When you’re a teenager it’s easy to be led astray. What’s hard is getting out of a bad situation.
Mature or distressing themes and strong language. This story deals with issues that are, unfortunately, true to life for some teens.
In keeping with our policy of not running from real life issues, we are hosting Bad Boy Gone Good with this advisory.
When Greg opened the door and saw Jaden Oron standing on his porch, his reaction wasn’t welcoming.
“What the fuck do you want?” he shouted at Jado. “Haven’t you done enough to screw up my life already?”
Jado hung his head and didn’t say anything.
“Well?” Greg demanded.
Jado looked up. Greg could see there were bruises and dirt on Jado’s face and that he’d been crying. It looked like he’d been in a fight and the other guy came out on top.
“I’m sorry,” Jado said so softly that Greg could barely make out the words.
Jado continued, a bit louder, “I fucked up your life and mine too, and I just wanted to let you know that I’m sorry. I’ll leave you alone now.” He turned and started to leave.
“Wait!” Greg said. Jado turned. “What’s going on? Who beat you up?”
“It’s a long story. I’ll just go now.”
“Screw that. Come on in. Tell me what happened.”
Jado looked reluctant, so Greg opened the door all the way and stepped back.
Jado stood and looked at Greg for a few seconds, then took a deep breath and stepped inside. Greg closed the door.
“Come on back to the kitchen.”
Greg led the way into the kitchen and Jado followed.
“Sit down. You want a Coke? Or a glass of water?”
“A Coke, please.” That didn’t sound like the Jado that Greg had known over the past few weeks. He turned on the kitchen light, then got two Cokes out of the refrigerator. He brought them and two glasses to the table and sat down across from Jado.
Greg could see more bruises, cuts, and scrapes on Jodo’s face. “It looks like someone beat the shit out of you. What happened?”
“My stepfather decided to show me that he didn’t like having to pick me up at the San Mateo County Jail.”
“Your stepfather did this to you? What about your mother? Didn’t she try to stop him?”
“No. She’s my stepmother. It’s a long story.”
“I don’t have anything to do this weekend. So tell me the story.”
“My mother died when I was seven. My dad and I lived together for about four years. Then he met my stepmother. Doris didn’t seem to be thrilled about having an eleven-year-old stepson, but as she told me, ‘You’re part of the package.’
“It was the day before my twelfth birthday. I’d walked home as usual and there was no one home. Doris didn’t work and she hadn’t left a note, so it seemed strange. I checked voicemail and there were no messages. So I did my homework, heated and ate some leftovers for dinner, watched TV, and finally went to bed. I didn’t even know anything had happened until the next morning.
“When I got up in the morning neither my dad nor Doris were home. That freaked me, and I didn’t know what to do. We don’t have any relatives in the Bay Area, so I didn’t know anyone I could call. I decided I’d talk to my counselor at school and see if she had any ideas. I got dressed, ate some cereal, and left for school. I got about a block from home when Doris drove up. She pulled over and jumped out of the car and grabbed me in a hug.
“She was crying and said she was so sorry for me, and that we’d have to go on the best we could. I told her that I didn’t know what she talking about. She said the police had called and told her that my dad had been in a bad car accident on his way to work. She went to the hospital and sat with him in the intensive care unit. She said the doctors did all they could but he died early that morning.
“I said, ‘Why didn’t you call me?’ and she said she hadn’t thought about it. My mind went blank. My dad and I were best friends. Doris and I went to the funeral but I don’t remember anything about it. Afterwards I went to bed and didn’t want to get up. I’d never cried so much in my life. Doris tried her best, but I didn’t want to get up, I didn’t want to eat, I didn’t want to go to school, I didn’t want to do anything. She’d sit next to me and hug me and we’d cry together. I guess she really loved my dad. Even being sad has to end sometime, and it ended for me. And for Doris too, I guess. We talked and she said I really had to go back to school. I knew she was right, so about a week after the funeral I returned to school.
“A couple weeks later I got a call one day after I got home from school. It was from FMB, that's a bank. They told me my dad had left me an irrevocable trust that would become mine when I turn eighteen. I asked how much was in the trust and they told me the house, which is all paid for, and almost three hundred thousand dollars that’s invested in low-risk securities and is making about fifteen percent a year. I asked if that’s good, and the guy said yes. He wanted to verify a bunch of personal information, and asked me to go to the San Bruno branch which is where the trust is managed. So I did, and I had to sign a bunch of forms and documents. So now it’s locked in. I asked if Doris could get into my account since she’s my guardian. The guy said no. I asked if she knew about the trust, and he said no. He asked if I wanted her to be told about the trust, and I said no.
“Doris changed after my dad died. She started drinking and going out to bars at night. Sometimes she’d come home with some guy and they’d have sex and the guy would leave early in the morning before I got up. That really bugged me, but I was only twelve years old and I didn’t know what to say.
“Finally one day when I went down to get something for breakfast I walked into the kitchen and there’s this guy sitting at the table. This is something that had never happened before and it pissed me off. I said something like, ‘Who the hell are you?’ just as Doris walked in. She told me the guy’s name was Pete and he’d be moving in while he looked for a job. He and I just stared at each other and didn’t say anything. I went to my room, got my backpack, and went to school.
“When I got home that afternoon Doris was sitting in the kitchen. I asked if Pete was around, and she said he was looking for a job. We had a big argument about Pete. I said this was my house, my dad had left it to me. She said he’d signed papers making her my guardian. She said I should give Pete a chance, she’d known him for years and he was a nice guy.
“I could tell Pete and I weren’t going to get along. He had tats all over his arms and neck, and I recognized one of them as a Norteño gang tat. I told her that, but she said he used to be but wasn’t anymore. So he basically moved in. He and I didn’t talk. He finally got a job working at a truck repair place in Millbrae. I spent most of my time in my room. I started to worry about him getting at my computer. Pete worked on Saturdays and Sundays, so I phoned a locksmith and had him come in and put a deadbolt lock on my bedroom door one Sunday when Doris was at church. After that I always locked the door when I left and locked myself in when I was in the room. I told Doris and she just shrugged her shoulders and said if I kept my room locked then cleaning my room and doing my laundry would be my responsibility. I don’t know if she ever told Pete, he never said anything to me about it.
“So anyway, I graduated from middle school and started at Aston High. It seemed like a pretty good school and I made some friends. I’d always been a pretty good student, mostly A’s and B’s. Then things got weird at home. Doris told me she and Pete were getting married, in Las Vegas, the first of April. She said they’d be back in about a month. The first of April? She’s gotta be kidding, right? I asked her if this was a practical joke, and she didn’t seem to understand. I told her the first of April is April Fool’s Day. She almost busted a gut laughing. She told Pete that night and he thought it was a great joke. Anyway, that’s what they did, so now I had a stepmother and a stepfather, neither of them related to me.
“I wanted to buy a car as soon as I was old enough to get my license. So I got a summer job at Delta Hardware, mostly stocking the shelves and helping customers find what they were looking for. That job turned into a big problem for me. There were two other young guys working in the store. They were stoners, like what I’ve become. They got me into smoking weed. Nothing more than that, and just a little binge to get high once every other week or so.
“When I had to go back to school in the fall, the store manager asked me if I’d work on Friday evenings and on Sundays. I said yes, that would help me get enough money to buy a car. I told Doris and Pete and suddenly Pete’s all buddy-buddy. He’d help me pick a car I could afford, he said, and we could work on it together at the shop so it’d be all tuned up.
“I’d gotten used to getting high and I missed it. So I hooked up with one of the guys who’d worked at the hardware store and he became my supplier. He wanted me to get into it a lot heavier than I wanted, but I said because I worked nights and weekends I didn’t have as much time. He seemed okay with that, so we’d hook up maybe ever two weeks.
“Pete and I talked about what kind of car to get. He said the body should be good enough to keep the rain out. What’s important, he told me, would be the engine, the drive train, and the axles and tires. I had enough saved up to buy something we could get into good running order for about twelve hundred bucks. He said a Toyota would be best, probably a Camry or a Corolla, because they were reliable. He found a 1998 Corolla VE four door with a manual transmission for exactly what I had saved up, twelve hundred dollars. The engine and transmission needed work, so he said offer nine hundred for it. The guy accepted the offer and I had a car. I went to the DMV with the seller and Pete and they transferred title to me with Pete signing as my stepfather, I got the temporary paper plates, gave the seller the nine hundred dollars, and I had a car.
“Pete and I worked on the engine and transmission in the evenings when I didn’t work at Delta Hardware, and in three weeks the car ran great. It seriously needed the dents removed and a paint job, and rustproofing of the undercarriage, but otherwise as soon as I had my driver’s license I’d have a car I could drive. Maybe it would look like a junker but hey, it would be my car, registered in my name. Pete drove the car home, with me as a passenger, and he parked it in front of the house.
“So things went along, and I did okay in school. I took driver training, and that meant I could get a license that at seventeen would let me drive without having a licensed driver in the car with me. I couldn’t have any passengers unless at least one of them had a valid California driver’s license and was twenty five or older. I didn’t pay much attention to that, and when I turned seventeen I drove around with passengers, like you, Greg. I never got caught.
“The guy who I got my weed from went to Skyline College. He started dealing there, and he got caught in a sting. He kept the names of his customers on his iPhone; that included my name. So I got brought in and I told them that I bought one dime bag a month and that was it. I didn’t tell them about you, or how we’d go to one of the parks and you’d pay me for half of a dime and we smoke a couple joints.
“Anyway, I was released, but now the cops had my name. And Doris and Pete had to go to the county jail to pick me up. They were mightily pissed, especially Pete. Seems he’s known at the county jail, and not in a good way. That’s the last place he wanted to be seen, so I got moved to the top of his shit list.
“After that nothing I did was good enough for Pete. He started out just yelling at me. Then it escalated to him shoving me around. Then not just shoving, but knocking me down sometimes. My grades went into the crapper, and I stopped caring. I upped my use to two dimes a month, then my source clued me about that supposedly great shit so I went for it. I’d always kept away from anything stronger than weed, but things at home were so bad I just didn’t give a shit any more. You know the rest of the story except the part when I got out of the hospital this morning.”
Greg interrupted, “The doctor said you’d be in the hospital until Monday. What happened with that?”
“Doris came to the hospital to see me this morning. She said she’d check me out because I looked okay to her and it cost too much for me to be in the hospital, and she’s the one who had to pay my medical bills. I said what about my insurance, and she said there’s still copays and because I have Kaiser and St. Marks isn’t a Kaiser hospital the copay would be a lot higher. I said the doctor told me I had to be observed over the weekend because my blood pressure was so high, and she said I could sleep in my own bed for free and let my blood pressure go back to normal there. So, as she said, she ‘sprung me’ out of the hospital. I think I was gone before you were. When did you check out?”
“This afternoon at three thirty.”
“Yeah, well, she got me out at ten o’clock. On the way home Doris said she got a call from the San Carlos police and my car was in the impound lot. She said she’d take me to the impound lot to get my car, but it would cost $157.00 to get it out, and they only take cash and I’d have to come up with it. She took me home so I could pull $157.00 out of the cash from my job that I kept hidden in my room.
“I got home about eleven this morning. Around two o’clock I got hungry and looked for Doris. She’d gone somewhere, probably grocery shopping. So I fixed myself a bowl of soup and some toast. Pete got home while I was eating, and he started in with the yelling. Then he pulled me out of my chair and started shoving me onto the edge of the sink and on the refrigerator. He started hitting me, and you can see the result. My face is bad enough, but it’s worse on my back and chest. He got madder and madder, and nothing I could say, including saying I was sorry and asking him to stop, made any difference. I ran outside to the back yard to try to get away from him. He came out and started shoving me around again, and I said I was sick, and he said I’d be a lot sicker once he got through with me. He started hitting me again and I tried to get away from him and I fell down. That’s when he started kicking me. I pretended that I’d passed out, and after a couple more kicks he went back inside the house.
“After I was able to get up I went inside to go to my room and lay down. That’s when Pete grabbed me and shoved me out the front door and told me to get out, so I got out. I didn’t have any choice. Thing is, I left with just the clothes I’m wearing, my wallet, my cell, and my keys. I jumped into my car and took off. I didn’t know where to go. You’re the only friend I had left at Aston High, and you’d given me your address. I tried to call you on your cell, but I got your voicemail. I tried your home number several times and the line was busy, so I figured you were home. I took a chance and drove here. I didn’t know what else to do.
“Greg, he scares me. I’d found out he did time in prison for domestic abuse and assault, I Googled his name and read the newspaper articles about what he did. He beat up a girlfriend really bad, and when a neighbor tried to stop him he knocked the guy down and he hit the curb and that caused a bad head injury. I actually think he might kill me and make it look like an accident. I need to stay as far away from him as I can.”
“Man, I didn’t know your life was so fucked up, Jado. I gotta tell you, I thought you were just a asshole stoner who was only interested in smoking weed. I was so totally pissed about that crap you put on our joints that ended me in the hospital that I didn’t want to ever see you again. After hearing about what happened to you I’ve changed my mind. I can see why you got so fucked up. That’s kinda where I’m coming from too, but not nearly as bad.”
Jado shook his head. “I don’t want to live the way I’ve been living. A cop came to see me in the hospital and he talked to me. I can’t remember his name.”
“Yeah, that’s him. I told him my story, a shorter version but with all the major stuff like my folks dying and Doris and Pete. Long story short, he told me that I fucked up but I didn’t have to end up in juvie. What he said made sense. I really want to do whatever I need to do to straighten out. But I need help, Greg. I don’t know how to find help or what to do now.”
“That cop talked to me too,” Greg said. “He said I got in with the wrong people, meaning you. Trouble is, there are so many cliques at Aston and there didn’t seem to be a way to make friends. You’re the only friend I had at Aston, and I gotta tell you it was mainly because you had a connection and we were smoking joints together. You telling me everything that happened to you… shit, Jado, I can see why you did what you did. It’s some amazing story about a fucked up life that’s not all your fault.”
“I’m really sorry about dumping the story of my fucked-up life on you, Greg.” Jado looked outside. “It’s getting late, so I guess I better take off. I’m going to have to find a youth shelter where I can stay for a while.”
“That’s bullshit, Jado. Your face looks awful and you need to get cleaned up. Let’s go to my room and you can take a shower, then I’ll give you some antibiotic cream you can put on your cuts. I want to see your back and chest, and where he kicked you. You might need to go to the hospital and get checked out. You could have internal injuries.”
Greg led the way upstairs and Jado followed, slowly. He seemed to be in pain walking up the stairs. When they got to Greg’s room he got Jado a towel and washcloth, then led him into the bathroom.
“Get undressed,” Greg said. “I think a hot shower will help your bruises.”
Jado complied, all except his boxer briefs.
“Uh, I’ll take a shower now and talk to you after,” he said, trying to encourage Greg to leave the bathroom.
“You know, your face is a mess with dirt and cuts and bruises. I want to take a picture of it before you get cleaned up. You’ve got some major bruises on your hands and arms, your chest and back, and even on your legs, and I want to take pictures of those. Did he kick you in the crotch?”
“Yeah. That’s why my hands are all bruised and swollen. I tried to protect myself, but he got me pretty good anyway.”
“Drop your boxer briefs, Jado.”
“You want me to take all my clothes off and take pictures of me naked?”
“If there’s no bruising around your crotch you can pull your boxer briefs back up. But if you’ve got bruises around your crotch or on your ass I need to take pictures of those too.”
“Oh. Just wanted to make sure you weren’t perving me. You’re not going to post any of these pictures on Instagram or Pinterest or anywhere else, are you?”
“No. I wouldn’t do that. No fucking way.”
Jado left his boxer briefs off. He took a deep breath and let Greg take what seemed to be a huge number of pictures, even some closeups, with a digital camera.
“Okay, I’m all through,” Greg said. “Take a shower, and when you’re done use this anti-bacterial ointment everywhere that you have a cut. We’re close enough to the same size, so I’ll get some clothes for you to wear and I’ll hang them on the hook on the door. When you’re done I’ll be waiting in my bedroom. Bring your dirty clothes with you and I’ll put them in the washer and we'll grab something for dinner.
Jado looked and felt a lot better after showering and putting on clean clothes. Part of feeling better came from his realization that Greg was for real, and he was a nice guy, too. After transferring the contents of his pockets, he brought his dirty clothes with him and walked into Greg’s bedroom.
“Where should I put these?” he asked Greg.
“Come on downstairs. We’ll put them in the washer and grab something to eat. I hope frozen dinners are okay.”
“They have to be better than the food at the hospital,” Jado joked.
“There’s a veggie lasagna in here. It serves four, but if we eat all of it that's okay. I’ll stick it in the microwave. It says it takes about 17 minutes. What do you want to drink?”
“Maybe just water. Ice water, if you have it.”
Greg set up the lasagna, filled two glasses with ice water from the dispenser on the front of the refrigerator, and the two teens sat at the kitchen table.
With the lasagna heating in the microwave, Greg decide to press an issue he’d been thinking about ever since Jado told the story of what had happened to him.
“Jado, you asked me why I wanted those pictures that I took of your injuries. You’re going to need those pictures as proof of what Pete did to you when you go to the police.”
“I don’t want to go to the police.”
“Pete beat the shit out of you. You’re scared of him. He has a history of attacking people. He was a member of a gang. He’s been in prison. You need to have him arrested for child abuse and be tried and sent to prison so he won’t be around to beat on you when you go home.”
“I’m not ever going home. I don’t want to live with them.”
“What if you didn’t have to live with them? You said you own your house. Can’t you kick them out?”
“I own the house. But Doris is officially my guardian until I’m eighteen. That’s not until almost a year from now.”
“There’s a way for you to… um… lemme think… oh, yeah, it’s ‘file to be emancipated.’ That means you can go to court and file to become an adult before you’re eighteen. If you do, then you might be able to get money from your trust fund. Maybe being emancipated means you could remove Doris as your guardian. And make her move out of your house.”
“Are you sure about this?”
“Hey, I’m no lawyer. But I wrote a report on foster kids in the ninth grade, and how a foster kid can become emancipated is one of the things I included in the report. You should go to the trustee of your fund and find out if you could get money every month that’s enough to support you. They’ve gotta be using some of the money for things like property tax already. Do you know who the trustee is?”
“Yeah, I have that information. I get online statements from them every month showing how much I’ve made and what they’ve spent. The trustee’s name is on every statement. It’s a woman. I don’t remember it, though.”
“You oughta look into that. How can you get your computer?”
“I have a key to the house and to my bedroom. I’d have to go when Pete and Doris aren’t there.”
“He works every day?”
“No, it’s like Thursday through Monday. He has Tuesdays and Wednesdays off.”
“What about Doris? You said she doesn’t work.”
“She’d be home most days. Except she goes to church on Sunday. The church is in San Francisco, and she leave around eight thirty and gets back around three. Pete takes her to the Millbrae BART station on his way to the garage. The garage where he works is in Millbrae. So they’re both gone on Sunday mornings.”
“Is there an alarm system in the house?”
Greg smiled. “Sounds like we go on a little move-out trip tomorrow morning.”
“Fine. But what do I do with my stuff that we move out?”
“Move it in when you move here.” Greg grinned.
“You mean… me too?”
“What about your folks, Greg. What are they going to say about it?”
“Leave that to me. It’ll be a piece a cake to get their okay. You’re sure Doris and Pete will be gone Sunday morning?”
“They always have been. We’d have to make sure, though.”
“The best way would be to watch them leave Sunday morning. I couldn’t do it, they’d recognize me. Would you be willing to do it?”
“Probably, but I’d need to know what they look like, and there’d have to be somewhere I could hang out and watch for them.”
“I could drive you to the BART station. I have their pictures on my phone and I can tell you what kind of car Pete has. I can give you my phone so you can make sure when you see them that it’s them.”
“Wait a minute, that’s not going to work. He’ll drop her off and then drive away. We won’t know if he’s going to work or back to your house.”
“Shit, you’re right, Greg. We could wait near my house and see if they both leave, but we still won’t know if Pete goes to work or comes back to the house. I wouldn’t want to get caught inside if he shows up.”
“How long does it take to go from your house to the Millbrae BART station and back to your house?”
“I don’t know, maybe ten minutes.”
“Let’s look it up on Google maps. There’s still time before the lasagna’s ready. I’ll get my laptop.”
Greg brought up Google Maps, selected Directions and keyed in ‘millbrae bart station’ and turned the laptop to face Jado.
“Key in your home address and press Enter.”
Jado did that and looked at the result, then turned the laptop so we could both see the screen.
“It’s 7.7 miles and takes 13 minutes one way. Round trip would be 26 minutes. That would give us enough time to get what I need and get the fuck out of there, assuming Pete would take her to BART and return home.”
“Okay, but if he wasn’t going to the garage in Millbrae but just driving her to BART, why wouldn’t he take her to the San Bruno BART station? It’d be closer, wouldn’t it?”
“Let’s see… shit, that’s only 4.5 miles and takes 10 minutes one way, 20 minutes round trip.”
“Uh huh. But, if she’s going to BART and Pete’s staying home, why wouldn’t she drive her own car? She does have a car, doesn’t she?”
“Of course!” Jado said. “All we have to do is look for the car. If it’s hers, that means Pete is staying at home and we’re fucked. If it’s his, and there are two people in the car, that means Doris is going to church and Pete is going to work.”
“So, how do we accomplish this bit of spying without getting caught?”
“I live on Fleetwood. The way out that makes sense is to go one block to Westborough Boulevard. Where Fleetwood dead-ends at Westborough there’s a park. You’ve been there, we smoked some weed in the trees back along Skyline. Anyway, there’s a wall along Westborough and you can sit on it waiting for either Pete’s black Escalade SUV or Doris’s white Prius. If it’s the SUV and he’s driving and she’s in the passenger seat we’re golden. Otherwise we’re screwed.”
“What time to I have to be there?”
“I’d say eight fifteen. That gives you a fifteen to twenty minute window. It might be cold, so you should wear a warm jacket. And thick pants because the wall might be cold to sit on. You can bring a book to read. It’s like you’re waiting for someone to pick you up. Nobody’s going to care that you’re there.”
“So you’ll let me off… where?”
“There’s some apartments a little way up Westborough. I’ll let you off there and drive to the strip mall that’s about a half mile further up the street and I’ll park there and wait for you to call me.”
“Okay, this sounds like a plan. No one’s gonna call the cops because you’re going into the house, are they?”
“Nah. The neighbors have seen me around, and they’ve seen my car parked out front for like two years. I don’t think anyone would be surprised if they saw me moving out. Pete doesn’t have a very good reputation in the neighborhood.”
“Jado, we can get in, get all your stuff, and get out. I can’t see any reason why this very excellent plan wouldn’t work. Do you?”
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