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Legal stuff still counts..

Chapter 50: Moving On

Craig watched his brothers do most of the work. From time to time one of them would have him hold something for him, or would decide to teach him something, but his foot would start hurting after a while and he'd have to sit down. His back and stomach seemed to be doing better; he wasn't having the pain he'd been having before. There was some baseboard that had to be pulled away from the wall to be replaced, and Jerry handed him a claw hammer, had him sit on the floor and showed him the easiest way to get the task accomplished. He was actually enjoying listening to his brothers' stories at they worked. He laughed when they teased Jerry about being such a perfectionist and Bobby and Angel got into a fight about who had had the most girls after them in school. Jerry just shook his head and continued working, though Bobby and Angel seemed to have to stop their work to argue.

Craig had felt his mind saving pictures throughout the evening. Good memories that he could get down on paper and keep forever. He was glad to finally be able to concentrate on something good for a change.

It was getting close to nine o'clock when Jerry announced he was going to have to go. "We got quite a bit done tonight." He nodded with satisfaction as he looked around the room. "Now, so long as the truck shows up on time in the morning we'll be set."

"Yeah, Jerr' we'll see you at what time?" Angel asked.

"About nine thirty." Jerry started picking up tools and cleaning up.

"Leave that. Get home to your wife." Bobby spoke quickly. "We'll get that."

Jerry didn't argue with the offer, he only warned Bobby he didn't want to find the mess still there when he arrived the next morning. Bobby had Craig help them pick up the tools and use the broom on the floor.

It was after nine thirty when Bobby took him upstairs to his room. "You think you can sleep okay on your own tonight?" Bobby asked. "Ma's room is kind of cold and I don't want you getting sick. Your bed is too small for two people."

"Yeah, I'll be okay." Craig answered. He hadn't had any nightmares, and the fear of the dark seemed to have subsided so he didn't see any reason for having to sleep with Bobby. "Can I keep my light on?" He asked after considering the fact he hadn't slept in the dark for a while.

"Yeah, you can keep your light on, and you can keep the door open. Me and Angel have a few more things we need to be working on downstairs, if you need anything you yell." Bobby watched Craig change into clothes to sleep in. "You're on restriction, don't forget that. If you step one foot out of this room you're in for it. If you need to take a piss, or want a drink of water you yell and one of us will come up."

"Okay." Craig nodded his head as he got into his bed. "Can I draw for a while?" He asked without lying back in the bed.

"No, you cannot draw for a while, you look tired, go to sleep." Bobby shook his head. "You ain't had one of your little naps today, so you won't have any problem sleeping."

"Just for thirty minutes?" Craig pushed. "I'm really not that tired, and I…"

"I said no. Don't push it. You'll have all the time you need to do your pencil scratchin' tomorrow." Bobby shook his head. "Go to sleep."

"But…" Craig started to tell Bobby that it would help him to relax, but the man cut him off with a loud voice.

"You want to argue with me?" Bobby looked surprised.

"No, I just…" Craig started again, suddenly regretting opening his mouth.

"I never gave you that ass beating for all the shit you pulled at Jerry's, you want that now? You need to be reminded that when I tell you something you fucking listen to me?" Bobby's voice sounded strained. "I thought I would be able to let that one go, since your ass was already tore up and you started talkin', but if letting that one slide has given you the idea that you can argue with me I will give it to you right now. You still got that one hangin' over your head, don't forget it."

Craig looked away from Bobby, surprised that his eyes were starting to pool with tears. "Sorry." He muttered.

"Lay your ass down." Bobby still spoke with the warning in his voice, "Right now before I take off my belt and start burnin' your backside."

Craig lay back in the bed, letting his head rest into the pillow.

"I'll check on you, you'd best be asleep." Bobby walked out the door without saying another word.

Craig rolled over onto his left side, putting his back to the door. He was mentally kicking himself for screwing up. He should have just done what Bobby told him, without questioning it, but he had the urge to draw, and he truly hadn't meant to be disrespectful to the man, he had simply thought that they were getting along good and Bobby would understand if he explained it to him. He drew in a shaky breath and wiped at the few tears that had managed to slip out after Bobby left the room. He closed his eyes and tried to go to sleep, like Bobby had told him, but he wasn't feeling tired at all. His heart was racing, and that little voice in his head was telling him he had screwed up, he'd let himself feel comfortable with his brothers and he should have known better.

He rolled onto his back and looked up at the ceiling, wondering if he was ever going to understand where it was he was supposed to fit in with his brothers. He'd thought he had reached that understanding, but out of nowhere Bobby got pissed off at him. His common sense told him the opposite, Bobby's temper was short, and he knew that. He knew not to try to argue with him. But then the other side to it was that he wasn't trying to argue, he'd just thought if Bobby understood, he would let him have just a little time to unwind, and get some things out of his head before he tried to sleep. Common sense was telling him he was making too much of an issue out of it, Bobby was like that, and he knew it. But the little voice contradicted that with the fact that Bobby had been like that with him when he was little, and he had always known then that the man didn't want him around. Craig was afraid of his brothers going back to ignoring him, and not really liking him were resurfacing and he struggled to fight them back.

His brothers did care, or they never would have come after him, right? They'd said they cared when he was younger too. But the little voice seemed to be winning out over the common sense in most of the argument. If they cared, why did they get so pissed off so easy? Why did they ignore him when he tried to tell them something, like Bobby had just done when he tried to ask if he could draw? Asking to draw wasn't asking for too much was it? He didn't understand why it would have been such a big deal for him to draw for a little bit, to get the memories he'd stored throughout that evening down on paper and give his mind a chance to unwind.

Nearly an hour went by before Craig heard footsteps on the stairs. He rolled over, putting his back to the door and closed his eyes, pulling the blankets up over his shoulders. He prayed which ever brother it was didn't step any further than the door. Bobby had said he'd better be asleep when he checked on him, and he didn't want to be caught awake, for fear of getting the whippin' Bobby had threatened. He was surprised that he was actually able to let his breathing relax enough to even out, and was relieved when he heard the creaking at his door but no further. He heard when the man walked away from the door, and let out a shaky breath. He stayed on his side, and kept his eyes closed. He didn't hear the retreating steps go back down the stairs; they went on down the hall to the restroom. He assumed it was Bobby, but it could have been Angel. He knew if one brother had come upstairs the other wasn't far behind, and it was best to just stay where he was, and not move. He kept his eyes closed and soon his suspicions were confirmed when he heard more steps on the stairs. This time he listened to them come to his door, across the floor and felt someone sit on the bed. A hand rested on his forehead, and he almost flinched at the touch, but managed to hold it in. The hand moved to his arm and gave it a gentle pat before the presence next to him stood and walked out of the room. Craig was certain that was Bobby. He remained still as he listened to both of his brother's voices in the restroom. Angel yelled something about privacy, Bobby said something about his turn being next, and Angel had better hurry. Craig couldn't make out all of the words, but part of them.

He felt his mind starting to drift as he listened to the muffled voices and the sound of the shower running through the wall. He felt even more confused by the fact that when Bobby had left, he'd been pissed, but when he came back, he'd seemed calm, and had felt his forehead as if he were concerned about him. He'd even patted his arm before he'd left the room. He wondered if the man knew he was awake and just hadn't pushed it, or if he had actually managed to fool him. Bobby wasn't as easy to fool as Jerry, but it wasn't likely he would have let Craig get away with being awake after being told he'd better get to sleep.

As he drifted to sleep, his mind was still batting around the argument it had been waging about his brothers, and the confusion he felt slipped into his sleep along with him. He could feel himself tossing and turning, and his mind was running pictures of his brothers, making up the worst possible scenarios for his brothers not wanting him. He'd wake for a few moments and then fall back to sleep with the visions in his head progressively getting worse each time. One dream had Bobby throwing him out of the house, and then the next had him driving him to his father and handing him over to him there, saying he didn't want him, that he screwed up too much and he didn't fit in with the rest of his brothers. Another part of his mind would scream at him that Bobby would never do that, he loved him and he would take care of him. It all seemed to build in intensity through the night, until he woke with a jolt in the early morning hours. He woke to find himself sitting in the corner of his room, behind the dresser. The clothes basket that he normally kept in that small space was dumped in the middle of the room. He was shaking, and he felt wet from the waist down. His mind was still spinning in the haze left over from his dreams, and it took several minutes for him to realize he had wet himself. It took several more minutes for him to make his body move. He stood slowly, and started to call out to Bobby, but stopped himself. Bobby would get pissed at him for waking him up, he was sure of that. He wasn't supposed to leave his room either, but he was sure that he could get to the restroom, get cleaned up and get back to bed without Bobby ever knowing. He moved to the dresser and got out clean underwear and sweatpants. He stepped to his bedroom door and listened for any sound from anywhere in the house. It was silent. He stepped quietly to the restroom, turned on the light and closed the door.

He turned on the shower and pulled off his clothes as quickly as his shaking hands would let him. He washed everything from his waist down quickly and then dried off and dressed. It didn't take him more than two minutes he was sure, but in that short time he had managed to concentrate on the task at hand and that seemed to calm him. He carefully picked up his wet sweatpants and underwear and made sure to grab the towel he used to dry his body and pulled to door open to find Bobby standing there looking as pissed as the man could look. He didn't have a chance to say anything before Bobby smacked the wet clothes and towel from his hands and grabbed his arm. He was too stunned to try to say anything as Bobby pulled him back to his room. He was thankful that Bobby didn't have his belt on, by the look on the man's face if he had it would have been much worse. Bobby sat on the bed, pulled the boy down over his knees and pulled his sweatpants down to reveal underwear.

"Bobby, please, I'm sorry, I…" Craig finally found the words, but Bobby ignored them and started the hardest spanking the boy had ever gotten from him. It seemed to last forever, and when Craig thought it couldn't go on much longer Bobby's hand seemed to pick up speed and force. Unlike the last time Bobby wasn't counting out his swats to his ass, and Craig had no idea how many he'd received. He only knew that Bobby hadn't been lying about burning his backside, it felt as if it were on fire by the time the man stopped. He was bawling like a small child, so hard that he found it hard to breathe.

Craig moved to pull his self free of his brother, but Bobby pushed him back across his lap. "I didn't say you could move." Bobby spoke stiffly. "That was the ass beating I told you had hanging over your head. I want to know what the fuck you thought you were doing out of your room before I light your ass up for disobeying me."

Craig felt his muscles growing weak as it registered in his mind that this wasn't over. "I didn't want to wake you up for something stupid." He managed to choke out between his sobs.

"Why were you out of your fucking room after I told you not to leave it?" Bobby's voice rose slightly.

"I peed." Craig muttered.

"You pissed yourself?" Bobby asked.

"Yes." Craig continued crying.

"Why?" Bobby gave him one hard smack on his ass.

Craig tried to swallow at the sobs, to make them stop, but they were too strong.

Bobby didn't ask again, he started the new round just as hard as the first and didn't stop until Craig cried out, "Bobby, please?"

"Tell me why you pissed yourself." Bobby stopped for a moment.

"I was having some dreams." Craig admitted.

"What were the dreams about?" Bobby pushed.

"I don't remember, I swear." Craig spoke quickly.

Bobby started in on his already stinging ass. Craig tried kicking now, not sure how much more he was going to be able to take. "Bobby I don't remember them!" He cried out. "I don't remember!"

Bobby finally stopped, grabbed Craig's arm and jerked up to sit on his knees. "You look at me." He still sounded pissed.

Craig looked up at Bobby as best as he could through the tears, not that he had much of a choice; Bobby still had a hold of his arm and was pulling him to face him.

"Now I want you listen to what I'm saying. I'm not gonna give you no more warnings. Next time you fuck up I'm putting you over my knees and I'm gonna make it hard for you to sit for a very long time. I'm not screwin' around with you, I'm not gonna give you the chance to start your shit on me again. No more lying or sneaking around behind my back. You have a nightmare you yell for me. You are not gonna hide that shit form me anymore and then scare everyone by taking off. You piss yourself, you had better yell for me. I'll take you in and let you get cleaned up, but you do not go on your own. You are on restriction, and you know what the hell that means, I'm pretty sure it was made clear to you the first time. I thought you'd feel better sleeping in your own fucking bed, but I guess I can't even let you out of my sight for that, can I?"

Craig didn't try to answer. He just sat on his knees crying.

Bobby stood, pulling the boy up to his feet as he rose. "Pull up your pants." He told him, his voice a little calmer than before.

Craig reached with his shaking hands and pulled his pants up quickly. He'd barely finished the task when Bobby pulled him out of the room, down the hall, and into their mother's room. Bobby didn't wait for him to crawl into bed on his own; he pushed him onto the bed and slid him across to the wall. "Lay down on your stomach. If you aren't asleep in ten minutes I'm gonna beat your ass again and I want it in easy reach." He warned.

Craig lay on his stomach, keeping his head turned away from Bobby who got into bed next to him. Bobby left the light on and rested a hand on the boy's back.

"Calm down. You're okay." Bobby spoke quietly after a few minutes of the boy's crying continuing.

Craig tried to stop crying, tried to make his mind stop spinning. That little voice in his head was telling him he would never be able to do anything right as far as Bobby was concerned. His brother was never going to like him. Bobby had told him he loved him, but as Craig thought about it, he was starting to realize that Bobby might love him, that didn't mean he liked him.

After a few more minutes Bobby's hand moved across him, grabbed hold of his arm, and pulled him onto his side, sliding him closer to him. "It's okay Craig, calm down." He sounded worried now. "You don't have a damn thing to worry about, so long as you do what I fuckin' tell you to. Okay?"

Craig nodded his head but couldn't get a voice out to speak.

"Good. Now calm down. I ain't gonna spank on you any more tonight as long as you go to sleep." Bobby spoke in that calm voice that had seemed to work on the boy in the past. "You know I don't like doin' that. I don't like whippin' your butt. I let it go before because I don't like doin' it. But if I tell you it's gonna happen if you don't listen, and you still don't listen, then I don't have much of a choice, now do I? I will dish it out to you little boy, but I don't like it. And every time you get one it's gonna be worse than the last one. So do what I tell you and you'll be fine." He hugged the boy a little closer to him.

Craig cried himself to sleep after some time. Bobby kept his arm around him, and when the arm did move Craig felt himself roll over into Bobby and hold onto him, but he couldn't stop himself.

The next morning Craig woke to Bobby shaking him. He opened his eyes and the room still felt dark. It took a moment for him to remember he was in his mother's room, and the windows were covered with boards and plastic. He sat up slowly, looking at the clock. It was eight o'clock. Jerry was supposed to be there at nine thirty. He looked at Bobby, who was fully dressed, and had apparently had his shower already.

"Get up, come on. You need to get your bath and eat before Jerry get's here." Bobby motioned for him to get out of the bed.

Craig moved across the bed, still half asleep. As soon as he moved his ass started hurting. He must have made a face, because Bobby nodded his head. "Yeah, you're gonna remember to listen to me for a few days, aren't you?" He spoke calmly, but sarcasm dripped from his voice.

Bobby took him in for his bath, and applied the cream afterwards. He let Craig take care of the bandage on his foot, but he didn't mention the bright red color of Craig's hurting ass. Bobby gave him a bowl of cereal for breakfast and Craig ate it without any urging from Bobby who was drinking his coffee. Angel was already up and in the living room, watching T.V. Craig kept waiting for Bobby to say something about the night before, but the man never did, but then Bobby wasn't saying too much to him anyway. He spoke just enough to tell him what he wanted him to do, but that was it. Craig was fine with that for the moment. He felt a little odd and didn't want Bobby to catch onto it. He was angry at himself for screwing up and angry at Bobby for spanking him. He was angrier at himself for letting himself feel so comfortable around his brothers, when he knew he needed to keep a little distance. He didn't want them to get tired of taking care of him. He had to make the job easier on them, he knew that.

When he was done eating Bobby told him he could help get the kitchen cleaned up. It didn't take long, and both of them were soon in the living room with Angel. Craig wanted his sketch pad but didn't want to ask if he could go get it. He sat on the chair in front of the fireplace while Bobby and Angel sat on the couch. He watched the T.V. and listened to his brothers discuss what time the truck was supposed to arrive with the supplies they needed. He found out by listening that Angel had called Jack already and told him they wouldn't be there to visit, but they would call throughout the day to check up on him.

The truck arrived ten minutes before Jerry, and Craig found himself sitting on the front steps, watching his brothers help unload the materials onto the front lawn. He had to move a few times so that the windows could be put on the porch. There were bags of concrete mix and sand, lumber, bricks, boxes of nails and screws and cans of paint. There was a table saw as well. It needed to be set up, but it was a good sized saw. Craig watched them unload, and then Jerry signed some papers once he was certain everything was there. Craig walked over to the pallets of bricks and kicked at them. He felt disappointed, they weren't quite the same as what had already been on the porch, but they were close.

Bobby walked up next to him. "You feeling any better yet?" The man asked.

Craig looked up at Bobby, "I guess." He muttered.

"It'll be okay Craig, I promise." Bobby put an arm across the boy's shoulders and pulled him into the house. "Let's get warmed up and then you can help me put this big ass saw together." He smiled.

"Okay." Craig muttered, feeling a little less tense. At least Bobby didn't seem pissed at him at the moment.

Sofi showed up about noon and made spaghetti for lunch. Craig ate, though he could feel a knot forming in his stomach. He was able to ignore the nagging feeling that he was going to do something to screw up having his brothers as long as he stayed busy. Bobby seemed to be in a better mood now, he smiled and laughed and joked, and he included Craig in the conversations, so did Jerry and Angel. When they made their calls to Jack, Craig was given a chance to talk to him. Craig told Jack he couldn't wait for him to come home, and Jack seemed to pick up on something in his voice. He asked Craig if he was okay, and the boy told him yes, he was fine.

That afternoon Bobby had Craig help him carry lumber over next to the saw and stack up certain sized pieces in different areas. Jerry then gave him the task of sorting through bricks and stacking them up on their pallets in the order that Jerry wanted them. Craig's foot was starting to hurt by the time the sun was starting to set, and he was feeling a little cold. Jerry and Angel had managed to get some of the windows and frames out of the front porch by the time they went in, and Bobby had cut some of the lumber up to be ready first thing in the morning.

When they went inside Bobby took Craig up and told him he could have a shower and get ready for bed. Craig thought it seemed kind of early, but he didn't have the nerve to question it.

Bobby seemed to be reading his mind. "You don't have to go to bed yet, you can bring your doodle book down with you and after you eat you can curl up on the couch and draw."

After Craig had his shower and Bobby had applied the cream the man sat on the bath tub and watched while Craig put the bandage on his foot. "Kid, are you okay?" Bobby finally asked.

Craig looked up at Bobby and nodded his head. "I'm sorry about last night." He muttered the words quietly.

Bobby drew in a deep breath. "Me too," He spoke quietly. "Look, Craig, I'm not a parent, and tryin to be one is hard, but I gotta try. You gotta listen to me when I tell you shit. You understand that right?"

Craig went back to the task of bandaging his foot. "I know." He muttered. "I didn't mean to…"

"Stop right there. Don't tell me you didn't mean to. I know better." Bobby still sounded calm. "You want to tell me the truth, then I'm all ears, but I don't want to hear the bullshit from you." Bobby shook his head. "That will just get me pissed again and then we'll both be feeling like shit for the rest of the night."

Craig looked at Bobby and felt the conflict in him trying to surface. He didn't want to say anything; that little voice in his head told him he needed to keep his mouth shut and keep the distance between his feelings and his brothers. But his mouth moved before he could stop it. "I didn't want to wake you up because you were already pissed at me. I didn't want you to get mad again." He muttered.

"You know I want to know if you have dreams Craig. I need to know that. I should've had you come in with me last night shouldn't I?" Bobby asked. "You still can't sleep by yourself. That's okay; I'll just keep you in Ma's room until you can."

"But…" Craig swallowed back the words that were on the tip of his tongue.

Bobby stared at him for a moment before asking, "But what?"

"I didn't dream about what happened." Craig muttered.

Bobby's eyebrows rose slightly. "You told me last night, while you was lyin' over my lap that you didn't remember what you dreamed about."

Craig nodded his head. "I don't remember all the details." He muttered.

"Then what was your dream about?" Bobby asked.

"That you decided you didn't want me." Craig spoke the words quickly and looked back down at his foot, fingering at the bandage he'd just applied to his foot.

Bobby moved over to crouch right in front of the boy, and took a hold of his chin, lifting his face to look at him. "Kid, you can't keep thinking shit like that. You are stuck with me. There is nothing that is going to change that."

"You have to do everything for me. I feel useless. You're gonna get sick of it after a while and…" Craig started, and the tears welled up but didn't fall. "I don't want you to hate me."

"Craig, I was pissed, that don't mean I hate you. If I didn't care about you, I wouldn't care if you were sleeping, or eating, or up in the middle of the night with nightmares, now would I?" Bobby spoke quietly. "You gotta stop the bullshitting with me, and we'll be good. That's all."

"But I don't mean to." Craig countered. "I really don't." He was being honest. "I get scared and I think I can make it better if I handle it myself." He muttered.

"I know. I understand that. But you can't make it better by handling it yourself. It only gets worse. Just like when you went for your little walk at Jerry's. You ended up lost and scared and hurt. I'm not gonna take the chance on that happening again. So I'm not playin' with you on this. I told you before, I don't want to be the mean ass big brother and spank you every time I turn around, but that's the only thing that seems to get your attention. I see you're feeding me bullshit about anything and I'll put you right back over my knee, I won't give you no warnings, and I damn sure won't give you no second chances. I know that don't work with you."

Craig nodded his head. "I know."

"You aren't going to feel like this forever Craig. In a few weeks it won't be as bad, and you'll be able to talk about it a little more with us. In a couple of months it will be a little better, and you'll want to talk more, and you won't be so scared of every little thing. We'll just take it one day at a time, and we'll get through this. It's going to be okay." Bobby leaned over and gave him a quick kiss on the forehead. "Now come on, let's go get that paper book of yours and get downstairs to eat." Bobby gave him a small smile.

Craig felt a little better but inside he still worried that Bobby would change his mind, that all of his brothers would change their minds. After eating salad and warmed over spaghetti Craig was able to sit on the couch and draw. He let himself get lost in the sketches of his brothers working on the house. His mind thought of one moment when Angel and Sofi had been off to themselves and he put the picture of the two of them, faces close, talking, down on the paper. It was a good picture of them both, he thought. His fears started to stir as it got closer to the time that he was sure Bobby would make him go to bed. He started letting the imagined fears out onto the paper. The visions from his nightmares the night before flowed out onto the paper with no hesitation. He prayed Bobby was right, that the fears that kept creeping into his head would stop. He was tired of feeling so small and helpless. He wasn't a little kid, but he felt like it, and his brothers treated like one because he acted like one.

A little after ten Craig had pretty much drawn everything that he'd felt he needed to and he rested his head back on the couch, ready to fall asleep. Bobby nudged him only after a few minutes and told him it was time to get to bed.

Craig was surprised at how easily the sleep came once he was in bed. He slept well, except for the few times the nightmares would try to start. Bobby would wake him with a shake when he started to toss and turn in the bed. He'd tell Bobby he was sorry, and the man would tell him not to worry about it.

The next morning when Craig woke his toe was throbbing. He sat up in the bed and pulled his legs out from under the blankets. He held onto the throbbing end of his toe, despite the fact that it wasn't there. Bobby stirred a few moments later and looked at him. "Your foot hurt?"

Craig nodded his head. "The end of my toe hurts." He muttered. "I can't rub it because it's not there." He knew it sounded stupid, but it was the truth.

Bobby nodded his head. "The doctor said that could happen." He yawned and got out of bed. "Come on. Let's get you into the tub. Maybe a good soak in some hot water will help."

Craig was surprised that soaking his foot in the bath did help. Bobby told him he needed to take it easy that day and not do as much, to give his foot a break. "You can sit on the steps and get us shit when we need it."

Jerry showed up with his family about nine o'clock, and the men started working as soon as Jerry was there. Jerry was in complete control it seemed; even Bobby did what Jerry told him without any argument. The neighborhood kids started gathering on the street around ten. The morning was unusually warm for mid December, and the street was clear for first time in weeks. It was a perfect day for a game of street hockey. Craig sat on the steps, watching the game, and his brothers, and from nowhere a feeling of peace seemed to fall on him. He would get tools from the toolbox when he was asked to, and he helped Bobby carry a little of the wood. Jerry let him lay a few of the bricks, teaching him how to use the 

level to be sure the bricks were where they needed to be. Craig found himself babysitting Daniela and Amelia for a little while when Camille and Sofi went to the store, just before lunch. He was teaching the girls how to make snowballs, but Jerry put an end to that pretty quick, saying he didn't want snowballs flying in the middle of them trying to get some work done.

They went in for lunch at twelve, and were back outside by twelve thirty. The game in the street had broken up and Craig watched his brothers working more closely than he had before. He wasn't surprised that even building came naturally to them. They worked together as if they knew what each other were thinking. It was no different than anything else they did together. He hoped that some day he could feel enough like them to be able to work with them the same way.

The afternoon seemed to go by quickly. The kids started up another game around four, and were laughing and yelling at each other. Craig watched the game; almost wishing he could join in with them, but he knew there was no way Bobby would let him. He stood from the steps and walked over to Bobby, who was carefully cutting wood. The man looked at him as he finished his cut and turned the saw off, "Ya need somethin'?"

Craig shrugged his shoulders. "I'm bored." He muttered as he looked at the game in the street.

Bobby turned and looked at the children running up and down the street with their sticks, laughing and yelling. He looked at Craig. "Your foot ain't healed enough for street hockey. Besides, you're still on restriction." He spoke with a slight laugh. "You want to help me here? I'll show you how to run the saw." He picked up a pair of goggles and offered them to the fourteen year old.

Craig took the goggles and put them on. Bobby pulled him over to stand in front of him and reached around him with his arms. "You need gloves on your hands." He pointed to a pair of work gloves lying on the table that was holding the saw. "Put those on."

Once Craig had the gloves on Bobby started pointing out the different parts of the saw. He placed Craig's hands where they needed to be and explained about how to change the angle of the saw for certain pieces of wood. He kept his hands held over Craig's as they cut the next piece of wood. Craig liked the feel of he saw under his hands, or maybe he just liked the way it felt with Bobby's hands over his, teaching him something besides hockey. He found himself relaxing and laughing when Bobby cracked a joke. Bobby let him stay there with him for the next hour and a half, and the time went by much too quickly for the boy.

Camille let the girls come outside a little before five and told Jerry to keep an eye on them while she and Sofi got dinner ready. Jerry just smiled at her and said no problem.

It was almost five thirty when Angel actually got the first window in on the front porch, but all of the window frames were in place, so it wouldn't be much to get the rest of the windows in. Camille and Sofi appeared in the door way, and Sofi looked at the men. "Okay, okay, no more work for today." She called out.

"That's right, come in the house, wash your hands." Camille spoke as Angel moved across the porch to stand behind Sofi, putting his arms around her.

Jerry put down the shovel he'd been using to mix up concrete and moved towards the steps. "Dang, a little to eat," He stepped up in front of Camille. "Time to eat, I'm starving." He gave her a kiss as he reached her."What did you cook?" He asked.

Camille smiled at him and looked at her daughters. "You too, come on girls." She called and turned to go into the house.

Jerry waited for his daughters. "Come on babies." He spoke as they started up the stairs.

Craig watched them go into the house, but shifted his attention back to the cut Bobby was guiding him through on the wood. Bobby turned off the saw after the cut and pulled his hands away from Craig's.

The ball from the game rolled over at that moment. Bobby pulled off his goggles and dropped them on the table before bending over to pick up the ball. He turned and walked up to the kids moving towards him. "Here you go." He held the ball out and Darnell's older brother took it.

Craig took off the goggles he'd been wearing, assuming since Bobby had removed his that they were going to be heading in. He put them down next to Bobby's on the table.

"Evelyn isn't coming back, is she?" Darnell spoke the words to Bobby with no warning.

Craig looked over, suddenly feeling a pang for his mother.

"No, she's not coming back." Bobby confirmed for the boy.

"It's because she's dead, huh?" Darnell's brother asked.

"Yeah, it's because she's dead." Bobby's voice was quiet. He drew in a deep breath. "You guys have fun, alright? No rough stuff." He turned to Craig. "Unplug the saw from over there. We'll put it up after we eat." He pointed to where the orange extension cord ran to the outlet on the side of the house and turned to walk towards the steps.

Craig moved to the outlet, and looked up at Bobby, who had stopped on the sidewalk and was looking at the house. The man stood there for a long moment, and then a small smile crossed his lips. "I'm thinking about it, Ma. I'm thinking about it." He spoke the words quietly, but he did speak them, Craig was sure of that. He wondered what his brother was talking about, but he was sure that whatever it was he was saying it to their mother. He was thankful that he wasn't the only one who seemed to talk to her, or hear her voice, it was comforting in fact. He pulled the plug from the outlet and let it rest on a brick to keep it out of the snow before walking back over to Bobby, who turned to take one last look at the game just as the boy reached him. Bobby looked down at him and dropped his arm across his shoulders before walking him up the walk to the steps, and into the house. Craig felt a sense of calm as they walked through the door, despite the fact that the house was crowded with people. That was his family, his brothers, and he never wanted to lose them.