When we returned home after church and brunch on Sunday, Danny and Brandon pulled Xander aside so they could speak with him.
“Did I do somethin’ wrong?Am I in trouble?” he immediately asked, visibly worried.They could tell because his body began to tense up and he appeared to have temporarily stopped breathing.
“No, not at all,” Brandon assured him.“In fact, it’s quite the opposite.”
Xander’s taut muscles suddenly began to relax and he resumed breathing normally again.
“We just wanted to ask you a question,” stated Danny.“As you most likely know by now, we’ve adopted the other boys and would like to know if you’d like us to adopt you as well.”
“And then you’ll be my dads forever?”
“Yes, we will.”
“I really like it here and you guys are really nice to me, not like the people at the other places where I lived.Yeah, I want you to adopt me, and then I can live here with you guys and my brothers, and with Wyatt too.”
“Then we’ll make arrangements for it to happen.”
“Ummm, does it mean I’ll have to change my name?”
“Only if you want to,” answered Brandon quickly.“You can keep it the way it is or you can change it to match your brothers.”
“So, my last name would be Currie?”
“Well, your brothers all use O’Hara-Currie, but you can just use Currie if you want.”
“Nah, I want my name to be the same as theirs.”
“Do you want to keep your first and middle names the same?”
“Ummm, can I just go by Xander?”
“Yes, even if you keep your first name, Alexander, you can still go by Xander.”
“Yeah, I do, so let’s do that.”
“What about your middle name then?Do you want to keep Eduardo?”
“I don’t know.What are your names?”
“Mine is Brandon Patrick.”
“And mine is Daniel Edward.”
“Then I wanna use Edward, instead of Eduardo.”
“That’s sweet,” Brandon commented.“So, your new name will be Alexander Edward O’Hara-Currie.Correct?”
“Yeah, that sounds nice, but it’s gonna be a lot to write.”
“Then just write Xander O’Hara-Currie, unless you’re putting it on a legal document.”
“Ok, that sounds better, but you gotta teach me how to spell the last part.”
“That’s not a problem and I’ll be happy to teach you how to spell it,” confirmed Brandon.
Now that everything had been agreed on, Danny went to call Uncle Steve so he could tell him the adoption was a go for November 8th. He also told Uncle Steve about the name Xander was going to use so he could include it on all of the official documents.While he was doing that, Brandon began working with Xander on how to spell the O’Hara-Currie name.
“It uses a couple of different marks, not just letters,” observed Xander.
“Yes, the first one is called an apostrophe and the other one is a hyphen.”
“K, so I guess I’ll have to remember those words too, in case somebody asks me how to spell my name.”
“Yes, that would be a good thing to know.”
“But do I need to know how to spell them too?”
“No, just how to say them.”
“Good, cuz memberin’ all of this will be hard enough.”
After listening in on their conversation and releasing a couple of muffled chuckles upon hearing Xander’s responses, I went to grab Dion while TJ was taking his nap.We needed to discuss a few things with Joshie and Benny, and now was a good time to do it.They were up in their bedroom, and since the door was open, we went in to chat with them.
“You know, it will be October in just a couple more days, so have you thought about the Haunted House and who you’re going to ask to help out?” I began.
“Yeah, we’ve thought about both of those things and a bunch of our friends want to help us this year,” answered Joshie.
“And we’ve talked about what we want it to be like too,” added Benny.“We want to take the things that worked out really well last year and make it even better this year.”
“But we want it to be a little different too, so the kids that have come here before won’t know what to expect,” followed Joshie.
“Yeah, that was the best part about last year,” continued Benny.“They didn’t know what to expect or when.”
“Ok, so just let us know what you want us to help you with.”
“We will, and Grandpa Jake has offered to help out too,” stated Benny, “cuz he’s better at buildin’ stuff and puttin’ it together.”
“Yes, he certainly is,” we agreed.
“Uhhh, we didn’t mean that you guys were bad at doin’ that stuff,” Joshie quickly added after thinking he’d hurt our feelings.
“No, we’re not upset and we agree with you,” I replied.
“We can do some of those things in a pinch,” added Dion, “but Grandpa Jake definitely has more experience and is better at it.You can tell just from seeing what he did when building the tree house.”
“Yeah, that’s what we thought too,” confirmed Benny.
“Ok, then next Saturday we should meet with your friends and discuss some of these things,” I suggested.“You’re going to have a lot to do in a short amount of time.”
“K, and when we see them at school we’ll talk about where we want everybody and what they’re gonna be wearin’ and doin’, and then we’ll explain it to you guys on Saturday.”
“Sounds like a plan,” we agreed.
I thought everything had been settled, but it seemed to change later.When Joshie and Benny came down for dinner, they asked Dion and me if they could speak with us after the meal.
“Sure, but what’s this about?” I asked.
“We’ll tell you that after dinner,” replied Joshie cryptically.I take it he didn’t want to give us too much information to think about before we got together.
As soon as we finished eating, we approached that pair to see what was up.“Ok, what do you want to speak with us about?”
“Come up to our room, cuz we’ve got stuff to show you,” answered Joshie.
Dion and I didn’t argue and followed them upstairs.When we got to their bedroom, they shut the door.It was obvious they didn’t want anyone else to hear what they were going to say, although as far as I knew everyone else was downstairs.
“Ok, what’s this all about?” demanded Dion.
“We found a bunch of neat things online and wanted to show them to you,” answered Benny.
“We thought that since Benny’s dads had bought a bunch of stuff for the Haunted House last year that maybe you guys could buy a few more things this year.That way we can make this year’s Haunted House different and better.”
“Ok, then show those things to us,” I replied.“We’re willing to take a look at them, but we’re not agreeing to anything yet.”
Although they showed us more than a dozen items, Dion and I only agreed to buy six of them – two masks and four animated devices that we thought were really neat.I also agreed to send the order out immediately and then we could use them to make plans when we met with their friends on Saturday.
Once that had been resolved, Dion and I went downstairs and spent some time with TJ, and, of course, the younger boys followed us into the family room because they wanted to hold him.We had three of them sit on the sofa and then we passed TJ from one to the next until they’d each had a turn, and then we had them get up so the last two could sit down and take their turns.I can’t imagine what TJ was thinking as he was being passed around like a new toy, but he smiled and cooed the entire time, so he was obviously enjoying the attention.
The boys all stayed in the room with us as Dion sang to TJ and I read him a story.When we finished, we sent them upstairs to get ready for bed.They weren’t happy about this and complained briefly, but after we reminded them that they had school in the morning they went upstairs to shower.Once they finished washing up, we went upstairs to tuck them in and say goodnight, and the rest of us turned in a little while later.
When we got to the high school on Monday, I told Joshie and Benny to tell their friends who wanted to work on the Haunted House to have their parents drop them off at our place by 2:00 on Saturday.I also told them to tell their friends that we’d drop them off at their houses when we were done, so their parents wouldn’t have to go out again since I couldn’t tell them how long the meeting would take.After they agreed to do that, we walked into the school and went our separate ways.
The school week started off slowly and I didn’t hear anything more about those who’d been arrested previously, but that all changed Thursday night, shortly after we put the boys in bed.When we came downstairs, Dad called us all together, and although we weren’t sure why he was doing this at the time, he explained it to us.
“I heard from one of my contacts again today and he gave me some more information.I told you when the last four boys were arrested, and you surmised what they’d done.You were correct and they were all accused with indecent sexual assault on Tamara.The odd thing is that two of them were accused of groping her genitals and the other two for fondling her breasts, and there’s one of each in both groups.This means one boy is accused of groping her genitals and the other her breasts are in jail, and the same is true for those released to their parents.The big difference, it turns out, is that the latter group turned themselves in and admitted to what they’d done, so they’re being treated as juvenile offenders, while the two in jail will be tried as adults.That is also true for the six arrested previously, because they’re also being tried as adults.”
“So, won’t the lawyers be able to use that fact in court, that the boys are getting treated differently for the same crimes?” asked Brandon.“I mean, one groped her genitals and is sitting in jail, and he’ll also be tried as an adult.The other boy that did the same thing was released to his parents and will be treated as a juvenile offender.The same is true about the two who fondled her breasts.”
“The lawyers may try to use it, but I think the prosecutors are on firm ground because the two getting the lenient treatment had turned themselves in, cooperated, and took responsibility for what they did.The other two didn’t, because they thought they could get away with it.”
“You’re probably right, but I’m sure the lawyers will still bring it up.”
“Yes, they probably will.”
Even though Danny, Brandon, Dion, and I knew this information as we headed to bed, I was surprised that no one else seemed to know about it when I got to school the next day.I kept my mouth shut and didn’t say anything, though, because I didn’t want to get Dad into trouble with his contact.I would merely wait until someone else brought it up before I talked about this with anyone else.
At dinner on Friday, I made an announcement to the younger boys.“Joshie and Benny are going to have some friends here tomorrow afternoon, because those boys are going to be helping out with the Haunted House this year.”
“You have a Haunted House!” gasped Xander.
“Yes, we turn our house into a Haunted House for Halloween.”
“Will we be able to go through it?” he continued.
“Yeah, we will and it’s great!” the twins replied using their uncanny ability to say the same thing in unison.
“Yes, you’ll go through it when the boys are doing their practice run before Halloween,” I replied, “and that way you’ll still be able to go trick-or-treating on Halloween night.”
“But I want you boys to leave us alone while we’re planning this, so you will be surprised when you go through it,” I added.“If I catch anyone trying to listen in or watching what we’re doing, then you won’t be able to go through the Haunted House with the other boys.”
“K, we won’t do that then,” responded Xander.
“Yeah, we won’t do nothin’ like that,” the other boys all agreed using basically the same wording.
Once we finished talking to them, I could hear the other boys telling Xander about what the past Haunted Houses had been like.This continued throughout the evening and as they went upstairs to get ready for bed.They were still a little hyper when we went up to tuck them in, so we urged them to settle down and get some sleep. I don’t know how long it took, but they finally fell asleep by the time we checked on them again later.
The younger boys were still a little hyper at breakfast, which made me wonder how they were going to be able to make it until Halloween.I guess we’ll take it one day at a time, and hopefully we’ll get through it.
The school week was much less exciting than the previous weeks because there wasn’t any more news about anyone else getting arrested.Possibly this meant they’ve all been dealt with now and we’ll have to wait to see how they’ll fare with the legal system.
When school ended on Friday, I could tell Joshie and Benny were excited as they came in to wait with me while Dion was picking up the younger boys.
“I think we’ve got a lot of great ideas for the Haunted House and I think you’re gonna like them,” stated Benny.
“And our friends are all excited about coming to the house tomorrow to see how it will all work out,” added Joshie.“Everyone has an idea about which mask they want to wear, so we’ll just have to figure out where we’re gonna put them and what they’re gonna do.Are you, Dad, Grandpa Josh, and Grandpa Jake gonna be part of it again and wear costumes this year?”
“I will, and so will both of your Grandfathers and Danny, but Dion wants to stay with TJ.Brandon won’t take part either, because he’ll be taking the other boys trick-or-treating on Halloween night, since they’ll be going through the Haunted House during the practice run.”
“Ok, and tomorrow we’ll tell you who wants to wear which mask and you can help us decide where to put them.We want to use all the new stuff you bought this year too, so you can tell us where you think they’ll work the best.”
“Ok, I’ll be happy to do that.”
“Great and our friends said they’ll be here by 2:00.”
We stopped talking about this when Dion showed up and we got in the SUV, and when we reached the house, Dion and I went to the family room to spend some time with TJ.Dad was in there with him when we arrived.
“How’s he been?” Dion asked.
“He’s been as good as gold.I just came in here to check on him and smelled something, so I knew I needed to change his diaper.”
“Thanks, I appreciate that,” responded Dion.
“I’ll leave him with you now and I’ll go wash my hands and start working on dinner.”
“And I’ll help you,” I offered.
The other boys had gone to change so they could go outside and play, since they had the entire weekend to do their homework.In fact, the younger boys stayed outside until we called them in to eat.At the same time, Benny and Joshie were up in their bedroom trying to see if they could think of anything else for the Haunted House.
Things went smoothly for the rest of the night.After eating dinner together, the younger boys went outside again, so Dion and I sat down with Brandon, Danny, Dad, and Pop to discuss the things I’d talked over with Joshie and Benny about the Haunted House.Those of us who would be part of it were looking forward to doing this again, while Dion and Brandon were both satisfied with their roles.We just had to decide where we were going to keep Dobby and Flash during this time.
When we called the boys in to wash up and get ready for bed, Wyatt and the twins were telling Xander and Tristan about their birthday party, which would be held a week from tomorrow.They’ll each have the family party in between, on their actual birthday, but the party with their friends will be held the following Saturday.They were all talking excitedly about what they had planned as we sent them upstairs to shower and get ready for bed.
They still hadn’t calmed down completely when we went up to tuck them in and say goodnight, but it was no big deal.We didn’t have any plans for the next day, except for meeting with Benny and Joshie’s friends in the afternoon.
After breakfast the following morning, I spoke to the boys before they went outside to play.“I’ll be with Joshie and Benny’s friends in the rec room after lunch, so I want you boys to stay out of there.If you need to come inside, you’ll have to go around and use the front door until we’re done.I’ll even lock the back door so you won’t forget.”
“K,” they agreed, although they didn’t look happy about doing this.
After lunch, I waited with Joshie and Benny until their friends arrived, and they introduced me to each one when they showed up.Once all of the boys were here, we went to the rec room and I explained how it would be laid out.There would be black cloth draped over the windows and a black curtain strung up to divide the room in half, the same way we’d done the previous Halloween.
Once that was out of the way, I started to outline what we should probably do from the time our visitors arrived at the house until they left.Then, I listened to their ideas about what we should do at each spot along the way and who would man that location.Some of them knew what they wanted to be and do, but the others were open to suggestions, and as I took notes and wrote things down, I noticed a problem.
“You’ve got eight friends here, but after listening to your suggestions and counting up the various locations, I’ve determined that we are going to need eleven of you kids in total.”
“What about Benny and me, you, Uncle Danny, and both grandpas?” Joshie asked.
“I didn’t count any of us into this number.This is just for the other slots we’ll need to fill.”
“Ok, we can get three more of our friends to help out,” replied Benny.
“That’s great, and I hope one of them is very short and slender.”
“Because that’s the type of person I’ll need for one of the unfilled spots.”
The boys began whispering between themselves and then they all looked at me as Benny spoke.“I think we know just the guy for that spot then.He’s another freshman and we’ll ask him on Monday if he wants to help out.”
“Ok, I hope he does, but if not, then you’ll have to see if you can think of someone else that fits that description.We’ll meet back here next Sunday at 3:00 and I’ll go over everything from start to finish, and we’ll show you the new things we’ve ordered.They should be here by then.”
“Can’t we do it on Saturday instead?” asked one of the boys.
“I’m afraid not, because we have a combined birthday party planned for three of the younger boys on Saturday, and the party probably won’t end until between 4:00 and 5:00.”
“Oh, then I guess Sunday will hafta work for us.”
“Make sure it works for the new boys you’re going to ask as well.”
“K, we will,” agreed Joshie.
Now that we’d covered everything we could for today, we were ready to walk the grounds quickly to remind them what the outside looked like.We also discussed the various props we’d be using, and once all of that had been taken care of, we were ready to take them home.
I went inside to ask Brandon if he’d drive some of the boys home for me, since there were too many to take in one SUV, and he agreed.We found out where each of the boys lived and tried to split them up by location so we wouldn’t both be running all over the place.I gave Brandon the group that lived the closest to our house, and Benny rode with him.I took the rest of the boys, and Joshie rode with me.
It took me about 45 minutes from the time I left the house until I got back, while it only took Brandon about half an hour.When we were all back at the house, we had about an hour and a half before dinner, so I sat down with Benny and Joshie to see if we could hash out some of the remaining details.I thought we were in pretty good shape by the time we were called to eat, and those two were more excited now than before.
“This is gonna be great!” enthused Joshie.
“Yeah, and it will use some of the same ideas as last year, but with the different characters, and they’ll be in different spots too,” added Benny.“I think it’s gonna be awesome.”
“I’m glad you both approve.”
“And thanks for listening to all of our ideas,” stated Joshie.“Our friends didn’t believe you were gonna use some of the things they suggested, so they were really happy when you said you were gonna use those too.”
“As I said, it’s your Haunted House and I’m just here to make sure it goes smoothly and you don’t overlook anything.”
“Thanks.We appreciate that,” said Benny, and this brought our conversation to an end.