• Loves old reruns
• Will tap his foot when impatiently waiting
• Fears falling but doesn't typically avoid heights
The most important rule for the youngest Lane child was always be happy. Be happy, smile, make mom laugh, go unnoticed by dad. Be respectful, be unnoticed, be adaptable.
Dakota Lane's father was the picture of masculinity. Dakota's earliest memories involve the man lifting weights in their basement gym, and his father losing his temper, knocking men to the ground during arguments. Granted, the latter may have been a one-time occurrence, but it stands out to Dakota as who his father was. A military man, he believed in firm discipline, in bedtimes, in living by the clock.
In contrast to the strict upbringing his father envisioned, Dakota's mother was far more lenient and maternal in nature, willing to "baby" the three Lane children. She did her best to shield them from all of the world's evil, but she was incredibly unhappy within her marriage. While her two elder children- a girl and a boy- were well-versed in never being around and never acknowledging their mother's tears, the youngest, Dakota, was the small comfort his mother clung to. His infancy was spent in her arms, his smile always reminding her why she endured her misery.
As Dakota grew into an energetic toddler who rebelled against bedtime, his siblings and his mother tried to warn him: didn't he know? 'Don't make dad mad.' they'd warned. But it was no use. The energetic toddler learned the hard way why his siblings never seemed to be home, and why his mother spent so many hours crying. His loving, though strict father had a darker side when he lost his temper. It was listen, or you'd regret it.
The abuse started minimally. Disobey? Punishment was physical. But gradually there were more and more times when Dakota's father lost his temper over smaller and smaller infractions. As the Lane patriarch rose in ranks and gained the respect and responsibility of more men within the military, his personal life bore the brunt of his aggression and stress. Dakota's mother would sometimes tell the children it was his demons- his past, come to haunt him, drumming up insecurities that no medal or prestige or title could erase.
By Dakota's tenth birthday the new normal was having bruises act as silent reminders when the family assembled- out of obligation- for family dinners. The mood was somber, the conversation limited. A few years later his sister married. She was sixteen, nearly seventeen, but eager to escape. The remaining family members rarely mentioned her, and she rarely called. Still, to the brothers she left behind she had been saved.
Her living with her husband was tough enough, but as a military family a move was inevitable for the Lane family. They packed up their lives once again, each brother stealing a few lingering sentimental items from their sister's room before the rest of her belongings went into the trash. A new house, another chance to be the new kid in town- it was too familiar for the brothers by now to waste much emotion on. That's just what happened when your dad was career military, and there was nothing you could do about it.
It shouldn't have surprised Dakota, but somehow it managed to when as soon as his brother turned seventeen he left, too. He wound up working long hours at dead-end jobs, always trying to find one that would be flexible enough to allow him to keep going to classes. Classes or not, he had to work to pay for the rundown basement apartment he'd moved into. Unlike their sister, Dakota's brother would invite him over and the two would sit in the couch together watching crappy cable television, laughing at nothing while eating ramen or whatever Dakota had stolen from his father's fridge.
After five months it was time to move again, putting hundreds of miles between Dakota and his siblings. Next on the list? Peachtree City, California. It sounded pleasant enough. Dakota began as a sophomore, jumping straight into the football team: he was spry and quick with experience as a promising running back at his previous schools. He also applied for a part-time job as a waiter, just waiting for graduation and his eighteenth birthday to finally arrive.