"Kyle," DeeAnna called from outside his door.
"Yeah?" he asked, opening it to glare at her a bit. She knew he was playing a game.
"All right, I'll be right there."
He made his way to their TV room and picked up the phone. "I've got it, Dee, thanks," he said when he heard her breathing into the phone. He hoped she hadn't been talking Anne Marie's ear off. His sister seemed to like having a girl to talk to who wasn't their mom.
"Hi," he said once Dee hung up.
'Hi Kyle. It's Bryce,' his cousin said.
"Hey. What's up?"
'You busy tonight?'
"Uh, well, not at the moment," he said, glancing at the clock on the VCR. It was early yet, though, so there was no telling. Anne Marie had mentioned seeing a movie maybe, but she was doing some shopping with her mom today before going back to school so wasn't sure how late she'd actually be.
'Can you come pick me up?'
"Sure," he said. "I might be going out with Anne Marie later, though."
'Oh,' his cousin said. 'Never mind then.'
"Well, that doesn't mean you can't come here. I mean, Alex and Dee will be here. I'm sure Alex would play something with you."
"I'll be there in a bit."
Kyle slid his shoes on and grabbed his keys.
"Where are you going?" Dee asked him.
"Going to get Bryce."
"Oh," she said, looking sad with that news.
"I haven't heard from Anne Marie yet, kiddo. Maybe she'll come over later."
"She said next time she came over she'd do that braid she had last weekend."
"Oh," Kyle said. He understood now why his little sister was so anxious to see her again. They'd be gone after next weekend and not home again until Thanksgiving. "Well, I haven't heard from her. If she doesn't get to it now maybe when we're home over Thanksgiving she can."
"Okay," she said, pouting expertly. Kyle rolled his eyes.
"You want to come with me to get Bryce?"
"Sure," she said, brightening a bit at that.
"You have to sit in the backseat, though," he said.
"I know," she said.
He went to find their mom while Dee ran to get her sandals. She'd evidently left them in the backyard.
"I'm going to take Dee and go get Bryce."
"Okay. Is everything all right?"
"I don't know. He just asked to come over and hang with me."
"He knows you may be going out tonight yet?"
"He does. I told him maybe Alex would play with him."
Dee was back by then so they went out to his car.
He pulled up far enough so Dee could push the buzzer on the box to get in. She had to unbuckle her seatbelt and climb onto her knees to do it, but she liked doing it for some reason. He never really understood why his aunt and uncle had a gate, but he had to admit their house and yard was pretty sweet. His parents' house was nice, but it was like ninety-nine percent of the other nice houses in Shermer. Whenever he'd mentioned growing up who his aunt and uncle were, especially in high school when kids used to drive on the road by the house, they'd been jealous.
And he realized that was probably what the gate was for. There were rumors that the cemetery at the end of the road was haunted and all sorts of crazy stories that went with such a thing. Kyle had never seen anything like that and he'd been here plenty of times, but people loved a good story.
He and Dee got out. She walked in the direction of the other side of the house, hearing the dogs no doubt.
"We're not staying, you know," he said. "We're just here to get Bryce and go home."
"Dee. We're not staying here so you can hang out with the dogs and cat."
"Okay," she said.
Her eyes widened, though, when a dog ran to the door from the other side of the yard.
"Look, it's that policeman's dog," she said.
Kyle frowned a bit, glancing at the dog. He had to admit it looked an awful lot like Officer Bender's dog. "It just looks like him. There's hundreds of German shepherds, Dee."
Kyle rang the bell while Dee stood staring at the dog. At least she didn't try to pet it without permission. Had Aunt Claire rescued another dog? That's where she'd gotten the other two dogs he knew.
"I'm leaving, Mom," Bryce called out as soon as he opened the door. "Hey," he said, closing the door behind him.
"Dee," Kyle said. "Quit staring at the dog. Come on," he said.
"But Kyle, I swear it's him."
Kyle shook his head, slid a hand to his sister's shoulders and tugged her to him. "Come on. You didn't say your mom got another dog," he said.
"She didn't," Bryce said as they got into Kyle's car.
"It's not her dog. It's her boyfriend's dog."
"Oh," he said, glancing at the dog again. "I didn't know she had a boyfriend."
"I didn't either," Bryce said. "Can we go now?" he asked.
"Yeah, sure. What's up?"
"Nothing. I just had to get out of there. He's there all of the time."
"That's not abnormal, Bryce," Kyle said.
"I guess. We left to spend our time with Dad she wasn't seeing anyone."
"Well, maybe she met him while you were gone. Six weeks without you guys is a long time." Kyle had never known his aunt to go out to bars or anything, but he hadn't ever known his aunt to not be married before either. Seemed to him, though, if he had kids and was suddenly without them for a while he'd probably find something to occupy his time.
"Maybe," he said. Kyle tried not to laugh at his cousin's obvious sulking. "So, he brought his dog with him? Must be staying for a while tonight?"
"He brings him all of the time. He's been there every night this week!"
"Is he an asshole or what?"
"Kyle!" Dee said from the backseat.
"What?" he asked.
"You're not supposed to talk like that."
"Tell Mom or Dad and I'm not going to take you with me again."
"Dee. I didn't say it about anyone so it's all right."
Bryce glanced at Kyle, no doubt wondering what Dee was doing along today anyway.
"No, I mean, I don't know him well enough to know that. I just," Bryce shrugged. "I don't know. He knows things about Mom Dad doesn't know. It's weird."
"How do you mean?"
"There's this picture of Mom from prom that's hanging in the living room."
"I remember it," he said. Kyle remembered when a friend of his had been here with him and thought his aunt had been very hot in high school. Kyle had told him to shut up, but he'd had to agree he'd been right.
"He knew her date's name."
Bryce shrugged. "I don't know. It's just weird. They went to school together, I guess. And he shows up conveniently after Mom and Dad get divorced?"
"Weirder things have happened."
"And the way they said they met sounds so crazily farfetched."
"His dog got shot chasing a suspect and Mom was there when he got shot so she operated on him."
"Chasing a suspect," Kyle said, his stomach sinking a bit at that.
"Yeah," Bryce said. "He's a cop."
"See, Kyle," Dee said from the backseat. "I told you it was his dog!"
"I guess you were right, Dee," Kyle said.
"You know him?" Bryce asked.
"Yeah, he came by the house a while ago about some robberies in the area. He let Dee pet his dog."
He left out the part about thinking he could possibly be his birth father and going to visit him at the police station one day.
He was going to potentially see the guy, knowing he'd confronted him as he had.
The guy probably thought he was an idiot.
He hadn't admitted to knowing his aunt when he'd talked about knowing his dad that day Kyle had sought him out. Wouldn't he have done that? Clearly he knew Aunt Claire's maiden name.
"Do you remember Mom before she married my dad?" Bryce asked.
"What?" he asked.
"Do you remember Mom before she married Dad?"
"Kind of. You know vaguely. She was at college so I didn't see her other than holidays and breaks. I was, like, four when they got married. I was their ring bearer, I remember that."
It'd been the first time he'd ever had to wear a tuxedo. He'd hated the shoes, but the tux itself had been all right. Aunt Claire and Uncle Bryce had seemed to think he looked pretty good, too.
"So what has he done that you don't like him exactly?"
Bryce shrugged and Kyle realized he probably wouldn't like anyone his mom or dad went out with that weren't each other.
"Has your dad gone out?"
"No," Bryce said.
"Maybe it's not my place to say it, man, but it's normal. Your mom's not even forty yet. Cut her some slack."
"I know, but does he have to be here every day?"
"Well, it's better than your mom bailing on you every day and going to his place."
"Come on, he's a cop. He can't be a bad guy. He seemed cool enough when he came to our house."
He hadn't told him he was insane for walking up to a virtual stranger and asking, basically accusing, him of being his birth father. He didn't call his parents and tell them either. He'd, in fact, offered to help check anyone out. That didn't scream to Kyle like someone who was a jerk or out to use his badge to get away with murder.
"He's spending the night?"
That surprised Kyle immensely for some reason. Aunt Claire just didn't seem like the type who'd do that. One of his friends, Blaine, had a mom who had guys spend the night all of the time. He'd never understood that really, but it wasn't his place to judge. Even as a kid, though, he'd found it odd that Blaine thought nothing of his mom's date from the night before being there the next morning at breakfast.
"Come on, Bryce. You don't, like, think your parents are going to get back together or something, do you?"
"No," he said, but he didn't answer as strenuously as the first no had been.
"Well, give your mom some credit. She's not going to date a jerk."
"She's never dated anyone but my dad. How's she supposed to know who's a jerk and not?"
That surprised Kyle for some reason. He'd assumed by the pictures and stuff he'd seen over the years that Aunt Claire hadn't lacked for dates.
"I get the impression she liked this guy and he liked her but they never dated for some reason."
"Oh," Kyle said. "Well, I still say give him a chance."
"I can't come get you when I'm in Minneapolis."
"I'm aware," he said, looking out his window.
Kyle shrugged, glancing to the backseat at Dee who didn't seem to be paying them any attention. He knew better, though. "Don't go telling Aunt Claire that Bryce doesn't like her boyfriend."
"Just making sure. She wouldn't like that very much if you did that."
She rolled her eyes, pouting again. He realized then that she was probably more mad right now about not being able to pet the dog again then she was interested in any conversation she'd been privy to on the way back to his house.
"So, Alex is home?" Bryce said when they walked to the front door. He seemed to understand Kyle was likely going to bail on him at some point during the evening.
"He is, but I can get you back home when I come home later. Just let your mom know it'll be around my curfew time so she knows."
"I could just stay here."
"You could do that, too, sure. I'm sure my parents won't care." Kyle camping out at their house and Bryce doing the same in reverse wasn't unusual. They'd always been pretty close.
"I'll grab us some Cokes if you want to head up to my room," Kyle said.
"Sure," Bryce said.
Kyle grabbed them each a Coke and some chips before heading upstairs. He saw his dad in his office, working on something and glanced at him for a minute.
"Everything all right?" he asked Kyle.
"Yeah," he said. He wondered what his dad would say if he mentioned Aunt Claire was dating the cop who'd come here that day. His dad hadn't been pleased about that at all. He'd been the maddest Kyle could ever remember seeing his dad, which was saying a lot because his dad didn't really get mad that often.
"All right. Bryce here for the night?"
"Not sure, maybe. If not, I'll drop him home when I get back from seeing Anne Marie."
"Is she coming here?"
"I don't know."
"She's welcome here anytime, I hope you know that."
"I do," he said. It was too crowded and busy here, though. At her house they were left alone for the most part. Her parents seemed to trust that they weren't going to have sex on the couch in their basement or something because they never bothered them or checked on them when they watched movies down there.
He went upstairs then not sure he knew what it all meant, maybe he wasn't supposed to. He'd talk to Anne Marie about it later, maybe she wouldn't find it such a strange coincidence that the guy was now dating his aunt. They went to school together Bryce said, they knew one another years ago. It sounded like their paths crossed inadvertently.
He wondered what Aunt Claire would think if she found out he'd gone to see the officer about being his dad. He was just glad no one knew. He'd told Anne Marie about the visit enough to tell her the officer had denied being his father, but he hadn't really. He'd kept that part to himself because he didn't want to sound even crazier to her than thinking the guy was to begin with. He hadn't denied it, though. Not outright saying he wasn't his father or even possibly that.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com