Author's Note: This story can also be found on my website. (The link is on my profile.) Standard disclaimers apply - Don't know 'em, not affiliated, etc, all characters created by That '70s Show, Carsey Werner so forth. It's fiction. Part 1
It was Saturday morning and Steven Hyde was stretched out on the couch watching cartoons while he ate dry Cheerios out of the box. He wasn't awake enough to really pay attention to the TV, but it was better than sitting in a quiet house. His fingers found nothing but dust in the bottom of the cereal box, and he tossed it onto the floor before wiping his hands off on his shirt.
Footsteps sounded on the front porch as his mother returned home. Friday nights were Edna's late night; she hit the bars after work and usually didn't get home until at least three, if she came home at all. Hyde wasn't sure which was worse, her not coming home at all, or arriving with her friend of the evening, men Hyde derisively referred to as his 'uncles.'
She was alone this morning, and surprised to see her sixteen year old son already awake. "I didn't think you'd be up yet." Edna ground her cigarette out on top of the television.
"Yep." Hyde didn't bother to tell her he'd been out with his friends all night and hadn't come home until six that morning. Edna didn't care what he did, so what was the point? "We're out of cereal."
"Steven, I met this guy last night…"
"Whoa, Edna, I don't want to hear the details."
She rolled her eyes. "No, he's giving me a ride to Topeka."
Hyde righted himself, brushing Cheerio pieces off his t-shirt. "You're going to Topeka, Edna?"
"Yeah." Edna jerked a thumb in the direction of the front yard. "He's waiting, I just stopped to pick up a few things." She disappeared into her bedroom, leaving Hyde alone with Yosemite Sam to figure out what was going on.
Edna hadn't expected him to be awake yet. She had been planning on picking up her stuff and leaving without him ever knowing.
"Steven, there's money in my dresser drawer, go to the grocery store today." She returned with a small bag in one hand, and a lipstick tube in the other.
"Okay… Edna, how long are you going to be gone?" He purposely kept his voice disinterested.
"I really don't know." She reapplied her lipstick and tucked the tube in her purse as she headed for the door.
"Edna!" Hyde pushed himself off the broken couch and hurried after her.
"Look, Steven." Edna turned around as she pulled her cigarette lighter out of her purse. "This is the first good thing to happen to me since your father left!" She reached over with her free hand and patted Hyde on the cheek. "Honey, don't you want me to be happy?"
"Yeah, sure." What else could he possibly say to that? "So, Edna, are you coming back?"
She stopped in the middle of their brown lawn, turning to face him. "Of course I'm coming back. I promise."
"No, you're not." He realized. "Mom, you're leaving, just like Dad did."
"So, Eric, how was school?" My mother prompted at the dinner table.
"Well, school…" I set my fork down and prepared for my big news. I, Eric Forman, had finally done something right, and I was going to make sure the world knew about it and properly appreciated it. "Actually, that's a really interesting story."
"Hey, didn't you have a math quiz today?" Dad interrupted.
"Yes, yes I did." I nodded. Math, the subject that had ruined Thanksgiving dinner, when my inebriated friend told my parents I was flunking the subject. I love my friends; I can always count on them to completely screw up my life.
"So, dumbass, how'd it go?" Dad glared at me. My dad and I have never gotten along that well. It really all stems from Little League, which I played for three years, and the only hit I got was a fastball in the helmet. And while I may be a twitchy, obnoxious smart-mouthed idiot like he says, he's no joy to live with either. He's a cranky, bald, possibly insane man. Although, I would never actually say that to his face, because he'd kick my ass so hard my nose would bleed.
Lately though, Dad and I have been getting along pretty well. I think it might be because we can both see the light at the end of the tunnel. In six weeks, I graduate high school, and then I'm out on my own at college, and out of Red's house.
"Um, I…" I stared down at my plate, building the suspense.
"IgotanAandthatmeansIgetatleastaCminusfortheclasssoIgraduate!" I reached down for the quiz I'd been saving next to my chair, and showed off the bright red A at the top, just like the five year old dork that I was, deep down inside. Maybe I'd tape it to the fridge door after dinner.
"Well, that's just great!" Dad pounded his fist on the table for emphasis. "See what happens when you buckle down, Eric?"
"A C minus?" Mom said regretfully. "Eric, would it have killed you to get a B?"
"Hey, Mom!" I stared at her in shock. She never said that, Dad was the person who felt the need to beat me into the ground. It must have been the menopause talking. She started her change of life last fall, and it's been hell in the Forman household ever since.
"Kitty, don't be too hard on the boy." Dad patted her arm. "He may not be stupid, but he's no Einstein."
"Thanks, Daddy." This conversation was going downhill fast. Forget the C minus, they were supposed to be looking at the A! I was smart enough to graduate high school, this was cause for excitement!
"Sorry I'm late, Mrs. Forman." Hyde let himself in through the sliding door, sitting down at the table with us.
"Well, you should be!" Mom snapped at him.
Behind his sunglasses, Hyde didn't even blink; he just reached for the bowl of mashed potatoes. He'd adapted to the yelling and meanness a whole lot faster than Dad and I had. We still jumped and ran for cover. Hyde managed to get in sixteen years of experience with yelling before his mom ran off with a trucker and abandoned him.
Hyde lives in the storeroom in the basement, along with all the other stuff we don't really know what to do with, but can't throw out on the street. He lived with us for a while after Edna left, and then his Dad moved back into town for about six months last year, but he took off again, and Hyde moved back into the basement. It's kind of like having a brother - a brother that never gets in trouble, because your parents like him a whole lot better than they like you. I bring home a B, and get yelled at by my Dad because it wasn't an A, but Hyde gets a D, and he's made over like he just single handedly defeated the Russians.
I've been best friends with Hyde since second grade. The story goes that he was a hired gun to protect me from the mean little neighbor girl, but that may not be entirely accurate. Oh fine, it's completely accurate, I spent the first half of second grade flat on my back on the ground while a little red haired girl tried to make me eat dirt. Yes, I am that sad and pathetic. Thankfully, that doesn't happen anymore. Well, very often, anyway.
"Sweetie, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to yell at you." Mom morphed back into her usual cheerful self, patting Hyde on the arm.
"That was yelling?" Hyde asked mildly.
"Well, either way, I'm sorry. Have some peas." Mom dumped a spoonful of peas on his plate. "You too, Eric." Another spoonful landed on my plate.
"Mom!" I protested. "I don't like peas! Can I at least serve my own food?" My plate was ruined, I stood to rinse it off in the sink.
"Since when don't you like peas?" Mom said in disbelief.
"I like peas, Mrs. Forman." Hyde interjected. He always has to do that. The only reason my parents like him better than me is because he's a suck up. Well, and also, he's pretty good at making them believe everything he does wrong is actually my fault.
"Eric, while you're up, get me a beer." Dad requested, pushing his plate back and getting comfortable.
"Oh, speaking of beer…" Hyde put his fork down. "My parents are back in town."
Hyde opened the fridge door, assessing the breakfast options inside. It didn't take long, the shelves were empty except for a blackened banana, Tupperware container of leftover chili, and an open bowl of something covered in grayish green fuzz. He wrinkled his noise and slammed the door closed. It may have been true seventeen year old boys would eat anything, but he just couldn't bring himself to have chili for breakfast two mornings in a row.
Mrs. Forman was probably making waffles. Hyde checked his watch; the Formans didn't usually eat until 9:00 or so on Saturday morning, if he left right then, he could probably steal a couple waffles from Eric.
The phone rang as soon as he opened the apartment door, almost as if the door opening had triggered a switch. Hyde paused, debating whether or not he should bother answering the phone. People didn't call their place very often. He decided to answer, just in case it was his father calling from the holding cell.
"Steven! Glad you're there!" Bud Hyde always had a false enthusiasm to his voice. "Look, I need to talk to you."
"Yeah, Dad." Hyde took a seat on the counter, drumming his heels against the fake wood paneling beneath. "You haven't been home in two days."
Hyde had walked into a bar five months ago with the intention of using his fake ID, and found his father tending bar. He'd moved in with Bud, but sometimes he wondered if it was worth it. Bud was trying to be a parent; he just wasn't any good at it. Neither of Hyde's parents had been.
"See, that's a pretty funny story." Bud started glibly. Hyde rolled his eyes. It wouldn't be a funny story; Bud was trying to save face.
"I was at work Thursday, and you'll never guess who walked in!" Bud waited and when he realized Hyde wasn't going to guess, continued. "Edna!"
"My mom, Edna?"
"Yeah! Anyway, we got to talking, and you know, reliving old times and stuff, and the next thing we knew, we were in my car heading for Canada!" Bud laughed, as though this was the funniest thing he'd heard in months.
"So, you're in Canada, Bud?" Hyde could see where this was heading.
"It's not important where we are! I mean, your Mom and I are back together! That should make you happy! You were pretty upset when we divorced."
"Yeah." Hyde didn't bother to keep the frustration out of his voice. "I was upset because my dad walked out on me. Kind of like right now!"
"Steven, I'm really sorry about that..."
"No, you're not!"
"Hey, I can send you money for the rent." Bud offered.
"Bud, that's not even the point!" Hyde gave up trying to explain his side. "You know, never mind. I'm real glad you and Mom hooked back up, and I hope you're happy without me like she always wanted. I'll be just fine on my own, so don't bother coming back next time." He slammed the receiver back into the cradle and hopped down off the counter.
It was pretty obvious what had happened. He'd let his guard down. As soon as he'd stopped wondering if Bud was going to stay around, Bud had skipped out on him as fast as he could. He should have never let himself get into this situation in the first place.
He didn't feel like going over to the Formans anymore, in fact he wasn't that hungry anyway.
"Oh, how cute, he's doing his homework!" Mom patted me on top of the head as she passed the kitchen table. How cute? I mean, I know I have a sort of impish quality to me that the ladies really love, but shouldn't that be apparent all the time, not just when I was eating my pencil and plotting the imminent death of Pythagoras?
"He'll be a whole lot cuter when he's not living under my roof." Dad grunted from behind his newspaper.
Mom sat down at the table, folding her hands neatly in front of her. "Red, remember how you said you'd paint the house this summer?"
Dad's face appeared over the newspaper, more than a little shocked. "I never said that!"
"Red?" The scary side was taking over Mom's voice.
"Fine!" Dad threw the newspaper down. "Kitty, how about I paint the house this summer!"
"Yay!" Mom bounced in her chair, clapping. "Yellow!"
"No, Kitty. Green." He vanished behind the sports section.
"Hey, guys, I'm trying to do homework here?" I interrupted. How was I supposed to find the tangent of anything when they were arguing paint colors? Plus, our house would look stupid painted yellow. It'd be all bright and girly. Oh my god, Mom was going to make us paint the house yellow.
"Shut up, Eric."
"What, you're the one that told me to buckle down..." I trailed off before Red kicked and broke my kneecap under the table.
"Yellow is such a cheerful color." Mom was still ecstatic over the fact Dad was painting the house. "And I need something cheerful, since I don't have anything to look forward to anymore..." She broke off as the front doorbell rang.
"Who the hell is that?" Dad asked. "All Eric's idiot friends just walk in, and so does Bob for that matter. It must be a salesman. Don't answer it, I'm not buying any more crap."
"Red, maybe someone came to visit!" Mom was already halfway to the living room door.
"Kitty, who would want to visit us?"
"Well... maybe they didn't come to see you!" Mom laughed and hurried out into the living room.
We both listened to the voices in the other room. "Did she invite them in?" Dad threw his newspaper down again in exasperation. "Now I'm going to have to go out there and TALK to them!"
"And we all know how difficult that is..." I muttered.
"Hey, shut it, pal." He was pushing his chair in and starting for the door. "If your mother wants to know where I went, you don't know." Smart man, he was running away while there was still time.
Mom came barreling back through the door like Edith Bunker on All in the Family. "Oh... my... GOD!" She stage whispered, waving her hands madly in the air. Yeah, she looked completely crazy, but it scared Dad into stopping his flight for the driveway. "You will never guess who is out there!" She spun and pointed at the living room wall.
"Oh, wait, I've got this one, Dad." I held up a hand to silence him. "It's Ed McMahon, right, Mom? We're millionaires now, and we can just hire someone to paint the house."
If looks could kill, Red would have just turned me into a tiny little pile of smoking ash. Damn me and my smart mouth.
"No!" Mom was so worked up she took my guess seriously. "It's..." She glanced over her shoulder, like whoever it was would be listening at the door. "It's Steven's parents!"
"Son of a bitch!" Dad flung his arms in the air. It was an appropriate choice of words when you thought about it. Yeah, this probably wasn't the time or place to bring that up.
"Shhhh, they can hear you!" If Mom's arms waved any faster, she was going to start hovering above the floor. "Where's Steven? Red, go talk to them. Oh my, I'm so nervous!" She started laughing hysterically.
"Kitty, for the love of God, pull yourself together." He sent a disgusted glance her way, before turning back to me. "Eric, go get Steven."
"But..." I started, before setting my pencil down, and bolting for the basement door as fast as I could. Something told me Red wasn't in the mood for backtalk. He's never in the mood for backtalk. Dad is a cranky, mean old man.
Hyde was downstairs watching Donahue with Fez. I dragged him back upstairs without really telling him what was going on. I had a feeling if I told him, he'd decide not to go, and then I'd get in trouble for not tackling him to the ground or something. Yeah, it's always my fault. I hate that.
He stopped just out of range of the swinging door into the living room, and I hit the brakes to keep from running right over the top of him. The door came flying back towards me, and I didn't really catch it in time. Knocked me a good three steps to my right, and for a few seconds, I thought my arm was broken. No one even noticed, thanks to the huge awkward silence permeating the entire living room.
Since I've managed to have more than my fair share of embarrassing situations and awkward moments in my life, I had this compulsion to break up awkward silences. It doesn't usually go well, and I know I should just shut up, but then words come out of my mouth anyway. Hyde was my best friend. I wanted to do something to help him. I could practically feel the anger radiating off of him.
Oh wait. Never mind that, I think the door just whacked my elbow. My mistake.
"Steven, aren't you going to say something?" Edna was sitting on the couch, wearing a black sweater and pink slacks. Her hair was different from the last time I'd seen her, shorter and more curly.
"What do you want me to say?" Hyde folded his arms and glowered at her.
I moved around to the other side of the room and sat next to Mom on the organ bench. It felt safer over there. My mother would protect me, right?
Hyde has this creepy ability to get inside your head, figure out exactly what he can use against you, and when the time comes, push that button for all it's worth. He does it to me, he does it to his girlfriend - which can be pretty funny sometimes - he's even done it to Red before. It's annoying as anything because I can never get back at him in the same way. It's like kicking a brick wall. But, his best moments have always come against Edna. Maybe he inherited it from her, because when they decide to go at it, look out. They were currently in a stare down, it was only a matter of time.
"So, Eric, how've you been?" Bud was blissfully unaware of what was about to unfold next to him. Dad's right, Bud's a dumbass.
"What do you guys want?" Hyde interrupted me before I could answer. It was a shame really, I had so much interesting information I could have shared. Oh, who am I kidding?
"We don't want anything." Edna snapped. "We thought we'd be nice and come see you, so sit down, shut up and quit ruining the moment."
Surprisingly enough, Hyde sat down. It had to have been a strategic maneuver; there was no way he'd cave to his mother like that.
"You still working at the Fotohut?" Bud leaned around Edna so he could see Hyde.
"So you guys need money." Hyde assumed. This got Mom and Dad's attention. Bud had hit Hyde up for money the last time he was in town, and Dad had yelled about it afterwards until that creepy vein popped out on his forehead.
"No, we don't need money." Bud corrected. "I was just asking."
"Oh." Hyde backed down a little. "I'm not. Leo had to leave town."
"Hiding in Canada from the cops." I added.
"Damn hippie." Dad muttered.
"You're graduating pretty soon, right?" Edna asked, smacking Hyde on the arm.
Hyde just stared at her blankly. I wasn't sure if he was intentionally refusing to answer, or if he was just surprised she had asked.
"Yes, he is!" Mom jumped to fill the silence. "We're just so proud of him! His SAT scores were good enough to get him into college!"
"College, huh?" Bud repeated. "We've never had that in the family before."
"I could have gone to college." Edna interjected.
"Oh god..." Hyde rolled his eyes.
"Hey!" Edna turned on him. "I could have!" Whatever little rapport had been established was gone, just like that. It was like watching a car wreck in slow motion. It was going to end in a horrible mangled mess, but I couldn't take my eyes away from them.
"Wait, let me finish this one for you, Edna." Hyde stood back up, on the defensive. "See, Edna could have done a lot of things, except she got knocked up and had me instead. And she's never let me forget it!"
"Yeah, well, I was never cut out to be a mother." Edna defended.
"Oh my god!" Mom couldn't take anymore, jumping up off the organ bench, her fists actually clenched at her sides. "What is the matter with both of you? You haven't seen each other in a year, and you still can't get along for five minutes?"
Hyde and Edna stopped and stared at her. "Excuse me?" Edna asked coldly.
"No, no, Edna, she's right." Hyde sat back down on the arm of the couch. "Sorry, Mrs. Forman."
The room went silent again. Dad may have been sleeping with his eyes open, but I wasn't sure. Either that or he'd worked himself into some kind of trance stopping himself from jumping up and yelling "dumbass" at everyone in the room. If he didn't do it soon, I was going to. Then I'd turn and run like the wind, because Edna scared me a little. A lot. She can be a really scary lady.
"When do you graduate?" Bud did something right for once and changed the subject. I shouldn't be so hard on Bud, he's not a bad guy, really. Sometimes he's pretty cool. But then he usually does something stupid to ruin it.
"Six weeks." Hyde shifted uncomfortably on the couch arm.
"Well, you're not in jail, you're actually graduating high school, you turned out better than I thought you would." Edna reached over and patted Hyde's arm. Somewhere deep down underneath, I think she meant it as a compliment.
Hyde smiled, so I guess he took it for one. In a weird, twisted kind of way, it was actually a touching moment.
To be continued...
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