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Desert Dropping

Chapter One: Dropped

Arizona. Ari-fri-kin-zona. Do you know how hot it is in Arizona? In the summer? Well, if you don't, it's pretty damn hot, and that's on a good day. And I had to live there. Not just for a summer either. No. I was moving there. I think we've properly established that I wasn't thrilled with the idea.

Why? Well, the why I was so disgruntled had little to do with the heat and more to do with everything else. Starting with my dad. Maybe I should explain. See, my father (and I use the term loosely) lived there. It wasn't that I didn't like him. No. How could you possibly dislike someone you've never met before? And I mean never.

I grew up with my mom, in Nevada. I think I asked about my father less than twice the whole time I was growing up. When I did, the only thing my mother ever said was that he was a good person, but he couldn't be with us. She never said why, and if I asked, she said that he just couldn't. And it was left at that.

But that was okay, because mom and me, we were really happy. She wasn't one of those moms who questioned every little thing I did. Actually, she didn't have to because I told her everything. Ours was one of those open relationships that would frighten any normal sixteen-year-old. Whenever my friends realized that I had such an open, honest relationship with my mother, they'd either think it was the coolest thing in the world, or they'd think that I had some sort of birth defect that induced a mama's boy syndrome.

But I didn't care what they thought because my mother was my best friend in the whole world. Maybe we got along so well because she had me when she was really young. Sixteen, in fact. I couldn't really imagine that, because at sixteen, I still had no idea how to change a diaper. Not that there were many diapers around to change. It was just mom and me. And, occasionally my Grandma Alice, she was pretty cool too.

So how did I end up leaving my happy life in Nevada with everyone in the world I had ever loved behind for a hot, unappealing desert and a father I had never even met before? Well, when I was fourteen, mom was diagnosed with cancer. I think that was the hardest thing I'd ever had to hear before. No, scratch that. The hardest was when the doctors said that it was too late to do anything about it. I was in the room when they told her.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to be sitting next to someone when they're told they're going to die? If you have, you know that the rush of emotions you feel in that moment, are difficult to explain. But I felt a lot of fear. Fear for my mom. Fear for me.

It was my mom.

I won't spend hours telling you how much we just cried together while Grandma Alice stood by, trying to pick up the pieces of our broken family. But I will tell you, that my mom became a real trooper. She didn't give any of us time to be sad. She spent as much time with Grandma Alice and me as she could. And she refused to let me drift away from the small circle of friends I had had since I was still crawling.

But, I did spend more time with mom than I normally would have. And it wasn't enough time, not if you ask me. But it was time well spent. I think that mom and me got to know each other better over the following two years than we had my whole life. And that's saying a lot.

When I was fifteen, I finally told her that I was gay. I think I had known for sure since about thirteen when all of my friends were discovering the joys of masturbation and I was discovering the joys of watching my friends masturbate. It wasn't that hard to figure out I wasn't into girls when Tiffany Toren showed me her boobs on a dare and I didn't want anything to do with them, but when Jason Cross asked if I wanted to masturbate together and I saw his erect cock, I was about to come all over myself.

Oh yeah. I had to be gay.

And it scared the crap out of me. I heard all the rumors; gays were perverts, faggots should be castrated and left to die. I'd heard all the good ones. I tried not to be gay. I tried to think about girls. I even tried to kiss one once. Nothing. I liked boys, not girls, and sooner or later I realized that nothing was going to change that.

But mom was really great about it. She was surprised. But she was okay. And I was grateful for that. I felt bad enough for telling her, knowing that she was going to die, but I had never kept secrets from her before. I wouldn't have been able to live with myself knowing that I had kept something so huge about myself from her. And, I'll never regret the decision of telling her.

But my mom was the only one I told. Well, mom and Grandma Alice. I never exactly told Grandma Alice, but she found out somehow. It would have been easier to make a phone call to God than keep a secret from that woman. But grandma was okay too. Both mom and Grandma Alice even did a whole bunch of research on homosexuality and ultimately made me feel better about myself. They said that it was probably genetic, and I had no control over it anyways so I should stop trying to change who I am and start being myself, whoever that was. By the time my mom died, I had no idea who I was anymore.

The last year was the hardest, I think. We thought we would have more time than that, but mom just got worse. She died in the middle of my sophomore year. I was sixteen.

The first few months were the hardest. There was the funeral, where so many people I didn't even know showed up to pay their respects. Mom had a lot of friends, and a lot of people knew her because she was a waitress at a local restaurant, so that didn't surprise me. And then I moved in with grandma Alice. She made sure I had everything I wanted from the small apartment I shared with my mother, and she was really great about everything, but it still wasn't the same. And then the biggest bomb dropped on me.

At some point, my mother had begun to look for my father and didn't tell anyone about it. In her will, she specifically asked that if and when he was found, that I go live with him. You can imagine what a shock that was to me. My grandma was pretty surprised too.

I was expecting Grandma Alice to at least put up some sort of fight. She was very protective when it came to her family. But then they did find my father, and the day he called the house, I was surprised to find Grandma Alice talking to him like they were old friends.

I didn't talk to my dad that first day. I refused. Grandma told me that he understood, but I didn't care whether or not he understood anything. He wanted to take me away. Grandma Alice was going to let him. I had lost everything I cared about and now a man I had never even met wanted to take me away from all of the familiarity I had left. I hated him.

It was ultimately decided that I would finish out the school year living with my grandma, and I would move to live with my father when summer came. Of course, I didn't decide any of this. And that annoyed me to no end. I mean, I was sixteen, not six. I thought that seemed old enough to warrant my own decisions in major life changes. Especially since it was my life.

But I seemed to be outnumbered. I didn't care about my so-called father, but let me tell you, Grandma Alice is a lady who gets what she wants. I couldn't even argue when she played the mom card. It all dwindled down to one thing: my mom wanted me in Arizona, with my father. So I was going.

My dad called every week, but I continued to refuse to talk to him. I was terrified of the phone, of the voice on the other end. As odd as it sounds I wasn't even curious. As far as I was concerned, I didn't have a father. I only had one parent, and she was gone.

Of course, my elusive attitude only lasted so long. About a month before it was time for me to leave everything I knew, I came home from school to find that my grandma wasn't home. I had just poured myself a glass of milk in the kitchen, (at least, when Grandma Alice asked later I would say I poured myself a glass) In reality I had drank right from the carton, when the phone started ringing, and I picked up on the second ring.

"Hello?" it came out muffled because I was wiping the milk mustache from my top lip.

There was silence on the other end of the phone. I thought I heard breathing, but I wasn't sure.

"Hello?" I said again, a little more forcefully this time. I tried to think of who it could be. My friends had just dropped me off, so it couldn't be them, at least any of my friends who actually called me at home. I wondered if it was a telemarketer. Grandma Alice didn't like telemarketers and made a point to tell them so, and seeing how my impressionable mind had been learning her habit of such a thing over the last six months, I was about to do just that, when the deep, masculine voice came through the other end of the phone.


I think my entire body went rigid at the simple mention of my name through an unfamiliar voice.

"Rory?" he said again. I must have been silent for too long. "Rory, is that you?"

I swallowed, suddenly glad that he couldn't see how nervous I was, and I put on my bravest, and probably most arrogant, voice.

"Who is this?" I demanded. Not that I didn't already know the answer.

I heard a sigh on the other end of the line, and then, "Rory, this is your dad. Um...look, son..."

"I don't have a father." I cut him off. I'm not sure if that hurt him or not. It would serve him right if it did. I mean, what right did he have to call me son? At least it shut him up, if only for a moment. And then I heard a muffled voice in the background and realized that he was talking to someone else, but I couldn't hear what was being said.

"This is Eddie. Your father." He said when he came back, "Rory, um, my name is Eddie Soarda. You can call me Eddie, if you're more comfortable with that."

"What can I do for you Mr. Soarda?" I asked coldly. Okay, I admit it; I didn't want to give this guy a cold chance in hell.

"I was actually calling to talk to you, Rory." He replied calmly. "I think we need to talk."

"Are you the guy I'm still moving in with in four weeks?" I impatiently retorted.

"Yeah, I just moved into a bigger place. You have your own room and everything. I didn't really know how you wanted things set up, but I got some new furniture, a bed, dresser, you can use whatever you want or we can have Alice ship down your own stuff..." God, he actually sounded excited. Perhaps he mistook my rudeness for eagerness. I'd have to correct that.

"Look, I have nothing to say to you." I interrupted, "I'll see you in four weeks because that's what I have to do, but don't think for a second that I like the idea."

I was just about to hang up when the voice on the other end of the phone came through so loud that it made me jump.

"Rory! Wait, damn it!" well, it's about time I got a rise out of him. But, was that what I wanted? "Look, I'm sorry. You don't have to say anything, but please, just listen. Listen and then you can decide whether or not you want to hang up on me. Sound fair?"

"If I hang up now you can save your breath." I retorted, "I'm not interested in anything you have to say."

"Fine." He was beginning to sound exasperated. I made a note to myself that Eddie did not have enough patience to deal with a teenage boy. I wondered how he'd do with one that was gay. "You don't have to be interested and you don't have to listen, but I'm going to say this anyways. This isn't easier for me either, Rory. I know you're angry and you have every right to be. But there are things you need to know before you decide you hate me, all right? I..." More muffled voices. Who the hell was this guy talking to anyways?

"Hello?" I said impatiently.

"I'm sorry." Eddie's voice came back, this time sounding tired, defeated, "Look, I know you don't want to talk to me, Rory. But we do need to talk. It's just that...some things should be said in person."

"Fine." I frowned, "So you can say them in a month. Now, if that's all..."

"No, Rory. That's not all." He sounded sad, desperate even. I was almost feeling sorry for him when I reminded myself that I didn't even like him, but then he had to go and say the next words. "I'm really sorry about your mom, Rory."

That did it. He had no right to talk about her.

"You're sorry?" I demanded. How can you be sorry? You didn't even know her!"


"No!" I screamed, "I don't care. I don't care who you think you are! You didn't know my mom! And you're not my father! Do you hear me? You're not my father!"

"Rory Norick!" grandma Alice's voice boomed in my year, I spun around and saw her five-foot frame standing behind me, her short gray hair loose around her face and her small body dressed in a pink jump suit. "The whole neighborhood can hear you, now you will not speak to your father like that!"

I grimaced. I hated pissing off grandma. There goes my weekend; I'd definitely be grounded now. I lowered my voice and spoke into the phone again.

"Look, I don't have anything to say to you. I just...I just don't."

I dropped the phone and the cord caught it before it could hit the ground, and then I walked away, leaving it for Grandma Alice to pick up if she wanted it. That was the first and last time I spoke to Eddie for another four weeks.

I guess it didn't entirely hit me that I was leaving home for good until the last minute. My friends all knew that I was going, but I played it off as no big deal. I really wasn't feeling the reality of the situation. I just felt, numb.

I gave my new address to my closest friends and they promised to keep in touch, but I don't think I believed them. It wasn't that I thought they didn't care. I knew they did, but after my mom died I had been drifting away. I don't know. Maybe subconsciously I was preparing myself for the inevitable, knowing that I was leaving.

I don't think it really hit me how much I'd miss everyone until it was too late. There were three of us who grew up together; me, Jason and Nathan. We were best friends, at least up until the last few months when I slowly drifted away and Jason and Nathan became best friends. But I'd still miss them. I decided that I would keep in touch; at least writing a letter was in my control, even if nothing else was.

I was silent on the way to the airport. My grandmother tried to tell me that I'd really like Eddie, but I didn't care. To be honest, I wasn't even curious about Mr. Sperm Donor. I had decided a month before on the phone that I didn't like him, and I wasn't going to let him push me around.

Grandma Alice didn't cry when we said goodbye, but gave me the standard lecture on manners and said that she'd see me soon, not that I believed her. I was leaving, leaving for good. At least, that's how I thought of it.

I don't remember most of my flight, only that when we made our descent into the Phoenix terminal I couldn't see anything because of the layer of pollution clouding the skyline. And, when I got off the plane, I was basically on my own. I guess that's all I could expect with airport security these days. But, Grandma Alice told me that Eddie would be waiting for me at baggage claim. That wasn't exactly helpful, considering that I'd never seen him before and grandma didn't have a picture. I wondered if he had any pictures of me.

I took my time getting to baggage claim, suddenly having trouble sorting out my nerves. I had been completely numb over the last few hours, but now I felt like I wanted to run and hide. For a moment I even thought of walking out of the airport without meeting Eddie, but that probably wouldn't do me a whole lot of good.

So I found myself in baggage claim. I collected the two suitcases I had brought on the flight with me and I stood around the terminal, looking at every face that passed by. Maybe I was looking for a resemblance. If Eddie was really my father, I figured he had to look like me, after all, my mother didn't.

My mother was a blonde. She had been one of the most beautiful ladies I had ever known, nothing like any of those fluffy TV sitcom moms. My mom had been tall and thin and beautiful, with blonde wavy hair and a perfect smile. I looked nothing like her.

But I did get her eyes. We both had the same oval, green eyes. But other than that, I looked nothing like her. I was darker. My hair was darker, probably a shade away from black and I kept it nearly shaved, like everyone else on the swim team. While my mother had more delicate, feminine facial features, my face seemed to be made up of straight lines, more masculine than boyish. I wouldn't say that I was tall, at sixteen I was only five-foot-eight, but then again, I'm comparing myself to my two six feet tall friends.

I wouldn't say that I was a nerd either; my mother had made certain that I had enough confidence to prevent me from becoming the quiet kid in the back of the classroom. But I did own a pair of reading glasses, not that I ever wore them. I guess, I had always considered myself, plain.

I'm not sure how long I stood there, wondering who I was supposed to be meeting, but somehow, when I saw him, I knew it. It was a gut feeling, like, I just sensed it. When I saw the tall man walking in my direction, I knew it was him.

Eddie was not at all what I was expecting. I was expecting a plain, maybe middle-aged man with a balding head, a pushover, someone I could ignore. I wasn't expecting the six foot three bodybuilder in a business suit.

And he looked like me. Kinda.

I was in no way a body builder. I was a swimmer and I looked like a swimmer. Eddie had big muscles, even under the suit I could tell he was built. He had the same, straight facial features and dark hair, but his eyes were dark. If I didn't know that I was related to him I might have thought he was actually hot, for an old guy.

But he wasn't that old. I guess since my mother had me at sixteen it was logical to believe that my biological father would have been young too, and Eddie didn't look much older than thirty.

I took what little time I had, sizing him up, wondering if I could outrun him if I had to, before he noticed me. And it didn't take him long to notice me. When out eyes met he stopped walking and just stared for a moment. Probably trying to decide if I was worthy enough to be his son or if he wanted to take me straight to the clinic for a DNA test.

I was suddenly really worried. I don't know why I was intimidated by him. Maybe it was because he looked like he could break me in half. Maybe it was because I had never had a father figure in my life and I didn't know what to make of one now. Or maybe it was because I was gay and if he found out, he might break me in half. Did I mention that he looked like he could break me in half? Eddie was the epitome of masculinity. He looked like a jock. I knew enough to know that guys like him didn't like gay people. They certainly didn't want gay sons.

How could my mother do this to me?

When Eddie started moving in my direction again, I straightened my shoulders, put on my best poker face and decided to meet him half way, if anything to look confident. We stopped directly in front of each other, sizing each other up, him trying not to look nervous and me...well, me trying not to look like I was about to piss my pants.

"Rory." Eddie spoke first, after clearing his throat. It was that same deep voice from the phone. When he held out his hand I just looked at it, and then back up to his face as defiantly as possible.

"Eddie." I replied in my most neutral tone.

He masked a frown and lowered his hand, wiping it on his pant leg in an attempt to hide his uncertainty because I had refused to shake it. We stood there in another moment of incredibly awkward silence. Me waiting, Eddie trying to figure out what he was supposed to do with a little twerp like me.

He was just staring at me, and I was getting tired of attempting to look defiant. It was only going to be a matter of time before I ended up shifting from foot to foot and looking like the terrified kid that I was. Couldn't have that, no Sir.

"Are we just going to stand here?" I asked impatiently.

Eddie shook his head in that odd way people do, like he could actually clear it that way, and then he glanced down at my suitcases.

"Um, we'll go." He replied.

He reached for my bags at the same time that I did. Eddie reached them first, and I was somewhat in awe at the way he effortlessly lifted them both off the ground, considering I was tired from just dragging them along with me.

"I've got it." He said, "We're parked this way."

Eddie led me through the airport, obviously knowing where he was going and I followed behind him slowly. I was probably walking too slow because he had to slow down just so I could keep up. I had this complex, whenever I was nervous that made my legs seem heavy; so honestly, I wasn't doing it on purpose. But, whenever he glanced over his shoulder at me I looked away, acting uninterested.

When we first stepped out of the airport it was into a covered parking level. The light was dim and other than the overhead lights, it wasn't bright at all. But, I'll never forget the rush of dry, hot air that hit me. So this was Arizona. Even the air smelled different. I wasn't sure what the smell was. The desert, I guess, but it made me feel further away from home than ever.

When Eddie led me to a big, white Suburban, I stood back and watched him effortlessly load my bags into the back. When he turned back and looked at me, he was smiling as he lifted the keys and held them up.

"Do you want to drive?" he asked, almost hopefully.

Was this guy crazy? Who asks a teenager they don't even know to drive their car? Especially one as big as his. If he was expecting a smile out of me, then he was gonna be disappointed, because I just narrowed my eyes on him and regarded him as the idiot I clearly thought he was.

"Do you want me to wreck it?" I asked coldly, "I don't know how to drive." And then I passed him without invitation and went to stand by the passenger door, not really paying attention to the way that Eddie's shoulder's slumped before he slowly went to his own door.

As soon as the passenger door unlocked, I opened it, reached back to unlock the back door, and then closed it again. I noticed Eddie frowning back at me as I climbed in the back seat in my obvious attempt to distance myself from him. He looked like he wanted to say something, but he wisely didn't as he turned the ignition and started to drive.

The inside of the vehicle was horribly hot for about the first ten minutes, but once the air conditioner began to blast I was truly grateful, not that I was about to let him know that. I just, for the most part, stared out my window. Phoenix was bright. And flat. And dry. The palm trees lining some of the streets seemed out of place somehow, and I don't think I had ever seen so many cactuses before.

We must have driven a good thirty minutes before Eddie said anything. Before that, he'd just glance back at me through the rear view mirror every now and then. Yeah, I admit it, I was looking too. But, that's only because it's always good to keep one eye on the enemy.

"You're sixteen?" he asked me.

"Yep." I mumbled, refusing to look in his direction.

"Shouldn't you know how to drive?" he asked, "Most kids your age can't wait to get a license. Why didn't you ever learn?"

"My mom was too sick to teach me." I mumbled.

Eddie fell silent for a few minutes again. I hoped that he would just leave me alone. Of course, he didn't.

"I guess you didn't have very many options then," he smirked, "If I remember correctly, Alice shouldn't be allowed to drive, let alone teach anyone else how to."

Wasn't that the truth. My grandma was a terrible driver. She didn't go forty below the speed limit like most grandmas. No. Grandma Alice had more speeding tickets on her record than I could count and a revoked driver's license in top of that. Not that she let that stop her. It was kinda funny to think about.

Damn it! He made me smile.

"You know," Eddie said, confidence coming back into his voice, "I could teach you, if you wanted. The house is kind of far out there, it might come in handy to know how to drive."

"I don't want to learn." I said shortly. Which wasn't true. Back home I had been getting tired of my friends driving me around while I didn't even have a license. But, I didn't want him to teach me to drive.

"Everyone should know how to drive." Eddie insisted.

"I don't want to learn, alright?" I said impatiently.

I heard him sigh and then there was more silence.

"Your grandma said that you like to swim." He said after a few minutes.

I grunted my response.

"You were on the team at school?"

"Was." I frowned.

"I think you'll like the school here." Eddie insisted, "They have a swim team too, you know."



When Eddie mentioned that his house was `out there,' I wasn't exactly expecting to follow a two-mile dirt road outside of the city to what looked like the only house in the middle of a bunch of desert. And I'm not talking desert like sand. No, I mean cactuses and dry grass mixed in with the weeds, a hill in the distance that looked like it was made out of lava rocks, and no shade as far as I could see.

Not that it wasn't a nice house. It was. Actually, it was more than I was expecting. A lot more than the apartment I had grown up in with mom. The driveway was paved and opened up into a three-car garage, while the front yard was decorated as a rock garden. The rocks in the front were a mixture of white and red, while the brick, sand colored house stood behind it.

And it looked like a big house. A family house. There were three mountain bikes lined up by the front door, three different sizes. Off to the side, about seventy feet away there was a large building that looked like a barn, well kept but obviously unused, and wind chimes hanging everywhere. I suddenly got the feeling that Eddie didn't live alone. Not in this big space. And he had said on the phone that he got a bigger space because of me. I had just figured that a bigger space meant that he upgraded from a bachelor studio to a two-bedroom apartment.

It had never occurred to me that Eddie might already have a family of his own. Great. Just great. Not only was I forced to be here, but now it looked like I was forced to be here with a family who didn't want me in the first place. I didn't like it. Not one bit.

I was one of those kids who never wished for brothers and sisters. I liked being an only child. I wanted to keep it that way. I felt myself panicking. It was enough to meet Eddie for one day. I wasn't prepared to deal with more long, lost relatives.

But, despite my nerves, I found myself following him through the front door. The inside of the house was as nice as the outside, big and open. The front door opened up into a large living room and a wide hall leading back to a large kitchen. There were stairs leading both up and down, and Eddie placed my bags in front of them before turning to regard me again.

He looked nervous, loosening his tie, and I just stood there, in front of the closed front door feeling somewhat trapped.

"Are you hungry? Thirsty?" he asked.


"I'll get you something to drink." He said anyways, and then retreated towards the kitchen, leaving me there alone. It didn't take me long to do what any kid in my situation would do.

I started snooping.

I walked into the living room, around the large, fluffy white sofa and large stone coffee table. I stopped briefly to peer into a big fish tank that seemed to be filled with all sorts of fish that I probably hadn't heard of before, and then I made my way over to the shelves lining the walls. There were a lot of pictures, but no family pictures as far as I could tell.

I took a closer look. There were a few of Eddie wearing business suits and standing with a group of older men and a few women, and then there were some more casual photos of Eddie standing in the middle of a group of young kids on a basketball court. Then there was one framed picture of Eddie, looking like he was at a party, holding a beer with his arm swung around another man, probably in his late twenties. I guess that was Eddie's drinking buddy.

I moved on and found what looked like several framed diplomas. I was just leaning in for a closer look when I heard Eddie returning to the room behind me.

"You're a lawyer?" I asked without looking back.

"Yes, I am."

"And a doctor?"

"No," there was a hint of laughter in his voice, "Jase is the doctor in the family."


"He lives here too." Eddie explained. "He's your, uncle."

"Are you married?" I asked, still not turning around.

"Nope, never been."


"Just you, Rory."

I turned around at that and stared at him for a moment. He was holding a diet soda in one hand and a bottled water in the other. He offered me the water with a small smile.

"Alice mentioned that you only drink water and juice."

I took the water but made no move to open it. I just continued to stand there, wondering what we were supposed to do now.

"Would you like to see your room?" Eddie asked.

I just shrugged and let him lead me back to the stairs where he lifted the heavier of my two bags and left the other for me. I was somewhat relieved when he led me down the stairs, not up them. It wasn't that I didn't like heights; I just liked to sleep on the lower floors of buildings for some reason. It was a quirk. In the apartment mom and I shared we were on the first floor, and on the few family vacations we took, mom always made sure that our hotel rooms were on the first floors too.

"It gets cold down here at night with the air running," Eddie explained as he flicked a switch at the top of the stairs before moving down, "But I can get you extra blankets if you need them. I hear you like to sleep on the first floor, otherwise I would have put you up top."

Now why didn't that surprise me? I guess he talked to Grandma Alice about me more than I was ready to admit. I wondered what else he knew about me. I would have to call grandma later and find out.

The basement was nothing like a basement. I had wondered if he was going to place me in some cold, cement room. That was only one scenario my overactive imagination had come up with. But, of course I was surprised again.

The basement was like an entire apartment separate from the house. There was even a kitchen down there, along with a second fully furnished living room that actually looked more lived in than the one upstairs. I wondered if Eddie, and Jase, my...uncle? Spent a lot of time down here.

I wondered what two, full-grown brothers were doing living together in the same house.

"The bathroom's in there," Eddie explained, nodding towards a closed door as we moved down a hallway. There were two closed doors in the back, "That's Luke's room," he said, nodding to the one on the left, "And I put you in here."

"Who's Luke?" I asked as he opened the door to what would be my bedroom, "Another uncle?"

"No." Eddie laughed, "He's Jase's cousin. He lives here too. I think you guys will get along, he's about your age, a little older."

"So he's your cousin?" I asked.


"You said that Jase was your brother, right? So Luke is your cousin too?"

"Oh, yeah." Eddie nodded.

"How many people live here?" I asked.

"Just four of us now." he replied, and then turned his back on me to look into my room.

And it was a big room. There was a queen-sized bed in the middle of it that didn't even take up half the space. There was also a dresser, and a desk, but everything else was bare.

"Your things should be here in a few days." Eddie said, "In the meantime I wasn't sure what you'd need. I thought maybe you could make a list and we could go out later."

I dropped my bag in the doorway and passed by Eddie to sit on my bed, acting like I was testing out the firmness of the mattress.

"I don't need anything from you." And I was back to being cold again.

The faint smile that had been on Eddie's face disappeared completely and he let out a breath. Then he just stood there while I looked around the practically empty room waiting for him to leave. Finally, he looked up and stared at me with a determined look on his face and crossed his arms over his chest.

I definitely didn't like where this was going.

"You don't like me." he said, simply.

"Gee," I retorted, "Is it that obvious?"

"And I don't care." He snapped. The sudden change in his voice put me on alert and a whole new level of nervousness, but I kept up my poker face, "Wait." Eddie sighed. "That's not true. I do care. I don't want you to hate me, Rory. But this attitude...there are things you don't know. But, I think it's best to talk about them later, when Jase is around. It will be easier for both of us that way, I think. Now look, in the meantime, we're going to have to come to some sort of truce. Whether you believe it or not, I want you here."

"Well that makes one of us." I retorted.

"Yes, Rory, you've made it more than obvious that you don't want to be here, and maybe I can even understand why. I get it, okay? This isn't your home, and it's gotta be scary for you, moving down here with a father you've never met..."

"You are not my father and I am not afraid of you!" I cut him off.

"Fine, but you don't want to be here." He replied calmly. "The thing though, is Rory, your mother wanted you to be here. If she didn't, you would still be living with your grandmother and I..."

"You what?" I demanded after he didn't continue, "You wouldn't have some kid who doesn't want you?"

"Would it be so bad, just to try to get to know me?" he asked. "And don't tell me that you hate me because I'm a bad guy, Rory. You're mother wouldn't have said that about me and we both know it."

"You're right, she never said anything about you." I snapped, "So you must not have been too important. And why would I want to get to know you now? You've been gone for over sixteen years. You probably would have stayed gone if my mom were still alive. Why would I want to get to know you now?"

"Because whether you like it or not, we're family." He retorted, "And we owe it to each other to at least try to get to know each other."

"I don't owe you anything!"

Eddie's brow knotted for a moment as he tried to collect himself. I could tell that he wanted to yell, but he was holding it back. I wondered if that was what I wanted; for him to yell, for him to get angry. Maybe if I made him mad enough he would send me back to where I came from, which was exactly what I wanted.

"Alright." He said after a moment. "How about I make you a deal?"

My eyebrow shot up at that one.

"A deal?" I asked skeptically.

"Yes, a deal, because I think it's the only way I'm ever going to get through to you."

"What kind of deal?" I asked curiously.

"I want a chance." Eddie stated, "With you. I want to get to know you, Rory. You don't have to call me dad, and you don't have to acknowledge me as your father, even. But you are my son. I want to get to know you, and if the only way that I can do that is to let you go, I'll do it."

I stood up and stared at him.

"You'll let me go home?" I asked, not quite believing what I was hearing.

"Your grandmother and I discussed it early on." Eddie nodded. "She said that if things didn't work out between us, she'd love to have you back. I think she just wanted you to come here because it's what your mother wanted."

"So you're going to let me go?" I asked incredulously, "Just like that?"

"No." he said sharply. "Not just like that. But yes, I will send you back to Nevada if that's what you really want."

"It is." I stated, my spirits suddenly lifting.

"At the end of the summer." He concluded.

And just like that my spirits came crashing down. All summer? With him? I guess it was better than having to stay permanently. But still, a whole summer? I guess I wasn't much for compromising, was I?

"The whole summer?" I frowned.

"That's the deal." He nodded, "If you still want to go when the summer's over, I'll put you on the plane myself. However, in the meantime, I want the chance to get to know you. And I mean the real you, not the angry kid you're acting like."

"I don't know if I can." I said defiantly.

"That's fair." He nodded, "But you can try, Rory. And who knows, maybe you'll figure out that I'm not such a bad guy after all. So what do you say? All I'm asking for is one summer to get to know my...you. To get to know you."

I looked away for a moment, considering my options. Maybe this could work for me after all. All I had to do was answer this guy's questions, spend some time in the desert and then I'd be home free. It certainly sounded better than living there permanently.

"Fine." I mumbled after a moment, "What do you want to know?"

"Why don't we just start by making our deal." Eddie smiled, extending his hand to me for the second time that day, "You agree to give this situation a fair chance-and, to let me teach you how to drive. And I'll agree to send you home at the end of the summer if that's what you still want."

I did shake his hand this time, but I still wasn't ready to look as happy about it as Eddie did. I'm sure I did look a little awed though, when his hand practically swallowed mine. It was strange, as afraid as I was of him, something about my hand in his made me feel safe, sort of like the way I felt when my mom used to hug me. I wondered if little kids who had fathers felt like that.

"It's a deal." I agreed.

"Good." He smiled, "Now that we have that out of the way, why don't I start by giving you a tour? I want you to feel at home here Rory, I really mean that."

I let out a breath and looked over what would be my bedroom for the next few months, and then turning to Eddie, I shrugged.

"It's not like I have much to unpack." I replied.

"Good." Eddie grinned, "Come on up."

So we spent the next thirty minutes wandering the house. I was mostly quiet, but Eddie wasn't. I could tell that he was getting comfortable. It seemed like the more he talked to me the less nervous he was.

He explained that the basement was pretty much Luke's space, and that although this Luke person often entertained friends down there, he wouldn't be bothering me, in fact, he was supposedly looking forward to meeting me.

Other than the downstairs, the upstairs held a room that Eddie had turned into a gym, a guest room, and two more rooms, one his and one Jase's. When Eddie talked about Jase I could tell they were close. Apparently Jase wasn't just a doctor, he was a psychiatrist, ironic, considering that we would probably need one before the summer was over.

I wondered if my uncle and my...well, whatever Luke was, second cousin? I wondered if I'd get along with them, and I wondered if they were as happy about me being here as Eddie let on. Either way, I was definitely nervous about meeting them. I think I was more on edge about meeting Eddie's family than I was about meeting Eddie. Maybe it was because I didn't have an excuse to hate them.

Eddie ended the tour by taking me out into the back yard. Only, it wasn't really a yard, at least it wasn't like one I had ever seen. There was no fence, and no grass. There was red gravel surrounding a paved area with a large, oval swimming pool. I suppose in the desert a swimming pool was a luxury, and I had to admit, that I was glad to see it. I absolutely loved swimming, not that I was about to mention to Eddie that I was happy about this. Although, I'm sure he probably knew I was.

"Anyways, this is the pool," Eddie smiled, "I'm sure I don't have to worry about you drowning yourself, right?"

I shot him an evil look but he only laughed at me.

I ignored him and took a moment to look around. The sun seemed high, the sky seemed orange, and the glare caused me to squint my eyes. We had only been standing outside for a few minutes and already I could feel the sticky layer of sweat building on my skin, and inadvertently, I began to fan myself with my hand.

"You'll get used to the heat." Eddie remarked.

"I doubt it." I frowned.

"Seriously, you will." He smiled, "Today's actually a record. Usually it doesn't hit a hundred until later on."

I groaned and Eddie laughed again.

"So, do you think you're hungry yet?" he asked, "It's not quite dinner time, but I think we both skipped lunch."

Actually, I was starving, but I just shrugged.

"Do you know how to cook?" I asked.

Eddie's smile faded.

"Eh. No." he admitted, "I can barbeque though. But, wait until you try Jase's cooking." He suddenly perked up. "I swear the way he cooks, I'm surprised none of us ended up fat."

"So maybe we should wait until he gets home." I smirked.

Eddie grinned, but I think it was mostly because I was joking around with him. It was the first time I had smiled all day. I caught it too, but at least he didn't point it out to me.

"Hey, I said I could barbeque." He replied, "Hamburgers okay?"

I just shrugged and Eddie nodded me back towards the house. He went in first and I followed, ready to get back under the air conditioner already. But, just as I was about to pass through the sliding glass door I heard a dog bark - loudly. I spun around just in time to see a big brindle boxer with un-cropped ears and drool hanging from it's mouth, charging towards me at full speed.

Now, don't get me wrong. I like dogs. I definitely prefer them to cats. But the monster charging towards me had me practically tripping backwards, trying to escape it. It came within a two feet of me before I heard Eddie shout behind me.

"Cheyenne, Sit!"

Just like that, the dog skidded to a halt and parked itself on its rear, happily panting up at us, as if waiting for further instruction.

I felt Eddie drop a hand on my shoulder and glanced back to look at him, my eyes still a little wide.

"Sorry about that, Rory." Eddie laughed, "Don't mind Chey, she's harmless."

"You have a dog?" I asked, stepping away, feeling a little uncomfortable with his hand on my shoulder.

"She's more like Luke's dog." Eddie explained, "Actually if she's here it must mean Luke's somewhere close by. You two will get along just fine, I'm sure of it."

"Eddie?" we heard another male voice from within the house, muffled through the walls.

Eddie smiled and turned into the house again.

"Kitchen." He called back.

Eddie stepped aside so I could come in and Chey followed right behind me, practically on my hills. She kept brushing her head under my hand, wanting me to pet her, but I was too preoccupied, preparing myself to meet Luke. Only, if Luke was my age, there was no way that the guy who walked in the kitchen could be Luke.

I recognized the guy from one of the pictures in the living room. I had labeled him as Eddie's drinking buddy. Now seeing him in person, he still looked like he was in his late twenties.

So this was my uncle. Only, he didn't look much like Eddie. He had short, blonde hair and blue eyes. He was smaller than Eddie, probably just over six feet tall, and although he was in shape he didn't have all of the muscle that Eddie had. He also looked friendly, approachable. He grinned at Eddie but stopped in his tracks when he saw me, and then his smile softened.

"Rory," Eddie said, "Um, this is you're uncle Jase."

I saw Jase shoot Eddie a look that I couldn't read, but then he smiled again and came towards me, offering his hand.

"It's nice to meet you, Rory." Jase said, "I'm glad you could finally make it."

I just shook his hand and gave a small nod. A silent, awkward moment followed before Eddie cleared his throat and spoke again.

"Are you hungry, Jase?" he asked, "Rory and I were just about to cook something up."

"That depends." Jase smirked, "Are you cooking, or is Rory?"

Eddie swatted Jase's arm as he passed him by.

"I'm doing hamburgers." Eddie retorted, "So you're safe."

Jase just smiled at Eddie and then looked at me again.

"You must be tired after your trip Rory," Jase said, "Why not go relax for a while and I'll supervise your dad in the kitchen."

Eddie and I both paused at the use of the word dad, but then Eddie nodded to me.

"You can unpack." Eddie suggested. "And if you need anything else, just let me know."

I was getting the feeling that the adults were trying to get rid of me. That could only mean that they wanted to talk about me. Whatever. I just shrugged and headed out of the kitchen.

"Sure Eddie." I said, somehow wanting Jase to know that I didn't see Eddie as my father.

I wasn't opposed to getting away for a while, and I did need to unpack. All I really had were my clothes and an old scarf that had been my mothers. I hung the scarf on the bed frame and unloaded my clothes into the dresser and closet. And, while I was in my room I took the time to make my bed with the bedding folded on the mattress.

I had left my door open after Chey followed me in. It was kinda creepy. I know she was just a dog, but she literally watched every move I made. I wasn't sure how I felt when she had her big brown eyes constantly watching me. But, I eventually discovered that she just wanted to be petted.

After I unloaded my room I wasn't sure what to do. I didn't really want to go back upstairs. I still felt weird in the unfamiliar surroundings, so when I left my room I sat on the sofa in the basement, and did some thinking as Chey placed her head in my lap and I absently scratched her ears.

The entire day had felt somewhat surreal. I kept expecting to wake up from a dream, in my own bed, back home. Home. I missed home. I missed my friends. I even missed Grandma Alice. And it hadn't even been a whole day yet.

I still had the entire summer to go. At least that was something I could live with. I would be going home. I had one summer to get through and then this whole nightmare would be over.

I guess Eddie wasn't so bad though. But that didn't mean that I liked him. I couldn't think of him as my father. I didn't have a father, and I was still angry with Eddie for trying to be one now. I was sixteen. I felt like I was kind of old to be meeting daddy for the first time.

I started to think of my mother again, wondering why she would do this to me, why she would want me to meet him after all this time. No one talked about my father while I was growing up. No one. But all of a sudden, everyone insisted that I get to know him. I didn't understand it. I'm not sure I wanted to understand it.

I wished that my mom was still around, so I could ask her. I was thinking of her again, missing her. If she was there, maybe I wouldn't feel so lost. But then I had some darker thoughts. Maybe mom had done this on purpose. Maybe she really wasn't okay with my being gay. What if she thought it was her fault? Because I never had a father figure? What if she wanted me to live with a real man who could influence me to not be queer?

Okay, so I was overreacting now. I quickly shook those thoughts away. My mother would never do that to me. She would never do anything to hurt me. But why had she done this? Why now? After sixteen years, why would she want me to have a father now?

"If you keep spoiling her like that, she might get the wrong idea and think she's actually special." A sarcastic voice said from behind me.

I turned my head to look into the most tranquil pair of blue eyes I had ever seen.

He looked like he was my age, maybe a year older. He was taller than me, but then most people I knew were. He was dressed in a white tank and beige colored shorts, leaning over the back of the sofa, looking at Chey's head in my lap.

His skin had a healthy golden tan, it was obvious that he spent a lot of time outdoors, and he probably worked out, not as much as Eddie, but his arms were clearly defined and even his chest through his tank. He had curly, dark blond hair, soft spirals that fell shortly over his forehead. It took me all of two seconds to realize that the breath stopping reaction I was having to him was attraction. That had never really happened to me before. It took me another two seconds to realize that he must be Luke, which meant I was related to him, and I really shouldn't be thinking of him as tonight's wet dream. He only confirmed that a moment later when he flashed a smile of white, straight teeth at me and extended his hand.

"I'm Luke."

I took his hand and rather than shake it, he gave it a small squeeze.

"Rory." I replied.

"Yeah, I know." he smirked. "You're all anyone ever talks about around here."

When I gave him a questioning look he shrugged and then hopped over the back of the couch, landing in the seat next to me. The moment Luke was settled, Chey loyally went to get her attention from him.

"Eddie's been pretty excited, about you coming." Luke explained.

"Oh." I frowned.

"Well," Luke laughed, "I guess you don't feel the same way. He said you weren't going to be happy about being here." I just shrugged, "Eddie's a good guy, you'll see. And, I guess we're neighbors now, so if you need anything, just ask."

"Thanks." I mumbled.

He gave Chey a pat then and then abruptly stood up.

"I need a shower." Luke announced, as he began to peel off his shirt, exposing his flat abs before he passed me. "It's a hot one today."

As he finished peeling off his shirt and I watched his long, broad muscled back disappearing down the hall I found his choice of words funny. Something was definitely hot. I just wasn't so sure that it was just the weather anymore.

I shook my head to myself and continued to pet Chey for a while, wondering why it was taking so long to cook up a few hamburgers. Just as I heard the water in the bathroom shut off and the door swing open, I also heard Eddie's voice coming from upstairs.

"Foods on the table!" he called.

I didn't plan on responding, so when I suddenly heard Luke's voice breaking the silence it surprised me and my head snapped around.

"Just make sure you save some for the rest of us!" Luke shouted back, standing there in the hallway, completely nude as he toweled off his hair.

Now, I saw naked guys all the time, being on the swim team sort of required that, and although I didn't mind looking every now and then, I'd never felt the need to stare, until that moment.

I stared all the way up Luke's long, strong legs, at his broad shoulders, strong pecks and brown, circular nipples, the thatch of curly, blond pubic hair and his flaccid cock swaying against his heavy balls. I just about jumped out of my skin when he moved his eyes from the stairs to me and winked, before turning around and slowly walking to his room. This time I watched his high, round, pale ass disappear down the hall.

Oh yeah. Definitely hot.

I stared at Luke's closed door for a few minutes before I remembered that I was hungry, and food was waiting upstairs. Only, at the moment, moving was a problem. I pushed Chey's head away from me and glared angrily down at the bulge tenting my jeans like the unwelcome intrusion that it was.

"He's your cousin." I told it.

Chey looked at me like I was crazy. Maybe I was. But this was turning out to be a crazy day anyways. I met my biological father, a man I still wasn't sure about, an uncle I didn't know I had and a cousin who I was shamefully attracted to. That last one was the biggest problem for me.

When my life had been pulled out from underneath me and I was rudely dropped in Arizona with a family I didn't even want, I had at least thought that my biggest secret would be safe. Luke changed all of that. I was going to have to figure out something, and fast. There was no way I wanted to show up for my first family dinner with these people having a third leg on display.

I was beginning to get the feeling that I would have one, interesting summer.

Comments/Questions send to DomLuka@aol.com