The Little Runaway

Chapter Twenty

"Edna, it's nice to see you ... glad you could make it?"

Edna Morris, like Edward, had a fascination with the law; however, it was more of a career, whereas, for Edward, it was a passion. They had taken the same classes on many occasions. Edna, being Edna, pulled little or no punches, and went straight into high court after she left university as a barrister, if only in the second seat. Some years later, she had, as if coincidental, became a part-time judge also; and was referred to as an 'on call magistrate' at her local court of course, which in consequence took her career full circle. Well, three quarters, which was a circumstance that could be of help to Edward's plans, as in its capacity seeing all sorts, some criminal, others of circumstance. Edward, from his father's career, inherited his QC status just on the side of being a barrister (prosecution). Edward had seen another side of his profession. A side, though acquainted with, he was not fully aware of its consequences.

"It seems we are destined to meet. Hello, David, it's nice to see you again."

"Thank you, Ma'am, it's nice to see you also. Nan, may I get a glass of milk?"

"Of course, you may, you know you don't need to ask?"

"David, I hope we can be friends, and don't you agree that friends are not so formal ... please call me Edna, won't you?" glancing around the room, finally making eye contact with his Nan and Edward.

"That wouldn't be..." seeing, though small, his distress, Elizabeth said,

"If I know David, he won't, out of respect."

"Yes, you are right, that would certainly not be respectful. I am really getting to like you, David; no airs and graces. Thank you for the reminder, Elizabeth."

"May I call you Aunt?"

"Perfect! Clever as well." The compliment surely didn't go un-noticed - David slightly blushed as he quickly poured a glass of milk making a slightly quicker exit than when he had arrived after his Nan said she would carry his milk and be right behind him.

"God, he is so cute."

"He is at times, timid; but also, at times, it doesn't stop him from saying what he thinks. Edna, I really want you get to know David; and there's no, what you could call complicated motive, I have to accept that I'll have to battle to get David here permanently, but if you see anything in David, it will be of help in what I have to ask you."

"I class myself as a good judge of character; and certainly, from what I've seen of that young man, there is nothing artificial about him. I saw more than enough in court of his distress, even at the times when he sat quietly. I'm certain I'll be more pleased about that than David, but in my opinion, he needs to express himself from the outside... something it seems that no one ever took time to do. Appreciation is what, at times, we all crave. Did he go in the study to avoid me? I hope not, I don't bite; well not often," laughter quietly saw David return, quickly making his way outside.

"He's got something he needs to fathom, he's probably gone to the fountains, or the small patch of trees to the left, in his own time he'll figure it out," his Nan and Edward having seen this on many occasions.

"Go - get to know him; this seems like the perfect opportunity!"

"Do you mind if I join you?" David looked up quickly, surprised!

"No Ma'am."

"If I'm intruding, I'll see you indoors?"

"No ma'am it's fine, honestly."

She walked over to his side and sat down, keeping a little distance between them. Do you like living here? You don't have to answer, but I'd like to get to know you better."

"So, you can trick me into liking you?"

"No, David, I would never do anything so underhanded ... trust has to be earned. What I'd like ask is you don't dismiss me so readily."

"Everyone I meet ask me to trust them. There are only two people who said trust me and kept their word. Brian..."


 "Brian Phelps, he moved to Briarcroft the same day my father brought me back home, he didn't even know me. He looked out for me, I know it was because he saw my leg, but whatever the reason, he told no one where I was. He even joked with me, and because I didn't have my crutches, he carried me to the headmaster's office. And my father you already know." David was clearly upset as he turned himself to look toward the line of trees that made a fanfare to the sky.

Edna did not need to see his face to see the upset. Edward had hit on the point of David being timid, but this was more than timid, delicate was the only thought to describe what she was seeing. Another thought came to mind. She had said that he needed to express himself from the outside, but her assumption had been far from the mark. "David, I think I know what has upset you; and at the same time, I am devastated that something we all take for granted can cause such pain. I have to say that I am fortunate to meet someone who, after so much hardship, can still have the courage to stand-up and be counted, you are a very special young man."

"Ma'am, I'm no one special!"

"You are special, David, I've seen a lonely and lost little boy who has been used and abused, but who had the will to keep going forward despite every obstacle that lay in his path ... that makes you special, but it also makes you my concern." David looked at Edna with some distrust.

"Please don't look at me like that, David, it's my job to stop people from getting hurt ... not just adults, but children too. And Edward will tell you, it's not just a job. I do what I do with no favour to anyone. Remember how Edward had to pay one hundred pounds in court? If you do something wrong, you have to face the consequences, there can be no favour to even people you know. I'm not going to ask you to trust me, but what I'm going to ask you to do is give me the benefit of the doubt," not knowing an answer, he walked toward the trees.

"I like to come here, it helps me look at things differently, and it looks great in summer."

"Yes, it is a beautiful spot, even at this time of the year. Thinking is good, it helps us to not make mistakes; but thinking too much will stop you from doing all that life has to offer. Your wanting to, more than anything, let you see what this house and its beauty had to offer. If you had thought about it, would you have set foot on the estate?" His thoughts went back to the day, his feelings painting an expression to every thought.

"I'd like to say yes, but that would be a lie. I'm glad I did, but no, I would have probably stayed on the bus. You have to believe me, ma'am, it's not because they are rich. I'd stay here if they were like me, and that's not just because I don't have a family. I love them - I really love them. They can send me back to Briarcroft, not because I want to go back, because that would be torture, but because father said when I am eighteen, whatever happens, I will still be part of this family, my family. I know that makes me look like I'm using them, but I'm not, I love them."

"David! I want you to trust me, but I need you to do the same. I have known Edward for a long time, we were at university a long time ago, and believe me, Edward would know a false prophet instantly. You know, every one I've spoken to have nothing but nice things to say about you, but they also, show some concern," seeing the expression she continued, "concern that you are going to get ill. David, please tell me, if you know, why you can handle all that is around you, but you cannot handle what is inside? I know you are scared. I know you have been abused to the point of torture. But though you were scared and upset, you found away to not escape, but delay what was happening to you. Please try to understand, I have seen that frightened little boy and the genuine fear. But I also see a future that lies ahead, no matter how long that may take, for you to feel the benefit of it, it's there. I am really looking forward to you showing me how clever you are... you know why? Well, I can have a good discussion and an argument with someone who knows what they are talking about. I have been told a lot of how intelligent you are, and I have no doubt that you are before your time. But it's no good, if you are scared to make a mistake, don't you agree? David, don't look at me like that, you are clever up here, that's on the inside, and that's what makes us who we are. I made the mistake of you showing what was on the outside, but I was wrong."

"But I'm not clever, I'm stupid," she looked David in the eyes, seeing nothing that would constitute a con.

"David, from what I have seen, and from what others have said, that word wouldn't even be in your dictionary! I wouldn't even put the word in the same sentence. I am beginning to see what others have said regarding your self-confidence, but..."

"No, ma'am, me being clever as you say, I don't think so, but knowing things gets you bullied..."

"I understand now, I apologise, but David, hiding away just makes that situation bigger, don't you agree?"

"Please ma'am ... can we change the subject?"

"I'm sorry, David, I didn't mean to make you feel uncomfortable," as she moved a little faster to keep up with him. At school, I got bullied also, but there came a time when it got too much, and like you, I ran away. I thought of every reason I could to not be around; but like you, something happened that changed everything ... I met Edward and he gave me courage. And I'll bet you felt different about it after you met Edward, am I right? David, listen to him, he's a good man. There will be times when you may want to dig your heels in because you don't agree with something he might say or do, I know I did; but David, even if he's wrong, you can guarantee he did it for the right reason, he's that type of person, but I think you already know that, don't you?"

"Please ma'am, I would give my life for my father and my Nan, and I mean it, though it's not the right thing to say," tears filled his eyes "do you know what it feels like to be wanted? To be loved for nothing, without cost? If I died right now, I wouldn't care, because I've lived more in the past months than I ever had. I know that's selfish, but I am anyway, if there is a heaven, I'd watch both of them and do anything for them, which is more than what I can do now."

"No need to feel guilty, I understand what you are saying. But David, dying would not be an answer, though it wouldn't be selfish either, it would be a travesty. That may sound cruel, but David, you could give them more alive than you could dead! I can see why Edward and your Nan love you! I came out here to try and get to know you. I did ... and much more. I don't know why your father asked me here, but I'm sure it has a lot to do with you. I heard it said that you were meant to be here, and now I can see why. David, take this little bit of advice, don't let what you have inside destroy you, try and come to terms that you are worth something, whether that be by a gift or sentiment, be that by words or actions. And after what has been a short time, you are a genuine young man, or should I mimic your Nan ... little man. Shall we go inside where it's warm?"

"You go ma'am, I'll join you in a minute."

"Don't stay outside too long, you'll catch pneumonia."

"Edna, would you like something to drink?"

"Coffee please, Elizabeth, thank you. So, come on, Edward, what is so secretive that I had to come here on a needed day off?"

"Wait till we have our drinks, and I'll let you in on the secrecy."

"Thanks, Mother. Okay, let's begin."

"What about David?"

"David, he's been studying you for the past five minutes," he said as a smile crossed his face.

Edna looked toward the door as David came walking in, sitting at his Nan's side; shaking her head she turned her eyes back toward Edward, who still had a smirk on his face.

"Where are Louise and the children?"

I would guess in town shopping. Louise said she knew all she needed to know, and thought that the young ones, especially Jeremy, would soon get bored with troublesome shopping, so a trip outdoors won the day."

"Looks like I'll need to hide out for an hour or two, or till she goes to bed at least."

"It's okay, father, I'll hide with you." that got, "You certainly will not" from his Nan.

"Thank you, David, but it will be your bedtime before I'm willing to risk life and limb to come indoors."
" Okay, all of you know about Edna's job and mine. I am deadly serious about becoming a judge. I've seen hurt and anguish within many a case I've prosecuted, and I've thought what people did to their selves couldn't get any worse. But then, as he's affectionately known, 'a little man' became entranced by something - in his own words - as 'beautiful,' and spent what little energy he had left before he stopped to rest. And as they say 'the rest is history'. I saw the hurt and anguish, then I saw the man who was responsible. Fear played a part in him not facing charges, but I will make it my life's work to get that man convicted; and believe me, I usually get my prey. David was so traumatised that it's a miracle he's still here. I can't say I'm a believer, but as God is my witness ... I'm guessing that sometimes even the best need help ... this will never happen to any other child, if I can help it. James, Mother and myself have come up with a way to help. If I become a judge, I can. I can be the wall to help stop what has happened to David, and no doubt many more. but I will need people like you, Edna and James, to help. Firstly, you having been a barrister, now a judge/magistrate, could see cases like David's, and if not get them in my court, then deal with them yourself. And at the same time, tell James and me, so we can step in if need be. James has decided to go private. That way, any case where abuse is involved, he can physically get involved - be that at the hospital or GP Surgery, and we also would have a practitioner on hand as, and if, needed. You yourself, Edna don't need to do anything but advise either one of us. I know this was a career move, but you have the same sense of revulsion as me when it comes to abuse. I know it's a lot to think about, but I'm not asking ... I'm pleading you to be with me over this. With fear of being told in no uncertain terms, I will cover any or all your expenses."

"If I do this, it won't be for that, and I object in disgust, Edward Whitmore, the fact that I would even consider it." She gazed across the table at David. "I will, but only because I've asked someone to trust me, and I have never turned my back on responsibility, no matter what that may be. But handling cases such as David's, solve very little. I see your motive, I can even see your reasoning, but it's for social services to deal with after the court case, so..."

"I know that, Edna, but in the end what do they solve? What do they achieve? In the end, it always comes down to money. Money, I have, and I will use to put into this project. I can tell you that you are not going to be the only one surprised, not even David knows any more than I've told you. David, I could do with any help you can give me." David stared aimlessly at Edward.

"But Sir, what can I do?"

"David, don't get excited, if you will wait for a minute, I'll explain. David, you are not the only one left out of the know, James is also in the dark," looking across at James for any reaction.

"You don't need to worry about me, but Louise on the other hand?"

"That will mean I'll have to stay out of her way a little longer. Okay, what I want to do is set up a kind of refuge for kids like David. I know that leaves a wide berth, but in the beginning, we would concentrate on children in children's homes and orphanages. In the short term, its purpose would be to have a retreat, a place where kids can go to relax and let go, not having to wander around town getting into mischief. A home away from home you might say, though that may not be the best way to describe it? The idea would be in the beginning we start what I would call a respite at the weekend, as it would be the best timing for getting the kids to come along. I doubt very much that there would be many activities at their residence. Residence we shall leave open, allowing to whichever context they fall under We'll start small, and hopefully, we can branch out to which in itself would make a big difference."

"Would anyone like some refreshments?"

"I'll help Nan."

I know you have a lot of questions, and I'll try to answer them all; but as you will have fathomed, this is not a small project; so, any questions now would only add to the confusion," again making eye contact with all in the room.

"There will be proprietary work to do, though that may envisage a business, but that couldn't be further from the truth. It will be built mainly by myself at the beginning, but I hope to get sponsors involved where I can; as funding, this is going to take a lot of money, time, and effort; but I'm pretty darn sure I can get contributions. Mother, as you know the estate has many cottages that were homes to the many people that worked on the estate itself, which was one of the reasons the thought of helping the kids came up. I pray you will be with me on this. A vast majority need substantial work, where others need only minor work. Though the estate is owned solely by this family, the National Trust having no say, but the Council does. Any repairs or adaptations have to be within the same boundaries as all other properties in the county. I'm not sure they would act rationally if I painted the house black with pink stripes." The room tittered at what was evidently a poke at the powers that be. "Renovating the cottages, as long as the adaptations stay within guidelines, will rule out any intervention by the council, or should I say interference?

"Before dinner, we could all take a stroll around the estate dropping in on a few of the cottages. The structure of the cottages had been kept in the same condition to the rest of the estate, I say had, but at one point, more than one or two are going to need refurbishment, inside and out. The nearer the cottages lie to the main house, the less work they will need. Starting from the front and working our way back would be the best way of tackling the work needed. The work needed is going to take some planning, as you may have guessed, the grounds were never meant to accommodate heavy machinery. Once all the work is completed I think that will be the time to invite our friends over," coughing at his final words; "Won't we?

"I understand this is a large project, but we have a third less to worry about in the beginning, that being we have the location and amenities right on our doorstep, so to speak."

"Wow, you don't do things small! But how are you going to get this project off the ground? I mean to say social services won't just agree and roll over!" Edna interjected.

"For now, I will have to rely on you. I won't tell you how to do your job, but you have social services at your mercy at the moment; you know, over David? Plant a small seed and see how quickly it grows."

"Plant a seed? I can't do that, Edward! What you are asking me to do is favours instead of prosecutions?"

"I would never put you in that situation. I'm not asking you to give them an alternative ... just something to think about. I'm sure that a little less work and saved coffers will definitely give them a nudge. Give them as many details as you see fit, as everything will be open and above board. But believe me, they are the biggest obstacle we have to get over."

"I say again, you don't do things small! But how do you know this will work?"

"I don't, but we have here an alternative that would see the not so lucky, not so wealthy to escape, what at times is something a lot worse."

"Father, you want me to relate to the other children?"

"Yes, I do, David. You will know what some of the kids are feeling, be that from abuse or bullying. But David, you don't have to do this if you don't want too? What you will have to do will be hard, especially seeing as you have been through it yourself."

"And with all this entirety taking place, where do I fit in?" Mother asked.

"Mother, do you really need to ask?" Looking around the room, her eyes settled on David.

"That was a silly question ... now I feel the fool."

"You are a lot of things, Mother, but fool is definitely not one of them."

To Be Continued....

Comments and questions are always appreciated at Terry