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    John Henry
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

This story is meant for mature audiences.  Reader discretion is advised.

Thicker Than Water - 9. Chapter 9

There was a door connecting the two rooms, which Diego left open until bedtime. After dinner at a local restaurant, Steve and Diego hung out with the boys. Unable to find any place to go and the satellite not working, they got some cards and played rummy.

When it was time for bed, Diego laid down next to Caleb and held his son.

Tomorrow is going to be tough,” he said to his sons. “It's okay to feel whatever you want, but if you get too overwhelmed, please tell me or Steve, and we'll leave, alright?” The boys nodded their agreement. “I love you two very much, and I don't want you to feel like you have to be there.”

Bryan considered asking if he could just stay at the motel, but he felt he needed to be there for Caleb. “How long do you think it will be?” Bryan asked.

The service might be an hour depending on who shows up and talks,” Diego replied. “But, we need to be there early to talk to the preacher. He has some questions and wants to go over some final arrangements first.” Diego ordered Caleb to use the toilet, which the boy did after several protests. Why his youngest was in the bathroom, Diego moved over to Bryan's bed and sat down. He kept his voice down and said, “I don't know if anyone from your mother's side is going to be there. The preacher didn't know who all was coming, though he did reach out. If you want to meet or talk to any of them, I won't stop you, but know that you don't have to if you don't want to.”

Why aren't you saying this in front of Caleb?” Bryan asked, not really liking the conspiratorial tone his father had.

I'm pretty certain he will want to, but I didn't want you to feel pressured into it.”

Bryan hugged his dad. “Thank you.”

Of course, Chico. I love you.”

I love you, too, Dad.”

And,” Diego added, “as a reminder, whenever you're ready to talk about Kenny, I'm here for you.”

I know,” Bryan said, choking up a little.

What's wrong?” Caleb asked, seeing his brother upset.

Nothing Mijo.” Diego pulled his little boy into the hug and said, “I'm just very proud of the both of you for being brave, young men.” He broke the hug and put Caleb to bed kissing the boy on the cheek. “I love you, Mijo.”

I love you, too.”

Diego looked at Bryan and asked, “Are you too old to be tucked in by your old man?”

Ugh, I guess,” Bryan said jokingly. Diego chuckled, leaned down and kissed his other son on the forehead.

I love you, Chico.”

Love you, too, Dad.” Once Diego stood up, Bryan yelled out. “Good night, Steve.”

From the other room, Steve called back, “Good night, guys.”

Diego turned off the light on the stand between the beds and left the room, closing the door behind him. Steve was already in the bed, which was not at all long enough for the giant of a man. “Maybe we should've found somewhere else to stay,” Diego said, getting into the bed.

Steve shrugged. “It might not have made a difference. Only the most expensive places have king sized beds.”

It's a good thing I'm short, then. You'll just have to share my side of the bed.”

I do like that idea.” Steve leaned down and kissed Diego, as he turned off the light next to him.

The next morning was a struggle. The motel didn't offer any coffee, nor was there a coffee maker; in fact, there was barely enough hot water for the showers, leaving everyone to pair up. It was rather awkward for the brothers, who opted for very quick, separate showers instead.

They stopped for breakfast and coffee at the place they had dinner. Bryan scanned the dining room looking for any hints of familiarity among the customers. Of the two boys, he looked most like their mother, so he tried finding common facial features. Unfortunately, he didn't see anyone who had a chance of being a relative, at least visually.

At one point, Diego gazed out into the parking lot, looked irritated and walked outside. The remaining three turned to see what was going on, but they couldn't see where Diego went. After a minute or two, he returned and said he thought someone was messing with the car.

The church was located along Main Street in what looked like an abandoned store. There was only street parking, so Steve parked right out front. He offered to stay in the car, but Diego insisted that he go in. Steve got a lot of shocked looks, which he was used to, but wondered if some of them weren't because of his height. A white man, two white boys and a Hispanic man exiting the same car probably wasn't something they had seen much of, especially since the boys looked nothing like Steve or Diego. Rural America was still pretty racist and homophobic.

Welcome,” a young man wearing priest vestments said, as the group entered. “You must be Mr. Padilla.” The clergyman was tall, thin with neatly cut brown hair and wire rimmed glasses. “I'm David Williams, local clergy here, but you can call me Preacher Dave if you like.”

Nice to meet you,” Diego said, shaking the man's hand. “This is my boyfriend, Steve, and these are my sons, Bryan and Caleb.” Everyone was relieved that Preacher Dave didn't recoil, as he shook hands with Steve.

Thank you for coming all the way from Washington. I know it isn't a short trip.”

It was the right thing to do,” Steve said.

Have you heard anything from Donna's family?” Diego asked.

I sent out messages but haven't heard anything, so as sad as it is, you're the only family that will be in attendance, which I think she would've preferred.” To the boys, he added, “Your mother loved you both very much and talked very highly and often of you.”

Thanks,” Bryan said, though he doubted it. Donna only seemed interested in getting her next fix or making idle threats.

Diego went with Preacher Dave to fill-out some forms, leaving the boys and Steve to look around. The chapel was small with an altar at the back. Diego didn't raise the boys in any religion, but Abuela insisted they attend Catholic mass with her whenever they were visiting. Bryan felt uncomfortable being in the little church. He didn't know how he felt about an afterlife or higher power, but he didn't feel that he would ever find it in a building.

The service was being held in the graveyard just outside of town, and they had an hour before it started. They went back to their rooms to change into the suits Diego insisted they wear. Bryan didn't like wearing suits, though he did admit that he looked good in one.

He was about 5' 6”and thin with short, dirty brown hair, with deep set, brown eyes, and he could hold a light tan at the best of times. Caleb, on the other hand, was just below average height for his age with a few extra pounds on him. He had jet black hair and bright, expressive blue eyes that hinted at mischief. His brother looked handsome in the black suit and tie they each wore. Bryan helped Caleb with his tie, and wished they were going anywhere but a funeral.

There you go,” Bryan said, finishing the double Windsor knot, as Diego had taught him. He hugged his baby brother and said, “I'm going to be right next to you, okay? If you need me, I'll be there.”

Thanks,” Caleb said, fighting back tears.

Come on,” Diego said, from the open door between the rooms. “It's almost time.”

The graveyard was about a mile out of town on a hill that overlooked the area. Bryan thought it looked peaceful enough and hoped his mother, wherever her spirit was, was also at peace. The place wasn't large, maybe a couple of acres at best with a few trees. There was a parking lot just outside the wooden fencing, so they parked there and made their way to the burial site.

Dave was standing among a small group of people. Not one of them was dressed as nice as the Padillas, and Bryan felt over dressed. The sky was clear, which complemented the warm, late summer air. Preacher Dave had picked a spot under one of the trees and began his sermon. Bryan was sure the words were kind and loving, but Bryan tuned them out to focus on the people.

Most looked like the homeless he had seen around Washington, and he wondered how many of them were drug users. None of them looked like him or his mother, and none were old enough to be his grandmother.

Bryan was brought out of his thoughts by Caleb, who reached up and took hold of his hand. He looked down and saw that his brother was crying, so he wrapped an arm around Caleb, letting his brother cling to him. Bryan looked over at Diego and Steve and saw they were as stone-faced as he was. A small part of him felt bad for not feeling bad that his mother died, but that was as far as it went...or at least he was willing to accept.

After the sermon, Preacher Dave had everyone gather upwind, as he opened the container Donna's ashes were in. He said one more prayer and poured out the contents, letting the wind carry away the remains of Bryan and Caleb's mother.

Once the deed was done the extra people made their way back to town, leaving the Padillas and Preacher Dave.

Are you leaving for Washington right after this?” Dave asked.

We're leaving tomorrow,” Diego clarified. “It's too long of a drive to head back now.”

I get it. I'm originally from Washington, myself.”

Nice,” Steve said. He gave Preacher Dave an appraising look and asked, “I think I've seen you before. Didn't you perform the marriage of Charlie—“

“—What the fuck?!” Diego snarled, causing everyone to look at him. Without another word, Diego stormed off towards the parking lot.

Bryan moved to get a better look. Near the gate stood a tallish man. He was thin, a few inches taller than Bryan himself. He was balding badly and what hair he had was jet black with gray streaks. He looked passed Diego and looked at Bryan and Caleb. It wasn't until Diego was right in the man's face that the man looked at the shorter, angry Mexican. Despite the calm afternoon, they couldn't hear what Diego was saying, but they all knew it wasn't a friendly conversation.

Is...is that—“ Bryan choked.

He hardly registered the massive hand on his shoulder. As if far away, Bryan could barely hear Steve say, “Come on. You don't need to see this.”

Caleb, who was still holding his brother's hand quietly asked, “Bryan, who is that?”

It think that's Calvin.”

Thank you for reading the story so far. Please like, comment, follow, and recommend. It really does help.

Copyright © 2023 John Henry; All Rights Reserved.
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Thank you for reading this story.  Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments you may have.

Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

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Like the others I can't think of a good scenario for Calvin being there. This is me making a huge reach and is very unlikely but could Calvin have put an life insurance policy on Donna and Brayan and Caleb are the beneficiaries? I know crazy but I can't think of any other positive thing so Calvin appearance will most likely be negative 

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