At Heeres household Mr Heere was preparing for his first date since his divorce. Jeremy was in his room with Michael. The two teens were playing video games.
"Hey, Jeremy," Michael smirked as he pressed a button on his controller, "heads up!"
"You fucking slut!" Jeremy yelled as he failed to avoid a bomb Michael threw at him.
The bomb exploded in his characters face, and Jeremy stared at Michael. Michael laughed like a disney villian as his character moved further away from Jeremy's.
"I hope you fall off the track and die." Jeremy said once his character recovered from the blast.
Michael only laughed harder. After Michael won Jeremy stood up in anger. He paced the room cursing.
"No! I do not accept this!"
"Hahaha, come on dude! You lost!" Michael scooted closer to his friend. "The deal was a deal!"
"Best three out of five!" Jeremy pointed at Michael.
"Jeremy!" Mr Heere's voice sounded off from the other room.
"I am not putting pineapples on a pizza, Michael!"
"This is not over, Mell." Jeremy went to grab the door knob, eyes fixed on Michael.
"We're converting to last names? Really?"
"I'll wait Heere then." Jeremy ignored Michael's use of his own last name as a pun.
Joe Heere was hunched over a couch, turning around the cushions.
"Have you seen my wallet?" Joe said as he streched, hands on his back. Jeremy didn't have time to answer before Mr Heere exclaimed that he found his wallet. Wallet was laying on the TV stand.
"Is that what you're wearing?" Jeremy asked.
"Do I look okay?" Joe twirled around to let his son get a better look of his date outfit. He wore a dark brown blazer over a blue dress shirt. Luckily he even remembered to put on a pair of pants.
Jeremy shrugged. "You don't look like your life is falling apart, so that's a great start. Where are you taking her?"
"I'm taking her to a simple dinner." Joe said. "Now Michael will be staying the night?"
"Yeah?" Jeremy said.
"Sure am!" Michael yelled from inside Jeremy's room.
Joe opened up his wallet to leave the boys some money for the pizza. He handed the money to Jeremy. He told them he will return in few hours, and that he expected the place to still be standing in one place by then.
"Did you get pineapple pizza money?" Michael wiggled his eyebrows.
"I got pizza money." Jeremy said, "And you said best three out of five."
"Actually, you said that. I didn't agree to it." Michael shrugged and picked up the controllers. "But I am going to get you to eat pineapples on a pizza. One way or another."
Michael won again, and Jeremy still refused to call the pizza parlour and order the pineapple pizza. Jeremy stood on his tip toes, hand stretched out up, holding the phone high above Michael's reach.
"You're gonna like it! I swear!" Michael insisted as he jumped into the air, trying to get Jeremy to lower the phone.
"But it feels so wrong!"
"Listen Heere. We agreed. Winner picks the topping. I won and I pick pineapple."
"I'm gonna change my name." Jeremy begrudgingly gave Michael the phone, "That way you can't use it as a pun."
"No, you won't." Michael dialed the pizza parlour and ordered the pizza he wanted.
The boys didn't have to wait long for the door bell rang, announcing the pizza's arrival. Michael excitedly raced to the door, while Jeremy sagged his feet. Michael took the pizza box to Jeremy's bedroom, leaving Jeremy to pay for it.
Michael was sitting on Jeremy's bed, pizza box next to him. Jeremy's bed was the kind that doubles as a couch. The room always felt messy because of its small size. Desk was on the opposite side from the bed, and the blinds blocked any light from the outside. The walls were painted metallic grey, and all the furniture were either beige or black, to add life to the room. Few posters were hanging on the walls. Some figurines decorated the shelf. Pile of papers flooded the desk and few were already making their place on the floor. CD stand occupied the corner close to the door and the desk. Next to the stand was a stack of DVDs that couldn't fit in it. The computer displayed a screen saver massage bouncing around "Jeremy is Heere". Jeremy was meaning to change it, since he was 12, but he was too lazy to.
Jeremy sat on his bed, suspiciously eyeing the pizza box. He carefully took one slice. Michael was already eating his second. Jeremy slowly took a bite. That one bite of the slice sent him straight to the fridge to find some leftovers.
"COWARD!" Michael yelled after him.
Michael had no trouble finishing the entire pizza, even the slice Jeremy tried to eat. Jeremy on the other hand whipped out two days old macaroni and cheese. When it was getting late Jeremy suggested they should watch a movie. They made the couch into the bed, chose a movie and prepared for bed. Michael changed into his sleeping shirt, and Jeremy put on his pyjamas. Michael made himself comfortable on Jeremy's now made bed, wrapped in a blanket. Jeremy started the movie. He joined Michael as the logos started appearing on the screen.
Michael fell asleep during the movie. Jeremy was too lazy to get up and turn down the volume. If Michael fell asleep to the noise, than the movie sounds wouldn't bothered him. Just as Jeremy was about to fall asleep, he heard a click of the front door lock. He strained his ears to hear the faint footsteps. Door to his room slowly opened. The bluish light from the computer screen illuminated Joe Heere's face.
"You two alseep?" he asked in a whisper.
"Just about." Jeremy whispered back.
"What are you watchin'?" Joe turned his head to get a better look of the movie.
On the screen Jack Black was encouraging kids to rock out.
"School of Rock." Jeremy said.
"When are you planing to sleep?"
"As soon as it ends. It's almost over."
"Alright." Joe said as he closed the door. "Good night."
"Hey, honey." Heidi Hansen said, "How was your day? Did your teacher like your report on French history?"
"It was okay."
The Hansens sat at the dinning table eating some take out Heidi brought home. She apologised for not having time to prepare a meal for her son, but Evan said he didn't mind. Chinese food tasted good. Heidi picked up the empty dirty dishes and went to the kitchen to wash them. Hansens's apartment was small, and their kitchen doubled as a dinning room. To anyone else, Heidi seemed her usual normal self, but Evan noticed his mother humming as she washed the plates. She only didi that if something exciting was going on in her life. Last time Evan heard his mother sing to her self was when she got into the community law school.
"You seem cheery." Evan noted.
"It's nothing." Heidi quickly changed the topic back to Evan, asking him all about his classes.
Heidi returned home late on a school day. Evan was on his laptop, so he heard Heidi's light footsteps. She was humming a soft tune and Evan quickly closed his laptop and pushed it to the side. When Hiedi opened the door to Evan's bedroom, the teen pretended to be asleep.
"I know you are awake." Heidi said, "I saw the light coming from your room when I came in."
Evan didn't move.
Heidi sighed and closed the door. "You better be sleeping!"
In the morning Evan noticed a single rose in a vase in the kitchen. He didn't have time to wonder where it came from before he went to school.
Evan didn't saw his mum much before the weekend. During the work day she was either working, at school or sleeping. If they had a conversation during the work day it was brief with maybe four sentences passed in between them. Saturday was the day of house chores and Sunday was the rest day. On Saturdays the Hansens would start the day by doing groceries together.
In the shops they would discuss their week, their immediate plans for the next week. Heidi would remind Evan about his future doctor appointments. This Saturday Heidi Hansen seemed a bit distant. As if she wanted to tell Evan something, but wasn't sure how to approach the topic. Evan noticed his mother spacing out, but he too was unsure if he should ask her about it or not. Last time he did she waved him off and insisted it was nothing. Maybe this was the same thing. He wasn't sure, but he didn't want to upset his mother even more. Evan put a cereal box into the trolly.
Back home Evan noticed that in the vase there were now two roses. He turned to his mum and asked her about the flowers. Heidi immediately tensed up, so Evan blurted out strings of apologies.
"I'm sorry. It's fine, you don't need to tell me. I'm sorry I asked."
"No, baby," Heidi Hansen placed a hand on her son's shoulder. "It's fine. I've been meaning to tell you- It's just. I didn't know how to-"
Evan relaxed in his mother's touch. Heidi smiled at her son. She took a deep breath and lead her son to the couch. On the couch the Hansens had their most serious conversations.
"There's a guy." Heidi started the story slowly.
She told Evan how she met this charming man.
The man interrupted one of the lectures she was in. He apologiesed to the class and took the professor away. Heidi still didn't know what was wrong, but the professor dissmissed the class to deal with some private matter. Heidi noticed the guy more and more. He was clearly not a law student, she or no one else ever saw him in class. He bumped into her one day in the hospital. His son was there. The boy was around Evan's age, a year younger. The man started conversation with Heidi. She learnt that he was a lawyer. A divorce lawyer to be precise. She learnt that he was charming, and had a lovely sense of humour. Most importantly she learnt that he deeply cared for his son, and that he understood the difficulties of being a single parent. They exchanged phone information and decided to stay in touch. He gave her a single rose when his son was checking out of the hospital.
"It was his way of asking me out," Heidi smiled as she remembered the moment.
Heidi wasn't sure if she should accept the rose.
"My son, Jeremy. He said I should move on. It's been too long." the charming man had said. "You do not have to say yes. And you have my number so you don't have to say anything right now."
Heidi took the rose, she could feel her face growing red. She told him she would think about it. He smiled and nodded. He wished her well, and went out of sight. Leaving Heidi alone to her thoughts.
"I haven't really gone on a date since-" Heidi left 'since your father left' unsaid, but Evan could still hear the words.
Evan sat silent, not knowing what to say. Heidi never dated anyone after his father left them. She never shown intrest in anyone. The silence felt awkward. Evan felt awkward. He didn't like it when things got awkward. He felt as if he needed to say something. Anything.
"So? What did you say?" Evan's voice was hoarse and dry.
"I said yes." Heidi answered looking down at her hands.
She had met Joe, the charming man, outside a modest restaurant. She hadn't been dressed in anything fancy,. She had worn her only clean button up shirt and jeans. Joe looked at her as if she was wearing a cocktail dress. He had smiled widely when she approached him, and for the rest of the evening his eyes remained on her.
"You look absolutely lovely," Joe had said.
Joe hadn't looked bad either. He had worn dark brown blazer over a blue dress shirt. He had looked like a college professor.
Heidi looked at her son. Evan looked so small, even if he occupied half of the couch. He had grown into a fine young man, and Heidi was proud of him, but he looked so unsure and scared. Hunched over, looking straight down the floor. He was big, yet so small.
"We went on that one date." Heidi continued," And it was. Amazing. He was charming, polite. Funny."
"Do you think you'll see him again?" Evan asked.
"Maybe? I hope so." Heidi gave a soft nudge jerking Evan, "You know you'll always be the most important man in my life. Always!"
Evan gave a thin smile, but the smile faltered quickly.
"We should continue sorting out the groceries." Evan announced, moving quickly away from the couch.
Heidi followed her son. She wondered if her relationship with Joe would get serious enough for him and Evan to meet, and she imagined how that meeting would go.
Would Evan ran away from a simple handshake. Would Joe ran away once he realises how different Evan is from his peers. Evan was getting better at dealing with his anxiety, and his medications seemed to help him, but he was still. Heidi wouldn't say shy. Evan was not shy. He was scared. He was scared of making mistakes. He was scared of pushing people away. Heidi was scared too. She was scared Evan might never get better. She was worried for her son. If he doesn't get better, he will never be independent young man she knew he could be.