Kaden’s had a hard little life. He was born in the Hole (literally – his mother didn’t have time to get to a hospital, or to be fair, the money) and was raised with three older brothers, Marcus, Connor and Ronan. One by one, as the boys hit their late teens, they fell into the same crowd their father ran with, and changed their names, now Barak, Cy and Tragos.
Kaden’s not a fighter. He’s a runner. He’s always been a runner. Long legs and good lungs. His earliest memory is of his mother walking him to a shoe shop before his first day at school. She pointed out landmarks so he’d know where they were – look at this bodega with the bananas in the window, now we’re turning toward the McDonalds, and at the corner with the house with the burnt our car in front we’re turning toward the Walmart.
And he’d let the man measure his feet while his mother lingered near the counter. Remembers the man showing him how to tie knots in his shoelaces by making bunny ears, and then parading proudly around the shop, past his mom, past the mirror, and as another customer came into the shop, straight out the door. He remembers being chased, remembers the distressed call of his mother as he darted across the road, past the Walmart and the burnt out car, past the McDonalds and the bodega, till he started to recognise his own neighbourhood and the signs he’d made it all the way back home. Where his mom met him, covering his face with kisses and pride and telling him how well he’d done, pulling clean socks for all the boys from her big coat pockets.
She swore him to secrecy, and later that evening when their dad had nodded approvingly at the new shoes he’d given his mom the money to buy, Kaden didn’t say anything, and when his mom tucked him in that night she told him again how proud she was of him.
Kaden still thinks of that memory, and wonders what his mother actually did spend the money on, but never did get a chance to ask. A little over two years later, when he was seven, she died. He doesn’t remember much about that time, just a lot of chaos. A few months before, his uncles practically moved in with them, one in a caravan out the front and one on the couch. Barak (who’d just turned nineteen and started calling himself Barak) and Connor (who was a couple of years away from becoming Cy) joined their dad and uncles round the dinner table in loud, adult discussions. He and Ronan (only eleven, so many years away from even the idea of Tragos) were often banished to their room, to the yard, off the property entirely. There were cops around that time, too. Mostly Kaden remembers Ronan breaking into an abandoned car and turning it into their clubhouse, and they’d stash chips in the trunk, and retreat there whenever the house was too crowded.
When their mom’s body was found, his dad and one of his uncles had a fight so bad they didn’t see that uncle again for years. Kaden’s other clear memory of that time is sweeping broken glass up with a broom, brushing it all into a brown McDonald’s bag and chucking it over the fence of a house a couple of blocks over. Running home laughing after the bag split and shattered and someone on the other side of the fence screamed. Remembers their dad bringing home pizza and telling all the boys their uncle was a liar and they were never to speak his name again.
They didn’t, till three years later when their dad went to prison and the uncles came back. More heated, adult discussions around the table, this time ones Kaden and Ronan lingered outside the window to listen to, because most of the arguments were what to do about them. “Ronan’s a cunning little demon when it comes to cars, you wanna lose that?” he remembers Uncle T saying. “And Kaden’s sweet face – kid can steal anything with that face.” Then the other Uncle pointed out the state would pay Barak a certain amount a week to keep them, rather than send them to foster care.
Kaden and Ronan shared a look, crouched under the window, and knew they’d be staying at home.
Now Kaden’s fifteen, their dad's still in prison, and all the Murphy boys are still at home. He and Ronan – Tragos, now – share the room they’ve always shared, Cy’s in the room next door that he used to share with Barak, Barak’s in the master bedroom where their parents used to sleep. The uncle their dad fought with died of an overdose a few years ago. The other one was shot later the same year.
Kaden tells himself that if he makes it to junior year of high school, less than two years away, he’ll have done better than anyone else in his family. But Kaden wants to make it even further than that, he wants to go to college, he wants to be a vet.
Of all the family, Kaden has the book smarts. He enjoys reading - he enjoys playstation and basketball and dancing too, the reading is just significant because he’s the only one in the family that does. He likes school pretty well, and not just because it gets him out of the house. He thinks the whole ‘we dedicate our entire personalities to fighting’ thing that his brothers do is a bit OTT, but he’s not dumb enough to mock Barak and Cy for it (to their faces) because they’d actually try to beat some respect in him, and Tragos (who he still slips up and called Ronan, sometimes) will just smack him on the shoulder and correct him. Maybe the back of the head if he's being a little shit about it. Kaden enjoys being a little shit about it.
He thinks he’s hilarious and kind of has a dream to moonlight as a stand up comic to put himself through vet school but doesn’t think enough people get his sense of humor, because it’s mostly in jokes with his equally hilarious friends.
He dances for fun, he sings, he raps, he mimics, he films it all and his tiktok’s pretty popular in his school, at least. He’s a bit of a weird kid at school, but more class clown than nerdy outcast. He is more aware of the wider world, like, socially and politically, than his brothers (not that they’d think that, they think they know exactly how the world works) but he's still been raised in a bit of an echo chamber.