"So, how's your mother?" Gary Thompson asked his oldest son. Dan was visiting him in prison, just like he did every Friday after school. So far, Dan hadn't told his mom. She thought he was at an afterschool club.
"Still married to whats-his-name?"
"Gareth? Of course. She's going to have another baby." Why did he suddenly feel like he'd crossed a line?
"Figures," Gary said with a snort. "Getting knocked up's what that woman does best."
"Don't talk about her that way." Dan stood up.
"Hey, hey, Danny, didn't mean it like that. Sit." Gary seemed sincerely contrite. "I'm just bitter, is all."
"How's your other son?"
"Grayson? OK, I guess. It's not good for him, alone with just a woman all day. Hey, maybe you could visit him?"
"I . . . I don't think so."
"He's your brother too, you know." Gary's expression had turned ugly. "Or is he not good enough for you?"
"No, no, it's not that." Dan's heart had started to race. Being with his dad raised all sorts of conflicting emotions. "I . . . just wouldn't know what to say to a two year old." Or how to explain to his mom why he was visiting that part of town.
"Yeah, I guess you're right. Kids aren't interesting at that age." Gary sat back.
"Thompson? Time's up." The guard said.
"See you next week?" Gary said.
"Um, yeah, sure." Daniel wasn't sure, but he was a kid, and saying no to grownups was hard.
He walked home slowly, kicking at the gravel until he found a can to take his frustrations out on. The worst part was, he couldn't talk to anyone. Jeremy was even more of a kid than he was, and though he was weirdly grownup in a lot of ways he was terrified of Gary. He wouldn't understand Dan's need for a connection with the old man, who as far as Jeremy was concerned was a monster. Maybe the kid had a point. Gareth, for all that he was gruff and a little stern, would never hit any of them.
The thing was, Dan liked Gareth, though he tried hard not to show it out of loyalty to his dad. And what made his stepdad even cooler was, he seemed to understand that and didn't force their relationship. And Gareth did dad stuff with all three of the boys, like they were his. He was teaching them self defense, even Marc, who Dan had to admit was pretty tough for a seven year old, though he lacked Jeremy's natural athletic grace or Dan's strength. Kid knew how to kick, for one, and could run faster than a rabbit.
Gareth was good for Mom, too. She smiled a lot more now, seemed more relaxed, had more time to play games and act silly with them. She and Miranda were friends now too, which was nice. Dan had felt conflicted about that one, too, since in truth Miranda was as much his mom as Mom was. And now Miranda had a nice husband, Nate, who was living with them too. Nate was nerdy but super smart and a patient teacher, which was great when Dan's homework got too hard.
So his life was pretty good, except for this secret that weighed him down like a rock. Somehow, he just couldn't bring himself to tell Mom he was visiting Dad. Dad had hurt her, and them, and Daniel felt he was siding with a monster.
It wasn't that he liked Gary all that much. It was just, well, the man was his dad. Dan didn't have the words to say why he kept going to visit him.
He just, somehow, needed to.
Poor kid. But maybe the visits are good for both Dan and Gary. Making peace with the past is a good thing. I hope his Mom and Gareth don't get too upset when they find out, which is inevitable. :(
I like these new little stories about the kids in V-ville, SBW. It so easily happens that you forget about some interesting characters otherwise.
Oh, poor Dan. What a horrible thing to have to think of as a child. :(
The baby was a boy they named David. Dan sort of remembered his other brothers coming home from the hospital, but he didn't remember how loud, or stinky, or demanding they could be. But somehow, he didn't mind it. The little guy sure was cute, and Dan was pretty sure he had smiled at him once.
Marc wasn't so sure. He had liked being the baby, and now he wasn't. "It's ugly!" he yelled, and ran away.
"I'll go talk to him," Dan said and left as Jeremy asked, "Can I hold him?"
Well, at least one of his brothers seemed OK with it. He went to look for Marc, in his treehouse, where he knew he'd find him. Dan climbed up and sat next to him. Dan was getting almost too big for the treehouse, he realized. He was already taller than most of his teachers, and sometimes was mistaken for an adult. Dan wasn't sure he was ready for that, quite yet. Being a kid was confusing but adulthood sounded terrifying. Still, it wasn't like he had a lot of choice.
"Hey," he said.
"Why'd she have to have another baby?"
"Sometimes things just happen."
"Well, it stinks."
"Maybe, but think of all the cool things you know that he doesn't."
"Big deal. I'm smarter than a smelly old baby."
"Still, having a little brother can be fun. I had fun, teaching you and Jeremy stuff."
"Like how to spit watermelon seeds, and bait a hook, and throw a ball. Having brothers around is cool. You always have someone to talk to or go fishing with."
"Can we what?"
"Go fishing. You 'n me."
"Sure, buddy. Let's get the stuff and let Mom know where we're going."
"How come we always have to tell her stuff?" Marc asked as they climbed down from the treehouse and started toward the house.
"So she won't worry about us, duh."
"Cuz of vampires?"
"Yeah, and other stuff. But don't worry, buddy. When you're with me, you're safe." Dan wasn't sure that was entirely true, but he didn't want his brother to worry. Little kids needed to feel safe.
"I wish I was big like you." Marc pantomimed killing things with an imaginary sword. "Pow! Pow!"
"Don't be in too big of a hurry," Dan said, roughing up his hair. "Being a kid is awesome."
"Yeah, right." Marc shrugged away from his hand.
"It is. Like, I totally can't get piggyback rides anymore. I'd squish someone."
"Yeah, you would," Marc said, making squishing motions with his hands. "Squash 'em flat. Hey, can I have a ride?"
"Sure, dude. Hop on."
Clever Dan, about the things that Marc can do that he can't/ Piggyback, LOL.