My heads snaps up. Now there's a voice I haven't heard before. Gabe comes running into the kitchen, straight over to me. Now what has him all upset?
"Daddy!" He pulls on my sleeve.
"What's the matter, Gabe?" I rise from the stool I'm sitting on and Gabe drags me to the hall way. I still don't know what is going on. He opens the front door and before I can stop him, I see what has him this upset. Moreno walks up the driveway, obviously with a goal. How the hell did he find out that we live here?
"Gabe, go back inside. Go back to Sarah, okay?" I caress his head and bent down to his level when he doesn't want to let me go. "Hey sport, you warned me, remember? I'm so absolutely proud of you for doing that, but now I need you to go back inside to Sarah, okay?"
He nods and reluctantly goes back inside. Inside, I'm cheering with delight. He talked! He talked! But I put on my straight face within the second, because Moreno has reached the front porch by now. "What are you doing here?"
Moreno scoffs. "What am I doing here? I'm here to pick up my children. All three of them."
Oh, so he does realize he has three children? Wow, I'm really touched Moreno. "I thought I told you to stay away from the kids."
"And who are you to tell me to stay away from the children? Huh? You're not their father."
Nope, not yet I'm not. "You're right. But I'm their legal guardian, which is in this case a little bit the same, since you no longer have any parental rights. You lost your vote the day they took them away. So, if you'll excuse me, Mr. Moreno, I really need to get back inside." Bud and Harriet can be here any second and I don't want them to find Moreno on our front porch. Nor do I want Noa to find out that he's here.
But Moreno is not going to give me a break. "You're not going anywhere!" His eyes are shooting fire.
I have to keep it cool now. I'm not going to cause a scene. I step out on the porch and close the door behind me. "Listen, Moreno. I don't know what you're thinking, but those kids are not going anywhere. They're staying right here and nowhere else. You physically and emotionally abused those kids for a very long time and no-one in their right mind would even consider giving them back to you." If he even has a little bit of brain cells in that head, he'll know to stay away. But, once again, he's too stupid.
"Is that so? Then tell me, why did I have them?"
That is a very good question. "No one ever told you about the birds and the bees? The fact that people are able to have kids doesn't mean that they should, Moreno."
"Really, Rabb? If you know what's so good for kids, how come you don't have any yourself?"
First of, that guy actually knows my name? What did I miss? It's an easy question to answer, by the way. "That's easy. I'm not married yet, and even if I was, I would consider a lot of things before I would have kids."
"How noble of you, Rabb." His voice is dripping with sarcasm. "The girls and the boy are going home with me."
I wonder if he even knows their names. "They have names, you know." I take a deep breath and try to calm myself down. How can people do this to their own kids?
He runs a hand through his hair. "They should, yeah." His eyes are still shooting fire. "We can do this the easy or the hard way, Rabb. You either give them to me, or I'll make your life hell."
"Let's do it the hard way," I answer and open up the door. "Good bye, Mr. Moreno." When the door closes behind me, I'm finally able to breathe the way I'm supposed to. Took me long enough to ditch that guy. I'm going to get a restraining order for him first thing on Monday. I don't want him within five miles of the kids. Neither one of them.
Sarah looks up when I enter the kitchen. "Who was that?"
"Moreno. Gabe must've seen him getting out of the car." And where is Gabe?
"Is everything all right?" She hands me the salad bowl. "Harm?"
I shake my head. "Yeah, I told him to back off. I'm getting a restraining order for that guy first thing on Monday. Where is Gabe?"
Judging by the look in her eyes, Sarah thought he was still with me. So he didn't go back to the kitchen like I told him to. "Never mind. I'll look upstairs. Nothing to worry about, yet."
Sarah gives me a little smile before I walk out of the kitchen and I run op the stairs. Where is he? Not in his room, obviously. I have to look through the entire play room, and eventually find him somewhere completely else. He's hidden himself in our bedroom, in the closet. He's pulled his knees up to his chest and is shaking all over.
I sink down on the floor and gently touch his knee. "Hey, sport. What's the matter?"
Instead of answering, he backs away. Why is he suddenly so scared? "Gabe, he's gone. Your dad is gone, and he won't be coming back."
Still, he doesn't answer. There has to be something else. But what? Okay Hammer, focus. Why would an abused five-year-old hide himself in a closet? And why would he be backing off when he knows you would never hurt him? But that's the point… Maybe he doesn't know.
"Gabriel, I would never hurt you," I softly say. "I wouldn't dare. Is that why you're hiding in here? Because you think I'm going to hurt you?"
For a very long moment it stays silent. "But I talked…" It's a mere whisper and I barely hear it.
"Yes, you did. And I'm so proud of you for doing so."
He starts to cry. Oh Gabe, if I could erase everything that they've done to you, I would in a heart beat. "You know why?"
Gabe shakes his head and wipes his nose with his sleeve. Sarah's going to love that. We're swamped with laundry as it is. I lift him out of his position in the closet into my lap and hold him very close. "Because if you hadn't talked, I wouldn't have known that your dad was at the door and I wouldn't have been able to protect you guys. So, I'm so glad that you talked. That you came to get me." I softly rub his back. "Can you actually believe that?"
Hesitatingly, his head goes up and down. Thank you Lord. "You're not going to hit me?" His voice is still so small…
"No, big guy. Never, ever am I going to hit you. And neither is Sarah. Promise."
He looks up to me. Those watery eyes almost make me cry. He's so precious, so small… I can only hope that Sarah and I can make it up with them by surrounding them with love. A whole lot of love. Finally, his sobs subside. "Feeling a little better, now?"
Gabe sniffs again and nods. "A little."
Well, a little is better than absolutely not. I think I know a remedy for sadness though. It works with Sarah all the time. "How about we go get some ice cream for dessert?"
"Can we have chocolate?"
See, I told you. Everybody is excited about ice cream. "We," I say as I lift him onto my hip when I stand up, "can have any possible ice cream that you want. But, I want to have something return."
His eyes grow wide with shock. "What?"
"How about a smile?" His face instantly relaxes and he gives me a small smile. "Much better."
Bud and Harriet haven't arrived yet, thankfully. Sarah is almost done setting the table and she gives us a brilliant smile when we enter the kitchen.
"And where have my two favorite boys been?" She kisses Gabe on his cheek and notices she strained tears on his cheek. "Have you been crying?"
He shyly nods.
Sarah turns to me. "Why?"
Quickly I explain what Gabe thought.
"Well," Sarah says when she's heard the whole story, "Harm's right. We're never going to hurt you the way your parents did. We love you guys way too much for that."
And then the doorbell rings. Sarah and I lock eyes. Oh oh. Bud and Harriet. We've got a lot of explaining to do.