Death-Wish Kids


On Saturday we all rolled out of bed pretty early, mostly due to the fact that even in our sleep we knew we were in a strange place. Noah woke first to the sound of Micah's whines and Ryder and I followed, sharing a look between us that longed for home.

"Mom said something about getting out of the house today," Noah said as he held Micah in his arms, "Do you think we'll get to go too?"

I frowned at the memory of that conversation. "I don't really want to go out," I said, hoping she'd changed her mind, "Where would she take us, anyway?"

Ryder leaned against the wall and crossed her legs. "I don't know," she answered, peering at us, "But I think anywhere would be better than being stuck in this tiny apartment with her and Warner."

Noah and I nodded.

Ryder looked across the gap between our beds and over to me. "Did you tell Mitchell that you're in town?" she asked, her eyes dropping to my son for a split second, "Shouldn't you take Micah to see him or something?"

I looked at the little blue eyed boy and felt my stomach drop at the idea of facing Mitchell's parents. "I don't think I should just drop in," I answered, shaking my head, "Plus, he'll see him when he comes up."

We were interrupted by the knocking on our door. Without a response from us, Felicia stepped into the room and smiled brightly. "You're all up," she said, sounding somewhat surprised but overly pleased by the observation, "Good. I was thinking that we could go to the movies or something today. I'm sure there's something that Noah hasn't seen yet."

Noah tried not to be excited, but she'd found his weakness.

"I can't take Micah to the movies," I said, watching out of the corner of my eye as Ryder nodded quickly, agreeing, "He's too young to sit through it."

Felicia frowned. "I hadn't thought about that." She pressed her lips together and stepped just barely father into the room. "Why don't we go out for a late breakfast then? Warner leaves for a job in a hour or so, we could follow him out." She looked at us expectantly.

"I'm up for Old Country," Ryder answered despite herself, "I'm sure we could probably be ready in an hour. Despite having to share one bathroom."

Noah looked harshly at our older sister. "Ry, there's only one bathroom at Dad's," he answered, immune to the look that she shot at him.

"Sounds good," Felicia said. She turned timidly and headed out of our room at the sound of her boyfriend's voice, saying one last word about us being ready to go in a just an hour.

Ryder rolled her eyes at the open door and climbed up from the bed that she coveted. "Dibs," she said, marching over to her duffel.

Noah sat on the floor between the beds with Micah on his lap and watched her riffle through her things. "We get to go home tomorrow, right?" he questioned, looking back at me and then at Ryder.

"Of course we do," she answered before I could reassure him, "Dad would never leave us here, No. It's just today and then we're out of here." She spoke without even lifting her eyes from her bag. When she found the items she was searching for, she looked up and met his gaze. "Don't worry, Bubby. We'll be home before you know it. "

I was awed by the use of his infant nickname. I couldn't remember the last time anyone had called him by it. It instantly took my back to our childhood and the series of nicknames that our father donned us with.

It took us the entire allotted time to get ready for a day out. It meant three showers and a bath as well as dressing, packing, and primping. It took a lot to get the Alexander children out of the house on time, but somehow we managed. It was just after noon when we were lined up in the living room, waiting for Warner to find his name badge so that we could leave to drop him at work on the way to lunch.

"Have you checked that little cup on the dresser?" Felicia asked as she scurried around him, searching everywhere, "I thought you put it there sometimes."

"Fuck it," Warner muttered under his breath. His downcast gaze turned up and he peered at the four of us. "I'm going to be late. It's fine. Lets just go." He motioned for us to head out the the door and we did, deciding that we would meet them at the car, seeing as our mother was still frantically searching for it.

We shut the front door just as Warner yelled for her to leave it alone. As we turned to head down the set of outside stairs, the door across the landing opened and a couple of teenagers stepped out, eyeing us warily.

Ryder crossed her arms over her chest and stared them down. "Can we help you with something?" she asked the two boys, who were frozen in the doorway of their apartment.

The slightly taller one frowned and motioned towards the stairs. "Leaving?" he asked, completely ignoring her question.

"Obviously," she answered. She put her hand on Noah's shoulder and led him down the stairs, glancing back just long enough to make sure I was behind them. She moved her eyes front when they accidentally made contact with one of the brothers as they locked their door and then turned to follow us down the stairs.

"So are you Felicia's kids?" the siblings questioned from behind us, "I didn't think she was the mothering type."

"She's not," Ryder snapped as she reached the landing, "Now leave us alone."

The brothers made eye-contact and the older one grinned. It was obvious that they were siblings. They shared the same crop of unruly, dark hair and slim build. And when they smiled, their expressions were flawlessly matching.

The slightly taller, slightly older-looking brother grinned as he led his brother around us. "Alright, sorry," he said lightly, smiling, "I'm Jaime, this is Kye. I don't know how long you'll be here, but if you need to get away from Felicia, feel free to pop over."

Ryder was taken aback by the offer and whatever comeback she was thinking up disappeared as she looked over the two of them. "We're leaving tomorrow," she said, watching as they unlocked and got into a car, "But thanks."

Jaime grinned over the hood. "What a shame," he said, "I was hoping you would need rescuing, beautiful." He laughed and dropped down into his car, where his brother was already waiting, and they backed out of the small parking lot.

Noah spoke up, "They're weird," he said, "Why did he call you beautiful?"

Ryder rested her hands on his shoulders. "Don't worry about it," she said as she rolled her eyes, "After tomorrow we'll never have to see them again."

"See who again?"

We turned and looked up the stairs as Felicia and Warner trotted down them. Ryder rolled her eyes yet again as she answered. "I don't know, those two boys who live next door. We just ran into them when we walked outside."

Felicia peered at their empty parking space. "The Raniens," she answered calmly, "Stay away from them. They're bad news." She ushered us into their car and I fumbled to get Micah's seat latched in quickly.

It was a small car, with a bench front seat and three seatbelts in the back. Ryder took one for the team and climbed up front next to our mother, who sat next to Warner, and Noah and I sat in the back with Micah's seat strapped in on the passenger's side, behind Ryder.

Warner worked at a packaging company and dropped himself off without saying much of anything. Felicia kissed him goodbye and scooted over to drive, wriggling her fingers out of the window as he walked away.

"The Old Country Buffett is right down on Windsor, right near Cyren's school," she said as she backed out of the parking lot, referring to the place I dropped out of when I was here last.

Ryder looked back at me over the seat. "Technically she didn't go there anymore," she answered, her eyes narrowing at me as she said it, "For some reason, her mother let her drop out."

It was obvious that Felicia stiffened. "I'm sorry, Ryder," she said cooly, "Cyren and I talked about it and agreed that it was the best idea at the time. She had to focus on Micah. I didn't know of any other way to help her."

"Don't worry about it, Mom," she spoke, "Dad fixed it."

We were silent until we got to the laid back restaurant. It wasn't an awkward silence, but Ryder and I both knew the emotions that she'd just put on our mother. Part of me felt guilty, but the rest of me was pleased to see her regrets.

Living with my mom had been nothing short of terrible. It was a revolving set of houses and men and a never ending supply of alcohol and good times for her. She wasn't a mother really, but just someone who moved me to a different house each time one of her guys walked out and she couldn't figure out how to keep the roof over our heads any longer.

I stayed away from home mostly, trying desperately to fit in with the group that I'd always been just outside of. When I came home, it was mostly the same as when I was out. Except the crowd was older and my mother was mixed among them, offering me whatever I wanted, as though more alcohol would keep me happy.

And when I told her I was pregnant, it wasn't actually what I meant to say. And nothing really happened after that like I expected it too.

I was crying as I pushed through the front door into our house. It was filled with people who could barely stand straight, although most had congregated onto the couches by now. I pushed away the last of my tears as I stepped through a group who were sitting on the stairs, ignoring them as one of the men called to me, "Felicia's daughter."

When I ignored him and moved away from his reaching fingers, he shouted out for my mother, claiming drunkenly that something was wrong with her kid. I was at the top of the steps before she rounded the corner, grinning, her eyes searching for me.

"Cy, where are you going?" she called up to me, "The party is down here girl, come back."

When I ignored her, she stumbled after me. She caught up to me when I was already in my room and thrust a beer out at me, claiming it would make me feel better about whatever happened. "Stop crying, Cyren, grow up. Come downstairs, enjoy the party. Just stop sulking in your room."

"I don't want it," I answered, something swirling in the pit of my stomach. I shoved it away from me as she offered it up again. "I said no, please just leave me alone, Mom."

"Cyren, you're making me look bad. Warner is downstairs right now and I don't want to be up here dealing with my whiny teenager, so take the beer, come downstairs, and pretend that everything is alright until it is."

I remember staring at her, trying to meet her gaze, wondering if there was actually something more to her underneath the drunken glaze that covered her eyes. And I remember just looking at her, taking in everything about her; her manicured nails, her makeup, the fact that she somehow made her unwashed hair look beautiful, as though she knew that some man would be running his fingers through it.

She was bone thin and dressed to her version of the "nine's". She looked back at me with blue eyes as though she couldn't really see me anymore. She held out the beer bottle again, her pale pink lips pressing back together.

I remember the clarity in her eyes when I shook my head and my gaze unthinkingly dropped to my stomach.

The beer bottle hit the carpet and her hand hit my face.

I cried out and covered my cheek with my own hands, looking at her with bewilderment. She looked at me as though she hated me.

In the car on the way to the restaurant, I looked at my mom now and I could still see how much she detested me in that moment. It only last seconds before she it was toned down to mere anger, but even though she shielded it well, I knew it was there still.

We were finally seated and eating when Ryder brought up another topic. She had one arm thrown over the back of Noah's chair and her legs crossed on her own as she looked up to our mom and spoke with ease.

"Can we borrow the car later?" she asked, looking towards me, "We've got a couple of errands to run. No big deal."

Felicia looked stunned. "You want to take the car?" she repeated rhetorically and the moved on, "I can take you anywhere you need to go. It's no problem."

Ryder shook her head and pushed her hair back over her shoulders. "It's fine. We're capable. I just need the car for a couple of hours. I mean, I guess we could take the bus but I doubt it'll be safe for Micah."

"Where are you going?" Felicia questioned. Noah and I tuned it too.

Ryder didn't look at me as she answered. "To see some old friends. Micah's got people down here, you know. We didn't just come to see you."

Mom was slightly stunned by that answer. I was stunned by that answer. She nodded anyway. I glared at my sister. "I guess, it's Warner's car, so I'll have to check with him, but if you're back before he gets off then I don't really think there will be a problem with it."

I shook my head, dropping my fork to my plate. "I don't have anywhere to go," I rebutted, meeting Ryder's icy look with my own, "Micah and I were just going to hunker down tonight. Maybe watch some TV."

"No, you made plans with Mitchell, remember?" Ryder repeated, lying through her teeth.

"No," I said, "I don't."

She smiled brightly and batted her eyelashes. "Well I do. So we'll just be needing the car for a couple of hours."

Mom looked at the tension between us. "Mitchell, as in, Micah's father?" she asked, and since I had only told him a little about him, I assumed that our father had filled in the rest.

"Yeah," I answered, glancing down at my son, "I've been thinking about taking Micah to go see him. I think it would be the right thing to do."

She was completely out of her element and it obvious. Her uncomfortable reaction and Ryder's little smile made me wonder if my sister said all this because of me, or if it was another way of getting back our mother. A percentage of me thought for a second that maybe it was both, maybe Ryder was trying to get back at our mother because of me.

Noah ate almost the entire restaurant and the group of ladies sitting near us seemed to think that Micah was my brother rather than my son, because they commented on how cute our family was as they were leaving. The adult daughter nodded, mentioning how she wanted to have two boys and two girls someday also.

I didn't correct them because they were already out the door, but it was nice not to have to worry about their reactions to my son when they found out he was my son.

"I couldn't imagine having another baby," Felicia joked as she touched Micah's little hand, "I wouldn't even know what to do with one anymore, it's been so long."

I bit back my distaste. Ryder bit back her comment.

We left without saying a word about our mom's real involvement in our lives. I carted Micah in my arms, Ryder led with his carseat in one hand and Noah's in the other.