It’s Trey again, and when I woke up on Monday I went through my typical morning routine, at least the one I’ve been following since the others went on their trips.As I watched the others leave for work, I thought about some of the little changes that were taking place.
Since Danny was going to be working late most nights, Holly and Noah had agreed to take turns driving back and forth to the HealthCenter.Doing it this way meant that neither of them would be putting all of the wear and tear on their vehicle and this was important, since they both needed their cars to get to and from college starting in the fall.They also felt this would be the fairest way to handle the situation.
I wasn’t sure if Elliot and Ian were upstairs in Elliot’s room, so I glanced outside to see if Elliot’s car was in the driveway.Since it was, it told me that at least Elliot was here, and before long they both came stumbling down the stairs and I could hear their stomachs growling before they reached the kitchen.
“Good morning,” I said as I glanced at the clock on the microwave.“Yes, it’s still morning, so what would you two like for breakfast?”
“Something quick and filling,” grumbled Elliot.“I’m starving.”
“That’s what happens when you burn so many calories having sex,” I teased.
“Very funny, but what is there to eat?”
“Would you prefer cereal and toast, or can you wait long enough for me to fix pancakes?”
“We’ll start with the cereal, but you can fix pancakes too,” smirked Elliot.“Eating the cereal will help to quiet our stomachs temporarily, but we’ll need pancakes to get full.”
“Yeah, and thanks for doing this for us,” said Ian.“I thought we were going to have to fix our own breakfast, because we knew Grandpa Josh wasn’t here.”
“That’s what I’m here for.”
Ian immediately grabbed a box of cereal out of the pantry and Elliot got the milk out of the fridge before each one grabbed a bowl and spoon and headed into the dining room.While they were emptying the box of cereal into their bowls, I was making each of them a small stack of pancakes.I also grabbed the syrup and butter out of the fridge before I took the pancakes in to them, and then I poured each one a glass of orange juice and delivered those to them as well.
“Thanks, this is great,” mumbled Ian with his mouth half-full.
“Yeah, thanks,” said Elliot.
“You’re welcome, and I’m glad you’re enjoying it.Ian, don’t your parents get upset that you’re spending so much time here?”
“Sometimes, but it’s only because we don’t want to have sex there.When we have sex in my bedroom my parents can hear everything we’re doing and none of us is comfortable with that.Elliot and I tried having sex in the family room, which is in the basement, but we only did that a few times.One night my dad came down there because he thought he heard a burglar, and we didn’t hear him when he came down the stairs.He kind of walked in on us while we were getting it on and that was kind of awkward.”
“Yes, I imagine it must have been quite embarrassing.”
“I think my dad was more embarrassed than we were, but it helped to get him off my back about spending so much time here.”
“So, do you two have any plans for today?”
“Nothing specific.We just wanted to spend time with each other.Why?”
“Oh, I was just curious.I’m not sure where Ryan is or what he’s doing, but other than Ryan and myself you’ll have the house to yourself until Pop, Noah, Holly, and Danny get home.”
“That will seem strange, because there are usually a lot more people around here than that.”
“And there will be again, once Brandon, Dion, and the boys get back from their trip.”
“Where did they go and why didn’t you go with them?”
“They’re visiting Brandon’s parents in Texas, and I stayed behind to take care of things here.I knew Dad was going to be doing some traveling as well, so I stayed here to do the things he usually takes care of.”
“Are you talking about Grandpa Josh?”
“Yes, that’s who he is to Elliot, and I guess to you too, but to me he’s Dad.”
“It sucks that you couldn’t go with them.”
“In a way, but I’ve gone on lots of trips before, so it wasn’t a big deal, and I knew I would be more useful if I stayed here.”
“So, does it mean you were worried about everyone that was left behind?”
“To some extent, but I was mostly worried about Dobby and Flash.I wasn’t sure if anyone else would take care of them.”
“You should have let Elliot and me know, cuz we would have taken care of them.”
“But then who would have fed everyone else.Brandon, Dad, and I fix all of the meals around here, so if we were all gone then who would have prepared something for the others to eat?”
“So, you mean no one else knows how to do that?”
“Maybe they can make a few simple things, but I doubt any of them would be able to fix enough for the number of people that were staying behind.Even if they could, I’m not sure if they would have cleaned up after themselves, and we didn’t want to come home and face that kind of mess.”
“You mean they couldn’t do that either?”
“They might have been able to do it, but if they would have is a totally different question.”
“Elliot, wouldn’t you have been able to prepare meals for the handful of people that are here now and then helped to clean up afterward?”
“Yeah, but I probably would have either taken them out to eat or had something delivered instead.”
“That would work too, or you could have just let each person take care of himself?”
“I’m afraid some of them would have starved or merely survived on crackers, microwave popcorn, and other snacks?”
“Like who?Couldn’t they just have gone out to eat instead?”
“Possibly, but I’m not sure how Ryan would have made out if they’d done that.He’d be home alone most of the day and the others could get something to eat for lunch at the HealthCenter, but he’d have to walk, and some of those places are quite far away.”
“We could have made sure he had something to eat.”
“But I don’t think he would have appreciated eating the same food that you were giving to Dobby and Flash.”
Ian laughed.“No, we would have let him eat with us.”
“Yeah, we could have done that,” said Elliot.“And he could have eaten with us at night too.”
“Even when you were spending time at Ian’s house?”
“Yeah, I’m sure my mom would be happy to feed him too, if it meant I’d be spending more time at home.”
“I’ll keep that in mind for next time.”
Once they finished eating, I didn’t see them again for the rest of the day.I take it they must have either eaten their other meals out or grabbed something at Ian’s house.Either way, I was alone so I set about doing a few chores.
I finally saw Ryan for the first time shortly after noon when he came looking for me.
“What’s there to eat?”
“I’ll tell you what.Since you’re going away to college in a couple of months, this may be a good time for you to learn how to make some simple meals.”
“Why?I’m gonna be eating in the dining hall.”
“Yes, I know you may be living in a dorm and eating at the dining hall at first, but you may eventually decide to live off campus.If you do, then you’ll have to start making your own meals, because you won’t have enough money to eat out all the time.”
“Yeah, you might be right.”
“Before we do that, however, I’m curious about where have you been until now?”
“Up in my room.”
“And you didn’t come down for breakfast?”
“I did.I had breakfast with Dad D, Holly, and Noah.”
“You did?I don’t remember seeing you.”
“I just filled my plate and took it up to my room to eat while you were in the kitchen making more.I did that cuz I couldn’t stand watching Noah trying to keep Holly’s attention focused just on him.”
“I see, and we can continue talking while I show you how to fix Sloppy Joes and French fries.”
“You mean Manwiches?”
“Yes, its same thing, just a different name.”
I had him preheat the oven before getting a bag of frozen fries out of the freezer.I then had him spread enough out on a cookie sheet for both of us and place them in the oven, and then I started instructing him on how to brown the hamburger meat and drain off the grease.While he was doing that, we continued our conversation.
“I think you and Noah are both going to be disappointed.”
“Why do you say that?”
“I have a feeling Holly might be interested in a boy she met at college and she only thinks of you and Noah as her brothers, nothing more.”
“Is that why Noah was having trouble getting her attention?”
“Yes.She isn’t ignoring him, but it’s obvious that she’s limiting how much time she’s willing to give him, because she doesn’t want to lead him on.”
“So, is that why she spends so much time alone in her room?”
“I believe so.I think she finds it easier than putting up with the two of you fighting for her attention.”
“Damn, I wondered why she was doing that.”
“As I said, I have a feeling she’s met someone else that she likes more than either of you.”
“Should I tell Noah?”
“No, because I have a feeling he wouldn’t believe you anyway.He’ll figure it out in time or he’ll talk this over with one of your dads or one of the other adults in the house.”
“Ok, but I’m gonna watch to see if you’re right about this.”
“That’s fine, but just don’t say anything to Holly about it.She’ll let us know if there’s another guy in the picture when she’s ready.”
“K, but now I feel bad for Noah.”
“And a minute ago you were ready to rip his heart out.”
“I wouldn’t have done anything that bad, but I was mad at him.”
“Just keep your eyes open and you’ll see that Holly is only being polite to Noah.”
Now that the hamburger meat was cooked, I showed him how to add the sauce and season it to fit his tastes as we continued our conversation.
“She’s been doing the same thing to both of you since she’s been back, but you were too focused on her and Noah to see it.”
“Yeah, I guess I was actin’ kinda dumb about this.”
“Being in love, or even just infatuated will do that to the best of men, even if those feelings aren’t being returned.”
“Does it happen to gay guys too?”
“Of course it does.The only difference is the gender of the object of their desire.”
“I don’t feel so stupid now, but I still feel bad for Noah.”
“I’m glad your feelings for your brother have finally kicked in again.”
“Yeah, me too.”
Now that he’d finished fixing the sloppy joes, I had him take the French fries out of the oven.I then had him fix us both a plate, and then I sat down with him as we ate.We continued to chat about the situation with Holly and gradually he began to learn a little more about love and life.When we finished our meal, he told me he was going down to spend some time with his friend, Owen.He was staying with his grandparents for part of the summer, so I told Ryan I’d see him again at dinner.
I kept busy throughout the rest of afternoon, and when the others arrived home we sat down to eat.“How was your day?” I asked once everyone was seated.
“It was fine,” said Holly.
“Yeah, it was ok,” said Noah.
“I had a good day,” said Ryan.
He was smiling and seemed to be in a better mood after our little chat, although I still saw him watching Noah and Holly.This time it wasn’t because he was jealous - he was merely watching to see if Noah would eventually figure out what I’d explained to him earlier.
“I heard from Josh and he’s having a good time with Sammy, Andrew, and Graham,” said Pop.
“I’m glad to hear that.Did he say what they were doing?”
“They were just showing him around the area, and they also took him to see where they worked.”
“Sounds kinda boring,” said Ryan.
“I’m sure Dad is just enjoying spending time with them,” I offered.
Elliot and Ian must have either decided to dine with Ian’s parents or they ate out, because they didn’t show up to eat with us.It meant there was plenty of leftovers and more than enough to heat up for Danny when he got home later.
It was shortly after I finished cleaning up the kitchen when my phone rang.It was still earlier than I expected, but I had a good idea who was calling.
“Hi, Poppy,” said Wyatt as soon as I said hello.“We had a lot of fun today with Grandma Brenda and Grandpa Pat.”
“That’s good.What did you do?”
“We went to a place where we saw a bunch of rockets and learned about astronauts.”
“My parents took us to Space Center Houston,” said Brandon.
“And now we’re gonna go watch a baseball game.”
“Yes, my parents are taking us to a Houston Astros’ game,” explained Brandon.
“Is Dad D there?” asked Benny.
“No, he’s not home yet.Would you like me to pass along a message?”
“Just tell him we love him and miss him, and that we’ll call later next time so we can talk to him too.”
“Ok, then call about 8:00 and that way he might be home.”
“Eight your time or ours?” asked Brandon.
“Texas time, because that way it will be 9:00 here.”
“Ok, we’ll do that.”
“Do you want us to call you again when the baseball game is over?” asked Wyatt.
“No, it will be too late here when the game ends, so you can tell us about it tomorrow.”
“K, I love you.”
“And I love you too, Poppy,” said Joshie in the background.
“I love both of you as well.”
“Bye Uncle Danny,” said the others.
“And I love you boys too.”
Once the call ended, I went to the living room and sat down to relax.I was just getting comfortable when I heard a car pull in the driveway, but I wasn’t sure if it was Elliot or Danny.It didn’t take long before that question was answered, because when the door opened a very haggard looking Danny walked inside.
“Rough day?” I asked.
“Just a very long one.”
“Have you eaten?”
“No, I had too much to do so I didn’t go out and grab anything.”
“I can heat up what we had for dinner.”
“That would be nice, if you wouldn’t mind doing that for me.”
“Not at all, and while you’re eating I’ll tell you about my daily phone call with our sons.”
I heated up the food quickly, and then I sat down at the table with Danny and regaled him with the highlights of the phone call I’d received earlier.I also passed along Benny’s message, including the way it had been delivered, because I could tell Benny meant every word of it.This must have touched Danny deeply, because he momentarily stopped eating as he thought about how he was going to ensure that he would get home earlier the following evening.
When Danny finished eating, he went upstairs to shower and turn in, so I quickly went through my nightly ritual before the puppies and I turned in as well.
The next day started off about the same as the one before, but this time when Ryan came down for breakfast, I taught him how to make scrambled eggs and fry sausages and bacon for himself.Once he finished eating, he left so he could spend the day with Owen.
He must have had lunch with him as well, because I didn’t see him again until he showed up to have dinner with us.It made me wonder if he did that so he didn’t have to fix it himself, so maybe I’ll ask him later.
During dinner he spent his time watching Noah and Holly again as he shoveled the food into his mouth, and even though he felt sorry for Noah, I believe he found satisfaction in the fact that Holly still wasn’t showing any romantic interest in Noah.He and his brother were no longer fighting over her, but the situation hadn’t improved for Noah and Noah hadn’t beaten Ryan out for Holly’s affection.
Uncharacteristically, Ryan even offered to help me clear off the table and do the dishes when we finished eating.I thought this was a little strange, at least until he started talking once we were alone.
“You were right and I can see that now, but don’t you think I should tell Noah?”
“Not yet.Let’s give him a little more time to figure it out for himself.”
“I have a question for you, though.Did you eat lunch at Owen’s grandparents' house so you wouldn’t have to fix it yourself?”
“Nah, it was just that his grandma asked if I would stay and have lunch with them, so I did.”
“Ok, I was just curious.”
After our discussion ended, Ryan went up to his room and I went to the family room to unwind while watching TV.Some cop show was on so I watched that, and just before it ended a car pulled in the driveway.I waited to see who came through the door and was a little surprised when I discovered it was Danny.
“And it isn’t even 8:00 yet,” I joked when I saw him.
“I didn’t want to miss the phone call.”
“They aren’t going to call for another hour.”
“Then I’ll have time to eat first.Are there any leftovers I can heat up?”
“Why don’t you go wash up and I’ll heat it up for you.”
“Thank you.You’re a saint and now I know why Dion loves you so much.”
“Oh, doing things like this isn’t the only reason.There are a few other things he loves more.”
“Yes, I’m sure there are.”
I got everything ready, and when he returned I sat at the table with him while he ate.He told me a little about his day and why he was working such long hours, and it turned out he was trying to get as much done as possible before Brandon and the boys returned home.That way he’d have time to spend with them when they got back. We continued talking until my phone rang.
“Hi, Poppy.Is Uncle Danny there?”
“Yes, he’s here with me.”
“Hi, Dad,” several voices shouted in the background.“We love you and miss you,” Benny said next.
“I love and miss all of you too.”
“So, what did Grandma Brenda and Grandpa Pat do with you guys today?” I asked.
“They took us to ride horses,” said Wyatt.
“Big horses,” said Hayden and Hunter at the same time.
“My parents took us to a riding stable this morning,” said Brandon.
“And after lunch they took us to a museum that had a bunch of old planes and some space capsules,” said Joshie.
“Yeah, they had an Apollo module like those that went to the moon,” said Tristan.
“And they had a moon rock there too,” said Revin.
“If you haven’t been able to figure it out, they took us to The Frontiers of Flight Museum,” said Dion.
“And tomorrow we’re goin’ to a ‘musement park,” said Wyatt.
“My parents are taking us to Six Flags Over Texas and we’ll spend the entire day there.”
“Then I hope you all have fun,” said Danny.
“We will!” shouted the boys in unison.
“I’m surprised you haven’t mentioned the baseball game you went to yesterday,” I added.
“Oh, yeah, I forgot,” said Wyatt.“It was fun and we ate popcorn, hot dogs, and drank soda.”
“Did you watch the game or just eat?” asked Danny.
“We watched the game too and the Astros won,” said Benny.
“As long as you enjoyed it.”
Brandon then took the phone off speaker so he and Danny could speak privately, and then he handed the phone to Dion so we could do the same. After we’d all had a chance to catch up, we said goodbye and they promised to call back the following evening.
“I’ll try to be home again,” said Danny after I’d put my phone back on speaker.
“Ok, then we’ll try to call about the same time,” said Brandon.
“I love you, babe,” said Danny.
“Tell Dion I love him too and make sure the boys get plenty of sleep, because it sounds as if you’re going to have a full day tomorrow.”
“Yes, we are, so I’ll say goodnight.”
“Thanks for waiting to call until I got home,” said Danny.“I’m glad I got to speak with you and the boys.”
“Benny wanted to make sure you were home before we called, and I was happy to do that, because I wanted to talk to you too.”
“That’s good, because I’ve missed you.”
Once the call ended, Danny went upstairs to shower and turn in, but I had a few things left to do before I did the same.When I finished up, Dobby and Flash followed me up to my bedroom and we turned in as well.I was lonely in that big bed all by myself, so I was tempted to let the puppies sleep with me, but I didn’t want them to get in the habit of sleeping on the beds.They had their own beds and seemed satisfied with them, so I just contented myself with listening to their breathing as I fell asleep.