“Bye, Dad, Bye, Dad!” six years old, Tony yelled from the sidewalk where he stood with his feet across his new two-wheel blue and red bicycle.

A few seconds later, his dad’s white car made the usual turn in the road and was now out of Tony’s view, and he remained out of his view for many years afterwards.

About a year after his dad left, his mom moved them to Skiptown, far from their old home. By the time he was fourteen, they had moved from about three apartments.

The last time they moved, he could hardly wait to get away from this apartment because if there were no fights, someone was doing drugs on the steps or playing loud music or something else. So he could not wait to leave.

However, his mom crushed his eagerness to leave when she said, “we are going to move in with Arnold.”

Arnold’s muscles were way too big, and he always dressed like a pretty boy for an old man. Besides, he looked nothing like his dad. So, Tony voiced his objection to his mom about Arnold, except for the part about him not looking like his dad.

“But recently, you showed me a magazine with a guy with those same size muscles, and you thought it was cool,” his mom replied.

“Yeah,” he replied, pushing out his lips, “but not anymore.”

Tony was tall, like his dad, with low-cut curly black hair, and he carried more of his father’s features than his mom.

His mom smiled, lighting up her tired light brown face.

“Also, he’s not an old man. He’s only twenty-eight.”

“What? He’s even older than I thought?” Tony exclaimed

His mom laughed.

Then she added, “I have something to tell you.”

She told him she was pregnant with his little brother, Michael, but they called him Mikey.

They moved in with Arnold into his three-bedroom apartment on the third floor, which somehow reminded him of the house they used to live in before they moved to Skiptown.

Then about three months after they moved in, Arnold heading out to the nearby supermarket to fulfill one of Tony’s mom’s pregnancy cravings, asked Tony, “What flavour of ice cream do you want?”

“Anything is good with me,” Tony replied inside the living room.

Then under his breath, he said, “you can stop pretending to be nice to me now. My mom is already here.”

Time passed, and about six months later, his brother was born, and about two months after his birth, Tony decided to skip school twice to go to the theatre to watch Creed III. The second time he skipped school, he rushed home to find that his mom and brother were out for a walk, but Arnold was home.

As usual, though, his mom had left him an after-school snack on the table.

He sat at the table to eat, and Arnold joined him with a plate of goat curry and rice. They ate silently for a few minutes, and then Arnold said, “Your school called about five minutes before you came home. Tony, why are you skipping school?”

“What do you care? You’re not my dad,” Tony said, “it has nothing to do with you.”

Arnold reached across the table and slapped him across the head.

“Ow,” Tony yelled, jumping out of the chair.

“Sit down and finish your food,” Arnold immediately ordered in a slow, steady voice.

Tony did not move.

“Sit down,” he ordered again.

“I’m going to tell Mom you hit me. You can’t hit me,” Tony said, snatching his phone off the table next to his half-eaten plate of food.

“Grow up, boy,” Arnold said, “will you make your mom choose between us? Where will she take you? Do you want to return to that dump of an apartment you lived in when we met?”

“I don’t care. You’re not my dad.”

“I know you don’t care, but I do. I care about your mom, I care about your little brother, and I care about you too.”

“You don’t care about me,” Tony said, flinging his hand out at Arnold, and to his surprise, his voice broke.

“I care about you,” Arnold said, folding his muscular arms across his chest and looking up at him.

“No, you don’t. You wish it were just you, Mom and Mikey. You want me gone.”

Tears rolled down his cheeks.

“I care about you, Tony,” Arnold repeated.

“Stop saying that. My own dad didn’t care about me. So why would you care about me?”

“I care about you because your Mom loves you, and I love her.”

More tears run down his cheeks.

“Then why did you hit me?”

“I shouldn’t have. That was wrong of me, and I’m sorry.”

Tony stared at him for a few minutes. Then he asked, “you said you were sorry?”

“Yes, I am sorry.”

Tony slowly sat down in the chair he had just left. He put down his phone and carefully pushed his unfinished plate of food away from him. He rested his arms on the table and his head into his arms.

Tony cried for several minutes, and Arnold reached out and rested his hand on his right shoulder.

After several minutes of crying, he lifted his head from his arms and wiped his face with the sleeves of his sweater.

Arnold had removed his hand from his shoulder, and they looked at each other.

“Do I have to tell Mom I’ve skipped school twice this week?” he asked.

“Have you met your mom?” Arnold asked, his face displaying shock. “If you don’t tell her, and she finds out later and hears that I knew and said nothing, she will kill me. I’m too young to die.”

Tony laugh.

“Okay,” Tony said, still laughing, “okay.”

After Tony stopped laughing, he said, “I’d like us to get along.”

“I’ll like that too.”

“I’m going to try my best,” Tony said, nodding.

“Me too,” Arnold replied, also nodding.

Then they finished their meal together.

The End

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