When the alarm went off on Monday morning, I raced around to get myself ready first before waking Noah and Benny. Then, I helped Benny select a nice outfit to wear, while Brandon fixed breakfast. The food was on our plates and waiting for us when we got downstairs, and today we were having Brandon's version of an Egg McMuffin, along with some home fries.
As soon as we'd finished eating, I had Benny and Joshie slide into the middle seat of the SUV and buckle in so we could head to the elementary school. When we arrived, I had Joshie come with us to the office, while I took care of enrolling Benny.
"Oh, my, it looks like we have another Currie," the secretary said when she saw us enter.
"His name isn't Currie yet, but it will be one day. I'd like to get him enrolled and find out who his teacher will be."
She gave me the required paperwork to fill out and sign, and once they learned what grade Benny was in, the principal decided which classroom he'd be assigned to. I was very pleased with his choice, since I knew the teacher well and she was very good at her job. As soon as everything was set, the principal turned to Joshie and Benny next.
"Joshie, I'm thinking about putting Benny in the same class with you, but only if you'll both promise that you won't fool around or cause any trouble." Both boys were thrilled by this news and responded almost immediately.
"I promise," Joshie agreed.
"Me too," Benny concurred.
"Ok, then. Joshie will you show Benny to your classroom and introduce him to Mrs. Argentine? I'd appreciate your help with this, because I have other duties to see too."
"Yeah, sure," Joshie answered, looking as proud as a peacock.
"Now that you boys are taken care of, I'll see you later because I have to get to work," I chimed in. "Have a good day and stay out of trouble."
"Sure, Uncle Danny, we can do that. Come on, Benny, and I'll show you where to go."
I smiled as I watched Joshie grab Benny's hand and gently drag him down the hallway on the way to their classroom. I knew the principal and secretary would take good care of things and I was grateful that he'd put them together. This would make it much easier for Benny to adjust to being at a new school and Joshie could help him make a few friends before the party. Now, I went out to my vehicle and set off for the health center.
The day progressed fairly normally after that, and when I met up with Brandon for lunch I filled him in about what happened when I enrolled Benny. He was glad the two boys were together too, and we were fortunate Benny's arrival had happened just after the school year started so he wouldn't have any catching up to do.
When we got home later, Benny and Joshie raced out to greet us. "It's warm out, so can we go swimming again?" they shouted nearly in unison.
"Sure, I don't see why not, but let me ask a question before we do that. Benny, how was your first day at school?"
"It was good and the teacher even let me sit next to Joshie."
"Well, that was nice of her. So did you boys keep out of trouble?"
"Yep, and we even did our homework already too."
"Well that's great, so just give me a couple of minutes and I'll take you boys out to the pool for a while. Hun, do you want to join us?"
"Sure, that sounds like fun. Just let me take Wyatt inside and see what his fathers have to say. Maybe they'll let him join us as well."
"Are we gonna swim without nuttin on?" Benny asked.
"Sure. No one else is here, so why not?"
After we got undressed and headed outside, Benny made an observation. It was the first time he'd seen Brandon naked, so he had something he wanted to know. "How come all your thingies look like Joshie's and not like mine?"
"Our penises were all like yours when we were born, but our parents had this done to us before we left the hospital. It's just that your mom didn't do that," Brandon explained.
"Uncle Trey's penis is like yours, though, and some of your other uncles are like you too. It's just that you haven't seen them yet," I added.
Knowing there were others like him too seemed to make Benny feel a little better and not quite so out of place. I'd have to ask Trey to join us the next time we went swimming so Benny could see he wasn't the only one who's uncircumcised.
It was obvious that Benny was improving with every outing in the pool. "He's doing a lot better than I was expecting," Brandon observed.
"Yes, he's catching on quite quickly and Joshie has become his primary instructor," I added. "He only let me work with Benny the first day, and then only part of the time." Brandon giggled after I'd pointed this out.
When we got out of the pool later and dried off, we went inside and got dressed again before having dinner. Brandon and I kept an eye on Benny during the meal and watched how he interacted with everyone. He seemed right at home now, so we were very pleased with how well he was fitting in. Benny was extremely eager to please and very appreciative of everything we did for him, which made it even harder to understand why his mother had treated him like she had.
I know Benny said his mother acted that way because he'd been named after his father before the man ran out on them. For that reason, even saying Benny's name seemed to become an irritant that would rouse her ire and she subconsciously took her hatred for his father out on him. I didn't know if that was the case for certain, but it was a definite possibility.
Supposedly it was the reason she'd kept him locked out of sight in the large, dog kennel, and that was what eventually got him removed from the home. I think we all agreed that getting him taken away from her was probably the best thing that could have happened to Benny during his short life. It brought him to live with us and we'd do our very best to turn this into a positive for him.
We'd all been slowly getting used to each other, but Benny also had to adapt to his new school and classmates. That's why we were so pleased that he and Joshie were together, because it seemed to be making his adjustment a little easier. All of that suddenly changed on Thursday, however, when his teacher called Brandon and me at home.
"Has Benny said anything to you about what's been happening at school the past couple of days?" she wanted to know.
"No," I answered. "Is there a problem."
"Yes. Benny is being picked on by a handful of boys. Some are in my class and the rest from the other fourth grade classes. We're attempting to deal with the problem, but I wanted to make sure you knew what was going on."
I relaxed slightly, but only because Benny wasn't the one causing the problem, and now I instinctively wanted to protect my son. "What do you mean? What are they doing to him?"
"They've been barking like dogs and saying mean things to him, although they did their best to hide what they were doing from the other teachers and me. At first I didn't understand why they were doing this, so I had a chat with Benny and he explained about how he'd been treated before he came to live with you. I'm not sure how the other boys found out about it, but the principal, the other teachers, and I are going to contact each of the offender's parents and attempt to nip this thing in the bud."
"Thank you, and we'll do what we can to help Benny on this end," Brandon said, since I'd put the call on speaker.
We had a fairly good idea that either Benny or Joshie had slipped and mentioned this fact to someone, although we didn't know the particulars. We felt it was most likely unintentional, and that person must have either told others or someone else overheard what had been said too. Now, we were planning on taking Benny aside to see how bad the situation was and why he hadn't mentioned it.
When Brandon took Benny and Joshie up to shower together later, I waited until they were done and Brandon had tucked Joshie in bed first, before I joined them. Then, we asked Benny to come to our bedroom so we could speak with him alone.
"Benny, Mrs. Argentine called earlier and told us what's been happening at school," I began, and suddenly the color drained from his face.
"She... she told you?" He seemed dumbfounded.
"Yes, she did, but what we're wondering is why you or Joshie never said anything about this to us. We'd also like to know how those other boys found out about what had happened to you."
Benny sat on our bed totally stunned and visibly shaken. His jaw kept opening and closing, but nothing came out. We weren't sure if he thought he was going to be in trouble, so we decided to clarify that point and attempted to put him at ease.
"Benny we only want to know so we can help you," Brandon told him. "You're not in trouble and we're not mad at you."
"Absolutely not! You've done nothing wrong, but we need to know what's going on so we can help stop it," I added.
Benny still hesitated and didn't respond for a few seconds, but then he finally gave in. "But I d-don't want you t-to be mad at J-Joshie," he stammered in response.
"Why would we be mad at him?" I wanted to know.
"He d-didn't mean to do it. It j-just slipped out."
"He didn't mean to do what?" Brandon pressed.
"P-promise you won't be m-mad at him or tell his d-daddies." I guess that explained why he'd never told us, since he thought it might get Joshie in trouble.
"We won't. We promise. We just want you to tell us what has been happening," Brandon confirmed, and then we could see Benny visibly relax.
"One of the teachers put some stuff about the S.P.C.A. on the bulletin board in the hall There were all kinds of pictures with animals in different kinds of cages, and one day before school Joshie asked me which cage looked like the one my mom put me in. I just pointed at it to let him know."
"And someone else either saw or heard what you two were talking about?" I followed.
"I guess they must've," he muttered, looking down at the floor.
"I'm sorry the boys have been doing those things to you," I said gently, while putting my arm around him. "We're going to work with your teacher and the principal to stop it, but neither you nor Joshie is in trouble."
Benny looked very relieved, so both Brandon and I walked him over to his room and tucked him in. We each gave him a kiss and wished him sweet dreams, and then we told him we'd see him in the morning. He gave us a weak smile before we left the room.
"I know Joshie didn't do it on purpose or mean any harm, but I feel badly that the other kids found out and Benny has had to deal with this abuse on top of what he's already suffered," Brandon said. "He's been treated badly enough without having to deal with this crap too."
"I agree, but what I'm more worried about is if they'll tell other kids and the problem will spread, or possibly even follow him to the middle school when he goes there next year," I added.
"I certainly hope not and we'll do everything we can to end this completely," Brandon replied. We went to bed thinking about how we were going to do that.
Brandon and I took Benny and Joshie to school Friday morning so we could chat briefly with Mrs. Argentine. "If you wouldn't mind, we'd like you to give us the names of the boys in your room that have been picking on Benny," I told her.
She looked shocked that I'd just asked for this information. "We're handling the problem on this end, so you won't need the other boys' names."
"We just want to know who they are so we can keep an eye on them if they come to Joshie's birthday party tomorrow," Brandon pointed out. This caused her expression and body language to change dramatically.
"Oh, that's right. I forgot about the party." Eventually, she gave us the information we'd requested, but only after we promised that we wouldn't do anything more than talk to the boys if a situation arose.
Brandon and I then headed to work, wondering if the boys would have enough guts to show up at our house for the party. After analyzing the situation briefly, we concluded the party was for Joshie, so they might come because they were friends with him without realizing Benny lived there too. Since Benny was still using the surname Devaney, the boys may have thought that Joshie and Benny were merely friends, not that Benny was part of the family.
It was a fairly normal day at work, and when Brandon and I had lunch I advised him that I was going to take the boys out to the pool again later. The weather had remained unseasonably warm and I hoped it would stay that way for the party tomorrow, so I wanted to give Benny a chance to practice some more. Brandon thought it was a good idea too and was going to join us.
When we arrived home, I was planning to ask Trey to swim with us, but I discovered he was in the middle of preparing dinner, so I opted to do something else instead. In fact, what I did next caused the boys to look at me strangely.
"How would you boys like to go swimming again?" I asked.
"Yeah, sure," they both agreed.
"Ok, but this time I want us all to wear our swimsuits."
"Why?" Joshie wanted to know.
"I want to make sure Benny feels comfortable in his new swimsuit and it doesn't affect how he swims."
"But I liked doing it the other way," Benny complained.
"I know, but sometimes we can't do it like that and I want to make sure you're ok in the water when you have your swimsuit on too."
"K, but it would be more fun the other way," Benny added before he, Joshie, Brandon, and I went upstairs to get ready.
I intentionally hadn't mentioned that I'd suggested this so he'd be prepared for Joshie's party, because I didn't want either of them to know about it. I was keeping it a secret since Dion and Trey had planned it as a surprise.
Once we got in the pool, the boys basically forgot they had their swimsuits on and frolicked and swam just like they usually did. Even though I'd be keeping my eye on Benny tomorrow, I was no longer worried about how he'd do, even with the other kids around.
After we finished up and went inside, Trey notified us that dinner would be ready soon. I told the boys to go upstairs, get out of their swimsuits, and put on something else. They came down a few minutes later, headed straight for the table, and eagerly sat down. I guess our time in the pool had caused them to work up an appetite.
When we finished dinner Benny, Joshie, and Wyatt went in to watch "Dolphin Tale" again, while Noah asked if he could go visit one of his friends who didn't live very far from us. After we gave him permission, Brandon and I sat down with Dion and Trey, because there was something we wanted to ask them.
"Here are the names of the three boys in Joshie's class who have been teasing Benny. We just want to know if any of them have notified you that they're coming tomorrow," I stated.
Dion got up and grabbed the list of those that had advised him they'd be attending. "Two of the three are, but I never heard from the other kid. Why? What are you planning to do?"
"I think I'm going to take them aside after they arrive and let them know that if they start pulling that crap while they're here then one of us will be driving them home immediately."
"Ok, that sounds fair," Trey chimed in.
"And if they aren't happy after the warning, then I'll ask if they'd prefer I take them home immediately," Brandon added. "I just want Benny to have a good time and get a chance to see what our birthday parties are like. I have a feeling he's never been to one before, let alone had one of his own."
"It's a shame, but I suppose your right," Dion agreed.
Once that had been settled, we went to check on the boys before we switched gears and started doing other things. Once we saw the boys were enjoying themselves, Dion and Trey turned their attention to making sure everything was ready for the party and checked to see if they had everything they would need. First, they made certain there were enough drinks and ice cream to go around, and then they looked to see if there was a sufficient quantity of disposable cups, bowls, plates, and plastic spoons. Finally, Dion asked Trey if he'd remembered to order the cake, which Trey assured him he had.
While they were doing that, Brandon and I helped get the house in shape for visitors. It wasn't too bad before we started, so there wasn't very much that had to be done. As soon we felt all of the bases had been covered, we went to the family room to spend time with the boys.
I decided to give Brandon a break tonight and offered to take Benny and Joshie upstairs for their shower when the time came. I don't think the boys cared who went with them, because they basically washed each other and we were merely there to make sure they didn't start horsing around and get hurt. While I was heading off with them, Dion indicated that he was going to give Wyatt his bath at the same time, but in the downstairs bathroom.
From what I'd heard from Brandon about their previous showers, this one was pretty much the same. The boys washed each other and both sprouted wood, and then they giggled and fondled each other briefly before finishing up. They didn't masturbate one another and merely groped each other's genitals playfully, but that was more than enough for them. It was also harmless, so I didn't plan on saying anything to anyone else about it.
After the boys put on their underwear, I tucked them in bed together, since it wasn't a school night. However, this time Benny was willing to sleep in Joshie's room so he could see what it was like. Before I left, I suggested that he needed to remember where he was in case he got up to use the toilet later, because I didn't want him to accidentally tumble down the stairs.
Once that had been taken care of, I kissed them goodnight, wished them pleasant dreams, and then headed downstairs to find Brandon. He was sipping a cup of coffee and making plans for us to visit Elliot for Family Weekend at Yale, which was in two weeks. He wanted to make sure we didn't forget anything when we headed out to ensure the trip was as uneventful as possible.
When we went to bed, I kissed him and thanked him for being so detailed oriented, because I was the kind who mostly flew by the seat of his pants. Unlike Dad, I didn't plan out every step of our trips and figured I'd just take things as they came, but Brandon more than made up for my lack of advance preparation. Then, I cuddled with him and we fell asleep.
Saturday morning Brandon and I got up and headed off to work. Dion and Trey had told us they planned to have Joshie and Benny do what they normally did most Saturday mornings so they wouldn't suspect anything. The boys carried on like they typically would and watched their shows on TV. When Brandon and I got home later, we asked the boys to go upstairs and put on something a little nicer, because we had something planned for after we ate. They hounded us and tried to find out what it was, but we wouldn't give in, so they eventually grew tired of trying and went upstairs to do as we'd asked. However, they were getting slightly more frustrated as we sat down at the table and voiced their displeasure.
"Can't you tell us what we're gonna do?" Joshie demanded.
"No, you'll find out soon enough," Dion replied. Joshie wasn't happy, and neither was Benny, but they merely glared at us while we ate.
As soon as we got up from the table, Noah pulled Brandon and me aside because he wanted to ask a question. "I don't want to be here with a bunch of little kids, so do you mind if I go visit my friend, Adam, until later."
"Is that the friend you visited before?"
"Yeah. He's on my soccer team."
"Well, it will be kind of rude for you to leave, but I understand why you don't want to be around so many younger kids," I replied. "I'm sure Joshie will be too busy to notice you're not here, so I suppose it will be alright, but when you get back I want you to wish Joshie a Happy Birthday and spend a little time with him."
"I will and thanks," he confirmed before he went to get the things he wanted to take with him and headed out the door.
At two o'clock the doorbell rang and the first of the guests arrived. When Joshie and Benny saw who it was, they wanted to know why they were here.
"That's simple, they've come to help us celebrate Joshie's birthday," Trey announced.
This caused Joshie to roll his eyes and grin, which let me know he was actually surprised that his fathers had pulled this off without him finding out. Benny, on the other hand, wasn't so easily placated. "I didn't know it was Joshie's birfday," he whispered to me.
"Actually, his birthday is tomorrow, but we're having his party today."
"Was I s'posed to get him a present? I know that's what you do for birfdays, cuz Joshie told me I'd get all kinds of presents on my birfday."
"We took care of that and bought him a present that will be from our family, which means it's from you, Noah, Elliot, Dad B, and me."
"Is it nice?"
"I think it is, but we'll see what Joshie thinks when he opens it."
Once the last of the guests arrived, there were sixteen children in all, including Joshie and Benny. Since I knew there were twenty-one kids in his class including our pair, it meant five of his classmates hadn't come. Dion said that parents of four of the children had sent their regrets because their families had made previous plans, while the other person merely hadn't responded. That turned out to be the remaining boy who'd been teasing Benny, so I decided it was time to act and located the other two. As soon as I found out where they were, I asked them to join me for a little chat.
They looked very apprehensive when I told them what I wanted, but they followed me anyway and we moved outside, away from the others. "I'm not sure if you know who I am, but I recently became Benny's dad and I understand you boys have been teasing him."
They both looked petrified after they heard this, but I didn't want to drag it out and leave them wondering if I was going to beat the crap out of them. "I understand you've somehow found out that Benny's mother made him stay in a dog kennel at times." They both nodded their heads in response.
"Look, I know you think that's funny, but how would you have liked it if your parents had done it to you?" They quickly glanced at each other but didn't reply. "It's not that Benny wanted to do it, but he had no choice. Would either of you be able to keep from doing it if your mom and dad had put you in one of those things?" They both shook their heads to indicate they'd have no choice either.
"Benny hated having to go in there, and now you're barking at him and reminding him about how badly his mother had treated him. Do you think that's nice?" They both shook their heads to let me know they didn't.
"Then please stop being mean to him. I think if you spend some time with him today you'll discover he's a nice kid who was just treated very badly at home. I hope you'll no longer do those things and you'll tell your other friends about what we've talked about. Ok?"
"Yeah, and we're sorry we did that. We only knew that he spent time in one of those things and thought it was funny. We didn't know he was made to go in it and I know he must have hated it. I would have," the first boy said, with the other nodding his head in agreement.
"He did, and I appreciate you telling me this, but I think you need to tell Benny you're sorry, not me."
"Ok, we will," they both agreed, so I felt I'd made my point and allowed them to return with the others.
When we got back we discovered the other kids had taken off their clothes and were just in their swimsuits. Joshie and Benny had hurried upstairs to change, and then we all went out to the pool. This was a coed group, with seven girls and nine boys, but they all seemed eager to get in the water. I was glad we had a large above-ground pool, because Dad had purchased the biggest one they had at the time so all of us boys would fit in it.
I stayed dressed but went out with them to act as a lifeguard. I was prepared to jump in fully clothed if the need arose, but I'd prefer to stay dry today, if at all possible. After the kids grew tired of being in the pool, which they were probably doing for the last time this year with the possible exception of using an indoor facility, we went inside for cake and ice cream. First, Trey lit the candles on the cake and we sang 'Happy Birthday' to Joshie before he made a wish and blew out the candles.
"Do they always do that?" Benny whispered to me.
"Yes. You make a wish, but you're not supposed to tell anyone what your wish is, and then you blow out the candles. If you can blow them all out in one breath then your wish will come true."
"I think mine already did," he replied as he threw his arms around my neck and gave me a hug.
As soon as the last of the kids had finished their cake and ice cream and the disposable items had been discarded, Joshie was allowed to open his presents. Although we didn't know it until one of the kids explained it to us, Mrs. Argentine had suggested they form groups to split the cost of buying a gift. That way the presents would be nicer than what they could buy on their own and it wouldn't cost them any more. I know Dion and Trey were planning to thank her for doing that later.
Since Joshie's entire class knew he really liked sports, the gifts they bought all fell along those lines. One group bought him a football, another a soccer ball, and the final group gave him a bocce set. Joshie thanked each group after he opened their present and then his fathers gave him their gift next. After Joshie opened it, he turned to his daddy and poppy and smiled broadly.
"We figured you'd like it," Dion said after seeing his son's reaction.
"And we got it for you because we were tired of listening to you whine about your old PlayStation not working," Trey added. That's because they'd given him a new PS4.
"What is it?" Benny whispered to me next. I thought every kid knew what a PS4 was, but obviously Benny hadn't been exposed to video games either.
"Joshie will show you later. It's a kind of game that he'll teach you how to play."
Now that he had his new PS4, I had Benny hand Joshie our gift, which was three games for his PS4. Brandon and I had done some research online, as well as asking around to see what games other boys his age liked to play. What we came up with was 'Child of Light', 'LEGO the Hobbit', and 'Knack'. I'm sure we'd find out soon enough what Joshie thought of them, and probably Benny too.
"Thanks for the presents, everyone," Joshie offered, although he'd already thanked each group individually after he'd opened their gift.
At this point, Trey and Dion directed the kids outside to play some games. They had a couple of things planned, so Brandon and I went out to watch. First, Dion led the kids in a hilarious game of Simon Says. I say hilarious because of some of the antics he pulled to get the kids to mess up.
At the beginning of the game he told the kids to spread out, and when they did he told everyone but the one person who stayed in his original spot that they were all out. "Hey, that's not fair," one of the kids complained.
"Well, I didn't say Simon Says to spread out, so you lose." Then he laughed maniacally before he told them they would play the game again.
Another time in the middle of a string of Simon commands Dion yelled sing, and then he started singing a song the kids all knew. About half of the group joined in and then groaned when they had to sit out. Later, during another round, Dion was in the middle of a long string of commands when he suddenly glanced up in the air. Then, he yelled "Look Out!", and fell face-down on the ground. Nearly all of the kids did the same because they thought something was coming at them, only to discover they'd once again been fooled. Even though the kids groaned and complained about some of Dion's antics, I think they all enjoyed playing.
When that game ended, Trey came out of the house carrying a carton of eggs. He had the kids choose up partners, so Joshie and Benny quickly teamed up. Once everyone was paired up, Trey had them stand in lines two yards apart and explained they were going to do an egg toss. A couple of the girls didn't want to play because they thought it would be messy, but Trey insisted they had to try it at least once. They reluctantly agreed and Trey went around handing an egg to each person in one of the lines.
On his command they tossed the egg for their partner to catch. Although there were some near drops, everyone managed to hang on to their egg, so now it was time for the person receiving it to toss it back. This time one of the kids failed to hang onto the egg and it fell to the ground. We all thought it would break open, but the egg was picked up in one piece. It appeared as if the shell had thin cracks in it, but it hadn't broken open. Trey then had the receiving line take a giant-step backward before the next toss.
This time a couple more eggs were dropped, but once again they didn't break open. After those kids inspected their eggs, we discovered why. "Hey, this egg is hard boiled," one of the girls yelled. Trey merely smiled and nodded, knowing he'd pulled one over on them.
The kids played that game a little longer, since no one was afraid of getting their clothes messed up now, and by the time the game ended the first of the parents were arriving to pick up their child.
Most of the parents got out to speak with Dion and Trey briefly as their son or daughter was getting ready to leave, and each of them thanked Joshie's fathers for the invitation. In return, Dion and Trey thanked the other parents for Joshie's presents and let them know that everyone seemed to have a good time and there were no problems. As soon as the last of the guests had departed, we went inside to clean up.
"That was fun," Benny announced. "I hope my party is like this one."
"We'll do our best to make your party just as much fun," I assured him and he smiled in response.
Dion then helped Joshie hook up his PS4, and a few minutes later I heard Joshie explaining to Benny what it was and how to play. Joshie demonstrated how it worked first, so Benny could see what he was talking about, and then he let Benny try. Since Benny was a complete novice at this, he didn't have a great deal of success, but Joshie urged him to keep trying and told him he'd get better the more he did it. Benny didn't argue and kept plodding along under his mentor's tutelage.