As if responding to a cue the Gator was heard roaring up to the door. And two adorable sweaty boys bounded in and Kelly’s eyes were shining like little stars.
"So you like driving the Gator Kelly? I asked.
"Only a lot!" he yipped excitedly.
"Well we’ll have to dig the other one out and maybe one of the quads for you to try." I encouraged.
"That would be so cool, I really like doing stuff like that," He bubbled.
"Okay, we’re off," Brandon piped. "I hope this turns out okay, but it’s gotta be better than the free one I got at the beauty college." He and Wade bounced out the door and I heard the Gator come to life. Brandon stalled it a couple times so Wade could show him how to do it right.
"I bet Brandon already knows how to drive one of those. He’s just messing up to make Wade feel good," Kelly smiled. That’s really cool, he’s a cool guy. Why would someone throw him away like trash Rob?"
I don’t know buddy; it makes no sense to me. But let’s talk about your situation. I have a plan that will keep you safe from Lyle until we can get him into a nice cell. I’ve never met him but I don’t like him for years.
I am setting up a safe room for you at the Motel 6 we talked about earlier. The phone I got today is for you. It has a GPS app that will tell me where the phone is and hopefully you. You can shower and dress in the room and take your phone in your backpack. You can work on transferring your contacts this evening. Once Lyle is out of the picture I will talk to your Mom about getting treatment and set her up with a drug aversion program. If she will go along with it you can stay with me while she’s in the hospital. If she won’t go for it, and only if you want me to, I’ll arrange to have custody so you can live here and go to school with Ronny if you want. But this all depends on what you want."
"I love my Mom Rob, but I love her the way she used to be. If she won’t get clean and stay that way I don’t want to be with her. I really want her back but I’m afraid she’s been doing drugs so long she won’t be able to quit even with really good help. I’ve done a lot of thinking about this and she lets Lyle do almost anything to me except sex, and she never says anything. It shouldn’t be that way but it is. I’m hungry all the time and I never get enough sleep. Lyle keeps all the lights on until one o’clock or later and then sleeps all day and smacks me if I make any noise coming home. That’s why I was talking to Brandon about running. But that won’t work for me."
"Lyle sold my school laptop and then he had to scramble to get it back when the school wanted an explanation. It had all sorts of porn and viruses when I got it back and it took me hours to fix it. So yeah, I would like to live like everybody else. Can you make that happen please?" he asked and then the dam broke and he sobbed uncontrollably.
I carried him to the sofa and just held him while he cried. I told him to let it all out and he did. I cradled him and rocked him, it took him almost forty-five minutes until he went quiet. I heard him mumble something but I couldn’t hear him so I asked him to repeat it. This time "I love you Rob" came through loud and clear. I kissed his cheek and told him I loved him too." And it was true, the little goober had wormed his way into my heart and I didn’t even see it happening. I had to make this boy’s life better, with me or someone who would care for and cherish a sweet kid like him. How he remained so decent was a complete mystery to me. We sat together just thinking until the sound of the Gator caught my attention.
"Do you want to hit the bathroom and wash your face before you head to Wade’s place?" I asked.
He kissed my cheek and made for the bathroom.
He was replaced by two very nicely trimmed boys. Brandon looked like a million bucks with his new haircut.
"Man, you guys look great, she really did a great job with you Brandon. And Wade looks just as neat as always," I declared.
"Damn, you look great Brandon, I heard Kelly say. So do you Wade but the change is something else on Brandon. I can see his face. You’re really good looking you know?"
"Thanks Kelly," Brandon grinned as he blushed.
"He’s right you know. You look hot," I agreed.
Brandon blushed a deeper shade.
"Okay you two, get moving, we can’t make Cammie wait all day. If the weather changes call me, I’ll come and get you in the Landcruiser."
Wade and Kelly hustled out the door and I heard the gator take off at a leisurely pace so I knew Kelly was driving.
Brandon sat next to me on the couch, "did you get Kelly to talk about his situation?"
"Yes I did, I think we have a plan. He’s decided that if his Mom won’t go into treatment he wants to get out. I will be happy to take him on, he’s a great kid."
"You’re a good guy Rob, I had a few worries about coming here but those boys sold me on you. They wouldn’t act that way if you were doing bad stuff to them. I only sat down with you at the café because they were with you," he admitted.
"Well I’d say you read the situation pretty well, I don’t know what I would do in your place. I always had a good home to go to and parents that cared. I can’t fathom how someone could abuse a sweet boy like Kelly or you for that matter. Don’t try to go all tough guy on me now, it won’t sell; you care about people and their feelings, like what you did for Wade."
"Well he needed it, he acts like he’s all rough and ready but he’s still a little guy, I guess so am I in some ways."
"It’s good that you don’t let your ego get in the way of being a good person Brandon, I mean that.
Why don’t we talk about your situation while we have the house to ourselves?" I suggested.
Brandon took a deep breath; he was quiet for a bit and began. "My Mom died about nine months ago. Up till then Chuck and I got along great, I always called him Pop. When Mom died he changed, he started drinking heavy and he changed towards me and said really hateful things. After a while he told me I couldn’t sleep in the house anymore. So I moved to the old Foreman’s shack behind the barn. I was allowed in the kitchen to eat and use the laundry machines but that was it.
I remembered that Mom kept her own cash in an old Almond Roca can. Chuck hated the stuff. Mom didn’t care for it much either but it was something that Chuck wouldn’t touch. I helped myself to that money figuring that Mom would want me to have it in case I had to go out on my own. And after Chuck ran over my shack I did. I took what I could salvage and took off.
Mr. Wills let me use his Garage apartment rent free. I was able to cook my own meals there. But when Chuck started looking for me I heard about it. I got my pay from Mr. Daniels at the Dairy and met the truck driver that got me out of town. I bought a ticket to San Diego to go see one of my Aunts, but when I got there she was in a rest home.
Her Daughter let me stay with them a couple weeks but that was a bad scene also. Her son told me his step-dad did stuff to him. The guy came off all super religious but he liked little boys. I figured I was next so I got the hell out. I told Todd that someone from Child Services would talk to him at school and he should tell them what his step-dad was doing to him. I called them and reported it. I told them I was a runaway and couldn’t stay around but I gave them Todd’s school and his name and phone number. I told them he was expecting them to contact him at school. He was willing to tell if they would make it stop. I called Todd a couple weeks later and he told me he was safe. His step-dad was in jail and his Mom was divorcing him. I felt good about that.
Then I ran into a bunch of older guys while I was asleep under a bridge. They stripped me found my cash and started walking off with my clothes and everything. That’s when they messed up, they should have knocked me out instead of just walking away laughing. I got an armful of rocks and I pegged the guy with my clothes in the side of the head. The guy with my pouch fell in the river channel when I hit him. The other three tried to rush me but that didn’t go so well for them. I took whatever cash they had and anything of value. I left them laying there smelling of my piss. I got three hundred and change from the punks but it wasn’t the two thousand I had before. I took a city bus to the freeway and bummed a ride to Pomona. I caught a train to L.A. and I was barely on the platform at Union station when the scumbags started on me. Trying to Con me or telling me that they were a movie producer and they had a part just right for me. I told them all to fuck off pretty loudly and a cop came over then. I told him I was meeting my uncle and these guys were trying to mess with me. I hate to lie but I wasn’t about to tell him I was a runaway. He ran them off and told me where I could wait safely. I dug my phone out and pretended to get a call. Then I stood up and looked at the bus schedule. Sure enough the officer was watching and came out to see what was going on. I told him Uncle Jack’s truck broke down and I needed to take the bus to Universal studios and he’d pick me up there, and I asked him if he knew which bus it was. He told me and also that it would be cheaper with a bus pass and I could get one at the counter. I told him it sounded like a good idea if I have to go anywhere he offered to show me and I followed. The thing does save me money. And the lady dropped everything to help me because the officer brought me to her. So I’ve been bumming around, getting work where I can. I came up here because I heard they had groves and fields to work and thought I could pick up some work. The problem is all the foremen are Mexican and they don’t hire white guys. I can’t really yell discrimination. I got some work on an avocado ranch but it was seasonal. It paid well though."
"Can I ask you some questions?" Brandon asked.
"Sure", "Fire away."
"Are you Gay? I know it’s none of my business but I have a reason for asking," He shifted nervously.
"Well, not in the traditional sense but I am currently in a same sex relationship." I told him about my wife and Maurice and our kids and a few other aspects of my life including Wyatt.
"I knew you’d tell me the truth but I didn’t expect all that. I think I might be Gay or at least Bi. I’m kind of confused. Maybe I’m like you and I’ll fall for the person regardless of what sex they are. But right now I think about boys mostly." He muttered without much inflection.
"It still bothers me about how Chuck changed so much, what can I do though?" He asked
"If you’re asking me, I’d say first let's run your name through the database and see if you are listed as a runaway. Either way, I could get you hooked up with my attorney and we could get you declared an emancipated minor. I know a couple judges that would sign off, especially once I tell them what a great guy you are. Once that’s done we can get you enrolled in High School again and you can have a normal life. If you’ll give me permission I’ll have the attorney do a search of probate, and the title of the farm you were living on. I would think legally as your Mothers heir you should be entitled to a portion of that place. I could be wrong but it’s worth checking." I suggested.
"But won’t that be expensive?" Brandon asked.
"I doubt it, most of my stuff is pretty boring, I think Paul would get a kick out of doing something different. He’s got contacts in all fifty states and can accomplish things that a lot of attorney’s can’t."
"Well, okay. But I will pay you back somehow. Would you really let me live here?"
"I would be honored if you would call this place home. And you would have good company in Kelly if I end up taking him in as well. I thought I was done raising kids but I guess not. I’ve kind of missed that," I mused.
Brandon began to sob, great heaving sobs of relief and grief and all the other terrible responsibilities of being alone in the world seemed to flow away with his tears. I hugged him close and let him lean on me and get it out. After a few minutes he composed himself and thanked me for comforting him and everything else. I kissed his temple and told him that things should get better now. I let him go upstairs and wash his face while I called Paul and then Cammie’s brother about the Motel. Then I called the watch commander at the Ventura station and gave him the information that Brandon gave me. His stepfather had not even reported him missing. I thanked the WC and called Paul back. He told me he would pull up everything he needed to do an emancipated minor order. The court would send a service request to the appropriate agency in Oregon and the stepfather would have fourteen days to respond. Or he could sign a release in front of the official that served him. If he responds it would mean a hearing in a Ventura courtroom. If not the judge would sign the order and Brandon could relax. Paul speculated there was something screwy anyway since the property records showed the farm belonged to a Julia G. Powell the same as Brandon’s surname. He informed me he would contact attorney’s in the area to see if she was a client and if so had she left a will or instructions.
"Cammie’s brother Larry figured it would be no problem. He didn’t need a lot of details either. He had a single that hardly ever rented and he would change the lock set so only Kelly and the manager would have access. Just in-case Kelly needed help. I thanked him and told him we would be down as soon as they opened the roads. He told me they should be open Tuesday morning or afternoon according to Caltrans. I thanked him again and ended the call.
Brandon plopped down next to me in a decidedly better frame of mind. He leaned over and gave me a kiss on the cheek and watched to see what I would do. I slung my right arm over his shoulder and pulled him close.
"You’re not listed as a runaway or even missing, I checked. There may be something up with the farm, Was your mother Julia G. Powell?" I asked.
"Yes, the G is for Garson, the man who founded the farm in the eighteen hundred's was Charles Somerset Garson. Mom’s full name was Julia Garson Powell Folger. Are you saying Chuck ran me off my own land?"
"It’s early yet but it looks like he might have. How did your Mom die Brandon?" I asked.
Immediately Brandon’s face darkened, "It was cancer. It started in her breasts and spread even after surgery, it spread and just ate her alive. One day she went to bed and two weeks later she died at the hospital. It’s weird though, Chuck and I leaned on each other for a while until after the funeral and then he started to drink and get moody. He wouldn’t let me answer the phone either. I still don’t know what that was about. You know the rest."
"Well, I’ll let Paul dig into that but it would be helpful if you could tell me if she had an attorney," I queried.
"I don’t know, Uncle Sterling was a lawyer but I don’t know if he was her lawyer. Um Sterling Eberly is his name if you want to check. His niece was a friend of mine in school. He was a friend of my Dad too," Brandon uttered quietly.
"What happened to your Dad Brandon?" I asked. I figured we may as well get it out now than have to go over it later and bring him down again.
"He died in an accident. Mom told me he was helping a neighbor shore up a wall of a stone barn and it collapsed on them and killed them both. I was a baby then and I never really knew my dad. But people told me he was a good man. I’ve always wanted to be like him." Brandon related.
"Well, I’d say you’re well on your way to becoming a good man." I told him and gave him a squeeze. I sent Paul a text with the pertinent info and put the phone down.
"I heard the Gator but it didn’t pull up outside," Brandon puzzled.
"They probably put it away and they’ll be in shortly." I answered. The clumping of feet in boots on the back porch told me I was right. The kitchen door opened and the boys padded in carrying their boots.
"We didn’t want to track mud inside so we pulled them off and cleaned them. Are we going out again Rob?" Kelly inquired.
"Not that I’m aware of, I’m going to skin out and hit the pool before the storm hits maybe the Jacuzzi too. But first Kelly, get over here so I can see your hair." I demanded cheerfully.
Kelly stepped front and center. He looked like a different boy. He was even more attractive than before. The mop was gone and a very stylish but simple cut was there in its place. She had given his dusty blonde hair a reddish tinge at the ends. It made me wish I was a teenager myself.
"You look marvelous!" I swooned in a poor Billy Crystal imitation. Only Brandon picked up on it and tried to help by doing the Serge character from the original "Beverly Hills Cop" movie. But Wade and Kelly just looked confused. "Really Kelly, you look wonderful. You were good looking before but she really brought out your features and the tint is a great touch. You may have to chase off the admirers at school because you are going to stand out," I crowed hugging him. I smooched his cheek and sent him upstairs to get comfortable and then gave Wade a kiss and told him to do the same after assuring him that he was still very good looking.
Brandon sat there giggling at me.
What?" I asked.
"You said "if" Kelly comes to live here. That kid loves you; they’ll have to lock him up to keep him away," Brandon laughed.
"Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that." I felt pretty confident but life has other ideas sometimes.