After I woke up the next morning, I went to make sure Ryan was awake and getting ready to go with me. He was half dressed when I got to his room, so I told him I'd see him at the breakfast table.
While we were eating, the other boys went out of their way to tell Ryan that he'd like his new school and that everybody there was really great. Noah also told him that most of the teachers were nice too, and Dion reminded Ryan that he'd be there part of the time, if he ever needed anything. I figured that before we came downstairs Brandon must have said something to the others concerning what I'd told him before we went to sleep the night before.
"Yeah, I forgot about that, Uncle Dion. So I'll know at least one person there." I was surprised and impressed that he'd called him 'Uncle Dion'.
"Yes, you will, and I'll help out with whatever you need. Just remember that while we're at school you'll have to call me Mr. Currie." Ryan nodded to show he understood.
After we finished eating, I drove Ryan to the Middle School and led him inside. We went directly to the main office and I told the secretary I was there to enroll him. She quickly retrieved the paperwork I'd need to fill out and handed it to me, so Ryan and I sat down to do it together. Once we'd finished and handed it back to her, she sent us to the guidance office to pick up his schedule.
After he had that too, the guidance counselor paged a boy with an identical schedule to come to the guidance office. He then introduced him to Ryan and told the boy to show Ryan around and help him find his classes. I thanked the counselor for doing this, handed him my business card, and told him to call me if there were any problems. I also wished Ryan a good day, and then I left to go to work.
I thought of Ryan off and on throughout the day, and during lunch I said something to Brandon about how things had gone. "I hope Ryan doesn't have any problems this week. He certainly doesn't need anything like that to happen right now and I hope he gets off to a good start."
"I agree, but I'm sure he'll be fine," Brandon replied.
I didn't receive a phone call about him, so I felt things must have gone well. I was anxious to see what he'd have to say about it when I arrived home later and found him in the family room with the other boys.
"So how was your first day?" I asked directly.
"It was good. Owen stayed with me all day long and showed me around."
"I take it Owen was the boy the guidance counselor called down while we were there?"
"Yeah. Me and Owen got the same schedule, so he had me follow him to our first class and then we stayed together for the rest of the day."
"So you've already met someone and made a friend?"
"Maybe. He is kinda nice and I hope he'll be my friend."
"I'm glad to hear that." I then let the boys go back to what they were doing, as I went out to say 'hi' to Dion and Trey. I also wanted to ask Dion what he knew about a boy named Owen.
"If it's the boy I'm thinking of, he's a good kid. He and Ryan should get along well."
Later, while Brandon was in with Benny and Joshie as they took their shower and Trey was bathing Wyatt, I pulled Dion aside to chat about something else.
"Dion, Valentine's Day is on a Saturday this year and I know Trey's birthday is the following Monday, so would you like to plan on going away with him for a romantic weekend? If you do, then Brandon and I would watch the boys for you."
"Really? That would be great, but won't it mess things up for you? How will you be able to do anything special with Brandon if you guys are babysitting for us?"
"I think Pop will be willing to help out on Valentine's Day, seeing Dad's still in Georgia and he won't be going anywhere. I also feel Noah is old enough to watch the boys and handle most situations if Brandon and I go out for dinner. I just want to ask Pop to be there too, just in case any problems arise."
"That would be great and thanks for offering. Just let me know if Pop agrees. If he does, then I'll start planning something special, since Trey did that for my birthday."
After I checked with Pop, he said he wouldn't mind helping out, since he'd only be able to Skype with Dad and could do that while listening for any problems. I thanked him and said I was going to ask Noah to do most of the babysitting and only wanted to make sure he was around if there was an issue Noah couldn't handle. Pop said he understood and it would leave him even more time to chat with Dad. Now, I just had to make plans for Brandon and me.
The rest of the week went quite smoothly and the boys were all in a good mood when we got home Friday night, but a mild disagreement arose during dinner.
"Joshie wants to watch a high school basketball game on TV later, and the teams aren't even from around here," Noah complained.
"So why is that a problem?"
"Because there's a movie on that I want to see."
"How do you two feel about this?" I asked Benny and Ryan.
"I wanna watch basketball with Joshie," Benny stated.
"I'd rather see the movie," Ryan answered. Damn, that meant there were two that wanted to do each thing.
Believe it or not, we only had one television in the house now. That's because when the other one died we didn't bother to replace it, since we usually watched TV together. Now, I realized that decision had been a mistake.
"So they're both on at the same time?" Dion asked, since his son was involved too.
"Yep," Noah replied.
"When do they start?"
"Well, that gives us over an hour to figure this out and come up with a solution."
They were all apprehensive about what we might decide, but they agreed to give us time to discuss this without them. Over the next several minutes the rest of us tossed around a few ideas before we agreed on one. Dion and I then took off in different directions to get the items we needed, while Brandon and Trey rearranged a few things. Before 8:00, everything was set.
Since the cable was still connected in the living room, Dion had gone to get another box from the cable company, since they were open late. He'd called to make sure before heading out, though, while I went to purchase another television. We all agreed to chip in to buy a replacement for the one that used to be in the living room and thus solve the problem. While Dion and I were doing that, Trey retrieved the TV stand from storage and dusted it off, and Brandon rearranged the furniture to make room for it.
The boys saw me returning with a large box and came rushing out to see what I had. "Did you just buy a new TV?" Ryan asked, looking amazed.
"Yes, we used to have two, but when the other one stopped working, we never replaced it. Since our families are growing now, we felt this situation might happen again and decided it was time to get another one. Dion went our to pick up a new cable box while I was getting the TV, so now we just have to set it up."
"So who gets to watch the new TV?" Joshie followed, which let me know we'd just created another problem instead.
"We'll flip a coin and I'll let you call it, since you mentioned it first. Whoever wins the coin toss will get to choose which TV he wants to watch."
The boys seemed fine with that idea and Joshie happened to win the coin toss too, so he and Benny watched the basketball game on the new television. Even though they'd lost the coin flip, the other pair was still happy because they got to watch the movie.
When we hooked up the new box, I was glad to see that Dion had made sure to get the type with a built in DVR. That would allow us to record up to three different channels at once, or to watch one channel while recording two others at the same time. Having it should eliminate any future problems of this nature, and I was glad the current situation had been resolved so easily.
Later, after their shows finished, we sent the boys upstairs to get ready for bed. We gave them a few minutes to prepare first, since they didn't have to take showers tonight, and then the four of us went up to tuck Joshie and Benny in bed. After we finished with them, Brandon and I went to say goodnight to Noah and Ryan.
"Thank you for making it so I could watch the movie earlier," Noah said when we were in his room.
"You're welcome, but we did that for everyone, not just for you."
"I know, but I still appreciate what you did."
When we went over to say goodnight to Ryan, he had his own comment about what had happened earlier.
"You guys sure spend a lot of money. I didn't expect you'd go out and buy a new TV just so we could all watch what we wanted."
"That's not normally the way we handle things, but we'd talked about buying a new television before this happened. Since the four of us have jobs, we merely agreed to all chip in to buy it. Just don't get used to that happening when other problems arise."
"I know, but it was still kind of neat. I've never lived anywhere that they could do stuff like that. My parents didn't have much money, and neither did the other people I lived with, and I think that's why they let the trucker do that to me. He told me he'd already given them the money so he was going to get what he'd paid for."
"I'm sorry that happened to you, but you don't have to worry about anything like that happening while you're here," Brandon replied.
"I hope not, and I'm starting to believe you guys aren't going to do anything like that."
"We're glad you're beginning to realize that fact, because none of us will ever do anything to hurt you," I added before Brandon and I said goodnight, wished him sweet dreams, and shut the door behind us.
On Saturday, after we got home from work, we had lunch with the family. After we finished eating, we decided to do something special for the boys, as sort of a reward for being good most of the time. Brandon and I also hoped that Ryan would see it as a reward for softening his attitude toward us, so I mentioned my idea to all of them.
"Is anyone interested in going to see a movie?"
I heard a chorus of 'yes', before one particular voice spoke up. "What are we going to see?" Noah wanted to know.
"I thought we'd let Ryan choose this time, since this will be his first trip to the cinema complex with us. What do you think about that, Ryan?"
"You mean you're gonna let me pick the movie we're gonna see!" he gasped.
"Don't you want to do that?"
"Yeah, sure. It's just that I never got to do it before. This is so cool."
The boys then followed me when I went to get my laptop and logged on to Moviefone to see what was playing. After perusing his choices, Ryan spoke up.
"Ummm, how about 'The Boy Next Door'?"
I looked at the blurb about the movie quickly, since I didn't know anything about it. "I'm afraid not. It's rated 'R' and sounds a bit too mature for this group."
Ryan looked disappointed, but then he turned his attention back to the screen. Before long another voice spoke up. "How about Paddington?" Benny wondered.
"Nah, I don't want to see that," Ryan replied.
"Remember, I said this is Ryan's choice, so let him make up his mind," I added.
A minute later Ryan came up with another suggestion. "How about 'Strange Magic'? It looks interesting and it's rated 'PG'."
"That sounds fine and we all like fantasy, so I think it's an excellent choice," I concurred. "Just let me go talk to Dion, Trey, and Grandpa Jake to see if they want to go with us."
"Yeah, that sounds good," Trey agreed. "I've seen the trailer on TV and it's a George Lucas film, so it should be good."
"And it's animated, so we can take Wyatt too," Dion agreed.
Unfortunately, Pop wasn't as excited about seeing it with us and decided to stay home, so the rest of us got ready to leave. The boys had to shower first, since they hadn't done it the previous night, and then they got dressed. Once again, Joshie wanted to ride with us, so Dion, Trey, and Wyatt loaded into their car and met us there.
After we purchased our tickets, we bought popcorn and drinks before going inside. Once we were settled in, I heard Ryan make another comment. "This is so cool. Not only do we get to see the movie, but we get popcorn and soda too. I hardly ever got to go to a movie at a theater before, but I never got popcorn or soda while I was there."
He obviously saw this as a very special treat, so I hoped he would subconsciously tie it to his improving attitude and how he was trying to fit in. The other boys were excited about this too, but not nearly as much as Ryan, since the others had done this with us before. Now, we settled in to watch the flick.
The movie had goblins, elves, fairies, and imps that were involved in a battle over a powerful potion. Even though the younger boys seemed to enjoy it, I think Noah and the rest of us were slightly disappointed and didn't feel the movie had lived up to the hype. I was mainly concerned with what Ryan thought, though, since we'd done this primarily for his benefit.
"So what did you think of the movie?" I asked when it ended.
"It was cool and doing this was a lot of fun. Thanks for bringing us to see it."
"You're welcome," I responded, as we herded everyone out to the two vehicles.
When we got home, I heard Dion telling Pop that he'd made a smart move by not going. Pop merely chuckled in response.
Brandon and I began doing our chores while the boys went off to entertain themselves. Other than checking on them a couple of times, to make sure they weren't getting into trouble, we didn't see much of them until dinner, and then not for very long. As soon as they'd gobbled down their meal, they hurried off to watch TV. I guess they'd seen a commercial for something and had agreed they wanted to see it.
Since the boys were doing their own thing, the rest of us chose to do something different this evening and reverted to an activity we hadn't taken part of in a long time. We decided to play Canasta. This was something we did in the glow of lanterns or flashlights to pass the time at night on camping trips or when the power went out at home. Pop happened to mention it and we all agreed it sounded like a good idea.
We did that until it was time for the boys to get ready for bed. We agreed they didn't have to shower tonight and could just brush their teeth before hopping in bed. After the younger three headed upstairs, Noah pulled me aside to talk something over.
"Are we going to do anything special tomorrow?"
"We haven't decided yet. The rest of us still have things we need to do around the house, so you boys may be on your own tomorrow. Was there a reason you wanted to know?"
"I was thinking that I'd call my friend, Adam, and see if I could spend some time with him if we weren't doing anything. I haven't done much with him in awhile and he said something about it at school the other day."
"Yes, I suppose that will be alright, but I'll let you know for sure in the morning."
"K, and thanks."
Once he headed upstairs, Dion, Trey, Brandon, and I went up to tuck Joshie and Benny in bed. As we were doing that, I heard a commotion coming from the third floor, so I left quickly to see what was going on.
"What the heck is all the shouting about?" I asked when I ran into Noah in the hallway.
"Ryan didn't lock the bathroom door and I accidentally walked in on him while he was taking a dump. He started screaming at me and telling me to get out, so I told him next time to lock the door first so I'd know he wanted his privacy."
"I'll wait here so I can talk to him about it when he's done, but I'll let you know the bathroom is free before I do that."
"Thanks." He then went to his room while I waited for Ryan.
When he came out of the bathroom, I told him I'd say goodnight in a few minutes, and then I went over to let Noah know the bathroom was free.
"Ryan's in his room now, so you can go use the bathroom."
"K, but I hope he didn't stink it up." I merely smiled and then walked over to Ryan's room.
I knocked before entering and heard him say, "Come in." Once I was standing beside the bed, since he was already under the covers, I asked a question.
"What was all the screaming about a little while ago?"
"Noah came into the bathroom while I was using it, so I told him to get out."
"Didn't you lock the door?"
"No, I forgot."
"Then you can't get mad if someone walks in on you, because they wouldn't know what you were doing. He probably thought you were just brushing your teeth."
"Maybe, but he could have knocked, since the door was closed."
"And you could have locked it."
"Ok, so maybe it was my fault too."
"Maybe you could tell Noah that tomorrow and offer an apology, so there are no hard feelings."
"Yeah, alright. It's just that I was taking a poop."
"That's fine, but now maybe you won't forget to lock the door next time." Ryan scowled after hearing what I'd said. "And as long as you just did that, it would be a good time for me to check the area again, to make sure it looks as if it's healing properly. Would you mind doing that now?"
He hesitated momentarily before he replied. "K, if you think you need to do that."
I did a quick visual inspection of the area and everything looked fine, so I said goodnight and wished him sweet dreams as I prepared to leave. Brandon arrived just as I was getting ready to go, so he told Ryan goodnight too. Then, I explained everything to Brandon once we were downstairs.
"He's got to expect things like that, especially if he forgets to lock the door behind him."
"That's what I told him, but I think he sees that now. I don't think Noah was upset, but I suggested to Ryan that he should apologize too, since Noah didn't realize he was walking in on him."
"I just hope he gets over being so modest, or at least stops blowing up when something like that happens."
"Yeah, me too."
We went to bed about an hour later, still wondering if there was something we could do to speed up the process without upsetting Ryan. We certainly didn't want to experience any more of these types of confrontations, even though they had only been minor problems.
After we finished breakfast on Sunday, the younger boys went off to watch TV or play video games while Noah called his friend to see if he could visit now. Brandon and I got busy taking care of some other matters, such as paying bills and balancing the books from work, but I went in to check the boys a few times. They seemed to be doing fine and appeared to be getting along well, so I left them alone.
It was just before lunchtime when I received a phone call. It was from Little Ricky and he wanted to know if he could stop by for a quick visit.
"Sure, that would be fine," I agreed.
"Ok, I'll see you in about an hour then."
When he showed up, he spent a few minutes with the boys first, before sitting down to chat with the rest of us. When Dion, Trey, and Pop excused themselves to do other things, Little Ricky, Brandon, and I got down to business.
"So how have things been going?" Little Ricky asked directly.
"There have been a few minor problems, but I think he's beginning to trust us more and isn't quite as nervous about being here," I answered.
"I'm glad to hear that, and it will make Aunt Sally happy too. She was afraid that Ryan wasn't going to fit in."
"There have been a few problems, but nothing serious, so I think things are going to work out just fine," Brandon chipped in.
"Good, but I'm here for another reason as well," Little Ricky admitted. "The D.A. from the county where Ryan used to live is trying to get the trucker who raped him to accept a plea agreement, but so far they haven't reached a deal. If this goes to trial, Ryan might have to testify about what happened."
"That could be a problem," I pointed out. "Ryan doesn't like to talk about the situation and I was lucky that he even admitted some of it to me when I gave him his physical. I doubt he'd be willing to tell the story in front of a bunch of strangers in court, even if it meant the trucker would go free if he didn't."
"I hope that doesn't happen, so I'll push the D.A. about working something out. I'll suggest that he might offer to keep the man segregated while in prison if he cooperates, while also pointing out what the other prisoners would likely do to him if we don't agree to that. I'll encourage the D.A. to explain that if this goes to trial, then it will also be in the news so everyone will know what he did, so he'd probably get a pretty rough welcome when he gets to prison."
"I hope that convinces him, because I have a feeling Ryan will fight having to testify. We'll do what we can to convince him, if it comes to that, but I think you'll probably have a better chance convincing the trucker."
"Then I'll do my best."
Little Ricky left about a half hour later, leaving us with this situation still hanging over our heads.