A tired and bored sigh leaves Theo’s mouth as he stares up at the whiteboard, the equation that was put up by Mr. Vale blurred together into one big blue blob. Theo was never the type to really pay attention to subjects such as math, the numbers never really made sense to him, and even when he would ask Mr. Vale for help the round-bellied teacher would just roll his beady brown eyes in irritation and say, “You should already know this, Mr. Prince!” It was the first week back to school and it was already starting out bad for Theo. Another sigh leaves his mouth as he begins to tap the end of his pencil on the desk, ′I wonder what mom’s going to fix for supper, really hope it’s spaghetti.′ The thought of food made Theo’s mouth water, he hadn’t eaten lunch today, he was picky when it came to school lunches and today the school had fish sticks with something they called “broccoli and cheese” when it really looked like snot from a pig. Theo shudders at the thought of the horrible stuff that the school called food, a tap on his left shoulder stirred Theo out of his thoughts. “Dude, Vale is giving you the mega bitch look, better get to work.” Whispered his friend Collin who sat directly next to him, Theo glances over to Mr. Vale and rolls his pale blue eyes.
“Like I’m scared of that pig,” he whispers.
Collin let’s out a loud laugh before shutting back up, he narrows his grey at his friend. Theo grins wide and holds up two thumbs, he turns back to the board and lets out a quiet sigh, he was going to have to trick his dad into doing his homework for him because he has no idea on how to do these equations. Right, when he was about to finish copying the last equation the loud shrieking of the bell echoed through the silent classroom, nobody moved to get up or to gather their stuff because they learned the hard way on the first day that the bell doesn’t dismiss you, Mr. Vale does. Mr. Vale exhales loudly and says in his normally nasally voice, “Class dismissed.” As soon as those two words left the large man’s mouth everyone bolted out of the room, bags, and books in their arms. Without the slightest bit of warning, Collin slings his arm over Theo’s shoulders as they walk down the hall fighting amongst the sea of anxious teens waiting to break out into the open air and onto the buses home.
“So, you coming over my house for video games and bacon burgers? Dad’s breaking out the grill.” Says Collin as he pulls Theo out of the way of a group of people that stood in their path. Theo breathed a dramatic sigh while tilting his head back for effect, “Sadly, no my dear buddy ol’ pal. Parents want me home, apparently, we got a family friend coming to stay with us and they want me to be there when he gets in.” He replies, Collin boos and lightly pinches his friend’s arm as a type of punishment.
“Lame! Who’s the dude anyway? And why does he have to stay with you guys?” Collin asks.
Theo shrugs his shoulders, “I have no idea, dad said his name is Daniel Cripe, said they were best friends in college and that I’ve met him before, but when I was way young.” Collin scoffs as he pulls his friend out of the double doors that lead outside to the fresh summer air. “Meeting someone when you were like two does not count as technically knowing them, whatever after this Dan guy settles in try to come over.” Theo rolls his eyes and pushes Collin away slightly, Collin sticks his tongue out and waves. Theo cracks a smile and jogs across the school grounds over to where his mother’s black Sedan was parked behind the slowly filling buses.
“How was your day, honey?” His mother asks when he slides into the passenger seat, Theo smiles and leans over to kiss her gently on the cheek. “It was okay, how about yours?” He asked in return while buckling the seatbelt. Asking his mother about her day took all the pressure away from him, it wasn’t that he didn’t like talking to his mother, he just didn’t like talking about school. The listened intently as his mother went on about a patient who had been badly burned due to a cooking accident. Theo’s mother worked as a nurse in Huntington Hospital, she always complained about how the people of Pasadena California could be so reckless at times. There was this one time when his mother told him about this man who had driven a spike into his own hand, just picturing the incident made Theo’s stomach roll.
“Remember, Theo, when Dan arrives I want you on your best behavior. He’s been having a hard time and we want him to be as comfortable as possible.” His mother reminds him while they wait out a red light, Theo frowns. “Whatever happened for this guy to have to come and stay with us? Doesn’t he know anyone else?” Theo questions, his mother sighs and drives on once the light turns green.
“If you must really know, Theo, Dan’s wife filed for divorce. His parents for some reason wants nothing to do with him, neither does his sister. We’re all he has left.” She explains as she pulls into the driveway of their one-story house. The house wasn’t large on the outside like most of the ones that were in the neighborhood, but that was how they liked it. Their house had three bedrooms, so that meant that Theo didn’t have to give his room up to Dan. “He must have done something pretty bad for his family to not want him,” says Theo as exits the car, the sound his mother made caused him to snicker quietly behind his hand.
“That’s not a very nice thing to say, Theo! Dan has always been a sort of outcast when it came to his parents, now, drop the subject, and don’t even think about bringing any of this up when your father comes in with Dan.” His mother scolds as she follows him up the front porch steps. Theo sighs loudly and ruffles his brown locks out of slight irritation, “Alright, I won’t. After all of this is over can I go over to Collins?” He asks as he watched his mother search through her keys for the one to the house.
That was her mom talk for the word ‘no,’ Theo didn’t even bother to argue with her because he knew once his mother spoke it was final. Maybe he could convince Collin into bringing one of those bacon burgers to school tomorrow, the thought of food made his stomach growl. “Mom! What’s for dinner!” He calls as he took his shoes off by the door, his mother already deep within their quaint little home. “Lasagna! If you’re hungry then fix yourself a snack!” She replies just as loud as he asked. Theo groaned and skulked into the kitchen, his mother must have been in the spare bedroom down the hall. Lasagna wasn’t as good as spaghetti, but he couldn’t complain much. Grumbling to himself, Theo throws open the fridge and scans the shelves. He grabs a pack of bologna, some mustard, and a piece of Kraft cheese and places them on the counter top. He nudges the fridge closed with his hip and grabs some bread from the box next to the stove. Humming to himself, Theo lays out two slices of bread and begins to add the necessary things to his sandwich. He still wondered what Dan had done to make his family so mad at him, or what he ever did for his wife to want a divorce.
“He’s probably a creep,” he mumbles as he puts away the bologna and mustard, Theo snatches his sandwich and takes a big bite out of it. He leans against the kitchen counter and chews slowly as he thinks, ′Maybe he was caught cheating with another woman and his parents didn’t agree with that, taking the wife’s side.′ Theo shrugs and leaves the kitchen with his sandwich almost gone, ′Or maybe he’s that type of guy that nobody really likes, there’s a few of those at school.′ He thought as he shoved the rest of his sandwich into his mouth. Theo swallows his sandwich as flops down onto the couch in the living room, he picks the tv remote from the coffee table and flicks the huge screen on. Theo spends a few minutes flicking through various channels until he finally lands on the USA channel, a rerun of Law and Order: SVU was playing.
“Anybody home!” Theo’s dad called from the front door, Theo snickers silently as he turns the tv up to drown his father’s voice out a little. “Nope!” He calls back while keeping his blue eyes focused on Eliot Stabler tackling a running suspect, he loved watching the reruns with Eliot in them, he was Theo’s favorite character.
“Well, hello there stranger!” The sound of his mother’s happy tone made Theo turn the tv down as he strained his ears to listen to what was going on, “Hey, Leigh! Gosh, it’s been a hot minute, hasn’t it? How have you been?” The sound of another man’s voice makes Theo frown, the guy sounds familiar to him, but he couldn’t remember where he heard him from before.
“Theo! Come and meet, Daniel!” His father called from the kitchen, Theo sighs as he turns the tv off. Feeling unmotivated he forces himself to stand and move into the kitchen. Sitting at the kitchen island was his father, mother, and a guy with short black hair, only the sides were short, his bangs were slicked back off of his forehead. The man’s hazel eyes stood out to Theo the most, something about them made him feel uneasy. Theo stands in the doorway, staring at the man sitting next to his mother, Dan flashes him a smile showing off his whitened teeth. “Hey, there kiddo! It’s been awhile, hasn’t it? Gosh last time I saw you, you were barely past my knee!” Dan exclaims while laughing, Theo frowns and shifts his weight onto his left foot.
“Yeah... Well, I’m going to go work on some homework now,” says Theo as he slowly retreats from the kitchen. “If you need any help just come tell me alright, bud?” His father replied, Theo quickly nods as he snatches his backpack from where he left it, he rushes off to his room and closes the door behind him. Theo let’s out a breath he hadn’t realized was being held, he was right about one thing, Dan was a total creep.
“Maybe it’s where I don’t remember him, I never was good around strangers,” Theo mumbles as he sits in his desk chair, with a tired sigh he takes out his math homework and plops it down on top of his desk. A light frown crosses his face, he already knew he would need help, but he didn’t want to be around Dan, something about the man made him feel uncomfortable. “I’ll just... copy off of Collin tomorrow, he usually lets me, besides dad, he’s the only one that understands my issues with math.” He says as he stuffs the papers back into his bag, without another thought of the confusing math problems, Theo tosses his backpack into a nearby corner. He reaches over and plucks a book from his bookshelf, the book he chose was Alex by Adam J Nicolai. A girl in his literature class mentioned that the book was a good read, he asked to borrow it. Theo flips open to the first chapter and begins to read, the opening starts with a man and his son, the man was running late for work while his son was goofing around.
Theo blinks his eyes wide, the last line of the first paragraph of chapter one startled him, ′His son had been dead for six months.′ He had not seen the twist coming, “Whoa,” he breathes. “How’s the homework coming along, bud?” The sound of his father’s voice causes Theo to jump, he turns around and hides the book behind his back.
“I-It’s coming,” he laughs nervously. His father frowns a little and leans his left shoulder onto the doorframe, “You alright? Did something happen at school today?” Theo shakes his head and gives his father a bright smile.
“Nah, just something we read today in lit got me thinking about something.” He replies cooly.
His father shrugs, “If you say so, bud. Your mother said dinner will be ready in an hour if you want after you finish with your homework, you can come watch the game with me and Dan.” Theo’s smile dropped slightly, “Ah... Nah, I got a lot of homework to do, I’ll be out when it’s time for dinner.” He lies as his hand tightened onto the book behind his back. His dad nods and leaves closing the door behind him, Theo breathes a relieved sigh and pulls the book out from behind him. His father hated him reading anything that was dark or looked like it would be about something macabre. Theo opens the book back to the first page, the only sentence that stood out to him was the final one, ′His son had been dead for six months.′
Dinner was uneventful and tense, or at least that’s how Theo felt as he sat next to Dan. The older man sat beside him, happily chatting to his parents as he took a bite of his meal in between sentences. Theo could have sworn that Dan was glancing at him from the side of his eyes as if he was looking for some type of reaction from Theo. ′Okay he’s not only a creep, but he’s a super duper creep with a capital C.′ Theo thought as he focused on his lasagna and salad, something was telling him to get away from Dan, screaming at him that he was bad. “So, Theo! Your dad tells me you’re going to try out for the basketball team this year.” Says Dan startling Theo from his thoughts. Theo glances at him from the corner of his eye and quickly looks away again, “Um... Yeah, the coach saw me shooting three-pointers in the gym during a free period last year, he said I should try out for the team this semester.” Theo sneaks another glance at Dan, ice runs through his veins when he sees a malicious little smile on the man’s face, acting like he knew something that Theo didn’t.
“Really? Maybe one day we can go to the park and you can show me those moves of yours.” Dan replies as he wipes some stray pasta sauce from the corner of his mouth, Theo mutters a quick sure before stuffing his mouth with a large forkful of salad. It was final, Dan was officially creepy in his book.
Later in the night, Theo stares up at his bedroom ceiling. His eyebrows knitted together in confusion, his inner voice kept screaming at him to get away from Dan, that he was bad and a monster. Theo sighs irritably and turns on his side to face the wall, “Hopefully, Uncle Dan won’t be here long... I hope he isn’t.”