By Paul Jamison
Chapter – 14
I was getting along with my homework and had almost completed my History reading when I heard a knock on the half open door. I turned round and saw Will standing in the doorway.
“Hi,” I said.
“Hi,” he replied, “May I come in?”
“Sure, you do live here after all,” I added grinning.
“Yeah, but we don’t go barging into other peoples’ rooms without asking,” Will explained. “Um… you never know what someone might be doing,” he added with a wicked smile.
He came into the room and perched on an old two drawer filing cabinet next to the computer I was using. I looked up expectantly into Will’s face and all of a sudden his expression turned really serious and he began to speak
“Umm… I don’t know how you feel right now, but I do know about how I felt when I lost my mum. I was twelve then, and this summer when Grandma died on holiday, that was a car crash too,” he explained.
“I cried a lot last night when the doctor told me,” I replied.
“I did too, when Dad came back from the hospital on Mum’s last day. I knew she was going though as Dad’d taken me in to say goodbye a couple of days before and then she mostly stayed asleep till the end, Dad said.”
“Was it easier knowing?” I asked.
“No, not really. I’d had months to think about it and wonder why. It was not a good place to be. I was awfully moody at home and hated school that term,” Will answered. “I’m very happy now though. Living here’s a lot to do with that.”
“Oh, how so?” I asked.
“I’m gay, and in this house I just don’t have to worry or think about that being a problem to anyone as it just isn’t, you see. So, as I can be myself, I seem to do better all round and I know I’m loads happier than I used to be before I came to live here at the end of the summer holidays.”
“Looks like I’ll be going to live with granddad in
“You know that already?” Will asked in surprise.
“Um… not for definite, but it’s where Granddad lives. So I think that’s what’ll happen?” I ventured. Then I added, “But it’s only a guess, as I know he’s going to be my guardian… at least Adrian and Paul’ve said he’s been named in Mum’s will.”
“Does that mean you’ll have to live with him though? I s’pose he could send you away to boarding school,” Will mused.
“He could, but from what I’ve heard from my mum over the years is anything to do with spending money’s a major no go area. So I think boarding school is out simply cos of the cost. He’ll try and palm me off to the local academy high school. It’s over ten miles away, so an awful bus trip to and fro every day that takes anything up to an hour. They have no pool, no proper auditorium, they don’t teach Drama at all. It’s only offered as an after school club. I’ve been googling and looked at their website. They’ve not done a big play production for ages. I’m plain sunk and I’m not too good at making new friends either. It took that karate incident with Jamie and Terry Naismith for me to even talk to Jamie and then, well, we’ve become good friends since. Then Liam got me into swimming on the second tryout and I’ve made a couple more friends in my year, that’s it…” I said a little glumly.
“I only had one friend for ages,” Will replied.
“Justin?” I asked.
“Yeah, but you know that. We introduced you at our table um… weeks ago now,” Will remarked.
“I know. Jamie set that up. He wanted me to be in the group,” I explained.
“Um… I’ve… er… got this, thought it might help a bit. My dad read it at Gran’s funeral. I look at it when I feel a bit low about not having Mum and Gran anymore,” Will said, handing me a printed card.
I took the card from Will and saw that it had a poem on it. I read through the words.
You can shed tears that she is gone ‘Anon’
shed tears that she is gone
Or you can smile because she has lived.
You can close your eyes and pray that she’ll come back
Or you can open your eyes and see all that she’s left.
Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her
Or you can be full of the love you shared.
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember her and only that she’s gone
Or you can cherish her memory and let it live on.
You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back
Or you can do what she’d want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.”
“Just thought it might help, that’s all. So I printed it out for you,” he said.
“Thanks, Will,” I said quietly, forcing back the tears as I spoke. It was more that someone cared enough to do that that brought the tears on. I mean, everyone had been super kind, had rushed about getting things arranged and sorted out for me in so many ways, but this was just so special.
“I’ve got to get on with homework now. See ya later?” Will said as he slid off the filing cabinet and disappeared out the door and back up to is own room.
“Yeah, okay, thanks,” I managed to say before he disappeared.
I tucked the card into my book after reading it through once more and then I got back to my reading.
* * *
Jeremy Russell hurried home from work the day after sending the email to Liam hoping that there would be a reply waiting for him. He did a quick time calculation and thought as it was by now over a day since Liam should have been able to read and have had time to reply to his email. Jeremy got into his flat and immediately turned on his computer before going to his room to change from his business suit and shower before checking his inbox for a reply.
After showering and dressing, Jeremy went through to the kitchen, made himself a cup of tea and took it through into his study, sat at his desk and opened his email program. He quickly scanned the few new arrivals in his inbox and there was one from swimmerboy. Jeremy opened the mail and quickly scanned through it…
Thanks for replying to my email. I was so very much hoping that you would and was very pleased indeed when I got your reply yesterday. I’ve got loads of questions for you and I know you have for me too… not least about how I came to leave home, or actually walked out, which is how it happened. Mum and I had massive rows over some stuff and I just could not stay there anymore.
I’ve had a chat with the friends that I live with now and we reckon it would be good for us to talk and perhaps you could telephone here on Sunday morning at about 10.00 am your time as that would be Saturday evening here and we can have a good chat. There’s so much I want to tell you and to ask you as well, but I think it would mostly be best if we actually spoke.
I am really looking forward to hearing from you. Hope that you are able to call at that time. If not, then email me back to suggest another time. I have put my address details and telephone numbers at the bottom of the email for you.
Jeremy scrolled down to see that there were home, mobile phone numbers and the full address at the bottom of the email. A little disappointed at such a short reply, he read it through once again to see if he had missed anything and printed off a copy to take with him to show Michael when they met up that weekend… That weekend! It suddenly hit Jeremy that when Liam had asked him to call, he would either be here with Michael or at Michael’s. He was not sure yet which it would be.
Jeremy mused for a few minutes, glancing again a few times at the printed copy of Liam’s email and then faced the screen, clicked on ‘reply’ and began to type. He referred a couple of times to the printed mail he had by his side and when happy with his reply, clicked ‘send’. He checked through his other emails, answered one and closed down his computer, went through to the kitchen and started preparing his meal.
About an hour later as Jeremy was relaxing in his sitting room the telephone rang. He turned down his CD player and picked up the receiver.
“Hello, Jeremy Russell.”
“Hi, Jeremy,” Michael replied. “Have you had a reply from your son yet?” he asked.
“Yes, I have, but it’s not very informative. In fact, it’s awfully short and raises more questions than it answers. He wants me to telephone him Sunday morning… which is their Saturday evening to chat and for us both to answer the many questions we must have for each other,” Jeremy replied.
“Ah… We’re meeting up this weekend, would you rather postpone it so you can make that call?” Michael replied.
“Um… no, let’s meet as we planned. I can’t think the first chat would take more than half an hour at most. But, can I suggest that you come here so I can call from here? It might be easier that way,” Jeremy suggested.
“Yes, I take your point. I can always hide in the kitchen or somewhere while you two chat?” Michael replied.
“He does say one very pertinent thing, but doesn’t give any explanation of what caused it,” Jeremy added.
“Oh, what’s that?” Michael asked.
“Hang on, I’ll get it,” Jeremy said, and putting down the phone, hurried through to the office, picked up the email. Then as quickly returned to his sofa picked up the phone and said, “He says, and I quote,” Jeremy scanned through the email and read. “…about how I came to leave home, or actually walked out, which is how it happened. Mum and I had massive rows over some stuff and I just could not stay there anymore…”. I’m left none the wiser as to what it was about… the rows that caused the walkout, I mean,” Jeremy explained.
“The plot thickens then. Hopefully all will be revealed on Sunday,” Michael replied. “Walked out after a row or rows with his mother? Um… any ideas? I mean you lived with her for what, ten or eleven years in all?”
“At this stage none whatsoever. Although I suspect it might’ve been a conflict caused by my ex’s religious views. I mean, till teens I doubt Liam would have questioned, he certainly didn’t when I was there, but I guess there was no particular problem back then, him being only ten. As a teen though, he may’ve decidedly disagreed with her. That could well’ve led to some fireworks,” Jeremy surmised.
“It’s a possibility. It could also be that he’s his father’s son in more ways than you know?” Michael said.
“Do you mean what I think you mean?” Jeremy asked.
“Possibly, it’s something to consider. Anyway, I shouldn’t worry. He seems to be okay where he is now and you’ll get to find out in a day or so. I mean it’s Friday tomorrow. So it’s not all that long to wait,” Michael replied.
“True,” Jeremy replied, then added “You’ve got me thinking now. Could he be? Right, shall we say here then on Saturday afternoon? We can go out if you like as long as I’m reasonably ‘with it’ for Sunday morning.”
“Sounds like the best plan to me. Let me know if it’s any different tomorrow, okay? Bye for now,” Michael said.
“Bye, Michael, and thanks for calling,” Jeremy replied as he rang off.
Jeremy replaced the receiver and went back to listening to his CD system as he considered the recent developments. After about half an hour he got up and set to with tidying and cleaning the flat in preparation for Michael’s first full weekend visit.
* * *
Paul and I were enjoying a political comedy news quiz on the TV (Have I Got News for You?) when the phone rang. I picked up the handset while Paul muted the TV sound.
“Hello, Rick Masters,” I said
“Rick, hi, Adrian here.”
is all for the both of you anyway,”
“Fire away then,” we both replied at once.
Chris’s grandfather back on the phone to me. He’s basically not able to come
down until early next week. It seems he’s got a couple of commitments over the
weekend that he feels he really should attend. Something to do with a bowling club
he’s president of and some church commitment,”
“What about Chris then?” I asked.
purpose of this call this evening. He’s asked me to see if it’s possible for
Chris to remain with you for a few more days, just until he can arrive down
next week. He’s also told me a few more things about his own personal circumstances
and his serious worries about Chris and how to deal with what’s happened,”
“Anything you can tell us that’s not confidential,” I asked, and added “Of course Chris can stay longer. I think you already knew that though?” I said, smiling at Paul who nodded agreement.
“Well, I can say that he lives in a one
bedroom cottage near Luss. I think you can work out the implications of that
“That’s hardly suitable accommodation for someone that you’re not partnered too, is it? I mean Chris would have to have his own room, surely?”
“You have it
in one. I agree. I’ve told the Grandfather that too. There’s just the one bedroom,
one sitting room, a kitchen and a bathroom. That’s it. He no longer has a car and relies
on a local bus to do his shopping that he can’t do in Luss in the much bigger
“Oh, that’s not going to work, is it? I mean not unless he moves and gets a bigger place… or makes alternative arrangements for Chris,” I said.
“Oh, he has a
telephone, but no computer and of course no internet connection either,”
“What are you going to do?” I asked. Paul was grinning and making cave man type expressions next to me. “I mean he’s in the dark ages, isn’t he?” I said.
hints that we may be able to find some solutions to his problems. I can’t
really say more than that. It’d help to know if Will’s dad is due home soon?”
“It won’t be for at least another week or two,” I replied. “I’m fairly sure he said he’d have four weeks leave, same as he did during the summer,” I added.
immediate rush as I’ve strongly hinted that Chris is just fine where he is
until we can all get matters sorted out for him. Rory Griffin seems happy to leave
the arrangements to me as I have the will and all the written instructions here
regarding Marylyn Griffin’s wishes. He’s asked about the school friends Chris
is staying with and I’ve told him I know them well and could vouch that they’re
a thoroughly reliable couple with experience of teenagers. I don’t think I said
anything that wasn’t true there,”
“You’ll get into trouble one day with your ‘interpretations’,” I joked back.
perhaps… but until then, I shall fight your corner, now, can I assume that you
two’d have Chris to live there, if it is what he wants and after everything is
sorted? If it’s agreed that it’s in his best interests for you to do so?”
I looked at Paul and immediately replied. “Yes, we would, not sure yet where to put him, but we have the room and certainly we both feel it would be right. But, and this is the main thing, again, only if it is what Chris’d like too of course.”
that means losing your spare room to a permanent guest then?”
“Not necessarily,” Paul chipped in. “I’ve had some thoughts. It means a couple of changes… I’m sure it’s doable but in the meantime, yes, we’d lose the spare room.” Paul explained.
but don’t go building any extensions just yet though,”
“We won’t,” I assured him, giving Paul an enquiring look as I did.
Paul just grinned and sat back on the sofa while I said
“Yes, no harm in that at all. Right, I’m off now. James wants an ‘early night’.”
“Oh, does he?” we both laughed as
“What are you scheming?” I asked.
“Oh, only a couple of changes that’d make another bedroom,” Paul replied.
“What, turn our little office-cum-box room into a bedroom for Chris…? It’s way too small,” I protested.
“Yeah, that room’s too small for a bedroom, but it’s plenty big enough for a bathroom. I’ve measured it. It’s just less than two metres wide and just less than three metres long,” Paul said.
So we could get a shower over a bath, hand basin with toilet and bidet. In fact, there’s room for a full suite in there. I’ve done a rough layout online at one of those ‘plan a room’ sites,” he grinned back.
“What size is the current bathroom then?” I asked, knowing full well that Paul’d have the answer.
“It’s about three and a half metres square, same size as the guest room,” he said.
“So, it’s plenty big enough for a boy’s room then,” I mused aloud.
“Yes, so what I thought was that we’d convert the box room first, so there would always be a working bathroom apart from our ensuite one on that floor. Then we rip out the old bathroom and make that the new guest room. So then, the present guest room becomes another boy’s room. It’s quite straightforward really,” Paul explained.
“Since you’ve got it all sussed, how much? Have you costed it all too?” I grinned.
“No, not got that far. I guess we could call Mr Clarke for a quote,” Paul grinned.
“Go on, get a quote. I think that the computer could come down here and the rest of the stuff that’s in there is mostly junk from college. I don’t actually want my old single bed anymore or that ancient filing cabinet either. Those can go to the tip anytime.” I suggested.
“That’s what I was thinking when I looked in there yesterday to measure it. Except for occasional computer use we’ve not actually used the room for any real purpose other than a junk room. Time to change that,” Paul said grinning widely.
“Yeah, I agree. Get a quote and see when Mr Clarke can do the bathroom. I agree with you that we do that first before we rip out the old one.”
“Oh definitely, no doubt there at all,” I said and added, “Shall we sound out Chris this evening, or wait until tomorrow?”
“I think wait. He’ll be able to think more clearly when he’s healed up a bit more, I reckon,” I replied.
“You’re prolly right there. Okay, I’ll wait. He may begin to ask some questions of his own soon. He’s not just a kid. Oh, do we know when his birthday is and exact age?” Paul asked.
“I don’t. You’ve been with him all day. Didn’t you ask or didn’t he say anything?”
“No, it never really came up with everything else we had to get done today,” Paul replied.
“Ask him after breakfast tomorrow. He’s off school one more day, isn’t he?”
“Yes, I’ll have to call work again over that. Fortunately there’s lots I can do from here though. So it isn’t going to be a problem at the moment. I’m not presenting this week. I don’t actually have to be in the studio,” Paul replied.
“That’s fortunate, considering how things have turned out this week,” I said.
“Too true,” he replied. “Right, I’ll call Mr Clarke tomorrow morning,” he added.
“You’re more likely to get him at home now. He’ll be out on a job tomorrow most likely,” I suggested.
Paul went into the kitchen to call Mr Clarke, returning with nightcaps for us both a few minutes later.
“So,” I asked, as I took my drink from the tray, “how’s Mr Clarke?”
“He’s just fine. He’d be delighted to quote and will be here tomorrow morning. He’s just finished a job and was going to have a day off before starting the next one,” Paul replied.
“Oh so he’s quite busy then?” I said.
“He said its lots of small one or two day jobs at the moment, nothing big like extensions or attic conversions. The Commander’s job was his last big one and that was weeks ago, but he’s not complaining. He says some have no work at all, whereas he’s plenty of small jobs to keep things ticking over with till it all picks up again. His words, not mine,” Paul explained.
“Good, so there’s a chance he can get stuck into it pretty quickly then?” I suggested.
“I’ll ask him that when he’s here tomorrow,” Paul replied.
We finished our drinks and after locking up and turning off the downstairs lights headed off to our room and bed.
* * *
The following morning when I came down all the boys were already in the kitchen having breakfast with only Chris not dressed for school. Rick was just about to leave, so I gave him a quick kiss goodbye. He picked up his keys and with a wave to the lads disappeared out to the garage through the kitchen door. A few minutes later a toot outside announced Mrs Naylor’s arrival. Liam and Will grabbed their backpacks and I just remembered to thrust the two letters for school into Liam’s hands while Chris pressed a bag of work to be handed in onto Will. Seconds later, peace descended onto the kitchen and I made myself some tea and toast. Chris cleared away his breakfast things and opened his own backpack that he’d had on the floor next to his chair and started to sort out some schoolbooks.
I sat down facing him across the table and asked
“When is, or when was, your birthday, Chris?”
Chris looked up at me with a very startled expression and managed to blurt out
“It was Wednesday. I was fourteen and going to the theatre to see The History Boys was a birthday treat from Mum. We were going to go and get a new computer for school work for me tomorrow as well,” he said, before burying his head in his hands.
Some birthday, I thought, as I stayed silent until Chris’s slightly damp face re-appeared from his hands.
“I’m so sorry that all’s gone so horribly wrong for you. But I’d like to have a bit of a chat about what you want to do next, okay?” I said gently.
“Isn’t that already decided?” Chris asked. “I
thought I had to go live with Granddad in
“He said yesterday that he and Granddad were the executors of Mum’s estate. Granddad’s been appointed my guardian and that I’d inherited everything from my mum and that it’d all be looked after for me until I got to my majority,” Chris answered.
“Your majority means your eighteenth birthday unless another age has been specified in the will,” I told Chris.
“If he’s got the room and facilities to care
for you, that’d certainly be the most likely option. But, back to my question…
what would you like? I mean whatever’s decided in the end, it has to be shown
to be in your best interests when all’s said and done.
“No, actually there’s been a change of plan
No, I’ve not heard anything from him at all. Should I call him? He may not know this number,” Chris replied.
“He should do. I know
“He’s not spoken to me for ages. Mum called him from time to time, but he hardly ever chatted to me. I s’pose I didn’t have that much to say to him as I didn’t really know him very well at all,” Chris explained.
“Okay, so those matters will take their course in time. Now, going back to the question. Have a think about what you’d like to happen if you had the choice. What’d be the best outcome from your point of view? If you can put your thoughts down, that’d be a very good idea indeed,” I suggested.
“I’d like to stay at the Royal Grammar for a
start. I’ve looked at the high school nearest to where Granddad lives and it’s
not up to the same facilities at all. I don’t want to move really, least of all
right up to
“No, that’s right. Not until you’re over sixteen can you leave home or guardians. Once you’re over sixteen, you can with permission and sometimes in certain circumstances, such as Liam’s, without permission. In his case it was with the local authority’s blessing. Liam basically made his own arrangements, with our help of course and they accepted that was okay as he was not at risk in any way,” I explained.
Chris looked glumly across the table at me and after a few moments asked
“So I can’t make my own arrangements then? It has to be what my guardian decides till I’m sixteen at least?”
“Yes, but having a guardian doesn’t automatically mean that you have to live with him. He can appoint a temporary guardian for you or another suitable person with parental responsibility altogether. For instance, if he’s unable, or for other reasons unwilling, to take on the role he’s inherited for the interim period until you reach your majority,” I said.
“Oh, is that possible?” Chris asked.
“Apparently that’s so, according to
“Okay,” Chris smiled and then said. “Will gave me a poem last night. It was incredibly nice of him. He said his Dad read it at his Gran’s funeral. I read it a couple of times and it’s a really helpful poem.”
“That sounds very much like Will. He’s a very thoughtful boy and does think of some things other than food… occasionally,” I laughed.
Chris laughed and then said “Liam talked to me as well and told me how happy he’d been since coming to live here. I don’t suppose I could too?”
Just then the telephone went and I turned around from the table to pick up the receiver on the worktop behind me
“Hello, Paul Frost,” I said.
Before I could get a reply the doorbell went, so I turned to Chris and said
“Could you go and answer that. It’s almost certainly Mr Clarke, our builder.”
Chris nodded, got up and went out of the kitchen and down the hallway to answer the door. I turned my attention back to the phone and said
“Hello, I’m sorry everything’s happening at once. My doorbell just rang,” I explained.
There was no response from the other end so I replaced the receiver in the rest. It must have been marketing call that when no one spoke on answering they cut off and moved on, I thought to myself. Just then Chris, followed by Mr Clarke, came back into the kitchen and I said
“Good morning Mr Clarke. Thanks Chris,” I said as an aside then continued to Mr Clarke with “Please come upstairs and I’ll show you what we have in mind.”
Chris sat back down at the table and pulled a school book from his pile and settled down to read. Mr Clarke and I went on up to the first floor and the little back box room. We spent some time discussing the options while Mr Clarke took accurate measurements and checked for outflow positions in relation to existing plumbing and when all was done we went back to the kitchen.
“You get that room cleared out this weekend, Mr Frost and we can start on Monday if we’re all agreed on the price. I’ll have the quote to you by tonight, okay”
“That quick?” I replied, a little surprised.
“Yes, you’re lucky you’ve got us between jobs. This one’ll just take us up to Christmas week, which will be very useful all round. You won’t want us here over Christmas and New Year and we don’t want to be here either,” he smiled.
“Both parts?” I queried.
“Yes, not a problem. We’ll get the new one in and working in just a few days, then we can strip the old one out, knock the old tiles down and leave you made good and re-plastered ready for decoration after Christmas,” he explained.
“Okay, I’ll wait for your price and we’ll confirm tomorrow after I’ve had a chance to talk it over with Rick,” I explained.
I showed Mr Clarke out and remembering what Chris had said just before the phone and front door had interrupted our chat, I hurried back into the kitchen.
“Before we were interrupted…” I began.
Chris looked up from his schoolwork and again said “If it’s possible I’d really like to stay here, but I can see there’s not really room right now.”
“If you’re sure that is what you would like, we’ll try to see if it can be arranged. I can’t and won’t make promises, but we’ll try and see if there’s a way for that to happen, okay?”
Chris jumped up and said “Thank you so, so much. I’ll never let you down,” he enthused, his eyes showing excitement for the first time since he’d arrived.
End Chapter 14
thanks for all your emails. I am delighted that you're all enjoying the
story. I think I've now managed to reply to all of you who've written
to me, again many thanks it's always good to hear from you.
Many thanks for all your emails. I am delighted that you're all enjoying the story. I think I've now managed to reply to all of you who've written to me, again many thanks it's always good to hear from you.