"Can I help you?"
The youth eventually asks, unimpressed.
"Mr. Joe Skase, I presume?"
The youth nodded.
"I'm Allan Smith from the Department of Child Welfare. I'm here about your sister, Jodie. May I come in?"
The Youth looked the guy up and down, then shook his head.
"Mr. Skase, You don't seem to realize that I'm here to help you and your sister"
The youth raised an eyebrow, he knew the kind of help this guy could offer, and knew that he didn't want that sort of help. However, he decided to entertain the guy.
"Your situation was brought to our attention by your sister's principle"
The youth thoughtfully hummed at the revelation that the old witch had gone through with the threat. Up until that point he had had some hope that she wouldn't get involved with his family situation.
"It would seem she's been missing school"
"And? A lot of kids do.."
"Not when they're seven. Now, we tried getting hold of your parents, without success. Have you heard from them lately?"
He shrugged and casually replied.
"Yeah, mum keeps emailing."
"Well.. that's good to hear, Does Jodie see these emails?"
The youth took a sip from his cup of now cold coffee, this guy was starting to get on his nerves.
"Does it matter?"
"The guy smiled a tense smile.
"It matters to her, we get concerned when we hear that a child claims her parents are dead and that's the reason she's living with her brother. Can you explain that, Mr. Skase?"
"What? Her claim that mum and dad are dead, or that she's living with me?"
He asked, mildly amused by the reaction the guy was having.
"Both, why don't we start at the beginning?"
A smirk plays across the youth's face.
"Alright. In the beginning was the word, and the word… what? You wanted me to start at the beginning, right?"
Joe seemed surprised when the started shaking his head and raises a hand in an effort to get Joe to shut up.
"Mr. Skase, could you, just for a minute, be serious?"
"I was being serious. Now, why exactly are you here?"
"Because we're trying to make sure Jodie is in the best environment for her, and at the moment, that environment doesn't seem to be your home."
"So basically, you took the complaint from her principle, which she had blown out of proportion, and decided that Jodie is in a unhealthy environment. Care to explain how you're gonna tell that one to her parents?"
Joe asked, raising his voice slightly.
"There are other complaints against you, Mr. Skase unreasonable noise-levels, arguing. Strange people coming and going from your apartment.. would you like me to continue?"
"Do go on…"
"There have been allegations made that you are involved in the sex industry, not a good place for a girl to grow up in"
Joe looked at the guy in amazement.
"I suggest you start with taking the kids from hookers to a better environment, Mr. Smith"
He tells the guy, before closing the door on him, not long after, the doorbell rings again, and is ignored as Joe visits a memory of 2 days ago…
It had been a warm, autumn day, and Jodie was sitting on the steps of her school, waiting. She was 7 years old now, and Joe still treated her like a baby, and picked her up everyday. That, of course, didn't go down well with her, cause it's hard skipping school when your brother, who's 10years older than you, picks you up every day.
So on this day, like almost every other day, she was waiting for him, a little more nervous than normal, he had told her to be there, that the principal wanted to speak to him about her this afternoon.
Finally, he showed up, after everyone seemed to have gone, late as always.
"Hey little one.. sorry I'm late, had to finish some work"
He tells her, before messing up her hair.
She whined, putting her hands over her hair and pulling away from him as he stopped.
"Alright, let's go meet your principle and see what she's got to say today"
She looked at him, he didn't seem to be mad at her, instead, seemed to be in a rather good mood, she smiled, if he was in a good mood, things wouldn't be that bad after the meeting. Together, they walked into the building, and headed for the principles office.
"Hey Joe? Did mum and dad ever have to go meet your principle?
She asks along the way, as curious as always. He looked at her sadly, remembering their parents was something he didn't enjoy.
"More than once, Jodie… but nowhere near as much as I'm seeing your principle, hell, if this continues, people will start thinking we're an item"
This brought out laughter from Jodie, the thought of her principle and her brother together seemed hilarious, considering she knew his taste in girls, and her principle wasn't one of them.
Eventually, they get to the principles door.
"Jodie, wait here, will you? I need to talk to her alone"
She giggles, at the thought of them alone, which gets her a frown from him in return.
"Just.. behave, alright?"
She tells him smiling a big, innocent, child's smile. He shakes her head at her, and enters the office.
"You wanted to see me…"
He greets the principle, getting straight to the point.
"Ah yes, Mr. Skase… I see your parents couldn't make it again?"
He gave her a cold stare.
"They're in Hawaii, your records even indicate that, so, no, they couldn't make it"
"Oh.. so they do.. I'm sorry about that, Mr. Skase"
She adjusted her glasses and frowned at him, the dislike being mutual.
"Mr. Skase, do you think that maybe, just maybe, a 17 year old youth is not the right sort of person to look after your sister? That maybe she needs an adult to guide her?"
"I'm sorry.. are you saying I'm not any good at looking after my sister?"
He asks, an expression of amazement and annoyance on his face.
"Well.. she has been cutting classes, and she's not paying attention during the classes she does attend. She's even been known to tell the other girls that her parents are dead. I just think that maybe it would be good for her to have a more.. how would you put it.. stable? Household?"
It took his everything to hold back his fury at this woman.
"And what would this 'stable household entail? A foster family of sorts? Where she'd feel lost?"
He shakes his head at the woman across from him. She had no idea, and would never have any idea.
"Yes, that is what it would entail, I've already taken the liberty to set up a meeting with a social worker for tomorrow morning, I trust you will be there?"
That was it, this lady was going down, he promised himself.
He tells her, before storming out of the office.
"JODIE, let's go…"
"MR. SKASE… I SUGGEST YOU OPEN YOUR DOOR AND WE TALK"
He sighed, this guy wasn't gonna give up, and the last thing he needed is for this guy to go higher up, he sighed and decided to deal with him. He opens the door again, looks at the guy, then up and down the corridor, hoping the guy hadn't interrupted all his neighbors.
"Kindly shut up, would you?"
He tells the guy, focusing back on him.
"Now, how much chance do I have of you leaving us alone?"
At that moment, the door across the corridor opens, to reveal a young, beautiful woman, not much younger than Joe. She quickly takes in the scene, then looks straight at Joe.
"Got problems again, Joe?"
He smiled when he saw her. Her parents had long since given up trying to keep the two apart, for which he was thankful.
"Nah… just Child Welfare trying to screw up the family"
She shook her head slightly, it was so much like him to downplay a serious situation that way and makes her way over to the stranger in the suit, playfully smiling at him, knowing it'd sent Joe mad.
"Hi there, I'm Sonia"
"Allen, Allen Smith"
The guy introduces himself, wondering how she fit into the picture, and automatically assuming that she was more than just a neighbor, the way she looked, he wondered if there was something to the allegations against the Skase kid and if he had Sonia working for him.
"And you're here to see if Joe makes a good dad for his sister?"
She asks Allen, still smiling at him.
"You could say that, Ms…?"
"Murtunberg, Sonia Murtunberg. And really, he makes a great dad, don't you, Joe?"
She smiles at Joe, trying to put him at ease.
"I don't know Sonia, … Mr. Smith here seems to think that Jodie's lack of interest in her schooling makes me unfit to look after her"
She pretended to be surprised, not that she was, she knew how much Jodie didn't like being at school.
"Jodie doesn't like school? Joe, you should have told me."
Joe looked at her, and for a split second, she could see that he was confused, before he covered it up and decided to play along.
"Yeah well, I figured she'd get over it some time soon"
She walked over to them.
"Allen, surely that's a sign of a healthy family live? Joe's trying to do the right thing for Jodie"
Allen could smell her perfume as she walked past him, whatever it was, it suited her.
"You of all people should know that kids go through stages, I personally find it reassuring that he's this lenient with her"
She continues, before stopping next to Joe, and whispering to him.
"You look like shit… couldn't sleep again?"
"I was trying to when Mr. Smith interrupted."
Joe tells her, he had spent the night deeply involved in the game, and had really only stopped when Jodie had woken up, had gotten her ready for school, dropped her off, gotten home and then had pretty much crashed, only to be woken by the doorbell less than an hour later.
Alarm bells start going off in the guy's head at this point. Generally, anyone who slept during the day worked nightshift, which he knew the Skase kid didn't, or had had a late night partying, and by Sonia's reaction, these types of late nights seemed to happen a lot.
"Late night, was it?"
The guy asked, trying to get a reaction out of Joe, who, in turn, frowned at him.
The reaction he got was not quite what he was after. Normally, people like the kid would come up with an excuse of some sort, not an admission.
"Doing what? Partying?"
That reply threw him, it was almost a real answer.
Joe smirked slightly, he wasn't going to admit to studying a target network, not that this guy would know what to do with that revelation.
"programming, I got an exam coming up"
So.. not only do you play dad, you also study. Tell me, why, if you study, does your sister feel so anti-school?"
"That.. I don't know"
"A cry for attention maybe?"
"Joe. Have you been neglecting Jodie?"
Sonia asked feigning surprise. If there was one thing Joe didn't do, it was neglect his sister, even if Jodie couldn't always see that. Sonia had seen him leave everything behind, just to keep Jodie save.
He snorted at her remark. She knew damn well that he'd even neglect the game for Jodie.
"Ever considered that she might not get on with the other kids?"
He asked Allen
*to be continued*