Title: Once Upon A Time (Cecil)
Description: Discovering Cecil
Cecil Haldor - February 24, 2012 06:29 AM (GMT)
[January 6, 2005]
“He’s changed and we can’t handle him no more,” came the plaintive voice of Loraine Smithers. “He used to be such an open easy boy to connect with and now...”
“Now what?” Bess Kardighan was beginning to wonder what was going on with her cache of foster parents. As a social worker she had them all sorted by lists. Maybe she shouldn’t have, but since it was out of her hands who got approved and who didn’t, she tried to keep strict tabs on the ones she dealt with and made sure that the kids she put in foster care were getting the best the state could manage or at the very least that /she/ could manage.
Cecil had been a difficult case and one that had stolen her heart from the beginning. He was gifted with the strangest colored eyes the doctors had ever seen and they’d never been able to come up with a reason for what they’d glibly labeled a ‘birth abnormality’. They were a delightful shade of purple. Not blue...not green...not brown... or even hazel. Purple. Odd as it was, it wasn’t the color of his eyes that had shattered every arrangement for adoption. It was what the adoptive parents classified as that ‘strange, knowing look’ he had, like he was looking through their soul. People like that made others uncomfortable when they were adults. Apparently a child with that sort of talent was just considered plain out creepy.
Cecil Haldor - February 24, 2012 06:31 AM (GMT)
Cecil stood at the window down the hall from the social worker’s office. It had taken quite a bit of effort to get here. The Smithers had been a determined pair, wanting to forgive his minor sins and gloss over his mistakes and just hang on to him. He couldn’t allow it. He was changing in so many ways and he didn’t think he could be the same person he’d been when they first took him in.
And then there was Cynthia.
At first they’d just been friends and while he was determined that they’d stay that way she seemed to be equally as determined that he would be her first boyfriend. She was nice. She was sweet. Pretty even. But she wanted something that Cecil couldn’t give. He’d allowed her to get too close as it was and now... Well, now he needed to get away before she discovered there was more weirdness to him than a pair of oddly violet eyes.
The pang he felt at the memory stung his eyes and he forcibly pushed it aside. She had been the only one who not only accepted the strangeness about him, but encouraged him to embrace it, convincing him that it was cool to be unique.
Had it stayed that way he might have taken her up on her suggestion, but eyes were the least of his differences now. With a scowl he turned and rubbed his back on the corner of the window. The damn thing itched like nobody’s business.
Cecil Haldor - February 24, 2012 06:33 AM (GMT)
They’d given up trying to place Cecil. Times had changed quite a bit over the years and yet there was still a lot of superstition in the area regarding things and people that simply didn’t look right. Bess thought it was ignorant foolishness, but the state had eventually settled with shifting the boy around through the foster care system in the hopes that somewhere along the way someone would actually take the time to get to know him and forgive him for looking different.
And then that silly Nadene Boswell had to go out and buy the boy a pair of colored contact lenses. There wasn’t a damn thing wrong with his eyesight. Bess had steamed about it for weeks. Bad enough the boy had trouble fitting in, but to make him self aware of the fact seemed a sin against him in no small way. Of course she couldn’t deny the instant affect it had on soothing others into believing he was absolutely normal - which he was BEFORE they’d gone and covered his eyes - and yet somehow she could feel him withdraw. Children didn’t know these things until they were pointed out. That’s pretty much why it always got worse as they got older. Nadene had simply given the poor boy a jump in that direction. Granted he would have figured it out on his own eventually, but Bess would have preferred it had been with a sight more maturity and a helluva lot less vulnerability.
He’d adjusted though... eventually. She knew he’d grown a little cynical in the process, but she thought they’d managed to weather that one well all things considered. Still, Bess made it abundantly clear that NO cosmetic changes were to be offered to foster children WITHOUT the express approval of the state and that wouldn’t come without a doctor’s intervention. It would have been better if Cecil had learned to accept himself as he was before he had to give a rat’s ass about what anyone else thought.
“And when you say he’s less easy to connect with you mean...?” Bess prompted, trying not to let her aggravation show in her tone of voice.
“Well for starters, suddenly every damn thing we do is funny,” Buddy Smithers shot back. “I won’t live in a house with a boy that makes fun.”
Lorraine looked on the verge of tears. “And we... I mean I... I think he’s done something to Cynthia.”
Cecil Haldor - February 24, 2012 06:34 AM (GMT)
She kissed him.
In the moonlight. In his bedroom. In her nightie. He could remember how her lips felt - soft and warm and just a little wet. But the stronger memory was the feeling of her breasts brushing against his chest with very little between them. Something had stirred within Cecil at the contact. It was as if an animal inside had been violently awakened and he wrapped his arms around her and held her so close that he could feel her heart beating against his. There was no feeling like it. He was shaken down to the very depths of his soul, his innermost being laid bare. It was such a feeling of total vulnerability like standing on the edge of a cliff looking down into paradise and knowing that in order to get there you were going to have to make the most frightening leap of your life into a world you could never leave once you’d arrived.
But he hadn’t counted on the wings....
Cecil Haldor - February 24, 2012 06:37 AM (GMT)
Wait. Done something? Bess didn’t like the sound of that. “The last time I saw Cynthia and Cecil together they were about as twinish as their names suggested. What makes you think he’d do something to her and while we’re on it what ‘something’ are we referring to?” She wasn’t going to like this. She /knew/ she wasn’t going to like this...
She saw him long before he saw her. Bess Kardighan paused at the end of the hall to study one Cecil Haldor. He’d grown quite a bit over the years into a rather handsome young man. She’d seen the way the girls would look at him - that was UNTIL they got to know him. Honestly she didn’t understand it. When she spoke to him he was polite. There didn’t seem to be a damn thing wrong with his manners. So why...?
He was standing with his arms folded across his chest and his head tipped forward to rest against the glass in front of him. There was something in his stance that screamed ‘defeated’ and she wondered if he were watching the Smithers leave the building and walk toward their station wagon. If there was one word she could write a thousand times in Cecil’s file it was the word ‘loner’. And yet she had thought he’d broken through some of that with Cynthia. Then again, she’d worried about the boy-girl scenario from the beginning. Young people on the cusp of puberty didn’t always react well to their developing feelings and...
Until she actually spoke with Cynthia herself she wasn’t going to believe a word they’d told her. It simply didn’t make sense.
With a soft sigh that went all the way down to her toes she started forward and closed the distance between them to stand on his right and just behind him. “You all right?”
Cecil Haldor - February 24, 2012 06:38 AM (GMT)
“Peachy.” He raised his head and straightened his posture. Never let them see you with your feelings exploded from your guts. In a fraction of a second Cecil’s whole demeanor changed. Gone was that defeated posture as if it had never existed. “So, who’s next on your list?” The last thing he wanted to talk about was the state of his feelings. That was none of her business.
“Cecil, this isn’t a game,” she told him. “At the rate you’re going we’ll have to turn you over to the Catholic Nuns at St Michael’s.”
“That would be a different change of pace,” he said with a hint of a smirk as he turned to look at her. It was hard - oh so hard - to regain his footing knowing she’d had a peek into his soul before he was aware she was close enough to see. The only way to save himself now was to turn on the charm and the wit and possibly a little of the obnoxious arrogance.
“Really?” She looked him in the eyes the way she always had even before he started wearing his colored lenses. “Really, Cecil? Do you have /any/ idea what I go through on your behalf? It was what... not even two years with the Smithers? I thought for once we were going to make this work.”
“It wasn’t my idea,” he told her flatly. “I was all for going the distance.” Let her choke on that.
She looked at him. Really looked at him. And Cecil could well imagine that this was the closest thing he’d ever feel to having a mother. Bess may not have lived with him day in and day out but he’d known her since he was old enough to remember and her intense honesty had a way of crashing through his barriers like no other could. “I was,” he insisted, but the words were a little weaker in inflection and he despised himself for it. “I just... it...wasn’t...” He shook his head. “They’ll be fine,” he added, looking back out the window. And they would be. If there was one thing he got about foster parents it was their innate ability to shrug off the past child and put on the new.
Cecil Haldor - February 24, 2012 06:39 AM (GMT)
“It’s not /them/ I’m worried about.” Bess put her arm around him. In the past he’d always leaned into the half hug if no one was around, but this time he pulled away. Her brows both rose in surprise. “Did something happen that I ought to be aware of, Cecil? Whatever it is, you know it’ll come out in the end. You might as well tell me now.”
There was a distant look in his eyes and then he turned his back on the window as if divorcing himself from the entire situation. “There’s nothing to tell, Bess. Nothing at all. I just... ceased to be a fit in their household.” He paused for a moment then added, “That’s all.”
Somehow she didn’t believe it. But then she didn’t believe what Lorraine Smithers had told her either. The truth was almost always somewhere in the middle. “How do you think Cynthia’s going to take this?”
She saw him flinch at the mention of the girl and her brow furrowed. “Cecil?”
Cecil Haldor - February 24, 2012 06:39 AM (GMT)
“I don’t give a rat’s ass how she’s going to take this!” he snapped. Why was it his business to care? And why the hell couldn’t he breathe? He turned back to the window, tipping his head forward to let his forehead rest against the cool glass and keeping Bess at his back. Paradise was crumbling fast and even if he had made the leap over the edge and into a world of promised pleasure the wings would have carried him back. The wings would always carry him back. He didn’t belong and he never would and there was no sense in pretending, not anymore. In fact, he liked it better when he didn’t care.
He’d gotten too close to humanity.
He’d lost his objectivity.
He’d never do that again.
Drawing a breath Cecil let it out slowly and schooled his expression into a more nonchalant attitude. He was going to have to be downright mean to get Bess off his case. She was the one person who could read him like a book and he hated that. He was better when he didn’t let anyone in too deep. Keep them all outside where they belonged.
“Can we just move on?” and it came out as a strangled half snarl as he turned back to face her.
He was terrible at this.
He was terrible at this with her.
Cecil Haldor - February 24, 2012 06:41 AM (GMT)
He was struggling and Bess wasn’t a shrink. Oh, she had a little child psychology in her background, but it wasn’t enough to be playing God. And since she couldn’t risk plunging deeper, she threw him a lifeline. “Should I call Dr. Morro?”
The tension sagged out of him and his chin lifted, the mischievous light in his eyes on high beam. It was an inside joke between them. Dr. Morro had seen Cecil on her first day with the department and had consequently mixed him up with another foster child in the system. Instead of informing the befuddled psychologist of her mistake Cecil had played along for more than an hour before it got out of hand and Bess had to step in. After that, Dr Morro had refused to see him again. The woman had no sense of humor.
“Would you be so kind?” came his reply with a twist of the lips that told Bess he was making the attempt to come out of whatever ‘funk’ he’d fallen into.
She returned his smile with an equally mischievous one of her own. “First thing on my to do list, right after putting out the fires of hell.” No way would she ever put Cecil in the same room as Priscilla Morrow ever again. She needed that second psychologist with her case loads. It wasn’t worth riling the woman, but it was so much fun to suggest. Lord, what did that say about her?
Cecil Haldor - February 24, 2012 05:06 PM (GMT)
[January 8, 2005]
“His name is Professor Samuel Greene,” Bess told Cecil as they drove into the foothills surrounding the university. “He has a Ph.D in Literature with a specialty in cultural mythology.” She paused in her window gazing to focus her eyes on him. “He’s a widower and he has no children. He’s all alone in a big house and wanting to share his life with a young person like yourself. I haven’t been able to place any foster children with him, though, because most couldn’t handle the solitude in an area where they aren’t likely to see many people their age except at school. You, however...”
He’d wanted this. He’d practically begged her for it and while Dr. VanHorn didn’t think it would be good for him, Bess was willing to try it Cecil’s way for once. Maybe if he found some common ground with the aging professor it would do them both some good. Besides, he was fifteen now and he wouldn’t be in the system for very much longer. Still...
“Are you sure this is what you want?”
Cecil Haldor - February 24, 2012 05:08 PM (GMT)
Was he sure? Was it possible to be sure about anything? “It’ll work,” he told her with a sense of certainty to put her mind at ease. Cecil was simply biding his time. He had roughly two and a half years before the foster care system of the state of South Carolina dumped him from their books and declared him a legal adult, capable of taking care of himself. Then and only then would he be completely free.
One look in Bess’ direction and the thought actually frightened him a bit.
“Don’t worry about me,” he said, forcing a smile to his lips. “I’ll be fine. This will be the last place you have to leave me before you can write me off and out of your life. Promise.” And maybe that was putting it on a little too thickly. She looked as if he’d sparked tears in the corners of her eyes. He saw her make a mad attempt at hiding the way his words had affected her by pressing the corners of her eyes and muttering something about the sun being too ‘bright and cheery’.
They parked in the little circle outside the Professor’s narrow two-story house. Cecil got out and followed Bess up the front walk to the door. Before they even reached it a graying man with a cane opened it and with a broad smile invited them both inside. There was something about the professor and Cecil found he liked him right off the bat. This was going to work out just fine.
Cecil Haldor - February 24, 2012 05:11 PM (GMT)
[July 15, 2005]
“Watch that one.” Samuel Greene and Cecil Haldor were sitting on the front porch of the professor’s house watching the foot traffic between the residents and the university beyond. “That’s Jeb Clemente. He’s walked this way to work for the last ten years and every single day he stops at the little blue house on the corner just to fix the gate. What he doesn’t realize is that Mia Jones who lives in the house has taken a fancy to him. I think the first time she left the gate partially open was an accident. But ever since he stopped to fix it she’s been playing on the poor man’s OCD every day.”
Cecil had gotten used to Professor Greene’s unusual sense of humor. He seemed to think the most entertaining thing on the planet was to people watch. In fact, he said people were more interesting that birds. Birds were pretty, no doubt, and they had their own set of habits but it was nothing like the habits of man. “Do you think she’ll ever say ‘hello’ to him?” Cecil asked as he leaned forward in his chair, forearms resting against his knees and a bottle of chilled IBC nestled between his hands.
“That’s a good question,” the professor responded with a wry twist of his lips as he turned to look at Cecil. “What do you think? Will she ever screw up her courage and confront Jeb or will she simply continue to mess the gate up every day of her life?”
“Maybe she’s hoping he’ll get frustrated enough to come say something to her?” Cecil suggested as he lifted the bottle to his lips and glanced sidelong at Greene. He could tell, though, that the professor didn’t agree with his ‘possibility’ and added, “Why not?”
“Because it’s simply become part of his daily routine. He doesn’t dwell on it beyond the gate nor consider what’s behind it all. He simply fixes it and moves on.” The professor sat back in his chair and shot a look at Cecil. “How about an experiment?”
And that suggestion made him grin rather broadly. Bess wouldn’t approve, but she wasn’t present and Cecil loved the professor’s ‘experiments’. “What do you want me to do?”
Green laughed and clapped him on the back with a broad grin. “What did I ever do without you?”
The question was met with silence. Cecil’s grin faltered slightly for a fraction of a second and then was quickly back in place as he looked up with mischievous eyes and repeated himself. “What do you want me to do?”
“Tomorrow, after Mia has screwed up that gate again and before Jeb comes along... go out and fix it.” Greene emphasized his words with a point of his IBC in the direction of the gate.
Cecil laughed. “That’s genius...”
Cecil Haldor - February 24, 2012 05:14 PM (GMT)
February 5, 2007
“It was a good party, wasn’t it?” Professor Greene asked as he joined Cecil on the front porch and leaned over the railing to look up at the stars. Out of the corner of his eye he studied the young man beside him who’d spent a little more than two years in his care. They’d gotten to know one another fairly well and yet Samuel knew there was still a part of Cecil that was well hidden, held back; a part of Cecil that Cecil didn’t trust anyone else to have. Samuel hadn’t pressed for any big reveal. The young man was entitled to his secrets and now that he’d turned eighteen he was officially entitled to tell the world to “f*ck off”. In fact, Bess Kardighan had been at the party to finalize the paperwork and release Cecil from the foster system and the state altogether. He was a ‘free man’ in every sense of the word with no one to answer to and a life stretched out before him. Bess had let Cecil know that even though he was no longer under the state’s authority that she would always be there for him if he needed her and not to hesitate to ask; and Cecil - being the guy that he was - simply nodded in gracious acceptance and said not a word. Samuel knew, however, that Cecil would never reach out to accept that hand. If anything, the young man seemed relieved to finally have that hand let go.
“A very good party,” Cecil murmured in agreement.
There was something bothering the young man. It was evident to Samuel in the way he was standing and the guarded expression on his face and even the way his shoulders curved slightly forward as if the weight of the world were resting upon them.
Cecil Haldor - February 24, 2012 05:19 PM (GMT)
Free. Official. Adult.
Cecil considered the three words separately and then together as he leaned over the front porch railing. Professor Greene had come to join him and was asking about the party like he was afraid he hadn’t done a good enough job when the party in itself didn’t matter. Truth be told it was the best party Cecil had ever been given and he was more than grateful to the man whose shadow was thrown across him by the front porch light.
The problem was...
He’d been yearning for this day since he could remember and yet in the last couple of years inside this house with this man Cecil hadn’t felt the desire to run or flee or break away. Oh, he’d left plenty of times to wander off in the dark at odd hours and without telling the professor; but this house had always had an open door. A welcome warmth. A place of genuine acceptance.
But how could that be?
The professor didn’t know a damn thing about the wings that insisted on spilling forth at least once a day nor the green and gold scales that caught the light and shimmered across Cecil’s back when he didn’t have his shirt on and he didn’t know about the violet eyes or the odd abilities Cecil seemed to have acquired. He didn’t know anything about any of it and yet somehow he managed to make Cecil feel that it wouldn’t matter; that he would be accepted anyway. In spite of that feeling he never put it to the test. He never told. He was too afraid of losing the one safe haven he’d managed to find in the span of eighteen years.
“You know, just because you’re eighteen now doesn’t mean you have to pack up and run off,” Green was saying. “I like having you around, Cecil. I’d miss you terribly if you went. So stay... stay as long as you like.” He shifted and turned to point up at the second story window that belonged to the room Cecil had lived in for the past two plus years and went on to say, “That room will always be there and it will always be yours. Even if you do decide you’d rather travel and leave the old man behind promise me you’ll remember that there will always be a room here at my house for you... no questions asked.”
Cecil blinked. His eyes were positively stinging with the emphatic entreaty and his teeth were practically embedded in his lower lip to keep the wash of emotion he was feeling on the inside where it belonged. It took him several minutes before he could find his voice and with a bit of throat clearing he agreed, “I promise.” And as an afterthought he tacked on, “Thank you, professor.”
Cecil Haldor - February 24, 2012 05:22 PM (GMT)
Samuel smiled. He could tell his offer had had the desired affect and he casually brought his hand up to give the young man’s shoulder an affectionate squeeze. He didn’t have to belabor the point. He knew by the sudden release of tension beneath his fingertips that Cecil had accepted his words as honest and true and had taken them to heart. Considering the perpetual wall the young man had erected around himself it was flattering to know that he’d gotten close enough to trigger even a small show of emotion.
“Oh, I almost forgot,” a HUGE lie. Samuel had been waiting for this one all day long. “I have a present to give you.”
“A present?” Cecil half turned and lifted an eyebrow.
With a nod of his head Samuel reached into his pocket and pulled out a set of keys and dangled them in front of Cecil’s face. “Happy birthday, my friend.”
Cecil Haldor - February 24, 2012 05:24 PM (GMT)
It took him a moment of fumbling and a shared bit of light laughter between them before Cecil got the keys close enough to understand what they were and when he did his eyes widened and he looked at the professor in something akin to awe. He was afraid to say it lest he misunderstood completely and yet it had to be said even if it did come out like a question. “A car?”
“What? You thought I taught you to drive for my own pleasure?” There was a seriousness in those eyes that couldn’t be denied as the professor answered his own rhetorical question “Don’t be silly, Cecil. It occurs to me that a young man such as yourself having graduated from high school and been declared an official adult is in serious need of a means of transportation. Whether you go to school or work or wherever, you’re going to need a way to get there and since you won’t let me put you through school at least let me do this for you. Okay?”
He should have said ‘no thank you’ considering what cars cost; but he couldn’t do that to the professor. It was obvious by that look that this gift meant a lot to him. And so, Cecil simply gave the elder man a gratified nod of his head and curled the keys into his fist.
“Well, c’mon... you simply must take me for a drive.”
Cecil grinned and let the keys dangle free from between his fingers. “Lead the way.”