This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

This story is copyright by Owen Hudson, all rights reserved. Distribution, including but not limited to: posting on internet sites, newsgroups, or message boards, or in book form (either as a whole or part of a compilation), or on CD, DVD or any other electronic media, is expressly prohibited without the author's written consent.

Ten Steps Down

© 2010 Owen Hudson

Chapter 7

I was startled by a loud scream in the middle of the night. It took me a few seconds to realize it was coming from James' room. I rushed toward his room as Mom and Dad were doing the same. When Dad opened the door James was rolling about in his bed and screaming, "Please don't hit me again. Please, I promise I'll be good." James hadn't had a nightmare in months. I wondered if the mention of his abuser had brought on this one.

"It's okay Son," Dad said as he wrapped his arms around James. "Nobody is going to hurt you. You're safe here."

After we got James calmed and back to sleep, Mom said, "I'll call and get him an appointment with a counselor."

The next morning James was very quiet. This was unlike him since he had become a happy young man. On the way to school I asked, "Are you okay?"

"It was so real," James said. "He was beating the crap out of me again. I could actually feel the pain."

"It's only a dream," I tried to assure him.

"I know that now, but when I'm sleeping my brain doesn't know that," James said.

"When you go to bed think about how good it would feel to whip his ass. Maybe the next time you have that dream you will remember that you've had martial arts training," I said. "I'll bet you could beat the crap out of him now."

"I'll try that," James said.

"When you go to bed tonight think about how you could do that," I said. "You know when Neil attacked me I could have hurt him, but when it came down to it I just wanted him to know that I wasn't afraid of him anymore. When I pinned his arm back I put enough pressure that he knew I could break it."

"I want to hurt Larry the way he hurt me," James said.

"I've never heard you mention his name before," I said.

"I guess I just now remembered it," James said. "He hit me a lot of times, but the last time was really bad. He kept beating me and I remember screaming. I guess a neighbor heard me and called the police. They took me away and I never saw my mom again. Not that I wanted to see her. She let Larry beat me with his belt so bad that it left those scars."

"It is no wonder you're having nightmares," I said. "You were victimized twice, once when Larry beat you and then again when you were sent to live with Mrs. Powell."

"It's okay," James said. "I now have a real family."

James went through several nights with no nightmares. "Craig, I did what you said," he confessed one morning during breakfast. "I kicked Larry's butt when he started to hit me. I know it was just a dream, but it still felt good. I don't need to see a shrink now."

"You have an appointment tomorrow with Dr. Chambers," Mom said. "You need to go just to make sure you are over your nightmares. I'll pick you up at school at noon."

"Do I really have to go?" James asked.

"I'm sorry Honey," Mom said. "I really think you should go."

After school I helped Dad with the chores since James and Mom hadn't returned from James' appointment in Manhattan. It seemed strange to be doing chores without James. After finishing the chores Dad and I began preparing dinner. We decided on grilled steaks, baked potatoes, salad, and a vegetable. While Dad marinated the steaks I prepared the baked potatoes and tossed a salad.

When Mom and James arrived home Dad put the steaks on the grill while I set the table. James went directly to his room. I assumed he was tired from his appointment. He was unusually quiet during dinner. Finally Dad asked, "Is something wrong, Son?"

"I'm not going back to Dr. Chambers again," James said.

"Why don't you want to go back?" Mom asked.

"Dr. Chambers said that what Craig told me was nonsense," James said. "He said that I needed to take some medicine and see him again."

"You didn't tell me that on the way home," Mom said.

"Well I was pissed... I was mad," James said as he corrected himself.

"You don't have to see Dr. Chambers again if you don't want to, but I want you to see another psychiatrist. We may need to take you to Topeka."

"I'm fine," James assured us. "I haven't had a nightmare since I did what Craig told me."

"Libby, why don't we wait and see if he has another nightmare and then have him see a psychiatrist if he does," Dad said.

"Alright," Mom reluctantly agreed. "But, you have to agree to go if you have another nightmare."

"Thanks Mom," James said. "I agree."

With only one week of school left before summer vacation James and I were looking forward to our vacation trip to Machu Picchu in Peru with Uncle Jason and Uncle Ryan. I was excited, but James was beside himself. This would be the first flight for both James and me.

The day before the flight Mom and Dad drove us to Topeka to spend the night with Uncle Jason and Uncle Ryan. We had an 11:30 am flight and would have plenty of time to drive from Topeka to Kansas City. Since our flight was an international flight we had to check in by 10:30. James and I were in awe of the airport activities. Of course James and I had 1,000 questions before we boarded the plane for the first leg of our flight to Houston. We were both apprehensive and excited during the takeoff.

We had almost two hours time between flights in Houston. This gave us time for lunch. "We had better hurry," James worried as we ate our sandwiches.

"We have plenty of time, Sport," Uncle Ryan assured him. "Our gate is not that far."

The next leg of our fight was from Houston to Panama City, Panama. Although our plane was larger than the one from Kansas City to Houston, it was good to walk around and stretch our legs when we landed in Panama City. After just over an hour we were back in the air for the final portion of our flight to Lima. Despite our excitement James and I fell asleep during the flight. We arrived in Lima shortly after midnight.

It was just after two am by the time we checked into our hotel. Our rooms were surprisingly nice, but we really didn't care. All we wanted was a comfortable bed.

After a great breakfast at the hotel we spent the remainder of the day exploring the city. Lima was a modern city but also mixed with old. The cathedrals we saw were magnificent. I'm sure James and I looked like a couple of country bumpkins as we gawked at the things we saw, but we didn't care. We were enjoying the wonderful city. Our uncles seemed to be enjoying watching James and me in our enthusiasm.

After spending the day exploring the city we went to a restaurant near our hotel. We didn't understand the menu, but the waiter spoke English and explained each item. "What is roast cuy?" I asked.

"Guinea pig," the waiter said.

"Eww," James said. This elicited a laugh from all of us.

James and I settled on the papa rellena, a meat stuffed potato patty. Uncle Jason was brave and had the roasted cuy. Uncle Ryan had the carapulca, a dish made with diced potatoes, pork, steak, and rice. The food was surprisingly good. Uncle Jason said that the cuy was good and tried to get us to taste it. Of course none of us were brave enough to do so. We decided we would take his word for it. Our uncles enjoyed a glass of wine, and James and I had an Inca cola. We were surprised that it was bright yellow and smelled like bubble gum. For dessert we all decided on the arroz con leche, a type of rice pudding.

As we walked back to our hotel, Uncle Ryan announced that he had arranged The Magic Circuit of the Water Tour for us. Neither James nor I knew what this was but, we were having fun and eagerly agreed. We learned that the tour was of the many fountains in Lima. The fountains were colored lights set to music. They were beautiful and we were happy that we remembered to bring our cameras.

After breakfast the next morning we flew to Cusco for our visit to Machu Picchu. The Andes were beautiful with their snow capped peaks. Cusco was high in the Andean Mountains. After checking into our hotel James and I were ready to explore the city. However, Uncle Ryan insisted that we not exert ourselves because of the extreme altitude difference.

We found a nice restaurant near our hotel. We all decided on the alpaca steaks that were surprisingly good. Our uncles insisted that we returned to our room after eating.

"We'll explore the city tomorrow," Uncle Jason promised. "Everything that I've read suggests that we need at least a day to become acclimatized."

Fortunately none of us suffered any from altitude sickness. The next morning we were ready to tour the city. There were many sites that we wanted to see, but we would need several more days in Cusco to see everything. We finally narrowed our list to things we could see in one day. I was most impressed with The Cathedral, built between 1560 and 1664. It was made from large blocks of red granite. We also visited a market and purchased some local handcrafted gifts and souvenirs.

Following breakfast the next morning we were on our way to Machu Picchu via train. The area was beautiful. Again we were pleased that we had our cameras. We had a twenty minute bus ride from our hotel up to Machu Picchu. The bus ride was winding with switchbacks. At times it appeared as though the bus was on the edge of the road with a straight drop off.

Needless to say we were in wonderment of the park itself. We were impressed at the stonework the Incas had done to build Machu Picchu. The view from the mountain ridge was spectacular. We spent the entire day exploring the wonderful site. We tried to imagine how the Incas managed to cut the heavy stones and then move them into place with no modern equipment. They also didn't have draft animals to facilitate in moving the stones.

We were exhausted when we arrived back at our hotel, but we were also famished. After cleaning up we went to the restaurant for dinner.

"I'm so hungry I could almost eat one of those guinea pigs," James said.

"I'll order you one," Uncle Jason teased.

"I said 'almost'," James declared.

After we arrived back in Cusco our uncles surprised us the next day with a train trip to Lake Titicaca. We learned that the lake was the largest lake in South America and the highest navigable lake in the world. We were all fascinated by the reed islands. These islands were floating islands built by the Uros Indian by using reeds. The Uros actually lived on the islands. The sites in the Lake Titicaca area were beautiful and impressive, but we were still more impressed by what we saw in Machu Picchu.

After touring Lake Titicaca and the area we flew back to Lima before our flight back Home. We were all tired and looking forward to returning home. Our flight home was at 5:30 am and reverse of the flight down. By now James and I thought we were seasoned travelers. We seasoned travelers were tired by the time we arrived back in Kansas City twelve hours later. James and I were to spend the night with our uncles and they would drive us home the next day.

"Where would you boys like to eat?" Uncle Ryan asked on the way to their house.

"I want a hamburger," James said before I could answer.

"Yeah, a hamburger would be good," I agreed.

"Then we'll go to Buddy's," Uncle Jason said. "They have mom and pop hamburgers."

"This is really good," James said as he took a bite of his hamburger.

"It's made from ground guinea pig," Uncle Jason joked.

"Yours might be, but mine is made from Kansas beef," James countered.

"Craig, how is your burger?" Uncle Ryan asked.

"Really good," I said.

"Yeah, very tasty," James agreed. "But I can't wait to get home to some of Mom's cooking."

"Nor can I," I said.

"I don't know about you boys, but Ryan and I had a great time," Uncle Jason said. "But, it is good to be home."

"We had a great time," I said. "I know this cost you a lot of money."

"You're mom and dad paid half," Uncle Ryan said.

"No kidding?" James questioned. "How can they afford that?"

"Libby and I inherited a rather large amount of money from your grandparents," Uncle Jason explained. "Your mom and dad have made some wise investments over the years."

"I've often wondered why they made Patrick and then Craig pay half for their first cars," Uncle Ryan said.

"They believe that it teaches the value of the dollar," Uncle Jason said.

"I didn't mind paying for half," I said. "But, I don't understand why Mom and Dad didn't go ahead and pay for James' scar surgery."

"They gladly would have, if the state wouldn't," Uncle Jason said. "However, I convinced them that we could win the case and that it was something that the state should have already done."

It was a wonderful feeling when we arrived home the next day. I had a new appreciation of what James and I had here. This farm was the place where I came to escape Neal. This was now my home, a home with a real family.

Mom and Dad greeted James and me with enthusiastic hugs before we had time to put our luggage down. "It is so good to have my boys back home," Mom said. "Did you have a good time?"

"We sure did," James said. "We took about a jillion pictures."

"You'll have to show them to us and tell us all about it," Dad said. "Thank you Jason and Ryan for taking them on this trip with you.

"They were a joy to vacation with," Uncle Ryan said. "Jason and I enjoyed the trip even more by having them with us."

"We sure did," Uncle Jason agreed.

"We brought you presents," James said as he began to rummage through the luggage. "Open it," he said when he found the package.

"Oh my, what a beautiful shawl," Mom said when she saw the gift. "And it is made from alpaca wool."

"We got Grandma Cochran one too," James said.

"She will love it," Mom declared.

"We got you a gift too, Dad," I said as I handed him his gift.

"You got me a shawl too?" Dad joked as he opened the package.

"It's an alpaca wool sweater," James proudly declared.

"It's the warmest wool you can get," James said. "I learned that while we were in Peru."

"Wow, this is really nice," Dad said. "Thank you guys."

"Could we go take Grandma Cochran's gift to her?" James asked.

"Why don't you call and invite her to dinner tonight," Mom suggested. "You can give her the gift then."

"Good idea," James said as he went to make the call.

"How did he do?" Mom asked when James was out of the room. "Did he have any nightmares?"

"He did fine," Uncle Ryan said.

"He's come a long way since the first time I saw him," Uncle Jason said.

"She will be here soon," James announced when he returned.

"Who are the other gifts for?" Mom asked.

"I got Rachel some gloves, and Seth and Jon caps," I said. "James and I got Nicole some mittens. James convinced me that I should get something for Dan. I got him a pair of alpaca wool socks."

"I got Chelsea some gloves too," James said.

"Who is Chelsea?" Mom asked.

"She is my friend," James said. "She lived at Mrs. Powell's until she was adopted. Craig, can you drive me to her house tomorrow to take the gift to her?"

"Sure, where does she live?" I asked.

"I don't know," James admitted. "She said it was out by the golf course somewhere."

"What is her last name?" Uncle Jason asked.

"Carnahan," James said.

"I'll bet Harvey and Sherry Carnahan are her parents," Mom said. "They live out near the golf course. They are the only Carnahans that I know of. We'll call them and see if they are Chelsea's parents. If they are, Chelsea is with a good family. Jason, wasn't Sherry in your graduating class?"

"What was her maiden name?" Uncle Jason asked.

"Hallmark," Mom said.

"There was a Sherry Hallmark in my class," Uncle Jason said. "She was a really nice girl."

"Grandma Cochran is here," James said when the doorbell rang and he rushed to the door.

Grandma Cochran hardly had time to say hello before James was giving her the gift and saying, "Craig and I brought you a present from Peru."

"This is lovely," Grandma Cochran said as she examined the shawl. "It is so soft."

"Its alpaca wool," James proudly boosted. "It is the softest and warmest wool there is."

"I know I'll put this to good use this winter," Grandma Cochran said.

"This is really good," I said as I enjoyed Mom's pot roast during dinner. "We enjoyed trying different food in Peru, but nothing was as good as Mom food."

"Was the food good there?" Mom asked.

"Most of it was good," I said. "But, nothing was as good as what you cook.

"Thank you, Honey," Mom said. "That earned you a larger piece of apple pie for dessert."

"Yeah, Mom, nobody can cook as good as you do," James quickly agreed.

"Thank you too, Sweetie," Mom said. "You earned a larger piece of pie too."

"Mom, Uncle Jason ate a guinea pig in Peru," James said.

"That isn't the worst thing your Uncle Jason ever ate," Mom laughed.

"You told me it would taste like candy," Uncle Jason objected.

"What did he eat?" James asked.

"He ate a June bug grub," Mom said.

"Well Mom restricted you for a week after that," Uncle Jason said.

"It was worth it," Mom laughed.

 "I can't believe they did that without being asked," Grandma Cochran said when James and I cleared the table and loaded the dishwasher.

"We are blessed to have two great sons," Mom said. "I sometimes have trouble keeping up with all of their activities, but I wouldn't trade that for the world."

"Jason and I had trouble keeping up with them on our vacation," Uncle Ryan said. "We did our share of walking while in Peru."

"I would certainly have trouble with my bad knee," Grandma Cochran said.

"Could they do a knee replacement?" Dad asked.

"They could, but I would have to go live in a nursing home for about six weeks," Grandma Cochran said. "I may have to give in and do that."

"You could come here and let us take care of you," Mom offered.

"Oh I couldn't let you do that," Grandma Cochran protested.

"Sure you could," Dad said. "We all consider you to be family."

"Yeah, you could have my room and I would sleep in the basement bedroom," James offered.

"But, mine has a bathroom," I interjected.

"I couldn't take your bedroom boys," Grandma Cochran said.

"We could convert my office back into a bedroom," Dad said. "We added it when my mom came here to live after her hip surgery. The bathroom in there is wheelchair accessible. There is plenty of room in the basement for my things that are in there."

"Why don't you call and make that appointment?" Mom suggested.

"It is scheduled for next Thursday," Grandma Cochran said. "I planned to call and cancel it."

"Next Thursday will give us plenty of time to get the room ready," Mom said.

"I never agreed to come here after the surgery," Grandma Cochran said. "I can't let you be bothered taking care of me."

"But Grandma Cochran, we want to take care of you," James argued.

"Yeah Grandma Cochran, you took care of me when I was little," I said. "You're our only grandma."

"Alright boys," Grandma Cochran said. "But if I'm going to be your only grandma just call me grandma."

"Okay, Grandma," James said with a huge smile.

"Where will you have your surgery done?" Mom asked.

"KU Medical Center," Grandma said.

"Surely you weren't going to drive yourself there," Dad said.

"No, transportation is provided for the elderly," Grandma said. "A van will pick me up."

"You can cancel that," Mom said. "I'll drive you there."

Grandma finally agreed to allow Mom to drive her to Kansas City for her surgery. Of course James and I insisted that we would go too. Dad asked me to contact Jon and Seth to do our chores so he could go too. Since it was just under an hour drive from Topeka to Kansas City, Mom would take her car and stay with Uncle Jason and Uncle Ryan. James, Dad and I would come back home after Grandma's surgery. Mom would bring Grandma back home after her discharge from the hospital in about three days.

"This is Chelsea's house," I said when I drove James to deliver his gift to her the next day.

"Are you going in with me?" James asked. He was obviously nervous.

"If you want me to," I agreed.

Chelsea was a pretty girl and appeared happy to see James when she greeted us at the door. "This is my brother, Craig," James said.

"Hi Craig," Chelsea said. "It is a pleasure to meet you. Come in and meet my parents."

After meeting Mr. and Mrs. Carnahan James gave Chelsea her gift. "I know its summer, but it was winter in Peru. I think you will like these this winter."

"Oh these are pretty and so soft," Chelsea remarked as she tried on the gloves.

"They are made from alpaca wool," James explained. "It is the warmest wool there is."

"Did you get to go to Peru?" Chelsea asked.

"Yes, our uncles took Craig and me there," James said. "We got to see Machu Picchu. It was awesome."

"You were lucky to get adopted by a good family," Chelsea said. "We were both lucky."

"I still get angry at the way that woman treated Chelsea when she was in foster care," Mrs. Carnahan said. "I don't understand why the state continues to place children with her. I reported what Chelsea told us to her case worker, but nothing was done."

"Mrs. Powell is no longer allowed to foster kids," I said. "They fired Mrs. Gray. Don and Libby Turner adopted James and me."

"Harvey, I was right," Mrs. Carnahan said. "It was Don and Libby that adopted James. I'll call Libby and invite your family over for dinner soon."

"We probably should have you over since Grandma is recovering from knee surgery," I said.

"Would we know your grandma?" Mrs. Carnahan asked. "What is her name?"

"Margaret Cochran," I said. "She isn't our real grandma. She was my neighbor and sometimes took care of me when I was little. Now we are taking care of her while she recovers from knee surgery."

"I don't believe I know her," Mrs. Carnahan said.

Mom agreed with me that it would be best if we invited the Carnahans to dinner and our house. "I'll call Sherry and invite them."

 During the few days before Grandma's surgery we moved Dad's office to the basement and moved the bedroom furniture in. "There's no TV in here for her," James said after we had completed the task. "I'll bring mine in here for her."

"Where is the TV that was in here?" Dad asked.

"I put it in the basement," I said. "I'll go bring it back up before James strokes out."

"Well she may want to watch TV while she is in here," James protested.

"Your brother was only teasing you," Dad said. "But, it is good of you to be considerate."

"I believe the room is ready for Margret," Mom said after surveying the room. "Don, where is that wheelchair that was your mother's?"

"I put it in the attic," Dad said. "Craig, could you and James go and get it? There is also a walker up there that she will need too."

Grandma's surgery went well and she was discharged to come home after four days in the hospital. When Mom brought her home Dad and I got her out of the car and into the wheelchair. Of course James had to "assist" us and cautioned us to be careful with her knee. James insisted that he push her wheelchair into the house. Dad had constructed a ramp to make it easy to get the wheelchair from the garage into the house.

"Margaret, would you like to lie down and rest before dinner?" Mom asked after we got her inside. "You must be exhausted after the drive here from the hospital."

"I hate to ask this, but could you help me to the bathroom," Grandma said. "Then I think I'd rather sit in the den with the guys."

"James would you and Craig move that ottoman over here for Margaret to rest her leg on?" Mom asked after she had helped Grandma to the bathroom."

"I'm not used to this pampering," Grandma said.

"Could I get you something to drink?" James asked.

"No thank you James," Grandma said. "I'm fine for now."

"I'm going to prepare dinner," Mom said. "I'll let the guys keep you company."

"Dad put a roast in the crock pot earlier," I said.

"Well in that case I don't really have anything to do in the kitchen for a while," Mom said.

"Grandma, when will you be able to stand?" James asked.

"I can stand now with assistance," Grandma said. "The physical therapist will be coming by to teach me how to use the walker and will be helping me exercise my knee."

Over the next several days Grandma's recovery was going extremely well. She was using the walker to get around the house and even began spending some time on the patio. Everett, Grandma's physical therapist said that he'd never had a more determined patient to work with. James was torn between hanging around the house and helping with Grandma and working with Dad and me on the farm. However, Mom convinced James that Dad needed his help more than she did.

"Dan called," Mom said one afternoon when James, Dad and I took a lunch break from building a new sow farrowing barn.

"What did he want?" I asked.

"He didn't say," Mom said. "He wants you to call him today. Eat your lunch and then you can call."

"Did you call?" I asked Dan when I made the call.

"Craig, I know I don't have the right to ask you this," Dan began. "I need to ask a huge favor. I'm not asking for me, but for Nicole."

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