I watched him speak as he stared at the sky.
“The family Children’s Aid placed us with, the Carpenters, were an older couple whose children were grown and moved out. They had a little house on Lowerline Street with an enormous back garden, and Simon would come into my room after playing so he could share everything he’d discovered with me. When I was strong enough to sit up for a while, Mr. Carpenter would carry me outside and let me sit in a lounge chair in the shade. Mrs. Carpenter would read to me, and she sat up with me when I had nightmares.” Noel paused. I stroked the back of his hand with my thumb. “She let me cry when I needed to. She never once told me boys don’t cry.” He paused again. “It was the happiest three weeks of my life.”
I turned onto my side so I could put my hand on his chest. He placed both of his on top of mine.
“And then,” he took a deep breath, “Claude Chabaud filed a defamation of character suit against the hospital on behalf of my father, and threatened to sue the Carpenters as well as Children’s Aid. The Carpenters were completely cowed by my father, so they gave us back to him without a fight.”
I propped myself on my elbow and kissed him. He kissed me back, soft, and when we parted he tucked his head in the crook of my neck. I stroked his hair.
“He knew people were watching him now,” Noel said after we’d just held each other in silence for some time. “He didn’t hit me anymore. But as soon as he could, he sent me to boarding school and Simon stayed in New Orleans.”
“I’m so sorry,” I said, stroking his cheek. “I’m so sorry you had to go through that.”