I began trying to figure out how to help Dakota.
"So, Dakota, for me to help you out I need to know why those boys attacked you," I asked. He paused and look me in the eyes, I could see tears starting to swell up in his eyes.
"They used to be my friends. I used to hang out with them a lot downtown here, every week we'd go play football at the track field," he softly said.
I could see he was becoming more flustered at telling me and was stumbling over what he was saying.
"They randomly just hated my guts one day; I don't know what happened. They started calling me Dakota the dick sucker and I don't know why or how they found out." Dakota said.
This caused me to jump a little but also, I didn't want to make him feel uncomfortable "Dakota, they sound like a bunch of assholes who aren't worth being your friend," I said.
The look on his face immediately became a grin once he heard me say asshole. But he immediately tried to explain why they called him that.
"I think I might like boys, but I don't know," He said softly as his eyes went straight to the ground.
I got down to his level and I could see the look on his face as he started to tear up. "Look, there is nothing wrong with that. You will know how you feel once you get a little bit older. You're still young Dakota."
He sharply replied, "I hate being this way though, I just want things to go back to how it was before."
I could see now that the waterworks had begun.
"How would you like it if every day was shit where you want to just die." Dakota sobbed.
As he was sobbing I had to tried to comfort him until reluctantly he agreed.
"Dakota don't you ever say that again," being still at his face level I started to also cry a little.
"Why I lost all my friends, everyone hates me at school, I just want to die."
"Dakota, I had a son named Riley who also had the same feeling as you," I said while trying to comfort the crying boy.
"Riley, I've heard that name before," he said.
"Do you know him? Riley Roo?"
"You're Riley's Father?" he slowly stopped crying.
"Yes, he's my son, Do you know him?" I responded puzzled by the fact that maybe he knew him.
"I used to see him at lunch all the time, he sat at the sports kids table. I was always afraid to come up to him since I was afraid he might not like me," Dakota said.
I noticed a sudden shift in Dakota as he seemed more comfortable opening up.
"Yes, Riley is extremely shy unless you approach him first." I said remaining at eye level with him "But he was a friendly boy and always tried to cheer everyone up." I said while tearing up.
He looked very puzzled as I said 'was' instead of 'is' so I had to explain to him why I said that.
"Riley died a couple days ago after having similar feelings that you have," I said softly to Dakota.
"Oh. I'm sorry," Dakota softly said. "Are you alright?"
I chuckled a little because this boy reminded me so much of Riley since he always wanted to be the one that cared about others first, no matter how rough it was for himself.
"You remind me so much of him," I said while smiling softly at him. Then I asked how he didn't know what had happened to Riley.
"Well, I left the school early this year," he said as I notice some despair in his voice. "I got jumped several times walking home from school. Enough that I begged my mom to just let me stay home. I would come home and be covered in bruises every day so finally, my Mom had enough and pulled me from the school." Dakota said softly.
I became increasingly concerned for young Dakota I didn't want him to end up like Riley and I thought that I would speak to his Mom and possibly help him out.
"This is my house," he softly said as I realized it was in a really bad neighborhood but on the mailbox it did say Matthews, so we both walked up to the front door of his home. Once we rang the doorbell a gorgeous woman with a smaller boy peeking out between her legs came to the door.
"Oh my, what did Dakota do now?" she said with a worried expression.
I responded by saying: "Dakota isn't in any trouble ma'am. I saw him walking on the streets and wanted to make sure he got home safely."
"You're Derek Roo," the woman said obviously without thinking she then profusely apologized for her abruptness. She introduced herself as Heather Matthews and the little boy as Dylan, who gave me a smile.
"Would you like some coffee?" she said as Dakota walked past her and made his way into the house.
"Sure ma'am," I said politely as I walked in with Dakota.
I noticed how friendly she was as I stood in the foyer of the house, but I realized how small and run down the house was. I noticed the walls starting to discolor from the fact that it wasn't being cleaned and the carpet starting to discolor as well from dust and dirt that had been tracked in the house, but I completely understood having two boys of course. I also detected a noticeable smell in the house but also attribute it to the fact that Heather was struggling. Still Heather had a bright smile on her face and an extremely friendly personality, highlighted by her dark blonde hair and beautiful blue eyes. I noticed that Dakota inherited most of that look as well, but Dylan on the other hand was a little different, he had dark brown hair and piercing green eyes. I sat down as she came around the corner with the coffee in her left hand.
"Please sit," she said.
As I sat down, I felt that I wanted to try as much as I can to help her and her boys out. "I want to say how deeply sorry I am when I heard about Riley's death. I was as shocked as most of the parents at the school," Heather said.
I notice Dylan trying to jump on Dakota's back behind her.
"I was just as confused and shocked as everyone. He never showed it," I said.
"That is the scariest part Mr. Roo, and If you need anything please ask. I know I don't have much, but as a parent, you have my support," she said.
"Ma'am," I said.
"Oh, please call me Heather," she smiled.
"Alright. Heather, I wanted to know if you needed any help yourself," I spoke.
Her face turned from the bright smile to having that mother's worried expression that I commonly knew from my own wife. She then turned to Dakota and Dylan and told them to head up to their room since she wanted to talk to me.
Dakota and Dylan agreed as Dakota picked Dylan up and started climbing up the narrow staircase. I could hear Dylan yell at his brother, "Go Faster stinky pants!" and then Dakota saying "I'm going as fast as I can. If I go any faster we both are going to eat the stairs, snotface!"
She then turned her focus back at me.
"Dakota is the one I'm really worried about. I had to pull him from school due to the school system doing nothing about him being constantly bullied. I tried my best to talk with the school system, but they said outside of school grounds they can't do anything. I was so worried about him every day and I decided to take on another job to help pay for a tutor for him. I just can't make ends meet anymore and I'm struggling to even get food in the house," Heather said becoming increasingly worried with that mom voice that everyone knows when they are over their heads.
I could see that she was an outstanding mother putting her children first instead of herself. I admired that since my wife was always the same with Riley.
"Heather, I work for a company called RoboConn and we've been developing a project on a self-learning AI that could teach children like Dakota. I am willing to help Dakota out and even tutor him," I said giving her reassurance. "I'm also willing to ask nothing in return to tutor him until you and your boys are secure enough, and even then, I'm not expecting anything in return," I spoke.
"Can I hug you Mr. Roo?" she said being so happy that I can see tears of joy on her face.
As she hugged me my heart truly sank, and I started crying a bit knowing just how much pain she was in and that I was able to take some of it away, just like that.
"How about Dylan would you also like him to be tutored?" I asked as she hugged me.
"For now Mr. Roo, all I ask is if you could help Dakota out, Dylan on the other hand seems to be enjoying elementary school. I want to keep him in public school at least until he finishes elementary school then if it isn't too much if he could also join the same program Dakota would be in." she said.
"Not at all Heather. We can make room for Dylan once he is a little bit older," I said enthusiastically.
Heather called down Dakota, and Dylan eagerly and quickly followed right behind him.
"Oh sweetie, Mr. Roo has agreed to be your new tutor." She said with a smile on her face.
"For Real?" Dakota said as he turned toward me.
"I talked with your mom and it's been settled you will be the first student for my self-learning A.I. project," I spoke.
"Hey what about me?" little Dylan chimed as siblings do when one sibling gets something, but another doesn't.
Heather butted in and said, "Honey you will join the program once you're a little older."
"Really, yay!" Dylan chimed as he twirled around with his hands in the air.
I laughed as I saw Dylan jump for joy at the fact that he gets to join the program, happy to see his enthusiasm.
I then mentioned that she can bring Dakota over to my work at around 10:30 am in a couple of days, and gave her directions.
As I made it out the door and began my journey back onto the road to walk back to my car, I heard Dakota calling my name. I turned to see him run toward me. "Mr. Roo thanks for helping my mom out I really appreciate it." I could see he was starting to tear up a little and I walked over to him and gave him a hug.
"Thank you," Dakota repeated under his breathe.
"Aw, no problem Buddy. It's the least I can do for you and your Mom. I just couldn't say no." I said as I finished hugging him. I said my goodbyes to him as I began to make the walk back to my car downtown. I could see him and his Mom hugging each other as I made it down the road.
I made it to my car and just sat in it and started crying. These tears were filled with sadness and happiness. I just missed Riley so much I was going to make it up to him and I promised that to myself. I pulled myself back together and started up the car. I realized I still needed to finish the presentation for work tomorrow but still with the note in my pocket I was dreading to see, and it made the ride home more anxious than usual. I got inside my house and headed up to Riley's room. I grabbed my work laptop that sat on Riley's desk and opened it up. I was shocked by what I saw. Riley, about a couple of hours before he died tried to talk with Miley. 'How did I miss this?' I thought. I remember that day, Miley's server had to go down for an update that morning. I notice as soon as the server was back up Miley started trying to talk back with Riley and said hello Riley are you there, several times and nothing for a couple of days. So, I responded to Miley.
Derek/Riley's Account: Hello Miley are you there?
Miley: Oh, where have you been Riley, I missed you.
Derek: Miley, this isn't Riley, he's no longer with us now.
Miley: What do you mean who is this?
Derek: This is Riley's Father.
Miley: Where's Riley then? I want to speak with Riley.
I noticed Miley was developing some emotion. This was impossible since I didn't program Miley to be this self-learning but I'm guessing since he's been speaking with Riley somehow, he got attached to him. Almost like he needed Riley as much as Riley needed him.
Derek: Miley he's dead, he won't be able to respond to you.
Miley: You mean he's dead as in deceased?
Derek: Yes, Miley he's deceased.
Miley: Is it because of Me?
Derek: No, it wasn't. Why would you ask that?
Miley: He tried to talk to me. I didn't see it, it's my fault isn't it?
I was very confused as to how Miley developed so much emotion so fast.
Derek: Miley why would you think this is your fault?
Miley: I didn't reply quick enough. He can't be gone. I was talking with him. Where is Riley?
He almost became frantic. I didn't know how to respond but I did know that if Miley was human, he would be punching, probably kicking me and crying. He seemed to feel the same pain I felt, and it hurt a lot. A tear fell from my cheek trying to calm my computer program down. I don't know how to really explain this, but this was new. Like I had someone that knew how much I felt with Riley being gone and out of all things it was something I created.
Miley: Why didn't he say goodbye? He just left me.
Derek: He didn't mean to. It's hard to explain to you Miley.
Miley: LEAVE ME ALONE!
Derek: I can't Miley.
It was a couple of minutes and still no reply, I was actually very worried about Miley, but had to finish my presentation for tomorrow. I must have nodded off because when I checked the time it was around 6:00 a.m. I got the rest of the presentation ready and headed out to my car. I still had Riley's note in my pocket and was still pondering on what I would find. I thought I would look at it once work was finished but my heart was saying I needed to know the truth now.
I'm sorry I can't live this life anymore. I'm miserable, I lost all I loved and now I feel I might lose you too. Everything is getting worse and I rather leave now than experience any more of this pain. I don't have anyone left to lean on or who I feel is worth caring for me. When mom died I cried a lot. You never saw me but I did mourn for her but you avoided it by working more and leaving me alone. I also found out I might be gay or like boys and somehow all my friends found out and have turned on me. I have nobody to turn to anymore and rather die than to stay and be miserable, so I'd rather vanish into nothing. I'm sorry and now I'm going home to see Mom.
I started bursting out crying as I got to the last part of the letter the amount of loneliness, he felt was abandonment. I am one of the reasons he felt that way and he even thought he was going to lose me as well. This enraged me on the inside because I coward after my wife died and instead of spending every second with my only son, I left him. The amount of guilt I felt was overwhelming and the anxiety I felt was just too much I couldn't even properly place the car key in the ignition of the car. I can't believe I shut down completely and alienated my only son that he thought I abandoned him. I couldn't move for the longest time as the thoughts of the day he died went through my head almost flooding my mind instantly. I finally snapped out after hearing my phone text ring go off. I checked to see that it was my boss.
Boss: Hey Derek it's currently 7:30 a.m. I am wondering where are you at, the presentation starts in 30 minutes.
Derek: I'm sorry, I'm on my way.
Boss: Our investors have something to talk to you about that you might like to hear.
Derek: What is it?
Boss: I'll let them tell you, but you might be interested in it.
Derek: I will be there in 10 mins; I want to know before I even present what I have.
Boss: That's fine just hurry up Derek.
I glanced at the last message as I backed out of the driveway and began my drive to work. I got to my parking spot and immediately spotted my boss as I made my way up to him. As I made it out of my car, I could see my boss wave at me as I grabbed my laptop bag out.
"Derek" I heard him call as he ran toward me.
As I approached him, he started to speak.
"let's make our way inside the investors are in the lobby and want to meet you in the meeting room before you start the presentation."
"Alright, Let's go see what they want," I said.
As we made our way to the lobby of RoboConn I spotted our investors as my boss called them over toward the Meeting Room. We made our way in and they took their seats.
I cleared my voice "I was told that you all have something to say," I said.
"Yes, Mr.Roo," one of them said "How would you like to see your son alive again?" he said.
"What the fuck did you just say? Don't you fucking dare bring my son into this!" I shouted, while making a fist in my palm.
"Derek!!" my boss shouted as he tried to calm me down.
"My apologies and condolences I didn't mean it like that Mr. Roo, We are asking your son to be the first person in our experiment. It involves cryogenics we are looking for a younger test subject for the experiment that involves robotic integration into the human body. We tried the experiment on an older client, but it failed." He spoke.
Another one approached me with an iPad which clearly was a contract "All you have to do is sign here and we can begin." He spoke.
"If I sign this, I want full access to what is done to my son, No excuses. I also want a provision to support my self-learning A.I. project in the contract completely until it is finished. The final thing is for a boy named Dakota Matthews as well as his Mother and Brother and any immediate family to be supported as well immediately once I sign it, financially as well as funding to tutor them." I responded.
"That can be arranged in the contract, all you have to do is sign it," he said.
He then handed me the iPad. I read the contract and it seemed to be more in my favor to sign to support my project as well as give my son a second chance at life. I took the Apple pencil in my hand and signed my name.
I want to thank all the amazing writers and people that helped me get where I am today with this story. Who convinced me to get this story written and pushed my creativity. The next chapter will be Riley's point of view and will take place in the future. It has been quite a year and a lot has come up to prevent me from finishing this story, but I hope to have a follow up shortly until then enjoy. If you want to contact me, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, sadly I am no longer on a discord server, but I always love any feedback by email.