You promise? I promise. People say people have “promise.” Whatever that means.
All I know is . . . I got promises to keep. I have
to. But which ones are right? Which are wrong?
Messed-up stuff happened with my stepdad. Has me feeling messed up. Feeling torn and confused about what to do.
I thought my stepdad was the Man. Tried to make him smile. Hoped he’d accept me. Needed to be his boy after my pops died. Wanted to be his
. Followed him.
But not no more. Nah.
Not after that night he got locked up for throwing hands. And not with just anyone . . . Chapter 2
You don’t mess with my mother.
But my stepdad did.
I only saw him hit her that one night.
My mom shielded me a lot
after my real dad died when I was seven. I guess she couldn’t shield me completely because my dad dying hurt so bad I got left back. It’s why I’m now twelve in the sixth grade.
Ma was hyped my stepdad wanted her: a woman with two kids. He promised to protect her, and us. He had his own kid, my stepsister, Jess.
My sister and stepsister are my hearts. My stepsister, Jess, is the oldest, seventeen. My sister, Nikki, is fifteen.
Real fast, my mom and stepdad started living together, and real fast, talking about my real dad stopped because my stepdad wanted to be the only
man of the house. He didn’t want to hear anything about my pops.
Here’s how I know.
Once, me and my stepdad walked to the store and passed a couple of grandma-aged women on a bench. One friendly-shouted, “Hey, Spider-Man!”
I knew she was talking to me because I had on a Miles Morales Spider-Man T-shirt. Back then I was into-into Miles’s Spider-Man. He’s still fire.
She waved at me. “Boy, you Trevor?”
The woman next to her elbowed her and smiled. “Brenda, you know
that’s Trevor Junior. Same handsome face as his father’s.” She eyed my stepdad. “No disrespect. You cute, but his real dad was fi-iine
She didn’t mean to be rude, but my stepdad’s face got tight how people’s faces do when a splinter pricks their finger bloody.
I wanted to stay getting props for looking like my real pops and being told how dope he was, but my stepdad put his hand on my back and interrupted the women. “We gotta go.”
The first woman who spoke—Brenda—called out to my stepdad’s back as he shoved me forward. “Hope you a gentleman like Trevor’s dad! That man was such a gentle—”
My stepdad shooed me with more force, and then half a block away, he told me, “You be lucky
if you look like me
. But enough talking about your old man.”
So anyway, back to the night my stepdad got arrested, he
got heated because he
got himself two more years in jail for violating his parole.
I was shocked he blamed Ma for everything.
Jess and Nikki were shocked too—shocked that I was surprised at what he did. They said the same thing: “Trev, we need to talk. There’s a lot you don’t know.”
What didn’t I know?
And how’d I miss it? Chapter 3
As cops put my stepdad in their car, he shouted at Ma like he was making a promise. “I’ll get you back! YOU did this to me! YOU got me locked up!”
How was it her fault? He
hit her. He’s
And what’d she do anyway?
Later that night, Jess and Nikki tell me more. What I missed. Turns out Ma did nothing to get hit because nothing ever deserves getting hit.
They came in my room and our whole conversation was whispers.
Me: “Did he always hit her?”
Jess: “No. They’d just argue.”
Nikki: “Ma used to win, nonstop.”
Nikki: “Until that day he—”
Jess: “Ma said he shook a fist near her face. Threatened to clock her. And threatening became his thing when he couldn’t win with words.”
“He ever put his fist in your faces?” I ask.
Jess: “No! Ma wouldn’t let him. She said she’d die before she let that happen!”
Jess shares why the big fight started. “They were arguing about you, Trev. Dad told Ma, ‘You raising him soft
.’ I know because I’d eavesdrop at their bedroom door when they argued. Dad barked, ‘I tried teaching him to box and he was all whiny. No. I don’t want to throw a punch. I don’t want to hurt anybody
.’ ” Jess eyes me now. “Did that really happen?”
I feel guilty and nod. “Yeah.”
Jess sucks her teeth. “Anyway. Their fight got louder—and I don’t know why, but he snapped. He must’ve lifted his fist because she said, ‘I’m NOT scared of YOU.’ Then BOOM!
Everything went too
I think back to the cop car, to my stepdad’s promise that he’d get her back for calling the cops on him.
And that night, as Ma iced her puffy eye, I made a promise through my salty tears, deep in my heart:
On my life . . .
On my mom’s . . .
On my sisters’ . . .
He won’t ever
hit Ma again.
Copyright © 2023 by Torrey Maldonado. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.