permeated off of him, not that it was unusual to find bitter kids in places like this. Marcus though, he took it to the next level, he always seemed to be more than just angry. The kid could be downright evil and it was common knowledge to avoid him. Today though, I wasn’t in the mood for his bullshit. “No. Unlike you, people can actually love me.” I snarled.
“You fucking N—”
“Marcus, I think you can find something else to do.” Candace, the youth coordinator said sharply as she walked into the room. She was a small latino woman in her mid-forties and round in all the wrong places. Even with her odd shape, she’d always been kind albeit awkward and I had to admit I was glad she’d shown up when she had. I wasn’t against fighting to prove I wasn’t a weak ass, but I really didn’t have it in me at the moment.
“See you later faggot.” He growled before he grabbed his bookbag and walked out of the room.
Candace watched him go before her shoulders relaxed and she looked at me again her brown eyes concerned. “That boy,” she muttered under her breath. “I’m sorry Tyler, about the Huntsman’s.” There seems to be true sympathy in her voice. “I know their adoption was...unexpected for you but….uh welcome.”
My blood burned as I looked at the woman. She wasn’t well put together with her black hair in a messy bun and her shirt that had the centers logo had stains on it. It was almost glaringly obvious she wasn’t equipped for this conversation, but I couldn’t find it in myself to care. “My parents. They were my parents.” I snapped. Sorry about the ‘Huntsman’s’ she says, like they were nothing but acquaintances to me.
She grimaces and I can see she doesn’t really understand her faux pas. “Y-you’re right I’m sorry. I’m not sure what’s going to happen, we haven’t heard anything yet but I’m sure everything will be ok.”
God, she was terrible at this. How had she ever gotten a job working with kids like me? Shit, I wasn’t even one of the hard ones to deal with. “Candace just leave me alone. I don’t want to talk about this.”
“I know you’re upset Tyler but you don’t have to be rude. I know you must be feeling lonely—”
“My name is Ty. I don’t go by Tyler, my parents are in the process of changing my name.” No, they were in the process because now they were dead, Jane and Mark were dead. I was Tyler Green again. Would they even let me keep their name? Panic and pain snagged my heart in a thorny maze as I sat there staring down at my blank sketch pad.
“Right, Ty ok I can remember that. The Huntsman’s— I mean your parent's lawyer is going to come by at some point. He said he had something to go over with you.”
“Why bother? He’s just going to tell me I’m an orphan again.” I didn’t look up at her. “I don’t want to talk to their lawyer.” Obviously, there wasn’t much to be said. I was a thirteen-year-old black boy who a white couple had taken pity on, no one cared. They didn’t care that I’d lost the only parents I’d ever had, or that I’d loved them. No, I should be used to being an orphan, I’d been one for so long and besides my life had been shit before DCF took me.
“I really think you should talk to him.” She insisted.
“I told you I don’t want to talk to him.” I snapped. Didn’t she get it?
Candace frown deepened and she pulled at some of the hair that had fallen from her messy bun. “Alright. I’ll call him back and tell him not to come… if that’s what you want, but what if he needs to tell you about your new guardians? I’m sure the Huntsman have someone they appointed to take—”
“They don’t have any other family,” I paused and rubbed my hand over the blank paper in front of me. Blank like the opportunities I felt I didn’t have. “Only their son Dane.”
Candace brightened. “Oh! Well, that’s a possibility maybe he was appointed in their will to be your guardian.”
I was really getting tired of this conversation. Everything she said was like a dagger of hope digging into a hopeless wound. “I don’t think their twenty-five-year-old military son is going to be my new dad, Candace,” I added her name with as much sarcasm as possible. Really I couldn’t sound more bitter if you poured lemonade on me.
“Oh… I hadn’t realized he was so young. I-I’m just saying that maybe you should see their lawyer just in case.”
“Fine.” I’d say anything at this point for her to leave me alone.
“Ok, good.” Candace nodded her head before awkwardly looking around and then leaving the empty rec room without another word.
Shoulders sagging I looked down again at the empty sketch pad and couldn’t help but feel as empty as the paper I was looking at.
November 15th, 2013
The next day I couldn’t bring myself to sit in the rec room again. Obviously, I wasn’t looking forward to Marcus big fucking mouth and I didn’t want to be there when my parent's lawyer finally showed up, so I went to the park. There wasn’t a ton of people there throughout the day and I took enough food and water to sit there and just people watch. I saw parents help their toddlers go up and down the slides and older kids play games. It was all very innocent, but it was painful to watch. I’d grown used to not expecting those things before I was adopted, but afterward, I’d started to soak up those privileges. My mothers' hugs when she was happy, my father's steady advice when I needed it — all things I wouldn’t have anymore.
“Mind if I sit here?” A stranger's deep voice asked from above as they cast a large shadow over my spot.
I shrugged but didn’t look up at him. “Public bench,” so he could obviously sit there.
“Yeah doesn’t mean I’m welcome.” The stranger sat down next to me and even without looking up I could realize he was a really big man. Peeking a glance I saw a massive white man sitting next to me wearing simple jeans and a white henley t-shirt. I didn’t catch his face, but I didn’t have to admit he was a massive younger man who could very easily kick my ass. I scooted closer to the edge of the bench away from the stranger. Maybe I shouldn’t have let this man sitting beside me. “Don’t worry I just needed to sit down,” the stranger paused and let out a long-winded sigh. “I’ve had a really bad couple of days.” His deep voice shook a little and he leaned forward to rest his arms on his legs.
I more than understood how that felt. Bad couple of days had been my living hell since their death. I was alone in the world again, and more overwhelmed by it then I had ever been in the past. It wasn’t the first time I’ve been alone, but I’d never known what it was like to have someone love me until them. I wouldn’t cry I told myself, but at night I wouldn’t admit to the wet puddles on my pillowcase come morning. My pain leaked out of me no matter how much I wanted to deny its existence, no matter how much I fought to feel nothing. So yeah, I could understand a bad couple of days as he put it. “Yeah, me too Mr.”
“Yeah, you looked like you had.” He leaned back against the bench, but I still didn’t look up at him. I felt safe staring down at the ground from my side of the bench. “Want to talk about it? I’d like to hear about it.”
I snorted, “you some kind of therapist from the youth center? Cause if you are I really don’t want to talk to you.” I sneered and went to get up and walk away.
“Hold up. I’m not I just wanted to talk.” He hurried to say but didn’t touch me, which I was grateful for.
Relaxing back on the bench I nodded mutely. Maybe I was being a little too sensitive with the stranger. What could it hurt to tell someone what had happened? It wasn’t like this outsider would really care, but maybe it would release some of the pain inside of me if I could vomit the words up just once. They died. They are gone. I’m alone. Again. “My parents died two days ago…” I blurted it out quickly so I wouldn’t chicken out. The moment the words came out I didn’t feel the relief I thought I would, like someone purging their stomach after a terrible stomach ache I thought for sure that some of the agonies would subside when it left me, but it didn’t. No, the pain became a living breathing thing that I couldn’t ignore. They were gone. They weren’t coming back. I was alone, again. “They adopted me, but they loved me I know they did and now they are gone. Fuck, I’m all alone again and I thought… I thought I would have them forever, but like any fucking thing good they didn’t last.” Fuck but I couldn’t stop all of it was coming out of me in painful waves as I kept talking. Warmth ghosted down my cheeks as tears spilled down and off my chin in a slow river.
“I lost my parents too,” he said, his deep voice soft and filled with pain that rivaled my own. “I thought it would be me they would have to bury, but life throws curve balls is what my dad would always say.”
Mark had said that to me as well. I’d been having a problem with the kids at school and I’d asked the girl Carla Knight out to the school dance only for her to reject me publicly in front of the entire class. Life throws curve balls, but they aren’t always bad ones sometimes those curves bring the most amazing things into your life that wouldn’t be there is the ball went straight. “My dad said that too.”
“Yeah when he’d say that I’d get angry sometimes, but I know he was right. Just like when I heard they were gone I thought I was alone too, but then I remembered I wasn’t.” There was an inflection in his tone, but I couldn’t understand what he meant and I probably wasn’t supposed to. He was lucky that he had someone, that he wasn’t alone like me. I would give whatever I had left to say the same. Not that I had much left to give. I hadn’t had much in life to barter with and somehow I’d been lucky enough to have had Jane and Mark in my life.
“I wish I wasn’t alone,” I whispered as I looked down at my shoes. They were converse black and white like I’d always wanted. It had been the first thing that they had gotten me and it had been an unbelievable kindness that they probably hadn’t understood. It meant a lot to me but was so simple to them.
“I don’t want you to be alone either Ty.”
My head shot up and I looked at the man sitting beside me and realized it was one I’d seen before in photos throughout the Huntsmans house. It was a powerful face with a square jaw and bright blue eyes, even with the dark circles under them and the tired complexion he reminded me of Jane and Mark. “Dane?”
He nodded a slight smirk lifted the corner of his mouth. “Me in the flesh. Never wanted to meet you this way though.” He shrugged uncomfortably as if he was barely holding his own pain in.
Shocked I just stared at the man. Why was he here? Dane had been in the military on active leave since I was adopted so I hadn’t been able to meet Dane. Why did he even bother to come see me? It wasn’t like I was part of his family anymore, I was just another orphan and his mom and dad were dead. “I-I don’t understand. Why are you here?” Was he going to try and break the news to me? I already knew I wouldn’t go back to my adopted life. Did he really find it necessary to come tell me I was an orphan again?
“To take you home.” Dane’s voice was firm as if it should be obvious why he was here.
“Home?” What the hell was he talking about?
“Yeah home. You’re family, I’m not going to abandon you. We’re all each other has now."
“Family?” Was he being serious? This couldn’t be true. “What are you saying?”
Dane’s eyes shuttered as he looked out into the park with the families going about their day. “I’m saying that I’m going to be your guardian Ty.”
My guardian? “You’re going to adopt me?”
“Why?” I didn’t understand why a 25-year-old army man would even consider adopting me.
“You’re my family that’s why, and you meant a lot to my parents. We are all each other has now.”
“What about…” everything, I wanted to say, but I didn’t want to chase this one chance I had away.
“We’re family Ty. I know that it’s a lot to take in but I promise that I’ll make everything work out.” He said it with his strong grey eyes staring unwaveringly into my own.
With his steely gaze focused on me, I realized he wasn’t lying to me. I wasn’t going to be alone after all.