The Little Runaway
Edited by Rock
Edited by Rock
Work was not on my list of priorities; I was duly worried about a 'little man,' and ringing in with my excuses didn't go down too well, as I had already taken more time away from work than what was accessible.
The telephone rang again as quickly as I replaced the handset ... "Charles, I am so glad you rang," I said more in reaction than sincerity.
"A welcome - now there's a good start."
"Now, Charles … be nice. I am really glad you called."
"I'm always nice. It's others who don't give the same impression."
"I wonder why?"
"Now it's your turn to be nice. Now, let's get down to business."
"My, my … business must be slack."
"I must warn you, I do have a lethal karate chop."
"Pork chop, most likely ..."
"Sam mentioned a young man … David, is it? He also filled me in with regards of why he thinks you think you may need me. Personally, I agree with Sam - you are over reacting. I would say what you need is some insight, and that's where I come in.
"Now there's a statement I didn't expect?"
"Charles, be serious!"
"Okay, okay. Seeing as now I'm on your payroll, I can now get my claws sharpened, get my fingers in some pies; or so to speak, stick my nose where it isn't wanted. But before I do that, I need to make some silent calls, keeping the authorities on the back burner. Silent calls will mean less noise from their managers."
"Charles, this is important for me and mother, but for David more so."
"I don't mean to get personal, but why this kid?"
"To answer that right now would take more time than you'd probably give me. There again, I'm paying; so, you'd let me. Seriously, saying that … the way things happened, I'm not quite sure myself. Look, I can either come to your office, or you can come here. You'll need to know the whole story anyway before you can stick your nose in."
"Cheeky ... I can't today, but tomorrow I can clear my workload for the afternoon. I've got a few prostitutes to represent, but Junior can represent them."
"Great. Would that be here or the office?"
"Your mother would kill me, if she knew I'd spoken to you, and didn't at least come and see her. Seriously, I need to see what a leisurely life style costs these days, and I need to see this wonder kid. Anyway, what happened to the self-imposed bachelor; who was so, so close to being registered as one; who didn't want kids, but is now on the verge of fatherhood? You work quickly … fast for someone who didn't want either."
"He's a child, not a kid; and before you say anything … there is a difference. Charles, listen to me, if you come with that attitude, you will see a frightened little boy; and that's not going to happen … you understand. And by the way, I'm still a bachelor."
"Well, one out of two isn't bad. Okay, less of the chit-chat, I'll go get my hands dirty, and let you know what I find out tomorrow … say lunch?"
"I'll tell mother to set an extra place."
"You're living with your mother?"
"I will explain tomorrow. Now go and do what I'm paying you for."
"I'll consider that as being rebuked. Tomorrow, mate … bye, Edward."
Charles was a friend, but he could go on like an old spinster at a mothers' meeting. He doesn't get the name 'Bird' for nothing, I can tell you from experience, he's been given 'the bird' a few times while in my company.
They say liars should have good memories; and I was hoping I could remember all the excuses I've made in the past for not inviting him around with our other guests.
"Is everything okay? I can't get an ounce of work out of David today. He seems distracted."
"David, can you go out and play in the gardens?" Seeming a little peeved, he retreated outside.
"Tom, you surprised me. Not to put too fine a point, David is afraid social services are going to send him back to the orphanage; and if I was truthful, I am myself."
"Why would they do that, he's so happy here?"
"Tom, if you have no other clients?"
"No, as you know, when I took this appointment, I was in between jobs!"
"Apologies … I'd forgotten. Are you still in between jobs?"
"Good! I'm sorry … I didn't mean that the way it came out. I'd like David to have a full time tutor; and he's built up a rapport with you. We can work out salary, and add a little for expenses, writing materials, exercise books, etcetera. I know I'm putting an offer that may be short term, but if social services get their way, the outcome would be the same; but more importantly … in the meantime, it gives David some stability."
"The offer would be acceptable. And pardon me for being so bold, the state would only again become involved, if there was a danger - even cruelty - but I see neither."
"Can we go into the study?"
"I'll bring in the tea when it's brewed. Seemingly, all attached to the household, and of course David, have intentions of frightening the life out of me."
"Thank you, Mother."
"Tom, please take a seat. Good. As you know, David is my foster son, that in itself doesn't bring a resolution; but I was taking steps for it to become permanent."
"That was my understanding."
"As I explained when you took employment, the reason David was living here. Up until yesterday, nothing had changed. That was until I was told that the case against Mister Heard had been dropped. As it transpired, any witnesses to his wrong doing never happened - as the boys in that particular house stated. So, that now leaves a problem. If Mister Heard did as it appeared, nothing untoward David, then David does not need to be fostered out."
"But surely, they wouldn't send him back into his care?"
"Unless they make allowances, then yes they could. The down side is David overheard the conversation on the phone. And as you can well imagine, David was beyond reproach as to the consequences."
"That clears up David's absent-mindedness. He does have a tendency to drift into a world of his own, but rarely to a degree as today. Again, if I may be so bold, I would say David needs as many friends as he can rely on. So, it would be my duty to be there, if needed."
"Thank you, Tom. It seems mother has forgotten the tea, which will be well brewed by now."
As we got to the kitchen, David was asking what was for dinner. David had no interest with the outside, which in itself was a worry. Tom was invited to stay for dinner, and he readily accepted. Conversation was light, and at times involved David.
As the evening drew to a close, I was in hindsight going to give David a reassurance chat, but that dissolved after he had a cheery never ending conversation on the studies that Mister Braithwaite and I thought he wasn't up to – appearances can be wrong. This was going to be a subject his tutor and I would go over for times to come.
Asking to go into the study, then leaving without another word being spoken, after the conversation about his studies; which I presumed was to catch up on some reading.
"David, only about an hour, Mister Braithwaite will be here as usual in the morning. He turned, smiled, then closed the door with a click. Had he turned another corner? One could only hope.
"Charles rang while you were in the garden, he's coming for lunch." A look of confusion was my only comment. "Charles Windsor?"
"Edward, could you not have told me earlier? Whatever is served, he'll have to like it." Charles Windsor made my mother seem a commoner, he was such a snob.
"Make sandwiches." At times, mother can act her status, but with Charles, she had to work at it. But if Charles was nothing else, he was a bloody good lawyer.
Small talk again was the topic of the evening, which evaporated after a few hours. Just before I went to get David, he came wandering from the study all smiles, walking into the kitchen, leaning on his Nan in a form of a hug … not even breaking a sweat as he click clacked up the stairs.
"Goodnight, David!" which didn't get any unduly response, his bedroom door closed, putting a healthier mood on the evening - another crisis averted … at least, for the time being.
As he had done many times before, George watched his grandson spying the outside world with a serious expression. Though the sun had long since set, he stared outside the window, instinctively knowing the view, as if by daylight.
George sitting on the edge of the bed caused David to turn his head. Seeing his grandfather, he gave a warm smile, which George instinctively returned, gently brushing the hair from over his eyes, earning him another special smile - the likes that only David could give.
Smiling at the little man he saw, though unclear the uncertainty of what was, and could happen. "David, let me tell you a story," noticing the interest to a child being read a bedtime story.
"A long time ago an Englishman, John Newton, wrote a verse. No, that's not correct. Okay, have you heard the song "Amazing Grace?" which David gave a nod of recollection. "It was originally verses to illustrate a sermon he wrote to be used on New Year's Day. Some years later, it became a hymn, and was later turned into many themes of worship in religion in many denominations." David still quiet, waited in anticipation. ""Amazing Grace" is in some ways a message … a message asking for forgiveness.
"Now, don't you be getting swell headed … but, David, you are a unique little boy. You have a feeling for people, and some of those same people have hurt you in the past. Somewhere in all that was happening, you have somehow blamed yourself. David, do you think you did anything wrong?"
"Yes, but I don't know what."
"Well, let me tell you … you did nothing wrong, the wrong was done to you - not by you. Those bullies told you how useless you were so many times that you believed them. David, please believe me when I say, you are a good little boy with a heart that could stretch this whole world over many times. You don't need forgiveness, but 'those people' do. Even when 'those people' abused you, you still found courage, stood tall, never to be beaten. You studied, you learned, and in the long term - they lost, you won. Now, what happens in the future is up to you. You can keep on winning, or you can give into what they did to you? Maybe, you need to forgive them before you can forgive yourself? I can't promise there will always be someone who will pick you up when you fall, but I can promise you, you will never be alone."
The room seemed to sparkle as tears dripped down David's face. Laying his head on the pillow, he closed his eyes, contented as a smile on his face gave away a feeling of heartfelt joy.
George, as-far-as-could-be-done, tucked in his grandson, whispering,
"David, you have the mortality of being an adult, but the immortality of being a child …." Words that would stay with him, even at an age when most things had been forgotten.
"Remember this, David. Time is but a face that gives a sign of relief. Sleep with a smile, and dream happy thoughts," were the loving words spoken, as George made his way to the study, and to the armchair that had always been his sanctuary when home.
It had been hard the last few days, but with no amount of luck, he had survived. He again looked down into the water, and without thought, brushed back the hair that nestled on his face, then tipped his head backwards, looking up into the black cavern that was his abode, as his mind drifted back to what life was like when he had a family that was as strong as one. At that moment, he would have been happy with arguing parents.
Mike, an eleven year old, packed what he thought he would need, or considered important, then ran away; being at such tender years that he thought for the now, not for the future. He knew the consequences; he'd had friends, who had been in care for years, who had been adopted, but that now seemed like forever, when he didn't have a care in the world.
Morning had come too soon as he walked along the hedgerows trying to stay invisible. Any other time, it would have been an adventure, but now? He knew that he would be okay for a few days, as he'd had one good meal recently, then his thoughts drifted to his foster parents, the children's home, his mum and dad!
Going in and out of Alton, not being able to avoid the town centre, had his stomach churning without remorse. Nearing a wooded area, he leaned hard against the back of a tree with a thirst that needed quenching.
The nights were closing in quickly now, as it was now the middle of autumn. The days got shorter, and the weather became colder; especially, during the night. So, standing around was something he didn't do too often.
As he got to the edge of the trees, he heard water running. Cautiously, and very slowly, he walked towards the sound. Seeing a hosepipe streaming water over the smelly ground, he cautiously took a drink, wetting himself in the process. Startled by a noise, he edged slowly behind a wooden structure, eyes still looking out into the distance. A man walked over slowly to where the hose lay bunched up on the ground, turning the tap off where it hung from the wooded building. He looked around as if sensing someone's presence. Mike sighed deeply as the man turned and walked away.
After he was sure he had gone, he slowly and quietly tip-toed down the side of what was, in fact, the stables - out of sight, and into the barn. It was a little bit closer to the side of the house than he would have liked, but at the very least, it would be a lot warmer than the outside, but the stables smelled really bad.
He was getting tired now after walking all day, climbing the rickety wooden steps into the loft, he lay in cover behind some neatly stacked hay. He lay there for a short time before he started to shiver with the cold. Covering himself with the loose hay, he slowly started to warm.
Expectantly, he drifted off to sleep. The night was harsh, cold, with a stiff breeze that would chill the bone.
The day again started sooner than he would have liked; but brushing the straw from his clothing, he got himself another very cold drink from the hose. The morning sun shone through icy cold air making the ground sparkle. A white carpet of frost lay in front of him, and the ground crackled like popcorn from every footstep. He hoped the sun would soon warm, as when he ran from the barn, he had little or no deterrent to the cold.
Walking through the open air nature reserve, the long grass seemed to constantly brush the cold over his bare skin. Up ahead, he saw an observation point, which he thought birdwatchers would use. Going inside gave another chill, seeming even colder as he felt his backside on the hard floor.
He had walked miles, in and out of little towns and villages, had slept in barns, sheds, even an abandoned farm house that had little more than beams for a roof. Now, with what seemed more protection, at least above his head, he sat wearily in what were again his new surroundings.
As the gravity of his situation came back to him, he quietly sobbed. Being at a tender age, the reasons being clear as his thoughts again came back to how he ended up in such a precarious situation. Thinking back to his time at home; the times he was, in his mind, hard done by … but was he?
Then there was the time in court, refusing to go back home, the children's home, and finally, foster parents. As his mind went over the past eighteen months, he felt sorry - not for himself, but for the people he had hurt the most, his mum and dad.
The thought became a reality on how selfish he had been. Not only had he created his own hell, he had killed his parents himself, if not by life, but in what was now spirit. Now, he openly sobbed … silence echoing the guilt he felt.
Edward checked on David, as he did every night before
desperately seeking the comfort of his own bed. He knew there would be hard days ahead, but the night, as things were, became a relief in its entirety.
"Are you alright?"
"And who may I ask are you?"
"You don't remember me, do you?" Edward stood transfixed on the teenager for what felt like an eternity. "What are you doing here?"
Not being able to recall when he left the house, he looked at the teenager - unable to give an answer.
"What's your name?" The teen started to answer, then seemingly changed his mind. Then what was probably seconds…
"Don't suppose it matters now, I'm Mike."
"Okay, Mike, what are you doing out here? And you say we've met before?"
"Yea!" he said with some disgust, as he rose and walked over to Edward, as if giving him a second look.
As the teenager stood in front of him, a recollection of a boy came to mind. Being only weeks ago, a ten year old feisty thing with some attitude, and what could have been a bubbly personality.
Seeing the recollection, "You fed me, then tried to send me back home," he said with some venom.
"Quit the attitude. I gave you something it seemed no one else had, I gave you kindness. I would never send you back to where you were getting hurt, physically or mentally, if I remember rightly? If you had the same attitude then, as you do now, maybe you caused your own problems… how does a ten year old get to be…"
"Fifteen. I'm fifteen!"
"So, what are you doing here?"
"I can't answer that anymore than I can for the last time we met. You were a dream."
"A dream… I wish!"
"You listen to me, young man, you will show some respect."
"Or what, you'll hit me?"
"No, I'd help you like I did my foster son. I tried once, but it seems other plans were a-foot."
"I'm sorry, okay," holding up his hands in a gesture of protection.
"What happened to you over the last five years?" swallowing back hard at the thought.
"Which part do you want to hear about? The way I didn't get beaten up anymore, at least from my foster parents. How about the time I fed myself from skips? Or how about how I had to shoplift to get clothes? And how about the perverts like you, who used me for sexual favours?" With that, a flood of tears drowned his eyes as he fell to his knees.
"Show some respect, young man!"
Edward kneeled in front of a squalled boy, who though his clothes were dirty, tried to make himself look respectable, even if his clothes were thread bare.
"You came across as a good kid then, don't change my impression now. I'll do as much for you as I can," lifting the boys chin, "you have to believe me, everything will be alright … on that I can promise." Not sure when he'd wake up again; somehow, he didn't know why, but he knew there was a higher power at work here.
He looked up at Edward, the inner child coming to the fore as he put his arms around the man he thought he could now consider a friend.
"Are you hungry? We can go and get something to eat? What about the late night supermarket? And I promise, I won't make you get cleaned up." That certainly changed the mood.
Not sure when, if this was like his first experience, he'd be rudely awakened - he and what now seemed his new responsibility made their way into the orange lights of the town.
David woke to the sound of the wind, leaves rustling as the branches swayed. The wind came in spurts as the leaves danced, slowly descending to the darkness of the grass, covered in a mist, as if the sky had turned on itself, resembling a chilling backdrop to an old black and white film. Hearing the fountain brought a distant look; and with what was his usual excursion, he made his way to the study.
His look became a smile as the old gentleman returned the gesture as he snuggled into the overstuffed armchair. He gazed around the room, eyelids drooping as he gently drifted away into a peaceful sleep.
Elizabeth smiled at the scene. Click went the shutter to keep the moment in mind. Though all was silent, except for the light breathing, a contented look adorned his face as he lay tightly embossed where he slept.
Walking slowly, and as quietly as humanly possible, she bent and kissed his forehead. Her heart swelled as brushing back his hair, she would wrap him in cotton wool, never to let him leave her side.
Stirring at the unknown attention, he looked around slowly, waking from his slumber.
"Good morning, Nan," as his arms wrapped tightly around her waist, leaning into the comfort.
Saying no words, she picked him up roughly to giggles of joy. "Well, good morning to you!" slapping him on the back side… "Up the dancers!" He shot so quickly from the study, all she could do was smile, and shake her head in wonder. "Was that one leg or two?" was her mind's whisper.
"Mister Braithwaite will be here shortly, so no dawdling."
"Yes, Nan," as the staircase was put through its paces.
"You know, one of these days, you're going to set fire to those stairs!"
Looking around the room, she smiled, remembering when her husband George was at his most contented; apparently, as was 'their little man,' who now adorned the same habit. Her heart held some sorrow at her husband's final moments in the same chair that now bred life again.
To Be Continued….