Appearing in the story:
It didn’t take long after graduating for an idea to form in Zeke’s mind. He wanted to go back home. He loved living with his mum and sisters, and he never did mind them changing so many locations in the past few years but he missed his dad, Laquita and Krystal, he missed the house where he grew up, the only place that will ever be home for him.
So one day he just packed his backpack and told his mum he would be staying at dad’s for a while, mum frowned, tried to persuade him to stay but he wouldn’t. He didn’t even call home, he wanted to surprise everyone.
It was Krystal who opened the door for him. “Hi Zeke.” His oldest half sister said as she let him inside. “Come to see dad?” She asked. “Actually… If it’s not a problem I thought to stay here for a while.” He smiled as warm a smile as he could, he was happy, excited, he was home and even Krystal’s expressionless face could not burst his bubble. But Krystal smiled as well. “Of course it’s ok Zeke, you are always welcome here, you know that.” She motioned to take his stuff but he pulled away. Some things never change he thought, Krystal still acted more like a butler, then somebody who actually lived here like everyone else. “Don’t be silly Krys… I brought a sleeping bag he said motioning to his backpack so I’m ok anywhere.” “Now who’s being silly.” She said. “You can take your mother’s old room.” They argued a bit about it but in the end it was Zeke who caved. When Krystal set her mind on something there was no dissuading her.
They walked in on Irene in the kitchen. “Hey little one!” Zeke said happy to see his youngest sister but Irene barely moved. She was writing something and she didn’t seam happy about it. Krystal frowned walking in behind him. “Let her be, she is mad that I made her do her homework straight away. Her grades are not so bad, but she is always behind on her obligations, I’m trying to correct that.” Zeke nodded. Krystal was a teacher, she knew best but still he was a little sad Irene treated him so coldly.
“So fill me in, how is everybody? What have you all been doing? And where is everyone now?” He asked Krystal as they walked up the stairs. “Laquita is at the salon I think, she has some big interview coming up so she is all hyped up. I told her how she looks is not important but she says politics is all about appearances. I guess she knows best.” Krystal said with a shrug. “I have no idea where dad and Nadine are. Out I guess. You know dad’s been suspended from work?” She added casually but Zeke froze behind her on the stairs. “What? Why?” “Ask him.” Krystal said as casually as before. “You know I’m not one to gossip.” “It’s not gossip! It’s our dad!” Zeke asked loudly but Krystal kept her pace not even turning around. “Don’t yell at me Ezekiel. Talk to dad.” He was mad but he kept his mouth shut, he didn’t want to fight his first hour back home. “What about you, how’s work treating you?” He asked trying to lighten the mood, he couldn’t have missed more severely…
Krystal tensed on the landing. He could see it in her posture and on her face when she turned around. “To be honest. Not so good?” “Why?” He asked, shocked again, he always thought Krystal must have been a good teacher, if nothing she gave herself completely to her job, she had no other life whatsoever.
She sighed before replying. “Just he other day, I was leaving school when I heard my phone ring, it was the principal’s secretary, they said if I don’t fix my performance I’m going to be fired…” She sighed again. “Imagine that, they didn’t even have the guts to tell me in person.” Zeke came up to her and patted her back in a comforting gesture. Krystal just smiled at him.”It’s ok… I’ll make thing better, I know I will.. I only hope dad and Nadine believe me.” “Why do you think they don’t?” Zeke asked curious. They had abandoned moving and were now standing in the hallway on the top of the stairs. She shrugged. “Nadine got a job you know, she cleans at the army base, she says it’s nothing difficult, she does the same here, it’s nice to get payed for a change but I’m not fooled, they are worried about money, her and dad…” She sighed. “I’ll make things better.” She repeated and Zeke nodded. It was all too much for him to take in, he somehow expected everything to be as pleasant as he left it…
At least nothing changed with Lucky, except her haircut. She came home just as he was finished settling in his mum’s old room and when she heard he was home she ran inside without knocking and threw himself at him. He was always closer to Laquita then his other siblings, probably because they were closest in age so he was glad for this warm welcome. She was as talkative as always and she chatted on about everything happening in her life since the last time they spoke, which wasn’t to long but in Laquita time, even a day could be a century.
They walked downstairs together, just in time for lunch. Krystal made some grilled cheese and it smelled delicious.
Nadine and dad must have just came back because Nadine was sitting with Irene eating, still wearing her gloves. She smiled when she saw Zeke. “Krystal told me you were here. I’m so glad to see you. Your father would be too.” “Thanks Nadine.” He said with a smile taking a sit opposite to his step-mother while Laquita went to bring the two of them a sandwich from the counter. “What have you too been up to?” He asked. “Oh, we were visiting a coworker of mine. You heard I got a job? Well she works at the base, on some top secret government research and she just got married… And she has the sweetest little boy… Oh I can’t wait to have grandchildren!” Laquita quickly fixed her gaze to her plate appearing not to be aware of this conversation at all and Zeke smiled.
“Well, well.. If it isn’t the prodigal son.” His father spoke behind him and Zeke rose quickly to say hello. His father was smiling and he smiled as well. “Hi dad!” “I’m glad your back, boy, taller than ever.” “Look at yourself, for a man your age you look splendid, a regular body builder.” His father laughed and sat at the table next him. The rest of the evening was mostly pleasant catching up. Zeke didn’t ask his father about his suspension, even though it nagged at him, it could wait he told himself and kept the conversation light and filled with laughter.
The next morning Krystal made her famous waffles and they all ate together (only dad was a little late) and Zeke forgot how much he missed it, back at mum’s he would sometimes eat with one of his sisters at best, mum usually worked the late shift at the restaurant so she lived a different schedule then the rest of them and Lysa and Vanessa would get at each other throats after only five minutes together so all this was a pretty pleasant change.
After breakfast Krystal and Nadine had to rush to work and Irene somehow evaporated out of the kitchen so Zeke decided to help Laquita with the dishes.
“So Krys says you have an interview today?” He asked his sister. “Umhm” Laquita mumbled. “It’s a stupid job, a ballot counter at the next elections at City Hall, but it’s the best thing on the table right now.” He nodded. “I was thinking of getting a job…” “You did?” He nodded. “Well what did you have in mind?” “Anything I could get.” Zeke replied scrubbing the dish he was holding. “Anything?” Laquita asked with a huge grin. “You could apply to this ballot counting thing with me! The applications are still open. Come on.”
Before he knew it Zeke was sitting at the computer applying to a job with Lucky breathing down his neck telling him what to type in where.
“That’s it!” Now we can go together. She said and smiled. Zeke smiled as well but he could feel the nervousness clawing trough his stomach. “Maybe I shouldn’t have done this… I have not prepared or anything.” “Oh shut up!” “You’ll be fine, it’s stupid. I promise!” Laquita said reassuringly. “The interview’s not until three, wanna go to the park?”
Zeke agreed reluctantly but it turned out the early afternoon in the park was just what he needed. It was a beautiful, sunny day and they took turns playing bass for change. And before entering the City Hall Zeke was very happy and calm, there was nothing that could cheer him up as much as music.
There was a bunch of people seated in the hallway they were told to wait in and as he saw the line Zeke felt the same feeling from this morning creeping in. “Relax. We’ll be fine.” Lucky said squeezing his hand but he could feel that it was sweaty, she was nervous too. It was a long wait and the hallway was dark, and pretty soon stuffy from all the people cramped in such a small space. Additionally it seemed they were calling out people in the order they applied which meant Zeke was on the very end of the line.
He wished Laquita luck as she went inside the room she was being called too and cheered when fifteen minutes later she came out with a grin. “I got it! I got it!”
He was indeed the last to be called and the interviewers calmly informed him that all the ballot counting positions were taken, the only open thing was polishing the podium for the days of the debates. He accepted that and thanked them. When he told Laquita she frowned, he could see she was not happy. “I’m really sorry… I was excited about the fact we could work together… Why did you take the other job anyway?” Zeke shrugged. He wasn’t ready to tell Laquita yet, he was still unsure about everything himself. “I really wanted a job, like I said.” Laquita nodded. “Look I’m going to see Eevee and tell her about this. Wanna come with?” He did. He had nothing better to do anyway.
Eevee was the twin sister of Zeke’s girlfriend Marty but he thought they looked nothing alike. Sure, they had the same coloring but that was where the similarities ended. While Marty had always had that look of sweet innocence Eevee looked like she could just look into your eyes and read your mind. That is how Zeke felt right not. Lucky had just finished telling Eevee all about her day and Zeke just stood there listening and looking around. “What about you Zekey? What got you so worked up?” He shrugged, trying to avoid talking to her altogether but Lucky jumped in telling all about his day this time which she listened to her eyes darting from his sister to him. “Told Marty yet?” She asked him. “Tomorrow.” She nodded. “I’ll keep my mouth shut. It’s been nice seeing you guys but I have to run…”
“What does she do for a living?” Zeke asked Laquita as they walked home together. “Eeevee?” Laquita asked. “I’m not really sure… I don’t think she has a full time job, she does some things for some people… Not prostitution!” She suddenly said a worried look on her face. “I never thought prostitution.” Zeke said frowning. “I was just asking…” Laquita nodded. “Well she’ll have to get some kind of job now that she is moving out…” “She is moving out?” Laquita nodded. “She got her own place.” Zeke nodded lost in his thoughts.
On Saturday Zeke got up pretty early, he didn’t go out with Lucky last night but went straight home and just watched a movie with Irene. Irene didn’t seam happy and he couldn’t work out weather it was the fact he crashed her movie night, the fact she was at home on a Friday night or simply being a teenager.
He ate some leftover waffles and watched Nadine make drinks. He knew she used to bar-tend before she married his dad but he had never seen her in action. “These yellow ones are good for concentration.” She told him as she poured the content in four glasses. “No, I’m serious, they’ll keep you alert for hours. Come try.” It was morning but what the hell he went up and took a glass. It tasted bitter but it sent a surge of warmth throughout his body. Nothing different than a regular drink he thought but he kept his mouth shut. Nadine however was very excited he tried it. “Just wait a few minutes, you’ll feel the surge of your brain powers, you’ll see.” He smiled taking another sip and Nadine was already making another batch.
“And you are serious? This is not a trap? I can drink it?” About half an hour later Zeke was still in the kitchen watching Irene, disbelief all over her face, take a glass of the second batch of drinks from her mother. “Yes, yes.” Nadine said. “I know you’ll try alcohol, I’m not a fool, and it’s best you have some in a controlled environment, from your mother, at your house, and more importantly something high quality.” Irene smirked silently and took a sip. Zeke was amused by these parenting techniques and wondered what would his father say if he saw this but he didn’t stay too long, who knows maybe Nadine’s magical drink did give him higher clarity but he had made a plan for his day.
He decided to go to the hospital and entertain sick kids, he had been wanting to do that for ages, and since debates, and therefore his new job start next week he would have less time on his hands, at least for a while, and there is no day like today. As he hurried upstairs to get dressed he ran into Laquita who had just gotten up. He invited her to go with him but she already made plans to go to the bookstore, some famous chess player was a guest, Zeke head never heard of him but he knew Lucky was in those competitive chess circles, so he only asked her to borrow her car.
An hour later he had already phoned the hospital, and phoned Marty, she agreed to come with him and was waiting for her in Laquita’s ridiculously purple car.
Zeke met Marty at school, she was one of Laquita’s older friends but he had always liked her and with the help of his sisters, mostly Lucky and Lysa, he had been able to win her over. Their first date was the movies and he kissed her the very same day, although he thought his heart would explode from beating so hard he gathered all his courage and went for it, and from that day onward he felt he only loved her more each passing minute.
She was passionate about a lot of things, but like him she had been directionless ever since finishing high school and she still didn’t have a real job, she was a skilled martial artist, one would not dare mistreat her, she also loved to exercise, not to show off and take selfies but because she believed in keeping a healthy body, and sometimes she could be the clumsiest little cutie there ever was.
And watching her with the little ones that day that he knew was ready for everything he had been thinking about the past few days, he hoped he would talk to his father. He valued his advice more than anyone other’s but today he knew he didn’t need it. He knew what he wanted.
He invited Marty over to dinner at his place after they were finished in the hospital but he stopped her before they could go in. “There is something I need to ask you Marty…” He hardly recognized his voice, he had a whole speech prepared but he was afraid he might tear up in the middle so he just spoke one sentence dropping down on his knee.
“Marty Gradle, what do you say to spending a lifetime together?