Ever since I moved to California my life’s started to seem like an adventure. Every day there’s something new to explore, or someone new to meet. Maybe to some people that’d be overwhelming, but to me, it’s exactly what the doctor ordered. I needed a restart. I needed a spark to bring me back to life. And well, California didn’t just spark me, it straight up electrocuted me!
That night when I laid awake in bed, I couldn’t stop thinking of my first week here. Everything from landing in the airport, to meeting with Charlotte for coffee seemed to play on loop inside of my head. I can’t believe I’ve only been here for five days! Its’ felt like so much longer! It’s felt like, like, home.
After the accident I remember questioning God. I remember asking Him why He had to take my Mother. Why did she get hurt so bad in that accident while I only walked away with a few scrapes and bruises? I may never know that answer, but I know He’s got something bigger planned for me. I may go back and forth on my beliefs, but in the dead of night, I know for better or worse He’s watching over me.
The next morning was the same routine as usual. Wake up, grab pop tarts, read Adam’s note and go! It’s actually not all that different from my routine in Texas. It all helps me to feel more independent, like I’m not so much of a kid anymore.
As I walked into homeroom that morning I was surprised to find Dizzy sleeping at the desk Ky usually sits in.
“Good morning.” I forced out as Charlotte looked up from her phone.
“Hey Artie,” She forced a smile, before quietly gesturing towards Dizzy.
“I see that!” I whispered, sitting down and taking a long look at the sleeping teen next to me.
“Ky’s going to kill him.” She shook her head.
“I heard that!” Dizzy grumbled as he slowly woke back up. “This seat doesn’t have his name on it.”
“You’re right, it’s not like he’s been sitting in it since September or anything.” Charlotte rolled her eyes.
“What?” He asked, still half asleep.
“Porch lights on, but no one’s home.” I remarked, beginning to look at my own phone.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw Dizzy’s confusion grow. “What?” Charlotte asked before he could say anything.
“Porch lights on, but no one’s home.” I repeated less confident than before. “You never heard that saying?”
“No!” Dizzy laughed, now fully awake. “I reckon that’s a Texas thing.” He teased, trying his hardest to copy my accent.
“I reckon that’s a bad imitation.” I pushed back with a smile.
“Wait! Do you guys actually say reckon?” Dizzy asked as he seemed to jump to life.
“Here we go.” Charlotte sighed, noticing the excitement flowing through him.
“Well yeah.” I nodded my head. “It’s no different than saying I think.”
“Wait! Say more southern stuff!” Dizzy encouraged in a loud voice.
“Dizzy.” Mrs. Mowry warned as she overheard the conversation.
“It’s okay.” I explained looking over to her. “I don’t mind talking about it.”
“Oh.” She nodded her head. “Then maybe you could tell the homeroom a little about Texas.” She encouraged as everyone began to turn to me.
“Is everything actually bigger there?” A faceless voice shouted out, drawing a few laughs from the class.
“Not where I’m from.” I swayed my head. “Guess it depends where you go. My town was just kind of like any other.”
“Do you always wear boots?” Another voice called out.
“I usually do.” I shrugged my shoulders. “But that’s just cause my other shoes aren’t that nice. People wear whatever shoes they want there.”
“Do you know how to ride a horse?” Dizzy shouted from next to me.
“Dizzy!” Charlotte reprimanded in a quiet voice.
“What?” He asked, glancing over to her. “Everyone else is asking questions!”
“I can ride a horse.” I nodded my head. “I worked as a farm hand every summer since I was like eight. I actually learned a lot about farming and all.”
“Is it just farms?” A voice asked from the back of the room.
“No.” I shot down. “I never been to them, but Texas has big cities like this one. I’m sure they’re just as good.” I got a few groans and boo’s as they heard those words and couldn’t help but laugh.
It’s funny, I may have hated my hometown, but I still feel pride for my home state. I know the people in that backwards town give us a bad name, but we’re not all like that! Hell, look at me, Adam and my Mom. Texas has its downsides, but it also has its positives and I made sure my class knew that.
“Okay last question,” Dizzy continued long after the class stopped caring. “did everyone in your town have guns?”
“People had guns.” I shrugged, thinking it over. “I guess they had them holstered in town and all, but it’s not something I thought twice about. That’s just the way it was.”
“That’s crazy!” Dizzy shouted. “Did you have one?”
“I thought that was your last question?” I teased in a laugh.
“Well then this is my last last question.” He provoked, excitedly awaiting his answer.
“No.” I shook my head. “I went shooting a few times, but I couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn.”
“Ha!” Dizzy exclaimed as he heard another of my expressions. “Wait! Do you have one of those cowboy hats?”
“He’s done answering questions now.” Charlotte interrupted, knowing Dizzy would go on all day if no one stopped him.
“Come on!” Dizzy whined but grew quiet when Ky stepped into the room. “Hey.” He offered with a smile.
“Why are you in my seat?” Ky asked, taking a step towards it.
“Just figured we’d change things up today.” Dizzy shrugged with a smile. I heard Charlotte exhale a deep breath as Ky walked between us and took the seat behind me.
“Just because you got here early today doesn’t mean you can take my seat.” Ky warned, as their eyes connected.
“Then maybe you shouldn’t be late.” Dizzy provoked, trying his hardest to act like it was a game.
“That’s how it is?” Ky asked, as I turned to Charlotte she rolled her eyes.
“Pretty sure.” Dizzy nodded. Usually he either backs off, or sneaks around Ky, but not today. Today he’s officially throwing his hat into the ring. Today he’s refusing to let Ky’s dibs decide anything for anyone.
“How was surfing?” Mrs. Mowry suddenly asked us, noticing the sparks beginning to fly in the front of her classroom.
“Awesome.” I encouraged, trying my hardest to help her stop the argument before it could start. “Ky’s a really good teacher.”
“Artie’s a fast learner.” Ky humbly said. “He could become a pretty great surfer if he keeps practicing.”
“Well how about that?” Mrs. Mowry’s smile grew. “See what happens when you leave your comfort zone and try new things?”
Ky nodded but didn’t say anything as his eyes locked with Dizzy’s once more. They both stayed quiet but from there on out it was a war for my attention. One of them would start a conversation whenever they could and try their hardest to keep the other out of it. Their constant warfare made the fifteen minute homeroom feel like an eternity. Even the walk to cooking felt like torture!
“Here Artie,” Ky offered pulling out my chair at our two person table.
“I think Mr. Jacobs said he actually wants me at the front table.” Dizzy began as Ky quickly turned to him. “You know, so he can keep an eye on me.”
“I’ve sat in the front all year! Why would that suddenly,” Ky began. As I looked back to Charlotte she took a seat at the back table and motioned to the chair next to it. I nodded and quickly took it, surprising them both.
“No Artie you don’t have to,” Dizzy began.
“I don’t mind.” I interrupted before they could annoy me any further. “Mr. Jacobs wants you to sit up front, and Ky’s been sitting there all year. It’s only right.” I teased with a smile.
“Damn!” Charlotte teased in a loud voice. “You boys are out there playing checkers while Artie’s here playing chess!”
I couldn’t help but laugh along with her as they both let out long groans. “Besides, you two have been fighting all morning. I think you need some time together.”
“That’s the least thing we need.” Dizzy grumbled.
“Hey idiot, take the hint.” Charlotte warned, playing the role of my cheer leader once more. “He’s saying stop fighting over him, or he’ll ignore you both.”
“I-I don’t know if,” I nervously began as Charlotte pointed out my plan.
“It’s alright.” She interrupted. “It needed to be said, or these two would never learn.”
I nodded knowing she knew them a lot better than me. “Sorry.” They both forced out before taking their seats and staring dead ahead.
The whole class they stayed as quiet as possible, only talking to one another when they absolutely had to. While me and Charlotte’s laughter echoed throughout the room. I don’t know what’s gotten into her this morning, but it’s like she’s caught Dizzy’s goofy energy! We spent the whole class goofing around, and even then what we cooked tasted great!
The rest of the school day I made sure to hang by her side. What she said to them is right! If they want to treat me like a trophy, fine, I made it fifteen years without acting on my curiosity. I’m pretty sure I can easily do fifteen more! After a while they calmed down, but the tension remained. Every time their eyes connected a mini war took place between them.
I made sure to sneak away from school with just Charlotte that day. This evenings a pretty big dinner for me and Adam, I don’t need either of them messing that up!
“Are they going to be okay?” I suddenly asked as we made our way through the park.
“Eventually.” She swayed her head. “They’re just being stupid boys.”
“I don’t want to get in the way of their friendship though.” I nervously spoke, looking over and making eye contact.
“You won’t.” She shrugged. “Eventually you’ll pick one and the other will pout for a while then get over it.”
“Are you sure about that?” I asked with a cautious look.
“More sure than a bird in the sky.” She taunted, trying her hardest to come up with a southern saying of her own.
“That was bad.” I shook my head. “It barely even makes sense!”
“It makes tons of sense!” She began to laugh.
“Sure.” I played along as we reached the front of my house. “Text me?”
“Already sent.” She teased beginning to walk towards the bus stop in the distance. “Yee Haw!” She yelped in a loud voice from a few houses away, making sure to give me one last jab for the day.
“Someone’s in a good mood.” Adam teased, noticing the wide smile on my face as I walked through the front door.
“Just having a good day.” I shrugged. Ky and Dizzy may be acting dumb today, but I won’t let that ruin my fun with Charlotte. Especially not when we can make one another laugh at the drop of a hat!
“Well do you think you can help me prepare dinner?” He asked in an anxious voice.“I would owe you one!”
“Okay, but I already know my one.” I began, walking towards the kitchen.
“Go for it.” He hesitantly instructed, worried what my favor would be.
“I can have a friend over to watch Game of Thrones.” I said, taking a seat at the kitchen table.
“Did you finish the books yet?” He asked forcing eye contact and keeping his face blank.
“Did you start prepping the food yet?” I inquired, side stepping the question.
“Are you playing hard ball with me Arthur Price?” He made sure to maintain eye contact as he took a seat across from me.
“No,” I shrugged my shoulders. “just asking a question. After all, you’re such a great cook. You don’t really need help from your fifteen year old nephew, right?”
“You don’t tell them you helped and we have a deal.” He negotiated, making sure to maintain the stare down the best he could.
“Every season of the show?” I asked, making sure to get the details I want.
“Yes, but I get to watch the newest season with you guys. I haven’t seen it yet.” He offered as I began to nod.
“Deal.” I extended a hand as he shook it. “Now what time are they coming?”
“five thirty.” He sheepishly exhaled.
“That’s like, two hours from now!” I yelped, jumping to my feet. “Adam!”
“What? I’m bad at this!” He defended. “It’s not breakfast foods!”
“Can you even cook those?” I pressured, looking back to him.
“Well, yeah,” He lied, breaking eye contact. “donuts.”
“Donuts?” I repeated in a sigh. “Is that all you know how to make?”
“Well aren’t you mister judgey this evening?” He teased, trying to change the topic.
“Are you just going to keep calling me mister followed by whatever mood I’m in?” I asked, realizing how often he used the expression in my first week here.
“Are you going to judge that too?” He teased with a smile.
“I just might.” I warned, finally opening the fridge. “Now come on! Are we making chicken?”
“Sure.” He shrugged as we began to actually to take everything out.
It wasn’t perfect, but eventually we found a recipe online and followed that. I don’t know what his shop is like, but I hope they have some chefs or something! Who knows, maybe Lindsay does all the cooking! The dinner she made for us a few days ago was pretty amazing!
When the chicken was finally in the oven and a knocking began on the front door I saw nerves jump through Adam.
“Alright” He began, looking over to me. “Just be yourself. Don’t be nervous. Are you nervous?”
“I wasn’t before you started making me!” I gulped as he grew closer to the door.
“Well don’t be!” He tried to comfort, doing his best to fend off his own anxieties. “Hey!” He greeted, pulling the door open.
“Adam!” Linday shouted as though it was the first time she had seen him in weeks. She quickly hugged him before pushing past and walking up to me. “Artie!” She yelped in the same tone before pulling me into an embrace.
“Hi Lindsay.” I forced out, trying my hardest not to be awkward about the hug.
As I heard grown voices talking to Adam I looked back to the door to find a man and woman a bit younger than my Grandparents had been.
“Geoff, Sophia,” Adam began as he turned to me. “This is my nephew Artie.”
“Wow,” Geoff remarked as he took a few steps closer. “talk about family resemblance. How are you doing son?” He asked with an out stretched hand.
“Good sir.” I shook back. “Yourself?”
“Just fine.” He nodded his head.
“I love that accent.” The woman smiled, looking over to Adam. “Lindsay’s right. It’s just like when you first came here.”
“Artie’s a little more well-rounded than I was.” Adam confessed, proudly looking over to me.
“Was or still is?” Lindsay teased in a laugh.
“Well it’s nice to meet you young man.” Sophia offered, taking a close look at me.
“It’s nice to meet you too ma’am.” I politely reflected.
Sophia and Geoff shared a smile until Geoff finally looked back to me. “You can drop the Sir and Ma’am. We’re just Sophia and Geoff to you.”
“Oh, okay.” I nodded as Adam motioned for everyone to take a seat.
“Dinner should be ready any minute.” He instructed, making sure to sit between Lindsay and me.
“Adam cooked?” Lindsay teased, glancing over to me. “How much did you help?”
“I wasn’t much help.” I lied, looking up at Adam. “I had homework to do and all.”
“Don’t lie.” Lindsay pressured, keeping her eyes on me.
“He helped.” Adam nodded his head before I could crack. “I needed someone to cut things up and all.”
“I’m sure that’s all you needed him for.” Lindsay played along in a sarcastic voice.
“So Artie,” Geoff suddenly began. “are you as adventurous as your uncle?”
“I don’t think so.” I forced a smile. “I’m a bit more like my mother. I like to read and stay in.”
“So he says.” Adam teased. “He’s already been surfing, to the bridge and to some coffeehouse with his friend.”
“I’m just learning the area.” I tried to explain. “I’m not usually this, active.”
“Well this city has a way of changing people.” Sophia encouraged. “Who knows, perhaps you’ll find yourself exploring a lot more than you think.”
“I have been having fun.” I agreed, trying to be as polite as possible. “Was Adam adventurous when he first got here?”
I noticed Adam tense up at the question but try his hardest to act calm. “He had me and Sophia staying up all night worried about him” Geoff said in a loud laugh. “He explored this city every second he could.”
“Let’s not put ideas in his head please.” Adam nervously pleaded.
“Now you know how we felt!” Sophia pestered. Her smile grew wider when she noticed Adam look over to me then away.
“So he must’ve moved in with you guys pretty early then?” I dug, eager to get as many answers as I could.
“You haven’t told him?” Geoff asked, looking over to Adam with a serious face.
“I don’t know if there’s really any need.” He nervous replied, looking over to Lindsay for help.
“Don’t look at me.” She shrugged. “I think you should tell him. It’s really nothing to be ashamed of.”
He nodded but looked over to Geoff for guidance. Geoff studied me closely before giving Adam the go ahead. “Well as you know my parents kicked me out when I was sixteen,” Adam nervously began. “I only had enough money to get me to San Francisco. I don’t know why I picked California, it just seemed, seemed, free. Like it was calling to me.” He delayed, trying his hardest to organize the thoughts in his head.
“Anyway, things, they were kind of rough when I first got here.” He stuttered, as Lindsay grabbed his hand for support. “I wound up staying at a soup kitchen for a few days, and that, it’s where I met Lindsay.”
“I was volunteering with my class.” She happily nodded her head. “I couldn’t believe there was a boy my age staying there, it just, I couldn’t fall asleep that night knowing he was out there.”
“That’s when she came to me.” Geoff joined in, noticing how hard the story was becoming for Lindsay and Adam. “Me and Sophia had an extra room in our house, and well, the city’s been good to us over the years. We figured it was time to pay it back.”
“They took me in,” Adam nodded his head, looking back to me. “and that’s when my life really begun.”
It took me a few seconds to really process the story. So they just took him in? Just like that? Every time I watch the news there’s another story about mass shootings or robberies, this world seems so scary. But there are really people like the Rites? People who help strangers?
“It wasn’t easy at first.” Geoff clarified, seeing me deep in thought. “But we made it work, and if I had to go back, I wouldn’t change a thing.”
“They became my family.” Adam explained, staring out one of the windows. “Without them,”
“Without us you still would’ve been fine.” Sophia finished for him. “You’re way too smart and driven to have had it any other way.”
Adam nodded but I could tell he didn’t agree. I heard an expression once that life has a funny way of fixing what it broke. Call it guardian angels, call it destiny or whatever else you want, but for the first time in my life I’m starting to believe that. It wasn’t easy, but Adam unknowingly stumbled right into his new family in the Rites. Maybe, maybe I did the same with him.
“That’s great.” I finally managed out. “His parents,” I began but simply shook my head.
“Did you know them well?” Sophia asked with curious eyes.
“No.” I quickly dismissed. “I uh, I was placed with them for a few days. It was the first time I had met them and, they, they’re nothing like my Uncle or Mom.”
“We understand.” Geoff accepted, sparing me the words. “Well you’re no longer there. You’re here now, in a place that doesn’t judge.”
“Dinner!” Adam exclaimed before anyone could say anything else.
“Adam!” I groaned, jumping up and following him to the oven.
“Don’t Adam me over this!” He yelped, pulling the chicken out of the oven before it could burn any further. “Can we save it?” He whispered to me.
“Maybe.” I hopefully let out, but as he took a knife and cut into one of the breasts we saw just how dried out it had become. “That’s not good.” I sighed, looking up to him.
“Nope.” He shook his head.
“Well what do we do now?” I asked, as he pulled out his phone and quickly hit a few buttons.
“So, funny story,” Adam began, walking past me and towards the living room. “The chicken didn’t make it, so how does pizza sound?”
“Oh! You owe me ten dollars Lindsay Iris Rite!” Sophia shouted in a laugh.
“Damn it Adam!” Lindsay yelped, looking back towards us.
“Pizza’s fine.” Geoff sighed. “We kind of expected it.”
“So you placed bets?!” Adam asked, faking disappointment.
“Yup, I made the mistake of betting on you this time!” Lindsay complained, beginning to stare him down. “You so owe me.”
“We’ll see about that.” He teased, turning back to me. “See?” He asked with a smile. “No reason to get worried.”
“But what do we do with this?” I asked, turning back towards the chicken.
“When life gives you lemons,” He began pulling tortilla chips out of the cabinet. “you make lemonade.” He motioned for me to grab a pan as he gathered some salsa and chips. “You can always turn a mistake into something good.” He lectured, spreading out the chips on the pan before placing one of the breasts on a cutting board and beginning to cut it up. “And this my friend, is what I’m best at.”
“Junk food?” I teased as he placed small strips of chicken on the chips before covering them in salsa and cheese.
“Precisely!” He happily cheered. “Chicken nachos.” He explained, motioning for me to help him cut up more pieces of chicken.
I followed instructions and helped him resurrect our failed dish. Something about this, it’s just so, Adam. He doesn’t let small things spin him out. He laughs them off and gets creative. Sure, this chicken isn’t exactly the best, but turning it into nachos is better than throwing it out! If this is what he can do with failed dishes, well I can’t wait to see what he does with donuts!
When the cheese melted the Rites were more than happy with their appetizer. They simply laughed it off and dug in. They didn’t care that Adam messed up. It was just something they loved about him. San Francisco may not be perfect. It may have its faults just like every other city. But somehow I’ve already found people who care about me. People who will be there for me no matter what, and that, it’s irreplaceable.