Emmanuel finished his homework and was ready for dinner; Antoine had just finished grilling some burgers. The smell of the juicy beef had been teasing him while he worked, and he couldn’t wait to join his uncle on the deck. He wandered outside, grabbed a burger, and sat at the table with a long face.
“Hey, little guy! Why do you look like you dropped the last bite of cake on the floor?” He chuckled.
Emmanuel kept eating.
“Awww, come on, buddy. You’re breaking my heart. What’s wrong?”
He chewed and swallowed the food in his mouth and put his burger down. “I tried out for the team like you said.”
“Oh… It didn’t go so well, huh?” Antoine had encouraged Emmanuel to try sports; it was the one constant in Antoine’s tumultuous childhood. It was something he was good at and the only entity he felt he belonged to. He also learned a lot from being part of a team. He thought every boy should have that experience. Although Zayne had been stepping up and was in Emmanuel’s life more consistently, Antoine thought Emmanuel should have some sort of outlet not related to the family. Things had improved a lot, but the situation still sucked.
“I kept dropping the ball. Everyone laughed at me.”
“I’m sorry, kid. I know that didn’t feel good.” He took a moment for his nephew to appreciate the concern. “Only people who don’t feel good about themselves make fun of other people. They may act tough and like they’re better than everyone else, but they’re not happy.”
Emmanuel looked like he was thinking about it, but it wasn’t helping.
“There are only two possibilities here,” Antoine said. “Either you can quit and go on about your life and run the risk of them teasing you still, or, you can practice, get better, and try again another time.”
Emmanuel sighed and kept eating.
“I’ll help you!” He wanted so badly to pull Emmanuel out of that funk, but he knew he couldn’t push him. He had pushed him enough already. “And…I’m sure your dad will too.” Antoine was glad about the changes Zayne had made. He wanted to encourage Emmanuel to seek him out more, but it was hard. Even though Zayne had been in and out of Emmanuel’s life, Antoine had basically been the only man in his life. He loved his nephew dearly, and letting go of the reigns was very hard to do especially when he wasn’t sure these changes were permanent. Sometimes he had to force himself to suggest they do things together.
“Uncle Antoine? If it’s ok with you…I don’t want to see anymore balls for a while.”
Antoine chuckled. “Ok, kid. Ok.”