This story may seem like a roller coaster at first. But, I assure you, it has a happy ending. Just as Cinderella marries Prince Charming and The Three Little Pigs outsmart the wolf, things will end perfectly.
Our story takes place in San Francisco. The year is 2012. If we look closer we can see a boy by the name of Liam Jones. He is fourteen and liked by many people at his school. After his biological dad left everyone seemed to pay more attention to him. Sadly, his mom got remarried after he left. The man she married was named James Hooligan. He was as cold-hearted as any villain in any story. To start off with, he was way older than Liam’s mom. Apparently this man had never heard of deodorant. The smell of cigarettes and beer clung to him. His hair was constantly a greasy, matted mess, and showers were unheard of in his realm. There isn't much more explanation I can give you except that he is very gross. Liam on the other hand is very clean. Even though he’s only in grade eight, he’s quiet and manly. It's a pity his dad left such a blessing. He is very handsome. With hazel eyes, and dirty blond hair he gives off the stereotypical California boy. His muscles are toned perfectly and when he smiles his dimples show. When you think of perfect, you are defining Liam Jones.
Walking through the crowded halls at Francisco Middle School no one would notice the cliques and who was a ‘somebody’ and who wasn’t. At first glance, my school looks picture perfect. Good teachers, nice looking students. Outside it even looks perfect. I’m not gonna lie, school rocks. But, when you have to walk by the same people getting bloody noses from my buddy Justin you kinda know what to expect. This guy is buff. He has everything I want. A mom, dad and everything any teen boy would want. The iPhone 11, Brand name clothes, an adorable dog and his dad promised him a Porsche 911 for his sixteenth birthday. Yes, he’s spoiled and I should be thankful I’m not rude and self-centered. It’s hard though. I have an iPhone 6S. And my mom doesn’t talk about me getting a car when I’m sixteen.
I guess we have money, some people say we’re loaded, I’m not gonna agree with that though. I guess that’s ‘cause she’s a vet. At WorldPet Hospital. she doesn't get home till 7:30. I get some money from her for my weekly Dons run. McNuggets with Poutine make up my dinner on Wednesday’s. When she gets home, I make sure that James doesn’t talk to her. I love my mom but I don’t get why she married James. He is the total opposite of her. She’s cherry, beautiful and everything a woman should be. James is not a good match for her. He never showers and smells like rotten eggs 24/7. The thing that really bothers me, is that my mom sleeps with that heap of garbage. When I wake up he’s at the supper table with beer cans. Empty and full. I can’t say that he’s ever done anything specifically mean to me. But, I swear he looks at me with a certain gleam in his eye that he saves for me. And me only.
When I think about my bio dad, I can only picture his smile. His white teeth would blind you. He always smelled like Axe. But, nothing too overpowering, just the right amount. I got my dimples from him. My height is also from him. Sometimes I catch my mom looking at me while I’m doing my homework. When I look up, she always says “you look so much like your dad, it hurts.” then as she turns away, her hand wipes at her eyes. She doesn’t know that I know she misses him. The night he left, he wasn’t himself. He came home from the bar in a drunken rage and slapped my mom. She fell to the floor in shock. I was terrified as I should be. I didn’t know who this monster was. He wasn’t my father. Not this man standing in the doorway. Or anyone I knew for that matter. He was a stranger in his own house. I am ashamed to say that I was the one to tell him to leave. On his way out the door he screamed out “I hate you Alison. Our son is becoming everything I didn’t want him to be!”
My mom crumpled to the ground once again, weeping. My heart was broken. The only man I looked up to had said I was everything he didn’t want me to be. This hurt. Especially coming from my own father. I say he’s a monster because the man that came in the back door wasn’t my dad. I wait every day to see if he’s gonna walk in that back door and apologize. This fantasy isn’t coming true. Everyone tells me to give up because he’s dead. But he’s not. There’s no way. He’s coming back, I can feel it.
Today, the best thing happened. James freaked out at me and said he was gonna leave if I kept disrespecting him. So, I did just that. I disrespected him. I packed up his cigarettes, booze, clothes and threw them out of the window onto the street. He came back from the bar, screamed and cussed for a couple of minutes. Then he picked up his stuff and left. I was so happy! The next day, mom didn’t even have to spray me with water to wake me up. I didn’t hit the snooze button once. For breakfast, I made pancakes for mom and I. By the time I had to leave, she had finally noticed that James was gone, and gave me a hug. Her perfect face reflected relief as she handed me my bag. Ten minutes later I was at school. When I saw my bros Justin, Raphael and Riley, I ran up to them and announced the good news. We slapped each other’s backs and yelled: “let’s go!” That earned us some confused looks from the teachers and some cute girls looked our way. I winked at Amy Sullivan who in return, blushed and looked away. I could tell this was gonna be a good day.
Who needs math? I sure don’t. So, I sit in the back of Mr. Wellington’s class and pass a note to Amy:
Do u want to go to the grade eight grad dance with me?- L.J
Um… Yes. This isn’t a joke right?- Amy
Y would it be a joke? I don’t joke about serious things. Especially if it involves a pretty girl like u. U don’t think that I’d just wink at any girl?- L.J
Yes. I do, actually. R u sure that Riley or Repeal didn’t out u up to this? I would be very happy if it wasn’t all a joke. I just don’t want to be made fun of for the rest of the school year.- Amy
U won’t I promise. So is that a yes?- L.J
He didn’t even have to look at her response on the paper. Her smile said it all.
When I got home. Mom was on the couch, sleeping. So, I kissed her on the forehead and got her favorite blanket from the other couch and tucked her in.
An hour later when I was finishing my dreaded math homework, mom knocked on my door.
“Come in!” I responded. She walked in with a peaceful look on her face.
“Watcha doin’?” She asks me. I just shrug and ask: “Can we order pizza tonight?”
She smiles and shrugs. I know she means yes. So, I call the pizza place and order an extra-large pepperoni. In under twenty minutes, the pizza is here and mom and I pig out on the little piece of greasy heaven. After supper, we watch 21 Jump street and try not to scream. Mom made popcorn three times to get out of seeing whatever was on the T.V. After the evening ended, I got a really nice feeling. In my head, I was thinking ‘I wouldn’t trade this night for a million dollars.’
When I wake up, mom has already gone to work and left me a list of chores. Since it's Wednesday, I’ll get my chore money and go for a Dons run. It’s a little after seven-thirty so I make some toast, grab my phone and head for the door. It isn’t long before texts from Riley start coming in. “Are you dating Amy?! Dude! How’d you manage that? She’s like the hottest girl on the planet! And you, well, I dunno how this happened. Just saying!” Two seconds later… “HOW?!”
Ten minutes later I have over thirteen texts from him. All about Amy. I just ignore him and listen to some Kendrick Lamar. I get to school, and Amy runs into my arms crying. I pull her over to the side and ask her what’s wrong.
“My dad hit me! He saw my report card this morning and got mad because I only got an 80 in science.” She continues crying and I pull her closer. I’m not happy with her dad. How could he treat her like this? I promise her that she doesn’t have to go home after school. I make arrangements with the principal. He calls her dad and says that she’s getting tutored after school. Her dad, of course, falls for it and gives permission. Amy comes with me to the gym and we work out together. We go to Dons and I pay with the money mom sent to my bank account. When we’re done eating it's around six. Her “tutoring” ends at seven-thirty. We end up agreeing to go to my house. We wait for my mom to come home. While we wait, I put on a movie. She votes for The Princess Bride and we watch it. At seven-fifteen mom gets home. She tries not to act surprised when she sees Amy asleep on my shoulder. Then she whispers “Is this the surprise you texted me about?” I stifle a laugh and say “Yes. This is the angel I wanted to surprise you with.” Amy wakes up fifteen minutes later and hugs me. I tell her that my mom is gonna give her a ride home. In the back seat, she pulls out her phone and texts her dad. When she sees her house in the distance, I see her tense up. She grabs my hand and I say “I’m talking to your father.” she turns, terrified, to look at me “You can’t. He’ll beat you. He’ll do whatever he can to make you go away.” We turned into her driveway, and I replied “He couldn’t make me leave you.” Together we walk up to the front porch. I knock. When Amy’s dad answers I give him my hand “Mr. Sullivan.” He gives me the up-down and rudely asks “Who are you?” I smile sweetly and let silence take over before I say “I’m Amy’s boyfriend. I heard you hit her and I came to ask you how you could do such a thing to a perfect angel such as your daughter here. She is trying her hardest and you know that. But no, you urge her on and on like a horse. She is terrified of you. And speaking out of an experience I had, you wouldn’t want her to leave your family, now would you?” He stands in the doorway with a shocked look on his face. He pulls Amy in with him and says “Nice meeting you, what was your name again?”
“Liam Jones… Sir”
He laughs and says. “I like you, son. You can keep Amy. She needs a man in her life.” He smiles. Now it's my turn to look shocked. We laugh and shake hands again. I hug Amy and whisper in her ear “I'm going to text you when I get home.” She nods and releases me. I wave at Mr. Sullivan and leave.
Buzz… Buzz… Buzz
I turn over to look at the time and pick up my phone. ‘Incoming call from butthead’ It's Justin. My only night owl friend. I pick up. “It’s one in the morning. What do you want that’s so desperate?”
It's not Justin. It's his mom. She is crying. I don't know if I'm imagining the next words or not. “You need to come to the hospital Liam, honey. He did it again. Except for this time I don't think he’s coming back.” No. No. No. No. No. Not again was all I could think. “Was it his sleeping pills or Tylenol?” I ask with tears in my eyes. “He took both. I knocked on his door to get him to come for dinner. He didn’t answer when I said it was chicken fingers and fries. You know how much he loves his chicken fingers. I didn’t think anything of it and went back downstairs. He gets so absorbed in his video games, so I just thought he was talking to one of his friends while they were playing. I go downstairs and two hours later he still hasn’t come down. I return to his room and open the door. I walk into my baby laying on the floor, motionless. I called 911 and we got an ambulance. When we got to the hospital I made sure to text you, your mom, Raphael, and Riley. Could you come to the hospital please?” I agree very quickly and get dressed. I pull on my Reckless hoodie and some khakis. On my way to my mom’s room Raphael texts me. He wants a ride ‘cause his parents won’t give him one. My mom is already up. Her light is on and beaming across the tiled floor in the hallway. I shoot him a quick reply saying that I have to ask my mom. “Mom? Raphael wants a ride. His mom won’t give him a ride and his dad is on a business trip in Los Angeles.” I stood there outside of her door for a bit while she ‘made herself presentable.’ When she comes out she looks like she put on at least two tons of makeup. I ignored this fact and continued pestering her about Raphael. In the end we went for a Dons run at two-fifteen am before we finally got to the hospital.
Justin was pale. I remember the last time he overdosed on his sleeping pills. I was terrified and I stayed home while mom went to the hospital. His depression keeps getting worse. Whenever his parents get in a fight he gets anxious. There’s something he’s not telling us. He keeps making suicidal comments. I felt something was wrong. But I couldn't figure out a way to help one of my closest friends. When I told the school counselor she didn't believe me and sent me on my way. Two weeks later my best friend is on his deathbed.
Nothing is making sense right now. My best friend has needles in him. The doctors say he’s going to make it. He looks so weak. I can barely believe that this is Justin. The kid who aced math tests but still acted like he didn’t know anything. His dumbness is what brought us, boys, together. I just hope the doctors know what they’re talking about.
Last night seemed to last forever. This morning he’s awake. My mom went to pick up Amy. When Justin sees her he just about cries. He points to his throat. I get him my phone and open notes. He types “Amy! You're part of our clan now that you’re dating my man Dumbo, here.” She read it and laughed. “Of course I am! I will never leave the man clan!” She crosses her heart and looks at me. I kiss her on the forehead and smile.
When mom and I got home the phone rang. I read the called ID it said (204) 881-5562. For some reason it looked familiar. I picked up and said “Hello?” On the other end a raspy voice said “Is this Liam Jones? Because if it is, open the back door.” I open the door, kinda creeped out, and who is on the other side of the door? My dad! He looks shaven and clean. He even smells the same. I run into his arms, then pull back abruptly. “Why did you say I was a disappointment? How come you left us? Now you come back after two years?” He looks hurt as I ask these questions but responds with “I was only doing what was best for the Jones family. Shall we sit down and talk?” He flashes me one of his blinding smiles and we sit down on the couch to wait for mom. When mom sees him, her face lights up and she runs into his arms. After a few minutes they invite me to join their little love fest. I join in and say “I will never forget tonight. I love you dad!”