"Well hello, what can I bestow upon you today," Sam said, as Edward walked into his office.
When no answer was forthcoming, "Well, if you're still interested in taking in that little man of yours…?"
"Don't play games, Sam!"
"I can see you didn't give up easy on your bed this morning," Sam said, chuckling to himself. "I've been trying to get support in the family courts. And I think we may have an ally. Judge Peterson is somewhat a dark horse, but I've heard her views on adoption with, shall we say, menfolk, and she is not totally against it, as long as a supervisory period is given as protection to the minor or, in this case, your little man."
Not thinking, Edward shook his hand with no intention to dislodge or separate it from the arm it was attached too. "Sam, that's fantastic news. When can I go see her?"
"Leave that part to me. A bit of the old bribery, with dinner as a tempter, should get her onside. I have a soft spot for Sarah, so persuading her to come to my house shouldn't be a problem. Between you and me, if I wasn't already married…." Sam gave a dastardly smile as he gave a sly wink.
"How soon can you start dating," Edward said smiling.
"Hold back on the reins there, my good man; I will speak to her when she comes back Friday." Edward squeezed his hand again.
"How long do you think this will take to arrange… you know, marry her, become a bigamist?" Edward said, as Sam chuckled to himself, enjoying the banter.
"I can't answer that for now, but I'm sure if she gets to know all the facts; she will, I'm sure, give it a little push."
"Thanks, Sam, I really mean that. For now, can we keep this between ourselves? I don't want to build his hopes up - ours either, to watch them get dashed as they go flying out the window, although I have a feeling that won't happen. He's seen too much hardship in too little a time already. You really must come over and spend some time with him."
"Let me get the ball rolling, then maybe we can make a day of it. Fishing of course," Sam said with a straight face that he couldn't hold. "I don't usually put the horse before the cart, but I'm sure this is one for us good guys."
"I'll have mother cook up something special."
"I'd better get myself ready to gain weight," he said deadpan, looking at his slightly overweight exterior.
"Well, I've got to go, some of us can't sit around all day keeping our rear end warm."
"And you, a judge," he grinned, as he turned to leave Sam's office.
"Thanks again, Sam," the back of him waved an arm as he left.
Mist covered the landscape with shades of varied thickness, and as Edward put his foot in front of him, there was a sound of crispness as his footwear touched the outside world with the inevitable freezing point that gnawed into your bones. A thick layer of frost covered the ground that no doubt stretched for miles. This felt more of the Monday morning blues than a coming to the end of the week, looking forward to a whole weekend to relax.
Though well wrapped up, his whole body shivered as he reversed the car from the garage. The thought of Christmas eased the longings for the day.
As he drove along, he smiled, even squirmed as to the reaction both he and his mother would get. But the thought moved closer to if he'd finally convinced David to receive gifts on the day, any day. "Problems… problems."
Four days previous….
"David, Christmas is coming up, so I want you to work out a list of what you want, okay?"
"I don't need anything!"
Having the expected reaction brought the thoughts of earlier struggles on the same matter. "I should have expected that!" Elizabeth continued clearing the table, as Edward looked up to the heavens.
Looking around as Edward led David into the living room, she herself looked up to the heavens in a little prayer.
"David, no matter what anyone says, including social services, you are my son, you are part of this family, and always will be… wherever you are, whatever you do." David looked on as if absorbing the words.
Gently picking him up, he sat David on his knee, which got a warm smile. "Now, I remember telling you, if you want or need anything, just ask. Do you remember?"
"David, are you scared of me?"
"Then please answer, Son."
"Yes, I remember."
"I'm not going to ask why you don't want anything, because I think I know the answer; but I need you think very hard why."
Now, most of you out there would say you are the adult, the parent. Then without any argument, I should go and get what he needs, even if he refuses… no questions asked. If that was the case, then I would tell you that is wrong. One, I have to say I'm new to this parenting. Two, he has his entire life been forced to do things, whether he wanted to or not, and sometimes under physical discipline, I do not intend to follow suit.
"I don't know, Sir."
"Okay, looks like you aren't going to make this easy. So let me try again." David put his head down, as if he'd been scolded.
"David, look at me, please. David, we accept you as you are, so why can you not accept us the same way."
"Bu..." Putting a finger to his lips, David quietened.
"David, you are the most lovable boy I know, and have a heart of gold, enough intelligence to give this old house, and who live in it a headache," he gently wiped a tear, as David's concentration gave way to emotions.
"Being in a family is more than giving, it's also taking."
"But Sir, I have more than I'll ever need. I know I may have to go away, and I know you love me. But…" He lowered his head as tears again fell.
"David, don't cry, Son," as he again wiped away tears. He gently rocked David as he looked again to the heavens… at a loss on how to convince David to accept what he considered he had no right to.
"David, here on planet Earth, children get to be awkward, answer back, even ask for everything they can't have," he said, as he tickled David's ribs, which got a heart-warming giggle, "Is that understood?" as he continued his assault.
"Yesss, yesss," as he tried to wriggle free.
"Now, if I said we could go out for the day, have some fun, where would you go?"
"Saint Michael's Mount."
"Then taking you to Saint Michael's Mount would be my gift to you." With a slight shake of his head, and a look of uncertainty whether to object, had Edward hoping he wouldn't challenge the point.
Unsure, mouthing quietly, "But that is a pleasure." I didn't ask him to speak up, as that to David had taken a lot of courage.
"Now, say, for instance, I bought you a bicycle for Christmas." David dropped his head to one side in disbelief, which made Edward smile. After a minute or two, David smiled back in recognition. First thought that came to Edward's mind was, "I need to get him to relax."
"Now, let's say you bought me a flat cap and a false moustache," I love that laugh, "and I liked it, how would you feel?" Without waiting for a reply, "That would make you happy. No? That would give you pleasure. Come on, David, get those brains of Britain working!"
"You see, David, a gift is a pleasure by any other name."
"David, look at it this way, if you gave someone a present for Christmas, and they said they didn't like it, you would be upset, yes?" With the expression on his face, Edward hoped that this would bring an end to being given - and accepting.
Throwing David over his shoulder to a crescendo of laughter, he trundled along, slightly bouncing to extract more giggles, as he walked to the back of the house. The inside patio gave a panoramic view of the grounds in every direction. Increasing the setting for the underfloor heating, he took a seat close to the coloured glass, tinted to take away the glare of the sun when needed of course.
"I want to tell you a story that happened a very long time ago, some three hundred years to be exact. You see, David, I think you belong here.
"I think someone, somewhere, contrived to get this other young boy here; even to a pessimist like me, that seemed obvious. Maybe that's the answer to why he came here, rather than like you just stumbling here."
David looked at Edward in total confusion. It could have been disbelief, even awe.
Edward smiled, seeing the funny side of, if the expression stuck.
The story had been told to Edward by his mother, prompting him to recall it with all that seemed coincidental at what was happening now.
"A boy, not much younger than you, found his way to this house. How or why he wandered here, we'll never know. Maybe like you, he couldn't resist a look," grinning openly.
"The cook had finished cleaning the kitchen, just needing to empty the slops. Opening the door, she turned to go give the pigs their final meal of the day. As she turned, she saw a shadow. Turning, she shone the lantern ahead.
What she saw hurt her to the core. A boy maybe ten or eleven stood trembling. He was dirty, and probably hadn't seen water in days… food even longer.
As she pulled the light back, what she saw ripped her heart from within' her. Her hand covered her mouth in shock.
The boy never moved, stood nailed to the spot, his eyes never leaving the lady standing in front of him.
Not wanting to frighten the boy… softly speaking, she held out a hand, hoping with her attitude, it would calm the boy's fears, and hopefully get him inside in front of a warm fire. After some hesitation, he slowly moved toward the lady. He followed her inside and, resisting the heat from the fire, followed her into the kitchen. Though scared, he could do little more than obey and trust the lady.
In the kitchen, the boy looked to be younger than she originally thought, maybe eight or nine. Being able to count every rib, his complete abdomen sinking below every bone, her fears were more than realized.
Without thought, motherly instinct, one might say, taking over, she picked the boy up, setting him down on one of the wooden chairs.
Without a word spoken, she ladled some broth into a bowl, putting it down directly in front of him. Looking down, then up again, seeing the same tenderness. Eyes now moist, he took the offered spoon.
The cook, Agnes, watched as slowly the boy drank the broth. Anyone with any sense could see the boy hadn't eaten for days, but he ate as if common manners dictated it.
"Can you tell me your name?" Now she saw fear in what she later described as the most beautiful human being she had ever set eyes on. His trust of adults waned further at the thought of the adult before him.
"I promise, I won't hurt you, but I can't keep calling you, boy."
He looked into the lady's eyes, seeing nothing but kindness.
He again astounded the woman by holding out his hand to shake.
Walking around the table, she knelt down to meet his gaze. "What are you doing out here this late at night, and alone." She had seen many a child living on the streets, but never one she would describe as refined. The boy dropped his head on the woman's shoulder as tiredness finally overtook him. He felt warmth… maybe even security.
As she cradled him in her lap, she rocked him gently; as again, instinct took over. She couldn't turn the boy away, even having little thought of what James the butler would say with the new addition. Then there was her master and mistress.
As with most of the employees, she lived in one of the cottages that were sprinkled around the grounds; so, without any thought, she checked that all was clean and tidy, ready for the next day. Then taking her leave, the boy still clinging… hanging on for dear life, maybe even sleeping.
Her husband looked up in complete surprise, as he saw the bundle she was carrying. "I didn't think you got many of them to the pound..." halting his words, in anguish as he stared at the boy. He took the boy, laying him on the couch, his wife looking on with upset on her face.
"Jack! I couldn't leave him!" Jack held her as the upset became apparent.
"We can't take care of him," shifting his gaze to look at the small bundle sleeping peacefully.
"I am not sending him away! For God's sake, Jack, look at the little mite."
Leaving her husband to his thoughts, she took the boy into the bedroom, tucked the child in, slipping aside him, and snuggling the boy close, as if in protection.
During the early hours, Agnes woke to a screaming and very distressed little boy. Heartbreaking from seeing someone so young in such distress put the nail in her husband's objections.
Another Jack in the family would become father and son. Senior and Junior, as if made in heaven.
Early one winter morning, as Jack slept, he was woken as someone placed a hand over his mouth clipping his nose, then unceremoniously bundling him into a sack without care or concern. As he felt he could breathe, he instinctively started to scream. But a fist hit home, and blood poured from his nose, sending him into unconsciousness.
Kidnapped, thrown into the back of a cart, he became one of many children, who would be sold for the use of the richer of society.
Jack woke, seeing many of his own age, some older, some younger, but all destined to be sold.
Taking the mountain pass, as what could be construed as a trail… the terrain being rough and untreated. The moon, though full, hid behind the rise, making the pass less accessible. As the pass dipped to a left-hand bend, the horse lost its footing, sending the cart over the rise.
The children's captors awoke sometime later unhurt. They rummaged through the debris, seeing children nothing more than objects, as they were roughly discarded after being found to be deceased. Jack screamed, as the biggest of his captors lifted him by his night clothes.
"Shut up, boy, or I'll give yer' something to scream about. Seeing the mangled leg, he threw Jack over the edge with less concern than for a dog.
Waking at the water's edge, shifting his weight, Jack screamed with pain, a pain never felt in his full nine years, before all went black.
As the sharp needles of the rain-drenched Jack, even more, he turned his head to stop the onslaught, drawing in water from the stream.
Though the middle of the day the sky remained grey and hazy, as the clouds deposited its life-giving properties. Jack, in increased pain, slowly, and with some effort, lifted his head to glance around, seeing his body and clothes torn and shredded.
His one good leg, his left, he could barely feel because of the cold. Though bleeding and scrapped, at the same time he noticed his right side. In severe pain, he instinctively tried to touch his right leg, and screamed with agony as the limb turned in the water. If instinct, or by accident, his head lay between two rocks, holding his head out of the water. As he again looked at what was obviously no more than a stub, he screamed to the heavens to die… no answer came. Aimlessly, he sobbed as he again fell dead to the world.
Night had fallen when Jack woke, flames wrapping itself around him as if a shield. "Stay still, little one." Opening his eyes, he saw a face… the face of what he thought was a kindly man. Still not fully revived, he tried again to move.
Slowly and gently the man held the boy's shoulders to keep him down. "What's your name, son?"
Though still weak, eyes giving away many signs of pain. With some thought and little strength, he spoke his name, "Jack, Sir," his eyes closing of their own accord.
Two months went by, and Jack was healing, if slowly at best - on the outside. The kindly man, Edwin, cared for the little man without thought at caring, responding to his every need. Branches carved to fit snugly for the need of movement. His left leg disfigured and scarred, his right…"
"Dinner's ready, and don't forget, both of you, wash up before you sit down."
Both gaped at each other, smiled, and looked toward the kitchen, as David was tossed over one shoulder, giggling like a four-year-old being chased. Elizabeth shook her head and smiled as they trotted by her like a couple of kids.
After dinner, the three sat in silence drinking their respective beverage: tea for two, milk as usual for David.
"After everything is cleared away, can we finish the story?" looking at Edward.
"And what story would that be," looking between her son and grandson.
"Jack, you remember?" Elizabeth said nothing, just gave a thoughtful gaze, then went back to her tea.
"I don't know, you might fall asleep."
"I won't, I promise!"
"Mmm, well, while you promise," smiling, which also put a smile on David's face.
Drinking his milk in record time and pushing his seat out of the way, he started to clean up. "You leave that to me, you go finish your story." He hugged his Nan and set off toward the living room to wait for his father. "David, before you go, I bought you another pair of pyjamas."
"But Nan!" Then instantly remembering the conversation with his father from earlier.
"Thanks, Nan," giving her another hug.
"Why don't you go and try them on?" Which was more of a statement, and David picked up on it almost instantly.
Edward tossed David on the couch, getting a torrent of giggles. "Now, where were we?"
Comments and questions are always appreciated at Terry