The story below is a work of fiction. It may contain erotic or sexually explicit behavior between males. If you find this subject matter offensive or are too young, please exit now.

The author reserves copyright privileges as of July 2004. This work may not be posted on any other website nor reproduced, except for personal use, without the written permission of the author.

Dedication: To Freedom and Equality.

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Chapter Forty-five

Monday 10:20 AM, Palms Funeral Home

The small chapel was more than half filled with the 60 or more people who had come to honor Emma. While some of them were Ron, Matt, Tyler and Dan’s close friends and business associates, Emma’s friends, neighbors and members of her church made up the majority. Tyler and Dan sat in the front pew on one side of Jerry, with Ronnie, Ron and Matt on the other. Jerry’s wheelchair was folded in the aisle next to the pew. Emma’s pastor, Rev. Jakes had conducted the religious service, giving a brief narrative on her life and participation in his congregation, then he concluded by speaking words of comfort and assurance of God’s love and deliverance. After a prayer for the departed woman and for those who were feeling loss at her parting, he nodded to Jerry who had asked to deliver the eulogy.

Tyler stood and unfolded the wheelchair as Jerry stood and then sat back down in the chair. Tyler pushed it up a small ramp to a raised platform above and behind the casket that had been closed after the pastor concluded his remarks. Tyler removed a microphone from the pulpit stand and handed it to Jerry before retaking his seat beside Dan.

“I have asked Pastor Jakes to let me tell you of my grandmother, Emma Thorsruud. I’m young, so some of you have known her longer than me, but no one knew her better. She took me in and raised me after my parents were killed in a plane crash. She had lost both of her children, one of whom was my father, as well as my mother, her daughter-in-law. She had also lost her husband Frank, my grandfather, who died before I was old enough to remember him. She and I were all that was left.”

“She was an old lady, with barely enough money to get by on, yet she took me in and gave me all the love she had. She taught me right from wrong and provided a loving home for me. When I got sick, her only thought was to see me well again, ignoring that she herself was not well. She was willing to sell everything to help me even though it would have meant that our home and few possessions were gone. She trusted that the Lord would care for our needs.”

“She taught me what real love is: the giving of all you have to take care of one you love, asking nothing in return. She taught me about trust. She trusted God to provide for us, and He did. There was nothing I couldn’t tell her, because I trusted that her love for me was stronger than anything I could do that was wrong. I was right to trust her. She never let me down. She was right to trust in God because in spite of her passing, he answered her prayers in providing for me and in helping me to get well.”

“She died a happy woman, who had lived a good life, one that is a shining example of how God wants us to be. That is her gift to us; the memory of a woman filled with faith, love and trust.”

Jerry’s eyes filled with tears as he continued.

“I will miss her terribly, but I know that she’s still with me. She will always be in my mind and heart as I grow up and become an adult. She’ll be with me as I go through life, guiding me to make the right and honorable choices. She’s now with her husband Frank, and her children, receiving God’s reward for living as a true and faithful servant of His will. We will all honor her memory by thinking of her in times of trouble. Her example of making decisions out of love and her faith, guided by her trust in the Lord and those she loved, shows us the path out of trouble and grief.”

Looking up, Jerry prayed aloud.

“Thank you Lord for letting Gramma Thorsruud raise and love me. And thank you Gramma for loving me and teaching me to love and trust in the Lord and those who love and care for others. I’ll always love you and remember you. Amen.”

The tears cascaded down Jerry’s cheeks as he finished speaking. There was not a dry eye in the congregation, as Tyler returned to the podium and wheeled Jerry back to his seat.

                                    *                      *                      *

Mid afternoon, Ron and Matt’s living room

“I’m sorry to have to squeeze you in this way, Sean,” Dan said to the young man from Taliesin. I know that you’ve finished the design of our new house, but we’ve been out of town and I have to leave again tomorrow.”

“It’s certainly alright,” he replied. Then gesturing toward a nearby display he said, “I’ve put up the drawings on easels for you to review.”

The two men walked to the display and carefully looked at the minor revisions that had been incorporated into the previous design. After 15 minutes and some discussion about the changes Tyler looked at Dan.

“I think we’re missing something big,” he observed.

“Oh?” Dan asked.

“Yes… Jerry.”

“You’re right as always love,” Dan said. “What do you think?”

“The guest wing is too far away from us for his room even though there’s plenty of room there. I think we should add to our ‘owner’s retreat’ and make it a ‘family wing’ with two more bedrooms with large closets, an adjoining large bathroom, with it’s own hot tub; also a patio, and a study room. It doesn’t have to open directly to our suite, but should be adjacent or nearby, if possible.”

“Why two bedrooms?” Dan asked.

“Well, you never know, you might get pregnant,” Tyler answered with a grin.

Dan and Sean both laughed, though the face of the young man from the Frank Lloyd Wright school appeared a bit flushed.

“I agree,” Dan said with a wink. “You never know.”

The next half-hour was spent sketching out thoughts on some paper at a nearby table with the young architect before they were satisfied.

“Make those changes, then I think we’re ready,” Tyler said in conclusion. “We love the design and can’t wait to get going. Send us a set of revised drawings that is reproducible so we can get the working drawings and engineering underway. You have been great to work with, Sean. I hope you’ll consider coming up here and coordinating the construction.”

“I’d love it. Gentlemen, I’ve got a plane to catch. We’ll try to have the revised drawings here before the weekend. I’d like to say that I’ve really enjoyed working with you. Now I’d better pack these drawings and get moving.”

“Thanks Sean. We’ve enjoyed it too,” Tyler agreed. “Here’s a little “extra” present for you personally for taking such good care of us.”

“Thank you so much gentlemen. Your generosity and cooperation has made this a dream project,” he responded taking the offered envelope. “I assure you that the pleasure was all mine.”

“Have a good flight,” Dan said as they exited the room. “Parker will be along presently to help you out with your things.”

When Tyler and Dan got out of earshot, Dan said, “I didn’t know you were going to do that. How much did you give him?”

Tyler winked at Dan and responded, “Oh, just $10,000.”

                        *                      *                      *

Late afternoon, Ron and Matt’s house, Ronnie’s room.

“I’m gonna hate going back to the hospital tomorrow,” Jerry said as he sat in his wheelchair talking to Ronnie who was sprawled on the bed.

“Yeah, I have to go back to school tomorrow too,” Ronnie said with a dejected look.

“School will be over soon and maybe if you still have to stay in the hospital, I can come to Housto to be with you.”

“Would you do that?” Jerry asked.

“Of course. We’re more than best buds,” Ronnie replied. “Are Dan and Tyler going back with you to Houston?”

“I guess Dan is going with me and staying in the apartment. Tyler said he might come later in the week or the following week if he has to go back to Atlanta.”

“I’m gonna miss you something awful,” Ronnie admitted.

“I’ll miss you too. You’re the neatest guy I’ve ever known.”

“I’m not as neat as you think,” Ronnie stated looking really sad. “I hate myself.”

“Why? The things that happened to you were not your fault,” Jerry responded.

“Maybe not, but when I was living on the streets, I promised to do something that now I don’t want to do.”

“I believe in keeping promises too,” Jerry agreed, “but only if it affects me in a good way. If you promise to do something that will hurt someone else, it’s wrong. Can you tell me about it?”

Ronnie hesitated, deep in thought.

“Ok, I’ll tell you,” he said after making up his mind. “When I was on the street, I was always hungry. I was dirty too, but the worst thing was that I was always hungry. Sometimes people would be nice to me and give me money and I could buy something to eat, but often I’d search dumpsters near restaurants to see if I could find some scraps that they’d thrown away.”

“Ugh,” Jerry grimaced in sympathy. “That must have been awful!”

“It was,” Ronnie agreed, “but the only other thing I could do was to have sex with guys for money. I was desperate, but I was afraid to do that unless there was no other choice. I was getting near that point, then one day I was going through a dumpster behind a sandwich shop, when the owner came out and grabbed me. A customer who had come out of the shop and was going to his car saw what was going on and talked the owner into letting me go. The guy kinda scared me, but he was nice to me, so I owed him. He told me to get in his car and went back into the sandwich shop and got an order of food-to-go while I waited. He told me he wouldn’t hurt me, but that he had a job for me, and would see that I was taken care of. I didn’t have much choice, so I went with him in his car and he took me to a crummy motel and got a room for a week.”

“Did he make you have sex with him?” Jerry asked softly. “Don’t worry, I won’t hate you if you had to.”

“No. That’s what surprised me. He gave me the food, and told me to get cleaned up after I ate. He said he was going to go get me some more clothes, so I could have something to wear while he washed the ones I had on. He said he would be back later and would buy me more food too. Then he told me not to leave the room. I was pretty scared, but he left and I ate and showered like he said. I put the dirty clothes back on, ‘cause that’s all I had. I started watching TV and soon fell asleep. It was the first time I’d had a bed to sleep in for at least three weeks.”

“Where did you sleep during that time when you had no bed?”

“I met some street people, and they helped me as much as they could. They showed me a hidden place where I could sleep, and I had my own cardboard box that I slept in most of the time. Even though they were druggies and winos, they were my only friends and they showed me how to survive. Unfortunately, they were as bad off as me but sometimes, if they had a little extra, they would share with me what little they had.”

“So what happened when the guy came back?”

“He had a key, so he came right in with a couple of plastic bags in his arms. I was asleep, and at first, when I woke up, I forgot where I was and almost ran. Then I remembered and I stopped. He came over to the bed and showed me a pair of jeans, some underwear and sox, and a shirt he’d bought. He told me to change into the new clothes and that he’d take my old ones and get them washed. I didn’t know why he was being so nice, but I did what he said. He sat down at a little table that was in the room and after I changed he showed me some food that he’d bought for me to eat later. There was a little carton of milk, some soft drinks, a couple packaged sandwiches and a big bag of chips. He even bought me a package of cookies, some toothpaste and a tooth brush.”

“I asked him what the job was that he had for me. He didn’t tell me at first. Saying that he’d take care of me if I did what he wanted. He told me that someone had done something bad to him and that he wanted me to help him get even. Then he said again that if I’d help him, he’d see that I’d go where the people were nice and that they would take care of me until I got older and could take care of myself. It seemed like the only chance I had if I wanted to get off the streets, so I promised him I’d help him.”

“What did he want you to do?” Jerry asked.

“He repeated that someone had been bad to him and that he wanted me to meet them, then tell the cops that they tried to force me to have sex with them. I told him I would do it. He said that now that I knew his plans and agreed to help, he’d see that I ended up dead if I broke my promise. He said he’d take me to the guys’ house in a couple of days after I’d had time to rest and feel better. He said they would probably take me to a place for me to stay, but that I was to tell the people there that they had tried to do sex stuff with me. He said that if I couldn’t tell someone immediately, that I was to find some way to send him a postcard every couple of days and let him know where I was, and when I could do what I promised. He then gave me three postcards with his address and stamps on them. He said he would have someone get in touch with me.”

“Who did he want you to accuse?” Jerry requested.

“Two guys I’d never heard of. The first one’s name was Matt Davidson, and the other had the same name as me, Ron Turner.”

“Wow!” Jerry exclaimed. “That’s terrible! Ron and Matt are the nicest guys in the world, except maybe for Dan and Tyler, who I kinda favor.”

“Yeah, but I didn’t know that at the time. They were just two names.”

“What happened after that?”

“Nothing for a couple of days, except that he brought me food and a couple of other things, then one night the man came by and said it was time. We got in his car and he dropped me off in the dark about a couple of miles away from Ron and Matt’s property. He told me that there was a long road with a wall and fence that ran along side. He said that I was to try to get someone living inside to pick me up. If I couldn’t do that, I was to climb across the fence. He was sure there was security and that I’d get picked up. I was to tell them I was homeless, and that he was sure that I’d get to meet Ron and Matt. The only thing is that nothing went according to plan.”

“You ended up here, so something happened.” Jerry observed.

“Yes, and it was no good. Some boys picked me up, and since I was still a long way from here, I got in. Before I knew it one of them was feeling me up between the legs. It felt so good that I didn’t protest. Besides there were four of them and I was afraid to resist. The guy that had his hands on my dick unfastened my pants and pulled my dick out. The others, all except the driver, were watching. I was hard as I could be. He told the driver to pull off the road out into the desert. As we drove a ways he smiled and asked me if I liked him playing with my dick. I said it felt good. He pulled down his pants and took out his cock and forced my head down on it, making me suck it. Pretty soon the car stopped and we all got out. Then they pushed me to my knees. They made me suck all their dicks and they shot in my mouth. They said if I bit them, they’d kill me. I was really scared, so I did as they said. Then they all took turns again, except this time they pulled out in time to shoot their loads all over me.”

“When the last one was finished, one of them hit me over the head with something hard, and one pulled out a knife. They called me a faggot and a cocksucker and started beating me and cutting me. I begged them to stop but they kept on. Pretty soon I passed out. When I woke up sometime later I was weak, bruised and bleeding badly. I got to my feet and staggered back toward the road. I saw the fence around Ron and Matt’s property and dragged myself to it and used it to hold myself up. I could tell that I was not going to be able to go any further, so when I saw a car coming I let go of the fence and turned to flag the car down. I never made it. Before they could get to me, I passed out again. That’s all I remember.”

“The next day I woke up in the hospital, and soon Ron and Matt came in. They took care of me and have been good to me, but I still had my promise to keep, so after I got out of the hospital, I mailed one of the postcards the guy gave me. I told him that I had been molested and had been in the hospital, but that I was at Ron and Matt’s and that I would contact him again by postcard when I was recovered. Last week I sent another card. I told him that I didn’t want to keep my promise, but if I had to in order to square myself, I would.”

“Wow! You take promises pretty seriously.”

“It’s the only thing good I got from my dad. He drummed into my head that a man was no good unless his word was too. I admit though, I almost told the man I wouldn’t do it, but I knew he would find me and kill me if I broke my promise. I’m sure he’d do it too! “

“You have to tell Ron and Matt. They’ll protect you! They love you.”

“They won’t love me when they find out,” Ronnie said with his eyes tearing up.

“Yes they will. They love you and trust you. You can trust them too. It’s what belonging is all about.”

“I don’t know. I’ve never been around that kind of love or trust,” Ronnie said doubtfully.

“You see it here every day. Do you trust me?”

“I couldn’t have told you what I just did, if I didn’t trust you,” Ronnie answered.

“I don’t hate you, and I won’t tell anyone either. You have to tell them yourself.”

“Do you really think I should?” Ronnie asked again.

“Yes! Absolutely!” Jerry answered with a look of assurance on his face. “I’ll go with you if you want, but you have to do it. That guy you made the promise to doesn’t love you. He just wants to use you, then when he gets what he wants he’ll throw you away. Trust me, but most of all trust Ron and Matt. I trust Dan and Tyler with my life. They love me like Ron and Matt love you.”

“I’ll have to think about it,” Ronnie answered.

A knock on the door of Ronnie’s room was just in time to break the spell of their weighty conversation. Ronnie got up quickly and answered the knock, swinging the door open to see both Ron and Matt standing there.

“Sorry to interrupt, but could we speak to you for a few minutes?” Ron asked.

“Sure, do you want me to come downstairs, or do you want to come in?”

Seeing Jerry sitting beside Ronnie’s bed, Ron answered, “Here would be fine, but what we’d like to talk to you about is personal.”

“I can leave,” Jerry offered.

“No, you can stay,” Ronnie said loud enough for both parties to hear, “Jerry’s my friend and anything you want to say to me you can say in front of him.”

“Good,” Ron said smiling as he stepped through the doorway. “Let’s go over to the sitting area where we can all be comfortable.

Jerry rolled the wheelchair toward the area where a small sofa, two chairs, a TV/ stereo, and computer station were located.

After they all were seated, Ron began.

“Ronnie, we’re not trying to put you on the spot and you can decide later if you want, but we have something to ask of you.”

“I’ll do what ever you want,” Ronnie responded.

“It won’t work that way,” Matt interjected. “We’ll ask you the question, then you tell us what you want.”

“Ask away then,” Ronnie said in agreement.

Matt nodded to Ron who began, “Ronnie, I hope by now you know that Matt and I love you. We’d like you to become our son, and if the law allows and you’re willing, for us to adopt you.”

“WHOOPIE!” Jerry yelled, “I told you they loved you, WHOOPIE!”

Ron and Matt looked at the jubilant Jerry, then looked at their would-be-son, who was shaking his head in confusion and conflict.

“Say ‘yes’ Ronnie, say ‘yes’!” Jerry urged his friend.

Ronnie’s eyes filled with tears and he shook his head.

“I… I can’t,” he responded, his heart full of sadness.

Ron and Matt looked with tenderness at the boy they loved.

Matt asked softly, “Can you tell us why, Ronnie?”

“You don’t know me!” he cried. “I’m not good enough to be your son.”

“We think you are,” Ron answered. “Your past is behind you. We want to share your future with you and help make it good.”

“You wouldn’t love me if you only knew what I planned to do,” Ronnie argued.

“They love you, Ronnie,” Jerry argued. “I know, and I don’t hate you for it.”

“You know what the problem is?” Matt asked Jerry. “Can you tell us?”

Ronnie’s eyes filled with panic, then calmed as Jerry shook his head.

“No, I can’t tell you. I promised Ronnie that I wouldn’t. Ronnie values people who keep their word, and I won’t break my promise to him.”

“Then we won’t ask you to,” Matt responded.

“Can I ask you something?” Ronnie asked the older men, almost as a plea.

“Sure son,” Ron replied.

“If you did something good for me, and I promised I’d do something for you, then didn’t do it, wouldn’t I be breaking my word?”

“Yes, but that would not always be wrong,” Ron replied carefully thinking out his reply.

“I don’t understand your answer,” Ronnie replied.

“Let me give you a couple of circumstances that will explain my answer,” Ron began. “Let’s say that I did something good for you, not because I cared about you but only because I wanted something in return. That’s coercion. It’s relying on your gratitude to get you to do something for me. That’s especially wrong if I use that gratitude to get you to do something bad or something you don’t want to do.”

“The next part is a bit harder,” Ron continued. “It’s not always wrong to lie to a liar, to cheat a crook, to do bad to a bad person or even to break promises to those who have no honor. Those kinds of people depend on others who are truthful, who are honest, are good or are men of their word, to be the victims of their immorality. Even though we always want to be truthful, honest, good, and dependable, we have to judge who we have committed our honor too. I have to be honest, I don’t want to be considered a liar, dishonest, bad or not a man of my word, and will often let people take advantage of me at first, because I don’t want to believe they are bad. It’s different if I know that they have a different, lower standard in the first place. I try to stay away from those people if I can, and treat them cautiously, if I can’t.”

“I know that I’ve probably given you a complex answer, but I don’t know any other way to explain it,” Ron concluded. “If the people in the world were all decent and honorable, my answer would be different. The truth of the matter is that the world is not full of only those people. I guess I can only say that you should do what is right, in your heart. The one thing you know is wrong is to hurt others that did nothing to deserve it. People are the only thing that is important. We all loved Jerry’s Grandma Emma. What did she leave this world with? The answer is nothing except a lot of friends, who will always remember and love in their hearts the good and wonderful person she was here on earth. That is the most any of us can take, no matter how much we accumulate in wealth or possessions here. She left a rich lady. There’s only one thing left I’d like to advise. Pray to the Lord for guidance. Open your heart for His direction. He will not always give you the answer in a very clear way, especially if you already know the right thing to do. Yet He will honor your making the right decision. I hope this has helped you a little.”

“Ronnie,” Matt added, “We’re not going to take your answer as final yet. We want you to think about it, pray about it and discuss it with your friend Jerry. We’ll leave you now and will talk with you again whenever you’re ready. Come on Babe,” he said to Ron, “Let’s leave these guys to talk.”

“Ok Matt,” Ron agreed. “I just want to say to Ronnie before we leave that we love him.”

Turning to Ronnie he repeated his vow. “We love you Ronnie. Not because you’re good, or handsome or smart. We love you unconditionally. We love the Ronnie that is you. Even if you tell us ‘no’, we will love you. That’s what love is. Think it over, son.”

Ron joined Matt at the door and they left the room.

                                    *                      *                      *

Monday night, Ron and Matt’s, the balcony outside the living room

“It’s so nice out here,” Dan said to Ron, Matt and Tyler as they looked out over the lighted Las Vegas Valley.

“Yes, but it will be warming up soon,” Ron replied. “It’s hard to believe that summer is approaching.”

“I hope that Jerry gets released from the hospital before long,” Dan commented. “Houston in the summer can be a miserable place.”

“Las Vegas in the summer is not exactly the Alps,” Ron said laughing, “But I really do know what you mean.”

“Atlanta is just as bad,” Tyler added. “Hopefully I won’t have to spend too much time there this summer.”

“It’s been a busy year,” Matt observed.

“It’s been more than that Babe,” Ron replied, “It’s been a phenomenal year! I’m still in a state of shock. It’s almost impossible for me to believe that a year ago, I was here, by myself, chatting with Bryan on the web. Now look at all that’s happened.”

The French door to the living room opened and Mary and Parker stepped through onto the balcony.

“May we disturb you all for a moment?” Parker asked.

“Certainly Parker. We’d love to have you join us. Pull up a chair.”

“Thank you sir,” Parker said politely as he placed a chair for Mary next to the foursome, and then brought one over for himself.

When they were seated, Ron asked, “What can we do for you this evening? It’s not that you really need an excuse to join us, it’s just a bit unusual.”

“Yes sir,” Parker said formally. “We’ve been discussing our wedding and honeymoon arrangements and have made some decisions. We wanted to run them by you before we make any firm commitments.”

“That’s very considerate folks, but you know we told you to make your plans and we’d work around them.”

“But we wouldn’t do that, as you well know sir.”

“Yes, you’re right Parker. I do know that,” Ron agreed with a slight grimace. “What have you decided?”

“The date of the wedding is unchanged. We’d like to take you up on your offer of having the wedding here, and also your offer of a cruise on your yacht on the Mediterranean. We’ll be gone a month if that’s alright, with two weeks on the yacht and two weeks touring European countries.”

“That sounds great!” Ron said smiling, looking around observing that the others agreed too.

“Make any arrangements needed for the house with Dorothy as we discussed, and if you’ll call Jan at the office, she’ll arrange for the PT II and the G- V for your use. If there is anything that any of us can do for you, just ask. I think you’ll have a wonderful time.”

“Thank you sir. Thank you gentlemen.”

The couple rose, but before they left the balcony deck, Parker asked, “Is there anything I can get for you?”

Matt looked at the shaking heads of his companions before answering for them all, “No, thanks Parker. Why don’t you and Mary ‘call it a night’?”

“We will, thank you sir. Goodnight.”

“G’night, Parker. Night Mary.”

When the door again closed, Matt turned to Dan and asked, “What are your plans for tomorrow?”

“Since we were able to keep today’s doctor’s appointment to make sure Jerry is ready to travel, about 10 o’clock we’re to take off for Houston. We won’t get there until late afternoon, but we’ll go right to the hospital. When Jerry’s settled in, and visiting hours are over, I’ll go to the apartment and call. It should be about 7:30 PM, Las Vegas time.”

“Keep us informed,” Matt asked. “If you need to come back here for business, I’ll be glad to take some time and ‘spell’ you.”

“Thanks Matt. I really do appreciate that. We’ll just have to see though. I can’t stay indefinitely without the business suffering, but I’ll stay as long as I can before running up the white flag.”

“Nonsense,” Ron said. “There are four of us, we’ll all be glad to help. Just say ‘when’ and we’ll be there.”

Dan smiled his appreciation.

“You can’t possibly know how much I love being part of this family, guys,” he said.

“No more than we love having you a part of it,” Ron responded.

The four men turned at the sound of the French door opening again. Ronnie stood in the doorway with Jerry in his chair close behind.

“Can we talk to you all?” Ronnie asked.

“Of course son,” Ron replied. “Come on guys, let’s go inside.”

                                    *            *            *            *            *