Moving. It's such a terrifying word when you're only 9. What will happen to the friendships you've begun to form? What about the place you've already started to call home? Those were only a few of the questions that I started to ask Dad when he told Tommy and I we were moving into the city. But Dad only responded harshly that there was no point in whining. We were moving whether or not I wanted it to happen.
We lived in a suburb of Brooklyn at that time, with white picket fences and nicely manicured lawns. Or at least that's how I remember it. I only lived there for 9 years. That was the house where everything was good, the house that was a home. Then mom left and that all changed. Home was no longer a word that I associated with that place.
I still remember her
a little bit. I was always told that I had the same eyes as her, the same odd shade of brown that was light enough to be considered amber. My rough, often unruly brown hair came from dad's side of the family though. Mom was everything that a maternal figure should've been. When my twin brother Tommy and I were wrestling and one of us got hurt, she was always there to kiss it better. Then make us cookies. Of course once we figured out the pattern, our goal was to hurt each other but that's just the way that Tommy and I related to one another. The same relationship continued well on into our high school years and after.
Our belongings were packed now, crammed into the crappy little car that Dad had bought after selling his shiny pick-up truck. Tommy and I had both loved that truck, but Dad said it had to be done. Something about Mom leaving lots of bills on his shoulders and the pick-up didn't get good gas mileage. I didn't really understand it at that point in time. I was only 9 and my biggest concern was not how tight money was going to be. My biggest concern was the idea of this new school, a huge thing in comparison to the small kindergarten class that I'd become accustomed too.
"Dad, how many people are in my class again?" I asked for the fifth time. Dad's hands tightened on the steering wheel and his knuckles whitened. It was a sure sign of frustration, but in my childish concern of my own well-being I didn't notice too much.
"A lot, okay?"
"Yeah, a lot," Tommy shot back mockingly. We were identical twins, but there was very little that was similar about us. People always assumed that we were as thick as thieves, but they only saw the appearance that we shared. They didn't see past that to the fact that Tommy was a snot. Reaching out, I lightly shoved at my twin and began to pout.
Dad was just being Dad, I understood that. He'd been a little meaner ever since Mom had left. Tommy said it was because I made him extra mad, but I didn't believe it for one minute. Tommy was always trying to make me feel bad for some reason or another. Sniffling, I wiped my nose with the back of a slightly grimy hand and returned to staring out the window.
"Don't pout, Ulric. We're moving and being upset about it isn't going to change anything," Dad said briskly after a few minutes. He didn't tolerate pouting and whining, he never had. Even when Mom was around.
Tommy shot me a triumphant sneer, returning to the page that he was violently coloring. It didn't look like much of anything to me, just a bunch of black blobs with red thrown in there. My twin had always been a poor artist, something that I held over him every chance that I got.
"Your drawing is stupid, it looks like a bunch of lady bugs," I retorted with venom.
Tommy's face flushed. He had never been good at taking criticism. Mom had always told me that it was because that Tommy didn't really like himself that much. Being a kid I didn't understand what she had meant and had thrown the words out the window. Immediately Tommy jabbed a finger at one of the blobs and shook his head fervently.
"They aren't lady bugs. They're cowboys!"
The argument escalated until Tommy reached out to seize a fistful of my slightly longer hair. Naturally I retaliated by hitting him in the gut as hard as I could. That didn't sit well with dad.
Our car jolted and swayed until it came to a stop on the side of the road. Both Tommy and I knew what that meant, we were in deep trouble. Immediately both of us retreated to our respective sides of the car and acted as if nothing at all had been going on. Dad's angry face soon appeared from the front seat. Usually stony grey eyes flashed with ferocity.
"Not one more word. Out of either of you," he demanded his voice a low and threatening growl. "Ulric, stop pouting. If I have to tell you that one more time I'm going to tan your hide."
And Dad meant it. His dad had spanked his children and so we received the same form of discipline. I got spanked more often than Tommy did but that was only because I got provoked into starting things with my twin. Naturally I started to protest, my lip quivering pathetically as I tried to explain that Tommy had started it. But Dad wasn't hearing any of it. He threatened once more to spank both of us before silence engulfed the car. That was the end of that conversation.