This story is fiction. It depicts, sometimes explicitly, sex between teenage boys, between boys and men, and between boys and females, both teenage and adult. If you find such things offensive, or reading such things is illegal where you live, please read no further.

I have two small matters of business to take care of before we try to get our buddies out of that police car. I'll try to be brief.

First of all, I have received two emails in the past few days, but when I tried to respond I got my respond returned "undeliverable." So if you have written me and have not had a response for over three days, chances are you are one of the "undeliverable" ones. Please email me again, and I'll try again to answer.

Secondly, I will be presenting a song or two in this chapter. Those who know me know that I can only go so long without "breaking into song," as it were. For this I make no apology; but the point is, some of the songs our heros will be singing had not even been written when this story took place. I mention this because any Rita MacNeil fans (a fantastic Canadian singer/song writer) will recognize that she wrote some of these songs, probably in the early 80's. Being the shameless copy artist I am, I have not only used the songs as if they were my own, but I have even changed some of the words! I wonder who can determine the changes I made? There are other songs and lines from songs which may or may not have been around in 1966, I'm frankly not sure; nor do I really care. I usually try to be historically accurate, but these songs were (a) ones that I know and like, and probably more important, (b) seem to me to fit the story line very well.

Anyway, sorry for that interruption. Now back to the story.

XXVII. A Surprise for Everyone

"Uhh, Officer," Dan said, "I think we'd better tell him. We mighta gone too far here, I think he's going into shock."

"Tell me what?" Charlie said. His entire body was starting to tremble, perspiration running in rivers down his face. It was becoming more and more obvious that Charlie's emotions had been over stressed. He was losing it!

"It's all right, Charlie," Dan said. "We're not being arrested. There's nothing wrong."

"Yeah, right! We're in the back of a cop car, there's a lynch mob or some damn thing on the street, and everything's ok! Sure, man!"

"No, really, Charlie! Officer, would you mind taking a drive around the block so Charlie can see the ribbons? I don't think he's noticed them yet."

"You got it," the driver said. "Jacobson here," his partner said into the mike. "We're goin' around the block."

"See what ribbons? Noticed what? What the hell are you..."

As they exited the block where the crowd was gathered and turned the corner, the car sped up a little. "Look at the trees, Charlie! The street signs! The front doors of all the houses! Dammit, man, I can't believe you haven't seen them yet! They're everywhere!"

"What in the..." Charlie gasped. "Where did all the yellow ribbons come from?"

"The high school, Charlie," Dan said. "The junior high's! The elementary schools! The YMCA! Every school kid in Truro was in on it. They've been working for two weeks, puttin' them up all over town. I can't believe you didn't see them this afternoon!"

"What're they for?"

"For YOU, dummy! That was one of the ways we were puttin' pressure on the system. I called Lisa and Marg from Daytona as soon as Dad got back without you. They got Mr. Bell involved, and soon the whole town was cranked up! Shit, man, you were even on the National News!"

"But... the officer... he said I'd been set up..."

"You have," Officer Jacobson said from the front seat. "This isn't over yet. Believe me, you'll remember this night for the rest of your life! Can we go back now?"

"Yes, please," Dan answered.

"Jacobson again," he said into the mike. "We're comin' in."

"You..." Charlie said to Dan with disbelief, "you knew about this? You're in on it?"

"Some of it, Charlie. I made a phone call when you were in the shower to let 'em know we were coming."

"I'm gonna kill you, Dan!"

"You better hope nothing happens to me any time soon," he chuckled. "I got two police witnesses that heard you say you were gonna kill me."

"Justifiable homicide! No jury would convict me."

Before Dan had a chance to counter, the back door of the police car was opened and Clarke Edwards appeared. "About time you two got here," he said with a grin. "C'mon, guys, the mayor and half the town are all waiting!"

"The... the mayor?" Charlie stammered. "Waiting for what?"

"We're not sure, yet," Clarke answered. "That's sort of up to you, Charlie."

There are a lot of things that can be said about living in a small town in eastern Canada. Some might think it absolutely unbearable, dull, boring, while others would consider it a piece of paradise. But one thing can be said for Truro that no one can dispute. Perhaps it's true of all small towns; but it's certainly true of Truro. The fact that news travels fast has already been established. But once that news does its blanketing of the town, if it is the sort of information that can spawn a party, said party can spring up almost instantly. Such was the case as Charlie and Dan stepped out of the back seat of that police car.

The MacDonald home was ablaze with lights from inside, as well as countless floodlights on the lawn. A portable stage had been erected on the sidewalk, and it too was brightly lit. On the stage was a band: the same band, Charlie recognized, that had played for most of the park dances they'd enjoyed all summer. There were a few men standing around, mostly well dressed in business suits. The boys recognized one of them as Angus Nealy, mayor of Truro.

Charlie and Dan were herded through the crowd, amid a lot of polite cheers and applause, and into the MacDonald home. There was the rest of the Edwards clan, Margaret's parents, Mr. Tanner and his four students from Daytona, Charlie Nelson Sr, and a young man they recognized as the leader of the band. "I guess you know everybody, Charlie," Margaret said, "except possibly Todd, my brother."

"Hi, Todd. I guess I knew who you were, but I didn't know you were Margaret's brother."

"Fraid so," Todd said with a grin. "We're running late, so I'll get right to the point, if that's all right."

"I wish someone would," Charlie said. "I'm so confused I'm not sure of my own name any more."

"None of us are sure of your name right now," Clarke agreed. "Don't worry about that, though. Just listen to Todd. I think he's got a proposition you're gonna like."

"The thing is, Charlie," Todd began, "I really liked your singing this summer. I mean REALLY liked it! Well, we were thinking of heading to the States after the summer, trying to get a recording contract, but we've never been able to find a good lead vocalist. We were gonna go right to Nashville and take our chances, try and find a singer after we got there. But if you're willing to work with us as our lead singer, we'll go to Daytona instead. With winter coming on Florida looks more attractive to us anyway. It might be better for us anyway, considering all the Canadians in Florida every winter."

"I don't understand," Charlie said. "What makes you think I'd be interested? What makes you think I could even do it?"

"You made me think it, Charlie! You and your grandfather, and all that talk about how you used to sing."

"But... that was then! I was a very little boy, with a very high soprano voice. A lot has changed, including my voice!"

"Your voice hasn't changed, Charlie," his grandfather said as he joined the conversation. "It's got a little deeper, but from what they described when you sang this summer, it hasn't changed. All you need is a little of the self confidence you used to have, and maybe some practice."

"But... I've got school! I don't want anything else to stand in the way of me getting through high school. If I were spending all my time with a band..."

"I thought you understood," Mr. Tanner said. "Charlie, we will work with you. That's what our school is all about! Diversity! Experiencing! Your academic subjects are important, but so is life! And if your grandfather's description is accurate, you have a talent that shouldn't be wasted! I for one will do everything I can to support you."

"This is what that cop meant by a major setup, isn't it?" he asked Dan.


"Well, it's not gonna work. I mean, I just can't! I'm sorry y'all went out of your way, but I can't. Whoever heard of a lead vocalist who can't even play a guitar?"

"You played it in July," Todd reminded him.

"That wasn't real playing. I only strummed a few chords."

"That's all you need, Charlie! I'm the lead guitarist, we've got a second, so you don't have to play at all if you don't want to. But I got a feeling you'll learn pretty quick. Dan tells me what you do know you pretty well taught yourself."

"But Todd, I'm gay! Have you forgotten that? What're those guys in the band gonna think about traveling around with a queer?"

"You've got to get over it, Charlie," Lisa scolded. Everyone else is learning to deal with it. I mean, the whole town is trying really hard to do exactly what you've asked us to do: to look at Charlie the person, Dan the person, not Charlie and Dan the queer lovers. We're trying to enjoy your talents, help you discover yourselves. But you're not making it easy for us. You're always making excuses about what you can't do because you're gay. You want us to get over it, but you're using it as a crutch!

"Margaret's gone to get the whole band," Todd said. "Why don't you ask them yourself, if you're so concerned?"

"Well?" the drummer demanded when he walked in. "Do we have a lead singer or not? The mayor's getting restless, and so is the rest of the crowd. We can only play so long without our lead guitarist and no singer."

"Charlie's got a question for you," Todd said.

"Margaret told us. Charlie, we want your voice, not your bedroom practices. We need you, man! We're all set up to move, but without a singer, most of our music just doesn't work. And I for one just can't listen to Todd sing for very long."

"Give it a try, Charlie," Dan pleaded, "please?"

"But Dan... I mean, you're not interested in music! I was hoping that whatever we end up doing, we could do it together!"

"Charlie, you know I'm planning to go into police work. I know that's not gonna fit your plans."

"But... what about us?"

"Charlie, what's your singing have to do with us? You think just 'cause we end up in different professions that we'll stop loving each other? Damn, Charlie, I thought you knew me better'n that! Just because we don't spend every day for the rest of our lives in each other's face doesn't mean we can't have a relationship! You tell me our relationship is every bit as strong as a married couple. How many married couples do the same thing all their lives?"

"You'd make an old man very happy," Charlie Sr. said. "I've still got to face your father, and it sure would make it easier if I could tell him you're getting on with your life, functioning like the normal, talented young man you are."

"Tell ya what," Todd said. "The last part of the setup was to have the mayor officially say good-bye to the whole Edwards family, then announce that we're leaving and that you're gonna work with us. Then we were planning to have you sing with the band tonight. If you'll agree to do that, then we'll accept your answer at the end of the evening with no further arguments."

"Sing... tonight? But I haven't practiced! I don't know half the songs!"

"Bullshit!" Dan scoffed. "I've heard you sing along with the radio millions of times. You probably didn't even know you were doin' it, but I've heard you, man! I've watched you jammin' big time to the music! You know most of the songs these guys play, Charlie! So quit being so negative and give it a shot! What've you got to lose?"

"Oh, not much. Just my dignity, my self respect. This is my chance to make a really big fool of myself."

"Only way you're gonna make a fool of yourself is if you don't try it, Charlie," Mr. Tanner stated. "You were only in school a couple weeks, probably not long enough to hear my favorite lecture, but you'll hear it often enough from me and all the teachers. The biggest failure is the one who doesn't take a chance on failing. Do it, Charlie! Don't be a failure without even trying!"

Charlie didn't answer.

"You probably ought to know the other members of the band," Todd said. "This is John, on drums. Greg, second guitar, violin, mandolin, and anything else with strings. Pete, steel guitar and sax, believe it or not. Fred, bass, and of course Chad plays the organ, piano and piano accordian."

"Hey, y'all," Charlie said as he shook their hands.

"Welcome, man!" they all said. "Man, I love that," Chad exclaimed. "Wonder how long it'll be before I can say 'hey y'all' so naturally?"

"You just did," Charlie chuckled.

"I'm sure glad you're joining us," Chad said. "I can use another keyboard player."

"I can't play piano," Charlie answered. "I mean, it's been years since I touched a keyboard!"

"You'll learn. But right now let's get out there and knock 'em dead!"

It should be understood that getting the mayor of Truro, Nova Scotia to perform official duties isn't exactly like getting the mayor of New York. Scheduling the mayor of New York for such a do, if in fact you could do it at all, would likely have to be done months in advance. In fact for Angus Nealy, and most small town politicians for that matter, being mayor was simply a sideline. He was also a prominent insurance agent in Truro, and the chances of securing his appearance at a moment's notice had every possibility of success. Nevertheless to the good people of Truro, to be honored by His Worship at a social function was indeed a noteworthy occasion.

When everyone was finally assembled on the stage, Angus Nealy did what small town mayors do best: He made a speech. To his credit, it wasn't too long. He just introduced Clarke and Nancy and their four sons. He expressed regret that the town was losing such a fine family; but at least, he said, maybe they could get back to normal and not be inundated with yellow ribbons! "Speaking of which," he said, then with a dramatic wave of his hand, motioned his five year old daughter to the stage. She presented a large bouquet of yellow roses to Nancy, then with some difficulty began pinning a rose on Clarke, Jerry, Charlie, Dan and Josh. To help the little girl, Dan took two roses, pinned one on Charlie and one of Josh. Charlie took one and pinned it on Dan while Jerry and Clarke helped each other.

Lots of applause.

"The bad news of the evening," Angus said when the noise died down, "I regret to inform you that Todd MacDonald and his band are moving to Daytona as well. They are hoping to establish themselves as the great band we all know them to be..."

Lots of applause now, together with hoots and shouts, cheers and whistles.

"They also wanted me to inform you that they have recruited Charlie Edwards as their lead singer. We all know from a certain performance in July that he will be a welcome addition."

More applause, a little more guarded, but applause just the same. The little girl appeared again and pinned yellow roses on members of the band.

"Enjoy the party," Angus said as he handed the microphone to Charlie.

The band started to play. Charlie recognized the number. He knew this song! He realized that what the band was playing was an intro. He stared at the mike in his hand. He totally froze! Who were all those people? What kind of noise was coming from that guitar behind him? What was that huge thing in his hand? What was his name? Where was he? Who was this guy standing next to him?

"Now, Charlie!" The combined voices of Dan, Jerry, Sean, Josh, Lisa and Margaret. They were all right at the edge of the stage. For reasons he could never explain, Charlie's eyes zeroed in on Josh. The little guy was literally beaming! This was the boy who, only hours ago, had put himself at great risk to speak up for his friend. He hadn't known at the time what would be the result. For all he knew he was headed back to the detention center, probably to take Charlie's place as their favorite rapee, maybe even worse! Now it was payback! Now Josh was looking to Charlie, his new friend, big brother, hero! All Charlie had to do to please him was... sing!

He heard the cue. He heard Todd whisper in his ear: "Wake Up Little Suzie! You sing lead." He took a breath, and he was singing! It sounded so good! He belted it out as loud as he could. Todd was following him, harmonizing perfectly! It sounded incredible! He found his grandfather in the crowd, standing next to his parents, half the contingent from Florida, and... and a few of his cousins!

As they sang, Charlie realized this wasn't going to work. They were sharing the mike Charlie was holding while Todd continued playing the guitar. But Charlie was having a lot of difficulty standing still, which made it tough for Todd to stay close to the mike. Suddenly he noticed Josh. What had caused him to look in that direction? Was that Josh singing? Above all the noise, the music, the din of the crowd, his own voice, he could hear Josh?

Charlie motioned to Todd. He nodded. He had heard it too! That little guy was really into it! Halfway through the second verse, Todd did the unthinkable. He stopped singing, raised his hand to stop the whole band. He took the mike from Charlie.

"Sorry for stopping halfway through here," his voiced echoed up and down the crowded street. "This is our first performance with our new lead singer, and it's gonna take us a few songs to get it right. But I think we've just discovered that Charlie has a backup singer that's a lot better than I am. Josh, c'mon up here!"

"Yeah, you!" Charlie said with a grin when Josh put on his Sunday best little boy 'who, me?' look. At first he looked stricken, but then Dan gave him a push towards the stage, he and Sean hoisted him and deposited him at Charlie's feet.

"Can you sing the harmony?" Todd asked.

"I... I dunno," Josh stammered as Greg handed him a mike.

"Ok," Todd said. "You sing lead tonight. Charlie, you harmonize and take the solo parts."

Then before anyone could protest, the intro started again. Charlie and Josh looked at each other, grinned, and started to sing.

When Charlie and Todd had sung, it sounded pretty good, considering they'd never sung together before. It was certainly rough around the edges, tentative in spots, but for the most part more than passable. But when Charlie and Josh began, it was as if they'd been singing together their whole lives! They had known each other for less than a month; had been brothers only a few hours; had never even considered singing together before. Actually, no one, not even Josh himself, had any idea how well he could sing! But before they finished that one song, everyone who heard knew they had a future together.

If Charlie thought he'd been animated when he sang, he was like a marble statue compared to Josh. If he thought his voice was clear and strong, it was nothing compared to Josh. It was rather obvious that no one was more surprised than Josh himself; but the two sounded so well together they were inspired to go higher, louder, longer than either had ever done before.

When the song was finished the applause was, well, enthusiastic. Todd stepped to the mike. "You folks like the Everly Brothers?" he asked.

More enthusiastic applause.

"How about the Edwards brothers?"

The place went wild with hoots and shouts, whistles and cheers. "I gotta tell you," Todd went on, "just in case there are any here who didn't know, these guys only became brothers today, and you are hearing them sing together for the very first time in their lives!"

More shouts and applause, then shouted demands for MORE! MORE!

They did sing more. They sang all the Everly songs they knew, then a few other duets. Charlie sang solos. Josh did too. Between them they covered the spectrum: Elvis, Jim Reeves, Hank Williams, Jerry Lee Lewis, even some of the more modern songs done by the likes of The Beatles, Dave Clark Five, CCR. They sang songs they knew, but had long since forgotten who'd sung them and made them famous.

As midnight approached, the band began to slow things down. Charlie whispered in Todd's ear, for the thirtieth time. Todd nodded, and Charlie picked up an acoustic guitar as Josh sat down. Charlie started to sing.

I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself what a wonderful world.

I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself what a wonderful world.

The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by
I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do
They're really saying I love you.

I hear babies cry, I watch them grow
They'll learn much more than I'll never know
And I think to myself what a wonderful world
Yes I think to myself what a wonderful world.

There were very few who were not dancing when Charlie finished the song, but he wasn't done yet. He motioned for Lisa to come up to the piano. He had this crowd in his hand now, and he wasn't about to let go before putting them through their emotional paces. He knew Lisa knew this song because they'd both heard it over the summer. The band had only heard it once or twice, had not practiced it; but they said they could follow Lisa. Charlie really wanted to sing this song, it just seemed to fit the evening, everything that had happened today, his mood. Lisa played the intro as they had heard it, and Charlie looked down, locked his eyes on Dan's and began to sing:

I'm so afraid of losing you
I don't know how I'm holding you
I can't believe you love me
After all this time

For you're the kind you look up to
I know you say that of me too
And of all the loves that walked with you
I'm glad I'm walking now

So I'll accept the rose tonight
The one you give with so much love
You've taken all the fear inside
And right before my very eyes
You turned it into love

I know the way you look at me
There's never any doubt it seems
You stop my heart from beating
By the way you speak

And in this world where love grows cold
And broken dreams are left to hold
I pray I may never know
A day without your love

So I'll accept the rose tonight
The one you give with so much love
You've taken all the fear inside
And right before my very eyes
You turned it into love

Well, suffice to say a lot of people were moved, not the least of whom was Charlie himself. This had to be, just HAD to be the best night, the best day of his life! Past, present, or future! And as good as it was for Charlie, it was five times better for Josh. For Josh, everything that had happened had been totally unexpected: a new home; three awesome brothers, well, four if you count Sean; a family; singing in a band. One totally awesome, blowout, overloaded circuits kind of a day!

"You know 'Home I'll Be?" Charlie whispered. Yes, Todd said, he knew it. Josh had heard it, but wasn't sure of some of the words.

"No prob, lil buddy. Just follow my lead, ok?"

Charlie stepped up to the mike. Already he felt like a veteran. He loved performing! In his mind he was three or four year old "Chah-wee" again, strutting his stuff for his proud mother and her friends. Never in his wildest fantasies had he dreamed he would ever be making a speech that hadn't been called for, but here he was, clearing his throat as the band went quiet. He asked his parents and brothers to join him on the stage. "I guess this is our closing number," he said into the mike. "I'm pretty sure I'm speaking for everyone on this stage when I say we're gonna miss you all, this town, this country. I'd be lying if I tried to say I'm not looking forward to our new life, and I'm sure everyone else is as excited as I am. But I wanted to sing this song before we go. It's a new song I heard this summer, but I've got a feeling it's gonna be around for a long time. Every time I hear this song I know that Nova Scotia will always be a part of me, no matter where I go."

The band started to play. Charlie started to sing, and was soon joined by Josh, Todd, the rest of the band, even Dan got in on this one.

I see the mountains, feel the salt air
I have reasons to behold
All the wonders that never cease to be
You're as timeless as the water
You're as gentle as the fields
I caress you Nova Scotia in my dreams

And you never let the hard times
Take away your soul
And you stopped the tears from falling
As you watched the young ones go
You're as peaceful as a clear day
You're as rugged as the seas
I caress you Nova Scotia in my dreams

And home l'Il be
Home I'll be
Banish thoughts of leaving
Home I'll be

I see the blue lakes, feel the passion
I have reasons to believe
There are places that will bring you to your knees
I hear voices they are calling
I have reason to pay heed
I caress you Nova Scotia in my dreams

And you kept your arms wide open
To let your children know
Wherever there is distance
The heart is always home

You're as soulful as a choir
You're as ancient as the hills
I caress you Nova Scotia in my dreams

And home l'Il be
Home I'll be
Banish thoughts of leaving
Home I'll be

"You guys were so incredible!" Todd gushed when they were all crowded into the MacDonald living room. "We got us a secret weapon, and he's only twelve years old!"

"We were pretty awesome," Charlie agreed self-consciously. "But without Josh..."

"Don't start, Charlie!" Dan threatened. "You were really great! I just can't believe I've known you all these years and didn't know!"

"Guess I didn't have that much to sing about," Charlie answered. But tonight, even thoughts of what was and what might have been could not cast a shadow over the mood. They discussed their move to Daytona, talked about how they were going to get started on their new career, how often they should practice. Todd said that the band hadn't planned to leave for another three or four weeks, which would give Charlie and Josh time to get back into school and maybe even catch their breath.

It was late Thursday night, or more accurately early Friday morning when the private party finally broke up. Jane had not been able to arrange for a charter flight back south until Saturday afternoon, which meant they had basically one day to clear up all the loose ends before leaving. That was fine with everyone; they all had a few good-byes to say, last minute shopping to do. "I expect you to go see your father," Clarke told Charlie. "Do you want any of us to go with you?"

"I was wondering when you'd start giving orders," Charlie quipped back. "No thanks, Dad. I guess this is something I've gotta do on my own."

Friday was a pretty typical cold, rainy October day. Josh had left early in the morning, saying that he had some old friends he wanted to look up. He also wanted to stop by two of his former foster homes; homes where he had got along rather well when he was there. No one could see the harm in it, so after giving Nancy more detailed information about exactly where he was going, then promising to be back by dark, he left. No, he said, he didn't need a ride. He was quite used to walking where he needed to go and rather enjoyed it.

It was late afternoon and starting to rain harder. It was also going to be dark early, but Josh wasn't worried. He had found several of his friends, some of whom had been at the street party last night. Josh found himself, for the first time in his life, something of a local celebrity, and that felt incredibly good! But now it was getting late, and he had taken his leave and was walking home, singing happily to himself. One more night in Truro, then he'd be sleeping in his own bed, in his new home in Florida. Talk about a fairy tale!

This was Josh's town! Last night he had owned it, lock stock and barrel! Now he knew how Cinderella must have felt, except his dream hadn't ended at midnight. His dream was giving every indication that it was just getting started. As he literally bounced along the sidewalk, he thought there couldn't possibly be a more fortunate, nor a happier boy in all of Canada!

"Josh!" he heard. He looked down the alley. His blood froze. It was a boy whose name he didn't know, but he'd seen him at the detention center.

"Hi," he said nervously, then hurried on his way. He was still watching over his shoulder when he collided smack into another boy. This one he didn't know. He was big and heavy enough that Josh literally bounced off after their collision. "Excuse me," he said as he gathered his wits. "Sorry, I didn't mean to walk into you."

"That's ok," the boy said softly. "I guess I don't mind being trampled by a big singing star. Hey, man, you were really great last night!"

"Oh," Josh said self-consciously. "Thanks. It was fun."

"Too bad you had to share the stage with that fag boy," another voice said.

"Charlie's my brother," Josh said defiantly. Then he noticed that his way was blocked. He was now completely encircled by five older boys, all in their late teens or early twenties.

"You better come with us," one of them said. "We've gotta tell you a few facts about what it's like to live with a bunch of fags."

"Sorry," Josh said as he tried to leave, "I've gotta get home. We're leaving tomorrow."

"I don't think that's a good idea at all. I guess you really didn't understand. We invited you to a little get-together, and it wouldn't be polite to just walk away. Now you'd better come with us. We got a car right over there."

"I was wondering if you were going to drop by," Don Nelson said when he answered the doorbell.

"I... I wanted to let you know we'll be leaving for Florida tomorrow around noon," Charlie said nervously. Suddenly he realized that he had no idea how to address his own father. "I came over to say good-bye."

"What are your plans, Charlie?"

"I'm not sure, I guess. I'm gonna finish high school, and I guess it kinda depends on what the band does whether I go to college or not."

"You'll be living with... with him?"

"Yes, sir. They're my family now."

"And me? What am I, Charlie?"

"You're my father, sir. Nothing will ever change that. I wish this all didn't have to happen, but... well, anyway, I'd better go. We're all supposed to be back before dark, and someone might need the car."

"When will you be back this way again?"

"I have no idea, sir. But I doubt it'll be before spring or summer. I've missed a lot of school already this year, and with the band..."

"Just like your mother, your head still in the clouds. You'd do well to forget that band and get on with your life. You're not a child any more. It's time to forget pipe dreams."

Charlie opened his mouth to point out that there were a lot of people who didn't seem to feel it was a pipe dream, but he thought better of it. He felt the blood start to rush to his head His face was flushing. But once again he had promised, so he said good-bye once more, shook his father's hand, and left. He was proud of himself. He had wanted to fight; break down and cry; scream; throw his arms around his father, but he did none of them. He acted much the same way as his father. Perhaps that's what he wanted, Charlie thought.

"Have you seen Josh?" Dan asked as soon as Charlie walked in the door.

"Me? No, I was over seeing my father. But he said he wouldn't be late. He probably just lost track of time."

"I don't think so. He was too excited to be late. He wanted to get back and help pack, and I'm pretty sure he wouldn't be late unless something happened."

"What could happen?" Charlie scoffed. "This is Truro, Dan! Nothing ever happens in Truro!"

"Charlie," Nancy called, "it's for you."

"What's for me?"

"The phone, Charlie! Didn't you hear it ring?"

"No, actually I didn't. Hello?"

"Hello, fag boy," the voice came over the phone. "We got your little fuck buddy here, and we're gonna have a party. We were hoping you and your fag boy friend could join us. Actually you might say it's a command performance."

"Where are you? What are you..."

"You want my life history over the phone? You think I'm nuts? You just bring your faggot brother to the park where you made all that beautiful music last summer. Once we're sure you're alone, we'll let you know where to go from there. Don't be late! You do want this cute little fuck buddy back all in one piece, don't you?"

"Charlie!" Nancy said as he hung up the phone. "Charlie, you're as white as a ghost! What is it?"

"Josh! Someone's got Josh. They want you and I to meet them, Dan."

"We'll all go," Jerry offered.

"Can't, Jer. He didn't tell me where they are. They're gonna make sure we're alone before they show us where to go. We've gotta meet them at the park. He said where we made the beautiful music, so I guess he means by the bandstand. C'mon, Dan!"

"You can't just walk into their plan," Clarke said. "That's like giving them an invitation to do whatever they have in mind. You can't go!"

"What choice do we have? They've got Josh!"

* * *

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