They Say Home Is Where The Heart Is
I'm not really sure what this is. Ricky character study I guess. Set the summer before Season 1. Content warnings for his parents fighting and, technically, self-harm.
His parents were arguing again. He could hear them, downstairs in the living room, only slightly muffled by the ceiling between them. He tried not to listen—it’s not like it mattered anyway. It was always the same. His dad didn’t do the dishes even though his mom asked a dozen times, or his mom had to take another business trip. The worst times were about him, about his grades, or him staying out at night too much. But it was summer, so there were no grades and no curfew to worry about.
The yelling got louder and Ricky groaned, pulling a pillow over his face and screaming into it. He hated this. The whole house felt tense and claustrophobic and awful, and he wanted nothing more than to run down the stairs and out the front door. But he was stuck, trapped in these four walls. The front right wheel popped off his skateboard the day before, and even if his board wasn’t broken, he had nowhere to go. It was summer, so Big Red was spending all his time working at Slices, and there was only so much time Ricky could justify sitting in one of the booths without eating something.
He reached for his phone, scrolling through his contacts until he found the one he was looking for.
His thumb hovered over her name. She was supposed to be the one he could always call, his best friend, his safe place, his—he dropped his phone into the bed. She wasn't any of those things anymore. She was gone. She was having fun at camp; she didn’t need him bringing her down. He could walk to her house, see if her moms were around. Her moms always let him stay over when he asked, or at the very least, cooked him dinner.
Nini’s house never felt like this, somehow both suffocating and lonely.
But the last time he was there, they broke-up—took a break, he reminded himself, she’s coming back and everything will be fine—and he didn’t know what would be waiting for him there anymore, if it was still a home, the way it was two months ago. He couldn't stomach it if Nini's house stopped feeling the way it always did, warm and inviting and safe.
He remembered running there a few fights ago, tears running down his cheeks because his mom was going to leave again. Nini had held him tightly, his head buried in the crook of her neck, inhaling the sweet, comforting fragrance of her shampoo. And when he’d finally pulled himself together, Mama Carol had handed them a fresh plate of fresh chocolate chip cookies and two glasses of milk, even though it was before dinner.
Sitting there, at their kitchen table, half a cookie dissolving in his mouth, laughing at Nini’s milk mustache, everything just seemed better.
He stood up from his bed, an idea starting to form in his head. It wouldn’t be the same as having Nini with him, not by a long shot, but it would be something, at least.
He stomped down to the kitchen, but his parents didn’t even notice, too caught up in their argument. He dug through the cabinets and pulled out ingredients he thought he might need. Flour, sugar, salt, butter, eggs, and both baking soda and baking powder because he wasn’t sure which one was right. He frowned when he realized they didn’t have any chocolate chips.
You can’t make chocolate chip cookies without chocolate chips.
He sighed and pulled out his phone. He ended up on Pinterest, a website he’d seen Nini on more than once, looking for cookie recipes. He eventually found one for shortbread that looked easy enough. He pulled out the hand beater they never used and a bowl and dumped the ingredients in.
“It’s not about Chicago!”
“Then what is it about, Mike?”
Ricky flicked the beater on low, but it wasn’t enough to drown them out.
“Oh, don’t give me that crap!”
He clicked the beater up a few notches, until he couldn’t hear them anymore. He breathed a sigh of relief. Finally.
He wasn’t much of a baker, but he could follow a recipe decently, and he liked having something to do. The motions of measuring and mixing and beating kept his hands busy, and gave him something to focus on other than all the yelling.
He pressed the dough into a pan that he was pretty sure was the wrong size, sprinkled some sugar on top, and slid it into the oven to bake. He washed the bowl with water hot enough to scald. It turned his hands red, but the pain brought him back into himself for a moment, and he let his hands linger under the water for a moment, even though he knew he shouldn’t.
The shortbread baked quickly, and he cut it into squares. It almost looked like the picture on Pinterest. He snapped a photo to send to Nini, because she would be so proud and impressed, and then stopped himself, just short of sending it.
The front door opened and slammed shut, and he heard the telltale sound of his dad slamming his palm against the nearest wall. The noise pulled his attention from his phone, and he sighed. The fight had ended the way they always did, with his mom gone.
He took a deep breath and poked his head into the living room. “Hey, Dad?”
His dad look at him as if he’s forgotten Ricky was there, and honestly, he probably had. “What’s up, Kiddo?”
“I made cookies.”