Up to the day I met Jason Thorn, my dreams were made of fluffy white clouds, pretty pink dresses, tasty apple pies, and of course, our neighbor Kara’s big brother.
“I don’t want to hear another word about this, Jason. You are always welcome to stay here, sweetheart.”
I was about to go down to help my mom set the table when their voices carried up to me and I stopped.
“See, I told you it would be okay. Come on, let’s go up to my room.”
“Hold on, Dylan. Not so fast.”
I heard mom’s coffee cup softly clink on the kitchen counter a few seconds before I heard her speak again.
“Jason, are you sure you don’t want us to call anyone? Maybe they should check on your mom and make sure everything is okay, or we can call your father and let him know that you are spending the night with us. I bet he would be worried if he called your house and couldn’t reach either one of you.”
My mom was a soft, compassionate woman—soft as in she carried a heart that was purely made of shiny liquid gold. I’d heard my grandpa tell her so countless times for putting up with my father, so as a child I knew it had to be true. There was also a side of her that could be seen as vicious at times, as she was fiercely protective of the ones she counted as her family.
Other than that, she was a sweetheart, as my father liked to call her. She had this secret way of making anyone smile, even when they were sad about something. I knew that because she always made me laugh when we were at the dentist, which was a big scary place for a six-year-old (almost seven!). If she was in the room, chances were she’d have you beaming up at her in no time.
It wasn’t just me and my brother; she had the same effect on my friends too. Whenever it was her turn to pick us up from school, they all looked up at her with these big, silly smiles stretched across their faces. Actually, now that I think about it, they reminded me of Buzz, the puppy Kara had gotten a few weeks before. Oh, how much I loved watching Kara’s brother Noah play with that puppy; I’d always thought we could buy a few puppies for ourselves after he asked me to marry him.
Anyway, I hadn’t been allowed to have the puppy in the house, and of course I would never ever sneak him in whenever my mom was out—sshh, don’t tell anyone—but I did see the faces the little guy made when he wanted something from Kara.
All in all, back then, I believed it was tough to be a kid, but having a mom like mine made everything a bit easier. That’s why I’d always wanted to be like her. I’d wanted to make people happy, make them forget about their worries for a while, be their sunshine, as she was ours.
There had been only one teeny-tiny issue…the blaring fact that I didn’t have a golden heart because I was never good at being peaceful or graceful, where my mom, on the other hand, was the epitome of those traits.
It wasn’t my fault though; it was always Dylan who made me angry. If blame were to be assigned, it would fall squarely on Dylan’s shoulders, not mine.
Dylan was my big brother, the one who kept ruining everything for me, probably since the day I was born. Unfortunately, I didn’t remember those early years of my existence, but I was pretty sure that he’d been messing with me back then, too. According to my mom and dad, a few days after they brought me home from the hospital, he told them they should take me back to where they’d found me—next to the garbage cans.
Can you believe the audacity? My loving big brother.
It didn’t even end with a cleverly veiled threat either. I remembered myself that he would steal my stroller and run around with me in the park. Why, he was probably trying to kill me with sheer excitement!
At an early age, I’d come to the conclusion that I would get to have my own golden heart when Dylan wouldn’t be around to throw me off of my game. Whenever he was around, chances were he’d do something and I’d lose my cool, which would lead to us getting into a screaming match.
There was nothing graceful about screaming your little heart out at someone because they wouldn’t play My Little Pony with you.
Jason’s carefully chosen words brought me back to the present where I was plastered to the wall just to the left of the staircase, listening in on them.
“Thank you, Mrs. Taylor, but I don’t think my father cares about where I’m spending the night. And…um…my mom will probably be okay in the morning. I’m sure she just fell asleep. It’s my fault really; I should’ve checked the time and made sure I was home before six.”
“We were playing catch on the street, Jason. Like, right in front of your house. I don’t think you are the one to blame here. And who goes to sleep at six, Mom? Even Olive stays up later than that.”
“Dylan,” my mom said in a low voice before sighing.
I grinned, feeling proud. I could stay up pretty late. Sometimes I could even go until nine.
There was complete silence for a few moments, and then the feet of the chair scraped the floor as someone got up from the table.
“Okay, Jason.” I heard mom’s strained voice breaking the thick silence. Who was this boy they kept calling Jason? Maybe he was part of the family that had moved in across the street a few houses down a few days ago?
How come Dylan hadn’t introduced me to his new friend?
“You are always welcome in this house. I want you to remember that, okay?”
“Thank you Mrs. Taylor. I appreciate it.”
“Why don’t you go and get cleaned up while I get dinner ready? After dinner we’ll call your dad and make sure he knows you are safe.”
“That’s not really necess—”
“Let’s say it’s for my own peace of mind.”
“Come on, Jason.” I heard my brother murmur. “I’ll show you the new video game my dad bought me.”
Oh, about that…I’d always thought it was quite rude of him to hoard all the toys. He never let me play with him.
I turned on my heels and was about to run back to my room to check out who the new boy was through the small opening of my door when my mom said, “Dylan, can you stay and help me set the table first? Then you can join Jason upstairs until I call you guys down for dinner.”
“Sure, Mom,” my brother answered readily. “The bathroom is the second door to the left, Jason. My room is next to it. I’ll be right up.”