The Little Runaway
Edited by Rock
Edited by Rock
What was never written or known was the hope received from words that gave Jack strength when life was cruel.
Edwin watched as his young companion became adapt and swift with his ailments, and had done so for some time, knowing that for whatever and whoever you cared for needed at some time to be let go. Raising Jack to his knee, "Jack, you know that soon you need to go home."
"But sir, I don't know how to get back home."
"Don't you go fretting little one. Your home is on the other side of the mountain."
"But why can't I stay with you?"
"For as much as I would like for you to, Jack, your father will be worried." Jack stared into the distance as he thought of his father and how worried he must be. His thoughts drifting to his home and his friend Sally, who was never far away - she clung to him like the hairs on his head. Maybe that was the reason his head itched so much … the thought tickled his funny bone. Jack looked at the man that he thought of as a friend confused; how could he have known where he lived, and how could he know that his father was his only family.
Edwin saw the confusion. And as he pulled Jack a little closer, he smiled. "Jack, I know you won't remember, but as you lay in the stream, the last words you spoke were to die; so God sent me to help you." The expression given had Edwin smiling. "Jack, I am an angel," he said as he kissed the forehead of a very shocked little boy.
"You're from heaven? Jesus sent you? I mean God?"
"Jack, don't look surprised … you are a very special young man." Crying, Jack held onto Edwin - his grip was one of fear - not from the man himself, just that he might disappear.
"Jack, did you not try to help the other children when they cried, or if they were scared? God smiled when he saw how brave you were."
"But I was scared too."
"Yes, you were, but that is what makes you special. When you get home, always remember that someone will be watching over you. Have faith to know that He has a plan for you. Things will be hard at times, but look into your heart and know that He is with you." Holding his angel, Jack smiled to himself, he felt safe… but scared at his parting.
"I know you may think me selfish, but I owe you so much. You saved my life. I love my father, but…"
"That would be the only way to repay my kindness, to reunite with your father."
Jack looked at his friend unable to speak. He had, but not spoken, taken the very words out of his own mouth, but his thought was still of the latter ...
"Jack, your debt is paid with the actions you yourself have shown to others." Jack held his friend tightly as sleep again overtook him.
A further month passed, which saw Jack being able to walk for the most part. He tired easily, but his pain was mostly gone. As they began their journey, his homemade crutches seemed to be his only worry.
His father was a good, hard working man, but at times he could be less than gentle.
Jack stopped on the ridge and looked back at his friend. "I must leave you now, Jack, just remember, you need to have faith."
"Sir, you need to meet my father. He has to know you helped me."
"Jack, he must never know of me. You must never reveal my existence."
"Jack, if you never believe anything else I say, please believe me when I say this, 'If I need any credit, it is in front of me now.'"
Turning to walk on, he thought of how he would hug his father, and how excited his father would be to again see his son after how long he didn't know, the time being a guess. A frown crossed the face of Edwin, as if knowing the outcome of Jack's happiness.
As they neared the small village, Jack stopped and looked up at his saviour, his angel with sadness. "I know, son." Raising a hand, a glow emitted around Edwin as he faded away. With tears, Jack waved as the light disappeared.
As Jack recovered, the man who had cared for him was gone, saying to go back to his family, and leaving Jack to walk the last mile alone. He was excited to be able to see his father again, but he also had a sadness that the man would not be there to share his happiness.
People watched as Jack hobbled through the village, only to stare without comment. As he entered what was his home, his father turned from the fire to look at the door. Seeing his son was a shock, but more from what he saw.
Jack walked over to his father for the welcome he knew would come. "Where the hell have you been?" Then his face stung from the contact of his father's hand.
In shock, he slowly got to his feet. What happened next made him wish he'd died in the lake. A sack hit him squarely in the chest, nearly knocking him down again.
"But why father? I was kidnapped."
His son was now a cripple, though he loved him, this place could not be his home. He looked at Jack with a sadness; and though cruel, he needed to be kind. The village had at times dismissed, even sold the weak, the frail amongst them for money for food … leaving no choice for their loved ones. At worst they would dispose of those who could not contribute.
"With no money coming in, I can't keep you."
"Go!" Jack stood, not moving a muscle. "GO! NOW!" He couldn't move, it was as if he was nailed to the ground. This would happen again before Jack became settled.
He stood for what seemed hours, but were merely minutes, before he trundled out the door … he couldn't cry … he couldn't feel anything! He walked back through the village quietly, only his sticks making any noise. He could have been dead, if anyone had thought to look at him.
As he got to top of the ridge, he looked up to the heavens speaking the only word that came to mind, "Why."
His eyes open, though they could have been closed, his mind blank, he followed the track to where was no concern, even if he had a thought.
His father laid his head on the table and caused blood to flow, as many times he banged his head constantly against the table top. "God, I pray, I beg you, please gain my son and guide him. I love him, Lord, but a fate I would only wish on myself would be his outlook if he stayed." He looked up to the heavens with contrition as tears streaked down his face.
Night was closing in as he sat and looked back to where he used to live… he was still numb. As he started to get some sense of reality, he realised he hadn't walked more than two miles. He again looked up to the heavens as he thought about what he'd been told. Had Edwin known what was going to happen … but why? Standing, he aimlessly walked, not knowing where, just as before following the track.
Darkness began to set, the only light being the stars as he looked for shelter, hurting from the exertion on his tiny body. Seeing a place he knew, he settled down. His thoughts were of Edwin, how much the man seemed to care, but leaving him to get hurt again. He lit a fire with sticks he'd found in a small cave. With little chance of filling his belly, he cried himself into a restless sleep.
The following morning, he set off on his journey again, still having no idea where he was heading.
Four days and nights of walking and merely resting his body without food or water; he, as before, wanted to die. He dropped down with his back to a tree, remembering little as his eyes again closed. Slowly he opened his eyes exhausted and weak. As he gazed around at his surroundings, he spotted a light, not overly bright… but enough to see in the darkness.
With what little strength he had left he followed the glow, which seemed in his present state to be getting farther and farther away.
As he walked further into the trees, a house came into view; every step now hurting as slowly he got closer and closer. As he stood, no recognition, no thoughts, he again wished he could die.
The door opened; and with eyes that could have been hollow, he stared through empty eyes at the figure that stood yards from him. No fear, no concern, not a thought entered his mind as to what could happen.
As Agnes rocked the boy, she spoke softly, soothing what looked as much a broken child as any she'd ever seen, and she'd seen many … many that she'd never given a thought to taking in.
Waking in similar condition as Edwin had found him, he saw the lady who had fed him, brought him home; and as he saw, put him to bed.
"You're safe now." Seeing him calm, she asked him about his mother and father. She saw upset instantly. "Don't cry, little one."
"My mother is dead, my father threw me out." Seeing the upset, she knew there was always a reason, some sad, some with little or no reason. She rocked him to and fro as the tears again came.
"He said there was no money, and couldn't look after me, but they took me."
"Who took you?"
"Men, they told us we were going to be sold."
"You said there were others?" she said, as she tried to stay calm for the boy's sake. Jack nodded. "What happened to the other children," not sure if she wanted to know.
"They are dead."
"Dead!" Louder than she had intended, for the boy needed her to stay calm. With that said, she dropped the subject.
From that day forward, Jack stayed with Agnes and Jack, becoming their son.
You see, David, Jack is your Nan's great, great, great, grandfather.
David looked at his father with so many different emotions. Edward smiled to himself with thoughts of a hydrogen bomb in his head ready to explode, trying to decipher each one. David went over in his mind and thought about the day that he was drawn - compelled even - to the point of getting into trouble with coming to this particular house. He remembered a saying he'd heard, 'If I knew then, what I know now.' There was a gentle sigh at the thought of how better off he would have been, if he'd known what he knew now. There was the one, who he now thought of as his Nan … the expression as she saw him, then how kind she was. That his thought was the same reaction Jack had gotten from the lady who took him in and cared for him.
"David, you know, I can't tell you what may happen, I have got some very good and important people working as hard as they can, even though it's easier said than done. Don't worry, okay? And it looks as if we have something in our favour, 'history repeating itself.'"
Depositing David onto the floor, he told him to get his Nan to make a snack, tell her that 'us men are hungry,'" a slap on the backside for good measure got David sprinting. "I really need to check where he has that other leg hidden," he smiled, shaking his head in disbelief.
"Tell that father of yours to make his bloody own." Then giggles, as David came running back.
"Mother! Don't bother … and David, I heard, so don't you even think about repeating it." Which got David giggling all over again.
As he put the brakes on he felt the slight rumble of the wheels as they slid to a halt. The roads had been gritted, but he doubted that would keep it frost free … it seemed the weather had again taken another turn for the worse as flurries of snow began to cover the windscreen. The British weather seems to have its own working pattern – agenda, if you wish. The best way to describe its instincts is to use your own, or in this case, by all means, judge the book by its cover.
As he got to his office, Julie, his secretary, gave him his messages. "Morning, Mister Whitmore. Judge Peterson asked if you could join her for lunch. She'll be in court after 2 p.m."
"Thanks, Julie. Will you ask Judge Moseley, if he will ask the bureaucrats at social services what exactly they are objecting to with regards to David ... add my apologies for burdening him with it, and tell him if I don't start on some of this paperwork, I may end up in the dock of his court. David's last name is Ward. Also, tell him I'll ring him tonight.
"Judge Peterson, Edward Whitmore."
"Mister Whitmore, thank you for getting back to me so soon. Sam's been wooing me up again," her amusement sounded very clear, "can you tell me why," her amusement still obvious.
Edward had to laugh … 'wooing'? "Well, the wordings right, I'd have to say. I have to plead guilty for Sam. An early lunch would be appreciated Ms. Peterson."
"Ms? I'm married, you know," she uttered with a mock humph.
"If Sam had his way, there would be bigamy," Edward couldn't hold the snigger as she laughed.
"I'm not on the bench till two, so what if you 'woo' me in my office in thirty minutes." That would send Sam over the edge, me getting married. "Thirty minutes, bye for now."
"Nothing fancy, I ordered the T-bone steak."
"Janet, are you trying to get me fat?"
"You're too skinny," she laughed, "you need to put some weight on. Now tell me, what is so special that Sam thought I needed dining."
"You know Sam will be chasing me with a shotgun? Me taking his dinner date."
"No courting some people…"
"I'll bring charges, if you don't stop stalling."
"Okay, okay ... I presume you've heard about the young boy I've fostered? Everyone else seems to know. Gossip and wildfire really belong together. His name is Timothy David Ward. Some seven months ago he turned up at the mansion," I hate using that name, "anyway, he has been pulled from pillow to post all his life. And I must tell you, he's missing a limb, and that's not for sympathy … just another thing David has to put up with."
"So, what is so special about David?"
"I'm not sure 'special' has anything to do with it. Janet, he needs a break."
"If I told you half that as gone on, you would say I was just using the system. If you never hear anything else, I'd say talk to him. And yes, you could also say that he'd say anything to get out of the orphanage."
"No, I think I know you better than that. So tell me something new? And most kids would."
"Your first submission is right, but I think you may have second thoughts about what is so special about David. He was living at 'Briarcroft'. They took kids that were, shall we say clever; opening up the dorms for students to stay in while monies were paid for the privilege. Take my word for it, he's clever. He's reading Shakespeare, Dickens ... and he's only eleven years old!"
"Alright, so he's clever, disabled … anything else to sway me?"
"Plenty, a Mister Heard is the housemaster of David's dorm. The, shall we say, other residents were using David as their personal slave, which the good Mister Heard knew about, but did nothing to stop it. He is abusive to the kids, at least the younger ones. I'm not sure how deep it goes, but charges were dropped - no proof. I have never used my position for help, but I will do everything I can to stop the man. But mostly, I will break every rule in the book if I have to … but I will adopt David, or I'll get fired trying."
"That's a fine speech!"
"Don't even go there, Janet, I have never been more serious in my entire life!"
"Calm down, Edward. I never meant anything, at least anything disrespectful … but why this kid?"
"David … damn it!"
"I wouldn't want you as an enemy, Edward."
"Janet, my apologies for my reaction, I have become very attached to David. I have an idea … when Sam invites you to dinner, tell him you are having lunch with me at the house, invite him along. We can, if you wish, then make a day of it. I'm sure Sam wouldn't give up the chance of going out on the lake … fishing you know."
"This k… David has really gotten to you, I can see that. Okay, I'll invite Sam. I have to see what makes this k… David so special, but I warn you, keep it straight, Edward!"
"That's one problem I can solve for you. Come uninvited anytime. And whether you think I'm trying to sway you or not, it took half a day to convince David to make a list for Christmas. He has lived at the house some seven months, and in that time, he's only gotten a TV. Don't misunderstand; I would buy, within reason, whatever he asks for. But I have more of a chance of becoming the tooth fairy."
"So, just buy what you think he needs."
"He has been forced to do what he's been told all his life. It's taken seven months to get him to open up … talk even. So, what good do you think it would do to push him to be somewhere he wants to stay, just for it to be no difference from where he'd left … and that's not a question."
"I trust your honesty, no need to play hide and seek."
"In that case, we'll expect you for lunch Saturday."
"So it is. Bring Sam."
"David, what is up with you this morning?"
"Sorry, Mister Braithwaite. Sir, are angels real?"
"Well, I've never actually seen one," smiling at David, which didn't impress his student at all. "I don't know, David; but I believe in God, and I've never seen him either."
"Sir, can we take a break?"
"Are you sure you're not ill?"
"I'm okay, sir, honestly."
"It's nearly time for lunch, so we'll call it a day, but should I give you extra homework?"
"Mister Braithwaite, I…"
He saw the disappointment, "Okay, we'll let it go, but just this once, mind you!" A smile crossed David's face for the first time that morning. "Okay, be off with you," David turned still smiling as he headed straight to the kitchen to get a drink, and hopefully lunch.
The evening meal ending in a sombre note; David, as he was most of the day was 'not of this world'… his mind elsewhere. "Mister Braithwaite says you didn't seem your usual self today, is anything worrying you?"
Edward didn't want to push the point, but David seemed to have lost more than losing interest in learning. David, unlike most children girl or boy, as the modern slang states 'gets-off' on school. He would go into his lessons all ready for the new challenge, which deteriorated only when having to go back over things he'd already learned … that was, unless it was a question and answer quiz.
"Well, if there is anything worrying you, you know you can always come to us."
David knew they would worry until he said something. "Jack - I keep thinking about him."
"David, I told you that story so you would know whatever happened to you, whatever background you come from … as with Jack … that people cared about the person, not his upbringing. Yes, there are similarities, but family stems from more than blood. I can surmise some of the things that happened when he was taken in, but…" No, I was going to try a different approach, while the idea presented itself too me.
"David, do you remember when I said that family is giving as well as taking?" looking at David for confirmation.
He really had to get him out of the habit of Sir.
"I know how you feel about being bought things; but I need you to think about something, will you do that for me?" Seeing the concentration, he knew an answer wasn't forthcoming.
"Remember when we talked about how you felt when you gave someone a present? How you feel warm inside? When we spoke how unhappy you would be?" David's look changed in an instant.
"I'm sorry," the sorrow obvious as his head and shoulders slumped.
Edward saw the upset, but he knew he had finally broken through. "David, you have nothing to be sorry for. If you don't have anything, then you make do with what you have; but I'm sure it's more than that. You need to get that same warm feeling when you are given something as you do when you give it, that's what families do. Family is thinking your father is barmy, or your Nan's gone daft," he grinned, "for even suggesting something … family is give and take. And I think you have just realised that.
"Now, if I remember rightly, Mister Braithwaite gave thought to extra homework?" The look could bring the heavens down on us, and it was hard to keep a straight face. "Or if you wanted to, say … have an early night?" Which I knew would be the last thing he would think to do, "Watch TV?" Again very unlikely, "Read me a story?" Which got one of the oddest expressions I'd ever seen, "Or we can go and check that there's enough anti-freeze for the fountain?" That got an expression of complete and utter disgust, as he now cottoned on that he was getting the rise taken out of him.
"Can I go and read a book?" His expression not warming any.
"Need you ask?" He gave me another look, then turned tail and headed for the study. He still didn't look the part, but now, in some capacity he looked to be some part of this world.
"Grandfather, why do parents hurt their children?"
"Couldn't you ask me an easier question?" David tipped his head to the side, looking directly at his grandfather in confusion.
George shook his head smiling, which confused David even more.
"There is no easy answer to that, Son, but why do you ask?"
"Father told me the story of Jack - his father disowned his own son, but why? Whatever happened to him was because of those men that kidnapped him?"
"This may not answer your question, but it will help you in finding a solution. Some parents don't intentionally set out, or intend to hurt their children, even if that is what happens. You got hurt when your mum and dad got killed, but they certainly didn't do it to hurt you. Others because of alcohol or drugs, but again, in most cases, they never meant harm; but in others, it starts before they've taken or drank anything. Some adults like to be in charge 'the boss' so as to speak; in those cases, it's more than children that get hurt, mothers, even fathers themselves can get hurt too."
David again exited the here and now as he absorbed all his grandfather had said. They say young children soak up information like a sponge … David was no exception to that rule.
Without warning, catching George off guard, he asked if they had a book called the History of the British Isles.
"I can't remember every book, but I'm sure that is one we don't possess."
He thought for a minute, finally remembering "Britain through the Ages."
"Hang on, David, we have these books," pointing to David where the book volumes were and on which shelf. "Each volume documents and illustrates periods before the Roman Empire from 6.500 B.C to the present day, or at least up to 1980."
David retrieved the first volume, hoping up and down the ladder without a care, then sitting down in his grandfather's favourite seat before realising it… then just as quickly, moved over to the other armchair. George could only wonder how easy David made it look, even if it was by one leg at what seemed the same capacity as if by two legs.
Elizabeth entered the study, walking silently over to where David was sitting; a startled David looked up in surprise.
"What are you reading?" As if not wanting to lose concentration, he partially closed the book revealing the book title.
She gave thought of the book he was reading, smiling while shaking her head; most of David's age would, she thought, have to be pushed to read what can only be described as serious literature.
"Time for bed, little one."
"I'll warm you a glass of milk."
"Thanks, Nan. But can I just finish this page?"
Two beakers of warm milk decorated the table as the steam 'wafted,' the smell seemingly bringing David out of the study.
"I'll tuck you in, if you promise to go straight to sleep." eye contact giving his answer.
The day faded away as he drifted off into a peaceful sleep.
George still seated, looked to the heavens in wonder at the resilience of youth. David had been anything but content when he first walked into the study, but by his bedtime, it seemed all had been forgotten.
To Be Continued….