Protecting David-Christopher Grows Up 15
When I woke up I glanced at my watch, it said, 4:22. There were no sounds except Oliver’s breathing and the sound of the ocean … something that never shuts up.
Looking over at Oliver, I could barely make out his shape. He was laying spread out like a starfish - and that made me feel good. When I was going through my problems as a kid, I’d sleep rolled up in a ball and often in the closet; Oliver slept more bravely.
I slid out of bed being as careful as I could not to wake him. I found the door to the bathroom and didn’t turn the light on until the door was closed. After peeing, I went back into the bedroom and searched with my hands in the dark until I found the garment bag the security guys had put there. Then I slipped back into the bathroom, showered, shaved, and put on fresh clothes. That was better. It was like the clothing that I wore yesterday had been saturated with yesterday’s troubles; and it was a visceral relief to be rid of them. I put on adult clothes; dress slacks, pale blue oxford shirt, and a light wool sport coat. I figured chances were good that someone would be questioning us about something; and the better dressed you were, the better chance you had that people would let you do what you wanted.
Last night I asked Ralph if we could leave this morning, and he asked me, “Did anyone tell you, you couldn’t?”
I shook my head. “Nobody said anything about it.”
“Then leave, but leave early before they’re up and thinking about it. If they didn’t want you to leave, they’ll complain to me about it, and I’ll kill it. The last thing they need is negative publicity about this.” So that was my plan. The plane crew was told to be ready to go no later than 7:00.
My dad’s apartment was enormous and took up the entire top floor of the hotel. I think he figured that because he had made a lot by selling the house down here, he could splurge on this apartment. Although he had joked that he might be inclined to sell it while the city was still above water.
The only other apartment like it was directly below us, but we never saw those people, because both of these apartments had their own elevator. But my dad told me that it belonged to a South American businessman that my dad said was the biggest crook he had ever met, not the sort of thing I had ever heard him say about anyone else before.
The rest of the units in the building were four to a floor; the bottom five floors were much larger and belonged to the hotel. My dad said that his father had left exact instructions on how this whole type of thing was supposed to be built and run. And apparently, it worked like a charm. Alex said it was the most carefree business he owned, and he owned these hotel/apartment buildings all over the world. Every one of the hotels was regarded as being the best in whatever area they were. The hotels attracted the renters of the apartments, and the rents from the apartments stabilized the hotels.
I walked through the living room, waved at the security guy, and walked into the kitchen to find coffee. The security guys had made a pot, and I sat at the counter drinking it while looking out at the sea. Lots of people are soothed by the ocean; I’m not one of those … I’m soothed by land. To me, the ocean was dangerous.
I got out my laptop and began going through emails. How can there possibly be these many emails? Jack had scheduled a meeting between me and an attorney, who could possibly act as our in-house counsel; he also had about twenty questions on everything you can imagine. In another email, Gavin described the color schemes he’d used on our offices; and hoped I’d like it. Then George and Michael had many others … it was endless. I worked through them, keeping my replies as short as possible.
At six o’clock, I went back into the bedroom and gently woke Oliver. He isn’t an instantly awake person like me, but more of a ‘you gotta be kidding me’ person. It took him a few seconds of lying there before he remembered that his parents were both dead. I could see the change in his eyes as he pulled his knees closer to his chest. I knew the feeling - the renewed realization that it wasn’t a dream; that it had all really happened.
I lay down next to him and propped my head up on my hand, before I said softly, “You still got me, kiddo. Plus you got a butt load of uncles and great uncles - they’re really more like grandfathers - who are all gonna make sure that nothing like this ever happens to you again. You’re gonna be surrounded by people who love you and will take care of you. Plus, you’re gonna have Puppy, or whatever you decide to call him.”
He looked at me with his blue eyes and asked, “You’re gonna be there, right?”
I nodded. “Every second.”
He sighed and said, “Okay.”
I touched his shoulder with my finger. “But now, you gotta take a shower and get dressed. I’ve got clean clothes for you from the farm.”
Something occurred to him, and he said, “Will we go get my stuff from the farm?”
“They’re gonna ship it - all of it. You’ll have it in like a week.”
He nodded, looked at the bathroom, and I knew what he was thinking.
I said, “You need help with anything?” I was thinking of all the problems a five year old could be facing in a new bathroom.
“I never took a shower. I always took a bath. I dunno how.”
I got up and took his hand. “That’s okay, we can just wash your hands and face. We’ll work on the shower when we get home. Believe me, you’ll be able to handle it. But we gotta get going.”
Oliver ran off to the bathroom, and as I left the bedroom I ran into Jeff coming out of his room. He was already dressed in a suit and said, “How’s the boy doing?”
“Way better than I would have expected. He’s getting cleaned up. The faster we get outta here the better.”
Jeff poured himself some coffee and looked at his watch. Almost 6:30. “I told the crew to be ready by seven. We can leave any time. I just have to tell the front desk before we go downstairs. They’ve got a limo with heavily tinted windows, and they’ll tip the media that that’s us, we should be able to slide out the side exit then. We’re putting three people in the back seat in case they manage to see the shadows through the tinted glass. But frankly, it’s probably overkill. Nothing stays interesting for long anymore.”
Jeff and I sat and drank coffee, and fifteen minutes later Oliver came out of the bathroom dressed in jeans and a rugby shirt. He looked adorable.
I said, “You look great! How about an orange juice? We’re gonna eat on the plane.”
He nodded his head, and I helped him climb up on a stool.
Jeff asked, “Did you sleep okay, Oliver?”
He said, “I never been on a plane, except when I was a little kid.” He’s five.
I said, “Well, the food is good and the plane is really comfortable. You’ll like it.”
“What if I gotta poop?” When you’re little, you spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about poop.
I said, “Do you have to poop now, or do you mean on the plane?”
“That’s cool. There’s a nice bathroom on the plane.”
He said, “Okay.” But he looked a little worried.
Jeff asked, “Did they bring him a jacket? There’s light snow in Milwaukee.”
I nodded. “There’s a light jacket, which isn’t going to be enough, so Gavin is picking something up. He’ll give it to your guys to bring to the plane when we land.” I looked at my watch. “Why don’t you call the desk? We might as well get this over with.”
I lifted Oliver off the stool and held his hand while we walked over to where his clothes were.
I helped him on with his jacket while Jeff’s plan was taking effect. “You’re not worried, are you?”
He said, “What if nobody likes me?”
“I like you, and they will, too. You’re very likeable.” But it didn’t look like it convinced him.
“What if I can’t figure out how to take a shower?”
“You can take baths for as long as you want. But I think you’re too worried about the shower thing. The shower in your room has a showerhead that makes it seem just like rain. You’ve been in the rain … you just gotta stand there.”
“Okay, but you’ll be there, right?”
“I promise. You won’t be able to move without bumpin into me. I’ll be like your shadow.”
Then after we got into the elevator, “Is Nick nice?” I had roughly explained about Nick.
“He won’t yell at me?”
“Nobody’s gonna yell at you, but especially not Nick. He loves kids.”
“Okay.” And so it went.
Jeff was right, and while there were a few freelance photographers who ended up following the limo, we were already mostly old news. The drive to the airport was painless, and the crew was standing by.
The plane, I couldn’t yet think of it as my plane, was sitting in the almost cold Florida morning. The sun wasn’t up yet, and all of the lights were from the plane, the airport lights, and two SUV’s parked by the plane. Security guys were watching for anyone interested in getting too close, but in the end it wasn’t needed. Anyone interested in us was apparently unwilling to get up early.
As we got out of the SUV, Oliver looked up at me and said, “What if we crash?”
“Don’t worry. It’s a really good plane.”
He said ‘Okay,’ but he grabbed my hand. Actually, last night and then again this morning, I noticed that when I told him something was gonna be okay; he accepted it. That’s a hell of a burden, but also a good sign. The twins argued with me about everything when they were little.
When we were in the plane, everyone talked to him. The pilot and copilot both made a thing of it, and told him if he wanted to he could come up to the cockpit once we got airborne. Carla told him how great he looked, and that she had a wonderful breakfast for him. None of the crew mentioned the events of last night, but it would have been impossible for them not to know about it.
When we sat down at the table where I like to sit, I asked him if he’d like to sit by the window so he could watch the takeoff. He looked a little nervous about that idea and said, “Maybe, but not now.”
During the takeoff, he grabbed my arm and held on tight, but then laughed and said, “That’s so loud!”
Later in the flight when he had gotten a bit braver, we changed places and he stared out the window. After a while, he said, “I’m gonna live with you? Right?”
I nodded. “Yep.”
A little while later, he asked, “What happens to my mom and dad?”
“They’re gonna be buried near where we live. You can visit them any time you want.”
“Okay.” He had a strange look on his face… somewhere between sad and afraid.
I said, “You okay?”
He said quietly, “She was always mad. I didn’t need to do anything, she was just always mad.”
“Oliver … you’re not to blame for anything that happened. You’re mom was just that way. She used to do the same stuff to me when I was a kid maybe just a year or two older than you. Someday I’ll tell you the whole story, but you’re not to blame for this.”
He said softly, “She did the same to you? Did she hit you?”
I nodded and smiled. “I ran away. She drove me crazy. But that’s never gonna happen to you again - that’s over.”
Then a minute later, “How come you just call him Puppy?”
I smiled at him. “I think maybe we were just waiting for you. Maybe puppies are supposed to be named by kids.”
He smiled, something he hasn’t done much. “I gotta think about it.”
Later in the flight as we were approaching Milwaukee, Carla came over and said. “Well this is gonna be our last flight in this plane. We’re flying commercial back to Denver, and next week we get the G650. Your new crew will be at the airport and we can introduce you, unless you’re in a hurry.”
I said, “Carla, would you tell them that I’ll stop out at the airport tomorrow morning? I want to get Oliver settled.”
She smiled. “Not a problem. It’ll give them more time to check out the facilities they’ll be using. Lots to get familiar with.”
As we were gliding down into Milwaukee, I was thinking about Nick. I was wondering if he really was okay with all this. It’s a lot to spring on someone; and he and I had never really talked about kids. We were both really busy, and it just seemed like something for later.
Then it was a question of would Oliver like Nick; or for that matter, would Nick like Oliver. It worried me … what if it was all a huge disaster?
But my worrying was a waste of time, because the first thing Nick did when he met Oliver was to pick him up, kiss him, and whisper something to him. Meanwhile, from the moment Oliver laid eyes on Nick, he looked like an enthralled puppy; and when Nick picked him up, Oliver wrapped his arms around Nick’s neck and laid his head on his shoulder. Well, I could understand that, it was basically what I wanted to do when I first met him.
When we got into the car, I asked Nick about the house. He smiled. “Much better - all the bathrooms appear to be working and the stairs are finished.”
I looked at Oliver and said, “We remodeled the house, and it’s taken a really long time. Every time we thought it would be done; it wasn’t.”
Nick said, “Gavin was in about five this morning decorating Oliver’s bedroom.
And he moved some of your suits down to the office.” He grinned, “Just in case you need to change during the day. Oh, and Sam quit, but we figured that would happen. His partner is retiring, and they wanna move someplace warm.” This was something Sam had hinted at, so I wasn’t surprised. I think the fact that the house had been so screwed up kind of clinched it in his mind. But that meant we needed to find someone.
Nick said, “Give some thought to the idea of you and I using the master bedroom upstairs, at least for a while. I’m not crazy about the idea of Oliver looking for us in the middle of the night and having to go down those stairs.” It was a beautiful staircase, but the notion of a five-year-old going down it in the middle of the night in a strange house was scary.
“I never thought of that, but you’re right; at least for a few months. Can we do it today?”
He nodded. “That bedroom is furnished. We just gotta go back downstairs for clothes and things.”
I sighed. “Is Gavin gonna drive me crazy.”
Nick thought a moment, then said, “No…but you’re gonna be really well organized. He showed me pictures of your new office - it’s amazing.” I had kind of figured out the being organized part. Gavin had sent me an email asking me if I wanted to schedule an appointment with a psychologist to evaluate Oliver. That wasn’t just to see how he was handling things, but also to see what grade he should be in in school. Gavin also emailed a brochure for The Hanley School, which was basically a school for kids with special problems or strange family situations where the media might be prying around. It was only ten miles from our house. Another plus was that because of the particular problems of their students, they maintained excellent security.
Oliver asked, “You got an office?”
I nodded. “We can go there tomorrow and I’ll show you around. We gotta go to the airport first, but you might really like that too.”
As we pulled into our driveway, I was a bit surprised at how well the house looked. I guess I had become used to the scaffolding and other construction debris. Without it, it looked great … really better than I had ever imagined. There was a security guy standing there holding Puppy by his collar. When he saw the car, Puppy stood up on his back legs and started to bark.