Noah plopped down on his blue comforter on his large bed. Ah! The trip had been quite long and stressful but at the end of the day, it had been worth it. He always looked forward to their trips to Napa Valley to see their grandparents. He enjoyed the long talks with Gramps in the den and sometimes, on the sun deck and the afternoons with his Grandma in the libraries and kitchen. This trip had been even better because it had been a full house. He had gotten to see his family that he had not seen in quite a while.
Noah grinned to himself as he unzipped his bag and started unpacking. He was looking forward to their next visit. When he was done unpacking, he sat back on his bed and pulled out his phone. Noah’s face lit up as he scrolled through the pictures that they had taken over the weekend. His thumb paused over the screen as he laid his eyes on a particular photo. He had seen it in a photo album in his grandfather’s study and had snapped it. It was a group picture and his grandmother had pointed out everyone in the picture. It was grandfather and all his friends. His mind flashed to what he and his grandfather had discussed. Eliot had sacrificed himself for his friends but above all, it was for what he believed in. They had all stood up against oppression and discrimination no matter what they had faced. They inspired him to fight, to stand for what he believed in and never give up. He would make sure that he would protect those who needed help.
“Noah!” Just then, he heard his mother’s calling out to him from the lower part of the house.
“Coming mom!” He threw his phone on his bed and hurried out.
He hurried down the steps and rounded the corner to see his mother shrugging into her coat with one hand while trying to balance Alejandra on her hip with the other.
“Here, let me help you, mom.” Noah stretched out his hands and his mother gratefully handed his little sister over to him. He took her and tweaked her little cheeks. “Heading out?”
“Yes dear. I have to check into the office quickly and then get some groceries. If it was just the store, I could take Ale but…”
“That’s okay, mom. I can take care of Alex,” Noah said as he waved off his mother’s explanations. He looked around. “Where’s dad?”
“Oh, there was an emergency at the hospital, he was called in.” Allison picked up her bag and hugged Aaron who had just entered the foyer. She gave Noah a quick hug as well and kissed Alejandra on the cheek. She called out as she left. “Take care of your siblings, Noah.”
“Sure mom!” Noah called to his mom.
As soon as their mother’s car disappeared, Aaron lunged for the still open door but was caught by his collar.
“Where do you think you are going to?” Noah asked his brother who was squirming as he tried to get out of his brother’s grip on his collar.
“Out? Come on, bro. It’s spring. Do you honestly want such a good day to be wasted by staying indoors?”
“You have an assignment to complete, don’t you? You’ve been putting it off for so long. Go do that, Aaron.”
“Come on bro, school doesn’t resume until Wednesday,” Aaron insisted. He looked up at his brother, giving him puppy dog eyes.
“Not a chance, kid. Go on, off to your room you go,” Noah patted Alejandra’s back lightly as she started to stir. She had fallen asleep on the plane back and had not woken since then. He could understand why she was so tired. They had all been awake for so long and it was morning before they finally slept. Alejandra may not have been very vocally active in the conversation but she had spent most of her time playing and being showered with attention. Truly, everyone had had a lot of fun.
“You’re so not fair,” Aaron muttered as he headed towards the steps.
“I heard that,” Noah said as he shut the front door. He heard Aaron’s footsteps coning back to meet him and he sighed. “Do you need anything else Aaron?”
Aaron ignored him and looked at Alejandra. He kissed her cheeks and said, “Don’t worry, little sis. I won’t do to you what Noah is doing to me now. Have no fear, sis. I will be the big brother then.”
Noah chuckled. “Oh bro, you’re crazy. Trust me when I say this, you are going to be worst to Alex than I am with you when she’s older. Besides, you’re not getting rid of me anytime soon, not even when I’m in college. So go on, get out of here.” Noah ruffled his brother’s hair.
Aaron chuckled and shrugged Noah’s hand off. He headed back to his room. As he did, he obviously stumbled over something because Noah heard the loud ‘Ouch!’ that his brother let out. The noise woke Alejandra up and she started bawling immediately.
“Nice going, Aaron,” Noah called to his brother over the sound of their sister’s wailing.
“Sorry!” that was the reply.
Noah shook his head and moved back and forth trying to calm her down. She stretched her hands towards the ground and he understood that she wanted to get down. Noah chuckled as he let her down in her playroom. She immediately started playing with her toys. She has obviously gotten enough rest. Now, she is going to be a handful, Noah thought.
After a whole afternoon of playing with Alejandra, Noah set down the sleeping bundle in her crib and placed her teddy bear in her hands. She stirred a little but did not wake. Noah smiled down at his little sister, his heart brimming with love for her. Gently, he drew her blanket up to cover her. He kissed her bead of red hair and left, ensuring to leave the door ajar so he could hear her when she woke. As he got to his room, he got a glance of his appearance in the hall mirror. He looked like a mess. His red hair was very unruly. He grinned as he ran his hands through it. They had inherited their hair from their father who was Irish and their brown eyes from their mother.
Once he had checked on his brother, Noah retired to his room, leaving the door ajar as well. He picked up his phone and saw that he had some notifications. Noah logged into his school media network. As he browsed through, something caught his eye. He scrolled back and saw what it was. His friend Luke’s wall had been rampaged with so many insults ranging from ‘faggot’ to ‘drop dead and die’. Noah shook his head. Would this ever end? Why could people not accept others the way they were? People never liked minding their business. This was very disappointing. They were already like this in high school, who knew how they would be later in life?
Just a couple of months ago, one of their seniors had committed suicide because of the hatred and oppression that was thrown his way. One would think that such an occurrence would shake all of them, the whole school and touch the hearts of the other students but it had not. If anything, it had only strengthened their resolve. Sometimes, Noah could not help but think that all those who oppressed others were simply not happy with their lives.
He went offline and immediately dialed Luke’s number. It took a while before he finally picked the call.
“Hey man, how are you holding up?” Noah asked as soon as he answered the call.
“So far, so good Noah. You know this is a regular occurrence. There is nothing anyone can do about it,” Luke said dejectedly.
Noah sighed. He could hear the sadness in his friend’s voice.
“Luke, stay strong, okay? It is going to be alright. Don’t give up. You get that?”
“I don’t know, man. I don’t think that this will ever blow over. I am going to keep suffering all these man. Coming out was a big mistake, you know. All my friends have deserted me and…”
“I have not deserted you man. No matter what happens or how you are, no one has the right to treat you the way they treat you. You are human, same as they are. The fact that you are just a bit different is not reason enough for them to oppress you. No one should try to conform others to how they want them to be. It is not right. We all have our rights and we should respect the decision of others, not mock them and trample on them,” Noah said heatedly.
Luke chuckled on the other end. “Thanks, man. You really know how to cheer someone up. And you are becoming quite the civil rights activist, you know. Aunt Allison must be so proud.”
Noah chuckled too as he said. “Sorry I went on and on. I just despise unfair treatment of others. You can talk to a person calmly, you can correct gently and not with a hatred. Take care of yourself, man. I’ve got to go, Alex wants to bring down the roof. See you Wednesday.”
Luke laughed. “Okay man. Thanks a lot. I truly appreciate.”
Noah swiped across his phone to end the call and then, he hurried out of his room. He headed to the nursery and did not see Alejandra in her crib. Where could she be? He heard chuckling and smiled. That was the toothy way that she laughed. Noah went to the head to the stairs. He remembered to lock the doors at the foot of the steps before he headed to the room the laughter was originating from, the kitchen.
Noah got in and saw Alejandra playing around in her high seat. Aaron was at the island chopping some vegetables. He looked up when he walked in.
“Why was she wailing so loudly?” Noah asked his brother.
“Oh, she needed a diaper change. I’ve done that already,” Aaron said. Noah nodded.
“She’s hungry, huh?” Noah asked, tilting his head towards their sister. Aaron grinned as he nodded. “Need any help?”
“Yea, bro. Noodles in the pot.” Aaron nodded. Noah nodded as well as he placed the noodles in the pot. The boys always enjoyed taking care of Alejandra and that care encompassed preparing meals for her as well.
When the soup was ready, they left it to cool down a little before they finally placed the plate in front of her.
“Here you go Alex. Open up.” Aaron raised the spoon to her mouth. She turned her face away. The two brothers looked at each other. Alejandra loved being coerced to eat her food. Aaron distracted her and while he did that, Noah fed her.
Immediately after eating, the little girl padded off to her playroom as soon as she was placed on the floor.
“Alejandra is a handful,” Aaron breathed.
“Tell me about it,” Noah grinned back at his brother. The two boys sighed and went to the playroom to keep an eye on her but that was not for long because she soon pulled them into her game.
Noah’s sleep was restless that night. He had gone online again before he slept and he had seen Lena’s wall flooded as well with the hate comments. This was all getting too much. He hoped with all his might that his friend was doing okay. He had called but had gotten no response. All he could do was send a message that he hoped was uplifting enough.
Just when he was finally trying to embrace sleep, Noah woke up once more with suddenness. He may have been trying to sleep but his mind had another plan of its own. It refused to clear out and was going over things. Noah sighed as he lowered his feet onto the floor. He slipped his feet into the pair of slippers beside his bed and padded downstairs, remembering to lock the kiddies’ door at the head and foot of the stairs. Noah got into the kitchen and switched on the light. He poured himself a glass of milk and just then, he heard a sound. He turned around and saw his father, yawning and at the kitchen door.
“Hey dad. Need some milk?” Noah raised the carton.
“Sure son,” Norton Blake said as he sat at the breakfast bar. Noah placed the glass in front of him. Noah sat in front of him.
“Have you been awake since dinner, dad?”
Norton nodded, as he took a large drink of the milk. “Uh huh. Still any birthday cake left?” he motioned towards the refrigerator.
“Sure. I’ll get some.”
A few minutes later, father and son were seated across from other, a glass of milk and a slice of cake in front of each one. They eat their snacks in silence.
“What’s bothering you, dad?” Noah asked after some minutes of silence.
’I have a patient, young man, promising career ahead of him, he has a beautiful family,” Norton said. He took a sip of his milk.
“But?’ Noah asked his father. These midnight snacks and talks occurred very often in the Blake home. Some days, it was just the parents, other days, it could be the parents and a child or both. Sometimes, it was Allison and Noah or both sons or just Aaron. Norton could be found deep in a conversation with Aaron as well or both sons. The night time was when they couldn’t sleep because of whatever problems they were having and then, whoever it was would pad down to the kitchen.
“His body keeps shutting down, his systems keep failing. We have been doing everything to save him. We have run countless tests but all to no avail. He keeps getting worse son.”
“And his history?”
“Nothing of usefulness was there. One minute he was fine, the next minute, he wasn’t, and now, he is in a coma, we can’t ask him any questions,” Norton let out a frustrated sigh.
“Remember what you always tell me, dad,” Noah said. Norton looked up at him. “Not everything is as complicated as it seems. It may be as simple as a cough or a rash. Go back to the basics. Instead of thinking of what could cause the system breakdown, why don’t you think of what caused his initial symptoms in the first place? He must have been feeling a tad bit under the weather, don’t you think?”
“His family,” Norton said as he smiled. “You are a genius, son.”
“Not exactly, dad. You taught me everything I know. When it’s hard for you, I remind you of it that’s all,” Noah grinned.
“Thanks, my boy. So, what’s your problem? What’s keeping you awake for so long?” Norton asked.
“My mind is a mess, dad. I am tired of all I see happening around me. Now, no one cares for their neighbor. All they do is mock and ridicule them like they are not human. I just cannot help but think about two of my friends. You should know them, Lena and Luke. As you already know, Lena is a transgender and Luke is a bisexual. Not a day goes by that they are not bullied in school. I am at a loss as to what pleasure people garner from all the cruelty that they choose to throw on everyone else around them. Why can’t people accept their neighbors as they are? Why is it that a person feels that they have the right over the lives of someone else and if they are not like them, then it is their duty to make them conform?” Noah poured out all his frustrations. He knew the kind of parents he had. They were among the few that chose to treat everyone around them with respect no matter who they were
“Oh son, I understand exactly how you feel. As an ER doctor, I see so many victims that are brought into the emergency room as a result of hate crimes. Sometimes, it is as a result of their sexuality, other times it could be their religion, a great many are about their nationality, their skin color. Some people are just attacked because they are special, just because they do not learn or assimilate as easily as others. It is that bad, son. We try to do all we can to save their lives and of course, we get the police involved. It’s just that, a great number of these people are always scared of their attackers and refuse to talk.” Norton sighed as he took a sip of his milk. “It is only a select few that talk but even then, the cases filed do not move quickly and till those criminals are brought to book, the victims go out there to suffer once more. It is like a repetitive circle. Very despicable.”
“What can I do, dad? Truly I have had enough of it all. I have had enough of the bullying and the cruelty. I want to ensure that no one is going to mess with my friends anymore, I want to stand up for those who are being looked down on. I want to stand up for the voiceless and powerless. I want to stand up for the oppressed and the hated. Gramps told me about a friend of his who gave up his life for what he believed in, he stood up for others, he was a martyr. I want to stand firm and help those who need it, never backing down no matter what happens, no matter the situation.” Noah said all these as his hands formed fists and his eyes flashed with passion and anger.
“Then do just that, son. Stand for the truth, stand for the weak. Be the voice of those who can’t speak. Be the helper of those who need it. We should never see wrong and turn a blind eye to it, we should do what is right. Be firm, stand strong, and be courageous. Fight for what you believe in. Never give up. We got you, we got your back,” Norton held his son firmly on his shoulder as he spoke. He was proud of the man his son was becoming, someone who was not afraid to help those who needed it.
“Thanks dad. Thanks a lot,” Noah smiled up at his father. Norton smiled back and patted him lightly on his cheek.
“Go on, finish your snacks. Tonight and tomorrow are the only free time you have before classes resume,” Norton urged him.
Noah nodded. “You are right about that, dad.”