Castle Roland

Mountain Magic

by Sequoyah


Chapter 13

Posted: N/A

It was after six by the time we got home from getting Jonathan settled in. Granddad and Grandmom were both in the kitchen, Grandmom starting supper and Granddad nursing a cup of coffee. "How'd the young man like his new place?" he asked.

"I think he was just a bit overwhelmed," I answered.

"I'm sure he is," Jason added. "All of a sudden he has gone from having no place to live, no-one to care about him, and little or no hope for that changing to having a good home and someone--well, someones--care about him. That is pretty overwhelming, I know... I have known that feeling. To tell the truth, there are times when it is still pretty overwhelming for me."

"Yeah, and he's sure led a sheltered life," I said. "He has never seen a real movie, only instructional videos at school. He has never watched TV--well, he did in the hospital, but I mean before that. Of course he hasn't played computer games." I kinda giggled and said, "When he said he hadn't played any computer games, I could see the wheels turning in Hank's head."

Jason chuckled and said, "Hank said he'd show him soon, and I'm sure he will since he is a computer game nut. And Jonathan better be a fast learner. Hank is an ace at several things but at computer games he can really kick butt."

We talked a few more minutes about Jonathan, then Jason said, "By the way, unless you have something planned for us, we're taking Jonathan thrift store shopping tomorrow."

"Uh oh, I just remembered. Granddad planned for us to cut wood tomorrow," I reminded Jason--and myself.

"We'll get around to it," Granddad answered. "Taking care of Jonathan is more important right now."

"Hank, Jason and I've chipped in ten dollars apiece for Jonathan to spend on clothes. We hope that's enough, at least enough to get him started. He doesn't have anything left from what he had on when we found him, except his jeans and windbreaker--and both of them have definitely seen better days. Well, I guess he does have shoes."

"Douglas, I think you need to guess again," Grandmom said. If you can call shoes what the poor boy had on when Ellen and I took clothes to him today, he has shoes. But did you by any chance look at them?" Grandmom asked. "They were really a mess. I don't mean they were dirty or something like that. They were full of holes, completely worn out. I hardly think there is enough of them left to be recognizable as shoes."

"I guess we'll have to look into shoes first then," I said, recalling the condition of Jonathan's cheap sneakers now that Grandmom had mentioned them.

"I'm sure if Ellen and I had seen his shoes before we went shopping, we would have gone ahead and bought a pair," Grandmom said, "but neither of us gave it a thought. Now that I think about it, we couldn't since he'd need to try them on. We hadn't seen the lad, so we'd have been unable to even guess at a size."

"If he didn't have such little feet, I could let him have a pair of mine. I have three pairs," I said. "I don't know his shoe size, but I do know he has tiny feet for his size. And, Jason, I know your feet are even bigger."

Jason was taking in all this talk about shoes and finally said, "He's got to have shoes, of course, but there won't be much left for other clothes even if we luck into a good shoe sale. Doug, think the three of us might come up with another ten dollars each?

"Since you fellows are taking care of his clothing, I think your grandmom and I could help out with shoes. Ok, Old Woman?"

"I'll check the cookie jar."

For most people, checking the cookie jar was symbolic but for Grandmom it was literal. She kept some money in the cookie jar in the kitchen. From time to time one of us would place "a little something" in it to cover unexpected expenses, a treat, or when we got caught without cash--like for lunch money. You know, just little things.

Grandmom came back with a smile on her face and said, "Well, sons, looks like someone has been planning on a shoeless kid's arrival. We can match your thirty if that will work. That's exactly what was in the cookie jar," she concluded, handing a number of bills to Jason. "Ellen and I did get socks and underwear enough. I didn't know what young men wore these days for underwear, but Ellen said she thought we should just go ahead and get two five-packs each of briefs and boxers. I did notice the two of you seem to wear both."

"On Jonathan's behalf--and ours--thanks Grandmom, Grandad," Jason said, giving Grandmom a hug. "Ok, chore time, Mr. McElrath," he added as he slapped me on the back.

When we had finished the chores, Grandmom had supper ready. After the school Thanksgiving dinner lunch--so help me, that's what everyone called it--neither Jason nor I were very hungry. At least that's what we said, but I noticed we both ate a hearty meal.

As usual, during supper we talked with the grandparents about one thing or another. When Jonathan was mentioned again, Grandmom said, "Since our kids have just about become one family, Ellen asked if we'd like to combine forces for Thanksgiving dinner. I thought it was an excellent idea, but wanted to check with you two first."

"I think it is a swell idea, and even more so since Jonathan is there. He knows the two of us very well, but he only knows Hank in the Dennison household," I offered.

"Sounds good," Jason added. "Well, I think I'll take my leave of this good company and go upstairs. After getting Hank's and Jonathan's place cleaned up and organized, I took one look at my room and was flabbergasted at the mess I've been living in."

I hadn't thought of it but my room was in the same condition, "Whoops, same here," I said. "Hey, is it OK if we plan on sleeping in tomorrow morning? We're not picking up Hank and Jonathan until 10:30." I hesitated for a moment and added, "I mean unless, of course, you have some chores you want us to do."

"Well, I had thought about sleeping in and letting you two get up and do the milking," Granddad said.

"Well, sure, no problem. We can do that," Jason said.

"Yeah, it's only right," I added, trying to keep disappointment out of my voice.

"Gerald, you are a rotten tease," Grandmom said and, as she did, Granddad couldn't hold back a chuckle any longer.

"Just pulling your legs, sons, I couldn't sleep in if I wanted to. I am too used to getting up early to sleep late. I'll take care of the morning chores and you two sleep in."

"Thanks, Granddad," Jason and I both said and headed upstairs.

Jason and I walked up the stairs arm-in-arm and when we reached the top, stopped for a kiss before going to our rooms to do the cleaning up. An hour and a half later, Jason came to my room and said, "I took care of the bathroom. As soon as you finish we can tackle the den."

It was after ten before we finished our cleaning and went downstairs for cold milk and cookies. After we ate, we sat in the den with the grandparents watching the news--of which there was little.

After the news, we all said goodnight and Jason and I, again, started up the stairs arm-in-arm. About half-way up, he stopped, put his arms around me and pulled my body to his as his lips covered mine. His tongue was soon exploring my mouth as we pulled up each other's shirts. His hands felt wonderful on my bare skin and his hard back muscles under my hands did things to me, things I liked!

Jason was breathing through my mouth as he loosened my belt and slipped his hands inside my pants, his hands holding my ass cheeks. I found his nipples under his shirt and drew circles around them with my fingers. I could feel them get hard, and they weren't the only things getting hard! I finally broke our kiss and whispered, "Jason, Babe, you keep that up and I'll explode. I know I will."

Jason leaned his forehead against mine, looked into my eyes and said, "So will I." With those words, he withdrew his hands, quickly swept me into his arms and carried me the rest of the way up the stairs. My arms were around his neck, my eyes looking into his when we reached the top of the stairs. He stopped, kissed me and asked, "Where to?"

"Jason, this is not a time to call for a conference," I responded.

The door to my room was closest so Jason pushed it open with his foot, stepped across the threshold, paused and gently pushed the door closed with his shoulder. Still carrying me, he walked over to my bed, lowered me to my feet, wrapped his arms around me and started kissing me again.

"Baby, I need your lovin'," he half-sang as he pulled my shirt over my head, opened my belt and unzipped my pants, allowing them to slide down my legs. I stepped out of them and stood before Jason with nothing on except a pair of white bikini briefs. Jason put his hands on my shoulders and held me at arms' length. "Doug, if I'd ever been told someone could be as beautiful as you are, I'd never believed it. And if I HAD believed it, no-one, but no-one could have convinced me anyone as beautiful as you could love me. I love you, man, I really do."

I put my arms around Jason's neck, pulled him to me and whispered in his ear, "Never, ever doubt that I love you, Jason Talltree. Never doubt it for a second." I unbuttoned Jason's shirt as we talked. After unfastening his belt and unzipping his pants, I ran my hands over his round butt and down his hard, muscular legs, stripping his pants from them. I left his briefs on and, as he stepped out of his pants, held his hard cock and balls in my hands. It was all his briefs could do to hold him in and, in fact, his manhood was peeking out above his waistband like a little boy looking over a fence.

Both undressed except for our briefs, lust drove our kisses and our exploration of each other's body. I had backed up to my bed and finally just fell backwards across it, pulling Jason's body atop mine.

Our kissing and tongue duel continued as Jason started moving his hips in small circles, grinding his manhood against mine. When I thought I couldn't get any more aroused, Jason's mouth moved down my chest, his tongue circling a very hard and very sensitive nipple. He raised his chin, looked up into my eyes and said, "Doug, I love you so much, so very, very much. Damn, I love you, babe."

I locked my legs behind his back and responded, "Jason, I love you too. I love you more than I thought it was possible to love anyone. Your loving me makes me whole, and the happiest man in the world."

I felt Jason's hand slide under the waistband of my briefs and lifted my butt so he could slide them down and off my legs. My manhood was so hard it was standing up and pulsating with every heart beat. I knew that I was ready to go over the edge, but just not how ready.

Jason had moved down in the bed to remove my briefs and, as he started back up, he kissed the head of my manhood. That was all it took. I blasted his face with charge after charge of hot sperm. Jason got a very surprised look on his face, then bravely--I thought, not having any experience--licked his face. As he did he said, "Not bad, not bad at all. Guess I'll have to call you Sweet Doug."

Jason had a huge smile on his face and he took being spermed with good humor, which was great, but it did break the mood. He was a mess, so I opened the drawer of my nightstand, took out a wad of tissues and wiped his face and neck. I then cleaned myself. In spite of having a chuckle at being spermed, Jason was still rock-hard. Since he still had on briefs, I took my time moving down his body with my mouth, giving him a good tongue bath. When I had his briefs off, I rested my head on his thigh so I could really look at his manhood.

Hank had been fascinated by Jason's uncut cock and so was I. Of course, my infatuation with it had more to do with it belonging to the man I loved than it did being uncut, but don't think I am downplaying its uncut beauty. I reached out and slowly pulled the foreskin back. It was not overly tight and just covered his cock head. I loved the way the head just kinda emerged as I pulled the skin back. I started stroking Jason slowly and moved around until I could gaze into his black, black eyes. He reached down and grasped a handful of my hair. "Doug, Man, I am ready!" he said through clinched teeth. I continued stroking him then pulled his foreskin back and kissed the head of his cock. The results were as they had been for me, but I was better-prepared for the blast.

This time we went to the bathroom and cleaned up a bit better than we had done with the tissues. We kept kissing each other until we were once again hard and hot by the time we got back. When we reached my room, I lit candles on the nightstands and turned out the light. We lay nude, facing each other, and talked about how good it felt to help each other get off. We exchanged soft kisses, touched each other's body with feather-light touches, and did a lot of just looking into each other's eyes.

When I mentioned being surprised at how little it actually took to get me off, Jason said he thought it was because we were horny teenagers. "Lust, my good man, pure teenage lust," he said is a very pompous manner.

"No doubt there was more than a little lust involved, but it was more than that. The fact that we were together, I guess having sex ... You know, Jason, I don't know what constitutes having sex for us. But I think we were."

"Not sure this is the time or place for a lengthy discussion, but I think we can say we were making love and maybe in the midst of that were having sex. I do know I wanted to make you happy 'cause I love you," Jason said.

When we started making love again, it lacked the intensity that had been there earlier. We took a long time kissing, exploring our lover's body with hands, fingers, tongue and mouth. We lay, facing each other, feasting our eyes on our lover. We brought each other to the edge, then backed off time after time. Finally Jason said, "I think I am going to know how Hank feels after a date unless ..."

"I have the cure for that," I smiled.

I was surprised when Jason spun around on his beautiful, firm butt, Placing a leg on each side of my body. I soon learned what was up when he scooted forward until our butts were close together, so close he could grasp both our cocks. Grasping both with one hand, he stroked them slowly but, when I was ready to go over the edge, he stopped. We both raised up, embraced and started deep tongue kissing. I lay back, reached down and took his cock in hand. Jason did the same to mine and we began to stroke each other, knowing this time we were going all the way. We exploded at the same time, spraying our lover. We used tissues to clean up and didn't go to the bathroom. When we finished, Jason said, "We're sleeping in in the morning so I think I will stay right here. Since I wake up early anyway, I'll go to my bed then. Ok?"

In answer, I turned back the cover and welcomed my lover to my bed and my arms.

Jason and I snuggled in each other's arms, did a lot of goofy smiling, exchanging soft, butterfly kisses and whispering sweet nothings to each other--you know, the foolish but important things people in love do and say. We knew we could sleep late so we were in no hurry to go to sleep--especially since we had other things we rather be doing.

I'm not foolish enough to say we didn't make love again, because we did.Each time was different. The first time was fast and kinda frantic. After all, we were horny--lustful--teenagers. The second time was slower. We were experimenting at giving each other pleasure rather than just getting off. The last time was gentle, tender love-making in which my whole being was focused on Jason and his pleasure and feelings and, amazingly, it gave me more pleasure than I imagined possible. Later Jason said his experience was the same. "Fr. Hansen is right, it more blessed to give than receive," he observed. After the last time, we were completely wrapped up in each other--both emotionally and physically.

Sometime in the night, I woke up--well, at least I was half-awake--and Jason and I were still wrapped in each other's arms, our legs entwined. I disentangled myself and slipped out of bed and headed for the bathroom. When I got back, I stood watching Jason sleep. He was a good, kind, caring man and he loved me. He loved ME! Suddenly I had a lump in my throat and got all misty eyed, overcome with my love for Jason and even more by his love for me.

Standing in the moonlight watching Jason, I finally realized I was in my birthday suit, it was the middle of the night and it was cold! I was shivering all over as I slid back into bed and spooned myself into Jason's back.

I expected to go back to sleep immediately, but I didn't for a while. I was uneasy and wanted to pretend I didn't know why, but I did. Our love-making had been wonderful, and had given me great pleasure, and I felt no guilt or remorse for what we had done. But now I worried about having crossed a line, the line we had laid down for ourselves about respecting the grandparents while loving each other. I guess I'd be the one to use Jason's line this time: "Lover we gotta talk".

My thoughts went round and round, but Jason's warm body felt so good! I lay against my lover, drinking in the scent of his body and, feeling warm and safe, I drifted off to sleep again.

You don't have to be a fortuneteller to know what happened the next morning. Granddad knocked on my door and called, "Douglas, it's almost 9:30. If you are going to pick up Jonathan and Hank at 10:30, you need to be moving."

I shot straight up in bed as did Jason. Hoping against hope Jason's door was closed or Granddad hadn't gone on down the hall to his room, I called, "Thanks, Granddad, be right down."

"Grandmom will have breakfast for you two shortly so you need to get a move on."

I hopped out of bed, threw on a robe and headed for the bathroom. As I left my room I saw Granddad going down the stairs, "Thanks for calling me, Granddad," I called after him again.

Granddad stopped, turned and said, "You might check on Jason. I don't know whether he heard me call or not."

"I'll get his lazy butt out of bed," I answered wondering whether Granddad had looked in on Jason or not. In any event, as he went on downstairs, I went back to my room.

Jason was standing in the middle of the floor in all his bare glory. "Lazy butt? I don't think so!" Jason said as he wiggled his butt at me. "But more to the point, did Granddad check on me? Did he look in my room and see I wasn't there?"

"I don't think so. I hope not," I answered. "But..."

"Yeah, I know, but...."

We both walked down the hall and into the bathroom. We were more than a bit subdued as we brushed our teeth, but not so subdued as to prevent a hot morning kiss. We didn't spend a lot of time in the shower though, getting out as soon as we had cleaned up from the night's activities. After our shower, we got dressed and went downstairs for a late breakfast.

"Guess you two slept well last night," Grandmom said as we sat down at the kitchen table. "Your granddad thought you'd be up and stirring early, but I reminded him you said you were going to sleep in. Even at that, I expected you earlier."

"We kinda got to sleep--not bed--late. We got ready for bed early enough, then Jason came to my room and we talked and all until very late. Actually, we both just fell asleep on my bed."

"I suspected as much when I looked in Jason's room and saw he wasn't in his bed," Granddad said. "Late night bull session?"

"Yeah," Jason replied. "You know how it is."

Granddad chuckled and said, "Yeah, I remember bull sessions from when I was younger. I suspect you, like us, got all the world's problems solved in one night."

"And I suspect the world will ignore us as it did you and your buds," I grinned back, inwardly breathing a sigh of relief.

After we had cleared the breakfast table, Jason and I drove to the Dennisons'. I was surprised that both of us were very quiet, saying practically nothing on our way to Hank's place.

When we reached the Dennisons' we just walked in as Hank did at our place. Shortly after school started, Granddad had said to him, "Hank, you're like one of ours and I get tired of running to answer the door and finding you standing there. Just walk in and let us know you're here." A few days later Mr. Dennison had said essentially the same thing to us.

Jason called out, "Your neighbors are here," expecting Hank to answer from upstairs.

"In the kitchen," Hank answered.

When we got to the kitchen, Hank was sitting at the kitchen with a large cup of coffee, looking the worse for wear.

"Man, you look like something the cat drug in," Jason said.

"Feel about that way," Hank answered. "I had a very late night. Can't say you two look so great yourselves. What was your problem?"

"No problem. We just had a late night." I answered.

"Jonathan had a rough night which meant I had one. I think a lot of it was just nerves, but he did say he was having some pain from the surgery. It was finally bad enough that Mom called the doctor and learned Jonathan was supposed to be given some pain pills when he left the hospital but, somehow or other, that didn't happen. Dad went to the hospital about 2:00, got the medicine and Jonathan finally got to sleep around 3:00. Mom said let him sleep as late as possible. I called him just before you guys arrived. So why did you two have a late night, as if I didn't know?"

I blushed and said, "We slept together last night and almost got caught."

"You mean you two were in the bed together. I can look at you and see the 'slept with' was a minor part of the night! And you almost got caught?"

"Well, actually we did get caught--being in bed together--but I think we got out without any damage. That Doug has a quick tongue," Jason said, then told Hank about our falling asleep in my bed, of course leaving out a lot of details.

"Don't think I'd like to be in your shoes," Hank said. "I know we talked about the difference between you two and Beth and me but, boy, the idea of you two being caught in bed together makes the difference come home. If someone needed a bed, you two could sleep together, no questions asked. But I would have to sleep on the floor rather than share a bed with Beth because another bed was needed. Yet if you two were caught in one bed and the other bed empty, there would be questions. Douglas, you'd have to give a reason for Jason being in your bed and not his--quick tongue is right."

"If I was caught in Beth's bed there would be hell to pay, but nothing like you two might face. We'd get a lecture and told how we were too young for sex, that sort of thing, but that would be it. Well I'd likely be grounded forever."

"If you two don't change your mind about being in love with each other, you have got to learn to be careful, real careful. As careful as Beth and I will have to be to prevent her getting pregnant. At least that's one problem you two won't face."

"Yeah, that's something we don't have to worry about, but we have worries enough. Guess being in love means you have problems." Jason mused.

"Yeah, you've got that right," Hank said. "You know, I sometimes wish Beth and I had someone we could really talk to. I can't talk to my parents. I mean they'd not kill me or anything, but when I have tried to talk to Dad, we both got so embarrassed it was a pity. And talk to Mom about being in love and about sex? You got to be kidding. Same thing with you guys. I mean sooner or later you're going to have to tell your grandparents and that's not going to be easy. But you also need someone who understands you, I mean you two, together and separate, like..."

Jason cracked up and we all had a good laugh, but the three of us knew what we were struggling with was important. "I mean you can talk to me, but I'm just another teenager and straight. You could talk to Jonathan because he's gay but, not only is he a teenager, he's really just a kid."

Hank's tone indicated he was giving serious thought to his friends being lovers. It was pretty clear he was feeling a bit better about Jason's and my relationship. But I didn't fool myself into thinking he had decided everything was lovely. Heck, everything wasn't lovely for me. I also wondered if Hank had announced he and Beth were having sex. I thought so but wasn't sure, and wasn't about to ask.

There were a lot of things I wasn't clear about. In fact, about all I was clear about was being in love with Jason and his love more than made up for anything which might come our way as a result. At the same time, I didn't want us to be as careless as we were last night. I mean I knew we'd have to talk with the grandparents sooner or later, but I sure wanted it to be later--preferably much later. AND I did think we needed to do some serious thinking about last night.

"Yeah, all that makes sense and careful we gotta be, because there is no way I will change my mind about Jason. Well that's nonsense. Being in love with Jason is not something I gave a lot of thought to and then decided. I'm in love with Jason, period, and that is not something I decided. Hank, are you in love with Beth? I mean are you really in love with her or do you just have hot pants?"

"You know, I haven't thought about it that way," Hank replied puzzled. "That I have hot pants, I guess goes without saying. I think when I first got interested in her and then convinced her to go out with me, it was mostly hot pants, pure teen lust. Yeah, I mostly just had the hots for her. But now? I'm not sure I have used the L word but, yes, I think I am in love with her. And, yeah, it was not something I thought about and decided."

"What made you realize you were in love and not just lusting after Beth's bod, if you HAVE realized you are in love?" I asked.

"Never really thought about that either. It just happened. But now that I do think about it, I was in love and not just in heat when I started thinking about making Beth happy and doing what Beth wanted rather than just thinking about what I wanted."

"Of course, my daydreaming and fantasies weren't pure as the driven snow, but in addition to thinking about how I'd like to have sex, I also thought about being with Beth in the future. You know, Beth and me at the prom, Beth and me at graduation, even Beth and me at college. By the way, that's why Sandra and Janie will be paying for your Saturday dates." Once again Hank had done one of his "That subject's finished, now on to the next" moves.

"Whoa!" Jason said. "What does your going to the prom have to do with Janie and Sandra?"

"Well, nothing really but, yeah, a lot," Hank said. "See, Beth and I have been talking pretty seriously about the future--including the prom--and when Beth said something about that to the girls..."

"We get the idea, but I still don't see how that has anything to do with Janie and Sandra," Jason said, looking puzzled.

"Well, it does. See, when Beth started talking about the future, our future, Sandra said, 'Look, I like Jason a whole lot. He's fun, a real hottie, and knows how to treat a woman, but in no way am I getting tied down to one man--at least not for a long time. I've seen women who sell out to men so they can lead the man around by the nose. I like a goodnight kiss as well as anyone, but I don't look ahead and see myself tied down to one man for a loooong time.' Janie said the same about you, Douglas. I know it makes no never mind to you two or, I guess, you're lucky to have girlfriends who don't want anything more than friendship."

"Wow! That is good news," I said. "I have been thinking about the girls and what they expect, thinking they might want to, I guess, go steady or whatever. Anyway, I am very relieved since I really like them and want to be friends." I kept rambling on until my buds were laughing their heads off.

We were all laughing when Jonathan came down the stairs.

"Jonathan, hope you're feeling better," I said. "Hank says you had a rough night."

"I did and Mr. Dennison had to go to the hospital to get pain stuff. I'm a lot of trouble," Jonathan said as he took a bowl of cereal Hank fixed for him.

"That's what teenagers are for," Jason said. "We are supposed to be trouble. That's our job, didn't you know that?"

Jonathan got a big smile on his face and said, "Then I guess I'm making up for when I was a goody-goody frightened little rabbit."

The kid was very immature in so many ways, but there was also a great depth to him as well, and he really was funny at times.

As soon as Jonathan finished eating, we headed for Asheville. He held our attention as he kept discovering something new to get excited about. We were astonished when he said he had never been to Clarksville, much less to Asheville. He was like a little kid who suddenly found himself in a toy store.

Come to think of it, I guess the world is a big toy store if you've never seen much of it.

When we got to Asheville, we headed straight to Footlocker to check on shoes. As we walked toward the shop, Hank said, "By the way, Mom and Dad matched our clothing money to help pay for shoes."

"Grand! So did Grandmom and Grandad," Jason said. "So we have sixty dollars for shoes. I think we can find something for that price."

I looked at Jonathan's shoes again and they were as I remembered. They were so bad he might as well have been barefoot.

Footlocker didn't have a sale on and we were very disappointed at the prices. Well, actually, Jason and I were. Jonathan was just beside himself, going from one display of shoes to another, unable to take in the number of styles of shoes and how expensive they were. Hank? Well Hank was flirting with the Asheville High student who was keeping the shop. I couldn't believe how outrageous his flirting was or how the girl seemed to be eating it up. Jason and I were just standing back, watching Hank and Jonathan. Finally, Hank said, "Thanks. See ya," and walked over to where we were standing. As he did he said, "Come on, Jonathan, let's be moving."

Just outside the shop, Jason said, "Hank, from the way you were carrying on in there, you'd think you hadn't seen a woman in ages. I expected you to throw her on the floor and hop her bones any minute."

"Yeah, I was doing right well. It was all in fun. She knew I didn't mean a word I said and neither did she. Guess that's something you two may never learn--flirting I mean. You know, carrying on about how the other person is the love of your life when both of you know it's just a game."

"Well I mean all of it is a lie and a game so far as the flirting is concerned. She was very interested in our young brother here and when I told her what we were up to, she told me where there were a couple stores with lower prices, then she said, 'I remember seeing a billboard on my way to work today. The Athlete's Foot in the other mall is going out of business and everything is half-price or less.' She said the sale started Monday but she doubted that the crowd has been there yet and, since Jonathan's feet are small, she thought there would still be a good selection and great prices."

We had to drive across town to get to the Asheville Mall--Footlocker was in Biltmore Mall--but the trip was well worth it. As the girl had told Hank, the selection was good and the prices a half to a third of what similar shoes were at Footlocker.

While Jonathan was looking around, under the careful eyes of Jason and Hank, I talked with the clerk, Tim. I learned he was a high school student from Candler where he played football. He was interested in why the three of us had Jonathan out shopping. I told him a little of Jonathan's story and when I did he said, "He's a lucky dude to have you three. I finally have a stable place to live, but I was tossed from one auntie to another until I was ten. Children's Protective Services finally found me and took me from an abusive home."

"I was placed in a foster home and finally adopted by two wonderful people. They are old enough to be my grandparents and treat me like a grandson--a spoiled grandson at times--but I know a good thing when I find it, so I wouldn't do anything to hurt or upset them. Actually, I love them like I should and would have loved decent parents. I am very grateful to them and work hard at making them proud of me--and that makes me proud of me," he smiled.

Looking over toward Jonathan and his two brothers/friends, Tim said, "Seems your new brother can't make up his mind." Jonathan had a pair of bright red and white Nikes--one under each arm--and a different right shoe in each hand. "For someone hidden in a mountain cove, he has good fashion sense, is money-wise and darn lucky. The three pairs he has are still here because we found a whole case of shoes this morning and this is a slow day--you won't want to be here the day after Thanksgiving. Of the three pairs he's holding, the two right shoes are from the ones most in demand by high school students. But I bet you one thing, he'll wear those bright red and white Nikes a lot. They haven't sold well, but they feel sooo good and I can see he loves them. Price-wise, the three pairs he has cost little more than a single pair would at Footlocker."

Which is why we ended up buying all three and spending little more than the sixty dollars shoe money we had. Jonathan put on the red and white Nikes and Hank put the battered shoes he had been wearing in the empty shoe box. Tim brought a garbage pail from the back. As Hank tossed the shoe box in it, Tim said, "Off with the old and on with the new. And, Jonathan, I'm not just talking about shoes. Good luck in your new home with your new family."

Jonathan was so elated I thought we'd have to tie him down to keep his feet on the ground. In fact, as we were walking across the parking lot, Jonathan put his arms around Jason's and Hank's waists and suddenly lifted both feet off the ground and held them out in front of himself. As I had observed earlier, Jonathan had a slight build but the little booger was, nonetheless, well-built and, we discovered, strong as an ox. Jason and Hank were caught by surprise and almost dropped the young man, who didn't seem to notice he was suspended in the air.

"These're the very first new shoes I've ever had in my whole life," he exclaimed, sounding like the excited kid he was. "I've always had to wear hand-me-down shoes from a member of the community--sometimes handed down from two or three others before they got to me. But--WOW--these are mine, all mine, and they're brand spanking new."

On our way back to the Jeep, Hank and I talked about how much we had taken our parents, and what they had given us, for granted. When we fell silent, Jason said softly, "It's not very nice to have to put up with hand-me-downs and what someone has tossed out, but ossed out, but it sure makes you appreciate something nice when you get it."

I thought a lot about that, because I was sure Jonathan was more excited over his new shoes than I was when I got my Jeep.

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