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    Parker Owens
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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.

A to Z - 26. Decision, Indecision

Decision. Indecision.

No special warnings for this chapter.

Questions and issues raised in this chapter or any other chapter can be discussed at the A to Z story thread here: http://www.gayauthors.org/forums/topic/40860-a-to-z/

August 28

On Saturday morning, I woke to the sound of a woman singing. Someone had come home. It was unmistakably female. Her smooth, liquid voice made a sweet, sad little tune dance through the barn.  I heard the clang of a pail. Footsteps back and forth.

Animals.  She must have been doing morning chores for the animals.

The singing stopped abruptly, followed by a low murmur I couldn’t quite make out. The woman must have been stopping to talk with the llamas or whatever was in the pen.

It’s a miracle I didn’t stir, because she couldn’t have been more than fifteen feet away from me on the other side of my hay-wall.  If I’d moved an inch, she’d have heard me.  I could see that the day was bright. Sunshine streaming in the window reflected off the rafters. The woman took her time communing with her beasts.

Eventually, I heard the rattle and clank of a shovel or a rake.  The daily mucking out had begun. I listened as the woman moved about, cleaning up and taking care of the morning needs for her pets. I prayed that she wouldn’t decide to pull the hay down from my hay fortress, forcing a confrontation.

I held my breath, heart in my throat, sweating. 

In the end, she moved hay from someplace else and left, shutting the door behind her. It was quiet again, though I missed the sound of her singing.  I can’t remember the last time I heard that sound.

Finally, I very quietly dared to peer over the top of the hay pile and confirmed I was the lone human in the barn. Across the passage, a llama in the pen turned a quizzical eye to me. Behind it was an open door which must have led out into a fenced area or something.  To my right, an opening in the barn wall let in the sunshine – it wasn’t a window, as there was no glass, so plenty of air passed in. 

I felt very much at home. I wondered if the woman needed farm help. 

At that moment, a door slammed in the distance.  Footsteps crunching on gravel. Car doors opened, closed.  An engine started, followed by the distinct sound of an engine in reverse. Somebody was leaving. 

Tempting as it was to stay here, I really had to get out before I was discovered. 

In an instant, the bag was packed, slung over my shoulders. I quickly descended. I tested my ankle.  Sore, but serviceable. I found a gate into the pen, walked through, and stood at the barn window.  This faced away from the house – if nobody was outside, it would be safe to emerge this way. Hoisting myself over the sill, I saw that I would drop a few feet down into the fenced-in yard. No problem.

I spotted a gate in the fence dead ahead.  Convenient.  Keeping the barn between me and the house, I was through the gate and into the field beyond quickly.  Keeping low, it was possible to circle around past the house and back to the road without being seen.

Once on the road, it wasn’t hard to figure out which way to go.

Within a half hour, I saw people out running. Football players practicing. A sign informed the world: “Blackburn High School - Classes Begin Monday Aug 29!”  It could be safely concluded that this was the high school.

Wait. Classes start?  Monday?  This Monday?

Something unsettling occurred to me as I walked on into what must be the town of Blackburn. Once school started, a kid walking the roads all day would soon be horribly conspicuous.  People would ask questions. Invisibility would be much harder. Some involuntary urge spoke to my brain. Force of habit? Ugh. Back to school, back to school.

I thought on this as I made my way down a pleasant residential street toward the center of town. I hit a main street and turned left, heading west. I passed some big brick houses. They must have been very nice, once – a long time ago.

The thought of school made me shudder.  I hated Carlsberg High, and just about everyone in it. Why would I want to go back?  The invisibility issue would be a big problem, though.  I figured I’d have to limit my walking to after-school hours – I don’t think I look old enough to avoid being stopped and questioned.

I kept walking through town, passing several churches, a little park, and the typical main street full of small businesses. Nothing for my immediate need: a grocery.  I passed three or four little restaurants and diners, lawyers’ offices, banks, and a chiropractor’s office.  No grocery. I lingered in front of the Good Shepherd Thrift Store. If I could have fit a raincoat in my pack, I might have looked in.

Blackburn was a nice little town, I decided. By now, I was getting to feel like an expert on little towns. God knows I’ve walked through a bunch of them and avoided still more.  I just wished I knew where the grocery store in this town was, because I was really getting hungry again. I knew I could keep going without food – I’m no stranger to a day with an empty belly - but something told me that I would be better off stopping if I could find a place to buy something to eat.

I walked on, crossing a bridge over yet another little river – this part of the world sure had a lot of them – and followed the main street west.  Within another half an hour, I had climbed a hill and reached the end of Blackburn.  That was it. No food.

I stood there at the sign telling me I could resume my speed of 55 MPH determining what to do.  My stomach growled and that decided the issue.  I would head back into town and look for food.

But there would be no asking directions.  Someone might remember me.

I spent the rest of the morning exploring the town. I found a bunch of pretty residential streets, an old rail yard, a park next to the river – something I saved for later reference. I stood uncertainly at a street corner after another fruitless diversion south of the main drag, wondering which way to go next. A fresh gust of wind blew a couple of leaves and a bit of trash against my feet. I looked down.

I picked up a business card. ‘Garrett A. Stevenson, Esq. Attorney at Law,’ it read. Just what I needed, a lawyer. Suddenly, I was startled at the sound of wailing siren – one single, loud yell of the horn – I’d seen the downtown area from back to front.

I realized the siren meant it was noon, and I’d spent the whole morning limping around Blackburn without finding a grocery of any description. I stuffed the card in my pocket and forgot about it as I resumed my quest with a new urgency. In the end, the best I could do was to find a gas-and-go minimart some ways up the main street. 

It was there, twenty minutes later, where I bought a few road rations, for which I probably paid far too much. Near the entrance, I noticed a community bulletin board, one of those places where people post notices, lost puppy posters – and cheap help wanted ads. 

One of these snagged my interest:

“Needed: willing worker for lawn and yard chores.”

The notice provided a phone number and an address. It looked pretty recent. Here was a way to raise a little money without having to ring every doorbell in Blackburn.  I knew that I had money – quite a lot of it – but I also knew that it wouldn’t last forever, and if I wanted to eat, I needed to find some work from time to time. Better still, I thought I recognized the name of the street from the explorations I done in the morning.

It wasn’t long before I’d found the street and the house – a neat little two-story white house on a leafy street.  Best of all, the grass looked kind of long. Maybe I was in luck.

In answer to my ring at the doorbell, I suddenly found myself looking down into the face of a short, white-haired woman who peered up at me through her gold-rimmed glasses. If she stood five feet tall, I would have been surprised.

“Yes?”

“I’m here about your poster at the convenience store down on Main Street,” I said, taking off my hat.  Something about this lady seemed to demand it.

“Good. You’re just in time. I need someone reliable who can mow the lawn and do yard work once a week or so.”

“I can do that, ma’am,” I replied. 

I knew full well that I’d be skipping town, but she didn’t know that. I could be reliable for a day.

“Do you have any references?”

That stopped me.

“References, ma’am?”

“Yes, someone who can vouch for you. Someone who can tell me about your character.”

I was stuck.  Who could possibly give me a reference?  If I knew his number, I could’ve told her to call Eustace Whitley. She’d have gotten an earful about how reliable I was. Followed up by a call from Ambrose and the state police. Great references.

“I’m new in town, ma’am. Nobody knows me.” Truth works wonders.

“New?  When did you move in?”

Did she keep tabs on everyone in town?  Or should I have asked her permission to enter Blackburn town limits?

“Yesterday evening, actually.”

“You’re a fast operator,” she observed with a smirk. 

Well, at least the lady had a sense of humor. I shrugged. 

“What does your father do for work?”

Time for truth again. She’d spot a lie, I thought.

“He’s not working right now. He drove a truck for a quarry company.”

“Your mother?”

I looked at my feet for a moment.  That was still a painful question.

“My mother left us.”

 “Oh. I see.”

I looked up and saw the old lady’s expression had softened.

“Well, I’m just going to have to take a chance on you. The grass is long, and my last boy quit to go back to college last week.  You’ll have to do,” she sighed.

My mood was suddenly brighter. I’d passed the exam. 

In short order, I’d been shown the lawnmower, the yard, and the problem areas to watch out for.  On the quick tour, I made note of the clippers, the rake, the trash bags and the rags in the little two-story garage out back.

I got down to work. Work, even lawn mowing, felt better than just walking to the west.  This had a purpose, a goal, I could accomplish.  It was something I could look at and know I’d done it well. 

How would I know how well I’d done at running away? How would I know I’d run far enough? I’d only know if the police caught up to me.  Until then, I’d always be looking over my shoulder, wondering. I thought on that as I mowed, raked, and bagged the grass.  Where was I running to? Could I go back to Eustace?  No. God knows what Ambrose would get me convicted for.  Robberies I’d never thought about? Murdering my bastard father?

I don’t want to go to jail for a killing I didn’t do, even if I fervently wished I could have done it. And no way will I go anywhere near my Uncle Ray.

I set the bag of mown grass aside and fetched the clippers for the bits of grass I couldn’t easily reach with the mower. I felt the gaze of the old lady on me as she watched my progress from her chair on the back porch.

She appeared to be reading from a novel or something, but I knew she followed my every move around the yard.  When I finally stood to stretch, she looked up.

“You come up here and get a drink, young man,”

She spoke plainly, with the same kind of quiet authority I heard from Eustace. She motioned me to sit in the chair next to hers.

“You sit,” she said rising, “and I’ll be right back.”

I sat. It was good to sit in a real chair for a bit. I was mostly used to park benches, hay piles or the ground. Those hard plastic chairs at the Laundromat hardly counted. The porch door opened, and my current employer came out, bearing a small tray with two tall glasses. 

She handed me one, full of ice and something I didn’t recognize. She sat and fanned herself a moment.  I took a polite sip, and found it sweet, and something like citrus. I looked up at her.

“Lemonade,” she said shortly, with a quizzical look on her face.

“Oh. Thank you very much.”

“So what grade will you be going into on Monday?”

The questions were beginning again.

“I was in grade ten last year.”

“Who is your homeroom teacher going to be?”

“I don’t really know, ma’am.  I just got to town yesterday.”

“You mean you’re not registered for classes?”

“No, ma’am.”

“Well, you’d better get down to the high school early on Monday then,” she harrumphed.

I shrugged.

“Now, don’t you shrug at me,” she said crisply. Unlike Ambrose Whitley, she didn’t want to take a shrug for an answer. “Next week, I expect to hear that you’ve registered, young man, and I’ll want to know about your courses.”

I blinked a moment. Unless I skipped town tonight, this woman would have my life nailed right down for me by morning.

She paused for some lemonade, and I was thankful for the chance to drink more deeply. I hadn’t realized how thirsty I’d been.

“Now, there’s one thing I don’t know about you yet,” she continued, putting down her glass.

I looked up, puzzled.  The way she talked, she seemed to know everything already. She looked at me directly.

“What’s your name?”

I started to speak, but stopped short.  I couldn’t use ‘Eric Anderson,’ because Ambrose and the state police wanted that boy for a string of robberies.  I sure as hell couldn’t call myself by my real name. Carlsberg police wanted Stefan Ericsson for the murder of his father. Seconds ticked by.

“Young man, I didn’t ask you a very difficult question,” she commented.

“Sorry, I spaced out,” I apologized, playing for time.  “What did you ask?”

“I asked you for your name,” she said, with surprising patience, “What is it?”

And in that moment, I remembered the business card in my pocket. I got an inspiration.

“Stevenson,” I replied. “I’m Andy Stevenson.” 

That worked out pretty well, I thought – ‘Anders’ in my middle name became Andy.  Stefan can become Stevenson.  I could do without Dad’s ‘Ericsson.’  Andy Stevenson.  That would do.

“Stevenson?” she queried, pausing to think a moment.  “Any relation to lawyer Stevenson?”

“No, ma’am.”

Thank God for that business card.

“No,” she agreed, shaking her head, “I wouldn’t think so.  I believe I know all that family. You’ll be another Stevenson in town, then.”

There wasn’t anything I could say to that.

“Now, Andrew – I assume it’s Andrew?”

I nodded. Andy – Andrew – what did it matter?

“Andrew. Look, I don’t know how to be nice about this, so I’ll just say it. When you want to work for someone, it helps if you show up clean.  I know you’ve been moving and that can be nasty work, but it’s important to be clean.”

I hung my head, ashamed to be told these facts by a strange old woman. She continued.

“Despite that, I took a chance on you, and I’m pleased: you do good work, Andrew. If it’s all the same to you, I’d like you to come back next Saturday morning, maybe around nine o’clock.  I’ll have work for you to do.  Once school really gets going, we’ll see how much time you can spare.”

“Yes, ma’am.”  All I could do was to humor her. 

“And for heaven’s sake, you can stop with the ‘yes ma’am’ and ‘no ma’am,’ all right?  I’m retired.  Officially, I’m Mrs. Marjorie McDowell. Most people just call me Marjorie. I expect you can do the same.”

“Yes ma – Mrs. Marjorie,”  I caught myself.

“Mrs. Marjorie?” she almost laughed.  Humor again. Maybe she wasn’t all business after all. “You make me sound like we’re in Mississippi.”

I began to wonder if I was going to get paid. However, I really shouldn’t have worried, because in a moment, she rose.

“Now, Andrew Stevenson, you just wait here, and I’ll get my pocketbook. I’m going to give you something extra for school supplies because you’re new in town, so spend it wisely.”

A few minutes later, I walked down the street forty dollars richer – forty dollars! – and I’d made assurances that I’d be back next Saturday at nine sharp.  I checked my watch.  How’d it get to be five thirty already? I wasn’t going any further west today.

On the spur of the moment, I decided to celebrate.  I had a new name that nobody was looking for. Hell, I was on my third name in three months. I’d had a successful day not going anyplace. Most of all, I was very, very hungry and I had some money to take myself out to eat. I’d been all over downtown Blackburn, so I knew exactly where I wanted to go.

A few blocks away, back across Main Street, stood a run-down little storefront. It housed a Mexican restaurant, and it had made me think of my skinny-dipping partners from earlier in the summer. Luis and Ignacio.  I’d gotten a pleasant tingle in my groin thinking about them when I passed by. Somehow, I thought going there would make me feel closer to them.

I walked in, and a smiling, curvy waitress walked up to me.

“How many?”

My face must have registered my confusion.

“Table for one?” she asked, making herself clearer.

“Just one,” I nodded, getting nervous.  Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea, after all. I could leave right now and make do with road rations again.

On the other hand, the little restaurant was already almost full, and the sound of happy conversations and music filled the air.  I smelled good things cooking that I couldn’t identify. My mouth watered.

No. I was going to eat, and eat well.

I was seated at a table by the wall, and another waitress brought me a menu, silverware wrapped in a napkin and a tall glass of water. She rattled off information about special items – way too fast for me to understand – and left me to read the menu. I had no idea what to order, but I decided against getting something too spicy.

One rule of walking the roads:  avoid spicy food if you don’t know where the next bathroom is going to be.  In the end, I asked for a big order of enchiladas, because it looked like there would be a lot to eat. 

There was. 

As I savored the taste of tomatoes, beans, spiced meat and melted cheese, I took time to wonder about the future.  It’s not as if I had much else to do.  Where to next?  Head west, the direction my instincts had taken me so far?

Or maybe I should go south, before winter arrived here in the north country. If I walked far enough, I might get to Florida or Texas, where it doesn’t snow. I hadn’t crossed the state line yet – I didn’t think I had, anyway – but if I did, would Ambrose call in the FBI to find me?  I doubted it. Anyhow, it seemed a long way to walk.

But what am I going to do about winter? Well before the snow comes, sleeping rough under the stars is going to get very, very cold.  Some nights have been chilly already.

The idea of somehow getting back to school wormed its way into my skull as I chomped on my third enchilada. I’d hated school. Carlsberg High had been full of people like – what was his name?  - Ackerman – the asshole who started my downward spiral in the first place.  If it hadn’t been for James Ackerman, I’d still be home. Ugh. Enduring Dad, getting beaten and bullied, but still safely in the closet – alone with my own secrets.

New question: How can you have a downward spiral when you’re in hell to begin with?  Interesting thought.

I stared off into space. Was I any worse off now than I was at home?  Really?  At least now, I can say I haven’t been beaten up since my big July 4th adventure. At least now, I earn money that I can keep.  There isn’t anyone in this town – in this county – who knows I’m gay. I’m usually hungry, but I was often hungry at home – at least, I was when Dad got into one of his moods. 

As a tradeoff, I’m always on the lookout, trying to keep anyone from taking special interest in me or from being at all conspicuous. Don’t want the police to notice me. I don’t want anyone to know me for what they think I’ve done, or for what I really am, either.  Just too dangerous.

As I write this, I’m seated at a picnic table, writing by the glare of a security light. I have to keep an eye out for the police who drive by at intervals. I hung around Blackburn all Sunday, after I found a railroad bridge to hide under. In the afternoon, I went back to the park by the river and discovered a place to camp out overnight. I tried to keep out of sight of the road that looped through the park. 

In a little while, I’ll be ready to stretch out underneath a bush, near the river.  But right now, it’s just too damned hot. Big question for tonight: why is it that the time kids go back to school is always the hottest part of summer?

I’m still wrestling with the idea of going back to school tomorrow morning. Not sure how I'd fake it, but think there might be a way.

So would what would school be like? More bullying, more snobby crap, more ridicule, more physical abuse.  That’s usual.  But on the plus side, what murderer hides out in a school?  At a school, if I keep my head down, and just go along, I could blend in for half the day, while I look for a place to hunker down for the winter. The longer I go without getting noticed, the better chances are that everyone will forget all about looking for Eric Anderson.  Or Stefan Ericsson. May they rest in peace.

 

Craftingmom's indispensable guidance and editorial finesse made this chapter possible.

Please leave a review. Comments of all types and varieties are most welcome.

Copyright © 2016 Parker Owens; All Rights Reserved.
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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.
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Chapter Comments

Ah yes, winter ... is coming. Not easy on the streets in winter, even if you have room. You have to pay for it. Stephan/ Eric/ Andy has so moving to do or decsions to make. It's gonna be hard.
Still not sure if he shouldn't just decide to trust someone. But i get why he doesn't.
Nice chapter Parker.

 

tim

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Everytime I see a new chapter I get very excited and extreme nervous. I wonder if he will get stuck in Blackburn.

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OMG Stefan is getting more AKAs than half the guys in prison! Don't know what to call him. Think I'll go back to Stefan. :P I always liked that best anyway.

 

Fake it to go to school. Can't wait. But first he needs to find a place to live, shelter that is, and a place to shower, etc. That should make for a few interesting chapters. If he stays here, I have a feeling Mrs. Marjorie is going to have some influence on him somewhere along the way. I'm getting the aura she's a retired teacher.

 

That was funny ...he'd never had lemonade before. :lol:

 

Thanks for this, Parker!

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On 11/16/2015 09:48 AM, Mikiesboy said:

Ah yes, winter ... is coming. Not easy on the streets in winter, even if you have room. You have to pay for it. Stephan/ Eric/ Andy has so moving to do or decsions to make. It's gonna be hard.

Still not sure if he shouldn't just decide to trust someone. But i get why he doesn't.

Nice chapter Parker.

 

tim

No, he's not ready to trust anyone, especially after Ambrose. And winter is definitely on its way. You can feel it, even in late August. Poor kid has three names going, and trying to figure out what to do may be a very tough decision.

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On 11/16/2015 10:05 AM, C. When said:

Everytime I see a new chapter I get very excited and extreme nervous. I wonder if he will get stuck in Blackburn.

It appeared to be a nice town to Stephan/Eric/Andy, but he's seen a bunch of those, if a good place to winter over presents itself, that could force his hand. But our boy has no reason to suspect anything bad, yet.

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On 11/16/2015 10:15 AM, skinnydragon said:

OMG Stefan is getting more AKAs than half the guys in prison! Don't know what to call him. Think I'll go back to Stefan. :P I always liked that best anyway.

 

Fake it to go to school. Can't wait. But first he needs to find a place to live, shelter that is, and a place to shower, etc. That should make for a few interesting chapters. If he stays here, I have a feeling Mrs. Marjorie is going to have some influence on him somewhere along the way. I'm getting the aura she's a retired teacher.

 

That was funny ...he'd never had lemonade before. :lol:

 

Thanks for this, Parker!

Our boy has plenty of names, but he can't go back to the original. Wherever looks like a good spot for wintering over could tip Eric-Andrew-Stefan's hand. Mrs. Marjorie is a character I've known in composite for years, fictionally of course. She was fun to write about.

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On 11/16/2015 10:43 AM, Defiance19 said:

Name change!

Is Blackburn it for Andy? The thing with small towns, everyone knows each other. How is he going to find a place to hide out much less go to school. It's going to be interesting. He didn't immediately throw the business card away, and it helped him once. Will this lawyer be a help to him again. Will Marjorie be the one to figure him out? Can you tell I want this kid cared for, and safe like last week.

 

Good chapter Parker..

Poor boy has had to change identities just to feel a little bit safer. It would be great to see him cared for, but I think he'd settle for a dry place to sleep, and a ready source of food. Blackburn looks like a nice town, but he's already seen that looks can deceive.

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I can't believe he is even considering this! Although.... Sometimes a familiar routine can provide a safe feeling. Wow.

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On 11/20/2015 03:51 AM, aditus said:

I can't believe he is even considering this! Although.... Sometimes a familiar routine can provide a safe feeling. Wow.

Eric faced a combination of being tired of running, and the pull of the familiar routine, as you put it. He's clearly wrestling with going to school. Possibly the clincher in his mind might be the invisibility issue - the person doing the expected thing is the most camouflaged.

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Andy responds to authority figures like Mrs Marjorie. He's been trained to follow their directions much more closely than the average teenager…

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On 07/14/2016 01:52 PM, droughtquake said:

Andy responds to authority figures like Mrs Marjorie. He's been trained to follow their directions much more closely than the average teenager…

Yes, he has that ingrained streak of listening to authority. And unlike his father, Mrs. Marjorie is a good soul, if a little pushy. Sometimes, we all need someone like that.

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Another name another town, I hope that he finds somewhere to stay so that he can start school on Monday. Mrs Marjorie sounds like a retired teacher from way back. Andy needs to find a place to live that has running water including hot water, he's going to be spending some of the money he got from working for Eustace on his farm to buy school supplies and some clothes for school. And I'm sure that Mrs Marjorie is going to be expecting him at 9 am on Saturday. I wish him luck as he tries to get everything ready for him to have a place to live for awhile. 

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@Butcher56: Andy is trying school as the least worst of alternatives. Even so, he is ready to flee if he has to. Or perhaps not - he seems tired of running. But his search for a safe haven continues. Thank you for reading so far into Andy’s journal, and for your comments. 

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Another new name for Stephan, I would how long Andy will stay in the new town. Mrs Marjorie sounds like a retired teacher. Andy likes to be told what to do.

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2 hours ago, chris191070 said:

Another new name for Stephan, I would how long Andy will stay in the new town. Mrs Marjorie sounds like a retired teacher. Andy likes to be told what to do.

Stefan, who became Eric, is now Andy. How long he'll stay in this town is anyone's guess. Eustace had him for much of the summer, and that was the greatest blessing he'd had in forever. This town might turn out to be dangerous. Given his life in Carlsberg, it would be surprising if Andy didn't wait to be told what to do, or to try and meet expectations.

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Will Andy meet his lifeguard at Blackburn High?  Where will be find his new temporary home?  Will Eustace and Marjorie ever meet?  I could see them finding an easy companionship, if Marjorie isn't too bossy for Eustace.  She can't be any more bossy than Ambrose!  Hmmm, I'm guessing that business card for the lawyer will come up again.  I am not a read ahead kind of person, but I peeked at the chapter titles.  I'm not going to give out any spoilers, but I think Blackburn might be a turning point.

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4 hours ago, CincyKris said:

Will Andy meet his lifeguard at Blackburn High?  Where will be find his new temporary home?  Will Eustace and Marjorie ever meet?  I could see them finding an easy companionship, if Marjorie isn't too bossy for Eustace.  She can't be any more bossy than Ambrose!  Hmmm, I'm guessing that business card for the lawyer will come up again.  I am not a read ahead kind of person, but I peeked at the chapter titles.  I'm not going to give out any spoilers, but I think Blackburn might be a turning point.

Lots of questions - which I will let you answer after reading what comes after. I’m very glad you have read thus far into Andy’s journal. It’s good we followed along with him as he made his way west. Thanks for your thoughts and for continuing to read. 

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