“Let’s go for a walk around the park,” Brian said. “I can’t drive and eat this!”
They left the ice cream parlour and stares behind as Brian led him around the shops and onto a wide, grassy park. There was a small lake surrounded by leafy bushes and a play park at the far end. Brian started to walk towards it.
“Was there a park near your home, Sammy?”
“No, we used to play in the old Market Square. Mommy never liked me going out much,” Sammy said, sadly.
Sammy stared at his rapidly diminishing ice cream and wondered where his mother was now. Was she thinking of him? Did she still care about him?
“Bri?” he asked.
“Yes?” Brian said, polishing off the remainder of his ice cream.
“W – why did she leave me? I don’t understand.”
They were at the play park now. Brian looked uncomfortable and said nothing for a moment. He sat down on the bench and Sammy copied him.
“Sammy, I don’t know why she left you. Sometimes adults do bad things even when they mean well.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well… you said that people were chasing you…”
“I – I thought they were. Mommy kept glancing in the mirror but she never told me anything. Was that why she left me?”
“I don’t know,” Brian repeated. “Maybe she thought you were in danger.”
“I tried so hard to please her. I tried not to do anything wrong but she still used to get mad at me. I never knew why.”
“I’m sure she loved you,” Brian said, softly. “I bet it hurt her more than anything to leave you there.”
“It – It hurt me,” Sammy said, quietly.
Brian placed an arm around him and Sammy pressed closer to him, trying not to let his tears come through.
“It’ll be okay,” Brian said. “You’ll see.”
Sammy said nothing. Sometimes it felt as if things were okay, other times it didn’t. He couldn’t understand. His mother had made him cry sometimes. He remembered lying awake at nights silently praying for someone who loved him, but he still missed his mother. Was it natural to feel like this?
Brian leaned over and used his sleeve to wipe Sammy’s tears away. “Thank you,” Sammy said.
“It’s all right. If ever you need me or want to talk then just say. I’ll be in regular contact with your home so that I can check up on you.”
Sammy smiled. He liked the sound of that and knew that he was very lucky to have such a good friend. It was wonderful to have someone who cared about him. Brian slowly stood up and took Sammy’s hand.
“Come on, let’s go and invade those swings over there!” Brian said.
Sammy grinned and rushed with Brian into the empty play park. He couldn’t remember ever having a day out like this before. His mother had never taken him to a park or played with him. Now, he had Brian pushing him on a swing, playing with him on the seesaw and spinning him around on the merry go round. Sammy was just about to have another go on the bright blue slide when he spotted a woman rushing towards them.
“Um, Sammy? You ready to go back to mine now?”
“Okay,” Sammy replied, wondering why Brian suddenly looked a little nervous.
“Come on.” Brian held out his hand for Sammy and led him out of the play park and along a path leading back to the car park.
When they reached Brian’s car, Sammy noticed that the woman had followed them and that she had a camera in her hand. As soon as both of them were inside, however, she began to walk away. What was all that about?
Brian’s house was on a quiet road with lots of large, pleasant houses. All of them were surrounded by huge, well kept gardens, except for Brian’s house where the grass was overgrown and the bushes leafy and untidy.
“Yeah, I was supposed to do that yesterday but I never had time,” Brian said. “It doesn’t always look that bad, honest!”
Sammy was a little shocked at the size of Brian’s house. He had lived in a tiny apartment but this house was positively huge and much bigger than anything Sammy was used to.
Brian pulled into the drive way and then rummaged about in his pockets for his house keys. When he found them, he led Sammy up the path and pushed the door open. As soon as the gap was wide enough, a brown hair ball bowled straight into them. Sammy hid behind Brian’s legs while a small, brown thing yapped excitedly and bounded about them both.
“It’s all right!” Brian assured Sammy. “It’s only Tyke! Come here, boy!” Brian lent down and seized the excited chihuahua by the collar before he could hurl himself at Sammy again. Tentatively, Sammy patted Tyke on his bony head.
“I only picked him up from my friend’s house a few days ago. I’ve been away for a long time so he’s really pleased now that I come home to him every day,” Brian said, scooping the struggling Tyke up and shooting the door with his foot. “Um, welcome,” he said, stepping on a squeaky bone while Tyke tried to chew his fingers.
Sammy grinned while Brian pushed Tyke’s teeth away from his hand. He carefully placed the small dog down and Tyke bounced over towards Sammy, who then patted the dog until he rolled over onto his back.
“Tyke, go play with… something!” Brian said, pointing down the hallway.
Tyke stared at him for a second before dashing off in the direction that he had indicated.
“Crazy dog,” Brian muttered.
He pushed open the door to the right and beckoned Sammy inside. It was a huge sitting room, bigger than any Sammy had ever seen, and at either end were bay windows, which allowed floods of sunlight to pour into the room.
“Wow,” Sammy said as he stared about in awe. There was a stereo by one wall and a massive TV set beside a cabinet full of videos.
Brian smiled and reached out to take Sammy’s coat off. Then, he sat down on the blue couch and patted the place beside him. Sammy sat down next to him.
“I got you a present,” Brian said, shyly taking a plastic bag from the table. “I thought it might be nice for Rocky.” He pulled out a small, toy sized dog basket with a red cushion and handed it to Sammy.
Sammy pulled Rocky out from his pocket and placed him inside the basket. It fit perfectly.
“Thank you!” he cried, flinging his arms about Brian.
“Don’t mention it,” Brian said, pulling Sammy onto his lap.
Tyke chose this moment to rush in with a red chew clenched between his teeth. Sammy bounced onto the floor to pet him and Tyke wriggled excitedly at all of the attention. Brian joined them and began trying to wrestle the chew from Tyke. As soon as he had it, Tyke began to yap and jump up at Brian. Eventually, Brian gave Tyke his chew back and the little dog settled down happily on the rug to chomp at it.
Next, Brian introduced Sammy to his Playstation and showed him how to play the racing games. While Sammy was occupied with the bizarre world of computer games, Brian cooked dinner for them both.
By five, Sammy was seated at Brian’s dining room table and munching away at a hamburger. Brian had him in fits of giggles when he turned his hamburgers into puppets and had them chatting away at each other in silly voices.
After dinner, Brian played more computer games with him and then they both crashed out on the sofa with a DVD and a huge bowl of popcorn. For Sammy, the day had gone too quickly and he avoided looking at the clock which showed him how horribly close he was to going back to Hilary and her squadron of nurses. He leaned against Brian’s shoulder, completely exhausted. As he felt his eyelids drooping, he wished that he didn’t have to go back. Maybe if he closed his eyes then his wish would come true and he would be able to stay here forever with Brian.
He heard the film finish but he kept his eyes firmly closed. If Brian thought that he was asleep then maybe he would let him stay.
“I think I’d better be taking you back soon,” Brian said, gently. “Before everyone think I’ve kidnapped you.”
“You could kidnap me.”
“I could but then Hilary would track me down and set her nurses on me!”
Sammy smiled and then yawned. He barely had the energy to move. He yawned again.
“Come on.” He felt Brian scooping him up into his arms and carrying him out of the room.
“Bye bye, Tyke,” Sammy said, opening an eye and spying the dog snoozing in his own basket.
Brian carefully opened the front door and Sammy felt the cool, rush of wind against his skin and the beep as the car alarm was disabled. Brian placed him in the front seat and strapped him in safely. Then he got in himself and started the engine up. Sammy yawned for the third time.
“I think I tired you out too much,” Brian said. “You had fun, though?”
“Yes, definitely!” Sammy replied.
“You’ll have to come round again sometime, won’t you.”
“Sure. I’d love to see you again.”
Sammy hesitated. “The nurse told me that you were really busy and wouldn’t have time to see me lots.”
Brian stiffened. “That’s not true.”
“Why did she say it? Does she know you?”
Brian took a deep breath. “It’s true that I am quite busy. I travel a lot.”
“Where do you go?”
“All over the world. I’ve been to England, Spain, Australia…”
“Wow, because of your singing?”
“Yeah, I have to perform a lot. My band’s kinda… popular.”
“What’s it called?” Sammy asked, a flicker of suspicion beginning to creep over him.
“… Backstreet Boys,” he said, eventually.
Sammy couldn’t stop his mouth from dropping. “Y – you’re a pop star?”
“Um, yes. You heard of us?”
“My mommy had one of your CD’s. ‘I want it that way’,” Sammy sang. “I like that song.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you before… I didn’t want to scare you away. I like spending time with you. Does it bother you? Me being a Backstreet Boy?”
“No,” Sammy said. “You’re really nice and I like spending time with you as well.””
Brian smiled. “Good.”
It was completely dark by the time they arrived back at Sammy’s home. Sammy was fast asleep by the time they got there so Brian had to carry him into the reception. Sammy yawned and opened his eyes.
“We’re back?” he whispered.
“Yes,” Brian said. “You can go to bed now.”
“You come see me again?”
Hilary came out of the door. “You’re late. I was beginning to wonder where you were.”
“Having fun,” Sammy said.
Hilary smiled. “Well, you’re going to have to come to bed now, Sammy.”
Brian, reluctantly, let Sammy go and gave him his coat and basket with Rocky in it. Sammy gave him a hug. “Night night, Bri.” He reached up and kissed Brian on the cheek.
“Sweet dreams, Sammy.”
Brian was slightly stunned and watched as Hilary led Sammy back to his own room. He slumped down onto one of the chairs and thought for a moment. Posters of children on the walls stared back at him. He looked across at the receptionist and then made up his mind…