Old Souls

Chapter Nine

When Chase and I were on our way out I found Mom asleep on the couch with Seneca in her lap. I kissed her cheek and hugged Art as he exited his office and promised a swift return.

We had only managed to get Chase's clothes in the hamper and say hello to Janisse when Carter and Augie bounced through the door.

"Just a minute, guys, we need to pee and Augie's mom is waiting. The two of them charged to the bathroom not quite closing the door."

"Chase! Etienne please help!" Carter called.

Chase had gone to the kitchen to start Carter's snack so I ran to the bathroom.

"Augie can't get his zipper down and he has to go really bad."

I checked and Augie's Levi shorts steadfastly refused to unzip and to complicate things his belt was one of those military slide buckles that soldiers wear with their fatigues. The zipper would take too long and Augie was pinching as hard as he could. I was able to undo the belt and get his top button undone so we could just slide the shorts down. He joined Carter at the toilet and blessed relief was his. In the process of sliding his shorts off, the bit of his t-shirt that was stuck in the zipper was pulled out of the shirt taking a substantial amount of fabric with it."

"Augie, what's taking you so long?" a woman's voice called.

"Back here ma'am, there was a complication."

"Oh hello, you're not Chase er…who?"

"This is Etienne," chirped Carter as he faced her and pulled up his undies and shorts. Augie stepped out of his and stood nude from the waist down.

"My zipper stuck and Etienne helped me get my pants down so I didn't pee in them but I did a little."

"It's okay sweetheart, I'm sure you tried. You haven't had an accident in ages and this wasn't your fault."

"He managed to trap a bit of his t-shirt in the zipper and he couldn't negotiate the belt he was wearing," I explained further.

"I told his dad that belt was a bad idea but he didn't listen. Thank you for your help."

"Carter may Augie borrow some shorts from you?" I asked.

"Sure, come on up Augie you can pick out a pair and some undies."

"Those two are sure sweet together, I hope we get to stay here but Doug's company may be moving and he can't really refuse to go. He's the senior VP of lab services. I'm Dianne by the way, it's nice to finally meet you Etienne I've heard so much about you from Carter, it seems like he has two big brothers now."

"He's a wonderful little boy, and I'm lucky to know him and his brother. It's a very nice family."

"Well I know that Augie is jealous that Carter now has you and Chase. He told us you just moved here from California; do you miss it?"

"I miss some things but mostly I'm enjoying being in a new place."

"I heard you were a bit of a giant killer; did you really face down a bully like Carter said?"

"Well he wasn't really a bully; he was being abused and he was lashing out because of the pain. He's actually kind of a nice boy and he's in a place where he can be in a nice home with love."

"Was he the boy they were talking about on KIRO? The one that was being abused by his whole family, that poor child. Well I hope you're right and he's in a safe place now and getting help."

"Yes Dianne, he was on the news and they couldn't report all the bad things that were happening to him. Like you I'm glad he's found a new and safe home."

"You are a special boy to recognize that Etienne, I'm glad to have met you."

"Thank you Dianne, it was very nice to meet you as well.

Augie and Carter ambled down the stairs with Augie suitably dressed in Carter's blue shirt and shorts with the supercar logos all over them. I figured Carter must like Augie a great deal because those were some of Carter's favorite clothes. I watched as the two little guys kissed each other's cheek, hugged and Augie took his mother's hand as they departed.

"Carter! Hey bro!" Chase called out.

Carter spun around and charged into Chase's waiting arms; he began to describe everything that happened when they arrived. "Where did you go?"

"I went out back to pick plums before the birds get them. Janisse needs them for a jelly she's making. She has your snack ready so go eat and I'll get you to bed okay?"

"Will you be here Etienne?" Carter asked.

"No buddy, my mom showed up and I need to get back to her. She just arrived today and I haven't seen her for a while."

"Okay, maybe you can sing to me tomorrow?"

"We both will Carter, we have a song ready for you."

"Okay, can I kiss you goodbye?"

"Sure Carter, I love your kisses."

I picked him up and traded kisses and hugs thinking about what the messenger had told me.

I went in and said goodbye to Janisse and then had Chase walk me to the door. I gave him a passionate kiss and received one in kind and walked back home.

I had only walked through the door when my phone rang and the screen read Ben.

"Hi Ben, how are you doing?"

"Really good Etienne, I'm in a foster home with a really nice guy, I didn't even know they allowed single guys to foster but Dustin is a nice guy. He's like fifty or something but he's kind and treats me like his own kid. I've never got so many hugs and kisses before."

"I'm so glad to hear that Ben, it's nice to know that you are with someone who cares."

"Oh by the way I'm not going by Ben or Benny anymore, too many bad memories are tied to that name I'm going by my middle name Nathan now so Nate or even Natty is okay, any one you pick and I'm good."

"I like the sound of Nate, it's strong and it fits you. Do you feel better these days?"

"Yeah man I do, it's so cool having a dad who cares and holds me when I need it. I need that a lot and I will for a while. You see he had something bad happen a long time ago and he was alone and had nobody but now we're helping each other deal with our crap. We like bonded almost immediately and I just don't do that but we both saw something in the other person that brought us close. He's going to enroll me in a private school so I can catch up from some stuff I missed last year when I was really sick. Grant Academy have you heard of it?"

"No Nate, but remember I'm new here, I'll be going to Rainier Academy same as Chase."

"That's cool man; tell him I said hello.  I'm so sorry I was such a dick to him, he's a nice guy and well I'm sorry."

"He understands Nate, he was very upset to hear what you had gone through and understands that it wasn't anything to do with him, just that he was available."

"I always thought he was kind of cute but I was so messed up I couldn't just say hey I like you. I really blew it there."

"Well he is cute and so are you, you might not realize it but you're kind of hot when you're not being a jerk, but you must be hot all the time now right?"

Nate sniffed and said, "Thanks man, that's nice to hear. Oh before I forget, I called to tell you that this phone goes dead tomorrow, can I text you my new number?"

"Sure man, so can I call you now?"

"I would really like that, I just wanted to let you know before this one gets shut off and please give Chase my number too okay?"

"I will Nate, he'll be happy that you're doing so well. He's been worried and so have I so I'm relieved too."

"Thanks Etienne, Dusty is ready to go to the phone store so I gotta go but I'll shoot you my number as soon as I know what it is."

"Okay Nate, it was good to hear from you and I'll pass this along to Chase."

"Thanks Etienne, bye for now."

I felt so happy hearing the change in his voice and how happy he seemed. Only a few days with someone who cares and he's a different person.

"Hi sweetheart, who was that?" Mom asked.

"His name is Nate and he's a friend, he used to live close but he had to move."

"Do you want to eat in or would you like to go out to a restaurant? Art is suggesting Ivar's on the lake. What do you think?"

"It sounds good, can I get a shower, I've been hiking all over Lincoln park with Chase and we played soccer with some other kids."

"Of course my dear, and dress nicely please."

I showered and dressed in fifteen minutes and we headed to Lake Union with Art at the wheel of Mom's rented S.U.V. I think it was a Lexus.

"What about your car, did you sell it?"

"No dear, they will all be shipped up and delivered to the house on a roll back truck. Then I can take this overrated pile of junk back to SeaTac."

"When will Dad be here?"

"He has some things to attend to but all our things are on a truck headed North, I was told they would arrive here Saturday and get everything unloaded."

"Wonderful Mom, that means no more showers in Art's tiny shower. How do you even manage in that thing Art?"

"Carefully, I have a company coming next week while I'm gone and they will demo that whole bathroom and put in a new shower and other fixtures."

"Oh Art I hope you don't mind but I let Chase look at your books, he didn't touch anything he just looked at the titles. He was impressed."

"He's a nice kid, you got a keeper there, Jem," Art opined.

"Oh I need to buy a bike; Chase says I can keep one on campus and it's a safe area for bikes."

"What sort of bike do you want?" Art inquired.

"I don't have a brand in mind but a mountain bike so I can do street or trail, maybe eighteen speeds." I speculated.

"I know a guy that was a couple of years behind me in the same program. He works at Cascadia Bikes over by your new school in Columbia city. He is deep into bikes and I bet he can help you choose a good one."

"That's great Art, thanks. Any time you can manage after you get back will be cool."

"Actually I got pushed back a couple days so I will fly out Monday. That means we can go tomorrow morning while Dave is on hand to help and we'll get you sorted out."

"Cool, would it be okay if Chase came along?"

"Of course, Seneca likes him and he likes books so he's okay as far as I'm concerned."

During dinner we talked about the problems they had with moving companies until they found a competent company. I told them about our trek through Pike place, the boat ride and the aquarium. I told Mom she had to go see the otters. Dinner was great and we arrived home about nine. Art called his friend Dave to make sure he would be there and I called Chase to invite him along. I also told him about Ben's new home, name and phone number which I texted to him as soon as we had finished. He was very happy to receive the news.

The next morning I sent Chase a text to come over as soon as he was able. He was there as soon as Carter had been picked up for Day camp. I promptly informed him of my mission for the day.

"So you're bike shopping, what are you going to get?"

"I don't know but Art knows someone at Cascadia Bikes so I think I'll get some good advice."

Cascadia in Columbia City? That's the best bike shop around. If you can't find something there you must be too picky, Chase grinned.

"Well I want something that can cope with these hills and the great bike trails in the parks. We can get around together and even include Carter if he has a bike," I suggested.

"That sounds great, and thanks for including Carter, I wouldn't want to leave him out."

"I wouldn't either, I haven't known either of you very long but I love you both."

"So are we going soon?"

"Pretty soon, Art is in the shower and then he has to dress and eat. We have some cinnamon rolls if you would like some. We stopped at Fred Meyer on the way back from Ivar's last night. That place is kind of weird in the evening, it's like that "People of Walmart" video but not quite as strange."

I served up a couple of rolls with melted butter and a glass of milk for each of us and sat down at the table. Mom joined us and I split my roll with her since I wasn't terribly hungry.

"Jem I'm going shopping for guest room furniture, is there anything you need while I'm out?"

"Nothing I can think of Mom, did you get rid of the furniture we had in the old guest room?"

"Yes hon, it was very old and not particularly attractive. It was just something we bought to fill a need years ago and we never did anything about replacing it. The people who bought our old place were by and the woman told me that they were going to need more furniture so I gave them the guestroom stuff for their teenage daughter. She even tried to pay me for it until I explained I had planned to donate it."

"There's a nice furniture shop in the junction on California and Alaska just next to the Starbucks, it's pretty big and they have mattresses."

"That's a good place to start hon, I'll ask Mary if she knows it. Speaking of Mary, you know she works for Children's services, well your dad and I have been discussing fostering and perhaps adopting a child, you know just in case you don't work out," she said grinning at me. "But seriously we have a very nice home and we want to share that with a child that needs our love and help."

"I think that's great, have you been thinking about this long?"

"Yes dear, but then the move began to seem more likely and we didn't want to get into the process and then have it fall through because we moved." Mary is fast tracking our application to foster and we started the process as soon as we found the house. She has a little boy in mind who was just abandoned like you might leave a jacket hanging on a bench in the park, he doesn't even know his own last name," Mom sniffed.

"How old is he Mom?"

"He's four but I've met him and he's very sweet in spite of being cast away like trash. He's the youngest child in the group home there and he's a bit frightened of the older boys."

"When will he be here? I mean will it be soon?"

"Mary will bring him out Tuesday afternoon, your Dad will be here by then. The Sheriff and some officers wanted to have a cookout on the beach to give him a sendoff."

"Wow, that is so cool Mom. I guess I'll have two little brothers now," I was smiling now.

"Oh I'm so glad you think so, we'll need your help to make him feel comfortable."

"I'll do everything I can Mom, maybe Chase and Carter can be here when he arrives. I figure if he sees another little guy he won't be so scared."

"I'll be here if you want and Carter's Day camp ends today. I can bring him over to meet him if you like," Chase volunteered.

"That's so kind of you and that's a very good idea, how old is Carter?

"He's four same as the little boy, um… what is his name?" Chase asked.

"His name is John but they refer to him as John Doe simply because he doesn't have a last name that he can remember."

"Are you going to let him choose a new name Mom?"

"Odd, Mary suggested the very same thing. I was thinking of suggesting he take the Gaelic form of John and then he could be Sean Mac Gregor, what do you think?"

"I think you should ask him, but he'll probably like the idea. He could choose Ian or even Senaihd which would be Johnny. Of course he could decide to call himself Peter or something else."

"Um…how did you know all that Jem?" Chase queried, somewhat astonished.

"The Highland games, Dad and Grampa. I've been learning Gaelic since I was Carter's age. Art is really fluent,"  I informed him.

Oh cool you told him er… them. Hi Chase," Art said as he munched an apple.

"Pretty cool eh Jem?"

"Yes I think so, I get to be a big brother for real. But I will still love Carter just the same. I hope they can be friends too."

Chase hugged me with tears in his eyes, I held him and kissed his cheek.

"Mom I think you should know; Chase is more than a friend."

"I know dear, I could see how you looked at each other in the kitchen. Art tells me he's a wonderful and intelligent boy and I hope you two are happy with each other.

"Thanks Mom, that means a lot and thank you Art as well."

"My wishes are the same for you as Mom's. Be happy, love is very hard to find."

I hugged my Mom tight but didn't let go of Chase and she hugged us both and Art joined in as well.