"Hey, Collin, hi Ryan, I hear those Waverunner's are really awesome," stated Damon, as he came upon his two friends. "When do you think we can have another barbecue and then all of us can get out on them?" also asked Damon, as the two boys continued to walk past him.
"Oh, ah, I don't really know, Daa…I've been really busy with ah…ah stuff lately and I haven't thought about anything but getting school over with, first," replied Collin, as he continued to walk past his friend.
Damon just stood there dumbfounded, not knowing what to make of what just happened. Just then Daniel and Conner came up to Damon and asked him, "What gives?"
"I really don't know what, guys. Something must be up, because Collin is usually really friendly, except when something's gone down and he doesn't want to talk about it. And, I suspect 'something went down'. Maybe we can get Ryan aside later and ask him what's the problem this time," answered Damon.
The three agreed to try to catch Ryan alone, and ask him what's going on with Collin.
Today was the boys' last day of final exams, for the school year, but Collin felt he wasn't even ready. He knew the material, but he didn't spend any time over the weekend studying. The appearance of his grandmother and her persistence for him to go visit his old house had him preoccupied with trying to figure out what to do. He just hoped he could concentrate enough on the test questions so he could pass his final tests.
At lunch, Daniel caught up with Ryan, a few minutes before Collin got there, and he asked about Collin. "Ry, what's with Collin, today? He seems like he's out in left field and I mean way out there, too. What's wrong this time, Ry? We have all figured out that the only time Collin gets like this is when something big is happening to him or someone close to him. Care to tell us, Ry, so we can figure out a way to help him?"
Ryan looked around to see if Collin was on his way and, seeing that his best friend wasn't anywhere nearby, he told Daniel the story about Collin's Grandmother and what she was trying to do. He told Danny that his best friend may have to move back to where he came from, because of some stupid will. Danny thanked Ryan for the info and said he'd call him later. Just as Daniel left, Collin came around the corner and almost bumped into the teenager.
"Hey, Col," said Ryan
"Oh, hi, Ry," replied Collin, with no enthusiasm after meeting up with his best friend.
"Col… you okay? You look like you're lost or something. …. It's your…ah grandmother...isn't it?" asked Ryan.
"Can you tell?" asked Collin back.
"Well, yeah, but only because you told me. And, well, the other guys are concerned about you, too. They can tell something is wrong and they want to help if they can," explained Ryan. "They're all concerned about you and your finals," mentioned Ry, but he knew that was a lie, but he didn't want to say exactly what they talked about.
"Ry…I just don't know what I am going to do. I feel like I'm … being pulled in two different directions and that whatever I do, I'm gonna lose! I don't know what the guys can do to help … and if I did, I'd tell you. Why did she have to wait until now to come back into my life, Ry? It's so NOT fair! … And about my finals, well, I think I did okay. When I began reading the questions, I was able to focus on just that and, for once, I didn't think about my grandmother, at all. It was sort of like picking between two evils and the test won out." Both teens laughed at Collin's last statement.
Just then, their whole group of friends came up to Collin and Ryan. It was Daniel who told Damon who told Conner who then told Abby who told the other guys and girls and now there they all were, eleven teenagers, surrounding their friend, Collin, wanting to really know what was happening to him.
"Guys, thanks for your concern, but…this is totally out of my hands. My grandmother was named as my guardian, in my parents' wills, and she has now made her appearance. She told Mr. Ken she would let me choose, where I could live, but … well she is beginning to put some pressure on me," revealed Collin.
"But what about your finals, today," asked Abby?
"What about them," asked Collin?
"Have you been able to focus on them, at all? I know if I had that hanging over me I'd have skipped school today," seriously replied Abby.
"Thanks for that advice, Abby, but it's a bit late don't cha think?" teased Collin. Then he followed up by saying, "But when I began reading the questions, I became focused on the test and it was a good escape from having to think about what might happen."
For the remainder of the lunch period the entire group tried to console Collin, and they all sincerely offered their help, if he needed it. When the end of lunch bell rang, the group all walked off to their next class, leaving Ryan and Collin sitting there.
"I think we'd better go, too, Col. It's too late to skip," laughed Ryan, as he pulled Collin up and out of his seat. The two best friends laughed all the way to their next to last final for the school year.
"Hi, there, Chief," exclaimed Collin, as the dog greeted her master at the front door. "Good to see you, too!"
"Collin… can you come in here for a minute?" called out Mr. Ken.
"Sure, what cha need?" said Collin as one of those leather chairs enveloped him as he sat down.
"Woof!" was all Chief said, as she lay down in front of Collin's chair.
Ken just sat there chuckling at the two as they got comfortable.
"I talked to Bill Jackson, today, and he's ready. All you need to do is say the word and he'll go to the courthouse and then serve the papers," said Mr. Ken.
"Huh, papers," puzzled Collin, then it hit him, "Oh, the court papers to go after Brittany and Hannah, all Riiight!"
"That is what you want to do, isn't it, Collin? We don't want to waste Bill's time, nor your money. This will be expensive, unless you win, then your costs will be taken out of your award," reminded Mr. Ken.
"YES! Ah, I mean yes, that's what I want to do," Collin enthusiastically expressed himself and then toned it down. "I finally want to feel like I am fighting back. I'd like to go after Mark and Ross and Dean—all of them, if I could. Going after Brittany will show that I am not going to be taken advantage of. Do you think I am right to do this, Mr. Ken?" asked Collin, with some uncertainty.
"Well, Collin, you're the one who they falsely accused of something you didn't do, and so, you now have every right to go after them and demand compensation, because they wrongfully tried to take advantage of you. From what I heard, that day, when Brittany's dad called, I'd say you have a very good case against her, and her father. I think any jury will see they did try to scam you for a hundred thousand dollars, that's for sure," answered Mr. Ken.
"Good, then let's go for it. If this one goes the way I hope it will, then I'll have to decide who I will go after next. That is alright, isn't it, Bro?" a now timid Collin asked his Big Bro.
"Yes, Collin, and even Bill thinks this will be good practice for you, since you are just starting out. As a business man, you'll be making bigger decisions than this, so looking to do this now is going to be good experience for you. It will get you in front of a judge, and jury, so you can tell your story, convincingly, by the way, and see how the system works. The more you understand it, the better you'll be able to use it to your advantage," explained Mr. Ken.
"Will I have to, you know, testify, Mr. Ken?" inquired Collin.
"Yes, Collin, you will have you tell what happened that night of the phone call. You've spoken in front of Judge Adam when you went to bat for Raleigh, so this shouldn't be any different," commented Mr. Ken.
"Mr. Ken…what about the…what happened to me. Am I still going to have to testify? I really don't want to have to, Bro, I really don't. I … I just can't tell everyone what … what they did to me," said a now teary eyed teen.
Ken slowly went over to the boy and hugged him close, and held the teen for a few moments, to let the anxiety over the possibility of having to tell what Mark and Dean and Ross did to him, in open court to dissipate.
"Thanks, Bro," said Collin as he looked into the man's eyes. "When I think about those days, with them, I feel like I did something wrong. I know I didn't, but … well THAT is what I feel inside. I'll probably need to talk to Doc Doug, if I have to do that any time soon. Do you think that would be a good idea?" asked Collin as he again looked into Mr. Ken's eyes.
"Collin, let's wait and see what happens with that. With everything that has happened, the DA might give them a Plea Bargain and then you won't have to testify, at all, ever! Can you wait until then, Little Bro? … But, you know, if anytime you think you need to talk to Doc Doug, we can always make the appointment," inquired Mr. Ken.
Collin shook his head in the positive and Ken gave him another hug and then went over to his seat behind his big desk.
"Okay, with that taken care of, have you thought any more of your grandmother's request?"
"Bro, have I, sheesh, that's all I did at school today," quickly answered the teen.
"I hope that didn't interfere with your finals, today. You know good grades are needed to get into a good college, don't you?" teased Mr. Ken.
"Well, I thought I'd use your connection with the Governor, to get into Texas A&M, so, that way, I wouldn't have to worry about my grades," teased back Collin.
The two laughed for a few moments and then they got down to having a serious discussion about Collin visiting his other house.
"Bro, did you really have anything on your calendar for this coming weekend?" asked Collin.
"Actually, the weekend is blank. I knew school ended this week and I thought you'd want to have a 'School's Out' Barbecue, with your friends. But with your grandmother, now in the picture, I think she is going to pester you until you do as she wants," explained Mr. Ken.
"Dang, that sounds so awesome, too. The guys at school asked when they were gonna get the chance to ride the Wave's. This weekend would have been a great time to do that. Maybe we can work something out? What do you think, Bro?" enthusiastically asked Collin.
"Collin, I think you and your brother should talk about that and then get back to me. All I'm going to do is pay for this shindig, but you two are going to have to plan it. But…", stopped Mr. Ken, seeing that Collin wasn't paying attention.
Collin really wasn't listening to what Mr. Ken was saying and when he realized his Bro was saying something to him he said, "Yeah, yeah, I know…there is always a BUT so what is it this time, Bro?"
"Collin … that's not like you to be so … so disrespectful towards me. I think you need to reconsider how and what you said to me, just now. This is NOT the time for you to allow your inner feelings, and emotions, to cloud your decision process, and your intellect. Now, how about you try that again," chastised Mr. Ken.
It wasn't often that the man had to get on his charge but when he did, he made sure the boy understood what was wrong and what the lad needed to do to get back on track.
Collin sat back in his chair, but his mind was not on what his Big Bro just told him. He was still focused on how his grandmother was messing up his summer and causing him to be so unfocused and that he might have to leave the only life he ever had at the Cove.
Ken waited and when three minutes had passed, he said in a very parental voice, "I'm still waiting!"
Collin still hadn't been thinking about what Mr. Ken wanted him, to, and when the man called to him he was still waiting, he quickly stood up and yelled, "WHAT!" Then seeing the surprise and hurt on his mentor's face, the teen ran out of the Study.
Ken knew the reappearance of Collin's grandmother, and how she acted that first day, had seriously affected the teen. And now, with the grandmother's pushy insistence that the lad come and visit, he felt the stress had to be taking its toll on the boy. But the lad's outbreak wasn't like him, and he knew he needed to get to the bottom of it, before the lad did or said something that would not bode well for either of them.
Ken slowly walked up to Collin's bedroom, believing that was where the boy had gone, but upon arriving, there was no one there. He then went to the Theater but again there was no Collin. Then, thinking Collin may have taken the car without asking, Ken quickly ran to the garage. Opening the door, Ken quickly looked to where the Taurus was normally parked and seeing the vehicle still there, he let out a sigh of relief. There was only one other place the man thought to look, so getting his jacket, and one for Collin, he went outside.
As Ken walked towards the ship's cove, Chief heard him and silently went to meet him. Ken scratched behind her ears for a few moments and then continued towards the docks. But, that wasn't where the teen had gone. Ken knew the teen was there, somewhere as where ever the lad is, so is Chief. The man looked around some and then he noticed a small shadow, out on the picnic island, and instinctively knew that it had to be Collin.
Ken didn't try to be silent as he walked to the end of the picnic island 'finger'. When he reached where the teen decided to sit, he opened up the extra jacket and spread it across Collin's shoulders.
"Mind if I sit with you?" calmly asked Mr. Ken.
Collin first responded to now having the jacket and said, "Thanks" and then he replied to the man's request and said, "Yes, I would like that."
The man and the teen sat next to one another for a few minutes, and then Mr. Ken intended to ask, "Do you want to talk…?" but never got the chance to finish when the lad pulled close to him and cried hard.
"Why…why did she have to come back, Mr. Ken, why?" said Collin, as he leaned over to the man's shoulder and continued to cry.
Ken had no immediate answer for the teen, and after hearing him called 'Mr. Ken' he knew the lad was really hurting inside, so he just let the teen cry on his shoulder, as he hugged him close.
"Everything…was going so wonderful for me, and … and now, she has to come back and ruined everything. I … I can't think straight, and all I have been doing is thinking about her. I don't even know what I am going to do next. I…I thought we had plans to travel this summer, Bro, and…and I thought we were going to take my little brother with us some times, too. Now…now, everything will get ruined, because of HER!" shouted out Collin, as he continued to cry his heart out.
Ken pulled the lad closer to him and tried to comfort the teen as best he could. Then knowing the teen wanted, needed him to say something, Mr. Ken began by saying, "Collin, please try to understand…this is not the end of the world. It may seem like that to you, right now, just as you began to heal from all the crap that happened to you this past year. Yes, we've talked about it, and planned out part of our summer, and I think we should continue to go in that direction, but we also have to let you grandmother know what we intend to do.
"She doesn't know what we've planned, so we can give her the outline and see how that can coincide with her desires. But you will have to play nice with her, Collin. She is a woman who is used to getting her way, and any outward resistance, by you, could cause her to renege on her promise, to you."
Hearing that, Collin quickly sat upright and said, "But, we have her on tape saying she'd let me decide where I wanted to live," hopefully added Collin.
"That we may, but a judge could just as well say she was coerced, or trapped into saying that and, besides, he could go back with what both wills' say what your parents wanted is MORE important that your grandmother to finish raising you, and rule that is what is to happen. The trouble with bringing this dispute to a judge is that the courts practically bend over backwards to keep families together, and seeing that I am not family, I have no standing with them, at all," explained Mr. Ken.
"Then, what am I to do, Bro?" began Collin. "I would really like to have that 'Schools Out' Barbecue with the gang, seeing that this is probably the only weekend when everyone will still be around, before they split up for vacations, or get a job. But, if I have to be at my old house, this weekend that would keep me from doing one of the things we planned!"
Ken sat there thinking for a while trying to come up with a reasonable solution. Then it hit him how Collin could do both. "Collin, what say you did the barbecue, Thursday afternoon, after school gets out. It's a half-day isn't it? And if you had the barbecue on Saturday you probably wouldn't start it before noon or one-o'clock, anyway. That way you can be with all your friends, one last time for the summer, and then you can still get to your old house, for the weekend. Think about it for a bit, and see if that will work for you, Little Bro."
Chief came up to the two sitting at the picnic table, just then, and, as Collin scratched behind her ears for her, he thought about what his Big Bro just said. He liked the idea of having the picnic, but it wasn't when he really would like to have it. But, he knew if he did it Saturday, it really wouldn't be to much different than having it Thursday, only that he'd have to plan it quick.
Then, he thought about having to be at his old house, and he knew he couldn't just go there by himself and have to deal with his grandmother, alone. He also knew his Bro had given him a good compromise, so all he had to do was work out all the details that involved the picnic and that Mr. Ken had to go with him for the weekend.
"Mr. Ken…I mean Bro, I'm sorry, I … I was thinking about something different, but…what would you say to me having the barbecue Thursday, after school, and then you go with me for the weekend? So… what do you think, Bro?" explained Collin.
"Whoa there 'lil' bro, I'm not so sure your grandmother has ANY plans for me being there when you go to visit your old home," revealed Mr. Ken.
"So, she also didn't say YOU couldn't be there. And besides, there is NO WAY I'm going there, and not have anyone in my corner. And Bro…I don't know when I go through those front doors, what will happen to me…you know … seeing the place … where I was kidnapped and my pare … ah mom and dad were killed. If I have to do THAT, by myself, I…I'm not sure IF…I can do that by myself, Bro," revealed Collin.
The two sat out on the picnic table for another hour before they finally decided how they would handle the 'School's Out' Barbecue for Collin's classmates, and the upcoming visit over the weekend at the Wilkinson's Estate. Then, Collin apologized for the way he acted earlier and asked his Big Bro for forgiveness. The two shared a big hug and then began their walk up to the house for dinner.
It was well after the time Momma Maria would leave for the day, so when the two entered the kitchen, they found a note from Momma Maria.
I puts it all backs on stove for yous to heet. Dontcha oiver heat it,
or it not bee good tastee. I's sees yu in mourning. Maria"
"Bro, this isn't like boiling water, is it?" teased Collin.
Then super quick, Mr. Ken grabbed Collin around his neck and asked, "What do you mean by that, sport?" Then, he gave the teen a knuckle rub across to top of his head.
"Oww, oww Bro, I'm sorry I said that, oww," apologized Collin.
"That's better…and because you said that, YOU get to reheat everything, for both of us. Let's see if YOU can reheat OUR dinner without YOU burning it!" announced Mr. Ken.
Collin, rubbing his head, went over to the stove and looked into all the pots. He announced what he thought was in each, and Mr. Ken said to heat it all. It took Collin about 25 minutes to have it all heated and by then, his Big Bro had the nook table set for them to sit down and eat. All they did, then, was take their plates to the pots and ladle on what they wanted. Twenty minutes later, the two cleaned up their dishes and put the leftovers in plastic containers and put them in the refrigerator.
"Bro, I think I'm gonna go up to my room. It's been a very long day, and I need to lie down. You don't mind, do you, Bro?" said Collin, as they finished cleaning up the kitchen.
"Well, 'lil bro', you need to make your plans for the Barbecue. Can you and your brother plan it tomorrow?" inquired Mr. Ken.
"Yeah, I think we can. All we need to do is tell everyone and then we can tell you tomorrow night, how many plan to be here. Then, we can figure out how much food we'll need to feed the teenaged hoard," said Collin, as he laughed.
"Did you think about what you're going to do? You only have three water craft and only one can be used to tow anyone. What will the rest of your friends do when you're out there on the lake? And, do any of your friends have wet suits? That water is still quite cold, so I don't see many people wanting to go out on the lake," countered the teen's Big Bro.
"Dang, Bro, I didn't think it would be this hard to plan this barbecue. I guess I'd better call Ry so we can figure out what we're going to do. … Ah, Bro … what are we going to do about calling Grammy? Do, ah, you think you could call her and tell her what we plan," tentatively asked Collin.
"Collin, I think that should be your job, too. She is your grandmother, by the way, and it is you who she wants to see this weekend. It would be best if you explained some of your plans, so she knows how your, well … what you planned to do this summer," explained Mr. Ken.
"Yeah, I guess your right. She'd want me to call her and be the 'big' man and take control. I just know she'll ask me a lot of questions I don't have answers to, Bro. What do I do then?" seriously asked Collin.
"Collin, I guess you learn how to 'think on your feet'," teased Mr. Ken.
"Oh," replied Collin, as he walked away towards the stairs and his bedroom. Chief quickly followed as always.