Sammy sat on the grass of the foster home’s garden. It was a warm day and Hilary had insisted that he spend some time outside, claiming that it wasn’t good for to be locked up in his room so often.
Sammy would have much rather stayed inside. He didn’t get on well with the other children. They avoided him and never let him play with them. As it turned out, though, he liked being outside in the sun, it reminded him of his day out with Brian.
Hilary had given him some paper and a few crayons and now Sammy was sprawled out on the grass drawing a picture for Brian – a glorious splodge of colour at the moment.
A shadow fell across the paper and Sammy looked up to see a burly seven-year-old standing in front of him. He recognised it as Christopher. A few of his friends were with him.
“Is it true?” Christopher demanded.
“Is what true?” Sammy asked, nervously.
“We heard that you’re friends with one of those Backstreet Boys.”
Sammy said nothing, but he could feel his heart beginning to pound more and more..
“Why does he come to see you? Why do you get to visit him?” Christopher demanded. “Are the rest of us not good enough for him? I can’t hear you.” Christopher glared down at Sammy.
“H – he’s my friend,” Sammy whispered, truly frightened now.
“Really? Why would he like you? He could probably buy himself any kid he wanted! Not that I want anything to do with a stupid, tone deaf arsehole like him!”
“Don’t call him that!”
“Why not? Have you heard their music? They’re pathetic! My older brother says they should be shot and I agree!”
Sammy took a deep breath and fought to hold back his tongue. He packed the crayons up, picked up the picture and made to leave. Christopher grabbed him by the collar.
“Where are you going? You can’t go crying to your friend because he’s not here,” Christopher said.
“Let me go!” Sammy said, struggling to get away from Christopher.
Christopher laughed at him. “Are you scared, weirdo? I’ll give you something to be scared of!”
Christopher suddenly lashed out and hit Sammy on the arm. Sammy began screaming while the rest of Christopher’s friends laughed.
“Christopher! Stop it!” a voice yelled, furiously.
With bleary, tear filled eyes Sammy looked up and saw Hilary rushing over to them along with Matt. Hilary seized the seven-year-old by the arm while Matt pulled the sobbing Sammy into his arms.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Hilary said, angrily. “He’s only five!”
Sammy didn’t hear the rest of the conversation as Matt carried him to the medical room and placed him down gently onto the bed. Sammy looked down at the crumpled picture in his hands and began crying even more.
“It’s all right now,” Matt said. “No one’s going to hurt you.” He looked at the place where Christopher had hit him. “It’s not so bad, it’s just bruised.” He handed Sammy a tissue.
Sammy sniffed and blew his nose while Matt found an ice pack for his arm. It hadn’t hurt too much but he was terrified to think about what Christopher would have done to him if Matt and Hilary hadn’t shown up. Matt tried to put an arm around him but Sammy wriggled away.
“I want Brian!” he said, his eyes filling with tears. He was the only person who cared.
“He’s not here,” Matt replied, softly.
“Please call him! Please! I want to see him!”
“It’s seeing him which makes the others jealous.”
“I don’t care! He’s my friend!” Sammy began to sob again. All he wanted was Brian.
Brian was at his parents’ house when he heard the phone ring. His mother, Jackie, picked it up.
“Hello?” she said, in her southern accent. “Brian? Yes, just a minute.” She held the phone out for her youngest son.
Brian felt his heart beating faster. He’d given Sammy’s foster home his mother’s number because he was staying here for a few days… Were they calling to tell him he could keep Sammy?
“Hello?” he said, nervously. He could feel his mother and father’s eyes upon him. He’d told them all about little Sammy.
“Mr. Littrell? It’s Hilary. I’m sorry to bother you, but - ”
“Is Sammy okay?” he asked, immediately. There was something in her voice that made concern begin to creep over him.
“Yes, but there has been a slight problem…”
“What? Is he hurt?”
“He was in a fight but he’s not hurt. He wants to see you.”
“I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
“There’s no need to rush - ”
“No, it’s okay. I’ll come right away.”
“When you arrive we have other things to discuss as well.”
Brian gulped, thinking about his request to foster Sammy. “Okay,” he said, quietly. “Bye.” He replaced the phone and turned to his parents. “I’m sorry but - ”
“Of course you have to go to him,” Jackie said.
As soon as Brian got back, he rushed into the foster home.
“I got a call about Sammy,” he said to the receptionist, breathless from running.
“Your name?” she asked.
“Hold on a moment,” she said. She picked up the handle of a phone and dialled a short number. “Hilary? Brian Littrell is here to see you about Sammy.” She listened for a moment and then replaced the phone receiver. “She’ll be down in a minute.”
Brian shuffled uncomfortably while he waited. He had an ominous feeling about this. ‘Please let me keep him,’ he prayed, silently.
Hilary opened a door on the other side of the reception and looked about until she spotted him. “This way, Mr. Littrell,” she said.
Brian swallowed nervously and followed Hilary through the door and down a corridor.
“How is Sammy?” he asked. “What was the fight about?”
“He’s fine but still a little shaken. He only got hit on the arm and it’s only a small bruise.”
“Who hit him?” Brian asked, disgusted that anyone could hurt such a small child.
“Another boy. They were picking on him. This is my office,” she said, stopping outside of a door.
She pushed the door open and Brian saw Sammy sat on one of the spongy chairs at the far end of the office.
“Bri Bri!” Sammy called, happily. He held his arms out.
Brian ran to him and bundled the little boy up into his arms. He was surprised to find that he was almost crying. He really had been worried about him.
“You okay?” Brian asked in concern. “I heard what happened and I came as soon as I could.”
“I’m all right,” Sammy replied, but Brian noticed that he winced slightly when Brian touched his arm. “I just wanted to see you.”
“It’s all right. I said I’d be here if you ever need me. I’m sorry I took so long.” He ruffled Sammy’s hair. “What you been up to then?”
“I’ve stayed inside since… I’ve been drawing. I drew you a picture!” Sammy said, proudly.
“Wow, thanks!” Brian said, relieved to know that he was okay and not seriously hurt.
“It’s in my room. Hilary, can I go and get my picture for Bri?” he asked.
“Sure you can,” Hilary said. “I need to have a word with Mr. Littrell anyway.”
“Okay,” Sammy said. He gave Brian another hug. “Back in a minute!” He smiled as he bounced out of the office.
Brian watched him go and then turned back to Hilary with a heavy heart.
“What do you want to talk to me about?” he asked, but he already knew the answer.
“Your request to foster Sammy.”