Chapter Six: Someday, We'll Walk in the Rays of a Beautiful Sun
Granddad sat in the sitting room feeling paralyzed with worry and grief. If it wasn't bad enough that Rodney, his younger grandson had been missing but now Del, his older grandson had been gone since the previous day. He hoped and prayed that Del had found him and the two were on their way home safe. He didn't know what to do with himself if they didn't. Ted rubbed his forehead and drank the scotch that he took from the desk.
He swallowed more of the scotch and continued to worry. How much suffering should a person live through before there's enough? First, his marriage falls apart (alright that was his fault, but still), then his daughter-in-law dies of a horrid cancer that devoured her entire body and spirit, then his son leaves without so much a word, then his wife becomes ill with dementia and moves in with her harridan sister who refuses all contact with him under the guise of "family loyalty", and now his grandsons, the last two people in the world that were left for him to love and to love him back, were both missing. It was enough to make one crawl inside a bottle and never leave until their liver completely gives out.
Ted heard the sound of a key in the lock turning. His heart stopped as the door opened and Del appeared halfway through the door. He looked a mess, so unlike the fastidious young man who strove to impress. His clothes were rumpled and his hair was a mess. He was extremely dirty and his haggard drawn face made him appear that he hadn't slept in years. Not for the first time did Ted Trotter feel guilty about handing so much responsibility over to someone who was certainly strong enough, but much too young to bear so many multiple burdens on his back. He stood up on shaky legs and faced his grandson.
"I got all the way to Bournemouth and well-", Del said sadly. Ted lowered his head in shame and turned away. "But I did get you something. I got you a pullover. " He pushed something forward and closed the door. "Oh and there's a kid included provided you want it."
Ted didn't look at his grandson until he heard a small voice say," Granddad?" Ted's eyes filled as he turned towards Del and Rodney! He ran to the small boy and knelt down. "Rodney, thank God," he said crying happy tears as the two embraced. He felt his knees buckle but he was grateful. He looked at Rodney who looked just as dirty and pale as his older brother.
Del smiled at the two until Ted stood up and lightly punched him on the shoulder. "Why did you do a damn fool thing like tease me that way," he said. "You know I loves that boy!" Del winced in pain. "Sorry."
"Right then," Del said. He took Rodney's hand. "God Rodders you look a fright. Come on, I'll draw you a bath, get you cleaned up and get you ready for bed. Come on now!" He slapped him on the back.
"Del Boy, for once in your life stop giving orders!" Ted commanded as Del and Rodney stopped in their tracks. "You are just as done in, just as filthy, and just as injured as he is. So, you go and get yourself looked at and get some rest while I will get Rodney cleaned up and ready for bed!"
Rodney smiled and covered his mouth but still the giggles emerged. He laughed at seeing his older brother dressed down and chastized like a small child. As for Del, his mouth dropped open in surprise. But he smiled thinly and did a mock salute. "Yes sir," he said.
Peggy stared at the flight schedule from the airport lost in thought. The announcement echoed throughout the gateway at Heathrow. "Flight 637 is embarking for John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York City in 25 minutes. Please be ready to board with your boarding pass and tickets."
Don poked Peggy on the shoulder. "Peggy, I'd hate to hire another copywriter because my former one had turned into a statue."
The copywriter shook her head returning to the present. "Okay, sorry, Don." She said as she gathered her carry-on and followed her colleagues onto the flight.
As the airplane flew in the sky, Peggy glanced at the clouds going by. Pete, who was seated next to her. "I still don't get why you paid 100 pounds to a street hustler for those things."
He pointed at the necklace around Peggy's neck. She ran her finger alongside it. "Pete, you paid 600 pounds for a glass bowl at Harrods for Trudy and weren't able to get anything else. I got two necklaces and several other things. It's all about the discount."
Joan who sat next to Don had leaned against the seat. "Yes, God bless Hooky Street," she smirked calling the Peckham street by the local's name. Roger Sterling and Lane Pryce were seated next to each other. With his emphatic gestures it looked like Roger was explaining to Lane about the double date tht he and Don went on with a couple of younger Swingers. Lane looked extremely embarrassed and cleared his throat.
"Well don't cry to me if your neck turns green," Pete playfully warned.
Peggy rolled her eyes and casually moved her arm but did it in a way that she accidentally shoved Pete's elbow. He shoved her elbow back on purpose. "Hey," Peggy challenged as she returned the shove.
"Do I have to separate you two kids," Don said resting against his seat with one eye open. Pete and Peggy exchanged a playful grin and laughed. Don lowered his seat and nodded at Peggy. "The class structure in England isn't important in America, it's a new world."
"It's a new world with new people and new faces," Peggy said remembering the idea that she came up with for Mary Quant of showing young people wearing the fashions and above all in different economic structures and classes. She could see that structure evaporating in England with many performers from poorer backgrounds making such an impact in both countries and of course she saw that in Peckham with many people her own age wanting to be known and recognized."Complete freedom means an end to old structures."
Don nodded. He didn't have to say anything more. Peggy knew a Don Draper compliment when she didn't hear it. He was pleased with her idea. She smiled and returned to the view.
Peggy closed her eyes and felt her mind drift to a reverie. She felt like she was having an out of body experience. She could see herself floating inside a bedroom in a small flat. In the bedroom, she could see a small boy, Rodney asleep on a bed. His eyes were closed but he tossed and turned in his sleep. His teeth chattered and his face was red. Despite being ill, he looked as well as he could also see Del by his bedside. His arm was in a sling and his other hand was holding Rodney's. He stroked the little boy's hand and mouthed some words to him that Peggy couldn't understand but knew that they were comforting. She smiled at the happy scene.
The oddest part of this scene was Peggy could see a woman standing next to them. She wasn't seen by the brothers, but she was present. The woman had long flowing golden hair and was dressed in a beaver skin coat and red mini dress. She put her hand on Rodney's forehead and kissed him. She then wrapped her other arm around Del's shoulders and kissed him on the cheek. She embraced the two brothers. Then, she smiled right where Peggy stood seeming to look straight at her. Peggy shook her head in surprise; Despite the different hair color, the woman looked exactly like the woman who had picked Peggy's pocket that day on Carnaby Street, the one who led her to find Rodney!
Peggy felt tears fill her eyes as the woman cried happy tears. She looked right at Peggy and mouthed words that she couldn't hear, but Peggy knew was "Thank you."
From her seat on the airplane, Peggy smiled and nodded.
Del stroked Rodney's hand as he sat by his bedside. In the three days since he came home, the little boy had been doing alright mostly. Aside from a slight injury on his legs and feeling sick from lack of nourishment, he was fine physically. Del had suffered more physical injuries because of his fall on Freddie Robdal's porch. He had dislocated his shoulder and injured his ankle. He had a brace put on his ankle and a sling around his shoulder.
However, there were still some emotional and mental injuries that the brothers had gone through. Rodney hadn't yet returned to school and was very frightened and clingy when Del left the flat for longer than a few minutes. The market trader only managed to go to the auctions and markets when Rodney slept which he often did during the day. When he did manage to leave the house, Del was prepared to hear Rodney constantly ring the Nag's Head to see if he was alright. Despite his annoyance, Del was also worried about Rodney as well when he was out of his sight.
As bad as the days were, the nights were worse. Rodney was often troubled by nightmares and illness. He sometimes wet the bed and threw up as though Rodney had been reduced to an infant. Dr. Becker, the family doctor, said that this was to be expected to just let the boy rest and give him plenty of time to relax. He would recover in time, the doctor said.
Rodney woke up again covering his mouth and gagging. Del reached down and picked up the bowl by the bedside. He patted Rodney's back as the little boy vomited into the bowl. "Okay Rodders just let it out," Del said. "You will feel better. Don't try to hide it." Rodney threw up the last of it as Del lowered the bowl under Rodney's bed. The young man picked up a wash cloth that lay by the bed and washed Rodney's face with it. He then stroked his brother by the shoulders. "How did this one go?" he asked describing the latest nightmare that Rodney had.
"He left me in the vault," Rodney said. "I was alone and there was all this fire around! I heard these loud shots and I couldn't find you! I screamed for you but you weren't there!"
Del held his little brother tightly. Rodney hadn't had this many nightmares since after their mother died and their father, well Del's father, left. Now it seemed that Rodney had been reduced to that same state. "Scream all you want, Rodney," Del said. "I am here. I will always be here." Rodney eventually calmed down as his brother lowered him onto the bed. Rodney slept fitfully as his big brother continued to watch over him.
Later that night, Rodney once again struggled in his sleep. He shifted as Del woke up managing a light slumber. He felt his brother's forehead. Rodney was getting hotter and hotter. Del panicked and was about to run for the phone, but Rodney arched his back and stretched his fingers and toes. Then he hurled back and let out the loudest bloodcurdling scream ever. He then lowered his body and gave an infantile sob, not words just noise. Del picked him up and cradled him back and forth.
"Del," Granddad appeared at the door. Del looked up to see his grandfather dressed in his nightrobe and wearing his hat. It must have been a loud scream to wake up Granddad since he was the world's heaviest sleeper. "Is everything alright?"
Del felt his brother's forehead. It finally felt cooler. The fever was breaking. He turned to the elderly man. "He'll be fine, Granddad."
That night was the worst of Rodney's nightmares. He still occasionally suffered from flashbacks but they weren't as strong as they were before. The two brothers woke still dressed in their night clothes. "Good morning lads," Ted said with a deep yawn. "Breakfast?"
Del looked questioning at his kid brother, "Hungry?" he asked.
"Yeah," Rodney said delighted. Del playfully ruffled his brother's hair and shoved him. Then he raced him to the table. Rodney yelped in surprise then ran after Del. The phone rang as Ted answered.
"Hello, yes," Ted faced his grandson, but still holding onto the phone. "Del, Mrs. Burrell wants to talk to you. Should I tell her you're not here?"
Del sighed in annoyance. He waved his hand forward. "Give it here." He took the phone from his grandfather. "Derek Trotter, here." He said. He nodded and said "Yeah? When? That soon hmm? You don't leave a lot of time do you? Yeah, I'll be there." He returned the phone then faced his brother and grandfather. "Thanks to some sort of mix-up, I have to face Mrs. B., the Laurel and Hardy of the police force and for all I know the whole rotting Social Services today for the hearing at 1:00 pm." He looked at his watch. "Better get dressed for battle then."
Rodney stood up. "Del, I want to come with you."
Del lowered his brother down back in his seat. "Rodders, no, it'll be alright. I'll just talk to them for a few minutes and it will be over."
"Del," Rodney argued. "This is me they're fighting about aren't they? Don't you think I should have some say over where I live?"
"Be that as it may Rodney, you are not coming that's final," Del said. "Besides you hadn't left the flat since-" The words had come out. Both brothers paled as Del lamely finished "-then."
"True," Rodney said. Since they returned from rescuing Rodney, he had been kept inside the flat. He hadn't wanted to leave yet and Del wasn't about to force him. "But I got to leave sometime don't I? Why not now? Besides what if it goes wrong and we don't get to see each other again?"
Del shook his head. "Do you really think that after all the hell that we've been through that I would let that happen now? I faced a dangerous criminal to get you back, this will be easy by comparison." Rodney looked down at his toes with a long puppy-dog expression. His older brother sighed and brushed away a stray hair out of Rodney's eye. "Alright then, you can come. Maybe you'll soften them up a bit."
The two brothers waited in the hallway dressed in their finest suits. Rodney leaned back looking at his shoes while Del rolled the custody papers and bounced them on his knees. He looked at his gold watch. It was 1:45. He drummed his fingers on the papers. The glass door opened and a blond secretary entered. She called, "Mr. Trotter?" Del and Rodney stood up. She looked surprised as they walked forward. "Do you want your...son to wait outside?"
Del took Rodney's hand as they moved forward. "Not bloody likely," he answered as they walked into the room.
The two brothers entered the room. DI Thomas, PC Slater, and Mrs. Burrell were seated at a narrow table. Two other officials were standing guard. Del felt like he was on trial by a group of judges.
"I apologize for being late," Del said dryly.
"That will do, Derek," Mrs. Burrell remarked as she put her glasses on the bridge of her nose and consulted her notes. "This shouldn't take long. This report of the custody of Rodney Charleton Trotter; approved by myself, Ida Burrell and witnessed by Detective Inspector Mark Thomas and Police Constable Roy Slater convenes on 28 March 1966. If you sign this, Derek it would move this procedure along faster. You have the self-same copy in your possession."
Del glanced through the paperwork reading it for what seemed like the 100th time. The writing was all legal, but he knew what it amounted to: Rodney would be out of his life possibly forever. Del held on to the paper and used it to point at the police officers. "What are they doing here?"
"They are witnesses to any issues that challenge your custodial rights to Rodney," Mrs. Burrell remarked.
"And we do have some interesting information," Slater said licking his fingers as though Del were a turkey that he maliciously devoured. "Failure to report missing child to the police-"
"- I had my reasons," Del shot back.
"Derek," Mrs. Burrell responded. "It would go easier if we list all the charges and then you can challenge them."
Del rolled his eyes and waited. Slater returned to the notes. "-leading to a count of child endangerment, concerns about income leading to possible illegal activity, and at least one count of child neglect and abuse!"
Del's mouth dropped open in shock. "Abuse and neglect of all the bloody rubbish-!"
"Derek," Mrs. Burrell corrected. She removed the papers and turned to Del. "Alright Derek you may speak on your behalf." "For as good as that would be," Thomas retorted.
Del stepped forward. "First, I did not report the child missing, because for almost a day, I didn't know where he was. He could have been at a mate's house, on the streets, at my cousin's. I had no idea, I wasn't thinking straight. My only concern was doing everything that I could to find my brother. I'm used to doing things by myself. There ain't no one around to do it but me. So, my first instinct isn't to call someone else. It's deal with it alone. I didn't intentionally endanger Rodney's life, I just turned my eyes away from him. It could happen to anybody and there isn't a time when I don't hate myself for it and if I could turn back time, I would keep him next to me.
As for my income, I am making enough money to support the two of us. I can't necessarily speak of the quality of the merchandise that I sell but there ain't many opportunities out there for someone like me.I didn't finish my schooling because my mum had lost her job and I had to earn money when my father and grandfather couldn't. Then when she took ill and ultimately died, there wasn't a reason to go back to earning some useless GCSE's! No one's going to hand me anything, I have to go out and get it myself! I make no apologies for what I do as long as it puts shoes on my brother's feet, food in his belly, and keeps the lights on in our flat! Now as for the charges of abuse and neglect, I can't respond to charges that simply are not true."
"Well that's not what these reports say," Mrs. Burrell said.
"You could have several witnesses including Rodney's teacher, Mrs. Dierdre Ellison, tell you that I do not hurt my brother," Del said. "I grew up with a father like that. There is no way that I would pass that along! Incidentally, if you are so concerned about this sort of thing, where were any of you when this was happening to me? Where were any of you when my Mum was in hospital with a cracked rib, a broken wrist, and a face that looked like she had gone several rounds with Muhammad Ali? Where were any of you when I had to stand outside the pub at 8 years old walking my father home making sure that he didn't fall down or get mugged? Most of all where were you when he was hitting me until I got big enough to hit him back and make sure that he never hurt my mum or my little brother. The best day of my life was the day he left and I will be damned if I leave my brother with any reminders of him!"
None of the authority figures responded to Del's accusation. Mrs. Burrell and the two police officers engaged in a conversation. Del sat back down tapped Rodney on the shoulder. "Think we got them eh?" Rodney smiled wide, but also nervous. Del reached under the table and held his little brother's hand to stop it from trembling. Del's own hand began to tremble, so Rodney lay his hand on top of his older brother's.
The three older people returned to face the two brothers. "Derek," Mrs. Burrell began. "You are quite an eloquent young man. However, we have to consider whether this is a healthy environment to rear a small child and in my opinion and I think Social Services shall agree on this, certainly these two representatives of the constabulary do, this isn't." The two police officers nodded.
"Can I say something?" Rodney stood up.
Mrs. Burrell faced him. "I don't think that you should-" she began when Del interrupted her.
"At least hear him out and let him have his say before you destroy his family," Del said dryly.
Mrs. Burrell sighed. "Very well, Rodney, you may speak for the record."
"Ever since I can remember my brother has always been there for me," he said. "I don't even remember my mum and dad that well. I can barely recall what they looked like, but I never forget Del's face or his voice. When I had been snatched, I kept hoping that my brother would come and rescue me and he did. When I was there trapped in that house, I knew that I didn't want to be with no one else. I ain't much without him and I think he ain't much without me, otherwise why would he fight so many people to have me?" He sat back down and Del squeezed his little brother on the shoulder. Rodney somehow knew that he was right.
Thomas pretended to wipe away a crocodile tear, but then he sighed. "I think we've heard enough."
"I quite agree," Mrs. Burrell replied. "Derek, if you will please step forward."
Del stood when Rodney pulled onto him by the shoulders in an effort to keep him down. "Del, no!"
"It's alright bruv," Del replied. "I'll think of something." He yanked Rodney's hands off of him and approached the table his papers in hand. It seemed like the longest and hardest walk that he ever had to make.
He placed the papers on the table hoping for something to get him out of this. He looked at the signature line and was just about to sign, "Derek"- when his eyes fell on the bracelet around Mrs. Burrell's wrist. "That there is a lovely bracelet, Mrs. B. Diamond isn't it?"
Mrs. Burrell held it up and said. "Why yes it is."
Del nodded. "I know the craft and I also recognize the missing jewel next to the clasp. It wan anniversary present wasn't it?"
Mrs. Burrell covered her wrist. "Derek, I happen to be a happily married woman!"
Del smiled. "Well, then you ought to tell your husband that he shouldn't shop for gifts on my stand in front of his other wife!" Mrs. Burrell's mouth dropped open in shock. "And really I would think your husband would have better taste than to get cubic zirconium for an anniversary present!" He then turned to PC Slater and leaned over to the reports on Mrs. Burrell's desk. "And funny thing now that I'd seen those reports that had been filled out, I certainly recognize the handwriting that put in 'child abuse and neglect.' Looks like it was put in later, after the report was typed up. In fact I used to sit next to the hand that made it in school, didn't I Roy?"
Slater paled at being found out. "Nice bit of false information, and considering how much you know, you put it on purpose and Thomas." Del turned to the older officer. "Aside from coming to my grandfather's house, what exactly have you done to look for my brother? It's a hot case, I would think that you would do anything you could to make sure that crime doesn't end. Instead, you were sitting on your ass at an interview."
"Now see here," Thomas said.
"Call him what you will, but that man at the crime scene with you and the others with the reporter's notebook was not an officer. And how's that watch working out for you?" Del motioned to the pocket watch. "As I recall the second hand wobbles a bit." He took Rodney's hand and was ready to storm out there.
"Mr. Trotter," Mrs. Burrell yelled.
Del turned to face the three people. "And all of you have the nerve to challenge me. I am not giving up my brother without a fight. The way I see it, you have as much to lose as me. We could keep this short, but if you want to turn it into a long protracted battle, then I'm all for it, but I have just as much to say about every one of you as you do to me."
Del and Rodney waited until they left the building calmly and cooly. They took each other's hands not wanting any emotions come through keeping their expressions neutral. The two left the building and entered the van. "Now you or me?" Rodney said.
"On three, we'll do it together," Del said. He counted off his fingers. "Now."
The two cheered then clapped hands and hugged! "I think that you and I should celebrate! Chocolate?"
Rodney covered his mouth and pretended to gag. Del chuckled and pushed his brother playfully. "Alright take-away then ice cream sound good?"
"Yeah," Rodney said delighted.
Later that night, Del sat on the sofa dressed in a plain white t-shirt and black night trousers. He had showered and was reading the paper cross-legged. Rodney entered wearing his blue Don Dare pajamas and rubbing his eyes. "You're up," Del said. "You have to get some sleep you know. Mrs. Ellison already threatened to send two perfectly sharpened Number Two pencils up my nether regions if you didn't get in class tomorrow."
"I couldn't sleep," Rodney said.
"More nightmares?" Del asked putting away the paper and moving his legs so Rodney could sit next to him.
"No just thinking about a lot of stuff," Rodney said. "I was remembering about Freddie-"
"We don't have to talk about him if you don't want to," Del said.
"I want to though," Rodney replied. "He said he was my father."
"He said a lot of things," Del said. "You can't believe a word of it."
"But is it true?" the boy asked.
Del squeezed Rodney's shoulder. "Rodders, Freddie Robdal was a liar. He would have said anything to make you side with him. Remember, he said that I wasn't coming for you didn't he? If he was wrong about that, then who knows what else he was wrong about? Thing is, you have to decide whether you believe it or not."
"I don't think he wanted to hurt me," Rodney said. "I just think he was lonely."
"Well it's done now you don't need to concern yourself with such a liar, con man, homewrecker, and cheat," Del said. "You just need to concern yourself with someone that you thought would be mad that you called a bird."
"Huh?" Rodney asked until Del pulled the memory book from under the newspaper.
"I found it in your school bag," Del said.
"You liked it?" Rodney asked.
"It was the best Mothering Sunday present that I ever got," Del grinned as he hugged his younger brother.
"It was the only Mothering Sunday present that you ever got," Rodney reminded him. "But it isn't finished yet." He ran into his room and exited holding a piece of paper. He handed it to Del as he opened it to see Rodney's sketch of their mother. "Freddie showed me her picture. Is it right?"
Del smiled as his eyes filled. "It looks quite right. Well, maybe Freddie Robdal wasn't all bad." He said grudgingly, after all no matter what he did: Rodney now knew his mother.
"He wanted to me to call him Dad, but I didn't want to," Rodney said.
"I know, Rodders, I know," Del assured him.
"I didn't want to, because I already have the bestest Dad in the whole world," Rodney replied. "Even if he can be a git at times!"
The tears that filled the corner of Del's eyes now fell down his cheek. He shook his head. "Get to bed you little plonker," he choked out.
Rodney jumped up from the sofa then returned to bed. He then headed back to Del and hugged him across the neck. Del then squeezed his brother's hand in return.