Puppy for Sale

by James Matthews

Chapter 21

Getting Out

After my outburst at Steven we didn't talk for some time. I hoped that while he lay in his bed, he would realise a few things before drifting back off to sleep, but I couldn't be certain he even cared that much. Me? Well, I didn't get much sleep that night, the mix of being in a strange environment, to having the thoughts of what was said between Steven and I, swirling round in my mind.

As for the sleep I did get, it was disturbed by the dulcet tones of Susan outside the door announcing breakfast was ready. I looked over at the window in the room and could see the sun trying to beam its light through the upward pointing blinds. Steven was still sound asleep, probably immune to the familiar sound of his mother's voice. For me it was an alien sound, not all that unpleasant, but a reminder that I wasn't in normal surroundings.

I got up and swung my legs out of bed and hung them over the side, before rubbing the sleep out of my eyes. I sat there for a moment and reflected on what I had said to Steven about leaving and going back to Greenstone. In a totally selfish way I meant it, not even thinking of how Max and Susan's feelings would be affected. After all, they had invited me into their home to live, and really, it was only Steven who was causing me issues. I had a choice really, I could either stand my ground and say I wanted to go back, or I could persevere for a little longer with Steven. The latter choice felt better now that I had had time to think about it... And had slept a few hours. After all, it had only been the first night, and when I looked back at how I thought that first night was going to go? Well, was it so bad in the grand scheme of things.

"Yoo-hoo, are you up little man?" Susan called, from outside the door before knocking and presenting herself in the room.

"Yeah, sorry, I was just waking up."

"Ah, no worries honey, I just didn't want your cereal to get soggy. As you can see our resident zombie here could sleep through an earthquake," she commented glancing over at Steven. I managed a smile, feeling it was probably best not to indicate there had been an altercation last night between the two of us.

"I'll be down in a minute, just need to get some clothes on."

"Sure thing, Button, you come down and fill that belly up. I just need to put some washing on the line, see you soon." She said, bouncing out of our room like a woman on a mission.

How did someone have so much energy so early in the morning? I thought.

Downstairs I found my soggy bowl of cornflakes on the kitchen table. Susan had the back door flung open wide letting in a rather fresh breeze. I could see her through the window hanging some laundry, expertly shaking out the creases on some of the clothes, before pegging them in place.

As I sat there spooning the food into my mouth and watching her, I was really surprised how normal this all felt. It was like I had been used to this routine forever, even though it was my first morning in a real family home.

A humming sound seemed to get nearer and moments later Susan entered the kitchen, empty basket in hand. "Ooooh, there you are, so, how is it?"

"The breakfast? Yeah, it's fine, thank you for making it for me." I replied with a full mouth.

"Oh, you're welcome Button, we have to make sure you don't go hungry don't we."

"I guess... so where is Max?"

"Oh, he left for work about an hour ago, early bird catches the worm as they say," she declared, placing the basket in some kind of utility room.

"What time does he usually get home?" I asked, becoming nervous that I was actually alone with two people I didn't feel I knew very well yet, and one that quite possibly hated me.

"Hmm, varies really, sometimes five, sometimes six," she replied, shrugging. "But guess what?"


"I was sorting through your clothes from Greenstone this morning and I think you and I need to go on a little shopping trip."

"Shopping trip?" I asked, raising a brow.

"Clothes, Jensen, you need more clothes... and I see you only have two pairs of shoes. How would you like some new sneakers?"

"But... but don't all these things cost money?"

Susan laughed as if I had said something crazy. "Well of course they do Jensen, but needs are needs. Don't worry, we won't need to sell the house little man, I just want to spoil you a little."

"Well, thank you very much, Susan, but really, you don't have to."

"Nonsense," she replied, not seeming to take no for an answer. I felt she was about to say something else to me, but her attention was disturbed. I watched as she glanced into the hallway before a sleepy looking Steven came padding into the kitchen wearing just a pair of boxer shorts.

"Morning Stevie, honey, would you like some breakfast?" Susan asked as he plonked himself down at the table and let his head fall into his arms.

"Still here then?" He asked, not looking up. I gathered his question was aimed at me.

"Now Stevie, you play nice, Jensen is not going anywhere and you need to get used to that."

"Toast." Was all he said, without further reference to his earlier comment.

"We say please in this house, young man. Now go and put some clothes on, I'm sure Jensen doesn't want to see you wandering around the house half naked.

Oh I dunno, I thought.

"I'm not going to start changing the way I do things because he is here," he responded looking up at his mum. Susan just rolled her eyes while my eyes just enjoyed the view.

"I'll put some bread down for you and then I need to go and wash my hair, I'm sure you are capable of spreading some butter on that toast, yes?" she asked, her sarcasm making me snigger. Susan got some bread from the cupboard and placed it down in the toaster before disappearing out of the kitchen and up the stairs, leaving us alone.


Steven sat there staring at me, which was rather unnerving. I didn't know what he planned to do when concluding his stair... hit me perhaps, spit at me? But whatever, I didn't have to wait long to find out, and surprisingly, it felt like one step forward... after our two steps back the previous night.

"Let's just get this straight, I don't do apologies, and I don't think I have done anything wrong here."

"I can feel a but coming," I said, mildly amused at his fidgeting posture.

"So anyway, I feel a little bad about what I said, you know, before hearing what you had been through."

"Apology accepted."

"I didn't apologise, I just said I felt a little bad, don't think I've gone soft or anything."

Finally, I felt like I had the upper hand. It was fun watching him get those words out. I knew it would be excruciatingly painful for him to do, but to watch him squirm was as good as having ten apologies from him.

"Well, thank you Stev-"

"And... and I don't hate you, OK?" he said, interrupting me. The speed at which he said that told me that part was the hardest for him.

I smiled, before getting up and walking over to the toaster. I pulled the popped up hot toast from the machine and took a knife in my hand that was sitting on the side. Steven watched, fascinated, as I slid the knife over the butter collecting a knob, before buttering both slices of bread. Finding a clean plate in the dishwasher I placed the two bits on it, and put the plate in front of him, before sitting back down. Steven just sat there with his jaw on the table as I finished up the rest of my cereal that was now utterly mush.

"You better eat that before it gets cold," I said, softly and robotically, not looking up at him. Steven slowly took a piece of toast in his mouth and crunched down on it, never taking his eyes off of me.

"Nice?" I asked, getting up and placing my empty bowl in the sink.

"Y-y-yeah," was all Steven responded with,

"Good," I said, before walking out of the kitchen and heading upstairs. I knew his eyes would follow me, probably in astonishment at my actions.

Yes Steven, I am a nice guy! I said in my head, rolling my eyes.

I had just come in from seeing the chickens when I heard Steven mutter something to Susan before walking down the hallway and out of the door. Apparently he was going out to meet his friends, something that made me feel strangely envious of. But as soon as my mind could start thinking about how I didn't have any, Susan announced that we would be going out to the mall.

"Ready for a little retail therapy, Jensen?" She said, taking her car keys from the hook by the fridge. "Go and put some shoes on and we'll head out." I did as I was told, running up the stairs and finding a pair of unbranded sneakers under my bed.

"You might want to take a jacket, it feels pretty fresh out there," she called from the bottom of the stairs. Again, I did as I was told and unhooked my hooded grey coat from the back of our bedroom door. Pulling it on I wandered back down the stairs and met her at the bottom.

"Will it be crowded?" I asked.

"Lets see, it's just gone ten... Erm, No, I don't think it will be that bad, why?"

"Just never been in a place with lots of people, the thought of it makes me jittery."

"Just stay close to me Jensen, we'll have a nice time, I promise, and hey, we could even get some lunch out, what do you say to McDonalds?"

My eyes lit up. "WOW... really?"

"Yeah, really," she replied, giggling. "Aww, you are so adorable when you get excited, come on, let's go, I wanna show you how to shop!"

We exited the house and Susan closed the front door. There were two cars on the driveway, a black one with the letters BMW on the back and a red one which had four looping rings. I played a little game in my head guessing what one was Susan's. Anyway, I happened to be wrong as she clicked something on her key and the red car started flashing.

"Are you ok getting in Jensen, Your dad hasn't left much room, he never does when he parks next to my car."

"It's a bit of a squeeze, but I think I can get in." I replied, edging myself sideways down between the two cars. I carefully opened the door and slid in, before putting my seat belt on.

"This is a really nice car Susan," I remarked, looking around at all the little buttons and lights."

"Yeah, it is, but the Bank Manager owns it, at least for a while anyway."

"Does he mind you using it?" I asked. Susan flung herself forward in a fit of laughter.

"Oh, Jensen, you are quite the comedian." She said, through her loud cackle. I remained serious; not really seeing what the hell was so funny.


Susan started the engine and reversed out of the driveway onto the road. She moved the stick that sat between us to a certain position and the car started to move forward.

"That looks different to Max's van," I commented, wondering why she never touched the stick again.

"Yes, Max's van is a manual gearbox Jensen, I'm lazy you see. This is called an automatic," she said, tapping her hand on the stick.

"I think I understand."

I was back enjoying the scenery again as Susan cruised along the roads, each one seeming to get busier as we drove into more dense areas.

"If you look over to your left, that's the big Odeon cinema... your father mentioned you wanted to go there, right?"

"Yeah, That would be swell,"

"Any ideas what you want to see?" she asked, concentrating on the road.

"I dunno, anything really, I just wanna be able to say I have been."

We pulled up at a red light and Susan pulled a lever up behind the gear stick. I'd seen Max do this and figured out it was some kind of break.

"So how are things going with Steven," Susan asked, waiting patiently at the lights.

"A little better, I think... I dunno, maybe I just need to explain a few things. I can see why he is upset at me being there, it can't be nice for him.

"Steven has had a rough life, just like you Jensen. You both have so much in common, I wish you could both see. I am not defending him because he has absolutely no right to be nasty to you, but I think, through the tough exterior he acts out, he is really just as scared as you are. I just think he is scared of losing Max, like he did his own father."

"But, I'm not gonna take Max away from him am I." It was more a statement than a question.

"Well, I know that, and so do you, but Steven might need some time to realise it. I give you full marks for putting up with him, and like I said, I am not excusing what he has said to you, but I wanted to tell you so at least you know there may be a reason for his hostile behavior.

"So it's not aimed at me, is that what you are saying?"

"I'm saying that I wouldn't take it to heart. I think he is just working through some emotions. It's clear he sees you as a threat, and his natural defence is to attack you, but I think he also realises that you are not the problem... he is! You are doing everything right Jensen, and you need to keep on doing that. Don't change anything about yourself; you are a wonderful human being. Just give Steven time to see you are not out to fight for Max's attention and I promise you he will come round. I know my son like the back of my hand."

It was a huge relief to hear Susan explain things like that. What she said totally made sense. I guess Steven had been through a milder experience to what I had, and maybe I needed to think about how I would feel when a person or situation threatened to take away what I loved.

As we continued chatting Susan took a right turn into a side road and we headed up a ramp into a dim lit parking lot. She continued to drive around looking for a space before deciding to go up another level.

"Hmm, it looks busy today," she remarked, making me feel nervous.

"How many floors does this place have?"

"The parking lot? About nine I think. But I don't think we'll have to go that high... look, there's a space over there," she pointed. She pulled up alongside it and reversed in, before switching off the engine.

"All set?" she asked, pulling the key from the slot by the steering wheel.

"I guess... so what are we doing first?"

"Well, there is a really trendy shop where I take Steven to get his clothes, they have all branded stuff which should last you a while, at least until you grow out of them. I think we'll get you a few pairs of jeans, some shirts, and a couple of jumpers... oh and do you need underwear?"

"Well, I think-"

"We'll get some anyway," she cut me off. "And then we'll go to the sports shop and buy you a nice pair of sneakers, how does that sound."

"Susan, you really don't have to do-"

"You said that," she added. "But I want to. If Steven can have it, I want you to as well."

She led me over to an elevator and pressed the button. Moments later I heard a ding and the doors opened. We both got in and she pressed a button that said G. I assumed this was for ground, and the lift started to descend.

"I really should have put some makeup on, I look a wreck," Susan remarked, looking in the mirror on the elevator wall.

"I think you look nice," I declared, gaining me a wide smile from her.

"Just like your dad," she added, as the doors opened.

What became apparent straight away was that this place was indeed busy. The large open forecourt had people crisscrossing about it. Shops lined either side selling lots of different things. Before stepping out of the lift I had to close my eyes for a moment and summon some mental energy. I was starting to tremble, something that Susan had obviously noticed.

"Hmm, maybe this was a bad idea," she said, putting her hand round my waist."

"No... no, just give me a minute. This is all just... well I haven't been around this many people before, I'll be ok in a sec."

Susan pulled me in close to her, and I squeezed my eyes tighter shut. I felt like I was going into a mild shock as the familiar light headedness started to plague me. Sweat had begun to form on my hands until it felt like I could have wrung them out. My knees were like jelly.

"Come on, let's go and sit down for a bit, you look like you are going to fall over," Susan offered, leading me over to a vacant bench.

"Grrr, this is so frustrating, why can't I just be normal?" I spat, getting angry with myself.

"In time Jensen, in time. Once Doctor Burrows has taken a look at your records in detail I'm sure there will be something he can do. Your dad seems very confident in that.

"I hope so," I replied, desperately trying to balance myself.

"Did you take your existing MEDS this morning?"

"Yes, after breakfast, but I think the dosage is all wrong, I am starting to feel bad more frequently lately and its horrible."

"Well, we can sit here for as long as you like, we have all day, and I want you to enjoy it as much as possible, so take your time."

"This is just so embarrassing."

"Nonsense," Susan replied. "Everyone has problems, Jensen, and some of those problems are not always visible to the eye. Look at that woman over there, she could be suffering too. Just because we can't see it, doesn't mean it's not there, right?"

"I'm glad you understand, Susan, thank you."

"I'm not sure I can credit myself with understanding what you feel Jensen, but I can sympathise wholeheartedly and I am really sorry you have to endure these horrible sensations. What I can promise you though is that Max and I are going to be there for you every step of the way until you no longer feel them."

She gave me a kiss on the head and we sat there a little longer until finally I started to feel the passing of the shitstorm that was my fucked up brain.

"Ooookey," I said, sighing, "I think I am ready."

"You sure honey, remember there is no rush."

"If I don't get up now, I never will."

"Ok then soldier, let's go."

Susan led me over to the first shop she intended us to visit. Loud music pumped from the ceiling and all the clothes looked really modern as they hung from the rails. Susan took me over to a large square display shelf which was like a step pyramid with jeans on every shelf. There were black, red, blue, navy and cream coloured ones dotted about in random places.

"Hmm, not sure which ones I should pick." I said in awe of the choice.

"Well, first Jensen, you need to pick the colour, then, you need to pick a fit."

"A fit?"

"Yeah, like hipsters, bootleg, slim fit, straight cut etc."

"Wow, I don't even know what all those mean."

"Well, as long as you don't pick those ones that hang halfway down your ass," she said, bursting into laughter. "I hate it when Steven wears those."

"Why would he wear jeans that don't cover his bum, surely that's just indecent."

"It's also the fashion I'm afraid Jensen, but thankfully I think it is dying out now, so you can go for something less revealing. I know, why don't you pick a colour and take a few different styles and go try some on... what size waist are you?"

"Thirty, I think."

"Hmm, yes, Steven is a thirty two and you look a little slimmer... here, these are all thirty waists. Take a few from this shelf and come get me when you have chosen. I'm just going to get some socks for your dad."

I grabbed hold of Susan's arm as she went to leave, probably applying a little too much force.

"OUCH!! What's wrong?" she quickly said. I let go immediately and she began rubbing her arm.

"Fuck, I'm sorry... shit I'm sorry for saying fuck... oh dammit, I just... look, sorry for swearing and... fuck did I hurt you. Oh my god I said it again! Are you hurt? Did I hurt you?"

Susan just looked at me before a grin started to appear on her face. After a few seconds she burst into hysterics. "Wow, I'm sorry, I know I shouldn't laugh... its fine Jensen, you just caught me with your nail... what on earth is wrong anyway?"

I blew air through my lips. "I just didn't want you to leave me on my own, and now I look like some deranged cretin. Sorry I grabbed you so hard, I just panicked."

"Think nothing of it, sweetheart, but you have quite a grip there. Go... I will wait outside the dressing room for you."

She took me over towards three little booths with the jeans I had selected and I pulled back the curtain on one of them, entering. I took off my own jeans and started to try on the ones I had picked, looking at myself in the mirror at various angles.

After I had tried on all five pairs I settled on the slim fit ones that hugged my legs and appeared out from the cubicle.

"What do you think?" I asked, turning in a circle.

"Very nice, they fit you well. So are these the ones you want?"

"Yeah, but Susan, these are thirty pounds each."

Susan Laughed. "Your dad wears Levi's which are sixty, I really wouldn't worry. Come on, we'll pick up a couple more pairs and then get you some shirts.

We had now been at the mall for a little over three hours. Susan and I were now fully laden with bags of all sizes and I could not believe how much money she had spent on me. This was way more than I expected and more than she had originally said she was going to buy. This time though I didn't say anything, feeling it might appear that I was being ungrateful.

We had stopped for lunch some time ago and had McDonalds. I was like a small kid in a sweet shop, so excited that I was going to try something I had always dreamed of. Susan suggested I try the Big Mac meal as it was McDonald's most popular choice. It was a brilliant choice and I thoroughly enjoyed it eating every morsel. The strawberry milkshake was heaven and something quite unique in the taste department. The whole experience was awesome and lived up to my own inner hype I had given it.

I was no longer a McDonald's virgin.

The bags were now starting to get heavy and cumbersome and Susan suggested we finish up and head back to the car. Our last stop had been the sports shop where I was given free range to choose my new sneakers. Susan gave me a hundred pound budget and so I opted for a pair of Nike running shoes costing sixty pounds and the rest I spent on some Adidas neon plimsolls costing thirty five.

Over the moon with my purchases we got back in the lift and headed towards the car that was waiting for us with flashing lights as we approached. We tossed all the bags in the boot (or trunk for you Americans) and got back in the car. Despite my shaky start to my maiden mall visit I had had a wicked day and couldn't wait to tell Max all about it. Susan and I had also bonded well and it had been nice to get to know her a little better. She was really genuine and down to earth... a little crazy, but still, nothing on me I guess.

Man, what a day!

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