Sometime during the night I thought I heard someone moving around, so I got up to investigate. I was worried that Benny might accidentally fall down the stairs on his way to the toilet, since the door to the bathroom and the top of the staircase were fairly close to each other. When I got to his room, Benny wasn't in bed, so I checked the bathroom but he wasn't there either. I then went to see if he'd gone over to be with Joshie, but he wasn't there either. While I heading back to his room, I saw Benny coming up the stairs. He didn't see me, but I noticed he was carrying a box of crackers, a jar of peanut butter, and a butter knife.
"Are you hungry?" I asked, totally startling him.
"Ummm... not really."
"Then why do you have those things?" It didn't appear as if he wanted to answer my question, but I waited until he did.
"For later?" he admitted, but it sounded more like a question.
"Benny, you don't have to hoard food in your bedroom. We'll make sure you have plenty to eat and you won't go hungry again. If you want something, just ask, but you don't have to hide food in your bedroom. Besides, it might attract bugs."
His face turned slightly red and he looked as if he felt he might be punished for what he did. "Do you want me to take it back?"
"Either you can do that or I can do it for you. It's not a big deal," I added to relieve his concerns.
"I'll do it, and I'm sorry."
"You don't have to be sorry, because I understand why you did it," I assured him as I gave him a hug. "We won't ever treat you like your mother did, so you don't have to worry." After saying this, I felt him hug me back.
"Thank you," he said as he finally relaxed his arms from around my waist.
"We're glad to have you here and we're going to make sure you feel loved." After I said this, he threw his arms around my waist again and gave me another squeeze.
I waited as he returned those items to the pantry, not because I didn't trust him, but so I could tuck him in again. When he came up the stairs he looked at me oddly, possibly still worried that I might be mad at him, so I told him the same thing. "I just waited so I could tuck you in."
His face slowly broke into a smile as I followed him into his room and he climbed into bed. I tucked him in again, just like I'd done earlier. The only difference was that after I wished him sweet dreams, I added a little extra. "Dad B and I want you to know that we both love you and we're going to take good care of you. I promise." Benny smiled and thanked me again before he closed his eyes, content that he was wanted here.
Brandon was asleep when I crawled into bed beside him, so I figured I'd just tell him about this in the morning. No sense waking him now.
I awoke the minute our alarm went off, but Brandon was a little slower waking up and getting out of bed, although I wasn't sure why. As soon as he was coherent, I advised him about what had transpired the previous night, which caused him to make a pouty face before speaking.
"It makes me feel awful that Benny thought we might not give him enough to eat. I hoped that after we'd allowed him to stuff himself at dinner that it would ease his concerns."
"I guess he was worried that we'd only let him do it last night and it was just a one-time thing. I think he was afraid we weren't going to allow him to eat as well after Frankie left."
"You're probably right about that, but I hope he knows better now."
"I think he does, but if not, we'll just have to prove it to him. We'll feed him well this morning and the rest of the day too."
"Yeah, because I'll fix a nice breakfast and we'll take him to have lunch at the snack bar at work, and then we'll have dinner at home."
"Eventually he'll figure out that we mean what we say and we're not about to let him go hungry."
After Brandon and I got ready for work, I went to wake Benny and Noah, but I also made sure Benny was getting dressed while Brandon went down to fix breakfast. After Benny was ready, I took him downstairs, followed by Noah, and we were surprised to see that Brandon had made French toast.
"I hope you like this," Brandon said as he set a plate down in front of Benny and added some syrup to the two slices. While he was doing that, I poured both boys a small glass of orange juice and a larger glass of milk.
"This is good," I heard Benny say as I brought the drinks into the dining room.
"I'm glad you like it," Brandon replied as he and I sat down next to the boys to consume our share.
Benny and Noah finished off what was on their plates, so Brandon asked if they wanted more. They both said they did, so Brandon went out to fix a couple more slices and that seemed to fill Benny up. Dion had Wyatt ready by the time we'd finished, so the four of us went out to the car and I drove over to the health center.
"Isn't that your last name?" Benny asked as he pointed at the sign when we pulled in.
"Yes. This is our health center and we named it after one of our brothers who died?"
"Awww, I'm sorry about that, but it was nice you did this for him."
"Thank you, but I'm actually a little surprised that you even knew our last name," I stated.
"I kinda 'membered hearin' it when you came to see me where I was livin' before, but Joshie told me too."
"Someday I hope you'll have that name as well," Brandon chimed in, causing Benny to smile.
Benny looked around the daycare center when we dropped Wyatt off, and then he followed me to my office. We both said goodbye to Brandon when he left to go to his office, which caused Benny to look up at me strangely.
"Dad B is a dentist and that's where he works. Have you ever been to a dentist before?"
"I don't think so."
"Then I'll mention that to Dad B when we have lunch together and maybe he can examine your teeth later. But first, I'm going to give you a physical."
When we entered the reception area, I introduced Benny to my staff. The receptionist was going to keep an eye on him for me after I finished the examination, but I also introduced him to the billing clerk and two nurses as well. They all made a big fuss over him, which embarrassed Benny slightly, although he was grinning the entire time.
"Ok, champ. Follow me."
I led him into one of the examination rooms and asked him to get undressed. While he was doing that, I took out a few items I was going to need. As soon as he was naked, I put him on the scale to check his weight and height, and then I took his blood pressure before beginning the physical. I found nothing seriously wrong with him, but I spotted a few minor issues, such as his being quite small for his age, slightly malnourished, and I was worried about the condition his bones and teeth might be in. Without the proper nourishment they could be unusually brittle, but I'd take care of those things over time by making sure he took a daily vitamin and drank plenty of milk. I didn't have time to do more today, because I had a full patient schedule and didn't want to fall behind early.
After Benny got dressed, I took him out to the waiting room and showed him where everything was. I told him he could play with and use anything there, but I also asked him to be nice to the other kids for me. I then told him that if he needed anything the receptionist would help him out, and if she couldn't do what he needed then she'd have someone get me. He seemed satisfied with my answer, so I left him to play while I got ready for the rest of the day.
Benny must have done fairly well, because no one came to get me or had anything negative to say when the office closed down at lunchtime. I took Benny over to get Brandon and then we headed to the snack bar together.
"What would you like for lunch?" I asked Benny after we'd sat down at a table.
"I don't know."
"Well, look at the menu and see what you'd like. There's plenty to choose from, so just make up your mind and order what you want."
"Can I have a cheeseburger?"
"Not your best choice, but that's fine if it's what you want. How about I have them add some potato salad and a glass of milk to go with it?"
I ordered his meal, along with mine, and Brandon ordered what he wanted. While we waited for the food to be delivered, I decided to mention something to Brandon.
"Hun, do you have any openings in your schedule today? Benny told me he didn't think he'd ever been to see a dentist, so I thought you might want to examine his teeth. He passed his physical with flying colors."
"I'm not sure, but if we finish eating quickly enough then I can squeeze him in before my other patients arrive."
"That will work."
We then told Benny to eat and not waste any time, but we didn't exactly want him to rush. We merely wanted to make sure he didn't dawdle, so Brandon would have time to check the condition of his teeth without throwing off his schedule.
When we returned to Brandon's office, he quickly discovered his dental hygienist didn't have anyone scheduled right away. She wasn't back yet, but as soon as she returned, he asked her to clean Benny's teeth and take the standard x-rays. Then, he would check the x-rays before quickly examining Benny's teeth. Brandon advised me that after he was done he would have someone bring Benny over to my waiting room, and then he'd fill me in later about what he discovered.
When I finished for the day, I found Benny playing in the waiting room and asked him put everything away. When he finished, I locked up the office and we walked over to meet Brandon. He had already closed up shop and gone down to pick up Wyatt, so we walked down to the daycare to meet them. Once we were in the car, he filled me in about Benny's oral hygiene.
"I discovered that due to his poor treatment at home and lack of proper nutrition, as well as limited sweets, Benny has retained his deciduous teeth far longer than normal."
"I take it you mean his baby teeth."
"Yes, that's the layman's term for them. Fortunately, it means that many of his permanent teeth, primarily his canines and molars, haven't come in yet, but that's not a problem. There are a few other problems, though, but I'll take care of those as soon as I can work him into my schedule, because I'll need my dental assistant when I do it. Then, I'll teach him how to take care of his teeth properly from now on, so we won't have future issues."
I nodded and thought that sounded good. Then, I drove over to Kevin's pharmacy next.
"Why are we stopping here," Brandon wondered.
"I want to pick up some vitamins for Benny to start taking. He has some catching up to do if I'm going to help him get back on track, and I want you all to come in with me while I'm getting those things."
As we were getting out of the car, Benny noticed something else. "Hey, this place says Currie too."
"Yes, it does, because your Uncle Kevin owns it," I confirmed. "That's why I want you to come inside with me, so you can meet him."
After going inside, I led Benny back to the pharmacy so I could have him meet his uncle. Kevin spotted us before we reached the counter and stepped out to greet us.
"Hey, Danny and Brandon, nice to see you again. What brings you here today?"
"We had a few things to pick up and we wanted you to meet someone special. Kevin, this is Benny, our newest son." Kevin looked down at Benny, smiled, and reached out his hand.
"It's nice to meet you, Benny, and welcome to the family." He also said hello to Wyatt.
"Thanks. I can't believe you guys own all these places."
"Yes, we were lucky to have a great dad too and he helped us all get a good start in life. If you do what your new dads tell you, then you'll get a good start in life too."
Benny smiled, nodded his head, and then Kevin pulled him into a hug. Benny happily joined in and hugged Kevin back, showing he was already beginning to feel like part of the family.
After we picked up the items we needed and paid the bill, we got back in the car again. A short time later I was pulling into the parking lot of the department store Brandon and I had agreed to visit today.
"How come we're stopping here now?" Benny asked as he looked out the window.
"We're going to do a little shopping and pick up a few things for you before going home," I answered. "We'll only get the items you'll need the most today, and then we'll get the rest of the things tomorrow, when we'll have more time."
"So you're gonna buy stuff for me?"
"We certainly are," I agreed. I could see the puzzled expression on his face as I looked at his reflection in the rearview mirror, so I thought I'd better explain. "You didn't bring a great deal with you, and what you have isn't in good shape, so you're going to need some new things for school and around the house."
After I found a parking space, I unfastened Wyatt from his car seat and carried him to the store while Brandon looked after Benny. We were a little apprehensive that he might not be aware of his surroundings and would walk in front of a car, since he'd never been taken many places and lacked experience in these situations. Once we were inside, I set Wyatt down and let him walk, although I held his hand, and we followed Brandon as he led Benny to the boy's department. Once we were there, he helped Benny pick out a couple of outfits first, and then they selected underwear, socks, and a pair of athletic shoes too. Benny looked amazed by how much we were getting him, and this was merely our first outing.
When we got home Joshie wanted Benny to show him what he'd got, but Benny seemed hesitant to do it. Finally, he spoke and we immediately understood why. "You're not gonna be mad cuz they didn't buy you stuff too, are yuh?"
"Heck, no! Daddy and Poppy have bought me lots of things, so I don't need nothin' more right now, but you do."
After receiving Joshie's confirmation that he wouldn't be upset, Benny happily pulled out both outfits, along with the other items in the bags. "I never got stuff like this before. Mommy got my clothes from other people and I never got nuttin new."
"That won't happen here," Joshie replied. "When we get too big to wear our clothes, we give them to a place that gives them to other people who need them."
"Like where Mommy got stuff for me," Benny groaned. He looked slightly depressed after admitting this, but then he perked up after realizing it was now a thing of the past.
Brandon took Benny up to his room after the two boys finished their show-and-tell and helped him put everything away. "Can I wear some of the new clothes now?"
"You can put on new underwear after your bath and you can wear one of your new outfits tomorrow. We're going to do some more shopping for you then, but we also want you to look nice when you meet Grandpa Jake. He supposed to be coming home tomorrow night."
"You mean you're gonna buy me even more stuff?"
"Yes, because you're going to need it. You'll be starting school on Monday... by the way, what grade were you in at your old school?"
Benny made a face before he answered. "I was in fourth grade, but I'm 'posed to be in fifth."
"Was that because your mother didn't let you go to school for a while?"
"Yeah, I didn't go to kinnygarten until I was six."
"That's too bad, but it means you'll be attending the elementary school. That's where Joshie goes, and you'll be in the same grade too, maybe even in the same class."
Benny lit up after he heard what Brandon had said. "I hope so, cuz I'd like that."
"And don't be surprised if you discover our family is quite well known at the school, because we have a considerable reputation in the district. Your Grandpa Josh was once the middle school principal, and then he became the superintendent and was put in charge of all the schools until he retired. Your Uncle Dion teaches at the middle school, which is where you and Joshie will be going to next year, and Uncle Trey is a teacher at the high school, where Noah goes."
"I didn't know that."
"Well, you do now, so that should make it a lot easier for you."
"Yep, I think it will be fun. Ummm... can Joshie take a bath with me again later?"
"We can ask him if he wants to and check with his fathers to make sure it's alright with them. If they don't have a problem with it, then I don't either, but it means I'll be giving you a bath again."
"Yeah, that's ok. I'd never seen anyone nekkid before and it was fun doing it with Joshie. That's why I want to do it again."
"Yes, it's not unusual for someone your age to get a kick out of doing that and I'm sure Joshie enjoys doing it with you too."
When Brandon and Benny came downstairs, Trey announced dinner was ready. I think he'd been holding it until they were done because he didn't want to rush them. We all sat down at the table, and while Brandon was filling Benny's plate, Benny decided to get right to the point and not waste any time.
"Joshie, do you want to take a bath with me again later?"
"Is that ok with you, Dion and Trey?" Brandon asked, and they both replied by nodding in agreement.
"Can Benny sleep with me tonight?" Joshie followed, so Benny looked over at Brandon and me, eagerly awaiting our reply.
"Sure. It's not a school night, so I don't have a problem with it if your fathers don't." Once again Trey and Dion signaled it was fine with them and the two boys began whooping it up and celebrating in their seats.
"Ok, calm down and finish your meals or we might change our minds," I warned, which brought an instant end to their joyous antics, although they both continued to squirm in their seats.
After we finished eating, we let the boys watch TV in the family room while the rest of us talked. We explained to Dion and Trey that we planned to do some more shopping for Benny the next day and said we expected Joshie might want to tag along with us. They didn't have a problem if he wanted to join us, as long as we didn't mind, and we said we didn't.
"He might be able to show Benny the types of things the other kids wear, so he won't feel out of place at school," Brandon added, to show there was some reasoning behind our thinking.
Dion then told us he might not be home when we got back, because he'd agreed to pick Pop up at the Philadelphia airport when his plane landed. Since that was a long trip to make alone, we told him we'd take Wyatt with us too, so Trey could go with him. I wasn't sure if they might have planned on taking Wyatt with them too, but this way they wouldn't have to worry about Wyatt getting cranky on such a long trip. They thanked us for offering to do this for them, so it meant we'd pretty much cleared up all of the issues we needed to take care of.
When Brandon went into the living room to get Benny and Joshie for their bath, he was surprised to see Noah and Wyatt in there with them. They were all watching Nickelodeon, and even though it wasn't unusual for Wyatt to do that, we thought Noah had moved beyond Nickelodeon. Since Noah seemed to be enjoying himself, Brandon looked at him oddly and Noah must have felt the need to respond.
"I was only spending some time with them and we were talkin' during the commercials. I wasn't really watchin' the show, but it was kinda funny."
"It doesn't matter to us and Wyatt seems to like having you in here with them too." Brandon added that last bit because Wyatt was sitting on Noah's lap with his head resting against Noah's chest.
"Yeah, he likes me to hold him when he watches TV, since his fathers hardly ever come in here with him to watch these shows."
"That's really sweet of you," Brandon responded, which caused Noah to make a face.
Noah didn't say anything about the comment, so Brandon was slightly confused. He thought Noah would have been pleased by the compliment, but his facial expression told him otherwise. Brandon concluded that Noah was either reacting to the way he'd phrased it or possibly it was an attempt to keep Brandon from discovering he was flattered by what he'd said.
Brandon told me later that as soon as he got the younger pair upstairs they both began taking their clothes off faster than a bridegroom on his wedding night. Then, they stood checking each other out again until Brandon told them to hop in the tub. He let Benny wash himself this time and merely watched how he did on his own. He admitted that Benny did a fairly decent job and he'd only had to offer him a few suggestions about how he could have done better. Joshie washed himself at the same time and cleaned the exact same part of his body that Benny was washing at the time. Brandon claimed it was monkey see, monkey do the entire time they were in the tub.
Once they were both finished, Brandon dried them off and had them put on clean underwear. Once they were ready, he asked the next important question.
"So which room are you two planning to sleep in?"
"Let's sleep in my room," Benny suggested. "I like being in there and think it's really neat."
"So the animals on the wall don't scare you?" Joshie wondered.
"Nah, they're just paper, but it kinda s'prised me when I got up this mornin', cuz I forgot they were there." He giggled after admitting this.
Brandon then had both boys slide under the covers so he could tuck them in. He also kissed each one on the cheek and wished them goodnight. "I don't want you boys fooling around and staying up too late, especially if you want to do this again."
"K," they responded in unison, and then Brandon wished them sweet dreams and told them he loved them. When he came downstairs he was still smiling.
"They are so cute together," he announced. "I get such a kick out of watching them, because you can see they really enjoy being together. I have no doubt that they'll be lifelong BFFs."
"Good, that will make things easier for us," I agreed. "I think Joshie's been kind of lonely not having someone his own age around to do things with. Oh, I know he likes hanging around Wyatt and Noah too, but there's just such a large age difference that they really don't have a lot in common. Joshie adapts with each of them, but I think he's really happy that he finally has someone closer to his age around that he can truly relate to."
"I agree and was shocked when he asked me to give him a bath last night too. He's usually so independent."
"He might have thought it was the only way he could take a bath with Benny and see him naked."
"That's true, so maybe you're right. Still, I'm glad they have each other now."
Brandon and I stayed up for a couple more hours, and then we checked in on the boys before going to our room. The sight that greeted us was precious. They were lying on their sides facing each other with one arm draped over the other one's side.
"I've got to take a picture of this," I said as I grabbed my phone out of my pocket. "I want to show everyone else later, because it's just too cute for words." I then snapped a couple of photos to show the others.
After we got in bed and before we fell asleep, Brandon and I agreed on one thing. We were grateful that Frankie had called to tell us about Benny, because it appeared he was going to work out just fine. All of the concerns I'd harbored that he might be an angry, aggressive, or non-verbal kid due to the way he had been treated by his mother turned out not to be the case. He'd been hesitant at first, but Joshie quickly broke the ice for us and now Benny was truly part of the family. Problems still might arise in the future, but we'd handle them as they came up. No matter what happened, though, I didn't think we'd ever regret taking Benny in to live with us.