Me and my buds were having a sleepover and I was destroying them at Super Clash Bros.
“POW!” I hooted. “In your face, Ro!”
My best friend, Rowan Atsukari laughed. “You won’t survive long. Watch this!”
Like a boss, he did a double down clash smash on my Wigglypuff. “Dude. Not fair.”
“That’s what you get for being so cocky.”
“Yeah, but I’m beating both of you,” Clarke Soriano, my other best bud said. “See? I’m at 94%. Way better than you two.”
“Whatever,” I chided. Charging up my Wigglypuff, I did a super clash smash by making him go berserk. This knocked Clarke’s Jackman off the board. “HA!”
“Not cool,” Clarke moaned.
Annihilating them in a matter of minutes, I said, “Hey, I’m hungry. Let’s see if our cook, Liz, has made something for us.”
Ro shook his head. “You’re so lucky to have a cook and live in a mansion.”
I lurched my head back. “Mansion? This? You should see my grandpops place. Now THAT’S a mansion. And besides, both of my dads can’t even make popcorn. We need a cook to survive.”
My friends laughed.
Cuddling up with my husband, watching a movie, I sighed.
“What’s the matter, babe?” Knight asked.
“We haven’t heard from the boys in hours. I bet they’re destroying his room. Guess I’ll go check on them.”
Trying to get up, Knight stopped me. “Settle down, Alex. What can they possibly do to his room?”
“You’re forgetting the last time he had Ro and Clarke over. They reenacted the Simwars of 1320 and he ended up with a black eye and tons of holes in his wall.”
Pulling my face toward him, Knight said, “Yeah, and they had loads of fun. Who cares? Walls can be fixed and bruises heal.” Leaning toward me, he added, “Just pay attention to me. Twelve year olds can take care of themselves.”
I guessed he was right. They weren’t going to kill each other. I nuzzled in closer and gave him a warm kiss. Tingles trailed through my body, leaving me wanting more.
“Why do you do this to me?” I asked.
Suddenly, it sounded as if the sim-army itself was pounding down the stairs.
“Crud,” I moaned. “Thwarted by the cavalry.”
Kissing my cheek, Knight said, “I’ll take a raincheck.”
Several scrapings of the barstools later, I decided to make myself busy, helping Liz with dinner. She never allowed me close to the main course, but I could at least open a box of brownie mix. She wouldn’t let me do anything else.
“See? It’s ready. What did I tell you guys?” Jackson said, bounding toward the spaghetti.
Dakota was sleeping over at her grandpop’s house, so the boys were extra excited tonight. No getting in trouble about noise.
After I’d made sure all got a plate of food, Ro said, “I like your shirt, Mr. Day. You wear the coolest stuff.”
That kid was always complimenting me. If I didn’t know better, I’d say he had a crush. “Thanks, Ro. I hope you like the dinner. Liz is a pretty good cook.”
“What are you talking about?” Liz huffed. “I’m an amazing cook. Now if you two lunkheads are done speaking about me as if I wasn’t around, I need to get home to my own lunkheads.”
Chuckling, I said, “Sure, Liz. Have a great night.”
To keep the preteen monsters from even thinking about setting Jackson’s room on fire, I suggested a game of Wake the Llama.
“Take a log from the bottom, Jackson,” Ro suggested. “That’s the safe move.”
I raised my eyebrows. That’s the worst thing to do, but Jack was onto him. “You think I’m stupid, dickface?”
“Language,” I warned. Not that it made much difference. He and Knight were really bad about it. I tried to clean it up around Dakota at least. I had an awful nightmare that Dakota was going to get sent home from preschool because she cussed like a sailor. Poor girl was doomed living with a bunch of men.
Unfortunately, Clarke did exactly what Ro had suggested and the whole thing collapsed. Clarke was a brilliant musician, even at his age, but he wasn’t exactly a genius in anything else.
“Sorry, buddy,” I said. Then I whispered, “Just a tip. Don’t ever listen to Ro.”
The following day, after Ro and Clarke went home, I bundled up Dakota, wanting our family to head out to the new city park in San Myshuno. It was cold but crisp and I knew we’d have a blast watching people and listening to the buskers.
“But Daddy you promised,” Dakota whined. She was so cute. She had me wrapped around her little finger and she knew it. The girl knew what she wanted and how she wanted it even at this age. Everything had to be pink and girlie. I had no clue about all the stuff she liked, but if it had a princess on it, she was all over it.
“But sweetheart, we’re going to the park. We don’t have time for a tea party. I’ll play with you tomorrow. Okay?”
Her eyes flashed. “You will? You’ll play anything?”
Uh oh. I had no clue what was in her little mind. I swallowed. “Well...within reason.”
“Okay...then we’ll play dress up. You’ll be the princess and I’ll be the queen and I’ll get to tell you what to do.”
I shook my head. “Daddy will never be a princess, sweetie. What about a prince?”
She wrinkled her nose. “Princes are ugly. They don’t wear sparkles or jewels or anything fun. I think you’d be pretty as a princess. Remember, we don’t make rules on what boys or girls wear.”
Oh, she was a crafty one. Using my own policies against me. I was stuck. Oh, God. Knight was not going to let me hear the end of it. “Okay, ladybug, but only this once.”
She jumped out of her seat and gave me the biggest hug. “Thank you, Daddy.”
That warm squeeze made dressing up in jewels worth it. I hoped. Not that she had any gowns that would fit me. I wasn’t worried about that. But then I remembered Jianna sent her home with a bunch of her old makeup and my stomach sank. I was definitely going to pay Jianna back for that one somehow. I’m sure she put Dakota up to this jerk idea.
At the park, we found a place where a busker was all set up.
“Can we get some hot dogs, Pops?” Dakota asked. She knew not to ask me because the food here was all cr*ap. Usually, Knight had my back on that, though.
“No, princess, we brought our own food,” Knight said.
“Can we at least get a coke?” Jackson asked. “I’m thirsty.”
I relented. “Oh, okay, but you get your sister some juice. She’s too young to drink a pile of sugar.”
Waiting on the busker to start, we played with the kids.
Finally, Jackson got them some drinks and the busker started his music.
Snuggling close together, I mused at how happy I was. Our family couldn’t be more perfect. It was something I’d never imagined for myself when I was growing up. I figured I wouldn’t find love, and that I wouldn’t have any children. I definitely didn’t think I’d find someone who would love me for who I was like Knight. And our unusual life choice didn’t seem to matter to anyone. It was all surreal.
“Hey,” I said to my parents, “the guys texted me. They’re here. Can I hang out with them?”
“Yeah,” Pops said. “But stick around where we can find you.” He pointed. “No running off or I’ll take your phone.”
I stuck my hands in my pockets. They’d never forgive me for that one time I got lost digging for treasure when I was eight. God, that was YEARS ago. “I won’t. We’re just hanging out, fooling around.”
“Okay, have fun,” Dad said. He held Pops and Dakota close. Being out in public with my fathers made me uneasy. I mean, my friends never said anything, but I knew it was different. People stared at us all the time. I felt bad for even thinking like that. I loved my fathers but hated the fact that people didn’t understand us. It sucked.
Walking up to my friends, Ro, Clarke, and Manu, I noticed a new kid with them.
“Hey, Jackson,” Ro said, waving.
“Hey,” I said.
“This is Paxton. He’s new. Just moved down the street from me.”
“Hi,” I said, a little shy.
“What are you doing here?” Paxton asked.
I didn’t understand what he meant, but I went with what I thought. “Um...I’m with my family?” I pointed to my fathers and sister behind me.
His eyes widened as he stifled a laugh. “They can’t be your real parents. Where’s your mom?”
Stunned, I stammered, “Uh...um...yes they are. They’re my real parents. I don’t have a mom.”
“Dude, everyone has a mom. Where is she? My parents got a divorce so my mom lives in Bridgeport and I live with my dad and stepmom.”
No one had ever asked me that before. I guessed because everyone knew me at school. This guy was friggin’ nosy. “Listen, I told you, I don’t have a mom, so back off!”
He flung his arms up. “Whoa, dude, you’re going crazy here. I’m just asking a reasonable question. You’ve had science. Everyone has a mom and a dad. Just say you don’t know who your mom is and it’s all good.”
Ro stepped in. “Um...Paxton? He really doesn’t have a mom, so leave him alone.”
I exploded. “If you must know, asshole, one of my dads used to be a girl, so shut up.”
At this, the creep started busting a gut. “Now I’ve heard everything. No way one of those burly men used to be a girl.”
I wanted to punch him, but his words stung too much. I didn’t know what to do.
Taking Paxton by the arm, Ro pulled him away. “Let’s go, Paxton.” Giving me a sad look, they all walked off. I couldn’t believe my best friends left me like that. And with that d*ouche.
I didn't want it to get to me, but by the time I walked over to my parents, seeing them was too much. My throat thickened and hot tears started behind my eyes. I couldn’t stop it.
I heard some whimpering behind us. When I turned around, to my shock, I saw Jackson crying behind us. The kid was tough. He never cried. Something bad must have happened.
Instantly, Knight hustled over to him and asked, “What’s the matter, bud?”
Through muffled tears, he cried, “Why can’t we be a normal family?”
Hugging him, Knight said, “Oh, Jackson, we are a normal family. Who told you we weren’t?”
Rubbing his back, Knight said, “You’re exaggerating. Not everyone thinks we’re not normal. What happened?”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
I knew one of those little punks said something about us. I couldn’t believe it. They’ve always been nice. Ro, Clarke and Manu had been to the house tons of times. Why would they say anything now?
But I knew this was only the beginning for my kids. How blind was I to think everyone accepted our way of life. My heart ached for my son and I knew it would be a matter of time for Dakota to feel it.
Why was the world so cruel?