This is gay-oriented fiction. I don't like writing `bout sex, so you won't find it here. I might suggest some of it, but no hardcore. This story is not about my life, although certain people portrayed in the story may be real. There is no sex... blah, blah, blah. You know the rest. If you've come this far, I can't stop you.

Kayden and Zac

by Ryan Keith

Chapter 5 - Mending Threads


"Zac? Buddy? Can I come in?" Dad called through my door.

I didn't respond. What am I supposed to do? I tried so hard to make this not happen. Nothing good can come from it... Why did Lenne...

"Zac, I can't come in unless you unlock the door. Come on, Zac, don't be like that," Dad called out.

I hate it when Dad tells me not to "be like that". I knew he wouldn't give up, so I unlocked the door.

"Is she gone?" was the first thing I said when I opened the door.

Dad nodded and asked again, "Can I come in?"

"Do as you like." I shrugged and added, going towards my chair, "No one seems to care what I want."

"And what do you want, Zac?"

Dammit. I'm being a stupid teen in despair and I can't even point out the reasons.

"I wanted nothing to change..." I began.

"But you accidentally found her, Zac. Did you think it would be better trying to forget about that?" Dad asked.

"Yeah. I didn't want you to know..."

"Well, now that it's out in the open, don't you think the worst is over?"

"How do you feel about it?" I asked.

"How do you feel about it, Zac?"

I knew dad was evading the question, but he had pushed the right button. "I'm pissed, `cause Lenne brought her here without even telling me. All she cared about was..."

"Her aunt? Zac, why didn't you want to tell me? Who did you want to protect?" Dad asked, putting a hand on my shoulder.

"Which is why Lenne did what she did. She can't understand your reasons, just like you can't understand hers. But the worst is over." Dad's grip became a firm one.

"Where do we go from here?" I asked.

"Do you want to know about it? You ran up here when they came in," Dad said gently.

"Was the reason good enough?"

"Is Lenne a good enough reason?" Dad asked.

I nodded.

"As you have realized, Lenne is your cousin. Diana had an older sister, Julie, who she lived with. They had both run away from home. When I was dating Diana, her sister was married to Lenne's father, David. He died, Zac, shortly after Julie and Diana discovered they were pregnant."

The notion of death stuck hard at my chest.
"Did... you know this?" I whispered.

Dad shook his head.

"David was a big shot, Zac. Like me, I suppose, but a doctor. Everything would have worked out differently if he had lived, but he didn't. His insurance didn't leave enough for the sisters to raise two children. Your mother didn't want an abortion, Zac, but she knew she couldn't keep you and help her sister raise Lenne. I didn't know that, but somehow my mother did, and she gave Diana a way out. Diana never meant to hurt us, Zac. She wanted too much. She couldn't make everyone happy, so she chose to give up her own child, and her rights to you. She sacrificed her happiness, so that both you and Lenne could live."

I don't want to hear this...

Dad engulfed me in a hug. The wetness on his shirt indicated that I was crying.

"She loved you, Zac. Even now, she loves you, but it's not easy for her to see you. She knows you hate her, and she knew that would someday happen, but she chose to go along with my mother's demands. It wasn't the best choice, but she's human, too. I would have helped, Zac. I would have helped her if I had known, but I didn't."

Dad was crying.

"Dad, don't cry... Please, don't cry..." I begged.

"Because I didn't do anything, Zac, everyone was hurt."

"It's not your fault. You didn't know," I told him. "Please, Dad, stop crying."

Dad covered his face with his free hand.

This is why I didn't want you to find out, Dad...

"Lenne doesn't have parents, Zac. Diana is the closest relative to her. Think about her position. She's been through a lot, and she deserves the best. You have everything, Zac. It's time to give a little to Lenne. She needs to tell you something. Will you listen?"

I nodded.

"She's downstairs. Go talk with her. She needs you and you need her. You just haven't realized that."

I owe this to Lenne. I can't forgive Diana, but I need to be there for Lenne.

"I'll go to her," I whispered, and headed for the door.

"You make me proud, Zac. You're growing up to be a man. Sometimes, grown men show their tears. She's your cousin. You have a lot to catch up on."


I flipped my cell open and punched in the number Diana had given me.

"He's going to talk to her," I told her. "They're going to be all right."

"That's good to hear. They have a lot to catch up on."

"Come around to the back. I'll be waiting."

Looking around Zac's room, I decided to take the chance. I opened the window above the garage and climbed out. I walked to the edge of the garage roof and looked down.

"What are you doing up there?" Diana called out. "Get down, before you fall!"

Just seeing Diana again gave me such a feeling inside, I couldn't suppress my exuberance. I smiled down at her and jumped. I heard her release a startled gasp as I landed on the ground. I crouched and rolled perfectly along the grass. I'd done that many times as a kid, and it was still easy. I rolled onto my back and released a laugh, as Diana ran to me.

"You idiot! You could have broken your neck!"

"I've done it before. Just wanted to prove to myself I could still do it." I grinned.

She shook her head and said, "You are such a show off."

She sat down beside me as I stared up at the starry sky.

I released a sigh and asked, "So, where do we go from here?"

Although we weren't touching, I felt Diana tremble. "I don't know..."


Lenne looked up from her glass of water as I walked down the stairs. She watched me approach. I stopped at the living room entrance, looking everywhere but at her.

"The first time I saw you, I felt like I'd seen you before, but I didn't associate you with the mystery boy in my photograph," Lenne said, smiling.

I took the seat in front of her and put my hands together. "You did give me a strange look when I first met you."

Lenne was silent as she watched me, and I became restless under her gaze.

"My dad said you want to talk to me."
"I do, but it won't do either of us any good if you won't let go of your hate, Zac. Just for now, forget about Diana."

I nodded.

"My real mom died when I was only seven, Zac. She and I were alone in Montreal. Your mom, Diana, had disappeared from our lives," Lenne began.

I felt like laughing. That woman. She even abandoned her sister.

"Don't give me that look, Zac. My mom made Diana leave. Your mother was torn because she had lost you. She came back for us, but we were already gone. I understand, now. My mom didn't want Diana to feel responsible. They truly were sisters, caring for the each other more than for themselves. I still remember the day I watched my mother fade away. I remember being put into several foster homes, including the last one."

Lenne's eyes pierced mine, and she didn't even blink or look away. Afraid of being scolded, I kept my eyes leveled with hers.

"That last foster home was hell, Zac. Rules that didn't make sense. Get home, do your homework. No homework after dinner, and in bed before seven. No going out, no bringing back friends, and no using the phone. I borrowed books from the library, but when they found out, they forbade me to go there. I felt like a caged animal with no human contact.

"I lived like that until high school, when I became rebellious. I fought back. A human can only take so much loneliness. I thought they would send me back to the foster agency, but they didn't. Instead, they beat me. They did everything they could to break me down. Verbal, physical, and psychological abuse were showered on me. I wasn't completely lonely, though. I knew this older boy, a runaway. He told me about going to Toronto. He said there would be others like him. He made it sound so fun, so easy. He left for Toronto, and I longed to be like him."
I felt myself sinking back in my seat. I didn't know how Lenne felt. She'd been through so much. How can I even complain about what I didn't have? At least I had my dad.

"I broke out of that prison, but into the coldest winter. I almost died, Zac. When I awoke, I was in a hospital.

***Winter, 2000 Lenne***


A ceiling. One I've never seen before. I can't even remember when I last felt so warm.

"Welcome back," a voice said. "You had us scared for awhile. How do you feel, dear?"

I tried to talk, but something was caught in my throat.

"Oh, let me get you some water, honey," the lady said.

She passed me a cup, and I guzzled the water like it was life. I tried to clear my throat, but it felt like something was caught in there.

"Don't try to talk," the lady said. "You must have been outside for a pretty long time. The doctor will be around, shortly. He'll probably give you something for that throat."

I nodded my head and tried to close my eyes. It was over. My freedom had been short lived. I felt the tears trace my face. They were going to find me, and they were going to make me go back. I was better off dead. Sleep overcame me.

"Lenne, wake up!" someone demanded.

I was being shaken. I opened my eyes and saw my foster father looming over me, with a look that could kill a baby.

"Do you have any idea how much trouble you're in, you stupid brat?" he yelled. "Running away to Toronto! Do you have any idea how hard it was for us to come down here? And after all we've done for you! This is how you're repaying us? You ungrateful bitch!"

"I told you. I told you!" The woman beside him nudged her husband. "I knew she would do something like this! Get up, Lenne! Stop trying to act like you're sick. You're in enough trouble!"

"Let me go!" I cried. My voice wasn't loud, and my throat was on fire as I tried to scream.

A giant hand covered my mouth as I was shaken again, hard. I always hated that. First the shaking and then the beating. I couldn't believe they could do that to me in a hospital.

"Mr. and Mrs. Harper!" a man shouted as he opened the door. He walked in and tore my foster father's hand from my shoulder. A savior stood between me and the people who had treated me like a rat. I saw the stricken look on his face fade into anger. "I should have you both arrested!"

Just like always, in the face of witnesses, my foster parents became the perfect couple.

"Doctor, I apologize for our daughter's trouble. She's just really sick in the head. You know how kids are these days. They rebel, and when you try to set limits for them, they run away. I assure you, we're concerned for their well being." My foster father tried to smile, despite his angry facial expression.

"How soon can we take her home?" my foster mother inquired.

"No," I gasped. "Don't let them take me back there..."

The couple glared at me with a look that told me to shut up, or I'd regret it later.

"She will be released when I deem she's healthy. And when she is released it won't be to you two," the doctor said flatly.

"What do you..."

"Do you expect me to believe this two-faced persona of yours, Mr. Harper? Half the hospital heard you shouting, just minutes ago!"

"You have no right to speak to my husband in that tone! He's a hard working..."

"I'm sure he is, Mrs. Harper," the doctor interrupted. "Do you think this hard working man can explain the bruises and welts I found on Lenne's arms and legs? Let me tell you this; they were not self-inflicted!"

When neither replied to the doctor's accusations, he continued, "Speechless, are we? Well, until Social Services gets here, neither of you will speak to or touch Lenne! Now get out!"

"You have no right to do this!" the larger man bellowed. "This is insanity. The girl obviously has issues. You can't be serious..."

"My patients are my highest priority," the doctor interrupted again, "and when I feel their security is at risk, it is my obligation to ensure no further harm comes to them. I am acting well within my restrictions, I assure you. Either leave this room and vacate the premises, or be arrested. It's your choice."

With that, two officers entered the room.

Mrs. Harper took one deadly look at me, and then stalked off with her husband.

I couldn't hold it anymore. Why did God hate me? I cried like I'd never cried before. The tears from the beatings had been from pain, but this new sadness was out of despair.

"Hey, sweetie," the doctor said as he sat down beside me, "it's all right. You're all right, now. I won't let those people hurt you. I know... I know. Let it all out."

And that's exactly what I did.

Dr. Morgan was a great guy. He stayed with me for an hour, trying to cheer me up. He stayed with me while I ate, and tried to talk to me about normal things, like school, music, and guys.

"I don't even have any friends," I confessed.

"Really? A beautiful girl like you? I doubt that," he said, smiling at me.

I laughed.

"No, really. I usually kept to myself. I wasn't allowed out unless I was going to school, and I wasn't allowed to use the phone. I liked high school at first, but then, people started to treat me like I was scum. I didn't have the best clothes, but I think they treated me like that because I never had friends."

The doctor's expression turned sad, but then he suddenly smiled. "It's a miracle that you have such a spirit about you, a fire that refuses to burn out. Well, I'll be your first friend."

I felt my heart flutter. I knew he was just being nice, but the man was truly the first person other than my teachers and my mom who had treated me like I was human. I was an observer. I knew what families were supposed to be like. I remembered the love my mother had showered on me. For years, I had had to endure the crap my foster parents put me through. Every day I told myself that that wasn't right. Maybe now, God has heard my prayers.

"What's wrong, Lenne? Did I say something to upset you?" the doctor asked, touching my shoulder.

It surprised me too to find myself crying. It felt like I was actually communicating with another human on a new level. Dr. Morgan was my first friend. A kind, gentle man, who shared my mother's maiden name.

I looked up at the ceiling and wished my mother was with me.

"Dr. Morgan. Paging Dr. Morgan..."came from the intercom.

I turned to the doctor and smiled sadly. "I guess that's you."

"Not so fast," he said, looking up as if there was going to be more.

"I'm sorry, this is for Dr. Diana Morgan, not Dr. Andrew Morgan. Please report to the nearest nurses' station. Dr. Diana Morgan, please report to the nearest nurses' station."

"You see? It's not me they're calling. There are three Morgans in this hospital, and two of us are here tonight. You should see the trouble those nurses get into when they don't specify exactly who they're calling." Dr. Morgan turned to me and knew something was wrong. "Lenne? Is there something wrong?"

"That doctor," I said in a raspy voice, "D- Diana Morgan. I need to meet her!"

The doctor looked at me quizzically and smiled. "I am married, but not to Diana. I'm way too old. She'd never go for an old fart like me. She's not my wife, if that's what you're thinking."

"No, no. There's something I need to know. Please. I need to meet her."

I guess my eyes were pleading enough, because Dr. Morgan nodded his head. "I'll see what I can do."

He got up and left my room. My heart fluttered. If she's the mother's sister... She has to be!

My door flew open, and for a moment I thought my foster parents were trying to kidnap me from the hospital before the Social Services people got here.

Instead, I was greeted by an angel. My mother glided into the room. It seemed impossible, but there she was. My mother...

"Lenne, dear, it's really you, isn't it?" the woman cried.

It suddenly hit me that she wasn't my mother.

"Aunt Diana..." was all I could get out before my tears overcame me. In an instant, I was in her arms, and I felt her trembling.

"Oh, my dear God, thank you! You're safe... Thank God, you're safe. Lenne are Lenne Raker, right?"

I can't possibly describe that moment. I was in the arms of the splitting image of my mother.

My aunt Diana pulled back and smiled at me. "Let me look at you. You're as pretty as I remember. Oh, Lenne, I've missed you. Where's your mother? Is she safe, too? Is she here?"

My voice was trapped in my throat. I looked away before I spoke.

From the corner of my eye, I saw my aunt slump to the floor. She touched the floor tiles as if she had lost all sense of bearing.

"How long?" she asked.

"Almost eight years," I whispered.

I heard a crying gasp escape her. I had never known my Aunt Diana. All I knew was the stories my mom would tell me about her, and the photograph. But this was real. She looked just like my mother.

"Lenne, what have you been doing up until now? Who's watching over you?"

"You can't send me back there," I begged her. "I'll die!"

My aunt took my hands into hers. "I've just found you. I'm not about to leave you alone, again. I'm sorry, Lenne. I didn't know where your mother took you. We had an argument, and I left the apartment. When I went back..."

Nothing mattered anymore. I'd found her. I'd found my aunt.


"The Social Services people came. It was funny, actually. At first, they thought my aunt was my foster mother, and when they accused her of abusing me, she almost had a heart attack."

I looked up at Zac and noticed a slight smile. He stared blankly, but I knew he was aware of everything around him.

"They had tried to get in contact with any relatives I had after my mother died. They weren't aware of Aunt Diana. My mother's death was so sudden and I was too young to know what was going on. I simply went with the flow. When I was old enough to understand, I vowed to find my aunt. Somehow, I knew that if I could find her, everything would be right. And here I am, and everything is right. Except now, I think it needs closure."

"You mean between Diana and me, right?" Zac asked with a hint of haughtiness in his voice.

"Zac, I'm not asking you to just forgive her. What I want to get across is the fact that she wanted to keep you. You need to talk to her. Only from her will it truly mean anything to you. Let me tell you this, though. The choice she made was one that no one should ever have to face. In order to ensure your future, she gave up her happiness, and her right to you. Think about her sacrifices and her pain. Yes, she did at one point consider an abortion, but she would have never gone through with it. You were that important to her. And because of her, you are everything you are."

Zac didn't looked convinced, so I tried another approach.

"You can put it this way. If our mothers had tried to raise both of us, we would have been in poverty. My mother died, but who's to say it wouldn't have been you or me, or even your mother."

A stricken look crossed Zac's face as I continued. "Your mother forfeited her right to you to your father. Remember that. She didn't have to, but you wouldn't have your father if she hadn't. You wouldn't have your friends..."

"Stop it," Zac demanded. He no longer looked towards me. His eyes were clamped shut as he tried to block out my words of truth, that a different path would have led to a different outcome.

"You wouldn't have Kayden..." My voice broke. Those last words tore Zac much more than they tore me. Not that Kayden means that much to me. He's important, but so are the rest of my friends. But to Zac, Kayden is...everything. And I wouldn't have any of them if Aunt Diana hadn't made the choice she did. It had dawned to me, when reflecting about the last week, that if my mom and my aunt...if they hadn't made the choices they made, I wouldn't feel as happy as I did at that moment. I sympathized with Zac, but I realized how fortunate we both are.

Zac found comfort by putting his hands to his face. His shoulders slumped as if in total submission.

I glided to Zac's side and took him into my arms, the same as Aunt Diana had done to me the day we found each other again. "She left you and your dad, but she did so knowing you two would be okay. She wanted you to have a chance for a normal life, Zac. That's all any mother in her position could ask for her child. Dammit, Zac, she was our age when she made that choice!" I hoped he understood that; he had to!

"You and I make mistakes, Zac. We have choices, too, but we don't have to decide things that are anywhere near as serious as what your mother had to decide. And now, you have the chance for the relationship you never had. You will regret it for as long as you live if you let her go. Now that fate has finally brought you two together, are you going to let it end so prematurely? Anything can happen...tomorrow, next month, or next year. You've said some things to her I know you don't mean. Can you truly go on knowing you couldn't take that back? God forbid anything happens to either of you, but if something were to happen to her, could you live with that?"

No more words could escape from me. Too much pain surged through me. I could understand Zac's pain, and I sympathized, but for someone who was denied happiness for so long, Diana deserved a second chance.


"So, which hospital are you with?" I asked her. "Not Oshawa General Hospital?"

When she laughed, I felt my heart leap, for the first time in years.

"Oh, no," she smiled, "I'm at Sick Kids Hospital. I work with the children,"

I couldn't remember the last time I had felt so alive. Well, maybe that's a lie. The last times I had felt like that had been when Zac won the 200-meter freestyle and when Jett won the Most Valuable Player award in his league. But this was different; it was like a certain part of me was alive again.

"You always were a softy for children."

She turned to me and our gaze locked for a moment.

"Okay, tell me about yourself. Working with your dad?" Diana inquired as she tilted her head.

"No," I laughed, "I escaped his business. After I finished my undergraduate, I got a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering. Got a decent desk job at CSA. Well, it's more than a desk job, but I'm taking it easy in life. I admit, though, that work can be a bitch, sometimes."

"You always wanted to make something for yourself, by yourself."

"I guess I was sort of stubborn that way," I replied.

"I guess you were..."

I stared up at the stars. No matter how many times I stare at them, I can never get sick of them.

"I'm happy for you, Kevin," Diana said, smiling beautifully. "You've been able to live your dream. I'm very proud of you."

"Not really living a dream, Diana," I whispered, "because that dream had you in it."

I knew I shouldn't have said that, but there was too much I had to know. It was the truth, and I wanted her truth.

"Kevin, let's not do this..."

"Just tell me what happened, then, because I'm going crazy trying to piece things together. All I know is that you had to leave because of your sister. What happened to David? Why did he die?"

She didn't respond. I was about to ask another question, but she spoke up.

"He died in a random act of violence. His death left my sister alone in this world, with a daughter. I had to stay with her, but I knew I couldn't have Zac and live with her. I was just a kid, still, and she had no job."

"Well, that answers a few things, but why didn't you tell me? I could have helped, Diana."

"I couldn't ask you," she said, shaking her head. "It wasn't your problem. I couldn't involve you in something like that. You talked me out know, but I knew Julie and I couldn't support two children. And you couldn't have supported us both, Kevin. You had a future ahead of you."

"So you made the choice for me and decided not to involve me?" I demanded. "You should have told me."

"It doesn't matter," she replied. "My sister would never allow it. And there was no way I could ask her to give up her child. It was her only connection to David. There was no way."

"There was, but you never fully let me in."

"Please, Kevin," she begged, "it's already done. We can't change anything."

"You should have told me. You owed me that much. You just..."

"David was mugged on his way home one night," Diana interrupted. "His parents had kicked him out when he turned eighteen. He didn't even finish high school at that time, but he still managed to get an education. With his job, he was able to pay back his student loans, but my sister still had her debts. When he died, she lost her source of income. She had depended on him to help her finish her education. And, you know about our father..."

Diana's mother was dead. All she and Julie had was their no-good father, and they had run away from him. Diana was living with David and Julie while we were seeing each other.

"David's insurance provided only enough to pay his and Julie's debts. We had nothing else. I thought about asking you for help, but my sister made me promise not to. So, behind her back, I stuck a deal with your mom."

"A deal for Zac..."

"I was desperate, Kevin. I didn't want to give Zac a life of hardship." My heart dropped as her wonderful tears fell from her face. "Your mom offered to help raise Zac, and also to give Julie and me a strong start in life. Out of all the options, that seemed to be the best."

I felt like shit. Her words made sense in a sick sort of way, and made me think. I wouldn't have been able to support Zac and Diana if she had stayed. Would I have picked my freedom over Diana and Zac? Even with my parents' help, I wouldn't have been able to help both Diana and her sister. And Diana wouldn't leave Julie...

"Wait!" I said, as a thought struck me. "You left Julie, didn't you? You ran away from Julie and Lenne. How else could Lenne..."

"I didn't run away," Diana whispered. "I ran off for a night, because Julie and I had an argument. She didn't know about the money from your mother. She thought I had gotten a decent job. After she found out what I had done, it was already too late. She wanted me to get Zac back, but I had already made that deal, so I refused. With Julie and me both working, we could have made a simple life. It wouldn't have been the best, but it would have been enough." Tears flowed freely from her face. "But, the night I ran off, she left me. She took Lenne and left me all alone."

Diana covered her face with her hands. "Even now I can't understand why she did that. She knew she couldn't raise Lenne alone. Why did she leave me?"

I didn't think twice before taking Diana into my arms. She still fit perfectly in my arms.

"Shh," I tried soothing her, "it's all right."

"We could have made it... she hated me..."

"She didn't hate you, Diana," I said, rubbing her back. "The two of you were damned stubborn. She probably thought if she took off you would give up on her and return to Zac. She probably thought she was holding you back from Zac. She only wanted the best for you, just like you wanted the best for her."

Diana trembled in my arms. I put my head next to hers and whispered into her ear, "She loves you, Diana. She loves you, and she's smiling at us. You are caring for her only daughter, and now you've reconnected with your son."

I held her for another moment and I felt her calm down. I realized that it must have been really hard for Diana to get where she was, but if anyone could do something they set their mind to, it was Diana.

"How did you become a doctor?"

She sighed softly in my arms. "It was a long, hard road, Kevin. I was placed in the foster service when I was caught stealing. After a few years, I finally shared with the foster family that took me in. They helped me see that if I ever wanted to see Zac again, I had to make something of myself. I finished high school and got a part-time job, hoping to make some money for university. That's when I went to open a bank account. The account Julie and I had opened together was still there, and so was the remaining money from your mom. The account had been inactive since Julie had left. I used it, and I did my undergraduate. I then went into medicine and was working with a professor in her research. She was kind enough to give me a place to stay while I worked with her. I finally got to the point where I felt worthy of being Zac's mother, but it had taken twelve years. I couldn't bring myself to impose into Zac's life after all that time. How could I?" Diana pulled her head back. "Zac hates me, doesn't he?"

"Let's give Lenne a chance at him. I think Zac is finally willing to listen. I'm starting to think he gets his stubbornness from you."

I knew a smile was due, and my last comment set it off. "Stubbornness isn't genetic."

"Well, you're the doctor, not me. I'm just an idiot engineer. Give me something broken and I'll fix it."

"Just so you know, I think you've done great with Zac. >From what Lenne has told me, he's quite a capable boy. The leader of the pack, I believe." Diana's eyes sparkled in the shadows of the house.

"My mom raised him, mostly, during the infant stage. I guess after me, she figured out where she had gone wrong, and tweaked her child raising abilities," I joked.

Diana laughed in a heavenly way. "You don't quit, do you?"

"I never know when to, and I never will quit again. I lost you once, but I won't lose you again."

I realized I was still holding Diana. It seemed like she suddenly noticed it too, and pulled away from my grasp.

"We shouldn't..."

"Are you married?" I asked bluntly. I was half afraid of the answer.

"Of course not!" she quickly replied, as if shocked at the thought.

"Have you dated anyone in the past sixteen years?"

"Well, not..." she caught herself and looked at me sharply. "How is that any of your business?"

"I have dated," I confessed, "but there has never been a second date with the same woman. I always seem to be comparing them to you."

Her eyebrows rose. "So there was more than one?"

She'd caught me, and I let a chuckle slip. "Well, I thought maybe..."

"Still the ladies' man, I see," Diana said wittily. Her tears were now dry, and she was looking at me like I was under the scope.

"Come on. That's not fair. We're both single and we both know why!" I tried to convince her.

"I've just been busy with my job, Kevin. Don't assume anything," she said, crossing her arms.

"Then... I have a chance?" I grinned.

She blushed and I knew I still had a snowball's chance in hell. I'd gladly take it. A snowball's chance was still a chance.

"This isn't the time for this."

"Give me your number, then! No, wait, Zac will have Lenne's number."

"Hey, that's not fair!" she complained. The smile was back. If she wasn't flirting, I didn't know what the hell it was. "I hope Zac didn't get this side of you. All the girls must be after him, huh? He's a handsome boy; more than you ever were."

I didn't think it was my place to out my son to his mother. If he felt comfortable with telling her, he should tell her. "Oh, they're chasing, no worries about that. More so, women are chasing me. I'm sort of giving you the head start here, you know."

She laughed. "Do you ever stop? You haven't changed a bit."

"And you're still playing hard to get."

"Okay, hotshot, that's enough," she said, as she pushed the center of my chest. "You can fool some women with your charms and good looks, but not me. Not anymore. I'm not the same girl you once knew."

"Awesome! It'll be like trying to discover the new you. I'm starting to get deja vu of our first date," I joked.

"If you children are done," a female voice interrupted, "Zac and I are done. Mo-" Lenne paused. "Aunt Diana, he'd like to have a word with you."

We both turned to the voice and I felt the heat on my cheeks. I haven't felt alive in that way in years. I had missed spending time with Diana. I remembered the days when we believed we were the only people in the world.

"I think you should go in," I said to Diana. "Don't be scared. He doesn't hate you."

Diana nodded at me and walked up to Lenne. She whispered something into her ear, and Lenne smiled before Diana walked on.

"So, Lenne," I said, walking up to her, "I guess this makes me your uncle, right?"

"Not really," she smiled. "You'd have to be married to my aunt to be considered my uncle. But, Zac is my cousin."

"I see. Hey, Zac said something about misplacing your number. You think I can quickly get that from you? Your home phone number?"

"Well, Mom..." she looked like she had slipped up, but then shook it off. "Aunt Diana told me not to give you our house number. She said you don't deserve it."

"Well, damn," I grinned. "She's still playing hard to catch, huh?"

"Maybe only for you. She hasn't dated anyone since I've been with her, but don't get any ideas. She claims to be just busy."

This might be harder than I thought.

"She did give you her cell phone number though, remember?" Lenne winked. "I guess she didn't think before she gave it to you."

She was right, and I was beaming.



I stood up and watched her enter the living room. She slowed her approach and tried to smile.

"..." I didn't know what to say.

"..." She tried her best not to look away from me, but I knew it was hard for her. She rubbed her fingers together nervously, in front of her.

"Hi!" I suddenly exclaimed.

Her fingers paused, and she shyly watched me with gentle eyes.

"I'm Zac..." I managed to mumble. I looked away and swallowed. It felt like I was choking on a large gobstopper.

"Hi, Zac," the clear, angelic voice replied. I looked up from the floor to meet her gaze. Fresh tears streamed her face. "I'm Diana. It' great to finally meet you..."


I can recall some of the greatest days of my childhood. All of them involved my best friend Scott and our buddies Jett and Zac. The four of us were nightmares for our elementary teachers. In one grade, the principal separated us. Not cool. Within a week, the principal put us all back into the same class. That was because of our acting, which had been Scott's plan. We pretended like we couldn't function or think, at all, without each other. The adults bought it, and we were reunited. I wish it were that easy now.

Lost in my thoughts, I didn't even notice Zac and Lenne walk up in front of me until they stopped. I knew everything was cool, and I thought it was about damn time. I had been wondering what we were going to do for our March break. It was fast coming up, in half a week, to be exact. I was on my side of the table with Mai, but she was napping. Scott and Maya were bickering about something that I couldn't really follow, and Jett was missing in action once again. Kayden seemed to be late as well.

"Well, looky-looky." I grinned while they stood there waiting to be noticed.

Maya and Scott turned around and I guess they were as happy as I was.

"Well, fucking finally," Scott exasperated. "I don't know how much longer I could stand these guys without you two."

Lenne and Zac cracked into laughter as they took their seats.

Truth is, because of the Zac and Lenne situation, it had been hard to find other things to talk about. We were all worried, and the little problem was tearing apart our group. Scott and Maya had been arguing more often, and that usually seemed to revolve around Zac and Lenne. Scott was always on Zac's side, and he would say things that infuriated Maya. Mai and I had been having our differences, as well. Since Mai was Lenne's main support, all Mai would talk about was how Lenne was the victim. It sort of sounded like she was blaming Zac for the problems. I hardly argue, but when Mai expressed certain opinions, well, let's just say we both said some things we didn't really mean. That was last week; we were past that. We decided not to assume anything until Zac and Lenne returned. We knew that when they did come back, everything would be explained. And explained it was.

Zac and Lenne shared the past history.

"So, Lenne's step mom is really your mom?" Scott asked.

"Yeah, seems like it. I feel a bit awkward around her still, but I think it's the same with her. I think we're going to take it slow," Zac replied.

"Sounds like you're dating her," I joked.

Everyone laughed, and even Zac seemed to get a kick out of that. I had wondered for a moment if I'd shot my mouth off too fast.

"So, Zac, what about your dad and Lenne's mom? Well...your mom. Are they going to tie the knot?" Scott asked.

Shit, man, nice going.

I could see the insecurity in Zac's and Lenne's faces, but it must have been a question that had crossed their minds as well.

"Scott, it's none of our business what Zac's dad and mom do. They're both adults," Maya began.

"Yeah, you should worry more about your own relationship," my baby girl snapped.

Poor Scott was being attacked from both sides, and all I could do was laugh.

"By the way," Zac interrupted, "where's Jett?"

No one seemed to know, but just then, our missing friend turned up out of thin air.

"Right here, man." Jett smiled as he eased in between Zac and me.

"Guess what!" I said, punching Jett's shoulder. I must have done that pretty hard, because he winced, and I knew what was coming next.

"What?" Jett asked, punching my shoulder harder than I had punched his.

"Zac and Lenne are back," I replied, giving him a return punch, even harder.

"I see that, Shin," Jett said, knuckling my shoulder once again. "He actually called me and told me what happened."

"Okay, okay." I rubbed my shoulder. "I give up!"

Jett shot an air bullet at me and blew at his fingers.

"Mai, it hurts!" I complained to my girlfriend.

Mai gave me that smile that can light up the sky, rolled up my golf shirt, and kissed the area where Jett had been hitting me.

"There, all better," she said, as she winked at me.

I busted with pride. How did I ever find a girl like Mai? She's the best, and she's the best thing ever to happen to me. My parents approve our relationship, but it seems like her parents don't like me so much. I don't care; I'm not dating her parents. Her brother is cool, though, and we get along great.

I turned to Jett with a smug smile and he seemed to get the challenge.

"Lenne..." Jett whined to the girl across the table from him.

"No way, buster," she said, crossing her arms. "I'm not your honey bunny. Go ask the other fifty girls I introduced to you. You got a waiting list, buddy, and unless you get started, the list will just keep on growing."

"I don't get it," Scott complained. "Why does everyone go crazy over Jett? It seems like all the popular guys have their own fan club. R.J. has girls flocking all over him." R.J. is Rian Johnson, the point guard on our basketball team. "Ashley Morgan has hired Charlie's Angels to escort him around school. Zac and Kayden seem to be reeking of secret admirers, and I even heard some girls say Shin is cute. I mean, fuck, even Brad gets more attention than me, and he's gay!"

We all stared at Scott like he was the biggest idiot in the world. I suddenly felt a sharp pain on my leg and noticed Mai's nails digging into my pant leg.

"Scotty," Mai began, "who are these women, exactly?"

"Rian is going pro, which is why he's as popular as he is," Jett commented.

"You're smart, Scott, but Ashley is a genius in math and science. You know that," Zac laughed.

"And exactly why are you so interested in getting more attention from girls? Is there something you'd like to say to me?" Maya demanded of Scott.

"You know, it could be your attitude that scares off the girls," Lenne joked.

"Plus, there's something about all those guys you mentioned that doesn't apply to you," I pointed out.

Everyone turned to me to hear me out.

"And what's that?" Scott asked.

"Well, all the guys you mentioned are good looking, Scott. I'm sorry, man, but you're just..."

"Hey, you piece of... Fuck you, Shin!" Scott said, crossing his arms as he scowled at me.

We all busted out laughing. That kind of fun had been missing, and it was finally back.

"Hey, I don't see Kayden." Jett looked around and asked Zac, "Where's your boy?"

Zac looked a bit troubled. "I don't think he's coming in today. I called him over the weekend to tell him all about what happened at my house, but he seemed a bit out of it. I think he was feeling under the weather. I'm going to go by his place after school."

"We'll all go," I declared.

"What? Why?" Mai asked.

"We gotta get everyone together to decide what to do next week."

"Why? What's next..."

I noticed the bulbs light up over everyone's heads at the same time.

"Holy shit, March break!" Jett beamed.

"Wow, did everyone forget about it?" Maya wondered.

"I guess so," Lenne laughed. "I guess things were a bit hectic around here for us to see it coming. Our year is almost done, too."

"Actually, now that you mentioned it," Maya cut in, "there's also a dance coming up on Friday before spring break. You guys wanna go?"

"I think we all need that. Let's do it," Zac said.

No one seemed to object, so it was written in stone. We'd all go to the dance, but before then, we were going to decide on what to do for spring break. I guess I was the only one who had thought about it while Zac and Lenne were having their troubles.


The sky was just the same as I remembered it. In front of me stood a boy I will never forget: Sean.

"Hey, don't you have classes?"

"I skipped. I don't care about school anymore. I don't care what happens to me anymore. Fucking great life I'm living."   

"Hey, are you okay?"

"I can't keep living the way I am. My father left us a long time ago. My mom is a drunk. I'm involved in things I don't want to be into."

The memories faded and I fell into darkness.

Another place. Grass. A path of rising stone as far as the eye can see.

No...not this...

"We pray that Sean Braska is safe in the comforting arms of our Father..."


"May Richard be welcomed into the gates of heaven, where he shall be reunited with his family..."


"We gather here to say good bye to a man who has touched all our hearts in one way or another. He was a brother, a father, a husband, a friend, and a good person. Andrew Freeman was loved by many..."


A dream, they're only dreams, I kept trying to tell myself. Yet, dreams can tear open scars that never seem to heal. It seems as if each dream reopens a wound and grows. I wonder how much longer I can let this eat at me.

My sheets were wet. Sweat, tears... If I wasn't careful, I'd be pissing myself fully awake in no time.

I stared into the closed blinds that reflected the sunlight back outside.

Is it almost that time of year again?

June 16th, Andrew Freeman. April 27th, Sean Braska. August 9th, Richard Pierce... How did I lose so many people in just two years?

"Says a lot about you, doesn't it?"

Go away!

"You think there's a pattern? Maybe you're just bad luck for people..."

This is just another dream...

"If I'm a dream, why don't you just wake up?"

Shut up and leave me alone!

"Is that what you want? To be alone? Then don't worry, you will be..."

I sat up, grasping the blankets around me and gripping them like they were a lifeline. I couldn't breathe. I could hear myself making a hacking sound in my throat. I felt pressure as I desperately tried to breathe. Slowly, the air passage began to open, and I felt the cool air entering my throat.

When I could finally breathe again, I realized I was on the living room couch. I hadn't been able sleep in my room because it was too hot, and for some reason I had found comfort in this small room with photographs along the fireplace. Mai had done a good job, thoroughly going through my stuff in the garage. I had a few pictures I had hidden. I guess I hadn't been able to bring myself to throw those away.

Thoughts of the nightmare surfaced in my mind, and I felt my stomach doing leaps. I got up and dizzily tried to make it to the washroom before I lost whatever I had in my stomach. I didn't make it.



"Hey, man," I said as I walked into Kayden's house, "how are you feeling?"
"Better. Did you all come?"

"Damn straight," Shin said, pushing his way through, "`cause we have a shitload to do. Now that Zac and Lenne are cool, we gotta get started on the communications project. It's due like next month and we already wasted a few weeks."

The three girls were talking about something that was focusing around Mai. I couldn't hear much, but it seemed to be plans for spring break.

Scott took off his shoes and almost tripped as he made his way towards us. "Hey, at least Zac is back in the group, right?"

I felt bad that it was my fault nothing had been done. I knew I had to take responsibility for it. "Guys, you don't need to change any of your plans for me. You guys go ahead with what you have already planned. I can do something by myself."

"Already planned?" Jett said. "I didn't know we had anything planned."


Lenne overheard what Jett said and broke in. "Zac, nothing was done at all in these past few weeks. I don't think any of us were really paying attention to the project."

"Are you guys serious?" I asked.

"Well, I figured Kayden was in charge, after Zac. You both seemed pretty hardcore when we got the project. I thought maybe Kayden had a schedule or something," Scott said.

"And it didn't strike you weird that you got nothing from Kayden during the weeks after it was assigned?" Maya scolded.

While Scott tried explaining things to Maya, Lenne added, "Sorry, I'm not really into the tech stuff like you guys are. I was hoping one of you had something planned."

"Well, I was busy getting the equipment. I borrowed two cameras from my sister's boyfriend, and even the mike and stuff. I was in charge of props, too, so I was sort of just gathering anything we might need," Jett offered.

"Well, that's something, at least," Lenne said, knuckling his shoulder in good humor. "Good job, Jetters."

"Aww, don't add things to my name," Jett complained.

"So, this whole time, you guys haven't done anything?" I asked, still not completely understanding the situation.

"Well, what do you have done?" Scott asked. "We can just use what you were doing and apply it so we can all share in it."

"Ah, well..." Truth was, I hadn't thought of the project at all since the events at Lenne's house.

Scott had a smug look on his face. I knew I couldn't complain.

Kayden spoke up, "Well, I assumed that since Zac was leaving the group project, that meant I was leaving with him. I didn't hear Zac say anything about it and I didn't want to pressure him because of what he was going through, so I sort of brainstormed on things to do."

I turned to my rescuer and couldn't have been any prouder.

"Ha!" I said, turning to Scott. "See? We did have something done." I was taking credit for Kade's work, but I knew he wouldn't mind.

"What I had in mind would be really cool, but no matter how many times I try to organize it with only two people, it doesn't seem to be possible. We need more people."


"Well, there you have it. We have the props and you guys have the plan. Want to combine forces, Zac? Or would you still rather work alone?" Scott grinned with his hand stretched out to me.

"Whatever," I said. "But since it's Kayden's plan, I say we put him in charge."

Kayden turned sharply to me. "What? I can't..."

"Sounds fair!" Lenne replied.

"Doesn't matter to me. I'm doing the 3D Max stuff, and I'm half done," Shin said, propping against the stair railing.

"Doesn't matter to me, either. I'm in charge of the equipment and the set. As long as I get to do what I want, I got no problems," Jett said, cracking his knuckles.

"Well, since everyone's agreeing, why not? You're in charge now, Kayden," Scott said shrugging his shoulders.

"But... I..."

"Don't worry," I said, grabbing Kayden's hand. "You'll do fine. We're not going to just leave you to do everything. We're going to help, you know, but you're in charge. Congrats, Mr. Director."

"Now that that's been settled," Mai interrupted, "let's get to planning our March break. But first, Kayden, what kind of host are you? You didn't even offer us drinks in this lovely house of yours, and you've kept us standing here. Aren't you going to invite us to have a seat?"

We all laughed before we made our way to the kitchen so we could raid Kayden's fridge. Mai still hadn't forgiven Kayden for his prank after she redecorated his house, and she made it her goal to constantly remind him that she had made his house presentable.

"You don't mind, do you?" I asked as I took a seat.

"Of course not," Kade smiled. "I have more than enough money for food. Rick set me up with a pretty good allowance."

"Must be nice," Scott said, pouring some juice. "I wouldn't mind being on my own, sometimes."

"It gets lonely, Scott," Kayden replied sadly. "You're better off with your family. Plus, I have all of you guys invading my house, so where's the privacy in that?" Kayden's tone took a big change. I knew he was on his way to something deep, but I could tell he didn't want our friends to worry about him. I saw it, though, and I understood.

"I need to be home in like an hour, guys, so let's decide what to do for March break. Actually, it's already been sort of decided," Maya said.

"What?" Jett, Scott and I replied at the same time.

"Blue Mountain!" Shin announced.

"Shin thought it would be cool if you guys went on a snowboarding and skiing trip," Mai said.

I noticed Scott eyes glow like Christmas lights. Scott has been a snowboarding and skateboarding fanatic since he was a kid.

"Zac, maybe your dad can take you guys. Maya's and my parents are still in the protective stage and won't be letting us come along. Not while we're dating these two guys," Mai said, nodding towards Shin and Scott.

"I told my parents they have nothing to be concerned about. My older brother already scares Scott, but I guess I can understand their point of view," Maya laughed.

"I'm not scared of him," Scott insisted. "The guy just needs to lay off of those protein shakes."

"Okay, I'll ask my dad if he can get time off. I'm pretty sure he can. Most people in his department take off during March break to be with their kids. It's sort of useless to have people working when half your team is missing. It shouldn't be a problem. What are you girls going to do?"

"Well, I'm not the skiing type," Maya said, "but I'd like to give it a try. We'll be heading there, too!"

"We were thinking of maybe tagging along with Maya's brother when he heads up to Blue Mountain," Lenne added.

"Idiot!" Mai laughed, "It was a secret!"

Scott almost choked. "By yourselves? What if something..."

"Nothing is going to happen. My brother and his friends will be with us, and they won't let anything happen," Maya said immediately.

"This is his military friends?" Scott said in mocking humor. "Oh, I feel so much better!"

"Yeah, there's four of them. Two are bringing their girlfriends, and..."

"What about the other two? They don't have girlfriends?" Scott demanded.

"Well, if you let me finish sweetie," Maya laughed sweetly, "the other two are a couple."

The light bulb went off in Scott's head and he finally seemed to calm down. Shin just sat smiling. I could tell he already knew. Everyone else was enjoying too much what was being passed to discuss anything else.

Jett clapped his hands excitingly. "Alrighty then, Blue Mountain it is. I haven't done that in a bit. Think about it...just us, we're going to have a blast!" He turned to Lenne and warned, "Just be careful of Maya's brother."

Lenne blushed, and everyone exploded into laughter. It's well known what Lenne's type is. She tends to fall for guys slightly older than her. Maya's brother is twenty-five, so he's her type.

"Guys, I don't know if I can go," Kayden said. That sucked the laughter out of the room like a vacuum. "I gotta ask my parents, and I don't know what..."

"Oh, you bitch," Shin laughed. "You had me there for a moment."

He had us all going for a second. I was worried maybe we would be touching on a sensitive subject, but no one else seemed to notice. I let it pass.


"You are really good," the Japanese man said. "Where did you learn?"

"I belonged to a dojo in Vancouver. One of the best in B.C.," I told him.

"Ah, Mr. Glen Morrison," the graying man nodded. "He's really good. I know of him. We met a few times in international competitions when I lived in Ottawa."

"I think he'd be happy to know that I'm continuing my training under someone like you," I said sincerely.

I really hadn't planned on continuing martial arts, because I figured I had everything I needed to know to get by. But this was an opportunity I was not about to miss.

"I'm looking for someone to help out here. We've been getting a lot more applicants this year and need more Black Belts. I have a few helping me, but I need more help with the beginner classes. You can probably work with my other apprentice. He goes to your school, so you might know him."

"I probably do," I smiled.


"Is everything secure, guys?" I asked my boys.

"Yes sir!" Jett spoke for them all. "Time to hit the road."

I turned to Scott's dad and asked, "You sure you don't want to come with us, Rod?"

"The trip sounds appealing, Kevin, but I'm bound to my business, and right now things are a bit hectic. Perhaps in the summer."

"For sure. By the way, I heard from Shin's dad that you sold that property in Toronto."

"Yeah, I did," Rod beamed. "I should give you credit for it, though. You found it."

"But you put the money into it, my man," I corrected. "Like we anticipated, it was a big hit. We need to round up a bit more."

"For sure, we'll talk with Ken when you get back. If we keep doing this, we'll be set for life. I was actually investigating just renting out to people. In a few years, I'd say the market for that will surely boost."

"I was going to suggest the same thing," I told him. "We'll get Ken on it. You might be set, with your retirement funds, but I'm not relying on my pension plan to take care of me when I retire."

"We need to get the kids in on this, too," Rod said quietly. "It's important they become money smart. The only problem is..."

"How to get them into it without boring the shit out of them," I finished his sentence. He chuckled and nodded.

"Take it in strides, I'd say," I told him. "I just don't want them to think getting the best marks in school automatically guarantees them a secure future. I made that mistake. I can't believe I'm following the plan my parents tried so hard to drill into me when I was a kid. I was so sure of myself that I thought all I needed was my education to land me a stable life."
"Dad, let's go!" Zac called out as he walked towards the Land Rover.

"I'd better hit the road. The kids will be grilling me if I make them wait any longer."

"No shit. Give me a shout if Scott gives you any trouble. He's certainly stopped being such a pest, after getting to high school, but sometimes he can still be annoying. If he tries to pull any shit over you, let him know who's the boss. I let him drive the Rover a bit last year when we went up there. I was the supervisor, but he might try something like saying I let him drive it all the time. That's bullshit."

I laughed hard. "We'll be fine. By the way, thanks a lot for letting us borrow your SUV, man." The trip was a collaboration of efforts. I had just a few winter things, and they were only enough for two people. We had to gather stuff from Shin's and Scott's dads. There was also the transportation, and Scott's dad was always willing to lend out his Rover for these trips.

"That's why I bought it," he grinned. "Go on and head out. The boys are starting to foam around the mouth."

We laughed and shook hands, and I took off.

"You guys ready for this?" I asked the boys, once we were on the road.

"You bet! How long is the drive? Like an hour?" Shin asked.

I laughed, "More like two and a half, man. Think you can handle that?"

"Oh, for real? That's like two point five times longer than I thought. Shit, what are we going to do to pass time, guys?"

"If you don't mind, Shin, I'd like some peace and quiet. Didn't sleep much last night," I heard Jett say.

"Go partying last night, Jett?" I asked.

"Not really."

"He has this mysterious girl he keeps seeing and won't tell us about," Zac teased, as he turned to me.

"Is that so?" I asked.

"Yeah, man. I thought she was a one-time deal. What's up with that?" Scott broke in.

"You guys..." I was worried where this was leading. I didn't want my boys to become those cocky rich kids I knew in high school. The only worries they had were whether their clothes looked rich enough or where the next party was going to be.

"It's not what you think, Mr. Hunter," Kayden broke in. "Jett and this mystery girl are just friends. Scott's just shooting shit from his mouth again."
"Well thanks, man," Scott grumbled. "I love you too."

Everyone busted out laughing, and Jett seemed to be embarrassed.

"You should have asked your dad to come, Kayden," I said, looking into the rearview mirror. "We haven't even been introduced, yet."

An odd moment of silence filled the car, but that was soon followed by a torrent of voices.

"They're traveling."
"They said they were busy."

"They don't like snow."

"There was an event they had to go to," Kayden said, above the others.

I knew something was up, and I smiled a bit.

"Sounds like you guys know a lot about Kayden's parents," I said. "I feel sort of out of the loop. I'd like to meet them."

"They're pretty cool people," my son commented.

"I'm sure they are. Oh, and Kayden, you call me Mr. Hunter once more and I'm pulling this thing over to personally kick your ass."

I felt the tension lighten as their laughs echoed through the car.

"By the way, when were you planning to tell me the girls are going to be up there at Blue Mountain? Diana mentioned that the girls are going up for the week, with Maya's brother."

"Oh, really?" Scott said with sarcastic, feigned ignorance. "I had no idea. Shin, did you know?"

Poor Shin couldn't stop laughing.

"You guys planned this, didn't you? The girls won't have the worried parents hovering over their every move, if you put them under the protective wing of Maya's brother."

"Well, if we told Mai's parents about it, at least one of them would make sure to come along. They like me, but they just don't trust me," Shin remarked.

I laughed. It sounded all too much like Diana's sister's protectiveness.

"You should have heard Scott when Maya said the girls were going up with her brother and his military buddies," Jett began.

"Jett, man, come on," Scott whined.

"Turns out two of them are bringing their girlfriends and the other two are gay!" Shin sputtered out.

I didn't really understand why, but the way our Japanese kid said that, it was pretty damn funny.
"What the hell?" I asked.

"Shit, man, you ruined it," Kayden said to Shin. "It would have been funny."

All of a sudden, I heard a yelp and noticed in the rearview mirror that Kayden was holding his left breast.

"What's going on back there?"

"Shin is playing rough with Kayden's nips," Jett chuckled. "Come on, Shin, you know Kayden can't play rough. He's too sensitive for that stuff, right, Zac?" I noticed my son blush. I felt slightly embarrassed inside, but also a bit proud. "How about you and me go for another round, instead?" Jett taunted Shin.

Shin turned down the challenge pretty damn fast.

"I brought my shinais, Jett. We'll settle this on the field, with honour!"

Leave it to Shin to settle things to his advantage. I know little about kendo, but the bamboo sticks they use are called 'shinai'. Shin is a pretty good kendo artist, or whatever they're called.

"Can I use my fists? You use your sword, I use my fists?" Jett asked.

"Fine by me!"

"You know, man," my son said, turning to his four friends in the back, "Shin can snap hands pretty damn fast. You won't be able to grab the stick, if that's what you're thinking."

"Are you saying I'm slow?" Jett asked.

"I just don't want to see your pride shot, guy," Zac joked.

"All right, I'm taking bets. Odds are four to one against Jett. Any takers?" Scott announced.

"Mai is pretty crazy when she has a shinai in her hand," Shin randomly commented.

All of a sudden I heard four groans, and Scott mumbling how sick that was.

It suddenly hit me what Shin was talking about. "You mean...those stick things... What?"

"What, you didn't know Shin is whipped?" Jett joked.

"I thought so," I replied, " but I just wasn't convinced. Kudos to Mai."

"You should see the look she gets in her eyes! After..." Shin was on a roll and he wasn't stopping anytime soon.

Scott was mumbling to himself, again. " 'Why do we need duct tape?' I asked. 'We're bringing Shin,' he said. 'What does that mean?' I asked. 'You'll see,' he said."

When we got to Barrie, we pulled over for some food before heading into Blue Mountain and finding the lodging areas in record time.

The guys all helped unload. It was still afternoon and we had just eaten lunch, so we were still pretty full. We got our equipment squared away and the boys went off with Shin and his shinais. The girls were coming the next afternoon, so I decided to do a bit of info gathering. I wanted to make sure the boys got the most of the trip. On my way back, I saw Kayden walking off on his own. He was going towards the pond beside our hotel. I decided to head down with him.

I followed Kayden down the path, but I don't think he noticed me. The Kayden I watched was different from the one I've known all along. One thing for certain, the boy was crying.

I followed him to a spot that overlooked the pond. It was semi packed with kids and adults skating around. I watched him for several minutes while he stood and stared out at the ice as if searching for something. We were definitely in an isolated area, and no one was near where we stood.

Zac had mentioned awhile back that Kayden was feeling a bit down, and wondered if it was just the pressure of school getting to him. I had noticed a slight change in Kayden's behavior during the past week. Sometimes he seemed dazed, and once, he actually spaced out during a program I watched with them.

There were battles raging in the boy's mind. That much I could tell. At this moment, the strong, reliable, determined Kayden looked very vulnerable.


What did I hope to accomplish by coming out here? It isn't the same lake. No matter how far I look, I won't be seeing anything. What's the point of sad memories if all they do is remind us of what we've lost? It isn't fair.

"It's beautiful, isn't it?" a voice asked.

I recognized it and knew immediately I had been crying. I wiped the tears away quickly, hoping Zac's dad wouldn't notice them.

"It's nice here," I commented.

Zac's dad stood behind me for a few moments. I was starting to get worried. For one thing, I knew the man wasn't stupid, and he knew something was suspicious about me.

"Kayden, I know this isn't any of my business, but you don't live with your parents, do you?"

Of all the things... Fuck... Zac, where are you?

I didn't know how to respond to the question. If I lied, he'd know I was lying, but would that be the best thing to do? The trust factor would definitely go down, but what would he do if he found out the truth?

"No...I don't." I knew honesty would be the only thing that could possibly save me at that point. Either way, I was screwed.

"That's what I thought."

A cool breeze pushed me slightly. The wind was pretty strong. "So, you knew all along?" I asked.

"Sort of."

I was starting to regret leaving all the guys. I was afraid of Zac's dad. Something about him made me know he was capable of things. He was very much like Rick, in a calm, wise way. That calm and wise stuff scared me.

"When Zac was first born, and Diana left me, I couldn't really function properly," Zac's dad said quietly. I turned to him as he stared out onto the ice. "I moved out for a bit, to a piece of property my family owned in Toronto, leaving Zac with my parents. When Diana left me, I thought I'd lost my happiness. I was a kid, then, and I couldn't see what was in front of me. Zac is the product of our love."

Zac's dad turned to me and met my gaze. I felt uneasy and turned my eyes towards the ground.

"Sometimes, when I look at you, I see a bit of my shadow in you. If there is one thing I wish I could tell my young self, it's this: 'You should take hold of this happiness...because you already have Zac.'"

Zac's dad left me alone soon after, but the words remained engraved in my heart. He said I had Zac. He knew I live alone, and with no explanation, he accepted it. He said I was like his young self. Maybe he was as confused as I am, at one point. Maybe that's why I was so scared of Zac's dad. Maybe I felt that of all the adults, he'd be the one to figure me out. We both had completely different circumstances, but generally the same problem. His words offered me the sanctuary I needed.

I know there is another me within me. An alternate me, but still me. My own shadow. I know that. And sometimes he takes me over and I have no control of what I do. But as long as I have Zac, and as long as Zac has me, that person cannot enter my heart. As long as Zac has my heart, that other Kayden cannot take me...


Copyright September, 2005 by Ryan Keith

I figured it out. The meaning of being anti-social. It's come to a point where I enjoy my weekdays more than my weekends. So what's new? I turned down movies with friends, drinks with buddies, and dancing with peeps so I can have a long, intimate relationship with coordinate systems.

Don't get me wrong, I love these darn things. I mean, I can actually point at the International Space Station from any location in the world by just looking up one small detail of it's orbit, and calculating it's position relative to wherever I'm standing. How cool is that? Alright, enough nerd chatter...

And so? Do I deliver? No cliffhangers and it ends on a good note I must say. Evil stuff in Kayden was laying low for a while, but I made sure it was still there. Poor guy. Yes, let's shed a tear for Kayden, lol. Well, anyways, I hoped you all enjoyed this chapter. Probably one of the better ones. After re-reading it after a whole month crashing by, it suddenly hit me how fast I read this chap. It almost didn't seem like my standard length, but I assure you it is. And no, that doesn't mean chapters are going to be even longer *grin*.

So what do we have to look forward to now? Just a side note, there will be a side story I'm currently writing on a character. It's not Zac, Lenne, or Kayden. Hell, it isn't even about Brad, so don't go thinking I'll magically make him likeable. Try to guess who it is :P

Oh! And finally, I made a yahoo group since many people were asking about it. You'd get e-mails telling you when the next chapter is up, and you can interact with other people discussing Kayden/One Life stuff. I won't be involved at all much because it sorta defeats the purpose. I figured it's more for you guys. There's currently one poll right now, and a few extra stuff. I'm sure to add more in the future.

Thanks to my editor Aaron and thanks to that gang of his at The Mail Crew for hosting my stories. They do great work, so be sure to check out their site.

Cheerz peeps

back to Stories page