Picking Favorites
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Picking Favorites

Breakfast was usually a quiet affair in Nick’s home. Mostly, it consisted of he and his two younger brothers being too tired to get into lengthy discussions. His father would drink coffee and read the newspaper and his mother used the morning for contemplation.

So it was rather jolting for Nick to be addressed in the middle of eating pancakes.

“Nick, have you filled out any scholarship applications this summer?”

Nick looked from his plate to his father, fork midway to his mouth in a horrified silence.

“You can never start too early you know, son,” his father added.

Nick hadn’t filled out anything. It was summer for crying out loud! He didn’t want to worry about academic stuff and he hadn’t even started his senior year in high school yet!

“I’ll think about it,” Nick answered, his voice low and croaky from just waking up not even a half hour before. He knew his reply would placate his father for the time being. He had no intention to 'think about it' though, not until school started.

“Also I put in a good word with Jimmy Phoenix and he said he'd consider taking you as an intern next summer after you graduate,” his father continued, much to Nick’s annoyance.

“That’s wonderful, dear!” his mother came out of her contemplation to say, “Nicholas, you should thank your father, that was most considerate of him to do.”

“Uh, I don’t remember asking to be an intern at a law office,” Nick grumbled.

Both his parents frowned at him.

“You can’t just play around all of next summer like you have been this one. You need to get some activities for your resumé and playing racket in a band doesn't count either! I started when I was Shane’s age!” his father pointed at Nick’s next youngest brother sitting at the table. Shane was only 15. He looked startled at being brought into this conversation and started eating his pancakes faster.

“For the millionth time, Dad, I am not you,” Nick groaned.

Apparently, there had been one too many arguments started this way because his mother and two brothers started to clear their plates and vacate the dining table in preparation for the shouting match to ensue.

“You know, any other guys your age would jump at the chance to intern for Jimmy’s office. You’re being very ungrateful. Why can’t you take your future seriously?!” His father snarled.

“I do! It's just you don’t take my plans my future seriously!” Nick raised his voice and stood. Shane ninja-whisked Nick’s empty plate out from under him and continued on cleaning up breakfast. Nick was done eating anyway. He didn't have an appetite anymore.

His father’s eyes narrowed, completely enraged. He knew Nick's plans and didn’t approve one bit.

Nick had always been a creative kid with a big imagination. His parents thought his drawings were just a fun little hobby, but when he told them he wanted to go to art school, they had flipped their shit. Nick wanted to be a painter.

“If you’re going to take that tone with me you can forget about playing at your band thing tonight,” his father threatened.

Nick’s frown lifted to panic, “No, you can’t! I’ve been practicing all summer!”

“Instead, you should join us at the Mayor’s Ball. I can introduce you to Jimmy, and plus there will be a lot of other influential people there it wouldn’t hurt to know.”

That sounded like the worst night ever. Nick would rather slowly peel band-aids of his body than go to something as boring as the Mayor’s Ball. His father rubbed elbows with politicians and lawyers on a daily basis, being a court judge and was expected to be there. He was even friends with the Mayor.

“I can’t miss Battle of the Bands!” Nick started to panic.

His father rubbed his chin in thought and then gave him a beguiling smile, “I'll tell you what. You can go if you drop your ridiculous notion of going to art school.”

Nick’s anger boiled up but he caught it his throat. That was hardly a fair negotiation. So, this is what his father chose to do with his power? Obliterate the hope of a future Nick wanted for himself? If he refused, he’d be letting his band down. Nick may have been many things but he wasn’t a flake. So what was he to do? Go to Sim State, join a fraternity, and go into political science like the future his Dad would have picked out; he would rather have his son be successful than happy. His dad failed to realize success didn't always lead to happiness.

Nick turned around and gritted his teeth, still very angry at his father’s tactics. He crossed his arms, “Fine. I won't go to art school.”

His father gave a slight nod, acknowledging he had won, and promptly left the room. Nick caught Shane putting dishes into the washer in the kitchen. He needed a way to de-stress from the morning’s conversation.

“Hey bro, let’s go to the Recreation Center this afternoon. Kick some balls around,” he leaned against the counter and suggested. He didn’t usually spend quality time with Shane. Shane was into science fairs, computers, and generally being isolated in his room. He had time, he wasn't supposed to be at the theater for the competition until at least five o' clock.

Shane finished loading the breakfast plates and shrugged, “I don’t really want to. I don’t like you always kicking the soccer balls at my head.”

“Maybe if you learned how to tend a goal, you could catch it before it hits you!”

“Noooo!” Shane whined in protest and made a move to leave.

“Play you for it?”

His brother stopped. Shane couldn’t resist a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. They’d played it to decide things ever since they were boys. After three hits to the palm, Nick came out with scissors that clearly beat his brother’s flat-handed choice of paper. Nick gave a whoop of victory and then slapped Shane on the back, “Grab your gym clothes.”

“Okay just…keep your eye on the ball,” Nick instructed as he held the soccer ball under his foot to steady it. He played on the school’s soccer team. Hopefully, he’d be made captain for the upcoming year. He didn’t plan to get rusty, so once every week he came downtown to practice on the indoor soccer nets.

“Don’t aim for my head!” Shane yelled accusingly.

“Yeah, yeah,“ Nick waved his brother’s worries away and backed up. He then ran forward and then kicked the ball. Shane let out a high-pitched scream and jumped out of the way. If only all the other goalies he played against were as dedicated as his brother in avoiding the ball. His team would be unbeatable!

Shane regained some composure and threw the ball back to Nick.

“Nick?” Shane asked as Nick lined up the soccer ball for another shot.


“Are you really going to give up on art school?”

“I kind of have to. Otherwise, Dad will ground me or something and make me miss Battle of the Bands,” he said, growing angry at the thought of that morning and kicked the ball extra hard at Shane.

Shane yelped and barely missed being hit in the chest.

“You shouldn’t let him bully you,” he threw the ball back, accidentally hitting Nick in the arm with it.

Nick rubbed his arm and glared, “Easy for you to say, Dad approves of anything you do.” He picked up the soccer ball and tossed it the air a few times, “Though someday he’s gonna start nagging you to get a girlfriend. Man, that’s gonna be hilarious.”

“You don’t think I can’t get one!?” Shane bellowed in indignation.

“You have to actually speak to girls,” Nick mocked and kicked the ball again. Shane actually caught it, seeming fired up with adrenaline from being offended. Nick was slightly impressed.

“You should be one to talk. You’ve never had any girlfriends!” Shane threw the ball back again, aiming for Nick’s head. Nick dodged it easily and with a laugh of amusement. True, he’d never had any girlfriends, but he’d had plenty of dates.

He’d have another one soon.

After kicking more than enough goals to win him a championship, Nick finally felt a bit calmer and less stressed. He hit the showers and in turn let the warm water hit his sweaty face. He closed his eyes and started thinking again.

He’d still get to play the competition that night but at the cost of giving up on his dream for the future. Funny how he was more stressed over the conversation with his dad and had no nerves about playing in front of one of the largest crowds of his life in a few hours.

Maybe he could still pursue art in his free time. Yeah right, like he’d have any free time during college while studying law and politics, or interning for big shot lawyers. He released a deep sigh and scrubbed his face.

His thoughts turned to Illyana.

He had surprised even himself for coming up with a 'date' as Illyana's punishment if she were to lose. But really, how bad could it be?

It just sort of popped into his head. Before the other night, he’d never considered Illyana as someone he could take out. She was always his best friend growing up; an opinionated, somewhat obnoxious little girl with a short fuse and even after puberty she was still the same in his mind.

Then, after she had pulled him into that long hug, he suddenly started becoming aware of her in much different ways than before. How her complexion was always flawlessly sun-kissed, how pretty and expressive her eyes were, how full and utterly kissable her lips seemed, and how she fit perfectly against him in that moment.

It was a hell of a revelation, and he’d be stupid to pass up such an opportunity to get on her absolute good side again.

He smiled and turned off the water, shaking his head and ridding his hair of excess water before grabbing a towel and drying off.

As Nick and his brother started to walk back to the downtown bus stop, they felt little droplets of water starting to fall onto their faces and arms.

“Summer rain is the best,“ Shane declared, lifting his hand to catch a few droplets. Nick looked at his brother in all his innocent awkwardness. Maybe if Shane was lucky, a girl would talk to him first and save him the anxiety. Someday.

Girlfriend or not, Nick knew Shane was still the preferred son in their family. Nick didn’t know if it was because Shane had red hair like their father or what–it was still a shitty thing do for a parent to pick favorites and he refused to let the fact cause ill-feelings between them. It wasn't Shane's fault, it was his father's.

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