Fallen Through the Cracks
by: Miguel Sanchez
(© 2006 by the Author)

The author retains all rights. No reproductions are allowed without the author's consent. Comments are appreciated at...

Chapter 1

I had just come off a long 12 hour shift at work and was now starting 9 very well needed days off. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is William Peter Matthews. I go by Peter because I didn’t see myself as a William and Bill didn’t sit right with me. I hated Billy because that seemed too childish for me so I settled for Peter.

The 12 hour shift I was referring to was at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital. I’m a Physicians Assistant there spending my time working between 6 different units. I live in a very nice condo that most people would say is lavish for just one person but I do love the finer things in life and I can very easily afford it.

Another thing I should let you in on is that I work because I want to, not because I have to. I probably have more money than I could spend in two life times, let alone this one so I tend to spoil myself rotten. My parents died when I was 16 leaving their estate to me.

I don’t think that was by choice because I wasn’t the “good little boy” they hoped I would be. When I was 14 I realized that girls for me was as socially unacceptable as herpes so they were on my permanently given up for life list. When my Dad found my photos on my computer he was totally pissed and my mother said it was just a phase I was going through. Little did they know?

Anyway, when they died I was sent to live with my grandmother and since I was the only boy in the family, I was her darling. About a week after the funeral a lawyer came to see us and that’s when I was told about my inheritance. It seems my father didn’t have the where for all to make a will thinking there would be time for that. I’m sure if he had, I would have not seen a penny of what I have today.

Just before I graduated from high school, my grandmother took quite ill and they had all kinds of people looking after her and that’s when I decided what I wanted to do with my life. My grades were well above average and I was accepted to the PA (Physicians Assistant) program at my university. When I graduated, I needed a major change of scenery to that’s why I’m here in sunny Ft. Lauderdale.

Anyway, I had just taken a shower and was deciding what I wanted to do for dinner. It was a nice summer evening for being the middle of June so I decided to nuke a frozen entrée and have it out on the balcony. I sat and relaxed while I ate trying to decide what I wanted to do with myself for the next 9 days.

I decided to totally relax and just work on my tan, if you can make one even better, and work on my ocean swimming. I turned in early after checking my email and doing a little reading.

I awoke at 9 and had some coffee and read the paper to check out the forecast. After another cup of coffee and a bagel I went to my room and set out some clothes. I took a quick shower and dried off then tossed on my trunks. I tossed a pair of shorts on over them then got my beach bag for the rest of the things I normally carry. I grabbed my keys then it was down to the garage. I unlocked my beemer and after starting it up, I dropped the top then headed out for the beach.

Traffic along A1A wasn’t all that bad for late morning in June. The tourists were already out and about and the locals were at work. I found a place to park then fed the meter so I wouldn’t get a ticket. I headed down onto the beach and for early in the season, the sand was quite warm. I decided I needed an umbrella if I was going to spend most if the day there so it was back up the sand. I paid $10.00 for all day then headed back through the sand to the spot I found.

I stuffed the end of the umbrella into the sand and opened it giving me a wide area in which to rest but with a little shifting, I could also get the sun I wanted. I got the sunscreen out and covered what I could of my body before settling down to work on a darker tan.

It’s a good thing I had a good layer already there because I flat out fell asleep. The next thing I remember was hearing loads of kids out in the water and sand flying as they ran past. I sat up and looked at my chest and it was covered in sweat. I put my shades in my bag then kicked off my sandals and headed for the water. I sprinted towards the water and leaped into an oncoming wave.

I swam for about 20 minutes cooling off and just enjoying myself then decided to get something to drink so I wouldn’t dehydrate. There was a small group of teens boogie boarding so I had to wait until one of them passed so I could get back to my blanket. He passed then I get my towel and started drying off when one of them said, “Nice body.”

Now I wasn’t one for spending time at the gym trying to look like Mr. America but I ate right and watched my weight so at 35, I still didn’t look bad. I smiled and said “Thanks” as I headed off to get a drink.

I spent the rest of the afternoon working on my back then went in for another dip to cool off. I returned to my blanket and noticed I had company sitting just to my right. He was playing in the sand and I couldn’t help but admire the tan he already had. There were a number of adults out in the water so I just figured he was with one of them. He looked over to me and I smiled as I continued to let the sun dry my trunks so I could put my shorts on before getting something to eat. He was a cute little guy and he couldn’t have been more than six or seven but he was happy playing in the sand by himself.

When I was sufficiently dry, I stood up and brushed the sand off my body then put my shorts on. I packed my things up and returned the umbrella to the stand where I rented it then locked my things in the trunk of my car. I found a nice restaurant with outdoor seating so I took a table for dinner. I ordered a soda then saw the mystery boy move up and sit on a bench. I guess his bare feet were getting warm in the sand and I still saw the adults in the water so I figured he was alright.

The sun was starting to get lower in the sky and I was just finishing dinner when I noticed the boy was still there but those adults weren’t. ‘OK,’ I thought. ‘He wasn’t their child.’

I looked at my watch and it was almost 8 and someone surely would be missing him. I ordered another soda and decided to see who came for him. I sat and watched as he played in the cooling sand without a care in the world but no one came for him. I looked at my watch and it was almost 9:30 and I just knew something was wrong. Yes, school was closed and kids were on the beach but they were all with their parents. I paid my bill then decided to see if the mystery boy had a name.

I walked over and sat on the bench where he was playing and just watched for several minutes. I was busy watching him when he looked up and said, “Hi mister.”

When he said that his whole face just lit up. I smiled back and said, “Hi yourself. What are you doing?”

He was digging in the sand and said, “Trying to dig to China.”

I giggled at his concept and said, “You’re gonna need a really deep hole. Do you think you can do it?”

“I dunno,” he said. “I can try.”

I sat down beside him and said, “I’ve seen you here all day. May I ask your name?”

He looked up at me and as if trying to ascertain if he should talk any more to me he said, “Zane.”

I stuck my hand out and said, “Hi Zane, I’m Peter. It’s nice to meet you.”

We talked back and forth for several minutes when I asked, “Where are your Mommy and Daddy Zane?”

“I don’t have a Daddy,” he said kind of sad. “And Mommy said for me to stay here until she gets back.”

“Do you know when your Mommy will be back?” I asked.

“Un un,” he said. “But she is usually back by now. The sun isn’t down when she comes back.”

Now I was getting mad as hell. Here is a boy, no more than 7, out alone on the beach off A1A at 9:30 at night and he’d been there for at least 4 hours that I knew of. I took a chance and said, “Zane, what is your full name?”

“Wilton Zane Masters,” he said wrinkling his nose. “I hate my first name.”

I had to admit, I didn’t care for it either. I’d take William over Wilton any day. I ruffled his hair and said, “OK Zane, I like Zane better than Wilton too. Do you know where you live?”

“Un huh,” he said as he pointed up A1A.

“Do you know your address?” I asked.

He told me then I said, “You’re smart Zane. How old are you?”

He walked over and said, “I’m a big boy. I’m 6 years old.”

I smiled at the way he said it then replied, “You sure are a big boy.”

He returned to playing in the sand and now it was dark out. I wasn’t going to leave him all alone out here. I knew it had to be after 10 so I said, “Zane, have you ever been out here this late before?”

It looked like he was getting a little worried when I asked but all he did was shake his head no. I then thought, ‘Well, I know your address, maybe I could take him home and in the process chew Mom out for being so stupid.’

I went to speak when he got up and then sat on my lap and leaned against me. “Would you like me to take you home Zane?”

He looked up at me with the saddest expression I’ve ever seen and said, “Un huh. It’s dark out here now and I’m getting scared.”

I leaned down and picked him up and he rested his head on my shoulder as we headed to my car. I unlocked the door and set him in the passenger’s seat doing his seatbelt. I got in then did the same and soon we were off to Zane’s place.

Traffic was light so it didn’t take more than 30 minutes or so to find the apartment building behind Port Everglades. When we got out of the car I asked, “Do you have a key Zane?”

He shook his head no so all I could do was hope someone was home. He led me to his apartment and it didn’t appear anyone was there. I knocked loudly so that if someone was sleeping it would surely wake them. I banged for a good five minutes then decided there just wasn’t anyone home. I knelt down and said, “Well kiddo, any ideas on what to do now?”

He just looked lost then sat down by the door and said. “I’ll just stay here and wait til Mommy gets home.”

I looked at my watch and it was now almost 11 and there was no way I would let him sit out here by himself at this hour. I picked him up and said, “Zane, I can’t let you sit out here alone.”

I saw his eyes start to water as he said, “I’m scared Peter.”

“I know you are little guy,” I said as I tried to calm him. “Would you like to come home with me until we can figure what to do?”

He was about to say something when he let out a big yawn. I giggled as he said, “Un huh. I’d like that.”

I got him back in the car and started driving home wondering what I was going to do with a 6 year old boy. I didn’t have a problem being around kids. I did it every day and I really loved them. I’d seen things that would make a lot of people heave their guts out and I had even done it a few times too.

It’s not like finding a puppy on the street. I couldn’t put up a poster saying lost child. I was about to enter the parking garage when it hit me. I was still a foster parent. I went through the paperwork and checks and stuff before I was hired at Children’s but I never had a child placed with me. When I was hired, I informed them that I would take older children but still nothing materialized.

I stopped at the gate and entered my code. The gate lifted and we drove to my parking space. When I opened his door, his head went into constant motion as he looked all around. He took my hand as we walked towards the elevator. When we entered, I pushed 3 and soon we were getting off on the third floor. We walked down to my unit then I got my key and unlocked the door.

His eyes got big as he looked around the place all with the added ooos and ahs thrown in for extra measure. “Are you hungry Zane,” I asked knowing full well he hadn’t eaten dinner.

He nodded his head so off we went into the kitchen. I went into the fridge and looked around and then decided on a frozen entrée. I found a Salisbury steak one and popped that in. He started dancing then said, “Peter, I gotta pee bad.”

I took him down the hall to the bathroom then turned on the light for him. He ran to the toilet and pulled his shorts and undies down in one pull and let fly. He flushed the toilet then pulled his pants up and said, “Thanks. I almost didn’t make it.”

I found a little step he could stand on then he washed his hands. I looked at him and said, “Didn’t it bother you that you were standing there with your pants down in front of me.”

“Un un,” he said. “You have a peepee to.”

I heard the bell on the microwave ding so we went back to the kitchen. I sat his at the table and fixed his mashed potatoes for him. I poured him a glass of milk then set his food down then sat while he ate. In less than ten minutes, he ate a full size adult meal and finished his milk.

I put his tray in the trash and rinsed his milk glass out and put that in the dishwasher then returned to my seat. He hopped out of his chair then came over and raised his arms letting me know what he wanted. I picked him up and he got comfy as I said, “Zane, I’m going to have to call some people to help me to find your Mommy.”

He nodded his head but never directly answered me. I rubbed his hair but that netted no reply either. I finally looked down at him and he was fast asleep on my lap. I stood up and carried him down to one of the guest rooms and gently placed him in the bed. His little bare feet were filthy but I didn’t want to disturb him so I just eased his shorts off and covered him up. I found a small night light and plugged it in and left the door open a little so hopefully he would remember where he was.

I went back to the kitchen and put on the kettle for a cup of tea then pulled out my foster parent license hoping to find a phone number. I looked at the back and they had a 24 hour hotline for foster parents so I hoped that that would do.

I dialed the number and I heard it ring then switch over. It rang another few times then a middle aged woman answered. She said, “This is Ms. Watson. May I have your name and the nature of the problem?”

I gave her my name then I said the problem wasn’t with a foster child. “Are you telling me you found a child?”

I can’t get anything by her. “Yes,” I said. I found a child. He was left alone on the beach along A1A from at least 4PM until after dark. He gave me his address and I took him by his apartment and there was no one home.”

“Alright Mr. Matthews,” she said. “Why didn’t you call the police?”

“I did what they would have done,” I said. “They would have gone by the home then called you people. Look lady, I am a licensed foster parent.”

“I understand sir,” she said. “I can’t just say fine and let it go at that. There are papers that need to be filled out. May I have your address please?”

I gave it to her then she said, “I know where that is Mr. Matthews. I’ll be there in about 30 minutes.”

I hung up the phone and fixed myself another cup of tea. While the water was heating, I went down to check on Zane and he was still fast asleep. I heard the kettle getting hot so I hurried to shut the stove off before the whistle woke him.

I was lost in thought about Zane when there was a knock on the door. I opened it and sure enough the lady was middle aged but dressed like the 50’s with her hair pulled back in a tight bun. “I’m Emma Watson and you must be Mr. Matthews.”

“Won’t you come in?” I said opening the door further.

She came in and said, “And where is the child?”

“Please keep your voice down,” I said. “He’s in the guest room sound asleep. After I fed him, he fell asleep on my lap.”

“How old is the child?” She asked.

This was getting stale. “The child you refer to ma’am does have a name. He’s 6 years old.”

She took out a stack of papers then said, “I’m sorry, it’s been a long day. “What is the boy’s name?”

“His name is Zane Masters,” I said.

“You’ll have to get him up,” she said. “We know him at DCFS. He’s a habitual runaway.”

Something wasn’t right here. A six year old don’t runaway all the time to the point where he’s known at social services. “Lady, you need to think again,” I said. “He was found a good 10 miles from his home. When we got there, I banged on the door for a good five minutes. If his parents were so concerned about him, why wasn’t someone there?”

“They were probably out looking for him,” she said.

“Well I just find that hard to believe,” I said. “You didn’t see him out there lady. I was looking at one sacred little boy and I see scared kids all the time. Instead of being out looking for him, they should have called the police. They move for little children.”

“We notify them when he’s with us,” she said.

“Lady that is the biggest line of bull I’ve ever heard,” I said. “How about I call them and then what’s happened and ask if he’s been reported as a runaway?”

“That won’t be necessary Mr. Matthews,” she said. “I’ve dealt with Zane before. He gets a place to sleep until his mother calls.”

I was really steamed but I didn’t want to risk upsetting him because our talking was getting louder. I also had my license to think about so I decided to let him go with her but not before saying, “Very well lady, I will get him for you but heed these words well. You haven’t heard the last from me. I do know some very influential people in Broward County and you just might have to answer to a few of them real soon. Now before he leaves here, you will tell me where he will be staying tonight. You see, I have a responsibility to children too. I’m on the Medical Staff of Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital and I am well versed in child welfare policy. I deal with Broward County DCFS all the time.”

She told me where he would be staying and as I walked down the hall to the bedroom I ducked into my room and quickly wrote the address down. I was familiar with the area but I didn’t think their office was in that part of town. I made sure I had my wallet and keys then I went and woke Zane up. He was still out of it as I got his shorts back on. I had to carry him because there was no way he would stay awake in the elevator.

I came out and said, “I’ll carry him to your car. He’s really exhausted.”

We went down the elevator into the garage and I saw she was parked right outside the gate. I got Zane in the back seat then buckled him in. Before I closed the door, I kissed the top of his head and whispered, “Don’t worry buddy, I’m going to look out for you.”

I closed the door then went over to my car. I just had to know where he was going and that he was going to be alright. As soon as she pulled off, I was out of there following her. I followed her to a small mobile home park off Dixie Highway in Hollywood and parked in front of a very old trailer. She got Zane out and carried him inside and a few minutes later, all the lights went out. I was tired and I couldn’t sit out there all night because I would be sore and stiff come morning.

I drove back home and noticed it was well past one in the morning. I was so mad I almost forgot to stop at the gate to enter my code. I had a friend I met when I first got down here and he became a Juvenile Court Judge. While going up in the elevator I decided to call Hector and see if I could sit and talk with him about all this. As soon as I got inside I went straight for my bedroom. I stripped, did my bathroom ritual then set the alarm for 6 AM.

Chapter 2


No sooner had my head hit the pillow, than alarm was buzzing loudly in my ear telling me it was time to get up. I threw the covers off and went and emptied my bladder then went out the kitchen to put the coffee on.

I went back to the bathroom and quickly shaved and tossed on a pair of boxers. I had known Hector for almost 10 years and I was lucky enough to have his home telephone number. I knew what time he left for work so at 7:15 I called him. He answered the phone and I said, “Morning Hector, Peter Matthews calling.”

“Peter my old friend,” he said. “How are you?”

“Not bad Hector,” I said. “I have a problem and I need to talk with you about it. Would you happen to have any time free this morning?”

I heard some paper rustling then he said, “I can see you at 10. I only have one hearing and it’s to sign off on an adoption.”

“Sounds good Hector,” I said. “I’ll see you then.”

I felt good that I was going to have a chance to talk with Hector about it. I knew he wouldn’t get involved but I was fairly certain he could tell me who to talk with. I finished my second cup of coffee then went and got dressed. I managed to relax as the time seemed to drag by until it was time for me to leave.

It took almost 30 minutes to get to the courthouse but I did manage to find a parking place pretty easy. I went into the courthouse then asked a guard for directions to Judge Martinez’s courtroom. He told me where it was and when I went in, the room was empty. I saw a Sheriff’s Deputy standing in the room so I said, “Can you tell me where I can find Judge Martinez?”

“Is he expecting you?” he asked, heading for a door.

“Yes he is,” I said. “My name is Peter Matthews.”

The deputy stuck his head inside the door then he said, “Right this way Sir.”

I entered Hector’s chambers and he said, “Peter how are you? It’s been too long my friend.”

I walked over and shook his hand then said, “I’m fine my friend. Still working at DiMaggio Children’s Hospital.”

He came out from around his desk and we sat on the sofa as he said, “Now what can I do for you Peter?”

“Well Hector,” I said. “Yesterday I was at the beach and there was this 6 year old boy and he was there for like 4 hours alone. I found out from him where he lived, took him home and no one was there. I took him to my place, got him fed and bedded down for the night and then called social services. A social worker came out and was about to start filling out papers until I told her his name. She said she knew the situation and that the boy was a habitual runaway. He was found a good 10 miles from his house and I think that is a far stretch for a 6 year old. Well, she took the child with her and went home. I followed her so I know that is what she did. She also said she would notify the police.”

“How does the mother know where to get him if the police don’t know where he is?” He asked.

I looked at him and said, “The only thing I can think of is she knows where he is and goes and gets him.”

He got up and went back to his desk. He looked up and asked, “What’s this woman’s name?”

“Emma Watson,” I said.

He picked up the phone and then the Deputy from outside came in. he looked at him and said, “I would like two deputies to go over to DCFS and personally bring this Emma Watson person to me.”

I looked at Hector and said, “What worries me is what happens to the boy during the day? I would also love to know what she’s doing that makes her leave him alone.”

Hector had some coffee brought in while we waited for the Deputies to return. We were in the middle of the second cup when there was a knock on the door. A second later it opened and in walked Emma Watson escorted by two Deputies. She looked at me and said, “What’s the meaning of this?”

Hector looked at her and said, “I’ll be the one asking questions here. First off, I want to know right now where the little boy is.”

“He’s back home safe with his mother,” she said.

I wrote down Zane’s address and handed it to Hector and he said, “I want him and his mother brought here immediately.”

The men left as he asked, “Why wasn’t that child placed into foster care?”

“With all due respect Your Honor,” she started. “We do know what we’re doing.”

I looked at the woman and said, “Oh, and what was it you were doing by bringing the child to your trailer last night.”

“Uh, well,” she stammered. “It was late and Zane needed to sleep.”

“Why then was he removed from the bed he was in?” Hector asked.

“So his mother could get him,” she said.

I was really seething now. I looked at her and said, “So you mean to tell us that you let a woman drop her son off god knows where and when you’re called onto it, you just take him home with you and give him back so it can happen again, again and again? Lady, have you lost your mind?”

“Your Honor, that child runs away,” she said.

“Well we will soon find out,” Hector said. “When they get here we will have a talk with him.”

Just then there was a knock on the door then in walked two Deputies with a woman and holding a crying Zane. He saw me and said, “Peter, Peter.”

The Deputy set him down and he ran over to me and hopped up in my lap. “Are you alright Zane,” I asked.

“Un huh,” he said. “Why did you make me go with her last night?”

“I’m sorry son,” I said. “I thought I was doing what was best for you. How did you get to the beach yesterday?”

He was looking around the room and I could tell he was scared. I looked at Hector and asked, “Can the Deputies stay with these two outside for a few minutes?”

They took the women outside and I asked, “Now, how did you get to the beach son. Please tell me the truth, Peter won’t be mad. I promise.”

“Mommy dropped me off there and said she will be back soon,” Zane said softly.

“Does Mommy do this very much?” I asked.

“Un huh,” he said. “Now that it’s hot, she will probably do it more.”

Hector looked at Zane and said, “If I bring your Mommy and that other lady in, will you say what you just did again?”

Zane buried his face in my chest when Hector asked the question. “It’s alright son,” I said. “They won’t hurt or yell at you. I won’t let them.”

The women were brought back into the room and Hector asked Zane, “Now Zane, how did you get to the beach?”

“Mommy dropped me off and said to play until she got back,” he said looking at his mother.

I looked at the woman and she was looking very rough. I looked at Zane and said, “I want you to help that Deputy there. OK?”

He hopped off my lap and the Deputy took him into the courtroom while we talked with our guests. Hector looked at Zane’s mother and asked, “Lady what the hell ever possessed you to do that?”

She just sat there and said nothing. I looked at the social worker and said, “If you know what’s going on, it would be in your best interest to speak up.”

“Look,” she started. “All I know is that she went out and the kid was supposed to wait outside.”

“Outside where?” Hector asked.

“I don’t know,” she replied.

“I’ve heard just about enough,” Hector said. “Ms. Masters, I’m issuing a bench warrant charging you with child endangerment, child neglect and child abandonment. Ms. Watson I’m issuing a bench warrant charging you with three counts of aiding and abetting Ms. Masters’ crimes.”

Zane’s mother was just sitting emotionless during the whole thing. I looked at her and said, “Lady, what’s wrong with you? Are you ill?”

She looked up at me and said, “Yeah, I don’t feel good. I guess this thing is getting worse.”

“What thing,” I asked.

“I doubt you understand,” she said.

“I’m on the Medical Staff at Joe DiMaggio Children’s,” I said. “I’ll understand more than you realize. Is this what I think it is?”

She nodded her head and said, “Yeah, I’m positive.”

“How long?” I asked.

“Oh about 6½ years,” she said. “I didn’t know until after Zane was born.”

“Oh my god,” Ms. Watson said. “You mean that kid has AIDS and you never told me? Shit, now I’m gonna get it.”

“Will you shut up,” I scowled “Unless you had sex with him, you won’t get it.”

“Yeah,” she said. “But I held him and kissed him.”

I was really getting pissed at this broad. I’ve heard some dumb things about how you get HIV but hugging someone is one of the stupidest. “You don’t get it that way either.”

“Oh and how do you know?” She asked.

“I’m a Physicians Assistant at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital,” I said. “I’m trained to know.”

“So do you know every way you can get it?” She bitched.

“As a matter of fact I do,” I said. “Unless you shared at needle shooting IV drugs, had penetrative sex where you exchanged bodily fluids or came in direct contact with Zane’s blood and you had an open wound, you wouldn’t catch it.”

“Well, I don’t believe you,” she said.

“Good,” Hector said. “You don’t have to. Deputy, escort Ms. Watson to a holding cell. I’ll call your office and let them know you won’t be back for a while and why.”

The Deputy let the bitch out of the room when I asked, “Now what are we going to do with Zane?”

Hector looked at me and said, “Well, you wanted to foster him, didn’t you?”

I smiled at the thought of Zane running around the condo being a happy little boy. “Yeah Hector, I do.”

“Do you have a problem with that?” he asked Zane’s mother.

She shook her head no then said, “No, I don’t have a problem with it. He seems to have taken a shine to you.”

I went to the door and there was Zane walking with the Deputy as he checked the courtroom. He stopped and turned around as I watched him then run over with a huge grin on his face. He jumped into my arms and said, “I was helping him Peter.”

“I saw you were Deputy Zane,” I said rubbing his belly. “How would you like to go home with me and live there?”

“Really,” he asked as his eyes got wide. “But what about Mommy?”

I thought quickly and said, “Well son, Mommy is sick. She’s been sick for a while now but now it’s time to help her. She will be going away for a little while but you should be able to see her soon, if you want.”

“Did she get sick from the men?” he asked softly.

Out of the mouths of babes come innocence and truth. She never realized that when he was younger her actions were seen and even understood in ways we couldn’t even imagine. “I’m not totally sure son,” I said. “But she might have.”

“Are you gonna be my Daddy now?” he asked.

That hit home hard. I’d never thought of being a parent because of my work and my lifestyle. Holding this little bundle of joy in my arms made me think about it. I kissed his forehead and said, “For a while I will be son,” I said.

“He smiled and said, “I like that.”

We walked back into Hector’s chambers and he said, “How’s he doing?”

“We’re doing fine,” I said.

“I’ve written the order placing Zane into your temporary custody,” he said. “I can easily amend it to permanent custody if need be.”

I looked over at Zane’s Mother and she couldn’t even look at her child. I looked back to Hector and said, “I think she needs to be in the jail ward at Broward General for testing and possible treatment.”

“What about Zane?” he asked. “Will you need the county’s approval for him?”

“I will need them to show he’s in my care,” I said. “That way they will have a record of it.”

“I’ll take care of it,” Hector said. “I’ll also take care of having Ms. Masters admitted to BGH.”

I looked at Zane and said, “Are you ready to go home son,”

Before he would answer he wanted down so I set him on his feet and he went over to Hector and whispered, “Do you think it would be OK if I called him Daddy?’

I saw the two of them whisper back and forth then Zane came back over and said, “Let’s go home Daddy.”

Zane’s Mother looked over and smiled weakly as I said, “I’ll take good care of him.”

I opened the door and left the courthouse with something more special than life itself. On the way home, I got us some lunch then took Zane shopping for a new wardrobe. On the way, he looked at me and said, “Daddy can I get some new kind of bathing suit?”

The one I saw him wearing had definitely seen better days and was too small for him so I said, “Sure kiddo, you can get new ones. What would you like for lunch?”

He thought for a few minutes then said, “I love fried chicken. Is there a place where we can get any?”

I headed for Broward Mall. They have a huge food court plus that was where I wanted to get Zane his new clothes. We found a place that had Zane’s fried chicken so after three pieces and some fries, my boy was full.

Next stop was A&F and a chance for me to really spoil him. Because of our climate, he would be wearing shorts most of the time. I found him several different styles to try on but the ones that made him look totally adorable were a pair of tan shorts and a white polo shirt with a light blue ring around the color and sleeves. The ring matched his eyes and the sorts accented his hair. One sales person thought it would be cute to put him in a sailor’s suit but after seeing blood in my eyes, decided against it.

I got him three pairs of jeans and two pairs of casual slacks to go with his other things. The next stop was the shoe department. He got two pairs of Nike’s and a pair of dress shoes for special occasions. I loaded all the packages into the BMW and we headed back to the condo.

I had a few other things in mind to get Zane but I didn’t know how to get them home with my small car. We got everything unloaded and into Zane’s new room when he asked, “Can we go swimming?”

“I didn’t get your suit,” I said.

“The sales lady helped me,” he said as he dug into a bag then disappeared into the bathroom.

“Close your eyes Daddy,” he said through the door.

I closed my eyes and patiently waited until he said to open them. I heard him struggle and grunt then he said, “OK Daddy, open your eyes.”

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. He was wearing a bathing suit like Olympians wore. It was navy blue and had a shinny finish and hugged his body. He looked so cute I just picked him up and said, “That’s you son.”

I put him down the he wiggled his butt at me then said, “I know. I like the way it shows my butt.”

He squealed as I ran after him saying, “I’ll get your butt.”

I stopped at the balcony then looked down at the pool. I saw a number of kids playing then I asked him, “OK son, where do you want to go swimming? The beach or the pool?”

“You got a pool?” He said wide eyed as I led him out onto the balcony as he looked out at the view. “Whoa Daddy, this is cool.”

I saw him get close to the rails then I held onto him. I was going to have to put cross rail up until he grows a little. “Let’s go down to the pool and see if you can make some new friends.”

We went down to the elevator and Zane pushed the button marked pool. It dawned on me that I had to get his recreation pass so he could use the pool and other amenities. We walked into the office and I said, “I need to get a resident pass for my son.”

She looked over the counter at Zane and said, “Have you read your purchase contract sir?” No children are allowed here.”

I’ve lived in my condo for over 10 years and when I bought it; my lawyer read the contract very carefully. I looked at her and said, “Lady, you’re full of crap.”

She pulled out a purchase contract and showed me the clause. I took the contract and looked it over and on the bottom it had the word revised on it. “When was this revised?” I asked.

“Several years ago,” she said.

I pulled out my resident pass and showed it to her and said, “Lady, I’ve been here over 10 years. My condo is bought and paid for free and clear. Now, you will issue that card. You do realize that that clause in unenforceable, don’t you?”

“It hasn’t been challenged yet,” she said.

“I wouldn’t say that too loudly,” I said. “You can’t keep couples from procreating.”

She took Zane’s photo and issued him his card then it was off to the pool. I sat back and watched him swim and play plus make some new friends. I found out that many of the children were living there and had been before the clause was added.

Zane came up and said, “Daddy, I’m tired.”

I said my good byes then took Zane back to the condo. He went into the bathroom and removed his trunks then said, “Daddy, I need some help.”

I went to the bathroom and he was standing there trying to dry his back. I looked at him and said, “Son, you could have come into the living room.”

“Mommy says I shouldn’t go around naked,” he said.

“Well, that was your Mommy,” I said. “Here, it’s ok if you come out naked for some reason.”

“Really? He asked.

I dried his back then kissed his nose. He smiled at me knowing that I meant what I said.

Two days later, I decided to call Hector about Zane’s mother. I wanted to find out if she was in deed HIV+ because it would mean having to have Zane tested. He told me he would make a phone call and see what he would find out. The doctor said the results were in and he wasn’t going to give him the results. He issued a court order and I had to take it to the hospital. I brought Zane with me as I knew we weren’t going to be seeing his Mom.

Zane and I went to the doctor’s office and showed his secretary the order. She picked up the phone and the doctor came out. I had Zane wait for me while I spoke with him. He looked at me and said, “This is against all I stand for.”

“What about that child out there?” I asked.

“If you suspect the mother is get him tested,” he said as he handed me the results.

“I do intend to,” I said. “But I wanted this information too. Good day.”

“If you were in medicine, you’d understand what I was talking about,” he said as I reached for the door handle.

I turned and reached into my wallet and pulled out my ID for Children’s then said, “I know exactly what you’re talking about.”

I took the paper and got Zane then headed home. I was three days into my time off and I wasn’t sure if I could ever return to work with Zane now in my life. I love this little boy and he was now my number one priority.

The next day I decided to take Zane for a blood test then speak to personnel. We left about 9 and drove to the hospital. I wanted to speak with one of our Pediatric AIDS specialists when Zane looked at me and asked, “Am I sick like Mommy?”

I looked into the big blue eyes of his and said, “I don’t know yet son. We hope to know soon.”

His next question knocked the wind totally from my sails.

“Am I gonna die Daddy?” He asked looking at me.

I sat down and pulled him up onto my lap and said, “No son, at least not right now. I mean we all die son.”

I had my ID tag on and Zane looked at it then asked, “Are you a Doctor Daddy?”

“No son, not a Doctor,” I said. “I’m a Physicians Assistant. We’re like doctors and we work very close with them.”

“What are they going to do?” He asked.

“That’s one reason why were here son,” I said. “We’re going to talk with a Doctor and then they will examine you and draw some blood to see what is wrong with it.”

“Will they have to use a needle?” He asked.

“A little one,” I said.

I was about to say something else when a woman came out and said, “Mr. Matthews, I’m Dr. Hodges. And who is this young man?”

I picked my boy up and said, “This is my son Zane.”

“Hi Zane,” she said as he buried his head against my chest.

I leaned down and whispered to him, “Be nice son. I’m going to be here with you.”

He turned around and gave her a weak smile and said, “Hi.”

We went into an exam room and I set Zane on the table. I looked at him and said, “You need to get undressed son.”

I don’t think he liked that too much but he kicked his shoes off and then took his polo shirt off. He then took his shorts off as the Doctor said, “That’s fine Zane.”

She helped him off the table and led him over to the scale. He stepped up on it and she said, “42 pounds and 54” tall.”

‘A little under weight but not too bad,’ I thought.

Dr. Hodges brought Zane back to the table and I lifted him up saying, “You’re doing fine son.”

The Doctor checked his eyes, ears, nose and throat then listened to his heart and lungs. She took her stethoscope and hung it around her neck then gently lays Zane back on the table. She pushed gently on his tummy then slid her hand under his briefs and felt his abdomen.

She made some notes on his chart then said, “Can you take his underpants off? I need to see his genitals.”

I slid them down and Zane immediately covered his crotch with his hands. “No Daddy, don’t let a girl see my peepee,” he said crossing his legs as he spoke.

Dr. Hodges whispered that she just needed to see that his development was normal for his age. I looked at Zane and said, “Here then son, let me look then, OK?”

Dr. Hodges stood behind me and I looked at Zane’s little uncut penis and pea sized balls. I slid his briefs back up and she winked at me telling me she’d seen all she needed to. She looked at Zane then said, “Thank you Zane, you were a very good patient. Now I need to get some blood from you.”

Zane started to whimper when he heard that. “No Daddy please,” he said. “I hate needles.”

“I know son,” I said. “It’s just a little stick.”

“Nooo Daddy,” he wailed.

We needed that blood but I didn’t want to use a papoose on him and risk scaring him any more. I said, “How about if you sit on Daddy’s lap. I’ll hold you and you can squeeze my hand.”

He nodded his head and Dr. Hodges prepared to get the blood drawn. She would need to draw 3 tubes and I hoped I could keep him calm while it was happening. I sat on the table and put Zane on my lap. Dr. Hodges put the band around his arm and looked carefully for a good vein so she would only have to stick him once. I could feel him shaking and when she wiped his arm with the alcohol pad, he started crying softly again. When she removed the cover on the pediatric butterfly the tears rolled and then Dr. Hodges said, "Now please don’t move Zane. I don’t want to have to do this again.”

She felt the vein then slid the needle in as Zane said, “Owwie Daddy, owwwwwwwwwww.”

I held him and he had a grip on three fingers in his little hand. Dr. Hodges got the blood and when she slid the needle out he said, “Ow, ow, ow, ow it stings.”

She put a gauze pad over the hole and I held it in place while she marked each tube. I turned Zane around so he was facing me and said, “You were a very big boy son. I know that hurt a little and we’re sorry but we needed the blood.”

Dr Hodges put a band aid on his arm then he wrapped his arms around my neck. I looked into his eyes and I knew that no matter what, he was my boy and I loved him. I kissed him on his pug nose and said, “I love you son.”

He rested his head on my shoulder and said, I love you too Daddy.”

I reached into my pocket and pulled out the lab report on Zane’s mother. She looked at it and just shook her head. “Doesn’t look good, does it?”

I just shook my head no. Zane was still resting his head on my shoulder so I said, “Let me get him home Doc, and thanks. I will probably have to take a leave of absence until he’s in school then try to see if they can work around my schedule with him. I might see if there is a private school near here so I can continue to work.”

Chapter 3


My next stop was to personnel to see about taking another week off. When I arrived the director was on the phone so I had to wait for her. Her secretary looked at Zane, “He’s a cute little guy.”

I smiled and said, “Yeah that he is. He’s my foster son.”

Just then the door to her office opened and she motioned me to come in. I explained the situation and she said, “We do have a program for new parents that allows them an extended leave of absence but this is for a new born.”

I looked at her, “Well, he’s sure not a new born. It looks like I’m going to have to take a couple of weeks off without pay. He’s going to need me more than ever if what I suspect is true.”

“What’s that Peter,” she asked genuinely concerned.

“He is more than likely HIV+,” I said.

“Oh my god,” she said. “Has he been molested?”

I shook my head no, “Got it from his mother. I don’t know how he’s managed to have fallen through the cracks but he’s just now being tested.”

“Who’s his doctor?” She asked.

“Sylvia Hodges,” I said.

“Couldn’t ask for better,” she said. “I’m going to put you in for a 30 day LOA and if you need more time later, just call me.”

I thanked her, “I’m sure I’ll be here from time to time over the next month. Thanks for everything.”

On the way home from the hospital Zane woke up and said, “I’m hungry Daddy.”

I looked over at my little angel, “Well, hello there. Feeling better?”

“Un huh,” he said. “Daddy please don’t let another girl see my peepee, it’s embarrassing.”

I stopped at BK and got us something to eat to go then headed home. As we were heading to the condo I look at Zane and asked, “Why is it embarrassing for a girl to see your peepee? Your mother did?”

“That was when I was a baby Daddy,” he said as we walked into the condo.

“I understand that son, but Dr. Hodges is a doctor and she’s seen them before. She will only do what she has to son.”

“Are you saying she might have to again?” He asked heading towards the bathroom.

“She might,” I said. “And I will be there with you too, son.”

He came out of the bathroom with his shorts and briefs half up then said surrendering, “Well if she has to.”

He finished pulling his pants up then we had lunch out on the balcony. After lunch Zane snuggled on my lap and fell asleep. I was wondering what was making him so sleepy but I guess this was the first time he could relax and not worry about whether or not he would be dropped off somewhere while his mother took off.

While he was asleep I went online to find a couple of things every boy needed. The first thing I found was a bike for him. I looked at several of the photos then called the store and ordered it. I paid extra to have them deliver it today but it was worth it. I was surprised when a couple of hours later there was a knock on the door and it was the bike shop. Zane was up by then, “Son, there is a delivery here at the door for you.”

He came in from the living room and upon seeing the bike said, “Oh Daddy, I’ve never had a bike before.”

He came running over and hugged me and I asked him, “Can you ride a bike?”

He hung his head and said, “I never have.”

The man from the bike shop said, “Don’t worry about that little man, I have something here to help you until you do.”

I ordered a set of training wheels in case he hadn’t learned to ride. The man put the wheels on then adjusted the seat and handle bars so Zane could ride safely. The next thing he did was bring out two different types of helmets and tried them on. Zane took a spin around the condo then I decided to take him outside. The man from the bike shop left and I took Zane down for his first ever ride on his own bike.

One evening, later in the week, Zane was lying in the couch using my leg as a pillow when he said, “Daddy, I don’t feel good.”

I put my hand under his shirt and he did feel warmer than usual. I carried him down to his room and placed him on his bed then went to get the thermometer. Zane saw me come in with it and started to put his underpants down. I reached my hand down and placed it on his chest then said, “Can you hold it under your tongue son?”

He said, “I’ll try. I’ve never done it this way before.”

I slipped it under his tongue and he tried to keep it there and close his lips around it but he said, “I can’t breathe.”

I explained how it was done but he couldn’t get the knack of it. I guess it was because he wasn’t feeling well that seemed to frustrate him. I got my other thermometer and quickly took his temp and it was almost 102. I gave him some children’s Tylenol and put a call into Dr. Hodges. It was after 10 and I hated bothering her but I wasn’t about to go trying to treat him on my own so I called her service.

While waiting for Sylvia to return my call, I gave Zane a brief exam checking his lymph nodes and belly. I didn’t feel anything out of the ordinary. When she called me back, I told her what was going on. She said it just could be all the excitement from the past few days and for me to watch his fever during the night. She said she would call to see if all the blood work was done and for me to call her in the morning if his fever was still elevated.

I looked at Zane and asked, “Is there anything you want son?”

He crawled on my lap and said, “Can I sleep with you?”

This was the first time he’d wanted to sleep with me and I wasn’t going to deny him. “Of course you can son,” I said picking him up and bringing him into my bedroom.

I placed him on the bed and he immediately got off and went to the bathroom. I started to go out to turn out the lights when suddenly I heard his crying. I went into the bathroom and there was Zane with wet briefs. I want to him and he pulled back saying, “I’m sorry Daddy. I didn’t mean to.”

I put my hand out to him and he came to me then I slipped his wet briefs off him then said, “It’s OK son. Daddy’s not mad at you, accidents happen.”

I got a wash cloth and washed his crotch and butt then cleaned up the floor. I set him on the bed then went and turned the lights out and got him a clean pair of underpants. I helped him get those on then I got undressed. I did my bathroom duties then crawled into bed and held Zane close to me. I kissed his cheek, “I love you son.”

He laid his head on my arm and said, “I love you too Daddy.

I woke about 2 and had to pee so when I was finished, I decided to check his temp again. I had to struggle to get his briefs down so I decided to just let him sleep naked. I gently slid the lubed thermometer into his rectum and he didn’t make a sound as it entered. Three minutes later, I removed it and looked to see what his fever was. He was still in the 102 range at 102.6. I knew temps are known to spike at night and I would check it again in a couple of hours.

I’m not sure what made me do it but I was awake again at 4 and Zane was cuddled next to me sleeping soundly. I eased away from him and reached for the thermometer. I turned the light on and lubed the end and gently parted his cheeks so I could see his rectum. I slid it in then held it in between two fingers as I rested my hand on his butt. As I removed the thermometer I heard Zane moan then say, “What are you doing Daddy?”

I kissed his cheek and said, “Just taking your temperature again.”

“Oh,” he said as he rolled over onto his back. He covered his crotch then said, “Daddy, I’m naked.”

I rubbed his belly then said, “Un huh, it’s easier when I check your temperature while you’re sleeping.”

“When I’m sleeping?” He asked.

“I took it earlier and you never moved,” I said. “I left your underpants off because it would be easier when I had to do it again. Is there a problem with you sleeping naked?”

“Mommy,” he started saying. “No Daddy. You’ve seen me before and I kinda like it.”

I was seeing that he was at conflict with what his mother did and me. I fixed him his liquid Tylenol, “I take it you don’t sleep naked.”

He drank the medicine, “No Daddy. Mommy says little boys who go naked are bad.”

I sat up on the bed as he moved over and sat him on my lap. I kissed his nose, “Son, as long as you’re in your home you can be naked provided it’s just you and me here. If you want to just wear your underpants, that’s fine too and it doesn’t make you a bad boy.”

“I love you Daddy,” he said as he snuggled into my lap.

I picked him up and brought him into the bathroom and he did need to empty his bladder. When he was done, we cuddled back in bed and I did manage a few hours sleep. The next time I awoke it was 8:30 and my bladder was yelling demanding relief. After going to the bathroom, I picked up the thermometer and looked at it before shaking it down. His temp broke 103 and I had to see if the Tylenol was doing him any good. I quickly shook it down then lubed and inserted it in Zane’s bottom. I felt his body and he was really warm. I removed the thermometer and read it and he was still up at 102.8.

I got up and fixed Zane a large glass of ginger ale to get some fluids into his system. I sat on the edge and shook him gently saying, “Wake up son.”

He rolled over onto his back then blushed as he covered his little boy stiffy. I smiled and said, “Nothing to cover son, we all get them. Sit up and drink this.”

He guzzled the liquid down and hurried into the bathroom. I heard him emptying his bladder then let out a hearty belch followed by a giggle. I handed him his underwear then fixed him a light breakfast after putting a call into Dr. Hodges.

Zane was picking at his oatmeal when the phone rang. The voice said, “This is Dr. Hodges.”

“Hi Doctor,” I said. “Peter Matthews here, I’m calling about Zane.”

“How is he?” She asked.

“Right now he’s picking at some oatmeal,” I said. “His temp is 102. 8. I took his temp twice during the night and he stirred only once. His fever topped out at 103.4 at 4AM. He’s had a total of 3 doses of children’s Tylenol.”

“I’m at the hospital now and his blood work is done,” she said. “He is HIV+ but his T-cell count is pretty good at 600. His CBC was normal so I don’t think he’s picked up an infection. I would, however, like to see him. It sounds like he’s picked up a virus.”

“I’ve thought about that,” I said. “Other than being tired, he’s not really acting sick.”

Zane took off running down the hall and disappeared into the bathroom. “How’s his apatite?” She asked as I got to the bathroom door.

Zane had his head in the toilet as I said, “He was picking at his breakfast now he’s throwing it up.”

“OK,” she said. “I want you to bring him to the ER and I’ll meet you there. I’ll have Zane’s chart done so I can see him right away.”

“Alright,” I said. “As soon as he stops vomiting, I’ll be on the way.”

I hung up then went to see Zane. I got a glass of water so he could rinse his mouth out then I wet a washcloth and wiped his mouth and face. “What’s wrong with me Daddy?”

“That’s what we’re going to find out son,” I said as I picked him up and carried him to his room.

I thought about what to put on him then decided on his pajamas since we were heading to the hospital. I put a pair socks on him then his slippers then I got dressed. He was lying on my bed and was nodding off when I picked him up and we headed to the car. I got on US 1 and 30 minutes later we were pulling into the staff parking lot.

I carried Zane into the ER and sure enough, his paperwork was ready. Zane was taken into triage and temp and vital signs were taken. His temp was down to 102.2 but still not enough to ease my worry. I picked him up and carried him into the department and saw Dr. Hodges. She motioned me into a treatment room and I placed him on the exam table. “Get his clothes off Peter,” she said. “I don’t like having to do this but with him vomiting, I’m going to have to give him a Phenergan suppository and 5cc’s of children’s Motrin.”

“I don’t want anything in my butt Daddy,” Zane said with his puppy dog eyes.

“I know baby,” I said. “But this will help ease you throwing up.”

Zane rolled onto his side and started throwing up again. Sylvia got a trash can while I moved him so he could hit his mark. After he stopped vomiting, we got him cleaned up and a nurse brought in the medication. I lowered his pajamas got a swab and some lube and inserted the suppository.

I pulled his pants up and he sat on my lap while Sylvia looked at his ears and throat. I put him back on the table and stripped him then we covered him with cool towels to get his fever down. The nurse stayed with Zane while he slept and I talked with Dr. Hodges. “OK Doc, any ideas on what this is?”

“Yeah,” she said. “He has an inner ear infection and it’s easily treatable with a powerful oral antibiotic so we can get this knocked out quickly.”

After Sylvia and I talked, I went back in to check on Zane. He was starting to stir a little so I removed the cool towels and rechecked his temperature. The cool towels had helped to bring his temperature down to 100.6. “What is it now?” Sylvia asked standing in the doorway.

“100.6” I replied as I started to get Zane dressed.

“Hang on,” she replied heading back into the department.

A few minutes later she returned with a medicine cup and said, “Here Zane, drink this down. This will help you start to feel better.”

Zane took his medicine then we were able to head home. I was feeling better that it wasn’t anything more than an inner ear infection. I was glad they gave him his first dose there. The Phenergan was still making him sleepy so I didn’t have to rush to get the prescriptions filled.

Zane slept until about mid afternoon when he crawled up on my lap and announced he was hungry. I fixed him some broth and he finished it wanting more. I gave him a second bowl and that disappeared just like the first one did.

Once his hunger pangs had been satisfied, we went out and got his medicines. On the way home, we stopped at a video store and picked up some movies to keep him occupied. On the way home Zane asked, “What is going to happen to me?”

“What do you mean, son,” I asked.

“Are you going to always be my Daddy?” He asked in his usual angelic voice.

We pulled into the parking garage and I asked, “Is that what you want?”

I got out and unbelted him then carried him towards the elevator. “I want you to be my Daddy forever.”

He rested his head on my shoulder while I digested his request. There were several certainties here. First and foremost was the fact I loved this little boy. The second thing was that I couldn’t see my life without him in it. The last thing was that if I accepted the first two, my career in medicine was going to be limited because of his needs. When we got into the condo he looked at me with those hypnotizing eyes of his then I said, “If that is what you want, I will.”

He put his head back on my shoulder so I carried him as I put his medicine in the fridge then sat on the sofa and just held him. I’d noticed he’d dropped back off to sleep so I put him on the loveseat and got a blanket to cover him.

Zane woke a little while later and said, “I’m hungry again Daddy.”

He hadn’t thrown up since this morning so I fixed him a scrambled egg and a piece of toast. I also had some applesauce left over so I put some of that on his plate too. I fixed a microwave dinner then we watched the original Love Bug.

Zane and I laughed all the way through the movie and when it was over Zane asked, “Can we get a car like Herbie?”

I laughed at the way he asked the question, “I don’t know if we can find a car that does everything Herbie can.”

“Ooooh,” he said as the gears in his brain went back to work. “Well I like the one we have too.”

Ah yes, 6 year old logic. I let Zane rest on the couch while I got the thermometer and his antibiotic. He saw me coming as he started wiggling his briefs down so I could take his temp. I slipped the thermometer into his rectum then shook the bottle of liquid antibiotic. I removed the thermometer and was pleased that he was no longer running a high temperature. Zane quickly drank the antibiotic then I decided to give him another dose of children’s Motrin in case his fever decided to spike during the night.

The next morning I had just awoke when I had a little bundle of energy land on me. “Umph,” I said as my eyes shot open.

“Hi Daddy,” he said staring into my eyes. “I feel much better today.”

I felt his forehead when I kissed him and he was back to normal. He had a good appetite and scarfed down three frozen waffles and a large glass of milk while I only had two with my morning coffee.

Zane wanted to go swimming but I had to tell him not yet because of his ear infection. Since it was a nice sunny day in South Florida we decided to just walk around the shops and just enjoy ourselves.

We’d been out for about an hour when Zane said, “I’m tired Daddy.”

“I have an idea son,” I replied as I picked him up and set him on my shoulders.

“Whee” he squealed as I held onto his feet. “I can see everything.”

We had a nice lunch and by two, Zane was wiped. We got back to the condo and now I had a sleeping boy in my arms. My first stop was his room where I gently deposited him on his bed. I fixed myself a glass of tea then sat out on the balcony. I sat back and wondered how my life was going to be now that I had this little bundle of joy in it.

I got Zane over this illness without further incident and our life settled into a fairly simple routine. Well, it was as simple as it could be with a six year old.

I got Zane enrolled into a nice private school. I drove him in the morning and made arrangements for him to be dropped of at the hospital in the afternoon. Either I or someone from security would meet Zane at the bus then he would go to our daycare center until I got off.

I had arranged it so I could work from 8 in the morning until 3 in the afternoon. Zane would arrive about 3:15 then most days we would just go on home but there were times that I was busy. The staff in the center loved Zane. He was a bright child that loved to play with all the children.

On this day, I was running late so Zane was in the center finger painting. When I went in to pick him up, he wasn’t in the room. “Where’s Zane?” I asked.

“He might be in the bathroom,” the worker said.

I went to the bathroom door and knocked on it in case my boy wasn’t in there. Not hearing anything I opened it a little and saw his shirt then bare butt at the toilet. He turned around and the front of his groin was a mix of reds, yellows, blues and greens. “Hi Daddy, I’ve been finger painting,” he said pulling his shorts up.

“I see son,” I said hoping this was water based paint. “You’ve also painted your peepee and shorts.”

“Oooo,” he said softly.

They had some soap to wash his hands with then told me to soak him in the tub and the rest would come off. Ahhh, never a dull moment with him, but I loved it.

As Zane got older, I let him visit his mother in jail. When he was eight, I had sat down with him and explained to him why his mother was still there. It didn’t seem to bother him much and after about a year of seeing her, he wasn’t enjoying the visits.

When he was ten, I got a phone call at work from my friend Judge Hector Martinez. He called to inform me that Zane’s mother had passed away from pneumonia. “Peter, are you still interested in adopting him,” he asked.

I was stunned at the news and it took me a moment to digest his question. “Ah yeah Hector,” I said. “I am but I’ll have to talk with Zane. I’ll get back to you.”

That evening after supper I called Zane over and said, “Son, I got a phone call today and I have some bad news.”

My now not so little ten year old was trying to figure out what bad news I had to tell him. “What is it Daddy?” He asked as I could see his mind was still working.

I pulled him close to me then said, “Your Mother died today son.”

I could tell he wasn’t expecting that. After it sank in he asked, “You’re still gonna be my Daddy aren’t you?”

“Of course I am son,” I answered kissing the top of his head. Judge Martinez asked if I still wanted to adopt you and I said I was but I needed to know if that is want you still want.”

He looked up at me and grinned from ear to ear. That gave me all the answer I needed. “I love you Daddy and now I can stay with you forever.”

The next day I called the judge back and told him of Zane’s answer and he said he would take care of everything.

When Zane was 12, I was watching him grow from a scared little boy into a budding young man, starting to enter puberty. Shortly after he had turned 12, I sat down with him and told him about the disease his mother had given him and how it was spread. It was during this talk he asked, “Daddy, there is a boy here I like a whole lot and I need to know something.”

I wasn’t sure what he was going to ask so I replied, “Alright son, what is it you want to know?”

“What would you say if I wanted him for a boyfriend?” He asked.

“Boys have friends all the time,” I replied being careful of what I said.

“That’s not what I meant Dad,” he said. “I’m not a little kid anymore. I know you’re gay Dad. I see you and that doctor at work.”

I’d tried to shelter him from it while he was younger and got comfortable with it that he was seeing things. “Alright son,” I said. “I thought I could keep if from you but I was wrong for not talking with you. Are you saying you want him for a boyfriend?”

“Yes Dad,” Zane said. “I know I’m positive and that’s not an issue. Now I haven’t said anything to him about that yet, but I do love him.”

My boy is growing up. We sat and talked for the rest of the evening about how this could change things with some of his friends if word got out. What Zane said he likes about it was Cal lived in the building and they could keep things away from school. So goes life. Zane now has a boyfriend and my life is still being enriched every day every since I found that boy that had fallen through the cracks.

The End.

Posted: 08/08/08