Death-Wish Kids


“Where have you two been?” my dad asked first thing when I stepped through the front door with Micah wrapped in my arms.

I looked up with wide green eyes. “I had a tour of Micah's daycare,” I stated blatantly, “And it took longer to get out of the school parking lot than I thought it would. There's a lot of kids there.”

Dad pushed himself off of the couch and walked over to us. He pulled Micah from my arms and looked me over with a cautious eye. “It's almost six o'clock. You couldn't call and let me know that you were going to be late?” He headed towards the kitchen, expecting me to follow him.

I did reluctantly. “Has Ryder called?” I questioned, crossing my arms over my chest, “Because she's not home yet and you don't seem to have a problem with that.” I sat down at the kitchen table as my dad moved to the fridge with Micah and pulled open the large doors.

“She's not the one with a baby and former drinking problem, Cyren,” he retorted, setting a few things on the island in the middle of the kitchen. “I expect you home on time or there better be a voicemail on my cell phone telling me exactly why you aren't here.”

I glared at the tall man. “So if I tell you what I'm doing I can stay out later?” I tested, crossing my arms and resting my elbows on the table.

Dad looked back at me blankly. “Not exactly, Cyren. You're still expected to be here on time, everyday. If you aren't there better be a very good reason.” He walked over and situated Micah in his car seat. He touched the top of my head as he walked back over to the island and started unwrapping things for dinner. He rolled his sleeves up to his elbows and asked, “Where is Ryder, by the way?”

I shrugged. “I'm not sure,” I muttered, “But would hanging out with my new friends be a good reason?”

Dad frowned at my answer about Ryder and then glanced to me. “You made friends today?” he questioned, turning on the stove and getting a pan from the cupboard next to the stove. “How was your day?”

“It was okay,” I allowed, “I met these two kids and they offered to let me eat lunch with them.” I shrugged against and rested my chin on my arms.

“And you want to hang out with them outside of school?” he asked, chopping a few vegetables on the wooden cutting board. “What are their names?”

“Well...” I trailed off, wondering if honesty was the way to gain more freedom with him, “They're sophomores and I'm totally not interested in either of them-”

“They're boys?” he asked quickly, pressing his palms against the counter top. The knife was forgotten as he focused on me.

I sighed loudly, “Yeah, Dad.”

He shook his head automatically. “No way, Cyren, no. You're not hanging out unsupervised with two boys who you hardly know and who I've never met. It's not happening.”

“Dad!” I growled, “That's not fair! How am I supposed to get to know them if you don't even let me hang out with them?! They're really nice and unlike Ryder, they let me sit with them today!”

He rolled his eyes. “Your sister is not going to drop her entire life to include you in her plans,” he said simply, “But I'll talk to her about including you tomorrow.”

“Don't even worry about it.” I shook my head. “I'm going to sit with Mikey and Frank again tomorrow.” I reached out and touched Micah's hand as he smacked his hands onto his tray and laughed loudly, completely unaware about the small fight that was happening between us.

Dad continued to cook again, eyeing me the entire time. “I don't like the thought of you hanging out with teenage boys, Cyren.” He nodded towards the stairs beyond the living room. “Go get your brother.”

“Seriously?” I questioned, “You named me Cyren, Dad, did you really expect the boys to just run away?” I pushed myself up from the chair and walked out of the kitchen and through the living room to get to the stairs. My brother's room was at the end of the hall, across from Ryder's and next to mine.

“Noah!” I called through the door, “Dad wants to see you in the kitchen!” I banged my fist on the door so that I was sure he could hear me.

“Okay, okay,” he called back right before the door was pulled open. “I'm coming,” he said, looking up at me.

I chuckled and nodded, ruffling his shaggy brown hair with my hand. “Alright, then come on.” The two of us headed back down the stairs and took a right across the living room into the kitchen. The room smelled delicious as Dad cooked. His food was one the major things I missed when he and our mom divorced. She was never much for a cook and in the time I'd spent with her, I'd grown unaccustomed to large dinners and food that didn't cook in the microwave.

“What are you making?” I inquired, trying to decipher the mess of ingredients on the counter.

Dad smiled and shook his head. He motioned for Noah to have a seat at the table. He clambered into a chair across from mine and looked at our dad with a waiting expression. “What's going on?” he asked, leaning his elbow on the table.

“We're going to have a family dinner, Noah,” he replied, “That means no eating in your room with the door closed and a movie blasting. All of us at the table for once.”

Noah groaned and dropped his forehead to the table. “But we never eat at the table!” he shouted, his words muffled as he buried his face in his arms.

“We are now,” Dad retorted, “And every Monday night for the foreseeable future.” Something sizzled in the pan behind him and he turned around to inspect it.

“Is Ryder included in this family dinner?” I asked belligerently.

“Yes,” he replied, giving me a warning look. “And any boyfriends that either of you acquire in the future.”

“Ryder has a boyfriend,” Noah exclaimed.

I folded my arms over my chest and added, “Apparently they've been together forever.”

Dad looked up to us in confusion. “Why's this the first I'm heaving of a boyfriend?” he asked us both, pointing a knife in our direction since it was already in his hand.

“Maybe you're oblivious?” I suggested.

Noah asked, “What's oblivious?”

“It's when you're unaware or apathetic about what's happening around you,” Dad replied, stirring something on the stove. “And I am not,” he said to me, giving me another look. He reached over the counter and tossed his phone at Noah. “Dial your sister and tell her to get home now.”

Noah grinned and unlocked Dad's phone. He scrolled through the phone until he found Ryder's number. She didn't answer, but Noah left a long message about all the trouble she was in for not coming home in time for family dinner. Dad shouted in the background that Noah was lying, but it probably went unheard on the message since Noah screamed loudly to cover the sound of Dad's voice. Micah unwittingly copied his uncle.

Dad called her back once he'd finished with our meal. “Ryder, this is your father calling. Answer the phone or get your butt back home right now. Cyren checked in for you, but I'm starting a new tradition so come home!” He hung up the phone and tossed it onto the kitchen island.

The food was sitting in front of us, but we weren't allowed to touch it until Ryder made her way into the two story house. After two more phone calls she answered and quickly explained that she was on her way home. She raced through the door about fifteen minutes later.

“I'm really sorry, Dad,” she explained, “I was going to have dinner at Keisha's so I didn't think it was that big of a deal if I wasn't home.” She stood at the end of the table and looked over the large amount of food our dad cooked. “What's all this?” she asked slowly.

“You're in charge of reheating it,” Dad just said simply, “So you better get started.”

Ryder smiled and rolled her eyes at him. One by one she plucked bowls from the table and popped them in the microwave to heat before setting them down in their exact spot. “Really, what's all this for?” she asked again, filling her plate with food.

Dad smiled from where he sat next to Noah. “I thought we could celebrate Cyren's first day back to school,” he explained, catching us all of guard, “She's finally growing up and taking care of her responsibilities. We're all really proud of you, Sweetheart.”

I met my dad's gaze and smiled brightly. I hadn't expected for him to cook such a large dinner just for me. Nobody had ever done anything like that for me before. “Thanks, Dad,” I replied softly, “This is really great.”

“What are your new friends like?” he questioned, taking a bite of his food as he waited for my answer.

I glanced at Ryder. She had to know Frank and Mikey seeing as they'd all been in the same school with them for the last eight years of her life. “They're only boys,” I replied softly, shrugging my shoulders, “They're sophomores.”

“Yeah, you told me that,” Dad stated, “But what are their names?”

Ryder looked up from her plate, waiting for me to tell them. I set my fork on my plate and pushed my hair behind my shoulders. “Frank and Mikey,” I told them both, since Noah didn't really care and Micah still didn't understand.

“Frank Iero and Mikey Way?” Ryder asked quickly, looking at me with wide eyes, “You're seriously hanging out with those guys?”

“What's wrong with them?” I frowned. “They're really nice, Ryder.”

She pulled her hair back and gave me a look like I was purely ignorant. “You know nothing about them!” she defended, “Do you know that they hang out with Mikey's older brother's friends? Do you know how old those guys are?”

“Twenty,” I stated, seeing the look on my dad's face, “I met Mikey's brother when he picked him and Frank up from school today.”

Dad filled his plate with more mashed potatoes slowly and quietly. Ryder saw his mood change too and then looked to me with raised eyebrows; a silent warning that mentioning Mikey's older brother wasn't going to fly with him, especially since I had already met him and Dad knew nothing about it.

“Are you going to be hanging out with Mikey's brother?” Dad asked, setting his fork down on his plate, “Because I don't think it's a very bright idea for a seventeen year old girl to be hanging out with a twenty year old guy. You're new and don't know anybody. I don't want him to take advantage of that.”

“He's Mikey's older brother, Dad,” I muttered with a roll of my eyes, “He drives Mikey around. I doubt he'll even want to hang out with us. He's got his own friends.”

Ryder rolled her eyes. “I highly doubt that. From what I've seen of him he's one of those guys who spent the best four days of his life in high school and doesn't want to leave.”

“That's enough, Ryder,” Dad stated, reaching for her empty plate, “Since you were late, do you want to help me clean up?” Dad questioned, although nobody ever said no when he 'asked' the way he always seemed to do.

Ryder sighed and pushed herself from the table. She didn't bother to spare me a glance as she grabbed Noah's plate from in front of him. “Sure, Dad. I'd love to do the dishes again,” she quipped sarcastically, moving over to dump the plate in the sink before she came back for mine and Micah's.

Noah and I shared a look before we both stood up from the table. I plucked Micah from his seat as Noah raced off towards the stairs. I followed quickly, knowing that Dad and Ryder were going to have one of Dad's private conversations while they cleaned up over dinner.

“You ready for your bath?” I asked Micah as I walked into his bedroom. I set Micah in his crib so that I could grab his towel and some pajamas for the night. Micah screeched happily as I picked him back up and crossed the hall into the bathroom.

Micah sat on the floor as I stuck his baby tub in the actual one and filled it with water. I stripped the child from his clothes and set him carefully in his seat, smiling as he smacked his hands into the water and then clapped happily, something he'd made a habit out of doing recently. I washed his blonde hair thoroughly and chuckled when he laughed as the water cascaded over his head.

“That's my little man,” I cooed as I plucked him from the cooling water, “You're such a good boy, Micah.” I wrapped him in his towel and held him to my chest. I rubbed the water from his skin and hair and then dressed him in a fresh diaper and a onezy with socks to cover his feet.

“Mama,” he said as he wrapped his arm around my neck so that he didn't topple over onto the floor of the bathroom.

I wrapped my arms around his small body. “Yeah, buddy,” I murmured, standing up with him, “I'm right here.” I opened the bathroom door and we crossed the hall into my room instead of his. My bed was a complete mess but I laid Micah on his back and stuffed a pillow under him on either side so he couldn't roll over on his tummy. I crawled onto the bed beside him and laid on my stomach, watching him with tired eyes as he played with his own fingers and tried to pull his black socks off his feet.

“No,” I whispered, putting his sock back on, “Your little toes will get cold.”

He murmured a few sounds and reached for his sock again. He pulled his left one off and dropped in on his stomach. I put it back on his foot again and rubbed his stomach softly.

“All around the world
I said listen, listen what I say now
For every boy and girl
Wanna hear some happy baby talk

Everything is mine
And mine, mine because I choose you
I lose it every time
Just to hear some of your baby talk,”
I sang softly, remembering the old song my dad sang to me when I first started to like music as a child.

“What would you say to mommy making friends?” I asked Micah, “Would it be so bad if mommy spent some time with people her age, too?”

Micah wrapped his fingers around one of mine. His eyes were closed and his breathing labored. I watched as he fell asleep in my bed beside me, completely comfortable and relaxed in my company.

“Does that mean it's okay with you?” I murmured, running the tips of my finger over his soft cheek, “Because I don't wanna do anything that will ever upset you, Micah.”

I left the baby on the bed as I stripped out of my clothes. I pulled on an old pair of basketball shorts and a baggy t'shirt before I gently lifted Micah from my sheets and cradled him against my shoulder. Dad was at the top of the stairs when I stepped out of my room.

“Thanks for the dinner, Dad,” I said softly so I wouldn't wake up Micah, “It was really nice.”

He walked over and wrapped his arms around me. He pressed a kiss against my forehead and then Micah's. He brushed the little boy's curling strands out of his face. “I'm really proud of you, Kiddo. You're turning your life around for the sake of Micah.”

I shrugged my shoulders modestly. “I'm trying to, at least.”

He kissed the top of my head. “If you want to hang out with your new friends one day after school, I'm okay with that,” he said softly, “But I'd really like to meet them first, Cyren, just for the sake of knowing who you're with.”

My eyes widened as I grinned. “I can really go out with Frank and Mikey?” I asked excitedly, still keeping my voice low, “You're seriously going to let me out of the house?”

Dad smiled too as he nodded. “I trust you,” he stated, “Don't make me regret it, Cy.”

I shook my head quickly. “I promise you wont. I'll even bring the guys over to meet you before I hang out with them. Just so you can see how harmless they really are.”

He touched Micah's cheek softly and then nodded for me to go on. He continued down the hall towards his room and I went into Micah's and closed the door behind us. I laid the baby in his crib and watched him for just a couple minutes, trying to ignore the fact that I had homework I needed to do.

Reluctantly, I left Micah and headed back to my room to start my homework. I could hear Noah's video games through the walls as I pulled out my math book and got started on the assigned problems. Being out of school hadn't affected me much seeing as I was retaking the last semester of my sophomore year in order to be on the right track for junior year. That's why at seventeen I was shoved into classes with fifteen and sixteen year olds.

I finished my math within an hour and moved onto the rest of it. By the time I finished I was begging for sleep and sick of looking in textbooks and notebooks. High school still seemed so trivial when my son was sleeping in the room right next to mine. I didn't know how people actually enjoyed the time they spent locked in a building for eight hours.

By ten o'clock I'd shoved all the books off my bed and crawled under the covers. My earphones were stuffed into my ears although the sound of Noah's games had stopped hours before when Dad went in there and shut him down.

My eyes closed without my permission and I struggled to stay awake as I thought about school and my new friends. Sure, Ryder wasn't ever going to be my best friend like we were when we were young, but Dad's quick approval made me realize that there were three thousand six hundred and fifty seven other possible friends at the school and if none of those worked out, Mikey and Frank were okay on their own, too.

I listened to the sound of my iPod as I drifted to sleep. I knew morning would come too quickly and I'd have to leave Micah behind for just the second time, but right now, half-awake and half-not, I was completely content with my world and what it had become in the last few months.

My bedroom door creaked as it opened. “Cyren, are you awake?”

I rolled over and looked at the figure in my doorway. “Yeah, what's up, Ryder?” I asked groggily, “Is everything okay?”

I could barely see her nod in the darkness. “Yeah,” she answered quietly, “I just wanted to let you know that I don't blame you for telling Dad about Jason. It probably just slipped out, right?”

“I didn't tell,” I informed her, blinking in the darkness, “Noah did.”

She touched the edge of my bed and I moved my legs over as she sat down. “Really?”

“Mhm,” I hummed against my pillow, losing the talent of talking to tiredness that settled in my brain.

Ryder stood up. Through the darkness I could see the shape of her arms crossed. “Oh. Well thanks,” she murmured, “You can go back to sleep now.”

I rolled back over and pressed my cheek against my pillow. “No problem,” I muttered, listening for the sound of the door latching behind her. I yanked my blanket back up over my should and nestled my face back into the cotton fabric of my pillow case. Things between my sister and I were never going to be perfect, but I guess I only had myself to blame for that.
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