Picture of Kealen
Never Be Like You lyric video
"We're baaack," Athena sang as she and Dawn walked into the lounge where David and I were.
"Dad, look!" Dawn skipped over to him to show her glittery white cotton candy while Athena wrapped an arm around my shoulder, leaning toward me.
"Uncle Cas," she whispered, "Can I talk to you?"
"Sure, what about?"
"Privately." I let her lead me to the kitchen. "Okay, something's fishy about this racist teacher situation." She splayed her fingers. "I-I'm not sticking up for Ms. Kurry but I've always known her to be... well, amazing. And sweet and caring. It's just so hard to imagine that someone so angelic could act monstrous to one of her own students, you know?"
"Oh, sweetheart, I know it's hard. I always thought the same about her, but Dawn couldn't have made up those words."
"No, I agree. I don't think she made them up. But we dance at the same studio so I keep a very close eye on her." She bit her lip, averting her eyes. "And I may or may not have noticed a couple girls who don't exactly like her very much."
I furrowed my eyebrows. "This is news."
"Yeah, but get this. They both go to her school, and one of them is playing Dorothy."
I sighed, running a hand through my hair. "And you think one of them said it."
"It makes the most sense. I also may have stalked Ms. Kurry on facebook-literally who has facebook anymore-but after about 30 boring scrolls, I gathered that she has an adopted 14-year-old son."
"He's from Ghana. I mean, not to say someone couldn't possibly be racist just because they have a black child, but-"
"But it's unlikely and my daughter might've lied to us," I finished with another heavy sigh. "I've been bullied as a child. Somehow, this hurts a hundred times more."
"Of course it does; she's your baby."
I shook my head, feeling my heart fall. "A couple weeks ago... I missed her dance recital," I shared, disappointed in myself all over again. "She was really excited about it. She'd worked hard too. You went, didn't you?"
She nodded, but still listened to what I had to say.
"I was working. Can you believe it? David reminded me so that I'd be home in time to go with him and I just... I missed it. He said she was upset because she didn't do as well as she'd hoped and felt so discouraged. I wasn't there to hold her or tell her it would be okay. By the time I got home, she was asleep in bed."
"You forgot," Athena excused. "You're a surgeon for crying out loud."
"She's seven. She doesn't think 'well, he had surgery to do.' No, all she can comprehend is her daddy wasn't there to watch her or comfort her or even tuck her into bed."
"Then be there next time. Make it up to her because that's the best you can do."
I squeezed my niece's hand. "You're a godsend, Athena. Thank you for watching over her, and picking up on things we couldn't see."
"Of course! You guys aren't at the studio with her so it's the least I could do."
Those words hit me harder than they should've. They sounded so familiar. We weren't with Dawn at the dance studio, so there were certain things only Athena could know.
David told me last night that he wasn't at work with me, so when my coworker said I was romantic with a patient... he believed it. Despite knowing me so well, he believed it because I wasn't me lately.
We heard voices coming from the lounge and then Dawn laughing excitedly.
"Did someone come in?" I wondered out loud as we made our way toward the sitting room to be surprised by the sight of Dani and Kealen.
Kee had been spinning our little girl around then attacking her with playful kisses. "I have missed you!" he exclaimed, putting her down.
"We wanted to take the kids to the aquarium," Dani informed. Dawn gasped, jumping up and down.
"Please, please, can we go?" she asked me and David.
"I'm happy to fifth wheel," Athena offered.
"Yeah you guys can go. Royce is taking a nap."
"I can go wake him up," I said. "Just give me like five minutes... plus ten."
After everyone was gone, I arranged the pillows back into position and sat down on the sofa, letting my body sink into its comfort.
"Is everything okay?" David asked, coming to sit beside me. "What did Athena tell you? I-I mean, you don't have to share it if-"
"No, I do. I need to tell you anyway. Athena's been keeping her eye on Dawn at the studio and she thinks there are a couple girls who go to her school that are mean to her. One of them got the part of Dorothy."
He blinked a couple times in disbelief. "So she's being bullied?"
"Not only that but the girl could've made those hateful remarks. I trust Athena; she doesn't believe that Ms. Kurry said it. And I know it's hard to think another child could say something like that, but it is possible. Before we go storming the school, we should have a talk with Dawn and try to get to the bottom of it."
"I agree. We'll do that once she's back home."
I nodded. "The truth of the matter is she's being teased and if we don't solve it quickly then... I don't know, maybe we can homeschool her."
"Hopefully it doesn't get to that point. She loves school."
I chewed the inside of my cheek, toying with the fringe of a pillow in my lap.
"They'll be a while, I'm sure. I'm gonna go shower and take a nap."
I had to admit that I felt a little disappointed as he stood up and headed for the stairs. If it weren't for this useless tension between us, I would've joined him. For crying out loud, we were alone; we had hours to ourselves. That was rare, and it was a shame that it would be wasted.
I couldn't do this.
I couldn't just sit here and wither away, thinking about how my emotions were crumbling, or that my daughter was getting bullied not only at school but at her dance studio.
I tossed aside the pillow and went to slip on my shoes and my grey cardigan sweater. I sent one of my best friends a text then grabbed my keys and wallet. I should probably tell David that I was headed out... but I shrugged it off as I settled into the driver's seat of my car.
Half an hour later, I rang the doorbell to Lucas's house and waited for him to open the door. When he did, the first thing he said was "You need sleep. Three days' worth."
"Ha-ha," I pretended to laugh, giving him a blank stare. I held up a brown bag containing Don Julio Real Tequila. "I brought this."
Lucas's eyes widened. "I don't drink anymore but if I did, I'd scream. That's easily hundreds of dollars; can I keep the bottle?"
"Sure, I don't care. I'm just trying to get drunk." I invited myself in and he closed the door after me. His two pomeranians surrounded me, barking excitedly.
"Cas, I don't think that's a good idea. Like I said, I don't drink anymore. You know that."
I turned around to face him. "Drink or don't drink, Lucas. I came here to be safe because I trust you to make sure I don't drive. But if you want me to go, I'm heading to the bar." I shrugged and he slowly nodded.
"O-okay. Understood." He picked up one of his puppies. "Come on, let's go to the living room. You're clearly spiraling and in need of a glitter-vention."
I followed him. "Where's Jon?" Lucas and Jonathan, his boyfriend, finally moved in together after a couple years of an on-and-off relationship. "You two are okay, right?"
"We're good; he's just out with his mom. You know how she likes to take him shopping then to dinner just to gossip about her friends."
I pointed at him as I nodded in recollection. "I went with him once and I literally never hung out with them again. She's... yeah."
We laughed and he agreed. "It's okay. She's practically my mom too but I make him come up with an excuse as to why I can't go with them. Anyway! Let me get you a glass-"
I waved my hand dismissively. "Oh, no need. I'll drink from the bottle."
He helped me open it, but I could tell he was reluctant. "Cas, you never drink. You look worn out; what's wrong?"
"I mean... I have had alcohol before. This isn't my first time or anything," I evaded his concern, lifting the bottle to my lips for a few swigs. "I drank on my wedding night, and honeymoon. David couldn't because of his health, but I was a little tipsy."
"You're totally ignoring my question but go on."
"Just wait until I down a quarter of this. I'll spill everything whether I like it or not." I sighed. "I miss Bora Bora. No other blue could compare to the ocean and the sky. The air was pure. I wanna go back."
"I wanna go, period." His puppy jumped off his lap. "You don't work in the morning or anything, do you?"
My shoulders sagged and I immediately drank some more before shaking my head no.
"Omg, you didn't quit did you? That's why you have actual free time." He gasped, holding his hand to his chest. "That's why you came over; we never hang out especially after you became chief resident."
I raised a finger. "No, but I do have free time. Dani and Kee took the kids to the aquarium."
"Okay, so why are you here getting wasted instead of spending quality time with your man?"
"I..." I bit my lip, then once again downed more of my drink. I squeezed my eyes shut as I swallowed. "I know. I always complain about how, between my job and the babies, we hardly have 'us' time."
Lucas tilted his head. "Which is hard to believe since you're such a bunny."
I giggled. "Sex is like... a gift from heaven." I slipped off my shoes and slumped into the softness of his sofa, staring up at the ceiling. "But with the person you love- it's like being in heaven. Except when you have kids who exist to eliminate your sex life. I can't tell you how many times, especially after Royce was born, we'd have to, like, pause in the middle of it. I'm talking right in the middle of the best orgasm I'll ever have, Royce starts wailing from his nursery— and David pushes me off, grabs a robe and goes to check on him. Pretty sure it happened on five different occasions. Hell, maybe more. So one day I pinned him to the bed and very firmly said he was not getting up until we were done, not even if a tornado came to sweep our children away."
Lucas laughed. "Period, honey. Let him know! So was it effective?"
"He thought it was hot so yeah."
"We're actually talking about your sex life. Love that for us."
"Um yours too. Go on, spill."
Lucas blushed then shrugged. "What can I say? Every time is just like the first time. Maybe better. Make-up sex truly is the best."
Hm. Can't wait.
"Have you topped yet?" My friend wiggled his eyebrows at me and I grimaced.
"Are you kidding? No. Hell no," I answered.
"What's the big deal? I told you to try it."
"I mean, David and I talked about it, and he's down if it's what I wanted, but I can't imagine..." I laughed. "Look at me, Luc. Do I look like I could pull that off?"
"Well I guess it just depends on who you're with." He pulled his sock-covered feet up onto the sofa. "Kinda like Nash. He's such a top but I know he bottoms with Rowan."
"Consistently bottoms. He'll never admit it though." We both snorted then laughed.
"Okay, that's enough sex talk for the rest of the decade. I'm still not sold on why you're here."
I rolled my eyes, not wanting to be reminded of my ordeal. But I did show up at his house. The least I could do was oblige. "Ugh, fine. Look, I got suspended a couple days ago. For a week."
My friend's eyes widened in shock. "Oh, no. Give me a name and address, bitch."
I sadly smiled. "It was my fault honestly. Short story, I got very emotionally attached to a patient who signed a DNR, but I resuscitated him anyway."
"I know," I said before he could begin to express any form of disappointment. "I called David to come get me because, you know, I was an emotional wreck. I knew I couldn't drive and I just needed him to hold me. Then I got into a heated argument with my coworker who I thought was my friend and he said I was cheating on my husband... plus some other awful shit. Turns out, David heard everything."
Lucas gasped. "So he thinks you cheated?"
"Oh my god. Did he stick up for you at least because if that were Jon, whoever that coworker was would've gone home without a tongue."
"No, he defended me." I shrugged one shoulder, taking yet another large gulp. I was definitely starting to feel woozy. "It's been a rough couple days though. We're so tense around each other and we've never had an argument. Definitely not as bad as last night. I had to sleep in the guest room."
He shook his head. "Cas, I shouldn't have pried. You don't need to tell me any of this, okay?"
"Are you kidding? You're my best friend and I don't have anyone else to share this with."
"Of course. Don't worry, it's between us. I'm so sorry."
"It's—it's fine. I'm sure we'll... laugh about it next year. Unless this ruins us then... yeah, that would suck."
"No, it's not gonna ruin you. You may not laugh about it, but you will be grateful looking back because this is the type of shit that makes your relationship stronger. Look at me and Jon. We were on and off for a while and you know how rough that was for us. We bounced back. We live together. We're happier."
I pouted, staring at the center table.
He huffed. "So it's really that bad, huh? That you felt the need to sleep in another room and get drunk?"
I slowly nodded, steadily drinking the bottle as if it were water while ignoring the burning sensation. Lucas watched me with alarm and concern. "Casper, take it from me. Using alcohol as an escape isn't the answer. It almost ruined my friendship with you, remember? And don't get me started with the way it affected Nash before he became sober."
"You're not supposed to be wise right now," I whined.
"And you're not supposed to be drinking 80 proof alcohol straight from the bottle. Give me that." He took it from me, and I didn't try hard enough to stop it. He was able to pry my fingers off easily, screwing it back up and setting it on the table.
"I have good reason, you know," I continued, taking the pillow from behind me and hugging it tight. "The situation between me and David isn't where it ends."
"Seriously, it's okay not to share. I don't know if he wants you telling anybody this stuff, and I respect him."
I burped quietly then reached over to squeeze his shoulder. "You and I tell each other everything."
He tossed his hands up in defeat. "Great, you're drunk. That didn't take time at all; you happy?"
"I'm not happy. That's the point. H-haven't you been listening, Luc? I'm sad. I'm the worst husband a-and I'm a shitty father too. I missed my daughter's recital, and I just found out she's being bullied. I should've protected her but I completely failed. So yeah, I'm a failure at my job and with my family. I have no reason to be happy." I sagged down the sofa and pointed at the tequila so that he could give it back to me. "I'm not drunk enough."