From the online map's satellite view the island looked like the ocean had an eye with a bluish black pupil and a green iris. The only port on the island was on the north west side. Right next to the port was a town that had grown up along the short river where lake water escaped back to the sea. The center of the island was a large lake surrounded by mountains on all sides with the only gaps in the range being where the river flowed down and on the southern tip of the island. Going along the lake on one side was a road that went from the town down to that southern tip in order to give the residents access to the small bit of beach that was there. And there along that road about halfway between the town and the beach was the house.
Mike was amazed the building was still standing. It didn't look livable. It was very secluded and standing in front of it a person likely wouldn't even have any sense that they were on an island at all. It was situated by the large lake at the center of the island far from the only town and there were the ruins of what used to be a place to tie a boat. It was likely that no one had lived in this house for a long time. It wasn't even wired for electricity and water looked like it had to be manually pumped.
This house wasn't easy to get to either. There was the road that passed the house a bit higher on the bank but then the mountain just rose up making it impossible to have a neighbor across the street. The road signs that were posted further up the road weren't encouraging either. There was one that warned of falling boulders and another that warned of mud slides.
However, there had to be no mistaking it. This was the place. Mike had zero information on who his parents were other than they were dead and this place was the last address either of them had had. Mike had inquired through the mail about who owned the land and it turned out that the deed had seemingly been abandoned for over seventy years with no owner listed in all that time. The state had tried to auction the property a couple of times with no takers. At the present time, it wasn't up for sale or lease or anything. It was just sort of there in the worst place imaginable where a structure built by human hands had any reason to be. Of course Mike couldn't have known that from the map he'd gotten down at the courthouse earlier in the day. It just showed topography but Mike couldn't read that sort of stuff so he marked the road he needed to follow and rode with Ms Stephanie to the secluded house. One day that house was going to just collapse or fall into the lake or get covered by mud. It wasn't insulated against the cold and the summer heat would likely be unbearable.
In order to get to this moment when Mike was actually standing in front of this place he'd had to use all his powers of charm and manipulation on his new social worker who was a rookie taking over from the old hag Mrs Carter. Ms Stephanie tried to be authoritarian when Mike had first met her but in seemingly no time at all Mike had been able to charm her into not only giving him permission to come all the way out to the house in the middle of nowhere on the other side of the state and on an island out in the ocean no less but Ms Stephanie herself had driven to the port, rode with him on the ferry that charged extra for cars because it could only carry two cars at a time and then drove them there to a place that Mike had never been to but nonetheless was the only place in the whole world he felt he had any real connection to.
A lot can happen in a year and six months. Mike was technically still a ward of the state but he was no longer listed as in state's custody now that he was over 18. He was in the extended care program and was supposed to continue to be so until he was 21 provided he did minimum basic things like didn't get arrested, was enrolled as a students somewhere, and allowed Ms Stephanie to come visit him and inspect where he lived to make sure he was following the rules. Most former foster kids didn't want to be in or even qualify for extended care and those that did usually went to group homes or halfway houses set up for older teens. Mike didn't want that as he had a very different plan and like putty in his hands Ms Stephanie had agreed to his crazy idea.
Mike was now the owner of the lake house that was the last address his parents had had. The state had tried to auction off the property numerous times with no takers so the property value was listed as zero. That meant Mike could actually just pay the ten dollar processing fee to the local county clerk and the deed was transferred to him.
Of course having a deed and actually being able to live in that house were two very different things. Ms Stephanie would not allow Mike to live there until the place was fixed up. Mike worked after school for over a year and put all his money to that project. He had actually thought he wouldn't have enough but Ms Stephanie surprised him and she put in a matching amount from her own salary to help him. Six months after Mike's 18th birthday he was living in the house, working part time online, and riding a scooter to the city college's little satellite campus in town which had more students then there were population in the rest of the one cop town.
It was at school where Mike had met Susan. There was an attraction from the first moment they laid eyes on each other and only a few days later they were officially a couple. Mike thought things were going well and he was really just getting to know her but apparently she had baggage and drama involving her previous relationship as well as interference from her parents that made it so she wasn't really able to have a real relationship with Mike so just shy of two months the relationship ended.
The thing most people might assume about boys in foster care is that they come from really damaged and broken families, which is generally true though usually not for any reason that is the boy's fault. However, these boys are very much a product of where they come from, moms who are super promiscuous and fathers who probably are too if they are even around. The boys coming into the system along with all the other emotional issues they have to process are often compelled to have sex with as many girls as are willing and get plenty of experience very early. Someone saying that the boys were just copying the behavior they saw before would be correct but only partially so. These boys often subconsciously used sex as a replacement for a familial connection taken away from them and in sex they find an outlet for the rage and hatred implanted into their tortured souls.
To counter that the state had a program of constantly trying to educate the boys about sex and proper behavior towards women. Don't cat call women, it is sexual harassment. Don't claim a woman was his girlfriend, that was sexual enslavement. Don't engage in any unwanted physical contact such as holding hands because that was sexual assault. Don't ask for her number. Don't ask for a date. Don't ask for her socials (whatever those were). Don't, don't, don't. And the biggest don't of all was no kissing. That could get you charged with rape so basically, don't even look in a woman's direction unless you want to go to jail. At the end of one particular video some steroid using police who look like they just beaten up an innocent person for their evening entertainment, blood on his knuckles and everything, pointed at the camera. "Don't think you can get away with it. You can't hide. We will find you. Your best move, DON'T do it."
Yet, even with all of those attempts at conditioning the minds of boys in state's custody, for most boys it was in one ear and out the other. None of it did anything to alter their behavior. Most boys in the system scoffed at the very idea that they would not have sex at absolutely every single opportunity. Of course they would, legal repercussions and 'accidental' pregnancies be damned. The only question most boys needed answered was whether the girl was opening her legs for him or not. If yes, then sex was happening and the rules could go fly off a cliff. There were deeper emotional needs that these boys had that just weren't being met without sex being part of the picture.
Of course just because most boys were horny teens enslaved to their passions they did not represent 100% of boys. There was always some minority of boys who took the rules to heart very literally. Mike, who had never known either of his parents, fit neatly into this category. When he dated Susan he deferred to her in almost everything, doing his best to be a great friend and a perfect gentleman, always mindful not to cross any boundaries. The law seemed clear, Susan had to make the first move while Mike had to keep his hands and his eyes to himself which he did. Mike dated Susan from at least 12 inches away at all times. In his mind he had too much to lose not to. He didn't even form the thought to do otherwise and it wasn't even because he completely believed all of the over the top consequences he'd been told about. He didn't need to believe it for the message of the videos and classes to be impressed upon his subconscious and affect his behavior. He was conducting himself according to what was the official correct way to date a girl.
For Mike, who had done everything right, hadn't imposed himself on her, hadn't made any mistakes or let his guard down, and who was just then starting to feel something for Susan, the day she dumped him was a dark day. It was his first real relationship and then he had to experience being dumped. He was in Dr Holland's office trying to just talk to her about his assignment when his emotions pushed themselves up and started to just flood out. It was the last thing Mike wanted. He had been just fine when talking to other teachers that day but looking at the young face of Dr Holland who had only gotten her PhD two years ago she just reminded him of Susan so much. He sort of had gotten the reputation as the tough kid who grew up in an orphanage but it had not prepared him for the shock to his core being that getting dumped had inflicted on him. Mike cried and Dr Holland tried to comfort him as best she could but Mike was inconsolable.
Later Mike was feeling better but the damage had already been done. Dr Holland would not allow Mike to ride his motorcycle home and instead insisted she drive him. Mike's teacher wasn't thinking about how far Mike would have to walk the next Monday in order to get to school. Then again, if he waited until Monday that would mean being stuck at his home all weekend with no way to get to town except on foot. Then again, he could call someone to give him a ride but the only person he knew who would do that was … Susan.
Alone in his home Mike decided that it was just too much trouble to make anything for dinner so he just sat on his bed and sulked.
That was odd. Mike wiped his eyes. Nobody ever knocked on his door.
He got up and checked to see who it was and Ms Stephanie was out there waiting to be let in.
"That was fast." Mike said as he wondered when Dr Holland would have even had time to call his social worker without Mike noticing and besides that when did she have enough time to ride the ferry then come all the way out there.
"Are you ok?" Ms Stephanie demanded as she held out a paper bag to him.
Mike took it and noticed how his social worker was dressed. Yet even before taking full notice of her very cute red dress that only went over one shoulder he was dazed by the smell of her perfume which overpowered the scent of the food she'd brought for him.
"Come on, kiddo, talk to me."
"I'm fine. My heart is saying I'm dying but I'm pretty sure I'll live."
"I told you." Ms Stephanie said referring to how she'd tried to insist to Mike that he should finish school first before getting a girlfriend.
"There isn't a rule against it."
"No but if you get a girl pregnant you're out of the program. You know that."
"We only dated for two months. It didn't go that far."
"I'm a guy, I would definitely tell you if it did."
Ms Stephanie came close to him and wrapped her arms around him. Mike noted in his mind that this was nice. Of course Dr Holland had been hugging him earlier but more like just putting her arm on his shoulder to tell him to cheer up. That had been nothing like this where somehow even with Mike being taller than Ms Stephanie she still brought his head down to her chest to hold him more intimately than he had ever remembered her doing so in the two years that he'd known her.
"I'm here now. You don't have to worry about her. You don't have to think about her."
"I know. I just feel bad. I'm going to be ok."
"I …" she started but then just held him tighter for a moment. "Are you hungry?"
"You better eat." she said as her hands really dug in.
"I'm sorry you had to come all the way out here."
"Don't worry about it."
"You look like you were going to go on a date or something."
She finally pulled herself away from him and looked at him with a bit of a spark. "You're more important."
"I am?" Mike asked since the very concept of him being important to someone was strange.
She looked almost dazed as she stared at him while biting one side of her bottom lip. He was almost about to say she looked cute like that but before he could she snapped herself out of it.
"You're dinner is going to get cold. Set the table. And not just for one, for two. I had to cancel dinner plans to come out here so you owe me the pleasure of your company."
"You're always welcome here. You know that. … ahem … The judge made me give you a key."
Mike usually didn't pay any mind to the fact that the lights in his home were a bit on the dim side. However, as Ms Stephanie sat across from him at his small table it occurred to him that this was about the level of light you might expect at a candle lit dinner when you went on a date.
"I'm really sorry." Mike said as he watched Ms Stephanie take a bite of her first french fry and he realized that the quality of the food did not in any way match the quality of her outfit.
"I'm sorry you had a bad day."
Mike shrugged. "I guess it was bound to happen eventually. It wasn't like Susan's parents were going to let me get married to her." Mike hadn't realized it until the words had left his lips but he'd said 'parents' with a bit of bitterness in his voice. He instantly regretted it but he couldn't go back in time to change it so he decided to forget about it.
"She's an adult, isn't she?"
"Yeah, but …"
"Michael, you have all the same rights that everyone else has. Don't look down on yourself and don't let anyone look down on you because you're coming out of the system. Now, that's not me saying you should go try and get married to her. OK? Cause if you get married then you're out of the program."
"If you get married then in a way you're sort of saying that you can take care of yourself so much that you're even going to take care of a wife too. You're only supposed to be in the program so long as you need our help. Once you graduate and get a good job you shouldn't need us anymore. And FYI, try to do that before you turn 21 instead of having to panic later."
It didn't take that much time to eat even slow as they were eating. Ms Stephanie asked a couple of routine questions about the house and how Mike was doing in school but she didn't really engage with his answers and Mike started to think that perhaps her mind was on other things, like her date that she'd ditched so she could come all the way out to the middle of nowhere so she could console a heart broken teenager.
"You know, if you're going to ask all these questions you might as well do your monthly inspection." Mike said but his words didn't register with his social worker right away. Then when his words did click in her mind she snapped to look at him.
"Yes." she said and then immediately got to her feet.
Mike watched as she started to go through his kitchen and then she moved on to looking around his bathroom. Mike just waited cause he was used to this and if she did her inspection today then it meant he didn't have to worry about being surprised for at least two or three weeks. Mike had heard that teens in the group homes only had inspection once every two or three months but when it happened it was a big deal becoming bigger the longer between they were. In contrast Ms Stephanie was over at Mike's place so often she'd sometimes comment that nothing had changed at all since the previous time she'd been there.
As Ms Stephanie was going around checking Mike happened to notice his social worker's red handbag and the white fabric that was peeking out of them. He casually stepped over and leaned to take a look inside just out of curiosity telling himself that he was not going to touch anything. Condoms and an extra pair of panties. Interesting. Ms Stephanie was looking to hook up, he figured. Damn, now he felt really extra bad that she'd chosen to come out to see him instead.
"Michael." Ms Stephanie called from upstairs in his bedroom.
"Yeah." he called back to her hoping she might just want to ask a question and not because she sensed he was snooping into her purse.
"Get up here."
Oh, that didn't sound good. Wait … Mike just then remembered. "Oh shit." he said under his voice. He went to the bedroom and sure enough, she'd found it.
"You know you're not supposed to have this kind of stuff." she said as she held up the porno magazine.
"I guess you have to write me up."
"I don't want to, you know that."
Mike had heard that before and knew full well that as a social worker she was still going to do it.
"You know it's against the rules. Why'd you buy it?" she asked.
"I didn't buy it. This girl Gina gave it to me as a prank."
"Cause like we were in the convenience store and they had it on display because it was the only one left and they really wanted to get rid of it so then …"
"I'm going to have to confiscate it."
"Ok. I understand."
Ms Stephanie sat down on the edge of Mike's bed and wanting to get more comfortable she undid the clasp on her heels so she could take them off and rest one foot up on his covers. "Come, sit down." she said to him.
He sat down and prepared himself for the lecture to follow.
Ms Stephanie opened the porno magazine and looked through it. "Jesus, they put full penetration in these damn things now."
"Did they used to not?"
"You tell me. You've owned more of these things than I ever have."
"In that case we have a sample size of one."
Ms Stephanie flipped through a few more pages and then pointed at the girl. "You like girls like this?"
"Look. What about her is attractive to you?"
"I don't know."
"You want to watch girls having sex with other guys."
"Then why do you have a magazine like that?"
"I'm sorry. There's only one guy there though."
"Who's not you. Do you imagine that you're him? Do you imagine you want to date this girl?"
"Uh … What do you mean?"
"You want her? You want to fuck her? I can track her down for you. You know I can. I can get you a phone call with her." Mike knew what she said was true. Most people didn't know the immense power that social workers acting in 'the best interest' of a child in state's custody had. Mike knew because he'd seen it in action numerous times. There was this one kid he'd met a long time ago who was telling everyone that some famous boxer was his half brother so the social workers got in contact with the boxer's family and then the boy, who maintained the story to the very bitter end, was put on the phone with the boxer himself who only agreed to speak to the kid because the state was going to revoke his boxing license and cancel his upcoming title fight if he didn't do what they wanted.
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