This story may occasionally include explicit depictions of sexual acts between consenting adult males. If you are underage or it is illegal to view this for any reason, consider yourself warned. If you find this material offensive, please leave.
This story is a work of fiction, and any resemblance to people, living or dead, is entire a coincidence. As the author, I retain all rights to this story, and it cannot be reproduced or published without explicit consent from me. This work is copyright © 2014 by Steven Wells.
I love to hear any feedback you have, be it positive or negative. Send me an email with any comments or questions at MaWriterBoy@yahoo.com.
John's Journey Forward
Noel and I carried the dishes to the table where we were going to serve the food. He and I called our guests into the dining area.
"Grab a plate. Grab some food. Noel and I will pour some more wine!" I informed our guests.
We sat, ate, and talked. Mom and Dad wanted to know about Noel's job and Terrance's plans after law school. When we had finished dessert, my mother decided to give me some advice. "John, Anthony. I just want to say something before we go home. I have enjoyed this evening immensely. Your father and I are looking forward to many more times like this with our wonderful sons and their partners. But, before you make any statements to your grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins, please let us do some leg work to help pave the way. We don't want you to be afraid to express yourselves and to live your lives with whomever you choose to do so. However, not everyone in this world will be accepting. We are not even certain about members of our family. All I am saying, is be careful!"
"In other words, mom," Anthony began. "We need to go slowly with the relatives who aren't as enlightened as the two of you!"
"That about sums it up," my father announced. "Now, we have an early morning tomorrow. We have Mass to attend, and a family lunch to deal with. Do any of you want to join us?"
"No," Anthony and I said in unison!
"I didn't think so," he added.
Chapter 08: The Last Ones Standing
The day after we spilled the news to my parents that Anthony and I were gay, Noel was in a sulky mood. I decided to find out why. "Noel, is something the matter? You don't seem to be yourself today."
"I was just thinking that I would like to have the nerve to tell my mother about me being gay and you being my boyfriend," Noel confided.
"And, how do you think you want to go about that bit of information exchange?" I asked a still somewhat nervous Noel.
"First, I need to talk to my brother Manuel," Noel decided. "At some point, I will need to tell Jorge before my mother. I don't want two people shocked that they have a gay relative."
"Maybe you and Manuel could talk to your brother together," I suggested.
"Probably a great idea," Noel agreed. "Maybe at Starbucks? Or should we tell him at Manuel and Kerry's house?"
"Your choice," I said to Noel.
"Why don't I start with Manuel?" Noel suggested. "I promised him I would give him an update of last night's festivities. So, I'll be killing two birds with one stone...! You know, John, we need to stop talking in clichés. If I did that at work, I would probably be fired on the spot!"
"We can work on that!" I effused. "I don't want an unemployed advertising executive as a boyfriend!"
Noel picked up his phone and called Manuel. He put it on speaker phone as he waited for his brother to answer.
"Hey, bro!" Manuel greeted his brother. "How did last night go?"
"Swimmingly!" Noel answered. "I have you on speaker phone so John can be part of this conversation."
"Cool!" Manuel continued. "I want all of the details!"
Noel and I filled Manuel on last night's festivities. Finally, Noel told his brother his intentions, "I would like to come out to our family as well. I am going to need your advice and maybe even your cooperation."
"Whatever you need, you know I'll be there for you," Manuel stated. "What is your plan?"
"First, I think I need to tell Jorge," Noel suggested. "I want him to be prepared for what might become an uncomfortable situation."
"Good plan so far," Manuel agreed. "When and where?"
"I was hoping sooner than later," Noel outlined his first step. "Maybe sometime this week after work at Starbucks or somewhere else neutral."
"Keep going," Manuel suggested. "Do you want me to be there?"
"I think I would like you there for moral support," Noel told Manuel. "I want John with me, too. He is the main reason, after all, that I am going to tell the world I am gay!"
"Good plan," Manuel responded. "Let me know when you and Jorge are planning on meeting. I will be there at the appointed time."
"Great!" Noel replied. "I will call Jorge and set up a time with him. Then, I'll call you with the details of the meeting."
"Sounds like a plan, bro!" Manuel said as the call was ended.
"Next will be to set up a meeting with Jorge," Noel outlined his plan as he found Jorge's phone number. Noel turned on the speaker phone after he dialed the number, "Hey, bro! How's it going?"
"Terrific!" Jorge said. "I have some time off work this week. I'm thinking of looking for an apartment somewhere. Any suggestions?"
"It depends on how much you want to pay," Noel added.
"As little as possible," Jorge responded. "But, even if it is a shoebox, I will be happier. Now that you are gone, I get most of the shit from our mother!"
"I'm sorry she is giving you grief," Noel told his brother. "I will check to see if there is something in this building. And, Manuel and I were wondering if you'd like to meet at the Starbucks in Central Square some evening this week. I'm busy on Tuesday. The rest of the week, I am free after about 6 pm."
"How about tomorrow evening?" Jorge suggested. "And, the reason for this pow-wow is?"
"A simple brotherly talk," Noel explained. "Besides, I want to introduce you to John, my roommate."
"Terrific!" Jorge replied. "I was wondering when I would get to meet the mystery roommate."
"Great! See you at Starbucks around 6 pm," Noel agreed. "I may even take you out to a CHEAP dinner if you have time."
"I'll always have time for a free meal, bro!" Jorge added. "You should know that about me by now!"
"I'm looking forward to seeing you," Noel said as he ended the call.
"Phase one is almost complete," Noel told me. He was smiling.
Noel and I grabbed a table by the window almost exactly at 6 pm in Starbucks. "I hope this goes well," Noel said to me. He looked a little nervous.
"Just relax, boyfriend," I told Noel. "Remember Mel's advice about your job interview: Just be yourself."
"Easy for you to say," Noel responded. "I am about to tell my youngest brother that I am into boys and not girls!"
We saw Manuel and Jorge on their way into the coffee shop. Noel stood to hug both of his brothers, "Jorge, this is my roommate John. John, my brother Jorge."
"His YOUNGER brother!" Jorge joked.
"Sit!" Noel ordered. "Coffee is on me! What do you guys want?"
"Medium, black, Pike," Jorge ordered.
"Same," Manuel agreed.
Once Noel returned with the four drinks, Noel began the conversation. "By the way, Jorge, John and I checked with the owner of our building. There is a studio on the second floor. And, it is a steal at only $900."
"Really?" Jorge enthused. "Why so cheap?"
"The building is not the Ritz. However, it is clean and well maintained," Noel explained. "Here is the owner's phone number. He is expecting a call from you. You can drop by and see our apartment tonight if you want."
"Cool!" Jorge responded. "Thanks guys! I could actually afford this! I was thinking I would need to get a second job to pay for the rent!"
"You might want to rethink having a slob like Jorge living in the building with you!" Manuel teased.
"I am NOT a slob!" Jorge responded. "My room is the cleanest one in the house right now. My mother has gotten even more relaxed about the cleaning routine, if you can believe it!"
"What does she do with her time?" Noel asked.
"She goes to work. She eats. She eats some more. She eats even more. She goes to bed," Jorge explained. "Of course, she repeats the process five days a week. Saturday and Sunday are dedicated to hanging out with her fellow religious fanatics!"
"Not good, huh?" Manuel added to the conversation. "If she keeps this routine up, she will be as big as a house and maybe even dead!"
"Maybe we should move on to a different topic," Noel suggested. "There is actually something I wanted to tell you, Jorge! So, if you will just listen for a few moments, I will be extremely grateful."
"Sure, bro!" Jorge said. He seemed to have a worried look on his face all of a sudden.
"I just wanted to say, Jorge, that I love you a lot," Noel started his explanation. "But, I need to explain my situation... I'm gay, and John is my boyfriend and not my roommate!"
Jorge sat there for a few short moments with a somewhat shocked look on his face. "Really?" he finally said.
"Yes, really," Noel told his brother. "I hope you can deal with this because I want you in my life. And, John will be part of my life from now on."
Suddenly a smile crossed Jorge's face, "Fucking yes! I thought for a moment you were going to ask me if I'm gay—which I am!"
"Shit! We should sell tickets to watch mom's reaction when you both tell her you are gay!" Manuel jokingly said. "I know Kerry and I want to be there!"
"Do you know how fucking relieved I am to know that: One, you both know I am gay. And, two, you are also gay, Noel!" Jorge managed to say. He was almost crying. "And, congratulations on snagging such a cute boyfriend, Noel! Do you have any gay brothers, John?"
"I do, but he is already spoken for," I told Jorge. "We should introduce you to our friend Mel. She will take it upon herself to find you a boyfriend if that is what you want!"
"Last question, and then I want to hear more about the two of you, Noel," Jorge continued.
"Shoot," Noel told his brother.
"When and where will the coming out party be held?" Jorge asked.
"I want to get this over with as soon as I can," Noel told the group. "I will certainly understand if you don't want to come out at the same time I do. But, I don't want to be afraid of our mother finding out John and I are in a relationship! And, I think John and I should have the ENTIRE family over for dinner. Are you guys free on Saturday evening? Say, around 7 pm?"
"Whenever and wherever you decide, I'm with you!" Jorge added. "I know there will be a lot of yelling and screaming, but I also know we will both feel a lot better about ourselves if we don't have this hanging over our heads."
"Kerry and I will be at your place a little early to help you get through the nervous phase," Manuel explained.
"Shall I call our mother now?" Noel asked.
"Sure," Jorge responded. "At least we can't back out if we have already set the date!"
Noel took out his phone, and took a deep breath before making the call to his mother, "Here goes...! Mom, hi! It's Noel. How are things at home?"
Noel listened for a few moments before he plunged forward, "I'm sorry you haven't liked the news of the gay marriage situation, mom. But, I really wanted to ask if you would like to join Manuel, Kerry, Jorge, my roommate John, and me at our place next Saturday for dinner."
Noel again listened for a few minutes, "Mom, I can hardly tell John that he isn't welcome in his own house so our family can be alone. Besides, I want you to meet him!"
Noel crossed his eyes as he again listened. We could almost hear his mother's voice becoming louder, "Mom, that's great. How about 7 pm this coming Saturday!"
He waited until his mother told him something else, "I promise we will keep it simple. Nothing extravagant!"
One last pause until Noel was finally able to end the conversation, "Thanks, mom! It will be great having everyone together again!"
"That's done!" Noel sighed. "I think we will all need a good stiff drink before the show starts!"
"I just thought of something horrible," Jorge spoke up. "I won't have an apartment by next Saturday! I would be dead if I had to go back to her home even to sleep."
"You can stay at our place in the guest room until you find a place," I told Noel's brother.
"Maybe you should secretly move a lot of your stuff to our house," Manuel suggested. "Just leave a few things so she won't be suspicious. And, if Noel and John get tired of you, you can always stay with Kerry and me."
Noel was nervous on Saturday as the dinner party neared its starting time. Jorge arrived at 6 pm, "If nothing else happens tonight, we can celebrate," Jorge explained after we had hugged. "I just signed the lease on the studio on the second floor a few hours ago. I take possession next weekend! So, you won't be stuck with me in your guest room for too long!"
"That's cool, bro!" Noel said with excitement. "Maybe that should be our first announcement!"
"I can do that!" Jorge agreed. "But, I suspect she will be wailing in agony as she realizes that all of her kids have left the fucking whacko nest of hers."
Manuel and Kerry arrived shortly after Jorge's announcement. They were as thrilled as we were for Jorge's good fortune.
"Now, let's have a drink before our guest of honor arrives," Noel suggested. "White or red wine?"
"How about a bourbon on the rocks?" Jorge asked.
"If that's what you want, sure!" Noel agreed. "But, don't get too smashed or our asses will be grass!"
"What is the schedule of events?" Kerry asked as we sat in the living room with our drinks.
"We will begin with appetizers and happy hour. We will follow that with Jorge's announcement. Dinner will be next. And, before we have dessert in the living room, we will drop the bombshell. That way we will not be starved, and there should not be any objects that could be thrown." Noel outlined his plans.
"I'll get the munchies," I offered. When I returned from the kitchen with the appetizers, the room was remarkably quiet. "Okay, what's the problem?"
"We are just a little apprehensive," Noel answered. "Manuel and Kerry's announcement that they were being married in a civil service at city hall went over like a lead balloon. So, we are, to say the least, a little gun shy!"
"What happened when you told your mother about the civil service?" I asked.
"She called me a slut," Kerry responded. "She was certain I had turned Manuel into a despicable, non-believer!"
"Just make certain there are plenty of donuts," Jorge said. "She will either eat them or throw them. If the latter happens, they are a soft weapon and will not do us any bodily harm."
"She can't be that bad!" I quip.
"John!" Manuel answered. "This is our mother. She could easily be certifiably mentally deficient if we were to take her to court. This is the same woman who insisted that a candidate for minister of her church be given a lie detector test before hiring him. So, all I am saying John, you haven't seen anything like this before. And, trust us, John! She is that bad!"
The doorbell rang. Noel and I went to answer the door.
"Hello, mom," Noel said as he opened the door. "Welcome to our home!"
"Hello, Mrs. Fernandez," I said holding out my hand. "I'm John Ramerez, Noel's roommate."
"Hello, Noel," A very large Mrs. Fernandez said as she pushed her way into the living room. "Noel told me your parents are Catholic, John. Is that true?"
"Yes," I answered. "Why? Is that a problem?"
"I'm sure that some in the Catholic Church mean well, but most true Christians don't worship idols and saints," Mrs. Fernandez explained.
When Noel's mother was almost through the entry hall, Kerry spoke up, "Excuse me! Don't you think you could refrain from criticizing John's family? He pays half of the rent here!"
At that point, I could see Noel seething in anger. His face was starting to turn red. So, I plunged forward, "What could I get you to drink Mrs. Fernandez?"
"Soda or whatever you've got," Mrs. Fernandez almost whispered to me. She hugged her son Jorge before she sat on the sofa. Other than her drink order, she was wordless.
"So, mother," Manuel began. "It is so nice to see you again!"
Mrs. Fernandez exclaimed as she turned toward me. "I'm here just to be with my family."
Noel's face turned redder. I could tell he was getting angrier. So, I stepped close to Noel and whispered, "Be calm, Noel. Just be calm. Things will get better."
"I'm not so sure," Noel whispered back as he accompanied me to the kitchen to retrieve his mother's soda. "Make certain it is diet. She doesn't need any more of a sugar high!"
Noel and I stepped back into the living room. I was carrying Mrs. Fernandez's soda. As I handed the drink to her, I added, "Welcome to our home, Mrs. Fernandez."
"Thank you," Mrs. Fernandez said to me. "So, Jorge, why is your room so empty?"
"Empty?" Jorge said in an astonished voice. "It's not empty."
"Most of your clothes are gone," Mrs. Fernandez added.
"Ahhh," Jorge began. He obviously was not planning on this reaction. "Actually, mother, I signed a lease on an apartment in this building. I move in next weekend."
"I didn't give you permission to rent an apartment," Mrs. Fernandez added.
"I didn't ask for permission," Jorge replied as he clenched his fists tighter. "I decided I needed a place of my own."
"I won't allow it," Mrs. Fernandez replied.
"Mom!" It was Noel this time. His voice was quivering. "John and I asked you to have dinner with us tonight so that you could spend some time with your family. And, I wanted you to get to know John. I really don't think berating Jorge is the kind of evening we had planned."
Mrs. Fernandez didn't let Noel continue, "I was just pointing out that Jorge does not have my blessing to move out of the house. It was bad enough that you wanted to move in with a Catholic guy!"
"Appetizer, Mrs. Fernandez?" I asked as I offered her the cheese and crackers.
"No thank you," Mrs. Fernandez answered me. "I'm watching my weight."
Kerry was taking a sip of wine and almost chocked.
"Are you okay, dear?" Manuel asked Kerry. He was grinning from ear to ear.
"I will be fine, dear!" Kerry managed to say without laughing.
"I think I need another bourbon," Jorge said as he made his way into the kitchen. I followed him. Once we were out of earshot of his mother, Jorge whispered. "I told you she was nuts!"
Jorge and I rejoined the conversation in the living room. Mrs. Fernandez continued, "I don't know what I did wrong. I brought you boys up in a good Christian home. I thought I had taught you about the evils of alcohol!"
"Mom," Noel took over the conversation, "Manuel, Kerry, Jorge, John, and I have different viewpoints on that subject. So, I suggest we talk about something that is not so controversial."
"How is your new job, Noel?" Kerry asked.
"I'm really enjoying myself," Noel effused. "The work is challenging. The people are terrific. And, I am learning a lot! So, it's turning out to be one of the best things that has happened to me in my professional life."
"I didn't know you had a new job, Noel!" Mrs. Fernandez exclaimed. "Who are you working for now?"
"Haney Dawson," Noel added proudly. "It's one of the biggest advertising firms in Boston."
"I've never heard of it," Mrs. Fernandez continued. "Couldn't you find a regular job? Maybe you could be a teacher or a minister."
"I suspect Noel makes more money working in advertising than in education," Manuel declared.
"Money is not important," Mrs. Fernandez added.
"I need to pay my half of the rent, mom!" Noel told his mother.
"And, you must be out of your mind working with all of the perverts in that field," Mrs. Fernandez almost shouted.
"Mom!" Noel went on the defensive. "The people I work with are not perverts! I work for a very professional company that prides itself on hiring the best talent and maintaining an extremely diverse workforce!"
Noel's mother sat in silence.
"John," Noel said to me to break the silence. "I think we need to get dinner on the table. Could you help me in the kitchen, please?"
"Sure," I said as I followed Noel into the kitchen.
"I am trying very, very hard not to get angry," Noel whispered to me. "But, it is not working!"
"Do you want to put off your announcement?" I asked Noel.
"Nope!" Noel answered me. "We've gotten this far! I am not turning back. However, I DO NOT expect a positive outcome from our discussion! So, let's get this ready to eat before I throw it on her!"
Noel and I quickly finished dinner and put it on the serving table. We returned to the living room, and Noel announced dinner was ready. "We will need to serve this buffet style since our dining room table is not huge. So, grab a plate and help yourself."
Manuel and Jorge were first in line. Jorge decided he needed to know what he was eating, "This looks super! What do you call all of this?"
"Ginger and orange glazed baked chicken, wild rice, and roasted vegies," I announced. "Noel created the chicken. I was in charge of the rest."
"It not only looks good, it smells terrific," Manuel added as he filled his plate.
"I'm certain it will be as delicious as the steak tips you had when we were here last," Kerry made her comments quietly to Noel and me.
"You've had dinner here before?" Mrs. Fernandez asked.
"Yup," Manuel acknowledged. "We had a great time. We celebrated Noel's new job, John's new job, and Noel and John's new apartment."
"Oh! You have a job, too?" Mrs. Fernandez asked.
I was a little dumbfounded by her remark, but I answered anyway, "Yes, I have a job. I am a website designer for a firm in Kendall Square."
"Whatever a website designer does," Mrs. Fernandez added. "I suppose it is a respectable job."
"Mom," Noel began. "John was offered an excellent position with a well-respected website design company. He was actively recruited by the owner of the firm."
"How nice," an unimpressed Mrs. Fernandez responded.
We continued our conversation. We stuck to topics that would not be controversial. Once dinner was finished, Noel and I cleared the table.
"Why don't we sit in the living room and have dessert there?" Noel suggested to his family. Once everyone was reseated, Noel and Jorge sat across from their mother who was seated with Manuel on the sofa. Kerry and I were seated together in the two wing chairs that flanked the sofa and love seat.
Manuel started the discussion, "Mom, Noel and Jorge want to talk with us about something important to them. So, can you promise to listen to what they say before you react?"
"Of course, dear," Mrs. Fernandez answered Manuel as she turned her attention to Noel and Jorge. "What is on your mind?"
Noel took a deep breath before he started to explain Jorge's and his position, "Mom, I just wanted to say that I am happy you could be with us in our home tonight. It means a lot to both of us to have you all together. I think it is time that I be very, very frank with you because sometimes you can be very caustic in some of your remarks. So, I need to tell you that... I am gay."
"Gay?" Noel's mother asked. "How did you become gay? No! Wait! You can't be gay! It's unholy! It's perverted! It's sinful! We need to get you help so you can renounce your sinful ways! Our minister knows a group who helps people who think they are gay become normal..."
"Mom," Manuel chimed in. "Noel is normal. It's just that he has chosen a man rather than woman to be in a committed relationship with."
"You bastard!" Mrs. Fernandez turned to me. "You made my son a faggot! Get out of here and leave him alone!"
"Mom," Noel spoke up. "John is not going anywhere. Furthermore, John did not turn me gay. I've known I was gay since I was in high school. John and I are boyfriends. We are planning on getting married sometime in the future."
"Noel is our brother," Manuel again took control. "We still love him. John is part of Noel's life now. We love John, too. Please accept Noel for whom he is—a proud, gay, outstanding young man. Please accept John, Noel's life mate. Can you do that, mom?"
"It is against God's will to be a faggot!" Mrs. Fernandez restated. "I cannot and will not accept that. I think I need to leave."
As Mrs. Fernandez stood to leave, Jorge spoke up, "Mom, before you leave, I think you should also know that I am gay too."
"Oh my God! No!" Mrs. Fernandez exclaimed. "I need to leave!"
Mrs. Fernandez stormed to the door and left our apartment in great haste.
When the door finally slammed behind her, it was Kerry who first spoke. "That went well, didn't it?"
Noel came over to me and leaned in for a hug, "I'm sorry, John. I didn't mean to subject you to all of this. I somehow thought things might be different. I love you more than you know, and I need you in my life. I don't need the crap that my mother believes. I made a decision, and I am glad I did. You mean more to me than anything else."
Manuel, Jorge, and Kerry joined us in a group hug. Manuel spoke first, "I am very sorry, guys! I knew she would be pissed, but I didn't expect she would react so badly! Her behavior is inexcusable. But, we have each other..., and, maybe, we might even have a little peace in our lives."
"How about another drink, bro?" Jorge asked. "I think we need to relax and enjoy ourselves tonight."
"Spoken like a true Fernandez," Kerry quipped. "And, I agree with Jorge. We all need to relax!"
Noel, Manuel, and I switched our drinks from wine to bourbon. Kerry stayed with the wine. Once we were again seated in the living room, Jorge spoke up, "Do you think she will ever change her mind about her hatred of gay people?"
"Probably not, Jorge," Noel answered. "I think she will always favor her religion over her children."
"That's really sad," Kerry continued. "I don't know what will happen once there are grandchildren involved in the mix."
"She doesn't need to know about the grandchildren, Kerry," Manuel said sadly. "I'm certainly not going to subject our kids to her wrath!"
"But, you two aren't on her shit list," Jorge added.
"I can assure you," Manuel declared. "Unless she accepts my brothers, I will not be speaking with her."
"Do you guys want to have kids?" Kerry asked.
"We haven't talked about that," Noel told Kerry. "We have a lot of other decisions to make before we get to the discussion about kids, right John?"
"I would love to have a kid or two," I told Noel. "But first, we need to decide who takes out the garbage and other miscellaneous details of living together."
"I need to find a boyfriend first," Jorge told the group. "I didn't ask this before, Noel, but how did you two meet?"
Noel became suddenly unresponsive.
"What's wrong, bro?" Jorge said as he saw the change in Noel's behavior.
Noel looked at me before he answered his brother's question, "Do you mind, John?"
"Nope!" I told my boyfriend. "I think we need to get the last elephant out of the room."
"There you go again with the clichés," Noel told me in a hushed voice.
"Sorry," I said to Noel.
"We met at an HIV support group," Noel quietly told his brother.
"HIV support group?" Jorge asked not knowing where this conversation was leading.
"We are both newly diagnosed with HIV," Noel continued.
"Shit, bro!" Jorge finally said.
"We are fine, thought, Jorge," Noel explained. "We are on HIV meds, and we were both diagnosed early in the game. Both our CD4 counts are normal. We are waiting for the viral load to become undetectable."
"So that means you are going to be okay?" Jorge asked.
"As long as we stay on the meds, we will be healthy and we can live a normal life," Noel continued. "And, to tell you the truth, Jorge, I wouldn't have met John and wouldn't be working at Haney Dawson if I hadn't contracted the disease and started to attend the support group. The boyfriend of the guy that hired me is in our support group."
"That would not be my first choice of networking opportunities, but it worked for you!" Jorge said as a smile returned to his face.
To be continued...
I hope you liked the direction that "John's Journey Forward" is taking. I would like to hear from anyone who reads this story.
I would enjoy hearing your comments about this story. You can write to me at MaWriterBoy@yahoo.com.
This is my 8th posting of my third story on Nifty.org. Please also see:
Sam and Chris in the College section.
Jeffery Comes Home also in the Beginnings section.
Life With Tim in the Authoritarian section (Please note, this story is not for everyone because there are several scenes depicting Master/slave and BDSM relationships. So, if you are not interested in this activity, please, please do not read this story.)
Please if you can, contribute and keep NIFTY GOING strong as ever. They need our support so stories like this and so many others can continue to be publish for many hours of reading enjoyment.