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After The Game

Copyright 2009 Felix_P

Chapter Twenty-eight

I woke up to the sounds of my shower about 6:30 am. I was guessing Sean couldn't sleep so he was up early getting ready for school. Nature called, so I went down to the main bathroom to give him some privacy.

He took forever to get dressed, and in the end was wearing what I thought we had picked out the night before. He finally came down to the kitchen for breakfast. I smiled to myself as I saw the Mickey Mouse backpack as he put it down in the hall with his coat. I just wondered how long it would be until it wasn't 'cool' enough to take to school. I had forgotten this age, and how they straddled the world of a kid and young adult.

"You look great, young fellow," I said as I smiled at him.

"Thanks," he said as he gave me a feeble smile.

He had a good breakfast, and I could tell that he was a little sleep deprived. He was a little bit cranky so I didn't tease him for fear of getting one of his looks. However, I did try to lighten up the situation to take his mind off of things.

"Let me guess, you've texted Melissa already?"

He gave me a smile, which I was very happy to see. I drove him to school, as I thought that sending him on the school bus his first day would be too much. As we walked into the main office of the school, I was greeted by a few of the teachers that I knew, as well as the office staff who I was familiar with.

"Do you know everybody here?" Sean asked, with a look of bewilderment on his face.

"Not everyone, but enough that I can keep good tabs on you, young man," I said as I gave him a big smile, as I squeezed his arm.

The Head Secretary gave us Sean's timetable, the locker number and lock and we headed out to put his stuff away. We returned to the main office and when we arrived, Stéphane was waiting for us.

"Wow, you look sharp," Stéphane said as he looked Sean up and down.

They took off for class, and it looked like Sean had relaxed a little. I was crossing my fingers as I left the school on my way across the parking lot.

When I got home, I gave Dana a call and I thanked her for the great redecorate of Sean's room.

"You hit the nail on the head. He was floored when he walked into the room."

She was very pleased, as she was sure that he would like what Kendra and she had done. I brought her up-to-date on our week, and she was glad things went so well.

"Sounds like the parent thing is agreeing with you, Al," She said as she laughed.

She said that she was looking forward to seeing him on Wednesday when she came to clean. The real estate agent was picking me up shortly, so I had to end the conversation unfortunately. I always loved to talk to Dana, but I'd have to wait until Wednesday now.

Bryce Bell, the real estate agent I contacted, picked me up about 10:30 to show me two listings. They were both on 2 of the 3 streets that I gave Bryce as my priority.

The first one was a little small and not as well appointed as I wanted, and the second one was definitely in the ballpark. I was looking for a bungalow with a pool backing onto green space, that was at least 3000 sq. feet and that was a reasonably new house.

He dropped me off about 12:30, and we made arrangements for the next day to look at 2 more listings he had found. When I got in, the phone was ringing and it was the head secretary from Sean's school. I had this feeling that it wasn't good news.

"Al, Sean didn't turn up for his first class after lunch. Stéphane said he saw him take off through the field after his last class of the morning."

I thanked her, and said I would set out to look for him. I had a feeling I knew where he had gone. When I arrived at the arena, it was deserted ..... except for a lone body sitting on the snow at the side of the building.

"Hi," I said as I sat down next to him.

He had his hood up. His head was hung down and his arms were around his legs which were bent at the knees.

"Hi," he said as he lifted his head and looked at me with a forlorn look.

"Did you get a little overwhelmed?"

"Yeah. Are you mad at me?"

I put my arm around his shoulder and pulled him closer.

"No, I'm not. Did something happen this morning?"

He just looked down at his knees and shrugged. After a little more prompting he told me that his Math and Science classes went well, and that he really liked his teachers. He told me that having Stéphane in those classes helped, as he introduced him to a few nice kids. However, his Literacy class didn't go as well. He liked his teacher, but Stéphane wasn't in it, and he felt a little awkward. As well, he didn't feel very confident with what they were doing.

"Can't you and Diego tutor me for the rest of the year?" he pleaded.

I told him that wasn't a very good solution, as he wouldn't have the interaction with his peers, and have the chance to make new friends. I also told him the teachers he had were some of the best in the Board, and he would learn more from them than he could from Diego and me.

"I hate to bring out more homespun philosophy, but do you know what I mean by getting back on the horse?"

"Yeah, sort of."

"That's exactly what you need to do now. You need to confront your fears, and go back to school. You've done a great job so far by confronting your Mother, and working hard on your studies with Diego and me."

He looked up at me and didn't say a word for quite a few moments.

"What if I really can't hack it?"

"Remember my two rules? That's all I ask."

I put my arm around his back and brought him close to me.

"I'm confident you're going to be able to hack it. What do you say I take you back to school in time for your phys ed class?"

He gave me a tentative smile and said, "Ok."

"I bet your pants are wet from sitting in this snow. Let's drop into the townhouse and get you dry ones on your way back."

We arrived back at the school and checked into the office in time for the last 20 minutes of his phys ed class. We went to the gym together, and I called over Steve O'toole, his teacher, to introduce Sean to him and explain why he was late.

"Mr. O'toole, this is my foster son Sean. He had a little problem, which we've solved, and I'm sorry he's late."

"No problem, the office filled me in, Al. I was hoping we'd meet today Sean. Welcome to the class."

Sean seemed to relax at his words, and he smiled at him as they went off to join the rest of the class. I was very happy at Steve's handling of the situation, as he was living up to his reputation as being a very kind and caring teacher, and someone who would be a great role model for Sean.

I wasn't surprised at what had happened, given Sean's past history with non-attendance. Skipping out of school was a learned behaviour that was something that he fell back on when he felt the stress of the first day get to him. What did surprise me was how willing he was to confront the problem and return. I was proud of him, as that took a lot of courage.

The rest of the afternoon seemed to go well, as I didn't get another call from the school. Classes ended at 2:45 and I went to pick him up.

I was parked in the school parking lot and waited in the Lexus. I could see the kids coming out the front door, and I knew that that was the exit he would be using, as it was close to his locker.

After a few minutes I saw him with a group of boys, including Stéphane, as they came out the door. He was having a good conversation with them, and was laughing and getting along very well. He saw the Lexus, and I could see him say goodbye and come over to the car with a bounce in his step.

"Your backpack looks full. Did you get a lot of homework?" I asked as I smiled at him.

"Not really. I brought most of my books home to go over tonight. I want to make sure I understand all the stuff for tomorrow. Can you help me if I get stuck?"

I gave him a big smile and said of course I would. I was so happy that he was taking the initiative to do work on his own to get caught up.

"How did your phys ed class go?"

"It was good. Mr. O'Toole is neat. He wants me to come out for the track team. He saw me run and stuff when we were playing basketball."

Steve told Sean that they were practicing once a week indoors to get ready for the spring meets. I encouraged him to sign up, and that we could work it into his After School Club schedule.

"So, what do you think?"

He shrugged his shoulders and said, "I guess."

"I think you'll enjoy it. Besides, you'll get out of school on the days of the track meets," I said as I smiled at him.

Getting involved in school activities was one of the things that I was going to continually encourage Sean to do. I knew from research and my own observations, that students got a great deal of benefit from being involved in extra curricular activities.

"Remember, tonight is the After School Club, and Pardeep and Subash are probably anxious for your help. They probably want to hear about your trip, as well as tell you about their break," I said.

He gave me a big smile, as I could tell he was looking forward to it. What a difference, a few hours and a little success made. He was much more relaxed, and happy. I was betting that we would have some more minor problems as the school year came to a close, but I was confident that we had successfully passed a big milestone today. I was very pleased, and I could see that he was too.

As we were driving home, he got out his cell phone and started to text.

"Bringing Melissa up-to-date are we?"

He smiled and nodded his head.

When we arrived at home, he left his coat in the hall in a heap on top of his backpack, as he took off for the Kitchen. After all, it had been almost 3 hours since he had had food. I had some cut up vegetables and dip ready for him as well as a banana and juice.

When he finished, I told him to hang up his coat and take his backpack upstairs. I told him I wanted to talk to him about his laptop, when he was settled.

"I want to go over a few rules about the use of your laptop in your room," I said with a serious face.

There were 2 major things I went over. The first one was that he was not to close the door to his room when he was using his laptop. Secondly, he was not to erase the temporary Internet files on his computer. I would do that periodically for him. I also told him that the wireless network I had set up allowed me to view email attachments that were sent and received by him.

"So are you Ok with that?"

"Yeah," he said as he nodded his head yes.

By now it was time to go to the After School Club. We arrived a few minutes before the students made their way into the centre.

"Well, how was the holiday, Sean?" Diego asked as he gave him a big smile.

Both of us took turns telling him all about the 10 days and how much we enjoyed it.

"How was your first day at school?"

"Ok," Sean said as he hesitated and looked at me.

"It was fine," I said as I smiled at Diego and Sean.

By now Pardeep, Subash and Paresh came into the centre with their mother. Pardeep and Subash rushed over to Sean and each took one of Sean's hand. They led him over to the table with the older brother Paresh following behind, while they chattered away about their March break. Diego, the mother and I just laughed at the scene.

"Pardeep has been talking about coming tonight and seeing Sean for the last few days. All three boys have been driving me crazy today about getting here on time," she said as she rolled her eyes and laughed.

I left the centre to monitor the other two sites, and came back near the end of the time. When I arrived, Sean was showing the 3 boys the pictures of Disney on his cell phone. I also noticed Pardeep had Sean's Mickey Mouse ears on. I was guessing that he brought them to show to the kids.

"I hope you guys did some work tonight," I said as I looked at the four of them.

Sean walked them to the door, as the mother had arrived. The two younger boys gave him a hug before they scooted out the door.

"I guess they missed you."

"The two young ones are really funny kids. They did everything they could to get me to do their homework," Sean said as he laughed.

I thought that 'funny kids' was an ironic statement, as I had used a similar phrase in recent memory to describe Sean and Jake.

"And did you?" I asked with a wry grin on my face.

"No way. I made them work," he said as he gave me a big smile.

"So did they each get a turn wearing your Mickey Mouse ears?"

He told me that all three kids had a turn, and after that he made it a motivational tool to get them to concentrate on their homework, just like a good teacher would do. I was starting to see some leadership ability in Sean that I fully intended to foster.

We picked up some pizza and salad, as neither of us felt like cooking. When he was finished supper, he went up to his room and emailed Jake. Shortly after I noticed Jake logged onto MSN and they were chatting for about 20 minutes. I was hoping I didn't have to be the heavy and tell him to log out and get to work on his homework. When I went back upstairs, he had logged out and was working.

The rest of the night was uneventful and he went to bed about 10 pm. I was confident that he was going to get a good night's sleep, as he was much more relaxed than he was the previous evening.

The next morning he wasn't up so early, as he had a much better sleep. We had breakfast and I decided to drive him to school again.

"I'll pick you up after school tonight, as we have an appointment with Dr. Barnet at 3 pm. today,"

He shook his head yes and took off out the door of the Lexus and into the school. Again, I was crossing my fingers and hoping that this would be a better day. I had emailed Phil about our problem yesterday, as well as some of the other issues, such as what Sean and Jake were doing on their sleepovers and Sean's budding romance. I wanted to bring him up-to-date and to know what my concerns were and I was anxious to have his perspective on them.

Bryce picked me up and again we saw the two new listings that he wanted me to see. One of the listings was of particular interest to me. I made up my mind to tell Sean tonight about my plans to move and tell him I wanted him to see the two listings I was seriously considering.

Thank goodness I didn't receive any calls from the school during the day and was able to pick him up after school. He was coming out of the school by himself this time, and he was followed by a group of 3 girls. It appeared that they were talking and trying to keep up to him. They broke off their pursuit when they saw me in the Lexus opening the door for him.

"Were those girls trying to talk to you Sean?"

"Sort of. They were bugging me."

"What were they saying to you?" I asked with concern.

He paused and looked at me and said, "They were saying, you know, stuff. I don't know why they won't leave me alone. They were bugging me at lunch too."

I smiled to myself, as I knew why they were bugging him.

"Do you think maybe it's because they like you?" I said as I smiled at him.

He just blushed and wouldn't look at me. I tousled his hair and he finally smiled.

"Well hottie, let's get going to Dr. Phil's and maybe he can help you with your problem," I said emphasizing the word problem.

He gave me one of his famous Sean's looks, as we drove out of the parking lot.

When we arrived at Phil's office, Mrs. Gallagher fussed over Sean and asked him how his trip to Florida went. He was really animated and told her about many of the events of the week, as we waited for Phil to finish up with the patient before us.

When Phil came out into the waiting room to get Sean, he didn't say anything and came over and was looking at the top of his head.

"Where are the ears?" he said as he laughed.

The two of them went off to his office chatting away with Phil's arm around his shoulders. I decided to do some grocery shopping while they were having their session.

I arrived back just in time to see Sean and Phil come out into the waiting room. Things seemed to have gone well, as Sean and Phil were chatting away and smiling.

"I'm sure Mrs. Gallagher wants to hear more about your trip while I talk to your Dad," Phil said as he smiled at the two of us.

I noticed Phil still had a big smile on his face as I followed him into his office and sat down.

"Isn't that a little presumptuous to refer to me as 'Dad' in front of Sean?" I asked.

"Not after the independent report I filed with the court on Friday about my findings as Sean's Psychologist," he said with a big smile.

He explained that he took it upon himself to call Katharine and inform her that he was writing the report to ensure that the adoption went through without hitches. He knew the CAS psychologist was writing a report but they often don't know the child as well because of the limited time they've been able to spend with them. He was aware of the storm that was brewing with Judge Steenhof on the case and he wanted to be preemptive and try to head off any concerns the judge might raise.

"I've had dealings with him before, and I know he's an old fuddy-duddy who is way too cautious most of the time. I've had to straighten him out quite a few times over the years," he said as he laughed.

He told me the report basically outlined Sean's mental state before entering into Foster care with me, and how Sean was turning himself around under my guidance. He outlined how damaging it would be if the adoption were delayed or denied, and that Sean was sure to regress. He also gave a very flattering account of why I was the ideal parent for Sean, which caused me some embarrassment.

"I thought you had to be truthful for the court," I said trying to make light of what he had said about me.

"I was," he said as he leaned forward with a serious look on his face. "I couldn't have hand-picked a better parent for Sean if I'd tried. Now stop being so humble."

He then went on to address some of the issues I had emailed him about.

"I think our young boy is turning into a man already. He certainly is very taken with Melissa, but I'm not sure that it's anymore than puppy love at this stage. I didn't go into too much detail with him, as I just explored some of his feelings about the relationship. And when did his voice start to change?"

I told him about the conversation with Alice and about his embarrassment when we laughed. I also told him that we all apologized to him, and about my little talk about the glass being half full.

"Keep using those hokey analogies, Al. He understands those things really well. He also told me about getting back up on the horse," he said as he smiled.

I filled him in on more detail about Sean's skipping out of school yesterday, than I was able to provide in the email.

"I'm so glad you were able to get him back into school as quick as you did. It's a good thing you didn't knuckle under, as that would have made it much more difficult down the road."

"I guess that's from my years of experience in the classroom dealing with that type of situation."

"By the way, what was your backup plan if Sean had said no to going back?"

"There was no backup plan," I said as I smiled.

He continued, "As I said before, there will be setbacks along the way, as we're not out of the woods yet. He will be truly settled once the adoption goes through."

I picked up that Sean had indicated to Phil some uncertainty about his situation in their session and asked, "Did Sean say that he wasn't settled, Phil?"

"He's been disappointed so many times in his life, he won't be truly settled until he can call you dad, and you call him son."

I was really concerned at this development and said, "I'll have a talk with him tonight. I guess I need to keep reinforcing the fact that the adoption will happen one way or another."

Phil gave me a big smile, as he said, "He's a worry-wart just like you, so that certainly won't hurt. I know everything you've done certainly signals the permanency of your relationship, but keep talking to him about it. And what's with the Maple Leaf shrine you created in his room?"

We both just laughed.

"Now about the situation with Jake and Sean. I didn't ask him details about what they are doing, as that's really none of our business. I didn't deem it necessary to delve into his sexual exploits, as this type of behaviour is fairly normal in boys their age. Besides, how would you feel if I was delving into your exploits with Melissa's grandmother?" he said with a big smile on his face.

"Why that little bum! I guess I'll just have to be more discreet," I said as I was a little shocked that my tryst was becoming public.

"Why would you hide that? That's part of being a good role model for him. It's healthy for him to see his Dad as a sexual being as well as a Father figure," he said as he emphasized the word 'Dad'. "If you're worried that Sean and Jake are into some heavy duty sexual exploration, you needn't be. At this stage it's nothing to that extent. They haven't done anything more than mutual masturbation, and according to Sean, that will be the extent of it. He's not interested in anything more than that. To him it's just fun."

"I thought you said you didn't delve into this with him?" I asked.

"I didn't, he volunteered the information when we got onto the topic. He was a little concerned that he would become Gay if they kept doing it. I assured him that what they were doing wasn't unusual, and that this wouldn't make him Gay. I think the two of you have to relax about this. His sexuality is still evolving, and even though he has a strong heterosexual leaning at this point, he could turn out to be gay or bisexual. No one can predict these things in kids of his age. As he matures, whatever he was born with is what will determine how he turns out. Would it bother you if he was gay?"

I assured him that it wouldn't, and that I would accept him no matter what. My only concern was for what he would have to endure throughout his life if he was.

"By the way, I'll be at the adoption hearing next week. I've cleared my afternoon so I can be there," he said as we got up to leave his office.

I thanked him and he walked out to the outer office with me. When we got there, Sean had a small audience, as he was telling two of the other patients as well as Mrs. Gallagher about the trip to Florida.

"And then we went through these doors and fell like tons of stories down, then back up again. You should have seen my Pop's face when we got off. It was white," he said as he chuckled.

Both Phil and I smiled as he was certainly shedding some of his shyness.

We left and went home to have dinner. After dinner we were sitting down in the living room having our tea and watching the news. I decided this would be a good time to talk to Sean about my plans to move.

"I've decided that we should move out of the townhouse and buy a single family home with a pool," I said as I smiled at him.

He didn't respond right away, and looked at me and said, "Are we going to move far away?"

I assured him we were not, and that I had picked out 3 streets close by that I would consider moving to. I also told him I had looked at 4 houses and that on the weekend I wanted him to see two of them with me. I wanted him to know that his opinion was important, and his input would be valued. He gave me a big smile.

I sat down on the side of his bed as I was putting him to bed that night. Teddy was under his arm, and he was bundled up under the covers.

"I hear you're telling everyone about my love life, young man," I said as I gave him a big smile. "You better be careful, or I'll start spilling the beans about yours."

"You already have," he said as he grinned.

I always enjoyed his sense of humour, and was really looking forward to more as the years went by.

"I hope you know that your stuck with me. No matter what happens next week at the adoption hearing, sooner or later you're going to be my son. I'm confident it's going to be sooner," I said as I smiled at him.

He just looked up at me and gave me a big smile and said, "I know. And you're stuck with me ... and Teddy."

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