Promptly at noon on Saturday, Adam knocked on the door of the shelter. “I’m here to pick up Janita Conklin.” He told the woman who answered the door.
“One moment please.” She said, closing the door.
A few moments later, Janita came to the door. “Adam, what brings you here?”
“I’m here to take you clothes shopping. Did you forget?”
“No, I thought your fathers were just joking.”
“No, they weren’t. They were completely serious. Let’s go.”
“I can’t. I can’t let them waste their hard-earned money on me.”
“Do you know how much they make a year?”
“No, but” She started to say.
Adam interrupted whatever she was about to say. “Between the two of them, they make around two-hundred thousand, between their jobs, J-dad’s photography and K-dad’s paintings. Trust me, they can afford it.”
“How can they afford to waste their money on me? Your house is like a mansion. The monthly mortgage payments must be astronomical.”
“First, it’s their money to spend however they see fit. Second, there are no mortgage payments. K-dad’s parents paid the mortgage off years before their deaths and they left it to K-dad along with a huge chunk of change. So now that that’s out of the way, let’s get going.”
“Okay” She acquiesced. Her eyes grew huge when she took in the sight of Adam’s metallic blue Trans-AM T-top. “This is your car?” She asked, stunned.
“No, I just picked it out at random.” He snickered. “This was my graduation present. They bought it outright. So, are you convinced that they can afford to buy you some new clothes? They weren’t kidding when they said that it was a parent’s responsibility to clothe their children and they were looking forward to taking on that responsibility.”
Janita started to cry softly. “Hey, hey, hey, what’s with the water works?” Adam asked softly as he gathered the crying girl in his arms.
In a trembling voice she said “No one has ever been that kind to me. Not even before I came out.”
“Get used to it. If I know our” he emphasized the word ‘our’, “fathers, they’re planning on spoiling you rotten. Did I ever tell you about the day they brought me home from the orphanage?”
“Ms. Adkins told me that they found you in a dumpster when you were a baby and that they adopted you when you were five. I’m so sorry. That must have really sucked.”
“Thanks, but I don’t really remember much of my life in the orphanage. Anyway, when they brought me home, all of their friends and family were there to welcome me. There were no less than a dozen pizzas, salad, soda and a huge ‘Welcome To Your New Home Adam’ cake. When they showed me my room, it was filled with just about every toy imaginable. The next day they took me furniture and clothes shopping. Now history is about to repeat itself, this time with you as the recipient of their mega-generosity. You’re a member of the Matthews-Williams family now. Prepare to be spoiled. Now get in the car so we can get going. I’m hungry and want to get some lunch. First stop, Arby’s.”
“What’s Arby’s?” She asked, settling into the car.
“You’re kidding, right?” She shook her head no. “Lady, you are in for a treat. Arby’s is the most awesome fast-food place going. Their beef-n-cheddar is to die for.”
“I’m not a big fan of beef. I mean, I’ll eat it, but I don’t go out of my way to get it.”
“What about chicken cordon bleu?”
“It’s chicken, wrapped up in ham and swiss cheese.”
“That sounds really good, but it would be way too expensive. I’ll just get an item off their dollar menu, if they have one.”
Adam let out an exasperated sigh. “Janita, what’s happened to you? You aren’t the same person I knew in school. What the hell did your parents do to you to make you change so drastically?”
“Maybe this isn’t such a good idea. I need to stop wasting everybody’s time and go back inside the shelter.” She made a move to open the door, but Adam was quicker, hitting the power locks on the door.
“You’re not going anywhere until you answer my question. What did your parents do to you?” He raised his hand to put it on her shoulder when she suddenly screamed, cowered and covered her head with her arms.
“Please don’t hit me.” She begged.
She’s obviously been physically abused. Wait ‘till my fathers find out about that! In the softest voice possible, he reassured her. “I’m not going to hit you, ever. You’re my sister and I love you.” He gently took her hands in his and pulled her arms away from her face. “You’ve been abused, haven’t you?” She nodded slowly. “It’s over, honey. No one will ever lay a hand on you again except for the way you want them to, not while I’m around. Okay?” Adam had no way of knowing the extent of the abuse she suffered, but would soon find out. “Let’s go get something to eat.” She nodded.
As soon as they walked into the restaurant, Janita’s mouth started watering from the smells. Suddenly her stomach let out a huge growl. “Well I see we’re in the right place at the right time.” Adam joked. She let out a small, embarrassed laugh. “That’s better. What do you want?”
She scanned the menu board until she found the dollar menu. “Could I just get a junior roast beef?”
“Nothing off the dollar menu” he told her, ordering her a chicken cordon bleu, large curly fries, large soda and a turnover and ordering the same thing for himself, substituting a beef-n-cheddar for the chicken cordon bleu.
“I can’t eat all of this.” She argued.
“Yes you can.”
“No, I can’t. It’s more than I’m normally allowed to eat in a day.”
“That changes as of now. Remember what I told you the other night? Everyone eats their fill, no exceptions. Now dig in.” After the first tentative bite, her hunger took over and she ate everything except the turnover, which she refused to touch, stating that she wasn’t allowed desserts or sweets. Adam picked it up and put it in the palm of his hand. “Eat it or wear it!” He ordered.
Reluctantly she took the turnover and ate it, marveling over how good it was. “That was delicious. I haven’t had food this good in a long time. I don’t know how I’ll ever be able to repay you for this.”
“I know how you can repay me.”
“Name it and I’ll do it.”
“Okay. You can repay me by letting me take you clothes shopping.” He grinned slyly.
Janita, realizing that she had been tricked, had no choice but to agree. She had given Adam a promise, and she’d rather die than break a promise. “Okay, you win. I’ll let you buy me a thing or two.”
“Okay, we have an agreement, a thing or two. I just have to make a quick phone call.” He got out his cell phone and dialed a number. “Hey, this is Adam. We’re on for later. Bye.” He hung up, started the car and headed out.
A few moments later Janita said “You just went past WalMart.”
“I’m not taking you to WalMart. We’re going to the Fashion Palace.”
‘WHAT? No way. That place is way too expensive.”
“Remember, you agreed to let me buy you a thing or two. You never said where.”
Realizing she had been tricked again, she gave in gracefully. “Okay, you win, but why are you doing all of this?”
“We are going to give you the life you should have had.”
“We as in J-dad, K-dad, Kelly and me. As I said before you’re part of our family now, and this is how we are.” He responded, pulling into the mall parking lot. As they walked towards the entrance to the Fashion Palace, Adam got out his cell phone and pushed a few buttons.
Kelly met them at the door. “Welcome to the Fashion Palace, Janita. I understand you’re here to get some new clothes. I took the liberty of picking out a few things I thought you might like.” Janita’s eyes widened slightly as she saw Kelly’s assistant manager name tag.
“Thanks Kelly, but I’m sure you have more important things to do. I’ll just browse and pick out a thing or two quickly then be on my way.”
Kelly exchanged looks with Adam. “Well, now that you mention it, I do have one very important thing to do, and that’s helping you get some new clothes. It is my job, after all.” Reluctantly, Janita nodded her surrender. “Have a seat right here and let me show you what I picked out for you.” She went and returned with a rack from which hung several outfits, along with some accessories and shoes. One by one she showed them to Janita, who fell in love with them.
“They’re all truly beautiful, Kelly, but I’m sorry you wasted so much of your valuable time picking them out. There’s no way I can afford any of them.” She hung her head.
Adam handed her his credit card. “Wrap them all up, Kelly, and throw in undergarments as well and whatever accessories that would go good with them. K-dad’s orders.”
“Adam, I can’t accept them. It’s too much. Besides, we agreed on a couple of things.”
“Sorry, already bought and paid for. In my book, one thing consists of a dozen piece outfit with accessories to match.” He said grinning as Kelly returned with the merchandise in bags and the credit card slip for him to sign.
Kelly handed Janita a card. “What’s this?” She asked.
“It’s a one-hundred dollar gift card so you can pick out bras, panties and socks.” She responded, pushing Janita’s hand away as she tried to give the card back to Kelly. “They’re non-refundable, and this one’s on me.” She took a seat next to the stunned girl. “I imagine you’re thinking that you don’t deserve any of this, why would they spend so much money on you, etcetera, etcetera. Trust me when I say that if they didn’t think you were worth it, they wouldn’t have spent a dime on you, nor would I. I can tell from the other night that they already love you and think of you as the daughter they never had. Let them spoil you a little. Let them give you the life you should have had. They want to do this. Do you know how long it took them to decide to take you in and make you a part of their family?” Janita shook her head. “What was it Adam, about a minute?”
“More like about thirty seconds.”
“Please let them do this for you. They live for this sort of thing. Believe me, they did the same thing for me when Adam and I got together, and again when we got engaged.” Janita reluctantly nodded. “Adam, why don’t you take all of the packages out to your car while I take her to the Intimate Apparel section so she can get what she needs there? Then you can take her to the drug store so she can get whatever personal hygiene supplies she needs.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
Later, as they left the mall, Janita noticed that they were not heading back to the shelter. “Where are we going?”
“Home so you can show our fathers all of your new clothes. Besides, I don’t think you want to take them back to the shelter and risk having them stolen.”
“No, I don’t. I never thought about that, and they most likely would get stolen. But where are we going to put them?”
“I’ve already moved all of my stuff into the basement, and don’t say anything to Ms. Adkins. She’ll have a cow. The pool table and ping pong table, neither of which we ever used, were taken out yesterday. All of the stuff from my closet is hanging in the laundry room so it wouldn’t get dirty from all of the construction that’s going on downstairs. We’ll hang the good stuff up in the closet and just leave the rest of the stuff in bags, which reminds me.” He turned the car into a parking lot of a dollar store. “I’ll be right back.” He ran in and quickly returned with a bunch of clothes hangers. “I forgot to pick these up at the mall. They’re better than those cheap, crappy hangers they came with.” Once again they were on the road heading home.
Kyle and Jay were very happy to see the selection of clothing. When shown the receipt, Jay was surprised. “You bought all of this for only four hundred dollars?”
“No. Kelly gave her a one-hundred dollar gift card to buy her underwear and other personal items.”
“Why am I not surprised? Speaking of surprises, Kyle, why don’t you go get our surprises for Janita?”
“Sure. Adam, give me a hand please.” They went into the master bedroom and came back out with several packages which they set down in front of Janita. “Go ahead and open them. These are past-due Christmas and birthday presents.”
As Janita opened each package, the flow of tears down her cheeks increased. The packages contained an iPod, iPhone, boom box, digital camera, laptop computer and a TV/VCR/DVD player combo. “I don’t know what to say. Thank you is so inadequate.” She jumped up and hugged Kyle and Jay tightly.
“Thank you is more than adequate. Believe me we’re very happy to do it. Don’t forget, we’re taking you furniture shopping tomorrow. Oh, come upstairs with us for a moment.” She followed them up the stairs. “This is your room. Monday this wall is going to be knocked out” Kyle pointed to the wall that was shared with the attic “and we’re building you a private bathroom and walk-in closet. The existing closet is going to be made over into a study area with a desk, lamp and bookshelves.”
“Wow” was all she could think of to say.
“Adam, did you by chance get any hangers? I don’t like using the ones from the clothing stores. They’re junk.”
Adam snapped his fingers. “Shit. I forgot them in the car. Be right back.” He ran out and returned with a big bundle of hangers.
“Okay, Janita, why don’t you start putting your clothes away while I make dinner? Is there anything you don’t like or can’t have?”
“I’m allergic to shellfish, but other than that, no.”
“She doesn’t like beef, J-dad.” Adam amended.
“I didn’t say I didn’t like it, I just prefer chicken and turkey. I’ll eat it if it’s served.”
“Honey, nobody in this house was, is or ever will be, forced to each something they don’t like. Do you like quesadillas?”
“I love them!” She exclaimed then apologized for speaking up. “I’m sorry. I’ll eat whatever you prepare. Please don’t go out of your way to make anything special.” She said meekly. Adam shot Kyle and Jay a ‘we-need-to-talk-about-this-later-in-private’ look.
Kyle placed his hand gently on her chin. “You have nothing to apologize for. How else are we going to know what you like and don’t like. There’s one thing you need to know. Once a week we take turns choosing what dinner is going to be. The day you move in will be your turn to choose the dinner menu, which will consist of whatever you want. Do you know how to cook?”
“Yes, I was required to do all of the cooking. If you’ll show me where everything is, I’ll get started on dinner.”
“No, you won’t. You have clothing to put away. You will not be required to do any cooking unless you want to. J-dad and I will do it, and occasionally Adam will. Again I say you are not required to do any cooking unless you absolutely want to. The only things that will be expected of you as far as cleaning is concerned are that you keep your room and bathroom clean, help clean up after meals, clean up after yourself, and occasionally help us with the rest of the house and yard.” The look of shear relief on her face made Kyle determined to find out exactly what her home life had been like. He had a suspicion that it had something to do with the look Adam had given him earlier, and he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that neither he nor Jay were going to be very happy when they found out. When they went downstairs, Kyle asked Adam to call Kelly and have her come over after Janita was dropped off at the shelter. He was quite sure she knew something about Janita’s previous home life. Later that evening Kyle, Jay, Adam and Kelly sat around the living room. Kyle began. “Adam, I have a feeling that there’s something you want to tell us about Janita.”
“She is a completely different person from when I knew her in school. She used to be happy-go-lucky. When I asked her about it she got upset, so I went to put my hand on her shoulder. She screamed, covered her head and asked me not to hit her, so I’m pretty sure she’s been abused physically as well as mentally. She’d never been to Arby’s, so I took her there for lunch. She was only going to order a junior roast beef off of the dollar menu. I ordered her a chicken cordon bleu, large curly fries, large soda and a turnover. She refused to eat the turnover because she was never allowed dessert. I told her that she could either eat it or wear it.” That statement earned him grins from everyone. “She eventually ate it. Remember her first visit here she took the smallest slice of pizza and sat in the corner to eat it? She actually apologized for taking too much pizza and was going to put the rest back. How can any parent be that mean? You heard what she said about doing all of the cooking. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that she had to do all of the house cleaning and laundry as well.”
“You’re right about that, Adam. She had to do everything. Her parents would purposely throw or spill things on the floor and make her clean it up. It’s like she was Cinderella and her parents were the evil stepsisters.” Kelly interjected.
Adam could tell she was holding something back. “There’s more that you’re not telling us.”
“Janita asked me not to say anything to anyone. She’s scared to death of her father.”
“He beat her, didn’t he?” Jay asked. She nodded solemnly. “There’s more to it, isn’t there?” Kelly appeared to be trying to decide whether or not to say anything more. “Kelly, if what I think happened has happened she will need professional help dealing with it.”
Kelly drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly. Ever since Janita confided in her, she wanted to beat the crap out of her father, but couldn’t say or do anything for fear that it would make things worse. However, she couldn’t remain silent any longer. “When she came out, her father put her into a sexual reorientation program. When that didn’t work, they threw her out and had her legally disowned. They wouldn’t even let her take her stuff. Everything she owned, what little there was, was thrown in the garbage.” Everyone was shocked into momentary silence then Kyle let out a string of curses that surprised everyone. Jay got out his cell phone and started dialing. “J-dad, who are you calling?”
“I’m calling the police. I’m having that mother-fucking ass-wipe arrested for child abuse, child endangerment, destruction of personal property not their own, and anything else I can think of.”
“Wait, Jay, don’t. Not yet.” Everyone looked at Kyle in disbelief. “Wait until she’s legally in our care. Then we can protect her from that ass-wipe. He could get to her at the shelter since she’s a minor.”
“If it so much as lays a hand on her it’ll regret it, I promise you that.” Adam said, vehemently, refusing to refer to her father as ‘he’.
“No, son, he’s not worth going to jail over. I call Ms. Adkins first thing Monday morning and let her know about this and see if she can expedite the paperwork and get an order of protection against her father. Does Janita have any brothers or sisters?”
“No, she’s an only child.”
“That’s good in a way. No one else will have to go through what she did. I don’t understand how her mother could have allowed it to happen.”
“Actually, most of it was her idea.”
“That’s just…just...” Adam exclaimed, unable to come up with the appropriate words.
“We need to fill out the paperwork so we can adopt her.” Kyle said, anger written all over his face.
“We can’t adopt her because of the new adoption laws.”
“Not yet. There’re some lobbyists trying to get them overturned as unconstitutional. From what I understand, they have a very good chance of succeeding. When they do succeed, we’ll be ready. Since, from what Kelly just said, her parents have legally disowned her so they can’t fight us on it.”
“That works for me.” Jay replied.
“Please stop by the adoption agency and pick up the paperwork on Monday.” He said to Jay. “Well it’s getting late and we have a big day tomorrow. We have to take our children – boy I love the sound of that, children plural – furniture shopping. Goodnight everyone.” Kyle rose and went into the master bedroom.
“Right behind you, baby.” Jay said.
“SO WHAT ELSE IS NEW?” He yelled out.
The next day, after agreeing on not saying anything to Janita, Kyle and Jay hopped into Kyle’s jeep and headed for the shelter. Adam and Kelly went on ahead to the furniture store. Janita was waiting for them when they arrived at the shelter. “Wow, I’ve never ridden in a jeep before. It must get really cold in the winter time with no top.”
“Oh, it has a top, two of them actually, a soft top and a hard top. The soft top is in the back and the hard top is in the garage. I only use the hard top during the winter time. Hop in. First stop is Home Depot to pick out the colors for your room and bathroom, then onto the furniture store. Adam and Kelly will be meeting us at Home Depot, then following us to the furniture store. Dinner tonight will be at Ruby Tuesdays.”
Janita climbed into the back seat behind Jay. “What’s Ruby Tuesdays?”
“It’s one of our favorite restaurants.” Kyle answered her as he pulled away from the shelter and headed into town.
“They have an all you can eat salad bar. We have to go in before he does, otherwise it will be closed. When they see him coming, they close it down because he does serious damage to it.” Jay informed her.
“Cool. I love salad.”
“Do you have any ideas as to what colors you would like?” Jay asked.
“I don’t know. What colors am I allowed to choose from?”
“You can choose whatever colors you like. Once you decide what colors, then we can pick out carpeting, furniture, drapes and bedding.”
“Mr. Matthews-Williams” she began.
“J-dad” Jay interrupted.
“J-dad, what’s wrong with the present carpeting and drapes?”
“Nothing, we just thought you might like a different color.”
“Translation, you’re picking out new carpeting and drapes.” Kyle told her.
“K-dad” Kyle interrupted as Jay had.
“K-dad, why spend the extra money for something that is not needed?”
“A, it’s your room and you have a right to choose what colors go in it. No buts! And B, they probably won’t match the colors you pick out for the walls.”
“A neutral shade of white will go with anything.”
“Tell me something, and please be completely honest. What’re your favorite colors?”
“Gold and royal purple.”
“So how does this sound, gold walls with purple carpeting and matching drapes?”
“We don’t care about the cost. We care about you and what will make you comfortable and happy. So again, I ask you, how does it sound?”
“Honestly? It would be like a dream come true. To have a room that’s mine, with colors and furniture that I like? It sounds too good to be true, and if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.”
“Well” Jay began, “your fairy godmother is sitting behind the wheel of this jeep and will make this particular dream come true.”
“Bitch, you’ll pay for that. Fairy godmother my ass! No sex for you for a week.” Kyle retorted.
“Like you can go that long without it.”
“Watch me!” Kyle growled. In the rear view mirror, Kyle noted the panic stricken expression on Janita’s face. He quickly pulled into the nearest parking lot, shut off the engine and turned around. “Janita, honey, what’s wrong.”
In a breaking voice she pleaded with them. “Please don’t fight. I’ll be good. I won’t cause any more problems.”
“Oh, honey.” He reached back and took one hand, Jay took the other. “We weren’t fighting, not at all. We kid each other like that all the time. We didn’t mean to upset you.”
“Believe me you’re not causing any problems, honey. We’re sorry that we upset you, Janita. Seriously, we were just kidding.” To prove his words, Jay kissed Kyle deeply. “See?”
Janita couldn’t believe her ears. They were apologizing to her! Her parents blamed every argument on her and never apologized to her for anything. “I’m sorry. It’s just that whenever my parents argued, I was always to blame.”
Boy, she’s really a mess. I’m going to speak with the school psychologist and see what can be done to help her overcome her parents’ brainwashing. Kyle thought, making a note to discuss it with Jay. “It’s okay Janita. You’re free of them. Adam can tell you, if Jay or I have a problem with anything you do or say, we’ll come to you and discuss it calmly like adults. No yelling, screaming, throwing things or any of that type of theatrics. We never raise our voices to our children out of anger, and as far as we are concerned you are our daughter, so this applies to you as well as Adam. We’re very open and honest with each other and we hope that you will come to trust us enough to be open and honest with us. Okay?”
“Great. Let’s go shopping!” Kyle started the jeep and resumed their trip.
Jay turned around. “Janita, have you ever heard the expression shop until you drop?”
“Well prepare yourself. K-dad’s going to shop until we both drop!” That turned Janita into a mass of hysterical giggling. “That’s better. There’s plenty more laughter where that came from once you are living with us.” They pulled into Home Depot and went right to the paint section where Janita picked out the color she wanted for her walls. They bought several cans of the paint then asked for a sample they could take with them to pick out the drapes and carpeting. Adam joined up with them and they picked out a sink and cabinetry then arranged for them to be installed. Their final stop in Home Depot was the bathroom section where Adam and Janita picked out the bathroom fixtures and all the necessary accessories. Once everything was paid for and arrangements were made for everything to be delivered and installed, the five of them met up in the parking lot. “The next stop is the furniture store. Janita, would you like to ride with us, or Adam and Kelly?” Jay asked, solicitously.
“Would either of you be offended if I went with Adam and Kelly?”
“No not at all. You kids go on ahead and we’ll meet you there. We forgot something.”
As the three kids jumped into Adam’s car and drove off, Kyle turned to Jay. “What did we forget?”
“We forgot a light for her study area, and I want to replace the overhead light switch with a dimmer for when she wants to relax and watch TV.”
“The dimmer is a good idea. We should pick one up for our room.”
Shortly thereafter they arrived at the furniture store. They found them in the bedroom section, looking at furniture for Janita’s room. Janita sat in a chair, looking depressed. “Janita, what’s wrong?” Kyle asked her.
“So much for the dream come true.”
“Everything is so expensive here.”
Kyle shot Adam an angry ‘why-did-you-let-her-look-at-the-price-tags’ look. He knelt down beside her. “What can I say or do to convince you that we don’t care about the prices? If you want a three-thousand-dollar bed, that’s what you’re going to get. Please believe your fairy godmother. We can afford it and we want to do this for you.” A slow, reluctant smile formed on her lips when Kyle called himself ‘fairy godmother’. She threw her arms around him and squeezed hard. He wrapped his arms around her gently. “It’s okay. Let’s go pick out some wonderful furniture and we can’t forget the royal purple carpeting and drapes.” Shortly decisions were made for a four-post canopy bed, dresser, night stand, vanity table and chair. Next they picked out a desk and chair. The next stop on their agenda was living room and dining room furniture for Adam. The final stop was drapes and carpeting for Janita’s room. Since Adam had picked out the color of the carpeting in the basement, they didn’t order new carpet for his apartment. Tired and hungry, the family headed out for Ruby Tuesday’s where Janita competed with Kyle for the most trips to the salad bar. It was close, but Kyle managed to squeeze in one more trip than she did. His digestive system would seek its revenge later, but as far as Kyle was concerned, it was worth it. With great reluctance, they dropped an exhausted Janita off at the shelter with a promise that it wouldn’t be much longer.
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