Puppy For Sale
Chapter 11 - Meeting Max
"Wake up, Wake up!" Cindy called from outside my bedroom door. The truth was I hadn't actually been to sleep.
"You can come in, I am awake," I called back before sitting up in bed. Cindy opened the door and bounced in, flopping herself on my bed.
"So, are you excited?"
"That's not really a word that comes to mind Cindy, more like nervous!" Cindy gave me her feeling sorry for me look and cupped my face.
For the last three days I had been biting my nails, pacing my room and scrubbing myself red raw in the shower. Why? Because today was the day I was going to meet my father for the first time. The anxiety caused by knowing that had been hard to deal with. For starters, it had had a serious effect on my Bi-polar and meant I was forced to use all my coping mechanisms… something Doctor Listern had been working hard with me to eradicate. Second, I had begun down that slippery slope of not eating properly again. I think for the last 3 days my diet had consisted of 2 bits of dry toast, an apple and a small plate of chips. Not really good for a growing fifteen year old who was trying to build up muscle.
"What time is he going to be here?" Cindy asked, trying to snap me out of my thoughts.
"What? Oh, ten o'clock," I replied, looking at my watch. It was just after eight so I knew I had a couple of hours to try and get my head in order before the meet.
"This is really freaking you out isn't it." Cindy remarked.
"Is it that obvious?"
"Hmm, maybe you should have a chat with Doctor Listern, perhaps he could give you a mild sedative or something."
"Great! More fucking drugs to dampen down my fucking fucked up head," I snapped. Cindy seemed unfazed by my outburst. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to shout at you, I'm just fed up with taking pills to fix things all the time, why can't I just be like normal people and cope with stress in a normal way?"
"Deal with it… and you are normal Puppy, you just have areas where you need help. Everyone has an area where they need support. Some people can't go to the dentist without breaking into a cold sweat, some people can't touch spiders. We all have weaknesses Puppy and yours in no different. So quit whining and make do. I don't want you meeting your dad in a state."
Whatever Cindy said always came from the heart and always seemed to help. This rant was no different and moments later I was out of bed and feeling a little more controlled.
"Gonna take a shower, what are you gonna do?" I asked, grabbing some clean underwear from my drawers.
Cindy Shrugged. "Shall I go prepare a speech for you?"
"Very funny, mind you perhaps I shouldn't brush that idea aside so quickly, I might need something to help me get through this meeting."
"You'll be fine! Now go and get clean… oh, and come knock for me soon." Without waiting for a response she left my room, closing the door. I heard the hollow sound of her own door slam shut making me aware I was still standing there with my mouth open.
I wandered into the bathroom and turned on the shower. I was now down to an hour and a half to get myself in order before Max would arrive, and I knew a good hot shower was going to go some way to helping me achieve that. I immersed myself under the hot steamy water and threw my head back enjoying the feeling of hot rain bouncing off my face.
After trying to force down some food in the eating area I went back to my room and made sure I was looking respectable. Peering into the mirror in my bathroom, I moved a few hairs around on my head that looked out of place and then brushed my teeth.
The nervousness I was now feeling was reaching a crescendo and I felt like running away and cancelling the meeting. So many thoughts were running through my head and I was raging war with my mind not to go into silly mode as I called it. My hands were sweaty and trembling, my mouth felt dry even though I had just rinsed my teeth and worst of all my armpits were soaking wet.
It was like I was about to have a seizure!
I quickly left the bathroom and headed out of the door knocking on Cindy's one, moments later. She opened it and could see immediately I was in a state.
"You had better come in, you look-"
"I can't do it, I can't see him!" I interrupted her before barging past and collapsing on her bed. She closed the door and wandered over to me.
"Ok, whats happened?"
"Nothing, I just can't go through with it, he's going to hate me, I know it."
"And why would that be?"
"Look at me Cindy, I'm a wreck!"
"Puppy, you LOOK fine."
"Well… well, I don't feel fine, and he will see that, I know he will." I got up and started to pace her room.
"Puppy, he will probably be just as nervous as you don't forget."
"You reckon?" I said, not having thought about that so far.
"Well, you don't think he is going to just waltz in here as if he is meeting his wife do you. Of course he will be nervous; this is a massive thing for both of you. Now stop being stupid, balance yourself back up and wait."
"Urgh, waiting! I can't cope with the waiting, it's the waiting that's doing this to me, why do we always have to wait for things, it's… it's like waiting torment syndrome!"
"Ten Minutes Puppy, ten minutes… would you like a hug?"
I nodded "Uh huh."
Cindy came over to me and wrapped her arms round my trembling body. I must of looked like one of those tiny dogs you see shaking in the street when it's cold. Moments later there was a knock at Cindy's door, prompting her to release her grasp on me to see who it was. She walked over and pulled on the handle.
"Hello Cindy, are you harbouring, Mr Stibbings in there?"
"Hi Charlotte, yes, he's here?"
I went over to the door. "Hello Charlotte, is everything ok?"
"Yes Puppy, Max Chase is here. I have had a pass made up for him and he is waiting in the recreation room for you."
I felt the blood leaving my face and chest as she spoke and I had to clutch hold of Cindy's shoulder just to avoid swaying. I swallowed hard. "Does… does he look scary?" I asked, which I knew immediately after I had, it was a stupid question. Judging by Charlotte's face, she thought so too.
"I'm sorry Puppy, did you just ask me if he was… scary?"
"I know, never mind. Thanks for letting me know, I'll be there soon." Charlotte rolled her eyes and walked off and I went and slumped onto Cindy's bed again just about ready to vomit with fear. Cindy closed her door and turned to look at me.
"You can't sit there, c'mon he's waiting for you."
"I know, just give me a second dammit!"
Cindy walked towards me and grabbed onto my sleeve and started to tug at it. Reluctantly, I got off her bed and stood up.
"This is going to go fine Puppy, now go, and don't forget to breathe, ok?"
"Ok, I'll try. Will… will you come with me?"
"Puppy, I think your dad is going to want to see you alone and as much as I would like to be there to see him, I don't think that would be a good idea."
"No, you're right, I know you are right. Ok then, here goes nothing." Cindy smiled at me as I headed towards her door and opened it. She came to see me out and as soon as I was walking down the corridor, she waved at me and went back in.
I was now on my own!
Walking towards the recreation room felt like an eternity and also one of the loneliest journeys in my life. Even as I passed several other children and a few staff, it felt like I was alone in the home… on my way to certain doom. I could see the double doors to the room Max would be in and I stopped. I wanted to run back so bad, but I knew that was not possible… I had waited too long feeling like shit to back out now.
I went up to the closed glass windowed doors and peered through. I could see Charlotte clearing away some toys, a few children playing with action figures and then, right at the back, looking out of the window was Max. He had his back to me, but immediately I could see he was a tall man. He was wearing a three quarter length coat, it looked charcoal grey. It must have been cold outside because the collar was up concealing his neck, but I could easily see he had short blond hair just like me.
I pushed at the door causing it to squeak as it opened. Standing there half in and half out I swallowed hard. I must have caught Charlotte's eye because she started to walk towards me, gesturing with her hand for me to come right into the room. I did so, letting the door softly close behind me.
Charlotte placed her hand on my shoulder and led me towards the back of the room. As we were about half way there Max started to turn round and I resisted the urge to bolt for the door. In an instant of seeing his face I knew he was my dad. His face was warm and loving, his eyes set back and blue and the structure of his mouth and chin looked similar to mone. His eyes immediately locked on to mine and we stared at each other causing me to stop in my tracks. Charlotte was trying to get me to carry on walking but I just wanted to stand where I was for a moment and after a few seconds she stopped trying.
Max and I didn't move, we said nothing to each other. No, right then, we were purely speaking with our eyes. On his face was worn a satisfied look that said he knew I was his son. An ever increasing smile was forming and it was comforting to see. My face remained expressionless, I was too nervous to do anything.
Max started to walk towards me, and I didn't know what to do. Should I have walked towards him? I just didn't know where to put myself. His pace quickened until he reached me, and then in a moment of pure emotion he threw his arms around me and squeezed real tight. I could feel his body tremble as he burst into tears. I raised my arms up and put them round his and our embrace was complete.
Right at that moment I felt so safe. I was essentially hugging a stranger, but it was a stranger I felt like I already knew. Somehow, I knew… I knew I was hugging my real father.
It was amazing!
We stood there in that position for what seemed like hours, but in reality not quite so long. Slowly he broke the embrace and looked at me square in the eyes, sniffing.
"My God, look at you," he said, almost in a whisper. "I don't know what to say Jensen."
"Hello Max," I said. It was all I could think of and I wanted to kick myself for that.
"Hello Son, man you're so big," he remarked, a statement that confused me somewhat.
"Would you both like somewhere quiet?" Charlotte asked. "There is a meeting room just down the hall." Max looked at me and I nodded.
"Yes please, if you could take us there that would be great." Max said, wiping his wet eyes. Charlotte just nodded and led on with us following. There were some rooms that, even in ten years of being here I had never been in, and it sounded like this meeting room was going to be one of them. Charlotte pulled out her large set of keys and started searching for one, settling on a bronze key with a yellow sticker on it. She placed it in the lock and opened the door.
There was a musty smell to the room which said it didn't get used that often. Filling the space inside were two brown leather sofas separated by a glass coffee table. Charlotte turned on the electric heater switch on the wall and we went in.
"Would you like some tea Mr Chase?"
"Oh, yes please, white one sugar please."
"Same please." I replied. Charlotte nodded and left the room, closing the door behind us. Max gestured to one of the sofas and I went and sat down. He took the other seat and fixed his eyes on me once more, shaking his head and smiling.
"Puppy?" he suddenly asked, tilting his head.
I rolled my eyes. "It's a long story, Max."
"Well, is that what I should be calling you?"
"Jensen is fine, Max. Are you expecting me to call you dad?"
Max laughed. "Right now Jensen, just seeing you is all I could ask for, what you call me is not important right now."
"True, I guess."
"I erm… I bet you have lots of questions for me huh?" Max asked, leaning forward and resting his elbows on his legs.
"I had loads to start with… when I first found out I mean, but they all seemed to vanish."
"Yeah? Well, you have plenty of time to think of them Jensen."
"So erm… so what happens now? I mean, how many visits do you get?" I asked.
"Visits? I guess as many as you want there to be, Jensen, why?"
"I dunno, I don't know how this works. Do you just take me away from here when you want… I mean, you have the power to do that right, why don't you just force me to leave?"
Max looked at me with a curious expression on his face. There also seemed to be a little shock in there too.
"Jensen, I would never force you to do anything. Why would I force you to leave here if you didn't want to?"
I shrugged. "I don't know, it's just you are my legal parent so I guessed you could do anything you wanted with me."
Max Sighed. "Jensen, that is not how I work. The day you walk out of here is the day you choose. All I want from you is to know that I am here to stay, whether that means talking to you in the kitchen of my home, or visiting Greenstone. I am here to stay… I am here for you."
"I guess I have thought of my first question then." I said, looking up at him.
"And that is?"
"Why?" he repeated, looking baffled.
"Yeah, I mean, why would you come and look for a son you have never known? Surely it would be easier for you and your family if you never found me. I mean what now? Aren't I just going to be another expense for you, a problem in your life you cannot now go back on? What if I did drugs like weed plant or-"
"Weed plant? Do you mean Marijuana? Never mind… Jensen, is that what you think? Do you think it would have been better not to find you? I have spent the last ten years waiting for this day. Ten years of wondering if you were alive or dead, what you looked like, how you had grown, who was taking care of you. I was ready Jensen; I was ready to accept that whatever condition I found you in it wouldn't matter."
"But why?" I persisted.
"Isn't that obvious? You're my son, my own flesh and blood."
"And you have never stopped looking for me?" I asked, surprised at his revelation.
"Never!" he said passionately.
There was a knock at the door and Charlotte came in with our teas. I was mildly irritated at being disturbed by her, but tried not to show it, instead I smiled at her until she left again.
"This looks like a nice place," Max said, looking around the room. "Do you have your own room?"
"Yeah I do, and yes it is. The people here are amazing and I have been well looked after. It helps that it is privately funded so I'm told. Apparently the state owned homes are not as good as this."
"Hmm, well I can see that you are looked after. So tell me, why does Charlotte call you Puppy?"
"Everyone here does, even Mr Watson, the home Director."
I went on to tell Max the story of how I got the name, something he found quite amusing and endearing it seemed.
"So do you have many friends?" Max continued on.
"I have one here, called Cindy, she is almost fifteen. She is my sister really, we are always together. She has been here around four or five years. I don't have any other friends anymore because I am too old for most of the kids here so I don't really have a connection with any of them."
"I see, and what is Cindy's background?"
"Her parents left her and went to Brazil, they have never been seen since. She doesn't have any other family so ended up here."
"Jensen, that's terrible," Max replied.
"She's a strong person… much stronger than me."
"If you ask me Jensen, I think I am looking at a very strong person."
I sighed. "I don't feel strong compared to her. So, tell me about your family, how can you have a son the same age as me, you would have been with mum right?"
"The same age… with your mother? Oh, you are talking about Steven here right? No Jensen, Steven I adopted when he was six. I am not his biological father, although he carries my surname."
"Oh ok, now that makes sense. When I was told you had a fifteen year old son I wondered how that could be possible because…"
"Well, technically it could be possible Jensen," Max chuckled "Either I was seeing another woman behind your mother's back or you have a twin. But as you now know, neither of those are true."
"Yeah, So this Steven, does he know you are here?"
"Sure he does, and so does Susan my wife… here, I have a picture of them if you would like to see?"
Max pulled out his wallet and flipped it open. Inside there was a small photo of the three of them standing in front of a tree. I guess it was taken quite recently as Steven looked around my age. Susan looked really pretty too; it seemed my dad had nice taste in women.
"You look like a nice family, I feel kind of envious," I said, still looking at the picture.
"Susan wants to meet you Jensen, she wants you part of this family too, as do I."
"I dunno if it is that simple Max… and what about Steven, what does he think?" Max didn't say anything immediately; he just looked up at the ceiling as if trying to gather his words.
"Steven will be fine Jensen, he's an only child so I will admit, me coming here has put his nose out of joint a little, but I think he is curious about you, and that tells me he is going to be ok with this."
"What's he like?"
"Steven? Hmm, well he is a very lively person Jensen, a little different from you. You seem mature for your age, whereas Steven is a bit cocky and bolshie, but he's a very loveable person Jensen."
"He sounds scary," I said. Max chuckled.
"He's just a testosterone filled teenager like you Jensen, just a little wild sometimes. But he means well and he can be very thoughtful when he wants to be, and nah… he's not scary."
I was not totally convinced, but I nodded anyway. "So can I ask… what happened with you and mum, why did you leave me and her?"
"I guessed you would start with the biggest questions early on Jensen." Max took hold of his cup and sat back in his seat. "Mr Watson told me that you were not aware I ever existed up until I called the home and that your mother was killed when you were five. I think in that case I should start from the beginning."
"Yeah, I think so too."
[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. If the email address pastes with %40 in the middle, replace that with an @ sign.]