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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.
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"Hey, dad, did you find out about dance lessons?" Lenny asked, as he ran up to the van.
"As a matter of fact, I did. Let's get home and I'll tell you all about it," I answered.
"Good," Larry said, "Clarissa asked if I was gonna be there."
"Oh. Who is this Clarissa?" I asked.
"She's just a girl in my class," he replied.
Once we got home, I told the three musketeers all I knew about the possible dance lessons. As soon as I heard anything definite about the schedule I would let them know. That seemed to satisfy them, at least for the moment.
Later that evening, just as we had finished eating, the phone rang. I answered it. "Hello," I said.
"Mr. Johnson? This is Noreen Brown. We spoke earlier at the dance studio."
"Yes," I said. I didn't remember if we had been introduced or not. "What may I do for you?"
"You said that your sons would be available for instructions on Thursday evening. Is that correct?"
"Great, we have four young ladies who will be taking the lessons. I understand that you have three sons."
"Do you happen to know of another male student at Corinthian who would be interested in lessons also? It would make it a lot easier if we had an equal number of boys and girls."
"Not off the top of my head. Let me speak with my sons to see if they know someone. I'll call you in the morning if I have any information for you."
"Thank you, Mr. Johnson. The office opens at ten. I'll be waiting for your call, one way or the other. Goodnight."
After I had checked their homework, I sat the three of them down and asked if they knew of any of their classmates who might be interested in taking dance lessons with them. They looked at each other and seemed to communicate silently before they gave their answer.
"I think Ronnie might," Chris said. "He wants to go, but he said he wasn't sure if he would. I can talk to him tomorrow and see."
"Do you think you could call and talk to him this evening?" I asked.
"I guess," Chris responded. "Do you have that list of telephone number for all the parents?"
"Yes, let me get it for you." I retrieved the list and handed it to him.
A few minutes later he returned. "Ronnie's mom wants to talk to you," he said and handed me the cordless phone.
"What's Ronnie's last name?" I asked, covering the mouthpiece of the phone.
"Spenser," he answered.
"Mr. Johnson," Mrs. Spenser said. "Ronnie says that your boys are going to take some dance lessons. Is that correct?"
"Yes, it is. They are eager to go to the spring dance, but they didn't know how to dance, so I have arranged for them to take lessons every Thursday evening until the date of the dance. The dance studio has four girls that are interested in learning as well and the receptionist just called and wanted to know if I knew of a fourth boy so that all the girls would have a partner."
"Ronnie hadn't mentioned anything to me about an upcoming dance. I knew nothing about it until one of your sons called. Now that he knows he can learn to dance, he wants to go. You say it is every Thursday evening?"
"Yes, it's tentatively scheduled for seven and last for an hour."
"I wish I could say Ronnie could go, but I have a meeting for the next three Thursdays. I'm on the planning committed for our summer bible school and wouldn't be able to take him. His dad is heading out tomorrow for business trips to Japan and China and will be gone for the next two weeks."
"I think we can solve the problem of transportation. Ronnie could come home with my boys on Thursdays and I could take the four of them to the dance studio. I would see that he has his homework done, just as I see that mine do. I would bring him home when the lessons are over."
"I don't want to impose on you," she started. I could hear a voice, I assumed to be Ronnie, in the background pleading with her to let him go.
"He won't be any problem, I can assure you," I said. "With our eight kids and three adults, one more will hardly be noticed."
"Well, okay, I guess," she said. "I do want him to learn to dance. He needs to know and it might help with his shyness. Let me know what the lessons cost and I'll send the money along with Ronnie on Thursday."
The three of them were standing there with anxious looks on their faces when I handed the phone back to Chris.
"Well?" Lenny asked.
"Yes, Ronnie is going to go with you guys to learn to dance," I said.
"Yes!" the three of them said, followed by a fist pump.
Wednesday morning as I dropped the kids off at school, a strikingly handsome woman approached as I was about to climb back into the van.
"Are you Mr. Johnson?" she asked.
"Yes, I'm Crane Johnson."
"I'm Joan Spenser, Ronnie's mom."
"It's nice to meet you in person," I said.
"I just wanted to thank you for allowing my son to go with your boys on Thursday," she said. "I hope he won't be any trouble."
"Not at all," I said. "The boys are always happy to have friends over. I looked up your address on the map and I will drop Ronnie off at your house after the lesson. It should be sometime around eight-thirty. Will you be home by that time?"
"I should be, but if I'm not, Ronnie can stay with the Williams next door until I get there," she replied. "You said there were eight kids in your family. You look awfully young to have that many children."
"You're right, I have six adopted boys and my partner has a boy and a girl."
"Yes, does that bother you?"
"I don't know," she said. "I've never run across this before."
"Mrs. Spenser, I can assure you that the only interest that either my partner or I have in our children is that they grow up happy, healthy and reach their full potentials. We have no sexual interest in them what-so-ever. I have been fighting the misconception that a single male's only desire in adopting young boys is to have his harem of sex slaves since the first day I started the adoption of my first five boys. They had all been abused in some fashion, at least one of them in a sexual way. I would never harm my sons and I would never allow anyone else to harm them, physically, mentally or sexually. Your son is perfectly safe with us. Why don't you join us this evening for dinner and see for yourself what madness goes on in our house. We usually have our meal around six."
"Thank you, I accept your invitation," she said. "We'll come by a little before six."
"If you would like to come by a little earlier, we usually have a glass of wine before dinner and you are welcome to join us."
We said goodbye to each other and I got into the van and headed back to the house to see if the security workers had arrived.
I had been home only a few minutes when Terrance Beekman and the security workmen arrived. They went straight to work after a brief hello. I grabbed a cup of coffee and went to my office to make a few phone calls. Shortly after ten, I made a call to the dance studio to let them know that a fourth boy would be taking lessons as well as my sons.
About ninety minutes later, Terrance Beekman knocked on my door.
"Are you finished already?"
"Yes," he answered. "If you can spare a few minutes, I can demonstrate some of the features of your new system. I'll save the full blown demo when I come back to train everyone on how it works.
He led me to what we were now referring to as the security closet. For the next fifteen minutes or so he briefed me on the capabilities of the system. I was impressed with the clarity of the video pictures that were displayed on one of the monitors. When I asked about it, Terrance told me the cameras were the highest resolution that was available for non-military use. After he was finished, we agreed that he would come back on Friday evening around eight to train everybody else.
It suddenly dawned on me that I had not told Gilda that there would be two additional people for supper. She just shrugged and went about her business and then stopped and asked who was coming.
I explained who it was and that we were trying to show Mrs. Spenser that the boys were perfectly safe in our household.
"Why don't we ask Hildy and Manfred and the girls as well?" she asked.
"Excellent idea," I said. "I wish I had thought of that. By all means, ask them. Tell them to come early and have a glass of wine before we eat."
I had gone back to my office after lunch and decided to call Carlos. A while ago, he had called and said there was a developer interested in some land that I owned northwest of San Antonio and I hadn't heard anything lately about it. I placed the call and after we had inquired about each other's lives, I got down to business and asked him about the developer.
"I haven't heard from him in a couple of weeks," Carlos said. "I've been doing a little checking on him and it turns out that he is stretched financially at the moment. I don't think he is in any position to purchase the land."
"What else do you know about him?" I asked.
"He has a good reputation for building high quality homes. But, he's been hit hard with the slowdown in the housing market in the area and is stuck with inventory that is not moving as quickly as he had planned."
"Well, let me know if anything changes," I said and rang off.
After taking care of a few more things on my to-do list, it was time to go pick up the kids. I arrived and spotted Pauline waiting for John and her daughters. I went to talk with her. It had been a while since I had spoken with her. She appeared to be in a good mood as I walked up to her.
"Pauline, it's good to see you. How have you been?"
"Things have been going very well for us," she said. "I volunteer half days with the suicide prevention hotline taking calls. It's very close to my heart. My younger brother took his own life when he just turned eighteen."
"I'm sorry to hear that," I said. "I don't know how I would handle that, if it happened to one of my boys."
"If I can prevent even one young person from taking their life, it will make everything we do at the hotline worthwhile."
"You look a lot happier than you have been. Is there something else going on?"
"As a matter of fact, there is. I've been dating a gentleman I met at the hotline," she said. "This time I checked him out thoroughly. I'm not going through what I went through with that blankity-blank doctor. Jim is a professor at Saint Mary's University. He volunteers twice a week on the same shift that I do when he doesn't have classes. The girls love him. John is still a little standoffish, but I think he will come around."
"Good for you," I said. "I see the boys are beginning to be dismissed. I had better get back to my spot so they won't think I had forgotten them. It was good talking to you. I wish you the best."
I got hugs from the two youngest when they ran up to me. As was their usual routine, they began telling me all about their day. I listened intently as the conversation bounced from one to the other. It wasn't long before all seven of the boys and the two girls had arrived and were buckled into the seats.
"Ronnie is really excited about getting to learn to dance," Chris said.
"That reminds me, Ronnie and his mom will be coming to the house this evening for supper," I said.
"Great," Lenny said. "Maybe he can play Xbox with us."
"It's going to be a busy evening, so after you have had your snack and taken care of your dogs, you need to do your homework. That way you will have it out of the way if they stay for a while after supper."
"Okay, dad," was the response from all three of them.
I had just barely finished checking the homework when the front gate buzzer sounded. I went to activate the gate opener and then we went to the front door to greet our guests.
A silver colored Lexus drove up and stopped. Even before Mrs. Spenser had turned off the ignition, the front passenger door opened and a young boy, who I assumed to be Ronnie, hopped out.
"Hey, Ronnie," Larry said, as my three musketeers surrounded him. "We got a couple Xboxes. Do you know how to play?"
"Sure, what kind of games you got?" the now identified Ronnie asked.
"Whoa, guys. Settle down," I said. "Watch your manners. You haven't met Mrs. Spenser yet." That quieted them for a moment until the introductions had been made all around. After that they were off for the upstairs and the Xboxes. The regular rotation schedule was forgotten for the evening.
"You have a lovely home," she said as we entered the house.
"Thank you, we enjoy it. Please, let's go into the living room, there are some people I would like for you to meet. This is Donald Baker and the lovely young lady sitting on his lap is his daughter, Lenore. You met his son, William, out front."
"I'm pleased to meet you. Forgive me for not getting up, but as you can see, I have a lap full," Donald said.
"These are my dear friends and neighbors, Hildy and Manfred Strasser. Hildy was my housekeeper and surrogate mother until I started fostering the first five boys. When that happened, she became our cook/housekeeper/surrogate grandmother for the boys. I could not have done it without her help and support." After the greetings had been exchanged, I continued. "These two beautiful young ladies are their daughters, Jennie and Ginny."
"It looks as if you have quite a support system," Joan said.
"Yes, we do," I said. "There is one more person for you to meet shortly. Gilda Berger, she's Hildy's sister and currently our cook and household manager. She took over when Hildy and Manfred adopted the two girls."
"You mean that of all the children, what, eight of them are adopted?" Joan asked.
"Actually all ten of them are adopted. Donald's two were his sister's children, but when she died, Donald adopted them."
"That's amazing," she said.
"I think I had better go see if Gilda needs any help," Hildy said. "Pour me a glass of wine that will go with our meal. I'll be in the kitchen."
"Yes, ma'am," I said, rolling my eyes. "I love her like my mother, but she can be a little bossy."
"A little?" Manfred chortled. "That's like saying the sun comes up in the morning."
"You better not let her hear you saying that," I laughed, and headed for the bar area. "Would you like a glass of wine, Joan?"
"What are we having for dinner?" she asked.
"Gilda has fixed roast beef," I answered.
"Then a red would be fine. A cabernet would be nice, if you have one."
"We have several. I'll pour you one that I like," I said. "Manfred, I know what you want."
"Am I that predictable?" he asked.
"In a word, yes," I said.
I took glasses of wine to our cooks before rejoining our company.
After everybody had their drinks, we sat around talking comfortably. Joan was an interesting person. We found out a lot about her family and what her husband's job was that was taking him to Japan and China.
Hildy soon informed us that dinner would be ready in about ten minutes. That was my cue to get the boys away from the Xboxes and to get their hands washed for supper. I showed Joan where she could freshen up and then went to do the same.
The fifteen of us settled around the dining room table and began filling our plates with the food that Gilda had prepared. The boys became silent as they dug into their supper. Everything was excellent and we let Gilda know that. When the dinner dishes had been cleared away, Hildy and Gilda brought out the dessert. It was Hildy's fabulous German chocolate cake.
"Oh, my, this is wonderful," Joan exclaimed. "I make a German chocolate cake, but it is not in the same league as this one. You must let me have the recipe. This is definitely not on my diet, but I can't resist."
"Certainly," Hildy said.
"Hildy worked in a bakery when she was a young girl," I volunteered.
"Can I have another piece?" Ronnie asked.
"Ronnie!" Joan frowned.
"Sure," Gilda said. Looking at Larry, Lenny and Chris, she just nodded and went to bring in four more pieces of cake.
After supper, the adults sat around in the living room drinking coffee and talking. As eight o'clock approached, Joan said that she and Ronnie should be getting home. She gathered Ronnie and we escorted her to the front door.
"Well, are you comfortable allowing Ronnie to come home with the boys for the next three Thursdays?" I asked her before she got in her car.
"Yes," she said. "I think he will be perfectly safe here. Forgive me for my suspicions. It's just the stereotype ..."
"We are a very atypical family and I can understand. I have faced it many times over the years," I said.
"Thank you for the wonderful evening. I'll be dieting for the rest of the week after Hildy's dessert. Goodnight," she said and climbed into the car and drove away.
"Dad," Joel said.
"I got a call from Jeremy earlier. He returned my call from last week. He and some of his buddies had gone to West Texas on a hunting trip."
"What did he have to say?" I asked.
"Oh, not too much. He's been taking some of his things to the Houston townhouse. He also showed it to his girlfriend," Joel said. "I asked him if he wanted to go riding this Sunday and he said he would meet us there."
"That's great. I'm sure Peter and William will be happy to see him again," I said. "The weather forecast indicated that it will be a nice day."
"I'm going to go call Jimmy and then go to bed," Joel said.
It wasn't long before all the boys were in bed and Donald and I had been by to tuck them in. Gilda was still puttering around in the kitchen when we finished with the boys. "Gilda, come and sit down. Have a glass of wine with us. There is nothing in the kitchen that can't wait until the morning," I said.
"You talked me into it," she said.
After the three of us had settled down with glasses of wine, I asked her, "What is your opinion of Joan Spenser?"
"She was a little uptight when she first got here, but by the time she left, I think she was a lot more at ease. We have a different family, and I count myself in that as part of this family."
"A very important part," I said.
"I'm sure it takes time for a person to realize it's normal, but different. The love in this family is palpable," she said. "You would have to be blind or a fool not to see it."
"I don't know whether I mentioned it or not, but Ronnie will be with us for supper for the next three Thursdays," I said.
"Yes, Joan mentioned it when we spoke earlier. It won't be a problem. There is always enough for an extra mouth to feed," Gilda said. "Now, I think I will take my wine with me and go to my room. Goodnight."
"Goodnight," Donald and I said.
We finished our wine and then headed for the bedroom.
Gilda was in the kitchen in the morning when I went to pour myself a cup of coffee. As usual, she was talking to herself. I took my coffee and went out to fetch the morning paper from the front gate area. I read the paper and drank my coffee until Gilda told me that breakfast would be ready in about fifteen minutes. That was my cue to go wake the boys. A few minutes later they started straggling down the stairs and sat at the table. Gilda had set each place with a glass of orange juice which was quickly consumed. Donald came down the stairs carrying a sleepy Lenore.
Breakfast over, everybody went to brush their teeth and collect their school books and homework. Jeannie and Ginny arrived with Manfred who gave them a hug and a kiss on the forehead before they too, climbed into the van with the boys.
I remembered that I had not told Mrs. Spenser what the dance lessons were going to cost, so I waited at the school after I dropped off all the kids. When she arrived with Ronnie, I went to speak with her. I told her what the costs were going to be and she wrote out a check to the dance studio for the full amount.
I spent most of the rest of the day looking over my investments and researching a couple of stocks that I thought had some upward potential. I called my broker and spoke to him and although he thought my stocks were a little risky, he made the trades for me.
I arrive back at the school just in time. Peter and William were exiting the building as I drove up. It wasn't long before all ten kids had arrived. Ronnie took a seat where the twins said he could sit. As soon as everyone was securely belted in, we took off for home. On the way I explained to our dancers what was going to happen in order for us to be ready to leave for the dance studio by 6:30.
Evidently what I told them and sunk in, because as soon as we got home they headed up to their room to change out of their school uniforms, ran back down to have their snack, went out to care for their dogs and play with them for a few minutes, and then back in the house to begin their homework. I told the three youngest that they could do their homework at their usual time after supper and Donald would check it with them.
We ate supper a little early so that the boys would have time to brush their teeth before we left for the dance studio. I decided to take the Lincoln rather than the van which meant that one of them had to sit in the front with me.
It was only a twenty minute ride to the studio. We got there in plenty of time to register the boys and to pay for the lessons. Ronnie proudly handed the check to Noreen for his lessons. With the registration and the money taken care of, the boys went into the large room where I had seen lessons being given when I was here a couple of days ago. I sat in a comfortable chair that faced a large window that allowed me to watch what was going on in the other room. There were four girls already in the room. The boys evidently knew them, because the immediately went to talk to them.
Right at seven o'clock, a woman I judged to be in her late thirties and a man who was considerably younger entered the room and got the attention of the eight students.
"They're going to concentrate mostly on ballroom tonight," Noreen said. "Two-step, box-step."
The instructors paired up a boy with a girl and showed them how they were to hold each other. It took a while before everybody had mastered that, and that was the simple part. It wasn't funny, but I had to laugh at the number of times that the girls had their toes stepped on. The boys were not immune to getting their toes stepped on as well.
By the end of the hour, they had come a long way. There wasn't a Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers in the group, but they had made a lot of progress.
To be continued.
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