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Puppy for Sale - 6. My Dad Max

"Wake up, Wake up!" Cindy called from outside my bedroom door. The truth was I had been awake for ages.

"You can come in. I am awake," I called back before sitting up in bed. Cindy opened the door and bounced in, flopping herself on my bed.

"So, are you excited?"

"That's not the word that comes to mind, Cindy, more like nervous!" Cindy gave me her feeling sorry for me look and cupped my face.

For the last three days, I had been biting my nails, pacing my room and scrubbing myself red-raw in the shower. Why? Because today was the day, I was going to meet my father for the first time. The anxiety caused by knowing that had been hard to deal with. For starters, it had had a severe effect on my Bipolar and meant I was forced to use all my coping mechanisms... something Doctor Listern had been working hard with me to eradicate. Second, I had begun down that slippery slope of not eating correctly again. I think for the last three days, my diet had consisted of 2 bits of dry toast, an apple and a small plate of chips. Not suitable for a growing sixteen-year-old who was trying to build up muscle.

"What time is he going to be here?" Cindy asked, trying to snap me out of my thoughts.

"What? Oh, ten o'clock," I replied, looking at my watch. It was just after eight, so I knew I had a couple of hours to try and get my head in order before the meet.

"This is freaking you out, isn't it," Cindy remarked.

"Is it that obvious?"

"Hmm, maybe you should have a chat with Doctor Listern; perhaps he could give you a mild sedative or something."

"Great! More fucking drugs to dampen down my fucking fucked up head," I snapped. Cindy seemed unfazed by my outburst. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to shout at you; I’m just fed up with taking pills to fix things all the time. Why can't I just be like normal people and cope with stress in a normal way?"

"Deal with it... and you're normal Puppy, you just have areas where you need help. Everyone has an area where they need support. Some people can't go to the dentist without breaking into a cold sweat. Some people can't touch spiders. We all have weaknesses, Puppy, and yours is no different. So quit whining and make do. I don't want you meeting your dad in a state."

Whatever Cindy said always came from the heart and always seemed to help. This rant was no different, and moments later, I was out of bed and feeling a little more controlled.

"Gonna take a shower. What are you gonna do?" I asked, grabbing some clean underwear from my drawers.

Cindy Shrugged. "Shall I go prepare a speech for you?"

"Very funny; mind you, perhaps I shouldn't brush that idea aside so quickly. I might need something to help me get through this meeting."

"You'll be fine! Now go and get clean... oh, and come knock for me soon." Then, without waiting for a response, she left my room, closing the door. I heard the hollow sound of her door slam shut, making me aware I was still standing there with my mouth open.

I wandered into the bathroom and turned on the shower. I was now down to an hour and a half to get myself in order before Max would arrive, and I knew a good hot shower was going to go some way to helping me achieve that. So I immersed myself under the hot steamy water and threw my head back, enjoying the feeling of hot rain bouncing off my face.

Lovely!


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


After trying to force down some food in the eating area, I went back to my room and made sure I was looking respectable. Then, peering into the mirror in my bathroom, I moved a few hairs around on my head that looked out of place and then brushed my teeth.

The nervousness I was now feeling reached a crescendo, and I felt like running away and cancelling the meeting. So many thoughts were running through my head, and I was raging war with my mind not to go into silly mode, as I called it. My hands were sweaty and trembling, and my mouth felt dry even though I had just rinsed my teeth. Worst of all, my armpits were soaking wet.

It was like I was about to have a seizure!

I quickly left the bathroom and headed out of the door knocking on Cindy's one moments later. She opened it and could see immediately I was in a state.

"You had better come in, you look-"

"I can't do it; I can't see him!" I interrupted her before barging past and collapsing on her bed, and covering my face with my hands. She closed the door and wandered over to me.

"Okay, what’s happened?"

"Nothing, I just can't go through with it; he’s going to hate me, I know it."

"And why would that be?"

"Look at me, Cindy. I’m a wreck!"

"Puppy, you LOOK fine."

"Well... well, I don't feel fine, and he will see that I know he will." I got up and started to pace her room.

"Puppy, he will probably be just as nervous as you don't forget."

"You reckon?" I said, not having thought about that so far.

"Well, you don't think he is going to just waltz in here as if he is meeting his wife, do you? But, of course, he will be nervous; this is a massive thing for both of you. Now stop being stupid, balance yourself back up and wait."

"Urgh, waiting! I can't cope with the waiting. It’s the waiting that's doing this to me; why do we always have to wait for things? It’s... it's like waiting torment syndrome!"

"Ten Minutes Puppy, ten minutes... would you like a hug?"

I nodded. "Uh-huh."

Cindy came over to me and wrapped her arms around my trembling body. I must have looked like one of those tiny dogs you see shaking in the street when it's cold. Moments later, there was a knock at Cindy's door, prompting her to release her grasp on me to see who it was. She walked over and pulled on the handle.

"Hello Cindy, are you harbouring Mr Stibbings in there?"

"Hi Charlotte, yes, he's here?"

I went over to the door. "Hello Charlotte, is everything okay?"

"Yes, Puppy, Max Chase is here. I have had a pass made up for him, and he is waiting in the recreation room for you."

I felt the blood leaving my face and chest as she spoke, and I had to clutch hold of Cindy's shoulder just to avoid swaying. I swallowed hard. "Does... does he look scary?" I asked, which I knew immediately after I had that it was a stupid question. But, judging by Charlotte's face, she thought so too.

"I'm sorry, Puppy, did you just ask me if he was... scary?"

"I know, never mind. Thanks for letting me know; I’ll be there soon." Charlotte rolled her eyes and walked off, and I went and slumped onto Cindy's bed again, just about ready to vomit with fear. Cindy closed her door and turned to look at me.

"You can't sit there, c'mon he's waiting for you."

"I know, just give me a second, dammit!"

Cindy walked towards me and grabbed onto my sleeve, and started to tug at it. Reluctantly, I got off her bed and stood up.

"This is going to go fine, Puppy, now go, and don't forget to breathe, okay?"

"Okay, I'll try. Will... will you come with me?"

"Puppy, I think your dad is going to want to see you alone, and as much as I would like to be there to see him, I don't think that would be a good idea."

"No, you're right; I know you're right. Okay then, here goes nothing." Cindy smiled at me as I headed towards her door and opened it. She came to see me out, and as soon as I was walking down the corridor, she waved at me and went back in.

I was now on my own!

Walking towards the recreation room felt like an eternity and also one of the loneliest journeys in my life. Even as I passed several other children and a few staff, it felt like I was alone in the home... on my way to certain doom. Then, finally, I could see the double doors to the room Max would be in, and I stopped. I wanted to run back so bad, but I knew that wasn't possible... I had waited too long, feeling like shit to back out now.

I went up to the closed glass windowed doors and peered through. I could see Charlotte clearing away some toys, a few children playing with action figures and then, right at the back, looking out of the window, his hands in his pockets, was Max. He had his back to me, but immediately I could see he was a tall man. He was wearing a three quarter length coat. It looked charcoal grey. It must have been cold outside because the collar was up, concealing his neck, but I could easily see he had short blond hair just like me.

I pushed at the door, causing it to squeak as it opened. Standing there half in and half out, I swallowed hard. I must have caught Charlotte's eye because she started to walk towards me, gesturing with her hand for me to come right into the room. I did so, letting the door softly close behind me, making the room echo still a little.

Charlotte placed her hand on my shoulder and led me towards the back of the room. As we were about halfway there, Max started to turn round, and I resisted the urge to bolt for the door. In an instant of seeing his face, I knew he was my dad. His face was warm and loving, his eyes set back and blue and the structure of his mouth and chin looked similar to mine. His eyes immediately locked on mine, and we stared at each other, causing me to stop in my tracks. Charlotte was trying to get me to carry on walking, but I just wanted to stand where I was for a moment, and after a few seconds, she stopped trying.

Max and I didn't move; we said nothing to each other. No, right then, we were purely speaking with our eyes. On his face was worn a satisfied look that said he knew I was his son. An ever-increasing smile was forming, and it was comforting to see. My face remained expressionless. I was too nervous about doing anything.

Max started to walk towards me, and I didn't know what to do. Should I have walked towards him? I just didn't know where to put myself. His pace quickened until he reached me, and then in a moment of pure emotion, he threw his arms around me and squeezed real tight. I could feel his body tremble as he burst into tears. I raised my arms and put them around his, and our embrace was complete.

Right at that moment, I felt so safe. I was essentially hugging a stranger, but it was a stranger I felt like I already knew. Somehow, I knew... I knew I was hugging my birth father.

It was amazing!

We stood there in that position for what seemed like hours, but in reality, not quite so long. Slowly he broke the embrace and looked at me square in the eyes, sniffing.

"My God, look at you," he said, almost in a whisper. "I don't know what to say, Jensen."

"Hello, Max," I said. It was all I could think of, and I wanted to kick myself for that.

"Hello Son, man, you're so big," he remarked, a statement that confused me somewhat.

"Would you both like somewhere quiet?" Charlotte asked. "There is a meeting room just down the hall." Max looked at me, and I nodded.

"Yes, please, if you could take us there, that would be great." Max said, wiping his wet eyes. Charlotte just nodded and led on with us following. There were some rooms that, even in ten years of being here, I had never been in, and it sounded like this meeting room was going to be one of them. Charlotte pulled out her enormous set of keys and started searching for one, settling on a bronze key with a yellow sticker on it. She placed it in the lock and opened the door.

There was a musty smell to the room, which said it didn't get used that often. Filling the space inside were two brown leather sofas separated by a glass coffee table. Charlotte turned on the electric heater switch on the wall, and we went in.

"Would you like some tea, Mr Chase?"

"Oh, yes, please, white one sugar, please."

"Puppy?"

"Same, please," I replied. Charlotte nodded and left the room, closing the door behind us. Max gestured to one of the sofas, and I went and sat down. He took the other seat and fixed his eyes on me once more, shaking his head and smiling.

"Puppy?" he suddenly asked, tilting his head.

I rolled my eyes. "It's a long story, Max."

"Well, is that what I should be calling you?"

"Jensen is fine, Max. Are you expecting me to call you dad?"

Max laughed. "Right now, Jensen, just seeing you is all I could ask for. What you call me is not important right now."

"True, I guess."

"I erm... I bet you have lots of questions for me, huh?" Max asked, leaning forward and resting his elbows on his legs.

"I had loads to start with... when I first found out, I mean, but they all seemed to vanish."

"Yeah? Well, you have plenty of time to think of them, Jensen."

"So erm... so what happens now? I mean, how many visits do you get?" I asked.

"Visits? I guess as many as you want there to be, Jensen, why?"

"I dunno, I don't know how this works. Do you just take me away from here when you want... I mean, you have the power to do that right. So why don't you just force me to leave?"

Max looked at me with a curious expression on his face. There also seemed to be a little shock in there too.

"Jensen, I would never force you to do anything. Why would I force you to leave here if you didn't want to?"

I shrugged. "I don't know. It’s just you're my legal parent, so I guessed you could do anything you wanted with me."

Max Sighed. "Jensen, that is not how I work. The day you walk out of here is the day you choose. All I want from you is to know that I am here to stay, whether that means talking to you in the kitchen of my home or visiting Greenstone. I am here to stay... I am here for you."

"I guess I have thought of my first question then," I said, looking up at him.

"And that is?"

"Why?"

"Why?" he repeated, looking baffled.

"Yeah, I mean, why would you come and look for a son you have never known? Surely it would be easier for you and your family if you never found me. I mean, what now? Aren't I just going to be another expense for you, a problem in your life you cannot now go back on? What if I did drugs like weed plant or-"

"Weed plant? Do you mean Marijuana? Never mind... Jensen, is that what you think? Do you think it would have been better not to find you? I have spent the last ten years waiting for this day. Ten years of wondering if you were alive or dead, what you looked like, how you had grown, who was taking care of you. I was ready, Jensen; I was ready to accept that whatever condition I found you in, it wouldn't matter."

"But why?" I persisted.

"Isn't that obvious? You're my son, my flesh and blood."

"And you have never stopped looking for me?" I asked, surprised at his revelation.

"Never!" he said passionately.

There was a knock at the door, and Charlotte came in with our teas. I was mildly irritated at being disturbed by her but tried not to show it. Instead, I smiled at her until she left again.

"This looks like a nice place," Max said, looking around the room. "Do you have your own room?"

"Yeah, I do, and yes, it is. The people here are amazing, and I have been well looked after. But, of course, it helps that it is privately funded, so I'm told. Apparently, the state-owned homes are not as good as this."

"Hmm, well, I can see that you're looked after. So tell me, why does Charlotte call you Puppy?"

"Everyone here does, even Mr Watson, the home Director."

I went on to tell Max the story of how I got the name, something he found quite amusing and endearing, it seemed.

"So, do you have many friends?" Max continued on.

"I have one here, called Cindy; she is fifteen. She is my sister really, and we are always together. She has been here around four or five years. I don't have any other friends anymore because I am too old for most of the kids here, so I don't really have a connection with any of them."

"I see, and what is Cindy's background?"

"Her parents left her and went to Brazil. They have never been seen since. She doesn't have any other family, so ended up here."

"Jensen, that's terrible," Max replied.

"She's a strong person... much stronger than me."

"If you ask me, Jensen, I think I am looking at a very strong person."

I sighed. "I don't feel strong compared to her. So, tell me about your family. How can you have a son the same age as me? You would have been with mum, right?"

"The same age... with your mother? Oh, you're talking about Steven here, right? No Jensen, Steven I adopted when he was six. I am not his biological father, although he carries my surname."

"Oh, okay, now that makes sense. When I was told you had a sixteen-year-old son, cafe, I wondered how that could be possible because..."

"Well, technically, it could be possible, Jensen," Max chuckled. "Either I was seeing another woman behind your mother's back, or you have a twin. But as you now know, neither of those are true."

"Yeah, So, Steven, does he know you're here?"

"Sure he does, and so does Susan, my wife... here, I have a picture of them if you would like to see?"

Max pulled out his wallet and flipped it open. Inside there was a small photo of the three of them standing in front of a tree. I guess it was taken quite recently as Steven looked around my age. Susan looked pretty, too; it seemed my dad had excellent taste in women.

"You look like a nice family; I feel kind of envious," I said, still looking at the picture.

"Susan wants to meet you, Jensen. She wants you part of this family too, as do I."

"I dunno if it is that simple Max... and what about Steven, what does he think?" Max didn't say anything immediately; he just looked up at the ceiling as if trying to gather his words.

"Steven will be fine Jensen, he's an only child, so I will admit, me coming here has put his nose out of joint a little, but I think he is curious about you, and that tells me he is going to be okay with this."

"What's he like?"

"Steven? Hmm, well, he is a very lively person Jensen, a little different from you. You seem mature for your age, whereas Steven is a bit cocky and bolshie, but he's a very loveable person Jensen."

"He sounds scary," I said. Max chuckled.

"He's just a testosterone-filled teenager like you, Jensen, just a little wild sometimes. But he means well, and he can be very thoughtful when he wants to be, and Nah.... he's not scary. I'd say more erm... confident in his skin."

I wasn't totally convinced, but I nodded anyway. "So can I ask... what happened with you and mum? Why did you leave her and me?"

"I guessed you would start with the biggest questions early on, Jensen." Max took hold of his cup and sat back in his seat. "Mr Watson told me that you were not aware I ever existed up until I called the home and that your mother was killed when you were five. So I think in that case I should start from the beginning."

"Yeah, I think so too."


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

I sat, staring at Max intently, too nervous to pick up my cup of tea just in case he should start talking. I wanted to look at him when he began to explain. I wanted to see it in his eyes that what he was telling me was the truth. I had been told so many lies over the years, so many mistruths. Finally, at last, there was a man who could, and hopefully would finally be able to lift the veil of my origins.

"So, me and ya mum?" he let out a long sigh. "God, where to start!"

"Just tell me where how you got together because I heard that you were a lot-"

"Younger? Yeah, that was very true."

"So, how did you meet?"

Max chuckled. "Jensen, I'll tell you if you let me speak."

I sighed. "I'm sorry, I'm just really eager to know, that's all. It's important to me."

Max Nodded. "I met your mother around seventeen years ago while I was on my lunch break from school. She worked in a small Cafe in east London which a few friends and I frequently visited. The place was run down, but the food was cheap, and you could normally get a roll or sandwich cheaper than what the school supplied."

"Wow, you were still at school?"

"Uh-huh, anyway, my friends and I always used to say how pretty your mum looked while she worked. Her hair was always done up real nice, and she was so friendly to all us boys who used to visit. To be honest, Jensen, I had a real schoolboy crush on your mum."

"Really?"

"Yep, and that was all it was until one day I managed to lose my bus pass. It wasn't until I was getting near the bus stop that I realised I didn't have it. I remember that day because it was raining so hard, and I was stuck shivering in a shelter across the road from the cafe. I planned to take the long walk home once the rain had eased a bit because I had no money left... back then, we didn't have a cell phone where we could just call for a ride. They were just too expensive."

"So what happened?" I asked, hanging on his every word.

"Well, your mum must have seen me across the street through the window because moments later, I was being tapped on the shoulder with her holding an umbrella. I was just expecting her to give it to me and send me on my way, but she kindly invited me back to the cafe for a hot drink and said if I were willing to wait for a little while, she would drive me home."

"Wow, thank god for rain," I said, managing a hint of humour. It felt lovely hearing the start of this story because it said that I had a history... it said at one point, I came from an almost normal background. "So then what happened?"

"So I waited patiently until she was let off for the day. We got in her car, and she handed me some paper towels to dry myself with and then, as promised, she drove me home. To say thank you, I thought about getting her some flowers. So while we were driving, I asked if I could have her number, telling her that I might surprise her one day she was not working."

"So then what happ-"

"Hmm, well, I dunno how to explain the rest to you, Jensen," Max said, cutting me off.

"You mean it got romantic?"

Max did a huge belly laugh. "Ye-yeah, something like that... look, as I said, I asked for her number so I could get her some flowers. But, of course, I didn't tell her I was buying them. I just said could I have her number, and I think we got our wires crossed.

"What do you mean?"

"Well, when I did call her, she gave me her address and told me to come round. So with the flowers in my hand, I went to her address, and she invited me in. She gave me a beer and told me to take a seat, and then..."

"And then?"

"Well, you know?"

"No, I don't. What?"

"We had... relations."

I stared at Max, wondering what that meant... and then the penny dropped. "Ooooh, you mean you-"

"Yeah, Jensen," Max said quickly. "So that's how it happened."

"What I didn't know at the time was that your mum was involved with some pretty nasty people," Max declared, his face now turning solemn.

"Nasty people?" I repeated, wondering what was coming next.

"Well, Jensen, after that day with your mum at her house, she pretended like nothing had happened. I went to the cafe as usual with my friends and tried to talk to her, but she just looked straight through me. I managed to get her alone and asked if I could see her again, and she said it was out of the question."

"But why she liked you... and you liked her, right?"

"I was very young, Jensen, and your mother was twenty-seven years old when we... when that happened."

"So who was the guy I remember as my dad then?"

"Hmm, I was getting to that. You see, one of the people your mum was seeing was a man called Brian. I didn't know this when seeing your mother at the cafe. It was only after I had left school and was going to college that he pulled up in a car one day and threatened me. He told me if I ever went near your mother again, there would be consequences. Seeing as I hadn't seen her for months, it baffled me."

"Wow, so... so, why did he do that?"

"Well, that's what I wanted to know, so I called your mother who, as I said, I had not seen for around four months. So I asked her what it was all about, and she told me she was pregnant and that I was the father. She told me that when things happened between us, she had been seeing this guy, Brian. She revealed he was involved with the mafia and that I needed to take what he said seriously."

"The Mafia? Wow, I thought that was like, TV stuff."

"So did I at that age Jensen."

"So, how did you feel?" I asked, thinking back to my mum being pregnant.

"Feel?"

"Yeah, about mum having your child?"

"I was shit scared, Jensen, and to make matters worse, this man caught up with me again and asked why I had contacted your mother. He then gave me a choice."

"A choice?"

"Yes, Jensen, a choice. He said that he knew I was the father and that either I leave London or he would have my unborn son aborted and then have me killed."

"That's...oh my god, that's horrible," I said, a feeling of total shock overcome me. I felt faint.

"As I said, Jensen, your mother was involved with some nasty people I had no idea about."

"Brian Stibbings," I muttered, staring into space.

"Sorry, Jensen?" Max asked, maybe not hearing me.

"The man... Brian, he was called Brian Stibbings. He was the man I thought was my dad."

"And I understand that's all you would have grown up knowing, Jensen."

"So... so what did you do?"

"Well, you're here, and so am I, so I think you can guess."

"You left London?"

"I had to. It was the only way. It was tearing me apart that I had a child I would never see, but I would rather that than you not exist at all, and that's what would have happened... so I did as the man asked."

"Wow, that's so sad, Max. What about your parents?"

"I managed to convince them that I was enrolling in a new college just outside the city. It was enough until they moved to Australia a year later. I think they were just waiting until I was eighteen. But I was already staying with a friend anyway because of not wanting to be seen in London, so what difference it made to them, I don't know."

"So, how did you see them? I mean, did they ever want to come and see where you were studying, for example?"

"Nah, my parents didn't really mind what I did, and to make it look authentic, I used to visit them once a week by travelling late at night with my dirty washing and college books that I borrowed from a friend, who I was staying with."

"So, what were you really doing?"

"Haha, I was packing mushrooms into boxes. It was very glamorous, Jensen, I can tell you. But it was enough to pay my friend some rent money and allow me to eat."

I didn't say anything to Max's last comment. Instead, I just looked at him, thinking about the sacrifice he had made so that I could be born. Indeed, life may not have been great for me, and yeah, I have my problems, but to think about not ever existing, well, man, that takes a lot to get your head around.

I was now able to finally pick up my cup of tea, which was now just about warm, and it occurred to me that we had been locked in conversation for quite some time. My mind turned to Cindy.

"My friend, you know, Cindy, I was telling you about?"

"Oh yes?"

"I was just thinking how she is probably climbing the walls now, wondering what is going on in here," I said, smiling.

"You two are very close, you say?"

"Very," I said with heart.

"How would she feel if you left?"

I shook my head. "She tells me that she is happy for me, you know, that I've found you, but she puts on a brave face. I think she will find it very hard alone."

"And you?" Max asked softly.

"Sometimes, it drives me crazy thinking about it. We have been together for so long, and it’s hard to think of life without her now."

"Hmm, I wish there was a way I could make that better, Jensen."

"Yeah, it sucks! So, I hear you're a tree surgeon?" I said, feeling it better to change the subject for a moment. Max nodded, taking his last gulp of tea.

"That's right. I have my own small business. We have three workers, not including me."

"And what do you do to the trees?"

"All sorts of things, Jensen. Sometimes trees need to be reduced down or have parts of them that are unwell. My job is to fix that. Some trees grow so big they become too large for an area and so have to be chopped back, and some have to be taken down altogether."

"I get it, and do you enjoy it?"

"I do, and it's a job I take very seriously, even if some people don't," Max said, a grin forming.

"I guess it does have a funny name. I always think of surgeons of people who fix people, not trees."

"Exactly... it does have a funny name, but essentially it's the same job, although I probably wouldn't let me loose on a human body with my hands."

"Hmm, so what happens now, Max?"

"In what way?"

"I mean, do I come and live with you? I don't know how this works."

"I was rather hoping you would, I would love to get to know you better, but I understand this is a massive development in your life Jenson... in both our lives. So I want you to do what you feel comfortable with. For me? It's enough to know that you're alive... that I have seen you, talked to you, and told you what happened. The rest? Well, the rest is a bonus to me, but I would like to try and make you a part of our family and hope you'll consider that."

"I have waited my whole life to hear someone say that to me, Max, but never expected to be my real father. It’s just a little unreal right now. Like a kind of dream in a way."

"I know exactly how you feel, but trust me, I mean what I said earlier, I was prepared to accept you in whatever condition you were in. But it seems I have been very fortunate to find my son to be a healthy, happy, intelligent boy." I blushed a little.

"Say I did come and live with you... would I have my own room?"

"Well, that's something I need to work on."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Well, I wasn't expecting to find you out of the blue like this, so when I discussed this with my wife a few days ago, we talked about having an extension built onto the house should you ever come to live with us. But, that will take time, so for now, if you did come and live with us, you would need to share with Steven."

I chuckled. "I see, and how does Steven feel about that?"

"Ah, well, that part I haven't told him yet, as I didn't know how things were going to go today."

"Okay, well, can I think about all of this?"

"Of course you can Jensen, there is no pressure from anyone. As I said, I am just over the moon. I have found you."

"Yeah... yeah, me too, Max."

Just as I was about to ask more questions, there was a knock at the door. It was Charlotte.

"I'm sorry to disturb you both, but, Puppy, you have therapy soon with Doctor Listern. I just wanted to let you know."

"Oh damn, I forgot about that," I said before looking at Max to see his reaction to the fact his son was a wacko.

He didn't reveal anything.

"That's fine, Jensen. We can meet again soon, if that's okay with you, Mrs Grange?"

"Sure it is, I am certain you both have a lot of time to make up and I am sorry to have to break up the meeting, but Puppy's health is very important."

"No, no, I completely understand," Max replied, standing up.

"Which reminds me, Mr Chase, would you like to see Puppy's files."

"If Jensen says it’s okay, yes, that would be good, thank you."

"Mr Chase, as the boy's father, you do not need his permission," Charlotte declared, almost irritated.

"I know I don't, Mrs Grange, but I still want it," Max said, defiantly, before looking at me and smiling. I just shrugged. Max was going to find out about me sooner or later because of all the pills I take, so I didn't see I had much to lose.

"He can see the files, Charlotte. I don't mind."

Charlotte tutted and left the room, leaving us to start our goodbyes. Max agreed to call the home to arrange another meeting and suggested that perhaps next time, we made it a weekend so I could come away from Greenstone to meet his family. This idea sent adrenaline rushing through me, but the opportunity to get out and experience a new environment was one too good to pass up. Plus, I guess I did want to see where I might end up living in the future, so I reluctantly agreed.

A few tight hugs later and more tears from Max, he was taken by Charlotte to view my case files and medical records. I found myself alone as I had so many times before, but this time I knew It would not be for long. With a big smile on my face, which oozed satisfaction, I made my way towards Doctor Listern's room, where I was sure I would have a lot to tell him.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


 

Standing at the edge of the lake, I stared out into the distance, looking at nothing of any particular interest. However, two swans were making their way towards me, and I was starting to get nervous. I used to love swans, but that all changed last year when a female went for me in the breeding season. I wouldn't have minded, but I was nowhere near her. Since then, I have been uneasy whenever they swim too close to me.

As I slowly moved backwards, I felt pressure on my eyes, and it seemed to go dark.

"Guess who?" Cindy said, covering my eyes with her hands from behind.

"Hey, Cindy," I said, a smile forming on my face.

"Don't hey me, how could you?" She whined.

"Huh?"

"Why didn't you come and knock for me? I’ve been looking everywhere for you. You've just had like the most important day of your life, and you waltz on down here without me?"

"Oh, I'm sorry Cindy, I had an appointment with Doctor Listern I forgot about, and then... well, I just needed some air, that's all," I replied, slowly working out that Cindy wasn't really mad with me at all. In fact, she was now beaming a huge grin.

"Tell me EVERYTHING!" she ordered, jumping up and down clapping her hands.

"Ha-ha, hey, calm down, you're making me dizzy."

"What was he like? Did he hug you? Is he sweet? Do you think you'll like him?"

"Cindy, Cindy, please!" I cried, feeling like I was on a twenty questions game show. "I came down here to get my head together, and you are not helping."

"Saaawy! I'm just excited for you, that's all."

"Just sit on that rock and be quiet, and I will tell you what happened."

Cindy, still excited, did as she was told and sat down on a large rock that sat on the edge of the lake. She moved to one side, allowing me to sit next to her. Picking a blade of grass between my fingers, I began to twirl it, gathering my thoughts.

"Yes, he was nice, yes I hugged him, and yeah, he is pretty cool."

"Is that it?"

"Well, that's all you asked," I said, giggling. Cindy gave me a not impressed look which meant I had to continue unaided by more of her questions. "I found quite a lot out, but I'm guessing there is a lot more."

"Like what?" she quizzed.

I went on to tell Cindy everything that happened in my meeting with Max. As fast as she tried to keep up with the different bits of information I was giving her, the quicker I had to try and keep up with her various facial expressions: smiles, frowns, laughter, and sadness. It seemed, according to her face, my meeting must have had it all. Like me, though, she seemed nervous about one thing, and that was the subject of Steven. It felt like that subject was the only one Max was trying to sugar coat, and I wondered if me going to live with my father would be compatible with someone like Steven.

"I guess you'll find out who he is at the weekend, hey," Cindy said.

"I just don't know what to think Cindy. Do you think I should go quite so soon?"

Cindy stroked her chin and looked out across the lake. "I just don't see how someone can dislike a person having never met them. Maybe you are looking into this too much. You never know. He might be just as nervous as you are about all this."

"Yeah, I suppose."

Cindy put her arm around my waist and pulled me closer. I rested my head on her shoulder, and we both sat in silence for a while, watching the swans drift effortlessly away from us in the distance.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


 

Sam Stillworth, the man responsible for parent vetting and all things child welfare, came to see me in the eating area just as I was about to sit down with Cindy. It had been a while since I had seen him, and I wondered why he would suddenly gate crash my evening meal unless it were important.

"Evening Puppy, may I have a word with you in private?"

"S-sure," I replied, locking my eyes on his face frowning. "What is it?"

"In private, please?" He repeated. I got up from my chair and eyed a worried-looking Cindy staring at me. "It's okay Cindy, Puppy is not in any trouble, don't worry," Sam said.

I don't know who was more relieved.

I followed Sam out into the corridor, which he decided was quiet enough, and he began to speak. "Puppy, I need to ask you a question, and I need you to tell me the hundred per cent truth in your answer, understand?"

"Yes, Sam, what is it, what's wrong?"

Sam sighed. "I had your father passed through to me today regarding Cindy."

"Cindy? What was he calling to speak to you about her for?"

"Puppy, did you encourage Cindy to call your father regarding her going with you to stay with him? You do know you have no busin_."

"Sam, what are you talking about? I swear I did no such thing; what is this about?" I cut in.

"Come to my office. I will make sure you get a fresh meal saved. I think we need to have a talk."

"Sure, but I really don't understand what-"

"Not here, Puppy," Sam hissed. Then, as we started to walk away from the eating area, I looked over my shoulder through the glass door, seeing Cindy is sitting there motionless, not eating.

What the hell was this all about?

I was scared now... Sam said I wasn't in trouble to Cindy, but he had a funny way of showing it. It felt like the trip to his office was like being on my way to a courtroom. Sam unlocked the door and went in promptly, taking a seat at his desk before gesturing me to sit down.

"Puppy, a child in our care has made a phone call to a person outside of this home without the permission of myself or Mr Watson. Whether that man is your father means nothing, this is still a serious breach of rules."

"Sam, you are making it sound like I am involved. But, I swear to you again, I don't know anything about this or why Cindy has called my father."

"So you are saying to me, here and now, that you never encouraged Cindy to call your father and that you and she have not spoken on this subject?"

"How many more times, NO!" I yelled, kicking the leg of his desk in anger.

"Okay, Puppy, that's enough!"

"Well, you shouldn't accuse me of something. How do you expect me to react?"

"I am trying to establish the facts of what went on, and I don't think you are aware of how serious this is."

"No, you are putting me under stress, and that is not allowed. You are starting to make me feel unwell here... in fact, I am not talking about this anymore." I said, getting up from my chair. Sam had lit the fuse to my temper, and I knew that was not good. I tried to calm down... tried to walk away, but he had other ideas.

Big mistake!

"Puppy, you will sit in that chair until I have finished with you. You will not use your condition as an excuse for disrespect."

I was shaking with rage now. It had come on fast and furious. I didn't like being backed into a corner, and Sam knew it played havoc with my bipolar; why was he doing this?"

"I think I need to leave this room now, Sam," I stated, as calmly as I could. I could feel the adrenaline bubbling up like a pressure cooker... I knew one more wrong word from him, and I was going to lose control. He just needed to let me leave. That’s all I wanted. We could continue this another time when things were calmer in my head. I just had to go, had to leave, be out, be gone, be alone.

"You are starting to make me think you have something to hide, Puppy."

"I HAVE ALREADY FUCKING TOLD YOU I DON'T KNOW ANYTHING," I screamed, my face turning bright red then filling with purple heat. Then, in a fit of pure unadulterated rage, I picked up the chair I had been sitting on and aimed it straight for Sam's head. He ducked, giving it a clear passage to shatter the window behind.

I wished I could have stopped there, but I couldn't. He had pushed and pushed. I wanted to get rid of this anger. Sam jumped up and quickly sounded his alarm on the wall. "You need to calm down Puppy, you are not helping yourself here," he whined, pathetically.

"You pushed me!" I bellowed as I used my arm to clothesline the contents of his desk, sending ornaments, paper and other stationary flying across the room. I wanted him to tackle me to the floor, to stop me, but he didn't. Instead, he just stood there, his mouth open like some pathetic idiot.

I stopped dead and looked at him, my cheeks flushed, my eyes bulging. Then, lifting my finger, I pointed at his face with conviction.

"You... you... you did this!" Was all I could think of before picking up a waste paper bin and sending it flying towards the wall. It hit a large photo frame containing a picture of Greenstone, shattering its glass panel and sending the picture crashing to the floor.

Breathing heavily, I ruffled my hair in frustration and left the room. My fists were still clenched, and my mouth shut tight with the apparent stress I was feeling, but...

I was done!

As I walked down the corridor towards the stairs, I heard hurried footsteps getting closer. Moments later, three members of staff appeared in the hall from the stairwell, led by Charlotte. I quickened my pace towards them in the act of futile defiance, but I knew what was coming.

"Jensen Stibbings, stop where you are!" Charlotte commanded, but I was in no mood to listen. So instead, I marched towards the three ladies with determination until, as expected, I was grabbed by two of them.

"Get off me, get the hell off of me," I screamed as the three of them pushed me to the floor. During my struggle to get free, I felt a scratch on my arm before feeling limp and lucid. Then, voices became distant, and the corridor walls and ceiling started to take on a jelly-like appearance.

"Have you just drugged..."

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


 

Everything was dark when I became aware I was conscious. My eyes were still shut, and I could hear voices to the left of me whispering. As I became more aware I was awake, I opened my eyes, seeing a plain white ceiling and nothing else. Still dazed, I slowly twisted my head towards the voices and could see Doctor Listern having a conversation with Mr Watson and Charlotte.

Staring at them, trying to figure out what they were saying, I pulled my hand up and wiped away the drool that had escaped my mouth while unconscious. The movement of my body moving must have made a noise as all three of them stopped talking and looked over at me.

I fixed my eyes on Charlotte and narrowed them. "You had no right to drug me. You wait until my father hears about this," I said groggily. Charlotte ignored my protest and turned back to Mr Watson. Doctor Listern came over to me and put his hand on my forehead.

"Want to tell me what happened?" he asked calmly.

"I got angry. I couldn't stop it. He made me angry."

"Sam Stillworth?"

"Yeah, he was accusing me of something I didn't do... I didn't do anything, Doctor Listern. I swear I didn't do anything. I asked to leave the room because I knew I was becoming unbalanced, and he kept talking at me. I don't remember the rest."

"Alright, Puppy, I understand. You just lie there and rest while we sort this mess out."

I slowly nodded and watched Listern walk back to Mr Watson and Charlotte. Moments later, Mr Watson was the one coming over to me.

"Puppy, can you sit up?"

"I think so," I replied, using my hands as leverage to pull myself to a seated position.

"Puppy, this is not good, is it? You have caused a lot of damage in Mr Stillworth's room, not to mention make one of my staff fear for his safety."

"Fear for his... is that what he's told you? Mr Watson, Sam was making accusations... he caused this."

"Right now, Puppy, there are two things I am interested in. How this happened and the incident with Cindy calling your father. What one would you like to start with?"

"Well, if Sam had listened to me, then everyone would know I don't know anything about the thing with Cindy calling my dad... and this all happened because Sam would not let it drop and was goading me. He's a bad man for doing that. He knows I don't like confrontation."

"So after he asked you about Cindy, you thought it appropriate to trash his office?"

"He didn't ask; he practically accused me of setting it up. Has anyone spoken to Cindy about this?"

"Yes, we have Puppy, but she says she will not talk until she sees you first. Since we can't make her talk, then I am no closer to the bottom of this."

"Well, I can't speak for her because I don't know why and where she got my father's number from. But, as I said to Sam, up until he came and found me in the eating area, I didn't even know any of this had taken place."

"I would like to get-"

"Wait a minute," I said, cutting Watson off. "The number!"

"The number?"

"Yeah... yeah, the phone number... I left it on Charlotte's desk after I called my father. So that’s where Cindy may have got it from. But don't be too hard on her; she probably didn't know how serious it was to do what she did."

"How hard I am Puppy is down to me, but I will consider your plea when I speak to Cindy. Before that, though, I want to make clear the damage you did to one of Greenstone's offices is totally unacceptable regardless of your condition, Puppy. I will be making a note in your file about this incident."

"I understand, and I apologise."

"It's not enough this time Puppy, I cannot let this one slide, and consequently, there will be a punishment handed down to you."

"Which is?"

"Confinement to your room apart from mealtimes for one week. We will also restrict your television privileges in your room for a further two weeks. I had also thought of restricting your contact with Cindy for the duration of your punishment, but I have decided upon reflection, considering the bond you both have, that this would be a step too far."

"Thank-"

"However, I am restricting contact after the hours of five p.m."

"And my father?"

"If you are asking me whether this affects your planned visit to your father, no, it does not... Greenstone never has, and will never, interfere with visitation from new and potential parents regardless of child discipline. However, Puppy, this does not give you the right to run amok in my home. I must be clear on this - any further outbursts from you will result in more serious disciplinary action. Do I make myself clear?"

I swallowed hard and nodded at Mr Watson. "I'm sorry, I just got angry."

Mr Watson scratched the side of his head. "Yes, I need to speak to Doctor Listern about that. I'm still not sure your current plan is working, Puppy."

With that comment, he walked away, and I sunk back down the headboard into a more lying position and puffed air through my closed lips. My mind quickly turned to what Cindy was up to and why she would do such a risky thing, knowing that she would almost certainly be found out.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


 

"Eighteen counts of violent behaviour, seven counts of destructive behaviour, five counts of violent conduct to a member of Greenstone staff, eleven counts of damage to Greenstone property, twenty-six counts of excessive bad language in front of another child or staff member, two counts of attempted self-harm and eleven thousand pounds paid out by Greenstone to make repairs or replace broken items. Your conduct file makes dismal reading Puppy. How does it feel to have that read out to you?" Charlotte asked.

"It makes me feel like asking you what the purpose is in all of this," I replied.

Charlotte had requested I come to her office for a one to one. It was to discuss recent events and how to improve things going forward. Usually, I would have one of these meetings every month, but she felt an ad-hoc one was needed in light of what had happened today.

"Puppy, this list I have just read out represents the last ten years of your conduct in this home. It is a snapshot of your personality. I want to know how it makes you feel when you see a file like this that is about you."

"Okay, I get it, point taken, I'm a nasty good for nothing kid who has no future because I can't control my emotions sometimes, well forgive me, Charlotte but it's not my fucking fault the staff here don't know how to deal with me. I have bipolar, you know it, I know it... Fucking Sam Stillworth knows it, and yet you and your ill-equipped, uneducated team of morons don't have a clue how to handle it. The only person who remotely understands me is Doctor Listern... and maybe Mr Watson."

"Have you finished?" Charlotte asked, glaring at me. I just folded my arms and looked away from her, shaking my head. "This home and its staff have done a massive amount of work with you over the years, Puppy, and you might want to remember that. I have spent hours with you discussing ways that my staff and I can better help you with your condition, and things have been put in place."

"You don't like me very much, do you, Charlotte?"

"I find you frustrating, Puppy. However, my personal feelings towards you do not come into it."

"But please tell me, at least just before I leave this place, why you treat me so different from the other children?"

"Every child here is treated the same, Puppy, regardless of age, sex or personality."

"Do you have to read those lines from a book as part of your training?"

"Puppy, why do you have to keep working against me?"

I laughed sarcastically. "I don't like you; I never have. You are a cold, bitter person void of any emotion, and I think you need to remember that! Anyway, in case you didn't hear Mr Watson, I should be in my room right now as part of my punishment, and since this is not mealtime, I shouldn't be in here either."

"Hmm, it seems since you have found out you have a father that might be willing to extract you from this home, your ability to rebel has increased to a new level, Puppy. You might currently be for sale, but I could quite see that changing once your father hears about your recent outburst."

"And your threats stink of desperation, Charlotte. My father isn't going anywhere, and if you need to resort to that sort of unprofessional behaviour, then perhaps I will make sure Mr Watson hears about YOUR recent outburst."

I had nothing more to say, and with that, I left the room.

Bitch!

Copyright © 2021 James Matthews; All Rights Reserved.
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Chapter Comments

It takes a very patient and dedicated person to properly understand someone who is bipolar.  I have had several friends, and one short term boyfriend, who are, and I wish I were more able to help them.  Puppy has so much going for him, but he needs more help than he appears to be getting at Greenstone.  Asking that a 16-year old get a hold of his emotions is not enough.  Nor is doping him as an easy out.  I hope that he can get some genuine help that can let him enjoy his life and give him the support he needs to take more control for himself.

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53 minutes ago, Quixo said:

It takes a very patient and dedicated person to properly understand someone who is bipolar.  I have had several friends, and one short term boyfriend, who are, and I wish I were more able to help them.  Puppy has so much going for him, but he needs more help than he appears to be getting at Greenstone.  Asking that a 16-year old get a hold of his emotions is not enough.  Nor is doping him as an easy out.  I hope that he can get some genuine help that can let him enjoy his life and give him the support he needs to take more control for himself.

Love this comment :) 

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5 hours ago, chris191070 said:

What Cindy did was wrong. Puppy seems to be having more and more panic attacks,is his medication helping him anymore.

Agreed Chris :)

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Good for Puppy!  Stillworth was very accusatory and judgmental towards Puppy suggesting his complicity without listening to his story!  Charlotte simply does not like Puppy - this seems evident to me.  Why is no one talking with Cindy to get the facts???  Are we even positive she made a phone call to Max??

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I was also wondering if Cindy even made a call. Puppy talked about her with Max and it's entirely possible Max contacted the home about the possibility of having them both of his own accord. 

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