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    Dodger
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Contains mature content

The Cockney Canuck - 156. Chapter 156 The Scarlet Pimpernel

“You're gonna have a son. Congratulations!” Nicola slapped me hard between my shoulder blades as she circled the kitchen and threw her bag down on the seat next to mine. I had just taken a bite of a sandwich and nearly choked before looking at Sue for an explanation. She removed her coat and sat down opposite, looking less enthusiastic than her daughter.

“Stephanie had her scan today, dear. She’s having a boy.”

“A healthy boy too,” added my sister as she rummaged in her bag.

It was Wednesday afternoon, and I had just made myself a snack after school when Nicola and Sue arrived home and wrecked my day. I glared at my excited sister, but I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to react to her news, so I continued chewing, giving myself as much time as possible before responding.

I was pleased to hear Stephanie’s baby was healthy, but the sex wasn’t important to me, and I would have preferred not to know. All it did was make it more real. Assigning a gender made it human and gave it an identity it didn’t have previously.

There was worse to come, and I was shocked when I picked up the black and white picture that Nicola dropped onto the table. The thing in the grainy image had arms and legs and a big head. I wasn’t expecting it to look like a baby at such an early stage. Just a few weeks ago, I would have been happy to see it terminated, and the thought suddenly made me feel sick.

“How do they know it’s a boy?”

“How do you think, dummy?” Nicola laughed as she sat down next to me and snatched the photograph from my hand. “They couldn’t see anything at first, so he must take after you.”

I ignored her sarcasm and took another bite of my sandwich.

“It’s amazing how developed they are even at eighteen weeks,” said Sue.

“Well, this is yours,” said Nicola passing the image back across the table. “Stephanie wanted you to have it.”

I stared at the photograph but left it on the table as I pushed back my chair and stood up.

“Why? I don’t get it. What’s the point in even showing me this? It’s not like I have a say in anything that happens. I didn’t even know she was having a scan today.”

“Would you have gone if you had known?”

“No, of course not!”

“Well then. Stephanie was only trying to be nice. She thought you might want to keep it.” My sister tried to hand me the photograph, but I refused to take it from her. “You are such a jerk.”

Sue wasn’t impressed. “Nicola, please. You're not being fair to him.”

My sister folded her arms on the table and shook her head. “He’s the one who’s not being fair. Stephanie’s not asking him for anything. No money, no help, nothing at all. He’s totally off the hook, and he’s still complaining.” She turned her head towards me. “She’s always asking about you. Worried about how it’s affecting you, but you’ve never once asked me how she is or shown any interest.”

“It doesn’t mean I don’t care. I’ve had other things on my mind, that’s all. How is she, anyway?”

My sister huffed and turned away. “Ask her yourself!”

Sue knocked on the table with her knuckles to stop our bickering. “Okay, that’s enough. Talk nicely to each other or not at all.” She looked up at me and smiled. “Sit down, please. We need to talk.”

I grumbled and took a seat at the other end of the table, as far away as possible from Nicola, who rolled her eyes at me. “What is it? I need to call Nathan.”

“Don’t you mean Conner,” sneered Nicola? “Sooner or later, Dad’s gonna find out you’re lying to him. Then you’ll be in trouble.”

“Only if you tell him!”

Sue stood up and stared us both down. She was still wearing her nurse’s uniform, which always made her look more formidable. I sat back in the chair and looked at the ceiling while waiting for her to continue.

“I know it’s difficult for you, dear because you don’t know what’s expected of you. The problem is, I don’t think Stephanie knows either. The poor girl’s confused and very emotional.”

Feeling guilty, I sat up straight and looked Sue in the eye. “She was like that the last time we spoke. But I haven’t seen her in school for ages.”

“She hasn’t been going because she’s worried about how she looks,” said Nicola. “It’s getting difficult to hide it, and everyone’s trying to tell her what to do. Even that stupid preacher’s been getting involved.”

That got my attention. “You mean the pastor?”

“Yes, the one from dad’s church.”

The pastor promised me he would try to persuade Stephanie to put the baby up for adoption. Now I felt guilty for adding to her problems.

“What did he say to her?”

“How do I know? He keeps showing up at their house. That man gives me the creeps.”

“I think he means well,” said Sue.

After what Matthew told me, I wasn’t so sure, and I no longer liked the idea of him talking to Stephanie. He wasn’t the type to take no for an answer, and it sounded like he was harassing her.

“He seems to think that you and Daniel are going sailing with him,” said Nicola.

“I’m not sure yet. I said I’d let him know.”

“Are you crazy? Why would you want to get on a boat with a bunch of religious freaks? They’re weird.”

“They take kids out for day trips to teach them sailing. What’s wrong with that?”

“Yeah, church kids like Matthew,” smirked Nicola. “I thought you didn’t like him.”

“Leave him alone,” said Sue. “If Robbie wants to go, that’s up to him.” Nicola sneered and looked at me as if I was crazy, and for once, I agreed with her. I half expected Sue to tell me I couldn’t go and wouldn’t have been disappointed. “Just make sure you listen to the instructor and don’t fool around. I trust you to behave.”

“Ha,” said Nicola. “Why would he do that?”

I ignored my sister as Sue dragged the photograph across the table and put it in front of me. “It probably wasn’t a good idea to give you this, but Stephanie insisted. She thought you might want to see it. She means well.”

“Was you there too?”

“Yes, dear and Stephanie’s mom.”

“And me,” said Nicola. “I was there on your behalf.”

I stared at my sister. I wondered why she wasn’t on the school bus, but I didn’t particularly want to be represented at Stephanie’s scan. I did care about her, though. It was impossible not to care. She had my baby inside her, and there was a photograph of it on the kitchen table.

“So, what is it you want me to do?”

“She wants to talk to you, dear.”

“I’ve tried calling her, but she doesn’t pick up.”

“It would be better if you went to see her,” said Nicola. “She wants to talk to you in person.”

I wasn’t so sure. “But she was ignoring me in school.”

“Only because she didn’t want people gossiping.”

“It’s too late for that. Everyone who cares already knows, but to be honest, most people don’t care. I think she’s embarrassed by me, but she won’t admit it.”

“Why would she be embarrassed?” said Sue.

Nicola threw her a look as if it were obvious.

“Because I’m Nicola’s brother, I’m gay and younger than her. I’m not cool or popular enough, and I don’t play tough sports like hockey or football. Do you want me to go on?”

Nicola laughed. “No, that pretty much sums it up. But she still likes you even if you don’t tick any of her boxes. Just not enough to want to be seen in public with you, that’s all.”

It was times like these that I was glad I didn’t grow up with Nicola.

“Well, I’m not going into the girl’s washrooms anymore if that’s what you’re suggesting.”

Sue looked confused and was about to ask when Nicola held up her hand and nipped it in the bud. “I’ll explain later, Mom.” Then she turned to me. “No, I don’t mean at the school. At her house.”

“No way! Why can’t she come here?”

“It would be better if you went to see her, don’t you think?”

“No! What about her family?”

“Don’t worry; her dad’s not gonna beat you up and force you to marry her. They know you’re gay; I’ve told them everything about you. They’re nice people, and you're gonna have to meet them someday.”

“Why?”

“Because.”

“Maybe I don’t wanna meet them.”

“Then don’t! I thought you said you cared.”

“I can still care without having to meet her parents, can’t I?” I looked at Sue for help, but it wasn’t forthcoming, so I reluctantly agreed to visit Stephanie at her house, providing Nicola came with me, and it wasn’t a surprise.

*     *     *

For the members of the Cobourg Yaught Club, the second weekend in April was the most important date on the calendar. That’s when the boats were put into the marina marking the end of several weeks of frantic preparation and the official start of the summer sailing season.

I watched from the pierhead with Daniel as Elizabeth’s Legacy was hoisted into the air and lowered into the water by a giant crane that spewed black smoke into an otherwise clear blue sky. It was Saturday afternoon, and our boat was the second from last to be floated and moored at number thirteen on the jetty.

I wasn’t usually superstitious, but, in this case, I was prepared to make an exception. There was a lot that could go wrong, and I had a bad feeling. A young crew with no previous sailing experience, in a larger than necessary sailboat, on a seven thousand square mile lake that looked like an ocean. It had disaster movie written all over it. All we needed was an evil, psychotic captain with a hidden agenda and right on cue, I could hear Don’s bellowing laughter competing with the din of the crane. He was standing by the harbour wall talking to the chief of police, the mayor, the pastor and a couple of prominent businessmen. They were the self-appointed local dignitaries and bastions of the town, who Sue often referred to as the Cobourg mafia.

My brother seemed oblivious to the possible dangers ahead and was in a playful mood as we waited for the last boat to be put into the water. When they were finished using the crane, the marina would be opened to the public, and the owners would finally be able to access their expensive toys.

“I’m gonna be the first one on the boat,” he said, trying to goad me into a race.

“You’re not gonna be able to sail it today.”

“I know that, dumbass! Dad’s invited people over to christen the boat.” He tried to hit me, but I deflected his feeble punch and pushed him aside. I didn’t have the energy to compete with my hyperactive brother, and he was soon invading my space again, prodding me and jostling for elbow room on the metal railing. You get to know a person well when you share a bedroom with them, and I could normally read Daniel like a book, but I had never seen him as excited as this before.

Like his dad, he had bought into the sailing idea in a big way, and when the marina opened, he beat me in a race to the boat. He was standing proudly at the helm when I climbed aboard and wrestled him for control of the wheel.

“No fighting on the boat, boys. Or one of you will end up going overboard.”

Don was in good spirits, but our boyish antics were less of a problem than his significant weight, which caused the boat to rock violently as he stumbled onto the deck. It felt like we would capsize, and he struggled to remain on his feet before falling over and taking Daniel with him. They both ended up on the floor, and I laughed so much I nearly joined them. Sailing wasn’t going to be as easy as everyone seemed to think.

Don’s cheerful mood vanished along with his dignity as he tried to stand up and fell again after slipping on the wet deck. He was seething as he glared at me with a look of pure hatred, but despite being on a boat with a lunatic who looked like he was shaping up to kill me, I still couldn’t stop laughing.

I wasn’t the only one who found it funny, but Don was far more forgiving towards the pastor, who arrived with his wife and son just in time to witness the slapstick. The pastor looked rather sporty, dressed in white with a V-neck sweater and wide-brimmed hat that made him look more like a cricket umpire than a servant of God.

“Having trouble finding your sea legs, Don.”

“He’s carrying too much ballast,” I said before jumping back onto the jetty to stand next to Matthew. I was pushing my luck, but the pastor thought it was funny, and when he laughed, Don had to laugh too, albeit through gritted teeth and a heavily-contrived smile.

Even Matthew allowed himself a brief chuckle at Don’s expense before acknowledging me with a discreet nod. I was hoping he would be there. All I had to do now was figure out a way to get him on his own and persuade him to talk to Jo about Symmonds, although I wasn’t optimistic about my chances.

“You’ve got a bit of a comedian here, Don,” said the pastor patting me on the shoulder.

“Oh, he has me in stitches, pastor.”

I sniggered at Don’s sarcasm. He hated people laughing at him, especially if it was me, but knowing how much it annoyed him only encouraged me to push him further.

The pastor winked at me. “A sense of humour is a worthy attribute, young man.”

“You have to have one in this family.”

Don ignored my comment and threw me his car keys. “Why don’t you make yourself useful and get the beer from the car.” My eyes lit up, and Don must have read my mind. “Maybe you should go with him, Daniel. Just in case he gets lost.”

‘Cheeky fucker!’

My brother groaned. “He can manage on his own.”

I had a better idea. “It’s okay; Matthew can help me.” I smiled at the pastor’s son and tapped him on the arm as I walked past him.

Matthew looked to his dad, but the pastor had no reason to object to such an innocent request and waved him away.

His mom was less enthusiastic. “Come straight back, Matthew.”

‘Does she think I’m gonna run off with him?’

I glared at her as I waited for her son to catch up. “Your mom thinks I’m gonna kidnap you.”

“They don’t like me talking to people outside the faith, that’s all.”

“And I thought it was just me.”

He smiled at my comment but kept his thoughts to himself. It was an improvement from the frightened boy I spoke to a few weeks earlier. He seemed more relaxed and not so wary of me, but getting him to talk was always a problem, and I didn’t have much time. I figured it would take us about twenty minutes to walk to the yacht club and back carrying a twenty-four pack of beer, so I needed to work quickly if I was going to make any progress.

“Your dad talks to me.”

“He thinks he can save you. That’s his job.”

“Maybe I don’t wanna be saved.”

He shrugged his shoulders and then left me to say hello to a family sitting on the deck of a gleaming white sailboat much bigger and newer than ours. The dad was a friend of Don, and his kids all seemed to know Matthew, so I assumed they were from his church.

Before we reached the dock, he spotted someone else he knew. A boy jumped from a lavish motor cruiser and called after him. I waited by the entrance to the marina while Matthew went back to talk to his friend.

The harbour was filled with boats of every size and description, and a hive of activity as their owners and families prepared them for seven months of sailing. Some would race, others would be used for fishing, scuba diving, or trips across the lake to the States, but the common theme was fun.

Matthew looked almost like an ordinary boy for a while as he chatted and joked with his friend, and I felt bad for interrupting them. The boy glared at me when I shouted from the harbour wall, but Don was waiting for his beer, and Matthew’s mom would have gone ballistic if I had gone back without him. He was back in his shell when he caught up to me at the harbour front.

“Who was that?”

“A friend. I’m allowed to have friends, you know.”

“Does he go to your church?”

“Yes.”

“Are you allowed to have friends who aren’t in your religion?”

“I don’t want friends who don’t go to church. Most of them are sinners.”

“Like me, you mean?” I stared at him as we rounded the gate to the yacht club, but he wouldn’t look at me. “Maybe your dad will be able to save me; then we can be friends.”

“I doubt it.”

“Don’t you wanna be my friend?”

“It doesn’t matter; my dad won’t be able to save you.”

He seemed pretty sure about that, so maybe he knew me better than I thought, but I had no intention of joining his cult.

“Did he save you?”

“I don’t need saving.”

“Then why were you seeing Mr Symmonds.” Matthew seemed to tense up when I mentioned that name, but he must have expected it after our last conversation. I stopped at Don’s car and waited for him to answer. “I wanna help you, Matthew.”

“I don’t need your help. You’ll just get me in trouble.”

“With who? Mr Symmonds? Why are you so scared of him?”

“You know why and you promised not to say anything.”

“I swear I haven’t said a word to anyone, but I know someone who can stop it. Someone you can trust who’s not connected with the town or your church.”

“Why, you don’t even know me? I’m not your friend. Just forget what I told you; it’s none of your business.”

“It is if Symmonds comes after me. I can’t stop him on my own, but you can.”

“How? If it was that easy, don’t you think I would have done it by now?”

“You have to trust me.”

He shook his head. “I can’t.”

“Then he’s just gonna keep getting away with it. If it’s not you, it’ll be someone else. The person I know will protect you and make sure Symmonds gets what he deserves. I can arrange for you to meet her, and no one will know.”

“You don’t get it. If Symmonds goes away, someone else will take his place and someone after that. I can’t fight the whole religion.”

“You can always leave.”

“It’s easy for you to say. I’m only fifteen; I can’t leave, and if I did, I would lose my family, friends, everyone I know. The pastor’s my dad. Think about it.”

“Like your friend back there, you mean?”

Matthew looked surprised and stared at me. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Nothing, I agree. It looks like you two are really good friends. I know what it’s like to have to leave someone you care about.”

Matthew shook his head as he realised what I was implying. “I told you before; I’m not gay. It’s wrong to like other boys in that way. It’s a sin.” It could have been his father talking, but at least the pastor said it with feeling like he genuinely believed it. Matthew sounded like he was reading from a prompt, and I was sure he was lying.

“I don’t believe you.”

“I don’t have to answer your questions. I shouldn’t even be talking to you. I don’t know who you think you are, but you can’t do this. You have to leave me alone, or they’ll find out. I’m okay. I don’t need your help.”

He was looking increasingly agitated, and I was ready to give up. It felt like I was hitting my head against a brick wall.

“Fine! I’ll leave you alone and go back to ignoring you. I can’t believe I was fucking stupid enough to even fucking care. I lost sleep thinking of ways I could help you when I should’ve been like everyone else and not given a toss.” I grabbed the case of beer from the car and pushed it into Matthew’s chest, almost knocking him over. Then slammed the hatch shut, making him flinch. “You can carry those!”

I walked ahead of him, fuming at my stupidity and listening to the constant clinking of bottles as Matthew struggled to keep up. By the time we reached the marina, my anger had subsided enough to feel sorry for him.

“Do you want me to carry them for a while?”

“I can manage,” he said, and I giggled as he soldiered on, nearly tripping on the ramp.

“If you drop them, Don will probably throw you in the lake.”

“I won’t drop them!” he said abruptly. “And I think if he’s going to throw anyone into the lake, it’ll be you.”

“You know what; I think you could be right.”

I waited until we were two boats away from Don’s before stopping Matthew and reaching into my pocket.

“What is it now?”

“Put the beer down for a second. I wanna give you something.”

He rested the beer on the jetty and rubbed his arms before taking a business card from me. “What’s this?”

“It’s a number you can call when you finally decide to stick up for yourself. Just tell her who you are, and she’ll be able to help.”

“You don’t give up, do you?”

“I’ve tried to help you, Matthew. But I can’t force you, and as much as I want to tell someone, I won’t if it puts you in danger. You can call me if you change your mind.”

As he studied the card and put it in his pocket, I picked up the case of beer and carried it the final hundred yards to the boat, leaving the kid gobsmacked.

After delivering his beer, I was back in Don’s good books. “Well done. Looks like you are good for something, after all.”

“Thanks, it wasn’t easy,” I puffed.

The pastor patted me on the back. “The Lord rewards hard work, Robbie.”

“But he only carried them from there!” Matthew tried to push past me, but his complaints fell on deaf ears as Sue arrived with Amy, Nicola, Mr Lube, and a couple of bottles of wine.

I grabbed the kid by his collar and yanked him back. “No one likes a snitch, Matthew.”

“You need to make up your mind,” he said and left to join Daniel below deck.

Mr Lube was impressed. “This is nice, but you do realise it’s bad luck to rename a boat.” I looked at Nicola, and we shook our heads in unison. “You didn’t know? I thought everyone knew that. You have to perform a special ritual first to appease the Gods. Your old man didn’t do it, did he?”

“I don’t think so,” I said.

Nicola laughed. “That’s bullshit.”

“You can ask anyone,” said Mr Lube as he removed his baseball cap and scratched his head. “Wild horses wouldn’t get me on this boat.”

Nicola’s boyfriend wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, but on this occasion, according to the internet, he was right. The bad feeling I had about the boat suddenly got a lot worse.

*     *     *

On Monday evening, I sat clinging to the back seat of the car while Nicola drove the short distance to Stephanie’s house. Don was in Toronto, and Sue must have taken leave of her senses by allowing her daughter to drive.

“How else is she supposed to learn?” said Sue.

“Anytime I’m not a passenger,” I said, jumping from the car and avoiding Nicola’s left hook. “Wow, that’s a nice house.”

It was set back from the road and partially hidden by a huge pine tree in the middle of a lawn big enough for a game of football. There were three cars ahead of us on the double driveway and a light on in every window, squashing any hope I had of Stephanie being there on her own.

Daniel was watching Amy, so Sue had to go home, leaving me at the mercy of my older sister, who enjoyed making me nervous. I followed her along a gravel path towards the open door where Stephanie was waiting.

That’s when I saw it for the first time. A very noticeable bump where her stomach used to be. She must have seen me staring at it as she kissed me on the cheek and took my jacket, but it was impossible not to look.

“You’ve never been to my house before, have you?”

It was a stupid question.

‘Of course not. Why would I?’

‘No,” I said. “It’s big, isn’t it?” I was staring at her bump and felt the need to clarify. “I mean the house. It’s a big house.”

Nicola covered her mouth and smirked. “You dork.”

“Thanks for coming,” said Stephanie before turning to my sister. “Did you have to force him?”

“No,” I said quickly before Nicola could say anything derogatory. “She said you wanted to talk to me.”

“I know, but I didn’t expect you to actually show up. My parents are here, but it’s not a problem.”

I wanted to turn around and walk out again, and perhaps Nicola was able to read my mind. She stood behind me to cut off my route to the door, then prodded me in the back and pointed to my shoes.

“I know.” I slipped them off and braced myself when I noticed Stephanie’s brother, David, coming down the stairs. We hadn’t talked since his sister broke the news to him, and I was relieved to see him smile and looking more relaxed than he was in school.

“Hey Robbie, what’s up?”

‘Not much. I got your sister pregnant, didn’t you know.’

“Hi, David. Nice house.”

“It’s okay. I’ll show you my room later,” he said. “When you’ve finished talking or whatever it is, you have to do.” I wasn’t sure why I was there either, but I was happy to have David back as a friend, even though he seemed to be taking prompts from his sister. I noticed them exchanging glances, and he nodded at her before putting a hand on my shoulder. “Look, Robbie, I’m sorry I’ve been ignoring you in school. I didn’t know what to say to you. We’re still friends, though, right?”

“Sure, I understand.” I smiled and tapped him on the arm as Stephanie watched, seemingly satisfied with her brother’s apology. It sounded very stage-managed, and I could tell he was still uncomfortable with the whole thing, but it was a step in the right direction.

I was more concerned about his parents. I saw them staring at me curiously from the living room, perhaps wondering why on earth their daughter would want to sleep with me. I doubt Stephanie could have answered that question either as she tugged on my arm.

“My parents want to meet you.”

“They do?” I looked beyond her to Nicola, who glared at me and moved her eyes in the direction of the living room.

“It’s okay; they’re not going to interrogate you,” said Stephanie, but she looked nervous as she led me into a spacious room with a log fire and big red leather armchairs. “This is Robbie.”

Her father stood up to meet me in the middle of the room with a firm handshake and a pleasant smile, but her mother remained on the sofa, occasionally glancing over as her husband attempted to defuse a very awkward moment with an injection of misplaced humour.

“You must be the Scarlet Pimpernel,” he chuckled, but I didn’t get the joke.

“No, I’m Robbie.”

“I know. The Scarlet Pimpernel was a fictional Englishman who rescued French aristocrats from the guillotine.” I gave him a blank look. “I take it you never read the book or watched the movie?”

“No.”

Stephanie wasn’t happy. “Dad, please.”

“Sorry. But you are English; I know that much. Don told me about you. I handle all his legal work—contracts and stuff for his agency; it’s very boring.”

“So are you, Dad.” Stephanie sidestepped her balding father and led me across the room to meet her mother, who had the same dark-brown shoulder-length hair and matching eyes. It was easy to see where Stephanie and David got their looks, but their height came from their dad. When she stood up to say hello, her daughter was a good six inches taller.

She asked me about my accident at the school the previous year, and her husband wanted to know about Don’s boat, but surprisingly there was no mention of Stephanie’s pregnancy. I didn’t want to talk about it either, but it was the only reason I was there. I wondered if she had even told them, but when I looked at their daughter, the bump brought me back to my senses; it seemed to be getting bigger by the minute.

After a meaningless chat that solved nothing, Stephanie’s parents left to go upstairs, sparing us any further discomfort. They weren’t rude, but when it came to their daughter’s pregnancy, I could only assume from their deliberate silence that they weren’t interested in my opinion. It wasn’t a surprise. I never expected or wanted to have a say in the matter.

Stephanie let out a deep breath and pointed to the sofa. “My parents are weird, I know, but they needed to meet you. It’s okay; you won’t have to see them again.”

“But they didn’t even mention, you know ….”

She sat down next to me. “You mean the baby? You can say the word, Robbie. You're not gonna upset me. I thought you’d be happy that they didn’t mention it. It’s not like you need to do anything. They know what happened. I told them everything. No one’s blaming you, at least not in this family, and no one’s expecting you to be involved in the future.”

“Is that what you want?”

“I can’t see any other way it can work. Your dad, sorry, Don, is having trouble understanding. He seems to think that we’re romantically attached in some way.”

“Don’t listen to him. He’s got ulterior motives. If he had his way, we would be getting married. But he’s not thinking about you, and he doesn’t care about what’s best for the baby. He just doesn’t want me to be gay because it embarrasses him.”

“That’s what I told my family. They know that now but at first, they were confused. He really didn’t help matters. I can see why you don’t get along with him. Just don’t repeat what I said to Nicola.”

I smiled. “Of course not. I’m glad he didn’t fool you.”

“No, I wasn’t fooled. I’m pretty certain you’re gay, Robbie. You weren’t exactly umm. I’m not sure how to say this without hurting your feelings, but ….”

“I know, I was a disaster in bed, you told me before.”

“Not a disaster, but I could tell you weren’t really into it,” she whispered and looked around the empty room to be sure we were alone.

“It wasn’t because I didn’t fancy you. Well, it was, but only because you’re a girl. It would have been different if you were a guy.”

“Like my brother, you mean?” She winked at me.

“Yeah,” I said dreamily before shaking my head. “No! I should never have told you that.”

“It’s okay; I won’t tell him or say to anyone that you were crap at sex or any of the other stuff I have on you. How’s Nathan, by the way?” She joined her thumb and forefinger to form a wanking sign and giggled as I turned red. “Yeah, you’re definitely gay. That’s why I don’t expect anything from you. It was my fault.”

“You didn’t force me.”

“It doesn’t matter now. The point is, no one’s expecting you to be a father. This is why I need to talk to you. You won’t have to see him or be involved in any way. I won’t even bring him to your house. When I meet the right guy and settle down, he’ll be the kid’s father, not you. I don’t want to live in Cobourg forever, so it’s not like you’ll bump into us, and I won’t tell him about you; all it’ll do is confuse him.”

I wasn’t sure if I wanted her to go that far, but she wasn’t asking for my opinion; she was telling me how it would be.

“Is that what you decided?”

“Yes, me and my parents. That’s what we want. We think it will be the best thing for you too.” She reached across to hold my hand. “We don’t need to talk about this again. I’ll explain to Nicola, and my dad will talk to Don. You just have to tell your mom. She’ll have to wait a little longer to be a grandmother.”

“She wasn’t sold on the idea anyway.”

“So, do you agree with everything I just said?”

“Do I have a choice?”

“No, but you didn’t want a choice.”

“What if, I mean, what will you say if he asks about me? I mean when he’s older and stuff.”

“I’ll figure that out if it happens. I’m sure you wouldn’t want a kid showing up at your door fifteen years from now, would you?”

“Not if he’s anything like me.”

“Well then. It’s a good deal; I’d take it if I were you.” She held out her hand, but I refused to shake it—concentrating instead on the patterned rug at my feet. After all the effort she put into telling me and the gradual conditioning, not just from her but from Nicola and Sue. Now it felt like I was being pushed out of the door.

“When you first told me, you said you wouldn’t stop me from seeing him.” I wasn’t sure if it was right for me to bring this up, and Stephanie looked surprised.

“Would you really want that?”

“I’m not sure. Do we have to decide that now? Can’t it wait at least until he’s born?”

“No. It won’t be fair on him. I don’t want him to have a father who comes in and out of his life whenever he has the time.”

“But I wouldn’t do that!”

“Shush. My parents are upstairs. I didn’t ask you here to argue with you. I thought you’d be happy. You don’t need to worry anymore. You can get on with your life and have fun with Nathan. I bet he didn’t want all this.”

“Probably not.”

“I know you’re confused, but you shouldn’t even be in this position. It’s not as if we were in a relationship; it was just a bit of fun that backfired.” She smiled and put her hand on my knee. “If you didn’t have such super-duper sperm, no one would have ever known.”

“I would have.” We both jumped and turned our heads to look at Nicola standing in the doorway. “I found his shorts in your bed, remember?”

I scowled at my sister. “It’s rude to listen to people’s conversations, Nicola.”

Stephanie wasn’t too happy either, and she stood up to close the door. It gave me a few extra seconds to work out why I felt so dejected and why it suddenly meant so much to me. My sperm wasn’t super-duper. She was only trying to make me feel better and take my mind off the fact that she didn’t want me to be a father to her child. Maybe she didn’t trust me not to disappear one day as my dad did to me, but nothing in my character or history suggested I would do that.

I wondered how much of her decision was down to her parents. They were polite to me but quick to brush me aside, and my sexuality seemed a more likely explanation as to why I didn’t meet their requirements. Was it too outrageous for me to suggest that they may not have liked the idea of their grandson having a gay dad?

When Stephanie sat down, she was laughing at my sister’s audacity, but I knew Nicola well enough to know she wouldn’t be deterred that easily

“There’s not much point in trying to keep secrets from Nicola,” I said. “I learnt that on my first day here.”

Stephanie fidgeted as she tried to make herself comfortable on the sofa. “It’s difficult to relax. Something else they didn’t tell me about.”

I stared at the bump. “I suppose it must be awkward.”

“This is nothing. I’m not even five months yet. I’m gonna get a lot bigger. Have you ever seen a pregnant woman before, Robbie?”

“Only on TV, when I was younger, and I hid behind the sofa.”

“That’s funny. Now, where was I before Nicola interrupted?”

“You were complimenting my sperm. You’re not the first person either.” I smiled, but she wasn’t amused. “I was joking.”

“Oh, yeah. Right. You’re a nice boy, Robbie, and you’ll probably make a good parent one day if that’s what you want. Maybe you can adopt, but you’re too young at the moment.”

“So are you.”

“But I don’t have a choice, do I? Anyway, I’m eighteen; it was my birthday on Friday.”

“Happy Birthday. I would’ve got you a present if I’d known.”

“You already have.” She patted her bump and winked at me. “We should go out before they start talking about us.”

“It’s too late,” I muttered before creeping up to the door and yanking it open. “Surprise!”

Nicola jumped and stood back, looking embarrassed. Sometimes she was so predictable.

“I was just gonna ask if you needed anything.”

“Nope!” I shut the door in her face, but Stephanie made me apologise and then laughed when Nicola threw a punch at me.

At least David was sympathetic. “Big sisters are a pain in the ass,” he said as I rubbed my arm and studied his collection of books.

“Nicola has her good points; I just haven’t found them yet. You read a lot.”

“My dad bought most of those. He wants me to go to law school.” He sat on his bed and watched me as I walked around his room and stopped in front of a synthetic red rose. I had an identical one at home.

‘I know where that came from.’

“How is Fran? She doesn’t talk to me anymore.”

“She’s okay. You know, girls. She doesn’t hate you.”

“That’s good to know. I knew there must be someone.” I sat at his desk and stared out the window at their enormous backyard. “I’m sorry about your sister.”

He laughed. “Whatever, man. It was a bit of a shock.”

“Yeah, me too.”

“I bet. Were you drunk or something?”

“No, most people think it was the other way around.”

“I guess my sister can be a little, you know, persuasive at times, but I don’t wanna know the details.”

“I wasn’t going to tell you anyway. It’s way too embarrassing.”

He chuckled. “It will be weird having your kid as a nephew, but I’m looking forward to it. It’ll be like having a baby brother. I can take him fishing and stuff when he's older or to a football game; that would be cool.”

“Very.” David must have noticed my face drop as I struggled to match his enthusiasm.

“Sorry, dude. I didn’t mean to upset you. I just want you to know that the kid won’t go without, so you don’t have to worry. He doesn’t need a dad.”

David was making the best of a tricky situation and trying to do the right thing. I liked him, but things were always going to be awkward between us. I slept with his girlfriend and his sister, and soon he would become a temporary father to my child.

‘He doesn’t need a dad.’

Those words troubled me and played on my mind long after leaving Stephanie’s house and walking home alone. David was wrong. The kid would definitely need a father, I knew from experience how important that was, but it wasn’t going to be me. Stephanie made that clear, and perhaps I should have been happy; after all, that was what I wanted.

‘Wasn’t it?’

If you enjoyed this chapter, please take the time to like, leave a comment below, follow the story, or recommend it to others.

In the next chapter, Robbie jumps ship when Don accepts the pastor’s offer to join them on the boat trip.

Copyright © 2017 Dodger; All Rights Reserved.
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Story Discussion Topic

For discussion of themes and topics. The book can be found here: https://www.gayauthors.org/story/dodger/thecockneycanuck After 47 chapters and lots of drama I think it's time this story has a discussion topic where readers can interact with the author and each other. There are certainly plenty of situations, characters and emotions to bring up, and of course most of all Robbie the Cockney Canuck. Dodger has kindly given me permission to start this thread and has promised to be part of the di

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Chapter Comments



Wow! I'm equally angry at and hating both Stephanie and Robbie.  They need to get together and talk about this and figure out a plan of how they will both raise this child (since adoption seems to not be an option) and then bring in their families.  They are both smart enough and caring enough to be able to handle this at their ages!  There are no free passes when 2 people create a baby!

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15 hours ago, Wesley8890 said:

God don is such a pretentious ass wagon.

I'm not sure what 'ass wagon' means, but it sounds like it should apply to Don.

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14 hours ago, chris191070 said:

Don is so pretentious.

So Stephanie and family gave decided that Robbie will have nothing to do with his baby.

It looks like history is going to repeat itself because Robbie's mom did more or less the same thing to his dad.

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Robbie is definitely maturing.  He knows what the lack of a father in a child's life is like and  I do believe he now may want to have some role in the baby's life.  May Don fall overboard! 

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4 hours ago, Gregory said:

Wow! I'm equally angry at and hating both Stephanie and Robbie.  They need to get together and talk about this and figure out a plan of how they will both raise this child (since adoption seems to not be an option) and then bring in their families.  They are both smart enough and caring enough to be able to handle this at their ages!  There are no free passes when 2 people create a baby!

Sorry to disagree, but they  both are too young and naive to be able to be good and responsible parents without help from a lot of people.  Unfortunately, Robbie doesn't have any positive family experience with which to draw any experience from.  He's definitely not old enough yet to handle this alone or with Stephanie. 

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30 minutes ago, pvtguy said:

 May Don fall overboard! 

Well he already fell on board so that would be the next logical step🤞

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26 minutes ago, pvtguy said:

Sorry to disagree, but they  both are too young and naive to be able to be good and responsible parents without help from a lot of people.  Unfortunately, Robbie doesn't have any positive family experience with which to draw any experience from.  He's definitely not old enough yet to handle this alone or with Stephanie. 

 Yes and I am not sorry to disagree with you.  I have first-hand knowledge and experience that it can work and be the most amazing experience of their lives!  Raising any child, no matter what your age, is always best when you have help from other people such as family and friends.  As for this story, it appears both Robbie's and Stephanie's families want to be involved in their son's life. Nicola will obviously be the perfect overprotective, overbearing, but over-loving Aunt.

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9 hours ago, wenmale64 said:

With any luck Don will end up with a Jib up his a$$. I think it is time for Nicola and Mr. Lube to have a little accident with the contraceptives.... That would give Don something to fume over and it might teach Nicola a bit of humility...She needs a big dose!!! It would also give Rovvies son a cousin to play with 🤞.

Most people will agree about Don. As for Nicola's fate. Mr. Lube's credentials for being a father are non-existent and if this happened, she probably wouldn't see him for dust. I think even Nicola deserves better.      

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On 1/15/2022 at 10:38 AM, Dewilmnative said:

Thanks for the chapter. I have to agree that renaming a boat Is very bad juju and will only cause something bad to happen. I know this from personal experience with my own dad. 
 

I also think that Matthew will grow a set and call Jo, but it most,likely won’t happen until Symmonds starts on another boy he likes. 
 

I have to agree with others that Robbie is beginning to regret his decision not to be more involved with Stephanie’s pregnancy and will want to be part of his son’s life. 

It's surprising how much superstition still plays a part in a modern and nowadays quite high-tech activity like sailing. When it comes to boats, people who normally wouldn't think twice about walking under a ladder, tend to adhere to traditions that really don't make a lot of sense. No one wants to risk breaking the rules and upsetting the Gods who control the elements.

Robbie has done all he can to help Matthew. Now he needs to back off for a while to avoid drawing attention to the kid. I think we would all like to see Symmonds held accountable for his actions, but Matthew is in a difficult position and he's unlikely to trust someone he doesn't know. It's a shame because his evidence would be enough for Jo to pull the plug on Symmonds, and maybe shock the church into reassessing their use of conversion therapy.

Robbie will want to do the right thing, but his options at the moment are limited, and he thoughts clouded by his own childhood experiences of growing up without a father.  

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On 1/15/2022 at 11:43 AM, mansexlover said:

Both Steph and Robbie are really young to be in this position. Thank goodness her parents have accepted Stephanie's pregnancy and I can understand them wanting to meet Robbie. I wonder how much of Stephanie's plans are coming from them. Pity Robbie does not really have the right support at his home otherwise they could all be sitting down together and making the best of a bad situation. I really feel that Robbie needs to be involved to a certain degree in his son's future, he may regret not being involved in years to come.

I don't think there is an easy answer and whatever happens in the end there will be some regret. It seems that Stephanie has made the decision for him and absolved him of any guilt, which under the circumstances is probably right, so maybe Robbie should accept this and move on.   

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On 1/15/2022 at 2:02 PM, Gregory said:

Wow! I'm equally angry at and hating both Stephanie and Robbie.  They need to get together and talk about this and figure out a plan of how they will both raise this child (since adoption seems to not be an option) and then bring in their families.  They are both smart enough and caring enough to be able to handle this at their ages!  There are no free passes when 2 people create a baby!

This is very true although I'm not sure what more Robbie can do if Stephanie decides to go ahead with her plan. Robbie's motives seem to be based entirely on his own experiences growing up without a father, but is that a good enough reason for him to want to take on such a huge responsibility, and will he be able to make the necessary sacrifices that go with it?

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22 hours ago, pvtguy said:

Robbie is definitely maturing.  He knows what the lack of a father in a child's life is like and  I do believe he now may want to have some role in the baby's life.  May Don fall overboard! 

I think Robbie is torn between his own experiences as a child and the realities of being a father. He was hurt by Stephanie's decision, but he has offered no alternative and shown very little interest in her predicament. If he wants to have a role in the kid's future then he will need to show that he understands what's required of him and the sacrifices he will have to make. 

22 hours ago, pvtguy said:

Sorry to disagree, but they  both are too young and naive to be able to be good and responsible parents without help from a lot of people.  Unfortunately, Robbie doesn't have any positive family experience with which to draw any experience from.  He's definitely not old enough yet to handle this alone or with Stephanie. 

Robbie and Stephanie will be seventeen and eighteen respectively when the baby is born. It's a little young to be taking on such a responsibility but not impossible, especially with supportive parents and in a progressive society. You make a good point about his lack of family experience. Robbie didn't like the idea of David potentially taking his role as a father, but there's more to being a dad than taking the kid to a football game. 

19 hours ago, pvtguy said:

I didn't say it was impossible for them - but most difficult.  I, too, have a great deal of experience with young parents and have seen both successful and very sad situations.  Robbie is maturing, that is for sure!  Stephanie has an apparently very supportive family.  For sure, Sue would be a wonderful grandmother - but Don?  Sorry...I may the the curmudgeon in this case, but I see too many red flags.  That is not to say that they wouldn't love the child...but as it stands, there are a lot of obstacles int he way at the moment.

Don is always going to be a problem, but he could prove to be an unlikely ally if Robbie decides he wants to be involved in the kid's life. Robbie becoming a father would suit Don down to the ground.  

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On 1/15/2022 at 8:02 PM, Gregory said:

Wow! I'm equally angry at and hating both Stephanie and Robbie.  They need to get together and talk about this and figure out a plan of how they will both raise this child (since adoption seems to not be an option) and then bring in their families.  They are both smart enough and caring enough to be able to handle this at their ages!  There are no free passes when 2 people create a baby!

I wholeheartedly disagree with you.

edit: oops, I did not read the exchange wit pvtguy before I wrote this. I did not aim to re-awaken your trauma with this comment.

Edited by Freerider
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12 hours ago, Freerider said:

I wholeheartedly disagree with you.

edit: oops, I did not read the exchange wit pvtguy before I wrote this. I did not aim to re-awaken your trauma with this comment.

Thank you Freerider for your consideration.  I apologize for making you feel as if you couldn't post the comment you wanted.  I am no longer following this story, so I will not receive notification of comments.  Once I have posted this comment, I will be blocking you, not out of anger, but out of consideration for you, so that you can express your thoughts about this story without hesitation.

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17 hours ago, Gregory said:

Thank you Freerider for your consideration.  I apologize for making you feel as if you couldn't post the comment you wanted.  I am no longer following this story, so I will not receive notification of comments.  Once I have posted this comment, I will be blocking you, not out of anger, but out of consideration for you, so that you can express your thoughts about this story without hesitation.

How delightfully passive aggressive of you 😘

Even though you won't read this, I wish you a peaceful day.

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