ANL: Memories West Coast

Chapter 1

Twisting around to give Mom a kiss, I said, "See you later, Mom," and jumped out of the car with Rodney right behind me.

We walked up to the front of the school, stopped and began looking around for Daren. It had become our habit to wait for him to find us each morning. I had woken up this morning feeling inexplicably that something was wrong with him, and now as I stood there and he was nowhere to be seen, my concern only deepened. Daren was always there early, way early. For him not to be there could only mean one thing to me, that I was right in my feeling.

"Where's Daren?" Rodney asked. Exchanging worried glances with him, I could only shake my head. I didn't have an answer, other than a horrible feeling that he wasn't okay.

"I don't know" I finally said as we stood there waiting for the bell to ring.

The bell rang, and still we stood there, until finally Rodney said, "Kalen, we have to go in or we'll be late."

"Go on; I'm gonna wait for Daren," I told him.

"Kalen, you'll get in trouble," Rodney worried.

"I'll be fine, but something is wrong. I want to be here if he comes, to make sure he's alright," I said.

"You want me to wait with you?" Rodney asked with concern in his voice.

"No, that's okay; you go on. I'll be in when I find him," I told him, glad of his worry about our friend.

"Okay, see you later." Rodney said reluctantly before turning and walking into the school.

I walked down the sidewalk, away from the front and most of the people, so I wouldn't be as noticeable if any teachers were looking. Once I was clear, I ducked around the side of the building to a spot where I could keep an eye out for Daren. I somehow knew that he was going to come, even though he hadn't shown up yet, and I wanted to be here when he did. I stood there in hiding for what seemed like an hour before I spotted someone in the distance, half running, half stumbling towards the school. I waited until he got closer, then stepped out and said, "Daren!", causing him to stop as he came abreast of me.

In a dead voice, Daren asked "Kalen, what are you doing here?"

As he looked at me, I became scared at the look in his eyes, as if he wasn't all there.

"Daren, what's wrong?" I asked.

"Nothing," he replied in that same dead voice.

"Daren, I was worried about you." I said.

"I'm fine," he replied.

"Darren, I'm worried about you. I can feel that something is wrong," I told him.

I was surprised at the look of anger that came across his face, when he said, "Enough with this twin shit, I'm fine!"

I stood there completely shocked as he stormed past me, marching into the school.

Daren didn't swear, ever. I had only heard him do it twice in all the time I had known him, and him doing it now told me that something was very, very wrong, just as I had thought.

I was scared that I had just lost my best friend; as I slowly followed him into the school all I could think about was if I had, what was I going to do? That's the point when I finally realized just how much he meant to me. I couldn't imagine not having him in my life anymore, or his not being my friend. I made sure for the rest of the morning to keep everything that happened between us completely business, and said nothing else to him. I was really afraid it would just make things worse if I tried to do anything else. I knew something was wrong, but I had no clue what to do about it. As we went to our classes, I didn't speak to Daren at all, unless it was school related.

By lunch time I was really down. Once I had my food, I habitually headed off to the side, going to a place me and Daren often went to be alone. It was our special place that no one knew about, behind the tennis courts, near the gym. We had discovered it last year and came out here a lot to eat our lunch and talk, without anyone being able to hear us. It was just for the two of us.

As I walked over and sat down, the reality of his not being here with me finally hit me and I almost started crying. I wanted him here so much, it just wasn't the same without him. I took out my lunch, but just sat staring at it, not really feeling like eating. I don't know why, but for some reason a few minutes later I looked up, and saw him walking towards me. I quickly put my lunch on the ground and stood up, so happy that he didn't hate me after all that I almost started crying again at seeing him. I ran over to him sobbing, "Daren, you came," and stopped in front of him.

He looked so scared that my heart just melted at the look on his face, and without thinking, I reached out and wrapped my arms around him in a hug.

"Ka… Kalen," he stuttered as I pulled back to look into his eyes. "Wh… what are you doing?" he asked, with a confused look. Then, to my horror, I watched as his eyes rolled back in his head and he collapsed in my arms. I gently lowered him to the ground.

Attempting to remember everything Mom taught me about first aid, and struggling to control the fear coursing through me, I methodically checked him over, starting with shaking him gently and calling his name. Having a doctor for a Mom sure helped. Ignoring the tears running down my cheeks, I pushed the fear away, and checked to see if he was breathing and had a pulse. He did and I tried calling his name again. He wouldn't wake up, and I didn't know what to do for a minute. I sat there lost and scared; I couldn't lose him. Finally, I remembered something my mother had told us over and over again; make sure you get help, don't just worry about the person, but make sure help was summoned.

I remembered a time at the playground several years ago. Rodney had been playing with another kid on the teeter-totter, when suddenly the other kid jumped off his end of it, bouncing my brother on the ground. When he landed he struck his head, and was bleeding all over the place. I was torn about whether to go after the other kid who had done it, but that lesson had been drilled into me and I quickly ran to get help before returning to be with my brother, who was very scared, but then again so was I. Rodney could have died if I didn't get help, and I wasn't going to let that happen to Daren either.

I went over to my backpack, pulled out my cell phone and called my Mom at her office.

Coastal Pediatric Center

"Dr. Samuelson, you have a telephone call." Rosy, my nurse said to me, as I was inserting the tongue depressor into four year old Johnny's mouth. I looked up at her briefly before saying, "Take a message please, I'm with a patient," and turned my attention back to the sick child in front of me.

"Uh... Doctor, it's your son. He sounds like he's scared about something." Rosy said hesitantly, causing me to jump. I looked up at her quickly as a bolt of fear shot through me.

He would never call me unless something was very, very wrong.

"I'll be right there." I told her, turning back to the boy and his mother saying, "I'm sorry, but I need to take this call. Family emergency." I quickly scurried out of the exam room and into my office where I picked up the phone.

"Kalen, what's wrong?" I asked. 

The first think I heard was his broken crying, then he sobbed his reply. "Mom, you gotta come, quick!"

"What is it baby, what's wrong?" I asked again, my motherly instincts telling me something was seriously wrong.

"Please come, Mommy!" Kalen begged again, as thoughts of all sorts began running through my mind.

Adrenaline coursed through my bloodstream as I tried again."Kalen, you need to tell me what's wrong." I said as I tried to keep my voice calm despite my inner turmoil.

"It… it's Daren… he… he won't wake up! Mommy, he won't wake up! He just fell over and I can't wake him up!" my son sobbed into the phone.

"Listen to me, Kalen. Is he breathing?" I asked, afraid now for the frail boy whom my son seemed to have become so attached to this last year.

"Yeah, he's breathing, Mom, but he won't wake up," Kalen repeated, obviously close to shock himself.

"Okay, where are you?" I asked, just in case the two of them had decided to sneak away from school.

"I'm behind the tennis courts, near the gym," he said, then added, "Come quick, Mommy, please!"

Thinking quickly, I realized that today the school nurse was at the high school, so her response time was actually longer than mine. This is the reason those of us in the medical community cringe at the 'rotating schools' schedule the school system is using to save money on nurses. "Okay, honey, I'll be right there, and I'll call an ambulance so we can get him to the hospital right away if we need to."

"Okay, Mommy," I heard before the line went dead.

I got up and literally ran for the door, out into the office, only stopping long enough to tell Rosy that I would be gone for the rest of the day and to get Dr. Adams in here right now.

"Is Kalen alright?" she asked me.

"Yes, he is, but a friend of his is unconscious and he's scared to death," I told her as I left, running for my car.

I pulled out my cell and quickly called for an ambulance to be dispatched to the school, ending the call just as I reached my car.

I pulled out of the parking lot, turned on my emergency flashers, and blew all speed limits as I headed straight for the school. Fortunately the school wasn't that far away from my  office. I wondered what could be wrong with Daren, and worried a great deal for him, but even more so, what would happen to Kalen if it was something serious.

Woodstream Elementary

I hung up my phone, put it in my pocket, and looked down at Daren lying there. I sat down next to him, and gently began caressing his forehead. "Please, Daren, please," I whispered to him. "Please, you have to be alright, you just have to." I could feel my tears falling, leaving little puddles on his chest. "Please," I repeated a million times. "Please be okay," I begged, finally bowing my head and saying, "I can't lose you, Daren, I can't. What would I do without you? I love you so much."

"K… Ka… Kalen," I heard. I looked over, finding a very confused golden blond looking back at me.

"Daren! DAREN, are you okay?" I shouted, relieved that he was awake.

"Wh…what happened?" he asked, still looking lost.

"I don't know, you just passed out." I replied.

"I don't remember," he said, "I was walking towards you and then… then…" he tapered off and looked up at me before saying, "You hugged me."

"I… you'll be alright, Daren. Mom is coming, and an ambulance too. You're going to be okay," I told him blushing a bit. 

I was surprised to see the terror that filled his eyes as he pleaded in fear "No, no please!"

"Daren, she's a kids' doctor; she'll take real good care of you." I told him, thinking he might just be scared of doctors.

"No! You don't understand, they'll take me to a hospital, and I… no call her back, please!" he pleaded in a terrified tone. Afraid he'd pass out again, I couldn't help but do what he asked.

I pulled the cell back out of my pants, quickly calling Mom. 

"Honey, what is it?  I'm just a few minutes away," she said as soon as she answered. She must be really breaking the law getting here, because I can hear her hitting the car's horn in the background.

"Mom, he woke up, and he's fine, you can go back to work now. Stop the ambulance too." I said quickly while looking into the panicked eyes of Daren, who looked worse now than when he passed out.

I didn't know what was the matter, but something about my Mom seeing him, or going to the hospital, was scaring him to death. I had to do something.

"Honey, if he passed out, then he needs to go to the hospital, you know that," she said.

"Please, Mom? He says he's fine now, and doesn't want to go to the hospital. Please," I told her, almost begging her now.

"Kalen, you know better than that; an eleven year old boy does not just pass out for no reason, there could be something seriously wrong with him," she said to me, sounding irritated now.

"Mom, please, I'm begging you, don't take him to the hospital, he doesn't want to go," I said, now desperate as the panic that was taking over Daren's face increased.

"Why doesn't he want to go to the hospital?" She asked. 

I answered, "I don't know, but he doesn't, please, Mom!"

"Baby…." She started to say, but I did something that I never do, I interrupted her. I don't know why, but just the look in Daren's eyes made me do it.

"Mom, please, I'm begging you, no hospital, please!" I said and heard silence on the other end for a moment. 

In the same tone she used when I was about to do something whether I wanted to or not, Mom firmly stated, "Okay, I'll cancel the ambulance for now, Kalen, but I'm still coming. I am going to take a look at him myself. If I think he needs to go, then he's going, and there will be no discussion; is that clear?"

I knew by the tone of her voice that not only was this the best that I was going to get, but that it was final. "Yeah, Mom, thanks," I told her before I hung up the phone.

"Kalen?" Daren whispered.

I looked into his terrified eyes and replied, "She's going to cancel the ambulance."

He looked at me for a minute before saying, "She's still coming, isn't she?"

"Yeah, she wants to take a look at you." I told him, and watched the panic return in full force.

"No, I have to go!" Daren whined as he started to struggle to his feet.

"Daren, no, please stay, it'll be alright, she won't do nothing bad to you, I promise." I told him, quickly reaching out to help him up.

He was a bit unsteady, but I held onto him tightly until he was stable, and even then kept a grip on his arm.

"I have to go, Kalen, I have to," he insisted, but I wouldn't let go. Something big was definitely not right here.

"Daren, what is it? Please tell me," I begged him.

He looked at me for a long minute, finally surprising me by saying, "Did you mean it?"

"Mean what?" I asked, confused at the change of topic.

"What you said," he whispered. After a few seconds of thought, I figured out exactly what he was talking about.

I was embarrassed, and didn’t know how to answer him, mainly because I was afraid that he would hate me. Boys didn't love other boys, yet I did.

"Did you?" he asked again. 

I managed to nod my head and whisper, "Yes."

"What?" He incredulously asked. 

I decided that no matter what happened, I wouldn't be ashamed of my love for him. Raising my eyes defiantly to his, I stated, "Yes, I meant it. I love you."

He gasped and didn't say anything for a moment, just stood there staring at me. I felt my tears begin falling once again. 

Then he surprised me by asking, "Really?"

I just looked back at him for a moment before I acknowledged, "Yeah really."

He surprised me again by reaching out and wrapping his arms around me, giving me a hug and then pulling back with a smile on his face. "I love you too, Kalen." he said, shocking the holy crap out of me. 

All I could do was stare at him with my mouth open, eventually squealing, "Really?"

"Yeah," he said with a goofy grin on his face.

I pulled him back and squeezed him, returning a big hug. We were so happy with what we had just discovered. Sadly, the hug ended almost as soon as it began when he cried out in  pain.

I quickly released him and asked, "What is it? What's wrong?" He turned away from me.

I moved around to face him once again and said, "Daren, you can tell me anything. Please, what is it?"

He wouldn't look at me for a minute, but finally told me, "It's why I have to leave and your mother can't see me." Before I could say anything, he pulled his shirt out and down a little, showing me his neck and shoulder. 

I cried out at what I saw. "Oh my God!" I hollered, "What happened? Who did this to you?" With downcast eyes, he told me exactly what had happened and who did it to him. He told me what had been happening, and who had been doing it to him for a long, long time.

By the time he was done, I was crying, and he was just staring at me silently. "Please, you can't tell your Mom," he begged.

"Daren, she has to look at that, it's really bad," I told him.

"No, you can't," he pleaded, desperation plainly evident in his voice.

"Daren, it is really, really bad, and she's a doctor, she'll take care of you." I tried to tell him, but he continued shaking his head. Even before I finished, he started to pull away from me.

"No, Daren, we'll help you, you have to trust us, trust me, please?" I begged him.

"You don't understand, no one can help me, no one," he whined, the defeat evident in his voice.

"Let us try, at least, please?" I asked him, putting everything I had into those words. 

He just shook his head, and said again, "No, there isn't anything you or your Mom can do." The infinite sadness in his voice ripped at my heart.

"Why don't you let me be the judge of that?" A female voice ordered. We both jumped, then turned around to find Mom standing a few feet away from us.

I could feel Daren try to bolt, but I held on as he cried, "Let me go, please." Frantically looking at me and my mom, his eyes were pleading us to not make him submit. 

Mom walked a bit closer, stopping in front of us. Neither one of us had heard her approach, and we didn't know how much she had heard up until now. Daren was really  scared. I was too, but for him, not of Mom.

"Daren, please honey, I'm sure whatever it is, we can figure out some way to help you," Mom insisted, but he just kept shaking his head, back and forth.

"Please trust us?" I asked him, getting a hopeless stare in return.

"You can't," he whispered.

"Well, before we worry about anything, how about if we just check you out, and see why you fainted?" Mom asked him in her best 'friendly mother' voice.

"No, please, you'll be next," Daren cried.

"Mom, I think what caused him to faint is what he's worried about you seeing." I told her, my statement earning me a hurt look from Daren.

"Daren, Kalen is right, you have to trust someone, and I hope that it'll be us. Please, son, let us help you," Mom said softly.

I could see the war in his eyes, jumping between fear and hope, as we stood there. Neither Mom nor I said anything, allowing him to decide for himself what to do. Although, it took a great deal for me to keep quiet, I did it for his sake.

Finally, Daren said, "You won't say nothing to no one?"

"Honey, why don't you let me check you out, and we'll see what's going on," Mom told Daren. "After that, then we can decide if anything else has to be done."

"No, you gotta promise me you won't tell no one!" he said, the fear back again.

Mom just looked at him for a minute before saying, "Daren, I won't lie to you, not now or ever. I can't promise you that. I'm sorry." Daren just looked at her as she added, "I won't say anything to anyone though, unless it's something I have to do."

I watched as Daren hung his head, not saying anything for a minute. After settling his internal war, he finally looked at me. I could see both trust and fear there, battling inside him. I just gave him a warm, trusting smile. Without breaking his gaze, he sighed, "Alright."

"Good, why don't you come back to our house, where you might be a bit more comfortable?" she asked. Daren nodded his head at that, obviously resigned to Mom getting her way. He never let go of me all the way to our car, and continued holding me until we got to our house and inside.

Once we finished the eerily quiet ride home and got in the house, Mom closed the door behind us, asking, "Daren, why don't you come back to my study? I'll take a good look at you, and see if we can handle the worst of your problems."

I could see his panic begin again, so I quickly assured him, "I'll stay with you, I promise."

"Honey, this is private," Mom started to say. 

Daren looked up at her with his entire face begging and asked, "Please?"

Mom just looked at him a minute, before turning to look at me with an odd look on her face. After a pause, she finally said, "If you're sure you want Kalen in there honey, I guess he can join you."

"Yes, please, I'm sure," Daren replied quickly, but I sensed from the look he gave me that he was afraid again for some reason. 

We followed Mom back to her study, and she closed the door behind us. As she locked it, she assured us, "That will make sure this remains private. Daren, I need you to get undressed, please." Daren looked around and his eyes widened, like he was a deer caught in the headlights, but he finally let his shoulders sag in defeat.

Sensing his worry, Mom said, "I'll wait outside and guard the door while you get ready." After she was gone, Daren looked at me with shame in his eyes and then began to undress silently. 

When he got his pants off, I stifled a gasp at the marks and scars on his legs, but when he slowly reached up and pulled his shirt off, I couldn't control myself and screamed, "OH MY GOD! MOM!"

Mom came running into the room, and came to a stop, bringing her hand to her mouth.  "Oh sweet Jesus!" she gasped in a horrified voice.

Through the tears that were running out of my eyes, I could see Daren shaking with his head hung down, while Mom stood silently in shock staring at his injuries. I watched as her mouth opened several times, and then closed without saying anything. What could she, or anyone else for that matter,  possibly say to this?

We stood there, trying to understand, before Mom moved slowly forward. It was as if she was trying to overcome what she was seeing. All I could do was stare in horror at what had happened to my best friend in the world.

I didn’t think it could get any worse, but Daren proved me wrong with his next statement. "I guess you hate me now, cause I'm so ugly," he said quietly.

I gasped again, and noticed the tears begin to fall from Mom's eyes as well. There was no way I'd allow him to try to think that about himself, so I walked up to him and placed my hand underneath his chin. As I forced it up so I could look into his beautiful hazel eyes, I said the most important words that I would say in my entire life.

"I could never hate you, never! I love you, Daren Sebastian Michaels, I love you," I stated as I tried to put all of my feelings into my words. I really hoped he would feel it and believe me. "I think you're the most beautiful person in the world."

I watched as he searched my face and eyes to see if I was lying. Once he was sure I was serious, he replied "Really?"

"Yeah, really," I told him. I couldn't help the sad smile that formed when he started crying and then threw his arms around me. We sank to the floor, and I just held him gently as he cried, for God knows what. At least he was letting some of it out now.

Mom watched with a weird look on her face, but right now I didn't care; if she had just found out my secret, it really didn't matter. The warmth and certainty that flowed through every part of my body as I held my pain-filled friend in my arms was something I would never forget. We just held each other and cried together, while I silently vowed that never, ever again, would my love be hurt like this. NEVER!

I couldn't tell you how long we sat there before we finally released each other, but it seemed like hours, and not nearly long enough at the same time. We pulled back from each other, and exchanged soft smiles; both of us were a little embarrassed about what we had just done, but we weren't ashamed. As we looked into each other's eyes. I could see the love reflected in his eyes that I felt for him.

I know, I know. Old people say that kids can't love, but they're wrong. I love Daren with every cell in my body, more than spaghetti, meatballs, and chocolate cake for dessert. It's a love that's totally different from what I feel for Mom and Dad. It's the love of one person for another, total, complete and it's the most awesome feeling in the world.

I don't care what anyone says, I know that this is what my mom and dad feel for each other. While a lot of people may think boys loving other boys is wrong, I don't, and I don't think my parents do either. Whatever, it really doesn't matter; I feel love for another boy, and he loves me too.

As I sat there staring into those hazel pools of feeling, I felt that something missing had been found, that something empty had been filled, that…Okay I'm sure you get the idea. Things I didn't even know about had become apparent, like the fact that something had been missing in the first place.

We helped each other to our feet. Daren turned towards Mom again, with me holding his hand. We stared at her as she watched us, trying not to laugh at the strange look on her face. I expected her to say something, but she didn't. She just looked at us, then suddenly walked forward and pulled Daren into a gentle hug. When he began sobbing brokenly in her arms, it surprised me. His posture was stiff at first, but after a minute he melted into her arms.

Mom chose that point to softly say, "I agree completely with my son, you are the most beautiful, gentle soul I have ever seen, and you could never be ugly." 

I decided to join the hug. Me and Mom held Daren as he cried even more than before. Daren's tears continued so long that I was beginning to wonder if they would ever stop. I couldn't imagine what he had been through, but after what I saw already, I was scared to find out.

How anybody could do this to someone... to anyone... but especially to a kid, was something that I just couldn't understand, and more importantly, it was something I hope I'd NEVER understand. What I had seen wasn't just a beating that happened this morning; it was stuff that had been happening for a long, long time. What'd he suffer through to get those kinds of scars all over his body like that? I didn't want to know, but I knew I needed to find out, as much as it would hurt all of us to find out.

As his crying eased some, he let go of my Mom and she stepped back as well, but I kept my grip on him as she looked his injuries over.

"Honey, I am going to have to dress those wounds," she told him.

"No, she'll see then," he pleaded.

"Who will see?" Mom asked him.

Daren bowed his head and mumbled, "No one."

"Daren, I know it must be very hard to trust adults right now, but I am asking you to trust me now. I need to know who is hurting you, so I can make sure it never happens again." Mom told him quietly.

"You can't do anything except get me in more trouble," he bitterly stated.

"You might be surprised what I can and can't do, young man." Mom told him firmly, which caused his head to come up and look at her again.

"You can't, a teacher tried once and now he's in jail," he said.

"Jail?" Mom asked, puzzled.

"Mom told the police he did stuff to me, because he took my clothes off to look." Daren told us.

"Well, I won't go to jail. Don't worry about that honey, but you need to be safe and that means we need to do something," she assured him.

"I'm scared," he told her. 

She took him in her arms again and said, "I know baby, I know, but it'll be alright now, if you'll let us help you."

He looked at Mom and then at me, going back and forth for a minute before saying, "Okay," as if it was the biggest decision in his life.

Mom nodded her head and said, "Okay then, the first thing is that we need to take some pictures of what has been done to you, okay?"

Daren nodded his head. Mom went out of the room to get the camera. I turned to him smiling and told him, "Daren, Mom will take care of everything, you watch."

"I hope you're right, Kalen. You don't know her and what she will do." Daren said, worriedly.

"We ain't scared of her." I told him, trying to reassure him. 

But he just looked at me darkly and said, "Maybe you should be."

Mom came back and spent the next few minutes taking a million pictures, before finally asking him, "Daren, can you lower your underwear, please?" which caused Daren's face to get bright red. "I'm sorry honey, but I need to see if you've been hurt down there," She told him, but he just hung his head. Turning to me, she added "Kalen, why don't you step out for a minute." 

I said, "Okay," and quickly walked outside the room.

I wasn't out there long before she called me back in. I rushed to Daren who was still a bit red, but had his underwear back on by now.

"He just has more marks on his butt, honey." Mom said to me. She finished gathering supplies from the cabinet, and told Daren, "This is going to sting a bit Daren, but I have to clean these wounds. I'm sorry."

"It's okay, just do it. I'm kinda used to pain," he said, which caused my heart to break, due to the way he stated it as fact. I could see my Mom's face tense at those words, and the fury which came over her at hearing them. You shouldn't get my Mom mad.

I held Daren's hand tightly, or more accurately, he held mine. I began to wonder, before it was done, if I would need Mom's treatment too from the bone-crushing grip he kept while she worked on his back, neck and shoulder. Finally putting the bandages in place, my Mom announced, "We're done, honey."

"Thank you ma'am." Daren said softly.

"Call me Joanne." Mom told him, getting a nod in reply. She then asked him, "Daren, I'm sorry, but I really need to know who did this to you. It is very important."

I guess he had finally decided to trust us, because he answered softly, "My Mom."

Mom gasped and repeated, "Your Mom?"

Daren looked up at her and said, "Yeah, she says I'm bad, and don't listen."

I watched my Mom's face got redder than a fire truck as she furiously spat, "No one could be that bad, to deserve this!" From Daren's reaction, it was the wrong thing to do. 

Daren cringed, pulling away from her, shaking as he muttered, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry."

It was like a bucket of cold water had been thrown on my Mom. She went from red to pale and fury gave way to shame at what she had done. She quickly knelt down and softly added, "Daren honey, no, I'm not mad at you. I'm very mad at the one who did this to you."

Daren looked timidly at her for a long while; nothing was said until he hesitantly asked, in a shaky voice, "You're really not mad at me?"

"No sweetheart, I'm not. None of this is your fault," she assured him.

"If I'd only been good, Mom wouldn't have had to punish me." Daren stated, as if that explained everything.

Mom was shaking her head before he finished and quickly said, "Daren, honey, it doesn't work like that. This isn't punishment…" Then she choked up for a second before continuing, "It's not punishment, it's abuse. It's far beyond spanking, baby. It's wrong, DEAD WRONG!"

"Really?" Daren asked, not quite believing what he was being told.

"Yeah, baby, really, and I'm going to make sure it never happens again." Mom told him. At that point, I knew that Daren would be safe from now on.

"What are you going to do?" he asked, scared once again.

"To start with, I'm going to call my husband, then probably the police and social services," she said, which only made it worse for Daren.

"No! You can't, they won't help." Daren said frantically.

"Daren, listen to me, that is what they are there for, and they will help, and even if, for some reason, they didn't want to, my husband is a family court judge, which means he can order them to." Mom told him.

Daren didn't say anything else, he just shook his head back and forth, as I wrapped my arm carefully around him, and pulled him gently to me.

"Daren, honey, I need to ask you a couple of questions." Mom told him.

"Okay," he replied in an unsure voice.

"Where's your dad?" She asked.

"He died when I was a baby," Daren answered her.

"Does your mother have a boyfriend or anything like that?" she continued.

"No, she's never had one of those." Daren replied, his tone scandalized.

"Is there anyone else who hurts you?" Mom patiently asked.

"No," Daren replied while shaking his head, "there isn't anyone else allowed in the house, ever." 

"Why don't you two go and lie down for a while? I'm going to make some calls," Mom told us. I could swear I heard her teeth grinding as she tried to keep from spooking Daren again. 

Both of us nodded our agreement, then I led Daren from the room. As we headed down the hall, I glanced back at the doorway, and saw Mom watching us with tears running down her face. She noticed me looking, and mouthed to me, "It's going to be alright" 

I led Daren to my bedroom. Still shocked, I guided him to my bed, and we curled up as close as we could to each other, me holding him as tightly as I could without hurting him. As we drifted off to sleep, I kept thinking, 'I really hope so Mom; I hope it'll be alright'.