Chapter 1: Who You're Gonna Be

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Cover Art By Lance Robinson

Let me be clear; I love being a dad. Sure, it can be tough sometimes. Especially being the single father of a fifteen year old who is like, 'totally in love with the cute ginger named Chad.' Or whatever stereotypical white boy name goes with his polo shirt and I'm going to guess... salmon colored shorts that don't go past his knees?

Anyways, back to what I was saying. Being a dad, like anything in life, has its highs and lows. For me at least it was mostly highs. Undoubtedly helped by the fact that I knew at a fairly young age that parenthood was the path for me. Not to get too heavy into my tragic backstory, but my father was quite the monster. When it came to the lives of my brothers and I; I can't really point to much that he contributed other than stress and a mean temper. In some ways I'm thankful for my rough upbringing. It led me here, to the person I am now. Which certainly wasn't hurt by the fact my mother was the counter opposite of my dad. To this day I really don't know how she did it. All the sacrifices she made, the patience and care she always devoted to her little hellions. I will be forever grateful to her.

I say all of this as grounds as to why I was just a middle schooler when I knew that one day, when the time was right, I wanted a child of my own. A child to love and support, to teach that the world was theirs for the taking. That every dream they held within their beautiful mind could be achieved. I knew my future child would be special. I just could never reasonably foreseen just how special...

"Are you listening, Dad?"

"Mhm," I replied, slowing the car as a crossing guard guided a group of children across the road. "You want to go to Mr. Dreamy's house tonight and suck face while his parents are at work."

I didn't need to look back to be aware of the massive eye roll Ember sent my way. "Can you please not? I don't want to 'suck face'," She said with a disturbed shiver. "Chad and I are partners in biology and have a project to finish."

"Sure it's not anatomy?"

Lowering her voice to a growl, "I swear to god almighty, Dad..." She threatened as I giggled internally at her unintended irony of invoking the lord's name.

"Okay, okay. I'll stop," I replied, raising my hands in surrender. "It's fine if you go over to his house. Just remember..."

"Yeah I know, be home by dark," Ember sighed. "Not that I understand that rule anymore now than I ever have. You do realize that I am probably the only person in my class, nay, in the history of children and teens to never get to spend the night at someone else's house."

"Somehow I highly doubt that is true."

"Maybe not, but still... It would be nice to for once be apart of things like that."

Sighing softly, I pulled the car to a stop as we reached the drop off point at Fayetteville high. Putting the car in park I turned back to her, "I know some of things I ask of you, some of my rules, don't seem fair. But, there are just things you don't understand, and it's my job to protect you."

"From the overwhelming danger that lurks at every sleep over?" Ember watched me intently until I lowered my eyes. Nodding, she opened the car door. "See. Doesn't make sense."

As she slammed the door to the Tesla closed, I called out, waving her over to my window.

Holding the straps of her backpack tightly she leaned against the car door, "Yeah?"

"I just wanted to say I love you, Em." Kissing the crown of her head, I massaged her shoulder firmly. "I hope you know that."

"I love you too, Dad."

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