If you are offended by male/male relationships, or male/male sexual relationships, then you shouldn't be here in the first place. If this conduct is illegal in your area, you must EXIT NOW. This story is not to be copied or posted elsewhere without permission from the author. If you are interested in a story about gay teenage males, then please take your time and enjoy. Feedback/comments/suggestions and even complaints are welcome at DomLuka@aol.com

Desert Dropping

Chapter Five

Ouch! Anyone with common sense would have gone back inside. Apparently, I didn't have any. I could hear Eddie and Jase calling me, but I couldn't go back. I just needed to think. Too bad I couldn't have been thinking with my shoes on.

The ground wasn't exactly fun to walk on as I distanced myself from the house, and I was beginning to really feel the pain in my foot where I'd stepped on the glass. It wasn't helping that practically every time I took a step I was stepping on something poky or hard. But, it was dark, and I couldn't see anything that I was stepping on.

Somewhere in the back of my mind I could hear Luke's warning about coming out here after dark, but it didn't exactly worry me at the moment. I think part of me wished that something nice and poisonous would bite me. It didn't want to die. Not at all. I was upset, not suicidal. But, I've heard that people who have near death experiences sometimes `see the light.' Maybe if something got me good enough to put me out for a while I could have one of those, and maybe my light could be my mom.

I wanted to talk to her so bad. Logically I knew that I couldn't. It wasn't possible. But I was having a difficult time accepting that fact. I needed her to tell me why. I just wanted it explained to me. Why had she kept me away from Eddie? Should I be angry with her for this? I mean, I felt anger towards her because she sent me here in the first place to be with Eddie. Did it even make sense for me to be angry with her for keeping me away from him?

I felt so confused. And I hated being confused. Being confused over this felt so hopeless because I had no answers. And at the moment, it didn't look like any answers would be coming.

I saw light. Flashlights. They were looking for me, but in the wrong direction. I guess that was a good thing for the time being. I really didn't want to be found. But, even as unstable as I felt at the moment, I knew that I needed to stop walking. My feet ached. They burned, all the way down to my toes. Each step I took seemed worse than the last.

When my foot kicked something hard I winced and then reached out and felt a rock. Wiping at the damned silent tears that had been running down my face, I turned to sit down, only to yelp when I felt a sharp pain in my right butt cheek. Of course, my first thought was that I'd gotten my wish.

I'd gone off and gotten myself bitten in the ass by a snake.

But then a city slickers flashback hit me and it came to mind that I probably just ran into a cactus, like Luke warned me about. I looked back and could barely make the plant out, but it was there. As I inched away from it and climbed up on the rock, I guess I was just grateful that I hadn't been facing the other way when I ran into it.

I sat on the rock, flinching when the hard surface came into contact with my punctured ass and I lifted my sore feet, wrapping my arms around my knees. What the hell was I doing? I mean, sure I wanted to think. I wanted to be left alone so I could get my thoughts together. But Jesus, what was wrong with me? I mean, it would have been much more reasonable to lock myself in my room. But no, I had to go running off into the damned desert. And now my feet hurt too bad to walk back. And I didn't really have the guts to call out for help. I wasn't even sure how I'd begin to face Eddie right now. So feeling defeated, I closed my eyes and let more tears fall as I kept asking myself why my mom would do this to me.

I wasn't sure how long I just sat there for, but the feeling of something wet and slobbery on my hand scared the hell out of me. And of course I jumped to the more unreasonable conclusion, thinking; coyote!

When I opened my eyes and saw Chey I wasn't sure if I was happy to see her or not, but when the light flashed over me and I held up my arm to shield my eyes I think I was a little happy to see it.

"Rory?" Luke called as he lowered the light and moved closer, "What the hell are you doing? We've been calling you."

He was still dressed in nothing but a pair of jean shorts and he had slid on a pair of sandals. I guess Jase and Eddie had recruited him to help look for me too. He looked annoyed until he got a better look at my tear-streaked face, then he just looked sympathetic as he pulled Chey away from me and the flashlight shined on my feet, and for the first time since I left the house I could see that I was literally dripping blood from my left foot.

"Fuck." Luke muttered, taking a knee in front of me as he placed the flashlight on the rock, aimed at my foot as he lifted it and I flinched, "sorry...what the hell happened?"

"I stepped on glass." I mumbled, "Sorry I broke your picture."

Luke looked up at me and actually cracked a smile before he went back to inspecting my foot. I was glad that he was looking at it because I seriously didn't want to.

"You might need stitches." He announced. "We need to get you back to the house."

"Are Eddie and Jase mad?" I asked stupidly.

"Worried out of their damn minds, more like it." Luke replied, "I'd really better get you back to the house before they call the police. You can't walk like this..."

"I ran into a cactus." I complained.

"You step on it?" Luke asked, lifting my other foot to inspect it too, "I see splinters, but..."

"Sat on it." I admitted, and then laughed at myself, and the idea of actually sitting on a cactus. Luke gave me a small smile and then stood up, lifting the flashlight again. I almost lost my balance when he placed a hand on my shoulder and forced me to lean forward so he could shine the light on my butt.

"Hey..." I frowned.

"You sure did." It sounded like Luke was trying not to laugh, but failing miserably. I glared back at him and he at least had the decency to look apologetic. "Hold still." He said, bending down to wrap and arm around my chest to help me keep my balance as I leaned forward. I was starting to get a little worried.

"What are you doing?" I demanded, jumping when I felt his fingers brush my sore ass.

"Just don't move." He insisted. "You've got needle, I'm gonna get it out."

"A needle?" I demanded.

I flinched when I felt him pull at something through my jeans, out of my skin and when he held up the long cactus needle, tinted red, for me to see, my eyes widened and I started feeling a little sick. Luke saw my reaction and quickly dropped the needle before taking a seat next to me on the rock. His arm moved around my back and I actually found myself leaning into him, annoyed with myself for acting like such a big baby.

"Hey," Luke said gently, "We need to get you back inside, your foot's still bleeding, Rory. We can't really stop it out here."

"I can't go back there." I shook my head.

"It'll be alright. No one's mad."

"I don't know why she did it." I mumbled. "It doesn't make sense. My mom wouldn't do something like that."

"Hey, we'll figure it out, okay? Come on; let's get back to the house. I'm gonna have to carry you."

"You can't carry me." I frowned.

"I could call Eddie and he can carry you back." Luke smirked.

That was definitely not something I wanted. I was embarrassed enough as it was, and needing Eddie's help wouldn't exactly make me feel better.

"What do you want me to do?" I glared at Luke.

Luke smiled and then knelt down in front of the rock with his back facing me.

"Climb on." He smirked back at me.

I frowned and managed to get off the rock without putting too much pressure on my bare feet, but it still hurt. I also felt ridiculous, climbing on Luke's back, piggyback style as I placed my hands loosely on his bare shoulders and he wrapped his arms under my knees as he abruptly stood up, with seemingly no trouble at all.

"You all right?" he asked as my arms moved around his neck.

"Yeah." I muttered as he started walking back towards the house, whistling for Chey to follow us. It was weird being carried, but Luke didn't even seem to bat an eye, and as ridiculous as I felt at the moment, I was actually kind of comfortable there with him. "Luke?"


"I'm sorry."

"Forget about it." He smiled back at me, "We're all allowed to have bad days."

"It feels like more than just a bad day."

"It'll be okay Rory." He insisted, "Just give it some time."

I was tired of giving it time. Now, I was just tired. And my feet were starting to sting. I could feel the cut on my left foot and even my right foot hurt from walking over who knows what. I was also dreading the idea of facing Eddie.

When we reached the house, Eddie and Jase were both there, Eddie was on the phone but as soon as he saw us, he hung up and joined Jase as he came over and looked down at my bloody foot.

"The kitchen." Jase said shortly.

"No," Eddie argued, "I think we need to go to the hospital."

"Just, hold on." Jase insisted, "Luke, take him to the kitchen."

I sat there silently, holding onto Luke. They were talking about me like I wasn't there anyways, so I didn't feel the need to contribute to the conversation. When Luke put me down finally, I ended up at the dining room table and he took the seat next to me, watching as Jase appeared in front of me with a first aid kit.

Jase lifted my left foot with no argument from me, inspecting it again while Eddie watched over his shoulder.

"It's not too deep." Jase stated, "we can clean him up here. We'd better find the tweezers, he's all full of splinters."

"I'll find them." Eddie volunteered. Again, no one said anything to me, and Eddie didn't even make eye contact before he walked away. Actually, the way everyone was regarding me was making me nervous. Especially Eddie. So far he'd had no trouble trying to talk to me when I didn't want him to, but now that I needed someone to talk to me like I was actually there, he seemed completely detached, like he couldn't face me for some reason.

I felt like I was supposed to say something to him. It was just beginning to hit me, what I'd learned tonight. Eddie didn't even know about me. He was just a normal guy, living his life. And he'd probably been happy too, until he found out that he had a son after sixteen years. He'd had his life turned upside down just as much as I had. Maybe I'd been too hard on him. But, it wasn't like I could just start liking him because now I knew the truth. It's not like he'd told me the truth in the first place. No one had.

Okay, maybe I hadn't exactly been open to hearing the truth. But seriously, as much as I hated to admit it, Jase had been right. If Eddie had just told me, sat me down and made me listen, I definitely would have heard him.

I guess it didn't matter anymore. Now I knew, and it didn't matter how I'd found out. The whole night had left me confused, and frankly, pissed off at just about every adult in my life. I was angry with my mother, and even Grandma Alice. She'd known about this. She would have had to. It's probably why she'd been pushing for me to talk to Eddie. If she'd just told me this from the beginning, if anyone had...well, I'm not sure that I'd want to move in with Eddie any more than I had in the first place, but at least I would have known the truth.

I was beginning to feel a little sick, and I could feel those dreaded tears coming back. I knew logically that it was all emotion. I couldn't help it. I felt like I'd been hit with a major blow tonight.

"Rory?" it was Luke. Luke was talking to me, not acting like I was just there. I looked at him across the table and he smiled at me. "I'm gonna get something to drink, are you thirsty?"

I managed to smile at him and I nodded, just happy that I wasn't being ignored.

"Why don't you put on some coffee, Luke." Jase suggested as he began to carefully clean the blood from my foot. The cut was just below my big toe, probably about an inch and a half long, but it hurt, and it was a struggle not to move around too much while Jase was cleaning it up. It only hurt worse when he inadvertently pressed against one of the splinters. "This might take a while."

"I'm sorry." I mumbled, to no one in particular.

Jase looked up and gave me a small, sympathetic look and a thoughtful smile that somehow made me feel better, before he turned his attention back to what he was doing.

"You shouldn't have run off like that," he said, but he didn't sound angry.

"I know." I admitted.

"So why did you?" Jase asked.

"I don't know." I shrugged. "I guess I wasn't really thinking."

"Well what were you feeling then?" Jase asked, "Maybe a little scared, angry, confused?"

My natural reaction was to argue that I wasn't afraid of anything. I mean, I didn't know many guys my age who would admit to being afraid. Only, I guess I had been afraid. I was afraid to talk to Eddie.

"I dunno." I shrugged in response to his question.

"What did you think you would accomplish, running out there?" he asked.

"God, Jase." Luke laughed, "You're not at work, can't you lay off him?"

"Isn't it past your bedtime?" Jase smirked at Luke, and I managed another smile.

"Do you want your coffee or not?" Luke shot back from over by the counter.

Jase just smiled and shook his head before looking at me apologetically when he brushed over another splinter.

I looked up when Eddie returned, carrying two sets of tweezers.

"Is it still bleeding?" he asked.

"I think we're getting it under control." Jase replied as he sprayed some antiseptic on my cut before covering it with a piece of cotton and some gauze. "The splinters will be the tricky part."

I frowned. Cleaning up my cut was one thing but I was beginning to feel self-conscious. I didn't like being the center of so much attention and removing all of the splinters could take forever.

"Um, I'm okay." I spoke up hesitantly, "I mean, if I just took a shower, maybe..."

I jumped a little when Eddie suddenly placed a hand on my knee and made eye contact for the first time since I came in. The look he gave me shut me up. But, like Jase, it wasn't an angry look. He actually looked concerned.

"Let us take care of this, Rory." He said quietly, "Does it hurt a lot?"

I silently shook my head. Sure, it hurt, but not so much that there was blinding pain. Eddie gave me a small smile before lifting my other foot, gently even. It put me slightly off balance until Luke slid a stool over, and with both of my feet up Jase and Eddie went to work on the splinters.

It was all very awkward. There was talk about what chores needed to be done over the next week, and how Eddie and Jase both planned to take a week or so off of work this summer so we could all go do something, and there was even talk about the party that Luke was going to have for his friend and the amount of people he wanted to invite was negotiated to a reasonable number. But, the reason why we were all in the kitchen tending to my injuries wasn't mentioned.

And we all knew why. The reason would be discussed, but now was not the time. It would be a conversation that I would have with Eddie. I knew we needed to talk, I really did. Even if I wasn't looking forward to it. But maybe, since my mom wasn't there, Eddie just might be able to provide me with some sort of reason. Maybe he could give a clue as to why she would purposely keep me away from him, only to insist that we meet sixteen years later.


I woke up, still feeling exhausted. After over an hour of digging splinters out of my feet, I'd managed to take a shower, place a band-aid over the cut and then I was somehow able to actually get to sleep.

I'd hardly woken up. It had probably been ten minutes, just long enough for me to pull on a pair of jeans, when there was a knock on my door. It was ten o'clock already, and I expected Luke, so I didn't hesitate to pull the door open, but when I saw Eddie standing there holding a brown paper bag that smelled like food and two plastic cups of orange juice I wasn't sure what to think. He was usually at work by now. Actually, he was dressed for work, so I had no idea what he was doing there.

"Can I come in?" he asked.

I stared at him for a full minute, knowing that we needed to talk but unsure if I was ready to, before I let out a breath and stepped back.

"Sure," I replied cautiously.

He stepped out for a second before returning with a chair. I guess this was going to be a long talk. I didn't argue though. I sat on my bed and took the orange juice and a breakfast sandwich when he offered them to me.

"Thanks." I mumbled, placing the food aside for the time being.

"No problem." He nodded.

"Shouldn't you be at work?" I asked.

"Probably." He admitted with a smile, "but, I wanted to talk to you...if you're ready for that. I know last night was pretty long for all of us. I don't want to push you, Rory."

I just nodded. I wasn't sure what I was agreeing to; that I wanted to talk or that I wanted more time. Eddie obviously didn't know, either. I think he was waiting for a verbal response, so we fell into a long silence before I decided to take the imitative and spoke up.

"You didn't know?" I asked. "About me?"

"No." he sighed, "I didn't. I was uh...surprised, when your mother's lawyer contacted me. When I heard that she was...that she'd passed away... it was upsetting. We'd lost touch a long time ago, but I really did care about her, Rory. And when I was told I had a son..." he let out a nervous laugh, "it wasn't exactly something I hear every day...but I want you to know, when they told me that Gina said you were mine, I never doubted it for a second. I wanted to meet you, if I'd known about you sooner I swear I would have."

I just nodded, and then asked, "Why do you think she did it?"

"I don't know." Eddie frowned. "That, I really couldn't tell you. Back before Gina and I lost touch, she did a lot of things that I didn't understand."

"Like what?" I frowned.

Eddie let out a breath and nervously ran his fingers through his hair.

"You're mom and me..." he started slowly, almost like he was worried that I'd snap at him again, "she really was my best friend, Rory. When we started going out, everything happened really fast. You have to understand...we were so young. And when we did break up, we decided to be friends. I swear to you, I thought she was okay with that..."

He looked at me, probably waiting for me to accuse him of running out on her again, but instead I gave another small nod. I needed to hear this.

"It was about two months later when she didn't show up to school for a few days." He continued. "I was a little worried. Um, usually if one of us was sick, we'd call. But, when I didn't hear from Gina, I stopped by her house. You're grandma, she was there. But...your mom..."

"She was gone." I finished for him.

"Yeah, she was." Eddie nodded, a hint of annoyance in his voice. "Alice told me that she'd gone to live with an old family friend for a while. She never said why. She wouldn't say why. Or where. When I asked for a phone number...Alice told me that Gina didn't want me to call her. Or to know where she was." Eddie shook his head, "I was so confused. I mean, a few days before that we were doing our homework together like everything was fine, and then I found out that Gina didn't want anything to do with me. The only thing Alice would say to me is, `this is the way that Gina wants it.' For a long time I kept going back, Rory. I don't think your grandma...she was just doing it for your mom."

"She didn't have to lie for her." I frowned, feeling angry again.

"You're right." Eddie nodded. "She didn't. But, there was nothing I could do about it. After a while I stopped going over there, but I still wondered...you know, I didn't understand it... The next summer my family moved out here. She...Gina must have had you and moved back home after I was already gone."

"You didn't try to go back? To see her again?" I asked, somehow needing more of an explanation from him.

"Maybe I should have." Eddie sighed, "If I'd known about you, I would have. But I didn't, Rory. Maybe that's hard for you to understand, but your mom made it pretty clear that she didn't want anything to do with me... I did get a letter from her a few years later."

"And she didn't tell you?" I demanded.

"If she would have, we would have met a lot sooner." Eddie insisted.

"Well what did it say, the letter?"

"Just that she hoped I was doing good...she said she was sorry, for leaving like she did, but she didn't say why. And, she said she was good, she was happy. She didn't leave a return address... I still have the letter, though. You're welcome to read it."

Eddie offering to let me read that letter only told me that he wasn't trying to hide anything. Which meant that he really hadn't known about me. I was slowly accepting that. But accepting it meant that the open, honest relationship that I thought I'd had with my mother wasn't so honest after all. And I was angry with her about that.

I mean, telling my mom I was gay, was the hardest thing I ever had to do. It was the only secret I'd ever kept from her and in the end I came clean with it. Why wouldn't she tell me that my father didn't even know about me? I'd always assumed that he didn't want to be there. And mom not telling me...she'd let me believe that.

"I don't know why she would do it." I said, looking down. "It doesn't make sense. We didn't keep secrets from each other."

"I don't know why she did it either." Eddie replied, "but we can't change it now...I want this to work, Rory...I know that this is all new for you, and I'm not asking you to just accept all of this... or me, overnight. If you don't want to live with me, I'll understand that. But, at the end of the summer, when you go, I want you to come back again. And I want you to call. I want a relationship with you. I don't even expect you to see me as your father, but...I want the chance to be one. And you deserve the chance to have one."

I wasn't sure how to respond to that. The fact that my mother had kept Eddie and I apart didn't change how I felt about him in particular. Sure, I had less to be angry about, but he was still a stranger to me. Maybe that was what he was trying to say, that he didn't want to be a stranger anymore. And, I guess if I was going to be honest with myself, while I was busy trying to figure out why my mom did this, I was sort of curious to get to know Eddie. I wasn't exactly ready to run into his arms and celebrate, but I could at least get to know him, and maybe even let him get to know me a little too.

"I can't call you dad." I said, after several moments of silence.

"I can live with that." he gave me a small smile, and then stared at me in a thoughtful way that made me feel nervous and I had to look away. Maybe it was okay to get to know him, but it might be better to take it slow.

I stood up abruptly, wincing when I stepped on the cut on my foot and Eddie stood too, looking worried.

"Foot's still bothering you?" he frowned.

"I'm okay." I sheepishly shrugged, "just a little sore." I passed by him as he watched curiously, looking worried, like I was about to walk away from him. But, I stopped in front of the unmarked box that Grandma Alice had sent and hesitated only a moment before lifting it up and turning to Eddie, who looked confused.

"You can...um, look in here. If you want." I said.

Eddie took the box curiously, lifting it away from my arms with much more ease than I had lifting it up. When he pulled back one of the flaps and looked inside he smiled at me, seeing that it was a box full of pictures.

"Thank you, Rory."

"Mom liked taking pictures," I shrugged, "so...uh, my whole life's in there. That way, I won't have to tell you everything."

"Okay." He nodded. "I have some things too, if you want to look."

"Okay." I nodded, and then after a moment, "Um, Eddie? You know the album you showed me at the park?"

"Yeah." He sighed, "I guess maybe I should have warned you first..."

"Can I see it again?" I interrupted.

"Yeah." He smiled, "whenever you want."

"Thanks." I really did want to take another look at that book. And, I had been interested looking at it in the park, before I got pissed off at Eddie.

"Sure, I'll find it for you." He offered, "and, I think I'm gonna go look at these...unless you want to look at them together."

"No, that's okay." I insisted, "Some of them are kinda embarrassing, I'd rather not."

"Alright." Eddie laughed, turning towards the door, but then he stopped and looked back at me.

"Rory...Gina...well, you're mom, she wouldn't do something to hurt someone, not on purpose. I don't know why she didn't tell me about you. But, if you ever want to talk about it..."

"Thanks." I nodded, and then added, "I might. I just...I need to think about some things."

"Okay. Just let me know."

"Thanks Eddie, and uh...thanks for breakfast."

"Sure. I'll be home for the rest of the day, so if you need anything..."

"Alright." I nodded, "I think I'm just going to get some unpacking done."

"Okay. Hey, I know you didn't want to unpack all of this stuff. Why don't you put together the things you won't be needing and I'll help you take them up to storage tonight."

"Sure." I agreed, and then watched Eddie walk out. He'd given me some stuff to think about, and a few things that I wanted to ask Grandma Alice about. But, I would call her later. I was afraid that if I called her now I'd lose my temper, knowing that she'd known about this all along, and she'd contributed to helping my mother hide me from Eddie, not to mention she'd never told me about it. I definitely needed to be thinking more rationally when I did talk to her. Besides, she'd just hang up on me anyways if I got upset.


I winced, stepping up the wood stairs to the attic, carrying another box. It was beginning to hurt, standing on my foot, but I couldn't complain. It was my own fault I had a cut there in the first place. Running off like I had, had been stupid. Even I could admit that.

"Here." Luke laughed at me, moving down the stairs, grabbing the box again and then disappearing into the attic. I sighed and followed him up as he put the box in the pile with all of the rest of my stuff.

"How many more are there?" he asked, wipping the sweat from his brow.

"About four more trips worth." I frowned, "I can finish it up on my own, Luke. Thanks for your help."

"Why don't we both take a break and then I'll help you finish later." He smirked, "Or we could just forget about it and let Eddie finish. He did say he'd help."

"I haven't seen him in a while." I replied, "not since lunch."

I'd sat down to lunch with Eddie and Luke a little earlier, and was pleasantly surprised that it had been an enjoyable meal. Luke and I had told Eddie why we stopped fighting, without telling him why we'd started fighting in the first place. For some reason, Luke didn't seem to want to mention that. But, when Luke mentioned how I'd locked him outside and Chey had actually taken my side, Eddie laughed. I thought he might have been upset, but I guess there was a lot about him that I needed to learn. I guess it was a good thing that he had a sense of humor.

"I saw him a while ago." Luke replied, "When Jase got home they were both in the living room going through those pictures of yours."

"Ahh." I groaned, and Luke laughed.

"I think he's gone through all of them twice since this morning." Luke smiled, as he began to lead the way back down the stairs, "It was really nice of you to let him see those."

"I guess." I shrugged, "I think I was feeling kinda bad...after last night and...you know."

"It's not like you should feel that guilty." Luke replied. "I mean, maybe you were a little hard on Eddie, but he could have just told you what was going on from the beginning. I think I would have been pissed too, if I were you."


"Yeah." Luke stated, "I mean, if he didn't know about you in the first place, he just should have told you. You have no idea how many times I just wanted to blurt it out." he sounded practically exasperated.

"Why didn't you?" I laughed.

"Well, because Eddie asked me not to." Luke replied, "I think it was because he didn't want you to get upset with your mom, or with him, for saying that she'd made a mistake. That, and it really wasn't my place, you know? Eddie should have told you...I'm sorry you found out like you did, though. What happened anyways, were you spying?"

"Sort of." I admitted, "I just can't help it sometimes, especially if someone's talking about me."

"I'll have to remember that about you." Luke laughed.

We walked down to the kitchen where Luke opened the fridge and tossed me a bottle of water.

"I was gonna see if you wanted to go for a hike today," he smirked, glancing down at my sock covered foot, "but I guess that idea's out."

"Yeah, I think I've done enough hiking lately." I replied. "Actually, I still need to call my grandma. I'm just not looking forward to it."

"Why not?" Luke asked, "Maybe she can explain things to you."

"She can," I frowned, "but I don't know if she will. She can be a little hard to talk to sometimes."

"At least she loves you." He shrugged as we took a seat at the table.

"Yeah." I smirked, "It's a blessing and a curse."

Luke gave me a small smile and one of those measuring looks that made me wonder what he was thinking, but he didn't say anything.

"Do you know any of your grandmas?" I asked.

"I knew one." He replied, "She died when I was six though. I remember she was really nice. That was my mom's mom. I think I still have a grandpa alive on my dad's side, but I never really knew him. Mostly it's just Jase, me and Eddie, they're my family now...and you too."

I smiled, but looked away, wondering how Luke could consider me family after only a few days. And, it wasn't as if we'd gotten off to an easy start. But, maybe that didn't matter. Maybe today was the day that I could consider my first day here, now that everything seemed to be out in the open.

"You never said what happened to your mom." I said. I'd been wondering. I knew now not to bring up Luke's dad, but I was still curious. He had never mentioned his mom, and the way he'd looked at the picture of my mom and me, made me wonder. But, I guess maybe I shouldn't have brought his mom up either, because his expression darkened and he looked down at the table, away from me.

"Uh, she died." He explained. "It was a long time ago. Just before I moved in with Eddie and Jase."

"I'm sorry." I said quickly, and then immediately hated myself for it. I hated when people told me that they were sorry, I doubted that Luke felt any different.

"It's alright." He nodded, "I've dealt with it. Eddie and Jase helped a lot with that. But...look, Rory, I know about grief. If you ever want to talk about it, I mean...well, I just want you to know that I understand what you're going through."

"What happened to her?" I asked.

"It was an accident," He explained, "um, car accident. Everyone told me that it was quick. But...I don't know."

I stared at Luke for a long time, taking note of a vacant look in his eyes. I wondered if I had that look when I thought about my mom. It almost seemed like Luke wasn't even there. He was somewhere else, and I could relate to it. It was that dark place, the same one I went to when I had those spontaneous moments of mourning.

"Do you ever wake up and forget?" I asked, "sometimes when I wake up in the morning, I expect her to come barging into my room, telling me to get ready for school...telling me to put on clean underwear first."

Luke looked up, the vacancy gone as he gave me a small smile.

"It used to happen more when I was younger." He explained, "it still does sometimes, but not as often...you won't forget, Rory. But, I promise that it does get easier."

I nodded. People kept saying that. It gets easier. But I think hearing it from Luke made me actually believe it just a little bit more. Maybe that was because he really did understand.

"Hey," he suddenly smiled, like we hadn't been discussing anything depressing at all, "I was gonna go back to the park tonight. Dave will be there, and so will Rick and Brian. Do you want to come? I mean, if you don't have plans with Eddie..."

"Do you think Eddie will want to do something with me?" I asked, a little panicked. I was still trying to come to terms with what we'd discussed that morning, and while I wanted to try to get to know him I felt that I wanted to do it slowly.

"He'll let you go." Luke laughed. "Just...don't shut him out, you know? I meant it when I said he was a good dad. You just need to give him a chance."

"I will." I nodded, and I meant it. "I just...it's a lot do deal with, you know? Yesterday I was mad at him and today..."

"It's normal." Luke insisted. "I mean, that you were mad at him before. Actually, I'm surprised that you still aren't mad at him, for not telling you the truth."

"Yeah." I nodded. Except, I was mad at Eddie for that. But, with Eddie I didn't know him well enough to trust him to tell me something like that. But my mom, and grandma Alice, they should have told me. They were the ones I expected to hear it from. They were the ones I was angry with.

"So do you want to go for a swim? That shouldn't be too hard on your foot."

"Yeah." I smiled, "but, I should call my grandma first. There are a few things I need to ask her and if I don't get it over with, it's going to drive me nuts."

"Sure, I'll see you out there."

I was really beginning to like Luke. I couldn't imagine what it would be like if we were still fighting, and learning about his mom made me feel closer to him. Maybe that just meant that we were bonding. I guess it was to be expected. We'd been together non-stop for the last few days, he'd pulled a cactus needle out of my ass and I'd let him carry me without too much complaint.

It was a good feeling that I got with Luke, knowing that we weren't just passing through each other's lives as acquaintances. When I went home, I could see myself wanting to keep in touch with him. And that said a lot, considering I hadn't put any effort into writing or calling the people from back home, people I'd known my whole life. And I guess I felt sad, realizing that I felt closer to Luke than I did to any of the people that I'd left behind.

If I really thought about it, I'd distanced myself from all of my old friends way before I even moved away. A lot of it had to do with my mom being sick. Sure, my friends were there for me, but I hadn't been entirely open to their support. At the time, my mom was dying and none of them really understood that. At least, not the way that I understood it. And because that was all I could think about, I'd distanced myself from people, even when I was with them. And then, after my mom died, I don't think I ever made much of an effort to reestablish friendships. We were never as close as we had been before everything happened.

That said, I guess it would seem strange that I'd want to go back there at the end of the summer, even after finding a friend in Luke. But I did want to go back. Sure, maybe I could part as friends with Eddie, and maybe I would even feel comfortable calling him on the weekends, or maybe even visiting again next summer. But, I wanted to go home. I needed to go home. It was my home, where I'd grown up with my mom. And I wanted to go back there.


Deep breaths. Stay calm. And whatever you do, do not get angry. Talking to Grandma Alice could be a chore. Trying to get information out of her could be a nightmare. It would have to be handled delicately. If I got angry, I wouldn't get anything out of her, and at the moment, Grandma Alice seemed to be the only one who might have any of the answers that I needed.

Oddly enough, I hadn't gone to my room with the phone to lock myself in. I think that I thought maybe it would be easier to keep my temper under control if I had this conversation somewhere where anyone could walk in and hear me.

I chose the kitchen. There was plenty of room to pace in the kitchen. By the time I'd gotten the phone and switched from jeans to swim trunks and reached the kitchen, Luke was already outside. I could see him through the sliding glass door, lying out on the diving board wearing his boxers rather than a swimming suit, with Chey waiting impatiently for him to jump in the pool and splash her.

I almost decided to put off the phone call to go join him. Hanging out with Luke seemed like a lot more fun than the phone call that I had to make. But, I forced myself to dial the number and I waited for Grandma Alice to answer.

"Hello? Hello?"

I took a deep breath, and then, "hi grandma..." and that was as far as I got.

"Rory Norick!" I almost dropped the phone, jumping at her sharp tone. "I swear one would think that you had no common sense! You must be the most stubborn child I've ever come across! Worse than your Grandpa John, even! Now please explain to me why you saw it fit to almost give this poor old lady a heart attack. I may be sturdy but I swear Rory, you're going to be the end of me!"

If I had any idea what she was talking about, I'd probably take the time to explain it. But honestly, I was beginning to wonder if grandma Alice had just lost whatever last bit of sanity that she had been holding onto.


"Running away, Rory? Honestly. You have more sense than that." Uh-oh. I wondered how she'd heard about my little mishap last night. I immediately wanted to accuse Eddie, but my newfound attitude towards him insisted that I give him the benefit of the doubt. "You could have gotten lost! Do you have any idea how dangerous that was? You don't know your way around up there yet! And with no shoes? Good grief, you aren't a pauper! Where were your shoes?"

"I didn't have them on, I was..."

"You were off losing that mind of yours, that's what you were doing! Good lord I don't know what goes through that head of yours but..."

"Nothing!" I suddenly shouted. Okay, I admit it. I didn't last very long before the woman made me completely crazy. "I wasn't thinking anything! I'm sorry, okay? It was stupid. But guess what else was stupid grandma? No one telling me that Eddie didn't even know about me! That was stupid! Why didn't you tell me?"

"I don't think I like the tone your using." She said calmly. I chose to ignore it.

"You knew and you didn't tell me! Why didn't you tell me? And why did mom do it? Why did you guys let me think that he didn't want anything to do with me? Why did mom keep me away from Eddie? And you know what, I probably wouldn't have run off if someone had bothered to tell me! Like you, grandma!"

"I think you should call back when you've remembered your manners." She said flatly.

"No!" I shouted, "No, don't you dare hang up on me! You owe me an explanation and I don't care if I have to go back there and..."

I had been shouting, and the sudden hand on my shoulder startled me. When I first saw Eddie standing behind me, frowning, I expected a lecture, but instead he patted my shoulder, gently took the phone and brought it to his ear.

"Alice, it's Eddie..."

Uh-oh. Grandma was yelling. I guess I'd upset her just enough to make Eddie's life difficult because I could hear her muffled voice coming through the phone before Eddie began his attempts to interrupt her.

"No, I don't think so...Yes. He's really upset right now...well...uh-huh...but.."

Eddie was starting to sweat. It was strange, seeing a man his size shrink before my eyes all because of the voice of a little old woman on the other end of the phone. I took a seat at the table and silently watched.

"Well, I think he has a right to be upset." Eddie said, surprising me. Was he sticking up for me? "You know how I feel about it, Alice...no, I'm not saying that, but an explanation would be nice..."

Eddie sounded annoyed. I guess I wasn't the only one who wanted an explanation. It seemed like Eddie wanted to know why he'd never been told about me too, but it sounded like he wasn't getting any further than I had.

I felt another hand on my shoulder and looked up to see Jase standing behind me, worriedly watching Eddie. He glanced down at me and flashed a small smile.

"Are you all right?" he asked quietly.

"Better than he is." I remarked, turning back to Eddie, who's jaw had begun to twitch.

"Oh, just shut up!" Eddie suddenly shouted into the phone.

I jumped, and Jase's eyes widened as an abrupt silence followed that outburst. I could tell that Alice was talking, because I saw Eddie's shoulder's stiffen as he straightened himself, but she must have been using her calm voice because we couldn't hear her through the phone.

I was almost worried for Eddie, wondering what Alice was saying as I watched him tug at his shirt collar, blushing. And after a long silence, he finally said in a small voice, "Yes ma'am. Okay. Bye Alice."

Jase had been holding onto my shoulder, but I'd hardly noticed until he let go, walking around my chair as Eddie hung up the phone, releasing the breath he'd been holding before he looked at me, almost apologetically.

"What was that all about?" Jase asked.

"Well," Eddie sighed, "Rory and I are both to think about the proper way to speak to a lady. Alice will be expecting our written apology in the mail, by the way," he added, smirking at me.

"Sorry about that." I frowned, "I didn't mean to yell at her, she's just...it's so hard to get in a word with her!"

"Believe me, I know." Eddie smiled, but then he looked more serious. "She said she was sending something for you, Rory. Actually, she said it was for both of us...from your mom."

"What?" I demanded.

"Did she say what it was?" Jase asked.

"No, she didn't." Eddie shook his head, "but it should be here in a few days. Can you wait that long Rory?"

"I guess." I frowned. Not that I had a choice about it. Once again I felt thrown for a loop. The idea that my mom was sending something seemed so surreal. She was gone. And if it was something for me and Eddie, then why wasn't it sent with me in the first place? Whatever the situation was, I'm sure Grandma Alice had something to do with it.

"You okay?" Eddie asked me.

I must have spaced out, because when I looked up, Eddie and Jase were both staring at me.

"Uh, yeah." I nodded, standing up and moving past them, "I'm gonna go out for a while. Luke's waiting."

"Sure." Eddie nodded.

I headed towards the door, hoping that Luke and a pool full of cool water would help me get my mind off of things for a while, but I paused at the door, a slight smile tugging my lips as I looked back at Eddie.

"I can't believe you told her to shut up." I remarked.

"Hey," Eddie smirked, "do as I say, not what I do."

The remark threw me for a moment before I saw Eddie grinning and Jase rolling his eyes. A joke. I smiled back at him before stepping outside. I think I liked it better, not being so angry with him.

Maybe things would start working out after all. I could get along with Eddie, and Jase wasn't that bad either. I had a friend in Luke, and I'm sure that sooner or later I'd get along with grandma Alice again, as soon as I sent her that letter of apology. I only hoped that whatever was coming, wasn't going to turn my life upside down all over again. I wasn't sure how many more surprises I could take.



Comments/Questions send to DomLuka@aol.com