Anna held her son tightly, just for a moment, partly so he wouldn't be embarrassed and partly because he smelled awfully. Then, she opened the hatch back and helped Chris load his supplies in the car. He was one big ball of dirt and stink. His equipment wouldn't even enter her house; it would all go straight to the garage and into the washer. Too bad 12 year old boys can't fit in the washer too. During the ride home, Chris filled her in on the merit badges he had completed and a few of the more exciting elements of rafting down river. He had only fallen out of the raft twice, once by surprise and, on the last day, once on purpose.
Anna couldn't imagine her son had really fallen in. He should be cleaner if he had taken a dunk. It's probably like rain on a car, just enough water to turn dirt into mud. She smiled at the idea of hosing him off, but instead continued asking questions to get as many details as possible while they were still fresh in his mind. So used to being in on all his activities, she missed it when he left her. Although, she knew it was a good thing for a growing young man to leave his mom occasionally.
When they arrived home Anna told him to sort his clothes into the colors they used to be before they all turned dirty brown. Also, to check all the pockets and turn everything right side out. “I am not responsible for anything that gets washed in your pockets and I am not responsible for any clothes that do not get clean because they are wrong side out; especially dirty, nasty, stinky, 12 year old boy socks.” This last part was punctuated by small tickles to his ribs and one last squirm causing tickle to his stomach.
Chris finally escaped his mom's grasp and ran quickly into the garage hoping to gain a better position in case she decided to try again. The washer filled and began running, Chris went inside to get in the shower. He loved camping and secretly hadn't even worn most of the clothes he had just dumped in the washer, but a hot running shower would feel good. He left his pile of clothes on the floor and stepped in to the relaxing steam.
Two days later, Anna's normal laundry day, she filled the washer with the last of the clothes in the bottom of the hamper. A whiff of body odor hit her and she realized it came from the last of Chris' camp clothes he had taken off when he got in the shower. They hadn't made it in the washer with everything else and seemed to have fermented in the two days since. Adding a little extra detergent, she started the machine and headed into the kitchen to make dinner.
“I threw the clothes you wore home on Saturday in the washer, whew did they smell awful.” Anna teased him while he chopped carrots to add to the salad. Suddenly his eyes got big and he turned quickly and asked if she had pulled any papers out of his pocket? “Of course not, you know I don't check pockets and I touch the clothes as little as possible.” Anna was a little OCD about germs and dirty clothes. Not really a “disinfect the whole house, hand sanitizer everything” kind of OCD, just a general desire to avoid anything sweaty or stinky in the hamper.
Chris jumped off his stool and ran to the washer. Lifting the lid stopped the agitation, and he searched for the faded blue jeans he had worn two days ago. He pulled a small white lined piece of paper from the pocket, shut the lid, and returned to the kitchen. He held the folded paper between his thumb and forefinger as if it might crumble if he handled it too roughly. He handed it to his mom and explained how he had met Sean at camp and how Gabe had given him their contact information so the boys could get together again over the summer if they wanted.
Anna carefully unfolded the lined sheet and squinted to make out the names and numbers slightly smeared across the page. The black ink had run slightly but wasn't really damaged by the swim it took in the washer.
Gabe and Sean Josephs
“You should call him and ask if he wants to come over on Thursday. I don't have to work and it would be a perfect chance for me to get to know him, since, his dad has already met you.” Chris agreed, and walked to the other room to get the phone to make the call.
Anna could hear the phone ringing through Chris’ ear and then a woman answered, “Hello.”
“Uh, hi, this is Christopher Wylde. Sean and I met at camp last week and I wanted to know if maybe he could, um, come to my house on Thursday to hang out or something.” Chris spoke to her nervously, but she answered enthusiastically. Sean had already filled her in about Chris and the week river rafting.
She called to Sean to ask him if he would like to go and he yelled “Yes,” followed by a loud thump. The woman explained, while laughing, Sean had landed on the hardwood after jumping off the couch in excitement. She asked to speak to Anna to arrange the details and Chris passed the phone off to his mom.
Rose would drop him off in the morning and Anna would bring him home in the afternoon before she headed to a tutoring appointment at 5pm. That way they could both avoid the heaviest traffic along the 405 past the airport. Both boys were happy with the arrangement and with it all settled the women said good bye.
“You've got to make sure your room is clean. I'll come up with something good for lunch and for you boys to snack on while you play.” Anna felt glad Chris had made a new friend, but as mom's always do reserved judgment until he met the kid and made sure he was a good influence for her son.
Thursday morning the doorbell rang and Anna met a lovely blonde woman and a cute 12 year old boy at the door. Light brown curls and green eyes assured girls would be falling over him once he was older. She invited them in and Sean and Chris immediately went into the living room and started hooking up PC's and gaming consoles, sharing wifi encryption codes, and deciding what to do first.
Rose was very kind and the women chatted for a few minutes while the boys settled in. Rose looked to be about 10 years older than Anna but it was clear she loved Sean. She shared that he had an allergy to strawberries, but nothing else, and should be fine for a full day of running around and playing video games. After a few minutes more she left and Anna went back to sewing a skirt that needed taking in and a new zipper.
The day went well and way too soon it was time to go take Sean home. Chris would come with the two of them and then have to wait in the car while Anna tutored a ninth grade girl in Algebra for an hour. She just wouldn't have time to drop him off before she had to be there so there wasn't an alternative.
The drive to Santa Monica took about 45 minutes on the freeway and another few minutes winding along streets toward the beach. When the GPS instructed Anna to turn right into a very wealthy neighborhood she stared around her amazed. She began to wonder what kind of family Sean came from to live in the multimillion dollar homes with such a brilliant view of the hills and city.
The address on the tan stucco house stood out well enough for her to see it easily, but Anna sat there for a moment taking it all in. It wasn't an overly large home, but even relatively small homes in this area cost well over 2 million. She finally swallowed hard and pulled herself from the car. The boys had already jumped out and were opening the front door by the time she closed the car door. She stepped inside the dark, solid wood door the boys had left open and Rose greeted her immediately and invited her in further. Rose told her that Sean, so excited to show Chris his room, had run off in that direction.
Anna glanced around at the Spanish style home. A large archway separated the entry from the living space and a large, dark wood beam crossed the ceiling where it led into the kitchen. The floor consisted of terracotta Mexican tile, complete with the foot prints of small animals who had ventured across the tiles before they were hardened. Heavy wooden furniture filled the two rooms and Anna fell in love with the house immediately. If she had chosen it all herself she couldn't have liked it more. However, the house seemed very masculine, without those small frufru decorating touches women usually add.
Anna complemented Rose on the house and Rose thanked her, saying how she wished Gabe would let her bring in a few more feminine touches, but it was his house, so she didn't really have much say in the matter. Anna frowned at this comment, imaging a domineering man who wouldn't even allow his wife to decorate her own home. Rose hadn't even claimed the house as her own and Anna shuddered a little thinking about how sad it is for Rose to be in such a relationship. She really hoped that type of attitude wasn't passed onto Sean, especially for Chris' sake. She had escaped that type of attitude from Chris' dad; she certainly would not allow anyone else influence her son in the same way.
Rose called the boys back in the room and Anna and Chris headed out the door. Sean pleaded for Chris to come over on Sunday and Rose calmly answered they would need to check with his dad before she made plans for a day when he would be home. Anna smiled slightly and told Rose to call her if it turned out alright for them to come. Anna and Chris had church services until 1pm but could come over for the afternoon. Rose agreed and turned to walk back into the house. Once she assured herself the door closed and Rose couldn't see her, she shut her eyes and leaned her head on the steering wheel. A small tear escaped as she thought of the type of man Gabe Josephs must be to not even allow his wife to make those kinds of decisions without his approval. She traveled half way to her appointment before she remembered 'Gabe Josephs' was the name of a popular actor. He had a hit show about ten years earlier and did guest appearances on popular tv shows from time to time. She had seen commercials for a new show he starred in. She wondered if it could be the same man.
Anna had grown up in Southern California and had attended school with a list of moderately famous child stars. A few went on to prolific careers and others fizzled. A few escaped child stardom completely and settled down to normal happy lives. Fame and fortune often brought out the worst in people, both the performer him or herself and those around them. She had little patience for those who thought so highly of themselves just because everyone else seemed to.
If Sean's father and the actor really were one in the same, that gave her one more reason not to like or trust him. She would have to be very careful of the time Chris spent at their house, with Mr. Gabriel Josephs.