The Little Runaway
Elizabeth stood at the foot of the bed looking at David with a feeling of pride; a warm smile crossing her lips. Walking to the side of the bed she gave, what in truth was now her grandson his nightly kiss on the forehead as she made sure he was covered. And after stroking his hair she left the room contented.
Hearing his door open, David closed his eyes feeling the contact as he lay silent. Inwardly he smiled. After she left, he snuggled up to his pillow warm and cosy and gave a sigh as a smile crossed his face.
To feel needed was a blessing to David. But to feel wanted... thoughts of contentment gave way to joy; a joy as his heart gave a warm feeling in his chest.
Insecurity being never far away ... he rolled over to see the darkness that peered through the small opening in the curtains.
The darkness inside matched the outside, but not a thought entered his head. Not a smile, but a relaxed feeling enveloped his face as he slowly rose, making his way over to the window seat, quietly sitting. Seeing his reflection in the window, he smiled. Darkness giving a picture of the fountains as he heard water splash in pools below, and giving way to the contentment he fell asleep.
"You're not sick are you?"
"Be nice, James. I suppose Mother's told you what happened with David?"
"No! Everything's alright? He's not sick?!"
"No. David, it looks, will become my foster son, but that isn't the reason I rang you. The social worker had to assure herself that David was safe while at the house, so I will have to do the time orderly thing and have some minor alterations made to the ground floor." James laughed with not a small amount of enthusiasm.
"That means you're moving into the house? This I need to see. You and Mother - you might win on points."
"Be nice! Mother hadn't told you, it seems. Yes, I will be moving out of the flat; and yes, I'll be moving into the house. Mother is excited, but not as much as her little man."
"This is going to be fun."
"I'll keep a stiff upper lip" I said laughing, "but seriously, if I hadn't, David would most likely be on his way back to the orphanage - and that just wasn't going to happen. I have a request, James. As you already teach, I thought I'd pick your brains for another good teacher. I'm erring on the side of caution, but I don't want to send David to public or private school. I'd prefer he gets used to where he's living before I send him to either. I'm a hundred percent certain, for now at least, he wouldn't want either."
"You seem to have this ‘father thing' down pat. Are you looking for an all-round tutor or specific?"
"His headmaster had said his reports were of grades A and B. His English is well above average; he's actually reading the classics - Dickens, Shakespeare. I wasn't reading them till I was forced to," feeling constricted at the thought, "that is very good for his age. General mathematics, fractions, he excelled; Algebra, not so well; Geography, C was his highest mark."
"I would normally say two. One to build on what he's good at, and a second to try and bring him up on subjects he's not too keen on. From what I've seen, and what you've told me, he'll soon pick things up. So I would say Mister Braithwaite, Tom to his friends, who could do both. He's not pushy, and will go at his students pace. I'll give him a call first thing this afternoon. I take it you'll be at Mother's all day?"
"Yes, and thanks, James. One way or the other, he has some catching up to do."
"Jeremy wants to know when we are going to see David again. It seems he has found himself a real friend. I'll have to go, I'm due back in lectures - medical students ... they need to be taught, you know. I'll speak to you later tonight. Bye Edward."
Ten thirty soon came around. Tuesday morning again saw the lighter side of David. "Well, young man, did you sleep well?"
Looking up as he neared the bottom of the stairs, he smiled, "Yes, sir!"
David walked over and hugged his Nan, then Edward, who'd indicated the chair beside him, before sitting down to breakfast. "David, it's time to get you back into school." There were mixed emotions, but David didn't show any real concern.
"You could, if you wanted, get schooled at home; but if you want to go to a normal school, that would be okay too. By normal school, I mean no more boarding school." There was a faint sigh at this last comment.
"You know I have to wonder, if you decide to go to school, if the rest of the pupils will be okay. I mean, we don't want you terrorising your classmates, do we?"
I saw a sly grin, a smirk; any tenseness he'd had was slowly evaporating. "Sir, may I get schooled at home, I would like to catch up on my lessons before I go to normal school."
"I had a feeling you'd say that," I said with a grin. "And I think that can be arranged; but David, you'll have to work hard ... it's important."
"I know, and I will; I promise."
"I know you will," I said as I ruffled his hair. I have a feeling you'll be teaching them in a few years." I doubt you would see a smile so proud anywhere.
"What do you think, Mother, do you think you can cope with David being at home all day? I know he can be a handful at times."
"Don't you be upsetting my little man," she said, getting a smile from David. And as for me, the look I was getting told me that I had been put in my place.
"Don't take him on, David. Now, come on you two, eat your breakfast before it gets cold." Now isn't that typical of a mother.
"David, do you want to go with your Nan shopping? You might even get ice cream." I looked at mother with some hesitation. She smiled, getting me off the hook.
"What do you think, David? We can also have lunch in the village." He must have felt like he was king for a day. A wide smile crossed his face as he demolished his breakfast before finding his extra leg and shooting off upstairs to get changed.
I was hoping to get to speak privately with Mister Braithwaite before I introduced him to David. There were a lot of items to be talked over, especially David's consideration. The way David had already been treated was enough for one lifetime, and was never going to happen again, if I could help it. David would need reassurance, not a quick fix. I intended to see that he would be treated as what he was - a child.
Mister Braithwaite rang just as mother and David had gone to get changed, which you could say was perfect timing. "Mister Whitmore, Thomas Braithwaite. I was asked by James Whitmore, a family member I presume, to give you a call regarding a teaching appointment."
"That would be my brother, and David would be your appointment. But before I make a decision, I would like to speak to you in person, if today could be arranged, I would be most agreeable. I am not in court today, so anytime would be preferable."
"I could be at your home after lunch. Say one o'clock, if that would suit?"
"That would be fine. May I ask if you are currently employed?"
"At the present time I am between appointments, you might say."
There was some light conversation, especially his experience and his attitude, which was important. "Thank you for calling, Mister Braithwaite. I will see you at one."
"Where will you go for lunch?"
"I'll let David choose," from which came a look of considering.
"Nan, will you choose?" Again a look of admiration crossed the face of my elderly mother as she kissed him on the cheek smiling.
"I might just do that" she said.
Shutting the door to the taxi, I wandered inside.
Without thinking, I had now put myself in a spot. With mother and David only staying in town till after lunch, there was a possibility they could return while Mister Braithwaite and myself were still making arrangements. I rang James.
"James, what is your schedule for this afternoon? I need you to do something for me."
"Sounds ominous, what are you getting me into now?"
"Nothing to worry about, I wondered if you would meet mother and David in the village, have lunch with them, generally just be a son and uncle. Your Mister Braithwaite rang earlier, he will be at the house about one, and I need to speak with him alone. And without thinking, I've closed all my bases, until I thought of you, that is.
"Thank you very much. Just for you, I'll have the rest of the day off. Do you know where I could accidently on purpose," he laughed, "bump into them?"
"I can't, but I can say there will be no regret taking this little man as part of the family. I will explain another time, but right now you need to go out." James just laughed.
"You won't mind if I come back with them, will you?" Hearing his playful tone as he said it.
"Allow me enough time with Mister Braithwaite before you decide to come home. And James, try and drag it out a little! I'm sure you can think of a millions things to do."
"Oh, I think I can find something to occupy us."
"Another thing, James, I know you recommended Mister Braithwaite, but he will have to be near perfect before he gets anywhere near that boy."
"I know what you're saying, but I don't think you will have any complaints after you have spoken to him."
As James had said, Mister Braithwaite was perfect. And now would be the moment of truth - Mother, James, and David walked through the door, with David parking himself on the settee.
Tom, as he preferred to be addressed, looked at David, no words or expression. A smile as he introduced himself to Mother, politely nodding to James, and finally turning to David.
He crouched in front of David to be at eye level and held out his hand. "Hello, David, I'm Mister Braithwaite, so nice to meet you at last. I've heard a lot of good things about you. I've heard you have a leg hidden away on your person. I also heard you are very quick on it."
David eyed the man for a moment, then surprised us all. "No, sir; but the leg I do have has a mind of its own," he said, waving his leg about in front of him. It seemed that David was taking Mister Braithwaite on the same level as himself.
"Thanks, James," I mouthed.
"Nice to meet you, sir, I am David, and you've already met my Nan, my uncle James, and my carer. I hope he'll become my dad someday."
"Never give up hope, young man."
Mother, who was standing at the back of David, had tears in her eyes while he spoke. "Come over here, David, give your Nan a hug," he graciously obliged. "Please take a seat. Tea or coffee, Mister Braithwaite?"
"Tea, thank you, ma'am. Do you have a room where I may talk to David alone?"
"Use the study, you won't be disturbed in there." Taking them both to the study I ruffled David's hair smiling at him, and getting a hug in return. "Myself and your uncle James will help your Nan make the tea."
I'm sorry, Mother, I don't mean this as condescending; but how anyone can find fault with David, I will never know. He has no heirs or graces, but what he has is plentiful. I have never heard him ask for anything. Whatever he gets, he's satisfied. I couldn't be happier if he'd been my own flesh and blood."
After we had our quota of tea, I invited James to stay for dinner, which he declined. Not to be beaten, I asked if he would come over at the weekend and make a day of it this time, and I wasn't taking no for an answer.
"Your suggesting Tom was a godsend, he seems really good with children. This is all new to me, so the help was really appreciated."
"What happened to the person, who was going to be a bachelor all his life and didn't want kids?"
"Not so loud, James. David has enough complexes for all of us without giving him another one. To answer your crass remark, though, who on God's earth could not want that little man? Egads, now I'm saying it." Mother smiled.
At that moment, David walked into the kitchen smiling. "Well, it seems you two enjoyed yourselves."
"We did indeed ... we did indeed. I may have to ask David to help me to catch up with his reading," I swear David's face would split, if he smiled any wider.
Mister Braithwaite looked from David, turning his attention to myself and his Nan. David has a very good knowledge in English and English literature - excellent in fact. Mathematics could do with some improvement. As for menial subjects, he needs to study harder," eyeing David for his reaction. "History and geography could do better," again looking at David. A shy or what could have likely been an embarrassed look crossed David's face as he eyed all that were sitting.
"Help yourself to milk and sugar, Mister Braithwaite?" "Tom, please, Mrs Whitmore."
Mister Braithwaite, myself, and Mother had some hearty conversation and of course tea; my mother's answer to everything it seems, which prompted James to take David into the study, I presumed thinking it to be boring for David.
"I always wanted a nephew, and I'm glad it's you David." Small compliments build up both confidence and self esteem. Both sat in the two oversized leather armchairs as David looked at James, a tear in his eye. "And Jeremy... now what was it he said. Oh, yes, ‘You're cool.'" David smiled, still somewhat overwhelmed at the comments, if not at all that had happened.
"Sir, I've never had a family before, I don't know how to act now that I think I have one, but why couldn't Edward be my father?" Though upset, he held steady.
"Come over here, David. I know you think it will all disappear, but if I know my brother, he will fight tooth and nail for you to stay here. No one knows what will happen, but you can't give up hope. If you were taken away from this house, I guarantee Edward would make sure that wherever you went, the people would be kind and loving. I know that you don't want to hear that; but wouldn't it be worse, if I said all was going to be all right, then you had to move? And I thought I was your uncle, not sir?"
"I'm sorry, sir ... err... Uncle James," he said looking down at his shoes.
"David, please listen to me - even if they took you away from here, you will always be a part of this family ... always. I promise," as he gave an again overwhelmed David a hug.
"I know you haven't been treated as you should have in the past, but David, whatever happens now will be different wherever you are."
"But si... Uncle James, I want to stay here."
"We all want you to stay, but telling you little white lies will hurt even more, if you can't. You're Nan would give the world to be sure you stayed. Do you want me to tell you something ... a secret?" David gave an awe inspiring look.
"He would never admit it, but Edward was never going to get married, never have any children - we always chided him about it. But David, right at this minute, he'd take on the whole world to make sure you stayed here. In one way, he's already your father, even if no one else thinks so. He loves you, David, and believe me, you had to be someone special to get through his defences ... the wall he put up. He hates what he calls snobs. And another thing, David, I've never seen your father more protective of anything or anyone. If you hopped in here on three legs and bobbed up and down on your backside, he'd love you just the same... as would your Nan. Don't get disheartened, David, you have some good people on your side."
"I love you, Uncle James."
"And I love you too, little man. Drat, now they've even got me saying it." David gave a smile.
Slinking down off James's knee, David turned and hobbled back over to the other seat, thinking how embarrassed he would be if he fell on his backside again.
"You know, my dad would have loved you, he really would." David smiled to himself. Little did James know that he already knew him?
"You know, at one time we had a lot of people working here. A cook, cleaners, a driver, even a butler."
"You had servants?"
"No, we had workers! Never let your Nan hear you call them servants. They were people who did an honest day's work for an honest day's pay. Servants meant slaves, and there were no slaves working here, do you understand?"
He gave a nod. "Having slaves is a bad thing."
"Yes, it is. When you were at the orphanage, what were you made to do?"
"They made me do all the cleaning - all the bad jobs," he said, lowering his head.
"You were made a slave. But the people who worked here wanted too, not forced too."
"It's getting late, I will have to go. I'm sorry, but I need to get supplies, writing books, etc." Mister Braithwaite said.
"I will see you on Monday."
"Monday would be fine. I shall be here at eight o'clock. I like my students to get into a routine of rising early."
"I think we are going to get along just fine," I said, as we shook hands at the door.
"Thank you very much for the refreshments," he said, as he got into his car, waving before he set off down the long driveway.
"He seems a very nice man, and David seems to like him. I was a little worried about an outsider coming into the house." Mother said.
"Mother, from here on I'll be here, so there's no need to worry."
"I know, Edward, but I'm ... I was an old lady living alone in this big house."
"Well, I can go, if you want?"
"Don't you dare! It's taken me years to finally get you back home."
"What do you say we go out for dinner? It's been a long day, and you need a break."
"I'll agree, if you let David choose where we eat. Agreed?"
"It seems I can't say no. Where is David?"
"I think he's still in the study with James."
"Now, I am afraid. They could be plotting anything."
Mother laughed. "You boys will never grow up."
"So, what have you two been plotting?"
"We wouldn't do anything like that, would we, David?" An evil grin enveloped David's face.
Inwardly, George laughed as he glanced at each of his two sons, but settling on the mischievous face of the child, who from the minute he arrived brought life - no, a feeling of warmth to everyone who took in the little runaway that was David. Timid, he was infectious. Though he lacked confidence and skills to associate, he was in definition, loveable, truthful, and though having been given nothing to continue, he found the strength to succeed, even continue to give what was surely never given ... consideration and too small of an amount of affection.
In truth, he'd had nothing in his life, but gave everything he had inside. Though he held nothing to call his own, he accepted what was offered. But no more – although he could ask for anything he wanted, never did a want leave his lips.
George felt a warm feeling inside, but there was also a feeling of loss - a loss that he had departed before he could spend time with a child that had given his beloved a new start. The solemn moment went as quickly as it appeared; after all, David was, if only by feeling, his grandson. He thought of how he laughed as the little man fell on his backside, and though upset, even a little angry, his protestations were still done politely, and with what one could say with grace.
"James, we are going out for dinner and you're invited. David, where do you think would be the best place to go? David, I've been given strict orders that you have to choose. And James, you are coming whether you like it or not; those are my orders."
"I thought you were worried we were plotting? So, what do you say, David? I know we'll have to salute and stand to attention - these dictators, gheez." David put his hand over his mouth sniggering.
"That's not fair," I said, as I lunged at David. He screamed with laughter, prompting James to attack.
Mother stood at the door, mock anger, lips pursed, hands on her hips, shaking her head. "Now come on children, let's be behaving like grown-ups - kids!" She said, "Some things never change with age."
"Grown-ups?- Don't be so sure."
By pure accident, a house had now become a home. With the pleasures and luxuries adorned upon and onto its occupants, nothing could be more precious than the sound of a child's laughter. A gift betrothed from heaven above, such was the purity and innocents.
There was an aura, seen and not. George looked at the scene, and an arm went across David's shoulder, who sensing from whom it came, smiled lovingly.
As all three adults converged on the kitchen, only David remained, nonchalantly taking George's favourite seat without care or thought, the old man smiled with an acceptance of the boy's will.
Standing behind David he spoke, getting the customary shock from David. George silently laughed at the look of murder, imagining darts trying to find a target.
David gave a sigh, quickly dropping his look.
Having David ask about his uncle Edward upset Elizabeth to no end. Keeping her thoughts to herself, she knew that her little man was troubled. Though David gave no outgoing sign, he was, as they say, caught between a rock and a hard place.
"Edward, it's hurting him, this dragging your feet."
"When you were given permission to foster David, you became his father? He asked me this morning where his uncle Edward was. He needs a family ... he needs you. But it seems you have accepted the way things are."
"Mother, fostering David made me something close to a parent, which says he can call me anything that comes to mind. In David's mind, I am far from being his father. Imagine building your hopes up, then having it snatched away from your grasp, which I have no doubt he has had that dejection countless times in his short life. Put yourself in David's shoes. Yes, he has a home, a place where he doesn't get ridiculed. It comes down to trust. I'm not sure he knew what trust was till he became a scared little boy outside your door. He was scared then, and with all that come the insecurities - believe me. And no, I have not accepted anything, I thought you knew me better than that. I'm sorry, Mother, I have to go, the jury is coming back in. We'll talk when I get home."
Elizabeth replaced the phone with a heavy heart. She knew she had upset Edward, but she thought he needed pushing.
At that moment, David walked into the lounge from within the two enormous doors that was the study. Seeing his Nan upset, he hobbled over to her, wrapping his arms around her waist smiling. "Now, what did I do to deserve that?"
"You looked sad ... when I'm sad, you give me a hug and I always feel better."
Hugging him tightly, "What did I ever do to deserve you." A tear slipping down her cheek.
"Please, Nan, don't be sad." Tears were falling down each side of her face.
"Don't you go fretting, little man, I'm crying because I'm happy. Are you sure you're only eleven?" she said ruffling his hair.
George again looked on with affection.
To Be Continued....