Go Your Own Way

John Hollingway

Part 2

What are friends for?



This story is pure fiction. Although some persons in this story are images of people in real life, I do not express their opinions in any way. Anything in this story is made up in my head. This story deals with gay teenagers, and it may contain graphic sex or erotic scenes (although not really frequently). It is more about Coming Out than about sex, so if you just want to read a sex story - this is the wrong one for you. If you are offended by gay themed material, don't read it. If you aren't allowed to read it (legally or otherwise), don't read it either. Otherwise, enjoy!

This story is copyrighted by the author, all rights reserved. The story may be copied and printed for personal use, but may not be published without the written consent of the author besides on the original publishing sites (cornercafe.us and nifty.org).

What are friends for?

We went through the hallway, stopping in front of an unmarked office door on the second level. Mr. Marzahn knocked briefly, and then entered the room without waiting for an answer from behind the door. Irene sat behind one of the two desks in the office. She only looked up when Mr. Marzahn and I entered her office.

"Ah, hello Ingo. I hope it was all right that I told Mr. Marzahn where to find you and when your school was finished. Hello Mr. Marzahn," she then greeted him as well.

"Yeah, it was all right. I was just a bit confused in the beginning, but we cleared that up easily," I said and smiled at Mr. Marzahn.

"That is good, and I hope he could explain some of the things to you as well. Let's go into our meeting room then, where we all can talk without disturbances. Can I offer you something to drink?"

"I would love a cup of coffee," Mr. Marzahn said.

"No problem, and do you want something as well, Ingo?"

"Yes, something to drink would be good, but no coffee, please."

"Would Coke be okay?"

"That would be great!" I exclaimed.

With that, she led the way to the meeting room, a mug of coffee in her one hand and some papers in the other. We stopped at a small kitchen which was on the way, and Mr. Marzahn and I got the offered drinks.

The meeting room was a small room with a round table in the center, around which five chairs were arranged. We took our seats, and I positioned myself directly next to Mr. Marzahn. He pulled a well-filled file folder out of his briefcase and gave some of the papers from the file to Irene.

"On these papers, I need the signature from you, as the official guardian of Ingo, so I can arrange the funeral of Ingo's parents. Furthermore, this will appoint me as the legal representative of Ingo, so I can contact the insurance company of the truck driver to get things running there as well."

Irene signed those documents, and then addressed me, "Ingo, your placement for the next several days is still causing some problems at the moment, and I couldn't arrange anything for tonight. Would it be alright if we do as we did last night, that I sleep at your house? I hope I can find a better arrangement by tomorrow, but for tonight, this is the the only possibility I see at the moment."

"No, that is alright with me," I answered. "But wouldn't that be an inconvenience for you?"

"Well, there are possibilities which would suit me better. But I just don't see any other options for tonight, and I am responsible for you at the moment, so this is the best we can do."

At least Irene was honest with me. If she would have told me that she'd love to stay at our place, I wouldn't have bought it. Who likes to sleep at the house of strangers? I thought about it briefly, and then offered another option, "I could ask one of my friends if I could stay at his place, until you find a better placement for me."

But Irene put down that proposition instantly, "No, I wouldn't feel comfortable with that. You are a legal ward of the state right now, and leaving you with people who have no connection to, or authority over you, that just wouldn't be right. No, I think we will just have to cope with this. There have been big changes in your life, and still will be. I want to keep the number of things you have to adjust to at a minimum. There is enough going on right now."

I nodded at that, as I wasn't seeing any different options at the moment either.

"But there is still a problem remaining," Irene continued, "I have to work this afternoon, and I have an appointment in the early evening that I can't cancel. Do you have someone you could stay with until around 9 PM?"

I thought about that for a moment. Christian had already pushed this morning that I should come over to see him, and he probably wouldn't object if I would stay with him the rest of the afternoon. And me? Would I object? I decided that I was OK with it as well.

"Yes, I think so. I would have to make a phone call to check it, but I don't think that it will be a problem."

"Good, we will be going to my office then. You can make that phone call there. Are there other things you need from me right now?" Irene now asked Mr. Marzahn.

Mr. Marzahn seemed to think for a moment, but then shook his head, "No, that is all for the moment, I think. If I see something else that I need from either you or Ingo, I will contact you. And I made an appointment at the morgue for tomorrow, so I will, at least, see Ingo tomorrow."

That reminded me of the other thing I wanted to ask Christian for, if he could accompany me to the morgue tomorrow. And it reminded me of the morgue in general, which I dreaded at least as much as going into a group home. It would give me the opportunity to say good-bye to my parents, but it would be a final good-bye. I would never see them again. And, as Mr. Marzahn had said earlier, the sight of them wouldn't be that nice.

When Irene cleared her throat, I noticed that I had been staring into nothingness, and hadn't noted that Irene had already gotten up, waiting for me to follow her. I got up quickly as well, and followed her back to her office.

We arrived in Irene's office, and I asked her for the telephone directory, as I hadn't memorized Christian's phone number. She retrieved it for me, and I quickly looked up the number.

As the phone was ringing on the other end, I gathered my thoughts of what I wanted to say to Christian, but even before I could finish my first thought, the phone was answered with quite some determination, "Gruber!"

"Oh, hi, Mrs. Gruber, Ingo here. May I speak to Christian?"

"Sure, wait a second, I will fetch him for you."

Obviously, she put down the receiver and yelled through the house, "Chriiiiiis......Ingo on the phone for yoooooooou!" followed by some footsteps and a scrambling noise in the receiver until I heard the voice of Christian, filled with barely suppressed concern, "Hey Ingo! Everything all right with you?"

"Yes, yes, no problems. I just wanted to ask you if I could come over for a couple of hours. Irene has an appointment, and I need a place to stay. And as you had offered..."

"Yes, sure, of course. When will you be here? How long will you stay? Oh, you could sleep here as well, if you want..."

Having trouble to get a word in between those of the suddenly-excited Christian, I barely could follow his train of questions, "I think in half an hour... until sometime in the evening... no, I'm sleeping at home, tonight."

With that last statement, Christian was again a bit subdued, as if he had really hoped that I would be staying there for the night. But I had already discussed that with Irene, so it was out of the question.

After some more senseless questions, I finally managed to end the call, "Ah, yes... YES! I will be there in a short time. No, you don't need to pick me up. OK, I'll see you soon, bye."

Irene smiled at me, as she had seen my exasperation and rolling eyes about Christian's enthusiasm. "So, from your side of the conversation, I guess that it won't be a problem for you to stay there until the evening."

"No, not really, Christian was more than happy that I'll come over. Will you pick me up there when you are finished with your appointment?"

"Yes, sure. Where does Christian live?"

I gave her his address out of the phone directory, and then turned around to say good-bye to Mr. Marzahn who had followed us into the office as well. But he refused to shake my hand, and said instead, "I thought I could drive you over to your friend. I recognized the address and it is on my way."

"Cool!" I said, and extended my hand towards Irene, who took it and shook it, "See you tonight!"

I turned my head towards Mr. Marzahn, who promptly walked out of the office with me following him.

Finally, after we were settled in his car, he started up the engine and started to drive. When doing so, he asked me casually, "Ms. Meinert is acting a bit strange, isn't she?"

I was a bit puzzled by this, so I asked with a curious expression, "Why do you think so?"

"Why wouldn't she let you stay over at a friend's, until she had found a place for you? This is basically extending her work time to around the clock. And the reason she gave you? I don't know..."

I shrugged, not seeing anything wrong with what she said, and Mr. Marzahn just continued, "If she is giving you a hard time, or wants to force you to do something, give me call, yes? I'm on good terms with a family judge, and could probably get him to overrule her and and CPS. Will you promise me you will do so?"

With that, he handed me over a business card of his, and I said, "Yes, I will do so..." but I felt distinctively uncomfortable. I was caught in the middle between two adults, and that was never a comfortable position. Before this, I could always trust Mum's judgment on who to trust and who not to trust, who was right and who was wrong. And she normally offered that piece of advice even without my asking her, and expected me to follow it as well. But she had a lot more experience with people and life than me, so I didn't mind it that much.

Now we had arrived at Christian's house, and Mr. Marzahn wished me good-bye. He also told me, "I will pick you up at 10 AM at the school, at the place where we met today, okay? If you have someone coming with you, he or she should either wait with you at school, or meet us at the morgue at 10:30."

I nodded, shook his hand and climbed out of the car. Taking the few steps up to the front door of the Gruber house, I rang the doorbell.

Mrs. Gruber opened the door; she clearly expected me, as she shot out of the door. She enveloped me into a massive hug and said, "I'm so sorry what happened, Ingo. Chris told me about it, and I'm really, really sorry!"

I was taken aback by this. I hardly knew Mrs. Gruber at all. I had been over a couple of times, but not that often, and I hadn't really talked to her before. But probably seeing someone the same age as her child in pain caused her mother's instincts to run wild.

I tried to pry myself gently away from her, not trying to appear rude, but I really didn't feel comfortable. Spotting Christian in the door frame behind his mother, I used that as an excuse to get away. "Hey, Christian!" I greeted him enthusiastically, as if I hadn't seen him a couple of hours ago. Anything to get away from his hugging mother.

He shook my hand, and then dragged me by it through the open door, "Heya! Come, I want to show you something!" and went on in the direction of his room.

Entering his room, I glanced around curiously to see something different, but everything was as I remembered it, "So? What do you want to show me?"

He closed his door behind me, and turned around, with a sheepish grin on his face, "Nothing! I just wanted to get you away from Mom as fast as possible. I'm really sorry, she was so sad when I told her what happened to your parents, and I feared that she might go a bit overboard when she saw you. So I thought of something to get you away from her. I hope you don't mind..."

I laughed, "Nope, not at all. To tell the truth, I don't feel comfortable that all those people show their concern for me. But could you do me a favor?"

Christian had sat down by now on his desk chair and motioned me to sit on his bed, which was near to it, "Sure, what is it?"

"Could we not talk about what happened right now? I think I had all of those talks I could stand for the day."

Christian's face clouded for a moment, but he controlled it fast, though not fast enough for me not to notice. He really seemed to be concerned for me. "Sure, no problem. Do you want me to tell that to my 'rents as well, so they won't bother you?"

I barely could hide my relief. I really had feared that they wanted to hear all about that during dinner. "I'd really appreciate that."

"No probs, gimme a sec, I will tell Mum. Dad isn't home yet, but she will tell him, I'm sure", and with that he got up again and went out of the room.

I used the time to look around again in his room, and I noticed a huge "Titanic" poster over Chris' desk. Strange, he never mentioned that he liked the movie.

When he returned, I pointed to the poster and asked in a curious voice, "A 'Titanic' poster? I never knew you liked the movie!"

I literally saw the blood rising in Christian's cheeks, and he blushed to a deep crimson, stuttering, "Well...erm...yeah, I really liked it when it came out last year. It had some really good action scenes in it!" and his face returned a bit further to his normal color.

"Yeah, I liked it as well, it was really good! Why have you never said anything about going in the movie?"

"You remember, how Thomas went to see it, the first night, and bitched the next day what a 'girls movie' that was, and how much it sucked?"

I just nodded, remembering that quite well.

"After that, I told no-one when I went to see it."

"Yes, I went to see it with my Dad, and he really didn't like it, either. But I found it quite cool..."

And with that, the next hour was filled with general talk, first about movies, then about school and girls (it really looked like Chris had a crush on Victoria from our class), and things such as that.

Time flew by, and before we realized it, it was time for dinner. Mrs. Gruber called for Chris and me to wash up and get ready for dinner.

When we came to the kitchen, the table was already set for 4, and Chris' dad was there, too. When he saw me approaching the table, he got up and extended his hand towards me, "I know, Luise has told me you don't want to talk about your parents, but I wanted at least to say that I'm really, really sorry for what happened. If you need anything, don't hesitate to ask. You are a friend of the family!"

I could barely mumble a, "Thanks!" before he continued, "But I can understand that you don't want to talk about that, right now. So, let's just have dinner, okay? Have a seat, Ingo."

Everyone took their customary seats, leaving one spot open for me. I sat down, and waited politely for one of them to start preparing their bread. When Chris' dad started to put butter on his slice of bread, I picked up some stuff myself and started preparing them.

Mr. Gruber caught me by surprise then, "So, Ingo, what do you think about our new coach?"

I swallowed the bite I had taken quickly, and asked a bit confused, "Coach?"

"You know, Erich Ribbeck, the new national football coach?"

"Ah, yeah, for a second I didn't know what you were referring to." And I really didn't know, but not only for a second. More accurately, 'Football? Is that something edible?'

But I could hardly say that, as obviously, Chris' dad made an effort to include me in the evening conversation, and tried to find a topic not related to my parents, so I answered, "Well, I've hardly heard of him, but I just hope he will be better than the last coach. I mean, it was really embarrassing how Croatia flattened us in the world cup." This had been the only topic at school for days, so at least I knew that.

"But if Ribbeck is the right choice? I'm not sure", and he started droning about the possible alternatives and how they would have been better.

This was fine with me, as I just had to nod, make approving or disapproving noises, and no need to participate any further. Football really wasn't my area of interest, but it served very well as a "thought-suppressant".

After that, Mrs. Gruber asked her husband how his day at work had been, and he started talking about a very boring sounding business meeting he had that day, and Chris and his Mum asked him a couple of things. This seemed to have been a huge topic before.

It got harder and harder for me to concentrate on the discussion, partly because it was just boring, but the main reason was that the casual talk, some familiar gestures Mr. Gruber made towards his wife (like squeezing her hand a couple of times) reminded me so intensely about the dinners at home - it was basically a mirror of the scenes that take place every night in our kitchen at home. Or better said, took place up to now. I had to swallow down the lump in my throat with an increasing frequency, and I wasn't hungry anymore. As soon as it seemed that the dinner came to an end, I asked, "May I be excused?"

After an approving nod from Mr. Gruber I got up and quickly strode out of the room, not even waiting for Christian. I just went outside of the kitchen, leaning against the wall and trying not to break out in tears. Fighting hard to regain my composure, I suddenly felt a hand on my shoulder. Seeing Chris out of the corner of my eye, he said in a low voice, "Come on into my room. You don't have to stand here," and he pushed me gently towards the stairway leading to his room. I could just nod and start to walk.

When we came to his room, he once more closed the door after me, and I sat down on the edge of his bed again. But this time Chris sat directly next to, and put his arm around my shoulder while asking, "What made you so upset? Was it something I did?"

The friendly and gentle touch pushed me over the edge towards crying, and I couldn't stop the tears - once more. I could only shake my head, and Chris gently stroked my head while allowing me to just cry.

We must have sat there for at least 5 minutes, where I couldn't stop crying, burying my face in my hands, until the tears started drying up.

I tried to rub them out of my eyes, unknowingly making them just appear redder than before, and said in a hoarse voice, "Oh my god, you must really think I'm a crybaby. This is the second time you have seen me crying, today."

This obviously arose a multitude of emotions in Chris, as his voice was angry, concerned and sad at the same time, "Gosh, you lost your PARENTS yesterday. I don't know if I could hold up as good as you did today, even going to school! I would probably just want to crawl in a corner, never wanting to see anyone anymore! So, no, I don't think you are a crybaby. You are crushed, as anyone would be. And with this, I tell you, you are officially allowed to cry as often as you want with me, and I won't tell anyone about it!"

With that, he squeezed my shoulder a little, and I couldn't help but smile at him and whisper, "Thank you, you are a real friend!"

He continued in a quiet voice, "I'm sorry to bring it up again, but I'm really curious. Do you know already what will happen to you? I mean, you were in a meeting at the CPS all afternoon ."

I sighed audibly, but if someone would understand me, it would be Chris, "No, I don't know anymore than I did this morning. Irene hasn't found any place for me yet, so she will stay with me at my house again tonight. Apparently, there are no spaces in any group homes nearby, so I don't know what will happen. Could be that I will be sent away."

That thought occurred to me for the first time at that moment. It could definitely be that I would be sent away from Detmold, the town I lived in, my whole life, if there just wasn't any space for me. I felt a surge of panic rising into me while quickly going over all the things I would miss. Trying to fight down that panic, I just concentrated on Christian's hand on my shoulder, as it really was something that anchored me in the here and now, instead of drowning into possibilities.

Chris seemed to be shocked by the thought even more than me, "No, they...they can't. After loosing your family, you should also loose your friends? I won't allow it!"

I snorted a bit, "And what would you do about it? You are just as powerless as I am in this situation," and I sighed again.

In a barely audible whisper, Chris said, "I would really miss you...", and he squeezed my shoulder again a bit.

"I would miss you, too!" I said.

Curiously, I realized that our friendship had never been that close before this "incident". We were friends, yeah, but more like school friends than best friends. Björn had been my best friend, and after we had drifted apart, I was more a loner than getting into a deeper friendship with Christian. I realized, too, that I probably wouldn't have needed to be so alone.

We remained like that for a several more minutes, both of us deep in thought.

Chris suddenly straightened a bit, and said in in a strained, more cheery voice, "So, what do you think about a movie? To distract both of us a bit?"

I looked at the clock and saw that it was 7:15 PM. Plenty of time for a movie before Irene would pick me up. "Okay, what do you have in mind?"

"Let me take a look what I have here...." Chris got up from his bed, and had to remove his arm from around me. I suddenly felt a lot colder and a lot more alone, without his presence there. Chris went to his TV, and looked through some tapes he had stacked on a board beneath the VCR.

"Hm, I have taped 'Die Hard 2', and 'Police Academy'. I think Dad has some different movies taped down in the living room - we could go and look there if he has something interesting."

"No, Police Academy would be good, if it's okay with you. I'm definitely up for some mindless fun," I said.

"Cool with me," Chris answered, "just let me get something to drink for the two of us."

Waiting patiently for Christian to return, I suddenly remembered what I wanted to ask him. Before I could formulate a good way to ask him, he was already back with two glasses and a soft drink. He put those on his bed stand, in easy reach, and went to the VCR to set it in motion.

"Um, wait a moment, I have something to ask you." He basically stopped in mid-motion, and then looking up expectantly at me, "Sure, ask away!"

"Um, I....I need to go to the morgue tomorrow, to identify my parents." I took a deep breath, knowing that this wasn't easy, especially as I had seen how Chris' expression froze when I mentioned the morgue.

"Mr. Marzahn advised me to bring someone I trust, and I would really like it if you could accompany me there."

He searched for words for a couple of seconds, obviously not sure what to say. But he pulled himself together, and said with a steady voice, "Sure, no problem. When do you have to be there?"

"Mr. Marzahn will pick me up, or better said us together, if you will come as well, at 10 in the morning."

"I'll have to check that with Mum, but I don't think that it will be a problem. But who is Mr. Marzahn?"

I remembered that I hadn't told him about Mr. Marzahn, as I basically avoided all talk about the things after school, "Oh, he is my lawyer."

He looked curiously in astonishment, "YOU have a lawyer?"

"Well, he was the lawyer of my parents, and he is executer of their will. So he is arranging all the stuff around, so I don't need to take care of them."

"Oh, that is good then, I suppose. At least as good as it can get...", he trailed off. Changing the subject, "So, ready for the movie now?"

"Bring it on!"

Chris turned on the TV and put in the tape, starting it. During the opening credits, he told me to slide back a bit so that I would lean against the wall, and he sat next to me.

In a surprising move, he even put his arm around my shoulder again, as he had done before. Not that I minded it.

Soon, we laughed together about the silly jokes of Mahoney, Hightower, Jones and the other cadets. I had already seen that movie a couple of times, but it was good to watch a movie without much thinking to do.

After a couple of minutes into the movie I rested my head against Chris' shoulder, which he didn't even seem to recognize, as he didn't show any reaction at all. But it felt really good, and I felt really close to Chris at that moment.

We had to interrupt the movie a couple of times, due to bathroom or snack breaks, but he always put his arm back around my shoulder, and I always rested my head against his shoulder as well.

When the closing credits ran over the screen, Chris reached for the remote control to turn of the VCR and the TV, but still rested his other arm around me, and I was still leaning against him. I just didn't want to let it end, it felt good being so close to someone, and I was just so comfortable.

Chris just leaned back against the wall, after putting the remote control away, and let me rest against him some more - which was totally fine with me. I relaxed a bit and closed my eyes for a moment, feeling the exhaustion of the day rolling over me, and the warmth of Christian next to me didn't help keeping me alert, either.

Chris sighed a bit, and I wasn't sure why, so I opened my eyes again and turned my head towards him. At that moment, I realized that I was really, really, close to him. My face was literally just a couple of centimeters away from his, and for the first time I really realized that he had grey eyes with a hint of green in them.

For a second, it was as if my consciousness slipped out of my body, and I looked down, seeing the two of us. I had seen such scenes before, pairs in the park, and even in movies. Chris wet his lips subconsciously, and just when it looked like he was about to move, I felt an undefined panic rising in myself.

Snapping back into my own body, I felt confused. It just couldn't be. It looked so wrong from the outside, but still, inside of me, it felt so right. So, in my confusion, I looked down, cleared my throat and that broke the spell.

Chris moved a bit away from me, not very far, but still noticeable, and when I glanced up towards him, it looked like he was coming out of a dream, not really focused at all.

At that exact moment, the doorbell rang, and I glanced towards the clock on Chris' nightstand. I said in a quiet voice, "That must be Irene, I have to go."

Chris replied, in nothing more really that a whisper, "I know..." But with that, he removed his arm from around me and moved completely away.

It felt colder again, and it seemed like the world had gotten a few shades darker. But I needed to go, and got up from the bed we had been sitting on.

Chris got up as well, stood next to me, a bit undecided, and then just hugged me. Very close, and nothing like the casual hug I had given him earlier that day. He hugged me for a couple of seconds, definitely longer than what was considered a friendly hug, more like he didn't want me to let go.

But, it still felt good, nothing like the hug Mrs. Gruber had given me earlier. "I really have to go now!" I whispered.

Quite unwillingly, Chris let go of me, and followed me towards the front door, where Mr. Gruber was casually chatting with Irene.

When she saw me, she smiled and simply asked, "Ready to go home?"

I could just nod, as it wasn't the home I remembered, just the house. But definitely not home.

Irene shook Mr. Gruber's hand, and turned around towards her car. I shook Mr. Gruber's hand as well, thanked him for the dinner, and then turned to Chris. I took his hand, squeezed it gently and said, "See ya tomorrow, in school."

"Yeah, see ya", Chris said without much enthusiasm in his voice.

I let go of his hand, and followed Irene to her car.

Both of us got into Irene's car, and she started the motor and pulled out of the driveway.

She asked me then, "Christian seemed to be a bit strange to me. Is everything alright?"

I had to swallow, as Chris had been strange, but I had no way to explain what had happened there. So I just said, "Ah, nothing out of the ordinary. He sometimes has his moments."

That wasn't exactly true, but not an outright lie. Was there anyone who hadn't had his moments?

But Irene continued then, "But if you have a problem, you can tell me. You know that, right?"

I put on a forced smile, and said, "Of course!"

As if I would tell my personal problems to a stranger who wanted to play the part of my mother. No way!

But now, I basically had told two lies to the person who was responsible for me, and I felt uncomfortable about it. If Mum ever caught me lying, she was so disappointed with me, and let me feel it. So I normally avoided lying at all costs, but here, I just couldn't say anything else, saying that I wouldn't come to her with my problems would have been quite impolite, as her intentions were good, after all. And about Christian - well, I had no real explanation for that anyway, neither for his, nor for my behavior. It felt strange, wrong and right at the same time. Very confusing.

I added the situation with Christian to the ever growing list of "to be thought about", which had made quite a leap in importance over the last day. Before the "incident" (somehow I couldn't face calling it by its true name, so I had to resort to this), things on this list were like, What am I going to wear to school? How can I get out of the birthday invitation I got, stuff like that. Now the list contained items like, Where will I live from now on? Is my life financially supported? And things the like.

Being in my own thoughts, we just made the way to our house without talking much.

When we arrived there, I excused myself from Irene and went to my own room. It had been a long, exhausting day with a lot of things happening, and I just needed some time alone to unwind.

I sat down on my favorite relaxing place in my room, my bean bag chair, put on my headphones and turned up my stereo just to the pain limit. I needed to let the music blast away the dark thoughts.

Then I picked up the book I was currently reading, and lost myself in the crime novel. There, the bad guys were always found and turned over. As I had come to realize, life was vastly different. Nothing is as black and white as it is in the books, and not all stories have a happy ending.

But for the moment, the story provided some nice comfort in being predictable yet exciting, exactly the type I liked.

Between half an hour and an hour passed, and suddenly I could see some movement out of the corner of my eyes. I turned my head, and saw Irene standing there in my door frame, waving frantically and obviously saying something to me.

I pulled off my headphones and heard her basically screaming, "Don't you think it's time for bed?"

I just responded, "You don't need to shout, I can hear you perfectly well."

She made a sound I couldn't really interpret, but it sounded a bit like a suppressed snorting, and saying then, "Right. I just knocked on your door for a couple of minutes, and then waving here like mad until you finally saw me!"

"Sorry," I mumbled.

Realizing that I had left her alone on the ground floor, I added, "Oh, sorry for leaving you alone, I was just exhausted and needed some time for myself."

Irene smiled and said, "No problem at all, I brought some paperwork with me and went through them in the kitchen. And I can understand that you need time for yourself. Just don't start brooding, that won't get you anywhere. Anyway, don't you really think it is time for bed?"

I looked at the clock, and it was half an hour before my normal bedtime, and I thought about protesting to that. But then I realized that I really WAS tired, and that sleeping would probably do me good.

Agreeing to Irene, I said, "Yeah, I think it is time for me to turn in. I'm quite tired."

She smiled at that, and added, "Good. You could try to go to sleep normally, but if you have trouble falling asleep, I have brought another of the sleeping pills, so that you will be fit for school tomorrow."

School - tomorrow - last thing on my mind. It would mean facing Björn and Thomas again, and tomorrow we had physics again, so all of us would be there again. But Chris would also be there, which brought a smile to my face, when I thought of his steel-gray eyes I had seen earlier. But it also brought back the confusion I had felt. Why did everything need to be SO complicated?

Irene had left in the meantime, and let me get ready for bed. In bed, my thoughts inevitably returned to the things which happened between Chris and me in the afternoon, and what hadn't happened.

I had to admit that I really felt nice and comfortable when Chris put his arm around my shoulder, and I could lean my head against his shoulder. It felt good having someone close by, and to me, it felt like Chris could share in a bit in the pain I felt.

And that last thing before I had to leave, the long hug, and before that staring at each other from a very close distance. I just had to face it, Chris was about to kiss me then, and I had panicked. But at the same time, I wanted to be kissed by Chris, as it felt like the right thing to do at that moment. But where the panic came from, I had no idea.....

With these thoughts, I drifted off to dreamland....

Next morning was the same routine as the morning before, getting woken up by Irene, taking a shower, getting dressed. With just some slight variations, now, I instantly recognized what had happened earlier when Irene woke me up, the tears in the shower were much shorter.

Just when I was about to go down to the ground level, to join Irene and get a lift to school, the doorbell rang.

This really confused me, normally no-one comes to us that early, but what was normal these days?

Irene shouted from the kitchen, "Ingo, there are some people in front of the door I don't know. Would you please come down so we can welcome them, together? They might be confused if it was just me opening the door."

I descended the stairs in a run, and joined Irene at the kitchen window. And I didn't know the people there, either. An elderly woman with nearly white hair, and some bigger, younger guy waiting behind her.

That moment, the doorbell rang for the second time, and I just shrugged and said, "Let's see what they want."

I went to the door and opened it carefully a bit. Asking out of the door, "Yes? Can I help you?"

"Ingo?", the elderly woman said, "You really have grown, since the last time I saw you. You probably won't recognize me, but I'm your Aunt Anna."

This left me in total confusion, in which I opened the door some more. I didn't have any living relatives, and definitely no aunt.

So I responded, "I don't have an 'Aunt Anna'. Who are you, and what do you want?"

Instead of replying, the woman started to rumage in her handbag, and after some moments, pulled out a photograph, showing it to me.

I recognized the photo, it was the one of my baptism. Mum was holding me, and there was another woman next to her.

The woman pointed to the woman in the photo, and said, "That is me, your godmother!"

Mum had always told me that that woman was a close friend of the family, with whom they had a big fight and lost contact after that. But if you looked thoroughly, you could see that the woman in the picture and the one in front of me were the same person.

I was still a bit skeptical, but my guards dropped considerably. This was someone my parents had known, and she obviously knew me as well. But she couldn't be my aunt!

She continued then, "I see, you still don't believe me. I can prove it, but can't we come in? It has been a long trip, and the things to discuss are certainly not suited for the front door."

I quickly glanced towards Irene, who half-shrugged, half-nodded, as if not being sure, herself. I was curious, and so I opened the door fully and stood aside to let her in.

Anna entered the room with a curious glance to all sides, and then waited for me to close the door behind her companion. When Anna's eye fell on him, she shook her head unwillingly, and said, "Sorry for being so rude, I totally forgot to introduce Alberto. This is Alberto; he is my right hand and secretary, he assists me in nearly everything."

I shook Alberto's hand and mumbled a, "Nice to meet you...", before fixing my eyes on Anna again.

She just stood there, clearly waiting for something, but my mind was in overload to really grasp what she was waiting for, so I just stood there as well, staring at her.

Irene finally took the initiative, and pointed towards the kitchen, "Come in, have a seat. So, you say you can prove that you really are Ingo's aunt?"

Anna entered the kitchen as well, but turned then to Alberto, "Alberto, my birth certificate, please," to which Alberto responded, "Of course!"

He put the briefcase he was carrying down on the kitchen table, opened it up and rummaged a bit through some papers there, until he obviously had found the right one. He pulled it out and handed it to Anna.

In the meantime, Anna had rummaged in her handbag again, and had pulled out some sort of ID. She put the certificate and the ID on the table, and mentioned for me to come over and have a look.

It clearly stated there, Anna Schweiger, which was my mother's maiden name. And then, Father, Gustav Schweiger, Mother, Erika Schweiger, maiden name Fischer. Those names rang a bell as well, they probably could be my grandparents names. But it wasn't talked that much about them, so I wasn't sure.

I went to the drawer where I knew that Dad kept the family register, opened it and skimmed through the pages until I came to my mother's page, and there it was, the same names on there as well.

Letting the register drop down, I took a very surprised look at Anna, or better said, Aunt Anna. She really was my aunt!

"But how....why....I mean, I never heard of you, before...." I stammered, trying to put my thoughts in some coherent form.

Irene interrupted me there, "Yes, that will be really interesting to know, but right now, we are going to be late for school, so we'd better hurry up. You can chat with your aunt this afternoon!"

I threw an unbelieving look towards Irene, but started to say, "Yeah, you are right....", when suddenly an outburst came from Anna.

"What do you mean, SCHOOL? This boy has to go to school? His parents were killed two days ago and you push him to go to school? And now his only living relative shows up, and he still should go to school? Who are you, anyways that you think you can just command Ingo and he obeys??" and she put her hand on her hip, staring at Irene, defiantly.

Irene looked at Aunt Anna speechless for a second, quite unbelieving, and then it burst out of her as well, "I am Irene Meinert from the CPS. I'm a highly trained youth psychologist, and I was called to aid Ingo through this difficult time after his parents died, and I have assumed the parents role here until some more permanent placement could be found..."

A lot lower, and in a really sweet tone, Anna interrupted her, there, "So, you HIGHLY TRAINED professional, you really think that it is in the best interest for a child who just has lost both his parents to continue with his life as if nothing were changed? 'Just go to school, everything will be fine again'?"

Clearly, Irene was even more shocked by this sweet tone than the outburst before, "Yes....I mean, no, his life has to change...I mean, I just wanted to provide a stable environment for him, until everything is settled. And besides, I have to work and couldn't be with him all the time...."

"Ah, there it comes, so Ingo was just an inconvenience for you. Well, I don't have to work at the moment, so I can look after him all day, we have concluded that I am a relative, so I see no reason why he should go to school, unless he wants it."

With this, both women turned around and looked at me. I felt the blood in my cheeks rising, stammering, "I...I mean....I don't think I want to go to school, today...."

"See there!" Anna said triumphantly, "So he can stay here with me, we will catch up on the lost years, and later, we can discuss what to do on a longer term. We will call you when something has come out of it. "

This was as much of a dismissal as I have ever seen in my whole life, and basically Irene's cheeks lost any color, she turned around on the spot and left the house, without even saying good-bye to me.

I stared after her, clearly lost now, when I heard Aunt Anna mutter, "Pushy bitch, thinking she knows everything the best..."

Turning towards Anna, I still couldn't believe the scene I just witnessed. Aunt Anna sighed, and said in an apologetic tone, "I'm really sorry, I didn't want to drive her away. I mean, she seemed okay, but sometimes my temper just gets the upper hand with me. And especially people who think they can drive over others without consideration for them, just drive me nuts. But seeing how soon that person gave up, you couldn't be too important to her, anyway."

And with that, she smirked at me, and for a second she had exactly the same expression on her face that Mum always had, when she thought that she had driven home a point. I couldn't help myself but smile. I really didn't want to go to school anyway, not after the remarks from Thomas the day before, and the possibility that the tears may get the better of me anytime at the moment. So I was grateful that I could stay home, but I felt a bit sorry for Irene.

I replied slowly, "She really tried to be nice to me, sometimes a bit too nice for my taste, as if she wanted to replace Mum and Dad completely. I honestly didn't want to go to school yesterday, but she insisted on it. And as she basically is....was.....whatever, responsible for me......"

Anna seemed to be relieved by that a bit, and asked, "So you are not mad at me?"

When I just shook my head, she smiled and asked, "How about a hug for your long-lost aunt, then?" and opened her arms.

Considering that for a moment, I realized that even after only 10 minutes with her, I already felt a lot closer to her than to Irene. She stood up for me when she thought that I was being treated unfairly, and she was family, after all. So my smile grew wider and I closed the distance to her with a step, and enveloped her in a careful hug.

After hugging me for a couple of seconds, she said quietly, "I'm so sorry for everything that happened, your parents, that I wasn't here then, and all......"

This caused my curiosity to spark up again, and I withdrew a bit from her, "So, what is the reason I've never heard of you before?"

Anna sighed again, and said, "It is really a long story, I think we should just sit down and I can tell you all about it. But, first, do you have some coffee, by any chance? I would be really glad to have some, the last day was really tiring."

I thought about that for a moment, and I was next to sure that there must be some coffee in the house. Dad always had to have his coffee in the morning, although Mum preferred tea.

I started with opening some cupboards, trying to remember where Mum stored the jar with the coffee, and said, "There must be some here, I'm sure, but I have never made coffee....."

Alberto spoke up then, "No problem, Ingo, just show me where everything is, I will make the coffee then."

Before that, Alberto had only spoken one word, and only now, I realized, that he had some strange accent I couldn't place, a bit more singing and energetic than normal. I looked curiously at him, but he looked quite normal to me, and his outer appearance gave no hint from where he might be.

Finally, I found the jar with the coffee, and next to it the filters as well. I handed them both to Alberto, and asked Anna then, "Would you mind if I fixed myself some cereals? I didn't have breakfast before, and I'm really hungry."

Anna smiled at me, "I don't mind in the least. But I think I will have a seat, you can join me there when you have prepared your breakfast."

"Do you want something as well? I don't think there is anything else besides cereals here, though..." I asked, hesitantly.

She laughed, "No, thanks, we had something to eat a bit earlier at a service station on the way."

So I just started to prepare the cornflakes for me, sniffed carefully at the milk, but it seemed to still be okay, and then sat down in my customary place at the kitchen table.

While I started devouring the bowl of cereals, Anna started talking as well, "As you probably know, your mum and I were in a very similar situation to you. Dad, your grandpa, didn't come home from the war, so Mum basically raised the two of us alone. And then Mum got sick with cancer, when I was 16 and your mother had just turned 8. She lived for another two years after the diagnosis, but the medicine in those days wasn't as good as it is today, so she died a very painful death, and I was left alone with my sister. Luckily, I already earned money back then, and the pension from Mum and Dad made things a bit easier. But I was still alone with your Mum, and basically had to raise her by myself. But you probably know that part of the family history quite well."

I shook my head, and quickly swallowed the mouthful of cereal in my mouth, "No, Mum never talked about her childhood, she just told me that her Mum died when she was younger, and that granddad was killed in the war. But besides that, she never told me anything. When I asked her, she always said that it was too painful to remember."

Anna shook her head, "So she was still angry at me...."

"Why that? When you have raised her, the two of you must have been very close!"

Anna continued, "I'm getting to that, it is....complicated and not easy to tell. But yes, back then we were very close. I was very happy for her when she met your dad, he was such a nice guy, and was earning quite good money as well. I couldn't have wished for a better brother-in-law. We did a lot of things together, and basically had a very good time. Your mum had a very good job back then, she rose quickly in the hierarchy of the big company she was working at, when she got pregnant with you. God, the three of us were so happy. Your mum and dad had wished for so long to get a child, and had tried really hard. A week before that good message came, she had another good one, she was offered the post as a secretary of the boss of the company she was working at, which was a really prestigious job, and well paid, too. She had taken the opportunity, of course, but when she came back from the doctor who had told her that she was pregnant, she called the boss again, and turned down the offer. She thought that it wasn't fair on him to be only there for half a year, because after you were born, she wanted to concentrate on you, and stay home for at least three years, probably more."

Anna smiled then thankful at Alberto who put a coffee mug in front of her, and sat next to her having a coffee mug for himself. She took a sip of the coffee, and said then, "Alberto, you have outdone yourself, thank you!"

Alberto even blushed a bit, and responded, "Ah, it is nothing, Miss, everything I can do to help you in this trying time!"

Anna took another sip, put down the mug carefully and continued talking then, "I was so furious at your mum, you wouldn't believe it. She had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in front of her, and turned it down! I mean, she could have worked even with a child, I thought. I didn't talk to her for nearly 3 months after that, but finally I thought that it was stupid of me; other opportunities would arise once you were there, so I apologized to her. And when you were there, I could understand why she wouldn't want to go back to work instantly. A baby is a lot of work, and it would just have been very stressful."

Anna continued, "But when she was home for two years, I told her that the chief secretary position was open once more, as I still had a bit of contact to the company, and that she should go forward and call the boss to see if he would be interested in hiring her again. She told me in no uncertain terms that she didn't feel ready to start working yet, and that the boss would have to look for someone else. I really couldn't believe it, it is not many times that you have the same chance twice, and she turned it down both of the times! So, I started nagging her when she would be going back to work, I showed her job offerings in the local newspapers, I told her in glowing terms from my job, but all to no avail. She just wanted to stay home for you. Then, one day, I even met her former boss once, chatted with him and told him that she still didn't have a job. Well, maybe I was saying it a bit like she was looking for a job, and as the boss still hadn't found a secretary he was satisfied with - there it was again, the big chance. He even called her, said that he had heard that she was looking for a job, and your mum turned him down again."

Anna swallowed hard at that point, "When I met her the next time, she was furious, she basically was screaming at me, that I shouldn't meddle in her affairs, and I screamed back that I worked so hard for her, to give her every opportunity for life, and she just repays it to me by being a house wife!"

She closed her eyes then, and took a deep breath before saying, "You see, even after all those years, it is still hard for me to talk about this, I still get worked up on it. We tried to get back in contact after that, a couple of times, but somehow, it always ended that we were arguing, so both of us stopped getting in touch with each other."

I wasn't sure if I understood all of that correctly, "But why did you want her to go back to work, so badly?"

Anna let out a little, sad laugh, "Well, back then, I believed that having a good place in society, having a good job and earning money were the most important things. Today, I believe that being happy is most important thing, and I saw that caring for you made her very happy. But it didn't match the dreams I had for her, so..."

I sighed, "So, it is my fault that the two of you didn't speak anymore to each other..."

Anna interrupted me there promptly, "No no no, sweetheart, you were totally innocent in that. It was my lack of understanding and my hard head which drove us apart, and the anger of your mum that I obviously still wanted to take control in her life. Your birth was just the trigger, I think."

I continued asking curiously, "So, after all that time, you lived nearby and still didn't get in touch with each other? I see that your anger has mostly faded, and you even see that you were wrong. So, why didn't you try to contact her again?"

"Well, first of all, I'm not exactly living nearby. You know, some time after that fight, I made a trip to Argentina, mostly touring the galleries in Buenos Aires, as I was always quite fond of art. I got to talk with one of the gallery owners, and he told me that he was retiring and still hadn't found anyone to take over his gallery. I thought about that for a couple of days, and then decided that I really wanted to take that step. It took me half a year to get all the permissions, wrapping up my life here, getting the money and all, but in the end, I bought that gallery and moved to Buenos Aires. And I am still there, now, for 12 years."

The undefined high feeling I had before suddenly faded, and it took me a moment to identify why that was the case. Subconsciously, I think I had been more than happy that someone was there to care for me, and that I didn't have to move to an orphanage or a foster family. But as she lived in Buenos Aires, she couldn't take me in, so I would have to take my chances here. Damn, I really had better fix that with Irene, soon!

I swallowed the lump in my throat which had been growing over the last seconds, and asked, "So, if you are from Buenos Aires, how come you are here? I mean, you probably hadn't planned a trip right now to here."

Anna laughed at that, "No, of course not! I still have some contact with people here in the village, as I grew up here, myself. And the news of the death of your parents traveled like a wildfire through the village. So, the first thing one of my friends from here did was call me in the middle of the night, and I took the first flight here! We flew from Buenos Aires to Amsterdam via Madrid, and drove from there, to here, by car. So, we basically have been traveling for the last 24 hours."

I looked at her incredulously, "You mean, you have just traveled here on moment's notice? Just so? Why?" I really couldn't understand, or better said, believe it.

"After all, my sister died, and I wanted to say goodbye to her."

I nodded understandingly, just realizing that she must feel a very similar pain that I felt.

She then continued, "And, trust me, I really understand in what kind of situation you are right now. I have experienced the same, just when I was a bit older than you, and I know how hard it was for me. That was the reason I came here as fast as I could. I felt the same as when your mum and I got mad at each other, that I had somehow let you down. That was one of my biggest regrets I had, up to now, that I didn't see you growing up. I thought about getting back in contact with your parents, so often, but I never had the courage to do so. But when I heard of their accident, I made up my mind in a heartbeat, that I had to come and see you. And see what I could do to help you..."

I had to swallow hard, and looked down at the table, trying to keep my composure, "Thanks, it really means a lot to me that someone is here who knew them well, too, and can understand what I'm going through at the moment. My friends, and Irene, have been really understanding and helpful, but it just is something else to KNOW that someone else shares the pain with me - it really hurts a lot."

I could feel that Anna put her hand on my shoulder, and squeezed it lightly. I looked up with a thankful smile, and admitted, "And I can really use every bit of help I can get, at the moment. There are so many things I don't know what to do, from money, to the house, and where I will be living from now on. Although, there you probably can't help me much...."

Anna asked interested, "What do you mean, where you will live? And why shouldn't I be able to help..."

She was interrupted by the phone ringing, and I looked up surprised, who would call here? I jumped up and raced to the phone, and answered it, "Ingo Villard."

"Ingo? Where are you? Why aren't you in school? I was really concerned!"

It took me a second to identify the voice, as there was quite a bit of noise in the background, "Chris? Oh, I'm so sorry! My aunt showed up this morning, and so I didn't have to go to school. I have been talking to her up to now."

"Aunt? You said that you didn't have any relatives," Chris said in astonishment.

"Yeah, I thought so myself, but it is a long story. From where are you phoning right now?"

"When you didn't show up, I was really concerned. And now it is nearly the time where we were supposed to go to the morgue, and when you didn't show up, I went to the secretary and asked if I could phone you."

That sent a white-hot stab of panic through me, "Oh, crap, the morgue, I totally forgot about that. And I haven't told Mr. Marzahn that I won't meet him at the school either. I hope that Anna can drive me there..."

And Chris asked in a disappointed tone, "So, you don't need me to come?"

I had to consider that for a second, but I realized that I would be really glad if he was there, so I hurried to say, "It would be really nice if you could come, I really would appreciate it. And Mr. Marzahn was supposed to pick me up at school, so maybe you could meet him there and tell him to meet me at the morgue? And he could take you with him, of course."

Chris responded to that, "Alright, no prob. But how do I recognize him?"

After a moment of thought, I added, "Oh, he probably would be one of the few cars waiting there at the moment. But in case there are more, He is driving a big Mercedes in dark, metallic grey. He is around 50, so you probably should be able to find him. Just tell him that I will meet him at the morgue, ok?"

"You got it. When did he want to pick you up?"

I glanced at my watch, "Oh, crap, in 5 minutes. I hope you will make it."

"Okay, gotta go then. See ya in a few!" Chris responded.

"Yeah, see you at the morgue!" and I hung up the phone.

I stood there a motionless for a moment, gathering my thoughts, and then rushed to the kitchen, "Oh, Anna, I totally forgot that I have to be at the morgue in half an hour. Can we somehow make it to there?"

Anna looked at me curiously, "Why do you have to go to the morgue?", and then some understanding dawned on her, "Ah, yeah, right. To identify your parents?"

I answered in a small voice, "Yeah..." trailing off, not wanting to say much more.

Anna glanced at Alberto, who already had half gotten up from his chair, and nodded, "Sure, no problem. We are here with a rental car, so we can just drive there. Do you need to take anything with you?"

I thought about that for a moment, and then shook my head, "Nah, I don't think so. Mr. Marzahn didn't mention that I needed to bring anything."

Anna nodded at that, and just stated, "Okay, let's go, then!"

When we went out of the front door, she asked, "Who is Mr. Marzahn? And how is he connected to all of that?"

"He is the lawyer executing the will of Mum and Dad, and taking care of all the legal stuff for me. He said that he was a friend of Mum and Dad, so maybe you know him?"

We had reached the car, a middle sized Volkswagen with a dutch license plate. Right, she said that they drove to us from Amsterdam. Anna motioned me to sit in the back together with her, and Alberto sat down on the drivers seat.

Anna thought for a moment about that statement of mine, and said then, "Oh, Helmut, right. Yes, I have only met him a few times, but he was a good friend of your dad, though I don't know him that well. But I think that he can be trusted, and having a lawyer is really handy, right now."

I nodded my agreement to all of her statements, I let my mind wander for a moment while we drove to the morgue.

I directed Alberto to the morgue, and when we arrived there, I could see that Mr. Marzahn was already there, as his Mercedes was already standing in the parking lot, and I could make out the silhouettes of Mr. Marzahn and Chris behind the windows.

We left the car, and I could see Chris pointing to us, which caused the two of them to leave their car as well.

I saw Chris looking curiously at Anna and Alberto, but then he rushed to me to give me a hug. And there the feeling was back, it felt really good, but on the other side, I was very uncomfortable being hugged by Chris in front of all those people. I let him envelop me for a couple of seconds, and then gently pryed myself away from him. He looked like he was slightly taken aback by that, but still had a happy smile on his face.

Then I could see Mr. Marzahn eyeing Anna, like he couldn't place her, but she walked up to him with her hand extended, and said, "Helmut! It is so nice to see you again!"

He took her hand, not quite sure how he should react, and shook it. He asked cautioulsy, "Do we know each other?"

Anna smiled, and said, "Yes, we do, I'm Anna, Ulrike's sister. We saw each other a couple of times, but it must be at least 15 years since the last time."

I saw recognition lighting up in Mr. Marzahn's eyes, and he smiled back at her, "I really didn't recognize you there. Nice to meet you again. How are you?"

Tuning out the adults making small talk, I turned my attention back to Chris. He looked at the rental car, and asked me then, "Your aunt is from the Netherlands?"

I shook my head, and replied, "No, she flew to Amsterdam, and drove from there. That is a rental car. She lives in Argentina."

Chris' eyes got as big as saucers, and he asked in a baffled voice, "In Argentina?"

I nodded my head a bit sad, and replied, "Yeah, some friend of hers told her what happened to my parents, so she took the first flight back to Europe."

Chris nodded, and asked then, "So, why did you say before that you didn't have any relatives? I mean, how could you not know about an aunt?"

I could just see honest curiosity in his eyes, and no sign of accusing me of a lie to get his sympathies, so I replied, "I'm not sure if I got the whole story, but Anna said that she and my mum had a big fight when I was only two or three years old, and they didn't talk to each other after that. I mean, Mum never even mentioned her once, she must have been really mad at her. So, no, I hadn't heard of her before."

Chris nodded again understandingly, when Mr. Marzahn called over to me, "Mr. Villard? Are you ready to go inside?"

I heard a giggle next to me from Chris, and he said in a low voice, "Why is he calling you Mr. Villard? Is your head getting so big?"

I shot a glare to him, and answered, "No, he explained to me that he believed that I'm not only needing personal, but also professional help, at the moment. And he can be a professional help to me only if he keeps some sort of professional distance. I asked him to call me Ingo, but he refused. So, it is just the way he seems to be," and I shrugged my shoulders.

Then I walked up to Anna and Mr. Marzahn, Chris following me, a couple of steps behind, and was a bit ashamed when Anna asked, "And who is that nice, young man you have been talking to up to now? I don't think we have been introduced."

Right, I had totally forgotten to introduce Chris to her, "This is Chris, my best friend from school!" with some emphasis on the word 'best'.

Chris looked very astonished at me, as I don't think that I ever had called him my 'best friend', but the astonishment was quickly replaced by a wide, beaming smile.

Anna shook Chris' hand, and said, "Nice to meet you, Chris, I'm Anna, Ingo's aunt, but I imagine he told you about me."

He directed that happy smile towards her, and responded, "Yeah, he said so. Nice to meet you, Mrs....erm...Anna."

Anna chuckled at that, and responded, "Oh, just Anna, the Mrs. makes me feel like I'm like 60 years old or so."

"But you must be at least..." I started to say, when a sharp look from Anna stopped me.

I blushed to a deep crimson, when she said, "NEVER talk about the age of a lady. Otherwise, you will never get a girlfriend!" and mischief danced in her eyes.

That was the moment when Mr. Marzahn cleared his throat, and said, "I'm really sorry to bring you back to the tasks at hand, but we have an appointment."

The things I had been able to push out of my mind the last couple of minutes came back in full force, I could literally feel the blood draining from my cheeks, and Chris' smile was replaced by a dark expression.

Mr. Marzahn asked then again, "Are you ready, Mr. Villard? I will try to make it as easy as possible, but I fear that there is no easy way to do this."

I had to swallow, and replied, "No, I don't think I will ever be ready for this. But there is no way around it, so let's just get on with it."

Chris put his hand on my shoulder and squeezed it encouragingly, and I gave him a quick, approving smile, to tell him that I was really glad that he was there.

Then Mr. Marzahn started to walk towards the morgue, and I followed him, asking myself again, 'Why me?'

Author's Notes:

I have heard people saying that the characters write the story, and the author just writes it down. I never understood that before I started writing myself - but it is so true. This chapter goes in the direction I intended the story to go, but I really didn't account for some of the interactions between the characters in the story, it basically just wrote itself. I have modified a saying to fit this, "No plan for a character in a story survives the first contact with said character!" I'm just glad I didn't write myself into a corner, it could easily have happened.

As always, thanks belong to the usual suspects, to Darryl for being more than an editor, but someone who understand my characters; to Str8mayb for fixing the language parts Darryl missed (as he often gets caught up in the story itself); and to The Phone, who I bothered for evenings at a time with possible twists in the story, and he offered thoughtful advice. Thanks, guys, without you my stories wouldn't be the same!


Editor's Notes:

I am writing these editor's notes much later than when I first read this chapter. Somehow the first copy of my notes has been lost, so I have to start over on it.

Ingo has certainly had some tragedy in his life. He is also going through some interesting emotions, besides his sadness at losing his parents. There are some feelings that are starting to surface in him, which he has never felt before, and he is totally baffled by. Something is happening to him when he thinks about or is near Chris. Chris has similar feelings toward Ingo as well. I am sure that Chris has a better grasp of what the feelings mean than does Ingo. Their relationship could start to blossom, but it looks as if it might actually be nipped in the bud, so to speak. We will have to see what happens next I hope it won't take as long for us to see the next chapter, as it did to see this one.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher

The Other Editor's Notes:

Something is not right here. Maybe I'm just so evil that I see eveil plots everywhere. Irene from CPS was acting a bit strange. If Ingo had a friend whose parents would take responsibility for him (and Chris's parent certainly would have at least for a few days...) she should have been delighted. But she seemed to want more time in the house. Mr. Marzahn shows up as his lawyer and now an aunt he doesn't know (Who his parents didn't want contact with) is there taking over. Jeez!

Poor Ingo is being swept along just as he finds Chris as a true friend and maybe more. Double jeez. (Chill Neal, the check is in the mail, Jeez)

I hope the business here will go well and Ingo can get through it without too much pain. I'll be hoping for answers in the next chapter. {Note to author: I am begging not demanding those answers. I know what happens when demands are made.} (Author's comment: I understand, just be nice. The next chapter will be finished.....when it's finished)