But his mother pulled him along down the lifeless hall until they were in an office. They both sat down in leathery chairs across from the man, and she handed him an envelope from her purse.
“I trust this is all in order,” the man said, his voice deep and emotionless.
His mother nodded. “It is.” She paused and looked at her boy with eyes that held a world of regret, before talking to the man again. “I hope you’ll take care of him. It’s not his fault. It’s mine.”
The man only nodded, looking over the papers.
“What are you talking about?” the boy asked her. “When are we going home?”
“Son,” the man said, staring into him with beady eyes. The boy swore he could feel them trying to poke holes into his soul. “This is your new home.”
He couldn’t comprehend what the man was saying. He shook his head and looked to his mother, but she was crying and getting out of her chair.
“Mum!” he yelled, dropping his lion so he could grab her coat with both hands. She nearly dragged him out of his chair. He scrambled to his feet as she went for the door, but he was held back by the man, who had a strong, merciless grip on him. “Mum!” he screamed again, arms outstretched.
She paused at the door, only briefly, mascara running down her cheeks.
“I’m so sorry, Lachlan,” she sobbed to the boy, gripping the doorframe until her knuckles were white. “I love you. But I just can’t have you in my life. I’m so sorry.”
“But mum!” Lachlan screamed, his voice ripping out of him. “I’ll be good! I promise. You can take Lionel back to the store, just take me back home, please!”
His mother only shook her head and whispered, “Goodbye.”
Lachlan continued to cry, to wail, to try and get out of the man’s grasp, as he watched his mother walk away and disappear out of sight.
“Please!” he bellowed, such a large sound from such a small boy. He felt his feet give way, and the man was now holding him up, legs dangling beneath him. “Please come back, mum, please! Take me home, take me home!”
“This is your home,” the man said again. He brought Lachlan’s head back to his mouth and whispered in his ear, wet and harsh. “And if you don’t stop screaming and making noise like a little twat, you’re going to get twenty lashings from my belt. Is that what you want for your first day here at the Hillside Orphanage? Is it?”
But Lachlan couldn’t stop screaming. He couldn’t care less about being beaten. He’d been hit that morning; he’d been beaten many times before. The true pain was the pain he felt inside, raging through him, tearing him apart. He felt like he was drowning in ice water and the flood was starting in his soul.
“Fine then,” the man said, and threw Lachlan to the ground. He picked Lionel up from the floor and held the lion up in the air. “If you don’t shut your bloody mouth, you’ll never see this again. I’ll give it to another boy.”
It was all Lachlan had. He shut up. Whimpering, he clamped his lips together, his chin shaking. The man gave him the lion, and he held on to him with all his might, until the fur was wet with tears.
His fifth birthday was the last one he would celebrate for a very long time.
Lachlan would never see his mother again.
He would never go home.
And the flood in his soul would never truly subside.
San Francisco – Present day
“How long do you have to be absent of dick before you’re considered re-virginized?”