Evan isn’t quite sure how he got to this point in his life. He doesn’t know which god (or goddess, he’s not going to rule anything out) he may have offended, or maybe delighted? He wouldn’t know because he’s Jewish, though for him it’s more about habits and traditions and less about religious beliefs, and he’s definitely not sure if he should be afraid or excited right now because Connor Murphy is shuffling nervously in front of him after asking him a question and he doesn’t know how to respond to him. Because there’s no way Evan had heard him correctly the first time.
He just stares the other boy with wide, unblinking eyes. He’s so very confused about how this all came about, the part of his day where Connor is asking to be friends with him. That wasn’t a part of his plan that morning, the plan he obviously executed poorly seeing as he’s standing in a hospital lobby with a cast on his arm instead of blissfully unaware of anyone or anything. He was expecting to die broken and bloody, not live to make a friend, so forgive him if he’s a little off kilter right now.
The bit that lands him here in the hospital, however? Here to even have this conversation with Connor in the first place? Oh, he knows exactly where the end of that spiral into hell stems from.
It starts with a series of overheard conversations barely two days into his summer at his dad’s.
It’s the harshness of his voice that has him sitting on a stair in the shadows to listen instead of bolting, hiding just out of sight of the kitchen where Mark Hansen is whisper-yelling, though Evan’s not sure if it can be called a whisper in any fashion if he can hear it outside of the kitchen. He’s going to regret this, he knows, but he sits and listens anyway because apparently he’s an emotional masochist.
“Heidi, that is exactly what I'm saying. He is your problem, not mine. I invited him this summer because I thought he would have outgrown this pathetic display now that he is a senior. I thought we could actually bond now that he is nearly an adult. I did not invite him so I could babysit someone who acts younger than my own 5 year old daughter when it comes to anything social!” Mark’s voice is cut off and the sounds of his pacing resumes.
The footsteps seem to echo in cadence with the voice in his head that tells him how worthless he is, how pathetic of a human being he is, how much of a problem he has always been and will continue to be. How unexpected. His father still thinks of him as an issue, a problem, a mere roadblock along his path to success. He doesn’t actually want him here. What. A. Surprise.
There’s an aggravated sigh and Evan can just barely see Mark’s shadow running a hand through dark tousled hair and he hates that so many of his own mannerisms still come from Mark even though he hasn’t lived in the same house as him since he was seven. “Yes, I know you said he still has his anxiety issues, but you didn’t say he would go catatonic when asked what he wanted for lunch when we took him out. It was humiliating having my five year old answer the cashier readily while my highschooler stands there silently.”
He isn’t surprised in the slightest. Not at the ranting, not at the disdain for Evan’s presence, not even at with the confirmation that his father left because of him, and that his father didn’t return because of his issues. Issues he couldn’t help. Issues only made worse by his father abandoning him. He can’t be surprised by something he expects. He’s very aware of just how useless of an achievement he would be for someone to claim, so he doesn’t blame his dad for wanting to pass him back like a hot potato. Or maybe a dirty diaper. People like hot potatoes, no one likes a used diaper.
“Of course still I fed him, Heidi, I’m not cruel. He received exactly what Amelia ordered since I had to order for him.” Mark sounds exasperated, and Evan doesn’t blame him. He is also frustrated with himself for his inability to complete basic human tasks.
He begs to disagree with Mark on that, the idea he isn’t cruel. He’s certainly being so now, though perhaps if he knew Evan was listening he’d be saying something different.
Perhaps. Perhaps not. Chances are, he’d be even more vitriolic, each word a spear intended to harm him. The words are doing that already and Mark isn’t even aware of his audience.
Part of him wishes he could see just how darkly his dad is scowling while most of him is glad he can’t, because the absolute disdain in his voice cuts Evan deeply. “I will treat him the age he acts, Heidi. If he wants me to treat him like he is a teenager, he needs to act like one and that includes ordering for himself at a fast food restaurant . I don’t care what you do with him, you are entirely too soft on him and I have said that from the beginning.”
It’s been ten years, really, since he saw his dad and he’s not sure why he had expected things to go differently. Mark had visited once when he was eight, and hadn’t stuck around long. Visits then became cards the next year, finally stopping completely when he turned 12 and it dawns on him just then, the reason for the abrupt drop in contact. That must have been when Amelia was born. He’s growing numb as the words keep jabbing, and he’s not sure if that’s better or worse for his mental state. He’s such a useless son that his father had another child to replace him.
Mark’s growling draws his attention back to the half of the conversation Evan can hear. “When you said anxiety issues, I thought you meant a managed, controlled level. A normal human level, which he should be at by his age. Everyone experiences some anxiety from time to time, Heidi, and that is what I expected you to mean when you...no don’t you put this on me, I am not the one who raised him. That’s on you.”
He says it like Mom was the one who left. Evan thinks bitterly, hands gripping the sides of his shirt so tightly he thinks it might rip. He’s not sure when he wrapped his arms around himself but now that he’s aware of it, all he can feel is pressure too much worthless as he grips himself tighter and tighter. He’s probably going to leave bruises that will last for weeks.
Evan jumps when a loud smack of hand on wood sounds and he sees his father’s fingers from where’s he’s slapped the door frame. “How dare...No, I do not want him here the entire summer! I will not have him around my young, impressionable daughter. Lord knows she’ll pick up his bad habits and I will not have you ruining another child by using your first one. God only knows what else Evan has gleaned from that depressing aura that always looms over you.”
Habits, like it is his choice to constantly freeze up when it comes to talking. Like he wants to be so painfully awkward he can’t make friends because no one wants to be around his stammering and rambling long winded monologues long enough to even try. Like he picked his crippling anxiety up at a hobby store and said ‘yup, this what I’m going to devote my life to.’ Like he wants to be so damaged his father considers him ruined, a failure, nothing worth knowing.
Mark isn’t even trying to whisper anymore. “Why should I pay for your mista...You know what, fine. If it will get him out of my house and me off the phone with you sooner, I’ll pay to change his fucking plane ticket. The shit I still do for you, Heidi, it’s incredible your audacity. I’ll text you his flight details.” There’s the very audible sound of the landline phone being dropped onto the receiver before a loud sigh reverberates through the quiet house.
He will hate himself just as soon as he finds his way out of the apathy cloud that settles about him like the densest of fogs. Well, he already hates himself, but he can definitely manage more just as soon as he finds the energy to do so. He may not have a lot of ambition, but he can manage this one thing. Footsteps grow louder and Evan jumps when Mark suddenly exits the kitchen, muttering out loud as he crossing the hall from the kitchen to the living room how he dodged a bullet with Evan because he’s just like his freak of a mother.
“I need you to clarify something for me.” Bethany’s voice is cold and flat and he sees his dad start just as he nearly falls off the step he’s sitting on. He hadn’t known his stepmother was standing there in the hallway, and it doesn’t appear like she realizes Evan is there above her listening in, too. “Two things, actually.”
He should leave, he’s overheard enough tonight, but he doesn’t.
He rarely does what he should do.
“Yes, Bethany?” Mark’s posture is as tired as his voice but Evan can’t find an ounce of himself willing to care. He’s genuinely kind of interested in what the ‘other woman’ has to say, what her view point is on Evan because she’s very obviously heard every single thing Mark had just said, same as Evan.
“I’ve met Heidi, you introduced us.” She’s calm, quiet, a lot calmer than Evan thinks anyone else would be, and he tries to push away the blatant admittance that she and his mom have actually met before. He doesn’t want to unpack that right now. “And my impression of her was not crazy or freakish in the slightest.” She steps forward a bit and now Evan can see her facial expressions clearly and she looks innocently curious.
It’s instantly suspicious to him, but apparently Mark is useless at human interaction. Great, one more thing I have in common with that ass. “You only saw her for a few minutes, hardly enough time to form a correct picture of someone.”
His stepmother just smiles a little. “Regardless, clarify for me if you will, first what exactly is it about Heidi Hansen that makes it okay to talk to her like that, and second, why I’m not allowed to talk to my stepson or allow my daughter to get to know her brother?”
“I never said…”
“Mark, I have been standing here since you I heard you say hello to Heidi.” She interrupts him and Mark freezes, staring at her in horror.
“Yes.” She says simply. “I heard the entire thirty minute conversation, though it can hardly be called that. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard someone talk the way you did to her.” Which means she heard everything Evan had and more and god she really has no reason to like Evan at all now, does she?
She holds a hand up, the motion sending her long ponytail swinging lightly. “No, save the excuses.” Bethany stands there watching Mark stare at the wall and sighs. “I want to get to know my stepson. I want Amy to be able to get to know her brother, to know the joy of having someone who will be there for her and be a positive role model, but that can’t happen if you don’t let them interact.”
Evan’s brain whirls. How is it that a woman who has only spoken to him once when he had first arrived, and telling him where his room was to be hardly constitutes a conversation, gives more of a shit about him than his own father? He has fully been expecting his step mother to hate him, to make his visit miserable, but right now? She’s proving to be the best part of the trip.
Her words bring Mark’s head back to focus on her. “He’s...I’m trying to protect you!”
“From what?” Bethany’s flat blank voice turns harsh and derisive and biting . “Having to listen to a word or two be repeated? Having to say an extra five words at the take-out counter to ease the stress of a boy who can’t manage it at the time? None of these things bother me or are something I consider to be a problem. You do remember what I do for a living?”
Evan perks up a little at that. He had thought she was a waitress, that is what his mom had told him the one and only time they had talked about Bethany, way back when he was still 7, and he’s heard nothing else on the matter so he hadn’t updated his assumptions. He wonders what exactly it is she does now, but he’s not about to draw attention to himself in order to find out.
“Of course I remember, I’ve only spent the last 8 years supporting and accepting the fact you wish to work.” And even Evan knows Mark probably shouldn’t have phrased it quite like that, but he’s also pretty sure Mark isn’t aware of how he sounds when he talks to women. The cashier at the restaurant yesterday, his mom, now his stepmom. He hasn’t heard him talk to Amelia, but he wouldn’t be surprised if he raises his voice at her unnecessarily, as well.
His gut smolders. He is a piece of shit, he deserves whatever Mark says about him, but Amelia is only five. She hasn’t had time to make the same mistakes as Evan, she’s perfectly fine. Normal, even. She doesn’t deserve to have Mark for a father.
“You are an absolute monster, Mark Hansen.” She hisses and Evan leans slightly away from the sound, careful to not make too much of an alarm. He hasn’t heard anyone say his fathers name with such fiery disgust aside from his mother, and to hear it from his stepmom is a little jarring. “Hating your ex wife and son because of anxiety and depressive disorders they can’t help makes you the worst type of person.”
And Mark protests. He fucking protests. “You don’t understand, Bethany. You can’t possibly…”
“What happens if Amy starts showing signs of anxiety?” Mark stops short and stares unblinkingly at her. Evan holds his breath, terrified that he’ll be heard in the absolute dead silence. She speaks when he doesn’t. “What happens if, god forbid, I have an accident and need lifelong assistance, or we get cancer or some other life threatening disease, Mark? What happens then?” She takes a short breath in and sighs it out. “Would you still love us?”
The silence ticks by and Evan feels ice go down his spine with each passing breath.
It’s a long beat before Mark replies. “Of course I would still love you Beth.”
Evan doesn’t really believe him, and neither does his stepmother if her absolutely desert like tone is any indication. “Yes, the 15-second hesitation is quite convincing Mark.”
He doesn’t stay to hear anything else and takes advantage of the rising voice of his father to help hide the inevitable sounds he makes when he slips back up the stairs. He has enough to think about anyway.
His father only wants his children if they are perfect and if the child isn’t perfect, what does that say about the mother? It stands to reason that Mark would easily walk from Bethany and Amelia just as easily as he had walked away from Heidi and Evan and the poisonous something deep in Evan’s gut continues to smolder and pop and boil.
He slips back into the guest room, too numb to cry. He debates texting Jared, but doesn’t. Every other text so far has gone on read with no reply, so he's not going to bother. He’ll just unwrap all this new information alone, like he’s always done before, and if he has a breakdown he’ll manage through it and hopefully not throw himself off the overpass two blocks down the street.
He thinks of his mother as he brushes his teeth in the adjoining bathroom, of the spat out accusations of corrupting people with her depression and sighs. He didn’t know his mom has depression, or at least used to, and mulls over that in his head, turning the concept every which way to try and match it up to pieces of his childhood that fit the idea. He wishes she would’ve told him, it could only have helped him growing up, knowing his mom was struggling, too.
Now he’s not sure the knowledge makes much of a difference. His mom still works too much, still cancels every plan she makes with him, is still never there to talk to. Even if he had known, he’d never have been able to use the knowledge to help himself because she would have to have been there to even have the conversation in the first place. His toothbrush clanks in the cup and the light switch makes a harsh click when Evan shuffles slowly back into the room.
He’s standing in just his boxers when Mark’s muffled voice swells as he argues some point he can’t make out through the closed doors between him and the arguing couple and Evan feels something in his stomach drop. He hates Mark. He’s hated him for years, and hates that he felt guilted into coming on this stupid trip, and he hates that he has to witness Mark’s ruining of yet another wife and child. His hands clench at his sleep shirt, halfway into putting it on as a horrifying thought comes over him. Evan is a lot like his father, he knows this, and if Mark can do this sort of shit again and again, what does that say about Evan?
What is Evan Hansen capable of doing?