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  • Shadowgod - Almost Home
  • Shadowgod - Almost Home
  • Shadowgod - Almost Home
    Parker Owens
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A to Z - 37. Chapter 37 Awake to Warmth

Awake to Warmth

No special warnings needed for this chapter, except that it's long.

Comments, questions or remarks can be left in reviews, or extended in the A to Z story discussion thread.

December 24 – Christmas Eve

 

It’s late, and I’m really, really tired. But I think I have to write about everything that’s happened before I try to sleep. In the last few days, some good things happened. A lot of them. One of them was that I almost froze to death. Funny about that, isn’t it?

Okay, so here’s what happened. On Tuesday – just four days ago - during physics lab, Dave leaned over and whispered:

“You hear about the big storm coming?”

I shook my head.

“Maybe they’ll cancel school tomorrow.”

I looked over at him. Big, heavyset, round faced, and full of hope for a snow day. With his blond buzz cut, Dave is a walking advertisement for something wholesome.

I shook my head again. I wasn’t going to get my hopes up. It would be cool to have the day off. Who doesn’t want a snow day? Especially one that would extend Christmas break by twenty four hours? However, I wasn’t going to expect one, only to have my hopes dashed.

Still, there was a very real tension in the air on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, it must have been really cold outside, because the whole building was cold. I wore my jacket to classes, despite being indoors all day. The storm hadn’t hit, so the superintendent held classes anyway. The sense of anticipation was so thick, you could have cut it with a spoon. I guess the superintendent thought he could get away with it.

Mother Nature called him on it around noon, when it started to snow, hard. One moment, the skies were overcast and the air was clear. The next, it looked as dark as night, and you couldn’t see into the parking lot.

Within about a half hour, they’d gotten on the PA and informed us that we were being dismissed from classes early. A few minutes later, chaos reigned in the halls, as students grabbed their stuff and headed home, while faculty and staff did everything to flee the building at the same time. How the bus drivers ever managed to see anything, I’ll never know. I could tell from looking out the window that, in a matter of an hour, the snow had come down so hard, there were already several inches on the ground.

It seemed truly eerie – almost everyone had suddenly vanished, while I watched the snow swirl outside. I stared, hypnotized by the sight. And that was my undoing, unfortunately.

“Hey! You, what’s your name? What are you still doing here?”

I was being addressed by a short, powerfully built man in a coat and tie, who was struggling to get into his winter parka, as he walked down the hallway towards me. I recognized him as the assistant principal. We’d never really met and that suited me fine.

Caught. Well, maybe I could talk my way out of this one.

“I’m just waiting for my ride, sir.”

“When are they due here?”

“Should have been here already. I hope they’re OK.” I tried to lay it on thick.

“I’m shutting down the building, son. If your ride isn’t here in a few minutes, I’m going to have to ask you to wait outside.”

Shit. I did not want to go out into the snow to look for a place to hole up. I tried another tack.

“Sure, sir. I’ll just wait for you over by the Library doors. I’ll meet you there in a minute.”

He looked at me suspiciously for a second, but then nodded, and hustled down the corridor to turn out lights and lock doors. In the meantime, I headed off to the Library. My plan was to slip in there, while Mr. Assistant Principal would assume I’d gone home. Problem solved.

Except that when I got there, I found he’d locked up the Library, too.

I cursed. I was locked away from my food supply, my warm closet and my clean clothes. For two weeks. All I had with me in my pack was what I had left from the weekend’s work money, my journal and my books. I had my jacket on, but the clothes I wore were definitely not winter gear. I hadn’t wanted to spend the money on a heavy coat down at the thrift store, and now it was too late.

I thought I might just find another place in the building to go, when I heard footsteps hustling in my direction.

“OK, son, I’m sorry, but I’m locking the front door. You say someone will be here for you soon? Because if not, I can see you get to the police station to stay warm until they can get you home.”

Police station? No, that wasn’t happening.

“No, I’ll be fine, sir.” Complete resignation. Where the hell was I going to go now?

The icy wind cut into me like a knife the moment I stepped outside. I wanted my hat, but I’d left it somewhere in the parking lot by the movie theaters. Fucking Roger. Under the canopy by the front door, I turned up my collar. The Assistant Principal quickly locked the doors.

“You sure about waiting, son?” he asked me anxiously.

I nodded, and he took off. His was the last car in the parking lot, and there must have been half a foot of snow on the ground already. I just stood there, freezing. My ears were already hurting with the cold. I waited until the car was gone, before moving anywhere.

The first thing I did – idiot me – was to walk all the way around the building, trying every single door, just to be sure there wasn’t a way back into the warmth. There were more than a dozen entries. But no. Almost an hour later, and the school was still locked up tight.

I’d wasted valuable time, and now I was getting numb. My hair was frozen. I headed up to the main street and tried to hide out at the Public Library, but it was closed. In fact, most of the Main Street businesses were closed or closing. Even the convenience store was shutting down. This was bad. I was already trudging through a foot of snow, and nothing and nobody was out.

I labored past Mrs. Marjorie’s house – nobody home – and I knew it would be buttoned up tight. I briefly considered breaking a window to get in, but discarded the idea.

As the snow cascaded down, and the wind shrieked, I just stood there in the middle of the street, wondering stupidly what to do in the blizzard. I finally realized what I had to do. I turned once again toward the house with the llamas in their little red barn. If I could find my way there in the storm, if I got there before I froze, I could burrow under the hay and stay warm for a bit.

The walk there took a lot longer than before. The snow was up halfway to my knees by the time I found the place. Lights glowed in the warm house. In the gathering darkness, I debated whether I should just walk up the driveway or not. My ingrained caution led me to blunder through the snow-filled field and woods and approach the barn from behind. Teeth chattering, shaking involuntarily, I somehow got in the back gate, through the pen, and let myself into the barn.

Out of the wind, I barely noticed the relative silence of the barn. I staggered over to the hay. I think I remember trying to bury myself under a layer of sweet, dusty-smelling straw, but the details are hazy.

 

(***)

 

The next thing I remember is waking up in a bed. In a warm bed, under a whole pile of blankets. Warm. Bed. I’d forgotten what a bed felt like. I was in a warm room, with a single lamp providing plenty of light. I tried to stir, to sit up, and was suddenly aware that my hands and ears and toes hurt. Not just hurt, they ached. They throbbed. They hollered out in pain.

“Ow. Damn.” I couldn’t help it.

“Hello, you’re awake!” a smooth, friendly female voice spoke from the corner near the light.

I craned my neck to get a look at my hostess. Black hair fell long on either side of a pleasant middle – aged looking face with a strong nose and a wide mouth. Something about her looked familiar, but I couldn’t place it.

I looked around a little wildly.

“Uh, hi. I’m really sorry, I…um…where?” I sounded really intelligent, I guess.

“A little confused? So am I. I’m Monica, and I know you’re Andy. You’re in one of our spare bedrooms. How you came to be in my barn is something I’d like to learn, but not right now.”

She knew my name? How? I finally succeeded in sitting up, though my fingertips screamed in pain as I pushed myself into position. It was then I realized I was only dressed in my t-shirt and underwear.

“Where are my clothes?” I asked looking around.

The woman called Monica put down her book and chuckled.

“I put them in the wash when we got them off you this morning. I washed everything that was wet or frozen. They’re probably folded on top of the dryer. I can go get them in second.”

Just then, there was a quiet knock and the door opened a little wider.

“How is he? Any change?” a voice spoke quietly.

I knew that voice. My heart raced again.

Monica rose from her chair, smiling.

“Why don’t you ask him yourself? You’ve been so anxious all day. Andy’s awake.” She exited the room.

In a fraction of a second, I found myself facing Zander. Zander, with a worried smile creasing his beautiful face, hovering at the side of the bed.

“Hey,” he said quietly, nervously shifting his weight from foot to foot.

After days – no, weeks - of shutting him out, there he was. And I had no place to hide. I didn’t know what to say. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know it was your house. Your barn.” I finally got out.

“I don’t understand.”

“I shouldn’t…have…slept there.”

“Are you kidding?” he asked, worry taking over. “If you had stayed outside, you would have died, Andy. You were literally blue when I carried you in this morning.”

He’d carried me? I was in Zander’s arms? I couldn’t remember any of that. I wished I could. I looked down at the blankets in front of me.

“I – I didn’t mean to bother you. I just…got…locked…out, and…and…”

“Shit, Andy, I’m just so happy you’re awake and alive. I was worried sick. We all were.”

Worried? About what? Me? “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you…”

“Of course I was gonna worry. You’re my friend, right?” Zander smiled weakly.

We were friends? Still? After everything I’d done to him, he still wanted my friendship? My mind was working slowly. Maybe my brain was still frozen.

“We’re still friends,” I said, testing out the idea.

“And I’m sorry I’ve been such a shitty friend,” Zander cut me off, speaking quickly, “after what happened before Thanksgiving. I’m really, really sorry.”

“I don’t understand.” I shook my head to clear a few cobwebs.

“After we went to the movies, and your dad showed up, I was just so ashamed that I didn’t do anything. I mean, your dad was drunk, and saying all that shit about you, and it was obvious he was trying to hurt you.”

I could see Zander’s eyes getting moist.

“And then, you were gone from school the next Monday,” he went on, his voice wavering. He took a deep breath. “And I could tell he’d hit you from the cut on the back of your head. I felt like shit that I’d let that happen to you. We all did. I should have called the cops, but I just stood there.”

He looked away.

“And then at school, I was a coward again. I said to give you your space. I’m not gonna lie Andy, I was too ashamed to talk to you. I would understand if you didn’t want to talk to me – to any of us – ever again.”

He wiped his nose. I saw a tear fall. Zander was crying. I’d made him cry. He should never be that sad. What had I done?

He looked at me again, his deep lovely brown eyes pleading.

“Andy, can you forgive me? Please?”

I nodded slowly, confused. So that’s why he’d stayed away. I hadn’t seen it. How could he have missed the truth about me? I’m the one living the lie, not him. “It’s OK, Zander. There’s nothing to forgive.”

“Yeah there is,” he began.

“No, there isn’t," I interrupted. “It was just a misunderstanding, that’s all.”

Zander looked at me, his face relaxing, “A misunderstanding? That’s an understatement.”

I tried to smile back at him. “Please don’t worry about it. It’s over.”

“But your dad…” he began.

“Yeah, well, his bark is worse than his bite.”

“Looked to me like he took a pretty big bite out of the back of your skull, man. Did you need stitches?” A ghost of a smile returned to Zander’s face.

I shook my head.

“So, how long have I been here?”

“Well, it’s Thursday night right now. Almost suppertime. You’ve been asleep all day.”

There was a knock at the door, and Monica – Zander’s mom, it was obvious, now – walked in with a pile of my clothes, neatly folded. She placed them on the chair where she’d been sitting.

“Andy, are you hungry?” she inquired.

Until she asked the question, I’d forgotten all about my stomach. Suddenly, I was reminded of a ravenous hunger.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Is pot roast all right with you?”

“Yes, please, ma’am.”

“You hear that, Zander?” she asked laughing, “This friend of yours knows his manners. He’s welcome anytime.”

She hustled out of the room.

“Yes, ma’am?” Zander snickered.

I shrugged. How could I tell him that Dad beat that kind of stuff into me every day? I couldn’t help it, even if I wanted to.

And then I felt another important need arise.

“Zander? Where’s the bathroom?”

“Right through that door,” he pointed to another door across the room.

I tried to get up, and my feet protested the moment they hit the floor. I hissed with the pain. Suddenly, I was also conscious of being in my briefs and a t-shirt.

“Shit, Andy, are you OK?” Zander hurried around the bed to help.

“I’m OK, I’m OK,” I insisted.

I really wasn’t, but I didn’t want Zander to have to deal with me like this. OK, maybe I would have liked him to carry me, but I somehow felt so exposed in just what I was wearing. Funny isn’t it? I’d run across a four-lane street buck naked a few weeks ago.

I hobbled past the door and relieved myself.

When I emerged, Zander was still there, waiting for me.

“I was gonna get dressed.”

He started to leave, but I stopped him.

“You don’t have to go.”

I reached for my jeans, and the pain in my feet convinced me to sit down again on the bed.

“Look,” said Zander, his voice full of concern, “you don’t have to do this. Let me just bring dinner up to you.”

I resisted. “No, I’ll be fine.”

Zander stepped up right in front of me, as I struggled with my pants. I looked up at him. His eyes were worried.

“You’re hurt,” he said, quietly. “Please. Let me do this. Rest your body and heal, OK?”

There is something about Zander’s eyes. They’re so expressive, and yet they’re so deep, deep, and dark that I can lose myself in them if I don’t look away. And I had to look away. Really, I think it would be hard for me to refuse Zander anything.

“Okay,” I gave in, and shifted back into the bed and under the warm covers again.

“I’ll be right back,” Zander smiled.

But it wasn’t Zander who entered next; it was Zander’s mother.

“What’s this about your feet hurting?”

“It’s all right, it just hurts to walk a little.”

“Andy, honey, you got some frostbite. Let me look at your feet, OK?”

I didn’t want to show her anything. What if she decided to look at my back? Sensing my reluctance, she tried again.

“Look, Zander will be here in a second with supper. You two can eat up here, that’s fine. Really, I hardly expected you to get up at all. But I’d be a rotten host if I let my guest suffer in pain without me seeing if there wasn’t something I could do to help. Just let me have a peek at your feet. I just want to be sure they’ll be all right.”

Very slowly, I extracted myself from the bed again and laid out so she could see.

Monica carefully examined the bottoms of my feet and my toes. She gently prodded a couple of spots, and I twitched.

“Tickles,” I said, when she glanced up at me.

“I think you’re going to be all right,” she smiled, straightening up. “You gave us all a scare, young man. The pain will wear off as your body warms. I’m no doctor – just a vet’s assistant – but I think I’m right. Still, you should see your doctor to follow up with this, I think.”

“Thanks,” I said, getting back into the warmth.

See my doctor? That’s a good one. I don’t think I’ve seen a doctor since the day I was born. Of course, Dad never let me go near one. I remember getting sick with the flu, once. Dad let me stay home from school, but he insisted I get out of bed and do chores. He wouldn’t let me eat, though, because I’d puked that morning. He’d beaten me for that, naturally.

I heard the rattle of plates and dishes before Zander glided into the room. He had a big tray with some plates of hot food and tall glasses of milk.

“Well, I’m going to leave you boys to it,” Monica said, smiling. “I’m glad you’re awake and on the mend, Andy. Zander, I sure hope you left enough for me and your father.”

I thanked her, and she went out. Zander stepped over to the bed.

“You need help sitting up?”

“No, I can sit up fine,” I said.

I got comfortable, and Zander brought over plates with great big slabs of meat, piles of home fries, and a salad on the side. He slid over the chair so he could sit next to the bed. The food was so good, and I was so hungry that there wasn’t any conversation for a while. This was food I could only dream about. Most people may not dream about pot roast, but this was fantastic.

“Andy? Can I ask you a question?” Zander had the good grace to break in on me between bites.

“Yeah. Sure.”

I dreaded what I knew was coming, but I knew it would come up sooner or later.

“What were you doing in our barn?”

I put my knife and fork down. I couldn’t meet his gaze.

“I got locked out. I had no place to go.” This was the truth. I was locked out of the school.

“And you walked here? You didn’t go to some friends in town?” Zander wondered aloud.

“I did go to a friend’s house in town, but she was out. Nobody home.”

Silence greeted that one for a moment.

“So how did you wind up here?”

“Well, I walked around, and it was just a blizzard out there. You wouldn’t believe it. I kinda got lost in the snow.” Almost true. It was horrible out there, and I might have gotten lost once or twice.

“But Andy, what were you thinking? I mean, why hide in the barn? Why didn’t you just knock on the door?”

“I sure wasn’t thinking straight. I was half frozen. I just wanted to get out of the snow without bothering anyone. It’s not like I was trying to avoid you. Hell, Zander, I didn’t even know this was your house.”

Zander looked skeptical but nodded.

We went back to eating.

“So, do you think Kaz went out running today?” I couldn’t help asking.

Zander smiled at that one.

“Yup, I think he did. In fact, I know he did. He sent me a picture his Dad took.”

Zander fished out a phone from his pocket and showed me a photo of Kaz, running down a street, more than knee deep in snow, leaving the only tracks visible.

“Figures. The man from planet running,” I joked.

“He misses you, you know.”

I turned to Zander.

“We’ve all missed you,” he said quietly.

“Well, thanks to you, I’m still here,” I rejoined. “When I thaw out, I’ll go running again, how’s that?”

“Kaz will be really happy to hear it.”

Zander seemed to get an idea, then held up his phone. “Smile, Andy.”

I tried to smile, and then I realized what was going on. “Wait. Did you just take a picture?”

A wicked smile formed on Zander’s face. He started typing something into his phone.

“Don’t send that.”

“Too late.”

“What did you send?”

“See for yourself,” he said, handing me the phone.

There I sat in the photo, all rumpled in the bed with a plate of half-eaten supper in my lap. My bed-head looked as if my hair had exploded somehow.

‘All ready to run when you are,’ a message captioned below.

I wanted to die of embarrassment. I wanted to tackle Zander and make him pay for that. I wanted to hug him and never let him go, for letting me be his friend again.

“Oooh, man, Zander, when I get out of this bed, you’ll regret that,” I threatened. But I couldn’t help grinning.

“Sure, but in the meantime, you better be nice to me, or who knows who else is gonna see that picture?”

We were interrupted by another person joining us. A tall man with light brown hair and smile lines around his eyes looked around the door at me.

“Well, hello, there. You must be the new livestock,” he said with a deep, resonant voice.

Livestock? Of course. I was found in the barn. Another joker.

“Dad, this is my friend, Andy,” Zander made the introduction.

I tried to lean forward to hold out my hand. “Hello, sir.”

“Don’t move, don’t move Andy,” he insisted, moving over to me to shake my hand. “I hear you’re still in recovery, so you should stay immobile, I expect.”

I nodded.

“Listen, Andy, before anything else happens, is there anyone you ought to call so they know you’re safe?”

Shit. If I were a normal kid, I would have called my parents ages ago. Of course, there wasn’t any point in calling Dad, was there?

“No. Dad is out of the house this week, so he won’t worry.”

“His dad drives a truck – a big eighteen wheeler,” Zander volunteered. He looked over at me apologetically.

“I understand that. Zander told me that yours is a single parent family,” Zander's father continued delicately, “but that’s all the more reason that if your dad is on the road someplace, he’s bound to have heard about the snow here. I bet he’s really worried about you.”

I nodded, even though there was no way Dad could worry about me anymore. I doubt he would have worried if he was still alive.

“Why don’t you call him, just to let him know you’re safe?”

I shook my head. What was I going to do now?

“I don’t have a phone. Like I said, Dad isn’t going to worry.”

“Yes, well, I worry about what he’d say if he knew about what’s happened.”

“He can use my phone,” Zander offered.

Geez, thanks, Zander. Ugh. Oh well, he didn’t know.

“No, I think I’d rather he use mine, Zander,” his Dad said. “I’d rather the caller ID have my name on it, you know? I’ll go get it.”

“Sorry,” said Zander. “I know he’s an asshole, but he’s your Dad, after all. He should know.”

I shrugged. I wasn’t going anywhere near that. I figured I could dial my Dad’s old number, and hope that nobody picked up at the other end. Zander’s dad was back quickly. He handed me a sleek, black phone, which I held, looking blankly at it.

“I’m sorry, you’ll have to show me how it works,” I said weakly.

“Oh, right. Sorry.” He showed me how to place a call, and I followed his instructions.

I listened to the buzz of ringing at the other end of the line. Where was Dad’s phone now? Was it ringing uselessly, somewhere, or what? It kept on ringing. At least there was no answer. I got an idea. Zander and his father couldn’t hear anything. I could do this.

Into the dead phone, I spoke:

“Dad? It’s Andy…yeah, I’m sorry…”

My ruse must have worked because Zander and his dad stepped out of the room, I guess to give me privacy. But I kept it up, just the same. I imagined the royal chewing out I’d be getting from Dad if he really were on the end of the line, so I just waited for a bit.I

“…Yes, sir. I’m OK. I’m staying at a friend’s house… Yeah, I’ll be fine…”

It was hard pretending that Dad would actually have cared. Then I thought about what Dad would probably have yelled about.

“…don’t worry, the chores will get done…I’ll remember. Yes, sir…’Bye.”

A moment later, I handed the phone back to Zander’s father. And Zander was back.

“Thank you, sir.”

“That’s all right, Andy. I just wanted to be sure your dad wouldn’t fret over you. If it had been me, I’d be frantic, you understand?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good. I was instructed by your mother to ask about dessert, Zander. She made some pie. Either of you interested?”

Warm home-made apple pie is perhaps one of the best things ever invented. I should have eaten slowly, but I just couldn’t make it last. I enjoyed it completely, but it went pretty fast. Zander looked at me and smiled.

“Still hungry?”

“No, I’m OK.”

A more honest answer would have been that I could have loved more, but I’d already made a pig of myself, and I’d have to do better at keeping my hunger in check. It was at that moment that I realized I’d forgotten something.

Mrs. Marjorie and the Abbotts. They’d be expecting me to come and shovel them out.

“Has the snow stopped yet?”

Zander looked surprised.

“It let up for a while, but it’s still blowing out there. You’re not thinking of going home, are you?”

“I’ve got to get up,” I started getting out of bed, my plate with leftover pie crumbs rattling.

“Whoa, whoa, Andy, hold on,” Zander said standing. “You shouldn’t be going anywhere.”

“I’m supposed to be at work, shoveling people out,” I insisted.

“Andy, you can’t. You can hardly stand.”

“He can’t what?” inquired Zander’s mother, walking in.

“Mom, Andy thinks he’s going to get out of bed and go to work, shoveling people out,”
Zander said, turning to her.

“Andy, honey, I hate to say this to a guest, but are you crazy?” she spun around at me.

“I’m sorry ma’am, it’s just…it’s just that people are counting on me to shovel for them.”

“Well, there’s still a driving ban and the plows aren’t out yet, so it can wait until tomorrow, I think,” she tried to reassure me.

“Well, they’re old, and I bet they’ll worry about it.”

“Who is it you have to shovel for?” she inquired.

“Mrs. Marjorie. Mrs., uh, Marjorie McDowell. Her and Harold and Gladys Abbott.”

“Marge McDowell! Well, that’s something. How do you know her?”

I shrugged. “I answered an ad last fall.”

I continued. “She’s out of town, but I promised I’d keep her walks clear. The Abbotts are pretty old, and I doubt they can shovel themselves.”

“Well, I don’t want you to worry about it now. Nobody is digging out yet. Maybe something can get done about it tomorrow.”

She gathered the dishes and took them away.

“Do you feel up to a movie?” asked Zander.

“How can we do that? Isn’t it the theater closed?” I was puzzled.

Zander laughed at that.

“You’re a trip, man. No, I meant that we could stream one on my computer. I’ll bring it in here. What do you say? This time, I’ll pick a real movie.”

I had no idea what that meant. Still, if it sounded good to Zander, it was good enough for me.

A few minutes later, Zander brought in a laptop computer.

“Hey, shove over.”

Oh God. Zander in the same bed with me. Now I really have died and gone to heaven.

I moved over. Zander lay on top of the covers, I stayed underneath. He opened up the computer and clicked on a website, bringing up a movie.

“James Bond. Classic, right?”

I nodded. I had no idea who James Bond was, but I was about to find out. I was acutely conscious of being close to Zander. Our shoulders touched, and I wanted to savor that closeness forever. It was sweeter and better than any amount of apple pie.

I confess, I kind of missed out on the movie. At first, I just concentrated on the wonderful sensation of being next to Zander. Later, I just got all kind of warm and sleepy.

I woke up to Zander’s mother laughing.

“Hey, you two. If the movie’s that exciting, maybe it’s time for bed.”

The movie was over, and a blank screen stared back at us. I started. I’d been curled up into Zander’s shoulder. I could feel him jerk awake at the same time.

“Hey, Andy, sorry, man, I guess I fell asleep on you,” Zander said, pulling away quickly.

His face had gone a deep red. I couldn’t help smiling at him through my own embarrassment, he was that beautiful.

“No problem.”

“Zander, you get to bed,” Monica interrupted. He scooted through bathroom door.

“Now, Andy, I’ve put a spare toothbrush and towels in Zander’s bathroom for you, all right?”

She pointed to the door Zander just used, and I nodded.

“Zander’s door is right through on the other side of the bathroom, and I’m going to ask him to leave it open. If you need help getting up, or if you need anything at all, I want you to call him. Don’t be afraid to wake him up – if your feet hurt too bad, or there’s anything he can get you – you understand? Wake him up.”

She was very firm in her instructions.

“You need help in getting ready for bed?”

“No, thanks. I can do it.”

“You sure?”

“I’d like to try.”

“Ooooh, stubborn boys,” Monica smiled.

She waited and watched until I hobbled into the bathroom and closed the door. The door connecting to Zander’s room was still open. I could hear him changing for bed. Taking off his clothes. Shit. I started to get hard, just thinking about it. Can’t let that happen, not now. Not when we’re friends again.

I stepped over to the door.

“Zander?”

A footstep sounded, and the door swung open quickly, revealing an anxious looking Zander. He was dressed in sweats and a t-shirt that hung off his shoulders, letting me imagine what’s underneath. I wanted to hug him. No, I wanted to do more than that. I couldn’t look at him.

“You OK, Andy?”

“Yeah. I just wanted to say thanks. Thanks a lot...for rescuing me…for tonight.”

He smiled, and put his hand on my shoulder.

“No problem.”

His hand lingered for a second, maybe two. Then, with a gentle squeeze, “G’night, Andy.”

He closed the door, and my heart raced.

I am so very grateful to Craftingmom for her kindness, encouragement and editing of this and every chapter.

Please leave a review. Your comments and remarks of all types and descriptions are most welcome.

Copyright © 2016 Parker Owens; All Rights Reserved.
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Out of a nasty situation that could have turned deadly, Andy wakes up in his friends spare bedroom. Hopefully this is the start of a new life Andy is so desperate to find. It is only a matter of time before all the stories he has had to tell about his past and present situation, catch up with him. Another great chapter! :rolleyes:

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On 12/09/2015 02:17 AM, slapshot said:

Out of a nasty situation that could have turned deadly, Andy wakes up in his friends spare bedroom. Hopefully this is the start of a new life Andy is so desperate to find. It is only a matter of time before all the stories he has had to tell about his past and present situation, catch up with him. Another great chapter! :rolleyes:

This is probably a hugely disorienting and jarring episode in Andy's already adventurous life. Not that it's a bad one, though. And, as you point out, this could have been particularly deadly, and nearly was. Luckily, no hospitalization was necessary. Thank you so much for your review and for reading!

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Well sh*t!
Andy wasn't the only one to wake up happier this morning, all his readers were.

 

Whatever happens next, Andy's life has changed, obviously. I have a strange vision of Zander shoveling the Abbotts out and then arguing with Andy over the pay. :P

 

Zander, with his guilt over abandoning Andy to his 'father' isn't going to make the same mistake twice. Watch out Andy!!

 

Thanks for this long awaited chapter (storywise) Parker!! :thumbup:

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Aha! I totally called this episode, including the bit with the phone. Of course, now there's one more hanging chad out there... let's recap:
1) Andy's report card went to the lawyer Stevenson's office... and likely his next one will too. If he's doing as well as it sounds like he is, then he might get an invite for the National Honor Society or a reminder to register for his SATs...
2) Andy has now called his Dad's old phone; I wonder if the cops are still keeping tabs on it. Also, Zander's dad can look at the call log and see that the call never went through. Andy wouldn't know that, never having owned a phone...
3) Roger Green Hat is still out there looking for him, probably for revenge.
4) Ambrose Whitley is probably still out there looking for him, following up on leads. It wouldn't surprise me if he figured out that the only way "Eric" could have known was if he was in the barn - discovering the laundry detergent and the set of clothes would be too great of a mystery not to follow up on.
5) Hard to think that the Carlsberg police would just give up on a teen that they think murdered his Dad and planned a school shooting. Fortunately they don't have a picture to show around... but...
So what's in store in Chapter 38?
Andy is going to want to shovel out Mrs. Marjorie and the Abbots. He's also not going to want to "bother" Zander's family on Christmas, so this is going to be a tug of war. Since he really has nowhere to go for two weeks, I don't think it's possible for him to keep all of his secrets? Who will he confess to? Will Zander sneak a peek at Andy's journal when Andy's out shoveling? Will Zander's parents demand more than a shrug when it becomes clear Andy has nowhere to go... can't wait to read the next couple of chapters. I feel like a climax is coming...
This story is like crack... keep it coming :)

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On 12/09/2015 02:29 AM, xleroc said:

Aha! I totally called this episode, including the bit with the phone. Of course, now there's one more hanging chad out there... let's recap:

1) Andy's report card went to the lawyer Stevenson's office... and likely his next one will too. If he's doing as well as it sounds like he is, then he might get an invite for the National Honor Society or a reminder to register for his SATs...

2) Andy has now called his Dad's old phone; I wonder if the cops are still keeping tabs on it. Also, Zander's dad can look at the call log and see that the call never went through. Andy wouldn't know that, never having owned a phone...

3) Roger Green Hat is still out there looking for him, probably for revenge.

4) Ambrose Whitley is probably still out there looking for him, following up on leads. It wouldn't surprise me if he figured out that the only way "Eric" could have known was if he was in the barn - discovering the laundry detergent and the set of clothes would be too great of a mystery not to follow up on.

5) Hard to think that the Carlsberg police would just give up on a teen that they think murdered his Dad and planned a school shooting. Fortunately they don't have a picture to show around... but...

So what's in store in Chapter 38?

Andy is going to want to shovel out Mrs. Marjorie and the Abbots. He's also not going to want to "bother" Zander's family on Christmas, so this is going to be a tug of war. Since he really has nowhere to go for two weeks, I don't think it's possible for him to keep all of his secrets? Who will he confess to? Will Zander sneak a peek at Andy's journal when Andy's out shoveling? Will Zander's parents demand more than a shrug when it becomes clear Andy has nowhere to go... can't wait to read the next couple of chapters. I feel like a climax is coming...

This story is like crack... keep it coming :)

Well, I'm sorry for being so transparent, :), but I'm happy you got most of your wishes. All of the issues you raise exist. The biggest problem may be the tug-of-war you mention. Andy's resourceful and very, very wary of exposure. Hope you like chapter 38 - it's a big double-length chapter. Thanks for your review and for reading so far, even if it was so predictable!

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On 12/09/2015 02:27 AM, skinnydragon said:

Well sh*t!

Andy wasn't the only one to wake up happier this morning, all his readers were.

 

Whatever happens next, Andy's life has changed, obviously. I have a strange vision of Zander shoveling the Abbotts out and then arguing with Andy over the pay. :P

 

Zander, with his guilt over abandoning Andy to his 'father' isn't going to make the same mistake twice. Watch out Andy!!

 

Thanks for this long awaited chapter (storywise) Parker!! :thumbup:

What an interesting way to wake up. Poor Andy is completely disoriented for a moment, and the discombobulation continued for the rest of the day. Poor kid didn't know what hit him. Zander is probably a bit of a wreck himself. Happy, but a wreck, I expect. The next chapter is a big, double-size chapter, so make it last the whole weekend. Thanks so much for continuing to read, and especially for your review. I'm glad you woke up to it!

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This turned out to be good for now. You know, a lot of what happens to Andy has the potential to out his situation in the worst way. It's terrible that bad things still befall him, but I'm encouraged that the outcomes so far are kind of positive.
I have a bit of concern about the phone call he made from Zander's dad phone. Is it in possession with the police? Are they keeping tabs, and what if Zander's dad decide to call the number for whatever reason.
I am inclined to believe that this is where it begins to unravel, but not necessarily for the worst although it will be difficult going forward.

 

Great chapter Parker.

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I really hope that boy learns some trust. Zander would probably go to the ends of the Earth for Andy, which based on the name of the story I'm assuming that will remain his name (fingers crossed). Even though you can basically tell how the story is going to play out, it is beautifully written. I agree with xleroc when he said this story is like crack. Most stories on this site are great, but occasionally (i.e. once a year maybe) you find that one that you can't put down. I am going to hate seeing this story end.

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On 12/09/2015 10:03 AM, Defiance19 said:

This turned out to be good for now. You know, a lot of what happens to Andy has the potential to out his situation in the worst way. It's terrible that bad things still befall him, but I'm encouraged that the outcomes so far are kind of positive.

I have a bit of concern about the phone call he made from Zander's dad phone. Is it in possession with the police? Are they keeping tabs, and what if Zander's dad decide to call the number for whatever reason.

I am inclined to believe that this is where it begins to unravel, but not necessarily for the worst although it will be difficult going forward.

 

Great chapter Parker.

Thank you for this review, Def. Andy is still a very wary boy inside, but maybe this experience will get him to trust some more. We just don't know what happened with Andy's father; that was more than could be fit into the text. The phone call could be problematical, but only if Zander's dad thinks he needs to call. This could happen, and then the unraveling could begin - but only if...for now, Andy sleeps in an actual bed in the same house as Zander. If he weren't so tired, the thought would keep him awake all night. Many thanks again!

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On 12/09/2015 10:18 AM, Houdinii said:

I really hope that boy learns some trust. Zander would probably go to the ends of the Earth for Andy, which based on the name of the story I'm assuming that will remain his name (fingers crossed). Even though you can basically tell how the story is going to play out, it is beautifully written. I agree with xleroc when he said this story is like crack. Most stories on this site are great, but occasionally (i.e. once a year maybe) you find that one that you can't put down. I am going to hate seeing this story end.

You were really nice to write what you said. And yes, if it was addictive for you to read, think of the poor author who hated to type the final period. It was very hard to put aside, and still is for me. Andy is still a very cautious, very wary kid, here. Plenty can happen, and plenty can still go very, very, badly for him, and he knows it. But for now, there's a warm bed and a family that has taken him in as a houseguest. That's good enough to sleep on. Next chapter is a big double-length chapter, so you will have to pace yourself somehow!

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I'm wondering if that phone call will come back to bite him...if the police still have it and see the call they're going to investigate who the caller is. This was a great chapter. It's so nice to see Andy in a real home environment instead of the school. I hope he gets to stay there for a while, at least for the week his 'dad is out of town'. I have to say I'm surprised that the assistant principal left him out in the elements like that. I would think he has an obligation to make sure all his students are picked up safe and sound. Not very smart or responsible on his part. Great chapter. Your writing just continues to get stronger. I can't wait for the next chapter. :)

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On 12/09/2015 12:00 PM, Valkyrie said:

I'm wondering if that phone call will come back to bite him...if the police still have it and see the call they're going to investigate who the caller is. This was a great chapter. It's so nice to see Andy in a real home environment instead of the school. I hope he gets to stay there for a while, at least for the week his 'dad is out of town'. I have to say I'm surprised that the assistant principal left him out in the elements like that. I would think he has an obligation to make sure all his students are picked up safe and sound. Not very smart or responsible on his part. Great chapter. Your writing just continues to get stronger. I can't wait for the next chapter. :)

Thank you for your kind words. Andy is very wary, and likely to guard his secrets. Though Andy hasn't thought it all through, he's hot to know that everything could go badly wrong if he slips up at all. The phone issue may turn out to be trouble. The assistant principal was remiss in that he really ought to have taken Andy to the police station for emergency shelter; a place Andy resolutely would have refused to enter. Thank you for reading and giving me your thoughts. The next chapter is a great big double-length chapter, so you will have to pace yourself!

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On 12/13/2015 01:58 AM, Mikiesboy said:

Liked it. It is starting to feel more real than it has in some parts. I'll check out the next...

Thank you for your comment. Very glad you liked it....keep reading...

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On 12/13/2015 01:58 AM, Mikiesboy said:

Liked it. It is starting to feel more real than it has in some parts. I'll check out the next...

Thank you for your comment. Very glad you liked it....keep reading...

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How did his T-shirt stay dry? I'd have thought that would be wet like the rest of his clothes so they'd have taken it off and put a dry one one him, possibly seeing his back. Just curious, if I didn't like the story I wouldn't have read this far.

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On 12/13/2015 02:50 AM, Paqman said:

How did his T-shirt stay dry? I'd have thought that would be wet like the rest of his clothes so they'd have taken it off and put a dry one one him, possibly seeing his back. Just curious, if I didn't like the story I wouldn't have read this far.

Probably Andy's t-shirt was 'mostly' dry as a result of being dressed in layers: coat, flannel shirt, t-shirt. At least, that's how I figured it. Moreover, I imagined Mrs. Stevenson might have felt kind of funny stripping a stranger completely. And thanks for making the point! I appreciate good questions like these, and appreciate your reading the story even more.

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I have a very bad feeling that Andy called his dad with Zander's father's caller ID. :(

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On 03/20/2016 03:25 AM, aditus said:

I have a very bad feeling that Andy called his dad with Zander's father's caller ID. :(

You have a vey good point there; poor Andy doesn't have much in the way of experience with these devices...doesn't really get that every call has an ID. Of course, his father is dead, or so he assumes. Hope you don't need to break out the chocolate yet...

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:wub: Another of my favorite chapters, it's like getting a Christmas present every time I read it. And yes, I come back again and again to enjoy A to Z. I chuckle everytime Andy tries to get out of bed so he can go shovel snow. Yep, he's one stubborn boy. And Zander can't believe he's gotten his dream boy in the house.

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On 12/31/2016 08:25 AM, Timothy M. said:

:wub: Another of my favorite chapters, it's like getting a Christmas present every time I read it. And yes, I come back again and again to enjoy A to Z. I chuckle everytime Andy tries to get out of bed so he can go shovel snow. Yep, he's one stubborn boy. And Zander can't believe he's gotten his dream boy in the house.

Andy is stubbornness, embodied. And this is one of my very favorite chapters, too. If I can tell tales on myself, I reread this chapter from time to time, also. Zander's stomach must be turning somersaults and tying him in knots...

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Hi Parker,

I apologize in advance for not leaving comments earlier for this magnificent book! I really have been enjoying it and the few other books that I have read on this website. I must say that the things I went through as I was growing up as an African-American male in Alabama were minute compared to what Andy has gone through. Not only that, but at such a young age! This is a wonderful touching heart-gripping story so far! It has a lot of twists and turns of survival. Miraculously, Andy has survived all the adversities he had to face; however, I can only hope that things are starting to get better. There are a lot of issues that need to be resolved from his past. I hope something good comes out of it this is a phenomenal story and I have not commented earlier because I do not know if you are still active on this website, but it seems like you are even though this story was finished in 2015.  I saw your name on another author’s comment section so I said let me read and give your story a try and I'm glad I did! Great story!

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Thank you very, very much for taking the plunge and commenting. Your words make writing stories worth the time and effort spent. I know that Andy's story was a dark and difficult one at first. I thank you for sticking with the story to this point. Andy certainly has much to deal with and much to resolve. But perhaps he can begin to do dp these things in us new year. Again thank you!

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Great work on this story and especially this chapter. 

I think Andy being found in the barn at Zander's house was a miracle in the way that if he'd gone somewhere else it's hard to say if he would have been found. I'm sure that Zander's in 7th heaven with Andy being right in the next room. I wonder if anyone has seen his scars that he has from being beat all the time by his dad. I'm glad that Zander and his parents are willing to have Andy stay in their home after Zander's mom found Andy in the hay that morning. I'm glad that Zander and Andy finally talked about when Andy was taken by Roger green hat. Zander apologized for not talking to him when he started going to classes again, Andy told Zander that he had nothing to apologize for. I hope that Andy doesn't try to get up again and then go to shovel the snow from Mrs Marjorie's house and also the Abbott's house as well. I have a feeling that Zander will go do them as soon as the roads are plowed enough for people can get places. With Christmas right around the corner I wonder if Zander's family will let Andy stay with them until they return to school. The phone call may be a problem for Andy especially if the police are still monitoring it. I think if they are monitoring the phone they'll call the number back and start asking questions about who made the call and then if he's still there. The police will probably come after Andy so that they can question him more about his whereabouts for the time around his dad dying. 

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@Butcher56: All kinds of questions and issues raised here; I shall remain mute on most of them. Andy has learned to hide well - very well. His scars will be the last thing he lets anyone see. You’re right about one thing, though. Zander is quite probably full of a nervous energy and inner turmoil that we can only imagine. Having Andy right there, in his house, in the next room, must be both wonderful and terrifying. Thank you for reading the journal thus far, and for your comments. 

Edited by Parker Owens
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