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“Kasper, the staff will do that. Please sit down, little one. We need to talk,” Mr. Hamad said as I stood to clear the dishes after dinner. None of them ever cleared anything. I knew what was coming. He was going to tell me that my parents had finally contacted him and wanted to talk to me. I’d overheard them talking about it when they thought I Was out of the room.
Mr. Hamad was going to make me deal with the reality that I wasn’t entirely their boy and I still had a mess back home in California that needed my attention. The Hamads were people who liked to deal with things head on. They would insist.
I’d been avoiding this talk. I knew they’d bring it up when we were all together and they could be there to support me. I wanted to pretend that it hadn’t happened, that I could just be here with the Hamads forever. I’d tried to stay out of the way, under the radar hoping they’d forget that I wasn’t born into this family.
“I’ll help them. I can rinse them off. I’m used to doing chores. I’m pretty good at cleaning the kitchen,” I said and tried to walk past him. He reached for me and his hand found the center of my chest. He stopped me, held me there.
“There is no need for that. You will upset the staff if they think we don’t need them anymore. Now please sit down,” Mr. Hamad said with that fatherly tone of authority. I turned to look at the table. Emerson, Ali, Amir; their eyes were all on me. They all looked sad. I set the plates back down on the table. I wasn’t getting out of this.
“What’s wrong? It’s my parents?” I asked as though I didn’t know. I didn’t sit down though and instead I let Mr. Hamad draw me into his arms. He was seated on a tall chair, the kind where you put your feet on the bottom bar because they don’t reach the floor. He pulled me against his chest and hugged me.
“Yes, my boy. They want to speak with you. You don’t have to if you don’t want, but I think you should. As much as we love you, if there is hope for reconciliation with your birth family it could help you feel better.” Mr. Hamad hugged me against his chest and kissed my forehead.
“Are they still mad at me?” I asked. I didn’t feel like getting yelled at by my father.
“I don’t think so. They seem to think we are holding you here against your will. I don’t know why they think that. We take very good care of you. Maybe they just need to know you are ok. I couldn’t tell,” he admitted.
“You don’t have to talk to them Kasper. We can forget about them. We’re your family,” Amir chimed in. He looked angry and defensive. I remembered that he objected to this.
“We are you family,” Mr. Hamad looked perturbed at Amir’s outburst. “And we want what’s best for you. If there is a chance for better relations with them, you should try. It could help you. You can’t leave things as they are without getting resolution.”
“Will you be there with me?” I asked. I didn’t want to face him alone.
“I will, of course. I’ll be there for you, sweet one,” Mr. Hamad assured.
“I will be there too! I’m not letting them hurt him again,” Amir said firmly.
“Ok then. He probably feels bad. He isn’t bad, he just gets angry. I guess things calmed down,” I said. I got a kiss on the head from Mr. Hamad. He almost seemed sad that I was willing to give my dad a chance.
“It will be ok,” he said sadly like someone had died. They really thought poorly of my dad. He wasn’t that bad a guy.
We set up the laptop at the dining table. Mr. Hamad and Amir sat behind me in the high chairs. Mr. Hamad had been talking to my dad the past few nights to give him updates. He said it was his duty as my caretaker to keep them informed that I was safe and healthy.
He told my dad that I would be there with him when I was ready to talk. Mr. Hamad clicked open a program for video chat that showed the three of us. It looked like I had two Arabian bodyguards for backup.
“Kasper. Where have you been? We’ve been trying to reach you, but these people are keeping you locked up. Are you ok?” My dad asked with newfound worry when he appeared on the screen. He’d never seemed so concerned about my well being.
“I’m fine, dad. What’s up? Where’s mom?” I asked. My dad was sitting alone at his desk at work. He looked sleepy in his business uniform. He had his old work shirt with his name sewn on a patch with the Lane Services logo. He was always so proud of having his own company even if it meant a life of hard work.
“She’s at home. It’s pretty early here. Anyways, Look! We need to talk. Do these men have to be here with you?” he asked gruffly. He didn’t like having a watchful eye when he dealt with his own child.
“Kasper asked us to be here,” Amir interjected. The screen showed my dad but also a live shot of the three of us in the corner of the screen. Mr. Hamad and Amir didn’t look happy. I saw Mr. Hamad put his hand on Amir’s arm to quiet him. My dad responded with a grimace.
“Fine. Well look here son. That show you did. Apparently it was a big hit. We’re getting calls every casino oyna day and mail! Tons of mail! Why is it coming here? Some of the letters were pretty graphic! I threw those away! Someone even set up a fund for you online! God knows why but people are donating saying they felt badly you were kicked off so early,!” dad huffed and held a stack of envelopes.
“Sorry. I guess they looked us up. That’s the address on my driver’s license.” I said like I didn’t like there anymore. I wondered what had become of my room.
“Well look, most are junk fan letters, but a few caught our eye. There’s a modeling scout that called and wrote us. He wants you for some clothing company. Then your mother got a call from that cosmetics and jewelry company she sells for. Remember that? Lucy Beautiful, wants to do a photo spread with you in their fall catalog. They want you to model for their men’s line. Your mother is ecstatic! She can’t wait to rub it in people’s faces,” Dad rambled excitedly.
“Then there’s a few talent agencies that want to put you on contract. This is big money, Kasper! This could mean a whole new life for you! You don’t have much going on so we thought this could be your big break. You have to talk to them!” Dad looked happier than I’d ever seen him. I felt a thump of pride in my chest. He was proud of me. He’d never been proud of me.
“Wow… I don’t know what to say!” I felt my pulse racing. Then I felt Amir’s hand on my side. He slid it down to my bottom and squeezed it. I couldn’t leave him.
“You’ll say yes! We aren’t like these Arab sheikhs. We don’t turn down work! Lanes don’t say no to paychecks! Then well… this is more of a private matter. Can we talk alone?” Dad asked.
I turned to look at Mr. Hamad. He nodded and stood. He pulled Amir away from me, but Amir resisted. He put his hand on my arm like an anchor.
“No. I won’t leave him to these… people! They’re already trying to use him for money!” Amir objected. He said “people” like he meant garbage.
“That’s between me and my son. It is none of your concern. He’s my boy!” dad bellowed as though he hadn’t written me an email cutting me off.
“Please,” I said to Amir with pleading eyes. “It’s my dad.”
Amir took a deep breath and stood. He glared down my father. He was upset with me for not demanding he stay. I’d try to make it up to him later. They walked away, just over to the kitchen though so they would still be in earshot if things went badly.
“Look son. That family you’re with. They are loaded! We looked them up. They own a ton of businesses and real estate… Towers, Kasper! Towers and ships and planes! I’d never heard of them, but your mom… She likes to google these things. We were stunned. They’re sitting on an empire!” Dad valued people based on their wealth and business skills. The Hamads were suddenly good enough, they were now useful.
“They’re really nice people. They’re taking care of me.” I looked down, embarrassed by what I knew his brain was thinking. I was more embarrassed that the Hamads were hearing all this. I couldn’t look over to see their reaction. I was too humiliated.
“Well you be on your best behavior there. Don’t cause any trouble for them and maybe they’ll take care of you for a long time. I’ll try to be nicer to them too. They just push my buttons not letting me speak to my own child. But I don’t want to mess this up for you. It could mean a better future. You need all the help you can get,” dad said. His voice sounded greedy. I didn’t like where he was going.
“Ok dad… I will. They’re really nice people. They took me in and helped me when I needed it.” I kept my eyes down.
“Yeah they like little white boys from what I gather… Pretty weird… One more thing… That show you were on sent you a check. It’s… more money than I make in a year. They sent an apology letter too. Apparently those Arabs negotiated some crazy settlement for what the show did to you. They must have a horde of lawyers.” Dad held up a check paperclipped to a formal letter.
“Woah! That’s crazy!” I said when I read the number on the check. I’d never seen that much money. I had no idea it would be that much.
“Yeah… They are good for something. Anyways, what are you thinking of doing with it?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t think it would be much. It was only supposed to be a few thousand. I guess I could save it,” I offered, trying to sound responsible.
“Well you know… you should invest it in the family business. We sure could use some upgraded machinery. What do you think? I could take on a lot more lucrative jobs if I had the right equipment and a better truck. The old one keeps breaking down. How bout it? It would be an investment. You know you’ll always have a job with us. A safer future for all of us. How bout it?” dad asked. The way he said it made my heart drop to the floor. He didn’t want me, just the money.
“Yeah, Ok… sure dad… I’m happy to help out. You guys take it…” I said. He wanted the money. After all the trouble I caused them I canlı casino couldn’t really say no. Maybe it would help them have a better life. It did feel good to see him happy.
“Thanks, son. That’s generous. We’ll save some of it. I just need to upgrade some things that are breaking and your mom… she could use some things too. Is that alright? Something nice for your momma?” dad asked as if I could ever deny her.
“No problem. Spend it all if you want… do I need to sign anything?” I asked with sadness.
“Nah… Don’t you worry, I’ll put it in your savings account. My name is still on there jointly. I’m still your father,” dad said with a little laugh like it was a joke .
I looked over at Amir and Mr. Hamad. They knew what was up. They looked at me with sad eyes. They were disappointed, stunned. Had they expected me to stand up to him? I felt my hands start to shake. Would they hate me for giving away the settlement they’d negotiated?
“Well I better get my day started. It’s early here and we’ve got that Peterson job up in the valley. You know I have to check on those guys or they’ll screw it up. You take care of yourself! I’ll run to the bank when they open. Your mom’s real proud of you. She can’t wait for the catalog to come out! They’ll contact you with the details! I love you, Kasper. We’re real grateful for what you’re doing for us. You be good there,” dad said.
“I love you too,” I said as dad clicked off the conversation. The screen went black.
I closed the laptop and just stared down at the logo on the cover. I couldn’t meet their eyes. I didn’t know what to say. I was shaking, not crying. I wasn’t going to do that, not over this.
“Kasper, I’m so sorry. You don’t deserve this,” Mr. Hamad said softly and came to my side. He put his hands on my shoulders and squeezed them as he leaned forward to kiss my hair.
“Sure is a nice computer,” I whispered as I hung my head. I didn’t know what to say.
“That’s it? He just wanted money? Not even an apology? All that getting your hopes up so he could steal from his own child! Unbelievable! What an asshole!” Amir yelled as his voice got closer to me.
“Amir! Come and be with him. He doesn’t need your scolding! He needs comforting,” Mr. Hamad said and continued him in Arabic.
“You should have told him no! You have to stand up to people like this! They’re using you!” Amir ignored his father and ranted on. Mr. Hamad rubbed my shoulders and put his lips to my cheek.
“He’s my dad. What am I supposed to say? He’s not an asshole!” I said without looking at them. I reached hand up to my right shoulder to cover Mr. Hamad’s hand. His presence was reassuring.
“I don’t know, but that’s shitty. It’s fucked up! they took your family and now they took your money! What the fuck! How can he get away with this?” Amir yelled. I winced, not used to him getting angry like that. I put my hands over my ears. He was so angry.
“Do not make it worse! It’s his family! You can’t insult his family like that. Look how you upset him! He doesn’t need you making it worse! A man protects his cub,” Mr. Hamad growled at his son and continued in Arabic. Mr. Hamad slid his arms around my chest and hugged me from behind. His strong hands rubbed over my chest. I shivered at his warmth.
“I’m trying! I can’t just let him get hurt like this. He’s my boy. I love him. They can’t get away with this,” Amir lowered his voice and sighed. He realized he’d made things worse.
He came to me and put his hands on my legs. He turned my body to face him. Mr. Hamad backed off to let his son take over. I stared at Amir’s shorts. They were pin-striped like cut-off suit pants but clung tightly to his bulge and muscled thighs. He squatted down between my legs and looked up at me with those adoring brown eyes and impossibly long lashes.
“I’m sorry, Kasper. I just go crazy seeing you hurt… I’d do anything to make you feel better. You know that, right? I just… I go crazy! Look, if he wants money, maybe we can offer him some to leave Kasper alone. If all they value their son for is what he can do for them then let’s write them a check for him. We can do that. Right, father? Make a contract? Give him money to give us Kasper?” Amir asked Mr. Hamad.
“Kasper isn’t a horse. We can’t purchase him like that. He is a person,” Mr. Hamad noted.
“We can’t just accept this! All they see is our money! They’re not parents, they’re animals. We have to do something! You heard him talking about our businesses. He wants to steal from us, make his own son use us for money! If he wants to pimp him out then let’s just buy him outright! Ask him the price!” Amir fumed.
“Stop! He needed my check. I provided for my family… I can’t argue… I need to go think,” I whispered and slid off the chair. Amir looked at me with disbelief and helplessness. He threw his hands up in exasperation. He wanted to fix this. He wanted me to be stronger. I couldn’t do it. I pushed past him and walked away. I went out the front door and realized I had no shoes on, kaçak casino just a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. I walked lightly on the stone path, still warm from the day.
“Let him go,” Mr. Hamad warned, but I heard Amir’s footsteps follow me.
I found the little garden area where Emerson liked to do his yoga outside. It was a little cove with stone floors and a wall of dense shade trees around it. There was a small pond that held a few exotic fish. I sat beside it on a rock that had been carved into a small seat.
“Kasper. I didn’t mean to yell, but we have to talk about this. How are you ok with this? This is not ok. It’s awful,” Amir said and came up behind me.
“I can’t do this right now… ” I whispered and watched a fat golden fish dart back and forth between two emerald ones. I tried to meditate, to concentrate on the fish. He was so happy.
“He knows you’re with us now. He knows we are wealthy so he’s trying to get money. We love you and they see that we’ll give anything to keep you. They just want you for what you can offer them! It’s wrong… don’t you see? They’re using you,” Amir growled, ignoring my silent protest.
“Stop… please,” I said and felt my pulse racing. I tried to focus on the fish, drown him out. The sun was down for the night and the lights that glowed in the pond changed color very slowly, almost imperceptibly. I couldn’t handle anything else at the moment.
“These people are awful, baby. You don’t need them anymore. They have all kinds of moral rules until suddenly you have money and then you mean something to them again. They can’t treat you like this. It’s fucked up.” Amir plowed on as if he thought I’d suddenly just agree with him and forget my people. He was growing angrier every time I didn’t respond.
“Amir… stop, please. I can’t do this right now,” I whispered again, my voice shaking.
“And how much will be good enough? Will they want to take everything we give you? Your clothes? The tablet? They could sell them for money! How about we buy you a car so your mom doesn’t have to drive her old one anymore? Fucking gold-digging trash!” Amir was pissed off and he was grating on my nerves. I couldn’t even look at him.
“I said stop! I never asked for any of it! You can have it all back. I don’t want you wasting your gold on trash like me,” I snapped at him and glared up where he was pacing back and forth. He froze and looked down at me. I stood up to walk away.
“Kasper, you don’t understand how people just see money and power and will say whatever to get it. It sucks to get used. You can’t understand. You’re too simple. You didn’t grow up like that.” Amir followed me. He meant I was too poor to know when I was being used. I didn’t have anything people wanted like he did. I felt my blood boiling under my skin.
My hands balled into fists. I’d never hit anyone except play fighting with my brothers. But I turned on him with my hands up, ready to swing. He quickly put his hands over my fists and drew me into him in a swift, practiced motion. We stood there nose to nose breathing deeply.
“You’re going to hit me? Oh babe! Even that is fucking adorable,” He gave a short laugh as though he didn’t think I could do much damage. “I know I deserve it… I know I’m being an ass, but… I can’t see you hurt. It’s overwhelming for me. I love you so much.” Amir sighed.
“I don’t want to use you for money.” I whispered as our lips touched. It’s weird to kiss in the middle of a fight. Our primal instincts called the shots.
“I didn’t mean it like that. This is all coming out wrong. Of course I don’t want anything back. I… We want you to have everything. My boy deserves the best. I love you… You don’t see they’re using you! I can’t let you get used for money like that! It’s not right!” Amir insisted.
“I don’t want anything from you! I don’t want anything from them either. I didn’t want the money from the show. My family needs it so it’s theirs. They’re my family. Don’t worry. I won’t cost you another dollar! You can keep your stupid money. I’ll go back with my trash” I paced around the pond. The fish ignored my yelling. I started away from him.
“Baby, I didn’t mean it like that! I wasn’t saying that!” Amir followed me. I went barefoot towards the main house in search of an exit. I stopped when I realized I didn’t know how to get out of here. We always left through the garage and a big automated gate.
“Fuck,” I hissed to myself. I put my hands up to my mouth and felt the cold metal of his ring on my finger. It was the ring he’d given me in Durban with his name in Arabic script. I took it off and turned towards him. I wanted to throw it, but I didn’t. I just held it out for him to take.
“This should be worth something. I don’t know if it’s real gold, but… take it back.” I pressed it to his chest, the ring he’d put on my finger and promised it meant I was his.
“Babe, C’mon! Please! My love, sweetness. Please… You’re hurt. Your father upset you. Let’s talk about this,” Amir said and resisted the ring. I set it on a glass table and went around the side of the big house in search of a gate. I didn’t want to cause a scene or alert his family. I just wanted to leave. I needed to get out of there.
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