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Joshua's First Year (CC, Teen) Part 17, 6-25-09 [WIP]
Posted: Sat May 02, 2009 11:04 am
To All, this is an old story that I am going to finish off. So if it looks familier, it is, but it has new parts to it, starting with part 13.
Joshua’s First Year
CC + Joshua
Don’t own them, just borrowing them. Promise to return them only slightly used.
This is the back-story between the last two chapters of Can They Hear You Scream?
. I strongly recommend that you read it first.
Link to Can They Hear You Scream?
I loved writing Joshua Evans and seeing the wonders of the world through his new eyes. I also enjoyed showing the impact he made on the lives of those around him. I couldn’t stop picturing the joy, laughter, embarrassment, frustration, and downright panic a five-year-old hybrid preemie could cause, and so I’ve decided to tell you about it.
Excerpt from Can They Hear You Scream? - Chapter 10
“Oh Mom, he’s adorable! He looks so much like Max but he’s younger, about five, with lighter hair and eyes, and…cuter!” Isabel couldn’t resist teasing her brother just a little. She could already tell that her mom was going to fall in love with Joshua the second she laid eyes on him. And there was no time like the present. She jumped up and ran up the hill calling out, “Joshua!”
“Joshua?” Diane asked.
“Yeah, Isabel named him that. Um, Mom, Dad, you remember how we didn’t know anything at first, even the basics?” They both nodded that they did. “Well, he’s the same. He looks about five, but he’s only been conscious for a little less than two weeks. And, uh, um, he has some powers but he’s not too sure what to do with them and can’t control them, yet,” Max tried to explain but he could tell that he had lost their attention as they stared at someone behind him. He turned and smiled at Liz holding Joshua’s hand on one side, Iz on the other. He heard his mom sob and he turned to look. Her hand flew to her face and tears were starting to make her makeup smear. “Mom?”
“Oh God, he’s…he’s beautiful,” she sobbed, then dabbed at her eyes and tried to control herself. She didn’t want to frighten him but how could she not get emotional? She felt like she was meeting her son all over again, only this time…he was barely more than a baby.
Joshua wasn’t too sure about this. He could feel…stuff. He knew that Isabel was happy that they were here but nervous too. He looked at her, “E-a-bel?”
“It’s okay sweetie. They’re just surprised that you’re here but they want to meet you, especially Mom,” Isabel explained and noticed how tightly Joshua was holding her hand as they carefully walked down the rocky crag to her parents. “Mom, Dad, this is Joshua,” she introduced them. “Joshua, can you say hi?”
Joshua was staring at them, trying to figure them out. “Hi,” he said tentatively and when they both smiled at him, he softly added, “Mom.”
It was almost too much for Diane and it took heroic efforts on her part to keep from falling apart. “Hi, sweetheart,” she greeted him and reached out her hand and gently touched his. Eventually he let go of Isabel’s hand, and even Liz’s, and came over to her. She was just itching to hold him but she could tell that he still wasn’t too certain about them yet.
Joshua studied them. They seemed nice and he thought he remembered them from somewhere but couldn’t recall where. The lady kept rubbing his arms and it felt kinda nice. The guy he wasn’t at all certain about but he had warm eyes.
“Hello Joshua. It’s nice to meet you. Max has been telling us about you. We’re very happy that you’re here with us,” Philip told him. The way the boy looked at him reminded him of another night and another certain little boy. He looked over at him. That little boy was practically a man now. A thought occurred to him and he looked back down at the assembled group hanging around the cars. A single sheriff, who no doubt was not prepared to take in a small child, teenagers…don’t even go there, that protector, who he was none to sure about but was supposedly working undercover at the FBI, not a good place to place a child. He looked back at Joshua and then Max. Joshua would be spotted and linked to Max in a heartbeat. He looked back at his son. “Max, who’s taking this child home?” he asked, but he had a feeling that he already knew the answer.
“’ome,” Joshua repeated innocently.
Diane caught on and looked at her son. “Max?”
“That’s sort of the problem. I know this sounds odd, but he was sort of born prematurely. Like I said earlier, he has no control over any of his powers. When he gets upset, he…uh, he leaves silver handprints all over until he calms down. They don’t last long, but um, it’s pretty noticeable. And as he gets older his powers will develop even more. He…um, he needs to be with someone that knows his secret and you’re looking at everyone that knows,” he stammered out.
It was Diane’s turn to look at the assembled group down by the cars. Children mostly, and not at all prepared to raise any child, let alone a special one. And two single men. She supposed that they could do it but…this baby had been through so much already, he needed a family, a complete family. She looked at her husband. He too knew exactly what the kids were hoping for. She sagged a little at the prospect. They’d be starting over from the beginning, adoption lawyer, child services, kindergarten, school clothes and supplies, bicycles, skateboards, room mom, cupcakes, PTA meetings, basketball practice, and throw in silver handprints, could they do this? Could she do this? She had no doubt that Philip would help, he had always been a hands-on father, but he was the main breadwinner and if they were going to do this then they were looking at another thirteen to fourteen years with a child in the house, and they’d need every dime they could get, especially with another college fund to start. She knew that she’d be the one that would once again put her career on hold, at least for a few years, like she did eleven years ago. Was she ready to do this all over again? God, did she have the energy?
Joshua was watching the lady, trying to figure out how he knew her. It finally came to him and he beamed a smile at her. Both of them had been in the images Max had given him for home. They were home. “Mom, ’ome!” he pronounced proudly, very pleased with himself.
Her breath caught at that pronouncement. So assured it was and so innocent. She looked at her husband. She saw similar emotions playing out in him. Neither of them were that young anymore. They had been thinking grandchildren were next, not another one of their own. He finally nodded. He couldn’t deny it either. Joshua needed them. She smiled and turned back to Joshua. “That’s right, sweetheart. It’s time we got you home,” she told him and gave in to her desire to hug him. She finally let the tears of joy fall as little hands eventually hugged her back. She continued to hug Joshua as she put him on her lap. She looked over at her other two children and leveled them with a stern look. They had expected a lot from her and Philip in asking this, and she was going to make sure they paid the piper. “Okay, you two. You have just gotten yourselves a baby brother. Do you have any idea what that means?” She could tell by their looks that they didn’t. “Baby-sitting. That’s right, I have two official baby sitters that will bend over backwards to be ready at a moment’s notice. That will include Friday and Saturday nights, even New Years. You both only have two more years at home and I fully plan on taking advantage of it. Is that understood?” she told them sternly.
“Friday and Saturday nights, but…”
“New Years? Mom, you can’t possible expect…”
“No buts, and yes I do expect it. I wasn’t expecting a…change of life child but I seem to have gotten one anyway. That’s life. Deal with it. And I had better not hear one single complaint. Is that clear?” She wagged her finger at both of them.
“Yes, ma’am,” they both replied.
Philip was busy distracting Joshua by seeing how ticklish he was and was rewarded with squirming and giggles. “Ah-ha, knew it. Just under the arms. Just like Max.” He looked up at his now two oldest and chuckled. No doubt their mom was firmly in control again. “Now that that is settled, you mentioned something about a cave or chamber up there. I’m sort of curious about what it looks like.” It was his first official foray into the world of aliens, but it was far from his last.
How had this happened? Diane still didn’t have a clue. The day had started out just like any other day. The alarm clock went off, she did her normal debate with herself over getting five more minutes of shuteye or not, decided not, and reluctantly climbed out of bed to start her morning routine. She was at work by 9 a.m., off early, and home by three so she could be there when the kids got home. Kids, this morning it was two, now it was three. Three kids, and one of them barely knew how to speak, let alone how to do anything else. How had this happened?
She smiled at the sweet little face that had dozed off right after finishing his Happy Meal, that’d been drenched in hot sauce packets. At least she now knew why her kids practically inhaled Tabasco, an alien quirk. That’s right, her children were aliens, or more precisely half aliens, just a minor detail. Part of her was flabbergasted that she’d never known. Sure she suspected something
, but aliens? The thought had never crossed her mind. But aliens they were. She and Philip had even seen the incubation pods that had bore her children. Well, almost all of them. She lightly touched Joshua’s soft cheek as he slept. Her newest little alien’s incubation pod had been blown up in some research lab near Gallup. How could anyone treat an innocent child like he was some lab rat? How could anyone look at him and not see how beautiful and precious he was? But they had. She glanced toward the front seat at her oldest son. They’d held him too for a short time, and she knew they’d done a lot more to him than just examine and study him. He hadn’t filled in the gaps yet, but she knew. He’d been suffering the nightmares of what they’d done to him in that…that White Room all summer. How had all of this happened?
“We’re home,” Philip announced as they pulled into the driveway. He turned and looked back at the sleeping boy in the booster car seat. He’d glanced back every so often on the drive home to see a wide-eyed little boy looking at everything they’d passed. Everything was so new to him, how were they going to teach him all that he needed to know in order to pass for a normal five-year-old? How were they going to get legal custody without raising too much suspicion? What about school and medical exams? How were they going to keep his origins hidden and keep him safe? He glanced at his son sitting next to him and then in the back at his daughter. How was he going to keep all of them safe? That was his job, part of his responsibility as their father, to keep them safe, but how? He shook his head a little as he opened the car door and waited patiently for Diane to undo the car seat, which caused Joshua to rouse a bit. “One thing at a time,” he mumbled to himself as he bent down to pick up the sleepy boy. “Come on, Joshua. You’re home.”
“’ome,” Joshua repeated with a yawn as he wrapped his arms around the man’s neck. Max had told him this man was called Dad. And Mom and Dad made their home. His head rested on the strong shoulder of the man as he was carried into the house. He was home.
Philip stood in the kitchen with a sleeping child on his shoulder and had no idea where to put him. In their bed? The guest bed? Sofa? Where?
“He’s been sleeping with me the last couple of nights. He’s sort of used to it. He can sleep with me for a bit,” Max offered as he followed his dad into the house and saw his indecision.
Philip let his breath out and nodded his thanks as he headed toward his son’s room, correction, eldest son’s room. Diane cut in front of him and was already turning down the bedding for him. He gently laid the boy down and watched as Diane covered him up. They both studied the boy as he slept. He was so little, barely five, with medium-brown hair that was in need of a haircut, a fair complexion with sunburned cheeks and nose, and a slight smudge of dirt on one of those cheeks. Philip gave a silent snort at that, another little one that was undoubtedly going to be getting into all sorts of stuff. He glanced toward the hall at Max and silently snorted again and shook his head. Hell, his oldest one was almost grown and still getting into things, things that he hadn’t known about, things that were dangerous, even deadly. Getting Joshua settled and everything sorted out with him was just the obvious beginning. He needed to know what the hell else had been happening while he’d been kept complacently ignorant. That was going to change. But maybe tomorrow, right now he was feeling every minute of his forty-five years.
Diane was torn about leaving him. She didn’t want him to wake up in a strange place all alone and scared. But she didn’t think her standing over him, watching him was the answer either. Besides, she had so much still to do yet. She rubbed her fingers together, just itching to take a washcloth to that dirty, sweet little face. She sighed and decided it was best to leave him in peace so he could get the sleep he obviously needed. It had undoubtedly been a long few days for him. She reluctantly left the room, leaving the door ajar so she could keep an ear open in case he woke up, and followed her husband and two other children back to the kitchen.
She walked into mayhem. The sheriff and that Nesado fellow had followed them home and were currently unloading all of their SUVs. Various boxes, bags, and coolers with leftover food stuff and essentials were simply dumped in the kitchen, along with an assortment of camping gear and sleeping bags that she was sure wasn’t all of theirs. She didn’t care. They’d sort it all out later. She was too tired to care at the moment.
The sheriff carried the last of the stuff that he was fairly certain didn’t belong to him into the kitchen from his SUV. Everyone was just standing around. He could see the strain on everyone. They were all wiped out both physically and emotionally, especially the Evanses. They had a daunting task ahead of them, and he didn’t envy them. As cute and charming as Joshua was, raising a child, especially an alien one, was not something to be taken lightly. But he reasoned they’d done it before, though unknowingly, and had done a damn fine job of it. Maybe this time it would be easier since they knew. He still didn’t envy them. But he’d do whatever he could to help. Joshua certainly was adorable. “Well, I think maybe we should all call it a night. Philip, we can meet up tomorrow to figure things out.”
Philip rubbed the back of his neck. “Yeah, a good night’s rest will do us all some good. I’ll give you a call in the morning, Jim,” he said tiredly and glanced over at Michael and the rest.
Jim followed his gaze. “Don’t worry. I’ll make sure they all get dropped off at home.”
Nesado took in the situation. Max was sporting some pretty dark circles under his eyes. It was no wonder. Allowing himself to be thrown back into the White Room was like a second trip to Hell, but at least it had been a round trip ticket. He’d recover. He noticed that the normally impeccable Isabel had a small sauce stain on her top and a few strands of hair had fallen loose from her ponytail. She must really be tired not to care about her imperfect appearance. Even their adoptive parents looked like the walking dead. “Well, I guess I should see if the Tumbleweed Motel has improved any. Give me a call tomorrow when you’re ready, Max.” He nodded to the parents, “Mr. Evans, Mrs. Evans, good evening.”
Max followed Liz out as she prepared to leave with the sheriff for home. “Liz, wait.” He clutched her hand. He wanted to say something but he was too tired to think. All he could do was feel. She’d been his anchor these last few days. She’d quieted his nightmares and calmed his fears. Now she was leaving. “Liz… I… I don’t know how I’m going to do this without you.”
She squeezed his hand and then looked him in the eye. She saw his fears and his love. She gave him a small smile. “I’m not going anywhere, just home for the night. But you still won’t be alone. You’re surrounded by people who love you. They’ll be there for you, if you’d just let them. Max, they know now. Let them in.” She spotted Diane watching them from the kitchen window. “You need them too. You have a little brother that you’re going to have to set an example for. You don’t want him to get the idea that they don’t love and accept him for who he is, do you?”
Max sighed and glanced back at the window. He wasn’t surprised to see his mom standing there watching them. “No. I don’t want him to think that.” He looked back at Liz with longing. He still wasn’t sure where they stood exactly but he hoped… Well, he had hope now. “I’ll still miss you. I…” He smiled shyly. “You were rather nice to wake up to in the morning. I think I could get used to that. Maybe I already have.”
Liz couldn’t help but smile at his cute expression. Her heart glowed as she looked at him. “We’ll see, Max Evans. We’ll see.” Her eyes flicked briefly at the kitchen window, saw his mom was still watching, and then reached up and gave Max a delicate kiss on the lips. She was sporting a smile when she pulled back and told him, “Give me a call tomorrow.” She glanced again at the kitchen window as she climbed in the back seat. Diane Evans gave her a smile.
Diane watched Joshua as he slept. She could hear the shower turn off in the hall bathroom. Max would be coming to bed soon. Maybe the bed wouldn’t look so big then. Right now it looked like it was ready to swallow Joshua.
“Diane?” Philip whispered as he quietly slipped in the room. “You need to get to bed too. We have a lot to do tomorrow and the next day…hell, next week month…year.” He looked at the sleeping boy. It seemed like it was just yesterday that it was Max that had been that small. It seemed incredible to think that Max was almost grown. Where had the time gone?
“I know. I just want to wait until Max is done in the bathroom. I don’t want Joshua waking up alone and getting scared,” Diane whispered back.
“I’m here,” Max whispered as he crept up behind his mom and gave her a quick peck on the cheek. “You can go to bed now.”
“You sure you’re okay with this? We could put him in our bed,” Diane asked in a hush tone once more.
“He’s fine. I’ve sort of gotten used to him sleeping with me,” he said with a yawn. He’d already been tired and the shower had just relaxed him more.
“Okay. Good night then. Wake us if he needs anything. Or if you do.” Diane gave him a kiss good night, and Philip squeezed his shoulder and added his good night before accompanying her upstairs. God, she was tired. How was she going to do this with a five-year-old? How was she going to keep up with him? Her body melded into the bed and begged for sleep, but her thoughts wouldn’t be still in the quiet house. “How am I going to do this?” she asked the darkness.
“With a lot of help,” came the answering voice in the night.
Diane smiled and rolled over. She knew he was tired but just as worried. “I… I should probably stay home for a while.”
Philip looked over at her. She still was as beautiful as ever, but then how could his wife and the mother of his children be anything but beautiful? “You’ve worked so hard to make vice president, are you sure you want to walk away from it?”
Diane sighed. He was right. She’d gone back to school after the kids had started the third grade and gotten her degree in marketing. She’d just made vice president of marketing and sales two years ago. Did she really want to walk away from that? She shook her head and sighed. “Not really, but what else is there? You know as well as I do that if what we saw today was any indication of what Joshua is capable of, he’s going to need someone who knows with him full-time until he can control his powers. A baby sitter is going to majorly freak when he gets upset and his hands glow. How do you hide that? And someone’s got to work with him full-time to bring him up to speed on everything. It’s got to be one of us. Who else is there?”
Philip frowned. “I guess you’re right. I just hate to see everything you’ve worked so hard for thrown away and you have to start over again in a few years.”
She closed her eyes as memories of bake sales, school meetings, little children racing through the house, toys all over, and beautiful little faces covered in chocolate flooded through her. She smiled as she opened her eyes. “But that’s not what’s important. Maybe it’ll be easier this time. I mean, it’s only one of them, not twins, and we have lots of helpers.”
Philip grinned when he recalled Diane’s ultimatum earlier in the day. “You’re going to hold them to it, aren’t you? Baby-sitting even on Friday and Saturday nights?”
“And New Years and any other time I need it. And not just them. I fully plan on taking advantage of all of them and not feeling the least bit guilty about it either,” she avowed.
“Well then, maybe you can work something out at work? Maybe a leave of absence or something instead of quitting? It’s something to think about,” he told her.
Diane nodded and fell silent. She recalled that kiss Liz gave Max before she left. Max had been in a world of hurt for most of the summer. She understood why now. But she also knew something else. It was Liz’s return that turned him around. Oh, there were a ton of extenuating circumstances to say the least, but it was Liz that made him come alive again. “I like Liz. I’m glad she’s back. She’s good for Max.”
“Yes, I think you may be right,” he agreed but then frowned. “I know she’s really helped him recently, but…I’m not so sure it’s good for him to be so dependent on her for his happiness. He needs to stand on his own two feet emotionally. I don’t want him to make her into his emotional crutch. That’s not healthy.”
Diane had to concede that Philip had a point. But Max had been though so much. My God, her baby had been held captive and tortured! He was bound to need help. “Yes, but I think we need to go slow with this. He still needs help and maybe she can help us help him more,” she stated firmly and thought of how Max would smile whenever Liz was around. Yes, she wanted Liz around. She wanted her son to be happy, but healthy too. She couldn’t stifle the yawn that crept up on her.
“Well, good night, dear,” he told her with a kiss and then a yawn. But sleep eluded him as he thought of all the changes they were going to have to make with a new child in the house.
“No…NO! Don’t hurt him!” Max pleaded as he watched in horror as Pierce moved ever closer to the other gurney. “He’s just a baby! Leave him alone. It’s me you want. MEEEE!” he screamed as the tears rolled down his cheeks. A cold hand touched his shoulder. God, what were they going to do to him now?
“Max. Max, wake up, you’re dreaming,” Philip said softly as he shook Max’s shoulder.
His eyes opened with a start. Was he awake? Was this a dream? Was this something fake that Pierce had cooked up as a trick?
Philip regarded his son’s wild-eyed look with concern. “Max, are you okay?”
It took him a minute to realize who it was that was talking to him. “Dad?”
“Yeah.” He glanced over at the still sleeping form lying next to his son. “Shh or you’ll wake him. Come on,” he told him softly and motioned for Max to follow.
Philip reached into the cupboard for a couple of glasses. His eyes were drawn to the bottom shelf off where their medicine and vitamins were. There wasn’t too much there, just aspirin, some allergy stuff, cough syrup from last year, various vitamins, and right up front were two prescriptions for Max, one for sleeping pills and one for anti-depressants, and both unused. They now knew what Max’s problems were and what caused them, but that didn’t mean he was well again. Philip closed the cupboard.
Max rubbed his eyes as he sat down at the kitchen table. He watched his dad pull two glasses down then go to the frig for milk. He grinned a little when his father grabbed the Chips A’Hoy bag. His dad had a sweet tooth too. “Tabasco goes good with those,” he remarked. He saw his dad pause, give him a raised eyebrow, and then go back to the frig for the Tabasco before joining him at the table. “Thanks,” he told him as he poured the milk.
“Welcome,” Philip answered and ripped open the bag of cookies. “Should I take it that you’re not able to take the medicine the therapist prescribed because of your…um…”
“Alien biology?” Max finished for him. “Yeah. I’m afraid if I took a sleeping pill that I might sleep for a week.”
“Why do you think that?” Philip asked before taking a bite of a cookie.
“I had a drink of alcohol once, just one little sip, and I was drunk off my ass for hours. No telling what a pill might do,” Max informed him and briefly wondered if he might be in trouble for that admission.
Philip finished off his cookie and reached in the bag for another. ‘So he’s tried alcohol, huh? Well, at least it sounds like I don’t have to worry about drugs or anything. That’s good,’ he thought and took a drink of milk. “I guess it’s best then that you don’t. What about the therapist? Is he helping?” He leveled a look at his son. “Honestly, is he helping?”
Max liberally sprinkled the Tabasco on a cookie before shoving it in his mouth. Mom would have probably admonished him about taking too big of a bite. “I…sort of…maybe…” He thought about it and amended his statement, “Actually no, not really. I can’t tell him anything so we don’t really get much accomplished.”
Philip nodded. “I suppose that’s understandable. But you need to talk to someone.”
“I have,” Max told him in between bites. “I’ve talked to Liz, and even Maria and Alex. They helped me figure out what was really going on. Besides, I don’t need to worry about it anymore. We got Joshua out. It’s over.”
“Then explain tonight’s nightmare,” Philip asked him and watched his reaction. He saw him flinch and scowl.
“It was nothing,” he told him halfheartedly.
“Nothing. So that’s why you were on the verge of screaming when I woke you,” Philip informed him and sighed. “You need to talk to someone.”
“I have already,” Max replied again.
“No, I mean an adult. It needs to be an adult.” He could see his son’s hesitation. “You can tell me. I’ll listen.” He noted that Max would no longer meet his eye. “You can talk to your friends but not me. Max, this isn’t a ‘friend’ problem, it’s a ‘parent’ one. Your mother and I want to help you. That’s what we’re here for. Why won’t you let us?”
He stared at his glass of milk, his cookie, at the table, anything to not look at his dad. What was he supposed to say? He was right. He knew he was right. So why didn’t he? “I don’t know. This is all so new…you know, you and Mom knowing about us. I…I don’t think it’s all sunk in yet.” He lifted his eyes finally. “I’m not ready yet.”
Philip looked back. He wasn’t angry, hurt a little maybe, but not angry. He could see in Max’s eyes how conflicted he was. Philip had no doubt that if it hadn’t been for Joshua, he and Diane probably never would have been told their secret. He noticed his son was rubbing at his eyes again. “You should get back to bed. We’ve all got a big day tomorrow.”
“Yeah, plus I’m scheduled to work at ten tomorrow morning,” Max agreed.
“No. You need to call in. You’re needed at home. We have a lot to do as a family and you need to be here,” the father informed the son.
“But…but Milton is…”
“Milton can call in someone else. I’m sorry. If there’s a problem, I’ll talk to Milton.” Philip held firm.
“No, that’s okay, I can do it,” Max conceded.
“Good, now get to bed. It’ll be dawn soon and you need as much rest as you can get,” Philip told him and then patted him on the shoulder as he rose to do as he was told. Philip ate another cookie and finished off his milk before he decided to take his own advice.
Re: Joshua's First Year (CC, Teen) Part 13, PG2 5-2-09
Posted: Sat May 02, 2009 11:06 am
Joshua bolted upright. Where was he? What was this place? He looked up but couldn’t see the sky. He liked the sky. Where was it? He heard a noise. He’d heard that noise before. It happened when Max slept. He looked over and saw Max laying there making that sound. That meant he was okay then, Max was there. He looked around but had no idea what he was looking at. Where was he?
He climbed down from where he had been sleeping, and where Max still was, and began to explore. He figured as long as he could see Max, he was okay. He stood in the middle of this place looking around. There were…things to look at. They didn’t do anything though. He noticed one part of the wall was different. He timidly walked over and peeked out. The sky. He could see the sky! It hadn’t gone away. He took a big breath and let it out. It was okay. The sky was still there. He looked back to where Max was sleeping and still making that noise. He spotted something lying there with him and ran over to grab it. His bear. He couldn’t forget his bear!
He noticed the way that led to another place was open and headed for it. Maybe the others were there. He wandered down the hall a little bit, hoping to find someone else. Where was Liz? And Maria? And Alex? He turned around suddenly. Where was Max? He couldn’t see Max anymore. He quickly ran back the way he came and breathed a sigh of relief when his sensitive ears started to pick up that noise again. He turned the corner and found himself back in that room again where he’d started, where Max was. Now what?
He looked back to that opening and slowly started for it again. He’d go the other way this time, but make sure he could at least hear Max. He was back in the hall again. There wasn’t much to see, not even an empty part of the wall so he could look out and see the sky. But he did see light coming from that way. So he turned a corner and froze. Where was Max?
Max snorted, sniffed, and rolled over on his stomach since he suddenly had the room to spread out in his sleep, and in this new position his sinuses started to drain. He stopped snoring.
Where was Max? He couldn’t see him. He spun around in a growing panic. He couldn’t hear him either. Where was Max? And everybody else? His hands started to glow. What about that nice lady that had held him and gave him that hamburger and told him he was going home? He liked her. Where was Mom? “Mom,” he whispered hesitantly. “Mom?” he said a little louder. “MOM!” he tried out his lungs in earnest that time. “MOM! MOM! MOM!” he continued as his panic grew and with it his hands glowed even brighter. His bear was now almost completely silver as he clutched it tightly. “MOM!”
Feet came running from all bedrooms as the cries were heard.
Max was the closest and reached him first. “Joshua what is it? What’s wrong?” he asked in alarm as he grabbed the boy’s shoulders.
All Joshua could do was sniffle. He was confused by how hard Max was grabbing him. He thought Max might be mad at him for leaving. “Mom,” he said again between sobs.
Max was confused by the crying and looked around for the source. Had he hurt himself? He let go so he could run his hands down him, checking for any injury. He couldn’t find any but then he noticed the glowing hands. He was scared. “It’s okay, Joshua. It’s okay.”
Diane ran down the stairs and followed the sound of crying into the kitchen. There she found both her sons and daughter. Max was checking Joshua over, Isabel was rubbing Joshua’s back, and Joshua was crying and hanging on to that teddy bear as if for dear life. She momentarily wondered when that teddy bear had been turned silver but pushed the thought aside. She had more important things to worry about, like what was wrong with Joshua. She swooped in and in an instant he was safely in her arms. “Shh. Shh. Hush now, it’s okay. I’m here. We’re all here, everything’s okay, sweetheart. Shhh,” she soothed as she sat down in a kitchen chair with him.
Little arms wrapped themselves around her neck and held on tight. Philip couldn’t help but notice Joshua’s glowing hands and that everywhere he touched, a silver handprint appeared. “Uh, Max, he…his hands are glowing and turning everything silver.”
“Yeah, that happens when he’s upset, remember? It’ll fade soon,” Max reminded him and looked around again. “What I don’t get is why he’s so upset.”
“I do. It’s all new to him and he was alone and got scared,” Diane explained as she continued to hold him close.
“Did he show you that?” Max asked startled. He wasn’t aware that his mom could pick up on Joshua’s telepathic images.
It was Diane’s turn to be surprised. “Show me? What are you talking about?”
“But I thought…you know what’s wrong. I thought he showed you telepathically,” Max explained, still confused. How’d Mom know what was wrong if Joshua hadn’t shown her?
Diane kissed Joshua’s forehead as he scooted around to sit in her lap but still clung to her. “Mother’s intuition, dear. He was alone, probably for the first time since you…since you got him. It stood to reason that he would get scared.” She took a breath and gave Joshua a good squeeze. “But is it possible for me and your father to communicate with him telepathically? I mean, it would make things easier.”
Max looked at his sister, who shrugged in reply. She had no idea either. “I don’t know but let’s give it a try.” They all watched Max intently as he bent down to eye level with Joshua. “Joshua, remember how we can show each other pictures of what we want?” He waited for a moment and then lightly touched Joshua’s temple and gave him a brief image of him and Liz having lunch yesterday. Joshua brightened and reached up and gave Max back the same image of lunch yesterday, but this time Joshua was sitting on Liz’s lap. Max smiled and chuckled a little. “Okay, okay, you’re right. You were there too.” He turned more serious. “Do you think you can show Mom what you want? Are you hungry or thirsty or something?” Joshua thought about it for a moment and looked up at Mom.
“What is it baby? What do you want? Can you show me?” she asked his earnest little face. A little hand reached up and touched her temple. It was almost as if she was seeing double. She saw Joshua and Max together in some woods and Max was showing Joshua how to… “Oh! Oh, okay,” she said quickly and looked up at her husband. “Philip, you need to take him potty…quickly,” she told him and handed him over to her husband, who immediately headed off down the hallway. She noticed the already fading little silver handprints that covered her chest and neck and stood up, careful not to meet her son’s bright red face. “I think I’ll go ahead and start breakfast. Pancakes sound okay?”
“Fine, Mom,” Isabel said and bit her lip. “So Max, care to share the image Joshua probably gave Mom?”
“Shut up, Isabel,” both mother and son barked at her. Isabel laughed outright as she headed back to her room.
“Mom, make Isabel stop,” Max complained as he doused his pancakes with more Tabasco.
“Isabel, stop snickering at your brother and eat your breakfast,” she scolded without looking up as she helped Joshua stab another piece of pancake with his fork. Leave it to teens to feed him nothing but finger foods. This was the first time Joshua had to use utensils and she just had to have made pancakes for it. He was already a sticky mess, and so was she for that matter. “That’s good honey, but here, hold the fork like this,” she instructed while moving his little fingers to the right position.
His mouth full, Joshua pointed with his other hand at Max across the table.
“What?” Diane asked and followed the pointing. “Max, you were not raised in a barn. Use your table manners.”
Max paused and scowled. Jesus, the kid was getting him in trouble already and he didn’t even know how to talk yet. “Yes, ma’am,” he replied and switched his fork around. He shot Isabel a dirty look as she snickered again.
“Good pancakes, dear,” Philip said and pretended not to notice the looks between the two supposedly older and more mature children. He noticed that Diane’s plate was still empty. She hadn’t even had a chance to start her own breakfast. “Here, dear. I’m already done. Let’s change spots so you can get a bite to eat too.” He took a seat next to Joshua, who was wearing almost as much as he was eating. “Hey there kiddo, let’s see how much of this we can actually get into that mouth of yours.”
Diane refused to watch. In the end, Philip would need another shower to get the sticky syrup off as well.
“No, no, no, no,” Joshua insisted and pouted as he stood in just his Pull-Ups and nothing else in the bathroom. He was not getting into that tub. He didn’t like those things. He remembered his first bath and he wasn’t going to take a second one.
Diane sighed in exasperation. Max said he loved water. So why was he so stubborn about a bath? “Joshua, I’m sorry, but yes, you are going to take a bath.”
Joshua shook his head no and pouted.
“Mom, you called,” Max asked from the entryway.
“Yes, do you have any idea why Joshua won’t take a bath? I tried asking him to show me but he won’t, and he refuses to get in. Any ideas?” she asked.
Max thought about it and immediately knew why Joshua was being so stubborn. “Mom, his first bath was at that…lab and was rather traumatic,” he explained. He then brightened as he got an idea. “I’ll be right back,” he said and ran for his room. He scrounged around in the back of his closet. He knew he had a couple. It’d been a while since he’d used them but he was sure he still had them. There, in the bottom of a box. He swiped a glowing hand over them to clean the dust off and then ran back to the bathroom. “Hey Joshua, check these out.”
Joshua was curious what Max had that he was filling full of water. Max was smiling as he turned around and pointed that thing at him and then… “Hahaha,” he laughed and ran at Max. He wanted to squirt water too!
Diane gave up. At least Max finally got Joshua in the tub. Of course it would have been nice if he’d gotten the Pull-Ups off of him first.
“Mom, how much longer are…” Isabel was blasted in the face with two streams of water as she stuck her head in the bathroom door. “HA. HA!” She seethed, clearly not amused. “So you think that’s funny, do you? Huh?” She headed to the sink and the plastic cup sitting there. Filling it with tap water, she tossed the water at Max, then refilled it in the tub and dumped it on Joshua.
“What in the world is going on in here?” Philip bellowed from the doorway.
He looked around, Joshua was in the tub with a squirt gun, Max was also armed with one and was soaked, Isabel had a cup full of water and was dripping wet, and Diane was sitting on the closed toilet with towels in her lap, not saying a word. “Well?”
“He started it,” Isabel proclaimed and pointed at Max.
Philip looked at his wife who just shrugged. He glanced over at the tub and briefly wondered why Joshua still had a pull-up thingy on. He noted that those things were obviously not as waterproof as they claimed. He saw Joshua accidentally pull the trigger on the squirt gun and they all watched, as if in slow motion, the water shoot through the air and nail Philip in the chest.
“Oops,” proclaimed Joshua and then bit his lip. Somehow he got the impression that he shouldn’t have done that.
“Um, yeah,” Philip replied. He turned to his daughter. “What are you doing in here?”
“Um, I was just trying to find out how long Mom and Joshua would be so I could take a shower,” Isabel explained.
“Get whatever you need and use ours upstairs,” he told her before turning to his son. “And what’s your excuse?”
“Uh, Mom asked me to help,” Max replied with a gulp.
“Then you can start by cleaning up all this water off the floor,” Philip ordered.
“Yes sir.” Max gulped again. He waited a moment for his dad to leave and then turned to his mom. “Mom, you won’t like freak or something if I use my powers to mop up the water, will you?”
“I…” Max and Isabel had told them about what they could do, and they’d even seen a little of it, but they hadn’t blatantly used their powers in front of them before. “I think that’d be fine, honey.”
Joshua watched with interest as Max’s hand glowed and all the water on the floor dried up. He could do that too…couldn’t he? His hand glowed and the water in the bathtub started to evaporate just like Max did but then…
“Max?” Diane asked in alarm as some sort of cloud formed above them, near the ceiling, and it began to rain inside the bathroom.
“Um, I think that’s another ‘oops,’” he explained and hoped it didn’t thunder. He’d hate to think what the lightning might strike.
Family meeting. Why did those two little words feel like a death sentence? “Okay, family, we’re having this meeting because we have some major changes to this family,” Philip stated the obvious and all eyes turned to the little one on the floor, who’d found Max’s old Hot Wheels and was busy running them over everything he could. It was a good thing Max and Isabel were adept at fixing things, not to mention the major water damage restoration in the bathroom. “Right, so let’s start with Joshua. Jim and Nesado will be by at one today to help us come up with a plan so that Joshua can stay with us legally without raising too much suspicion. But we also need to make arrangements for later.”
“Later?” Isabel queried.
“Yes, as in what happens on Monday when I would normally return to work,” Diane replied.
“Well, I could watch him,” Isabel suggested but inwardly cringed. Baby-sitting a five-year-old, even a hybrid one, was not really what she had in mind for the rest of her summer vacation.
“Well, that’s nice, dear, but are you going to take him to school with you too?” Diane pointedly asked.
“And judging from the events of this morning, day care is not an option,” Philip stated dryly.
“What are you saying, Dad?” Max asked and held out his hand to create a mini-shield in front of a vase, just as a Hot Wheel went flying toward it.
Diane sighed. “What he’s saying is that one of us is going to have to stay home, and since your father is the main breadwinner…” She refused to react to the sight of the Hot Wheel bouncing backwards after striking some sort of energy field that was coming from her son’s open palm.
“Mom, no! You’ve worked so hard to make vice president. You shouldn’t have to give up your dream,” Max told her and could feel the weight of guilt descend upon him. If he hadn’t been different, if he hadn’t told them, asked them to do this, his mom wouldn’t have to quit.
“Dreams change honey,” she told him and turned to look at a sweet little face looking back at her. “Nothing means more to me…” She looked over at her husband. “To us, than you children. All of you. I stayed home with you both for the first few years. I can do it again,” she told them and looked at Joshua, who had climbed up on her lap for a good hug. “Besides, it should be easier with just one this time, right?” Their looks in reply told her otherwise. Yeah, she didn’t believe it either.
“Your mom and I talked about this some last night and again this morning. With luck, she can take a leave of absence. The Family Leave Act will give her several months off at the very least, hopefully we can stretch that for a year or more,” Philip explained. “Plus they, by law, have to hold her position, or something similar, open for her.”
“You can do that? Make them keep her job open?” Max asked in surprise.
“Yes, or similar. It’s the law when you have family emergencies, such as an illness in the family or when a new child is added, and adoption counts,” he elaborated further.
“Adoption. How’s that going to work, Dad? He can’t be taken away from here. He’d be terrified and there’s no telling what might happen. And he can’t be examined by a doctor,” Isabel told them.
“She’s right. A simple blood or DNA test will give him away,” Max added in.
“I agree, but how’d you two get past them when you were at the Children’s Center? They must have given you both physicals,” Diane wondered aloud.
Max and Isabel looked at each other. “I’m not sure, Mom. Those days seem so long ago and are kind of fuzzy. I sort of remember a doctor or someone checking me over but I don’t remember a blood test. Do you, Max?” Isabel asked.
He shook his head in reply and added, “No, I can’t remember one, but yeah, we definitely did get examined but I guess not that thoroughly.”
“Well, we can’t take the chance that they’ll be so slack this time around. But there’s more. How are we going to explain your and Joshua’s strong resemblance to each other? Obviously we’ll have to tell them you two are related.” Philip pondered it for a moment longer. “Actually, that may work to our advantage.”
“Yeah, um, I was thinking that maybe we could do something like say our mom,” he glanced at his mom who still had Joshua on her lap. “I mean our biological mother came looking for us because she wanted Joshua to be raised with us, or something like that…but, uh, the sheriff said to be careful with doing that. It could attract more attention than we’d like,” he warned.
Philip nodded in agreement. “That’s true, but I think you might be on the right track. And we’ll need some help creating the cover story.”
“Philip, we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves here. This is supposed to be about getting this little one situated here,” Diane reminded them all.
“She’s right. I mean he can’t sleep with Max indefinitely…” Isabel bit her lip so she wouldn’t snort. “Liz will eventually object.”
Diane couldn’t help but glance at Max, whose cheeks were flaming. “Isabel, stop picking on your brother,” she admonished, but made a mental note to make sure Philip had a talk with Max later on about being responsible and safe. The last thing she needed to worry about was the possibility of grandchildren at the moment.
Philip cleared his throat. “Um, yes, we’ll need to clean out the spare bedroom today, see what we can reuse and then go shopping…”
“Oh, I can help with that. And clothes, I can help with those,” Isabel was delighted to offer.
“I bet. Cha-ching. Dad’s cards will be maxed out before noon,” Max commented.
“What are you implying?” Isabel huffed.
“That’s enough, both of you,” Philip warned. “We’re all going to need to pitch in. That room needs some major work, new paint and window blinds, probably some new carpeting, and yes, Isabel, we will need your help in buying him clothes and whatever else he needs.”
“But nothing too expensive. Children grow so fast, it just doesn’t make sense when they can only use it for a few months,” Diane informed her daughter.
Max observed Joshua with his Hot Wheels. He’d never admit it since he was technically too old, but he’d love to get his hands on one of those new Hot Wheels racing sets, the one with all the 360 degree loops. “Can I take him to Toys’R’Us?” he asked with a sly smile.
Diane and Philip looked at each other in disbelief for a moment. “Okay, but not today,” Philip replied cautiously.
“Also, Isabel, I think I do need to take you up on the baby-sitting offer on Monday. I’ll need to go into the office and make arrangements. It may take a few days,” Diane advised her.
Isabel sighed with resignation. “Sure, Mom. No problem. Maybe I can take him to the Crashdown or something.”
Philip frowned at that idea. “No, not yet. We’re going to need to see how this plays out with child services. Plus, he barely knows how to talk. We don’t want a lot of questions. Let’s try to keep him around the house for a few days.” He turned to his oldest son and added, “And that includes trips to the toy store.”
“’kay,” Max said as he watched Joshua, who was pushing the Hot Wheel along the hardwood floor. He couldn’t resist and his hand glowed ever so slightly.
“Hey!” Joshua exclaimed as the Hot Wheel took off without him. “I do dat ’oo!” Suddenly the Hot Wheel climbed the wall, sped across the ceiling, and lodged itself in the hall chandelier. “Oops.”
Philip looked up at the light with the rest of them. “Mmm, yeah, oops. Max you think you could…”
Max waved his hand and the Hot Wheel reversed direction across the ceiling, down the wall to the floor, and finally into Joshua’s little hand.
“Max, Isabel, maybe you two might want to…how do I put this…lay off showing him alien powers until we get the authorities dealt with. We have enough to explain away. Let’s not add to it, ’kay?” Philip suggested.
“Yeah, Dad. No problem,” Max agreed.
“Sure, not a single glow,” Isabel concurred.
Diane didn’t say anything, Philip was right of course, but she was actually delighted to see her children finally being so open with them about their abilities and who they really were. Maybe now she could finally get to know them and be a part of their lives and not just on the sidelines. “Okay, so it sounds like we have a room to clean out. Let’s get started.”
Re: Joshua's First Year (CC, Teen) Part 13, PG2 5-2-09
Posted: Sat May 02, 2009 11:08 am
Diane wondered who it was at the door that was pounding so hard as she went to answer it. “Michael, what’s all this?” she asked as the tall youth came in carrying buckets of paints and various brushes and paint supplies.
“Max said he was stuck here helping fix the kid’s room up. Figured you’d need it painted. I’ll do it,” he answered and simply walked up the stairs to the bedroom they were fixing up for Joshua.
You could have knocked Diane over with a feather. That was the most she’d ever heard come out of Michael’s mouth at one time in all the years that she’d known him.
“So you want to paint. Alone,” Philip repeated again.
“Yep, I work alone,” Michael reiterated.
“That will be fine, Michael. I’m sure it will be beautiful,” Diane interjected from the hallway.
Philip didn’t know about this but he did know not to dispute Diane. That just did not make for a harmonious marriage bed. “Well, I suppose we could put some things in Max’s room temporarily, if that’s okay with Max?” He turned to ask his son.
Max shrugged. “Sure, but could we not buy new furniture just yet? My room’s not that big.”
“But I had it all picked out. It’s even on sale at Penny’s and…”
“Isabel, we can put it on hold at the store for a bit,” Diane advised her daughter. Besides, she needed to make sure this wasn’t a couple thousand ‘on sale.’ She knew her daughter’s taste tended to be on the high side.
“Well, that just leaves Joshua,” Philip said as he spotted the youngest one checking out what Michael had brought, which was mainly paint. He cringed a little. “Joshua, no. Stay out of that.”
Michael looked down at the boy. “So how ya doin’ rugrat?”
“Hi My-kwel. Dat?” he asked and patted the can.
“Paint, which you cannot get into,” he told him and scowled as a little hand resting on a paint can started to glow.
“Hey, no. Knock that off. That’s the last thing I need. I’d probably have to use my powers trying to get paint off ya, and you’d end up all green or somthin’,” Michael hypothesized.
“No?” a little voice asked.
“No,” adults and teens alike answered.
Diane sighed as she closed the bedroom door a little. Joshua was crashed out on Max’s bed for an afternoon nap and she’d love nothing more than to join him. Where did he get the energy? Where was she going to get it in order to keep up she wondered as she joined the sheriff and Nesado in the living room, “He was out like a light.”
Nesado nodded and smiled but he had been shocked. He had no idea that a child could throw such a temper-tantrum simply because he was tired. He recalled that Tess had had her moments but it had been some time ago, and she had been a tad bit older and he could only assume past the age of these full blown tantrums. And it was simply because he was tired? Amazing. “You’re sure he’s okay?”
Diane nodded. “Yes, I’m sure. He’s just tired but didn’t want to miss out on anything so he was fighting it.” She glanced over at her two oldest ones. “It’s not the first time I had to deal with an overly cranky child.”
“I never did anything like that,” Isabel proclaimed indignantly.
Isabel smacked his arm.
Philip leveled a ‘knock it off’ glare at them and cleared his throat before continuing. “I believe that the idea Max came up with about his ‘biological mother’ wanting Joshua to be raised with his brother and sister might work.”
“Mmm, the authorities are going to be mighty interested in something like that,” Jim pointed out. “I’ll do what I can but Children’s Protective Services are going to want to play 20 questions with Joshua, and probably Max and Isabel too.”
“Yeah, I would expect that, and it’ll be even more difficult with Joshua not understanding or able to communicate. But what I was thinking was some sort of letter that might do some of the talking for him,” Philip suggested.
“Letter from who?” Nesado asked.
“Their mother of course, or as close of a proximity as we can create.” Philip elaborated further, “She can say how she found Max and Isabel through old newspaper articles.” He turned to Diane. “You found those, right?” he asked.
Diane pulled out an old dusty scrapbook. “There were articles written in the local paper about them when they were found, and then a follow-up piece two years later when their adoptions were completed.”
“Did they mention Max and Isabel’s names?” Nesado asked. He wanted to see how feasible this might be.
“No, but they used mine and Diane’s first names and mentioned that I was a local lawyer. This is a small town and it wouldn’t be that difficult to put two and two together. Hell, all this hypothetical person would have to do was look in the phone book under lawyers and find one named Philip.”
“Which there are five of,” Max supplied. He knew since he’d looked it up for his dad.
“And I’m betting only one with a wife named Diane. She could have, say, phoned all five claiming to need to mail an invitation of some sort and asked for the wife’s name. It really could be that easy.” The more Philip thought about this, the more he thought it might actually work. “And from there, it’s as easy as looking us up in the phone book.”
“Hmm, that might work, but CPS is going to want to have Joshua checked out medically, maybe even talk to a therapist. Any idea how to get around that?” Jim asked from experience.
“No, that remains a problem,” Philip admitted.
“He can pass a cursory exam, ears, nose, throat, lungs, heart, that type of thing. It’s when they draw any type of fluid that they’re going to know something’s not right,” Nesado filled in. “So it’s not the doctor we need to get past, it’s the technicians that do the blood draw or whatever and process the results.”
“When I…” Max paused and had to swallow, it was odd to admit this to the sheriff and his parents, but he started it so he was committed now. “When I was in that car accident last year, we substituted Alex’s blood for mine.” He squirmed under his parents’ surprised expression.
“I had no idea,” Diane admitted. “I guess you would have had to have done something.”
“We’d have to time it right, but I could scope out the clinic, wait until someone leaves for break, impersonate them, do the blood draw on Joshua, and switch things around. It would help if we did it when some other five-year-old was getting his done at the same time so I can switch the samples,” Nesado offered.
“But what about that other sample? Won’t they get suspicious and want to retest them? Besides, what if the sample we get is of a kid that really is sick?” Isabel countered.
“I’ll make sure Joshua’s blood sample gets contaminated and that the other kid has to come back for another one,” Nesado explained. “I can also run a scan over the sample we use to make sure nothing is out of the ordinary.”
“Sounds good to me. If no one else has any other ideas on this matter, let’s move on. Now how are we going to keep CPS from taking Joshua in the first place?” Philip asked.
“I can probably help with that. I have a few friends that would be ‘understanding’ and want to keep the kids together if at all possible. And since you two can obviously provide a good home, I don’t think that’d be a problem.” He gave Max a concerned look as he thought of something.
“What?” Max asked when he caught the look.
“Well, they are going to be doing thorough background checks and one of the things that might show is…well, the problems you’ve been having recently, Max,” Jim told him, making Max flinch.
“Max, getting help is nothing to be ashamed of, but Jim does have a valid point. It may come up and we should have an answer for that,” Philip reasoned.
“Why don’t we tell them what Max was leading us, well, I guess me, to believe? That it all stemmed from his abandonment and probable mistreatment and neglect as a child, that he had repressed until now,” Diane suggested.
Philip looked at his son. “That’d mean you’d probably have to continue getting help for these ‘problems’ until the authorities were satisfied. Can you do that?” he asked him.
“It might actually help demonstrate how important it is not just to Joshua, but Max as well, that they all stay together,” Jim threw in.
Max nodded a bit reluctantly. “Okay, but I might need some help in keeping my story straight so the therapist continues to buy it.”
“We’ll give you a hand, don’t worry. Anything else we need to be concerned about?” Philip asked the assembled. No one said anything. “Okay, Nesado, you think you could give us a hand with that letter? We don’t want the writing to be recognizable to anyone.”
“Hello, anyone home?” Liz asked as she pushed in the back door that led to the kitchen.
“Liz?” Max asked as he came around the corner. He smiled when he saw that he was correct, it was Liz. “Hey, come on in.”
“Hi Max.” She looked around. “Where’s everyone else?”
“Shopping. Well, mostly. I’m watching Joshua, who’s still taking a nap, and Michael is still locked in our spare room, I mean Joshua’s new room, painting,” Max explained as he guided Liz into the kitchen. “You want something to drink?” He popped open the frig to look. “We got Coke, Sprite, and OJ.”
“Coke would be fine,” Liz answered and smiled as he pulled out a couple of cans and grabbed a Tabasco bottle. “So you’re already stuck baby-sitting, eh?”
“Yep, but it beats being dragged from store to store. Besides, it hasn’t been too bad so far,” he told her as he poured the sodas over ice.
“So what’s the plan, with Joshua, I mean?” she asked before taking a sip of her Coke.
“Mom’s going to stay home with him for a while. He, uh…well, he’s been trying to experiment with his powers a little…and, um…well, let’s just say that so far we’ve been able to repair the damage but…”
“Kinda best to keep him under wraps until he gets the idea of hiding in plain sight down,” she filled in for him.
“Yeah,” he confirmed. He turned as he felt little eyes on him. “Hey Joshua. How was your nap?”
Joshua rubbed his eyes and looked again. It was her! He ran with open arms. “WHIZ!”
Liz scooped him up in her arms, covered him in little kisses, and gave him a good hug.
Max wondered if it was normal to be intensely jealous of a five-year-old.
“I missed you, Joshua. How have you been?” Liz asked and gave him a good squeeze before setting him down on the kitchen counter.
“U’kay. Mom ‘ad pa-pancakz for beakfas’,” he told her.
“She did? Did you like them with lots of syrup?” Liz asked indulgently.
He nodded. “Uh-huh, and ‘abasco.”
“That’s good.” She couldn’t resist hugging him again.
No doubt about it, Max was officially jealous of a five-year-old.
Isabel burst in the back door, loaded down with shopping bags, followed by her mom and dad. “Oh hey Liz,” she greeted as she walked in. “Max, there’s more in the car.” She turned to her new little brother. “Joshua, just wait until you see everything we got you. You’re going to love it!” She gave him a peck on the cheek as she passed. “Liz, can you bring him along. He’s got lots of things to try on.”
“Poor kid,” Philip quipped as he watched Liz and Joshua follow Isabel into her bedroom with Diane bringing up the rear. “Come on, Max. Let’s go get the rest of the stuff.” Philip shook his head. Max hadn’t been wrong about Isabel maxing out his credit cards if he’d let her. Good thing he came along to keep an eye on things. And he had one surprise that he’d picked up today for both his sons. “Here, this bag is for you and Joshua and if you say anything to Iz or your mother, I’ll deny it.”
Max carefully peeked inside the large Target bag and a delighted, evil grin took over. “I’m going to have to plan something special for this.”
“Yeah, but not one word to either or I’m dead meat, and I’ll take you down with me,” Philip emphasized.
“Deal,” Max agreed.
It’s ten o’clock on a hot August, Saturday night. He’s seventeen with no work tomorrow and in bed…with a five-year-old. This was just so wrong. He should be out with Liz, especially since her dad had given her a rare Saturday off. But no, his mom was emphatic about him spending time with the family, and his dad didn’t help with the ‘need to maintain the family emergency cover for this weekend,’ less the neighbors report the wrong thing if asked by child services. The closest he got to going out was to drive Liz home when it got dark out, and a quick peck on the cheek for a good night kiss since her father was watching them from the window. Not even close to all the hugging and kissing she gave Joshua.
‘Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay, my, oh my, what a wonderful day…’
“Please don’t pull that string again, Joshua,” Max pleaded. He was going to kill his sister for finding that stupid Disney bear in her closet. Once Joshua found the string, that was it. Now he had the first part of that damn song stuck in his head. He turned and looked over at his brother. “Aren’t you supposed to be asleep?”
“Nu-huh,” Joshua answered and pulled the string again.
‘Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay, my, oh my, what a wonderful day…’
“Did you go potty before going to bed?” Max asked. This was more important tonight than last night since this was his first night in ‘big boy’ underwear, no more Pull-Ups. Max was rather concerned.
“Nuh-uh. No ‘ave a go poddy,” Joshua said.
‘Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay, my, oh my, what a wonderful day…’
“You sure you don’t have to go potty?” Max asked again.
“Uh-huh.” He pulled the string again. He loved those sounds.
‘Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay, my, oh my, what a wonderful day…’
Max figured he was going to have to seriously maim that bear before morning. “I have to go potty. Why don’t you come with me…just in case.” He just didn’t want to take any chances.
“Uh, Joshua, you have to point it down. Aim for the water,” Max advised when it was Joshua’s turn at the bowl.
Joshua looked up at his big brother and answered, “U’kay.”
“Joshua! Pay attention to what you’re doing. Down. Try to hit the water,” Max told him and grabbed some toilet paper as he waited for him to finish. For someone who claimed he didn’t have to go, Joshua sure was going a lot. “Okay, done?”
“Uh-huh,” Joshua answered and put himself away like Dad had shown him.
“Good,” Max said and cringed as he wiped up a couple of spots. He wanted to use his powers but last time he did that in the bathroom, he ended up spending the next hour using his powers to repair the soggy drywall and fix loose tiles. He flushed then put the seat down. That was important in a house that also contained Isabel. “Okay, wash hand time,” Max said as he lifted Joshua up to the sink, turned on the water, and grabbed the bar of soap.
Max waited until he was sure Joshua was asleep and stealthy crept over to his computer. He was careful to turn the volume off before he began his web search. He started by typing in ‘Disney lyrics’ and then ‘Zip-a-dee-do-dah’. It didn’t take him long to find it. At least he could finally hear the rest of the song play out in his head. That damn ‘Zip-a-dee-do-dah, zip-a-dee-ay, my, oh my, what a wonderful day…’ had been driving him crazy trying to remember what came next. He glanced over at a sleeping Joshua and saw that the bear was loose from his grip. He carefully picked up the bear, glanced back at the lyrics, and heard them playing out in his head as his hand began to glow. He couldn’t do too much but he thought Joshua would like the surprise. He felt pretty good as he shut the computer down and crawled back into bed.
Joshua yawned and stretched as he sat up in bed. He could see that it was bright outside. He looked over at his bed companion, who was sprawled out still asleep. He shrugged. He wasn’t afraid anymore. Mom and Dad had taken him to every room in the house and shown him where everything was and that there wasn’t anything to be afraid of. This was home. Besides, he was a ‘big boy’ now. He even had the underwear to prove it, which reminded him... He jumped out of bed, took his new bear that made noises, and ran down the hall to the bathroom. He could do this himself. He was very proud of himself when he hit the water a couple of times, but he thought that there was something he was forgetting. He dutifully flushed and then climbed up to the sink to wash his hands. He even used soap! He wondered what it was that he forgot. He shrugged, it must not be important or he’d remember. He climbed down, grabbed his bear, and ran out into the hall. Now what? He pulled the string.
My, oh my, what a wonderful day
Plenty of sunshine headin my way
Mister Bluebird’s on my shoulder
It's the truth, it's actual
Ev’rything is satisfactual’
He almost dropped the bear. His mouth was hanging open in surprise. What happened? He ran up the stairs to Mom and Dad, they’d know what happened. They know everything. “Mom!” He came busting into the room. “Mom! Mom!”
Diane almost jumped out of her skin. “What? What is it Joshua?”
Philip rubbed his eyes. Didn’t they start yesterday like this?
“Mom, wook!” Joshua told her and pulled the string.
My, oh my, what a wonderful day
Plenty of sunshine headin my way
Mister Bluebird’s on my shoulder
It's the truth, it's actual
Ev’rything is satisfactual’
“Wha’ ‘appened?” Joshua asked.
Diane was at a loss. She had no idea what the problem was. “What happened to what, honey? The bear sounds fine to me.”
“No, Mom. Rast nighd id wend wike dis, ‘ ‘ip-a-dee-do-dah, ‘ip-a-dee-ay, my, oh my, wha a wun’erful day,’” he sang. “Wha’ ‘appened?”
Philip tried his best not to laugh. He had a good idea what happened. “You listened to it a lot last night, huh?”
“While your brother was trying to sleep?” he continued.
Joshua nodded again.
He bet that it drove Max nuts and when he had the chance he used his powers on it. Philip gave a slight snort. He couldn’t really blame him. “Well, I bet you wore that bear out and he was too tired to sing any more than the first few parts to you until he could get some sleep. You’ll need to be sure to let him rest at night. Okay?”
Joshua looked at the bear, hugged it close to him, and nodded gravely at Dad. He didn’t want to make the bear too tired to sing anymore.
“Good,” Philip said with a yawn and glanced at the clock, 6:45 a.m. “Now why don’t we all try to get a few more hours of sleep,” he suggested and noticed his yawn was contagious as Joshua followed suit, while Diane was already tucking him in between them.
Joshua yawned again and snuggled in. He’d been right. Mom and Dad knew everything, he thought as he drifted back off to sleep in the quiet house.
“Arrrrrrrgh” Isabel shouted right before she smacked her sleeping brother with her pillow.
“Hey! What the…” Max put his hand up to block the next blow. “What the hell’s the matter with you?!”
“You! Do you have to be so disgusting?!” She smacked him again.
He grabbed her pillow. “Knock it off! I didn’t do anything!” he proclaimed.
“Didn’t do anything? Have you seen the bathroom?! Disgusting!” She tugged at the pillow, but he wouldn’t let go.
“Philip. Philip, Isabel is shouting. I think she and Max are getting into it,” Diane whispered trying not to wake a sleeping Joshua.
“Yeah, I heard. I was hoping if I ignored it, it’d go away,” he mumbled and forced himself to look at the clock, almost nine. Was it too much to ask to actually make it to nine? He now heard ‘I did not,’ followed by ‘You did to,’ and back to ‘Did not!’ come echoing up from downstairs, and sighed. Yeah, it was too much to ask. He threw the blankets off. “Okay, I’m up.”
“I did not!” Max insisted while continuing to hold onto the pillow.
“You did to!” Isabel likewise insisted.
“I don’t care who did what, knock it the hell off!” Philip shouted from the hall and got immediate silence. “It’s not even nine in the morning and I want quiet!” he demanded and walked past them to the kitchen. He really needed some coffee, and if this was any indication of how the day was going to be, a six-pack of beer for later on.
“Dad, he left the bathroom a disgusting mess! He didn’t even bother to lift the seat!” Isabel accused as she followed her dad into the kitchen.
“I did not! Dad, it wasn’t me! She attacked me for no reason!” Max proclaimed as he followed her in, pleading his case.
Philip filled the coffee filter, poured the water, and switched on the pot. His temper was already simmering. It really was too early for this. “That’s enough! What part of ‘quiet’ do you two not get? Is it a teen affliction or something? Do you need time at home to overcome it? You have a little more than two weeks of summer vacation left. I can make arrangements for you both to be at home with a list of things that have to be done on a daily basis, and NO CAR PRIVILEGES!” That shut them up.
“Well, now that we’re all up. What are we going to do today as a family?” Diane asked from the hallway with Joshua, holding his bear, standing right next to her. He pulled the string.
My, oh my, what a wonderful day
Plenty of sunshine headin my way
Mister Bluebird’s on my shoulder
It's the truth, it's actual
Ev’rything is satisfactual’
Re: Joshua's First Year (CC, Teen) Part 13, PG2 5-2-09
Posted: Sat May 02, 2009 11:09 am
The sheriff held the file in his hand and waited for her to get off the phone. He smiled at her when she finally hung up. “How are you doing Susan?” he asked.
Susan returned the smile. She had noticed the manila folder in his hand but had refrained from asking. She knew he’d tell her about it when he was ready. “Good. I’m doing good. I haven’t seen you too much lately. How’s everything with you? How’s Kyle?”
Jim smiled at her. They’d had a brief ‘thing’ some time ago, but they had somehow managed to remain friends. “I’m good. Kyle’s good. He got back from baseball camp a couple of weeks ago and has been hanging out with friends ever since.” He paused and laid the folder on her desk. “In fact, a couple of those friends are what I came to talk to you about. I need your help…a favor, really.”
She put her hand on the folder but waited for Jim to nod before sliding the folder over to her and flipping it open. She scowled as she read it. “They called you Saturday but you didn’t report it until now, Monday morning? An abandoned child? Jim, this is serious.”
“I know. I also know that that child was in better hands with the Evans than at an emergency shelter for the weekend. They’re good people. I checked on him Sunday and he was out back running through the sprinklers and laughing his head off. He needs to be with his siblings,” Jim stressed.
“And what exactly is it that you need from me?” Susan queried.
“Be his case worker. Let him stay with them. Hell, Diane Evans is even willing to be a stay-at-home mom for him. They want to keep him and not just some temporary thing, plus he’d be with his brother and sister. How often do you get to keep three siblings together permanently? Can you help them?” he asked.
She sat the folder down and sighed. “Jim, I’m a supervisor. I don’t handle individual cases unless there’s a problem.”
“Couldn’t you make an exception?” he suggested.
“It’d raise eyebrows,” she informed him.
“So? What’s more important, the well-being and happiness of a child or a few tweaked brows?” Jim countered.
“Jim, it’s not that easy,” she told him.
“That’s why you’re the supervisor. You know how to make difficult things easy,” he replied smoothly.
She shook her head in admiration. “You always could turn on the charm, Jim Valenti. Okay, I’ll handle the case, but that doesn’t mean I’ll skimp on things. I’ll do the background checks and pay them a visit today, and if everything seems to be in order, I’ll grant them temporary custody. But if even one thing is out of place or I get a twitch that something’s not right. I won’t hesitate to put him in an emergency foster home. Deal?”
Jim smiled warmly at her. He knew that Philip would make damn sure everything went smoothly. He was a lawyer after all. “Deal, Susan. And thank you.” They stood but instead of shaking hands, he reached out and gave her a good hug. “You’re doing good,” he whispered in her ear.
Isabel was at her wit’s end. “Joshua, you have to take a nap after lunch. Mom said so.” This baby-sitting business sucked.
He stubbornly shook his head. “No. I no ‘ave nap. No sweepy.”
“Yes, you are. Just look how cranky you are,” Isabel pointed out.
“I no canky, ‘ou are!” Joshua shot back.
“Arrgh! Joshua, I mean it. Nap. Now. GO!” she said and pointed the way to her brother’s bedroom. Joshua just stood there, not budging an inch. ‘Ding-dong.’ “Great, just great. Who’s that?” she asked as she went to answer the door. “Hello. Can I help you?” she asked the lady standing there.
She pulled out her card. “Yes, I’m Susan Raims of Children’s Protective Services. Are you Diane Evans?” she asked hesitantly. She looked a bit young to be the lady of the house.
“What? No. No, I’m Isabel Evans, her daughter. Um, please come in,” she told her as she stepped back from the door. She shot a glance at Joshua, who was still standing there, but instead of being stubborn and defiant, he was scared. Oh God, she hoped his hands didn’t start to glow. They’d been through this yesterday and tried to prepare Joshua as best they could. Basically, the fallback plan was for Joshua to remain stonily silent and refuse to talk, just like any five-year-old might do. And hopefully he would remember that if his hands started glowing, he was supposed to stick them in his pockets to hide them.
Joshua could tell that Isabel was nervous about this new lady. He didn’t like that. He took a step toward Isabel and reached for her hand as he stared at the lady.
Susan took the seat in the living room that Isabel indicated. “Hello, Joshua. My name is Susan.” She wasn’t overly surprised to get no reply. The boy had the most beautiful eyes, and he sure could stare at you with them. She glanced at the young lady who was obviously baby-sitting. “Is your mother going to be home soon? I understood that she was going to be a stay-at-home mother.”
“She will be, but um, she’s at work making the arrangements. She’ll be home by two.” Isabel couldn’t help but glance at the mantel clock, 1:45. Damn. “Um, would you like something to drink? Iced tea?”
“Oh, that would be nice. Thank you,” she replied politely and then looked at the little boy. “It’ll give me a few minutes to get to know Joshua a little better.”
Oh shit! Now what? She turned to her brother again and did her best to make it seem natural, as if brushing his bangs away from his eyes, as she fed him an image. It was a quick flash of their conversation with him yesterday about remaining quiet and no glowing hands if at all possible. She hoped he understood. “Okay Joshua, I’m just going to go get some tea. You stay right here, okay?”
He didn’t say a word but watched her leave with big solemn eyes.
“Joshua, why don’t you come sit down next to me so we can talk?” Susan suggested.
Joshua remained rooted in his spot and stared.
“Not much of a talker, huh?” Susan remarked. Nothing.
She thought she heard a door open and then voices in the kitchen. Maybe Diane was home early? Suddenly a young man came strolling in. She did a double take as she looked at the little boy and then to the youth. Oh my God! They’re almost identical. Same ears, same nose, same mouth, but the hair was a little darker and the eyes were a shade off as well.
“Hey Joshua!” Max said as he walked in and scooped him up in his arms. He thought he’d come home for lunch and check on how Isabel was handling Joshua. Besides, the Crashdown was packed and Liz was way too busy to spend any time with him. He was glad he did. Plus this gave Isabel a little more time to call their mom and dad and let them know CPS was here already. “Hi, I’m Max,” he said as he sat down with Joshua, who’d wrapped his arms around Max’s neck and wasn’t letting go.
“H-hello, I’m Susan Raims from Children’s Protective Services. You must be his older brother,” she said.
“Yeah, kinda hard to miss, huh?” he said with a charming relaxed smile. His stomach was in a great big knot. God, would his mom and dad just hurry up already!
Susan took out her notepad and pen. “Can I ask you a few questions?” she asked and he nodded ‘yes’ in reply. “So you’re seventeen now, right?”
“I pulled your records. And a junior or senior in high school?” she asked.
“I’ll start my junior year. We… Iz and I were six when we started school,” he answered.
“And how old were you the last time you saw your mother?” she asked and saw his frown.
“You mean my biological mother? Six I guess,” he replied.
“So his age?” she asked with a nod toward Joshua, whom she saw wasn’t about to talk nor leave his brother’s lap.
“A little younger actually. According to her letter, he just turned five,” Max pointed out.
“Oh.” She checked the file quickly. “Oh, that’s right. If you don’t mind, since this one isn’t talking, can you tell me what you remember about your…biological mother?” she asked as Isabel finally came back in with the glasses of iced tea.
Isabel touched her brother’s shoulder in support. Here goes. “Neither of us really remember anything…that is until recently,” she said and gave her brother a compassionate look.
“Oh?” Susan asked.
“I…my therapist thinks that I’m starting to recall some stuff…sort of repressed memories. They’re…they’re not that good. I can remember being alone and locked in a room. And I was pretty scared.” He hoped she was buying this. God, where were their parents?
Susan cast a glance at the little boy sitting in his brother’s arms. Had he suffered the same fate? Did Jim already know about this? Is that why he wanted special handling with this case? “What about you Isabel? Do you recall anything?”
“No. I guess mine are still repressed,” Isabel hedged.
“Are you seeing a therapist too?” she asked.
“No, I…” she turned when she heard the back door open. She was visibly relieved when he walked in. “Dad!”
“Hi honey,” Philip said as he put his briefcase down. “Sorry I couldn’t get home sooner. I was in the middle of an appointment.” He looked over at their visitor and extended his hand. “Hello, I’m Philip Evans.”
“Susan Raims, Children’s Protective Services. I’m here to see about Joshua here,” she explained as they shook hands. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Isabel must have called her father. “From what I’ve read, you’ve had quite a weekend.”
Philip chuckled as he took a seat on the sofa. “I’d say that’s an understatement,” he agreed.
“I understand your wife will be leaving her position to stay home, is that correct?” she asked. They then went through a litany of questions: yes, Mrs. Evans was planning on taking a family leave from her job; no, it won’t be a financial hardship; yes, she can check their credit and financials and talk to the neighbors and co-workers; yes, Max is in therapy, but it’s good that he’s getting help and that they are very supportive of it; and so on, and so on, and so on.
“Dad?” Max interrupted. “I’m only home for my lunch hour. I gotta get back to work.”
“Okay, go on. We’re fine. Uh, did you eat?” Philip asked. Max had just started putting weight back on and he knew that Diane worried about that. He did too.
“No, but I’ll swing through a drive-thru on the way,” he promised. He looked over at Joshua who was now sitting on their Dad’s lap and looking none too happy about him leaving. “I’ll be home right after dinner time, okay?”
“No,” Joshua stubbornly refused. He didn’t want Max to go, not with that lady still here. “No.”
“Joshua, I’ll be home later. I promise.” He scowled as he noticed a slight glow coming from little hands. No doubt there’d be a matching silver handprint underneath it. He turned as he heard the front door open.
“Hi, sorry I’m so late. Honey?” Diane asked as she walked in and could immediately see Joshua’s distress, not to mention that the slight soft glow from his hands was a dead giveaway. She had a good idea who the stranger sitting there was. She walked over, made sure she was blocking the stranger’s view, and picked up Joshua so Max could remove any lingering silver on Philip. “Hey sweetheart, what’s wrong?”
“Macks weaving!” he accused with a sob.
“Oh honey, Max just…” She gave her oldest a confused look. “I thought you had to work today?”
“I’m on my lunch break and I have to get back.” He checked his watch. “I’m already late.”
“Oh, okay, well, you better get going then.” She gave him a light kiss on the cheek and then turned her attention to the little one in her arms. “Joshua, we talked about this yesterday. Max can’t be with you all the time. He has things he has to do.” She noted that he seemed exceptionally whiney and gave her daughter a look. “Isabel, did he have a nap after lunch?”
“No, he wouldn’t take one,” Isabel answered and for some reason felt guilty. Like she hadn’t measured up.
“Um, Joshua, I think you need to take a short nap right now. Isabel, why don’t you come give me a hand,” she told her and mentally added, ‘and clean up any silver he might leave.’ She turned to the stranger, “I’m terribly sorry. I’m Diane Evans and if you’ll give me a moment, I’ll be right with you.”
“I’m Susan Raims, and of course,” Susan answered. She’d watched as Diane basically came in and handled the situation with practice and ease. She could still hear a protesting little voice coming down the hall but she also heard the firm but gentle voice telling him ‘no.’ She’d already gotten the impression that the family had fallen in love with Joshua, which she was glad to see, but she’d been a bit concerned about possible discipline problems that might crop up, especially if Joshua was overindulged. She noted that Joshua was already overly clingy with his brother, which she’d expected. Joshua was obviously afraid of being abandoned again. She was relieved to see that Diane was quite capable of handling it. It was almost ten minutes before Diane and Isabel rejoined her and Philip in the living room. “I take it he’s down for the count?” she asked with a smile.
“Yes, though he didn’t want to,” Diane admitted and quickly switched gears. “I’m terribly sorry to be so late but I’m trying to get all the arrangements set at work as quickly as possible.”
“Of course, I completely understand. Your husband and children were filling me in a bit about the plans for your family. I was hoping though to take a quick tour of your house. I need it for my report and recommendation,” Susan told her.
“Certainly, but we’ll need to be quiet,” Diane cautioned as she led them on a tour of the house. They only peeked in Max’s room, which was semi-clean at the moment, and spotted a sleeping Joshua surrounded by various stuffed animals. Diane explained why Joshua and Max were temporarily sharing a room as they ascended the stairs to the master bedroom and what would be Joshua’s room, which she had completely forgotten was locked. She thought she heard someone in there. “Michael? Michael, is that you?” she called out as she knocked.
“Yeah,” came the reply.
“Michael, I have the lady from Children’s Protective Services with me. She wants to inspect Joshua’s new room,” Diane explained to the closed door.
“It ain’t done,” he answered.
Diane sighed and glanced at the surprised and slightly amused look Susan was sporting. She figured that she’d better explain. “Michael’s a very good friend of the kids, but a bit of the…um, moody artist type. He wanted to do something special for Joshua’s room, so he’s painting it for us but wants to keep it a surprise. He’s very…”
“Peculiar?” Susan offered.
“Um, I was thinking particular, but he really is a sweet boy,” she supplied then knocked on the door again. “Michael, she has to see the room. It’s part of her report. I won’t look. I promise.” She thought the doorknob seemed a bit hot to the touch for a moment before she heard it click open.
“Okay, but only her,” Michael said as his body blocked Diane from seeing much of anything.
“Of course Michael,” Diane agreed as Susan slipped into the room.
Susan had been suitably impressed with the room and the neat and comfortable house, not to mention the general feel of warmth and family. The Evans kids were lucky to have such a family and she now understood why Jim had asked her for help. She pulled out some forms as they sat at the kitchen table. “At this time, I am comfortable letting Joshua remain here. I still need to do some further checking but I don’t see a problem. I wish all such abandonment cases were so easy. Now this one is for county health. Joshua seems to be in good health, but he needs a physical, and I assume that he’ll need all of his inoculations to start kindergarten. I checked, and it looks like you are in the West Elementary School District. Do you know which school you’ll be enrolling him in?”
“K-kindergarten? Isn’t he too young? I mean he just barely turned five and after all he’s been through…” Diane tried to explain.
“By law, if he’s five by the start of the school year, he starts. And I think it may be good for him to interact with other children his own age, don’t you?” Susan asked.
So long as he doesn’t blow up the school, Diane thought to herself. “Uh, I suppose.” She reluctantly took the paperwork and gave her husband a nervous smile. Now what were they going to do?
Philip placed a comforting hand over his wife’s. “Of course. We’ll have to get back to you on which school. Is there anything else?” Philip asked with his best lawyer face.
“Not at the moment. I am assuming you’ll be seeking permanent placement or adoption?” Susan asked.
“Yes, we want to adopt.” He pulled a card out of his wallet and handed it to her. “Mike Thorton will be acting as our adoption attorney.” He’d placed the call first thing this morning and had been meeting with him when he got Isabel’s panicked phone call to come home.
She took the card. “Very good. I’ll contact him with any additional requests. And please take my card and pass one on to him.” She handed him two business cards.
“Yes, well, thank you for being so understanding,” Philip told her as he escorted her to the front door. When he came back into the kitchen his wife was still sitting there in shock.
“Kindergarten! Philip, how are we going to do that? He’s nowhere near ready and school starts in a couple of weeks,” Diane asked in frustration.
“I know. But what else can we do, we can’t just not send him to school. They’ll want to know why,” Philip explained, though he knew his wife already knew it.
“Mom, I hate to say it but I think it’ll be harder to get him to a doctor. He’s going to be terrified. It’ll be too much like that lab,” Isabel explained.
“Oh God, Philip, she’s right. I can only imagine what it was like to be poked and prodded and…” Diane couldn’t go on.
“Well, you’ll be with him, we all will if that’s what he needs. I guess I should give Jim a call and thank him. He must have called in one hell of a favor because she let us off way too easy,” Philip told them and went for the phone.
“Dad, you might want to call Nesado too, so he knows what clinic and stuff,” Isabel suggested.
Diane put her hands on the table to steady herself and pull herself together. “Okay, Isabel, you’re going to help me get dinner on.”
“Me? Mom, I’m not the Martha Stewart type,” Isabel reminded her.
“Well, it’s about time you learned. I’m going to need your help for the next few weeks, which most likely will include a meal or two. So come on,” Diane informed her and from the tone, her daughter knew she meant business.
Max eyed his dinner plate with trepidation. “But I ate at the Crashdown.”
“Take a few bites. It won’t kill you,” Diane pointedly told her son. Dinner had been late and Max had just gotten home from work.
“But I thought you said Isabel made it,” Max remarked. Isabel stuck her tongue out. He snorted when Joshua copied her.
“Isabel! Do that again and I’ll get some soap. Look what you’ve got him doing now. You two have got to remember that he’s very young and impressionable and copies everything you do. You both are going to have to set good examples for him,” Diane lectured.
“Yes, ma’am,” they both said.
Max took a bite and pretended to gag and chugged the water.
“Mom…” Isabel whined.
Philip kicked his son underneath the table as a warning to straighten up, and he poked at his own dinner. Maybe next time Isabel has to cook he’ll slip her a couple of twenties for pizza that night.
Joshua took another bite. “Yuck,” he proclaimed and spit it out.
“Well, I’m stuffed,” Philip announced over his half-eaten plate. “What’s for dessert?”
Diane sighed. In truth, she couldn’t blame them. Isabel wasn’t the best cook. “Rocky Road and vanilla ice cream with all the toppings.”
“’abasco doo?” Joshua asked. They’d had that the other day and he loved it! Much better than this stuff.
“Yes, Tabasco too,” Diane assured him.
Re: Joshua's First Year (CC, Teen) Part 13, PG2 5-2-09
Posted: Sat May 02, 2009 11:10 am
Maria watched Michael work the grill as she turned in another order. “Okay Spaceboy, what’s with the multicolored hair? Going punk rock on me or something?” she asked.
“What? What are you talking about?” Michael asked in confusion as he slid an order through the window.
“The hair, Michael. I can pick out some black, orange, blue, yellow, and I think even a little pink. Care to share?” Maria asked and waited for his answer.
“Nah, just helpin’ get the rugrat’s room ready,” he answered with a shrug.
“Wait, you’re helping to fix up Joshua’s room? You?” She was astounded. Michael was doing something nice, without any arm-twisting?
“What? The room needed painting, so I’m painting it.” He nodded toward the plate. “Your order’s getting cold.”
“Right,” Maria agreed though she still didn’t believe it. She delivered the greasy fare to her customer and cornered her best friend at the soda machine. “Okay Chica, have you heard that Mr. Stonewall was actually volunteering to help with Joshua?”
“Oh yeah, he’s painting,” Liz told her as she filled another glass. “And I spoke to Max last night. Isabel has to baby-sit until Mrs. Evans gets everything worked out at her job.”
“Okay, wait a minute here. Mr. Stonewall is voluntarily painting the equivalent of a hybrid nursery, and Miss Ice Queen of West Roswell High is…baby-sitting a five-year-old? Is there some…I don’t know, kryptonite or something laying around changing them into unrecognizable creatures or something?” Maria hypothesized.
“Maria, kryptonite didn’t change Superman, it took his powers away,” Liz pointed out as she took her tray of drinks to her customers.
“Yeah, whatever,” Maria said half-heartedly and then turned to study her hot-and-cold running boyfriend. What had gotten into him lately? She noticed as Liz went past her that her walk got a little more suggestive and her smile a little more tantalizing. She turned to look. Yep, Max was crossing the street and making a beeline for his Liz. She sighed. At least one of their aliens was acting normal. “Looks like Liz’s Max radar is tuned in,” she commented to Alex, who was sitting at the counter sucking on a soda.
Alex looked over as Max came in and took a seat at a vacant table. “So are those two back together again?”
“Not yet, at least not according to Liz. But it’s only a matter of time. Just look at them. All Max has to do is turn on the charm and she’ll be a goner. She always was. And if that doesn’t work, he can bring out the secret weapon,” Maria told him.
“Secret weapon? What’s that?” Alex asked.
“Joshua, of course. No woman can resist a guy holding a cute baby.” Maria glanced back at the grill. Maybe she could volunteer to help Isabel out with the baby-sitting and just ‘happen’ to be there at the same time as Mr. DaVinci over there. The kid’s got to take a nap sometime, didn’t he?
“I hate to inform you but Joshua isn’t exactly a baby. He’s like five,” Alex pointed out.
“Yeah, well, that’s as close to infancy, at least physically, as a hybrid gets,” Maria replied.
“So Liz, when do you get another night off?” Max asked as she brought him his Cherry Coke to him.
“Not until Thursday, why?” Liz answered coyly. She loved his hopeful little-boy look. It would be so easy to just get lost in it all over again. If she thought about it, she’d have to admit that she already was, but she wasn’t ready to admit that just yet.
Max mentally went through his work schedule and frowned. Damn, he had a therapist appointment at three and then he’d promised Milton he’d work until closing at nine on Thursday. Damn. “What about Friday?”
“Nope, I close the place. Same on Saturday. Want to try for Sunday? I’m off then,” she suggested.
Sunday. His work schedule didn’t include Sunday yet. Maybe he could ask Milton for Sunday off. His frown deepened a bit. He’d been asking Milton for a lot of time off recently. That wasn’t good. Besides, he needed the money. Dating was expensive. His mood brightened quickly. Dating. He was dating Liz Parker again. Well, sort of. They were talking about it at least. Sunday. He could probably get Sunday off. “Okay, I’ll put in for Sunday off. Anything in particular you’d like to do?”
She heard a familiar voice and glanced toward the kitchen behind her. “You mean something like an evening in the desert, under the stars, lying naked on a blanket with a handsome alien?” she said with a devilish smile.
Max was frozen. His body was majorly betraying him at the moment. Oh, man, was he ever going to be taking a long, long, freezing cold shower later on. “Um, o-k…”
“Max! How ya doing? I haven’t seen you in here since last week. Don’t tell me after all these years that you’ve finally gotten tired of our menu?” Jeff joked by way of greeting as he came around and gave Max a friendly slap on the back. He wondered why the kid looked like he’d just been caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
“Fine!” Damn, his voice cracked. “Fine, Mr. Parker. And, um, no the menu’s great. Just…um, my mom wanted us home this weekend.” He managed to bring his voice back down a few octaves, and he hoped, leveled it off. God, he hoped Mr. Parker couldn’t read minds. He sighed. At least the shock of being in Liz’s dad’s presence negated the reason for a cold shower. He heard a slight snicker and shot Liz a warning glance. She’d set him up.
“Girl, that was bad,” Maria remarked with a smirk as she passed Liz on the way to a customer.
“I have no idea what you mean,” Liz innocently proclaimed but couldn’t stop the snicker. Max was so cute when embarrassed. He was so cute period.
Maria put the money in the till and then joined Max at his table, where Alex had joined him as well. “Okay girlfriend, how’s the home life? Getting used to the little munchkin?”
Max had to grin at that. Munchkin pretty much described Joshua. “I think so. He certainly is making his own place in the house.” His smile increased. “Isabel can tell you how stubborn he can be.”
“Yeah, I heard about that. How’s she doing baby-sitting?” Maria asked in an unbelieving tone.
Alex laughed. “She called me yesterday to come over. Seems Joshua discovered the TV remote and wouldn’t hand it over. She was going nuts with the Sponge Bob marathon.”
“Oh, that’s nothing. You should have seen him when he got into the Cool Whip. He dumped a whole bottle of Tabasco in it and had it for lunch, and then got sick all over Isabel.” Max snorted. “She was not amused.”
Snicker. “Oh, poor baby. Was he okay?” Maria asked with a snort of her own.
“Oh yeah. Mom fixed tacos for dinner and he had like three of them. But Isabel wasn’t hungry. She was still complaining about how she could smell puke on herself even after using her powers to clean up and then taking a shower.” Max laughed at the memory. Joshua sure was giving Isabel a run for her money, just like any little brother should. “Mom told her that next time maybe she’ll remember to keep a better eye on what he’s getting into,” Max added.
“Isabel said that things are square with the authorities,” Alex commented.
“Yeah, mostly. Mom and Dad got temporary custody, but…” he sighed. “We made a mistake.”
Liz joined them as her last customer finally left. “What mistake?”
“We listed him as just turning five,” Max told them.
Liz shrugged. “That sounds about right.”
“A four-year-old wouldn’t start school for another year, but a five-year-old starts in less than two weeks,” Max explained.
“You’re kidding? Joshua is supposed to start school?” Maria asked, then whistled at the prospect.
“Exactly,” Max concurred.
“So what are your parents going to do?” Liz asked.
“Get him ready for school as best they can. Mom called the local school to register him and asked if they still had room moms and explained the situation. At least that way she can keep an eye on things in case something starts glowing,” Max said and frowned. “But that’s not the worst of it.”
“What?” Liz asked in alarm.
“Tomorrow morning he gets his physical and all his shots so he can start school. We’re all going with him for support. I don’t know how well he’s going to handle it after…well, you know.” Max wasn’t at all sure about this either. He’d rarely gone to a doctor himself. The last time was the car accident but that was before… Those walls were awfully white.
“Max, it’ll be fine,” Liz encouraged. She could see that he had some misgivings and it was a good bet that not all of them had to do with what Joshua’s reaction might be. “Do you need any of us to go with you?”
“I…” Didn’t she have to work tomorrow? “No, that’s okay. I’m sure my parents can handle it. In fact, they’ve gotten pretty good at handling this whole thing,” he admitted with a hint of pride and wonder. His parents had been more than amazing about everything.
“Well, how about afterwards bringing everyone to the Crashdown for some pie à la mode?” Liz suggested.
“Mmm, that sounds good. I’ll tell them, besides it’s time Joshua started getting out more. We’ve taken him to the park by our house a few times but not anywhere else yet. I bet he’ll love coming here.” Max’s grin let her know how much he certainly enjoyed coming here.
“Well, if he’s anything like his big brother, that’s a given,” Maria quipped when she saw the look Max was giving Liz.
Joshua clutched Mom’s hand tightly. They’d gone for a short car ride and now they were going to the doctor. They told him that doctors weren’t something to be afraid of. They helped people and made sure they weren’t sick. He’d gotten sick the other day. He didn’t like it. It couldn’t be bad if doctors helped sick people get better, he figured. But he didn’t understand why everyone was worried, especially his brother.
“Okay, we’re here,” Diane said a bit nervously as Philip opened the door for her.
This wasn’t so bad, Joshua thought as he looked around. There were other kids here running around, and some were even his size. He saw Dad go up to a little window and speak to someone before coming back over to where they’d taken a seat. He and Mom then started to write on some paper. He’d tried writing yesterday. Unfortunately he wasn’t so good about staying on the paper and Isabel had to get the pen stuff off the rug before Mom got home.
Diane watched as Joshua looked around, taking everything in as they waited. She and Philip had rarely needed a doctor, and now that she thought about it, other than a couple of accidents and routine exams for school, she hadn’t needed one for the kids either. In fact, she hadn’t even had a regular pediatrician for the kids. She’d never needed one. And judging from the sneezing, coughing, crying, and generally cranky kids along with frazzled and tired looking parents, she hadn’t missed much. She noticed a kid with a runny nose holding a picture book and running around. She watched as he sneezed in his hand, wiped his nose on his sleeve, and then put the book down and walk up to Joshua.
“Hi,” Joshua shyly said.
“Hi,” the boy replied and sneezed on him before running off.
Diane pulled Joshua back towards her. “Come here, honey. Sit with us,” she said as she sat him between her and Philip. They settled in for a good wait even though they had an appointment. After what seemed like an eternity, Joshua’s name was finally called. Her apprehension about this grew a thousand fold over how Joshua was going to react to all of this. “Come on sweetheart, this will all be over before you know it,” she told him and silently prayed that was true. She was relieved to see Philip following her and Joshua.
Joshua could feel Mom get more and more worried, and that made him worry too. Mom had him step on this thing, something about getting weighed. Then this bar came down until it touched the top of his head, then he sat in a chair and this lady stuck something in his ear. Mom and Dad then took him to this room. He stood stock still as he looked around. It sort of reminded him of that bad place, the one that Max had promised him wasn’t there anymore. But why did this room seem so much like it? He began to frown.
Philip saw Joshua come to a standstill in the room and look around with a frown. He came up behind him and scooped him up in his arms. “Hey Joshua, it’s alright, me and Mom are here and we’re not leaving you. I promise. Okay?” The only reply he got was little arms wrapped tightly around his neck.
Diane stood next to Joshua, who they finally convinced to sit on the examining table in his underwear and t-shirt. He’d flatly refused to put on the hospital gown. She knew that they were pushing him and if they went much further, there’d be a room full of silver handprints. They all turned to look as the door opened and a middle-aged man with kind but tired eyes walked in. It was odd, but Diane got the distinct impression that she knew him.
“Joshua Evans?” he asked as he read the name on the chart. Evans, he knew some Evans. He was startled to see his memory was correct. “Philip?” He turned towards the woman standing next to the small boy. “Diane? I didn’t know you two still had a little one?” he asked in surprise.
“Fred Travis,” Philip said with some relief. They’d gone to high school together and parted ways during college, only to meet back up at the local country club. They made an occasional foursome on the golf course. “We didn’t know you were the doctor seeing Joshua.”
Dr. Travis referred back to his chart and noticed the paperwork for the county and looked back up. “Children’s Protective Services?”
“You know our two oldest were adopted,” Philip began and saw Fred pause and think about it before nodding for him to continue. “Joshua is their biological little brother and was recently entrusted to our care so he could be raised with his brother and sister. We need to get him ready for kindergarten.”
An abandonment case Dr. Travis realized, and then looked at the little boy again. He certainly was cute. “Okay, let’s give him a good once over,” he said in a friendly voice. “Hello Joshua, I’m Dr. Travis and we’re just going to check you out and make sure you’re doing okay. No biggie, right?” he asked as he pulled his stethoscope out of his pocket.
Joshua’s frown deepened and he scooted closer to Diane. He didn’t care how okay this guy seemed, he did not like this.
Dr. Travis made sure to smile his friendliest smile as he listened to his heart and lungs, and then checked the ears, eyes, nose, and throat. The boy never stopped frowning, not even when he checked his reflexes. Most little ones are at least surprised and curious when their knee goes bouncing. He sighed. This one was not going to be an easy one to win over. “Well, so far everything looks good. The only thing I see is a very slight fever, but that could be from nervousness about seeing a doctor.”
Diane let out an audible sigh. She knew he was healthy but it was nice to hear it from a doctor. She gave Joshua a warm smile and a kiss on the forehead. “Let’s get you dressed, sweetheart.”
“While you’re doing that, I’ll send in the nurse to give him his inoculations required for school,” Dr. Travis told them and couldn’t help but notice the suddenly worried looks. “Is there a problem?”
“Could you do it? Give him the shots?” Philip asked. He had a feeling that Joshua was going to majorly freak and he thought if it was someone who he knew, then he might have a better chance of explaining in case things got out of hand.
He glanced from Philip to Diane and couldn’t understand their sudden worry and if he wasn’t mistaken, even fear. “Is there something I should know?”
“We’d just prefer it if only you treated him,” Philip restated.
Dr. Travis studied them for a moment longer before agreeing. “Okay. I’ll be right back.” He returned momentarily with a tray and some syringes. “Okay, roll up his left sleeve…”
Isabel gasped and turned to her brother. She felt it before she heard a plaintive cry coming from one of the closed exam doors. Max was deathly pale and she knew that he was feeling it as well, probably even stronger. “He’s okay, Max. Mom and Dad are with him.”
“I know,” he answered behind clenched teeth. It took everything he had not to go charging in there and rescue him.
Dr. Travis was sitting in his chair mechanically filling out the proper forms. Every once in a while he would glance over at the exam table and at the silver handprints that now dotted it. They also dotted Diane and Philip, and he even had some on his overcoat. “D-do I need to clean those with something?” he asked, not at all sure what the answer was, or even if he truly cared. The little boy’s hands had glowed and everywhere he touched he left a mark. How could that be?
“No, they’ll fade as he calms down,” Philip explained as he helped Diane try to calm down Joshua, who’d gotten past the screaming stage and was now onto the crying and hiccupping stage. “Fred, I need to know what you’re putting in that report.”
Doctor Fred Travis stared hard at his friend. It now made sense, the worry and fear. They’d known that this would happen, that’s why they didn’t want the nurse around, fewer witnesses, but to what? What had he seen? He turned back to the chart and the forms that needed to be filled out for the school and the county. “He appears healthy. Um…would he be able to take a blood test? He’s supposed to, but…” His words trailed off as he watched the silver handprint on his coat grow increasingly lighter and lighter.
“It’d be better if he didn’t,” Philip admitted.
Dr. Travis nodded absently and checked off the appropriate boxes. “You have a healthy boy there, that’s what this report says,” he finally told them. “You said Joshua was the biological brother of your other two,” he added.
“Yes,” Philip replied cautiously.
“So can they…are they like him?” he finally asked.
“Yes, but with more control. Joshua will acquire it as he matures. He’s not much more than a baby right now. An innocent. Don’t you agree?” Philip asked pointedly.
He looked at the child in Diane’s arms. He’d been thinking how lucky Philip and Diane were to be getting another adorable child. He’d met their older two a few times at family gatherings at the club. Max had even gone golfing with them a few times. Nice kids, very well behaved, and…normal. Or so they seemed. He watched little arms clinging to Diane and tear-stained cheeks burying into her embrace, just like any child. He’d taken an oath once and part of it was, ‘first, do no harm.’ He certainly didn’t want to bring any harm to a child. “Yeah, an innocent child,” he finally agreed as he finished the forms.
“Mom? Dad?” Isabel asked as they finally reappeared with their dad carrying a very exhausted looking Joshua in his arms. Max was right beside her.
“Everything’s fine. Let’s go to the car,” Philip told them and headed out the front door.
“We go see Whiz?” Joshua sniffled as he was being strapped into the car seat in the back seat.
“Go see Liz?” Diane questioned and looked over at her oldest son.
“Liz said to come by for pie à la mode,” Max informed her. “As a treat afterwards,” he added.
“Well, I know Joshua certainly deserves a treat,” Philip agreed as he snapped the buckle into place and then turned to Max. “So, do you deserve a treat too?” he asked with a twinkle in his eye when he saw his son stammer and blush. “Get in, pie à la mode it is.”
Maria looked up as the bell above the door told of some customers entering. She smiled as she saw them take seats around one of the tables. She came over with arms spread wide and quickly enveloped the little one in a good hug. “Sugar! I need lots and lots of sugar!” she proclaimed as she planted little kisses on each cheek.
Michael observed it all with a scowl as he scraped the grill. “Damn, now I know what Max has been bitching about,” he grumbled as he watched Maria hug and smooch on Joshua. It just wasn’t fair.
“Okay, what’ll ya have?” Maria asked once she let go of Joshua and pulled her order pad out.
“Where’s Liz?” Max asked as he looked around.
Maria smirked. “Down boy. She’s coming. She’s coming. Sodas?”
“Coffee,” Philip said.
“That sounds good. Coffee for me too,” Diane concurred.
“Cherry Coke,” Max said.
“Shocker,” Maria snorted. “Isabel?”
Maria looked at Joshua who was looking around wide-eyed at everything. “And one more Cherry Coke. Be back with the drinks and Tabasco.”
Liz breezed in and smiled at the sight—the Evans family there together. She couldn’t remember the last time they’d all been there, and certainly not with the newest little member. “Joshua! How’s my big boy?” she asked enthusiastically and gave him a good hug.
“You okay?” she asked with concern.
“U’kay,” he told her gravely. It had been a hard morning but he did like coming here and he wanted to have some of that pie à la mode that Max had told him about. “Whiz, whad ‘ie a aw mo’e?”
“Well, it’s sweetened fruit in a flaky crust with a big scoop of ice cream on top,” she told him.
“And ‘abasco?” he wanted to know.
“Of course Tabasco!” She glanced around to make sure the place was empty. “How could we forget Tabasco for our cutest little alien,” she said softly.
Max’s scowl took on new proportions. Cutest?
“That sounds pretty good. How about pie à la mode all around?” Philip asked and received nods in agreement all the way around.
Jeff did a double take when he walked into the restaurant to put the change in the till. The Evans family was there, that was unusual enough, not to mention on a weekday before lunch, but…but who was that little boy? He couldn’t help but stare, at Max, the boy, Max, the boy. Who was he?
“Jeff,” Philip called him over. It was pretty obvious that Jeff was shocked at what he was seeing. He smiled as Jeff walked over in stunned silence. “Pretty shocking, I know. You can only imagine our response when we found out that Max and Isabel have a biological baby brother. Jeff, this is Joshua…now Evans,” he finished proudly.
“Uh, it’s nice to meet you Joshua,” Jeff finally stammered out. He was still in shock. He and Philip and Diane didn’t socialize all that much. They tended to be more in tune with the country club set, but he did know them. He and Diane had attended school together, though she was a couple years ahead of him, and then through their children, but he never thought they’d take in another child. And he couldn’t get past how much the child looked like Max.
“Joshua, this is Liz’s dad, Mr. Parker. Can you say hi?” Diane asked him.
“Hi, M’der Pawker,” Joshua obediently responded.
Jeff couldn’t help but smile at the cute boy. He saw Maria and his daughter come over with trays of pies. “Here, let me give you a hand with those.” He pulled over a chair when Philip indicated it was okay and joined them at one end of the table. He was dying of curiosity and it showed. “So how did this happen?” He listened intently as Philip and Diane explained their story. Jeff was infuriated to think that the woman who’d already abandoned two children a decade earlier had yet another one, and once again abandoned him. But at least she did make sure he went to a good home with people that obviously would love him and give him a good life.
Joshua loved his Men in Blackberry pie à la mode, but he was curious about all the stuff all over the place. “Macks, wha’ dat?” he asked and pointed at the alien mural.
“Um, a painting of a cartoon alien,” Max answered and wondered how much, if any, Joshua instinctively knew about himself.
“Huh?” Joshua asked and crinkled his nose as he thought about it. An alien? But Liz had called him the ‘cutest little alien.’ Was that him? He was different. He just knew that, but how? Was that it? Was he an alien? “Wha’ a-e-an?”
“Someone special from a faraway place,” Liz explained as she came over with Cherry Coke refills.
“Wike me?” he asked innocently.
“Yep, just like you,” Liz teased and heard her father laugh. He obviously thought that she was just teasing Joshua. How little did he realize how serious she was, but this was Roswell and all things alien were taken with a grain of salt. She gave Joshua’s big brother a smile. Well, maybe not all things alien.
Re: Joshua's First Year (CC, Teen) Part 13, PG2 5-2-09
Posted: Sat May 02, 2009 11:11 am
“Jeff, do you think we should do something for Philip and Diane? Some sort of…I don’t know, a baby shower or something? I mean they have to be starting over with him. They’re going to need all kinds of stuff,” Nancy reasoned over dinner. She didn’t know them that well, but their kids were friends, maybe even closer than friends. They should do something.
“Nance, he’s well past the diaper stage. He’s starting kindergarten. A little old for a baby shower, don’t you think?” Jeff answered as he plowed into his meal.
“I know that. But still, we could give him some sort of welcome celebration,” Nancy persisted.
Jeff shrugged. “If you want to.” He paused and smiled as he remembered the little boy, mouth smeared with ice cream and pie. “He sure is a cute kid. He looks a lot like Max.”
Nancy smiled as she too recalled the scene she’d walked in on this morning. “He sure is. I wonder if that’s what Max looked like when he was adopted. If so, I can certainly understand how Philip and Diane fell in love on sight with him and his sister. I can’t imagine someone abandoning their children in the middle of the night like that,” Nancy declared, indignant at the idea that any mother could do such a thing.
“Well, at least with Joshua, she left him with the Evans,” Jeff commented.
“That’s true, I guess,” Nancy conceded before coming to a decision. “I think tomorrow I’ll talk to Liz. I’m sure she’ll have some idea about what they might need for Joshua and we can plan something for them.”
“Okay,” Jeff said with a shrug. It probably would be a nice thing to do, and maybe it’ll give him a chance to get to know Max a little better. Other than seeing him in the Crashdown all the time, he really didn’t know the boy all that well. Now would be a good opportunity to change that.
“Okay, so you boys are okay watching Joshua?” Diane asked again. She had some serious doubts about this. She’d be fine with just Max watching Joshua, but add in Kyle and Alex? She just wasn’t sure about this.
“Hey Mrs. Evans, no sweat. We’ll keep the munchkin entertained,” Kyle promised.
“That’s what I’m afraid of,” Diane mumbled to herself before putting on a brave front with a forced smile. “Okay then, have fun boys,” she called out as she headed out the door to join Isabel, Liz, Maria, and Tess, who were already waiting for her in the car. They were going shopping for school clothes for Joshua and probably for Max too, and Diane knew from experience that it was better to leave the shopping subject at home than drag them from store to store. Shopping had never been Max’s favorite thing, and she was pretty sure it wasn’t Joshua’s either, with toy stores being the exception. “Okay girls, let’s go see how much damage we can do at the mall,” she told them as she got behind the wheel.
“Don’t forget that my mom wants ideas for a present for Joshua,” Liz reminded them.
“That’s very sweet of your mom, Liz. Joshua’s going to love having a picnic in the park in his honor this Sunday,” Diane commented as they pulled into traffic.
“Okay, so what ya got goin’ on Evans?” Kyle asked once the ladies were safely gone.
“Nothin’ much,” Max admitted.
“Figures,” Kyle smirked as they headed out to the backyard.
“Hey, what’s all that lumber by the garage?” Alex asked as he swung Joshua onto his shoulders.
“Oh, leftovers from a project Dad and I did,” Max told them as they headed over to check out what they had there.
“You got some good pieces of wood,” Kyle commented as they looked through the pile. “You know, if we had some wheels and stuff we could probably make a go-cart for Joshua out of all of this.”
Max thought about it. “I think we have some old bike parts in the garage. Let’s see what we can scavenge.”
When Diane returned later that day with the girls, she did her best not to freak at the sight of little Joshua around power tools and speckled with yellow paint. She wanted Joshua to come in and try on a few things but she could see that he was having too much fun. So after giving the boys a warning about being extra careful, she retreated to the house and a glass of wine.
When he got home from work, Philip grinned at the sight in the garage. He couldn’t wait to join the boys. He hurried into the house, kissed Diane on the cheek, told the girls hello, and went upstairs to change his clothes.
“Mom, what’s up with Dad?” Isabel asked as she watched her father’s rapidly retreating figure disappear upstairs.
“He’s in a hurry to go play with the boys. There’s something about power tools, grease, and wood that gets to them,” Diane, wife of over 20 years and mother for over 11 of them, informed her daughter.
“You’re kidding? You mean they don’t grow out of it?” Isabel asked in astonishment.
“Nope,” Diane confirmed and rose to pour herself another glass of wine.
“Okay Joshua, see the pencil lines? Try and stay between those two lines with the red paint,” Philip coaxed. He was delighted to see what a good job the boys were doing with the go-cart. Joshua was having a blast painting it, though he was doing a good job of painting himself as well. Oh well, he’s washable, though it’d probably take several scrubbings. He glanced over at Kyle, Alex, and Max with their heads together about how to turn his old lawn mower motor into one for the cart.
“Okay, I say we do it this way. It worked when I did something similar in Boy Scouts,” Kyle informed them. Both Alex and Max gave him an incredulous look. “What?”
“You were a Boy Scout?” Alex asked.
‘Yeah, why? What’s your point?” Kyle shot back.
“Nothing, we just don’t see you as the type that’s helping little old ladies across the street,” Max informed him with a smirk.
“Yeah, well, they had some good shooting lessons, and unless either one of you two mechanics have a better idea, I say we do this my way,” Kyle barked at them.
Alex and Max just looked at each other, neither had a better idea. They shrugged their acquiesce.
“Joshua, between the two lines. Remember?” Philip reminded him as the red was starting to become more than a racing stripe.
“Oh, u’kay,” Joshua said, brush in hand and concentrating on getting it just between those two lines. “Oops.”
All heads turned to look for the disaster that usually preceded one of Joshua’s ‘oops.’
Max couldn’t see anything wrong. All the tools were still hanging where they belonged. He glanced out the open garage door, no sudden rain clouds or snow, nothing unusual stuck to the ceiling. He looked back at his brother and asked, “What oops?”
“Dat.” Joshua pointed at the cart.
“Huh?” Max asked again.
“Dat!” Joshua clarified.
“He splattered a little red paint on the yellow,” Philip finally explained as he grabbed an old rag and carefully wiped it off.
“Oh,” Max was relieved. The last ‘oops’ had him repairing the leaf blower. He didn’t think Dad would appreciate one with the blowing capacity of a hurricane, nor the neighbors for that matter.
“Okay, are you boys ready to come in for dinner?” Maria asked from the garage entrance.
“Man, I’m starvin’!” proclaimed Kyle. “Evans here is a slave driver!” he accused while pointing a thumb back at Max.
“Huh? What are you talking about? I ordered three pizzas for lunch!” Max protested as they all headed in.
Diane smiled every time she glanced around the table, a very full table. She never remembered so many kids being around their dinner table before. All of them were laughing and joking, even her normally quiet and reserved son was talking and laughing. It almost brought tears to her eyes to hear his laughter. It’d been such a long painful summer.
“Mom, more ‘abasco, pwease,” Joshua asked politely. Mom had been telling him how important saying please and thank you were. Manners, she’d called them, and he was supposed to mind them. He was still trying to figure out what ‘minding’ meant though.
“Of course, sweetheart,” Diane replied and handed him the almost empty bottle. She shook her head as she watched him dump it on his spaghetti. She got heartburn just watching.
Joshua shook the bottle but nothing more came out. “Wha’ da hell…”
Forks paused in mid-bite, water went down the wrong pipe, people coughed, and Diane turned an accusing eye at the assembled males crowded around the table. “And just where did he learn that?” No one looked up from his plate, not even Philip. “I see,” she said with narrowed eyes. She turned back to Joshua. “Sweetie, we don’t use the word ‘hell.’ It’s a bad word.”
“How come?” he inquired.
“Because it’s considered rude. And it’s bad manners. Remember what we talked about, about minding your manners?” she asked.
“Uh-huh,” he answered. He remembered, he just didn’t know exactly what that meant.
“Good, so we won’t be hearing any more of that word in this house.” She turned pointedly to her son and his friends and added, “Or in the garage.”
“Yes, ma’am,” they answered under the intense glare.
Philip made himself comfortable sitting in their bed with Joshua lying next to him. With book in hand, he was ready. “Okay, this is a story about an orange cat named Tabby…” he began. He would glance down every once in a while to see if two little eyes were still open. He hadn’t done this in years but he remembered it well. Isabel and Max would come bounding in with book in hand, fresh from their baths and ready for bed. Story time, he hadn’t realized how much he’d missed it. “The end,” he finished reading and looked down to two closed eyes and a bear clutched tightly in one hand. The boy was snuggled right up next to him and he couldn’t resist draping an arm over him and giving a slight squeeze. This was his son, so sweet and innocent. It amazed him that Joshua could be so loving and outgoing after everything he’d been through in such a short life. He was amazing.
“Philip, is he asleep?” Diane whispered as she came in the room.
“Yeah. Should I move him to Max’s room or leave him here?” Philip whispered back.
Diane smiled at the scene, Joshua all snug and just precious lying there sound asleep. It’d been so long since their older two had been little like that. “I think he’s fine.” She tucked him in as Philip carefully extricated himself from the bed.
“Where are the other kids?” Philip asked as Diane left the bedroom door slightly ajar in case Joshua needed something, and they headed back downstairs.
“Kyle and Tess left together, Max took Liz home, Alex and Isabel went for a walk, and Maria had to go to work,” Diane explained.
Max purposely parked way down the street so they had to walk. He was glad that she didn’t pull her hand away when he reached to take it in his. “So, I guess Sunday we have that picnic for Joshua to go to now.”
Liz nodded. “I guess so.” His hand felt so warm and gentle, but strong too. “You think Joshua will like a bicycle like your mom suggested?”
“Oh yeah, I’m sure he will,” Max confirmed. They continued on in awkward silence. He didn’t know what to say. The only thing they shared in common lately was Joshua, and he was getting a little tired of talking about him all the time. What else could they talk about? There had to be something else they had in common.
“Do you think you’ll get all the classes that you wanted?” Liz finally asked in desperation when she couldn’t take the silence any longer.
“I…I don’t know. I hope so. I put in for chemistry II with Mr. Draeger. What about you?” he chanced to ask.
“Yeah, and also algebra II/trig. I hope to skip to pre-calculus for my second semester though,” Liz told him. They were on a ‘safe’ topic but things still felt weird between them though.
“Oh, um, that’s good. I also have algebra II/trig but I don’t think I’ll be in pre-calculus until next year,” he admitted. He didn’t want to admit that part of him was just a tad jealous of her leaving him behind in a class, but he was damn proud of how smart she was as well.
“Well, maybe I can help you with your homework then,” she said with a teasing smile.
His breath caught. She was so beautiful when she smiled like that. Her whole face lit up, just beautiful. Beauty and brains, not to mention courage and compassion, she was everything. She was his everything. “Yeah, I’d like that,” he told her as he stopped to gaze at her.
She felt the blood rush to her cheeks as her heart started pounding faster, causing her lungs to work harder to take in more air so she wouldn’t pass out, as she returned his intense gaze. His eyes seemed darker somehow, almost black with their intensity that held her in their embrace. Nothing else existed but those two incredible eyes.
A car horn went off, bringing them back to reality. They both gasped for air, as if they’d momentarily stopped breathing. “We should…” Max started but then stopped. Should what? Run off with her to the far reaches of the Earth so they could be alone? Spirit her away to some desert oasis where he could worship and love her to his, and her, heart’s delight? Find a spaceship and make love for the rest of their lives as the stars streaked by, leaving all the cares of this world behind?
“We should…get home before my parents start to worry,” Liz panted as she fought to bring her body back under control.
“Right…right,” Max agreed though it was the last thing he wanted to do. He wiped his hand on his jeans so it wouldn’t be so sweaty before he once more took hers and began their walk. It seemed like they’d only taken a step or two and suddenly there was the side entrance to the Crashdown. “We’re here.”
“Yeah, I should go in,” Liz said but remained rooted in her spot.
“Yeah, I guess,” he said without much enthusiasm as he studied how delicate and inviting her lips looked. He gulped as her tongue quickly darted between those lips as if moistening them a little more in anticipation of…of what? Did she want him to kiss her? He certainly wanted to and more. Those lips of hers called to his, pulling him closer and closer until his finally brushed against hers. They were as soft and delectable as they’d promised to be and were like honey to a bee. One taste was just not enough. Without knowing it, his arms slipped around her and pulled her close as hers wrapped around his neck as they deepened the kiss, their bodies eager to taste even more forbidden fruit.
“Umph,” he grunted and put his right arm out to break their fall while the left one held her tightly. The right hand came in contact with the brick wall and kept them from falling to the ground. He looked back to see who had smacked him with the door and prayed it wasn’t Jeff Parker.
“Oh, sorry,” Maria said as she heaved a large garbage bag into the dumpster. She turned and regarded her two friends. Max seemed to be returning to his old loverboy role, and Liz certainly didn’t seem to mind too much. “So I take it you two are finally back together where you belong?”
“Good! Finally we can get back to what passes for normal in this alien-infested town,” she proclaimed and strode past them, shutting the door behind her.
“I think I should go in,” Liz said with a slight giggle. Maria still had the worst timing.
“Yeah,” he sighed. “I’ll see you tomorrow for lunch, at least.”
“Yeah, tomorrow,” she agreed and reached up and planted a light kiss on his lips before slipping out of his embrace. She had to make a quick exit or she might never leave.
“Good night,” he called out. Slipping his hands in his pockets, he began the much lonelier trek back to his jeep.
Liz leaned her head against the closed door and took some deep breaths to calm down.
“Mmm, I see the Max factor is back in your life,” Maria observed as she watched her friend.
“What? It was getting rather lonely being the sole support for all of them,” Maria claimed.
“The sole support? What about Alex?” Liz countered. “Don’t tell me you had Isabel crying on your shoulder too?”
“Okay, well, maybe just the male side of the alien abyss,” Maria conceded.
Liz grinned and threw her arm around her friend. “Thank you for looking after them this summer.”
Maria pretended to sniffle. “You’re welcome, but just don’t do that to me again! I had no idea what high maintenance those sensitive ones could be!”
Liz laughed. “Deal!”
He was cold. He stood in a room and saw nothing. There was no one here. He looked down and gone were his new pajamas with Sponge Bob on them. He was back in that…that thing they’d made him wear, like the one the doctor had wanted him to put on today. Gone. All gone. He was alone.
“Mom! Dad!” he called out but only heard his own voice. “Macks?” he called desperately. Where were they?
He heard something and spun around. One of them was suddenly there, but like before he couldn’t see his face, just the mask that hid it. The tears streamed down his face as he cried out, “MOM! MOM!”
Diane scooped him into her arms as Philip quickly turned on the bedside light. She held him close and rocked him. “Shh, shh, I’m here sweetheart. I’m right here. And so is Dad. We’re here, baby. We’re here.” She kissed his forehead and rocked him while Philip rubbed his back.
“It’s okay, little guy. You had a bad dream that’s all. It wasn’t real, just a dream, a bad one,” he soothed.
“Bad dweam,” Joshua repeated and then hiccupped. “Dat bad pwace.”
“You were dreaming about…about that bad place?” Diane asked gently. It stood to reason. He’d been traumatized this morning and there were bound to have been some things that were the same as in that…that Frankenstein lab.
Joshua clung to her.
“Do you want to tell us about it? About your dream?” Philip tried. It was a long shot, but maybe if he could express his fears he’d sleep better.
“No. Bad pwace.” Joshua was adamant. He did not want to talk about it.
“Okay, sweetheart, that’s fine. It was a bad place and it’s not there anymore. And you’re not there anymore. You’re here with us and here you’re staying, safe and sound. You’re home. We love you so much, Joshua.” She continued to rock him until he finally relaxed in her arms and she realized he’d fallen back to sleep. They carefully tucked him between them and turned off the light.
Max listened from the hallway for some time. Earlier he’d felt Joshua’s rising panic. It had woken him from a dead sleep. He was just about ready to go running up there and wake his parents when he heard the cry and then Mom holding him. Part of him wished he were small again like that so his mom could make it all better with a hug and a kiss.
He quietly crept back downstairs. He didn’t want to wake them now that they’d just gotten back to sleep.
“He okay?” Isabel asked from the doorway. His cries had woken her but she’d been starting to wake anyhow. Something had been bothering her as she slept. She didn’t know what, but she had a suspicion that it had been Joshua’s crying out telepathically in his nightmare.
“Yeah, Mom and Dad just got him back to sleep. I’m headed that way myself. You should be too,” he told his sister. They both knew that they weren’t likely to actually sleep anymore tonight. They’d be lying awake waiting to see if they could sense anything else, if Joshua needed them again.
“You know, just because Joshua’s here with us doesn’t mean we can’t visit him in his dreams,” Isabel suggested.
“Dreamwalk him? Together?” Max asked in surprise. Why hadn’t he thought of that? Then he’d be able to be sure he was okay and maybe relax enough to get some sleep himself. “Can you do that?”
“I think so. It shouldn’t be that much different than when we dreamwalked him before,” she told him. “I’ll dreamwalk you and then I should be able to bring you along as I dreamwalk Joshua.”
“Okay, what do I do?” Max asked.
“Sleep, or try to. Just relax and allow yourself to sort of drift. That should be enough for me to get in,” she assured him.
“Okay, let’s give it a shot,” he agreed and headed for his room. A half-hour later he felt his eyes growing heavy as sleep approached.
”Max, I’m here,” Isabel told him as he entered the dream plane.
He looked around through the fog but couldn’t see anything. “Where’s here? Where are we?”
“The dream plane, sort of like the predawn of sleep. Come on, I can feel Joshua. Let’s go see what his subconscious is up to.” She reached for her brother’s hand and guided him to where she could feel Joshua was. She came to a sudden standstill as she realized where they had materialized. They were in the Crashdown. She looked over and sure enough, there was Liz with Joshua. He was sitting on her lap eating a Tabasco-topped ice cream sundae. “I don’t believe it. My God, could he be any more like you, Max?”
“What the hell does he think he’s doing?” Max steamed.
“Max, he’s five. You’re not seriously jealous of a five-year-old!” She got a good look at her brother. “Good God, you are! Oh, for crying out loud. This is all I need, both brothers in love with Liz Parker. Max, he can’t even say her name right. Get over it.” She grabbed his sleeve and dragged him along. “Come on. I’ve seen enough and so have you! This is the last time I take you along on a dreamwalk!”
Max didn’t sleep a wink for the rest of the night.
The day was going to be a warm one. Philip could already feel the sweat trickling down his spine and it wasn’t even ten o’clock in the morning yet! He sat the second ice chest down with a grunt and gingerly stood back up, rubbing the small of his back. He still wasn’t used to a little one sleeping between them every night. He was beginning to think that he’d be in traction before Michael finished painting that room.
Diane watched as Max brought over that go-cart thing the boys had made for Joshua. He’d tried it out a few times in the driveway but this was the first time they were going to take it up a hill and let him just go. “Did you bring his helmet?” she asked as Max and Joshua finally joined them at the picnic area.
“Yep,” he said as his pulled it off of the steering wheel. He’d stuck it there after the last time so he wouldn’t forget it.
“So who else is coming?” Philip asked as he popped the lid to the ice chest and hunted around for a beer.
Diane watched with a frown as her husband took a long slug off a Corona. “Jim’s bringing Amy and Maria DeLuca and Kyle and Tess, of course. Alex’s parents couldn’t make it but he was going to be here. Oh, and I told Michael that he was forbidden to work in the room today and that he should be here no later than noon.”
“Good. Do you have any idea what’s taking him so long in that room?” Philip asked.
“No, but whatever it is, it obviously means a lot to him for him to be so committed to doing it.” Diane was as curious as the rest but she recognized the importance of what Michael was doing. He was reaching out and willing to take a chance in establishing ties not just with Max and Isabel, but also with Joshua and even her and Philip. They were finally winning his trust and she was going to do all that she could to encourage it.
“So where’s the food?” asked Max.
“Id dare ice c’eam an’ ‘abasco?” Joshua wanted to know.
Diane smiled. Joshua simply loved ice cream topped with Tabasco and would eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner if she’d let him. “I’m pretty sure Mr. and Mrs. Parker are bringing ice cream to go with the cake Ms. DeLuca made, and I brought more than enough Tabasco,” she assured him. She patted her oldest son’s very flat stomach. “And don’t worry about food. We brought all kinds of salads and fixings to go with the hamburgers and dogs the Valenti’s are bringing. Now go play with your brother until they get here,” she mildly scolded. She was actually delighted to see her son finally interested in food, like a normal teenage boy. It was a welcome change from earlier this summer. And she will never again complain about teens eating her out of house and home. It was much worse when they didn’t. She pretended not to notice as Max grabbed a bag of chips on the way to the playground with Joshua leading the way.
“Please tell me that I don’t have to ‘go play’ too,” moaned Isabel.
“Nope, you can stay here and give me a hand setting up,” Diane informed her.
Isabel sighed. “Great, still stuck doing chores, even on Sunday.”
“Yep, that’s right. I’m a slave driver, so let’s get to work,” Diane answered.
“How come Dad’s not doing anything?” Isabel complained as her dad pulled out a lawn chair and portable radio and sat back with a beer.
“That’s because he has you,” Diane explained without missing a beat.
Diane held her breath as she watched from a distance as Joshua climbed into the go-cart. He was so little and the hill looked more like a mountain to her. “Max, make sure his helmet is on securely,” she called out anxiously. She didn’t like this at all. Joshua was just a baby. She watched as Max made a show of double-checking the strap on his helmet and then waved and smiled to her. She tried to smile, it just came out more like a grimace. She cast a glance down at the bottom of the hill where Philip stood ready in case Joshua had any trouble stopping. “He’s just a baby,” she bemoaned.
“Diane, that’s barely more than an ant hill. He’ll be fine,” Jim tried to reassure her. “Besides, you know Max wouldn’t let anything happen to him,” he quietly reminded her.
As Max gave the go-cart a good shove, Diane forgot to breathe. She was certain that her heart stopped until he reached the bottom of the hill, to the waiting arms of his father and the cheers from the rest of the kids. “Thank God,” she breathed out and then remembered to clap for Joshua as she walked over to congratulate him.
“Mom! Mom! I did id! I did id!” Joshua excitedly told her.
“Yes, honey, I saw you. That was wonderful,” Diane told him and just had to smile at how excited he was.
“I do again,” Joshua announced.
“What? Oh, honey I don’t think…”
“Diane, you heard him, he’s going to do it again,” Philip gently told his suddenly horror stricken wife. “Don’t worry.”
She gave him a glare that let him know how ridiculous that last statement was.
“He’s just adorable,” Amy mentioned to Nancy as they stood back a little and watched the go-cart go down the hill for the second time.
“Isn’t he, though? The kids certainly seem taken with him,” Nancy commented in reply and smiled as the sheriff picked Joshua up and swung him around.
“He’s not the only one,” Amy agreed and smiled. Jim liked kids and was good with them too. There was no hint of that gruff police officer in the man standing there with that child, just a sweet caring man.
“Who’s ready for some dogs?” Jeff called out from the grill and several hungry teens answered the call.
“I ‘ave one do?” Joshua asked and held up his paper plate for him to fill.
Jeff grinned, how could he not? “For Speed Racer? Absolutely!” He laughed and got him a hotdog. “Mustard, ketchup, and relish are over there.” Jeff pointed with his tongs to a nearby picnic table.
“That boy is going to be some head turner when he grows up,” Nancy said as she came over for her own hotdog.
“Mmm, just like his big brother,” Amy observed as it was now her turn in the hotdog line.
Jeff scowled and looked around to find where his daughter had gotten to. His scowl deepened when he spotted her, sitting under a tree eating her hotdog, with him. Damn. Couldn’t he wipe his own mustard from his face?
“Mmm, thanks,” Max told her as she took the napkin away. “How’s your dog?”
“Mmm, delicious,” she informed him and gave him a coy smile.
“Yeah, several things here look delicious.” His look let her know that included her.
“Has there been any word on locating their…biological mother?” Amy asked the assembled adults sitting around the picnic table eating lunch.
“Nope, it’s almost as if she dropped off the face of the earth,” Jim said deadpan.
“Well, I for one, hope she never comes back. At least this way she’s out of their lives,” Diane told them, playing the part.
“So true, and I hope that she never has any more children,” Nancy said as one mother to another.
Amy glanced over to where Joshua was with Michael, who was pushing him along on the bike with training wheels that Jeff and Nancy had gotten him. “Any idea why he’s just now starting to talk? He seems like a very smart little boy. It’s rather odd, isn’t?” Her question was born out of sincere concern for Joshua, and her tone reflected it.
“Max and Isabel had the same problem at first. They had a speech therapist work with them a little when they were still at the Children’s Center. According to him, it was most likely caused by neglect. Basically no one ever talked to them, so they didn’t learn. Once they started speaking though, he said they were like sponges, eager to soak up anything and everything. Diane and I couldn’t teach them fast enough once they started talking.” Philip glanced over at Joshua, who was now pedaling as fast as possible and Michael had to run to keep up. “And from what we can tell, Joshua’s the same.”
“Those poor babies,” Amy said compassionately. How could anyone neglect children like that? Even when she was a young mother, struggling to put food on the table and a roof over their heads, she did everything she could for Maria. How could any parent do anything less?
“So how’s it working out at home? I imagine there are major changes with a new little one. Liz mentioned that he’s already starting school?” Jeff asked.
“Yep, only another week and they’re all back in school, thank God,” Diane remarked.
“You’ll finally get the house back to yourself and a little peace and quiet,” Nancy assumed.
“Not exactly. I talked it over with the school and given the unusual circumstances with Joshua’s recent abandonment, they’re going to let me be his room mom for at least the first semester until he can get settled in a bit. But even that will be a blessing. I don’t think I could take much more of Isabel baby-sitting,” Diane admitted.
“It’s not working out? I thought both Max and Isabel loved him being around,” Nancy asked.
Diane just shook her head. “Oh, they do…to a point. Max is great at being the typical big brother who gets to relive his childhood through him a little, but he has a job to escape to, and Isabel doesn’t. And for the last week while I’ve been getting things worked out with my employer, Isabel has been stuck at home baby-sitting him for most of the day. And usually the minute I walk in I’m treated to a scream fest between the two. Isabel tries her best but Joshua just doesn’t want to mind her. It’s so odd too since he’s normally a very well behaved little boy.”
“Nope, nothing odd about it. She’s not mom so he doesn’t have to listen to her, and nobody likes a bossy older sister,” Amy told them. She could recall all too well the fights she and her older sister would get into.
“You certainly got that right,” Philip agreed. He’d lost count of how many times he’d come home to check on things and Isabel would be ordering Joshua around and Joshua would stick out his tongue in reply, which then Isabel would do likewise back at him, and then…he’d stopped coming home during the day. God, he couldn’t wait for school to start.
Re: Joshua's First Year (CC, Teen) Part 13, PG2 5-2-09
Posted: Sat May 02, 2009 11:12 am
“Why can’t you take him with you?” Isabel pleaded. This was the first Monday that Mom was officially on family leave and she was still stuck baby-sitting.
“Because it’s easier. I need to meet with Ms. Peterson, his kindergarten teacher, and go over stuff, and I doubt we’ll get anything done with Joshua getting into things. Isabel, it’s only for a couple of hours, you’ll survive,” Diane informed her.
“But Mo-om, it’s not fair,” Isabel persisted in whining.
“Not fair? Excuse me, but are you the one that is completely rearranging their life? Are you the one that is taking a year off to play room mom? And who has to completely rethink their finances and retirement? Don’t you dare talk to me about being fair. Life is not fair. You’ll just have to learn to deal with it. I’ll be home by lunch,” Diane reprimanded.
Isabel hung her head in shame. Mom was right, they’d all made sacrifices, especially her. “Sorry Mom. I’m just tired of being stuck at home, and this is my last week of freedom before school starts.”
“So take him somewhere. He’d love to go to the Crashdown. Just be sure to keep a close eye on him. I’ll leave you his car seat.” Diane finished pulling her hair back. It was going to be a hot one today and she wanted it off of her neck.
Isabel visibly brightened at the idea. “I can? But I don’t have a car.”
“Call Alex. I bet he’d give you a lift. Or maybe Tess,” suggested Diane.
“Hey, good idea,” Isabel agreed.
“Thanks, I do have them from time to time. I’ll see you in a bit,” she told her as she headed out the door to check out her new role in life as room mom. Somehow she bet it would be even more challenging than a corporate vice president.
Tess glanced in her rearview mirror at Joshua sitting in the car seat, taking in all the sights and sounds. “Do you like the Crashdown?”
“Uh-huh, dat where Whiz is,” he told her.
Tess sighed heavily and mumbled, “Figures.”
Joshua tightly held Isabel’s hand as they climbed out of the car and walked into the noisy café. He was still getting used to being around so many strangers.
“Let’s sit at the counter,” Tess suggested.
“Okay Joshua, up you go.” Isabel gave Joshua a boost up onto the barstool and then grabbed a menu for him. “So what do you want to eat?”
“Ice c’eam!” Joshua announced.
“It’s not even lunchtime yet,” Isabel pointed out.
“So? I wan’ ice c’eam!” He held firm.
“Joshua!” Maria called out in greeting and came over, her arms extended wide for a hug. “How ya doin’, sweetheart?” She wrapped him in a good hug.
“Ma-e-ia hi, I do gooda. I wan’ ice c’eam,” he told her as he hugged her back. He liked it when Maria came over to play. They’d get into tickling contests, and a couple of times even Michael got dragged into them. Michael claimed he hated those contests but Joshua wasn’t so sure. That’s not what Joshua felt from him.
“Ice cream, eh? Well, why not, you’ll at least get your daily calcium intake,” Maria reasoned.
Isabel pondered that for a moment. “Huh, I didn’t think of it that way. Hey, I’ll take a sundae too with hot fudge and Tabasco.”
“I wanna ‘abasco, doo!” Joshua reminded, just in the off chance that she forgot.
“Like I’d forget that,” she assured him. “So two sundaes, Tess?” she asked, order pad in hand.
“Well, since we seem to be doing ice cream this morning, I’ll go with an alien blast,” she decided.
“Comin’ right up,” Maria told them and headed over to the ice cream section.
“Where Whiz?” Joshua asked Maria as she worked.
Maria chuckled. He was so like Max with a one-track mind, and that track was on Liz. “She starts in a few minutes. Don’t worry. And I’m sure Max will be over for his break not long after she starts.”
“Well, look who came to visit us,” Nancy said as she came out into the restaurant. “Hello Joshua.”
“Hi. I ‘ave ice c’eam,” Joshua announced to her just as Maria slid a big hot fudge sundae over to him. He had watched her dump a good half bottle of delicious Tabasco on it before topping it off with the fudge and whipped cream.
“Yes, I can see that. Where’s your mom today?” she asked.
“Skewal. Mom gonna be my woom mom doo, and she ‘adda go in uday,” Joshua answered between mouthfuls.
“That’s wonderful. Are you excited about starting school?” she asked. He was just so cute with chocolate and vanilla swirls coating his mouth.
“I dank so. Bu’ I ‘ave a be a good boy an’ no gwowing hands,” Joshua announced as he took another mouth full of the sweet treat.
Nancy paused to try to figure out what he said. “No growing…”
Isabel did her best not panic. “Don’t kids say the darndest things?” she said with a nervous laugh and quickly took a bite of her sundae.
Nancy lightly laughed in return. “Yes, they certainly do,” she agreed but still had no idea what he’d just said. “Well, I’ll leave you guys to your ice cream. Enjoy.”
“Thank you Mrs. Parker,” Tess and Isabel called out as she left to run some errands or something.
“Joshua, no mention of glowing hands. People won’t understand, remember?” Isabel whispered.
“Oh…oops.” Joshua bit his lip. Now he remembered. He heard someone coming and turned to look just as the swing door opened. He grinned big time. “Whiz!” he happily called out. “I godda ice c’eam!”
“Joshua, come here sweetie.” She gave him a good hug. “Is that as good as it looks?” she asked, eyeing the treat.
“Uh huh, Ma-e-a put ‘abasco on id.” He did love his Tabasco.
“Mmm, glad I didn’t ask for a bite,” she joked. “So what brings you guys over?”
“Dess,” Joshua answered.
“I drove them here,” Tess explained.
“Yep, Mom’s doing the room mom orientation thing and I’m stuck with…” she paused in mid-sentence. She’d already learned what a little parrot Joshua was. “I mean, Joshua gets to spend the morning with me and we thought we’d get out for a bit.”
Everyone looked as the bell rang and a new customer walked in.
“What’d I tell ya? Just like clockwork. Have a seat Max and join the party.” Maria patted an empty stool.
“Hey,” Max greeted everyone as his eyes zeroed in on Liz.
“Hey,” Liz replied and blushed. Was that some hot look he was giving her or what?
“So…” Maria whistled and when that didn’t work, she smacked his arm to get his attention. “Hey, girlfriend. Take a load off. So what’ll it be?” she asked, order pad once more in hand.
Max looked around to see what everyone else was having as he slid into the seat. Ice cream for breakfast? Okay, why not? “One of those with…”
“One alien sundae special comin’ right up,” Maria cut in as she wrote it up.
Max looked around for a moment when he realized that Liz had slipped away to somewhere. Damn, she was already waiting on a customer, so he turned his attention back to his sister and brother. “So what are you guys doing here?”
“E-a-bel sduck wid me cuz Mom ‘ave go do skewal,” Joshua informed without missing a beat while shoving a spoonful of ice cream in his mouth.
“Well, at least you’re not stuck at home,” Max pointed out.
“Dank God,” Joshua proclaimed and continued eating.
Snort. “Okay,” Max said and snorted again as Isabel glared at him.
“Well, what are we going to do after this?” Tess asked.
“I’m thinking home and a nap for a certain someone,” Isabel testily proclaimed and shot a look at a certain bratty little brother.
“Nuh-uh, Mom said I no ‘ave a nap undwel Mom come ‘ome,” Joshua reminded her. He’d made sure that was clear before Mom left this morning.
Max made a point to shove a gob of sundae in his mouth so he wouldn’t accidentally get drawn into it by saying anything he’d regret later. Besides, Joshua and Isabel seemed to excel at getting into it.
“Maybe we could go to the mall?” Tess suggested, anxious to make some sort of plan.
Joshua frowned. He’d gotten stuck going to the mall the other day with Mom, Isabel, Tess, and Maria. All they did was change his clothes or change their clothes or look at all the stuff they gooped onto their faces. He wasn’t going through that again! He’d much rather stay home with the guys and play or watch sports or cars. “Nuh-uh, I day ‘ear whid Macks and Whiz.”
Max felt for him. Joshua had gotten dragged along the other day with the girls to go school clothes shopping and was very put-out about not even getting to go to a toy store for all that trouble. “I have to work Joshua, and so does Liz.” He frowned. He felt like he was abandoning his little brother to the horrors of shopping with the girls. Guys had to stick together and look out for the littlest one. “Maybe we can figure something out.” Like what? He had no idea.
The bell above the door jingled again and in walked an idea.
“Hey Kyle,” Max enthusiastically greeted him.
Kyle was instantly on guard. “Evans.” He took a seat next to Tess.
Max bent over and whispered something to Joshua and waited patiently until Joshua nodded in understanding.
“Hi Ki-wel,” Joshua started.
“Hello to you too,” Kyle answered and grabbed a menu. He glanced over with a raised eyebrow at what everyone else was having.
“Ki-wel, do ‘ou ‘ave a work?” Joshua asked with the most innocently hopeful look he could muster.
Kyle’s eyes narrowed. “No, I don’t have a job. Why?”
“Can ‘ou pway wid me uday, den?” He’d perfected the sad-eyed look last week. It had worked pretty well for a while, but Mom caught on the other day. He was working on improving it.
“Um…” Kyle looked to Max, who pointed to his work vest. He then looked over at Isabel and Tess, they were looking over a couple of sales ads in the newspaper. “I guess so.”
“Kewl!” Joshua happily beamed.
Kyle glanced in his rearview mirror. It was just wrong to see a car seat in the back seat of his Mustang. Just wrong. How had it happened? He’d come into the Crashdown, no strings attached, foot loose and fancy free to do as he pleased, and an hour later he’s taking care of a kid, an Evans kid even. Damn Evans anyhow! “So Joshua, what do ya wanna do?”
“I don’ know. Whad ‘ou wanna do?” He craned his head to look out the window. It was kinda hard to see out from the back seat.
Kyle sighed. What do you do with a kid? He noticed something as they drove past a shopping center.
Joshua noticed it too. “Whad dat?”
“A carnival. Hey, you wanna go check it out?” Kyle was already making a u-turn.
“Yeah!” Joshua answered. It looked like fun.
Joshua held on tight to the bar in front as the Ferris wheel started to turn, propelling him and Kyle upwards. He chanced a peek out and watched the ground move farther and farther away. He gripped the bar even tighter, until his hands turned white, and then they began to glow.
“Joshua?” Kyle asked as he noticed the glow. “You okay?”
“Nuh-uh,” he admitted and peeked again at the distant ground. “No wike dis.”
“Okay, okay. It’ll be over in a couple of minutes. Don’t worry.” He draped an arm around the little boy and pulled him close. “Just don’t look down. It won’t be so bad if you don’t look down.” He frowned as little glowing hands reached for him and left little matching patches of silver wherever they touched. “Okay, just calm down. Nothing is going to happen.”
The car they were in jerked to a stop. Joshua hid his head in Kyle’s jacket. “Whad ‘appened?”
“They’re letting people off.” Kyle strained to look down and count the cars until it was their turn to get off. “Five cars. Only five more cars and then it’s our turn to get off.” He glanced down at the boy that was holding onto him for dear life. “That’s not so bad, now is it?”
Joshua shook his head in disagreement. Now would be better, much better.
It seemed to take forever but finally they were the next ones to be let off. “Okay Joshua, we’re next. Um, any chance we could not have the hands glowing? Please? Can you try?”
“I twy.” He clung to Kyle, closed his eyes, and concentrated real hard.
They were now in position and as the carnival dude was undoing the latch, Kyle glanced down and blew out the breath he’d been holding. “Okay, we’re here. Time to get off.” He saw big hazel eyes look up at him. “It’s okay, all clear,” he told him with a wink.
Joshua looked at his hands and grinned. He’d done it! No glowing! He very happily climbed out of that thing and followed Kyle. “Whad now?”
“Hmm, ya hungry? How about a corn dog and a snow cone? I bet they even have hot mustard for the corn dogs.” Besides, Kyle was getting a little hungry.
“U’kay,” he answered and wondered what a corn dog was. He liked hotdogs and he liked corn, so he had to like corn dogs, right? He quickly found out that he did. He liked them very much with gobs of spicy mustard. And snow cones were great! Especially when Kyle dumped some hot sauce packets on it. He stood with Kyle sucking down the last of his snow cone and watching the merry-go-round.
“So what do you think? It doesn’t go up in the air. Just around and around. You think you’d be okay on one of the horses? I’ll be right next to you,” Kyle asked as he watched.
Joshua cocked his head as he pondered it. He saw other kids his size, even smaller, on it and they didn’t seem to mind. And it didn’t go up in the air. “U’kay, I twy id.”
“Cool. Finish your snow cone first.” They waited in line and then Kyle let Joshua pick the perfect horse to ride. He made sure Joshua was carefully strapped in before climbing aboard the horse right next to him. He watched Joshua carefully as the merry-go-round started up. First his eyes went wide and he held on for dear life as the horse went up and down, and up and down, and around. Slowly, very slowly, a smile started to break out and a twinkle appeared in his eye. “Yeah?”
“Yeah,” Joshua answered, grinning from ear to ear but still holding on tight to the pole. He also discovered he liked the bumper cars, though Kyle had to ride with him. The funhouse was, well, fun, and the tilt-o-whirl made him dizzy but a good kind of dizzy, but he reserved judgment on the scrambler. Kyle kept squishing him even though he sat on the ‘inside.’ And in between he fell in love with cotton candy, caramel apples, and slurpees—cherry/cola mixed flavored. He was still working on his cotton candy when Kyle took him towards the games. Kyle was great at the coin toss and eventually was able to trade up to the big stuffed crocodile. Kyle had to hold it for him though because he was too sticky to touch it. Kyle also had to hold the giant panda from the shooting gallery too. By late afternoon he was already yawning as Kyle was strapping him into his car seat.
“Long day, huh?” Kyle mentioned as he made sure the buckle was secure.
“Uh-huh,” he yawned.
“Yep, time to get you home, kiddo.” Kyle climbed into the car and headed over to the Evans house. It’d been a good day. He hadn’t enjoyed a carnival that much in years. Maybe it was from seeing it through new eyes.
Diane was frantic. Isabel had left her cell phone in her room, something she’d discovered when she’d dialed her to find out where she and Joshua were. By two o’clock she was downright worried and called Max, who informed her that Joshua was with Kyle, but where? He had no idea. What was Kyle’s cell number? Again, no idea. Home phone? Max had never had a reason to call him. Surely Kyle or the sheriff would call if something happened, wouldn’t they? Why didn’t they call? Where were they? What were they doing that could be so important that they couldn’t call?
By four o’clock Diane was pacing from the kitchen to the living room checking the windows. What did Kyle drive? She paced back into the kitchen and dialed Max’s work number. “Hello, Milton? Hi, this is Diane Evans again. I hate to be such a bother but could I speak with Max again? It’s important. Yes, I’ll hold.” She thought she heard something and paced back to the living room window. Was that car pulling into their driveway? “Max? Honey, what kind of car does Kyle drive? A Mustang.” Yep, a Mustang was pulling in. She breathed a sigh of relief. Thank God. “No honey, everything’s fine. They just pulled up. What time will you be off work? Oh, okay, that’s fine. I won’t hold dinner for you. Tell Liz I said hello.” She clicked the phone off and ran outside. “Kyle.”
“Hey Mrs. Evans. Hey, could you hold this?” He handed her a stuffed panda. “And this.” And the stuffed crocodile. “And I’ll get the kid. He conked out on the way home.” He carefully extricated him and Joshua surprised him by wrapping his arms around his neck. “Where do you want him?”
He was just precious, a sticky mess, but precious, she thought. “Can you carry him upstairs to our room, please?” She’d give him a good bath before bed later tonight.
“No problem.” Kyle carried him with ease and laid him in the middle of the bed. Mrs. Evans covered him with a blanket and stuck the stuffed animals on either side of him, in case he tried to roll off the bed while he slept. Damn that kid was cute like that.
“Kyle, thank you for watching him today. Where did you two go? A carnival or fair?” she asked as they tiptoed out of the room.
“Carnival, oh, and a word of advice, he doesn’t like the Ferris wheel, but just about everything else is fair game,” Kyle informed her.
“Kyle, thank you. That was very sweet of you. Here, let me give you something for…” She reached into her purse sitting on the counter.
Kyle held his hands up. “Naw, that’s okay. I didn’t have anything else to do today and besides, we had fun.”
“I’m glad, but I insist. At least to cover the money you spent on tickets, and from the looks of his face and shirt, all the food you bought him. Here, take it,” she insisted and eventually he stuck the twenties in his pocket.
Cool. Now maybe he could ask Tess out tonight to see that new movie playing. “No problem. He was a good kid. And thanks for the cash, Mrs. Evans.” He waved as he left.
Diane waved back and then turned her attention to starting dinner. It’d be something quick and easy. Max was going out with Liz tonight, and it was doubtful Joshua would be hungry, so just her and Philip and Isabel, whenever she decided to return from the mall. And when she did, Diane would be waiting with a few choice words about responsibility and letting her know where Joshua was at all times. She didn’t mind Joshua going with one of the other kids, but there were going to be ground rules. She had to be kept informed where and when they’d be back and how to get a hold of them in case of emergency.
Re: Joshua's First Year (CC, Teen) Part 13, PG2 5-2-09
Posted: Sat May 02, 2009 11:13 am
Philip rolled out of bed with a grunt and grimaced as he straightened his back. He looked over at the culprit of his bad back, lying peacefully in the bed still sound asleep. Damn. How could one little kid take up so much room, he wondered, and stood up with his back protesting every move. “I’m too old for this,” he mumbled on his way to the bathroom. He needed to get an early start today, they all did. Today was a special day. They’ll be going before a judge to get full legal custody of Joshua today. The official adoption will take a bit longer, but today he would become legally theirs. Just in time for school.
“Mmm, humph,” Diane grunted and opened a blurry eye to see her husband standing over her and shaking her shoulder. “It cannot possibly be time to get up yet,” she mumbled.
Philip chuckled slightly. “It is if we want to make that 9:30 appointment with the lawyer for the 10:00 a.m. with the judge.”
“Hmm, okay, okay.” She threw the covers off and then looked over in the middle. Joshua’s hand was up close to his mouth and his other hand had that teddy bear tucked snuggly away. He’d wanted to bring the giant panda that Kyle had won for him the other day to bed but Philip had x-neyed that, thank God. He was just precious and he was hers. She carefully tucked the blanket around him as she got up to get dressed.
She laid his little dark blue jacket and tan slacks out. He looked so adorable in it. They’d gone shopping the very day they’d gotten the call from the lawyer about the appointment. Everyone had been caught a bit off guard by how fast it was all happening. She knew that Philip and the sheriff had to be calling in all kinds of favors to make it happen so fast. It’d taken months to get Max and Isabel, and then almost another year before their adoptions were complete. With abandonment cases they were extra careful to dot all the I’s and cross all the T’s, so two weeks was just short of miraculous. But who was she to complain about it? She sat on the bed and gazed down at her baby boy. “Good morning sweetheart. Time to get up.” She smiled as two beautiful light brown eyes rimmed with eyelashes that she wished she had sprung open and a grin began to break out. He was still at the stage where he woke up happy in the mornings. She knew from experience that would change when he started school. “We need to get up and ready so we can go see the judge today, remember?”
“Uh-huh, mownin’ Mom!” Two little arms flew up and around her neck and were followed by a kiss. “I o-f-ficial today!” He’d worked real hard on that word this week.
“Yes you are, sweetie.” How could she resist hugging him back with a greeting like that? “Now, time to get washed up and dressed and have some breakfast.”
Mom had told him not to fidget but she didn’t tell him how not to do that, he pondered as he tugged at his tie and squirmed in his seat. Mom was right, he shouldn’t have drunk that second glass of juice this morning.
Isabel glanced down at her little brother. “Stop squirming,” she whispered sternly.
“I can’d!” Joshua blurted out and got the attention of everyone in the judge’s chambers. “Sworry.”
“What’s wrong?” Max whispered.
“I ‘ave a go poddy,” he whispered back.
“Oh, can you hold it?” he asked quietly.
“Yes, bud nod wihd not fid’ading,” Joshua replied.
Max took a deep breath and then loudly cleared his throat. “Um, I need to take him to…um…”
The judge smiled. He’d noticed the child squirming. “Go out in the hall, second door on the left,” he told them kindly. He took a quick moment to watch them walk out the door. They were all well-behaved children. Joshua certainly seemed to be adored by Mr. and Mrs. Evans, and even by his older brother and sister. He’d reviewed the file this morning and had noted the unusual speed at which this case had been handled with some concern that a thorough investigation hadn’t been completed. But the child had seemed happy and content and surprisingly pretty well adjusted given his circumstances. There was a notation that the oldest boy was dealing with some repressed issues stemming from his early years, prior to being adopted, but that he was getting help and had the support of his family. He supposed that Joshua might have some problems along those lines at some point as well, but he had no doubt that the Evans would be just as supportive. After meeting them, he felt better about the case and wished that all abandonment cases had such a happy ending with all the siblings together in one loving family. “Okay, let’s proceed. All we need are your signatures.” He slid the forms over to them to sign and then waited a moment for Joshua to come back in. He gave the boy a smile and signed on the dotted line. “Okay, that’s it. I’ll have my clerk file them with the county.”
Joshua scooted out of his chair and walked over to the judge. He wasn’t afraid since he’d talked to the judge a little bit ago. “Ur ‘onor?”
He had to smile. “Yes?”
“Am I o-f-ficial now?” he asked with wide eyes.
He chuckled and decided that it was the Evanses that were the lucky ones. “You most certainly are.”
Joshua turned excitedly and jumped into Dad’s arms. “I o-f-ficial!” he announced for all to hear.
“Absolutely!” Philip agreed and gave his son a good hug and kiss.
Diane already had a tissue out for her tears of joy before they ruined her makeup. “Okay, okay, we have an appointment at the photography studio at 11:30,” she reminded them as they headed out to the car and received a round of moans and groans in reply. “Stop it, all of you. I want a portrait to mark this momentous occasion. Once every few years is not too much to ask.”
“Can’t we do it after lunch? I’m kinda hungry,” Max whined as they climbed into the car.
Diane didn’t even try to hide her smile. After months of worrying over Max eating, his appetite had returned to that of a normal teenage boy—basically he ate everything in sight and she couldn’t be happier about it. “No, I want everyone nice and clean,” she said and shot a glance back at Joshua in the middle in his car seat.
“I cwean,” Joshua defended.
“Yes you are and I want you to stay that way until the pictures are done,” she told him. “Max, make sure his belt is buckled tight.” They’d had an incident the other day. She’d taken him school supply shopping and picked up some new coloring books and crayons for Joshua while they were there. On the way home, she’d checked her rearview mirror and saw Joshua sitting in the seat, instead of in his car seat, casually coloring away. She’d immediately pulled over and they had a very long talk about never doing that again. She was sure that he understood and that he would most likely forget all about it the minute they pulled into the driveway. Five-year-olds were not known for their long memories or attention spans.
They all lined up how the photographer told them to.
Diane looked over at her children. “Oh wait. Max…” She couldn’t help but reach up and shove his bangs out of his eyes and off to the side. They were still too long and he’d just gotten his hair cut too.
“Mo-om, can we take the picture please?” Max whined.
“Oh, yeah, I just…” She adjusted Joshua’s little tie. He was so cute in his dress clothes. She glanced at Isabel but knew she’d be perfect as always. Philip looked fine too but she wished he’d worn a different tie.
“Diane, a crooked tie or messed hair just adds character to the pictures,” Philip told her and got a disbelieving scowl as a reply. With everyone finally ready the photographer started clicking away. There were shots of them as a family, just the kids, just the men, mother/daughter, and of just the parents.
They were getting the details on when to pick up the proofs when Diane noticed Joshua fidgeting again. “Max, honey, could you take Joshua to the restroom again?”
Max looked down. This was becoming the story of his life, taking Joshua to the bathroom. “Come on. I think I saw it over here,” he said as he reached for his hand.
At home late that afternoon, while his mom got things ready for the barbeque, Max pulled out the items his dad had bought for him and Joshua a few weeks back. Now would be the perfect time to plot revenge.
Excerpt from Chapter 11 of Can They Hear You Scream?
What a difference a day makes. Philip snorted and thought, try two weeks. Two weeks. Two weeks and he had become a father for the third time. Two weeks and he now knew the answer to the age-old question, are we alone? Two weeks and his life was turned upside-down and inside out. And as he watched Max help Joshua fill his super soaker and plot revenge against Isabel, to see his first son smile and laugh again, he realized he wouldn’t change a thing. But, God, what a hell of a two weeks it had been.
To start, they had nothing for Joshua other than a car booster seat that Nesado had bought and a few t-shirts and shorts that the kids had gotten him. He remembered frowning when he saw the Pull-Ups box. That meant Joshua wasn’t completely potty trained. Something he did not look forward to doing. So there were clothes to buy, a room to furnish, legalities to plot out, and a five-year-old hybrid newborn to teach everything to. Surprisingly, it wasn’t as daunting as it seemed. They had lots of helpers. Isabel organized shopping trips with Maria, Liz, Tess, and of course Diane, who would be taking a year sabbatical from her job. That took care of material things. And while they were shopping, Max, Alex, and Kyle taught Joshua the basics of being a guy—football, baseball, basketball, soccer, and cars. Surprisingly he, himself, was the only one that got in any serious trouble. It seemed he hadn’t quite explained the ‘aiming’ part of potty training adequately to Joshua the first time around. He seemed to understand better the second time but Diane was monitoring the situation. He chuckled as he remembered Isabel yelling at Max, accusing him of being the culprit one night.
He watched as Max distracted Isabel by nailing her in the butt with his own super soaker and then running like hell, only to have sweet and innocent little Joshua appear out of nowhere and get her in the face. Philip sat in his lawn chair, sipped a beer, and just enjoyed being a dad. He turned as Diane came outside with a tray of chicken and steaks all ready to go on the grill, and following her out were five newly arrived teenagers and one sheriff with a deluxe blow-up swimming pool. Not quite the pool Max and Isabel were hinting at but Joshua loved it. The backyard was quickly filled with the sounds of good friends and family and lots of laughter. Tonight was a celebration.
Before leaving for D.C., Nesado had supplied them with a heartfelt letter from Joshua’s ‘mother.’ She had been just a teen when Max and Isabel had been born and had abandoned them one night in an act of desperation. She had regretted it everyday since. But when she found that she was once again unable to care for her third child, her only hope was that he be united with his brother and sister. She went on to say that she had tracked them down through old newspaper clippings about how a tragic abandonment case had a happy ending. The letter, along with a few calls by the sheriff to friends and one look at the ‘family’ resemblance between Max and Joshua, was enough to allow Joshua to stay with them, pending formal custody arrangements. And that was granted today. There was just one hitch. They made an error in listing Joshua’s actual birth date, minus five years. And in order to make things look normal, they had to agree with Children’s Protective Services that he start kindergarten this year. School began next Tuesday. He hoped that the class would survive.
A paint splattered Michael appeared from his hibernation in the old spare room that was being converted into Joshua’s bedroom. The second day that Joshua was home Michael had appeared with paint and brush in hand and declared that he was going to paint Joshua’s new room. They had no idea what he was talking about, but they told him to go ahead. The room did need to be painted and redecorated for a five-year-old. But they didn’t know what they were in for. Every day Michael would show up with paints and brushes and go upstairs and work late into the night. He always kept the door closed and would seal it shut before he left. Diane had caught Isabel trying to undo the seal once and warned her that if she did it again she would be grounded. Whatever Michael was doing in there was something he felt strongly about, and Diane was touched that Michael would do…well, whatever he was doing for Joshua. They just didn’t realize that it would take almost two weeks. Poor Max. All of Joshua’s things were temporarily housed in Max’s room, and on more than a few occasions, that included Joshua as well. Joshua had slept with Max the first few nights. But by the middle of that first week, Joshua was turning more and more to Diane and him for comfort and security. That’s when Joshua started sleeping with him and Diane. A couple of times he woke up crying about ‘that bad place’ and they would hold and reassure him that it was gone and he was home and safe. Philip didn’t say anything but he couldn’t wait for Michael to finish. Sleeping with a five-year-old in the middle of the bed was getting old. He had never been happier than when Michael had told them yesterday that he’d be done tonight. Another reason to celebrate. “All done?” he asked.
“Yep,” Michael replied simply and went to join the rest of his friends.
Philip watched as Diane talked to Michael for a minute then gathered everyone to go look at Joshua’s new room. They all stood in awe at what they found, especially Joshua.
“Dis my room?” Joshua looked around.
“Yep, not a spec of white,” Michael proudly stated.
“Michael…it’s…it’s breathtaking!” Diane exclaimed. The ceiling was the dark blue of midnight, and she was certain that if she checked an astronomy book the silver stars that were dotted throughout would be the perfect representation of the major ones in their summer sky with a perfect quarter moon high above. The deep blue was carried about a quarter of the way down the walls and then gradually turned to the softer hues of dawn, or was it twilight? She saw the orange glow of the sun peeking out over a desert landscape and realized that it must be the dawn of a new day. He’d painted the sun on the eastern wall. The landscape changed with each wall. The desert to the east, mountains and forests to the north, a beach with an ocean lapping at the sand to the west, and a sea of grasslands and prairie to the south. She felt her eyes tear up and she had to hug the tall, gruff young man that had a heart of gold. “Oh Michael, thank you. It’s incredible!”
“Michael, God, this is beautiful!” Maria said as she walked along the walls and noted all the details, the perfect cacti and Joshua trees, and the high plateaus that dotted the desert. And on the next wall were the pine trees and streams that flowed down the snowcapped mountains to the valleys, and high alpine lakes of crystal blue that perfectly caught the morning rays. And the prairie with its fields of grain blowing in the wind that went on forever, and finally to the beach littered with shells and its sand dunes, and the frothy waves just off shore waiting to come in and kiss the sand. It was a masterpiece! But there was one thing missing. “Michael, where are all the animals?”
Michael grinned. “In Max’s room. Have you seen the collection of stuffed animals going on in there? And there’s a new one added every day!”
Max laughed. “I don’t know. I’m getting rather fond of the three-foot-long crocodile.”
“Oh, and I almost forgot the best part. Check it out,” he told them and pulled the blinds shut and flipped off the lamp. The night sky twinkled with dozens of glow-in-the-dark stars.
Joshua loved it and excitedly pointed up. “Look My-kal, oshit!”
The room was silent.
Re: Joshua's First Year (CC, Teen) Part 13, PG2 5-2-09
Posted: Sat May 02, 2009 11:14 am
He was a big boy. He had a backpack with his snack and a pad of paper and color pencils. He was all ready for his first day of school.
Diane had to smile at Joshua’s big eyes as he saw the school for the first time, with all the kids streaming in to begin the school year. She noted that he had no problem unhooking his car seat buckle and bounding out of the car, only to come to a complete stand still.
It was so big! He was suddenly afraid of getting lost and never finding his way back home. He turned and looked for Mom. “M-O-M!”
“I’m right here honey.” Diane reached down and grabbed his hand and guided him over toward the kindergarten area that was separated a bit and had its own playground, all set up for smaller bodies. “Let’s go meet your new teacher and class.”
Joshua looked around the classroom. It didn’t look too bad. There were other kids his size. He liked that. Maybe he could play with them. Every once in a while he would glance over to where Mom was standing and she’d smile at him. Everything would be fine with Mom nearby. He turned to look as the door opened again and a girl walked in with her mom. He didn’t really notice the mom as he stared at the girl. She had long dark hair and dark eyes. She noticed him looking and gave him a tentative smile, which he would have returned if his brain had been functioning. All he could do was stare.
Diane worked with the teacher, Ms. Peterson, to get the children settled down and sitting around in a circle. She couldn’t help noticing how Joshua kept looking at one little girl.
“Okay class, we’re all going to get to know each other, and to start, we need to introduce ourselves. I’m Ms. Peterson and I’ll be your teacher.” She turned to the child next to her, “And what’s your name?”
“Bobbie Tanner,” the large freckled face boy tells her.
“It’s very nice to meet you Bobbie. Welcome to class.” She continues on around the group of twenty-five children.
Joshua waited anxiously. He was going to find out her name!
“Anna Sanchez,” she said shyly when it was her turn.
Anna, her name was Anna! He was mesmerized as he watched her bite her bottom lip and then smile as the teacher called on the next kid. It was fascinating how she twirled her hair nervously around her finger. He suddenly heard someone clearing her throat and realized that everyone was looking at him. “Um…” What was he supposed to do again? He looked over at Mom for help, who mouthed his name. “Oh yeah, um, Joshua Evans,” he blurted out.
Diane silently sighed and reminded herself that she needed to keep a close eye on how Joshua was doing. The last thing she needed was for his hands to start glowing in front of the whole class on the first day.
Ms. Peterson tried not to chuckle but had to smile. “Well, it’s very nice to meet you Joshua, and welcome to class.” She turned toward her new room mom this semester. “And class, I’d like for all of you to say hello to Mrs. Evans, who will be helping us out this semester.” She led the class in a chorus of “Hello, Mrs. Evans,” before moving on to the next student.
Joshua did his best to pay attention to Ms. Peterson and Mom as they worked in groups on their colors and had story time and snack time, but it was hard to concentrate. His eyes kept going over to that dark-haired girl. It was finally time to line up to go outside for recess. Recess was where they got to play on the swings and slides. He liked those. He’d gone to the park almost every day this past week with someone. And Max had taught him how to swing really high. He liked to swing. As the teacher let them outside, he was one of the first to reach the swings and even though Anna was right behind him, she was too late, all the swings were taken.
Diane watched the little swing drama play out. She was curious to see what Joshua would do. Would he offer the little Sanchez girl the swing, like a gentleman? Or ignore her and keep it for himself like most five-year-olds would? Ah-ha, she thought, as Joshua was the gentleman after all. She didn’t hide her pleased smile as she supervised the children’s playground.
Joshua didn’t know what he was doing or why. He just was. He dutifully lined up to go down the slide but he didn’t remember sliding, just standing up once he was down at the bottom. All the while his eyes never left Anna on her swing. He loved it when she leaned way back and her hair almost touched the ground. He was startled when a whistle was blown, calling them back to class.
“So how was school, Joshua?” Philip asked and took a bite of his dinner sandwich. It was deemed too hot to cook today.
Joshua bit his lip and then shrugged.
“What’s that mean?” Philip asked.
“I don’ know,” Joshua replied. He took a bite of his own sandwich, scowled, and looked over at Mom. “You fugot ’abasco!”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I used the last of the open one on Max’s and forgot to get a new bottle out of the cupboard for yours. Let me go get it.” Diane rose for the task. “Did you tell them about Anna Sanchez?” she queried as she opened the bottle and helped him sprinkle a liberal douse of it.
“Anna Sanchez? Who’s that?” Isabel asked between bites.
“Oh, a little, dark-haired girl with beautiful brown eyes. Joshua gave up his swing to her,” Diane proudly told them.
Joshua didn’t know why his cheeks felt like they were on fire, but he wished Mom hadn’t said anything.
“Well, that was very nice of you,” Philip complimented him.
“Joshua’s got a girlfriend,” Max teased but silently was delighted that he was no longer focused solely on Liz.
Now Joshua knew why he didn’t want Mom to tell them.
“Oh God, does he have to be just like you?” Isabel groaned at her brother. “I don’t think I can survive another ‘soulmate since forever’ type of thing. Once was bad enough.”
“Huh?” Joshua had no idea what they were talking about.
Philip tried to hide his smirk behind his sandwich. “That’s enough of that. So Isabel, how was your first day back at school?”
Two weeks later, Diane sighed as she peered into her youngest one’s bedroom. In the last few weeks Joshua had really started to settle in and the room was a mess. The culprit of that mess was sound asleep surrounded by a horde of stuff animals and toys. She’d found that kindergarten really took a toll on Joshua. He had proclaimed himself too old for naps now that he was in school, and he was usually conked out by eight. It was a rare night he could make it to nine. She quietly closed the door and went down stairs to join her older two. They had some things to discuss.
Philip scooted over some so his wife could join him on the loveseat, and then turned his attention back to their oldest. “Max, Isabel, as you know, your mom and I have been working with our financial advisor to restructure our finances and plans. We had planned to use a significant portion of your mom’s salary for these upcoming two years to greatly pad your college funds. Now that padding isn’t going to happen. While I will still contribute to them as I always have…well, given today’s costs, anything other than state college is out of the question unless you both start looking into student loans and grants.”
“S-state?” Isabel stuttered. She’d been thinking of USC or Stanford.
“Yes, state, at least on our ticket. We of course will help you get into any college you can, but we just can’t promise to be able to totally pay for it,” Philip reiterated.
Max knew that Liz was looking at a full scholarship to Harvard. He wasn’t sure if he could get into Harvard himself but he at least wanted to be near her. “So…so what does it take to get student loans and grants?”
“I have some information but your student counselor at school would be a good source. Where were you thinking of going, son?” Philip asked.
“Um…Liz has a good shot at a full scholarship to Harvard and I thought…I mean I hoped that…”
“Harvard?” Philip was surprised. He had no idea his son had such lofty hopes. But he had a feeling that if Liz did get that scholarship his son wouldn’t be far behind. And he had to admit that he liked the idea of having a Harvard graduate as a son. “Max, cards on the table here. Even if we had your mom’s salary, Harvard would have been a stretch.” He saw his son nod dejectedly. “However, that doesn’t mean it’s out of reach, even now. You should have enough to pay for a good chunk of it and with some loans and maybe even some grants, it’d be tight, but I’m sure we could work something out.” He had it in the back of his brain that he might be taking out a second mortgage on the house in a couple of years. Damn. It was almost paid off too. “But, you need to get into it first. While your academics are good, I know you’ll need other accomplishments, sports or clubs, civic involvement.” He glanced at his daughter. “Similar to what Isabel’s done in the last few years.”
Isabel grinned smugly at her brother. He’d teased her about her volunteering, especially around Christmas, now who’s sorry?
Diane caught the look and shot a disapproving look of her own at her daughter.
“Talk to your counselor and find out exactly what the qualifications are and see if they have some ideas on what you can do to make up for some lost time,” Philip suggested. He sighed and then turned to his daughter. No doubt this was going to be expensive as well. “What were you thinking for college, Iz?”
If Max was targeting Harvard, then why not go for her own dreams as well? “Stanford or USC.”
Cha-ching! It figured, one kid on each end of the country. They couldn’t even share housing. Philip turned to his wife, who he could see was thinking along the same lines. Retirement was looking even further away than ever. “That’s wonderful, honey.” He sighed. “Same thing goes for you as your brother. You get in and we’ll do all we can but don’t look for us to foot the whole bill. Agreed?” He looked at both his kids, who nodded in agreement. Good.
“Now on to more immediate concerns,” Diane chimed in and got their attention. “As you know, both sets of grandparents are chomping at the bit to come visit and meet their newest grandchild.” Those phone calls to her and Philip’s parents had been greeted with stunned silence, followed by a thousand questions, starting with ‘when can we visit.’ They’d stalled them by saying they wanted some time to get Joshua settled in. But excited grandparents would only go along with that for so long. “Your Grandpa Hank and Grandma Margie will be here at the end of the month.”
“Cool!” Max loved when they visited. He always ended up with extra gas money and new clothes. Besides, Grandpa told the funniest stories about them ‘olden days.’
“Yeah, that’s great!” Isabel couldn’t wait to take Grandma shopping.
“Yes, great and cool, and what happens when Joshua does an ‘oops?’” Philip asked pointedly. That dimmed their enthusiasm. “Look kids, we’re both delighted that you love your grandparents and want them to visit, but we…” He took a big breath and slowly released it. This was the only solution that made sense. “We need to explain Joshua.”
“Explain Joshua? Dad, what exactly do you mean?” Max asked, suddenly on guard.
“Joshua’s been doing wonderfully at school but it’s a strain on him. Every day when he gets home the first thing he does is practice with his powers in some way. I don’t even think he’s aware that he’s doing it. Take today. When he got home he decided to color at the kitchen table. And when he couldn’t find the right color crayon, he changed the color of the one he had and melted a few more before he got it right. We’ve continually reassured him that home was safe for him to do that. He needs that security. What’s going to happen when he does it in front of your grandparents?”
“Wait, Mom, you mean…TELL them about us?” Isabel asked in shock.
“They’re your grandparents. They would no more betray you kids than we would,” Diane assured them. She had no doubt that what she said was true but she could also see that Max and Isabel weren’t convinced.
“We talked about this. No one else was to be told. We all agreed,” Max reminded them.
“True, we did, and we haven’t. Your mother and I thought it was something we should revisit though. For Joshua’s sake.” Philip knew that was a low blow to bring Joshua up, but he trusted his parents and he knew how much they adored their grandchildren.
“So what…everyone that visits us is told we’re aliens? Dad…no way,” Max was adamant.
“No, not everyone. But honey, these are your grandparents. They love you and Isabel, and I know they will be head-over-heels in love with Joshua as well. I want Joshua to be comfortable around them. Love them,” Diane pleaded.
Isabel shook her head. “We know that, and he will. They’re great! But I have to go with Max on this. We can’t tell them.”
Philip sighed his resignation. He knew this would be a tough sell and had been pretty sure it wouldn’t fly. “Okay, we won’t. We’ll have to work with Joshua on no ‘oops’ while they’re here… But kids, I won’t lie to them. If Joshua slips up, we’ll need to rethink things. Agreed?” They nodded hesitantly, but they agreed.
Diane paused at the partially closed bathroom door. She smiled as she heard Joshua imitate the sounds of a submarine. She had no idea how he knew what a submarine might sound like but apparently he did. “Joshua, are you just playing or is soap involved in this bath somewhere?” she asked as she walked in.
“Uh-huh, see?” He held up a handful of Mr. Bubbles’ bubbles.
“Mmm, yes. I was thinking more along the lines of soap to wash with, not play in,” she clarified as she reached for a new washcloth and bath gel and knelt beside the tub. This was a nightly ritual now. Joshua had so many bath toys that it was amazing they and him all fit in the tub. They had hung a small net with suction cups on the back part of the tub tile to hold the toys so the other kids wouldn’t step on them when showering. And above the toy net was a mini-basketball hoop, also attached with suction cups.
“Look Mom!” Joshua grabbed a plastic ball and made a basket.
“That’s very good, honey. You’ve been practicing,” she commented and grabbed his arm with the soapy washcloth. She gave him a good once over and then sat back and watched him play. Joshua loved playing in water—tubs, pools, sprinklers, the fountain downtown, you name it and he was there.
“Mom, where’s Dad?” Joshua asked as he filled a squirt gun with water to take target practice against the fireboat that also squirted water.
“He went to Albuquerque to pick up Grandma and Grandpa and won’t be back until late. You remember, don’t you?” Diane asked. They’d spent this last week trying to instill in Joshua the importance of not having any ‘oops’ while Grandma and Grandpa were here, while trying not to freak him out or make him afraid of them. It was an imperfect plan and she had no doubt that there would be imperfect results.
“Oh yeah.” He remembered now. “Can I sday up for d’em?” he asked and then yawned.
Diane smiled. She had to admit that exposure to other children and school had really improved his language skills but he still slipped, especially when he was getting tired. “Oh, I don’t think so. Their plane doesn’t land until after seven o’clock and it’s a long drive from there.”
“But who wread me my sdory?” he asked as he rubbed at his eyes.
Diane pulled the drain plug and grabbed the showerhead extension to rinse away the bubbles. “I think you’re clean enough. And I’d love to read you a story tonight.”
Joshua frowned. “No Mom, dats Dad’s job!”
“Oh, well, then I guess we’ll have to skip story time tonight,” Diane informed him and waited. Joshua loved his story time with Philip and she could tell that he was quite putout about him not being here for it tonight.
“I guess you can do it,” he finally agreed.
“Well, thank you, sweetheart. I’ll try to make it an extra good story tonight,” she told him as she dried him off and slipped his jammies on.
Joshua scrunched his face up at that noise his brother was making. Man was it annoying! Who could sleep through that racket? He sat up and shook his brother.
Max tried to shrug off whoever was shaking him. When that didn’t work he rolled over, snorted, and slipped back into deep sleep.
Joshua waited for a minute. The racket was gone. Good. He snuggled up to his teddy bear and started to drift off when… “Buzzzzzzz…”
Max reached out a hand and slapped his alarm clock off. He raked his tongue across his teeth. Ugh. Morning teeth. He opened a bleary eye and looked over at his brother. “Hey, time to get up.”
“Nuh-uh. Mom gets me up. I don’t gotta get up until she tells me to,” he informed his brother, pulled the blanket over his head, and rolled over.
“Brat,” Max retorted and then reluctantly crawled out of bed. Damn. Why couldn’t school start at like nine or ten? He grabbed his clean clothes and headed to the bathroom to start the day.
“Joshua! Joshua! Time to get up, sweetheart,” Diane announced as she peeked around the corner into the bedroom. She saw a bundle in the middle of the bed that wasn’t making a single move to get up. She walked over slipped her hand underneath the covers, finding that tickle spot along the ribs.
“Mom! S-stop! Mom!” Joshua laughed.
“Come on sleepy. One more day of school,” she reminded him.
“U’kay,” Joshua finally acknowledged and slipped out from underneath the covers. “But I have a go potty and Max’s in there already.”
“Use ours upstairs. Go on. And I already put your toothbrush in there. Make sure you use it…with toothpaste and on your teeth!” Diane had forgotten how specific you had to be with little ones, come to think of it, even with older ones from time to time, she amended.
Joshua couldn’t believe it as he came back downstairs from brushing his teeth, breakfast! Mom was cooking breakfast on a school morning! He ran around the corner, into the kitchen, and came to a dead stop. That wasn’t Mom.
Margie looked over and saw the most adorable site. He was so little and still in his jammies with his hair a mess. She sniffled to keep from crying. “Hel-lo Joshua. I’m your Grandma Margie,” her voiced choked with emotion.
“Hi,” he shyly answered. Mom and Dad had told him all about Grandma Margie and Grandpa Hank. He wasn’t supposed to practice his powers around them because they might not understand. At least that’s what they said, but that’s not what he felt from them when they said it. They wanted them to know and that it would be all right. He stepped into the kitchen a little more. “You makin’ pancakes?”
“Yep, chocolate chip pancakes. My specialty,” she answered with a warm smile. She and Hank had been stunned beyond belief when they got the call from Philip a few weeks ago. Even after they’d explained about Joshua being related to Max and Isabel… Still, taking in another child at this time of their lives just seemed so…extreme. But now, looking at him and seeing how much he resembled Max, she could understand. To turn him out would be like turning their backs on their children, something she knew Philip and Diane would never do.
“Chocolate chip?” Joshua wanted to be sure he heard that right.
“Yep, chocolate chip. You like chocolate, don’t you?” God, she was just itching to pick him up and hold him.
“Yeah,” he answered and got a little closer. He wanted to make sure she wasn’t joking.
“Grandma!” Max exclaimed as he walked in.
“Oh, sweetheart, come here!” She quickly flipped the pancakes and turned the burner down a tad and then hugged her oldest grandson. She gave him a good kiss and then stood back to give him a good once over. “My, you’re almost grown! That just can’t be right.”
Max just smiled and eyed the pancakes with interest.
She chuckled. “Let me get both my grandsons a plate.” She piled a couple of plates high with pancakes chocked full of chocolate chips.
They looked great and Joshua couldn’t wait to plow through them, but something wasn’t right. He watched Max put butter then syrup all over his and reached over and started to fix Joshua’s. “Max, you’re forgetting the ’abasco!” He always had Tabasco on his pancakes and waffles.
“’abasco?” Margie repeated in confusion.
“Um…” Max didn’t know how to explain it.
“A new trend the kids started this past summer, mixing the sweet with the hot. Now they’ve got Joshua doing it,” Diane casually explained as she walked into the kitchen and caught the tail end of things. It helped that it was mostly true. She could see that Margie was about to question it, so she held her hand up and shook her head. “Don’t ask. So long as they eat, I don’t question it,” she proclaimed in mock disgust as she nonetheless brought the Tabasco bottle over to the table.
Max was very careful to sprinkle a modest amount on both his and Joshua’s pancakes. “Thanks, Mom,” he said before taking a bite of breakfast. Mmm, heaven, it actually melted in his mouth. The Tabasco really brought out the chocolate flavor. “Awesome!” he proclaimed and quickly stuffed his mouth with another bite. Joshua was doing his best to keep pace with him as they wolfed down their breakfast.
After school Grandma and Grandpa took him to the park. Joshua loved the park and ran ahead as soon as he saw the playground.
“Joshua, slowdown!” Hank called out then chuckled. Man, it’d been years since they’d tried to keep up with a little one.
“Come on!” Joshua called back but waited for them to get close before running over to a vacant swing. “Watch how high I can swing, Grandpa!”
“Yes Grandpa, watch how high he can swing,” Margie repeated with a chuckle as she watched and applauded at the appropriate moments, then bit her lip when Joshua went even higher. “Hank…”
“Pretty high, huh?” Hank commented. “Joshua, that’s great, but I think that’s high enough.”
“But I can go higher,” Joshua yelled out to them. “See.”
“No!” both grandparents yelled back. Joshua went higher.
“Joshua, what did your mother tell you before we left?” Margie reminded him.
Joshua sighed and let his legs go slack making the swing slow down. Mom had been very specific that he had to mind Grandma and Grandpa and do exactly what they said. “U’kay.” His feet dragged in the dirt until he came to a stop. “Grandpa, watch me slide!”
Hank and Margie played the part of the doting grandparents to the hilt and loved every minute of it. They applauded and bragged at each accomplishment, how well he could slide, hang upside down on the monkey bars, of course swing some more, and he was about to show them how fast he could make the merry-go-round go… “Oh, careful. Hank, that’s too heavy for him, go give him a hand,” Margie advised as Joshua started to push it to get it going.
“No Grandma, I can do it. See?” His hand glowed briefly as he jumped up onto the merry-go-around, and another slight glow kept it going. He was grinning proudly until he caught a glimpse of his grandparents. They looked upset. “Oops.”
“Wh-what was that?” Margie gasped in shock. She couldn’t have possibly seen what she thought she saw, could she?
Hank’s eyes narrowed a bit as he watched the merry-go-round turn with little Joshua hanging on and looking dejected. He was pretty sure that he saw Joshua’s hand glow. He felt Margie’s hand reach for his and grab hold.
They were afraid, just like Mom and Dad said they might be. He shouldn’t have done it. They’d told him not to, but he’d forgot. He held the merry-go-around tightly as he waited for it to stop turning. He started to sniffle and his eyes were getting blurry.
Hank could tell that Joshua was growing increasingly upset and looked ready to cry. He also saw something else, a very slight glow starting to build where Joshua was holding onto the rail. “That was a very interesting trick, Joshua.”
“Hank, what are you doing? Didn’t you see…”
“Shh, look. He’s afraid. You want him to start bawling right here in the park? He’s more upset than we are,” Hank pointed out. “Joshua, it’s okay. We…we’re surprised that’s all. Can you come here and explain to us what you just did so we can understand?” he asked in as a reasonable tone as possible.
Joshua regarded them. He could still feel some fear and doubt but maybe if he explained that would go away and everything would be okay then. “U’kay,” he answered as the merry-go-round came to a stop.
“Come on, let’s go over here to the bench and have a seat while we talk,” Hank suggested and didn’t even think about it when he took a little hand in his, even though that hand had just a second ago been glowing. He situated Joshua on his lap with Margie sitting next to him. “So can you tell us how you did that trick and made the merry-go-round go?”
Joshua thought about it. He’d never had to explain it before. How did it work? “I don’ know. It just do it when I want it to. Sometimes when I don’t want it to, too. Then Max or Isabel have a fix it, usually Max though.”
“Max and Isabel can…fix it?” Hank wanted clarified.
“Uh-huh,” Joshua replied.
“So they can do that too? Make their hands glow and things happen?” Hank restated as he tried to get a handle on this.
Joshua nodded yes. “Uh-huh, but no one but Mom and Dad supposed to know, oh, except for Michael and Tess, they can do it too, but Michael is better at breakin’ than fixin’. Oh, and um, Liz and Maria and Alex and Kyle, oh, and Sheriff Vawenti. He knows too. But no one else, so you won’t tell, will you Grandpa?” He looked over at her, “Grandma?”
“Uh-um.” She looked at her husband. What do you say to that? These were their grandchildren they were talking about. She looked back at that little face, so much like her other grandson. She had so many memories of them: Christmases, family reunions, birthdays, weddings, baptisms, and family visits. “Of course we won’t. Mums the word.”
“Absolutely,” Hank concurred, but he would be having a very, very long talk with Philip the second he got him alone.
“Um, are you gonna tell Mom and Dad? I’ll be in trouble if you do,” he told them with a slight pout that only a five-year-old could pull off effectively, especially when applied to grandparents.
“Well, we…we’ll make sure you’re in the clear. Okay?” Hank assured him.
“Okay,” Joshua agreed and brightened. “Can we get ice cream? I always get ice cream after the park.”
“Ice cream, eh? Well, why not?” Margie concurred and reached for a little hand. Joshua was beaming as he walked in the middle, holding his grandparents’ hands on the way for ice cream.
Re: Joshua's First Year (CC, Teen) Part 13, PG2 5-2-09
Posted: Sat May 02, 2009 11:16 am
Hank peeked in the room and saw two dark-haired heads on the pillow, his grandsons, his half-alien grandsons. That’d been one hell of a revelation this evening. They’d waited until after Joshua had gone to bed before asking for explanations, and in his wildest imagination he hadn’t seen this one coming. He heard a floorboard creak and turned to find his own son standing there.
“I was thinking of getting a nightcap, care to join me?” Philip whispered.
Hank nodded, silently closed the door, and followed his son into the kitchen. He watched as Philip poured two stiff shots of Crown Royal. “How long have you known?”
“Since we got Joshua. The kids came clean then,” Philip told him.
“And you’re okay with it?” Hank asked.
“What else could I be? They’re still my kids, and your grandkids,” Philip pointed out.
“Oh, I know that, but that’s not what I meant. How are you really?” Hank asked his son.
Philip swished his glass around for a bit before taking a sip as he contemplated his answer. “I was hurt that they hadn’t trusted me before then. Scared at what all this meant, aliens, a new child, government agencies, everything.” He took another sip. “We never planned on starting over with another child. After the kids got through college I wanted to retire and travel, see the world. Be free.”
“You’re married. There’s no such thing,” Hank snorted.
Philip chuckled. “Yeah, I suppose you’re right.”
Hank thought of how Joshua had made the merry-go-around spin, and later when Max had healed that small cut on Margie’s finger, and Isabel had changed that bowl into a mermaid and back again. “They’re amazing kids.”
“Yeah, they are,” Philip agreed with no small amount of pride.
“Max seems to be doing better. You sure that Nesado fellow can keep them safe?” Hank asked.
“Sure? No. Nothing’s for sure. But I do know he’s been working with some success to shut down the black operation that caught Max. And he’s overseeing the investigation into what happened at that lab in Gallop. So far, he’s done pretty well,” Philip explained.
“Good, that’s good.” Hank took a big snort to finish off his whiskey and then nodded at Philip for a refill. “Next summer we were thinking of renting one of those motorhomes for a bit and taking a nice, long driving vacation.”
“Sounds nice,” he commented as he topped off his own drink.
“Think it would be a problem to stop by and maybe take the kids along? Maybe even a few of their friends to keep them company for a bit? Thinking about heading down along the Gulf and over to New Orleans.”
Philip coughed as the whiskey got caught in his throat. “Um, the kids would love it, but, um, are you sure you and mom are ready for an invasion of teens and kindergarteners? In a motorhome, no less?”
Hank shrugged. “We’ll just have to get one of those real big motorhomes. Besides, those two older ones are almost grown and we need to get in as much spoiling time as we can.”
Philip shook his head. “You two have already done plenty. Max has that new TV for his bedroom, plus I have no doubt there’s a wad of twenties stashed somewhere for gas money, and Isabel has practically bought the mall out. And don’t even get me started on Joshua. We’ll have to wait to see what new toys come out for Christmas in order to find one that he doesn’t already have. You two have bought him every one there is!”
“Phhttt, that’s what grandparents are for. Besides, we plan on coming back for Christmas,” he warned with a twinkle in his eye.
“Da-d,” Philip shook his head. It was hopeless.
Joshua checked his backpack. “Mom, did you remember my Twinkie?”
“No, apple slices,” Diane informed him as she quickly finished packing her older two’s school lunches.
Joshua frowned. “But M-o-m,” he whined.
“I’m sorry, Joshua, but all of you are eating entirely too many sweets. Apples, or you can have a banana instead.”
“G’morning,” Max said as he walked in and checked out his lunch bag. “Umm…”
“No umms, and you had better eat it,” Diane warned. She was determined that they were not going to turn into junk food kids like she’d seen on that TV news program last night, even if it killed them.
Max shrugged. “Okay.” Besides, he had a couple of Snickers in his locker at school.
Joshua sighed gloomily. He liked Twinkies, with a good douse of Tabasco of course. “I wish Grandma and Grandpa were still here,” he complained.
Diane gave him a look. “I bet. They took you to Baskin Robbins every afternoon and had no problem swinging by the candy aisle at 7-11 at the drop of a hat,” she commented dryly.
Max chuckled. They’d spoiled Joshua beyond belief and he’d lapped up every second of it. And of course Grandpa had slipped him a hundred for gas money too…a couple of times. “Don’t worry, kiddo. They’ll be back for Christmas.”
“What’s that?” Joshua asked as he watched his brother take a bite of his cereal. He’d heard a little about it but he wasn’t really sure.
“We get a big tree and bring it inside and decorate it. And then on Christmas Eve, Santa Claus comes down the chimney loaded down with toys for ya,” Max explained.
“Really?” Joshua brightened at this aspect.
“Yep, and he brings the really good and expensive ones when Grandma and Grandpa are here,” he elaborated.
“Max Evans. Stop that. You are giving him a very narrow view of Christmas. It’s a celebration of Jesus’s birth,” Diane corrected. “I can see that we have been too lax in our church attendance. That will change starting this weekend.”
“No ‘buts.’ We will begin attending church weekly as a family, starting immediately.” Her eyes narrowed as she wagged a finger at him. “That means ALL of us, young man. Got that?”
“Yeah.” Now Max was the one frowning.
“But does Santa still come?” Joshua asked, anxious to get back to the important part of this discussion. “With toys?”
Max had to smile again. “Yeah, but that’s not until December, over two months away. Before that, there’s Thanksgiving, which is okay. You get to pig out and watch football, but even before that…Halloween!”
“What’s Halloween?” Joshua asked with excitement.
“Candy!” Max told him.
“Yeah?” Joshua loved candy.
“Yeah, you get to dress up all scary and go door-to-door to all the neighbors and say ‘trick or treat’ and they give you a ‘treat,’ candy,” Max explained.
“Yeah? How much candy?” Joshua wanted to know. This was important.
“Joshua!” Diane admonished and shot a glare at her older son.
“Well, if you go to enough neighbors, a whole sack full, or even more!” Max elaborated, careful not to notice Mom’s glare too much. It was fun watching how excited Joshua was getting.
“A whole bag of candy…all to myself?” Joshua couldn’t believe it.
“Yep,” Max answered.
“Cool. When’s Halloween?” It couldn’t come soon enough as far as Joshua was concerned.
“End of the month. October 31st,” Max informed him and took him over to the wall calendar to show him today’s date and how far off Halloween was.
It was too far off, Joshua decided. “Can we practice some first?”
Max laughed. “Good idea but it doesn’t work that way.”
“Okay you two. Max, finish your breakfast. Joshua, come on, we need to get going.” She ushered her youngest out the door. She knew good nutrition was a losing battle, especially with Halloween coming up.
Max listened intently on the phone. “So they’re blaming it on an electrical malfunction. You’re sure? I mean we used explosives…oh, you manipulated the blast patterns and removed all traces of the chemicals in them. Yeah, okay. Well, give me a call if anything changes,” he concluded and hung up the phone. He turned to his dad who had been watching. “We’re in the clear.”
“So I gathered.” Philip didn’t like this. There was a multitude of things that could go wrong. “What about fingerprints? Did he wipe those too?”
“As best he could,” Max told him. This was so weird, talking to his dad, a lawyer, about blowing up a government lab and then covering it up. Not to mention murder. That scientist deserved to die but what about the guards, were they innocent? Did they deserve to die?
Philip nodded. He wasn’t concerned about any of the legalities of what his son had done. If this was ever discovered, he was sure that there wouldn’t be any court or legal maneuvering. No, they’d shoot first and ask questions later. “Good. Well, it sounds like all the bases are covered as much as possible. You should get to bed. School tomorrow.”
“Yeah,” he said with a nod. “G’night Dad.”
“G’night son.” He patted his shoulder as he headed off to bed. He wouldn’t be sleeping for a while as his mind ran through all the angles that the police might notice. The possibility of fingerprints being identified had been a major issue. He knew for a fact that Max and Isabel had been fingerprinted when they were in the Children’s Center, and no doubt Jim Valenti’s were on file with the state. He wasn’t sure about the rest but they couldn’t take the chance. And then the possibility of tracing the bomb components was another possibility. So far Nesado had been doing a good job of covering their tracks, but these were his children’s lives they were talking about. It was too important to take the chance on overlooking something. So he poured himself a nightcap and reviewed everything in his head for the hundredth time just to be sure.
His heart pounded at an incredible rate. His veins felt like they were on fire as the drugs they’d given him coursed through his body. His lungs begged for more oxygen that never seemed to come. His eyes ached from the harsh lights shining down on them, until mercifully a shadow blocked some of the rays as it loomed over him.
“Tell me,” Pierce demanded, his angry face just inches away from his captive. “Tell me what I want to know and I’ll make it stop.”
“I…I can’t. I don’t know,” Max gasped as unbidden tears started to form in the corner of his eyes. He couldn’t take much more of this. His body was already in agony from the earlier torture and now the drugs were making it worse as his muscles contracted in reaction to the chemicals.
“But you do know, don’t you, Max? You know and now you’re going to tell me everything or what you just experienced will be nothing compared to watching it.” He waved his hand and a wall fell away, revealing another White Room with another captive strapped inside. “We’ll start with the sister.”
“NO! NOOO! PLEASE, I DON’T KNOW!” Max screamed as he watched in horror as the technicians hooked up the electrodes to Isabel. His own misery was forgotten and he struggled unsuccessfully against his bonds, as his sister’s screams echoed in his ears. His tears fell freely as he begged and pleaded for Pierce to stop.
Pierce never said a word until the sister finally passed out. “Enough. Bring in the next,” he said coldly.
“Max? Max, what’s going on?” Diane asked in fear as she was lead in and strapped down to the table.
Pierce’s smile was pure evil. “See Max, I took you up on your suggestion. I called your parents.”
“NOO! NOOO! MOM! NOOOOOOOOO…”
Philip gripped his son’s shoulders harshly and shook him even harder. “Wake up Max. Wake up.” He waited as his son’s screams finally quieted but he wasn’t entirely sure if he was awake or not. “Max?”
Diane had come running. Her heart lurched at the sight before her. Max was clinging to Philip but the look on his face…he looked so…broken. She slid in behind her son and rubbed his back as she looked at her husband with worry.
“Max?” Philip took his son’s face in his hands and forced him to look him in the eyes. “Tell me what happened.”
“I…” He closed his eyes as he tried to compose himself. “It…it was just a dream,” he finally mumbled.
“Max, honey, you need to talk about it,” Diane suggested. It was almost as if she could physically feel the barriers her son was starting to rebuild. She felt a little hand touch her leg and looked down at another tear-stained face. “Oh Joshua, honey, it’s okay. Max just had a bad dream, baby.”
“I have bad dreams too,” Joshua admitted as he climbed up on his mom’s lap.
“I know you do, baby. But they’re getting better, aren’t they?” Diane asked as she wrapped one arm around him while the other continued rubbing along her other son’s back and shoulder, hoping it gave him some comfort.
“Uh-huh,” Joshua agreed and then reached out and tapped Max on the shoulder.
His head felt like it weighed a ton as he slowly turned around to look at his little brother, sitting there so securely in his mom’s arms. God, Mom. He put her in jeopardy. He glanced up briefly and saw Isabel just standing there and looking scared. She looked like she might have been crying, too.
“Max, when I have bad dreams about…about that bad place, Mom and Dad help me. Maybe they can help you too?” he suggested. He wanted to help his brother. Max had done so much to help him and he wanted to do something for him in return. “Please,” he added.
Max closed his eyes for a moment and took a deep breath in and out. It helped a little. He was partially back in control but it was so exhausting. He opened them to eyes that looked so much like his, even down to some of the pain and fear that only the two of them knew about first hand. What had he said? Mom and Dad helped him with his nightmares. He took another deep breath. It was so tiring, fighting to be in control all of the time. Maybe…just maybe, he could let it slip a little. He nodded. “O-okay, thanks Joshua.” He looked up at his mom. She’d taken him in without knowing what he really was and had loved him. And when she did find out, she still loved him anyway. He loved her so much. It wasn’t until recently that he understood just how much he loved her. “I’m fine, Mom,” he lied and felt a strong hand still holding onto his shoulder. He glanced back at his dad. “But…um, maybe Dad could stay for a bit to…talk?”
Diane looked at her husband, who nodded in reply, and then kissed her son on the forehead. “Okay, honey. I love you,” she told him as she rose with Joshua in her arms and guided her daughter back to her own room before ascending the stairs. She sat in a rocking chair with Joshua’s favorite Pooh book and read to him as they rocked until she looked down at two closed eyes, and then she rocked some more before putting him in bed with her. She watched the dawn break through the curtains and prayed that it would bring some lasting relief to her tortured son.
Philip sat at the kitchen table and sipped his coffee. He hadn’t once closed his eyes all night. He had still been musing over the phone call when he heard that blood-curling scream from his son and ran to his room. He’d never forget the sight, Max all tangled in his sheets, covered in sweat and tears, struggling to wake up and be free of his nightmare. But those screams, they ripped his heart out. And then later after everyone else went to bed, Max started talking. Philip hadn’t said much of anything, just encouraged him to talk. Of all the horrors that Max had suffered at the hands of that sadistic bastard, it was the fact that Max had broken and told Pierce what he wanted to know that seemed to be playing havoc with his psyche. Pierce had gotten to him, had exposed and explored his worst fears and used them against him to break him. By the time Max had finished talking, he was exhausted and ready to keel over. They both were. So Philip had tucked him in a bit and closed the curtains tight against the approaching dawn and by the time he closed the bedroom door, Max was snoring. For Philip, there was no such reprieve. He understood his son’s nightmares. They were his worst fears playing out. And the only way to get past those fears was to confront them and render them harmless, at least as much as possible. But damn, what that bastard had done to his son.
“Philip?” Diane asked warily as she entered the kitchen. She poured a cup of coffee and sat at the table with him. Her husband looked like crap. His face was drawn and tight, and he looked exhausted.
He nodded absently toward his wife, as his mind was still repeating all the horrors that had been inflicted upon his son. That man, no, monster, deserved to die, he thought as the anger rose in him. “I’m glad they killed them,” Philip announced and then took a deep breath. God, he was tired, too tired to sustain the anger. He looked over at his wife and reached across the table to kiss her. “I think I’ll see if I can get a few hours of sleep,” he said as he rose and headed upstairs. He slid underneath the covers and pulled his still sleeping youngest son close to him as his eyes began to close.
Liz watched him carefully as they worked on the class assignment together. He seemed tired. “You okay, Max?” she finally asked.
Max sighed heavily. “Yeah.”
“You over the flu that kept you home from school yesterday?” she asked unbelieving. Aliens didn’t get sick, at least not with the flu, but that was what he was telling everyone as to why he stayed home from school yesterday.
Max flinched, he didn’t want to lie to Liz but he didn’t feel like explaining in the middle of a chemistry experiment either. “Can we talk about it later? Maybe lunch?”
“Sure,” Liz told him and immediately dropped the subject…until lunch.
“You sure you’re doing okay?” Alex asked again between bites of the cafeteria lunch special. Both Max and Isabel had stayed home from school yesterday, and he heard that so had Joshua and Mrs. Evans as well, with the stomach flu or so the rumor went.
“Yes, I’m fine Alex, just fine,” Isabel replied testily.
“Hey,” Max greeted them as he took a seat at the table with his sack lunch and a soda. He peered in the bag with a scowl. Sandwich, fruit cup, a couple of mini Tabasco bottles, a banana, and something that said it was baked tarot chips. What the hell were tarot chips? He looked over at the lunch special that Alex was eating. It didn’t look much better and decided to stick with what his mom had packed.
“So you all better too?” Alex asked Max, still not believing it. As the official donor to the one of the few times that an alien had actually needed a doctor, he knew for a fact that aliens didn’t get sick.
“Um, yeah, fine,” Max answered and took a bite of his sandwich after dumping a mini bottle of Tabasco on it. Not too bad he thought, turkey, but he could do without the sprouts and the bread tasted like wood bark.
Liz dropped her book bag on the table next to Max and took a seat. “Okay, spill. What’s going on? What’s wrong?” She was worried. If she hadn’t known of his extraterrestrial origins, she would have believed him. He certainly looked like he was just getting over the flu.
“Nothing’s wrong. I…I’m fine.” He hated the look Liz gave him. He knew that she didn’t believe him.
“Max had a nightmare, a bad one, and…” Isabel butted in. She knew Max didn’t want anyone to know. She could understand that but these were their friends, no, more than friends, family. And they had stood by them and helped him when even she didn’t know how. They owed them the truth, whether Max liked it or not. “And Max and Dad stayed up the rest of the night talking it through,” she finished.
Alex watched as Liz slipped her arm around Max’s waist and scooted closer to him and how Max gave her a small smile for it. “So another nightmare. The usual kind or are we going to be taking another camping trip soon kind?” He was glad to see Max’s smile reach his eyes a little at that.
“No, just the regular kind. Dad and I talked and…” He looked at Liz and his friend and even his sister. “And I think I really might be okay this time. It’s just that yesterday was really tiring and I’m still dragging from it.” He glanced at his sister and added, “I think we all kinda are.”
Liz studied him for a moment. He looked tired but his eyes, they seemed more…alive somehow, as if some of the pain had been drained away. “Okay, then I guess I won’t ask you out to the movies tonight since you’re too tired and I have the night off. I’ll take Alex instead.”
“Wait. I didn’t say that.” He realized from her grin that she was teasing. “What’s playing?” Like he really cared.