Jamie spends quality time with Mrs Burgess while Deacon reconects with Koromaru
|Recap. 12 year old Jamie Radcliffe is being held against his will by Pedro and Delilah in a house in an undisclosed location. During an unsuccessful bid to escape he is forced to abandon his backpack and teddy bear (Oscar) down a bank. He is taken back to the house and locked in a room in the basement, which is collegially known as the Badroom.
In the previous flashback Jamie was threatened by a bully by the name Sebastian wanted to know whom informed on him. The informant was Jamie's youngest stepsibblng Deacon so he cannot bring himself to tell the truth. As a pentaly for his refusal to help with "Inquires" Jamie has his top removed is thrown into an array of gorse and other prickles. Travis, his eldest steo brother and the family dog Koromaru come to his help.
Later that same day he gets into trouble for deliberately disobeying his stepmother’s implicit instructions that had forbidden him associate with a neighbour and long time family friend, Mrs Burgess. He had done so in the capacity of a peacemaker, hoping to patch up the rift between his stepmother and Mrs Burgess . His selfless deed earns him a chocolate reward for being such a caring boy. He is also given a timeout, cautionary note and suspended Wi-Fi privileges for disobedience.
We now return to the flash back. It is now the following afternoon...
(apology for its length)
Living Down the Road from Alice
-9 months earlier-
“I’m really not sure that’s such a good idea, Aunty Alice” said Jamie, leaning against the white picket fence that surrounded his favourite neighbour’s single-story brick house. “Mum’d do the haka if she found out.”
“She doesn’t have to know, and it’s only your Wi-Fi she is limiting, not mine,” replied Alice Burgess, absently straightening the collar of Jamie’s Crusader’s rugby top. “Besides, if you ask me it was an overreaction to a minor transgression. A timeout would have more than sufficed.”
“What about Koro? He needs his walk to do his business and stuff.”
“Deacon won’t mind walking him on his own, just for once.”
“I'm sure he'd love to but…um… if something goes wrong I’ll get into trouble, and you and Mum will stop being friends again.”
"What could possibly go wrong?"
'I don't know, but I can't risk getting into any more trouble with Mum; specially cuz of the caution letter. She’s angry enough at me as it is,”
“I’ll keep my mouth shut, Jamie; I owe you at least that much,” beseeched Deacon. “Go on, have a online catch-up while you can. I use’ta walk him all the time...I’ll take real good care of him.”
"Arf-arf" agreed koromaru, wagging his tail twenty to he dozen.
“He's a fast dog and hard to catch if he runs off.” said Jamie
“Don’t worry; I’ll keep a good grip on the leash." promised Deacon "I’ve never had any trouble with him in the past…he’s my dog too, ya know.”
“He’s everyone’s dog Deacon, but Mum and Dad’s made him my responsibility. Anything happens to him it’ll be my butt they kick.”
"You'll kick my butt even harder, so I'm not going to do anything stupid."
“You're only eight years old and…”
“Please Jamie. I’ll just go once around the route and come straight back…come on, I owe you for not snitching on me to Sebastian and Mum.”
Jamie’s denial wavered at Deacon’s brimming tears. Choosing the most responsible course of action required the sort of stolid resolve he simply did not possess. Yet he could not shake the uneasy feeling to impending doom that vexed him.
“Okay,” he said at last, his better judgement. “But if you mess-up it’ll be the last time you ever take Koro walkies; you hear me?”
“Sir-yes-sir!” answered Deacon, saluting his older stepbrother with a cheeky grin.
They both giggled then parted ways.
Jamie’s inclusion into the Radcliffe family had created some messy complications. His stepparents had the ultimate authority; that much was abundantly clear, but the "Sibling pecking order" was slightly more complex.
Melissa was the eldest child but spent most weekends playing sports and hanging out with her teenage friends than being at home, so Travis, the second eldest had assumed the capacity of top-dog. However, every now and then she would babysit her siblings, giving Alexander and Catriona a chance to go out for the night, and on those occasions Travis would be obliged to do as she told him.
Next down the line was Harvey, who was approximately the same age and shared the same rung, and then came Deacon. Jamie was older than him and because of this had been entrusted with elder brother responsibilities. However, since Jamie was the newest addition to the family, Deacon had been given the task of inducting him with the behaviours expected of all Radcliffe children. Some days Jamie would admonish Deacon’s mischief, other days Deacon would admonish Jamie for breaking a house-rule.
Sitting at the bottom of the ladder, but my no means the least prominent member of the family was seven year old Koromaru. Though very much a family dog, the actual walking, feeding and sometimes bathing of it had become Jamie’s sole responsibility by stealth. Not that he minded. It afforded him the chance to demonstrate a more responsible side of his personality, and allowed him to forge a closer bond.
Whereabouts Sinbad, their ginger tomcat, sat on the ladder seemed debateable. He was governed by the strict house-rules, but when it came to food his was the one meow to rule them all. It slept where it wanted, when it wanted and unless someone willing to end up with nasty scratch marks on their arms, then letting sleeping cats lie was a good policy.
As for Alice Burgess, though no relation; she was considered by Jamie and his stepsiblings as a part of their extended family and they referred to her as Aunty Alice, whenever out of earshot of Catriona, who insisted they stuck with the more formal “Mrs Burgess.” She wielded no actual authority but they all treated her with the respect they felt she deserved.
“I wouldn’t really stop him from joining me on walkies, ya know,” affirmed Jamie as he followed Alice inside her house. “It’s just what Dad calls an empty threat.”
“I know,” assured Alice, wrapping her arm around his shoulders. “Now let’s see if we can get your game sorted out on my Laptop.”
“Any sign of them, Aunty Alice?” asked Jamie, looking up from the laptop.
“No yet; but I’m sure they won’t be long,” replied Alice but Jamie could tell by the tone in her voice that she shared his concern.
“He should have been back by now; we’ve done that walk heaps of times. It’s never taken more than fifteen minutes. Either somethings gone wrong or he’s taking the scenic route.”
“Calm down sweetie, be the patient big bro that understands his little brother’s need to spend one on one quality time with his dog.”
“I understand that…it’s just if he’s late back here we’ll both get yelled for being late home; or worse Mum will come looking for us and see Deacon walking Koro on his own and I’ll have a heap of explaining to do.”
“Don’t fret; he’ll be here soon with some feeble excuse. You’ll grouch at him and then you’ll be both home before your Mum misses you.”
“Perhaps something’s happened to Koro and he’s run off or something. Maybe Deacon's looking for him, or too scared to come back and face me with some bad news or whatever.”
“Deacon has his faults but cowardness is not one of them. He’s a very honest little boy and so full of integrity for his age. It couldn’t have been easy for him to tell me who broke my window. Most boys would have been too scared to tell on such a bully.”
He thought back to the previous day’s torment by Sebastian and his nasty minions. Something would have to be done about the situation. It would take more than thorns to get the truth out of Jamie, but as for the others, who could say. In fact it was only a matter of time before they came for Deacon
A small open fire crackled and spat beneath the marble mantelpiece that ran three quarters of the way around Alice’s dining room. Upon it sat a sizeable collection of curiosities and quaint souvenirs from various overseas trips she had been on. Its two ends met on opposite sides of the far wall which was taken up with an extensive library of paperbacks and reference books.
Travis and Jamie had spent most of the previous weekend chopping the same wood that was now keeping him warm. Harvey had been having a sleepover at a friend’s house whilst Melissa insisted such manual work was better suited to boys than girls. Deacon had complained of a tummy ache and headache and not feeling up to helping, or so he claimed.
“I guess you’re right. I’ve never given him any reason to be afraid of me…or as far as I know. It’s not in my nature to play the bossy big bro. I know what it’s like to be absolutely terrified of getting into trouble and the panic you feel when you do.”
“But you’re in much kinder family now. You’re stepparents might get cross but that’s just their way of keeping you in check. You’ll get that regardless of whose family you’re in but they’d never really mistreat you.”
“Sometimes they get so angry I lay awake worrying they’re going to reverse the adoption; and then the next morning everything’s back to normal…or the morning after that.”
“You shouldn’t worry yourself about them ever reversing you adoption, Sweetie. You’re part of their family and no matter how naughty they will never deny you a place in their home.”
“Mum says I should be thrown to the hungry wolverines. Harvey said she’s probably right.”
“I'm sure they didn't really mean it.”
“Yeah...um...Aunty Alice, I need to ask you something. Feel free to say no if you want, it won’t hurt my feelings…honest.”
“What is it, darling?”
“Next Thursday’s a kinda special day…well for me anyways. It marks two years since I Mum and Dad adopted me...we call it A-Day. They want to celebrate it by taking me and my brothers and even Bossy Boots Melinda out to MacDonald’s for dinner and a movie of my choice.”
“You must be looking forward to it.”
“Yes. Well I sort of want to do something before we go to MacDonald’s…I wanna light a candle in church for my other Mum…the one up in Heaven.”
“That’s very sweet of you,”
“I’m meant to be over it by now, but the truth is I still miss her. I still dream of her and wake up really sad knowing that I’ll never see her again, unless I die and manage to bluff my way into heaven.”
“Grief doesn’t always stop just because you reach the stage of acceptance. Sometimes it lingers in our hearts. Don’t feel guilty about remembering her.”
“Well anyways, I know you’re not real religious but I sort of told everyone I wanted to light the candle on my own…and I wondered if…um…ah…nah, don’t worry. You probably wouldn’t.”
“You want me for moral support when you light the candle?”
“Yes Aunty Alice…if you don’t mind,”
"I'll see if I can... Hey, I think I see them…yes, they’re coming round the mountains.”
“I knew they would.”
“Remember Jamie, be the understanding big brother that is tolerant of his little brother’s need for quality time with his dog, which gave him more quality time with his Aunty Alice.”
“Okay…I promise I won’t kick his butt.”
“You’re a good little boy Jamie.”
“My Dad says I’m a proper little scallywag.”
“That’s fortunate because wolverines don’t eat scallywags.”
“Guess not. Thanks for the use of your WiFi Aunty Alice.”
-To be Continued-