George glanced at his better half, she was brooding intently. Being a mother once the pleasure and the instinct stays with you forever. His wish, as any good husband's would be, was to comfort and support his wife. Standing by only being able to watch, in truth, was the hardest thing he'd ever had to do.
Elizabeth stirred the teapot aimlessly, such was her distraction. Her thoughts centred round a little boy, a little boy who in just a short time had found a place in her heart. In his short time at the house, she saw a light, though dimly lit, was being slowly extinguished. This house that she'd lived in for so long now seemed empty, empty with a silence not readily getting used to. She waited in expectation of what Edward, her son, was doing. Time, she noticed, and it felt as a lifetime.
I drove to my office in silence. I was disturbed at who or what they called a house master. The man was lax at and in his duties… his first and only commitment should have been to the child. But his priorities had been himself and trying to impress me. I wasn't all that comfortable on leaving David; but as things stood, there was nothing else I could've done. I wasn't sure who was more at ease - me for leaving my number, or David if he needed it.
When I entered my office, I again rang social services. Although I put a flea in their ear, I felt their cogs would turn slowly. So, ringing chambers, I asked for Judge Moseley.
Samuel Moseley was a quiet man in comparison to myself. He was sometimes overly cautious, but sturdy. I was lucky enough to have him as a roommate, and we became very close friends while studying at Cambridge. At least studying could be said of Sam. We were the rambunctious students… well, at least I was. I became the master of the dare, even if we lost more than we gained; Sam always being dragged into my antics screaming. We were on many occasions disciplined by being told the university did not need to see our faces for a determined length of time… usually anything up to a month. Though I, myself, got the flea in the ear for dragging him along, his friendship never wavered.
"Hello, Edward, what can I do for you?"
"I don't know exactly, but I could really do with some of your influence. I've got myself into something I'm not sure I can get out of." I relayed the problems at the orphanage, leaving out the visit from the boy himself, asking if I could talk in chambers as this was now more a personal matter.
"I can force some pressure as to how they seem to be lax at using their authority, but I'll need more than a gut feeling. Don't forget, Edward, I know about your fighting the system - remember, I was there."
"Okay, but what if I told you the boy in question is disabled… a cripple. Would that not pang that authoritarian heart of yours?"
"In my chambers tomorrow at lunch, if that's alright. But using the heartfelt card will not always work Edward… I warn you."
"Thanks, Judge" I said as my clerk entered.
"Mother, please, let me tell you," at what was a barrage of questions. "David is back at the home, at least until I can find a way to get him out of there… Yes, I know… Yes, yes, I will do everything I can… Okay, later. Bye." I knew that was going to be a tough call to make, and I was exhausted when I finally got off the phone. If, by my job, I knew what was going to happen, mother was going to be upset. Her being in her early sixties would make it difficult for her to adopt; Grandmother was all that could be expected, and that would only happen if I could find a member of the family to take David in, so I was caught between a rock and a hard place with very little leeway, but in all honesty, telling her was going to be painful.
David, after a harsh and arduous telling off, was sent to his room to be dealt with the following morning. His punishment he was sure would be confined to his room. Being alone again, his only thought was the way the woman had held him. The feeling was warm and comforting, but what made a real difference was that someone cared.
He lay facing the window, watching as the clouds drifted by taking the light from the moon, it summed up the feelings inside his head. Though gloomy, he couldn't turn away. His thoughts were of how, if only for that one time, he knew what it felt like to be wanted. The warm feeling that he felt should have lifted his mood, his spirits, but his feelings were of a loss.
The sun gave a wet look as it shone through his window. David rose, getting himself washed and dressed, dreading having to be the centre of attention… the whispering, the looks.
"Hey, spas, Heard wants you in his office now!"
"I don't know spas, go find out." Williams was the cock of this house, at least everyone followed him. With an evil grin he looked at David, and then turned toward the door laughing.
As David got closer to the office, all he saw was watching, staring faces as they pinned their eyes on his discomfort, their new attraction - him. Before he had a chance to knock on the door it flew open. "All you kids, breakfast. You! In here now!"
Not sure if he could stay upright, he approached the man's desk. "Shut the door, boy." With crutches in hand, he shut the door, and then sat down. "Get up! Did I tell you to sit down?" David got up. Though not steady, he held himself up. Shaking, he gazed at the now seated Mister Heard.
"I knew you were trouble the first time I laid eyes on you. Crippled boy, wanting to be treated differently… wanting sympathy."
"I never asked to be treated differently," said David, his face now red with anger. The man was shocked by the outburst. David moved for the door, slipping as he did and hitting his head as he fell to the floor. Shaking his head clear, he slowly regained his senses, and crawled to the door, stretching to opened the door he hit the back wall with a thud, trying in vain to make his way out the door as fast as his one leg could carry him.
Mister Heard shouted from his desk. "Get back here, now! "You won't get far without these," he said, holding up David's walking aids as he walked toward the door.
Instead of his duties, even breakfast, David took his little frame and ran.
Inside the gardeners shed David crawled under the bench, trembling as he forced himself into the corner. Scared, he put his head in his hands and sobbed.
"You find him. I want him back here before you all go to class, you hear! Find that little scrounger. Bring the little b***ard to me, you hear!" Some kids were shocked; others just thought how funny it was.
"Sir, who are we looking for?"
"Who in God's name are you?"
"Brian Phelps, Sir. I transferred in yesterday."
"Go to the dining room and wait."
But, Sir, the headmaster asked me to go in early to get my class rota."
"GET OUT OF MY SIGHT, NOW!"
With a slap, "NOW!" Though unsure what to do, it seemed that his feet made the decision for him and he ran as fast as his legs would carry him, bolting into the dining room.
David hid till he heard the bell sound, and then slowly made his way from his hiding place making his way to the door. He opened the door as Brian was passing the shed. Brian looked around, seeing David, he shut the door as they both got back inside.
"Who are you?"
He looked the kid over, seeing is disability. The kid had fear in his eyes, he had to do something… this was the very same reason he'd been shipped out. "Calm down, man, I'd have to beat you up before you'd be allowed to be scared of me," then held out his hand, "I'm Brian. You must be the boy everyone is looking for." David backed away, so Brian said, "Look, I ain't going to hurt you. Do you want me to go?"
"NO!" David replied, not knowing where the answer came from.
"Don't be scared of me. I only need a collar, going down on his haunches panting like a dog." David couldn't help but laugh. "Now that I've got you in the palm of my hand, tell me your name and why that teacher is after you?"
"David... and he's the house master, not a teacher," he said with attitude. "And before you ask when he started shouting I got scared and ran. Okay!"
"Okay, okay. Boy, I wouldn't like to upset you! He scared me too when I told him I had to get my rota."
"I'm sorry, okay?"
Listen, I'll run away again if this place is as bad as the dump I was in before. It ain't the first time I've jumped over the wall. I'll even take you with me… it's no big deal." David gave him a look of admiration. "Look, I gotta go, otherwise I'll be the next to run after he tans my backside," then made his way out of the shed to the office.
Left again to his own devices, David crawled back into his little corner. Looking at the card Edward had slipped into his pocket, he thought about ringing him, but decided against it.
After the meeting with the judge Edward rang the school. "May I speak to Mister Thomas, please?"
"Who should I say is calling?"
After a brief silence.
"Mister Whitmore, what can I do for you?"
"I'm calling about one of your students. David Ward."
"May I ask how you know David?"
"I brought him back to his residence last evening after he found his way to my parents' home."
"I see." There was a silence, then, "It seems David has run away again. His house master, Mister Heard says he wasn't in his room this morning. He sent some of the other boys to try and find him without much success."
"Mister Thomas, if David ran away, it was because he had no other choice. I hope this is not a way of covering up the treatment he received."
"Sir, I can assure you, it is nothing of the sort… and I resent the implication strongly. That is a very serious accusation."
"Sir, I brought the boy back myself yesterday. Your Mister Heard had more time for my well being than that of one of his charges. The boy was distressed and frightened of your Mister Heard. I was infuriated by his attitude."
"As I am of yours. I can assure you, Mister Heard..."
Continuing, "I spoke to a Judge Moseley in chambers about this whole affair. That man should be nowhere near children. I would talk to your charges as to the behaviour of your Mister Heard, but that is just a suggestion. Culpability will rest on your shoulders, as he is under your employment?"
Sir, I will be at your office close to three thirty. If that man has harmed any child, I will hold you responsible. Good day, Sir."
Knowing the reputation of the man, "Miss Amber, I want all the students who are in residence in House B4 in the assembly hall at 3 pm. sharp."
The meeting seemed forlorn, the students giving no indication that anything was amiss. They were finally dismissed with the advisory to go in a gentlemanly fashion… quietly.
Brian waited outside the assembly hall. "Are you lost, young man?"
"No, Sir. May I speak with you in private, Sir?"
"What's your name, son?"
"Brian Phelps, Sir."
Shutting the door to his office, "What can I do for you, young man?"
After some hesitation, he put his fears aside and spoke of the commotion that morning.
"Have you been fighting?" Seeing the hand print on the boy's right cheek.
Brian knocked on the wooden door, and then entered saying his name, "It's me Brian." David came from his hiding place and smiled at his new friend. "I didn't grass you up, but the headmaster was asking about what it's like in your residence. Well, my residence now too. I told him about this morning." He could see fear written all over David's face, "He doesn't know you're here. He's truly p****d at Mister Heard." Brian saw David's relief.
Edward arrived just after three thirty, his secretary leading him directly to the headmaster's office. "Have they found David?" After being offered a seat, "Have they found the boy?" His attitude becoming more confrontational.
"It seems there was some disturbance at the house this morning. The house master, Mister Heard, had words with David, who I have been told ran out of the house."
"You're telling me that he and your Mister Heard had a set-to? There was a disturbance? I seriously doubt the child even raised his voice. I have never seen a more placid child anywhere."
"It seems another student got caught-up in the disturbance."
"Brian, I'm scared."
He saw the look and remembered how it was living at his parents' home. Brian had himself been scared. Scared of his dad… scared of doing anything - right or wrong, but Brian was in a better position than the boy that sat before him. He would at least go home once his mother came out of the hospital.
His dad, though not a drinker had been laid off from his job; and after a few pints, came home with a temper. His mum took the beating, though he tried to stop him. Two broken ribs, a closed eye… both ended up in emergency.
His dad would have to seek help if he was to come home again.
"Go see Mister Thomas."
David sat silently for what seemed an eternity. "Will you come with me?"
Lightening the mood, "I can't let my new friend get busted, can I? Jump up, we ain't got all night."
"I will attend to this persona...."
Before he could finish, there was a knock on the door.
"I'm sorry, Sir, but..."
"David!" It seemed that without taking a step he was holding onto Edward for dear life.
After some considerable time, he turned toward his friend. "Brian, this is Mister Whitmore. He's a judge."
"Not quite, but nice to meet you, Brian."
"Brian, I need to talk with Mister Whitmore, will you please wait in the hall. David, will you please stay."
"Yes, Sir," came the reply as Brian moved toward the door.
When only the three remained, "David, will you please tell me what happened today and why you ran away, people were worried and very concerned."
Though softly, he made his point. "No one gave a damn… sorry, Sir." Listening to his explanation was both shocking and disturbing.
"Its okay, my boy. Did he use physical violence?" Gone was the kindly old gentleman, and in his place was a stern faced authoritarian with the genuine anger of a teacher who had given his life to his preferred profession. There was a genuine concern for the boy. A bully he couldn't, or wouldn't tolerate.
Summoning Miss Amber, he asked for David's records, along with Mister Heard's. "How long have you lived here at the orphanage, son?"
"Four years, Sir."
"Do you like it here?"
"It's a home, Sir."
"Thank you, Miss Amber. Mm, mm, mm. Your grades were A's and B's. According to your teachers, you are now failing. What happened, son? Are you being bullied?" Looking over Mister Heard's file as David spoke.
"Since the new house master arrived..."
"Go on, son."
"Well. It was like being in the Army. I know we have to get up and go to bed at a certain time, clean our rooms, beds made, laundry once a week, but..." There was a silent anguish on David's face.
"Son, I'm not asking you to get anyone in trouble, but if I don't know what happened, I can't change it, do you understand?"
"Yes Sir. But you don't have to live there." David had tears in his eyes.
"Okay, let's take a break," he said in hope of taking the sting out of the conversation. "Miss Amber, will you bring tea and whatever this young man wants to drink."
Edward had been sitting listening. He liked this man. He had the ability to talk to children on their level without throwing in the adult card. His years had given him the ability to calm whoever he spoke to.
"David, can you tell me why everything changed?"
Now relaxed, he spoke with confidence. "Mister Heard picked the seniors, using them to give his orders… who cleaned up after meals, who washed and brushed the floors… us younger kids had to do it all." There was silence as he composed himself.
"When Billy was here, he helped with some of my chores."
"Billy Reynolds, Sir. He was adopted."
"Okay, go on son."
"I had to clean the showers, toilets, and baths… all of them. If they said they weren't clean, I had to do them all again." He again tried to compose himself. "I had to do my chores before I could eat. Then I was sent to my room as they said, Mister Heard didn't allow pets in the dining room." The fact being, that at times, he didn't end up eating at all.
David again went quiet. Seeing the discomfort, Mister Thomas remained silent for some time. "Who told you when you had to do your chores?"
"Did Mister Heard at anytime say anything as to what was happening. Did you tell Mister Heard about the way the older boys were treating you?"
"Yes sir. But..."
"It's okay son."
Through tears he told of how Mr. Heard had said that people like him should be killed at birth… people like him were no more than animals. Tears ran down his cheeks as he stared into nothing. There was dread to think what he, they, had to go through. I was shocked, but at the same time downright angry at what this man had put these boys through, especially, David.
"I've heard enough. I'm sorry I had to put you through that young man."
"I won't go back. I won't!" David's emotions were raw. The sight of hopelessness on his face broke my heart.
Before anything else could be said, "Mister Thomas, may I use your phone?" After accepting the handset he dialed the number, "May I speak to Judge Moseley?"
"I think he has gone home, just a moment... I'm sorry, Sir, he's already left. May I take a message?"
"No, I'll ring him at home, thank you." "I apologise for this, but may I?" waving the handset, Indicating making a further call.
He was about to hang-up the receiver, "Hello, Judge Moseley's residence… Mister Whitmore? Yes, I'll tell him you're on the line."
"Thank you, Grace."
"Edward, what can I do for you, again?" Laughing at the other end of the line.
"What comes around, Judge. Since our conversation earlier the problem has escalated. Our Mister Heard decided to take matters into his own hands and went to an extreme I wouldn't expect from one in his profession. And I use the word, 'extreme' lightly," giving an explanation of the events that had transpired, "Yes I am with the boy now, and the headmaster at Briarcroft. David, the judge would like to talk to you, is that okay?" The conversation was upsetting, but at the same time David was defiant.
Handing the phone back, "Yes, he has over stepped his boundaries. As for social services, well, this is more than being lax in their duties. As for Mister Heard, I hope he ends up in my courtroom." Rarely had I heard such anger from such a quiet man.
Thank you, Headmaster. David, will you step outside while I talk with Mister Thomas." He hobbled out, slowly, shoulders slumped, sadness written all over his face.
David was quiet as he sat down on the bench. Not knowing what to do, Brian stood rooted at the secretary's desk.
After what seemed an eternity, Brian tried to lighten the mood.
"Man! You've got some big friends... I mean, a judge!" David blushed.
"I only met him yesterday. He was nice. Well, when he wasn't winding me up." His thoughts drifted to the lady. It didn't seem to matter what had happened; for the first time in his life, even though it may not happen again, he felt wanted. Being half a person didn't matter, she showed kindness. Even though he felt like a freak and looked like a freak, someone had cared.
David stood up tall. Brian saw sadness, but at the same time he saw a glint in his friend's eye. "You okay?"
"I'm going home… you coming."
"What about your friend?"
"The lady said I had to take my punishment for running away. What can Heard do that he hasn't already," the sadness and fear still a little raw.
"You've got some guts, I'll say that. But you can't go without telling someone."
"I have to learn to stand on my own two feet!" He said looking at his new friend.
"And where do you think you two are going?!"
Keep a memory, forgotten or remembered,
Good or bad, it will still build a future.