Nine Years Later
"Dad, can we have pizza tonight?" Aubrey asked from the passenger seat of the truck.
"It's our favorite food, what else would we have?" Sterling said, the side of his mouth tilting up.
Aubrey grinned. "I love coming to your house because you let me have all kinds of food and watch so many more cartoons than mom does."
Sterling laughed. "Your mom only feed you vegetables?"
He gagged. "Yes. It's gross having to eat something green every day."
"I think so too," Sterling chuckled.
Sometimes, he could hardly believe it'd already been nine years since he'd held his son in his arms for the first time.
And he'd been right; his life wasn't the same. It was better, so much better with his boy.
He was a happy kid, who loved playing outside and drawing. He loved puzzles and cartoons. He was sweet and innocent.
It was probably that goddamn private school his mother had insisted he go to. Fucking thing was small and too Christian for his taste. He shuddered just thinking about it.
He probably shouldn't complain about the school. Allyson may have been religious as shit, but she made sure Aubrey spent just as much time at his place as he did at her place.
They pulled up to his two bedroom townhouse. The brown shingled roof was still damp from the rain earlier.
"I got your favorite frozen pizza in the freezer," he said as they hopped out of the truck.
"Yes!" Aubrey pumped the air with his fist.
Sterling opened the wooden gate that led into his small patio. It was plain, only a table and four chairs occupied the space.
"Can I unlock the door?" Aubrey asked when they stopped in front of the white door.
"Sure, kid." He smiled at his son. His light brown hair reminded him of pictures he'd seen of his dad when he'd been a boy. Sterling's hair was really dark brown, nothing like his dad or his mom. They each had light hair. He'd been convinced he was adopted as a child. His parents had reassured him time and again, that they were his biological parents. He still had no idea where his dark hair had come from.
Aubrey pushed the door open once it was unlocked. He dashed up the stairs to his bedroom, the one Sterling had for him since he was a baby. The walls were the same dark blue they'd been since the day he found out he was going to have a son.
"That's too dark for a baby's room!" Allyson argued.
"It's a good thing it’s in my house and not yours then," he said.
She liked to think she had a say in what he did and didn't do with his life, especially when it cameAubrey.
She didn't. It was his life. His rules. His way. As long as he wasn't hurting anyone, that was the motto he lived by.
He took the pizza out of the freezer and preheated the oven. The kitchen was gray wood cabinets, black granite countertops and stainless steel appliances. It wasn't big, but it was just right for a bachelor. At 27, he wasn't in a hurry to settle down.
He heard thumping, then his son appeared on the stairs. He jumped over the last several steps to the tiled floor.
Sterling laughed. "Watch out, I don't want to send you back to your mom with a bloody nose."
"I'm not gonna get a bloody nose," Aubrey said.
"That's what they all say."
"Everyone who ever got a bloody nose." Sterling crossed his arms and leaned back against the countertop.
"How do you know?" He matched his father's stance. "Have you met everyone who ever had a bloody nose?"
He let out a puff of air. "You're fucking smart, kid."
Aubrey shook his head. "Mom would be mad that you just said the f word."
"That's why you're not gonna tell her." He didn't care what Allyson thought, but he also didn't want to have to deal with her calling and whining in his ear for an hour.
"She asks me every time she picks me up if you 'used good words'." He snickered like that was funny.
"And what do you say?"
"I say yeah.” He shrugged like it wasn't a big deal that he lied to his mom.
He probably shouldn't have been proud that his son was lying, but he was. His boy was too good for a nine year old. It was that fucking Christian school his mother sent him to. For an atheist like him, that was the fucking stupidest school she could put his son in. Even if that school was probably the reason Aubrey hadn't been bullied for his name. Still it was a stupid school that taught stupid religious shit.
"That's my boy." He grinned.
Aubrey's nose scrunched. "I'm pretty sure you're not supposed to want me to lie."
He threw his head back and laughed. "Are you sure you're nine, kid? Sometimes you act so much older."
He beamed, his crystal clear blue eyes shining. "Mom says the same thing."
“Guess we agree on something.”
Aubrey nodded. “That’s because it’s true.”
Sterling laughed again.
His boy grinned and flopped down into a chair at the kitchen table. "So, when's that pizza gonna be ready?"
Aubrey loved being with his dad. He loved his mom, but his dad was more fun. He let Aubrey stay up later, watch cartoons that his mom didn't let him watch, and fed him junk food. And he played with him. No matter what it was, his dad would join in and play. Even if it was only for a little bit.
"Ready for bed, kid?" His dad asked from the bathroom doorway.
"Let's go," his dad said.
He followed his dad to his bedroom. His dad had painted the walls dark blue. His mom didn't like dark colors, so his room at her house was white. Aubrey liked his dad's room for him better.
"Can I sleep with you?" Aubrey looked up into his dad's dark brown eyes. He'd always thought his dad had such cool eyes. Because the left eye had a fleck of light blue in the upper corner of the brown iris. It was the same shade of blue as his own eyes.
"No you cannot." His dad smirked. "And don't you crawl into bed after I'm asleep either." He tried to look stern, but Aubrey knew better. His dad didn't mean it. The twinkle in his eye said otherwise.
Aubrey laughed harder as his dad tried to look stern.
He rolled his eyes. "Fucking kids," he muttered.
Aubrey knew he wasn't going to stay in his bed. Ever since he was little he'd climbed into his dad's bed. He never did it with his mom, only his dad. He didn't know why, but it was just comforting to lay next to his dad's big body.
"Good night," his dad said as he turned off the light.
Aubrey pulled the blue blanket up to his chin and waited.
Aubrey didn't know what time it was, but he jerked awake. He'd fallen asleep. The house was dark and quiet.
He pushed the blanket back and slipped out of bed. Tiptoeing to the door, he peeked out into the hallway. His dad's door was shut, which meant he was asleep. Aubrey carefully turned the knob, and pushed the door open. His dad was lying on his stomach, the top sheet tangled around his ankles. He covered his mouth so he didn't giggle out loud. His dad always kicked the blankets off.
He shuffled to his dad's side. He was only wearing black underwear. His skin looked silver in the light from the moon. He lifted his dad's arm off of the bed, then slipped under it.
"Go back to your bed,” his dad mumbled.
Aubrey just settled down further into the soft mattress, his dad's arm a heavy weight across his chest.
"I told you not to come in here," his dad muttered into the pillow.
"Hmm," he hummed. He knew his dad wasn't going to kick him out.
His dad grunted, then shifted onto his side. He tugged him closer and buried his nose in Aubrey's hair. Aubrey sighed in contentment. He loved being with his dad.
Seven Years Later
"I still can't believe your dad got you a car," his mom huffed. "It'll make you entitled."
Aubrey laughed. "Entitled? Mom, c'mon."
"What? Just because you're sixteen and can legally drive doesn't mean you needed a car!" She threw her hands up.
"I like my car." Aubrey shrugged.
"Of course you do. You're sixteen." She pointed her finger at him. "Don't think this means you're going to be going out on dates or whatever."
He tried not to roll his eyes. His mom was way too overprotective. "You're being a helicopter mom again."
"I'd rather be a helicopter mom than a noninvolved mom."
"Right." He bent down and gave her a kiss on the cheek. "I'm gonna head to dad's now."
"Gosh, you're getting tall," she said as she cupped his face.
He chuckled. "I'm only 5'8."
"That's tall to people who are 5 feet."
He laughed. "See you in a few days."
"Drive carefully! Don't speed. Stop at all stop signs! And put your seat belt on!" She yelled as he walked from the front door down the driveway.
He waved over his shoulder.
His mom stood on the porch of their little two bedroom house. Her brown hair was up in a messy bun and she was hugging her arms. Aubrey thought she was lonely when he wasn't there, but she'd never said that.
His dad had bought him a used little Honda. It wasn't anything fancy, but it was his. And he couldn't have been happier. His dad understood what it was like to be a 16 year old. Having the little bit of freedom that a car provided felt like a necessity at his age.
He blasted 80s rock while he drove. His mom hated the music he listened to; said it was heathen music. His dad had been the one to introduce him to it.
He had a three day weekend, and since his dad never worked weekends or holidays, he tried to spend them all with him.
He pulled into the other designated parking spot for 2D. His dad was already home from work. His Ford truck was parked to the right of Aubrey's car.
"Hey dad," he called when he let himself inside the townhouse.
"Hey! I'll be right down," his dad called from upstairs.
He kicked off his shoes, then went over and opened the fridge. He pulled out a beer just as his dad was coming down the stairs.
“I think you just come to my house for the alcohol." He smirked.
"I only have one beer a day."
He snorted. "I'm sure your mom wouldn't see it that way."
Aubrey shrugged. "She knows I'm a good kid. I only drink when I'm with you."
He laughed. "Don't tell her that. She'd call me up and give me a tongue lashing." He shivered. "Goddamn, I hate it when she does that."
Aubrey laughed. "Maybe you shouldn't let me drink beer then."
His dad snatched the beer from his hand and took a big swig.
"Hey, I was just kidding." He tried to snatch it back, but his dad was 6'3 so it wasn't easy trying to get something from him.
"Thanks kid, that was good," he grinned.
"Did you even leave me any?" Aubrey scrunched his nose as he grabbed the bottle his dad held out to him.
"You're so cute when you do that." His dad bopped his finger on his nose. "You've done that since you were a baby."
Aubrey swatted his hand away.
He laughed. "How about we order in for dinner? I'm beat after work."
"Sure," Aubrey said as he drained the little bit of beer that was left in the bottle. "How was construction life today?"
"Same old same old. Hot outside."
"When is it ever not hot in Florida?"
"I can't wait until I can go somewhere else after high school," Aubrey said.
"And where do you want to go?" His dad picked up his cell phone from the counter. He dailed a number and put the phone to his ear.
"I don't know." He'd looked into a few different colleges but he still wasn't sure.
While his dad ordered their dinner, Aubrey headed upstairs to his room. The walls were the same blue they'd always been, but were now covered with 80s band posters.
"It'll be here in about 30 minutes," his dad called.
He decided to jump in the shower while he waited for the food to get there. He had his own bathroom, but he always liked to use his dad's in the master bedroom. It was a walk in shower with a large rainfall shower head.
"Always using my shower." His dad shook his head as he leaned against the door.
"It's better than mine." He ducked his head under the hot spray.
"As long as you don't climb in my bed tonight."
Aubrey smiled to myself. He made no promises.
He waited until after midnight. Then he crept into his dad's room. He'd never been able to shake the habit of sleeping in his dad's bed. He'd never tell anyone, but he still thought it was comforting being next to his dad's big, warm body.
His dad was lying on his side, the sheet tangled around his feet, just like it always was. He wore red boxer briefs and his skin was the same silver tint it was every night.
He lifted his dad's arm and slipped under it.
"You're getting too old for this," his dad mumbled without opening his eyes.
Aubrey snuggled his face into his dad's hairless chest. He breathed deeply. His dad smelled like warm earth, winter and safety. He draped his dad's arm over his middle.
"Don't you think it's weird to cuddle with your dad at sixteen?" He still hadn't opened his eyes.
"No," Aubrey sighed in contentment.
His dad just grunted then drifted back to sleep. Aubrey kept his face pressed against his chest and his arm over his dad's waist. Aubrey was wearing a white t-shirt and gray shorts, but he wished he was in his underwear like his dad. It was getting hot. He kicked the sheet off. Cool air hit his heated body and he smiled into his dad's skin. That was better.
Tomorrow night he'd have to remember to only sleep in his underwear.