Status: Coming soon...

Parts of Me

Fifteen Years Old

Walking out of the hospital, I don’t feel any better than I did when I woke this morning. Instead, I feel even more anxious than I did entering the building. Emily’s family said it was an accidental overdose. She ‘accidentally’ took too many sleeping pills during a bad bout of depression. Apparently the break up with James had effected her more than she let on a couple months ago and eventually, it drove her over the edge. Not enough to try to take her own life (again), but to the point where she was thinking about it. She only wanted enough pills to make her feel numb, she said. I think she needs the boys now more than ever, but after last yesterdays’ horrible afternoon I really don’t know how they’re going to take this.
I’ve decided to tell them everything. I don’t want to hide the truth from Phoenix, either. They deserve to know exactly why their mom left and why I did too. I don’t want them to, but I’ve never lied to them, aside from this. If they’re going to trust me and talk to me about certain things as they get older, I want them to know it goes both ways.

I get into my truck and drive home, taking the longest possible route. When I left that morning, the boys were still in bed and I’d just managed to dodge the questions. I hope they weren’t bombarding Dakota with them; this was something that I needed to do on my own. They’re my kids and they deserve that much.

Walking back into the house at midday, I was nervous about what was going to come next. Had Mesa already told Phoenix? Did he even want to speak to me at this point? Had I really fucked it all up?
I make it inside and find Dakota baking in the kitchen. She’s making her famous raspberry and white chocolate chip cookies, Mesa and Phoenix’s favourite. Okay so she’s trying to sweeten them up after I destroy them with all of my shit parenting. Good to know she’s on my side.

“Hey sweetheart, how was she?” Dakota asks softly, immediately coming to give me a hug.

“She was…well she was sleeping when I got there, obviously exhausted. But she’s stable. I’m going to go back tonight.” I sigh, running a hand through my hair. “I didn’t realise how bad she’d gotten, D.”

“Of course you wouldn’t have, babe.” Dakota mumbles, “You distanced yourself, and you needed to do that. Don’t feel guilty.”

“I can’t help it,” I confess, rubbing the back of my neck awkwardly. “She’s the mother of my children, y’know? I’ll always have that…protective feeling towards her.”

“That’s completely understandable, John. If I were in your position, I probably would too.” Dakota nods supportively. When has she really been anything but?

“I don’t know if I can do this,” I admit, wrapping my arms around her tiny waist. “Maybe you should do it.”

“John,” she sighs, rubbing my chest. “This is something you need to do. If it makes you feel better, I’ll hang around the kitchen, but I can’t do this for you. This is something you need to do yourself. You’re their flesh and blood. It’s all you, baby.”

I take a deep breath and nod, knowing she’ll be around makes it a little easier, but I’m still scared shitless about talking to my own kids. Forget the sex talk- this is the worst conversation I could have with them. But if I don’t do it now, it’ll only get worse.

Giving Dakota one last kiss, I head upstairs and go to Mesa’s room first. I knock loudly but he doesn’t answer, even though there’s no music this time. The house has been uncomfortably silent ever since yesterday afternoon and I hate it. I open the door slowly to find him reading a magazine on his bed. He looks up at me, rolls his eyes and returns to the page in front of him.

“Mesa,” I sigh, pushing his door wide open. “Come downstairs. I have to talk to you and your brother.”

“I’m busy.” He mumbles, flipping the page. He’s barely reading the thing, and throws it across the room after stopping on a page. I swear I see my bands’ picture fly across the room with it. Little shit.

“Come downstairs, Mesa.” I ask firmly, sending him a look. He rolls his eyes at me but does as I ask, pushing past me on his way out of his room.

“What, are you going to leave us again?” He mutters beneath his breath. I don’t respond, knowing it’ll only end in a fight between us. Phoenix doesn’t need the Mesa-version of what happened.

Heading towards’ Phoenix’s room, it’s easier to get him out than it is his brother. He too is on his bed reading some magazine.

“Hey kid, you wanna come downstairs? I need to talk to you and your brother.” I mumble.

Phoenix gets out of bed, walking over to me. “You kept me home from school so we could talk? This has to be serious.”

“It’s a little serious,” I nod softly, taking in the last few minutes before my youngest decides he hates me too. “C’mon.”

He gives me a strange look but heads downstairs. I take a deep breath and follow him down to the kitchen, where he takes a seat beside his brother. Mesa glares down at the bench in front of him, causing Phoenix to look up at me with a confused expression.

“What’s going on?” He asks.

I look over at Dakota and she nods, pushing me to go through with it. I look back to the boys who wait patiently. “I-I want to talk to you about your mom.”

“Dad, we’ve already-“

I cut Phoenix off, not wanting to go into that discussion again. “It’s not about you guys’ seeing her. You deserve to know why she left.”

Phoenix shifts uncomfortably in his seat. He’s never been fond of talking about that. I think out of the two of them, he’s a little more fragile when it comes to talking about why Emily left. Mesa just got angry, to hide the hurt. I know this because for a long time I did the same thing.

“We don’t have to.” Phoenix mumbles.

“No, we do. Because something has happened.” I say slowly. This time they both look up.

“Like what?” Mesa asks flatly.

“Boys, when your mom and I were together,” I start, taking a deep breath. It doesn’t matter how many I seem to take, it doesn’t make me feel any better about it. “I didn’t know, but she had a lot of…issues with her health.”

“Mental,” Dakota pipes up. “Mental health.”

Mesa shifts awkwardly in his seat, looking away.

Phoenix frowns. “Like what?”

What does he mean, like what? She had almost everything!

“When she was pregnant with you two, we were really stoked on having kids,” I start, ignoring the scowl from Mesa, showing he didn’t believe me. “But as she went through with the pregnancy, her anxiety increased, to the point where it made her sick.”

Retelling the story to them; makes me realise all of the things I’d missed due to my own nerves. How had I not noticed all of this before? I was proving to be not just a crap father, but also a crap boyfriend to Em when we were together. How had I even managed to keep a girl like Dakota? If anything, I’m a let down to both my parents. After all they've done for me, is this really what I have to show for the way they've raised me?

“How could you not have noticed that? Didn’t you love her?” Mesa shoots accusingly.

“Mesa,” Dakota scolds, shaking her head at him.

“She hid it well,” I admit, “we were young at the time and we didn’t realise how much we were taking on. She got worse and worse, to the point where her anxiety and stress is what caused you two to come premature.” I say firmly, taking a deep breath. I’ll never forget the day they came into the world. Phoenix wasn’t crying, he was quiet and still. Mesa was crying louder than what I thought humanly possible. The weeks I wasn’t there, they went through a lot of medical issues- I feel like a horrible person for not being there for them, for leaving them on their own at a time like that. They must have been so scared, but I put myself first. I’ll never forgive myself for what I did.
I wish I could go back and never let them go. It’s all too hard now.

“So she left because she was sick?” Phoenix frowns. “She could have gotten help.”

“It wasn’t that easy, kid,” I sigh, leaning forward against the kitchen bench. “Your mom…she was really unwell. Her illness took over and she wasn’t thinking properly. When she left, she…”

Out of the corner of my eye, I notice Dakota shaking her head. I don’t need to tell them about that. If Em wants them to know, she should tell them.

“Her health declined. Badly. She wasn’t fit to be a mom and she decided that leaving would be better for us.” I say painfully. “She left so her emotional burden wouldn’t harm you two, or me.”

“It wouldn’t have been a burden,” Phoenix mumbles quietly. “You can’t help it if you have that.”

I nod in agreement. “I know, that’s what I said when she came back, but her head was in a different place and she thought she was doing what was best for you guys. She didn’t want to leave you boys but she felt like she didn’t have a choice.”

Mesa looks up. “So what was your excuse?”

His words hang in the air and I find myself staring daggers straight into his face. Phoenix looks between us in confusion as I try to gather the right words. Dakota stands behind me, shocked Mesa would even bring it up like this. I bet she can see how much he hates me.

I knew I wasn’t just imagining things. “Mesa-“

“No come on, you gave us moms’ excuse for bailing. Now I feel kinda bad about hating her. You should have told us the truth, dad. We’ve spent fifteen years hating the wrong parent.” Mesa seethes.

“What are you talking about?” Phoenix frowns. “Why are you being such a dick?”

“Phoenix don’t call your brother a-“

“Mesa, come on,” I sigh, cutting Dakota off.

“No.” Mesa snaps. “This whole time you’ve been acting like a hero- like the one who never left, the one who stayed. But really you’re just like her. You did what she did and you lied to us since the beginning!”

“What the fuck is going on?!” Phoenix yells over his brother, before turning to me. “Somebody tell me!”

I couldn’t get the words out of my mouth, and my oldest seemed to take that as his one shot to turn his brother against me.

“Dad left us when we were born. For weeks! Those photos of us as newborns? With all those fucking wires? He wasn’t even there! He left us days after we were born!”

“Mesa…” Dakota murmurs, a sad expression washing over her.

My heart breaks as the tears fill in Phoenix’s eyes. “W-why-I thought…you said you’d never leave us.”

“Boys, I was young. I was overwhelmed with raising two babies on my own. I had no idea what I was doing so Aunt Ash and Uncle Tim took care of you for the first three weeks. I had to clear my head in order to come back and raise you! You’re too young to understand-“

“You said that when we were three.” Mesa scoffs.

“You also said you’d never leave.” Phoenix mumbles, getting up from his seat. “You’re a liar.”


“You lied to us!” He yells, silencing the kitchen. Not that there was much that I wanted to talk about. This was all falling to shit faster than I could pick up the pieces. Any worthy father wouldn’t let his family fall apart. My father never let that happen. But at forty-two years old, I should know how to raise my own family without having to go knocking on my parents’ door all the time.

This time Dakota doesn’t try and save me and I know it’s all up to me.

But I can’t get the words out and it’s then that I know I’ve failed. The way Phoenix looks at me, tells me everything. I’m as much their father as Em is their mother.

Mesa sits at the kitchen bench while Phoenix leaves the room, visibly upset. “Dakota, can you please take me to Grandma and Grandpa’s?” He asks quietly, not looking at me.

“Mesa, I think you need to stay home and listen to your father. I know that hearing this must be hard, but your dad did have his reasons for going away when he did. I don’t think you fully understand the pressure he had at such a young age.” Dakota responds softly, coming around to put a hand on his shoulder.

“I’ll call them myself.” Mesa mumbles as he leaves his seat. I try one last time, hoping to change his mind- or something.


“Go suck it.”

I don’t know how to talk to my kids. I don’t know how to be a good father. I don’t know how to do anything right anymore.

I wait patiently in Emily’s room, waiting for her to wake up or show some sign of consciousness. She’s in a stable condition, but due to the amount of sleeping pills she consumed overnight, she’s been out of it ever since. Seeing her hooked up to so many machines terrifies me, and it brings out the protective nature that I have over her. I don’t like seeing her like this.


I look up as her eyes flutter open slowly and she turns her head towards me. She’s weak but moving, and that’s all I could ask for right now.

“Hey Em,” I whisper, moving my chair closer to her bed. “You feeling like shit?”

She laughs, then winces in pain and starts coughing. “Don’t make me laugh.”

“That was more of an insult, but take it as a joke if you like.” I chuckle, pushing her hair behind her ear. She holds my hand tightly and I don’t pull away. Right now she needs some form of stability and if she finds that in me, than I’m not going to bail on her. There are no romantic feelings between us; we’re old friends with kids. It’s complicated, but I’m determined to make it work as naturally and as positively as possible.

“My head kills.” She winces, squeezing her eyes shut.

“They were going to give you pain killers to your own control, but I think the nurse has to monitor your intake. You’re on suicide watch, darlin’.” I explain softly.

Rolling her eyes, Emily falls back into her pillow. “They’re overreacting.”

“Hardly,” I scoff, shaking my head. “Em, you could have died, accident or not.”

“It was an accident, John,” she states firmly, narrowing her eyes at me. “I did not try to kill myself again.”

My heart stings at that last word, but I try not to show it. “Was he really worth all of those pills?”

“Of course he wasn’t,” she mumbles, her eyes filling with tears. “Nothing is worth those pills. Those pills aren’t worth losing my only chance at meeting my kids.”

I feel horrible. Here I am fucking around as a parent, when here she is, fighting to stay alive to meet them. The guilt overrides me and I wonder if maybe we messed up at the beginning; maybe I should have been the one to leave instead of her. They would be so much happier with Em instead of me.

“You just focus on getting better, Em. That’s all you can do.” I nod softly. “I’m pretty sure they’ll be wanting to move in with you soon, with the rate I’m going as a parent.”

Emily frowns, clearly confused. “What are you talking about?”

I look at my hands. “They found out that I left them as babies.”

“So? You came back-“

“Since they were little, when they’d ask about why they don’t have a mom, I just said it was because you left. They’d get really scared that I’d leave, so I always had to reassure them that I’d never leave, that…that daddy won’t leave them.” By the end I’m choking on my tears, remembering all the times that I’d have to reassure them that before bed as I’d tuck them in. It made them feel safe to know I wasn’t going anywhere. Now all of that has been taken away from them. I’m probably a stranger to them now.

“Oh John,” she sighs, placing a hand on my cheek. “I’m sure it’s going to be okay.”

I sit up straight and take a deep breath, trying to pull myself together. “Mesa said he’s been hating the wrong parent all this time.”

“H-he hated me?” Emily asks, surprised.

“He hates me more.” I shrug.

“John they don’t hate you, they’re just confused.” Emily sighs. She goes to move on her bed, but one of her hands is strapped to the side of her bed. Her nails have been cut short, too. “Did you tell them about me?”

I nod. “But not about the…attempt. If you want them to know, you can tell them that.”

Shaking her head, Emily rolls her eyes. “I don’t want them to know about that. I don’t want them to think it’s their fault.”

“I just said you weren’t well. Mesa than provoked me and asked me what my excuse was.” I muse.

“He’s a daring kid.” Emily chuckles.

“This is not a time to laugh.” I scoff.

Emily sends me a look. “John, come on. They’re fifteen years old. They’re going to ‘hate’ you and they’re going to make you mad. Teenage boys are not angels. This will pass, it’s just growing pains.”

“Well it’s a next level of growing pains.” I mutter.

“So we’ve got a few more issues than your usual family.” Emily nods slowly, “But that doesn’t make you guys any less of one. Just be open with Dakota and things will be fine.”

“You sound so optimistic for someone on suicide watch.” I state.

She shrugs. “It wasn’t an attempt.”

I nod, standing. “Well I need to get back to my perfect family.” I mutter sarcastically. “Y’know if you’d stayed I wouldn’t have to go through this.”

“If I stayed you’d have left,” Emily points out. “doesn’t that somehow make me mother of the year?”

“It’s good having you back Em,” I tell her softly, putting my hand over hers. “Stop doing stupid things.”

“Got it.” She nods, her eyes growing heavy again. “Take care of them, John.”

“Always.” I nod, leaning down to kiss her cheek. “Take care of yourself.”

I leave the hospital for the second time that day, heading out to my truck feeling the slightest bit better. Not a whole lot, though. I know when I get home I’ll need to talk to Phoenix. I haven’t said anything to him since he walked out, and I’m worried this is going to hurt him deeper than it has Mesa.
When I pull up in the driveway, Phoenix is waiting on the front porch, which surprises me.

“Hey kid,” I call as I lock up the truck. “What are you doing out here?”

“I’m sorry,” he rushes out, jumping up from the porch step. “I’m sorry about before dad, I didn’t mean what I said. I was angry.”

“Don’t apologise kid, it’s my fault.” I sigh, wrapping my arms around him. “I should have been honest.”

“I get why you didn’t tell us, I do, dad. I would have done the same thing.” Phoenix mumbles.

“Sit for a minute,” I tell him, stepping on to the porch step. I go to sit down but hear one of my bones click. “Actually let’s go sit on the back porch. Your old man can’t go that low without a warm up.”

Instead of going through the house like the weak man I am, I lead Phoenix around the side gate. I want to have the chance to talk to him before his brother tries to convince him otherwise. I know I’ve been dishonest, but I think I deserve that at the very least.

We sit down on the porch swing Dakota and I had built shortly after she moved in. It’s similar to the one my folks have, and I remember swinging the boys to sleep some nights when I would stay there with them. Just my babies in their diapers, skin to skin like in the early days. I really miss those days.

“I didn’t tell you two because I didn’t want you to think I was unreliable, or unstable. Your mother and I left for very different reasons, Phe.” I explain slowly. “She left because of her illness.”

“I understand that,” Phoenix nods painfully, pulling his legs up under his chin. He was still so much smaller than his brother, something he’s always carried with him. “If she stayed, she could have…y’know, gotten a lot worse.”

I look away, nodding. “Yeah. I agree with you.”

“So…why did you go?” He asks quietly, looking at his hands.

I let out a deep sigh. How are you supposed to explain to your kid the reasons that you left them at birth?

“Phoenix, when me and your mom had you and your brother, I was twenty seven. We were together for four years before we had you two. I was thinking about marrying her one day, but kids were way off. When I was in my twenties, it was all about my friends and the band, y’know? Settling down wasn’t something I wanted to do at that time. So when she told me she was pregnant, I freaked out. I wasn’t in the right place to just…start a family. It wasn’t in the plan, y’know? Let alone two kids.” I sit back, extending my arm over the back of the swing.

“You were both scared.” Phoenix nods.

I nod. “And then she left. After what was supposed to be the greatest thing to happen to us, y’know, us starting a family and having you two…she left. I was just beginning to feel secure with everything, and she leaves in the middle of the night. All I got was a note saying ‘I can’t do this’. I woke up the following morning with you boys asleep in the NICU, and her bed empty. I’d never been more afraid in my life.” I confess weakly. “I was not prepared for that.”

“How did you manage to forgive her after all of that?” Phoenix asks, looking over at me.

I rub my jaw. “I guess once she came out and told me everything, I realised that ten years of anger was enough. In order to make things easier for you two, I had to be mature and grown up about your mom, regardless of whether or not you wanted anything to do with her.”

“So if you were so mad at her for leaving, why did you do it?”
This kid could be a reporter with all of his incredibly hard questions. But I guess that’s something that sets him apart from his brother. Phoenix likes being in the know; he likes having all of the information. Maybe it’s his way of feeling secure.

“I left with the intention on coming back,” I tell him, placing my hand on the back of his neck and giving him a light squeeze. “At that time, I felt that the best thing for me to do, was to get away and sort myself out in my head, in order to come back stronger and be a father to you two. The best way to do that was to leave you in hands I’d trust my own life in, and escape somewhere where I could clear my head. It was a lot to adjust to and at that time in my life I had trouble dealing with everything. I think I would’ve ended up in a downward spiral if I hadn’t have done what I did.”

Phoenix nods, looking across the yard. His lip shakes but he bites down on it, and it’s then that I know he’s getting emotional. “I wish we could just have a normal family.”

I drape my arms around my son and pull him into me. “I don’t want you to hate your family, kid. I know we’ve come with our burdens, but you and your brother are the best thing to come out of that mess. This is what we’ve been given and I don’t want you to hate it. You’ve been blessed with great people around you.”

“A non-existent mom and a douchebag older brother?” Phoenix mumbles, wiping his eyes on his shirt sleeve.

I send him a disapproving look. “Hey, come on. I’m talking about your grandparents. Your godparents, Dakota- your loving twin brother. And hey, you’ll always have a mom if you ever need her.”

“You didn’t mention yourself.” Phoenix states, looking up at me.

I let out a laugh. “I think there are better examples than myself, kid.”

“You’re one of the best, dad.” He mumbles, resting his chin back down onto his knees. “Don’t listen to Mesa. He’s being a-“

“Don’t call your brother a dick.”

Phoenix rolls his eyes. “He is, though. He’s so bitter and he needs to get over himself.”

I shake my head. “He has a right to feel the way he does, kid. It’s a hard thing to go through; but you guys are stronger than you think.”

“We’re kids, dad. I’m trying to start a band and Mesa’s flunking his classes. We’re not that special.” Phoenix mumbles.

I can’t help but scoff. “You are incredibly special, Phe. These are just growing pains; you’re finally old enough to start understanding who you are and where you came from. There’s more to your family than just a single dad and a shit-ton of uncles.” I chuckle, squeezing his shoulder. “You have your mom; a whole other family that you’d be crazy not to take advantage of. Sure, you’ll always have Dakota’s family too, but it’s not going to hurt looking into the family behind the woman that gave you life.”

Phoenix nods slowly. “I’m thinking about it.”

“That’s all I can ask for, bud.” I nod softly.

“Well. I have to go finish an assignment for English,” Phoenix sighs as he sits up. “Thanks, for being honest, dad.”

I full my youngest in for a tight hug. They don’t smell like warm milk and baby powder like they used to, more like teenage boys and my aftershave. “Thank you for talking to me, Phoenix. I want you to do that when ever you need to, alright? You can come to me with anything, I hope you know that.” I tell him firmly.

“Okay dad.” He nods as we pull away.

“I love you kid,” I sigh.

“Love you too dad. Don’t worry about Mesa. He’s just…figuring out who he is.” Phoenix states wisely as
he gets up from the chair.

I watch as he heads inside, passing Dakota who decides to fill his place and join me on the swing. “Hey darlin’.” I sigh, pulling her into my arms. I don’t like having that empty space next to me; I just need people around me right now.

“Hey sweetheart,” she coos back, kissing my cheek. “How’d that go? You and Phoenix weren’t yelling so I’m thinking good?”

“Pretty good,” I nod. “He listened to me and let me explain it all to him. We’re on the same page.”

Dakota nods understandingly. “I think it was good he let the anger out before. He needed that.”

“You’re right,” I agree, “him and Mesa are going to handle things differently, I need to remember that.”

“Of course.” Dakota hums. “They’re going through lots of different things right now and this is just going to be confusing. They’re strong boys, though. They get that from their dad.”

I appreciate what Dakota’s doing, but it doesn’t change the way I feel about everything. I still feel like I’ve failed the boys (or Mesa at least) with my dishonesty and possibly ruined our relationship for good. I’m not just losing the most important parts of me, I’m losing parts of myself. I know they say the teenage years can be the hardest part, but I didn’t know it could be this hard.
If I couldn’t get through this, how was I supposed to cope with anything else?

“It’s going to be okay, bub.” Dakota hums reassuringly as she kisses my cheek.

I sigh into the top of her head and hold her close. She seems to be the only thing giving me hope at this point.

I can’t shake the feeling, no matter how hard I try.
♠ ♠ ♠
Next age is sixteen...probably the biggest moments will be happening in the next couple of chapters, more so chapters 20 & 21, so get ready for that ;)
Thoughts so far though??? The boys are getting older and growing apart, is that going to be the beginning of a certain someone's downfall?