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I was caught totally off guard and was speechless. Sean and Jake were trying to hide behind me to get away from her. By now the people around us were turning to look at what the commotion was all about.
Finally I came to my senses and said, "I beg your pardon, but what kind of comment was that to make after the sermon that we had today. Were you not listening?"
I was concerned for the boys and I got out the keys to the Lexus and gave them to Sean so they could go sit in the parking lot and get away from the her. Just then Reverend MacLaughlin came down the line as he had overheard what was said.
"Ms. Lang, there is no room in this church for hurtful comments like that. These young men are as welcome here as you are and I won't tolerate that type of behaviour in my church. If you can't see it in your heart to apologize to them then please leave."
He stood in front of Sean and Jake and put out his arms to stop them from leaving and said, "Please stay; I'd like to greet you boys properly before you go."
He looked at Serena and said, "Well Ms. Lang, I'm waiting."
She started into a tirade, which was very embarrassing, as now most people in the foyer were crowded around us. She was talking about how the two boys had given her a hard time when she taught them a year ago and how disrespectful Sean in particular had been. She also went on to brand them as typical inner city kids and used the term 'trailer trash'. I had heard enough.
"That's about the most unprofessional comment I've ever heard in my life Ms. Lang. You're a disgrace to the teaching profession. These two boys have more integrity in their little fingers than you have in your whole body," I said.
I was really getting wound up and Reverend MacLaughlin was getting concerned where the confrontation was going. He stepped in front of her and put his one arm around my back and the other around the boys and said, "Let's go into my office."
When we were walking away to his office I could overhear a number of people from the congregation scolding her.
"Boys, I'm very sorry for what just happened. Please accept my warm welcome to the church. I hope you don't get the wrong impression, but most people here are not like Ms. Lang."
I was happy that the boys were none the worse for wear and seemed to have shaken it off, especially after Reverend MacLaughin's comments. We stayed another five minutes, as he got to know the boys a little better. They were quite at ease with him and told him how much they enjoyed the service. I could tell that they had been listening, as they were able to talk to him about some of the concepts he had presented in the sermon.
"If you boys ever need to talk to me, please don't hesitate. I'm always a good listener. I hope we see more of all of you in the future," he said looking at me as a pointed reminder about my spotty attendance.
When we got home to the Townhouse, I told the boys we should talk and moved to the living room after we got a snack. I was curious as to the trouble Sean and Jake had got into in Serena's class.
According to Sean and Jake, she didn't like boys and always favoured the girls in her class. Sean in particular had given her a hard time and had talked back to her numerous times .... when he was there. He had been suspended twice for swearing at her and kicking her.
"Boys, you must always be respectful of adults and for that matter any other person. There are proper ways to handle confrontations, but swearing and physical violence are not two of them."
Jake decided to be Sean's lawyer and said, "It wasn't Sean's fault. She made him do it. She'd always be mean and say stuff to Sean to get him mad."
I tried to problem solve with them as to the best course of action in school situations like this saying that they should have gone to their parents first and explained what had happened so their parents could have gone to the teacher and straightened it out.
I could now see Sean's Irish temper starting to boil over. He was sitting on the edge of the couch and he said, "My old lady didn't do nothin when I told her. She just smacked me and told me it was my fault."
He had reverted back to his old bad grammatical speech pattern and I realized that I wasn't being very sensitive to his situation. I reached over and brought him to my side in a hug.
"Sean, I'm sorry, I wasn't being fair to you. If this ever happens again though, I want you to handle it differently. I meant what I said that I won't tolerate disrespect for adults and I won't interfere with any punishment for that. But, I want you to know if you come to me with a situation like the one Jake just described and you've acted appropriately, I will do everything I can as a responsible parent. I will be behind you 100%."
I gave him a squeeze, smiled and said, "And let's try a little harder with the grammar next time you get mad."
He reluctantly smiled back and I could see he was cooling down.
"Let's get our stuff and get ready to go to the gym and work off some of our frustrations," I said as I got up from the couch and smiled.
When we got to the gym, Jody took Sean to put him through his workout. He was oblivious to Jake and me once he set his eyes on Jody in her skin tight dark blue workout clothes and followed her like a puppy dog to the floor.
"Come on Jake, I'm not as good a sight as Jody, but I'll be your personal trainer today," I said with a chuckle.
"Huh?" he grunted.
He looked at me with a vacant look.
"I'm sorry sir, I don't understand," I said trying to give him a clue.
"Oh, yeah ..... that," he said as he smiled as the light bulb finally turned on.
The two of us went through my routine together and I adjusted the weights accordingly when it was his turn to do the exercise. He was a pretty strong kid for his size and was able to handle all the machines we used fairly easily. We spent about an hour working out.
"Mr. Burger, are we almost finished? My arms are ready to fall off," he said as he dangled his arms at his side and slumped over.
"What's the matter, can't keep up to the old guy?" I said as I laughed.
By now Sean and Jody were finished and they came over to us. Sean was again smiling from ear-to-ear, even though he was drenched in sweat.
"Someone's going to have sore muscles tomorrow," Jody said as she chuckled.
"Whoa, Bulldog's not the only one!" Jake blurted out.
After we explained Sean's nickname to her, Jody said that he did very well and she was going to up the repetitions at the next workout.
We went into the locker room and I stripped for a shower and grabbed my towel. I assumed that Sean and Jake would towel off and wait for me outside the locker room, so I was surprised when the two of them joined me in the showers.
I was curious as to what my soon-to-be son looked like in his birthday suit. When I looked at him I couldn't understand what he was being so modest about. He was as well equipped as most 13 year old boys and wasn't any different than Jake. However, I still couldn't look at the scars on his back without feeling sad. 'I wonder if there's anything we can do to make them less conspicuous? I'll ask Scott at his next appointment.'
I had a chance to talk to him quietly after the shower, as Jake was taking his time in the locker room drying his hair.
"You know buddy, you have nothing to be modest about. I'll let you in on a little secret; lots of guys think their equipment isn't big enough," I said as I smiled at him.
He smiled back at me as he blushed.
By now it was late morning and I made the boys and myself protein shakes back at the townhouse.
"You drink this stuff?" Jake said as he screwed up his face.
"Taste it. They're great and it helps your muscles," Sean said as he took a big gulp of his.
Jake gingerly took a taste and then gulped the whole thing down without taking a breath. He thought we should have another one, but I told him it was time for lunch. Both boys thought that was a better idea.
"Ok boys, it's off to the golf club," I said as I put on my coat after lunch.
"Golf club sir?" Jake said as he looked at me as if I had two heads.
"We have to pick up Sean's new clubs and no we aren't going outside to play. They have indoor nets."
"Let's get you set up and you can hit some balls into the net Sean, so we can see if I have to make any adjustments," Tom Garbas said as he stood to the side of Sean.
Sean put a ball on the mat and took a big swing as if he were trying to hit a baseball. His first two tries missed the ball entirely. However, on the third swing the ball shanked off the club and flew by Tom's hip as he jumped out of the way.
"Maybe I should quickly show you how to make a golf swing and I'll stand back here," he said as the three of us laughed, much to Sean's chagrin.
After about the 10th ball he was making good contact, but I'm not sure where they would have been going if we were on the course.
"They should work out fine Mr. Burger," Tom said with a satisfied look on his face.
By now I had an idea.
"Maybe you'd like to hit some balls too Jake. Tom, Do you have any clubs that might fit Jake?" I asked.
He pulled out a used set of Callaways and Jake hit some balls into the net. Jake had been to a driving range a few times and had a reasonable swing. Tom wasn't taking any chances though and stood behind him as he was sizing up the fit of the clubs.
"We should get going soon boys, so let's go look in the pro shop at some more clothing and a golf bag for Sean's clubs. We also need to get you some Oakley sunglasses Sean. The sun's bright in Florida."
I also had Jake try on some clothing and shoes with the excuse that Sean would probably outgrow the clothing that I had purchased and I wanted to see what the bigger size would look like. When Jake was in the dressing room, Sean went back to hit some balls.
"Tom, put everything Jake's trying on, as well as a pair of Oakleys, a golf bag and those Callaways on my bill. When he's finished trying on the stuff take Jake into the net area while I load the stuff into the Lexus," I said.
He smiled and nodded his head.
We arrived at the Teen drop-in centre about 2 o'clock. Stéphane was waiting inside for the boys, as it was -10 °C outside.
"Hi guys. Hope you're up for a game of pool or two?" he said as we entered the building.
Stéphane was one of those kids that was a born leader. He was president of the student council and was one of the most popular kids in the school. He came from good stock, as his father Dénis was the CEO of a small auto parts company and his mother was a family physician. He was exactly the type of kid I wanted to be part of Sean's peer group. I hadn't told Sean that I had already made arrangements with his father for Stéphane to help him through his first week at school when we came back from the March break.
I left the boys and we agreed I would come back at 4 to pick them up. I then left for the townhouse, as I had some plans to take care of.
"Hello Pietro, how's your quiet weekend been?" I said as I chuckled.
I told Pietro that I wanted Jake to join us on the March break in Florida. He was very reluctant, but not because they had plans, but because he was a very proud man. He told me he couldn't afford it and he wouldn't let me take care of everything, which I understood and respected.
"Pietro, please look at this as a present from me to Sean. The two boys have had a great weekend and they get along very well. I also have become fond of your nephew and I think you've done a fine job with him," I said.
Finally he relented and we made the arrangements. I was going to send down a limo to Jake's school the next day to get Jake at lunch time to bring him up to Lou's to get a suit and send him back to school. Jake would take a private flight on the Friday right after school and join us in Naples, as we were leaving the day before since Sean wasn't in school. I assured him that Jake would be well looked after on the flight and that there was nothing to worry about. Jake also had a passport, as he had become a Canadian citizen some years ago at the same time as his mother and Pietro. Both Jake and Pietro got the passports because they made frequent trips to Buffalo New York to shop on the weekends.
I used the rest of the time to make arrangements for the flight and tell The Grand Floridian there would be one more in our suite. I would make the rest of the arrangements with the Golf School, the Blue Jays and the travel agent tomorrow. I also called Lou and asked him to pick out a couple of suits that might fit Jake and we would be by tomorrow about noon to try them on.
By now it was time to pick up the boys. When I walked in the centre, Stéphane, Sean and Jake were part of a group of 6 boys their age. They were laughing and having a great time playing pool.
"We've got to make supper so we can get Jake back home before it gets too late. He's got school tomorrow," I said as I motioned the boys to put their coats on.
I could tell that my last comment about Jake going home didn't sit well with Sean. He was very sombre on the ride home to the townhouse. Jake however, didn't notice, as he went over just about every pool game and shot they had played in detail.
I was growing very fond of Jake, as I found him to be an uninhibited sincere kid. He seemed to bring Sean out of his shell with his outgoing personality. I was pleased that Sean had picked such a good friend.
The three of us made supper. Jake was a pretty good Italian cook as he had learned well from his mother and uncle. We helped him make Rigatoni with sun dried tomatoes, chicken and asparagus, with a store bought tomato sauce. Sean and I made a Caesar salad and we had some frozen yogurt with Dana's chocolate sauce over it for dessert. All through the meal I could tell Sean was a little down at the prospect of Jake leaving to go home. I was also pretty sure he was too shy to ask if Jake could come with us on the March break.
We were drinking our tea in the living room after we had cleaned up. This was becoming a nightly ritual, as Sean liked the herbal teas I made and so did Jake.
"What do you think Sean, will these look good on Jake too?" I asked as I put my flat hands on the top of Jake's head as I had done to Sean.
Jake ducked away, but Sean's jaw almost hit the floor. He jumped up and gave me a big hug and then went over to Jake and high fived him. He then forgot himself and gave Jake a big hug as well.
"Will someone tell me what's going on," Jake said as Sean sheepishly broke their hug.
"You're going to Florida with us doofus," Sean blurted out.
It took Sean and me about a minute to get through to Jake what actually was going to happen, but when he finally was able to take it all in I thought he was going to break out crying.
"I...I...don't...I need to call my uncle," Jake stammered.
"I already did Jake. Everything's all set," I said as I smiled at him.
He finally calmed down, as did Sean, and I explained the week's plans including the flight. He had never flown before and he was very excited. What he didn't know was that it was a private flight and he would likely be the only passenger with his own flight attendant.
"We need to get going and get you home before your uncle worries about where you are," I said as we got up to go.
When we got home after dropping off Jake, we were both tired and got ready for bed.
"Did you have a good weekend young man?" I asked as I sat down on the edge of the bed.
"Yeah, I did. I really liked seeing Jake again," he said as he sighed.
"He's a great kid and I'm glad you have him as a friend," I said.
I noticed that he had Teddy in bed with him again.
"I'll let you and Teddy get caught up on your weekend. I guess he's going to Florida?" I asked as I smiled at him.
"Goodnight young fellow, I love you. Sleep tight."
"Goodnight pop I love you too.... and thanks."
I smiled at him, tousled his hair and turned out the light.