Title: Carry On My Wayward Son
Summary: Bobby arrives at Evelyn's.
Disclaimer: I do not own the movie Four Brothers or the characters herein. Aria, her father, and her aunt are my creations.
Carry on my wayward son
There'll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don't you cry no more
On a stormy sea of moving emotion
Tossed about I'm like a ship on the ocean
I set a course for winds of fortune
But I hear the voices say
Carry On My Wayward Son, Kansas
Aria Gamotti was named for a song, by her mother, moments before the exhausted woman died. The entire staff agreed she was a beautiful baby and what a pity her mother died so young. The father seemed apathetic both to his daughter's birth and wife's death. He was heard muttering about the woman's failure to do anything right before abandoning the hospital. The staff wondered if he would be back, half of them hoping he would not return.
Alas, Antony Gamotti returned for his child and took her home with his same indifferent manner. His sister came to stay for a time to help care for her niece. She knew her brother would not and she needed a place to stay for awhile. Plus, the nice lady who lived next door helped baby-sit when Cara was otherwise occupied. Cara knew that Mrs. Mercer would dearly love to adopt Aria, but Antony would not hear of it. He cared very little for the girl who was his flesh and blood but she was his and he had never parted with anything that belonged to him.
Cara died in a drive by shooting four years later. While she had not loved her niece by any means she had been a steady presence for the young girl. Aria cried for two days straight before Antony gave in to Evelyn's pleas and let the child stay with her for a couple of weeks. They were the best two weeks of Aria's life and she was reluctant to return to the cold house next door.
After that, Evelyn made sure to stop by often. She took Aria to get enrolled in school and helped her with her homework. As long as Aria was home by dark Antony did not say anything.
Aria was 11 when Bobby Mercer moved in with Evelyn. Over the years, Aria had been used to seeing children come and go. Most she made friends with, but was always careful to be somewhat distant. Their stay at Evelyn's was never permanent.
Her first meeting with Bobby was interesting to stay the least.
"Fuck you too! I don't have to stay anywhere! I can fuckin' take care of myself!"
Aria was sitting on the front steps of her house when she heard the rough voice and then the screen door slam. She looked up as a boy about her age stalked down the front steps and paused in the chilly Detroit air. His hair was dark brown and slightly wild as if he had been running his hands through it. He was short for his age, but stocky and had a don't fuck with me air that most of the men around their neighborhood took years to achieve. He must have felt her stare because he turned and glared at her.
"What the fuck are you looking at little girl?"
"I haven't decided yet," Aria said smartly. "What's your name?"
"Fuck you care for? I ain't staying here long enough for you to know."
Aria shrugged indifferently and went back to sewing up her father's work pants. Bobby was not the first angry child to come to Evelyn's and he would not be the last. The screen door opened again and Evelyn appeared. She smiled when she saw Aria who grinned back.
"Bobby! I see you've met our neighbor Aria Gamotti." Evelyn handed Bobby a jacket and he yanked it from her eyeing her suspiciously. "When you're finished throwing your tantrum dinner will be on the table. Will you be joining us Aria?"
Aria shook her head regretfully. "Dad's supposed to be home early today so I need to make him supper. Thanks for the invite though."
"You're welcome dear. Bobby, don't stay out here too long it is cold."
Bobby glared at her but did not say anything. Evelyn seemed to sigh and then returned to the house.
"She's really nice, you know," Aria offered, pausing in her efforts.
Bobby glared. "Did I ask for you're fucking opinion? No, so shut up."
Aria shrugged. "That's cool. I've lived next door to Evelyn ever since I can remember."
The boy sighed. "You're gonna give me your whole fucking life story aren't you?"
Aria stared at him primly. "Not if you continue to cuss. It's not polite to swear in front of girls."
Bobby shot her an I don't give a fuck look that he had probably patented. Aria sighed and stood. "Look, Bobby, you can fight as long as you want but eventually Evelyn will wear you down. She's the most stubborn, loving lady I've ever met."
Aria stomped up the stoop and slammed her front door shut. Bobby stood outside for a few more minutes before retreating into his new foster home wondering how long he would last at this one and if what the girl said was true.
The next morning found Bobby sitting on the step watching a game of pickup hockey. None of the kids had skates, but they had sticks which was what he was missing. He had broken his only stick over the head of his last foster parent. He'd been trippin' on acid and looking for anything with a hole. Bobby had never let anyone violate him like that and he never would. Of course when the dude woke up with a splitting headache and saw the broken stick he had deduced the situation. Bobby had been sent packing; his only regret was losing his stick. Few things in life brought Bobby happiness like hockey did. It was not just the brutality that lured him it was the skill and finesse needed to stay balanced and focused on the ice while maneuvering a puck around so many opposing players. Hockey was his drug and he was craving it badly.
He could steal a stick, but that thought was dismissed as quickly as it had entered his mind. Hockey was the only thing in his life not sullied by theft or drug money. His gear he earned through honest means. Damn did he want to play! A squeak alerted him to the screen door opening and Bobby glanced up at Evelyn who took a seat on the step next to him. She watched the game in the street and let Bobby quietly observe her.
Last night he had expected some punishment for his abominable behavior but Evelyn had not said anything. She had fed him until he could not eat anymore and let him pick what to watch on TV. It had been a long time since he'd had that much food. Food that he could keep down at any rate. Most of his foster parents had questionable cooking skills at best. There were times Bobby had himself sent to Juvie just for a square meal. He'd fallen asleep on the couch against his will and when he'd awoken, disoriented, in the middle of the night tangled in a blanket she hadn't been upset over his thrashing breaking a lamp. She had calmly picked up the pieces and made him stay put until she'd vacuumed the stray bits of glass. Bobby had opted to sleep on the couch that night. He liked that he was so close to an exit, but what surprised him more was that he liked how she trusted him to stay.
"The hockey game is much more interesting then me, Bobby," Evelyn finally said. She had a quiet way of speaking that made Bobby think she was talking to a wounded animal. It was slow and soft as if she were afraid she would startle him. He wasn't sure yet if it was annoying.
"Yeah it's just a bunch of stupid kids," but he could not help staring longingly at the game even if it was a group of beginners. He had always been able to play with the teenagers because he was so good. He was small, but vicious and fast. He could take the hits so the older boys tended to respect him.
"Hm, you don't seem like much of a hockey player anyway," Evelyn mused not taking her eyes off the kids in the street.
Bobby stared at her, aghast, "Not a—ugh, I am the hockey player. Man, I'd fuckin' whip that entire group by myself."
Evelyn smiled. "Why don't you then?"
Bobby shrugged and mumbled wishing she would go away. He didn't want to admit he had broken his stick. He wasn't ashamed he had defended himself he just didn't want to explain why.
"Too bad then. I have some old hockey sticks no one plays with anymore. I guess I can give them to Goodwill…"
Bobby rolled his eyes. "Okay, I'll bite. Can I have one?"
"Please," prompt Evelyn.
Bobby rolled his eyes again and exhaled mightily, "Please?"
Evelyn stood. "Sure, come pick one out."
After Bobby had selected a stick he grabbed his blades and rushed outside, past the kids playing on the street, and headed towards the rink. They had passed it on his way to Evelyn's and he had seen a group of guys tossing a puck back and forth. When he arrived no one was there. Bobby hastily laced up his skates and glided out onto the rink. He needed to brush up on his skills anyway and he worked better without an audience. He had been skating for a couple of hours when he noticed the same group of guys from the day before watching him. He slowly skated over nodding a greeting.
"You're pretty good for a kid," the leader said, flicking a cigarette into the grass. "You new around here?"
Bobby nodded. He had learned awhile ago to not get riled up over being called a kid. He could prove his worth with his fists and stick.
"You wanna play a quick game?" The leader asked. "You can be on my team." He grinned showing a couple gold teeth. Bobby wondered if they were packing. He'd left most of his shit behind when he'd been sent away from his last home. Deciding he did not care either way Bobby followed the older boy out to the center of the rink.
"Name's Calvin, kid."
Calvin quickly introduced him to the rest of the group who divided into two teams. They played until it grew too dark to see. Bobby was high on adrenaline. It had been a long time since he'd played that hard and it was worth every exhausting minute.
"You are pretty good, kid," Calvin said again as he kicked off his skates. "Where'd you learn to play like that?"
Bobby shrugged. "One of the group homes I was in had some hockey player stop by for charity and he gave some lessons. Everything else I learned on my own."
"Come on, kid. I'll give you a ride home," Calvin said with a grin.
When they pulled up to the front of the house Bobby promised to meet them at the rink tomorrow. Walking up the steps he saw the girl from next door sitting on the porch with Evelyn.
"I see you've met Calvin's little gang," she sniffed. "You'd better be careful they're trouble."
Bobby sneered, "What are you an informer?"
She glared and went back to what looked like math homework. Ugh, Bobby had forgotten about school. Evelyn was probably the kind of foster parent who would make him go too.
"Did you have fun, Bobby?" Evelyn asked pausing in her knitting.
Bobby shrugged. He wasn't really up for talking. Usually after playing so hard he wanted to eat. He wondered if Evelyn had already made dinner and if he was out of luck for missing it.
"There are leftovers in the fridge if you're hungry so help yourself."
Bobby stared at her for a minute as if unsure she had spoken the truth. The girl stopped her homework and rolled her eyes. "Her food's not poisoned you know."
"Shut the fuck up," Bobby yelled glad to have someone to take his nervousness out on. The girl seemed taken aback and Bobby felt a frisson of guilt.
"Bobby," Evelyn chided quietly. "Please don't speak to Aria like that. It's not polite. Now, go inside and eat."
Bobby glared at Aria before storming into the house. It had to be a record. One day and he was already going back to the group home. It was that stupid girl's fault. There was no way the old lady was going to let him stay now. Twice in less than 24 hours he had lost his temper over stupid things. Angrily, Bobby stormed around the kitchen heating his food. He might as well get another good meal.
Evelyn came in a few minutes after he had started eating.
"Sorry we didn't wait for you," Evelyn said taking a seat. "I didn't know when you were going to be home."
Or if was the part that when unsaid, Bobby thought. He was sure Evelyn had her share of runaways. His mind suddenly processed that Evelyn had apologized to him for not holding up dinner.
"Uh, it's fine." Bobby muttered shoveling more food in his mouth. Evelyn smiled.
"What do you think about settling in your room tonight? The couch isn't a comfortable bed and you can unpack."
Bobby swallowed hard resisting the urge to choke on his half masticated food. "You're letting me stay?"
Evelyn looked at him quizzically. "Why wouldn't I?"
He gestured towards the door unsure how to voice his thoughts without sounding like a pussy.
"Because you yelled at Aria?" Evelyn asked suppressing a laugh.
"And yesterday," Bobby reminded her as if daring her to send him away.
"Oh, Bobby," Evelyn sighed and there was a very sad look in her eyes.
Bobby stood abruptly and yelled, "I don't need your pity!"
"Sit down, Bobby," Evelyn said quietly, but firmly. Bobby sat surprised her tone garnered his obedience.
"I would never pity you. I will never send you away. This is your home for so long as you wish it to be. I will never make you stay here, but you are always welcome."
Bobby nodded and continued eating. He needed time to process what she said. It seemed too good to be true. After he finished the leftovers he helped Evelyn clean up the mess.
"I can see leftovers aren't going to be a problem with you in the house," Evelyn chuckled.
Bobby looked stricken. Had he eaten too much? She hadn't specified how much. His 3rd foster parent had beaten him if he ate too much.
Evelyn noticed his look and smiled reassuringly. "It was a joke, Bobby. You're a growing boy. I'm expecting you to eat me out of house and home."
Bobby nodded still unsure as he dried dishes. Evelyn put the last one away and gestured for him to follow. He noticed she was careful not to touch him. He wondered how many abused kids she dealt with.
Upstairs she showed him the where the bathroom was and then led him to the room down from hers. It was blue with a beige carpet. A single bed was on the right side of the window with a dresser and desk on the opposite wall. The window looked out to their neighbor's house and he assumed it was that girl Aria's.
"It's a little bare at the moment, but we'll fix that up. You're suitcase is next to the dresser. You can unpack whenever you're ready."
Bobby nodded and sat on the bed. While he was used to being sent from place to place the first few days were always nerve-wracking. Especially, he decided, in this house. He could really grow attached to this place. It was a dangerous feeling in a world where the system could yank him any which way it wanted.
Evelyn paused in the doorway. "We can go shopping for a few necessities tomorrow and enroll you in school."
Bobby frowned, but did not argue. Evelyn seemed nice, but he didn't want to push his luck. Besides, he did not have to stay at school. Not tired, but not wanting to leave his room Bobby decided to go ahead and unpack. It didn't take long as he did not have much. Still feeling restless, Bobby wondered if she would mind him coming downstairs. He did not think so, but he pounded down the stairs just to see if she would say anything. He found her in the kitchen scooping two bowls of ice cream. Evelyn smiled at seeing him in the doorway.
"Oh, good. I thought I was going to have to come get you. I should have remembered boys have a sixth sense when it comes to ice cream."
She set both bowls on the table and took a seat. Bobby sat across from her slightly tense. He figured there had to be an agenda if she was sweetening him up with ice cream.
"I figured we could discuss a few more things," she began after taking a bite. "Discuss rules and expectations."
Bobby smiled into his ice cream, these people were so predictable.
"I only have a few rules. No lying, no stealing, and no skipping school. I don't care how much trouble you get in or why just don't lie to me. There shouldn't be any stealing because I'm providing for you. I'll give you a weekly allowance for those things I say no to. I'll expect you to do yard work in the spring, summer, fall as well as shovel snow in the winter. I expect you to graduate high school. I understand if you're not a college man but you will have a diploma. How does that sound?"
Bobby shrugged, wondering why she was thinking so long term. The longest he had ever stayed in one place was for about a year.
"We'll just take it day by day."
"What about punishments?" Bobby mumbled, stirring his melting ice cream.
"I'm sorry?" Evelyn asked watching him intently.
Bobby cleared his throat, "What about punishments?"
Evelyn frowned slightly. "I suppose we'll decide what's fair based on the gravity of the crime. You'll never be struck in this house, Bobby. You need never fear me laying a hand on you."
Bobby nodded but did not believe her. He had a knack for finding trouble and it all resulted in beatings in the end. Evelyn gathered their dishes and washed them.
"I think I'll go to bed a little early. We have a busy day tomorrow. If you're not tired feel free too watch TV. I'll wake you up in the morning."
Bobby nodded and wandered into the living room. He was tired but did not think he could sleep yet. Watching TV was mind numbing enough and he settled on a late night comedy.
This place just had to be too good to true. He wondered when the other shoe was gonna drop. No one was this nice. They always had an agenda. He was just dozing off when he heard a door open outside. Wondering who was out this late at night Bobby slipped on his jacket and shoes.
In a pool of light from the street lamp was the girl next door. She was only in a shirt and sweats, her hands outstretched. Bobby rolled his eyes and walked over to her.
"Crazy girl what the fuck are you doin' out here this late?"
Aria glanced over at him with a shy smile. "It's the first snow of the season."
Bobby noticed it was snowing and that she was shivering. Suppressing an irritated sigh Bobby shrugged out of his jacket and put it around her shoulders.
"Thank you," she said in a hushed voice watching the snowflakes dance in the night's wind. "It's so magical, the first snow. It's so clean and pure covering this dirty city. It gives me hope, like I know tomorrow's gonna be better."
Bobby didn't say anything not wanting to ruin the moment. It was like something from a dream and he knew he would wonder tomorrow if he had been sleepwalking.
A few minutes later Aria handed him his jacket. He stared down at her, for some reason wanting to freeze this surreal moment in time. He did not know why as the girl was so annoying. He watched her nibble on her lip before stretching up and pressing a chilly kiss to his cheek.
"Thank you for keeping me company," she whispered before darting inside.
Bobby stood there for a few minutes imprinting the moment in his memory. He had never felt more composed than standing in the new fallen snow with a quixotic 11 year old girl. It was a recollection he would return to in the years to come.