Dribbling my basketball I shoot for the hoop. Again—for the umpteenth time—I miss. Muttering a curse word under my breath I can hear my father’s berating words in my head, ‘you’re useless boy’. I hate that his words get to me, hate that they tear at my insides.
I’m useless at playing basketball, but it’s all I want to do. Not being able to get into the Under ten’s for another year, I’m spending every waking minute practising. But it’s not like I’ll be able to play even if I get in. Daddy dearest won’t have it. Even now, he’s trying to make me like numbers so I can be a big shot businessman like him, but I don’t understand stuff like Maths. School sucks—except when I’m playing basketball at recess with Zeke—my best friend from kindergarten, Ezekiel Alessio. He’s like a brother to me, and sometimes I wish he was because other than my kid sister Ava and my mum I’d much rather have a different family. Zeke’s dad is the polar opposite of mine, supportive and loving.
My dad wouldn’t know what love meant if someone beat him over the head with it. He says the words to me sometimes, but then his actions show me hatred. Fidel Castello breathes hatred. It seeps out of his skin.
I’m still bouncing my ball, loving the sound of the rubber hitting the concrete and the feeling playing basketball gives me. Stepping side to side, I bounce the ball between my legs, psyching myself up to make the shot, and sink it through the hoop this time. And that’s when I see her, standing next to the court in a little tutu dress. She’s smiling, just like the last time she came to the park and watched me play.
She ran up to me then, taking the basketball and bouncing it; whilst giggling. I meekly introduced myself and she told me her name was Tempany Davies. I’d thought it was a weird name, but it kinda suits her.
Every time I come to the park basketball court I wonder if she’s going to turn up, and give me her sweet smiles that make my tummy feel funny.
I can’t help but smile now when she runs up to play with me, expertly snatching the ball away from me, starting to bounce it whilst I’m struck stupid by her. I’m sure she’s the same age as me, but she seems younger.
She crouches down, about to shoot for the hoop, and most likely sink it when a voice starts calling her name from across the park. “Tempany, Tempany, it’s time to go, baby.” She smiles shyly, and runs across the court, away from me.
It’s then—looking down at my empty hands—that I realise she took my ball. She ran off clutching my basketball against her tummy.
And I know that this time I’m going to be in big trouble. My dad’s warning about what he was going to do to me if I came home without my ball again are in my head, and walking across the park to go home hot tears are stinging my eyes, thinking about the pain I’m about to endure.
Pushing the front door open, I tiptoe inside, hoping to sneak upstairs without my dad seeing me. But of course no such luck. I hear his voice—from the formal lounge—before I see him.
“Ashton, get in here boy,” he shouts at me.
He’s clenching his fists, crunching a piece of paper in between his fingers. “You want to tell me how the fuck you get an F in Mathematics?”
The hot tears are stinging my eyes again. And I mumble, “I don’t get it, Dad.”
“You don’t get it! You don’t get it, because you don’t damn well apply yourself, boy. Always at that fucking basketball court.”
“Spit it out boy!”
“I’m sorry, Daddy. I’ll do better. I’ll try harder, I promise.”
“That’s not good enough, Ashton. You shouldn’t have to do better.”
He stands up from the couch, stalking towards me. I’m trembling, knowing what’s coming next, and knowing that this time is going to be worse than the times before.
His dark blue eyes look down to my empty hands, and even deeper anger flashes in them, making them seem black—like his heart—when he realises I’m not clutching a basketball.
“Where is your basketball, Ashton?”
I bite my lip, mumbling through my teeth. “A...a...girl...stole it.”
He scoffs. “You expect me to believe that rot, Ashton. You know what happens when you lie to me, boy.”
His words make my tummy feel sick. I know what happens when I tell