“I said no!” I yelled as we walked into the house. We had all gone to Cait’s dance recital and the entire ride Jamie started to beg me to get him into her dance class. It wasn’t that I didn’t want my son in dance, it was that he’s been wanting to do everything his sister does, and this was the one thing we could give Cait for herself.
“Please daddy! Puh-lease!” Jamie begged. “Come on, please, oh please, oh please!” I was at my wits end, I really was.
“Jamie, no, end of discussion!”
“I hate you!”
“DAD! Come on!”
“No Jamie. I said no, and I mean no.”
“Your such an asshole!” Jamie stormed off.
My head turned so fast, oh no he did not just say that! “JAMIE DUNCAN MOSS-RAIN!” I shouted, and he stopped. “Right here, right now.” I pointed right at my feet.
He walked back and kept his gaze off of me and I heard him mumble an apology. “Oh, no, mister an apology is not going to cut it, especially that one. You’re to go upstairs, into your room and sit on your bed.”
“For how long?”
“For as long as I say, understand?”
“Whatever,” he started to walk off and I grabbed him and stood him in front of me. I was on my last nerve.
“I am at my wits end with you, Jamie. Don’t piss me off anymore. Now, upstairs.” This time he didn’t say a thing, he just ran upstairs. It was then I wondered to myself why Riddle and I decided to have four kids. Cait was twelve turning thirty, Jamie was ten, and the twins were seven. I had a full house of kids, and was ready to bolt.
I went towards the back door to get a drink at the bar. I found dad and Brewster playing fetch and I found my two youngest hiding out, spying on their grandfather. “What are you two-”
“Shhh, you’ll blow our cover.” Pear whispered.
I got down on my knees. I love my twins, they keep me entertained. “What are you doing?” I whispered this time.
“We’re tracking the evil villain, and his evil sidekick dog. The one-eye cyborg is responsible for kidnapping Barbie.” Penny whispered, calmly.
“How do you know it was him?” I asked, I wanted to laugh so hard. One-eye cyborg, now that was a new one. My kids were so imaginative, and I so took credit for that. “I mean, what type of evidence do you have detectives?”
“Ken told us, and GI Joe witnessed it.” Pear stated. “They said she was dragged off by the cyborg!”
“Ah,” I looked at my kids serious, and played along. “Well, you’ll need a decoy, and lots of rope. Where’s your jump rope?”
“In the house,” Penny whispered.
“Okay, I’ll go get it, and then I’ll set up a diversion. Once he’s sitting at the bar, you two tie him up and we’ll interrogate him. I gotta tell you though, its not going to be easy. He’s a villain and a good one at that.” They gave me a nod, and I ran off quickly to get my daughter’s jump rope.
I grabbed three ropes, and started to head down the stairs when ma caught me. “What are you doing?”
“The kids need rope, they’re trying to catch an one-eyed cyborg who kidnapped Barbie.” I winked.
Ma laughed, “Oh that’s a good one. Even better than last weeks. Have fun.”
“Always,” I laughed. This was a normal day in my household. Dad loved and hated being spied on by the kids. He loved the attention, hated that he was, well, being spied on.
I got outside and slipped the ropes to the kids. I went around the bar and started to make a Martini for dad, “Hey dad! You want a drink?”
Dad turned to me, and smiled, “Nah, I’m good.”
“Come on, don’t make a guy drink alone.”
“Nope, don’t need one. Sorry, Kal.”
“Dad, Ma’s not home,” I lied. “Just one drink. I’ll make it a special one. Dry Martini, shaken really well. Your favorite.” I even got out the expensive vodka.
Dad arched a brow, “Are you that desperate to drink with your old man that you’ll serve him up a Martini?”
“Sure,” I laughed. “Whatever gets you over here.”
“Fine,” dad growled. Dad sat down at the barstool as I stood to pour the alcohol in the glass. “You haven’t seen the rugrats lately, have you?”
“Nope,” I lied. “Why, they bothering you again?”
“Nah, it’s nice for a change.”
“Uh-huh.” I laughed, dad doted on those two and I knew it. Before dad could take the glass off the bar my kids were on him. Pear wrapped a rope over his chest, and Penny started to tie his feet up. “Don’t forget his hands,” I said.
“You’re encouraging this, now?” dad asked over a laugh. If he wanted he could easily get out of my kids knots. They were seven, not pros. “So, how long have you two rugrats been spying on me?”
“All day, you evil one-eyed cyborg.” Pear shouted in triumph.
I busted up laughing right there at the bar. My kids were awesome. Dad just rolled his eye, which made it even funnier.
“Now that we have you, you’re gonna talk!”
“Never!” dad played along, trying to hold his laughter in. I saw the big smile on his face though. “I’ll die before I talk.”
“Oh you’ll talk,” I said in a half-threatening tone, half laugh. This was just too much fun. “You’ll tell Detective Pear where Barbie is, or he’ll. . .”
“Tickle him!” Penny shouted.
Dad, surprisingly, was really ticklish. We learned this not too long ago when he was wrestling with the twins and Penny got to his feet. He laughed so hard, she used that against him ever since. “That’s right, we’ll tickle the evil one-eyed cyborg. Penny get his shoes.”
“You’ll never crack me!” dad actually squirmed when Penny started to take off his shoes. “I’m stronger than that.”
I sipped his martini, “Are you Mr. Bond?”
“Cute, you trying to be Dr. No?”
“I’m not the one with the eye patch.”
“Ha ha, very funny. Besides, that was Largo.” I shrugged. I didn’t care who wore the eye patch, I just knew one of the villains did.
“Last chance, Cyborg, where is Barbie!” Pear asked. He made a gun with his fingers, it was so cute. “Tell me, or my assistant will start the torture!”
“I don’t know what your talking about. Who is this Barbie?”
“Penny,” Pear said. Within seconds dad was laughing, and laughing hard. He started to squirm in his seat, fighting it. I went around the chair and started to retie the ropes. Penny continued the assault.
Dad was laughing so hard, ma came downstairs and started to snap photos. “Hana, help me. You gotta save me.”
“Sorry, I’m not into saving evil cyborgs.”
“Traitor! It was grandma! I swear it.”
Ma laughed as the kids paused to look at her, “Like I would do anything to my sweet angels.”
Penny went back to dad’s feet. “Okay, stop it! STOP IT! I give up! I’ll tell you everything.”
Penny stood up, and glared at him. “You will, or I’ll make sure to tickle you until you tell the truth.”
“You have my word, just stop it.” They did. “She’s, uh, Kaliq?”
“Don’t look at me.” I told him.
“Fine, traitors, all of you.” Dad looked at his grandkids, he was really loving this no matter what he said. This was the game he played with his two adventurous grandkids.“Barbie had to go. She had very important documents, I had to take her.”
“So, where is she?” Pear asked. “Talk evil cyborg, or I’ll shoot.”
“And I’ll tickle!” Penny shouted in glee. “I’ll tickle you until you can’t take it anymore.”
“Okay, she’s in grandma’s and my room, on the bed, tied up. But she’s strapped to a bomb, and if you kill me you’ll never know the code to unlock her.”
“Oooh a twist,” I said. “So, cyborg, how do these kids rescue poor Barbie?”
“Yeah, how do we?” Pear asked in a very threatening tone.
“You’ll have to untie me first.”
“Don’t untie him,” I whispered. “It’s a trap.”
Pear and Penny stood there and pondered for a bit, then started to untie him. Dad was out, and screaming a very funny but terrifying scream and started to chase them. The twins jumped off the patio and took off running, screaming that the evil cyborg was going to get them. This was my life, and I loved it. I was a happy, married father of four, and even if I had my issues, I still had this.
However that feeling of awesomeness could never last. I went to tell Jamie he was free when I heard Cait scream, “STOP IT JAMIE! You’re hurting me!”
I walked in and found Jamie towering over Cait, pulling her hair and hitting her. “JAMIE DUNCAN MOSS-RAIN!” I was stunned, and very pissed off with my son. He turned and his eyes were wide. “Bed. Now.”
I helped Caitlin up. Her cheeks stained with tears, and it broke my heart. “Cait, you okay?” She nodded. You sure?”
“He hurt me,” she cried.
“I know, angel cake. Why don’t you go find mommy and see if she can help you with your pulled hair?” I looked over to Jamie, and just wanted to shake him. I kept telling myself not to lay a hand on him. I wasn’t going to be like that to any of my kids. Cait walked out and Jamie stuck his tongue at her.
I took a few intimidating steps towards Jamie, “What has gotten into you? You don’t hurt your sister like that!”
“She started it!” he yelled. “She teased me about her dancing, and started to show off. It’s not fair!”
“So, you hurt your sister? Well, guess what. You’re grounded for the next week, Jamie.”
My son sat in shock, “But the camping trip!”
“You should have thought about it before you swore at me, talked back at me, and hurt your sister. You’re grounded, end of story.”
“That’s not fair!” Jamie yelled. “I didn’t do anything! And you’re taking everything from me!! Your a mean father who hates me!”
“I don’t hate you,” I choked up. It hurt hearing those words, even if I knew he was just a tad bit angry with me. Parenting sucks sometimes. “Jamie, what you did to your sister. . .”
“Fine, I get that, but you do hate me.” I heard a sob, “You won’t even let me dance. Only Cait, never me! Cait gets to dance, Pear and Penny get to act like super heroes, and I get nothing but a grounding and not to go on the father-son camping trip. You’re mean, and you do hate me. Now, will you please get out of my room?”
I walked out and closed the door feeling like shit. I hurt my son. Not ten minutes I was laughing with my youngest kids, having fun, now I felt like I was the lowest scum on Earth. I couldn’t believe that Jamie believed that. I wiped my tears and headed towards my bedroom where I found Riddle holding Cait.
“Thanks, Kaiiq.” Her piercing glare told me to just get the hell out of the room – that she’ll deal with me later.
I walked out, seems like another in the family hated me. I really needed a drink. I walked back down to the bar where I found the remnants of my earlier fun. I picked up the jump rope and put them under the bar with the booze. No sense in taking it back upstairs. I poured myself a beer and sat there.
As I sat and nursed a fifth beer, and on my way to being totally trashed, Riddle came downstairs looking for me. “Kaliq? What are you doing down here? It’s late.”
I lifted up the beer and showed her, “Drinking. How’s Cait?”
“Bruised, but she’ll live.”
I drank some of my beer. “He hates me.”
“He’s ten, he doesn’t hate you.”
“Riddle, you weren’t there. You didn’t see him or hear him. My. Son. Hates. Me.”
“He’s upset, mad, it goes with being a father.”
“Well, I hate it.” I got up and left the bar without another word.
I headed up to bed, Riddle chased me upstairs, but she kept her distance. We went to bed without a word, and when I broke down, Riddle cuddle up against me and held me. “Shhh, it’s okay. Everything will be okay, Kal. Tomorrow, he’ll forget all about it.”
“No he won’t, but thanks for trying.”
In the morning I found Cait, Jamie, Pear, and Penny all downstairs eating their bowls of cereal before the bus. “Morning dad!” Pear and Penny said at the same time. I waved at them and said “morning” back.
“Dad, can I have twenty bucks?” Cait asked me.
“Because. . .”
“Not good enough, Cait. Morning, Jamie.” Jamie stood and walked away, without putting his dishes in the sink. “Hey! Put your bowl in the sink!”
Jamie walked in and glared at me. He grabbed his bowl and walked to the sink and tossed it in there. He tossed me another hateful look as he walked back out of the room. “Glare all you want, kiddo, I still love you!” It was all I could do to not break down again.
I moped around the whole day while everyone else was out of the house. Dad had business, Casey was on a security job, Riddle was on a set of a movie, the kids were all at school, and I was home moping. I didn’t understand my son. Not one single bit. I tapped at my computer, not even making any progress in my latest novel.
I got up and walked towards the kitchen and looked into the refrigerator for nothing. I slammed it and started to walk around. It hurt to know that my son hated me. I just didn’t know what to do.
I walked outside and started to play with Brewster and talk to him. As I talked the more I just felt like shit. I knew I had to make things right, and the more I thought about it the more I didn’t know how.
By the time the kids got home I was crying out back with Brewster laying there with me. “Dad?” Pear asked, “Dad, are you alright?”
I dried my eyes and looked at him, “Yeah, Pear, I’m okay. Just playing with Brewster.”
“You sure?” I nodded. “Have you seen grandpa?”
“He’s at an interview for a new client of his.”
“Okay, do you mind if Penny and I set up a stakeout in his office?”
I laughed, oh dad would so kill him and me if I allow that. “A stakeout, huh? You know we have to go and pack for this weekend, right? We leave bright and early Saturday morning.”
“Oh yeah!” Pear ran back to the house.
I took a deep breath and walked back to the house. Upstairs I found Jamie inside his room listening to music and reading a book. I turned the music off, it was loud! He glanced at me and went back to reading. “We need to talk.” I said as I sat on his desk chair. He continued to ignore me. “Are you going to give me the silent treatment now?”
Another glance from him gave me the answer.
“Look Jamie, I’m sorry that your upset at me, but you also have to know that hitting your sister like you did was beyond wrong. You could have hurt her. Now, I was thinking of letting you go this weekend, but you have to do some things before I even consider it. . .”
Jamie didn’t look at me, but he did put his book down and waited for me to continue.
“You, first have to apologize to Cait. Then you have to put your anger aside, and give me a smile, maybe a hug, hell just talk to me son. I love you, and I hate for you not to even want to talk to me.”
My son looked over at me and gave me a half-assed smile before jumping off his bed. I watched him as he walked out of the door. I followed him and listened from Cait’s door. “Sorry, I hurt you. I was mad, because mom and dad won’t let me dance with you.”
“You could have just told me, Jamie. I was just wanting to show off my moves and talk to you,” Cait explained, “I’m sorry you can’t dance. I know you’re a really good dancer.” I watched as she gave him a hug. Jamie walked back outside the room and looked at me, but didn’t say a word. He just went back to loathing in his room.
Of course I felt like a total shit then. I didn’t even know that Jamie danced! I knocked on the door and walked in, “Hey princess.”
“Uh, question. I know I am a horrible dad, but I just overheard you telling Jamie he was a good dancer, when have you ever seen him dance?”
“He helps me practice sometimes. He’s really good, even better than some of the other dancers in my class.”
“So, if Jamie wanted to dance, what would you think about it? That’s your thing that your mom and I both decided you can have for yourself.”
Cait took a minute to truly think about it. “If I say yes, will he be able to? I mean I love dancing, daddy, but Jamie’s way better than me, and he loves it more. If I quit can he join?”
“Do you want to quit?”
“Then don’t. I’ll think about letting him join though.” My gut was torn into knots. How did I not know this? And now, because I didn’t think before acting, my son hated me and had every right to. This was going to be a long weekend.
On Saturday morning Casey and I packed up the SUV and headed out with the three boys. The girls were having their own weekend and we were having ours. At first everything was great, on the road Casey and I talked, in the back Jamie slid his headphones on and listened to whatever music he had on his iPod, Carter fell asleep against the window, and Pear was playing on his Gameboy. About four hours in, the kids were cramped, and we all had to pee. I needed gas. We found a little gas station and all headed inside.
As I pumped the gas, I looked over to see Carter and Jamie talking. My heart pained as I watched. My son just didn’t look the same. I missed his quick remarks, and fun outburst. I missed his voice only after three short days. “Still not talking to you, I take it?” Casey asked me from behind. He handed me a soda.
“No,” I said taking the nozzle from the car out. “Am I being stupid? Should I just sign him up in his sister’s class?”
“No.” Casey said quickly. “You have to put some boundaries up. Lets not forget he did hurt Cait like she was a rag doll. He’s also in a mood, why support that behavior by giving what he wants. Then whenever he wants something and you say no, you know what he’s going to do?”
“Yeah, I know. Still, fucking hurts, Case. Did you ever pull this crap on your folks?”
“I was never the brooding type.”
“No, just the destructive type,” I joked.
Casey whistled for the boys to get back to the car and pile in. Not twenty minutes later, I heard snickering and then Pear yelling, “Hey! Stop it! Cut it out! Daaaaaaaaaad!”
“Daaaaaaaaaad.” Carter mocked.
“Carter,” Casey turned to face the three boys, “What did I tell you earlier?”
Carter stopped momentarily, then about twenty minutes later. “Stop it, Carter!” Pear screamed. “Uncle Casey, Carter’s picking on me.”
“Am not,” Carter defended.
“BOYS!” I screamed looking back through the rearview mirror. “Silence for the next hour, understand?”
Not a second after Carter and Pear stopped, Jamie started to sing, “It’s a hard knock life for us / It’s a hard knock life for us / Steada treated,”
“We get tricked!” Pear and Carter rang out.
“We get Kicked!”
“It’s the hard-knock life!” The three sang together.
Casey and I just started laughing as Jamie continued to sing with his background singers. That was my Jamie, he always had a way of dispelling tension in a room, unless it was between him and someone else, then he lock himself up. The great thing about Jamie was when he sang, it was magical. The boy had a gift, and one that I loved listening to every day.
After the song ended I looked in the rearview mirror at my son, “What about if I got you into a Glee-like program?”
“I rather dance,” was mumbled and I barely heard it, but I did hear it. He slipped back into his shell, and continued on with his silent treatment. I sighed and looked over to Casey. I didn’t know what I was going to do with Jamie.
We got to the campground and unloaded the car. The five of us got the two tents up. The kids would get one and Casey and I were sharing one. Once the campground was set, we headed out to explore the wilderness. Casey and I walked behind the boys as they ran ahead, getting into God knows what kind of trouble.
“Man, I’m sorry.” Casey said which surprised me.
“Jamie. I can’t imagine if Carter or Anna decided they wanted to give me the silent treatment, what I would do. Carter and I are really close, I just wish you had the same relationship with Jamie.”
“I thought we did, until this week. Man, Case, it sucks. Cait and I have nothing in common, and she finds herself busy with her own social life, as she calls it. Pear and Penny, well, they’re fun. I love helping them corner dad and tying him up. Kinda like living a childhood I never had, you know? But they’re closer to dad than anyone. Jamie, though. . . Well I thought we were close, had a really strong bond, but these last few weeks, all he ever wants to do is fight me.”
“I hear ya,”
“DADDY!” I heard Pear scream. Damn, what did he get himself into now? Casey and I took off on a run and found Pear screaming for me. He was holding his knee and crying – his pant leg was rolled up. Jamie and Carter were standing there like they’d never seen Pear in his life.
“Okay, what happen?” I asked Pear as I knelt beside him and took his hand off his knee. He had a huge cut. “That’s pretty bad, kiddo. What did you do?”
Pear looked behind him, and then back at me, “I slipped and fell on that rock.” He pointed to the rock. It didn’t take a genius to know that Pear didn’t fall, he was pushed. My kid had really good reflexes and I just knew that he was being teased again.
“Well, lets get you back to the campground. Uncle Casey has a box of First Aid. He’ll make you all better.”
“Promise?” Pear sniffled.
“Promise, kiddo.” Casey said. “I’ll even put a Transformer Band-Aid on it.”
That night after we got Pear into bed, Casey sat the boys down. “Okay, one of you, I don’t know who, pushed Pear.” The kids started to protest but Casey put his hand up to stop them. “Don’t even try to lie. So, one of you is going to tell me what happened to Pear, or tomorrow morning we are heading back home and both of you will be grounded for the week.”
“But-” Carter and Jamie said together.
“Talk.” I said, and crossed my arms. Jamie just folded himself on the chair and gave me a disgusted look. “Look, Jamie, glare at me all you want. But I want to know what happened out there, and if I need to separate the two of you, or even all three of you!”
“Carter, spill.” Casey said in his no-nonsense attitude.
“It was just a joke, dad! Okay?” Casey and I looked at him and waited. “We decided to scare him, you know. So we hid behind a couple of trees and jumped out when he wasn’t looking. And he fell.”
“He was pushed,” Casey said. “I can tell when you’re lying, Carter.”
“Okay, he caught us hiding, wanting to scare him so he got even, we got mad. I pushed him, but only after he scared the heck out of me and Jamie! I’m sorry, Uncle Kaliq.”
“I’m not the one you should be apologizing to, Carter. In the morning both of you are to apologize to Pear. Understood?” They both nodded. “And Jamie, I don’t need to remind you, but you are skating on very thin ice.”
Jamie just rolled his eyes. I wanted to shout and scream and just shake him.
The whole next day was the same. We went fishing. Pear caught the biggest fish of the day, and we grilled it for lunch. Jamie kept his silent treatment up, unless he wasn’t around me. I’d watch him talk to Carter, I even eavesdropped on their conversation. It wasn’t much, just how I was the worst father in the world, and how Jamie only came on this “stupid trip” to be with Carter. That pissed me off. When and if Jamie caught me, he stop talking and walk away with Carter in tow. I was the bad guy, and I hated it.
That night Casey took Carter and Pear for a night hike. When Jamie asked if he could go, I stopped him. “Nope, you’re sitting here with me and we are going to talk.”
“Please, Uncle Casey.” It was like I wasn’t even there.
“Jamie, sit down!” I yelled.
Jamie didn’t look at me, he just looked at Casey with pleading eyes. “Kid, best listen to your dad before he blows a gasket. Come on boys, lets go find some nocturnal animals.”
Jamie tried to follow but i grabbed him by the shoulder. “Sit down, Jamie.” Jamie finally did, and I put a log on the fire, and sat in a chair next to him. “Jamie, you and I need to talk.”
“Look, this has gone on long enough, Jamie. Either you talked to me now, or when we get back every day you don’t talk to me, you will also lose your privileges, like having a stereo in your room. Or that iPod you have in your pocket. Or watching TV.”
“Why are you so mean to me?” Jamie mumbled. “What did I ever do to you?”
“I’m being a parent, I’m not trying to be mean.”
“Doesn’t look like it to me. It’s always, you can’t do this, you can’t do that. I just want to dance, dad. You don’t even care. Cait, Pear, and Penny get all the praises in the world from you and mom, I just want a turn to shine. So, excuse me if I don’t talk to you, cause whatever comes out of your mouth is just a bunch of bullshit.” And with that he stormed off.
“Jamie Duncan Moss-Rain,” I yelled standing up. He didn’t listen or turn back. “Get your ass back over here now!”
He flipped me the bird and climbed into his tent.
“JAMIE! Ass outside, right now!”
“Fuck you! I’m going to bed!” I was getting pissed off and if it hadn’t been for Casey carrying Pear half asleep on his back, I would have dragged my boy out of his tent and spanked him red. I never thought I would ever want to lay a hand on my child until this fucking moment. I took one look at Jamie’s tent, and headed into my own.
We went home the next day. I was seething red. When we pulled up for gas, I grabbed Jamie before he could take off. “iPod, now!”
“Because, you my good sir, are grounded for two weeks after last night. I let you listen to it for the majority of the car ride, now it’s time to hand it over. You’ll also be losing your stereo when we get home, and TV privileges. Say goodbye to Carter in the car, because you won’t be seeing him after school for a while. Oh, and you can ever forget about dancing, because as of right now, just on principle, I won’t allow you too. You want to see mean, this is mean.”
“Fine,” Jamie shoved his iPod into my chest. “But just so you know, I don’t need music to listen to, to keep me entertained. I have it all up here.” He tapped his head. I was getting madder by the second.
“Well listen to it good, Jamie, because that’s all you get for a long while.”
A year passed, and life at the house seemed normal, almost peaceful. Well, that’s unless you don’t count the everyday antics of my twins and their grandfather. The twins have finally managed to get under my father’s skin.
I came home one day from meeting with a publisher while dad babysat the twins. Jamie and Carter were off on a boy scout trip – I had signed him up not long ago, thinking it would help. It didn’t. He acted up even more, telling Riddle and I how much he hated it. Anyways, Ma and Riddle were on a shopping expedition with Cait for new clothes while the boys were gone. That force dad into babysitting the twins and their best friend Anna – Casey and Rose’s daughter.
I walked in and dad was pissed. He came marching towards me from the hallway. He was mad.“For many years, I’ve been through torture techniques that hurt like a sonofabitch, I never talked. If they had locked me in a room with those three, I would have talked in a second!”
I really tried not to smirk, but it didn’t work out so well. “What happened?”
“Snakes. They found a snake, and well, keep it away from me!”
“A snake?” I asked trying desperately to keep the laughter out. “Is the big bad spy afraid of a little slithering animal?”
“Shut up, I hate snakes. They put it at the bar next to my vodka, made me drop it. That was expensive vodka, Kal. Either get rid of the thing, or I’ll go find my glock.”
“Okay,” I put my hands up, I didn’t need him to shoot his gun in front of the kids. “I’ll go free the thing, and tell them to stop freaking you out.” I was doing all I could to keep the laughter from coming up. “Kids, I’m home!”
“Daddy!” Penny came running towards me as I walked outside, “Daddy, Pear found a snake.”
“I heard. Have you been torturing grandpa again?”
“Nooooo,” Penny gave me the cutest innocent smile, and if I had been born yesterday I would have believed it.
“Penny, you and Pear are going to be the death of grandpa.” I looked to where Pear and Anna were playing with the slithering thing. “Pear, time to set it free.”
“Ah, come on, dad, please?” Pear whined. “Can’t I keep it?”
“Sorry, but your mom will probably freak out at the sight of the thing. Let it go, kiddo.”
“Fine, by Slytherine.” Pear put the snake back on the ground and released it.
“Okay, now go wash up, all three of you. And, no more torturing your grandpa. He’s been through enough.” The three of them looked at me like I said something insulting. “Okay, just for today, leave the old man alone.”
“I’m not old!” dad yelled behind me. I turned to see the man grabbing a glass of vodka and downing it. “Those kids are crazy! Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes? Seriously, Pear? Next time you pull a stunt like that again, I’ll scare you out of your skin.”
“Bring it on, old man,” Pear said. I think out of everyone I have ever met, my son is the only one that has ever been brave enough to talk like that to my father. Maybe because Pear knows that deep down my dad’s shell there’s a soft heart, or that Pear is really brave.
Dinner that night was like almost every night. My kids shared their stories, while Riddle and I listened. They all loved talking, especially over everyone else. Dinner has been the highlight of my nights since all the kids have grown up.
Cait started the chatter by telling everyone about her new and expensive – she made sure her daddy knew how much mommy spent on her – clothes. I eyes Riddle. It’s not like we can’t afford new clothes for any of the kids, but to pay what she paid for kids clothes that will be grown out of in less than three months! Seriously!
I asked Jamie how his scouts was. For the longest time Jamie kept his distance from me, and I have no idea as to why. He hardly talked to me. If he needed something he went straight to his mom, never me. I kept my gaze on my son as I waited for his answer, wondering what the hell I ever did to him.
He answered my question by telling his mom how much he hated it. “I mean why do I have to know how to freaking start a fire! I’m never going camping ever again! I don’t know why anyone would want to do this sh-stuff.” My heart ached a little, I had already planned on another father-son camping trip, guess I could count one of my boys out of it.
“Well, sweetie, what if dad wanted to take you all camping and something happened? Wouldn’t you want to know how to survive?”
“No.” Jamie stuffed his mouth. Well, that was that.
Pear, being Pear, decided to lighten the mood and stood up on his chair. “Ahem, well I have a story to tell!” he shouted like no one could hear him, when we all could. “Today, Penny and I caught a snake!”
Jamie and Cait gasped, “NO WAY!” Jamie screamed. This coming from the kid who doesn’t care for the wilderness.
“Yes way. And I have to tell you what happened. First we found the snake and placed it around grandpa’s vodka bottle. OH MY GHOST! He literally screamed like this – ahhhhhhhhhhh and dropped the bottle. Penny, Anna, and I seriously fell onto the grass, laughing so hard!”
“Wicked!” Jamie said. “So’d you keep it?”
“No,” I said. Jamie went back to eating, not even looking at me, and Pear just stood there. “Pear, sit and eat.” I warned. He always stood on his chair when he wanted to tell a story.
“Kay, but it was fun day, huh, Penny?”
“Absolutely!” she said over a mouth full of food.
That night Riddle and I began our normal ritual of bedtime with the twins, where we chased them and wrestled them to bed. They didn’t like bedtime, and it took two of us to round them up.
I gave my sweet Penny a kiss on the cheek after reading her a bedtime story. Pear was out before I had the book open. “Goodnight my little spies,” I whispered as Riddle and I took one last look at them before heading out.
As we left the twins room we both spotted lights coming from our other two rooms. “You tell Jamie night, and I’ll get Cait?” Riddle whispered.
“Sounds like a plan. Meet you in the bedroom?” I waggled my eyebrows.
“Oh god, Kaliq, is that all you think about?”
“Are you kidding me? We haven’t had sex in. . . “ Holy fuck I forgot the last time we slept together! “In a very long time.”
Riddle laughed and planted a kiss on my cheek, “Meet you in ten, naked.”
I blushed red and kissed her back.
I walked into Jamie’s room and was shocked to see Jamie dancing, and not just regular dancing. He was dancing choreographed dance moves from a Broadway play that’s video was playing on his computer. I stood there and watched as my son danced, and he was breathtaking. He knew how to move with such style, I almost felt like I was looking at an angel. I saw him with his eyes closed singing and dancing to the song, and I noticed something that I hadn’t seen in, I don’t know how long – Jamie’s smile. Not a fake smile, but a smile that was dangerously getting ready to rip his face into two.
Jamie opened his eyes to turn and look at the video, and when he noticed me he stopped dead in his tracks. It was like he saw a ghost, only he was looking at me. He quickly turned off the computer and pull off his headphones from his ears. “I’m sorry.”
I tried to hold my surprise as to why on earth would he apologize to me?
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Please, don’t ground me.” My son’s tears started to rip through my soul.
“Jamie, why are apologizing?”
“For dancing. You told me I wasn’t ever allowed to dance.”
My heart felt like it was breaking into a million pieces. Was I the reason my son had to hide his happiness? Was I the reason I hadn’t seen my boy smile the way he was just moments ago?
“Jamie, when did I ever say that?”
“Last year when we went camping with Uncle Casey. I tried to not let it bother me, I did. But, dad, I can’t stop being me. So, I started to dance in my room when everyone else went to bed.”
How the hell was I going to make it up to him? He’s been hiding his true self, locked in his room, because of something I don’t even remember saying. I felt like I was punched in the gut. Jamie looked so worried, he lost all color to his face and his smile was gone, replaced by tears and the most worrisome look I have ever seen.
“Dad, you’re not going to take away my music too, are you? Please don’t.”
“Jamie, stop.” I took a deep breath, “I don’t remember what I said on that camping trip that made you think you had to hide something like this from me. I never want you to hide what makes you feel happy.”
“But you said -”
“And I am apologizing now. Jamie, I’m so sorry. The look you gave me when I walked in, it tore me up inside. I was watching my boy dance, and smile, and laugh, and the moment he sees me, he looks like death is chasing him. I don’t ever want to put that kind of fear into my kids. I love you so much, kiddo.” I wiped my eyes that decided to spring a leak. “Look, what I just saw you do, was pure talent. You have a gift that would rival any Broadway star.”
“You think so?” Jamie smiled. “I work really hard watching the videos and learning everything I can from Cait. I love dancing.”
“I know you do, I can tell by that smile you’re giving me.” Jamie’s little smile faltered, like he wasn’t sure if that was a good thing to show me or not. “Don’t hide it son, please. I want to see you smile. I miss your smile. Jamie, do you want to dance?”
Jamie nodded, “Yes! Of course I do. I dream about it, and when I wake up, all I want to do is get out of the house and go somewhere quiet and hidden so I can dance.”
“Well, I know I told you, you couldn’t join the dance class your sister is in, but I think I made the biggest, dumbest mistake I have ever made. Can I please make it up to you? Can I say I was wrong, and that I am so sorry that you’ve felt this way for so long, when I should have taken my head out of my ass and listened to you?”
Jamie’s smile continue to widen as I groveled for forgiveness. “So, does this mean I can quit the scouts and become a dancer?”
“What do you think,” I asked with a smile that could rival his.
“I think I love you!” Jamie jumped into my arms and hugged me. In that moment, I knew without a doubt that everything was going to be okay between us. I may have been stupid and a little naive, maybe even a tad bit sexist when it came to this, but I saw the light. I saw the talent that my son carried, and if he’s even half as good as he is now when he’s older, the boy had a bright future for him. I just hope I don’t screw it up for him until then.
Author’s Note: The lyrics used in this update is, “It’s a Hard Knock Life” from the Broadway musical, Annie.