Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Anger Games 8

After checking to see that Dave was doing as he'd been told, Cam went back to the kitchen where Lissie had just finished rinsing out the coffee pot and cups and wiped down the table.  She looked at the shirts draped over her husband's arm.

"Do we have any more of those storage bins, Lis?"  He asked

"Ummmm, in the basement... on the far side across from the laundry room door there should be three or four new ones stacked."  She nodded her head toward the stairs.  "How's he doing?  Did he tell you what the problem was this morning?"

"Not yet.  He's standing in the corner until I finish putting these away, and then we'll talk."  He replied.  Then he looked at the clock.  "Dang, there's no time.  By the time you get home I'll be at the restaurant so we won't be able to deal with this today.  Do you want to hold off until tomorrow morning when we can all sit down and discuss it together?"

"No.  If he's anything like Hunter he'll eat himself up with worry, having to wait."  She looked up at Cam thoughtfully.  "Have you decided how you're going to handle it?  He's only just begun to recover from what happened to him at his parent's house, and I hate the idea of spanking him, but..."

Cam shook his head.  "I'm not going to give him a spanking, much as I think he's earned one.  I'm not sure if he'd understand the difference between my walloping his backside and what they did to him, but I've had a chance to think about it and I'm pretty sure that he trusts me not to abuse him the way they did, or he'd never have acted out the way he did.  I'm not sure what I'm going to do.  Frankly I'm hoping for some inspiration between now and when I go back up there."  He said with a wry smile.

"You'll think of something, you always do."  Lissie said with a smile.  She was relieved that Cam had decided against spanking Dave.  He'd been through so much already that she couldn't bear to add to it.

She kissed her husband goodbye, shrugged her jacket on and headed out to work.

Cam went down into the basement to look for the storage bin.  He rarely went downstairs unless he was helping with the laundry or looking for a tool for some minor home repair, and was frankly surprised at the condition of the rest of the basement.  He went to the corner that Lissie had indicated and easily found the new bins.  He selected one of the smaller ones, folded the shirts, placed them inside and carried it into the laundry room where he grabbed a dryer sheet to put inside the bin.  He then looked for a place to store it, finally settling for one of the highest shelves that Lissie never used because she couldn't reach it.

As he headed back upstairs the inspiration he'd been looking for hit him.  This would be the perfect punishment.  Smiling, he went back upstairs to deal with his young friend, but first he had a phone call to make.

Whether Dave had heard him coming back upstairs and he'd run back to the corner, or whether he'd actually obeyed and stayed in the corner as directed, that's where Cam found him, head bowed, right hand gripping left wrist behind his back.

One thing Cam had learned by the time he was thirteen and already six feet tall, was that his size could be intimidating, and the last thing he ever wanted to do was frighten his children by towering over them, so he made a habit of getting down to their level before dealing with them.

He did the same with Dave.  Cam turned the desk chair toward the bed and sat down.  Then he called to his charge.

"David, have a seat on the bed.  It's time we had our talk."

Cam waited until Dave did as he'd been directed before he continued.  Dave licked his lips nervously and held his hands clasped tightly on his lap, an anxious expression in his eyes which was not reflected in his stiff features.

"All right then, David.  I'd like an explanation about this morning.  Lissie said that she felt you didn't mean any disrespect when you came down wearing the first shirt."

"I didn't, honest."  Dave assured him earnestly.

"And the second shirt?"  Cam arched his brows at the younger man, demanding an equally honest answer.

Dave blushed and licked his lips again.  "That... was... well... it was deliberate?  But... I really just meant it to be funny.  I wasn't thinking about it being disrespectful."

"Don't lie to me, David.  It was inappropriate, and rude.  And that last one?"  Here he pinned the boy with a severe look, "That was outright disrespect.  It was deliberate and done consciously with intent to hurt and upset.  Wasn't it?"

"Yes."  Dave said, honestly.

"Why?  Why would you act like that?  Especially toward us?  I've never known you to behave like that.  In the two years I've known you, I've grown to respect you.  How hard you work.  How responsible you are.  I thought that you respected me as well."

"I do!  Honestly, Cam!  I do!  You and Lissie both."  Dave responded.

"You didn't show us much respect today, did you?"

"No.  I didn't.  I'm really sorry, Cam."

"So tell me why?  Help me understand."

Dave thought for a moment, took a breath and sighed.  "I was just... mad.  I'm eighteen.  I'm not a kid and it just bothered me that she was sending me to my room like that... ordering me to change my shirt... I should be able to wear whatever I like."

Dave thought back to the day that Azriel had caught him wearing a t shirt that had the Nike logo on it and she'd made him take it off, claiming that Nike wasn't paying him to advertise and that she hadn't raised her children to be billboards.  The next time he'd seen the shirt it had been in pieces in the trash.  She would never have allowed the shirts that Cam had confiscated.  She would have never tolerated the ones he'd left, either.  She didn't approve of tee shirts in general, calling anyone who wore them common trash. One of the first pieces of clothing he'd bought when he'd left his parent's house for good was a tee shirt that had said, 'Ad space available!’. 

"First of all, to us, you are still a kid."  He held up his hand to forestall the protest he knew was coming.  "And when you do things like that business with the tee shirts you just reinforce that opinion."

"Secondly, you know the difference between what is appropriate and what isn't.  Don't you?"

Dave bowed his head.  

"If you were scheduled to work on the selling floor at the garage, would you have worn any of those shirts?"

"No."  Dave admitted.

"How about the restaurant?  Even under your apron, would you have worn those shirts to work?"

"No."

"Why not?"

"Because..."  Dave said, a hot flush creeping up his neck toward his ears, "they wouldn't have been appropriate to wear there."  

"Because?"  Cam prompted.

"Because..."  Jeez, Cam, come on, don't do this!  I hate it when you do this!!  Don't question me!  Don't make me admit out loud what I did wrong or even admit that it was wrong! Don't hold me accountable!  And more importantly don't make me hold myself accountable!  "Outside of work I'm just me."  Dave protested.  "Out there I'm just another guy on the street!"

"David!  Even 'another guy on the street' knows whether he's dressed properly or not.  Admittedly there are those who don't care, but in this house, we do."  Cam considered the matter.  Samantha had tried once to get by them wearing a tee shirt with a suggestive saying on it, by zipping up the front of her hoodie.  She hadn't made it halfway to the door.  A couple of years earlier, before his interest in the Goth style,  Hunter had tried to go out with the waistband of his jeans down around his thighs and his boxers in full view.  Cam had pulled them the rest of the way down and given him something to display.  Hunter had adjusted his attitude and his pants before leaving the house that day.

"In this house you're the big brother.  I know that's a new experience for you but it's one you've always excelled at whenever you've been here.  You're a role model for the younger kids.  They respect you.  They look up to you.  We trust you to set a good example.  Do you understand what I'm telling you?"

Dave wanted to yell that he'd never asked to be a role model for anyone.  He wanted to shout that he'd never asked anyone to look up to him.  He wanted to argue that he'd never claimed to be an adequate example for a monkey, let alone a bunch of kids.

"Yes, Cam.  I'm sorry."  Dave said apologetically

"It's not me you need to apologize to.  You hurt Lissie and that's something I just won't put up with.  Ever."  He said sternly.

"I am sorry, Cam.  Honest.  I'll apologize to Lissie.  I swear."  Then hesitantly he asked. "Cam?"

"Yes, David?"

"Are you going to..."  Dave's face grew hotter and he ducked his head, unable to look Cam in the eye or to screw up the courage to say what was on his mind.

"Take a deep breath, hon.” Cam said gently, leaning forward slightly to place his warm hands over Dave's cold, clenched ones. "Just take it slowly.  You don't have to make perfect sense, just tell me what's going on in your head."

Dave's nervousness abated slightly at the small term of endearment.  "I mean... are you gonna... are you gonna whip me?"    

Cam had had a feeling that that was where Dave had been going with his thoughts but had wanted to allow the boy to voice his thoughts uninterrupted.

"I'm not going to whip you, David.  I don't whip my kids.  Understand?"  He asked, giving Dave's hands a comforting squeeze.  

Dave had been around Cam and his family enough to know how the older man dealt with his kids.  He never punished his kids with other people around.  He had never seen Cam whip his kids, but he had fully expected Cam to demand his belt and use it to whip him, simply because that's what Damien would have done.  Not that Dave would have liked it, but he knew that he'd earned it, that he would have deserved it.  Dave had done some serious thinking while he'd been consigned to the corner, and by the time Cam had returned, he'd convinced himself that he'd been prepared to accept it.

Just as when he'd been standing in the corner, Dave's demented hamsters once again began ratcheting around in his skull.  

Cam didn't whip his kids, and Dave was one of his kids now.  At least, that's what Cam kept saying, and Cam and Lissie had always been fair with their kids... but... he wasn't really one of their kids.  As much as he wished he were...  the cashier at Wal-Mart had even commented on how handsome Dave was and how much Dave looked like his 'father' when he and Cam had been in the checkout line.  Dave had been so pleased that anyone would think that Cam was his father... that he could be Cam's son...but the fact of the matter was that he was not Cam and Lissie's son.  

Sure they liked him but they had no obligation to love him, not like they did their real kids... He'd been so deep in his own fantasy that he'd deluded himself.  His own parents couldn't stand him, how could he think that anyone, even people as nice as the Mancuso's, would consider him... worthwhile... worth keeping... worth loving. 

He was now and always would be Dave the Deviant.  Dave the Disappointment.  Dave the Disgrace.  Dave the Ungrateful.  Dave the Screw Up.  He'd known he was going to screw something up if he stayed with Cam more than a few days.  He'd known it!  He always did.  He'd tried to warn him... hell he should have had Cam call Damien and Azriel first, that would  have been enough to convince him right there that taking him in was going to be a huge mistake.  They'd have had no problem telling Cam that Dave didn't know the meaning of the word gratitude and that he and Lissie would regret any kindness they showed him.  

His chest felt as though an elephant were sitting on it.  Dave took a deep breath to relieve the pressure.  At least they hadn't found out about him taking the beers. He'd driven back to the neighborhood, found Matthew, and for a bottle of Buchanan's Master the man had bought two cases of Cam's brand of beer which Dave had kept wrapped in a blanket in his trunk, and had dipped into to keep replacing the bottles he'd been taking, being careful to push the cold ones to the front of the refrigerator.  

There was no way he could admit what he'd been doing now.  He was sure that if Cam found out about that, that he would probably not even have gotten a chance to pack his stuff before Cam tossed his lying, ungrateful ass out of the house.  

He felt the press of tears behind his eyes and pushed them back.  He'd rather have taken a whipping, he'd have gladly taken a beating if it meant that...  But no, he'd well and truly screwed things up.  He had no one to blame but himself.  Cam was being very kind, all things considered.  He took another deep breath.

Keeping his voice as level as he could he said, “Thanks for being so good to me and letting me stay here... I'm really sorry, and I'll apologize to Lissie.  I'll drop by the office..."

"What are you talking about?!"  Cam demanded, perplexed.

Dave winced.  "I... I thought... that... well... that..."

"You thought I was going to kick you out?"  Cam asked, dismayed.

The young man shrugged, a sheepish expression on his face.

Cam cursed Dave's family silently in English and Italian, and even threw in a few Yiddish and German phrases he'd learned throughout the years for good measure.  He'd suspected that Dave's parents had kicked him out, but Dave had never told him the details and he hadn't thought it his place to ask.  He couldn't believe that the kid could be so bad that his own family would toss him aside.  But if that had been the case, then it was no wonder the boy would expect him to do the same thing.

"I have no intention of kicking you out, Dave."  Cam said kindly.  "Do you think I'd kick Hunter out for something like this?"

With an expression of barely restrained sorrow Dave replied, “But I'm not Hunter!  I'm not Sammie!  I'm not Manny or Jack or...or...  I wish to God I was your kid but I'm not and... and..."  Dave cursed the damned demented hamsters running around in his head and wished for a good dose of ketamine to make them chill out for a while.

"I'll admit that my first inclination was to treat you exactly like the others and give you a good spanking."  Cam said, the stern tone creeping back into his voice.  "If any of the kids had pulled the stunt you did they'd have been over my knee no questions asked."

Softening his tone he continued, still keeping his hands protectively over Dave's.  "But I don't think you're ready for that from me just yet.  I'm pretty sure, based on that incident with the tee shirts, that you trust me not to harm you, but right now I'm worried that giving you that spanking would be the wrong thing to do for you."

Dave's hamster stilled as he considered Cam's words for a few moments.  He was relieved that Cam wasn't going to whip him but it was the way the man had phrased what he'd said that caught Dave's attention.  He replayed the sentence in his head.  'Giving you a spanking right now would be the wrong thing to do for you.'  Not to you, for you.  Right now.

"Right now?"  Dave asked without realizing he'd spoken aloud.  "Then... when?"

Cam raised a hand and reached toward Dave.  There was nothing sudden or threatening about the gesture but Dave still clenched his fists, closed his eyes tightly and turned his face slightly, preparing for the slap.  Instead he felt a warm hand cup his cheek, followed by the other equally warm hand doing the same on Dave's opposite cheek.

"When I can do this," Cam said quietly, "Without you doing that.  That's when." 

Before Dave knew what was happening, Cam slid his hands around to the back of Dave's head.  The older man applied pressure, gradually pulling him forward until they were standing almost body to body and Dave's head rested against Cam's chest.

Cam wrapped his arms around the younger man, holding him around the shoulders with one arm and rubbing his back gently with the other hand.  Eventually he felt the tension in the boy's body ebbing away.  He felt Dave's arms tentatively reaching around his waist to return the hug.

Before he'd met Cam and Lissie, Dave's experiences with hugs had been unpleasant at best.  When he'd been a little boy and been unhappy or hurt and wanted comfort he had tried to go to his parents for hugs.  His father would feel his forehead for fever.  If Dave's temperature was normal Damien would slap him across the face or shove him away roughly and tell him to go play.

Azriel would stand woodenly for a few moments, and allow his embrace though she'd never return it.  However, if Dave held on longer than a few seconds she would jab him in the ribs with her hard, boney fingers, causing Dave to twist away.  To the casual observer it might have been taken as playful interaction between mother and son, but in reality it was quite painful, and he'd quickly learned not to hug her.

"Cam?"  Dave hazarded.

"Mmhmm?"  Cam replied, unconsciously swaying side to side gently as he held the boy.

"So... I'm not in trouble?"

Cam gave a short laugh and ruffled Dave's hair.  "Yes, you're in trouble."

"If... if you're not gonna whip me, and you're not kicking me out...?"  No matter what else, Dave just couldn't bring himself to ask how Cam planned to punish him.  In his mind, that was the exact same thing as asking for it.

"I have something in mind.  I don't think you'll find it too horrible."  Cam smiled.  "Now, you stay here until I get lunch ready.  I'll call you, all right?"

"All right," Dave said gratefully.  

He was called down to lunch shortly afterward and he apologized to Cam again, who brushed it off but reminded him to apologize to Lissie.

Dave sat down to the table and his heart sank as he looked at his place setting and saw plate of rolls and a glass of milk beside it.  Often, when Azriel had thought that David was being especially ungrateful for all she and his father did for him, she would give him nothing but bread and milk to eat, three times a day for a week or more until she was sure he'd learned a lesson in gratitude.  This, Dave guessed, must be his punishment.  With a heavy heart he took a bite of his roll, chewed slowly and swallowed the dust dry bite of roll down with a sip of milk.  He had to make it last.

"Hey, Dave,” Came Cam's concerned voice.

Dave looked up at Cam, trying to disguise his sadness.  "Don't let this bother you, honey.  All you have to do is apologize to Liss and this whole thing is over with.  I don't want you losing your appetite over it.  Now come on, you must be hungry.  Look."  He said, passing Dave the bowl of chicken salad, “I made it the way you like it, with chopped up celery and a little bit of onion.  Come on, eat now or you're going to be starving at work."  Cam said encouragingly.

Dave looked uncomprehendingly at Cam for a moment and then smiled.  He was not in his parent's house, Cam was not his mother, and apparently he didn't believe in long, drawn out punishments where he would be barely fed or completely ignored. He cut the roll open, spooned chicken salad on it and bit in, grateful for a 'dad' like Cam.


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