This story is part of the Glimpses of Ben Series.
George Fraser sat with a smile set below his eyes that crinkled with suppressed laughter, he wondered if he should discuss Benton's newest flirtation into adulthood with Martha. He contemplated the events of the last few hours and smiled. Well, he could start out by just telling her that their Benton was starting to grow up. Perhaps, that would be a good place to start. Yes, that might just be how to begin. He laughed and closed his eyes remembering all too well the events of the morning.
George had risen rather earlier than usual, some mornings found him up earlier and earlier. This particular morning he rose and padded quietly down the hall to the bathroom only to find the door already closed and the light showing under the door. He had knocked on the door and heard Benton's quick movements inside and soon the door had opened providing an excellent view of a very flushed youth.
Benton at almost 16 was painfully thin and gawky. His hair was sleep tousled and his expression was one of embarrassment and downcast eyes. The boy whispered a quiet good morning and passed by his Grandfather on the way back to his bedroom. George smiled and watched the boy walk quickly down the cold hallway.
Closing his bedroom door behind him, Benton smiled in sheer relief. "Gosh," he thought, almost but not quite caught. He pulled his pajama top up and reached under his t-shirt. He listened carefully for sounds in the hallway as he brought out a magazine from under his t-shirt. He lanced quickly around his room and decided on a new hiding place, one he felt certain his Grandmother wouldn't check in her routine cleaning. She never went into his backpack, Benton was sure of it. He quietly paced across his darkened room and opened the pack and put the magazine he held safely at the bottom of the pack's contents. He listened again, silence met his ears so he quickly plopped himself into bed and tried to drift back to sleep.
George listened at the boy's door and smiled when he heard the rustlings inside the room. He pushed the door open a little and peeked in to see the boy covered and trying to get back to sleep. He closed the door quietly and returned to the kitchen where he began making coffee. This was one of the times he wished Robert were around more. That boy needed his Dad more than he needed his Grandfather. Well, Robert was too far away to be of any help. George sighed as he poured his coffee into his cup and went to sit by the window to watch the sun come up.
The sun was sending dim purplish light over the trees even before it began to rise in the early morning sky. George went about his chore of working on harness repairs for the dogsled. He could almost smell the crispness of the cooler air coming their way. He realized with sadness that he wouldn't have many more winters left to be running his team in the snows of deep winter.
The boy was growing up and he, George, was growing old. He could feel it in his very bones. He smiled at the memories of the myriad antics Benton had been involved in while growing up. He had come so far from that pitifully sad little boy that had arrived on their porch with his father almost 10 years ago. The ups and downs of Benton's life still claimed a sometimes silent, withdrawn boy.
George put away his leatherwork. He rose on painfully sore knees and went to the door. He stretched and yawned then walked out into the early morning darkness to return to the cabin where it would be much warmer. He looked with pride at their newest home. It wasn't as elegant as their home in Alert had been, but it felt good just the same. Martha was happy here and he hoped Ben was too. He looked towards the boy's bedroom window and stopped when he noted the light shining from the window.
Benton sat huddled in his covers with his bedroom light shinning about the room. He had retrieved his magazine from his pack and sat looking at it, turning it this way and that. He rotated the magazine and squinted his eyes, his dark hair falling in an unruly set of curls over his eyebrow. He was mentally comparing pictures in this magazine to the pictures in the library books his Grandmother had been content to let him look in now and then. This certainly didn't compare to Rodin Statues or Michelangelo's marble statues. He screwed his eyes up more and ran his tongue over his nervously dry lips. He was so absorbed in perusing the pages before him that he didn't hear the door quietly opening.
George Fraser may not have been trained in stalking as the Inuit people were, but he still knew a thing or two about approaching unsuspecting quarry. He was able to get right up next to Benton's bed before he cast a shadow on the material lying open on Benton's knees. He put out a gentle hand and touched the boy's drawn up knees as he sat down gently on the bed.
Startled and suddenly frightened, Benton slowly raised his burning and ashamed face to face his Grandfather. He gulped and slowly leaned back into his pillows.
"Feeling all right, Ben?"
"Yes, Sir. I just woke up early." Benton's voice croaked from low to high.
"Ah. Couldn't sleep boy."
"No. I woke up early. I do sometimes."
"Yes, I know. So do I, but I suspect for entirely different reasons."
Benton stared at his beloved Grandfather and waited for the chastisement he knew was about to come his way. He waited and kept his silence as his Grandfather put out a hand, "May I see what you're looking at son?" The quickly indrawn breath Ben did was all George needed to let him know his suspicious were correct.
The boy handed the magazine over with hands that felt like lead and seemed to move in slow motion. His whole body seemed to tense.
Flipping through the pages George's eyes widened. He stopped every few pages and seemed to turn to stone, but he said nothing. Finally, he rolled the magazine up and held it tightly in his hand. "Kind of grown up material here Ben."
"You buy this?"
Ben sat straight up in his bed and vehemently shook his head in the negative, as he almost gasped out the word, "NO!"
"OK, I believe you. Just sort of dropped from the sky, hmmm?"
Benton looked down at his covers and knew he was truly caught. He didn't own the magazine and he knew he was going to pay dearly for the temporary loan. He finally managed to say, "No. It's borrowed."
"I see. May I ask from whom you borrowed it, or would that be breaking a solemn trust?"
Blue eyes beseeched George not to ask. A red face that burned with total embarrassment pleaded with lips set in a tight line of despair. But Benton didn't answer nor did he utter a sound.
George leaned over and put a hand on the boy's raised knees. "Tell your friend, if he wants it back to come to me. But I won't keep it very long. OK?" He smiled kindly at Benton. "You're not the first boy to cast wondering eyes on the likes of this material. Not naming names, of course. That wouldn't be the gentlemanly thing to do."
Blue eyes relaxed a bit but their owner waited silently for his punishment to be meted out. He watched as his Grandfather rose and went to the door.
"And Ben. Don't grow up too fast. OK boy?"
As the door shut behind his Grandfather, Ben slumped into a pile of nerveless human flesh under his bed coverings. The air rushed out of his lungs in a long, drawn out gust. He looked at the ceiling. God, he was so embarrassed. But he was still nervous; his grandfather hadn't laid out a punishment. When his Grandfather made him wait for punishment, the long wait was always almost a punishment in itself. The boy pulled the covers over his head and contemplated staying in bed for the entire day.
George walked into his bedroom and put the magazine away in a drawer. He laughed to himself and headed for the kitchen where Martha was preparing their breakfast. She smiled at him and gave him a quizzical look when she saw his expression.
"Our Benton is starting to grow up."
"Needs new clothing again, does he? I thought I noticed his pant legs getting shorter again, though how that boy can grow and be so skinny at the same time worries me."
"I don't mean that kind of growing Martha." His eyes twinkled as he moved behind his wife and put his arms around her. He whispered into her ear. Her mouth dropped open and she almost dropped the plate in her hand.
"You heard right." He laughed and pulled her closer. "Remember how embarrassed Robert was about you finding those pictures in his room? Well Benton does embarrassment red in more shades than Robert."
"Oh Dear." Martha leaned back and let her husband's form support her. "It's a shame Robert's not here. He would appreciate this."
"I know. This might be just the kind of thing to bring Robert around for a visit. Don't you think?"
"Don't let on to the boy that I told you."
"Trying to extend the punishment dear or just going easy on the boy?"
George laughed and said, "Actually, you could say a little of both." He stopped and listened. "Sh. Here comes our young man now."
Ben walked quietly into the kitchen area walking ever so softly. He looked from one Grandparent to the other and smiled tremulously. "Guess I should go do my chores."
"Yes, you should." Martha said with a loving smile on her face. "Hurry up your breakfast will get cold."
"Yes, Grandmother. I'll hurry." He dragged his jacket up and onto his shoulders then bolted out the door.
"Poor boy." Martha said with a tiny laugh.
"Growing is never easy."
"He'll survive." She went back to working on setting the table. "It's just so hard not to coddle that boy."
"Wrapping him up in cotton wouldn't help, this boy is always going to do things the hard way."
"Have you had that little talk with him? You know the one you tried to give Robert."
George felt his own face flushing. "I guess I should."
"Yes, you should. I don't think he'd like to have that little talk with me." She laughed.
The door opened and Benton came in carrying a small armload of firewood. He avoided looking directly at his Grandfather. But his Grandfather had other ideas.
George approached the boy and put an arm around the thin, juvenile shoulders. "Why don't we take a walk?"