Collin sulked around the Cove Friday evening after school. He was lost without his best friend, and was mad at Mr. Ken for not telling him where they were going. He even thought of calling his 'Uncle Andy' and asking him to come get him, but he knew that wouldn't work, and it wouldn't be fair to the man who saved his life twice. He knew Mr. Ken must have a unique and interesting trip lined up for them, otherwise he wouldn't be so secretive.
After dinner that evening, Collin packed the last of his clothes and set aside the things he would wear tomorrow. Looking around one last time, he gathered up his bags and took them downstairs to the Foyer. The limo driver would get them in the morning. Then the teenager went looking for his Big Bro.
"Mr. Ken, why is it you won't tell me where we are going? Why is it such a big deal?" asked Collin.
"Collin, I thought by not telling you, that when we finally got there you'd be super surprised. I know it is something you've never done, as Andy assured me of that. He also said is was something you tried to get your parents to do with you, a number of times, but they, or should I say your dad, would never acquiesce to your wants and desires. Now, I gave you lots of hints for you to be able to figure it out, but I hope you won't. I want to see your face tomorrow when we get there. Come here and let me give you a hug for a change."
Seven o'clock in the morning comes awfully early when you are a teenager. Given only an hour to get up, showered, dressed and downstairs only added to the dreadful early morning hour.
The limousine arrived on time and their regular chauffeur, Derrick, stowed all their bags in the trunk and they were off to the airport. The same plane that took them out west, three weeks ago, was waiting for them, and all they needed to do was to pass through Airport Security and they'd be off. Collin smiled to himself, figuring they were headed back to San Diego, to visit the California Boys, and allow Mr. Ken to work on some of his deals for the amusement area of Four Corners he was developing.
As soon as the plane took off, Collin laid back in his plush leather seat and went back to sleep. The thing he didn't realize was that their plane didn't travel West, but instead, headed East, and Collin would be in for a very big surprise when they got to where they were going.
Awakened by the flight attendant, Collin looked out the window and didn't see any familiar landmarks. The land beneath looked somewhat like California, with all the palm trees and traffic, but he couldn't figure out where he was. It wasn't until the pilot came over the speaker saying they would land at Orlando International Airport, in about twenty minutes, that he knew he went east instead of west.
"Bro, won't you please tell me where we are going?" begged Collin.
"Collin, are you sure you want to know, this close to your surprise? Wouldn't you rather wait until I spring it on you … since you are this close?" asked his mentor as he held his fingers apart about a ¼ of an inch apart.
"I guess not, but this isn't right. Man, I wanted to … well it's too late now, so I guess I'll just wait and see what you have in store for me. It BETTER be good!" lastly yelled the teenager as he wagged his finger at the man. Then he put on a great big smile to let his guardian know he was only kidding. Mr. Ken grabbed at the 'getting bigger by the week' teen and tried to pull him to his seat but the boy was strapped in.
As soon as the plane turned off its engines, at the business terminal, the two exited and walked inside. Their limo driver had a sign with 'Thomas' on it, and they greeted the man. Joe, their driver, got a Sky Cap to help with getting their bags to the limo and then took care of the tip. Twenty minutes after landing, the limo pulled out of the terminal and onto the interstate highway.
Collin was looking out the limo's windows but wasn't paying any attention to the signs and didn't realize they were headed towards Port Canaveral. It wasn't until he saw a sign saying something about Cape Canaveral that he thought he knew where he was going. He didn't want to say anything to Mr. Ken until he was sure, but he did sit up and he paid more attention to the scenery and, most importantly, the highway signs. When they passed over a large river, Collin got anxious and thought they were headed towards Cape Canaveral to watch a shuttle launch. He figured he needed the fancy clothes so they could dine with the important people there.
Then they passed over another wide river and it was on this bridge he spotted a cruise ship with a huge Mickey Mouse figure on the smokestack, docked to the left that he finally knew he was going on a Disney Cruise.
"Bro, are we … are we going … are we actually going on a Disney Cruise?" screamed the now overly excited teenager.
"Yes, Collin … I wanted to surprise you. Did I succeed?"
"Dang, did you ever, Mr. Ken. Now, I am real sorry I acted like a twelve year old towards you these past few days. Thank you, thank you so very much. I love you, Mr. Ken!" Collin couldn't contain himself anymore and he launched himself towards his mentor, and savior, and hugged him tight.
"Hold on there, Collin, don't squeeze me to death before we depart. I want to enjoy this trip, too, you know," laughed Mr. Ken, as he tried real hard to get the teen off his body.
"Mr. Ken, this is the greatest thing ever. I never thought I'd actually get to have a Disney cruise while I was a kid. I told myself that when I was old enough I'd take one, no matter what. I even told that to myself after Uncle Andy came to visit and read my parent's wills. But this is the Best, as I get to live it as a teen and I can enjoy everything as a kid. I am so psyched," announced Collin.
"Don't you think I'll enjoy everything, too, Collin?" asked his dumbfounded guardian.
"Yeah, I guess you will, but I know there are a few things ONLY for kids of certain ages. I wanted so much to do those things by myself. I didn't want my parents around me on the ship like there was every day at home. I had hoped the cruise would give me a chance to make friends and just be a kid. You know, spread my wings. I guess I still can, being a sixteen year old and all, but I sure would have loved to have done this when I was twelve or thirteen," related Collin.
"Collin, this will be fun for both of us. I haven't had a vacation, a real vacation that I can ever remember. I know I will do whatever we adults can do while I am on this cruise."
They arrived at Terminal #8, utilized their VIP handling package and were credentialed within thirty minutes of their arrival. Their bags were tagged and would be sent to the room directly as part of the VIP package. They had a Deluxe Stateroom with Veranda, and Collin couldn't get over the look outside off the veranda. Mr. Ken told him that he lucked out when he called, at the last moment, looking for a cancellation. They wound up with two twin beds and single convertible sofa, a privacy divider, and split bath with tub and shower, a TV, ample closet space, an in-room safe, hair dryer, phone with voice-mail messaging, and individual climate control. The room was able to sleep up to four people but only the two of them would be in it.
"Bro, I just gotta call Ryan right now and tell him what the surprise was," the still excited teenager said.
Collin pulled out his cell phone, punched the speed dial number for his Best Friend, and called Ryan. The phone rang three times before Ryan picked it up.
"About time you got to your phone," teased Collin. "I can't believe where I am, Ryan. This place is awesome. You'll never guess where I am," said Collin.
"Bro, I don't have any ideas where you could be as you never gave me a clue. So give me something and let me try to figure it out," asked Ryan.
"Hmmm, how can I give you hints without telling you directly," said Collin. Then for the next few minutes he gave Ryan clue after clue and his 'bro' never got it. Then all of a sudden Ryan says "I got it now. You're on the Disney Cruise ship and are in a nice room with a balcony large enough for your two other brothers could be there too. Am I right?" asked Ryan.
"How did you know that? Hey, I smell a rat," fumed Collin. Then he saw his Big Bro with his cell phone opened and he was talking to someone.
"Is Bro talking to your mom?" asked Collin.
"Yep, and she gave me all the answers," and Ryan laughed so loud that Collin had to pull his phone away.
"Real funny, Ha, Ha," again fumed Collin, but then he laughed out loud as well and the two boys talked as if they hadn't seen each other for weeks, instead of hours.
They wished each other a wonderful vacation and the two hung up. It was still quite early and the ship didn't sail until 5 PM. The two tourists decided to walk around and get acquainted with the ship and its amenities. They were staying on the seventh deck so it was either one, two or three decks down to many of the ship's 'fun areas' or only two or three decks up to where a lot of other shipboard activity would occur.
They started on deck nine and saw the fitness area first and then worked their way aft. They saw where they could get ice cream and pizza and a mixed drink, too. Collin's mouth began to water and Mr. Ken had to pull him along saying they had first dinner reservations and he didn't want to spoil the growing boy's appetite.
They passed the adult pool and then the family pool and, as they continued their walk, they passed the kid's pool area, with a large slide. When they reached the aft section, Collin spied the Topsider Buffet, where they would eat later that evening and complained greatly again that he was a starving teenager. It wasn't until his Big Bro pointed out it wasn't opened yet, as they were still at the terminal, that the teenager just pouted.
They went up to the tenth level and saw there wasn't much there, except for a few bars, the sports deck and at the aft section called the Palo, an adult dinner lounge. Collin then went up to the top moist level, deck eleven to see if there was a view and what else he might find. It was here that Collin found the place called The Stack. That area was designed to look like a cool college dorm room and was the teens-only hangout. Some teenagers were already up there and Collin decided to stay. Mr. Ken gave Collin some money and then asked the teen to meet him by 4:30 so they could be together when the ship left port. Mr. Ken continued the rest of the tour of the ship by himself.
Close to departure time, there was an announcement made throughout the ship that everyone was required to participate in a Safety Drill. All on board had to go to their cabins, don their life jackets and follow instructions. Collin hurried to his cabin and found Mr. Ken already there. They donned their life jackets, and then went to their assigned life boat station and soon the exercise was over. The two quickly went back to the room to get rid of the cumbersome vests and then pressed on back up to the main deck to watch as the ship departed the terminal.
The 5 PM sailing had a party atmosphere. The band played and people threw streamers off the railings. A very festive mood descended on the ship and it would remain that way for the next seven days. Before long, the two travelers were on a vacation of a lifetime.
"Come on, Mr. Ken, I'm starved. It's already past 6 and it's past our seating time. Otherwise we'll have to wait until at least 8 or later if they can't find us a seat," complained Collin, whose stomach had growled every fifteen minutes, since they got on-board.
"Okay, I'm ready," said Mr. Ken and the two were off to the closest elevator.
The two hurriedly arrived at the Topsider Buffet on Deck 9 to find they were the last persons seated. They found themselves paired up with a family of four, consisting of a mom and dad and two young boys. If you didn't know any better and saw them seated there, you would have thought they were a family of six. The mom and dad were a bit older than most parents with kids aged 13 & 11. The addition of Mr. Ken, aged 24, and Collin, 16, made the 'family' look like there was a college boy, a high school lad, a junior high school boy and, lastly, an elementary school kid.
"Hello," said Jerry, the eleven year old, as Mr. Ken and Collin were seated.
"Hello there," responded Mr. Ken. "And who may you be?"
"I'm Jerry, and I'm eleven," answered the youngest boy. "And who are you, if I may ask?"
"I am Ken Thomas, Jerry, and you are a very polite boy, if I do say so,"
"Thank you, I only wish my parents thought that." The boy smiled at his mom when he finished speaking as if that was a joke between the two.
"And I'm Collin, Mr. Ken's 'little bro," added the soon to be sixteen year old.
"Hi, I'm Michelle, and this is our older son, Colt, he's thirteen. And this wonderful person is my husband and their daddy, Cameron," is how the mom introduced the rest of her group.
"It is nice to meet all of you," offered Collin. "Now, can you tell me how I can get something to eat? I'm starved!" Just then his stomach growled.
The older couple and Mr. Ken laughed at the teenager and his growling tummy when Jerry got up and said to follow him and that he'd show the way. Mr. Ken then followed a few seconds later and Colt brought up the tail end as the four went through the buffet line.
After everyone had full plates, the new group just made small talk.
"Is this your first trip?" asked Collin.
"Heaven's no, Collin," said Michelle. "I think this is our third Disney Cruise. Or is this our fourth, Honey? I get them all mixed up; we travel so often. And what about you, have you been on the Disney Cruise before?" asked Michelle.
"No, this is my first cruise, ever," replied a very excited teenager. "I could never convince my dad to take us before. My Big Bro here surprised me when we flew into Orlando this morning, and then we drove to Port Canaveral. It wasn't until I saw the ships that I knew where we were going for my Spring Break."
"Kewl," declared Jerry. "That's what we are doing here, too."
"You know, Mr. Ken, I bet my other 'brothers' would have loved to have been on this trip, too. I hope one day we all can do this together," gleamed Collin.
"You know, you're right, Collin. Ryan and Eric would love this, especially Eric. But this is a trip for just us. You've been through too much, as of late, and I think you deserve to have some fun, without having those two around 24/7," laughed Mr. Ken, as he placed a fork full of Mac & Cheese into his mouth.
"Wow, you've got two other brothers and you didn't even bring them along. I bet they'll be pissed at you two when they hear you came on a cruise, and a Disney Cruise, no less, without them," said a surprised eleven year old. "And why do you keep calling him Mr. Ken? I thought he was your older brother?"
"Now, Jerry, it's not nice to ask such personal questions. And watch that mouth young man or you'll spend the evening hanging out with me instead of with Colt," admonished Michelle.
"But, Mom," spoke Colt for the first time. "It does sound kinda funny. If he's his older brother, and all, why does he call him Mr. Ken?"
"Boys, it is none of our business!" barked Cameron, trying to put an end to the inquisition.
"That's okay, Cameron …" and before Mr. Ken could say any more Cameron Davies said,
"Oh, okay, Cam, but it's okay that the boys are asking. They're just curious. Jerry and Colt, it is a very long and complicated story and it would take way too long to explain right now," finished Mr. Ken
"I'm still hungry," stated Collin, as he got up to go back to the buffet line.
"I am, too," said Jerry and as he got up, so did Colt.
"I am so sorry for the boys acting like that. It is none of our business what your younger brother calls you. What matters is that he finally got his chance to cruise if his dad wouldn't ever bring him. I just hope his dad won't be mad at you for doing this behind his back," apologized Michelle.
"Thank you, Michelle but it is a long and complicated story, but in short Collin isn't my real younger brother," replied Mr. Ken, just as the three lads sat down.
"Geez, that makes it even more curious," spoke up Jerry, as he returned with more food. "He calls you his brother, but he also calls you Mr. Ken and now we find out he isn't your brother after all."
"Jerry, that will be enough!" loudly spoke Mr. Davies.
"But, Dad," Jerry began but his dad said, "That's enough!"
"Let me try to explain it, ok," asked Collin.
"That's NOT necessary, Collin. Jerry has always been the one who asks and asks questions until you finally have had enough. And I think he has had enough. Don't YOU agree! Jerry?" immediately spoke Michelle.
"Yes, ma'am," a sulking young eleven year old replied.
"No, let me do this or at least try to explain. It will make more sense and it will keep you all from guessing and wondering what it is all about," explained Collin. … "You see there was this bad storm, some months back, and … well, I was injured … and Mr. Ken here saved me. Then, because he did such a great job, I was allowed to live with him as I recovered. He knew a boy my age, and invited him over to visit me and while I got better we became friends.
"Ryan, he's my best friend, now, called Mr. Ken, Bro, and after a while, I began to call him that, too. Then, the two of us came to calling each other 'bro' and he then became our Big Bro. Then, along came Eric. He's ten, soon to be eleven, and he's been around us enough that we started looking at him as our 'little bro'. So you see, Mr. Ken is my Big Bro, and Ryan and Eric are my 'brothers'," Collin tried to explain so Jerry and Colt could understand.
The six ate in silence for a few minutes. J erry kept looking up at Collin and when Collin felt he was being watched, the boy would look down trying not to be noticed. Then Colt began it as well. The two boys nodded to one another and they both said they were going for some desert. Along the way to the desert bar, they began a very animated discussion which continued until they came back. They were back a few minutes before it started.
"You ask," said Jerry.
"No, you ask," replied Colt.
"No, you!" retorted Jerry.
"It was your idea," shot back Colt.
What are you two talking about?" asked their mom.
Jerry looked at Colt and the older boy shook his head 'no'. The younger boy sat there thinking and looking at Collin then asked, "Are you that boy who came running out of the house? You know, the one saying something about another gunman or something."
Comments appreciated at Chowhnd@gmail.com