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I could see a real change in Sean's demeanor now that he knew that he would become a permanent member of my family. I was also very happy and content at the change that was happening in my life. My only regret was that I couldn't share it with Lorraine, as I knew she would love Sean as I did.
He was a little more animated the next morning when we were having breakfast before our tutoring session.
"You have to read my writing assignment on fixing the Leafs. I think I should send it to the General Manager," he said with a twinkle in his eye.
"I'd love to read it Sean. I'm sure your ideas are better than the ones the current management have now. They're still a dreadful hockey team and I don't see them improving," I said with an air of frustration in my voice.
After breakfast, I gave him some science homework to do after his lesson, which gave me a chance to read his work. His ideas were pretty good, and even his writing mechanics looked better, but still had a ways to go. I praised him at his break, as we waited for Diego to arrive.
Sean greeted Diego with a big smile on his face. He was very excited as he told Diego about his Leafs assignment as they went into the den for their session. Diego gave me a thumbs up behind his back that Sean couldn't see as they entered into the den.
When they were finished they came out and both were smiling and chatting away.
"Well Al, we made good progress today," Diego said with a satisfied smile on his face. "I'm not sure if you are aware of this or not, but Sean is also a Blue Jays fan. I've given him another assignment to write on his assessment of the team for this coming season."
That gave me another idea for our March break activities. I would book a game for us this afternoon after the gym. Dunedin Stadium wasn't too far away from the house in Florida, and I was sure he had never seen a spring training game. I was hoping we could see either the Red Sox or the Yankees play, but I would have to wait to see what was available. As much as I wasn't a real baseball fan, I had taken my girls to see the Jays play numerous times when they were younger. Each of them played girls' fastball, and I coached them until they decided to quit when they were 16 years old.
"Also Al, I suggested Sean come and help us tutor in the After School Help Club for the next few months, but he seems to be a little reluctant," Diego said with a note of encouragement in his voice. "There are two brothers, Pardeep in grade 3 and Paresh in grade 5, that need more one-to-one help in Math than we can give them. Sean could really help us out."
Diego never ceased to amaze me. That was a brilliant idea from a number of perspectives: it would give Sean's self esteem a needed boost; it would consolidate his understanding of Math; it would teach him to help others in need; it would give him some responsibility; and also give him more time with Diego. As well, the volunteer hours would go towards his mandatory 40 hours of community service that the provincial Ministry of Education required High school students to perform before they could graduate. Even though he was in grade 8, the hours would count towards the requirement.
"Sean, that's a great idea. Why don't you want to do it?" I asked.
He hung his head down and said, "I don't want to."
I could tell by the body language that he didn't feel very confident. It probably wasn't that he didn't want to do it, but likely he didn't think he could handle it. I told Diego that Sean and I would talk about it this afternoon and get back to him. He left and we went to make lunch.
We had a light lunch, as we were going to the gym to work out. I thought that I would tackle the tutoring issue while we ate, before we headed out.
"Tell me if I'm wrong, but you don't feel very confident that you could tutor those two boys. Am I right?"
"Sort of. I wouldn't know how to teach them or anything, and I don't want to screw them up," he said.
I reassured him that he was more than capable of tutoring the two kids, that Diego would be there to supervise him and that I would get him the math books for grade 3 and 5 for him to look over. As well, I told him I'd help him with some teaching strategies to use with them. Finally after a lot of back and forth conversation, he reluctantly agreed.
"I'm glad you finally gave in young man, you're a hard bargainer," I said as I laughed. "Besides, it will give you more time to spend with Diego."
"Yeah, that'll be neat," he said with a big grin on his face.
I also wanted to know more about his interest in baseball.
"Your soon-to-be sisters played 8 years of Girls' Fastball, and I coached both of their teams. Did you play any organized baseball?" I asked.
He said that the same years his mother's former boyfriend signed him up to play hockey he also signed him up to play baseball. He told me he enjoyed it, and just played pickup with his friends after that, as his mother claimed she didn't have any money to sign him up again.
I didn't pursue asking him if he wanted to play Little League this year, as I had some plans for the two of us that would take up a lot of his summer. It wouldn't be fair for Sean or his team if he were unable to play for most of the games because he wasn't available.
We finished lunch and got ready to go to the gym.
"Make sure you bring a towel, so you can dry off afterwards, or if you want to take a shower," I said.
Jody Goldberg was the personal trainer that was assigned to do Sean's fitness assessment and training session. She was a good looking woman in her late twenties, who was very attractive and well proportioned. I could tell that Sean was thinking the same thing I was about the tight body suit she was wearing and how it showed off her attributes, as he had a hard time keeping his eyes focused on her face when she was speaking to him.
I had briefed the owner Andy Elkin on Sean's history, in case there were any wrong assumptions made when his scars on his body were observed during the assessment. Jody and Sean went off to another room and I went to the school to get the grades 3 and 5 math books.
When I returned I saw them coming out of the room. Sean went to a treadmill to warm up, and Jody asked me to come into the assessment room, for what I assumed was feedback on her findings. I wasn't prepared for what followed.
"Mr. Burger, I noted some very disturbing scars on that young boy's body, and I'm disgusted. I'm going to call Children's Aid unless you have a very good explanation!" she blurted out.
I guessed that Andy had not passed on my message, and I asked her to call him in to explain the situation. He arrived quickly, apologized and told her the background details. In a way I was annoyed at the lack of communication, but I was happy that Jody was conscientious enough to act before she knew the true situation. From past experience I knew there were many adults who would have ignored the obvious signs.
We went over his assessment, and I wasn't really surprised by some of the results. She said he was underweight, his body fat was low for his age and his core strength wasn't very good. However, his legs were strong despite the weakened ankle, and his cardio was excellent.
"That young man has quite a lung capacity. Do you know if he's done any running?" she asked.
I said that I really didn't know too much about his background at this point, but I filled her in on my plans to have him in school after the March break, and he could join the track team at the school.
She said that she would put Sean through a strength training routine that he could work on. I also signed him up for another 10 personal training sessions with Jody to make sure he was performing the exercises properly.
We went out to the floor and over to the treadmill so Jody could go through the exercises with him. He had been running on the treadmill for about 10 minutes and he was still running at a great clip. When he had come to a complete stop we checked the digital readout on the machine and Sean had been doing 7 minute miles.
"Whoa buddy, you're quite the runner," I said as he stepped off the machine. "You're not even sweating yet!"
He giggled and followed Jody to the Leg press machine. I noticed that I wasn't his centre of attention, as he was still ogling Jody.
I finished my session at the same time that Jody and Sean did and I guessed by the big smile on his face as he approached, that Jody told him I had signed him up for 10 more sessions with her.
We went into the locker room and I asked him if he wanted to shower, as I was going to. I figured that he would be too modest and I wasn't surprised when he said he would shower at home.
"So I noticed that you and Jody got along great," I said with a smile as we got into the car. "She's pretty easy on the eyes isn't she buddy?"
He smiled and said, "She sure is pop!"
When we got home I told Sean I was going to make the two of us protein shakes as the first order of business as we entered the kitchen.
"You need to have some protein within the first hour after a weight training workout, to rebuild your muscle tissue. Protein shakes are a great way to do this," I said as I got out the blender.
I used some soy milk, frozen fruit, probiotic yogurt, Whey powder and mixed the ingredients together for the two shakes. I also got out some cheese for Sean, as I thought he needed an extra protein source.
"This is great. What was that powdered stuff you put in the shake?" he asked as he gulped down the drink.
"That's Whey powder, which is a plant based protein source. I've been putting that in our oatmeal. You would've known that if you got up earlier in the morning," I said as I chuckled.
When we had finished I told him I was going to give him a lesson on how to do laundry.
"Put anything you need washed in your laundry basket and bring it down to the laundry room."
He went upstairs to his room and came back down in two minutes. When I looked in the basket there was one pair of underwear, no socks and a few other items.
"Sean you've been here 11 days. Have you been wearing the same underwear all this time?" I asked with a bewildered look on my face.
He gave me a sheepish look and said, "I changed once."
"And your socks?"
He just looked at me with a goofy smile and shrugged his shoulders.
We both went upstairs to his room and came up with many more items of clothing for the wash. After I showed him how to separate laundry and use the machine we had a talk about hygiene. Once again I learned young male and female adolescents were a little different, as my girls filled their laundry baskets every 3 days when they were growing up.
After Sean had his shower, he went to the den to use the computer. He wanted to log into his Facebook site and his email to see if anyone had left him messages. The Den was really my home office and was big enough for the two of us to use. The desktop computer was the one I allowed Sean to use. I wasn't about to put a computer in his room, as I wanted to monitor what he was doing. I insisted that the door to the den stay open when he was on the computer.
While he was in the Den, I went into my bedroom to call the Blue Jays ticket agent and secured tickets for the end of the second week in Florida for all of us. I tried to get a Yankee game, but I was only able to get a Tampa Bay Devil Rays game. I'm sure Sean and the rest of us would be entertained.
Before I could leave my bedroom, another call came in. It was from Dean Balderson the detective that had interviewed Sean the morning after he came to live with me.
"Hello Mr. Burger, I hope things are well with you and Sean."
"Things are going well Dean. What can I do for you?"
I was hoping to avoid the situation he was phoning me about. He told me that Sean would have to testify against Greeves, as he had pleaded not guilty at his preliminary hearing.
"Is there anything I can do to keep Sean from testifying Dean?" I asked.
He told me that the only ways were if Greeves made the decision to change his plea, or the Crown Attorney offered him a plea bargain that he accepted.
He also told me that personal effects from Sean's house were waiting to be picked up at the police station. Much of what was in the rented house that was of value had been confiscated under The Proceeds of Crime legislation, and that there really wasn't much left after that.
"There are some personal items and a box of pictures that Sean might want," he said.
I made an arrangement to go down on Thursday with Sean, so he could take what he wanted. I knew what I had to do about the Greeves situation and I thanked him for calling. My next call was to my friend Peter Tallofsen, the Crown Attorney.
After we exchanged pleasantries I asked, "Peter, is there any plan to offer Maury Greeves a plea bargain? I really don't want to have Sean testify if we could avoid it."
"I can sympathize with your concern Al, but we want to nail this slime ball to the wall for the maximum sentence in the Criminal Code."
"How about if you promise him he will be segregated when he goes to prison if he pleads guilty, otherwise you can't ensure his safety," I asked.
"Al, you know I can't do that, as it's our duty to protect scum like him when they go to prison. However, I might be able to arrange something," he said as he gave a sinister chuckle.
He told me he would arrange a 'visit' between Greeves and me, where I can deliver the message about his safety. He would make sure that we were alone, so the guards wouldn't hear the conversation. I agreed, and told him to call me when he had it set up. I felt better about this, and in some warped way I was looking forward to meeting Greeves face-to-face.
When I joined Sean in the den, I noticed that he was a little sombre, as if he had something on his mind he wanted to ask me but thought I would say no to.
"What's on your mind young fellow? You seem a little down."
He shrugged his shoulders and looked down but didn't say anything.
"Sean, I won't bite, talk to me," I said trying to lighten up the conversation.
"I just replied to an email from my friend Jake, and he really misses me. I miss him too."
His timing was impeccable, as I had been thinking of how to hook him up with a peer group, as I realized at this age it was important for kids to have contact with friends. I hadn't worked out how that was going to happen, but maybe this was the answer.
"Tell me about your friend."
Giacomo DiStefano, or Jake as everyone called him, had been Sean's best friend for a while. They had been in the same grade for the last two years, and had a lot in common. Jake lived down the street from Sean in his old neighbourhood, and they were virtually inseparable. Jake lived with his uncle, who was a taxi cab driver. Jake's mother died 3 years ago from a heart attack, and his father had abandoned the family and gone back to Italy when Jake was 4 years old.
"Why don't you see if Jake could come up on Friday night and stay the weekend?"
Sean gave a big smile and immediately turned to send Jake an email. I told him I would need to talk to his uncle to see if that's Ok, and make the arrangements.
When he finished the email he got up and gave me a hug and said, "Thanks pop...you'll really like Jake."
Five minutes later Jake replied and said his uncle would be home for the next hour before he had to start his shift. He gave Sean his phone number, as Sean hadn't memorized the information, and they had an unlisted number.
I called Mr. Pandini (his mother's maiden name) and had a pleasant conversation with him. He had a fairly thick Italian accent, but I was able to make out everything he said. He was very pleased that Sean was safe, and away from his mother's influence. Apparently all the neighbours had concerns about what was happening and had called authorities on numerous occasions, but little was ever done. I felt comfortable after our conversation and was looking forward to having Jake come up and spend time with Sean. We agreed that I would pick him up on Friday after school at their house.
"What did Mr. Pandini say?" he said with a bit of concern in his voice.
"Everything's set for Friday; we'll pick up Jake after school and take him home on Sunday night after dinner."
His smile from ear-to-ear made me very happy. I had a feeling that this would work out very well.
"We'll have to come up with some activities for you two. Let's think about it over the next couple of days."
After supper, we were down in the media room watching TV. It was Sean's evening to choose the programs we would watch. We took turns so we could both spend the time together and not be watching two separate TVs.
Two and a half Men had just started when the phone rang.
"Hi Uncle Al, it's Katharine. We may have a bit of a problem with Sean's adoption."