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Note: Thanks to Dick for feedback on the draft chapters.  I owe special thanks to Robb and Rock for doing the final proofreading and catching all those silly little errors I missed.

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Finding Family

by Jeff Allen




I scheduled a pool party for the current and former soccer players the weekend after the Fourth of July.  I'd done that before of course, but then part of the reason for the party had been an excuse to have Karl Henson stay overnight.  Karl wasn't coming home for the summer.  He was going to be out in Colorado with his new boyfriend.  I was getting over Karl.  I realized that the two of us really didn't have much of a future as a couple, but it still hurt a little to think of him with someone else.

Thursday morning two days before the party, I was working with one of the youth soccer league teams when my cell phone rang.  I checked the caller ID.  It was Trey.

"Hey, Trey, what's up?"

"We've got a problem.  Can you come back out to the house?"

"What's wrong?"

"It's TJ and Ryan.  Well, really it's TJ's stepmom.  She's sending Ryan to a military school.  He's leaving on Monday.  Ryan's all upset, and TJ is furious.  I got everyone back out to the house, but I'm not sure I can hold it all together out here.  We need you."

I quickly made arrangements for one of the assistants to cover the youth team I'd been working with and headed back to my house.  I wasn't thinking nice thoughts about Angela Ladd during my drive.

The guys were all around the table.  TJ and Ryan were clinging to each other.  Both had been crying.  Trey and Isaac flanked the brothers.  Mutt sensed the tension in the air and was nervously trying to climb into Isaac's lap.  Jonathan Pittman and Elijah Baker who had been working with TJ's crew that summer stood over to one side not quite sure what to do. 

As soon as I was inside the door Ryan flung himself into my arms.

"Coach, I don't want to go!  I don't want to leave you guys!  Please don't make me go!  Can't I live out here with you like TJ?"

TJ was over immediately wrapping both Ryan and me in his strong arms.  "That bitch just wants to get rid of Ryan.  She's already got a new boyfriend, and she doesn't want Ryan around any more."

"Okay, everyone, let's calm down.  Ryan, tell me what's going on."

"Mom told me this morning that I was going to go to some military school out in Missouri.  I have to go out there on Monday for some stupid summer program before school starts in the fall.  She said I need discipline.  Coach, I don't need discipline, I need you guys.  Can you talk to her?"

"I'll try.  You guys stay here."

I went back into my bedroom and dialed the Ladd's number.


"Ms. Ladd, this is Parker Arnold.  May I talk with you for a few minutes?"

"Is this about Ryan, Mr. Arnold?"

"Yes, it is.  Ryan's a very upset young man right now, Ms. Ladd.  He says you want him to go to a military school and that he'll be leaving on Monday."

"That's right.  The boy has just been impossible lately.  I've warned him to behave, but I'm just at my wit's end.  Being recently widowed and all alone has been very difficult for me.  Enderly Military School has an excellent reputation with young men.  I've enrolled him for the fall, and they require all new students to go through a six week training course prior to the start of classes in the fall."

"I beg your pardon, but isn't this all rather sudden?"

"Oh not at all.  It's taken me months to arrange this."

"Months?  Then you were thinking about this before Dr. Ladd died?"

"Ah...yes.  Dr. Ladd and I talked about it briefly, but he was so ill at the last that I had to make all of the arrangements myself."

"Then why did you wait until today to tell Ryan?"

"I don't think that's any of your business, Mr. Arnold."

"Look, both TJ and Ryan have been well-behaved and respectful to me.  Would you consider letting Ryan live out here?"

"No, I would not.  As you know, TJ is not my son, although I've tried to love him as if he were my own.  He has simply never accepted my authority.  He's not my flesh and blood, but Ryan is, and as his mother I think Ryan will be better off being away from TJ and in a situation where he will be learning some self-discipline.  This decision is final, Mr. Arnold.  I've already sent in a very substantial non-refundable deposit."

"If you won't change your mind, will you at least allow Ryan to stay out here until Sunday.  It will give him a chance to say good-bye to his friends and his brother.  I'm sure Ryan's told you that the soccer team will all be out here on Saturday for a picnic."

"Oh, yes, I think he mentioned something about that.  I don't see any problem with it.  I really need to go down to Charlotte for a day or so.  Just be sure Ryan is back at my house by eight o'clock Monday morning.  He has a plane to catch in Charlotte later that day."

When I walked back out into the kitchen, the guys could tell from my body language what had happened.  Ryan started crying again, and TJ started pacing the floor pounding his fists together and calling Angela Ladd every nasty name in the book.  I didn't say anything, but I thought the words TJ was using fit her to a "T."

When we got Ryan and TJ calmed down, Isaac suggested that we turn the upcoming soccer team picnic into a farewell party for Ryan.  Everyone agreed it was a good idea.

The guys spread the word about the new focus of the party.  The place was packed that Saturday afternoon and evening.  Joe May and Robert Marquez helped me with grilling the hotdogs, hamburgers, and chicken.  Neither had a kind word to say about Angela Ladd.  Joe said that all Angela had been interested in after John Ladd's death was how long it would take for the insurance check to arrive.  Robert, who had given up a multimillion dollar a year career in the NBA to raise his son, could not imagine any parent sending their fifteen year-old child halfway across the country to go to school.

Larry Bledsoe, Ricky Jordan, Christopher Harris, and Paul May...all former soccer players who had graduated...came out for the afternoon and evening.  It was good to see all of them again. 

Donnie Micheaux also managed to come out for a little while.  His wife was still working at the Mountain Café as a waitress so he'd hired a babysitter for his boys so he could come out to the picnic while his wife was at work.  He and I talked briefly about the business.  He was paying back my loan at a faster rate than necessary; he'd hired three new full-time mechanics; and he'd bought a used tow truck and arranged a contract with the American Automobile Association to provide road service for Triple A policyholders in the area.

While his business seemed to be thriving, his personal life wasn't.  I got the impression that Donnie's marriage was in even worse shape than before.  He'd moved his family out of the apartment above the business into a small rented three-bedroom house nearby.  He talked about his bedroom and Leigh's bedroom.  His mother was still watching the boys during the day, but Donnie wasn't sure how much longer that would continue as his mother's diabetes was worse and his sister wanted her to come down to Charlotte to live with her.

Tyrone Jackson stayed out at the house that night.  The boys pulled the covers off all the beds upstairs and piled them into the middle of the floor.  I figured they planned on sleeping together as a big group that night.

About four o'clock the next morning I was awakened by someone coming into my bedroom.  I opened my eyes to see a naked Ryan lift the covers and slip into bed with me.

"What's up, Ry?"

He slid over to nestle against my chest.  "Would you hold me for a little while, Coach?"

"Sure thing, bud.  Bad dream?"

"No.  I just want to have you hold me."

We lay together quietly for a few minutes before he said, "You won't forget about me will you, Coach?"

I hugged him closer and kissed the top of his head.  "I could never forget you, Ryan, and neither could any of the guys upstairs.  You're a part of us, and even when you're in Missouri we'll still have you in our hearts.  You've got to know how much we all love you."

"I know you love me.  I just wish my mother loved me as much as you guys do."

He started crying softly.  I couldn't think of anything to say so I just held him until the crying stopped and he fell asleep.


Everyone was pretty subdued the next day.  We did all the normal things.  We ran; we ate breakfast; we did some stuff around the house and yard with all of the guys pitching in to help; but everyone was conscious of the fact that it was Ryan's last day with us.  I grilled some thick steaks for us that night.  Neither Ryan nor TJ ate all of theirs.  The guys retreated to the upstairs right after dinner.  I took a cup of coffee out to the pool.  I sat on one of the pool chairs sipping my coffee and wishing that Angela Ladd was next to me so I could grab her around the neck and choke her.


Isaac and Tyrone rode into town with me when I took Ryan back to his mother's.  TJ was too upset to come along.  He was afraid he wouldn't be able to control his anger at his stepmother.  He and Ryan had bid a tearful good-bye back in my kitchen.  Trey stayed at the house to try to keep TJ company and to try to calm him down.

At the Ladd's we each gave Ryan a hug and then watched him walk to the door and disappear inside the house.

It was two weeks before anyone of us heard from Ryan.  TJ was the first to get a letter, and it wasn't a happy one.  As Ryan described it in his letter the "summer camp" sounded more like a boot camp.  His hair was buzzed off on the first day.  He had a "counselor" that sounded like a drill sergeant.  The kids were awakened at 5:00 for physical training that lasted most of the day and pushed the kids toward exhaustion.  Ryan was in much better physical shape than most of the "campers" because of his running and soccer training.  Two of the kids who weren't as conditioned as Ryan collapsed and had to be taken to a hospital.  When the two came back they were ridiculed as "pansies", "fairies", "queers", and "ladies" by the cadet-in-charge and the "counselor".  The rules of the school sounded bizarre.  First year students were not allowed to use the phone or Internet.  They were limited to two outgoing letters per week.  Incoming mail was held until Friday evening after dinner when the "newbies" were allowed two hours of free time before bed time.  It sounded awful.

TJ grieved the absence of his brother by putting himself totally into his work.  He left the house before the other guys and didn't get home until well after dark.  Ryan wrote TJ every week.  His other weekly letters rotated between Isaac, Tyrone, and me.  The tone of the letters improved a little as Ryan made some friends among the other "cadets" and got used to the Spartan routine.


The week before the start of soccer practice I arranged a college tour for Trey and TJ.  Isaac tagged along, and at the last minute the guys invited Jonathan Pittman to come along too since his parents claimed they were too busy with work and church matters to take time to visit some regional colleges.  I thought the trip was important.  The guys were entering their senior year; they'd have to start applying to colleges in the early fall; and I felt that they needed to at least visit some of the schools they might be interested in attending.  We started early in the morning from Carterville and headed east to the big schools...N.C. State, Duke, and UNC Chapel Hill.  We stayed in Chapel Hill that night and found an all-you-can-eat buffet.  I know the restaurant lost money on my crowd that night.  The next day we visited Wake Forest and UNC Charlotte.  After putting another buffet restaurant into financial distress and finding ourselves all sharing one motel room because of a mix up in the reservations we finished the third day of the tour by visiting Appalachian, Adams State, and UNC Asheville.  When we were finally back at the house after dropping Jonathan at his place and exhausted from the trip, I made the mistake of asking the guys which schools they liked.

TJ started off with his head down, "I don't know that it makes any difference for me.  I don't have any money to go to college anyway.  Look at the costs."  He indicated the loose stack of campus maps and brochures on the kitchen table.  "I can't afford it."

"You can get scholarships, man."  Trey moved to calm TJ's sudden outburst.  "I'll go with you.  We'll be roomies.  I already know how to ignore your snoring."

I weighed in, "TJ, I'll pay for both you and Isaac to go to college.  If you get a scholarship, that's fine, but I want both of you to have the opportunity to go to college regardless of whether or not you guys get scholarships."

Isaac's eyes widened.  "'d pay my tuition?"

I reached over and squeezed his shoulder.  "Yeah, and I'll pay for your room and board also."

Isaac lost it.  Tears came to his eyes.  "My own father pimped me out to truckers, and you're willing to pay for my college."

Their reactions stunned me.  Then I realized that I'd never squarely told either that I planned on paying for their schooling.  I just assumed they knew there would be money for school.  I mean, it was obvious that Isaac didn't have anyone else to help with his costs, and it was darn plain that Angela wanted as little to do with TJ as possible.  Someone had to help them

"Listen, I love all of you guys.  You've all become my sons.  Trey has money for college from his trust funds, and I've got more than enough money to take care of you and TJ, and I can't think of any better way to spend it."



I wasn't too happy at first when my dad told me we were moving to Carterville, North Carolina.  I mean where the heck was that place anyway?  I looked at the map, and Carterville was out in the middle of nowhere.  I'm not a snob or anything like that, but what could a guy from Mobile, Alabama, do up in the mountains of North Carolina.  They even had snow up there!  I'd never seen snow before.

Of course I didn't have a choice about the move.  My dad was transferred by the bank, and the family was moving.  End of story. 

My dad had worked for a bank in Mobile for a long time, and he was one of the big wigs in the local management.  That was until the bank was bought out by this megabank from Charlotte, North Carolina, that had expanded nationwide and was gobbling up smaller regional banks as fast as it could.  My dad was given the choice of being laid off or accepting a demotion to become the branch manager in this little out-of-the-way Podunk place called Carterville.  Mom and dad weren't too pleased with it, but he went ahead and took the job in North Carolina.  They told all their friends in Mobile that dad was being given a "special assignment."

The family was just me and my mom and dad.  My parents always told me they'd had a difficult time having me and how lucky I was to be with them.  I guess there had been some problems because my dad was a little older, and kind of liked her gin.  If they'd tried so hard to have me, then why didn't they pay more attention to me?  They were always busy with work, church, and their social circle.  I think they loved me in their own way, but there wasn't much real interaction between us.  It was more like just sharing a house with two other people.

Seems like it was always that way.  As long as I could remember, I felt alone and somehow disconnected and incomplete.  It was like a part of me was missing.  I even made up a pretend playmate I called "Brother."  One day when I was in first grade I made the mistake of telling my mother about Brother.  She got really mad at me, and told me that I didn't have a brother and that I shouldn't pretend that I did.  I never said anything about Brother to either of my parents again, but I still talked to him at night, especially when things hadn't gone well during the day.  Talking to Brother helped.  He was the one person I knew who wouldn't reject me or laugh at me; even if he was only a figment of my imagination.

Contrary to my expectations and worries, Carterville was really nice.  We moved in December so I got my first look at snow.  I didn't think I could ever wear enough clothing to be warm, but the people were really nice. 

The first day at Carter County High School, I met Mr. Arnold, my history teacher.  He was also the coach of the soccer team.  He told me to meet him after school, and he introduced me to a bunch of the guys of the soccer team.  They seemed really friendly, and they all helped introduce me around to other kids at the school.

My closest friends in Carterville were some other guys on the soccer team...Trey Arnold, TJ Ladd, Tyrone Jackson, and Isaac South.  I found out after a couple of weeks that Tyrone's dad was Berto Marquez, the big NBA player...well, former player.  He'd retired to be able to raise Tyrone after Ty's mother had died.  Trey was Coach Arnold's nephew.  He and Isaac lived with Coach `cause both of them had lost their parents.  TJ and his younger brother, Ryan, almost lived out at Coach's house too `cause neither one of them got along with their mom.  Actually she was Ryan's mom and TJ's step mom, but both of them often referred to her as "The Witch." 

When I moved to Carterville, TJ and Ryan's father was real sick with cancer.  He died just before the end of spring soccer season.  Things really seemed to deteriorate with their mother after that.  TJ essentially moved out to Coach's with Trey and Isaac, and by the middle of the summer Ms. Ladd had shipped Ryan off to some military school out in Missouri.  Man, I'd thought Carterville was in the middle of nowhere, but when I got a look at where that military school was.  Well, let me tell you, Carterville had to be a metropolis compared to that place!

I felt really sorry for TJ and Ryan.  I mean, my folks pretty much ignored me.  They were too busy with their own lives to pay any attention to me.  Sometimes I wondered why they'd ever bothered to have me in the first place.  But at least they didn't hate me.  Man, TJ and Ryan's mom was just hateful to both of them.

Trey, TJ, Tyrone, and Isaac were really great guys.  Another thing I really liked about them was that they were gay.  It took me about a month to figure it out.  Tyrone was always making remarks and jokes that sort of made me wonder about him right away, but the other guys were quieter about it.  The most amazing thing to me was that all the other guys on the team seemed to know about them being gay, but it didn't appear to make any difference.  They were still popular at school.  They were still great athletes.  Back in Mobile, anyone who was suspected of being gay was harassed by all the jocks.  That's one of the reasons I kept it all to myself.  Yup, I was pretty sure I was gay.  Girls just didn't do anything for me.  I dated a little, but that was all for show.  What I really liked was seeing all the naked guys in the locker room.

Another reason I wanted to keep it to myself was my parents.  They made nice out in public and in church, but at home both mom and dad were clear about what they thought about queers.  No way was I going to tell them I thought I was one of those queers.  I was pretty sure they'd kick me out of the house if they found out.  They may not have been the most loving parents in the world, but they were the only ones I had.

That summer Coach Arnold had arranged to take Trey, TJ, and Isaac on a tour of some of the regional universities.   As a native of Mobile, I'd always thought I'd go to the University of Alabama, but I knew my dad had taken a pay cut to keep his job, and they'd talked a couple of times about the cost of out-of-state tuition for `Bama.  My folks had also talked a couple of times about making a trip to look at potential schools in North Carolina; however, there was always some reason they couldn't find the time to do it.  I was working for TJ and his lawn service that summer, and when TJ found out about me wanting to visit some schools he invited me along with the rest of them.

That trip was a real eye opener for me.

Coach and they guys picked me up early in the morning in Coach's big Ford Explorer, and we headed east.  We visited N.C. State, Duke, and UNC Chapel Hill that day.  I was impressed with each of the schools, but the admissions people at those schools kind of put me off.  They just didn't seem too interested in talking to prospective students.  Despite the lukewarm reception by the admissions people at the three schools, I think that day was one of the most fun days in my entire life.  Those guys were my friends, but I'd never spent an entire day with them before.  There was a lot of good-natured kidding and mild horseplay, but it was very clear to me that they all cared deeply about each other.  I also got to see another side of Coach Arnold.  He joined right in with the verbal banter, and several times openly showed affection for us by placing a hand on our shoulder, giving us a hug, or mussing up our hair.  He did that with the soccer team also, but until then I thought it was just a part of his coaching style.  That day I realized everything he did was from genuine affection and love for his guys.

Coach located an all-you-can-eat buffet for us that night, and us guys really pigged out.  By the time Isaac and I were going back for our fourth plate from the buffet table, Coach was just laughing and shaking his head at us. 

That night, Coach had his own room, and the four of us stayed in another.  When we got into the room, Trey and TJ climbed into one of the beds to watch TV.  Isaac and I sat down on the other one.  I guessed that meant Isaac and I would be sharing a bed.  We watched a baseball game for a little while before TJ announced that he was going to take a shower.

When he came out of the bathroom after his shower, he was still naked.  That didn't seem unusual to me since I'd been out to Trey's house and had joined in the bare assed swimming in the pool.  These guys were comfortable being naked with one another, and I really liked seeing all the naked guys.  What got my attention that night was when TJ slipped under the covers of the bed without pulling on a pair of boxers.  Trey used the shower next, and then he climbed into bed naked with TJ. 

My dick turned hard almost instantly thinking of the two of them in bed.  When Isaac headed into the bathroom for his shower, I had to roll over on my stomach to hide the bulge in my cargo shorts.

Isaac took his shower, and like the other two crawled under the covers in his birthday suit.  I hurried in to take my shower so the guys wouldn't see my hard-on.  I know it was silly.  After all I knew they were all gay, but I was still embarrassed.  I jerked off while taking my shower just so my dick would be back to normal size when I went back into the room.

I thought about sleeping in the nude like the rest of them, but in the end I chickened out and pulled on a clean pair of boxers before climbing into the bed with Isaac.  Trey and TJ were spooned up against each other, and it looked like they were already asleep.  Seeing them snuggled up like that was seriously hot.

I turned off the light.  Isaac said good night and turned on his side facing away from me.  He was asleep within just a couple of minutes.  I lay awake for a long time because I was afraid to move for fear that I'd accidentally touch Isaac.  At the same time I desperately wanted to touch him.


"Hey, guys, it's time to get up."  Trey's voice brought me out of my dream.  I was lying on my side.  Isaac was plastered up against my back, and I could feel his hard dick pushed against my ass.

I opened my eyes.  Trey was standing beside the bed.  He was still naked and sporting the remains of his morning erection.  He smiled.  "Sorry, man, we should have warned you.  Isaac likes to cuddle at night.  I hope he didn't bother you last night."

" slept all night."

"That's cool.  We're kind of used to sleeping together," he smiled.  "We tend to forget that most guys aren't as `friendly' with each other as we are."

Isaac stretched and moved away from me.  "Mornin'.  I hope no one's in the bathroom `cause I really have to pee."

He hopped out of bed and dashed into the john, but not before I got a good look at the rod that he'd been pushing into my butt.  I wished I hadn't worn underwear to bed.  I'd love to have been able to feel that thing against the skin of my ass.

We scrambled around in the room taking quick showers and packing our clothes before meeting Coach Arnold for breakfast.

After breakfast, it was back in the Explorer to continue looking at schools.  We hit Wake Forest and UNC-Charlotte that day.  Wake had a nice campus feel to it, and I liked the people who talked with us, but I knew the cost there or at Duke would be an issue for my parents.  UNC-Charlotte was okay, but there just seemed to be something lacking on the campus.  I mentally crossed that one off my list of potential schools.

Coach found another one-price buffet for dinner.  We tried out best to clean out the place.  When we got to the motel, there was some mix up.  Coach had booked two rooms, but they only had one room available.  Coach was kind of pissed at first, but he became a lot more agreeable when the manager offered to give us the one room for half the original price.

We were going to have to sleep three in one bed and two in the other.  Coach told me to sleep in the bed with him, and let the other guys share the one bed.  "They're used to sleeping with each other, and I won't hog the bed like Isaac did last night."

I know I turned ten shades of red with that comment.

We watched another baseball game while everyone took turns in the shower.  Trey, TJ, and Isaac all crawled into their bed naked as they had last night.  I was relieved when Coach kept his boxers on when he slid beneath the covers.

I was really glad he'd kept his underwear on when I woke up in the middle of the night to find that I'd wrapped myself around Coach's backside.  I had my arm thrown over his chest, and I was humping his ass.  I moved away from him like I was shot out of a cannon!

My movements woke Coach.  "What is it?"

I started babbling.  "Oh Lord, Coach, I'm so sorry.  I didn't mean to...I'm sorry."

He rolled over on his side to face me in the darkness.  "It's okay, Jonathan."

"I'm so embarrassed."

He reached over and put his hand behind my neck and gave it a squeeze.  "It's okay, fella.  No harm; no foul.  Just go back to sleep.

He rolled over, and within a few minutes his breathing told me that he'd gone back to sleep.  It took me a while before I could calm down enough to join him.

The next day we visited Appalachian State and Adams State before heading back to Carterville.  I liked both of those schools, but I liked Adams State the best. 

Coach and the guys dropped me off at my house.  Mom was taking a nap on the couch.  There was an empty bottle of gin on the table beside her so I knew dinner would be late that night.  I went upstairs to my room, lay down on my bed, and fell asleep for three hours.  I guess I was making up for the sleep I missed the previous two nights. 

I had a lot to think about over the next couple of days.  I had to decide which colleges I liked, and I had to think some more about being gay.  Should I tell Trey, Isaac, Tyrone, and TJ?  Did I want to do that?  I thought I could trust them, but there was that little doubt in the back of my head, and if one of them let it slip out that I thought I was gay it might get back to my parents, and I sure couldn't let that happen.  I was way too young to be thrown out of the house!

(To be continued)