Chapter 10: Finally Home.
**Author's Note:** Please read the disclaimer in Chapter 00 before you read this.
After breakfast on Sunday, Colt and I got out the bikes and began to tour the neighborhood. We immediately spotted several places that might be prime candidates for his service, so I jotted down their address on an index card that I kept in my pocket. We peddled about for an hour or so and then went back home. Once we got back, I started helping prepare Colt for how he might want to approach these people.
I asked Colt for his ideas first, as I wanted this to come from him, and then I helped him polish up his delivery, until I thought he could be successful. He was so adorable as he worked on getting things just right, and by the time he perfected his pitch, I just couldn't see how anyone would be able to say no to this sweet young man.
When he felt ready, he went out again, this time alone, to approach the owners of those houses. He was gone nearly two hours and I was beginning to worry about him, when I heard him putting his bike away. He came rushing into the house all excited. "I've got six jobs," he announced, beaming. "The other person wasn't home."
`Not bad', I thought to myself. `Six for six.' I could tell he was about to burst with excitement.
"So, did you negotiate a decent fee?" I asked him.
"I got more than I expected," he informed me. "Your idea worked great. The first guy I would have asked for $20.00 to do his yard, but I did like you said. I asked him how much he'd pay me to do the work for him and then had to keep from acting shocked when he told me $40.00. It was pretty much the same with everyone else too. I'll be getting $230.00 every time I do all of their yards, and I can still go out and find even more places to do." He could hardly stand still he was so excited.
"That's great, Colt, but don't bite off more than you can chew," I warned him. "I know the money sounds great, but leave enough time to enjoy yourself and have some fun."
"I will," he agreed, "and that means time for me to spend with you too." It was sweet of him to add that, since I hadn't expected or even hinted at it, but I just didn't want him to be all work and no play.
He did go back out later, spotted a couple more places and gave them his pitch. He signed them up too. It seemed he had a pleasant manner with strangers and a way of convincing them. I immediately thought that Colt was either going to be a successful salesperson or a great con man. I just wasn't sure which.
Anyway, Colt spent the entire evening talking about his clients, how much money he was going to make and planning out his work schedule. It was actually quite enjoyable watching him carrying on like a blossoming entrepreneur. Once he thought he had everything figured out, he came over to speak with me about his finances.
"From now until about August, I'll be doing each person's lawn once I week. That means I'll be making about $300.00 each week. I'm going to keep $50.00 and give you the rest, to pay you back for all you've spent on me." He was very sincere about this.
"Colt, I've told you that isn't necessary," I advised him again. "Why don't you just open an account and put that money in there."
"No!" he replied, adamantly. "You've spent a ton of money for food and clothes, my bike, the lawyer and all those places you've taken me, plus I know you'll be spending even more on me, as long as I stay here with you, so I want to do this. I don't want to become a burden and then have you want to get rid of me." I could see from his expression that he was definitely concerned this might happen.
"Colt, I would never do that!" I consoled him. "I will never think of you as a burden nor ever want to get rid of you."
"You might," he countered. "Even my father told me I was becoming a bigger burden every year." He looked very sad after he told me that.
"Never would I consider you as anything but a pleasure and a Godsend," I informed him. "I feel fortunate that you have come into my life."
"Oh, Leo, I hope you always feel that way," he squealed, "because I feel lucky that I found you. too. I don't know where I'd be or what I'd be doing if you hadn't offered to buy me dinner that first night." He followed that up with a hug. I didn't want this to become too maudlin, so I shifted the conversation to something else.
"Look, you've got school tomorrow," I reminded him, "so is all your homework done?" He made a face.
"You just spoiled a beautiful moment by mentioning homework," he snapped, playfully. "Yes, all my homework is done, master."
"I'll give you master, you little twerp," I told him, before attacking and tickling him. He was squirming around and laughing hysterically.
"Stop, stop. I give," he told me, while gasping for air. "You always cheat," he added, as I began to release him.
"No, I just play to win," I shot back, before giving him my best smug, self-satisfied look.
We spent the rest of the night in each other's arms, just passing the remaining time before we went to bed. I knew I was totally and helplessly consumed by my love for this young man. No one on earth could be so special, so much fun and such a pleasure to be around. I enjoyed every second of being snuggled against him throughout the entire night.
The only unusual thing for us that week was the trip to family court for Colt's emancipation hearing. The first thing that happened was the judge asked to speak with Colt and Colt's attorney in his chambers. They were in there about twenty minutes before I was summoned to join them. I was nervous as I entered, unsure as to why I was being included in this process. I wondered if the judge was suspicious about my connection to Colt, thinking that possibly I had lured him away from his home to be my lover or something like that.
"It is my understanding that you know this young man and have allowed him to live with you," the judge began, which caused me to nod in response. "I need to hear your response," he stated.
"Ah... yes, sir," I replied, somewhat intimidated.
"If I agree that Colton should be allowed to become emancipated, are you willing to let him continue living with you, until he becomes self-supporting."
I nodded again, but remembered to answer him verbally too. "Yeah... yes, sir," I stammered. "Colt is more than welcome to stay at my home for as long as he needs. He has his own room and has been doing various chores around the house to help out, so he has not been a burden at all." The judge smiled.
"Colton has told us how good you've been to him and how you've helped him find a way to earn his own money, while going back to school," the judge commented. "That's really quite impressive. I'm usually more reluctant to grant such a request, because the individual requesting it generally ends up becoming a burden to the state. However, in this case, it seems as if that won't happen. Colton informs me that he has a pretty substantial income for someone his age and he is continuing his schooling. I am impressed with both of you and, therefore, we'll go back into the courtroom so I can grant his request for emancipation."
Colt, whom I noticed had been sitting on the edge of his chair, nervously fidgeting as the judge questioned me, squealed out his relief. "Yes!" he exclaimed, in a sort of loud whisper. The judge looked at him and smiled again, appreciating his restrained excitement. However, at that point Colt leaped up and raced to me and hugged my chest. "Thank you, Leo," he enthused. "Without you, none of this would be possible." I looked up to see the lawyer and judge both smiling appreciatively at both of us. I was grateful Colt hadn't blurted out that he loved me.
After going back into the courtroom for the official announcement, we left the courthouse and headed home. It was a good thing neither of us had to return to work or school afterward, because I'm not sure we'd have been able to concentrate or function. Instead, I told Colt we'd clean up and go out for a celebratory dinner later. Colt said he wanted to pay for his own food, but I told him this was definitely my treat. He didn't argue. Instead, he filled me in on what happened before I came in to join them.
"The judge began to ask me all of these questions and I became really nervous," he began. "He wanted to know why I left home and how I'd been surviving since I'd been on my own. I was really scared and wasn't sure if I should tell him the truth, but I couldn't think of anything else to say, so I just told him what had happened. I told him how the kids at school picked on me and how they started calling me names. I told him how that got back to my parents and that they believed it. I told him how I became unwanted at home, teased all day long and that I couldn't take it any more and left." He paused unexpectedly and looked directly at me.
"Then what happened?" I asked him, wondering where this was leading.
"That's when the judge asked if I was gay and if we were lovers," he announced, and then waited for my reaction.
"And what did you tell him?" I asked, unable to stand the suspense.
"I told him I didn't know if I was gay for sure, as I hadn't really done anything," he responded. "That's when the judge told me it was okay if I was, because he had a wonderful son who was gay." I breathed a sigh of relief, thinking we had just got lucky on which judge Colt drew for this case.
"After that, he wanted to know how we met," Colt continued, "so I told him about how I asked for money, so I could eat. I told him you wouldn't give me money, but offered to let me eat with you and pay for it. I told him how we talked afterward and you offered to let me stay with you, as long as I needed. I think the judge was impressed by that," he announced, looking very pleased. I guess I must have blushed, because Colt giggled.
"Anyway, the judge asked me what I've been doing since I've been here, so I told him you convinced me to finish school and helped me get enrolled at a private school. I also told him that you bought me the bike and helped me get set up taking care of lawns, so I could make money, which I'm using to pay you back. I think that's what convinced the judge, especially after I told him how much I'd be making."
"Good for you," I told him. "It sounds like you handled things very well."
"I think the judge thought YOU helped me handle it very well," Colt insisted. "That's why he wanted to talk to you too. I think that even surprised the lawyer."
"I was a bit concerned when I was called in," I agreed. "In fact, I was more than a little nervous. I thought the judge might accuse me of luring you to my place and corrupting you. I even envisioned him having me arrested and locked up." Colt chuckled.
"I'm glad you find the idea of me being in jail so amusing," I informed him, which caused him to laugh even louder.
"You thought he'd lock you up because of what we've done?" he snorted out, more or less as a question.
"Yeah, this is the south," I explained, "and the legal system around here has been known to lock people up for a lot less," I added, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but he got the point.
"So this means my parents are no longer my parents, right?" Colt asked.
"No, Colt. They are still your parents," I corrected him, "but they no longer are responsible for you. You are now your own man - your own boss. Do you see the difference?"
"Yes, I guess so, but I was hoping they wouldn't be my parents any longer," Colt explained, looking slightly disappointed.
"Don't overreact, as they did," I warned him. "You never know, maybe someday you will all make up and then you'd regret you had ended your relationship."
"I doubt that," he sneered, while making a face. "My father will never change." I thought it might be time to steer the discussion elsewhere.
"How have things been going at school?" I asked, changing topics.
"Actually, pretty good," he answered. "My teachers say I'm catching up pretty quickly and I've made a few friends."
"Really? That's great," I replied. "When will I get to meet them?"
"You want to meet them?" he responded, surprised.
"Yes, I do," I told him, sincerely.
"Cool," he replied. He studied me for a second, before he said anything else. "Do you think, now that it's legal I'm living with you, that I might be able to invite some of them over once in a while?" Colt was unsure as to how I was going to respond to his question and looked a bit apprehensive.
"Of course you may," I assured him, "and you could have done that before. I didn't say anything, because I didn't realize you had anyone you wanted to ask over or that you were afraid to do so."
"I just didn't know if it would get you into trouble or
anything," he admitted, "and I sure didn't want to do that."
"All you had to do was ask," I countered.
"But I didn't want to make you feel bad, if I couldn't do it," he told me, which made me cringe that he had been worried that he might get me in some sort of trouble or hurt my feelings.
"Look, now you know you can invite them over any time you want," I advised him. "You can even ask them to stay overnight too."
"I can?" he blurted out. "I've never had friends stay over before." His eyes were wide, as he told me this.
"Never?" I asked, somewhat shocked.
"No, my dad didn't like outsiders in our house," Colt explained. "He always said that a person's home was for his family and no one else."
"I see," I replied, simply, preferring not to argue or belabor the point. "However, it's different here, so you can do it, if you decide there's someone you'd like to have over." He smiled briefly and then just sat there staring at me. I could tell something was going on in that mind of his.
"Is there a problem?" I inquired, in an attempt to discover what was up.
"Not really a problem," he answered, "it's just that I know they're going to ask me questions about why I live with you and I was just thinking about what I was going to tell them."
"Oh, I see," I replied. "Did you decide what that would be?"
"Not really," he explained. "I'm not sure if I want them to know I'm gay yet, so I thought maybe I'd say you were my brother or something."
"I supposed we could have been half-brothers," I conceded, "but what would happen if you decided to come out to them later or they catch us hugging or kissing? Don't you think that would make it harder to explain?" He thought for a second.
"Yeah, you're probably right," he agreed. "What do you think I should do?" I took a second to reflect on the problem. After a few more seconds, I responded.
"You could tell them I'm a family friend and offered to let you come live with me, when you had problems at home. That's a bit closer to the truth and that might suffice."
"Okay, that sounds better," he conceded, looking a bit relieved. "I can do that."
Once we had that settled, he told me about the first person he might invite over. "There's this guy named Jason," Colt began. "He's in a couple of my classes, including P.E., and he plays on the basketball team. We were goofing around before class one day, playing one-on-one, and he told me I should try out for the team next year. When I told him I'd never played on a team before and only messed on the court with friends, he said he'd be happy to work with me and teach me what I needed to know. That's why I thought he could come over and we could practice basketball while he was here."
"Hey, that sounds great to me and I'd love to see you play on the team next year," I agreed. "I'm happy to see you're making friends your own age too."
"Yeah, it is nice," he said, wistfully. "Especially since I know I can invite them over now. I didn't make many friends before, because I wouldn't be allowed to go to their house and they couldn't come to mine. I thought it would be easier not getting close to anyone, rather than answering all their questions about things like that."
"This is your home now too," I told him, "so I want you to feel comfortable here. If you're ever in doubt about what you can or cannot do, then just ask." He smiled and hugged me, before we went to get cleaned up, so we could go out to eat.
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