Summary: Fred goes home over Christmas Break, where he has to face his abusive father, betrayed brother and ignorant mother. When he comes back, he is not the same person he was before he left and therefore he doesn’t feel the same about the love he had for his girlfriend.
Rating: R – for language, child abuse and general maltreatment.
Dedication: To Kristine. Thank you for being my inspiration, and for coming up with a great title for the story. And sorry for writing prequels when we’re not done with the main story yet. You know how annoying sidekicks can be... Forgive me? *pouts*
Disclaimer: Fred, Catalina and Fred’s family belong to Cimmy. Lex O’Leary and Jeff Delricci belong to NYgoldfish54. Any other mentioned people belong to Disney.
Chapter 2. Family Gatherings
Silence reigns around the table. Except from the random squealing from Alex. Even Sebastian keeps his mouth shut. I have a feeling it’s not just to honor my visit. Dad is glaring at my mom. They must’ve had a fight earlier. Like always.
“So, how are your studies going, honey?”
At first I don’t react. I’m not used to being spoken to. Especially not with the phrase ‘honey’ included. I look up and see that everyone around the table are staring at me, apart for Alex who’s throwing croutons at Marcus. My mom is waiting for a reply. “Eh, good I guess,” I mumble.
“Your credit card bill had a lot of figures last month,” Dad grunts out. “Do you need a higher limit?”
Have I died and gone to heaven? Both my parents are having a conversation with me, without yelling. And I’m getting more money? They must’ve killed someone important this time. I better call Grandma later and see that she’s okay.
“No, I’m fine. I had to buy some Christmas gifts.”
“How are hockey going?” my mom continues. She’s never paid any interest or attention to my life before. Except for that one time when I got drunk and threw up on the expensive rug in the dining room. She did pay a lot of attention to me at that point. But even the carpet became more pampered than me.
“We won the last game for the year. It’s going great.”
“I’m glad. I hope you put as much effort into your studies, as you do at spending time with your girlfriend,” my dad says sharply. Okay, I knew there was something going on.
“Not now,” Mom warns, returning to her glare contest with my father.
Marcus and Sebastian immediately know that things are going downhill. They look up from their food, shifting in their chairs. Even Alex stops throwing food for a second. A short second, before the next thing I know, some mashed potatoes hit my cheek. “Alex, stop,” Marcus exclaims, grabbing Alex’s spoon. More potatoes fly over the table and Alexander starts wailing when he can’t have his spoon back.
“May I leave the table?” Sebastian mumbles. My mom nods and he scurries away as soon as he’s taken his plate off the dinner table.
“I can take Alex...” I offer, but my dad cuts me off.
“Marcus, could you take Alexander upstairs with you? Fredrik, your mother and I would like to have a word with you.”
Ouch, why do I have the feeling I’m going to end up in trouble? “Yes, of course. Did I do something wrong?” Lesson number one. Never ask if you’ve done something wrong when you know that you’re about to be yelled at. Of course I’ve done something. Otherwise I wouldn’t be me.
Marcus picks up the angry toddler, giving me a look filled with pity. I’m getting alarmed.
I’m glad I’m sitting across the table from my Dad. Hopefully he won’t throw food at me. But you never know. “I’ve taken a look at your grades.”
“I know I have some subjects I need to work on, but really, I’m doing fine.”
“Ever since you transferred to Eden Hall, you’ve done nothing but neglecting your studies. You spend your time screwing around, messing with girls, blaming your bad grades at hockey.”
“I haven’t been screwing around,” I defend myself. “I’ve always had trouble in school.”
“You’re no fucking retard!” he explodes in my face. My mom puts down her knife and fork, getting ready to escape the scene if necessary. “You just never care about doing anything right. Either you really are stupid, or you’re trying your best pretending.”
“I’m not stupid,” I say. “Algebra is a tough subject. I’ll do better next term.”
“If you keep this up, there will be no next term. I’m going to pull you out and force you to go back to your other school. At least you had better grades there.”
Why does he care? He never cares. I didn’t think it mattered what grades I had, since he’s never said anything about it before. “I don’t want to go back there. I’m doing fine where I am.”
“Let’s just calm down,” my mother speaks up. “You need a private tutor. And you need to cut down on the hockey.”
“Don’t raise your voice at your mother,” Dad thunders. Again with the logic. It’s okay for him to yell at her, but I can’t raise my voice? “Either you choose between hockey and your studies, or you’ll be leaving for Stockholm before you know it.”
My old school was a private school located in Stockholm. I hated it there. Everyone was stuck-up, preppy snobs who wouldn’t speak to you unless you had money. It resembled Eden Hall a bit, with the difference that I have friends at Eden Hall, and everyone there aren’t as bad as the people in Stockholm. I went there for a year, while Catalina was at some catholic school somewhere in New York.
So, I was in Sweden, she was in USA. Doesn’t make much of a relationship, but at that point, I was glad to have at least something. Even if it’s a catholic girlfriend, thousands of miles away. Somehow we’ve been together for over a year.
“That’s so unfair. I did have some good grades too,” I point out, trying to grasp every chance possible to avoid getting my dad too worked up. “Like Science and...” Damn, I don’t have any good grades at all, do I? “And gym. I have a good grade in English too.”
Well, I have Lex to thank for the grade in Science. She puts up with me as her lab partner, so I’m forever grateful. I haven’t known her for that long, but I owe her so much already. There is something special about her. I wish I knew her better.
“Everything can’t surround sports,” Dad yells. “You need to get better grades in the heavier subjects. Economy, Math, History. You can’t live forever on that athletic scholarship you got going for yourself. And your English grade wasn’t that good either.”
I’ve only attended Eden Hall for two months, since late October. Despite the short period of time, I’ve accomplished more than I ever have in my entire life. I’ve managed to get friends; I’ve managed to get accepted by a crowd. I’ve managed to fit in. My girlfriend is with me. I like this new life of mine. Sure, I had friends back at my other schools too. They were just as cool, but I never felt like I belonged there. I didn’t have a girlfriend who backed me up. I just had hockey.
“But, I received a good grade in my German studies,” I try. My Dad’s only ambition here in life is to make us all look successful. So he can act like he’s proud of us when he shows us off to the rest of the world. Obviously, my grades are the most important thing right now. He’s overbearing, and I’m a failure. The whole German thing was a demand from him. It’s important to him that I know that language, since he has associates from Germany. I’m nothing more than someone he uses to make himself look better.
“You need to work harder,” he frowns, throwing his fist into the table. Better that than my face. “Heather, do you mind?”
Oh, fuck. He just called my mom by the wrong name. I better leave before I get trapped in World War 3. Too late. I turn my head away when she throws her plate into the wall behind my dad. Yes, it does start to feel like Christmas. I look at my watch. Three hours before the first fragile thing breaks? Wow, new record.
I hear footsteps from the floor above us. Marcus must be trying to get Alex and Sebastian into their rooms. That used to be my job. I want to go to my room, too. But if I move, I’ll end up in the middle of their fight. So I scoot away to the chair next to me instead.
What I don’t understand is why I always get into trouble whenever I’m home. I must never do anything right. My migraine won’t stop. It feels like I have an iron band strapped around my head. I wipe some potatoes off my cheek. No, I can’t take this. “Dad, stop it!” I hear myself say. Bad son or not, I can’t just sit and watch while he’s making my mother cry. I’m too well-mannered.
“Leave him alone,” Mom protests, but it doesn’t matter. I get up just in time to feel his fist strike me right across the face. Ouch. The taste of blood fills my mouth, and my headache increases.
“Now, can we continue discussing this without getting too worked up?” my father growls, staring at my mom. “Maybe you could make some coffee?”
She doesn’t seem to care too much about me. I guess she just had to take my side because I piped up for her, and because she was fighting with Dad. I swallow hard, trying not to blow up in his face. That would only cause me more pain. Three hours? Fuck, I’m stuck here for the next three weeks. This isn’t going very well.
“Can we do this tomorrow?” Mom sounds tired when she asks. “The London office is supposed to call in a few minutes.”
When my dad realizes that work is waiting, he nods. “That’s right,” he says. “Fredrik, tell your brothers to behave from now on. We’re having important people coming over for dinner in two days.” Didn’t I just expect something like that? “I’ll be at my office if you need me.”
I crawl away from the table, without taking away my plate. I wonder if Catalina is up yet? I desperately need to hear her voice. I don’t bother using the regular phone; my parents would only trace the call and make hell. Instead I use my cell phone, even though it costs hundreds of dollars. I’m not paying for it, my father’s company is.
It takes a while before someone answers. It’s not Catalina. “Yeah?”
“Hi Adam,” I greet. What is he doing with her phone?
“Hi. Oh, it’s you. I’ll go get her.”
He sounds irritated. Maybe I called too early anyway? But it should be almost noon over there. “Yep?” Catalina’s voice makes me soften up a bit.
“Fred? Hi! Adam just told me I had a phone call. He’s grumpy because I beat him at some one-on-one hockey. I told him to lace his skates before he went out on the ice.”
I can hear objections in the background, so I guess Adam must’ve overheard. “You having a good time?” I ask, rubbing my cheek. I need some ice.
“A great time! Adam’s brother taught me some hockey tricks, and Adam is sulking because of that. Oh, and his mom is really nice. She even made a pie for us. It’s great here.”
She’s usually not that outgoing. Adam’s family must’ve made a huge impression on her. They probably went all out, spoiling her with food and stuff. I would too if she stayed in my home. Luckily, she’s nowhere near my house.
“That’s great! So, they’re treating you nice? Is Adam giving you a hard time?”
“Nah, he’s like an older brother. Whom I can tease as much I want. Charlie’s coming over later, with Connie and Guy. So, how are things in the home of Fred?”
Nasty. “Like usual. You know. I’m-”
“Oh, guess what? Charlie says that if I behave, I can come along to the Christmas celebration. It’s a Duck tradition. You should’ve stayed, so we could all be together. Anyway, I’m not sure I’ll behave, but I get to come no matter what.”
Catalina keeps talking; she’s never this talkative either. I guess Christmas makes her hyper. I’ve never celebrated Christmas with her. Last year, I was stuck in Sweden. She couldn’t go home because she didn’t have enough money for a ticket. Just like this year. “Sounds nice,” I reply.
More details about the staying at the Banks’ residence come pouring into my ear. Well, she’s usually this chatty when she’s talking to me. Maybe she’s just excited that I called her? Which reminds me, I have to call my grandma too.
I don’t have the heart to tell her about what I’ve been up to. She sounds so happy, and I don’t want to ruin her good mood. It takes forever for her to reach a certain level of happiness. She doesn’t deserve to be her usual depressed self. I can’t tell her.
“Hey, bro. Are you awake?” a soft voice mumbles into my ear. At first I don’t recall where I am. I’m used to waking up in my dorm room, in that tiny bed I always fear I’ll roll out of. Instead I’m in my king-sized bed, wrapped into my cover.
A hand reaches out to trace over the left side of my face. I whimper. “Yeah, I’m up. What is it?” I mutter. Marcus looks down at me. “Get out of my room.” My standard line when he’s in here without my permission.
“Did that happen last night?”
“Yeah, why? Did you not hear the screaming?”
“I thought that was Mom and Dad. I brought you some ice.”
Marcus is just like I was when I was in his age. Except for the fact that I didn’t have any older siblings to bug. He’s normally not this helpful, but I assume it’s because he’s trying to convince me to stay here even after Christmas Break is over.
It must be hell to be trapped here all alone. At least I had him. Sebastian is too young to have as help. But I had to get away. I couldn’t breathe here. The verbal abuse was beginning to get to me, much more than the physical abuse ever did. To be called stupid over and over again, along with words like worthless, idiot, lost case and retard. I was starting to think that my father was right. That I was in fact as stupid as he said I was. So I had to get out of here.
Marcus puts the ice pack against my, presumably bruised, cheek. I whimper some more, while he grins. “You were always such a cry-baby.”
“Maybe I had my reasons,” I say. None of us say anything more. He lets go of the ice, to let me hold it myself, and then he strolls up to the window to look out.
We’ve been living here ever since I was a baby. This house was bought by my father’s parents. I think they should thank me, because I’m pretty much the reason to why we live here in the first place. Hadn’t my dad knocked up my mom, resulting in me, we never would’ve lived here. Of course, I can live without the appreciation. Sometimes I wish I hadn’t been born at all.
For some reason, my parents must wish that too from time to time. My mother used to pull that shit whenever I got into trouble. Like with the rug. She kept whining that hadn’t she been pregnant at the age of seventeen, her rug would’ve never been ruined. Logic again. Because of course it’s my fucking fault that she didn’t know any better than to jump into bed with my dad. Yuck, mental picture, I better let this subject go.
I’ll be fifteen in just a month. So my parents aren’t that old, really. My mom hadn’t even turned eighteen before she had me. She believes I stole her youth. She can have it back, I don’t need it. I have enough of my own, thank you. She turns thirty-three next year. So does my dad. I hope I never end up like them.
Maybe I already have. I’m a lot like my dad. But I would never hit anyone. I barely do that on the ice. Sure, I shove players around, but it’s part of the game. I consider violence as rather unnecessary. Yes, I know I’m a hockey player.
“It’s nothing like it used to be,” Marcus explains. He’s been awfully thoughtful since I got back. The sun is already up. I must’ve fallen asleep after the last strength left my body. “It was better when you lived at home.” He’s sharing a whole lot. That’s not like it used to be, we used to fight, without sharing.
“I haven’t lived at home for two years. I just used to come home on more regular basis. Marcus, you know I can’t stay here. And you know how much I hated living in Stockholm.”
“Don’t you think I hate it here?” he snaps. “Don’t you think I’d like to get away, just like you managed to do? You’re the oldest; you should have to take care of them, not me! It’s unfair!”
“I know. But you’ll get away someday too. Hopefully before you turn out like me.”
“I already am like you.”
Something about his statement makes me think that he’s been causing trouble for himself. “What do you mean? You’re nothing like me. Don’t you remember how I used to be? I stayed out late, to avoid meeting Dad. I got drunk all the time. I was miserable.”
It’s wrong to let Marcus deal with this on his own. My conscious tells me to come home again. Just bare with it. I was dying inside when I lived here. So I just left everything behind. “You speak like you’re the only one who’s had a rough time. What about me?” he asks. He has that firm expression on his face. I can clearly hear his usual ‘accent’ between the sentences.
Our parents are Swedish, but Dad has always spoken to us in English, because that’s the way he was brought up. I’ve managed to avoid getting that strange accent whenever I talk, it sounds like Swedish and English mixed together. But my brothers still sound a bit strange when they speak English. Marcus isn’t as bad as Sebastian, but sometimes he sounds just weird. Like right now.
“I’m trying to help you. But he doesn’t listen to me. He never has. What happened while I was gone? What did you do?”
“Nothing. Just the same things you used to do.”
So, that’s the influence I’ve had on my baby brother? “Did you get suspended from school? Dad hasn’t hurt you, has he?”
“He doesn’t know. Mom promised no to tell if I only kept my grades up. You know that I got MVG in almost every subject?”
“That’s great,” I say. They scared him to study his ass off. Well, tactics are everything. MVG is the Swedish grade for an A. I’ve received one in my entire life. Marcus must have at least fifteen.
“It’s hard. To live up to their expectations.”
“Yeah, I know,” I mumble, getting up from underneath my warm cover. It’s cold in the room. If only Catalina was here. She always knows how to keep me warm. Or maybe it’s the other way around? Doesn’t matter.
“Could we please go out somewhere?” Marcus wonders. “You’re my big brother, you could get me into some cool place, right?”
“Nah, I don’t think so,” I smile. My wild brother should not be allowed anywhere near alcohol. Although I have a feeling he’s already been pretty close. “Like I said, don’t end up like me.”
Somehow he convinces me to drive him into town. It’s still quite early, only 11:00 am. Thanks to Dad and his violent manners, I slept away all morning. I smile to myself when I see my bruise in the mirror. It’s no laughing matter, I just think about how Catalina would be all over me, trying to cover it up by using that weird powder thing. I think she only has it so she can disguise my beatings. She never uses makeup herself.
I don’t care that I’m too young to drive. I know how to drive, and I can afford to pay for a ticket. I don’t even care if it goes into my permanent record. I can do whatever I want. I’m rich. What, big-headed? Me? Nooo...
Marcus seems highly amused when I agree to ‘borrow’ one of Dad’s precious cars. If he ever catches me, I’ll never live to see tomorrow. Ah, well, at least I’ll get an adventure out of it.