Life In A Northern Town
When I woke up again it was in the early hours of the day and the sun had yet to rise. I was on my side and I felt a warm lump resting against my back, moving slightly as he breathed. I wasn't immediately sure why I was there, but that only lasted a moment as the prior day returned with stunning force. I don't usually cry, but I found once again that I just couldn't stop my tears from falling. I got up and went into the bathroom, careful not to disturb Randy, who rolled slowly onto his back without me supporting him. I closed the door in the bathroom and used the toilet, then sat on the radiator guard. A number of these older houses have them, a decorative box with metal gratings over the radiators to hide them from view.
Why was all this happening now, why was my mother coming unglued? What she said about my father, could that be true? Was I some filthy monster like she said I was? I wasn't sure. What if she'd called Nick's parents and told them about what I wrote? I'd be finished, or he would be or both. My mind brightened somewhat as I remembered that he'd said he loved me. I didn't have to hide that from him at least.
I heard Randy's alarm go off on the other side of the thin lath and plaster wall and I heard him savagely silence it, then softly call out to me after a moment. I left the bathroom and reentered his room to see him looking on the far side of the bed on the floor, presumably in case I had decided to roll off the bed in the middle of the night as Randy himself was known to do. I know I was feeling like shit, but I couldn't resist leaning over and giving Randy a gentle, or not so gentle push, that toppled him off the bed.
"Asshole," he muttered as he climbed back on the bed. I nodded affirmatively in reply.
"Yes, I know," and took a seat next to him.
"So, you feeling a little more human today?" he asked quietly, eyes probing my face.
"I don't know Randy," I sighed, " I've never felt so fucked up in my life. I don't think, it's all too weird," I said slowly, "Do you think my Mom was serious? About all those things she said?" I asked.
"I dunno man," Randy said with a shrug, "Your Mom's been a little weird ever since your Dad passed, she can't seem to get her shit together," he slung an arm around me, "but you know you can stay here if you want, Dad thinks your one of his anyhow." He smiled ruefully.
"Thanks Rand," I said softly.
"One thing I do want to know, even though I think I got it figured all ready," he said.
I raised a wary eyebrow at him with a million possibilities going through my mind as to what he might choose to ask. Are you gay? Why didn't you tell me? Aren't I your best friend? Have you been looking at me?
"Are you mad at me?" he asked in a very serious tone.
"Mad? At you? Hell, no, why would I be mad at you?" I asked in shock. He turned to look at me solemnly before speaking.
"Because I hardly ever see you, because shit, and I mean major shit was going down in your life and I, me your best friend, didn't know that anything was wrong. Cause I guess I wasn't being a very good friend to you if you didn't think you could tell me," he said calmly and with a chilling edge to his voice. I felt my lip tremble as I saw the hurt I caused outlined in his face, streaked through his eyes and painted across his soul.
"Randy, I...I'm sorry. I am, I was afraid. I didn't know how to say...I couldn't even look at myself." I looked down at my hands, "I couldn't face you or...or Nick. I didn't trust myself," I said in a whisper. I felt his grip tighten on my shoulders. "Please try and understand, I really don't know what to think of myself right now. I've been having a real rough time admitting...a lot of things to myself. I just couldn't tell you."
"That's why you have friends, dip wad, to help you. At least you always told me that when my folks broke up and my Mom went to Florida. And you said so again when my Dad remarried and I was pissed. You have to play fair, Adam, and let me be your friend too." He finished and stood slowly off the bed, knuckling his back and stretching.
"Besides," he said offhandedly, "I don't think you could beat Nick off with a stick now," He crossed the room and dug through his dresser for underwear to take into the bathroom so he could cover himself after his shower. I mulled this development in my mind, still unhappy about a million and one things, and deeply hurt by Randy's words no matter how true they may be.
"Randy, you are my best friend, the best friend I ever had, and I'm very sorry," I said through eyes that couldn't seem to focus.
"You better believe I am buddy boy," he grinned as he crossed back to me, locking me in his firm embrace, "And I always will be," he said before heading for the shower. I leaned back on the bed and thought again about Nick and what I should do there, not to mention that nagging thing called my Mother. Not to mention Bernie, who will no doubt be on her side. I felt very small again, and even the revelation that Nick loved me seemed rather small at the moment, even though nothing besides him had dominated my thoughts for the past few months. Besides, I told myself logically, these other things needed to be squared away first.
I wrapped my arms around myself and waited for Randy to return, waited to see what I was going to do.
When Mr. Proctor remarried he actually made a good choice. She was really nice and she genuinely cared about Randy, although it took him some time to see that. She could also be stern and pretty much no nonsense when she chose to be.
"You have to go to school, Adam. It'll help you if you follow a routine of some kind, and besides you'll have Randy in most of your classes," she reasoned with me after I had showered. I really wasn't in the mood and, although she was sympathetic, she was unyielding.
Compassionate conservatism at work here, she cared but wouldn't change it at all.
So I went to school, wearing some of Randy's clothes.
"Now you can be cool like me!" Randy declared after choosing which of his clothes I should wear. I have to admit, they were new clothes, they even had the tags on them, and not at all what I was used to lately. Mom hadn't believed I needed new stuff for a while now, and I wasn't too successful at finding a job that got me more than a few hours a week with school and all. But honestly it didn't mean too much to me, although I think it was unspoken that I was grateful on some level.
We were eating breakfast when Nick walked in the back door, tossing his jacket on the back of the chair next to me.
"Sorry I'm late, Mom was a pain this morning," he said flopping down on the chair. "How are you this morning?" he asked intently, and I blushed under the look.
"I'm ok, thanks," I replied.
"Good, I was worried about you. We don't talk too much anymore," he said in his soft southern accent, "And this prick," He nodded at Randy, "won't say a word about what's going on."
"He really didn't know, Nick, I really haven't talked to anyone at all lately. Things have just been messed up and..." I teared up a little bit, but squashed them in my eyes.
"Would you just please tell me what's going on?" he asked with concern in his voice.
"I really don't feel up to trying to tell you right now, it's all too messed up." I said softly, "But I will tell you what's happening later, ok?" he nodded his acquiescence and I leaned back in my chair sighing.
"We better go, we'll be late," Randy said, suddenly standing and throwing on his coat.
We rode in silence for the most part, just the radio banging out Matchbox Twenty's song Long Day, and it was shaping up to be another one of those. I was grateful that Nick wasn't pressuring me. I felt like a basket case as it was, and I really didn't want to tell him about it all.
It was embarrassing to me just how long I had gone without talking to my friends in any meaningful way, how my Mother had just gone off the deep end and didn't even talk to me rationally.
We pulled into the parking lot and found an empty slot and climbed out. The walk to the school was pretty much in silence as well, and I felt as though I were the cause of that. We separated in the entryway to go to our separate home room classes.. I went to home room and was snagged before I could even get a seat by Mr. Lutz, who is the school truant officer.
We were aquainted.
"Adam, I need you to come with me for a bit, ok?" he asked nicely.
"Sure Joe." I said, not feeling like arguing with him, but also knowing that use of his first name was going to rile him. I guess old habits die hard, huh?
I followed him back to his office, across the skywalk to the connected junior high school, and then up to the third floor in the southwest corner of the building where he sat with my guidance counselor, Mr. Canfield, who was also the football coach. I was motioned to have a seat and did so cautiously, not entirely sure what was going on at this point. Mr. Canfield closed the door and then resumed his seat across from me.
"Adam, I just need to ask you some important questions, and I need for you to answer them as well as you can, all right?" Coach Canfield started off. I nodded in confusion.
"I understand things were a bit out of control for you last night? Can you tell me about it?" he asked. I felt deeply ashamed, how was I supposed to answer that?
"Adam, I can see you're surprised we know, but believe me we're here to help you. I know we've had a few run-ins in the past, but I think you also know I'm doing my job, trying keep you in school to learn," coach said, and not unkindly I should add.
"Mr. Castle, things like this happen all across America these days, I'm sorry to say. But it's a reality, and we're trying to do some preventative work here. Just fill in some gaps son," Coach Canfield said calmly. I nodded slowly.
"When did you first strike your mother?" Joe Lutz asked, speaking for the first time, and I almost fell out of my seat.
"Wha...what did you say?" I wheezed, suddenly feeling as if there were not enough air in the room, "I never, ever hit my mom you asshole," I said while trying to keep my balance on the chair.
"Well, why don't you tell us what did happen then?" Joe said with a menacing tone.
"Joe, please, take it easy on him," Coach said soothingly and once more returned his attentions to me, "Go ahead, Adam, please." I looked from one to the other, feeling small and trapped, and also feeling my anger building in the back of my head, like a small buzzing in my ear.
"I...I came home and mom was...she was so mad.," I sputtered, tears standing in my eyes, and I felt my mind once again attempting to retreat, babbling in oblivion, "She got mad at me in the morning. Bernie thinks I was rude to him, and she threw a candle at me, one with a crystal bottom on it." I said, or spluttered would probably be more accurate. Keeping a hold of my senses was turning into a struggle. Why would they think I hit my mother?
"Stay calm, Adam, please. Did anything else happen?" Coach asked.
"She...she said a lot of mean things to me. Randy was with me, he took me to his house. I stayed there," I managed.
"Randy Proctor?" Coach questioned, and I nodded in response.
"But you maintain you never swung at her?" Joe asked, almost as if he were deliberately prodding me.
I shook my head no, more than a little frustrated at his insistence and Joe leaned back in his chair. Coach Canfield stood and knuckled his back before resuming his position and taking a long draught from his coffee cup.
"Adam, your mom called the police very early this morning, said you attacked her. She was taken to the hospital, partially because she was drunk but also because she had bruises. Bernie, as you call him, was asleep at the time and was only awakened by the noise of what could have been your mother falling. Because of this I'm going to take you with me to the juvenile court. Judge Chiarolanzio is sitting this afternoon, we'll get you into local foster care until this is straightened out.
"Mr. Coleman did, by the way, inform the police in no uncertain terms that you had never been violent and had no such record at school, which we did double check on this morning in order to remove any bias he may have," Joe finished.
"Bernie hates me anyways," I muttered automatically.
"He most certainly does not hate you. He was quite worried about where you might have been. He does characterize your relationship as combatative, but you're a teenager," Joe said wryly.
I thought about that for a minute, why else would Bernie defend me? Maybe he really did want to help, hard as that may be to believe. But he was such a dork to me, how can that be right? Or have I just been wrong all along? I realized that Joe was standing over me now, and I looked at him in confusion, definitely not how I would have normally looked at him whenever he had confronted me.
"Why don't we get going, ok? It'll be easier if we can get there and get in and out," Joe said quietly. I nodded dumbly, but made no move to stand. He knelt down in front of me and looked directly in my eyes.
"She really did go after you, didn't she? You're just not the same kid today that you were two months ago," He said softly, and I felt a tear trying to escape as he continued, "How long has this been going on, Adam?" I shrugged, no longer willing to try and explain any of it. He placed a hand on my shoulder as he stood.
"Come on kid, we'll get you squared away," he said quietly.
"What's going to happen to my Mom?" I asked, remaining seated.
"I really don't know, it's not up to me," Joe said, taking a seat on the corner of his desk, "Mr. Coleman, as a public school teacher and administrator, is required to report any abuse he may think is going on. After he found your mother downstairs making a great deal of noise, he went to check on you because she said you attacked her.
"He found your bed unslept in. He stated you are a very meticulous person about your room and belongings and the room was definitely untouched." Joe continued, "He then called police to the scene after realizing that you weren't there and discovering the marks and glass embedded on the kitchen wall, which jive with your report of her throwing a candle holder at you," he paused.
"So at the very least we know it's not safe for you there. Mr. Coleman feels the same way, so we have very little choice but to place you for the time being," he said softly.
"No way, I'm not going to live with some stranger, I'll stay at Randy's house. His folks will let me." I said shaking my head.
"I'm sorry, Adam, but the law is very clear..." Joe began, but I cut him off with my outburst.
"I don't give a fuck what the goddamn law says, I'm not going anywhere! You can't make me do a goddamn thing and I won't fucking go!" I yelled, desperation and confusion intertwined with my rage at them trying to take control of me.
"You will NOT use that language or tone of voice in here!" Coach Canfield bellowed, but I was past hearing him as I bellowed back at him.
"Fuck you, Coach Cocksucker, I'm not one of your football jack offs!" I yelled and headed for the door. Coach sidestepped and slid in front of the door, and I ran into him with a lowered shoulder. He shunted the blow aside and spun me around, then quickly had a hold of my arms just above the wrist and crossed them in front of me. I was secured, except for my head, which I flung back at him viciously screaming to be let go.
He avoided my attack and we both tumbled to the floor, he on my upper body and Joe securing my legs as I screamed in frustration.
I was led away in handcuffs by the local police department, for my own safety they said. When the cops arrived I was still raging, maybe burning off the pressure of the last two days, I couldn't really tell you.
I was tucked into the car, crowds of onlookers at the windows and I think I could see Nick in an upper story classroom, but it was probably just wishful thinking. In my mind he was waving to me, calling out, but it was all so surreal, so strange from what my life had been yesterday.
The car pulled away and I sat, drained and forlorn, in the back seat. It was as if it were happening to someone else, like I wasn't really here at all, and my mind reeled farther towards that welcoming escape from reality. My grip on the present was becoming harder to maintain, as if it were slicked up with some substance to aid in it's escape.
I stared at the streets as they passed, row upon row of houses bundled close together, some actually sharing walls. I remained silent as the cruiser made it's way to the downtown district and past the police station to the large structure that contained the courts, DMV, and Social Services.
I was led into the building, and then up a flight of stairs to a waiting area filled with benches and chairs bolted to the walls and floor. Two doors leading into small rooms were visible, although I was only aware of it dimly. I was seated by the officer and the cuffs were removed. I rubbed my sore wrists as if I were trying to wash away the memory of the cuffs ever having been there. The cop spoke briefly to the guard stationed in the room, gesturing to me, probably telling him to make sure I stayed put. He needn't have bothered as I didn't feel up to doing anything anyhow.
I was probably only there a few minutes before Joe Lutz walked in with a handsome fellow trailing him. He was slim, somewhat tall, with thick dark hair and delicate hands that he extended to me.
"Hi, Adam, my name is René Bergman and I'll be your case worker," he said to me in a voice that carried a slight accent. I just looked at him, this surreal dream adding yet another character.
"Adam?" Joe spoke and I jumped a bit, brought back to reality for a moment.
"Sorry," I mumbled as I took René's offered hand. He sat down next to me, a sheaf of paperwork settling on his lap. Joe stated that he'd be off, and left us to it.
"I know this must be overwhelming for you, but try not to worry. If you have questions, I'm your answer man, it's my job to look out for your best interests right now, okay?" he asked in a gentle, almost soothing voice. I nodded as my wounded mind eased under his soft words.
"I was thinking we could use one of the rooms off to the side to talk so no one else is listening to your private business. Is that all right?" he asked. I nodded at this as well and he stood and guided me to the doorway where two small rooms opened, and I was glad that he was offering me choices and privacy rather than my public spectacle of being dragged off the school grounds.
The room was utilitarian, beige walls and a Formica covered tabletop on a folding table. Two chairs, molded plastic and metal feet stood on either side of the table. I sat and René took the opposite chair.
"Adam, I'll tell you what I have in my files so far, then we can go over what we need to do from here, would that be all right?" he asked, showing a pleasing, toothy smile that I found trustworthy. I nodded my assent.
"Ok, a disturbance at the house last night reported by a Bernard Swanson, who is dating Victoria Castle, that the defendant may have attacked the minor, one Adam Castle, and the child seemed to be missing.
"Fearing for the minor's safety after having made these discoveries upon being wakened by an intoxicated defendant, the police were contacted," he finished placing the forms on the table.
"Do you have anything you'd like to add to that report?" René asked.
"Um, Bernie said all that?" I asked with a trace of disbelief in my voice.
"Yes, I spoke to him personally. He thinks highly of you it seems," René said easily.
"My mom, she's been a little weird since my dad died." I said slowly, looking into René's face for traces of anything to make me suspicious, but I found an open and caring face. "She said a lot of things about him, a lot of things about me too," I said, no longer able to meet his eyes.
"Adam, your mother made some statements to us and I want ask you about them because it will help us to help you better. Please try to be as honest as you can, and remember I am not here to hurt or judge you," René said calmly, but the blood rushed from my face and I knew what the question was. I looked into his face and was afraid of him for the first time, and I can only react one way when I am scared. I only know one way.
"Fuck you! You can tell that lying bitch I hope she rots in hell!" I screamed as I rose to my feet, the chair clattering to the floor behind me. René's hands went up, palms open as he showed me he wasn't going to hurt me, but I didn't care, tears began to pour from my eyes and panic set in. I couldn't let anyone else know. I knew I was finished, but what if it came out about Nick? He didn't deserve any of it. Wwhat was I going to do? I felt the wall against my back and realized I had been backing away from René who sat at the table, palms down flat on it's surface.
"Adam, it's ok. You're not the first person in the history of the world to be going through any of this, and the good part is you won't go through it alone. We have an ideal placement for you, a place you'll be ok and get all the help and information you need to be whoever you are," René soothed, and it worked on me again as I felt myself loosening slightly, feeling the tears trembling on my lashes and I heard a voice, and dimly realized I was speaking.
"I fell for him the first time I saw him. Randy, my best friend, he helped Nick out on his first day. I did too. Randy's really sweet to me, he's everything that ever kept me together and gave me reasons to get up in the morning. My Dad loved baseball, he used to take me all the time. Randy would go with us sometimes and I know I have a connection with him that will never break. But Nick's different. Randy's beautiful, but Nick I just can't describe what I feel. I can tell you what he looks like, I can tell you where he lives, but I've never even been in his room, I didn't trust myself."
"That's a lot of weight to place on yourself, a lot of burdens for your shoulders," René commented softly.
"I needed Randy and I pushed him away because I was afraid. Nick was with him and I wanted to be near Nick so bad sometimes it hurt. So I wrote in my computer, I kept a journal and put everything I couldn't say to Nick in my computer. It was the only way I could love him, from a distance," I sniffed, "I didn't want to hurt him."
"Does he know how you feel?" René asked softly. I nodded.
"And what was his reaction?"
"He told me first," I whispered.
I resumed my seat after a moment of silence between us and he sat with his hands face down on the tabletop as he had been for at least ten minutes before a rap on the door interrupted the silence. The policeman on duty in the room poked his head in.
"Mr. Bergman? They're calling your case number sir."
René nodded and thanked him before collecting his papers and motioning to me. I followed quietly, almost meekly, as we left the waiting area and entered the courtroom proper. It wasn't that large, kind of modern and flimsy looking really. When I think of courtrooms I think of large polished wood desks set high so as to be in judgement, no carpeting and large tables of solid wood for the plaintiff and defendant.
This was a small desk on a raised platform, iron railing and spindles to hold it up, and two folding tables, the rectangular type set up for the plaintiff and defendant. Two folding chairs were placed next to each folding table. I followed René to our table and stood next to him while he began speaking to the judge.
"Judge Chiarolanzio, we are presenting this case without Mrs. Castle being in court. She was arrested this morning for drunk and disorderly conduct as well as suspicion of neglect. Adam Castle is the respondent and he is appearing here with me sir. We feel that Mrs. Castle has proven to be unstable at this time and suggest that Adam Castle be remanded to foster care for a time not less than six months. We have arranged for a suitable foster parent in his current school district in order to ease his transition," René stated.
Judge Chiarolanzio looked down from his desk, an imposing figure under his black robes. He had a round face and a cheerful sparkle in his eyes, and a moustache to match his black hair. He studied some papers in front of him for a few minutes before turning his gaze on me. He regarded me for a moment before speaking into his microphone.
"Adam Castle, it is the determination of this court that you shall be placed into foster care immediately for your own well being as a person in need of supervision. Mr. René Bergman will be your case worker and court liason. Should you develop any problems in your foster placement he is to be your contact person." His gavel rang down with finality as he demanded the next case.
Once again I was left to follow René and I did, down the hall form the courtroom and to a small office where a tall fellow with dark hair sat. He had a careworn face with a goatee cut short. On him it looked like it should be called something more dignified, maybe calling it a Van Dyke on him would fit better. He was dressed in jeans and a button up shirt and was thumbing through a magazine. René stepped behind his desk after closing the door behind us, and he waved me to a seat opposite the other occupant. René looked back and forth between us before speaking.
"Adam Castle, meet John Holder, your foster dad."