The following week was pretty uneventful, at least until Friday night. That happened to be Holly’s birthday, so we held a surprise party for her after we finished eating dinner. When Dad was done with his meal, he got up from the table, went into the kitchen, and when he returned he was carrying a cake that he had made earlier in the day, and it had a lighted 1 and 8 on top. Dad, Pop, Dion, Trey, Brandon, and I all started singing Happy Birthday to her, since we were in on this, and the boys quickly joined in.
“I wasn’t sure if anyone remembered it was my birthday,” she gushed as Dad set the cake down in front of her. I also noticed that she took a second to wipe some moisture from her eyes.
“Of course we remembered,” Brandon told her, “and now you just have to make a wish, blow out the candles, and make the first cut in the cake.”
After she completed the first two steps, she looked at Brandon and spoke. “How should I cut it?”
“Just start in the middle and cut to one side,” he told her since it was a round cake. “After you’ve done that, I’ll do the rest.”
While she was following his suggestion, Dad and Pop went out to the kitchen to get the ice cream and I followed behind them so I could retrieve the dessert plates. After Brandon finished cutting the cake, I held out a plate for him to put a slice on, and then I passed the plate to Dad so he could add the ice cream. Once that was done, Pop handed the first plate to Holly before distributing the rest of the plates to everyone else.
As soon as Holly finished eating her share, I handed her a small package that had been wrapped professionally and had a card attached to it. “I’m not sure what’s inside, but Ryan made me promise to give this to you and let you know it was from him.”
She opened the card first and read it, although not out loud, and she didn’t offer to share its contents either. Once she finished, she put the card back in its envelope, carefully unwrapped the package, and opened the thin, square box. When she saw what it contained, she gasped.
“It’s beautiful,” she stated before holding it up for us to see. It was a lovely sterling silver necklace with matching sterling silver letters attached to it that spelled out her name.
“Yes, it’s quite lovely,” Brandon agreed as she turned to show it to each of us.
While she was doing that, Noah suddenly got up and left the room, and this caused me to glance over at Brandon. I believe we were both wondering if he left because he was upset that Ryan had given the necklace to her, and obviously we weren’t the only ones who thought this. Dad and Pop were looking over at us as well, as Trey got up and went over to help Holly fasten the necklace around her neck.
“It looks wonderful on you,” he said when he finished.
“Yes, and I’ll thank Ryan as soon as he comes home.”
I was just about to hand her something else when Noah returned. He was holding a smaller package in one hand and a card in the other, and then he extended them toward her as he spoke. “This is from me. Happy Birthday.”
She opened his card first and read it, and then she thanked him as she was putting it back in the envelope. Then she unwrapped the small package, lifted the hinged lid on the small box, and gasped again. “This is lovely too. Thank you so much.”
“Before you put it on your finger, read what’s written on it,” Noah advised her.
As she took it out of the box to read the message, we could see it was a sterling silver twisted ribbon ring, and both ends of the ribbon were unconnected. I don’t think any of us were surprised that both of the boys had given her jewelry, or that they were both sterling silver, because sterling silver was less expensive than buying the same gift in gold. However, we were amazed by how much each of them had apparently spent on those items.
“What does it say?” Dion asked after she read it.
“It’s in all capital letters and says, ‘THE FUTURE DEPENDS ON WHAT YOU DO TODAY’. It’s beautiful and I love it.” She then gave Noah a hug, which caused him to blush as his lips curled into a slight grin.
“I thought it would help you keep your mind on your studies while you were at college,” he told her when she eventually released him.
“It’s perfect and it will help me stay focused on what I need to do,” she agreed.
As she showed it off, I noticed the message wasn’t etched into the ring and there were raised, black letters spelling out the message instead. After hearing what Noah had told her, I wondered if he might have had an ulterior motive for giving the ring to her as well? Could it be that he wanted her to concentrate on her studies so she wouldn’t meet another boy that she might become interested in? I may never know for sure, but it made me wonder.
As Holly’s excitement began to die down, Dad stood up and handed her a card. She opened it, read what was written inside, and then she held up a VISA gift card. “That’s from Jake and me, and we want you to use it to either buy new clothes for college or to pay for your textbooks.”
“Thank you very much, and this is very thoughtful and generous of you.”
At that point, Dion stood up and handed her another card. “This is from Wyatt, Joshie, Trey, and me.”
Once again she opened the card, read it, and then held up another VISA gift card. “You can use it the same way as the other one to buy clothes or school supplies.”
“Thank you. You’re all so generous.”
“And you’re not done yet,” I stated as I handed her another card. “This one is from your mom.”
She opened the card, read it, and then she held something up and looked at me puzzled. “What’s this?”
“It’s the title to your mom’s car. She wants you to have it so you can get back and forth from your classes.”
“Do you have a license?” Noah asked as she stood there looking stunned.
“Yes, I got it when I was sixteen, because sometimes I had to drive my mom and brothers places when she couldn’t drive any more.” Holly hesitated momentarily, and then she spoke again. “I thought my mom sold the car, because a man came to the house and she gave him the keys and some paperwork before he drove it away.”
“That was my brother, Cole, and he works for a car dealership. He offered to take care of the car until your birthday, but he also used that time to check it over and make sure it was in tip-top condition. We’ll take you to pick it up from him tomorrow, after we get home from work.”
“I can’t believe Mom did this. Didn’t she have to sell the car to get money for the nursing home?”
“No, because when she first got sick she changed the title to list you as a co-owner, and now she’s signing it totally over to you. We’ve also added you to our insurance policy, just like we did with Noah.”
“What kind of car is it?” Benny asked.
“It’s a Honda, but I’m not sure of the model or how old it is,” she said and then she looked at me for help, so I answered for her. “It’s a 2008 Honda CR-V.”
“What color?” Joshie followed.
“It’s white,” Holly answered this time.
Now that there were no more questions about the car, I handed her another small box with a card attached. “This one is from Elliot, and he told me to wish you a Happy Birthday and apologize that he wasn’t here. He left to spend a couple of days out of town with Ian, but he bought this for you, along with the card, before they left, and he wanted me to give it to you.”
She opened the card, read it, and set it down on the table, on top of the envelope, before she turned toward us and spoke. “It’s a very lovely card and I’ll thank him when he returns home.”
She then opened the package, and her eyes nearly popped out of her head. “What is it?” Hunter asked when she didn’t say anything right away.
“It’s an iPhone. I can’t believe he bought it for me.”
“It was entirely his idea,” Brandon explained. “He thought you could use it to keep in touch with us while you’re away, and we’ve added you to our family plan.”
“I’ll be sure to thank him when he returns home.”
As soon as she got over this gift, I pulled a box out from under the chair I was sitting in and handed it to her. “This is from Hayden, Hunter, Tristan, Benny, Brandon, and me.”
She opened the envelope and read it, and I think she noticed that I had the boys sign their own names. She grinned at each of us before she spoke.
“Thank you. That was another beautiful card and I appreciate what all of you have done for me.”
She then merely placed the card on top of the envelope before setting it on the table, instead of placing it inside as she’d done with Ryan and Noah’s cards. Then, she began to open the package.
“You bought me a laptop?” she asked as soon as she could read what was written on the box.
“Yes, we thought you could use it to help with your studies,” Brandon answered as she was pulling it out of the box and looking it over.
“I can’t believe you guys did all of this for me. Thank you very much, and I love all of you.”
“So I guess this means the thirteenth of the month isn’t an unlucky day after all,” Pop teased.
“No, it certainly isn’t. It’s the luckiest day I can ever remember, other than when my brothers and I came here to live.”
“Just don’t expect this much every year from now on,” I warned. “Turning eighteen is a very special birthday, because you’re now turning legal and acknowledged as an adult. These things are also a combination birthday and graduation present, seeing we weren’t there to celebrate your graduation with you.”
“I understand, and I never dreamed I would get this much.”
“Yeah, she got a lot of neat stuff,” Hayden offered.
“I can’t wait to see what we get on our birthday,” Hunter added as he looked around the table and grinned.
“Oh, it won’t be nearly this much, but you’ll get some nice presents,” I told him.
“And we’re gonna have our party together,” Wyatt reminded them.
“Yep, we are,” Hayden and Hunter concurred.
Now that the party had ended, Holly carried her cards and gifts back to her bedroom as the rest of us helped to clear off the table. As soon as we finished, the boys headed to the family room, but Noah took off for the rec room instead. Before long I could hear Holly and him playing ping pong. That’s when Brandon and I got together with the others for a quick chat.
“That went well, but I was slightly worried when Noah took off after she opened Ryan’s gift,” Dad began.
“Yes, I think we all were,” I agreed, “but it seemed to end well. We were apparently on the right track when we suspected that Ryan and Noah both have a crush on her.”
“Yes, I don’t think there’s any doubt about that now,” Dion stated.
“I was actually afraid that Ryan might postpone his trip when he realized he wouldn’t be here for her birthday,” Brandon offered.
“Yes, that was a close call,” I agreed, “but I’m glad he didn’t end up canceling his trip.”
“I believe he only went because he’d already promised Owen that he’d come, and that you agreed to give her his gift,” Brandon added.
“Yes, but it makes me I wonder when he was able to buy it?” I added rhetorically.
“I have a feeling I know,” Dad offered. “I believe it must have been the day he asked Elliot to drive him to the mall.”
“That would explain it,” Brandon replied, “and Noah has a car, so he was able to purchase his present at any time.”
”And they obviously didn’t know that the other one was getting her something too,” Pop pointed out.
“Yes, I could tell Noah was shocked when she opened Ryan’s gift,” I concurred. “I assume he was planning to give her his gift later, in private, but he changed his mind after she opened Ryan’s present.”
“Yes, you’re probably right about that,” Trey agreed, “and it would explain why he left and ran up to his room.”
“Yes, it would, and Ryan might have a similar reaction when he sees what Noah gave her,” Brandon suggested.
“That’s very possible,” I conceded. “I just hope this doesn’t become an all out rivalry, or even worse a sibling war.”
“We’ll just have to keep an eye on the three of them to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Dad volunteered.
“Yes, we certainly will,” Brandon acknowledged.
He and I then went to spend some time with the boys before it was time for them to get ready for bed. After watching a couple of TV shows together, we had them take Dobby and Flash outside before putting them in the carrier, and then they went upstairs to shower. Brandon and I went up about a half hour later to read to them.
“This book is good, but I liked the other one better,” Hayden stated as Brandon was getting ready to read the next chapter.
“Yeah, this one’s about girls,” Hunter added disdainfully.
“You have a sister, and one day you might also have a girlfriend, so it’s good to understand what’s important to girls too. She’s also a character in the other book, so it shouldn’t be too bad,” I offered.
“Yeah, I guess so,” the twins reluctantly agreed.
After Brandon finished reading the next chapter, we tucked the boys in bed, kissed them goodnight, and then we made the rest of our rounds. Tristan was alone tonight, since he’d be spending tomorrow with Revin, and then we said goodnight to Benny, Joshie, and Noah. When we went down to say goodnight to Holly, she was still floating on air.
“I can’t believe all the stuff I got tonight,” she said after we knocked on her bedroom door. “You guys are really awesome and I’m so glad you’re our dads now.”
“We’re glad the three of you are part of our family as well,” I replied.
“And we’re thrilled that you like all of your presents,” Brandon added.
“I do, and I’m going to thank my mom for the car when we visit her on Sunday.”
“I’m sure she’ll be glad to hear that you liked her present,” Brandon offered.
“I really thought she’d sold the car. That was a real surprise.”
“I’m sure it was. When she told me what she wanted to do, I suggested that my brother might be able to help out, and when she agreed, I called Cole and he was happy to give us a hand.”
“Thank you for doing that, and I’ll thank him when I pick up the car.”
We then said goodnight to her and left the room, and even though I wanted to ask her if something was going on between her and Ryan, and/or her and Noah, I bit my tongue and didn’t say a thing. Instead, we just went up to our bedroom and turned in, because we still had to work in the morning.
When we got home from work on Saturday, we sat down and had lunch with the family first, and then Brandon and I took Holly down to get her car. Cole told us we could pick it up at the dealership, seeing that’s where he’d worked on it, but he wouldn’t accept any money for doing that.
“Thank you so much for making sure there were no problems with the car,” Holly told him, and then she gave him a hug. “The last time I saw you I thought you were buying my mom’s car.”
“No, I was just holding it for you until you turned eighteen.”
He then handed her the keys, and she got into the driver’s seat, adjusted it, and put on her seatbelt. She was beaming as she drove off the lot and took it for a little spin before heading home.
When we got back to the house, Brandon and I started doing our chores. Holly returned about a half hour later, and then around 6:00 my phone rang. When I looked to see who was calling, I noticed it was Ryan.
“Are you having a good time?” I asked without saying hello.
“Yeah, and Owen’s parents took us to Philadelphia today so they could show me the sights. We just stopped to have dinner, so I thought I’d give you a quick call.”
“I’m glad you did, and I won’t keep you long.”
“Thanks. Did you give my present to Holly?”
“Yes, I certainly did and she loved it. It appears that you spent quite a bit on it.”
“Yeah, but I had some money saved up. Is Holly there, cuz I want to wish her a Happy Birthday?”
“Sure, just a second and I’ll get her.” I walked back to her room, knocked on the door, and handed her the phone. “It’s for you.”
I then left the bedroom to give them some privacy, and a few minutes later she came out and gave the phone back to me. “Thank you. It was so sweet of him to call.”
“Yes, it was.”
“We didn’t talk for very long because he said he was with his friend’s family.”
“I know, he told me that too,” I responded as I put the phone in my pocket, while at the same time realizing that he’d spent more time talking to her than to me. I think it meant he must really care for her.
She then went back to her room and I went back to doing my chores, but it left me wondering if she felt the same way about Ryan and Noah as they obviously felt about her. If not, Brandon and I could be dealing with two young men reacting to their first bout of rejection and romantic disappointment.
Holly spent much of the day in her room admiring her presents, setting up her new laptop, and planning what she was going to do the following day. I had given her the network login and password so she could access any required downloads from the internet to complete her laptop setup. We all came together again for dinner, and then we watched a movie with the younger boys. When it ended, we sent them upstairs to get ready for bed, and then I read them the next chapter from the story. When I finished, Brandon and I went through our nightly routine of saying goodnight to each of them, and this time we discovered that Ian was spending the night with Elliot.
“Holly told me she had a terrific birthday when she thanked me for buying her the iPhone,” Elliot began.
“Yes, she certainly did. Did she tell you about all of her presents?”
“She did, and I didn’t know Ryan and Noah were buying their own gifts too. I’m glad that I bought her a present, because I almost went in with you guys on the present you gave her.”
“Yes, that was very nice of you. I think Ryan and Noah have a crush on her, which might explain why they purchased their own gifts to give her.”
“Both of them?”
“Damn, that could create a nasty problem.”
“We know, and we’re keeping our eyes on the situation.”
“There may be problems like that at times, but they’re all really lucky that you guys have taken all of them in and done so much for them,” Ian added. “I know I would have wanted to live here with you guys if something had happened to my parents when I was younger.”
“That’s very nice of you to say, and we would have loved to have had you living with us as well, and we’re looking forward to having you join the family in the future.”
He grinned. “Yeah, Elliot and I are talking about getting married after we finish school.”
“A doctor and a lawyer to go along with a doctor and a dentist,” Brandon teased.
“Yes, we’ll have the family pretty well covered,” Ian agreed, and then we bid them both goodnight.
When we were getting ready for church the next morning, Holly dressed a little fancier than usual so she could show off her necklace and ring. As soon as we got to the church, she showed both items to Becky and told her about her birthday gifts.
“Dang, that was one hell of a haul,” Becky told me when we were heading to our Sunday school class. “I wish I was part of your family when I was her age.”
“We’ll you’re part of our family now,” I assured her.
After we’d sat through the church service as well, we went to the diner for brunch, and then I took Holly and the twins to see their mother. Holly was glowing as she entered the room, walked over to her mom, and bent down to give her a hug and a kiss.
“Thank you so much for giving me your car for my birthday,” she said.
“I thought… you could… use it… while you… were at… college.”
“I can, and I’ll take good care of it.”
She then showed her mom the necklace and ring, and then she told her about all the other gifts she received. Julie looked totally stunned when she looked over at us and spoke.
“Thank you… for taking… such good… care of… my children,” she told Brandon and me next.
“You’re welcome, and we’re glad you asked us to help out.”
Alice heard what Holly had told her mother, and then Holly went over to show her the necklace and ring. “They are lovely,” Alice said while admiring both items. “And I want to wish you a belated Happy Birthday as well.”
“Thank you,” Holly replied, and then she gave Alice a hug and kissed her on the cheek.
The twins then told their mom and Alice about their week and they borrowed Danny’s phone so they could show them the video of the Fourth of July party. It included shots of the puppies chasing them around the yard, which caused both women to laugh out loud, and they were also able to witness the fireworks display.
“It reminds me… of when… I was… a child too,” Julie told her sons while mentally reminiscing about her past.
“Yes, a good old fashion family celebration,” Alice added.
We then took the women outside and spent a couple of hours with them before we left, and we promised to see them again the following week before we headed home. Much had been accomplished, but yet even more was yet to be done.