When they pulled into the drive, Alex couldn't help but be impressed. In front of him was a three storey building with bay windows on two floors, with the front door between the downstairs windows and a balcony between the windows on the first floor. To the side of the house was a garage which looked like it would hold at least two cars. Alex instantly thought that this woman had to come from money. Sarah led him into the hall where she took her coat off and waited to take Alex's.
"Right then, now we can get comfy, do you prefer tea or coffee? Personally I've never been one for coffee but my husband and son love the stuff."
"I have only ever had tea; my parents are pretty old fashioned when it comes to a lot of things. Dad was too stubborn to try coffee; it was too American so mum never bought it."
"Well tea it is then, come on we'll sit in the kitchen while we wait for the kettle to boil." As Sarah led Alex through to the kitchen his first impression of Sarah being wealthy was reinforced by the way the house had been decorated and upkeep of the house. The hall had a proper wooden floor, not cheap laminate like his parents had in their living room. The walls were a whitish colour, Alex wasn't sure what colour it was because it wasn't quite white but it looked clean and warm. So far the house radiated a warm and inviting atmosphere completely opposite to that of his parents, but Alex couldn't quite put his finger on exactly why. Alex was further impressed when he got into the kitchen. There was a breakfast bar just in front of the door leading off the hall with a very modern looking fitted kitchen to the right and a large dining table and chairs the other side. Alex could never remember being anywhere so posh.
"Why don't you sit at the breakfast bar while I start the tea going. Would you like something to eat with your tea? You look half famished. Maybe a chicken sandwich, I know there is some spare chicken going if you'd like? I'm having one so it's not much more to make one for you, is it lunch time after all."
"I would like that very much thank you." Alex was famished; the last time he had eaten was dinner last night.
"So would you like anything to go with it? I have plenty of fruit here; my son can't get enough of it."
"A banana or pear if you have one." Sarah handed him one of each and then carried on making lunch. After a few minutes the kettle had reached the boil and she made the tea. Whilst it was brewing she finished making the sandwiches, she placed a plate in front of Alex and one opposite him for herself before sitting down brought two mugs, the teapot and the milk and sugar with her. "Tuck in Alex. Do you want milk or sugar?"
"I like my tea with milk but no sugar thanks, my Gran always used to say I was sweet enough, but she didn't know about me being gay so she probably wouldn't think so now." Sarah let the comment go for the moment and poured the teas.
"Ok Alex, whilst we are eating I would like to tell you a little more about my family, if that is ok with you, and hopefully then you will understand why I had to stop earlier to talk to you." Alex looked at the woman, who seemed a little sad or the first time since he met her. "Well as I mentioned earlier, I have a husband and a son. My son Justin is 17, which I would guess is a little older then you?"
"Yes. I turned 16 this morning."
"Well I know it's not much but Happy Birthday. So going back to me and my family, I had a brother who was three years younger than me who, unfortunately is no longer with us, and he is the reason I had to stop when I saw you. You see my brother ran away when he was a little older than Justin. My parents were pretty wealthy; and they set their estate up so that when Terry and I turned 25 we would inherit a sizable amount of money, but that money came with conditions. Those conditions didn't affect me because I met Simon when I was 18 and we fell in love and were happily married with my parents' consent when I finished university. When I was 23 I gave birth to Justin, so by the time I turned 25 I had met my parents' conditions and inherited the money set aside for me. Terry however was having major problems with my parents long before he ran away. At the time I could never really work out why my brother and parents clashed so much, he and I were pretty close or so I thought. He would usually come to me when they had argued and I would often play peacemaker. During my second Christmas at university, Terry ran away, my parents didn't seem that bothered, I was terrified for him. I knew that while I was in uni things between Terry and my parents were getting worse but I didn't think things had gotten so bad. I persuaded my parents to report him as missing and the police went through the motions of taking Terry's details, and then told me that they would keep a look out for him and would notify us if he turned up. That is the second worse Christmas of my life, I was so worried for Terry, I could not enjoy it. I went back to uni after the holidays because I didn't know what else to do. I had no idea where Terry had gone so all I could do was to pray that he was safe and that he would get in touch." Tears were forming in Sarah's eyes as she was relaying her story to this kid who reminded her so much of Terry.
"Just after Valentine's day that year, Terry showed up at my flat. He didn't look too bad. Strangely we did the same that day as you and I are doing now, having some lunch with a nice cup of tea. Terry told me that he had run away because he could not put up with our parents telling him how to live his life. He wasn't interested in living a lie any longer and that was when he told me he was gay. Having been in uni for a little while I had met a few men and women who preferred the company of the same sex so I was not alarmed by what Terry had told me. It didn't change the way I thought of him and told him so. Unfortunately it did matter to my parents, you see with Terry being gay he was going to be written out of his inheritance. Terry was comfortable with that and he was making a living on his own; he had only come around to let me know that he was ok so I could stop worrying about him. He gave me the information about where he was staying and what he was doing and asked me to keep it from my parents. I agreed and he left a little while later with a big smile on his face, and to tell you the truth so had I.
We kept in touch on a fairly regular basis, so we both knew what each other was doing but our parents never found out. A few years later, just after Justin was born, there was a fire where Terry was working and somehow he got trapped and died. When the police contacted my parents to tell them, they just brushed it aside as though he had nothing more to do with them than a passing acquaintance. That hurt me as much as the news of him dying. That was my worst Christmas." Sarah had to get up at this point to get some tissues. She had not intended to cry like this but talking about her brother always seemed to make her like this.
"After my parents buried Terry's ashes they never spoke his name again. It was as if he never existed, they altered their wills and put Terry's share into a trust for Justin. In our correspondence Terry told me he had met his partner just after he had run away that Christmas. Tim came across Terry sitting on a bench just like you today. Tim offered Terry a hot cup of tea and they got chatting and that was when Tim decided he had to help get Terry off the streets so he offered him a place to stay. If it hadn't been for Tim, God only knows what could have happened to Terry. So you see now why I had to stop earlier when I saw you?"
"Wasn't Tim afraid Terry would rob him or something? What gave you the impression you could trust me?"
"That is easy. You look very similar to Terry did at your age. There are a few superficial differences but you have an aura around you that tells me I can trust you just like my brother had." At this point Alex yawned like he hadn't slept for days. "Ok, now before I show you to the guest room where you can get some much needed sleep, I would like to know a bit of your story. I understand a lot is going to be painful to talk about right now, so how about if I ask a few questions and we can go from there?"
"You mentioned earlier that you had been in hospital this morning, do you mind me asking what for?"
"Well..............uh.................um.......it was because.......well I.......I have been cutting myself to help me stop being gay. Normally I don't cut too deep but this morning I slipped and went pretty deep, I wasn't trying to off myself, although sometimes I think that would be best for everyone. My brother came in just after, saw the blood and screamed. My parents came in and then called for an ambulance." Alex was a little surprised at how easy it was to talk about one of his biggest secrets to this to a complete stranger after he had gotten started.
"Ok, firstly suicide is not an easy option for anyone and it is never the best option for someone like you, but what did the doctors say in the hospital?"
"They just told me to take it easy for a few days to allow my body to recover."
"Well it doesn't look like you have been able to do that so far. Did the doctors prescribe anything for you?"
"They told me to avoid Aspirin but normal paracetamol would be ok if the pain was a bit too much."
"I want you to tell me if the pain does get too bad then, ok?"
Alex was beginning to feel that this woman cared more for him than his parents did, even though she had only known him for such a short time, knew his deepest secrets and wasn't kicking him out. "Now next question, what is your full name and your parents' details so I can call social services and let them know what is happening. Don't worry they won't be taking you away from here, not unless you want to go that is. Now I think that is enough to be going on with and I think you can get some much needed sleep."
Alex gave Sarah his parents' names and their address then Sarah led him up to the guest room. There was a queen size bed against the back wall with a set of fitted cupboards around the head of the bed.
"When you wake up, I'll be in the kitchen; the bathroom is en suite and is through that door there. I just have one request. I want you to promise me that if you feel the need to cut yourself at anytime I want you to come and talk to me first, ok?"
"Ok I think I can try that." With that Sarah went back downstairs and left Alex looking around. This room was like he would expect a hotel to look. He kept thinking he must be dreaming, he had only been kicked out of his own house a few hours ago. What had he done to deserve this kind of luck? Alex gave another massive yawn and decided that he really did need to get his head down; before he could do that though he went into the bathroom to relieve his bladder. When he had finished he stripped down to his boxers and got into the bed. He found the bed so comfortable that within seconds of his head hitting the pillow he was fast asleep.
Thanks to everyone who has read the first two chapters. Thanks to Aaron S, Mono, Trish and Bill for their emails and kind words.