Chapter 2: Children
Dad and I sit down to dinner with Mom, but a seat sits open across from me. "Where's Jake?" I ask. My parents look at each other, then down at the floor. All of a sudden, I hear thudding steps coming down the stairs. A little boy crashes into the kitchen, practically careening off the walls. He has short, scruffy blond hair and big blue eyes. He's tall for his age, but he can't be any more than six or seven.
"Mooooommmm! Can I have a cookie?" he pleads.
"No sweetie, you have to eat dinner first. Then you can have a cookie."
The little boy starts throwing a huge tantrum, flopping onto the ground and pounding the floor with his fists. I'm wondering who the heck this kid is when it dawns on me, "This is Jake." It's hard to believe. Jake is 15. But he has always been short for his age. And there's no other explanation. I think I would have noticed if my parents had adopted a small child recently. What I can't figure out is why my parents are just allowing this to happen.
I walk over to Jake and haul him roughly to his feet. When he starts thrashing about and calling me names, I slap him in the face.
"Vanessa!" Mom yells. "You can't hit your brother. He's a child!"
"He's 15. In a couple years he'll be an adult. Why are you letting him do this?"
Mom gets up and pulls me away from Jake, who is still just sitting there with a stunned look on his face. Dad gives me a worried look and says, "It started about a week ago. He's not like this all the time, just on occasion. The school counselor says we need to be accepting and allow Jake to explore all possible forms. If this is the person he wants to be, we shouldn't try to stop him."
I want to scream. "So if he wants to act like a bratty little kid for the rest of his life you're just going to let him? Don't be an idiot. He needs to act his age."
With that, my mom turns on me with a look I've never seen. "I think you might actually be right. Everyone here needs to act their age. Starting with you."
"Honey," Dad says, "Don't do anything rash."
"No, it's time," Mom replies, and then turns back to me. "You've got a lot of nerve saying that Jake needs to grow up. You're a woman in her late 20's that's still trying to 'make it' as a musician and living with her parents. So here's the deal. You want people to act their age? Fine. You have a week to find a place for yourself."