Lucky Chances

Chapter 7

A lance of sunlight cuts through the blinds on the back window of the room and lands directly on my eyelids, waking me up. I open my eyes to find my brother (that’s still weird to say) sprawled all over the bed, one arm across my chest, a leg over mine, the blankets and sheets tossed aside, with a bit of drool dampening the pillow near his mouth. I suppress a laugh at how absurd he looks, before noticing that he’s got a raging case of morning wood. This, in turn, gives me a raging case of morning wood. Dammit.

I want to get up, but I don’t want to disturb him and I have no idea how light of a sleeper he is. I know I sleep decently once I actually fall asleep, but I have medication helping me there. I actually have no idea what kind of sleeper I’d be without it, but with my anxiety, I’m sure I’m easier to wake up than he is. Still, I can take some time here before I get up, just in case he decides to move.

So. I need to review yesterday; what a huge chunk to take in. First, I find out that I still don’t know my real parents, which means Chance doesn’t know his. Second, his dad is transgender, and also kinda hot, which makes me all kinds of confused. ...Y’know, I’m just going to ignore that one.

New second, I had sex. I’m 13 and I had sex. Like, both ways. I’m not a virgin in any way now. I...somehow don’t feel any different than before. Like, they always make it out as if you somehow become some entirely new person or something, like a butterfly from a caterpillar, but I am definitely just me with a slightly sore sphincter (hooray alliteration?). I don’t feel older, or more ‘manly’ or whatever. Just...slightly wrong.

Which brings me to the third point: I just had sex with my brother. A brother that I didn’t grow up with, and who I didn’t know until just recently, so it’s basically like I just met a new person. Except that he’s my twin brother, and so I also basically just had sex with myself. Except that I find myself stupid ugly and would never have sex with myself. Except that I did. Jesus Christ, this is confusing.

And (because nothing is ever easy in my life), number four: I think I’m falling in love with my brother. My twin brother. My twin brother whom I have never met until this week. My twin brother whom I had sex with last night even though I have known him for less than a week. I mean, how sick and fucked up is that? Aren’t I supposed to, I dunno, NOT fall in love with my own family members? Is there something wrong with me? And if I’m feeling this, does that mean he might be feeling it, too?

Wow. That thought both excites and horrifies me. I am definitely fucked up.

I sigh heavily, more loudly than I intend to, and as if in response, Chance shifts his position and uses the arm that was draped over me to rub his nose a sec before shifting himself over away from me. Freed from my prison, I slowly get up and crawl over the foot of the bed, being careful not to disturb Chance. I get dressed and go pee, looking at myself in the mirror afterward. I see a nervous, confused, anxious boy staring back at me, one who looks exactly like, and somehow nothing like, the boy taking over the bed in the other room. The one I’m staring at now seems awkward and...flawed, like someone tried to make a copy of the one in the other room, but once they finished the outer shell, they filled it in with a bunch of, I dunno, random leftovers. ...Whatever. That analogy didn’t work, but neither does my brain right now. All I know is that I think I’m going to need to double my dose of the anxiety meds, because all this confusion is going to give me a meltdown.

I numbly head downstairs, aware of the smell of coffee and toast permeating the air. I turn the corner and almost bump into Carly, or Mrs. Lockhart, I guess, as she rummages in the pantry for something.

“Oh!” she says in startlement, “You took me by surprise there, Luke.”

“Sorry, ma’am,” I reply, “I didn’t--wait. How did you know which one I am?”

She smiles in amused sincerity. “Darlin’, Chance doesn’t own any of those clothes, first off. Second, he sounds like a herd of angry buffalo when he comes down the stairs, no matter how often I tell him to treat them with a bit more respect.” I get the squeaky giggles at that one. “Third, he’d’a been callin’ halfway down askin’ if I made any breakfast. Oh, and he’s usually not up for another hour on the weekends.”

I nod slowly, but in all my social eloquence, I have nothing to respond with. In fact, I really have no idea what I even came downstairs for. So, I just stand there, awkwardly silent, until she gets a bag of sugar out of the pantry and closes the door. “Well,” she continues, “you’re welcome to anything in the house. There’s cereal and milk, there’s bread for toast, or I could cook up some eggs if you’d like.”

“Um, no thanks. I’ll just wait for Chance for breakfast. Um, before I have breakfast.” My cheeks heat up at the accidental pun.

Pouring the sugar into a Tupperware container on the counter, she laughs lightly and responds, “That’s fine, as long as you eat. No child of mine skips breakfast if I can help it.” Child of hers? She must have expected my reaction because she looks over with a sly smile and says, “You may not be our adopted son, but you’re one of our children now as far as I’m concerned, even if you live with your other parents. You’re always welcome over here.”

I smile bashfully, unsure of what to do other than say, “Thanks.”

“You don’t happen to like coffee, do you?” She pours herself a cup and spoons a hefty helping of sugar into it.

“No thank you,” I reply. While I do occasionally like coffee with the french vanilla flavored creamer that Papa Davy puts into it (and a lot of it), I’m pretty sure a lot of caffeine is a bad idea for me right now. “Um, is it okay if I go out back?” I ask, eyeing the last bit of sunrise over the trees outside. It’s the kind of thing I try to write poems about and end up with trash, but oh well.

“Of course, hon! Go right on ahead.” As an afterthought, she adds, “Just don’t go swimming in the creek. I don’t know how many eyes the crocodiles have these days.”

O...kay. I don’t respond; I just head out the door onto their back porch. It’s a nice little open-air wooden deck with plenty of plastic deck chairs and a wobbly-looking table to go with them. I pull a chair to the edge of the porch and sit down facing outside, admiring the sky as the sun continues to climb over the treeline in the distance. They have a wrought-iron fence that goes quite a ways out, but the land starts to slope sharply after maybe sixty feet or so, so the fence closes off right there. There’s a hand gate installed on that side, though, so I guess if someone wanted to go swimming with the seven-eyed crocodiles, they could. The creek itself is another fifty feet out from there, and it looks like it has a little walking trail of sorts that goes alongside it. Other than that, the neighbor’s backyards seem pretty similarly constructed, just claiming a chunk of land without doing a whole lot to it. That, and the fences are short enough that they really only would serve to keep small kids from accidentally getting lost in the backyard. An adult (or me, if I really felt like it) could easily climb over them.

I’ve always loved nature; it usually just sits there, without bothering you, without asking you a ton of questions or trying to bully you or make you do homework. Really, it doesn’t want anything from you other than to leave it alone. A lot like me, especially when I get anxious. A lot of my poetry that I write is inspired by really pretty nature scenes. (The rest is usually about angsty things, but y’know.) I sit outside for a while, enjoying the still-bearable morning air before the day gets uncomfortably warm.

I’m not sure how long I sit there before I hear the back door open behind me. The door sticks a bit, though, so the sudden sound it makes when it’s opened makes me jump a bit. (Lots of things do, though, so there’s that.) I turn and see Chance, dressed in plaid shorts and a t-shirt that has a Batman symbol made of Legos, standing at the door. After a pause, he asks, “Can I come sit with you?”

“Yeah, of course,” I reply, and turn back around to keep enjoying the view. He drags a chair over next to me and sits down, staring off as I am.

He lets the lets the silence sit for a bit before asking, “So...whatcha doing out here?”

I blink a few times, looking aside at him. “Just...relaxing. Thinking.”

“Thinking about what?” he asks, not looking back over at me.

“Oh God, everything.” I sigh under the weight of it all. “Actually, I thought about it all, and now I’m trying to stop thinking about it. I tend to get obsessive over things sometimes.”

He doesn’t have a ready reply, so the birds fill in the empty spaces for a bit. Eventually, he stammers, “So...I really enjoyed last night.”

. Ah, shit. I’m not ready for this discussion. Not mentally, not emotionally. But I don’t want to brush him off, and maybe he’s--okay, okay. Just... “Good.” No, that’s not enough. “I mean, I did too.” Yep, I’m an idiot.

An awkward pause fills the space; even the birds seem to stop chirping, just to rub it in. “I, y’know, hope it’s as good as that when I have a boyfriend.” He stares out into the distance, but I look over to see the redness creeping out from his cheeks.

Instead of a response, I end up with a hurricane of emotions, too many to even pick apart. It was bad enough this morning, but with what he said right there, something just triggers in me and leaves me extremely anxious for a moment. I try my absolute best to maintain outer calm while I take a few slow deep breaths to try to control myself, but I can tell he notices. Before he gets a chance to speak, I hold up a finger and say, “Hold on, random anxiety. I’ll be fine, just...” I take a few more deep breaths and focus on the breaths, like I was taught. Inhale, exhale. Inhale...exhale.

He looks at me with genuine concern and asks, “Is this like what happened that first time? In the class?”

I shut my eyes a little tighter, nodding quickly. Not that I need to remember that right now, I almost have control and don’t need to go back there. Inhale...exhale. Once more. Okay. “I think I’m good now. Sorry, just sometimes my thoughts go crazy and it gets me all anxious. I’m fine. Sorry.”

“No, no it’s fine, I just wanted to make sure, y’know, you were good. Just lookin’ out for ya, y’know?” He gently taps the back of his fist against my arm in a show of friendship.

Another small silence settles in, which is great, since I need to figure out what the hell caused that. He said that he hopes it’s as good when he has a boyfriend. So that means it was good, so there’s that. That means he’s...I guess he’s okay with being gay? Is he sure? And it also means that...god dammit. That’s why the anxiety attack happened. Even thinking of him having a boyfriend is making me jealous. Hey, brain! I can’t go out with my damn brother, are you insane!? “I should...probably get going home,” I mention carefully.

“Aw, already? I was gonna ask if you wanted to play more Smash Brothers.” He looks genuinely hurt when he says that, though.

“Yeah, I gotta do some chores and homework, and we like to go do family things on Saturdays.” While technically true, I don’t think we have anything planned for today specifically. I just need to be away so I can process some things.

He stares at me for a moment. “Did I do something wrong?”

Dammit! He can read me like a book! Why am I trying to hide things from my twin, anyway? Sighing, I say, “No, you’re fine, I promise. It’s just...a whole lot of things just happened, and I can’t talk to my parents about it, and I just need a lot of time to think things through, usually. It’s just something about me, is all. I promise you didn’t do anything wrong; you’re fine.”

He looks partially relieved, but offers, “You can talk to me about it.”

“Well, yeah, but...” God, he’s such a sweetheart. That’s just one more reason why this hurts so much. “...Not all of it.” I blink an unbidden tear out of my eye.

“O--okay,” he stutters, and looks as if he’s about to say something else, but eventually he gives up. “Maybe we can hang out later this week or something.” He sounds completely bummed out.

“Yes!” I blurt out quickly, taking him a little by surprise. “That would be awesome! I’d...I’d really like that. Later this week would be great.” Maybe I should repeat that a few more times to sound like a real idiot; I dunno if I made it clear enough.

The amusement shows on his face, but is quickly replaced by genuine excitement. “Awesome. I can’t wait.” He then gets a devious look on his face. “Hey, I have an idea. You should totally take a set of my clothes home, and one day, we can, like, swap places at school.”

I stare at him blankly for a moment. “But we have uniforms.”

He looks at me for a few seconds, and then swiftly slaps his face in an epic facepalm. “Wow. I am stupid.”

I can’t help but crack up for a moment as I put my hand on his shoulder. “But hey--that will make it super easy to do, though.”

He rolls his eyes, still ashamed of his faux pas. “Still. You sure you don’t at least want to have breakfast?”

“Hm. You have a good point. Let me text Papa Chris and let him know.”

We go back inside and tell his mom that we’re ready for breakfast; she cooks up some biscuits and sausage gravy, which is WAY better down here than it ever was up north. I stuff myself stupid on biscuits. By the time Papa Chris gets here, I’m asking for a stretcher or a wheelbarrow to get me over to the car. Everyone has a nice chat, I grab all my stuff and hug all the parents, and we prepare to go.

Chance runs over to me outside as we’re about to go. “Hey!”

I stop as Papa Chris closes the driver’s side door. “Yeah?”

“Later this week, right?”

“Right.”

He comes in a bit closer and speaks softly, not like anyone is around to hear. “Um, thanks. A lot. For last night...I don’t think I woulda been okay with all that if you weren’t there. So really...thanks.”

For all his bluster and charisma, he really goes soft when he talks about his own issues. He almost seems like a younger version of me, somehow, when he’s like this. I can’t help but open my arms for a hug, which he accepts readily (and almost painfully). Even when I’m ready to let go, he holds on for a few seconds longer. “See ya later,” I finally say when we let go.

As I get in the car, he smiles and waves, watching us as we drive down the street. Why the hell does he have to be so nice and friendly? My mind swims with questions and anxious thoughts on the way home.

After we get home, I pretty much head straight up to my room and plop down on the bed, staring blankly at my ceiling while my mind continues to unravel the dense knot of stuff that happened yesterday. Shortly, I hear a knock at my door.

“Yeah?” I call out.

“Housekeeping!” comes a mousy, high-pitched reply. That would be Papa Davy with his favorite door joke.

“Come in,” I reply with mock exasperation.

He opens the door and peeks in, darting glances left and right before “sneaking” in and closing the door. After he’s done being silly, he stands up and considers me as I lay on the bed, still staring upward. “You okay, Big Guy?”

He loves calling me names that are exactly the opposite of what I am. “Yeah, I’m fine.”

“Now see,” he says, “there’s a difference between ‘I’m actually fine’ fine, and ‘I’m staring at the ceiling because I’ve got something on my mind’ fine. I’m having a hard time telling which one this is, but I have a hunch.”

I glance over at Papa Davy, who is standing in his ‘sassy/defiant’ pose, but his face is soft and concerned. “Well, yeah, of course I have something on my mind. Yesterday was probably one of the craziest days of my life, maybe even more than when I met Chance for the first time.”

He swivels my computer chair around and takes a seat facing me. “Yeah, I can imagine. How are you taking it all?”

I hold a hand up and wobble it back and forth in the ‘so-so’ gesture. “It’s a lot to take in.”

“Well, how is it going with you and Chance? Everything okay between you two?”

“Yeah, yeah we stayed up and played games and talked and stuff.” And found out that we’re both gay and had sex with each other and aren’t virgins and now I think I have a crush on him. Nothing out of the ordinary, just regular brother stuff. God, I’m fucked up.

“Okay,” he says, though he sounds unconvinced. Probably because he can read anybody and I’m also a terrible liar. Oh well--that’s all he’s getting from me on that note. He scoots closer in the chair. “I hope you aren’t mad at his parents for what they--for how they handled things.”

I shrug. “I mean I guess I can see why, kinda, but...it was rude of them to think he couldn’t handle it.”

“Maybe they weren’t thinking about him as much. It could just be that they were afraid.”

“Afraid?” I ask, propping myself up on my elbows.

“Sure. Coming out is always hard, even if it’s to your children. People are people, and sometimes it doesn’t matter how old they are, or if they’re related or not--that even makes it harder, sometimes.” With that, he gives a dismissive shrug. “Not that I had that problem. My closet has always had the clearest glass door that anyone has ever looked through. The more to admire me, really.”

His sheer stupid absurdity always makes me giggle. If only he knew how right he was, though. I can’t even figure out how to come out to my two gay dads, and let’s not even talk about the other part. “I guess so,” is all I can figure out to respond.

A moment passes. Suddenly, Papa Davy gets the “Eureka!” look on his face. “Hey, at least you have a brother that you don’t have to live with. I hated every last one of my sisters and brothers until I moved out, and then they were all of a sudden the coolest people. So, you get to skip the “annoying brother” part and just start out liking him. Lucky Lucky--your nickname rings true.”

“Yeah.”

“Well, I can see that I’m boring you, so...I’ll just go now.” He stands up.

“You’re not boring--”

“I’m just teasing you, Luke. Don’t have too much fun now, ‘kay?” With that, he leaves the room. I really do love my dads, even if they’re a little too personal sometimes.

I go through the same sort of conversation with Papa Chris later on, though it’s a bit more summarized. Other than that, the day seems as empty as my mind is full. I occupy myself messing around on the computer, but nothing seems to interest me. I finally decide to sit and write a poem, hoping that it will help me at least get through the wall of confusion in my head. Actually, I kinda like that phrase. Let me see:

 

Behind a wall of confusion, I sit

Imprisoned, but protected

From the maelstrom of uncertainty,

Of anxiety and fear.

The storm wears my face and smiles

It opens its arms, and cries when I refuse it.

If I embrace it, will I become it?

If so, what will become of me?

Of us?

 

Ugh, so melodramatic. I do like the word, ‘maelstrom,’ though. I’ll save it and file it away for when I’m not so damn confused. I do feel a little less anxious, though, for what it’s worth, so there’s that.

I feel kinda bad for saying it, but I’m glad that Chance doesn’t text me or anything for the day. I don’t want to look like I don’t like him or that I want him to go away, but I just...I need some time. It’s just that...whatever. Anyway.

So the parents and I don’t actually do anything for the rest of the day, even though I wasn’t lying earlier--we really do go out on Saturdays pretty often. In fact, Papa Chris asks me if I want to go out to dinner, and Papa Davy almost dies when I say no. So he ends up making some Chop Suey Casserole, which is both ridiculously good with crushed-up Ritz crackers in it, and ridiculously bad for you (even though they’re normally pretty health crazy). I guess he figured out that I wasn’t ‘fine.’ Honestly, though, I don’t care at this point, because it’s freaking delicious.

After dinner, I go back up to my room and read the book I checked out from the library for reading class. It’s a young adult fantasy novel: all of a sudden, everyone within a few years of eighteen years old starts getting magic powers, and it’s about how the world changes because of it. The best part is that the main character doesn’t really have any powers that he can tell, until he--well, I don’t want to spoil it.

Anyway, I read it for maybe an hour or so, but even though it’s really interesting, I just really need to release some tension, so to speak. Even starting to think about it is enough to start getting hard, so I put the book aside and get undressed; it’s close enough to bedtime anyway. “Little Lucky” presses himself against my belly and crawls his way up as he gets fully hard. I spend some time slowly dragging my fingers over the skin, watching as it reflexively tenses up. If I were in the shower, I’d rub my palm over the top of my dick head, which for some reason always makes me feel like I need to pee. I move down to my balls, tickling the underside and watching them scrunch up out of the way. It’s really like it’s a separate creature, sometimes--more so now that I’m at the Age of the Awkward Boner.

I reach into the bottom drawer of my nightstand, way in the far back past my old pajamas that sadly still fit me, and pull out a bottle of conditioner. I told my dads that I had used it all up, but I love taking the last bit and keeping it for when I’m really horny and not in the shower. I squeeze a line of the thick stuff out onto my dick; the sensation and the cold temperature make it flex again in response. I rub it all in, the electric feeling setting my brain (and groin) on fire. I gently start to stroke from base to head, only occasionally rubbing my fingers over the sensitive glans. I do, however, use my thumb to massage the little super-sensitive area underneath the head, which makes it ooze precum. I think back to my standard memories and fantasies, usually involving my old friend in Connecticut. Sometimes I just remember how we jacked off together, and sometimes I imagine us doing more. I imagine me belly-up on the couch and him kneeling between my legs, slowly pushing his big dick into me, riding it up until he’s pressed against me.

The thought of it lights everything up a little more, but it doesn’t push me over the edge. Eventually, even the usual ideas kind of fade out, and I can’t get over the “plateau,” as they call it. (I did a lot of online research. What? It’s interesting.)

Then my mind immediately replaces the view with last night: looking at Chance facing me with his dick pointing straight up; me showing him what a blowjob feels like, and the feeling of his dick in my mouth; the moment that he let out that whimper and pushed deep into me, his warmth on my back, his dick throbbing as he shot--

My entire body locks in place like lightning struck me; my dick spasms violently and rapidly as three quick globs of cum fly out, with a fourth dribbling down my dickhead and thumb. Five more dry throbs and one freaking amazing orgasm later, I’m out of breath and I swear my abs are going to be sore tomorrow.

I take a moment to catch my breath. Good God, that was one of the best orgasms I’ve ever had.

And it was while thinking of having sex with my brother.

I officially, definitely have a crush on Chance. I’m the worst kind of person on Earth; I’m pretty sure people would tolerate murder more than incest. If not, I’m right up there. This was a bad idea, moving down here. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be sitting here realizing how fucked up I am. I wouldn’t have fallen in love with the image of myself like some narcissistic, backwater redneck. A gay backwater redneck.

You know, I take that back. I shouldn’t insult country folk like that. I’m the damaged one. This is all on me. Maybe if I stayed in Connecticut, I wouldn’t have found out about how repulsive I am, but does that change things? I’d still be the same fucked-up person. What am I gonna do? What am I supposed to do when...when...

I take a sock and wipe off the cum, my mind racing in circles. I put on my pajama bottoms from the drawer, sit on my bed, and cry into my hands. I am trapped. I don’t know what to do: I’m in love with my brother and I can’t be, but I can’t just turn it off. Worse, I can’t tell him, and I don’t want to see him because it’ll be awkward, but I can’t tell him that I don’t want to see him, either. It would break his heart, and it’s not his fault that I’m the broken one.

Maybe they’ll take me to a mental institution. Maybe that would fix me. If not, at least I’d be somewhere where I’m not going to affect Chance.

Okay, okay, maybe you’re overreacting a bit, Luke. It’s been literally less than a week, and you’re probably just still emotional about it all.

Yeah, but it doesn’t stop me from being a freak. I shouldn’t feel that way at all.

That doesn’t mean you’ll keep feeling that way. People get crushes and lose them all the time.

But that’s usually because the other person stops being amazing, and Chance is fucking perfect. He’s basically what I wish I was.

I’m ripped from my reverie by the sound of a knock on my door. “Go away,” I respond as calm-voiced as I can.

“I heard you crying in there; is everything okay?”

“Go away!” My voice cracks high in the middle of the words; if they didn’t know I was upset before, they damn well do now.

Papa Chris sighs on the other side of the door. “Luke, I’m coming in in ten seconds.”

I groan heavily, wiping the tears of my face rapidly, tucking my legs in and wrapping my arms around them so that I can hide my face in my knees.

Papa Chris slowly opens the door and looks at me, heavy concern etched into his face. “Lucky-Luke, what’s wrong?” he says in the most pitying tone of voice possible.

“Nothing.” I’m well aware that’s completely unconvincing.

He stares at me, unmoved. “Seriously, what’s bothering you? Is it an anxiety attack?” He steps closer.

“No!” I respond emphatically. “It’s just...” I literally can’t think of a single thing I could finish that sentence with that wouldn’t give away that I’m the scum of the Earth.

“Just what?” He sits at the foot of the bed.

“Just nothing,” I say into my knees.

“I understand that you need your privacy and space, but I’m worried about you. We’re worried about you.” Papa Davy peers his head into the doorway. “You know you can tell us anything.”

“I can’t.”

“You can’t what?”

“I can’t!” A renewed wave of sobs overtakes me; Papa Chris moves over and starts rubbing my back soothingly. “I’m sorry,” I whimper, “but I can’t.”

“You can’t talk to us?”

I shake my head.

Papa Davy asks, “Is this about Chance?”

As I curl up even tighter in response, hoping that I can just squeeze myself out of existence, Papa Chris takes a serious tone. “What did he do? I swear, if he hurt you--”

“No!” I screech. “He didn--didn’t do...anything. It’s not--not him.”

“Well, what is it, then?” Both of them are staring at me, I can feel it.

I look up to see that it’s true; and yet here we are, where I can’t tell them what’s going on, and I can’t even tell them why I can’t. I stare at Papa Chris until my eyes tear over too much to see. He scoots closer and wraps me in his arms, hugging me silently.

I sob uncontrollably for a bit longer until I’m basically out of tears, and he continues hugging me for a minute longer. After I calm down, he asks, “If you won’t, or can’t, talk to us, will you consider going to a therapist down here?”

Sure, Papa Chris. I’ll go tell a therapist that I want to be boyfriends with my brother so that he can tell you how fucked up I am and commit me. That sounds like a great idea--I’m so glad you thought of it! “I don’t think it’ll help.”

“Is it the medication, then?” Papa Chris sounds concerned, but I can almost detect a hint of frustration in his voice.

“No. Just...forget about it. Please. I’ll talk when...if...I’m ready.” I give him a look of “and that’s final,” and keep my mouth shut.

“Look, I’m just trying to help--!”

Chris.” Papa Davy puts a heavy emphasis on the word; we both look up to see him leaning on the door frame with his arms crossed and a seriously disapproving look on his face. “Our teenage son can make some of his own decisions, like when he’s ready to talk about something.” Nearly every word he says is carefully pronounced.

Papa Chris stares back at him for a tense moment, but relents. “You’re right. Luke, I’m sorry. I just want to fix everything and make it okay, but sometimes things aren’t ready to be fixed yet. I still need to learn that.”

Seeing Papa Chris so vulnerable is a strange sight for me; he’s normally the rock around here. “Thank you,” I say meekly.

“Please, though,” he adds as he stands up from the bed, “just remember that you can tell us anything. We promise we’ll love you all the same.”

I stare at him for a moment, deciding on what to say; I just end up nodding, instead.

Satisfied with the response, he says, “Have a good night, Luke.”

“Goodnight, Papa Chris, Papa Davy.”

They close my door softly; I hear their feet plod down the hall. I sigh heavily, realizing that my pajama pants are basically soaked at the knees with tears. I slip them off and find a pair of gray briefs to put on for bed. At least now I’ve managed to drain my brain of all its nervous energy; maybe I’ll be able to get some sleep.