Nothing of much importance happened until the end of January when we received an unexpected phone call from Little Ricky. It happened on a Thursday night so I knew something was up, because he only got in touch with us on the weekend unless it was related to business.
"What's up, bro?" I asked after learning who was on the other end of the line.
"Danny, I have a favor to ask of you and Brandon," he replied.
"Don't tell me you have another boy you want us to take in," I said, but only partially in jest. Why else would he be calling during the week?
"You've had Benny for a few months now and I've got another boy I need to find a spot for. The problem is, he's turning out to be difficult to place."
"Why's that?" I followed, starting to get a little concerned.
"Mainly because of the last home he was in, which was in a neighboring jurisdiction. The supervisor there called our office to see if we could help, because they had nowhere to put him."
"Then you'd better fill me in about this boy before I give you an answer."
"Ok, I can do that, so here's what I know about him. I was told that after he'd been taken to the emergency room, the local D.S.S. was informed about the situation. They then discovered that the family he'd been living with had been pimping him and a couple of the other children out. This home wasn't sanctioned by the agency and the couple in charge weren't certified either; they had merely taken these kids in to live with them. After the youngsters were there, the couple started letting others know that the minors' 'services' were for sale for the right price.
"As I said, this wasn't a home associated with or sanctioned by D.S.S. and the couple involved took these kids in on their own. We've learned they would get close to families that were down on their luck and then offer to let their children live with them. The kids' parents thought the couple was just being kind and giving them a chance to get back on their feet by not having to support their kids for awhile. The parents had no idea what the couple was actually planning to do with the youngsters, but that doesn't absolve them of culpability.
"This situation only came to light after this boy was rented out to a trucker and then refused to cooperate with him once they were alone. The trucker was irate and beat the boy into submission to get what he wanted. Afterward, the trucker was afraid the family would call the police once they discovered what he'd done and saw how badly the boy had been beaten, so he simply left the kid at a rest stop instead. Someone stopping at the rest area discovered the poor kid, who was barely conscious at the time, and called the State Police. When the cops learned what had happened, they got the local D.S.S. involved. Since the agency didn't have an opening for the boy, they eventually called us for assistance."
"Have you cleared this with Aunt Sally? From what you've just told me I'm not sure this would be the right place for the boy."
"Yes, I told her everything and she agrees that you and Brandon are our best option. That's why she told me to call you."
"But I take it the offender was a male trucker who attacked and abused the boy, so are you sure a gay household is the best place for him?"
"Yes, because our only other option is where he is now, but that's only a temporary solution. He's currently housed at a juvenile detention center, even though he hasn't been charged or convicted of a crime. It was the only safe place that would accept him, but they won't keep him longer than a few more days, since he hadn't been sentenced and wasn't placed there by Family Court. They only agreed to do it until we could find a suitable home for him."
"Seeing his parents only let him live with those people, can't the boy just return home?"
"No, that's not possible at this point, because as I said before, his parents are still culpable for what happened. They had allowed him to live with this couple and then didn't check to make sure he was safe and well taken care of, so they've now been declared unfit parents. In light of this decision, the court has declared him a ward of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and we've been charged with finding him a suitable foster home."
"Ok, just give me a chance to talk to Brandon about this and then I'll get back to you. To be honest, I'm worried this kid's problems are more than we're prepared to deal with. As I said earlier, I'm concerned that he may react negatively, possibly even violently, to being placed in a gay household, especially after what he's just been through."
"We've considered that as well but have come to the conclusion that you're still our best hope. Seeing you're a doctor, you can monitor how he's healing physically, and you, Brandon, Dion, and Trey are all good with kids and might be able to help him heal emotionally as well."
"I'm not as sure about that as you seem to be, but I'm not saying 'no' just yet either. By the way, how old is he and what's his name?"
"His name is Ryan and my sources told me he turned thirteen this past fall."
"So that would make him about two years younger than Noah and two and a half years older than Benny."
"Yes, he would fall between those two in age."
"Ok, I'll talk this over with Brandon, Dion, and Trey, seeing we'll all be involved with the boy if we take him in. I'd feel a lot better if Dad were home to help out with him too, but the last I heard he'll be remaining in Atlanta for a few more weeks."
"He'd be really good for this boy, but I'm sure the rest of you can handle the situation until he gets back."
"Like I said, I'll talk it over with the rest of them and then get in touch with you later to inform you of our decision."
"Ok, and thanks. I look forward to hearing your answer."
As soon as I got off the phone, I asked the other three to join me in the dining room after the kids were in bed, because I had something I needed to discuss with them. I explained that I didn't want to get into it while the boys were still up, because I didn't want our sons to overhear what I had to say, so they agreed to wait.
As soon as we were sure the boys were asleep, we each got a drink and then sat down at the dining room table so I could fill them in about Little Ricky's request. They were just as skeptical as I had been, but none of us wanted to leave a kid hanging with no suitable place to live. Therefore, we agreed to meet with him in person, and if the meeting went well we would take him in on a trial basis. We'd let him know this too, so I called Little Ricky to inform him of our decision.
"Great, that takes a big load off my mind," he stated after hearing our answer.
"Remember, we only want to talk to him to see if he's agreeable to living here, and if we accept him it will merely be on a trial basis, so we can see how it works out and how he gets along with everyone."
"That's still better than what he's facing now. Can I drop by with him tomorrow evening?"
"Yes, around 7:00 will work," I agreed. "That way we'll be finished with dinner and I'll merely ask the boys to stay in the family room while the rest of us meet with you and this boy."
"Ok, that sounds good and I sincerely hope this works out."
As soon as I hung up, I immediately began to wonder if we were doing the right thing. It wasn't that I didn't want to help the kid, but I was concerned he might not get along with the other boys and would disrupt the household. He could also be a negative influence on the others, especially considering what he's been through. Putting my concerns aside for the moment, I went to fill in Brandon, Dion, and Trey about what I'd just agreed to.
The following night we hurried through dinner, cleared the table, and put everything away before we sent the boys to the family room. I told them we were considering taking in a new boy so they weren't to come into the dining room until we called them. I told them we adults wanted to speak with the boy alone first, and then we'd introduce them if we agreed to let the boy stay with us.
Since this was somewhat similar to how we'd first met Benny they didn't question it, although they wanted to know if they'd get to talk to him as well. As soon as I told them they'd be able to spend some time with the boy too, I pulled Noah aside and asked him not to let that conversation get out of hand. I merely advised him that I wasn't sure if the boy might have a problem with us being gay, so if things started heading in a negative direction he was to come and get one of us immediately. He agreed, which made me feel slightly better. Now, we just had to wait for Little Ricky and Ryan to arrive.
When I saw Little Ricky's car pull in the driveway, Brandon and I went to the front door, opened it, and watched them get out and walk toward the house. I immediately noticed that Ryan was a couple of inches shorter than Little Ricky, and I could also see strands of platinum, blond hair sticking out from under the stocking cap on his head. He appeared to be on the slender side, although it was somewhat difficult to judge with the winter clothing he had on.
As they got closer, I could see his face was bruised and slightly swollen, but he still appeared to be quite handsome. I hoped his inner beauty would match his normal outward appearance as I opened the door to welcome them inside.
"It's nice to see you again, Richard, and it's a pleasure to meet you too," I began as I offered the boy my hand to shake. "My name is Danny and this is Brandon." I then stepped aside for them to shake hands as well. "Let's go into the dining room to talk."
"Ryan, would you like a soda, a glass of milk or water, or would you prefer a cup of hot chocolate?" Brandon asked as he followed us.
"Soda would be good."
"And a cup of coffee for you, Mr. Becker?" Brandon followed.
"Yes, that sounds wonderful."
Dion and Trey were already at the table, so I merely introduced them. "We all grew up in this house and still live here with our dad. He's in Atlanta right now taking care of one of our brothers, but he should be returning home in a few more weeks."
"So none of you are married?" Ryan asked looking skeptical.
"Not yet," I answered simply.
Brandon soon came in with the requested drinks, and then we let them take a couple of sips before we began.
"Ryan, I want to be upfront with you and explain some things before we get started. I think it's important that we're all open and honest, otherwise this probably won't work out." As I paused to take a breath, I noticed that Ryan was looking at me strangely, possibly apprehensive.
"Let me explain what I'm getting at. This house contains three gay couples. Brandon and I are partners, and so are Dion and Trey. Our dad and his partner also lives here, and you'll meet them if you decide to stay. We all have sons living here as well, and you'll get to meet them too, if you agree you might want to stay here."
"So everyone in this house is gay?"
"No, not everyone. Let me explain. Our dad was married to a woman and had four children with her. When she died, he decided to take in foster children, and that's how we came here to live. The three of us were adopted by him, and Brandon came to live with us when his parents moved to Texas. We happen to be gay, as are a couple of our brothers, but most of the others are straight. Mr. Becker also lived here for a time after his father died and his mother went to live in a nursing home. The rest of us ended up here for various reasons and became part of a really big family."
"So your dad was married to a woman, but now he's with a dude?"
"Yes. I guess you might say he's bisexual. I just want you to know that no one in the house will do anything inappropriate to you, so you don't have to worry."
"If you guys have sons, are they gay too?"
"Brandon and I have three sons. Our oldest, Elliot, is a sophomore in college, and he happens to be gay as well. Our middle son is Noah and he's a freshman in high school, but he appears to be straight. Our youngest is Benny and he's in fourth grade, so he's too young to tell. Dion and Trey also have a son, Joshie, who's in fourth grade, as well as a three-year-old named Wyatt."
"Will I get to meet them?"
"Yes. We just asked them to wait in the family room while we were meeting with you."
"Seeing I've told you about us, I have a question for you. Now that you know we're gay, are you interested in staying with us or do you have a problem with our sexual orientation?"
Ryan didn't answer right away and picked up his soda to take a sip instead. I saw him swallowing several times, much more than required for the little bit of soda he'd just drank, so I knew he was having trouble deciding. He looked at each of us a few times, and then he looked at me and spoke.
"You said no one would mess with me or make me do anything I didn't want, right?"
"Nothing of a sexual nature, but you may have to do chores or homework that you aren't fond of." The last part made him crack a grin.
"I was askin' cuz of what happened at where I was staying. I 'spose you heard about that."
"Yes, and it's the reason I explained everything the way I did, so you'd know we were gay but only interested in our partners."
"So you don't mess around with the other boys or make them get naked for you."
"We don't mess with them sexually, but I'm a doctor so I've seen all of the boys naked when I've given them physicals and such. We also have given the younger boys baths, but we've done nothing inappropriate with any of them." I didn't tell him that the boys often ran around naked because I didn't want to scare him off.
Ryan just nodded slightly, but didn't respond. That's when I decided to give him a little more information. "As I said, I'm a doctor, a pediatrician to be precise, and Brandon is a dentist. Dion and Trey are teachers. Trey teaches English at the high school and Dion teaches vocal music at the middle and high schools."
"Dang. What does your dad do?"
"When we first came to live with him he was the principal of the Middle School, but then he became the superintendent later. He's retired now and takes care of things around the house for us."
"So you all have really good jobs."
"Yes, I guess you could say that. So what are you thinking? Are you interested in staying here with us?"
"Yeah, I guess. It sounds better than where I'm at now. I'm at a kid jail and have to stay by myself cuz I wasn't sent there by the court. I think I'm in the part of the building where they put the boys when they break the rules, and there's nothing to do so I sleep a lot."
"That sounds awful," Trey acknowledged.
"It is! Can I talk to your sons before I have to give you my answer? I want to see what they're like too."
"Yes, we've told the boys that you were coming tonight and they'd get a chance to meet you too."
"Do they know what happened to me and why I look like this?"
"No, we didn't tell them about any of that. If you want, you can just explain that you got beat up where you used to live and that's why you might come here to live. They'll all believe it, since they've seen worse."
"Ok, that's cool, but I don't want them to know about the other stuff."
"That's fine and we won't tell them."
"So when do I get to meet them?"
"If you're ready, I can take you to our family room and introduce you now."
"Yeah, that would be cool."
I then led him there and introduced the boys, except for Wyatt. Dion had said he was going to get him ready for bed while Ryan was with the others. I merely had the boys exchange names and then left them alone to talk. I wouldn't have known what was said except that Noah filled me in later. They chatted for about forty-five minutes, and when they came out to join us I asked Ryan a question.
"So what do you think?"
"Everyone seems ok, so does this mean I'll be coming here to live?"
"If that's what you want."
"Like I said earlier, it's better than where I'm staying now."
"We can do it on a trial basis then, to give you a chance to decide if this is where you want to be. It will also give us an opportunity to make sure everyone gets along with each other."
"Yeah, ok. So when will I be coming to stay?"
"You can stay starting now, if you want. You can look at the empty bedrooms and decide which one you'd prefer, and then Mr. Becker can drop your belongings off tomorrow."
"Yeah, that's cool, if it's alright with Mr. Becker."
"I don't have a problem with it either," Little Ricky confirmed.
"Fortunately it's Friday, so there's no school tomorrow, although Brandon and I will have to work half a day. However, Dion and Trey will be here, along with Noah and the other boys, so you can either stay here with them or go to the office with me. If you go in with me you can wait in the reception area or hang out with one of my staff. I'd like to give you a complete physical too, if you wouldn't mind, just to make sure you don't have any medical problems."
"Ummm, if you don't mind, I think I'll just stay here. I don't like the place I'm at now and Noah seems pretty cool so I'd rather stay with him. Uh, can we do that physical thing here too?"
"Yes, I can bring home whatever I need, if that's the way you want to do it. I was just worried that you might have a problem with me giving you a physical, since I'm gay."
"Yeah, I thought about that, but you're a doctor and I've had physicals before, so I know what to expect and what shouldn't happen." His comment led me to believe that he'd meant it as a warning to make sure I didn't try anything funny.
"As I told you before, nothing of a sexual nature will happen. I just want to make certain you're healing properly and have no other medical problems."
"Does that mean I'll have to get naked?"
"Not totally naked, but I'll have to examine your entire body. I'm sure you've had physicals before and have had to do that."
"I guess. Do I have to pee in a cup too?"
"Yes, and I'll probably draw some blood as well, so I can have the lab do a work up on it."
"As long as you promise it won't hurt too much."
"You'll just feel a little prick. That's all."
"Ok, I guess I can live with that."
"Brandon will give your teeth a cleaning and inspect them at another time, but you'll have to go to his office for that."
Brandon and I then took him upstairs and showed him the empty bedrooms. After looking at each one, Ryan asked which rooms the rest of us were in and then he chose the bedroom next to Noah on the third floor. After Elliot left to go to college, Noah decided to move out of the bedroom across the hall from Elliot's old room. He then took his belongings to one of the bedrooms that Dad had added in the attic to handle our growing family. Noah told us he'd relocated because he liked the idea of having added privacy, which made me wonder what he was planning on doing up there. I think Ryan's room choice had a similar logic behind it, since he'd be more isolated from the rest of us.
Anyway, Brandon vacuumed the rug while I dusted, and I sent Noah down to the second floor to retrieve the pillowcases and sheets from the linen closet so we could make the bed. Once that had been taken care of, I showed Ryan which bathroom he could use to take a shower before turning in. I told him we'd be back in a half hour to see how he was doing.
As soon as Ryan went in the bathroom, Noah asked Brandon and me to follow him to his old bedroom so we could talk. We agreed and he was soon filling us in on what had happened when the boys chatted with Ryan in the family room.
"He talked with all of us for about twenty minutes, but then he wanted to ask me some questions alone. I told Benny and Joshie to play video games while we did this, and then Ryan got really serious."
"Are you gay?" he asked first.
"Has anyone here ever tried to mess with you or forced you to do stuff?"
"So you've never done anything with another guy?"
"I didn't say that, because I've tried some stuff. All guys do that, not just gay guys."
"So what have you done and with who?"
"I messed around a little with Elliot a few years ago. He's my brother and is away at college now. We mostly jerked each other off, but we sucked each other a couple of times too. I just wanted to see what it was like, but we never did any of the butt stuff."
"Elliot's gay, right?"
"Yes, but he didn't force me. I wanted to do that stuff so I could see what it was like."
"Are you sure, cuz there was a guy who tried to make me do stuff with him? It's part of the reason I'm here now."
"Look, no one will do anything like that to you while you're here. You heard Joshie and Benny. They love living here, but I've got to warn you that we sometimes walk around naked, since it's only us guys living here. During the summer we go skinny dipping in the pool too, but only because we want to."
"I won't want to do that, but you have a pool?"
"Yeah, it's out back. It's a big, above ground pool."
"Neat, but I don't want to get naked to swim in it."
"You won't have to, if you don't want, but if you try it you'll find out it's pretty neat."
"So Joshie and Benny do that too."
"Yeah, and they love it. And Elliot does too, as well as all our dads."
"So all you guys swim naked?"
"Sometimes, but not all the time. I'm sure they'll wear their swimsuits if it makes you uncomfortable, though. We have to do that when we have visitors and when we go to the Boys & Girls Club to swim."
"So it's pretty cool here?"
"Yeah, it is. Our dads are all great, and so are Grandpa Josh and Grandpa Jake too."
"Who are they?"
"Grandpa Josh is our dad's dad and Joshie is named after him. Grandpa Jake is Grandpa Josh's partner."
"Oh, that's right. They're gay too, but I'm not sure if I'll get used to guys doing stuff with each other. I hope they don't do that in front of us. They don't, do they?"
"They might kiss or hold hands, but that's about it."
"It sounds gross and I don't want to see that stuff, but I guess I can just turn away or close my eyes."
"You'll get used to it and it's not a big deal or that bad. I thought the same thing when I first got here, but now I hardly notice when they do it any more."
"I don't know if I'll ever get like that. It just seems so, ummm, icky."
"It isn't, but other than that this is a really great place to live. We do all kinds of stuff together, like swimming, playing miniature golf, going to the movies, and other things. Most of the time we all do that stuff together too."
"I guess it sounds pretty good, so maybe I'll give it a try. I'm just warning you that I'll be out of here in a flash if they try anything."
"Don't worry, that will never happen."
After Noah filled us in, we now had a better idea about what we were up against. It was obvious that Ryan was leery about what might happen and had made it clear that he wasn't interested in male to male contact. At least he wasn't spewing homophobic slurs or running out of the house to get away from us, so that was a good sign. I was just concerned about how he might react if he misunderstood something we did or misread our intentions about something we said. I just hoped that if anything like that happened it wouldn't turn into a major problem.
Once we finished chatting with Noah, Brandon and I went up to see how Ryan was making out. His bedroom door was open and he was merely clad in a pair of briefs when we arrived, but when I knocked on the door he screamed back.
"Don't come in yet. Just a second!" he told us as he quickly grabbed the towel he'd just used to dry himself and wrapped it around his waist. That was a little disheartening, since he wasn't totally naked and still felt the need to cover up. "Ok, you can come in now."
"We didn't mean to make you nervous, but we told you earlier that we'd be back to see if you needed anything."
"Nah, I'm fine. The shower felt good and I'm ready to go to sleep now. The bed seems fairly comfortable, because I laid on it for a couple of minutes before I showered."
"We're glad you approve, so we'll let you go to sleep now. I suppose you're too old for us to tuck you in."
"Yeah, I don't need that and thanks for not just doing it."
"Ok, and you're welcome. Sweet dreams and you know where our room is if you need anything. Either that, or you can ask Noah to help you instead, or ask him to get us for you."
"Yeah, I won't come to your room because you guys probably sleep naked and I don't want to see that."
"Just so you know, we usually wear our underwear to bed, but you can do whatever you're comfortable with."
"Goodnight and we'll see you tomorrow afternoon, since we'll be working in the morning."
I pulled the door shut as we were leaving so he wouldn't freak out if Noah or anyone else wandered past his open door.