Nick found Oggie on the porch talking to Sharon. "Pa, you got a minute?"
"Sure son. Sounds serious. What is it?"
Looking at Ms Sharon, "Well, I didn't want to disturb you if you two were talking or anything. I mean, it can wait."
Sharon smiled, acknowledging that this was man talk. "You know, it's about time for me to get dinner started. Will you guys excuse me?" Nick smiled and touched the brim of his hat as she stood and walked back into the house.
Oggie looked at Nick. "Want to walk? Walking always helps me think."
"Sure," Nick said, hands in his pockets and they started to walk up the meadow towards the escape. They walked for a good ten minutes in silence before the next word was said.
"Pa," he said and then went quiet again. After a minute or two Oggie stopped him.
"Son, whatever it is you have to say is gnawing on you something terrible. Best you spit it out before you choke on it."
"That's what I love about you Pa. You like to get right down to it. I . . . well, I just don't know how to say it right."
Oggie stopped him by putting his hand on his shoulder causing Nick to stop and turn towards him. His eyes were still towards the ground, he couldn't look Oggie in the eye. "You have the look of someone who isn't very proud of themselves right now. That's not a look I'm used to seeing on your face. Whatever it is son, let's get it out on the table and we'll beat the hell out of it together."
Nick bit down on his lip for a second before he blurted it out. "I kissed Troy." He paused for a second. "Well, actually, I let him kiss me. But I didn't stop him."
"I see." Oggie said, pulling Nick close to him and walking on towards the tree marking the place where they would stop and talk. Oggie was thinking about what he said.
"Is that all you have to say is 'I see'?"
"For the moment," Oggie said, quietly. "There's a lot more to the story that I haven't heard yet. Like why and how and what this means to you."
"Well that's just it Pa, I feel just awful about it."
"Good." Oggie said, firm and resolute. That caused Nick to snap his head towards Oggie. Oggie returned the look with the same resolution. "Have you talked to Ty about it?"
"He rode up just as it happened. We talked. He said he didn't care if I had sex with other boys as long as it was his lips I was kissing at night. He said that because we were young there would be a lot of guys that I would want to have sex with and that would want to have sex with me. He said that sex and love wasn't the same thing. He said he had sex with a lot of people and some were good and some were bad but he didn't love any of them. He only loved me." The tears trickled down his cheek. Oggie brought him in to a hug as his tears flowed. He stopped after a bit.
"Pa, I love Ty more than anything on earth. So why do I have these feelings, these urges for other guys? I mean, if I really loved Ty, I wouldn't have them right?"
"Nick, it's normal to have urges and feelings about people. In some ways, it's even biological. Pheromones and posturing and such. We are the top of the food chain Nick, but we are still animals and subject to the biology of mammals. We are driven to procreate.”
“What makes us different than animals is how we act on those feelings. So having those feelings has nothing to do with who you love. Love is an emotional bond that you choose to make with someone that you trust enough with your inner most secrets. It's choosing someone to complete you and your life. Like I said before, you guys are awful young to even know what that kind of love is at the moment. It's more than just feeling strong feelings like you can't live without someone. No, love is a lot more." He paused for a second before continuing.
“I thought long and hard about your relationship with Ty. I knew you both had strong feelings about each other. I can see it in the way you hold each other, kiss each other. I wondered if it was even right to let you two get so close because you were so young. So I asked myself, 'When, at what age, do you know what true love is?' My answer surprised myself. Today, you know what love is to your level of understanding. And for that level you know what true love is. As you grow, that level will change. Hopefully, your love for Ty will grow to meet the new level of awareness. If it doesn't, then you will both have decisions to make.”
"Ty told me that he thought our relationship would stand a better chance of surviving if I felt I was able to experience other lovers without guilt. I asked him why I felt so bad then and you know what he said? He said that may be an Oggie question. He was right. You always know how to explain things so I'll understand them. I always figured when I found that special person that all the rest shut down for anyone else. Were you ever tempted by someone else with mom?"
"Sure, plenty of times."
"What did you do?"
"I went home and made wild and passionate love to the woman I loved." He smiled, remembering, "Your mom was pretty smart too. She'd ask me, 'Was she cute?' and I'd say, 'What?' all innocent. She'd laugh and say, ‘The one that made you so horny tonight.' " He paused for a minute. “Nick, I really loved your mom. Nothing will ever replace that memory. But I have something to ask ya."
"Ms. Sharon?" Nick asked, a smile on his face.
Oggie just smiled a wide smile. "Would that be alright with you?"
"I think it would be great," his smile ear to ear. He thought a moment or two. "I worry about you Pa. It's been a long time. You get all wrapped up in your work, but sometimes I see the loneliness in your eyes. Why haven't you like, dated or something?"
Oggie stood looking out over the vast valley below. "A number of reasons. The first of which was really simple. I never stopped loving your mom."
"Mom's been gone for eight years now Pa."
"No, she hasn't. I see her every time I look at you. She's in your smile, your eyes and you've got that cute little nose of hers." Oggie looked away as his tears welled up.
"I'm sorry if I make you sad Pa."
"No son, you don't make me sad. You make me feel like she is still here. Her love lives on through you."
"I think mom would have really like Ms Sharon. I think she is the kind of woman that mom would have picked for you if she could."
"Thanks son, come on. They're probably holding dinner on us by now."
"No," Michael said, speaking louder as if that added clarity. "You have to listen. 'Sooo' he said exaggerating the 'o' sound".
"Zoooe" Dominique responded in kind, the two boys sitting cross-legged, knee to knee in the living room.
"Uh, ya, okay, we’re not so good with that one. Let's try an easy one, rabbit."
"Rrrrrrabbit," he said, rolling his r's.
"No, rab bit!"
"Rrrrrab bit!" Michael just raised an eyebrow. "What? Iz it not ze zame? End vas is rrrrrabbit? "
Michael put two fingers up behind his head, scrunched up his nose and tried to make his teeth look like they were buck teeth. "Oh yez, lapin! We have this also. So it is rrrrrrab-bit?"
Michael smiled. "Actually, I think I like the way you do it better. That thing you do with your r's, it's pretty sexy. Can you teach me to do that?"
"Hey, they're back!" Cory said, looking out the window.
"Good, let's get cleaned up for dinner everyone." Ms Sharon said, setting the fresh bread on the table. "Cory and Michael, why don't you show Dominique where he can wash his hands and maybe give him a towel. He may be from the naked city, but this isn't the naked dining room and you boys find some clothes for dinner too."
"Oh, alwayz vee are clothed vor zee dining."
"Good, then we have something in common. Get some clothes on and you can get naked again right after dinner. I promise." Everyone giggled as they made their way up the stairs. Oggie and Nick came in sniffing the air as if they hadn't eaten in a month of Sundays. A roast has a very specific smell, one that causes extreme salivation in a teen at fifty yards. Add fresh bread and you have a dangerous combination.
"That smells delicious!" Oggie said, stepping into Ms Sharon's arms.
She slipped her hands around his waist and smiled, "You boys have a good talk?"
"Ya, we did, thanks." Oggie leaned in and kissed her lightly as he then side stepped her lifting the lid on the roasting pan for a sniff before giving in to temptation and snagging a stray potato.
"Hey! Go wash up, we're waiting for you!" she said, grabbing a large spoon ready to whack him if he didn't move.
"Yes ma’am!" Oggie said as he made a hasty retreat. "Nick, you better get washed up for dinner too." But Nick was standing, leaning on the banister, looking up at Ty.
Ty was sitting on the steps in the shadows, looking down at Nick, hoping for some sign of Nick's mood. Nick walked up the steps slowly until he reached Ty and he held out his hand which Ty took and followed him upstairs. They went into their room and closed the door. Nick turned to Ty and kissed him like it was the first time. "What do you say we go stuff as much of that roast into us as we can and then maybe turn in early?" Nick's gaze spoke volumes to Ty and it was evident, as his eyes regained that wet sparkle that Nick cherished so much. Ty turned into an instant toothpaste commercial as his face took on that incurable smile. Nick studied Ty for a moment, "Screw the roast," and he pulled Ty into a squirming embrace and started kissing his neck savagely.
In between giggles and squirms Ty managed to get out, "Nick! It's roast beast with chocolate potatoes! And hot bread. I've never had hot bread." Nick paused for a second then looked Ty in the eyes.
"Well, I wasn't sure what it came from."
Nick's smile overflowed from his face into a giggle that fulminated into a laugh. "I love you so much," Nick said, pulling Ty by the hand. "Come on, we better get some roast beast before it's all gone."
"Oh, Ms. Sharon, this is incredible! Why this . . . this is better than steak!" Ty said, shoveling another potato in his smiling fuel trough. Nick just looked at Oggie as both sneaked another piece of beef onto their plates knowing that Ty was about to make short work of it.
"I love how cooking the potatoes picks up that wonderful chocolaty brown color and that exquisite beefy flavor." Jean-Claude mumbled in between bites. "And you are not married, Ms. Sharon?" He barely glanced up at her as he cut another piece.
She started to speak when Nick cut her off abruptly with almost a sneer. "She's spoken for already."
Everyone looked at Nick. Ms Sharon looked at Jean-Claude. "Thank you for the compliment. I think what Nick was trying to say is that Oggie and I have been seeing each other for a very long time and have become very close."
Oggie smiled at Ms Sharon as he echoed, "Very close."
Jean-Claude glanced at the two of them and then at the furrowed brow which Nick still maintained as he blotted his mouth gently with the napkin. "Yes, uh, please, I didn't mean to be so familiar. I'm sorry if the question was improper."
"No, not at all Jean-Claude. I took it as quite a compliment coming from a young gentleman as handsome as yourself." She smiled, knowing she just told him he was a child. She smiled, "Oggie?" she smiled at him, "more coffee, love?"
"I'd love some, thank you. Can I help you get it?" he asked, grabbing his cup and walking into the kitchen.
"So, Jean-Claude," Karen said, sipping her coffee. “Have you had a chance yet to see Ty's drawings yet?"
"Yes, I have seen some of them and you are right, he is very talented. I think it is a marvelous opportunity for both of us. He is untrained so he is a blank canvas for me as well. I am very curious to see his vision in different disciplines. Some people are savant only in one area. It will be exciting to see if I am able to bring out a creative side to his work. His cognitive replication abilities are superb. I want to see if he is able to create magic from his mind and if so, in what medium would he be most expressive in."
Ty looked at him with a raised eyebrow and he had even stopped chewing. "What does that mean, cognitive replication?"
"It means, my dear boy, that you can take a snapshot of a scene before you and recreate it in every detail. But I want to see if I can find a spark inside you that will make a scene from nothing. I want to see if you can create substance in detail from something totally made up in your mind, something that you have never seen because it doesn't exist anywhere in reality."
"Sounds hard. I don't know if I could do that."
"Perhaps, but in this there is no right or wrong. It is about stretching and seeing where your talent is and where you excel! It is the excitement of the chase as much as it is the achievement.”
"Tell me Ty, what got you started drawing?"
"Ah! The masters. Do you have a favorite painting?"
"Uh, he didn't paint anything. But he did do some pretty cool tats."
"I am confused. Van Gogh did many paintings. What are tats?"
Nick laughed, "Ty, Van Gogh is a famous artist from ancient times. Mr. Jean-Claude, I think Ty was talking about another Van Gogh."
"Ya, they called him Van-go because he was doing eight years for stealing vans and he also did great tattoos. I did the artwork for his customers. They'd have a girlfriend come to see them in visitation and I'd walk by and take a look then draw her. From there Van-Go would do the ink and make them look good on people's arms and backs."
"Ah! tatouages! Yes, now I understand. You worked in the prison then?"
"Uh, no," Ty looked down as he stirred his food around a bit on his plate. "I was incarcerated."
The room got quiet for a moment until Nick spoke.
"Mr. Jean-Claude, my uncle, the judge, put him in jail twice and was wrong in doing so both times. He said so himself. Ty was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. All that has been erased now and no record of it exists. Now it's just a bad memory."
"Yes, of course. Ty, forgive me, I did not know. But now that I do, I have many things to show you. We shall start first thing in the morning." He looked at Ty still staring at his food and reached over and lifted his chin to make him look at him. "Ty, the brush and the canvas care not who strokes them. Many of our greatest masters were in prison for their debts! You will not be judged by your past, but by your creations, so enough sadness. You are an artist and are about to embark on a journey you will never tire of."
The moment was broken with the re-entry of Oggie and Ms Sharon. "How about some cheesecake?" Ms. Sharon said, bringing a tray of deserts and Oggie, a tray of drinks and coffee.
Sharon passed plates of cheesecake around and one landed in front of Ty. It was covered in strawberries and blueberries. He leaned in and sniffed it as everyone dove in and sipped coffee and milk. Ty took his fork and sliced off the gooey point and slipped it into his mouth and started chewing and froze mid-chew. Yummy noises suddenly emanated from his tightly chewing lips. It appeared that his lips were not going to be done with it for a while and his eyes sparkled that, "Oh my God, this is as good as steak, only different." He looked at Nick and Nick understood.
Ty set his fork down and slid his chair back. Walking around to Ms. Sharon, he leaned in and kissed her on the cheek and whispered, "Your food alone could make me like girls again, just so I could chase you." She smiled and he returned to his seat and commenced devouring the cheesecake, making ‘Yummy’ sounds all the way.
Nick leaned in and whispered, "Let me guess, a first for you?"
Ty smiled, the strawberry glaze on his lips. Nick couldn't resist leaning in and kissing him, stealing the strawberry glaze for himself. Ty blushed until he realized he'd just been robbed.
"Hey, give that back!" Ty leaned in and kissed Nick deeply until he heard a throat being cleared.
Ty broke away, looking back to see everyone grinning, "He stole my strawberry juice. I was just getting it back." His blush was now matching the strawberry glaze left on his chin until Nick wiped it off with his thumb and then licked it off the digit. Ty Froze, "You did it again. I was saving that for later!"
"No worries, I'll give you a chance to get it back again later," his smirk making his intent plain to everyone at the table.
"Youz two are verry much vun to watch," Dominique chimed in. “Mz. Sharon, this dinner was fantastic. The desert is fantastic, but a little too zweet for me. I am not used to zuch sweet deserts, but the flavor is magnifique!"
Ty rose to his feet, looking sternly at Dominique. "In this country, it is not legal to leave deserts uneaten!" Leaning over, he took the plate from in front of Dominique and setting in down in front of himself. "Here, I shall help you maintain your honor." He dove in, scooped up a large piece, and popped it in his mouth as the table broke into a chorus of laughter.
A huge yawn by Dominique reminded him that his body was on Paris time. "I am afraid that it is early in the morning in my mind and I have been up all night. I think I muzt zleep. Thank you for a most wonderful welcome and zee food was fantastic. Perhapz Troy would help me vind my bed. I do not know which is not open vor me."
"Yes!" Troy looked around at the raised eyebrows, "I mean, sure, I'd be happy to help," he said, blushing as he stood and walked towards the door. As they exited, Cory and Michael and Nick and Ty broke into laughter mocking Troy as they pulled a fist out of the air screaming, "Yes!" and laughing some more.
Nick looked at Ty. "Perhapz soo vill elp me to vind my place? I zeem to be on Paris time."
Ty responded, "Zertainly!" As Nick turned towards the steps, Ty pulled a fist from the air, "Yes!" and the room broke into laughter once again. Cory and Michael excused themselves and left for a walk, figuring they would give Troy and Dominique a little privacy. Karen turned to Jean-Claude, "You must be tired also, want to walk me back to my motorhome?"
Extending his arm for her to wrap herself around he smiled and thanking Ms. Sharon once again, headed for the door.
"Well, this just leaves you and me." Oggie said, smiling at Ms. Sharon. “A little late to be headed down the mountain. What do you say to me and you putting the dishes in the dishwasher and then maybe I can chase you around the bedroom a few times?"
Ms Sharon stood up and pulling a fist from the air said, "Yes!"
"Hey Oggie, about having fun, I don't think that an Indian raid will do anything towards international relations. We're trying to get away from that stereotype, but, how about this? We need to have the naming ceremony for Ty. Grandfather is getting tired and wants the naming ceremony for Ty soon. Could we invite your guest to a sacred ceremony instead? This is not something done lightly. When we are done, your family's blood will be considered Tellecaho Indian."
"Sure Cheytan. Just say when."
"How about the day after tomorrow, seven o'clock, here at the settlement. You, Nick and Ty and your two guests."
"I think Sharon may want to be there for this, if it's alright. Cheytan, I haven't told the boys yet but I've asked her to marry me."
"Well congratulations, Ogg! That's great. She is quite a woman. Of course she should be there. But Og, I should let you know that Grandfather is very tired. So let's try not to have to reschedule this if you know what I mean."
"Cheytan, are you saying that grandfather is dying?"
"Oggie, from the moment of birth we are all dying. But his journey is close to being finished here, yes. Then he will walk a different path. We don't grieve over a life that should be celebrated, and this last thing he wants to do is very important to him."
"Yes Cheytan, we'll be there. Thank you for this wonderful gift."
"It is a gift from Grandfather. If it was up to me, we'd be burning the wagons and sending all the white folk back to the other side of the Mississippi. But hey, I'm not in charge."
"Cheytan, I never knew you felt that way."
"You still don't. I was just kidding. See you guys the day after tomorrow then?"
"Count on it. We'll be there."
"Good morning sunshine," Oggie said as he set a cup of coffee on the bed stand and leaned over and kissed Sharon on the forehead.
"Hey, a girl could get used to this."
"Good, then it's working."
"You goofball. You know I have to make my way down the hill today. There are a ton of bills that are waiting to be paid and I have to do the orders or there will be no food in the hotel to feed the guests."
"Okay, but you have to be back here the morning after."
"Why, what's going on?"
"Come on down to breakfast and I'll fill you in with everyone else."
"You sound pretty serious."
"It is. It is both good and bad. but it is serious. See you downstairs? I have the boys making breakfast."
"I'll be right there. Just let me put my face on."
Oggie smiled, "I sorta like the one I'm seeing right now just fine."
"I'll make an eye appointment for you when I get to the bottom of the hill."
"Nick, you outdid yourself. These omelets are awesome!" Ms. Sharon said as she took her first bite.
"Thanks, but I did the toast and orange juice. Ty did the omelets."
"Really? Ty these are awesome. I'll have to put your butt to work in the kitchen the next time you visit the hotel."
"Thanks! You really like them? Nick showed me how. This was my first time."
"These are awesome. The toast and coffee are great too. You guys do alright in the kitchen."
"So, Oggie, what's this important announcement?"
"Uh, ya, well, Cheytan called me this morning. Seems there is to be a naming ceremony for Ty the day after tomorrow at the settlement. It appears that this is a really big thing, as afterward we will all be considered Tellecaho Indians. It isn't done very often and this is a huge thing. Everyone is invited."
"That's great! I didn't think he really meant it. I mean, like, you know, I thought it was like kid stuff." Ty chimed in, beaming his brilliantly white smile.
"It is very serious and very important. And Ty, you should also know that Grandfather requested it because he is very tired. I think he is dying."
Ty's smile vanished. "If he's sick then why are we doing this? He should be in bed, resting."
"No, that isn't how they do it. And besides, grandfather wants to do this. It is very important to him and it's no little thing. Our names will be entered into the tribal membership and our children's children will always be members of the tribe. This is a huge thing and should not be taken lightly."
"So why do you say I have to be back? I mean, I'd love to be there, but Oggie, I haven't been at the hotel in almost a week. The place will be falling apart."
Oggie smiled. "Well, I mentioned to Cheytan that I asked you to marry me and he said you should be there."
Nick and Ty looked at each other and smiled. Both got up and walked around to Ms. Sharon and each knelt on a side. "I know you said yes, right?" Nick asked quietly.
"Because that would be great," Ty added, grinning.
Ms. Sharon looked into the eyes of both boys. "Well, I said that we had to talk to you two first. I mean, visiting me at the hotel is one thing, but having me in your house every day would be like adding another person to boss you around. You boys sure you want that?"
"It means we both get a new mom out of it. Yeah, I'm good with that. How about you Ty?"
He thought for a moment as the water welled up in his eyes. He whispered, "Yeah, I think I'd like that a lot." He leaned up and kissed her on the cheek and hugged her as did Nick.
Sharon looked up at Oggie and smiled. "I guess we have to talk about some things."
Oggie excused himself and came back in with a box and opened it and placed it in front of her. Taking the ring from the box's velvety grip, he took Sharon's hand and slipped it on her finger. Looking at Ty with a look that said, ‘Give me some space kid’, stepped in and kissed her. Everyone cheered.
"Wow, Americans have much excitement everyday in their lives. When do you rest?" Dominique asked, grinning.
"Right after breakfast," Nick said, slyly.
"Yes, well, we have work to do and the morning light will not wait," Jean-Claude said. “And I will need the assistance of you, you and you," he said, pointing to Nick, Dominique and Troy. "So as soon as the dishes are cleared, you will all meet me behind the bunk house, yes? I have to go and make some adjustments to the area. Ty, when it is time, I want you to go into the bunk house and in my apartment you will find some picture books of art. Sit and look through those until I have things ready for you and then I will come and get you. Alright?"
"Do I need my sketch pad and pencils?"
"No, I will have everything ready for you when you come down.”
"Oggie I think I'll be heading back to San Diego later today. I have enjoyed it tremendously, but I confess to missing some of the niceties, like my extra deep bathtub and the view from my deck." Troy let out a sigh.
"Well Karen, my door is always open to you and Michael. We've really enjoyed having you here. Can we count on you to be here for lunch at least?"
"I think that would be perfect as long as you don't mind us eating and then running. It will put us home right about dusk. I have to stow a bunch of things for the trip and it will take a bit to get the out-rigging tucked away. Chuck will take care of all that of course."
"Yes, well, Chuck has been like a ghost through all this. Where has he been hiding anyways?"
"Chuck doesn't like to mix with my friends. He says it doesn't feel right. I tried to tell him that I'm not that way but he said he's more comfortable just sitting off to the side and burying himself in a good book, so I have just left him to it.”
"He says it’s one thing for his kid brother to mix with other kids but for the adults, he is a driver and should act professionally. That means being there when he is needed and invisible the rest of the time."
"Well, he has been missed and the next time I'll expect him to be part of the crowd and to enjoy himself."
"Thanks, but don't expect him to change. Chuck has always been a bit of a loner and never liked crowds. Even when he was a kid, he was allowed to invite as many kids to his birthday parties as he wanted but he never did more than two or three. He said it makes him nervous," Troy added.
"Well, as long as he is comfortable, then I guess we'll just leave him to it in his own way. After all, here everyone should feel free to be themselves."
"And on that note, I am a teacher and we need to get to class. So boys . . ." Jean-Claude said as he got up from the table.
They all started to carry their dishes into the kitchen. Troy was visibly upset.
"You alright?" Nick asked.
"Yeah, it just sucks. I hook up with a beautiful boy finally and then have to leave."
"Oh yeah, I didn't think about you having to go with her. You're right. That sucks. After we get done doing whatever it is that Jean-Claude has in mind for us, then maybe you and Dominique can sneak off for a bit."
"Yeah, that would be cool."