SNEAK PEEK: Summer Love by J. Lum


“Te odio!” I hate you. The burning rage builds up inside as I am forced to converse with

this family that isn’t my own.

“Tobias, I told you to speak English in the house! You will respect my rules while you

are here. Do you understand me? Your mother and siblings don’t understand you!” My father is

gesticulating wildly with his fist raised. I take a few steps back, my own fists clenched as I try

everything to control my anger. But I can’t get my temper under control and my face is burning

hot. How dare he imply Debi’s anything but my stepmother? She’s not my mother, and Molly

and Jamie are not my siblings. I don’t have a brother and sister …

I glance over my father’s shoulder at them, pretending they aren’t listening in on yet

another argument my father and I are having. Molly is tucked in and sitting on Debi’s lap,

sucking her thumb with a sleepy look on her face while Jamie’s blue-green eyes are marked in

concern. His bowl of chocolate cereal lay untouched and soggy.

We had just started screaming at each other when they walked into the kitchen, bright and

early, their hair in disarray. I felt sorry about waking them up, especially Jamie, who is at the

same age as I was when my father walked out. He’s not stupid; he knows something is wrong

and that look on his face, the concern—I put that there. He usually looks at me like I hung the

moon. The older brother he always wanted. We both carry the deep-rooted Spanish looks. While

my eyes are deep brown, both Jamie and Molly’s are blue like their mother’s and hair jet-black,

like our father’s.

Since coming here, almost every conversation ends up like this, and today is no different.

My father set me off this morning when he tried to have a “normal” conversation with me about

what I had been up to. As if he really cares about my life. Where has he been the last eleven

years? Not in our home, and certainly not with me. No, he was with them, being their doting

father. With my teeth and fists clenched, I stare up at my father.

“No me importa. No son mi familia …” Taking long breaths, I pause. “You left us! I

don’t want to be here, just as much as you don’t want…” My eyes burn from the impending

tears, and I blink hard. No, no, no. I won’t cry. He doesn’t deserve any of my feelings beyond

anger. I have to get out of his house. I’m suffocating here. I try to run past him, but his strong

hands grab hold of my mine, as if to anchor me in place.

“Tobias, don’t … Please, look at me.” I turn away from him and shake my head as he

squeezes my hand. “Tobias, perdóname. Lo siento. I’m sorry.”

I yank my hands free from his grasp as soon as his last ‘sorry’ leaves his lips. I can’t

stand to be in this house another second. I can’t hear him apologize for leaving me—leaving

us—to find a new and better family. I take long strides towards the door and, without looking

back at him, I swing it open and it bangs into the wall. I shake my head. “No significas nada

para mi.” I pause, before repeating my words in English so they all can understand me. “You

mean nothing to me. I won’t ever forgive you.” Then I slam the door shut, running quickly off

the porch and down the path towards the beach. The hairs on my arms stand up as my feet beat

hard against the ground. The air is crisp and breezy, but I don’t care. I need it to be cold as I burn

off the anger I can still feel churning inside me. Being this close to him makes me lose all

control, and I never do that. His needling questions this morning, asking how my life is. Well,

fuck him, he doesn’t get that luxury. Who gives him the goddamn right to try and establish any

relationship with me? I saw his agitation with my one-word answers. It was like poking the bear,

and part of me enjoyed watching him struggle to gain some sort of ground with me.

What tipped this particular conversation was when he brought up my mother. For a split

second it had sounded like he truly cared, but then I remembered, he can’t care about her or me.

Maybe he feels guilty for being absent all these years, but he can’t crawl his way back into my

life and expect me to bend to his demands just because we share the same DNA. I pick up my

pace, allowing the slight sting in my feet to distract me from everything that just happened. To

give me time to work my way through my anger. From a distance, I can hear my name across the

wind. I know it must be my father shouting after me, but I ignore him. I refuse to let him do this

to me. Not again.

At the end of the day, deceit masked in remorse is all I see when I hear his apologies. He

walked away from us and never looked back. I don’t owe him anything. And he doesn’t deserve

my forgiveness. I run faster, wishing for the memories to fade. All I remember was my mom’s

endless tears as she begged my father not to walk out. I was thrust into immediate adulthood

when he left, and I tried to pick up the pieces. It took my mom years to get over him walking

away, which is why I was surprised she forced me to come here to visit. I didn’t even get a

choice; she sprung this “bonding time,” as she liked to call it, on me last minute. I had been

looking forward to spending the summer with my cousins, and my aunt and uncle, but now I had

to see him. I love my mom, though. Despite her bouts with depression, she has always been the

one constant in my life. I saw the hurt in her eyes when I yelled at her in the airport. I could

barely look at her before she sent me on the plane.

“Why are you making me do this? Lo odio! I hate him, Mama. Please, I don’t want to go

there. You have no right to make me go! I just … I can’t leave you by yourself.” I knew saying

that would hurt her feelings, a small reminder of me as her constant shadow. Always ensuring

she was safe, that she was going to be okay.

Toby, please. I know you are angry at me. But, he’s your father. He loves you. Bebé,

cometí un error. My anger shouldn’t have kept you separated from a father who loves you. I was

the parent, and I let that responsibility fall by the wayside. I let you carry that burden I see you

carrying with you, always. You deserved a life—a childhood, and I took that away from you. It

was my mistake, mijo, not your father’s. You were too young to understand at the time. Yo era

egoísta. Stop holding onto that anger I put there. Mijo, I love you. You need this summer

together … you both do. It’s for the best. Just, please remember, I love you. Always.

I watched the tears stream down her face as I told her how much I hated her. I was such a

dick. I didn’t mean to say the words; I just couldn’t understand why my mom was doing this.

Why she was making excuses for him. Of all the people in the world, why him? I never walk

away angry from her, ever. It was a promise I made her years ago. And I broke it.

Things haven’t gotten any better. I’ve been here a week, and I’ve been ignoring her calls.

She’s left a few messages and I can hear how hurt she sounds in every single one. Mom sounded

really tired on the last message, though. I do need to talk to her, but I’m still so pissed. I don’t

want to shout at her again, and I know I will once I get on the phone. I had hoped a few days of

cooling off would’ve helped, but the constant fighting with my father has set me off to the point

I’m always hot. I know my only reprieve is the beach, which is why I’ve come this way. The

wind blows harder as I move faster. Sand kicks up all around me. It’s still early, and I know the

sun will soon be peeking above the horizon. I want to make sure I can watch the sun as it rises

above the waves.

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