Protecting David-Christopher Grows Up 16
Puppy was delivering a plaintive wail and pulling hard on his lead trying to walk forward on his back legs.
As Nick’s door swung open he yelled to the security guy, “Might as well let him go.”
The security guy unclipped Puppy’s lead and he shot forward making it into the SUV in one jump. He was all over me screaming and licking, a blur of off white fur howling with happiness.
Oliver looks stunned. He's getting licked faster than he can put up his five-year-old hands to control it and I begin to get worried that it's too much, but then he starts to laugh. The coat that the security guys brought was pretty well padded and that took the brunt of the puppy love. He stutters, “No, no, no Puppy.” And each time he tries to speak he gets a puppy tongue shoved in his mouth. The Puppy knows a captive audience and while he slows he doesn’t stop. And out of desperation Oliver twists in his seat and climbs on me for protection.
That prompts me to yell, “Stop Puppy, stop!” He does pull back but there's a yearning whimper in his throat as he sits there dancing on his paws trying to contain himself.
Finally, Nick pops back in and picks up Oliver and hauls him out of the car so fast Puppy can't even get in a last lick. Then with Oliver still in his arms but turned on his back Nick ducks back into the car and says, “You know, it’s only like a month to Christmas. So tonight we gotta give some thought to gifts for everyone and what about the idea of having it at the farm? And you know your dads and David and Mark are coming.”
Oliver looked up at Nick and said, “You got a farm?”
Nick looks down at him and says, “We, we got a farm. That means you too.”
Nick carried Oliver into the house with Puppy trying hard to take over the show. Nick hung onto Oliver until he was able to get Puppy to sit and behave.
One of the emails I got from Gavin this morning while we were flying in said that he was going to put up some Christmas decorations for Oliver. I never really thought any more about and now I was pretty stunned.
There was a big wreath on the front door and ahead of us, there was a big Christmas tree burning in the living room. I had never seen a tree quite like it, that elaborate.
I asked Nick, “Did you see Gavin do this?”
“Oh, yeah. When I was getting ready to leave he was in here with a couple of other people doing stuff. I figured you told him it was okay.”
“Yeah. I didn’t know he’d get this much done.” It was amazing not only the tree but the lights and garland going up the stairs to the bedrooms and little touches like holiday candles all over the place.
Nick was still holding Oliver and walked straight ahead into the living room. Oliver's was turning constantly while he took in his new home. I was wondering how he really felt. Yesterday morning his life was still what passed for normal. My sister was a nutcase but according to Oliver, his dad was a nice guy. Now, not only were his parents dead but he was in a totally different state with a way different climate living with two men he really didn’t know. I knew we had a job cut out for us to help him make sense of it.
Nick set Oliver down and then said to him, “Whadyasay we check out the kitchen and see if we’ve got any cookies.”
Oliver looked like he wasn’t sure what he was supposed to say, but then Puppy walked over to him and began casually licking his face. He started laughing and tried to push the dog away. It took a while but after Nick told him to stop Puppy sat down and stared unapologetically at his new pal.
Nick herded them into the kitchen and the three of them started their hunt for cookies.
I did want a cookie but more than that I wanted to see how things looked upstairs, so I went in the other direction and shot up the stairs. It didn’t take long to find Oliver’s room, it was directly across from the upstairs master suite. That, plus it was loaded with stuffed animals and the sheets on the bed were Spiderman. It was like Gavin used the mind of a kid to furnish it, every little detail was designed to enchant a little boy. I checked the closet and looked into the built-in drawers. Underwear, pajamas, socks and a bunch of shorts for summer, which would be useless for a while, shirts on hangers, shoes etc. All the stuff a little boy needs to wear. Well, not. We need to winterize Oliver’s wardrobe.
I turned and walked across the hall to what would be our bedroom. The room was bright because of the southern exposure and was identical to the bedroom downstairs with the exception that the room downstairs had a gym/workout area right next to the bedroom.
We had planned to have our master suite downstairs repeated upstairs for those times when either my dad or David and Mark might come to visit. But considering my grandfather's ages them using the room downstairs made more sense.
Maybe Oliver wouldn’t need us to be that close, in fact maybe he’d want more space between us. I didn’t believe that. No little boy could go through what he has and not want people near him.
I left that room and just to see how far the contractors had come I checked the other bedrooms, the plan was to be able to house the lot of the family should they visit and it seemed to work.
When I got back downstairs Gavin was just walking in.
I said, “Nice job on the decorations.”
"Thank you. He turned back towards the door and said, "There's more to do but we should get it done by tomorrow. Hopefully, before the media people find the place."
I said, “Media people? You really think they’ll come here?”
He nodded. “Oh yes. Yes, I’m a little surprised they’re not here yet. But the house isn't directly in your name so they haven't found it yet. But they will. Anyway, it's best if the house looks good."
I must have given him an odd look because he started nodding his head and said, “Oh yes, yes they’ll find it and then it’ll be good for the house to be decorated and to look…festive and stable.”
I said, “Stable?”
“Yes. I know it’s not what you wanted but because of what happened there will be some publicity. I’ll do everything I can to stop that and there are things I can do, but really it’s more about limiting it than anything else. And of course to give them the impression you want them to have. Like I said, stable, but also discreet, reserved and especially, private.”
“It’d be best if you didn’t give them any chance to get pictures, like you leaving for work in the morning. Do the security guys SUV’s have dark windows?”
I nodded. “Yeah, two of them. You really think it’s that big of a deal?”
He shook his head. “Not for you but if you don’t give them anything they’ll be more willing to accept any PR release we give them. The whole point is to get them to give up on getting anything much about Oliver. Because anything that goes in the news is just something his classmates will hear. You know how that can be.”
I nodded and sighed. “You’re right. I don’t want that.”
Gavin said, "Anyway, this probably only has a thirty-day shelf life and then you should mostly be free of it. This would be less of a problem if this were a bigger city. We don’t have much news here compared to like Chicago. Another thing, do you want me to schedule a meeting with the head of the Hanley School? By the way, the head of the school, Thomas Filmore is also a psychologist, so that should be helpful.”
I nodded. “Yeah, make an appointment. I’m going to the airport tomorrow morning to meet the new crew, but then I’ll be in. I've got a meeting with that attorney at one o'clock. Oh, and we need a housekeeper or something. We need someone to cook. They don't really have to clean, just cook, especially with Oliver there. Call Connie and see what you can do."
He said, “I can have a chef here tonight, is breakfast a big thing or can you get by on cereal and stuff?”
“No, we’re fine for breakfast and tonight we’ll just order takeout. But later I want someone who’ll be here all the time. We’ve got a two bedroom flat above the garage. It’s not huge but there’s a little kitchen and a small sitting room. I’m concerned about there being someone here when Oliver gets home from school. The security guys will pick him up if I can’t but I don’t want him coming home to an empty house. Talk to Connie about it.”
He nodded and started to leave but then stopped. “You know, the best thing would be if we could get the couple from the farm to come here. I went out there the other day to see what it was all about and they basically are just in that big house waiting for someone to show up. Even the lady that you bought it from was hardly ever there.”
I looked at him for a second. “Your right. They could live in the apartment above the garage and then if we went to the farm for a few days they could go with us.”
Gavin asked, “Would you like me to talk to them about it?”
“Talk to Jeff about it first but if he agrees then yes. I’d pay them more for the inconvenience of it all but if they’d be unhappy then no. See what Jeff thinks.”
I started to turn away but paused and said, "Talk with Jeff but don't talk to them yet. I need to make sure Nick would be okay with it. I mean I'm fairly certain…. I stopped and said, "C'mon, let's just ask him."
We walked in the kitchen where Nick and Oliver were sitting at the kitchen table eating cookies.
I said, "How would you feel about the couple from the farm living here full time but when we need them at the farm they’d go out there?”
He stared at me and swallowed the cookie that was in his mouth. Then he turned to Gavin and asked, “Are they nice? Would Oliver and I like em?”
Gavin smiled at the way it had been put and said, "I'm pretty sure you guys would, but it could always be changed if you didn't."
Nick asked, “What are their names?”
“Doris and Ted Crowly.”
Nick looked at Oliver and said, “Whadya think?”
Oliver shrugged and said, “I dunno.”
“Well someone’s gotta feed us. We’ll run outta cookies eventually and Gavin says they’re nice.”
Oliver gave Nick a funny smile and said, “More cookies would be good.”
Nick looked at me and said, “See if they’ll do it.”
I look at Gavin. “How much are they making?”
“I think it’s around fifty.”
“Oh, no, for the two of them.”
"Offer them a fifty percent increase now if they decide to do it and if it works out another increase of the same dollar amount, not the same percent but dollar amount in a year. I don't want unhappy people working for me. Also get a non-disclosure agreement and tell them not talking to anyone about us is a big thing. Actually, we need that from everyone working out there. Well, I’ll talk to Jeff about that.”
Gavin said, “Wouldn’t you want to talk to them and see how you feel about them?”
I realized how dumb I was. I smiled. “Well, I guess that would make sense. See if you can get them to come in here. That way they can get a look at the house and us. They may have no interest in doing it and if they don’t that’s fine they still keep their jobs, we’ll just go another way.”
I was sitting on the closed toilet and Oliver was sitting in the bathtub playing with soap bubbles. I was amazed to see that not only did Gavin buy baby shampoo but had also picked up a couple of rubber ducks.
“Did your mom and dad help you take your bath or could you handle it by yourself?
“My dad did. He ran the water cause he thought I might make it too hot. And he washed my hair.”
I reached over and took the hand sprayer off the wall.
“See, you can pull this down so it’s the right height for you. All you gotta do is push this button, the water is always the same temperature.”
I said, “Here, hold your hand out,” and when he did I sprayed it with the water. Is that temperature okay?”
He nodded. “It’s just right.”
I knelt down in front of the tub and said, “Lean forward and I’ll wet your hair.”
After that, I reached over and poured some shampoo into my hand. I held it out so Oliver could see it and said, "See, this much." He reached out and touched the dab of shampoo in my hand.
I rubbed the shampoo into his fine dark hair. It felt so different from mine or Nick’s, it felt so young and strangely vulnerable.
I said, “Close your eyes, we can use the same soap to wash your face.”
He got a look of concentration and clamped his eyes shut while I used the excess shampoo to wash his face. Then I sprayed it all off.
I said, “You know how to do the rest?”
He nodded and said, “Yeah. When will you teach me how to take a shower?”
Nick stuck his head in and asked, “You guys haven’t drowned or anything?”
“We’re almost done and nobody drowned. You didn’t run into anything that could be a snack did you?” We had eaten pizza earlier but now everyone seemed to need something more.
“Well, assuming the puppy hasn’t found it, I made some popcorn. But you guys better hurry up before he gets to it.” Nick took off to protect the popcorn.
I leaned and picked up the face cloth poured some liquid soap onto it and worked up a lather.
I said, "Okay, let's take care of this. Hold up your arms."
He did that and I quickly washed his back and arms. I handed him the face cloth and said, “Do your butt and your penis.”
He laughed, but stood up and did exactly that. “I never called it a penis!”
I laughed. “How come?”
“My dad called it my junk.”
I rinsed him off with the spray. “Well, people do call it that now, but the actual word for it is penis. But it yours and you can call it whatever you want.”
He stepped out of the tub and I wrapped a huge warm bath towel around him. I don’t know where we got these towels but they were pretty amazing. I took one end of the towel and dried his hair and face while he closed his eyes. Looking at him that way, wrapped up in that towel kind of got to me. I kissed his forehead and said softly, “I’m really glad you’re here.”
He didn’t say anything but he leaned against me and buried his face in the soft towel.
I held him for a moment then said, “Keep drying and I’ll get your pajamas.”
I came back with red pajamas that went well with his dark hair. I helped him get dressed and then we headed downstairs to get some of the endangered popcorn.
We put Oliver in bed around nine and read to him from one of the kid’s books Gavin had bought. Nick and I went to bed at eleven like we usually do.
Nick fell asleep instantly and I worked on my laptop for another hour. Finally, I turned off my light and slid down under the covers. I stayed that way for about ten minutes, but the thought of Oliver was nagging at me. It had all been too easy. There’s no way on earth that he’s this okay with what happened. I slid out of bed and walked as silently as I could to Oliver’s room and quietly opened the door.
He was lying in bed with Puppy’s head on his stomach but the look on his face said it all. I walked over and took his hand.
“C’mon, you shouldn’t be alone for a while.”
He pulled the pillow over his face and mumbled into it, “I’m sorry. I’m really sorry.”
I knelt down next to the bed. “Oliver, you’ve got nothing to be sorry about. Absolutely nothing. It was a terrible thing and it’s going to take time. But I’m gonna make it better, I promise. But for now, you're coming with me."
So Oliver ended up sleeping between Nick and me with Puppy lying practically on top of him and looking very happy.