This multi-part story a rather new thing for me to try to do – it started with a Parts I and II keeping me up at night running around in my brain being crazy. So I had to write it down. As I was writing it down other parts of the story came and they seemed to make sense so I put them in as well. There have been parts where I was intending to write something and then a thought struck me and I had to change or delay something – that was pretty cool but a little frightening.
This chapter (V) I have been debating whether to write what is in my head or not… it seems to not be a very nice thing and so many bad things have already happened. It was part of the original thought process that was keeping me up though so I feel obligated kind of – as I get started here it may change like it has before. I’m up for the adventure and to see where it all goes.
The children’s services worker left Eric John alone a good long time – letting him sit and be in his grief. He himself had recently lost his sister to cancer after a long battle – what he needed when that happened was alone time. He was able to take his sorrow and look into the relationship he had with his sister and find all the joy there had been. He still cried for days and days, but the memories of their adventures and their bond kept him from losing himself completely. He hoped the boy could find a way out of the darkness that was encompassing him now – darkness always seems very powerful when you’re in it, but a little light and love can make a lot of difference.
With about a mile to go he started to tell Eric John about the family that was taking him in for a few days. Mr. and Mrs. Smithton had been in the foster parent program for many years. Mostly they helped children who needed temporary safety more than those who were in need of long-term care. The children’s services worker had really only ever dealt with Mrs. Smithton, Kathy he called her, who he said was a good woman.
As they pulled into the driveway of the house Eric John noted a few bicycles and a swing set in the lawn. There were other kids here that he might go to school with already – he had a sense of shame and a growing sense of fear. He felt so vulnerable and the fight or flight instinct in him was urging him to run. A clasps on his shoulder and a reassuring smile did very little to temper those feelings at the moment, but he returned the smile unbuckled his seat belt and got ready to meet the Smithtons.
Mrs. Smithton met them at the door on the front porch, she had been told they were coming. She was a mountain of a woman with cropped brown hair and wearing a brown dress that kind of made her look like a giant oompa loompa from the Willy Wonka movie. Eric John smiled a little at the thought and the song that he and his mother would sing together from that movie started playing in his mind. “Come with me, and you’ll be, in a world of pure imagination…” He would hear his mother’s voice singing in his head and he felt immediately better about the situation.
Eric John had been raised as a gentleman. He strode forward to Mrs Smithton, extended his hand and introduced himself to her and thanked her for the hospitality and solace. Mrs. Smithton was rather taken aback at the nice young man, having had many ruffians come through her doors it was a nice change.
Inside was a very well-kept house, not an item out-of-place. A man in the living room rose from his chair and introduced himself as Mrs Smithton’s husband and the “man of the house” as he put it. Eric John shook his hand firmly – as he looked into his eyes he felt very uneasy and Mr. Smithton grinned what seemed a wicked grin. Mr. Smithton wasn’t quite the size of his wife, but he was a large man in a mechanics uniform and smelling of oil and grease.
Mrs Smithton wobbled in with a tray of beverages for them as Mr. Smithton went over the rules. Bed time was 9:00, lights out at 9:30, everyone had to assist with chores and pick up after themselves and of course showing respect and courtesy to others. Most importantly, he said, everyone needed to listen to Mr. and Mrs. Smithton and do as they’re told. He then asked Eric John if he thought he could follow those rules – as they seemed rather logical and forthright he saw no concerns with being able to do so and stated as much. That grin from Mr. Smithton returned at that and he wondered if he’d just sealed his fate.
Neither of the Smithtons asked him any questions about his mother or his former life, they had been briefed on the situation before his arrival. As the children services worker finished up some final items with Mrs. Smithton. Eric John said farewell to the kind man who had been with him a long part of the day.
Mr. Smithton escorted Eric John to his room. The room was towards the back hallway, next to an office – Eric John was happy it seemed far away from the other rooms, he didn’t want anyone to hear him cry and he felt for sure he would this evening. He couldn’t remember ever spending a night away from home without his mother. Mr. Smithton seemed to read his mind and told him the house was built pretty solidly and you couldn’t hear from one room to the other.
Eric John placed his small bag on the table near the door and looked about the room. It was somewhat larger than his room at home and he had his own bathroom. The bed was twice the size of what he was used to and draped with a flowery coverlet and a million pillows. There was even a nice window that looked out into a back yard.
Mr. Smithton suggested he get in his pajamas and then come into the living room for a snack before bed. That sounded good to him – not having eaten much that day. He quickly slipped into his pjs and then found his way back to the living room.
Mrs. Smithton, Kathy she insisted, told him that maybe a bowl of cereal would be nice. She displayed to him a pantry filled with more cereal varieties than he had imagined before. He chose the fruit circles and she filled him a big bowl.
As they sat at the dining room table – she talked to him about them as she sipped a cup of tea and Mr. Smithton drank a beer. They had been married for 22 years now and after their own daughter had grown and moved out they missed having kids around. They’d been foster parenting ever since. The longest they ever had a child stay with them was ten years, a boy that had grown up with them only a little younger than Eric John, she said. Mr. Smithton would contribute now and then with a little joke or comment but otherwise sat opposite Eric John and smiled. They told him the kids they were currently fostering had gone to stay with their parents on a trial basis this week so it was just him in the house with them. Some of Eric John’s discomfort at being known by another kid diminished.
As he finished the last of his cereal he yawned and excused himself. Kathy acknowledged it had been a long day for him and he would probably like to go to bed. She took his dish and to the kitchen sink and then said she’d walk him to his room. Mr. Smithton grabbed himself another beer and settled into his living room chair calling good night. Kathy said she was going to go to sleep herself as she was an early riser but assured him that Mr. Smithton would be awake for a good long while in the living room if he needed anything.
Eric John finally alone, brushed his teeth, washed his face and then carefully took pillows off of the frilly bed. He stacked most of them nicely in the corner and then crawled into bed. He wept then, fear of the new place and not knowing the whereabouts of his mother bombarded his mind. He wept out loud, deep heaving sobs of sorrow and fear. Tears were still on his face as he finally slept exhausted.
Eric John dreamt of monsters. Monsters taking his mother and destroying his house screaming out his name and threatening to devour him. His dreams swept his mother away in a flood, had her abducted by aliens and even had her being a secret agent that would soon return to him. The last dream he recalled that night was of holding on to her for dear life as she dangled from a cliff and just not being strong enough to do it. As she fell away he sat up in the bed, sweating and panting hard.
Silhouetted in the door frame was the large figure of Mr. Smithton.
He entered the room and closed the door. Eric John felt fear overwhelm him. As he approached the bed Eric John could smell alcohol and see his sinister eyes glow in the light from the window. Before he knew what was happening he was picked up, turned over and his pjs were pulled down. Eric John struggled but was unable to escape – he took in a breath to scream and a greased stained palm closed over his mouth. Mr. Smithton forced himself on the boy as he screamed into his palm and tears rained down his face.He heard Mr. Smithton tell him he’d kill him if he ever said a word and he squeezed his neck tight, slamming his head into the bed as he said it.
The trauma was too much for Eric John’s young mind and it saved him as it could, creating a harbor for him to not be fully present during this tragic event. Eric witnessed this thing happen to him but without having to be there completely. Eric’s mind tried to lock this horror away and pretend it had never happened and he passed out.
The Next Chapter can be found here: Eric John – Part VI