Hope House - Chapter One



Hope House
One - Group Therapy or Communal Madness?

New resident Chris meets his fellow housemates for the first time


“Come on, Chris, don’t hang back now.” Gordon smiled encouragingly at the dark haired young man, who had finally been persuaded to leave his room for the first time since arriving at Hope House the day before. “Let’s get this over with. You have to meet your housemates sooner or later. You might as well do it while everyone is in one place.”

“Why?” Chris Emett scowled at the door, which had a sign reading ‘meeting in progress’ hanging on it. He thrust his hands deep in the pockets of his shabby jeans. “I’d rather go back to my cell.”

“Room, Chris, not a cell, this isn’t a prison.”

“Can I leave any time I want to, like right now?”

“You know the answer to that question, but I’ll give it again, just so you’re clear. When you’ve proven you’re ready and willing to resume control of your life in a responsible and acceptable way, then you can leave.”

“In other words I’m a prisoner here until YOU say I can leave.” Pulling his hands from his pockets Chris turned away from the door and strode back up the generous hall, aiming for the stairs, only Gordon got there before him, as if practiced in overtaking reluctant house guests.

“Enough. You have to get to know us sometime and this is as good a time as any. We always have an informal meeting at this time of day, so we can talk about anything that might have upset or worried us during the course of the day.”

“I don’t need group therapy.”

“It isn’t group therapy as such. It’s a chance for you to get to know people.”

“I don’t want to get to know people. I hate people.”

“I know this is daunting for you, Christopher, all new experiences are, but the sooner you embrace them the easier they become.”

“I don’t want to embrace anything in this dump.”

“Hope House isn’t a dump.”

“Well it isn’t exactly a luxury hotel.”

“Neither is prison, Chris. You made the choice to come here.”

“I can change my mind.”

“Too late.” Gordon examined the boy, not without sympathy. “The decision was made and you will abide by it. We can help you here, if you let us.”

“Maybe I don’t want help.”

“Tough.” Gordon lost patience. Taking a firm hold of Chris’s arm, and ignoring his protests, he steered the boy back down the hall towards the meeting room. Thrusting the door open he pushed Chris inside and closed the door behind them. “Take a seat. Make yourself at home.”

Chris considered trying to shove the big man aside, but catching a look from his ice blue eyes, decided against it. There was something forbidding about Gordon Trapp. He dropped his gaze and turned away from the door, facing into the room, which was furnished with an eclectic range of chairs. Christ. He flinched, as four pairs of eyes inspected him with interest.

Gordon made a general introduction. “This is Christopher, our new resident, make him welcome.”

There was a mumble of greetings, which Chris ignored. He walked over to the large bay window. He might not be able to leave the room, but no way was he going to sit and make small talk with a bunch of weirdo’s. It was like tales from the fucking crypt!  How had he ended up here? Folding his arms he stared out of the window at the rapidly darkening garden.

“Chris.” Gordon spoke patiently. “Sit down please, you’re distracting everyone by standing there.”
Chris didn’t respond, keeping his gaze firmly fixed on the window, determined to do things his own way, only, he felt a sudden stir of fear as the outside light faded and the window became a dark mirror reflecting the room behind him. His skin prickled as he caught a slight movement from the corner of his eye, a shadow forming.

Gordon watched the colour fade from the young man’s face. Striding quickly towards to the window he dropped the blinds and drew the heavy velvet curtains together. Taking Chris by the shoulders he propelled him across the room, pushing him onto a chair. “Sit there, boy, before I lose all patience with you.”

Sliding from the chair, Chris sat cross-legged on the floor.

Gordon decided to call it a compromise. “Would you care to tell us what you found so interesting out there in the garden, Christopher?”

Chris gave a caustic smile. “Would you care to tell me why you think it’s any of your damn business?”

“Later then.” Gordon ignored the provocative tone of voice. “Let me introduce everyone.”

“My fellow prisoners you mean?”

Gordon smoothly carried on, holding out his hand towards the young man nearest to him, a gangly figure with uncommonly large brown eyes. “This is Nigel.”

Chris swallowed as Nigel gazed at him intently. The gaze was bad enough, but the babble of words accompanying it was infinitely worse.

“I like gardens, don’t I Gordon? I’m not much good at gardening though. Are you good at gardening, Chris, is that why you were looking out of the window? I wish I were good at gardening. If you are good at gardening, can I watch you while you garden? I won't get in your way. Gordon lets me watch him while he’s gardening don’t you, Gordon?”

“I ain’t no fucking gardener,” spat Chris, embarrassed by the long-winded spiel, “so shut up, you freak!” His discomfort doubled when the brown-eyed man shot from his seat and lumbered towards Gordon, arms outstretched.

“He didn’t mean to upset you, Nigel, so there’s no need to cry.” Gordon wrapped comforting arms around the figure, while fixing Chris with a cold look. “We don’t upset each other here, Christopher. We certainly don't call each other hurtful names. Mutual respect is the house policy. Please apologise to Nigel.”

“What the fuck for?” Chris started to his feet. “I’m not apologising for not liking fucking gardening!”

“I’m not asking you to apologise for disliking gardening. I’m asking you to apologise for upsetting Nigel, and may I remind you that swearing is against the house rules. I don't want my ears suffering a constant barrage of foul language.”

“Jesus H. Christ!” Chris blew out his cheeks. “Sorry, okay I’m sorry.”

Nigel’s tears magically dried up and he gave an engaging smile. “Does that mean I can watch you when you garden?”

“I suppose so.” Chris ground the words from between gritted teeth, conscious of Gordon’s eyes on him. He felt hysteria rising. What the hell had he come to?

“Can I have a hug?” Nigel turned from Gordon and lunged for Chris.

“No. Bugger off!” Chris backed away, revulsion written large on his face.

Nigel produced fresh wails. “He doesn’t like me. Why doesn’t he like me, Gordon? I just want to be his friend. Tell Paul to stop laughing. He’s laughing because he doesn’t like me either. Why doesn’t anyone ever like me?”

“Because you're annoying, you get on everyone’s wick.”

“That's enough, Paul.” Gordon gave the giggling teenager a stern look, while comforting Nigel afresh.

“I like you, Nigel,” said a man with pale skin and short blonde hair who sat rocking backwards and forwards on the edge of his seat, a wastepaper basket clutched tightly to his chest.

“Thank you, James. I like you too.”  Nigel broke away from Gordon and hurled himself at James, who let out a thin high-pitched squeal of distress as his paper basket was crushed in Nigel’s ensuing clumsy embrace.

“You’ve squashed my mother, Nigel! I don’t like you any more. You can’t go around squashing other people’s mothers!”

“Welcome to Hell House, man!” Paul grinned sadistically at Chris who was staring in fascinated horror as James tried to evict Nigel from his knee. “If you aren’t already barking mental, you will be after a few weeks here. It makes Bedlam seem like an oasis of sanity.”

“Be quiet, Paul, you’re not helping anyone by saying things like that.”

“I’m only telling the truth.”

“I said be quiet.” Gordon rubbed a forefinger against his temple. It was going to be one of those sessions. He silently cursed his partner Nat for insisting on attending a conference when they had a new resident to cope with. It wasn’t the best of times to jump ship, not with Nigel still unsettled after a visit by his parents. Wretched people. They had turned up out of the blue after a year without so much as a postcard, undoing in an hour the slow painstaking progress of an entire year. The visit had sent Nigel crashing back into fretful child mode. He had been difficult to cope with ever since, demanding attention and constant reassurance.

Pushing aside his weariness, and an urge to scream, Gordon took Nigel by the hand and led him back to his chair, uttering reassurances. “James doesn’t hate you, Nigel, not at all.”

“I do.”

“No, James, you don’t.”

“My mother does, she said so, just now, after he squashed her, great lump that he is.”

“She said nothing of the sort. Really, James, it isn’t like you to be so unkind. Besides, we both know your mother is not in that wastepaper basket.”

“She is, I can hear her.”

“No, James, you can’t,” said Gordon firmly. “Your mother is dead, she is not in the basket, so put it back in the corner where it belongs. I mean it, James, are you listening to me, put the basket back, right now.”


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