Drew drove around town for hours, making up reasons to avoid going home. He walked around the Gap on the square, checking out their new fall stuff to see if there was anything he wanted for school. He bought himself an iced tea at Starbucks and hung out talking to Layla Li, one of his classmates who worked there, for at least half an hour. He even snagged a newspaper at the drugstore and sat on a park bench, reading it from cover to cover. Anything to deter himself from returning to his house and his father.
But soon the sun started to go down and Drew knew he was being fatuous. He was going to have to go home eventually and face his father’s invective. All he was doing was postponing the inevitable. So he screwed up his courage, tossed his empty cup and newspaper, and headed for home.
“Where the hell have you been?” his father demanded the moment Drew walked through the door. He was standing right there in the entryway, poised to pounce like a drooling Doberman. “Your mother’s been calling your cell phone incessantly.”
“Sorry. I had some errands to run,” Drew said. He slipped past his father, stepped into the kitchen, and kissed his mother hello. She shot him a look of understanding and sympathy. She knew exactly why he had stayed out so long. “So he told you, huh? Bet you got a whole catalog of the many things I did wrong.”
“Of course I told your mother!” Drew’s dad said, hands on hips. “She has a right to know how you abased both me and your brother out there today.”
Drew felt the sting of the insult and dropped his bag on the floor with a thud. “Wow, Dad. That was callous even for you.”
“Callous? Callous?” his father reiterated.
“Yeah. How about a little empathy for God’s sake?” Drew shot back. He yanked open the refrigerator door just to give himself something to do. “If Trey had had a bad practice like that, you wouldn’t have started chastising him the second he walked through the door.”
“He has a point there, Jim” Drew’s mother observed.
“Oh, so you’re on his side, now?” his father demanded. “Well, I’m sorry to have to point this out, but I see a tiny little flaw in your argument, there, son. A wee little chink in your armor. Want to know what it is?” He smiled evilly. “Your brother . . . would never have had a practice like that in the first place.” He finished with a wicked gleam of satisfaction.
“Oh my God!” Drew exclaimed. He grabbed a bottle of water and let the refrigerator door slam. “Dad, you are so enamored of Trey it’s blinded you! I mean, do you even hear yourself? You really think that in four years playing ball for Washingtonville, he never had a bad practice? You just weren’t there to witness it.”
“Well, I wish I hadn’t been there to witness this one,” his father said. “In one afternoon you just effaced any hopes I had of watching another of my sons lead his team to glory.”
“Jim! That’s enough!” Drew’s mother snapped.
Drew’s jaw clenched, and tears filled his eyes. How could his father be such a bastard? Did he really hate Drew so much that he felt the need to belittle him at every chance he got? What the hell did he get out of it, anyway? He felt a tear start to spill over and he turned away, leaning his hands into the counter as he got control of himself. There was no way he was going to give his father the satisfaction of seeing him cry.
“Look, Dad, I’m sorry if being there today aggrieved you so much,” Drew said finally, firmly. “But I’m doing what I can.”
Drew wished there were some way to make his father see and hear how incredibly evil he sounded. He wished he could concoct a way to force him to understand how his words and his opinions cut right through Drew’s heart and gut and made him feel worthless. But after years of coming in second to his brother, he knew that getting through that thick skull was impossible. The only way to end this torture was to say what his father wanted to hear.
“Well, I accede to your judgment,” Drew said, drawing himself up. “I know you don’t want to believe this, Dad, but it was one bad practice. And Samson was just showing off. It was a fluke, and it’s not gonna happen again.”
“I hope not. Because I will not abide failure in this family,” his father told him. “It is not an option.”
“This is my school, Dad. My team. My time,” Drew said “We’re gonna put these guys in their place, whatever that entails.”
The angry color finally drained from his father’s face, and Drew knew that he was out of the woods—for now. “You’d better, kid,” his dad said calmly. “You’d just better.”