Chapter One: Who We Are
I guess looking back, there are a lot of reasons I’m the agent I am today. People underestimate me, people always think I’m about to fail. When it came to Himitsu Takana, I’ve had to prove myself again and again. Growing up, no one really expected much of me. They thought I’d turn out just like my father, or lose it like my mother did. I don’t think I expected much of myself, to be honest.
It took some time for me to get past most of it, to really deal. Hell, I ain’t perfect, I screw up a lot. I can’t focus sometimes, and I do crazy ass shit. People think I can never be serious, but that’s because I was serious way too much for most of my life. I had to learn how to be so lighthearted and optimistic, after growing up without that. So they think I’m crazy, that I’m silly. And maybe I am. But I do my damndest to save the world and be everything no one thought I could be.
I try my best to be me.
June 17th, 1996
I remember it clearly.
I was only thirteen when I stared down at the grave that was slowly being covered with dirt. I was only a kid when my father was lowered into the ground before my eyes.
The ceremony had ended, but my family had been the last to leave. My mother, Jane Carter, was sobbing hysterically behind a tree and seemed to be talking to someone between the sobs. Notice I said seemed. She’s never been right and never will be. Dad never bothered trying to get her help and I ain’t shocked about it. Wasn’t then either. When we were older, she wouldn’t let us try to help. But the four of us were there, there to watch my father, Robert Carter, be put in his final resting place. My little brother, Aaron, only eight years old, was sitting on a bench some feet away. He didn’t remember seeing Dad around much. Lucky him.
Jessica came up from behind and wrapped her arm around me. Jessie always knew how to comfort me. She was the oldest, then eighteen. She had had to deal with dad more than Airhead and me, but I’d had my fair share too. She knew the bitterness I felt, the pain, the anger. The whole thing wasn’t fair and at thirteen I didn’t have a damn clue of how to handle that shit.
Jessie knew though. She always knew when it came to us. I have so many memories of her taking care of us. She was really the one who raised us, started realizing we needed it by the time Aaron was born. When he was always ignored in his crib, and me, only five, didn’t understand why mommy and daddy wouldn’t go make him stop crying.
It was always Jessie, there for us, always cared for others before herself. Selfless. Something I’ve never been, never tried to be, but always wished I could be. It was what made her different, made my big sister special. I remember thinking this then, even at that age, that it wasn’t fair. Fair to us, fair to her.
She was the one who helped me study, forced me to focus. I was never good at school, often got detentions, and she was the one who read the notes teachers sent home with me. I remember her talking to mom and dad about me, saying I needed help for school. They never bothered.
“If he’s a retard that ain’t my problem.” Comforting words to hear your father say about you, aren’t they? All of this was running through my head when she came up to me, to comfort me again.
“You okay Nicky?” There’s a reason why I hate being called that now. It’s because she called me that growing up. I don’t like anyone else calling me that now. Feels like an insult.
“No.” I said, turning my back to her. She was taller than me then; I was damn puny for a kid my age back then. I wasn’t even five feet yet, I was scrawny as all hell, towheaded, and of course my voice was changing. She however was different; I’d say about 5’6”, long wavy blonde hair, blue eyes, and the same smile as me. People used to say if we were the same age, we’d look like identical twins.
“Liar, come on, talk to me Nicky, you and I always have our special talks.” She sat on the ground, beside the grave that bore our father’s name. He died of a car accident, caused by drinking and driving. Now there was a big shock. The man couldn’t detach his hand from the fucking bottle. Jessie patted the ground beside her, inviting me to join her.
I stubbornly shook my head, kicking some dirt at the tombstone. “I’m fine!”
Tilting her head, she watched me. “This isn’t easy, is it?”
“No shit, Sherlock.” I was just so original in my words.
“Hey, come on now, I didn’t do anything wrong.”
“Check on Aaron, make sure he’s okay.”
“Already did, he’s handling this better than you.”
I turned on her, staring up at my sister full of anger she didn’t earn or deserve. “That’s cause he doesn’t know! Dad was barely around him by the time he could remember anything really! He doesn’t know! He doesn’t know!”
And it was true, by the time Aaron was six, Dad had abandoned Mom for some other whore. No fucking joke. Maybe he got sick of her having The Crazy, I ain’t sure. I never missed him much, having an alcoholic father who on the rare occasion got rough when he was too damn drunk, ain’t something you’re going to miss.
But when I was thirteen years old, and he had died, I actually did miss it. That’s what made me so damn mad. I’d always wanted my father’s approval. He used to say I was too scrawny, too stupid, and that what I was good at was “sissy ass stuff” that would never do me any good. He was my father though, and I wanted approval. He did have good moments with me. Taught me how to catch, how to throw, and every blue damn moon said he loved me.
So when he died, I was pissed, because now I’d never get what I always wanted.
Jessie stood up again and hugged me close; I saw tears in her eyes and started crying myself. That’s all it took to make me crack, was seeing my sister cry. I cried angrily into her chest, hugged her tighter, and simply cried. Cried for the fact our dad was gone. Cried for the fact I still loved him despite everything. Cried for the fact he couldn’t stop being the bastard he was. Cried for Aaron who never knew him. I cried for everyone in that graveyard, except for my mother.
Back then, I felt she didn’t deserve my tears.
My mother didn’t know how to take care of us. I’ve always thought she was mentally ill, but she never let any of us help her, to be sure. But I was pretty positive, because talking to people who aren’t there ain’t normal. It may not be her fault she could do it, but it ain’t easy to not blame dear old Mom. We didn’t have much, what with the father who never worked and mother who tried but was often fired. There was welfare, living in cars, but by the time Dad died, we had a house then. If you can call it a house. Mom was working as a house maid for some people, and at the time, we lived in a small one bedroom, servant house. Mom got the bedroom, and the rest of us slept in the living room.
We weren’t too far from the beach, an hour walk tops. My favorite thing was to escape the chaos and go to the beach, that’s why I love the ocean. Wasn’t like Mom was going to try and track us down, so I escaped there often. I was the ignored child when it came to Mom. Jessie was the oldest and only girl, and Aaron was the baby, I was the failure and lost in the shuffle. Never blamed them, I blamed her. Now I don’t blame anyone, it just happened. They never got treated much better than me anyway. Hell, I think I was happier and better off ignored, all things considered.
That day, after the funeral we could barely afford, but did thanks to Dad’s new other widow, I ran to the beach. I ran and I ran there. I got there under an hour, back then I was a faster runner. I kicked up the water, threw sand into the ocean, and attacked it the way I wanted to attack everything in my life.
“You okay?” I turned and this time the question came from my younger sibling, rather than older one. I smiled at Aaron; it was always about protecting each other. The three of us. I didn’t want him seeing me fall apart.
“I’m aight Airhead.” I walked up, ruffling his hair; he squirmed and pushed my hands off. He hated when I did that. “What are you doing, following me down here alone?”
“Not alone, Jessica’s right behind me.” I looked, and there, under the pier some distance away, I saw her sitting and watching us.
I should’ve known, they’d never let me try and escape here alone. Once she saw I noticed her, she ran over, wrapping her arms around us, grinning. She always smiled easily, more easily than I ever could then. It took me years to learn how to do that, later on.
“Nice try little bro, running here without me.”
“Come on, lets go back, maybe Mom cooked.”
Aaron and I both stared at her, unbelieving. She laughed, ruffling Aaron’s hair, and tickling me under my chin. I hate that by the way. I am way too damn ticklish there and it drives me crazy.
“And if she didn’t, I will, okay?”
“Why can’t mom be normal?” We heard the youngest of us ask; it was an innocent question, from an eight year old who saw too much.
“Because, well…um…“ It was the first time I saw her struggle for an answer.
“Because that’s who she is, she wouldn’t be Mom if she was different. We are who we are, right? Can’t hide it.”
When I saw him nod, I was relieved. I didn’t know how to answer anything further. I felt bad for lying at the end. We can hide who we are. I’d been struggling to for some time then.
Everyone, including my sister, thought I’d just grown out of it. They never knew about that night. I’d quit painting, I’d quit writing the random songs I’d make up in my head, I quit trying to act in the school plays. I hadn’t done any of that since I was about seven, when my father bawled me out drunk for being a pansy.
After we got home that night, when Jessie and Aaron were asleep in the cots we had hanging in the living room, I wasn’t able to sleep. I stared out the window, where the moonlight shone in on me, the only one still awake. I reached under the couch, where I always slept, and pulled out one of my school notebooks. I flipped to an empty page, and for the first time in five years, I started drawing again. It ended up being a portrait of me and Dad, a memory I had, of us playing catch together out in the sun.
It was only after that, that I was able to sleep that night. I slept soundly with no more tears for the man that I so loved and hated.
I think that was when I first started realizing that I needed to be me, and not what people wanted me to be.
I think that was the first time I started learning, just who Nick Carter really was.