“If you spend your time hoping someone will suffer the consequences for what they did to your heart, then you're allowing them to hurt you a second time in your mind.” ― Shannon L. Alder
Yancey’s mom was less than pleased as Ralys walked through the door. She didn’t speak, but her face said it all, scrunched and scowling from Ralys to her son. Yancey’s mom had never cared much for Ralys. He couldn’t place why, considering they had never interacted much, but it was a reality he’d learned to accept.
The two made a beeline down the hall and into the bedroom Yancey shared with his baby brother. It was a baby blue, childishly decorated room, with toys scattered all about the floor. As far as Ralys could tell, the only things in there that belonged to Yancey was the bed and dresser.
Ralys had met Yancey at the very first party he ever went to. It'd been for seniors at their school, but Ralys had sneaked in without anyone noticing. Except Yancey, of course. But Yancey was cool, and pretty soon Ralys had pretty much become the Robin to his Batman. You wouldn’t see one without the other.
Yancey collapsed on his bed, “You hear about Nick’s new girl? Apparently she’s, like, four years older than him. Wild, am I right?”
“What? Uh, yeah, that’s pretty wild.” Ralys said. He walked the room, absentmindedly picking up toys and looking them over before setting them down again. Yancey went on about school and relationships, and when the next party was going to be.
“Hey, man, what’s up?” Yancey asked. “You’re super out of it.”
Ralys grimaced. He wasn’t sure how to answer that. There was so much going on in his head, especially what Liam had said earlier. “I don’t know.” He said, "Parents, I guess. They’re trying to tell me what I need, but they don’t even talk to me about what I need. They just want to tell me what to do all the time.”
Yancey blinked at him. “You just gotta say screw ‘em! Honestly, parents are just around to make life harder than it needs to be, if you ask me.”
Ralys forced a small laugh. “Yeah…”
“Here, I got you.” Yancey said, getting off his bed and reaching underneath it. He pulled out two bottles of beer. “My stash for when my parents are giving me a hard time.” He threw one to the younger boy.
Ralys caught it and looked at it a moment. He couldn’t bring himself to open it. “I think I’m good.” He said, tossing it back. “I think I’m just gonna go for a walk, actually. Thanks, man.”
Yancey rose a brow and laughed, “‘Kay, didn’t know I was friends with a little girl now!” He shouted as Ralys left.
✧ ✧ ✧
The aroma of dinner filled the house as Ralys walked through the front door. He dropped his things on the couch and walked into the kitchen. There his mother stood over the stove, tending to several pots.
She looked over her shoulder and smiled at him, “Hey sweetie. Would you mind setting the table for me? I’m almost done here.”
He nodded. But as he pulled three plates from the cabinet, his mother stopped him.
“Oh, just two tonight, Ral. I thought I’d just eat with my handsome boy.” She was passing him with a baking dish of lasagna in hand, but stopped to kiss his cheek.
“Mom!” He groaned, wiping his face. She just laughed her way to the dining table.
Ralys would never admit it out loud, but it felt weird not having Liam over for dinner. He wasn’t living with them while he was undergoing police training, but he almost always came for dinner. The company that replaced Liam was a heavy tension. The sort that says you’re about to get talked to about something serious, and all you can do is sit and wait for it to happen. He ate his lasagna in silence, glancing up at his mother now and then, who he'd find already looking at him.
“So I was thinking…”
Here it came.
“I know you’ve had a hard time transitioning to Liam being around.” She started, “These last few months have been tough for you, I can tell. So…” She seemed to consider her words. “I was thinking maybe you could go stay with your father for a little while.”
Ralys’s head shot up and he look at here in disbelief, “What?! No!”
She reached across the table to put her hand on his, “Just hear me out, okay?”
He was shaking in his chair. Just thinking about that man— that ass —made his blood boil.
“I think it’s important for you to be in a different environment to process everything happening here. Liam is almost finished with his training, which means he’ll be living with us. I want you to have time, away from here, to really reflect on what that all entails.” She explained. Then, after a moment’s hesitation, added, “Also, I’m hoping it’ll help with your… problem with sneaking out.”
Ralys squeezed his eyes shut, barely able to keep from hyperventilating. So many thoughts were swarming through his brain, he couldn’t concentrate on one thing. He opened his mouth to speak, but couldn’t think of any words to speak.
His mother looked at him with a mixture of concern and sympathy. She got up and rounded the table to embrace her son. She held his head to her chest, petting his hair. “Hey, shh. It’s okay, I’m here.” She barely contained her shock as he wrapped his arms around her. She kissed the top of his head and rested her chin there. “Shh, shh. It’s okay.”
✧ ✧ ✧
The following week consisted of preparing for the long trip across the country to his father’s. Ralys had never appreciated Liam and his mom more in that time. Maybe that was part of the tactic, he wondered. Threaten him with sending him away so that he’d fix up us act, and then they’d just let him stay.
Though he’d had several invitations to parties, he chose to stay in, despite Yancey’s mockery. But even so, his mom didn’t change her mind. He’d even cleaned up around the house without being asked, but she still wasn’t swayed.
“I know it might be hard for a little bit, but I think it’ll be really good for you to be away for a little bit.” She had said one day as she helped him pack.
He had gritted his teeth at that. He could have argued, but he though it had been a test, and his compliance would help his cause. But sitting at the bus station with Liam and his mom, he wished he had spoken his mind since it wouldn’t have made a difference.
His mom squeezed him. “Be safe, okay? Be wise, make good decisions and don’t talk to strangers.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Ralys tried to sound indifferent as he hugged her back. Her grip loosened and she went to pull away, but when he squeezed her tighter she stayed put. The week leading up to this moment had gone by almost like a dream, but reality was setting in in this moment. “When can I come back?” He asked. He hated the desperation in his voice.
“It’ll only be a couple of weeks, sweetie.” She assured.
Liam put a hand on his shoulder, “And you can call as much as you want. Just ‘cause you’re not here doesn’t mean we’re not here for you, understand?”
Ralys looked up at him. Before he could overthink it, he threw his arms around him. He pulled away as quickly, just as the bus pulled up behind them. He cleared his throat, wiping his face with his sleeve, “Well, I’ll see you guys in a couple of weeks.”
He hugged his mom one last time before boarding the bus.