Auntie Joan Part 1
This story is written by Les Lea
I watched as the latest terror attack was reported in graphic detail by the TV news. Over ninety people so far dead in an explosion in Mumbai that was obviously aimed at the bus full of new army recruits who were on their way back to base. The huge car bomb was so intense that it obliterated the bus and everything within a hundred metre radius, what I didn’t know was that my parents just happened to be passing in their taxi at the time.
My name is Dean Court.
Yes I know it sounds like a venue – ‘Could you book the reception at Dean Court please?’ or ‘Dean Court, the ideal place for your aging parents to live out the rest of their lives in a safe and secure environment’ or more likely ‘Dean Court, oh yes they do a wonderful seafood and champagne brunch’.
However, I’m thirteen, nearly fourteen, and go to a private school in the UK, even though I’m from Washington DC originally. Both my parents work for the government, though I have no idea what they do, but I hardly know them as I was packed off to school the minute I was of the correct age – I was three. Since then I have spent more time away from home and my parents than I have with them. They were quite old, late forties, when they had me but there was never a close bond. I can honestly say I hardly know them and obviously I was some kind of hindrance to their busy careers. I suppose that’s why I ended up at a school I absolutely hate in England but which was well away from them back home in the USA.
I had no idea why my parents should have been in Mumbai, but when two men and a woman from the embassy arrived at school and I was removed from class to be informed of their deaths, I honestly didn’t know what to think. I was stunned. I asked the agents what mom and dad were doing in India in the first place but they said they didn’t know. I could tell they knew more than they were saying but they were ‘agents’ so weren’t going to tell me anything. None of it made any sense, but whether it made sense or not, the main point was that both my parents had perished in a terrorist attack, in a foreign country and I had no idea why. Perhaps the sad thing was, I didn’t cry, I hardly knew them. I hadn’t even know they were in India that’s how invested they were in me. They may have thought I was getting the best education available but I was an unhappy American, in a school riddled with class and discrimination. It may well have been number one for educating the elite of ‘Ye Olde England’ but for me it was a constant and unhappy trial.
The school’s philosophy of keeping their students busy and involved backfired with me. I hated games, I hated my fellow students, I hated being away from home, I hated the teachers that tried to involve me in the way the ethos of the school operated. I hated the over-prissy school uniform along with the fucking UK and all it stood for.
My nickname was ‘Doodle’, they chirpily informed me, as in ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’ but I never responded to it. The school ‘house’ system annoyed me so much, I couldn’t understand (or want to be involved) in anything that bonded a group of kids, as diverse as we were, over something so stupid as ‘playing for the benefit of the team’ or house in this case. No, I was a very unhappy boy in an institution I couldn’t escape. I resented every second I was there and even more the parents who, without asking or even considering my opinion, sent me to such a prestigious hell hole.
I felt cheated out of my childhood. I’d been handed from one institution to the next since I was three and always with the expectation of the betterment my parents no doubt wanted for or from me. Even when I was home the contact between us was minimal and I’d spend a huge amount of time in my room, playing on the computer, reading and waiting to be shipped back to school. Not once do I ever remember my father suggesting we should go to a theme park together, or go swimming, or camping together… or any damn thing that parents do with their kids.
Of course I had everything I wanted… except a family or friends. At school I hated being forced to be friends with people I detested. I wasn’t stupid and my grades were quite good, but I objected to being made to live with people I found objectionable, shallow, self-obsessed and entitled. In return they found me pathetic, dumb, withdrawn and not worthy of any consideration at all. I absorbed more than I showed but gave out very little. Teachers tried to chivvy (God at times I come over so English) me into various pursuits but gave up when my apathy began to corrupt others. I think they didn’t really want me contaminating the other students and I’m sure dad got regular reports on my attitude to school fellowship and all that rubbish entails. On several occasions I’d be called into the house master’s study or the school shrink’s office for a ‘friendly chat’ but I could see their prying ways and offered nothing back. I may have detested my parents but I wasn’t going to give this bunch of ‘professors’ that kind of ammo. I said very little, offering one word answers or subliminal contempt, all though I’m not sure just how subliminal I was.
So, my parents being blown to smithereens was a turning point in my life because I was shipped back to Washington DC for a funeral that was attended by some bigwigs from the government. It was so high profile that even the TV companies and press were there but I still couldn’t get a straight answer to my question – ‘what did my parents do?’ It was then I realised that mom and dad must have been pretty important. Although this revelation didn’t make me think any less of them (I was so angry I don’t think I could have thought any less of them), as far as I was concerned they had abandoned me in favour of the state and left for others to bring up… they also did a terrible job.
As both coffins were ceremoniously lowered into the grave I realised I was now an orphan and knew that as a thirteen year-old I still had no say in my future. I dreaded being returned to school in England to ‘finish my education’ but looked around at the mourners and wondered who, if any of those assembled, would be bothered at what became of me.
I believe that people within the government had tried to find my next of kin. My grandparents were old and unable to take me in, my parents being in their forties when they had me, and the only person they tracked down was dad’s estranged sister Joan who lived out in the mid-west. I hadn’t seen her for over ten years and could hardly remember what she looked like so when the black-clad lady approached with her condolences I had no idea she was to be my future guardian. However, she put an arm around my shoulder and for the first time since the deaths, well, in fact, for the first time in many years; I felt that someone actually cared.
For the next few days she and I lived in my parent’s house as their business was put into some kind of order; the house, their banking details, the compensation from the government for my loss, were all sorted by the family lawyer and my aunt. A trust fund was set up and several other financial, legal and administrative problems overcome. It came as no surprise to me that Aunt Joan was the only person who, albeit reluctantly, was thinking what was best for me.
As I said, I was dreading being punted off back to the UK but thankfully Auntie Joan was dead against it. She didn’t like their privileged educational system and I think more importantly, she detected my complete distaste for the place. I loved her immediately for her insight into what made me tick. It may not seem such a big thing but I can tell you, for the first time in my entire life, I thought I was on the same wavelength as another person.
One night she asked me if I was happy. A simple question and not imbued with any deep meaning but it was the first time I’d been asked about anything and, I’m sad to say, I broke down and cried. I’m thirteen and this was the first time I’d openly cried for as long as I could remember. That one spark of interest in me and my welfare meant the world and I cried and cried whilst being gently consoled by my dad’s estranged sister.
The tears weren’t at the loss of my parents but, as I saw it, the loss of my life that had me so emotional. Again auntie offered comfort and explained she was going to look after me and to forget the pompous school in England… she hoped I’d be OK with that decision. As far as she was concerned I was going to join her back at the little town she called home and where, she assured me, I would have a better life. She said quite deliberately that she would never abandon nor leave me to someone else to bring up; I was too precious to put in other people’s hands. I can’t tell you what a relief her few words were and I felt a whole heap of anger, frustration and entrenched hate suddenly evaporate.
However, her now being my guardian she was also privy to the fact I had another, more personal problem. When I was at the school in the UK, I occasionally wet the bed. I wasn’t even sure if I was doing it on purpose or not, although I certainly didn’t like the name calling or my wet mattress, for some reason I didn’t actually mind wet PJs and the little rebellion it kindled in my head. However, that night time problem persisted whilst back home and even after the funeral I had woken up every morning drenched in a pool of piss. Everyone appeared very understanding knowing the pressure I was obviously under, coming to terms with everything though I didn’t tell them it was an ongoing problem that I’d had for some time. I had no idea if the school had reported back to my parents; however, I felt I should speak to my aunt about it.
I was nervous bringing up the subject but she came into my room one morning and I was just coming to terms with another wet set of PJs. The dark huge damp patch was obvious spreading across my pale blue cotton bottoms. It had even reached my jacket and I couldn’t be sure but I think my room smelled of pee. Luckily, I’d already managed to put a rubber sheet down to protect the mattress so it was only me and the sheets that were wet. I was embarrassed. Normally, if I’d been at school I would have looked defiantly at anyone who thought to make a comment, as if daring them to say something, but at that moment I felt like a silly little kid who couldn’t last a night without pissing himself.
Tears seemed to be something I did now as I guiltily revealed to her what had happened. I don’t cry, well I didn’t cry before, so why they came so easily I wasn’t too sure.
“It’s OK Dean, don’t worry.”
She put her arms around me and gave me a cuddle.
I stifled the sobs that were left.
I explained that this wasn’t a one off, that I’d been a bed-wetter, off and on, for a long time now. I knew I should have grown out of it but, well, I hadn’t and I was sorry if that was going to be a problem for her.
“Don’t be silly Dean, nothing you do will be a problem to or for me, but let’s get you cleaned up and packed, as I think it’s time I… we… went home.”
She smiled the most endearing smile. Like mom and dad she was at least 50 years-old but still had the skin the texture of a woman in her thirties. Under her mop of faded blonde hair her face radiated warmth and understanding and again I felt protected and safe when Auntie Joan spoke.
“Doesn’t it bother you?” I queried as I looked down at my sodden bedding.
She laughed out loud.
“Sweetie, back home I run a children’s nursery so if a bit of pee or poo worried me, I’d definitely be in the wrong business.”
She urged me to get up, take a shower and dress as she’d booked us on a flight home.
I had no idea where in the mid-west I was going to call home but auntie had organised everything, she’d packed up most of my things and had already shipped them out together with one or two mementos and pieces of furniture. She said there was little point in taking too much as she didn’t need it and I didn’t appear that bothered about keeping anything so, my clothes and computer had been dispatched and we travelled with minimal luggage.
However, once I was out of the shower and deciding on what to wear for the flight auntie asked me a strange question.
“Will you be OK to travel as you are or would you prefer to wear protection?”
She said it so matter of factly, as if it was something I might have considered in the past but in truth I hadn’t.
“Er, er, no, er I’m OK,” I was still adding up the ramifications of what she’d just asked. Did she expect that I needed to wear some kind of protection when I travelled?
That was a new term of endearment and one that instantly sent a shiver of pleasure through my body. Nobody, not even my parents, had ever used such a term of endearment… and I loved it.
“…dress for comfort because when we get there it will be in the 80s and we don’t want a sweat drenched suit to be your first experience of your new home.”
I didn’t have much choice; some stuff was left for the final packing crate so I ended up wearing my undies, a t-shirt, a blue sweatshirt and a pair of knee-length navy blue shorts and navy blue sneakers. Auntie said I looked like a local, which I suppose she meant those I was going to meet for the first time.
She was all smiles and joviality and determined that my parent’s deaths were consigned to history and that I should be treated as a boy about to embark on a new life that I had some control over.
During the flight, and again on the journey from the airport to her… our… home, the fact that she’d asked if I needed protection kept resurfacing in my brain. It wasn’t that I was offended, though I was surprised, but the thought of what that might be like just wouldn’t go away. She was telling me about the town where she, sorry, we called home, a place of just twenty thousand inhabitants in the south-west corner of Kansas. She explained that ‘The Rainbow Rooms Nursery’ (hereinafter called The Rainbow) was her business and where she and a staff of four permanent and four temporary looked after children from babies up to pre-schoolers at five. She explained that sometimes older kids also joined the youngsters in class because that was the age they identified with. I assumed she was being polite and meant that they were slow or had mental problems but, as she didn’t speak that way, I kept those thoughts to myself.
My new home was a two story house comprising off; three bedrooms and two bathrooms upstairs, a kitchen, a living room, a den and large utility room (with toilet and shower facilities) downstairs and an even larger basement. All this was set on a decent plot of land, which auntie had made into a very nice garden with flowers and bushes to all sides and a lawn that swept down to the sidewalk. The street was a mixture of small homes like ours and larger, three story places designed for rich folk or big families. There was quite a selection but the area felt safe and clean and all the exteriors appeared well maintained. We lived at number 46 Glendew Lane and the homes on either side of us were built exactly the same as ours.
Auntie’s room was the largest and at the front of the building whereas mine was one of the two rooms that faced the back garden. The packing cases had already been magically transported to my room although the bed had yet to be constructed. I sighed a little at the prospect of fixing up my bed because in truth, I was hopeless at anything, even that basics, by way of construction. However, the other bedroom was already set up as a nursery because auntie said that occasionally she babysat or looked after kids whose parents had to go somewhere in an emergency and they needed someone to look out for their child.
Most of the children she babysat were of an age where a nursery was more appropriate than a bedroom, so she kept it prepared for any such crisis. There was a crib and a small bed, both already made up and ready for a little person in need of a place to stay. The crib was all childish fleecy blankets and stuffed animals and I felt a sudden pang in my chest and I wasn’t sure why. The bed was covered by a duvet with Disney characters all over it and a matching pillow. Again, it was stacked with several teddy bears and other stuffed animals. I swallowed hard, standing in the doorway wishing I could just curl up with them and go to sleep. For some reason I couldn’t get my breath and my heart was pounding, I thought I was having some sort of panic attack or delayed response to my parents death and I started to cry.
God damn it, what is wrong with me?
Unaware of her presence auntie seemed to know I was struggling with something and came and put her arms around me. The roar that left my chest as I bawled like a two year-old was quite uncontrollable and I wept into auntie’s bosom just like that toddler would. She soothed my distress and stroked my hair, it was a feeling that was alien to me and I couldn’t get enough of it. Eventually, she guided me towards the bed and we sat to talk. The bed had rails around to stop a child from falling out but on one side the rail was down so we made ourselves comfortable there. In due course I was able to get my tears under control and we chatted like we hadn’t done before.
To get things rolling she explained the function of the room, even though it was pretty obvious; the toys, the piles of diapers, plastic pants, wipes and lotions, ointments and powders. What I hadn’t noticed though auntie had, was that I’d wet myself whilst being so affected by the room. There was a damp stain on my trousers, enough to flag my wet situation but she just patted my back and asked if I’d mind if she sorted me out. I wasn’t completely sure what that meant but I was too emotional to think straight and in truth I was tired and just glad I didn’t have to concern myself with any of it.
She told me not to worry; she’d done this a thousand times and with boys my age so not to be embarrassed. She stripped me out of all my clothes and lay me out naked on the bed. She asked if I thought I needed to go to the toilet but I think it was too late for that, so shook my head. She then wiped my damp pubic area and towelled me dry before applying a scented lotion and rubbed in some baby powder. None of this bothered me I was now so relaxed in her caring hands I needed it to continue, I’d never felt so wanted. Once she was satisfied I was happy and not anxious about anything she reached up and grabbed a large disposable. She unfurled it as I watched, and although part of me was saying ‘no’, another part was hoping she’d just tape me in and I’d have no say in the situation. This was exactly what she did.
I was clean, warm and snug as she juggled a pair of opaque plastic pants up and over the diaper. She then reached for a blue cotton t-shirt and fed my arms and head into it before rolling it down my body. I hadn’t noticed the snaps at the bottom as she fastened me in.
“I think Dean you are just one tired little boy… so why don’t you just climb into bed,” She pulled down the duvet cover and invited me in, “and get a good night’s sleep?”
It wasn’t a question, I was exhausted and at that moment I yawned and felt that sleep was just what I needed. She stroked my hair for a few moments before slipping a teddy into my arms, which I snuggled tightly. My eyes were closed but I could hear the rails being pulled up and click into position but I was too sleepy to think any more about it. I heard her say night-night from the door and then I was alone.
This story is written by Les Lea
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