Sunday morning we got up, ate breakfast, and then went to church together before we said goodbye to Brenda and Pat. They had loaded their belongings into the van before we left the house so they could leave for the airport as soon as the service ended. It was a long drive to Pittsburg, so we wanted them to have plenty of time to get there and catch their flight home.
"Mom and Dad, I'm really glad you were able to visit and spend time with all of us," Brandon began. "I know the boys enjoyed being with you too, especially on the trip, and we hope to see you again over the holidays."
"I'm not sure how we're going to work that this year," Brenda responded, "but we'll see you sometime, either at Thanksgiving or Christmas."
"And we both enjoyed this week with all of you too," Pat added. "We have some truly awesome grandsons, and they've got some really nice friends."
"Thanks for doin' all that stuff with us," Benny chimed in. "It was really fun."
"And thanks for taking me too," Joshie followed.
"Why wouldn't we? You're our grandson too, so we wouldn't think of leaving you behind," Brenda assured him.
"And I'm glad I finally got to meet you," Ryan added. "I've never had grandparents before and I'm glad I got a grandma and grandpa as nice as you."
"We're glad to have you as our newest grandson as well," Pat followed, causing Ryan to smile.
Noah and Elliot said goodbye to their grandparents after that, but they had spent lots of time with Brenda and Pat on other occasions, so the goodbyes weren't as emotional. Then, it was my turn.
"It's always great to see you two again and we'd love to have you visit more often. Don't worry, though, we won't expect you to do as much for the boys as you did this time. We just want to spend more time with you."
"And we enjoy spending time with all of you too," Brenda agreed. "Just don't forget to call us if we suddenly get any more grandchildren." She laughed after saying this.
"Don't worry. We won't," Brandon confirmed.
"And don't forget, I wouldn't mind an infant next time," Brenda added.
"We'll do what we can," Brandon replied, although he seemed slightly uncomfortable as he did so. Then Brenda and Pat got in the van and we all waved at them as they drove away.
As soon as we got home, Elliot hopped in his car and went to spend time with Ian. As soon as he left, Noah asked if he could call Adam to see if he wanted to hang out. We told him that would be fine, and he left the house about twenty minutes later.
Ryan, Benny, and Joshie spent the rest of the day playing video games and enjoying the other items that Benny had gotten for his birthday. While they were doing that, the rest of us were busy doing other things, at least until I heard a commotion coming from the family room. Curious about what was going on, I went to see if there was a problem.
"Ok, what's all the shouting about?"
"Joshie broke the robot I got for my birthday," Benny answered, looking visibly upset. "So I don't want him to play with it any more."
"It was a accident," Joshie countered. "I didn't mean to do it." I picked up the robot and inspected it briefly.
"It's not broken, it just came apart. Since you can make different robots out of the pieces and put it together in different ways, one of the connections just came loose."
"But he's too rough with it, so I don't want him to play with it any more."
"Then you can't use my PS4!" Joshie shouted in reprisal.
"But I have my own games for it," Benny pointed out.
"But the PS4 is mine. My dads gave it to me for my birthday." I could tell neither one was going to give in easily, so I decided to add my two cents.
"In that case, I don't want either of you using my television."
"It's not just yours," Joshie challenged.
"It is too. Grandpa Josh has signed over the house and everything in it to me, so if you two want to be stingy and act that way, I will too."
"I'm gonna tell my dads," Joshie threatened as he stood up and bolted from the room. A few seconds later, he came back with Dion and Trey.
"What's going on in here?" Dion asked after they entered the room.
"Let me explain," I answered, as I began to tell them what had happened. I whispered, though, so the other boys couldn't hear what we were saying, and when I was done, Trey spoke next.
"Uncle Danny is right. Grandpa Josh has put him in charge now and signed everything over to him, so what he says goes."
Both boys looked at us, their eyes wide and mouths hanging open as they digested what they'd just heard. We waited to see who was going to give in first, but nothing was said for a minute, until one of them finally spoke.
"Ok, he can play with my robot, but he's got to be more careful and not make it fall apart again," Benny relented.
"I will, and I'm sorry it happened," Joshie agreed. "And you can use my PS4 too."
"Can we use the TV now?" Benny asked right away, as both boys nervously awaited my answered.
"As long as you two are willing to share, then so am I. You can use my televisions, as long as there are no more arguments."
That seemed to settle the problem, at least temporarily, so the rest of us left the room. We stood in the foyer and listened for a while first, to make sure they didn't start in again, but it became very quiet in the other room. Seeing there were no further outbursts, we went back to what we'd been doing before this all began.
Elliot and Noah arrived home before dinner, and Elliot passed along a message while we ate. "Ian wanted me to tell you that he and his parents had a good time at the cookout on Saturday. They liked the little surprise at the end too, because they didn't think they were going to see any fireworks this year."
"We're glad they enjoyed themselves," I responded. "We like each of them and wouldn't mind if they joined us more often."
"Great, I'll tell them that."
"You should invite Adam and his parents to come too," Brandon mentioned to Noah. "We've met Adam, but we've hardly ever seen his parents."
"Yeah, they keep to themselves a lot and don't even go to see the things that Adam's in. I know it bothers Adam a little, and I'm glad you guys aren't like that."
"Do you know why they don't go to those things for Adam?" I followed, more than a little curious.
"Yeah, it's because of his mom. She's got some really bad scars on her face from having measles or something when she was younger. I guess some people have made fun of her problem, so she prefers not going out very often. She's always afraid that people are staring at her, so when she does go out she uses a ton of make up to cover over those things. I think it makes her look even worse, like a clown or something."
"Well, we're glad you don't react negatively around her," Brandon added.
"Yeah, I'd never do anything like that, but I've noticed what she's talkin' about. I just don't think it looks that bad."
"But when people pick on you about a noticeable bodily flaw, especially if it happens while you're growing up, the scars aren't merely the obvious ones," Dad explained. "I'm sure she is reacting more to the emotional scars from the abuse, rather than the physical ones."
"Yeah, you're probably right," Noah agreed.
"You can invite them to join us sometime too, and you should even assure her that nothing like that will ever happen here," I suggested. "Just approach the topic tactfully and don't broadcast that you mentioned her condition to us. We'll just invite them to a future gathering, and if they decline you can simply tell her that she would feel at ease when she's with our family."
"Ok, I'll try. I know Adam wouldn't mind doin' stuff like that with his parents once in awhile."
We spent a quiet evening with the boys after that and watched a movie together. Then, we went up to tuck them in after their showers. When we reached Noah's room, he made another comment.
"I'm glad you guys are willing to do that for Adam's family."
"Why wouldn't we? We treat all of your friends and their parents like they're part of our family too," I explained.
"I know, and I think it's great."
When we got to Ryan's room, he had something to say as well. "Do you think we can have Owen and his parents over to do something with us too?"
"Of course. We probably should have invited them for our Fourth of July cookout, but I just didn't think of it soon enough. I'll include them the next time, or maybe we could just have a special cookout for all of your friends and their parents before the end of summer."
"Yeah, I'd like that, cuz they're really nice to me when I'm at their house."
"I'm glad to hear that."
When we woke up Monday morning, it took a few moments before Brandon and I remembered that our offices were closed and we had the day off. We decided to do something with the boys, so as we were eating breakfast together we asked them what they might like to do.
"Will you take us to see Jurassic World?" Noah asked, looking hopeful.
"Yeah, let's go see the dinosaurs fight each other and eat people," Ryan added. I hoped his comment didn't indicate a hidden sadistic streak.
"Is that what you all want to do?" I followed.
"Yeah," Benny and Joshie chimed in.
"I think I'll go see Ian while you're doing that," Elliot stated.
"I understand," I replied, "but it's Jurassic World for the rest of us then."
"Can I call Adam and ask him to go too?" Noah wanted to know.
"Sure. Why not?"
"Then can I ask Owen?" Ryan followed.
"Ok, but that's it. I'm not going to rent a bus to take you guys to the movies."
They all giggled after I'd said that, as Noah and Ryan raced off to make their calls. While they were gone, I hopped on my laptop and checked the show times for today.
Once I knew when we'd be going, I asked Dion and Trey if they wanted to join us. They said they didn't want Wyatt to see that particular movie, because they thought it might give him nightmares, so they would take him to see something else. I could understand their reasoning, so I had the boys get ready to go out.
After we picked up the other two and purchased our tickets, I offered to buy each pair a small tub of popcorn to share and drinks for everyone. They liked that idea and thanked me as we moved inside and found a place to sit.
The movie was exciting, but quite predictable, especially if you'd seen the previous installments. The premise this time was that twelve years after the Jurassic Park debacle, a new park was opened, called Jurassic World, but this time additional safety measure were taken first. In fact, the park had been opened for a decade by this point, but attendance had been declining in recent years. In order to stimulate excitement and interest in the park again, management decided to create a new attraction.
The scientist put in charge of creating a new dinosaur species felt pressured and ended up taking moral and ethical shortcuts. They named this new creature Indominus Rex, or I. rex for short. As always happens in these films, something went terribly wrong and the animal escaped, which led to a bloody rampage that killed numerous people. The movie was exciting, and the boys enjoyed it, and that's all that really mattered.
During the movie, I looked around to see how the different boys were doing and noticed that no one seemed to be bothered by the gore. I also noticed that Benny and Joshie hadn't eaten all of their popcorn, so it was obviously too much for them. However, later I saw them passing what was left to Noah and Adam, who happily scarfed it down.
When the movie ended, we made sure the boys collected all of the empty popcorn tubs and cups so we could toss them in the trash on the way out. As we were doing that, Adam came up to me.
"I just want to thank you for letting Noah invite me to come with you."
"Hey, you're more than welcome, and we enjoy your company."
"Yeah, I want to thank you too," Owen added. "I know Ryan probably suggested it, but thanks for letting me come with you too."
"You boys are always welcome, since you're so nice and never cause us any problems," I confirmed as we were walking out of the theater.
After we'd dropped those two off at their houses, we went home. The boys had to tell Grandpa Josh and Grandpa Jake about the movie, so I decided to ask Trey how they'd made out.
"We took Wyatt to see the Minions and he loved it. Actually, Dion and I enjoyed it too, so I'm glad we went. Obviously, the other boys were happy with Jurassic World, so it appears no one was disappointed."
"Yes, they all seemed to have a good time."
Elliot arrived home later, in time to have dinner with us, but he was excited and had something he wanted to tell us first. "While I was with Ian, a detective showed up and wanted to talk to him. He brought a bunch of photos along and wanted Ian to look at them to see if he recognized his attackers."
"Well, did he?" Brandon pressed.
"Yes, he pointed out the picture of the guy he said threw all of the punches, but he said he never saw the guy who was holding him."
"So have they arrested his attacker then?" I followed.
"I guess the detective was going to do it after he left the house, now that Ian had positively identified him. The detective said the descriptions the witnesses had given them were very good and helped a lot, so they think they know who the other guy is too."
"That's great, and I hope they throw the book at those guys," Brandon stated.
After we finished our meal, we had to take the boys to their practices. I went with Ryan and stayed to watch again. This time his team was practicing at a huge athletic complex that had a ball field in each corner of a large, square expanse that was completely open, since none of the fields had fences. It was also large enough that there was enough room to mark off both a youth football and a youth soccer field in the fall, without damaging any of the baseball diamonds.
A couple of other teams happened to be practicing there as well, and as I said, it was large enough that they didn't interfere with one another. I was sitting in the bleachers watching the drills when a group of boys approached.
"Hey, you're a Currie, aren't you?"
"Yes, I am. Why do you ask?"
"What are you doing here? You don't have a boy on the team, so are you just perving on the other boys?"
"For your information, I do have a son on this team."
"There's no one named Currie out there."
"Not yet, and technically he's my foster son, but I'm planning on adopting him."
They stopped talking to me and started whispering amongst themselves. I couldn't hear what they were saying, but judging from the looks I was getting, they either didn't believe me or didn't like what I'd said. They eventually wandered away from where I was sitting, but when I glanced in their direction later, I could tell they were still watching me. I wasn't sure if it was to see what I was up to, or to see who went home with me, but I guess that really didn't matter. I didn't like the feeling I got from them, but there was nothing I could do about it unless they did something overt.
When the practice ended, Ryan came running over to me as soon as the coach released the team. I hurried him out to the SUV and we got out of there as quickly as possible because I didn't want those other boys to create a scene. Ryan, however, didn't seem to notice what I was doing, because he was completely focused on something he wanted to ask.
"Would it be alright if I call Owen and invite him to stay over this weekend?"
"Let me talk it over with Dad B when we get home, but I don't foresee any problem with doing that."
Brandon and the other two boys were already home when we got there, so I spoke with him quickly before I told Ryan he could make his call. A minute later he came running back to tell us something.
"Owen says he's got a game at noon on Saturday."
"That shouldn't be a problem, unless you have a practice then too. Tell him he can still stay over and we'll take him to his game, so his parents can meet us there. Just make sure he brings his uniform with him Friday night."
"K." He then went running off to relay my message and returned a couple of minutes later. "He said his parents agreed that would be fine, but now they want me to stay with them the next weekend."
"I don't have a problem with that, and if you have a practice on Saturday we can pick you up and take you there."
"K, I'll tell him that too."
Seeing everything was settled, we sent the boys up to get ready for bed, and then we went up to tuck them in. When I stopped in to say goodnight to Noah, I asked him a question.
"Do you want to go with us to Ryan's game tomorrow, and Benny and Joshie's game on Tuesday?"
"Yeah, and I'll ask Adam if he wants to come with us. He likes the boys too, and he also likes baseball, so I think he'll want to join us."
"That's fine with me, and I think the boys will like having another person cheering them on."
After we got home from work the next evening, we hurried through dinner, sent Ryan up to change, and then we picked up Adam as we drove down to Ryan's game. Dion took Benny and Joshie to their practice, and Dad and Pop rode in their own car, because we didn't have enough room for them too, but we all sat together to watch Ryan play.
The game started out slowly, with neither team doing much in the first inning, but when Ryan's team was in the field in the second inning, I noticed something that bothered me. The same group of boys that had approached me the previous evening was standing along the fence in right field and they seemed to be saying something to Ryan. This field was completely fenced in, so they couldn't get too close to him, but whatever they were saying seemed to upset him. When he came in after the end of the half inning, he said something to his coach, while pointing at the group of boys. Then his coach called the other team's coach out to home plate so he could talk to him and the umpire at the same time.
"What do you think that's about?" Brandon asked.
"I have no idea," I answered.
"It obviously has something to do with Ryan, though, so it troubles me," Dad followed.
"Yes, those boys seemed to be saying something to him when his team was in the field and it appeared to bother him," Pop chimed in.
"I know, but I don't want to go down there to ask," I responded. "We can talk to Ryan about it on the way home, but I don't want to bring any more attention to the situation than there already is."
The two coaches and umpire had been discussing whatever Ryan had told them and held the game up for several minutes. Then, the other coach called his assistant out to join them and the umpire summoned a guy out of the concession stand. Then, those two left the field of play and walked down to where those boys were standing. After talking to them for a brief time, the boys left, but the assistant coach and other man stayed there for the rest of the game. Whatever the problem had been, it seemed to be settled for now.
I think Ryan must still have been a little rattled when the game continued, because he wasn't performing as well as he usually did. Unfortunately, his team ended up losing, and I couldn't help but wonder if it was due to what had happened earlier. I didn't want to ask him about the incident until we were in the SUV, because I didn't want to embarrass him in front of anyone else.
"So what was up with those boys and what did you say to your coach?" I could see Ryan in the rearview mirror and it appeared that he didn't want to answer. "You can tell us. No matter what was said, we won't blame you. Did you even know those boys?"
"I don't really know them, but I recognized them. I've seen them around school before, but they're in the grade ahead of me."
"So what were they saying?"
"They were just makin' me mad."
"Ummm, they asked me, uhhh, something I didn't like."
"Ryan, I don't know what you're scared of, but no one is going to be mad at you. So, please, just tell us what they were saying."
After another brief hesitation, he finally responded. "At first they just said they knew I was living with you guys, and then they asked me something I didn't like."
"What did they ask you? Just tell us."
After swallowing several times, he finally answered. "They wanted to know if I was a fag or just a fag lover."
There was a total silence inside the SUV for the next several seconds, as we digested what he'd said. I'd even forgotten Adam was with us until he spoke.
"I hope you told them you lived with one of the nicest families around and the rest of it was none of their damn business!"
"I didn't say nothin', but I told my coach. He talked to the umpire and the other coach and asked them to send those boys away."
"You shouldn't have had to put up with that, but it seems there are still people around who despise our family because some of us are gay. Now that you're aware of this situation, we will understand if you want to change your mind about having us adopt you. Regrettably, it's very possible that something like this may happen again if you remain part of our family."
"I don't care. I want to be your son and I want you to adopt me. They can say whatever they want about me, but I was mad cuz they were sayin' mean stuff about you and Dad B. I think they meant Grandpa Josh, Grandpa Jake, Uncle Dion, and Uncle Trey too. I don't care if those guys are stupid and want to say mean things like that, cuz I love all of you and want to stay with you."
"Then as far as we're concerned, that's the way it will be. I just wanted to give you a chance to change your mind, if what just happened bothered you deeply."
"It bothers me, but I won't change my mind. I want you to be my dads, and next time I'll fight them if they say more stuff like that."
"No, we don't want you to resort to violence, because that never solves anything. Just look what happened to Ian. If you pick a fight, there's a chance it will be more than you can handle alone, or you might even inspire them to attack more of us instead. No, if this happens again, then just come to us or another adult in charge at the time, like you did tonight. Don't try to handle it yourself."
"K, but I think I'd feel better if I punched one of them."
I could see Noah and Adam in the rearview mirror as well, and they were both sporting huge smiles and attempting to stifle their laughter at Ryan's vehement outburst.
"If it comes time to do any fighting, let me handle it, little bro," Noah told him. "If they're a year older than you, then they'll be in my school next year, not yours, and I'd be happy to put them in their place. I also have enough friends that I won't have to do it alone either."
"I appreciate the thought," I interrupted, "but I don't want any of you fighting. I'm glad you're willing to stick up for one another, but I don't want you to fight unless the other guy swings first or there's no other option."
"And then we'll mop the floor with them," Noah added.
I felt that was enough for the time being, but after the boys went to sleep that night, I got the rest of the adults together to talk about the situation too. After I explained what happened, Dion was the first to comment.
"I think I know exactly which boys you're talking about. I would sometimes overhear comments that group made, but I also heard some of the other teachers complaining about them as well. They're a small group of Neanderthals who've spent more than their share of time in detention, and I think some of them might have even been expelled for short periods of time."
"I could tell something was bothering Ryan as he was playing," Dad said, "but I didn't realize exactly what it was. I thought those other boys were just trying to get under his skin so he wouldn't play well, but I didn't know it was a personal attack."
"Yes, we're going to have to keep an eye on things in the future. I want someone to be at all of his practices and games from now on, so we can step in if needed."
"Count me and Adam in on that," I heard a voice say from the other room. Noah had apparently come down to talk about the situation again after he thought Ryan was asleep.
"As long as one of us is there to keep you under control, then you can be there to help. I just don't want you or Adam doing anything unless you check with one of us first."
"We'll only tell those guys to back off, and we'll let them know they'll have us to deal with, not just someone smaller than they are."
"That may be enough to get them to back off, so ok. Just remember, no fighting unless they start it."
"And then we'll knock them into next week."
I sent Noah back to his room after that and we ended our brief discussion. I think we were all well aware of the situation now, and had a verbal agreement on how we were going to proceed. I just prayed that neither Ryan nor Noah lost his cool and started something on his own.