A few years went by and the house lived in harmony. Eleanor and Jimmy became best friends, with her learning more and more sign language every day. But doing that, they distanced themselves from Bonnie and Mitchell who did everything together. Julian had no favourites in the house, how could he? Fergus stayed away from most of the people in the house as the days went by. He stayed in his room playing all day.
They were all his children now... as was a new arrival who came two years later.
Sami’s parents had dropped her off on the doorstep then ran. Julian knew no more of it.
She was one year old when she was found outside; at least, that’s what Julian guessed. A quick trip to the doctor confirmed it, about fifteen months old. While they were there he had had Bonnie, Mitchell, Eleanor, Jimmy and Fergus checked for diseases. The doctor found nothing wrong with all of them (except Jimmy’s hearing).
The newly bought doorbell rang shrill throughout the house.
“I’ll get it!” Bonnie shouted. She never had to fight with Mitchell anymore. Being a sophisticated eight-year old, he had no time for silly games like that, so he continued watching Postman Pat with Fergus.
She opened the door, grinning. But her smile faltered when no one was at the door. She looked up and down and saw the buggy the bottom of the front steps. She stepped down them carefully and looked quizzically at the buggy. It had peeling and rusting red paint.
Bonnie could see inside it easily and she gasped.
“Julian!” She screamed as she saw the baby.
“What? What is it?” He ran out of the house seconds after she called.
“Look! It’s a baby! Where’s his mommy? Is he like us?” She asked him, not taking her eyes off the baby.
“I don’t know. Hello? Anyone lose a baby?” Julian shouted to the clear blue sky.
He looked around but saw no one. Not even through the windows of the houses across the road.
“Hey there.” He said eventually to the baby. “What's your name?” He cooed. “Want to come inside?”
As he picked up the baby a note fell out.
Julian put down the baby who was asleep and grabbed the note as the light breeze almost blew it away.
To Whom It May Concern,
My name is Sami Cooper. Please take care of me.
Julian read the note over and over.
“Sami, huh?” He picked up the baby again and carried her inside with Bonnie at his heels.
“Guys! Come here! I’ve got someone I want you to meet!” Julian bellowed not too loudly through the house.
In a matter of seconds they were all by his side and whispering loudly about the baby in his arms.
“This is Sami. I think she’ll be staying with us.” Julian grinned. They all grinned back, except one.
“Yes, Mitch? What is it?” Julian sighed.
“I don’t understand why we have to have more people, Julian. I’m happy like this!” He gestured to the other children around him. This almost shocked Julian as Mitchell never seemed to be happy.
“Look, Mitch. Come with me, in the kitchen.” Mitchell followed Julian into the kitchen and Julian got out the baby carrier from the humongous cupboard in the corner where he had stored it from when Fergus was small enough to use it.
He carefully placed Sami inside it; she was still sleeping.
“Do you know why I wanted to look after all you kids?” Julian began, not looking at Mitchell.
“You were lonely?” Mitchell guessed.
“Yes. And... after how my own mother and father treated me, I wanted to make sure that not all children lived like I did.” Julian felt Mitchell was now old enough to understand.
“How did they treat you?” He frowned; Julian still wasn’t looking at him, but holding Sami’s small hands in his.
“They beat me. Hit me with belts. It was mainly my father but my mother wanted it too. I was powerless.” Tears sprung to his eyes as he talked about his past. He wiped them away quickly.
“Sorry.” Mitchell murmured and looked away.
“It’s not your fault. It’s okay. I just didn’t want anyone else to feel how I did.” Julian choked and more tears came, remembering his father’s face as he beat him. He suddenly felt arms around his stomach. He turned as Mitchell loosened his hug.
“Mitch. It’s okay. I’m okay!” Julian smiled sadly, seeing the tears on Mitchells face.
“No. You’re not okay! You got hit!” It seemed as if his IQ suddenly dropped. Julian was the greatest person Mitchell knew, why would someone beat him?
They found there were a lot of questions in that house.
Julian sniffed and wiped his eyes.
“It’s okay.” He repeated to Mitchell who was now sniffing too.
“Thank you, Julian, for everything.” Mitchell buried his face into Julian’s stomach.
After Mitchell had calmed down a little bit, he asked Julian that, as it was such a nice day, could they all go in the pool. Julian had had the swimming pool installed before he had begun to look after children. He had made a gate around it in the large back garden so no one could fall in.
“I don’t think so, you’re still too young.” He replied, even though Mitchell had had swimming lessons with Bonnie, Eleanor and Jimmy in the pool for around a year.
“But, Julian? Please?” He looked at Julian with puppy-dog eyes and pleaded.
Julian couldn’t stand the sight of seeing Mitchell’s face like that so gave in. As Mitchell ran upstairs to get into his blue swim shorts, Eleanor, Bonnie and Jimmy asked what was going on.
“Mitchell’s going in the pool. Do you want to go in? You’ll be safe. Don’t worry.” Julian smiled at them as they, too, ran upstairs into their bedrooms to get dressed. Eleanor explained to Jimmy what Julian had just said as she usually did.
“Fergus? Everyone’s going in the pool. Do you want to come? You don’t have to go in, just sit by the side?” Julian called over the sound of the television. Fergus immediately jumped up.
“Okay. Sit by the side.” Julian had known Fergus would do this, for he was terrified of water. Even rain spooked him. Julian could never be sure why.
They walked outside together and waited on the deck chairs by the pool for the others.