I Call Death Dad
M/M Young Adult Paranormal
When Death’s your dad, you never look at life the same way again.
Okay, figuring out you’re gay is hard enough, right? I mean I’ve barely admitted the truth to myself. Forget about telling anyone else about liking guys. I thought it would be the most difficult thing I had to deal with, until my dad showed up to claim me for the summer.
Did I mention I hadn’t seen him for more than twenty minutes each birthday? Seriously, he couldn’t be bothered to visit me any other time, yet now he expects me to welcome him with open arms.
Well, did I mention he’s Death? And his plans for me will change my life.
When I turned sixteen, my life changed forever.
Now, everyone says that puberty is when everything starts to change. Your voice cracks. You wake up from dreams you’re too embarrassed to tell anyone about. You sprout hair in places you never thought possible. And people you never thought about as anything more than annoying begin to look more interesting every second.
I had happily celebrated my big day with Lindsey and Dylan, my two best friends. We went to the movies, grabbed something to eat at the mall food court, and then headed home to have our own version of a sleepover. It consisted of us staying up all night, watching scary movies, and talking about the people we didn’t like in school.
Typical teen stuff.
When my mom asked me to join her in the study, little did I know that my life was about to change forever, no matter how much I wanted it to stay the same.
“Kyle, can you join me for a moment?” My mom called to me.
I glanced at my friends and shrugged my shoulders. She rarely interrupted our movie fests, so I knew whatever she wanted must be important.
“Do you want us to pause this?” Lindsey asked, her hand hovering over the remote.
“Nah, I’ll just make you tell me all about it when I get back.” I said, grinning at Dylan’s snort.
They had been my best friends ever since second grade when he and Lindsey saved me from getting my butt kicked by all the school bullies. We became our own protectors, watching each other’s backs and helping defeat the bigger kids who picked on those smaller or smarter than them.
Dylan knew I would ask them to describe every scene that I missed and I knew they would humor me. That’s why we all got along so well.
“What did you want, Mom?”
I pushed open the door to her inner sanctum, her study where she did her paperwork. She stood by the window, staring out over the backyard. I waited patiently for her to acknowledge me. My mother was tall, standing close to six foot. Her white blonde hair was pulled back in a braid that brushed the small of her back. I took after my father with the same dark hair and eyes.
As for my father, I rarely saw him. He and Mom were no longer together. Were they ever married? I asked her once, but the anger in her eyes kept me from bringing it up again. For some reason, my mother resented my father and I never thought to question her further, although I knew we’d have to discuss it at some point.
“Are you and your friends having fun?”
At times, she could be very formal.
“Yes, ma’am. Thanks for letting me have them over.”
At times, I could be just as polite. Don’t get me wrong, I love my mom and I know she loves me. I’ve never doubted that, but I’ve always felt like there’s a barrier between us; a secret keeping us apart.
“It’s your sixteenth birthday, Kyle. I would have thrown you a huge party if you had wanted.”
I shrugged. I had friends in school. I wasn’t a total outcast, but Lindsey and Dylan were my best friends and the only two people I could deal with for long periods of time without getting annoyed.
“I wanted to let you know that you’ll be spending the summer with your father.”
Shock struck me dumb. My mouth dropped open but words escaped me for a second. Finally, my brain started working again.
“Spending the summer with Father? Why? Where?”
Mother sighed and rubbed her forehead, easing the tension that dwelled there. Any talk about my father tended to make my mother unhappy. “You’re sixteen, Kyle. It’s time for you to get to know who your father is and what he does. I can’t explain much to you because it’s not my place and I have no real knowledge of his job, but I do know that you’ll be expected to take over from him when he’s ready to retire.”
“How’s that possible? I don’t even know what he does. All I know is that he’s never around.” I waved my hands in the air, finding comfort in the wild gesture.
“There’s a reason for that.” She held up her hand to stop my next question. “I’m not saying it’ll be a good or even acceptable reason for never coming to see you in years, but it’ll be the only reason he can give you. Your father doesn’t like explaining himself. Just keep that in mind when you go with him.”
“When will he be here?” I hadn’t resigned myself to going, but I needed to know how long I had left to plan getting out of what was turning into a really lame summer vacation.
I’d always imagined my father as a high-powered executive like Lindsey’s dad. Her father was gone all the time on business trips and things like that. He dressed in suits and seemed to have a phone permanently attached to the side of his face, but Lindsey didn’t think any less of her dad for it.
I never spent more than five minutes at a time with my father, so I didn’t know whether he was a jerk or the nicest guy on the planet. He dressed in black all the time. One time I asked him if he was a fan of Johnny Cash. I wasn’t sure if he didn’t get the reference or if he just didn’t have a sense of humor but either way, I didn’t get a smile in return.
“He’ll be here to pick you up the morning after your last day of school.” Mother stalked to her desk and sat in the chair, her shoulders back like she expected me to argue.
I bit my tongue. Oh, I really wanted to whine and complain about her sending me away for the summer with a man I hardly knew. How could she do this to me the first summer I could drive? My friends and I were going to head for the beach and up to the mountains. Anywhere we could go that involved driving there. I was the oldest of our trio and had gotten my license first. Now all of those wonderful plans were screwed because my absentee father decided it was time to get to know his son.
“Go back out and enjoy the rest of the movie, Kyle. We’ll talk about this later.”
Fighting the urge to argue further, I nodded and turned to leave. As I reached for the doorknob, she spoke up.
“I’m not happy about this either. If I had any power, I would never allow your father to see you, let alone spend an entire summer with you. Despite being you mother, now that you’re sixteen, I have no say over what he does with you.”
The bitterness in her voice surprised me, but I’m not sure why. I’ve always known she didn’t like my father. After listening to one of her rants about him, I wondered how they could ever stand to be together long enough to conceive me. I figured she’d just as soon bury a knife in his chest than sleep with him.
Ick! The thought of my parents having sex turned my stomach and I dashed out of the room before any more disturbing thoughts crossed my mind. I needed to go see some gory violence in the scary movie to wipe those images from my brain.
I’ll never know how I made it back to the family room without running into a wall. I flopped on the couch beside Lindsey, my eyes not focusing on anything. Time slipped by as I tried to process what my mother told me. Finally, Lindsey slugged me in the arm and I blinked as I turned to glare at her. “Ow! What was that for?”
“Kyle, we’ve been talking to you for the past five minutes but you weren’t answering.” Lindsey folded her arms over her chest and frowned.
“Yeah, man. What did your mom want?” Dylan peered at me from over Lindsey’s shoulder.
“She told me that I’d be spending the summer with my father.” I dropped my head into my hands and groaned. “I don’t even know what he does, but I’m sure I’ll be bored to death.”
“Well damn, what about all our plans?” Dylan’s frown matched Lindsey’s.
Shoving my hands through my hair, I shrugged. “I guess you guys will have to go on without me. My mom doesn’t seem willing to budge on the subject, but I’ll try talking to her tomorrow.”
“But Kyle, when was the last time you saw your father?” Lindsey rubbed her hand over my back, trying to soothe me. “I mean he makes mine look like Father of the Year, and we all know what my dad is like.”
I thought about it before answering. When did my father last come to visit me?
“It was this time last year. I was sitting out on the back deck, waiting for Dylan to show up because we were going to the carnival. I was so excited, but I remember my Mom didn’t seem all that keen on going. She doesn’t like carnivals for some reason,” I murmured.
Dylan nodded and Lindsey’s forehead wrinkled as she tried to remember. I turned to her.
“Your father had shown up two days earlier and swept you off to Sea World or someplace like that. You were so pissed.”
Lindsey’s expression cleared. “I remember that now. Yeah, I didn’t understand why we had to go right then and there. I kept asking him why we couldn’t stay home until after your birthday, but he kept repeating that there was some place else he had to be.”
“So, I’m sitting outside, just counting ants or something, when I realize there’s someone standing on the deck behind me. I turn around and there he is, dressed in black like always. Dude reminds me of a goth pretender or a Johnny Cash impersonator.” I shook my head.
I never got into that culture, mostly because I don’t look good in black. It washes me out. If I am supposed to follow in my father’s footsteps, I am changing the wardrobe requirements. No way am I going to be caught dead in black unless they’re a really awesome pair of boots.
Jumping to my feet, I stuffed my hands in my pockets and started to pace. “I asked him why he only came on my birthday, and he snarled. He scared me, until I figured out he wasn’t mad at me, he was mad at my mom.”
“Did he tell you why he wasn’t around all the time?” Dylan scooted closer to Lindsey and settled his arm around her shoulders.
I hid my smile as I studied my best friends. For so long, it had been the three of us against the world, but over the course of the past winter Dylan had become interested in Lindsey as more than just a friend. The way Lindsey wasn’t shrugging Dylan’s arm off told me she reciprocated the feelings. An odd emotion swept over me. We were all changing and I could tell things wouldn’t be the same after I returned from whatever boring trip my dad had planned for me.
“He just said he was busy. Even at fifteen, I thought it was a lame excuse. When I heard a car door slam from the front of the house and I knew Mom was home. I jumped to my feet and started to run inside but my father grabbed my arm and laid something in the palm of my hand. Before I could say anything, he disappeared.” I stared down at my feet. “It was the weirdest thing. I looked down at my hand, and when I looked up again, he was gone. It was almost like he had vanished into thin air.”
A shudder wracked my body and all the hair along my arms stood up. My skin remembered the chill of my father’s touch.
“What did he give you?”
I reached up and pulled the necklace over my head before holding it out to Lindsey. She didn’t reach for it, but her eyes were riveted to the sparkling diamond eyes of the skull. Dylan eagerly grabbed it from me.
“That’s so awesome, man. Dude, your old man must be rich or something. Those have got to be real diamonds.” Dylan started to hand it to Lindsey.
“Don’t get that near me.” She shot to the other side of the couch with a pained look.
“What? It’s not real.”
Dylan and I stared at her with what I was sure were identical expressions of puzzlement. What had gotten into her? I wore the necklace everywhere, never took it off since I got it last year. I thought they’d noticed it by now, and just never said anything about it.
“I know it’s not real, jerk, but I don’t like it. It’s creepy.” She shivered. Dylan looked at me and I shrugged. “Does your mother know you have that?”
“No, and neither of you better tell her. If she knew, she’d take it from me and it’s the only thing I’ve ever gotten from my dad.” I took the necklace from Dylan and put it back around my neck. “I’ve worn it every day since I got it. Haven’t you seen it?”
Both of my friends shook their heads and I pursed my lips. How could they both have missed the silver skull hanging around my neck, resting on my chest? Well, maybe because neither of them ever looked at my chest. Dylan liked Lindsey and Lindsey seemed to like Dylan. It wasn’t like either of them would check me out.
I moved away from why that thought depressed me. Before we could continue, Lindsey’s cell phone rang. Dylan turned down the TV and I grabbed a soda to sip from.
“Hey Dad, I didn’t know you were going to be home.”
She eyed the two of us with confusion as she listened. Anger grew in her dark eyes, causing me to settle over in the other chair.
“But Dad, it’s Kyle’s birthday. We were going to watch some movies and head out to the carnival.” There was a pause. “So now you’re going to come in and try to tell me who I can be friends with? Kyle and I have been friends since second grade and you’ve never once said that you didn’t like him.”
Hurt struck me hard in the chest and I rubbed the spot over my heart. Lindsey’s dad didn’t like me. Why? I’d never spoken more than three words to the man in the entire time I knew Lindsey.
“Oh no, you might have a problem with Kyle’s dad, but that doesn’t mean Kyle’s the same. What do you mean, now that Kyle’s sixteen, everything is different?” Lindsey glanced at me. “Dad, Kyle’s gay. You don’t have to worry about anything happening between us.”
I almost fell off the chair, my body turned to Jell-O as those words spilled from Lindsey’s lips. Dylan grinned.
“Did you think we didn’t know?” Dylan leaned and whispered to me. “Come on. Lindsey’s drop-dead gorgeous, but even when you compliment her, you do it in a way that tells us you aren’t attracted to her. Hell, you’re pretty yourself.”
Blinking, I tried to process what Dylan said. If my best friends knew, did that mean all the other kids at school knew as well? Darn it! Did that mean that Sylvester Cromin might guess about the secret crush I had on him?
“Dad, I’m not coming home. You can send a car if you want, but unless you’re willing to barge in here and drag me out by my hair, I’m staying the night.”
Lindsey punched the end call button and turned the phone off. She tossed it onto the table, growling softly.
She ran her fingers through her long blonde hair and sighed. “I can’t believe his nerve. He ignores me for months at a time, then when it’s convenient for him to acknowledge me he shows up. How dare he tell me I can’t be friends with you anymore?”
“I don’t understand.” I braced my hands on my knees and rolled my shoulders, trying to ease the tension. “Why doesn’t your dad like me? Is itâ€¦is it because he knows I’m gay?”
“You being gay has nothing to do with it.” Lindsey paused. “At least, I don’t think it does. He told me that he didn’t trust your father and that he didn’t want me anywhere near him or you.”
“God, my father is ruining my life and he’s not even here yet.”
“Kyle, are you and your friends ready to go to the carnival?” My mother stepped into the room. She looked at our glum expressions. “What’s wrong?”
“My father just called to tell me he wants me to come home because he doesn’t want me hanging out with Kyle anymore.” Lindsey’s indignant tone brought a smile to my face.
There wasn’t any protest from my mother. Actually, she didn’t seem overly surprised at Lindsey’s report at all. “What did you tell him?”
“I told him that even if he sent a car for me, he’d have to drag me out of here by my hair before I’d stop being friends with Kyle.”
My mother’s eyebrows shot up. “I’m impressed and proud of you, though your father has his reasons for not liking Kyle’s father. We all have our reasons for hating the bastard.”
All of our mouths fell open and I jumped to my feet. She shook her head and waved me back to my seat. “Sit, Kyle. I’ve never tried to hide the fact that I don’t like your father. I’ve resented what he did to me, but you are the only good thing that’s come from my contact with him.” She rested her hands on her hips and curled her lip at the thought of my father. “I’ll talk to him, Lindsey. He can’t take his anger at Kyle’s father out on you or Kyle.”
“Thank you, Ms. Jones.”
Yep, my last name was Jones. Not very original, but something told me that it wasn’t our real name. Another secret I never asked about.
“You’re welcome. Are you all ready to go to the carnival? I’m trusting you with the car, Kyle. You’ve driven before and I know you’ll be home at a reasonable time.”
With a bright smile, I caught the keys she tossed to me. “Thanks Mom. We’ll be home by eleven.”
“You have enough money, right?”
I did. Combining my allowance with the small amount of money I made filing for my mom, I’d pay for me and Dylan, because his family didn’t have much. His dad worked third shift at the local auto plant, and his mom worked the morning shift at the diner. Dylan would spend the weekends with me at my house and we’d become as close as brothers. Lindsey got an allowance from her father, so we were set for cash.
“Let’s go.” I gestured for my friends to follow me.
“You have your phone?” my mother asked.
“Yes, Mom.” Leaving the house without it wasn’t an option. My mother had drilled into me the importance of keeping it close at hand. If I didn’t know better, I’d think she was worried about me being kidnapped or something. I gave her a quick hug. “I’ll stop in and let you know when we get back.”
We gathered our things and headed out to the driveway where Mom’s black Ford Fusion was parked. Lindsey called shotgun, so we piled into the car. I let her and Dylan pick out the music while I started the engine. Stopping at the end of the driveway, I looked both ways before pulling out onto the road.
Soon we were singing along with Lady Gaga and I allowed all worries about my upcoming sentence with my father to fade away. It wasn’t important to me now. I’d try to figure out a good reason why I couldn’t go, but not tonight. Tonight was for friends and fun.
We arrived at the clearing outside the town where the carnival had set up when they arrived the day before. After parking, we climbed out and I pocketed the keys. Lindsey slipped her arms through mine and Dylan’s as we walked towards the entrance gate.
“Isn’t it weird how this carnival always comes through town on the week of your birthday?” Lindsey pointed out.
“And as much as your mother hates the very idea of the carnival, she allows you to go every time you ask. Is it this particular carnival your mother doesn’t like, or is it just carnivals in general?” Dylan gestured towards the neon sign proclaiming the carnival open.
“I think it’s this carnival that she doesn’t like. From what I understand, she used to come here when she was a kid. This carnival has been coming to this clearing for decades.”
I paid for the three of us, despite their protests. “It’s my birthday, so I want to give you a present from me.”
“Idiot.” Lindsey bumped my hip with hers.
Laughing, we stumbled through the gate into the crowded midway, taking in the sights and smells of the people wandering around. I didn’t usually like being around a lot of people, but as long as Lindsey and Dylan were there, I could deal.
The night was full of laughter and fun. We played games, won cheap prizes, and ate a ton of junk food. Friends from school joined us for a few minutes before whirling away to join other groups.
“I want to ride on the Ferris wheel,” Lindsey pleaded.
Dylan shot me a glance, and I nodded.
“Why don’t you two go? I’m tired so I’m going to sit down over there.” I waved in the direction of a bench just off the midway.
“Thanks, Kyle,” Lindsey called as she dragged Dylan off to the ride.
Dylan glared at me and I chuckled as I sat down on a nearby bench. My best friend didn’t like heights, but he did like Lindsey and would do whatever she wanted. I just wanted to get out of the flow of people for a while so I piled all our prizes beside me on the bench and hoped no one would want to talk to me.
I ducked, shoulders rising to my ears as I heard Sylvester Cromin yell out to me. Crap! He was the last person I wanted to see, although not because of the bad memories of him beating me up in second grade. Oh no. I’d outgrown my fear of him and he’d stopped picking on me when we got in high school. We didn’t hang out with the same group of kids, though we’ve become sort of friends.
“Hi, Syl. Where’s your usual group of friends?” I gave him a slight smile.
He motioned vaguely in the direction of the Tilt-a-Whirl. “They love whirling around until they puke. I don’t like throwing up that much.”
“Ah. Mine are riding the Ferris wheel.” I looked up to see if I could spot Dylan and Lindsey.
“How romantic.” He joked and shoved the prizes out of the way before sitting next to me.
Syl sat close to me, and his body heat warmed me in the late spring night. Sweat wet my palms. I wasn’t used to being close to another guy except for Dylan and I didn’t have a crush on him. Without thinking, I leaned on Syl a little and breathed deep. The faint hint of sweat, cotton candy, and smoke filled my lungs, causing my body to shiver.
He tilted his head, studying me for a moment like he wondered what I was doing. Blushing, I edged a few inches away, not wanting him to realize that I liked him as more than just friends. I might have accepted the fact that I was gay, and let me tell you, it had been a hard time last year as I struggled with the idea. I’d never heard any hint that Syl might be anything other than straight though.
“So are they dating or something?” He inclined his head toward Dylan and Lindsey.
“I guess.” I shrugged. “Why? Are you interested in Lindsey?”
Syl snorted. “Who wouldn’t be? I mean look at her. She’s hot.”
Disappointment skated through me and I inwardly laughed at myself. Why did I think there would have been a chance for me? I looked away and watched my friends walk toward me. Dylan had his arm around Lindsey’s shoulders and she snuggled close to him, giggling at something he said.
“Yes. She is hot.” I stood, gathered our stuff and smiled at Syl. “I’ll see you at school on Monday.”
Syl waved to the others as we walked off.
“What did Syl want?” Dylan looked back over his shoulder at him.
“I think he has a crush on Lindsey. He asked if you two were going out.” I chuckled as I nudged Lindsey with my elbow. “Since when did you turn into the hot chick every guy wants to date?”
Lindsey blushed and ducked her head while Dylan glared at me.
“She’s always been hot,” he defended.
I quirked an eyebrow at him. “Of course she has, but I think it’s only lately that all the other guys have been noticing.”
“Kyle, have you noticed that man’s been following us pretty much since we got here?” Lindsey pointed behind us.
Turning, I scanned the milling people behind us. I spotted the man right away. How could I not when he stood out from the others like a mutt at a dog show? He stood at least a foot taller than most. His skin was white, and I meant white, not pale or anything like that. It was stark white like he’d never stepped foot out of his cave in years. Even at the distance he stood from me, his eyes pinned me and I shivered at the darkness in them. They looked all black without any whites to them. Our eyes met and he nodded, just like he knew who I was.
‘I’ll see you soon,’ he mouthed, and I stumbled, bringing a cruel smile to his face.
Suddenly, I wanted to leave. The carnival no longer held any childish delight for me. I wanted the security of my house and the knowledge my mother was there to protect me. I turned back to find Dylan and Lindsey staring at me in concern. “Let’s go home.”
They didn’t argue, just helped me push my way through the throngs of people out to my car. We piled in and as I pulled out of the parking lot, the headlights swept over the stranger. He stood at the edge of the road and lifted his hand in a wave.
“Who the hell was that?” Dylan looked over the back seat at the guy.
“I have no idea. He acted like he knew me, didn’t he?” I drove as quickly as I could.
“You’d think it was a full moon or something, the way everyone seems to be acting oddly.”
No full moon, but I had the sneaking suspicion it revolved around my father and the revelation that I was to spend the summer with him.