With the sudden death of Matty's father, it means a lot of changes in Matty's life. Eddie is starting to see some major changes coming to him as well. Nate has a surprise coming his way. All three boys have a lot to get through.
THE PREACHER’S KID: HIGH SCHOOL
by Geoff Chassen
Getting Through It All
What the fuck? I looked at Matty as he just stood in front of Dad, his shoulders slumped.
“What do you mean, Mr. H.? He’s dead? But Dad was fine just a few days ago. How could he be dead?”
“They have to do an autopsy to find out the details. But apparently, your father took his own life. It seems he hung himself in the bathroom. He left a note. They scanned it and sent it to me so you could see it.”
“I—I—don’t think I want to read it.”
“I think you should. It will make more sense if you read it.”
“I—I—can’t do that. Can you read it to me?”
I looked at Matty and asked him if he wanted to be alone with Dad.
“Don’t you dare leave me right now, Eddie Hamilton! I need you with me. Please?”
“Okay, babe. I’m right here.”
I took Matty’s hand and led him to our usual spot on the sofa while Dad took a piece of paper from his desk and came over to sit across from us.
“Okay, Matthew. Listen closely. You need to hear what your father had to say.”
To My Amazing Son:
I know you are hurting in a way you might find hard to comprehend right now. For that, I am so very sorry. My intention was not to hurt you like this. My intention was to give you the most remarkable life you could possibly have.
First, I want to thank you for coming to see me on Saturday. You have grown into a remarkable young man. Seeing you on television and then again in person only proved to me how incredibly strong and brave you are. Eddie Hamilton is truly fortunate to have you in his life. For that matter, the entire Hamilton family is blessed to have you as a part of them.
After you left, it dawned on me that for the first time since your mother passed away, I actually spoke with you about her as part of a regular conversation. That was a huge milestone for me—and I hope for you as well. Your memories of your mother should be cherished for the rest of your life.
Unfortunately, I have not been able to stop thinking about your mother since you left. The more I thought about her, the more desperate I became. You see, your mother was my whole life. I couldn’t handle the life I was left with after she was gone. You know that better than anyone. And again, for all the horrible things I ever said and did—well, that behavior is the greatest regret of my life. I only hope that sometime in the future, you will be able to forgive me—even though I won’t be there.
Obviously, the only way I could cope with the loss of your mother was to hide behind the bottle. I’m so glad you were able to handle things in a way that made you stronger—and into the remarkable man you are destined to become.
As I became sober, I became more and more lost. I know I was supposed to be this so-called motivational speaker, and I was good at my job. I just wish I was able to listen to my own words and work my way through the despair.
Please know that my actions had absolutely nothing to do with you! My actions are a result of my own inadequacies and inability to cope in this life without your mother or the things I need to cover my despair—alcohol and drugs.
When I saw you with Eddie and Clay, I knew you were a part of that remarkable family. They are good for you, Matthew. Be good for them.
Just to make things a little easier, your mother insisted I rewrite my will before she passed. You will find that in the office safe. Please give it to Clay so he can take it to the attorney. He’ll know where to go since we share the same attorney. The combination is 56-07-19-56.
I’m with your mother now. Please know that I’m in a much better place than I could ever have been in my physical life. I love you with all my heart, Matthew. I am so proud of the young man you have become, and I know you will continue to make your mother and me proud as you continue with your remarkable life.
Fuck! I will never say this to anyone, but George-fucking-Jordan was nothing more than a chicken-shit phony-assed piece of trash. I’m sorry, but it seems that if you lose a spouse and have this amazing kid, you should be with that kid and make your relationship even stronger—for the both of you. But noooo—fucktard Jordan couldn’t see past his own ass and has to go and ruin things for Matty, too.
Whoah. This kinda came out of nowhere, didn’t it? I mean, after I saw him on Saturday, I thought there was a pretty good chance that I’d get my old Dad back again. I was still having some major trust issues, but I thought we might be able to work through that shit.
And then he goes and fucking kills himself because he didn’t see how he would be able to live without Mom. Well, fuck him! I’m learning how to live my life without Mom. Why couldn’t he?
I haven’t really cried—I mean, not like I did when Mom died. Maybe it’s cuz when I moved into this place with the Hamiltons and Eddie, I felt like I had already lost my Dad. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sad and all—and there have been tears every now and then, but they just fall out of my eyes when I’m not even crying.
Mrs. H. has been amazing. She’s been there for me, just like Mom would have been there. There’s nothing more comforting than being in a mother’s arms when you’re hurting and shit—even if she’s a substitute mom—it still feels pretty damned awesome.
Mr. H.? Whoa! Even though he just lost his best friend, he’s been totally solid. I had no idea how much bullshit was involved in arranging a funeral and everything involved with that. When Mr. H. asked me if I wanted to have Dad buried or cremated, I originally thought of going the cremation route until Mr. H. reminded me that there was a plot in the cemetery right next to Mom. Yeah, we’re gonna bury Dad next to Mom.
We scheduled the funeral for Saturday. I was not looking forward to that, but knowing I’d have Eddie there with me was making the prospect at least bearable. Hell, Eddie Hamilton has made this entire week bearable. He holds me in his arms, making small circles with his finger. Amazing how that simple move relaxes me to the point where I can fall asleep.
Friday night was the visitation at the funeral home. I know I didn’t have to, but I officially asked the entire Hamilton family to sit with me as if they were my real family. Well, I guess they are now. One of the first things that happened was the lawyers getting all the papers drawn up that made Mr. and Mrs. H. my legal guardians. It was cool that Haley came down from school to be with me, too—the sister I never had and never knew I needed.
I was surprised at how many people showed up for the visitation. The dude at the funeral home thought we should do an open casket for the visitation thing, but I really didn’t want to have to look at Dad the whole night. I mean, I saw him and everything. They did a good job of making him look like a sleeping man, but fuck! All I could see when I looked at him was how fucking sad he was. That’s not the Dad I want to remember—definitely not for the rest of my life!
The squad was there to show their love and support. That meant so much to me. Some of my teachers came along with a lot of people from church. There were also a ton of people who came who seemed to have been fans of Dad and his books. I had no idea. It was just weird hearing from all those people how Dad inspired them and helped change their lives, while he was the one who needed to listen to his own words—probably more than anyone else.
The most amazing thing about the entire night was that Eddie—my Eddie—held my hand the entire evening. Everyone who stopped by to say something saw it, and not one of them made a face or an ugly comment. It really is kinda nice being out to the entire world and not having to worry about shit like that.
I couldn’t believe how tired I was when we got back from the funeral home. We hung around the living room and watched some television, and I fell asleep with my head on Eddie’s shoulder. The next thing I knew, Eddie was nudging me. The TV was off, and everyone had gone to bed already.
We went upstairs and did our getting-ready-for-bed thing. When we crawled under the blankets, Eddie and I were facing each other. I looked into his eyes and saw nothing but love.
“Thank you for being in my life, Eddie. I honestly don’t know how my life would be without you. I love you more and more every day.”
“Matty—you have touched every single part of my life and made it better—complete, even. I love you so much, babe.”
I leaned in, kissed my boyfriend, and in about two seconds, our cocks were hard and rubbing against each other.
“Make love to me, Eddie. It’s been five days, and right now, the thing I need more than anything in this world is to have you inside me.”
“How do you want it, babe?”
“On my back so I can look at you the entire time.”
You know, I really do hate the word ‘fucking’ because it just doesn’t come close to describing what became the most incredible and beautiful experience of my life. Eddie took complete control, and for the first time ever, I totally let him.
I think he kissed every square inch of my body—well, except for my cock since I probably would have nutted with just one of those kisses there.
I watched Eddie as he stood on his knees in front of me, slowly lubing up his beautiful cock without taking his eyes off me.
“Are you ready, babe?”
“God, yes! Fill me up. But let’s try to go real slow. I want this to last a long time.”
“You read my mind.”
Eddie leaned down and started kissing me as he lined his slick cock for my hairless hole. I moaned out loud as he slowly eased the head of his cock into my hole. God, I love that feeling!
So, this might sound weird—but as Eddie slowly eased his hard cock into me, I felt nothing but his love for me—for us, really. And the entire time he was inside me, he was kissing me or telling me how much he loved me. Honestly—it was the most incredible feeling I’ve ever had during sex. But this wasn’t sex—at least not like any sex I’ve ever had with my beautiful boy!
My cock was slick with precum from being sandwiched between our rippled abs. Eddie kept his pace excruciatingly slow as he applied the perfect pressure to my spot. Our breathing was hard, and our kissing intense. Before I knew what was hitting me, my body lifted both of us off the bed as I had the most mind-blowing nut of my life.
The pulsing of my ass was all it took for Eddie to fill me deep with his hot nut. The kissing never stopped while we were in the throes of cumming, and it continued as we began to come back to earth.
Eddie rolled off me and licked my abs and chest clean. When he finished, I pushed my boy onto his back and returned the favor. You know, it’s kinda funny—each of us has gotten used to eating our nut. Never thought that would happen!
We pulled the covers back up over us and held each other. It kinda blew my mind at how relaxed and at peace I was, considering all the bullshit going on. I know it’s because of Eddie. He is, without a doubt, the most compassionate, understanding, kind human I know. It’s so fucking obvious he’s a lot more like his dad than he would ever admit.
“How do you do it?”
“What are you talking about?”
“I’m supposed to be an emotional mess with Dad’s suicide and all the funeral shit. But when I’m with you, and you put your arms around me—I don’t know—I just feel so much calmness and peace.”
“I don’t know, Matty. I’m just being me. I love you—I love you with every fiber of my being. I think what you’re feeling is all part of being in love. You know you do the same thing for me.”
“That’s awesome, but it’s more than that. It’s you—and it’s not just with me. I see other people around you. You genuinely care about everyone else. You want the best for them. I mean—you get the shit beat out of you with a baseball bat, and you make sure that you send the dude to a place that will help him rebuild his life. And I’ve been watching you lately. Do you realize that every single person you talk to in the course of a day walks away with a smile on their face?”
“You’re fucking crazy, babe.”
“Yeah—crazy impressed with you. You change the world around you for the better, Eddie Hamilton. Kinda like your old man does.”
“Dude! We just had the most incredible love-making session of our young lives. Don’t ruin it by talking about my father!”
“Sorry, but it’s true. Once you came out to your family and friends—you transformed. It’s like you finally let yourself be your true self.”
“Well, yeah—that happens when you come out.”
“Right. But your true self is so much more than being a gay kid. You’ve always been an amazing boy, but now—you're so beyond amazing, it inspires me every day.”
“So, what are you saying? I need to become a minister and spread my amazing-ness to the masses.”
That’s when it hit me. Eddie Hamilton was going to be a minister. It’s his destiny. It’s the only way he can spread his kind compassion to more of the world. But—fuck me if I’m going to be the one to suggest it!
“If that’s what you want, I one hundred percent with you.”
“You’re my cray-cray boyfriend, and I love every cray-cray cell in your hot-jock body. But we should get to sleep. We have a long day tomorrow.”
“Yeah, you’re right. G’night. I love you, babe.”
“Love you too, babe. Niters.”
Damn! I had the strangest dreams last night! It must’ve been from what Matty said to me before we fell asleep. I was a fucking preacher in Dad’s church! What the fuck? Me? But, between you and me—and don’t you dare tell a soul I said this—it was nice. For most of the dream, I was just talking to people—mostly kids—and helping them get through their issues and problems. That was the strange part. It felt really good—like I was where I was supposed to be.
I don’t know, though. The last thing I can see me being is a preacher! The last time I looked, I didn’t see any openly gay preachers running around. I mean, I’m sure there are a few—maybe more than a few—but—but—Hell, I just don’t see it!
The funeral home sent over a couple of black Lincoln sedans to take us to the church for the service. Dad was already at the church, so Mom, Haley, Nate, and Simon rode in one car while Matty and I rode in the other. Yeah, Nate asked Simon to be with him through the service since he’d never been to a funeral before. He was kinda nervous about the whole thing.
Matty, on the other hand, was doing well. He said it was because I made incredible love to him last night. Maybe that’s why I was feeling extra calm today. Yeah, it’s true—Matty Jordan and Eddie Hamilton are just fucking good for each other!
We pulled up to the church and gathered at the front door. The drivers timed it perfectly, so we didn’t have to wait. As soon as we were ready, the doors were opened, and we made our way down the aisle to the front pew.
Matty stood tall and proud as he made his way down the aisle. He looked straight ahead to the front of the church, looking at the draped casket. I saw Dad looking at Matty as we moved down the aisle. He smiled at us with a strange combination of sadness and pride. Weird, huh?
There were the usual music and readings, and a bunch of people got up to talk about how great George Jordan was and how his books had changed their lives. That was the dude we all knew from before Mrs. Jordan died. I guess we should remember him that way, even though I’ll never forget what he did to Matty there at the end.
I held Matty’s hand through the whole service. I had to kinda chuckle when I looked over at Nate, and Simon was holding his hand. That boy must’ve been in heaven!
When Dad wrapped up the service, the pallbearers came up and picked up the casket. Dad came down the stairs and said we were to follow it out of the church. Matty and I were right behind it. Nate, Simon, and Haley were behind us. Mom and Dad took up the rear.
We stood at the top of the stairs while we watched them put the casket into the hearse. There were four cars behind it. The pallbearers got into the first two cars, Matty and I got into the third, and the rest of the family got into the rear car.
It felt like forever as we waited for other cars to line up behind us for the drive to the cemetery. Once we were moving, it took only ten minutes to get to our destination.
The gravesite was at the top of a small hill, and we walked up from the driveway. The six of us sat in the row of chairs that were set up under this tent thing. Once we were seated, the pallbearers brought the casket up and set it on the contraption that was going to lower it into the ground.
This part of the service was the hardest part for Matty. My guess is because it was all happening next to his mom’s grave. Matty hated coming out here to visit her grave. It was just too hard for him. This time he had no choice.
When Dad started the burial part of the service, it was finally too much for Matty. He started to cry softly and laid his head on my shoulder. I rested my head on top of his, and Mom wrapped her arm around his shoulder. If anything, Matty knew he was loved and would be taken care of.
Dad finished the service and nodded to Matty. He whispered into my ear, “Please do this with me?”
I nodded and smiled at my beautiful, sad boy. Mom handed him a single white rose and gave me a bouquet of yellow ones. We stood up and walked to the casket that had been lowered into the ground. Matty tossed the white rose on top of the casket, and in a soft voice, said, “Bye, Dad. I hope you're happy now that you’re with Mom.”
Next, we walked around the grave and over to Mrs. J.’s grave. I handed the bouquet to Matty, and he placed it on the grave. He closed his eyes and stood there with me. I took that time to close mine and told her not to worry—my family and I would take care of Matty and do everything we could to make sure he had a happy life.
“Can we get out of here? I hate this place.”
“Yeah, babe. I gotcha.”
We walked back to Mom, Dad, and the family so we could walk together down the hill to get into the cars for the ride home. We were going to Matty’s house. Mom and Dad decided that the reception should be there instead of our house—especially since that was Mr. Jacob’s house and all.
On the way home, Matty sighed and said he was glad that was over. Right then, his stomach growled. “Damn, I must be hungrier than I thought.”
“I hear you there, babe.” And my stomach growled, too. Finally! We both laughed at each other.
“Matty, you know everyone’s gonna want to talk to you at the reception. I think we should get some food and plant our asses on the sofa. I’ll be with you the whole time. All you have to do is thank ‘em for coming and let them move on.”
“Yeah, I know I gotta do that shit. But with you next to me, I can handle it.”
“I bet the squad will be there with us, too. You’ll be surrounded by the people who love you the most.”
“Yup. And thanks for everything these last few days. You’ve so made things a lot easier to deal with. I love you, Eddie Hamilton.”
“I love you, too. I’m proud to be by your side through everything life throws at us.”
We didn’t say much the rest of the way. When the car stopped in front of the house, Matty lightly kissed me. “Let’s get some food. I’m starving!”
We made it into the house, and I couldn’t believe the spread the church ladies put together. They all came up to Matty to wish him the best. He thanked them for everything they had done for the reception and asked if he could grab some food before everyone got there.
We were filling up our plates just as the rest of the family made their way to the table. We told Mom and Dad that we were going to sit in the living room. They thought that was a good idea and told us they would handle the door and greet everyone.
About ten minutes later, the squad showed up and joined us in the living room.
Matty smiled at the girls and thanked them for coming. Everyone stood, and hugs were exchanged. Before people started coming into the living room to pay their respects to Matty, we had a few minutes to talk.
Eric asked Matty when he might be coming back to school.
“Mr. H. and I have an appointment with the lawyers Monday morning, but I’m planning to come back at lunchtime. I need to get the ‘normal’ back in my life as soon as I can.”
For the next three hours, people would come up to Matty and say shit like how sorry they were for his loss or how great Mr. J. was. Matty was perfect. He thanked them for coming and send them back to the refreshment table.
When the last of the guests finally left, it was just the family and the squad. Mom suggested we all go over to our house so the church ladies could clean up. There was a ton of food left, and Mrs. Black asked what we wanted to do with the leftover food. Matty asked if they could take it to a homeless shelter, and she hugged him.
“That’s a wonderful thing to do, Matthew. I’ll make some calls and take care of that for you.”
We made our way next door and settled in the living room. Matty thanked Mom and Dad for all they had done. Dad suggested we all change into some comfortable clothes. That’s what we did, and it was time to move on with our lives.
Mr. H. told us we didn’t have to go to church the next morning, but I told him that I wanted to. I told him I wanted to get things back to normal as soon as possible. Going to church with Eddie and his family was normal for me now.
It wasn’t too bad, either. Yeah, there were a lot of people who came up to me and said how sorry they were for my loss. I just thanked them like I had at the reception and moved on.
Nate, who had spent the night with Simon, came home about an hour after we finished lunch. I might be wrong, but he sure had a funny look on his face. When he asked Eddie and me if we could talk upstairs, I knew something was up.
Nate followed us up to our bedroom and shut the door. “Guys, I think I’m probably gay, too.”
“What do you mean, little bro?” Eddie looked a little concerned. “Did something happen with Simon?”
We were sitting on the floor with Eddie and me leaning against the bed. Nate was in front of us. I decided to sit back and listen.
“Kinda? What’s that mean?”
“Well, Simon was a big help to me at the funeral. He held my hand the whole time, and every time I started to get sad, he would squeeze it and made me feel better.”
“Yeah, I’m sure that helped a lot. I did the same for Matty.”
“Uh-huh. I saw that. Well, we got to Simon’s house, and his mom made my favorite lunch—grilled cheese and tomato soup. When we finished eating, we were real tired and told her we needed to take a nap.”
“Did you sleep?”
“After a while, we did. But when we got into his bed, we were on our sides and facing each other. I thanked him for being so good to me. He smiled back and said he was just there for me because he cared so much about how I was feeling. I don’t know why, but I told him I loved him for caring about me. And I—I—leaned in and kissed him.”
“That doesn’t mean you’re...”
“Let me finish, Eddie! This wasn’t like the last time we kissed. I kissed Simon because I needed to. I needed to be as close to Simon as I could get. It was so different, too. It was like I could feel the kiss from the top of my head to my toes. When we finished the kiss, Simon started to cry. I was afraid I really messed up, but he said he was so happy. He’s been praying for a kiss like that for the longest time. So I kissed him again—this time even longer. And then I said it. I told him I loved him. We wrapped our arms around each other and fell asleep.”
“I still don’t think that means you’re gay, Nate. It might be—but maybe not.”
“That’s not all we did.”
Nate took a deep breath and told us that Simon gave him a blowjob that night. After another deep breath, he told us that he returned the favor.
“How did you feel after?”
“Happy. I was really happy—still am.”
“Okay, so you might be gay. But will you promise me something?”
“Slow down. You’re only twelve. You have a lot going on with your body and your mind. Things can change when you least expect it. If you promise me you’ll slow down, I’ll promise to be there for you and answer any questions you might have.”
“You and Matty didn’t slow down, did you?”
“Well, not really, but we’re a few years older than you. I know I wasn’t ready to do anything like that when I was twelve. It’s too late to change what you’ve already done, but if you’re honest with Simon, he’ll back you up—especially if he loves you the way you love him.”
Nate sat deep in thought. After a few minutes, he looked up at Eddie with a concerned look. “Did I mess things up?”
“I don’t think so. You’ve been close to Simon for a long, long time. If you really are gay, he’s the best boyfriend you could have. But this is a time where you can get to know more and more about each other and love each other. You don’t need to rush into physical sex stuff yet. Try to save it for when you both are a little older and your bodies are more developed. I promise it will be better if you wait.”
“So if I tell him that I love him, but I want to hold off on having sex, you think he’ll agree to that?”
“If he loves you—and I’m pretty sure he does—he’ll agree to whatever you want. You’re an amazing kid, Nate. But don’t forget that you’re still a kid. You and Simon should enjoy all the stuff kids your age enjoy. And I promise, if you do that and still love each other—all that stuff is going to be amazing.”
“Okay, I guess I should call Simon then.”
“Nate—can I make a suggestion?”
“Sure, that’s why I came to you in the first place.”
“Talk to him in person. It will mean so much more to him that way instead of over the phone.”
“Yeah, you’re probably right.”
Nate moved over to Eddie and hugged him. “Thanks for not getting mad at me.”
“Why would I get mad at you?”
“For doing older-kid stuff with Simon.”
“Little dude, I can’t be mad at you for that. For being a pest, I can be mad at you, though. Now, go to your room and change. We’ll see you downstairs.”
Nate left the room, and we got up to change. I took Eddie in my arms and whispered into his ear, “That was some awesome counseling, Pastor Eddie.”
“Stop saying that shit! You made me have dreams about that pastor shit all night last night! Scared the fuck outta me!”
“Okay, I’ll stop. But it sure was something that...”
I giggled and kissed my boyfriend. We finished changing our clothes and made our way back downstairs.
The next morning, Mr. and Mrs. H. drove us to the lawyer’s office to do all the shit you have to do with the will. We got to the downtown office and made our way into a conference room. Mr. Hodges, my dad’s attorney, and financial advisor, came in with a stack of papers and sat at the table across from us.
“Good morning, Matthew. Thank you for coming, Reverend and Mrs. Hamilton. This shouldn’t take too long since there is only one benefactor in Mr. Jordan’s will. Shall we get started?”
“Very well, then. The first order of business is the guardianship of Matthew. Although he will be a minor for only a few more months, the law is the law. Mr. Jordan has asked that you become the legal guardian of Matthew should he pass before the child turned eighteen. Do you both agree to that?”
Mrs. H. smiled and said, “It would be our greatest pleasure, Mr. Hodges.”
“Very well, then.” He handed a piece of paper for them to sign, and just like that, I was a legal part of the Hamilton family!
The lawyer handed a folder to Mr. H. and told him it was our copy of the will. “Rather than bore you with all the legalese, I’ll just tell you what your father left you if that’s okay with you all.”
We all agreed, and the lawyer dude started telling me what Dad left me.
“Young man, you are now the owner of the family house, the lake house, and the 2017 Range Rover. These properties will be under Reverend and Mrs. Hamilton’s name until you turn eighteen.
“Matthew, you are also the beneficiary of Mr. Jacob’s life insurance policy. That policy was for five million dollars. That money will be placed in a trust fund until you reach the age of eighteen.
“As far as finances are concerned, Mr. Jordan’s value at the time of his passing was approximately 24 million dollars in cash and investments. We have set up a bank account in your name, which will have $200 deposited every week until you turn eighteen. At that time, you and I will meet and set up your finances on a more permanent basis. Until that time, your father requested that I continue as your financial advisor and continue investing and handling the finances.
“You are now the recipient of all royalties for your father’s books and videos. I can tell you they are still quite popular and we expect a surge in sales in the coming months.
“Congratulations, Matthew. You are a very wealthy young man, and it seems that you are set for life.”
“I—I—I don’t know what to say. But thank you for everything you’ve done.”
“When you are ready to decide, please let me know what you want to do with the vehicle and the homes. You are free to keep them, of course. However, if you would prefer, we can arrange for the sale of anything you should decide to sell.”
“I know I want to keep the houses. But I know you can sell the Range Rover. That’s not something I would want to drive around in.”
“Reverend Hamilton? Do you agree to that request?”
“Whatever Matthew wants, I’ll agree to it.”
“Very well, then. We’ll arrange for the sale of the Range Rover and set up a crew to maintain and clean the homes once a month—or as needed. Agreed?”
We all agreed and shook hands before we left the office. The Hamiltons dropped me off at school. It was time to get my life back to normal. Well—as normal as a millionaire high school junior could get!
Well, well, well--Matty seems to have gotten through the death of his father intact. Will all that money have an effect on our favorite quarterback? Will the Hamilton's and Eddie help keep Matty's feet on the ground?
Next chapter wraps up the school year--and yes, that means prom! You guys know how much I love proms! This one will be a blast!
According to my plans (which can definitely change) there are just two chapters left to this book! Thanks for all your comments and support--they all mean so much to me!
I'm looking forward to hearing what you think about the turn of events in this chapter!