This story full of Love is my gift to YOU.
Chapter 2. What happened to my little brother...
I staggered towards my couch in the living room, and slumped down onto it.
Feeling desperate, I buried my head in my hands...
All the long forgotten memories of my youth started to flash back into my mind, tumbling over each other and making me shudder with horror.
Almost hyperventilating, and trembling all over, I didn't know what to do.
This was too much for me, after all those years of denial and desperately trying to forget everything about my horrible fate...
I was fourteen years old; and my little brother, Joshie, was barely eight.
My parents were out, somewhere in our neighborhood, socializing as usual.
I was lying on my bed in my bedroom, reading some comic book.
My little brother was silently playing in his own room, as usual.
Everything in the house was peaceful, as always.
Suddenly, my little brother started to scream and bolted out of his room.
He rushed into my bedroom in a panic, screeching for help.
His clothes and his hair were on fire, and he didn't know what to do!
In vain, his small hands tried to put out the blazing flames, while he screeched again.
He had tried to light a candle; and, somehow, something went awfully wrong.
I didn't know how to help him, and panicked.
First, I tried to put out the flames by slapping at them with my comic book; but, every time, they flared up again.
Then, I pulled my still screeching brother into the bathroom and put him under the shower, to try to extinguish the fire.
Thankfully, that seemed to help.
Next, I rushed to his bedroom, to look for anything else that might be burning.
The only burnt things I saw, were a couple of broken matches and a dropped candle.
Fortunately, nothing else had caught fire.
I went back to the shower; where Joshie squirmed under the splashing water, still crying and obviously in a lot of pain.
I tried to help him by peeling off his burnt clothes; but some skin came off too, and he screamed louder and louder!
Desperately, I tried to remember where my parents were, but I didn't know their address and couldn't leave Joshie alone.
Finally, I thought of the emergency-number and rushed to the phone.
Ten very long minutes later, an ambulance arrived with a howling siren, and they took my poor little brother to a hospital.
The next couple of months felt like a prolonged version of a horrible nightmare.
Day after day, I visited the hospital, to see my poor little brother and ask the nurses for any good news.
Every day, I stared at a white and silent mummy, connected to a couple of blinking and beeping machines.
The nurses told me that my little brother had been lucky to be alive; and, so far, everything went relatively well.
The surgeons had sedated him, to suppress the pain and help immobilize him after major surgery.
Finally, after five long and worrisome months, little Joshie returned home; as a crippled little 'freaky alien'.
Both hands were reduced to little stumps, he breathed through a tube in his throat, and he couldn't speak any more.
His face looked like a scary mask, with a couple of dark holes in it.
His nose was gone, and he was completely bald.
Even his eyelashes were burnt away.
My parents blamed me for everything, because I hadn't properly looked after my little brother while they were away.
They decided to help me develop more responsibility, by teaching me a lesson I would never forget.
From now on, I had to take my burnt little brother with me, whenever I left the house and wherever I went...
The first time I took my burnt little brother outside our house, was a real nightmare.
Everybody stared at us and laughed at him, and many people shook their heads in surprise and called him a 'freak' and an 'alien'.
I had a terrible time, until I learned to shut off my feelings.
Then, I just dragged him along without looking around.
Joshie never protested, and obediently walked at my side with his little stump in my hand...
Soon, all my former 'friends' left me alone and tried to avoid my little brother.
Whenever we happened to meet them, they snickered and told each other silly jokes about 'landed aliens' and 'freaky nightmares'.
I started to feel more and more depressed; and, many times, I thought about leaving my hell by committing suicide.
However, I didn't want to cause poor Joshie any more problems, in addition to the difficulties he already had.
Ultimately, all this had been MY fault, according to my parents.
Fortunately, for him and for me, Joshie died after a couple of months.
Finally, I was free, and allowed to go out without dragging my little brother along!
However, I didn't know how to cope with my regained freedom, and cried and cried.
My parents tried to comfort me and told me they still loved me, but I didn't believe them any more.
Unfortunately, I turned out to be right.
Soon, both of them turned against me and started to blame me again.
The day after I became eighteen years old, I left home and rented a room in another town, far away.
Before I left, I raided my dad's wallet and emptied my mom's emergency strongbox, to buy a couple of necessary things and some food.
How would I be able to survive as a newly liberated bachelor...
I went to a local store, and applied for a job.
Fortunately, the owner hired me immediately and offered me a good wage.
A couple of months later, I happened to read in the local newspapers about a new foundation.
Some wealthy people were trying to help poor but gifted students, by offering them a scholarship.
The next day, I applied.
I was tested, and they told me I was very bright and would be able to achieve anything I wanted.
They would be very happy to have me as one of their first fully supported students!
A couple of years later, I graduated cum laude as a psychotherapist.
I rented a nice house and started as a freelance therapist, advertising to help troubled children.
Everybody always told me I was an extremely good therapist, having an astonishing insight into what desperate children needed...
After some time, I married a befriended colleague, and soon we had two beautiful and lovable daughters.
During all those years, I desperately tried to forget my own horrible youth.
I trained myself to always repress every disturbing thought about my difficult past...
Slowly, my feelings of guilt started to disappear, and I was able to help troubled young boys without immediately thinking of my own little brother.
Finally, I started to feel relatively happy and enjoy my life as it was, almost without having any remaining feelings of guilt.
At least, I thought so...
Until I met five curious neighborhood kids who called me an 'old grandpa'.
The moment John told me about his burnt little brother and everybody calling him a 'freak' and an 'alien'; all my repressed feelings of guilt and shame popped up again, forcefully breaking through my carefully built-up defenses.
My disturbing reaction told me that I had only pushed away all my sorrows, without ever dealing properly with my repressed trauma.
Little Joshie was burnt on his face and his hands, but I am still burnt in my soul!
I can still feel the pain, the shame, and all the humiliations of that time!
I certainly can NOT stand another burnt little boy like Joshie around.
Or, can I?
I rose from my couch and dragged myself to the kitchen, to drink some water.
That helped, and my numb body started to feel a bit less shaky.
Next, I took a couple of deep breaths and forced myself to re-gather my strength, as I had taught myself during all those years of denial.
Within a few minutes, I had repressed my troubling emotions; and I started to become my joyful self again.
Now, I thought of the children on my porch; and of how I had left them alone, all of a sudden, without giving them any explanation.
How would they feel now, after I suddenly abandoned them, just like that?
Would they still be waiting for me, not knowing what had happened?
I hurried back to my porch, planning to reassure them and make my excuses.
Of course, the children were gone, obviously tired of waiting for me.
Even the street looked empty; at least as empty as my own soul felt at that moment...
Hesitantly, I sat down on my folding chair, looking around and hoping to see one of the children.
However, they didn't show up, and the street remained empty.
After some time, I heaved a couple of disappointed sighs and gave up.
I closed my eyes; and decided to look back upon my early youth...
I loved my little brother. I really loved the little imp.
He was the younger brother every child would wish for!
Joshie seemed to be my little shadow. Wherever I went, he followed me.
Always when I was at home, he was at home too.
He didn't bother me. He just always was there, quietly playing in his room or sitting at the table in the living room.
We didn't have any television. Sometimes, we both listened to the radio or we played a game, until it was his time to go to bed.
My parents were always busy, or out somewhere.
They always told me they trusted me enough to leave us alone; from the time I was twelve years old and little Josh was six.
My little brother and I never had any problems.
It seemed like we were always in harmony with each other!
Until the little duffer did something stupid with a burning candle.
How strange... Now that I closed my eyes, I could have sworn I felt Joshie around!
That was impossible, of course, because Joshie had been dead and buried for more than fifty years.
However, I had a feeling as if he was here, watching me from nearby.
Again, I had the so well known feeling of being in harmony with my little brother.
I even opened my eyes and looked around; but, of course, nobody else was there and I was all alone on my porch.
Now, I felt a bit silly.
Slowly, the feeling of not being alone became stronger and stronger.
Even with open eyes, I could sense somebody watching me, although I still didn't see anybody around.
It certainly wasn't alarming or frightening.
On the contrary, it was a reassuring feeling, as if everything was all right now...
As if I had a guardian angel, watching over me...
Suddenly, the feeling started to change, causing me to turn my attention to the back of my garden.
I stared at a thick bush in a corner of my backyard, wondering what was happening to me.
Was my 'guardian angel' really telling me to look at that bush?
Or, did I make this up myself?
A moment later, I was sure I saw some movement!
A small child seemed to be hiding inside that bush, furtively looking at me...
My 'guardian angel' had been right.
Somebody WAS there!
My first thought was: 'There's one of the children, trying to spy on me.'
However, why should any of the kids hide in my backyard like this?
A second later, I had another thought: 'That could be little Harry.'
At the very thought, my heart jumped up in my chest, and I felt like my dearest dreams were fulfilling themselves.
I had to restrain myself from running towards the poor child and take him into my arms!
However, that would almost certainly scare him away...
Carefully, so as not to alarm him, I sat back again and closed my eyes, secretly peeking through my eyelashes.
I tried not to look too obvious, hoping the shy little boy would show himself.
Silently, I opened my heart towards the little boy, trying to send him my love and let him know he could trust me and would be welcome.
Then, I waited.
After some time, I saw the same little movement again, as if the boy had taken a small step forward.
Now, I even saw a pair of very bright blue eyes, furtively peeking through the bushes and trying to see a bit more.
Did I really see a pair of bright blue eyes?
I was sure John told me that his little brother was of Gypsy origin... but, didn't all Gypsies have dark eyes?
Maybe, this kid was not little Harry, but somebody else...
It didn't really matter.
I opened my heart towards the kid, trying to send it as much love as I could muster.
Inwardly, I spoke to the shy kid, hoping he or she would pick up my love and my thoughts, and trust me enough to let me see a bit more.
However, I waited and waited, but nothing happened and the kid didn't move...
Finally, I decided to take some more risk, hoping I wouldn't be too impatient and scare the shy kid away.
Slowly, I opened my eyes, and looked directly at where I saw the pair of bright blue eyes, still staring at me.
Smiling at the bushes and at the hidden child, I raised my hand and waved.
A second later, the bushes moved wildly.
A small boy bolted out of the back of the bush and raced to the adjacent backyard, almost tripping over his own feet.
Within a split second, he was gone, like a whirlwind!
Damn! I had clearly been too impatient, in my eagerness to see him...
Feeling disappointed and angry with myself, I rose from my folding chair.
Obviously, I had been too forward with that frightened little boy.
Why hadn't I been more patient, waiting for him to take the first step...
I sauntered back into my house, and closed the door.
Absent-mindedly, I started to unpack the next cardboard box, brooding about what could have gone wrong.
All the time, my thoughts were with that shy little boy, secretly peeking through the bushes and running away when he saw me waving.
I was afraid he would be too scared from now on; and I thought I wouldn't see him back for a long time...
Feeling more and more frustrated, I decided to do something about my nervousness.
I sat down on my couch and closed my eyes, trying to relive what I had seen of him.
Two curious and very bright blue eyes had stared at me for quite some time.
Then, a little boy jumped out of the bush, and disappeared towards the neighbors!
He seemed to be a bit small for his age, having a lithe but compact physique.
I also thought I had seen a mop of gold blond hair on his head, but wasn't sure.
Didn't all Gypsies have dark hair?
Of course, as a trained psychotherapist, I was good in reading body language.
I recalled the boy's movements when he ran away, and was very surprised to see an enormous amount of self-consciousness and Inner Power!
The boy also had something very special in his demeanor I could only describe as an aura of aristocracy.
Suddenly, I felt an emotional connection with the little boy, as if I already knew him and was able to read his feelings by merely looking at his behavior.
He was not afraid of ME, but he was afraid I would reject him once I saw his terribly burnt face!
That is why he panicked and fled away, although he really wanted to contact me.
Now, at this very moment, he was regretting his panic and crying!
Or, did I make this up in my mind? I wasn't sure...
I started to think again about the other children.
Had they already told their little friend about me, and about my strange behavior?
Maybe, they were afraid of me, and would try to avoid my house from now on...
I thought about going for a walk in the neighborhood, hoping to see the children and create an opportunity to make my excuses...
However, I took the coward's way out, and stayed home to unpack the next cardboard box.
That same night, I had a frightening nightmare; for the first time since my horrible youth and Joshie's death.
The night was very dark; and, in a clearing along the road, a small Gypsy caravan was attached to an old car.
Two men headed for the caravan and threw some liquid at it, followed by a burning match.
Within a few seconds, everything was on fire.
Suddenly, a small boy came stumbling out of the caravan door, burning like a torch and screeching for help.
I started to struggle towards him with all my might, but my feet were stuck in mud and I couldn't help him!
Feeling desperate, I started to scream from helplessness and frustration.
Then, I woke up, still trembling all over.
Just before I was awake, a warm and soulful voice sounded in my head:
"The boy NEEDS you!"
To my surprise, I sensed again the so well known feeling of being in harmony with my little brother.
I was sure I felt little Joshie around, watching over me like sort of a guardian angel...
At the same time, I was also sure I had heard the voice of Jack, the former owner of my house.
Only, don't ask me how I knew it was him...
I could clearly feel an unseen person around me, and it was a very reassuring feeling.
Everything was all right now. I had received his message and could go back to sleep.
Within a minute, I was back in a sound and dreamless sleep.
I woke up with the bright morning sun, joyfully peeking through a crack in the curtains and tickling my eyes.
For a moment, I had no idea where I was, or what I was doing here, in this foreign looking bedroom.
Then, I started to chuckle; remembering my new house, the five children, my nightmare, and Jack's voice in my head.
Maybe, that rascal Thomas had been right, about me being an 'old grandpa'...
I dragged myself out of bed; and went downstairs to look for my toiletries.
I found a toothbrush, a bar of soap, and a bottle of shampoo in one of the unopened cardboard boxes, and took the only bath towel I had been able to find so far.
Still feeling like a stranger in my new house, I showered and got dressed.
Thinking about John, I pulled the still wet handkerchief out of my pocket and threw it into the hamper.
Fortunately, I had found three clean ones.
Where was the huge packet of tissues I had brought from my old home?
I was sure it had to be in one of the cardboard boxes, but I hadn't been able to find it...
I went to the kitchen; and prepared a simple breakfast and my first cup of coffee.
Then, I took my coffee to the porch, again hoping to see the children.
I sat down on my folding chair, sipping my coffee.
Now and then, I looked around, still hoping to see one of the children.
Unfortunately, they seemed to have vanished, and the neighborhood looked deserted.
Nobody showed up, and even the bushes in the backyard didn't move...
Where could the children be?
Were they afraid of me now?
Had they avoided my house, and were they playing somewhere else?
Would I ever see them again?
Nobody showed up; and, after a while, I gave up and closed my eyes.
Slowly, I started to enjoy the warmth of the sun and the quietness of the surroundings.
This was my new home; and I would make the best of it, with or without the children.
Suddenly, I sat upright, feeling very surprised about myself.
Why, for heaven's sake, was I thinking about these CHILDREN all the time...
They weren't my clients, I had never seen them before, and I had only spoken to them once, for crying out loud!
Yet, they seemed to rule my life and dominate almost all my thoughts, especially John and that little Gypsy boy.
Was I really becoming senile?
I felt a bit angry with myself, for not taking this situation into my own hands.
Where had I left my own free will?
This certainly was not my normal behavior!
Feeling a bit uneasy, I decided to have an honest and therapeutic look at what I had been doing.
Maybe, then, I could be at peace with myself again...
I sat back, closed my eyes, and tried to relive what had happened yesterday.
Again, I saw the children, curiously huddling together and leaning against my gate.
The youngest girl fumbled with its lock; and, all of a sudden, five surprised kids tumbled into my driveway, staring at me in shock.
Fortunately, I liked children.
I always enjoyed working with them, and tried to help them overcome their problems and fears.
I even thought I was a good therapist, with a lot of love and compassion for my little clients.
I recalled how I guffawed at the funny sight of all the entangled kids; and how they entered my front garden, now shyly smiling at me.
Then, the oldest boy looked around in my backyard and asked where 'Harry' was.
I was a trained psychotherapist, supposed to be in control of my own feelings... but that single word, 'Harry', almost brought me to tears!
Of course, 'Harry' was my own first name, and I had known several other 'Harries' in my life... but they had never stirred such strong feelings in my heart.
What was even stranger, I had a suspicious feeling that somebody else could have planned this meeting!
Could it be that Jack, the former owner of my house and the Big Friend of that burnt little boy, had a hand in this?
Did Jack WANT us to meet each other, knowing I was a therapist and should be able to help his little friend?
However, Jack was dead and buried; and I didn't really believe in 'ghosts' or 'spirits'...
Leaving my doubt for now, I went on recalling yesterday's events, and looking at how I reacted to them.
Again, I reassured the children by promising them I would never betray their trust, using the old 'children's promise'.
Again, John threw himself onto my lap, letting all his defenses down.
Many children had been crying on my lap and in my arms, but never before had I felt such absolute trust!
Again, I had that strange feeling, as if John and I had known each other for ages, as if we were kindred souls.
It also felt as if we had been waiting for each other for a very long time; and, finally, we were brought together...
Maybe, these feelings could have something to do with a so-called 'reincarnation'?
Could it be that John and I recognized each other from our 'past lives'?
However, I didn't really believe in living more than one life.
Dead was dead, and death was the definite end of everything...
At last, I decided to do something useful, and took my empty cup to the kitchen.
I started to unpack the next pile of boxes, still wondering where the children and their little Gypsy friend would be now.
Were they still thinking about yesterday and about my strange behavior?
Or, had they already forgotten all about me, and were they playing somewhere else...
Suddenly, my doorbell rang, loudly reverberating through the hallway and harshly shaking me out of my reveries.
I shuddered; and made a mental note, to buy myself a new and friendlier bell, the next time I went downtown!
Muttering inwardly, I left my pile of boxes and sauntered to the front door; planning to immediately brush off the unwelcome sales representative who would try to sell me something I wasn't interested in.
To my surprise, I saw John, patiently waiting for me.
After ringing the bell, he had stepped back into my front garden, nervously shuffling his feet and fumbling his fingers.
He looked up at me with a teary face, showing fear and pain in his deep brown eyes.
The moment I saw John, my heart leapt up in my chest with joy, and I felt elated.
The children hadn't forgotten me; and I might still be able to meet that burnt little boy!
Where were the other kids? Had they sent John as their representative?
I opened the door wide, and joyfully beckoned John to come in:
"Hi, my friend! It's good to see you again! Please, come in."
John looked at my face; hesitating, and trying to read my eyes.
Cautiously, he took a step towards the open door, mumbling:
"Can I... err... sorry, may I have a talk with you, please?"
"Yes; of course, you may. In fact, I am pleased to see you, because I want to have a talk with you as well. Come in, and let's go to the kitchen."
John entered the house and waited for me to shut the front door.
He followed me to the kitchen, hesitantly and still keeping some distance.
On the way, I took one of my spare folding chairs from the hallway closet.
Fortunately, I had purchased a lot of them, to be prepared for unexpected visitors.
I unfolded the chair; and both of us sat down at the kitchen table, facing each other.
We looked at each other; both of us wanting to talk, but being unsure how to start...
I smiled at John and winked at him, trying to let him feel welcome.
He smiled back at me, and his eyes lit up a bit, but he still didn't say a word.
After a moment, I decided to try to break the ice by offering him a drink:
"Sorry, my refrigerator is still empty; but I could brew us some tea, coffee, milk, or hot chocolate."
"Err... could I have some milk, please? I don't like hot chocolate."
"Yes, of course. Please, help yourself, while I'm brewing another cup of coffee."
John remembered where I had put my cups and glasses.
He took a glass from one of the cupboards, went to the refrigerator, and poured himself some milk.
Meanwhile, I went to my coffee machine, brewed a cup of coffee, and added two lumps of sugar.
Both of us sat down again, sipping our drinks in silence, smiling at each other.
Finally, I took my last sip of coffee, put the empty cup onto the table, and opened the conversation:
"To start with, I want to apologize for my rude behavior.
"I didn't want to leave you on my porch like that; but those little words, 'freak' and 'alien', suddenly made me relive my own horrible youth..."
I told John everything about my burnt little brother and me, knowing he would understand how I felt.
Don't ask me how I knew, but I was absolutely sure I could trust him!
He felt like a dear friend, and I was sure we had been talking and listening to each other many times before.
Only, I couldn't remember when.
John listened to my story, open-mouthed and getting tears in his eyes...
I told him about little Joshie and me, always being in harmony with each other, until the little duffer put his hair and his clothes on fire when he tried to light a candle.
John looked a bit pale after I told him how I panicked; and how, after ten very long minutes, an ambulance with a howling siren took poor burnt little Joshie to a hospital.
I told him how I visited a white and silent mummy every day; and how, after five worrisome months, Joshie came back home as a mute cripple.
He shuddered while I told him how my parents blamed me for little Joshie's ordeal, and imposed on me to take him with me wherever I wanted to go.
He got tears in his eyes when I told him how my friends were making fun of us; and how everybody laughed at my little brother and called him a 'freak' and an 'alien'.
Finally, I told John about Joshie's liberating death, about my own feelings of guilt and shame, and about the still lasting fire in my soul...
I fell silent, looking out the kitchen window, staring at the twittering sparrows that again chased each other through the backyards.
This time, I didn't really see them, as my thoughts were lingering in the past, reliving my pain.
Slowly, my eyes filled with tears and started to drip.
However, I didn't feel their wetness, still dwelling in my own sad world...
Suddenly, I had two comforting arms around my neck, and a small hand stroked my wet face and wiped my tears.
John had left his chair and walked around the kitchen table in silence; and I hadn't even seen him do it.
He hugged me, caressing my shoulders, while he whispered soothing words I couldn't understand but they felt good.
Then, he started to sob along with me, pressing his own face against mine, while our tears mingled together.
Slowly, I woke up from my trance, to my surprise discovering that I started to feel a whole lot better.
This boy must have a gold mine in his heart, overflowing with caring love and tenderness!
Wow, what a special child he was!
I pulled him into my arms, and he smiled through his sobs and trustfully settled onto my lap.
Sitting together, we waited patiently until our shared sobs diminished.
After a few minutes, all my bad memories had faded away, and I started to feel like being born again.
That brown-eyed thirteen-year-old boy clearly had a lot of powerful magic in his heart!
I worked my handkerchiefs out of my pocket; and used one to dry John's eyes and mine, while we used the other ones to blow our noses.
Finally, we looked at each other, suddenly both of us feeling a bit shy and unsure how to proceed...
Until we started to grin at each other at the same time.
I decided to tease John a little bit, to try to break the tension:
"You know what? I think that you are a little cry-baby."
"Yeah, and you surely are an old cry-grandpa!"
John hopped off my lap, turned around to face me, and smiled broadly.
He put his arms around my neck, and happily offered me a warm and wet kiss.
Wow! I started to love my precious and affectionate new friend more and more!
He also felt more and more like a long-lost and finally re-found kindred soul.
Apart from that, he certainly was worming his way into my heart.
Walking together and pushing each other like little children, we went to the sink.
Both of us washed our faces, teasingly splashing some water at each other.
I took the only towel I had been able to find so far; and offered one side to John.
Next, we dried ourselves, playfully mock fighting to have some more of the same towel.
Finally, we sat down again at the kitchen table, and I told John:
"Thank you very much, for listening to my story and comforting me. Your support helped me tremendously!
"You are a really nice thirteen-year-old cuddle bear, with a very big heart full of love and understanding."
"You are very welcome, sir, and your support helped ME too! I think you are a very lovable cuddle bear yourself, with an enormous heart, overflowing with love, and I already like you very much...
"You know, yesterday, all of us were afraid you would be angry with us. None of us had any idea why you suddenly left us...
"But, now I can understand why you did it! Thank you, for trusting me and telling me your sad story.
"I am sure I will be your friend for the rest of my life, and I hope you want to be my friend as well.
"Last night, I couldn't sleep from sadness; and Harry started to be irritated and dived into his own bed, because I couldn't stop my sobbing and kept him awake.
"Besides, I told Harry about our meeting; but he already knew what had happened, and confessed he was afraid of you because you looked angry and kicked a chair!"
"Yes, he was right. I remember kicking a chair in my desperation. I didn't know that Harry was spying on me in my own living room..."
"He is really good at sneaking around and spying, because of his Gypsy origin and living in the woods.
"He also told me you saw him hiding in the bushes. You waved at him; but he was too scared to show himself and ran away!"
"Yeah, I know. I am sorry I have blown my chance to meet him..."
"No, you have not! Now, Harry knows that you accept him and really care about him. Only, he is very afraid of being disappointed or rejected.
"You know; his Big Friend, Jack, was everything to him. Officially, Harry lives in our house; but, in reality, he was always with Jack.
"Here, he had his own room and all his belongings; upstairs, second door to the left.
"Jack always comforted him and visited him every day, when he had to be in a hospital for his next operation.
"I think that Jack was Harry's father, his mother, and his best friend, all in one..."
John fell silent, using his hands to wipe the dripping tears from his face.
I offered him one of my used handkerchiefs, and he offered me a grateful smile while looking for a dry corner.
Where the heck was my huge packet of tissues, probably still packed away in one of the cardboard boxes...
After a moment, John went on, still sniffling:
"Harry has to go back to the hospital in about a week. This time, the doctors will try to give him a somewhat bigger nose and artificial lips.
"He has been in a hospital a couple of times before, but he has never felt so scared! He misses Jack badly. Jack always cheered him up, and let him see the positive side...
"Two months ago, in the middle of the night, Jack sent him in a hurry to our house to wake my parents and me, because he didn't feel too well.
"By the time we arrived, Jack was dead; but he had a smile on his face, as if he knew he had done the right thing by sending Harry away in time...
"Since that night, Harry lives with us, and he sleeps in my room. Every night, he crawls into my bed, because he hates sleeping alone.
"Yesterday, he told me he can feel Jack around, now and then; and Jack told him that he approves of the new owner of his house. I think that has to be you..."
John looked at me; again showing a hint of fear in his eyes.
Would I accept what he told me; or would I reject the possibility of Jack still being around and talking to his little brother?
For a moment, I hesitated, feeling unsure about what I could tell John.
How would he react, when I told him I had felt Jack around myself?
Would he accept my story, or would he be upset after he found out I might believe in 'spirits'?
Many people are afraid of 'ghosts', and don't want to be in the presence of such a strange believer...
My mind was still deliberating; but my heart already told me I could safely tell John everything without any fear.
He had an open mind, and I even thought he could have felt Jack around himself but hesitated to tell me...
This time, I decided to listen to my heart and trust my newly found friend:
"Yesterday, I felt Jack around myself. I even think he pointed me to a bush in my backyard, where your little brother spied on me...
"Last night, I had a nightmare about a burning caravan; and, after I woke up, I heard Jack's voice in my head, telling me that your little brother needs me!
"I am also very happy to hear that your little brother knows that his Big Friend is still around and watching over him."
John looked at me with a beaming face, and shouted:
"I KNEW you would be one of us! I just knew it! Now, I am sure that Jack brought us together, to let you help my poor little brother, and I really hope you and he will become friends.
"I know that Harry desperately needs another Big Friend in his life. He just can't cope without one..."
I smiled at John, inwardly deciding to do everything I could to help that poor little boy, who needed a Big Friend in his life and couldn't do without one.
Maybe, that was exactly what Jack's intention had been, by bringing us together...
Had Jack arranged our meeting, knowing that a psychotherapist was going to live in his house?
My heart told me this was the truth; but my brain still didn't believe in 'life after death' or 'messages from the beyond'.
Dead was dead, despite what I told John; and everything else could be nothing but a weird fantasy...
However, I still wanted to meet that burnt little Gypsy boy who needed a big friend!
Maybe, John would be able to convince his little brother to pay me a visit.
Or, would the little lad still be too scared, and would he refuse to meet me?
I decided to give it a chance, and asked:
"John? Do you know where your little brother is now? Could you ask him to come with you and meet me? I really want to see him.
"Maybe, you could tell him that I'm already used to a boy with a burnt face, because of my own little brother..."
"Oh yes, I certainly will tell him everything you told me! Thank you! Thank you so much for wanting to meet Harry.
"I will bring him here, without letting him run away again. You can count on me!"
Both of us left our chairs, and stepped towards the door.
Suddenly, John jumped up at me; trustfully letting me catch his rather heavy frame in midair!
The sudden impact made my poor old spine groan with the effort, but I was able to catch him without going down.
John threw his arms around my neck and his legs around my waist, and heaved a deep sigh of content.
I put my arms around my new friend, held him close, and slowly stroked his back.
I started to love my so spontaneous and affectionate boy more and more.
He certainly was working his way into my heart!
After some time, I let John slide down onto his feet, telling him to go outside and look for his little brother...
He grinned at me, and gleefully offered me another warm kiss.
Next, he turned around and went to the table without saying a word.
He rinsed his glass and my cup in the sink, put the milk back into the refrigerator, and hasted outside.
Well, he certainly was a lot tidier than I had been at that age!
Thank you very much, for all your wonderful emails. I feel totally overwhelmed!
This first time, I received 18 positive ones; and only 1 stating he was disappointed...
I will still try to answer all your mails; unless I am getting too many of them.
Here are a few (maybe slightly abbreviated) excerpts:
Hi Harry: I liked your story -- it has so many possibilities!
Hello ! I normally don't sent messages to those that write the stories I enjoy, but I can't wait to read more about the 2 "Harry's". Very well written. Thanks for sharing with us.
Hello there: I liked your story very much. I hope you keep going with it. I look forward to chapter 2 and more.
Harry, wonderful story! I just wish I had your wonderful talent.
Very interesting story........looking forward to seeing what happens next.
Hi: A well written (and edited) first chapter. Looks like it has the potential to be one of those really great stories on Nifty. Keep up the good writing.
Dear Mr. Anders.I have read your story before but do not remember where nor do I remember how it continued on (perhaps it had a different title). I do remember I liked the story and would be pleased to read it again. Please continue sending chapters to Nifty. Thanks.
I was impressed with the title, so started reading. I have read the story many times from different angles, and love it. I'll gladly read it again.
On a wonderful story! I fell in love with your described characters and dreamed about them all during my spare moments after reading all the chapters. I have nothing but strong emotions of happiness for your story.
Now, I am blushing too much...
Do you enjoy my story? Then, please, send me an email!