I do not own The Fosters. That honor belongs to the lovely people over at ABC Family.
"Ah-ha, I really hear the difference, babe," she says, walking into my room, though I know she can't hear a difference at all. She has the musical talent equivalent to a tone-deaf walrus. Still, it's nice to hear praise, something I haven't been getting much of ever since I took up lessons with the Grim Reaper, so I happily welcome the compliment. "Your teacher's good, huh?" she asks, inviting herself into my room.
"I guess," I shrug and put on a fake smile. I know she has an agenda. She may be able to fool almost everyone else, but I can read her like a book, as she can me. We are both glass to each other; see through and fragile. She has been the only constant in my life and I in hers. I have experienced many changes in my short life, but she has not been one of them.
"Well, that's very nice of your dad to pay for those lessons," she says, casually flipping through my collection of sheet music, trying to remain nonchalant. "I hope you let him know how much you appreciate it."
"Yes, I do," I reassure her. "I tell him all the time." And I do. It gives us something to talk about. My dad is always trying so hard. He and my mother were jocks in high school. He was the captain of every sport ending in "ball," his muscular frame a sharp contrast to my scrawnier one. But he, like my mother, is always very supportive, though I can't help but wonder if he ever wishes he had a son a bit more skilled at the batting cages.
"How is he doing?" she asks, patting me on the back and making her way to the other side of the room. "Your old dad, I mean," she clarifies. And now I see where this conversation is going, and I really don't like the looks of where it's headed.
"You spend more time with him than I do," I reply, noticing the irony of the situation. The divorced wife spending more time with her ex-husband than their son. It was odd. But then again, what aspect of my family wasn't strange? Strange for me had become normal over the years, which is why I hardly blinked when I came home to find a battered teenager fresh out of a juvenile detention center sitting at our dinner table one night, no warning whatsoever.
"Yeah, but we're on duty. That's different," she says, and I know it's an excuse. She wants to hear it from me, to make sure I see it too.
"I don't know, he just seems a little off these days." Off. My mother's favorite substitute for what we both know she really means. And her next statement verifies it. Seals the deal to what this conversation is quickly turning into. "I mean, I know that you had to drive him home from Mariana's party, yes?" she lifts her eyebrows disapprovingly.
"He was hung-over when he picked me up for my audition with Marshall," I say, in a very factual tone. I can't let my emotions get the better of me or something is bound to slip. And I can't have that. Because as much as I want to share it, want to let someone know how angry it makes me, having to take care of my dad, having to deal with this and having to have dealt with this for as long as I remember-I know that I can't. For the sake of my relationship with my father. Because, as mad as he makes me sometimes, that's what he still is and always will be. My father.
"Yeah, so, if you're asking me if he's drinking again…yes," I say. I hope she can leave the conversation at that and talk to my dad herself. However, in the middle of my admission she shoots me a wide-eyed look, a mixture of shock and concern. I know I have made a mistake.
"You said 'drinking again.'" She tilts her head. "You knew he was drinking before?"
And before I can stop it, a scoff escapes my lips. "Yeah," I say. I supposed it was sort of funny, in a way. To say it was so natural for me, but to hear me say it was so foreign for her.
"When?" she asks quickly, no doubt raking her brain for instances, trying to pinpoint the exact moment she had let her guard down and failed to shield me from something she so obviously wanted to shelter me from.
And at that moment I realize that I know more than I am supposed to.
I take a deep breath before continuing, because it's starting to hurt. The memories coming back are not pleasant ones. I simply utter "the divorce." I notice how my voice shakes as I speak.
She sways a bit, and I can tell this admission is hurting her more than it hurt me, and I know she feels like she has failed me. She is probably where I get my empathetic tendencies from.
"But you were little, babe," she sits down, and I know it's for more than one reason. Not only does this sudden shock of me knowing all along, something she had so desperately tried to keep secret, making her physically weak. But I also know that this won't be a short conversation. "You can't…" she is trying to make excuses, reassure herself that I didn't really know for all these years. That I couldn't truly comprehend.
"I heard you guys fighting," I tell her.
She sighs and looks down, deflated. "I'm very sorry," she says quietly, in the most sincere tone imaginable, and I know she means it. "I should have never let that happen." I. I notice how she uses the singular form. She blames herself completely, though it's not nearly as much her fault. She was looking out for me by confronting him. He was the one drinking; she was trying to watch out for me. I intend to let her know that.
"No, that's okay, Mom," I quickly reassure her. And I could have left it at that. Let her apologize some more and be done with it. But before I know it, it slips. "I would've known anyway," I say, and my blood runs cold. "I mean…" I try to take it back, mumbling incoherently in a pathetic attempt to cover the revelation. But I know it's too late now.
"What?" she demands an explanation.
"No, nothing, it's nothing," I repeat, frantically praying for the off-chance that she might accept this answer and leave. But this is Stef Foster, so of course she doesn't.
"What, Brandon?" she asks again in that way she does, gently, while still leaving absolutely no room for argument.
I knew I wasn't getting out of this one, so I decided to just say it. To blurt it out and expose it in the open, the story that I vowed I would never share. The one that had been haunting me for the better part of sixteen years. The one I had forced myself to stay silent about for the sake of my relationship with my father.
"One time…he sort of drove off the road a little with me in the car," I say simply, trying to make it sound like it was no big deal. As if it wasn't something that had given me nightmares for months after the incident. Nightmares that she had comforted me though. Nightmares that I had said the boogeyman had given me, though the real monster had four wheels and was heading towards a tree.
She blinks, trying to process it all. Finally uncovering this secret I had kept for so long, unexpectedly and without preparation. "And why didn't you tell me?" she questions, fear, distress, pain and confusion all present in her tone.
"I was afraid to," I say vaguely.
"Did he tell you to keep quiet about this?" she asks with a mixture of fury and panic. She is near hysterics, and maybe she has good reason to be. But this question bothers me. And it upsets me more than it should. Because she always blames him and it's not always his fault. And he's still my dad.
"No," I say, suddenly irritated at her. I feel myself feeling as if I needed to stand up for my dad since he wasn't here to defend himself. "I was afraid if you knew that you wouldn't let me see him again," I say a bit accusingly, the smallest trace of malice in my voice, the smallest intention to hurt her the way she hurt me by insulting my father.
And it works.
Her face crumbles, and I know she is desperately trying to fight back tears. But her eyes say it all, and I know that inside she is crying. Once again I have made her feel guilty, though the only thing she'd done was try to protect me. Between her and my dad I felt like I was always hurting someone to try to make the other feel better. The divorce acted as a constant, sick game of tug-of war, pulling me in equally painful directions.
I look away because I can't stand to see her face in its current state, so vulnerable and honestly distraught and out character for her. It makes it even worse knowing that I caused it to be in its present condition. I blink back tears of my own and rack my brain, trying to sort out this mess I had caused out of selfishness and grief.
"That's why," I say finally, shrugging again, trying to remain blasé about the whole ordeal, to try and pretend I was indifferent to all of it. However, my voice betrays me, coming out shaky and cracking a bit.
She bites at her lip and keeps her eyes downcast again. We are both tearing apart at the seams. We both know we need some space to regroup and sort out everything that had just been said, but neither of us make a move. We both remain seated there, a small distance apart, sharing nothing but our presence.
And maybe it is for the better. Maybe we just need each other's presence. After all, we've been together since the beginning, and our relationship has grown unique because of all the change we had encountered over the period of time.
After awhile, when she finally feels confident that her voice won't quiver as soon as she opens her mouth, she speaks up. "I uh, I don't want you worrying about that anymore, okay?" she asks softly.
"Worrying about what?" I ask. After the few moments that have passed, I am having trouble understanding exactly what she is referring to.
"You and your dad. I want you to know that I would never keep you from seeing him. And I'm truly sorry you ever felt as if I would," she says genuinely.
"It's okay, mom," I try to console her.
"It's not okay," she says with shame and remorse. "I need you know that while I don't agree with all of his decisions, it's still important to me that you have a relationship with him."
I nod my head in acknowledgement, showing her I comprehend what she is saying to me. I know this can't be easy for her.
"And another thing, I want you to always feel like you can come to me with anything you're dealing with. I want you to feel comfortable telling me anything that's bothering you. I mean, you know you can always talk to me, right B?" she asks earnestly.
"Yeah, I know," I say back with a small smile. And it's true. I am comfortable talking to her about things, at least more so than most boys my age are with their mothers.
"Good," she says, returning the smile. And I can tell she's letting out a small breath of relief. "Well don't stay up too late, huh B? School tomorrow." She adds, as if I need the reminder that it's only Tuesday.
"Yeah, just going to practice a big longer," I say, motioning towards the keyboard.
"Okay," she squeezes my shoulder. "Night, love," she says, hugging me tightly. And tonight I feel like I owe it to her not to remind her where the door is or jokingly push her aside. I even manage to hold my tongue as she kisses me on the cheek, waiting until she has closed the door and is well into the hallway before I swipe my palm across my face, ridding it of any remnants of lipstick.
I start to practice again, and I actually can hear a difference, but not because of Marshall. But because of me and because of her. And the thought that just maybe everything could manage to work itself out. That everything might turn out okay after all.
I hope you all enjoyed this! I'd love to hear some feedback from you, so reviews would be awesome! Thanks so much for reading! =)
Special thanks to justliziam for being my beta!