“Advice, huh? What kind of advice?” My dad asked me.
“Travis. He’s just not listening! I just picked him up from school after he defaced the school building. Please tell me I wasn’t this bad?”
My dad barked with laughter. “Ha! You? David, you were a thorn in my side since you were seven and skipped school for the first time. I’m surprised Travis actually attends school.”
Okay, so I might have been a bit of a troublemaker, but hell school sucked!!! “So, what should I do?”
“Tell him to send him to that program you sent me to pops!” I heard someone yell. My dad started laugh.
“Yea that would work.” He said back. “You hear that Dave, your brother told me to tell you to send Travis to a troubled youth camp. Jake went when he was nine after he shoplifted and stole a car. It’s done him some good, maybe it will do Travis good.”
I tried hard not to smile, now I knew I was a handful, but my brother, bless him, made me look like an angel. “Shoplifting and steeling a car?” I said in awe. “That must make you proud.”
“Hey at least I have a B average in school!” I heard over the phone. Did my dad put us on speaker! “What did you graduate with?” I heard him scoff.
“Oh, screw you. At least I didn’t have a criminal record before the age of ten!” I had a criminal record at the age of thirteen! “Dad take me off speaker! Dammit.”
My dad laughed on the phone. “Your not on speaker. I’ve lost my hearing so my phone volume is jacked up, everyone can hear. “Look I’ll mail you the information. Jake goes every year as volunteer. The next session is in a week. Right, Jake?”
“Yup. We round up the kids in a week and take them out into the wild. Tell Trav, I’ll be extra nice.” My brother said followed by a wicked laugh. I said my thank you’s and goodbye’s and hung up the phone.
I called Ella shortly after I received my dad’s letter. She came over while the kids were in school and we discussed Travis. She and I both agreed that it was the best choice for us. He had a year before he started Riverview High School, and this would be perfect for him. We also called the high school and learned about there ROTC program. When I was a teen, I was supposedly enrolled in the program, but we all know that didn’t happen.
Ella and I made a planned on telling him. On Friday, the day before he was going to leave, Ella came over and we both waited for the kids to get home from school. We heard the door open and found both kids walking in. They looked at the two of us. “Ally, could you go out and play while we talk to your brother?” I asked with a small smile. She nodded, whispered something in his ear and walked back out. “Travis sit.”
“Is everything okay?” He asked. I shook my head no. “Am I in trouble?”
“Travis, you’ve been troubling us for a while.” He nodded, understanding where we were coming from. “Your mother and I want only the best for you, you understand that?” He nodded again. “So, after talking to Grandpa Thomas and Uncle Jake, we decided to send you to a camp your uncle helps out with.”
“What kind of camp?” He asked in an almost whimper.
“Its for little boys like you, who’ve lost their way.” Ella said. “It’ll help you learn what it takes to be a young man growing in this world. They do all sorts of things, like hiking through the wilderness, camping under the stars, getting in touch with nature –”
“NO! I’m not going!” He shouted adamantly before starting to cry. “Please, don’t make me go. I’ll do anything! I’ll behave, I’ll do anything you asked! Just please, don’t make me go. I don’t wanna go!” He was in full fledge tears.
“Travis, you’re going. Plus, the fresh air will do you some good.” I told him. He looked up at me with a horror look. He really didn’t like this. He was never one who enjoyed the outdoors. “Don’t give me that look. You’re leaving tomorrow, end of discussion.”
“I hate you!” He screamed as he marched to his room in tears. He slammed the door and we could hear him wailing as he cried.
“Well, that went well.” I said looking at Travis’ door.
“We’re doing the right thing.” Ella said placing her hand on my shoulder. “He needs this, as much as he hates it, he’ll learn something out of this.”
“Yea, I know.” I started to walk her towards the door. “Thanks El, for sticking behind me with this.”
She smiled back, “You really are a great father. Don’t forget that.” She pecked me on the cheek and headed out.
After his return home, Travis took a great dislike into me. Ella and I both gave him the extra news about the ROTC program and he went crazy. He ran out of the house, screaming. Mike ended up being the one to talk him down, but the damage was done. Over the year he kept his distance and hardly spent time with me, even when he stayed at my house. By the time his birthday came around, he was showing a great dislike to me.
Travis called me one Thursday and told me he wasn’t coming over to my place for the weekend, instead he was choosing to celebrate his birthday. I wasn’t invited. I stuck to his wishes and that was the first weekend I didn’t have either of my kids since I returned from Egypt so many years ago. I decided to spend Travis’ birthday fishing at the river. I caught a few kinds of fish, but nothing spectacular. I threw most back, but only kept the big ones. I figured I could sell the bigger ones at the market for a price.
I don’t know what it was about Travis and Alice, but boy did their sibling rivalry take a turn for the worse. Travis was ruthless when it came to picking on his sister. I’d find him teasing her or scaring her when she was lost in thought. He even tried to gross her out whenever he could. One morning he scarfed up his food so fast, he then opened his mouth and stuck his tongue out at her. Even I was disgusted by this act. “TRAVIS!” I yelled. Alice scooted her plate away and got up. I looked down at my food and moved my plate away as well. He started to laugh. “Dammit Travis! She’s your little sister, can’t you just be nice for once?”
“Hell no. She’s too easy.” I smacked him in the back of the head. “Heeeey!” He said rubbing where I hit him.
One evening I walked into the house, only to find Alice in tears and Travis flicking her pigtails. “You know Ally, I could hoist you up with these things and toss you like a helicopter!” He sneered.
“Travis!?!” I yelled, looking horrified. He jumped. I looked down at Alice who was crying. “What the hell have you been doing, or saying to her?”
“Nothin’.” He scoffed again.
“He’s a meanie! He scared me when I walked in the house and then when I started to walk away he tugged me back with my pigtails, and started to poke fun at me cause I’m not as smart or as tall as him.” She wiped her nose.
“Travis,” I sighed. I was having enough of the bullying, “Travis just go to your room.” I finally said.
“But –” He said but then quickly stopped before arguing. He headed into his room and I sat with Alice and watched a movie with her.
Alice on the other hand was genuinely a good loving girl. Often times we found ourselves alone somewhere outside. She fell in love with fishing. She would beg me every Saturday morning if I would take her fishing. Of course she would then have to realize that whatever we did would need to wait till after I worked on the garden.
One morning I found Alice sitting watching the HGTV. They were showing a special on farming and crops. I sat next to her and smiled, “learning what your old man’s doing wrong?” I asked.
“Dad, you know we could do some of this. I know we don’t have as much land, but we could make that so called garden of yours into much more. With all those trees, we could build an Orchid and then lay out the rest of the plants and you could have your very own, albeit, small field of crops.” She then took out her notebook and had drawn up a floor plan of the house and the lot. “If we just did this, we could make it look like you really know what you are doing.”
And with that, Alice and I went to work. We both headed to the hardware store and bought supplies. I called up Jimmy and few other farming friends and we went to move the trees and the rest of my crops. I now have an actual orchid on the side of my house and a field of crops in the back. I feel like I really am a farmer, minus the whole cowboy look that I hate. Alice was impressed with my farm. She would run through the Orchid and play around the trees. I only laughed and smiled. If it wasn’t for my Ally, I would not have such a beautiful lot.
With all the time I spent working on moving my crops, I didn’t get much time on the weekends with Travis. Alice was always out helping Jimmy and me. At night I would walk in the front door, tired to no end, and I would find Travis sitting on the sofa reading a novel.
I finally sat down with him and he put his book down. “Hey son, how’s it going?”
He shrugged his shoulders, “I guess it’s okay. I’m starting my sophomore year soon. I’m pretty happy with stuff at school and home, and I guess here.”
“You looking forward for the next part of high school?” I asked. He looked over and shrugged. He wasn’t really into talking to me. “Come on bud, talk to me.” I jabbed him in the shoulder softly.
“I dunno, dad. I think I’m gonna head to bed. Goodnight.” And like that he stood up.
“Night son.” I watched as he walked from me. It killed me that he was pushing me away.
Shortly after my son and I had talked, I started to notice a change in both my kids. They would just look at each other and stare each other down. It was scary. One night I was cooking dinner and they were just standing there, staring at each other. I had the feeling that they were also looking at me during that time. I heard Travis whisper loud enough, “No!” I looked and saw Alice just staring at me.
“Alright what’s going on?” I asked, putting my mac and cheese on hold. “You guys have been acting like this for weeks now!”
“It’s nothing, isn’t that right Ally?” Travis looked at her very crossed.
“Yea, it’s nothing.” She mumbled. Something was up, I could sense it. They were just not telling me. I really hoped it wasn’t Travis bullying Alice so badly he was abusing his own sister. I’d want her to tell me that.
A few days later I found my son home, earlier than expected. He came out of the bathroom and scared the crap out of me. He was wearing his ROTC uniform and he planted himself right in front of me and the television. “Dad, sir, I would like permission to talk to you about my future.”
I grinned, I couldn’t help it. He called me “sir.” Now I knew how my dad felt when I called him that the first time I took leave to visit him after boot camp. “Alright what’s on your mind?” I finally asked.
“I would like to discuss my future with ROTC. May I please sit?” Manners, the kid has manners! I was loving this, my Travis was a complete gentleman for once. I nodded and patted the seat next to me.
“Dad,” he said pulling out a piece of paper and handing it to me. “Dad, I have the highest grade point average in school.” I looked down at the paper and saw it was his latest report card, all A’s! ALL A’s, holy crap! When did – How did – Holy crap!!! I looked at my son, I felt really proud. Then he spoke, “I would like permission to quit the ROTC and get involved with a different extra curricular activity.”
I gulped. I wasn’t ready for this conversation. I didn’t want him to quit now that he was taking it seriously! “Go on.” I finally said. I was willing to give him a shot at explaining.
“I want to get involved with the Mock Trial Team at our school and compete. It will help me prepare for college, and law school. Dad, I want to be a lawyer.”
A LAWYER! I was not prepared for this. My boy had ambitions, dreams, he was already planning his life. When I was his age the only thing I was contemplating was where I would spend my day while I ditched school, but no my boy was planning for his future.
“No.” I said, crushing his dreams. I really hated myself, but I wanted him to complete the program and maybe get into one of the military academies, that way I wouldn’t be forking up the dough for his tuition. Crap, tuition, I was going to have to pay for this one to go to college! Before he tried to protest I stopped him, “And I will tell you why. You still give me attitude and your mother. And as much as admire your academic progress, I can’t help but feel as though you could benefit from the ROTC. If you graduate with them, you can get into an academy, and head to college free. Well, okay not totally free, you’d be giving the service 10 years at most, but you’ll be an Officer. You can still be a lawyer, JAG Officers are great.”
I know it wasn’t what he wanted, but there wasn’t really any way I could force him to join the military. He had the grades to prove himself. He sighed at me, looking heart broken almost. “Dad, I’m not going to join the service. I hate the military. I want to go to Academie Le Tour, they have the best Law program. I’m sorry.”
To say that I felt crushed wasn’t even close as to how I felt. I almost wanted to scream and yell at him to go, that it would be the best thing for him. Where have I heard that before? Aw crap! I’m turning into my old man!!! There was no way I was going to pressure my son into something he didn’t want to do, well not anymore at least. My dad did and I resented him for it. I sighed and looked at the slip, Ella had already signed it. I took the pen that was on the paper and signed my name. “This is what you really want?” I asked, making sure I was doing what needed to be done.
“Yes. I can do this dad.” I gave him the form back and he honest to God hugged me. “Thank you.” He cried as he hugged me. I patted his back and cried with him. He hadn’t hugged me since he was eight. It felt great.
Three weeks later I got a sudden shock from my son. I walked into the living room after showering and I found Travis locking lips with a girl on my couch. He had his tongue down her throat. It was quite a sight to see. “Hughmm” I cleared my throat, making my presence known. The two looked up, and Travis simply smiled at me.
The broke apart and I looked at the two of them, neither said a word. Typical. “So, are you going to introduce me to your friend Travis?”
He looked over at her and she to him. “Uh, dad this is Rose, my girlfriend. Rose, my dad, he also goes by Rain.”
“Hey.” She said in a sweet and charming voice.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you Rose. Travis has told me nothing about you.” I joked. She only looked at Travis.
I saw my son clench his teeth, “Dad do you mind?” Then he tossed me a look that told me to get lost.
I left the two alone and headed out to see what Alice was doing. I ended up walking in later only to find the two sitting and watching an episode of Dexter. It was creepy, but they were enjoying themselves. I was happy to see my son smile. He hadn’t been smiling in the recent months, well before his birthday.
Two weeks passed and I had an unexpected visitor in the morning. I was making my breakfast, when I heard a yawn and a “morning.” I jumped higher than I had ever jumped in my life. I watched as my food processor sprayed my pancake mix up to the ceiling. I turned and saw Travis standing there.
“What are you trying to do, give me a heart attack?” I asked. My heart was pounding, he scared the crap out of me. I know I’m not that old, but still I wasn’t young, I was in my 40s. As I looked at Travis I was trying to go through my head, he wasn’t here when I went to bed, it’s Thursday, and I wasn’t expecting him till the next day, so why was he here, in his sweats yawning? Did he sleep here?
“And why the hell are you here? It’s Thursday! Does mom know you’re here?” I asked the questions that burning in my head.
“Nope. I snuck in last night after I left a homecoming party. I’m sorry. I told mom I was gonna stay with you, I told her I wanted some alone time with my old man and talk about stuff that only we can talk about. She didn’t care.” He shrugged. There was something up with him, he was lying, but I wasn’t sure about what though. He was a pretty damn good liar who could keep you guessing, that’s why he did amazingly well in the Mock Trials and I knew he would be just as amazing as a real lawyer.
He said party, great parties tend to have alcohol involved. I wasn’t about to get into trouble with Ella because I had him here sobering up. “did you drink?” I asked.
“No. It just ran late and I couldn’t afford going home after curfew. It’s okay right?” Oooh he was good. If he hadn’t been drinking, he had to have done something to get him to come here. I wasn’t going to push it though, I was just happy he didn’t drink, or at least I hoped he didn’t.
“As long as you didn’t drink, I don’t care. Now, do you want breakfast?”
As I made breakfast, I started to ask questions. “So how was the party? You go with anyone?”
“If your asking if Rose was there, then, no she wasn’t. Her dad and her went out for some huge thing for his work. I just hanged out with my buds from my Mock Trial Team.”
I flipped the pancakes, “You and Rose are getting serious, how long have you two been dating?”
“Dad, I know what your trying to get at. And no we aren’t doing that.” And the way he answered my question made me hear the truth. I was a bit disappointed in him, but of course I was still living with old age beliefs, the twenty-first century had a different take on sex. I just hoped he used protection.
The day had finally come. My daughter’s birthday was upon us. I didn’t want to see Alice grow up. She was my perfect princess. I wanted to surprise her though for her birthday. I had been saving a ton of money from working out in the field. I sold most of my crops and saved up until I knew I had enough money. I just had to get permission from Ella. That’s what brought me to their house. Mike and Ella’s house. The sign on the door threw my stomach in for a turn, it said Welcome to the Dean Family Home. Ella had remarried a little over a year ago at City Hall.
Mike answered the door in his uniform. He had to just gotten off duty. “Rain, what brings you in this neighborhood?” He asked with a smile. The last time either of us saw each other was behind bars, so it felt odd that I didn’t want to take a swing at him.
“Is Ella around? I need to talk to her.”
He chuckled, “Oh yea, Ella’s home. She’s upstairs.” He turned in and headed to the stairwell. I stepped in and was completely taken back at the beautiful home. “El, sweetheart, there’s someone to see you.” He half-heartedly laugh. I didn’t know what was so funny.
“Who?” She bellowed.
“You’ll see.” He joked. I was completely lost at what he was joking about.
When Ella came down, she wasn’t exactly thrilled to see me. She looked ravishing, radiating even. She had this certain glow, and I couldn’t put my finger on it. She was so gorgeous though. “Rain?” She asked startling. “Wha – What are you doing here?” She asked.
“I need to talk to you. If that’s okay?” I smiled. I looked at her and just was amazed at how beautiful she was. Why was she so beautiful!
“God, El, I know I may be out of line here, but you look amazing. You do something to your look? There’s just . . . I don’t know. . . There’s something about you, that’s . . . different.” Her eyes glazed down and she began to cry. Something was wrong. “Oh please El, I didn’t mean it that way.” But it was too late.
“Rain. . .” She bit her lip. “Rain, I’m pregnant.”
I think when I came to I was still in a haze. I just laid there and stared at her. “Rain are you okay?” She asked helping me up.
“Your pregnant?” I felt light headed again. To say that I was shocked was an understatement. I know I shouldn’t have been surprised but to find Ella bearing another man’s child, it just wasn’t sitting well with me.
“Yea, about five months.” She said tapping her belly.
I took my hand and looked at her, “may I?” She nodded and I reached down to feel her small bump. It was odd, Ella was pregnant and the weirdest thing was she was, dare I say it, calm.
“So, what do you think?”
I looked up and had a lump in my throat. “Congrats.” I said with a half-ass smile planted on my face.
She laughed. “Yea. I figured as much. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you, and I know the kids had been keeping this from you, so I’m sorry about that as well.”
“And Mike, how’s he taking this?” I asked with a smile. I felt sorry for the poor bastard now. “How’s he handling everything?” She knew exactly what I meant because she smacked me in the shoulder as soon as I asked the question.
“You’re such an ass.” I smiled. “I’m not killing him if that’s what you are trying to get at. This, this pregnancy hasn’t been bad, well, not too bad.” She giggled, and I just laughed with her. I knew all to well about her raging hormones. “Is there something you want Rain? Or are you here to tease my husband?”
“Ah, yes.” I said with another grin. “I want to talk about Ally’s birthday. Now, I know you probably have a huge party planned, and I know it’s on a Tuesday, but I was hoping to take her out, like a father and daughter day? I also want to discuss my gift to her.” I pulled out three airplane tickets, “I want to take them to France for a week. If you’ll let me.”
She looked at the tickets closely. I held my breath. Alice’s birthday was in just two weeks and we would be leaving that weekend. I wanted this for her, my shy sweet little angel deserved this after all her work helping me. “Okay, Rain. You can take them on vacation.”
“Thank you.” I smiled as my eyes swelled up with tears.
For Alice’s birthday, I took her on a picnic at a place that meant a lot to me. We ate our sandwiches and casted two lines into the small lake. “Happy birthday princess.” I said to her, pinching her knee.
“Thank you. This place is so cool daddy. Why haven’t you brought me here before?” She asked. I looked behind me at the bridge, and remembered the last time I was here.
“You know, I just don’t know. It’s a great place to fish, huh? And that bridge is a nice place too, don’t you think?”
“It’s old, but perfect. Is like a little romantic bridge set in this little hidden cove up in the hills.”
“That’s what I thought when I asked your mother to marry me. I did it right there.” I pointed to the spot I remember standing at.
“Wow. That’s so cool!”
“What’s more cool, is I think I can top that moment, but first, cake!”
I watched as Alice blew out her candles and made a wish. I cheered her on even though my heart ached to see her grow. She was now becoming a teenager, just like her brother. I would no longer have little ones, although, Ella will. So in a way, that made me smile.
Just before we left, I stopped Alice on the bridge. “Ally, I have something for you.”
“What?” She asked me eyeing the envelope I was holding in my hand. I handed it to her with a smile. She slowly opened it and pulled out the three tickets and then looked back at me, unsure what it meant.
“Look at the destination.” I told her. She looked and read, all three of them said the same destination, “Champs Le Sims, France.” Alice screamed and hugged me.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you.” She was jumping up and down, she was so excited. “I’m going to FRANCE!” She yelled. I was laughing, I was so happy for her.
“We leave on Saturday. You, me, and Travis.” She was so elated that she jumped and hugged me again. I was so happy to do her proud.
I only wished that night had ended on a happy note. I had dropped off Alice and went home. I sat and started a movie, “The Flight of the Phoenix” was playing on SX. I wasn’t really into the movie, but I just needed something to relax before heading to bed. That’s when I heard the siren and saw blue and white lights in the window. I turned and looked and saw a cruiser park in front of my house. My heart jumped, something had happened. Something terrible has happened.
I opened the door only to find my son and Mike standing there. Travis had this smug look on his face. He was pretty upset at something. “What’s up Mike?” I asked, eyeing him. He was looking at Travis and had his arms crossed. He was here on business.
I turned and looked at my son. His eyes were narrowed and he looked as if someone hit him over with a brick.“Travis?” I asked. I looked more closely at him and then I smelt it. Oh that smell, how I knew that smell. I turned to Mike with a questionable glance, and the man only nodded. My son was completely shitfaced. At this moment I wasn’t sure if I was pissed off or dumbfounded. I knew this could happened. I was a drunk, my old man was a drunk, it ran thick in our blood. I just sighed and opened the door. “Travis inside now.”
“Fuck you!” He yelled at me. I was pretty shocked by his tone. He was hammered and I knew that it was the booze. I just pointed at the door and shook my head knowing that this was going to be a long night. I looked at Mike and he was biting his lip, trying hard not to laugh. “It’s not like you’ve never been drunk.” My son said to me rudely.
“Inside now!” Okay, now I was pissed. Coming home drunk is one thing, throwing it in my face was another. He tried to act like he was all that and head inside, only tripping himself as he walked through the doorway. Mike released a crack of a chuckle and I tried really hard not to follow suit, but it was so damn funny.
I walked down the porch with Mike. “Just like old times, eh Rain.” Mike laughed.
“Yea, but at least no one was punched tonight. The only one that may have a bruise in the morning is him, and that’s his own fault.” I joked.
“True.” He turned and held out his hand. I took it. “Well, goodnight.”
“Night.” I stopped him just as he opened the cruiser’s door, “Hey, you gonna tell Ella?”
“What and get us all killed. No, thank you. I want to live, and I’m pretty sure you and that boy does too.”
I laughed. “Yea, she would kill us if she knew about this. Well, good luck with the hormonal bitch!”
“Thanks! I’ll tell her you said that.” We both laughed and I watched as he drove off.
If only I knew the reason why he drank, I may have been more inclined to help. I figured he had just gone out partying. I heard him in the morning crying inside the bathroom, I figured it was guilt about the night before. I only had wished he told me. . . Why didn’t he tell me. . . We didn’t have to go, he didn’t have to go. . . .