EighteenMature

“What, did you really think you were Daddy Dearest’s only bastard?”

Down here, on all fours and staring at the floor while wheezing like an asthmatic, it’s hard to say what I had believed. If I was being honest with myself, I’d have to admit to not giving the subject much thought. Before tonight anyway.

“I guess… I was too busy… staying alive… to think about it,” I manage to squeeze out between agonizing breaths; he really caught me with a good one.

It makes sense though – the old man bedded (or couched, or dark alleyed…) any woman that would have him. He watched over me until diabetes finally overwhelmed him when I was six, but for as much of those years as I can remember it was a revolving door of disinterested pseudo step mothers.

“If I wasn’t the only one,” I ask as the pain begins to recede, “why did he only look after me? Did he know about the others?”

“Oh, he knew,” Tommy says with disgust, “but you were the only boy.” I begin to laugh – it hurts but I can’t stop. “What’s so fucking funny?”

“What was I,” I gasp, rolling onto my left side, shaking with laughter, “the heir to his trash can kingdom? His poverty palace?”

“He wanted a son to carry on his name,” Tommy says as I collapse onto my back and howl with laughter. This is all too much; I’ve even almost forgotten about the gun in his hand. “What is it now you lunatic?”

“That was a noble cause, to be certain, but he’s failed to achieve even that much,” I tell him. “I don’t know my last name!”

“No problem there,” he says. “She does.”

This brings me up short. I lay still for several moments, letting this new tidbit bounce around in my head. Do I want to know? Does it matter anymore? Did it ever?

I push off the floor and return to my feet. The gun follows me up but I try to ignore it. I’m starting to see a way out of this but I need to concentrate. If I approach this the wrong way I’ll set Tommy off and the gun would surely follow his lead.

“So pops made some attempt at taking care of me but he abandoned the girls,” I say in a thoughtful tone. “I bet they weren’t too happy about that.”

“You think? Two of them died before their first birthday and a third didn’t make it past five,” Tommy snaps at me. “Ashley is the only survivor.”

“Why didn’t you tell me about Ashley? How long have you known her, known all this?”

“It doesn’t matter. Oh, she prefers to be called Ashes,” he says. “As in: rising from the.”

“Cute,” I mutter as I trace out my next steps. “I think it does matter how long you’ve known her though, so could you at least tell me that?” Tommy sighs and looks annoyed, but he tells me.

“I dunno, like three months?”

Three months are like three years on the street; you trust people after that much time together. I decide to assume they’re sleeping together instead of asking for confirmation – there’s no need to have that fresh in his mind when my next words arrive.

“So Ashes carries this grudge around all her life, then one day meets you,” I say. “She gets to know you, finds out you and I are tight; you tell her all about your buddy J and she figures out who I am. Sound about right so far?”

Tommy scowls, he glares, but he nods, the slightest twitch of his head.

“So she hangs around, gains your trust,” I continue steadily. “She’s found a way to get some revenge but she needs you on her side first. So she tells you all about our ‘Daddy Dearest’, how lucky I was -”

“Enough!” Tommy shouts, the gun shaking in his hand. But I can’t stop now.

“And then finally she has her chance – she laces your dope with God knows what, steals your stash and puts the blame on me! I have to admit, that’s pretty impressive -”

“Enough,” Tommy mumbles, the gun falling to his side. “No more.”

“Tommy,” I say gently as I move slowly towards him, “I think it’s time for a family reunion.”

The End

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