Joint Custody

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"Come on, Tilly!"
Eddie yells from
the living room downstairs.
"C'mon, c'mon,
let's go!"

"We're not leaving yet,"
I tell him with a laugh
as I start downstairs.
"We still have an hour
before the movie starts.
Calm down, Edwardo."
He sticks his tongue out
before coming over
to hook his arms around me,
making me feel like
I've gained an extra leg
as I start towards the kitchen,
where the rest of our siblings are.

Mom and Dad have
left for the day, forgoing
our normal tradition of
spending time as family
on Sundays.
But it's their anniversary,
so we had shooed them
out of the house
with only the task of
having fun and
"not acting too scandalously,"
as Euni had told them.

It was Eddie's idea
after they left
to go see a movie.
There's some kid's film
out in theaters now that
he really wants to see, and
I had suggested that Thias take him,
thinking it a good idea
to distract our older brother
from his now-habitual moodiness.
Eddie had wanted me
to come along, though,
and then Euni had
invited herself, as always,
so now the four of us are
picking up the slack on
our family day.

Eunice is currently
rummaging in the cupboards,
trying to find the stash
of candy we typically keep
for times like these,
movies or rewards for Eddie
when he gets good grades
or doesn't make a fuss
when he has to get shots
at the doctor's.
Thias is actively trying to
dissuade her from
tearing apart the kitchen,
saying that he'll buy us
all snacks at the movie.

"Movie retail is expensive,"
Euni sniffs as she
climbs onto the counter
to get at a higher shelf.
"I'll find it, don't worry.
Don't waste your money
on stupid stuff, bro."

"It's your fault if
you fall and break your legs,"
Thias mutters, throwing his
hands up in defeat.
"Don't come crying to me
if you do."

She makes a face
down at him at the
same time as my phone
rings in my pocket.
Eddie, still clinging
to my side, looks up
at me inquisitively as I
first glance at the screen,
and then put it up to my ear
to answer the call.

"Hey, Seth,"
I say as Euni waves
Eddie over to help her
safely deposit boxes of candy
onto the kitchen table
as she uncovers them.
"What's up?"
I'm unable to keep the surprise -
or the slight, familiar
hint of nervousness -
from my voice
as I answer.
Seth texts me more often
than he calls, so this
is somewhat unexpected.
I hope there isn't
anything wrong.

There isn't any of
the normal Seth brand of
latent cheerfulness to his voice,
which has me worrying
all over again.
He sounds...distracted,
I guess you could say,
or bothered by something.
But before I can ask,
he speaks up again.
"Want to go do something?
We could grab lunch somewhere
or something like that,
see a movie-"

"I'm actually already going
to see a movie with my siblings,"
I interrupt, frowning.
"I'm really sorry,
but maybe another time?"

"With Eunice?"
I can hear the disbelief
and halfhearted sarcasm
clearly in his tone.
"I thought you had
better taste than that."

I laugh briefly at that -
knowing his apparent dislike
of my sister, I probably
should have seen that coming.
"Matthias and Eddie, too,"
I say, and he
only grunts in response.
"Euni kind of
invited herself along."

For a second, I pause,
wondering at his strange behavior,
and wondering even more
if I should ask about it.
Or should I cancel
my plans with my siblings
to go with Seth
and make sure he's alright?

No, I decide,
that wouldn't be fair to them,
and there's no guarantee that
I would be able to
help Seth, anyway.

is all he says
in reply,
a low mutter that
finally forces my hand.
I can't help it;
I'm worried about him,
and he isn't doing
anything to assuage that.

"What's wrong?"
I ask at last.
"You sound upset
or something.
Did something happen?"
I pause for just
half a second.
"Is it something to do
with Natalia?"

He chokes out a laugh
that still doesn't do
anything to reassure me.
"Not her,"
he says,
"but I wish it was
as simple as that."

"What do you mean?"
I start -
but break off as
a noise erupts in
the background of the call
from his end.
Thias shoots a glance at me
from across the room as
I frown down at the phone
in my hand before
returning it to my ear.
By now, I can make out
Seth shouting at someone
on the other line, though
his voice is muffled, as if
he has a hand across
the speaker of his phone.

I try again,
confused as ever -
and this time,
he answers me.

"Sorry, sorry,"
he finally sighs
into the line;
the commotion behind him
gradually dies down,
as if he's walking
away from it.
"My mom is just upset
because my dad tried
calling her again
to ask about joint custody.
She's never happy when
he tries to worm his way
back into our lives."

His tone is bitter, as if
there is no love lost
between himself and his
seemingly estranged father.
Vaguely, I remember
Seth telling me about his parents
filing a divorce, back when
he took me to the park
after the double date,
and I can't help but wonder
what he thinks of his parents.
If I were him, I wouldn't
be too happy with them
for tearing up his life
at such a young age.
And even now that
he's a bit older -
he can't be happy with
the way things are turning out,
from the sound of it.

"Do you want him to?"
I ask without thinking.
"Share custody, I mean.
You live with
your mom, right?
Do you ever see him?"

he laughs, almost derisively,
"of course not.
Matty, you obviously
don't know him at all,
but he is the last person
you would ever want to be
related to, trust me.
So this whole custody thing
is just a load of bull-"

He cuts off with
an irritated sound as
the yelling picks up again
in the background.
"My mom's picking a fight
with my step dad over it,"
he tells me after a moment;
the words are accompanied by
a heavy sigh.
"I have to go
before it gets too bad.
I'll see you at
the dance, all right?"

"I'm sorry I couldn't
hang out with you today,"
I blurt out before
he can hang up.
"You sound like you really
need to get out
of the house."

He pauses again,
and I almost think that he's
hung up on me -
but then, when he finally
speaks up again, it's in
the oddest sort of tone.
he says quietly,
"I guess I do."

And with that,
my phone finally beeps
to tell me that he's
ended the call.


Sorry I didn't update yesterday, guys. I was at the beach! It was more exhausting than anything, honestly, and I tried writing in the car to and from the place but that didn't work out so well. Honestly, I just fell asleep, which is why this update is a bit late today. That, and I've been playing The Sims instead of writing so y'know--

If you guys liked this chapter, I'd love if you would vote and leave me some feedback!! It would be much appreciated <3

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