The next morning I had a quick cup of coffee and headed off to the meeting. I came to the conclusion that there were a few late night meetings.
Progress was being made faster than I thought. Everyone was beginning to understand what my concerns were and they began to address them. At lunch, they had new
contracts ready for review. A quick glance showed they began to understand the possibilities of mix ups, all monetary numbers were in Euros.
For the next two days we spent on conflict resolution. I was pleased with the progresswe were making. I saw a few smiles as the least complicated agreements were completed. The men who were involved in these agreements came and told me they appreciated my input. “We’re leaving as we have completed our contracts. Thank you, we’re sure that having a non-interest person review our contracts has resulted in better contracts. We don’t want the headache trying to renegotiate a contract because of issues of clarity.”
I felt good about that. It’s always nice to be appreciated.
We continued to reach agreement and on the final night, I notified my pilots that I’d be ready to leave the next evening. I called Alex and told him I was rapping up and should be ready to leave tomorrow night. He said he would check with the pilots to know what time they were leaving.
I went to the pub, I saw they had fish and chips on Thursday night. Waking to the pub there was a young boy, “Could you spare a Euro, Gov.”
I chuckled to myself. “I’ll tell you what. If you accompany to dinner at that pub. I’ll buy and maybe have a Euro or two for you if you tell me your story.”
He agreed, I was now Gov to him. I ordered fish and chips for us and two glasses of cider. It was just him and his mum, she was taken to the hospital but wasn’t expected to live. “The doctors said she was worn out and had no more spirit. I never heard of anything like that Gov. Have you”
“Yes, people work so hard at hard jobs they don’t have the energy to continue. What did your mother do?”
“She scrubbed floors. She said that's all she was good for, that wasn’t true Gov, she was good at loving me.”
“What’s your name?”
“Harry, Gov. I was named after me dad.”
“Harry, how would you like to go and see your mom?” “Oh Gov that would be the tops.”
“Okay, do you haveplace to stay?”
“Gov, suppose I meet you there.”
“I got a better idea Harry. I noticed a clothing store open for another 30 minutes down the street, let’s go and I’ll buy you some new clothes so when your mom sees you, she’ll know you’re ok.” I pushed my plate over to him. He smiled as he finished my plate.
Ipaid and we went to the clothing store, it took him a while to find the cheapest clothes, I followed, he’d look, check the price and put them down, I picked them up. We got a couple of sets, pants, shirts, underwear, socks and I insisted he get a pair of shoes. I then insisted he come and stay with me at the hotel so he could get a shower and dressed to see his mom in the morning.
At first he was hesitant, but sometimes these boys see no chance and go with it. He was surprised when I stopped at the desk and asked them to send a rollaway bed to my room. I also told them that the young man would be staying the night as we had an early appointment in the morning.
He looked at me as we went to my room. “Harry, if you don’t mind I’ve had a very busy day today so I’m going to take a shower and go to bed. They are bringing a rollaway here for you to sleep on. If you want to take a shower you can and there is an extra tooth brush if you want to brush your teeth.
I went and took a shower, I heard the door bell ring, the rollaway arrived.
Bed that night was something else. I think my bones ached, actually it was more of a desire to get home.Morning came, I went and showered and dressed. I packed my suitcase, when I noticed the rollaway was empty. I looked for Harry and couldn’t find him. His old clothes were there and one set of the new clothes were there.
I couldn’t understand why he left. Somehow I didn’t read him correct or he must not have trusted me. The door open and there was Alex with a coffee for me.
Good morning sleepy head. That was when I looked at the clock it was 10:00 in the morning. Harry let me in, you were sleeping so we went for breakfast, I charge it to your room.
“Harry, I was scared when I didn’t see you this morning. I thought you left without going to see your mom.”
“It is okay Carleton, Harry knows about you and the boys. We called the hospital, his mom isn’t doing well so as soon as you are ready we can go.”
“I’m ready now. Coffee is all I need.”
We left, I stopped and arrange a late check out.
The ride to the hospital didn’t take long. Harry was nervous, I would be also. Arriving at the hospital, his mom was asleep in a ward that was for patients who weren’t able to pay for a private room. That was abut to change, I saw the administrator as Alex took Harry to see his mom.
The administrator said his mom was tired out and just about given up. I made arrangements to have her moved to a private room with a bed for Harry.
Sometimes I get a chill down my back. I met Alex as I left the administrators office. “What did you do?”
“Why, there was a flurry of activity in the ward?”
“I had her moved to a private room with an extra bed for Harry.”
He smiled, he had the new passports. “If you stay with Harry, I’m going to go back and check out of the hotel. I’ll call Jimmy and have him come and get my luggage. I’ll bring Harry’s clothes here.”
“I suggest you send Harry’s clothes to the plane.”
“Why his mom is here, he’ll certainly want to stay with his mom.”
“Sit here, she isn’t his mom, she’s his sister. She more or less raised him as her own. She looks like she is 50 but she is only 32. Hard work without proper care does that to you.”
“He’s still going to want to stay with her.”
“Doctors give her a week no more. She has cancer and had it for some time. He’s going to need you.”
“I can’t leave him to deal with this alone. He thinks she’s his mom regardless if it’s his sister or not.”
“You won’t have to leave him.”
“He won’t want to come with me if she is still alive, Alex. It wouldn’t be fair and I couldn’t force him to leave.”
“Let’s go and see him and her.” I had tears in my eyes, there was no way I’d leave him to deal with this.
Walking into the room, Harry came over and gave me a hug. “They said you arranged for Mum to have a private room. I don’t know why you did that but we thank you, Mum and I.”
I watched Harry go over to her bed and take her hand into his. “You’re going to be okay now Mum. Gov said he’s taking care of you. You’re in a private room, really fancy Mum, flowers and everything. Now you need to get better and don’t worry about working, Alex a friend of Gov’s said he has a position for me.”
It was like that was what she wanted to hear, Harry was going to be taken care of.
Harry was holding her hand, she squeezed it, gave out a sigh and then no more. The staff came running in, “I’m sorry son, but your mom is gone.”
Harry started to cry, hugging his Mum. Alex looked at me, I went and pulled him into my arms. “Harry, she is in a better place now. No more pain, God has her.”
The administrator came, Alex went and talked to him, I held Harry. He looked at me, “What’s going to happen now Gov?”
“I don’t know, Alex will handle everything.”
“Why did she die, she was just tired.”
“No Harry, she was very sick. Your mom had cancer. That is why she died. I think between the pain and knowing you’d be taken care of, she just finally gave up. That was the only thing keeping her alive, I’m sure she prayed for someone to find you and help you so she could give up the pain she was suffering, She’s at peace and I know she’s here” I pointed to his heart, “She’ll always be there.”
He just cried, I picked him up and sat him on my lap while he cried. Alex came back, he nodded with his head in a direction for me to follow. I picked him up and followed him. He led us to a chapel. Whispering, “I’ve made all of the arrangements.”
I stayed in the chapel with Harry, “Lord, why do little children suffer so?” I didn’t expect and answer and of course I didn’t get one. Sometimes life is very cruel and it seems cruelest to children.
Alex came back, “Everything is aboard the plane. I took care of the hotel bill and the luggage.”
“What about the service for his mom, and things from his home?”
“His mom will be interred this afternoon, there were be a service of interment this afternoon at 3. I sent some of my people to his apartment, everything is on the plane except the furniture. The apartment was rented furnished. He can go through the things at your place.”
“Harry, Harry wake up son, are you a little hungry?
“No Gov, thanks. What’s going to happen to Mum, Gov.”
“They are going to have a church service for her this afternoon at 3. Then you’ll go with me to my home in the States and live with my sons and me. You’ll be one of my sons.”
“Harry, do you remember the picture I took of you this morning? That was for your passport that Gov has.”
Oh, now I’ll be getting Gov all of the time.
This was hard on me; I could imagine what was going through Harry’s mind. It seems each child I find and help leaves something in me.
The service at 3 was rough on Harry. He looked at his mother one last time. Her face showed she was at peace. After the service, I took Harry to a stonecutter. We picked out a headstone. Harry gave him instructions as to what to carve on it. Alex said he’d follow up on it.
“Harry, when it’s done, and in place, we’ll come back. That I promise you.”
Alex looked at his watch. I called Jimmy and told him to go and get several fish and chips for the plane. We should be there shortly.
Alex made a few phone calls, “If it’s okay, could you drop me off.”
“Sure, where do you want to be dropped?”
“I would like to be dropped off in Brussels. I need to make a report.”
Harry was surprised to see the plane and particularly when the pilot came and welcomed him on board.
We had to wait till Jimmy came back with the fish and chips. Harry looked around the plane, “The bathroom is at the back of the plane, in case you need it. When Jimmy comes back, we’ll be ready to leave.”
“Tony, do we have a take-off time?”
“Yes, sir, we have one hour to wait before take-off. We will fly to Brussels and then straight home.”
I saw Jimmy running with a bag before anyone else. I was getting hungry. All I had was the coffee from this morning. Jimmy got on board, stowed the sandwiches, and started the coffee. He closed the door, went through his spiel, and served coffee and hot chocolate.
“Mr. Jeffries, I thought I’d serve the fish and chips after we were in the air.”
“That would be perfect, Jimmy.”
I saw the seat light sign come on, “Mr. Jeffries, we have a window.”
I knew what that was all about. We were already strapped in, so off we went.
As soon as we were at altitude, Tony said that our flight time would be 1 1/2 hours. Love these small jets.
As soon as we got to altitude, Jimmy served the fish and chips, “Jimmy, sit here and join us.”
I watched Harry eat, at first he was a little picky, and then I think hunger set in, and he went at it. I was hungry, and I didn’t share. However, since I was sitting across from Alex, I had to watch the chips. He kept snitching them. Harry laughed when he did it. That was ok. As long as Harry laughs, he could snitch.
Jimmy cleaned up, refilled our coffee and hot chocolate, then sat down. We hit a little turbulence during the approach, but our cups were empty.
“Jimmy, ask Ronnie how long we’ll be here.”
“He said we have an hour.”
I said goodbye to Alex, we shook hands, and he left.
I sat back down at the table, ask Jimmy to put on a movie, and looked over Harry’s passport. Another son, Harry Charles Jeffries, “Harry, have you seen your passport?”
“No Gov, Alex took care of everything.”
I showed him the passport. He looked at it, looked at the name, “That isn’t my name Gov. My last name is Blatcher.”
“That was before you were adopted.”
“Adopted by who Gov?”
I showed him my passport. He looked at my name. “Gov, your last name is the same as mine.”
“No, Harry, your last name is now the same as mine.”
Then it dawned on him. “That means you’re my new dad.”
“That’s right, so welcome, son.”
He seems to drift off for a moment staring at something, then he smiled. “Thanks Dad, mum said everything would be all right.”
I thought strange things happen until I heard footsteps. “Alex, I thought you left.”
“I did. I had a few packages to pick up.” Alex was followed by two boys, one I’d guess was 10 or 11, and the other looked to be 13.”
“Jimmy, there are two suitcases, could you please take care of them. Carleton, our friends, are more than grateful for you stopping here.” Saying that, he handed me two more portfolios.
I looked at the boys, “Well boys, welcome aboard. I think you’re going to enjoy the adventure you’re about to take. This is Harry, and you are?”
The oldest one spoke first, “I’m Paul. Alex said, you were going to be our dad.”
“That’s correct.” I looked at Alex. He nodded that meant the passports had my last name.
“And what’s your name?”
“I’m Nicholas. My friends call me Nick.”
Well, boys, I’m glad you’re all here. I think you’re going to fit in just great with your brothers.”
Then it hit me, where are these boys going to sleep. The new rooms aren’t ready yet. I must have had a panic look. Alex laughed. “I called Maria, and she said to tell you everything is under control.”
“You think this is funny, don’t you?”
“Yes, the way you look when you panic. The arrangements will be only for a couple of weeks. I think your architect has every carpenter and construction company on the project. You’ll be surprised by the time you get home.”
“I hope you’re right.”
I noticed a food truck pulled up. Jimmy went out and brought in several trays. He gave me the bill to sign. Alex took it and left with it. Jimmy watched, nodded, and pulled up the stairs, with the door shut, theoretically we were ready for take-off.
Jimmy went through the safety spiel, made sure everyone had their seat belts on and secured. The boys kept looking out of the window.
I started to read what Alex left me. I heard the engines rev up; seat belt signs were still on. Jimmy checked one last time, then sat down.
The plane started to move. I watched the boys. There was fear, there was excitement, and there were smiles. The plane lifted off, and soon we were at altitude over land. I knew over the ocean we would climb higher and drop down as we approached the US.
I asked the boys if they were hungry. Harry said no, but Paul and Nick said yes. “Jimmy, do we have any food for these young men?”
Jimmy smiled. He placed some fish and chips on plates and handed them to Nick and Paul. He asked Harry if he wants any, he said no but would like a hot chocolate.
I watched the boys eat. They were smiling. Jimmy dropped the screen and started a movie. I laid back in my seat and closed my eyes for a nap. I wasn’t sure what I would find at home.
Jimmy woke me, “Mr. Jeffries, I have dinner ready.”
I sat up and noticed that the boys were still awake. “Jimmy, serve them first. Make sure they get enough.”
I don’t know how they do it, but Jimmy had steak, baked potatoes, and a small salad. He sat a plate in front of each boy and then brought me a plate; I only asked for a salad.
I didn’t feel like eating. I still hadn’t resolved in my mind how the boys were going to sleep.
The boys seemed to enjoy the food. My salad was good, fresh, crisp lettuce with an abundance of fresh vegetables. The dressing was light oil and vinegar.
Jimmy went and asked the boys if they wanted any more, they didn’t. “Jimmy, make plates for Tony and Ronnie and yourself. Then we can have dessert.” That’s what he did.
The boys were sitting at the table with me, “How was the food?”
“It was good.” They all nodded.
“Is this your first plane ride?” They nodded. And that was the way it went until dessert was served. I asked questions, general questions, they would answer either individually or nod.
Jimmy prepared large banana splits for them with various fruits. Besides bananas, he piled on the whipped cream. On top was the cherry. “Jimmy, just some fruit for me and coffee.”
I always enjoy seeing young people eat something they like. They are like connoisseurs of desserts. If they don’t like something, you’ll know it in a hurry.
I finished my dessert and coffee, tilted back the seat a little, and closed my eyes for a nap. I felt someone cuddling on my left side. I looked, it was Harry. I put my arm around him and pulled him closer. The other two boys went and took a seat so they could watch a movie. I don’t know what Alex told them about Harry, but they didn’t mind that Harry was cuddling with me.
I must have drifted off when Jimmy said we were an hour out from landing. The boys were asleep. “Jimmy let them sleep. I’ll have a coffee. What did you stock for breakfast?”
“I have egg croissants. I could wrap up a few to take with you.”
“That would be good. If they wake and we have time, you can give them one. I know Maria will have food ready for them as well.”