Castle Roland

Mountain Magic

by Sequoyah


Chapter 14

Posted: N/A

When we reached the Jeep, Hank said, "Okayyyyy, if we can get Jonathan settled down enough to get him in the Jeep I guess we can see how excited he gets over shirts and pants."

"Jonathan, this may be your first trip to Asheville, but you're going t'see most of it," Jason said as we pulled out of the Asheville Mall parking lot. He was right since we had to drive across town in yet another direction to get to the Junior League thrift shop.

As I drove, I remembered Jason's comments about hand-me-downs and Jonathan's excitement over having something new, and became concerned he'd see the thrift shop as supplying more hand-me-downs and make-dos. I hoped not, because that was the only way we could afford to buy him a decent wardrobe. Pointless worrying, the thrift shop was another toy store for Jonathan.

Any Saturday when Jason and/or Hank came into Asheville with me ended up with us at least dropping by the Junior League shop and occasionally I went by when I was alone. The members of the Junior League took turns staffing the store, but they also had one paid employee--Mrs. Walton. She had become a real friend who held things in the storeroom she thought we'd like. Fact is, she had developed such an understanding of what we did and did not like that she sometimes told one of us something we were about to buy was not a bargain, "because you'll never wear that." And she was right!

When we walked in the shop, Mrs. Walton greeted us with, "Good morning, Douglas, Hank, Jason, and who is this fine-looking young man you have with you?"

Her greeting embarrassed Jonathan, who turned bright red as Hank said, "Mrs. Walton, this is Jonathan, my new brother. Well, I guess he's OUR new brother. Jonathan, Mrs. Walton--a good friend who keeps us in mind for special stuff."

Jonathan shook hands with Mrs. Walton as Hank commented on the fact that she was alone in the shop. She replied that here was no need for anyone else since it was the day before Thanksgiving so customers would be few, and members of the Junior League were out of town, getting ready to go out of town or supervising the preparation of their Thanksgiving dinner.

"So you've got some things for our new brother?" Hank asked.

"I'm sure I have plenty, but you'll have to look. I have nothing put aside in his size, of course. I'll have to be on the lookout for things for him since he is a great deal smaller than any of you three. But you know how to find things, so look around. Douglas, I do have something for you if you are interested. It's in the storeroom. Come with me."

Hank and Jason were already busy helping Jonathan and having a ball. When Mrs. Walton and I got to the storeroom, she asked, "How did the three of you end up with a new brother? Or is he just Hank's? He sure looks more like you and Jason than he does Hank. Every time I see that Hank I think about how much money the Junior League ladies spend trying to be his kind of blond, but it doesn't come in a bottle. Well, anyway, how did you three gain another member of the family?"

Since we were in the storeroom and the other three were outside, I told Mrs. Walton about Jonathan. I didn't tell her why he had been abused by his family, of course, but all about what had happened and how he arrived with nothing. "The three of us chipped in ten dollars each to spend on clothes and the grandparents and Hank's parents are paying for his shoes," I then told her about the deal we had gotten on the shoes. "Excellent deal and he has three pair, but we spent more than we planned," I said.

"I know the prices here are very low and what we take in to sell is in excellent condition, clean ... well, you know, you've spent enough time here," she chuckled. "But in addition to our usual low prices, I have a small discretionary fund. I get to put one percent of each sale into it to help people in need. I know you all will spend what is necessary but, just between us, I'll discount anything bought for Jonathan and, if necessary, dip into the fund."

"You're a doll and an old softie, Mrs. Walton," I said as I grabbed her in a hug.

"Well, since I got a hug for Jonathan, I don't know what I might get for what I hope is for you." As she spoke, Mrs. Walton pointed to two large boxes on a high shelf. "If you'll get the ladder and hand those two boxes down to me, I think I have a surprise for you."

The two boxes were not extremely heavy but awkward to handle, so it was with some difficulty I finally got them down without falling off the ladder. Mrs. Walton put both on a worktable in the middle of the room. As she was untying them she said, "It's a bit unusual to get things from former Junior Leaguers--you know they get too old to belong at thirty something?" I didn't but I nodded anyway.

"Two weeks ago Mrs. van Oppen, a former member, came in with several boxes. All had men's clothing in them--all very nice and expensive, but definitely for an older man. She told me she didn't know whether or not anyone would be interested in what's in these boxes, but if I thought they would sell, she'd leave them."

With those words, Mrs. Walton opened a box which held a black coat, like an overcoat, and a long white scarf. I was puzzled as to why she thought I'd have a use for what I was pretty sure was evening wear. My thoughts were confirmed when she opened the second box, which held a formal outfit with all the trimming, from studs and cufflinks on up.

"When I saw these things, I thought about you and your piano. Mr. Van Oppen was an organist who gave concerts all over the world. He had this whole ensemble tailored for him in London just before he died in an accident. It has, as you can see, never been worn. I was sure you'd have recitals and that sort of thing, and these would be great if they fit. I'm betting they will--well maybe they will need minor alterations. Slip on the topcoat."

The coat felt very good but when I held out my arms, the sleeves still covered half my hands. "Like I thought, a perfect fit or it will be when the sleeves are shortened. I remember Mr. Van Oppen had such long arms. Mrs. Van Oppen used to say there was a gorilla in his background. Why don't you try on the outfit--well you can bypass the shirt and all the do-dads, but see about the pants and coat. Go ahead, I won't be embarrassed if you're not."

I blushed, but slipped off my shoes so I could try on the pants and coat. The pants could not have fit better had they been tailor made for me. "I knew if these things were put out on the floor, some kid would buy the outfit to walk around school being different, and I thought you might need it and could use it properly. I talked with Mrs. Van Oppen and she said if you could use it, to give it to you for very little. We agreed on ten dollars."

Later I would be delighted, to say the least, and thunderstruck when I learned the "white gold and onyx" studs and cuff links were, in fact, white gold and onyx. Grandmom, of course, would do her usual excellent alterations--shortening the sleeves--even devising a way to do the shirt sleeves.

When Mrs. Walton and I walked back into the store, Jason and Hank were each holding an armload of clothes. "Jonathan has picked out both small and medium shirts," Jason said. "He's achieving the 'it's about to swallow me' look popular with some of his age group."

"And a lot of ours," Hank added. "But we told him he couldn't show his crack... excuse me, Mrs. Walton," Hank said, turning bright red.

"Know exactly what you mean," she said.

As she spoke, Jonathan walked out of the fitting room, several pairs of pants over his arm. He was so excited, he hadn't bothered to put his pants on. "These fit," he said, handing a stack to Jason, "and these don't," he added as he handed pants to Hank and took another stack from a chair just outside the fitting room door.

"I would say our young brother is a bit excited," Jason chuckled.

Hank laughed and said, "He must be. He's usually so modest he makes sure he is hidden when he gets dressed for bed. After being so excited about getting new shoes, I was afraid he would be disappointed here."

"So was I. I was afraid he'd think this was just another way of being given hand-me-downs," I responded.

"I must admit, the idea crossed my mind as well," Jason said, before explaining our concern to Mrs. Walton.

"Obviously you were worried for nothing," she laughed. "I have had some customers get a bit excited when they found something they especially liked, but never had one who couldn't keep his pants on!"

Jason took the pants Jonathan had given him to the counter, and Hank started returning those which didn't fit to hangers and racks. Jason and I joined him, the three of us finishing as Jonathan emerged with another armload. "All these are ok. Now to the deciding."

Had I been buying clothes, I would have said, "I'll take this, this and this,"but Jonathan divided a huge stack of pants into three piles--definite yes, definite no, and definite maybe. He then went through the maybe pile a couple more times, ending up with a yes and no pile. The three of us got busy returning the no stack to the racks while Jonathan did his sorting routine with the shirts. The final count was a dozen shirts and nine pairs of pants. Not bad for someone who had nothing.

"I see you have pants and shirts, but no coat. You have that nice new parka, but you'll need a lighter one as well. Look among the coats and see what you can come up with," Mrs Walton said as she started refolding the clothes, making out a ticket and bagging Jonathan's "keepers".

The coat search didn't take long at all. Jonathan found a nearly new medium-weight jacket and it was love at first sight when he found a leather bomber jacket. Both jackets were a perfect fit. "Shirts and pants come to forty-six dollars," Mrs. Walton said after she had totaled the ticket. "Jackets add fifteen more.

Jonathan got a stricken look on his face and said, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to get so much. We can put it back. I'll put the leather jacket back."

Hank was the acting treasurer and opened his wallet and started counting out the clothes money. We all knew we had spent more than we had for shoes, digging into the money the three of us had chipped in for clothes. Hank had counted out twenty-five from the clothing fund, less than half what we needed. He opened another side of his wallet and took out ten dollars. "We don't have to have anything more than a malted at Sonic," he said. Jason nodded and tossed in ten from what he might have spent at the drive-in.

"Sorry, Jonathan, I can toss in only five, since I owe most of what I have left for my outfit," I said, handing Hank five dollars.

"Jonathan, you need to select a few shirts and/or pants to put back. We're only eleven dollars short."

"Hank, I can put back more than that. I don't have to have all this. You need to keep your money," Jonathan said in what sounded like a guilty voice.

"Nothing doing, Jonathan. We came here to get clothes for you. Anything else is extra. Besides, it's my money. If I want to spend it on a Coldsprings freshman I can. It's your no never mind."

"You won't have to put anything back," Mrs Walton said. "This is the tenth visit one or the other of you--or all of you older fellows--has made to the shop, so you get everything at a discount," Mrs. Walton said and winked at me. "With what you have given me, you only owe forty-five cents."

"I'll pay the extra," Hank laughed as he handed Mrs. Walton two quarters and said, "Keep the change."

Mrs. Walton smiled and said, "Jonathan, I hope to see you again and, as I do for your brothers, I'll put aside things I think you might like. Douglas, your outfit comes to ten dollars, no discount on it."

It was not until we got everything loaded and were on our way home that Hank asked what was in my boxes. "You'll not believe it," I said. "It is a formal outfit--with tailcoat, vest, all the trimming--hand-tailored in London. Never been worn."

"And, other than the prom, when will you wear it?"

"For recitals, things like that. We got enough money for a stop at Sonic?" I asked since we were rapidly approaching the drive-in.

"We have enough for something," Jason said, "Pull in and we'll decide what."

We pooled our money and found we had just enough to buy two shakes. I called in our order adding, "and extra straws" since Hank and Jonathan would share a shake as would Jason and I.

The carhop who delivered the shakes was a cute, well-built guy on rollerblades. As he turned to skate away Jonathan licked his lips, sighed, pushed their shake toward Hank and said, "You take the food and give me the boy!" It was so out of character for the guy we had gotten to know in the hospital that the three of us almost choked on our shakes. We would soon learn our new brother had a tremendous sense of humor which popped up in some strange places.

Back in Deep Cove we all went to Hank's and Jonathan's place where the four of us helped Jonathan put away his new things. It took a while since he kept getting excited over a shirt or pair of pants. He so reminded me of a young kid. Of course he was young, but I mean really young, like nine or so. After everything was put away, Jason said, "Douglas, we need to get on home. I'm hungry and I'm sure Granddad would like to be surprised by not having to do our chores."

Thanksgiving morning dawned sunny but cold. Jason and I were up early and took care of the morning chores before breakfast. After breakfast, the family sat around the table, drinking coffee and talking. Grandmom got up from time to time to attend to her cooking, but she had done a great deal of preparation the day before and was just putting the finishing touches to her part of the Thanksgiving dinner. Finally our conversation turned to Jonathan, as I suspected it would.

"Hate to bring up gossip," Granddad said, "but I heard about our new boy when I was at the feed store yesterday. Smitty said Mr. Henderson from The Circle of God's Chosen came in for some feed since their regular delivery was held up. A young fellow--longish hair, earring, pierced eyebrow--came in, and when Mr. Henderson saw him Smitty said he got fire in his eye and started preaching about the evils Satan uses to snare young people, especially young men. Ranted and raved for ten minutes about young boys being lured into sin by evil, unsaved sissy boys. 'The high school's full of Satan's sissy boy servants,' Henderson preached. Before he finally wound down, Smitty said he finally started shaking his head saying, 'Even one from my own loins will be cast into hell's fire. We tried hard to save his immortal soul but he's damned, damned to the eternal flames.' Think he was talking about Jonathan? You two have any idea what he was ranting about?"

I looked at Jason to see if he gave any indication of what we should say, but he was looking at his plate. Since Jason was making no response, I shrugged and said, "He probably was talking about Jonathan, but I can't be sure. Don't know what he means about sissy boys. When I started at Coldsprings I was called sissy at first. Finally only that jerk Jerry and his hangers-on called me that. I don't think it meant anything other than the fact that I dressed differently. So far as I know, Jonathan has never been called sissy at school.

Anyway, who has the foggiest idea what that man Henderson was ranting and raving about? Long hair? Earring? Body piercing? Who knows? But, regardless of what he meant, he certainly had no reason to beat Jonathan as he did."

"We can all agree on that," Grandmom said.

Jason chimed in, "If you're worried, we do know for a fact that Jonathan has done nothing criminal. Truth be told, he's so naive and innocent I don't think he'd be able to do something illegal if he tried."

"You've been around long enough, Granddad, to have seen a lot of young boys growing up. I suspect you can guess the general problem if you recall he is a young boy/man," I added.

"Just what I suspected," Granddad grinned and said. "At his age sex is involved in everything."

Grandmom laughed as she said, "Think you can depend on that."

"Same thing might be said of our age," I laughed.

"Yeah, seems I remember that--a bit hazy and vague, but I think I can remember that if I try," Granddad grinned.

"Don't know that it is that vague or requires a lot of thinking," Grandmom chuckled.

Granddad actually blushed as he responded, "Sara, not in front of the children!"

When we finally got control of ourselves after a good laugh, Granddad said, "I wasn't the least bit worried about some terrible thing Jonathan had done or was. When my two grandsons and Hank Dennison stand up for someone the way you all have for Jonathan, that's enough for me. No, my concern was the possibility someone else was involved who needs help, protection, whatever. Is there?" I'm sure Jason gave an inward sigh, as I did, at Granddad's response.

"No, it's all Jonathan's problem," Jason said, "and now that he has a family, he can handle it."

I thought we had done a very good job of explaining yet not explaining Jonathan's situation. Plus I was sure we both felt really proud of Granddad's trust in us. For the time being, we both knew Granddad well enough to know he would not pry. For the present he was satisfied but, sooner or later, more of Jonathan's story would have to be told. And there was also our own situation. I wondered if Granddad's trust in us would be enough to get all of us over that.

As soon as Grandmom had finished her part of the Thanksgiving dinner, it was all loaded in the Jeep and Jason and I took off for the Dennisons'. Grandmom wanted to "freshen up", so she and Granddad were coming later.

When we arrived at the Dennisons', we took a load of food from the Jeep and carried it inside. We greeted everyone, helped Mrs. Dennison get the food put away, and went back to the Jeep for more. When we finished, Mrs. Dennison said, "Jonathan and Hank are upstairs. Go on up."

"They've been playing computer games all morning," Rosemary said, as though she was telling a great secret.

"Who's winning?" Jason asked.

"Well," Rosemary was obviously happy at having our attention, "Hank is very good, and Jonathan hadn't played computer games before, but Hank isn't winning all the time now."

"No?" Jason asked.

"No, not at all. Mr. Smarty Pants Hank got beat twice already," Rosemary said with great glee.

"Then I guess we better go up and see Hank experiencing the agony of defeat," Jason said as he picked Rosemary up and threw her across his shoulders. Since we had been having supper occasionally with the Dennisons, the eight-year-old had developed a crush on Jason and let everybody know he belonged to her. Jason was delighted to be big brother to the young girl.

When we got upstairs, Jason put Rosemary down and said, "I understand you are no longer unbeaten in the current series, Hank."

"If this kid is as smart otherwise as he is at learning computer games, he will be another one of those 'AP class geeks' like your boy ... brother," Hank said, managing to recover from what could have caused a big problem.

Rosemary was soon bored with our talk and went back downstairs. She came back a few minutes later to tell us Mrs. Dennison had fixed some snacks for us, since dinner was still some time away. Jonathan went with Rosemary to bring them up.

As soon as they were gone, Hank apologized for his near-blunder. When he did Jason said, "Look, that's the way it's likely to happen. Like when Douglas and I forgot where we were when you walked in on us. I just hope no-one gets hurt when a slip happens. But we'll just have to handle life as it comes," he concluded.

To ease Hank's conscience I added, "Jonathan knows about us anyway. Telling him about us was the way Jason got his confidence in the first place."

"That's what was going on! I really wondered about the 'Indian Medicine' bit," Hank grinned.

It was 2:30 when we were finally called downstairs for Thanksgiving dinner.

We were all standing around the table when Mrs. Dennison nodded and Mr. Dennison started praying. Hank once said one thing he liked about eating at our house was that Granddad gave God credit for having some sense. "He just says 'Thanks' and we get on with eating. Dad has to remind God of His responsibilities, I guess," and added, "He also carefully explains to God what He needs to do and exactly how to go about it. Treats God like He should be in Special Ed." Since then, every time we havve supper at the Dennisons, we have to watch it to keep from laughing out loud at Mr. Dennison giving God His orders for the immediate and distant future.

After what seemed like ten minutes and Mr. Dennison was still praying, I was having a hard time not laughing. Unfortunately, when Mr. Dennison said "Amen," Hank, Jason and I looked at each other and started giggling, but managed to keep it quiet enough until we got control.

We had just started serving our plates when Hank's brother Josh walked in. "Am I too late for dinner?" he asked as he stood in the doorway to the dining room. Before anyone could answer, he turned, took off his coat and tossed it on a chair in the den.

As he came to the table Mrs. Dennison said, "Just in time," as she got up to set another place.

"Probably would have missed out altogether," Hank whispered to his brother when he was seated, "except Dad was praying," which set off the giggles again.

The meal was great and we all ate too much, of course. When we had finished and the table had been cleared except for coffee and dessert, Josh asked Jonathan what he liked best at school, if he played sports, that sort of thing.

Jonathan was shy at first but was soon talking up a storm, saying he liked math and English, never played sports because he wasn't allowed to, but liked to swim in the summer when he could, and he thought he'd like to learn to play basketball--"and maybe baseball." When he had answered Josh's questions, he started asking questions of Josh. The two really seemed to hit it off.

"Jonathan, Rosemary is going to the movies this afternoon," Mrs. Dennison said as we were finishing dessert. "She's going with the Cummings--Harry and Helene. Harry is your age, I think, Helene is younger--Rosemary's age. If you'd like to go you'll need to get your coat since Mrs. Cummings will be here shortly."

Jonathan seemed confused and puzzled until Hank said, "Go ahead, Jonathan. You'll have a good time, I'm sure. Go get your coat." After Jonathan went upstairs, Hank said, "Mom, he'll need money. Give him money for both him and Rosemary."

Mrs. Dennison gave Jonathan a couple of bills and said, "That will take care of tickets, drinks and popcorn for you and Rosemary. We'll have to discuss an allowance later. Enjoy the movie."

Jonathan still seemed a bit confused by all the carryings on until Hank said, "Jonathan, Harry will keep you on the straight and narrow." Jonathan seemed to relax a bit and quickly got caught up in the excitement when the Cummings arrived.

As soon as Rosemary and Jonathan were gone, Hank, Josh, Jason and I cleared the table. Granddad and Mr. Dennison had gone to the den to watch a football game. That surprised me because Granddad had never expressed an interest in football. When we got to the den, Josh asked, "Dad, why are you watching football? You know it bores you stiff."

"Thought Gerald would like to watch the game," Mr. Dennison replied.

"He doesn't watch football either," I volunteered.

"Then I guess we won't bore each other," Mr. Dennison laughed.

"Good, then we can talk," Josh said. "Dad, Jonathan seems like a nice kid, but he's a lot younger than I thought."

"Not sure that's true, Josh," Mr. Dennison answered. "I think he seems a lot younger than he is."

"He sure does," Hank added. "He's fourteen--just barely, but he is."

"He sure seems younger," Josh said. "Why does he seem so young?"

"Not sure I'm a very good judge of that," Mr. Dennison said. "Everybody under forty looks young to me."

"First of all, I think he has not matured as early as some of us did," Hank said.

"Well, some of you," I said. "When I was fourteen I hadn't matured very much, but then it hit and bingo! But, like me and Jason, he has little facial hair and I suspect never will because he is definitely part-Indian."

"I think the main reason is he acts young. He had been kept ignorant of the real world, living with that bunch of religious fanatics," Hank said. "I mean he's never seen a real movie, TV, the list goes on. Now that it's all being dumped in his lap, he either becomes very excited--not kewl--or overwhelmed--not kewl. In time he will probably become a normal, obnoxious teenager like the rest of us."

"What I want to know is how come he ended up in the hospital and why he's living here," Josh said. His tone of voice clearly indicated he wasn't very pleased with the arrangement, or perhaps felt displaced by Jonathan becoming a part of the Dennison family. That surprised me because Hank said he had talked to Josh and he had no problem with Jonathan moving into his old "room", and he and Jonathan had seemed to hit it off at once.

Hank half-stood, back definitely up,, and said through clinched teeth, "He ended up in the hospital because his father beat the living shit out of him and left him outside in the snow to die." The defiant bite in Hank's voice left no doubt a brotherly fight was shaping up. I hoped Mr. Dennison would step in, but he didn't seem inclined.

"Josh," Jason said in a very calm voice, "I wouldn't like to make a big issue out of it, but I think if you saw the kid's back, you'd understand why he had to get away from his family, one way or the other. As you know, Jonathan's family are members of that religious cult up in Sadie's Gap, The Circle of God's Chosen. We've heard more and more about their rules and lifestyle--what goes on up there--and, to tell the truth, the more I hear, the more I am convinced the whole bunch is crazy. I'm sure you have heard all about how we found Jonathan from Hank...." Hank nodded, but Josh was looking at Jason and didn't indicate he had. Jason actually told all about our finding Jonathan and visiting him in the hospital. The only detail he didn't include was the why of Jonathan's situation. Josh was not about to let that pass.

"But why was he beaten? I assume even a crazy person has to have a reason for beating another human being," Josh said. One look at his face told me there was no way a "we promised we wouldn't tell" was going to satisfy Josh and, although we had made promises to Jonathan, Josh had to be won to our side.

"Josh," I started and got sharp looks from both Jason and Hank, "you mentioned how young Jonathan seems. He really does and at times I find that very winning. It's like he is fresh--not in a bad sense--fresh like innocent. He is very naive, so he seems young to those of us who have had a wider experience. He's barely fourteen, but if you can think of yourself when you were eleven or twelve and first become conscious of your sexuality...."

"Shit--sorry Dad--shoot, Josh, you can remember when you stayed hard half the time and half-hard the rest of the time, when all you did was daydream about sex," Hank said, then stopped.

"Crude, Hank," Jason said, "but accurate. Anyway, I'm sure you daydreamed about doing something bold and romantic, but probably never did anything about it."

"Well, hardly," Josh said in a "I am a man not a kid" voice.

"Yeah, you did too," Hank laughed as he pointed at Josh. Mr. Dennison was also laughing and slapped his leg as Josh turned red.

I thought that someone had better do something quick before Josh's embarrassment turned to anger. "I suspect we all have done something foolish at one time or another," Granddad said in a very quiet voice. "Young men today don't have a monopoly on doing something foolish over a lady love." His voice and hearty laugh took the steam out of the situation. It helped that neither Hank nor Mr. Dennison told what "foolishness" Josh had done over a "lady love".

"I didn't mean to embarrass anyone," I said, "just wanted to say what Jonathan had done wasn't any more foolish than what every one of us has done. He wrote a mush note--even Jonathan said it was real mushy so, having seen Jonathan, you can imagine how mushy it was--to someone he had a crush on, without intending to give it to the other person...."

"Yeah, Hank, you gave your mush note to Ginny Walters," Josh started laughing and pointing to Hank, evening the score.

"Ok, things are going well," I thought then said, "Seems Jonathan just stuck the note in his math notebook. Then, sometime later, he was working on a math project and the note fell out without his knowing it. His mother found it, gave it to his father who called the preacher/cult leader and the three of them decided to, literally, beat the devil out of Jonathan. I guess they decided they couldn't do it effectively, so they put him out in the snow. He had walked several miles--eight or ten--in the cold and snow before he collapsed where we found him."

"He didn't have any place to go, so I asked Mom and Dad about his coming to live with us and they said ok. But I told you all that," Hank said, obviously irritated.

"If his living here is going to create a problem, I told the boys he could live with us and he can," Granddad said.

"No, no, it's ok," Josh said.

"Josh, I don't understand what the problem is," Mr. Dennison said.

"Frankly, I can't either," Josh said. "Well, yes I can. I just have the feeling I had been pushed out to make room for a complete stranger."

"You haven't been pushed out, Josh, never will be. Well, maybe you've lost your bedroom."

"I'm fine. I think what I told Hank last week I didn't really believe. I told him I had left home for all practical purposes and I thought I had. But I guess I wanted that to be a one-way situation. I'm really proud my family cares for someone no-one wanted."

There was some general talk and then Josh said, "Hank, I want to beat your butt at the computer game of your choice." When we got upstairs, Josh said, "Hank, not interested in a game, but we need to talk."

"We'll go on downstairs," Jason said, "and leave you two to talk."

"No, I suspect you two need to be here as well," Josh replied. "After all, Douglas, you got shoved out of your place so you can understand some of my feelings."

"Not really, Josh. You got to remember I had just been taken in myself. Also, Jason was a good friend, we knew each other before he came to live at our place, unlike you and Jonathan. So it's not the same."

"And you don't feel pushed out," Josh stated a fact, didn't ask a question.


"Ok, guys, I'm being completely up-front with you. What I want to tell you has to stay in this room," Josh was very serious. We were all four sitting in Hank's and Jonathan's living area, looking at Josh who sat with his head in his hands.

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