Thanks to everybody who's been commenting on my work! I hope you enjoy these two chapters. If you'd like, please join my yahoo group for chapters, links to other writer's stories, and links to my other stories. The address is ca.groups.yahoo.com/group/futurecanadiansgroup . Also, if you'd like, feel free to email me. thefuturecanadian@yahoo.CA . Ciao!
PS -- the usual disclaimer applies here.
"Timor (Shakira), Part I"
It was a hot June day in Alabama. Joey had left the house just before nine o'clock to go to Tuscaloosa for a meeting with his doctoral advisor. Ian was left alone until around eleven, when the solitude in the house got the best of him. He climbed into his Land Rover and went toward Birmingham, where he could go shopping and just spend the day doing whatever it was that he wanted to do. He went to the Galleria for a little while, but there was nothing there that was very interesting. From there, he went to the Summit, another fabulous shopping area in the Birmingham Metro Area. He went into Barnes and Noble first, spending more time in the music section than looking at the books that the company offered. He went from there, with a coffee in hand, to Banana Republic and then to Abercrombie and Fitch. He'd picked up a few things for Joey and Danny before going into the abercrombie store to buy a few things for Pete.
As he piddled around the store looking for things for his youngest brother, his phone began to ring. It was his mother. "Hey, Mama," he said after flipping open his phone.
"Olá, filho," she said in her own way to him.
"So what's going on?" Ian asked in English.
"Well. Not much. I just got home from work and was checking the mail. There is a letter here for you."
"For me?" Ian asked in disbelief. "From whom?"
"The return address is in Dili," Olga answered honestly, but expressing her words in such a tone that let Ian know that not much else was known about the letter.
"Dili? As in Timor Leste?" Ian asked as he piddled through the racks of overpriced clothes for the younger-than-15-crowd.
"Yeah," Olga responded. "And it's weird. The envelope is handwritten, and addressed to Ian Scott."
"OK. Open it for me, if you don't mind," Ian asked, not thinking much of the note.
"Dear Ian," Olga started. "My name is Ana da Gloria, and I am eleven years old. I am writing to tell you that I am, quite possibly, your biggest fan in Timor-Leste. I am such a big fan that my entire hospital room is decorated with posters of you. I have cancer, but I still remember seeing your concert in Dili a few years ago. It was then that I thought you were so talented and so cute. Like I said, I have cancer, and my doctors don't know how much longer I have to live. I just wanted to say that I am your biggest fan, and I hope that you release another CD in Portuguese very soon."
"Oh wow," Ian stated.
"If you don't mind," Olga went on, "could I please have an autograph from you? You are my favorite singer, and I love your music."
"Oh my God," Ian said as he suddenly realized that he had meant so much to even a few people. If there was a little girl in Dili with enough cojones to send him a letter, then there had to be other people...other people that still thought better of him than he thought of himself at most times.
He talked to his mother for a few more minutes, as he shopped for Pete. The wheels in his mind had already started to turn, though. Olga could tell that he was devising something in his mind. After spending a couple hundred dollars on his brother at the store, Ian hung up the phone with his mother and walked to his car. As he started the car, he wondered if that little girl's family even had a car. He wondered if they were having to pay exorbitant fees to the hospital to get the care that their little girl needed. His heart began to ache for them, people he didn't know from Adam from a place he'd only been once as a part of a Brazilian cultural program to Timor Leste after their independence from Indonesia.
As he drove back toward Montevallo, he couldn't help but think about his world, how he'd been living in the horrible conditions of his mind. Then he compared it with the memories of Dili in his mind. Dili was still, at that time, a city ravaged by the occupation and the transition to independence. But Ian did remember the faces, the smiles, the hospitality, the zeal for life that the residents of Dili possessed. He remembered talking to people both young and old, all of whom seemed to have something about them that Brazilians and Americans lacked. There was a general excitement, tempered with fear and uncertainty of the future.
He got to his parents' house almost without thinking. As he pulled into the driveway, he saw Pete sitting on the front porch, reading a book. He climbed out of the car, grabbed the bags, and began walking to the front door.
"Hey Een!!!" Pete said as his oldest brother got closer.
"Hey Petey. What's up?" Ian asked.
"Not much. Just sitting here reading a book."
"That's cool," Ian said as he sat next to his brother on the swing. "What's it about?"
"I'm not very sure," Pete answered. "It's a book in Portuguese that Mom bought for me on the internet."
"Awesome. O português é uma lingua muito belo," Ian said to his little brother. (Portuguese is a beautiful language.)
"Een. How did you learn Portuguese? It seems so hard," Pete asked innocently enough.
"Well, kid. I learned Portuguese and English at the same time. When I was little, I spent part of the year in the US and part of the year in Brazil, so I kinda had to."
"Did you get to spend a lot of time with Avô?" Pete asked about their grandfather, Olga's dad.
"Yes. Before you and Danny were born, I would go down every summer and spend a few months with `Os avós'." (The grandparents)
"So was it fun?"
"Oh...Petey. It was so much fun. Me and Matias would always find some trouble to get into. This one time, we went to the `big Jesus statue' and climbed up the mountain. And we would always go to the beach."
"To boy watch?!?" Pete joked.
"Well. That's what I was doing. Matias was girl crazy back in the day."
"I want to go to Brazil," Pete announced.
"I'm sure that that could be arranged. Mama and Dan, I'm sure, would take you down there."
"I want to go with you, though, Een. I love Mom and Dad a lot, but it would be more fun going with you."
"Well. When I go down there, if I'm not working, I'm just hanging out with Avó and Tia Gloria."
"What about Matias?"
"Well. I haven't seen or talked to Matias in a long time."
"Since the time you got sick at the concert?"
"Yeah. Since that night," Ian answered honestly. "So..." he started, to change the conversation before it got to a point that he couldn't handle. "Wanna see what I bought for you when I went shopping today?"
"Sure!" Pete exclaimed as Ian handed him a bag full of clothes. "These are cool, Een."
"I'm glad you like them, kid," Ian said as he messed up Pete's hair with his hand.
"This shirt," Pete said of one of the articles of clothing, "I'm going to wear to Olivia and Regan's birthday party this weekend."
"Who are Olivia and Regan?" Ian asked.
"They're friends of mine from school. There Mom is a big fan of Ian Scott!"
"Oh. OK," Ian said.
"I thought I heard somebody else out here," Olga said as she walked out onto the porch.
"Yep. Just me, though."
"É tanto," Olga answered as Ian stood to hug his mother. (That's enough.)
"So. Pete me dizia que quere aprender o português y que quere ir comigo a Brasil." (Pete was telling me that he wants to learn Portuguese and go to Brazil with me.)
"Sim. Ele está falando muito bem," Olga answered with pride. (He's speaking really well.)
"Pensava de chegar-lo comigo a próxima vez que vou pra lá," Ian said. (I was thinking of taking him with me the next time I go.)
"Muito bom idéia," Olga said as she gave a thumbs up. (Very good idea.)
"Yeah. Quero visitar Avó e Tia Gloria," Pete said, beaming with pride in his ability to understand and participate in the conversation with his oldest brother and his mother in their native language. (I want to visit Granny and Aunt Gloria.)
"So...onde está a carta que recebi?" Ian asked. (Where's the letter that I got?)
"Está adentro," Olga answered.
"OK," Ian responded. "Vou voltar em um momento," Ian said to Pete and he and Olga walked back into the house. (I'll be right back.)
"OK. Está bem," Pete answered.
"He's really sounding good," Ian answered as he and Olga walked into the kitchen.
"He is. Now. If we could just convince Danny to try to learn it," Olga joked. "By the way," she started. "Would you have a talk with him, and find out something for me?"
"What about?" Ian asked.
"He's been acting strangely lately, and Jen is over here all the time."
"That's just them being teenagers in love. Ah...to be young again," Ian said.
"Well. Have you talked to him?"
"Yeah. He called me last night," Ian said.
"Well. He seems distracted by something. I'll often find him staring out into space or something," Olga said as she handed him the letter. "And if there is anyone who can find out, it's you, because he won't talk to me or Dan."
"OK..." Ian said. "Mom. I'm sure it's nothing, but I'll talk to him."
"But don't be mad at me if I can't report anything back to you."
"That will be between the two of you, just please let me know that he's OK."
"That I will do," Ian answered.
After hanging out with Olga and Pete for a little while, Ian left the bag of clothes for Danny and drove back to the house. Walking up the back stairs, he set the bag of clothes for Joey on the kitchen table. He piddled around the kitchen for a little while, looking for something to eat. With a very basic sandwich in his hand, he went into the living room and sat in front of the TV. He was half thankful that it wasn't his workout day. On the news channels, there were stories about the goings on in Asia and such. The stories only served to intensify the memories of the letter that he'd received. It was so very sweet. The little girl's handwriting was a little unconventional, and Ian had to figure out a couple of words as he read, but it was something that was a joy to do, rather than a chore.
Joey got home around 6 that afternoon, after having spent an exhausting day in Tuscaloosa. "So how are you, gorgeous?" he asked as he sat on the couch with a beer in hand.
"Good, amorzinho," Ian said as he moved next to Joey to cuddle for a little bit.
"So what are you reading?"
"Well. I got this letter at Mom and Dan's today."
"Yeah. There is a little girl in Dili that is a fan of mine."
"Timor Leste," Ian answered. "She's dying of cancer and was just writing to ask for an autograph."
"Wow," Joey said.
"That was my reaction," Ian responded. There was a moment of silence between them as Joey read the letter for himself. "So...how would you like to go to Dili?"
"Cause THAT'S something you hear everyday!" Joey joked with a smile. "When?"
"I was thinking of going down there in a couple of weeks," Ian said. "I know that I don't have to have a visa prearranged if I fly from Brazil. I'm not sure about the requirements if I leave from the US, so that would be easier."
"Babe. I would love to go, but I can't right now. After my meeting today with Dr. Taylor, I've got to just go into a hole and really buckle down and get going on my dissertation."
"OK," Ian said.
"But, I do think that you should go. As hard as it will be for me to be away from you for that long, I think it would be good for this little girl and for you. I mean. You're with your biggest fan every day, but it would do you really good to see another fan. And it would probably make this little girl's life to meet her favorite singer," Joey said honestly. "And you could get Danny to go with you or something. I kinda get the impression from my sister that they could use a few days apart from each other."
"Yeah. Mom was saying earlier that he's been acting weird," Ian said as the phone began to ring. "Speak of the devil." Joey giggled as Ian opened his phone. "Hello."
"Dude. Are you very busy?" Danny asked.
"Joey and I were just sitting here catching up on our days and stuff," Ian said. Danny sniffled into the phone, proof that he was a little upset. "What's wrong?"
"I just need to get away for a little bit. Mom and Dan are about to drive me crazy. There's some shit going on with Jen that I need to talk about, preferably without Joey around, for the sake of my life."
"Just come over here, then, and we'll go get some ice cream or something," Ian said as he looked at Joey, who was giving his nodding approval of the suggestion.
"OK. I'll be over there in a few minutes."
"Alright. See you then."
"Hey. Can you meet me outside when I get there and drive tonight?"
"Sure," Ian said as he stood from the sofa and ran around the house to gather his things.
"Alright. I'll see you in a second. I'll honk when I get there," Danny said.
"K. See you then, DanDan."
"K," Danny said as he hung up the phone.
"He OK?" Joey asked.
"I don't know. I'm supposed to be meeting him in the driveway in a second."
"He's not coming in?"
"He said that he needed to talk to me without you around," Ian answered honestly.
"Uh oh. That can't be good."
"Yeah," Ian said as he walked up to Joey. "So he and I are gonna go do something for a little bit. It might be late before I get home."
"That's OK. Just make sure that he's OK," Joey said as he stood and hugged Ian.
"I love you."
"I love you, too," Joey said as they pecked on the lips. "So go meet your brother. Have as good a time as possible, and I will see you when you get home." Joey kissed Ian again.
"Alright," Ian said as they hugged once more. Ian broke away from him after a second and walked out the back door, and climbed down the stairs to where his car was parked.
After a few minutes, Danny's car came down the driveway. Ian knew something was horribly wrong, because Danny was coming, faster than normal, up the driveway. He pulled his car into a space that had been created specifically for his car. He climbed out and walked toward Ian's truck. He was speechless, emotional. He looked like somebody had stepped on his heart. The two climbed into the truck and Ian pulled out of the parking area. As he drove down the driveway, the two sat there in silence. Ian turned north onto Highway 17, headed toward Birmingham.
"So aren't you going to ask me what happened?" Danny finally said, breaking the silence between them.
"I was going to wait on you to tell me," Ian answered sweetly and humbly, letting Danny be the star of this show for a moment.
"Well. A couple of months ago, Jen and I went to the beach."
"Right," Ian said, showing he was paying attention.
"Well. Things got out of hand, in the good way. We were just making out, and the next thing I knew, I was getting a really amazing blow job. You could have told that she was really, really, really horny, cause I usually have to beg for head."
"You, begging?" Ian tried to joke.
"Yeah. So anyway, the next thing I knew, we were in the bedroom of the condo, and I was plowing her to no end. Een. I'm not trying to be gross or anything, but I was making her scream. It was one of those fuck sessions that you know is gonna end up with somebody not walking right for a couple of days after that."
"That was on Saturday night. We'd fucked so much for those couple of days before that that I'd run out of condoms, so we just did it without any protection..."
"Danny!" Ian said. "You know I'm not ready to be an uncle," Ian said in a half-joking tone. In a second, Danny clammed up. He turned and looked out the window. The gesture didn't go unnoticed. "Danny. I was just joking about that."
"I know, Een," Danny said.
"So when did you find out?" Ian asked.
"A couple of weeks ago," Danny answered. "And Ian. I was so nervous, excited, scared, worried, and all that, but then, like two days after that, Jen started cramping when we were out at dinner."
"Yeah. We went to the hospital immediately. I mean, I left a $100 bill on the table to cover the check, and we left. By the time we got to the hospital, Jen had started bleeding really bad."
"Oh Danny," Ian said as he felt himself about to start tearing up a little bit.
Danny began to profusely cry again. Ian reached over with his right hand and rubbed his little brother's back. Danny couldn't stop crying. "It'll be OK, DanDan."
"No. It won't. Because three nights ago, Jen and I got into a big fight. And then tonight, just a little while ago, we broke up," Danny confessed.
"Would you please stop saying that?" Danny asked as he finally turned and looked at Ian. "Say anything else you want to, Een, but please don't say that. It's not this unbelievable thing that's happened. And I know that Mom asked you to talk to me, she told me tonight as I was leaving the house. That's another thing. They're about drive me fucking crazy. Mom has been nagging me since I got home from school to tell her what's wrong. Then she just went off when I told her that I didn't want to talk about. She and I yelled at each other so bad that Pete ran upstairs crying, which hurt itself. Then when Dad got home, he started in on me. Een. If there were a night for me to get addicted to coke or something," Danny said as he tried to wipe the tears from his face, "tonight would be it! And before you say anything, I'm not really gonna even try cocaine. I'm not stupid. I mean, I saw what it did to you, and I really don't want that to happen to me. I know that sounds really cold and callous, but it's the truth. That shit made you a completely different person. Damnit! Why didn't I just take a few minutes to go down to the store in the hotel and get some fucking rubbers? If I had, none of this would have happened. None of it."
"So have y'all told Gilda and Don?"
"Oh no! Don would have beat the shit out of me and Gilda would have yelled and called Mom, and then I would have gotten it again."
"You really should tell Mom and Dan," Ian suggested.
"And get yelled at and cussed out. I don't think so, Een. I mean, it's different with you for some reason, you don't have to be perfect. They expect me to do the right thing every time, without question."
"Danny. Listen to yourself. They don't expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to learn from your mistakes, though. And you're gonna learn from this one, that you can't just have sex without some type or precautionary measure."
"Do you think that I don't know that now?" Danny asked. "Look. I'm sorry for yelling at you, Een. I'm just not in a good space at the moment."
"Been there a few times," Ian said.
"So I'd already decided what the name was going to be if it were a little boy," Danny stated, changing the conversation.
"Ian Pedro," Danny said.
"Yeah. I figured why not name the kid after two of the greatest guys I know," Danny said. "You know. Pete is so smart. He can do anything he sets his mind to doing. You're the voice of the family. I'm just the big dumb jock of the family."
"Danielo!" Ian said. "Why are you putting yourself down like that?"
"It's the truth."
"Cause you're good at sports and we...aren't...really...doesn't mean that you're just a big dumb jock. You are one of the most awesome people that I know."
"It's not the truth, but thank you. I mean. Jen was the first girl that I ever dated that wanted me for more than just the muscular body and the huge dick. All of this just hurts so bad, Een. I just want to be away from everything Montevallo for a little while. I think I'll go to the bank tomorrow and see how much money I have in savings and just go to see Avó or something."
"Well. I was thinking of taking a trip myself, and I need somebody to go with me. Joey can't go. If you want, you're company would be more than welcome. I'll pay for it, if you want to go."
"Where are you going?" Danny asked.
"OK. I have no idea where that is."
"Still not helping, Een. I'm sorry I'm so stupid."
"Danny! You're not stupid. It's a Portuguese-speaking island in Asia. And if you ever say that you're stupid again, even joking, I will beat your fucking ass."
"You might like it, Een!" Danny said, making a joke.
"That is GROSS, Danny," Ian said. In a second, they both started laughing.
"Oh. Een. Do you ever thing we'll get back together?"
"I don't know, Danny. That would be up to the two of you. Maybe y'all both need a little bit of time to reflect on what happened. I mean, I've never been in a situation like that, but I can imagine it would be hard. She might be going through her own demons that she can't quite vocalize right now, and she's just taking it out on you because she doesn't have any other option. And I promise that I don't mean for it to bad or anything, but y'all will both have to get through this in your own way. Sure, it would be ideal for y'all to do it together, but if that's not the way it's supposed to be done, then that's not the way it's supposed to be done, Danny."
"And if you want, I'll fly you to Rio for a few days, and then I'll meet you down there when I've got everything arranged to go to Dili. For me, it would be easier to fly from there anyway."
"I'll think about it and let you know in the morning," Danny said, a hesitance in his voice. He knew that he didn't want to accept the offer, but he knew that Ian only offered to help him out and that Ian was going to get his way in the end anyway.
"Why don't we go to Mom and Dan's house and get your passport, then we can make the arrangements when we get back to my house?"
"Een. Can I ask you a question?"
"Yeah. Go ahead."
"When you came home from Brazil last year, were you nervous?"
"Oh yeah. I was worried that I had disappointed you and Pete more than anybody else. But all of y'all helped me get through all of that. That's why I know for a fact that they would want to help you through anything as best they can."
"So you think I should tell them, don't you?"
"Honesty is the best medicine, DanDan," Ian said. "If I learned nothing else in rehab, I learned that."
"Do you think they're gonna be mad?"
"Oh yeah. They're gonna be mad, but they won't be mad for long."
"OK. We should go to Montevallo, then."
"And you know you're also gonna have to talk to Joey."
"I know," Danny said, an eerie silence settling over him for a second.
Ian turned around as soon as he could and the two headed back to Montevallo. The closer they got to home, the more and more nervous Danny got. Ian recounted to Danny the night he'd come out to Olga and Dan. He was nervous, but they applauded his honesty.
"Een's here!" Pete yelled as he stood in the front door.
"Really?" Olga asked as she came up to the door to see what Pete was talking about.
"Oh shit," Danny said. "Mom's in the door with Pete."
"It's not supposed to be easy, Danny."
"Yeah," Danny said as Ian parked the SUV and the two of them climbed out of the truck.
The two of them walked up to the door, as Pete came out to stand on the porch. "Hey Een! DanDan!" Pete yelled, running down the stairs and jumping into Danny's arms.
"What's up, Kid?" Danny asked.
"Nothing. Are you OK?"
"I'll be fine," Danny answered. "Listen. I need you to do me a favor."
"Anything," Pete answered.
"I need you to go up to my room, and look in my desk, and get my passport and bring it down to me. I need to talk to Mom and Dad for a few minutes, too, so when you bring it down, I need you to go up to your room for a few minutes so that I can talk to them in private."
"Are you in trouble, Danny? You're not doing drugs are you?"
"No. I'm not doing drugs."
"But you are in trouble?" Pete asked as they walked up the steps. Danny looked at Olga, who was standing there, concern in her face.
"Yeah. I'm in trouble, Petey."
Olga opened the door, allowing Danny to bring Pete into the house. Ian followed. Danny set Pete onto the ground. Almost as fast, Pete ran upstairs to Danny's room to look for his passport. Danny, with Ian in a supporting position directly behind him, walked into the living room. Dan stood from the sofa. He was still mad from the heated discussion from earlier.
"You OK, Kid?" Dan asked.
"I will be, Dad," Danny said. Dan reached up and took Danny into a hug, as was the way he did things.
After a moment, Dan pulled apart. "If you ever speak so disrespectfully to your mother like you did earlier, I will personally make your life hell. Alright?"
"Yes sir," Danny answered. "Mom. I'm sorry about being an asshole earlier."
"It's alright," Olga said as she hugged Danny as well. "Um...Guys. I'm going to take a trip with Ian."
"OK," Dan said. "Where? Why? When? How?"
"Well. We're gonna end up in Dili," Danny said. Olga smiled at Ian.
"Savia que você iva ir!" Olga said to Ian as he smiled.
"We're gonna go to Brazil for a few days first, though, to see Avó and Tia Gloria."
"And I was gonna see if Pete wanted to go down there to spend some time with them, too," Ian informed.
"When...um...within a couple of days, I guess. How. Ian is loaning me the money to go. The why is a little more difficult to answer."
"Found it!!!" Pete said as he climbed down the stairs, waving Danny's passport around in the air. "Here you go, DanDan!" Pete said.
"Hey. You want to go to Rio with me and DanDan?" Ian asked.
"What do you think?!?!?!?!" Pete said, looking at Ian.
"OK. Then why don't we go upstairs and find your passport."
"It's in Mom's desk in the office downstairs," Pete answered.
"Your birthday," Olga said, looking at Ian.
"OK..." Ian said, knowing that she had just passed him the code to the lock box that was in her desk. Ian and Pete went downstairs to his parents' office where, at one point, all his clothes and a lot of his personal things had been stored after he sold his house in Nashville.
"So now the why," Dan said.
"Y'all. I'm about to tell y'all something that is gonna really piss you guys off."
"Spill it, Danielo," Olga said as she went to stand beside Dan.
"Um. Why don't we sit down," Danny suggested.
"You're stalling, Danny," Dan said as they all sat down.
"I know. I'm trying to figure out how to say it exactly."
"Just try the truth, nothing more, nothing less," Dan said.
"Umm...a couple of months ago, when Jen and I went to the beach, some things happened between us."
"Define things," Dan said.
"We...um...were having really, really good sex," Danny answered. "Well. Things got a little heated before I could take necessary precautions."
"Are you telling us that we're about to be grandparents?" Olga asked.
Danny looked down. "About two weeks ago, Jen did find out she was pregnant."
"Oh shit," Olga said, standing and walking into the kitchen. Dan and Danny heard the cabinet slam shut and a couple of glasses hit the counter. In a moment, she returned with a drink for her and Dan. "So Jen is pregnant?"
"No. She and I were having dinner one night a few days after she told me, and she started cramping really bad." Olga chugged the rest of the drink, pulling it down and letting the sound of the ice hitting the bottom of the glass break an uncomfortable silence in the room. "So we got to the hospital, but by then, she'd already lost the baby." Olga and Dan both stood up from where they were sitting and moved to sit next to Danny on the sofa. Olga wrapped her arms around him as Dan rubbed his back. Once again, Danny started crying. "I'd already decided on a boy's name, too," Danny said.
"What was it, baby?" Olga asked.
"Ian Pedro," Danny answered.
"Two great guys," Dan said.
"Guys. I'm so sorry about all this," Danny said.
"Don't apologize, Danny," Olga said. "Tudo vai estar bem."
"Do Gilda and Dan know?"
"As of this afternoon, no. But I haven't talked to Jen. We kinda broke up."
"Damn, kid," Dan said.
"DANDAN!!!!" Pete said. "Een told me about the trip that you two are going on and why you're going, and I'm excited that I get to spend some time with Avó and Tia Gloria by myself."
"He told you why we're going."
"Yeah. I haven't told you that story yet," Ian explained, giving Danny the look that said that he hadn't mentioned anything about why Danny was upset that evening.
"So I'm gonna get my suitcase packed," Danny said. "Does Avó know I'm coming, yet?"
"Not yet. We'll call her in the morning," Ian said.
"OK. That works. I'm gonna go get packed," Pete said as he ran off, up the stairs, to his bedroom.
"This should be interesting," Dan said.
"I'll go back through his suitcase in the morning," Olga said.
"So I'm gonna go back over to Ian's house tonight," Danny said. "Unless I'm grounded until we leave or something."
"Nope. You're not grounded," Dan said after he looked at Olga.
"First, you're going to go through a lot of shit before it all gets better," Olga said. "And because you had sex, we certainly can't fault you, we just hope that in the future, you will try to be a little more cautious and careful."
"Yeah. I will NEVER have sex without a condom again. Hell, I should probably just stick to doing myself."
"That's more information than I needed to know," Ian joked.
"Don't act like you've never pulled the pud, Een," Danny fired back.
"OK. Some things a mother doesn't need to know!"
"And second, Danny, you told us the truth. That's the most important thing."
"Told ya!" Ian said. Danny smiled.
"OK. I'll come over in the morning and call Avó with Petey," Ian said as Danny and he were getting ready to leave to return to his house.
"OK. I'll see you in the morning then," Olga said.
After saying good night to Pete, Ian and Danny returned to Ian's house. As they pulled up the driveway, Danny was the first to notice Jen's car sitting in the driveway. He instantly began feeling himself knot up inside. Ian assured him that everything would be OK, and that he was sure that Jen just needed to talk to Joey, much in the same way that Danny had needed to talk to him. Danny said that he would just hang out in Ian's office for a little bit, until Jen left. Ian told him that might not be the best idea, that he should come up, and that he shouldn't be nervous around Jen or Joey. They climbed out of a truck after Ian parked his SUV behind the truck that Joey had gotten in February for his birthday.
Quietly, they walked up the back stairs. Quietly, they walked into the back door.
"Joeycito...I'm home..." Ian said in his best imitation of Ricky Ricardo. As they walked into the living room, Jen jumped off the sofa and ran to Danny, wrapping her arms around his waist.
"Everything OK?" Ian mouthed to Joey. Joey shook his head and held up one finger to let Ian know that he'd tell him later what was going on. Joey wasn't happy, but his anger wasn't directed to Danny, it seemed.
Jen began to cry as Danny held her in Ian's living room. "Joey. Why don't we go downstairs for a second? I...um...need to show you something in my truck."
"OK," Joey said, not having to take time to figure out what Ian was saying. Quickly, Joey walked around Danny and Jen and followed Ian down the narrow staircase into the basement. They walked outside and stood in the driveway, looking up at the moon. Without thinking, Ian put his hand around Joey's waist as the two stood there for a minute.
"So did Danny tell you?"
"Yeah. I take it Jen told you."
"You would take correctly, Mr. da Silva."
There was another moment between them. "So did Jen tell y'all's parents?"
"Oh yeah. It wasn't pretty, from what I understand. Jen said that Gilda went upstairs and started packing Jen's things while Dan was looking for his gun to come find Danny. She said she figured Danny would be here, because his car wasn't at home when she drove by your Mom's house," Joey said.
"Yeah. So did Danny tell your mom and Dan?"
"Yeah. It was pleasant compared to your parents' reaction, though."
"You know. That's something I like about your parents. We can be ourselves completely around them. With Mom and Dad, sometimes it's hit or miss. Like, when Dad found out that I was gay, I could have sworn that he was going to kill me, but Mom didn't care. Then this happened, and Jen said that they both went wild."
"I hope she's OK."
"I'm sure she will be. Is it cool, though, if she stays over here for a little while?"
"Of course. She's family. This is what family does for each other."
"It's your house, though."
"OUR house, Joey."
"Sorry. Our house," Joey said, adding a smile to the end of the phrase. "You know. My sister loves your brother. She told me earlier that she didn't want to break up with him, she just didn't know what she was saying."
"And my brother loves your sister, because she doesn't just like him for his body or the size of his dick."
"She obviously likes the latter, though!" Joey joked. Ian chuckled.
"You know. When they started dating, I kinda thought that they were trying to hook us up to keep me out of their hair."
"And I thought that Danny just felt sorry for me, given everything that had been going on in the few months before. I'm glad I was wrong, though."
"Me too, gorgeous."
"So Danny, Petey, and I are going to Brazil, then Danny and I are going to Dili while Pete stays with the Avó."
"Sounds like fun. I really wish that I could go with you, babe. I promise that I'm not trying to blow you off or anything."
"I know that, Joey. You've got stuff to do. I mean. I am gonna have just as much fun the day you get hooded as you are...Dr. Ruiz!"
"Y'all can come back up now," Danny yelled from the back porch.
"We'll be there in a second," Joey yelled back.
"We're having one of your beers," Danny informed.
"And Aaron and JJ are on their way."
"OK..." Joey and Ian said simultaneously.
"So," Joey said. "I'm glad that I have you in my life, Mr. da Silva."
"Likewise, Mr. Ruiz...soon to be Dr. Ruiz!"
After giggling joyfully for a moment, the two men walked back upstairs, into the backdoor, to find the two of them standing in the living room, talking. "Have a beer guys," Danny said as he pulled them out of the fridge and handed them to Joey and Ian.
"Gee. Thanks man. This is my favorite kind of beer. Wherever did you find it?" Ian said with a smartass tone in his voice.
"Oh man. I know this guy that imports it all the way from Brazil."
"Speaking of. We have to figure out a way to bring me some back."
"OH! Would you be offended if I didn't go to Dili with you?"
"No. I don't guess. Why not?"
"Because Jen is going to go to Brazil with us. Is that cool?"
"Oh yeah. It's awesome," Ian said.
"And I will have to get some money out of my bank account to pay you back or something, but I'll have to do it in the morning."
"That's cool," Ian said.
"Are you sure you don't mind, Ian?" Jen asked, almost meekly.
"God no! Besides, while we're there, I want to find Matias. Maybe I can convince him to go with me or something."
"I'm not sure I'd be very comfortable with that," Joey said.
"Yeah. I'm with Joey on that one, Een," Danny concurred.
"Well. Then I'll talk to him, and if Danny thinks it's cool, I'll ask him. Otherwise, I won't mention it to him."
Joey looked at Danny, as if they could create a response without discussing it openly. Danny was going to let Joey make that call though, from the way he was acting. "That works, I suppose," Joey answered.
Ian smiled. "I love it when you get protective!" Joey playfully flexed his chest and arms a bit, making everyone grin.
"So what's going on between the two of you? I take it that the breakup from this afternoon isn't in effect any more," Joey said.
Danny looked at Jen. "Well, it is. But we decided that it was stupid for us not to get through this together."
"And we've decided that we are still very much attracted to each other and in love, but that this was our sign that we need to slow things down," Danny added.
"So we're gonna hang out, have fun, enjoy ourselves, and if we end up together in the end, we end up together in the end."
"Jen was telling me that she's gonna find me a rebound girl while we're in Brazil."
"THAT should be interesting," Joey added as he took a sip of his beer. Ian chuckled.
"Yeah. She's gonna have a big butt and nice titties, and Danny is gonna fuck her silly," Jen joked as Danny grinned, a little embarrassed. "And I'm gonna tell Aaron that Danny's technically single again."
"Baby. Do we HAVE to do that?!?!?!"
"You might get that rebound lovin' tonight, babe," Jen joked.
"HELLO!" Aaron and JJ said as they came into the front door of Ian's house.
"Hey y'all!" Danny said. "We're in here."
"How are the sexiest people I know?"
"We're good," Danny answered.
"I was soooo talking to Ian and Joey!" Aaron fired back, jokingly, as he hugged Jen. JJ got up in the mix as well, giving Jen and Danny a hug and saying hello to Ian and Joey.
"How are you doing, Danny-boy?" Aaron asked. For a second, there was a look of sheer horror on Aaron's face.
"They both know," Danny answered, allaying any fears that were running through Aaron's mind.
"OK. Good. So are you doing OK?"
"Yeah. I'm doing good."
"I'm alright," she answered.
"Good!" Aaron said.
They stood around talking for a while. Ian told them all about the letter. Danny smiled, having finally learned the reason why Ian was planning a trip to Dili. Jen and Danny told Aaron about their `break up'. Aaron responded in usual form by asking if that meant that the make up sex was happening the next night instead of that night. They laughed a little bit. At around one in the morning, they heard footsteps coming up the back stairs. Ian went outside to investigate what was going on.
"Don," Ian said as he noticed Joey and Jen's father climbing up the stairs to the back door.
"Hi. Is Jen here?"
"I need to talk to her in private," he said coldly.
"Well. If you'd like, you can come inside..."
"No. Out here would be better."
"Alright..." Ian commented. Ian walked back into the house. "Joey. Your dad's outside wanting to talk to Jen."
"OK. I'll handle it," Joey said as he stood from the table where he had been sitting with JJ. He walked outside.
"I said I wanted to talk to Jen," Don proclaimed.
"Sorry. After what happened tonight, Dad, she's gonna stay here. Everybody needs some time to get past all of this."
"I mean. You won't ever know what it feels like to have a faggot for a son and a whore for a daughter!" Don said, hatefully. Joey was standing at the top of the porch. He knew what he wanted to say, but he couldn't, out of respect for the man who was partly responsible for his birth. "So go get your sister and tell her that she's leaving."
"Not happening, Dad. Sorry. Just go home and sleep whatever it is you've been drinking off."
"NO! I am your father, damnit. You will fucking do what I say!" Don demanded as he started walking up the stairs. Joey took a stance at the top of the stares, between the railings.
"Well. If you want to try to get past me, then go ahead. Just keep in mind that I go to the gym five days a week. I could easily lift you over my head and break you like a twig."
"Just try it," Don said as he continued to walk toward Joey. He put his hands on Joey's chest and started pushing. Joey remained still, unmoved. Don finally gave up after a couple of attempts.
"You want one more shot before I throw you down the stairs?" Joey asked, holding his position. Don reached up and spit on Joey. Almost immediately, Don turned and started running down the stairs. Joey wiped his face and followed him, flexing his muscles.
"Oh shit," Danny said. "They're going down the stairs," he said as he was watching the goings on from a place where Joey and their dad couldn't see. He got up from his position, along with Aaron and Ian, and ran out the door chasing after Joey.
"It's not worth it, Joey," Ian said as he moved in front of Danny and Aaron.
"Fuck that, Ian. This has needed to happen for a long time," Joey said. "Come on, Dad. You started this shit, and now I'm gonna finish it!" he yelled.
"JOEY!" Ian yelled as he started to catch up with Joey. Don climbed into his car and started. Joey caught the door.
"Come on, old man. You scared of me, a little fag boy!" Joey screamed as he pulled open the door. Joey, in complete and total rage, pulled the man out of the car and slammed him up against the closed back door. "Listen here, fucker. You will NOT fuck with my sister ever again. You will not speak to her the way you did tonight. You will NOT disrespect her, in your house, mine, or anybody else's. You understand me?"
"Yeah," the man managed to whine.
"Good. Now when I let you down, you will have ONE minute to be away from this house. If you're not...well...let's just say that it won't be pretty," Joey instructed as he let the man down and walked two steps back from the car. Without thinking, the man climbed into the car and backed away. He sped down the driveway, much in the same manner that Danny had sped into the driveway earlier in the day. Joey stood there and watched as his father drove away. He took a deep breath and then turned around to find Ian, Danny, and Aaron standing there.
"You alright, babe?" Ian asked.
"Yeah. I'll be fine," he said as he leaned into Ian's ear. "I love you more, right now, than I ever have loved anyone in my entire life." Ian smiled, leaving Danny and Aaron wonder what was said. It surprised Ian, but he wasn't going to complain. "Danny. While in Brazil, you better take care of my sister. Because if you don't, THAT will be what happens to you...only worse."
"There's no question about that," Danny said immediately. "We might not be `officially' together, but she's still my world."
"That was sooo sweet!!!" Aaron declared, breaking any remaining tension in the group. It made Joey chuckle a little bit, which was good.
"So baby," Ian said. "What do you say that you and I run to that liquor store in Alabaster that's open 24/7?"
"Are you gonna try to get me liquored up or something and take advantage of me?" Ian asked.
"Hey. If Ian's not game, JJ and I are!" Aaron piped up before he and Danny turned to go back upstairs.
Joey and Ian stood there for a moment. "SO would you have bailed me out?"
"In a second," Ian said. "I mean. It's not like you were messing with him for the sake of messing with him. You were defending your sister, just like you would have defended me, Danny, Pete, my Mom or Dan. That's one of those things that I love about you."
"My overprotective tendencies?"
"It makes me feel safe," Ian responded. "When I needed somebody to make me feel safe, you were there. That is why I think I initially started falling in love with you. Then, as I got to know you, I realized all those good things about you that I really like."
"So it wasn't the amazing sex we had the second time we saw each other?"
"That certainly didn't HURT," Ian answered.
"So y'all are going to the liquor store," JJ said as he came down the stairs.
"Yeah. You want something?" Joey asked.
"No. I don't need to drink anything. I was going to offer to drive you two there. If Ian will let me drive his truck, that is."
"Sure, man. Come on," Ian said as he and Joey climbed into the truck. JJ climbed into the driver's seat. Ian gave him the keys and they were off. After driving to Alabaster to buy alcohol, they arrived safely back at Ian's house. It was almost two in the morning, but none of them were tired. Ian and Joey started mixing drinks that went missing as soon as one of them sat it on the counter.
At one point, JJ, Aaron, Ian, and Joey all sat at the table, talking about random things. "Why don't we step outside for second?" Jen whispered into Danny's ear at one point. Quietly, the two of them stepped out onto the back porch. Jen leaned up against the railing, putting her elbows on the wood. Danny leaned up against it right next to her, facing the house, watching the guys as they all themselves stupid.
"So are you feeling OK?"
"Yeah. I'm feeling fine. I just wanted to have a moment alone with you."
Danny smiled. "Oh?"
"Yeah. I'm drunk, and you know how when I get drunk, I tend to say things that I wouldn't say when I'm sober."
"Danny. I know that I told you that I wanted you to find a rebound girl while we were in Brazil."
"I don't really want you to. I would get jealous!" Jen said in a drunken haze.
"I wouldn't have anyway. There is only one girl I want," Danny said.
"Tell me about her."
"She's smart; she's funny; she's nice; she's smoking hot."
"Sounds like a great girl, DanDan!"
"Oh! And the way she says `DanDan' sounds so...very...sexy."
"You should get her number, Papi."
"I already have her number," Danny said, with a smile on his face.
"I bet she has GREAT tits!" Jen joked.
"Yeah. She does," Danny said, trying to act really cool.
"Danny. Can I be honest with you?"
"When I told you I was pregnant, I was totally expecting you to bail on me. I was totally expecting you to pretend like you didn't know me."
"Why do you think I would have done that, Jen? I love you, baby."
"I don't know. In Jersey, a friend of mine got knocked up when we were 15. The guy who got her pregnant refused to admit that the baby was his. I saw the way that things happened, and when I found out that I was pregnant, I was worried that the same thing would happen to me, and that I'd be working three dead end jobs to make ends meet while you were living it up and playing soccer, and enjoying pussy anytime you wanted it."
"Jen. I would been right there with you, changing little Ian Pedro's diapers, making bottles, whatever I had to do to make yours and that babies life the best I could."
"And part of me knows that, but part of me was still worried."
Danny pulled a little box out of his pocket. "So since we're being honest. The night that you...um...lost the baby. I was planning...on...seeing if you wanted to go somewhere and get married." He opened the box to show Jen the ring that he'd purchased for her.
"Really?" Jen asked.
"Yeah. I mean. In my mind, that was the first thing that I was supposed to do. And then, at the end of summer, I was going to quit school and get a job. It'd have my two babies to take care of." Jen started to tear up. "Aw. Baby. Don't cry," Danny said as he took her into a hug.
"Danny. I don't want to be broken up."
"Me neither, baby," Danny said as he wrapped his arm around her, pulling her into a protective embrace, letting her cry into his chest. He reached down and kissed the crown of her head.
"So I should probably go to bed," Jen said.
"That probably wouldn't be such a bad idea," Danny said as the two of them walked back into the house. It was obvious that Jen had been crying; it was obvious that a few more seconds of that conversion, and Danny would have been right there with her.
"Everything OK?" Joey asked.
"Yeah. I'm just kinda drunk and kinda emotional," Jen answered as she and Danny walked through the kitchen and living room to the stairs. Jen made it up the first couple before getting really, really dizzy. Danny, being the man that he was, picked up her and carried her the rest of the way up the stairs. He set her in his bed, pulled back the covers until she'd positioned herself just how she wanted to be. Then he gently pulled the covers back over her. "You're not gonna get in bed with me," Jen said.
"Jen. I want to so bad, but I'm afraid that, when you wake up in the morning, you'll regret letting me sleep in the same bed with you."
"That makes sense. Well. Can I ask you a favor then?"
"Danny. I kinda don't want to be by myself. Would you at least stay in here with me for a while?"
"Sure," Danny said. He pulled some blankets out of the closet that was filled with some of Ian's clothes. He took a single pillow off the bed and made himself a pallet on the floor. He quickly fell asleep as Jen fell asleep on the bed. Aaron soon noticed that Danny hadn't come down. To that end, he went up to check on them, finding them sweetly lying apart. After peeing, he went back downstairs and told everyone about the scene. Among the gay men, especially Joey, awed the sweetness that Aaron was telling them about.
At around sunrise, JJ and Aaron went upstairs to the guest room, which he again jokingly referred to as his room. Ian and Joey, after checking on their siblings, went into their bedroom and fell asleep. It had been a long day, and they were ready for the bed when the time finally came.
"Timor (Shakira), Part II/It is Well With My Soul (Levi Kreis)"
The next morning, Jen woke well before Danny. She turned over in the bed, positioned herself a top a pillow so that she could look down at Danny. She was smiling as she watched him lying on the floor, quite uncomfortably. Noticing that Danny had put some tissue on the table beside her bed, along with a trash can, she grabbed the box of tissues and began wadding some of them up. Gently, she tossed the wadded tissues at Danny as he slept.
"You know I could throw these right back at you, and not feel guilty," Danny said.
"You know you'd feel bad if I got hurt...even by tissues."
"Well. Yeah. You're right," Danny said as he rolled over onto his side and looked up at her. "So do you remember what we talked about last night?"
"Yeah. I remember," Jen said as she smiled. "Danny. I love you. I meant what I said."
Danny smiled. "I knew you did. I meant what I said, too."
"I knew you did," Jen responded with a wide smile. "So why don't you climb onto the bed and get some actual rest?"
"You gonna cuddle with me?"
"What do you think? You are my favorite boyfriend, after all!"
Danny smiled widely, climbed off the floor and into the bed. The two of them smiled as they lay into each other's bodies.
Ian and Joey slept until well after 2 in the afternoon. They were only awoken by the sound of the telephone ringing. It was Pete, wanting to know where Ian was and if he'd called their `Avó' yet. Ian smiled, despite the hangover from which he suffered. Pete made him get out of bed before he would hang up the phone though, insistent that he call their grandmother before doing anything else that morning. Ian kissed Joey's arm before climbing out of the bed and walking down into the kitchen. He put some ice into a glass, which served as proof enough that he was awake and out of bed.
He hung up the phone, but not before warning his brother that he better make the call and not get back into the bed. As he hung up the phone, he pulled out his cell phone and looked up his grandmother's phone number. From his home phone, he dialed the number and pulled it up to his ear, waiting for the line to connect. It rang a couple of times without an answer.
"Aló?" an older woman said as she answered the phone.
"Nana?" Ian said.
"Ian! Neto! Cómo está você?" (How are you?)
"Muito bem, Nana. E você?" (Very well, Nana. And you?)
"Ah. Agora, sobrevivo." (I'm surviving.)
"Muito bem. Me alegro de ouvir," Ian said. (Very well. I'm happy to hear it.)
"Pois...Quê está pasando?" (Well. What's going on?)
"Nada. Petey queria que lhe chame. Ele quere vir a Brazil sem os pãis." (Petey wanted me to call you. He wants to come to Brazil without the parents.)
"AH!!!! Ay Meu Deus!!!" Maria, Ian's Avó, known to the kids as Nana, said to him. "Let me make a phone call. I will call you right back," she said in a very thick accent. The only reason she'd learned English was so that she could communicate with her son-in-law and their children.
"OK. Vou estar aqui. Chama-me cuando tem acabado." (OK. I'll be here. Call me when you're finished.)
"OK. Tchau," Nana said as she hung up the phone.
Within just a moment, the phone at Olga's house was ringing. "I'll get it!" Pete yelled. Olga knew that it would be Ian, so she let him grab the phone. "Hello?"
"Netinho?" Maria said.
"NANA! Como está você?" Pete asked.
"Estou muito bem. E você, meu homeminho."
"Estou bem. Hey. Nana. Estou aprendendo o português. Mama e Een me ensinam." (I'm learning Portuguese. Mama and Een are teaching me.)
"Muito bem. Você vai falar perfeitamente muito pronto." (You'll be speaking perfectly in no time!)
"Obrigado!" Pete said.
"So you want to come to Brazil with Ian?"
"Well. It will be good to see you. When are you coming?"
"I don't know. In a few days. Ian is making the plans for me, him, and Danny," Pete answered.
"Oh very good!" Olga said.
"Well. I will let you go. I need to call Ian again. Tell your mother that I will call her later. I love you, netinho."
"Te amo, Nana. Tchau!"
Maria called Ian back and told him to make the details as soon as possible. It was obvious that she was ready to see her grandsons in America. She hung up from him and then called Olga back. Olga noted that she was more excited than she'd been in a long time. Sure, she saw Matias all the time, but there was a mystique for her about Olga's children. She'd gotten to know Ian, but she hadn't really had the chance with Danny and Pete. She longed for them to know that she loved them more than the world itself, and this was proving to be a great chance for her to get to know Pete and Danny, moving closer to the way that she knew Ian.
Within a few hours, the trip was booked. They would be leaving in a few days for Brazil, after Danny and Jen went to the nearest consular office to have theirs, along with Pete's, passport stamped. Since they were American citizens, they wouldn't be able to enter without it. Ian, on the other hand, continued his dual citizenship and was able to travel without any problems. A week later, they were sitting on the beach in Brazil. Ian had planned his trip so that he spent a few days in Brazil and then a few days in Timor Leste.
On the first day in Brazil, he, Danny, Pete, and Jen had a grand dinner at Maria's house in Maricá. Gloria was there, as were several members of the family that wanted to see Ian and meet Danny and Pete, some for the first time. Matias was there, as well. For a while, Gloria, Maria, and Pete all noticed the tension between the two of them, but none of them said anything. After all the extended family had left, though, and after Pete, Danny, and Jen had all gone to bed, Matias and Ian were left up with Gloria and Maria. The women were working on something upstairs as Matias and Ian were sitting in the living room of the home he'd purchased for his grandparents shortly after `hitting it big' in Brazil.
"So how have you been?" Ian asked as the two watched TV.
"I've been OK," Matias answered, his English having been perfected from talking to Ian in the language for years.
"That's good," Ian answered.
Another few minutes of silence passed between them as they watched some silly comedy show on TV.
"Yeah..." Ian responded.
"Ian. How long has it been since we talked?"
"A long time," Ian answered, finally turning to look at Matias.
"It's been too long, primo. We used to talk once a week or something. Now we've gone over a year without saying but a few words to each other, tonight."
"I'm sorry about that, Matty," Ian said, using a nickname that he'd given his cousin years before. "It's just that I've been trying to get through things in my mind..."
"You don't have to explain, Ian. I mean, we've both needed to get through some things. You've been dealing with your addiction; I've been dealing with my own things," Matias answered. "Um. I quit a lot of stuff myself a while ago."
"That's awesome, Matty!"
"Yeah. After you passed out, I went downhill really fast. I started drinking all the time. I mean, I went two months without being sober. I got fired from my job. It was a bad time."
"Why didn't you call me, Matias?"
"Because it was all because I felt bad because I felt responsible for what happened to you. I couldn't expect you to recover for yourself and help me recover at the same time, and I know that I wouldn't have been able to help you out very much."
Ian turned and looked into his cousins eyes. "Then let's make a deal that we won't just stop talking. I mean, you've been one of my only friends in all my life, and we're family. I'm not going to disown you or anything; you're not going to disown me. Matty. I can't go the rest of my life without knowing you're in it."
Matias smiled. "There are a lot of times that I've picked up my phone to call you, Ian. I just didn't know if you'd want to even talk to me. And I'm sure, from the cheesy look on your face that you feel the same way."
"Yeah. I was telling Joey the other night that I should have called you a long time ago."
"Joey? Your boyfriend?"
"Yeah. He's an amazing guy, Matias. I wish he could have come down."
"I'm sure he doesn't care too much for me, though."
"Once he gets to meet you, that will all change, Matias. Why don't you come up when I get back and get ready to go home?"
"If I had the money to..."
"Excuses! You just don't want to come. I see how you are, primo," Ian joked with his cousin.
"No. I'm desempregado, agora." (I'm unemployed right now.)
"Well. Then you have time to do something with me," Ian said as he sat up on the couch. "Your passport up to date?"
"Then go to Timor Leste with me."
"Ian...I really don't have the money."
"Well. I'm paying for it. I don't want to go that far by myself."
"I don't know..."
"Please! Pra seu primo favorito," Ian said. (For your favorite cousin...)
"When are you leaving?" Matias said, realizing that he wasn't going to win the battle.
"Two days," Ian answered.
"OK," Matias said. "That doesn't give me much time, then."
"Nope," Ian said with a smile.
"You want to know something, Ian."
"I think one thing that makes us work so well as friends is because you can always convince me to do things I wouldn't normally do," Matias said.
"At least this time it won't kill you...unless of course you get malaria!"
"I could get that in parts of Brazil!" Matias countered to Ian's reference to the fact that it had been at Ian's insistence that Matias try cocaine, something that made Ian feel both guilty and remorseful when he thought about it.
Two days later, after trips all around Rio with Pete, Ian left Brazil with Matias on what was sure to be on the longest flights of his life. It took almost half a day to fly from Rio to Auckland, New Zealand. After a six hour layover there, they flew to Sydney and then to Darwin. They spent the night there before taking a small, chartered plane from there to Dili, Timor Leste.
As the plane touched down, it seemed like they were in a completely different world. The place was riddled from violence, but it was as if that didn't matter to the people there. As in Brazil, there was a mix of faces and skins. There were dark people; there were light people; there were people in between. As the plane landed, the flight attendant told them the story about the creation of the island of Timor. Apparently, a boy helped a crocodile make it to the sea. After consulting several animals that he felt were wiser than him, the crocodile decided not to eat the boy because he'd helped him. Instead, he told the boy that when he decided to see the world, that the crocodile would take him on his back to wherever his heart desired. After traversing the globe, the crocodile was old and tired. Instead of eating the boy, again, he told the boy that he would always be with him. So to keep his word, he turned himself into an island for the boy and his descendants, the island that became Timor.
When he and Matias left the airport, they hailed a taxi, giving the cabby instructions to take them to Hotel Esplanada on the Avenida da Portugal. They arrived to find their accommodations more than adequate in this ravaged nation. They went to bed soon enough, having spent the better part of two days travelling. In the room they were sharing, Ian went to sleep on one bed; Matias fell asleep on the other. They each called their respective partners in America and Brazil to let them know of their safe arrival, and then they went to bed.
The next morning, after comfortably sleeping the evening and night away, Ian woke at around 8:30. He went to the lobby of the hotel to grab some breakfast before returning to the room to shower and get ready to head to the Hospital Nacional Dili, the place where Ana was passing the time in relative comfort as she was being treated for cancer. By 11, with both Ian and Matias ready to go, they went downstairs to get in the car the front desk had arranged for them.
They pulled up to the front of the hospital a short time later, climbing out of the car as the driver said he would park and wait for their return from seeing the little girl. While in Australia, they'd bought her some toys and things to make the whole situation seem a little less than what it actually was. Ian had also made her some CDs of unreleased material, writing a little note to her on each of the CDs. The language of the notes corresponded to the language of the material on the CD. In all, there were eight of them. While in Australia, they also picked her up a CD player and a LOT of batteries, just in case they were needed.
As soon as they walked into the hospital, each carrying two bags, Ian was recognized by the staff that was walking around the lobby. Ian smiled at all those faces that smiled at him as they walked to the reception area.
"A gente busca o quarto de Ana da Gloria," Ian said as the lady sifted through a registry of all the patients in the hospital. (We're looking for the room of Ana da Gloria.)
"Você é familia?" she asked. She seemed to know that they weren't. She had been in Ana's room several times. The little girl, through her courage and genuineness, had become a mascot, of sorts, for the hospital. She was one of those patients that had been known to sneak out of her room in order to seek out other children that might be in the hospital for whatever reason. Ian hadn't learned any of this yet, though. (Are you family?)
"Não. Me chamo Ian da Silva...pois...Scott. Ela me escriveu uma carta, e eu decidi visitar-lhe," Ian answered. (No. My name is Ian da Silva...well...Scott. She wrote me a letter, and I decided to visit her.)
"E ele é," she said, pointing to Matias.
"Ele é meu primo, Matias. Veio comigo para que não houvesse de viajar em só," Ian answered. (He's my cousin, Matias. He came with me so that I wouldn't have to travel alone.)
"Ah! Muito bem! Is it OK..." she started in very thickly accented English, "if I speak English to you?"
"That would be awesome," Ian said with a smile. The lady stood and motioned for them to follow her.
As they walked past various wards of the hospital on their way to Ana's room. She began telling a story. "Little Ana is very special to all of us," she started. "She has this cancer, but she is still very active. She refuse to give up," the lady said. "She even challenges all of us here to better ourselves. For example, she told me that she was learning English so that she could listen to your music. I tell her that I want to learn English as well, but that I am too old to do that. She tell me that one is never too old to continue learning. It is because of her that I am speaking English to you today."
"That is sweet," Ian said.
After a few minutes walking, they arrived at the nurse's station where Ana was staying. The nurses, whose mood had been tempered by the little girl to some degree, were ecstatic to see Ian walking around the corner. Each of them ran up to him, crying as if he were there to make their worlds. They hugged him and each told him a story about Ana and how she was the kindest, gentlest person to ever pass through their floor. They all knew she was terminal; she knew she was terminal. They made no jokes about it, but she would let herself waste away. In turn, they told Ian that they'd promised to treat her as if she were going to live to be 1,000 years old. It wasn't denial, but rather that she was determined to live...every single day.
To introduce Ian, two of the nurses went and stood in Ana's door. They said that they had a surprise for her. They turned and looked at Ian, who belted out a chorus to his first song in Portuguese, "Deixa a voz me levar". The nurses moved out of the way so that Ian could stand in the doorway, in full view of Ana from where she lay on the hospital bed. She was smiling as if her life were then fulfilled. When he finished, she threw up both of her hands, beckoning Ian to come into the room to see her. Ian handed the bags to one of the nurses and walked into the room. He walked over to the bed where she lay virtually immobile and gave her the hug that she was nonverbally asking for.
He immediately felt this little girl's energy. She oozed enthusiasm, grace, innocence, and life. "You got my letter," she said to him as their embrace ended. "I was wondering if you had, since I had not heard from you." Her English was almost perfect. It was a test to the character and strength.
"Well. I did get your letter. My mother actually got it," Ian said as her father pulled up a chair for him to sit in next to the bed. "She called me and read it to me over the phone," Ian said as he pulled the letter from his back pocket to show her. She was still smiling very, very openly and proudly.
"Is she a nice lady?"
"Oh definitely," Ian answered. "She told me to tell you that she hopes that you get better soon."
"Tell her that I said thank you," Ana said.
"I most certainly will," Ian said. "So this is my cousin Matias," Ian introduced. "He and I brought you a few things."
"Hello, Matias!" she said as Ian's cousin brought in the bags of goodies. She smiled at him as he bent down on the floor to set down the bags so that Ian could distribute the gifts to the little girl. "Where are you from?"
"Eu sou do Brasil," Matias answered. (I am from Brasil.)
"Quê cidade?" (What city?)
"Rio de Janeiro," Matias answered.
"Mesma cidade de Ian, verdade?" (Same city as Ian, right?)
"Sim," Ian and Matias answered in tandem. (Yeah.)
"Very cool," she said.
"So, Ana," Ian said. "We got you some stuffed animals. A kangaroo from Australia, a crocodile," Ian said as Matias took the toys out of the bags and played with them a little bit. She giggled. They handed her a few other stuffed toys that she accepted gracefully. She clutched onto a particular stuffed koala that the guys had given her. She held it close to her little body.
"Thank you so much, Ian. I appreciate all of these things. I am just so happy that you are here. In my letter, I said that I just wanted an autograph, so this is the best gift that anyone could have ever given me. Thank you, Ian."
"It's my pleasure, Ana," Ian said as reached out for his hand. "We also brought you some books, in Portuguese and English for you."
"That is so cool," she said. "Because of the cancer, I cannot go to school. I love learning new things, though."
"I'm so glad for that."
"I also made you some CDs," Ian said.
"REALLY?!?!?! You have a new CD out in America?"
"Nope. These are special CDs with music that I've recorded and not put on any of my other CDs." Her eyes lit up. She was about to listen to music that the world had never heard, placed thoughtfully on CDs by her musical idol. Then her face kind of went home.
"I don't have a CD player, though," Ana mentioned.
"Well," Matias said. "Ian thought of that, too!" He pulled the CD player out of the bag and handed the package to her.
"Ay Deus!" she said. She started to cry a little bit as Matias handed her the device. She seemed so grateful and so excited as Ian sat there watching her. He didn't know that her parents were standing behind him crying because of the sheer joy their daughter was experiencing. Nurses were standing in the doorway, neglecting their other patients to see what was going down in Ana's room. Within the few minutes they were there, news had travelled around the hospital that he'd come to visit her. He was becoming, in the eyes of the Timorese people there a man of great, great character. This was the way the Timorese public had seen him on his single trip to Dili years before. This is why he had fans there. Despite her lack of hair, Ian was learning that he was still able to touch people on a level deeper than most others. He had the ability to influence life and happiness in others.
At around 3, Ana had grown really tired. Despite the fact that she wanted to stay awake to see Ian, she just couldn't keep her little eyes open any longer. She had been awake for almost six hours, and the whole experience had taken its toll on her. Before going to sleep, she did ask him how long he was going to be in Timor, to which he replied that he would only be there a few days. She asked him to come back the next morning to see her, and with a smile, he responded affirmatively. After kissing her bald head gently, Ian and Matias left the hospital room. Every nurse on that hall hugged him and wished him well. Before they left the hall, Ana's mother had made her way out of the room and was calling for Ian to give her just a second.
"Ian. Senhor Scott!" she said as she made her way down the hall. "Ian!" she said as she reached where he and Matias were standing.
"Sim, senhora," Ian said with a gracious smile on his face.
"I wanted to tell you," she said in very accented English, "that you have just made my daughter's lifetime. You have made her father's and my lifetime. We have not seen our daughter so happy in a very, very long time. I just wanted to tell you that the next time you find yourself in Dili, please let us know. We owe you so much for giving us these happy moments with our daughter."
"If anything, I owe y'all for letting me come and experience the joy that is Ana da Gloria!" Ian responded.
"I feel the same way," Matias interjected.
"Well. Either way, the two of you will always be in our thoughts and prayers," she said before hugging them both. As they left the hospital, they noticed that a crowd had formed in the lobby. Comprised of mostly hospital staff, they all wanted to meet Ian Scott. By the time they left, they'd all heard about what he'd done, travelling from America to see a little cancer patient in Dili. They all either shook his hand or hugged him; some did both. It all seemed as if the light of his star was beginning to shine again, despite whether or not he wanted that to be the case.
When they returned to the hotel, Matias went into one room of their suite to call his girlfriend while Ian stayed in the bedroom, the landline attached to his ear as the phone rang.
"Hello?" Joey answered, groggy and obviously having been asleep.
"So I so just forgot about the time difference," Ian said into the phone.
"It's alright," Joey yawned. "It's you, so I'm with being awoken at close to two in the morning."
"I love you, Joey," Ian said, both randomly and not so much.
"What's wrong? Did you see the little girl? Is she OK?"
"She's wonderful. She has more life in his little body that most people get to have."
"So she's one of those lucky ones, right?"
"Right," Ian said after thinking about the question for a moment.
"So was she happy to see you?"
"OH Joey! It was amazing. She's dark skinned, bald, and emaciated from treatments, but she's so bubbly and energetic. I almost wish she weren't suffering from cancer."
"And she seemed grateful that I was there, but she wasn't starstruck or anything. She treated me like I was a close friend that she hadn't seen in a while. And she's so smart. She's like Pete smart. She speaks Portuguese and Tetum, along with English." Ian thought about the experiences that day and realized then that he was more moved that he'd thought initially.
"Baby. What's wrong?" Joey asked, having obviously sat up in the bed to talk to Ian.
"It's just that I can't for the life of me understand why God chose to let me live, after I almost destroyed myself and he's going to make her die when she hasn't even had a chance to experience life itself."
"You know. I can't answer that one, but I can hypothesize. Maybe he needed you to survive for this little girl. Maybe he needed you to survive for Danny, Pete...and, quite importantly but not more important than the rest...me. Maybe he needed you to survive so that you can fulfill a task that your death would have prevented from happening."
"But why her? Why this little girl? Joey. If she had the right treatment and a chance, she could rule the world!"
"For your lips to God's ears," Joey said with a smile that could be felt over the distance between them..
"Yeah..." Ian said, questioning his faith.
"So don't worry about that right now. Do what you can to help make her life a little bit better today? I mean, she's obviously your number 2 fan in the world, so just being there is a good thing, I'm sure."
"Who's my number 1 fan?" Ian asked with a smile, aware of what Joey would say.
"If you have to ask that, then we need to have a talk about our relationship when you get back to the States," Joey said, jokingly.
"I know you're my number 1 fan, Joey. I just wanted to see what you'd say!"
"So how are things going with you and your cousin?" Joey asked next.
"They're great, Joey. It's been a long time since I've seen him this happy and content."
"So he's not going to fuck things up again, do you think?"
"Probably not. We actually had a long talk on the plane about a lot of random things, and it was just as it had always been between us."
"Good. So is he gonna come back up here with you for a while?" Joey asked.
"Do you mind?"
"Not at all. He's your cousin, and despite the fact that I trust your brother, I still would rather see for myself that he's not going to fuck with you again," Joey responded.
"I love it when you get protective," Ian said with a smile on his face, a smile that could be felt the thousands of miles away in America.
"Well. I just can't help it. I've got a good thing, and I don't want to lose it."
"We'll have to discuss this later, but I'm the one who's got the good thing."
"Well. When you get home, I'll show you JUST how good I've got it!" Joey said, sexily.
"Ay, papinho," Ian said.
"So what are you doing right now?"
"Laying in bed by myself," Ian said.
"Me too. I thought about you right as I was going to bed."
"Yeah. I couldn't help myself, honestly, cause I have a HOT HOT HOT boyfriend."
"Did you make a mess?"
"Little one. All over my abs. Some of it even went down the cracks."
"Damn. You're putting me in a way, Joey."
"Like you weren't already," Joey said.
"Yeah. This is true!" Ian responded.
"So. I really should get back to sleep. I've got to be up early in the morning," Joey said. "But before I go, I just wanted to say that I'm lying in our bed. I have on a pair of sexy boxers, and I'm really missing you."
"I will be home in a few days, though. I promise. Just make sure you're wearing something sexy when I get there!" Ian said.
"Oh. We'll be naked real fast, probably."
"I would hope so," Ian responded. There was a moment between them. "So I love you, Joey. I will see you very soon."
"Yes. You will see me soon, and I love you, too," Joey responded as both of them smiled.
As they hung up the phone, Ian rolled over for a few minutes. Before he knew it, he was asleep. Matias came back into the room and saw him there, deciding not to disturb him. When Ian woke from his nap at around 9, the two of them went downstairs to find dinner. After watching TV for a little while, laughing at a comedy program on one of the local TV channels, the two went back to bed, unable to think of anything other than that that they wanted to do while they were in Dili.
The next morning, after very vividly dreaming, Ian pulled himself out of the bed at around 8:30 local time. He went downstairs to get something for breakfast before returning to the room, showering, and heading away from the hotel, toward the hospital. Matias had something about being really, really tired, so Ian didn't bother him by waking him.
When he arrived at the hospital, everyone seemed to be all smiles. He walked past the reception lady after greeting her politely and heading toward Ana's room. He stopped and spoke with each of the nurses before going into Ana's room. She was sitting up in her bed, reading a book and listening to her CD player. The koala to which she'd become so attached was lying in the bed next to her.
"Ian. Shhh...Charli is sleeping," she said, pointing to the koala.
"Oh!" Ian said. "How are you feeling today, Aninha?" Ian asked.
"I'm feeling GREAT!"
"Where are your parents?"
"They went to get some breakfast away from the hospital," she answered. "So where is Matias?"
"He was asleep in the hotel room when I left."
"So would you be upset if I gave one of the toys that you brought me to a little girl without parents?"
"I wouldn't mind at all," Ian answered.
"Well. Why don't we sneak to her room? She's a couple of halls over."
"Alright. So how do we do this?"
"Well. Just outside my room is a wheel chair. Grab that, and then we'll go down there."
"OK," Ian grabbed the chair, noticing the nurses as he took it into her room. In a moment, he lifted her little body from the bed and placed it gently into the chair. She smiled when he asked if everything were OK. With that, he stepped behind the chair and began pushing. "Now which toy should we get?"
"We should take her the kangaroo," she said as she inspected the toys so as to decide which one to take her.
"Alright," Ian said as he took it from the neat arrangement on the shelf. "So why the kangaroo?"
"Because the mother kangaroo carries her babies around in her pouch. And this is a mama kangaroo, so she'll have something to protect her," Ana answered.
"Oh...OK," Ian said as he handed her the kangaroo and went behind the chair to push her around a little bit. When they got out of the room, all the nurses were gone. They knew what was going on, so they scattered, to let her think that she was sneaking out of the room without them knowing. Ana gave him directions to the little girl's room. When they walked in, the room was empty and devoid of decoration. It was cold and sterile. The little girl was just lying on the bed, staring at the ceiling.
"Olá," Ana said to the little girl. She turned her head and looked at Ana and Ian, but she didn't say anything. "Ita bele ko'alia Tetun?" she asked in the aboriginal language of Timor, Tetum. (Do you speak Tetum?)
"Loos," the little girl answered. (Yes.)
"Hau nia naran Ana." (My name is Ana.)
"Cloe," the little girl responded, almost nervous about being around people.
"Diak ka lai?" Ana asked as Ian pushed her chair closer. (So how are you?)
"Diak, obrigadu," the little girl answered. (I'm alright. Thank you.)
Ana presented the little girl with the gift that she'd brought. She explained, in Tetum, the meaning behind the gift. The little girl smiled and said a quick thank you. Ana introduced Ian as both her friend and her favorite singer. When her nurse came in, Ana and Ian left the room, but not before Ana promised that she would come see her again soon. As they meandered through the halls, they passed a small room that had been turned into a makeshift chapel, complete with a piano.
"So can I ask you for one thing, Ian?
"Will you play me a song?"
"Well yeah. I will," Ian said as he turned the chair around and went into the room. Ian sat down at the piano and played a couple of notes to warm up. "Wow. This is out of tune," he said. He opened the top and searched around for the key to the piano so that he could tune it. As on his piano at home, he was able to find it without any problem. He hit a few keys and then tuned the piano, all by ear. The priest that ran the little church at the hospital came into the room when he heard someone playing the piano.
"Lhes posso ajudar?" the priests asked.
"Oh! Ana!" he said when he realized who was in the room with the man playing his piano.
"Olá padre. Olha quem me visita," she said, in an innocent, childlike way. (Look who came to visit me.)
"Ay deus!" the priest said. "Ian Scott. Seu cantor favorito. It's very nice to meet you," he said in English. "I am Father Pereira."
"It's nice to meet you, father."
"You know that this little girl speaks of nothing than the music and the toys that you bring to her yesterday," he said in an attempt to practice his English.
"Well. She's been a very influential person in my life of late, and all she did was write a letter."
"She is `nosso anjo bonito'," the priest said.
"I am quickly learning that," Ian said.
"So what are you going to play?" the priest asked as he sat in a chair next to Ana.
"I don't know. I was going to leave it up to Ana."
"You pick, Father. Ian can play ANYTHING, I'm sure," Ana said.
"I don't know about that, now," Ian said as he finished tuning the piano.
"Well. There is a book in the bench," the priest said, with a smile on his face.
"OK," Ian said as he pulled it out.
"Just pick what ever the Holy Spirit guides you to play," the priest said. Ian opened the book that had been donated by some missionaries that came after the fall of Indonesia in 1999. He turned instantly to "It is Well With My Soul," a hymn written in swells of emotion in the 19th century. He started playing the piano, playing through the song once, so as to get he tune in his head.
As he played, a couple of people in the hallway came into the room to listen to the music that was being produced from the freshly tuned piano. The second time he played was with a voice accompaniment. Ian felt himself singing the words with his eyes closed once again, as he'd done at Joey's party, but his voice carried, further than it had carried in a long time. The words seemed to come back to him, despite the fact that he'd not sung this hymn since he was younger and regularly went to church with his Mom on Sunday mornings and Dan on Sunday nights.
It carried not only through that room, but out into the hallway, through the corridors adjacent to that part of the hospital. Before anyone knew it, people had started to file into the room. They sat down until there was no more room. They stood until there was no more room. They blocked the hallway outside, all to see him, to hear him, to bask in the purity of a voice that seemed almost new to him. Some of the nurses called Ana's nurses, who made their way down after telling everyone on the hall what was going on.
When he finished the song, he felt the roaring of applause. He opened his eyes to find that so many people had joined them in the chapel. Father Pereira had given his seat up to one of the patients who'd come in to listen to the music. He was standing on one side of the room.
"MAIS!" one of the women in the room yelled. (More!)
"MORE!" Ana yelled from her position at the front of the room.
"What would you like me to play?"
"Santo, Santo, Santo," Ana said. It was her favorite hymn, one that the priest always played on Sunday when her family would come to the chapel for services. Ian turned to the very first page of the Baptist Hymnal that he was thumbing through.
"Is the English version OK?" he asked.
"That's fine," Ana said with a smile on her face. As before, Ian played through the song once to get the feel of the music he hadn't played in years.
Again, as he began to sing, he felt a power that he'd not felt in so long. He felt himself burning inside from all the exhilaration that was running through his very core. It was, for all practical purposes, his first concert in over a year. It was the first time he'd played for someone other than his family or the people at Roosters in so long that he'd forgotten the rush that it gave him. As he sang, his mind wandered for a second. He probably wouldn't be doing this for these people had this little girl, with no hair and a body riddled with tumors had written him a simple letter. Perhaps it was God's way of telling him that this was what he needed to be doing, that he had given Ian a gift and that he better use it to bring joy into other people's lives.
After he finished, he began playing through other hymns. At around two in the afternoon, after playing for an hour and a half, his voice began to feel a little scratchy. Of course, he hadn't played the whole time. There had been several instances when he stopped to gather his voice back and listen to stories from various people that had stopped by when they heard the music. The crowd begged for one more song. Of course, by that time, everyone in the hospital knew what was going on. He told them one more, but that Ana would then have to get back to her room for her afternoon rest. They all agreed, knowing that it had been by her initiative that he was even there. For the final hymn, he performed "Just as I Am," hymn number 187 in the Baptist Hymnal. The song was slow and methodical. The words were in English, and Ian understood every single one of them. He felt them. He felt the Holy Spirit with him as every note perfectly left his mouth.
After the song, he received an ovation from everyone within ear shot, and true to their word, they let him go without begging for any more. They made a path for him and Ana as the Ian pushed the little girl back down the hall to her room. When they got back, they found her parents sitting in her room, as if it were nothing for her to be gone for hours on end. She was so very excited to tell them each and every song that Ian sang for her. She told them about all the people that had come to the chapel as Ian played. They were almost brought to tears by the simple fact that their daughter's life had become what it had. They knew that Ian didn't have to come, but he had. It would have made their daughter happy just to know that he'd gotten the letter, but to have him there, physically, was amazing.
After a moment, Ian lifted her from the chair once again and set her back onto the bed.
"Ian," she said with a gleam of life in her eye. "Thank you for coming to visit me. This means more to me than you will ever know."
"Well, Kid. Let me tell you. You've taught me more about life than I knew. So I should be the one thanking you," Ian said as he patted her little brown hand.
"So does this mean that you're going to be doing another CD soon?" she requested, asking him the question that had been on everyone's mind since before his performance at Joey's birthday. Could he do it? Could he reach the heights of success he'd once known? What would be the price this time if he did? All of those questions raced through his mind, and he knew that it would give him something to contemplate on
the way back to his grandmother's house in Brazil the following day.