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Created from: Mishap's Works
“Nathaniel” Father George's voice sounded as amazed at seeing me as I was at being here.
“Hi Father George.” I said quietly. “Can we talk? I really need to speak to you.”
“Of course let's just go to my office.” I followed the tall spare man down the hallway to what he euphemistically called an office. It was more like an oversized closet and from the looks of the place as he ushered me through the door it was still last place that received any attention.
“Just set those files on the floor Nathaniel and tell me what brings you back to the shelter.” Father George gave me the intense direct look filled with compassion that made even the most hardened street kid trust him. “I can tell looking at you that life has been treating you better since the last time I saw you.”
“Father…I have a lot to tell you so many things have changed for me. You know my history the things I've done, the things I've been involved in.” I swallowed audibly my mouth as dry as dust. “I have a real job now. I'm not turning tricks anymore. I'm…uh…I've changed I am a were leopard now.” I glanced up expecting shock or dismay and was pleasantly surprised when I saw only a thoughtful look on his face.
“Are you safe?” Asked Father George. “No one is taking advantage of you or hurting you, are they?”
“No.” I answered feeling on the edge of tears with his acceptance of me. “In fact my Nimir-ra treats me better than I have ever been treated in my life. I would do anything for her and she expects nothing at all only that I be honest and help pull my own weight.”
“Your Nimir-ra that would be your leader?” he asked thoughtfully. “What kind of leader is he?
I had to smile. “Anita is a woman and she is…strong, very strong. She protects us and cares for us no matter what.”
“Is she your lover?
“Oh no. I wish she was but she says that would be taking advantage of me. That I am still growing up.” I replied.
“So if you are safe and protected how can I help you today?” Father asked looking a little puzzled.
“I don't need help. I want to help you. You helped so many and I made it off the streets and I want to help.” I blurted out
Father George was a little startled, but I could see that an idea had already occurred to him. “Are you sure about this? I mean more than a donation or help cleaning.”
“Yes.” I answered absolutely confidant that I could do whatever he asked.
“As you know we can only allow kids to stay for so long and so we try to get them into the system so that they have a second chance.” He sighed looking utterly weary all at once. The lines that age and life had carved on his face deepened and he suddenly looked every bit of the 68 years that I knew had lived. “I have another boy just like you, but even younger, he is covered in scars. He won't give his name or his age and I know that he can't be over thirteen maybe younger. He's almost run every time that a foster home or an orphanage is mentioned. I managed to get him to agree that if I found someone who was not a social worker or connected to police in anyway that he would stay with them and stay off the streets.”
It was my turn to be stunned. “You really trust me that much father? After knowing what I was and what I did.”
“Yes Nathaniel, you have never lied to me, refused to answer yes, but no lies and you never harmed anyone. You were everyone's victim and mistreated horribly, but you never hurt anyone.”
That's how I found myself on the way back to Anita's how with a scrawny, foul smelling kid with the worst mouth I ever heard. When father George had pointed him out I thought that he was what artists pictured when they painted pictures of angels. He had white blond hair, celestial blue eyes and the most innocent looking face I had ever seen. My opinion underwent a radical change as soon as he opened his mouth and a stream of profanity came out of him that would make a sailor blush. I guess I was in shock because the transfer of Brad's belongings to the car went past in a blur.
We had traveled in silence and were half way home before he said anything. “So Father George suckered you into taking me home with you, huh?”
“Father George didn't sucker me. I volunteered to help. He helped me and I am returning the favor.” I stated firmly.
Brad snorted and chuckled derisively, “You sure got the shitty end of the stick then.”
I sighed. “You might want to watch your language when we get home. I don't think my Nimir-ra will tolerate very much of it.”
“Your what?” he shot back.
“My Nimir-ra, Father George must have forgotten to tell you. I am a were leopard and she is my pard leader.” I said off handedly turning to grin at his shocked expression.
“YOU'RE A WHAT?” He shouted panic plain on his face. “Let me outta here.” He tugged frantically at the door.
“Calm down.” I said soothingly. “Contrary to popular opinion we don't eat children for breakfast and Father George would never send you with me if he thought I would hurt you. You know that.” I could hear his heart pounding madly and his panicked breathing told me that even though he hand stopped trying to get the door open he was still upset.
“Calm down. What the fuck do I have to be calm about? I am being sent home with…with a leopard and you want me to be calm? Are you some kind of fucking nut?” he questioned staring at me eyes as round as saucers.
“No you are being sent home with someone who was just like you a few years ago who just happens to turn into a leopard once or twice a month.” I said. “And I promise no one will eat you or even hurt you in the slightest.” I swore to him meaning ever word.
“Uh…yeah, right. Why don't you just let me out right here? It'll be our secret you can tell Father George I ran away.” He said slyly looking at me to see how I was taking it.
“Nope, not gonna happen.” I replied cheerfully. “I promised Father George and I keep my promises. If you don't want to be here you can tell me your last name and where you live and I'll take you home. Otherwise you are staying and don't get any bright ideas about running away. We will just bring you back.” I had to grin at the scowl on his face.
“I ain't fucking ever going home so don't even think that, but don't count on keeping me either.” He grumped making a face and subsiding into silence once again.
I had Brad wait in the car while I broke the news to Anita. “So let me understand this when we talked about helping people who helped you Father George came to mind and to help him you brought home a kid to live with us. Anita shook her head and looked completely stunned at the turn of events. “Have you given any thought at all that with all the people that would like to see me dead that this isn't the safest place to bring a child?” she questioned.
“Please,” I begged in a submissive posture. “he won't be safe on the streets either. The way he looks he will probably be dead in six months or less and he has nowhere to go.”
She sighed. I could tell she wasn't happy about it, but her tender heart wouldn't let her just throw the kid back on the streets either. She began “I suppose-“ When Zane interrupted.
“The kid you brought with you is hot wiring your car and if you don't want him to leave you might wanna get out there.” I bolted out the door followed by Anita and the rest of the pard. I jerked open the door just as he got it started and pulled him out before he could put it into gear.
“Uh…everybody this is Brad.” I smiled sheepishly at the looks on their faces ranging from shock to amusement.
Anita spoke first. “I can see he is going to fit in just perfect around here. She said throwing up her hands in surrender. “You can keep him, but remember we'll help, but he is your responsibility.”
Predictably Brad didn't exactly help. “He can keep me? What the fuck do you think I am some kind of mother fucking pet?” He yelled at her retreating back.
“Anita he didn't mean it.” I said as she stopped and walked back to us with a rather strange expression on her face. “He's only a kid.”
She didn't say a word she just grabbed his ear and marched him to the house cussing and yelling the whole way. I followed her anxiously wondering what she was going to do. Anita dragged him down the hallway to the bathroom and shut the door.
Cherry, Zane and I waited in the hall as indistinct thumps and yells echoed down the hall. We heard Brad yell out “Bitch, kiss my-“ was abruptly cut off and then things got quiet. The door opened and we heard her tell him to take a shower he stunk.
Anita walked out of the bathroom and out to the kitchen muttering under her breath as she poured herself a cup of coffee and sat down at the table. Catch us following and looking at her she said. “Don't worry I just washed his filthy mouth out with soap.”
We all started laughing in relief. “Did you think I'd hurt the kid?” she asked looking a little offended.
“No.” I answered, “We just wondered what on earth was going on.”
“So now you know you might want to keep an eye on him.” He's a tricky little devil.” She said almost admiringly. I was surprised to see a slight grin on her face. “He reminds me of my brother Josh.”