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    Parker Owens
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A to Z - 55. Chapter 55 Stalkers

Stalkers

No special warnings for this chapter.

Questions and issues raised in this chapter or any other chapter can be discussed at the A to Z story thread here: http://www.gayauthors.org/forums/topic/40860-a-to-z/

March 15 – Wednesday Afternoon

I have not enjoyed the past two days. Not at all. My stomach has been a nervous stew nearly every minute. For one thing, Monica and Garrett insisted that Zander and I split up at night. In fact, Zander has moved down the hall to Monica's little office and project room which Garrett pointed out to Ms. Chandler. Garrett explained that if Family Protective Services did another surprise inspection they would find Zander and me having separate rooms, and me with a private bathroom. Apparently, that's a big deal to FPS. They don't really have the right to inspect the house, at least, not according to Garrett. But it would look really bad if we refused, so we had to be ready.

Rather than move everything down the hall for a rapid redecoration, I just moved into Zander's room. I haven't slept well without Zander, but at least I got to sleep in his bed, where I can still breathe in the scent of him.

As it happened, FPS actually did come to the house last night, but not until they had tried to take me away from Zander. And I wouldn't be surprised if they keep trying, though they haven’t succeeded yet.

Tuesday morning, it was business as usual. Zander knocked on the door to wake me up from a rotten night's sleep. Back to swimming early; Coach Simpson met us and did most of the teaching again. He made me concentrate on the getting the kick right. At the end, Coach taught me to kick hard and then roll over on my stomach, blowing a stream of bubbles out my nose as I glided along. I thought this was seriously weird, but Coach seemed pleased. I wondered what this was leading up to.

School breakfast was kind of tense, but nobody bothered us.

Zander and I had to part ways – we didn't share any classes until after lunch – but I couldn't let him go without a quick hug. "Good luck this morning. I love you. See you later." At least being outed means we can hug in public, now. At least, as long as none of the teachers are around.

And then he was gone.

I got some strange looks in the hallway and in class, and I heard the word 'faggot,' muttered softly once or twice, followed by suppressed laughter. Compared to what I put up with in Carlsberg, it wasn't much. I shrugged it off. Instead, I imagined what Zander was going through, and my heart ached.

Terry caught up with me at the end of Physics, all bright and bubbly and cheerful as sunshine. I needed that ray of hope, and I managed to smile. I realized I'd been tense all morning. Zander and Kaz arrived at lunch shortly after we did; I was pleased to see Nick and Alyssa sit down with us, too. Jeff Ellison, my new friend from the party, shyly pulled up a chair. And they weren't the only ones – we were joined by a couple of guys from the swim team, and some friends of Terry's. There was an actual crowd at the table. The situation looked – normal.

There was no repeat of the spectacle from the day before. Bruce Mack was absent from lunch, apparently doing some sort of community service thing. I didn't mind at all.

I realized I hadn't been listening to the conversation. Zander was speaking to Terry:

"…but what I want to know is how this woman from Family Services knew about there being a 'homosexual' in the house." He made air quotes with his fingers.

I'd wondered that, too.

Terry made a face. "That's too easy, Zander," she said, "pay attention. You do know that Bruce Mack's aunt works for Family Services, right? It's not a coincidence. I doubt anyone at Family Services reads posts about you on Facebook. Bruce got pissed off at being faced down at lunch by the two of you and decided to play dirty, that's what happened." Her tone of voice betrayed anger that her face didn't show.

Zander and I both wore blank expressions. So it was Bruce who pushed Family Services into paying us a visit Monday night. Someone told him I lived with Zander, and he called his aunt. For some reason, she must have agreed to make trouble.

After lunch, in Trig, I noticed a pair of strangers, a man and a woman, dressed in grey professional-looking outfits, sitting two rows behind me. If I had sat with Zander up front, I might not have seen them, but I had kept my comfortable seat at the back of the class even after meeting Zander and moving in with the Stevensons. I just figured they were observing the class. But then they followed us to Art class.

In the hall, I whispered to Zander, "Don't look, but did you see those people following us? They were in Trig."

Zander laughed. "I think you're being paranoid. It's probably just some visiting teachers or something."

But I watched them take up seats in a convenient corner of the Art studio where they could watch both me and Zander. I found it hard to work, feeling as if I was under scrutiny. Finally, I got down to concentrating on a sketch I had been assigned to do. Late in the class period, almost to the end, I saw a shadow loom over my work. I looked up to see the man, middle aged, with short cropped hair peering down.

"Nice drawing," he said quietly.

I said nothing, but nodded.

The man spoke again, very softly, looking at me very intently with bright green eyes. "You know, you don't have to wait until tomorrow for that court hearing. You don't have to go through all that legal stuff. We can get you out right now. All you have to do is voluntarily walk out of school with us. Come of your own free will, and there's nothing your foster parents can do." His hand gripped my right elbow, just firmly enough to know there was plenty of strength behind it. "Come on, let's go now," he said firmly.

I got a sudden chill. The man's face was human, but I beheld a monster. Someone was out to get me. I felt a surge of panic. I had to flee, get out before they took me away. My thoughts raced. Shaking free from grey-suit's grip, I raised my hand and got the attention of Mr. Karpus. My tormentor smiled and returned to his seat.

"Mr. Karpus, can I go use the bathroom?" I asked, trying to control my voice.

"Sure, Andy," he smiled, completely unaware of the danger to me in his classroom.

I stood up swiftly and headed for the classroom door. I saw the grey suited man smile and start to get up. Suddenly, I banged the door shut in his face and bolted down the hallway. It was a good thing classes were in session because I absolutely sprinted the length of the deserted corridor and sailed around the corner. I heard a voice distantly calling out in alarm behind me, but I had no idea who it was, or what they were saying. I knew where I was headed.

In a matter of seconds, I burst into the Library, chest heaving. The few students scattered at the tables there looked up, then returned to whatever it was they had been doing. Mr. Donaldson, the librarian, glared at me, held his finger to his lips, and turned his attention to the computer screen at his desk. Silent as a ghost, I floated to the back of the library. Hidden behind the shelves, I slipped quietly into my old lair, and lay down in the dust behind the paper boxes in the closet.

I tried to control my breathing, tried to quell the fear and anxiety. Scared, I curled into a little ball and tried to be as quiet as I could. Who the hell were those people? Family Services? Whoever they were, they weren't my friends. They wanted to take me away. Into custody; to jail, maybe.

I felt my phone vibrate. Shit. The noise would give me away. It vibrated again. Irritated and distracted, I pulled it out of my pocket to shut it off, when I stopped. Instead, I checked to see who had sent me a text.

Zander, of course. "R U where I think U R?"

I couldn't help letting a small smile tug at the corners of my mouth. "Yes," I texted back.

"Don't worry, help coming," popped up almost instantly.

Then I waited. What did Zander mean by that? Help was coming? I didn't have long to lie there in my hiding spot. The bell for the end of the school day rang, and I heard the clamor of everyone trying to get out of the building, going their separate ways. A couple of minutes later, I heard the closet door open, and the light was switched on. Who the hell was it? Had I been followed? Whoever had entered was not being very quiet about it.

"Andy?"

I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Kaz was out there on the other side of the box barrier, looking for me.

"Kaz? Wait a sec." I called out to him. I saw the surprise on his face as I emerged from my hidey hole. I stood and the giant wrapped an arm around my shoulder.

"Zander sent me," he said simply. "You okay?"

I shook my head. "Better, but still shaky," I explained what had happened after lunch, in Art class. I tried to get across how frightening that man in grey was, and why I had panicked.

"Sounds like some scary shit, man," Kaz agreed. "But you don't have to worry anymore. We've got you covered, Andy."

I was shocked; Kaz never swore. I almost forgot to ask, "Covered? How?"

"Well, Zander figures those guys are going to follow him. That's why he sent me." I blessed my incredibly intelligent boyfriend. Kaz went on: "You and me will head out to Track practice, and I'll stick close. Zander will meet us there. They won't dare mess with you in a big crowd of kids. Oh, and Zander picked up your stuff from Art class, by the way," he added.

It seemed like a workable plan. I felt reassured to have my big friend at my side, and even better that I'd be safe in a sea of Track people.

Track practice was about as foreign an experience to me as any experience I've had. I couldn't help searching the landscape for the grey clothed pair the moment I stepped outside. I counted at least forty kids there, and I know there were more. People were everywhere, talking, stretching, jogging, getting ready. Kaz shepherded me out to the track, where I found Zander waiting for me.

"You okay?" he asked, while we stretched out on the unnaturally green artificial infield turf. "You were right about those people. They were watching both of us all through Art class. I saw that guy talking to you, and you just took off. What happened?"

I took a minute to tell him what the grey suited man had said and done.

"Shit, Andy, this is bad. You sure you're all right?" Zander looked at me carefully.

"I'm fine now. I just got spooked by that guy," I said, looking around for the stalkers one more time. They seemed to have disappeared.

"I'll say. That guy was after you in a hurry, but the woman just stayed in her chair, watching me. I lost her when I went into the locker room. Anyway, that's why I texted Kaz to go get you. "

The big man just grinned at the mention of his name. "Thanks for coming for me, Kaz," I had to put in.

"No problem," he smiled. "Anything for you two." And I really knew he meant it sincerely. "So who were these people, anyway?"

"I don't know," I shrugged, "but I guess they must have been from Family Services or something."

I saw Zander stiffen. He was pissed. "I'm gonna kill Bruce Mack," he hissed. "He's out of community service, and he's here for practice, somewhere. I'm gonna kill him."

"No, you're not," soothed Kaz. He took my boyfriend by his shoulders. "Look at me, Zander. You’re gonna go out there, do the tryout race, and run that bastard into the ground. You’re gonna be the great guy, the smart guy, who's my best friend, not the hothead who gets himself into trouble. Tell your dad about this, and let him sue them until they bleed."

I couldn't help laughing at that, and the tension eased a little.

A sharp whistle blew, and everyone crowded around the coach. I stuck close to Zander and Kaz, so I was at the back of the pack. I had a hard time seeing the coach, because he's a short man. I could see the shiny top of his bald head, but I only caught a glimpse of the rest of his face.

"Okay, so it's great you're all here today. For anyone who doesn't know, I'm Coach Pat Shanahan. You should have all the information you need about practice time and proper gear in the packet you got yesterday. So," and he paused grandly, "the snow's all gone, it must be perfect running weather," I heard the largely disembodied voice shout. Laughter greeted his last remark. "There's going to be a timed tryout race for boys, while the girls do a circuit on field events. Then the groups will switch. Everybody got that? Good. We start in five minutes."

I looked in confusion at Kaz. "Two quick miles. You gotta come in under eighteen minutes to make the team. Nothing to worry about, buddy, I've seen you do that practically asleep."

Zander nodded encouragingly. "No problem, Andy. Let's forget about everything and just do it."

I tried to smile, but I didn't feel the same confidence they did. I'm not a living sneaker commercial like Kaz. And then I saw another face in the crowd. Jeff Ellison, my own special running friend, stood there, looking very much alone and lost. His sister must have abandoned him. Despite my troubles and nervousness, I felt bad for him. I walked over, watching him tentatively trying to stretch.

"Hey, Jeff." He brightened to see me. "Good to see you. I joined, like I promised."

"Hi, Andy. Getting ready for my one and only race," he said, shaking his head.

"Nah. Don't let your mind beat you before your body's had a chance to compete. Come on over with Zander and Kaz," I invited. "Stick with us, and we'll both make the team."

He followed me back, and I introduced him to Kaz and Zander. Zander greeted Jeff politely, but I was surprised when he didn't warm up to him right away. On the other hand, Kaz was delighted to make a new friend and running disciple. I predicted Jeff was about to be initiated into the early morning running club.

Soon, about two dozen boys were gathered at the starting line, jostling for position.

"Hey, fags go the rear," I heard a voice call out behind me. Bruce Mack.

"Why? You want your butt in front of my dick?" Zander yelled back. Laughter rippled through the group at his joke.

"Okay everyone, hold the chatter!" The coach arrived, and strode to the starting line. He held a starter's pistol in one hand, a timer in the other. For a second, I imagined it was real. "Thirty-two hundred meters. That's eight laps. Eighteen minutes is the goal." He raised the pistol high. The air split with a sharp crack, and we all took off.

I fell in behind Zander and Kaz, letting them set a moderate pace. Jeff ran at my side. He seemed nervous but kept up all right. By the time we finished the first lap, I noticed he was beginning to labor a little.

"You're doing great," I called out to Jeff, encouraging him, just as Kaz had done to me. It seemed a lifetime ago. "Catch a rhythm. Remember, it's not your body that quits, it's your mind."

Ahead of me, Zander glanced over his shoulder in our direction and nearly stumbled.

I concentrated on running. Two laps later, Jeff was still with us, breathing steadily, eyes focused ahead. Another pair of laps, and Jeff was clearly tiring. His breathing was much more audible. I wasn't scared for Jeff, but I wanted him to make it, to feel what I felt when I got something right.

Kaz dropped back beside Jeff and motioned me forward to take his spot next to Zander. "Jeff, buddy, you're doing fantastic," I heard him say encouragingly.

Then, on edge of my vision, I saw a blond body – Bruce – passing us on the outside lanes. "Hey, faggots," I heard him call, "too slow to catch my ass?" And he seemed to accelerate with the taunt.

Something inside me got just plain mad at that. Without glancing at Zander, I sped up, moving to the outside, and closing the distance between me and Bruce. In a few seconds, I found myself running in step with the big blond bastard. A few more moments, and Zander joined me. We ran three abreast for a short space of time. I looked at Bruce and smiled wickedly. Running with Kaz since last fall gave me the confidence to play a dirty trick.

I accelerated again, slowly, subtly. Bruce had to keep up with me, or fall behind. Zander managed it effortlessly. He'd run with Kaz forever; he could handle this. Bruce didn't seem to realize that I was making him work harder and harder with every step, as we first gained on the leaders, then overtook them at the beginning of the last lap.

Now I heard Bruce begin to labor. I don't think he'd ever worked that hard at running before. I have to admit that Bruce didn't want to give up; his pride made him try to keep up with me and Zander, but I could tell that every stride was getting harder and harder for him. Time to break his heart.

"Come on, Zander, let’s go," I said, gathering myself.

I saw him nod, and I took off. This was my second sprint of the day, and I tried to make it better than my dash down the corridor earlier. I saw Bruce try to match our sudden acceleration, try to speed up step for step with me, but then a few moments later, he just wasn't there. I was a long way in front of everyone, even Zander. I wasn't running away from someone; this time, I ran towards something I couldn’t easily define – power? Confidence? The joy of leaving Bruce in the dust? I don't know.

What I do know is this: I came in far ahead of everyone else in the tryout race, with Zander sailing in at a distant second. I know that Bruce felt a sudden pain and had to limp off the track with a bad muscle pull. We'd successfully run him into the ground in a tryout race. I know that Jeff and Kaz finished with plenty of time to spare. I figured Kaz would have seen to that. And I know that the coach came up to me afterwards to ask where the hell I had been the last few years.

Later on, I had to try out all the field events. Zander got to stick with his best event, the long jump, but I had to do them all. Nick Lewis insisted I try out the pole vault twice. He might be right, it was kind of fun, even though I messed up badly both times.

Later still, I got to tell about my harrowing experience with the grey-suits all over again – first to Dr. O'Shea, and then to Monica and Garrett. Dr. O'Shea set her mouth in a tight, thin line as she asked me how I felt about the experience.

She interrupted my response a few moments later with, "I'm sorry Andy, but I can't help feeling angry myself. It's unprofessional, I know, but I'd better confess to being mad about this now, rather than later. Now, where were we?"

That left me wondering. Dr. O'Shea was cool, never flustered. She was angry? Angry for something someone was doing to me?

Monica and Garrett had no such hang-ups, and both got really mad when I told them about what happened at supper. "Why didn't you call me?" she demanded. "I would have come for you."

"I'm surprised you didn't call 9-1-1," Garrett chimed in.

"I know. Maybe I should have called you, but what would you have done? And I don't want to get the police in on this," I explained. I thought they'd understand. "Besides, Kaz rescued me pretty well," I added.

"That was a smart move, Zander," his father agreed. "But next time, Andy – God help us, let's never have a 'next time' - use the phone. I want you to call me or Monica right away."

"Okay," I said, humbled.

After supper, the wisdom of having Zander move down the hall was proven. Ms. Chandler reappeared, demanding to do an inspection. Monica and Garrett seethed, especially knowing what had happened that afternoon, but courteously showed the woman around. She found me at Zander's desk, working on Trig homework; Zander was down the hall, in his very separate bedroom, reading his English text on his bed. Ms. Chandler scrutinized everything she'd seen the night before carefully, but was unable to find anything immediately wrong.

Last night, I just couldn't sleep. Zander and I slept apart, and my mind was miles away from him, anyway. I mean, Zander was great, and his hugs after Ms. Chandler left were medicine to my unhappy soul. But my brain worked overtime, beset by doubts. What if Judge Harrison turned me over to Family Services? Would I get arrested immediately? Should I pack up my backpack and slip out the door now, before they could take me away? If I hustled, I could get a long way from Blackburn by dawn.

Today, my day in court, dawned clearer and warmer; but it started no differently than yesterday. Again, we went to swimming; again, Coach taught and Zander demonstrated, and I tried to learn. Two more days, and we'd be done.

Honestly, I didn't hear or see anything out of the ordinary in school. No stalkers in evidence. A few more funny looks, but that was it. Maybe everyone just forgot about me and Zander. Maybe we're just not that big a deal.

Partway through Physics, Mr. Hopewell tapped me on the arm. "You're wanted in the Principal's office," he told me quietly. I felt the eyes of the class on my back as I lifted my pack and left the room.

I entered the main office and leaned on the counter to catch the attention of the secretary. "Andrew?" she smiled up at me, "Your parents are with Mrs. Vetter. They'll be ready for you in a second. Have a seat."

I sat. I wasn't in trouble, I didn't think.

But I was. A few moments later, my grey-suited acquaintances from the day before let themselves into the office and sat down, one on either side of me. No escape this time; the man on my left could block my flight easily. "Hello, Andrew," he said conversationally.

My heart beat a million times a minute, but I said nothing.

"You ran away yesterday," he said more softly, so the secretary couldn't hear, I suppose. "That wasn't very friendly to people who are just trying to help."

Help? Who was he kidding?

"You know, you don't have to go through all of this court nonsense," the man said smoothly, "you could just come with us, and save everyone a lot of trouble."

I stared back at him.

"We'll find a nice home for you, Andrew, someplace where you'll be safe," he went on.

I could feel my eyes getting wide. I wanted to run, to sprint out of there, and get to a hiding place where I couldn't be found. I started to reach into my pocket for my phone.

"I'm happy where I am, thanks," I managed to get out.

Who were these people? Did they think they were just going to grab me out of school or something?

At that moment, two things happened to save the situation. First, Zander walked into the office. Ignoring the two agents on either side of me, he strolled right up to me and took my hand, hauling me to my feet. I picked up my bag. The second thing that happened is that the door to Mrs. Vetter's office opened abruptly, and Monica and Garrett stepped out. He looked very sharp in his dark suit and briefcase. Just like a lawyer.

"Thanks again, Mrs. Vetter," I heard Garrett say.

Monica walked over to us and gave me a hug, while the grey-suited pair looked on unhappily. "Time to go to court," she said cheerfully. "Don't worry, Andy. You're gonna be just fine. You'll be back at school in time for Trigonometry, you'll see."

Funny how that sounded so reassuring.

Garrett signed both Zander and me out, and we headed out to the car.

The other pair rose from their chairs and watched us as we pushed open the office doors. I heard the secretary ask something about their business at the school. Even with them out of sight, I had trouble forgetting about them as we left the school.

While we rode, I told Garrett and Monica what had happened in the outer office while we sat. I could tell Monica was burned, but she held her tongue. In just a few minutes, we found ourselves in the county court building. I expected we would go up to Judge Harrison's cozy, wood-paneled office, but instead, we filed into a grey, sterile-looking conference room dominated by a large, oval table.

A slim woman in a brown suit and short red hair stood as we came in. Garrett wasted no time introducing us.

"Heidi Graber, I'd like you to meet your client, Andrew Stevenson." My inquiring look was met with a steady examination from bright button-black eyes.

I held out my hand, and got a brisk, firm handshake. "Good to meet you, Andrew. You must be Zander," she said turning to my boyfriend.

"Heidi, here are the school records you wanted. You have copies of everything you need?" Garrett asked.

My lawyer took the folder he handed her and looked inside, briefly. She nodded. "That's great. Thanks." She turned back to me. "Andy, I'm sorry to rush, but I need a quick, three minute summary of your life with the Stevensons."

I stood there, stunned, for a few moments. Then I told her what I could, concentrating on my time in Blackburn. I could sense she was listening intently, nodding from time to time. Once, she asked me to repeat something, but I can’t remember what it was.

Then Garrett had her attention, as he wanted to tell my lawyer about the county family protection people stalking me in school. And that really did get her attention.

Not a minute later, Judge Harrison himself walked into the room, followed by a small parade of people: a woman who looked like a secretary of some sort, Ms. Chandler, and a thin, black suited man with a matching black briefcase and equally black, slicked-back hair. This had to be Ms. Chandler's lawyer.

We arranged ourselves around the table, Ms. Chandler and her lawyer on one side, our family and my lawyer on the other. Judge Harrison sat at the head of the table.

I was so nervous I could hardly inhale; I practically held my breath the whole time.

"All right, everyone, let's get this going. Let the record show that this hearing is being held at the instance of Ms. Phyllis Chandler of Family Protective Services. Ms. Chandler? Proceed."

It wasn't Ms. Chandler who spoke, but her lawyer, who talked in a flat, almost bored tone of voice: "Your Honor, we argue that the child, Andrew Stevenson, is inappropriately placed in a foster home in which he may be in danger. Under the foster statute, Family Protective Services can remove any child from any situation at any time without notification or stated cause if the agency believes the child to be in danger. We are here as a courtesy – and only as a courtesy – to Counselor Stevenson. We are prepared to take immediate custody of the boy."

The words seemed almost antiseptic, but they chilled me to the bone.

"Mr. Kowalski," Judge Harrison glared at the lawyer, "exactly what danger does the Agency believe Andrew to be in?"

The black suited lawyer leaned over and listened to Ms. Chandler for a moment. He made a face, then replied: "The Agency believes the child to be in danger because it has come to the attention of the Agency that there is a homosexual person domiciled in the foster home."

God, he made it sound so awful.

"And the danger in that is specifically, what?" Judge Harrison asked.

"Well, the child might be subject to unwanted attentions…advances…" the man trailed off uncomfortably.

I heard Ms. Graber, my lawyer, snort over to my left.

The county lawyer, looking increasingly irritated, went on, "In any case, Your Honor, it's clear that such circumstances are plainly inappropriate, and the Stevensons should never have been allowed to be approved as foster parents."

Judge Harrison waited a moment. "Ms. Chandler, has Family Protective Services visited the Stevenson home?"

"Yes, Your Honor. Twice."

"Please be aware that I am acutely aware of the requirements for foster homes and families. Please tell me: is the house spacious enough?"

A pause. "Yes."

"Do the bathrooms and bedroom arrangements conform to the code?"

A longer pause; she nodded grudgingly. “They seem to.”

"What about family income? Did you check that? Does there appear to be adequate food for a teenage boy? Were sufficient clothes provided?

There were no replies to the rapid fire questions.

"Have you consulted the medical and school records to see if there is evidence that the Stevensons are anything other than caring and compassionate foster parents?"

"No, Your Honor," Mr. Kowalski conceded after another long silence.

"You aren't suggesting that Mr. and Mrs. Stevenson are homosexuals, are you?"

"Of course not, Your Honor."

Then you are contending that because the Stevenson's own son might – might – be gay, the Stevensons are disqualified from acting as foster parents?"

"The law doesn't specifically allow fostering with gay persons. We think the situation is clear – if it's not mentioned in the law, it's not permitted. Even if it were ambiguous – which we do not admit - the situation should be treated with the utmost caution and discretion," the county lawyer said, carefully.

"So, to be clear, is it your contention that it is the very presence of a gay person in that residence is the sole disqualification? That's it? That's your case?"

"Yes," said Mrs. Chandler, stoutly.

The county lawyer mumbled something.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Kowalski, I didn't quite catch that," Judge Harrison said coldly. I almost felt sorry for the guy. It was clear Judge Harrison was about to come down on him like a ton of bricks.

"Yes, Your Honor. That's all," he admitted.

"Hmpf," Judge Harrison allowed himself, sitting back in his chair. In that moment, he reminded me of Eustace Whitley.

But the Judge surprised me by what he did next. He turned to my lawyer and asked, "Have you anything to say in response, Ms. Graber?"

"Your Honor, I have so much to say on this that it would take too much of your time. Has Mr. Kowalski read the Judson or DeCamillo decisions? The ones that clearly legalized same-sex couples to adopt in this state? There are a dozen cases like them, and I can provide copies for Mr. Kowalski if he hasn't seen them." She paused a moment. "Has Mr. Kowalski actually reviewed the school records for either Andrew or his foster brother Alexander? He might be interested to know that they are both honor students. Alexander is a statewide champion in swimming. Is Mr. Kowalski aware that Andrew holds down an after school job, or that the Stevensons have provided…"

"That's enough, counselor," the Judge interrupted. "I doubt Mr. Kowalski has examined the record if Ms. Chandler hasn't bothered to do so."

Mr. Kowalski was very busy studying his legal pad in front of him.

Meanwhile, my lawyer continued: "Your Honor, the law is very clear in allowing same-sex couples to adopt; the law also allows straight couples to adopt gay children. There are even several precedents in which the state has allowed gay couples to adopt gay children. Does Mr. Kowalski need the necessary citations?" My lawyer smiled sweetly in his direction. She went on: "However, while we agree that there is no law, no regulation, and no statute that expressly allows the adoption or fostering of a minor child into a home in which a gay person who is not the parent is a resident, neither is there any such prohibition in the law. It is utterly clear that the only reason the legislature did not provide for this is because the previously cited decisions make this a moot point and settled law. Mr. Kowalski has no case, and his request should be dismissed with all speed."

There was a pause.

"Mr. Kowalski? Anything you need to add?"

I could tell Ms. Chandler was fuming. She burst out, "Your Honor, we both know that this is ridiculous. Family Protective Services has complete jurisdiction…"

"Ms. Chandler!" Judge Harrison snapped. "Mr. Kowalski, I advise your client to keep silent unless addressed by the court, or I shall hold her in contempt. Now then," he continued after a moment, "several things seem clear to me. First, Mr. Kowalski has not proven that the minor child Andrew Stevenson is in any sort of danger. Unlike Ms. Chandler, I have examined the records. My reading and my own observations reveal quite the opposite. Second, I cannot believe that the mere presence of a gay person resident in a foster home renders that domicile unfit or unsafe. That assertion borders on the sort of bigotry this court cannot accept or condone. That the law is mute on this point is hardly a reason to begin constructing prohibitions on our own initiative. Third, if Mr. Kowalski will consult the record, he will find that the minor child Andrew Stevenson was not placed with the Stevenson family under the foster statute, but under the foundling statute, an entirely different part of the law. Contrary to claims made by Ms. Chandler, she has no jurisdiction at all under that statute unless this court shall grant it to her agency – something this court is extremely unlikely to do under the circumstances. Ms. Chandler, I don't know what axe you have to grind, but this court is hardly the place to do it. Really, Mr. Kowalski, you should be ashamed of yourself getting mixed up in something like this. Next time, do your homework. The complainant's case is dismissed, complainant to pay all costs." The Judge banged his gavel. "Now, unless there is anything else…" he said, rising.

"Actually, Your Honor, there is," my lawyer began.

"Oh?" Judge Harrison sat back down heavily. He peered at my lawyer and sighed. "Proceed, counselor."

"I've learned that staff or agents of Family Protective Services have been shadowing Andrew in school, and they have actually made suggestions to Andrew that he should voluntarily leave the Stevenson home in order to save FPS the trouble of going to court. This has happened twice in the past two days. Frankly, this is pure harassment, Your Honor. I'd like to ask the court to enjoin the staff or agents of Family Protective Services from approaching, contacting, or addressing Andrew or his foster brother Alexander, or any member of the Stevenson household unless I am present."

"Do you mean to say someone from FPS actually went to Blackburn High School and propositioned Andrew about leaving his foster family?" the Judge asked, shocked.

"That's our assertion, Your Honor." Ms. Graber nodded.

"Mr. Kowalski?"

The county lawyer looked a lot less sharp and dapper than when he walked in. He whispered unhappily with Ms. Chandler. Then he cleared his throat: "We do not deny that FPS staff shadowed the boy and his foster brother in school. It was legitimate fact finding; we have no record of any conversations," the black suited lawyer answered.

Judge Harrison turned to me. Shit. I was hoping to be a silent observer to all this. "Andrew? Did someone approach you?"

"Yes sir," I said nervously. "A man came up to me in Art class yesterday afternoon. Said if I walked out of school with him, Garrett – er, Mr. and Mrs. Stevenson – couldn't do anything about it. He grabbed me and told me to come with him."

"Your Honor, this is ridiculous…" the county lawyer started.

"Mr. Kowalski, be silent. I warned you once," the Judge said icily. "Go on Andrew. What did you do?"

"I ran," I said simply. "I got up and ran out the door. It's not a secret – the whole class was there."

The Judge turned to Zander. "Were you there for this?"

Zander nodded. "Yes...Your Honor. It happened just like Andy said."

"I've heard enough," Judge Harrison growled. "Ms. Graber's request for an injunction is granted. I’ll have the order written up immediately."

My tormentor started to open her mouth in protest, but the Judge snapped, "Ms. Chandler, this is an embarrassment. I'm sending a note on this matter to the County Commission. In the meantime, I suggest you and your staff have a deep, soul-searching training session on appropriate contact with clients and minor children. That's all."

This time, the Judge stood swiftly and strode out of the room.

Ms. Chandler shot us a nasty glare, and then rose and followed. The county lawyer just sat there, looking at his notes. I didn’t have time to think about it anymore. I was engulfed in a wonderful family hug. I realized I could breathe again.

But something tells me we haven't heard the last of Ms. Chandler.

We really did get back in time for the last bit of Trigonometry. In Art, I didn’t bother doing any sketches. I needed to write, instead. Maybe Mr. Karpus didn’t see, or maybe he didn’t care. Either way, I have to put it down before I can go anyplace else.

 

 

 


Many thanks to Craftingmom for editing this and every chapter of this story. I am immensely grateful for her encouragement and patient editing.

Please leave a review. Your remarks and comments are appreciated, regardless of their nature.

Copyright © 2016 Parker Owens; All Rights Reserved.
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There's something else going on here. I think Ms. Chandler is going to do some more digging. I fear she will discover the Carlsberg connection. If Judge Harrison's "discreet" inquiries don't get a result soon, Ms. Chandler's overt ones will, which could lead to real trouble for Andy... there's still a lot to resolve before this is done.

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On 02/06/2016 12:37 AM, xleroc said:

There's something else going on here. I think Ms. Chandler is going to do some more digging. I fear she will discover the Carlsberg connection. If Judge Harrison's "discreet" inquiries don't get a result soon, Ms. Chandler's overt ones will, which could lead to real trouble for Andy... there's still a lot to resolve before this is done.

Ms. Chandler got wrung out and hung out to dry. Her motives weren't clear in the first place, but she's got to be smarting from the reprimand Judge Harrison gave her. At least - for this moment - she has to back off, but that isn't likely to make Andy feel more at ease. Thanks for your perceptive review and for reading another chapter in the journal.

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I am still reeling from this chapter, feeling Andy's fears which he seems to be trying to overcome by writing and worries - probably justified - of what Bruce Mack and Ms. Chandler and/or his aunt will try next. Terry is right, these people are playing dirty and the only one who knows how ruthless they can be is you. So I guess I simply have to be patient to find out.
Otherwise: lot's of progress for Andy. He shows a new closeness to Mr. Stevenson, referring to him by his Christian name before 'correcting' himself in court. He takes the initiative and encouraged Jeff, introduces him to Zander and Kaz, unaware of his boyfriend's jealous feelings - at least that's my explanation of Zander's standoffishness towards Jeff. And they do exactly what Kaz encourages them to do: Show their character and strength instead of lowering themselves to Bruce's level. And they win! (And Bruce won't be able to stomach losing the race to people he despises, has he ever learnt to lose?)
But THE turning-point for me was Andy's running towards his own victory and himself, not from something like before. That was the wow-moment for me.
And that only shortly after he had run away to hide again - which is perfectly understandable under the circumstances. Actually I would have been surprised if he had asked an adult for help, his teacher, the headmaster, his parents. I believe he has not yet shed his deep mistrust of grown-ups, especially those in authority.
Maybe the court hearing (is that the right word?) will help him a bit in this, as might the experience of somebody openly feeling for him as Dr. Shea does, something he seems to be aware of for the first time - it has happened before, I know, but I doubt the Stevensons' aching for him and his former pain and suffering (when he showed them his scars and during the tale of his journey to Blackburn) registered with him in his turmoil then.
Heart-wrenching to read of how he misses Zander at night, his very own stalwart against loneliness, fears and panic. Yet it is also comforting to know that he manages.
So, lot's of progress - despite of the short period in the closet - and lot's of potential for further complications, xlerox is only too right in that.
Thank you again, Parker, for a great chapter!

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Like everyone else, Andy included, I believe we've not heard the last from CPS. The situation you'd described with the shadow CPS agents was uncomfortably close to kidnapping! I'm grateful Andy didn't run away from such a great family/school situation, much less leave his boyfriend.
I'm also curious to hear from Zander. Admittedly, this was more Andy's chapter, but the impression I'm left with is that Zander's forced outing had little impact on him, regardless of Bruce's behavior on the track.
I guess that means I'll hafta wait till the next superbly written chapter appears.... (Grin)

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Boy! I cannot believe how stupid these CPS workers are, but they are in a position to make Andys life miserable and they will not give up. The good news is that andy has a very good lawyer to help get him through this, He also has and is getting lots of support from his friends, Another great chapter Parker. Lots of drama ahead for sure!

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On 02/06/2016 02:29 AM, mayday said:

I am still reeling from this chapter, feeling Andy's fears which he seems to be trying to overcome by writing and worries - probably justified - of what Bruce Mack and Ms. Chandler and/or his aunt will try next. Terry is right, these people are playing dirty and the only one who knows how ruthless they can be is you. So I guess I simply have to be patient to find out.

Otherwise: lot's of progress for Andy. He shows a new closeness to Mr. Stevenson, referring to him by his Christian name before 'correcting' himself in court. He takes the initiative and encouraged Jeff, introduces him to Zander and Kaz, unaware of his boyfriend's jealous feelings - at least that's my explanation of Zander's standoffishness towards Jeff. And they do exactly what Kaz encourages them to do: Show their character and strength instead of lowering themselves to Bruce's level. And they win! (And Bruce won't be able to stomach losing the race to people he despises, has he ever learnt to lose?)

But THE turning-point for me was Andy's running towards his own victory and himself, not from something like before. That was the wow-moment for me.

And that only shortly after he had run away to hide again - which is perfectly understandable under the circumstances. Actually I would have been surprised if he had asked an adult for help, his teacher, the headmaster, his parents. I believe he has not yet shed his deep mistrust of grown-ups, especially those in authority.

Maybe the court hearing (is that the right word?) will help him a bit in this, as might the experience of somebody openly feeling for him as Dr. Shea does, something he seems to be aware of for the first time - it has happened before, I know, but I doubt the Stevensons' aching for him and his former pain and suffering (when he showed them his scars and during the tale of his journey to Blackburn) registered with him in his turmoil then.

Heart-wrenching to read of how he misses Zander at night, his very own stalwart against loneliness, fears and panic. Yet it is also comforting to know that he manages.

So, lot's of progress - despite of the short period in the closet - and lot's of potential for further complications, xlerox is only too right in that.

Thank you again, Parker, for a great chapter!

This is a hard time for Andy - not physically, but in his thoughts. He is tormented by visions of what might happen. Fear has come back to stay, and it's not a welcome return. But life goes on through it all. All of Kaz's patient encouragement paid off - Andy and Zander would have beaten Bruce anyhow, but Bruce managed to injure himself trying to keep up. Karma. (Bruce's story is something else again...he's been losing in the pool to Zander all winter...). Andy appears to have sorted out that some adults are trustworthy - Monica, Garrett, Dr. O'Shea, Mrs. Marjorie (perhaps), the Judge (also perhaps) - and some aren't. Even so, that's getting to be a growing list - and a much, much bigger list of trustworthy adults than he had back in August. Losing Zander at night is a huge misfortune - a high price to pay to keep FPS happy in the event they come again. Thanks very much for your deep and perceptive review, and for reading another part of Andy's story.

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On 02/06/2016 02:50 AM, Robert Rex said:

Like everyone else, Andy included, I believe we've not heard the last from CPS. The situation you'd described with the shadow CPS agents was uncomfortably close to kidnapping! I'm grateful Andy didn't run away from such a great family/school situation, much less leave his boyfriend.

I'm also curious to hear from Zander. Admittedly, this was more Andy's chapter, but the impression I'm left with is that Zander's forced outing had little impact on him, regardless of Bruce's behavior on the track.

I guess that means I'll hafta wait till the next superbly written chapter appears.... (Grin)

Well, Andy sure doesn't believe FPS is done, and that's what matters. Yes, it was very close to kidnapping. The Judge didn't call it that, but his injunction makes it much harder for them to shadow the boys legally. But Andy may not reckon on that. Your impression on Zander's outing is about right, at least as Andy reports it - sometimes a dropped bomb is kind of a dud. Or, in this case, it explodes in a way very different to what might have been expected. In any case, neither Andy nor Zander get to hear the whispers in the corridors. But then, their minds are distracted. Thanks again for your kind words and reflections, and for reading another part of Andy's story.

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On 02/06/2016 02:55 AM, slapshot said:

Boy! I cannot believe how stupid these CPS workers are, but they are in a position to make Andys life miserable and they will not give up. The good news is that andy has a very good lawyer to help get him through this, He also has and is getting lots of support from his friends, Another great chapter Parker. Lots of drama ahead for sure!

Sometimes county functionaries can be dense as well as bigoted. If they are political appointees, that can happen. At one point, I had a whole Ms. Chandler backstory all figured out and outlined, but I discarded it as being too cumbersome. Guess it might have been useful after all. Yes, it's really good that two sharp lawyers are on Andy's side, plus a judge who is pissed off at Ms. Chandler. Not that Andy can see this clearly: fear has returned as an unwelcome companion. Thanks for your review and for enjoying another part of Andy's story.

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What the frack! Who is Bruce's family, that with a complaint to his aunt, she can act so riotously. She is insane and clearly us abusing her authority as an employee of the state. And now that the judge has effectively put her in check, I just know she will be looking for another way in.. Oh, people make me sick and more so because there are Ms. Chandlers out there, wreaking havoc on lives.
Poor Andy, just as some measure of normalcy takes hold, he's back to fearing if he will be taken away again. Plus he loses the safety of Zander at night. At least we know the Stevenson's will not let this go easily and hopefully Andy can see through to that..

 

Another great chapter Parker.. I can't wait for calmer times to prevail..

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Thank you for another wonderful chapter Parker. In spite of all the rattled nerves, it was great fun to read.

 

The FPS 'shadows' were genuinely spooky, much more spooky than Chandler, green hat, or any of the other 'threats' Andy has encountered. And when each sat on either side of Andy in the principal's office .... ooof! The writing conveyed mood perfectly.

 

I especially enjoyed the almost instinctual teamwork between Andy, Zander, and Kaz.

 

Track practice/tryouts was a fantastic scene. Andy demonstrates innate empathy and friendliness as he invites Jeff into his circle of friends. Zander appears to suffer a touch of jealousy. The encouragement Andy imparts to his new friend is touching. The seemless hand off to Kaz further demonstrates how well they work together. In my mind's eye, I could see Andy's smile as he botched the pole vault twice.

 

Even if largely predictable, the court hearing was great fun. I had hoped Chandler would fail to restrain herself. She might benifit from an introspective day or two in the pokey for contempt.

 

Tough week for Andy and his clan, but they are coming together nicely. Great teamwork all the way around :) .

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On 02/06/2016 03:41 AM, Defiance19 said:

What the frack! Who is Bruce's family, that with a complaint to his aunt, she can act so riotously. She is insane and clearly us abusing her authority as an employee of the state. And now that the judge has effectively put her in check, I just know she will be looking for another way in.. Oh, people make me sick and more so because there are Ms. Chandlers out there, wreaking havoc on lives.

Poor Andy, just as some measure of normalcy takes hold, he's back to fearing if he will be taken away again. Plus he loses the safety of Zander at night. At least we know the Stevenson's will not let this go easily and hopefully Andy can see through to that..

 

Another great chapter Parker.. I can't wait for calmer times to prevail..

Frack, indeed. Ms. Chandler got her comeuppance, at least this time. The Judge's words were about as big a smackdown as you get in the courtroom, and she's certainly embarrassed the person who appointed her. We knew that would happen, but Andy plainly didn't, and now he's rattled. Very rattled. Fear has returned to him as an unwelcome companion. Thanks so much for your outrage - Andy would appreciate it. And thanks for reading another section of Andy's story, which I really, really appreciate.

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If I remember correctly, the fact that Bruce was unable to complete the race means he's not going to be on the Track Team. He'll be looking for some way to assuage his injured ego.

 

Overall, that high school seems to be a very welcoming place where the faculty have done a good job of teaching their students tolerance. This is a lesson that the staff has to reinforce on a daily basis. One lecture at the beginning of the school year is not enough if there is no followthrough.

 

A very well-written, tense chapter!

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On 02/06/2016 03:45 AM, said:

Thank you for another wonderful chapter Parker. In spite of all the rattled nerves, it was great fun to read.

 

The FPS 'shadows' were genuinely spooky, much more spooky than Chandler, green hat, or any of the other 'threats' Andy has encountered. And when each sat on either side of Andy in the principal's office .... ooof! The writing conveyed mood perfectly.

 

I especially enjoyed the almost instinctual teamwork between Andy, Zander, and Kaz.

 

Track practice/tryouts was a fantastic scene. Andy demonstrates innate empathy and friendliness as he invites Jeff into his circle of friends. Zander appears to suffer a touch of jealousy. The encouragement Andy imparts to his new friend is touching. The seemless hand off to Kaz further demonstrates how well they work together. In my mind's eye, I could see Andy's smile as he botched the pole vault twice.

 

Even if largely predictable, the court hearing was great fun. I had hoped Chandler would fail to restrain herself. She might benifit from an introspective day or two in the pokey for contempt.

 

Tough week for Andy and his clan, but they are coming together nicely. Great teamwork all the way around :) .

Sorry about rattling your nerves. If it's any comfort, Andy's are rattled more. Fear is back in his mind, and it's surely unwelcome. The grey-suited pair are both spooky and real; these things do happen. That Andy had allies when he felt threatened was a huge change from just a few months earlier.

 

 

Zander must have felt stretched in several directions, too; anxiety, needing to be close, and then having to share Andy with this newcomer, Jeff. But he seems to put up with it, if only because Andy is there. The pole vault is such a tricky thing to learn - that Andy botched it, but came up unfazed is a big step.

 

 

The court hearing was one of my favorite bits - so much I had to leave out or leave unstated. You have to feel for the county lawyer who must have felt like a sacrificial lamb that day. Doubt a bout of contempt-related jail time would have deterred Ms. Chandler. She'd have worn it like a badge of honor.

 

 

Thanks for reading along with Andy again today, and for your generous and insightful remarks.

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As a lawyer, this chapter was a particular delight to read! All that yummy legal prose... Mmmm... Although, I did feel a wee bit sorry for mr Kowalski. He had it coming, but still. That had to hurt! Stupid client! Even if his sloppy work set him up.

 

Hope the FPS backs off now!

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I simply LOVE courtroom drama! Yeah, I'm sure we all knew what would happen but it's fun to read anyway. Yes! There ARE people with a lot of power over families and kids like Ms. Chandler. Fortunately, most of what they do is good. Unfortunately, they too often miss the kids who really need help OR they abuse their power to make situations worse or promote their own bias, hatred and fear.
I think that Andy has to learn to trust in and confide in the responsible adults in his life. Granted, he hasn't had much luck with adults, but he's also had some really GOOD experiences the last few months. Again, Andy's getting fearful of things going bad for him and still contemplates running away too often. Then again, running was a matter of survival in the past AND IT WORKED for him.
I'm curious about Andy's comment about the swimming coach when he said he 'knew where this was going'. I want to believe it's something good like grooming him for the swim team and not 'grooming' him for something bad.

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Well, clearly Andy's connection with Judge Harrison has paid off. With him as an ally, it'll probably be difficult for this enemy family to ultimately be successful -- although it doesn't mean they will cease trying or causing trouble. :pissed:

 

Hehe ...the thought just occurred to me. What if the first time the man in grey grabbed his arm, Andy had the presence of mind to yell loudly to his art teacher (and class) "Help! this guy's trying to abduct me!" :o
It probably would have saved him a run down the hall. :P

 

Nice chapter Parker!

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On 02/06/2016 04:16 AM, droughtquake said:

If I remember correctly, the fact that Bruce was unable to complete the race means he's not going to be on the Track Team. He'll be looking for some way to assuage his injured ego.

 

Overall, that high school seems to be a very welcoming place where the faculty have done a good job of teaching their students tolerance. This is a lesson that the staff has to reinforce on a daily basis. One lecture at the beginning of the school year is not enough if there is no followthrough.

 

A very well-written, tense chapter!

Andy's initial observation back in September was that Blackburn High School was much more laid back than Carlsberg. This seems to be largely borne out. It may be good training on the part of Mrs. Vetter (the principal) or maybe it's just good class dynamics. That Bruce was on his way to a third place finish before hurting himself may play into the coach's mind. But Bruce isn't likely to compete for a while, yet. Right now, Andy is badly rattled and entertaining fears, despite his victory in court. Ms. Chandler has done that much, at least. Thanks for reading this part of Andy's story, and for your kind words in review.

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On 02/06/2016 04:55 AM, Puppilull said:

As a lawyer, this chapter was a particular delight to read! All that yummy legal prose... Mmmm... Although, I did feel a wee bit sorry for mr Kowalski. He had it coming, but still. That had to hurt! Stupid client! Even if his sloppy work set him up.

 

Hope the FPS backs off now!

I am so glad you liked it! I couldn't help grinning a little when I posted it, knowing you'd get to sink your teeth in it a bit. Better still, Ms. Chandler got smacked down in firm legal language. What's Swedish for "This is an embarrassment," anyway? Despite his victory, Andy is still rattled by this whole episode, and rightly so. Tak so mycke!

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On 02/06/2016 04:57 AM, Nahrung said:

I simply LOVE courtroom drama! Yeah, I'm sure we all knew what would happen but it's fun to read anyway. Yes! There ARE people with a lot of power over families and kids like Ms. Chandler. Fortunately, most of what they do is good. Unfortunately, they too often miss the kids who really need help OR they abuse their power to make situations worse or promote their own bias, hatred and fear.

I think that Andy has to learn to trust in and confide in the responsible adults in his life. Granted, he hasn't had much luck with adults, but he's also had some really GOOD experiences the last few months. Again, Andy's getting fearful of things going bad for him and still contemplates running away too often. Then again, running was a matter of survival in the past AND IT WORKED for him.

I'm curious about Andy's comment about the swimming coach when he said he 'knew where this was going'. I want to believe it's something good like grooming him for the swim team and not 'grooming' him for something bad.

The courtroom portion of this chapter was fun to write. What a good thing it is that 99.44% of all CPS workers and supervisors are great people. What a pity it is that Blackburn has someone in the 0.56% category. Andy has a slowly growing group of adults he can trust - and this is a great improvement over just six months earlier. But you are right that fear is back, and with it, anxiety. These are unwelcome acquaintances, back again. He hasn't run this time, at least. Andy wondered what the swim coach was teaching - probably didn't look like anything he's seen Zander do. Thank you so much for continuing to read Andy's story, and for your insights.

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On 02/06/2016 05:09 AM, skinnydragon said:

Well, clearly Andy's connection with Judge Harrison has paid off. With him as an ally, it'll probably be difficult for this enemy family to ultimately be successful -- although it doesn't mean they will cease trying or causing trouble. :pissed:

 

Hehe ...the thought just occurred to me. What if the first time the man in grey grabbed his arm, Andy had the presence of mind to yell loudly to his art teacher (and class) "Help! this guy's trying to abduct me!" :o

It probably would have saved him a run down the hall. :P

 

Nice chapter Parker!

Judge Harrison is a good ally to have; clearly Ms. Chandler didn't count on that. She's unlikely to let matters stand, but the restraining order/injunction now in place will force her to think of something else. Andy's urge to run overcame any thought of calling out for help. When has anyone come to his aid before? And I never want to race Andy anywhere. Could get hurt that way. Maybe Andy should have called out "pervert!" and watched the fun. ;) He didn't think of that, either. Thanks for your thoughts and I really appreciate your continuing to read Andy's story.

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I don't think that this is over. I have a feeling that the CPS lady (Chandler?) will find out about Andy's past and use it against him. I wonder if she'll find Uncle Ray and have him lay claim to custody? I hope not... I loved how Andy and Zander left that jerk Bruce in the dust. lol I bet that Andy is going to give Kaz some real competition this year. ;)

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On 02/06/2016 09:24 AM, Valkyrie said:

I don't think that this is over. I have a feeling that the CPS lady (Chandler?) will find out about Andy's past and use it against him. I wonder if she'll find Uncle Ray and have him lay claim to custody? I hope not... I loved how Andy and Zander left that jerk Bruce in the dust. lol I bet that Andy is going to give Kaz some real competition this year. ;)

You are certainly right - Ms. Chandler could still do Andy a lot of harm, and he knows it. Andy is anxious and unhappy about this. And breathe the words 'Uncle Ray' anywhere near him, and he's likely to bolt. The track tryout was fun to experience from Andy's perspective, wasn't it? And maybe Andy will give Kaz a run for his new, but they may be in different events. Thanks for your commentary, perceptive as always. And thanks especially for reading A to Z this far.

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While I know this isn't over, since Andy's own legal issues aren't exactly over, I think he has enough personal allies to weather the storm so to speak. As a big fan, I should caution to tread lightly on the upcoming events, because it is going to be a legal nightmare and so far you've been pretty accurate. One part I seemed to have missed is the judicial level of Judge Harrison (i.e. County court, state court, etc. It seems like a small issue but the entire story could hinge on that one minor detail. I personally wouldn't mind reading Bruce's story, because there is obviously more to say there. I imagine he has esteem issues and his family seems like real 'winners', lol. I can't wait until Andy has enough esteem himself to punch a dude in the nose rather than run, although running this time was a good idea. Thanks for a realistic story, and double thanks for making it so long. I'm still dreading the day the story is finished. It's actually so good that I wake up and see an update and it takes my morning grumblings away. It's only month two and I think I found a good contender for 2016 story of the year (although you'd have to face Twoey in a showdown :P ).

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Wow, so many reviews!
I shall be delighted when the Chandler woman (she deserves no honorific) next oversteps her authority and gets her comeuppance. It is absolutely wonderful to see Andy coming out of his shell a little and if the interfering busybodies will let him settle for a while, he may stop thinking about running away every time something upsets him.

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On 02/06/2016 07:22 PM, BrianM said:

Wow, so many reviews!

I shall be delighted when the Chandler woman (she deserves no honorific) next oversteps her authority and gets her comeuppance. It is absolutely wonderful to see Andy coming out of his shell a little and if the interfering busybodies will let him settle for a while, he may stop thinking about running away every time something upsets him.

Here we have the unfair limitation of seeing the world through the lens of Andy's journal. Ms. Chandler's comeuppance will likely be a very quiet political knifing; a deft demotion or transfer by the county authority she so rudely embarrassed. The trouble is, Andy is unlikely to see it or know about it until long after the fact. But Judge Harrison's rebuke will surely start those wheels turning. It is very hard for Andy to stop thinking about flight as a real alternative. He loves Zander and his family, though, and they are worth the fight. Thanks for reading A to Z, and for your cogent review.

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