"Good morning, Sam, what can I do for you at this early hour?" I was surprised, as Sam considered Sunday his day of rest ... and thought it sacrilege to do anything more than rest.
"I was just calling to check on David, he was really upset -- enough to want to leave! And to be honest, I feel wholly responsible"
"Not at all; you couldn't have known. Her behaviour was unacceptable, especially towards a child. And to put your mind at ease, I think his Nan has convinced him to stay, I quote, 'I will certainly not be the lady you may think I am, after I tan your backside young man!' Not as though she would ... you understand."
"To be honest, I was shocked and troubled. My heart went out to him, and I couldn't have been any more proud of him, if he'd been my own. He was prepared to sacrifice everything for others, without a second thought."
"I wouldn't worry over that. You know, I think he's already adopted you," I said with a smile ... hoping it came across over the phone.
"Are you still with us, or have you taken a Sunday nap?"
"No ... I mean, yes. I was just thinking about yesterday. Though you may not agree with my opinion, I had words with Julia on the way back without making judgement. I'm convinced that what she said was an honest statement taken the wrong way, either by its tone, or the way it was said. Saying that, Julia said little on the way home, her attitude never wavered. When I told her of your connections ... that did get a response - if only by looks."
"I can't say I agree, but I do trust your judgement. David was taken by you - I wonder why?" maybe not the best time to joke. Edward was getting angry thinking of the woman - a judge at that -- who should know better.
"Be nice now, I'm a friend, remember. I have to say though, changing the subject, I was surprised, concerned even, and I still am at the way one statement could cause such damage. What I do believe is Julia knew what she was doing after she saw the reaction from David."
"I have to say he handled it as well as any grown up, I know. I also believe Julia was caught completely off guard by the respect in his answers," Sam making the statement to take the sting out of the conversation.
"Thank you, Sam. What happened leaves a sour taste ... to have Julia onside would have been an ace. I know we're back to square one, but I'll be damned if I'll let that woman anywhere near David again."
"Not quite back to square one ... I have gained some good friends over the years, you know."
"Come over for dinner and we can talk over a meal about these so-called friends you have made over the years; and I'm sure I can find a very good single Malt Whisky. Come over about five?"
"You know, I could have you arrested for bribing a judge?!"
"I believe you ... but you be nice!"
"We'll talk tonight. Five o'clock. Tell David I said hi. Bye Edward." he said, laughing as the phone went quiet."
Saying goodbye came out in a whisper as I quietly laughed.
"Mother, I've invited Sam for dinner. I know its short notice ...." as I entered the kitchen.
"I'll do his favourite, Lamb with mint sauce. Ring him back and tell him to arrive a little earlier?"
"I'd probably get sued again," getting a confused look, "never mind. Five o'clock ... is that okay, that's the time he'll get here?"
"I'll get it, but if you had been a minute later," she smiled.
"Late, as usual, I see," she said when Sam arrived.
"Thirty seconds isn't exactly late," he said with a wry smile. "So, is it my sentence - or would that be reprimand - to stand in the doorway or corner?" giving a sheepish grin that David would have been proud of.
"Sam, you're just in time."
"Not according to your mother," turning to give her a wry smile.
"Dinner will be in ten minutes," she said, shaking her head. "Go and get washed up."
"I think we've just been told," Sam said, giving his continued wry smile.
"You don't say, Einstein?" Edward shot back, as David hobbled off the stairs.
"David, how are you today, young man?"
"I feel better now, sir."
"I liked it better when you called me Uncle Sam." That was the queue for David to give the man a warm, heartfelt hug.
"My, I could get used to those," which earned Sam a big smile.
Dinner was productive, gaining knowledge of who was onside and who wasn't. Sam had even managed to enlist a Miss Brown, a social worker! Maybe I shouldn't be all that surprised.
They say, 'to know is not to reason why.' So, is that from her appreciation society or yours?"
"From hers, of course," I couldn't help but laugh.
"Now why would I not be surprised, another one of those 'if I weren't married.'" David looked on at all the bantering. "Not to worry, David, just wait till you see all those who 'could be' Uncle Sam's girlfriends," which caused David to give an even more confused look - at that, not even his Nan could keep a straight face.
"Now, enough of trying to set me up," giving a cheeky grin. "It seems Miss Robertson got a little upset at, as she said, 'Your holier-than-thou attitude,' and I could answer for Miss Robertson myself - a woman scorned.
So, it looks as though you have made another friend ... another one on your personal, friendly terms?" another cheeky grin.
"Though not ethical, getting involved in other colleagues work, she read the reports, and in her words, 'Without gender involved, this was a manhunt."
"This Miss Brown does sound like a friend."
"Right ... how silly of me. So, you're on first name basis?"
"Are you going to keep this up all night?" again with his usual grin.
"For David's sake, no. His head is going to start smoking, if this goes on any longer," getting a look of pure disgust from the boy himself.
"So, when are we going to meet your new 'catch'; sorry ... 'friend,' shall we say?"
"I'm pretty sure she'd like to meet you." His grin was getting annoying now.
"I don't believe this; he's trying to set me up on a date!" I looked at all present, getting a look of 'I don't know' ... but Sam had that grin again.
"Don't even think about it, Sam." Elizabeth smiled. "Mother!"
"You see what they're doing, David, they're trying to get me married off," that David found funny. "So, you agree with them? That my dear boy, is going to cost you dearly."
Getting up to take their drinks into the living room - Edward pounced. And before David knew what was happening, he was mercilessly being tickled till he became hoarse. "Marriage indeed, repent scallywag."
"I give in, I give in. I need to pee, I need to pee. Father, please ... I'm sorry," as his laughter seemed to get louder.
"David, I want you to do me a special favour." David looked on in anticipation. "If Uncle Sam doesn't try and sue me, I want you to go to the cellar and find me a bottle of McKinley's Single Malt Whisky, can you do that?" David gave a nod in excitement at being asked.
"There's no rush, but try and get it before the sun comes up." The look David gave would have soured milk.
"You are evil, Edward Whitmore," laughing at his own comment, and getting as close a look from Elizabeth as possible to the one from David seconds earlier.
"That boy is going to have an anxiety complex before the night is over."
"Sam, I'd give in while you're ahead."
"Tell me more about this Miss Brown, and I don't mean her attributes." Elizabeth listened in with as serious of an expression as either had ever seen.
"I'd like to say I have known her as long as Amanda, but I can't. But I have known her for something close to a year. She's efficient, and from what I've seen and heard; puts a lot of hours in outside her set hours. From what I've been told, she very rarely ends up in court ... she seems to have a knack for getting things done. I have spoken with colleagues and friends in Social Services ... discreetly of course; and I trust the people I have spoken too. They all have nothing but praise.
"From what I have heard, and that being from the speaker of the house - who, by the way, is her brother - her commitment to 'her' children cost her, her marriage of five years. Seemingly, the husband couldn't put up with her affection being greater for 'her children' than him. I'm being unfair, but if it's correct what I've been told, then I also surmise that she takes her work home with her. And I dare you to go reading between the lines on that! Birthday and Christmas cards from her charges goes a long way to show the affection her charges have for her."
"Sam, are you talking about the, Miss Brown who was on the news last year giving her MP a roasting when he slapped a name tag on some of the poorer families ... 'Single woman were only having kids as a way of getting handouts to boost their income from prostitution.'
"I'd have to say, if that was true, it looks like Social Services aren't doing their job correctly. The worst part about it is, I believe it; especially, after the way David was treated before, he came here ... that was downright neglect."
"Your right, Elizabeth, but where did you hear about it?"
"I 'do' go out occasionally," was her answer - blunt and to the point.
Her tone had Sam holding his hands up in a sign of protection. "I've cussed at you before, Sam ... it's those damn social workers ... apologies for the obscenities. I, we have seen, their accomplishments firsthand - David. I'd bet my life he didn't know what having someone to help him felt like; never mind, know anyone. I'm not even sure he'd know what bad behaviour is."
"He'd know, believe me; he's a boy." Sam got the eye, a stern look from Elizabeth before getting 'I know, I brought two of them up', which got a pout from Edward, then laughter.
David walked in with a 'what did I miss' look. "It's okay, David, it's just us adults doing what you young ones call 'crackin'up.' I think I phrased that right?"
"Uhmm, David, do you celebrate Christmas?" Which caused David to look enquiringly at Sam.
Given a few moments to contemplate - he knew where this was leading, so his reply was short and sweet. "I have a family, and no present could be better than that."
Sam got up off the couch, picking David up on his way back. "David, tell me, would you want a present you like, or one that you don't like?" Whether he got the time to think about it was no matter. "I and your family are going to buy you gifts for Christmas, and they are really going to try and make it a Christmas you won't forget. Now, you have to decide if you love them enough to accept them, or hurt them." He looked in every direction in the room that everyone was sitting.
"I would never hurt them."
"Young man, what binds a family together is what they do together, but it seems you don't want that type of family ..."
"I do, sir, but I ..."
"David, I know you want a family - a family that you are now a part of, but ... having a family comes with an obligation. Do you know what I mean when I say, 'a work in progress'"?
"I think so..."
"Well, that is why a family comes with an obligation. You can't always do just what you want to do ... you have to consider everyone when it comes to families."
Giving a look of thought, he glanced at Sam, then Edward, then his Nan. Then he hobbled over to Edward without once removing his gaze. "I'm sorry, I hurt you; I was being selfish, I'm sorry."
"David, I'm not sure you know how to hurt anyone but yourself. Yes, you were being selfish - not toward us, but with yourself. Being with family means you can laugh, cry, even get angry - but that is for another time. Right now, we need to open someone's eyes. Receiving a gift from someone you care about should make you feel as happy as giving one; but to you, that never entered your head. There is a saying 'what you never had, you never miss;' but David, that has to stop ... and it needs to stop now!"
Sam could sense that the room was choking, "David, will you bring me the Scotch." David obliged by even filling his glass. "You know you will have to put up with me for the night?"
"What are you blathering on about, you know very well there's always a place in this house for you; so, don't you be acting like you are hurt." David could hear the bantering.
"I've never seen that man, your father, open his wallet; so, when he does, his expression is going to be a pained one," not knowing exactly how to take the remark, David gave a nod, then looked pleadingly for help before again turning his gaze to Sam, and seeing a mischief. I have to admit, the only thing I could do was smile.
"David, remember, Christmas comes but once a year, so make him pay," looking directly at Edward, a sly grin parted the lips on his face. "Elizabeth, you not being the stingy one, take this little man and give him a Christmas to tell his grandchildren about."
"Well, one of us has to do it, you know," giving a cheeky grin to her son. David was unable to hide a grin as she looked back at Sam, giving a warm smile.
"Mother, where's David?"
"I'm sure I heard him in the study some twenty minutes ago."
Edward silently made his way toward the study and quietly opened the door, so not to disturb David at whatever he was doing. As he entered, he saw David at the back of the study, the ornate desk standing just below his shoulders, his head gazing up to the fourth or fifth shelf of the bookcase talking happily away to himself.
"Grandfather, do you think Father would let me read "A Tale of Two Cities"? I know its old, but I wouldn't damage it."
"I don't mind you reading any book in here, son." David became ridged, then turned, looking like the proverbial deer caught in the car's headlights; a quick flash at the window; then with as much speed, returning his gaze back to Edward.
"You may read any book you wish," prompting David to lose his regimental stance.
Edward looked around the room before turning his gaze back to David.
"Who were you to talking to? As much as I'd like the idea, I'm sure your grandfather could not give you an answer. David was caught between two thoughts. "I was just thinking out loud," turning back to face the bookshelves.
Remembering the times when he himself, being maybe twelve or thirteen at the time, when alone would be caught thinking out loud, and with the same embarrassment no doubt that David was feeling right now.
"David, we need to talk."
David turned, a little perplexed. "Yes, Father," and with no prompting, hobbled over and seated himself in his preferred armchair, leaving Edward to take a similar route to the opposite chair.
"I spoke to a Doctor Wiseman this afternoon; he makes prosthetics, your uncle James recommended him. You do understand what I mean when I say, prosthetics?" David gave a sour look before turning his view toward the fireplace.
"David, don't look at me like that; at times it's hard to remember how clever you are," smiling as he saw David's lips part slightly into a cheesy grin. "Okay, consider me rebuked."
David pushed himself up, hobbled over to Edward, and slithered onto his lap. "I'm sorry, Father, but sometimes it feels like I'm getting scolded for knowing."
"I know. Do you forgive this old fuddy-duddy?"
"You're not old. Well, you 'are' older than me," he said giggling.
"I'll show you old." as he tickled David's ribs - David giggles going operatic.
"You're not old ... you're not old. Middle-aged may ..." as his tickle torture increased, and he was unable to finish his remark.
Finishing his assault, he raised David's head, so he had to look him in the eye. "I used to tell myself I wouldn't get married, definitely didn't want kids; but at this minute, I can think of a million reasons why I was wrong, well minus one - and you are all of them," trying to keep a straight face.
"What's the minus one?"
"Knowing a smart aleck," grabbing both sides of David's face and kissing his forehead.
"I'm not a smart aleck."
"I don't know, maybe ..."
Laying his head on Edward's chest, he wrapped his free arm around him; and with the same urgency, up came his head, kissing Edward on his cheek. "I'm not a smart aleck."
Edward wrapped his arms around David and gently kissed his forehead. "No, you're not, but if perfection is what we all aim for, then you are ahead of us all."
"I know you don't want to, but I want you to go see Doctor Wiseman. I know you think you are okay as you are - and you are; but I've seen the way people stare. Some use that as a way to pity you, while others use that as their own enjoyment.
I can only imagine the pain that causes, even as you try to ignore it. But David, what I see is a very intelligent, young man separated from children his own age, because of the hurt; and yes, the hurt some selfish people cause categorising you. But remember, you rose above that, and proved them all wrong. David, you are a beautiful, intelligent, young man that opened his heart to two perfect strangers ... and God, I'm so happy that you did.
"But now it's time to leave that dark cold corner and let that beautiful heart of yours spread its wings. I've heard and felt your pain ... and it tears me apart. And though this may sound cruel, after you rose above the hurt, they created, you became a very lonely boy with little or no confidence to fight anymore. That shell you live in - I'm sure we can prise it open," kissing his forehead.
"I'll make mistakes along the way ... but I think your Nan will knock me back into shape." hearing a giggle. "So, you think that's funny, do you? Well, we're in this together; so, if I'm going to get it ..." tickling his ribs, getting a pitched giggle.
"David, will you go and see the doctor?" he gave a nod, but the hesitancy was more than obvious. "I know it won't stop all those worries you have, but when you meet other people, you will feel better ... I promise." Sensing David's insecurities, he held him tighter.
"David, sometimes you have to let the adults do the worrying, and trust them that whatever they do or say is for your security and happiness, and seeing as ..." getting more giggles as he played each rib like a piano, "this leg is being lazy; we'll have to get it off the dole and get it to earn its keep."
"See that rope, pull it." A few minutes later, Elizabeth walked into the study. "Mother, is the pot still warm?"
"Were you two born sitting up?" feeling the wrath of his Nan.
"Father, told me to pull the rope."
"You little traitor - just you wait." David ran to his Nan, tucking himself under her arm for protection, a mile-wide smile as the dulcet giggles brought warmth to three happy people.
"I'll warm the pot," she said as she walked out of the room with a smile of pure joy. "No, you stay here little one."
"But he'll get me."
"Tell me if he does," she whispered.
He hobbled slowly back into the room, his eyes never losing sight of Edward. "Come here, soldier," tapping his knee. David quickened his pace, taking his place on Edward's lap.
George, sitting behind the study desk, smiled at the bond the two now had; relieved that David's earlier slip up had gone unnoticed.
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