Chapter Ten

I got used to the new situation.

When I was at home I didn’t see Mom much. She was always out at some charity event or community event. Pam or some other babysitter would be there when I got home from school. Often Pam would have to make me dinner, because Mom had more meetings.

This was okay with me, because Mom and I were never that close.

But I missed Dad terribly. The house seemed empty without him. It was almost as though he had died.

He must have known this, because he called me every night, and sent me e-mails that Pam read to me (Pam didn’t know I can read.). He always said “I love you,” and he always said “I miss you.”

I spent every other weekend with him at Nancy’s house. I loved this. The change of scene was exciting. Dad and Nancy took me to the movies, to amusement parks, museums, baseball games. I came to like Nancy a lot. She was very down-to-earth, and had a good sense of humor. I did things to make her laugh.

She acted as though she had known me all her life. She combed my hair, she cut my fingernails, washed my clothes, and bought new clothes for me. She was a great seamstress, and could sew up the many tears in my outfits. Her fingers were quick, professional.

“Max, honey, that simply is not you!” she would say about my shirt or my pants. “We’re going to find something with your style.”

And the things she bought did look good on me.

She hugged me a lot. “Max, what would we do without you?”she would say.

I liked her physically too. She had a good figure, nice legs, and a pretty face. Her eyes didn’t have the sparkle of Audrey’s eyes, but they were kind. I got the feeling she had been around, taken her own knocks, and understood my situation. I couldn’t cross-examine her about her past, but she had that look of the experienced woman. I enjoyed that.

School was better, not only because Sherry was there but because Mr. Bakewell was there. In an odd way he seemed to counterbalance what had happened to me at home. He was like a parent, in the sense that he accepted us completely and was devoted to us. You knew he would never let you down. This was very comforting.

I started showing more of what I could do in class. Not too much, just enough to surprise Mr. Bakewell and make him like me. I wrote my name, I drew pictures of Mr. Bakewell and of Sherry and the other kids. I played video games, I put puzzles together. Soon Mr. Bakewell saw me as the star of the class. But he didn’t advertise this to the others. He would whisper in it my ear during one of his famous confabulations.

“You are the smartest one here,” he said. “You’re the one to watch. I don’t want to tell the others because it will make them feel inferior.”

Then he stood up and shouted to the others, “Confidential!”

This did something for my ego. The autism itself, Bethany’s death, my parents’ separation — all these things had clobbered my self-esteem. Sometimes I felt there wasn’t really anything to me except being a problem. That I didn’t have any redeeming qualities worth mentioning.

But now, in a small way, I began to feel that I had value. My Dad loved me, Nancy loved me. Mr. Bakewell admired me. When I grew up I might actually amount to something. This whole bad period of my life would be behind me and I could move on.

I also made some new friends. James Davidson, the boy whose ear Miss Greco had pulled, was a nice kid. We played games together and threw a ball to each other on the playground. He had a friend from his own neighborhood named John Hazen, who had Asperger’s Syndrome and went to a different school. The three of us would get together outside school and hang out.

I was getting used to things — I’m good at getting used to things. If changes happen in your life that you can’t do anything about, you might as well adjust. Otherwise the world will break you. You’re not going to break it.

But — it wasn’t to be that simple.