Chapter Description: Sooner or later, society would catch on to your change. How is the law supposed to recognize you? The answer is complicated.
Mom rushed to my apartment as soon as the phone call ended, and she seemed excited at first. She was all happy about seeing her little boy again, until both Reed and I dropped a bombshell that set her off; I may have to be under their care again. Mom was understandably livid as she had no interest in going back to being a parent in Alaska when she was supposed to be retired. Dad learned about my regression as well, and his reaction was even worse. He even accused me of turning myself into a kid on purpose to sabotage their retirement plans, going so far as to say that I was no longer his son.
I was mortified to hear those words from my own parents. I would have simply been pissed at them and shown them the door, but I erupted into tears. They continued their rant towards me despite me being inconsolable. "That little shit is not our son, and he will not destroy our retirement," mom shouted as she and dad were storming out of my apartment, "Raise him yourself Reed!" The door slammed, and I never heard from either of them again. With his arm around my shoulder, Reed did his best to comfort me.
"Maybe it's best for someone else to adopt you. At least then you get to have a proper family this time, and nothing like those two. That was selfish of them to say those things, and for choosing their retirement over you," Reed stated while trying to wipe the tears from my eyes. After around 10 minutes of silence, I finally spoke up to Reed. "Well, can you adopt me?" I asked, with my voice whimpering and vulnerable.
Reed was at a loss for words at that question, but I had my reasons for asking. I had really appreciated Reed's help throughout most of the time I had spent as a kid, and it was getting to the point where I no longer saw Reed as a friend, but as an older brother instead. Yes, he was treating me like a kid, but I was starting to like it, especially since I was an only child growing up. "I can't make any promises Kevin," Reed replied, "But we'll take this one day at a time." The apartment was silent for the rest of the night.
The work started the following morning, where Reed gave me my first homework assignment: send a letter of resignation to my boss and e-mail it to him. I was tempted to type in how I really felt about him, from his sleazy behaviour towards my female co-workers to his overbearing management style, and especially his disgusting goatee. However, I kept the letter professional and had to 'thank him' for the job opportunity. Reed did allow me to have the resignation be immediate since a kid should not have to worry about burning bridges.
It was then that I noticed I was mentally slipping, with Reed correcting some grammatical mistakes and even spelling the name of the company right. "Seems like you're even starting to write like a kid," Reed commented, "But I wouldn't worry about it. I'm sure you can learn to do better when you start school next month." My mouth dropped as soon as I heard the word school. Until then, I had not thought about having to go back to school, but that topic was going to come up sooner or later.
Now that I no longer had a job and was still a kid, adoption was the next topic to come up. Reed and I had a meeting with his mom Denise, who came over with a social worker. The both of us tried our best to explain the situation, but the social worker found it difficult to believe and pestered us on where my parents were. Denise didn't believe us either and thought it was a cruel and twisted joke, but then Reed remembered that my doctor saved the records from my check-up and requested the social worker to reach out to him. The doctor was unfortunately not available that day, so I was taken away from Reed and from my apartment before being placed in a group home.
I do not remember much about my time in the group home, but the other children either looked tough or had apparent violent tendencies. I was told it was for the best that I avoid socializing with the other kids. The home itself smelled of dirt and old soup, and the bed I ended up with had clearly seen better days. I spent most of my time alone and upset. I never asked to be put in this situation, and I did not have Reed or anyone else to vent to at that time. I spent about two weeks in that home, with Reed coming over to visit occasionally. During those two weeks, I was anxious about being taken in by a new family, worried that they would end up being worse than my parents. I was holding out hope for Reed to get this situation straightened out, but that hope started falling apart the more days spent without Reed visiting.
At the end of the two weeks, both Reed and Denise came over for what I was told was another visit. This was when Reed broke the news to me that he was unable to adopt me. Fortunately, Denise was more than nice enough to adopt me instead. This was followed by a series of papers that she had to sign, as well as myself. Specifically, there was an agreement that would have all money in my bank account transferred to her, as well as another that would render my adult status void. How could it be voided? By having some third party modify my own birth certificate to be consistent with the 9-year-old that I looked like, according to my doctor. Denise’s first act as my guardian was to sign those papers as a witness, given that I was a minor again.
During the drive out of the group home, Reed told me that my apartment had already been sold and that I already had a bedroom set up in my new home. Reed added that he had quit his job and moved back home to help both me and Denise adjust. I was silent for the entire drive, reflecting on what had happened. In the eyes of the law, I was a child again. It also dawned on me that I had to go through school again. Denise told me that I didn’t have to call her mom right away. That would take some getting used to, as well as the fact that Reed was legally my brother. Maybe I could try to be more like him this time.
A family meeting was held right after I arrived, and I was surrounded by most of Reed's siblings. I knew that Reed had a big family, but the fact that they were now my siblings as well was very overwhelming. My new siblings included a younger brother named Jacob, who was only 8, as well as several older siblings. There was Cameron, who just turned 13, 17-year-old twins Jessica and Libby, 20-year-old twins Brent and Shane, and of course Reed. Reed did have another sister, but she moved out a few months prior to live with her fiancé. As far as room arrangements go, I got to sleep in her old room, and Reed stole Cameron's room as Denise forced him to share with Jacob. Her reason for this was to help me adjust and give me privacy as I cope with the situation.
I had since gotten to know most of my new siblings, especially as Denise asked everyone to be nice to me. I barely got to know Brent or Shane as they were already preparing to return to their college campus for the year. Jessica commented on how cute I had become, and Libby even wanted to take a picture of me to send to their friends as they run their big mouths about my adoption. Of course, I was not comfortable about them telling anyone, only to be met with eye rolls from the girls as a response. They spent most of their days either on their phones or out of the house with their friends. Jacob was only 1 year younger than me but was happy that he finally has someone at home to play with. I'd say that other than Reed, I spent the most time at home with Jacob, and I liked hanging out with him as well.
On the other hand, Cameron was an absolute dick towards me. He was bitter that Reed stole his room while he ended up in an air mattress in Jacob's room. He hated that Denise expected him to be responsible for me and Jacob. Jacob had told me that Cameron would sometimes bully him, and that the two of them were never close. On a regular basis, Cameron would always find something to yell at me and Jacob about, whether it was over the bathroom we had to share, how "loud" he claimed we were whenever we played on Jacob's Nintendo Switch, or at how he claimed that Jacob and I were keeping him up at night. "Fucking brats!" Cameron would regularly utter under his breath. Both Jacob and Reed taught me not to take Cameron's attitude as personal, and Jacob didn't even care about Cameron's resentment towards him. As for me, I was simply waiting for the chance to get Cameron to snap so that Denise can ground him.
"Kevin, hurry up!" Reed shouted, "You're gonna be late for your first day at school!" Within seconds, I darted down the stairs to grab the backpack Reed had picked out for me. Denise had enrolled me in Stone Bridge Elementary as a fifth grader. Reed was asked to drive me to school with Jacob and Cameron; Brent and Shane were at college, Jessica and Libby had their boyfriends drive them, and both Denise and her husband Rodney were at work.
Cameron sulked in the front seat while Jacob and I sat in the back. "You're nervous, aren't you?" Reed asked during the drive. I immediately nodded while taking a heavy sigh. "It's gonna be okay Kev," Jacob replied while using the nickname that he had for me, "Just don't look too scared, and accept that they'll probably call you 'New Kid' for a while."
I remained silent throughout the rest of the drive, even after Cameron was dropped off at his middle school. Stone Bridge was not a far drive from there, but I had a lot of thinking to do during the drive. I wondered if I would even make any friends, or if I would end up getting bullied or isolated. I have been through worse considering my two weeks in foster care and my first three days as a 9-year-old being spent alone in over-sized clothes.
"Here we are boys," Reed announced as he pulled up in front of the school entrance. Both Jacob and I grabbed our backpacks and stepped out of Reed's car. "Hey Kevin," Reed shouted as I headed towards the front doors, "Just try your best." Jacob and I split up after entering the school as our classes were on opposite sides of the building. I was taking plenty of deep breaths as I walked down the halls towards the classroom that was going to be mine for the year, navigating through the heavy crowds of kids going to their classes. I wiped my sweaty palms on the blue cargo shorts and took one last deep breath as I turned the handle and opened the door.