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Chapter Five

Zacky couldn’t remember the last time he had been so annoyed with his mother.

She had been calling him constantly since he had told her about Lysander, but he had been confident in the fact that she would at least respect his wishes and keep her distance until Lysander had been given time to settle in. He had made plans to approach the topic of meeting the rest of the family with the boy that weekend, to see if he would be ready for it, but that had all been ruined the moment his parents had shown up on his doorstep that afternoon. His father had been able to do nothing more than shrug apologetically as Maria Baker had marched into the house and demanded that she be able to meet her grandson.

“Mom,” Zacky said firmly, “he hasn’t even been here three days.”

“I missed fifteen years of that boy’s life,” his mother said in response, “and I’ll be damned if I’m going to miss another day of it.”

He couldn’t argue with her logic, but that didn’t make him any less annoyed with her. A glance at the clock told him that it was ten to three. Huntington Beach High had been out for almost ten minutes – Lysander would be home in another five, assuming that he had remembered the way. Even if he called the boy, that hardly gave him time to prepare for the shock that would be his grandmother. Zacky groaned.

“Give it a chance,” were James Baker’s words of wisdom. “If the kid’s anything like you, he’ll be fine.”

Zacky wasn’t so sure. Timid may not have been a word he would use to describe Lysander, but the boy was far from outgoing. He only ever spoke after he had been spoken to, and he tended to keep to his room unless he was drawn out of it for a meal. Somehow Zacky didn’t think having his grandparents thrust upon him was going to go over well – had Zacky been in Lysander’s shoes, it definitely wouldn’t have.

Gena caught his eye and shrugged. What can you do? Nothing, of course, and he knew it. When his mother had her mind set on something, there was no changing it. With a sigh, he settled himself back onto the couch. Sensing his distress as she so often did, Majesty made her way over and dropped her Great Dane head into his lap. He absently scratched behind her ears – an action that soothed the both of them.

Lysander was quiet when he finally did make it through the door. For a moment Zacky worried that the boy’s silence meant that he’d had a bad day, but the smile on his face told a different story. He couldn’t decide what would have been the better option – Lysander having a bad day made worse by the unexpected arrival of his grandparents, or him having a good day ruined for the same reason. Neither was a pleasing outcome.

“Hey, kid,” Zacky said hesitantly. “How was school?”

“School’s school,” Lysander replied with a shrug as he shut the door behind himself. “I’m sure you remember.”

When he turned at last to face the living room, his eyes darted immediately from Zacky and Gena to the two unknown faces in the room. Having been watching carefully for it, Zacky caught the momentary flicker of shock in the boy’s expression before he managed to hide it. It had been there for less than a second, and nobody else showed any signs of having noticed. Lysander looked back to Zacky, the question evident in his eyes – who are these people and what are they doing here?

“These are my parents,” Zacky told him. “They wanted to meet you, so here they are. I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to prepare you.” He glanced back at his parents. “Mom, Dad – this is Lysander.”

Maria was already on her feet and making her way over to her grandson. Lysander took a single step back before deciding to hold his ground, though he still looked rather uncomfortable in Zacky’s eyes. If he hadn’t been irritated with his mother before, he most definitely was now. Lysander didn’t need this at the moment – that much was clearly evident in the boy’s face – and the sudden urge to protect him rose up in Zacky unexpectedly. He hadn’t realised that he’d started to stand until Gena had put a gentle hand on his arm.

“He’ll be fine,” she said. “Just give it a chance.”

He remained where he was, but his eyes never left Lysander’s face. One word of complaint from the boy, he decided, and he would throw both of his parents out. He was a grown man – it was about time his mother started honouring his decisions instead of forcing her own upon him.

“Oh, just look at you,” the woman gushed, reaching out to stroke the boy’s hair. “Aren’t you a beautiful boy?”

Lysander shifted the weight of his school bag from one shoulder to the other. It was about then that Ichabod came into the room, where he took one look at Maria and let out a low, fierce growl. The woman jumped and took several steps back as the dog came to sit by the boy’s feet – much like a protective sibling, Zacky liked to think. She turned to her son with an exasperated look on her face.

“I wish you wouldn’t let those dogs in the house. Honestly, that can’t be good for the child.”

“I like dogs,” was all Lysander said in response to that. Zacky couldn’t help a proud grin.

“Maria, please, sit down,” Gena said gently. “You too, Lysander.”

Maria returned to her seat next to her husband, who gave Lysander a nod of greeting but didn’t say a word. Lysander himself made his way over and sat on Zacky’s other side, dumping his school bag down beside the couch so as to keep it out of the way. Ichabod followed him every step of the way and eventually came to lie at the boy’s feet. Majesty settled herself onto the last empty couch.

“I’m James,” Zacky’s father finally introduced himself. His smile was genuine, friendly. Understanding. “It’s nice to finally meet you. I’m sorry for the intrusion, though. But my wife insisted.”

“We have every right to be here,” Maria began to argue, but Lysander cut her off with, “It’s no trouble. Really.”

Gena gave Zacky a look. I told you so, it said to him. He tried not to roll his eyes. He didn’t care what anybody else said – Lysander’s opinion was the only one that mattered here, and the way that the boy sat stiffly beside him said that he was far from fine. And Zacky didn’t blame him in the slightest. His mother was intimidating at best. Having her unexpectedly show up in your life could not have been an easy thing.

“So, tell us about yourself,” James said.

There was a moment of silent while Lysander gave his response some thought. Zacky gave the boy’s shoulder a squeeze, trying to be reassuring while he knew that it was needed. Lysander sent him the tiniest of smiles.

“There’s really not much to tell,” he told his grandparents. “I grew up in Wisconsin with my mother and my sister, and until now I’d never been more than a few towns away from home.” He paused for a moment, looking thoughtful. “My best friend has been my best friend since first grade. He and I were the fastest sprinters in the entire school. Co-captains on the track team.”

Zacky was surprised to hear this. The boy had never made any mention of being on the track team back home. But then, Zacky had never really asked.

He knew that Lysander would have friends back home, but this was the first time that it truly hit him that he had forced the boy to leave them all behind. Lysander had made it perfectly clear that he’d believed Zacky would send him back to Wisconsin – and that made Zacky wonder whether he had ever said goodbye to his friends. To his best friend of ten or so years. To his girlfriend, if he had one. He knew from personal experience that talking to the people you were closest to via phone or email just didn’t do it justice, and for that he felt guilty.

“So you’re a track star?” James asked the boy. “Do you like sprinting?”

“I like running in general,” Lysander told him. “It… It lets me feel free. Wind in my hair, going wherever I want. And not having to worry about crashing a car or anything. It’s awesome.”

He was a little more relaxed now, sitting comfortably in his spot as opposed to being tense and alert. There were still signs to show that he was uneasy, though. Like the way that he kept his hands fisted tightly in his lap, and the way that he only ever gave the tiniest of smiles. He met James’s eye only when he was speaking to him, otherwise he looked down at Ichabod.

“What was your mother like?” Maria asked, and Zacky felt his urge to kick her rise up again. “I’d like to think that I knew her at some point, but it’s harder to remember when all I have to go on is a name.”

Zacky knew that in a round-about sort of way, his mother was disappointed in him. As far as she was concerned, it was his own fault that he had missed so much of Lysander’s life. He should have known that he got Samantha Maverick pregnant, and he should have been there to help her. He wondered if it had even occurred to her that once the woman had skipped town, he’d had no way of knowing unless she’d contacted him – which she clearly hadn’t.

“You didn’t know her,” Lysander replied confidently, “but she was an amazing woman. She was stubborn and strong and she loved to paint. Landscapes, mostly. I think every piece of clothing she owned had some sort of paint stain on it…”

He trailed off there. His eyes looked down at the dog by his feet, but they were unfocused and Zacky knew his mind was probably a million miles away. The boy’s mother was a topic that Zacky had tried to avoid bringing up for now. She had died less than a month ago, and he wasn’t sure if Lysander was ready to talk about her or not. So leaving the subject alone had been a fairly safe bet. His mother, of course, had known this. It was likely the reason that she had so deliberately brought the woman up.

“I didn’t know her?” she asked with a raised eyebrow, and this time she glanced at Zacky. Judging him, he guessed. “How exactly did she and Zacky know each other?”

But Lysander didn’t answer this time. Whether it be because of the light or something else entirely, Zacky noticed that the boy seemed to have paled in comparison to the way he had been only a few minutes earlier. Without looking around at anybody, he grabbed his school bag and shot to his feet.

“Excuse me a moment.”

Zacky’s gaze followed the boy as he left the living room. Lysander tried to make it look casual, but there was an urgency in his stride that Zacky didn’t miss. He turned back to face his mother, who looked appropriately guilty now. As if she finally knew that she had taken things a little too far. Zacky only wished that he had been more insistent about her leaving in the first place.

“I’ll be right back,” he told the room at large as he too stood. “And for the love of God, Mom, let me deal with things my own way from now on.”

He didn’t stick around long enough to hear her reaction to this. In a matter of seconds he was on the staircase, making his way up the room that had been appointed to his son. He knew the boy was in there because the door was now shut after having remained partially open all day. He paused when he came to it, debating for a moment over whether or not he was doing the right thing here. But there was no time to call Matt or Brian and ask for their advice. Instead he went with his heart, and knocked on the door.

There came no answer. No invitation to enter the room, nor a demand to leave it. Deciding it best to take his chances, Zacky took a deep breath and opened the door. The first good sign came from it not being locked. The second from the fact that Lysander didn’t immediately order him to get out. He slipped into the room quietly and shut the door behind him.

He hadn’t been into the room since handing it over to the boy, and his initial reaction to it now was that it hadn’t changed much. It reminded him more of a hotel room than anything else – the bed nicely made and waiting to be slept in; the lack of personal items scattered throughout the room. Lysander hadn’t even bothered to start unpacking his things. It pained him slightly, knowing that Lysander didn’t see the room as his own enough to bother personalising it. But that was an issue they could tackle at a later time.

Lysander was standing directly across the room, staring out through the window while his hands gripped the sill tightly. His shoulders were tense – Zacky could see that clearly through the fabric of the boy’s shirt. He didn’t turn as Zacky made his way over, simply went on looking out over the beach. It was a view that Zacky enjoyed watching from his own room down the hall – one that never got old. He brought his hands down gently on the boy’s shoulders and squeezed. Lysander let out a long, shaky breath.

“I’m sorry,” Zacky told him. “I would have warned you if I knew they were coming, but they showed up about five minutes before you did. There was no time.” Another squeeze, and then, “Are you all right?”

Lysander nodded. One hand relaxed and the other reached up to wipe away tears that Zacky knew he wasn’t supposed to see. He kept his own hands exactly where they were, on the boy’s shoulders. The gesture felt right, and he wasn’t being shrugged off.

“Do you want me to tell them to leave?”

“No. It’s fine.” Lysander ran a hand through his hair. “I’m…in California.”

The comment took Zacky by surprise. He hadn’t known what to expect, but a statement like that would have been one of the last things on the list.


“With my dad.” He swallowed, hard. “My mom…is dead.”

His voice cracked as he said it. His shoulders trembled. Zacky turned him around so that the pair of them were facing each other, only to find himself met with bright blue eyes that swam with fresh tears. It was a shock to his system, so much so that he could almost feel his heart breaking.

“My mom’s dead,” Lysander said again. “Dead. She’s not coming back.”

If his heart hadn’t been breaking before, it most definitely was now. He knew quite well how the boy was feeling in that moment, because he could recall perfectly the moment that it had really hit him that Jimmy was gone. For him, it had taken a few days – one moment Jimmy was gone, the next he was gone forever. It hadn’t been an easy realisation. The only thing that had held him together was his friends and family. But Lysander had nobody in California.

Nobody except Zacky.

He pulled the boy into a hug. It was awkward at first, with neither one of them really knowing what to do, but eventually Lysander relaxed and allowed Zacky to embrace him fully. He buried his face into Zacky’s shoulder, and by the dampness that Zacky soon felt there he knew that the boy was letting his tears fall freely now. His entire body shook with the force of his sobbing.

That was the way they remained until all of Lysander’s tears were spent. It was closing in on four’ o’ clock by then – enough time had passed since they’d left the living room that Zacky knew they were in danger of being interrupted by his ever impatient mother. Zacky was about to make a comment about this, but didn’t have the chance to before Lysander was pulling away from him and wiping his eyes dry.

“I’m sorry,” he mumbled. “That won’t happen again.”

“You have nothing to apologise for,” Zacky assured him. “It was bound to happen eventually. My mother should have known better than to bring it up.”

“No, I get it. She wants to know. You all do.”

Lysander sat down on the edge of his bed. He ran a hand through his hair and then looked up at Zacky once more. His eyes were red-rimmed and bloodshot now, the red bringing out the blue in a way that Zacky wouldn’t have believed possible. The boy motioned for Zacky to take a seat beside him, which Zacky did. He didn’t have long to wait before Lysander was speaking once more.

“You met her at a party,” he said, “in your senior year of high school. She was a senior too, but she didn’t go to Huntington Beach High. I guess you had a mutual friend somewhere along the line. Anyway, she’d seen your band play a few times. She was a fan. So when she saw you at the party, she wanted to meet you. Get to know you. Apparently you both got pretty drunk, and you hooked up.

“Next thing you know, she finds out that she’s pregnant. She knew that you and your band were going to make it big as soon as you graduated, and she didn’t want to burden you with a baby. So she made the decision not to tell you, and then moved in with her grandfather in Wisconsin just in case. She didn’t want to risk you finding out.”

Zacky thought back, and couldn’t help a feeling of guilt when he realised that he still couldn’t remember this woman who had mothered his children. He had been to a vast number of parties in his senior year and had been drunk at every one of them as far as he recalled. It shamed him to remember that there had been more than one occasion where he’d become intoxicated and taken a girl to bed; it shamed him even more when he realised that he couldn’t remember the names of any of them.

And in a way, it was his fault. He shouldn’t have slept with all of those girls. And since he had, he should have at least been responsible. Safe. But he hadn’t – and this was the result. But as much as he regretted the actions of his younger self, he wouldn’t have changed having his son there by his side.

“I’ll get rid of them.”

“No.” Lysander shook his head. “Let them stay. I’m coming back down.”

He could see it in the boy’s eyes that he wasn’t too thrilled at the thought of facing his grandparents again, but he seemed determined to do it anyway. It made Zacky smile. In that moment, nothing could have made him prouder.


I read this here, I read this at Mibba. I'm just obsessed with this story! I love it!
Nia_Flores Nia_Flores
Update! Soon! Please!
I can't help reading this twice. I love it! LOVE IT!!!
Nia_Flores Nia_Flores
I read this on Mibba & I re-read it here! It's really great.
Nia_Flores Nia_Flores
Update soon or i will DIE