"Mom, are you sure it's ok for us to be here for this?" Brad asked nervously as he walked around the kitchen of his Art Teacher's home. He and his mom had come over and brought snacks for the meeting after Aunt Bambi had practically begged for help with that aspect of the Coven's gathering. "What if they are looking for somebody to like sacrifice or something?"
"Bradley, we are Wiccan, not Satanists, contrary to what your reviled male antecedent would have his mindless sheep believe," Ms Phillips said as she walked into the room and tapped Bradley on the back of the head lightly. "Although I'm sure your mother is relieved to know that her son is still pure and virginal, as that would be the only requirement that would allow you to be considered as the sacrifice in a ritual. That aside for the moment, have you prepared for Monday's class?"
"Yes, ma'am," Brad acknowledged through the blush at being called out on his intimate status in front of people. "I have Juliet's scene in the tomb memorized."
"Very good, Bradley," his English teacher responded with a nod. "Now if you would like to join the rest of the group, they are in the backyard. Ronald, Rosie and Christopher aren't here yet, but there are some children present. Oh, and would you be kind enough to knock on the door of the studio out there to let Mr. Kennedy know he has guests?"
"Not necessary, Fawn," the man said as he walked into the kitchen. "I am capable of telling time you know."
"More likely, Robert, you were disturbed from your work in the studio by the noise of the little ones outside," Ms. Phillips snorted.
"Robert?" Brad's mom gasped.
"Louise? Louise Fenton?"
"Mom, how do you know Mr. Kennedy from school?" Brad asked.
"Kennedy? No, it was Robert Finn, wasn't it?" his mom mumbled in confusion.
"Yes, it was back then, Lady Capulet," Mr. Kennedy confirmed. "I was in high school when my parents divorced and it was a bitter and nasty fight. Mother accused Mr. Finn of cheating, but then he turned the tables on her and ripped the rug out from under me as well. It seems my mom was the cheater and I am the son of his best friend, Danny Kennedy."
"Mr. Danny always did like you," Louise agreed.
"He and mom married after the divorce was settled and I took his name," Mr. Kennedy finished. "I have thought of you often over the years."
"I knew there was something familiar about you," Aunt Bambi blurted as she looked at Brad's Mom.
"What do you mean?" Louise and her son both asked.
"Now, Bambi, don't you think you should be getting out there to check on the setup for the drum circle?" Mr. Kennedy said nervously.
"Fawn does that and you know it, Robert," Aunt Bambi replied. "Now, Louise you should really come into the living room and get comfortable in case you don't want to be part of the drum circle."
"She could be quite comfortable on the back deck, you know," Mr. Kennedy called out.
"Mr. Kennedy, give it up, dude," Brad told his art teacher. "Even I get that you're hiding something in the living room now."
"Yes, Brad's right, Robbie," Louise teased. "Just what is it you don't want me to see?"
Brad was the first one to squirm away from the man and make it to the living room. His mother was right behind him, though. "Robert.... When did you paint this?"
"Robert painted this while he and I were in college together, Louise," Ms. Phillips answered for the man. "I remember modeling the dress for him."
"Wait, you posed for Mr. Kennedy so he could paint my mom? Did you know he was painting somebody else?" Brad blurted.
"Actually, no, he was not forthcoming with that information," the English teacher frowned. "I was led to believe that I was to be the subject of the portrait."
"I have apologized for fifteen years," Mr. Kennedy whined.
"Nevertheless," Ms. Phillips said with a glare at her colleague.
"You may be my best friend, Fawn Phillips, but you can be one unforgiving bi.... err... woman."
"Mr. Kennedy?" Brad called to get the man's attention. When he saw the man turn to him, he mouthed the word RUN.
"An excellent idea, Brad," the man blurted then literally ran out of his own house and hid behind his studio in the backyard.
"You will do well in life to not make the same mistakes that typical males do, Bradley," Ms. Phillips said with a smirk as she watched the man flee from her presence.
"Yes, Ms. Phillips," Brad gulped.
"You, and you alone, are allowed to call me Aunt Fawn when we are not at school, Bradley," the woman smiled at him. "You may join the others in the back yard now, if you wish."
"What I don't understand is how he did it," his mother was mumbling as Brad left the room. "It looks like he saw me last week and painted me then."
Brad found his art teacher hiding behind the hydrangeas at the back of his studio. "Mr. Kennedy, they are still in the house," he called out.
"Why is Mr. Robert hiding? Are we playing hide and seek now?" a little girl asked as she came to stand beside Brad. "I'm Angela, what's your name?" she asked looking up at Brad.
"I'm Brad," he answered with a smile. "It's nice to meet you, Angela. I think Mr. Robert is hiding from Ms. Phillips."
"No, I ran from Fawn, I am hiding from your mother," Mr. Kennedy corrected.
"Why would you hide from my mom?" Brad asked.
"Is Brad's mom scary like Ms. Phillips?" Angela asked.
"Well, she might be now that she knows I've been in love with her for twenty years," Mr. Kennedy admitted with a blush.
"You got a girlfriend, Mr. Robert?" Angela squealed happily.
"No, I just met someone again that was very special to me when I was much younger, and well, I never expected to see her again and definitely not in my house looking at the portrait I painted of her when I was in college," the man mumbled as he finally came out from behind the bushes and sat on the grass. Brad and Angela sat on either side of him. "I wanted to look her up for so long and find out what she was doing, where she was. I never did though because I was afraid that I would be.... not good enough. I was... I am a nobody. I'm just an artist that has to teach to survive. What could I offer such a beautiful woman?"
"Off the top of my head, I would suggest offering her your heart, Mr. Kennedy," Brad said quietly. "That is something she never got from my sperm donor. Maybe you can be a man in her life that doesn't abuse me? That would make for a nice change for both of us."
"Bradley, I swear I would never... I could never hurt you like that pitiful excuse for a man has done. If you and Chris are a couple, I am happy for you and proud of you for being who you are. If you stay together for years, I will always be happy and proud of you. If you go your separate ways at some point, I will be honored to be one of the people that helps you pick up pieces of your heart and your life and I will do my level best to help you move on. I will do that whether your mother and I are ever anything more than friends or not. I am proud and honored to know you, Brad, and I always will be, no matter what role I get to have in your life."
"Three rules, Mr. Kennedy," Brad said firmly. "If you want to date my mom, you have to agree to always treat her right, and you have to agree to teach me everything you can about art, not just the stuff we will cover in class."
"That's only two rules, Brad," the man said in confusion.
"I think I can supply the third one," Louise said as she sat on the grass beside Brad. "If you ever propose to me, on the day we marry, you agree to adopt Brad and change his name to Kennedy as well."
"You won't mind, Mom?"
"Of course not, sweetheart," Louise said as she hugged her son. "I want him out of our lives as much as you do, son."
"I believe those are rules that I can gladly accept," Mr. Kennedy said with a smile. "I would be every bit as proud to have you as my son, as I would to have your mom as my wife, Brad. Now, why don't you go say hello to your handsome young man, while your mother and I catch up on each other's lives a bit?"
Brad looked up to see that Chris and Ronnie had just arrived and were both looking around the back yard nervously. Chris relaxed when he saw Brad and they met each other halfway across the lawn. They leaned toward one another for a moment, but then blushed and pulled away.
"Dudes, you're boyfriends and everyone here knows it," Ronnie snorted. "I think it's ok if you hug each other."
"They're boyfriends... with each other?" a little voice from behind Ronnie blurted.
"Rosie, remember what we've been talking about, new family, new rules," Ronnie said as he knelt down to talk to a little girl. "This is my other best friend, Brad," he introduced. "He and cousin Chris are dating. That means they are boyfriends, and there is nothing at all wrong with that. Just like there won't be anything wrong with me having a boyfriend if I get one."
"I was kind of hoping that since you helped me use a bedpan in the hospital, that would qualify us as boyfriends already," another voice said. "I don't go around showing everything I got to just any cute boy in a hospital gown, you know."
"You really want to be my boyfriend?" Ronnie squeaked. "Even though I'm all scarred up and ugly and I'm still in junior high and....." his voice was cut off as the older boy kissed him.
"I promised your moms that kissing is all we do until you are at least a sophomore in high school, but yeah, I want to be your boyfriend if you are willing to have a skinny, geeky high school freshman. I got scars too, you know. I thought you might have noticed the reason I was still on the bedpan after my appendix surgery was that I only have one original parts leg." He pulled up a pants leg and revealed an artificial limb in place of his left leg.
"Aaron!" Ronnie screeched. "What happened? When? Who hurt my geekster? I'll kill 'em with my bare hands."
"Ronnie, dude, chill," Chris snorted with laughter. "I swear you're like a little Chihuahua or something, all mouth and nothing to back it up."
"HEY!" Ronnie protested.
"Ronnie, this happened when I was a baby, man," Aaron told him. "My dad and I were in a car accident. At least I survived."
"Oh man, I am so, so sorry," Ronnie whispered and hugged the teen tightly.
"You can't miss what you don't remember," Aaron shrugged. "Well, I miss having a dad, but I can't really miss my dad since I didn't really get to know him."
"You can borrow mine any time you want," Chris offered. "Of course you have to put up with the smell of popcorn and some pretty sad jokes, but he's not too bad."
"Given the comparisons Ronnie and I could make, I'd say your dad is pretty awesome," Brad pointed out. "Popcorn definitely included."
"Oh, yeah," Chris blushed. "Sorry guys," he apologized.
"So anyway, I'm hoping you can show me around town a little bit," Aaron told Ronnie. "It seems that my mom is getting a promotion and is going to be taking over as the manager of a bank here in town. I didn't know that until yesterday. Some dude named Toosick or something like that got himself canned, and Mom is taking his spot, so while I am here chilling with my cutie, she's out scoping out the housing situation."
"Oh, Ronnie here might be able to help you with that," Brad suggested with a big grin. "He owns a pretty nice empty house a few blocks from here."
"You own it?" Aaron asked in confusion.
"Yeah, ok long story short, the bank guy's name was Tasick, and he didn't just get canned from the bank, he's doing time in the state prison for almost killing me because I'm gay," Ronnie started explaining.
"Crap dude, I am so sorry, I didn't mean...."
"It's ok, Aaron," Ronnie stopped him. "We're all doing a lot better now? Right, Brad?"
"Sure are, bud," Brad smiled and hugged his friend.
"Wait.... You guys were on the news, right?" Aaron blurted. "Your dad was the preacher and Ronnie's folks were involved, and I just totally put my feet in my mouth and jumped."
"You're all right, Aaron, really," Brad told him with a smile. "Unless you hurt our Ronnie here," he warned seriously.
"Yeah, Ronnie's moms are witches, and he's my cousin, so if you ever mess him up, you're in deep doo doo, you hear me?" Chris said firmly.
"I swear guys, I will chop off my other leg before I ever hurt my angel of mercy," Aaron vowed. "He could have just called for a nurse or somebody, you know, but he got out of his bed and came over to hold my hand when I was crying the night before my surgery because I was so scared of not waking up again. See my dad had died at the hospital during surgery after our wreck, so I was kinda freaking out. This one sat beside me all night, and when I came back after the surgery, he helped me with the bedpan so I wouldn't have to show my junk to the old lady nurse."
"Awwwww," Chris and Brad both cooed as Ronnie blushed profusely.
"Ronnie is the bestest taker carer of people ever," Rosie blurted as she hugged her big brother. "That's why I was so terrible at Uncle Jonas' house. I wanted him to not like me, so I could come back and live with Ronnie."
"You did that for me?" Ronnie asked in a shocked whisper. "I never thought you liked me."
"You're my big brother, you dufus," Rosie snorted. "Just because we love each other, doesn't me we like each other all the time. Ooh, I see Angela from my class at school. I'm going to go see if she wants to play hide and seek." With that, the little girl ran off to join her friend.
"So I guess you're not the only cousin anymore?" Brad wondered out loud as he looked at Ronnie.
"No, Uncle Jonas showed up last night with her and all her stuff and said he wanted nothing to do with me or her or any of us. He hates the whole family now."
"The petition to adopt Rosie will be filed Monday morning, and yes, as with your name, the final product will be something more suitable for a long mature life. Ronnie and Rosie, really what were your parents thinking? Those are shortened endearments of names, not actual names one would want on legal papers as an adult. Trust me; I know what it is like to go through life with a poorly chosen, cute name." Ms. Phillips said the word cute as if it were the worst insult in the world. "The drumming circle is about to begin. After the drumming circle, there will be refreshments thanks to my partner and to your mother, Bradley. At that time we will also be discussing an upcoming ceremony ritual which will require your presence, Ronald."
"I was hoping to show Aaron around town some," Ronnie protested.
"I will make sure that you have time to do that, but I thought you might wish to have some input into the participants of the ritual as it will be yours and your sister's Wiccaning, that is to say, your welcome into our family. We will be choosing spirit parents for you, which are rather similar to godparents."
"Fawn and I talked about who we would like to name, but since you are mature enough to have some say in the decision, we would like to know what you think as well," Aunt Bambi added as she started herding everyone toward the middle of the backyard.