On Saturday, Joshie, Brandon, and I hopped into Brandon's car and set off to meet up with Frankie. The banter during the trip helped to highlight our nervousness about meeting the boy, as we wondered what he'd be like. Since he'd been abused and neglected, we wondered if he'd be angry, hostile, or anti-social, or would he merely be a kid craving the love and attention he'd longed for but had never received. That question would likely be answered before too much longer.
After a fairly lengthy drive with no stops along the way, we arrived at Frankie's apartment. I think the first thing we all wanted to do was to use his toilet, but we let Joshie go first, since he was the youngest and had a smaller bladder. By the time we'd all relieved ourselves, we sat down with Frankie and had a cup of coffee, while Joshie had a soda, and listened to what Frankie had to tell us.
It seemed that the foster family was agreeable about allowing us to meet with the boy, but they'd only permit it to happen at their house. They were unwilling to let us take him anywhere or to spend time with him alone.
"I can appreciate that they're trying to protect the boy," Brandon responded, "but it's somewhat unsettling to think they don't trust a State Trooper or two certified foster parents to be alone with him."
"I agree," Frankie countered, "but he's living with them and is their responsibility for now, so we have to abide by their rules."
"I just hope the boy doesn't feel inhibited about sharing information with us if his current foster parents insist on being there while we're meeting with him," I pointed out, slightly concerned.
"Will they let me see him too?" Joshie wondered after hearing about the restrictions.
"We'll insist and tell them that you live in the house and will be affected by our decision if we agree to allow the boy to come live with us," I assured him.
As it neared the time for our appointment, we all hopped into Frankie's SUV and he drove over to the boy's current foster home. When we pulled up in front, the foster parents came out to meet us, but they didn't appear happy and definitely weren't smiling. We didn't let that deter us, though, as we got out of the vehicle and started walking toward the house. After climbing the steps to the porch, I reached out my hand to shake with the other man, but he scowled and refused to reciprocate. Then, he snarled out a greeting.
"I'm going to be upfront with you. I don't believe homos should be foster parents and we're leery about letting you meet with the boy."
"That's not your choice, because this visit has been approved and arranged by your local D.S.S. They have legal custody and responsibility for the boy and you're just his current caretakers," Frankie replied. "I'm a member of the State Police and was raised in the same foster home as this gentleman. He and his partner are both certified foster parents and good men. They've had two foster sons so far, whom they have since adopted."
"I suppose those boys must be queer too then."
"One is, but the other isn't," I stated, annoyed by his haughty attitude and ready for a fight.
"And we all grew up in a similar home with two fathers and we're all very successful now," Frankie added. "There were seventeen of us in total and many of them are heterosexuals, like me, while some happened to be gay. The sexual orientation of a child is not determined by the people raising him, because Brandon," he said while pointing to Brandon, "was raised by his mother and father and turned out to be gay. He's also a dentist and Danny is a Pediatrician, but our other brothers have ended up being successful as well. Just to give you an idea of how well we all did after being raised in a similar foster home, one of my brothers is a pharmacist, another an electrical engineer, and there's also a radiologist, a sales rep, a business owner, an IT coordinator, an accountant, and several teachers in the mix. I think we did pretty well after being raised in a foster home headed by gay partners."
"I still think boys raised by queers end up becoming queer themselves," the man added. "Seeing I can't stop you from seeing the boy, I can limit where you do it and what you say to him."
"Let me warn you there will be major repercussions if you try to interfere," Frankie replied. "If you step out of line in any way or try to impose any arbitrary restrictions on us, then I'll voice my complaint to the proper authorities. I'll also do everything in my power to make sure your status as foster parents comes under intense scrutiny, while also recommending your standing as foster parents be revoked." The man glared menacingly at Frankie for several seconds before giving up and leading us inside.
We followed him into the dining room and were told to take seats on one side of the table, while the boy sat in a chair at the head. The man and his wife then took seats on the opposite side so they were facing us and could observe everything.
"Do you have other children?" I asked for a couple of reasons. First of all, I thought it might relieve some of the tension by starting with something other than the reason for our visit. Second, I wanted to see if the boy had others closer to his age to interact with while staying here or if he was stuck with only these two.
"We don't have any other foster children at the moment, but we have two children of our own," his wife answered.
"We told them to either stay in their rooms or go outside and play until we finished, because we didn't want to be disturbed. We told them not to bother us for any reason, because we felt it was important that we sit in on this."
His answer merely confirmed our feeling that they didn't trust us and only heightened the uneasiness in the room. It also made Brandon and me wonder if we should ask all of the questions we had originally prepared to ask the boy, or if it might be better to shorten the list.
When we were introduced to the boy, we discovered his name was Benjamin Alan Devaney Jr. "Would you like us to call you Benjamin or would you prefer Ben?" I asked, trying to establish a rapport.
He looked nervous and glanced at the other couple before responding. "You can call me Benny. Everybody else does."
"Thank you, Benny," I followed. "Since you're a junior, I take it you must have been name after your father." Again he looked nervous and glanced over at the other couple first. This time I saw the man give a slight nod before the boys answered.
"My mom said she named me after my dad and that's what's on my birth 'tificate, but I never saw him. Mom said he left right after I was born and I think that's why she hates me. Cuz I got the same name as him, when she calls me she 'members that he didn't want to be with us." Even though he'd filled us in about what we wanted to know, he barely spoke above a whisper and said everything without showing much emotion.
"Did your mom always keep you in that cage we found you in?" Frankie asked next, since he hadn't taken time to ask that question when he'd rescued the boy. After seeing the horrible way the mother had treated the boy, Frankie felt it would be best if he simply got the boy out of there and took him to the hospital, so a doctor could examine him.
This time the boy looked down at the table and fidgeted for a few seconds first, rather than glancing at his current foster parents before he spoke. "I was four or five when she first made me go in that cage. When she left and went in the house so I didn't see her no longer, I slid the thing back that kept the door closed and got out. That made her really mad, so she put a lock on it so I couldn't do that again."
"But didn't she let you out to go to school?" Brandon followed, since he was slightly confused.
"She tried to keep me home, but some people from the school told her they'd put her in jail if she didn't send me."
"So she would let you out to go to school and then put you back in there when you got home?" I wondered aloud.
"Yeah, my mom would let me out to wash up and change first, and then I'd spend the day at school. I really liked it when I was there, cuz I could move around some, and I got more to eat too." Hearing his answer was disheartening, especially after we realized the school lunch was his best meal of the day, possibly the only one he was given.
"Do you play sports?" Joshie followed, changing the subject. I was actually glad he had, because the current discussion was depressing the rest of us, but this was something that was important to Joshie, so he wanted to know.
"I was never 'lowed do nuttin like that. I only did that stuff at school, but not a lot. I liked it though and wanted to do it more, but I never could."
"I like sports, so if you come to live with us then I'll teach you some things."
"Yeah, I'd like that." After saying this, it was the first time he'd displayed any emotion and I thought I'd even noticed a brief sparkle in his eyes. "So are there other kids there too?"
"Yep, there are," Joshie answered. "Elliot just went away to college, but Noah is there. He's fourteen, and then there's my little brother, Wyatt. He's only two, but I like doing stuff with him too. Oh, and my name's Joshie."
"Thanks, Joshie, and I think I'd like to come live with you too." For the first time we saw Benny crack a slight smile. Leave it to another kid to help the boy feel at ease and get him to make up his mind.
The foster parents never said another word during our visit, but they made a lot of faces that let us know they didn't approve of our conversation. We didn't let that stop us, though, and we chatted with the boy for over an hour. By the time we were ready to leave, Benny was ready to get his things and go with us right away, but we explained that we'd have to get it approved first. He was disappointed when we told him this, so we attempted to reassure him.
"I'll get things started as soon as I get back to my place," Frankie assured him. "I have some connections that are pretty high up, so I'm going to call in some favors to move this along. As soon as I hear it's been approved, I'll even drive you to their house myself."
"Thanks. I can't wait," the boy said gleefully, although the foster parents were frowning and giving the boy threatening looks. When Frankie saw that, he issued a final warning.
"I certainly hope you aren't planning on doing anything to the boy because of his eagerness to do this. If we find out anything like that happened after we leave, then you might be getting a visit from some of my fellow State Police Officers, not merely someone from D.S.S." Hopefully, that would make them think twice before doing anything.
We left right after each of us had a chance to say goodbye to Benny, and once we were in the car Frankie made another announcement. "I'm going to report those foster parents to the Commissioner of D.S.S., because after hearing the things they said I don't think they're fit to raise children. They could do more harm than good for any kid placed in their care."
"I agree," I responded. "Maybe that's why they're only given emergency cases.
Although the others didn't know this until we got in the car, as we were leaving I heard Benny whisper to Joshie that the other kids didn't do much with him. That's why he was so anxious to come live with us. When I informed everyone else, Joshie looked astonished.
"How did you know that?"
"Benny may have whispered it to you, but I still heard him. I'm not sure if his foster parents did, though. I certainly hope not."
"It's a shame that he's been pretty much isolated," Brandon said. "I hope there aren't many kids that have had to live there and listen to the crap that couple spews." We were all thinking about Brandon's comment when Joshie made us suddenly switch gears.
"He was older than me, but I was taller," he pointed out. Joshie currently stood four feet four inches (1.32 m) tall and Benny was a couple of inches shorter.
"Yes, I noticed that too," I concurred, "but you're tall for your age. His small size probably has something to do with being kept in that cage for such a long time or it might be the result of the poor nutrition he's received. We don't know how often he was fed or what he was given, but that will change when he comes to live with us."
"Yeah, and I hope he does," Joshie agreed.
"He looked a lot better today than when I first encountered him," Frankie stated. "He's actually not bad looking, now that he's been cleaned up. When I first saw him you couldn't tell if his hair was naturally brown or if it was just filthy."
"His eyes are brown too, just like mine, but he's really skinny," Joshie chimed in.
"I'm sure we'll be able to fatten him up once he's living with us," Brandon added with a grin.
"We'll stuff him like a Thanksgiving turkey," I added, making Joshie laugh.
When we got back to Frankie's apartment, Brandon and I talked it over and decided we should probably eat before we hit the road again. We invited Frankie to join us, our treat, and he told us our options. We then decided where we wanted to go and he had us get back into his SUV, so he could drive us there.
During our time at the restaurant, we not only enjoyed a good meal, but we also talked a little more about Benny. "He's actually more friendly than I'd expected," Brandon stated.
"Yes, I was afraid he might be lacking in social skills, maybe even refusing to speak, like Jesse had when he first came to live with us," I added.
"Well Jesse had seen his father killed, and although Benny has been mistreated, I don't believe he's suffered through anything as traumatic as that," Frankie pointed out.
"Maybe not, but you never know what a person will be like when they've been abused, neglected, and isolated for such a long time," I added. "He might have been a lot different if he hadn't gone to school and I think that's what changed things for him."
"Yeah, you might be right about that," Brandon agreed.
"I like him and I'm gonna teach him how to play baseball and basketball," Joshie offered while flashing us a huge grin. "Noah can teach him about soccer."
"I know you played baseball this summer, but where did you learn how to play basketball?" I teased. I'd seen him shooting baskets on the portable backboard at home, but I just wanted to see how he'd respond.
"From watching TV," Joshie quickly quipped. "I like basketball best and shoot hoops a lot. I did it with Papa sometimes and made lots of baskets."
"Then I'm sure you two will hit it off and I'm glad you're willing to help us make Benny feel comfortable," I said, as my way of thanking him.
"I just hope we can arrange for him to come live with us," Brandon chipped in, since he wasn't so sure.
"Don't worry. I'll call Aunt Sally at home after we get back and ask her to start working on this," Frankie assured us after witnessing Brandon's concern.
"Thanks. I just hope those foster parents don't try to mess things up for us," Brandon offered, still not convinced.
"If anything, I'll be making trouble for them," Frankie added, hoping that might make Brandon feel better.
As soon as we finished eating, we returned to Frankie's place and waited while he phoned Aunt Sally. She told him she'd be happy to take care of everything and told us not to worry, saying she'd have it all worked out by the middle of the week. When the call ended, we thanked Frankie again and the three of us loaded into my car again and headed home.
"I hope Benny is able to come to our house soon so we can play together," Joshie stated during the ride. "We're almost the same age, so we'll be good friends."
"I hope so too," Brandon agreed. "You can help us out a lot, and I know you've been hoping we would get someone a little closer to your age."
"Yep. It will be fun."
When we arrived at the house, Joshie raced ahead of us so he could fill his fathers in about Benny. He was going on and on, with his arms flying about as he spoke, and Dion and Trey were getting a kick out of his antics.
"I'm glad we let him go with you," Dion stated when Joshie finally finished.
"We were too," Brandon replied. "I think Joshie was the one who convinced Benny that he'd like it here."
"I'm just glad he'll have someone closer to his age at home," Trey added. "It's true that he spends time with kids his age at school, but he doesn't have anyone at home to hang out with. Noah's six years older and Wyatt's six years younger, so he's kind of stuck in the middle by himself."
"Sometimes we don't think about that, because Joshie acts so much older than he actually is," I pointed out, "but that's probably because he lives with so many older guys. I'm glad this will give him a playmate and it will be good for both of them too."
"Do you think they might even start fooling around?" Trey wondered, as he looked at Dion first, before glancing over at Brandon and me.
"I think they might be a bit too young for that," Brandon answered.
"Maybe not, but do any of you have a problem with it if we catch them doing anything like that?" I asked, so I'd know how to react if we saw them doing anything.
"Nah, we all fooled around when we were younger too and it might even be good for them," Dion confirmed. "We all know kids do things like that at some point, so let them explore a little, as long as neither is getting hurt or taking advantage of the other one." We all agreed with Dion, so there was one less thing to worry about.
"I'll give Benny a physical as soon as he arrives, to make sure he doesn't have any health problems," I mentioned, thinking it was important.
"That's a good idea," Brandon concurred. "We'll probably have to take him shopping too. I doubt he will have much, especially clothes that are in good shape, since he spent most of his time in a fucking dog kennel."
"You're probably right and I never thought about that," I agreed. "We'll have to enroll him in school too, although we can take a day or two before doing that. We'll want to make sure he has the proper clothes first and we'll get his school records to see what grade he's in, although he'll probably be able to tell us that."
"Who's going to stay with him if he doesn't start school right away?" Brandon wondered. "Did you forget that Dad's not here to look after him for us while we're at work?"
"Oh yeah, I guess I did forget about that. Since he's been gone I think we've all begun to realize just how much we count on him and how much he does. I mean, we knew it before, but it's just become even more obvious now that he's not here."
"I guess we do kind of take him for granted sometimes," Dion said, pointing out something else we hadn't considered. "He does a great deal with Joshie and Wyatt for us and we've had to struggle to cover since he left for Georgia."
"Maybe we should do something special for him when he comes home, so he'll know how much we appreciate him," Trey suggested.
"That's a great idea," I agreed. "We'll have to plan something when we find out when he's going to return."
Brandon and I then went to fill Noah in about Benny, since he'd just returned home a short time ago. Dion and Trey had given him permission to spend the afternoon with his friends, so we wanted to let him know what was happening. We didn't want him to be left out or feel unimportant by not telling him about the new boy.
"I know he's younger than me, but I'll make him feel welcome too and show him around a bit."
"Thanks, Noah. I really appreciate that," I stated.
"Hey, Elliot did it for me and I was three and a half years younger than him," Noah pointed out. "Benny's only four and a half years younger than me, so it's nearly the same thing."
"You're a good son, Noah. Thank you and we're very proud of you," Brandon told him.
"And Joshie wants to spend time with him too, so this won't fall entirely on your shoulders," I added. "Joshie's planning on working with him on baseball and basketball, but says you can teach Benny about soccer." Noah laughed before responding.
"Does Joshie even know if Benny wants to do that stuff?" he followed, looking concerned.
"Yes. Joshie went with us and mentioned it to Benny after we met him. Benny seemed to like the idea too and said he was eager to do it," I answered.
"That's good. Then maybe I can help both of them at the same time, because I'm used to doing those things with Joshie," Noah confirmed. "I did it with him and Grandpa Josh before, but I've even done it with him after Grandpa Josh went to be with Uncle Shannon."
"That's great, and I think Benny is going to like living here," Brandon chimed in as a huge smile spread across his lips. Noah and I both nodded and smiled back.
It was nice to know we had Noah's support, because it would take a little more pressure off of Brandon and me. The rest of the night went fairly uneventful, as Brandon and I thought about what we could do to make Benny feel at home once he got here.
Brandon and I spent Sunday catching up on the things we usually did on Saturday, but were unable to accomplish because of the trip. After rushing around and getting everything done, we were both exhausted by bedtime, so we turned in a little earlier than normal.
Brandon and I had set the alarm to get up for work on Monday, but when I went to wake up Noah he reminded me that today was Labor Day. That fact had totally slipped our minds, because of everything else going on, but we quickly recovered and still managed to have a cookout to mark the end of the summer. It wasn't a big family affair like we'd had in the past, primarily due to the fact that Dad wasn't here. After we ate, we mainly took it easy and enjoyed the additional day of rest.
Tuesday morning we all went back to work and school, falling into our normal routines again. As soon as we were done at the office that evening, Brandon and I raced to the high school so we could watch at least some of Noah's soccer match. When we arrived they were already in the second half, with Noah's team leading 2-1.
One of the other parents we knew told us that Noah had been playing well and doing a good job at his midfield position. We had only been there a few minutes when our team was awarded a corner kick, and Noah lined up at the edge of the penalty box, even with the far post of the goal. The ball was then put in play and ricocheted off a player on the opposing team, and with the ball still above the ground, Noah drove his foot into it. The ball sailed through the air toward the goal, just out of the keeper's reach, and landed in the upper corner of the net for a score.
Noah was immediately swarmed by his teammates as they celebrated his accomplishment. It turned out to be the final goal of the day and Noah's team won 3-1, so we gave him some space to celebrate with his teammates a little longer, this time for winning the match. It was several minutes before Noah finally spotted us, so he hurried over to ask how long we'd been there and if we had seen him score. We confirmed we had and that seemed to please him, but it made us feel good too, and then we told him to get his things together so we could head home.
Later that evening, sometime around eight o'clock, the phone rang. I went to answer it, since everyone else appeared to be busy.
"Danny, it's Aunt Sally." She'd obviously recognized my voice. "I just wanted to let you know that earlier I arranged to have the boy Frankie called me about transferred to our department. I called Frankie to let him know too, and he asked me to tell you that he will drive the boy here on Thursday, which is his next day off."
"That's great, although I wish we could get Benny here sooner. Unfortunately, Brandon and I both work and it would be difficult to make that long trip at the end of the day. I hate the idea of leaving him longer with the foster parents we met, but I guess a couple more days won't make that much of a difference."
"I want you to know that I heard all about them too and have alerted my counterpart about that situation. He has agreed to send a social worker to the house tomorrow for an unannounced inspection, but he's also assured me that he'll only use them in emergency situations from now on. In fact, he said he would drop the couple completely when he gets a few more people certified, but at the moment he doesn't have enough temporary homes to place kids in an emergency situation so he has to keep them. He told me he's had other complaints about them before this, and that's why he only uses them for temporary, short-term placements, but only when he has no other options. I can empathize with his predicament."
"I'm sure, but it's good to know that he knows about it and wants to drop them, however, I hate to see any kid subjected to that sort of poisonous garbage, even if it is for just a short time."
"I agree and my counterpart will do whatever he can to avoid using them in the future. It's just too bad that he can't remove their biological children too, but I'm certain they've probably already brainwashed their kids to their way of thinking. We can only hope that those kids don't grow up to be just like their parents."
"Yes, I'm sure they've been taught to hate the same people that their parents hate. It's a vicious cycle. Thank you for your help, though, and I can't wait for you to meet Benny. He and Joshie have already hit it off, and Noah has agreed to spend some time with him too, so I have a feeling this will work out fine."
"I'm not surprised by the fact that Brandon and you are doing the same great job that Josh used to do for me too."
After I hung up with Aunt Sally, I gave Frankie a quick call to get an idea about what time to expect him on Thursday. He said he was planning to pick Benny up right after Benny got out of school and then they'd leave after packing up his belongings and loading everything into his vehicle. I thanked him for the information and said we'd have dinner waiting for him, because I insisted that he have dinner with us before he headed back. He said he'd like that and then we ended the call.
As soon as I got off the phone with Frankie, I went to tell Dion and Trey what we'd discussed. I also asked Trey if he wanted me to pick up some take out on my way home that night, but he declined my offer and said he'd fix something special instead. Joshie was in the room while we were talking and immediately began whooping it up and dancing around, pleased that Benny would be here in a few more days.
"Can you put Benny in the bedroom next to mine?"
"We can suggest it to him, Joshie, but you know we normally let each boy choose his room," I answered.
"Don't worry, though," Brandon offered. "I'm sure that as soon as he hears you want him next to you that he'll like the idea too."
"Maybe he can even sleep with me the first night," Joshie suggested looking hopeful. "It would make it so he isn't as scared about being in a strange house."
"We'll think about it, but maybe not the first night because you'll have school the next day. We don't want you boys staying up all night talking and not getting your rest," I replied. "Maybe Friday night, though, if Benny wants to do it."
"Yeah, that would be great!"
Once we left them, Brandon and I had something else to discuss. "We don't have to worry about Thursday, because we should be home before they get here, but what are we going to do with Benny on Friday?" Brandon pointed out.
"I have a couple of ideas about that, but I'd like to run them by Benny first, to see which he'd prefer."
"What are you thinking?"
"Well, I figured we could always leave him in daycare with Wyatt for the day, or I could let him spend the day in my waiting room and ask the receptionist to keep an eye on him for me. There are plenty of toys that my patients play with, along with books that they can read, and of course they'll be other children coming in and out too so he won't be alone. I want to give him the choice, though."
"Ok, I'm sure either will work, although I have a feeling he might prefer your waiting room."
"Yeah, me too." I then made a mental note to check with my receptionist the next day to see if she'd mind doing that.
"We can check out the things he brings with him before we go to bed Thursday night, and then we can take him shopping after work on Friday. I'll just mention it to Trey and Dion because we will have Wyatt with us too, but I also want to see if one of them is willing to pick Noah up after his practice. It will also let them know we'll be getting home a little later than usual."
"Do you want to check with them or should I?"
"I'll do it. I figure Dion will be the one who will pick Noah up for us, because Trey will be busy fixing dinner."
"You're probably right, so I hope they don't mind."
"I'm sure Joshie will make sure they don't have a problem with it, seeing we'll be doing this for Benny," Brandon teased. I merely chuckled at his observation.
Please let me know what you think of this story so far.