I went back to what I was doing, I had discovered, 'Cookie Jam,' I was a bit sick of, 'Candy Crush,' so I've started a new game.
I pulled the plug at seven thirty. It was time for Ted's bath and of course, why didn't I think of it? Three adults to wash one little boy, but I must say Ted was having a ball, and there was more water on the floor than in the bath.
They got him dressed, his hair combed and he sat in front of the TV until Con asked,
"Ready for a story?"
Ted jumped up and ran to his bedroom, I have to confess, four of us sat on the bed with him while Con told a tale about a woodsman and princess. We all gave him a cuddle and he finally drifted off to sleep.
"Oh the memories John, those beautiful memories have come back."
"I know, it's a bit overwhelming." John looked at Conner then hugged him.
They had a group hug and kissed us goodnight and left. I held my Conner on the couch for the next hour then got him to bed; he'd had a big day and was exhausted.
In the morning we got Ted ready for school. I would do the dropping off this time because we don't want Con damaged in any way and, of course, no mummies with roaming hands either. Ted kissed Con goodbye and we got him settled into the car. I walked him across the road and kissed his head before he ran off to find his mates.
I headed home to find my man naked on the bed, I think he wanted to fool around, so I obliged.
Work that day was full of joy; my guests were three gorgeous ladies flying to Darwin for a reunion. They laughed, cried and told the most amazing stories of the day Darwin was struck by cyclone Tracy. They were nurses who worked at the hospital, and had kept in touch after that devastating day in seventy-four. They catch up with two other nurses and three doctors every year. They were so much fun and I did get some off the record gossip because they discovered I was one of them. Phil poked his head out a few times, just to see if everything was okay, and I assured him it was. Serving their lunches they wanted me to join them and tell them all about Rick Conner's. They had heard he owned the plane. I obliged but cut it short when they wanted to know all the nitty-gritty but I did say what you see is what you get and he was an awesome friend.
On my way home I called into the office to talk to Helen.
"Let's get a coffee Helen, I need to talk to you."
"Sure Brent, what's up?"
She didn't tell me anything; only that Nan wanted to do a cruise for two months. She also said she had a rather puzzling request in that she wanted to rent a house on the beach, for two weeks, for herself and her grandson. The only thing she stipulated was, it must be secluded and puppy friendly. Before I could say anything, she said she had reserved Con's house in Sorrento at a family rate for her with the puppy being more than welcome.
I told her what happened yesterday and thought something was up; but I didn't want to confront her mainly because I was too scared to listen to her answer. I might be getting crazy over nothing but it was nagging at me.
Seeing I had a full day, Con and Grant picked Ted up and, when I got in, they were teaching him how to fight. Grant had Con in a strangle hold so I quietly pried Grant's fingers from around Con's throat and said,
"He's five, he's a little kid and he doesn't know or do this stuff."
They blushed; I guess they were having so much fun.
"Okay, homework Ted, let's get it done early."
"Okay, Uncle Brent." He grinned at me scrunching his hands.
Grant was cooking dinner tonight, grilled fish and some chips and he was good, he made fish sticks for Ted and he loved them.
We delivered Ted to his loving Nan the following afternoon after school. She looked okay but was a bit distant. She told us she had heard from Helen and her holiday was booked.
"I want to ask you both if Ted can stay with you on school-nights from now on. He's already in love with you both and I want you to get into the rhythm of having him full time."
"Nan, that's fine with us, we love him to bits so you know we would never let anything bad happen to him. He's going to be safe and happy at our house, I guarantee you that," I assured her.
She gave me a sad look but only fleetingly; I knew then something was amiss with her.
Biting my tongue until it hurt, a tear escaped from my eye so I pulled a tissue out of the holder. Nan didn't say anything at first but she finally took our hands and held them gently.
"Thank you my young friends, let me come to terms with it first, then I will tell you," that was all she said.
Conner went to help with homework, it was too early for Ted to go to bed and Nan said she would read his story to him tonight after he had done his work; we said our goodnights and started to drive home.
"She's dying isn't she?" Con softly asked.
"Yes I think so, she has a certain aura about her that some very sick people get."
"What can we do?"
"I don't know, she's not saying anything. I think she's in shock Con. I will bring you up to speed when we get inside okay."
That night was one of the hardest nights I had ever experienced with Conner. He cried, he got mad and we held each other. Then the reality hit us like a ton of bricks just before we went to bed. Con looked at me and said,
"Fuck Brent, I don't want a kid this way, it's not fucking right."
I thought about it for some time and answered, "If we don't go with it then Teddy will end up in foster care. We have to go with Nan's wishes and not interfere with her plans; the thing we should be doing is talking to Mary about how to handle Ted's sadness when it does happen."
I pulled my man in and stroked his head until he went to sleep.
As the weeks went by it was evident something was terribly wrong with Nan. She had cancelled her trip and Ted was living with us full time. Conner had insisted we all go to Sorrento for two weeks so Nan could get some sea air. While Con and Ted were playing on the beach that first day she told me.
"Inoperable, aggressive cancer Brent, I'm riddled with it. I didn't want to have the chemo only to prolong it for just a short time but I wanted more than anything for Teddy to be safe and happy and I thank god every day for you two boys coming into our lives. It's in my liver and lungs and I don't have much time, just keep the morphine up won't you? I'll now die a drug addict," she sadly tried to laugh then coughed bitterly.
I cried for her and Ted but mainly for Conner, we both felt so useless.
(There are things I can write about; but this isn't one of them, so I will skip this, my apologies.)
When the time came to have her admitted into Palliative care, Conner made sure she had everything she needed.
Her funeral was very sad and her ashes we three scattered on the southern Sydney beach where her daughter was resting. Maybe they both will find some peace in God's care.
Five days after the funeral, when everything had toned down a bit, Conner and I took Teddy to the dog pound so he could get himself a puppy. He played with just about all the dogs there but chose a little one that really looked like he could do with a good feed and bath. He called him Benny.
I guess that was the turning point for all of us; as we were busy potty training Ben and getting Ted up to date with school. He didn't seem to be entirely right just yet but with Mary's help we both tried our hardest to do all the right things. Before she went into hospital, John sat with us and handed over some very important papers. They were for the adoption of one Edward (Teddy) Timms and, unbeknown to us, she had already sold her business to her long time employee Geoff, who was grief stricken beyond belief. A cloud had appeared over the cafe and it stayed there for such a long time afterwards. All of Nan's estate went to Ted in the form of bonds, shares and cash, with which John had set up accounts in both our names as guardians. All this she did immediately after she had found out and had told John to keep it quiet.
All he had for us after she died was more paperwork and the promise he would get probate through as soon as possible. He was confident Nan hadn't left any stones unturned. There was also a letter, being held in trust, until his sixteenth birthday and a rather large portfolio for us along with a heartwarming letter of gratitude.
Getting Ted back to school was easy because he missed his friends and wanted to kick a footy around the schoolyard with them. I dropped him off at the gate and kissed him; then had to get back to my Conner and Ben.
I appeared just as Con was smacking Ben's bum for yet another pee on the kitchen floor. Poor little mutt was banished to the backyard to do his business, hopefully. I took Con's hand and we lay on the bed just holding onto one another.
"You okay baby?"
"Yeah I will be, it's all happened so fast and I feel like I'm dreaming all this shit and can't wake up."
"Well don't forget I'm here for you, so no keeping anything in please, talk to me, promise?'
"I promise Brent, there is something I want to say to you though."
"What's that Con?"
He pulled me into a tight hug as he spooned me then whispered into my ear,
"Can you bear to give up work and stay home full time?"
"That's a given, I have my savings and investments as backup, of course I will stay home with our son."
He half sat up and gave me that look then shook his head at me.
"What?" I turned around to look straight into his eyes.
"You are something else baby, you are my husband and what's mine is yours and now Teddy's. You have your company card so use that. If you need cash then use the card. If you want clothes then buy them, if you want an antique E-Type jag, get it, and please baby don't scrimp on your or Ted's needs. Get him everything he wants or maybe, should I say, he needs. Just use the card, that's what its for. I could keep you employed and your wages will still be paid into your account but I don't want you feeling like a paid nursemaid. I want you to feel like my partner and Ted's father, that's what families are about. I want to be the breadwinner and I want you to be Ted's daddy and my husband. There is no Brent, Conner and Teddy; there is us and only us, a family."
My tears came slowly, I knew what he was talking about but it's my pride getting in the way again. I have to accept it all now for Ted's sake. You could say Conner eventually won but he didn't play fair. Our boy is now our first priority and I would do anything, anything to protect him.
"You win I give up, this is a pivotal moment in our lives Con. I have to accept I'm now one of three, not that stubborn friend anymore and I thank you for it all."
"No need, we are family and hopefully we will be just that forever." He smiled, I reached over to my bedside drawer, pulled out another token and gave it to him, he held it up and smiled.
"I think I just got my first wish baby, but thank you anyway, it's been a long time coming."
He started to nuzzle my neck and it seems like weeks since we made love but it felt like we were both rising to get it started again, another good sign in the Richard's, Walsh and Timms' household.
We actually spent the day in bed or until I had to go pick Teddy up from school while Con changed the sheets and started chopping up veggies for the casserole. He was humming to himself, that was a good sign and another good sign was a happy little boy jumping into the backseat of the car and laughing because he had a present for Con and me when we got home.
He careered into the kitchen before getting a big hug and kiss from Conner and excitably rummaged through his backpack, then handed us a neatly folded piece of paper. Con eagerly opened it up and a tear appeared as he stared at the painting. I looked and he had painted a house with Con, himself and I out the front, underneath he had written, 'My Dads and me,' on it. We were both overcome by emotion but he looked scared.
"Did I do a bad thing?"
"No, never could you ever do a bad thing son, we are just so happy you did a painting of us all. It's beautiful and your father and I want to do something special with it, can we perhaps put it on the fridge baby?"
He smiled; I think secretly he loved the idea or my words.
"Yes daddies, you can put it on the fridge."
Conner swept him up and hugged him so tightly I thought he was going to squeeze his guts out.
"When will dinner be ready Con?"
"Soon I hope it's been on for three hours."
I opened the oven and thought, yep, lessons in cooking coming up.
"Chinese tonight then Con?"
"You actually have to light the oven to cook anything Con. It's okay, lessons start in the morning." I chuckled as I put my arms around our son and squeezed his guts out some more.
We went out for Chinese and you guessed it, Mr. Lee had things lined up for Con to sign for the grandson. Teddy knew what he wanted as he had been there with us before. Dim sims and baby spring rolls were ordered first then after much deliberation, Conner ordered what he always has, beef and black bean and I settled for my usual Rendang and fried rice. John and Ray arrived just as we were being served entrees so another table was added to ours and we all ate together. During the dinner Teddy said to me,
"Daddy, I need to go pee."
"Okay son, let's go."
I took his hand and before we started for the restroom I leant over and said to them,
"His idea to call us that but we aren't complaining."
The boys smiled and each one took Con's hands and kissed them, they were so happy for us.
They came back to the house and had coffee, then made a fuss over the painting; I could see Teddy smiling to himself on the sofa cuddling a very animated dog that wanted to lick his face all the time. I felt needed and so proud of this little man, he stole our hearts ages ago and was keeping them safe with his.
When we finally caught up with Jen and Bob for a family weekend little Conner took to Ted like a house on fire. He was walking well now or should I say running, they played with Ben, chasing him through the house and fed him potato chips.
Conner wasn't rejected, little Con kept running back and forth not knowing which one to play with first, Con or Benny, his laughter echoed throughout the house. Ted gave up his bed for Jen and Bob and he slept in the big bed with us. It was pure joy to see his angel face combined with Conner's blue eyes looking my way.
"You know Conner, 'Go-ship,' transport are selling their operations, you should get Ray to tender for it, it's massive and the current situation at work is expanding beyond belief, we will run out of room soon," Bob was talking shop in the morning.
Conner got on the phone and within ten minutes Ray and John appeared at our backdoor. Of course they had a bag of presents for Conner and Ted but only a few this time.
"What's so urgent you had to drag me away from my lover's arms Conner?"
"Thanks for coming over Ray, Bob has something to discuss with you, it's work related."
"What? It's okay Ray, I only made a comment and suggested a thing or two," Bob sputtered out.
"Well let's hear them," Ray said.
But before Bob could pull himself together, Conner poked his nose in.
"Bob has some suggestions Ray and I want him to realize once again we are very open to the employee's ideas. He can approach you at anytime whether the suggestions are good or bad; he has to feel more comfortable with talking to management. It's no good telling me Bobby, I just sign the papers that's all I'm allowed to do, it's Ray that makes the bigger things happen."
Bob was understandably embarrassed but he put his suggestions to Ray and did quite a good job I thought.
"Thank you Bob, I had heard they were moving towards aviation at some stage. Do you think it's a viable transition for Ricon to do?"
"Yes I do, if you sell off the local services and keep the interstate and shipping then merge your company transportation, you not only get a valuable company, but also more shipping accounts and much, much more, I'm talking mostly China here."
"Well I guess we could do that Bob but I just don't have the resources at my disposal at the moment, I'm snowed in." Ray shook his head and added,
"You don't suppose you might head up a new department handling this project for us would you?"
"I'll help in any way I can, you know I worked there for years and I still have loads of mates working there, this is how I got the inside information."
Ray was still thinking. I held my breath as I knew what Conner was up to and Ray played along beautifully.
"Okay here's my proposal, I agree with you, it's an opportunity we can't bypass. You head the new department as executive manager and hire the staff you need to get this done. I'll move Rob into your job as he can do that easily, he's proved he can time and time again. Starting Monday you will have a new title and new office. We can re-open the old Ricon office space and there should be plenty of room for your staff there. You need to be on this twenty four seven Bob so run the department like it's a given fact this will happen."
"I don't want all that Ray, I just wanted to give you a heads up, that's all."
"Well you are going to have to take over the requisition and merger anyway. I just don't have the time or resources to handle it, please?"
"Okay, if you think I can do it."
"No, do you think you can get it done?"
"Sure I can, I'll piss it in."
"Good, start the ball rolling Monday, ring Helen to get the decorators and computer people in and get a sign painted on your new office, General Manager of Operations."
Bob was stunned, I bet he didn't think this would happen, or did he.
"You did it to me again didn't you Conner, you bloody reeled me in hook, line and sinker?" He actually smirked.
"I don't know what you mean Bob, I'm the innocent party here. All I was doing was just playing with my beautiful nephew, Teddy's cousin, and minding my own business as usual. I think your accusations are unfair, I'm hurt now." He put a sad face on and Bob huffed.
"I accept the challenge, after that bloody performance I had better."
Jen squealed and hugged Bobby, kissing his face repeatedly.
"Oh think of all those flights to and from China Brent, shopping." I squealed with her then blushed.
I felt a little hand tugging on my sleeve.
"What's up my handsome son?"
"Is Conner really my cousin?"
"Yes he is beautiful boy and Jen and Bob are your aunty and uncle."
"Oh, I never had a cousin before."
"Well you have one now."
I looked down at him, his eyes were squeezed tight and his fists rolled into balls, he was trying not to cry. This is his way of saying he was happy. The immense love I felt was almost too painful.
"Now can I get back to what I was doing?" Ray asked.
"Of course unless Bob has some other ideas to run by you."
"That will do for now Conner, I do have some other things to suggest, but they can wait."
"John my love can we go now?"
"No I'm playing with Benny, you go, I won't be long," John answered.
"John now!!" Ray shouted and added,
"And wash your bloody hands when we get in."
"How dare you suggest our dog is unclean Ray, what a terrible thing to say," I complained.
Ray shook his head and grabbed John by the arm then marched him outside. The last thing we heard was,
"Now wash your bloody doggy hands."
In the morning I was having a heart to heart with Jen. "He has to accept he's family Jen. Of course he gets a leg up, and you and I know he bloody well deserves it."
"Well he was as pleased as punch before we went to sleep and he wouldn't shut up about it. He even laughed at Conner's speech. I think he's accepted the role of brother-in-law but that doesn't mean more presents Brent, and tell Conner that too."
"Oh so we better cancel the acquisition of the pony farm then." I smirked and she punched my shoulder.
The night before we had dressed in our finest boxers and Ted in his PJs, we all got into our rather large bed and Con had Ted nestling on his shoulder listening to his story while I stroked his hair.
We heard a small, "Thank you," before he went to sleep and,
I woke up at one stage to find Ted's legs lying across my chest; he was sleeping sideways so I maneuvered him around to the proper position. Little boys, so full of energy during the day, but dead to the world at night, he didn't even flinch.
Teddy was a very happy little boy when Conner took him to the park with Bob. They were going to play footy so Jen and I met Phil and Dave there for a picnic luncheon. I talked to them sincerely about me leaving the plane. They understood completely and said they would do the same if a child came into their lives. I inquired as to whom they were getting to replace me.
"Adam mate, he's been wanting a change of pace for a long time and there's nothing big coming up on the radar again, for awhile, except Rick's new album and Marty and Jill can cover that one. He's really stoked to do it and it will be a pleasure to have him on board."
"Adam? God, who knew he would be interested in that job, not that I think he couldn't do it, its just wow, what a shock."
"Well he's very happy, did Conner talk to you about the social club?" Dave snickered.
"The social club, Adam hasn't time to do it so he suggested you could do it from home," Phil added.
"Conner, get over here!!" I screamed.
Con and Ted took off with the ball to the far oval and by the time they came back, I had calmed down, playing with babies does that and, although little Con was on a baby leash, he still tried his hardest to run away.
I suppose I can do the social club again. It's not that I will have much to do during my days now but I believe I'm going to have to try harder to get Adam, and that's when I got my brilliant idea.
"I will do the social club on one condition." I smiled.
"I thought you might have a condition."
"Well it's no problem, and not a biggie, but I really think he should wear his uniform full time. After all it's your image he's selling." I gently touched his arm.
He started laughing, so did the boys.
"Is he ever gonna be pissed," Davo said.
"I'll get Ray to tell him in the morning Brent, I don't think I've got the balls to do that."
"Not for that anyway." I smiled and winked.
It was a lovely day but sadly all things come to an end and after Jen and Bobby left, Con and Ted played a game of Monopoly or a kid's version that is while I ironed Ted's school shorts and started to do some washing and noticed his shorts from Friday had a piece of paper in them with names on it. My god, how do I make this wish come true? He had written on the piece of paper, Edward Timms Walsh Conner's Richards in various ways, there go my heartstrings again. I folded it up again and had a good think about it; it never dawned on us he would want to take our names too.
After a light dinner, Teddy fed Benny and put him out the back to widdle and poo, I showed the paper to Con, his eyes bugged out and the biggest smile came to his face.
I then showed him another piece of paper and he nodded yes. When Ted came back I started the play.
"Conner what do you think about Edward Conner Timms Walsh as a name?"
I was watching Ted's eyes and his face was bright red.
"I love it but I love Edward Timms Walsh Richards more."
"Oh I don't know if we should give our new son a new name, I think he should pick it, don't you?" A little kid's ears pricked up.
"Well do you think he's responsible enough to choose his own?"
"I think so, let's ask him."
We both looked at the now hopping up and down Teddy.
"Which one do you like baby?"
"Oh daddy, I like Edward Timms Walsh Richards, can I have a name like that?"
"Of course you can, daddy Conner will fix it tomorrow," I said.
He scrunched his fists and face, if he was any happier I think he would have to join Benny out the back for a pee.
Conner sat with his hands open, WTF style.
"Tell Ray he can get his little man to do it from his office, like, 'wash your doggy hands John' maybe?" I chuckled.
Conner loved my sense of humor and he showed me he did after we struggled for ages to get a very excited little boy to sleep.
I was so friggin tired the next morning and Conner had decided he had to go into the studio to finish this album. Somehow over the past three months it didn't bother him and I'm not sure whether it does even now. It's an ego thing with most performers, but with Conner, it's just about making good music. I don't think his ego was that big, well I did say his ego.
The next week we settled into a routine that would suit everyone, while my boys were out doing their thing, I went to the cafe and cleaned out Nan's apartment. I asked Geoff if he wanted any of the furniture because he and his wife were going to move in as soon as their lease ran out. They didn't have much in the way of furniture. I sorted through everything personal and over that week took it home to store or put in Ted's room. The girls at the cafe took Nan's clothes for their mums and the bed linen, so a trip to the Brotherhood wasn't necessary. Her stuff wasn't any cheap label either; Nan had expensive tastes. I had boxes of family photos and her jewelry I promptly put in the safe and would get Conner to look through it later; he has a better idea about that sort of stuff than me. She had written who was in them on the back of each photo so I resolved to get some good quality albums to sort them into.
This sparked a search for Conner's photos and I found them in the bottom of Beth's wardrobe amongst her other items. I sat at the kitchen table looking at each one and they started when Con was about Ted's age, so many beautiful memories stored away in a box. I better get more albums while I'm out. I cried when I came upon a photo of Con in the hospital, he was so sick and lost looking. His skinny little frame was lost in the brightly colored PJ's he had on and there were tubes attached to his body everywhere. I put it aside because it was too heartbreaking to look at anymore, thank you Father Thomas and Beth.
Shit, it's past three, I'd better go get my boy, I'm late, he was waiting with another mother and her boy so I introduced myself and she smiled saying,
"I hear Teddy's got a new surname so you had better go to the principal's office and change it tomorrow, she can't wait to call him Teddy Richards."
"I take it you're the pr0incipal, I'm sorry I'm late Mrs.?"
"Green, Brent, and I want you to write it out twenty times tonight and hand it in when you come to see me at nine." She giggled.
'Everyone's a comedian all of a sudden,' I thought to myself.'
I thanked her for waiting with Ted and got him into the car seat; I'd got a spot right near the swings and slides.
"Why are we here dad?"
"To have a play son, dad Con will meet us here and we will go home as a family."
He was very wary of my motives but when he saw one of his mates playing he ran over and started talking to him then he ran back.
"Thank you daddy."
"It's okay son; go have some fun," I said, now I'm a poet!
Conner arrived in a jeep and Grant was with him. My heart skipped a beat when he told me John said it was a simple thing and would take about a week. I had better organize a small gathering to celebrate, maybe McDonalds for all his mates after school. He also passed on Adam's kind regards.
"He's pissed Brent, I could hear the dummy spit from John's office three stories up."
"Rob was telling me Adam had been shopping for loads of fashion clothes for work all weekend."
"He will get over it Con, maybe a month of wearing uniforms is enough punishment?"
"You're such a good friend Brent, let's hope I don't piss you off too much."
"You never piss me off Con, I like you too much."
Ted played for the next hour while Con, Grant and I went through some security concerns. We thought it best Ted be left alone but Grant was to follow us to school and home. I intend to take him to the park to play every day for an hour because I want him to be outdoors and with other kids as much as possible and Con agreed.
"We could fit him with a panic button Brent but he's too small, his friends would get him to push it all day just to see how it works so it's a no go. We do have the contract for two security officers who look after the school and we are going to increase it to four, we can tell the principal it's a good will thing," Grant suggested.
"Oh shit, the principal, she gave me detention today and I have to write it out twenty times," I said giggling.
"I was late picking Ted up so she waited with him but gave me homework and an appointment in the morning at nine to change his name."
They both laughed and Con said,
"You better not be late then Brent."
As always I appreciate your emails. firstname.lastname@example.org