They manage to get their dad on the phone right before he can get onto the highway to start driving downtown. Ryaan’s surprised to find the man never called his phone, so intent on calling Nadia.
As they get home a pizza delivery man is pulling away. Their dad comes out the door only moments later. When they walk up to the house he runs over, wrapping them in tight hugs and dragging them inside. The aroma of their favorite pizza place fills the air as they walk inside but before they can eat he has a million questions about whether they’re okay and what happened. He barely blinks when Nadia shows him her phone. He promises to order her another using their phone insurance the next day. She looks surprised but any shock disappears when they see the news.
A reporter outside the park jumped in to get on the air right after people started running. The camera’s not close enough to the stage to show the man in red well and thankfully not close enough to get a good look at Ryaan but it does catch Nadia being thrown to the ground and doesn’t show her get back up. Pointing at the TV, he has a silly grin on his face. “I thought you were dead or seriously hurt. I’ve never been happier than I was when you called and said you were all okay. Maybe the day you were born but even then. Why didn’t you call sooner?”
Ryaan gets ready to jump in but Nadia cuts him off. “We were so busy getting clear of the place that we didn’t have time. Really sorry if we worried you dad, we’ll be more careful in the future.”
“There will not be an in the future.” He turns to Ryaan. “I didn’t see you on the tape. Where were you?”
He tries to think of a good lie that might stand up to his youngest sister Lana’s terrible ability to lie and lack of reason to do so but Nadia again jumps in. “He was there, we got separated for a minute because someone pushed between us. He was behind the big guy next to me. He caught up after a minute, helped me up.”
Their dad turns to Lana who nods, though she doesn’t say anything. Ryaan gives the same nod which seems to be enough for the subject to be dropped.
They’re allowed to eat pizza on the couch while watching TV for once. Mina’s invited to stay but makes an excuse about needing to get home. Now that he knows his kids are safe, their dad has no further desire to watch the news. Instead he puts on some cartoon the girls enjoy. Ryaan’s not going to complain, most nights they wouldn’t get to watch anything.
After the last of the pizza’s gone, their dad runs around collecting plates and offering to do the dishes after the day they had. Lana’s falling asleep in their recliner while Nadia and Ryaan are curled up on opposite ends of the couch.
Turning to her brother, Nadia gives him a kick with her long legs. “You think all the pizza and dishes is his way of saying sorry for making us go to this thing?”
Having not even considered that, Ryaan suddenly feels guilty. “I hope not. It wasn’t his fault. No way he could have known that would happen.” He gets quiet for a moment, both of their attention returning to the TV. Ryaan glances toward the kitchen, hearing the water still running to tell him their dad’s still washing dishes. “Why’d you lie about me being there? I appreciate it but you didn’t need to do that.”
She shrugs, putting a hand on her chin. “You know how dad would have reacted if he found out you left us alone with Mina and then this happened, right? Not your fault, there’s no way you could have known what would happen either. If you needed the bathroom you needed it. I didn’t want you to get blamed for something stupid.”
He wants to hug his sister but she’s too far away and he’s too sore from his fight today so instead he rests a hand on her ankle for a moment and squeezes. “Thanks. Do you think Lana can keep it to herself though? She has a habit of squealing and I’ll be in more trouble for lying than if I come clean now.”
Nadia shakes her head. “I bribed her if she keeps her mouth shut for at least two months. She wants the game I promised to get her and by then we’ll be far enough out that it won’t come up.”
His sister’s a genius. The urge to hug her’s getting stronger. “I can split the cost of the game with you.”
“That goes without saying.” She smiles and kicks him again. “You’re lucky you’re a good brother. You owe us. Tomorrow you play basketball with us.”
Ryaan groans at this. The idea of getting up jumpers while his body hurts this much sounds terrible. His legs are heavy and his arms feel like rubber. He nods in agreement though.
Their dad calls for him to come into the kitchen. Nadia gives him a concerned look but he smiles and tries to reassure her. Before he leaves he does finally give her the hug he’s been wanting to provide.
Leaning against a counter in the kitchen, his dad’s shirt is soaking wet. The faucet on the kitchen sink’s broken so it sprays outward. Despite this their dad hasn’t changed his normal dish washing strategy of leaving the sink running the entire time. He waves Ryaan over to him and wraps him in a long bear hug, holding him longer than he’s ever held him. Ryaan wants to push away because of his dad’s wet shirt but decides now isn’t the time. “Thank you for keeping yourself and your sisters safe today. I was so worried.”
Ryaan pats his dad on the back a few times, pausing between each pat. “No problem dad, I’ll always look out for them.”
The man pulls him away and stares him in the eye. Twice he starts to say something but pauses. After a deep breath he says, “I feel bad bringing this up after the day you’ve had, but your teachers put your chemistry test on the online portal today. You got a C.”
He nods, looking his dad in the eye. “Sorry, I guess I was distracted with the end of the basketball season and all. I’ll be more careful.”
“That was weeks ago. That’s not the reason you struggled here. Is anything going on? We can get you a tutor if needed.”
“No!” He pulls away strongly from his dad before realizing how forcefully he did so. He can’t afford the time or the extra people watching over his shoulder right now. The time after school and before his dad gets home is his best time to go out as the Rebel. “Sorry, scary day. Seriously though, I’m fine. One bad test, I’ll turn it around. I promise.”
His dad looks him up and down, clearly wanting to say more. If ever there was a day to get a bad test score though it was today. “I want to believe that so I will today. I shouldn’t take it into account since you didn’t fail today, but I will. You get this chance to turn things around on your own. You get one chance though. If you get another test back like this I’m going to come down on you and you will be getting a tutor. Is that clear?”
All Ryaan can do is nod. His dad’s known to put grades before everything else. That he’s giving him a chance to redeem himself is huge.
“Good.” The man pulls him in for another hug, this time not letting go until his son forces his way free.