Robert seems to have taken over. I watch him. Even though he is in a comfortable chair sipping cappuccino, he seems constantly alert and aware. It’s as if an invisible energy radiates from him.
Lutho looks terrified yet determined. He stands up straight and meets Robert’s eyes.
Robert is tough on the boy. Too tough, in my opinion. I’m not sure if I should intervene but decide not to. When he asks who Lutho really is, the boy looks stunned then terribly sad and finally, proud.
Once he has gone to the dining room to write his statement, I tackle Robert.
“You were very hard on the boy. He’s only a child, you know.”
“A child who wants to be a man. He’s nearly sixteen, Kaye. At his age, other boys are going to initiation schools, some of them have to live in the wild on their own for more than a month. Just trust me, will you? I know what I am doing. Don’t molly-coddle the boy.”
It’s the first time I’ve seen the policeman side of him. He must have been good at his job.
Lutho/Edwin takes a long time to write his statement. He comes in after half an hour to ask me the address of the centre where we came across Lucky. After another twenty minutes he comes in quietly and hands two pages to Robert. The major reads it carefully.
“This is better than I expected. Well done,” he says. The boy’s face remains solemn but his eyes light up.
“Now I want you to sign your real name at the bottom and today’s date. Kaye and I will witness it and then I want you to keep it safe until tomorrow. I suggest you try to get a decent night’s sleep. You have a big day tomorrow. Who knows where you’ll be sleeping tomorrow night.” He smiles and punches the boy lightly on the arm.
“We’re friends, you and me, right?”
The smile starts at the edge of the boy’s mouth and spreads tentatively to make a triangle crease on either side of his nose.
“Friends,” he says.
After we witnessed the statement, I go with the boy to set up his bedroom. I will have to get used to calling him Edwin. With the new name, he seems a different person and I have to readjust my thinking.
He stares about the room. His jaw drops. Since he was last here, the clutter has been removed and a bed stands against the far wall, its royal blue duvet cover bristling with newness. I have ordered matching curtains but they haven’t arrived yet.
Edwin approaches the bed with awe and strokes the cover.
“For me?” he asks, looking up at me in wonder.
I nod. He straightens the two striped pillows, making sure there is equal space on either side.
“I’m not used to sleeping in a bed. What if I fall off?”
“Edwin, I guarantee you will not fall off the bed. Even when you are asleep, your body will know where the edge is.”
My laugh confuses him for a moment. I show him the cupboard where he can store his meagre belongings and fetch clean towels. I realise my life is about to change for ever. I’m so used to considering myself only. Having charge of a teenager is a daunting prospect. There’s so much to consider. School, clothes,……… A weight settles on my shoulders. I determine to do my best for Edwin. I pray that everything will go well tomorrow.
I leave the boy running bath water and go back down to Robert. I find him stroking Marshmallow, the cat arching her back to get maximum benefit.
“Chick settled?” he asks, grinning.
I throw a cushion at him. He catches it and lobs it back at me.
“He’s going to have a bath,” I say, relieved that he’s back to the teasing, grandfatherly man I’ve gotten used to.
“I need to go home and feed my starving and probably grumpy cat,” Robert says. “If Edwin hasn’t got in yet, I’d like to say goodbye.” He lopes up the stairs and I hear his voice from Edwin’s bedroom.
“I will come and fetch you at seven thirty tomorrow morning. Sleep well young man.” He descends the stairs slowly and thoughtfully.
“Kaye, I think it would be a good idea if you write a letter to Edwin’s Aunt just stating you are taking over the care of Edwin. That will cover you just in case she was his official guardian although I doubt it. Otherwise, technically, you could be accused of kidnapping.”
“Just let her try!” Indignation rises like bile in my throat. “After the way she treated Edwin, she’d better not mess with me!”
Robert laughs. “I wish you could hear yourself. You sound like a tigress protecting her cub.”
My blood pressure is still raised but I can’t help laughing at myself. Where did that come from?
“All right, I’ll write a letter,” I say.