I glared at the car parked outside of our shabby flat. Mum was entertaining again? Couldn’t she stay alone for a single day before pulling someone new?
It wasn’t like I’d held out any hope for this particular day. She’d never given a rat’s arse before, but turning eighteen… It was kind of a big deal. I’d hoped, wished, that she could’ve at least acknowledged it.
I should’ve known better.
She’d never acknowledged any of my other seventeen birthdays—not as far as I could remember, anyway.
I desperately wished I could afford to move out, but I was still doing my A-levels, and I spent all my time doing the very best I could so I would be able to move out come summer. I needed good results on all my A-levels so I could get a good job.
Maybe hairdressing wasn’t the most lucrative career, or the one I’d need the best grades in A-levels to get, but I wasn’t taking any chances. The better my A-levels, the better my chances were of getting hired as a trainee in a good salon.
No matter what, I would leave my mum’s house, which was something I’d been waiting to do for forever.
I could hear shouting even before I opened the front door, and my spirits fell further.
Mum usually left me alone whenever she had men over, and as long as I kept to my room and had my music on, I was kept from being traumatised. But if she was already in a screaming match with today’s bloke, then there would be no peace for me.
I almost didn’t go inside, but it wasn’t like I had anywhere else to go, so I had no choice.
‘You have no bloody right to be here!’ Mum’s screams came from the direction of the living room.
I hoped to avoid her and sneak into my room, where I could plug in my earphones and avoid the entire fight. It must be a record, even for her, to already be fighting with whatever new man she’d brought home.
Usually around this time they were busy in bed.
‘I have every right to be here now. He’s eighteen today, which means you can’t keep me away anymore!’
And just like that, I realised that this wasn’t one of Mum’s many shags, and that their screaming match was about me.
I abandoned my attempt to sneak off to my room and instead tip-toed over to the living room doorway.
Mum and the male stranger faced each other in the middle of the floor, and I could see both their profiles. Mum was livid, while the man looked frustrated, but also determined.
‘You can’t deny me this. He’s eighteen. You have no say in his life anymore. If he wants to see me, you can’t stop him. You can’t stop me anymore.’ The man pointed a finger in Mum’s face and she swatted angrily at it.
‘You really think he’ll want anything to do with you, John? You’ve been MIA for his entire life.’
‘Because of you! Because you’ve kept me away, refusing to let me to see him!’ The frustration was bleeding away from the man now, and it was replaced by livid anger. ‘You’re a spiteful bitch, and you’ve managed to keep me away all these years, but not anymore. From today on, it’s his choice.’
I stared at him, realisation dawning on me slowly.
This was my father.
My actual father.
All I knew about my biological father was that he’d left when I was little. Mum had never wanted to talk about him, except to badmouth him, and I’d eventually learned not to ask.
And now here he was.
He was here for me.
I must’ve made a sound, or moved; I didn’t know which. All I knew was that they both turned to me.
Mum’s eyes narrowed, while the man’s eyes widened.
I knew I stared, and I knew my mouth was slightly open and that I must look completely ridiculous, but that was my dad standing there, staring right back at me. I couldn’t remember him, had never known what he looked like. I’d never thought I’d ever be able to meet him.
‘Kian.’ He took a step forward and I took swift note of the fact that I had his eyes and nose and cheekbones. I basically looked like a male version of Mum, just smaller, kinder and even more effeminate than her, but those features… those were from him.
I swallowed heavily.
I couldn’t move, I couldn’t speak.
What was I supposed to do?
My dad was right there. Alive, well, and he seemed to actually want to meet me. I had no idea what to say in this situation.
‘Get the fuck out of my house, the both of you,’ Mum snapped, bringing me out of my shocked state.
‘What?’ Now I stared at her, shocked for an entirely different reason.
‘You’re eighteen now.’ Her voice was cold. Her eyes were even colder. ‘You can provide for yourself. You’re no longer welcome here.’
My eyes burned.
You will not cry.
You will not cry.
‘I have nowhere to go, Mum.’
‘Go with him.’ She jerked her head in his direction. ‘He apparently wants you.’ Now she jerked a thumb at him too. ‘Get your stuff and get the hell out.’ With that said, she stalked away into the kitchen. The door slammed shut behind her so hard that the glass in it quivered.
I flinched, then stood rooted to the spot, clutching at the strap of my shoulder bag as I stared at the closed door.
Now what am I supposed to do?
A hand on my shoulder startled me into movement, and I turned back to stare at the man who was my father.
‘Come with me, Kian,’ he said in a low voice. ‘Please. Come with me.’
I glanced from the closed door to him—my dad.
He seemed genuine in his plea, but there was more than that, he was begging me to come with him. There was desperation in his eyes, and his hand still clutched at my shoulder as if he didn’t want to let me go.
‘I’m gay,’ was what came out of my mouth.
I’d never told my mum, because she’d never given a shit, but it wasn’t hard to tell. Still, if he wanted to get to know me, then that was a big part of who I was.
He smiled tightly. ‘I don’t mind.’
And I believed him.
The tightness seemed to be more about the fact that we were still in my mum’s living room, and he seemed anxious to leave it. ‘Truly, I don’t.’
I nodded slowly. ‘Okay, then.’
His eyes lit up a bit. ‘You’ll come with me?’
I clutched my shoulder bag tighter. ‘I don’t have any other choice, do I?’ I took several steps back, out of the room. ‘I’m not welcome here anymore.’
‘You’re welcome with me. With us.’
I’d started to turn towards my bedroom door, but now I faced him again. ‘Us?’
‘Me, my wife, and my son. My second son.’ His smile lost a bit of the tightness now, though it was still there. His hands clenched at his sides.
Is he nervous?
But nervous about meeting me or going head-to-head with my mum? Maybe both.
I opened my bedroom door and headed inside.
He followed hesitantly.
I glanced around at what little I had. It wasn’t much, but I still didn’t know how to get everything with me.
I found a bag in my closet and stuffed all my clothes in it. I had too few as it was, and since I didn’t have much money, it was necessary for me to bring all of them with me.
‘We can go back and get everything later,’ he suggested, seeing my predicament. ‘We can get some boxes to pack everything in.’
‘I’m not sure she’ll let us in if we leave now and then come back,’ I murmured.
He looked around, assessing. ‘Then we’ll get everything with us. We’ll just put it all in the back seat.’
I gazed at him from under my fringe. ‘You really want me to stay with you?’
He nodded quickly. ‘You’re my son; of course I want that. I didn’t get the chance to be a part of your life for so long, but now that you’re of age, I very much want to be.’
I chewed on my bottom lip. ‘She kept you away all these years?’
His expression turned grim. ‘When I left her, I didn’t have a job. I didn’t have anything. She fought me for full custody and she won. From then on, I wasn’t allowed to see you or contact you in any way, and whatever I tried, she rebuffed.’
I turned my head away so he couldn’t see my face. ‘Doesn’t surprise me.’ Mum had never cared about him—so it didn’t surprise me at all that she’d only kept me out of spite.
‘I’m so sorry.’ He came further into the room.
The room I’d grown up in. The walls were littered with posters, of hair or make-up or half-naked blokes. They didn’t hold any particular value, though, so leaving them behind wouldn’t be terrible.
We got everything I wanted to keep out in his car.
I left some small knick-knacks, as well as the posters, and I didn’t doubt for a second she’d throw everything away the minute I was out of the flat.
I looked back once I was ready to get in the passenger seat. We’d lived in that flat for as long as I could remember. It was my childhood home, even if it didn’t hold many good memories.
‘How about we go out to eat now, just the two of us?’ He suggested from the other side of the car. ‘Then you can come home with me, and meet my wife and your little brother afterwards.’
I turned my head to focus on him. ‘Why not go meet them right away?’ I asked, puzzled.
He smiled slightly. ‘Selfish reasons. Now that I’ve finally met you again, I want you to myself for a bit.’
The words warmed me and I ducked my head as my eyes started burning again.
‘Dinner sounds good.’ I slid into the car, and he got settled in the driver’s seat as well. I watched his hands grip the wheel. ‘I don’t know what to call you.’
His hands tightened for a second, then relaxed. ‘If Dad is too weird for you, you can just call me John.’
I chanced a glance up and he smiled. ‘Okay.’ I returned the smile then gazed out my window when he backed the car out of the parking space. ‘John.’
Whatever I called him, there was no denying what he was—he was my dad, and he hadn’t abandoned me like I’d spent most of my life believing. He’d been kept away by my own mother, which was yet another reason not to miss her, to get away from her.
I have my dad back.
I couldn’t have got a better gift for my birthday.