Three Finger Cove - Charles
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From Previous Chapter:
Charles just stood there staring at Collin. He had a thousand questions he wanted to ask him but couldn't think of a one, right then, to ask the teenager. Then, he remembered Mr. Ken mentioned the 'secret places' so he said, "Yes, Mr. Ken said he had you in a safe place and he told me there was no way they would have ever found you, even if they had gotten inside the house."
"My 'dad' told you that? I didn't learn about the secret hiding places until Ryan showed me them when 'dad' had to go away for a week," decried Robert.
"Tough, deal with it," laughed Ryan. "He told you why he did it that way and we had a lot of fun then, didn't we? And besides, he didn't tell Charles where they were, he just said there were some."
"Yea, you're right, but still …" tailed off Robert.
"So, how are all you guys my 'brothers'," inquired Charles.
Eric took that question and explained to Charles how it was that the boy's began calling each other 'big' and 'little' brother and how it was they called Mr. Ken their 'Big Bro'. It sounded confusing to Charles but he asked them to give him a few days until he could understand it. The four 'brothers' then gave Charles the 'nickel' tour.
After the boys got to know one another a little bit, Robert, and his 'brothers', took Charles upstairs to let him pick which bedroom he wanted. The newest foster son couldn't believe the number of bedrooms and how the bathroom, he would use, was set up.
"I can't believe I can choose from any of the remaining bedrooms," a totally surprised Charles said. "At the other homes, they told me which room would be mine, and I had to like it. Now … which room should I take?" laughed Charles.
The boys told him which room they'd have taken but Robert was already in that bedroom. That caused some more laughter amongst the boys. Their next best choice was the room right next to Robert's as it still had a pretty good view of the lake, so Charles chose that one.
"Where are you all sleeping?" asked Charles.
Robert took the question and explained that Eric was going to sleep in his room and Collin and Ryan were sharing one of the en suites. Charles asked to see the bigger bedroom. When the new boy walked into the en suite, he couldn't believe how plush it was. Then, when he saw the bathroom, he couldn't believe that they had all that space just to get cleaned up.
By then, Mr. Ken caught up to Charles and asked him if he was hungry. He told the lads he didn't think Charles had gotten the chance to eat, before Ms. Judy brought him over, and he wanted to reheat the fajitas for him. All the boys followed the man downstairs to the Kitchen Nook.
As they walked past the elevator, Charles asked why they don't take that instead of the stairs. That made Robert laugh as he remembered what Ms. Johnston told him about him NOT using it. He vowed to tell Charles all about Mildred and what she did to him.
When the group filed into the Kitchen Nook, Mr. Ken explained to Charles what they had for dinner and that he'd reheat whatever he wanted, that was left. The lad only asked for the beef fajitas and some refried beans. As the owner of The Cove fixed Charles some dinner, the boys all got to know one another better.
"So, you and Robert were together in one of the homes. Then, why did Robert get moved and you had to stay?" asked Eric.
"Well, I guess what happened was … Robert's and my case worker messed up and got fired or something. Then, they reassigned some other lady, as our case worker, but by then some boss lady had gotten involved and that's when they moved Robert. I was moved the day after and I could never get anyone to tell me what happened to my friend," explained Charles.
"How old are you, Charles?" asked Ryan.
"I'm twelve. My birthday is in April. It's the 23rd," replied Charles.
"Boy, that sucks, that Robert got moved here and you got to go someplace else," lamented Ryan.
"Yeah … they sent me to live with a family, of four. I kept telling them that I was molested at my last place but they wouldn't believe me. After I kept complaining to them about it, they said I was being disruptive to the rest of the family and they asked that I be moved. So, they moved me to this very religious couple. I couldn't stand having to go to church twice on Sunday and on Wednesday night. They even tried to convert me to their religion, but I would have nothing to do with that. That's when that boss lady got involved, again.
"At least, that's the way I understood it, anyway. The boss lady picked me up this morning and I was supposed to go to another family but they didn't want someone my age. That's when she brought me here. I didn't know what they meant by me being able to decide if I wanted to stay here or not. I'd never heard of anything like that, before," was how Charles described what happened after Robert was taken away.
"I'd bet that was the same religious couple I was sent to," said Robert. "I didn't mind, at first, all the church going but then they wanted me to convert, too. Then, somehow, they found out why I was in the foster care system and they wouldn't let me watch TV or read anything but the bible. I complained to my case worker and, after a while, I got moved. That's when I met Charlie, I mean Charles," Robert followed on with how he and Charles met.
Eric wasn't too sure if he should ask his question but decided he would and if they couldn't, or wouldn't answer it he would understand. So, he asked, "Charles … then the reason Robert got moved … from the house you two were in … ah … also happened to you?"
Charles looked at Robert, not knowing what he'd told the other boys, but he sure wasn't going to be talking about anything that happened at that house, to anyone. Robert saw his friend's distress over the question so Robert told Eric that Charles would answer his question when he got to know him better. Collin and Ryan heard the way Robert responded to Eric so they decided to not push for the answer.
'Dad' Ken held back with the lad's dinner as he listened to the boys' conversation. From what he heard, he knew Charles was at a distinct disadvantage right then. It was as if it was four on one and Charles was on the losing side. He then noticed, after Eric's question, how quiet it got in the Kitchen Nook, so he presented Charles with some dinner and told the kid to dig in.
While Charles continued to eat, Mr. Ken called Collin, Ryan and Eric aside and asked them to let Robert and Charles talk alone, some, so Charles could get used to his new home. He told the teenagers that he felt bad for Charles, because the boy just came from a bad environment and he wanted the lad to enjoy The Cove and want him to stay here. He asked the teens to keep any questions about the boy's past, to themselves, and to let the lad tell them at his own pace. He then told Collin and Ryan, that Eric knew Robert's story but it would be up to Charles, and Robert, for that matter, if they want anyone else to know their story.
Collin then raised his hand some and told the small group that he also knew Robert's story. He explained that Robert and he talked, at length, when they went out for a ride when the lad visited for his graduation. He also told the group that he told Robert his full story. Collin further told them that Robert and he exchanged phone numbers, so, that, Robert could call and talk to him about stuff, when he needed to, regarding the reason he is living with Mr. Ken.
Collin and Eric then looked at Ryan and waited for him to say something. The only thing the recent graduate told them was he and Robert spent a whole week together but the lad didn't share anything with him about why he was living with Mr. Ken. He told them he didn't ask because he figured Robert would have told him if he wanted to.
Robert and Charles talked while the new boy ate. Charles had a lot of questions for his friend, but he told Robert he wasn't sure if he'd want to stay if his new 'brothers were going to keep asking him about what happened to him. Robert said he understood what he was saying, but he defended his 'brothers' saying they knew just about everything there was to know about him and he figured they were just trying to verify what he told them. Robert asked Charles to give it those two weeks, he knew his 'dad' had offered him, and said he knew he'd want to stay.
Mr. Ken saw the two friends talking and was waiting for a good opportunity to get into their conversation. He took it when it looked like Charles had eaten his fill.
"You have enough to eat, there, Charles?" asked Mr. Ken.
"Yes, sir, that was real good. Did that lady you introduced me to earlier make that?" honestly asked Charles.
"Yes, 'son', she did. Didn't I tell you she made wonderful food?" teased Mr. Ken.
Charles smiled at what Mr. Ken said and then looked over to Robert. Robert didn't know what to do next but felt like something wasn't right. He asked his 'dad' if he could talk to him for a minute and asked Charles to take the plates over to the sink, and rinse them off, and he would be right back.
"'Dad', something doesn't feel right, to me, and I don't know what it is," offered Robert.
"'Son', I think I know what it is," began 'dad' Ken. "Charles is overwhelmed right now … particularly with his move and now with meeting up with you after all that time, and meeting all his new 'brothers'. I had a talk with your other 'brother's, while Charles ate and you two talked. I had listened while the five of you talked and it appeared, to me, that you were all ganging up on him. Not on purpose, mind you, but with all of you asking questions, I can tell, he doesn't feel comfortable at all. I asked Collin and Ryan to try to stay in the background, for now. They are older and they might be intimidating to Charles.
"I think Eric and you can talk to Charles, much easier, for now, but if he still isn't opening up I asked Eric to back-off, too. We need to get Charles to settle down and get comfortable, with his new home, but it might be very difficult, especially, with the Picnic tomorrow. There are going to be a huge number of people he'll be around, tomorrow, and, largely, all your friends. I had thought about letting you guys use the skateboard ramps tomorrow but then all the neighborhood kids will want to join in and there will be way too many to let that happen. Did I sort of cover it for you, 'son'?"
"Yeah, 'dad', I think you explained it like what I'd been feeling," replied Robert. "I didn't want my other 'brothers' to miss out getting to know Charles but it felt like he was being overcome with too much, too soon. I was so happy to see him that I forgot what I felt like when I first arrived back in January. I guess I'd better sit down with him and tell him about some of the things that happened to me, so he'll know it isn't him, if things don't go right at first."
"I believe that is good thinking, 'son'. He sees us talking, right now, and I bet he wonders what we are talking about, and if he thinks we are talking about him that will only cause him to turn inward, and tune us out, and we don't want that. So … when you go over to him, tell him what we talked about. Tell him that we recognize we overwhelmed him with too much too soon and we need to pull back and let him integrate into The Cove at his pace, not ours. I want you and Eric to take him for a walk outside, and show him the docks and then walk through the Picnic grounds. Let him see what he'll be able to experience tomorrow. Can you do that for me but … especially, for him?" were the thoughts Mr. Ken relayed to his 'son'.
Robert went over to Charles and told him he wanted to take him for a walk outside and show him around the grounds. He then asked Eric to accompany him and he explained to Charles that Eric had been coming over to The Cove, for three years, and knew about things much better than he did. Charles smiled at the explanation and said he was eager to see the outside before it got too dark out.
As the three amigos walked down to the docks, Robert explained what he and his 'dad' were talking about, up in the Kitchen Nook, and what his 'dad' told the other three 'brothers'. Robert explained they went about his integration in The Cove the wrong way and they would make sure they did a better job, starting right then. Charles thanked his friend for telling him what all the 'secret' conversations were all about. He admitted that he was beginning to feel like he didn't belong there.
The three lads, and Chief, walked onto the docks. Eric explained the 'fingers of The Cove and then he and Robert pointed out to Charles the Commander, the sunfish, the Jet Ski and the WaveRunner's. They told him what they were primarily used for and they told the boy that he'll have to take the Boating Safety Course before he can drive the Personal Water Craft but even then he'll have to have someone eighteen, or older, riding with him. They continued to explain they would be able to operate the PWCs without an extra rider, as they had turned thirteen, and the law allows them to do that. They encouraged Charles saying he'll be able to drive one, by himself, next year.
The threesome, with Chief following along, then walked up to the carnival area and began to walk around. Robert told both Charles and Eric how he and Collin got to help test ride the major rides that morning and how much fun it was. Eric then added that tomorrow they'd all be given a wrist band and the same number of tickets, as everyone else, and they were to be used to ride the rides, buy their food, and play any of the games. Eric continued to tell them that during the first year many of the kids used up all their tickets, right away, and then later, when they got hungry, they had to borrow some from their parents or friends. He told them Mr. Ken had given each person the same number of tickets and they were told they'd get no more, and once they were used up that was it.
"But that doesn't seem fair, to me," piped up Charles.
"Well, Mr. Ken said that the first year was a trial year, and he didn't realize the younger kids would squander all their tickets, right off the bat. That's why he changed it, some, last year and passed out different colored tickets that could only be used for rides, foods, or games. I think that worked out pretty good, too," said Eric, to clarify the process.
"Has my 'dad' said what he's going to do this year?" asked Robert.
"I'm not exactly sure," started Eric, "but I think he's going to have all the rides open to everyone, this year, and they won't need any ride tickets. At least, that's what I think I heard Mr. Ken and my mom talking about, one night."
"Yeah, your mom and my 'dad' … they talk to one another, a lot … don't they?" laughed Robert.
Then to Charles, Robert explained how he got mad at his 'dad' when Eric knew more about what was happening with his 'dad's' businesses than he did. But, he further explained that his 'dad' had offered to talk to him about what he was doing, but he never made the time to find out. But, now he, at least, asks if there is anything big going on.
"Boy, it sure is going to take me a while to get used to hearing you calling my foster father, 'dad', Robert. It just seems so strange to hear it. You know at all the other homes we had to call them mister or misses, so-and-so. Even here, I have to call him Mr. Ken and you get to call him 'dad'," expressed Charles.
"Well, I didn't start off calling him 'dad', Charlie, I mean, Charles," spoke up Robert. "At first … I did call him Mr. Ken, but, as time went on, I began to find myself saying 'daa' before I remembered to call him Mr. Ken. We talked about it, later, and I told him that I felt I needed a 'dad', in my life, and everything he did for me was like what a dad does for his kid. So, I asked him if I could call him 'dad' and he said yes as long as he can call me 'son'.
"Upstairs, I told you I hoped that, one day, he can adopt me. Both my parents signed these papers that release their parental rights, or something like that, and now I can be adopted. But, now, I have to wait to see if I have any living relatives who want to take care of me. If there aren't any, then, Mr. Ken will have the chance to adopt me. He told me that it could be a year, or more, before the courts are satisfied and they allow him to proceed. I sure hope they do. Mr. Ken's been more of a 'dad' to me than my real dad ever was."
"Thanks for telling me that, Robert. I am very happy for you. At least you know you can be adopted. As for me … I don't think my mom would ever sign those kinds of papers. She was really pissed at me for testifying against her, but damn… she was selling and using drugs. Then, when she couldn't find enough money, to pay for her drugs, she began to offer me up to … to …" and with that Charles broke down and cried.
Robert went, immediately, to his friend and began to hold him tight, just as Mr. Ken did for him. He then began to rub the lad's back in order to try to calm him down. Again, that was something his 'dad' did and he felt it really did help him,
Eric didn't know what to do, so he just looked on. He'd never been in a situation where Mr. Ken needed to hold him when he cried, but he now wondered what it would feel like having a 'dad' doing that for him. As he watched, he heard someone walking up to the three lads. It was Mr. Ken.
"Charles … things are going to work out for you here … you'll see." That's what Mr. Ken heard Robert begin telling his new foster son, as he walked up.
"Charles, I'll bet everything that's happened to you, especially today, is overwhelming you right now," continued Robert. "And, now, just thinking about your mom, and not knowing if she would sign those parental release papers on you, and then thinking about all she did to you has only added to all that stress you're feeling inside at this very moment. I know how it feels, and you know I do. We both talked about our situations and what our own parents did to us and we never thought we'd be able to survive.
"Charles … believe me when I tell you that, here … at The Cove, you're going to find your troubles will begin to melt away. You will come to know you can survive and move on with your life. I know you can, because I have. Mr. Ken is so awesome. After that first week, I could tell he cared about me and how I felt, and how things were affecting me.
"Yes, Mr. Ken and I did have what we called our 'growing pains' but the two of us would sit down together and talk things over. That's worked out so good that every Tuesday night, now, we sit down after dinner, and talk about things that might be bothering us, or we need to tell the other. And you know what? I look forward to Tuesday nights. And, I know you will, too!"
By the time Robert had finished talking, Charles had calmed down, and so, Mr. Ken took over. The man hugged the lad to him and continued to rub the boy's back and he began lightly talking to the lad to reassure him that what Robert had just told him was indeed all true.
Hearing the man tell him that, Charles then pulled away from his new foster father and looked into the man's eyes and said, "Promise?"
"Yes, yes, I promise and Robert will help make sure I do, Charles," replied Mr. Ken.
That was all Charles needed to hear as he jumped into Mr. Ken's arms and began to cry all over again, but, through his tears, he could be heard to say, "Thank you, thank you … I need someone who will help me get my life back and show me the things I need to do to be a better person."
Up in the house, Collin and Ryan couldn't find anyone so they looked outside from the Kitchen Nook. They saw Mr. Ken walking to where the three younger boys, and Chief, were. They decided they wanted to know what was going on, so they walked outside to meet them. They got there just as Mr. Ken had taken over for Robert and they saw and heard how Mr. Ken comforted his new foster son.
Charles finally got to a point where he was no longer distraught and stepped out of the hold Mr. Ken had on him. He wiped his eyes a few times to clear the tears. He then looked around and saw that everyone was there and were looking on, but were being very quiet.
"I guess you all think I'm a cry baby, or something," laughed Charles, trying to break the stillness that was present.
Collin walked up to the boy and, in a serious voice, said, "No, Charles … I sure don't. You should have seen how many times my Big Bro sat with me while I cried my eyes out over the killing of my parents. … Then, there were all the tears over what those men did to me and that I … I would have to testify one day. No, Charles … I do not think you are a cry baby, you're just a boy … who had bad things happen to him and you had no one to hold you and help you get through all your pain.
"But, now, here, you have found someone … and it's Mr. Ken. He will help you get through all those dark days. Once he's finished doing that for you, he will energize your mind and spirit that you will feel like those bad days were a thousand years ago."
Charles looked into Collin's eyes and saw tears streaming down his face and he knew then that what the teenager had said had to be true. He then jumped into the teens arms and began to cry some more.
Ryan had never seen, in person, the level of emotions he just witnessed. Yes, he had some bad times in his life, but he never understood what some youngsters have to endure until he heard it that night. He knew a lot of what Collin had gone through, with the death of his parents and the rapes, but he didn't realize that when he wasn't there, that Mr. Ken and his best friend had sat together and Collin cried his heart out with the man he called his Big Bro.
When Charles came out of his hug, with Collin, Eric was there to take him into another brotherly hug. Eric hugged the new foster son, and told him how sorry he was for being so insensitive about his plight and he promised to be a better 'brother' than he'd been, so far. Charles sincerely thanked him for saying that.
Robert waited to hug Charles. He wanted to welcome his new 'brother' to The Cove and offer to be there with the answers to his questions and help him through any rough spots he may find himself in. When Eric and Charles had finished their hug Robert got to do just that.
Ryan got in line to hug the lad but all he had to say was to welcome him to Three Finger Cove and hoped they could become friends, over time. He also apologized for being an 'ass' in asking his questions and promised to be more careful. They shook hands when their hug was over.
Chief saw all the hugs being shared and she didn't want to be left out. When she saw Ryan walk away from Charles she barked once and walked over to the boy and jumped up and placed her front paws on his shoulders and began to give him her doggie kisses. Charles, for his part, rubbed the dog's coat and then scratched behind her ears. She just smiled and leaned into the boy more, as if to give him her type of hug. The humans all laughed at Chief's antics.
Mr. Ken was the last one to hug his new foster son. And, as he did, he again promised Charles to be there for the lad, and that he will work tirelessly to get the lad's life back on its track. As he continued to hug the boy, he could tell the lad was truly enjoying the hug which probably meant the boy hadn't had an adult type hug, in a very long time. He made a mental note to talk to the boy about that when he talks to him about Doctor Doug.
Ken Thomas then looked at his watch and seeing it was going on 9:30, he asked how many were interested in going to Dairy Queen for an ice cream sundae. All five lads hands went up, and even Chief barked her desire to go to, so he said for the boys to head to the parking corral and he'd get the F-150 out and they could all squeeze into it. To Chief, Mr. Ken knelt down and explained that she wouldn't be allowed into the store but that he'd bring her a nice dish of ice cream. Chief just kissed her original master and walked with the man to the parking corral. Ten minutes later the six big and little 'brothers' were headed for some ice cream.
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