Eli took a long deep breath at the door. This wasn’t his first time visiting his mom, on the contrary, he made it a weekly habit to visit and have dinner with her and his sister. This, however, was the first time he brought over Sam. After three months of dating, he decided it was time to introduce Sam to his family. That, and his mother threatened him with bodily harm if he didn’t bring her to this dinner.
The door opened and Anthony grinned. “Hey, look, it’s the inmate. And wow, and a very gorgeous woman.”
Sam giggled. “Thank you.”
Anthony stepped back for Eli and Sam to enter. “Sam, this is my brother, Anthony. Ignore his charming personality. He’s really not that charming.”
“Shows what you know,” Anthony said. “So, you’re Sam. Eli’s talked a lot about you. All good stuff too. Though he didn’t say you were gorgeous.”
“He’s talked about you too. You’re the teacher, right?”
Anthony snorted. “Uh, no. That’s Aaron. I’m the corrections officer over in Oasis Springs.”
Sam’s eyes widen and gave Anthony a warm hug. “Oh! Oh wow. It’s really a pleasure then. Eli’s always talking about you.”
“All good things, right?”
Eli snorted, “Like I would say a nice thing about you.” Eli punched his brother in the arm in jest.
“All good things,” Sam assured Anthony. “He’s very proud of you, though he probably would never admit it to you.”
“Hey, now, shh. Don’t spoil all my secrets.”
Anthony laughed. “Yeah, I know, Sam. I know. Anyway, have a seat. Mom had to make a run to the grocery store, and Ry is in her bedroom sulking because she wanted to go to a friend’s house tonight, even though, I guess, she’s grounded or something.”
Eli sat on the couch and brought Sam next to him. Anthony took the other smaller sofa. “So, what brings you to West Myshuno?” Eli asked.
Anthony stayed silent for a bit. “I’m actually up at San Myshuno State right now doing some tactical training.”
“No shit? Well that’s cool. So, how long you going to be in town?”
“A couple of weeks. I just got in last night.”
Eli grinned. “We should definitely hang out then before you leave. I’ve missed you man.”
Anthony snickered, “Yeah, I miss you too.”
The door opened and both Anthony and Eli stood. At the first sight of Mom, both boys went over and took the bags of groceries from her. “Oh hey, Eli. Just go put it all down on the kitchen counter.”
“Mom, I thought you were only picking up one thing?” Anthony asked as he followed Eli.
Eli kissed his mother on the cheek, and went to grab Sam. He introduced them. “Mom, this is the girl I’ve been telling you about, Sam. And this is my mother, Eliza.”
Mom pulled Sam into a hug. “It is so good to finally meet the girl who stole Eli’s heart. Because of you, I think he’s becoming a better Man. Thank you.”
“Mom!” Eli groaned.
“Um, you’re welcome. I can’t take all the credit though. Marv’s been a great influence on him too,” Sam replied. “And I’m so happy to be here. Thank you for inviting me, Ms. Ryder.”
“Eliza, please. Boys why don’t you go scram. Us ladies can talk. Right?”
“Sure, and I can help…if you want. I love to cook.”
“Ah, so that’s why Eli’s growing some weight. Again, thank you.”
“Uhg. Come on Tony, before they really start tearing into me.” Eli pulled his brother out of the kitchen and headed back to the living room, leaving his girlfriend to chat it up with his mother.
Anthony laughed. “You know, she’s a keeper if she can joke and tease with Mom about you.”
Eli flipped the television on and turned it onto the basketball game. The Willow Creek Rams were up by fifteen against San Myshuno’s Falcons, and it was only the first half.
“So, how’s the job?”
Eli laughed. “It’s actually pretty awesome. I get to work on some pretty sweet-ass cars. My boss is actually becoming one of my closest friends on the outside. Sam’s right, he’s really helped me see a better future for myself.”
“That’ good… Oh, Come on, that was a foul.” Anthony shook his head. “Fucking refs.”
“So, how’s Oasis?”
Anthony shrugged. “It’s great. I really love it there. Just have to get through this training, then back to Oasis where I belong.”
“I could have sworn you just finished some training when you picked me up from there.”
Anthony snickered. “I did, but this is a practical exercise type training and we’re there for the next two weeks.”
“You do know, no matter how much training you do, you’ll still never be able to take me.” Eli teased. Anthony had never been able to overpower Eli when they were kids and wrestled around. It helped that Eli was five years older than his snot-nose little brother.
“I ain’t ten anymore, Eli,” Anthony retorted. “I’m bigger than you, and I can easily overpower you now.”
“Yeah? Prove it,” Eli pushed his brother hard.
Anthony snickered. “Don’t poke the bear, inmate.”
“Like I’m scared,” Eli teased and poked his brother. “Poke.”
“You sure you want to do that, Eli? Hmm? Cause you poke me again, I’ll kick your ass.”
Eli poked his brother in the nose, and jumped away and over the coffee table. “Gotta catch me first.”
Anthony jumped over the coffee table and Eli attacked, knocking his brother to the ground. “Told you.”
“This fight ain’t even started,” Anthony growled back, and with one swift move, that Eli didn’t see coming, Anthony rolled Eli off of him and onto the ground. Tony over powered him quickly enough, and had him pinned down with his arm gripped up behind his back so tight Eli winced in pain. “Tap out, bro.”
“No fucking way,” Eli hissed and tried to buck his brother off of him. Anthony tightened his grip on Eli’s arm. “Fuck! Ow! Okay, okay! You fucking win.”
Anthony laughed. “Told you. Aren’t you a little tired of being in this position?”
“Ha, ha. Fuck you! Let me up.”
Anthony laughed and stood, helping his brother up just as Mom and Sam entered the room.
“What the hell is going on?” Mom yelled.
“Nothing,” they both said and only smirked at each other.
Mom shook her head and waved a finger at both of them. “No wrestling in my house, boys. You two really need to grow up.”
Anthony and Eli laughed as she headed back into the kitchen. Sam arched a brow. “Were you two actually wresting?”
Eli shrugged. “It’s what we do.”
Mom yelled for them, “And dinner is ready by the way! Ryha!”
They made their way to the dinning table, and only then did Ryha make an appearance. She was definitely in a pouty mean mood. She glared at Eli. “This is all your fault!”
Eli had no idea what she was talking about. “Huh?”
“If you weren’t a trouble maker, I wouldn’t have gotten into trouble!”
Eli still had no clue as to how he had anything to do with Ryha getting into trouble. He looked to Mom. At least she had something to say about whatever went down. “It was not Eli’s fault, Ryha. You and only you got yourself into trouble. Was Eli there? No. And even if he had never been in trouble with the law, you still would be grounded.”
“What’d she do?” Eli asked.
“She bullied a sweet little girl who has a learning disability. When the little girl laughed along with Ryha and her friends, Ryha punched her.”
Eli’s mouth dropped. Holy fuck. “Ryha! The fuck? Totally not cool!”
Ryha gave him a menacing glare that made her look more and more like Mom. “You got into fights all the time.”
“I got into fights with guys my own size and who usually provoked me. I never went around beating on some helpless kid. And I was never the bully. Never.” Eli shook his head. “And never blame me for your idiotic behavior, Ryha. You want to be the baddest kid, go right ahead. But if you wind up on the wrong side of the law, it’ll be because of your own doing, not mine. And I’ll tell you right now, it’s not a side you want to be on.”
Mom smirked, “Thank you, Eli.”
Eli shrugged. He was pissed at his baby sister for trying to blame him for the shit she was doing. He never blamed anyone for his crimes, except himself. He was responsible for putting himself behind bars, and now, it was his responsibility to keep himself out.
“This isn’t fair! Why are you so mean! Screw this! I’m going to my friend’s house! And no one can stop me. Fuck you all!” Ryha stood.
“Sit down!” Eli, Anthony, and Mom yelled at the same time. When she sat, Eli hovered over the table, and glared. Just glared at her.
“Never speak to Mom or anyone like that again. Do you hear me, Ryha Anabeth Ryder? You are grounded, and as long as Mom says you are, you will remain grounded. You think you have it so tough? You want to know what a real tough restriction is?
“I am almost thirty, and I have a curfew. I can’t leave my own apartment without signing myself in or out. I am required to pee in a cup for a drug test, my home is searched often and there’s nothing I can do to stop them. If I step one single foot out of line, or break one simple rule I’ve been given, I go back to prison.
“Now, finish your dinner, thank Mom for everything she does for you, and then go quietly back in your room and think about your future. Do you really want to follow my footsteps? Or would you rather make your own, better way of life? Because I’ll tell you now, if I could tell my ten year old self what I am telling you, I would have never spent a day behind bars. I would have made sure of it.”
Ryha wiped her tears and took a small bite. Eli sat back down. The whole table stayed silent, and when Eli notice his Mom wipe her eyes with her napkin, he knew he struck a cord. Eli swallowed the hard lump of guilt back down.
He looked between his brother and Mother, then to Sam. He took her hand under the table and squeezed it. “Look, I know I’ve said it a lot over the years, Mom, but I am sorry. I am so sorry for putting you through all that shit. You too, Tony. I promise all of you to never put you through that again.”
Mom wiped her eyes again, stood, and pulled Eli out of his chair and into one of the tightest, most emotional hugs he had ever been given by her. “I love you so much. I am so proud of you right now. So, so proud of you.”
Eli’s heart warmed, and tears ran down his cheek. His Mom was proud of him. He never thought he’d ever hear those words from her. “Thank you. Thank you, so much, Momma.”