Okay, I just really wanted to do a series of One-shots about the kids of Peach Creek. I love a good back story, don't you? They may or may not be related to each other... I'll have to see. I'll take suggestions, if you guys want to suggest an idea.
This one is about Kevin and his family life:
Parents shouldn't hurt their children.
That has been my one defining rule; the one that stayed with me my whole life, because it is so very important.
How did I end up here, you may ask, on the outskirts of a city, a suburb aptly named Peach Creek?
I ran away from home when I was seventeen, pulling my baby brother along with me. I wasn't an adult, but I was wise enough to know I had to get away. Mum had been missing for a week and Dad hadn't even bothered to get up from the couch. Kevin, my five year old brother, was sitting in a pile of his own filth. Mum hadn't been there to lead him to the potty. Five years old and Kevin still had trouble walking.
Sometimes I just wanted to collapse into tears. The final straw was when Kevin staggered to his feet and then fell again, inches from my Father's feet. Kevin burst into tears, and already I knew there would be an awful bruise welling up on his head.
"Shut it, idiot," Dad muttered, nudging Kevin aside with one hideous foot.
"Dad," I said quietly, picking up my brother and hugging him. He quietened. "Dad, Kevin's hurt. Couldn't you at least have helped him up? Or changed him? Has he been wearing soiled clothes since I came home from work?"
"Leave me be, Sophie," Dad growled, his small eyes still fixed on the Television, "If you know what's good for you, eh?"
"Don't talk to me like that, Dad," I snarled, cradling Kevin to my chest, "Where the fuck is Mum? She ought to be home, yeah? Where is she?"
"Don't know, don't fucking care," said Dad, his jaw clenched.
"She's your bloody wife, you should," I quipped.
"She's probably run off," Dad waved a hand through the air, "you know she's a bitch, anyway, what's the big fuss?"
"She is not a bitch," I yelled, taking Dad completely off guard. He stood and turned to face me, fuming.
"Don't talk to me like that, girl," he ordered.
"Why not?" I snarled, "You're a bastard, you know that. You don't do anything for us. When was the last time you went to work? It's your fault I quit school, 'cause I needed money more than education."
Even with all the shit that I had put up with at home, I never expected what came next. A slap across the face, and a kick in the stomach; Kevin fell from my arms and I fell backwards, winded. Kevin started crying again.
Dad dragged him up by his ears, teeth bared.
"Stop it, boy," he thundered, clipping Kevin over the head. Kevin just cried harder.
"Stop it, Dad," I pleaded, and snatched Kevin back into my arms. I was having trouble breathing; I was still winded.
"I'm your Father, Sophie," he said, pointing a finger at me, "I'll get more respect, you 'ear?"
"I don't know if you've ever been told this, but respect needs to be earned." I stormed back through the corridors, only one burning thought in my mind. To my relief, our Father didn't follow us. I placed Kevin down on my bed and pulled out the battered suitcase I hadn't used since I was twelve. It was much too small, definitely, but it would have to do.
I shoved my favourite and best clothes into the suitcase, some of Kevin's. I grabbed my old toiletry bag and filled it to the brim with anything we might need.
"Kevin," I said, "you know your old day care backpack? Can you go pack some books and toys in there? And then choose some new clothes to wear today. You can't wear dirty clothes, can you?"
"What is happening?" he asked and his little voice was like a blessing. I so rarely heard it.
"We're going somewhere else, away from Dad," I assured him.
"To find Mum?"
"I don't think so. Maybe." Anything to get him to agree; I should have done this so long ago. Kevin stumbled off on his unsteady legs, his grubby hands trailing along the cheaply wallpapered walls.
I found my handbag on my desk and collected any important files or papers that I might need. My wallet, my savings and other important memento's; I took them all, cramming them into any spot I could. Several things ended up in the pockets of my jacket.
I changed Kevin and left his clothes on the floor of the laundry, his current bedroom, in a heap. Dad could deal with them. I made my way back into the joined kitchen and living room. Dad was back on the couch, but he kept looking over his shoulder at me as I pulled food from the cupboards.
"What are you doing?" he asked.
"What? Where are you going?"
"Away," I said simply. There was a long moment of silence as I shut another cupboard.
"Permanently?" Dad asked. I turned, curious. Was that emotion I detected in his voice?
"I don't know, Dad," I sighed, "but I can't stay here. Neither can Kevin. I'm leaving, and if you try and stop me from taking Kevin, I'll just call the cops or something. Child Services wouldn't be impressed with the state of this place, would they?"
Dad shook his head, "No, Soph, take him. Leave. You ain't living right, here, after all. There's a stash of money's in the cupboard above the fridge. Take it and go, yeah?"
"What about you?"
"I'll be fine, you know me," Dad smiled weakly, "always pulling through."
It was so unlike Dad to be selfless, that I obeyed. I found the small curl of fifty dollar notes and left one, because he needed money to pay for take out later.
"You go back to work, Dad," I instructed, "work your life out, because I'm not going to be there to do that anymore."
Perhaps Dad realised the weight of my words, for he looked suddenly kinder than I had seen him for a long time.
"You take care, Soph. Look after Kevin. Be good."
"I will, Dad."
Perhaps the thing I regret most was not giving him one last hug. Even after the seemingly loving goodbye, I couldn't bring myself to go near him. Sometimes, it's just too late for that. Some relationships can't be saved.
I found the cheapest motel I could for a few nights, just to get myself straightened out.
On the outskirts of the city was a small town, known as Peach Creek. That was wear Mum's cousin lived. Olivia, one of the only family members Kevin and I had left. I called her, informed her of my situation, and she invited me over for dinner a few nights later.
I don't think I could have managed without her. She was a little wary of me, but she instantly took pity on Kevin. She told me that she would always be open to babysitting. She was a widow. I think she was lonely.
It must have been through her that Kevin became properly toilet trained. I never did it. I left him at her house when I went to work, which I did a lot, and soon I had rented a small apartment near work. I could walk there, it was quite easy.
I also met Will there. He lived at the apartment across the street, with a few friends. I was giddy with excitement the first time he asked me out on a date.
By the time Kevin was six, he could walk properly and spoke more. He loved receiving attention from Will, Olivia and I, probably because he had received so little of it in the past. He was spoilt rotten, and I loved him with all my heart. I almost cried when he called me Mum for the first time. Will had looked slightly afraid when he was first called Dad. I laughed.
Will and I were looking to buy a larger place together when Olivia became ill. Cancer was spreading through her body quickly.
It was sad that Kevin and I were the only ones by her side when she took her last breath in hospital. Kevin was only six and a half.
To my surprise, Olivia had left us the house, in a little Cul-De-Sak. I cried for hours as I read the letter she left me. Apparently the last few years had been the best of her life, because Kevin and I had been in it. She had been feeling so lonely, and we were like a spark of light in a dark place.
Will, Kevin and I moved into Olivia's old house just months before Kevin started school. A few months later, another family moved into the house across the road, and a boy about Kevin's age. His name was Eddward, I think. To my dismay, Kevin didn't become friends with this boy, but rather a girl called Nazz who lived in the same cul-de-sak.
Will was quickly moving up the ladder at his work. He was twenty three. I was only nineteen.
Kevin was nine and I was just twenty two when Will proposed. Our marriage was quick and quiet. A few friends came, and Nazz and her mother, whom I was very fond of.
I had never been so happy in my life. As the years flew past though, times became tougher. I worked more and more, because bills were expensive. Then, thank god, Will landed himself in a well-paying spot in the Jaw-breaker factory.
Kevin was delighted when he realised that Will could now bring him home Jaw breakers for free. I watched as he ran into the street and immediately started bragging. Kids started turning up and he made a big deal of his "Father's" new job. I wondered if any of them new that Will wasn't really his father. Sometimes he called us Will and Sophie, but that was usually when we were alone together. In front of others, we would just be Mum and Dad. I wondered if he didn't want to seem different from the other children. Either way, I was usually Kevin's Mother.
Somehow, I would feel both happy and sad about that.
I often wondered what had happened to our real Mother. Had she simply run off, bored of her life after seventeen years of raising me? Didn't she miss me at all? Had she thought of us before she died?
Our Mother had had problems, I knew. Health and mental problems had always made it hard for her to cope with a lot of things. We had been going alright though, even when Kevin was born. Till he was three, we were a happy family. Then Mum's sicknesses worsened... bipolar was a bitch. Dad stooped slowly more and more into depression, skipped work constantly and then quit altogether.
He was unpredictable; sometimes fine, and sometimes uncaring. It was like he had bipolar too; except I know he didn't. Mum went into more frequent depressions or highs. The things she told me in one of her moods were not always kind... at sixteen, it was hard to take. I always managed to get by though. Kevin did too... even after we left, we were okay.
I hadn't heard from my Father in seven years, by the time Kevin was twelve and I was nearing twenty-five.
The doorbell rang and I looked up from my studies, which I had been glaring at. I had decided to go back to University and study, hopefully so I could find a more worthwhile career. I really regretted quitting school, but there had seemed no other option at the time. I studied from home, though, finding it easier than travelling all the way to the campus.
I groaned, although secretly I was relieved to leave the work behind, and stretched out before heading for the door. Will was at work that day and Kevin was presumably playing with his friends in the street.
"Hello?" I asked as I opened the door, staring at the man and woman who stood there. The man looked vaguely familiar, but the woman was a complete stranger. They were both wearing good clothes, though and I was immediately under the impression that they were quite wealthy. The sleek black car parked out the front of my house wasn't helping.
"You're Sophie Banks?" the woman asked.
"I was," I said, puzzled, "I'm Sophie Anderson now. I'm married."
"You're married?" asked the man in surprise, and it was his voice that made me recognise him.
"Dad?" I asked, loudly. Kevin and a collection of other kids appeared at the gate.
"Whoa," said one of the kids, a boy named Eddy, "that guy looks loaded."
"What's he doing at my house?" asked Kevin, frowning. It was strange how the kids believed that we couldn't even hear them, when in truth, their voices were stunningly loud.
"What are you doing here?" I hissed, my hand clenched on the door. Seven years without contact had done nothing to decrease my bitterness. In fact, it had only made it grow larger.
"Why don't we talk about this inside?" enquired the woman, who I still didn't recognise.
"Shoo," I called to the kids, and they wandered off, looking bored. Kevin stayed put at the fence though.
"Who's that?" he asked, his eyes on me. I shook my head, motioning for him to leave.
"Is that Kevin?" asked Dad, and I gritted my teeth. Kevin looked even more confused.
"Yes," I muttered, "fine, Kevin, come inside." I walked through the door and left it hanging open. The two people walked slowly down the corridor, surveying photographs and Kevin's numerous sporting awards. I wanted to slap them, or push them out of the house. It made me feel naked; unprotected. They were seeing everything that was mine. I had long since bared my soul and life from my Father; yet now he was trampling all over it again. Kevin entered through the back door, grabbing a can of soft drink from the fridge and leaning against the counter.
"Okay," I said loudly, "first things first. Who the Hell are you?" I directed the question at the woman, who looked a little taken aback.
"Sophie," said Dad through gritted teeth, "this is Lorna, my wife."
Lorna smiled at me, but I didn't feel like smiling.
"Okay, that's great," I said with little enthusiasm, "secondly, why are you here?"
"I just wanted to see how you were doing, that's all," Dad muttered. He was seated on the couch now, Lorna clutching his hand like some pathetic old fashioned house-wife.
"Just out of the blue, seven years after we agreed to stay out of each other's life?"
"Yes," said Dad, his eyes still the same as all those years ago. He looked thinner and healthier, but there were still the same purple shadows under his eyes that had always been there.
"You're Craig," said Kevin, walking to stand beside me. Dad looked at Kevin and nodded.
"I'm your Father," he said. Kevin looked a little disgusted and made a face.
"No," he said, "dude, you're so not my Dad. I just met you."
Craig, my Father, didn't say anything for several long moments, before he turned to me.
"Yeah, to a great guy. His name is Will Anderson."
"What does he do?"
"He works at the Jawbreaker factory... you know the one."
"That's good, good," Dad didn't say it with much conviction. I wondered if he were judging Will. I thought for a moment about asking him what he did know, but then thought better of it. Why did I care?
There was a long moment of silence, and Kevin slurped his soft drink lazily. I wondered what he was thinking in his mind. How he was judging my Father... no, wait, it was Kevin's Father too.
"Sophie," said Lorna, breaking the silence, "I know this is a little sudden," I resisted the temptation to snort, "but we came here to talk about Kevin."
"What about him?"
"Yeah, what about me?" Kevin said.
"Perhaps it's better if Kevin left for a little while?" Lorna suggested. Dad continued to look down at his feet.
"No way," said Kevin, "I'm not going anywhere if I know you're talking about me."
Kevin could be threatening if he wanted, if he felt it was really important to be so; if there was a lot at stake. Sometimes I wondered if I should put him in his place more often. On occasion I had thought he might be a little harsh on a few of the neighbourhood kids... but I knew he was really a decent kid, and what harm could a twelve year old really do?
I didn't contradict Kevin.
Even so, Lorna looked a little unimpressed.
"Alright," she said, "if that's okay with you Sophie?"
"Well, then," said Lorna, looking to Dad as if on cue. Dad looked up at me and his eyes seemed to be pleading.
"I know I made a lot of mistakes, Sophie, but believe me, after you two left, I made a lot of changes. I made myself a better person. I got a job, and met Lorna a few years ago. I have a proper house now, I own it, not renting. I've done a lot to improve my life and... I guess I just wanted to get in contact, to see how you guys were doing." Dad looked back at his knees. Kevin slurped on his soft drink again.
"And what does that have to do with Kevin?"
"Well, Lorna and I were thinking... we wondered if you wanted us to take Kevin." He said the last bit very fast, but Sophie and Kevin heard every word.
"What?" asked Sophie, eyes wide, "you signed the papers when I filed for custody. End of story. I get Kevin."
"I'm not a prize, dude," said Kevin grumpily, "this is so stupid. I'm gunna go hang with Nazz and Rolf, kay?"
I nodded briskly; glad to get him out of the way. He shouldn't have to listen to these pathetic people bargaining over him.
"Listen," said Lorna, once Kevin had exited through the sliding doors, "this isn't about just you. Think about what an opportunity it would be for Kevin to spend time with his Father? Craig can provide for him very well. He can get a proper education."
"He is getting a proper education," I protested angrily, "much unlike the one my Father did provide for me; which was none at all. And as for the Father business? Kevin does have a Dad, and that is Will. Will has always been there for us, unlike someone."
Dad looked up, angry. Lorna appeared a little taken aback.
"Have I not just said that I changed?"
"You clearly don't have any common sense," I pointed out, "you show up out of the blue and want Kevin? Take him away from everything he knew and loved? His friends and family?"
"I'm his Father."
"And I'm his sister. I was the one there for him, when you weren't. Did you even bother to find out what happened to Mum? No, you just buggered off to fix your own life once Kevin and I were gone from it. Kevin wasn't even toilet trained! I lived half my childhood in a shit hole because you decided one day that working was for suckers!"
"Sophie," Dad pleaded.
"People don't change, Dad."
"Your Mother's dead."
"I know," I said. There was a moment of silence. I had found out what had happened to my Mother. It did take a while of research, but since I was next of kin, I was allowed access to medical files. Mum had been hit by a car, and died hours later in hospital. My biggest misgiving is that she died alone.
"And you know why she left?" asked Dad, staring at his knees again.
"I'd assume it was because of you," I said, although I really had no idea. It could easily have been some stupid perk of Mum's illnesses.
"I'm sorry," said Dad quietly.
"I know," I said, trying desperately to forgive my Father, "but that isn't good enough. You two are not getting Kevin. Please leave, I have quite a bit of studying to do."
Lorna rose, trying to look as dignified as possible. Dad followed suite, although he wasn't as sniffy about it. He didn't meet my eyes.
At the door Lorna turned to me and her eyes swept over me, judging.
"Think about what's best for Kevin, not you," she said icily, and then stalked back to their car. Dad spared me a sad look before following.
I returned back to my studies, but the rest of the afternoon I was restless. I kept spinning Lorna's words over and over in my head. Would Kevin really be better off with Dad and Lorna? I had never really thought about Kevin being anywhere else. I'd always figured that he didn't have anywhere else to be. Besides, we were doing fine. Will and Kevin got along as well as any Father and Son did.
Kevin was perfectly happy...
I eventually groaned and picked myself off the couch that I'd migrated from my studies to (daytime TV is a weakness of mine) and exited through the back door. Kevin's bike was still leaning against the fence, so he couldn't have gone far. I walked along the back fence and stopped when I heard voices. Nazz and Kevin must have been sitting in the lane on the other side of the fence.
As much as I wanted to talk to Kevin, I was more interested in Eavesdropping.
"Eddy is such a dork," Kevin moaned and I rolled my eyes. Eddy and Kevin were very similar at times, yet the attention seeking trait and need to be in charge they both harboured made them clash horribly.
"Well, I guess he can be," said Nazz thoughtfully, "but the Ed's aren't that bad."
"C'mon Nazz, they're all stupid."
"But Double D is so sweet." Did Nazz have a crush? I grinned.
"Yeah, but he's a dweeb," Kevin growled. I knew all about Kevin's crush on Nazz, for certain. It was maddeningly obvious.
"I'll bet you're just worried about your Dad showing up," said Nazz. I tensed, wondering if I should hear this conversation.
"I guess," said Kevin, and there were a noise as though he were throwing something, "I mean, what's with that? You can't just turn up out of the blue and stuff..."
"Yeah, I know right? What did he want?"
"He wanted custody of me," said Kevin. Nazz gasped.
"Yeah," said Kevin, "and then I left. I didn't want to hear anymore."
"You don't honestly think Sophie would let you go, right?"
"Well, maybe..." I felt my heart break into two little pieces, "I mean: I'm still her brother. I mean, she's like my Mum, but what if she just finds me annoying? I still remember Dad, from when I was little, even if only a bit... Nazz, I don't want to live with him."
"Well, tell Sophie. Kev, she loves you just as much as you love her," Nazz assured him. Kevin chuckled a little then sighed.
"This is so soppy. Let's talk about something else, Nazz, before someone hears."
"Nah, leave it, Nazz, I'm fine."
"Well, if you say so," said Nazz uneasily. I quietly moved away from the fence and back towards the house. The sun was setting lazily in the sky, a brilliant bloody orange.
"Kevin," I called, "come and help me with dinner, won't you?"
"Alright, Mum," he called. I walked back inside and didn't look at Kevin as he entered through the sliding door.
"Did he leave?"
"Yeah," I said.
"Well? Am I staying or going?"
"Staying, stupid," I grinned, "as if I'd ever let him have you."
Kevin's face lit up.
"Cool," he said, "I didn't want to go with him, anyway. That woman seemed a bitch."
"Kevin," I berated him, but I secretly agreed.
"Thanks, Sophie," he said, earnestly. I locked eyes with him and my expression turned serious.
"I love you, Kevin, you know that? Son, brother, whatever the heck you are, I'd never give you back to Dad. I'd miss you."
Kevin smiled weakly, but I could tell he was touched.
"I love you too, Soph."
We made dinner, singing along to some of Kevin's favourite songs on the radio. Will was outraged when he found out what Lorna said, assuring me that we were the best thing for Kevin.
It was a week later when there was another knock on the door. I answered it, surprised to see Dad standing there, Lorna-less.
"Dad?" I said warily.
"Sophie," he said, "can I come in?"
"Is that woman here?"
"No," he said. I let him in.
Conversation with Dad was awkward. He didn't seem to want to say much, and neither did I.
Eventually, after much small talk, he apologised. For everything.
He basically spilled everything to me, and by the time he was finished, he was in tears. For being weak, and not being a Father, he was sorry. For neglecting Kevin and I when we really needed him most, he was sorry. For ruining Kevin's childhood and my future, he was sorry. For hurting us, when we really needed to be healed. He was sorry.
I didn't say anything, but I nodded.
At the door, I frowned and turned to him. There was still one thing bugging me.
"Dad," I said, "why did you pick Lorna of all people to marry?"
Dad grinned a little.
"She's a good person most of the time. I think she just really wanted a chance to know Kevin. She's never had a kid, but I know she's always wanted one... She can't physically have any..." he looked a little sad.
"Ever thought about adopting?"
"Maybe," he said, "I guess we'll have to know." This was acknowledgment of defeat; he wasn't getting Kevin. We both knew it without conversing, like it was sitting comfortably, between us, in plain sight.
"Did you really think you would get Kevin?" I leaned against the door frame.
"I don't know," Dad sighed, "I really don't know. I just don't want him to hate me."
"He doesn't hate you, Dad," I sighed. "And I don't hate you. Parents don't mean to hurt their kids, I know."
"And I'm so sorry I ever did," said Dad quietly. I nodded and swooped down to give him a hug.
"I know, Dad," I said.
He left, then, without forgiveness, but perhaps with acceptance.
There is only so much that time can heal. Some wounds go too deep.
I'm pregnant now, and Kevin is basically grown up. I know I'd never do anything to hurt my future children. Kevin will be a great uncle... or brother... I don't know which it is.
Dad and I have kept in contact, although not frequently. It's as comfortable as it can get. We try to avoid talking about Lorna as much as possible, yet I heard they were thinking about becoming foster parents. God help any child that has to put up with Lorna's snootiness.
Yesterday I rang Dad. I'd been thinking about it for months, really, but had never had the courage to do so.
"Hey, Dad, it's Sophie."
"Oh, hey, how're you doing?"
"Fine, fine... I just wanted to say something."
"I forgive you."
Parents never mean to hurt their children, even if they somehow do. Real parents don't, anyway.
I was hurt, but now I think I've healed enough to forgive.
I think the forgiveness is sort of healing in itself, really.
I just hope that Kevin will be alright. I wonder if I will ever stop worrying about him...
But then again, I guess that's just the mark of a good parent.
Well, I hope you enjoyed that. Kevin isn't one of my favourite characters, but I don't think he's a bad person. He does seem like he has easy going parents, though. I'd assume that Sophie might spoil or indulge him a little.
Review and tell me what you think, or if you want to suggest an idea for a one-shot. As I said earlier, they don't have to be related to one another.