I had not slept since Drew left, the empty house mocking the laughter that was so briefly here. I wandered everyplace we had been, aimlessly reliving every cherished moment, holding that first kiss so tightly lest it leave my memory. I went to the viewing room and picked up his blanket for the hundredth time and wrapped it about me as I sat on the couch, breathing his gentle scent and wishing he were here.
And I cried, more than I ever remember crying in my life. It seemed as though the tears wouldn't stop and the blanket soaked the tiny droplets of sadness as if it were Drew comforting me. At last, exhausted, I slept with his scent filling me and sweet thoughts of that first kiss.
* * * * * * * *
Homer House was a hell hole, and it took me no time flat to see that. The guys in here were rough, mean, and dangerously stupid. I was threatened, bumped and even groped my first few hours there before they even got me a room. Marissa was right, I got Tammy Bissette as my caseworker, and she was nice enough. The staff seemed to watch out for me a little more because of my size in comparison to many of the goons in there, but I also tried to never be out of their sight either, just in case.
My favorite staff was Angela, and she seemed to think it was her job to spend as much time with me as she could. Trust me when I say I liked the personal attention. I was roomed with this guy named Francis. He was really nice but depressed a lot, which was sad because when he was feeling all right he was really cool. Sometimes he got mad, and I wasn't sure why, but he wasn't violent so I think that was why they roomed me with him. I didn't know his whole story but he was from Scotland and a naturalized American I guess, that was about it. He had red hair, Ginger he called it, and thought he was fat, I don't know why though. He has a smattering of freckles across his nose, and a really nice smile. He was pretty quiet, clean too, so we didn't really have anything to argue about. He was sixteen he mentioned in conversation, although those were pretty limited conversations cause he seemed to not want to talk a whole lot about himself or why he was there, it seemed to make him sad. I should get him to meet Grant, I'm sure they'd like each other.
My first day Angela took me to the town pool, a covered deal so it could be used year round. I thought it was interesting that the snow hadn't even dusted anything down here, whereas the mountains were heavy with snow. Angela introduced me to some really nice people, one of them used to be a resident here at the house named Grant Killian. He was really nice; in fact the whole group was really nice, very accepting of me just like Quinn was. I talked to them a lot, and they fooled around and generally took my mind a little off my missing Quinn. I felt bad about that, I didn't want to forget Quinn and I knew I never would, but I was hurting without him almost as bad as I had been when Kody left.
My second night there I had cooking duty and I was escorted by Angela to the kitchen.
"Drew Maloney, this is Julius Farrell. He's the cook here and you'll be working with him tonight and probably through the rest of the week, ok?" Angela smiled at me and I took in Mr. Julius Farrell. He was tall, very tall with muscular arms and salt and pepper hair. He smiled broadly at me before offering his hand.
"Pleased to make your acquaintance!" he said while dramatically giving a half bow. I was embarrassed for him for acting so goofy, but he made me smile anyway as I shook his hand.
"We shall be preparing a platter of epicurean delights this evening, and why might you ask? Because we have the ability to, and fish was on sale this week because Angela seems to have bought all Safeway had!" Julius said, reaching a crescendo at the end, no doubt wanting the retreating Angela to hear.
"I did not! But it was a good price!" she called out.
He snorted and placed a hand on my shoulder. "Do you know anything about cooking, lad? Anything at all?" he asked.
"Yes sir," I replied.
"Hold it, hold it, and hold the darn phone!" Julius said planting himself in front of me, "I am not a 'sir', I am Julius," he bent down to be eye to eye with me, "do I make myself clear?" he asked.
"Yes s... Julius," I replied.
"Good!" he said while clapping his hands together, "Now, let's cook some fish! Do you want to clean them?" he asked raising his bushy eyebrows comically.
"They live in the water, what's to clean?" I asked.
"Cleaning means you take the guts out! You don't eat those!" Julius made a face.
"Yuck, I don't want to do that!" I exclaimed.
"Me either, so either we have to find someone we don't like to do it for us, or we have to hope Angela didn't go to a fresh fish counter," Julius remarked as he headed for the industrial sized fridge. The phone rang down the hall and Angela called out to me a few moments later, "Drew! Telephone!"
I virtually ran to the phone, it must be Quinn! He found me!
"Hello? Quinn?" I said.
"No, sorry, it's Grant," came the reply.
"Oh, I'm sorry. Hi Grant, how are you?" I asked while trying to mask the disappointment in my voice. He was being so nice to check up on someone he didn't even know.
"I, ah, just thought I'd call and check up on you, you know, you seemed kind of down today and stuff," Grant said through the phone.
"Thanks, that's nice of you. Things are ok, I guess. I have to help with dinner tonight."
"Oh, Julius is pretty cool, I think you'll like him just fine," Grant said. "Hey, so I guess your buddy Quinn hasn't called yet?"
"No, I was kinda hoping he would have by now, but they dialed his number for me in Tahoe, and I don't have it here. I was hoping maybe he...well, found me. You know?" I said, trailing off into silence.
"Does he have a big house up there?" Grant asked.
"Yeah, bigger than anything I've ever been to, that's for sure. Big windows that go all the way to the second floor and it has a huge front yard with one of those round driveways, like rich people have on TV. It's blue and gray outside," I said, lost in the vision of Quinn's house.
"Was he in Tahoe?" Grant asked.
"A little ways past it, small town. It had a General Store and a coffee shop across the street," I replied.
"What did he look like?" Quinn asked.
"Well, he has blond hair, hangs in front of his face sometimes, he has to brush it back with his fingers a lot. Really nice smile and light skin, real clear kind of like a model, I guess..." I said quietly trailing into my vision of Quinn.
"Well, keep your chin up, man, you'll see Quinn again," Grant said with a genuine determination in his voice.
"You really think so?" I asked hopefully.
"Yeah, dude, I definitely think so. Say hi to Julius for me, will you?" Grant asked.
"Sure, yeah sure I will Grant," I hesitated before adding, "thanks Grant."
"No problem buddy, see you around man," Grant replied before hanging up.
I walked back to the kitchen feeling better than I had before; Grant was really special. He was cute as hell too, I thought to myself with a grin. I stepped back into the kitchen with that smile on my face and Julius didn't miss it.
"Got the girlies calling for you all ready, yeah?" he smiled
"No," I blushed, "A new friend of mine, I just met him today. He says he knows you, his name is Grant Killian?" I queried him.
"Yes, you could say I know that scalawag, "Julius smiled," He's a good boy, one of the best as a matter of fact," Julius said while reaching for a fillet he had withdrawn from the fridge while I was gone, "Why don't you peel some taters? They'd go nice with these here fish."
I nodded and headed over to the cupboard he pointed to and removed the bag of potatoes and brought them back to the counter. Julius was a little surprised I think when I proceeded to wash them.
"Guess you do know a couple of things in the kitchen, huh?" he asked. I just smiled at him and continued to wash potatoes, "Just about six or seven, ok?" He instructed and I nodded.
We made a really nice dinner, and Julius told me some about Grant and his group of friends, and they sounded great. I was sorely hoping they could help heal some of my hurt.
* * * * * * * *
I awoke to the sound of the ringing phone and struggled to head for the sound. I heard it answered from the kitchen, Mr. Guinness's voice coming through clearly.
"Yes, this is the Andersen Residence, who's calling please?" came the cook's voice. "Oh, Mister Oberdorfer, how nice to hear from you. Yes sir, Quinn is doing well, perfectly safe he..." I entered the room and seized the phone form the cook's hands.
"Mr. Oberdorfer? Mr. Wallace Oberdorfer from Los Angeles?" I questioned as I walked into the viewing room via the dining room.
"Yes, that's me, is this Master Quinn Andersen?" the nervous, squeaky voice asked.
"It is, and I am glad you called, I have some questions to ask you," I replied.
"Oh, well all right, what sort of questions do you have?" he asked.
"I have a friend, he lost his family, and the State of Nevada has taken him away from me, what can be done?" I asked quickly.
"Done? Well, he's a ward of the state, he belongs to them until he is eighteen." I could picture him shrugging on the other end of the line, "There really isn't much to be said."
"I want to get him out of that system and home, he belongs here with me," I growled into the phone.
"You are your parents only child, therefore you are the only child that belongs there. This boy has no place here," Wallace replied stiffly. I needed to change tactics quickly.
"Mr. Oberdorfer, please, he's my only friend. I have no one here besides the staff, and the only one that would talk to me just died." I sniffed loudly as I was slammed with the reality of my own words, "Please, I need him here." There was hesitation on the line and I heard him sigh.
"Master Quinn, I'll check into his disposition and see what options there may be. Your parents would be critical in any event, for the boy would need a guardian and you just aren't old enough," he said resignedly.
"Thank you Mr. Oberdorfer," I replied and gave him all I knew of Drew's information. After hanging up I walked back to the kitchen, where Mr. Guinness was setting the kitchen to rights after the mess of Drew and I being there.
"Good morning Master Quinn, I see you ate well while I was gone. Looks like some shopping will have to be done," he noted, more to himself than me, I think because I was no more than what he cooked for, not a person. It occurred to me he could only do that if I let him.
"Mr. Guinness, was she your friend? Miss Greta I mean," I asked as I sat on one of the chairs next to the kitchen table. He looked at me strangely, probably because I had never really spoken to him, nor he to me.
"Master Quinn, your parents wouldn't approve," he began.
"I don't care what they approve of, they are never here with me, and you are. And I want to know," I said firmly. He hesitated once more before replying.
"Yes, Greta was my friend, a very nice woman. We would have dinner once a week at her house and play cards over coffee or tea," he looked at me, "she was very fond of you, Master Quinn, she thought you a very kind person."
"I thought she was very kind as well, she talked to me and I sorely needed that, more than I ever knew. And she brought someone in my life, who quickly became so very important to me.
"I'm sorry you lost your friend, Mr. Guinness, very sorry indeed."
He regarded me for a moment before sitting down across from me. He looked at me intently and I think maybe he began to see a person instead of the occupant of the house. He nodded at me.
"Thank you, Quinn. I appreciate your sentiments, I am sorry for your loss as well. She has left a void in us both it would seem. I have nothing going on at home anymore, not since my sweet Caroline passed. Our children have long since moved on and haven't any need for their old man, really," he shook himself suddenly getting to his feet, " I have to get some shopping done, see if Mr. Maguire has anything at all left in his store." He reached for his coat and I stood.
"Drive safely Mr. Guinness," I said before departing for my room, and a much needed shower.
I dressed in sweats when done bathing, intending to run and try to clear my head some, and try and get my heart to stop hurting so much. The sky was steely gray and starkly forbidding, carrying the promise of more snow in the near future. I decided maybe not to go, to perhaps sit in the viewing room instead and wrap myself in Drew's blanket again. The problem was it smelled less like him and more like me since I hadn't bathed before I napped in it. I sighed deeply as I looked out on the frozen landscape and wished for something to make Drew and I come together again.
Steeling myself, I decided that if I wanted something I would have to fight for it, and since Mister Wallace Oberdorfer would only move if my parents said so, I would have to call one. But which one? Well, actually, not that difficult really, I knew where my mother was and God alone knew where my father was. That settled, I entered my father's study and sat at his roll-top desk and began searching for my mothers number. I opened one drawer after another, mostly empty but on occasion having a few items hidden within. I discovered my mother's number in the Rolodex, and dialed quickly. After two rings a sleepy voice answered in French, I won't try and tell you what it sounded like.
"Hi, this is Quinn Andersen, Estelle's son. May I please speak with my mother?" I asked.
"One minute." I was told in a heavily accented female voice. I heard the phone being set down and then silence for what seemed to me to be an eternity. Then the phone was alive again.
"Quinn? Is something wrong? Do you have any idea what time it is?" came a female voice which I barely recognized as my mother.
"There's something wrong, mother, and I do apologize for the late hour, but I am distressed and in need of you right now," I told her, somewhat0 amazed as my language shifted back into my proper self. Drew had changed even that.
"What troubles you, child?" she asked softly. Tears began tracking down my face yet again.
"Mother, mom. Miss Greta died yesterday."
"No! Oh that is horrible news, she was an excellent housekeeper. Her husband had already passed, did he not?" my mother asked.
"Yes, some time ago. But she has left behind a nephew, who now has no home. Mother, I feel terribly for him, can we please help?" I asked plaintively.
"Well, I think that would be appropriate, after all she was employed with us before you were born. A very dependable woman, did you have something in mind?" she asked.
"Yes, actually, I had given it much thought." I replied, realizing I had to choose my words here carefully, "Normally I would say that we could make a generous allowance and transport him to a relative," I began.
"That is appropriate, yes."
"However, he has no family left whatsoever. So I believe it would be remiss of us not to care for him until such time as he is legally able to do so for himself," I said, eyes closed and hoping I had presented it properly.
"I see. That is an...unexpected development." She fell silent for a moment, "where is he now?"
"He was taken by the local authorities, he was placed in a home, a type of orphanage I believe," I said as I tried to contain my hopes.
"While I have no doubt he would benefit from such exposure to you and the schooling, I have to wonder how well he would affect the stability of the house. Have you met this boy?"
"Yes, I have. He is quite bright and I believe he would have no trouble finding a place here, Mother."
"Have you taken any action at this point?" she asked. This was a bad spot, if I lied and Oberdorfer had already called I would be caught out. If he had not, then I could be safe.
"I did speak to Mr. Oberdorfer when he called, quite diligently, to check on affairs here. He agreed to make initial inquiries while informing me your guardianship would be necessary."
"I see, very intelligent, Quinn. I do realize you have been alone for some time, perhaps having someone besides a servant about the house would be wise," she said in a thoughtful tone, "Yes, I shall speak with Mister Oberdorfer and make the necessary arrangements through him. Thank you for bringing this to my attention."
"Of course, Mother," I replied.
"How did Mrs. Fanning pass?" she enquired.
"We had a large snowfall, a tree fell into her home, through her bedroom. Presumably under weight from the snow and the high wind, coupled with age conspired to bring the tree down." I replied.
"How awful. I hadn't realized things had been so bad this winter. Do you want to come to France?" she asked.
"I am sorry, I don't believe I heard you, did you day come to France?" I asked in disbelief.
"Well, yes. Until your of age you can't travel abroad all the time with your father, so I thought perhaps you were finished with your solitude," she replied.
"My solitude? I don't mean to sound harsh, but I don't recall being given a choice," I said.
"My dear child, the world is yours for the asking. Even as a babe you loved the cold and the mountains, a real zest for it. Your father and I were unable to stay there, he due to his traveling and me because of my arthritis. Did you think we had abandoned you?" she asked, and I believe I heard some small amount of worry in her voice.
"I...Mother I did believe you didn't want me." I said softly and with amazement that this conversation was being had.
"Oh god, have we been so loose with you as to allow you to think you were uncared for? We merely wished you to be happy, whatever that was, and we were loathe to take you from the house you seemed to love as a child," she said.
"And what of the parents I loved as a child?" I asked.
"They...we thought we were doing the best thing for our child. We do love you, Quinn. Always." I felt hot tears on my skin as I tried to find words.
"Momma, I love you too," I said through my gurgling.
"Quinn, I have a grand idea, I shall come to assist you in this quest, and when the legalities are through we can rediscover one another, do you think that would be a good thing?"
"Yes, Mamma, I do indeed."
I sat quietly in bittersweet silence as I thought of my mother today, and of Drew still not found. I stood and walked to the front of the house, into the viewing room, and stared at the field of snow. Headlights shone coming up the road and an older Jeep came into view, cautiously making it's way up the slope. It turned into the drive and began to wind its way towards the house. My thoughts were whirling. Maybe it was Drew, maybe he'd come back, maybe he'd...stolen a vehicle to return to me! No! I was being so foolish. I was amazing even to myself. I headed towards the kitchen to see who my new visitors were.
I watched first from the window as they exited the Jeep, stretching and milling about. A few of them struck me as more than a bit handsome, but I felt ashamed thinking it when Drew was waiting out there somewhere for me. I proceeded to the back door and opened it, freezing them in their tracks. A blond haired beauty spoke first, after another blond angel kicked him into introducing himself.
Casey Fremont was with them, easily one of the nicest people I had met at the Washoe Club when I used to go there to swim laps. He didn't think I'd remember him! All the people were introduced to me, although I still wasn't sure what this surprise visit was all about.
I invited them in, naturally, and that's when the bombshell hit. The first beautiful blond asked if I knew Drew and I sat in the chair like I was weighted down. Casey cleared the room so he could sit and talk to me.
"Quinn, we met Drew yesterday, he seems to be a real nice guy," Casey opened.
"He...He's a lot more than that, Casey. He's all I have." I propped my head up with one hand, palm on my forehead, "Look around, you know how it is. This whole place is pretty much mine, but I'd trade it all for him, just to have him." I knew I was blubbering but I no longer cared, only one thing mattered and I needed to let this out to someone. "My mother, she says she'll help me, all that has to be done is to find Drew."
"Is Drew, ah, more than a friend?" Casey asked. All I could do was nod at him.
"Ok, well, you're in understanding company anyway. We know where Drew is, and he misses you a whole lot. Why don't you call him and then we can get you two together," Casey soothed.
"What do you mean, understanding company?" I asked as I rose to my feet with Casey.
"Well, if he's more than a friend he must be your boyfriend, right?" Casey asked.
I nodded dumbly.
"Justin, the dark haired guy with the nice smile and killer body is my boyfriend, and the two blonds, Grant and Cris, are dating as well. Just Sheila and Kyle are straight, and are both cool with us. You're in good hands, come on," Casey said, throwing an arm around my shoulder to lead me to the dining room where the others had gone, but I half turned into him and hugged him tight, thanking him over and over for giving Drew back to me, for helping me find him.
"Let's call, where's the number?" I asked excitedly.
"Grant has the number, let's get everyone," Casey replied.
Casey and I went to round up the others, and I needed to change as well. Casey was behind me when we came up on Kyle and Justin, Justin was embracing his friend from behind, and in light of Casey's admission I was surprised to find the straight guy being hugged by Casey's boyfriend.
"Trying to steal my boyfriend Pritchard?" Casey asked in a very mocking tone.
"I was going to ask Justin the same question," Sheila said coming in from the viewing room.
"Well, looks like we have another passenger, who wants him on their lap?" Casey asked.
"Oh no you guys don't!" Sheila spoke up, muttering something about letting a lamb in with wolves, which won her a few dirty looks as Grant and Cris reentered the room. I grinned and asked Grant for the number to reach Drew, which he rattled off too quickly for me, so I dragged him to the kitchen and the portable phone so I could call right away. I had Grant dial the number and then ask for Drew, then he handed me the receiver.
"Homer House, Angela speaking," came the voice through the receiver.
"Good afternoon, may I please speak with Drew Maloney?" I asked somewhat nervously.
"He's doing his homework at the moment," was the reply.
"Please, I if could just say hello to him, he...he's my friend," I said both feeling crestfallen that she had said no and getting frustrated that I was so close to him and so far away.
"Is this Quinn?" Angela asked.
"Yes. This is Quinn Andersen," I replied, confused.
"Well don't you move sweetheart, hang on one second," she said quickly.
I was stunned into silence, what caused that sudden change in her attitude?
"Quinn? Is it you, Quinn? Are you there? Hello?" came through the earpiece.
"It's me Drew, it's me," I said almost lost in hearing his voice again.
"How did you find me? I knew you would, I was...I was hoping you would," he trailed off slowly.
"Your new friends, actually our new friends I guess, they came to find me. We're coming to see you," I said, tears welling in my eyes as I spoke to him, thinking of having him near me again brought all the hurt and all that was uniquely Drew back to me.
"They did...they're there?"
"They are, yes, and I have even better news," I told him with excitement.
"What?" he asked, excitement lacing his voice.
"My mother is coming to get us both."