by Paul Jamison
Paul's viewpoint cont...
"Hello, Liam Russell here," he said nervously.
"Hello Liam, It's your Dad here,"
"Um... hi, Dad, it's been a long time..." Liam replied.
"Yes over six years now... Wow, it's good to know you're well and happy, but I'm really curious as to where you're living and what happened at home between you and your mother," Jeremy said.
"I knew you would be... I just couldn't put it all in an email. I needed to talk about it really. Can I put you on speaker so we all can hear?" Liam replied.
"Yes, sure, I think I can probably understand why. You may've sussed the real reason behind your mother's and my break up and why we called time on our marriage."
"I think it's the same reason for my fallout with her too. Dad, I'm gay and I told her that last summer holidays and I've sussed from your email that you're probably gay too. Am I right?"
There was a pause and to Liam it seemed as if his dad had someone else with him as he thought he could hear whispers in the background.
"Still here, was taking in what you've just said. Yes, you're quite right and I know your mother well enough to be certain you've not had a happy time since you told here that bit of news, correct?"
"Until I moved here, yes, it was pretty horrendous,"
"And where is here?"
Liam looked over to me and Rick, I glanced quickly at Rick and he nodded. So I nodded back to Liam. He took a deep breath and then replied
"I'm a few streets away from where we used to live. I'm with a gay couple who're in a civil partnership. They already had guardianship of a school friend. Um... it's a bit complicated, but it was through knowing Will, my school friend at swimming classes, that I knew about Paul and Rick, the gay couple, and when Mum went ballistic, I turned to them for help and well, I escaped one night. I've been here for over two months now."
"Crikey, sounds like you've had a rough time? What school arrangements are there?"
"I'm in Lower Sixth and still at the Royal Grammar. I have the scholarship and so nothing needed changing there."
"Of course, I'd forgotten you won that when you did their entrance exams. I'm sorry, Liam, it's been a while since I've been involved and that's something I regret more than anything in this whole sorry mess between your mother and me."
"Okay. Oh, I've got a boyfriend now. We've been solid for over a month. I know that's not very long, but so much's happened since I left Mum's, it seems like longer."
"So how many of you are actually living in the house?"
"Oh, wow, that keeps changing," Liam giggled and continued. "Right, first there's Paul and Rick, it's their house. Then there's Will. He's fifteen. He's the next door neighbour's son, but it's complicated. Then there's me and now just this week Chris has come here. He's fourteen. His mum died this week in a road accident. So he's here till everything's sorted out. So that's five of us at the moment."
"Goodness, is everyone there right now?"
"Everyone's here except for Chris. He's gone to his friends down the road this evening. He'll be home later. His best friend's actually my boyfriend Craig's younger brother Jamie."
"You'll have to do me a spreadsheet so I can suss all this out," Jeremy laughed. "But that's so tough luck on Chris losing a parent like that."
"I'll try and explain things as they come up," Liam replied. "It's not quite as complicated at it seems to begin with actually. I thought I'd lost both my parents too, you know," Liam replied.
"I realise that now. It must have taken quite something for you to get that lawyer involved?"
"That was actually the easiest bit. He's Paul and Rick's best friend and he offered to help."
"Ah, I see. I nearly didn't reply. I thought for a while It was some trick of your mother's...There've been a few of those, believe me. It was just a bit of coincidental luck that it was the same firm I used for my divorce and was able to check a few things first. Glad I did too."
"I'm so glad you did reply, though. But I can understand how you might think that. It was pretty awful with her once she knew. She tried to force me to go on some residential 'turn me straight' camp at half term. I went away on a canal boat holiday with this lot and my boyfriend instead," Liam laughed.
"It sounds like you did the right thing in leaving then. I obviously hoped you'd be okay with your mother, but it seems not to have been the case."
"Everything was fine, until I said I was gay. She wanted me to go to her church every Sunday, but I got out of that quite a bit in the last year or so. I just kept saying I had too much homework to do to spare the time as I had swimming meets at weekends as well as homework. I've done pretty well with that as well."
"What are the financial arrangements where you are now?"
"I'm not sure. I mean, Paul and Rick have provided me with a room and they feed me. They also bought furniture for the room plus some new school uniform for me. I buy my own casual clothes from my Saturday and holiday job earnings and I've some money in a savings account. Rick's looking after the book for the money Granddad left to me for when I'm eighteen."
Rick sat forward on the sofa and spoke into the receiver.
"Jeremy, it's Rick here. Perhaps we could have a discussion after you've finished chatting with Liam? We can go through what's what with you then," he said.
"That sound like a sensible plan. Thanks for that, Rick. I obviously have quite a few queries that you and Paul can answer, I'm sure."
"We can indeed and can explain how we got into having this rather unorthodox family and all since August of this year, too," Rick replied.
"Really, you're not professional foster parents then?"
"Good heavens, no! Let me try to explain briefly," Rick began and continued "Paul and I've been in a civil partnership since the law changed. We met at uni and well it was a done deal. I'm a chartered accountant and Paul's a radio producer. Our neighbour's a serving naval officer and single dad after the death of his wife. We've known him ever since we moved in here. He's away a lot. His parents used to supervise William while he was away at sea. Will's sitting here with us now. During the summer the parents were in a car accident while on holiday in Scotland. Will's gran died and his grandfather was seriously injured. William's dad had no-one to turn to while he went up to Scotland to sort everything out. So Will came to stay with us and at that time we thought it'd be a week or so at most. Well, he's still here, as all in all it turned out to be the best option. Will's not had to change schools, or lose his friends, or go through the upheaval that going to one of those boarding schools for service personnel would cause. It's all gone fine so far. Liam came to us a few weeks later, after quite a bust up with his mother, your ex. Chris arrived just a few days ago. He was spotted in the A&E waiting area by Craig and Jamie's mother who's a theatre sister in that department. We brought him home here as he'd been injured too, but was only walking wounded. We're in the process of sorting out what might be best for him long term. It's all been a set of circumstances... nothing like this was ever planned," Rick finished and sat back on the sofa next to me.
There was a pause and we could hear Jeremy talking to someone on the other end of the line.
"We're just dumbstruck. You mean to say you are now a family of five in what... three months?"
"Yes, that's pretty much how it is," I chipped in. "I'm Paul by the way. Hi there, Jeremy," I added.
"Who's with you, Dad?"
"My boyfriend Michael. Who's there with you? Is your boyfriend there too?"
"Yeah, Craig's sitting right next to me, Rick and Paul are opposite on the other sofa and Will's in an armchair," Liam answered.
Jeremy laughed. "I didn't need their exact locations, Liam. I remember your need for things in order. Is your room still very tidy?" Jeremy asked.
"Yes, Jeremy, he's the tidiest of the lot to be honest," I said laughing.
"That I'm sure he must get from his mother. It was one of her acceptable attributes, but we won't go over that old ground. Sufficient to say it's in the past and best left there. If you really want to know the detail, Liam, I'll tell you, but on your own one day, okay?"
"Okay, Dad, that's fine. I guess she discovered you were gay? I don't need to know how. I'd like to know what you do now and all that sort of stuff," Liam replied.
"Well, I told you in the email that I left when this opportunity to come here to work came up and your mother was unwilling to uproot her own career and you and come with me. The marriage was in name only. She didn't want you to know anything about the 'real reasons' as she saw them. She was determined that if I wanted a divorce then I'd to go quietly with no announcements or explanations. I imagine that was so she could give her version only to you. She did agree I could have contact and did for the two years when I sent you presents. As soon as the divorce was final, she started returning letters. Then I moved to where I'm now. I'm now a senior partner in the firm here. A short time ago I met Michael at a friend's barbie and after a few dates we've become boyfriends. That's about it to date..."
"We've so much to catch up on we'll never do it all in this call. I'm really happy now that we're back in contact. You see, I felt I'd lost both my parents after I had to leave. I'll tell you all about that too and the trouble Mum caused afterwards and we had to have legal letters sent to stop her harassing me. It's all stopped now by the way, so that's okay. I've got Craig. He's same age and height as me, but dark curls. We intend to go to uni together and well... um... live together too."
"Hello Craig, good to say hi to you,"
"Um... hello Mr Russell," Craig said from alongside Liam.
"Less of the 'Mr Russell', Craig. The name's Jeremy, okay? Liam, I think I can understand how you've been feeling. Believe me I didn't want things the way they were, but had little choice as your mother made the conditions back then. Yes, we've loads to catch up on and we have phone calls and email now. Do you have a webcam? We can video chat if you do."
"Yes, I think I understand as I now know much more about mum and her ways of thinking. I haven't got a webcam right now, but I'll get one next week and we can video chat as you say, that'll be great. I'll send you another email tomorrow as well, with some pictures of me at swimming meets and also on the holiday we had a few weeks ago on the canals, okay?"
"I guess I'd better let you guys get on now. I hope we can make these calls a regular feature for us now, Liam?"
"Yes, I definitely hope so, I spose these call costs the earth?"
"No, I've a calling package that gives me good off-peak international rates. So as long as we keep off business hours we should manage pretty well."
"Oh, okay. Would you email me the best times to call you, please, I'll send you an email tonight with some more recent pictures of all us lot."
"That'd be really good. Would you put caption, so we know who's who?"
"Yes, that's no problem. I'll do that."
"Can you send some from you? I mean your house or flat where you live and things like that? Oh, and your boyfriend too, Michael was it? I'll take some more tomorrow of where I'm now and stuff, although you've seen my room as I was in it when Will took the picture I sent with my email."
"Yes, it's Michael, well remembered. We'll take some pictures today for you of my home and I'll look out some of one or two places of interest here in Christchurch, okay? Look out for an email tomorrow."
"Okay Dad, I'll be looking out for it in the morning."
I guess we can have another chat next weekend? I don't think trying to call you on a weekday'll be too easy, especially if you have schoolwork you need to be doing at this time of the evening in the UK?"
"Yeah, you're right there. I've got about three hours' homework most evenings at the moment," Liam replied. Weekends are definitely best and Saturday evening is pretty okay here, so, same time next week then?" Liam asked.
"Yes, that suits me too. Sunday mornings here are pretty perfect for me to call you so we'll try and make that a regular for now. If we or you can't make it, we can always email each other beforehand, okay?"
"Okay Dad, I guess I'll say bye for now and let you have your chat to Paul and Rick, okay?" Liam said.
"Bye for now, Liam, oh, and Craig and Will too. Talk again soon guys."
I was just about to suggest to Rick that we chatted to Jeremy in the kitchen when both Craig and Liam stood up and Liam said
"We're going to my room to look out some pictures to email my Dad, okay? Will, could you come and take a couple of pics of me and Craig together, please?"
"Sure," Will replied and followed Craig and Liam out of the sitting room as they all headed for Liam's room.
"Seems the boys have gone off to sort out some pictures to email to you Jeremy," I explained.
"I sorta got that from the general chat I could hear in the background," Jeremy replied.
Rick took over the phone and for the next five minutes he explained how we gave the boys monthly allowances for their day to day school expenses and the travel was shared between the three families and also the arrangements that Will's dad had made for Will and all his expenses. It turned out that Jeremy had studied and taken the same courses as Rick at the same university as we'd both attended and had achieved the same degree of a 2:1 award. The call ended when Jeremy said
"I can't thank you guys enough for being there for my son when he needed help badly. I've a lot to think about and a lot of bridges to mend too. I just hope I can live up to Liam's expectations. As far as I can make out he's where he's happy and that to be honest is all I care about right now."
"Thank you for that. We've done our level best. We've had help too. Adrian, our best friend, is a lawyer as you must now realise and has been very, very helpful in so many matters, for the most part at no charge or merely expenses," Rick replied.
"Somehow I'm going to have to shoulder some of the responsibility for Liam, seeing as his mother's made it impossible for him to remain with her. We'll have to discuss the best way that can be done. In the meantime, I'll think on what we've discussed and get back to you guys during next week. I guess that's about all for now."
"Okay, we'll all say goodbye for now and look forward to more chats soon. I think we can safely say a very excited and happy young man has shot upstairs to his room to send you an email with pictures of himself and our family holiday this last half-term break," I said.
"I'm so pleased I decided to make contact. I'll look out for that email and be back in touch soon,. Bye for now," Jeremy said as he rang off.
Rick replaced the phone in its cradle and sat back on the sofa.
"Wow, quite momentous. What did you think?" I asked Rick.
"Oh, he's okay. I can well understand the difficulties he must have had to go through with Liam's mother. I mean look at what's happened since Liam left! I also understand how he imagined that Liam was still being cared for in the old family home. He explained to me that he'd made it over entirely to his ex wife in lieu of support or maintenance. Her idea, it seems she wanted a very clean break, with no remaining ties whatsoever after the divorce. He'll look carefully and see what he can do to help. He's determined to make up for the missing years and to forge a proper relationship with his son again. I mean he is in the same profession as me. He's running his own partnership of which he's the principal and I know full well what sort of earnings he can expect from that. After all, he's been in practice ten years longer than I have. He should definitely be in a good position to assist with Liam's welfare and continued education. Let's hope so anyway."
"Mmmmm, let's hope you're right. Liam'd be devastated if anything went wrong with the new relationship he's just established with his Dad. He decidedly sees his mother as an ex-parent... by her own doing of course, but ex all the same," I replied.
"Yes, that's been so horribly obvious by her antics over the holiday. I mean, she's an educated woman with a senior administrative post in public service and she behaves like that... It's actually beyond belief," Rick said.
"Yeah, you're so right there," I smiled. Lost all her credibility over that. Mr Robinson wasn't having any of it either, thank goodness," I added.
"Right, so, now what about young Christopher. Had any thoughts?" Rick asked.
"Plenty of them... but it all depends on Chief Rory Griffin, doesn't it?" I replied.
"To a certain extent, yes, it does, but as he's a joint executor with Adrian and there are clear wishes in the will we shall have to see how it all works out. I rather think that Adrian is right and Frank may end up being the persuading factor. Time will tell... Fancy a nightcap after all this excitement?" Rick replied.
"You're right as ever. Yes please. I think I'll have a glass of port, thanks," I said.
Rick got up and a few minutes later returned with two glasses on a tray and we spent a pleasant half hour sipping our drinks while listening to some music on the stereo. At a little after ten o'clock the doorbell rang and I got up to answer it wondering who it could be at that hour. It was of course Chris returning from his visit to the Sutherlands. He'd not got a key as yet like Will and Liam. I made a mental note to get him one before school on Monday. He looked happy and after divesting himself of his coat and gloves came into the sitting room carrying a plastic carrier from which he produced more birthday cards and presents from his impromptu but quiet get together arranged by Veronica. Something I'd have to sincerely thank her for tomorrow, I thought, as I listened to Chris enthusing about his visit and looked at the presents he'd been given, together with the further birthday cards he showed us and then added to the growing display on the sideboard.
"Who was there, Chris, apart from Jamie and Mrs Sutherland, oh, not forgetting Grandma Sutherland too?" I asked.
"Jamie'd arranged for two other friends to come as well. Stephen Myers and Michael Schofield were there and we had a great time on Jamie's playstation and then we watched a DVD. After that we had a really great supper too. I actually forgot about stuff for a while," he explained.
"I glanced at Rick and smiled before saying "Sounds like it was a good idea to mention to Jamie that it was your birthday this week then," I laughed.
Chris nodded and smiled back at us.
"How's your arm doing now?" Rick asked.
"It's not hurting anywhere near as much now, except when I was on the playstation for a long time. It hurt a bit then. So I stopped and watched the others play for a while. It's starting to itch a bit now though," Chris replied.
"That's actually good news, the itching I mean. It shows that it's healing well," I said.
"You'll really have to resist the urge to scratch it. That'd be a really bad idea, as it might get an infection if you did," Rick added.
"I know. Mrs Sutherland had a really good look today and she explained that to me very plainly," Chris grinned at the memory of that little lecture.
"What presents have you there?" I asked.
"I've all the Harry Potter films on DVD now. Stephen and Michael gave me the two I didn't have. I suppose Jamie must've told them I was a bit keen on them and which to get me. He's been brilliant all day as well and we have all just talked so much too. I've told them everything that happened on Wednesday as well and they've all said they won't blast it all over school either," Chris explained.
"Good to have friends like that when stuff goes wrong" Rick remarked.
Chris just nodded and after a few moments he gathered his stuff together and said
"I'm a bit shattered now. So if you don't mind I'll go to bed, okay?" he said.
"You don't have to ask, Chris," I said, and added "Glad you've had a good day. We'll see you in the morning. Goodnight, and sleep well."
Chris headed off to bed and we tidied up the sitting room went through into the kitchen to make ourselves an instant coffee when Rick said seemingly out of the blue
"What's Chris's house like?"
"Um... a nice, compact, well looked after, three bed semi," I replied. "Why do you ask?" I added.
"I must have a word with Adrian, I think. Something's just occurred to me that might well be a good proposition. I'm not saying anything else till I know more. That's if Adrian can tell me anything at all, of course," Rick replied.
"He might not be able to tell you too much detail but if you outline your thinking he might be able to utilise your idea. I'm imagining, this is for Chris's best advantage in the long run," I said.
"Oh yes, very definitely so, believe me." Rick grinned and added "Right, we're done here. Let's go to bed and see what tomorrow brings?"
I laughed put my mug into the dishwasher with Rick's, set it going and after turning off the lights and locking up, we both headed upstairs to bed.
* * *
After I'd handed the call over to Paul and Rick, Craig and I rushed upstairs to my room. Will came up too and went to get his camera and then followed us into my room catching Craig and me in a big snog.
"Ooops... ," Will giggled and went back out.
"It's okay. You can come in," I called out as I broke the kiss. Craig sat on the bed while I sat at my computer and turned it on.
Will came into my room with his camera smiling away to himself, no doubt thinking of stuff to tell Justin later and hatch a quip or two when they were next in the mood to.
"So, what pictures do you two want?" he asked.
"Oh, a couple of us together and then perhaps one of the three of us also," I suggested.
Craig promptly came over and sat on my knee and we started giggling as he tried to get comfortable. Will was clicking away and getting all sorts of goofy expressions from the two of us. Then he set the camera on the top of my computer box and aimed it towards the chair. We then swung it round and with him standing behind he shoved his face in between ours and he howled laughing as the flash went off and the picture was taken. He did a couple more so as we'd have at least one we could send to my dad and then he slipped the card out of his camera and said
"Give it back when you've downloaded the ones you want, okay."
"Sure, Will, I'll do it now and you can have it back right away," I replied.
I slid the card into the reader and opened the file. Then I clicked for a slideshow and we all giggled at some of the sillier faces that came up in the pictures. I then saved them all to a file on my computer and slid the card out again to gave it back to Will.
"Thanks," he said as he took the card and slipped it back into his camera. "What do you reckon about your dad?" he asked.
"His voice was almost as I remember it. I think he's picked up a sort of New Zealand accent though. I think he meant all he said. You were jolly quiet, Will."
"It wasn't for me to butt in really. This was your call wasn't it?" He simply said. Shrugging his shoulders, Will slid off my desk and headed towards the door. "See you guys tomorrow, I'm doing some homework," he said as he left.
"Seeya in the morning" we both replied.
Once Will had gone back to his room we turned again to my computer and with Craig balancing on the arm of the chair opened my email to send a reply with some pictures to my dad.
"You need another chair up here if I'm going to be comfortable," Craig commented as he slipped onto the arm and couldn't have been very comfortable at all.
"Yeah, you're right I'll ask Paul and Rick in the morning if we can find one so we can both sit here," I answered as I set up a reply email. "So what do I say this time?"
"Errrrm, thanks for the phone call. It was great to be in touch again. I'll call again next weekend and oh, here're the pictures I promised to send, okay?" Craig rattled off.
"Hang on, I can't type that fast. I got to 'great to be in touch again'. What was next?"
"I'll call again next weekend and here are the pictures I promised, okay?" Craig repeated.
"Yeah, got it. Let's look at the canal pictures and attach some of those and then a couple of the ones we've just taken, okay?" I suggested.
We spent the next half hour looking through the canal holiday pictures and captioning them as we attached them to the email and then finally four of the sillier ones we had just taken with Will. I then clicked on 'send' and the email was on it's way or started to upload as it was a massive one with all those pictures attached.
Once it had been sent I closed down my email and shut down the computer. Turning to Craig I said
"Shower and bed?"
He nodded in reply and followed me into the bathroom where together we showered and enjoyed the sensations of soaping each other all over. I just about managed to save myself and we hurriedly dried ourselves and padded back into my room and into bed. We cuddled and kisses and then with a super feeling of just being together and with all the excitement of everything that'd happened during the week I simply drifted off to sleep spooned up to Craig.
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