Fortunately, Noah's injury wasn't serious and he merely had a slight sprain, along with a bad bruise on his calf. I showed him how to tape up his ankle for practices and Saturday's match, so he was satisfied. We also iced both areas and had him keep his leg elevated to reduce the swelling.
Time flew by at work the next day. When I got home, I checked Noah's ankle to make sure he hadn't done any further damage to his leg. He said I was being overprotective, and maybe I was, but I just wanted to be sure he was ok. He seemed to be a little better today and wanted to talk more about the Haunted House, so I humored him.
"After this weekend there will only be four more weekends that you'll have to get things ready, and I'm a little concerned since you and Elliot barely got it set up in time last year," I reminded him. "I suggest that if you really want to do this that you get together with your friends and talk about the different things we've done in the past and figure out which of those they liked the most. Then you should focus on those items, because there won't be enough time to create any new attractions for this year. There's just so much going on that you won't have a lot of time to get everything ready. Once you've decided on what you want to do, I suggest you go down to the basement and set aside all of the props that we've used in the past that you want to use again this year."
"If we have so much of that stuff already, then what's going to take so long?"
"First of all, you'll probably have to touch up or repair many of those items, but it will also take time to set everything up. This isn't going to happen all by itself and Grandpa Josh isn't here to help this year. That will leave more for you to do, since he used to do a lot of the work to get things ready. You'll probably only get a little done each weekend, since you'll only have Saturday afternoons and Sunday to work on this because of soccer."
"Oh, yeah. We'll probably have practices or games on each of those Saturdays."
"Yes, and that's why you and the others are going to have to work not only quickly, but really hard and smart too."
"We'll help to supervise and do what we can, seeing we've done this a few times in the past," Brandon added, showing he was willing to support Noah too.
"Do you think Grandpa Jake will help us too?"
"I don't know, so you'll have to ask him," I replied. "He's been keeping to himself since he's been back and only having dinner with us. The rest of the time he's been staying cooped up in his bedroom and logged on to Skype so he can chat with Grandpa Josh and Shannon."
"I'll see if he wants to help too, because he did some of it with Elliot and me last year. I'll also tell the others what you've said and maybe we can get together to talk over some of this stuff after our match on Saturday."
"That would be a good idea and then I'll check in with you when we get back Sunday night." Noah seemed pleased that we'd agreed on this much and walked away, but he had a lot of work ahead if he was serious about having the Haunted House again.
"Do you think he'll be able to pull it off?" Brandon asked after Noah was out of earshot.
"He definitely seems determined and really wants to do this for Benny, so I think he'll find a way to make it happen. It sounds as if a group of his soccer teammates want to help, but we should do as much as we can as well, to make sure he reaches his goal in time. There are going to be a few things he might not be able to handle on his own, so he'll need some assistance." Brandon nodded in agreement, so I guess we were formally committed.
Later on Wednesday Elliot called back and wanted to know how many tickets he should buy for the play and concert. "Pick up five tickets for each. That's one for you and four for the rest of us."
"Why? Who else is coming?"
"You'll see when we get there."
"Damn, you always do that to me. Who else is coming, since I don't think Uncle Dion and Uncle Trey will want to leave Joshie and Wyatt behind? I don't think you'd leave Noah alone at the house either, so who else will be with you?"
"As I said, you'll find out."
"Ugh. I hate it when you do this to me."
"We'll see you Saturday and we both love you."
Thursday went by quickly too, and then Brandon and I spent the evening talking to Dion and Trey. We chatted about several topics, including that Noah might want to celebrate with his team if they won on Saturday, so they could give him some of the money I was leaving behind to do that. I also informed them that Noah and his friends wanted to run the Haunted House this year and they might decide to get started on it this weekend. I told Dion and Trey that I tried to steer them away from doing it while we were gone and asked them to wait until Brandon and I were home, but we all knew how impulsive teenagers could be so they might not listen. Dion and Trey said it would be fine if that happened and they'd handle things no matter what came up. They claimed it would also be good experience for when their sons got older.
Friday morning Brandon and I got up about a half-hour earlier than normal so we'd have time to place each of the necessary items into our shaving kits after we used them to get ready for work. Then, we put the kits in our suitcase before taking them downstairs and placing them in the trunk of Brandon's car. Now, all we'd have to do was to pick up the boys and then we'd be able to leave.
As soon as we were first apprised of the date of the Yale Family weekend, Brandon and I asked our staffs to block off the final few appointments for today and all of the appointments for the following day. Not only would this allow us to leave earlier than usual that afternoon so we could pick up the boys as soon as they arrived home from school, but it meant our weekend was free so we could enjoy ourselves. Seeing we'd be leaving before dinner, we'd stop to eat along the way, but even taking time to do that, we should still reach the motel at a reasonable hour.
As soon as I was done with my last patient, the nurse told me to have a good time and drive safely. I thanked her, said goodbye to my entire staff, and then went over to meet up with Brandon. He was ready to leave too, so we headed down to get Wyatt from daycare before going home. Benny and Joshie were waiting out in front when we arrived, so we told them to hop in the backseat while we took Wyatt inside. Dion and Trey followed us when we headed outside again so they could kiss Joshie goodbye and tell him to behave. Observing that he was already buckled in, I think they realized how eager he was about going with us.
"Ok, we're off," I announced after Brandon and I were also buckled in. Then we all waved at Dion, Trey, and Wyatt as we started our journey.
"How long will it be before we get there?" Benny asked almost as soon as we'd started out.
"It would probably be best if you didn't think about that," I suggested.
"And it won't be until after we stop to eat, so try to put it out of your mind until then," Brandon added.
"Will we see Elliot tonight?" Joshie followed. I knew he really liked Elliot and had done a great deal to help Elliot adjust when he first came to live with us. Elliot wasn't communicative at the time and Joshie was able to help Elliot feel comfortable, but they were also together when Elliot first broke his silence. On top of everything else, Joshie enjoyed it when Elliot played the piano for him, especially the 'Peanuts Theme Song'.
"No, we won't be seeing him until tomorrow," I answered and I heard Joshie sigh in response.
Brandon distracted the boys from thinking about the trip by finding a station on the radio that was playing music they wanted to listen to, but he also played games with them. However, they soon started asking, "Are we almost there yet?" every fifteen minutes. They kept this up until I found a fairly nice looking diner where we stopped to eat.
We allowed the boys to select whatever they wanted from the menu, because we felt it would make them more agreeable on the second leg of the trip. We also let them have dessert, so they were both stuffed and in a good mood as we got back into the car.
Brandon took over driving at this point, since we'd agreed to split the duty, so it was my turn to entertain the boys. Luckily, I didn't have to do it for very long, because their full bellies and the hum of the tires on the road soon lulled them into oblivion. I didn't want them to sleep for very long, though, because I didn't want them staying up all night. They were still a little groggy after waking up, but it didn't stop them from asking "Are we there yet?" or "How much longer before we see Elliot?" Luckily, it was only another hour before we pulled into the motel where Brandon had made reservations for us.
It wasn't a fancy place, but it was more than sufficient for the short time we'd be staying there. As soon as we carried our suitcases to the room, the boys asked if they could watch TV for awhile, so we agreed they could. After they'd watched a couple of shows, we had them take their shower and crawl into bed, before Brandon and I did the same.
Saturday morning we all got up, dressed, and found a place to eat breakfast. Although I knew Yale was offering a continental breakfast, the boys were hungry and didn't want to wait, and Brandon and I didn't want to listen to them whine until we fed them. Therefore, I figured we'd do this now, since it would help them stay in a fairly good mood until we met up with Elliot.
After we finished our meal, we hit the road again and drove the last leg to the campus. We had to park in a lot on the outskirts of the campus and take a shuttle the rest of the way. I called Elliot after I'd parked the car to let him know we were about to board the shuttle and asked if he'd meet us when we arrived. He said he would and was smiling broadly as we stepped off the shuttle.
"I'm glad to see you two again. I've really missed you," he announced as he gave Brandon and me a hug. "Oh, and you brought Joshie too," he added, as Joshie ran up to hug Elliot around the waist.
"And a little surprise," I added. "Elliot, this is your new brother, Benny, and Benny this is your big brother, Elliot."
"So this is the surprise," Elliot stated gleefully. "Nice to meet you, Benny, and I'm glad you're part of the family." He then gave Benny a hug too. "How long has he been with you?" he asked as he looked at Brandon and me.
"About three weeks, but we'll fill you in about that later," I replied. "So how do you like being in college?"
"It's been kinda rough and I spend a lot of time studying, but I like it here. It's a really nice campus and I've met some terrific people. I also like my professors, even though the work is really hard."
"I'm glad to hear that," Brandon chipped in.
"Which part? That I like my professors and have met some nice people, or that the work is really hard?" Elliot teased.
"All of the above," Brandon responded.
"I know you had me get tickets for the play, but I'm not sure if Joshie and Benny are going to like it. They're putting on 'The Crucible', and that's some pretty heavy stuff."
"I know, but we'll explain it to them before we go there and then we'll answer their questions afterward, so I think they'll be fine."
"I hope so." He didn't sound so sure, but I knew we'd survive somehow. "Let me show you around the campus then."
Elliot had been correct when he told us the campus was spectacular. There were a wide variety of architectural styles, from stone structures that resembled medieval mansions and cathedrals, to neo-classical buildings with pillars and domes. There were also Federalist style structures, but there was a nice mixture of modern architecture as well.
As we studied the stone buildings, we noticed they contained some exquisite carvings, intriguing sculptures, and menacing gargoyles. They also featured impressive arches, elaborate gates, and beautiful stained glass windows. After we'd had a chance to enjoy the different architectural features, Elliot took us to see the statue of Nathan Hale. We took time to explain to Joshie and Benny about who he was and why there was a statue dedicated to him, although I wasn't sure they even cared.
As we were walking through another of the buildings, Joshie spotted a piano and immediately began teasing Elliot. "Play the 'Peanuts Theme Song' for me."
"Not now, Joshie. The next time I come home I'll play it as many times as you want."
"But I want Benny to hear it now, cuz I know he'll like it too."
"I don't know if I'm allowed to use the piano and I don't want to get in any trouble."
"Please. It won't hurt nothin'."
Joshie kept this up for awhile and Elliot finally gave in. "Ok, but just once."
Happily, both boys followed Elliot over to the piano and he sat down and began playing. Before long, a small crowd had formed around them and when he finished they all clapped, which caused Elliot to blush. "Are you happy now?" Elliot said as he walked away from the piano quickly, with the rest of us trailing behind.
"Thank you, Elliot," Joshie said when he caught up to him.
"Yeah, that was really good and I liked it too," Benny added, which brought a smile to Elliot's face.
"In that case, I'm glad I did it and that you liked it, even if it was kind of embarrassing."
Just before noon, Elliot led us over to where they'd be serving lunch, so we took the boys in and helped them fill up their plates since the meal was served buffet style. Then, we found a table where we could sit at together and began chowing down. While we were eating, I let Joshie and Benny know what to expect when we saw the play, since we'd be going there next.
"The play we'll be attending is about something that happened a short time after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, but well before Massachusetts became a state and part of the United States," I began.
"That was a really long time ago," Benny observed as he looked at me thoughtfully.
"Yes, it was, and this play is about the Salem Witch Trials."
"You mean they took witches to court?" Joshie followed.
"Yes, because the other people thought witches were doing the work of the devil, so they arrested those suspected of being a witch and put them on trial. These trials were seldom fair or even justified, so it was a very dark time in our history."
"So we'll see witches?" Benny asked next, looking excited.
"You'll be seeing actors who will be playing the part of people accused of being witches," Brandon clarified.
"The thing is, you can't talk during the play and you'll have to remain very quiet. After the play is over, we'll explain what you don't understand, then when we get home we'll do something special for you," I added as a bribe.
"Ok, we can do that," Benny agreed.
When it came time to go the theater, we went in and found seats. As the other parents and students sat down around us, it became obvious that Joshie and Benny would have trouble seeing over the people in front of them, so Brandon and I told the boys they could sit on our laps. When Elliot heard that, he made another suggestion.
"Let Benny sit on my lap so I can get to know him better."
We didn't have a problem with this, so we put Elliot between Brandon and me, let Benny sit on his lap, and then Joshie sat on Brandon's lap. He had a tough time deciding whose lap he was going to sit on, seeing he didn't want to hurt either of our feelings, but since Benny was kind of facing toward Brandon it helped to make up Joshie's mind.
The boys were actually very good during the play as they leaned back against Brandon and Elliot's chests and seemed to be watching what was going on. I was both pleased and proud of the way they were behaving, because I'd been worried they were going to get bored and then start acting up. When the play ended, we stayed in our seats and let the other people leave first, and that's when the boys began making comments and asking questions.
"They weren't like the witches in Harry Potter, were they?" Joshie asked.
"No, cuz if they were, they could have used magic and hurt the other people," Benny answered.
"As I said before, the people in Salem merely believed these people were witches and followed the devil. Even if they had been witches, the most they might have been able to do would have been to make some potions or cast simple spells, like curses."
"Then why was everyone so scared of them?" Benny wanted to know.
"Because they thought they were in league with the devil. They believed that if they didn't do something about the witches then it would curse them all and they'd end up in hell."
It was a deep concept, but they seemed to accept it at face value, although they still thought these witches weren't very scary.
As soon as we left the theater, Elliot took us over to the dorm and showed us his room. "It isn't very big and it's kind of crowded," Joshie pointed out.
"Well, I don't spend much time here, just to sleep and maybe to study sometimes," Elliot explained, and that seemed to suffice.
Elliot also introduced us to some of the people from his dorm and they all seemed pretty friendly. We were afraid they might say something after Elliot introduced us as his dads, but each one took it in stride. It made us feel more comfortable being around them from that point on.
Dinner was another buffet style meal, so once again we helped the boys, except this time Elliot took charge of helping Benny. It was obvious he wanted to make a good impression and get off on the right foot with his new brother, which seemed to be working out just fine.
After we finished eating, we walked around for a while, because it was a lovely evening and we had some time to kill before the concert began. Finally, Elliot led us over to where the concert was being held and we settled in and waited for it to start. Each group that performed was very talented and put on a good show, but what was even more important was that the boys seemed to enjoy it too. We heard some classical music, mixed in with a few other pieces, but Joshie was fairly used to these types of things. He'd gone with us a few times to see Dion when he sang opera or performed with a symphony orchestra, so he didn't flinch when the music started. Joshie even told Benny about watching his father perform some of this music too, which seemed to make it acceptable to Benny as well.
When the concert ended, we told Elliot we were going to head back to our motel. "How about I go with you?"
"I suppose it would be alright, if you don't mind sleeping with the younger pair," I agreed.
"I just want to spend some more time with Benny before you guys leave."
"Ok, that's fine with us," Brandon confirmed.
We walked back to Elliot's dorm so he could grab a few things to bring with him, and then he rode back with us on the shuttle and switched to the car. After we reached the motel, Elliot followed us to the room and Brandon told the younger pair they had to get ready to take their shower. As they were stripping down, Elliot asked a question.
"Can I wash them?"
"Actually, they wash each other, but one of us usually sits in to make sure they don't horse around and then fall and get hurt," Brandon answered. "That means they'll have to be extra careful here, since there are no bath mats."
"Let Elliot do that!" Joshie shouted.
"Yeah, I don't care if he sees me with nothin' on, cuz he's my brother so it doesn't matter," Benny added, which made Elliot grin.
"I can even take my shower at the same time and wash both of you, if you want," he offered.
"Yeah, let's do that," Benny agreed.
"Ok, but you'll all need to be very careful then. I don't want anyone to get hurt and ruin our visit," I agreed.
"We will," they concurred in unison.
Brandon and I just sat back and stayed out of the way as the boys got to know each other better. I was a little surprised that Elliot had offered to do this, seeing he'd always been a lot more modest than anyone else in the past. I guess he was willing to make an exception in this case, so he could get to know Benny better.
When the boys came out of the bathroom, we were expecting that Benny would be anxious to tell us about seeing Elliot naked too, but he never brought it up. I guess he must be getting used to seeing naked people, so it was no longer a big deal. They just slipped on clean underwear and got into bed, with one cuddled up against Elliot on either side. Once they were all comfortable, Brandon and I crawled under the sheets on the other bed and cuddled with each other.
The next morning we got up, dressed, and prepared to take Elliot back to the campus. We'd all agreed to take advantage of the continental breakfast this morning so we could spend a little more time together. After we finished eating, the four of us said goodbye to Elliot and got ready to head home.
"I'm glad you're my brother," Benny said as he hugged Elliot.
"And I'm glad you're my bother, too. I'll be coming home for Christmas and we can spend some more time together then, so be good and mind our dads."
"I will," Benny promised.
"Bye, Elliot, and thank you for playing the 'Peanuts Theme Song' for me again," Joshie chimed in.
"You're welcome, but I don't know why you like that song so much."
"Cuz it's our special song. It was the first one you played for me when you came to live with us and it always makes me feel good."
"I forgot it was the first song I ever played for you, so now it's special for me too."
The boys weren't quite as jumpy or anxious on the ride back, at least not until we stopped to have lunch and stretch a bit. When we got back in the car afterward, they were suddenly eager to get home.
"Are we almost there?" they asked about every fifteen minutes, and Brandon or I would respond, "Not quite yet." When we finally were able to tell them, "Soon," they started wiggling in their seats, showing they were in a hurry to get out of the car.
When we pulled into the driveway at home, both boys began to cheer. "That was a long trip and I'm glad it's over," Benny stated as he unhooked his seatbelt.
"Yes, it was a long trip and we won't be making it again until next year."
As soon as they got in the house, Joshie began telling his fathers about the trip. "We stayed at a motel, saw lots of neat buildings, and Elliot played the 'Peanuts Theme Song' for me and Benny."
"So that's all you did?" Trey asked as an evil grin crept across his lips.
"No, I gots to meet my brother and we saw a play about witches, but they weren't like Harry Potter or Voldemort," Benny quickly added. "And we got to listen to music too."
"So did you have a good time?" Dion pressed.
"Yeah, it was fun," Joshie answered.
"'Cept for the long time we were in the car," Benny followed. "That place is a long way from here."
"Yes, it is," I agreed, "but you wouldn't have met Elliot if we hadn't driven there."
"I guess it was ok then, cuz I liked meeting my brother," Benny added shyly.
"How was Noah? Were there any problems?" Brandon followed, as he eyed Trey and Dion.
"No, everything went fine and he was no trouble at all," Dion answered. "He's visiting one of his friends right now and they're talking about the thing you mentioned to us before you left."
"What thing?" Joshie asked, picking up on his father's answer.
"The thing that little boys don't need to know about," Dion told him, which caused Joshie to scowl.
"When will I be old enough for that stuff?"
"Not for a few more years," Trey responded. "I'm supposed to pick Noah up in about a half hour."
"Do you want us to do that instead?"
"I know where the house is, since I dropped him off earlier, so I'll do it. You can ride along with me, if you want."
"I will," Brandon agreed. "That way I'll know which friend and where he lives." Yep, Brandon was a stickler for details.
When Noah returned, he pulled Brandon and me aside once the other boys were off doing something else. "My friends and I have agreed on what we want to do, so later I'll show you the list we made. You might want to help me get some of those things out of the basement, because I didn't get a chance to do it yet. Oh, and we won our match Saturday, so a bunch of us went to have pizza together and then we hung out for awhile too."
"Congratulations, and I'm glad you had a good time," I stated. "We can help with the other stuff if you want, but not until next weekend."
"Thanks, but how are we going to keep it a secret from Benny and Joshie?"
"I guess either Brandon or I can take them to do something else while you're working on it, or maybe Dion and Trey will help us keep them distracted."
"Ok, because I don't want Benny to see it until we're ready to take him through it later."
"Then I guess you won't be able to set up the items outside until the last minute," I pointed out.
"Oh, and Grandpa Jake has agreed to help us string the wire for the ghosts, because we didn't think you'd want us climbing up the ladders or going onto the roof above the family room."
"You're right about that," Brandon agreed. "If Grandpa Jake hadn't offered to do it, then one of us would have."
"We won't be able to attach the ghosts to the wires or put up the other outside decorations until the last weekend," I added. "Then, once everything is ready you can take Benny and Joshie through it to see how they react."