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We spent Friday doing exactly what I hoped. The escape to the mountains was perfect. The water was gushing down the swollen streams. The heavy snow from the winter fed the waterfalls as it melted. The sun warmed the day to a near record. We hiked to the summit of Blue Lake Mountain; it was a difficult climb but incredibly relaxing. When we reached the peak, we looked down on the beautiful vista. The trees were just starting to bud, you could see for miles in every direction.
The horseshoe-shaped lake was a bright blue, matching the cloudless sky. Everything was greening up.
"Babe, one of these days, we should get your Dad to make the climb with us. He could get some amazing shots."
"You're absolutely right. Speaking of Dad, we need to make a trip to New Hampshire soon. His show is at the end of next month."
"We can call tomorrow morning. We should try to go there Mother's Day weekend. I think your Mom would appreciate it."
"That would be awesome. She'd love it I'm sure."
After enjoying the warm sun and the view, we hiked back down the trail. We needed to head home. It was a perfect day. Although if I had talked Marcus into going white water rafting; the day could have been a little more exciting. He was afraid the headaches I'd been experiencing would explode or my arm would get hurt. I argued for just a moment, but honestly figured he was probably right.
When we got home, we used all the hot water available while we showered. It was glorious. Dinner out at a new restaurant, and then the highlight of the day was dancing for hours at Noah's, our favorite club. Looking back it was the most amazing day, but also just the calm before the storm.
Saturday morning we called my parents and made Mother's Day weekend plans. Needless to say, Mom was ecstatic. Marcus told her she wasn't lifting a finger to cook on Mother's Day. She argued briefly, but you could tell she was grinning the entire time.
After showering, we picked up Stephen and Josh and headed for the park. The boys were just about to turn seven. Jamie had signed them up for little league and they were completely focused on baseball. Since baseball was one of the few sports I excelled at in high school, I was thrilled to be able to play catch and teach them how to hit.
My pitching was a little rusty, but since it was just batting practice, it only took a few throws to get back in the rhythm. Marcus shagged balls while the boys took turns batting and playing catcher.
After lunch, Steven decided he wanted to try pitching. With a few lessons from me, he actually began to throw the ball over the plate. Josh, on the other hand, was an excellent batter. Quite a few times, he knocked the ball past Marcus in the field. Both boys were far better than I had been at their age.
About an hour into our second session, both our phones began to ring. I looked at the number; it was Jon calling me.
"Tony, we need you guys. James got a call from Marcus's friend Sarah. Matthew, the ten-year-old, has run away from the foster home. James is beside himself. He wants to start searching himself. Is there any way you guys could help with the search?"
"Of course, but we have Marcus's nephews right now. We need to drop them home. Hold on a minute."
I walked towards Marcus. He was still on the phone. He pulled it away from his ear.
"It's Sarah. I guess... "
"Matthew ran away. Yeah, Jon is on the phone, too. They want our help to find him."
"Shit, we need to run the boys home."
I looked at him and suddenly I had an idea.
"Actually, I think we should have the boys help us. The kid is going to be afraid of anyone who comes near him, except maybe James. But, if we have the kids in the car maybe he won't bolt if we find him."
"Babe, that's fucking brilliant. Tell Jon we will be right there. You take Stephen and I'll take Josh.
Marcus went back to his phone. "Sarah, can you get an emergency order giving James temporary custody of Matthew if and when we find him? I think that will be the easiest short term solution. You already did... Great, we will meet at their place and go from there. Thanks for the heads up."
I put my phone back to my ear. "Did you hear that? We will be right there. James needs to let us know where he wants us to look. Give us ten to get there."
"Thank you, I'll let James know... See you in a few."
We ran to our cars. I tried to explain to Stephen what was happening as we drove to Jon's place.
"We are going to try to find a kid who ran away. His parents did very bad things and he had to live with people he didn't know. He's probably feeling really lost and scared.
"We are going to drive around to see if we can find him and make sure he is okay. I was hoping if we find him you could tell him we will bring him someplace safe. He was hurt by adults he didn't know, so I hope you can help him feel a little safer. He knows my friend James and we want him to spend the night at James's house. Do you understand?"
"Of course Uncle T, I'm almost seven. I understand. I hope we find him before it gets dark. It is really scary being alone in the dark."
"I hope so too. Thanks for helping buddy."
We drove to Jon's. James had pictures of Matthew for each of us and a street map of the general area he thought Matthew might be heading. Even though he had known nothing but abuse in his mother's trailer, James figured Matthew would try to head someplace familiar. Because his stepfather had driven him around the area numerous times while attempting to score drugs, James figured Matthew knew his way around town. Still it was a huge distance between places.
Spare police patrols were going to start from the trailer and from the foster home and work towards each other. James thought we should start in the middle near the school Matthew had attended before his mother pulled him out. There were six cars with James' friends and other off-duty policemen looking for him.
"Thanks guys. I think we will have a very scared young man when we find Matthew. I just hope he won't run away when he sees people looking for him. Here's my card. Maybe if you give this to him, he will at least talk with you."
Marcus spoke up. "James, Sarah said to tell you she already has an emergency order in place for you to take temporary custody of Matthew. She's on her way with it. The judge signed the order readily after hearing Matthew's story. We just need to find him. Let's get going."
"Okay everyone; call me if you find him... I'll race to get to wherever you are... Seriously, I can't thank you enough."
We all headed out. The section of the map I was searching was very close to the house Marcus and I were trying to buy. I figured starting at the park and working my way out from there was the best idea.
"Stephen, keep your eyes peeled for any sign of Matthew. If you see anything or anyone, please let me know right away."
"No problem Uncle T. I hope we find him soon. It will be dark in a little while."
"I know buddy. I hope we find him soon too."
Stephen and I drove around the neighborhood for about thirty minutes. The sun was beginning to set. In April, the sun always seems to set incredibly quickly. I turned my headlights on and kept driving. We searched the entire map area and didn't see anyone outside. Judging from the silence of my phone, no one else was having any luck.
I decided to start back at the school, near the park, and make another circuit around the area. As we drove around the bus circle in front of the main entrance of the school, Stephen whispered for me to stop.
"What is it buddy?"
"I think I saw someone hiding in the bushes next to the flag pole. I'm going to get out and look."
"Hold on... "
The words never made it out of my mouth and Stephen was out of the car walking away. I jumped out to chase after him, when he started talking to someone.
"Hi, my name is Stephen. Are you Matthew?"
"Who are you?"
"Geez, don't you listen? I said I was Stephen. If you are Matthew, my Uncle Tony and I want to help you."
"Nobody can help me. Leave me alone."
"Don't be a dummy." Stephen put his hands firmly on his hips, a gesture he has been using since he was three. "It's going to be really dark soon. It's scary being out here alone in the dark. Look my Uncle's friend is a policeman. He said to give you his card if we find you. Here take a look."
"Tell your Uncle to stay back. I'm not falling for any tricks."
I quickly tried to call James. He picked up on the first ring.
"James. I think we found him. I'm going to give my phone to Stephen to take to him. We are at the school on Kinney Street. You need to talk to him. Convince him to let us bring him to you? Hold on."
"Stephen, come here and get my phone please. I have James on the line and he wants to talk to Matthew. You can bring him my phone."
Stephen ran over to me and then ran back to Matthew.
"Here talk to the policeman." Stephen thrust the phone in Matthew's direction.
"Hello? James? Is that you?"
James and Matthew talked for a few minutes. Suddenly, Matthew came out from behind the bushes and started to walk towards the car. Stephen ran to the back door and opened it.
"I'm riding up front with my Uncle T. You ride in the back and everything will be okay. Are you done with the phone?'
"Matthew, I'm Tony. Why don't you keep talking to James and tell him we are on the way to his house. You just keep talking to him. Is that okay with you?"
A skinny dark-haired boy nodded his head. I closed the door behind him and walked to the driver's side. We drove twenty minutes back through the neighborhood to Jon and James's place. During the entire trip, Matthew kept listening to the phone, rarely speaking. We arrived back before anyone else and waited in the car.
Cars began to pull up behind us. I walked around the car and opened the door. Finally, James started walking towards my vehicle. Matthew dropped the phone on the back seat and bolted for James.
When he reached James, he jumped into his arms. Matthew buried his head in James's shoulder and began to sob uncontrollably. The whole scene brought tears to my eyes. As I was watching, Marcus walked up next to me and put his arm around me. I leaned my head on his shoulder.
"Nice job, Babe."
"No, it totally was Stephen. He convinced Matthew to trust us. That nephew of yours is unbelievable."
"You mean of ours... Josh was pretty awesome too. I think they deserve a big treat. We can let them decide what they want for dinner and then maybe a trip to the toy store or the arcade."
"Sounds like a plan. Let's say good night to James and Jon and head back to the condo. I'm so glad we found him, but I think the real stress for them is just beginning."
"Yeah, I think you're right. Let's go home."
I walked over to Jon and wrapped him in a hug.
"Please call if you need anything; even if it's just an ear... Are you ready for this?"
"No, but this is vital to James. I need to give it a try. You saw how this boy affected him. I may take you up on bending your ear, but I'm willing to try for James."
"We need to get the boys home and fed. I'll call you the beginning of the week. Be patient and flexible. That kid has gone through hell. He's going to be a handful."
"Yeah, I know. Thanks for your help. I know James is incredibly grateful. Go. I'll talk to you in a few days."
Stephen and I drove back to the condo. I glanced over at him.
"What are you looking at Uncle T?"
"Just an amazing young man; you are pretty awesome. When we get back to the condo, you and Josh need to decide what you want for supper. Uncle Marcus and I are going to treat you guys to whatever you want. Thanks for your help finding Matthew. You were amazing."
"I just talked to him. He was scared. It wasn't any big deal."
"Actually, it was a very big deal. I love you kiddo."
"I love you lots Uncle T, wow me and J need to figure out where we want to go for dinner."
"And then maybe we will go to the toy store or the arcade... "
"Really? That would be awesome."
We pulled into the condo parking lot just after Marcus. The boys ran to each other and started whispering. I looked at the two of them and shook my head.
"I see you told Josh about the plan."
"Yeah, and you told Stephen." Marcus laughed. "Boys let's go inside and you can finish your discussion. I'm getting hungry so you'd better decide quickly."
"We decided Uncle M."
"Wow that was fast."
Josh grinned, "We want to go to the mall. We can go to the burger place and then the arcade is right there."
"Or maybe the sports store..." Stephen added. "We could get new baseballs."
"Yeah or a bounceback, me and Stephen could play by ourselves when no one can play catcher."
"A bounceback?" Marcus looked confused.
"Don't worry; I know exactly what you're talking about. It sounds like the perfect idea. Let's go Uncle M, time's a wasting."
Marcus just stared at me. The boys and I got into the Lexus and waited for Marcus.
We drove to the mall and had a blast with the twins. Not only did we buy the "bounceback" and a few baseballs, but we spent an hour at the arcade. Marcus enjoyed the arcade as much as the boys, like always. He really can be just like a little kid when it comes to playing games.
Sunday was Taylor family dinner at the condo. Marcus was in his element making dinner, so after breakfast the boys and I went down to the park and played catch.
"Uncle T, you are really good at baseball. Did you play when you were seven?"
"I played all the way through school until I went to college. When I was in tenth grade, my team won the championship."
"Wow that is so cool. What base did you play?"
"Well I pitched most of the time, but played left field if I wasn't pitching that game. I wasn't a very good batter, but I did win a lot as a pitcher."
"That is awesome."
Stephen looked at his brother and they both laughed. "No J, it's wicked awesome."
"That's right it's wicked cool, too." Josh giggled.
"You little stinkers... When I catch you I will tickle you into next week."
The boys took off running towards the stairway. I grabbed all the equipment and followed. The rest of the family had arrived and were sitting around the dining room table. Sarah had the babies in the living room. I walked over to her and smiled.
"May I please hold my godsons for a little while? At least, they won't give me any grief over the expressions I use."
"Oh no, what did the twins do now?"
"Those two little monsters just made a joke about my use of wicked... I told them when I caught them I'd tickle them into next week."
Sarah burst out laughing. "Well I can only promise these two won't talk back for a while more. As far as the older twins go, I don't know where they got that from... but seriously they love you to pieces."
"Oh, I know that. Actually, it was hysterical the way they fed each other lines. Do Tommy and Ben need to be fed?"
"Not right now, but give it five minutes and they will need to be changed again."
"I can do that."
Marcus walked over to me and took one of the babies.
"So, I hear our nephews think they're funny. They are telling the story to their father and grandfather, right now."
Just then I raised my voice a little, "I will get you two; don't think I won't... Just you wait. When you least expect it, I will get you good."
Stephen smiled, "Oh I'm wicked scared now."
"Yeah, Uncle T, you have us both wicked scared." Josh grinned.
"Keep it up boys. I don't forget. Trust me. You will wicked regret your actions."
The whole family started laughing. The boys started rolling on the floor laughing. They gave each other high fives and then did the same to their father, uncle, and grandfather. I just shook my head and smiled.
Marcus handed me back Tommy and went into the kitchen.
"Okay, everyone, dinner will be ready in ten minutes. I hope everyone is hungry because there is tons of food. Josh and Stephen, can you please set the table?"
"Sure, Uncle M, we can do that. Do you need us to stir anything?"
"Or mix up the salad?"
"We helped Grandma Wallace. So we know how to do it."
"Set the table first, and then come into the kitchen and you guys can help get stuff ready."
After dinner, the kids were playing on the floor and the adults talking in the living room. We made a general announcement to everyone about the new house. Marcus showed pictures and kept talking about how excited we were about the house.
"It's just around the corner from an elementary school and a really cool park." Marcus explained.
"It's a four bedroom farmhouse. And the kitchen is unbelievable... "
I laughed, "It was all I could do to get him to move on to the rest of the house."
Jessica, Nick's wife, got up and went into the bathroom.
I got down on the floor next to Mallory. She gave me a kiss on the cheek.
"Unka T, I think you are wicked cool. Don't listen to those boys."
Stephen and Josh completely lost it. I took that moment to grab them and started to tickle them both.
"Uncle T, stop, I'm sorry I promise not to do it again." Stephen screamed laughing.
Suddenly, Jessica burst out of the bathroom.
"We need to go. Nick, get the car. My water just broke. The baby is coming. I'm sorry I made a mess on the floor in there."
Nick started shouting, "Oh my God, okay nobody panic. The bag is in my car. I'll call the doctor. We need to find someone to watch Mallory. "
Marcus laid his hand on Nick's shoulder.
"Bro, I think we got you covered with Mallory. Way to stay calm. Jess, do you want an ambulance? Or do you think there's time to get driven up to the hospital."
"If someone besides my husband could drive, I think there's time. Contractions aren't that close yet. I'm glad the doctor warned me the baby could be here soon. We thought we still had a couple of weeks. I guess the newest Taylor is in a hurry to meet everyone."
"Babe, do you mind staying here with the kids. I'll drive these two to the hospital."
"Why don't all of you go up, but leave the van. After the baby is born, I can bring the kids up to the hospital."
Sarah added, "I'll stay here with Tony. When things settle down, give us a call and we will head up to see the newest addition."
"Sounds like a plan. I suppose you can get back to tickling the stinkers now."
Josh and Stephen jumped up and hid behind their father.
Jamie laughed, "Don't think I'm going to protect you. You guys deserve what you get. I will see you in a little while, when you come up to meet your new cousin."
"Okay Daddy. Good luck Aunt Jessica, we can't wait to meet your baby."
"Yeah, Uncle Nick, we can't wait."
Suddenly, Jessica doubled over in pain. She started panting.
"We need to get going. That one was intense."
Marcus walked over and gave me a kiss.
"We will call you when we can. Thanks for taking care of the kids. See you in a little while."
"Love you, Hon. Good luck, Jess."
Marcus smiled, "Love you more. Talk to you soon."
After two hours, or three games of Candy Land and part of a game of Sorry, Marcus called and suggested we head up to the hospital.
"They named him George Lucas Taylor, George for my dad, and Lucas for my grandfather. Jess is doing great and the baby is beautiful. Come on up and say hello to our new nephew."
"Cool, we will be there in a couple of minutes. See you soon."
Marcus was right, the baby was beautiful. Standing in front of the nursery window, I held Tommy and Ben.
"Boys, this is your cousin George. I have a feeling you guys are going to be great friends. I know you are part of an amazing family."
"Babe, you are too cute. Let's say goodnight to Jess and Nick. It's back to work tomorrow. It's been nothing short of a crazy weekend."
"Good idea. Let me hand my godsons back to their parents."
We said good night to the family and headed home. I lay my head down on Marcus's chest when we crawled into bed.
"You know another Taylor baby really makes me want to be a dad in the worst way. But I think we need to wait a couple of years. Are you okay with that?" I started to tear up.
"I understand. Relax."
"I just don't want you to be disappointed with me. I just need us to be together for a little while. I'm sorry."
"Babe, I know I have pushed you in our relationship. I mean in eight months we've moved in together, gotten engaged, and found our dream home. Not to mention your accident, recovery, and countless other events. I think you're absolutely right. We need to get the chance to be a couple first. I could never be disappointed in you. You have made me the happiest man alive. I never dreamt this life could happen.
"I want to be a dad at least as badly as you do, but we need to settle into our new lives together first. Besides we really haven't talked about how we want to do this yet. I mean adoption or surrogacy. We have lots of time to think about it. Sleep, we have a long week ahead of us."
"Love you more."
He wrapped me in his arms while I continued to sob a little. I wasn't sure where the tears were coming from, but I couldn't seem to rein them in.
"Babe, please relax. I love you more than words."
"I know. I'm just over tired. I love you."
Back to work on Monday and the day was excruciatingly long. Jeremy, a student I was attempting to use Jon's techniques to help take "regular" classes, had a complete meltdown. The teacher, on the other hand, had almost an identical meltdown. The whole episode resulted in a meeting with Ian after school.
"I'm sorry. Jeremy was doing really well all day long until we got into Doris's calculus class. He had a moment which was then fueled by her reaction. My understanding is he knew the answer to the problem before she actually taught the theory. When he tried to explain his answer, she continued to interrupt him. Frankly until his actual meltdown, he was doing really well.
"I haven't dealt with Doris previous to this encounter, but I had the feeling we were nothing less than a nuisance before class even started. In essence, I think Jeremy's meltdown could have been prevented with just a little patience on Doris's part."
"Tony, you aren't here to be dressed down. I've known Doris for longer than you and I'm sure Jeremy's mere presence set her off. She's incredibly rigid and doesn't like any changes to her routine. She does however get her classes through the state exams. She's not a great teacher, but she is good with her subject matter. She hates any disruption, any change. I wonder if you think Jeremy would ever fit into her classroom."
"Honestly, I don't think so. I hate giving up after one day, but she has no flexibility. And I think he knows the subject matter as well as she does already. He is brilliant and when he's focused there's no stopping him.
"Damn, I hate speaking badly of another teacher, but just don't think we can find a way to work this out. The good news is Jeremy did well in the rest of the classes today. I think by the time he graduates, Jeremy should be well prepared to succeed at college without constant help. He really has gotten very self-aware and with the exception of calculus today, he's able to redirect his focus very easily."
Ian's office phone beeped and he answered it.
"Send her in Katie. Thank you."
"Doris, please come in."
"Oh wonderful, I see the golden boy is already here."
"Actually, Doris, Tony and I were discussing Jeremy's outburst in your class."
I jumped in. "Yes... First, let me apologize for things getting completely out of control. Jeremy had been having a really good day until your class. Second, rest assured Jeremy won't be in your class again. His behavior today was not typical, but caused a disruption to your class that just can't be repeated. I'm terribly sorry it happened."
"Oh... well thank you. I'm... Yes, well that's good. Did you need anything else from me tonight?"
Ian smiled, "No, thank you Doris. I hope you have a pleasant evening. Thank you for stopping by on your way home. I'm sure I will see you soon."
"Very well, good night."
She smiled and left Ian's office. He turned to me and shook his head.
"You did very well. She didn't really hear what you said exactly; nicely done. You managed to make her feel as though it was all Jeremy's fault even though the words said something different. I'm very impressed. I could use those abilities more often than I care to think.
"On another subject, your file is going to explode if I continue to get letters from happy parents. Don't stop though. Seriously, keep up the great work. When is your next meeting with the School of Education students?"
"We have just one more meeting next week. I have hopes we will be able to wrap things up. I think you'll be pleased with the results."
"Well, after the meeting, you and I need to sit down and discuss grades for the students. The Dean has decided the project will count as class work for all the students involved. They will be getting class credit and grades for the semester. I'm guessing there are some students who deserve a better grade than others. Keep that in the back of your mind when you meet with them.
"It's unfortunate Jeremy had difficulty in Doris's class, but overall he has made tremendous progress this year. I can rattle off at least ten different students whose progress this year has been outstanding. Frankly, I couldn't be more pleased. Rest assured your contract will be renewed. I hope you will stay for many years to come Tony."
"Thanks, I appreciate it. I think Jeremy and Brett are the two students I'm most proud of this year. "
Ian said, "Speaking of Brett, his parents have been writing to me almost weekly at this point. Just their word of mouth could set you up for private practice."
"I told my fiancÚ weeks ago I never will go into private practice. I like teaching too much. But thank you again for all your support; it's nice to know you think I'm doing well. If there isn't anything else, I need to run. Have a great evening. I'm hoping you won't need to set up another meeting with me and one of my colleagues any time soon." I chuckled.
"If you handle all your colleagues as well as you did Doris, you won't need me to run interference. Let me know when you are ready to discuss the masters' students' final course guidelines. Thanks, Tony. Keep up the good work."
"Have a great night."
I said good night to Katie as I left Ian's office and headed home. When I got to the condo, I was slammed by a headache. I lay down on the bed for a moment. I must have fallen asleep because the next thing I knew Marcus was giving me a backrub.
"Babe, are you okay?"
"Just a headache, it was a bad day today. How was your day?"
"I'm thinking not much better. Let's eat we can talk over dinner. I'm just going to reheat some of yesterday's leftovers."
"Sounds good; your Aussie Chicken was wonderful. I never had anything like that before, and you know my mother and all her concoctions. I'm surprised there is any left the way the boys went to town. It was a hit with the whole family."
"So tell me about your day, Hon."
"Well... One custody battle got very ugly, very quickly. It's one of those cases where neither person deserves custody. They are both horrible parents. Since their divorce, they constantly try to undermine the other. It's hard to believe these kids won't be completely scarred by this. I spoke to the other attorney and recommended we get these kids into therapy no matter who gets physical custody.
"On the other hand, Scott called. He said our mortgage paperwork will be all set on Wednesday. Can we meet at the bank after school? I'll give Stephen Fryer a call and get a closing set up. I think I'm going to have my father handle the closing for us so I don't miss anything in my rush to get this done. What do you think?"
"Sounds unbelievable actually... I'm free that night, so it's no problem. How soon do you think closing will be?"
"These things always take a couple of weeks. Fortunately, we aren't in any rush to move. I guess we need to start thinking about contractors and what we want done on the house. Are you ready for this?"
"Abso-fucking-lutely... I guess we need to fill in my parents on the whole thing. It seems every time we go for a visit we drop a bomb on them."
"You know Babe, maybe we should have them come here for Mother's Day. We could surprise them with the house. I'm sure Stephen would be able to arrange a walk through for them."
"Hmm, how do we convince them to head in this direction?
"Maybe I could tell them I want to throw you a birthday party that weekend. We could do the party on Saturday, and show them the house earlier in the day. Your birthday is the beginning of the week before."
"I don't need to have a party, especially after last year, but it sounds like a great plan. Why don't you give them a call? Afterwards, you can tell me about your day."
"Okay, no problem. Give me a few minutes."
Thanks to the amazing people without whom I couldn't do this:
My hubby, Ray, for his patience and
David, the amazing editor, who makes me seem smarter than I am... any mistakes are mine