The contents of this story is purely fictional. The content matter of this story concerns love and may include sex between consenting males teenagers. If this is not what you like reading or it is illegal for you to read this material because of age or laws go somewhere else. This story is copyrighted by it's owner and may not be copied or published elsewhere without the owners permission.
Hey! Hhere is chapter 4. Thanks again to David my editor. Here's a link to his stories: David's stories.
I've decided to go back to contract programming - Flex programming - to build up my trading account and because I want to buy a car. Plus Matt live across the country from me and I long to see him...he is so awesome...so maybe I can get a contract closer to where he lives. I'm terrible at poetry but he does inspire me to try...says he's going to teach me to snowboard...I think he just wants to have a good laugh...I tried it once several years ago and after an hour I gave up and went back to snow blades. Thanks to those who emailed me - I posted this chapter for you.
SamLakes dot writer at Gmail dot com
The Greatest Gift
by Sam Lakes
Copyright © 2008 All Rights Reserved
“I love you too, Matthew…uh huh…I’ll tell Billy…Yes, I’ll tell Maddie, too…goodbye.” I hung up the phone. Sunday was telephone day. All four of the kids would call, even if they had nothing to say except “I love you.” Today was Tuesday. It was Maddie’s birthday. They had all called. They knew that I visited her grave on her birthday, and brought her roses. They knew that I would tell her about them and how they were doing. I was especially looking forward to the visit. I had so much to tell her about Ethan.
I was locking the door to my apartment when I heard Ethan, “Dan!”
I smiled, “Yes. I plan to tell her all about the most wonderful boy in my life and I am sure she will pass it on to your parents.”
“Thanks,” he said and gave me a big hug. “I love you,” he whispered. He turned and went back downstairs.
I had invited him to share my apartment. He politely declined saying that he’d worked hard cleaning up the basement and getting his room the way he wanted it. I understood how he felt so I offered to have a shower put in so he wouldn’t have to bathe in the sink.
The one thing I’ve learned about Ethan is that he is fiercely independent and is accustomed to directing his own life. I want to adopt him so he can attend a proper school. I’m hesitant because I’m not sure how he would feel about it. I know there is something in his past that he has not told me. I don’t want to push him into telling me because I’m afraid I’d loose him.
It was raining, so I drove to the cemetery. The rain stopped just as I arrived. As I walked to her grave from my parked car I noticed a new grave. Out of curiosity I was drawn the headstone to see who had been buried. I felt sad because it was a young boy who had recently died. His name was Billy Lancaster. He was only fourteen years old. I remembered hearing about his death on the local news. I sighed and continued on to Maddie’s grave.
I spent about five minutes telling Maddie about our children. Then, I spent an hour talking about Ethan. I passed on Ethan’s message.
As I was leaving, I saw a young boy about Ethan’s age. He was sitting by the grave I had stopped at. He was sobbing. I was reluctant to approach him and interrupt his grief. I was riveted in place. I felt I had to stay. I don’t think he could see me but I could hear him. I swear I could feel his emotional pain and could feel tears cascading down my own cheeks.
“Billy, there’s something I never got to tell you. I was going to tell you after the party. Oh, Billy… did you have to die…” The boy’s voice caught in his throat. I saw his chest heave. “I love you Billy like you love me – Like you wanted me to love you – I’m gay t-too…I’m going to tell Mom and Dad that too but I wanted you to know first.”
I continued to listen, but heard nothing. Perhaps he was praying. Perhaps he was simply crying. When he spoke again, his voice was stronger.
“I got all these gifts at the party but I don’t want them – I want you…I’m such a crybaby. You always said I was a big crybaby. Anyway, I don’t want them so I’m going to leave them here for you and maybe you can find someone who will want them. Dad will be here in a minute to pick me up – I didn’t want him to see me crying so I told him I’d meet him at the front gates. Goodbye, Billy…I love you.”
A note attached to one of the shopping bags read, “I got these gifts on my birthday but they only remind me of the boy I loved named Billy Lancaster who died that day. I’ve asked Billy to make sure they are given to someone who needs them. I hope you will honor that wish.” The note was unsigned.
I took the shopping bags home with me. I could help thinking what had brought me and that boy together that day. Was it just a coincident or was it some sort of divine intervention.
When I got home I decided to take a nap. I only intended it to be a short nap but it was almost five thirty before I was woke by the phone ringing. It was my son, Billy, wondering how my visit went. I told him about the boy I saw and the gifts.
“I can guess who you are going to give them to,” he said.
“Well, he has so little. I know he will appreciate them.”
“Yes he would. I think it’s the right decision, Dad.”
I had no sooner hung up from talking with Billy when Ethan was knocking on my door. I knew it must be him because of his distinctive knock. I opened the door and sure enough it was Ethan.
“I’m ready! Let’s go!” he said with enthusiasm and a broad smiled. Then added, “And I’m starving!”
I laughed, “You’re always starving.” I thought about the gifts but then decided that I’d wait until after dinner.
During dinner Ethan enthusiastically told me he had spent most of the day at the library reading an e-book my son, Billy, had sent him on stock and option trading. I was amazed at the grasp of the subject he had for being so young.
On our way home after dinner said, “Dan, could you drop me off at the grocery store. I promised Mrs. Murphy I’d pick up a few things for her. She wants to show me how to play Gin Rummy. It’s a card game. I think it would be fun and besides she gets quite lonely sometimes.”
“That’s very nice of you, Ethan. I’ll wait for you so you don’t have to walk home.”
“I forgot to tell you thank you for dinner and I love you.”
“You are welcomed. It’s always a pleasure to have your company and I love you too.”
I figured as Ethan was up playing cards with Mrs. Murphy that I might as well leave the gifts on his bed. It would be a nice surprise for him.
I woke to banging on my door. The only light in the room came from the illuminated numerals on the clock-radio. One A.M. I pulled on a robe and stumbled to the door. Ethan was standing there with the note in his hand and tears flooding his eyes.
“Take me to see him now,” he said, “Please take me to see Billy Lancaster.”
“Ethan, it’s one in the morning.”
“Please Dan, take me to see him now, please.”
I drove to the cemetery and walked with Ethan to Billy’s grave.
“I don’t even know where my parents are buried or even if they were buried,” he said. He pointed the flashlight at the headstone and read it. In the reflected light Ethan’s tears concentrated the starlight as they rolled down his cheeks. I took a step back to give him some privacy.
“Billy, I’m sorry if I’m disturbing you,” Ethan said. “I’m not sure if you were asleep, but anyway I wanted to thank you for the gifts from you and your best friend who loved you. I’m sorry you two had to part on his birthday or really anytime. I lost my parents so I kind of know how he must feel right now. I guess you feel that way too.”
“Well, maybe you could ask around for Sandra and David Lewis – they are my parents and I’m sure they’d like to know you and also Mrs. Madeline Olsen. She’s Dan’s wife and he is my best friend. Someday maybe I could meet the boy who loved you and we could become best friends. Maybe it would help take away the pain he’s feeling now. Thank you again …I’ll come back to see you…” Ethan’s voice drifted to silence. He turned and took my hand. Neither of us spoke during the trip home.
Of all the gifts, Ethan’s favorite was a pair of inline skates. They came with pads that Ethan thought were “cool.” I had a full-face motorcycle helmet, and I insisted that he wear that, too.
He gave me a wry smile. I helped him down the steps and he took off skating.
Ethan spent a lot of time skating that summer. I hardly saw him but right before school starts I saw him sitting on the steps to the apartment building.
He seemed a bit withdrawn. “Is something troubling you?” I asked.
He shrugged his shoulders, “I don’t know…no…yeah,” he sighed.
“Come on let’s talk it out,” I said as I motioned him to follow me. Once seated comfortably in the living room I said, “Okay, so what is it?”
“I know boys are supposed to like girls – that’s normal, right?”
“Yeah,” I said.
Ethan looked down and softly said, “I don’t think I’m normal. I…”
I waited for him to gather his thoughts together.
Ethan looked away from me for several moments saying nothing and then still looking away from me he began speak, “The other guys were really rude and nasty to them and called them names. Some of the words they used I didn’t know what they meant so I looked them up at the library…”
He looked back at me. We were silent for a while.
“And?” I said.
His eyes started to water and the water spilled over and ran down his face. I crossed the room and he looked up. “I…I’m gay.”
I pulled him up to me and hugged him. He cried.
“Whenever I think of not being alone any more…of having someone my age to love who will love me, it’s always a boy…it’s always the boy who wrote me the note…but…but I don’t even know who he is or where he is or what he even looks like…I visit Billy’s grave and wait for him to show up but he never comes and I don’t know where to find him.”
I didn’t know how to answer him so; I just held him close and tried to comfort him.
Have you ever met an angel? I have. In human form, he appears to be a boy named Ethan Lewis. When I first saw him, I thought he was a human boy. As I learned more about him, I became convinced that he was an angel. To know Ethan is to know love. Oh, my, nothing to do with Eros or Dionysus; no, no, nothing that common. Rather, it is agape; it is Apollonian; it is pure.
I? I am a mortal. I am a mortal who has been a librarian for forty years. Very little has changed—other than a decline in the standards and tastes of the reading public—in those forty years. Very little of note or interest happens in the library. Therefore, it was something of an event when I found a little boy in the stacks, crying.
“What’s the matter, young man?” I asked.
“I’ve been all the way from there to here and I can’t find a single book I can understand,” he said. He sniffled every few words. I pulled a tissue from my sleeve. He gave me a wan smile as he took it. I was pleasantly surprised when he turned his head to blow his nose.
It took all that I had not to smile and upset him further. It was no wonder he couldn’t understand any of these books. He was standing in the legal reference section.
When he had composed his features, I took him to the Children’s Section. “These books are for grades K through 6,” I said. “The reading level is on the spine. See? Here’s a K, and the others have the grade numbers 1 through 6.”
The boy nodded, and scanned the shelf. The first book he pulled out was ‘A Wrinkle in Time’. He looked at me and then back at the book. Try as he might he couldn’t stop a laugh from escaping
In between giggles, he tried to apologize; however, the giggles won.
I was not embarrassed by my wrinkles. I’d earned every one. In any case, they are not wrinkles. They are laugh lines. However, to save him embarrassment, I pointed to one of the tables in the Children’s Section, and invited him to read the book. “Let me know if you want any help,” I offered.
“Yes ma’am,” he said. “Thank you.”
He sat at the table while I went about my work. At eight fifty five, I realized that the boy was still in the library. He had been so quiet, I had not noticed.
“Excuse me, young man. We close in five minutes”.
“Oh, I didn’t realize how late it was. I’ll just put the book back and be on my way. It is a great story. I am so worried about Charles Wallace, though. I’m just on the Chapter called ‘IT’”, he said as he placed the book on the shelf And in the correct spot, I thought.
“My goodness,” I said. “You’re more than half-way through. You’re a very fast reader.”
“Oh, yes ma’am. Pardon me ma’am, but what time does the library open on Saturday?” he asked.
“We open at ten on Saturday morning, and at one on Sunday afternoon. We close at six both days. Do you have a library card?”
“Oh, no ma’am. My grandfather says he won’t get one for me because I loose things or I’d forget to bring them back on the due date. Then he would have to pay the fines. I have to go now. Thank you very much, I shall be here tomorrow. Goodnight,” he said, and off he went.
The next morning was Saturday. Ethan arrived only minutes after the library opened.
As he passed by my desk he stopped, turned to me and said, “Good Morning, Ms.- um,” he looked at my name plate on the desk, “Ms. Emily Pearson. It’s nice to see you again.”
“Why, thank you – I’m sorry I didn’t ask your name,” I said.
“I’m Ethan Lewis.”
“Well, then good morning to you, Ethan Lewis.”
“Thank you. I am going to finish reading the book. Um, Ms. Pearson, am I allowed to use those computers?” he asked.
“Yes, just let me know when you are ready, and I’ll show you how to sign in and use the programs,” I told him.
“Thank you, ma’am,” he said. He went to the Children’s Section and found his book. For the rest of the morning, he read quietly.
As the days and weeks passed, I found that I could set a clock by Ethan. On weekdays, he would arrive promptly at 4:00 PM, and leave just as promptly at 8:00 PM. I was concerned that he was alone on the street that late at night. When I mentioned this to Ethan, he assured me that he went straight home.
“It’s only a few minutes away, just past the police station.”
Ethan always spoke to me when he came into the library. The day he didn’t, I knew something was wrong. I watched him walk through the Children’s Section, dragging a finger along the spines of the books, but not looking at them. This was so out of character, I felt I had to say something.
The only strange thing about his letters was there was never a return address. I asked a co-worker to find out Ethan’s address so I could reply to his letters. She told me Ethan said his grandfather used a post office box, but that he could never remember the number and that he asked that I send the reply to my co worker.
It was a reasonable answer, but it was not logical. Ethan was very clever with numbers. He told me that he could add the prices of items and calculate the sales tax in his head faster than the cashiers at his grandfather’s deli. He said that he would race the two women—Carol and Dorothy, as I remember. It was not likely that he couldn’t remember something as simple as a post office box number. I let it pass; later, I would wish that I had not.
On my first day back at the library, Ethan came in at 4:00. Right on time, I thought. And I’m so glad to see him. His welcome was the most effusive I had received. It was also a bit comical. His voice was changing from a child’s soprano to a teen’s alto, but was still making up its mind, if that’s a proper way to say it. Moreover, he had grown. He was several inches taller than I remembered, but he was still quite handsome. He was what my generation would have called a real heartbreaker.
“I’ve developed a nasty habit according to the twins,” he said. “I think I wrote you about the twins, Ely and Nathan. Every day we go roller blading at the skate park and every day at 3:30 I leave the skate park and come here. It seems this nasty habit is reading. I’ve tried to get them to come here with me but they say it would be like being back in school.”
“Well, I think it a very good habit, Ethan,” I told him.
The following year in September, I remember, because school had started, and our workload had increased as more and more youngsters came in looking for help with homework, themes, science projects, and college applications. Ethan seemed unhappy, even despondent. I sat beside him at the computer, and asked, “Ethan, is there anything troubling you? You have seemed rather sad recently,” I said.
“No, ma’am. It’s just some stuff I have to figure out for myself,” he said.
“May I ask you a personal question?”
“Yes, ma’am, but I can’t promise to answer,” he replied.
It was with some trepidation that I continued. The question was very personal. I was sure, however, that it was the right question. I had observed Ethan for over several years. I was sure that the question had to be asked. I knew that it might cause me to lose Ethan. “Ethan, is your sexual orientation causing you problems?”
Ethan cringed. He looked away. He looked back at me, and then looked away again. He looked at me. He had decided to answer. He said, in a whisper, “Yes, Ms. Pearson. Am I that obvious?”
“Not to the untrained eye. You see, my nephew, Tony, is gay. He’s in his mid-twenties now and has a partner who is a wonderful young man. Tony lived with me until he graduated from college.
“It’s more than just that, though, is it not?” I asked.
“E and Nate, I mean Ely and Nathan, the twins, I have a disagreement with them. On Monday they told me this boy they know is a ‘fag’ – that was the word they used. I told them they shouldn’t use that word. They laughed and called him a… bad name.” Ethan sighed, “I asked them how they knew that and they said everyone knows he is. The boy came up to them on Monday and said ‘Hey guys, what’s up’ their answer and their attitude were so hurtful that the boy left crying. They thought it was laughable.
Is that the way they are going to treat me when they find out I’m gay?”
A few tears rolled down his cheeks. “I didn’t say anything. I just said it wasn’t a nice thing to do. They didn’t care. I decided I didn’t care about them, either and I told Carol, their mom, that I couldn’t watch them anymore because I had other things I have to do. I couldn’t tell her the truth. And besides they’re twelve. They’re old enough to look after themselves. I looked after them when I was just eleven!”
Ethan continued. “I thought of talking to Dan about this because all his kids are gay. But I seem to always go to him with my problems and well, he doesn’t need me adding to his worries.”
“Dan?” I asked.
“My grandfather. Dorothy says he’s got high blood pressure. Dorothy is one of the ladies I work with at the store.” Ethan paused and looked at me. “The thing is I love them. They’re like my little brothers. Are they going to hate me when they find out?” Ethan began to cry. He stopped after a moment, and said, “I think I’ll go talk with Billy tomorrow. I always feel better after I talk with him. Thanks, Ms. Pearson.”
After Ethan left, I thought about what he had said. Here was a fine mystery. First, his grandfather’s children were all gay, yet both his mother and father died in a plane crash. Second, Ethan couldn’t remember his grandfather’s post office box number. Conclusion: Ethan was harboring a secret. It was a secret that called to me. First, though, I had to talk to Ethan’s grandfather.
I put together clues. The apartment and deli were ten minutes from the library. They were past the police station, and likely on the same street as the library. A brief stroll one day at lunchtime, and I found the deli.
When I walked through the shop to the deli, I got the surprise of my life. Standing behind the deli counter was Dan Olsen, the foster father of my nephew’s partner. I had known Dan for years but had lost touch. I had heard from Jorge that his father had a deli but never bothered to ask where it was located.
“Dan?” I said, “Dan Olsen!”
“Emily, how nice to see you! And to what do I owe the pleasure of your company?” he asked.
I came straight to the point. “It’s about your grandson.”
“My what? My grandson? What is Tony pregnant?” He laughed.
“No, Ethan,” I said.
“Ethan? Ethan Lewis?” he asked.
“Yes. Ethan. He’s not your grandson, is he?”
“No, but Jorge is drawing up papers to make me Ethan’s guardian,” replied Dan, “He’s not in trouble is he?”
“Heaven sakes, no. He just seemed a bit down this week and I thought maybe he could talk with Tony and Jorge.”
“Ah, tell you what. Have you had lunch?” he asked.
“No, not yet,” I replied.
“Good, I know a nice little Italian restaurant a couple of blocks from here. Would you be my guest?”
“I’d love that.”
We were seated in a booth which gave us some privacy. After we ordered, I asked, “What private school does Ethan attend? He’s extremely smart and very gifted.”
“Yes I know he’s very smart and he loves school…wait a minute! That little scoundrel!” Dan exclaimed. Then he started laughing.
“Excuse me, but love is truly blind,” Dan chuckled, “He told you he went to a private school, right?”
“When did you first meet Ethan?” Dan asked.
“When he was eleven. He told me he went to a private school,” I replied.
“Did he say it’s a private school or my school is private?” asked Dan.
“I don’t remember, but why should that matter?” I asked.
“Ethan hates lying, so he misdirects. He chooses his words to make you think one thing while he means another. Ethan never said he goes to a private school. He told me his school is private meaning it’s his own personal business – I am sure that’s what he meant. I never twigged on that until now. Emily he has never been to school here. He couldn’t have. He’s a runaway from the foster care system, not from his own parents. His parents died in a plane crash.”
“But, Dan, he should be in school! How long have you known he was a runaway?” I asked I was quite upset.
“Two years! You should have-“
“Turned him over to child services?” he asked.
“Emily that is the last thing I would have done. Think back two years. Ethan was a beautiful boy emerging into a beautiful young man who was just beginning to realize he was gay. Throw him into a system that only pretends to care? I think not! I love that boy. I’ve loved him since the day he came into my store. As far as his education, I’ll admit it he definitely had the wool pulled over my eyes and I never even questioned it. Do you want to know why?”
I nodded again.
“Because the person he loved talking about most was his teacher. I think if he weren’t gay he would have asked her to marry him.” He smiled and then chuckled. “I remember the first reading assignment his teacher gave him. He told me he was embarrassed because she was kind of old and had some wrinkles and the book she assigned him was called ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ and it made him laugh.”
I was dumbfounded. “But that…”
“That was the book that his teacher, Ms. Pearson, assigned him to read. I wondered about the name, but remembered that you were a librarian, not a teacher, and thought nothing more about it. It’s clear to me now that you are his beloved teacher. You gave him a thirst for knowledge; you critiqued his essays, short stories and poems; you showed him how to use the computer and you bent the rules on how long he could stay on the computer. And I agree with Ethan that you are the best teacher in the world.”
Our food came and for a while, we ate in silence. I realized how much Dan was in love with this boy. I couldn’t blame him for that. I had unknowingly been Ethan’s teacher for all these years. Over the course of time, I had fallen in love with him, too.
Ethan was upset, this morning, because he has cut himself off from the twins—boys he thought of as his little brothers. “Dan,” I hesitated. “Ethan is afraid that when the twins find out he’s gay, they’ll hate him.”
“Oh, I didn’t know that.” Dan looked sad? Shocked? Certainly, upset. “I only knew that Carol, the twins’ mom, was upset that he wasn’t babysitting them anymore – supposedly because he has too much homework and his grades are falling. Of course, we know that isn’t the case,” Dan said.
“Emily, Ethan is a remarkable boy, gifted. But, he’s very secretive about his life. If he’s cut himself off from the twins, then he has no other friends. He doesn’t make friends because he’s afraid nosy parents will learn too much about him, and put him back in the system.”
“What about Billy?” I asked.
“Yes, he told me he was going to talk to Billy. He told me he often talks to Billy when he has problems he needs to sort out.”
“Well it wouldn’t be my Billy; he would have mentioned it to me,” Dan said. After a moment’s thought, Dan looked thoughtfully at me, “The only other Billy… oh, my, of course, it must be.”
“What?” I asked.
“Billy Lancaster, it must be Billy Lancaster.”
“Who is Billy Lancaster?”
“Billy was a boy who was killed just before Maddie’s birthday. I was visiting Maddie and I saw a boy about Ethan’s age crying at a grave. When the boy left, he left behind four bags of birthday gifts and a note. Billy Lancaster was the dead boy; the boy who was crying had been Billy’s best friend. I put the note and gifts on Ethan’s bed. At two in the morning Ethan woke me up and demanded I take him to see Billy. I did.
“Ethan is terrified of something that happened in his past. I’ve never been able to get him to talk about it. However, this has gone on too long. He needs to have friends his own age,” Dan said.
“I agree. He has a past and maybe Tony can find out some information. It might be helpful to Jorge too.”
“I agree,” Dan said.
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