Chapter 29: Teenage Love Story

It wasn’t that Ari and Marisol were bad parents.  They loved John Tyler and Rosa very much. Screenshot-5069 Both parents tried their best to give their kids everything they needed to be healthy and happy. But even with the best parenting, the best schools, and the best life that money can buy, sometimes kids make poor choices. Screenshot-5092Screenshot-5093Screenshot-5094

John Tyler loved his girlfriend, Wendy. He loved her wild sense of style. He loved the way her eyes lit up whenever she saw him. He loved the soft curves of her body pressing against him when they kissed. Screenshot-5066

“Do you worry that John Tyler is seeing too much of his girlfriend?” Marisol asked Ari. “It seems like she’s become his only pastime.”

“I’m sure it’s fine,” Ari said, shrugging his shoulders. “It’s just a little teenage crush. He’ll come back down to Earth when it wears off.” Screenshot-5096 Screenshot-5097 Screenshot-5099 Screenshot-5100

But they did not know the intensity of John Tyler and Wendy’s relationship. They were unaware that the couple was now having sex on a regular basis, whenever their families were away from home. Screenshot-5135 Screenshot-5136No one knew, until very late one Saturday night, when Ari returned home from a Golden Nuggets game. His team had just suffered a humiliating defeat against a weaker opponent, and all he could think of was a long, relaxing soak in the jacuzzi. He stepped out onto the balcony, then froze in shock. There was his teenage son and his girlfriend in the hot, steaming bubbles of the jacuzzi, having sex. Screenshot-5133 Screenshot-5123 Screenshot-5129 Screenshot-5132

Ari let out a bellow so loud, that it probably woke up every family in their apartment building. John Tyler and Wendy gasped and quickly climbed out of the jacuzzi, then Wendy yanked on her clothes and raced out the front door, still barefoot and dripping wet.

Ari spoke to John Tyler between clenched teeth. “To your room. Now.” John Tyler quickly obeyed.

For the next few weeks, there was a strained silence in the household. Even little Rosa, with her bubbly, positive personality, couldn’t melt the chill between John Tyler and their parents. He was like a prisoner now – allowed to leave the house only for school and soccer practice. He was forbidden to ever see Wendy again. Marisol and Ari thought that this would be the best solution. Unfortunately, they did not count on a surprise visit from Wendy’s dads.

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“My fifteen year-old daughter is pregnant,” they told Ari and Marisol. “And she says that John Tyler is the father.”

“Pregnant? Oh no!” Marisol looked at their son, who suddenly looked scared and vulnerable, and much too young to be a father, and burst into tears.

“Unfortunately,” said one of Wendy’s fathers, “my husband and I don’t feel as though we can manage Wendy any longer. She has always been so out-of-control. And now this!” He threw his hands into the air. “We will have to send her away to live with relatives in Canada.”

“Canada!” John Tyler’s face drained of color.

Ari shook his head. “Let Wendy come and live with us. We will take care of her and the baby.”

“Do you have enough space?” Wendy’s dad threw a dubious glance around the apartment.

“We will,” Ari assured him. And so, less than one month later, the Milito-Paz family left behind the lights and excitement of the big city and moved across the river to rent a large house in the suburbs. For Ari and Marisol, the long commute to work really sucked. But the house had a small apartment above the garage where their son’s pregnant girlfriend now lived.

The new house in the suburbs of Gold Valley.

The new house in the suburbs of Gold Valley.

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Chapter 28: John Tyler’s Little Shadow

Rosa was the perfect addition to the Milito-Paz family.

Ari, Marisol, and Rosa have breakfast together on the balcony.

Ari, Marisol, and Rosa have breakfast together on the balcony.

She was not particularly talented, but she was sweet and funny, and had a wonderful imagination. She loved to play with dolls and dress up in costumes. The Teen (9) The Teen (10) The Teen (8) But there was nothing she loved more than to hang out with her big brother, John Tyler.

At first, John Tyler resented Rosa’s attention. “Can’t you make her stop following me around?” he complained to his parents. “She’s like a shadow!”

“It’s just something that little brothers and sisters do,” Marisol explained with a shrug. “You’ll just have to get used to it.”

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Eventually, by the time John Tyler became a teenager, he did grow used to it. In fact, he began to enjoy having a little sister to boss around and teach about the world. Of course, not everything he taught her was accurate, but Rosa didn’t know any better.

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“You see, if women eat sushi, then they can turn into mermaids.”

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“So, if I don’t do your chores for you sometimes, then the gypsies will sneak in during the night and take me away?”

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“If you’re a good girl, then Santa will bring you presents for Christmas. But if you’re bad, then Santa will eat you. That’s why he’s so fat, from eating the bad kids.”

 

John Tyler also made a very useful discovery – having a little sister took his parents’ attention off of him, so that now he could do pretty much whatever he wanted, without getting caught. For example, his parents did not know that he smoked an occasional cigarette when hanging out with his friends. Nor did they know that, whenever they were out watching Rosa’s soccer games and ballet recitals, John Tyler usually invited over his girlfriend, Wendy, for makeout sessions in the jacuzzi. They also did not notice that John Tyler and Wendy had grown pretty serious about each other.

John Tyler and his girlfriend, Wendy

John Tyler and his girlfriend, Wendy

And John Tyler preferred to keep things that way.

Chapter 27: The Little Rose

Rosa

Ari, Marisol, and John Tyler enjoying breakfast together on the patio

Ari didn’t know why he felt so restless. His family had been settled in the city of Gold Valley for almost two years now. His women’s football team, The Golden Nuggets, was now number two in the league and growing better all the time. His son, John Tyler, was excelling in school, and his dog, Fred, was a smart and loyal companion. Rosa (2) Rosa (4)  He was perfectly content with Marisol, who was as beautiful and loving a wife as ever. But still, he felt that something was missing.

“How would you feel about adopting a baby?” he asked Marisol one day. Rosa (1)

Marisol raised her eyebrows in surprise. “I would love to. But many childless couples have to wait for years before a baby becomes available to adopt.”

Ari frowned. “You’re right,” he said. “Well, then what if we adopt an older child. You know, out of the foster care system?” He watched Marisol’s face soften. She understood how difficult and traumatic his childhood had been with an abusive foster mother. What if people like he and Marisol had come along during those years and adopted him? What would his life have been like with a real family who cherished him?    Rosa (5)

“Of course we can adopt a child.” Marisol smiled and leaned in to kiss Ari. “Let’s call right away.”

And so, just two months later, Rosa joined the family. Rosa (7) She was a sweet, plump girl with a gingerbread smile and dark, shining eyes. Rosa (6)Rosa (8)Rosa (11) Ari and Marisol loved her from the start. And Ari knew, as he hugged his Rosa for the first time, that he now had everything he had ever wanted.

Chapter 26: Training the Golden Nuggets

Golden Nuggets (21)Ari loved being a coach. He thought that he would miss being a star player, hearing the roar of the crowd in his ears as he raced across the pitch. But the truth was, he found that being a coach was, in some ways, even better. Golden Nuggets (24)

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Skills training

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“You ladies are a bunch of wimps. I’m going to get you in great shape, so that you can be winners!”

The Golden Nuggets were a sorry team when he first began to work with them. The past season, they ranked second to last in the league, with only 2 wins. The players were lazy and out-of-shape, with poor technique. Ari stepped in with a no-nonsense attitude, putting the players through rigorous conditioning and skills training.

“Come on, coach!” the women often complained at first. “We got that play right ten times in a row.”

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“Do it like this!” Ari demonstrates proper technique.

“Then make it twenty times!” Ari would snarl. When the players talked back or goofed off on the field, Ari would make them run a mile. Golden Nuggets (7)Golden Nuggets (3)Golden Nuggets (5)Golden Nuggets (19)Golden Nuggets (15)

“I hate Coach Ari,” he sometimes overheard the players whisper to each other as they shot dirty looks in his direction. But Ari didn’t care. They didn’t have to like him, as long as they won football matches. And win they did. When the season began, the Golden Nuggets were like a brand-new team, winning game after game. And suddenly, the city of Gold Valley caught football fever. It seemed as though everyone was wearing Golden Nuggets merchandise and filling the stands during home games, cheering on their women’s team – and Coach Ari, too. 

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Chapter 25: A Good Move

Ari retires from the Llamas

Ari retires from the Llamas

Ari was no longer the graceful, energetic force that had led his team, the Llamas, to victory after victory. In fact, at the age of 40, he could no longer keep up with the younger players on the field.

“It’s painful to tell you this,” his coach told him at last, “but you’re no longer an asset on the field.”

Ari hung his head and heaved a great sigh. “I know. You’re right. Time to retire the jersey.”

“But listen,” his coach said. “I know of a great women’s team in Gold Valley that could use another coach. The job pays well, and it’s yours, if you’re interested.”

“Gold Valley?” Ari’s head spun. Gold Valley was a three hour’s drive away from Apple Springs! The job sounded terrific, but was it worth uprooting his family?

Marisol was very supportive. “As long as you are doing something that makes you happy, then we will all adjust,” she assured him. And so, the family packed up their belongings and made the move to the city of Gold Valley. They rented a large apartment in a high-rise building with sweeping views from the balcony. The Apartment (3) The Apartment (4) The Apartment (1) The Apartment (9) The Apartment (10)

“Oh, it’s gorgeous!” said Marisol, who had grown up in a modern high-rise building and immediately felt at home.

“But there’s no backyard!” said John Tyler, frowning. “Where are Fred and I supposed to play?” So Ari took him out to explore the neighborhood. And to John Tyler’s delight, there was a city park only a block away from their new home. The Apartment (6) The Apartment (7) The Apartment (8)

Marisol attended several auditions and was soon hired to play with a local band, The Pumpkins. The Apartment (11) The Apartment (15)

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John Tyler attends school at the W.E.B. Dubois Academy for Boys

John Tyler began to attend a local private school, and Ari began his new job, as a coach for the Gold Valley Golden Nuggets. At times, he missed being a superstar, scoring goals out on the field. But he soon learned that he rather liked telling women what to do. The Apartment (14) The Apartment (18) The Apartment (17)

Chapter 24: What I Did Last Summer (by John Tyler)

WHAT I DID LAST SUMMER

by John Tyler Paz

Egypt (13)If you ask me, Egypt is totally overrated. At least, that’s how I feel about the place where my family went camping over the summer.  I don’t know what I was expecting, but I did not think that we would be sleeping in dusty army-surplus tents in the middle of the desert. Without air-conditioning. Without TV. I know – crazy, right? Egpyt (2)Egpyt (3)Egpyt (1)

My parents had a blast, though. They kept saying things like, “Isn’t that rock formation beautiful?” and, “Wow…look at the size of that pyramid!” Egypt (2) Egypt (3) Egypt (1) That’s because there were about a billion rocks and pyramids in Egypt. Mom and Dad let me go inside one of the big pyramids with them. It was hot and stuffy, and pretty dark inside. I really wanted to find a mummy, but mostly I just saw statues and bugs and stuff.  Egypt (5) Egypt (6)

My dad, however, found a ton of cool things. He went exploring really deep inside the pyramid and discovered an actual treasure chest filled with gems and gold coins! How lucky is that? It’s like he’s a real archaeologist, like Indiana Jones.  Egypt (7) Egypt (8) Egypt (11) Egypt (10) Egypt (4) My parents wouldn’t let me venture so deep inside the pyramid, though, because it wasn’t safe. So instead, I went swimming in the Nile river (yes, there were actual crocodiles in the river).

Me, swimming in the Nile River

Me, swimming in the Nile River

I also got lost while hiking and ended up at this huge, weird-looking house and meeting an actual Egyptian family. I made friends with a girl named Nabilah, who promised to write me after I returned home. I still haven’t heard from her yet. Maybe one day.

A rich family's house in Egypt

A rich family’s house in Egypt

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My new friend, Nabilah

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Nabilah’s dad

Egypt was interesting and all, but I am not exactly in a hurry to go back. My parents, however, can’t stop talking about it. I guess the two of them had a really great time on our trip. Even without air-conditioning.

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Hot desert nights

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My parents watching the stars in Egypt