A New Home for Dennis

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A NEW HOME FOR DENNIS Z.

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Dennis Z. was lying on his bed cuddling with his cat, Boxer. He was not looking forward to starting third grade tomorrow and he was worried and scared. Not only was it a new grade, it was also a new school, new town, new state, new teachers, new everything. On top of that, his mom was not going to be there to take him to school on the first day of school. She was always there to be with him but not this time. That is because Dennis’ mom and dad had gotten a divorce over the summer.

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Right after the divorce, Dennis and his dad moved from Brooklyn, New York to live with his step mom Camille and his twin step-sisters Maddison and Savannah in Georgia. Maddison and Savannah were nice and took Dennis to Baskin Robbins for ice-cream almost everyday. But they were big kids who were in high school and so they did not spend a lot of time playing with Dennis. Dennis he missed his friends in Brooklyn and he really missed his mom.

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―Don’t you miss mommy, Boxer?‖ Dennis asked his cat who was purring on his shoulder. ―I really miss her very much. I wish we lived with mom and dad in Brooklyn. I wish I could still go to play with John and Michael. It’s all my fault they got divorced, isn’t it? It’s my fault that we can’t live together as a family anymore.‖ Dennis’ dad and step-mom had explained that when parents get divorced, it sometimes meant that they don’t live together anymore. They go to this place called ―court‖ and at the court a judge tells the parents that only one of them will get custody of the kids.

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Dennis did not know what custody meant but he kept hearing the grown ups use that word. His mom had told him that the courts had given his dad and step-mom custody of him and Boxer. She told Dennis that he would be living with his dad and step mom from now on in Georgia and that meant he would go to a new school and meet new friends. That meant that Dennis would hardly get to see his mommy and his old friends anymore. This made him very, very sad. He did not want to go to a new school. He did not want to get new friends. He wanted to live with his mom. But what could he do?
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―I should run away,‖ he thought. Dennis’ step-mom had already picked out his clothes to wear to school. She and his dad had taken Dennis shopping at the mall and bought him lots of new clothes. His mom had sent a parcel of clothes for him, and an Iphone by UPS. His twin step-sisters Maddison and Savannah had brought him new pencils, erasers and notebooks and crayons. ―Boxer,‖ said Dennis, ―do you think I should run away?‖ Boxer did not respond but he rested his white paw on Dennis’ nose and looked steadily at him.

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―I am so scared, Boxer. What if nobody likes me at school?‖ asked Dennis. His orange cat just kept staring at him. ―If I run away will you come with me, Boxer? We can go back to Brooklyn. We can take a bus or something.‖ Boxer just kept staring at Dennis. ―Meow,‖ he said finally. ―I think we should definitely run away,‖ said Dennis. ―We should probably hide out so that they can’t find us. That way I don’t have to go to school tomorrow. We can hide in the cellar tonight. And then tomorrow, when it is daylight, we can find a bus to take us to Brooklyn so that we can live with mom. Don’t you miss mom, Boxer?

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Boxer did not respond. Dennis jumped out of bed. He tiptoed to the door and pressed his ear to the door. He could hear his dad’s voice faintly across the hall. It sounded like his dad was on the phone. Dennis slowly opened his bedroom door and peaked out. The coast seemed clear. ―The coast is---― he began, turning to look at Boxer. But Boxer sprung out of the room and sprinted down the hall. ―Boxer! Come back!‖ cried Dennis softly since he did not want his parents to know he was out of bed. Boxer kept running down the
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hall.

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Dennis chased after the cat. He could hear his father’s voice clearer now. His dad was definitely on the phone talking to someone. ―Well, it’s in his best interest,‖ he heard his dad say. Dennis had no idea what the meant. He stood outside his father’s room eavesdropping. Who was his dad talking to, he wondered? ―Justine!‖ said his dad loudly. ―Justine?‖ thought Dennis. That’s my mom. Dad is talking to mom. Maybe she will tell him to send me back to Brooklyn!

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―This could all have been avoided,‖ he heard his dad say in an angry voice. ―You could have had custody if you hadn’t done that. This is all you fault as usual.‖ There was that word again. Custody. Dennis wasn’t sure what it meant. But he knew it sort of meant that he wouldn’t live with his mom anymore. He wondered what it was his mom had done.

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Dennis pressed his ear close to the wall of his father’s bedroom. He could hear his father getting more angry. Dennis was used to his parents fighting. They always had loud fights before the divorce. His parents were always fighting and Dennis believed it was all his fault. Once his mommy even told him that his dad didn’t love him anymore and that had made his dad very upset with his mom. ―Dennis! What are you doing up?‖ Dennis jumped. He was so lost in thought he didn’t realize his step-mom Camille was standing in front of the open door.

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He started to stammer. ―I-I-I‖ began Dennis. ―You what,‖ asked his step mom. ―I was trying to find Boxer. He escaped from my room,‖ said Dennis. ―But you should be in bed,‖ she said, ―you have school tomorrow.‖ ―I know but—― ―No buts,‖ said his step-mom. ―Come on back to bed. You’ve got a big day tomorrow.‖

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She took him by the hand and led him back down the hall to his room. ―Here you go,‖ she said. ―Get back into bed.‖ Dennis climbed into bed. His step-mom pulled the covers up to his chin. ―There,‖ she said. ―Settle back in. I will leave the night lights on for you.‖ ―Can I call my mommy before I go to sleep?‖ asked Dennis. ―She always reads me a story before bed.‖ ―It’s a little late for that, Dennis,‖ said his step-mom, gently.
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―You already spoke to your mom earlier tonight.‖

―Dennis, you have already said goodnight to your mother,‖ said his dad sternly. His dad had come into the room and Dennis didn’t realize it. ―You can call her tomorrow on your I-phone,‖ he said. ―Right now it is way past your bedtime and you have the first day of third grade tomorrow.‖ His dad and step mom were standing over him looking at him. Dennis wanted to tell them he was scared of going to school tomorrow, but he didn’t want them to think he was a big baby. He wanted to ask his dad if he could go live with his mom but he was afraid of the answer.
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―I’m sorry, dad,‖ said Dennis. ―I should not have come out of bed.‖ ―Don’t be sorry, son. Just go back to sleep. You have a long day tomorrow.‖ ―Yes, dad,‖ said Dennis. He closed his yes and pretended to fall asleep. His father and step mom watched him till they thought he was sound asleep.

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―He’s going to be alright, you know,‖ said his step-mom softly. ―You really think so?‖ whispered his dad. ―Yes, I know so,‖ she answered. ―He will love school. He’ll make new friends. He’s such a good kid, such a bright boy.‖ ―I wish things were different with his mother,‖ said his dad. ―I wish it didn’t have to be like this. ―Shh…‖ said Camille. ―Don’t wake him up.‖ Dennis could hear them walking to the door. He peaked under his eyelids and saw them walking to the door. They were holding hands.
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After they left, Dennis remained still for a awhile. He listened till it was perfectly quiet. Then he scrambled out of bed. He had made a decision. He would wait until he was sure his dad and step-mom Camille were asleep. Then he would hide in the cellar with Boxer. That way he wouldn’t have to go to school in the morning. Then, once the sun came out, he could escape and find a bus, or something, to take him back to Brooklyn.

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He decided to write a good-bye letter to his dad, his step-mom and his twin step-sisters Maddison and Savannah. He took one of his new pencils and a page from his notebook and wrote this letter:
Dear Dad and Step mom and Maddison and Savannah, This is Dennis. I am writing to tell you that I have gone back to Brooklyn to live with my Mom. Me and Boxer are taking a bus because we Miss her very much. Thank you for everything. Love, Dennis.

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Dennis folded the letter and left it on his bed. He changed out of his pyjamas and put on his street clothes. He emptied his book-bag and packed his I-phone. At the last minute he decided to take his blanket so he stuffed it into this book-bag. He looked at the clock on his night-stand. It was close to midnight. He was sure his dad and step-mom were already asleep. Maddison and Savannah were still not home yet. Dennis picked up the letter and put it next to the clock. Where was Boxer? He had to find Boxer. And he needed to pack some food for his trip. So he had to make a stop in the kitchen.
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Dennis started to open his bedroom door. The hinges creaked a little so he moved really slowly. It was very quiet. Not a sound except for the ticking of the big clock down the hall. All of a sudden, the clock chimed. It took Dennis by surprise and he jumped. ―Oh!‖ He cried, holding his heart. The clock chimed out twelve strokes. It was exactly midnight. Dennis softly closed his bedroom door and tiptoed down the hall, past his dad and step-mom’s room. He could hear his dad snoring when he passed by their door.

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―Good,‖ he whispered to himself. ―Dad is sleeping. He will never know that I escaped.‖ Dennis hurried to the kitchen. He was hoping that Boxer would be taking a nap in his basket. He switched on the light. Boxer was not in his basket. ―Boxer? Here, kitty, kitty, ―called Dennis. ―Boxer, come on boy! Where are you? Here kitty, kitty.‖ Boxer did not appear.

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Dennis took a chair from the dining table and pulled it over to the food pantry. He stood on the chair so that he could reach the cereal, a box of cookies and two cans of cat food. Boxer had a very huge appetite. Dennis carefully closed the pantry door and climbed down from the chair. He looked around for Boxer again. ―Boxer,‖ Where are you? Please come out of hiding. We have to run away together. You promised. Boxer? Here kitty kitty.‖

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All of a sudden Dennis heard the door of the garage opening outside, and the engine of a car. ―Oh no! Maddison and Savannah are back! I have to get to the cellar before they see me and blow my cover!‖ cried Dennis. He raced to the end of the hall with the cereal, cat food and cookies in his hand. Half way down he accidentally dropped one of the cat food and it made a loud thud when it hit the floor. He had to stop and pick it up quickly. He raced to the cellar door which was right next to the garage door. Just as he reached the door, he realized he had forgotten to switch off the light in the kitchen. His step mom was very strict about that.

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Plus, where was Boxer? He still hadn’t found him and he could not leave without Boxer. Dennis quickly opened the cellar door and placed the cookies, cat food and cereal on the top step. He raced back down the hall to switch off the light. He noticed that he had left the chair out of place and right on it was Boxer! ―Boxer! There you are!‖ he cried happily. ―Come on Tiger.‖ Dennis scooped Boxer into his arms and turned off the light switch. Boxer let out a loud meow.

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Dennis raced back to the cellar door and he could hear his stepsisters coming up the steps that led from the garage to the house. He could hear them talking and giggling and he knew that any minute he would be caught. He made a frantic effort to reach the cellar door and he opened it just in the nick of time. As soon as he closed the door behind him, Maddison opened the garage door. Dennis stood at the top of the dark stairway with his ears pressed to the cellar door, listening. ―Did you hear something?‖ asked Maddison.

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―I don’t know. Like footsteps,‖ said Maddison.

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―No, like what?‖ asked Savannah.

―No, I didn’t hear anything,‖ said Savannah. ―What is all this commotion? It was his father. Boxer knew his voice only too well. He had woken up. ―Be quiet, Boxer, don’t make a sound,‖ begged Dennis in a whisper. ―Oh, nothing. We just got in. Maddison thought she heard footsteps. Sorry if we woke you,‖ Dennis heard Savannah reply.

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―No, you didn’t wake me. I was up late. You girls were out late tonight?‖ said his dad. ―Gabe! Gabe! Dennis is missing. I just found this note in his room!‖ It was Camille. Dennis could tell from her voice. ―Oh no!‖ he thought frantically. ―What am I going to do.‖ He looked around but he could barely see anything. It was so dark and he couldn’t remember where the switch was. It suddenly dawned on him that it was very scary in the cellar.
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alarmed. ―What note. Let me see that.’

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―What do you mean Dennis is missing?‖ It was his dad sounding

Dennis heart was beating very fast. All of a sudden, Boxer decided he wanted to be put down and let out a screech. In the process he accidentally scratched Dennis on the finger. ―Ouch!‖ cried Dennis loudly. The cat plunged down the stairs into the darkness. Suddenly, his cell phone began to ring. He couldn’t reach it right away because it was dark and his blanket was on top of it in his book bag. So it rang nearly twenty times and the ring was very loud. ―Oh no!‖ thought Dennis.

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All of a sudden, the cellar door flung open and the cellar was flooded with light. ―Dennis? What are you doing in the cellar?‖ His father was standing in front of his step-mom and his twin sisters. They were all looking at him with a worried expression on their faces. ―Dad, I’m sorry,‖ said Dennis. ―Come out of there, boy. What are you doing in there?‖

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―Um, I—I was trying to escape,‖ said Dennis. ―Escape? Why?‖ ―Because I want to go back home to Brooklyn. I miss mommy. I miss all my friends. I don’t want to go to a new school.‖ Dennis started to cry. His dad took him into his arms and caressed his hair. ―Why didn’t you talk to me about this,‖ he asked.

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Dennis shook his head. ―Dennis, you know you can always talk to me about anything, don’t you?‖ asked his dad, taking his son and leading him back down the hall. His step mom and his step-sisters followed. ―What made you want to run away, Dennis? I thought you were happy here with us?‖ ―It’s all my fault you divorced mom. It’s all my fault,‖ said Dennis, tears spilling down his face.

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―No, Dennis. You had nothing to do with your mom and me getting a divorce. I thought we already had this talk.‖ ―But mommy said you don’t love me anymore.‖ ―You know your mommy didn’t mean that. She was upset when she said that. Here, I’ll prove it to you. Let’s call her and she will tell you how much we both love you. Here, let’s call her on your cell phone.‖

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Dennis’ dad helped him remove his book-bag from his back and find his cell phone. He let Dennis dial his mom’s number. She picked up on the first ring. ―Dennis, is that you?‖ she asked. ―Mom, it’s me. Daddy said I could call you.‖ ―You can call me anytime, Dennis. What’s the matter?‖ ―I just – I just miss you mommy. I wish we could all still live together in Brooklyn.‖ ―Oh Dennis. I miss you too. I love you and your daddy loves you very much. So does your step mom Camille.

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―But I want to live with you, Mommy.‖ ―I know but remember how mommy told you that daddy has custody? That means that you have to live with daddy for a little while. That’s what the judge said.‖ ―But I don’t want you and daddy to be divorced anymore. I want us to still be together like old times.‖ ―Dennis, sometimes grown ups don’t want to be together anymore. Daddy is with Camille now. But it doesn’t mean we don’t all love you very much. Both daddy and I and Camille and Maddison and Savannah love you so much, Dennis.

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―But I don’t want to go to a new school tomorrow. I’m scared‖ said Dennis. ―There is no reason to be scared, my sweetheart. Would you like me to fly to Georgia and be with you tomorrow for your first day? I can leave now and go to the airport.‖ ―Can you do that, mommy?‖ ―Of course. Let me talk to daddy.‖ Dennis handed the phone to his dad. His step mom took him by the hand and wiped the tears from his face while his dad and mom spoke on the phone.
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She noticed his finger was bleeding from where Boxer had scratched him. She took him to the bathroom for a band-aid. ―We all love you, Dennis,‖ she said, while putting a band aid on the cut. ―You must not think anything is your fault.‖ All of a sudden, Dennis heard Boxer meowing. He looked down on the floor and saw Boxer looking up at him. Dennis gave Boxer a pat on the head, then picked him up and kissed him. Boxer purred loudly.

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Dennis, Boxer and his step mom went back to the kitchen. His dad handed him back the phone and his mom told him that she would leave for the airport and would make it to Georgia for his first day at school. She told him it only took two hours to get from New York to Georgia. She told him she loved him once again and that he shouldn’t blame himself for the divorce. She told him the divorce had nothing to do with him. She told him that divorce is something that sometimes happened to grown ups even though they still loved him very much.

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Dennis felt relieved. He was happy that his mom was going to come see him at school tomorrow. He was glad to know the divorce was not his fault. ―Ok, mom. I can’t wait to see you,‖ he said. ―Ok but promise me you are going to go back to bed and go to sleep,‖ she said. ―I don’t want you trying to run away anymore.‖ ―Ok,‖ said Dennis. ―I promise.‖

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The next day when he woke up, Dennis found his mom, dad, step mom and step sisters waiting in the kitchen for him. They all went in his dad’s mini van to his school, to make sure he had a great start to third grade. Dennis was very happy.

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The end

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