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The weekend turned out to be a good one despite the way it kicked off for me on the Friday with Charles' mother. The boys and I had a rousing round of golf on Saturday afternoon and joined Dana for a very leisurely BBQ for dinner. I was becoming a little humbled on the golf course as I was 'slightly' out driven on two different holes; once by Jake and the other time by Sean. I was resigned to the fact that it wouldn't be long until the two of them were 'significantly' out driving me with regularity.
The boys were also becoming more comfortable with Dana and me as long as we didn't get too 'mushy' as Sean said.
"So it's not too mushy when the rest of us have to watch you and Melissa snuggle up together?" I said as we all laughed. I got the famous Sean look of death.
On Sunday evenings Jake had got into the habit of watching the multicultural channel on TV, as there were a couple of Italian shows broadcast. They weren't particularly interesting, but Jake liked to watch them to keep his language skills fresh. Dana decided to join him in the Media room, as she understood the language as her ex-husband was Italian. She learned out of necessity so she could fit in at family gatherings.
Sean and I were in the Living room on the main floor watching 'Two and a Half Men' which was one of Sean's favourite shows. I wasn't particularly enamored with the program, but it gave me a chance to spend some quiet time with him while Dana spent time with Jake. I could see that there was something bothering him and during the commercial break I decided to see what it was.
"There seems to be something on your mind. Anything you want to share?" I asked.
He hesitated and then finally said, "Why are some parents mean?"
I didn't need to ask who he was referring to, and we had a good talk about Charles and his mother. He was really bothered by the verbal abuse Charles had to endure, as it brought back some not so fond memories of his days with his mother and some of her boyfriends. He told me that Charles had talked to the boys last week about how happy he was to spend some time with his father, and that he was sad that he didn't see him as much as he would like. Sean also asked some tough questions I couldn't answer.
"Why can't Chas live with his father?"
"That's a good question, which I don't have an answer for."
I told him that something happened in the divorce proceedings that resulted in the custody agreement. I also told him of the brother-in-law's involvement, and that likely it was a case of Mark being outgunned in the legal proceedings.
"Sometimes things don't always turn out to be fair, as you well know from your past," I said as I put my arm around him and gave him a squeeze.
"Can't you do something to help Chas?" he asked.
He was now looking at me and I could see the concern on his face. It also struck me that he was becoming quite a good looking young man and that there would be lots of times in the future where he would use that puppy dog look he was giving me and those baby blue eyes to his advantage. I promised him that if there was anything I could do, that I would definitely help. He certainly had a strong social conscience and desire for fairness.
The next morning the boys were going off to the STEP program. This was the program run at Sean's school which was a prep course to help students ease into high school. The morning classes were voluntary, and there were about 40 students registered from the school in the program. The focus was on Literacy and Math and involved some engaging activities to keep the students interested. The instructor in Sean and Jake's class was Kelly Bourne, who was an excellent young teacher. I wasn't sure if Charles and Stéphane would be in their class, but we would find out when we arrived at the school. Sean was a little grumpy as he sat down at the table for breakfast.
"My goodness, somebody got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning," I said as I looked at him.
"How come we have to go to school on our summer vacation?" he asked with a frown.
"Because we need to top up those two brains of yours with some more knowledge," I said as I laughed and looked at the two boys.
Jake was laughing along with me and Sean gave both of us one of his looks and then dug into his oatmeal.
As the boys were finishing breakfast, Charles and Mark arrived at the door. Charles was happy as the boys greeted him and took him down the hall to their rooms as they were going to change and get ready. Mark hung back, and had a concerned look on his face.
"I had quite a tussle this morning with my ex-wife. She wasn't going to let Charles go, as she didn't want him near your sons or yourself. I'm not sure what happened on Friday, but she's on the war path."
I told him what had happened and he suggested that I tone down my interactions with her as he was afraid she would take it out on Charles if I didn't. I told him that from what I had observed that backing off was not the correct strategy. I also gently told him that what he was doing was enabling his ex-wife's behaviour by not being more assertive.
"From my years in the classroom, I see disturbing signs that are all too familiar to me and as a social worker you see them too."
I told him that I would be quite willing to give him any support I could to help him and Charles deal with the situation. He was very troubled, as he knew I was right. I could see that he didn't want confrontation, and that he likely didn't deal well with it. I strongly suspected that was one of the main reasons he came out on the short end of the custody arrangement.
"You told me at the rink last week that you wanted to make it up to Charles and that you felt you let him down by not being more assertive in gaining custody of him. This is the time you need to be strong. I can give you considerable help. You just have to ask," I said as I put my hand on his shoulder.
He gave me a weak smile and said, "Thanks. I appreciate the offer."
After he left I called down to the boys to bring their dirty clothes baskets with them to the Laundry room before we left, as I was going to do a wash.
"And make sure there's more than one pair of underwear in them," I said as I laughed.
When we got to the school I was very happy to see that Charles was in the same class with the boys as well as Stéphane. I knew the week would be a positive one as Kelly was a great teacher. She had been a tutor in my After School Program some years ago, before she had been accepted into Teachers College.
"I didn't know you had any sons," Kelly said with a look of surprise.
"Just these two," I said as I smiled and pointed out Jake and Sean.
I knew Sean was going to have a good week as he was enjoying the view of Miss Bourne. When I got back to the house I decided to talk to Ray to see what progress there was on Jake's adoption.
"So have you found any more boys to adopt," he said as he laughed.
He told me that Jake's adoption papers had been filed with the Family Court and that we had a date with Judge Steenhof in his chambers the week before we went to Europe.
"I've touched base with him already and you can go ahead and plan the adoption party," he said as he chuckled.
I asked him whether we would have any trouble with regard to his father's parental rights when I took Jake into Italy. He said that when he was reviewing the file, the father had signed his rights away as far as Canadian law was concerned, but he wasn't sure if that applied to Italy.
"I'll do some checking, as you don't want to have any surprises on your holiday."
I also asked him about Charles' custody agreement and how that worked. He told me that it likely was negotiated by the lawyers and then filed with the Family Court. I asked if it was carved in stone and he said no.
"Those agreements are renegotiated all the time by the parties as situations change. The trick is to get the two parties to agree." He then paused and said, "Tell me your not planning on adopting another kid."
I laughed and told him that two was enough. We then set a golf date for him to come down and play at the club.
"I hope you're ready to be humbled by a couple of 13 year olds. By the time we play they'll be smacking the ball by both of us," I said as I laughed.
On Thursday morning Mark couldn't bring Charles or pick him up afterwards, as he was called out of town for a meeting. Unfortunately, Marjorie had to look after him after much pleading from Mark the night before. I was hoping we weren't going to have any incidents, but I was preparing for the worst and wasn't going to take any nonsense from her.
She arrived with Charles about ten minutes before the class started. We were waiting in the Lexus which I had driven out of the garage into the driveway. They got out of the car and she came over to the driver's side. I decided I would make a point that she was late and didn't get out of the vehicle but put down the window to speak to her.
"I shall be back at three o'clock to pick him up. Heaven only knows why I'm doing this, as this program isn't going to help him. His father doesn't understand that he has limited intelligence and he's not going to get any smarter," she said with an air of disgust.
I was appalled as she said it loud enough for all of us to hear, including Charles.
"I beg your pardon, but what are you talking about. I've seen the work all the boys have been bringing home this week and Charles is on a par with the other three. He's far from a 'dummy' as you're portraying him," I said as I gave her a penetrating stare.
"Well, what do you know? I live with him," she said with that icy condescending tone of hers.
"Maybe thirty years of teaching high school students makes me a little more qualified to give that assessment than you. We're going to be late thanks to your tardiness. We'll be expecting you at three," I said as I pressed the button on the automatic window and put the Lexus into gear.
Since I had to watch as I backed out of the driveway, I didn't get the satisfaction of looking at her expression. Sean and Jake did, and one of them let out a 'whoa' as I turned onto the street and they got a full view of her.
"Charles, your mother's dead wrong. The work I've seen you bring home from the program this week is certainly not substandard. You're a smart boy just like the other two braniacs in the car," I said as I smiled and tried to make him feel better. I could see him in the mirror in the back seat, and he gave me and the boys a smile.
We just made it in time and the three of them ran into the school after quickly saying goodbye. I decided I needed to have a talk with Charles that afternoon to bolster his confidence in his ability. From what I had seen over the week his work was quite acceptable and I was hoping that his mother had signed him up for the Academic level subjects in Grade 9. I did however, have this awful feeling that that was not the case.
Later that morning, Dénis picked them up from school with Stéphane and dropped them off at the house. When he drove in the driveway, the four of them bounded out of the car and breezed past me on their way to change to get into the pool. Charles looked happy and didn't seem to be showing any effects from the bad scene that morning.
"How was Charles on the ride home?" I asked Dénis as he got out of the car to have a short chat.
He said that he was fine and questioned me as to why I was asking. I told him of the incident that morning and he shook his head in disgust.
"She treats him very poorly. My wife and I have seen some things like that before, which we've been clear to her that we don't approve of. As a matter of fact, the only reason we tolerate her is for Charles' sake," he said.
He left and I joined the boys at poolside in my swimsuit. I played frisbee with them for a while and then got out and dried myself off. They continued and after about an hour I asked if they wanted to go to the ice cream parlour on the main street to get some frozen yogurt. I'm not sure why I asked, as it turned out to be a silly question as they answered with four very loud 'yahs'. They left their swim trunks on and put their t-shirts over them. Sean of course had his t-shirt on all the time as he still needed to keep his back out of the direct sunlight. He put on a dry t-shirt when we went into the house.
We got back from the ice cream parlour about ten minutes after two o'clock, as they wanted to have a little more swimming time before Charles and Stéphane were picked up. When we got into the driveway, Charles' mother was in her car waiting. She got out as we pulled to a stop and went over to the back door of the Lexus as Charles was just getting out.
"I told you to be ready for two o'clock. You didn't listen to me as usual," she said as she grabbed the sleeve of his t-shirt.
Before I could get around to the other side Jake had got out of the front seat and stepped in between Charles and his mother after she had let go of his sleeve.
"You said you were picking him up at three o'clock," Jake said very calmly but forcefully as he looked her in the eye.
"My God, the stupidity is catching," she said as she looked at Jake with contempt.
By now Sean had parked himself right beside Jake and I could tell by his body language that he was ready to blow his top and I wasn't quite sure what he was going to do. I quickly made my way into the scrum and as I was just about to lay into her, Jake continued and said, "Just because I'm a kid doesn't give you the right to speak to me like that."
"You impertinent little boy! How dare you speak to me that way," she said.
"I know what impertinent means, and I'm not the one being rude or disrespectful," Jake said very calmly as he stared her down. "We all heard you say you were picking him up at three o'clock."
She paused and then turned to Charles and said, "Get into the car. I'll deal with you when we get home."
She stormed off down the driveway to the car with Charles a few steps behind her. She stopped and waited for him to catch up then smacked him with her open hand across the back of his head. I had seen enough and quickly took off after her. When I got to the car I grabbed the door as she was closing it.
"If I ever see or hear of you striking your son again, you're going to wish you had never met me. Do I make myself clear?" I said with my face about two feet from hers and fire in my eyes.
She was clearly rattled and didn't say a word. After some moments I let go of the door and backed away. I bumped into Sean, Jake and Stéphane as they were right behind me. All three of them were making threatening comments to her and were trying to get closer.
"Leave it boys. Ms. Evans got the message loud and clear," I said as I held out my arms to restrain them.
She closed the door and quickly backed out of the driveway. When I had the boys calmed down I could see they were very concerned for Charles' welfare. I was particularly proud of Jake for the way he stood up for his friend, but I was concerned that things were escalating to the point that I didn't want him to be involved in any more verbal altercations with her.
"Jake, I'm very proud of the way you handled that situation, and the way you stood up for your friend. But, I think in the future I should be the one dealing with Ms. Evans when she gets like that," I said as I put my arm around his back as we walked to the house.
On Friday, which was the last day of the program, Mark called the house about a half hour before he was to drop off Charles.
"My ex-wife says that Charles isn't well enough to attend the session today," he said.
I could tell from his voice that he was a little stressed. When I probed a little further he told me that he thought there was something funny. I didn't tell him what had happened the day before and made a note to follow up after I had dropped the boys off for the morning.
I took the boys over to the school for the last class of the program. They had enjoyed the week and were looking forward to the little graduation ceremony that Kelly had planned for the day. When I came back into the house I heard the phone ringing and hurried into the Den to get it.
"Mr. Burger, it's Mandy Oakes calling. I'm Charles Depew's babysitter. He told me to call you, as I didn't know who to turn to," she said with an anxious tone to her voice.
She told me Charles' mother had called her the night before and asked her to babysit that day. She was the regular babysitter that Marjorie had been using during the summer when Charles wasn't in any activities. She told me that shortly after she got to the house that morning, she witnessed his mother slap him very forcefully on the side of the head because she was mad at him for talking back to her. They had been having an argument because she told him that she didn't want his father to see him and she wasn't letting him go to the program.
"He's in a lot of pain from his ear and there's a welt on his cheek," she said.
I could tell that she was getting close to the point of breaking down. She told me that she knew she needed to report this as child abuse but she didn't know who to turn to. Her parents were gone to work and she couldn't get a hold of them and Charles didn't know his father's cell phone number. She said she was mad at herself for not challenging the mother on the spot, but she was stunned by the whole event and she wasn't thinking straight at the time.
"I'll be right over," I said as I hung up the phone.
When I got there, Mandy let me in and I could tell that she was very distressed. Charles was up in his bedroom lying on the bed almost in tears and was in a lot of pain. The large welt on his cheek was obvious, as it was as red as his hair. The major concern however, was his ear, which was causing him a lot of pain. I asked Mandy to stay with him while I went out into the hallway and made some calls.
The first call was to Scott's office and I explained the problem and his receptionist told me to bring him over right away and they would get him in. The second call was to Katharine. I explained what had happened and that because my OCT (Ontario College of Teachers') certification was still up-to-date that I was carrying out my duties as a teacher and reporting a suspected case of child abuse.
"You're quite correct that you're duty bound to report this. I'll have Dominic Markucci meet you at Dr. Scott's office. I'm going to authorize an emergency foster placement with you in the meantime," she said.
I told her that it would be better if she placed him in his father's custody as I told her that he had some rights. She said she would call over to the Family Court and try to find out what they were and determine if she could make that arrangement. Otherwise, she would place him with me.
She asked me what the mother's name was and when I told her she said, "Oh God! Not her. I've been in meetings with her before and she's something else."
She told me that this could be a potentially explosive situation taking into consideration the mother's profile and that we would have to tread lightly. She also told me that if Dominic deemed the abuse to be valid and serious that they would have to involve the police.
"Let's get this moving quickly then, as nothing would give me more enjoyment than to have the police charge her at work in front of her staff," I said with a devilish chuckle.
Mandy and I got him into the Lexus after we packed some of his clothes into some luggage I found downstairs and we were on our way. I told her that she needed to come with me as she was an eye witness to the event and that since she was nineteen years old and a credible witness, that Dominic would need to take a statement from her.
On the way over I called Dana from my hands-free Bluetooth in the Lexus. I asked her to pick up the boys and explained what was happening. I told her I would call her when I had more information. I also asked her to go to the house and look up my call display to get Mark's cell number, as I didn't have it.
When we got to Scott's office we had to wait a few minutes as he had a patient in with him. The waiting room wasn't too full, and his receptionist told us she would get us in as soon as he was free. In the meantime Dominic arrived. He introduced himself to Mandy and Charles and took her into the spare examining room to take a statement. Scott then came into the waiting room as his patient got ready to leave.
"Let's take a look, young man," he said as he motioned him to come to the examining room.
I stayed put and when Charles looked at me I gave him a reassuring smile and said, "We'll be right out here. Don't worry Dr. Scott doesn't bite."
As they walked into the examining room Scott put his arm around his shoulder and started to talk to him to put him at ease.
Just then my phone rang and it was Dana with Mark's cell number. I took down the details, hung up and went into the hallway to try to get a hold of him. Luckily he had his phone on and answered. He was devastated and said he would be right there.
"Now don't panic, Mark. He's in good hands and the situation is under control. The last thing we need is to have you in an accident."
When I got back into the waiting room I could see Dominic was on the phone and Mandy was sitting on the chair in front of him. He hung up and the two of them came back into the waiting room. Just then Scott opened the door and motioned for us to come in.
I looked at Dominic and he said, "I just got off the phone with Katharine and it's Ok for you to come in. She also said that she's checked with the Family Court and our legal staff and she's going to authorize the father to take him into his custody in the meantime."
When we got into the room Scott got to the point very quickly.
"I'm not sure if the ear drum is ruptured or not, as there is a lot of swelling and I couldn't look inside his ear. The cheek is bruised but there isn't any damage to the jaw. It's my opinion that this is Child Abuse as a result of an assault by Charles' mother. Given the facts that he has relayed to me and the results of my examination it is also my opinion that charges should be laid against the mother."
He went on to say that he had injected him with some pain medication and that he would prescribe pain pills and an anti-inflammatory.
"I need to see him first thing Monday morning. If the pain doesn't subside over the weekend then take him to emergency and have them phone me," he said with his professional look on his face.
He then asked who would be taking custody of him in the meantime and Dominic said he would be going with Mark, which brought a weak smile to Charles' face. Just then there was a knock on the door and Mark entered. He immediately went over to Charles and carefully hugged him after he took a look at the welt on his face. Shortly after that the waterworks started and the tears were flowing down Charles' cheek.
"Let's go outside and leave these two alone for a few minutes while we discuss the next steps," Dominic said as he motioned to the door.
Dominic told me that Katharine had been able to contact the Family Court and get information on the custody agreement between Mark and Marjorie. She said that there was nothing in the agreement that would preclude Mark from taking him until this situation was sorted out. He also said that given the suspected backlash from the mother that Mark and Charles should not go back to Mark's house for the weekend. Just then the door to the examining room opened, and Mark motioned us to come back in. Charles had composed himself, and I could also see from the Kleenex in Mark's hand that he had needed to do the same.
Dominic delivered the news that Mark was being granted temporary custody and that he should stay somewhere else that weekend.
"I guess we can go to a motel, as I don't really have anywhere else to go," he said.
"You're not going to a motel. You two are going to be my guests for as long as you need," I said.
He gave me a smile and thanked me. Just then I heard voices outside the room and a knock. When Scott opened the door, Sean and Jake poured into the room and made their way over to Charles. The two of them started talking to him at the same time and poor Charles didn't know what to do. I could see that both Sean and Jake wanted to hug him, but they were being cool teenaged boys and held back.
"Boys, give Charles a chance to breathe," I said as everyone laughed at them.
There wasn't enough space in the examination room and Dana was standing in the doorway with a very concerned look on her face. I went over and asked her what was the matter.
"I feel awful that we couldn't have done anything to prevent this."
I told her that we did all we could and that we had a chance to make it up to him by giving his father as much support as we could.
"What's going to happen to Charles now?" She asked.
I told her that Mark was granted temporary custody and that I had offered to let them stay in the house because of the concern with the mother tracking them down and harassing them.
"Al, they need to be alone more than anything else right now. The townhouse is free this weekend and I insist that they stay there. And if they need more time I know a place I can stay," she said as she smiled at me.
I took her hand in mine and gave it a squeeze as I returned the smile.
We all made our way out into the waiting room and I told Mark of the change of plans. He was grateful but reluctant because he didn't want to impose. Dana had made her way to Charles' side and put her arm around him and gave him a motherly hug.
"You two have a lot of time to make up for, and you don't need a house full of people around," she said as looked down and smiled at Charles. Despite his discomfort, he gave her a smile in return.
Charles and Mandy came with us. I paid Mandy, thanked her and dropped her off and then we made our way over to the townhouse. Mark took off to get his things from his house and get the prescriptions filled for Charles. The pain killer shot that Scott had given him was starting to make him drowsy and when we got in Dana and I got him up to Sean's former room and got him into bed. Dana sat on the side of his bed when we got him settled.
"Your job right now, young man, is to get better. Things always have a way of working themselves out for the best," she said as she smiled and ran her hands through his hair.
We went downstairs and while we were waiting for Mark to return, the boys, Dana and I made them a casserole and salad for their dinner. After about an hour, Mark knocked at the door and we let him in. He had stopped in at a grocery store and got some of Charles' favourite things. I told him to drive his car into the garage in case Marjorie was actively looking for them and then Dana and I gave him a tour of the Townhouse and showed him where everything was that he'd need.
"I don't know how to thank you two. I'm so angry at my ex-wife. I feel like going over and ripping a strip off of her, but I realize that would probably be the worst thing I could do at this moment," he said with a determined look on his face.
I was glad that I was seeing some fire in him, as he would need to muster all the determination he could in the next little while. I knew Marjorie wouldn't fade into the woodwork and that she would be coming at him with both guns blazing.
We left them and went to the house. I could see the boys were really concerned with Charles' well being.
"Can we go and see him tomorrow, Dad," Sean asked.
I told them that I would phone in the morning and see how he was and whether he wanted visitors.
"Is Mr. Depew gonna get to keep Charles?" Jake asked.
"I certainly hope so," I said as I put my arms around the two of them and gave them a squeeze.
The boys went down to their rooms to change into their swimsuits and Dana went into the Kitchen to get us some munchies and drinks for the pool. I went into the Den to see if there were any phone messages. When I looked at the machine I could see that there was one message from Katharine and I called her back.
"The good news is that Ms. Evans was arrested at her workplace in front of her staff and taken into Police custody. The bad news is that she was released on her own recognizance and was steaming mad," she said.
I told her that Mark was at the Townhouse and that he would make himself inconspicuous as long as needed.
The four of us swam and played in the pool for the rest of the afternoon before we had dinner. I went back into the house to get the steaks for the BBQ and I heard the phone ringing. I looked at the call display and was not surprised to see 'M. Evans' show up.
"Who is this speaking?" I asked as I turned on the answering machine recording function.
"It's Marjorie Evans," she said with that icy tone.
Before she could say anything else I broke in and told her I had just got up and I asked her what time and day it was, which she willing provided for me.
"I need to tell you Marjorie that I'm recording this conversation. Now what is it you want?"
There was silence on the other end for some moments and then she finally said with venom in her voice, "You don't know who you're dealing with. You're going to be very sorry."
"That's really ironic that you'd say that, as I was thinking about saying the same thing to you," I replied in a cavalier tone.
The next thing I heard was the dial tone. I hung up and made another call.
"Katharine, this is a somewhat official call. I just received a rather threatening and harassing phone call from Ms. Evans, which I've recorded. I fear that she'll attempt to use any means to get her son back. I think that we need a restraining order against her," I said.
"I'd be happy to take care of that, Uncle Al," she said with a cheerfulness to her voice.