This story is my first attempt at writing fiction - particularly erotic fiction - although I have some technical writing in my background.  The names and events are all figments of my imagination, and I apologize for any similarity to your life or lovers. I assure you, it's not intentional

I claim copyright privileges for this story. It springs from a favorite fantasy of mine, and if you find it enjoyable, let me know with an email to

I have had requests from some readers to notify them when I post a new chapter. Regretfully, I don't have the facilities to do that. The Nifty Archivist does the posting, and the newest chapter will always be included in the most recent edition of the "eric-series" directory. I follow several stories by other authors, and have found it doesn't take that long to check the various lists.

The usual disclaimers apply. If you are under the legal age in your State or Country, please go read something else. If you are offended by homosexual liaisons between a boy and a man, why are you reading stuff from an erotic gay site?

For all the rest of you, enjoy.


Chapter Seven

We spent most of the morning dozing in each other's arms. I woke to the sound of the phone ringing, and carefully got up to answer it. By the time I got to my room, it had stopped ringing. I looked at the caller ID, and saw the call had come from John's office. I quickly dialed the number, and his receptionist answered. "John Bishop and Associates, Attorneys-at-law," .

"This is Bob Llewellyn. You just called me."

"Oh yes, Mister Llewellyn. Please hold."

John came on the line, and said, "Bob. Glad you finally made it to the phone."

I detected a note of sarcasm in his voice, and said, "I'm glad to see you made it to work without taking a side trip to jail."

He chuckled, and said, "Billy hid my keys last night or that might not have been far from the truth. Anyway, lots is going on. I got a call from the Angel of Mercy Synod this morning. They are going to investigate my allegations. We'll see how far that goes." He didn't sound hopeful anything constructive would be done. "I talked to the boys' attorney, and he was overjoyed to relinquish their cases. I talked to Justin [the county DA], and he said the owner was adamant about pressing charges. The boys broke into her restaurant, and were chowing down big time when the police answered the silent alarm. The owner is a frustrated old woman who refuses to listen to mitigating circumstances. I sent George over to talk to her, but she thought he was trying to strong-arm her, and just dug in her heels. Justin is willing to drop the whole thing if she will, but it doesn't look good."

I asked him the name of the restaurant, and he told me. "I think I know her," I said. "I'll take a trip into town and talk to her."

"It can't hurt," he said. "As things stand now, they're due to be arraigned tomorrow morning.

"On the shelter," he continued, "everything is go. I notified the press that there would be an opening ceremony in the assembly room on Monday at ten in the morning. The staff is moved in, and Janet is walking on air. She wants to talk to you. I told her you'd be at the dedication."

"Good. I'll be ready. Tell Janet I'll try to get there around eight next Monday morning. That should give us enough time to sort things out, and I'll let you know what happens as soon as I talk to Susan," I said, and hung up.

I called the gatehouse on the intercom. Carl answered, and I told him what was happening, and that he could reach me on my cellphone. He was happy to be put in the loop. I went to tell Eric I was going to town. He was in the process of getting dressed.

"How long will you be gone?" he asked.

"It doesn't matter," I told him. "I'm taking you with me. You'll have to wait in the truck while I talk to a woman, but then we'll go pay our respects to Jeremy."

"What woman?"

"The one who owns the restaurant your friends broke into," I said.

"Can't I go with you when you talk to her?"

"Not this time, Son. Bitter old women take special handling, and for the sake of your friends, I think it's better if I do this alone. She's already pissed off at teenagers."

"OK," he said. "Just don't leave me alone too long."

I kissed him on the tip of his nose, and said, "You know I won't."

We put on our coats, and left in the big four-wheeler. It was a long drive to the restaurant, and I hoped Susan would still be there. I got there just as she was finishing the cleanup from the lunch rush, and was getting ready to close. I greeted her with a "Happy New Year, Susan."

She said, "Hi. I haven't seen you in a long time."

"I moved out  of town," I said. "How's it been going for you?"

"Don't ask," she said. "A bunch of kids broke in over Christmas, and I'm still cleaning up after them. They ate everything in sight, and I had to close for three days to get restocked."

I hate it when people lie to me, particularly when it's not necessary. The boys had broken in on Christmas Eve, and had been arrested not more than a half hour later. She would not have been open on Christmas Day in any case, and she had been open today. "How much did they eat? I asked.

"I had to replace everything," she said. "I didn't know what all they touched with their dirty hands."

"That must have cost you a bunch," I said.

"Over five hundred dollars," she said, "not to mention the cost of fixing the locks they broke. They're going to pay for it though. The cops caught them red handed. They're in jail right now."

I decided to get to the point of my visit without further ado. "Would a thousand dollars pay for the damages?"

"Yeah," she said, "but they don't have that kind of money. They're runaways. They don't have shit."

"I will give you the thousand dollars if you will drop the charges against those boys," I said. "They are friends of a buddy, and I don't want to see them go to prison for trying to get warm on a stormy night like that was."

She thought a little too long, so I said, "I doubt you're going to get a better offer." I knew she had probably already filed a claim with her insurance company.

Greed got the better of her, and I quickly wrote out a receipt, which she signed while I wrote her a check. I thanked her, and drove over to John's office.

The receptionist ignored Eric, and asked if she could help me. I told her "No. I'd like to see John." She said he was in conference. I told her we would wait, and to tell Mister Bishop that Mister Llewellyn and Eric were waiting to talk to him.

We sat down in comfortable chairs, and Eric started leafing through one of the magazines on the table in front of him. The receptionist picked up the phone, and whispered into it. I wondered what she would have done if Tom had been the one sitting there. I smiled at the thought just as John came through his office door, and greeted us heartily.

"Well, how did you make out?" he asked when we were seated in his office.

I handed him the receipt Susan had signed. "Pretty well, I think. I know I should have gotten a witness, but the place was empty, and I didn't want to try to drag a stranger off the street."

John looked at the paper, and said, "This will do fine. I'll go to the arraignment tomorrow and, if necessary, demand that the complaining witness appear. The judge will grant a dismissal, and the boys will be remanded to Children's Services."

"What do you mean, 'Children's Services.' I thought they were going to be released to the shelter."

"The result will be the same, but we have to dance to the piper's tune, and do all the steps," he said. "The case worker from CSD - I think her name is Darlene -  will move that the court grant her petition to place them in the shelter. The Judge will hem and haw - probably because the shelter isn't officially open yet. He'll do what's right, but he'll make it sound like it's an inconvenient favor.

"I'm going to piggy-back your personal foster parent license on this," he added, "and have Eric placed in your custody. It's all cut and dried. Done deal.

"I have the paperwork all filled out," he went on "All you have to do is sign it and show up at the hearing tomorrow morning at nine. Bring Eric with you. It will be a slam dunk."

I sighed and said, "All right. You've got me over a barrel. I don't understand how it all comes together, but that's what I pay you for. Where do I sign?"

John put the papers in front of me, handed me a pen, and pointed to each line where my signature was required. He smiled and said, "You will soon be the proud Papa of one wonderful boy." I looked at him with a question forming in my mind. "I included Eric in this paperwork because it will be easier to adopt him if you are his legal guardian when we file, and doing it this way precludes a separate hearing where old wounds might be opened.."

  "So what did I just sign?" I asked.

"This is an application for certification to be a foster parent," he held up one sheet of paper. "I'll get it certified this afternoon. This," he held up another bunch of paper, "is your affidavit of responsibility for the funding of the shelter. When we get to court in the morning, you'll be the big Kahuna."

"Great!" I said. "Just what I always wanted to be - a fat Hawaiian shaman"

He laughed, and said. "Hey. Don't knock it. With your funding of the shelter, and being a licensed foster parent, there is no chance your petition for the adoption of Eric will be denied.

"By the way, Eric," he said, "how are you holding up?"

"Pretty good, I guess," he answered. "We're going to see Jeremy when we leave here."

"It's always hard to lose a friend," he said. "I stopped at the funeral home on the way to work this morning. Jeremy looks like he's sleeping."

Eric gave John a wry smile, and said, "Yeah, sleeping - but he'll never wake up."

We said our goodbyes at the outer door of his office, and I drove over to the funeral home.. I had a lot to occupy my thoughts. I had accepted responsibility for the well being of up to 120 children who had been living by their wits. I wondered if I was wealthy enough to handle it.

Eric was impressed with the way Jeremy was laid out. He looked quite natural, and had a curious little smile on his face. It was an expression I couldn't quite put my finger on. Eric began to weep quietly as he stood looking at his dead friend. "I have to go talk to the manager," I said. "You can stay here and say goodbye to Jeremy. Will you be OK?"

He nodded, and I went to pay for the arrangements; a plot, headstone, services, and all the rest. Eric was waiting for me when I returned. He seemed a little more accepting of the death, and I didn't try to interfere with his thoughts.

We drove home in silence, each of us with his own thoughts. Eric had stopped weeping, and had a look of serenity on his beautiful face. He broke the silence as we drove through the gate.

"I was thinking about Jeremy," he said. "He looked like he knew a secret, and he wasn't gonna tell anyone."

He had nailed the expression I had noticed. "You're right. He did."

I opened the garage door and drove in. We went in to the family room and sat on the sofa. Eric wrapped his arms around me and said, "I think he's happy now. At least he doesn't have to go to sleep hungry any more."

"I'll bet he's having fun sliding down a cloud," I said.

"You think so?"

"Sure," I said. "Wouldn't you if you had the chance?

He gave me a wan smile, and disentangled himself from me. He walked slowly out of the room, and climbed the stairs. I let him go. He was solving his problems at his own pace, and I could do nothing but stand by and be available if he needed me.

I picked up the intercom, and Carl answered. I said, "I want to have a community meeting tomorrow afternoon."

"What about?" he asked.

"I'm not sure," I said. "I only know there will be things that everyone should know about."

"It's a good thing I'm not a curious bitch," he said. After a short pause he added,, "Well I am , but I'll force myself to wait till tomorrow." He paused again. "What time?"

I thought for a moment, and then said, " Oh! I don't know. It depends on what happens in the morning."

"You're trying my patience, Bob. I won't sleep a wink all night."

I chuckled and said, "I'm sorry, Carl. I can't tell you what I don't know. I have to be in court for Eric and the other boys at nine in the morning. The rest is up to the Judge. John says it's all arranged, but in my experience, Murphy lives in courtrooms."

I woke the next morning with Eric draped all over me. I was on my back, and he was lying with his head on my shoulder with his arms encircling my neck. His leg was wrapped around my thighs with the knee in a very delicate location, and his erect penis was poking into my hip. He had evidently climbed in sometime much earlier, and was snoring softly. I put my arms around him and rubbed his back gently. He started twitching in his sleep, and cooing quietly. Suddenly, he stiffened and I felt his warm ejaculate flow onto my hip and flank. I reached up and turned on the light on the headboard. His eyes opened wide with alarm, and he lifted his head and looked at me like a deer caught in headlights. When he saw I was awake, and looking back at him, he blushed beet red and said, "It happened again!"

I smiled and said, "I know."

He lifted himself off of me and looked at the evidence smeared all over my waist. "I'm sorry," he said. "I didn't know that would happen. I couldn't help it." He jumped out of bed and ran for the bathroom. I put my finger down and dragged it through the rich, white fluid, and brought it to my mouth. I pursed my lips around it, and licked the delicious nectar of his loins. Eric came running back to the bedside with a damp washcloth before I could repeat my small perversion, and wiped my body clean.

"I was dreaming about Jeremy, and Josh, and you, and me, and we were all having fun and laughing and running, and ..."

I put my finger on his lips. "Shhhh. It isn't a bad thing. Your body makes sperm, and when the bag that holds it is full, it gets emptied to make room for newer sperm. It's a very natural process. It's also nice that you had a happy dream to go along with it." I drew him close, and kissed him on the nose. "I'm glad I was in the dream, too."

"It wouldn't be a happy dream if you weren't," he sighed, and nestled his face into my neck.

I glanced at my clock and saw it was almost four-thirty, my usual rising time. I held him in my arms and stroked his hair for a few minutes, and then said, "It's time for me to get up, Son. Do you want to get up too?"

"I guess so," he said unenthusiastically. "I want to get big like you, and I guess I'll have to work at it to make it happen."

"Well, go clean up and get something on," I said. "I'll meet you in the exercise room."

We had a good workout for about forty minutes, and then showered, and got dressed for what promised to be a day to remember. I told Eric to wear his suit, and he looked at me as if I was telling him something he already knew. "Well, duh," he said. Then, remembering he didn't yet know how to do his tie, he added, "You'll have to tie my tie."

I looked at him with the same expression and said, "Well, duh."

We both giggled, and he ran to his room to get ready.

We arrived at the courthouse at a quarter to nine, and John was waiting for us in the corridor just inside the doors. He had a happy smile on his face, and greeted us with gusto. "I'm glad you're here early," he said. "I have some news about Bucholtz."

He had our attention instantly. "I talked to Dan [the Police Chief] about what he did to these boys, and he's looking into the possibility of having Justin file criminal charges against him," he said. "I suggested he file them as 'hate crimes' since his motivation was based on his prejudice." A crime proven to be based on prejudice increased the sentence by a considerable length of time.

John was hyped up for the hearing. "Let's go on up." he said. "We've got Judge Lambert, and he doesn't like stragglers." We climbed the big marble staircase, and walked into a large courtroom. Eric was awed by the intimidating size and austere decor of the room, and pressed close to my side grabbing my hand as he did.

We sat in the front row just behind John, and a minute or two later the bailiff said, "All rise. The District Court of the State of Oregon is now in session - The honorable Judge Clayton Lambert, presiding."

The judge strode into the room quickly from a door behind the high bench with a purposeful step,  seated himself in the plush leather chair, and said brusquely, "Be seated."

A sheriff's deputy led a line of accused men into the room from another door, and seated them in a holding area. He told the first three to follow him to the table in front of the judge's bench, and left them standing there. One of them looked at Eric in his suit and tie, and almost fainted. Eric smiled at him, and gave him a little wave. "That's Josh," he whispered to me. I nodded and put my finger to my lips to indicate he should be silent.

The clerk stood up and read the docket number of the first case. "State of Oregon versus Joshua Billings, a minor; Robert Gray, a minor; and Samuel Brooks, a minor; charged with breaking and entering, burglary, and malicious mischief."

John stood and said, "John Bishop for the defense, your honor. We waive reading of the complaint, and move for dismissal on the grounds that the complaining witness has expressed a wish to drop the charges. She has decided that the boys were only trying to get warm on a very cold and snowy night - a night, I might add, during which another youngster died trying to keep warm in an exposed doorway."

The judge looked sternly at the three boys, who wisely hung their heads in shame. "It says here that restitution has already been made to the business owner. Is that correct?" asked  the judge.

"Donald Martin for the prosecution, your honor," said a youngish man in a grey suit. "That's correct. The owner has signed a statement to the effect that all damages have been paid for, and that she suffered no lasting effects. As a result, I have been instructed to decline to prosecute by the District Attorney."

"Well, if there is no complaint, there is no case," said the judge. "The case is dismissed, and the minors are remanded to the custody of Children's Services with a view to returning them to their parents"

He rapped his gavel, and was about to call for the next case when a stunning woman of about forty stood and said, "If it please the court, your honor, Darlene Macy for CSD. We have a request."

The judge looked at her with fire in his eyes and said, "An unusual request, no doubt."

Darlene never wavered. "Yes, your honor, but one we hope to make quite commonplace in the near future."

She had piqued the judge's interest. "This, I have to hear," he said somewhat sarcastically.

"First, your honor, I would like to report that only one of the boys would even tell us his real name. CSD did contact Joshua Billing's parents, and they not only refused to take him back, but maligned him with foul language. Further, Mister Billings Senior threatened the caseworker with bodily harm should she return. I have the report here." She handed a sheaf of paper to the bailiff, who handed it to the judge, "Consequently," she continued, "CSD has accepted responsibility for all three boys and they have been granted 'Ward of the Court' status." She handed another sheaf of papers to the bailiff.

"That being said,  I'm sure you are aware of the new youth shelter that will be opening officially on New Year's Day," she said. "We would like to assign these three boys to that shelter, which is already fully staffed, and has much better facilities than the State can offer them. All the required permits and licenses are in place, and I am told the director will be Janet Hayes."

"Isn't this a private shelter?" asked the judge. "Am I correct in assuming that the State will have no oversight?"

Darlene stuck to her guns. "You are correct, your honor, but the quality of the care at this facility will far outshine anything the State can afford to provide, and CSD will have a small degree of input as to how it operates." She paused a moment, and then continued, "There are strict laws already in force concerning the operation of a non-profit facility such as this is, and I'd like to point out that it won't cost the County or the State one thin dime despite the fact that the credentials of the entire staff indicate a payroll in excess of a million dollars a year. Even the housekeeper has a degree."

"Impressive," said the judge. "What are your thoughts on this, Mr Bishop?" he asked.

"The alternatives preclude contemplation," said John, standing up. "We accept Ms. Macy's recommendation."

"Very well," said the judge. "The accused are remanded to the custody of... of .. What's the name of the place?"

"The Jeremy Shaw Memorial Shelter," said John, enunciating clearly,  "lest anyone forget the young life that was wasted in the snow because there was no room for him at the Angel of Mercy mission on Christmas Eve." Everyone in the courtroom could taste the bitterness in John's words, and a  murmur ran through the crowd.

The judge rapped his gavel, and called for order. "The three minors are remanded to the custody of the Jeremy Shaw Memorial Shelter." He looked at the boys, and said sternly, "You have been given a reprieve from a very lengthy stay with the Oregon Department of Corrections.. Be sure you make the most of this opportunity. I seriously doubt you'll ever get another."

The boys mumbled their agreement and thanks to the judge, and turned around wondering what would happen next.. Eric left my side, and ran to hug Josh. Darlene swiftly took all four boys in tow and herded them out of the courtroom to the relief of John and the judge. The deputy looked confused, and moved as if to follow, but the judge called the next case and he was required to present the next accused. His concern was due to the fact that all three boys were wearing orange jump suits - jail clothes..

John was the first to realize we were in trouble. "Hey, hold up," he said to our group, "If we walk around with these boys in jail clothes, we could get shot." I noticed two uniformed officers running towards us with their guns drawn. John put his hands out towards them, and said, "Hold on. This is not what it appears to be."

The officers were suspicious, but John's explanation smoothed over the event. They holstered their weapons, and stood by while John arranged to have the boys returned to the jail to retrieve their own clothes and other belongings.

Darlene said she would pick them up at the jail, and transport them to the shelter. I handed her five hundred-dollar bills, and asked her to stop and get new shoes and some decent clothes for the boys. She said she would. Eric and I went back to John's office with him.

I looked at John, and said, "What happened to the foster-father thing for Eric?"

John smiled and said, "Oh yeah. Here." He held out a sheet of paper. "I forgot to tell you. We got that done in chambers before the court was convened."

I took the paper and read it. It was, indeed, a court order placing Eric Larson in my foster care. I handed it to Eric so he could read it too. He examined it carefully, and said, "You really are my Dad now." He stood up and wrapped his arms around my neck in a tight hug.

I held his little body tightly and said, "Yes, I really am." I smiled at John and said, "Thank you, John."

He looked at me and said, "Don't thank me yet. There is still the adoption process to go through. Have you found a place in Lincoln County yet?"

"No," I admitted. "I haven't even called the realtor yet. The past couple of days have been pretty full. It completely slipped my mind."

"Well, get on it," he said. "By the way, the funeral home called me and said they could squeeze the services into their schedule this afternoon at three, if that's all right with you. They tried to call you, but Tom wouldn't give out your cell number."

"That will be fine," I said. "I'd like to talk to the other boys to ask them if they would like to be there." I looked at Eric, and asked him, "Is that OK with you?"

He nodded and said, "I hope they want to go. I want Jeremy to know he had friends who cared about him."

"You and I know he did, and he does too," I said. "Lets go home and call the shelter. Maybe we can talk to your friends."

We took our leave of John, and drove home. Eric was subdued, but not as morose as he had been on the last, similar trip. We called the shelter, and Eric talked to Josh. He asked the others, and they all said they would like to attend the services. We had a light lunch, and I called Tom and Carl to tell them what was going on. They also decided to go. I thanked them, and  realized we would need to use a vehicle with a larger capacity than the pickup. I asked Tom if he would drive the estate van so there would be room for everyone. He agreed, and we all set off for the shelter.

On the way, I filled Tom and Carl in on what had happened in court, and asked them if having Eric's friends visit would disrupt their lives too much. Neither of them had any objections, but we discussed creating a set of rules the boys would have to abide by to stay on the list of invited guests.

I had seen the site, but had not seen the shelter since the foundation was poured. I was impressed with the structure. Of course, the landscaping was not finished, but the main building rose from the side of a gentle rise as if it had grown there of its own accord. It looked like a cross between a dude ranch and a grand hotel. I was quite pleased with how my money had been spent. The one thing it did not look like was an institution.

The three boys were waiting for us. They had been fed a sumptuous lunch, and were glad  to be invited to attend the funeral. They had probably thought they would be restricted to the grounds, but had already started to trust the staff. They had some misgivings when I introduced Tom, but he and Eric put them at ease, and we departed for the funeral home without losing any of them.

The service was a simple non-denominational one since we had no way of knowing what church Jeremy was brought up with. Josh and Eric were the only ones who wept, but Sam and Bobby were stern-faced and somber. Each of them realized that it might easily have been him in the coffin instead of Jeremy.

The whole group went to the cemetery to say their last goodbyes, and I asked Darlene if the boys could come home for supper with Eric and me. I promised to return them to the shelter before the ten o'clock curfew. She agreed, said she would notify the staff of the change in plans, and left.

The trip to the estate was a little gloomy as each of the boys reflected on their own private thoughts, but they perked up noticeably when we drove onto the grounds. The house was still decked out in the Christmas lights, and Josh asked Eric if this was another shelter. Eric smiled and said, "No way. This is my home."

Tom let us all out of the van at the front door, and Eric guided the other three youngsters through the portal into the foyer. Eric looked at me with a question in his eyes, and I nodded. He said, "C'mon! I'll show you my room." They all followed him upstairs, and I went to the kitchen to start dinner.

I decided to grill some steaks for dinner. They would be quick, and french fries would round out the meal if I made a salad, and added ice cream for dessert. It would certainly appeal to the teenagers' tastes.

Eric and his troupe came thundering down the stairs and into the kitchen as I was selecting the potatoes from the sack and asked, "Dad, can we play some pool?" His eyes pleaded with me not to make him look bad in front of his friends.

I smiled at him and said, "Of course, but don't get too rowdy with the cue sticks." He melted me with a smile, and disappeared into the game room. I called after him, "And stay out of the booze!" He waved the back of his hand at me in acknowledgment that he had heard.

I peeled several large potatoes, and cut them up into the familiar strips. I blanched the strips in hot oil, and put them in the freezer to set. I put together a salad of lettuce, celery, and scallions, and made a creamy ranch dressing. As an afterthought, I added some crumbled bacon, and a handful of shredded cheese to the salad. Then I set the dining room table, and lit the grill.

I took the fries out of the freezer, and put the steaks on the grill a little after six o'clock. I went to call the boys, and found them thoroughly enjoying themselves playing three way Eightball. They were laughing, and I was a little sorry to end the game. I said, "Is anyone hungry?"

A chorus of cheers and affirmations answered my query, and after they carefully put the cue sticks in the rack, they ran in to sit at the table. I followed them in, and as I passed by on the way to the kitchen, said, "You have time to wash your hands before you eat." Eric blushed because he had forgotten, but the others hadn't even thought of it. They all stampeded up the stairs to Eric's room, and returned just in time to see me bring a big platter of steaks and a huge bowl of french fries to the table. The salad was already dished up at each place, a ploy I thought might help them make the decision to at least try it.

I was pleasantly surprised to see everything on the table disappear as if by magic - including the salads. Eric excused himself to his guests, and took the dirty dishes to the dishwasher while I dished up four big dishes of Chunky Monkey ice cream, which were met with enthusiasm. The boys then went to the family room to watch TV while I finished wiping down the kitchen. When I joined them, I found Eric, Bobby, and Sam in front of the TV. Josh was standing alone staring at the Hammond organ, stroking it lovingly. I walked up behind him and quietly asked, "Do you play?"

He jumped as if shot, and snatched his hand back. Looking at me defensively, he said, "My Mom made me take piano lessons, and Father Gabriel used to let me practice on the organ in the church." He blushed and added, "And then he made me practice on Gabriel's horn."

"Well, you may play this organ if you want to," I said, "and no such 'payment' will be required."

He looked at me with disbelief, and said, "Really?"


He quickly scooted onto the bench while I turned on the organ. He began to run his fingers over the keys in some warmup exercises, and experimented with the stops until the sound suited him. I motioned to Eric to turn off the TV. Suddenly, Josh launched into Bach's Prelude in D Minor. My organ was a Model "A" console with about half the pedals of a church instrument, but Josh made do with only two manuals while rendering a piece that had been written for a much larger instrument. He was, without a doubt, a gifted musician. By the time he finished the piece, the other boys had moved to the sofa around the organ, and they applauded with appreciation. Josh smiled at the approbation, and began to play a beautiful, haunting melody I didn't recognize. He started in the simple mode of a ballad, and then skillfully wove it into a fugue When the last echoes of the melody faded from the room, I saw that he was weeping quietly. "I call that 'Jeremy'," he sobbed. "I wrote it for him when we were in school together a long time ago."

I laid my hand on his shoulder, and gently squeezed. "It's beautiful. You must have loved him very much," I said quietly.

"We met in second grade," he sobbed, "and we've been together ever since."

"Do you want to tell me his real name?" I asked.

"No. Jeremy always wanted to be famous someday, and he didn't want his father's name remembered for it."

"I understand," I said. "I hope the shelter will make his dream come true." I didn't pry further, but I would make a point of telling the staff to watch him carefully. The hardships he had suffered were endurable only because he'd had his love to share with him. Now he felt utterly alone. He had lost his soul mate.

It seemed terribly inadequate, but I told him, "We can't ever take Jeremy's place, but Eric and I are here for you if you need us. All you have to do is call."

He nodded sadly, and started doodling on the keys. I motioned for the other boys to leave him alone, and we moved away to give him some privacy.

I had Tom drive the three boys back to the shelter about an hour later. Eric went with them so he could postpone his goodbyes. After calling Josh's counselor, and recounting my conversation with the boy to both him and the doctor, I spent the time writing out a proposal to create a music room at the shelter, and made a mental note to call John in the morning to make it a reality.

When Eric returned, he came and sat on my lap, hugging me silently. I waited for quite some time until he finally spoke. "I love you Dad."

We sat like that for another hour or so without an audible word passing between us, but the messages of love were loud and clear. Finally, I said, "We should get to bed. Four-thirty comes pretty early in the morning."

He kissed me gently, and got up. "Good night, Dad. Thanks for a wonderful day. I love you."

"Good night, Son. I love you too, and it wouldn't have been wonderful for me without you."


I hope you enjoyed Chapter Seven. Chapter Eight will take the story through New Year's day - I think. That depends on how much happens in the meantime. LOL.

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