Kenny : Part Two

(Part 2 from 6)

And with that remarkable adult insight that Kenny possessed he said quietly, “I’m not a child any more, Mum. And now I’ve found a life I’m happy with.”

“Happy?” she sobbed blankly. “How can you be happy, here? How could you----” she gulped and forced herself to speak more firmly, “---d- do those things like that man said? You’re so young. You should be out, enjoying your life, going places, having a girlfriend……..and what about Ginny? You were happy with her.”
Kenny gave a slight shake of his head.

“No, Mum. I wasn’t really happy with Ginny, that’s the point.” He lowered his eyes from her face and stared at the floor for a moment. “You can blame my fa---- you can blame him for that. I am what he made me. I’ve accepted that. And now, here, in this new home I have, I’m happy with it.”

Mrs Noble stared at him. “But- but--- you have to do things...” She shuddered and the cup rattled on the saucer. She looked down as if seeing it for the first time, slowly lifted the cup and took a sip.
Kenny’s hand went to her other wrist and held it gently. His voice was low and earnest.

“Mum, you must try to understand. I don’t HAVE to do anything. Anything I do, I do because I want to. It’s MY choice. It’s all MY choice. To live here, is MY choice. I can leave anytime I wish. Or I can stay. It’s MY choice. I have a nice home here now. I have my own room, my own things------”
“Things?” she murmured blankly.

Kenny regarded her for a moment. “Come and see,” he said quietly, and he stood and held out his hand to her. Her hand shook as she replaced the cup and saucer on the table, and allowed herself to be pulled gently to her feet.
Kenny led her slowly to the door of his room, and I silently moved to the door of the living room to watch. Kenny opened his door and led her just inside.

“See, Mum? This is my room. These are my things.” He opened a drawer and showed her piles of neatly folded clothes. Another drawer containing T-shirts, all clean and neatly put away. A third drawer and he showed her the shirts and the matching ties.
But I noticed he kept his hip pressed against the drawer which I knew held his special, erotic clothes. He opened the wardrobe door and gestured to the trousers and jeans hanging inside, and the grey suit.

Mrs Noble gazed wonderingly at the clothes and then her gaze moved to the rest of the room, seeing the small items resting on the table, the bottle of after shave, Kenny’s CD player and discs, the laptop computer I’d bought for him, then his watch. She moved and picked up the watch, looking at it sadly, then replaced it. Her gaze went to the bed.

“You sleep here?” she whispered, and turned to look at him.

His eyes didn’t stray from her face as he answered her.
“Sometimes, Mum.”

But that silent admission of Kenny’s was too much for her, and her shoulders began to shake again as she covered her face once more and sank onto the bed.

“No, no, don’t cry any more, Mum,” Kenny murmured, and he put an arm round her shoulder and half lifted her from the bed.
“Come and sit down.” He led her back to the sofa and I resumed my silent place by the bookcase.
“Drink your coffee,” he said, and placed the cup in her shaking hand. She drank it all in one go, and Kenny refilled it, his free hand holding one of hers. He pushed the cup and saucer nearer to her on the table. She took some fresh tissues and wiped her eyes.

“Oh, Kenny!” she whispered. “I don’t know what to say to you. I don’t know what to do!” She paused and her gaze roved round the room, passing over me, and most other things, unseeingly. But then she noticed the clock and her eyes rested on it.
“Look at the time!” she whispered. “Now the last train has gone, and I don’t have a hotel room any more. Samantha will be worried.” Her fingers twisted the tissues again as she stared at the clock and her voice was the faintest of whispers as she spoke.
“Oh, I’m so tired. It’s been such a shock.” She started to shiver, and I knew the adrenalin was fading from her system, and a different type of shock was setting in.

“Why don’t you stay here, Mum,” Kenny murmured. “Stay here and sleep in my room. I’ll be here in the morning for you. You can have a nice rest,” he finished soothingly.

Her gaze turned to wander over his face.
“Stay here?” she murmured. “Sleep here? In your……” She tailed off and new tears ran down her cheeks. “But that means you’ll be sleeping in--- next door -- in that room ------”

Kenny took both her wrists and held them gently and moved his face closer to hers.
“Mum,” he said softly, “if you had caught your train and gone home, I would be sleeping in ‘that’ room. If you left now and could go home, I would sleep in ‘that’ room. If you go to another hotel for tonight, I would sleep in ‘that’ room.” He paused, and then added in the same soft voice tinged with a firmness, “Because I choose to!”

And he waited. Mrs Noble stared at her son, her shoulders heaving as she still sobbed, trying to take in his words.
And so Kenny had said, for what seemed like the hundredth time, “Don’t cry now, Mum, please.”


Mrs Noble gave a small nod. “I’m so very tired,” she said. “I- I- don’t know if I can sleep, but I would like to lie down. May I--- Kenny, may I use the bathroom?”
Kenny took her to the bathroom and she closed the door behind her gently.

I went to Kenny and put my hands on his shoulders, giving them a squeeze. He looked tired himself.
“I would move your things out of that drawer,” I whispered. “If your Mum happened to see them...” and Kenny nodded, ran into his room and gathered up the contents of his special drawer. Quickly he dumped them in my room and shut the door as he came out. He looked at me beseechingly.

“You don’t mind, do you, Desi? Please say you don’t mind?”
“Of course I don’t!” I whispered back. “It’s the best thing. You look after her while I clear up a bit. Talk to her in your room for a while until she falls asleep. If she can.”
Kenny nodded. I went to the hall and picked up his mother’s case and took it into his room.

Mrs Noble came out of the bathroom. She had evidently rinsed her face and appeared to be feeling a little better, but her eyes were puffy and her face was drawn and pale. She sat down again and drank the coffee Kenny had poured for her.
“Mum, call Aunt Sammie if you want.” He pulled his mobile phone from his pocket and offered it to her.
“You’s your phone?” she asked wonderingly.

“Yes, Mum. It’s my phone.” He slid it open gently thrust it into her fingers, and with the occasional sniff and a final wipe at her eyes, Mrs Noble dialled a number.
“Samantha? It’s me. Yes, I’m fine. I’m sorry to call you so late, but I missed the train……..yes, I’ve found Kenny.”

I could hear the loud exclamation from the other end.

She went on, her voice quavery. “There’s such a lot to explain...I can’t tell you now...yes, he’s fine. He’s ----fine,” she repeated, looking at him, and I wondered if she had intended to say something else, and then changed her mind. “Look, I’ll explain everything when I see you. I’ll let you know when I’ll be at the station. Yes...yes.. it’s okay. Really it is. I know I sound a little upset...but it’s okay. I’ll see you soon. Yes... Bye.” She handed the phone back to Kenny and he slid it shut and put it on the coffee table.

“Come on, Mum,” Kenny murmured. “Come and rest.” And he led her into his room and closed the door behind them.

I busied myself clearing away the coffee table and went into the kitchen. It was time for them to be together, alone. I finished washing up and leant against the sink, inhaling deeply on a much needed cigarette. I waited until it was finished, checked the living room once more and then went into my room, undressed and got into bed. I smoked another cigarette, waiting to see if Kenny would come in, but he didn’t and I could hear the occasional soft murmur of voices from his room.

I decided that work would have to do without me the next day, at least in the morning. If Kenny decided to leave and go with his mother, I at least wanted to be here to say goodbye, whether Mrs Noble liked it or not. And if that was the case, I admitted to myself ruefully, I wouldn’t feel much like going in to work at all.

Eventually I dozed off.
Some time later I felt Kenny sliding into bed beside me. He lay on his back without touching me, and I turned to see the ghostly outline of his face in the darkness.

“Are you okay?” I whispered. I sensed his nod.
“Yes,” he whispered back. “I’m okay.”
“And your mum,” I asked.

He shrugged. “I think she’s okay now,” he said. “At least, better.”
We were speaking in the quietest of whispers and I could hear faint sobs still coming from next door.

“I can’t do any more,” Kenny said, his voice full of apology.
“No-one expects you to,” I reassured him. “Try and get some sleep. I won’t go to work in the morning.”

He turned suddenly and assumed his favourite position with his head on my chest and one arm round me.

“I don’t know what to do!” he whispered in an anguished voice, unconsciously echoing his mother’s words. “If I go with her tomorrow, you’re going to be so upset! And if I stay with you, she’s going to be so upset! Oh, Desi, I just don’t know what to do!”

“You must do,” I answered him, “what you want to do. Not what anyone else wants you to do. Life isn’t always fair. Sometimes it’s a right bitch. Sometimes you can’t help upsetting one person to save another’s feelings. So now, sleep. And tomorrow, you do exactly what you, yourself, want to do.”

I felt Kenny’s head move as he nodded silently against my chest. And then he turned on one side with his back to me.


I woke very early next morning, long before the alarm went off. Kenny was still sleeping peacefully and I carefully eased myself out of bed so as not to wake him. Switching off the alarm so he wasn’t disturbed by that either, I took my clothes, carefully checking that Mrs Noble wasn’t around, and went to the bathroom to get dressed. I didn’t shave or shower because I didn’t want to wake either of them.

In the kitchen I quietly made myself a strong cup of tea and sat smoking thoughtfully. I considered whether I wanted anything to eat, and decided I didn’t feel like it just yet.
It was quite some time later when Kenny wandered in, also dressed respectably, yawning widely.

He looked very tired and he came to me and gave me a hug and a kiss, and those gestures meant a great deal to me that morning.
“Morning,” I murmured. “How are you feeling?”

Kenny shrugged. “Not too bad. I didn’t sleep that well.”
“Do you want some breakfast?”

Kenny pulled a face. “Not really. I’m not very hungry.”
“Me neither,” I said.

Kenny made himself a coffee and sat down at the kitchen table. He glanced round towards his room.
“No, not yet,” I forestalled him.

We sat in silence for a while, Kenny occasionally glancing round to listen for sounds of his mother appearing.
“You’re not going to work?” he asked.
“No. Well, not yet,” I answered. “I called.” And I gestured to Kenny’s phone, now lying on the kitchen table.

Kenny nodded and began to toy with it, swivelling it round and round with his fingers. I wanted to ask him the question so much, but I’d decided not to. It was right that he should tell me, in his own way, and when, what he had chosen to do. If he’d reached a decision at all. He made himself another coffee and me a second mug of tea, and then lit us both cigarettes.

“What time was it when you came to bed?” I asked him. “I didn’t look at the clock.”
“After two,” he said.

So they’d talked for a considerable time after I’d gone to bed. Kenny seemed very introspective, staring at his phone as he toyed with it, occasionally raising his eyes to glance at me.

“It was a difficult evening, wasn’t it?” he said eventually.
“Yes,” I acknowledged. “But I think most difficult for your mother.”

Kenny just nodded slightly. “Poor Mum,” he said. “I wish I could make her happy again.”

A cold feeling formed itself into a ball in the pit of my stomach. There was only one way Kenny could make his mother happy:- he knew it and I knew it. I said nothing, but perhaps some of my feeling showed on my face because he suddenly reached across the table and put his hand on my cheek in that familiar, warm gesture that he used so much.

“Poor Desi,” he said. “It must have been horrible to hear what she was saying and know what she was thinking about you.”
“Not very pleasant,” I murmured in agreement. Kenny stroked my cheek and then withdrew his hand.

And at that moment we both heard his bedroom door open, and Mrs Noble appeared at the kitchen doorway. Kenny got up quickly and went to hug her.

“Morning, Mum,” he greeted her. “Come and sit down.” He led her to a chair and she sat, looking round at the kitchen. She had changed her clothes, but she was pale, drawn and there were lines on her face. Her eyes were still puffy, but at least there were no signs of tears this morning.

She watched as Kenny made her some tea and gave it to her. She cradled her hands round the mug and looked down into it.

“Do you want something to eat?” Kenny asked, but she shook her head. Silently she drank some tea, then put the mug on the table. She looked at her son, then reached for his hand, lying on the table, and I could see she was squeezing it tightly.
“How are you feeling,” Kenny asked in a whisper.

Mrs Noble paused before answering, looking at him with her eyes roving over his face.
“Better,” she said. “Thank you. I didn’t sleep very much, I had many things to think about, but I do feel a bit better.”

And then she visibly straightened up in her chair, and I saw her shoulders lift and straighten. Without letting go of Kenny’s hand she turned to me and her eyes looked me full in the face.
“Mr ---Mr---,” she stopped, swallowed and tried again. “Derek. It seems to me---” again she had to stop and swallow, “---it seems to me that I may have misjudged you a little.”

And I knew that those words were probably the hardest words she had ever had to say in her life.
I inclined my head towards her in a gesture of thanks, but I didn’t speak. Mrs Noble visibly pulled herself together again.

“Kenny has explained a lot of things,” she said, not taking her eyes off me, her voice quiet but resolute. “I understand---” another of those deep swallows, “---- I understand that your feel----- your rel-----” but she couldn’t bring herself to say either of the words and she drew a deep breath and cast around for another.

“I understand that the situation here is not what I first thought it was. Not what I was given to understand.” And she let out her breath and looked at Kenny.

I am not a violent man, by any means, but the thought flashed through my mind that if ever Jed was unfortunate enough to bump into me again, I would make sure he fully understood the cold anger that I felt inside me. Understood it and remembered it all his remaining life.
But I was careful to let nothing of this show on my face as I inclined my head towards her again, and this time murmured:-
“Thank you Mrs Noble. I am glad you understand that.”

She looked at me again.
“My son has made me understand,” she went on, “that if he hadn’t met you, he would ---- he---”

I reached out and covered her other hand with my own for a few seconds.
“You don’t have to say anything more, Mrs Noble,” I murmured softly. “If you can understand what Kenny has explained to you, then that is enough. You don’t need to say more.”

She looked down at the tea, picked it up and drank some. Then she looked at me again.
“Yes, I do,” she said. “Kenny has made me understand ----made me believe, that he is very happy here.” She paused and looked hard at me with a searching gaze. “My son’s happiness --- is the most important thing to me,” she said, still struggling with some of the words. “More important than my own feelings.”

I glanced at Kenny for the first time in a while. A tear was slowly rolling down his cheek.

“But, Mr ----”, Mrs Noble gulped, then went on, “but, ---- Derek, ---, I hope you will be able to understand that the situation here -----” her hand vaguely waved in the air, “ ---this situation is abhorrent to me. Has been abhorrent all my life. To know that my son ----” and she paused as her lips trembled, but she clamped them together for a moment before she continued.

“To know that my son is involved --- is a part of it, is very, very hurtful to me.”
Kenny moved his hand so that now his was covering hers. “Oh, Mum!” he whispered. “Mum!” A tear dropped onto the table but he didn’t notice.

Mrs Noble looked at him and gently brushed his hair. “I know, and I accept, that it’s not his fault,” she murmured in a quiet, sad and resigned voice. “I know it was his father who made him ----- made him ----how he feels now.”
She drained the tea and held out the mug, looking from Kenny to me then back again.

“Could I…..?”
“Of course, Mum!” Kenny leapt to his feet and quickly made her a second drink. I saw him wipe his eyes with his knuckles as he turned away from the table. Mrs Noble laced her fingers and rested the edges of her hands on the table, looking down at them. After a few moments, she murmured:-

“I also wanted to say --”, she took a deep breath and looked up at me, “ ----I wanted to say sorry for what I said last night about this flat. It isn’t a hovel. I can see that it’s very nice. I apologise.”
And I knew that those words had also been very hard for her to say. She looked down at her hands again.

“I have missed my son. Missed him very much with all my heart. I have dreamed of him coming home one day. Coming home to me. He is part of my life. Now I have found him, and now I know and I understand the situation.”
She raised her eyes and looked at me as Kenny set her tea in front of her.

“It is hard for me to accept, but I understand it. I can now see for myself that you have been very good to him, and looked after him. But it would make me very happy, if he came home with me.”
There was a long, long silence.

Kenny’s eyes were full of tears and he had taken his mother’s hand again. He was looking at her and not at me. I gave a slight nod to Mrs Noble.
“I understand,” I said quietly. “And of course I accept your apology.”
She looked at Kenny, then at me.

“So what happens now?” she asked in an equally quiet voice.
I looked at Kenny, and time seemed to stand still, there was a stillness in the air, as if the three of us were a tableau, frozen in time for all eternity…………

And then I spoke, very quietly, looking straight at Kenny’s mother.
“I think,” I said, choosing my words very carefully, “that it is only right, that Kenny decides what happens now. And I believe, Mrs Noble,” I finished, very gently, “that you can agree with me about that.”


We both turned to look at Kenny. His eyes were fixed on his mother and were full of tears.

“Mum,” he whispered. “I’ve missed you too. So much. You know I love you very much. But because of what happened with ---what happened to me, I had to leave. I didn’t know where I was going, or what I would do. I just knew I couldn’t stay there any longer.”
He paused and wiped his knuckles fiercely across his eyes again.

“But now, things are different. Now, I feel that nice things are happening in my life instead of horrible ones. Because of Desi,---” and he glanced at me with just a quick ghost of a sad smile, “--- I have a new life, and I’m happy with that life.”
I saw the wetness appearing in Mrs Noble’s eyes again, because she knew what her son was going to say. And now so did I.

Kenny grasped his mother’s hand.

“Mum, I am not a little boy now.” His voice lowered to a soft murmur. “One day, I would leave you, our home, our life together, and start my own. You know that.” And she gave him the faintest of nods.
“Mum, please don’t ask me to give up my happiness now.”

He fell silent and watched her, and when she broke down and the tears came anew, he didn’t move, but just held her hand. She wiped her fingertips over her eyes and eventually straightened her back and nodded once.
“I thought,” she said in a gasping voice, “that you would probably say that. Of course I want you to be happy, but---”

“And I want you to be happy too, Mum,” he interrupted her. “But now you know where I am. You know about my life. You can call me, speak to me, whenever you feel like it.” He toyed with the phone again. “I can call you and tell you what’s new, and what I’m doing. You can come to visit. We may not be together, but we’ll be close again. I know it’s hard for you to accept, but please don’t ask me to give up my life and my happiness.”

There was a long silence again. Mrs Noble stifled her sobs and wiped her eyes once more. She nodded again at Kenny, then slowly turned to look at me.
“Could I ---- could I really come to visit?”

“Of course,” I murmured with a little smile at her. “You would always be most welcome.”

I received a small sad smile in return. “Thank you.”
She gently pulled her hand away from Kenny’s.

“Very well,” she said with a great effort. She brushed his hair again in that way that mothers do. “My little boy has grown up since I last saw him.” Her hands moved in an appeal to the air.
“I shall have to explain all this to Samantha. God knows how I’m going to do that.” She looked from Kenny to me and back again, but neither of us said anything. That was something she would have to deal with alone.

“Mrs Noble,” I said quietly. “Please feel free to have a shower if you wish and make use of the bathroom. And anything else here that you wish.”
She nodded at me.

“I think... perhaps a shower would be nice,” she said hesitantly. I knew that it would be a ritual washing and cleansing for her, which is why I’d suggested it.
“Perhaps you’d like a little breakfast afterwards?”
“Perhaps ---perhaps a little toast?” she ventured and I nodded. “It will be ready when you are.”

And now the three of us were sitting again in the kitchen. We’d all eaten something, if not much, and Kenny and I had cigarettes alight. Mrs Noble looked a good deal fresher and more composed and I was aware that I hadn’t had my own shower yet.
“If you’ll excuse me,” I said, “I’m going to use the bathroom too.”

I went to have my shave and shower and left Kenny to talk with his mother. And then Kenny went in his turn and I sat with a fresh coffee and a cigarette.
“Mrs Noble,” I said, as gently as I could. “The last thing I wish to do is to cause you any more distress, but would you mind telling me how much money you gave that boy last night?”
“Well, I gave him fifty pounds,” she said slowly. “Why?”

“Because,” I said, blowing a stream of cigarette smoke up to the ceiling, “That was a type of extortion. Or blackmail at the very least.”

That sort of money in one hit would keep Jed happy for a while, I thought.
Mrs Noble regarded me thoughtfully.
“May I…may I ask your advice about something?”

This was a surprise.
“Please do.”
“It’s --- it’s about my husband,” she said nervously. “I didn’t want to say anything in front of Kenny.”

She explained that he’d made no attempt to deny the things in Kenny’s letter. He couldn’t, because Kenny had disappeared, and the boy would have had no other reason to leave. So she told him she was leaving and that she would divorce him for adultery with an unknown co-respondent.

“Adultery!” she repeated, with that short harsh laugh again. “With our own son!”

She went on to explain that she’d made certain demands from him to ensure her own welfare, and that of Kenny’s should he return, and that if he didn’t comply with her demands in the divorce, she would go straight to the police with the letter which would ruin him and probably result in a lengthy jail sentence.

“He’s not wealthy, but he can afford to ---- to pay for what he did. Was I --- was I --- is that blackmail?” she finished nervously, her hands twisting together on the table.
I considered for a while.

“No,” I said thoughtfully. “I don’t think so. I suppose, technically it is, but in any divorce a woman seeks to retain something of her life from it. Given the circumstances, and the fact that you had ---shall we say a lever? --- against your husband, I think anyone would have done much the same. Of course, if you had gone straight to the police with the letter, your husband would probably now be in jail, pending further enquiries if nothing more, and you would have kept everything.”

Mrs Noble nodded. “I thought about going to the police,” she said. “But I was so worried about Kenny, I kept leaving it and leaving it, hoping he would come back, or contact me, and in the end, I just never went. And I was frightened that our names would be in all the papers, and my family would be dragged all through the mud.”

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