Domeric looked up from the address written on the torn out post it note at the three story red brick house for the fourth time since arriving. He knew he was in the right place yet his nerves were somehow failing him. “God, what’s there to be uncertain about” he thought. He knew that inside that house, was his brother, his 11 year old half-brother, who, until a month ago, he had no idea existed. He shifted uncomfortably. He was willing to bet that the kid had no idea he had a brother either. He knew his brother’s name, his age and where he lived and that wasn’t a lot to go on someone who shared half your DNA.
As for his mother. His father had been married once, but after she died it seemed he had taken a fancy to a dancer in a gentleman’s club he frequented. She approached him for a dance every time he went, yet turned down his advances when he made them. Finally, tiring of her flirtatious ways, he had her anyway. Roose wasn’t the type of man to accept no for an answer. Nine months down the line, he was confronted with her again, except this time she had with her a new-born baby. He was tempted to send her away but that was before he saw the baby had cold ice blue eyes. His eyes. They almost seemed to be accusing him – which he knew was ridiculous but he invited her in anyway and listened to what she had to say.
She said that after she fell pregnant she was fired from her job. She told him she wanted money from him to look after her son and for him to stay away from her, the child was to know nothing about him, according to the state, he had no father. Roose obliged all this without complaint, it kept her quiet. He had a reputation to keep after all. Recently though, he had grown suspicious of the increased demands for money and managed to track her down, in which he found her in the penthouse of an expensive new building and with no son in sight. She’d eventually confessed that she’d been taking his money and spending it on a lavish lifestyle and her son had gone into care 6 years prior. She didn’t know where he’d gone either; he was moved all up and down the country according to her. His father had spent the last month searching, but it was hard to find a child if you didn’t have the parental rights. He’d eventually found him though because aside from being steadfast in his dealings, Roose dealt with things pragmatically, he finally had his image as a good citizen cemented after all the legal trouble he had 12 years ago, and if anyone found out he knowingly had a son in care…well you know how people would talk. “6 years in care is 6 years too many” his father had ground out before handing him his brother’s name and address written on a post it note and a plastic folder full of official looking documents. It was bad, Domeric thought, for a perfectly able and wealthy mother to dump their child with the state because they wanted to live a life of luxury. He wondered briefly if the she’d even cared about her only son and what had become of her after she told his father everything. Roose had never had said what happened to her.
Sighing, he gritted his teeth, he’d best get this done. He walked up to the door and pressed the bell. A split second later there was an ear splitting – albeit muffled by the door – shriek from inside the house. Domeric didn’t believe in signs, or superstition, or “bad energy” or any of that rubbish but even he had to admit that this didn’t exactly bode well. He steeled himself once more and waited. He had try to twice more, but after a few minutes the door opened to reveal a harassed looking woman with a kid firmly clinging to one of her legs. Domeric suspected this was why she’d taken so long to get the door. “Oh…hello” she managed with a smile while trying to pry the small child off and push him back inside. She faltered “W-who are you? We weren’t expecting visitors?” Domeric gave her what he hoped was a winning smile. Confidence was key. His father always maintained that it was anyway. “My name is Domeric Bolton” he began “My brother lives here”.
At this, she blanched. “Well…who is it” She asked suspiciously “Unless you’re someone’s long lost brother, I’ve never seen you before and I know all of the children’s family members, none of them has a brother that I don’t know about.” She narrowed her eyes “None of them have the surname Bolton or have ever mentioned a Domeric either.”
“He doesn’t know I exist.” Stated Domeric “And he’s a half-brother, we share the same father. I suppose I could be considered a long lost brother, in a way -I have all the required documents here” he said, shaking the plastic folder as Mordane showed every sign of interrupting. She took it and flipped it open, casting an eye over the first page. She looked back at him, less suspiciously this time but wary nevertheless. “Come in, we’ll talk in my office” she said, showing him through the large wooden front door.
“My office is in there” Mordane said, gesturing to a door on their left “If you’d just-“ but she cut herself off with a shocked scream as an arrow flew right in front of them and stuck itself firmly into the drywall. A triumphant yell echoed down the hallway from a black haired kid who had obviously just fired it, if the fibreglass bow in his hand was anything to go by. The drywall was already peppered with holes, some hastily filled with polyfilla. Domeric suspected this wasn’t the first time he’d used it for target practice. Mordane took her hand off her chest and gasped a few times before yelling at him and other smaller boy standing next to him. “I TOLD YOU TWO A MILLION TIMES, DON’T. FIRE. THAT. IN. THE. HOUSE!” The taller boy just smirked insolently. Domeric studied them both closer, entertaining the idea one of them was his brother; they looked about the right age? The shorter of the two was thin with a mop of mousey brown hair that looked like it hadn’t been cut in a while. He looked nervous and pale next to the other boy, who had black hair and was wearing a pair of battered combat boots. A resounding crash and a shout of “The TV!” jolted Domeric out of his thoughts. Mordane paled, gave him an apologetic look and started off in the direction of the noise. Combat-boots stomped past him and started trying to pull the arrow out of the wall where it had apparently gotten stuck.
What a mad house, thought Domeric, maybe I’ve caught them at a bad time. “HI” came an endearing voice to his left suddenly. “I’m Theon, what’s your name? Are you here to foster someone? If I cou-oof” mouse-hair grunted as he was unceremoniously elbowed out of the way by combat-boots.
“Get out of the way stupid, no one wants to foster a weed like you” The taller boy sneered menacingly. Looking at Domeric he smiled, which would have been perfectly friendly had he not shown quite so many teeth. He held the arrow in his right hand and Domeric could see that it was a fibreglass safety arrow that was supposed to have a rounded end but someone had taken the time to sharpen it to a point. “I did it with a pencil sharpener.” Combat-boots smirked, noticing Domeric looking “The plastic ones kept breaking though, I had to nick Elise’s metal one” He continued, clearly proud of his resourcefulness. “It’s cool isn’t it? This bow. I got it at the market stall for cheap coz technically it’s a kid’s one. Still shoots good though, I got banned from using it for a month because I shot a squirrel and killed it” He grinned ghoulishly “Got it right through the eye. It was all bloody and gross and I put it in Lemore’s bed as a prank. God she screamed loud”
“You shouldn’t have done that” mumbles Theon, rubbing his ribs where the other boy had elbowed him. “She was a nice care worker and she left after that.”
“You only liked her because you used to spy on her changing” Snorted the taller boy “You creep. Creep, creep, rhymes with freak”
Technically it didn’t, thought Domeric, but he wasn’t going to mention that, particularly when combat-boots was looking so murderous. “It’s a near rhyme dickhead.” Combat-boots snapped irritably, as if he read Domeric’s mind. “It’s close enough. And just who the hell are you anyway?” He continued, narrowing his eyes suspiciously at Domeric just like Mordane had “You’re not another counsellor are you? Didja’ know I bit the last and made him bleed?” He bared his teeth. Domeric internally chuckled, he liked this kid already. “I’m no counsellor. I’m looking for my brother actually. His name is Ramsay Snow.” For the first time since they met, combat-boots shut up. He looked shocked, Theon did too. “Do you both…know him? Prompted Domeric. Neither of them spoke. They just gaped at him. “Well I’m going to find Mordane then, she’ll know where he is” said Domeric, these two were no help.
This seemed to snap combat-boots out of his daze. “WAIT, I’M RAMSAY, I’M RAMSAY” he yelled, seemingly torn between panic and excitement. “Who-I don’t-where did-I have a brother?” So this was him. On the whole, it could have been worse; at least the kid had guts.
“I trust you never knew who your father was” Asked Domeric, though it was more a statement than a question. “I’m you half-brother on our fathers side” Our father. After being an only child for his whole life it was strange to say that. “Your mother didn’t tell us you were in care. Our father intends to see you come to live with us.”
The two boys both lost it. Ramsay with excitement and Theon seemingly furious. Through Ramsay’s whoops of joy and sing-song “I’m leaving’s”, he could hear Theon yelling tearfully about how unfair it was. “You’re not even good” wailed Theon. “You’re naughty and you’re mean and you hurt other people and you broke my favourite toy and-“
“Shut up stupid” Hissed Ramsay threateningly, rounding on Theon, who shrank back. He turned back to Domeric, grabbing the 19 year olds forearm in a vice like grip. “So when am I coming with you? Is it today? I can pack now if you want? What’s dad like? Those jeans looks expensive, are you rich? Where do you live? Do you have-“Ramsay continued rapidly firing questions at Domeric, not even stopping to wait for an answer. Mordane came bustling back down the corridor. “What’s all this now? Ramsay, stop bothering our guest, he’s here to see-“ “ME, HE’S HERE TO SEE ME” shouted Ramsay quickly. Mordane paled. “Ramsay is your brother…of course…I should have known…You look so alike…” She paused, thinking.
“Ok if you would please step into my office Mr Bolton, you two shoo, I need to speak with our guest.” She said, pushing Theon and Ramsay down the corridor
“NO” retorted Ramsay “I want to be there, it’s my life, and I should know what you’re saying about me.”
“Ramsay you know we can’t have you in there” soothed Mordane “We need to look over your file and-“
“DON’T SHOW HIM THAT” Screamed Ramsay “IT’S ALL LIES MY OLD SOCIAL WORKER HATED ME SHE-“
“Why do you talk to his brother but when my uncle came to see me you made him go away? It’s not fair why does he get to see his family and I don’t?” Complained Theon, tugging at Mordane’s sleeve.
“Ramsay, it’s a legal requirement that any family sees your file and Theon, you know very well he is not allowed to see you” Mordane admonished, trying to keep Ramsay from getting past her with one hand and trying to usher Theon away with the other.
“NO! I WANT TO TALK TO HIM I-“
“But why is it not allowed, I wanted to see him and-“
“SANDOR” yelled the weary care worker “SANDOR COME HELP ME OUT WITH THESE TWO”
A huge man came out of a room on the left, which was probably the kitchen if the cereal mush on his shirt was anything to go by. His face was bumpy on one side, as if he had been burnt long ago and he was a 6’4 solid wall of muscle. It was hard to believe this guy was a care worker; he looked more like a bouncer or a heavyweight boxer. He stomped towards them and without a word, got Ramsay round the waist with one arm, slung him over his shoulder and carried him off down the hallway, meanwhile grabbing Theon by the scruff off the neck and pulling him away too.
“LET! ME! GO! YOU UGLY FREAK! I’LL KNOCK YOU OUT I SWEAR TO GOD SANDOR!” Screamed Ramsay, flailing angrily. As the huge man turned the corner they heard him chuckle “Sure thing kid”.
Domeric was stunned for a brief moment until Mordane cleared her throat. “Well yes…to my office then. I’m so sorry about all of that; some the kids here can be rather…energetic.” They were a bit more than energetic if they were all like Ramsay, thought Domeric privately. Mordane showed him into her office and gestured for him to sit. He could still faintly hear Ramsay screaming bloody murder and kicking the walls.
“Well so I see you’ve met Ramsay. I’ll look over your documents properly but it shouldn’t take too long if it’s visiting rights you want.” She placed a pair of reading glasses on her nose and began to open the folder. “Actually” started Domeric, my father wants him to come live with us.”
Her hand slipped on the plastic folder. Clearly she hadn’t expected that. “Well in that case…it’ll take longer but hopefully it should be smooth going if you have all the documents required. And” she continued, walking over to a filing cabinet and pulling a beige folder out of it, “this is his file. You’ll need to read it, especially seeing as you and your father wants him to live with you” She plunked it down in front of him. It seemed very full. “Also you’ll need to have at least three supervised visits before he moves in with you, the whole process will probably take a few weeks although we might be able to speed things up if his social worker has the time”
“I’ve only met him once and I can tell he won’t be thrilled about having to wait that long or any kind of ‘supervised visits’ .Let’s hope his social worker comes through on this” said Domeric, quirking an eyebrow amusedly and picking up the file. Mordane chucked at this “You’re telling me.” She looked through another piece of paper. “Your father might benefit from a special parenting class too.” Domeric inadvertently snorted quietly at the mere idea of telling his father he needed to take a parenting class.
Mordane bristled “Oh, so you think it’s easy do you? He’s just a kid, what could he possible do? Let me tell you, I’ve spent 30 years as a care worker so I don’t say this lightly, Ramsay is a real handful. Not only has he got some serious anger issues and can go into the biggest meltdown you’ve ever seen in your life because of something completely insignificant, he refuses to take his ADHD medication either. We’ve tried everything to get him to take it but he refuses. So he’s always bouncing off the walls and if you take him anywhere you’d best keep an eye on him or he’ll be gone like dust on the wind. I took him shopping for shoes last week and it took us 3 hours! 3! He never sits still, he’s loud, he’s rude, he’s violent, he bullies all the other children and he loves scaring people. You can tell him to do something a thousand times and he won’t do it but if he wants to do something then oho, just try stopping him. He killed a squirrel with that bow and arrow last year and put its disgusting bloody remains in this poor girl’s bed because she’d told him off for deflating the kid’s paddling pool. She actually quit after that. He bit his last counsellor, punched his last social worker and stuck gum in my co-workers hair. When we took them camping last year he taught all the others this horrible song about a bird. It made some of the little ones cry. He pushed a girl at his old home down the stairs and she broke her arm. He’s broken two computers in anger, kicked holes in multiple walls, threw a chair through a window and we’ve had to install safety glass in the quiet room because last time he broke that window the glass flew back and cut his arm badly, and we had to take him to hospital. He’s an absolute nightmare!
She stopped suddenly, looking out of breath. “I’m sorry. My point is, he’s far from an easy child to look after and what he needs is consistency. Yes, he’s difficult, but he needs someone who won’t leave him when things get tough, because they will, someone who can deal with him properly. Kids like him aren’t born like that, they have problems yes, but they get that way because no one ever helps them properly or cares enough to stick with them. And I need to know that you can do that for him.” Her voice had softened while saying this.
Domeric stood and walked to the window, looking out at the garden beyond. There were 3 kids playing football there and a woman hanging out washing on a line. “I wasn’t much different you know” He started, thoughtfully. My father got into legal troubles once. My mother…she was always fragile. Killed herself after my father was accused of certain…crimes. Anyway I didn’t know about any of that at the time. With my father in hot water and my mother dead the state took me in. All I knew is that I was being taken away from my parents. I didn’t understand why, I thought I’d been abandoned. A year later in some kids home my father’s situation was resolved. I came home but I was different. I’d grown angry and resentful. I hated everyone else, they didn’t understand me. I shut myself off from the world. My father understood though, he gave me the means I needed to move past it. And now, here I am.” Domeric smiled. “He’s no stranger to nightmarish kids I can assure you.”
Mordane looked relieved. “Well that’s good then. I’m glad you came here; I thought he’d be stuck here until he turned 16. That’s no life for a child.” She pursed her lips. Clearly she knew all about his useless mother. Then she smiled at him. “Well at least…let’s get down to this paperwork and get the ball rolling then.” Domeric nodded.
There was fare more paperwork than Domeric had expected but they finally completed it all. “Ok, so from now you and your father have visitation rights and we’ll schedule a supervised visit for this Saturday.”
“I’d like to see him for a bit now if that’s ok” Asked Domeric “He wanted to see me so badly it seems unfair to deny him that.” Mordane nodded, “Ok I’ll take you to him but I warn you, he might not be very receptive.”
They left the office and followed the hallway round the corner. They walked past the kitchen, where the kids were eating dinner, past the living room which had the TV back on its table, thankfully not broken and to a door with “QUIET ROOM” in wooden letters on the door. The T had fallen off though, so it was more a QUIE ROOM. “In there” Mordane showed him “I’ll let you two alone for a while”. After she’d retreated back into the kitchen, Domeric knocked softly.
“PISS OFF” yelled Ramsay from inside. “I DON’T WANT DINNER I TOLD YOU ALREADY SANDOR.”
“It’s Domeric” he called back “I just want to talk…that is if you do.”
Silence. Then the door creaked open slowly. Ramsay glowered at Domeric through the cracked door. “Mind if I come in?” Asked Domeric. Ramsay nodded sulkily and opened the door to let Domeric in. The room looked like a bomb had hit it. It was full of soft foam blocks, to sit on or to throw around and hit things with if a child was having a meltdown or tantrum. Ramsay retuned to the one upright block where he had been sitting, kicking his feet against the wall. Domeric shut the door and sat next to him. There was a pause.
“So she told you then. About me and how I’m bad.” Said Ramsay suddenly, breaking the silence. “And now you’ve come to say you made a mistake? Its fine, I didn’t want to go anyway, I’m the boss here, and all the kids know it. And you know what else-”
“Ramsay” Interjected Domeric
“-And he’s got no friends either, if I left he’d be alone forever and I’d-“
Ramsay stopped talking, his mouth still open. Clearly he wasn’t used to being interrupted.
“Mordane told me a lot about you, yes. Not a lot of it was good, I’ll be honest.” Ramsay’s head snapped up to look at his brother, words of protest half formed, until he saw Domeric was smirking, amused, not angry or disappointed.
“I heard you broke a girls arm in your last home”
“She had it coming” snapped Ramsay
“Won’t take your meds?”
“They made me feel horrible” replied Ramsay, fidgeting. “They can’t make me take those”
“You threw a chair through a window”
“I saw someone on TV do it. Locke bet me I couldn’t so…I did”
And something about a horrible song about a bird?”
Ramsay’s face split into a grin at that “That’s a really funny song. I can teach it to you if you want? People say it’s gross though so they don’t like it. They were singing this boring song about this bird with a yellow bill so I improved it, Theon thought it was great”
“I have no problem with gross” Grinned Domeric in reply. “Gross can be fun.”
“That’s exactly what I said!” said Ramsay excitedly “Ok, I’ll teach you it, this is how it goes.”
There was a bird
With a yellow bill
It landed on
I coaxed it in
With a bit of cider
Didn’t like the look of it
So I put it in the liquidiser
Its eyes went pop
Its wings went crunch
Then I had that bird
For me Sunday lunch.
Domeric snorted with laughter, “You made that up? That’s pretty creative.”
“Yeah I did” sniggered Ramsay in response “I thought it was funny but the staff didn’t like it”
“I liked it” said Domeric “It’s really funny. In fact I might have to sing it to my friends”
Ramsay looked very pleased with himself.
“In all seriousness Ramsay, it doesn’t matter what you’ve done. Even if you’d killed someone, you’re my brother and our father’s son. We’d still want you to live with us no matter what.”
Ramsay squinted “Still? Why? I’m ‘difficult’, everyone says so.”
“Because, Ramsay.” Domeric explained, “You’re family. And you should be with us, not here.”
Domeric was almost knocked from the block he was sitting on by the force of which Ramsay hug-tackled him.
“Hahaha easy kiddo, easy” laughed Domeric returning the hug. “We’re only doing what we should of done 6 years ago.”
“But I’m so happy.” came Ramsay’s voice, muffled because his head was buried in the front of Domeric’s polo shirt “I hate this place. I hate all the homes I’ve ever been in, they’re shit. This one’s been the best so far but it still sucks. I never have any space to myself, I have to share everything, if I need help with something then I have to wait forever because the staff are always helping the other kids, and we have to vote on what to watch. And then all that gets put on is paw patrol because the little kids can’t watch anything fun. I hate that show”
“Well at our house you’d never have to watch that ever again” said Domeric, gently extracting Ramsay. He checked his watch. “Well father’s expecting me home so I have to go now.”
Ramsay looked stricken. “I’ll be back Ramsay. I’ll come see you every day after class if you want me to?” Ramsay nodded mutely, looking downcast. His time with Domeric had come to and end far too early for his liking.
Domeric thought.“Hey listen. I know you’ve been let down in the past but I have no intention to do that to you.” He paused, pulling off his Bolton family ring. “See this? It’s a family heirloom. It’s been with our family for centuries. I want you to have it.” Ramsay took it fervently. “Look, at it, can you see the flayed man there? It’s a Signet ring, used by noble families for sealing letters with hot wax. It’s very important to our family, and I trust you with this to show you I’ll be back for you” He handed it to Ramsay.
Ramsay screwed his face up, turning the ring over in his hand to look at the sigil. “I know what flaying is” he said “Why a flayed man?”
“Well it’s a sigil. It was how people identified ancient houses and families. And the flayed man is rather –ahem- intimidating. It showed that the Bolton’s were not a family to be tampered with.”
Ramsay grinned. “That’s so cool. I’ll be really careful with it, I promise.”
Domeric ruffled his hair “I know you will. Anyway I have to leave now but I’ll see you tomorrow ok? I’ll be here at 5 and if I’m a minute late you can beat me up with one of those rectangle foam blocks ok?”
Ramsay giggled, following Domeric out of the room. He spied Mordane walking towards them “Now go eat some dinner ok? I need to talk with Mordane before I leave. I’ll see you tomorrow” he told Ramsay, nudging him gently towards the kitchen. Ramsay complied with a nod and a shout of “see ya!"
Mordane looked surprised. “He looks happy. I take it you guys had a good talk?”
“Yeah we did, I’ll come back at 5 tomorrow.”
“Excellent, I’ll inform his social worker. And I’ll let you know more details about the visit on Saturday. Oh…and Domeric.”
Domeric got into his car, pulling out his phone as he did so. His finger hovered briefly over his father’s name before he pressed dial.
“Domeric” came his father’s voice
“Hello father” Domeric replied “I’ve got good news. Ramsay will be able to come live with us. There are a couple things to do first but you already told me to expect that.”
“Good. I assume he is open to the idea of living here. Is he how I expected?”
Domeric sighed “Yeah, he is. More so actually. He’s got a ‘talent for violence’ as you would say”
“Good, good. Perhaps he will be able to do what is required of him.”
Domeric bit his tongue. “I do everything you ask of me, father. I just don’t- “
“You aren’t forceful enough. People do not fear you like they do with me.”
“What, because I won’t break someone’s legs with a baseball bat? I’m sorry father but-“
“Enough.” replied his father sharply. “If what you say is true and he is willing to commit violence for his own means then I’ll easily be able to mould him and turn him into a figure to not only be feared, but respected too, a man capable of taking care of my more…sensitive business ventures. I’m sure he has no frivolous dreams of a musical career either. You are a respectable young man, but you need to focus on the future of the Bolton name more. Perhaps you can help each other, brother to brother.”
Domeric sighed again. “I’m sure we can, father. I’m leaving now; I’ll be home within the hour.”
“See you soon then.” His father replied, before hanging up.
Domeric started the car, but he didn’t pull away. He tapped his fingers on the steering wheel. He liked Ramsay, He’d always wanted a brother but…he knew their father would manipulate him into a ruthless killer. He was the right kind of person too, and he was Roose’s son, which meant he by was by default loyal and perfect to follow in Roose’s footsteps as far as his business went. Domeric never wanted the family business, or the name. He carried it like a ball and chain, whereas he knew Ramsay would wear it with pride. He sighed. The least he could do was stay till Ramsay was old enough to inherit the business and then abscond. Would that he could, but his father wouldn’t hurt him.Surely? His thoughts wandered to Ramsay’s mother’s disappearance again.
He put his car into gear and pulled away into the night.