Since we didn’t learn anything new about the Tamara situation on Friday, we now turned our attention to Joshie’s birthday party.It would only include the family because he chose not to have one with his friends.He was turning 15 this year and would be one of the youngest in the freshman class, since many were already 15, like Benny.He, on the other hand, would turn 16 in April, but this was due to the way he was treated by his mom and caused him to miss so much school before he came to live with Danny and Brandon.
Benny had missed many days of school back then, and it was mainly due to the fact that his mother kept him in a dog kennel at home and often forgot to let him out to go to class.He was already a year behind the other kids his age when he came to live at the ‘Hotel’, but we convinced him it wasn’t his fault and not a big deal.It also helped that he and Joshie had become close and were going to be in the same grade, so being in a class with younger kids never bothered him.
Now we were preparing to celebrate Joshie’s special day with a cookout with some of our family.We weren’t in the habit of inviting all of the other relatives to celebrate the boys’ birthdays, even the ones living nearby, because it would get expensive buying each of them a present.Most of them couldn’t afford doing that, but Aunt Sally, Aunt Mary, and Uncle Steve insisted that we invite them so they could be at the family party for each of the boys.Since they were financially secure and this wouldn’t affect them adversely, we did as they wished.
The only others we invited were Becky and Revin, but we told Becky not to worry about getting Joshie a gift because he’d be getting plenty from the rest of us.Becky wasn’t comfortable with this, but Revin wanted to join us, so she finally relented.
To our surprise, Richard showed up as well.We discovered that he had asked Aunt Sally to notify him whenever we were doing anything like this, because he wanted to attend.He said he felt he should be here with us, since he had played at least a small part in helping us get many of the boys, even when Aunt Sally ran the department. Seeing it was his choice, we didn’t object.
Joshie hadn’t given Dion or me any ideas about what he wanted to do for his party, since he was still upset we wouldn’t let him have a party with his friends without us being there.Since he wasn’t helpful, we did what we thought best and came up with a theme we thought he’d enjoy.We told the others the party would start at two, and we would have pizza and hamburgers first, along with homemade macaroni and cheese, creamy coleslaw, and a three-bean salad.We figured that would give everyone a chance to find something they’d enjoy.
Dad and Brandon made most of the food, and then Pop fired up the grill for the hamburgers.Danny offered to pick up Joshie’s birthday cake and the pizzas for us, so everything was set, along with a special surprise for later.
As soon as everyone had arrived, Brandon, Danny, Dion, and I helped Dad carry the food and other items out to the picnic tables, while Pop was busy at the grill.We had everyone grab a plate and start taking what they wanted, and then we sat down to eat.
“Did you bring TJ home yet?” asked Aunt Mary.
“Yes, but he’s asleep in the family room at the moment.You can all go in to meet him once we’re done here, because he should be awake by then.”
“You mean you’re leaving him alone in the house?” gasped Becky.
“We check on him every time we go inside and we have one of the wireless baby monitors with us out here,” I said as I held it up for her to see.
The boys were busy gobbling up the pizza, which we expected, while the rest of us opted for the hamburgers instead, and we also enjoyed the salads.The boys stuck primarily with the macaroni and cheese to go with their pizza, but they left enough so the rest of us were able to enjoy some of it as well.When we finished eating, we lit the candles on Joshie’s birthday cake, the big ‘1’ and ‘5’, and let him make a wish before blowing them out.Once he’d done that, we cut the cake and passed it out, and as we were eating it, Joshie opened his presents.He would show what he got to each of us, and then he would thank the person or persons who gave it to him, and he made quite a haul.
As soon as that was out of the way, we made an announcement.“Since Joshie wouldn’t tell us what type of party he wanted, we had to decide for him, and we chose to make it a scary party.”
We heard the boys react to this, mostly gleefully and in anticipation, so I continued.“We’ve got two movies for you to watch, and the first is Scary Movies to Tell in the Dark, and the other is SlenderMan.It’s not all we’ve got planned either, because after it gets dark we’re going to light a bonfire and Grandpa Josh is going to tell you some of the spooky campfire stories he told us when we were younger.”
“But it isn’t dark yet,” said Joshie, “so watching the movies won’t be very scary.”
“We thought you’d feel that way, so we’ve taken it into consideration.We’ve closed the blinds on the windows in the family room, along with pulling the heavy drapes shut, and we’re going to close the door to the family room as well.I’m sure that will leave the room dark enough for you.”
“Neat!” we heard Benny exclaim.
“What about TJ?” Wyatt asked.“Won’t he be in there?”
“No!We’ve moved the rocking chair and his bassinet into the living room so everyone else can go in there to meet him.”
“Ok, then this doesn’t sound too lame or childish,” stated Joshie.
“I’m glad you agree,” responded Dion.“It’s the best we could come up with, since you weren’t very helpful.”
Danny and Brandon had agreed to go in the family room with them to make sure the younger boys didn’t get too scared, so Dion and I took the others inside to meet TJ.As soon as we got there, I picked him up so everyone could get a good look.
“He’s adorable,” gushed Becky.
“He certainly is,” said Aunt Sally.“I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I was afraid he might have some obvious physical problems when Richard told me about his situation, but he looks perfect.”
“He did have a few problems,” agreed Richard, “but it appears those have been taken care of.He’s still smaller than most babies, but it’s the only noticeable condition that remains.”
“May I hold him?” asked Aunt Mary.
“Of course, you may,” replied Dion.“And if you’d like, you can sit in the rocking chair with him.”
“Yes, that sounds perfect.”
“I can’t wait until you’re ready to adopt him, along with Danny and Brandon adopting Xander,” said Uncle Steve.“The adoption ceremonies are the favorite part of my job.”
After Aunt Mary held TJ for a while, Aunt Sally, and Becky wanted to hold him as well, and while they were taking their turns, the rest of us chatted about a number of different things.We did that until the first movie ended in the other room, and when the boys came out, we called Joshie in to say goodbye to the others, since they were getting ready to leave.
“Thanks for the presents again and for comin’ to my party,” he said.
“You know we wouldn’t miss being here,” Aunt Mary told him. “We love helping each of you boys celebrate your special day.”
“And we’re happy to be part of this wonderful family,” added Uncle Steve.“We were here to watch your fathers and uncles grow up, and we enjoyed every minute of it.We’re looking forward to also doing that with each of you boys as well.”
As soon as they left, the boys went back in the family room to watch the next movie, and once it started, I turned to Becky and spoke.
“Why don’t you let Revin spend the night, since the bonfire and Dad’s ghost stories won’t end until late?”
“Damn, after the movies and the ghost stories these kids won’t be able to sleep tonight,” she commented with a titter.
“We’ve already planned for that and don’t think it will be a problem.”
“What about church?Revin doesn’t have anything here to wear.”
“We’ll have him shower tonight, and then he can either wear some of Tristan’s clothes in the morning, or you can have his clothes ready when we pick you up and we’ll wait while he changes quickly.We can do it either way.It’s your choice.”
“Ok, I suppose that will work, so I’ll just have his clothes ready when you show up.Thank you for inviting us and I’ll see you in the morning.”
As soon as Becky went home, Dad and Pop went outside and began preparing an area for the bonfire.They cleared the ground first, and then they ringed it with large rocks and cinderblocks.Once that was taken care of, they gathered enough wood to have a suitable blaze.When they finished, they headed back to the grill and started working on dinner. They were going to grill the chicken breasts that had been marinating in BBQ sauce, and we were going to have corn on the cob with it, along with a green salad.
When the second movie ended, we called the boys out to the dining room to eat.There was half a chicken breast for each of them, while the rest of us got a whole breast, and then Tristan had to show Revin how to prepare and hold the corn cob.
“This is good, and I like it better than just eatin’ corn in a bowl,” stated Revin.“Mom has never let me have it this way before.”
“Then maybe you should talk to her about it.She might enjoy eating it this way as well, but you can only get fresh corn in the fall.”
As soon as we finished eating, Dad led the boys outside and lit the fire, because it was starting to get dark.As soon as it was going, Pop went in the house and brought out a bag of marshmallows, several Hershey candy bars, and a box of Graham crackers so they could make S’mores.While the boys were eating those items, Dad began telling them a couple of the same ghost stories he had told us when we were younger.
Danny, Brandon, Dion, and I didn’t stay outside for that and went back inside.We felt Dad and Pop could handle the boys, and as soon as Dad had told them a couple of stories, the boys also started coming inside.As they entered, we heard their comments about the ghost stories.
“Those were scary,” Revin said as he passed by.
“Really scary,” the twins confirmed.
“And when Grandpa Josh screamed during one of them,” Tristan told us, “it caused Dobby and Flash to jump up on us and start barking.”
“Yeah, that scared the crap out of me,” confirmed Revin.
“Yeah, that was pretty awesome,” stated Joshie before he laughed.
“The movies were scary too,” said Wyatt.
“Yeah, they were,” agreed the twins.
“So, can I sleep with you guys tonight?” Xander asked Wyatt and the twins.
“Sure, you can sleep with me in the bottom bunk,” offered Hayden.
“And Wyatt can sleep with me in the top bunk,” added Hunter.
“I’m sleepin’ with Tristan,” said Revin, so it looked as if they’d solved their own problem.
When that group went upstairs to shower and get ready for bed, Joshie came over to speak with Dion and me.“Thanks for the party.I got a lot of nice things and I enjoyed the cookout we had outdoors and dinner too.I was afraid the rest of the party wasn’t going to be very good or much fun, but I really enjoyed it.I liked both of the movies, and the younger boys were right – they were scary.And the stories Grandpa Josh told us were pretty scary too.The whole day turned out to be a nice surprise, especially when the puppies scared all of us.Thanks for everything.”
“We didn’t plan on the dogs doing that, but you’re welcome and we’re glad you enjoyed your party.I think you should thank Grandpa Josh and Grandpa Jake as well, because they did a lot of the work to make it happen.”
“I already did, before we came inside.”
“We’re glad to hear that.”
Dion and I then gave TJ his bath and fed him again, and when he finished his bottle, Brandon, Danny, Dion, and I went upstairs to say goodnight to the other boys and tuck them in. They were all clinging to one another in the beds, almost as if their lives depended on it, so it made me wonder how many nightmares they were going to have and if they’d wake us up in the process.
“I think when we get up to change and feed TJ later, we probably should check on these boys as well,” suggested Dion.
“Yes, I agree with you about that,” I said, “if they don’t wake us up before then.”
As soon as those boys were asleep, the rest of us got ready for bed, and when we got up to feed TJ, we also checked on them.They were still clinging to one another, but none of them woke up, at least not that we knew about, and we never heard any of them screaming or crying.If they had nightmares, they couldn’t have been too bad, so I guess we dodged a bullet this time.
In the morning, we woke everyone up and told the boys to get ready for church.
“What about me?” asked Revin.
“Your mom will have your clothes ready when we pick her up and you’ll just have to go inside and change quickly.”
We took TJ with us as well, and Dion and I took turns holding him during the service.He was very good, and many of the other congregants we knew stopped us and wanted to see him before we left.We received congratulations from everyone, and TJ got many compliments about what a good baby he was, and after we left there we headed over to the diner for brunch.
One of the servers was kind enough to heat up his bottle for us and we fed him while we waited for our meals to be delivered.Dion and I then took turns juggling him in one arm while we used the other one to eat.Some of the staff and the other regulars that we knew came over to see TJ as well, and we received more compliments about how cute and how good he was.
The rest of the day was fairly uneventful, except I kept an eye on Joshie and Benny as they were taking turns doing loads of laundry.They did very well and didn’t need any help or suggestions, even with folding the various items, and when they weren’t doing this they were working on their homework.The younger boys spent their time playing, both out in the tree house and inside as well, but it was a fairly quiet day.
As the school week started, Dion and I were surprised that we didn’t hear anything about the Tamara situation during the first couple of days.That all changed on Wednesday, when we heard the principal make an announcement just after the school day started.
“There will be a mandatory assembly in the auditorium during the last period today.”
Although we weren’t certain, we thought we were about to learn what was happening with the investigation into Tamara’s case.That made it difficult for us to get through the rest of the day, since our curiosity was getting the best of us.When the last period rolled around, the entire school body headed to the auditorium and we took our seats.There was a lectern set up in the middle of the stage, but no one was there yet, but once everyone was inside, the principal walked out and took his place behind it.
“Good afternoon,” he began.“You’ve been called here because a serious situation has been brought to my attention.I’m not sure if all of you are aware of this fact, but for the very first time the school has a transgender student.I mention this, because I’ve recently become aware that some of you have been doing some disgusting things to her, due to the fact that she’s transgender.”He then paused for about twenty seconds to allow time for what he’d just said to sink in.
“It’s my duty to inform you that the school district and the police are conducting separate investigations into this matter, because some of the things that have been done to her are criminal in nature.We’ve already identified many of the culprits, but we’re willing to give each of those individuals a break if they’re willing to accept responsibility for their actions.” Again, he paused for effect.
“If you were involved in any of these incidents, you may either come to my office or show up at the police station and acknowledge what you did.If you take full responsibility for your actions, both the school district and civil authorities have agreed to cut you some slack, but you only have the remainder of this week and the following week to do it.After that, it will be too late and you’ll face punishment from both the school district and the legal system, depending on what activity you took part in.”He paused again, but this time to allow the students a chance to chat amongst each other.After several minutes passed, he continued.
“As I said, many of the perpetrators have already been identified, and if they don’t come forward on their own their punishment will be more severe.I urge anyone who was involved in any of these incidents to take advantage of this one-time offer.If you’re smart, you’ll save yourself from receiving the most severe consequences that can be handed down by both the school district and the criminal justice system.That’s all I have to say, but please stay in your seats until the final bell rings and the school day comes to an end.”
The principal then walked off the stage and allowed the guilty parties to stew in their own juices.It also allowed the students to discuss this with each other and talk about who might be involved and what types of punishments they might face.I think this was much more effective than if the principal had told them what consequences they might face and merely let them imagine it.Sometimes our worst fears can come up with punishments more real to them than what someone in authority might tell them.
When the final bell rang, I went out to the SUV and Joshie and Benny were already there waiting for me.As soon as we climbed inside and closed the doors, they began to speak.
“Whoa, I think the principal scared a lot of the guys that had been doin’ those things,” Benny said.
“And I think some of them were so scared that they might even tell on some of the others, if they think it will get them a better deal,” added Joshie.
“Yes, I thought the assembly was very well done,” I agreed.“The principal said enough to let them know he and others knew what had been going on and they knew who was involved, without telling them what would happen if they didn’t come forward.”
“Yeah, I think that’s what scared them the most,” Benny agreed.
“Especially when they heard the cops were involved too,” added Joshie.
“I’ll be interested in seeing who comes forward now, and who’s willing to take their chances by keeping quiet,” I said.
“What do you think they might do to them?” Joshie asked as I started the car and attempted to fight my way through the traffic leaving the parking lot.
“The school district has many options, such as disqualifying them from participating on sports teams or attending extra-curricular activities.They can also give them in-house suspensions or even expel them.The police, on the other hand, might have the option of charging them with a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on what they did, or they could let them off with a warning.If those involved willingly choose to plead guilty to a misdemeanor later, they might get off with probation, rather than incarceration, but nothing is definite.I guess it all depends on exactly what they did and if they’re willing to accept responsibility for it.I’m sure they’ll also have to apologize to Tamara for their actions.”
“That’s a lot of different possibilities, so it doesn’t tell us a lot, cuz we’re still not sure what will happen to them,” countered Benny. “I guess we get your point, though.”
We stopped talking when we reached the middle school, because we didn’t want the younger boys to get involved.I let Dion drive the rest of the way, and when we got to the house, we told the boys to do their homework first, and then I had Dion follow me while I went to chat with Dad.
“We had an assembly today and the principal told the students that he and the police knew what had been going on and he gave those involved the rest of this week and the next week to basically turn themselves in.He told them that their punishment would be less severe if they were willing to admit to what they’d done and take responsibility for it, but now I guess we’ll see who takes advantage of this offer.”
“I’m glad you told me,” stated Dad, “because I haven’t heard anything from those I contacted.I guess they felt I’d learn about it through the two of you or my grandsons, but this is an interesting predicament: was Tamara there as well?”
“I’m not sure, because I don’t know what she looks like.I’ll have to ask Joshie and Benny when I get a chance, and then I’ll let you know later.”
“Do you think we should get together later to talk about this in more detail after the other boys go to sleep?”
“Yes.I want to tell Danny and Brandon as well, so that would be a good time to do it.When I talk to Joshie and Benny to see if they saw Tamara at the assembly, I’ll also ask them if they want to join us later.”
“Ok, it sounds like a plan to me,” agreed Dad.
Dion and I went to spend time with TJ, and gave him a bottle before we went out to eat dinner with the family.The boys were unusually quiet tonight, which caused Brandon to ask a question.
“Did you have a rough time at school today?”
“We had more homework to do when we got home,” said Hayden.
“And it’s hard too,” Hunter agreed.
“I don’t got homework to do most days, but I did this time,” stated Xander.
“And my teachers gave me lots of homework tonight,” stated Tristan.
“And it’s obviously taking a toll on you, because I can’t remember when you boys have been this quiet at dinner before,” observed Danny.
“Me and Benny always have lots of homework,” added Joshie.
“Most times it’s just a lot of reading,” continued Benny, “but today we have other stuff to do too.”
“Then make sure you get it all done before you go to bed,” Dion told them.
“Yeah, we will,” they all chirped back.
The younger boys didn’t get a chance to do much playing after we finished eating, but Xander and Wyatt came into the living room to watch TV with us for a while before they went to bed.They were able to do this because they didn’t have as much homework as the others, and eventually we sent them all upstairs to get ready for bed.
After we tucked them in and said goodnight, we went down to the family room to meet with Danny, Brandon, and Pop.Joshie and Benny didn’t join us, but they answered my question about Tamara.We then told the others about the assembly and what went on this afternoon.
“Do you think anyone will turn themselves in?” asked Danny.
“They will if they’re smart,” replied Dad.“I didn’t hear back from my contacts, but from what Trey told us about what the principal said, I’m sure the punishment will be much less severe if they do this.”
“So, you don’t think it was just a toothless threat to scare them into admitting what they did?” asked Pop.
“I’m certain he meant every word of what he said, because if he doesn’t follow through and keep his promise, he’ll be less effective in similar situations in the future,” confirmed Dad.
“Ok, you’d know better than I would,” relented Pop.
We all went to bed shortly after that, and other than getting up to feed TJ later, it was a very peaceful night.
When we got up the next morning, we raced through our normal routine, including taking care of TJ, because I was eager to get to school and find out if anything else had happened.Throughout the day I tried to see if I could overhear what my students were saying about any of the offenders and if they had turned themselves in yet, but no one offered any news on the matter.It was very frustrating.
When the day ended, Dion and I met the boys at the SUV, and before I could say anything, Benny asked a question.
“Did you hear anything?”
“No. I was going to ask you the same thing,” I replied.
“Damn, we was hopin’ you’d know something,” said Joshie.
“Nothing here, but maybe we’ll find out more tomorrow.”
“I hope so.”
We then went to pick up the other boys, and as soon as we got home we told them to do their homework.Dion and I went in to take care of TJ and spend some time with him, and we stayed until we were called out for dinner.
During the meal, we talked to the boys about their day, and then we asked who had finished their homework and who still had more to do.Once we found out, those still having homework to finish did it after we ate, and the other boys were allowed to do as they wished.Some of them decided to play, while others wanted to watch TV with us.I soon discovered it was mostly so they could hold TJ.
This wasn’t a problem and TJ seemed to like having his brothers and cousins hold him, but eventually we had to send them all upstairs to get ready for bed.Once they were asleep, Brandon and Danny wanted to know if anything had happened yet.
“Not that we know of, but it’s still early,” I replied.“Maybe we’ll know more tomorrow.”
Shortly after that, we all got ready for bed, and I was looking forward to seeing if I could discover anything else when I got to school the following day.
Before and after my classes, I attempted to see if I could overhear anything from the students, but once again I drew a blank.I know it’s still early in the process, so I tried not to get too concerned about it, but that all changed when I got to the car.As soon as we were inside and the doors were closed, the boys broke the silence.
“The other kids are saying that a bunch of those who did stuff to Tamara have already gone to the principal’s office or to the cops,” Benny told me.
“I heard that a group of girls that were giving her grief about usin’ the girls’ room were the first to turn themselves in,” offered Joshie.
“They’re also saying that some of the guys are also giving up the names of other students that did the same things – or even worse to her,” added Benny.
“I guess the dam is starting to break, but there’s still a long way to go.”
When we arrived home, I filled in Dion and Dad about what the boys had told me, and later I told Brandon and Danny as well.It let us know that things were moving in the right direction, but there was probably a lot more that would happen before this was wrapped up.