Lincoln, The Family I Never Expected

Lincoln-21, Gabriel

Any and all feedback is welcomed! Please don't be hesitant to contact me through my email,  which is located below and at the end of the chapter. I have enjoyed all feedback, and can't wait to hear from more readers! My email is: Lindon.weztser90@gmail.com
 
DO NOT EVEN THINK ABOUT ABUSING CHILDREN. IT IS WRONG ON SO MANY LEVELS. IT HAS AN EVERLASTING EFFECT ON PEOPLE.
 
Don't forget to read the author notes at the end of this installment!!

Just to help readers remember who is who

Main Characters
Garret Hamel (Age 30)-- foster parent of the 4 boys. 
Lincoln Barnard (Age 11)-- The oldest out of Garret's foster children
Ryker Barnard (Age 8)-- The second oldest out of Garret's foster children
Jacob Barnard (Age 7)-- The second youngest out of Garret's foster children
Clayton Barnard (Age 5)-- The youngest out of Garret's foster children
 
Supporting Characters
Rita Álvarez (Age early 60s)-- Housekeeper, but essential part of family
 
Gordon Hamel (Age 64)-- Father to Garret, Kelly, Calvin, & Lucas
Linda Hamel (Age 64)-- Mother to Garret, Kelly, Calvin, & Lucas
 
Kelly Schafer  (Age 42)-- Garret's older sister and oldest sibling, 3 kids
Tom Schafer (Age 43)-- Kelly's Husband, not around much because of work
Ashley Schafer (Age 17)-- Kelly and Tom's oldest child
Kimberly Schafer (Age 15)-- Kelly and Tom's middle child 
Christian Schafer (Age 13)-- Kelly and Tom's youngest child
 
Calvin Hamel (Age 39)-- Garret's oldest brother & 2nd oldest sibling, 4 kids
Charlotte Hamel (Age 41)-- Calvin's Wife
Giovanna Hamel (Age 16)-- Calvin and Charolette's oldest child
Derrick Hamel (Age 14)-- Calvin and Charolette's second oldest child
Savanna Hamel (Age 11)-- Calvin and Charolette's second youngest child
George Hamel (Age 8)-- Calvin and Charolette's youngest child 
 
Lucas Hamel (Age 34)-- Garret's older brother and 3rd oldest sibling, 3 kids
Katherine Hamel (Age 34)-- Lucas's Wife
(LJ) Lucas Jr. Hamel (Age 10)-- Lucas and Katherine's oldest child 
Ashton Hamel (Age 8)--  Lucas and Katherine's middle child 
Jackson Hamel (Age 6)--  Lucas and Katherine's youngest child 
 
More Supporting Cast
Laura Deon (Age 53)-- Kelly's supervisor and current caseworker assigned to the boys
Keith Watson (Age 58)-- Co-founder of the HLRJC organization
Rory King (Age 29)-- Police Officer, Helping with the Private Investigation 
Jordan O'Grady (Age 27)-- Part of Garret's Legal team
Ruth Ainsworth-- Lincoln's & Jacob's therapist 
Thomas & Debra Giradi-- Jacob's birth grandparents
Berry Rodgers-- Leading the Private Investigation

 LINCOLN, THE FAMILY I NEVER EXPECTED
Installment 21 (Gabriel)
 

Part - 1

 
"Hi, Dad!"
 
"Hey Clayton, great game out there bud," I replied as I received a hug as he stepped off the ice. 
 
"Yeah, can't believe I missed that empty net though. Hope that doesn't mess with my scouting report." 
 
"I wouldn't worry too much, it's your first official time being scouted, and you scored 2 goals already."
 
"Yeah." 
 
"I don't even know if the empty net would have counted, time might have run out." 
 
"You think?" Clayton asked
 
"I'm not sure, just wouldn't worry about it," I laughed. 
 
"Thanks, Dad." 
 
"Don't mention it, you had a great game, now go get changed." 
 
"Will do," Clayton said as he turned and headed for the locker room.
 
"Clayton?"
 
"Yeah?" 
 
"Try to hurry up, your brother should be getting home from college soon." 
 
"Okay," Clayton replied as I turned to watch the final few seconds of the game next to us. When the time ran out, the horn sounded, and I woke from my dream. It took me a few seconds to process what just happened. My alarm clock was blaring in my ear, but that dream felt so real that I didn't know what to think. After a few seconds, I finally shut off the god-awful alarm clock and sat up in my bed. 
 
My dream must have been a prophecy, because no longer then a minute from sitting up, Clayton came running into my room for some morning cuddles.
 
"Hey buddy," I chuckled as he climbed onto my bed.
 
"Morning Garret," Clayton said as he basically tackled me.
 
"Ya know? I was just dreaming about you," I said as I lightly tickled his ribs.
 
"You were?" 
 
"Yup?" 
 
"What was it bout?" Clayton inquired.
 
"Well it was a few years in the future... at least I think! I was watching your hockey game, and you scored two goals. Then we had a quick chat after the game ended." 
 
"So I was good at hockey?" 
 
"I'd say so.... but you did miss an empty net," I laughed.
 
"Isn't that when the goalie is pulled for an extra skater?" 
 
"Yeah!" 
 
"Well..." Clayton paused, "I'll just get the next one!" 
 
I couldn't help but laugh at his statement considering we were talking about a dream, "I like that mentality!" 
 
"Thanks," he giggled as he leaned into me, with his body on my lap. "How old was I?" 
 
"Oh... Umm, I'm not sure. I'd say you were 14, 15, or 16." 
 
"Cool!" 
 
"I know," I replied. "Why are you up right now? You don't have to be awake for another 30 minutes."
 
"I don't know... I just am!" 
 
"Alright well let's head downstairs and see if Rita is here!" 
 
"Okay! I'm hungry too." 
 
"Of course you are," I said as I picked him up and walked downstairs with Clayton in my arms. This was a pretty good start to a jammed packed day. It's Wednesday, March 16th, 2016 and I have one busy schedule ahead of me. Not only do I have Lincoln's therapy appointment, but also the interrogation of the gang member associated with Gabriel Murphy which starts at 10:30. Plus if you add the phone calls to Keith and everyone else... it was gonna be a busy one.
 
We reached the kitchen, and Clayton spoke, "hi Miss Rita!" 
 
"Miss?" Chuckled Rita, "now who told you to say that?" 
 
"Nobody," he giggled as I set him down and he ran to give Rita a hug.
 
"Well, Mister Clay!  As long as I keep getting these hugs from you, you can call me Miss all you want!"
 
"Okay!" 
 
"Are the others up and moving?" Rita asked as she let go of Clayton. 
 
"No, not yet. Still a bit early," I responded. 
 
"Alrighty, I'm gonna start breakfast anyway. Should be ready in about 25 minutes."
 
"That's perfect," I commented as I grabbed my cup of coffee and went to the family room to watch ESPN. I was joined by Clayton, and we were looking at the latest hockey standings. Columbus was now third place in the metropolitan division, as they have recently been in a slump. They've lost 5 out of their last 7 games, but they are still in the playoff picture which is good. Pittsburgh and Washington were above us, and we had the New York Rangers closing in on our 3rd place. We should be good, as long as they win their last few games. I would love to take the boys to a playoff game and have them experience the atmosphere and energy. 
 
With 5 minutes left till breakfast was ready, I went upstairs to wake the remaining boys. I went to Lincoln's room first and handed him his robe. My next stop was Jacob's room, and he was unusually difficult to wake. After a few minutes of talking, he was out of bed and moving. Last stop was Ryker's room, and he was already awake looking at his soccer gear. I'm happy to see him so interested and invested in something.
 
"You okay?" I chuckled as I tossed him his robe.
 
"Yeah!" He said as he caught the robe and put it on. "Had a lot of fun yesterday!"
 
"I'm glad, you looked good out there too." 
 
"Yeah can't wait for the next practice!" 
 
"I think it's Saturday," I said.
 
"Really?" 
 
"You usually have games on Saturday, but since soccer season just started, I don't think you have a game for a while." 
 
"Oh, that's stupid." 
 
"Could be a good thing... more practice never hurt anyone." 
 
"Yeah, I guess so." 
 
"Come on bud," I chuckled, "Rita has breakfast ready." 
 
"Okay," he said as he dropped his cleats and walked over to give me a hug. "What's she making?" 
 
"I'm not sure," I said as I picked him up, "but let's go find out!" 
 
"Okay," Ryker giggled. We quickly jumped into our morning routine of eating breakfast and so on, which meant we were loading into the SUV and heading for school. I dropped them off at our usual time and was on my way to the county jail. 
 
The jail was about a 30-minute drive, so I decided to call Keith on my way to discuss the fundraising campaign and also the process of the building. 
 
"Morning Garret," Keith said as he picked up the phone.
 
"Hey man," I returned. "How are you?" 
 
"Oh, I'm good... just looking into flight details and booking a hotel for us." 
 
"That's what I sorta called to talk about." 
 
"You aren't backing out on me, are you?" 
 
"Well... you do know that weekend is Easter, right?" I asked.
 
"Of course," chuckled Keith. "Only a fool wouldn't know when Easter was." 
 
"Right," I fake laughed because I was that fool.
 
"So what's the issue?" 
 
"It's the first big holiday with the boys, and my parents are hosting Easter this year... in Pittsburgh. So they want to spend Easter with everyone." 
 
"Okay?" 
 
"Don't you see a conflict of interest?" I asked.
 
"No, not at all. I know how important family is to you. We fly out Thursday and get back Saturday night or Sunday Morning. Plus I don't want to miss Easter either, my kids are coming into town!" 
 
"Oh... umm, did you buy a plane ticket?" 
 
"No, why?" Keith inquired.
 
"I have to run this by Rita first, but I could fly out of Columbus and then fly into Pittsburgh on my way back." 
 
"Well just let me know!" 
 
"I'll get back to you tonight." I remarked, "oh and how's the building coming along?" 
 
"Just started renovations! Knock on wood, but so far so good." 
 
"Good, that's what I want to hear. Now any idea on a start date?" 
 
"Umm not yet, could take a week or two to determine." 
 
"Okay, and my next topic." 
 
"You're just full on them this morning," Keith joked. 
 
"Yeah yeah," I laughed. "Anyway, we should start looking for mentors, and we should start advertising our names so we can have a potential list of children." 
 
"We can't have children in our care without a building or even a completion date."
 
"I agree," I said, "but I'm just bringing it up so that it's in the back of our minds." 
 
"Okay, and I might have a few friends and colleagues that will sign up for a mentor position. I'll get in contact with them." 
 
"Remember they'll need to go through a background check too, which could take anywhere from 3 weeks to 3 months, so let's start figuring that out sooner than later."
 
"Agreed," Keith said. "So anything else we need to discuss?"
 
"Umm..." I answered as I tried to think of a witty comment, "don't forget the gallon of milk honey." 
 
"Oh shit, thanks for the reminder. I actually need milk or Jane will have my ass above the fireplace," Keith responded. 
 
"You're too funny man," I stated. "How is your wife?"
 
"She's good... just very busy making sure the house is perfect when the kids return."
 
"You should hire her some help." 
 
"I've tried... she likes things done her way!"
 
"Oh," I laughed! "Anyhow, I got to run enjoy your day... don't forget that milk!" 
 
"It's in my notes now," laughed Keith. "Talk later Garret." 
 
I still had 10 minutes to the police station, and I called Rita to pass the time. In our conversation, I talked to her about Easter plans, and she is thrilled to take part. We decided on the following plan: on Friday morning, Rita would be taking the boys in the SUV to Pittsburgh to stay with my parents. Then I would fly in from Chicago on Sunday Morning to enjoy Easter Sunday with everyone. Now I'm not sure how the boys would take to this plan, considering this would be our first time apart... but I didn't have much of an option. This was a necessary business trip to further expand the brand of the HLRJC Foundation and earn money for it. 
 
Anyway, I arrived and parked my vehicle. I was greeted by Rory, and together we walked into the building. I had to go through a security checkpoint, which included a metal detector and an identification station. After that was all said and done with, Rory and I walked into a viewing room where Berry was waiting. 
 
"Garret," Berry said standing up to shake my hand. "How are you?" 
 
"I'm good... nervous!" 
 
"Don't be," chuckled Berry. "Let me introduce you to our guy." 
 
"Okay?" I replied as we walked up to the one-way glass window.
 
"This... this is Antonio De'Smith. 26 years of age, and currently arrested for distribution of illegal drugs. Grew up in a broken home, which led him to join a gang at a young age. From our records, he isn't a top dog, but he isn't new either. So, from a previous chat, he knows what we are going to be asking, and we believe he knows about that night." 
 
"Uh huh," I said. "When do you begin questioning him?" 
 
"Probably in 5 to 10 minutes, you have any specific questions you want us to ask?" 
 
"Oh geez... plenty," I replied. "Was he involved? If so, what happened that night? Or umm... who is Gabriel Murphy? Why did they target an 11-year-old boy? Are the boys still in danger? Umm..."
 
"Okay okay," Berry said as he stopped me. "We have similar questions, And I have a few more." 
 
"Sounds good," I replied. "Who is going to be in the room?" 
 
"The police chief, Rory, and myself." 
 
"You sure I can't come?" I joked.
 
"Oh we are positive," Rory laughed. 
 
"Alright alright... umm, oh... did you guys hear about the phone records?" 
 
"We are still gaining access, but we should be good!" 
 
"Okay then," I said, "umm should we get ready?"
 
"Yup, you sit down and make yourself feel comfortable. Rory and I are meeting with the police chief to review questions, and we should be ready to go." 
 
"Sounds good," I replied. "Best of luck!" 
 
"Thanks," they both stated. I was in the room just watching the movements of Antonio De'Smith, he didn't seem worried or nervous at all. Which was interesting to me, but at the same time made me nervous. Maybe he wasn't willing to talk or perhaps he wasn't even at the house. Anyway, after 5 minutes, I saw the door open, and the 3 gentlemen walked over and took a seat on the opposite side of the table. Rory undid the handcuffs of Antonio, and then Berry started the conversation.
 
"Antonio De'Smith, I am Berry Rodgers, a Private Investigator. To my right is Rory King, a police officer working with me, and then you know the police chief. You have any questions for us?"
 
"Nah," Antonio said.
 
"Okay, have you been read your rights and do you understand them?" 
 
"Yes."
 
"Excellent, well hopefully this can be a very productive conversation," Berry stated.
 
"Man, cut the shit... I know why I'm here, let's just get this over with." 
 
"Okay, just for the record Mr. De'Smith, we are going to be asking questions about the night of January 23rd. Any helpful information that you give us, and we can use, will help you through your case. I have a close relationship with Judge Brown, and she is overseeing your case. So, Mr. De'Smith, let's begin with some simple questions, okay?" 
 
"Whatever," Antonio replied. 
 
"Alright, for the record, you are Antonio De'Smith?" 
 
"Yes." 
 
"Okay, and Mr. De'Smith, were you at 1539 West Main Boulevard in Columbus on the night of January 23rd."
 
"Yes, shit didn't go the way we expected it to.
 
"What do you mean?" 
 
"Man, no one was supposed to die. Shit went south, real quick." 
 
"Okay," Rory said as he spoke for the first time. "What was suppose to happen?" 
 
"Break in, get the money and get out."
 
"What was your role?" Berry asked.
 
"I was the money man... if they didn't tell us where money was, it was my job to search the house." 
 
"What went wrong?" 
 
"Everything... as soon as that boy walked upstairs and the Gabriel guy grabbed him, that's when everything went wrong," Antonio said.
 
"Gabriel Murphy, right?"
 
"Yeah... the new guy... I don't know much about him, shit none of us did besides Frank."
 
"Who's Frank?" Inquired Berry.
 
"Frank... the dude who stole the money from us. Frank Barnard." 
 
"So the boy's father's name is Frank," I said to myself as I continued to listen.
 
"Uh huh." 
 
"Yeah, Frank brought him in and introduced us, a few weeks before the 23rd. The dude was a fucking weird guy... always secretly looking at shit on his phone, wouldn't say shit to you unless you asked him a question, even then he wouldn't look you in the eye... he was a fucking piece of shit."
 
"What do you mean?"
 
"Man, what the fuck you think I mean? The guy was all over that kid, the sick fuck! We didn't know what to do. He beat that poor kid and fucking smiled, and man... shit just went south. The women started yelling, and someone shut her up real quick."
 
"Who did that?" Inquired the police chief.
 
"I can't name names... I'm loyal to my brothers, but this Gabriel guy didn't belong with us. So Fuck'em." 
 
"Who killed Gabriel Murphy?" 
 
"I did, shot the motherfucker in the head... he was raping that boy, wish I would have shot the motherfucker earlier. That boy probably died... you don't understand, he was beating the shit out of the boy. You would've done the same thing, trust me." 
 
"So you shot and killed Gabriel Murphy?"
 
"Yes." 
 
"Was he still raping the boy?" 
 
"Yes." 
 
"Uh huh," Berry said.
 
"The boy probably died man, I still see that shit in my head." 
 
"Where is Frank in this whole scenario?"
 
"On the ground yelling at the fucking child." 
 
"So he is just yelling at his kid?" Asked Rory.
 
"Yes... like how much more clear do I need to be. He was yelling at the kid." 
 
"How'd Frank die?" Asked Berry.
 
"Shit, I don't know about that one... I was looking for the money." 
 
"Okay... you're, you're going to run us through the night of the 23rd from your perspective. Tell us what you remember, what happened and the order of events," 
 
"Ight... for starters, none of this would have happened if Frank didn't take that money. Anyway, we roll up to this house, and I come around to the back door while others hit the front door. We break in, and shits sorta blurry to me, but we find Frank and his wife scrambling around the family room and," 
 
"Did you know the boys were in the house?" Asked Rory
 
"Boys? No, I didn't know until one came upstairs." 
 
"Continue with your story," Berry stated 
 
"Ight, umm," Antonio began, "shits going smooth, we have those motherfuckers locked down and asking for the money. Next thing I know, a boy is screaming, then Frank and the mother started screaming. This is when shit goes south man, Gabriel starts beating the boy, and the mother starts screaming even louder. She had to be shut up, so someone killed her. Frank starts going crazy, and this is when I go searching for the money, cause we knew we couldn't be here much longer. I run all around, downstairs upstairs and I didn't find shit. I'm back in the family room, and this motherfucker Gabriel is raping this lifeless boy. I mean full on, the kid's pants are at his ankles and blood all over the child. Honestly, the boy looked dead... his body was lifeless. I look at my homie, and he doesn't know what to do. I walk up to him and try to throw him off, but the motherfucker doesn't want to get off the boy. Then I shoot him... man, I don't stand for that child abuse shit. It was nothing I've ever seen before... but I went on another quick search for the money. While I was upstairs, I heard a gunshot and then my homies calling for me, and I bolt it downstairs. Man, it was a fucking bloodbath down there, we were gonna move all the bodies to the kitchen, but we only got two, Frank and Gabriel. We hurried out the front door, and left cause we thought we heard the cops coming... still don't know where that money went or anything about that night." 
 
"Whoa," I said as I sat back, I don't know what or how I felt after hearing this story. 
 
"Okay Mr. De'Smith, how many people were involved in the raid?" 
 
"Look man... like I said. I'm loyal, I can't tell you that. I'm only giving shit on this Gabriel motherfucker." 
 
"I'm just saying, it would be in your best interest to answer as many questions that we ask," informed Rory.
 
"Shut the fuck up," Antonio replied, which caused some laughter between Berry and the police chief. "You don't think I know that? But I don't tell on my homies, never." 
 
"Alright," Berry said taking over the questions again. "You said Gabriel was brought in by Frank?" 
 
"Yeah, I never saw them apart until like a week before the 23rd. Shit, we barely heard from Frank that week, until he stole the money. We almost killed Gabriel because we thought he was in on it, but he insisted he didn't know. Even had proof to back it up." 
 
"What was that proof?" 
 
"I don't know man, I'm not high enough in the ranks for that." 
 
"You also said that Gabriel Murphy was on the phone a lot?" Asked the police chief.
 
"Yes." 
 
"With who?" 
 
"I don't know man... like I said. He was a weird guy... I tried to stay away from him."
 
"How did he end up on that job that night?" 
 
"He was around when we left... I was told to bring him."
 
"Did he say much?" 
 
"No nothing, he kept to himself." 
 
"Uh huh," Berry stated. "Alright well, let's take a 5-minute break. Get him Mr. De'Smith a coffee or something." 
 
"I'm good," he replied as the three men across him stood up and headed for the door. It took a few seconds for them to reach the room I was in, but the door opened, and Berry spoke.
 
"You okay Garret?" 
 
"Yeah," I replied as I wiped my face. "Just hearing it again and knowing that it happened to my boy, it just sucks." 
 
"I understand, umm you want a moment or two?" 
 
"No no... thanks though," I said standing up. "How do you think it went." 
 
"I know those phone records are going to be useful," Rory said.
 
"That they will," Berry stated. "Now how does his storyline up to what you've heard?" 
 
"Honestly, it's pretty accurate. I'm just wondering why the father was killed." 
 
"So am I," spoke the chief. "I don't know if we'll have any luck getting that info out." 
 
"We aren't asking him to give up a name," Rory spoke.
 
"That is true, and worst case scenario, he says no," Berry added. 
 
"Okay, anything else we want to add?" Questioned Rory.
 
"I think we have a lot of information to process. If need be, I'm sure we can arrange for another meeting." 
 
"Alright, let's go ask this last question." 
 
"Sounds good," Berry said, "Unfortunately Garret, I have to run after I had back in. So I'll talk to you later. Should be expecting a phone from us in a few days for a debrief and what not."
 
"Excellent," I said. "Good works guys, it's been a good so far." 
 
"I agree." Replied Berry, "alright let's go." 
 
"Best of luck," I hollered again as they walked out. Within seconds they were back in the room with Antonio De'Smith.
 
"Okay Mr. De'Smith, we have one final question. Why was Frank killed?"
 
"I don't know if it's true or not, but I heard Frank was pissed that Gabriel died. He started kicking the boy and blamed him... I don't know, shits sounds whack to me, but someone told him to stop. Frank didn't like that, so he started hitting the kid more, and tried attacking one of us. A quick solution was to put a bullet in his head." 
 
"Uh huh." 
 
"Now I don't know if that's true or not, but that's what I heard."  
 
"So let me get this straight... you're saying the father started beating the kid and attacked someone?"
 
"Like I said, boss... I don't know if it's true or not." 
 
"Alright... umm I think we are done here," Berry said as he stood up and walked out.
 
"Wait what about me?" Antonio asked.
 
"You've given us some good information," responded Rory. "We will see if it leads to anything." 
 
"Hey... remember. We have a deal." 
 
"I know," Rory responded as he stood up.
 
"Arms out," the police chief said to Antonio. 
 
"Hey, officer... did, did that umm boy die?" Questioned Antonio.
 
"Why?" 
 
"C'mon man, just give me that." 
 
"No... no, he didn't." 
 
"Wow," Antonio said, and Rory turned to walk out. He entered the room I was in as I was putting on my coat. 
 
"Garret? You wanna get a coffee?" Asked Rory.
 
"I would love to, but not today. I have to go pick up the youngest one soon. This took a bit longer than I expected."
 
"Raincheck," laughed Rory.
 
"Sounds good," I said as I shook his hand and walked for my car. 
 
It was 11:30 and I had to hurry over to the school. Driving there, I called my mother, then my brother Lucas. It was a kick update, and I also informed them oh my plans for Easter. My mother was delighted, and my brother told me his kids were gonna be thrilled. After my conversation with them, I decided to call Laura. I updated her on the situation, but I also asked about Cameron, the boy in Lincoln's class. Unfortunately, she informed me that someone looked into the matter, but found no wrongdoing. If there is abuse happening, then it's emotional and mental abuse, which is almost impossible to prove. However, she did say that they were still looking into the case. 
 
After my phone call with Laura, I was at the school and picked up Clayton. He was his usual bundle of joy, and together we went home. He was filled with chatter from the moment he stepped into the car, and it didn't stop when we entered the house. Although, my ears did catch a break as Rita was the new target. She enjoyed all the conversation, as did I, but it was funny to watch those two interact with one another. After a while, Clayton got sleepy, and I laid him down on the couch for a nap. 
 
Time flew by, and I was back at the school picking three other boys up. Similar to Clayton, all three were filled with chatter and giggles. They told me about their days, and when we got home, they did homework and had a quick snack. Then it was time for Lincoln and me to go see Mrs. Ainsworth. We jumped into the S63 and were on our way. During the drive, we chatted, and Lincoln told me about his day. I also informed him with the latest news about Cameron, which Lincoln didn't fully understand. He was confused why CPS couldn't help him, but after a few minutes of explaining, Lincoln seemed to grasp the concept. 
 
Anyway, we arrived and were greeted by Ruth. Together the three of us walked into her office and took a seat on the couch with Lincoln using my thigh as a pillow. 
 
"So," Ruth said as she sat down. "Sorry for canceling on you guys."
 
"No problem, hope all is well with you," I responded.
 
"Just a family emergency, my mother in law fell,  she is 85... but she's okay."
 
"Oh, I'm so sorry," I responded.
 
"Yeah sorry," Lincoln added.
 
"Oh thanks, but she's doing good now. Luckily she didn't break anything."
 
"Well, that's good." 
 
"Yes, it is," Ruth returned. "So Lincoln, how have you been?" 
 
"I've been good." 
 
"Yeah? Any more PTSD attacks?" 
 
"A few." 
 
"Uh huh, have you been trying our relaxation methods?"
 
"Not really," Lincoln said. "The PTSD attacks happen when I'm sleeping more than when I'm awake." 
 
"I agree with that," I added.
 
"Is there a certain dream you have that triggers an attack?" Asked Ruth.
 
"No, not really... it just happens randomly." 
 
"Okay," Ruth said as she wrote down. "So today I'm going to bring a few words into your head, and get your reactions. It won't be anything too extreme at first, okay?" 
 
"What kind of words?" Asked Lincoln.
 
"Multiple ones. But we will start off with the easiest ones, at least in my opinion." 
 
"Okay," Lincoln replied as he shifted his body from nervous energy.
 
"Alright Lincoln, I want you to close your eyes and try to visualize what I'm saying." 
 
"Okay," Lincoln said as I began running my hands through his hair,  
 
"When I say the word fun, what do you see?" 
 
"Umm... I don't know." 
 
"Okay... when I say the word fun, what's the first thing you think of?" 
 
"Garret," Lincoln replied.
 
"Why?" Inquired Ruth.
 
"Because he is fun to be around, and makes me laugh."
 
"Alright and what about the word happy?" 
 
"My brother, Clayton," giggled Lincoln.
 
"And why do you think of Clayton?" Chuckled Ruth.
 
"If you met him, you would understand. He is always happy!" 
 
"And what do you think of when you hear trust?" 
 
"Garret." 
 
"And why?" 
 
"Umm, I don't know, because he is always there for me. I can tell him stuff that I haven't ever told people. Umm, I don't know... I guess because he loves me and I know he does."
 
"Sometimes," I joked and kissed his forehead.
 
"Always," Lincoln replied.
 
"Let's get back on track," Ruth stated. "Lincoln when I say the word family... who do you see or think of?" 
 
"Umm Garret," giggled Lincoln. "Also my brothers and my cousins. Ohh... also my aunts and uncles. I can't forget grandma or grandpa too." 
 
"So everyone associated with Garret?" 
 
"Yeah!" 
 
"Okay and what about the word Dad?" 
 
"umm," and Lincoln went silent. 
 
"what about the word Dad?" Ruth asked again.
 
"I don't know."
 
"What do you feel or think of when you hear the word dad, Lincoln?" Ruth pushed once more
 
"....pain," Lincoln said. "Anger.... umm mean. Hurting."
 
"Uh huh, and why?" 
 
"You know why," Lincoln quickly shot back. "Because he hated me. Because he caused me pain."
 
"Okay okay... but I want you to think of something Lincoln." Ruth began. "The word father or dad doesn't have to be associated with the feelings of pain, anger, and meanness."
 
"Okay?" Lincoln asked.
 
"so the first 4 words I asked you, should all be words that describe a father figure. A father figure should be fun, happy, trusting, and have a family mentality."
 
"But my dad wasn't!" 
 
"He may be your dad, but he isn't your father figure... at least he isn't anymore," Ruth stated. "When you think of the word dad, look to the person who you're laying your head on. To you, Garret, is fun, trusting, and family. All the qualities a dad should possess!" 
 
"Okay,"
 
"Now one of the main things I've noticed, when a PTSD attack is occurring. You are thinking of your dad, so let's change the negative thoughts about the word dad and make them positive. And I'm not talking about the person who beat you and left you in pain." 
 
"But how is that gonna help?" Lincoln inquired.
 
"For one, we are changing your perception. The word dad is associated with negative thoughts. I want to make them positive!" 
 
"So when I think about having a dad, I should think about Garret?" 
 
"Well... does Garret feel like a father figure to you?" 
 
Lincoln answered quick, "yes." 
 
"Good!"
 
"But how do I not think about him?" 
 
"Your biological dad?" 
 
"Yeah," Lincoln asked. 
 
"I don't want you to not think about him, at least right now. We are working on changing your perception of the word Dad." 
 
"Ohhhh," Lincoln said.
 
"Yup! We are taking the negative thoughts away and replacing them with positive ones." 
 
"But how is that helping me not get PTSD attacks?" 
 
"So I know your attacks are more associated with the person than the word dad. But if you remember, we are slowly taking negative thoughts and turning them into positive ones. The less you can associate with your biological dad the better."
 
"But what do I call him?" Asked Lincoln.
 
"What was your dad's first name?" 
 
"Frank," I quickly answered.
 
"How'd you know that?" Lincoln questioned me.
 
"I know all!" I laughed.
 
"So let's call him by his name!" Ruth stated. 
 
"Frank... okay, I like it!" Lincoln said.
 
"Good! Now have you been writing in your journal?" 
 
"Not any more than I usually do... why?" 
 
"Well just remember we are holding a goodbye ceremony, where we are going to write something down on paper and hold a farewell meeting to leave that night in your past forever."
 
"Is that happening soon?" 
 
"No," Ruth began. "It won't happen until you and I both think it is ready to happen. However, when you are by yourself, maybe write down how you feel or if you're making progress." 
 
"Okay," Lincoln said. 
 
"Alright next, I want to move into relaxation methods," Ruth stated. The rest of the session was going over methods for Lincoln to use. It involved controlling his breathing, meditation, shifting his thoughts, and thinking positive. Now I for one wasn't wholly convinced that this was working or going to work. In my opinion, it felt we were wasting time because he still had attacks just as frequently and just as bad. I would rather have Lincoln be discussing his feelings toward the night of the 23rd. However, I wasn't the expert, so I wasn't going to intervene. 
 
Anyway, the rest of the session went by quick, and Lincoln and I jumped in the car to head home. When we arrived, dinner was ready, and we all sat down together for a family meal. I was anxious for two reasons. First, I had to tell the boys about the Friday night dinner with Jordan. Second, I also need to tell them about next weekend since it is Easter and I'm not sure how they're going to react to me not being there... specifically Lincoln. 
 
"So boys, I want to talk to you about two things." 
 
"Are we in trouble?" Asked Ryker.
 
"Why do you guys always assume you are in trouble when I say we have to talk?" 
 
"I don't know," giggled Ryker. 
 
"Stop think that then!" I joked. "No one is in trouble... unless they have something to be in trouble for?" 
 
"Not me," Clayton said.
 
"Yeah I'm with Clay, I didn't do anything," Jacob said.
 
"Alright then moving on! So this Friday, I have a friend coming over for dinner. She will be here around 6, but Jacob already knows her." 
 
"I do?" Jacob said and took a bite of food.
 
"Yup... it's Jordan!" 
 
"Oh I like Jordan," Jacob said.
 
"Am I gonna be here?" Asked Ryker.
 
"You have the mother-son event at the school on Friday, so you'll miss dinner, but you'll be here later." 
 
"Is she your girlfriend?" Asked Clayton. 
 
"No," I chuckled, "she is just coming over for dinner." 
 
"Is she staying overnight?" Questioned Lincoln.
 
"What? No! It's just a dinner," I laughed.
 
"Uh huh," Lincoln said. "No funny business." 
 
"Yeah we're watching you," commented Clayton. 
 
"Oh dear lord," I said as I dropped my head which caused all the boys to laugh. After a few seconds, everyone got a grip, and Ryker asked,
 
"What's the second thing?" 
 
"Well you guys know Easter is next week," I said and didn't get a response. "You guys know what Easter is?" 
 
"No," Clayton replied
 
"I do," Jacob answered. "Well, I think I do. It's... it's when Jesus came back to life." 
 
"Excellent Jacob," Rita said. 
 
"Yes that is true," I returned. "It is also a time when we gather with family. This time, my parents are hosting Easter in Pittsburgh." 
 
"Yes!" I heard the boys say.
 
"So we are going to Pittsburgh?" Asked Lincoln.
 
"Yeah," I chuckled. "You four and Rita will be leaving Friday morning.
 
"We don't have school Friday?" 
 
"No school on Friday."
 
"YES!" They all said again.
 
"So like I was saying, you guys will be leaving Friday morning and...."
 
"Wait," Lincoln interrupted me. "You aren't coming?" 
 
"No, I will be there, just not at the same time." 
 
"What do you mean?" Questioned Ryker.
 
"So I leave Thursday afternoon for Chicago. I have a business trip that I need to attend, and I won't be in Pittsburgh till Saturday night or Sunday morning." 
 
"What business trip?" Asked Jacob.
 
"I'm not sure if I told you all, but I'm in the middle of starting the HLRJC Organization. It's a charity to help children that are in similar situations that you guys were in. So I will be flying out to Chicago to meet with people and make money for the organization." 
 
"You can't do it another time?" Asked Lincoln.
 
"Yeah?" Added Ryker. 
 
"I'm afraid not boys." 
 
"So we are driving to Pittsburgh with Rita next Friday?" 
 
"Yup, and I'm not positive, but I think you're staying at grandma and grandpa's house." 
 
"What about Uncle Lucas?" Said Lincoln. 
 
"I'm sure you'll see them! I bet LJ, Ashton, and Jackson will want to hang out with you guys." 
 
"Are Aunt Kat and Uncle Calvin coming?" Asked Ryker.
 
"Yup."
 
"What about Christian?" 
 
"Everyone will be there!" 
 
"Where does everyone stay?" Asked Jacob. 
 
"Well, it will either be Uncle Calvin or Aunt Kelly staying with you guys at grandma and grandpa's house." 
 
"Cool,"  Clayton spoke.
 
"Sucks that you aren't gonna be there," Lincoln said.
 
"I will be! But I'll be there a few days later." 
 
"Promise?" Ryker spoke.
 
"Yeah promise?" Lincoln added.
 
"Yes, boys. I wouldn't miss it for anything!"
 
"Okay," they all said.
 
"So you guys have any questions?" I asked. "No, alright. So who has homework they still need to finish?" 
 
Multiple hands raised in the air, and I told them to finish it after dinner.  The rest of the night, the boys did their own thing. I went downstairs to workout and was joined by Ryker, then afterward, I hung out with Jacob. All in all, it was a good night. I had them tucked in but 9:45 and I soon followed their lead. At 10:30, I was down for the count.
 

Part - 2

Thursday was our typical morning. I woke the boys up, got them dressed and fed, well I mean Rita fed them. Anyways, I was off to drop them off and then headed to meet with my legal team to call Thomas again. Looking back at my first attempt, I considered it to be successful. Sure I didn't get him to say he was doing it for money, but I did catch him stating he didn't care about Jacob's well being. I also took it as a small victory since I didn't slip up and mention the money to him. So, I'm chalking that one up as a win for me.
 
Once I arrived and parked my car. I made my way to the building where I was greeted by Jordan.
 
"Hey," I said as I reached the glass door of the building.
 
"Nice seeing you again," Jordan replied.
 
"We still on for dinner tomorrow?" 
 
"Certainly, anything you want me to bring?" 
 
"Umm," I thought. "You shouldn't need to." 
 
"You sure?" 
 
"Positive," I said. "Is grilled chicken, fruit salad, and baked potatoes sound good?"
 
"Mhmm... my mouth is already watering," joked Jordan.
 
"Good!" I laughed. "So we are calling Thomas again, right?" 
 
"Yeah, I think it would be wise," Jordan said as we reached the conference room where the rest of my legal team was waiting. 
 
"How we doing everyone?" I asked as I walked in and took a seat. 
 
"Good," they replied.
 
"So we think we've come up with an idea if we don't catch Thomas slipping up," said one of my legal staffers.
 
"I'm all ears." 
 
"Oh... well we are still developing the exact details and making sure we are doing everything by the books. Then we will present it to you," said the same man.
 
"What's it about?" 
 
"It's a multiple stage process." 
 
"Yeah?" I said.
 
"Okay, so one stage would be to counter sue Thomas for defamation. Now we likely wouldn't win this; however, it could scare him and back off his claims." 
 
"Defamation? For what?" I asked.
 
"Trying to ruin your reputation with his outrageous statements in the restaurant and what not. Like I said, we wouldn't win, but it could cost Thomas money, or he could back off of Jacob due to legal cost. Then our second plan is to accuse Thomas and Debra of not being the real grandparents." 
 
"How the hell are we going to do that?" I asked.
 
"Bloodwork, hell maybe they aren't who they say they are."
 
"Please tell me you guys have something better than this?" I inquired.
 
"It's in the early stages, Mr. Hamel. You need to let us work on it." 
 
"Uh huh," I said. "Well start working on it because both those options sound terrible." 
 
"We will!" 
 
"Good!" 
 
"So," Jordan said as she took control of the conversation. "Let's make a phone call." 
 
"Who's phone am I using?" I asked. 
 
"Here... use mine this time," said another legal staffer of mine as he slid the phone to me. After we got the phone hooked up to record our conversation. I dialed Thomas's number and started to prepare myself for him.
 
"Hi, Mr. Hamel? This is Debra, how are you?" 
 
"Debra? I'm uh... I'm good, just calling to give you an update on Jacob," I said as I wasn't ready for Debra to answer. 
 
"Oh, wonderful! I've been wondering how my grandson is doing, so has Thomas." 
 
"FUCK!" I said to myself but spoke calmly to Debra, "he's been a joy. Doing very well in school, plus he is making tons of friends." 
 
"That is awesome... we can't wait to see him again," Debra returned so nicely it seemed fake. Hell, it probably was fake. 
 
"Yeah, he's umm been good." 
 
"Good, we are glad! Anything else we can do for you, Mr. Hamel?" 
 
"Umm no, have a good day." 
 
"Well enjoy your day," she said and hung up.
 
"FUCK!" I screamed after I hung up. "Why did she answer? I wasn't expecting that."
 
"That went awful," added the guy who allowed me to use his phone. 
 
"Yeah no shit," I replied. 
 
"Alright... what are the odds she answers again?" Asked Jordan. 
 
"I uhh... I umm don't know," I responded. 
 
"Well, it might have been a random occurrence." 
 
"Hopefully," I returned, "because she won't get worked up like Thomas will."
 
"Now we don't know that... we just have to be smarter, maybe have a conversation with her to ask why she wants to take Jacob away?" 
 
"Yeah," said another guy on my legal team sitting down at the end of the table, "she hasn't been in the picture really... this is our chance to find out more about her and what motivates Thomas and Debra to take Jacob away. Because if she is a nice person, she will understand how much better Jacob's life will be with you." 
 
"I agree," added Jordan. "Let's not look at the negativity." 
 
"So you're saying, we call again. Then depending on who answers, we have a conversation?" 
 
"Yes." 
 
"So we try to annoy Thomas and trick him into talking about the money? Then if Debra answers, I have a conversation about why they want Jacob?" I asked.
 
"Correct," Jordan stated. 
 
"Damn," I said. "Well... that option we talked about before the phone call.... you better start making it sound good, you understand?" 
 
"Yes," said the man. "Tim and I will start working on immediately." 
 
"Good, now when do we want to make this call again?" 
 
"Why not now?" Asked a man. 
 
"Worth a shot," I said as I picked up the phone and dialed. After a few dial tones, somebody answered. 
 
"Garret, what a lovely surprise again," Debra answered.
 
"I know," I responded. "So I have a few questions for you." 
 
"Oh, okay?" 
 
"One, how did you know I was calling? Thomas blocked my number, and I had to reach you guys on a different number."
 
"Your area code sweetie... we don't normally receive calls from an area code with your numbers. I just assumed." 
 
"Smart," I replied. "Okay... so I have an honest question, and I want an honest answer." 
 
"I'll try my best." 
 
"Why do you guys want to take Jacob away from his brothers?" 
 
"Well contrary to what my husband has said, and first let me apologize for the harsh comments he made. He is just protective of his family... but when my daughter had Jacob, we didn't get much time with him, and neither did my daughter. So we feel we owe it to her." 
 
"I don't want to sound rude, but she isn't around anymore. Don't you owe it to Jacob to give him the best possible life?"
 
"I think we can do that," responded Debra.
 
"Better than a life with his brothers?" 
 
"Absolutely. We are his grandparents, we know whats best!" 
 
"But taking him away from his brother's isn't going to help him." 
 
"Oh, we are gonna get his brothers too. Don't you worry about that, it might take a bit longer, but we will." Debra said.
 
"Excuse me?" 
 
"Look, the boys need a mother role model to take care of them and a strong-willed man to be their father. Something you clearly lack on both sides." 
 
"You're just as crazy as Thomas." 
 
"Now that's where you are wrong. I'm smarter." 
 
"Ohh I can easily agree with you on that one," I returned.
 
"Now I don't know what you're trying to do here Mr. Hamel, but it's not going to work. In three weeks, Jacob will be with us. Then come another month, and his brothers will be too. Don't you worry." 
 
"Oh I'm not, you can count on it," I responded. "But before you hang up, I do have one more question." 
 
"Yes?" 
 
"You said Helen met Jacob's dad through work." 
 
"Yes." 
 
"You do know where your daughter worked for then?" 
 
"Yes, I know... I didn't support it, but doesn't make her a bad person." 
 
"No... it just means she was involved with gangs and selling drugs." 
 
"She had to make a living somehow, now are we done with this conversation?" 
 
"You have any questions for me?" I asked.
 
"Oh no," she chuckled. "I think this conversation went great." 
 
"So did I," I replied. "Look forward to talking to ya." 
 
"Enjoy your day," Debra said and hung up. As soon as I heard the phone click, I slammed my hands on the table.
 
"Damnit, we need to get Thomas back on the phone. She's too smart to slip up." 
 
"We are going to keep trying, but today is done. Maybe we catch Thomas by himself one of these days," Jordan commented. 
 
"Let's start improving our next option," I said as I was standing up to leave, "I've had enough for the day. Everyone, good job again. Thanks for all your hard work." 
 
"I'll walk you out," Jordan said. As we were walking Jordan confirmed the time of dinner which was at 6:30. She also said she was looking forward to meeting Jacob's brothers and relaxing. I said similar comments and walked out of the office building to my GLS. 
 
Since I was out this way, I decided to go pick my boat up from storage and surprise the boys when they get home. Now the boat wouldn't be ready as it had to be dewinterized, which meant picking together water hoses to cool the engine and what not. However, getting the boat out of storage was always step one to getting the boat in the water. On my way to the storage facility, I called Keith and confirmed our travel plans which meant sending me to Pittsburgh. I also dialed the storage facility and told them to have my boat out waiting. 
 
When I pulled into the parking lot, my Wake Boat was waiting for me. For all those that don't know what a wake boat is, I would google it if I were you. In simple terms, a rider could do almost any water sport behind the boat, so it would be endless amounts of fun in the sun with the boys. My particular boat is a MasterCraft X46, which is 24.6 inches long and of course, this boat was loaded with all the cool features. Honestly, too many to list, but everything is worth it. 
 
Anyway, I picked up the boat and was on my way home. Once I arrived, I backed the boat beside the garage and went to greet Rita who had all sorts of questions about the phone call. Similar to my reactions, Rita wasn't too pleased with the outcome, but she was more positive than I was. Her advice was to keep going, one of them will eventually slip up and make a mistake.  I so badly wanted to trust the words Rita was preaching, but I couldn't at least not yet. We also chatted about the game night, as Rita was so excited. The smile on her face couldn't have been any bigger, although she was hoping there weren't too many physically challenging games as she wasn't in the greatest of shape. Although I don't think it matters to Ryker, as long as he had someone there to support him. 
 
After my chat with Rita, it was time to go pick Clayton up. I arrived at his school and signed him out.
 
"So how was your day?" 
 
"Good!" 
 
"Anything fun happened today?" 
 
"No... not really. We, had a fire drill today though." 
 
"Well, that's good!" 
 
"It was sorta scary. And the noise thing was so loud... it hurt my ears." 
 
"Yeah," I chuckled. "That'll happen." 
 
"Do we have hockey tonight?" 
 
"Yup!" 
 
"Yes!" Clayton cheered as he jumped in the back. 
 
"You all buckled?" I asked
 
"Yeah," he responded with a thumbs up.
 
"You're too cute kiddo," I replied.
 
"I know!" Clayton giggled. "Umm, when am I getting hockey skates?" 
 
"How about we do that this weekend." 
 
"What about my helmet and stuff?" 
 
"Hockey season is a good ways away... so we will pick up your helmet, but we're going to wait on the hockey pads." 
 
"Okay!" 
 
"Yeah," I replied.
 
"Garret?" Inquired Clayton. "Do you have to go on your trip. I'm gonna miss you." 
 
"Aww buddy, I wish I didn't, but it's for the best. Just think of how many kids we could help." 
 
"They aren't living with us are they?" 
 
"No," I chuckled. 
 
"Good! I like it how it is," Clayton replied.
 
"Yeah... me too. But how would you feel if another girl or boy came to live with us?" 
 
"I wouldn't like it," Clayton said as he looked up at the moonroof.
 
"What... why?" 
 
"Cause it's the bestest. Like I don't have to share you with others," giggled Clayton.
 
"But what about your brothers? You have to share with them." 
 
"Duh... but that's only three people. Another person would take away from me time." 
 
"Me time?" I laughed.
 
"Yup!" 
 
"Oh boy... you're too funny," I replied. "Well don't worry, because no one is coming to stay with us. All the kids that we are trying to help will be staying at a building about 25ish minutes away." 
 
"Ohhh," Clayton responded. 
 
"Yup," I stated. The rest of the car ride was spent talking about the organization, but I won't bore you with those questions as I've talked about them a lot. Once we pulled into the driveway and made our way to the garage, I was surprised Clayton didn't notice the boat. I think he was too focused on getting a snack from Rita, so I let him be. Plus it would be easier to show the boys the boat when they are all together. Soon enough, I walked in to see Clayton with two cookies running towards the family room and yelling thanks to Rita. 
 
"So do you want my help to prepare any meals for this date... I mean 'dinner' with your friend?" Inquired Rita 
 
"Ha ha," I sarcastically said. "But yes... a fruit bowl would be delightful." 
 
"Oh... you want the chocolate fondue fountain too?" Laughed Rita.
 
"You're so not funny," I replied. 
 
"No but seriously, what are you making?" 
 
"Grilled chicken, baked potatoes, and a fruit salad." 
 
"Oh boy," Rita chuckled. "Tomorrow I will prepare the chicken in a marinade, and all you have to do is grill them. I'll also get the fruit salad ready for you, and I would suggest another side dish like asparagus or green beans." 
 
"Ohh umm green beans," I returned.
 
"Okay, and I'll grab a veggie tray tomorrow as well." 
 
"You're a saint," I replied.
 
"I know!" 
 
"Miss Rita? Can I have a glass of milk?" Asked Clayton who walked in cookieless.
 
"Of course!" 
 
"Can I pour it?" 
 
"With my help, yes you can, Sugar," Rita stated as she grabbed the milk from the fridge. 
 
"Alright, I'm going to go work out. I'll see you guys in a bit." I said as I headed upstairs to get changed and then went for the basement. After my workout, I noticed Clayton was taking his usual nap, which meant it was also time for me to go pick the boys up. 
 
Not long after I left, I was back home and pulled into the driveway with Lincoln, Ryker, and Jacob. To no surprise, Lincoln was the first to notice the boat. 
 
"That's... That's our boat?" Lincoln shouted as we drove into the garage.
 
"Yeah," I laughed. "I'll go show you guys around." 
 
"Is it ready to go in the water?" Asked Ryker. 
 
"No, not yet. Should be ready next week though... Lincoln, can you go get Clayton from inside, so I don't have to do this twice." 
 
"Yeah sure, but don't show them anything without me," Lincoln replied as he ran into the house.
 
"What's the tower thingy?" Asked Ryker. 
 
"A tower," I laughed. "It's actually called a wake tower. It holds our boat's speakers, wakeboards, wakesurf boards, and a place to attach a rope to." 
 
"Oh... cool," Ryker said as I began uncovering the boat. 
 
"Can we sit in it?" Asked Jacob.
 
"Yup, let's just wait for your brothers," I said as I hopped in and rolled the cover towards the front of the boat.
 
"The boat matches the SUV," commented Ryker. 
 
"Back," Lincoln came running with Clayton not too far behind. 
 
"Alright boys, you wanna hop in?" I asked. 
 
"Yeah!" They all cheered. 
 
"Alright let me help you up," I said as I jumped down from the boat and picked Ryker up first to set him in. I did the same for Clayton and Jacob, but we watched Lincoln struggle, so I gave him a boost. After they were all in, I jumped up and took a seat. 
 
"So boys,  if we want to start using the boat. It'll be chilly, but we should stay pretty warm. We have a heater by your feet, the hands, and that hose thing which you put under your towel, plus those 3 seats are heated." 
 
"We have heated seats?" Asked Lincoln.
 
"Like the new car does?" Inquired Jacob.
 
"Yes," I laughed "and depending on the temperature or who's doing what, this compartment is where we store wetsuits, life jackets, and what not." 
 
"This is so cool!" Jacob said.
 
"What's the red button do?" Clayton asked as he pushed it in. 
 
"That's the horn, but the battery to the boat is turned off, so the horn doesn't work." 
 
"What about this button?" 
 
"Well none of them will work, but this button turns on the running lights.. this one turns on the interior lights, and these turn on the heaters and heated seats." 
 
"Can we put it in the water soon?" 
 
"Well that's the plan," I commented.
 
"What's this do?" Jacob asked. I went on to answer all the boy's questions which were quite a handful, although they were good questions. It also made me happy to see them so excited for something, and that's all that matters to me. After I helped them out of the boat, I jumped back in to cover it while they went inside to a quick snack before hockey lessons. 
 
When I made it back into the house, all the joy was gone. I had Rita holding Lincoln in his arms as he was in a mid-PTSD attack. 
 
"What happened?" I asked as I quickly ran over and took him in my arms while Rita tended to the other three.
 
"I... I don't know, I was cutting beef when The boys came inside all happy, and then all the sudden Lincoln collapsed," Rita stated as she took the three upstairs.
 
"No please stop," Lincoln yelled. "PLEASE STOP." 
 
"Hey, I'm here buddy," I said as I gave him a tight squeeze. "If you can hear..." 
 
"STOOPPP! PLEASE." 
 
"Lincoln, listen to my voice kiddo." 
 
"NO MORE STOPPPPP, IT HURTS AHH. I CANT," Lincoln cried. "PLEASE just stop." 
 
"Listen for my voice Lincoln and only my voice. I'm here, it's Garret, nothing is going to hurt you."
 
"STOP!" 
 
"Lincoln," I said keeping my voice calm. "It's okay buddy. I'm here for you." 
 
"Please," Lincoln said as he screams finally faded. 
 
"Lincoln... kiddo, it's okay. Come on out of it," I stated as I picked him up and carried him into the family room. "Snap out of it, bud. It's just you and me, it's okay." 
 
And then it was silence... just like every other attack, Lincoln was completely out of it as he tried to wake up. This was always the worst part for me because I didn't know what state his mind was after these attacks. I've seen him become very angry and hostile and I've seen the complete opposite. It wasn't that I favored one over the other, I just honestly wanted him to be here and present. After a few minutes and a few moans, he started to come back. 
 
"I... I... I don't know," Lincoln said as he wasn't fully awake.
 
"What... What don't you know?" 
 
"Huh?" Lincoln replied. 
 
"You said you don't know... what don't you know?" 
 
"Why I keep having these attacks," Lincoln responded and buried his head in my chest.
 
"It's okay buddy... remember, let's think positive and try some relaxation methods."
 
"O... okay," Lincoln replied, but of course my words didn't mean much. 
 
"Let's try to control your breathing! Big deep breaths... in and out." I said. I probably repeated this step at least 50 times in 5 minutes, but we were able to get relaxed enough to where Lincoln stopped crying.
 
"I'm sorry." 
 
"You have nothing to be sorry about, but what caused this one?" 
 
"I don't know... I wasn't thinking about Frank. I just saw Rita and got light headed." 
 
"When you saw Rita?" 
 
"Yeah... I don't know. It was weird like, the red marks looked like blood on her apron and hands... it, it freaked me out."
 
"Okay, it's okay." 
 
"I just thought of... just thought of," Lincoln stuttered. 
 
"It took you back to when you woke up in a pool of blood, didn't it?" 
 
"Yeah," Lincoln said as he started crying again. 
 
"It's okay buddy, I understand."
 
"I... I don't want Rita to be mad at me," he said as his voice was barely audible.
 
"She won't be, I promise. She's just concerned for you."
 
"I just thought I was getting better." 
 
"And you are... here sit up, I'm going to grab us water," I stated as I quickly ran to the kitchen. I was also looking for the apron, and thankfully Rita took it off before she went to help Lincoln. However, I'll agree with Lincoln, the apron definitely had some red stains, but I wouldn't have guessed that it would set him off. I hurriedly poured two glasses and went back to Lincoln, where he quickly took a seat on my lap again. 
 
"Thanks," he said as he gulped the water. 
 
"So you sure you weren't thinking about Frank?" I inquired.
 
"No, I don't think I was." 
 
"Alright, you okay?" 
 
"No... and it's not different than before." 
 
"What do you mean?" 
 
"I just... just thought Ruth was helping. You know? I thought I was getting better." 
 
"I think it is... a few weeks ago we wouldn't even be talking right now. You'd either still be in an attack or coming out of it. I would say this is progress." 
 
"Lincoln?" I heard a high pitch voice say, "you okay?" 
 
"Yeah?" Added Ryker as the three boys came running around the corner. He was almost tackled into the couch by Clayton giving him a hug.
 
"Yeah... I'm, I'm okay," he added as Ryker and Jacob joined in for a group hug. 
 
"Boys where is Ri..." 
 
"I told you three to stay upstairs," Rita said as she finally reached the family room. 
 
"Oh boy," I added because you don't want to make Rita anger.
 
"Sorry Miss. Rita." Clayton spoke.
 
"Yeah, we were just worried about Lincoln." 
 
"I don't care.. you guys need to listen when we tell you to do something." 
 
"Sorry," Jacob added.
 
Rita exhaled a deep breath, "this once... JUST THIS ONCE, I will let it slip without punishment. However, if it happens again, I'll be talking to Garret." 
 
"Yes, Miss. Rita," Clayton said again.
 
"Sorry," Ryker said as he let go of Lincoln to give Rita a hug. 
 
"It's okay, I forgive you boys, now where was I?" She asked herself as she walked back into the kitchen. 
 
"Boys... I just want to state that Rita is right. If she tells you to do something, you should listen to her. You understand?" 
 
"Yeah," they added. 
 
"Good, now go get ready for lessons," I said to the three, and they took off upstairs. "Lincoln... you think you're coming tonight?" 
 
"Umm yeah, I guess I will." 
 
"Alright bud, go get ready then."
 
"Okay," he said standing up, but before he went upstairs, he gave me a hug and kiss on the cheek. "Love you, and umm thanks." 
 
"Love you kiddo," I responded.
 
Thankfully, the rest of the night went on without any issues. Surprisingly they all participated in lessons today which made me happy because I thought Lincoln was done with skating. It was good to see him out there and having fun. After hockey lessons, the boys and I went home where they showered, did whatever homework they had left, and then watched two episodes of MythBusters. A sleepy Clayton only made it through 10 minutes of the first episode, so I took him upstairs to go to bed and returned to cuddle with Lincoln, Ryker, and Jacob. Once the two episodes were finished, I noticed a few yawns coming from all of them, so I sent them to bed. I had some extra 'me' time, so I went to relax in my jacuzzi tub with the jets hitting my body. I was in the tub for 2 hours, I actually think I fell asleep a few times. After my bath, I threw on a shirt and underwear to go to sleep.
 
Just as I closed my eyes, I heard a glass breaking and a loud thud, which caused me to shoot out of bed. I hurried to Lincoln's room because I thought he might have been having another attack and broken a lamp, but when I opened his door, he was sleeping peacefully. Then I heard a noise coming from downstairs and quietly walked out of Lincoln's rooms to investigate. As I crept downstairs and around the corner, my eyes fell upon a 5-year-old boy drenched in what appeared to be orange juice. 
 
"Clayton?" 
 
"I'm all sticky," he giggled as he felt his body. 
 
"Oh dear lord," I said as I exhaled. "What are you doing up... And don't move... there is glass everywhere.
 
"I wanted orange juice." 
 
"Yeah, I can see that. But why aren't you sleeping?" 
 
"I don't know.. I woke up and wanted a drink." 
 
"Oh my gosh, there is orange juice everywhere... how'd you get it on the ceiling." 
 
"I... I went to pour some but it was too heavy, and I dropped it... on me." 
 
"How'd the glass break?" 
 
"I don't know." 
 
"Okay... umm don't move, I need to get shoes on." 
 
"Okay," Clayton giggled as I ran upstairs. I quickly returned and started picking up the glass pieces.
 
"Are you mad?" 
 
"I'm not happy," I responded.
 
"I'm sorry, I was thirsty." 
 
"I'm not mad that you were thirsty, I'm mad you didn't ask for help." 
 
"But I wanted to do it by myself." 
 
I exhaled, "I know I can tell." 
 
"I'm sorry." 
 
"It's okay," I said as I threw away the pieces of glass and started throwing paper towels on the ground. 
 
"I'm all sticky." 
 
"Yup, I think you're going to need a shower bud." 
 
"I think so too," Clayton remarked. 
 
"Alright, let's get you out of these," I said as I took off his shirt pants and underwear. 
 
"Can I still have a drink?" 
 
"Yes, but water. And I'll get it for you. I still don't want you to move, there could be little glass pieces laying around." 
 
"Okay," Clayton responded as he watched me grab a glass and fill it with water. 
 
"Alright, you can have this after your shower. Come on," I stated as I picked up the naked 5-year-old and carried him up to my bathroom. "Okay, so you sit tight in the shower, I have to go make sure all the glass is cleaned up." 
 
"Okay," Clayton replied as I set him on the bench seat in my shower and turned the water on warm.
 
"Don't move, you're still dripping orange juice," I said as I left for downstairs. Thank heavens I went back downstairs because I found little shards of glass everywhere. I quickly swept the pieces into a dustpan and went upstairs. 
 
"Hi," Clayton greeted me as I entered the shower. 
 
"Hi'" I laughed, "Come on, let's make this quick." 
 
"You still mad?" Clayton asked as he stood up and walked into the water stream. Luckily, my shower was big, so I didn't need to be soaked.
 
"No," I replied as I grabbed the shampoo bottle. "Now come here." 
 
"I'm sorry," Clayton said as he gave me a big wet hug.
 
"So much for staying dry," I laughed as I quickly shampooed his hair as he gave me a hug. "But it's okay, I forgive you." 
 
"Thanks." 
 
"Now go under the water and rinse the shampoo out," I commanded as I grabbed for the body wash. 
 
"Is it all gone?" 
 
"I think so, but you need your body washed." 
 
"Okay," Clayton said as he took a step towards me and I lathered him up. After a minute or two, I sent him back under the water while I grabbed a towel. After all the soap was off of him, I shut the water off and wrapped him in a towel. 
 
"Alright buddy, you wanna sleep in my room tonight?" I asked as I dried him off. 
 
"Yes!" He enthusiastically returned. 
 
"Alright here is your glass of water, don't drink the full thing. I'm going to your room to get more pajamas." 
 
"Thanks," Clayton commented and took a sip of water. 
 
I went to his room and grabbed a onesie for him to sleep in. I returned to my room and slipped Clayton into the onesie. Once dressed, he jumped into my bed while I quickly changed into dry clothes and laid down too.  Clayton must have been really cold because he cuddled as close to me as possible, but I didn't mind I merely wrapped my arm around him to pull him closer as he rested this head on my chest. 
 
"Love you, Garret!" 
 
"I love you so much buddy," I replied as I kissed his forehead, "and you smell good too." 
 
"So do you," he yawned.
 
"Thanks," I chuckled as I rubbed his back. 
 
It didn't take Clayton long to fall asleep as he was out in 5 minutes, and I wasn't far behind.
 

Part - 3 

Friday morning, I awoke to not only Clayton in my bed, but Jacob and Ryker had joined too. Don't ask me when or why they jumped into my bed, but those two were sharing a pillow with Jacob's head resting on Ryker's shoulder. It looked so cute that I had to snag a quick picture before starting my day. I untangled Clayton's body from mine and grabbed my iPhone to take a quick photo. After that, I decided to let them sleep some more and headed downstairs where Rita was already starting a pot of coffee.
 
"Why is it so sticky," she asked as I walked into the kitchen.
 
"Well good morning to you too," I laughed.
 
"Oh, I'm sorry. Good morning, but why is it so sticky?" 
 
"Clayton thought he'd be a big boy last night and pour himself a glass of orange juice... Let's just say, it didn't go well." 
 
"That'll explain the broken cup in the sink too." 
 
"Yup," I replied. "I tried my best to clean it up, but this was at like midnight. He was drenched in OJ, so I had to give him another shower." 
 
"Well no big deal," Rita stated. "I'll try to clean the floors for tonight."
 
"Some got on the ceiling too." 
 
"What?" 
 
"Yeah right there," I pointed. "I don't know how he did it." 
 
"That child," Rita laughed. 
 
"I know," I said as I sat down.  "You ready for the mother/son event?" 
 
"Yup!" 
 
"I'd probably leave around 5:40." 
 
"I was thinking the same thing... would you mind if I took the SUV?" 
 
"Heavens no, go for it. How's your car been?" I inquired.
 
"Ahh, it's okay. I just refuse to spend my money on a new one." 
 
"What year is it?" 
 
"2004... BMW 3 series."
 
"You know you have a birthday coming up."
 
"Yes, I know when my own birthday is, I don't need reminding and Garret... don't you dare buy me a car. You already have too many expenditures... plus the new one you just bought." 
 
"Rita... I just made 500k+ through investment returns last month. You're getting a car." 
 
"I forbid it," Rita said as she brought me a coffee.
 
"Uh huh," I said as I flipped open my iPad and started looking at new cars for her.
 
"I mean t it," Rita said. 
 
"I'm not listening," I laughed. This went on for probably 10 minutes, I made jokes about buying her a Porsche, and she about fainted at that idea. Rita was an honest woman who didn't want handouts, but the truth is she deserves it. So, with a little help from the boys, Rita would be getting a new car, I just wasn't sure what. I also wanted to get her a new car that was safer than her 2004 BMW, especially if she's driving the kids around. Anyway, I was going to ask the boys to help pick one out as it would be our gift to her.
 
Around 7:45, breakfast was ready, and all the boys were downstairs eating. Ryker couldn't stop talking about the mother/son event to Rita, while Lincoln and Jacob picked on Clayton about the orange juice accident. Clayton handled it like a champ as he just kept on humming to himself like he didn't hear his brothers at all. After breakfast, the boys changed out of their robes and into school clothes. We hopped in the SUV and on our way there, I told the boys about the birthday present idea for Rita and they were all thrilled for it. They immediately started listing cars, which was hilarious as it lasted the whole way until we reached Granite Hills Elementary. 
 
I dropped them off at school and made my way back home. For once, I didn't have to go to a meeting or make a phone call, so this was an odd feeling. I mean I could make a phone call to Keith or Kelly, but I wanted some me time. So I went back to the house and switched my ride for the Ferrari. It was a gorgeous spring day, with temperatures hitting the low 70s, but would taper off to the mid-40s at night, so it was going to be a perfect fire night. Anyway, I backed the beast out of the garage and went on a joyride around the lake and made a few stops along the way. My first destination was to pick up a bottle of wine for tonight. My next stop was the gas station, to fill the Ferrari. Then I went to a local marina, where I bought boat wax and interior cleaner. Finally, I went to the grocery store to replace the orange juice that Clayton spilled last night. All in all, it was a fun way to kill a few hours. 
 
I made it back to the house to put away all the stuff I bought and to switch cars. I jumped in the S63 and went to the Mercedes dealership. This time it was for Rita, I was just scoping out the market and seeing what she would like. I was thinking of a smaller SUV, maybe like a GLC or GLE. Hell, it didn't even have to be a Mercedes either, but I did want something safe. So after a while, I had a pretty good idea of the manufactures I would be looking at. I quickly made a list, which contained: Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Volvo, Mazda, Subaru, and Honda. Knowing Rita, I had a pretty good idea of what she'd like, but I was going to let the boys help. 
 
After killing more time,  I went over to go pick up Clayton. He and I grabbed a quick bite to eat at a local diner then went home. As we waited for his brothers' day to end, Clayton and I went outside and hung out by the lake. He wanted to go fishing; however, I didn't have any of the gear out, so we had to save that for another time. So instead, Clayton hopped in his wetsuit, which made him very happy and jumped in the shallow end of the lake. He didn't seem to mind the chilly lake water; actually, it probably felt good on this warm spring day. 
 
After an hour or so, we headed back inside. I helped him change into regular clothes, and we watched TV until I left.
 
On my way to the school, my phone rang... I looked at the caller ID, and I was receiving a call from Christian, which made my heart sink. It couldn't have been good, considering school just ended for him, and he was supposed to be getting ready for soccer practice.
 
"Hey, buddy," I gingerly said.
 
"Garret?" 
 
"Yeah?"
 
"Guess what?" 
 
"Huh?" 
 
"You gotta guess something?" 
 
"What... umm, you did well on a test?" I said a little bit shocked that Christian wasn't crying.
 
"I met another gay boy! No one knows he is though." 
 
"A gay boy?"
 
"Yeah!"
 
"Oh, you did now? That's awesome bud! How did that come up?" 
 
"Well first, it's been such a good day!" 
 
"That's awesome buddy, tell me all about it," I replied as I almost cried tears of joy. I haven't heard this enthusiasm in Christian's voice in a while.
 
"Okay, where to start.. umm okay, I got it! So the kids who normally bully me weren't here, I think they got in trouble for something... so like, no one even messed with me. More people talked to me, but unfortunately, it was mostly girls, but it felt good to talk to people again. Oh, I finally listened to you, and I talked to my soccer coach." 
 
"And?" 
 
"He doesn't want me to quit, and he supports me! He told me that it would be stupid to quit, especially with my talent!"
 
"Did you talk to him about other players bullying you?" 
 
"Yeah! He said not to worry about it anymore, and he wishes I would have come to him sooner. 
 
"Buddy! This is awesome!" 
 
"I know, I couldn't wait to tell you!" 
 
"Alright," I chuckled, "so what about your new friend?" 
 
"Oh yeah... so we were outside for gym class since it was so nice out. At the end of class, my gym teacher picks two people to bring in the equipment. So I got picked and so did he. He and I had to go gather up the field cones and frisbee from the field. As everyone is walking into the building... He and I start talking." 
 
"Alright, does HE have a name?" I inquired.
 
"Oh yeah," laughed Christian. "His name is Adrian, and he is in my grade, plus he is on the baseball team." 
 
"Nice," I commented.
 
"Anyway, Adrian started telling me he was sorry for the way people were treating me and stuff. I never noticed this, but Adrian was never mean to me, he sort of avoided me when Austin told everyone. So anyway, I told him thanks and that it means a lot to hear, which it does. But he starts asking me all sorts of questions like 'when did I know I was gay? How did I know I was gay? How my family acted when they found out? Do I know anyone else that is gay? And what is my phone number?'" 
 
"Okay? Did you answer everything he was asking?" 
 
"Yeah! And then I asked him why he was asking me these questions." 
 
"And?" 
 
"Well he didn't fully say it, but he said he was curious about a few things." 
 
"Oh, umm Christian... I hate to ruin your day, but that doesn't mean he is gay." 
 
"No, but it gets better. I got a text from him like 15 minutes later, asking if He could talk to me." 
 
"Yeah?" I chuckled. 
 
"Well then during lunch... he told me he might be gay!" 
 
"Wow, how'd you respond?" 
 
"I was shocked at first because I would have never expected him to be... ya know... gay. He doesn't act gay or anything."
 
"Christian... you don't come off as the typical gay boy either. Actually, there is no such thing as a typical gay boy."
 
"Okay so anyway, moving on ... but like, I heard that Adrian was dating some girl a grade above us from another school, so I was completely shocked when he told me."
 
"Did you ask him about that?" I inquired.
 
"Yeah," Christian giggled. "He blushed and said it was a rumor his teammates made up. He never talked to her or nothing."
 
"Okay," I said as this story was becoming confusing. 
 
"Okay so again, after lunch, he told me he is gay or might be. Then he told me not to tell anyone because he didn't want people to know yet." 
 
"He's placing a lot of trust in you." 
 
"Yeah I know, but I told him I wouldn't tell anyone. After what I've been going through, I don't blame him." 
 
"No... I don't think it's fair that anyone goes through what you do." 
 
"But the best part..."
 
"There's more?" I asked cutting him off
 
"Yeah! He wants to hang out this weekend." 
 
"That's so awesome buddy! I'm so proud of you for sticking through all the bullying." 
 
"Well it's not over, but today was a really good day." 
 
"I'm so happy for you!" I said, "so when are you hanging out?"
 
"He wants to sleepover Saturday night." 
 
"A sleepover, huh?"
 
"Yeah... I'm kinda nervous. What if he wants to do stuff." 
 
"Christian."
 
"What?"
 
"Please... Please just be a 13-year-old and hang out with him. You guys don't need to be having fun in that way." 
 
"But what if he wants to." 
 
"I'm guessing he will be just as nervous as you, if not more. Remember, you are the one out of the closet now. He is just looking for guidance in a confusing time, just like you. My advice would be to hang out this first time. You know... talk, play video games, watch movies, or go outside." 
 
"So start slow?" 
 
"Yup."
 
"What about if we kiss?"
 
"You'll figure it out."
 
"But start slow, right?"
 
"Exactly bud," I said. "Hey, I just arrived at the boys' school, I'll give you a call later." 
 
"Wait I have one more question!"
 
"Hurry up. What is it?" 
 
"Can he and I sleepover at your house instead of mine?" 
 
"Wait... what?" 
 
"Please... it would be so much easier." 
 
"Christian... we will talk about this later." 
 
"Fine, I gotta go anyway. Love you, Uncle G." 
 
"Love ya bud, proud of you," I replied and hung up just as I parked the car. Christian got me thinking, why would he want the sleepover at my house? With my boys, it would be an added distraction for him and possibly be overwhelming for Adrian. Plus, with it being their first time hanging out, it would be better to do it at his own house. I couldn't dwell on this too long as I saw Jacob and Ryker coming towards me with Lincoln not far behind. 
 
"Hey boys," I said as the first two opened the door.
 
"Hi Garret, is Rita ready?" Ryker eagerly asked.
 
"I think so," I chuckled. 
 
"Hey Garret," Lincoln said as he took the front seat and reached over to give me a hug, "missed you!" 
 
"Aww, missed you too... missed all you boys," I stated as I released Lincoln's hug and tousled his hair. "Love you guys!" 
 
"Love you, Garret," they replied. 
 
"Alright, everyone buckled up?" I asked as I took a quick look around then started our way home. "So how was school?" 
 
"Boring, we had a fire drill though," Lincoln commented.
 
"Yeah, same," spoke Jacob.
 
"I had fun," spoke Ryker. "My class got to watch a movie." 
 
"Lucky," whispered Lincoln. 
 
"Oh, that's cool! What movie?" I asked.
 
"I don't know," Ryker giggled. "Something about Indians." 
 
"You don't know what movie you watched?"
 
"Nope! I was almost falling asleep." 
 
"Well, that's good to know,"I sarcastically said.
 
"What are we doing this weekend?" Asked Lincoln. 
 
"Saturday, the boys have soccer practice. But after that, we have an open schedule. Why?" I asked. 
 
"Just wondering." 
 
"Can we go fishing?" Jacob inquired. 
 
"Yeah! Can we," added Ryker?
 
"Umm yeah, how about Sunday Morning?" I asked.
 
"Yes!" Jacob said. 
 
"Can Max come over?" Asked Lincoln.
 
"We will see," I replied. "Oh! This weekend we are car shopping for Rita!"
 
"Oh yeah, forgot about that," Ryker said. 
 
"Plus we need to pick you guys out new life jackets and possibly a few water toys." 
 
"Water toys?" 
 
"Yeah, like water skis, a wakeboard, and wakesurf board. I have a few, but they're probably too big for you guys."
 
"I can't wait for the boat to be in the water. I've never been on one," Jacob stated.
 
"Have any of you?" I asked. 
 
"No," Lincoln and Ryker responded. 
 
"Well, it's tons of fun!" I added as we drove home. Once we reached the house, Ryker went flying into the kitchen to talk with Rita while the other two went upstairs to do their own thing. With some time to kill before 6, the boys had a mini snack, and then I sent them all to get showers. After the shower, I told the boys, minus Ryker since he was leaving, to dress a bit nicer as we had company coming. I didn't receive any complaints which always made it easier for me. Plus, I don't think the boys minded dressing up and looking good. Lincoln put on a light blue button down shirt with salmon colored khaki shorts, and he was looking sharp. Jacob's outfit included a red polo with black khaki shorts, which he pulled off good. Last but not least was Clayton, who could make anything look cute, but I dressed him in a blue and green plaid button down and jeans. 
 
Getting the boys all dressed took longer than I expected, but it killed time. Which meant Ryker and Rita were on their way out the door as they left around 5:30 instead of 5:45. Ryker was anxious and excited, so he wanted to get there earlier and see what was going on. With 30 minutes till Jordan arrived, I started prepping, which meant getting the vegetable tray out and cutting up cheese and meat as an appetizer.  As I was doing that, the boys were in the family room watching TV. 
 
Around 6, the doorbell rang just as I set everything out on the kitchen counter. I was heading to answer the door, but Clayton beat me to it. 
 
"Hi, I'm Clay!" Clayton spoke he as opened the door. 
 
"Oh my goodness... you are so cute," Jordan spoke. "My name is Jordan!" 
 
"Jordan!" Jacob ran by me and gave her a hug.
 
"Hey, Jacob, nice to see you again!" 
 
"You wanna come see my room?" I heard Clayton ask as I reached the front door area. 
 
"Boys, let us give Jordan some room here," I said as I walked over and gave Jordan a hug.
 
"Oh no, they are fine," Jordan insisted. 
 
"Hi," Lincoln said as he rounded the corner. 
 
"And you must be... Lincoln?" 
 
"Yeah, how'd you know?" 
 
"You look the oldest," Jordan remarked. 
 
"Oh," giggled Lincoln. "Nice to meet you."
 
"It's a pleasure to meet you! I've heard some many great things about you guys!" 
 
"So can I show her upstairs?" Clayton eagerly asked. 
 
"Yeah," Jacob jumped in. 
 
"I would love to," Jordan said before I could say something.
 
"You sure?" I asked.
 
"Yeah, it'll be fun," she chuckled. "Come on, let's go upstairs!" 
 
"Yes," Clayton said as he took her hand and went upstairs with Jacob. Jordan was laughing as she jokingly waved bye to Lincoln and me.
 
"She's pretty," Lincoln commented.
 
"Very," I said as I wrapped my arm around his shoulder. "Want something to drink while we wait?" 
 
"Yeah!" Lincoln said as he wrapped me in a quick hug. "Love you." 
 
"Love you too," I replied and kissed the top of his head. "Come on, let's get a glass of juice." 
 
"Okay," he responded as we walked into the kitchen. "She seems nice too." 
 
"Yeah, very nice person. Shes also highly intelligent." 
 
"How do you know her?" 
 
"Well, she's on my legal team... helping me with Jacob and stuff." 
 
"Oh," Lincoln replied as I got him his juice and he took a few vegetables from the tray. 
 
"How long you thinking she'll be up there?" I laughed.
 
"I don't know," giggled Lincoln. "An hour." 
 
"That'd be too funny." I added, "but if Clayton gets rolling... who knows." 
 
"I'm gonna go watch some TV." 
 
"Alright bud, dinner should be ready in 30-45 minutes." 
 
"Good, I'm starving!" Lincoln commented as he walked into the family room. After about 10 minutes, Jordan arrived in the kitchen with the two boys.
 
"Jacob. Clayton. Dinner should be ready in 30 minutes, so go in with Lincoln and watch some tv." 
 
"But we were gonna show Jordan the outside." 
 
"We will do it later," I assured them. 
 
"Fine!" They both remarked as they went to the family room. 
 
"You have a lovely house," Jordan said as she took a seat.
 
"Thank you," I said as I opened the bottle of wine for us. "And thanks for going with them, you didn't have to go upstairs."
 
"It was fun, I didn't mind! But just to let you know, they are so darn cute." 
 
"Don't tell them that," I joked. 
 
"I won't," Jordan laughed. 
 
"Alright so, I'd thought we would have dinner and then spend the night outside. Maybe have a bonfire or something." 
 
"That honestly sounds like a perfect night. I haven't sat outside by a fire in a long time. Used to be one of my favorite things." 
 
"It's up there on my list too," I remarked. 
 
"So how have the boys settled into living in this house?" 
 
"You know, I never really thought of that. It was such a quick transition that it never crossed my mind, but I think they've done pretty well. Nothing out of the ordinary." 
 
"That's good," Jordan remarked. "I know when my parents moved houses, there was always an adjustment period." 
 
"Yeah, when I first started moving houses, I was like that too. But towards the end, I was so used to moving around, that it didn't affect me." 
 
"How often did you move?" Jordan asked as she took a sip of wine. 
 
"Oh geez. A decent amount... I think umm, around 4 or 5 times." 
 
"That had to be rough." 
 
"It wasn't the easiest thing, but it made my brother Lucas and I so close," I replied. "How many times have you moved." 
 
"When I was a kid? Only once. But in my adult life, I've moved twice already." 
 
"How come?" 
 
"Oh long stories," Jordan laughed. "When I was first apartments shopping, I looked for the cheapest one... and I found one for dirt cheap, like 670 per month for a single room and bathroom. To make a long story short, let's just say it was the worst living conditions I have experienced. No AC, which wouldn't have been bad if my window didn't face a brick building that I could reach out in touch. Oh let's see, cracks in the roof that leaked rainwater and my personal favorite... the many needles left in the hallway. I don't know how I stayed there for as long as I did." 
 
"It builds character," I joked. 
 
"That's what my brother told me," she laughed. "Oh and the second place, the building caught fire, and the property was deemed unsafe to live in. So that brings me to my third place." 
 
"You like it?" 
 
"Oh I love it, a little expensive, but I love it." 
 
"Third times a charm I guess!"
 
"Literally," chuckled Jordan. "So I've been thinking about your organization." 
 
"Oh yeah? What about it?" I inquired. 
 
"I'd love to become a mentor for you guys." 
 
"Awesome! I was just talking to my business partner about this the other day. But I'll send the information your way." 
 
"Garret?" Clayton said as he walked into the kitchen. 
 
"Can I have some juice please?" 
 
"Absolutely buddy," I replied and walked to the fridge,
 
"So Clay, you never told me what grade you're in." 
 
"Kindergarten!" 
 
"Kindergarten, wow! You like it?" 
 
"Yeah, my teacher is nice. Her name is Mrs. lispik, but I call her Mrs. lipstick."
 
"Mrs. lipstick?" Jordan laughed. 
 
"Yeah," Clayton responded.
 
"You don't call her that in class do you?" I asked Clayton as I handed him the drink.
 
"I did once... but she laughed," Clayton said
 
"I wouldn't call her that too much bud," I added. 
 
"I don't! It was only once!" 
 
"Okay," I chuckled. "Here take some vegetables in for you and your brothers." 
 
Okay," Clayton responded as I handed him a few and he walked back into the family room.
 
"He is too cute," Jordan commented. 
 
"Yeah he is special, he's always in a good mood." 
 
"I can tell... I might be mistaken, but don't you have one more?" 
 
"Yeah, his name is Ryker. He's at a mother-son event with Rita." 
 
"Who is Rita?" Inquired Jordan.
 
"She helps me out around the house. And since the boys have come into my life, Rita has become a second grandmother." 
 
"That's adorable." 
 
"I think the kids like her more than me sometimes," I joked and went to the fridge to pull the chicken out. "Alright let's start grilling, want to join me in the back?" 
 
"Absolutely," Jordan responded as she stood up and walked to the door. "Let me get this for you." 
 
"Thanks," I said as I walked out with a platter full of chicken. I set the chicken down on the table and turned the grill on to warm up.
 
"This is gorgeous out here," Jordan said. "Absolutely amazing." 
 
"Later, I'll take you down to the lake it's even more peaceful." 
 
"I'd love that! Now is all this land yours?" 
 
"Yup!"
 
"Any idea what you're going to do with it?" 
 
"Umm... what do you mean?" 
 
"You could put a basketball court or a little barn,." 
 
"You know, I've never thought of that." I said, "but with the boys starting sports, I'll have to look into it." 
 
"You have so much land here... I think you should." 
 
"Yeah, don't mention that to the boys," I joked. Finally, the grilled was warm enough to throw the chicken on. While I cooked the chicken, Jordan and I talked the whole time. It was a delightful conversation as we learned more about each other. We covered all aspects such as future goals, family life, and past personal life. I was thoroughly enjoying my time with her as we laughed quite a bit.
 
With the chicken finished, I hollered for the boys to come sit down as Jordan and I brought all the food over. Once everything was set, everyone began to dig in. Surprisingly, Jordan decided to start the conversation.
 
"So how have you guys liked your new school?" 
 
"I like it a lot!" Clayton responded.
 
"I know you do," Jordan chuckled. "What about you Lincoln?" 
 
"It's okay," Lincoln responded as he played with his food. "Are... are... you and Garret like...  dating?"
 
"Lincoln," I quickly said. 
 
"No, that's a fair question," Jordan said stepping in. "No we are not dating, we are simply getting to know each other more."
 
"Okay..." Lincoln said as he was still skeptical.
 
"And if I were dating Garret, you'd be the first to know, because I understand that you guys are the most important thing to Garret. And to date him, I would need all you to be okay with it."
 
"So are you gonna be dating?" Jacob asked.
 
"Guys," I said stepping in again as this conversation was all over the place.
 
"Garret it's okay, I don't mind. They are curious!" Jordan said. "Umm, I don't know... that's why we are getting to know each other more." 
 
"Have you kissssed!?" Clayton embarrassingly asked.
 
"Oh dear heavens," I said which caused Lincoln and Jacob to burst into laughter.
 
"No we haven't," Jordan chuckled. 
 
"What?" Clayton asked everybody as he didn't get what was so funny.
 
Lincoln caught his breath and spoke again, "so do... do you like Garret?" 
 
"Ahh... he's okay," Jordan joked which caused the boys to laugh more.
 
"Yeah I agree," Lincoln said and gave me a look. 
 
"Uh huh," I added. 
 
"So what's your guy's favorite thing about Garret?" Jordan asked as we continued to eat. "Maybe you can help me see something that I have yet to discover!" 
 
"That he cares about us," Lincoln said first. 
 
"Yeah," Jacob agreed. "And he's really nice." 
 
"What about you Clay?" Jordan asked. "What's your favorite thing about Garret!" 
 
"Everything!" 
 
"Thanks, buddy," I commented as I reached out to tousle his hair. 
 
"Yeah, nothing bad about him," Lincoln added. "That's why we love him." 
 
"Love you boys too," I responded.
 
"So nothing that I already didn't know," Jordan commented.
 
Lincoln continued as he played with his food, "I don't know, I guess he is just... he is just awesome! And... and we love him and don't want anything to happen to him."
 
"Well I know he sure does love you guys," Jordan commented as she looked at me, "and that alone proves a lot to me."
 
"Eww! You guys gonna kiss or something?" Clayton chimed in.
 
"I am so sorry," I chuckled to Jordan.
 
"Don't be, he's adorable!"
 
"I know I am."
 
"Clay stop being weird," Lincoln said.
 
"Says the weirdo," Clayton shot back.
 
"Boys... enough." I said, "Now are we done hammering Jordan with questions?" 
 
"No!" Jacob commented which sent everyone laughing again. However, the questioning did thin out towards the end of dinner, as I switched the conversation back to the boys. They were telling Jordan all about their plans to use the boat. I think they even invited her to come out with us on the boat, well at least Clayton did. I still think Lincoln is skeptical of Jordan, but he shouldn't be. Not yet at least, because Jordan and I are in the beginning stages of talking. But I will say, she's been fantastic tonight. She answered all the boy's questions and then even asked them some about sports and school. As dinner was wrapping up, the boys helped clean the table off. After the table cleared, they asked if they could go in the hot tub since we were having a fire later. I agreed, but first I was gonna take Jordan down to the lake. I asked if the boys wanted to join, and Lincoln was the only one to stay back. 
 
Together, the four of us started our march towards the water. I had Clayton sitting on my shoulders while Jacob was walking between Jordan and me, holding each of our hands. We were probably gone for about 45 minutes, which was perfect because it allowed for the food to settle in the boys' stomach. As we walked back up, I sent Jacob and Clayton inside to get a swimsuit on, while I started the fire. 
 
Once the fire was lit, I walked back into the house and poured two glasses of wine. I went back outside and handed her a glass.
 
"Thank you," she stated.
 
"No problem," I replied. 
 
"Where are the boys?" 
 
"They should be coming down any minute." 
 
"Oh... I think I see them now." 
 
"Yup," I said as I heard the door open and the 3 boys went flying by us to jump in the hot tub.
 
"They are seriously so cute." 
 
"Yeah I know," I said as I heard the door behind me open again.
 
"Garret! Garret!" Ryker yelled.
 
"Hey, buddy!" I said as I turned my body to see him running towards me.
 
"Hi!" He said as he launched himself into my lap.
 
"Hey," I said as I playfully tickled his ribs. "How was it? And where is Rita?" 
 
"She said she had to go, but it was so so so so much fun!" 
 
"Awesome! I can't wait to hear about it," I stated and kissed his head. "Ryker, I would like you to meet Jordan." 
 
"Hi," Ryker said as he bundled his body into my lap.
 
"Hey, Ryker, nice to meet you. Did you have fun at your event?" 
 
"Yeah," he blushed.
 
"Good... I think someone missed you, Garret."
 
"Maybe," Ryker giggled.
 
"Missed you too," I replied. 
 
Ryker's only response was him giggling more. 
 
"So.... tell us, did you guys win?" 
 
"No... but it was lots of fun." 
 
"What was it?" Jordan inquired.
 
"A game night," Ryker answered.
 
"What kind of games did you play?" 
 
"So many! Like a lot!" 
 
"Yeah," I laughed. "Is Rita okay?" 
 
"Yeah!" 
 
"Did you thank her?" 
 
"Uh huh!" 
 
"Good... you can go in the hot tub with your brothers, they just got in." 
 
"Can I go in my underwear?" 
 
"Umm... yeah sure, why not." 
 
"Yes!" Ryker replied as he stood up from my lap and threw off his socks, shirt, and shorts.
 
"Don't run," I suggested, as I collected his clothes and started folding them. 
 
"Okay," he responded as he started walking to the hot tub. The boxer briefs he was wearing defined his cute little bubble butt perfectly.
 
"Wow," Jordan commented.
 
"What?"
 
"He's going to be a lady's man... that boy is gorgeous." 
 
"You're not the first to think that," I chuckled as I set his clothes on the chair next to me.
 
"I mean honestly... he will be breaking girls hearts left and right." 
 
"I know," I laughed. 
 
"So anyway," Jordan said as she sipped her wine. "How much has your life changed since getting them?" 
 
"Oh my... what hasn't changed." 
 
"You miss anything? From...you know... before they were in your life."
 
"Umm," I said as I thought for a second. "I haven't really thought of that before, but no not at all. I think I'm the luckiest man on earth. The funny part is, I didn't want kids when I was with my ex. I wasn't ready... hell I still don't know if I'm fully capable." 
 
"Garret, you know how much love these boys have for you?" 
 
"Yeah." 
 
"You are fully capable... I mean it, with how much love they show you, proves you're doing something right."
 
"Oh I know," I said. "I'm lucky!"
 
"Yes you are, but you deserve it." 
 
"Thanks," I chuckled. "What about you? You ever want kids?" 
 
"Umm," Jordan responded as her face turned a bit sad. "Umm, I have always wanted kids. But uhh... umm, I'm not able to." 
 
"Oh... I'm... I'm sorry," I said as I wanted to kick myself in the face for asking that question.
 
"No no... it's okay, I've umm come to terms with it in the past few years. Plus it's driven me to focus more on work than my personal life." 
 
"If you don't mind me asking... why can't you have kids?" 
 
"I have an abnormal uterus, which won't let me have children safely." 
 
"I'm sorry," I added. 
 
"Like I said, I've come to terms with it now. And that's also why I'm looking forward to becoming a mentor for your program." 
 
"Yeah! It's going to be so much fun." 
 
"So what are the rules or guidelines." 
 
"Obviously the state has specific rules that you'll need to follow, but those will be sent to you through the mail. As far as working with the organization, Keith and I talked about having a mentor talk with mentees once a week. However, you can talk every day if you want to. Then we expect the mentor to meet with the mentees at least once a month. Of course, you can do more in-person meetings too." 
 
"That's so cool," Jordan commented. We went on to talk for another 30 minutes before Lincoln and Clayton came over. It was getting late, as my clock read 9:30. Lincoln agreed to take Clayton inside and get him ready for bed which included a shower. Jacob and Ryker stood in the tub for a bit longer, but not much as they both walked over.
 
"Can we sit out here with you?" Ryker asked.
 
"Absolutely bud," I said.
 
"Yes!" They both spoke.
 
"What do I do with my wet clothes?" Ryker asked.
 
"You can go change if you want to." 
 
"Can't I just take them off and be wrapped in a towel?"
 
"Yeah," Jacob said. 
 
"Umm, we have company guys." 
 
"It's okay," laughed Jordan, "I won't look!" 
 
"See, she doesn't care!" Ryker replied
 
"Alright umm, one at a time then," I said as Jacob stepped up and I lowered his swim trunks. I hurriedly wrap him in a towel and sent him to sit by Jordan. Ryker was already shivering by the time I was able to get to him. I did the same process and pulled down his drenched underwear. He stepped out, and I covered him in a towel. Instead of taking a seat on a chair, he hopped on my lap and cuddled into a ball as I rubbed him dry. 
 
"Hey... No fair," Jacob announced. 
 
"Sorry, kiddo." 
 
"You can sit on my lap if you'd like Jacob?" Jordan asked.
 
"Really? But... I'm all wet." 
 
"It's okay," she chuckled.
 
"Okay!" Jacob said as he stood up and sat on Jordan's lap. "Thanks!" 
 
"Your so very welcome," she said as she took some of the towel and dried his hair.
 
"The fire feels good!" Ryker commented.
 
"Yes it does," I responded as I pushed his hair to the right side of his forehead.
 
"What a perfect night," Jordan added. "Thank you guys so much for allowing me to hang out with you." 
 
"No problem," Jacob giggled. We were outside for another ten minutes before Jacob went inside. Ryker wanted to stay out, but it was only a matter of time before he fell asleep. However, since he wasn't able to meet Jordan as much as the other boys did, I let him stay out with us. After 15 more minutes of talking, he was out cold.
 
"I'm gonna take him upstairs, it's been a long day for him," I said as I kissed Ryker's forehead.
 
"I'm actually heading out, it's getting pretty late." 
 
"Alright," I said as I slowly stood up trying not to wake him. "I'll walk you to the door." 
 
"Oh you don't have to, you need to get him to bed." 
 
"He'll be fine, I'll just carry him," I said as I put my arm underneath his butt and let his head rest on my shoulder.
 
"You sure?" She asked as we made our way inside.
 
"Yeah!" 
 
"Alright, let me grab my purse really quick." 
 
"I'll meet you by the front door," I said.
 
"Okay," I heard her faintly say as she walked towards the kitchen. No less then a minute later, I led her out the door.
 
"Thanks for coming out, I uh... I uh really enjoyed tonight," I said. 
 
"So did I Garret." She replied and leaned in. I met her halfway, and we locked lips for the first time. 
 
Our kiss seemed to last forever, which I wasn't complaining, but it was only a few seconds. During our kiss, Ryker's towel fell down to around my arm which exposed the top of his butt cheeks which caused Jordan to laugh.
 
"How does this boy have tan lines?" Jordan chuckled as I broke the kiss. "Let me get the towel for him."
 
"I have no idea," I said as she picked up the towel and wrapped it around his shoulder. 
 
"He is just too cute." 
 
"Aww thanks," I smartly commented.
 
"Yeah yeah... you're slightly cute too," Jordan said and gave me another kiss. "Thanks again Garret, this was an amazing night." 
 
"I had a lot of fun," I commented. "Hopefully next time I will be able to get a babysitter, and I can take you out for dinner." 
 
"I would like that!" 
 
"Alright Jordan, drive back safe, send me a text when you get home."
 
"I will," she said as she stepped into her blue Audi A6. Once she drove down the driveway, I walked back inside. I quickly took Ryker upstairs to his bed and laid him down. I covered his naked body with his covers and kissed his forehead goodnight. My next stop was to Jacob's room where he had fallen asleep butt naked laying face down on top of the covers. I chuckled, but moved him to be underneath his covers, and kissed his forehead. I then went to Clayton's room where he was passed out too. My last stop was Lincoln's room where I saw him writing in his journal.
 
"Knock knock," I said stepping into his room.
 
"Hey," he replied as he put the journal beside him. This was only my second time seeing his journal. 
 
"Thanks for taking Clayton to bed." 
 
"Oh yeah... umm you're welcome." 
 
"You okay?" I asked as I went to sit down beside him.
 
"Yeah." 
 
"You seem down." 
 
"It's... it's just that Jordan is nice and everything but I don't really want anyone else here." 
 
"Yeah... why so?" 
 
"Well for one, I couldn't walk around naked," he giggled.
 
"Which I'm surprised you aren't right now." 
 
"Oh I'm bottomless," Lincoln replied
 
"Uh huh, what's up with the hoodie then?" 
 
"I was cold." 
 
"Oh, I see," I joked as his logic didn't make sense. "So what are your other reasons?"
 
"Well, I don't want to lose you. Like, lose your time and stuff."
 
"Hey," I stated as I patted his thigh. "You and your brothers are my number one priority, and you will always be." 
 
"Yeah I know, but it would be different." 
 
"Yes it would, but you shouldn't worry. We are just getting to know each other."
 
"I saw you guys kiss." 
 
"Were you spying on us?" 
 
"Umm... maybe."
 
"It's okay," I chuckled. "Yes we did kiss, and yes I do like her. But I promise you, buddy, it's nothing serious yet. Nor will it be anything serious for a little while."
 
"Promise?" 
 
"Yes!" 
 
"Okay," Lincoln said as he gave me a hug.
 
"So what did you think of her?" I asked as Lincoln laid down on his bed and I started running my hand through his hair.
 
"She's really really pretty!"
 
"Yes, she is!" 
 
"And she is nice. Especially to us." 
 
"She better be nice to you guys." 
 
"Yeah, so I guess I like her." 
 
"Good! I'm glad you do." 
 
"Yeah, she also is like... I don't know, I guess she wasn't afraid to answer the questions we had. Sorta like you always do."
 
"Well yeah, I like how she answered you guys. She was speaking honestly too... so anything you didn't like?" 
 
"Umm no." 
 
"Come on! You're my wingman bud, definitely something you didn't like." 
 
"There was one thing." 
 
"Yeah?" 
 
"She's almost as tall as you." 
 
"What?" I laughed.
 
"You said to look for something bad!"
 
"That I did," I replied as I couldn't stop laughing.
 
"What! It's not funny." 
 
"It's hilarious," I commented as I tried to regain my composure. 
 
"Stop!"
 
"Alright alright," I said. "But she was wearing heels, so maybe that's why she looked just as tall." 
 
"Maybe," Lincoln blushed.
 
"What's wrong with tall women?" 
 
"I don't know... Nothing," he quickly replied. 
 
"Well, anything else!"
 
"No!"
 
"Alright," I said as I kissed his forehead. "Get some sleep bud." 
 
"Okay," Lincoln said as I stood up from his bed. 
 
"Love you kiddo. Goodnight."
 
"Goodnight. Love you," Lincoln responded. With all the boys in bed, I went downstairs to clean up. I closed the hot tub and put out the fire. 
 
After cleaning, it was 11:25, and I checked my phone for the first time in like 5 hours. I had 3 texts and 4 calls from Christian. Assuming the call matched the text, he was asking about the sleepover. I gave him a quick call, and to my surprise, he answered.
 
"Where have you been Uncle G?" 
 
"Sorry, I've been busy." 
 
"I thought something happened to you."
 
"Nope, everything is good, sorry for not answering."
 
"It's okay," Christian said. "So have you thought more about the sleepover?" 
 
"Yeah buddy, I think it's best to have it at your house." 
 
"But why? What if I need you or something?" 
 
"You can call or text. I'll be sure to have my phone on me. And it's best to have it at your place, at least for the first time." 
 
"Uhh... really Uncle G?" 
 
"I'm sorry kiddo, I think it would be too distracting for you and him." 
 
"Ugh fine, I gotta go." 
 
"Alright, love you Christian bye," I replied. He was obviously very upset with me, but it was best for him to stay at his house. Christian didn't see it that way, but at 13 years of age, he thought he was right. So this decision disappointed him. 
 
After my phone call with Christian, I was about to go to bed, when my phone rang again. Only this time it was Rory with good news. Apparently, they got the necessary approval for phone records. Come Monday, Berry and Rory would have their hands on the phone records which was excellent. Hopefully, this would lead to more answers. After my conversation with Rory, it was time for me to hit the bed. Around 11:55 pm I was KO'd for the night.
 

Part - 4

Saturday morning, I was woken by my bed shaking. Shaking from Ryker jumping up and down. He was dressed in his soccer gear, ready to go. 
 
"Hey buddy," I said as my eyes had to adjust to the light.
 
"Come on get up... we are gonna be late." 
 
"Late for what?" 
 
"Soccer practice." 
 
"What time is it?" 
 
"7:00!"
 
"Ryker," I said as I patted beside me, "soccer doesn't start for another few hours." 
 
"Wait... really?" 
 
"Yeah," I said. "So come on, lay down." 
 
"Aww, this sucks," Ryker said as he started stripping his gear.
 
"You can leave your stuff on, just take off your shin pads and socks," I commented as I was lucky he wasn't wearing cleats.
 
"I don't know if I can fall back asleep." 
 
"Well we can just lay down and talk if you want," I replied as he had his shin guards and socks off. He then hopped under the covers and bundled himself next to me.
 
"You're warm," he giggled.
 
"Thanks," I laughed. 
 
"When are you leaving again?"
 
"Thursday buddy, why?" 
 
"I don't really want you to leave." 
 
"I don't want to leave you either! But you'll have Rita... Oh! How was game night?" I asked as I turned on my side and started running my hand through his hair.
 
"It was SO much fun!" 
 
"Awesome! What activities and stuff did you do?" 
 
"Umm," Ryker said, "okay one game, we had a spoon in our mouth, and then we had to carry an egg on the spoon. I had to pass the egg to Rita's spoon. We had to do it twice to win." 
 
"Okay?" I said a bit confused by the objective of this game. "Did you win?" 
 
"No, you crazy!" Giggled Ryker, "Rita kept making me laugh!" 
 
"Oh did she?" 
 
"Yeah. She was laughing which made me laugh. We came in last place." 
 
"Oh boy... did you guys win any games?" 
 
"Umm," Ryker giggled. "No!"
 
"Well did you have fun?" 
 
"YES!" Ryker quickly replied. 
 
"Good," I responded and kissed his forehead. 
 
"I have a question." 
 
"Okay?"
 
"So can umm... Dylan and Logan sleep over tonight?" 
 
"Umm, maybe. We have some shopping to do after soccer practice, but later tonight. Umm, yeah, you can." 
 
"Yes!" Ryker responded and gave me a hug. "Love you, Garret!" 
 
"Love you to bud... more than anything!" 
 
"I know!" 
 
"Good," I stated. We went on to talk for another 35 minutes, which was quite nice to have one on one time with him. After our talk, I woke up the rest of the boys and we were downstairs eating breakfast. During breakfast, I received a call on my cell phone from Christian. 
 
"Hello!"
 
"UNCLE G!" Christian said, "please... please let me have the sleepover at your house." 
 
"Christian," I said as I stood up from the table and walked towards the office. "You gotta listen, it's not that I don't want you here or don't want to help you with stuff. I just feel it would be too big of a distraction for you. I'm sorry buddy, but not this time around." 
 
"Fine!" He said and quickly hung up. I knew he was mad, but I also knew he would understand. However, I decided to call Kelly and make sure he is okay. I dialed her number, and within seconds she answered.
 
"Hello?" 
 
"Hey sis, how are you?" 
 
"I'm good! How about you?" 
 
"Doing alright, eating breakfast with the boys." 
 
"Oh sounds nice, how are they doing?" 
 
"Good as always, they have soccer practice today." 
 
"On a Saturday?" Kelly inquired.
 
"Yeah, well it's the first Saturday of the season. Games don't start until after Easter." 
 
"Oh speaking of Easter, you get everything sorted out?" 
 
"Yup."
 
"Good!" 
 
"So I umm just got off the phone with Christian. I don't think he is too happy with me." 
 
"No,  I don't think your his favorite person in the world right now," Kelly laughed.
 
"So you know?" 
 
"Yeah, I told him it wasn't a good idea, but he wanted to ask." 
 
"Well, I was just making sure he's okay. He didn't sound happy a few minutes ago."
 
"I thought he called you yesterday."
 
"He did again, just a few minutes," I stated.
 
"Uh huh," Kelly said. 
 
"Yeah, so just making sure he is good." 
 
"I'm sure he is fine, he is just nervous." 
 
"Yeah that's for sure," I laughed. 
 
"Well, anything new this morning?" Kelly asked.
 
"Oh, so I slyly brought up the idea of adding an extra person in our household to Clayton. He wasn't a big fan of that." 
 
"Oh, well don't worry. I think I found someone, it's not a perfect match, but I think he will be happy." 
 
"What do you mean not a perfect match?" I inquired. 
 
"Just like I said, they aren't the perfect match. The family hasn't dealt with an abused boy before, but they are more than willing to take the kid in." 
 
"Is it gonna work? You know, the match and everything."
 
"Oh yeah! I think it will, the couple is new to the foster parent system, but they're up to the challenge and highly motivated." 
 
"Good! So, does this mean you can start working for me now?" 
 
"Not yet, I still need to officially place my remaining children." 
 
"What do you mean?" 
 
"Well the girls are basically done, they were moved in the other day. But the boy will take a few days before he is moved in. Then I need to stick around for a week to make sure they are doing well in the new environment." 
 
"So when should you be available?"
 
"Week and a half... maybe two." 
 
"Alright well, that sounds good to me." 
 
"Yeah, oh... I gotta go, Christian is coming downstairs." 
 
"Okay," I chuckled. "Talk later."
 
"Bye," she said and hung up. I quickly walked back to the tabled where I was bombarded with questions about Christian, especially from Lincoln. I thought it was best to not mention Christian's new friend or his attempt at sleeping over. I would have had an uproar on my hands if they found out, I said no. I merely told them that Christian was looking forward to Easter, which wasn't entirely untrue, it's just not what was discussed on the phone. After the questioning stopped, it was time to get ready for soccer. 
 
At this point, the whole day flew by. We arrived at the fields, and the boys went to their teams, while Lincoln and I strolled around watching them practice. After soccer practice, Ryker's friends couldn't sleep over since they had plans. This put Ryker in an unpleasant mood for a little, until he realized where we were heading. We were at the sporting goods store to buy all sorts of goodies. Each of the boys got a life jacket, which is required to wear to do water sports. They each got their own fishing rods and tackle boxes for fishing tomorrow morning. Then we got two wakeboards,  two wakesurf boards, and two sets of water skis. The reason I got two of everything was a bigger pair for Lincoln to use and a smaller set for the little ones. Plus the little ones would transition to using the bigger boards as they got older.  The two last purchases were tubes to pull behind the boat for water tubing. I think this only made the boys more excited for the boat to be put in the water as they couldn't stop talking about who was going first. However, the boat probably wasn't getting used until after Easter.
 
Also, we were able to get Clayton, Jacob, and Ryker new skates, sticks and helmets. This would hopefully approve their skills as they wouldn't have to use the cheap rental skates that were offered to them. However, the only downside is the boys would likely go through gear so quick, that I'd probably have to buy new skates every year as they grew, which wasn't a big deal. And much to my surprise Lincoln just wanted skates, so we got him a pair as well.
 
Once we left the sporting goods store, we went to a few car dealerships. We didn't buy anything, but the boys and I had a pretty good idea of the present we wanted to get Rita. 
 
After the car dealership, we went home where the boys were free to do what they wanted. As the day went on, I was by my phone, just waiting for Christian to text or call. However, I didn't receive one, which meant things must have been going well or really really bad. Let's just hope for the first of those two options. 
 
 
To Be Continued...
 

Author Notes:

Thank you for reading and following the story! Always enjoy hearing from readers!
 
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Also please join my own personal discord chat. You can discuss the story with other readers, and sometimes catch me around there. I usually give live updates on the discord room. The link is https://discord.gg/rBExafH
 
I hope you all enjoyed the 21st installment! If you want to tell me your reactions or thoughts of installment 21 (Gabriel) email me!
 
DO NOT EVEN THINK ABOUT ABUSING CHILDREN. IT IS WRONG ON SO MANY LEVELS. IT HAS AN EVERLASTING EFFECT ON PEOPLE.
 
Third and final, the destinations, streets, events, and locations are made up. I use Columbus as a nearby city, but I'm unaware if the addresses listed are real or not. All scores and games are made up in my head. However, most teams are real.