Death-Wish Kids

22.

I felt an inkling of guilt when it was time to take Micah home for the night. Gerard and I hadn’t done anything past kissing, but I could hear my father’s disapproval without even having to tell him what I’d done tonight and faintly could remember the words from my “friends” in Florida. Gerard whispered for me to be careful as I carted my son up the stairs in his seat and across the kitchen to the door.

Gerard passed me so he could open the door for the garage and lead us both across the blacktop to my car on the right side. He jingled my keys in his hands and then unlocked and opened the back so I could stick Micah’s carseat back into it’s holder. I clicked it in and carefully buckled him up so he wouldn’t wake up again. I’d woken him up just a little bit ago to feed and change him but it ended up that Gerard did most of the feeding and goofing around and left the diaper part for me.

Gerard pushed Micah’s door closed and leaned against it, looking at me in a way I couldn’t place.The light from the garage kept it from being too dark, despite the lack of street lamps lining the road. He folded his arms and crossed his ankles and just watched as I narrowed my eyes at him.

“What?” I asked, crossing my arms to match him, wondering what he could possibly be considering in that head of his.

He shrugged and pulled his bottom lip between his teeth. I rolled my eyes and lightly shoved him back, causing him to lose his balance and back up so he was standing about in the middle of the driver’s side door. When I reached for the handle to open it, he grabbed my hand and pulled me away from the vehicle so I couldn’t get it and leave him standing on the black top alone.

“You don’t have to leave,” he said, his fingers wrapped around my wrist, “Mikey and my parents won’t be home for hours.” He grinned and tipped his head playfully. “I’m just going to be here all lonely.”

I smiled without realizing and then forced it away when I did. I wanted to stay and in a world without Micah, I probably would’ve despite my father’s rules, but it was because of my son that the rules even existed so I shook my head and tried to step back. “I have to go home,” I rebutted, pulling my hand out of his grasp, “If I’m not home at least fifteen minutes before nine my dad is going be pretty angry.” I stepped back again towards my car and the little boy sleeping inside.

Gerard let go of me and let me back far enough away so that I was leaning against my car again. He slowly stepped over and I froze as he lifted his fingers to my face. There was no one else quite like him and as he traced the outline of my cheekbone with his thumb, I couldn’t place what he was thinking.

A thought jumped into my head and I pushed his hand from my face simultaneously, wondering why I hadn’t considered it earlier and why he hadn’t brought it up before now. “You have a girlfriend,” I said, shocked by my own words and his omission, “I can’t believe, I- should’ve - I mean, why didn’t you say anything?” I pulled my eyes from the ground between our feet and looked into his boldly, conflicted and confused.

He looked right back into mine as he shook his head and tried to grab my hand so I couldn’t hurry away from him. “Cyren, Lindsey is not my girlfriend,” he replied strongly, “I know that you heard Mikey and everyone talking about it, but it’s not like that. She knows that we’re not serious.”

It was obvious that his words didn’t reassure me by the deep frown on my face. “You met her parents,” I replied, dumbfounded as I remembered the conversation he had with his parents over dinner the first time I’d come over and we’d watched movies in their living room. I shook my head continuously and pushed him back so I could open the driver’s side door of my car. “Gerard, I can’t,” I said as he began trying to explain, “I’m not that kind of person and I’ve got Micah to think about. I can’t do this.” I climbed down into my car and shut the door without looking at him as he called my name through the window.

As I backed out of the wide drive-way, another car pulled in and I was grateful that it was too dark for them to see down into my little car to realize who I was. I wasn't sure if it was his parents or his brother coming home, but I hoped for the former, knowing that both Mikey and Frank would recognize my car, even in the dark.

It was just minute before nine o'clock when I carried Micah through the front door of my house. Surprisingly my sister was sitting on the couch in the living room with her phone glued to her hand as our father sat next to her, focused on something that was playing on TV.

I smiled as I slipped off my shoes and kicked them onto the mat. "Hey, where's Noah?" I asked when I noticed that they'd turned their attention towards me.

My dad pushed off the couch and turned around to head in my direction. "Upstairs," he answered, walking around the end table, "How did everything go? Who did you get dinner with?"

I plastered a smile on my face and shrugged my shoulders as best I could with Micah's head on one. "It was actually kinda fun," I replied honestly, remembering back to the shenanigans Gerard got into, "Micah really liked it too." I stepped over to the stairs and my dad pivoted on the carpet so he could face me as I went.

"What did you do after?"

"Alana and I ended up going back to her house afterwards," I answered, changing my story a bit to make it easier, "Her son's name is Theodore. He's about a year and a half. Micah really liked him." I stepped up a couple of stairs.

"You said she's in her thirties?" he repeated from earlier, trying to get all the information about my night so that he could file it away in his head, "What did you two have in common that you could talk about for three hours?"

"Dad, she-"

"They're both moms, obviously there's a bit of common ground there, don't you think?" Ryder piped up, giving our dad one of her 'that's a stupid question' looks as she sat with her legs folded under her on the couch. She slid off the couch and walked over, stepping around our father. "I'm going in my room." She turned and looked at me pointedly before basically shooing me up the steps.

"Uh, goodnight, Dad," I said as I headed up, Ryder practically on the same step as me, "I'm putting Micah down so I'll be up before you leave in the morning to give him his bath." I climbed the steps and headed into my room as Ryder detoured off to hers.

I laid Micah on my bed and slipped out of my jacket before scooping him up again and taking back out into the hall and then into his own room. I peaked down the shallow stairs to see my dad sitting back on the couch again and then closed Micah's door behind us.

I gently changed him into something more comfortable to sleep in and laid him down in his crib. He was blinking up at me as his mind decided whether or not it was too tired to stay away and then they ultimately closed as his lips parted and fingers curled around his blanket.

I softly ran my fingers over his little curls. "I love you, Micah," I murmured, peering down at him in the darkness, "I hope you had fun today. I'm sorry you didn't get to have bathtime but I promise we'll get up to do that in the morning."

I couldn't imagine my little boy getting any bigger than he was now. Ten months ago, as I held a newborn in my arms, I couldn't have pictured him even this big, but seeing Teddy today made me realize that he wouldn't be so little forever and someday he would be able to hold me accountable for my actions.

"I'm going to make sure you have the best things, Micah," I said, running my finger over his smooth skin, "You're going to have the best family and the best childhood and you're going to be the best son ever and you're not going to make the same mistakes as your mom. You're staying far away from girls."

"I remember saying those things to you and your sister when you were that young."

I was surprised when I turned around and my dad was stepping through the doorway into Micah's room. "How long have you been there?" I questioned, standing up straighter so I wasn't leaning against the rail of Micah's crib.

He walked in and pushed the door closed behind him. "Just seconds," he replied nonchalantly as he walked over and stood next to me. "I would gather you two up every night after your baths and tell you the same thing. I would promise you that you would have everything you ever dreamed of and you would never want for anything. Your mom and I wanted to be the best parents and we had two beautiful daughters who we wanted to give the world to."

It wasn't hard to picture my dad as twenty-two year old kid with two little daughters. There were pictures all over the house of the beginning year of our lives. Ryder and I were only born months apart and five years later our parents' marriage was already failing.

Five years later my father took my siblings six states away with the promise of visiting and an "I love you, I'm sorry". Noah had been an attempt to fix our lives and bring our mom and dad back together again, but when he was born it was obvious that our mother didn't care much for him.

To her, he was just a part of the man she stopped loving too long ago and she saw Noah as another attempt to keep her trapped in the family she didn't want anymore. So my father picked him and decided that a new start was better for them, before Noah got old enough to remember being neglected by the woman who was supposed to love him more than anyone else.

Ryder decided to go with, but at nine, I wanted both my mom and my dad and was too scared to change everything about the only life I'd known. So I stayed in Florida with my mother when my dad went to start over again.

"I wanted you to have a different life, Cyren," Dad said in Micah's bedroom, his arm brushing against my sleeve, "When you were born I pictured the life you were going to have and I promised myself that I would do anything to give it to you. I'm so sorry that I wasn't there for you. I should've been."

I shook my head without turning to face him. "It's not your fault," I said dryly, wanting nothing more than to stay far away from the topic of my mistakes, "I was stupid. I should've known better."

"Cyren, I should've been there to teach you and to protect you but I thought - I thought your mom would be enough. I thought she would look out for you."

"Mom just isn't that way," I said with a shrug of my shoulders as I tried to remember a single time my mother had been motherly towards any of the three of us. She wasn't an emotion woman. If she had any feelings at all, she kept them to herself and if she cared about any of her children, she didn't show us.

"I know," Dad responded, nodding softly, "and I'm sorry I left you there. I knew exactly how your mother was when I went and I should've fought for you to come with us."

I stayed silent. There was nothing for me to say in reply to him. Things would be different if he'd brought me home with him when I was nine, but there was nothing we could change now, even if we knew what we should've changed back then.

"Why are we talking about this?"

The loud sigh that came from my dad told me that there was an actual reason. This conversation wasn't a by-product of my promises to Micah. Either something had happened or it was about to. Either way, I wanted to stay far away from it.

"Your mom wants to see you guys," he said carefully, sounding incredibly displeased with the idea, "She wants you, Ry, and Noah to go stay with her for a weekend."

I turned and stared at him with the most blank expression I had. "Ryder will never agree to that," I stated, folding my arms over my chest, "And she's eighteen now so no one can force her to go to Florida."

"She's still in high school, Cyren, so don't plant any ideas in her head," he replied firmly, knowing that he would have a battle on his hands if he and our mom tried to get any of us to spend three nights in Florida.

"I really can't cart Micah all the way to Florida," I stated.

Micah stirred in his crib so my dad pulled me out of his room and gathered my brother and sister for a meeting in the living room. When Ryder arrived, he immediately confiscated her phone so that she would pay attention.

Noah sat between the two of us in his pajamas as my dad stood in front of the black screen o the TV with Ryder's phone sticking out of the pocket of his jeans. He clasped his hands together and looked at the three of us, making sure to make uncomfortable eye contact before beginning his spiel.

"I know that it doesn't always seem like it, but you guys have two parents," he started, causing both Noah and Ryder to groan loudly, realizing where this was going automatically. I stayed quiet and crossed my arms over my chest, already fighting against whatever agreement my dad and mom had come to.

"Stop it," he demanded, crossing his arms, "Your mom wants to see you. She doesn't remember the last time you went to visit and she wants to see how you are doing."

"She probably blacked out during our entire visit," Ryder muttered, ignoring the look she got in return. She donned the typical family posture and glared right back at our dad. Noah pulled his feet onto the couch and wrapped his arms around his knees while staying quiet.

"Your mom and I decided that I'll drive you guys down in two weeks," he said, putting out there formally and perminently in a way he thought would keep us from arguing about it.

"I don't want to go," Noah said, shattering any hope Dad had of us making this easy on himself, "She always leaves and just watch TV. She doesn't even have cable." He blinked up at our dad in the most innocent way.

"Noah, she's your mother and she loves you," he said, forcing the words out although I doubt he really believed them - especially since Noah didn't even.

"I'm not going," Ryder rebutted, "I'm an adult and she doesn't do anything for me ever. Why should I go down and pretend that I like being around her? She's a terrible parent. She practically ignores Noah when he's there and she let Cyren get pregnant and probably forced beer down her throat. Why should I have to be around her if I don't want to? I wasted enough time there over the years."

"You're all going and that's final," he stated angrily, obviously fed up with our rebuttals, "I know she's not the greatest, but she's your mother and she deserves to see you all at least once a year, so if you won't even give her that then I don't know what is wrong with you."

He turned and left the room. None of us were particularly shocked by him. It seemed that despite the time they'd been apart and everything that went wrong when they were together, our father would always have a place for the woman he married, even if this version was nothing like the maternal, loving, exciteable woman who brought Ryder and I into the world at age twenty.

"He really needs to stop defending her," Ryder said simply, before groaning loudly when she realized that he had stormed off with her phone. "Damnit," she muttered, getting up from the couch, "Now I wouldn't be able to get it back until morning." She hurried up the stairs calling after him in hopes of weasling her phone out of his grasp.

I turned and smiled at my younger brother. "I'm going to bed, Noah, do you want me to tuck you in?"

He shook his head and got up, pushing his long, curly brown hair out of his eyes. "No, I can do it myself. Goodnight, Cyren."

"Night, Noah." I got up and followed him up the stairs. After peaking in on Micah to make sure he was still out, I headed into my own room and closed the door. I scooped my jacket off my bed and was about to throw it onto the floor when I felt my phone in the pocket and was brought back to the situation occuring outside this house.

I pulled it out and threw the hoodie to the floor before I laid down on my bed and unlocked the little machine. Messages from Gerard popped up and I read the first one before deleting the others. I had enough to deal with in my life without him, so I pulled the phone into the charger and dropped it onto the shelf on my bedside table, deciding that getting close to Gerard was a stupid move and that I would stay away from him from now on.
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So there's a lot going on in that chapter!
Can't wait to read what you guys are thinking. :)

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