I fixed us the hot chocolate while Alex cut us a piece of the pie. I had mine plain, he had his loaded with ice cream.
"Alex, what is happening on the streets?"
"It has been a little quiet since the raid. I think the police have been watching more, and my men are out looking for boys. The police have been arresting the men who buy the boys favors. The courts have been levying heavy fines. That has cut down on some of the boys on the streets, but I have a feeling that they are continuing only off the streets in seedy hotels, for example."
"If the younger boys want bunk beds, I may have more room. I know you have been waiting for me to say that. Tomorrow we'll see what I can do."
He looked at me, "My dad is going to be so proud of you."
"You know I couldn't be able to do this without the help of my older boys. The worst case is I'd have to hire people to take care of them. Then I run the risk of having caregivers abuse them. It hurts every time I look at them, knowing what they had to go through. It's a good thing I'm not a bounty hunter, or the river would be full of non-swimmers."
"Yes, it's because we need you to do what you're doing. So how many more can you take?"
"I don't know. It'll depend on who wants a bunk bed. So right now, I have one. I might have to give up since Jon is sharing his room with Vasily."
"Is it okay if I check with Dad tomorrow?"
"Sure, you can use my office. It's a little more private."
I put our cups and plates into the dishwasher. "I'm going to turn in. Tomorrow will be a busy day. I want your input on the architect's drawing."
Sleep came fast. I had a visitor, no not Charlie but my first son. He smiled and leaned forward as to hug me. I reached out to him in my dream, placed my arms around him, and kissed him on the head. I kept saying, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I woke up when Alex shook me awake.
"I'm sorry to wake you, but you were yelling. I'm sorry. Charlie came and woke me."
I was wet from sweat. "I'm sorry, Alex, a bad nightmare or a twinge of my conscience. "
I got up and got dressed. The bedsheets would need to be washed. I went to the kitchen and got a cup of coffee, that seemed to help me. Alex came in dressed, "Want to talk about it?"
I looked at him, "No, come with me." I drove to the cemetery.
Sitting in front of his grave, I told Alex the story. I wasn't sure if I told him before or not, but I needed to say it again. Maybe hearing it might help but deep down, I knew I could never forgive myself.
"Carleton, you couldn't have predicted what happened. He has guided you, and look at all the lives you have saved. He has forgiven you, and now you need to forgive yourself."
I thought easier said than done. On the drive back, "I didn't even know his name. Those eyes conveyed so much when I offered to take him to lunch. He would have been my first. I was going to bring him home with me. And then…" I couldn't finish.
"Carleton, you need to forgive yourself. It wasn't your faulty, what could you have done, taken him by the hand to the bathroom. You believed that it would be safe, and normally, it would have been safe. That wasn't your fault. He has forgiven you, and look at all the good you have done in his name."
"I need to know who he was."
Driving back to the house, we arrived when the cabinetmaker arrived. I introduced myself and Alex as we entered the house together. I showed him the dining room and told him I needed a table that would seat at least 50. He measured the room, "If we remove that hutch, we could do it very easily."
"Good, let's do that. I have another project for you. I have single beds I bought for the bedrooms. I want to take two single beds and make bunk beds out of them. Can you do that?"
"Let me look at a bed, and I'll tell you my answer."
I showed him the bed we removed from the twins' room. He looked it over, "I would need to cut this down a little, then drill a hole with a metal connector. Then a similar hole for the top bed so that we could mount them. Yes, I could do that. Which do you want first?"
"The table first. I'll move the hutch today. As for the beds, I have only one right now. As soon as I get a second, we can try out your scheme."
He took measurements, "I'll bring a design which you can approve, then I'll start. If I can get the wood I need, I could have this done in 4 weeks."
"Good, let me know what type of wood you want, and I'll help you find it. Would you like a cup of coffee?"
Walking into the kitchen, we sat at the breakfast bar. Maria served us coffee, Charlie and Alexi came in. I picked them up, placed Charlie on my lap, and Alexi on Alex's lap. The cabinetmaker looked as the boys went into action. "How many boys live here?"
"I think about 30. Why?"
"Is this a boy's home or orphanage?"
"No, these boys are my sons." He looked at me as if I was crazy.
As the boys came into the kitchen, they said, "Hello Dad" and "Hello Uncle Alex," I guess as the boys kept coming in and saying hello, dad, he began to believe.
Breakfast, for me, is the most important meal of the day. Maria always sees that I get a good breakfast, and since she doesn't make individual breakfasts, everyone gets a good start for the day. My fellow guest also got a good breakfast. He said it was his second since he had a quick breakfast at home. I thought there must be something wrong with me. The way Alex eats and this young man, was way more than I could ever eat.
I went and got my bedclothes and headed for the basement to run them through the laundry.
I asked Peter to take the boys to the garden shop and get some trees. He made two trips to allow all of the boys to pick out their trees. The garden shop said they would come and plant them for the boys.
I reviewed the architect's plan for converting the schoolroom into guest bedrooms. He showed me some sketches of a two-room schoolhouse, I approve the sketch, and he said he would proceed with the final drawings. I told him about the swimming pool. He said he would give me a sketch.
"You know, with all of these boys, it'll be a rather large pool."
"That's ok, be sure to include some showers and lockers. If you can work it in, a laundry to wash and dry towels."
He just looked at me, "I wish I had known you when I was a young boy."
"No, you don't, you know where these boys came from, and I don't think you'd want to go through that."