Joel Books 1 through 4 are available in paperback. To purchase a copy, follow the link to my website below.
This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
This story is copyright by Ted Louis, all rights reserved. Distribution, including but not limited to: posting on internet sites, newsgroups, or message boards, or in book form (either as a whole or part of a compilation), or on CD, DVD or any other electronic media, is expressly prohibited without the author's written consent.
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All the chapters of Joel may also be found on my website at www.tedlouis.com
"Donald, you know it's going to be difficult for us. You have your home and I have mine. You have businesses that you're running and although I have the apartment complexes, I don't manage them on a day-to-day basis. My boys are in one of the best private schools in the state and are settled there. William is in his school and it would be a shame to disrupt his first year. As much as I would like to combine our families, I can't see that happening until school is out at the earliest," I said. "We have to consider our kids. What we decide will impact them greatly."
"You're right, of course," Donald responded. "We'll just have to see what we can do in the mean time until school is out."
"Let's try to set up a meeting next week to discuss the possible joint venture for the Las Vegas property. I'll get my lawyer and accountant's schedules so we can agree on a time with your people," I said.
"At least we can make that part of the 'we' happen," Donald chuckled.
"It's a start."
We stopped to refuel in Miami and then continued on to San Antonio. The pilot said we probably could have made it safely all the way with plenty of fuel in reserve, but he was erring on the side of caution since we had a strong headwind.
It was mid-afternoon when our plane landed in San Antonio. Although we were glad to be getting home, we were a bit sad that our vacation was ending. We had a wonderful time on St John. Maybe we will go back again in the future. At least that was my hope.
The grounds crew unloaded our luggage and after we identified which was ours, they loaded it on a cart and took it to where the van could be driven to pick it up. Lenore was not happy that Mike was not going to go home with them. She put up a fuss until Mike picked her up and carried her into the terminal building. He sat down in one of the seats with her on his lap and spoke quietly to her. After a minute or so, she smiled and kissed him on the cheek. He reciprocated and gave her a kiss on the forehead and a tight hug.
I had given one of Donald's ground crew the keys to the van and told him where it was parked. While we were waiting for it to be delivered, I said to Mike, "You handled the situation with Lenore very well. How did you manage that?"
"I just told her that if she went to see the horses tomorrow, that I would be there and would ride with her."
Our van and Donald's car and driver arrived one after the other. We watched as the workmen fastened our luggage securely to the rack on top of the van. It was with great reluctance that we exchanged hugs all around. I was a little surprised when Donald gave me a quick kiss in front of the boys. I figured I would get a few questions on the way home. I did, but not the one I was expecting.
It was Peter who asked the first question. "Can William come live with us?"
"Would you like that?" I asked, while trying to maneuver the van in rush hour traffic.
"Uh huh. He's fun," Peter responded.
"Let's wait until we get home and settled," I said. "After supper we can all sit down and talk about our vacation and anything else you want to talk about."
"Can we go ride the horses tomorrow?" Lenny asked.
"Sure," I said, somewhat distracted. I realized now why I was glad that I no longer had a job that required me to commute from Canyon Lake to San Antonio and back every day. If anything, the traffic on Highway 281 was even heavier now than when I was working.
Hildy was in the kitchen fixing our supper when we arrived home. Jeanie and Ginny were helping her. The boys surrounded her with hugs. Peter immediately began telling her everything that had happened over the past week. She kissed him on the cheek and said, "So, I take it you had a good time?"
"Yeah, we went on this big boat and saw all kinds of neat stuff," Peter replied.
"Okay, guys, let's get your stuff put away. Make sure you sort out any dirty clothes and put them in the hamper. TJ you can help Peter," I said. Turning my attention back to Hildy, "I see you have some helpers."
"Well, I did until Mike arrived," she said, pointing at Mike. Each of the girls was hanging onto one of Mike's arms.
"He does have a way with women," I said, loud enough for Mike to hear.
He looked at me and smiled, "Too bad they are all under the age of 12." He gave the girls a hug before taking his suitcase and heading up to his rooms.
"They have asked almost every day where Mike was and when he was coming home," Hildy said.
"Where's Manfred?" I asked.
"I think he's still out inspecting that project you had done while you were gone."
"Good. Did they finish?"
"The workmen left around two o'clock. The foreman said he would bring some of his guys back on Monday to tidy up and get your approval of the work."
"I wonder how long it will take the boys to notice it."
"As soon as they go see their dogs, I'll bet."
No sooner had Hildy said that than all six of the boys came tromping down the stairs. "We're going to feed the dogs," Joel said, and out the door they went. I followed at a much slower pace.
I was met by three boys who surrounded me, jumping up and down. "I can't believe it!" Chris yelled in my left ear, while squeezing the life out of me.
At the same time, Larry and Lenny were on my other side. "This is so neat!" Larry said in awe.
"Yeah, now we can practice all the time," Lenny added. "Can we play now?"
I felt as if I were being engulfed by an octopus as the three of them continued to squeeze me with their hugs. "I'm glad you guys like the court. It's not quite finished, yet. The workers are supposed to come back on Monday to finish up. When you come home from school you can play. Let's go inspect it and then you had better go take care of your dogs."
We walked to the new tennis court and opened the gate in the tall fence that surrounded it. The court surface was green. There was a sign just inside the gate stating that the lines were freshly painted and needed 48 hours to completely dry, so we were careful not to step on them as we made our inspection.
"Wow!" Mike said, as he entered the court behind us. "This is amazing, guys. Now we can really get in some practice. I may even get good enough to beat you."
"No way," Chris said, punching Mike on the arm.
On the way back to the house, Manfred approached me. "George and his men did a good job from what I can tell," he said. "It's a good thing they could fit you in on such short notice."
"Thanks for supervising their work while we were gone," I said. "I really appreciate it."
"Think nothing of it. George and I go back a long ways. It was good to get a chance to talk to him. He was always a stickler for details."
After supper, I asked the boys, except for Mike, to join me in the family room for the promised meeting. When we were all settled comfortably, I said, "On the way home, Peter asked if William could live with us. What do the rest of you think about that?"
"He could sleep in our room," TJ offered.
"He's kinda fun and he likes to do what we do," Larry volunteered.
"Does that mean Mr. Baker would live here, too?" asked Chris.
"That would probably be the case," I said.
"We know you like him," Joel said. "And he likes you, too. He kissed you when we left the airport."
"How do you feel about that?"
"Kissing is yucky," TJ said.
"Is it yucky when I kiss you guys?"
"No," TJ said, "but you don't kiss us on the lips."
"Are they going to come live with us?" Joel asked.
"That hasn't been decided, yet," I answered. "How would you guys feel about it if they did? Joel, you first."
"It's okay by me. Where would Lettie and Lenore stay?"
"We'd have to work that out. Chris, how would you feel about it?"
"Okay," he said. "It'd be fun to have a little sister."
"Even if her name is the same as your 'girlfriend's'?"
"She's not my girlfriend and besides, she moved to Dallas," he shot back.
"Sorry, I didn't know," I said. "Larry, Lenny, how would you feel about them moving in here?"
"Fine," Larry said.
"Yeah," Lenny said.
TJ and Peter reiterated that William could share their bedroom.
"Thanks, guys," I said. "Donald and I like each other a lot. Nothing is going to happen for a while, at least not until school is out. There would have to be a lot of things to be worked out before anything could happen. I just wanted to know if you had any problems if they did come to live here. You guys are the most important part of my life."
"I'm going to go practice my guitar," Joel said. "It's been a week since I picked it up."
That broke the meeting up as the six of them headed for the music practice room. I followed them up the stairs. Mike was already there using the exercise equipment. The boys took their places at their instruments leaving Peter standing there to watch. He looked at me with this sad blue eyes and I knew right away that I would have to do something about that.
"Peter, why don't you come with me and we'll practice on the big piano? How will that be?"
He nodded his head and grabbed my hand pulling me toward the door. He hopped up on the piano bench as soon as we got there. His legs couldn't reach the pedals, but he wasn't to the point where he needed to use them. I showed him how to play a simple one-handed tune, which surprisingly he played through the first time with only a couple of errors. "How did you learn to do that?" I asked.
"Joel showed me."
"How do you mean?"
"He said to think how it should sound and then hit the right key."
"How do you know the right key?"
"Well, you can hear them, can't you?" he said, looking at me as if I were a dummy.
"Yes, you can," I said, giving him a hug.
By nine, the boys' long day was beginning to catch up with them, so they didn't object when I told them to go get ready for bed. Mike had gone to his room earlier saying that he had some studying to do. I made my rounds of the bedrooms to say goodnight. When I made my last stop in Joel's room, I found him sitting up in bed reading a textbook.
"Dad, can we talk?"
"Sure, son, what do you want to talk about?"
"First, I want to say that I really like him. It's not just because he's rich. I think we're rich, also. Right?"
"Yes, you could probably say that."
"I know you like him ... a lot. I thought you liked Eric a lot, also."
"Yes, son, I did ... and still like Eric, but now it's more like best friends.
"Why is it different now?"
"That's a difficult question to answer, but I'll try. You might say that Eric and I were in love with being in love with each other. We both brought things to the relationship that were barriers to making it last. He was intimidated by our wealth and wanted to make his own fortune. My first priority was you guys. Neither of us could commit to a lasting relationship until we could resolve our priorities. There are other things as well, but those were the two biggest reasons that were keeping us apart."
"What's going to happen with Donald?"
"That's still pretty much up in the air. Our time on St. John brought us closer together, but there are still a lot of things to be worked out before anything serious happens. You guys will be the first to know if anything major is planned. Now I think it's time for you to turn out the lights and go to sleep. It has been a very long day. Good night, son."
"Good night, dad."
Our Sunday riding of the horses was interesting. Lenore was torn between riding with Mike and playing with the Smith's baby. She ended up riding with Mike for a while and then going into the house to play with Carrie Louise.
It had been a while since I had seen Tracy. It seemed as though the clinic was taking up most of his time. He even had to hire a receptionist/secretary to handle the administrative aspects of running a business. It had gotten too much for Rosie to handle from home. That freed him up as well as his vet tech to handle the care of animals.
When we left, I promised Donald that I would call him as soon as I could arrange the meeting with Carlos and Gerald.
On the way home we stopped at the pizza place. I didn't feel like fixing a meal when we got home. Naturally the boys didn't object.
I had just settled down with a book after sending the boys off to get showered and ready for bed when the phone rang. I was a little surprised when the caller announced that he was Gary Wright, Peter's uncle.
"Crane, I just called to thank you," Gary said.
I was a little confused. "What for?" I asked.
"The new van was delivered on Thursday. It makes taking our daughter places so much easier and it's so much more comfortable than our old van. The lift is amazing and so easy to use. The lady we talked to said the foundation who gave it to us was yours."
"Oh, that must have been Darcie."
"Yes, that was her name. You can't begin to realize just what this means to us. I've wanted to get a new van for Kari, but there was no way we could afford a new one or even a used one. This is a godsend. Thank you."
"You are most welcome. To be honest with you, Gary, I didn't know about this until you called. I leave the running of the foundation to Darcie. We recently expanded the scope of it. A new source of funding has made it possible for us to help more children than what the original scope of the foundation allowed. I'm pleased that you, and Kari, have been benefitted by it."
"They've also set up an appointment for Kari with a doctor at the UT Medical School to see if there is anything that can be done to help her. We're hopeful, but not overly optimistic."
After chatting for a few minutes, we hung up, but not before he promised to let me know if the UT doctor came up with anything.
Monday, I decided to go to the foundation office to see how things were going. I already knew that the expanded mission of it had started to have results. I found Darcie in her office behind a stack of paperwork.
"See what you have done to me," she said, in a way of greeting.
"I see you've been busy since I was last here."
"You can say that again. Look at all these requests for help. More of them come in every day. I don't know how the news got out, but it did. You know the best part?"
"We could help every one of these and still have money left over."
"That's great," I said. "I still hope that you screen each one."
"Of course we do. I did want to bring up something," Darcie said.
"Sure, go ahead."
"There is no way that we can put to work all the money we're getting from Mr. Baker's trust and still remain a non-profit foundation. What I would like to propose is that we take the money we can't use and in turn donate it to a few select charities that also help children."
"That sounds like a great idea. Do you have any charities in mind?"
"Yes, for starters we've come up with a list of three, so far."
"Who are they?"
"Saint Jude Hospital, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, and the Shriners Hospitals for Children. We considered the Anne E. Casey Foundation, but much of their work is not focused on direct support of children. Instead they provide support to change the structure of government entities that deal with children to make them more effective. The three we've chosen provide services directly to children."
"I've heard of the three of them and think they're great choices. Have you made contact with them?"
"Not yet. I thought we should get the board's approval before we committed to making donations."
"Well then, set up a meeting of the board to make it official. I'm positive that it will authorize you to go ahead."
I left Darcie to the mound of paperwork on her desk and started toward the area set aside for me when I came in for my infrequent visits. On the way, I poked my head into first Paul's and then Carol's offices to see how they were doing. I got much the same response from them as I did from Darcie.
Settling down with a cup of coffee, I made a conference call to Carlos and Gerald to find out there schedules and to give them a heads up on the idea that Donald and I had about the Las Vegas property. They both indicated that the idea sounded promising. I then made a call to Donald and gave him all our schedules. He said he would get back with me when he had everything arranged.
George and the workmen were finishing the final clean-up of the tennis court when I arrived back home. I walked through the work they had done as he explained all the features. To my eye, he and his men had done a great job. I told him to fax the final bill to my accountant and he would cut a check and mail it to him.
I had just parked the van at the school when the sliding door was jerked open and Chris and the twins jumped in. "We gotta hurry," Lenny said.
"What's the rush?" I asked, knowing full well what was on their minds.
"We want to practice," Larry said. Leaning out of the door of the van he yelled, "TJ, hurry up. Get Peter!"
I had to laugh to myself as a frowning TJ and Peter climbed into the van. "I was talking to Ronnie," TJ said.
"Where's Joel?" Chris asked, impatiently.
"He's coming," I said. I could see Joel coming out of the building, talking with John. "The tennis court will still be there when we get home."
Joel climbed into the front passenger seat. I gave him a quizzical look which produced a simple shrug of his shoulders. He understood that I was asking about John. I decided that I needed to talk with Joel this evening. With everybody in the van, we took off for home.
The three tennis aces barely stopped long enough for their afternoon snack before they were out the door with their rackets and a can of tennis balls in hand. Mike arrived shortly afterwards and quickly joined the boys on the court.
I was standing outside the fence surrounding the tennis court when Joel approached and leaned up against me. I put my arm around him and we stood there for a while watching the tennis action.
"Why can't life be straight forward?" he sighed.
"You mean with you and John?"
"Do you want to talk about it?"
"I guess. It's just not the same anymore. Before we could talk about anything, now it's awkward. I just wish it was the same as before."
"Perhaps you are both trying too hard. Have you ever talked to John about what was going on with that other boy?"
"No, not really. I know a little bit about what happened, but every time the subject comes up, things get a little strange. It's like this barrier appears between us. There are so many things I'd like to ask him, but at the same time I know it would be uncomfortable for both of us."
"I think you need to figure out what you want to happen between you and John. You said you wished it were the same as before. Is that really what you want or do you want something different? That's something that only you can decide. I wish I could make the decision for you, but I can't. It's not going to be easy, but until you've got it clear in your own mind, things are going to be confusing."
Joel let out a long sigh and stood there for several seconds before speaking. "Is life always this hard?"
"Yes, son, it is. Welcome to the adult world." I smiled and gave him a hug which he returned. He turned and headed for the dog run where Sam was yelping for his master's attention.
The tennis players stayed on the court until it was too dark to play. They came in laughing and jostling each other. "That was fun, dad. Thanks for building the court for us," Larry said, as I got hugs from my three.
"You're welcome. Now, run upstairs and into the showers. You three smell like a herd of goats. Off you go!"
"I guess I do, too," Mike said, taking off for the stairs.
Later, after the boys had finished their homework, I sat my three tennis players down and explain to them that their schoolwork came first. If their grades started to drop because they were spending too much time playing tennis and not enough time on their studies, I would padlock the gate to the court until their grades improved. I wanted to make it clear to them up front so there was no confusion.
The meeting with Donald took place on Wednesday morning. I was surprised at the amount of work that his people had done. Somehow they had gotten hold of the plans for the Granger property. "How did you get these?" I asked.
Donald just smiled and said, "Where there's a will, there's a way."
They laid out the original plans and then a new set. The original one called for construction of an 18-hole golf course with a clubhouse, tennis courts and swimming pool. The new plans called for two 18-hole courses. The entire 1600 acres had been laid out with large lots, streets, parks and all the amenities that an up-scale subdivision might expect.
"What we envision is a gated community with 24-hour security. The club will be private with a limited number of memberships," Cameron Jones said. He was Donald's planner. "I have made some initial enquires with a couple well-known golf course designers and they have shown an interest in working with us. I think it would be best if there were two different course designers. That would allow the members to test their skills on different courses and not become bored with the same one."
"Who have you approached to design the courses?" I asked.
"Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer," Cameron said. "Well, not them directly, but their golf course design companies."
"This is going to cost a lot of money," I said. "Donald, how much?"
"Until we get into a lot more detail, it's hard to say," Donald replied. He held up his hand when he saw that I was going to say something. "I think that to start with a hundred million will get it started. This will actually cost you nothing. Your part of this is the land that you already own. If this all goes as I think it will, you will see at least a ten-fold return on your original investment, maybe more. Trust me. I'm not one for making foolish investments. My father taught me well."
"This all sounds good. How do we proceed?" I asked.
"I suggest that we turn it over to our attorneys and accountants to come up with a proposed agreement. After that, you and I will have to okay any final agreement. Now, let's let them get to work and we can go get a cup of coffee."
Saint Jude Children's Research Hospital
Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption
Shriners Hospitals for Children
To be continued.
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