The story will skip ahead in time, I post the dates to keep up with the time frame along with Ty's age as he goes with the year.
Chapter 2 - Us against the world
November 20th, 2013
I stared around my room, the same one that I’d left last week, but somehow it didn’t feel the same. I’d thought I’d never see this space again, but here I was standing in it feeling like an intruder. Did I belong here without Mark and Jane? I wasn’t sure I wanted to be here without them. At least I think that was what the aching pit in my stomach was telling me.
Putting my bag down on the bed I rummaged through it till I was able to dig out the frame I’d taken from the desk. Gently I placed it back where it had been and stared at the two smiling faces looking back at me, my own face in the photo not as pleased. Somehow they’d seen through my surly nature, somehow they’d known I needed them.
A knock on the open door drew my attention away from the photo as Dane walked in. In the last few days I hadn’t seen him much. He’d told me he needed to get some paperwork together and figure things out with his commanding officer. I hadn’t minded staying in the center a few more days, it had given me time to think about what Dane was really offering. Was he doing this out of a sense of obligation to his parents?
He was quiet as he walked into the bedroom, his tall body moving with more finesse than I thought was physically possible for a man his size. Dane was every bit of six feet three inches and he was covered in a bulk of muscles that made me want to keep my distance, for now. I didn’t know him nor did I trust him. Just because he was Mark and Jane’s son didn’t mean I could trust him.
“I know you don’t trust me. I don’t blame you, Ty.” He grabbed for the desk chair and sat down, possibly to make himself smaller in my presence. “I...I really don’t know what I’m doing, to be honest. Mom and dad’s funeral is planned for tomorrow and…” Dane trailed off his voice weary and worn. It was as if he didn’t know what else to say.
“Can I help….with the funeral?” I wanted to help. I wanted to do one last thing for Mark and Jane, but I didn’t know what I could do. I was thirteen and reliant on other people and I hated it.
Dane shook his head. “Most of it has been taken care of, they had it all handled by their lawyer.” His foot tapped on the ground restlessly. “I know I’m not my dad or my mom, but I want us to be a family.” Dane’s eyes caught the picture on the desk, the one I’d just put back. He grabbed it and held it, looking at the three of us on my adoption day. “I don’t want you to think because you’re adopted that we aren’t family.” He looked up at me, his grey eyes searching before he said, “What do you want, Ty?”
What did I want? I wanted more time! I wanted them to not be dead! I wanted all of this to be one big nightmare and I woke up to mom’s pancakes and dad’s reluctant smile as he ate a grapefruit because he had to lay off the sweets. I wanted to have them for Christmas, and my birthday and every other holiday I never got with them. I wanted to hear mom laugh again, and Mark to tell me another stupid euphemism for life. I wanted…I wanted—
A sob I hadn’t known I’d been holding in exploded from me as I leaned forward over my legs and tried to hold in the gut-wrenching pain starting to tear me apart.
I’d loved them.
I’d only had them six fucking months, but I loved them, so much, and now they were gone. Another sob escaped me as I clutched my abdomen with all my strength trying to keep all the frayed pieces from coming undone. “I want them back, it’s not fucking fair! They were all I had!” I shouted through the pain, not talking to Dane, not talking to anyone, because no one could make it better. No mortal being could ease the anger and sadness tearing me up inside. “No one will love me like they did.”
Absorbed in my pain I didn’t feel him at first, but suddenly like a solid weight bringing me back to my body, he anchored me in my drowning waves of emotion. Strong arms settled around my body, engulfing me tentatively at first and then with more confidence when my own arms scrambled to clutch at the only person able to share my pain with me.
His arms were strong and heavy, easily grounding me to him as I let everything inside pour out of me. I wouldn’t admit to my weak moment afterward, but in that moment I was thankful that he gave me an excuse to cry in his arms. I was stronger than this, I had had to be my entire life for as long as I could remember. I’d lived through abuse, starvation, homelessness, and other things, but none of it compared to the chasm in my heart.
I’d never loved anyone before, and no one had ever loved me before. Not till them.
Dane’s arms tightened around me as he let me cry into his shoulder silently. “Losing them is hard for me, one of the hardest things in my life so far, but I can’t imagine losing them without having the time I’d had with them. I’m sorry, Ty. I’m sorry you didn’t get the time you deserved with them.” His voice was deep, guttural as if he was keeping his own pain inside.
He didn’t owe me an apology. He had lost his parents too, but to hear him affirm how I felt and to admit I had a right to mourn them made me hug him tighter.
December 25th, 2013
It was Christmas.
There wasn’t a tree, but that wasn’t something I would miss. I’d never had a tree before unless you counted the one foster home I’d been in. Which I didn’t, because it hadn’t been my christmas tree, I’d had no part in putting it up or even taking it down. There sure as hell hadn’t been anything underneath it for me. Christmas has always been a holiday I never fully understood and I guess maybe it was something I secretly hoped to experience one day.
Today wasn’t going to be that day.
Laying in bed, I wondered if I could just stay in my room the entire day. I didn’t want to watch tv and I didn’t want to bother Dane. Not that it was possible to bother Dane, the man had the patience of a saint. I’d learned in the last month that my new guardian was a quiet man, he was the type to listen and nod maybe say a few things but that was primarily it. Although he hadn’t been aloof with me, he was more outgoing in our conversations than with other people but not so much that I felt special, he just had to say certain things to me because he was now my parent. He reminded me a lot of Mark, but with fewer words of wisdom, which wasn’t surprising since he was only twenty-five.
Sighing I rolled onto my side and stared at the picture across the room on my desk. Jane and Mark’s smiling faces beamed at me as if they were still alive. I swallowed the hard lump in my chest and turned over again, unwilling to open myself up to the wound that wouldn’t heal. In the last month, I still had the burning ache in my heart constantly throbbing and I wondered when I would stop feeling like the world was out to destroy me.
Dane helped a lot.
It had been easy to lean on him, maybe because we shared our pain, but I think part of it was just Dane. He was unlike anyone I’d ever met and that made him different in a way I found comforting.
After the funeral, he’d said less to me than before as if he was retreating into himself, but he was a constant presence that I hadn’t realized I needed. He didn’t say much most of the time, but he would do things I hadn’t expected. After they’d died, I’d figured that morning breakfasts wouldn’t happen anymore. I’d been shocked to find the day after the funeral Dane had cooked him and me pancakes and eggs. He hadn’t said anything, and neither had I, but I’d been appreciative that he’d done in, and I’d been appreciative every day after that he did it.
A knock on my door made me roll over again to face the door as I called out, “come in” to Dane. He opened the door, smiling, but the joy didn’t reach his grey eyes.
“Merry Christmas,” he said.
“Merry Christmas,” I said with less enthusiasm. It wasn’t something I’d said many times before in my life and it felt like a lie on my tongue.
It wasn’t merry, I wasn’t merry.
Dane snorted a humorless laugh coming out of him. “It’s not I know, but I’d like to pretend just for today that it is. Come downstairs I want to give you something.” He turned and walked out of my room without another word leaving me wondering what he was talking about. Had he gotten me a gift? I hadn’t gotten him anything, I hadn’t thought about it and it wasn’t like I had any money. Ashamed I looked at my sketchpad as andidea came to mind. I dressed quickly in a pair of jeans and a plain blue t-shirt before heading downstairs my largest sketchpad in my arms. Rounding the corner into the bright lavish living room I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw it gleaming against the furthest wall.
A Christmas tree with yellow lights twinkled in the corner of the bright room as if calling to me to come closer to it. It wasn’t big, maybe only three feet tall, but as I walked closer to it I couldn’t help but think it was the most beautiful tree I’ve ever seen. Gently I touched the tips of the ferns branches, letting the texture of the real pine trail against my fingertips.
Dane chuckled, breaking my trance.
He stood leaning against the kitchen island, his smile a little lighter than it had been before. “I know it’s not much, but it was the best I could find in the middle of the night on Christmas eve.” He rubbed his hand over his head a sheepish expression on his angular face. “What’s Christmas without a Christmas tree, right?”
What’s Christmas without a Christmas tree? I thought. I looked at the small spruce again, happy to explore it. I was grateful that he’d gotten it. I’d seen so many movies of families decorating their Christmas tree as they bonded over the stringing of the lights. I’d wanted that, and seeing this stupid cute little tree I felt a niggle of hope that maybe it wasn’t impossible to have that even though Mark and Jane were gone.
I had Dane now.
“There are no ornaments, I’m not sure where mom and dad have all the christmas stuff stashed, but there is something on the tree for you. I was going to give it to you sooner but I held off until today.”
He said it quickly as if he was afraid I would be upset with anything he’d just said. Looking closing at the tree I saw a silver necklace hanging from one of the branches. I pulled it off and realized it was ball chain with a single dog tag hanging from it.
It was engraved with their names and on the other side it read ‘No one loved is ever lost’ I read it again and again until my eyes began to blur and the burning in my clogged throat made it hard to breathe. “T-thank you.” I rasped unable to speak more with the lump in my throat.
Dane walked closer till he was standing near the tree with me, looking down at the necklace I clutched in my hand. “They loved you, Ty. This is so you never doubt that.”
I nodded unable to say anything to him. I didn’t know what to think or say as so much pain and appreciation filled me that I felt I could come apart into a million pieces. “I-I didn’t get you anything, I didn’t think— ” I croaked out as I held out the sketchpad to him without any explanation. “I want you to have this.”
Dane’s eyebrows furrowed in confusion as he took the large sketchpad. He looked at the nondescript cover before opening it to the first page where the only drawing was. Steel grey eyes widened as he looked at me and then back at the portrait. “Y-you drew this?”
I nodded. “It’s not my best. I wasn’t finished, I can make a better one but I wanted you to have something today. I—”
“Ty this is amazing,” he said as his face pinched into the same painful expression I’d seen before. I could identify this that pain, and I knew - as he looked at their faces that I’d drawn smiling up at him - it was a pain formed out of longing.
This may not be the Christmas I’d seen on TV, but it was in some ways better because it was with Dane.
Eight Months Later
August 23rd, 2014
“Ty let’s go!”
Dane shouted as I rushed to shove my sketchbook into my backpack. I wouldn’t normally complain about him, but damn the man was punctual as fuck. If I was even running a minute behind he started to tick like a damn timer. “I’m coming!” I shouted back as I shoved my pens in along with my pencils.
Today was my first day of highschool.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous, but in the last few months I’d grown exponentially and I wasn’t the same scrawny kid I’d been at thirteen. I wasn’t a hulking monster like Dane, but I was just shy of six feet now and I towered over most kids my age. Being black and tall was like a beacon to high schoolers no doubt, but I doubted it could be worse than the group homes I’d been in.
“Ty come on we’re gonna be late!”
I smirked as I slung my backpack on. Dane actually sounded anxious at this point. The man really hated to not be on time. Maybe it was the military man in him, but mostly I think it was inherently Dane, and although it may be annoying in most circumstances, it was nice to have someone so reliable in my life.
Bounding down the stairs two steps at a time I caught up to Dane at the front door. His face was drawn into a frown and his arms were crossed as he kept looking at his watch. “Damn it Ty, you’re going be late.” He groused as he ushered me out the door and towards his black jeep wrangler. “Wait I want to get a picture of you!” He said suddenly pulling out his phone.
“Come on, D. Why do you need a photo?” I whined petulantly.
“It’s your first day of highschool, I need to get a photo, it’s something mom and dad would have wanted.” He said as he snapped a quick shot of me standing next to the jeep making a funny face at him. “You’re such a little shit, get in we’re already late.”
I got in the jeep and strapped on my seatbelt the cool morning august air blowing in through the open top. I loved this car, and I hoped that I could save up enough by the time I was in college I could afford my own. Subconsciously I rubbed at the dogtag resting against my chest thinking about my adopted parents. I wished they could have been with me today to see me start highschool, the idea caused a dull ache in my chest. It was not the lancing pain I’d felt in the beginning, as the time passed so did some of the pain, but I still wished they could have been there. If I had a choice though I wouldn’t change anything, I wouldn’t change having Dane be such an integral part of my everyday life. As my time with him started to overshadow the time I’d had with my parents I can’t help but just be happy to have him, because I loved Dane more than anyone in my life.
“You thinking about them?” He asked as he drove towards Eastview High.
“Yeah, I was just wishing they could be here today.”
“They are here, right here.” Dane’s hand reached out and covered the spot over my chest where my heart beat rapidly under his hand.
“I know, but sometimes that’s not enough, you know?” I said even as a strange flutter in my gut made me squirm as Dane moved his hand back to the steering wheel.
“Yeah I know, I usually wish they were around for the stupidest things,” he chuckled slightly before saying, “the other day I was wishing dad was around so he could spew some of his fancy quotes about life. I really needed one of them for that last exam.”
I nodded, because I knew what he meant about Marks life quotes, they were usually goofy but still inspiring. Dane had been working hard to finish up his PHD in engineering, so between work and school he was always awake it seemed. I worried sometimes that he was overdoing it but he always told me that it wasn’t that bad. Add in everything he did for me and to keep our house running I didn’t know how he ever slept. “I can help more around the house.” I said hoping maybe that would take some of the stress off of his plate.
“Ty that’s not what I meant, you already do everything around the house. I just… sometimes I doubt myself. It’s human nature, it’s nothing to do with you or the house.”
Or being a single parent…. Is what he hadn’t added in. Because Dane was essentially a single parent with a teenage kid at the age of twenty-five. “I just want to help wherever I can.”
“Don’t worry so much Ty, focus on school, find some friends. I want you to be a teenager and enjoy the perks of being your age.” As he said that he pulled into the highschool drop off the front crowded with milling teens getting ready to start the day — we weren’t even late.
“I have you, I don’t need a bunch of fake friends,” and I didn’t want them either. I’d grown up in foster homes and group homes, giving me enough exposure to empty relationships between other kids my age. After awhile I’d realized it was easier to be alone than always disappointed.
Dane sighed as he put the jeep in park, his steel eyes burning a hole into the side of my head. “Ty I need you to try ok? I know you think having me in your life is enough but you need friends to do stuff with and—”
“I don’t need them, having you to do stuff with is fine. You always go with me when I ask.” I said interrupting what he was going to say.
Dane grabbed the back of my neck with a strong callused hand, squeezing gently like he always did when he was reassuring me. “I know you don’t trust them, but give someone a chance. Not everyone in the world is an asshole.” He released my neck but not before giving me a final squeeze. “Now get out of my car I’m going to be late.”
Snorting out a response I got out of the car and shut the door behind me. Regardless of what Dane had said I didn’t believe any of it. People were asshole majority of the time, he just didn’t want to admit it to me.
“I’ll see you later today, text me if you need anything,” Dane said right before he drove off leaving me standing at the front of the high school with all the other teenagers. If I was lucky I wouldn’t get too much homework today and I could start looking into the art clubs available here.
“Wow who was that?”
“I don’t know but he was hot as fuck!”
“I’d let him fuck the hell out of me”
Frowning I looked behind me at a group of girls, possibly seniors, staring off after Dane’s jeep as they gossiped loudy. Did they say it so loud on purpose? Something ugly rolled in my gut and I had to swallow the monster wanting to claw its way out of me.
“Hey you! Do you know that guy?” The one brunette petite girl with an upturned nose and a faceful of makeup called out to me.
The monster wiggled free as I said, “Yeah that’s my dad, he’s a marine and he doesn’t fuck underage hoes like you.”
With that I walked off into the school, their nasty snarls echoing behind me but my angry monster was more than satisfied.