While hanging my black woollen overcoat on the peg inside the front closet, I stared at little Peter’s blue parker hanging next to it. I still remember the day Joseph and I bought it for him. We had been caught short while out shopping when a downpour arrived out of the blue. We were okay, but we had to make sure Pete didn’t catch a cold so we dived into a store and Pete picked out the brightest, bluest jacket he could find.
We had only just got to know him a bit better when this happened, our fostering permits had come through and Peter was our first child to provide a home for.
We knew from the start he was very ill, but we took the chance that we could maybe make his time on this earth a hell of a lot better than the filthy conditions he had been found living in with his callous parents.
"Do you want me to start dinner Paul?"
My hand smoothed over Pete’s little jacket and I patted it to assure it everything was going to be all right.
"Sorry Joe, what did you say?" I turned to my partner of five years and caught his dark grey eyes almost drowning in tears.
"Do you want me to cook something?"
"No it’s okay, I’m not really hungry. I think I will have a lie down for a minute, we can call in a home delivery later if that's all right."
My arms weighed a ton as I struggled to relieve my body of my outer garments, it’s sleep I need, some time to heal and sleep. But the minute Joe’s arm went around my shoulders the tears started, we both had held on so hard for so long as the avalanche finally broke. I didn’t know when they would stop or what state we would be in when it was all over, but it's something we needed to do. Thankfully sleep won in the end, I didn’t know whether it was Joey that dropped off first or me, but we sure needed it, and we slept undisturbed for the next three hours.
We opted to pay for the funeral ourselves, there was no way Peter would be buried in an unmarked grave in the children’s part of the hospital cemetery. His parents didn’t attend because they were doing a long stretch in jail for what they put their son through during the first three years of his little life. We got him just before he turned four, but by this time his little lungs and heart were so damaged they were failing. This was the result of his parents not seeing doctors when he was very sick. They preferred their scotch and dope to his well being.
He had spent more time in hospital than his room which we had filled with all things four year olds loved. Joey was the worst, he spent all his spare cash on toys and books he thought Peter would love. Some are still in their wrapping paper never to be opened, and loved by a little boy we absolutely fell madly in love with.
I flicked the sleep out of my eyes and looked across at a still sleeping Joe, I had no idea which way he would jump. He will either cave in and succumb to Peter’s death or he will bounce back and go on. Being a doctor you would have thought he would be used to death. Not my Joey, and not with his boy Peter, he went to pieces near the end and couldn’t keep up his doctor's persona any longer as Pete slipped away from us.
It’s been five long beautiful years since we had met. We were destined to be together because we had the same goals and the same family values. My love for him was instant but he will insist that he loved me first. Joey was an orphan and wanted so desperately to give another child or children a good home, that’s what started us off on our journey that lead us to this awful emptiness in our lives.
It had only turned seven as I looked at the kitchen clock, we have a long night to look forward to. My brain immediately flicked on and I almost got to my feet to run Peter’s bath, but my legs gave way because he's no longer with us. I wanted to go to his grave site and lie down with him to keep him warm but I know that doesn’t work, instead I will keep him warm forever in my heart.
The phone rang several times before I relented and answered it, I was ready for another well wisher wanting to know if there’s anything they can do for us. There’s nothing you can do; maybe you can leave us alone to grieve in private I thought. I know I sound like a real ungrateful bitch but if you have ever been through this you would know how I felt. Just me alone with my demons and thoughts, that's all I want for now.
"Hello Paul here."
"Son it’s mum, would you and Joe like to come for dinner or shall I drop it off?"
"Oh mum, he's still sleeping and I think I will just make some eggs on toast."
"I'll drop it off then, listen for the doorbell son, I won’t stay."
"Thank you mum, and thank you for everything you and dad do for us, I love you."
"It’s our absolute pleasure son, go have a rest and I will drop some food off in a half an hour."
I hung up feeling so grateful to my parents, they have always been there for me, and for Joey when he arrived like a fresh whirlwind into our lives. They doted on Pete so much, and they loved him like a real grandson and now there’s no little kids in their lives to hug or spoil. Being an only child they had resigned themselves to never be grandparents, that was until Peter arrived and all that excess love they had stored up was showered on him, he adored the few sleepovers he had with them.
I heard the shower go then I heard his deep guttural sobbing and apart from holding him there wasn’t much I could do to make him feel any better. I dropped my robe onto the kitchen floor and made my way to the bathroom. Joey was leaning up against the tiled wall weeping so I slid in behind him and just held onto him. This wasn’t the time to talk, it was an I'm here with you Joey moment. I kissed the back of his neck and whispered,
"Stay strong my love, we will get through this together no matter what."
"How Pauly, how do we move on from this moment? I loved that little guy more than anything, now there’s nothing."
"And he loved you too, we will stay strong, we will talk about it and we will hold each other. If we don’t want to let him go then we won’t. We will afford ourselves as much grieving time as we need, and if we need more, we will do just that." He looked into my eyes and got lost for a moment, then he kissed me deeply.
"I love you so much Pauly, don’t you ever leave me."
"I won’t Joey, I would never do that to you, or me."
"Pauly do you trust me?"
"With my life Joey, why what’s up?"
"I was just thinking about something I think I would like to do. I will tell you later." I knew instinctively he was planning something, something I would maybe not approve of, but something he has in his head to do to help him recover.
We dried each other off then we moved to the kitchen where I put my robe back on while Joey made some coffee.
The doorbell rang and I met mum and hugged her, true to her word she didn’t stay long. I went back to the kitchen but Joey had disappeared so I placed the containers in the oven. I waited for his appearance but the house was silent. I looked in our bedroom and found him on Peter’s bed wrapped up in his fluffy toys. I leant against the door frame and watched him smell all those little kid smells. I wouldn’t or couldn’t go into the bright room, that's something I want to do on my own, in my time, in my silent grief.
"Mum dropped dinner off, it’s in the oven when you want to eat."
"Thank you baby, I'll be there in a minute." He sighed.
I went and sort of half set the table, then I took a deep breath and reset it properly, life must go on no matter how hard it gets. I was looking at Peter’s empty chair which still had his cushions on it. I didn’t want to do it but it has to be done, I took the cushions and put them into the hall cupboard with his jacket. By the time I had done that Joe was in the kitchen making fresh coffee for us both. Little was said over dinner and we both kept looking at Peter’s empty chair, it wasn’t deliberate, it was pretty normal for us to do that.
He understood more than me what was going on in Pete’s medical life. Joe is a leading paediatric doctor at the children’s hospital so he was with Pete every step of the way. I know he felt more than useless on many occasions, but had saved Pete’s life more than once. In the end it was fruitless, his heart just stopped trying and no amount of adrenalin would kick start it again. Pete was tired, he was tired of everything, but he wasn’t tired of his new dads, he loved us with all his little heart.
"I might take up the hospital’s offer to go to Indonesia for three months, they are desperate for my expertise there, and there’s so many children I can help Pauly." This is the moment I was dreading; I didn’t think it would be so soon though, he's running away.
"Joe, I don't know what to say. If you feel it’s the best thing for you, then do it. I don't want to hold you back, and it's your decision. I won’t interfere but I will miss you." I wanted to beg him not to go. I wanted him to stay here so I could hold him, and more than that, I wanted him to hold me. It's a job he's been offered many times in the past, the money alone will almost pay our mortgage off, he didn’t take up the offer earlier because of me, and Pete had come into our lives by then.
"Will you be all right if I go Pauly?"
"Of course I will, I have mum and dad for backup and I will probably go back to work at some stage." No I won’t be all right Joe, and I will miss you desperately I said to myself.
We left it at that, I cleared the table and he dressed in his jeans and top then he kissed me again while picking up his car keys at the same time.
"I'm going for a drive; I won’t be long." I looked up at Joe, his eyes were still red raw.
"Why don’t we both take a sleeping pill and get a good night’s rest instead? Everything will look much different in the morning" I knew he was going back to the cemetery to talk to Peter, he didn’t want me to go with him and I knew he absolutely and desperately needed to do this alone. At some stage I will do the same, just me and Pete alone, talking like we always used to, father to son.
"Later maybe, I have work tomorrow so I need to be clear headed, you don't mind?"
"No Joey, but I think you should take a couple of days off, we could go to the lake house for a few days."
"I need to work baby otherwise I will go crazy; I'll see you later."
He placed his plate in the sink then kissed the top of my head. I took his shaking hand and squeezed it then I heard the front door close, he's started running away from me and our home, too many memories. I didn't cry, I just felt I had done something wrong. Did I satisfy Joey enough, was I contributing to our relationship?
Why, what, where and when went around and around in my brain.
He hadn’t returned by ten so I took a pill and went to bed and by the morning he had already left for work when I woke. By the following evening he had left me and our beautiful home. He had come home at lunchtime and packed a few things telling me he had decided to go to Indonesia to help at a hospital there, they wanted him to leave immediately.
He had volunteered to go to work in the children’s hospital for three months. This in itself wasn’t unusual, he had been talking about it for months now. I didn’t want him to leave Pete and me, and our home, but I knew again he was running away from the pain. I know we should have talked it out but neither of us felt like talking about the elephant in the room, we both had our private thoughts and demons.
He told me he loved me very much and hoped I understood his reasons for going. He expected to be very busy and I thought, for him personally that would probably be the best. I will miss him as much as I missed Peter. So with what felt like two deaths in my life, my marriage and our son, I kissed him deeply then closed the door as I watched him drive off. You could have taken me with you Joey, we could have helped each other, but I suppose you weren’t thinking straight, so I wish you well.
I can’t tell you what I did for the next four or five days, it’s all a horrible, blurry nightmare. I moved from the bedroom to the bathroom to Pete's room. Then I would sit on my own on the back porch just staring into space, imagining a little boy playing in his sand box, or kick to kick with his dads, giggling his head off. My nights were full of tears and hurt, and sometimes I would just get up and do my normal thing by walking from room to room. I didn’t know what I was searching for but I knew it had left and wasn’t coming back any time soon.
I'm not the strong one, don’t ever think I am because I’m not. Joe was the strong one, he's the one that talked me into his bed and his heart. We have a good relationship because of his inner strength, and I will be forever grateful he came into my life. It was hard to differentiate which pain hurt more, his absence or Peter’s death. The emptiness in our house was absolutely mind bending, I would imagine all sorts of things, hear things and do silly things like talk to Joe's pillow every night. I would talk about Peter until I was too exhausted to go on, but it helped me lose some surface hurt which I had plenty of, but not the inner pain.
When I finally turned the computer on there were three messages from Joey waiting. He wanted to know how I was and where I was because I hadn’t answered his emails. I swam in his words and re-read all his I love you endings until I managed to form a message in my head to answer him. The messenger blinked, he was online at the same time.
"Do you want me to sell the house?" Stupid thing to say.
"No, I want you to stay there. I will only be away a few months; why would you even ask me that? I thought you were okay with this?" His very short answer said,
"I don’t really know Joey I thought you might want me to move out or something."
I really didn’t know why I said it, maybe because I was still in part, angry and lost. I love this house, we both worked hard to get it. I did know I felt like Joey had pushed me aside, and the lack of sleep made me feel so alone.
"Paul, I love you with all my heart and I want you there when I get home. I know I’m being selfish, but that’s the way it is with me at the moment. I can’t tell you how sorry I am for leaving you on your own, but I'm no good to you in my present state and this work is the only thing that is keeping me sane at the moment. I watch the smiles on the kid’s faces when I tell them they can go home; it's helping me Pauly, don’t be mad at me."
"I understand Joey, really I do and I’m sorry (lack of sleep). I will look after our home until you return to it, and me. I love you so much Joey and I miss you like no other. Keep safe and be well."
"Have you thought any more about going back to work my precious love?"
"Yes, I start in a few days, back at my old desk, dad is really excited I made the decision to go back."
"Good, it will keep your mind on something else, and I meant what I said Pauly, I love you with all my heart and I am sorry it has to be this way."
"Keep doing what you do best Joey, everything is okay here, it's very cold, but I'm okay." And it was cold, Joey took his warmth with him and left me with those cold demons.
We started sending long emails to each other. We talked about Peter yet so much was said in those emails should have been said face to face, but it helped us. It was relieving more of the pent up hurt for both of us. I learnt a lot about what was going on in Joey’s head and I'm sure he learnt a lot about mine.
I had resigned myself to settle back into work, and every night I slept in Peter’s bed surrounded by his toys and Joey's tear stained pillow. I really didn’t have to work thanks to the family accounting business and my very generous grandparents, but dad was a lot happier when I did. You see we weren’t just father and son, we were best friends and he had missed seeing me at work, it was his way of making sure I was okay. On my first day I received this email,
"Pauly I have signed for another three months, don't be mad, there's so much to do here and not enough time in the day to do it all, the kids need me." I went cold and didn’t reply, I wanted to tear my hair out by the roots and scream until I couldn’t scream anymore, which I did into his pillow that night.
My mum was a Godsend, she made sure I was fed and had clean clothes. Every other day she called in early and made my breakfast. We didn’t talk too much about Peter because we were both still hurting, but I did read some of Joey’s emails to her. I hoped she found comfort in his musings.
"It’s been almost three months’ son; can I give you a hand to pack up Peter’s bedroom?" I wasn’t ready for mum’s question.
"No, no mum. I thought Joey and I would do that when he gets home eventually, although it should be around Christmas time, not a good time to say farewell to our son's things." She stared at me and probably thought I was stark raving mad.
"Well at least let me change the bed, it’s starting to look a bit grungy, and that pillow is getting really smelly."
She laughed and it was the first laugh I had heard out of her mouth for months, I was pleased she was trying to move on. It warmed me a little and I thought about what she said some more.
"Okay, I get your point, I will help you then." I relented.
We worked all morning even packing some stuff away in boxes then placing them in the bottom of the wardrobe. Mum said to leave it there and not to throw anything away, just care for it for now. That night I slept in our empty bed, it was a turning point for me. That night for the first time in months I imagined Joey was on top of me, holding me as I afforded myself a much needed hand release.
I begun back at work with a small group hug from dad and Judy our receptionist, then Bob and Jamie joined in. That was it and I was so pleased that it happened that way. My daily schedule was already in my online diary and Judy brought me up to speed. I will be doing this mundane work for a while, just until I get back into the swing of things. So I was left alone and deeply ensconced in checking numbers and accounts that the other three had done. I rarely picked up a mistake but when I did it was an easy task to fix it before it became a bigger problem. In actual fact nothing has changed at all, because this was the work I had been doing at home for the past ten months.
"Hello, Paul speaking?"
"Lover, it’s me Hildy, do you and Joey have a moment to meet with me today?" My stomach groaned, it was Hildy our social worker and friend we are registered with.
"What about Hildy?"
"I need your help so desperately young fella; can we meet?"
"I can meet you, Joey’s working overseas at the moment. What time and where?" She told me and I knew the sandwich bar she was talking about around the corner, I told her I would meet her in an hour.
Hildy was a forty something aboriginal lady with a wicked sense of humour, and a heart of gold. Joey and I had immediately latched onto her because she had a beautiful calmness surrounding her, like no other person we knew. I only hoped she didn’t want us to foster another child, it's too soon. I haven’t had much time to grieve for my little Peter, surely that’s not what she is wanting?
I told my dad where I was going and who I was meeting and he said for me to take all the time I needed, he also grinned. If I didn’t know better, he probably did the happy dance when I said goodbye.
She was sitting at the table in the window sipping on her coffee when I arrived. We hugged then I ordered some for myself.
"I didn’t order for you handsome, I like mine black but I think you like yours with a little milk in it, and a little Italian sugar maybe." She laughed and that made me smile because I thought of my Joey.
"That’s better my boy, how's work going?"
"Good thanks Hildy, it keeps my brain active and I’ve got nothing better to do."
"Well I have a deal for you and I am hoping you won’t refuse it. I need your expertise about something that's bothering me."
"Oh? Do you need an accountant?"
"No honey, I need a father."
"You heard me handsome young fella, I need a father or two, do you think your ready to help me out?"
"Hildy I can’t, I just can't at the moment, it’s too soon."
"Son, time waits for no man, Peter’s death was a blow to everyone, the poor little angel. But there are many kids out there that are doing it tough, and there’s so little interest from the natives in this land to offer anything but advice."
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"I don’t have any good fathers on my books at the moment, only you and Joey."
"No." I was determined I wouldn’t go down that road again, it's too soon.
"So, you think Peter’s death robbed you of your father's love. That if he had a choice he wouldn’t have left you and Joey because of that particular love. Do you feel he betrayed you by leaving? Do you think he would be smiling at you at the moment thinking your both maybe a couple of frauds? You both made his unbearable life so bearable, and now you have a chance to make another little boys life better, are you are refusing to help him?" I thought about it for a minute and put my foot down.
"I can't do it Hildy, it’s too heartbreaking."
"Being beaten by your family and husband every night and spat on by your own kids at every waking moment is heartbreaking. Looking after a very, very ill little boy is life changing. Yes, his death was heartbreaking for you and Joey, you weren’t prepared for the many punches that were thrown your way. But you did survive and you gave that little boy everything to make his life more bearable, something many other kids don’t experience in a lifetime. And now you think it's too soon, what would Pete say about that? I know exactly what he would say. Give that love to another little boy like me, don’t bury it with me."
I stared at her for a long time and deep down inside I knew what she had been talking about. Many nights we had spoken about her abuse on the aboriginal reserve, she put up with more pain than I could ever imagine, until now. I got mad at her but deep down the voices were jumping with joy, then I remembered Pete's face and my stomach churned.
"It's not fair Hildy, the answers still no." I threw ten dollars on the table and walked out. I had only gone fifteen steps when I stopped and swayed dead in my tracks, the tears had arrived and were dripping onto my shirt.
He needs me, he need us, Peter would be turning in his grave if he thought I couldn’t love another kid, I felt dreadful. I chastised myself for being so rude and so stupid, so I turned around and was met by the biggest smile I have ever seen.
"He's only a little over two years old Pauly, he's well and healthy, his mum is now in jail for a very long time. There are no family members willing to take him in. I doubt very much he will ever be allowed go home again."
Joey was that little boy once, he had been shafted from home to home and struggled until a beautiful elderly couple took him in and gave him the life he so richly deserved. She moved us over to a bench and I sat down, then she took my hands.
"I have left you and Joe alone because of Peter, but I desperately need your help with Dillon, I'm running out of options." She was looking at me with her beautiful dark brown eyes. I noticed something I hadn’t with her before, there was a loving look about them, the kind that draws you into her very soul, a mother’s love.
"I can’t Hildy, Joeys not home for now, he's been working overseas so it’s just me at the moment." I was trying to resist but I knew it was futile.
"So you need Joey in your life to bring up this gorgeous little piccaninny do you?"
"Yes that's his gig, I’m just the chef and chief bottle washer."
"Bullshit, you did a wonderful job with Peter, he couldn’t have asked for better parents, and I mean both of you. Now, can you at least help us out for a month or so?" She knew she had me right from the start. I needed this, I needed a baby’s smell in that empty house again, and I needed most of all his cuddles on the long cold nights.
I caved in saying I felt sorry for the little fella, and I did need someone, anyone in my life. Joey wouldn’t really have to know about it because the little fella will be gone by the time he gets back.
"Well looks like me settling back to work has been cancelled again, when do I meet him?" I afforded a small chuckle to myself, the first of many to come.
"I will drop him off this evening with enough food to last a few days, just until you get him settled in."
"Okay, you talked me into it."
"Thought I could do that handsome, are you sure your gay?"
We both laughed so loud I thought I would never stop and I felt happiness inside again. It felt good and it felt right, I hugged her for a long time and kissed her cheeks.
"If I was straight I wouldn’t be chasing an over the hill aboriginal woman in daggy tights." I looked down at her slacks and we laughed again.
We said our goodbyes and I headed back to work, and to talk to my father. On the way back I had different feelings, I was actually happy for a moment and excited to meet my new boarder.
"Your mother is going to be beside herself son, and of course, yes go back to doing what you do best." He beamed at me, I think he was very pleased too. I told him it would only be for a few months, he said, 'bullshit,' and I buried my yearnings for another son deep down inside. I was trying to insulate my broken heart again.
Everyone needs some human contact, and when I saw Dillon for the first time that contact was like a waterfall falling down the cliff tops with an over abundance of water. I never in my wildest dreams thought I would fall in love again, so soon, so quickly. But it was like Peter’s and Joey’s love, it was an immediate waterfall of pure love.
Of course mum was on stand by to help. I didn’t have much time to cuddle my new son before her tears started and she reached for him. He was very wary of us but to his credit he didn’t cry. That was until around nine that night, so he ended up in my bed keeping me company and me keeping him safe, as I quietly talked to him about Peter and Joe. Mostly I talked about Joe, he didn’t understand but it felt good to talk about our lives together, something that seemed like a far distant dream to me.
I hadn’t said anything to Joey, I didn’t know how he would react to having a new boy in the house, unfortunately he will be gone before he comes home anyway, but for now I’m enjoying the smell of a baby around our home. He was just a dream to look after, and every night I whispered my goodnights to him and he rewarded me with a very cute, large smile.
While writing to Joey one-day I let it slip that Dillon had been sleeping with me the past few nights, and I was feeling on top of the world again. His answer was short and insulting but I deemed him just being a bit jealous. I didn’t dream to tell him that Dillan was only two years old.
Mum gave me a long message she had received the next day. It was from Joey and he wanted her to tell him if I had found a new lover called Dillon. We laughed, and then I felt sorry for him and told mum while she was packing up Dills to take him to the park, I will answer it for her.
I set to telling Joey that we had a new house guest and he was two years old, then I attached some photos I had taken of him. I explained I hadn’t told him because he was only a temporary placement, but I wished with all my heart he could stay with us.
That was when the dam burst and I was inundated with question after question on his health, his smile, his walking, his teeth, what he liked to watch on TV and did I think we could keep him permanently, he said he would email Hildy. I answered all his questions with more photos.
"My god you have been on that thing since I left three hours ago." Mum came in the back door.
"Joey needs to know everything." I grinned.
"You do realise that's the first smile I’ve seen on your face for a long time baby?"
I smiled again when I saw my son struggle out of his stroller and head my way. His little arms going around my legs with a big baby hug.
"I can’t come home, I’m under contract for another two months, send more photos of yourself please. I will make sure I'm home for Christmas."
"Good Joey because we miss you, do you want nude shots or regular?"
"Blush, nude if possible, pretty please."
"Took the dribbler to the flicks to see Beauty and the Beast today, he loved it."
"Dillon, I nick named him dribble for obvious reasons."
"Send photos, and more of you baby (blush)." I blushed when I did the photos, I posed myself in the positions I knew Joey liked the best, but then he stumped me one day by asking for a video. I was going to draw the line but it turned me on so much I had to do it.
It was just Dillon and me most of the time, we would sit quietly and watch TV before I bathed him and put him to bed. Pete’s bedroom had changed into a happy go lucky two year olds room. I put back loads of toys and I know Dillon will have a ball playing with them all soon enough.
Before he went to sleep I made sure he said his goodnights to poppa Joey and nana and grandpa. I left the photo of me and Joe next to his bed so he would be included. When Joe gets back we will have a photo of the three of us to place there.
"Yes poppa Jojo, he be home soon."
"Oh?" Then he would point and say again,
"Yes my love, Jojo."
"Oh?" Once again. I don’t know whether he understood or not but he sometimes would laugh at our little game.
This went on until just before Christmas, mum and I had a day out doing all the shopping, she and dad will spend it at our place. I knew Joey was due back around then and my heart couldn’t wait to see him again. Dad and I had decorated the front porch with bunting and lights and mum bought us a big wreath to place on the front door. Dillon was mesmerised by all the colour and flair, then he kind of helped us to dress the Christmas tree. When I turned the twinkling lights on he went ballistic and ran around in circles shouting,
"Jojo, Jojo, Santa Jojo."
Christmas time at our house was always a fun time. Last year Peter had sat for days looking at his unopened presents and Dribble did the same, he even managed to get one of the many presents halfway opened, so I let him finish the job. This year I am hoping it will be a better time for everyone, I have prayed so long for this moment to arrive. Hildy had assured me that Dillon would become permanent after the new year so I was on a daddy high most of the time. I still had the numbing feeling whenever something reminded me of Pete, but it somehow had turned into a comforting feeling, like he was in my heart, warming it and urging me on.
My doorbell went a week before Christmas, it was Hildy with a carry basket and I thought I saw a small baby in it. I stopped in my tracks because I went into a kind of crazy shock, then I said,
"It's not yours, I can tell by the eyes." She chuckled.
"Hi handsome white fella, need a girlfriend yet?" She looked me up and down.
"Suppose not as usual. Well are you going to invite us in because it’s bloody cold out here."
I was almost pushed aside by her and the large carry basket but she managed to get herself and the baby inside without too much trouble.
She headed for the kitchen leaving me standing with my mouth open at the door. The basket had been placed on the table and I heard a baby gurgle.
"Well a nice hot coffee would go down a treat when your ready, where’s Dillon? I have someone important for him to meet?" She yelled after me like I was in the next room, and I was.
"He’s in his room playing, don’t frighten him, keep it down will you." I stared her in the eyes then I looked at the tiny baby who was no more than a few weeks old, then I pulled down the baby blanket and two sets of eyes appeared.
"Oh my god, twins?" My throat went straight to my stomach and I felt butterflies.
"Yes dream lover, twin boys."
"Now go get Dillon, I want him to meet his little brothers."
"Hildy, I can't take on three, please don't do this to me."
"I'm not, this is baby Sam and that's Shaun which isn't their official names. Their mother wouldn’t name them, so it’s been left up to the courts or their new parents." I was having kittens inside; my stomach was in turmoil. I wanted them so much yet I was not sure about looking after them, twins?
"Why are you here?" I played the game.
"To introduce Sam and Shaun to Dillon, they are his biological younger brothers. His mum gave birth to them in jail, but of course she doesn’t want them once again." She rolled her eyes.
"My problem is now to find a good home for them. Being so close to Christmas it’s hard, but I wanted the brothers to meet at least." She had a concerned crooked smile on her face now, and it was directed at me.
Just then Dillon came out to see who was there, he remembered Hildy and ended up on her knees and crooned over the new born babies. It was so quiet but we both heard it, he looked at me and whispered the pointed,
I didn’t know what to say I was still clutching the side of the kitchen bench; my hands were holding it so tight they hurt. If I really wanted to be truthful I was deliriously happy mentally, but physically in a mess.
"That's a fine name for one of them baby, I think maybe Sam and Joe is just the best names for little brothers." She let Dillon kiss the babies then he climbed onto the seat next to her, I had placed Pete's cushions back where they belonged for him some time ago. He played gently with their tiny fingers. One baby yawned and smiled, his little eyes opened a bit and he saw Dillon, then the big toothless grins came out, or was he just yawning.
"What’s happening Hildy, and don’t give me any bullshit about not finding a home for them."
"Would you like them Paul? it's just a thought but wouldn’t it be wonderful for the three brothers to grow up together. It also gives you two Joeys in your life."
"Stop it now Hildy, this isn’t happening, you are being silly."
"Am I? Want to nurse one, they don’t bite, yet?"
I let go of the bench as she pushed little Joe into my arms, I had no choice. Dillon kept saying JoJo then laughing, he was happy.
I sighed as the little mite grinned and yawned again while Sam slept on peacefully.
"How do I look after tiny babies? I can’t do it, I just can’t, they’re too small."
"Ask your mum to help, all they need is a clean dry nappy, a good feed of milk and loads of sleep at the moment. That’s the easy part. The sleepless nights I can’t help you with, you may need some backup. When did you say Joey would be home?"
"Soon," I whispered as I kissed our new sons, there was no way and she knew it, that I would ever let the boys be separated. I started crying again but it wasn’t a sadness kind of cry, it was a pure joy kind of one. I deep down knew somehow Pete had sent these little angels to us, he knew we had loads of stored up love. He's bringing it back into our lives threefold.
I was leaping inside, everything was becoming real again as I phoned mum.
"Mum, you and dad better get over here as soon as possible, I need your help."
"We are leaving now, is Dillon all right son?"
"Yes, and Sam and Joe are fine too."
"What?" I hung up before the questions arrived.
Hildy said her goodnights and said if I needed help she was only a phone call away. I hugged her gently then she slipped out into the dusky night.
I went back to the bedroom with Dillan and we both laid on the bed just looking at the sleeping babies.
"I love you." I looked at my son, he smiled and rocked back and forth into me.
"Yes and Sam."
"Sam?" He pointed at Sam.
"Yes baby, Sam."
"Jojo, Sam?" He again pointed at them individually.
"Yes son." I kissed his head as I heard mum and dad come through the front door.
I bundled Dillon up and took him into the kitchen where mum was calling out to me.
"What's happened son, are you okay baby?"
She took Dillon and looked him over after giving him some wet nanny kisses.
"Son, what's the matter?" I couldn’t help it as my tears started flowing down my face.
"Is it Joey, tell us?"
"Jojo Sam ook." Dills pointed to the bedroom.
"No, no mum and dad, something wonderful has happened, they are in the bedroom."
They stared at me for a moment then moved to my bedroom. I heard a gasp then someone sobbing.
Dad came out and looked at me said,
"Twins, how did you manage that, when we left yesterday there was only one."
"They are his real brothers, they were born five weeks ago, their mum doesn’t want them so Hildy thought I might like to have them, like a full set. She didn’t want to split the boys up dad, oh god, help." He laughed at my anguished face and replied,
"Help is what you will get, if all three of us can't cope then we will pay for a nanny until Joe gets back. Are you going to tell him?"
"No dad, I want to surprise him for Christmas, it’s not that far away."
Mum arrived wiping her eyes and hugged me, then Dillon waddled out and I picked him up.
He started laughing about Jojo and Sam then threw in a few Santa’s as mum made coffee and plans.
"Lance I will move in here for a few days just until Paul gets into a rhythm, we will have to get a nanny, maybe Hildy will know someone."
"We will both move in Deb, for how ever long it takes. Oh hell, we may as well move in permanently." He took Dillon while kissing him and played clapping with his hands, then placed him in his high chair.
"How the hell do we co-ordinate this, what the hell am I going to do?"
"Leave it to mum son, the biggest problem you have at the moment is feeding them during the night, Dillon can feed himself so that's one out of the way. I'm sure when you learn how you can do feeds on both babies one after the other. When Joe gets back it will be easier, you both can do the changes and feeds."
"He's going to go ballistic mum; he's going to love these kids with all his heart."
"And you don’t already?"
"Yes mum of course I do, I loved them even before I saw them."
"Just make sure their bums are dry and they are fed, that’s about all they need at this age. You already know how to sterilize bottles and make up formula, theirs won’t be the same as Dillon's, but it’s made the same."
"Clothes, have you got clothes?"
"Some mum, I need to do a shop tomorrow, but I don't want to leave the babies, I'm a bit scared at the moment."
"Don't be kiddo, calm down and do one thing at a time, we need jumpsuits, I think double O size but I will check. Loads of disposable nappies and formula. I'll get dad onto it and while you’re at the shops Lance, grab some baby soap and a couple of plastic baths, small size. Oh and you had better get some fine fluffy towels, white I think, and some extra bottles. Oh crap, I had better come with you."
"Okay, if you want Deb, but you can just give me a list and I can go tonight." Dad grinned, he's now the official run about boy.
"Will you be all right son for a few hours?"
"Yes mum, they have been fed but are due again in a couple of hours, about two am." I laughed, it’s all I could do because my life wasn’t my own anymore. It was easier with Dillon and me, we got it done and he is almost sleeping through the night now, but the babies won’t.
They both left and Dillon and I placed the babies on the bed, one was awake, one was still asleep. I could tell them apart, they weren’t identical. Baby Sam also had a birthmark on his ankle, just a small one and Joe had the biggest smile I think, because I haven’t seen Sam's yet. Dillan was moving from one to the other kissing their faces, he really didn’t know what was happening but I could tell he loved these little babies, no matter who they were. From somewhere far away I thought I heard a little boys giggle, so I took a moment to thank Pete for giving us back the love.
It took mum nearly two hours to do the shopping, she and dad had also called around to their place to get clothes and things, they are moving into the spare room.
One started around ten then Sam finally woke up. I'm thinking he’s the passive one because he didn’t moan for a drink. We had prepared the bottles and all three of us sat at the kitchen table to feed the kids. Dillon wasn’t there to see us, I had settled him into bed around eight thirty, he was so over tired. It all went like clockwork as we made plans for the coming week.
Mum didn’t work so she would be on hand all the time and dad didn’t want to go to work because he wanted to be with his grand sons.
"It’s okay son we close down on Thursday for the holidays as you know, then you will have me full time. Debs, do you think we had better move the babies to our room?"
Mum looked up at my shocked face and replied with a simple,
"No Lance." Then she giggled. I was so tired by bedtime I barely had touched the pillow and I was asleep. As luck happens they didn’t wake up until three thirty, I woke feeling like I had a cloudy hangover, but jumped out of bed to go start the kid’s bottles.
Mum was with them when I got back, it’s a case of if ones up everybody’s up. Dillon had manoeuvred himself into my bed by the time we had finished the night feed so I kissed him goodnight again. I lay awake watching his angelic face, I was over excited that Joey will be home soon, and did I have a big Christmas surprise for him.
Mum was cooking breakfast when I got up and Dillon was being fed by dad. He was dressed and ready for work but he really didn’t want to go.
"That went well last night."
"It did dad, hopefully it’s a sign that they are not going to be too demanding."
"Sure it is son." Mum smirked as she flipped another egg.
The day was sort of full on, I don’t know how much I spent on the babies but we ended up with a shit load of stuff we probably wouldn’t need. Dad and mum had bought a pram last night and she proudly pushed it around the shopping centre. I already had a stroller for Dillon and he talked all the way from the car park to the coffee shop. I looked down at both my sons and surprise, surprise, Sam was showing me his big smile today, he was gorgeous.
My parents were a godsend that first week and they re-assured me they won’t go anywhere for quite awhile. Dad arrived home very early and was playing with Dillon in the sandbox, and mum and I were doing some much needed washing, then we will cook something for dinner. I told them they could stay as long as they liked. When the chores were finished we three sat watching a little boy playing by himself, my imagination was going insane and my love was spilling over, I also heard Pete's laugh again.
"Do you want me to pick you up from the airport baby?"
"No Pauly, I'll get a cab, it's not far and Dillon might need you."
"Okay, but I don’t mind."
"Are your parents coming for Christmas lunch?"
"Yes, we have it all organised, I think they are staying Christmas eve, they want to be here in the morning to watch Dillon open his presents."
"Good, I miss them almost as much as I miss you."
"Well don’t sign any more papers before now and then, I want you home. Rewind, I need you at home urgently, I miss you."
"Yes me too, I have just about worn out the video, tee hee, got any more?"
We had been talking for about an hour, he was coming home in a couple of days and I couldn’t wait to see him again. The suspense was getting to me but I kept myself busy still getting the house into Christmas mode. Dad had nearly overdone the decorations, they now shouted out loud and clear that a family lived here and was spreading love to all, such was the vibe in our house now.
I nearly died when I opened the door early Christmas eve, Joey was standing there with more luggage than he left with. He looked gaunt but his smile hadn’t changed as I drew him in for that almost forgotten body contact and a kiss. Mum had decided they should leave us alone and had gone to watch the local carols in the park concert.
"Daddy, Jojo daddy, jojo meeeee."
"Oh, and who are you little man?" Joe picked him up gently to hug him.
"Your son jojo, ise dibble," and he began dribbling through his tears onto my Joey. His arms went around Joey’s neck and he smelt our son before giving him many, many kisses.
"Welcome home baby."
"It’s good to be back, come here, I have missed you so much." His arm extended around my shoulder and we kissed again then dribble wanted in on the party too.
Dillon was pointing towards the bedrooms and kept telling Joe to look.
"Okay Jojo. Here ook Jojo, Sams."
"What's he on about baby?"
"Just a minute munchkin, let daddy settle in a bit." I smiled at my son.
I steered them into the kitchen then took Dillon off him, he was a bit confused. I turned to the sink and checked the temperature of the milk bottles then passed one to Joe.
"He's in the crib, in our bedroom and needs to be thoroughly loved and fed." Joe looked at me with his mouth open, suddenly all the air had been zapped out of the room.
"Dillon’s little brother, Joe, our second son." I smiled through my tears.
"What?" He looked at Dillon then the bottle.
"For sure, his real brother, six weeks old, so be prepared for a long sleepless night and for one further shock."
He turned towards our bedroom then I heard little Joe moan because he knew his food was arriving.
Dillon had followed him and when I picked up the other two bottles I heard a moan and a gargled sound. I walked to the bedroom door where Joe had one baby in his arms and was making all sorts of confused sounds.
"You may need some help with that little one Joey."
"Two? We got two, no, we’ve got three?"
"Yes three Joe, do you think you can handle that one, while I do Sam?"
"Sam? Oh my god Pauly, what are we going to do with them?"
"Love them Joey, just love them with all our hearts." Our tears were dripping down our faces.
I passed Dillon’s bottle to him and placed him on the bed with a pillow, then I took Sam. The five of us lay on the bed while our sons were fed. Dillan was a big boy so he can handle his own bottle, but every now and then he would stop and point at Joe then look at me.
"Yes your daddy Jojo, he's home at last son, and yes he's Santa."
"Eh?" Then he would sit up and give Joe a wet, milky kiss.
"What the hell are we going to do, have they seen a doctor yet? How did you cope? How long have they been here?"
He had questions, I had the right answers and all was good as he kissed Dillon many times.
We changed their nappies and made sure they were burped then they were placed back into their freshly made cribs. Joe kissed them both then Dillon, then me.
"Mum and dad have been staying here, we got it done Joey, now your here we can talk about getting a nanny or even a housekeeper, before the grandparents move in permanently. They will be back soon, they just wanted us to have some time together alone." I chuckled at his face.
"Sure we can get someone Pauly." He kept looking at his sons, and they were our sons. Hildy had promised me we would get first shot at adopting them, she knew a pretty cool judge. I told Joey about it and he was beside himself with joy. We closed the bedroom door slightly and Dillon headed for the Christmas tree. I turned the twinkling lights on and he sat there looking at all the brightly coloured presents, just like Pete did last year. We made out on the sofa then watched his hopeful eyes, then Joe got up and handed him a large present.
"You can open a few tonight, then some in the morning son."
"Santa, Santa Jojo," he screamed as he tore open the package, I had no idea where that present came from, maybe mum and dad?
Joe helped him retrieve the little bright blue parker that had been carefully folded in the tissue paper. Joey looked at me and I felt his love and was reminded of a beautiful boy we loved and cherished, who had loved this little bright blue jacket.
"There's no card baby, I wonder who it’s from?"
"I know who it’s from, that present is a gift from Peter," I replied. He accepted my explanation immediately, then he was distracted by his son who wanted his dad to put his new tiny jacket on for him.
We let him open some smaller presents then we both put him to bed. After a wonderful round of overdue, passionate lovemaking that Joey instigated because he wanted to be naked next to me, we settled. While the kids slept soundly, we laid there just staring deeply into each other’s eyes.
"You are the strong one, I was so weak."
"No, you were not coping, you had to go."
"Well I’m back now, and after a few weeks holiday it's back to the hospital."
"That will be ample time to get to know your sons." I smiled at him.
"Daddy jojo." A sleepy eyed boy came through the door, he still had his parker on because he insisted he sleep in it. Jo helped him into bed and the night, night kissing began again. I looked over at Joey who had the biggest smile on his face as Dribble went back to sleep in his arms. His hand rested in mine and I slept deeply for the first time since Peter had left us.
Merry Christmas to one and all, and god bless you our dear Peter.