Cory was glued to the TV when Richard returned from Mark's office.
"How about some lunch?" Richard asked interrupting Cory's TV world. "Let's go out and stuff ourselves and then I think we need to go shopping for some clothes for you. I didn't think you can go back to your dads to pick up anything right now. If you have anything that you really need back there, we can work on it. But for now, let's make a clean break from your past and look forward to your new future."
"OK, but what about my dad?" Cory asked. This was more important than having lunch right now.
"Okay. I guess I'm getting ahead of myself." Richard had to get his words in order, because he knew that what he was about to say and ask was going to rock Cory's world.
"All right, turn off the TV. There are a few things I need to tell you, and some things I need to ask you."
Cory knew that something big was about to happen, something he knew he wasn't prepared for. He was not prepared to go back to his father and dreaded this conversation. He told himself that he was going to have to be prepared to run again.
Richard took a chair across from Cory, watching him for a moment.
Richard began, "Cory, would you like a home, one that you can feel safe in?"
That took Cory by complete surprise. He had been prepared for Richard to tell him that he had to go back. But then the thought of a real home, one that he felt safe in, one that he might even be loved again in, shook his sensibilities. He'd thought that was never going to happen, because no one wanted a teenager. If Richard had found him a home...Cory couldn't finish the thought.
"Yeah, more than anything, I guess. Have you found someone who I can live with? This is awfully quick."
"Yeah, I think I have."
Richard had to watch Cory's reaction, because he knew that this would be crucial.
"How would you like it if you could stay here?"
Cory's eyes lit up. He hadn't expected that. What he had expected was that he'd be brought back to Plymouth to his dad, or that he'd be turned over to the state. He didn't like any of those prospects, but now, this was something new. Cory liked Richard but didn't know him very well yet. He was skeptical of this man. He felt safe enough when he was with him, but Cory was also a teenager. Teenagers don't trust adults. But Cory also knew that he didn't have much of a choice. He needed a place, any place that would keep him away from the abuse that was back in Plymouth.
Richard saw Cory's smile return and knew that he was going to accept this.
"You're serious, aren't you? You want me to stay here?"
"Yeah, I do, if it's okay with you."
Cory wasn't sure of what to do. He knew that he didn't want to go back to Plymouth, and he also knew that if the state took him, he'd be given to someone who he didn't know. Here was Richard, and Cory had gotten to know him, a little anyway, and liked what he'd seen of him so far.
"But, why? Why are you doing this? You don't even know me," Cory had to ask.
"Well, you sort of grew on me. That's the main reason and I think you need a little help right now."
Cory sat quietly for a moment, not taking his eyes from Richard. He was thinking about his options. He could run again but then where would he go? He had no money, had no place to sleep, so that didn't sound like it was a good option. He'd run away last night without thinking and the thought of doing that again terrified him.
He could let Child Services take him, but they might just bring him back to Plymouth. To Cory, that was no option at all. He was not going back there. That option also terrified him.
Cory continued looking at Richard. He didn't know him that well yet, but, for some reason that Cory didn't understand but only felt, he didn't feel threatened by him. Maybe this was his only option, he thought.
"Okay. I guess I feel safe enough here and you've done a lot for me already. So, yeah, I'll stay."
Richard knew that Cory had just given in and was going to take a chance with him. He also knew that he was taking a huge chance with Cory. He hoped that he wasn't wrong. He felt that this boy was okay.
"Okay. That's settled then. But there's some more I have to tell you."
Cory continued listening.
"Dr. Stone had seen your back and knew what had happened to you. He was bound, not just by the law, but because he cares. He has to file a report about your abuse. I asked him to hold off for a couple of days so Mark and I could work something out. When I told my attorney what had happened to you, he immediately called Social Services to get you away from your dad. He's filing an injunction right now to keep your dad away from you. While I was there, he also called the Plymouth police to have criminal charges filed against your dad. He wants to have some pictures taken of your face and back as proof of what has happened. Your dad broke the law. What he did to you should never have happened."
"I know. Will I have to testify against him or something? I really don't want to see him again."
"Maybe not. We'll have to let Mark decide that or work out what he can. Maybe all you'll have to do is talk to the prosecutor."
"I hope that's all I have to do," Cory said as he turned his eyes from Richard.
"Anyway, Mark called Dr. Stone and asked him to file his report immediately, and he's going to do that. Then I asked him to call Social Services again. We were trying to get them to find a place for you to live. This is where I felt a little, ah, unsettled. You see Cory, when all this was happening at Mark's office, I kept thinking that I didn't want to see you shuffled off to someone that I didn't know, or that you didn't know. Over the hour that I was there, I had made up my mind that I wanted you to stay with me. Well, the thought actually started occurring to me back at the doctor's office. When Dr. Stone told me what had happened to you, I guess that started me thinking. Like I said Cory, you've grown on me. I kinda like you."
Cory's face turned slightly pink. He was not used to hearing that someone liked him.
"I'm not certified as a foster parent, so I didn't think there was much of a chance for you to stay here. I was pretty sure that the state would have to find somewhere else for you to live. But it turns out they don't have enough certified homes, so we worked out a deal."
"Yeah, they're going to let you stay here on an emergency basis until they finish the certification process. They're going to rush it through, and it should take no more than a few months. I need to be interviewed, the house needs to be inspected, that sort of thing. They need to check me out. They weren't going to go for it right away, but they agreed to the emergency home if I could file two-character references. Mark and Dr. Stone agreed to do that for me. So, when they fax their letters to Social Services, and they agree, then it'll be up to a judge to rule on it. Then it'll become official."
"So, this is really real? I mean, I have a home?"
"Yup, Cory, you have a home. Well, you will when the judge signs off on it."
Richard had just crossed his Rubicon. There was no turning back.
"Hey, how about that lunch and a little clothes shopping?"
"Sure, but one thing though."
"Just, well, thanks. You're taking a chance with me, aren't you?"
"Yeah, I am. And I think you're taking a chance with me too, aren't you?"
Cory looked down to the floor for a moment, but his eyes returned to Richard.
An understanding had just been made between the two. They were going to get to know each other.
"Come on Cory. Let's get in the car and celebrate at the mall."
"I'm already outta here."
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