Castle Roland

The Little Runaway

by Terry

In Progress

Chapter 6

Published: 17 Apr 14

Breakfast was the usual fare, but David seemed as if he was in another world ... his normal demeanour and appetite were missing. What was normally the best part of the day for David, now seemed to be a chore.

Asking David to clear the table; Elizabeth went to call her son Edward. While she was on the phone, David cleared, washed, dried, and put everything in their usual place. Then with head in hands sat in silence - gloomy and out of sorts.

After thanking David for cleaning up, she made a pot of tea. "David, come here, Son." Picking him up, she set him on the worktop. Knowing what was distressing him was one thing, having him accept that he would be laughing and joking later was another.

"Tell me what's the matter, little one. Do you think you might be worried about your leg?" There was little movement, but she knew what the slight nod meant. "Does it upset you what people may think?" Again, he gave a nod.

"Little one, do you think I would think any differently of you, even if you had three legs?" Not a word was spoken, but he looked up and smiled, then gave her a loving hug. "I can't stop what people think, but I can stop them from saying it. David, believe me, no one will mention your leg, unless you do it first. Do you understand? I know it's hard sometimes being different, but you are the same little man who blessed my house regardless," giving him time to take it in.

"Can I tell you something?" David looked up as if she was going to tell him a secret that nobody knew.

She smiled at the serious expression that crossed David's face. "George, my husband, you remember me telling you about him? Well, he once said that for other people to accept you, you must first accept yourself." There was little movement as he thought about what had been said, but the concentration was evident.

"Don't tell anyone," a serious expression crossed his face, "but I'd still like my little man, even if he starts bouncing around on his head." David smiled, grabbed Elizabeth around the neck and squeezed her for all he was worth.

"I love you, Ma'am," bringing a tear to her eyes. She held her little man with all the love she could summon up, looking to the heavens as if asking George to contribute ... little did she know that he had an arm around them both.

Getting down off the worktop, he kissed Elizabeth on the cheek, which earned a loving smile that he returned. Click-click was the only sound as David made his way toward the patio doors. Then making his way to his favourite spot at the fountains his morning exuberance returned. "The power of youth," she muttered, then smiled.

At eleven, he heard the first signs of company starting to arrive. Though his conversation with Elizabeth had made him feel better ... hesitation quickly set in again.

James, after getting out of the car, went straight to David, spinning him around to tuneful giggles. Elizabeth couldn't have been more proud.

Jeremy tentatively walked over to David, stopping a foot or more in front of him. David, seeing that Jeremy was as nervous as he was; in a funny sort of way helped put him more at ease - there was little doubt that David needed to relax.

"Hi, I'm David."

"Hi, I'm Jeremy." David, again, to his credit saw the confusion on Jeremy's face.

"It doesn't hurt ... see. I just need a little help to get around."

James looked at his mother, "Didn't I hear he'd need help."

"Yes, but I think he's beginning to realise what a real home is like. A home where you can be relaxed yourself and with the people around you."

"Can I touch it?"

"As long as you don't stick your nails in, it won't bite." He looked at David with some apprehension. David smiled, "Got ya!" That got Jeremy to smiling; and a sly grin crossed his face as he threatened to get even.

Louise, by this time, was standing next to her husband James. Being the gentleman, David walked over to greet her and introduced himself.

"She's beautiful." David said, as he held baby Samantha's hand, which caused her to smile.

"May I hold her?" David asked, causing Louise to smile.

Sitting within the horseshoe that made up a small lawn in the middle of the driveway, Louise gently lowered Samantha into David's waiting arms. He kissed her on the forehead and gently started to rock her; his reward was the dulcet tones of baby Samantha's laughter, giving rise to a smile on David that would brighten the darkest of days.

Jeremy stood watching the display, his eyes never leaving the space where a leg should have been. David looked up, looked down, then looked back up toward Jeremy again. "You can ask me anything ... I won't get mad."

Jeremy looked down at David with a head full of questions, but remembering what his father had said, he was caught between a rock and a hard place.

Again, seeing his confusion, David made a movement for Jeremy to join him. It seems our little man, as Elizabeth liked to address him, was accepting his predicament and realising that his disability didn't make who he was.

"I lost my leg when I was a baby; and no, it doesn't hurt. See how you use two legs and don't even think about it? Well, I grew up with only one leg, and that's normal to me ... so, I don't think about it either. I know I have to use these, but that gives me an advantage - I now have three legs." Imagining smoke coming from Jeremy's head, David raised his good leg, then pointed to his aids and gave a triumphant smile. This seemed to put Jeremy at ease.

To Jeremy, David was normal - no different than any other kid - except he had only one leg. Jeremy still had a million questions, and before the day ended, he would have them all answered.

Louise took baby Samantha inside to feed and change her, much to the disappointment of David; but that was soon forgotten when he and Jeremy started to play.

Jeremy played with David as he did with any other kid, which was a boost to David's self confidence. At times he was hesitant, even scared he was going to hurt or upset David, but that soon changed when he started losing at games they were playing. David was more adept; especially, at hide and seek and climbing.

Elizabeth nearly had heart failure when she saw David scrambling up one of the old oak trees. James started to laugh. "JAMES! Don't encourage him."

James laughed again, "Well, he's certainly all boy!"

There were a few heart stopping moments, especially when David climbed out on one of the branches and started doing his Tarzan impression - pity about the sound effects. This act brought a few choice words that were less than encouraging from Elizabeth.

Trying to calm and restore some order with two over-active boys made lunch interesting and very noisy. But as they say ... all's well that ends well.

"Edward! Glad you could make it."

"I tried to get here earlier, but between criminals and the traffic ... Well, at least, I got here. Did I miss anything?" That was an open invitation for the boys to give him a blow by blow account of their activities and exploits, leaving out what they considered minor details.

Louise came in from the kitchen carrying a tray with tea, milk and sugar; Elizabeth brought in a second tray with the cups and saucers.

"Did they tell you about climbing trees? Specifically, David."

"I was playing Tarzan."

"Tarzan, indeed!" Elizabeth stated. Edward looked across at his mother. "It wasn't bad enough that he climbed the tree with only one leg, he then edged out along the branches doing the worst rendition of Tarzan as I have ever heard in my entire life."

"Nan, it wasn't that bad." The whole room went silent, as all bared down on David with their eyes. He looked up at every adult, taking in everyone's expression in turn. "What?" came the all too innocent reply.

The next thing, he was being scooped up into the arms of the one who he now classed as his, Nan. "So, you think being a Nan suits me?" He blushed and gave a spirited, "Yes", then placed a sloppy kiss on her cheek. Giving him a final squeeze, she let him down.

"Do you remember Brian Phelps?" Edward asked, looking at David. "The friend of yours from the school. Well, I heard his mother is now out of the hospital."

David smiled.

"Brian is more important to her than her marriage, so when his father gets out of prison, he's not allowed within a mile of, for now, his wife and son. She's also decided to send Brian to one of the mainstream schools instead of boarding school; that way, they could spend more time together." David gave another smile, crawled over to where Edward stood and rewarded him with a hug.

"I had nothing to do with it ... it was all his mother."

"So, what are the activities for the afternoon?" was James's way of asking what the boys wanted to do while taking the heat off Edward, who was not what you would call the hugging type.

Before anybody could say a word ... "Well, you men can find your activities outside. We girls will sort out what's for dinner ... now scoot!"

"Looks like us boys have been given our marching orders. I think we know when we're not wanted," Edward said, while doing the imaginary violin, and receiving a chorus of "Awww" before laughter filled the room.

"What do you say we have a walk around the grounds?" David had scouted a lot of the grounds, but was told to stay well away from the lake. So, his adventures had ended at the tree line a little distance back at the far end of the fountain. He had also been into the small wooded area at the side of the property, but stayed within shouting distance; so this was going to be another adventure. Jeremy, on the other hand, had seen it all before and wasn't as enthusiastic as David.

"David, have you ever been on a boat?" That statement got Jeremy smiling as he looked at his uncle Edward.

"No, Sir."

"Well, we can't have that, can we? James, will you get the lifejackets from the garage."

"You have a boat?"

"What good is having water, if you don't have a boat to sail on it?"

James came back with four lifejackets.

"Okay, landlubber," scooping David up into his arms, "let's go."

"Aye, aye captain," James said, holding the salute. "Looks like I get left holding the baby," he said grinning.

"I'm not a baby, "Jeremy said in a huff, and that got everybody to laughing again.

"No, you're not," he said, winking at the others.

Remembering David hadn't been this far out, Edward pointed out some of the surrounding area and, of course, the boat shed. As they came closer to the lake, David's expression was disbelief and astonishment rolled into one - a look of pure excitement. A camera at that moment would have made the perfect photo album shot. Imagination can give some priceless moments.

Though the lake wasn't as big as David thought, it would be two miles long and maybe a mile and a half across, give or take in either direction. At the south end, the lake narrowed, merging with one of the many canals and waterways that were dotted around. At the far end of the property there were a few smaller patches of water, but they consisted of mainly ponds with no more use than for nature."

The excitement wasn't the same when he saw the boat, but it was still a camera moment. If his eyes could have opened any wider, I'm sure they could have made their own picture.

James went aboard, lifting Jeremy on deck. David looked like he had a thousand questions, and asked half of them before he got on board.

"Okay, okay, slow down. I'll point out the parts of the boat, and if you don't understand something, I'll try and explain ... deal?"

"First of all, it's called a cabin cruiser. The boat was restored by my father ... your grandfather." The smile he got would have been enough to move anyone to tears. "The handles you see are brass. You mark them, you clean them," that got a few serious looks, "Only joking. Okay, let's go below. James, will you lead the way?" The serious concentration on David's face as he navigated his way down into the galley was another camera moment.

"It's a house?"

"Well, not quite, but you could live on it comfortably. This is the galley: the dining room, the lounge, and the bedroom, all rolled into one. And that is the little boy's room." David's look was priceless. "Okay, the toilet, any questions?" There didn't seem to be any. "Then put your life jackets on and let's do a little sailing. Come here, David, I'll help you put yours on."

"How big is it, the boat I mean?"

"Good question, but it's a she, and she's twenty seven foot." The whispered "Wow" gave away a lot of how David was enjoying his excursion.

Sailing around the lake at a leisurely pace gave the boys a chance to see the wildlife. Though Jeremy had been on the boat many times in his young life, there were still many different things to see and excite him, so he joined David in his enthusiasm. The biggest problem from the trip was David managing to stay on his feet, which wasn't easy with crutches; but to his due, he laughed at himself every time he fell down.

The day ended with plenty of laughter and, of course, storytelling - exaggerated as they were. Shooing the boys off to bed, Edward joined his brother in staying the night; and, after some persuasion, Sunday.

A surprise came for David as he was told he could share a bed with Jeremy. Which may or may not have been the best order of the day.

After a glass of wine, Edward decided his day had gone on long enough. After bidding everyone goodnight, he checked on the boys, who in their own wisdom decided to carry on the fun ... not ready to end the day quite so soon. He tucked both in with a reprimand to keep the noise down. Their reply did little to invoke confidence. He had no doubt that this wouldn't be the last time they'd be told; but we were all young once - were we not?

After their child's play and both boys had finally settled down, sleep came quickly ... thoughts still focused on a happy day.

Though David was dreaming, he was living every moment. To him, this had been the happiest day of his life. He'd had a good day, laughing, joking, even making fun of himself. He'd never done anything like today ‘ever'. David is a little boy in a big world, especially now. He was now with people who didn't shout and bawl at him; they talked to him without constantly telling him what to do. Sometimes, he still had to do things, but now he was asked. This was a new world to David. But insecurities of the past don't always go away when things get better; at times it can aggravate them. David had had little of a life that he could call his own. Wherever he had lived before, he could never remember a time when he could do what he wanted to do. Thinking it was all he could do - and he did a lot of that.

He was small and thin; and he wasn't strong, but weak. His health was good, but he was feeble. The thoughts of a child so belittled that self-confidence, let alone confidence itself, was taken and destroyed by selfish people. He was rugged in his quest, but forced to hold back.

Though now having a family ... well, one foot in the door, so to speak. David covered his face in a feeble attempt to hide a tear as it ran down his cheek. "David, you have to believe in yourself." He opened his eyes with such speed it hurt. He looked around, seeing only Jeremy. He quietly got out of bed and hobbled to the door that was slightly ajar. Seeing no one, and after some thought, he made his way downstairs. As he walked down the stairs, he looked around to be sure he was alone. Into the study he walked, quietly closing the door. Alone he felt ... but needing to be.

The room, though dark, gave an eerie feel. Turning on a lamp, he walked farther into the room. Though no fire was lit, and eyeing every step he made, he sat in one of the big chairs ... sitting quietly, staring into the room.

Though he had been in the study on occasions, he had never really noticed what was inside. There were bookshelves ceiling to floor ... shelves laden with books with no space in between. The old furniture gave a feeling of days gone by. The ceiling saw a mural revealing depictions from the Bible, giving a soothing feeling.

Sitting back, he sank deeper into the seat like a blanket being wrapped around him. Stealing the silence, a wave of calmness washed over him.

"You like my chair?" David shot to his feet ... forgetting his disability. Laughter made his ears vibrate as his eyes moved quickly from one spot to another. Though his behind hurt from his falling on the boat, his thoughts were on who was hiding from his sight.

"Who are you?"

"An admirer - and hopefully a friend. Your imagination is wide open, even though you sleep. I startled you as you slept ... forgive me. But I couldn't let you hurt ... and you do hurt; but that in time will pass. Though you are seeking happiness, please believe me that as of now, you have given more than you have received - and I thank you for that." David looked, but could see no one. "Please sleep with a mind of being needed."

Awake, he sat upright; dressing quickly, he left Jeremy asleep and made his way downstairs. Slowly, and with trepidation, he made his way to the study, not a thought of the senior members of the family that sat and watched his every move.

With hesitation, he put his hand on the doorknob as each of the adults in unison put their own cup on a waiting table. Not wanting his trauma to drag on, he pushed the door open. The room gave no clue to what he'd heard, or to his dream. The eerie silence he felt while sleeping was less traumatic, but there was an uncertainty in the pit of his stomach.

"David, are you alright?" Elizabeth's voice of concern startled him. "Someone looks like he's seen a ghost." Gathering his thoughts, he gave a nod and walked back to the staircase. Just as David got to the bottom of the staircase, Jeremy came bounding downstairs, barely managing to avoid his newly acquired cousin. "No running, young man," hyperactive was not the same for the other youngest member of the household. A guilty expression could be seen splashed across his face, but not managing to hide a case of embarrassment.

George seeing the event, looked on with humour ... boys will be boys.

Sunday being a rest day didn't take the burden from the women in the house ... lunch still had to be made.

The Sunday roast, peas, carrots, roasted potatoes, and lashings of gravy were a treat that, at least for the time being, kept little mouths silent. Alas, the silence as a golden rule didn't last beyond the meals end.

Usually, the men folk were volunteered to do the cleaning up afterwards. Getting out of the fact was dispelled when the two boys were shanghaied into clearing the table, while the older ‘boys' put foodstuff away - leftovers in the fridge.

For the rest of the day, laughter brought a medley as the children wiled away a fairly warm afternoon, even involving little Samantha in their play. David, between plays of hide and seek and climbing, which again brought the adults to their feet, would sit with Samantha in all his glory. The high pitched giggles of baby Samantha brightened all till a change was needed, at which time, all the males departed, leaving the woman folk to attend to her needs.

As was usual, being a Sunday, dinner was a light meal. Roast beef sandwiches and a glass of milk were accepted without complaint. Just after eight, James started to get ready to leave. He could see that Jeremy, though awake, was nodding off; and David was having a hard time keeping his eyes open. Samantha, bless her, had been asleep since dinner.

After James' family had said their goodnights; Elizabeth, as usual, put the kettle on to make a nice cup of tea for her and Edward. David usually drank milk while he and Elizabeth sit in the lounge talking of their day before he was scooted off to bed with a slap on the backside. To David, it was a sign of affection, which, if possible, put a spring in his step.

This night would be different. Instead of joining Elizabeth in the lounge, David deposited himself in the study, shutting the door, which at best was unusual. This behaviour was out of character for David, and gave Elizabeth some concerns. Her thoughts of maybe the company had taken its toll on one who only knew of being alone.

David sat within the confines of the window staring into darkness. The fountain and its sound was what could only be described as a chorus of the night. He relaxed as his mind became hollow.

As he came out of what was a trance, he thought about the night before, his dream, the voice, would it speak to him again? Who was it? Finally, he walked into the lounge where Elizabeth and Edward were sitting in silence reading.

"May I go to bed?"

Elizabeth looked up from the book she was reading. "Of course you may," still a little concerned at his actions. "I know you're tired, but are you okay, you're not coming down with something?"

"No, Ma'am, I'm fine."

Elizabeth dismissed the comment. "And where is my hug?" Slowly, he hobbled over with a smile and gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek. David then went over to Edward with the same routine, except for the kiss on the cheek.

"Goodnight, Sir."

Edward had also caught onto the odd behaviour, but said nothing. "Goodnight, David."

"Goodnight, Sir, goodnight, Ma'am," he said again as he got to the bottom of the stairs.

This time, she didn't dismiss the comment. "What has happened to Nan?"

"Sorry, Ma'am, err! Nan," and off he went. Both looked at each other with confusion.

"It must have been a long day for him ... all the excitement."

One half hour later, Edward, yawning, laid his book on the table. "I think I'll turn in too, it's been a long day. Goodnight, Mother."

Checking on David, he found him fast asleep. So he quietly closed the door and went down the hallway to his own room, looking forward to a good night's sleep.

After watching his beloved depart, George walked directly into the study, acquiring his usual seat. His old armchair had seen more years than those of his own, and as such, had survived maybe a hundred and fifty years on top. Regular cleaning and oils to stop the leather from drying had stood a good proportion of the furniture in the house to good stead.

Contemplated the day's events he smiled ... the comings and goings, remembering the laughter, the joy, and even the admonishment of the boys, that now again, brought a sense of family to the old place. He'd watched as Elizabeth cleaned and dusted. He watched with fascination as each piece she cleaned was carefully and gently returned to its exact spot. A thought so trivial. He loved this woman no end, and could never see a time when he would ever tire of her company. Such contentment gave a smile, and to one not of this world, a warm feeling.

To Be Continued....

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