Castle Roland

The Little Runaway

by Terry

In Progress

Chapter 5

Published: 10 Apr 14

George, as if on instinct, stood at the boy's bedroom door. A smile crossed his face with hope, then sadness. He was happy for David, but sad at being unable to participate in the happiness his spouse now possessed. Not a selfish act, just a father wanting what now seemed with David the best for a son ... or would that be grandfather for a grandson? Whichever way the boat swayed, he hoped to be around to see what would unfold.

He stood in the same spot for some time, before magically removing himself to standing at the foot of his wife's bed, watching her sleep with the same contentment that was etched on his own face. Eventually, taking himself to what had become his usual spot, even in life - his study with his plush and very comfortable easy chair.

The morning chorus woke David from what was a contented sleep. Birds flocked to the trees, even the odd one settled on his window sill. He looked out to the beautiful sight that adorned all of his senses. The beauty of the landscape, the smell of the flowers, the grass, the trees; even the water that seemed to reach from the fountain high into the sky. Shaking his head and rubbing his eyes to be sure he wasn't dreaming, he smiled and hoped that this would stay a reality.

Peace cometh from a reflection of what we don't see

Elizabeth stood behind his door, which stood slightly ajar from the previous evening and smiled. "Oh my! You little streaker." David looked around in shock, as you do - and realising his predicament, covered his 'modesty', blushing with obvious discomfort. Elizabeth couldn't hold back a laugh. "Breakfast is ready," she said, as she turned smiling.

Elizabeth looked up as David entered the kitchen, his blush - a deep crimson; she wasn't sure if that was from his shower, or his ability to be caught in a compromising predicament. Unable to look her in the eye, his head dipped staring at his bare foot. Seeing his embarrassment, Elizabeth walked over to assure him. It seemed there was a softer side to David. "I'm sorry. Do you forgive me? I promise, I'll knock next time, okay?" David gave a nod, still having twenty shades of red as part of his complexion, this being the second time he'd been caught in a compromising predicament. But it could have been worse - he could have been in his birthday suit.

Forgetting how much a growing boy can eat, breakfast became a cook's worst nightmare. Bacon, milk, even bread, barely held out with little left to go around.

Over breakfast, David still kept his head down refusing eye contact. Introvert were her thoughts. Shy, yes, but with a little more complexity. This little man, though being around people his own age, had no people skills. As with her own son James, who himself was an introvert, but could be around people and mix. David, on the other hand, seemed to shy away from any sort of contact, unless willed to do so. That in itself would prove to have its difficulties for David.

"Are you okay, Ma'am?"

"Yes, little one, I'm fine. Now, what do you say we get cleaned up? I'll do the dishes while you get your teeth cleaned ... and don't forget clean underwear." David again blushed, getting out of the way as quickly as possible to hide his embarrassment. Elizabeth shook her head as she made her way to the sink

Being the later end of the week, David was kept away from any type of schooling, which got a mixed reaction from her little one - he spent the time checking out the grounds instead. David couldn't get enough of his new adventure. Smiling most of the afternoon, Elizabeth likened it to a holiday at the seaside. There was so much wonder, so many questions, or as the saying goes – 'a child with a new toy'.

Elizabeth, upon being caught unaware, exclaimed, "James! You nearly frightened the life out of me."

"Sorry, Mum," his hug being a little tighter for his mistake.

"It's so good to see you, but what brings you here?" Though seeing her sons somewhat regularly, James was the one who needed to ration his time.

"I was at Saint Christopher's, so I thought I'd drop in to see what you were doing for the weekend. I was going to ring, but decided to come instead - needed to see what trouble you've gotten up to," forgetting his original intention for coming.

"You're still not too old to get a clip around the ear, you know." He gave a pout and smiled at his mother.

"Sit down ... I'll put the kettle on."

"Thanks, Mum."

"So, what was this about the weekend?"

Holding his hands up as if protecting himself, "Louise said we should take a ride to my mothers."

"It seems your wife thinks more of your mother than my own son," she said, as she turned to face him, then smiled.

"I know I haven't visited you as often as I'd like, but the kids are demanding more time, and with work, it's nearly impossible to get time. And I know I should ring, but ..."

"It's alright, James, really. I'm just glad you're here now." After sitting the drinks on the table, she laid her hands on her son's.

Catching a shadow in the corner of her eye, she looked up, prompting James to do the same. Catching a glimpse of David, he turned to look at his mother with surprise. David, seeing the look, immediately felt rejected, and turned to walk away.

"David ..." Putting his hand out, James walked over to the new addition to the household.

"Hello, David ... I'm James." He'd been told by Edward that the boy was delicate, but not understand why. "That was inconsiderate, I'm sorry," he said, as he continued to hold his hand out for David.

David timidly took it. "Hello, Sir, I'm David."

"You are everything my brother said. Edward said he knew a little man who needed a friend ... and I do hope we can be friends." Walking over, Elizabeth smiled at her son with pride as she squeezed his shoulder. Still unsure, David gave a hesitant nod.

"Stay for dinner? I'm sure David would love to hear about Jeremy and Samantha, and of course Louise."

"Looks like my goose will be cooked, if I don't. What do you think, David, stay or go?" David simply glowed at being asked.

Looking at Elizabeth, he gave a nod. "How old is Jeremy?" And that was how the rest of the day went, as enthusiastic as Elizabeth had ever seen him, even at times being told to slow down with all the questions.

After the evening meal, David started to yawn; and by eight o'clock, he could barely keep his eyes open. But that didn't slow him down any. James bade his goodnights, receiving an encouraging smile from David.

"Okay, young man, off to bed." With a tap on the backside, she told him to go get ready for bed, shower ... "And don't forget to brush ..."

"...Your teeth; I won't," a mischievous grin splashed across his face.

"Now, don't you be taking liberties with an old woman?"

Later, upon reaching David's bedroom, she had to smile. David had fallen asleep on the window seat with his face looking up to the heavens. She wasn't young anymore, but she couldn't leave him where he lay. Speaking her thoughts quietly, "Come on, let's get you into bed." Leaning as far as her aching back would allow, she took him in her arms, stopping one of his aids before it fell to the floor. A contented smile crossed his face as he kissed Elizabeth on the cheek. As he snuggled up with the duvet again, like he had the night before, he mumbled, "Goodnight, Mum." Though she knew it was a silent thought, her heart gave an extra beat.

Leaving the door ajar, she again looked across to the sleeping child, "Sleep tight, little one, sleep tight."

With the kettle on the stove, she took a small beaker from the cupboards above. Taking her tea, she moved out onto the back porch. Being a clear night, the stars shone like little diamonds. Looking at the star George had picked for her, saying, "If you ever feel lonely, look high into the sky, and I'll be there always to comfort you." The thought moved her enough to say a little prayer, hoping George would hear her. Then looking up to the heavens, she said a silent thank you to anyone who would listen for this bundle of joy she had been sent. Not a baby in any respect, but one that needed the same attention and care that up-to-date had been sadly lacking.

Saturday morning was a glorious day. The sun giving a glare as it shone through a cold, damp sky. Elizabeth sat at the small kitchen table drinking her morning cup of tea, which tasted even more refreshing knowing that the day that lay ahead was going to be hectic, but well worth looking forward too. She would no doubt be run off her feet, but she would have her grandchildren to fuss over ... her train of thought was interrupted as David came into the kitchen.

Looking up and placing her cup on its saucer, she smiled.

"Good morning, sleepy head."

"Morning, Ma'am," came the eventual reply.

On the bridge, the pavement sparkled as the snow laid a path across the walkway as I looked out over the water. The water looked crisp and cold as the street lights rippled, leaving a strange view as they danced, creating moving shadows as the water moved one-way, then the other, swallowing its glare, only to give a resemblance of light.

"What ya doing, Mister?"

What the hell! I looked around to see a boy, a boy no older than can be reckoned upon two hands.

"What in hells name are you doing out here so late! Shouldn't you be tucked up in bed, Mummy reading you a bedtime story," I stopped myself, trying to work out where and why the anger.

The boy put his head down, but he was determined as he looked back up.

"You don't own the bridge, and I can come here any time I like. You're just like all grownups - mean." Then he started to walk away, his head again looking at his feet.

Looking around in a semi-circle, letting my eyes wander, never once moving my head, I leaned up against the rail mumbling to myself.

"Who ya talking to?"

"Myself... adults do that sometimes."

The kid turned to walk away again, but stopped ... maybe caught in two minds. He looked at me again, then his surroundings, as he realised he was alone. I would probably have done the same thing.

"Son, wait." Off he ran. Thinking I was fit, didn't help me keep up with him. Maybe standing up to question a witness or a defendant, sitting behind a bench, was now showing my level of fitness. I would definitely have to get in some exercise in the mornings. "Son, wait!" He slowed a little, but not enough for this idiot to keep up with him.

"Give this old man a break."

As I rounded the corner, he was sat on the steps of a derelict factory. The little runt had outrun me, and now sat waiting, as if gloating.

Sitting down beside him, he at least stayed put. "I'm not angry, I didn't mean to raise my voice, but you kind of caught me unawares." He still seemed a little wary, but said nothing.

"So, what do you say, I apologise, and we start again?"

Looking me in the eyes, I sensed he was testing the depth of my words. "I'm sorry too," holding out his hand to take mine.

I gave a warm smile as he took my hand. I couldn't put my finger on it, but there was something ... something in his expression ... something in the way he looked.

So with an expression of relief, maybe even joy. "Nice to meet you, Sir," as he shook my hand with some enthusiasm. I returned the handshake with the same enthusiasm. "I haven't spoken to anyone in a while, especially grownups."

I shook my head from the comment and the odd feelings I was getting.

"Okay; well, my name is Edward." I smiled at him, hoping that he would now talk more openly.

Tentatively he looked at me, skirting around his name, "I like being outside, it's nice."

"I know it's nice, but should you be out so late? What would your parents think if anything happened to you? Don't you think they would be upset?" I suppose the obvious thoughts didn't occur to me.

"What do you know?" He said angrily.

"They do know you're out, don't they?"

He looked up tentatively from his outburst, probably again wondering whether he should get out of there or not. "I'm sorry," he said, looking so forlorn. There seemed more to this, as his demeanour now suggested.

"What's the matter, son? You look like your carrying the world on your shoulders."

There was a quiet ... he was lonely - alone, but someone had actually talked to him. He broke the silence, as he found the words he wanted to say. Taking a rush of air and, in part, trusting to luck, he began telling his story, hoping that this man would at least listen. With no thought of how to begin, "Well, I've run away ... but I can take care of myself," he said quickly. I suspect in fear of my reaction. Then his demeanour changed abruptly; it was as if he had told a secret that should never have been told. "I have to go, Mister, I'm sorry."

Seeming to take a second look, he got up to go, but I took hold of his arm, promising him that everything would be okay, while thinking to myself, 'Maybe that was a promise I shouldn't be making.'

He looked at me with eyes of uncertainty. But with a look of hope, he sat down again, still a little uncertain.

"Sir, I'm no good."

"Son, believe me, and I speak from experience, you look like a good kid."

"Sir, you don't understand."

It seemed he was now talking openly; he needed to talk ... talk to someone. "So tell me, who takes care of you?"

"I can take care of myself."

"So, how do you take care of yourself? Do you make sure you have something to eat? How do you keep warm? How could you stop anyone from hurting you ... even me?"

His look was sorrowful. There was hurt, even fear in his eyes that seemed to look straight through me. I felt again that I had lost some trust. "You wouldn't."

Being caught off guard by the tone ... or maybe I should have expected it. "No, I wouldn't, but someone else could." He seemed a little perturbed at the suggestion. "Now, tell me, why you think you're no good?"

A ship's horn broke the silence. Maybe he was half asleep, half awake, but his eyes stayed tightly shut. One thing seemed certain, he was deep in thought as the expression on his face; his lips pursed tightly.

Seeming to think that he'd lost one battle, he started another one.

"I stole from houses, shops, and from people ... I'm bad." The look he gave was one of an outcast. He knew he had done wrong, but in truth, it was survival. Would we not all do the same? It is criminal to think that in this day and age that this could even happen.

"Son, you aren't on trial, it was wrong, but you did what you had to do to survive, so stop feeling bad, okay?" Maybe embarrassed, or even relieved, he started to fidget.

"Son, I have no doubt that every child has, or thought of running away. I know I did. I hope you'll trust me enough to tell me why you did." Looking up, he quickly looked away again. He gave a shudder, which I'm sure wasn't from the cold.

"Sometimes when we talk about things that make us feel bad, it can make us feel better." He seemed again to be considering the truth in my words.

"Why do you care?" there was defiance in the question.

"Do you think I should care?" answering a question with a question.

"Son, please realise that not all the world is against you." He shrugged his shoulders as if maybe.

"Okay, let's go and see where you live." That, it seemed, added to his woe.

"So I can remember, what's your name? And how old are you?"

"Eleven, Sir." It seems I was going to have to work hard to get that one little detail of a name.

"Well, I'm Edward, but I'm not giving you my age. Did I not get a smile? No ... but I didn't get a frown." He pursed his lips to give something of a smile. "Well, that's a start." At the same time he seemed to relax a little.

"So, where did you used to live?" Silence again.

"You aren't going to make this easy, are you?" again silence. I looked up to the heavens for help.

"Okay, how about you show me where you live now?"

As he started to rise, his stomach rumbled. He gave an embarrassing smile. "What do you say we go feed that before it attacks someone?"

"Something to eat?" as if shocked. My answer was limited to one word, "Yes."

"Okay, then let's go get something to make us both full," patting his tummy. "How does that sound?" A smile re-appeared ... a happy smile.

It seemed at that moment he would have done anything I asked.

Grabbing my hand, he dragged me to where he called home. A resemblance of happiness, at least for now, gave way to unhappiness. It seemed appropriate as we stopped in front of what looked like an abandoned church. From the outside, it looked like it was condemned. Inside, pews littered the floor. The moon was its only sense of light from the roof that had long since disappeared. Cobwebs draped over all they touched, as if trying to hold everything together. A cloud floated in the light, as if smoke had gathered.

Glancing at the boy, he looked lonely ... lonely without being alone ... missing something you've had ... but can't find.

I thought about my own childhood. I knew this would never have happened to either me or my brother. Even as children, any unhappiness caused was our own fault, not our family's.

"You okay, Mister."

"Yes, son ... just daydreaming."

There was a silence as now both residents looked around their surroundings - you could cut the air with a knife.

"So, are we still going for something to eat?" he said, realising he'd forgotten his manners. The twenty four hour supermarket was a Godsend. Taking the table nearest the wash room I had hoped to get him to get cleaned up. A thought was all it was.

The boy looked to be in seventh heaven as he ogled the warm food on display. I ordered the all day breakfast for two, coffee, and a soft drink for my now, new guest; ordering extra toast, with hope it would be enough for starters. He inhaled the food. I was hoping the crockery with the table and chairs would survive.

After he'd finished eating and drained the glass of cola, I, shall we say, insisted on him getting cleaned up, which with a groan he departed. I could only smile at his expression. He returned looking a near spotless little angel. Well, little angel may be going a little over the top.

"I don't know what has happened to you, but from the way you sounded earlier, I'd say it wasn't good. I hope you'll trust me - I'll listen." I stated more than asked, as I emptied my now cool cup of coffee. He gave a look of distrust. It seemed he was now atoned to being the street kid, an extra sense of caution of people, and a definite mistrust of all adults. We left in silence.

We walked back to, what seemed for now at least, his dwelling, and again kept the stairs warm. Me, I was freezing.

"Look, I can't leave you out here. I want to help, but I can't unless you talk to me." He looked up to the heavens, and then looked at me with a saddened expression. I put my arm around his shoulders, squeezing gently.

His sadness gave me the impression of a burden. "Okay, talk to me" I said as delicately as I could without forcing any action. "You look like you're carrying the world on your shoulders. First, will you tell me your name?"

Sitting up, he looked at me with a forlorn look, again skirting around his name, telling me about his father, which wasn't good. His mother was, as he put it, a bitch. No matter the time of day, she was drunk. Her son having to hold what on the outside was a family together. Some very good reasons of why he didn't want to live at home; and I'd have to say ... "Who can blame him?" With little of hiding my emotions, I found his story deeply disturbing.

After a long silence ... a very long silence, he gave a look that I'd seen on a young boy I'd met just a few days ago ... a dejected look. I watched as all his spirit drained away in an instant.

Knowing the answer, or at least I thought I knew the answer, a child of such an age would be intimidated, and wouldn't think so far ahead ... thinking only of the moment.

"Son, why didn't you tell someone?"

He sat motionless as so many emotions crossed his face. And when he gave a glance in my direction, the emotion he gave was one of being scolded.

"They would've have sent me back to the children's home."

"Children's home!"

"Yes, Sir, they're not my real parents." The coincidences seem to be mounting up.

Being adopted caught me off balance, but really, it shouldn't have.

I detest the words stepmother and stepfather, but at this moment, they were the only words I could use - parent would have been insensitive.

"Will you show me where your stepmother lives?"

"I'm not going back. I'm not going back! You can't make me!" Seemingly getting more agitated as the words became louder. In thought, it was heartbreaking.

I was rudely awakened by the alarm clock, now lying on the floor rattling near the bedroom door.

Who said Saturday was a day off?

As I dressed, I again thought of my dream.

My dream, made me shiver. Not with the cold, but with the thought of what could have happened. Being woken up at such an un-godly hour paled in comparison.

Please don't misunderstand; my day can start from the night before, leaving the weekend as my shoulder to lean on.

The dream, even though I was awake, was vivid. I knew for whatever reason, I had been dreaming about a boy. A boy, who by chance, had found his way to this house ... was it a warning, or was it just a nightmare?

It is said that dreams are a way into what can, or will happen? Be that past or future. As is sometimes the case, there is a back door into the present. No one can precisely predict the future, but he, Edward, wasn't by tooth or nail, letting the presumption in his dream be considered - let alone ever happen ... no matter what.

To Be Continued....

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