Devin’s earliest memories always included his twin sisters, Danae and Darcey. He couldn’t think of a time when they weren’t right there, helping him with homework, or playing with him, tickling him or just being together. He was a full six years younger than them, but yet he felt more connected with them than any of his school friends.
He lived in the shadow of his older sister, Darcey, who followed in her mother’s footsteps academically. Every teacher he had compared him to her, expecting him to be more like Darcey and less like himself. It never occurred to him to mind, seeing as he looked up to both Darcey and Danae, until one day he was presented with something he couldn’t do on his own, and needed help. His teacher, who meant well, told him he wished Devin was as brilliant as Darcey. From that day on, his love of learning stopped, and he began to hate school.
What Devin did love, however, was anything sports-related. Football? Loved it. Baseball? Adored it, and wanted to play it someday. But soccer… someday, Devin hoped to follow in Travis’ footsteps and become a soccer legend like his father. He went to every game he could, and watched on television when he couldn’t make it in person. He studied Travis’ every move in the game and learned from watching him. Yes, he was positive he could be as good, if not better, than his old man at the game.
The summer festival was in town, and Devin begged Travis to take him to Verde Park. The festival had soccer posts in a practice field set up, for families to practice or play together. He was itching to show his father how much he had learned. “Please, Dad? I’ll be good, I swear!” Devin begged. “I want to show you how good I am at soccer!”
Travis had the day off, on the rare occasion he didn’t actually have to show up at the stadium, so he agreed. Together, they went to the park in his flashy sports car. Devin carried an old soccer ball that Travis had brought home, a regulation ball that had been retired. He raced Travis to the soccer nets and began kicking the ball around, waiting for his dad to walk from the skating rink. “See Dad?” Devin said excitedly. “Watch this!” Devin placed the ball on the ground and studied the ball, concentrating on where and how to strike the ball. With a forceful kick, he put the old ball exactly where he had intended. Travis had to admit he was pretty impressed with his young son. He was only 6 years old.
“Good job, Dev!” Travis praised him. “Let me show you some of my favorite moves. You’ll never lose control of the ball if you do this.” He showed Devin how to backspin the ball, allowing him more control. It took him more than a few tries to get the hang of it, but to his credit, Devin never got frustrated or gave up.
“This is fun, Dad!” he chirped, running the ball from net to net, kicking goals left and right.
“You’re going to be a great soccer player,” Travis said, “You seem to have inherited my instinct and talents.” Devin heard the compliment and beamed with happiness.
“You think so, Daddy?” He happily kicked the ball a few more times, placing it exactly where he aimed it.
“Definitely, little bear.” Travis picked him up and hugged him tightly. “How about this? Why don’t I sign you up to play in the junior soccer league? Would you like that?”
“Oh boy!” Devin squealed. “Would I!”
“I guess that’s a yes,” Travis smiled. “I’ll call in the morning, and see if we can arrange for tryouts for you.”
“Thanks, Daddy!” Devin was ecstatic. “I’m hungry. All this soccer worked up an appetite!”
Travis laughed. “Okay! How about we go for a burger, and go home?” he suggested, knowing Devin would likely say yes to a burger. They got junk food and fast food very seldom and knew it would be a welcome treat for the young boy.
“Yay!” Devin said, excited. Together, they walked to Travis’ car, and they ate outside at the drive-in burger place, talking about Devin’s hopes and dreams. When they were ready to leave, Travis stopped Devin before they got back into the car.
“Don’t tell your mama we had hamburgers. It’s our secret, okay?” He winked at his young son. Devin smiled.
“Okay, Daddy,” he answered, contented and tired.
“Are you sure this is okay?” Devin asked his friend, George, as he wielded a can of spray paint. The two young boys scampered around the fence of the school, dodging the spotlight of a passing police car. They were out after dark, and just an hour away from their citywide curfew. Charlotte believed that Devin was at George’s house for a sleepover party. Instead, the two best friends were out causing trouble.
“Sure, I’ve done this before,” George bragged. Together, they walked behind the storage building, and he showed Devin his previous handiwork. “See this? This is all me.” Devin was impressed by the artistic flow of the graffiti.
“I can’t draw that nice,” he quipped. “What do I do?” Devin held the can of white paint, looking for a place to spray that wouldn’t cover George’s work.
“Just press the nozzle and spray. It doesn’t matter what you do. Just make a mess,” George encouraged him. “Have fun for a change. You’re such a bore.”
Devin didn’t like hearing that he was boring, especially from his best friend. “I’m not a bore. I just have to be careful. My dad —”
“Yeah, I know. Your dad is famous. Give that a rest, DJ.” George readied his paint can, and picked out the perfect canvas for his graffiti artwork.
Devin walked around to a darker side of the building and pulled the hood of his sweatshirt over his head. Shaking the can, he heard the rattle of the mixers inside, and pressed the nozzle, letting a burst of paint go onto the brick building. It was just a splat of white, formless and drippy. “I’m not very good at this,” he lamented, staring at the paint blob.
‘Just try again,” George persisted. “Don’t give up.”
Devin shook the can again and thought about what to do. In his shaky writing, he decided to paint a “D”. The can hissed as he painted the bricks with a sloppy, drippy “D”. In a moment of severe misjudgment, he shook the can again, and painted a “J” next to it, leaving his initials in bright white paint.
“Time to move on,” George said. “If we stay in one place too long, we risk getting caught faster.” He picked up his backpack full of paint cans and nudged Devin. Spotting his friend’s handiwork, he rolled his eyes in disbelief. “You painted your initials?”
“I didn’t know what else to do.” Devin shook his head. “I’m not artistic like you, George.”
“You do literally anything else but your name or initials, dude.” George shook his black paint can and was about to cover Devin’s work when a light shone in their eyes.
“Stay where you are,” a booming voice yelled to them. Devin was frozen in fear, but George grabbed Devin’s can, and bolted into the woods behind the school, leaving him to bear the brunt of the punishment. The officer shined his flashlight into his face, and immediately he recognized the boy. “Mr. Jones, come with me, young man.” He grabbed Devin’s sweatshirt by the back of his neck and led him to the police cruiser.
“Please, don’t call my dad,” he begged. “He will kill me.”
“You should have thought of that before you came out to deface public property. Where is your ‘friend?’ With a friend like him, you don’t need enemies.”
“He ran away. Look, please, officer. I don’t want my dad to know about this.” Devin begged, desperate.
“Too late, Mr. Jones.” He put Devin in the back of the cruiser, and closed the door. The officer went back to the building with a camera to document the damage and came back to the car a few minutes later. He was weeping in the back seat. “You won’t make a good career criminal, son. You left your initials on that building back there. You’re not so smart, are you?”
“No, sir.” Devin was humiliated. Not only did he get caught, but he left evidence that traced it right back to him.
The ride to the Jones house was excruciating. Every mile closer to home, he grew more nervous. Arriving in front of the house, his lights on, the officer exited his car and rang the call box at the driveway.
“Yes?” Came Charlotte’s voice.
“Mrs. Jones, I have your son Devin out here.”
“That’s impossible. He’s at a friend’s house for a sleepover.” Charlotte shook her head.
“Who is it, baby?” Travis yelled from the living room.
“Police. He claims he has Devin.”
“That boy better pray it’s mistaken identity.” Travis got up from his chair in the living room and walked to the gate. “Devin Rogelio! Get your butt in the house. NOW!” Travis was steaming mad, and he growled at his son. “Officer, I’m so sorry he was out causing trouble. Believe me, this will not happen again.”
“I just need you to sign for him. Since he has no previous record, I’m letting him go with a warning, but this will go in his record. I have a photo documenting the damage.”
Travis glanced at the photo. “I will make him clean this up.” He handed the officer his card. “Call me, and we can arrange for him to make this right. And thank you for letting him off with a warning. He will wish he got to spend the night down at the precinct when I’m done with him.” He shook the officer’s hand and walked back toward the house.
Devin was sitting by the television, weeping. Charlotte was pacing back and forth, trying to abstain from screaming at him. Travis walked through the front door, his face red. “Go to your room, Devin. I need to speak with your mother.”
“Let me explain —”
“NOW, Devin. I don’t want to tell you again.” Travis was livid.
He knew he was in trouble, big time. On his way up the steps, his sisters watched from the loft, happy they were not in his shoes. Danae shook her head and Darcey clicked her tongue at him. Hanging his head, he walked to his room and closed the door. He threw himself on his bed, and sobbed, awaiting his punishment.
Downstairs, Travis and Charlotte were in shock. “I can’t believe he did this,” Charlotte fumed. “He will not be allowed to go to sleepovers anymore. He’s done.”
“Oh, he won’t be going anywhere for a long time. I hope a Paparazzi didn’t see him out there, or this will be much worse for me than him.”
“I never even thought of that. I guess we do damage control in the morning if something leaks out.”
“So, what do you think his punishment should be? I’m thinking grounded for two weeks, and no more sleepovers, no bicycle privileges.” Travis had never been more disappointed in one of his children, and he never expected this from his son.
“I think that’s more than fair, plus whatever clean up the city makes him do. One of us will probably need to supervise that, seeing as I don’t trust him anymore.”
“Me neither. Unfortunately, it will probably be you doing the supervision, honey. Your schedule is much more flexible than mine right now. Neil is being difficult. Again.”
“That’s not a problem. The girls can take care of themselves while I’m at school with him,” Charlotte said. “If we do it on my day off, all the better.”
“What if he pulls this again, baby? Do we let the police take him down and book him? That’s what my mother would have done, but I don’t want to necessarily do things like that beast did. I don’t want Devin to hate me, either, like I hated her.”
“We aren’t supposed to be his friends, honeybear,” she countered. “We’re his parents. He needs correction and guidance right now.” She stroked his cheek. “Besides, there’s a stark difference between correction and cruelty. I am pretty sure you know that difference, love.”
Travis nodded in agreement. “Okay, so two weeks grounded, no sleepovers, no bicycle until further notice.” Charlotte nodded. “Alright, let’s go talk to him.”
They walked up the stairs together to Devin’s room and met the girls peeking out of their bedroom door. “Girls, bed please,” Charlotte said. “This doesn’t concern you.”
Travis opened Devin’s door and found the boy asleep on his bed, his arms wrapped around his stuffed bear. Charlotte sighed, hating to wake him, but Travis had no qualms about it at all. His temper was still hot. “Devin, wake up.” Travis shook his shoulder.
His eyes opened, and saw his father standing over him, looming like a harbinger of doom. “Daddy, I’m so sorry,” he cried.
“What made you go with George tonight to break the law, son? Don’t you realize the trouble you could have gotten yourself into? Did you even think about the possible impact your stupidity could have had on the family?” Travis paced back and forth in the boy’s room.
“It sounded like harmless fun. George says he does it all the time and never gets caught.”
“It sounds like he left you to bear the brunt of the punishment tonight. How many other ‘friends’ has he done this to? Some friend you have there, Devin.”
“No, he ran away. I’m the one who got caught.” The boy hung his head in shame.
“What if a Paparazzi had seen you, Devin? We won’t know until morning if this gets into the news. This will make a big mess for your father if you got spotted.” Charlotte frowned at him. “What were you thinking?”
“I wasn’t thinking. I’m sorry.” The boy cried into his pillow.
“I think you know you’re grounded. Two weeks, no more sleepovers, and you’ve lost your bicycle privileges indefinitely. And you’re not to see that boy again. If I find out you’re still hanging around with George, it will be much worse for you than two weeks of being grounded,” Travis warned him.
Devin knew Travis wasn’t messing around. He had tested him once, and that was more than sufficient to find out his father meant business. “Yes, sir.”
“I don’t want to have this conversation with you again, Devin. Learn from this mistake, and don’t repeat it,” Travis said firmly.
Charlotte stood silently, happy that Travis was handling the discipline. She felt much too lenient and would have backed down as soon as she saw tears. That wasn’t what her son needed. But she walked to him and kissed his forehead. “Go to sleep, Devin. It’s past your bedtime.”
“I’m sorry I disappointed you, Daddy. I’ll try harder to make you proud of me.” He saw Travis swallow hard, and turned to leave the room. He didn’t want Devin to see the tears in his eyes. His statement opened old wounds and hearing his son say the words that he had told his own father multiple times cut him to the quick.
“Your father loves you, Devin, and he’s proud of you. He’s just not happy with what you’ve done. Think about it, son.” Charlotte tucked him into bed. “Get some sleep. I love you.”
“I love you, Mama.”
Devin pulled the blanket over his head and cried himself to sleep.
Devin’s fourteenth birthday was approaching quickly, and Charlotte had two ideas for him as a gift. The first was the same thing she and Travis had given the girls for their thirteenth birthday: the purity ring. They both believed it would be good to hold him to the same standards they had set for the girls, and probably even more so for him. The potential for him to be a father several times over by the time he reached adulthood was mind-blowing.
The second idea Charlotte had for Devin was a puppy. The twins were away at college, and she realized how sullen the boy had become in their absence. She and Travis both thought that having a companion would help him break out of his funk, and give him a reason to be happy.
First things first, though, Charlotte thought. She made a reservation at the restaurant off the strip for the three of them and had Chris’ old purity ring polished up and made ready for Devin. Charlotte was looking forward to this special date with him and Travis. In many ways, she felt guilty for lavishing so much attention on the girls, and not as much with him as he grew up. Two of their three children favored their father over her, so she was giddy with anticipation, hoping to build a good bond with her son.
Travis drove them to their favorite restaurant, and the valet took the car, handing him a claim slip. Charlotte had two escorts that evening, her doting husband on one arm, and her handsome son on the other. Devin held the chair for his mother and sat with Travis.
“What looks good tonight, honey?” Travis asked Charlotte as she perused the menu.
“I’m thinking that sea bass looks really good.” It was the chef’s specialty for the evening, and she hadn’t tried it before.
“How about you, son?”
“Probably just a burger for me, Dad.” Devin looked around at the comfortable decor and spotted a fish tank separating two dining areas.
“Are you sure? This is your birthday dinner.” Travis tried to figure out what the boy was thinking.
“Well, give it some thought, sweetie,” Charlotte said. “Maybe you’ll change your mind.”
When the waiter came to take the order, Devin was still holding fast to his burger and fries. It was a favorite meal, and he seldom got it at home. Charlotte ordered the sea bass, and Travis ordered a steak, medium-rare. Suddenly, it felt like Devin was being stared at, and he was uncomfortable.
“Is there something wrong? Am I in trouble again?”
“No, honey,” Charlotte smiled. “Your dad and I have a special gift for you for your birthday.” He watched as she dug in her purse and pulled out a black velvet ring box. Oh no, he thought. Nervously, he looked away from the ring as his mother opened the box. “Devin?”
Her call to him snapped his attention back to the ring. “Um. Uh,” he stammered. “Is that like what the girls wear?”
“That’s exactly what it is, honey. It’s a purity ring —”
“No, Mom,” he said sharply, not wanting to hurt her feelings. “I’m… not interested.”
Travis looked at her. “This isn’t optional, son,” he stated. Charlotte returned his gaze and shook her head.
“Why not, honey?” She tried not to sound disappointed.
“Mom, I’m just not interested. I don’t see myself ever getting married. And if I don’t get married, then why would I put myself through that?” He lowered his head, breaking eye contact with her. “There are a lot of fish in the sea, Mom. I just don’t see me settling down with one girl.”
Travis didn’t want to shame his son into the ring and the promise. Shoot, he understood more than most about the temptations of a young teenage boy. But if he wasn’t willing to take the purity pledge, Travis wanted something more from him. A different promise.
“Son, I understand. I was a young boy once, too. Since you aren’t willing to make this promise, then I’m going to ask you to take another one.” Travis paused for a moment, to figure out how to spring this on him. “Just be sure you are safe, and your partner is safe and protected. Promise me, Devin, when you become active, just please, use protection. Babies are expensive, and if you’re not willing to commit to a woman, you’re not ready for a child.”
“Oh, believe me, Dad, I don’t want kids. I want to play soccer, like you. Play the field, if you catch my drift.”
“Just remember, Devin, that sex is a very adult act to do, and it has the potential for real-life, adult consequences. Don’t make a child you don’t intend to love and nurture.” Travis hoped his words were making a difference, though he wasn’t sure anymore.
That isn’t my problem, he thought. He was going to say it, but decided to tone it down. “Okay, Dad.” Devin looked at each of them. This isn’t over, he thought. “Are we done with the nooky talk now?”
Charlotte and Travis looked at each other, and she shrugged. “I guess we are,” she conceded.
Devin never did get his puppy.
The family gathered at City Hall for Devin’s graduation. Dressed in his blue cap and gown, Charlotte came to the realization that he was the last baby to leave the nest, and she was devastated. In what seemed like the blink of an eye, Devin was all grown up.
He was voted Valedictorian unanimously by the faculty of the school, an honor for which he was not prepared, and being a man of very few words, his speech was short, sweet and to the point. And during the class awards, Devin was voted “Most Likely To Be A Sports Star.” Though he was athletic, and he had aspirations to join the Shores Llamas, he surmised he had been awarded that particular honor because he was, after all, a Jones. All his friends knew he aspired to follow in his father’s footsteps, and some sports analysts speculated that Devin’s talents might exceed Travis’ someday.
Lionel O’Reilly hired Devin fresh from high school and into a position on the team where they thought he could develop his particular skill set. On his first day at work, nearly every one took a second look.
“Holy crap, that kid looks just like his old man,” Guzman remarked. And it was true. Though he had Charlotte’s fair skin, the kid was a complete chip off the old block.
“Yes, that’s my boy,” Travis introduced his son proudly to the team.
“Welcome, Devin,” Aaron greeted him. “You’ll make a fine addition to the team.”
Travis walked him to where Smitty sat on the bench in front of his locker. “Trey, this is my boy, Devin.” Smitty thought he was seeing double.
“Wow,” he said, gobsmacked. “Which one are you, Travis?” Devin grinned.
“Pleased to meet you, Trey,” the polite boy shook Smitty’s hand. “I understand you’re one of Dad’s best friends on the team. I can’t wait to work with you.”
“I am indeed.” Trey winked at Travis. “You getting dressed, old man?”
“Yeah, I’ll be out shortly. I’m going to finish showing Devin around.”
The two men returned home from work that evening, and the boy was visibly excited to be part of such a great team. “Thanks, Dad. I appreciate this opportunity, and I promise, I won’t waste it.”
Travis hugged his son. “You’re a good kid, Devin. Welcome to the family.”
The moving van closed up and drove away, and Devin packed the last of his boxes into his car. “You’re welcome to come by anytime, but call first.” He had bought a little bungalow near the stadium, a little one-bedroom bachelor pad, and he couldn’t wait to be out on his own for the first time in his life. “I need to make sure I don’t have a girl over, you know, before you come visit me.”
Charlotte worried about her son. “I sure hope you know what you’re doing, Devin. You’re playing a dangerous game.”
“You worry too much, Mom,” he chuckled. The lifestyle of a soon-to-be sports legend awaited, and the anticipation was killing him. He had his father’s stunning good looks, and none of his inhibition. He walked to Charlotte and hugged her. “Don’t sweat it, Ma. I’ll be good.” At it, he thought, completing the sentence in his head.
“I’ll keep an eye on him, honey, don’t worry,” Travis reassured her. They still worked together at the stadium every day, and would until Travis retired in a year or two.
He drove into his driveway, of his house, and put the car in park. As he sat there, the realization that he was free settled in, and Devin smiled. The only thing missing now, he thought, is my trophy girlfriend. He dialed his cellphone and waited for her to answer.
“Hey sweet stuff,” Devin greeted her. “I closed on the house. It’s mine.”
“You’re free?” she asked.
“Yep! Free and clear. No strings, no parents. Come on over, let’s celebrate.”
“I’ll be over soon.” Maribeth hung up her phone and smiled. This would be a night neither of them would ever forget.
Up Next: Clinton Adam Scroggins