Quick Notes: This is a Choose Your Own Adventure type story. To full understand this story you will need to read the previous chapters. You can find them here:
There you can also find more info about how to play along. As for everyone who’s caught up, enjoy!
Chapter 3: Forget the Ring
James shoved the ring into his pants pocket. He didn’t care if the ring worked or not. This day had been weird enough.
James started down the street, leaving the alleyway of weirdness behind. He checked his phone again. Almost 3 o’clock. He was going to be late if he didn’t hurry. James began to pick up the pace and broke into a jog. Thoughts raced through his mind. Just what had happened back there? Who was that old woman? Why did she just give him the ring? Why was he always compelled to check the comment section on political YouTube videos? They’re always awful! Why do that to himself?
As he continued his jog, a thought suddenly occurred to him. What was he going to do when he met his dad? He hadn’t seen the man since he was two. What more, he had no memories of the man. He didn’t even know what he looked like. His mother, Victoria, had thrown out all photos of the man when he left. She hadn’t intended to, but she was drunk. She was drunk a lot after he left. She never talked about him. Whenever James had asked she just changed the topic or started yelling at him. She never even told James his father’s name. James knew nothing about the man he was about to meet. Other than some time about 19 or so years ago he stuck his penis into a 17 year old girl named Victoria and forgot to pull out. Which James thought wasn’t really enough to go on.
James stayed lost in thought like that for a while. When he finally snapped out of it he realized he was almost at his destination. The house where his father would be waiting for him was just up ahead. It was much bigger than James was expecting. It wasn’t a mansion, by any means, but it was still a very large house. A wrought iron fence out front encased his rather large front yard. A tire swing hung from a tree near the edge of the fence. James had a tire swing growing up. Sort of. In the sort of, he had a tire that he used to sit in and pretend he was swinging sort of way.
As James got closer to the house he slowed down. Eventually he stopped in front of the gate leading up to the home. James stared at the front door for a few moments. He checked his phone again. A little after three. He was late, but not by much. Jogging had been the right idea apparently. Although James had worked up a bit of a sweat doing so. He hoped it wouldn’t be a problem.
James opened the gate and started to walk up to the front door. His heart was pounding in his chest. It pounded harder with every step. By the time he reached the door it felt like a chest burster xenomorph was trying to bust out of him. He was sweating again too.
James just stood there, unable to knock on the door. “What am I doing here?” he thought to himself. After a few more moments, James decided to just leave. He’d never known his father before, he didn’t need to now. And what if he did and it was just a disappointment? Wouldn’t it be better to live without knowing? Wouldn’t it? Would it? James didn’t know, but he did know that he wasn’t ready for this. He knew that he should just get out of there and never find out. He should-
The door in front of him opened up. James had been so lost in thought about leaving he’d forgotten to actually leave. In front of him stood a 40 year old man, with greying hair, squarish glasses, and a neat beard. The man wore a checkered plaid button up shirt and slacks. He wore black, slip on house shoes on his feet. He looked at James and smiled. After a moment of awkward silence he said, “You must be James. Glad you could make it. Please come in, son.”
James followed the man that looked like how he assumed he would look in about 20 years. The inside of the house was even more impressive than the outside. Beautiful, dark hardwood floors. Walls painted white, adding a contrast to the floors. A massive staircase leading to the upstairs. Arches between rooms. Unique pieces of art on pedestals and adoring the walls. The place didn’t look like a mansion on the outside, but it did on the inside.
James followed the man through an archway into the living room. The first thing James noticed was a huge blank wall where a movie was being projected. The Dark Knight. “Great movies,” James thought. It was paused at the scene where Batman and Joker play chicken. James loved that scene. It was so intense. Batman speeding toward the Clown on his bike. The Joker shouting “Hit me!” at the Bat. Good stuff.
James realized he was spacing out again. He snapped himself out of it and turned to the man who was staring at him with a smile on his face. The man said, “You space out, huh? Like mother, like son I guess.” And then he let out a small chuckle.
It suddenly hit James that this man was his father. He didn’t know why it had taken so long to sink in, but it had. His father was the man before him. Sudden;y James’s mouth felt dry.
Almost as if he had read James’s mind his father asked, “You want something to drink? I’ve got water and soda. There should some apple juice somewhere too.”
James was going to say ‘no thanks’ until he realized that at some point he had dropped his soda from Arby’s. So after a few moments of silence he replied, “Umm. Water I guess?”
“One water, coming up,” his father said while shooting finger guns at him and winking at him. James didn’t react, so his father just walked away awkwardly.
While he waited for his dad to return, James looked around the house for more. It was so fancy. And big. There was a bookshelf full or DVDs and BluRays. More than James had ever seen outside of a store. On another shelf was a stereo and a record player. Beneath that were shelves of CDs and vinyl records. On the wall behind the couch, which was a brown leather reclining couch, sat another shelf that held the projector that was showing The Dark Knight. Around it were vintage movie posters. Posters for Gone With the Wind, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Casablanca, and…Mean Girls. James figured his dad must be a film buff. Maybe a critic? A filmmaker? Wait, what did his dad do? James suddenly realized that he didn’t even know what his dad did for a living.
James decided to take a seat on the couch while he waited. As he plopped down he couldn’t help but notice how soft and plush it was. He felt as though he had died and gone to heaven. It was just so luxurious. Opening his eyes seemed so difficult. he could just take a nap.
Before he could fall asleep, his father returned. He placed the glass of water on the coffee table in front of the couch, under a coaster. He then said, “Nice couch huh?”
James opened his eyes quickly. Realizing how weird that must have looked, just suddenly shooting his eyes open he awkwardly replied, “Uh, yeah. It/s very…soft.”
His dad laughed. “Yeah. Almost too much right? I fall asleep in it all the time. Too tempting,” he said nicely as he sat on the couch next to James. James leaned forward and took a drink of water. Suddenly his mouth felt so dry. Out of the corner of his eyes he spied a bowl of candy. Mike and Ikes. James’s favorite candy. He had to figure out a way to get some.
Again, as if reading his mind, James’s father said, “Candy? I’ve got plenty.”
James nodded and took a small handful. He popped a few pieces of the candy into his mouth. The sweet flavor helped calm him a bit. After he’d regained his cool, he said, “So you’re my dad right?”
His father replied, “Yes,” and then suddenly his expression changed. He was still smiling, but the look in his eyes changed. They looked nervous. He fidgeted with his hands a little, rubbing one with the other. He continued, “I’m sure you have a lot of questions. And I have a lot of answers. So, ask away.”
James wasn’t sure that he was ready for this. It’s true he had a lot of questions for the man. But he didn’t know where to start. Or how to start. He’d never done something like this before. What do people do in these situations? Do even they know? How the hell was anyone supposed to do this?
“What’s your name?” James blurted out.
James’s father was taken aback. He looked confused, maybe even a little hurt. The he asked weakly, “She didn’t tell you my name?”
James nodded back. His father looked down at his feet and said, “Wow. She really hates me.”
“Hated,” James blurted out again.
His dad looked up quickly. A small smile started to creep onto his face. “Hated?” he replied, “Hated? Like as in the past tense. Has she…forgiven me?”
James felt sick. He wished he could have just shut up. He knew what he was about to say was going to hurt his dad. His brain struggled to find a way out of the situation but found none. Finally, he replied, “No. She’s dead.”
James’s father turned white. He stared at his son in shocked horror. There was a long silence afterwards. Suddenly the father James had only just met began to cry. The crying lasted for a few minutes. When it was over his father pulled his face out of his hands, his eyes red from tears and asked, “How? When?”
James took a deep breath and said, “It happened a year ago. After I graduated from high school. I had moved out. She didn’t take that well. So she got really drunk, ran out of booze, tried to go to the store to get more and drove into a light post at 80 miles per hour.” Now James was starting to tear up. He’d had time to get over her death, but he’d never talked to anyone about it. Doing so now was conjuring up some buried emotions he’d not properly dealt with. James continued, “She, uh, died on impact. That’s what the doctors said. So she didn’t suffer. A couple of days later we had the funeral. Nobody…nobody showed up. I mean, a few people did. Grandma. Aunt Delilah. A few of my friends. But otherwise no one. Mom didn’t have any friends.”
James trailed off. He’d never really thought about his mom’s death before. After all the years of dealing with her drunkenness and how badly she had treated him, James had managed to convince himself that he didn’t care. But now, he had to face the truth. No matter what, she was his mother. And he missed her.
The two men sat in silence, besides a few sniffles here and there, for a while. Tears fell from James’s eyes as he popped a few more Mike and Ikes into his mouth, trying to cheer himself up. His father broke the silence, “Well, I’m sorry for your loss. Your mother was a…um…well, she was your mother.”
James nodded. After a few more moments he said, “So this house. It’s nice. How did you afford it?”
His father, happy for the change of subject, replied, “Oh well, I’m a doctor. An anesthesiologist, actually. I make a decent living, obviously. It wasn’t easy, you know. Lots of years of school. A lot of debt for a while. But I made it.”
James nodded and bitterly blurted out, “I guess that’s what happens when you don’t have to waste your time raising your son.”
Another awkward silence followed. Finally James’s father asked confused, “What are you talking about?”
James shot back, “What am I talking about? You abandoned us! I was two years old and you just left! I grew up with a woman that spent 16 years either ignoring me in a drunken stupor or blaming me for all his problems! That’s why I left right after high school! I couldn’t stand living there anymore.”
Now James was on his feet. He was looking straight down at his father, tears in his eyes. His face red with rage. This hadn’t been his intention when he decided to meet his father. But the situation had changed. He was furious. So much pent up anger was finally coming out and he couldn’t stop himself. The floodgates were open, and there was no closing them.
James’s father stood there, not sure how to proceed. His eyes had a look in them that was a mixture of confusion and fear. He stood up slowly. He tried to start a couple of times, but stopped himself. Whatever he was trying to say, he was having trouble saying it. Finally he said, “Look. I’m sorry that your mother treated you that way. No parent should do that to their child. If I could go back in time and prevent that, I would. I can’t make up for how you were treated in my absence. But you should know. I…” his voice trailed off. He clearly didn’t know how to say whatever he wanted to say.
After a long pause, James shouted, “Just say it!”
His father jumped back. James had shocked him. His face turned from a sad confusion, to a sad determination. He replied, “I didn’t abandon you.”
“What?” James replied, unable to process the information.
“I didn’t abandon you. Your mom ran away with you. I never knew what happened to you or your mother. I tried to find you, I really did. I hired an investigator, but nothing ever turned up,” his father said, his voice weaker as he spoke. Because with each word he could see James’s heart breaking.
James believed him. He didn’t know why, but he did. The information was a lot to process. Maybe too much to process. James began to sweat. His mind raced, his heart pounded. He suddenly wanted to leave. But he wasn’t sure he could. All he knew was that right now, he wanted to be anywhere else. James wiped his sweating palm on his pants. And he felt something in his pocket. The ring.
END OF CHAPTER 3. PLEASE CHOOSE ONE OF THE SCENARIOS BELOW TO CONTINUE THE STORY BY VOTING HERE: https://strawpoll.com/rsdssh9a
1 - James pulls the ring out and remembers what the old lady had said. Starting over. He puts the ring on and starts the day over. Maybe this time things will go better.
2 - James pulls out the ring and thinks about what his dad said. He believes the man, but seeing is believing. He goes back to the day his family was split up. He needs to know the truth.
3 - James pulls out the ring and remembers his mother. Even after all the crap she put him though he misses her. Maybe he should see her, one more time.
4 - James doesn’t need the ring to get out of here. His legs will work. He bolts out of the house. He needs time to be alone. And to think.
5 - James decides to be an adult and stays. He has more questions. And the only one who has the answers is the man in front of him. Plus he never got his name.
Thanks for reading! and congratulations to LaTerry who got his suggestions used in this chapter. Yet again, I’ll be taking suggestions for prompts for chapter 4. This time I’m asking for suggestions for: a country, an article of clothing, a type of weather, and something magical. As always I’ll use anything you suggest, so don’t be afraid to get weird with your suggestions, and the winner will be chosen randomly. Thank you to those have have participated so far and to all future participants. It means a lot that to me that you’ve played a long. See you next chapter.
P.S. I hope to have the Bonus Chapter out between Chapters 3 and 4. For those who don’t know, it will follow the old lady that gave James the ring, detailing what she did after her meeting with James.