"I literally hate this house," Theresa, the moody teen, whines as she stomps up the stairs. She barely misses kicking little Sonny, who is busy driving Hot Wheels off the third step. "Watch it, you baby."
Sonny glares at her. "Stop calling me a baby!"
"Babies can't go up stairs, and since you won't pass this step without Mom's help, I guess you're a baby."
Sonny's face scrunches to resemble a bulldog's ready to fight. "I'm not a baby!" he screams.
Deb, their poor tired mother, rounds the corner from the new living room to find her 14-year-old and her 4-year-old yelling at each other on the stairs.
"Hey, hey!" she says loudly to get their attention. "What is going on?"
"This baby won't get off the stairs."
"I'm not a baby!" Sonny screams again, his little face turning red.
Theresa laughs. Deb shoots her a look and picks Sonny up because his eyes are now leaking big tears.
"You have got to stop teasing him, Theresa. How about you help him face his fear? These stairs are a lot more narrow and wobbly than the ones at the old house."
"Maybe you should stop babying him and he'd stop acting like a freakin' baby."
Deb's face twists to match the glare her son is sporting. "Theresa, I can't believe you're talking to me like this. You are being so rude. Go to your room right this second."
"And do what? Sit on my invisible bed? Write at my invisible desk? I swear to god, how do they lose a moving truck traveling from Staten Island to the Bronx? It's, like, thirty miles."
Deb sighs. "Theresa, I can't have this conversation right now. Go upstairs and unpack what you can. I do not need you being a grouchy teenager all over the place."
Theresa rolls her eyes and stomps up the stairs, the rickety wood creaking with each of her steps.
Sonny sniffles and wipes his eyes, stopping his crying.
Deb sighs and looks at him. "She's just upset about the move, okay? She'll come around."
Deb tries to smile at him. "Now, I know I spotted some peanut butter in this new house. What'd'ya say?"
Sonny smiles widely and nods vigorously. Spoonfuls of peanut butter are his favorite treat, even more than chocolate or ice cream. Deb carries him into the kitchen and sits him on the counter while she gets his peanut butter.
Sonny watches his mother happily, excited for his snack. But, as she's scooping, the doorbell rings.
"Oh dear," Deb mutters. "Who could that be?"
She lifts Sonny up off the counter, then moves to exit the kitchen.
"Mama, my butter?"
"Oh," Deb mumbles, hurrying back to grab his spoon, then she rushes to the door.
Deb answers the door with Sonny still on her hip, happily licking away at a spoonful of peanut butter. On the other side is a smiling woman holding a chocolate cake and, more importantly, a burly little boy with bright green eyes hiding behind her.
"Hi!" the woman cries. "Hello! My name is Lucia! Welcome to the neighborhood!"
Deb smiles. Sonny just stares at the boy.
"Hi, I'm Deb! Deb Carisi!" Sonny is in her right arm, so Deb tries to put him down, but Sonny grabs onto her tightly. Deb shakes her head. "Sorry," she says, shaking Lucia's hand with her left.
"Oh, that's fine, mine's the same." Lucia looks down at her boy. "This is Rafael, he's seven. Can you say hello, Rafael?"
"Hola," Rafael grumbles.
"Don't mind him, he's a bit shy. And what's this little guy's name?" Lucia lightly touches Sonny's arm.
"This is Sonny. Can you say hello? You know what 'hola' means."
Sonny, mouth full of peanut butter, just waves.
Deb offers Lucia and Rafael inside. They go to the kitchen, where Deb gets Sonny off her hip to gather plates and forks for the cake.
"Sonny, why don't you show Rafael a few of your toys? They're all still in the hall."
Sonny just stares at Rafael, who is still attached to his mother, until Lucia pushes Rafael to go with Sonny. Sonny does as he's told, because going to play with his toys is more appealing than standing around staring at cake, even if he does have company now.
He plops crosslegged on the floor next to a box full of Hot Wheels, so Rafael does the same.
They sit in silence for almost ten minutes. They slide cars between each other, every few laps making them wreck. Sonny laughs, but Rafael barely smiles.
"How old are you?" Rafael finally asks.
Sonny holds up four fingers.
"Uh...do you know how much that is?"
Sonny looks down at his fingers. "Four," he says, but it sounds like 'fo-w' because he's still having trouble with the 'R' sound. Usually, he just avoids talking because Theresa and Gina, his older sisters, will mock what he says.
"Oh," Rafael says. "That's good. I'm seven. I'm going to second grade already."
"I'm going to pre-k," Sonny says.
Sonny shrugs. "I gotta new backpack."
Rafael nods understandingly. "Where are you from?"
"Mmm," Sonny thinks. "Y'know that place by the store that has the cannoli?"
Rafael looks at him confused. "Uh...no."
"Oh. Well there. 'Resa says it's thirty miles away."
Rafael thinks about it. "Uh...probably Staten Island?"
Sonny nods. "Yeah! There's cannoli there. Is there cannoli here?"
"Good. I like cannoli. Not like butter, though. Butter is the best for snack time, or breakfast, or lunch, or dinner."
"Why do you talk like that?"
Sonny looks down at the car in his hand. He shrugs instead of saying anything.
"It's okay," Rafael tells him. "Mida, look. Try to say my name. You can call me Rafi."
Rafael smiles at him. "You'll get it."
"Rafi is a funny name."
"I think it was my abuelo's name, but he died a long time ago. Before I was born."
"Oh," is all Sonny says. "Wanna drive cars off the stairs?"
They move to the stairs, only the third step. Then, they fling the cars off the step as Sonny was before Theresa interrupted him. They erupt with laughter, cracking up when the cars crash on the floor below.
Ten minutes later, Theresa stomps back down the stairs.
"Sonny, why do you have to be so freakin' loud?" Theresa stops when she sees Rafael. "Who are you?"
"That's 'Resa," Sonny says to Rafael. "She's a teenager and that means she's a b-word."
"What's a b-word?" Rafael asks.
Sonny shrugs. "I dunno, that's what Gina says though."
Theresa practically growls. "Mom! Sonny said I'm a b-word!"
"Oh, Theresa, he did not!" Deb calls from the kitchen.
Theresa throws her hands in the air and steps over the boys to go to the kitchen. "Why don't you ever believe me!" she shouts.
Sonny and Rafael laugh, then resume throwing cars off the stairs.