Well, here it is, finally, the final chapter of Family Friends. I apologize to all the faithful who have had to wait so long for it. I stopped to write a gay teen romance which left me emotionally drained and unwilling to write for a while. As I have said to some of you in e-mail messages, the first forty-five chapters of this story were written for my own pleasure. I don't think I had even discovered Nifty when I wrote it, so I certainly did not initially intend for it to be published. There is a lot of myself in this story, some real, mostly fantasy. This final chapter expresses some of what makes me who and what I am. It's a long one, so I hope you don't get bored with it before it ends. I cried as I wrote it, maybe you will as you read it. For those who don't like it, I'm sorry you're disappointed. For those who do, please write me at email@example.com and tell me your thoughts. And remember, God loves each of us so very much, enough to accept us as we are, but too much to leave us there if we are willing to grow in His love and His grace! God Bless! Enjoy.
And, PLEASE, if you are underage, go do something else and come back when you're older.
CHAPTER FORTY-SIX - THE FINAL CHAPTER
The Ecstacy of unions & The Agony of separations
"When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find that it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy. When you are sorrowful, look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight." From The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran
The rest of the summer seemed to fly by as John and Terri continued to plan their wedding and John became a regular participant with all the other families at the Ponderosa Nudist Ranch. The relationships among the kids naturally led to all the adults getting to know each other quite well. Ronnie's mom never did reach the point where she was interested in joining the nudist set, but she did agree to Ronnie's participation.
Ronnie began to spend more and more time at John's house. Jack was usually there, too, but not always. When the boys weren't around, John was able to spend more of his time with the girls who were about to become his daughters. In fact, Terri and John had even discussed the possibility of John adopting the girls. When they mentioned it to Jessie and Judy, the girls only had to think about it for a short time before deciding they liked the idea. They honored the memory of their biological father, but they loved John dearly and actually had come to feel closer to him than they ever had to Charlie.
As the day of the wedding approached, John noticed that Ronnie had become somewhat subdued. He was quieter than normal when visiting and tended to sulk by himself when everyone was together. At first, John tried talking to Jack to see if he could figure out what was wrong. But as close as the boys had come to each other, Jack wasn't able to shed any light on the situation.
Finally, during the labor day weekend, which was just a week before the wedding, John had an opportunity to talk with Ronnie. The boy's mom was once again out of town, ostensibly on a business trip, and Ronnie was staying with John alone. Jack and Jackie were with their parents on an extended weekend vacation.
After dinner on Saturday night, John and Ronnie were watching TV. Once again, Ronnie seemed listless and not really interested in what was on the tube. Every time John asked what he wanted to watch or if he was happy with whatever program was on, Ronnie's reply was short and dispirited. Finally, Ronnie just turned over on the couch with his back to John. It wasn't long before John realized the boy was crying. He could hear the sniffles and see the boy's shoulders shake once in a while.
John left his chair and knelt down by the couch, resting his hand on Ronnie's shoulder.
"What's wrong, son? Isn't there anything I can do?" he asked.
Ronnie shrugged his shoulders, sniffed, and shoved John's hand away.
"No! Just leave me alone." he whispered, choking back more tears.
John's heart ached for the boy. He could see something was obviously wrong, and it hurt that he couldn't seem to get through to him. Leaning over the small boy, he rested his cheek against Ronnie's. Then he kissed the boy on the cheek.
"I love you, Ronnie," he said quietly.
With that, Ronnie burst into full-blown tears, turned around and threw his arms around John's neck. Hugging him tightly, he buried his face in the crook of John's shoulder. John wrapped the boy in his arms, picked him up and carried him to his chair. Then he sat down and rocked, holding the boy in his arms as Ronnie continued to sob, his arms pulled in tightly against himself and his head resting on John's chest..
Eventually, Ronnie's sobs lessened, and his choked breathing settled down to a steadier rhythm. John let him calm down for a few more minutes before trying again.
"What is it, Ronnie? Surely you can tell me."
"I'm afraid, Uncle John," he said.
"Afraid of what, Ronnie? What has happened to make you afraid?"
"Your wedding!" Ronnie said sharply. "I'm afraid you won't want me around any more after the wedding!" And he began crying again, his small body shaking violently in John's lap.
When Ronnie had calmed down again, John tried again.
"Why would you think that, son? I never said anything to you to give you that impression did I?"
"I'm not your son!" the boy cried out in obvious anguish.
"I want to be, but I'm not! And when you get married you'll have two daughters and Miss Terri! You won't need me any more, and you won't have time for me!"
The poor kid was so upset he couldn't seem to get more than two sentences out before he burst into tears again. This time, though, his words and his tears had a powerful affect on John. He felt his own tears burst forth and spill down his cheeks. He saw them drop onto Ronnie's cheek just as he pulled the boy even closer to his chest. Hugging Ronnie tightly against him, he wept.
"Oh, Ronnie, son, I love you! I'll always have time for you. I love Terri and the girls, too, but I'll always love you! I know you're not my son, but I wish you could be. Please don't cry, and don't ever think I won't want you around. You have become so precious to me these past few weeks."
When John's grip finally loosened up a bit, Ronnie pushed back from his chest and looked up into his face. Wiping the tears from his eyes he said tentatively, "Do you really mean that, Uncle John? Do you really wish I could be your son?"
"Yes, I do, Ronnie. But you have your mom, you know, and she loves you so much. Obviously I can't marry her and Terri, too, so I can't be your Dad. But I can love you just as much as I would if I were your Dad."
With that, Ronnie wrapped his arms around John's neck and buried his face in his shoulder. A few minutes later, the boy kissed John on the cheek, saying, "I love you, too, Uncle John." Then he settled down and quickly fell asleep, secure in the arms of the only man who ever said he loved him.
Later, as John was laying the sleeping boy in his bed in the guest room, Ronnie awoke just enough to pull his arms from the sleeves of his shirt as John undressed him for bed. He raised his hips off of the bed letting John slide his jeans down his legs, leaving him in just his white little boy briefs.
"Would you sleep with me tonight, Uncle John?" the boy asked sleepily.
"Sure, son. I'll be right back."
John went to his room and slipped into his pajama bottoms and brushed his teeth. When he returned to the guest room, he slipped into bed behind Ronnie, pulling the boy close to him. He felt Ronnie's chest heave and heard him sigh, as the boy settled down and immediately went back to sleep. John couldn't imagine being any happier than he was right now. Soon he would have a new wife and two daughters, all of whom he loved so very much. And to top it off, he still had this wonderful relationship with Ronnie and Jack.
Life, however, is full of surprises, many of which are tragic in nature. John and Terri both noticed a disturbing change in Ronnie's mother when she returned from her alleged business trip. She seemed anxious, worried, and out of sorts. She tried to hide it, but without much success. However, with the wedding just two days away, no one said anything.
John and Terri's wedding was truly one of the most remarkable the church had seen in a long time. Many people could be heard talking about how much love had been expressed with so few words. Since it was a second wedding for each of them, John and Terri had agreed to avoid a lot of the normal trappings such as a formal wedding gown and tuxedos. Jessie and Judy stood up with Terri, and Jack and Ronnie stood with John. Rex, Rusty, Steve and Bob served as ushers and the wives and sisters assisted with the reception in the parish hall. It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and indeed reams were written in the pictures presented by the looks of love passing between John and Terri and John and the kids.
Tragedy, however, has a way of rearing its ugly head at the worst of times. Just a few days after the wedding, Ronnie's mom (remember her name is Mary) called John and Terri and asked them to meet with her after dinner one evening when Ronnie was going to be out with friends. She wasted no time once they were seated with coffee and soft drinks. Mary was obviously distressed.
"There's no easy way to say this," she said, her voice quavering. "So I'll just rush right into it."
John and Terri looked at her with anxious eyes as Mary took a deep breath.
"That business trip I took over Labor Day? It wasn't business. I was at Mayo clinic. I have a fast growing, inoperable cancer. I may not live til Christmas."
As Terri gasped and John sat stunned into silence, Mary began to weep. Terri went over and sat beside her, hugging her softly.
"What can we do, Mary? Is there no possibility of a mis-diagnosis? Could the doctors be wrong?"
"No. I saw the top specialists in several fields, had Cat scans and MRI's, more blood tests and X-rays than I can count. Every one agreed on their conclusions. But it isn't me I'm worried about. I know where I'm going when I die, and if I can keep that in mind and not think about missing Ronnie, I know I can get there without too much difficulty. But what am I going to do about Ronnie!?"
Her question came out as a wail of anguish, followed by great heaving sobs.
John kept silent. How could he possibly say what he was thinking without sounding crass and offensive, self-centered and selfish. God, it hurt. It was all he could do to keep from joining the women in tears.
The three of them sat in silence until Mary had finally regained some control over her emotions. Then, looking up at Terri, then over at John, she got to the real reason why she had invited them to her house.
"I don't know how I'm going to ask this. I have prayed so hard for God's help in what I'm about to say. Just, please, wait til I'm finished before you say anything, OK?"
All Terri and John could do was nod there heads.
"You know Ronnie's dad has never been here for him. He's dead now, from alcohol abuse. I haven't even told Ronnie because I don't think he'd care. John, I've watched how you treat Ronnie, and I've seen how much he adores you. You've been as much a father to him these past few months as I have been his mother. And Terri, I know you two have just been married a couple of days and haven't even begun your lives together. And John, I realize that you now have two daughters where you haven't had any children up til now. But is there any possibility that you two might be able to take Ronnie in?"
She had no more than said it than she burst into tears again. For his part, this was the last straw. John's emotions could no longer be contained, and his own tears began flowing freely down his cheeks. Could God be so cruel to one and so kind to another, all at the same time? Could he allow one wonderful person to die and give such joy to one so undeserving as himself?
Terri was caught in the middle. She felt a need to comfort Mary, but when she looked at John she felt overwhelming compassion for him as well. She knew what this meant to him, how much he loved Ronnie. She was no more blind than anyone else. No one who had seen the man and the boy together had any doubt about how they felt about each other. More importantly, she knew John well enough by now that she had no fear about how this might affect their own relationship or John's relationship with Jessie and Judy.
As though he could sense Terri's predicament, John left his seat and knelt beside her. One look between the two was all they needed to confirm their understanding.
John spoke for the two of them.
"Mary, we feel blessed that you would ask us. We want Ronnie with us. We just hope that is what he wants. Does he know yet?"
"No. I couldn't bring myself to tell him until I had spoken with you two. And I don't think I can tell him alone. I know it's a terrible thing to ask, but could you be here with us when I tell him?"
"Of course we'll be here," Terri answered. "We'll be here when you tell him and whenever you need us from now until the end."
The three of them sat and talked quietly for a long time. Mary told them all she knew about her cancer, about the progression of the disease as she understood it. She had been told that she would have to be hospitalized towards the end so massive doses of pain killers could be administered. She was lucky, she said, that she had doctors who believed in addictive doses of pain medication in situations such as hers. They talked about how she would deal with household chores for as long as she could. They talked about her financial situation and her health insurance benefits. She even got up and dug out her life insurance policies. They began making a list of things that needed to be dealt with, such as the funeral, emptying the safe deposit box, securing Ronnie's birth certificate, seeing an attorney about Ronnie's adoption in case he wanted that to happen. Mary seemed to gain strength from the mental exercise of dealing with such details and made it clear that she wanted to get these things taken care of early, before she became incapacitated mentally or physically.
By the time Ronnie got home, Mary was calm and in control. She and John and Terri had decided to tell the boy the whole story early the next evening when he wasn't so tired from playing.
The next day was pure hell for everyone. John and Terri were on pins and needles all day and could hardly concentrate on their jobs. Mary thought she had everything together when she got up that morning, but as the day progressed and she thought of having to tell Ronnie the news, she became more and more uptight. So when Ronnie got home from school, he could tell something was up.
"What's wrong, mom? You seem nervous or something."
"Let's not go into it right now, sweetheart. Just get started on your homework right away. Uncle John and Miss Terri are coming for dinner. We'll talk later."
"All riiight!" the boy yelled as he danced down the hall to his room.
When John and Terri arrived for dinner, Ronnie was the first one to the door. Hardly had the door been opened when he jumped into John's arms, wrapped his own arms around the man's neck and gave him a big hug and a kiss on the cheek.
"Hi Uncle John! Hi Miss Terri!" he said excitedly. Then he gave Terri a hug and a kiss, too. He didn't notice the strain on their faces as they hugged him.
Dinner might have been a rather somber event had it not been for Ronnie's youthful enthusiasm. The presence of John and Terri seemed to have evaporated his earlier concerns for his mother's mood as Mary was able to join in with all the jokes and discussion of how everyone's day had gone.
John helped Ronnie with his math homework as Terri and Mary cleaned up the dinner dishes. Mary took this opportunity to tell Terri what she had in mind for the evening.
"I think I know how Ronnie is going to react tonight. Just be there for us, and if I give you a nod, please take John and leave quietly. It won't be because you aren't helping. It'll be because that's how I think you can help the most at the time."
"That's OK, Mary," Terri said. "I'm sure John will understand and follow my lead. I'll just keep an eye turned in your direction and look for any signal you might send."
As it turned out, John and Ronnie ended up sitting on the couch with Mary and Terri in chairs next to each other across the room. Ronnie had scooted up close to John who had his arm resting across the boy's shoulders.
Gathering her courage, Mary began the discussion.
"Ronnie, there's something you need to know..."
When she had finished telling Ronnie the news, giving him as much detail as she thought he could grasp, the boy just sat for a moment as if in shock. John could feel the boy's body quivering beneath his arm and hand. Mary and Terri just looked at the little guy for several anxious moments, waiting for his reaction. Nothing had been said about Ronnie living with John and Terri. Mary felt that she should take one step at a time and approach that issue later.
Slowly, tears began streaming down the boy's face. His head kept turning from his mom to John, as though he didn't know what to do, where to turn. Suddenly, as John gave what he thought was a loving, reassuring squeeze to the boy's shoulder, Ronnie lurched up from the couch, throwing John's arm off violently. John was shocked at the boy's reaction.
"Ronnie, son," he began to say.
"I'm NOT your son!" Ronnie screamed.
"You're NOT MY DAD! I don't HAVE a Dad! And now I'm not going to have a Mom either!" he yelled, looking right at John.
Then turning to his mother, he ran to her with tears streaming down his face profusely.
"AWWWWW M..O..M!" He screamed as he lunged at her and wrapped his arms around her, falling into her lap.
Mother and son just sat there and cried with each other, oblivious to John and Terri's presence. For their part, John and Terri were lost. Their own tears streamed down their faces. John's shoulders were racked with his own sobbing. He was able to maintain silence, but could not control his own sorrow. The boy's pain was almost more than he could stand. And yet there seemed to be nothing he could do to help.
Eventually, Mary nodded to Terri - the signal that it was time for them to leave. They both wanted to go over and give Mary and Ronnie hugs, but resisted the temptation. To do so would have been an invasion of their space.
The news spread quickly, and soon everyone knew about Mary's condition. The Brown's, Riggles and Hagan's were all very helpful in dealing with the situation. The kids were especially helpful, amazing everyone with their insight and their compassion for Ronnie and for each other. None of them had dealt with death before, and each had to come to terms with it. At one time or another, each of the youngsters had their opportunity to grieve for Ronnie and for his mom. And the others always seemed to be there for the grieving one, ready to offer a hug and loving friendship.
Jack was especially helpful with Ronnie. The tragedy seemed to draw them even closer together until it seemed to those around them that the two had been brothers forever. Jack was very protective of Ronnie, taking on the role of big brother, sheltering him from over solicitous adults and providing a shoulder for the smaller boy to cry on from time to time - which he did often.
For several weeks, nothing was said about Ronnie's future. He didn't bring it up, and Mary was content to let the matter lie until she felt the time was right.
One Friday about five weeks after she broke the news to Ronnie, Mary was having an especially difficult day. The pain was already coming with more frequency and intensity, and the medication left her woozy and barely able to function. When Ronnie came home from school, she suggested that maybe he'd like to spend the night at Uncle John's.
"I'm not having a very good day, Ronnie. The drugs are making me feel really weird. Since I'm not going to be very good company, I thought you might like to spend the night at John & Terri's. Maybe Jack could join you over there."
"Yeah, maybe that would be a good idea," the boy said half-heartedly. "Are you sure that's what you want me to do?"
"Yes, sweetheart. It would really help me to know that you're OK and spending time with your friends."
So they called Terri and asked if Ronnie could spend the night. Of course the answer was yes. Then John called Jack's parents and asked if Jack could spend the night with them and the kids. As Terri and the girls drove over to get Ronnie, John picked up Jack. The two of them talked quietly on the way home.
"You know, Jack, I really appreciate the way you've been looking after Ronnie. This hasn't been easy for any of us, especially him. But I suspect it's been a bit more difficult for you, too, considering the relationship I see developing between the two of you. I just want you to know how proud of you I am, and how much I love you as well as Ronnie and the girls."
Jack thought back to the night he had first told Ronnie there was enough room in John's heart for both of them, but recently he had begun to feel a little threatened. John's words meant enough to him that they brought a tear to his eye.
"Thanks, Uncle John. I needed to hear that. And, yeah, it's tough having to help Ronnie deal with this. I love him like a brother, and when he hurts, I hurt. Sometimes when he's crying, I can't help but cry with him."
"Yep," John said, clearing his throat to choke back a tear of his own. "I think I know what you mean."
Later, after John, Jack and Ronnie had been severely whumped in a game of UNO by Terri, Jessie and Judy, they shared some quiet time as they each had a dish of ice cream. Then they cleaned up and went to bed. Jessie and Judy doubled up in Judy's room so Jack and Ronnie could have Jessie's, the one that used to be the guest room.
The boys stripped to their briefs and joined the girls at the bathroom sinks where they all brushed their teeth. One nice thing about being nudists, they didn't have to worry about sharing the bathroom.
At first the boys laid on their backs, each on his own side of the bed, saying nothing. Soon, though, Ronnie turned his back to Jack, and Jack could tell his little friend was crying again. It had been several days since Ronnie had needed Jack's consolation, so Jack wondered what was going through the boy's mind this time. He rolled over and snuggled up behind him, laid his arm across the boy's waist and drew him close to his belly, his hand rubbing the smaller boy's chest soothingly.
"What's wrong, Ronnie," Jack asked in a whisper. "Wanna talk about it?"
Ronnie sniffed and wiped his nose on his arm.
"What's going to happen to me, Jack? I don't have any family any more. I don't have any aunts or uncles and my grandparents were all dead before I was born. Do you think I'll end up in an orphanage? Mom hasn't said anything, and I don't know how to ask her."
With that he started to cry again, softly.
It hurt Jack to feel Ronnie shaking in his arms, and it took a good bit of effort not to cry himself.
"Maybe you could live with Miss Terri and Uncle John. I mean it's obvious how much they love you, and I'm sure Jessie and Judy wouldn't mind."
After a few moments, Ronnie stopped crying. A few minutes later, he spoke again.
"Do you really think that might happen? Do you think they'd make room for me? I mean, look. We're already sleeping in Jessie's room. Where would they put me?"
Jack could hear the hope in Ronnie's voice, and he said a quick prayer that he hadn't raised those hopes for nothing.
"Well, it might be tight for awhile, but you could sleep on the couch, or maybe they could add a hideaway bed to one of the bedrooms."
Ronnie giggled at that idea.
"Yeah, right, which one? You think they're going to put me in their bedroom and give up sex just a few months after they're married, or let me sleep with one of the girls. NOT!"
"Well, I know they'd think of something! Why don't you ask your mom about it. Maybe she's just waiting for the right time and doesn't know how to bring it up with you."
"Yeah, I guess you're right," Ronnie said sleepily. "I'll talk with her when I get home tomorrow."
As he pressed back against his older "brother," Ronnie whispered to him again.
"Rub my chest for me, Jack, would ya? Your hand feels so warm and comfortable."
As Jack rubbed small circles over the smaller boy's chest and tummy, his fingers brushed across the waistband of Ronnie's briefs. In spite of the emotional strain they had just experienced, he felt his penis begin to harden as he thought of what lay hidden beneath his friend's undershorts and the things they had done with each other over the past several months. But soon his breathing relaxed along with Ronnie's as they both fell into a peaceful sleep, comfortable in each other's arms.
When they awoke early the next morning, Jack had his usual morning woody. They were still spooned together with Ronnie hugging Jack's arm tightly against his chest. Jack picked up where he left off the night before, running his hand up and down the smaller boy's chest and stomach, rubbing his nipples until they were stiff. Then he started toying with the waistband of Ronnie's shorts, slipping his fingertips just an inch or so under them and tracing them across Ronnie's lower stomach.
Ronnie's hips started moving back and forth in reaction to what Jack was doing. When he pressed backwards, he could feel Jack's hardon poke him in the butt. His own penis had stiffened up, too, and was throbbing in his underwear. Soon, Ronnie grew tired of Jack's teasing, so he grabbed the older boy's hand and thrust it onto his erection.
"Play with it for me, Jack. Please?"
Jack didn't have to be asked twice. He had only been hesitating til he was sure this was what the boy wanted.
With his hand on the outside of Ronnie's briefs, he toyed with the boy's cock, grabbing the head in his fingertips and rocking it back and forth. Then he opened his fingers and slid them further down, wrapping them gently over the small scrotum with the little nuts inside, then drawing them slowly and gently up across the sack and along the length of Ronnie's penis.
He soon tired of this, however, and raising his hand up to the waistband of Ronnie's brief, he slid his fingers slowly down into the boy's shorts until his friend's cock rested under the palm of his hand and the balls under his fingers. Ronnie gasped and moved his hips forward, pressing his hardon into Jack's hand. At first, Jack just rubbed his hand slowly up and down and around, over Ronnie's cock and testicles. Then, he made a tent of his fingers and slid them to the base of Ronnie's erection. He grasped the shaft lightly at the base and tugged on it in an up and down motion, pulling the skin along the hard shaft beneath it.
As he heard Ronnie's breathing grow more rapid and ragged, Jack raised his fingers up the shaft of his penis to just below the head. Then he started tugging on it quickly again. Soon Ronnie's hips were thrusting back and forth, his butt pounding into Jack's hard cock jutting out in his own briefs. After just a minute or two, Ronnie's climax hit him full force. He tried to keep his voice down, but his grunts and groans still sounded loud to him and Jack.
"Uuuungh! Uuuuungh! Uuuungh! Here it cums, Jack," he whispered. "Gosh that feels great!"
His back arched away from Jack's chest, thrusting his penis to the front, Jack's hand fairly flying up and down the little rod. Ronnie's orgasm was so exciting Jack almost came himself. He was certainly close, anyway, what with Ronnie pounding his butt against the older boy's erection so much.
As soon as Ronnie had calmed down, his emotions got the better of him and he started sniffling again.
"What's wrong, Ronnie?" Jack asked.
Turning over to face Jack, Ronnie wiped the tears from his cheeks, sniffed and tried to respond.
"I just feel so good right now, Jack. That felt so neat, and you were so kind to do that for me. I know it sounds weird for me to say this, us both being guys and all, but I love you, Jack. Does that make me a queer?"
Jack was moved by Ronnie's words.
"No, kiddo, that doesn't mean you're queer. I love you, too, like a brother, I mean. I never had a brother, ya know, but I wish I did. I wish you were my brother."
The boys were laying so close to each other they could feel each other's breath as they talked. Ronnie looked lovingly into Jack's eyes as he whispered, "Can I kiss you, Jack? On the lips, I mean. Would that be OK for brothers to do?"
"Yeah, I think brothers can kiss on the lips. I wouldn't mind it."
With that, Ronnie laid his arm over Jack's shoulder and snuggled up close to him. Then he leaned forward and gently rested his lips on Jack's. They just laid there together that way for a minute or two, breathing in each other's aroma, suffering each other's morning breath, their kiss a gentle expression of their mutual love for each other rather than a sign of passion.
When they broke away, they continued to lay there just inches apart. Jack's erection deflated as they whispered to each other. Soon the boys drifted off to sleep, comfortable in each other's arms, comfortable in the knowledge that each was loved by the other.
That night Ronnie and his mom did talk about what was to become of him. Ronnie waited until he had been home awhile before crawling onto his mother's bed and lying down beside her. Strangely enough, he was able to control his emotions and not cry as he told her of his concerns and asked her if she thought Uncle John and Miss Terri would take him in.
Wrapping him in her arms and kissing his forehead, Mary told him all about having spoken to John and Terri already. She explained in detail how it hadn't taken even a minute for them to make up their minds, that all they needed to do was look at each other and they knew they were in agreement. They not only wanted Ronnie to live with them, they were willing to adopt him if that is what he wanted. Then she went on to explain just what adoption would mean, taking on John's family name, having Jessie and Judy as sisters, being able to call John and Terri dad and mom if he wanted to.
"But you need to think about this, Ronnie. This is a pretty important decision for someone your age to have to make. You need to feel comfortable with your decision, whichever way it goes. Do you want to keep your last name the same as it is, your daddy's name, or do you want to change it? Are you going to want to call Terri and John mom and dad, or Miss Terri and Uncle John? If you can't call them mom and dad, you probably shouldn't agree to an adoption."
"What do you want Mom? I mean, I never knew my dad. As far as I'm concerned I don't even have one. I mean, I'm used to my last name, but the fact that it's his doesn't mean a lot to me."
Ronnie sort of spit the word his from his lips as though it was distasteful.
"Well, it isn't important what I want, Ronnie. But I would be happy for you to take John's last name if that's what you decide to do. It would not hurt my feelings at all, and I think it would make John and Terri very, very happy."
Ronnie laid there with his head on the pillow next to his mom's, his eyes closed, thinking about what they had just discussed. Mary watched his face lovingly, cherishing his presence and the silence. She knew he was thinking about it. Finally, she felt a single tear trickle from her eye and slide down her cheek as a smile began to creep across her son's face. She knew he had reached a decision, and it was the first time she had seen him smile in a long, long time. She continued to watch her son as sleep finally came upon him, the smile never leaving his face, and she knew what his decision was. More tears fell from her eyes, falling across her cheek and soaking into the pillow as she wept softly for her son, not so much in sorrow for what she would be missing, but in joy that he would be loved, that he would finally have a daddy that loved him, and that he was, for the moment at least, happy.
Ronnie had to struggle through the next day at school, but at least this time it was a happy struggle, filled with joyful expectancy rather than sorrow. He could hardly contain himself when he got home from school. Three times he almost called Jack, but each time he forced himself to wait. He wanted to make sure John and Terri would really adopt him before he broke the news to Jack.
He was on pins and needles until his mom got home from work. She had been struggling to work half days, and they were usually the afternoon half. Ronnie was afraid he wouldn't be able to talk once he got someone on the phone, so he asked his mom to call John and Terri and speak for him. He stood expectantly by her side as she explained to John and Terri that everything was OK with her and Ronnie. She really embarrassed him when she told them that the boy was about to pee down his leg waiting for confirmation of their willingness to go through with adoption proceedings. John asked Mary to give Jack the phone.
Giving his mom an anxious look, Ronnie barely whispered into the phone... "Yes?"
Then he heard John's voice saying, "Son?"
"We'd be proud and thrilled to tears to be able to call you SON for real," John said, barely able to control his own tears.
With that, Ronnie dropped the phone and began dancing around the room, yelling, "YES! YES! YES! Uncle John's gonna be my DAD! YES! YES! YES!" He was throwing couch cushions and knocking over lamps and tables, but Mary didn't have the heart to calm him down or dampen his exuberance. She couldn't remember him ever being so overcome with joy, and she, herself, was close to tears, joyful tears, for him.
Just as Mary hung up the phone, Ronnie shouted excitedly, "Isn't it great, Mom? We're going to be a family!"
Suddenly he stopped his dancing and looked at his mom, realizing what he had just said. As she watched, she saw her little boy literally crumble emotionally as that realization stripped the joy from his soul and his face and left him with shame, embarrassment and grief. Tears suddenly flooded his face as he raced to her and buried his face in her lap, sobbing uncontrollably.
"AWE MOM!" he wailed. "I didn't mean it! Why is this happening?! Why is God doing this to us!?"
Mary just sat there quietly and soothed her son, running her hands through his hair and across his back, waiting for his sobs to subside. After a while, she began to whisper soothingly.
"That's OK, Ronnie. You don't need to feel bad about what you said. I'm happy that you are going to have a father who loves you as much as John does. It makes it easier for me to go. I know it hurts, but I hope you'll be able to get past this and be happy with John and Terri."
"But why is God doing this to us?" he asked again.
"God isn't doing this to us, sweetheart. He's allowing it to happen. And I don't begin to understand why. But I trust Him, and I want you to be able to trust Him, too."
Ronnie was quiet for a few minutes and then asked the question that had been in his heart for a long time.
"Mom, how can you be so calm about this? You're going to die! Aren't you afraid? Aren't you sad that we won't be together?"
As Ronnie began to cry softly, his head still in her lap, his arms wrapped tightly around her waist, Mary tried to explain how she felt.
"Ronnie, I want you to understand... no I need you to understand that I love you more than anything in this world. But I love Jesus even more than that. I can remain calm only by thinking about what it's going to be like to be with Him. Sweetheart, when I think of you and my love for you, I think only of the present, the time we're sharing with each other here and now. And that makes me very, very happy. When I think of the future, I don't think of you, because that would make me sad. No, when I think of the future, I think only of Jesus, of being with Him. And that, too, makes me very happy. That way, I can be calm and happy, most of the time. When you think of the future, I hope you'll think of living with John and Terri, of how much they love you and how much you love them. And I want those to be happy thoughts, sweetheart, because I'll be happy, too."
"Do you think John really loves me, mom? Or is he just taking me in as some charity case?"
Knowing that her son was seeking the affirmation and encouragement that any eleven year old would need in this situation, Mary reacted in the only way she could - with the truth. Lifting Ronnie's head from her lap, her hands on either side of his face, she looked directly into his eyes as she responded.
"Oh, Ronnie. There is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that John loves you very, very much. I've known that almost since the first time you spent the weekend with him and Jack. I don't know what it is about John, sweetheart, but he just seems to have extra space in his heart for kids, especially Jessie and Judy. But I've seen the way he looks at you, too, and the way he acts when you're around. Yes, son, I believe he loves you just as much as I do. And Terri loves you almost as much as John does."
Ronnie looked deeply into his mother's eyes for several seconds and saw in them the truth of what was in her heart. She really did believe everything she was saying, and so he believed her.
"Thanks, mom. I think I'll be OK now. Can I call Jack and tell him?"
Mary looked at her son, at a glow that seemed to have come into his eyes as he spoke of his older friend.
"You really like Jack, don't you son. I mean really like him."
"Yeah, mom. He's like a brother to me. It's going to be nice having Jessie and Judy as sisters, 'cause they're neat. But Jack's the closest thing to a brother that I'll ever have."
Mary felt a shiver go down her spine as though Ronnie's words were somehow closer to reality than either of them knew.
"Sure, Ronnie, go call Jack and tell him the good news. I bet he'll be as happy as you are."
As it turned out, Jack was almost as excited about the news as Ronnie. This insured that Ronnie wouldn't be going away to some orphanage or foster home which might separate the two lads. He hadn't quite realized just how close he and Ronnie had come to each other until the thought of Ronnie going away had reared its ugly head. The two friends made plans to get together the following weekend - at Jack's house for a change. Things were getting a bit too crowded at John & Terri's, and besides, Jack couldn't spend all his time over there.
Jack's mom and dad had become so involved in horse shows that they were spending more and more time out of town. This gave Jack and Jackie all the excuse they needed to spend more time with their friends, but it also meant that the parents and kids were growing further apart, rather than closer together. Since this was one of the few weekends they would have at home for a while, they made a point of taking time off from everything else to spend time with Jack and Jackie. The fact that Ronnie would be there, too, made no difference. He was such a likable child, and they enjoyed having him.
So on Friday, as soon as Jack got off the bus from school, he and his dad hopped in the car and drove over to pick up Ronnie. When they got back to the Hagan's house, Jack and Ronnie went upstairs to Jack's room to play games and "mess around." A short game of Uno quickly turned into a wrestling match, and soon both boys were hot and sweaty. They quickly stripped to just their briefs and continued their match.
Soon, Jackie appeared at the bedroom door and suggested that they wrestle the way the original Olympians had, naked. The boys didn't need any further encouragement than that and quickly stripped each other of their underwear. The fact that they saw Jackie naked all the time anyway meant that they were not self-conscious about her standing there watching them, even though she was still dressed herself.
Before too long, however, they forgot she was there and let their hands roam over sensitive spots which quickly displayed the standard results. As their penises became rigid, Jackie felt herself getting excited. She and Jack had spent so many weekends at John and Terri's that they hadn't had much opportunity lately to fool around with each other. Watching the two hardons bounce around quickly resulted in her own juices flowing, and she returned to her own room to take care of her rising passions.
Soon after Jackie left, the boys stopped wrestling and just lay on the floor, breathing heavily from their exertions and toying with each other's penis. Jack was on his back with Ronnie laying beside him, his chest resting on Jack's chest, his cock snuggled into the palm of Jack's hand. Ronnie rubbed his free hand up and down over Jack's chest and stomach and caressed his penis and balls as the two youngsters felt their passion juices building.
"Let's go take a shower before we do anything else," Jack said softly, nuzzling his chin against the top of Ronnie's head, breathing in the aroma of his boyhood.
"OK," Ronnie answered. "I'll close the bedroom door while you get the water ready."
As soon as the water temperature was right, the boys climbed into the shower and began soaping each other's body. Standing facing each other, they started with their shoulders, arms, and chests. Then, stepping closer to each other, they wrapped their arms around each other and began scrubbing each other's back. Of course this put their faces close enough to rub cheeks and noses, and their penises quickly rose to perfection as they began to rub against each other.
"Bend down and let me wash your hair," Jack said.
As Jack scrubbed shampoo into Ronnie's scalp, the younger boy's hands were busy in Jack's crotch, gently soaping up his friend's cock and balls, rolling Jack's scrotum gently round and round and sliding his hand gently up and down the shaft of his cock. When Jack could stand no more, he switched places in the tub with Ronnie and rinsed the boy's hair. Then it was Ronnie's turn to give Jack a shampoo as Jack gave Ronnie's crotch a thorough cleansing. By the time they were finished, they were both on the verge of climax. But by silent agreement, they stopped short of completing their journeys, preferring to wait until they had returned to Jack's bedroom.
Climbing from the tub they each began to dry the other's body. What started out rather boisterously soon settled down into a rather loving, gentle rubbing, and soon, Ronnie was hugging Jack tightly, little tears of joy and affection tracing almost invisible tracks across his cheeks.
"I'm so glad you're my friend, Jack. I don't know how I'd get through all this stuff with my mom if you weren't around to help me."
They stood there with the younger boy's head coming just up to Jack's chin, their arms around one another, Ronnie breathing in the fresh scent of Jack's skin mixed with the aroma of bath soap, while Jack enjoyed the fragrance of the shampoo in Ronnie's hair. It was a tender moment of affection rather than a passionate embrace.
After a few minutes of tender silence, Jack heard Ronnie whisper, "I love you Jack. I wish you were my brother so we could be together all the time."
Taking a moment to calm his emotions, Jack answered, "Thanks, Ronnie. So do I. Love you, I mean, and wish we could be brothers. Uncle John's a really special guy, and sometimes I wish he were my dad, especially now that he's going to be your dad."
The boys hung up their towels and crawled into Jack's bed, covering themselves with just the sheet. With all they had seemingly done since they got home, it was still only five o'clock, and dinner wouldn't be ready until at least six. The passions they had aroused in each other in the shower didn't return. Instead, they fell asleep in each other's arms, their legs resting between each other's, nestled gently against the other's soft penis and nuts, their arms draped across one another's chest, their faces just far enough apart not to suffocate from each other's exhaling.
They were still in this position an hour later when Jack's dad came to get them for dinner. Rather than wake them, he went down and brought Jack's mom up to show her.
"Isn't that so sweet," she said softly. "They have really grown quite close in just a few short weeks, haven't they."
"Yeah, I'm really glad Jack has taken Ronnie under his wing, so to speak. I think it's been good for him as well as Ronnie.
Just as he was about to step into the room to wake the boys, Jackie appeared on the scene.
"Wait, dad. Let me do it," she said as she stepped into the room.
She walked up to the bed and gazed down at her brother and his friend lovingly. Then she gingerly climbed onto the bed and lay down on the two boys together, kissing each of their cheeks. Her weight and kisses were all it took to wake the boys, and they each drew her into their combined embrace with their free arm. After a short snuggle, the kids got up, Jack and Ronnie put on their briefs and everyone went downstairs to dinner.
Ronnie's mother passed away barely three weeks after that visit to Jack's house. John and Ronnie sat at her bedside at the hospital hour after hour as Mary passed in and out of drugged consciousness. Whenever possible, Ronnie would crawl up into bed with her when she was lucid and simply snuggle down beside her. She was too weak to do anything more than lay her arm across his body, drawing some comfort from his warmth.
Terri usually stayed home with the girls as long as John and Ronnie were available to be with Mary. Otherwise, she would go to the hospital and sit with this special lady who had so quickly become her friend. When Mary was awake and lucid, they would talk of their love for Ronnie and Terri's girls, respectively. On several occasions they talked of John and his obvious love for the small boy who was about to become his only son, or at least they thought Ronnie would be his only son.
Mary slipped into death late one night as John and Ronnie kept vigil with her. She awoke briefly to see John sitting next to her bed, Ronnie curled up in his lap. Both of them were sleeping and had calm, peaceful expressions of their faces. For some reason, Mary was unusually alert for just a few minutes. She was able to see and understand that the pain and stress that was usually evident on the faces of her son and her friend wasn't there at the moment.
Feeling like God had allowed her this moment to see that He could and would take care of them and give them peace, she passed from life at peace herself. Gone from her face was all sign of the painful struggle she had endured for the last couple of weeks. When the beeping of the heart monitor woke them up, John and Ronnie saw that Mary had died without signs of pain, looking as though she had just laid down for a peaceful rest and gone to sleep, never to awaken. While they cried together, at least there was some mixture of joyful acceptance that God had finally allowed Mary to escape her pain and come home.
Mary's funeral was as crowded, if not more so, than John and Terri's wedding. Of those present, members of the church had known for a long time that Ronnie would become part of a new family right away. This in itself seemed to bring some manner of peace to an otherwise somber occasion. The minister's eulogy was upbeat and positive, just the way Mary had wanted it. He spoke of how she had looked forward to the voyage into eternal life and how she had been able to do so because she knew Ronnie was going to a loving family whom she had loved herself. Tears flowed freely, but there were tears of joy and love mixed in with those of sorrow.
Life was certainly never dull around the house once Ronnie moved in. With the cramped quarters, sibling rivalry soon reared its ugly head as the girls got accustomed to having a boy around the house all the time and Ronnie tried to adjust to a new mother and sisters. For the most part, though, this new family seemed to gel and bond as a family unit rather quickly. Being nudists might have helped that to some extent, because it was a little easier to share the limited bathroom space. The only time anyone expected privacy in the bathroom was when they were sitting on or standing in front of the toilet. When that was the case, the door was shut. Otherwise, the doors to both bathrooms were left open as a sign that the room could be shared by anyone who needed it.
John's family ended up spending quite a bit of time at Jack's house. It was a good bit larger with significantly more play space in the kid's bedrooms, so the Hagan's made every effort to have joint activities. And when they were out of town with one horse show or another, they would usually ask John and Terri to bring Ronnie and the girls over and stay with Jack and Jackie who they felt were still too young to be left alone for extended periods of time.
It was on one of the many joint family gatherings that a new aspect of life was introduced. The kids were all outside playing in one of the few snowfalls of the year while the adults sat inside sipping drinks and talking around the fireplace. Eventually the topic of discussion centered on the children and John and Terri's happiness with Ronnie as their new son.
"It seems you haven't had much trouble getting used to having three children suddenly thrust upon you, John," Scott said.
"Well, I missed all the diaper changes and grade school years, so I'm happy to have three of them to help me catch up. And they're all such wonderful kids."
"Not too many fights or hassles?"
"No, actually, it hasn't been as bad as I thought it might be. The girls actually seem to like having a brother, and the age difference isn't great. Ronnie and Judy are almost the same age."
"Well, we have a really tough question to ask you guys," Scott said, seeming somewhat hesitant.
"So? Ask it." Terri answered.
"Well, Rose and I have another horse show to go to in about three weeks. We're taking our prize Appaloosa across the Rockies to a show in Calgary. We'll be gone about a week. For some reason, Rose is a little nervous about this one. Not scared, really, but she feels like she's had a premonition about the flight. Why don't you tell them, Rose?"
"Well, alright. Now look, guys, I don't want you to think I'm a nut or an alarmist or anything. I don't think anything is going to happen on this trip. If I did, I wouldn't go or let Scott go either. It's just that I feel we should make sure our affairs are in order. We've had our wills updated and everything is really well organized. And it would just make me feel a lot more comfortable if we could put the hole thing aside as a finished project. You know what I mean?"
"Sure," Terri said. "We feel the same way, generally."
"Well, the only thing not finalized in our wills is the custody of Jack and Jackie. I have no brothers or sisters, our folks are all gone now, and Scott only has one brother, Robert. He's a child psychologist back East who has always said he's much better at helping other people raise their kids than he would be at raising his own. He and his wife don't have any and don't want any."
As she paused to take a breath and a sip of her coffee, John and Terri looked at each other. They were each surprised to find not a look of doom or apprehension at what they could already guess would be asked of them, but instead, a look of peace with a hint of a smile. Rose continued.
"Now I know you just started your family, but like I said, if I thought this was truly necessary, I'd cancel this trip in an instant. It's just that we don't want to leave anything to chance. The best way to avoid trouble is to be prepared for it. So... do you think you guys could agree to be named legal guardians of Jackie and Jack if something were to happen to us? I mean, could we name you as such in our wills?"
Scott and Rose watched John and Terri as the latter couple looked at each other. No words were spoken. All the communication necessary was evident on their faces. Even a blind person could have figured out what their answer was going to be, just from the quickening of their breathing.
"Yes!" they answered, practically in unison.
They spent the next hour going over the Hagan's assets and wills in detail. Going through all of this seemed to make Rose less jittery, and the others actually began to wonder if she weren't more nervous about this trip than she was admitting. When they were finished, Scott showed John where all the home copies of their important documents were kept and where he kept the key to the safe deposit box that held all the originals. Then they went out to join the kids in ruining what little was left of the snow.
Four weeks later, on a dark and snowy night in the mountains of Colorado, a plane went down. All on board were killed instantly, including one prize Appaloosa stallion which had just won top honors in the Calgary horse show. John and Terri were awakened at 3:00 in the morning. It was Saturday, March 15th. Much later, the date would strike John as chillingly appropriate considering Rose's premonition of bad tidings. Beware the Ides of March were the words of the sooth sayer in Shakespeare's play about Julius Caesar.
The news hit John and Terri like a baseball bat. The soft tone of voice used by the man who called with the news did little to dampen the effect. They had all but forgotten the talk they had had with the Hagan's. Now, in the dead of night, it all came rushing in on them. The initial impact on John was perhaps even more severe than it was on Terri. He hadn't really thought something bad would happen, not that it would have affected his decision even if he had known ahead of time as he did with Ronnie's mom. But to go from having no kids to having three teenagers and two almost teens in a period of just a few months almost overwhelmed him. Then, too, his love for Jack provided some guilt feelings. His emotions went from sorrow for the children's loss of their parents to his own elation at the thought of being father to Ronnie and Jack.
To complicate matters further, earlier that night Jack and Ronnie had shared some very secret thoughts. As they lay in bed after the lights had been turned out, Ronnie had again spoken of his feelings for Jack.
"I wish you were my brother so we could sleep like this all the time."
"Yeah, I know what you mean. Dad's gone so much any more with all these horse shows, it seems like he's forgotten about us. I've spent so much time with Uncle John the past several months and love him so much, sometimes I wish he were my dad. Sometimes I think he loves me more than dad does."
Ronnie could tell that Jack had started to cry softly.
"Hey, Jack, I didn't mean to make you sad," he said, leaning forward and kissing Jack gently on the cheek.
"That's OK, Ron. I just get confused about my feelings sometimes. I'm glad I could share them with you."
With that, Jack leaned forward and kissed Ronnie gently on the lips. Then the boys laid back and went to sleep.
So it was on the heels of this conversation that John and Terri had to break the news of the tragic loss of the kids' parents. Of course, no one could have expected Jack's reaction. Only the boy fully realized the guilt that he felt upon hearing the news. After all, hadn't he just told Ronnie that he wished John were his dad? That he thought John loved him more than his dad did? Upon hearing the news, Jack jumped from his seat and flew out the front door into the cold.
As John started to follow, Ronnie jumped up and grabbed their coats from the closet.
"That's OK dad," he said. "I'll go after him."
And Ronnie ran out the door after his best friend, struggling to get into his own heavy coat as he carried Jack's in one hand.
Jackie slumped onto the floor at Terri's feet and wept inconsolably with Jessie and Judy soon kneeling with her, their arms around her in comfort, their own tears making a wet mess of their friend's blouse.
By the time Ronnie had caught up to his friend, Jack was practically uncontrollable. His mind was overcome with a sense of guilt, a feeling that he was somehow responsible for the accident because of what he had said the night before. His mind seemed to be telling him that if he hadn't been thinking of John as his dad, his real dad, and his mom as well, would still be alive. His reaction to Ronnie's attempts to console him were frightening to Ronnie who was much too young to understand what was going on.
Jack lashed out at Ronnie, verbally and physically. Pushing the smaller boy away violently, he screamed at him.
"Get outta here, ya little twirp! Who needs you around? Did I ask you to come out here?"
In tears, Ronnie tried to explain.
"I brought your coat! I thought you'd be cold! Besides, I just lost my mom. I know what you're going through."
"You have no idea what I'm going through, you little asshole!" Jack yelled at him.
"Just go away and leave me alone. Take your little boy tears and your little boy butt back to the house. I don't want to see you or anybody else!"
Ronnie was so shocked at Jack's words and actions that he turned and ran back to the house. Upon entering the family room, he rushed over to John and collapsed in his lap, burying his face against his father's chest and crying huge, heart wrenching sobs. It was several minutes before the boy had enough control to tell John what had happened. But since he didn't understand the reasons for Jack's actions, it never occurred to him to share with his dad what Jack had said the night before.
When Ronnie had calmed down, John went upstairs and looked out each window until he found where Jack was sitting on the ground just inside a thin tree line. He decided that as long as he could see the boy, he would leave him alone to sort out his emotions. Jack finally returned to the house just as John had finally decided it was time to go out to him. But as John tried to approach the boy, Jack lashed out in anger, telling this man he thought he had loved so much to "stay the hell away from me!"
The tension around the house was thick enough to cut with a knife. From that initial moment until the last visitor had left the house following the joint funeral, everyone felt like they were walking on egg shells, especially where Jack was concerned. He hardly spoke to anyone and never opened up with anyone about his feelings. Jackie had tried on several occasions to get Jack to talk to her, with no success.
Of course, Scott's brother and his wife had come for the funeral. That night, after the kids were all in bed, the four adults finally had a chance to talk about the kids. Robert explained that he and his wife were fully aware of the decision that had been reached concerning custody of Jack and Jackie. They were relieved that John and Terri were still looking forward to having two more children in their family. They were unprepared, however, for Jack's reaction.
"Hell no! What made you guys think I'd want to live with John and Terri? Don't we have a say in this? I'd rather move back East and live with you guys."
His aunt and uncle, as well as his sister and everyone else in the room, were shocked speechless at Jack's statement. They all sat in silence as Jack glared angrily at each of them in turn. Tears once again began to flow from Ronnie's eyes. Jack's comments were like a dagger through his heart. How could this boy he loved so much be treating him this way? He ran from the room and threw himself onto the bed that John and Terri had been using, burying his face in John's pillow.
John, on the other hand, was devastated. His pain was so deep that he couldn't even cry. He simply sat there in utter disbelief. Eventually, Jack stood up and grabbed Jackie's hand, pulling her towards the stairs to their room. Jessie and Judy soon followed them up the stairs, leaving the adults alone to talk things out.
After a few minutes, Robert spoke up.
"Obviously something is wrong. We've seen this sort of behavior before in our practice, and I suspect Jack is dealing with some sense of guilt. It may take some time to help him come to grips with it, but I suppose the best thing for now is to take him with us when we leave. He'll never deal with it if he's forced to live here with you guys. In time, we should be able to deal with whatever is eating him up. Jackie will have to decide for herself as well, at least for now."
"Yeah, I guess you're right, Robert. I sure don't know how to deal with him. His behavior and his words are so out of character, and I'm certainly not prepared to help sort through all his emotions."
Terri added her agreement and the four adults discussed how they would get the kids packed and ready to leave the next day.
Jackie came downstairs about thirty minutes later and announced that while she didn't know where Jack was coming from, she wasn't ready to be separated from him. So she had chosen to go home with her aunt and uncle.
The parting at the airport was strained, to say the least. Ronnie, Jessie and Judy hung back, wishing they hadn't had to come. Terri and John both ached to hug the kids goodbye, but they were rebuffed - gently by Jackie and strongly by Jack. Confusion reigned in their hearts, accompanied by profound sadness. For his part, John felt like his heart had been ripped out and thrown away. Tears streamed down his face as he stood at the window and watched the plane being pushed away from the terminal.
On the trip home, Robert and his wife agreed that he would deal with Jack and his wife would address Jackie's needs. It took several weeks for Robert to finally get Jack to open up to him. But using all his professional acumen, he was eventually successful in getting at the truth. As Jack finally poured out all his anguish, the guilt he felt about his comments to Ronnie the night of the accident and the feelings he had about being responsible, he was finally able to break down and cry. As his uncle sat with him through several sessions and was finally able to help him understand that none of this was his fault, Jack was eventually able to experience his hidden emotions, to let go of everything he had hidden deep inside himself. He was finally able to cry, and he cried about his parents' death, his actions towards Ronnie and the things he had said. He cried about how he had treated John and Terri. And the pain he now knew he had caused them. But he still had fears. Through his tears, he shared those fears with his uncle.
"How do I know Uncle John and Ms. Terri really love me? I mean, Ronnie is now his son, he doesn't need me any more. They already have three kids our age and not even enough room in their house for Ronnie. How could they possibly take us in? Besides, I don't really know how they feel about Jackie. It would kill me to think they were just taking us on as a burden they made a mistake committing to."
Robert thought for a few minutes before making his decision. Stepping over to his desk, he withdrew a handwritten letter he had received several weeks earlier. He decided it said what Jack needed to hear better than he could say it. He handed the letter to Jack.
"I want you to read this, Jack. It's a letter your father sent me several weeks ago. If you still have questions after you read this, we'll talk about them. OK?"
Jack nodded his head as he began to read.
We have already discussed Rose and my decision to name John and Terri as guardians of our children should anything happen to us. I know you are comfortable with this decision and don't feel offended in any way with it. But I want to explain to you, to share with you, just why I am so happy that John and Terri said yes. You see, as much as you and Brenda DON'T want children of your own, John and Terri DO. Especially John. He is truly an amazing man, one I wish I could emulate. I have never seen a man with so much love to share, especially with children. I have watched him with my son, Jack, on many occasions. Their affection for one another is obvious, and I don't feel at all threatened by it. I love Jack and I know he loves me. It doesn't bother me that he feels strongly about his "Uncle John." In fact I am moved by the fact that he can love two of us so deeply. John is always so very careful to try to hide or control his true feelings for Jack when I am around. He seems somewhat embarrassed to let me see how much he loves my son. But I do see it. I see the look in his eyes when he is watching Jack and doesn't know I am watching him. When he forgets that I am there or doesn't know that I am there, he lets his guard down. The look of love in his eyes is unmistakable. I have even seen tears leak from his eyes and dribble down his cheek, just from looking at Jack. Sometimes I wish I could love Jack as deeply as that. Now don't get me wrong. I love Jack as deeply as my soul will allow, but to love someone so much it brings tears to your eyes amazes me. I wonder if Jack even knows how John truly feels about him. We've never really talked about it. I don't want to make the boy nervous. But to have someone love me so much just looking at me could bring about the reactions that it does in John would make me feel so special. I wish I could tell each of them that their love for each other is OK with me. I wish I could tell them it would be OK to share their affection for each other openly, and at all times. But I'm actually afraid that if I tell them that and they learn how much I know, it will scare them into pulling apart from each other. And I couldn't live with that. Any way, I just wanted you to know why I am so at peace about our decision and even about our upcoming trip. If something should happen, I will join the Lord happy in the knowledge that Jack and Jackie are with parents who love them even as much as Rose and I do. Thank you, Robert, for your care and understanding. You are the best brother I ever had, even if you ARE the only brother I ever had. I love you. Scott
When Jack finished reading the letter a second time, he looked up at his uncle with tears streaming down his face.
"Uncle Robert, could Jackie and I go home now?"
Even Robert, with all his professional experience, couldn't stem the tears that escaped and rolled down his cheeks.
Robert and Brenda had kept John and Terri informed of the youngsters' progress on a regular basis. But they had not been able to give them any hint of a time line of when they thought they would all see an end to the situation. They began their telephone call that night in their usual fashion. As soon as John answered, they identified themselves and then waited for Terri to pick up the other extension. Robert began the conversation without preliminaries.
"You guys both on the line?"
"Yeah, we're both here. How are things going?"
"Well, Brenda has Jackie on the other extension and I have Jack here with me. The kids have something they want to say. We'll put them on."
In the time it took to hand over the phones, John and Terri felt their entire lives passing before them. Each was in a separate room. Jessie and Judy were with Terri, Ronnie was with John. The first things they heard were first Jackie's voice and then Jack's.
"Can we come home?"
I guess the story doesn't really have to end here. There are obviously so many ways the story line can go, so many relationships that can grow, change or develop. But I had to put closure somewhere. And I have a sense of obligation to finish a couple of other stories that I have left hanging out there. My work load has increased somewhat too. But if my mail box runneth over, I will try to continue with Family Friends, Revisited. I'll warn you now though, that love will become an even deeper part of the relationships between the characters. And while Nifty is really an alternative life style site, future chapters will have some straight sex relationship building like John and Terri as well as some same sex relationships. None of the brothers and sisters will ever have intercourse with their siblings or their parents, so if that's what you are waiting for, don't bother coming back.
I thank everyone who has read this story. I hope you have gotten more than just a sexual thrill out of it. I especially thank those who have sent me mail. Most readers don't bother. For those who might be interested, the gay teen romance I mentioned in the comments at the front of this chapter is entitled True Love and is located in the Gay Male/Young Friends section. My e-mail address is also at the header of this chapter. Bye for now. K