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Another Way, Another Life

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26 Re: Another Way, Another Life on Sun 03 Jun 2012, 1:04 pm

Catherine was just done cleaning the dishes when she heard a sobbing come from the living room. She immediately ran out of the kitchen and found Jo crying while she picked up a few pictures she accidently had knocked down.
“Jo, honey, what’s wrong?” Catherine looked concerned at her. “Are you hurt?”

The young girl shook her head, trying to fight off the tears, but it didn’t work. Catherine put her arms around her and stroked her hair gently. “What is it, sweetie? Do you miss home? Do you want to call your parents?”
She shook her head again, still not able to say something between her sobbing. That same moment Liam came downstairs, and his mother started to get a sense of what was going on- or what was the reason that made Jo upset.

“Liam, what did you say to her?”

“What?” He looked from her to the younger girl. “I didn’t say anything.”

“Oh, please! I know how you can be…You must have said something that upset her.”

“No, I didn’t, seriously.”

“You might think it wasn’t anything upsetting, but not everyone around you is as insensitive as you and might take it a little bit more personally than you probably intended it to be. You can at least apologize to her.”

“Well, I would apologize to her if I knew for what, but I don’t know why she’s crying.” Liam really looked a bit confused. “Was it the orgy thing? That was just a joke. How could I know that she-“

“The orgy thing?” Catherine shook her head. “Liam, you can’t talk to people like that, no matter if it’s just a joke. You might not believe it but there are actually people in this world who are very sensitive, you know?”

“I’m sorry…”, Jo whispered.

Catherine looked surprised at her. “For what are you sorry, sweetie?”

“For being so annoying and difficult…I didn’t mean to cry…I’m so sorry…”

“God, no! You’re not annoying, Jo. And you never have to apologize for crying.” She softly pushed some of Jo’s hair behind her ear and smiled warmly. “You know what? I’ll make you some hot chocolate and we can watch the Donna Reed Show together, it’s not that late yet, and I don’t have to take you back to CA for another two hours.”

“What’s the Donna Reed Show?”

“Oh, you’ll like it. It’s about a stereotypical American housewife whose main purpose in life is to cook dinner for her husband and clean the house, it’s hilarious. Liam and I usually watch the show to make fun of it, but it’s really entertaining.”

“Okay.” She nodded slightly and watched Catherine turning on the small TV.

“I’m sorry, the sound is not that good and the quality…well, it’s just not the best TV, but at least it’s something, right?” She smiled at the young girl. “Here, you can sit on the couch. Do you need a blanket?”

Jo shook her head and sat down. “No, thank you, I’m fine.”

“Okay, I’ll be right back with your hot chocolate”, Catherine said, turning to Liam who had his hands shoved into his pockets. “You come with me, young man.”
He just rolled his eyes and followed her into the kitchen.
“I won’t give you a lecture about your rude behaviour towards other people, I did that already more than enough, but I obviously have to remind you that you have to act around Jo a little differently than you normally do. I’m not saying you have to change your entire personality, you just have…just think a bit more before you speak when you’re with her.” Catherine scrutinized him. “I’m aware that I don’t know her well, but from what I saw of her today there is no doubt in my mind that this girl is in great need of someone she can turn to. It might be the fact that she’s homesick, but I’m pretty sure that there is more going on, and she really needs a friend who doesn’t make her cry or scares her.”

Liam had no idea what was really going on with Jo, he didn’t know her well enough and she seemed to keep everything hidden anyway, but he knew that his mother had a gift in seeing through people, so when she said that something was up and that the younger girl needed some help, it must be right somehow.
“You do know that I suck in being a friend to anyone, right?”

Catherine sighed. “You don’t suck in being a friend, you just never made the effort in being one in the first place. I don’t expect you to be the best friend in the whole wide world, I just want you to try a bit harder to be a friend at all. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

He nodded quietly. He wasn’t sure if he could really manage to be the type of friend his mother wanted him to be, but he should at least give it a try. After all, Jo seemed like a nice girl, and even though she was almost painfully ambitious in school, he didn’t mind spending time with her.
Catherine smiled and kissed him on the head, then she went back to the living room and handed Jo a cup of hot chocolate.
“Oh, and just that you know, you don’t need a napkin on your lap for that”, she said, winking at the younger girl.


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27 Re: Another Way, Another Life on Sun 03 Jun 2012, 2:53 pm

Jo was still a little sobbing but not actually crying anymore. She even managed to smile while she sipped carefully at her hot chocolate. It was a real good hot chocolate, but it was not the hot drink that made her feel warm. It was the woman that was sitting next to her and the boy on the other side of the beautiful woman. She couldn’t remember the time her parents had sat with her like this. Very slowly her breathing slowed down and her sobbing stopped. Catherine was right, the Donna Reed Show was funny. It might have been for Liam and Catherine a normal Friday evening, but for Jo it was the best night she ever had. It was about half past nine when Catherine and Jo got into the small car.

“I don’t wanna burden you by driving me home. I can walk. I know the way.” Jo mumbled.

“You are not a burden sweetie. And in no way I will let you walk home alone. Concord is not a huge city but it is still dangerous walking home alone. So please fasten your seatbelt.” Catherine turned on the engine. It wasn’t a long drive to Jo’s house. Catherine parked and walked Jo inside.

“Excuse me Ma’am who are you?” The housemother opened the door and looked at Catherine suspicious.

“I’m Catherine O’Doherty and I’m dropping off Jo Williams.” Catherine put an arm around the little girl.

“Who?” The housemother looked questioning at her list of girls that were out tonight. “This is a girl’s house, no co-ed. Are you sure you are at the right house.”

“Oh sorry Josephine Williams.” Catherine looked down at Jo, wondering if the housemother even knew her.

“Oh Josephine. Yes of course the girl that is just a child. It is time for bed Josephine, say goodbye and get ready.” Housemother said in a strict but friendly tone. Behind Jo another girl just came back. Jo turned to Catherine and looked shy on the floor. “Can I give you a hug?”

“Of course sweetie.” Catherine hugged the little girl tightly.

“I really like this evening and I’m sorry that I was such a burden. I’m sorry my asking but erm can I come visit you again? Please?” Jo whispered into Catherine’s chest, being scared Catherine might say no. The little girl held on tight to Catherine’s shirt, nearly as if this was drowning and Catherine was the only one that could safe her.


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28 Re: Another Way, Another Life on Sun 03 Jun 2012, 9:46 pm

Catherine was surprised when she felt the tight grasp that came from such a small girl, and the way Jo asked if she could visit them again almost made her heart stop. The little girl seemed so scared that Catherine suddenly started to wonder what exactly had happened to her in the past. Yes, Jo seemed to have grown up in a household where people didn’t show a lot of feelings, but was it just that or why was she so scared of being left alone?
“You’re not a burden, Jo, to nobody, you hear me?”, she said, stroking the girl’s cheek. “And you are welcome any time. If it’s okay with the school you can visit us as many times as you want. From Mondays to Fridays I won’t be home until the evening, but my weekends are off, and I’d absolutely love to have you.”

Jo looked up with her big brown eyes. “Really?”

“Yes, really!” Catherine chuckled. “Just make sure it’s okay with the school.”

She nodded. “Yes, I will. If I’m really not a burden…”

Catherine shook her hand and knelt down so that they were face to face. “Jo, I can’t imagine anyone who would not like you as a guest, not to mention a daughter. If Liam had a sister I wish she would be like you, I really mean it.”

Jo’s cheeks started to flush, she wasn’t used that people said something so nice about her. Yes, the few times she saw her father he was nice to her and she knew he cared about her, but she barely saw him and instead was stuck with her mother and her mother’s weird friends who all did nothing but criticising instead of complimenting her.

“Josephine, it’s time to go”, the housemother said and the young girl slowly let go off Catherine, looking at her as if it was the last time she would ever see her.
“Goodbye”, she whispered.

“Bye, Jo.” Catherine smiled at the young girl. “See you soon.”

When she got home, Liam was lying on his bed, reading a scientific book with a title so long that you already forgot it by the time you finished reading it.
“So that’s the first impression Jo got of your room?”, his mother said while her eyes wandered through the room. “Nice…”

Liam looked up from his book. “Mum?”

“Yes?”

“I didn’t want to make her cry.”

Catherine nodded slightly. “I know. And obviously you have managed not to scare her away completely, because she wants to come back.”

“Seriously?” He raised his eyebrows. He couldn’t understand what she liked about their home, or that she actually didn’t mind spending time with him. Well, it must be because of his mum, it was very hard not to like her. At least it was a little girl and not some guy who had his eyes on her, he hated it when guys came to close to her, and unfortunately there were always a few who had their attention fixed on her.

“That’s okay with you, isn’t it?”

“Sure. She’s not too bad.”

Catherine knew that this was his way of saying that he liked someone, which was something he barely said, and it made her smile. “Good. And don’t stay up too long.”

“It’s Friday, mum!”

“I know, I just don’t want you to work on your little machines at two in the morning like you did a few days ago.”

“I was really creative that night”, he replied while he continued reading the book. “I can’t just stop when I’m creative.”

“Apparently you’re creative every night”, she said sarcastically. “Anyway, I want you to turn off the light at eleven, you understand?”

Liam rolled his eyes. “Yes.”

Before she closed the door she stopped for a moment. “I love you, Munchkin.”

He looked up. “I love you too.”




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29 Re: Another Way, Another Life on Sun 03 Jun 2012, 10:16 pm

It was Sunday after Jo had spend her first dinner at the O’Doherty’s house and since she knew she would be calling home that day she hadn’t bothered to write her father about it.

“that sound like a lot of fun you had. Darling your mother wants to talk to you. I will write you tonight a letter how things here are. Be a good girl study hard and don’t forget to live a little as well. I love you.”

“I lo-“ Before Jo could finish she heard her mother’s stern voice.

“Josephine?”

“Hello Mother. How do you do?” Jo stood up straighter, put on her strong Lady of Oxford accent and went through topics her mother would find to be appropriated to talk about.

“I am very well, you father told me that you were invited to the house of friends from your school? I hope you behaved correctly.”

“Yes mother I did.” Jo didn’t mention that behaving at Liam’s was not the way her mother meant.

“Who is it you went to?”

“Liam O’Doherty, he’s from Ireland and likes the stars like Father and his mother is a scientist too.”

“You mean his mother works? Josephine what kind of people do you meet there? It is not the right kind of people you should have contact with. What is the father of the boy doing?”

“He doesn’t have one.” Jo felt uncomfortable. This was going into the wrong direction.

“God gracious! The boy has no father? Josephine I don’t want you to interact with poverty. I heard they have lice and other vermin. Do you understand me? I don’t want you to catch anything like this?”

“Mother? Mother I can’t hear you anymore? Mother I’m sorry the connection is really bad. I call next Sunday again.” Jo hung up and walked quickly away from the phone. She felt so bad for doing this but Liam was her friend and he clearly had no lice or anything like it. But she didn’t dare to stand up against her mother.
Since Catherine said Jo could come always at the weekend the little girl handed her allowance slip to the housemother on time so that she was allowed to go home with Liam on Friday.

“Mom said we should pick up dinner from the diner on the way home. We are eating burgers and have pie for dessert tonight.” Liam said when he walked into the diner.

“Liam I can pay for the dessert.” Jo took out her wallet and opened it. Reviling the large number of big notes in it.


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30 Re: Another Way, Another Life on Mon 04 Jun 2012, 7:48 pm

“Holy Saint Patrick, did you rob a bank or something?” Liam’s eyes widened when he saw the amount of money in Jo’s wallet.

Jo shook her head. “I would never rob a bank!”

“It was more a figure of speech, I didn’t mean it literally.”

“Oh…” She stared at her wallet. She had no idea how much really meant ‘much’, she didn’t know anything about money except that she had some, and judging from Liam’s reaction she had more than plenty. When they went into the diner and ordered at the counter, Jo was quick enough and paid for everything although Liam said he would pay, but she felt so bad for letting him pay everything when she was the one with the stuffed wallet.

“How much do you even have? I’ve never seen so much money in someone’s wallet.” Liam took the paper bags and followed her outside.

She shrugged her shoulders. “No idea. And it’s all American dollars, so I don’t know what that would be in pounds. I find foreign currencies really confusing.”

“You’ll get used to it. You can actually do funny stuff with it, well, not that I’m wasting money, but take for instance the one dollar bill. If you add the letter b in front, and the letter r at the end, you have a boner bill.”

“What’s that?”, Jo asked, of course, completely clueless.

“What’s what?”

“A boner.”

Liam tried not to laugh because he knew how embarrassed she would be if she knew what it was, and that she said this word out loud. “Ehm…let’s just say it’s a boy thing. I’ll tell you another time.”

“Okay.” She nodded, having no idea what this was about. They took their time walking home, the night was peaceful and the sky was quite clear and beautiful, so they could see the stars. It was getting colder however, but Jo was covered in various layers of clothes so she wouldn’t get cold. “Liam, can I ask you something?” She sounded rather shy.

“Sure.”

“Where is…ehm…where is your father?” She never met someone her age without a father except if that person’s father had died, but if Liam’s dad really did die, wouldn’t they have pictures of him in his honour? Or anything else, but at least something to remember him.

Liam didn’t look at her, he just shrugged his shoulders. “Don’t know. I never met him.”

“You never met him?” She first thought she misheard him.

“He left before I was born.”

Jo looked surprised, she never heard of something like that, and she couldn’t imagine that anyone could leave someone as nice and beautiful as Catherine, or that someone would leave without getting to know his child. She wanted to ask so many things, but all she dared to ask was if he knew anything about his dad.

“My mum never talks about him, and I stopped asking her, so I really don’t know anything.”

“She must miss him.”

“What?” Now he looked at her. “No, she doesn’t. Why should she?”

“I don’t know…She must feel lonely sometimes”, Jo said quietly.

“She’s not lonely, she has me.”

“Yes, but you’re her son, and sons are not supposed to be substitutes for husbands.” She was surprised about herself and that she actually managed to say her opinion, but then she quickly added. “Sorry, I might be wrong, it’s not my business.”

Liam was quiet for a moment. He thought of what Jo said, and the truth was, he knew that his mother could get lonely sometimes, but he didn’t want to admit it because he wanted to think that she didn’t need anyone but him.
When they arrived at their small house, Liam immediately changed the subject. “I bet you haven’t had a burger in your entire life.”


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31 Re: Another Way, Another Life on Mon 04 Jun 2012, 11:33 pm

Jo looked at him. “Is this like a sausage roll?”

“Well actually, yes kind of. Just the meat is beef.” Liam looked surprised at Jo that she knew sausage rolls.

“I never had one, but I always wanted one. And in some books they talked about them.” Jo looked shy at Liam. She remembered the conversation she had with her mother.

“Hello Jo, how was your week?” Catherine hugged the little girl and took her coat and many other layers.”I know it is already cool outside but you shouldn’t wear that many layers yet. You will freeze in winter.” She said gently to Jo.

“Oh, yes I guess. It is just so cold already.” Jo mumbled. They went into the kitchen where Liam unpacked the bags. “Liam said I robbed a bank. Because I have so much money in my wallet. I don’t know I think it is $500 is this much?”

Catherine looked shocked and worried at Jo. “You carried $500 in your wallet though town?”

Jo nodded shy.

“Oh no you can’t do this. It is too dangerous. I want you never to wear more than $40 around. This is already a lot of money for a little girl. Promise me never to carry more than that.”

“Okay, I won’t. Mrs O’Doherty? I did something really bad.”

Catherine looked at the young girl. “Jo I told you, you can call me Catherine and I’m not a Mrs. What did you do?”

“I hung up the phone when Mother was talking to me. She was talking about how I can’t see you anymore because you are… poor and not from the class Mother wants me to spend time with. And I was really upset. I mean she doesn’t know you, and you are the loveliest people I ever met. So I said the connection is really bad and that I can’t hear her anymore and I said that I call her on Sunday again.” Jo looked guilty at the food on her plate. She was really looking forward to eat a burger and have fries again, but her appetite was gone. “I don’t think I’m hungry anymore.” She whispered.


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32 Re: Another Way, Another Life on Tue 05 Jun 2012, 6:50 pm

Catherine smiled friendly at the little girl, but before she got the chance to say something her son started to laugh.
“You seriously feel bad because you hung up on your mother? Dude, that’s nothing to feel bad for!”

“I never did anything like that before…” Jo stared at the table. “It’s disrespectful.”

“So?”

“Liam.” Catherine shook her head, then turned to Jo. “You don’t have to feel bad, Jo, really. I mean, if you had said something mean to her it would be different, but you just hung up. I don’t think she will be mad about that.”

Jo looked up slowly. “Oh yes, I have no doubt she is mad at me, really mad. You don’t know her…”

It was quiet for a moment, not even Liam said something. Catherine reached out her hand and touched Jo’s.
“You’re right, I don’t know you mother and she might be upset right now, but trust me, she won’t be for long. I can’t imagine anyone being mad at you.”

Jo looked first at the older woman, than at Liam. “Mother says I will go to hell for all the bad things I do.”

“There’s no such thing as hell”, Liam said dryly, but Catherine didn’t give him the chance to get more into it. She knew that Jo was religious and she didn’t want her thirteen-year old smarty-pants son to interfere with the young girl’s beliefs.

“First of all, there is no way you go to hell. You of all people are the last person who would ever go to hell”, she said. She wasn’t religious either, but unlike her son she knew how to approach that subject. “And secondly, you don’t do anything bad. If you break a plate by accident or be rude to your parents once in a while doesn’t send you to hell. Otherwise Liam would already have been to hell a long time ago…” She smiled teasingly at her son who rolled his eyes, then she turned back to Jo. “No, but seriously. Those things are not bad, and neither is hanging up on your mother. I’m not saying that you should do it all the time, but it’s not something that makes you a bad person. There are a lot of bad things in the world, but you, little Miss Jo, are not part of it. Do you understand me?”

Jo nodded quietly although she was a bit confused. There was this lovely woman who told her that she didn’t do anything bad, but at the same time there was her mother who kept telling her she would go to hell. She wanted to believe Catherine so badly, but the voice of her mother was permanently stuck in her head.
Catherine smiled at her. “Try to eat something. Don’t worry, you don’t have to finish it, but I don’t want you to go to bed with an empty stomach.”

Jo looked at the burger in front of her. She was feeling a bit better, but she had no idea how to eat that thing. Before she took her knife and fork, she folded her hands, but at the same moment she realized that Liam had already started.
“Um…shouldn’t we say…eh…grace?”, she asked shyly. The other two stared at her for a moment, but then Catherine folded her hands while Liam still didn’t move, a part of the burger already in his mouth. Since he didn’t react, his mother kicked him under the table.

“Seriously?” He wanted to argue with her, but then he gave in, sighed and folded his hands. Blessing a burger…this was ridiculous, but Jo seemed to be serious about it, and he didn’t want her to feel weird by making fun of it.


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33 Re: Another Way, Another Life on Wed 06 Jun 2012, 11:50 am

Jo had trouble eating her burger with her hands, but as soon she noticed that it was okay to get greasy fingers she started to get a hang of it. “I wonder what Mother would say seeing me eating with my fingers without a napkin on my lap and serving myself.” Jo giggled like the little girl she was. Catherine and Liam looked up and both started laughing.

“You forgot the sauce in your face.” Liam said laughing loudly. For a moment Catherine was a little bit worried that Jo might misunderstand their laughing but she took her dessert spoon and looked at her reflection. Jo started laughing too. “Mother would clearly not light this sight. She might consider her principles of slapping me herself.” It took a moment until Catherine and Liam grasped what Jo had said. They abruptly stopped laughing, but Jo was smiling and not going into detail and not even Liam asked questions. Jo wiped her mouth and continued eating. They had pie with ice cream as dessert. Finally something Jo knew.
After dinner they watched TV, Jo liked watching TV her mother never let her watch TV except the news. But here at the O’Doherty’s they watched movies, and entertaining TV shows. It was fun as so often. When one of the commercials started Catherine got up and went in the kitchen to get them more lemonade. A local diner advertised their new children area which you can hire for children birthday parties. Jo got quiet and looked sad at the TV. She had thought about her birthday next week, and she had thought about telling Liam about it, but that seemed so wrong well and weird. Jo never had to plan her birthday, but she sure wanted to celebrate it with her first friend she had.

Tell him munchkin.

Jo ignored as she lately did quite often her friend no one else could see.

“It must be fun to celebrate your birthday in a place like a diner with all your friends.” Jo whispered. “I bet you had many birthday parties with your friends like this.”

Jo made sure they had a safe distance to Liam, as her mother had taught her all those years. Even though when for the first time in her life she questions her mother’s rules. She liked it when Catherine hugged her, and she trusted Liam not to hurt her. That’s why she liked him so much, not that she would ever tell him that. But here sitting in front of the TV talking about his birthday made her sad, because she knew she would never have a real happy birthday.


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34 Re: Another Way, Another Life on Wed 06 Jun 2012, 4:18 pm

Liam looked from the TV to Jo. Was she serious? Eh, well, yes, since it was Jo, she obviously was serious.
“With what friends would I have celebrated my birthday?” He didn’t want to sound sarcastic, but that didn’t really work out. “And besides, birthdays aren’t a big deal for me anyway.”

“They are not?”

“No.”

“Why?”

He shrugged his shoulders. “I’m not a big fan of celebrating anything, I just don’t like all the fuss about certain things. My mum always tries to get me more into a birthday mood, she even tries to bake a cake, but everytime the kitchen looks like it exploded, and the cake tastes more like…animal intestines or something like that…” A smile crossed his lips. “But I appreciate that she’s trying.”

Jo sighed quietly and turned back to the TV. “I really wish one day I could be one of those kids they just showed…”

“What? And actress who is paid to sit in a diner in front of a cake and grins stupidly in the camera?”

“No!” Jo shook her head. “I just want…a real birthday. Not something where I have to wear an expensive dress that isn’t allowed to get dirty and in which I can barely move, and I don’t want to have my mother’s old friends coming over and give me money, I would rather sit in a diner among people who actually know my name, unlike my mother’s friends .”

“But getting loaded with money sounds nice…” Liam crossed his arms behind his head.

“Honestly, I would be happier about a cake that tastes like animal intestines, because at least that person would have put a little bit of effort in it instead of just handing me an envelope with money.”

Of course Liam had a hard time understanding how she could not like all the money that she got, but on the other hand he saw her point. His mother and him could never celebrate anything big because of financial reasons, but she still made the best out of it, like their Christmases. They were both not religious, and even if they were, they couldn’t afford to have a big Christmas, yet they always had the best time decorating a rather pathetic looking tree with cranberry and popcorn strings, and they would stay up late at Christmas Eve, drink hot chocolate and watch Christmas classics. Christmas didn’t mean much to him, but the time he spent with his mother did. That mattered more to him than any Christmas present.
He watched Jo’s profile for a moment and realized how serious she was about that birthday thing. It really seemed important to her, and that moment he remembered that her birthday was…it actually was next week. He saw the date a few weeks ago on her school papers, and he was really good in remembering dates, so of course he had remembered her birthday. Something inside of him made him do what he was about to do, something he usually never did, because he usually never cared for anyone but his mother.
“I’ll be right back”, he said, got up and walked into the kitchen.

“Hey Munchkin, I was just on my way, do you need something else? Or does Jo need something?”

He shook his head. “It’s her birthday.”

“What? Today? Liam, you could have told me earlier, I would-“

“No, next week. And she just saw a commercial with some ugly kids sitting in a diner and celebrating a birthday, and I think she’s sad that nobody is going to be there for her birthday next week. Or at least I don’t think there will be anyone.”

“Oh, we will do something about that”, Catherine said.

“Please don’t bake her one of your cakes, I don’t think her stomach is strong enough.”

“You’re as charming as always, dear son of mine.” She raised an eyebrow. “No, I was more thinking of taking her somewhere.”

“Like where? This is Concord, and she’s already been to the Orchard House, so there’s nothing left to see.”

“I was more thinking about Boston, which is pretty much right around the corner, and there is a lot to do. She likes animals, doesn’t she?”

Liam shrugged his shoulders. “I think so…”

“We could take her to the Aquarium, it’s a great place. Or if she prefers art we could go to the art gallery, oh, and we can show her the Boston Public library, the entrance is free, and she will love the library.”

Liam was amazed how many ideas his mother always got, she barely knew the girl and yet she came up with so many things Jo could enjoy.
“But make sure you’re not saying anything to her”, Catherine said. “I want it to be a surprise.”


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35 Re: Another Way, Another Life on Thu 07 Jun 2012, 9:28 pm

Jo was working over the next days on some essays she had to write and she also had to finish her first act of the ballet she wrote for her advanced music class. Jo didn’t spend lunch in the dining room until Wednesday, her birthday. Jo had hoped her father would call her but he didn’t. She did get a new dress from him including a lovely card, but no phone call. Jo wore the white dress with red ribbons, including a ribbon for her hair and a new set of earrings with little teardrop rubies. She looked really pretty but she didn’t feel happy. The girls in her house have sung for her in the morning and gave her also little presents, but today of all days she wished someone who cared for her would acknowledge her birthday.

Maybe I should have told Liam that today is my birthday.

She sat at the small table in their usual corner, wearing already warm tights and a warm woollen white cardigan. She wasn’t very hungry and continued proof reading her essay about the French Revolution. She knew that Liam wasn’t in the school today he was a science class trip with his physics class. She missed him dearly, since he was her only close friend.

Jo didn’t seem happy until Friday after class. She went back to her house and got greeted by her housemother and...

“Catherine.”

“Josephine, Ms O’Doherty has invited you to stay the weekend at her house, and further she asked me to pass along a request to your father that you are allowed to stay with them whenever you like. You still have to fill out permission slips, but it is just a formality. Ms O’Doherty I assume you can guaranty a safe environment for Josephine and that you are familiar with the school rules of Josephine being alone with your son Liam. I know he is a good boy, but that doesn’t change the rules.”

Catherine was smart enough not to mention that she thought some of the rules were ridicules. “Yes I am aware.”

“Oh one last question. Where will Josephine sleep while she is at your house?”

Jo went pale, she knew that they just had two bedrooms and she wouldn’t mind sleeping on the couch but she wasn’t sure what her housemother would say to it.

“We are still working that out, but I am aware that Josephine and Liam are too old to share a room.”

The housemother nodded and handed Catherine the approved permission of taking care of Jo during the weekend. “Josephine I expect you to behave your best.”

“Yes housemother!” Jo nodded sincere. “Erm housemother, can I go right away with Catherine?”

“Yes you may go with… Ms O’Doherty.” The housemother looked stern at Jo.

“Can Ms O’Doherty help me pack a few things?”

“Yes that is a good idea, since you never packed on your own an overnight pack. Go now and sign out before you leave and don’t forget to sign in on Sunday when you come back. Have a wonderful weekend.” The housemother smiled and let Jo take Catherine’s hand to lead her to her room. “Catherine? What about church on Sunday?” Jo whispered while they climbed up the stairs to Jo’s room, she didn’t expect Catherine to go with her to church but she liked going to church.


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36 Re: Another Way, Another Life on Fri 08 Jun 2012, 7:54 pm

“If you want to go to church, we will of course come with you, that’s no problem.” She knew she probably had to drag her son out of the house on Sunday morning to go to church, but it didn’t do Liam anything bad to go to church now and then.

“You would really do that?” Jo looked surprised at her.

“Of course. Concord doesn’t have many churches, I guess we should go to the one downtown, it’s a protestant church as far as I know. I’m aware it’s not exactly what you were used at home, but it’s close to the Church of England. That’s your religious belief, isn’t it?”
Jo nodded while she put some things in her bag.

“Wow, your room is so…neat.” Catherine looked quite impressed. “I wish Liam’s room would look a little more like yours.”
Jo wanted to tell her that her mother punished her if her room was not clean enough, but she decided not to. Right now she just wanted to look forward to the weekend.

“You’ve got everything?”

Jo nodded and took Catherine’s hand again. She didn’t know why, but it gave her a feeling of safety as soon as she held her hand, and she liked that feeling.
When they got outside, Jo spotted the small car and Liam, who already sat inside of the car.

“We have a little surprise for you”, Catherine said while the ladies approached the car. “We’ll go to Boston now, to celebrate your birthday. I know it was two days ago, but that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate it, right?” She smiled at the young girl who looked shocked at her. “What is it, sweetie? Do you want to do something else?”

Jo shook her head quietly, still looking shocked. “I…you want…want to celebrate my birthday?”

“Of course, why shouldn’t we?” Catherine opened the door of the car for her. “Now let’s get going, we have a lot to do today, birthday girl.”

Jo got in the car, still unable to say something, she couldn’t even say anything to Liam who turned around and said hi to her.
“Oh, before I forget…” Catherine opened her purse and took out a small plastic crown that said ‘Birthday Princess’, then she placed it on Jo’s head. “I always wanted to do that, but Liam didn’t let me do it with him.” She winked at her son who rolled his eyes. “Anyway, Princess, your carriage will get you to Boston.”

Liam sighed. “Oh Geez, mum, I can tell how happy you are to finally have a girl in the house.”

“I’m sorry.” She smiled at him and started the engine. “I think even if you had been a girl you wouldn’t have been a ‘real’ girl who likes pink and dressing-up.”

“Neither do you.”

“I know, I know.” She looked in the rear-view window. “You’re alive there, Birthday Princess?”

Jo was completely lost in thoughts, she just couldn’t believe that someone actually wanted to celebrate her birthday. “Ye…yes, I’m fine…”, she replied, almost in a whisper.

“Would you like to see the Aquarium? It is really beautiful.”

“Oh, I’d like that very much.”

Liam turned his head slightly to Jo and watched her for a moment quietly. His mother noticed the way he looked at the young girl and a smile crossed her lips, which made Liam immediately turn his head away and stare out of the window. “What?”, he asked, still feeling Catherine’s eyes on him.

“Nothing…”




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37 Re: Another Way, Another Life on Sat 09 Jun 2012, 11:47 am

Jo was very quiet during the drive and also when they went into the aquarium. This was all too much and Catherine didn’t even know that she didn’t have to do so much. Jo had her first hotdog in her live in the aquarium and Catherine allowed both children a Coke.
They had a lot of fun, until Jo went with Catherine to the bathroom. Not until then Catherine asked her gently. “Jo is something wrong?”

“No nothing is wrong.”

“But something is also not right.”

Jo looked at Catherine. “I’m not sure what I am doing here. Mother is very angry with me, she erm she called housemother yesterday and asked if she can arrange that I get slapped for my behaviour towards her at the phone. She wants me to come home, because she thinks I am getting ruined here in America and by you. Housemother suggested that father should call you, because she knows that you are not a bad person just different then the people I am surrounded at home. I think he said he will call very soon, and he doesn’t want me to come home. He thinks I am better off here in America and I don’t understand why he wants me so far away. I know Mother is sick but doesn’t he want me to come home.”

Jo looked sad on the ground. “I’m sorry I should be happy you are paying so much money for me to have a great day and I am not at all behaving like a princess.”


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38 Re: Another Way, Another Life on Sat 09 Jun 2012, 10:30 pm

Catherine would never dare to interfere with how other mothers raised their children, but from what she heard of Jo’s mother she couldn’t help but be shocked. She never saw a point in punishing a child in the first place, but punishing a child for something that was anything but worth punishing for was just ridiculous, and she hated it to see other parents use physical violence against their children, even if it was ‘just’ a slap, it was still violence towards a child. On top of that Jo didn’t do anything bad, nothing that would give her mother an excuse to punish her.
Catherine stroked some of the young girl’s hair gently behind her ears. “You don’t have to worry about it, I will talk to your father and tell him what a lovely young lady you are, and that you don’t do anything wrong. I’m sure he knows that…”

“He does”, she said quietly. “But mother doesn’t. “

“But I’m sure your father tells her about you all the time.”

“He’s barely at home, and when he tells her about me, she doesn’t believe it. She thinks I’m a bad girl and I get only worse by living here.”

Catherine sighed. She didn’t know what she could do to make Jo believe that she was anything but a bad girl. Apparently it was so seared into her brain that she really believed it.
Catherine took her hand. “You’re an angel, Jo. I really mean it. And you know what? Being an angel is even more special than being a princess, don’t you think?” She smiled at the little girl. “And don’t you worry about anything today, we’ll enjoy the rest of the day, does that sound good?”

She nodded quietly and followed her out of the bathroom where Liam waited, his arms crossed, leaning against a wall.
“Finally! Why do girls always need so long?”

“And why are boys always so impatient?” His mother tousled his hair playfully. She looked at Jo, hoping she could lift the girl’s mood a bit. After all, she really deserved it.
They went to the Public Library afterwards, which Jo loved of course, and then headed home as it was getting late. In the morning Catherine had told Liam that she would sleep on the couch so that Jo could have her room, but he didn’t want his mum to sleep on the couch, he knew how hard she worked all week, and he wanted her to at least get some rest during the weekends, so he offered to sleep on the couch and Jo would get his room, he didn’t mind having her sleep there, but he had to make sure she wouldn’t come across a few things that she might didn’t want to see, like those magazines he had secretly horded under his bed. Before Catherine went to work this morning she told him to make sure his room would look at least a little more clean, but Liam then forgot to put his stuff away from the floor, so by the time they got home in the early evening his room still looked messy, the magazines were still under the bed, and some of his laundry was spread across the room- and Liam completely forgot about it, even when they got inside and made themselves comfortable in the small living room.
When Jo went to the kitchen to wash her hands, Catherine turned to Liam.
“You’ve cleaned your room this morning, right?”

Shit.

“Ehm…yeah…kind of.”

“Kind of? She raised her eyebrows. “Don’t tell me your room still looks like it looked yesterday evening.”

“Eh…”

“Liam!”

“I’m on it!” He jumped up and ran upstairs, although his way of cleaning up his room was not the most thorough, and even though he managed to put most of the stuff aside that lay on the floor and on his bed, he completely forgot about the magazines. When he got downstairs, the two ladies sat next to each other on the couch and watched TV, Jo snuggled next to Catherine, her head rested against his mother’s shoulder. If Jo would have been a boy, Liam would be insanely jealous of her, but he was okay with Jo getting so attached to his mother.
Catherine looked over to him. “Everything done?”

He nodded, not being aware that he had missed a couple of spots.


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39 Re: Another Way, Another Life on Sat 09 Jun 2012, 11:42 pm

Jo was uncertain what staying overnight at Liam’s house means. They watched some TV and even though they had dinner on the road, Catherine had cut some apples for them to eat in addition to the popcorn they had while they were during watching TV. It was just before half past nine when Jo got up.

“Please excuse me.” She said shyly.

“Are you okay sweetheart?” Catherine asks a little bit worried.

“Oh yes I am but I… erm I have to go to bed don’t I?” Jo was standing for a moment sunken in herself, when she remembered to stand straight.

“Yes if you want to go to bed you can of course but you don’t have to until eleven since it is a Friday night.” Catherine said gentle.

“Oh. Erm. I think I do want to go to bed. If that is okay?”

“Of course. You are sleeping in Liam’s room and you know where the bathroom is. Is there anything you need?” Catherine asked while Liam looked rather bored.

“I can sleep on the couch.”

“Don’t be silly we don’t let our guest sleep on the couch.”

“Okay, thanks.” Jo mumbled. She had never slept in another household and she wasn’t sure what was expected from her. Back at home she had a maid attending to her while she was getting ready to go to bed, while at CA she had to do it on her own. Jo didn’t expect Catherine to serve her like a maid, she never wanted that. But she still wondered. Jo took her bag and went into the bathroom. She got changed into her old fashioned white night gown, washed her face and her hands. The she went into the kitchen to get a table spoon.

“What are you doing? Are you sick?” Catherine sounded suddenly very worried.

“Oh I’m sorry. I mean no I am not sick. I have to take in the morning and in the evening a spoon of blackstrap molasses.” Jo carefully unscrewed the bottle in CA housemother gave her the spoon full but she didn’t want to ask Catherine to help her, but Catherine saw that the little girl struggling.

“Let me help you.” Catherine stepped closer and Jo handed her the bottle and the spoon but Catherine just took the bottle. “You hold the spoon.” She let the thick liquid run on the spoon and saw Jo take it obedient but she also saw how much she disliked it. “Did you bush your teeth and hair yet?”

“No Ma’am.” Jo was getting sleepy and fell back into her manners she had to show at home and pretty much at CA.

“Go brush your teeth and come back in the living room, I’ll comb your hair.” Catherine smiled, Jo nodded and went back into the bathroom to brush her teeth. Before Jo went back into the bathroom she took her night rope and put it on, she was glad her mother had not seen her in the kitchen in just her night gown. Just outside the living room door Jo realised something, in there was a boy and suddenly she got scared. But the door was not closed so Catherine noticed the girl standing shy in the door frame. “Hey sweetie, come in and sit down I’ll do your hair and you can finish watching the movie.”

Jo wrapped her arms around her body and hoped Liam couldn’t see anything while she went in the living room back on the couch.

“Aren’t you getting ready for bed?” Jo asked Liam shy, while she handed Catherine her comb and the hair ribbon to tight her braided hair together. “I always braid my hair at night.” Jo looked just as shy as she did when she first met Catherine.


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40 Re: Another Way, Another Life on Sun 10 Jun 2012, 6:34 pm

Hm…why wouldn’t he go to bed at half past nine on a Friday night? Was she serious?
“I’m not tired yet”, he said, his eyes on the TV while Catherine braided Jo’s hair.

“Which doesn’t change the fact that you still have to turn off the light when it’s eleven”, Catherine said to him. “So, you’re all ready.” She smiled at Jo. “You sure you already want to go to bed?”

Jo nodded. “Yes. Thank you for braiding my hair.”

“No problem.”

Jo got up. “Goodnight.”

“Goodnight, sweetie. And remember, don’t be shy to knock on my door if something is wrong, okay? If you have trouble sleeping, let me know.”

She nodded, then her eyes wandered to Liam who was still focused on the TV. “Goodnight, Liam.”

“Hm?” He turned his head slightly towards her. “Oh…yeah, goodnight.”

Catherine and Liam stayed up for a bit longer until she looked at her watch and noticed that it was fifteen minutes to eleven. “Time to get ready for bed, Munchkin. And turn the TV off, please.”
Liam sighed, got up and turned it off.
“Oh, and before I forget, just because you’re sleeping in the living room doesn’t mean that you can secretly continue watching TV. I’ll have my door slightly open and I will hear you. Oh, and the same counts for reading. No more reading when the lights are off, understand?”

“But I’m not tired.”

“No debating.”

“Okay, okay.” He was just about to head upstairs to go to the bathroom when Catherine pulled him into a hug and stroked his hair gently. She couldn’t believe that a mother was able to punish her child like Jo’s mother had done with her in the past.
“I love you so much”, she whispered as if she worried she could lose him any moment. Liam didn’t admit it since all the other thirteen-year old boys were no longer so attached to their mothers, but he loved feeling her arms around him, it was his favourite place to be.
Catherine kissed him on his head. “Now get ready, and remember, no more TV.”

By the time Liam had turned off the light, he was still wide awake, thinking about the fact that it was the first time ever he had a girl in his bed. Well…yeah, it was only Jo, and it wasn’t like they were together in his bed, but still…he liked the idea of having a girl in his bed, no matter if that girl was just his twelve-year old friend.
The next morning Liam was already awake and busy reading, when the phone rang. It was strange since nobody ever called at eight in the morning, especially not on a Saturday. When he answered the phone, a deep English male voice introduced himself as Josephine’s father. He wanted to speak with Catherine. Now, Liam’s mum was anything but a morning person, so when he walked into her room he expected a grumpy response from her, but when he said that Jo’s father was on the phone, she immediately got up, grabbed her bathrobe and went downstairs. He had never seen her that talkative in the morning. She was on the phone for quite a while, and Liam was lurking around in the kitchen, pretending he was occupied with something when in fact he was listening. When she was done talking, he left the kitchen.
“So, what did he say?”

“A lot.” Catherine turned her head to Liam. “At first he asked me questions, if Jo is a burden to us, and how she behaves, and then he explained her mother’s condition to me which is a lot worse than I thought. She’s mentally very unstable, and the reason Jo left England in the first place was to protect her and make sure she wouldn’t see what is happening to her mother.” She paused for a moment. “I’m only telling you this because I really, really want you to be nice to her and take good care of her, especially after she’s been through so much. I’m not saying it’s your job to babysit her, but just…be a good friend to her, okay?”

Liam nodded quietly.

“Mr Williams is really glad that Jo made friends and he appreciates that we take so much time for her, I think we all know how badly Jo needs company here, especially a good friend. He seemed worried that Jo might be a burden for me, but I assured him she really isn’t.” She was quiet for a moment. “I just…I’m so sorry for this little girl. She is so good-hearted, she doesn’t deserve to go through this.”

“So, we’ll cheer her up then.” A smile crossed his lips. “Not that I’m really good at that, that’s more your category, but I’ll at least try.”

“That’s okay.” Catherine smiled. “Oh…and there’s one other thing he mentioned. He put great emphasis on the fact that he trusts me to make sure Jo remains… innocent.” She raised her eyebrows while she scrutinized her son.

“Why are you looking at me like this?”

“I hope you know what that means, right?”

“Eh…I’m not allowed to feel her up?”

“Liam!”

“Just joking! Relax, mum…I’m not going to do anything with her.”

She crossed her arms. “Oh, you better not. You’re thirteen years old, you keep your hands to yourself. Only because you have a girlfriend now doesn’t mean you can do certain things now…”

“She’s not my girlfriend! She’s just a friend, okay?”

“Okay, okay…”

That same moment a sleepy-looking Jo came downstairs, and both turned around to look at her. “Hey sunshine, how did you sleep?”, Catherine asked.


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41 Re: Another Way, Another Life on Sun 10 Jun 2012, 7:29 pm

Jo went to bed and read a few passages in her bible before she wanted to turn off the light she noticed the white stains on the sheets. Jo looked curious at the stains. “What is this? I bet Liam ate in his bed.” Jo giggled turned the sheet around rather clumsy and went into Liam’s bed. It took her some hours to fall asleep, she wondered if her mother was right and she wished she remembered what her mother said about receiving a child. What if she gets pregnant because she sleeps in a boys bed? Jo didn’t know when she fell asleep but she suddenly heard voices in the kitchen. She sighed, even though it was already nearly nine and therefore a lot later then she has to get up in CA that didn’t change the fact that she hated mornings. Jo got up as if she were weighing at least two tons and not her seventy pounds. She took her morning rope and went downstairs in the kitchen.

“Hey sunshine, how did you sleep?” Catherine asked. Jo closed her eyes again when she fell on the kitchen chair, but she nodded.

“Did you spill milk or yogurt in your bed, Liam?” Jo’s head was resting on her arms on the table. She was not yet awake when she suddenly sat up straight as if someone dumped ice cold water over her. “I’m so sorry I shouldn’t just were my nightgown. I’m so sorry!” Jo looked sleepy and apologetic at Liam and Catherine.


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42 Re: Another Way, Another Life on Mon 11 Jun 2012, 7:18 pm

There was an awkward silence that followed, and Liam started to grow pale first, and then his cheeks flushed. He didn’t dare to look at his mother, but he could feel her looking at him. He remembered what he dreamed the night before yesterday…something really nice, a lot of long-legged women in bikinis included, and he also remembered that he completely forgot to change the sheets.
“I spilled some milk…”, Liam mumbled, still avoiding to look in Catherine’s direction. His cheeks were burning now. “Sorry, I forgot to change the sheets…”

“That’s okay, I spill things all the time”, Jo said, not noticing the strange vibe going on inside the kitchen, especially between mother and son. “But I had to be really careful not to spill anything in front of mother, she would always get very angry with me if I wasn’t careful.”

Can we please stop talking about anything related to spilling something?
Liam slowly dared to look up, and he regretted it immediately, because as pretty as his mother could smile, as deadly strict she could look as well.

“I think the two of us have to talk about certain things when we get the chance”, she said to Liam in a tone that he knew too well, it was the tone that implied that there would be no way out of this conversation. Oh boy, there was something he could look forward to...
Catherine turned to Jo and smiled warmly at her. “And don’t worry about wearing your nightgown, as you can see both Liam and I are still in our pyjamas as well. On Saturday and Sunday mornings we always have breakfast in our pyjamas.”

Jo’s eyes widened. “Really?”

Catherine chuckled. “Yes. That’s nothing unusual. Well, I guess in your home it is…speaking of which, your father called this morning. We just talked a bit and he wanted to know how you were and if we don’t mind having you here, which, of course, we don’t mind at all.” She winked at her. She didn’t mention all the things Mr Williams had said about his wife and her condition, she didn’t want to upset the little girl. “He really misses you, Jo.”

Jo smiled weakly. “I miss him too. I know he doesn’t have much time for me, but I love him so much, I wouldn’t know what to do without my father…”

Something in Liam’s face changed the second she said that, but Jo didn’t see it because she was talking to Catherine. All the embarrassment from a minute ago was gone, instead he stared blankly at his hands.

“I’m glad you have such a caring father”, Catherine said, still with that sweet smile on her face, but her eyes wandered to Liam who kept staring at his hands without any expression on his face. “Anyway, any specific preferences for breakfast?”, she asked. “I might as well make pancakes again, it’s really the only thing I don’t mess up when it comes to food.”


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43 Re: Another Way, Another Life on Mon 11 Jun 2012, 10:39 pm

After they had pancakes again Jo got dressed and came back downstairs with her school things.

“What are you doing?” Liam was watching TV while Jo sat down on the floor and spread her books on the table.

“My homework?” Jo looked confused at Liam. “What are you doing?”

“Watching TV.” Liam looked irritated at her. “Why are you doing your homework on a Saturday?”

“Oh Jo that is a wonderful thing don’t let him stop you. Liam turn down the volume.”

“But mom then I can’t here.”

“Liam!”

Catherine looked stern at her son until Liam rolled his eyes and turned down the volume.

“Aren’t you doing your homework Liam?” Jo looked innocent at Liam.

“No I don’t.” Liam peeked at his mom hoping she wouldn’t ask him further about his homework. But Catherine didn’t say anything.
A little while later Jo sighed. Catherine had watched her it seemed like she was working on her math homework but she was stuck. And then she looked at Liam again and again. Until she finally looked at Liam very shy. “Liam? Can you help me? I don’t understand this math stuff.” Jo sounded and embarrassed that she admitted that she didn’t understand something.


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44 Re: Another Way, Another Life on Wed 13 Jun 2012, 5:41 pm

Although she almost whispered, he could hear her loud and clearly, and he was surprised that she really wanted his help. He had seen her during classes, how she always sat in the front row and raised her hand more than any other person, so it did surprise him that she actually asked him for help. He turned his head away from the TV to look at her. “Sure. What is it?”

“It’s my math homework.”

“Oh, that’s right, you said you don’t really like math.”

“Well, it’s okay…it’s just not my favourite subject, and right now I’m stuck…” She stared at the book in front of her. Liam sat down next to her, so close that he could smell her hair, which smelled a bit like vanilla. While he reached over her shoulder to grab her notebook he could feel her body underneath him, and he didn’t see how hard she was blushing.

“Okay, where are you stuck?”, he asked, his eyes wandering over her notes. When no answer came he looked up and noticed that her cheeks were completely flushed and she didn’t even seem to breathe. “Are you okay?”

“Wh…what? Um…sure! Of course!” She quickly cleared her throat and pointed to the math question she just couldn’t solve.

“Okay, so you’ve got this fraction, right?” While he explained it to her he didn’t notice how close he still was to her, and how she looked at him, still with those flushed cheeks, and he did also not notice the way his mother watched them, and that tiny little smile that appeared on her face. He was so focused on explaining that math homework to Jo that he didn’t notice all those things. “So, you think you got it?”, he asked finally.

She nodded very slowly, almost in trance, then she took her notebook again. “Yes, I think I got it”, she smiled shyly at him, and when he smiled back she quickly looked down and started working on the math question. That same moment the phone rang and Catherine got up. Liam was about to turn back to the TV when he suddenly leaned closer to Jo, quickly checking if his mother was not listening to them while she was on the phone.

“Can you do me a favour?”, he whispered.

Jo stopped writing and looked at him, although she started to blush again because he was so close to her that their noses almost touched.
“Of course…”

“Next time after school, when you’re free, can we go to the music room at CA and you can teach me a bit how to play the piano properly? I mean, I know how to play, but I haven’t had any practice really since my mum doesn’t want me to. I’d just like to play more on the piano than always the same songs. Is that okay with you?”


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45 Re: Another Way, Another Life on Wed 13 Jun 2012, 10:10 pm

Jo looked up into Liam’s so beautiful blue eyes. “Okay.” Jo aspirated shyly. Liam smiled. “Cool thanks. You did a mistake in your calculations 24 divided by 8 is not 3 it’s 4.”

Liam pointed at the notebook and reached over to take the eraser. Jo’s and Liam’s hands touched slightly but the little girl pulled her hand suddenly away. “Sorry.”

Catherine came back and smiled at the two children, but she still kept an eye on her son. She didn’t want him to overdo it and maybe not take Jo’s innocence right away but might scare Jo. So far Jo was blushing and shy but she seemed okay. Liam now moved a little away from Jo and took his own school books. Catherine was sure that he wasn’t doing his homework, but at least he didn’t complain when she switched of the TV and took a book.

This evening the three went out for dinner and afterwards they played cards, Jo went to bed later this evening but still before Liam. It was after midnight when she got up again, she was thirsty and needed a glass of water. Well not before she was laying in bed for nearly half an hour hoping the thirst would go away, but of course this didn’t happen. Catherine had told her that if she needs anything she could come at any time to her and even wake her, so she was sure that she was allowed to get up and get a glass of water. She crawled out of bed, she didn’t put on her night rope and just went in her night gown. It didn’t take Jo long to get a glass of water but on her way back she saw the light and the not fully closed living room door. For a moment she thought Liam was watching TV so she sneaked closer and pushed the door further open. Liam didn’t see her but Jo saw him in the little light of the small lamp next to the couch. He wasn’t wearing his underpants anymore, he was moaning and grunting while he was pleasuring himself. For several second Jo stood frozen in the doorframe watching in horror, until Liam grunted one final satisfying time and sang back in his pillow. Suddenly Jo got really scared of Liam who was still only half dressed. She turned around and ran one quiet foot back upstairs, but suddenly she was scared of Liam’s room and the stain on his sheet doesn’t seem to be milk or yogurt anymore. Not after he saw what he did on the couch. Jo knocked at Catherine’s door and it didn’t take long that Catherine opened it. “Jo! Sweetheart what is wrong?” Catherine pulled the crying and rather disturbed looking little girl in her arm. “Did you have a nightmare?” Catherine asked gentle, Jo tried to answer a few times but gave up and nodded while she was holding tight Catherine’s pyjama in her hands.


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46 Re: Another Way, Another Life on Thu 14 Jun 2012, 9:51 pm

Catherine stroked the little girl’s hair softly while Jo kept sobbing into her pyjama.
“It’s alright, Jo”, she said softly. “It was just a dream.” Little did she know that it was not just a dream, but Jo couldn’t tell her what she saw.

“I’m so sorry”, the girl mumbled.

“What are you sorry for?”

“For waking you up like this, and for being such a burden, and for-“

“Jo, sweetie, you’re no burden at all. And you don’t have to apologize for waking me up. I told you that you can come to me whenever something is wrong, and I really mean it.” Catherine wiped off some of Jo’s tears. Liam had never run to her at night because he had a nightmare. He was such an unusual child, for him nightmares were nothing but a bad dream, and he knew that dreams weren’t real, so he didn’t worry about it and fell right back to sleep.

“Can I…can I sleep here?”, Jo whispered, too embarrassed to look up.

“Of course you can. The bed is big enough for the two of us.” Catherine smiled while she tucked the little girl in and brushed some of her bushy hair out of her face. She watched the girl drifting off to sleep, and a bit later she fell asleep as well.

The next morning Liam woke up by the touch of someone’s hand.
“Time to get up, Munchkin.”

He blinked and looked sleepy at his mother. That was weird…usually he was the one who got up first and had to wake her, at least on a Sunday morning. She was already fully dressed, which surprised him even more. He knew how much she hated getting up early, so why was she up that early on a Sunday?
“Mum…why are you dressed?”

“Because we’re going to church today.”

He looked at her as if he’d never heard anything more absurd. “Church? What? Why?”

“I promised Jo that we will go to church with her”, Catherine said, ignoring her son’s moaning. “Now I don’t expect you to join us every Sunday, but I at least want you to come with us today.”

“But it’s church, mum…”

“Liam, it’s not an entire day, it’s only one hour of your life.”

He sat up and looked at her without any expression in his face. “If there are any priests…”

“There are no priests”, she said and planted a kiss on his forehead. “Oh, and since it’s church I expect you to wear something…um…a little more formal.”

“Seriously?” He got up and dragged himself to the table, still looking sleepy.

“Bloody church!”

“Watch your language, young man.” She shot him a warning glance, then she walked to the stairs. “Jo, honey, what do you want for breakfast? We have cornflakes.”

“Is she still upstairs?”, Liam asked.

“Yes, unlike you she’s getting ready for church”, his mother said teasingly.


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47 Re: Another Way, Another Life on Fri 15 Jun 2012, 11:21 am

Jo brushed her white dress straight, checked herself in the mirror and smiled. She felt so silly for freaking out last night so much. Jo sighed, she would pray for Liam this Sunday, she couldn’t let Liam got to hell or anything. She sighed and went downstairs. She was a little scared of Liam, or more what she remembered seeing last night.

“Good morning.” Jo mumbled shyly. She was wearing a short white dress, it had short sleeves and looked very cute, to be not cold she was wearing pink tights and white ballerinas. She was breathing quickly and looked nervous at Liam who was still in his pyjamas.

“I would like cornflakes for breakfast.” Jo said to Catherine and sat down at the table. She felt Liam starring at her and it made her nervous.

I wonder if Liam had washed his hands since last night.

“Is the church far from here?” Jo was pushing her cornflakes in the milk again and again to make them soggy, while she was sipping at her orange juice. Suddenly she looked up shy. “Can I come again another weekend and stay overnight? I really like it here.”

Jo had a plan, she would ask housemother to buy a few books for her. Housemother went every week into town and ran errands for her lambs. So far Jo never had much to ask for except books for her classes but this week she would have a request.

“I mean I do like school and we girls always have fun at the weekend, watch movies and play games. But here it is different. It feels like…” Jo stopped herself not daring to say what she actually felt while she was here, she knew her Mother would get really angry if she knew what was going through her mind.


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48 Re: Another Way, Another Life on Sat 16 Jun 2012, 3:39 pm

The young girl didn’t need to finish her sentence, Catherine knew what she wanted to say and it brought a smile to her face.
“Of course you can come other weekends and stay overnight. You just have to make sure that the school is okay with that.”

Jo nodded and continued eating her cornflakes while Liam just stared at the table. He was still sleepy and definitely not in the mood to go to church.
“Liam, can you get changed, please?”, his mother asked. He sighed, got up slowly and headed towards the stairs. “We’re leaving in fifteen minutes!” Catherine waited until he mumbled something back, then she turned to Jo and shook her head. “Boys…”

“Why don’t you go to church?”, Jo asked.

Catherine was quite for a moment. “I guess it’s because we’re not really religious. See, I grew up with very religious parents, and I’m Catholic, and so is Liam, but I was always more…interested in science than in religion.” It was hard to explain to a young, religious girl like Jo why she didn’t have that kind of faith. “Many scientists think differently, you know. They try to find a reason behind everything, and things that can’t be scientifically proven is not that relevant for them.”

Jo listened closely. She had never met people like Catherine and Liam, it was a completely new world to her. “Do you believe in heaven?”

Catherine didn’t respond immediately, and Jo started to worry if her question had been too blunt.
“I believe that…” She paused for a moment. “I don’t know if there really is a good place where people go after they die, but I believe that everyone carries his or her own heaven inside of themself. It’s a special place in your heart, maybe a very fond memory or something like that…But it’s right there, inside of you.”
The young girl looked at her speechless, and that same moment Liam came downstairs, dressed in black trousers and a simple blue shirt, looking unusually clean- except the hair, which, of course, his mother noticed immediately.
“Did someone forget to brush his hair?” Catherine got up, pulled her son close to her and brushed some of his hair out of his face.

“Mum…” He sounded annoyed.

“What? You think I’ll let you go to church looking like you had a pillow fight?” She kissed his cheek and got her jacket. “Alright kids, let’s go.”

The church was right in the town’s centre, and Liam was surprised how many people actually were that crazy and went to church on a Sunday morning.
“Hands out of your pockets, Liam”, Catherine said while they entered the church. He rolled his eyes but did what she told him. He tried to ignore all those freaky pictures of a crucified Christ and almost bumped into an old lady- not that he cared…Oh man, he felt so out of this place.


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49 Re: Another Way, Another Life on Sat 16 Jun 2012, 6:13 pm

Jo smiled she liked the church it was light and friendly and not at all depressing and dark as the church she went at home. And it was not far from CA so she could even come here on her own. Suddenly Jo looked guilty on the floor, she should not like another church as a Church of England that much.
A middle aged man suddenly spoke at Jo and took her hand. “My child a very warm welcome in our fine church. Are you here on your own? You may sit with me, a young lady like you shouldn’t sit alone.”

Jo starred at him in horror, the man saw her horror and cleared his throat. “I mean I can show you around find someone of the youth leaders so that you don’ have to sit alone.”

“No.” Jo whispered, stepped closer to Catherine and took her hand. Jo wasn’t someone who trusted strangers that easily.

The Reverend, an elderly grey haired man, stepped to the small group. “Welcome in our fine church. I am Reverend Brown. After the service we serve coffee, tea and some cakes. You are very welcome to join us. We also have a Sunday school service for your children, if you are interested.” He smiled at Catherine and offered her his hand, while Jo was suddenly scared and pressed herself against Catherine’s side. The girl couldn’t even really explain why but she knew that she didn’t want to be separated from Catherine and Liam.


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50 Re: Another Way, Another Life on Sun 17 Jun 2012, 10:42 pm

Catherine felt Jo’s fear and she realized that the young girl didn’t seem to trust people that easily. She rubbed her shoulders comfortingly to let her know that it was alright and that she had no reason to be scared.
“Sunday church service for children sounds very nice, doesn’t it?” She smiled at Jo who kept squeezing her hand. “I’m sure there are a lot of nice kids your age.”

“Oh yes, at the moment we have a large group of children, all very friendly and caring. I have no doubt they would love to welcome you.” The Reverend looked at the young girl. “Of course you don’t have to, it is just a suggestion.” His eyes wandered back to Catherine. “Do you have any other children?”

“Oh, she’s not my daughter, she’s the friend of my son, who is…” Catherine turned around and noticed that Liam was no longer standing behind them. “Somewhere here, hopefully…”

Reverend Brown chuckled. “Well, if he wants to join the children church service, he’s welcome any time.”

“Oh, I don’t think he will, but thank you.” She smiled a last time at him, then she turned away to look for Liam. He was so small, it was hard to find him among a large crowd of people, but then she spotted him sitting in the corner of a bench, his hands in his pockets, his eyes closed. He looked like he was sleeping. In fact, he really seemed to be sleeping, because next to him a book dropped loudly on the floor and he didn’t even open his eyes. Catherine sighed, took Jo with her, walked to the bench and shook Liam. “I would really appreciate it if you would at least pretend to pay attention.”

“I was meditating”, he replied dryly.

“Yes, of course you were.” She shook her head and made space so that Jo could sit down.

“The service didn’t even start yet”, Liam mumbled. “So technically I don’t have to pay attention.”

“It’s about the overall behaviour in a church, which doesn’t include sleeping.”

“Whatever…”

“Liam, hands.”

He rolled his eyes and put his hands out of his pockets. “Okay, I pretend to pay attention, but I won’t sing.”

“Nobody forces you to sing.”

“Good.”

“But please sit up straight, right now you look like someone shot you in the back”, Catherine said, ignoring her son’s annoyed glance.


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PA: Skadi
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