"Mom!" I shout tossing everything out of my closet.
"What, sweetie?" she hollers up the stairs.
"Do you know wear my soccer cleats are?"
"Yeah, they're in the garage where you left them," she answers, and I smile. I don't know what I would do without her. She's only been my mom for the last ten years, but she's the only woman in my life that deserves that title from me.
"Thanks!" I holler back. My biological mother did attempt to make amends with me a few years back, but I didn't want anything to do with her. If she was too busy for me when I was a kid, then I'm too busy for her.
I head out of my room and down the stairs. Rushing because I really need those cleats before I leave for school.
"Hey, take Hunter's hand when you head to the bus stop, please," Mom says as I reach for my cleats.
I roll my eyes. "Why? He's almost ten, isn't that old enough to walk by himself?"
"C'mon Ej, I worry," she says softly, almost pleading with me.
I give in, because honestly, I can't really say no to her. "Yeah, but next year, I'm driving to school," I tell her proudly. I'll be sixteen in three weeks. School's almost out so it wouldn't be worth it for me to get a parking permit this year, but next year, oh yeah!
"You don't have a car, yet," Mom reminds me with a look that is all her.
"I'll ask Santa for one," I tell her with a grin. I know now that Dad is Santa, but she loves when I make references like that. "He's been good to me in the past, granting my wishes; I bet he'd give me an awesome car…in my stocking, if I ask for one."
She shakes her head, but smiles and laughs anyway.
"Sure, he will, but you'll have to be a very good boy, and you can drop Hunter off on the way," Dad chimes in, giving me a look. "Save you both bus time."
I roll my eyes and huff. The last thing I want to do is cart around my baby brother.
"Hey, be glad we're not asking you to take Cassie, too. She'll be in first grade next year, you know?" Mom says, reminding me that I actually have it pretty good. Even if I do end up having to drive Hunter to school.
"Okay," I grumble, quickly kissing her and Cassie before waving to Dad and reluctantly taking Hunter's hand as I head out the door.
Who knew in ten years Dad and Mom could get so busy. Dad's a high-priced real estate agent now. He's done really well for himself. And Mom's got six stores with her seventh one opening next month. Her desserts are still delicious and I swear she and Aunty Alice cook up some of the best sweets around.
They even bought a new house. Pretty much as soon as they told me that I was going to be a big brother, we started looking. But Mom was super picky. They didn't end up finding a place until just after he was born.
And don't get me wrong, I love my siblings, it's just tough being a sophomore and being made to hold his hand.
Mom worries because the street is so damn busy. Dad keeps telling her he wants to move, but Mom loves the house.
We see Riley and Bridget at the stop when we get there. They're Aunty Alice and Uncle Jasper's kids. Riley was a surprise, at least that's what Aunty Alice called him. But I know what that means. Then they had a big wedding and shortly after Bridget was born. They're good kids, but they can get wound up just like Aunty and then it's like having two Tasmanian devils to watch.
"Can I come to your soccer practice?" Hunter asks as we wait for the bus.
I shake my head. The last thing I want is for my snotty little brother to be sitting on the side line. My rep is already being busted up from having to hold his hand, which I try to hide in any way I can while we wait.
"Please?" he whines.
I can see the bus rolling down the hill and I don't want him to start bawling before it gets here.
"Uh, sure, I guess."
"Can you call Mom and ask her?" he asks, smiling.
I roll my eyes. "Yeah," I mutter. "I'll call at lunch and see what she says and I'll find you to let you know. She might not let you, though."
"Cassie will want to see you play, too."
"Hunter, Cassie doesn't even know what soccer is. She just kicks the ball around."
"Yeah, but she loves you," he comments quietly, and that's when I make a promise to myself to convince Mom to bring Cassie to my soccer practice.
That little girl can melt anyone's heart. I swear. I'm serious, she's adorable. And Hunter's right. She loves me. She had really bad colic when she was a baby and the only one who could get her to stop crying was me.
I guess you could say the last ten years have been utterly crazy. But…I guess you could also say that I wouldn't change them for anything.
I love my family. Especially, my mom.
It's the best Christmas wish I've ever made.
Thank you to each and every one of you who took the time to read and review. Thank you for your patience too.
And a huge thank you to Midnight Cougar for being one of my very best friends and beta. I love you doll!