Since Sarah had found out about her brother living on the street she had made an effort to try and help people in need; this brought her into contact with local police and social services on a regular basis, so she knew exactly who to contact about Alex's situation. The first call Sarah made went to her husband. She quickly told Simon about bringing Alex home and that they would obviously need to discuss him in more depth when he got home from work later. The second call she made was to Martha in social services. That call was simple and straight forward. Sarah asked if she could have a home visit to discuss Alex's future as soon as possible. The third call Sarah made was to Sgt Thompson in the local police station. This call was only a courtesy just in case Alex's parents had phoned the police to report him as missing or something worse.
Before Alex opened his eyes he knew something wasn't quite right, it took him a few seconds before the horror of earlier flooded back. When he remembered that his parents had thrown him out it brought on a bought of tears; then he remembered Sarah had offered him more support and comfort than he had ever had from either of his parents. The realisation that this stranger seemed to care more for him than his parents made him cry even harder. When he was able to pull himself together he went into the bathroom to use the toilet and wash his face before getting dressed and going downstairs.
"Ah good, I was just going to send Justin up to see if you were awake. By the way this is Justin, my son." Justin moved towards Alex to shake hands. As much as Alex had tried to stop being gay, it was at times like this when his will power completely failed him. Justin was simply gorgeous. He had blonde hair styled in the latest fashion and blue eyes that just drew Alex in. Alex could feel the stirring in his groin that told him how hot his body thought Justin was. When they shook hands Justin smiled, his whole face lit up and Alex couldn't help but smile back. Alex noticed that Justin had dimples either side of his mouth when he smiled and this made Alex melt inside. As he was feeling all of this he was also thinking about how he would have to cut up later for feeling this way.
"Would you like something to drink Alex? I've got dinner going. I hope you don't mind spaghetti? It's one of Justin's favourites." Sarah said as the boys were shaking hands
"Uh, sorry, what was that?" Alex had heard Sarah talking but not actually taken in one word she had said. Sarah couldn't help smile at the dazed look on Alex's face.
"I said would you like something to drink before we have dinner?"
"Yes please, I don't mind what."
"Would you like some fruit juice? We have a number of different flavours; there is apple, orange or mixed fruit?"
"I think I'll try mixed fruit if that's ok?"
"Of course it is." Sarah noticed that Alex seemed unsure of what to do next. "Why don't you sit down by the breakfast bar by Justin while I sort out the drinks, then we can chat some more before Simon comes home and we sit down for dinner. I just thought do you have any food allergies? I don't want to send you to the hospital for the second time today." At Sarah's mention of the hospital Justin noticed Alex pull at the sleeves of his top. Justin wondered what the earlier trip to the hospital had been for but thought that if it was important he would find out soon enough. His mother had only explained to him that she had found Alex in tears on a bench and had brought him home.
Justin had a feeling he knew Alex's face from somewhere but couldn't place it so he had a guess. "Alex, you look familiar, do you go to Connor High?"
"Yeah, well, I did. I don't know what is going to happen now; I was supposed to sit my GCSE's in a couple of months. I might not be able to now."
"Alex, I made a few calls earlier and we have an appointment with a nice lady I know called Martha; she is coming over later this evening to discuss what is going to happen with you now. I also spoke to someone in the police to let them know that for now at least if there is a report about you that you will be here with us." At the mention of the police Alex instinctively reacted like a rabbit caught in the headlights of a car. "I didn't mean to frighten you; it was more to save the police the hassle of running around in case your parents decide to play funny later." Alex could see that that made sense, knowing how his parents had reacted when they suspected he was gay he wouldn't be surprised by anything they would do. "You didn't say if you had any food allergies? Do I take it that there are none?"
"Not that I am aware of. What are we cooking anyway? It smells great."
"It's one of Justin's favourites. Spaghetti Bolognese, I hope that you like it?"
"If it tastes half as good as it smells I am sure it will be fantastic."
"It usually tastes better than it smells. Hello, you must be Alex, my name is Simon." Simon shook Alex's hand and then gave his wife a quick hug and a kiss on the lips.
"Get a room you two. I want to be able to keep my food down after I have eaten and what you two are doing it aint gonna help." For that Justin got a quick playful flick across the head. He laughed at his father. Alex had seen more love in this room in the last minute than he could remember ever from his parents.
"Justin, can you keep an eye on the dinner while your father and I have a quick chat in the living room?"
Sarah and Simon went to the living room leaving the boys alone for the first time. Justin got up and started looking at the pans on the stove which meant he had his back to Alex. Alex was not sure how much Sarah had told Justin about why he was in his home. Would he want to pummel him like most of the boys in his year in school who suspected he was gay, threatened to do? He looked the typical jock type and they were usually the worst of a bad bunch in school.
When Justin turned back he smiled at Alex again and Alex felt that warm feeling once more. "Mom said she saw you crying on a bench in corpse town, well that's what she calls downtown."
Alex still wasn't sure how much more Sarah had said so for his own sake he decided to bend some of the facts with Justin until he knew how he would react. "Yeah, my father wasn't happy about having to take time off work for a trip to the hospital this morning when it was my fault. When we got home he just broke into one and threw me out." Alex started to well up again, he didn't think it was possible for him cry anymore.
"We don't have to talk about it if you don't want. You into sports?" Justin could see Alex start to cry so he thought changing the subject might help.
Alex could see what Justin had done and was grateful. "I like watching football. I'm not much of a sporty person. I am more of a spectator than a participator."
"I love watching footie. I had a trial with Cardiff last year but I wasn't quite good enough, but that's alright coz mom thinks I should aim for a more beneficial career than a professional player. I guess she is right. There is a game on tonight, you fancy watching it together?"
"If I am still here, what with social services coming around, they might want to put me somewhere else. Besides I am sure your mom and dad won't want some stray in their house for longer than necessary."
"Are you kidding? Mom isn't going to let Martha take you away. She has always helped people in trouble although you are the first person she has ever brought home. She must think you deserve a real break. So what team do you follow?" Alex was beginning to think that perhaps Justin was right and he would be staying here for a while even though Sarah knew he was gay, but then she didn't think that was a bad thing. Was it possible that both he and his father were wrong and Sarah was right?
"I am a Leeds fan, but I like watching Man Utd as well."
"That's good coz they are on tonight; dad is a Man U fanatic. Me, I prefer Liverpool even though we have been playing shite this year. I am glad they sold Torres in January. Chelsea are mugs for paying that much for him." The boys continued their chat on the ups and downs of the footie season while Sarah and Simon were in the front room discussing Alex's future.
"I'm sorry I didn't talk to you before I brought him home; but I couldn't leave him down there, not when I saw the bandage on his arm. I automatically thought he had tried to kill himself; I couldn't help thinking of Terry."
"I'd guessed there had to be a connection to Terry, coz you have never brought a stray home before. Can we trust him though? Are you sure he isn't some kind of junky?"
"You've seen him. Does he look like a junkie to you?"
"No I don't think he does. I am just trying to play devil's advocate a minute. How is Justin going to react if we do take Alex in permanently?"
"I think it will be good for Justin. I think both have more in common than either realise at the moment."
"Well from what I have seen of him, he is a nice polite young man; but I have only seen him for a few seconds. You know I trust your judgement."
"Are you happy for me to tell Martha he can stay, if that is what he wants?"
"Sure. It would be nice for Justin to have someone around his own age around here." With that they both went back into the kitchen, the boys were well into their conversation.
"Hey mom, you brought another footie addict home. Alex is a Leeds fan dad. I said we were watching the game later and he could watch it with us if he wanted." Simon laughed, his wife was right again; the boys seemed to be hitting it off.
"Of course he can. What time did you say Martha was coming around?"
"She planned on coming over around half six, so we all have time to have food first. Justin, do you want to show Alex where we keep the things to set the table. Dinner will be ready in a few minutes." Justin and Alex set the table while Sarah was just putting the finishing touches to dinner. When they sat down for dinner Alex was expecting Sarah or Simon to say grace but all that was said was "Tuck in"
Even through the worry of what this social worker was going to want to do, Alex found he had an appetite and thought that this spaghetti was amazing. Not that he could compare it to a previous one but then you know when food is good, it's good. "Justin, why don't you share what's left in the saucepan between you and Alex? I think your father and I have enough on our plates and it's only going to go to waste otherwise." Justin did as his mother had asked and Alex found he still had room in his stomach to polish his plate off even after the extra portion.
"I really enjoyed that, thank you. Can I show my thanks by doing the dishes?" Alex felt he had to do something to show he appreciated what had been done for him so far.
"I have a better idea, why don't you and Justin do them between you and Simon and I can go and relax in the living room before Martha turns up." With that Sarah and Simon got up and went into the living room leaving the boys together again.
Justin remembered how Alex had pulled on his sleeves earlier when his mother mentioned the hospital so he suggested he wash, while Alex wipe. Whilst Alex was wiping some of the dishes, Justin had caught a glimpse of the bandage on Alex's arm and he wondered what had happened with Alex earlier. He was sure that his mother was going to get her way and Alex was going to be staying. He was also hoping that Alex would eventually feel comfortable enough to confide in him. He was actually looking forward to having a 'little' brother around. Between them it had taken no time to get the kitchen tidied up and looking sparkling.
"Have you played any of the burnout games on PS2 they have to be one of the best series of car games?"
"Never had any of the playstations, my father thought they were a complete waste of time, energy and money."
"Have you ever played one?"
"Nope, my parents were not keen on letting me go around to anyone's house for fear I would be corrupted. They have a very strange way of looking at certain things, almost Victorian."
"Well let's go and make a start on bringing your education up to speed." With that Alex followed Justin upstairs to the third floor. It was actually the attic, but had been converted years ago. When Alex got up there he was amazed. The room covered about half the attic. When you first go into the room, you can't help but notice the massive king size bed. On the right of the bed was a cabinet with a lamp and just above was a few shelves of books. On the other side of the bed was a door which Alex assumed led to the bathroom. Along the wall to the right of the bed was a window which looked out of the back yard. Opposite this window was another window on the left wall which looked out over the street. On this wall between the window and bathroom door was a load of shelves full of DVDs, games and cds. On the other side of that window was a desk with a desktop PC. On the wall opposite the bed was a large flat screen TV with what looked like most of the recent consoles attached.
Justin showed Alex quickly what to do on burnout and then sat at the desk. After starting the PC up, Justin put some music on. Not surprising to Alex, he hadn't heard of the music Justin was playing. Whilst Alex was playing on burnout, Justin seemed to be doodling on the PC. They started chatting about school and the only other thing they thought they had in common, football. As Justin was a curious person by nature he led the conversation and he occasionally brought up a variety of different subjects and they were surprised to find they had more than football in common.
To Alex it felt like they hadn't been there for long before Simon came in to tell him Martha had arrived but they had actually been playing and chatting for an hour. He had to admit that he had enjoyed being with Justin. Alex had found that Justin wasn't a typical jock he actually had brains and could hold a conversation on more than just sport. He also felt that Justin wasn't just being nice because his mother had asked him.
Alex followed Simon downstairs feeling really apprehensive over what Martha was going to say. He was surprised when he followed Simon into the living room. Martha wasn't the woman he had expected; she was probably no older than mid thirties and even Alex could see that she would be attractive to a lot of men.
"Hello, you must be Alex? My name as I am sure you already know, is Martha." She shook hands with Alex before sitting back down. "Now we all know why I have come around tonight, but I want you to tell me in your own words exactly what has happened to you today. I won't interrupt unless I have to. Don't be afraid to tell me everything including what you were feeling and don't be embarrassed of afraid that what you say may upset me, Sarah or Simon. Believe me we have either gone through the same as you or know someone who has."
Alex wasn't quite sure whether Martha was telling the truth, he was still sure that being gay was one of the worst things in the world; perhaps he could skirt around a few things, besides Sarah was already aware of a lot. "When I got up this morning I was feeling really depressed; when I feel like that I find that cutting myself is a way of coping with it and I always feel better for a while after. Automatically I reached for the kit I kept hidden under my bed. I got out my blade and started to cut my arm, somehow though I slipped and cut a lot deeper than I meant to. My brother came in just then and started screaming when he saw me bleeding. My parents were still home and came running to see what the noise was about. They quickly called for an ambulance and the paramedics took me to hospital. They got dressed and followed a little later. When I was at the hospital the doctor had a quick chat with me about how it happened and I told him that I had slipped with a knife in the kitchen, but I don't think he believed me. When I got back home I sat on the sofa in the living room with mom my dad and brother went upstairs, I don't think they were up there for long before my father came downstairs with a magazine I had hidden. It wasn't a pornographic one but it wasn't what my father would think normal for a boy my age to have ever. When he asked me to explain why the magazine was in my room I couldn't." At this point the emotions were getting the better of Alex. After he had pulled himself together again he continued but the tears were never far away. "I knew how he felt about anything he felt wasn't normal. I knew he would either beat me or throw me out if I told him I was attracted to other boys, even though I have tried to change and stop being gay. So when I didn't explain the magazine I think he realised that I was abnormal and threw me out. My mother just sat there and let him. I left the house and just started walking. I didn't know where I was going; eventually I just collapsed on a bench and that was where Sarah found me. I think you know the rest from there."
"I can see how upsetting that has been for you Alex and if I am honest, I don't think I would be able to keep it together as much as you seem to be if I was in your shoes. I have a few questions though. Do you remember the name of the doctor from this morning?"
"That's good, I know him. Now when your father threw you out, did he let you get some things first?"
"No, the only reason I had a jacket was because it was by the front door."
"Ok, now do you have any family that might be able to, or would take you in?"
"I don't think so, my parents were both the only children of my grandparents. I am sure that my father has already told them what he thinks of me." Alex felt a few tears free themselves as he realised he had lost his entire family.
"Well that makes things a lot easier for me. I had a chat with Sarah and Simon before you came downstairs. They are more than happy for you to stay here if you want to that is." Alex looked at both Sarah and Simon, he couldn't believe it. They knew that he was gay and they were happy for him to stay with them rather than trying to get him somewhere else to stay unlike his parents.
"I would like to stay of I could, but are you sure you want an abnormal freak like me around?"
"Alex, I wish you would believe me when I tell you there is nothing wrong with you or with being gay. I am guessing you were brought up to believe in God. I know I was and I believe that when He created you He chose to make you gay. I know at the moment you will find that hard to believe." Alex could feel himself welling up again. It was at this point that Simon saw how lost Alex truly was; he got up and pulled him into a hug. As Alex felt this man embrace him, he just lost it. The tears broke the dam and flowed freely again. Simon could feel the tears soaking into his top but hugged the young man until he felt that Alex had brought himself under control again.
"I think the first thing we need to do for Alex is sort out an appointment with a psychologist or counsellor so he can start to talk to someone about his feelings and his self harming. Do you know of anyone that is any good Martha?" Simon was already starting to feel protective towards Alex and he was certain that if they could get him to see that being gay wasn't a bad thing, his self harming would stop.
"Yes Simon I agree. I have a few in mind, but I would like to talk to Dr Goodwin in the morning before we make any definite plans. I kept the information on Alex's parents you gave me earlier Sarah and in the morning I will tell them we have found a foster family for Alex and that we need to pay them a visit to collect Alex's belongings. You are going to need your clothes and your school things for a start. But I think we have said enough for tonight. If it is ok with you I'll come around tomorrow morning and we can start to sort some of these things out properly?"
"There isn't school tomorrow what with Easter coming up on the weekend; so how about you come around about 1o'clock and we can have some lunch at the same time."
"That sounds like a good idea to me; it will easily beat what I had planned for lunch. Well I think I have stayed long enough tonight. I'll see you tomorrow Alex." With that Simon saw Martha out and then went upstairs to get Justin.
"I know the only clothes you have at the moment are the ones you are wearing, so I asked Simon to pick up a pack of underwear on his way home so you had clean ones to change into and as you are so close in size to Justin, you can borrow some of his clothes until we get you yours. I know he won't mind."
"Are you sure Justin will be ok with me being here, what with me being, well, you know?" Even though Sarah kept telling him it was ok to be gay, he was still finding it hard to accept; he had spent so long fighting it, it was almost automatic.
"We haven't mentioned that to him because Simon, Martha and I think it is something you should tell him yourself; but I know my son well enough to know how he will react when you do tell him. We want you to know that there is no rush for you to tell him. You can do it when you are ready. I hope that you will be happy here with us and comfortable enough with Simon and myself that you are able to talk to either of us about anything. Now why don't we go to the kitchen and get a drink. My tea has gone cold with all this talking and that is one thing I refuse to drink. I don't know about you?"
Sarah led the way to the kitchen. As Alex got inside the door he was greeted with Simon, Sarah and Justin singing Happy Birthday with a cake in front of them. His emotions were still so close to the surface from earlier that this little bit of kindness brought on another set of tears and then he was pulled into a group hug.
"I know it is nothing fancy Alex, but I didn't have enough here to make a fancier cake. If I had had some time to go shopping I could have made it a lot better." Alex was really touched by the thoughtfulness that Sarah had shown by baking the cake for him. To him the cake looked pretty fancy and was easily better than anything his parents had planned to do for him. He would think he was lucky most years if he got anything more than a card form his parents.
"What do you mean it isn't fancy? It looks pretty fancy to me. I am used to getting just a card for my birthday. I can't remember the last birthday cake I had as fancy as this. Come to think of it, I can't remember the last birthday cake I had." Sarah was really struggling to bite her tongue, from the things Alex said about his family it was obvious to her they had not shown him any kind of love or support.
"Any chance of cutting this thing tonight so us boys can go and watch the footie?" Justin could see the look on his mom's face and realised that he wasn't alone in thinking that Alex's parents were obviously shit parents, so he thought it was best to try and change the subject. Besides it was nearly kick off time.
Sarah cut three pieces and gave one each to the boys and Simon before cutting a piece for herself. They all seemed to enjoy it as each person polished their plates off pretty quickly. Alex offered to wash the couple of dishes but Sarah stopped him and sent him to watch the football with Justin and Simon. The game didn't turn out to be one of the best of the season but Alex found it more fun watching the game with Justin and Simon, even Sarah was joining in the conversations. About half way through the second half Alex's eyelids were just too heavy to keep open and drifted off to sleep feeling happier than he could remember. Sarah noticed that Alex had gone quiet so looked over and noticed that he had fallen asleep. She thought it was best not to disturb him when he had such a peaceful look on his face that made him look years younger than when she had seen him on the bench a few hours ago.
When the football had finished Simon put the late night news on as was his normal practice and Justin went up to his room. Sarah thought that maybe it was best wake Alex now before he started to sleep too deeply. She shook him gently and suggested that he go up to bed where he would be more comfortable. Alex took a few seconds to come around and noticed that the game had finished and realised that maybe getting into bed would be best. As soon as Alex got into the guest room, he closed the door stripped down to his boxers and slipped into bed. It took him seconds to fall back into the restful sleep he had been in downstairs.
Thanks to Trish, Frankie, Alan, Bill, Ferd, Wayne, Jacob, KD, Paul R, Gareth & Chris for writing after reading chapter 2. Your kind words are appreciated.