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This is a fictional story of loving between friends, young and old. If you don't like friendship, don't read it. If you don't like love, I'm sorry for you. If you are not old enough to legally read this, find your friend and have him read it to you.

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Stocking Stuffer Part 12 Spring Break

Scotty spoke up, "We thought it over and we want to help. If another boy needs help, we want to help him."

Steph chimed in, "Yeah, if we can talk to him, maybe we can find out what's going on and see what we can do. Can we go to the mall tomorrow?"

Gene and I traded moist eyed looks and grabbing our respective boys, we almost smothered them in hugs.

As we left Donatello's, I was amazed to watch Steph steel himself at the door but walk across the parking lot to the car without even holding my hand. Once in the car though, the courage drained out of him and he reached out and grabbed my hand and basically hugged himself with it. I reached around and gave him another giant hug with both arms.

The dogs would never win, my boy was stronger every day.


The next day was Friday and we thought this would be a great time to try our luck at the mall. It was sure to be filled with both kids and adults. Maybe our little mystery boy would be looking for friends and more food, assuming he needed help. Steph and I had talked and I had mentioned it just might have been a kid, hungry for lunch and spotting a "old softy."

Steph had shook his head emphatically, "NO! I know he needs help. I don't know how, but I just feel it. I can tell at school too when one of the kids is in trouble. I couldn't ever help before, well I did share my lunch sometimes, but I couldn't do much else. Now I can and I will!"

This amazing statement coming from my amazing Tiger had me completely choked up and all I could do was hug him and rub his back. I couldn't even begin to talk.

Gene was working the evening shift and we had arranged that he'd take Scotty with him when the shift started at 4. We'd get there pretty quickly after that and I'd pick up Scotty and then we'd go on our adventure.

When we got there, Scotty came running over to Steph and bowled him over with a hug. Steph just laughed and hugged back. It was so neat to see two boys, two friends, sharing their friendship and love so openly in a public place. A couple of mothers shopping with sons looked at the boys first and then up at Gene and I and just gave us huge grins. One even wrapped her arm around her son and hugged him, he didn't flinch. Happiness is so contagious I thought Steph and Scotty'd probably done more for her in that minute than anyone else all day.

Gene and I arranged to meet for his meal break around 6:30 when we'd compare notes with the boys if that seemed like a good idea. With that settled, Scotty gave Gene a hug and then before we left, held out his watch arm. Gene tenderly knelt down and reaching completely round the boy managed to hug him and set the 'Gene curfew' timer at the same time. Before Scotty left the embrace he looked up and kissed Gene quickly on the cheek.

With Scotty on one hand and Steph on the other I fairly floated out of the store and into the Mall. Of course Steph and I had been back a few times since our first visit the day after Christmas, but Steph was still a little awed by the size of the place, the gaudy displays and the bustle of all kinds of people. He didn't cling to me, but he didn't let go of my hand either.

We walked around just window shopping for a while, neither boy eager to be away like most of the kids scrambling all over the place. We stopped at the Radio Shack and both boys had saucer sized eyes as the young clerk demo'd the RC cars. Steph pulled me toward him and whispered that he'd never been in the toy store and could we look there? Once again I swore I'd kill that witch if I ever had the chance. This boy had no toys and had never been in a toy store, but she had repeatedly made him be the sex toy of her boyfriends and even their dogs. I'd show her toys!

Getting myself under control we went into KB and if I thought their eyes had been big, now they almost popped out of their heads. I knew Gene would never deny anything to Scotty, but he whispered to Steph that he'd never been here either. "It's always too big, too noisy. I get too scared!"

I watched as Steph, never dropping his touch with one of us, switched from my left to Scotty's right. I could see him just willing courage into his friend.

We walked every aisle in KB, they wouldn't even let me skip the Barbie aisle. I couldn't get them to talk or indicate what they liked or even to giggle at my stupid toy jokes, they were transfixed. I certainly had a story for Gene, it was like they were just dropped here from some third world country, and yet they watched the cartoons and commercials every day. Here though it was real, the toys were tangible and the power of packaging had just overwhelmed their ability to do more than stare.

Finishing the last aisle, I led them out and we just sat and cuddled a little on one of the benches. Slowly they came out of the glaze and then they started comparing notes. I couldn't believe we had been in the same store! They talked about a thousand things they had seen and I couldn't remember a single one!

As they continued to chatter away, I got them up and we headed down toward the food court. Since dinner was to be part of our bait, I stopped at the Cookie Factory and got us three big chocolate chip wonders. Lord knows I didn't need one, but they were three for the price of two! We sat at one of the food court tables and I looked around to see the lay of the land. The boys saw me looking and they began to focus on the cookies and the adventure they were about to try instead of the adventure they had just experienced.

Soon Steph was telling me that they were going to the arcade and see what was there. I looked at him and almost grabbed them both and bolted for the car. His sweet innocent eyes, his friend's darling sweet expression, how could I even think of asking them to basically troll for boys in the mall. Steph must have known something of what I was thinking because suddenly he grabbed the extra cookie and said, "Nick, it's okay. Scotty and I know what he might be going through. We have to help him. We're going!"

So much for my vision of innocence, smacked right back to earth from the mouth of my Tiger. He had indeed seen more and done more than I could even imagine writing about and Scotty's story was probably even more horrific. I watched dumbfounded as the two angels who wouldn't let go of my hand, who were intimidated by the Mall itself, grabbed each other's hands and raced for the arcade just like every other 5th and 6th grader in America.


We'd made some plans. I would not leave the food court even if the Mall was on fire; they wouldn't leave the arcade or the food court even if the fire was raging all around them. I was to be in sight every minute and while they wouldn't be, I was a nervous wreck, but they knew if they could see me, they could get to me and if they could at least holler, I'd be one angry momma tiger if it looked like my cubs were in trouble.

They had enough money to play for hours, I hoped, and enough to indulge in just about anything they wanted to scarf from the various food vendors. I bet Steph had never had five dollars in his pocket and tonight he must have had two hundred stashed between the various pockets. I think Scotty was worth at least that much if turned upside down and shaken!

I took out my book and began to read, well pretended to read since I couldn't tear my eyes away from the darkened maw of the arcade. God, it was going to be a long hour, hour and half before Gene's supper break. Remind me to get a watch like Scotty's, better yet, get me a pillow so I can sit in front of the arcade doorway and rock and wait!

It was a long hour! It was an interminable hour. It was a lifetime. Finally I saw Gene approaching from his store's end of the Mall and he had Brian with him. Brian was the store manager who'd first found Gene and Scotty and now helped as Gene found and befriended other families like ours.

I'd met Brian and his son Tommy a couple of times. He was a nice man, a little older than me. Tommy was not really a Tommy any more, he was probably 17 maybe 18 and would be graduating from high school this year. The few times we all had been together Tommy was kind of like the favorite uncle to our boys. He was too old to join them just playing, but could whip their asses at the GameBoy. They loved him for it!

Brian and Gene brought me a coffee and sat and as I gave them a quick update on the nothing that was happening, everything started happening. Steph came out of the arcade first and didn't look our way at all. He was pointing down toward the BK and saying something back into the arcade maw. We all held our breath as we waited and watched. If I thought the hour was long, the next ten seconds were an eternity.

Then Scotty's shining head appeared and he was looking back and apparently pulling something with his right hand. As he slowly emerged from the darkness it became apparent that what he was pulling was the boy. I sucked in my breath and Gene grabbed my hand. They had him, they were talking to him, they were making friends.

As we watched, Scotty slowly coaxed him out and when they were out of the arcade Stephy skipped back and grabbed his other hand. Like I had lead the catatonic boys out of KB, they were leading our waif towards the BK. Each step away from the arcade seemed to lighten his fear and soon all three boys were running and laughing towards a certain date with supper.

Not daring to move, hardly daring to breath we three watched the three of them go to the counter like they had done it all their lives, order, pay and plop on one of the tables and begin devouring the huge pile of food in front of them. It would have been funny if it hadn't been so incredible. Steph had never eaten at BK before I took him just two weeks ago. Scotty wouldn't talk to a stranger even if there'd been a gun to his head. Here they were, normal, active, hyper boys, all show, all new confidence, all because they knew they had to help HIM, whoever HIM was.

Brian spoke first, "Guys, I've got to get back to the store. Looks like your detectives should open an office! Man that boy's sure looks familiar, but I can't place him. Let me know what else happens." We quickly shook hands and he headed back to work.

Gene too said he had to get back, but he could wait a few more minutes, there was another clerk in the department tonight so it wasn't urgent for him.

We watched them finish the entire roasted dinosaur that had sacrificed itself for their hunger and then Scotty looked up and right at Gene. Giving a quick hoot he bounced out of the chair and yelled something back at the other two he skipped across to Gene. He didn't hardly stop when he got to our table, he just launched himself into Gene's arms and hugged him tightly around the neck. I looked over at the others and Steph had the boy's hand and was trying to keep him calm. You could tell that he was scared though, he had that look that says if I don't move I'm invisible, but his entire body just was crying out RUN RUN RUN!

Scotty was fast in his hugging, he'd just barely gotten here when he whispered, "His name's Mike!" and then he was skipping back to their table waving and laughing. When he got there he was almost as enthusiastic in his greeting, grabbing Steph around the neck and taking Mike's hand. With a quick wave, they were leading the boy back toward the arcade. As I waved to Scotty I glanced at Mike and we made instant eye contact, even across 50 yards of tables, people eating and the hubbub of the food court I knew we made eye contact. I knew he remembered me and I knew he was scared and helpless.

All three boys turned and ran back to the arcade and disappeared once more into it's darkened maw. I was so afraid I'd just witnessed the sending of a sacrifice into the dim dragon's cave that I was almost sick to my stomach. I practically crushed Gene's hand which I was inexplicably holding again.

"Its all right, they know him, they are friends. It'll be okay!" I heard Gene tell me.

It had to be all right. That was my Stephy, that was my boy, that was my life walking into that cave.


I hope you enjoy Steph and Nick's story. Let me know if I should continue...

Some of Stephy's school mates are at

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