Written by Mark The Goodpen
By now I'm sure you know the drill, so I won't bore you with another disclaimer to ignore.
Thank you to everyone who has e-mailed their feedback on this story. ˙Your e-mails let me know I should keep the Sierra Inn in business.
Feedback is always welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
My Other Story on Nifty:
Wanting Perfection (Gay Male Adult/Youth)
I have been led to believe that the only thing that Julie can do at this point is bark. Mr. Quincy and Bill tell me that even if she tries no judge will listen to her bark at this point. This is why as our date in front of the judge approaches I let Julie's visit to my apartment worry me less and less. I have made plans with Mr. Vanderbrook to make the sale of the Sierra Inn official right after the adoption hearing is over. So in the mean time I continue to work in the same capacity I always have at the Sierra Inn. I find it difficult, however, to tell anybody other than Matt about the impending change. Matt was surprised that I was selling the motel but understood why I am doing it. He was even happier when he learned that he will be the full time general manager since I will be in more of a supervisory role from a distance. Julie and Juan have been my closest friends over the years and I am afraid of how they will take the news. I secretly open up a search for shift managers, and the results are disturbing. So that is why, two days before the official sale of the Sierra Inn, I ask Juan to come into my office after his shift is over.
"I didn't do it I swear," Juan says, as he sits down on the couch.
"What didn't you do?" I ask.
"I don't know," Juan says, with a shrug. "But whatever it is, I swear I didn't do it. Unless it's a good thing, then I did do it."
"Don't worry," I say with a chuckle. "You're not in trouble. Juan, a couple of weeks ago somebody told me that you have gained a reputation in this neighborhood."
"I have?" Juan asks, his eyebrows rising as he asks the question.
"Yes you have," I say. "See I was told that the johns in the area know not to come here, because they'll be chased off by the big Mexican guy that works the desk at night."
"I'm the big Mexican?" Juan asks.
"Well it's certainly not me," I say with a smile. "The point is, over the last couple of weeks since I heard about your reputation in the neighborhood I've been trying to think of an appropriate award for you. Not only for that but for the dedication you have shown to me and the Sierra Inn since day one."
"Well you gave me a chance, when nobody else would," Juan says.
"Maybe, but you took advantage of the opportunity," I say. "And that is very commendable. Anyway, I think I have finally found a way to reward you for everything you have done."
"Kevin, I don't need any...."
"I know, I know, you don't expect anything," I interrupt, knowing exactly what Juan was going to say. "But Juan I really believe you deserve this. And this is a promotion. There are going to be some changes around here and well I am going to need more managers. Juan, I'm offering you a position as a manager."
"Manager?" Juan asks, seemingly in shock. "Me?"
"Yes, you a manager," I say, with a smile. "That's if you want to be."
"But what kind of changes are going to be happening?" Juan asks.
"Uh, this is kind of hard for me to tell you," I say. "But as you know Brian's adoption hearing is in two days. And well, with being a single father now I needed to shift my priorities. So I have sold the Sierra Inn to Peter Vanderbrook."
"So that's what he was doing here a couple of weeks ago," Juan says. "So what does this mean for you?"
"I'm going to be a kind of general manager still," I say. "I will be overseeing operations here for the Vanderbrook Corporation, but I will only be here from time to time, I will mainly be working from home so I can be there for Brian. And that's where the new management positions come in. Now if you take this you will be the night manager so you can continue to go to school. But obviously there will be a substantial raise in it for you. Mr. Vanderbrook pays his employees better than I did," I add with a smile.
"Well I figured that," Juan chuckles.
"I'll let that go," I say, with a laugh. "So what do you say?"
"Dude, I'll do it," Juan says, a huge grin crossing his face.
Now that Juan knows about the impending sale of the Sierra Inn there is only one person I have left to tell. That person being Laura and this is the one I dread telling. I'm not sure how she'll take the news. If I thought she'd accept it, I'd offer her the other manager's position, but I know she'd never take it. She likes her job for the interaction with people. The only time a manager here interacts with people is when they are screaming bloody murder. So when I call her into my office soon after Juan leaves, my heart is in my throat.
"You're what?" Laura asks, after I have told her the news.
"Laura, I know this is a shock but..."
"I think that is one of the sweetest things I've ever heard," she says.
"It is?" I ask, having not expected this type of reaction from her.
"Absolutely," she says. "You selling your pride and joy so you can be there for Brian. You do have a heart."
"Thanks, I think," I say. "So we're okay?"
"Kevin, I could never be mad at you for doing something like this," Laura says. "I still have my job right?"
"Definitely," I say, nodding my head quickly.
"Then we're very okay," she says with a smile.
"Good," I say. "I was worried."
"Kevin, I think what you are doing is amazing," she says. "I could never be mad at you for doing what you are."
"Laura I don't know how to thank you," I say. "For how you've been there for me the past few years. I was going to offer you the other manager's position but I knew you'd never take it."
"You got that right," Laura says with a little smile. "I get enough people complaining just working the desk. I'll stay where I am, thank you very much."
"I figured you'd say that," I say, with a little chuckle. "But, if there is ever anything I can do to help you out..."
"Just take care of that boy of yours," Laura says. "That's all you have to do."
"You have my word on that," I say, with a little smile.
The rest of my day is relaxed, as I essentially just wait for the time to pick Brian up from school to come. I am so anxious for Wednesday to come that I started counting minutes last Friday, making every hour seem like a week. When 3:30 finally does roll around I am standing by my car watching the flow of kids begin to rush their way out of the school building. As I am standing in the parking lot the thought suddenly crosses my mind that in less than forty eight hours one of these kids, will be my legal son. I know I have been acting like his father (well for the most part) for almost two months now but in two days it will all be official. And in the eyes of the state, I will be Brian's father. Of course this thought only makes me want Wednesday to come that much faster.
"Hi Dad!" Brian's voice shakes me from my thoughts.
"Hey kiddo," I say, with a smile as for the first time I notice him approaching me. "How was your day?"
"Boring," he says, as he wraps his arms around my waste.
"That's what you always say," I chuckle as I put my arms around him.
"Well it was," Brian says, as he quickly wiggles free from my embrace.
"Fair enough," I say, with a chuckle.
"Dad," Brian says after we have gotten into the car. "Did you go to college?" he asks, as I back out of the parking space.
"Yeah," I say, with a little nod. "I went to NAU."
"Did you like it?" Brian asks.
"What I remember of it, yeah," I say with a little smirk.
"What?" Brian asks, my little joke apparently going over his head.
"Nothing," I say. "Yeah, I liked it. Why?" I ask as I pull out of the parking lot and start heading for home.
"I have to write a letter to myself," Brian says. "It has to be about what I think I'll be doing in ten years. Mr. Leonard is going to take the letter and then send it to me ten years from now."
"Wow," I say, wondering why I never got a homework assignment like that. "That's pretty cool."
"I guess," Brian says, with a shrug. "But Mr. Leonard said that if we decide to go to college that ten years from now we'd probably be getting ready to graduate. It takes that long?"
"Yeah," I say with a little chuckle at the exasperation in Brian's voice when he asked the question. "College is at least four years, kiddo."
"What if I don't go?" Brian asks.
"Well," I say. "You want to be a chef right?"
"Yeah," Brian says.
"Then you'll have to look into what kind of education you need to become a chef," I say. "You might not need to go to college for four years, if you just want to be a chef. But if you want to own your own restaurant, then it's a good idea to go for four years. A lot of my friends in college wanted to own their own restaurant."
"Really?" Brian asks.
"Yeah," I say with a nod. "You see they call hotels and restaurants, the hospitality business, because you're serving people. So when I took classes on how to manage a hotel sometimes there would be people in there that wanted to own their own restaurant."
"You think I could own my own restaurant?" Brian asks, curiously.
"If you want to," I say. "Brian, I think you can do anything you want to."
"Could I name the restaurant Sierra?" Brian asks as we stop at a red light. I look at him expecting to see him smiling because he was joking. But when I look into his face I see that he is being totally serious.
"I think that's a really good name for a restaurant," I say, as I pat him gently on his leg.
Shortly after we get home, Brian is writing his letter to himself at the breakfast bar while I go into the bedroom to change out of my work clothes. Just as I am pulling on my sweat pants I hear the doorbell ring. I quickly dart out of the room, pulling a t-shirt on as I go. Brian is still sitting at the breakfast bar, after Julie's last visit him and I had a long talk about him not answering the door. He agreed he wouldn't do it, and I am relieved to see that he remembered our conversation.
Not exactly setting the best example I open the door without asking who is on the other side and see Bill Lofton standing outside. I am a little worried why he would be showing up here less than forty eight hours before the adoption hearing. But the look on his face calms me slightly as I see him smile.
"Hello Kevin," he says, calmly. "I hope I'm not coming at a bad time."
"No, not at all," I say, politely. "Is everything okay?"
"Yeah, actually I came to give you some information about Ms. Harden," Bill says. "Is it okay if I come in?"
"Sure," I say as I open the door wider to let him come inside.
Brian slowly gets off of his stool by the breakfast bar, as Bill comes into the apartment. I can see, even from all the way across the living room that Brian is nervous so after I close the door I give him a calm smile in an attempt to relax him.
"Hello Brian," Bill says, as he sees Brian standing by the breakfast bar. "How are you?"
"Good," Brian says, nervously.
"You don't have to worry, Brian," Bill says to him. "I'm not taking you anywhere."
"Is it okay if he stays in here?" I ask Bill, thinking he may not want Brian to hear some of what he has to say.
"Yeah it's fine," Bill says with a little nod as he takes a seat on the end of the couch and I take a seat on the other. "Kevin, I've done some real digging on Julie and I think I have her figured out."
"You do?" I ask surprised.
"I think so," Bill says. "Apparently she was very heavily involved in Brian's case at one point..."
"She wanted me to live with her," Brian who is still standing by the breakfast bar breaks in. "She said she could be my new Mom."
I already knew that Julie had tried to take Brian in, from what Lisa and James had told me. But Brian has never said anything about it, and I doubted that he even knew so his statement takes me by surprise.
"That's what I heard," Bill says as he looks over at Brian. "But there is even more to it then that," he says looking back at me. "When Julie was in college she had a miscarriage, and the doctors apparently told her she'd never be able to have kids. Soon after she got her job at CPS she tried taking in a boy about Brian's age now, like I told you but that didn't work. And well apparently she tried the same thing with Brian."
"How long ago did she want you to live with her, Brian?" I ask.
"When I couldn't live with James and Lisa anymore," Brian says. "Ms. Harden said she was going to try to take me in. But I didn't want to go with her."
"And it's against the rules," Bill says. "Social workers can't be taking in kids under their supervision. It's a liability issue."
"So you think she's still hoping to get custody of Brian?" I ask Bill.
"I am as sure that's what she's been trying to do as I can be," Bill says. "Look, Kevin, Julie marches to the beat of a different drummer. Has since the day I met her. But she really does have a good heart, which is why the things you've been telling me about her have confused me so much. I think she has simply been burned one too many times and now is trying to burn somebody back."
"But she can't right?" I ask.
"No," Bill says. "I don't think at this point the court would award her custody of a poodle. But that doesn't mean she won't try to pull something on Wednesday. And if she does, I need you to do something."
"What's that?" I ask.
"Stay quiet," Bill says. "If the judge sees you loose your temper in anyway it will make you look bad. Kevin, I'll be honest with you, the state isn't exactly happy to hand the custody of a boy over to a single man but the way Mr. Quincy and I have worked things out they really aren't going to have much choice."
"But aren't you the state?" I ask.
"I work for the state," Bill says. "That doesn't mean I view things the way they do. What I was referring to was a judge. The judge you're going in front of in two days is one of the most liberal Arizona has, which isn't saying much but it'll be enough to get the adoption through."
"So if Julie tries to bad talk me I have to ignore it?" I ask.
"Yes," Bill says. "The court room isn't an open forum, the only way she's going to get a chance to bad talk you is with an outburst. This means if you try to refute anything she says, you'll be contributing to the outburst. And that will not go over well."
"I understand," I say.
"Good," Bill says. "Kevin, trust me I am on your side. And I have worked hard to make sure everything will be presented in a way that will give the judge no choice but to sign off on this adoption."
"Well I'm certainly not going to do anything to mess it up," I say with a little chuckle.
"I knew you wouldn't," Bill says. "I really just wanted to reassure you that Julie is no threat to this adoption. And maybe give you a little insight into the world of Julie Harden."
"Well I appreciate that," I say.
"And by the way, you just passed your final random inspection," Bill says, with a little smirk. "Congratulations."
After Bill leaves, Brian goes back to his homework as I start to make dinner. As I cook I think about what Bill said about Julie. She definitely does seem to be on a mission to burn me. I can't say that anything he told me really changes my impression of her. I still think she has some serious mental issues that need to be worked out, and maybe at some point she had a big heart but that has certainly disappeared. I decide that as long as she actually can't do anything to prevent me from adopting Brian, I don't even really need to give her another thought.
"Dad," Brian says, from the breakfast bar as I put the meatloaf in the oven.
"Yeah, angel," I say, shutting the oven door.
"Do you think Ms. Harden still wants me to live with her?" he asks.
"I don't know what she wants, angel," I say as I walk over and take a seat on the empty bar stool next to Brian. "But it doesn't matter, she can't do anything now anyway."
"I don't like her," Brian says. "I never did."
"Well you don't have to worry about her anymore," I say. "And you know what?"
"What?" Brian asks, looking up at me.
"After Wednesday you won't be in foster care anymore," I say. "Which means no more visits from CPS, no more worrying about every knock on the door."
"Cool," Brian says, a huge smile spreading across his face. "Dad you want to hear my letter to myself?"
"If you want to read it to me sure," I say, with a little smile.
"K," he says, as he picks up the piece of paper from the breakfast bar. "Dear Brian. I'm writing this in sixth grade. Right now my favorite things to do is skateboard and hang out with my Dad. He's funny and treats me nicer than anyone has in a long time. When I get this letter ten years from now I think I'll be getting ready to graduate from NAU, just like Dad did. I want to go to college so I can get my own restaurant and make lots of money. When I do get a restaurant I'm going to call it Sierra. And that's what I think I'll be doing when I get this letter ten years from now. Bye, Brian." He puts the letter back on the breakfast bar and looks up at me. "Is it okay?"
"It's perfect," I say, as I wipe a tear that had begun to fall down my cheek.
"Why are you crying?" Brian asks a concerned tone coming to his face.
"Because, I'm so proud of you," I say, with a little smile.
The tear was there for much more than just simple pride. In Brian's letter to himself he sounds like a typical kid talking about his biological father. I still can not believe how far he has come since the first couple of days after we met. He was so tentative, so scared I never dreamed he would get to be this comfortable, this happy so quickly. I still have moments of doubt, and over the last couple of weeks the doubt has seemingly gotten stronger. Questions still fill my mind. Am I doing the right thing? Can I ever be the father Brian deserves? What if I can't handle being a single parent? I know these questions are just nerves talking and I am in no way re-thinking the adoption. Still the doubt lingers, because to be honest I am really not that confident of a person. So hearing Brian's letter gives me some reassurance. At least I have done enough in the last few weeks to help him get to a point where he can talk about his life now and be happy, where he can talk about his plans for the future and be excited. And maybe at the end of the day, that's all that really matters.
Brian smiles at me, then gets off his bar stool and wraps his arms around me. I hug him back, squeezing as tightly as I can without hurting him. In the last couple of weeks Brian has stopped wiggling free of hugs so quickly when we are alone. When he gives me my hello hug in the school parking lot he still squirms free after only a couple of seconds, and he used to do the same thing at home too. But with in the last week or two he has started to linger in hugs when no one else is around. He will let me hold him for moments at a time. There have even been occasions where I have had to be the one to break the hug because of discomfort in my arms or back. I give him a gentle kiss on the top of his head as he rests his head on my shoulder.
After a few minutes I let Brian go, and he returns to his homework as I go back to trying to cook. As we eat dinner Brian tells me more about his day at school. After the dishes are put in the dishwasher we settle down on the couch to watch the Suns game. As I settle into bed with Brian, snuggled under my arm his head resting on my chest I just wish Wednesday would get here already.
When morning comes I start out on what has to be the slowest day of my life. I drop Brian off at school, before making my way to the Sierra Inn for one final time as owner and manager. I have changed a lot since the first day I drove from my one bedroom apartment to the vacant dirt lot that was surrounded by a chain link fence to meet with my contractors. I think about all of the days I spent arguing with those construction workers. As I pull into the parking lot, I realize that this chapter of my life might be ending but I am not sad. No, I am excited because while I love the Sierra Inn, I am in love with Brian. And I know that my life with Brian is going to be so much more rewarding and meaningful than my life as owner of the Sierra Inn ever was.
I spend the morning packing up my office, getting it ready for Matt to move in tomorrow. One of the last things to go into the box, is the pad I had scribbled my five year plan onto when the motel first opened. I look at it for moment, smile then take it out of the box.
"I guess something's do change," I say shaking my head as I crumple up the piece of paper and throw it in the trash.
After going out to lunch with Matt, we return to the motel so I can pick up my boxes from the office and bring them back to my apartment. When I walk into the lobby though, I see Julie standing in the breakfast area looking out the window at the pool. Julie apparently hearing my footsteps turns her head and spots me.
"Mr. Wasdin," she says as she walks over to me. "Tomorrow's the big day."
"Yeah it is," I say as we stand right in front of the front desk. "What do you want this time?"
"You're front desk clerk told me you're selling your motel so you can be there for Brian," she says.
"Yeah I am," I say.
"I didn't think you would do that," she says. "You must really love Brian."
"Not that it's any of your business, but I do," I say.
"You know, I tried adopting him myself a couple of years ago," she says, looking down at her feet. "The damn court though, wouldn't even let me be his foster mother. Can you believe that? I give the state twelve years of my blood sweat and tears and they still don't trust me."
"Look, Ms. Harden I understand you must be..."
"You understand nothing," Julie says angrily as she slams her palm on the counter of the front desk. "I was the one that was there when he woke up in the hospital. My shoulder was the one he cried on when that bastard of a doctor told him his parents were dead and then left the room. And then I get people I work for, my supposed friends telling me that there are other people better suited to raise him than me. You can't possibly understand what that kind of knife feels like in your back. See that was bad enough. But then you came along. A single guy, obsessed with his version of the Bates Motel, and I'm told that I'm not even as qualified as you to take Brian in."
"That's quite a sob story," I say shaking my head. "But the fact is Brian went missing for a month, while he was under your watch. And if it wasn't for me you still wouldn't know where the hell he was. He could have died because of you! So go ahead, belittle me all you want, be angry at the world because you think it screwed you over. But every sane person knows that you failed at your job, and you have no business being near any child."
I wait for a comeback, but Julie just stands there, silently for a minute before brushing past me and walking out the front door of the motel. I shake my head, before going back to my office and picking up my boxes. I leave the motel, knowing the next time I will be back will be to make the sale to Mr. Vanderbrook official. I am no longer worried about Julie. I have been given enough assurance that she can not do anything. But I find myself getting angry at how she thinks she is somehow better than me. I wish I could have told her off more than I did, but I am sure I will have another opportunity.
After I pick Brian up from school we head to the mall to get him a suit for court, and I essentially forget about Julie's visit. After getting the suit, Brian and I eat dinner in the food court before heading home. The evening passes painfully slow, but finally it is time for us to get into bed. We settle into bed, Brian rests his head on my chest and I wrap my arm around him. I quickly feel his breathing change as he falls asleep, but I lay awake staring at the ceiling.
My mind is not racing tonight, in fact it is maybe the most peaceful it has been in a long time. I can not say that I am not nervous about tomorrow, but I take the words of Mr. Quincy and Bill to heart. I believe that there is no way tomorrow will have anything other than a happy ending for Brian and me. Still I find sleeping difficult as I think about the last month and a half. Suddenly I remember the day before Brian showed up in front of the Sierra Inn. I had gone to the supermarket to pick a couple of things up. When I went to check out there was a guy in front of me on line with two kids. The boy was almost hanging off the rack of candy opposite the cashier while the girl was crying because she hadn't gotten something she had wanted. I remember thinking to myself there is no way I am ever going to have kids. Given, Brian is about five years older than the older kid that day at the supermarket, and he is definitely better behaved than either of them. But still it gives me some perspective on how much I have changed over the last number of weeks.
Before Brian showed up, I did everything for me, my number one concern was myself. I didn't see anything wrong with being that way either. After all I had nobody else to do or look out for. It was me and the Sierra Inn. That was the total of my life, and I was content with it too. It has only been since Brian showed up, that I have realized how empty my life before him truly was. Then of course there is the way that Brian has changed. When he first showed up at the front door of my motel, he was scared, and timid. He seemed so unsure that it was as though he had to think out every step before he took it. Now judging by the way he acts you would think he was my natural son. And I can not help but smile at that thought, because in less than twelve hours he will legally be my son.
I must fall asleep without even knowing it as the next thing I know the alarm clock is ringing waking Brian and I to the day we will remember for the rest of our lives. Brian and I eat a quick breakfast before sharing a shower. I can tell Brian is nervous, because he is quiet. I try to relax him, but I am nervous myself. All the reassurance I have been getting was all well and good, but now being only couple of hours away from the moment of truth I can not help but feel tense.
"You know if you own your own restaurant you're going to have to do this yourself," I tell Brian as I stand behind him in front of the bathroom mirror as I tie his brand new red tie for him.
"I never wore a tie before," he says.
"Yeah well it's not one of the most comfortable things," I say. "But sometimes you don't have a choice."
"I know," Brian says as he tries to wiggle his neck underneath the tightening cloth.
Soon we are in the car crawling in the morning rush hour traffic towards downtown. Brian sits in the passenger seat starring out of his window as my Nirvana CD plays in the background. I smile a little as I think about the first couple of days Brian was with me, and how I was trying to convince him that Nirvana was the best band ever. Now I have him totally brain washed. He virtually doesn't want to listen to anything else.
The traffic is heavy but moves and soon I am pulling off the freeway and making my way through the maze of downtown streets to the parking garage for the Family Court.
"Dad," Brian says softly as I park the car.
"Yeah angel," I say, looking over at him as I kill the engine.
"The judge is going to let me stay with you right?" he asks, looking up at me, his blue eyes searching me just the way they were when we first met.
"Absolutely," I say, as much for him as for myself. "I told you angel, you're stuck with me."
"Good," Brian says, with a little smile.
"So you ready?" I ask.
"Yeah," Brian nods.
We get out of the car, and head out of the parking garage towards the court, Brian's hand tightly gripping mine. We head into the court house, and ride the elevator up to the fifth floor. When we get off the elevator I see Mr. Quincy standing at the end of the hall talking on his cell phone.
"Hello you two," Mr. Quincy says, a small smile coming to his face as he puts his phone back in his suit jacket pocket. "How are you guys doing today?"
"I think we're both a little nervous," I say. "But other than that we're good."
"Nothing to be nervous about," Mr. Quincy says, with a comforting smile. "Hey Brian, Kevin's parent's are in the court room, why don't you go say hello to them. I need to talk to Kevin for a minute."
"Okay," Brian says, as Mr. Quincy points him to the large double doors leading to court room 502.
"Kevin this is important," Mr. Quincy says. "When we get in there let me do the talking. We lucked out getting this judge. Kirkland and I go back a long ways. She is an excellent judge. And she can't stand unruliness. If you hear something you disagree with, tell me and I'll defend you on it. Okay?"
"Sure," I say. "But you think there will be anything like that?"
"I doubt it," Mr. Quincy says, shaking his head. "Lofton likes you, I doubt he'll have anything objectionable to say."
"Good," I say.
"And Kevin," Mr. Quincy says. "Congratulations! It's a boy!"
"Thank you," I say with a chuckle.
I slowly follow Mr. Quincy into the court room. I say hello to my parents, who are talking to Brian before Mr. Quincy leads Brian and I up to a table facing the judge's bench. I scan the court room for Julie but she is no where to be found and I breath a little sigh of relief, that maybe she actually won't show up. Across the aisle from us Bill is sitting at another table reading over some papers. Brian and I sit silently next to Mr. Quincy for a couple of minutes before the bailiff comes into the courtroom.
"Please rise the Honorable Judge Kirkland presiding," the heavy set man says as he stands in front of the bench and a gray haired woman takes her seat on the bench.
"You may be seated," Judge Kirkland says. "Which case is first?"
"Case number 6215," the bailiff reads from a folder. "Petition for adoption."
"Thank you," the judge says. "Mr. Lofton, nice to see you again," she says, with a smile.
"Good morning your honor," Bill says, as he stands from his chair.
"And Mr. Quincy, back so soon?" Judge Kirkland asks, with a little smirk as she turns her chair towards our table.
"Good morning your honor," Mr. Quincy says as he stands up. "I guess I have been busy lately."
"Busy is a good thing," Judge Kirkland says. "Okay, so I have been reviewing this petition for adoption. Are all concerned parties present?"
"Yes your honor," Mr. Quincy says.
"Good," Judge Kirkland says. "This seems like a pretty easy one. Mr. Lofton, has CPS finished their investigation of Mr. Wasdin's background and living situation."
"Yes we have," Bill says. "And Mr. Wasdin exceeds our standards in every area."
"Okay then," Judge Kirkland says. "Now Brian," she says, as she turns her chair to look at Brian who is sitting in between me and Mr. Quincy. "How are you doing today?"
"Okay," Brian says shyly, but still loud enough so the judge can hear him.
"How long have you been if foster care for, Brian?" Judge Kirkland asks him.
"Since I was eight," Brian says.
"So you have been in a few different foster homes?" the judge asks.
"Yeah," Brian says with a little nod.
"And what do you think of living with Mr. Wasdin?" Judge Kirkland asks. "Does he treat you well?"
"Yeah," Brian says, quickly as he emphatically nods his head. "He's nicer to me than my other foster parents were."
"I'm glad to hear that," Judge Kirkland says. "Can you come up here for a minute sweetheart?" she asks as she stands up.
Brian looks at me, then at Mr. Quincy and we both nod our heads that he should listen to what the judge asks. Nervously he walks up to the judges bench and the bailiff directs him around and up a couple of steps so he is actually standing next to the Judge Kirkland who covers her microphone and begins talking to Brian quietly so we can not hear. Occasionally Brian nods his head, and once I can even hear him say yes.
"They're talking about you," Mr. Quincy whispers to me, as he leans over Brian's vacant chair. "She thinks this allows the child to be more honest."
"Makes sense," I whisper back.
"Okay," Judge Kirkland says, causing me to look back towards the bench where I see Brian re-tracing his steps back towards Mr. Quincy and me. "Mr. Wasdin, how are you doing this morning?"
"Fine, your honor," I say, my voice cracking slightly with nerves as I answer the judge.
"I have heard very good things about you," Judge Kirkland says. "I see as of tomorrow you will be an employee of the Vanderbrook Corporation."
"Yes I will be," I say with a little nod.
"And up until today you owned your own motel," Judge Kirkland says as she looks at a piece of paper on the desk in front of her. "That's very impressive for someone your age. Why did you decide to sell the motel?"
"It was too time consuming," I say. "I believe that since I am adopting a son I need to be able to be there for him as much as I can. There are a lot of things I want to offer Brian, and I did not feel I would be able to while owning the motel."
"So if you were not adopting you would have not sold the motel?" Judge Kirkland asks, a surprised look coming to her face.
"No," I say.
"That's very commendable," Judge Kirkland says. "Mr. Wasdin you are single?"
"Yes I am," I say.
"In the past have you dated a lot?" Judge Kirkland asks. "I'm not trying to get too personal I'm just trying to see how often you like to go out."
"I never dated much," I say. "I was always kind of married to my work."
"So you will not go out a number of nights a week with friends or on dates and leave Brian by himself?" Judge Kirkland says. "I'm not saying you can not have a social life, but I just want to make sure you know it needs to be limited now."
"That won't be a problem," I say confidently.
"Good," Judge Kirkland says before thumbing through her file. "Mr. Lofton you have signed an agreement representing the Department of Children and Family Services stating that in your agencies view, Mr. Kevin Wasdin is both willing and competent enough to be given sole custody of a minor child."
"Yes I have your honor," Bill says.
"Then it is my pleasure to accept the petition for adoption of one Brian Landers by Mr. Kevin Wasdin," Judge Kirkland says as she looks at me and Brian. "Congratulations you two, you are now officially a family. Next case, bailiff."
I wait a minute, for something to happen. For someone to come barging through the doors with some evidence showing I am not fit to be a parent. I wait to wake up, thinking it being this easy has to have been a dream, but neither happen. I look at Brian who is looking back at me, a huge smile on his face as he stands up ad throws his arms around my neck.
"It's over, angel," I whisper in his ear as I put my arms around him. "You're stuck with me now."
"Good," Brian says into my neck. "I love you Dad."
"I love you, so much, son," I say, as I feel a lump form in my throat.
Slowly Brian and I release each other from our embrace, and I stand up, to shake hands with Mr. Quincy. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Doris standing in the back row of the court room, wiping her eyes with a tissue. I look over at her, as Mr. Quincy is telling Brian something. I catch Doris's eye and she smiles at me, I smile back and before I can even get Brian's attention she turns and heads out of the court room.
"I know I said this before," Dad says when we are all in the hallway outside of the courtroom. "But now it is official. Welcome to the family young man," he tells Brian.
"Thanks Grandpa!" Brian says happily.
"Kevin!" I hear Bill's voice call from behind as we head are heading for the elevator.
"Go ahead guys, I'll meet you downstairs," I tell my parents and Brian, as I want to talk to Bill privately. "Bill I don't know how to thank you," as he catches up with me and we stand in the now vacant hallway.
"There's no need," Bill says, shaking his head. "Seeing Brian's face back there was thanks enough."
"I have to say I'm kind of surprised Julie didn't show up," I say.
"Quincy didn't tell you?" Bill asks.
"Tell me what?" I ask.
"Julie committed suicide last night," Bill says.
"What?" I ask.
"Yeah her neighbor heard a gun shot last night and called the police," Bill says. "Shot herself in the head. She left a note and everything."
"I'm sorry," I say, knowing that Bill and Julie were at least somewhat friends.
"Thank you," Bill says. "I'm still kind of in shock myself. Apparently she left a note saying something about nobody letting her serve her true purpose. I don't know, she really fell off the wagon over the last few months."
"Well I can't say that I thought she was all there," I say. "But I would have never expected this."
"I know," Bill says, as he starts walking for the elevator. "Anyway, Kevin it was a pleasure working with you," he says, extending his hand. "And I wish you all the best in the future."
"Thank you," I say, as I shake his hand. "For everything."
I wonder with all the threats she was making, why Julie would commit suicide the night before my adoption trial. I can only guess that she knew she had nothing on me, and no one would listen to her at this point even if she did. Either way, I can honestly say that I will not miss her.
When I get down to the lobby of the courthouse I invite my parents follow me and Brian to the Sierra Inn. Peter Vanderbrook's lawyer is going to be there in less than an hour to make the sale final. I asked Juan to come back after his shift to be there as well there are something's I need the people in my life to hear.
Brian and I drive back to the Sierra Inn, a goofy smile on both of our faces. When we finally get back to the motel, Laura, Juan and Matt are all standing behind the front desk talking but when they see Brian and I come in, they all turn towards us.
"So?" Laura asks.
"So what?" I ask.
"How did it go?" Matt asks.
"How did what go?" I ask, with a little shrug, as I look down at Brian. "Do you know what they're talking about?"
"No," Brian says, shaking his head as he plays along with me.
"I don't either, Mr. Wasdin," I say, with a little smirk.
It takes a moment for what I said, to sink in with the three people standing behind the desk, but once it does they all come rushing over to us.
"That was mean, Kevin," Laura says, as she gives me a big hug.
"I'm sorry," I say, with a little chuckle. "But I just had to do it."
"Well congratulations anyway," she says, as we release each other from the hug.
"Thank you," I say. "And thank you for everything, I couldn't have done this with out you."
"Yes you could have," Laura says. "But you're welcome anyway."
Soon Peter Vanderbrook's lawyer comes through the door. My hands shake as I sign over my old pride and joy to the Vanderbrook Corporation. I remember four years ago standing at the very counter I am now signing the sale papers on, waiting for the first guest to check in. Back then I would never guess I would be doing this.
"That's the last of it," the stout man says as I sign the last page of the thick stack of papers. "I believe this is for you," he says, pulling a check out from his briefcase and handing it to me.
"Thank you," I say, my hands still shaking as I take the check.
We shake hands and the man leaves. I look around the lobby, and see Brian sitting at the same table by the window he had been sitting at the morning after I found him outside the door. Now he is laughing as Dad, who is sitting across from him is apparently telling him some kind of joke. Mom is sitting next to Dad, listening but not laughing at a joke she's probably heard close to a hundred times. Laura, Juan and Matt are sitting silently at the table next to my parents and Brian.
"That's it," I say. "I hope I'm not trespassing," I add with a little smile.
"I still can't believe you dude," Juan says.
"Yeah well, you're not done with me yet," I say. "I still have to find another manager. Unless you want to do double duty."
"No thanks," Juan says quickly.
"Seriously though there is something I want to tell all of you," I say, as I sit down next to Brian. "I had a professor in college that said that, the moment you start to accept the way things are in your life is the moment everything will change. I thought that was kind of a doomsday scenario because I figured it would mean something bad happened. And I guess back in January I had accepted how things were in my life, and I didn't really expect things to change. But then Juan came into my office and told me there was something I needed to see. It's been in this month and a half that I've realized change doesn't have to be a bad thing. I look at my life now, and it's so much fuller than it was before that Monday night. I never would have guessed, that something like this would have ever happened in my life. And I don't think it could have if it weren't for the people in this lobby. So I want to thank each of you for being such a support to both me and Brian. Even though it took some longer than others to come around," I say, with a little smirk as I look at Dad who returns my smile. "So I guess what I'm trying to say is, simply thank you."
After a couple of hours of talking with everyone Brian and I leave the Sierra Inn for home. When we get back to the apartment, we change into more comfortable clothes and settle down next to each other on the couch.
"Dad," Brian says, as he stretches out on the couch with his head on my lap.
"Yes, angel," I say.
"You know you're stuck with me too now," he says, a little smirk coming to his face.
"I know," I say, with a smile. "And I couldn't be happier."
"Me neither," he says.
Thank you to everyone who has followed this story, I truly hope you enjoyed it. I also want thank those who have taken the time to write me about it over the course of the last few months.
I will be continuing to post work on Nifty. And look in the future for an eventual sequel to "Sierra Inn."
Comments/Feedback welcomed: email@example.com