Death-Wish Kids


Gerard pulled into my driveway and kept the engine running. I didn’t want to linger, but it was still difficult to pull myself away. “Thanks for showing me your school,” I said, “I’ll be waiting for you to fork over those drawings.”

Gerard smiled, eyes slightly downturned before he glanced to my house. “Would anyone know if I kissed you right now?” he asked, his boldness back, “I don’t think your sister is spying from the curtains this time.”

“I’ll see you later, Gerard,” I answered, slipping his jacket off my shoulders. He tossed it in the back and called goodbye as I climbed out of the car and headed up the walk. Before I stepped around the garage, I turned back and watched him back out of the driveway. I wondered what he was going to tell his parents he’d been up to, and that made me wonder what I’d tell mine.

My dad turned around in his spot on the couch when I walked in. “Hey, you’re early,” he said. The clock below the TV said 8:34. Micah was in his playpen, laying on his back with an obscene amount of toys surrounding him.

“Barely,” I answered as I moved over to lift my son from his playpen. He tangled his little fingers into my hair and I turned around and sat down next to my brother. “How was your guys’ night?”

“Pretty good,” Dad answered, while Noah automatically started rambling about dinner and something about the dishes and Dad’s restaurant. Dad paused talking until Noah quieted down, and then asked, “How did you get home? Did Gerard bring you back?”

“Yeah, he was heading to a friend’s, I guess,” I said, nerves creeping up my spine due to the lies, “And we didn’t really do much. Just hung out at Mikey’s. His parents are pretty great.”

“They fed you?”

“Yeah, Donna likes to cook.” I repositioned Micah on my lap. “She offered to show me a few things next time I’m over there,” I said, knowing it would get his attention, but sort of wishing that I hadn’t.

He looked surprised by the admission, and wrapped his arm over Noah’s shoulder as he turned to face me more. “I didn’t know you were interested in cooking,” he answered genuinely, “If I knew I would’ve offered to teach you a long time ago, Cyren.”

I shrugged. “I think it’s interesting, but it’s not really my thing. Donna’s just so… enthusiastic that it’s hard to refuse when she brought it up. She wanted to teach Mikey and Gerard, but they weren’t as into it so that didn’t really work out.”

“She just has the two boys then?” he asked.

“Yeah, just Gerard and Mikey. She said she always wanted a girl though.”

“How old is Gerard again?” he asked, eyes watching me.

I tried not to stumble over his question. “Twenty,” I answered, “Mikey’s sixteen. Why all the questions?” I pulled my ankle under me and let Noah take Micah from me. Both Dad and I reached out quickly as Micah stumbled forward in my brother’s arms, but Noah was quick to readjust his hold.

“Just trying to get to know your friends more,” Dad answered, “It seems you’re spending a lot of time with this one family and I’m a little worried that you’re not branching out more. Teenage girls should have girl friends as well. I don’t want to to get too comfortable with the Way family and forget there are other people out there.”

“I thought you’d be happy that I’d made some decent friends,” I answered, sliding my arms across my chest, “I’m happy with them. I don’t want to ‘branch out’ to try to find girl friends. I like Mikey and Frank, and Gerard. And their parents.”

“Cyren, I like your friends too, I just don’t want you to pigeon hole yourself into these friendships and spend all your time with them only,” he explained, “You’re a very intelligent, beautiful girl and you have a lot to offer.”

“You don’t think Mikey and Frank bring out my beautiful and intelligent side?” I questioned, unsure of where he was going with this conversation.

“No, Cy, that’s not it,” he answered, frustrated because he couldn’t get his point across. But I was struggling to understand the point of this conversation. “The point is, that you’re getting really close with this one family, and that’s not bad, but I’m just worried about what that means.”

I frowned, arms crossed over my chest, and paused for a moment, processing. “Is this because Gerard was here today?” I asked incredulously, “Because he picked me up? Did you not like him or something?”

“I just don’t understand why he was here,” my dad responded, getting to the point of this conversation, “You have a car, you’re capable of driving over there. I wasn’t expecting some twenty year old boy in my house asking for my daughter just hours after she got back home.”

“He’s not some boy,” I answered, confused, “He’s Mikey’s brother. His name is Gerard and they’re close. There’s nothing else to know about him, Dad. You didn’t act like this when you met Mikey and Frank, what makes Gerard any different?”

“Because Mikey and Frank aren’t twenty year old men who showed up out of the blue, Cyren. They’re harmless kids. Somehow, I don’t get that same feeling from Gerard,” he answered, finally getting to the point he’d been trying to make.

I stared at him incredulously. “That’s what this is about,” I said in disbelief, “You don’t like Gerard because he’s older than I am? He’s just as harmless as his brother.” I stood up and lifted Micah from my brother, who was trying his hardest to ignore the fight happening around him. But when our father called for me to stop, Noah got the point and scrambled up from the couch.

“We’re not done talking about this,” my dad said, “You can’t just get up and leave when you don’t want to finish a conversation. Now, sit down.”

I wanted to ignore him and follow my brother out of the room, but I wasn’t bold enough. Instead I turned around and put Micah down in his playpen again before sitting on the far end of the couch, as far away from my parent as I could get.

When he didn’t speak, I did. “What, Dad?”

“Tonight was a one time thing, Cyren,” he said firmly, “There are rules. You’re not allowed to leave the house with a boy I’ve never met, not again, not ever. ”

I wasn’t sure if my jaw was even connected to my skull anymore. “What are you saying?” I asked, at a loss for words, “You met Gerard when he was here. It’s not like he pulled into the driveway and honked at me. He came inside and introduced himself.”

“That’s not the way it works,” my dad rebutted, “You’re supposed to ask me when you want to leave the house. You’re supposed to let me know that you’re thinking about asking me before you actually even ask the question. You don’t bombard me with a grown man in my foyer and then tell me you’re leaving.”

“I didn’t tell you,” I argued, “I fell asleep and forgot to ask before he got here. And you should be glad that he’s forward and upright enough to come inside and introduce himself to you, because most people wouldn’t. The least you could do is give him a chance.”

“Cyren, this isn’t all about him,” he rebutted, “But if you want to bring that up, then yes, I think there’s something off about him. The way he talks and acts, he’s so confident and mature - it rubs me the wrong way.”

I gave my dad a look. “He’s too confident?” I repeated, “You don’t like him because he wasn’t afraid to meet you? That’s messed up, Dad.”

“It’s not that.” He shook his head. “The things your sister said about him make me nervous for you, Cyren. I don’t know what kind of guy he is. He is older than all of you and it’s a little strange that he spends so much time with high school students.”

I was furious on the inside, angry that the rumors my sister had heard and spread made it all the way back to our father. I didn’t know how any of them expected me to be like Ryder, with sports-enthusiast friends with no flaws and spotless school records. Anyone I was going to get along with had to be a little more defective than that.

“Gerard goes to college, he studies art. He used to live with friends in his own apartment and work at a gas station downtown, but he wanted to focus more on school. He doesn’t spend all his time waiting around for his brother like Ryder made it seem. He’s got goals, Dad. He’s not a social pariah and I can’t believe that you would listen to rumors she told you rather than what I’m telling you.”

He was obviously startled by the rush of information and was quiet for a few moments. “Cyren, I didn’t mean to imply-“

“You didn’t imply anything, Dad, you came right out and said it. You think Gerard is weird, I get it, but he’s not like you think he is.”

“Cy, calm down,” he answered, “I didn’t mean to say anything harsh about him. But he’s not what I was expecting. I was hoping that you’d be solely committed to Micah and your duty to him.”

“Being friends with Gerard doesn’t take anything away from being Micah’s mom,” I replied, “I can have friends and hangout with them and still be a good mother.”

“I know that, you’re a great mother, but you don’t get the luxury of being a teenager anymore, Cyren. You have to come home and stay home with Micah. He needed you after your long trip and you left with Gerard instead.”

“Micah is fine,” I said shortly, looking at the boy as though his smiling face was proof, “Micah’s a good kid and he adores being with you, Dad. He’s not scarred because I left him with you tonight. He probably didn’t even notice that I was gone.”

“That’s not the point. The point is that he’s your son and he needs you, more than you want to spend time with your friends. Maybe when he’s older you’ll understand his attachment to you and choose to stay home, but right now I’m going to reinforce that you have to be home with him.”

“Can I take Micah with me then?” I asked, hating the fact that I was asking my father what I could do with my own son on my own time. He wanted me to be an adult and take care of my son, but when it came down to it, I was still his child, under his rules. He was telling me how to raise Micah, which meant he was basically doing it himself.

My dad sighed, brushing his fingers over the slight scruff on his face, and looked at me like I was the most difficult child in the world. “Cyren, I’m not comfortable with you carting him all over the city,” he said, each word calculated, “You need to consider your responsibilities.”

“My responsibility is to myself and to Micah,” I answered frustratedly, “And I want to be able to spend time with Gerard, and Mikey, and Frank, and they all know about Micah and support us, so I don’t see why I can’t spend time with them with Micah.”

“Because you have to think about Micah first. You can’t do what you want to do and cart him along. He’s a child, he needs structure. Which means, daycare, dinner, bath time, bed. Not a night out on the town whenever you feel like it.”

I glared at him, upset that our conversation had gone this direction. He wasn’t going to understand my point of view, so I got up and picked up Micah. “Bath and bed, got it,” I muttered, “Night.”

“Cyren, don’t walk out on this conversation,” he demanded, standing up from his seat, “We’re not done talking about this.”

I answered without turning around, “I understand. I’m listening to you. Goodnight.”

“Cyren, I want you to do these things on your own, not because I’m telling you to.”

“What difference does it make, Dad?” I asked bluntly, spinning slowly around on the bottom stair to face him. “As long as I’m raising Micah the way you want me to, what’s the difference?”

He stood up alongside the arm of the couch and looked at the two of us. I could tell that he was bothered by this, but unsure of how to combat it. “Cyren, I’m not trying to suffocate you or dictate how you are with Micah, I’m just trying to make sure that he’s your number one priority.”

The parallelism between my father and Gerard was ironic, and I shook my head. “That’s funny, Dad,” I murmured, “Gerard said the exact same thing to me tonight. He wanted to make sure that you didn’t think he was some weird guy because he knows you’re specific about who you think are good enough to be around Micah and I. I wanted to assure him that you didn’t think bad about him, but I couldn’t, and I guess I was right not too.”

I shifted Micah in my arms and went up the stairs. My dad called after me, asking me questions and getting angry when I didn’t answer. When I reached my bedroom door he was at the bottom of the stairs. “Cyren, if you don’t come back down here and talk this over, you’re grounded.”

I opened the bedroom door and went inside, slamming it behind me.
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You guys are so awesome! I love the comments. I want to welcome Shi! to the story and say thank you for such wonderful and dedicated comments. I know you're not going to see this right away, but when you get here, thank you for all your comments and excitement. It definitely helped motivate me. :)

I also want to thank HopetotheHopeless! Your compliments.. I don't even know how to respond, but thank you so much! You pick up on the little differences in Ryder and I'd never really thought about how Ryder seems younger, but I can see that now. It's given me some ideas. So thank you!

Thanks guys. :) I hope to hear from more of you. But I love knowing that there are still a couple of you reading and enjoying. I hope to update again soon. I'm on Spring Break next week, so I'm hoping to get back into writing frequently. So sorry that it's taken me so long. College is very overwhelming.

Thank you!