Puppy for Sale

by James Matthews

Chapter 19

Was This a Bad Idea?

"Puppy?" Max called from behind his van as I came running down the driveway and up the road, away from the house. I had to get away, I felt like throwing up. This was a bad idea, a stupid plan. Living away from Greenstone was never going to work and everyone knew it.

In my panic I felt like I had tons of energy, sprinting like I had never sprinted before. I didn't know where the hell I was going, but it needed to be away from here, away from that kid. How was I supposed to live in a house with someone who had such a dislike for me, it was going to be impossible. What was Max thinking?

What was I thinking!

Starting to get out of breath I reached the end of the street and stopped, leaning against a lamp post puffing my heart out. My face felt stiff where tears that had fallen were now dry against my skin. All I could think about was Cindy, and how she was alone, how I was alone. Maybe it wasn't meant to be, maybe I was just destined to not have a family.

I pushed myself away from the lamp post and randomly picked a direction to travel in. Where Greenstone was located was anyone's guess, but still, that was my destination. I tried to get my bearings but it was useless, I had no clue where I was, but to be honest, part of me didn't care.

A vehicle screeched to a stop right beside me, causing several other cars to honk their horn in frustration. The sound made me jump and I looked up to see a horrified Max clambering to get out of his van, the seat belt obviously giving him trouble.

"Puppy, wait," he screamed through the passenger window, he was now running down.

"I can't do it, I can't," I bellowed back, above the noise of a passing truck. Free from his belt, Max shot out of his van and came running over to me.

Pulling me in to a tight hug, he stroked the back of my head and spoke. "What happened, why did you run?"

"Didn't you see what he said... he said I was a gatecrasher, is that what you all think?"

"Who... Puppy, who?"

"Steven!" I barked, annoyed he hadn't seen his son's attitude towards me.

Max rolled his eyes and sighed. "Ah shit, I'm really sorry, I should never have let you go to the house alone. I Just didn't think. What else did he say?"

"Nothing, I held out my hand to say hi and he was really nasty to me, I just... Max this was a mistake, how can I be part of your family if one third hates me?"

Max took his hands and placed each one on my cheeks getting me to look him in the eyes. "Champ, I swear to you I am going to put this right, ok?"

"But how, he obviously doesn't want me there. What happens if because of me you all start arguing and stuff, what then?"

"Jens... Puppy, that is not going to happen. Susan and I talked about the potential fallout from Steven and we will handle it."

"Thanks, but that doesn't make me feel any more welcome, I think I should just go back to Greenstone... it would be easier for everyone."

Max took a step back and folded his arms. "You really want that?"

"I don't know... I'm scared, I think he'll make me worse Max."

"I know you're scared, and d'ya know what? So am I. We can be scared together Puppy, but slowly, I think that fear will go away and be replaced by something really special. I know it's a lot to ask, but I'm asking you... no, I'm pleading with you to trust me."

"Do you know what you're doing though?" I asked.

"No, of course not, but I have a gut feeling things are going to turn out ok."

I inhaled a long, deep breath and let it out through my nose, feeling a little calmer. My stomach was still in knots and my inner scales were tipping heavily, but I managed to keep myself under control. Max held out his hand, accompanied by a desperate look on his face. I felt for him because none of this was his fault, dammit, he was just as excited as I was but I didn't want to live in fear because of Steven and he had to realise that.

"So, will you give this another go?" he asked, as I took hold of his large hand.

I shrugged. "I guess."

"Do you think I should do one of those silly family meeting things and thrash this tension out between all of us, or do you wanna just see how things go and let me talk to Steven privately?"

"That's what I mean Max, before I came along there was no tension in your family. Look what I've caused."

"I don't mean that kind of tension, at least not between Susan, you and me... shit, looked I worded that all wrong, I just mean, perhaps if we all sat round the table and allowed Steven to say what he needs to say and then... Oh Puppy, I know there is a way round this."

I managed a smile... I ACTUALLY managed a smile at his attempts to resolve this, which were failing. "Look, Max, I know why he doesn't like me. I have put myself in his shoes and realised the reasons why he would act that way. I'm just scared that I will ruin the harmony in your family."

"Puppy... you are my family!" he declared, passionately. "And, Jesus, when did you learn to be so damn mature about stuff? You know, you could actually teach Steven a few things."

"I get the feeling I won't be teaching Steven anything for a while."

Max chuckled and I managed a smile. "So are you gonna come back with me or do you feel like running some more?"

"Yeah, sorry about that, Susan must think I'm a real fruitcake."

"Nah, she'll just think you're keen on exercise."

"Pfft, ok lets go back then."

My suggestion seemed to please Max as a big smile etched its way across his face. He opened the passenger door for me and I got in, placing my seatbelt on. Max closed the door and made his way round to the drivers side.

"Now I need to find a place to turn round. I guess I could use someone's driveway."

"Take your time, I'm in no rush, as you can imagine," I said, thinking it was a smart comment and then wondering if it may have hurt Max's feelings.

"I think we should all have takeout tonight, do you like Chinese?"

"Yeah, I guess they are ok. I've never met any in real life, though."

"Food, Puppy... Chinese food."

"Oh," I said, causing Max to giggle. "Nope, I have never had it."

"It all tastes the same to me, but Susan and Steven like it. If I just get a selection of dishes you can see what one you like."

"Sounds interesting. Do you and Susan cook?"

"Sure we do, Susan the most, but I help out when I come home early. I usually do the Sunday roast."

"Oh, now that I do know, they used to cook that at the home... chicken, potatoes, broccoli and Yorkshire pudding."

"Spot on Puppy, pretty much what I do at home, but sometimes I'll do some extras like pigs in blankets and stuffing."

"Pigs in..."

"You take a sausage, and wrap it in bacon, then roast it. They call it that because the sausage is made of pig, and the bacon is like a blanket."

"Ah yeah, that's clever,"

"Oh Puppy, your so damn sweet you know that?"

I just shrugged.

Max pulled up outside the house again and turned off the engine. It seemed Susan had gone inside, and the box that I had dropped outside the door had been cleared.

"I'm such a klutz dropping that box," I said, hopping down from the van.

"Don't worry about it, its just a silly accident, I just hope none of your stuff was broken in there."

"Nah, I didn't really have anything that could break. Just mum's journal and some nic-nacs."

Locking the van with his key-fob Max came round onto the sidewalk ad placed his arm round my shoulder, as if for support. If he was sensing that then he was spot on because right now, I felt like going into meltdown.

My knees felt like jelly as he led me towards the front door. Max had begun to get his keys out but as if she knew that was happening, Susan flung the door open and leapt towards me.

"Oh, Jensen, we were so worried!" She said, hugging me tight.

"Sorry, I just didn't know how to-"

"You don't need to explain yourself young man, the important thing is you are back safe. Did Steven have something to do with this?"

"Well, I guess we didn't get off to the best-"

"I had a hunch," she cut me off again. "Don't worry, I'll be having words with my son when he reappears from his room."

"Susan, are you going to let us in love?" Max asked, indicating he wanted to get in and settled.

"Oh, whoops, sorry, yes C'mon in Jensen and make yourself at home. Would you like a drink? By the looks of the speed you took off you must be thirsty huh?"

"A glass of water would be good."

"Water smawter, how boring. What about a nice glass of Coke with lots of ice?"

"Coke is fine, thank you."

"Or I have Orange juice... would you like some orange juice? I went out and brought a load of different drinks as I didn't know what you would like. I have milkshake, iced tea, Tizer, hot choc-"

"Honey, I'm sure Coke will be fine for him, yeah Puppy?"

"Sure, I said, feeling a little overwhelmed."

"I'm sorry, I need to learn to keep my mouth closed, I'm just so happy you're here Jensen, its gonna be great," she said, before clapping her hands and marching off to the kitchen."

"As you can see Puppy, Susan has quite a lot of energy, but that's why I love her. If she gets too much for you, just tell her and she'll back off without offence, she's just pleased that we found each other."

I laughed. "It's ok, I'm just not used to all the fuss that's all."

"Oh, you'll get plenty of that from her don't you worry. Now, do you want to take a shower or anything. There is always hot water. Or would you like the grand tour first?"

"Would you mind if I just sat down for a little while and calm myself. I'm feeling a little spaced at the moment."

"Sure Puppy, you're the boss, and remember, this is your house too, so you can do whatever you want, just don't burn the place down." Max bantered, ruffling my hair up.

Doctor Listern did that and it was bloody annoying.

Susan came back into the hallway humming and passed me my glass of coke. Sure enough, it came with all the extras, lots of ice, a straw and two thick slices of lemon.

"Do I know how to make a Coke or do I?" she gushed. I just smiled back nervously. Susan was going to take some getting used to.

Sitting in the warm room that was obviously the lounge, Max and Susan were chatting to me about life at Greenstone. Max was telling her what we had discussed in our little detour before coming here and how close I was with Cindy while I lived there.

The lounge was very homely indeed. It had two large puffy grey sofas that could swallow an Ox. On the wall was a huge TV that made my little one at the home look like a postage stamp. Light coloured wooden cabinets ran along the back wall and I noticed the room was decorated with ancient Egyptian artefacts... something I had become interested in somewhat by watching documentaries on TV.

A family portrait hung from the wall opposite the window. It looked as if someone had painted it as it was too big to be a photo. Steven looked much younger, maybe twelve or so, while Max and Susan just looked the same. Looking down to my feet, there was a large rug that dominated the floor with a glass coffee table that sat upon it.

"You keep looking at those statues Jensen, do you like them?"

"Yes, I have seen stuff on TV like that, from Egypt right?"

"Very good, Jensen. Your father and I have been four times now and I always try and bring something back for the home."

"They are very beautiful," I added.

"Why thank you Jensen, and you are a very beautiful boy, isn't he Max?"

"Well, honey, with my good looks, is it any wonder."

"Oh gosh, always the joker your father, Jensen. So tell me about this lake you mentioned earlier. It sounds like a very tranquil place?"

"Oh, it is, they have swans there, and a few times I actually saw the babies following behind, it was really cute. It's especially nice in the evening, you know, just as the sun is going down. That was my favourite time. Very often Cindy and I would just sit on a rock and watch it get dark."

"Sounds like a place I would love Jensen, very nice picture you painted there."

"Yeah... so um, does Steven usually spend a lot of time in his room?"

"Not usually, but I think he is a little shy right now, I'll go talk to him in a bit. Actually, you timed it right coming here now because it's the school autumn break."

"Shy??" Max asked smiling. "When has that boy ever been shy about anything?"

Susan mused. Then looked at me and laughed "well I'm sure you'll get the Steven introduction soon Jensen."

Great, I thought, but didn't say.

I was finding out that Susan was a talker, evidenced by the fact we had been sitting in the lounge now for around forty minutes with Max and me not really getting many words in. But right now? I was fine with that.

I had finished my coke for all but a few cubes of ice and the soggy lemon at the bottom. Max, when he did actually get a word in edgeways, got round to telling Susan how I got my name Puppy Stibbs. She found the whole thing hilarious and endearing, whatever the latter meant. As for me, I just sat there and mostly listened, but through all Susan's talking it did occur to me that I was starting to feel more relaxed.

"Ready for that grand tour now?" Max asked, predicting that I might need a break from Susan.

"Sure, erm, where do I put this?" I asked, referring to my glass that had now become warm in my hands.

"Here, why don't you let me take that, you go on with your dad and see all the rooms." Susan suggested, taking the glass from me.

Max got up and winked at me before waiting for me in the lounge doorway. I followed him out and he took me into the kitchen and out into the back yard.

"Seems as good a place to start as any," he remarked, closing the door to keep the heat in. I could hear a noise coming from the end of the garden and it sounded like clucking.

"Wow, do you have chickens?"

"Sure do, Annie and Clarabelle, just like-"

"Thomas the tank, yeah, I know it. Oh wow, can I go see?"

"Go for it champ, I'm sure they will love a new face."

I ran to the bottom of the yard and stopped in front of a large wooden coup. The two chickens were busy pecking away at the dirt and gently baaaarping. Max approached with his hands in his pockets and watched me as I put my hand through a gap to stroke one.

"You got a friend for life there," he stated, as I looked back at him smiling.

"I love chickens, I've always wanted one... this is so cool."

"It's good to see you smiling Son, you wanna feed them?"

"Really? Wow, that would be awesome... so what do they eat?"

"Pellets mostly, it helps with the egg shells, but they have leftover vegetables as well. Here, if you open that little flap there bolted on the side of their coup, that's where their food is, just take a handful."

"Cool," I replied, doing as he told me. "Will they take it out of my hand?"

"They might, why don't you have a go?"

Again, I did as he suggested and sure enough they both came over to me and started to peck from my hands. At first it was kinda freaky causing me to pull my hand away, but as soon as I knew they wouldn't draw blood, I was letting them have free reign.

Just as I turned round to look at Max again, watching me, I caught a glimpse out of the corner of my eye up at the top window of the house. It was Steven, looking decidedly grumpy giving me daggers. Max must have seen I looked at something because he turned round too, seeing what I was seeing.

"Come with me, Puppy," Max said, a sort of commanding tone in his voice.

"Erm, Max, I don't think that is a good idea," I replied, sensing what was about to happen.

"Puppy, I asked you to trust me, and I am asking again, take a leap of faith and follow me."

Reluctantly, I did as he asked and followed him back up the yard towards the house. I kept my eyes locked on Steven until eventually, he walked away from the window.

"I really don't think we should go barging in there, it might make him worse," I said, trying to keep up with his stride.

"Puppy, sometimes with Steven, you just gotta bite the bullet and go in hard. It'll work, mark my words."

I swallowed hard and followed him inside the house. Susan was in the kitchen and just smiled as we walked past her. Max led me to the staircase and I followed him up until we reached the landing. Approaching a door which I presumed to be his, or our room, Max knocked three times.

"Steven, come out here, would you."

"I'm getting changed," came a muffled voice.

"Well hurry up, I want you to say hello to your brother."

"That's impossible, I don't have a brother!" he shouted this time, making sure I heard I imagined.

"Steven, you have five seconds to open that-"

"WHAT?!" Steven bellowed as the door flew open.

"Less of the anger young man. Puppy, go inside... Steven go and sit down."

"Puppy? What kind of a stupid name is that? Are you for real?" he asked, coldly, looking straight at me.

"Erm, well, it's just what they used to call me at the home, my name is Jensen really." I replied sheepishly. I wasn't liking this at all, not one bit. I felt my adrenaline valve jam open and I wanted to run again, but I didn't want to make Steven think I was as crazy as I probably felt right now, so I tried to hold it together.

"Steven, this is not how your mother and I brought you up, Jensen has been nothing but polite to you even though it should be you welcoming him to our home." Steven just stood there darting his eyes between Max and me. "Well?" Max demanded.

Steven shrugged. "What do you want me to say. I'm giving up half my room to a guy I don't even know."

"That's it? After all your brother has been through, and despite how polite he has been to you, all you can think about is your room?"

"It's not just about the room, Dad."

"Well, what then?"

"You know what... he is crazy and he just waltzes into our family like he belongs here and what say do I get in that?"

"Firstly Jensen is not crazy, we talked about this, he has some medical issues, I don't ever want to hear you use that word to describe him again, you hear me?" Silence. "Steven, I asked you a question!"

"Yeah, I hear you!"

"Good! Secondly, Jensen does belong here because he is my son as much as you are, and he is your brother, and brothers are supposed to look out for one another."

"Yeah, it helps if they know each other too" Steven muttered.

"I'm sorry, I didn't hear that?"


"So what are you going to do to put this right?"

Another shrug from Steven. "Dunno."

"Well, how about apologising and shaking his hand, like a real man."

"Fine," came a grunt. Steven walked over to me and sharply held out his hand. I took it and gave it a firm shake, even though my whole body felt like melting plastic.

"Good, now move your stuff off of Jensen's bed, he has to sleep there and we have only just bought that."

I looked over to one side of the room that contained a single bed. It looked like Steven had been using it as some kind of clothes stand as Jeans, socks and various jackets occupied it. I watched as he marched over to it and gathered up all the items, dumping them on his own bed, which was unmade... something I wasn't used to.

Not that I was ashamed of my body or anything but it suddenly dawned on me that privacy was going to be a luxury in this room unlike my room at Greenstone. I wondered how that was going to work as it was apparent that we were barely able to be in the same room as each other let alone get undressed in front of each other. This was going to be yet another new experience that I wasn't relishing.

"Steven, would you like me to make your bed?" I asked, pointing at it blankly. What a stupid fucking question, I thought. Steven just looked at me like I had totally lost the plot. Even Max looked a little surprised. But not as surprised as I was with Steven's next words.

"If ya want," came a soft reply.

Well, it was a start.

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