The court reconvened at one o'clock, as ordered by the judge.
"All rise!" said the bailiff.
"Counselor, do you have any more witnesses?" asked Judge Reynolds of Bill Jackson.
"No, you Honor, the defense rests," responded Bill.
The judge rustled some papers he had on the top of his bench before he began speaking.
"This Hearing today is one of the hardest types for a judge to have to decide. It was unfortunate that both parties didn't talk over their difference over a cup of coffee. It could have kept Collin from having to be put through a tug-of-war after the horrendous things he already had to endure. There is only one party that carries all the blame for this. Unfortunately, I have to go with what the Laws of the State of Texas direct.
"If Frank Hale hadn't misled Vickey Frankenberg, she would have contacted the proper authorities back in January, the time frame she said she talked to Mr. Hale. No doubt has been put on that assertion. The question, then, is should she be penalized because someone, who she trusted, but who had ulterior motives, didn't do as she wanted. Also, this Hearing was ONLY about the guardianship issues of one Collin Wilkinson. As such, I will not delve into any other aspects of the Wilkinson Wills. They will stand as they have been initiated.
"As for young Collin's wishes … to be emancipated, all he has to do is re-file in the county in which he will reside. It should be just that easy. Mr. Thomas, you are to be commended for what you have done for Collin over these past ten months. Being the lad's big brother was probably … NO … it was EXACTLY what he needed the most and not what all the sometimes 'I know best' bureaucrats and doctors do.
I know this ruling is not going to be what you wanted, but this court thanks you immensely for what you have done for Collin. Mr. Thomas, you saved the lad the first time the night of that bad storm last year. Then, you saved the lad a second time when a shot rang out in your home. Let's make it three-for-three as Collin will continue to need the friendship and counsel and advice from the man he knows as his Big Brother as he finishes high school and then goes on to college. To make sure that happens, this court decrees that you, Mr. Ken Thomas, are not to be left out of the lad's life.
"Lastly, Collin Wilkinson, it is ordered, by this court, that your guardian is to hereby be one S. Vickey Frankenberg and you are to report to your former home of residence, no later than 6 PM, on the first day of August. This court is adjourned.
As soon as the door to the judge's chambers was closed, Collin leaned into his Big Brothe's shoulder and cried, hard. His cries could be heard throughout the courtroom and they landed hardest on S. Vickey Frankenberg. She had thought she had WON, but Mr. Ken knew she had only won a battle and soon the War would begin.
Later in the day, when Eric, Collin's 'lil bro' heard the news about Collin he collapsed, right there on the spot. Ms. Judy immediately called for the EMTs, not knowing what just happened to her son, or why. Little did anyone know, that since Eric had lost his mother, to the brutality of his father, he was 'deathly' afraid he'd lose his 'Big Bro' to Ms. Vickey. No one had thought to prepare him for that worst thing that DID happen. It was when he heard that he was going to lose his 'big brother' Collin that he couldn't stand the shock and fainted at the devastating news.
At Three Finger Cove, later that night, after the Hearing, it was just Mr. Ken and Collin sitting together in the Theater in Mr. Ken's special chair. A movie was playing, but neither man nor teen were watching. Chief was there, too, as always, just happy that both of her favorite people were back after their absence of two long days.
Through his continuing tears, Collin asked, "Bro … wha … what am I going ta … to do, now?"
Mr. Ken thought for a few seconds and replied, "Collin … you're going to push forward and live your life … as you want to. You may not be here at the Cove, but what you've learned here, you will take with you and … and you will be the BEST advocate of your own destiny. You may not be here physically, but your Spirit will definitely be here!"
A few seconds later, Mr. Ken heard Collin ask, "I think I know what you're saying, but … well, …ah, could you say it in English?" It was then that Collin smiled, albeit not that much, but it gave Mr. Ken some hope that the teenager was finally beginning to accept his fate.
The two 'brothers' sat together for a while longer, when out of the blue, Collin asked, "Bro … do you think we could have … you know a … a party for everyone, here at the Cove? It will be a way for me to say my goodbye's without missing anyone."
Ken pulled back to look into the teen's eyes to see if he was serious, but also to see if the lad's tears had begun to dry up. Then, seeing what he had hoped for, it took the man only a few nanoseconds to say a big, "YES!"
Even though it was late, it wasn't yet past 9 PM so they knew they could make some phone calls and not be breaking the Nine-to-Nine Rule. They each called the obvious persons in their cell phone list to let them know that tomorrow, beginning at 1 o'clock; they were having a 'Bon Voyage' party for Collin.
The people called were ecstatic that there was going to be some way they could say their goodbyes to the lad they have come to know and love. They were told not to bring presents but practically all of them felt they needed to send him off with a small something that he could remember them by.
Ken knew Momma Maria could never cook for all the people they invited and it wouldn't be fair to her anyway.
First thing the next morning, Mr. Ken made a number of quick phone calls and was able to find a company that could cater their party for them beginning at one o'clock. The company arrived at twelve noon, and began setting up and preparing the foods. This wasn't going to be a sit-down shindig but the caterer did provide a number of tables and chairs for the guests to use.
The first ones to arrive of course were Ryan and 'mom' Taylor soon followed by Eric and his mom, Judy. Collin was able to hold up to seeing Ryan and his mom, but when Eric came up to him he lost it. The two of them found themselves on the floor right there in the entrance foyer.
"CollinIdon'twantyoutogooooo!" cried out Eric.
"But I have to, Eric, the judge says I do," replied Collin, as he tightly hugged the eleven year old 'lil brother' to him.
"Itsnotfair thatyouhavetoleave," cried Eric while he hugged Collin back.
"I'll get to see you again 'little bro'," said Collin as he pushed Eric back so he could look in his face and eyes.
"Yo … you promise?" now a wide eyed Eric asked back.
"Yes, I will. The judge said that Mr. Ken is supposed to stay in my life. Now, how else can he do that, if I don't come here to visit him and you and Ryan and 'mom'?"
"Woof, woof, woof!" barked out Chief.
"Oh, and you, too, Chief, how could I ever forget you, girl? You're the one who found me out on the patio, in all that rain. Come over here and let me give you a great big hug!"
Chief quickly went to Collin and Eric and began to lick them both. Her actions made both Collin and Eric begin to laugh and soon they were back in a good mood.
Soon, everyone they called began to arrive. There were Doc Powers and Alex and his Mom Kathryn, Judge Adam Richards and his wife Kathleen, Ken's lawyer Bill Jackson, and Collin's lawyer Stewart Russell and his girlfriend Shelley and Ryan's girlfriend Meagan.
They were followed by Dr. Douglas Jennings, Deputy Dan Fischer, Sheriff Matthew Barnes, FBI agent Phillip Campbell, Nurse Joanne Kirby, Collin's tutor, Steven Ashland, and Ken's special friend Mary Anne, and the limo driver, Derrick.
Collin's high school friends who came by were Derrick, Damon, Daniel, Conner, Teddy, Vince, Nicholas, Abby, Christy, Ellen, Megan, Tabatha, and Jenny.
The entire group gathered on the patio where the caterer had setup. And even though they were all told they weren't to bring presents, a large table mysteriously appeared and people kept piling presents upon presents.
Collin talked with everyone. It was his last FULL day at Three Finger Cove, for some time to come, and Collin wanted to make sure he got to talk with everyone who showed.
The food was served around two o'clock and their guests made sure Collin was the first in line. The teen filled his plate and sat down at one of the tables the caterer set up. Soon, his high school friends came and sat down with him. They talked about the campaigns and the Holiday parties and fund raisers for Rodney and the bullied kids. They talked about the waterpark and the many swim parties and cookouts there at the Cove.
The girls were a bit miffed when they heard about all the fun the boys had at the Cove and they weren't invited. Collin hugged Shelley while he explained to her, and the other girls, that it all happened before he had met her. Ryan went to him later and thanked him for helping him dodge a 'bullet' there as Meagan was pissed, too.
The afternoon wore on and the invited quests made sure they told Collin how they enjoyed knowing and loving him, as they wished him well in his new life to come.
It was almost 5 PM when the 'Bon Voyage' party was 'crashed' by more of the sophomore class as well as Eric's best friends and Alex's, too. One of the group said that they had heard a judge had sent Collin to live with his grandmother and they just had to stop by and wish him well.
Mr. Ken and Collin invited them to have some food and refreshments and the party grew.
There were loads of tears, all around. The guests all tried to hold back their tears back, but no one could. Then it came time for Collin to open the many going away gifts he had received.
Many of the gifts were simple mementos of things that came from the many places Collin visited during his stay at Three Finger Cove. His sophomore friends had gotten a hold of a Senior Year Book and they all signed it under their names with their own hopeful wishes.
Eric's and Alex's friends hadn't brought Collin anything as they had only heard about Collin's leaving sometime during the day. But that didn't hold them back as they all, each and every one of them, gave Collin a great big hug to thank him for his having them over for the swim parties. One person said they heard someone remark, 'the tears that came off all those lads could probably have filled a swimming pool.'
Then, the people began to leave. Each and every one sought out Collin to again express their well wishes for him. Then they found Mr. Ken and thanked him for having the party for the teen and letting them say their farewells.
"Thanks for coming, Dr. Jennings," said Collin as he offered his hand for the doctor to shake.
"Collin, I've enjoyed working with you all these months. Here is a name, and a number, of a colleague of mine where you will be living. If you ever need someone, he is just as good as I" smiled Doc Jennings, as he handed the teen a piece of paper which Collin put into his pocket.
"Good bye, Judge Adam, and you, too, Mrs. Richards," said Collin as he shook their hands.
"Collin, my boy, you really livened up my court. I'm sure going to miss that. Take good care of yourself, and don't throw away that phone number of mine. If you ever need some advice, from a judge, don't ever be afraid to give me a call," assured Judge Adam, as he released the teen's hand.
"Thank you for everything you did for me, Dan," expressed Collin when Deputy Dan Fischer came by to say So-Long to the lad.
"Collin, I heard what Judge Richards said as he left, and I want to extend my well wishes to you, as well, and I want you to have my card, as well. It has my personal information on it and if you ever need some police advice please don't hesitate to call!"
Then Phillip Campbell came up to Collin and, instead of shaking his hand, he grabbed Collin and gave him a huge hug.
"Thank you very much, Mr. Campbell," offered Collin.
"No, Thank You, Collin … it was a pleasure to have the opportunity to get to know you and to work to help protect you. That assignment made me realize that I'd become slack and that I had to readjust my situational awareness, and not take things for granted. It was Mr. Thomas who kicked my butt over the way the men were not doing their jobs that made me realize I had to change my own attitude. I am very happy that things have worked out for you.
"I know you'd rather stay here with Mr. Ken, but think of this move as another chance to spread your wings and change the things that you can. I know, in the years to come, we will hear more and more about you. Here's my card. You call me if you ever need some assistance with things, anything." Then Phil hugged Collin again and walked away with tears in his eyes.
The goodbyes like those went on for quite some time.
Collin's closest 'adult' friends waited until the end to talk to the lad, one last time. Then, each of them gave him a great big hug. The tears flowed some more but some were 'happy' tears from what some of the people said to him.
Then, it was just Ryan and Eric and Mary and Judy.
The six of them walked down to the Great Room so they all could relax more on the soft sofas and chairs. Chief followed, too, and hung close by Collin's feet. Eric was going to try and sit with his 'big brother' but Judy made him sit with her. Then, Eric saw how Collin and Mr. Ken sat close together, on the sofa, and it brought tears again to his eyes.
"Dang, bro, you got a ton of gifts. Have you figured out how you're gonna get to take them with you?" asked Ryan.
"I know I'll be back here, so I'll get most of them then. Trouble is … I don't know how soon I'll be able to get back here," answered Collin.
"Why's that?" innocently asked Eric.
"Well, you see, Eric … I don't know what I'll have to do to get settled back at my old house. I also don't know … well, I'll have to see how me and Grammy will get along."
"Oh," said Eric, as he ran and grabbed Collin and hugged him as tight as he could while the tears ran down his face. When he was finished with his hug, Eric didn't run back to his mom, as he normally would, he just stood there wiping the tears away as fast as they streamed down this face.
"Come over here and sit with me," Collin said to his 'lil bro'.
Eric's smile grew as wide as can be, as he looked to his mom for permission. All it took was a slight nod from her and he flew onto Collin's lap. The young boy just couldn't stop smiling as he sat in his big brothers lap.
"Eric, I always wanted to have a Big Brother like Mr. Ken and I always wanted a little brother just like you. I was glad you came that Thanksgiving Day, and continued to come back. You gave me the opportunity to know what it was like to have a 'little' brother. Yes, I'm gonna miss everyone … but I'm gonna miss you, the most!"
Then Collin hugged his 'lil bro' again.
Then it was Ms. Judy's turn to say her so-longs.
"Collin, I want to thank you for what you have done for my son. He has changed, for the good, I must add, ever since he got to have two Big brothers, such as you and Ryan. I know we will all miss you … but you will never be gone from our hearts. Please let us know when you are coming back, so we all can get together and re-live the best parts of our getting to know you."
Then Judy gave Collin a motherly hug and then stepped away and stood with her son.
"Bro, I don't know what I'm gonna do when you are no longer here. I've spent so much time here, at the Cove that I almost think of it as MY home, too. It's going to be hard for a while to get used to you not being around and us double-dating and everything else we shared together.. I'm really going to miss you."
It was then that Ryan broke down and cried hard. Then, he grabbed Collin and gave him a hug and a kiss on the cheek. Then he turned and ran away, not wanting the remaining people to see how much harder he was going to cry.
"Collin, my 'second son', I, too, am going to miss you. The entire time Ryan and I have gotten to know you has been a blessing on us both. I know I will cry the way a mother cries when she sends her son away to college or to the military. You take good care of yourself, and know that any time you need us for anything, you just call us. Now, I mean that, Collin. Don't try to fix things or do things on your own, if it is something that any of us can help you with. You hear me?"
Then it was Mary Taylor's time to hug Collin. She too hugged the teenager as a mother hugs her child, as he, or she, is leaving for college on anywhere else they would be on their own and not have the opportunity to have a hug for a while.
Then, all four left the Cove, leaving Mr. Ken and Collin and Chief to be together for one last night.