Worth Saving Me
Michael Elton held both of his arms tightly around the shivering frame of his five year old brother Anthony. The rain that poured over the mass of people covered their shed tears. Mike felt as Little Tony tried to gather himself in light of the approaching man.
“Hey, guys, how you holding up?” The man asked them as he kneeled in front of them.
At fifteen, Mike was not a child. In the eve of his parent’s death, he had seen two men come up to them and shoot them. A cold-hearted death. Right in their weekend cabin.
Just three nights ago, he had been with his father planning out their summer camping trip. This year was a big one. This year, Mike was going to be allowed to drive the two and a half hours up to the cabin and Little Tony was coming with the ‘Big Boys’.
Mike and his father, Brian Elton, had been relatively close. Unlike most of his friends, Mike really liked spending the time with his father. It was rare that the man could be around and he and Tony valued all the time that they could with him.
Their mother, Jeanette, had been a homemaker and had always been around for them. Their little family had grown considerably after the birth of Anthony a few years ago. Mike always hated being an only child, and even though he had had to wait ten years for a brother, he was extremely happy the day that he had heard the news.
Glancing down at Little Tony now, Michael couldn’t help but wonder what was going to happen to them.
“M’kay,” Tony sniffled. Mike just hugged Tony tighter to him and looked the man over.
“I don’t think that you guys remember me. The last time that I saw you, you were just ten years old and little Tony had just but begun to crawl. I’m your Uncle James, Brian’s brother.”
“Uncle Jimmy?” Tony asked as he took a step forward.
At the mention of his father, Mike had gripped down at Tony’s shoulders and had haltered his movements forward.
“Yeah, Uncle Jimmy,” James smiled, recognizing his older brother’s pet name for him.
“Whaddaya want?” muttered Mike.
James looked up at his eldest nephew. He could see the hurt and confusion in Mike’s blue eyes. Blue eye’s that rivaled his father’s.
“Well, I’m here for you boys,” he replied in the same calm manner, ignoring the attitude addressed towards him.
Mike scoffed. James and Tony both looked up towards him.
“Yeah, well join the club. Apparently, everyone here is here for us. We don’t need you or anyone else’s damn charity.”
The statement was said behind mostly clenched teeth. Mike started to walk backwards, taking Tony with him, and trying to head away from the lowering boxes. Boxes that held the two most precious things in his young life. The two most important people that had made everything in his world okay.
And they were both now dead.
“No, Michael. I meant that I was here for you. I’m here to take you boys’ home. With me and my wife, Ana. You two are going to come live with us.”
Mike was shaking his head before James was even done talking.
“No. Nah. Not gonna work. Sorry, no.”
James stood up in front of them. He had had a long day right along with everyone. James and Ana had gotten the call about his brother Brian’s death two days ago and he had immediately made arrangements for the children. James was beyond shocked to say the least when he got the call last night saying that his brother and sister-in-law had left him as their sons’ guardian.
James and Ana had only been married for a few months, and the will had been updated just after Tony’s birth, so she hadn’t been written into the will. Ana and Jeanette had gotten along quite well for the few times that they had met, so James was certain that they wouldn’t have any problem with her. Otherwise, like their lawyer had told him, they had had months to make that change if necessary.
Now, the looks that Mike and Little Tony were giving him made it clear that this next phrase was not going to be well welcomed.
“No, Mike. I don’t think that you understand. Yes, all these people,” James motioned behind him to the fellow mourners draped in black suits, dresses, and long coats. “They do want to help you out, make sure that everything doesn’t come crashing down on you. They were friends of your parents and they really care for you. You’ve known these people all your lives. I don’t think that they deserve the kind of talk you’ve been giving them all day.
“What I meant, however, was that I was here for you. Your parents wrote me as your legal guardian should anything happen to them. No one wanted this to be, but they’re gone now and it’d be a hell of a lot easier if you could just come with me without a fuss.”
Mike looked up to his uncle. James was a good 6’4” and was built like a football defensemen. Mike was still growing at 5’10” and his own built wasn’t that bad but James was intimidating enough. Still, he couldn’t believe that this man, his father’s brother or not, that he hadn’t seen in years had the nerve to come and think that they were going to just up and leave with him. That they’d leave their house, their things, their friends just like that.
“No, we’re not going anywhere. Manny can take care of us. Jean is still there. WE don’t need you, go away.”
Mike turned to leave, picking up Tony as he went.
“Mikey?” Tony asked his brother. Mike didn’t look over to him but he tightened his hold.
Mike walked over to their limo, ignoring the calls from their uncle behind him. All around, people that his parents had known all his life looked at him, back at what he figured was the approaching figure of his uncle, and then moved out of the way.
Mike looked over to their driver.
“Home, Manny. I wanna go home.”
Opening the door for himself and getting in, locking the door behind him, Mike settled Tony into his car seat and wrapped the baby blanket that their mother had crocheted for him around the little figure.
Shrugging off his wet coat to the floor, Mike watched as Uncle James finally reached them. He spoke with Manny for a second and then nodded, eyeing the back windows briefly.
Manny got into the limo and drove away.
“Uncle Jimmy?” Tony asked his brother.
“No, Ant. James is staying right were he belongs. We don’t need him, kiddo. I’ll take care of you. Okay?”
Tony looked at his brother. Sure, Mike was way older and could make him fly and toss him really high into the air, but he wasn’t big and strong like Daddy. Uncle Jimmy was kinda like Daddy, but he wasn’t sure if Uncle Jimmy knew how to make him fly or the right way to make s’mores.
Arriving at their mansion, Mike quickly got Tony loose and into the house. He turned back just as Manny was going to follow them.
“Manny? Could you wait here for us for a minute? We’ll be right back.”
Manny eyed his young Master. He’d been working for the Elton’s for the last eight years and he knew this kid well enough to know that whatever the kid was going to do, it wasn’t good.
“Michael, what are you planning on?”
“Nothing,” Mike said quickly. “Just wait here, okay? We’ll be ready to leave soon.”
Without waiting for another question, Mike turned and rushed inside through the garage’s side entrance to the house.
Running up the steps and to his room, Mike grabbed the overnight bags that he had prepared the previous day. He hadn’t known that his uncle would be given custody, but he did know that someone would come along soon and try and get them away. His biggest fear was that someone would come and try to take Tony from him, the only family that he had left now.
Mike was in no way willing to lose Tony. The way he figured it. He and Tony would leave for a while, giving Mike enough time to try and find a way that he could make sure that everything would stay as close to normal as was to be possible. He thought it shouldn’t take more than a month or two, and it was still summer so he wouldn’t miss out in any classes and Tony wouldn’t miss his first day at the ‘big kid’ school.
God, Mom had been so excited to see Tony enter the first grade.
“Mikey? Whatcha doin?”
Mike looked over to his doorway. There stood Tony, all red eyed from crying for the last three days. Still wrapped in his baby blanket and clutching onto his favorite Teddy, BearBear, Tony looked possibly younger than his five years.
“We’re all ready to go, Shortstuff.” Mike crouched down in front of him. “You sure you don’t wanna leave BearBear at home? He might get dirty if he comes along.”
“Daddy gave me BearBear,” Tony replied softly as tears threatened to fall again.
“Okay, bud. BearBear can come,” Mike smiled at him. Tony smiled back and clutched the Teddy closer to him.
“You wanna bring Ted D. Bear?” Tony asked as he pointed into the room.
Mike turned around and saw his own fluffy brown bear on the shelf by his bed. His bear wasn’t as new as Tony’s, an eye was missing and the nose was hanging by a thread, but his Dad had given it to him as a baby. It had been just like when they had done it for Tony, Mom gave him a blanket and Dad got him a bear.
“Ted wants to stay home,” Mike said, not wanting any memory yet that involved himself and his parents he opted against such things until he could resolve his little dilemma.
“But, BearBear will be lonely,” Tony tried.
Mike strengthened out. He shouldered both of the bags, his and Tony’s and grabbed at Tony’s hand.
“No, Bear will have you and you’ll have him. That’s that.”
“Who will you have, Mikey?”
“I’ll have you,” Mike muttered more to himself than to Tony.
It took him a good six minutes to convince Manny to drive them over to the bus terminal. Manny was very suspicious, especially seeing the bags and he knew like hell that he shouldn’t leave these two unattended.
“Manny, come on. You know me. I wouldn’t do anything to hurt Tony. But I gotta do this.”
“You don’t need the bus, Michael. I’ll drive you where you need to go.”
Mike scoffed. Manny eyed him from the mirror. Kid had some attitude lately.
“Like you wouldn’t tell Uncle James where we were headed the second he asked. No thanks, Manny. I know what I gotta do. I don’t need anyone to stop me.”
“Michael. You don’t know what you’re doing…”
“Yes I do!”
“No, chico, you don’t. You’re working on adrenaline and confusion.”
“Stop trying to talk me out of this, Manny, if you don’t want to help me, then pull over, I’ll get there myself.”
Mike edged closer to the door. Many looked over the bad streets of New York. There was no way that he would let this kid, especially with Little Tony tagging along, walk alone and unprotected in these streets.
“Michael, no, you know I wouldn’t do that. Calmate. Put you seatbelt back on and I’ll get you to the terminal.”
Mike eyed Manny through the mirror.
“You sure?” Seeing him nod, Mike sat back into his seat.
“Si, I’ll get you there.”
Sighing, Mike wrapped his arms around his chest. He looked out the window and listened to Tony’s nonsense rambling until he saw the familiar building of the bus terminal.
Shaking his head, Manny turned into the parking lot and stopped besides the entrance. Manny turned around in his seat to look back as Mike got Tony out of his seat and grabbed their bags.
“Thanks, Manny. I- I didn’t mean to yell at you before,” muttered Mike.
“Lo se, kiddo. I know you didn’t mean anything by it. I really don’t like this that you’re doing, Mike. You don’t need to run away, everything’s going to be just fine.”
Mike moved to just besides the door.
“Nothing’s going to be fine again, Manny. Thanks for the ride. We’ll see you later, okay?”
Without waiting for a reply, Mike made his way out of the limo and grabbed at Tony’s hand, making his way into the terminal.
“Kiddo, las locuras que haces hacer. Now you’re making me do this, hope you know that.”
Manny shook his head once more, but pulled out of the parking lot and into the street once more. Pushing a button on the limo’s dash pad, Manny spoke out the home phone number hoping that like he’d told the man, James Elton, he’d have gone to the house.
Jean picked up the ringing phone from its stand on its third ring. She really wasn’t in the mood to be hearing anymore of those depressing words people had to offer that they believed would “grant the family comfort”.
Jean Layda was a middle aged woman that for the last twenty some years had ran and maintained the Elton estate.
And this was by far the longest, saddest day that she had ever spent there.
“Hello, Elton Estate,” she said automatically.
Jean? Es Manny
“Manny? What’s wrong? Where have you and the boys ran of to and how long ago?” Manny could hear a scrutiny thinking thing.
Jean, listen, we went home, and then minutes later Michael came back out with bags and I just drove them to the bus terminal.
“The terminal? What are they doing there? Manny, what’s going on?”
Well, que crees? They ran away. No creo que quieran estar con su tío. They had their bags packed and ready to go and everything, Jean.
“James? This is all because of James? Oh, Manny, you bring those boys back home right this minute, we’ll sort everything out. Michael’s not in his right mind lately. You bring those boys back and you just let me talk to them.”
Jean, I think he needs a little time away from all of this. El pobresito.
Just before Jean tells him to grab those kids anyways, screw their ‘feelings’, she hears the doorbell.
“That’s the door, Manny. You call me the second you’ve got them, got it?”
Ah, that’s probably James and Ana. I told James I was taking the boys home and that he should grab Ana and meet them there.
“But you’re not here!”
Pues, no. Sabes que? Tell James where I took them, maybe he can talk to Michael. He needs to get that kid’s reins now if he’s going to be raising them.
“Manny…” Jean starts, but the sound of the doorbell interrupts her again and she shakes her head. “Okay, I’ll tell him to go to the terminal right away. You make sure that they don’t leave, Manny.”
Claro, Jean. I’ve got them. I'll watch them until James arrives, Gracias.
Manny hung up the call and then set on parking the car better in the lot. He quickly exits and heads into the terminal, searching out his young charges.
Easily spotted, Manny sees a very agitated Michael talking to a lady in the ticket booth. Besides him, Little Tony’s sitting on their bags, playing with BearBear and mindless to all the commotion.
Manny sighed relieved that they’re okay, together, and that it doesn’t seem like they’ll be heading anywhere anytime soon.
Mike groans over to the blond female in the ticket booth. The only obstacle that he hadn’t factored into his plan.
“Come on, lady, I need this ticket.”
“I’m sorry young man, but I just can’t give a minor a ticket. One with a smaller child at that is just asking for trouble. Now, if you’ll just call your parents, have them talk with me and sort all this out, I might just not call the police in on this.”
“The police? Why would you need them? I’m not harassing you or threatening you or anything!”
Sighing, the lady shook her head at the young man’s distress. She could tell that he was upset about something, his face barely cleaned off of tear streaks. He was the picture image of a runaway. But what had really thrown her off was that he had brought what she hoped was his younger brother alone for the ride. Not too many runaways bring someone else along with them.
Hoping that there was someone out there coming to look for the boys, she insisted on the ‘protocol’ trying to give that person time and let the boy in front of her some thinking room.
“Listen,” she starts softer now. He’s looking much like a deer in the headlights and she doesn’t want to cause him more distress. “Why don’t you just take a seat over there and then when you get a hold of your parents, or someone, then you can come right back here and I’ll gladly give you those tickets?”
Mike took a deep breath. He glanced down to the floor in time to see BearBear nose dive a few feet behind him and Tony rush over to grab him, again.
Mike passes a hand through Tony’s soft baby curls. Tony sits down on the luggage again and looks up to his brother.
“Stay there,” Mike tells him softly. He doesn’t feel up to chasing the little bundle of precious terror around the entire terminal, and they really don’t need anymore added attention.
As Mike looked down to his little brother, the lady noticed a man coming from the entrance and sighing in relief as he spotted the two boys. She noticed him shaking his head in relief and then, instead of heading over to them like she had thought he would do, he looked around and settled into a seat near the crowd of waiting passengers.
“Kay,” Tony said in his little voice.
“Stop tossing him around.” The command was stern and Tony was used to it by now, “always listen to Mikey, T, he’ll take care of you” his Daddy had told him often.
Mike looked back over to the lady in the booth with a pleading look.
“Miss, please, I we’ve got to get out of here. It’s really important. I want to get away from here pronto, capish?” Mike was trying to be polite, but he was really not in the mood for anything today and his “teenage drama” as his mother had coined it was coming into play once more.
“Listen, just take a seat and we’ll get you sorted out soon enough. As for now, I’ve got some well to do customers patiently waiting their turn for the last minute or so and they look ticket-ready, if you get what I mean. Sit down, sonny, and I’ll get back to you.”
Knowing a dismissal when he heard one, Mike glowered at the woman and then grabbed Tony’s hand standing him up.
“Come on, let’s get the hell out of here,” Mike told him. Tony gave him an odd look at the language, seeing as most people didn’t curse around him.
Mike slipped the two bags back onto his shoulders and grabbed at Tony’s forearm, walking them to the entrance door.
“Mikey? Mike?” Tony asked as he tried to rush to keep up with his longer legged brother.
Mike didn’t bother to stop or slow down. He did however tighten his hold on Tony’s arm. He didn’t want to hear the little guy yet. He just wanted to sort out their situation. He needed to get the hell out of the city or else they’d be caught in a minute.
Mike was sure that Manny had headed home to call someone about their whereabouts and issue in reinforcements.
“Mike! You’re hurting me!” Tony said as he tried to tug his arm out of his brother’s grip.
“Walk faster than, Ant.”
In trying to get his arm back, Tony dropped BearBear on the floor
“Bear!” Tony yelled. Seeing as how they were now a good two feet away from his teddy, Tony turned back to Mike and noticed that his brother wasn’t slowing down. Tony opened his mouth and sunk his teeth into his brother’s writs until he let him go.
“Ow!” Mike yelled as he let go of Tony’s arm.
Tony ran back and grabbed at BearBear. He flung the teddy into his chest and turned his teary eyes back to his brother who was coming back towards him, and he didn’t look pleased.
“What the hell are you doing?” Mike yelled at him as he came to a halt in front of Tony.
“You dropped Bear,” Tony told him angrily.
“No, you dropped the bear. And I told you to stop flaying him around.”
That said, Mike reached forward and nabbed BearBear from Tony’s arms.
Ignoring Tony’s out cry, Mike opens up one of the bags and manages to barely stuff the teddy into the bag.
“Give him back!”
“No! You’re not getting him back until we get somewhere.”
“No! I want him now!” Outraged, Tony fisted his hands and stomped his protest on the floor.
Mike rolled his eyes unimpressed.
“Can it kiddo,” Mike tells him instead. He grabs for Tony’s arm like he had before and makes for the door again.
“No!” Tony kicks out and hits Mike in the back of his knee.
Tony turns around and runs off, all thoughts of Bear and Mike lost; all he wanted now was to go home. He wanted Daddy and Mommy and he wanted some of Jean’s fabulous cookies and one of Manny’s farfetched stories.
“Ant! Hey!” Mike called out to his brother’s retreating form. Mike lost sight of Tony easily in the bustle of the heavy crowd. “Oh shit!”
Manny groaned as a larger man, with a set of hair that was to be rethought, sat in front of him. This new man covered his perfect view of the boys.
Manny stood up and headed over to try and find another seat. To lost in the thought of finding a seat, Manny didn’t notice the boys’ departure until he found a new seat a good minute later.
Standing up quickly, much to the displeasure of the lady besides him, Manny headed over to the booth and waited behind the buyer looking around wildly all the time.
“Hello, how can I help you?”
Manny turned around and spoke quickly.
“Hi, look I know this might sound weird, but I know you were talking to a young man just a minute ago. I wonder if you could tell me where they headed off to. He had a little boy with him as well.”
“Ah yes, I saw you looking after them. I sent them to sit down, but I think that they headed over to that exit over there.” She pointed out to the direction that they had headed.
“Gracias,” he tells her as he backs away and starts to head over where she had pointed.
Manny turned around to see James Elton coming towards him.
James came to a halt in front of him; he looked around and tried to spot the boys somewhere.
“Where are they?”
“They headed off towards that exit,” Manny told him as he nudged his head over to where he had been headed.
Nodding, James wordlessly led the way to where the boys would be headed.
No! I want him now!
“Tony?” James asked Manny as they stopped from the sound of the outcry.
“Yeah, that’s him.”
“Someone’s got him,” James mentally concluded that that had to of been why the young boy had cried out.
“No, he’s just mad at someone, probably Mike. I don’t think that he likes where this is headed. Tony’s a smart little boy.”
To the new cry, both man looked over to where the voices had come and just began to rush over there where a small figure popped out from the fray of people.
“Manny!” Tony cried out as he spotted the man.
Tony ran over to Manny, not noticing his uncle until he was safely in Manny’s arms.
“Hey, buddy? You okay?” Manny asked the now crying five year old. Tony shook his head against Manny’s broad, strong shoulder.
“What happened?” James asked him.
Tony turned to look over to the new voice.
“Yeah, bud, it’s me.”
“Mikey took BearBear. He’s being mean, look.” Tony pulled back slightly from Manny and tugged on his coat and shirt until a red mark could be seen.
“Mike did that?” James asked him, anger boiling once more within him.
Tony nodded, eyes locked on his red arm. Manny redressed his arm and settled him into the coat.
James turned towards where Tony had come from, intent on going after the young man and demanding answers. To his surprise, Mike stood there watching them and hearing the exchange.
“Want to explain that to me?” James asked him, taking a step towards the boy.
Mike looked over to his uncle. As intimidating as James was, Mike could care less for his presence. What had stilled him were the cries of his brother and the reveal of what he had done to him. What was worse, was what he had been about to do to him.
“Ant? You okay?” Mike asked instead, taking a step towards the little boy.
Tony turned his head away from Mike and into the crook of Manny’s neck.
“I’m sorry buddy. You know I didn’t mean to hurt you,” Mike said, taking another step forward and pleading with his brother.
“Where’s Bear?!” Tony yelled out instead. Groaning, Mike shook his head and turned a bag to retrieve the desired comfort item.
Pulling it out, Mike felt his eyes swell up. Bear was a toy of his brother’s. A comfort that their dad had given Tony. It was not his to take in such a manner.
“Here he is, Ant. He’s okay.”
Tony turned around and reached an arm out. Mike placed the teddy bear within Tony’s reach and found the air within his grasp within seconds.
Once BearBear was in his hold again, Tony turned around and settled into Manny again.
James looked at the exchange between the brothers, the retrieval of the bear, and noted that Mike looked torn apart. Understand that the young man was feeling dreadful because of what he had done to his little brother.
“Manny, take Tony home would you. Ana and Jean must be worried sick. And Mike won’t be needing those bags any longer.”
James spoke looking towards Michael. Manny noticed his stance and knew that the two had to talk things over, set boundaries or whatnot. Whatever was needed, it had to happen fast. They couldn’t be running around to train stations or terminals or chasing after taxis. No, they’d have to stop that now.
Brian Elton would never have accepted that from his son.
“Okay, let’s go home, baby,” Manny tells Tony.
Manny walks over to take the bags from Mike. Mike hands over one bag, Tony’s bag, and clutches tighter to the other.
“Both bags, Michael. You won’t need them as we talk,” James tells him sternly.
“This one’s mine,” Mike tells him over his shoulder coldly. He’s not in the mood for his uncle’s antics. The way that he figures it, they’ve got Tony and so he’s free to go.
“Cut the crap, Mike, today’s not the day for this.”
“You’re right, you guys should head home. He’s had a long day as it is.”
“Mikey?” Tony asked in a small voice.
“I’ll see you later, Shortstuff.”
Turning around, Mike made to leave them, but found that his uncle’s quick moves and tight grip on his arm prevented him from much progress.
“Yeah, you will. Let’s take this somewhere more private then. Manny, he can keep the bag for now, you just take Tony home.”
Manny nodded and quickly left with Tony tight in his arms. He saw the determined look on James’ face and Mike’s defiance radiated from him. He knew that the two would need the time alone and that they would have to get things settled.
“What do you want?”
James sighed. He had taken Mike off towards a more deserted part of the terminal and had told Mike to wait for him there while he waits to get something. Seeing as how James had left him in a kind of cubicle, Mike really had no other option than to remain seated on the couch there as his uncle went to do whatever he had to do.
Spotting an attendant, James spoke with him briefly. The guy looked over to where James had mentioned and nodded. Thanking him, James headed back towards Michael and sighed knowing that the next few minutes might be the hardest in his life.
“I said sit down,” James repeated, pointing to the couch that Mike had abandoned upon his return.
“Yeah, and I said no,” Mike spat back in the same badass tone that he had used the first time.
“Michael, it’s been a long day and it’s barely seven in the afternoon. I really don’t want to be doing this now….”
“Then leave already! What the hell are you doing here anyways? I thought that I already told you that I didn’t need you. Tony neither.”
James shook his head at his nephew. This wasn’t the same happy go lucky, love all little guy that he remembered. However, this was in fact a great image of the little brat that Brian had started telling him about the past few months.
Brian Elton and his eldest son were very close, but the last four and a half months had Brian traveling to all parts of the world and he had spent almost no time with his sons. Little Tony had responded by crying out at times and a few unnecessary tantrums but for the most part, a phone call from his father and a warning to behave or else would set the boy straight for a good week at least.
Michael had responded in the opposite way. He had distanced himself and had spent more time away from his house and out with friends. When he was home, he’d ignore whatever it was that Jeanette had asked of him. On a few occasions, he’d gone as far as cursing out to her and that really had Jeanette thinking that this was more that just some angst teen thing.
When Brian spoke with his eldest son, Mike’s words were cold and more often then not, he’d hang up on the man not wanting to have to hear the pointless threats. Threats that had his father been close-by would’ve made his skin crawl; but half way around the world, they were meaningless.
Brian had been home for two days when Mike had started acting up again and he immediately had the boy apologizing to his mother before he marched him up to his room. Retrieving his belt, Brian had made the boy lose all clothing and then had him bent over the edge of the bed before delivering a sound belting. Afterwards, when Mike still refused to apologize for his behavior the past weeks and over the phone, Brian tossed aside the belt and then pulled the teen to his feet.
Thinking that he was done, Mike tried to shove his father away and grab for his clothes. Instead, Brian had sat himself on the bed, grabbed Mike around the waist and set him down across his lap. Giving Mike’s red bare rear some personal attention, Brian finally got the pleading response that he had waited for all along. Making sure that his disappointment was clear, Brian had continued to spank Mike until all the boy could do was wail.
Afterwards came the hardest part for Mike as Brian had demanded answers to his whereabouts during late nights while he was gone and his newly acquired, and not appreciated, attitude. Mike had bawled before he had been able to confess that he didn’t think it fair for his father to be doing that to him, when he wasn’t around anymore. That he had no right to complain about Mike’s behavior because he wasn’t there and he wasn’t a part of it.
Those words had tore at Brian Elton’s heart and he spent the last two months of his life making sure that he spent every free moment he had with his sons.
James had been told parts of the story but he had at the time agreed with his brother that the kid had stepped over the line then. A line that had apparently completely disappeared the minute that Mike had found out about his parents abrupt departure.
“Pay attention, Michael. I’m done listening to this. You know damn well that you’re way too young to be off by yourself! And what were you thinking taking your brother along with you!”
“He’s my brother. He belongs with me. No one’s going to take him from me, you hear? I don’t care if you and your little wife want him! He’s my brother and Mom and Dad would never let you take him from me!”
Michael screamed the more he spoke. James was astounded by what he heard the boy say. Who had ever told him that rubbish? Now it all made sense, why the boy had made such a big deal about running off ,why he had been so mad at seeing him that morning.
Before James knew what was happening, a distraught and furious Michael ran at him and began to attack him the best that he could.
“Michael! Mike! Hey! Kid, what are you doing! Mike!”
Mike ignored his uncle as all the while he was yelling at him that he was not going to take Tony away from him. Mike used his knees, feet, elbows and fists to try and cause his uncle some sort of pain. James easily grabbed at Mike’s wrist and then had to wiggle them both around until he had Mike pressed up against a wall.
“Get off of me!”
“Get off of mee!”
“Mike, you’ve got to stop fighting me and calm down.”
“No! Someone’s gonna hear this and then they’re going to come in and see this and then you’re gonna get yours!”
James sighed and shook his head. Releasing the wrist, but making sure that they were out of his way, James used his left hand to place a hard smack on Mike’s backside.
“Stop that now!” James said in a calm but stern voice down into Mike’s ear.
“What are you doing? You can’t do this! Get the fuck off fucker!”
James growled at the language now. He placed two more swats on Mike’s butt.
“I’m your uncle, Michael. I don’t know where your head’s gone, but this whole attitude and language that’s over. As for someone coming in, that’s not happening. I spoke with someone and told them that I needed a minute of privacy in here.”
Mike turned his head and looked up to meet his uncles’ eyes. Sure enough, didn’t look like the man was lying. Damn, and that had been Mike’s only hope at getting out of the terminal and onward with his plan to leave. He had figured that he would settle somewhere and then come back for Tony.
Apparently, he really hadn’t factored in James coming after him like this.
“No we don’t,” Mike replied through gritted teeth.
“Yeah, we kinda do bud. Especially since I’m planning on taking the both of you with me. Not just Tony. I don’t know where you got that shrewd idea, but it’s bogus.”
“What are you on about?! I’m not going anywhere with you! I have a life here! A life that my parents chose and not you or NO ONE is going to take that from us!”
Mike started thrashing around again and then he stilled as a steady stream of swats met his rear.
“James! Ahh! What OW are you SHIT doing!”
“Quit talking like that, kiddo. I can hold out a hell of a lot longer than you can.”
“Like hell, damn, you will!”
James shook his head again.
“Fine, have it your way kid.”
Instead of continuing with the hits that he was applying to Mike’s rear, James wrapped his free arm around Mike’s waist and carried the squirming boy over to the awaiting couch.
James sighed. He hadn’t intended on doing this to the kid, well he had, but not here. And yet when he came to the couch, he didn’t hesitate to deposit Michael across his lap.
“Kiddo, never meant for this to get here,” James started shaking his head.
Mike was thrashing all over his lap and making it damn near impossible to secure him into position. He had never really taken anyone over his knee, but he had been young once and his Dad had had no trouble using this method on him or his brother to make sure that they stayed in line.
“Stop it! Getoffame!”
“You’re just making this harder on yourself,” James stated in a calm voice. Last thing he wanted to do was let the kid know that he had no idea how to do this, because either way it was getting done. That was just how bad things had gotten this fast.
“Just let me go!”
Shaking his head one last time, James tossed a leg over both of Mike’s and before he let the kid settle into the new restraint, he began swatting away.
Mike stilled at the renewed assault on his ass. He hadn’t been spanked in quite a while, never since he was fifteen. And the only person that had ever spanked him had been his father. Even his mother had allowed only his father to do this to him. He had hated every moment then; so now was just unimaginable. And to think that his easy, take what life throws at you, Uncle James was doing this to him…
Mike was brought back to the matter at hand when three extra hard swats were aimed at his thighs.
“Ahh! Shit! Uncle James cut it out!”
James did still for a second. He looked at the back of Mike’s head, which was now low and close to his chest.
“Well, guess that’s one thing down. I’m glad that I’ve finally got your attention. And that you’ve realized who you’re talking to. Least now you’ll know where this is coming from.”
That said, James started spanking again and didn’t stop this time until he reached twenty. By now, Mike stopped kicking and just fisted at the couch. Just when he was beginning to consider tossing his hand back to halter the assault, it stopped coming all together.
Mike looked over his shoulder at his uncle. James sat with his arms crossed over his chest and staring back over to Mike.
“We ready to talk now?”
Mike nodded. He really hated to be in this position, and hated more that that had been the point all along.
“Good,” James nodded back. Mike made to stand, but the pressure of James’ hand on his upturned backend stopped him.
“No, before I let you go, I wanna make clear to you what’s going to happen. First, this is not over. You’ve been very rude and disrespectful. Not just to me, but to Manny and Jean too. Taking Tony and running away was a very stupid idea. A whole list of things could’ve happened to the two of you. And you would’ve been too stubborn to call any one of us. Let’s not even get started on what would’ve happened if the two of you had made it out of here. Then what?” James took a deep, heavy breath.
“I would’ve figured something out,” Mike muttered back. But unlike his previous comments, this one wasn’t filled with hatred and resentment.
“I still would’ve found you. That’s family, kiddo. That’s just how it works. Now, I’m gonna let you up; long as you know that we’re going straight home and then you and me are going to finish this little conversation the right way.”
Mike turned back over to look at his uncle at that. More? His uncle expected him to take more of this? Not happening. He got that he might have gotten a little over handed, but there was no way that James, uh, Uncle James would get to do this again. And he said as much.
James chuckled slightly.
“You’re right kiddo, I don’t expect you to walk over willingly. However, this is going to blow that over. Cause I’m sticking around kiddo. Now come-on, let’s ride back home and then we’ll talk this all over.”
Knowing that what he had really planned to see through this, James set Michael to his feet and ushered him out the room and to his car.
Mike looked out the window at the passing scenery from the passenger seat of his uncle’s car. He had asked to sit in the back of the car, where he could lay out and not have to feel the consistent pain that was aggravating his hind quarters.
James had given him a stern look and had opened the front door, releasing his arm once Mike was already stepping into the car. A sharp smack had also followed before he had gotten to settle into the seat.
Reaching the Elton Mansion, Mike groaned realizing that not only was Manny’s limo back, but a few other strayaways had left the funeral only to have ended up at the mansion.
“Ah man,” Mike groaned. He hated the look that people had been giving him the last few days. He hated that feeling that the stares gave him deep inside. The added heartache of the knowledge that his parents were gone and that he and Tony were now truly alone was just unbearable.
James gave his nephew a glance over. He could see his eyes start to tear up. His own chest tightened at the memory of his older brother. James could only imagine how Michael must be feeling.
“Come on, a quick hello and straight to your room,” James said sternly.
Mike looked back over to him and gave him a slight pleading look. He was really not in the mood for another spanking, no matter what he had done. He really just wanted the damn day to be over with.
“Sorry kiddo,” James shrugged and opened his door. He walked around and then waited for Mike to step out of the car.
“Shit!” muttered Mike as he hopped out of the car.
“You’re going to have to start watching that mouth, kid. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself standing for a lot longer.”
Mike looked over to his uncle as he closed the door with his right hand and used the left to try and rub away some of the throbbing pain. James pushed him ahead as they made their way to the door. Reaching the door, James grabbed at his wrist and pulled his hand away from his butt before opening the door.
“Quick hello and straight upstairs, Mike.”
After what felt like hours but had only been five minutes, Mike made his ascend up the stairs and to his room. Manny had grabbed his bag from James’ truck and had brought it to his room.
Kicking off his shoes and tossing his black suit jacket aside, Mike sighed, closing the door firmly behind him.
Mike looked over at his room, not having planned to see it again. He walked over to his bed and flopped down on it. He got on his stomach, reached behind him for his Ted D. Bear. Grasping his ear, Mike brought Ted to his stomach and clenched it to his chest.
Closing his eyes, Mike allowed all the memories and happy thoughts that had surrounded his childhood friend to find him and lead him into a teary darkness.
James walked through his old home and to Tony’s room. He opened the door slightly and peeked inside. Sure enough, just as Manny had told him, Tony was quietly sleeping the bad day away.
“Sleep tight, little guy,” James muttered closing the door once again.
Making his way back down the hall, James stopped outside the closed door marked ‘Mike’s World’. He rested his head against the door and willed himself to steel over the unease of the queasy feeling of butterflies in his stomach. He wondered how his father, or even Brian for that matter, had mustered up the courage to go and do this to a kid. Sighing and knowing that his brother would hate for his sons to grow up and act like Mike had been acting lately, James tightened his grip on the knob and entered.
James walked into Mike’s room to find that the kid had fallen asleep grasping what looked like an old stuffed bear. Enjoying the sight for a second, James marveled over the two sons that his brother had managed to get. Not wanting to continue this night other than to find a bed and sleep well into the next day, James sighed knowing that if he didn’t follow through now, he’d never be able to.
“Sorry little man, but you can sleep afters; we both can,” James muttered passing his hand through Mike’s soft brown curls.
Mike awoke abruptly to the sharp pain in his butt.
Quickly sitting up, Mike saw James sitting besides his bed frowning down at him.
“Uncle James? Whatcha hit me for?” Mike asked angrily.
“Watch it, Mister. I’m not in the mood for talking. I told you before that we would be finishing this when we got home, and that’s what I’m going to do. So, stand up and we can get this over with.”
“Wha- Now?” Mike started to shake his head no.
James sighed. He motioned for Mike to come over to him and decided to not engage in a conversation and just get this all over with.
“But, can’t we do this in the morning? I mean, today it just doesn’t feel right.”
“Felt right to grab your baby brother, pack, and hi-tail it out of here. And for what? You could’ve been kidnapped. A whole list of things could’ve happened to you or Tony. You’re not ready to take care of yourself yet, kiddo, let alone a little kid.
“So, last time I’m saying this, get up and come over here.”
Mike still didn’t look too convince. James didn’t feel up to making a grab for the kid just now. He’d done enough chasing for one day and Mike just better be happy that he didn’t plan on taking that part out on him; the reason why he was chasing him, yes, but not the having to chase him.
“Listen, Michael, I get it alright? I do. This isn’t really an easy time for me either. I don’t want to do this, believe me, but I don’t want to have to worry about this happening over the next few days either. So, please just get over here and we can be done quickly.”
Mike scoffed. There was nothing quick or easy about getting your ass beat, but he didn’t voice the thought. Again, he shook his head, but didn’t move.
“Mike, you’re right, today’s not really the kind of day to do this. I really wish you hadn’t tried to run off, but you did and I can’t just ignore it. I’m not losing you two boys. Not after Brian, not this soon. So, don’t make me have to get you, alright.”
Mike looked down at the floor. He didn’t want to have to walk into the punishment, but everything that his uncle was saying was making sense. And there was nothing harder than admitting that you needed to get your butt beat.
Shoving off the bed, Mike eyed the door thinking that if he made a dash for it, he might just be able to make it.
“Don’t kid yourself, Mikey. Just get over here.”
Looking back down to the floor, Mike walked up besides James.
“Pants down,” he was instructed.
Mike’s shoulder’s slumped. He opened his mouth to protest, but the look on his uncle’s face was answer enough. The man wasn’t going to back down.
Undoing his belt and then his pants, Mike let the pants drop to the floor, frowning at the lose of the protect that would provide.
Then, he was quickly placed over the awaiting lap in the dreaded butt-up position. Not even getting a chance to get settled, James immediately started swatting.
Mike couldn’t believe what was happening. In his mind, he kept telling himself that none of what was happening was real. But, apparently he had some weird need to grasp attention. Granted, he’d never wanted it to turn out like this.
James wrapped his arm firmly around the fifteen year old’s waist. He brought his right hand down on the unprotected butt presented to him.
James just couldn’t believe that this young man before him had done all that he had that day. He was as stubborn as a mule, this boy; he had just never expected this. Thank goodness that Manny had called him when he had. Who only knows where the boys would be by now if he hadn’t arrived or if that ticket lady hadn’t been smart enough not to sell them their tickets.
But there were way too many could haves and might have-beens that James felt the need to impose his great displeasure with his nephew.
He could have lost them both, Mikey and little Tony, and just right after losing Brian and Jeanette. He wouldn’t have known what to do with himself if that had happened.
“You pay close attention, Michael,” James said, finding his voice after the fourth swat landed. “Because I don’t think you want to have to repeat this!”
Mike set his jaw, he didn’t want to cry out, but it was becoming harder and harder to do.
Three more swats fell with rapid fire, accuracy.
“AHHHHH! Oww, Stop it! Stooopp!”
James was pleased to finally get some sort of reaction from the boy, but he had no intention on following through with that request. He kept on swatting, harder, but spacing them out so that Michael could hear him as he began to lecture him.
“I’ve never known you to be careless, Michael. You’re a smart kid and yet all you’ve done today was so incredibly stupid!”
Shaking his head, James began spanking him again.
Michael bit his lower lip to not cry out. His butt was already hurting from when his uncle had spanked him at the bus terminal, barely an hour ago. This added assault was damn near impossible to keep in.
“Can’t say what went through that thick head of yours, but I’m gonna make sure that it never, ever happens again!”
Ever three to four words, James landed another swat. By the time that he had finished that sentence, he could make out Mike’s restrained whimpering.
“You put your little brother in danger, Michael. Not to mention yourself! You’re not in the right mind, and after all that happened, I wouldn’t expect you to be. But if you think that I can just stand back and let something like that happen to my brother’s sons, well I’m sure you get how I feel about that now.”
“Stoppp! I’m sorry!! Oww! Uncle James!”
James ignored Michael’s cries and continued to apply hard swats down on the squirming bottom presented to him. Soon, he could hear Mike openly crying and knew that he had finally broken through to the boy.
“Listen closely, Michael, because I don’t want to have to repeat myself about this again!”
James continued to swat, but he paused so that the squirming form would be able to hear the words and not just have them by pass him.
“I’ll stop when we’re done here! And not a second sooner!”
That said, James down the boy’s briefs. The angry red of the kid’s cheeks brought a whole new hurt to James that he’d never experienced. He now understood what his father, and lately Brian himself, had meant by being hurt when they had to spank their sons. However, he wasn’t about to just take it easy on Mike because his father and brother would never had allowed that.
So, instead, two more swats in quick succession enforced that statement.
“Ahhhhh! I’m sorrryyyy!!! Uncle JAMES!” Mike cried out at the new pain.
“Never, ever take off like that again! Understood?”
Five hard swats were directed at the crease of his redden bottom.
“Yes sirr!! Owww! Ow!
“You are not to leave this house without permission!”
Three hard swats met Mike’s thighs.
“Oww! I won’t! I won’t!”
“You are not to take your brother anywhere without permission or telling someone exactly where you’ll be going!”
James shook his head as he thought about how horrible it would’ve been to see something happen to little Tony, and so soon after Brian.
Michael went limp and his squirming slowed as he began to sob loudly. He had already kicked his clothing clear across the room and he really just wanted all the pain to stop. At least the pain directed towards his bottom. James hoped that the noise wouldn’t bother anyone downstairs or the sleeping babe down the hall, but that wasn’t his concern at the moment.
“And you will NOT Force your brother into following you like that again! You put him and yourself in danger, Michael and that’s unacceptable!”
He kept swatting for a minute more, but there was less force to the hits; though he doubted Mike could tell the difference.
Finally, he stopped. Michael’s cries continued and James placed his hand on the boy’s back, rubbing it in comforting circular motions.
“I…I’m so sorreee!” Mike said through his sobs.
James sighed nodding.
“I know, Mike. It’s okay, it’s all over.”
Michael continued to cry for a few seconds more before James pulled him up and sat the boy on his lap. The contact with his uncle’s hard thigh reignited the pain on Mike’s punished bottom.
James hugged his nephew to him and was happy when Mike returned the embrace tight around his neck.
“I’m sorry Uncle James. I didn’t want to worry everyone!”
James grinned into Mike’s hair.
“I think that you did want to worry people, you just didn’t know it.”
Mike looked up at his uncle. He shook his head, denying the deed.
“No, honest, I didn’t even think anyone would care. Not today.”
James cupped the back of Mike’s head, bringing it back to his shoulder.
“I know you miss your parents a whole bunch, bud. That’s no excuse to run off. I’m going to take care of you and you brother and I’ll never let anyone split you two, clear?”
Nodding, Mike sobbed his worry onto James’ shoulder.
Holding him until the sobs quieted down, James was slightly surprised to hear the even breathing indicating that Michael had fallen asleep.
Shifting his hold, James carried Michael back onto his bed. Turning him onto his side when the boy whimpered, James kissed his forehead and tucked him back into bed.
“Glad to have you around, buddy. Don’t ever forget that.”
James softly closed the door to Michael’s room. Sighing as his new disciplinary duty was taken care of, and hoping that he would be able to do good by his brother’s children, James turned towards the stairs ready to reenter the gloomy atmosphere that still brought thoughts of his brother Brian to him.
“Holy!” shouted John as he stopped dead.
Sitting by the stairwell was little Anthony. Clutching his blanket tightly around himself, Tony’s little face glanced up at him as a few tears streaked down the already red face.
“Tony? What are you doing up buddy?”
“Where’s Mikey?” Tony asked him, tone not all that friendly.
“Excuse me? Want to try that again?”
Tony stood up, shoulders clearly straight in defiance.
Great, thought James. Just when I thought the hard part was over and I had averted a crisis, I have to deal with a five year old.
“He’s in bed, asleep. And that’s where you’re going too. Come on, back to bed.”
Tony gave him a skeptical look before glancing back over to his bedroom door.
Then, he dashed over to his brother’s door and tried to go inside.
Caught by surprise, James almost didn’t catch the todd before the boy entered the room. And the last thing that he wanted was to have to answer to a five year old about why he’s brother’s bottom was red.
“Oh, no you don’t!”
James grasped Tony by the back of his pants and tugged him out of the doorway. Glancing in, he noticed Mike was still sound asleep before closing the door once again.
Turning to Tony, James kneeled in front of the little guy and grabbed around his waist.
“Anthony Gary Elton, now you listen to me.”
Tony froze. Uncle James had used his full name and that always meant trouble.
“I know you’re tired, baby, but I told you that it was time to go back to bed not to go and bother your brother. He’s asleep and you should be too.”
“I wanna see him!”
James shook his head. This little guy of Brian’s was as stubborn as he recalled his sister-in-law to be. Oh God, Jeanette.
“Well, I said no. And what I say goes. Now, get to bed.”
Tony looked down at his feet, sniffing. The fight all out of him.
“I heard… I...”
James sighed. Of course his day couldn’t get any easier. Pulling Tony to him, James hugged the boy tightly as he stood and walked them over to his room.
“I know, baby. I know what you heard.”
“Mikey was crying! You made Mikey cry!”
James pushed the bedroom door closed with his hip, not wanting to break even the smallest of touch with the fragile babe.
Settling into a rocking chair, clearly from Tony’s nursery days, James hugged the boy to his chest and wrapped the blanket tighter around him.
“Yes, I did. I’m sorry you had to hear that, baby.”
“You killed him!”
At that, James had to grin. He could remember feeling the same way when he heard his father spanking his older brother. It tore James world apart and to think what it had done to the little Tony still had to cling to.
“Oh, baby boy, I didn’t kill your brother.”
“Yeah you did1 I heard it! I’m telling!”
Inside, James groaned. Though, he wouldn’t put it past the little boy in his arms to do just that, he was afraid that there was no one to even rat on him to.
James took Tony’s chin into hand to look into the baby’s eyes.
“Anthony, what your brother did today was unacceptable. He scared you didn’t he? When he took off and when he started yelling at you?”
“I thought BearBear was dead for sure.”
“Well,” James sighed passing his fingers through the silky smooth baby hair. “I don’t like your brother scaring you any more than I like him scaring me or your Auntie Ana or Manny or Jean. We’re all family, okay? And you don’t run away from family.”
Tony sniffed again and nodded. Bringing a thumb into his mouth he leaned forward, settling once more against the comfort of his uncle.
“You have Daddy’s eye.”
Chuckling as a tear threatened to slip out, James nodded against Tony’s hair.
“Yes, your Daddy and I have the same eyes. Just like you and Mikey have your momma’s.”
“I miss Mommy. And Daddy. And Mikey, too.”
“Mikey’s fine,” James said softly as he rubbed the todd’s back as he had for his brother.
“Mikey’s gonna be just fine. We all are."
But Tony was already fast asleep.
Placing the babe in bed and tucking him in, much like he had done for his big brother, James sat back on the rocking chair and watched the little boy sleep.
Damn, he missed his brother. Brian always knew what to do. He had a way with kids, not just his own kids, where James wasn’t as good with them. Sure, the boys knew him and respected him for the most part, but that had all been with Brian and Jeanette still around.
Now, he was all alone.
No. Not alone. He still had his beautiful wife Ana. She would never desert him, especially when she knew that these boys would need her. He also had the tough but loving Jean and the ever loyal Manny.
They say it takes a village to raise a child, and James was certain that that one had to be true. Even if his village was down two people- the best two people he had ever known -James would keep fighting. For Michael and for Anthony, for the memory of Jeanette and for all the things that Brian ever did for him.
Before he knew it, James was asleep. His last thoughts before being lured into the peaceful darkness were of the day he had told his brother how he didn’t envy him for having both a preschooler and a teenager at once.
Brian had laughed, tossing the basketball hard against James’ stomach.
“I wouldn’t trade it for the world, baby bro. One day, you’ll see.”