One Wilde Ride Trilogy
Leo Wilde, aged twelve, sat in an uncomfortable plastic chair in a hospital waiting room, all by himself. He was scared. His mother was in surgery. She was gonna be okay. Gil had already told him that. They were just putting a pin in her broken leg.
Leo wasn’t scared for his mom. He was scared for himself. His mom . . . the accident . . . his stepfather Gil was gonna say it was all his fault. It was really Gil’s fault, but he was the adult, as he never failed to remind Leo. Gil was bigger, stronger, in charge of Leo’s life. He was going to say it was all Leo’s fault, and then he would proceed to take it out on him.
Leo lived in a world where everything changed on a daily basis, as if all the rooms he occupied were connected to giant pulleys. They would switch around, up and down, back and forth, on end, without warning.
Today, his mom would be happy and joyful and loving. She would hug him, kiss him, tell him how proud she was of him. Then the next day, she would be quiet and sad. She wouldn’t hug him, she wouldn’t even look at him. She would be annoyed. She would tell him not to piss Gil off.
Leo believed that his mother loved him, most days, except those times when she chose to placate Gil instead of accommodating Leo’s wants or needs. Those were the days when she said, “Gil won’t like that.”
His stepfather’s moods were similarly erratic. Leo learned the signs and symptoms of Gil’s dark days: perhaps a whiff of alcohol on his breath, or silence when he entered a room, followed by a hate-filled glare. From about the age of five or so, Leo had learned to make himself scarce immediately at these times, if it was at all possible.
Gil did have some good days. There were never any hugs and kisses, or praise, although on the best days, Gil would be almost friendly to his stepson. He might say hello, offer Leo the slight upturning of his mouth that passed for a smile. He might ask Leo what he was up to, how his life was going. Gil wouldn’t listen to the boy’s replies, because he didn’t care what his stepson was up to. Gil didn’t care about how Leo’s life was going, and Leo knew it. But at least he asked every now and again.
Still, Leo had learned to be wary of his stepfather’s good days also, because they could quickly turn sour. Sometimes his cheer was the result of tossing back a couple with his buddies from the job. If those buddies were around, then it was all right. Gil didn’t deride Leo, or insult him, he didn’t tell him that he was as worthless as his ol’ man, if his friends were at the house. Gil didn’t backhand Leo in front of his buddies.
Gil never said that oldie but goodie in front of Leo’s mom, either: you’re as worthless as your ol’ man. That one was Gil’s special expression of love for his stepson, held in reserve for those unfortunate times when they found themselves alone. If Leo failed at some task, or said the wrong thing, and no one else was around, that was Gil’s go to comment: you’re as worthless as your ol’ man.
That saying the wrong thing problem? That was the funny thing, except it wasn’t funny at all. It was another portal into the shifting-of-rooms feeling for Leo. He was never sure, from one day to the next, what the wrong thing was going to be. Some days, when his stepfather was in a black mood, if Leo just said hi, it was enough for Gil to reply, “Hey, how ‘bout you shut the fuck up?”
This constant eddying state of flux of his parents’ moods caused Leo to become vigilant, cagey. He became a pathological liar, at least when he was dealing with them. The simplest answer was always the best, regardless if it was true or not. Leo became adept at reading his parents’ moods, if not their minds, and he would manufacture a lie based on what he thought they wanted to hear.
The mindless uncertainty to his parents’ moods, as well as the definite certainty of his stepfather’s dislike, was the way of Leo’s life. Things had been bad enough his whole life. Now, at twelve, Leo knew that they were about to get much worse.
Other Books in the Series: