I count how many drops of chocolate I am putting into my glass of milk.
One… Two… Three… Four…
I squeeze the bottle and watch the dark syrup fall and drip in the cloudy glass.
“Mikey, honey… You know how I hate when you do that!”
I keep squeezing until half the cup is full, I smile. I like the way it looks, half full of chocolate and the other half milk. It looks funny. Then my mom grabs the glass and pours it out in the sink.
I groan and my lips quiver as I frown, “Mom!”
She makes a funny face then scrunches her nose as she dictates, “I warned you! I tell you every day about wasting chocolate!”
I count my fingers and dismiss it, my mom loves disciplining me because I am always doing something that makes her unease. I swing around the kitchen counter to the living room where I encounter my new brother. He doesn’t look interested in anything in particular but his cellphone. I scurry by and try my best to avoid him. I am not used to having someone in the house or for that matter, a brother. I’ve had sisters before they weren’t nice to me, they didn’t like how I dressed or how I don’t talk much. I think Gerard might be like them, pick on me, make fun of me, and make me eat dirt in the backyard.
I’ve helped with most of the unpacking of my new dad and brother’s stuff. My new dad introduces himself as Richard, and tells me that they came from Los Angeles. I like counting my toes as he keeps talking to me at dinner. My mom hisses at me to stop, and I jerk my head up from looking at my toes to my sights accidentally meeting Gerard’s. I don’t know why my cheeks are hot or why I feel like running upstairs to my room but I quickly resume counting my toes.
Then a clang of cutlery rings on the table, “Okay… Elephant in the room, is he retarded or something?”
I hear my mother choke and Richard yell, “Gerard!”
One… Two… Three… Four…
“…Apologize to him right now!”
“… Why? He is retarded! Isn’t he?”
Five… Six… Seven… Eight…
“Get over here right now! We need to talk right now!”
“… But… for fuck sakes!”
“Don’t you dare talk like that, get over here right now!”
Keep counting them, their voices will go away and so will their arguing. I look up and my mom is telling me to go upstairs to my room, I promptly follow what she says and go upstairs. I almost trip going up, but that’s okay because I just want to get away from all these noises. When I get to my room, I kick off my clothes and get comfortable in my favorite spotted jammies snuggling with my big stuffy shark. I crawl under the blankets, lying soundly and wait for sleep to take me away.
I don’t like it when there’s yelling involved over me… My mom did that a lot with her boyfriend’s and some of my other dad’s…
I wait until they stop being so loud and my ears don’t hurt. Sleep wasn’t happening so I sneak out and tip-toe to the staircase where I hear my mom, Richard and Gerard talking. I hold my stuffy close to me as I take a seat on the third step where I knew they can’t see me.
I hear Richard discreetly say, “What you did was unacceptable, Gerard! He’s your brother and you must respect him!”
I hear Gerard sigh outwardly and really loudly like he was annoyed or something, “What the hell is up with him, he’s like thirteen and he acts like he’s seven?”
Richard barks, “He has mild autism and extreme ADD. He was diagnosed two years ago and he’s been coping as best as he can. He is your brother now and you will take care of him! Don’t you dare let his disability be a joke between you or your friends, you hear me?”
I hear a stomping sound as I peer between the wood rails of the top of the staircase looking at them, “Fine!”
I start counting my fingers and chew on the nails as I nervously sit on the staircase not feeling good. My insides feel funny. Does Gerard not like me or consider me his brother?
I squeeze my stuffy shark close to my chest and whisper, “What did I do wrong?”