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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 - 50. Chapter 50 Departures

Departures

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/

March 10

This morning, I woke before the alarm went off. Zander had tipped over onto his stomach during the night, and I had gone with him. I lay partly sprawled over his warm back. I raised my head to look at the clock. Ugh. Five minutes to go before alarm would scream to get us moving. And we would have to get moving.

I lay down again, my ear just below Zander's shoulder blade. I listened to the slow, steady thump-thump of his heart. I would miss this for the next two nights. It seemed like it would be forever, but it really wasn't going to be that long. At least, that's what I told myself. I’m not sure I believed it.

I felt totally at peace, right then at that moment. I knew that once we opened the bedroom door and went downstairs out into the world, Zander and I would have to appear to the world as friends. Only that. Monica and Mr. Stevenson, Kaz and Terry, they're only ones who know the whole truth – or nearly all of it. To everyone else in the world, Zander and I are just buddies who hang out together a lot. Some people have started to figure out that I actually live with Zander and his family, but they know nothing about our love. And I don't think anyone - except maybe Zander himself - knows how much I really love him. How much I live for his laughter, for his smile, for his touch and for the gentle jokes he plays on me. For the knowledge that I am loved.

Idly, I wondered how it would be to live like Kaz and Terry, or the other couples I see in school. What would the reaction be if Zander and I went to school holding hands, or stole a kiss at the lunch table, like the others do? Kaz's sister Lena would freak, I guess – Kaz keeps telling me I'm her biggest crush. That feels really weird to hear him say that. Anyway, Monica and Mr. Stevenson seem to be pretty tolerant of our affectionate moments together at home, but even then, I think they wince at it sometimes. I don't think the rest of the world would be quite so forgiving.

This is why I treasure our time alone together, when Zander and I can really be ourselves.

And then the alarm blared out, and the day began. Zander woke with a jerk, then reached out and silenced the strident electronic noise. It had served its purpose. We were awake. Zander rolled over and kissed me; I reached up to hold his face in my hands, and kissed him back.

"You don't know how good this is," Zander whispered when the kiss finally broke.

"Guess I'll have to practice until I learn, won't I?" I smiled back, right before I kissed him again.

But it couldn't last. Seconds were precious. "Come on, Andy, I've gotta get moving."

“Do we have to get up? I actually whined.

“Yes, dammit,” said Zander ruefully, “there’s too much to do.” But he kissed me again.

We wound up having to scramble out of bed and hustle into our clothes. Zander nearly forgot his travel bag. He’d need that for two nights and three days of competition. Zander had laughed about that the night before.

“I don’t know why I’m worried about what clothes I pack. I’m going to spend ninety percent of my time in my swimsuits and warm-up jacket.”

“I wish I could be there to watch you,” I had returned, with my own laughter.

But my smile hid a worry. Things have been good. Too good – how can this last? Will Zander get bored with me? What will happen when he meets someone better looking or more confident, or less damaged? Zander's wonderful – I couldn't have fallen in love with anyone more perfect – but I somehow, I can't believe he'll feel that way about me for long. In that moment, I felt afraid I would lose him.

None of this came through to Zander, of course.

We ran down the stairs, expecting to have to walk – almost run – to school to meet Coach Simpson at the pool. Instead, Monica and Mr. Stevenson surprised us both by being up and ready to drive us to the high school.

“We wanted to see you off, and wish you luck,” Mr. Stevenson explained to Zander as we left the warm kitchen for the cold car outside.

Monica fussed over Zander in the short drive over to the school, making sure he had remembered everything he was supposed to have brought with him. Coach Simpson’s car was waiting for us in the parking lot when we arrived. Either we were late, or he was early. Everyone got out and greeted Coach Simpson, who emerged from his car. Zander transferred his bag to Coach’s car, then got hugged by his parents again as they made their farewells.

I got kind of choked up at this. Nobody had ever done anything like this for me. How lucky Zander was to have a family. And I was reminded that this same family cared for me when Mr. Stevenson motioned to me from the open window of the car.

“Andy, don’t make any plans for after school, okay?” he called to me while Zander and Coach headed to the athletic entrance to the school.

“Sure, why?” I asked.

But he only grinned and waved, as he drove off, leaving me to catch up with the other figures as they entered the building.

Swimming lessons were not like they had gone the last few days. After a few minutes in the pool with Zander, Coach Simpson appeared with a clipboard in hand and stood at the side of the pool.

“Hey, guys,” he said, waving the two of us over to the spot where he stood, “I need Andy to do some things for me.”

I looked at Zander, who just said, “Don’t worry, it’ll be fine.”

I stood in the water at Coach’s feet, my toes on the bottom of the pool with just my neck out of the water, like Zander had told me. Maybe he wouldn’t see anything.

Coach wanted me to demonstrate the various things Zander had taught me during the week. I floated on my back, on my stomach, sculled around, held my breath under water and kicked off the wall. I had to tread water for ten minutes in the deep end kick with the kickboard for several lengths of the pool, attempt a version of the freestyle stroke, and several other things. I had to change gears rapidly, and I did my best, not only because I wanted to show what I had learned, but also so that Coach would be pleased with Zander’s teaching. I wanted to be his star pupil.

I hardly had a moment to think about what I looked like.

When we were done, Coach smiled, scribbled something on his clipboard, and said, “Great work, Andy. You’re coming along fine. You’ll get an A on this unit for the week.” He turned and headed back to his office.

Zander beamed at me. “See? I told you swimming was cool and easy.”

“Easy? Did you see how hard he made me work?” I retorted, and splashed him.

Laughing, Zander splashed back. In no time, we had an all-out splashing contest going on – totally against the rules posted in big black letters on the wall – and the room rang with our shouts of laughter. Suddenly, I was blinded by a sheet of water sent in my direction by Zander’s hands. I spluttered to clear my face and suddenly felt Zander’s hands on my shoulders.

“Gotcha,” Zander said softly. Then he pulled me into him and placed his lips on mine. He was warm and wet, and my chest slid against his so beautifully. It was so sensual, I just about died of pleasure right then and there. “I’ve been wanting to try that all week,” he said, smiling at me.

“If we can do this all the time, I’ll go swimming with you any day you want,” I told him, looking straight into Zander’s eyes. It wasn't our last kiss in the pool.

At breakfast in the cafeteria, we joined Kaz, who was already seated, eating eggs and cereal. No breakfast burrito for him.

“Andy, do you want to run or hit the weights this afternoon?” he asked right away.

“I can’t do either one,” I said, my own forkful of cafeteria eggs almost to my mouth. “Mr. Stevenson wants me to do something with him after school.”

“Bonding time, I’ll bet,” Zander said grinning.

Kaz laughed at that. “So that means we’ll have to run double tomorrow,” he told me.

“On a Saturday? Really, Kaz?” Zander asked in mock horror. Kaz would spend every hour of every day running, if he could.

“Yeah. On a Saturday. And we’d better do it early, because the weather’s supposed to get nasty Saturday afternoon. More snow, can you believe it?”

If the weather affected running, Kaz was all over the forecast. Before we knew it, our time in the cafeteria was up. I wouldn’t see Zander in classes at all today. I wanted to hug him and kiss him again – make my goodbye memorable – but I didn’t think we could do that right there in the cafeteria.

“Meet me in the library right before lunch – right before you have to go, OK?” I told Zander softly as we bussed our trays. He nodded, and we were off to class.

I hardly remember what we did in classes for the morning. I mean I know I was there, and I took notes carefully, wrote down all the homework, and so on. But don’t ask me what happened. I was thinking too much about Zander’s impending departure.

When Physics ended, I hustled out of class and rushed to the library. I walked in and saw Zander hanging out by the bookshelves. I motioned him toward the back, toward my secret closet. He understood and followed. It was still a handy place.

We scooted inside.

“We don’t have much time,” Zander whispered. “In fact, we don’t have any time at all.”

I pulled him to me and kissed him – hard - without a word.

After the initial surprise, Zander returned it, and our lips locked together for a long, long moment. But he broke the kiss, and too soon.

“I just wanted to say goodbye, and good luck.” I panted.

Zander spoke into the dimness of the closet, “Don’t worry, Andy, it’s - ”

“ – only three days,” I finished for him. “But they will be really long days, at least for me. And I want you to know that I love you. No flirting with other boys.”

Zander rested his forehead on mine. “I love you, too, Andy. And no flirting with Kaz.” He must have been smiling. I could feel it in his kiss when he took my lips again.

And then Zander had to go. Really. Coach Simpson must have been waiting impatiently in the parking lot for him. Too bad. We snuck back out of the closet, and I watched him pass out the main doors of the school. He waved to me, and then he turned a corner and was gone.

The rest of the school day dragged on without Zander. I knew that I’d gone to school without him, trying to ignore him, for much of the fall. But now, I just missed him. At the beginning of Art class, my heard my phone vibrate. I snuck it out of the pocket in my backpack where it resided and checked it for a message.

I smiled when I saw it was from Zander. ‘we R on the big bus headed east. missing U,’ it read.

‘missing u 2. luv u,’ I typed back.

I slid the phone back into its pocket before Mr. Karpus caught me with it. There’s a rule about phones in class.

When classes ended, I met Mr. Stevenson by the main entrance to the school, but it wasn’t until I had fastened my safety belt that he told me what was up.

“You’re about to cross a great milestone in your young life,” he told me enthusiastically.

“What would that be?” I asked with some caution.

“We’re going down to the State Department of Motor Vehicles, so we can get you a Learner’s Permit.” Mr. Stevenson smiled in a satisfied sort of way.

I sat there, stunned. Was he going to teach me how to drive? Starting when?

“Don’t worry,” he assured me as I maintained my silence, “it’ll be easy. There’s a written test, which just about everyone passes – just use your common sense – and then there are forms and papers to fill out. I’ve got almost all of that done for you already.” Now he was grinning. Funny how Zander and his dad share the same smile. Genetics in action. Go figure.

“This is really nice of you,” I started to say, but Mr. Stevenson cut me off.

“Maybe it is, and maybe it isn’t,” he stated, “but it really helps to have a permit and a state photo ID. We’ll all be happier for it in the long run, I think.”

The drive down to the DMV office in Mason City took about twenty minutes. I’d never been down that way before – south of Blackburn – so I looked around carefully, trying to take in the landscape as we passed. Mostly, the snow was gone, but the grass was still brown, and the trees reached black, bony branches to the sky. I reflected that it was just chance I walked into Blackburn last August. I could just as easily have crossed through this rolling farmland and to the west without ever having met Zander or his family. All it took was a random decision to walk one road instead of another on a hot day.

The actual visit to the DMV went pretty easily, just as Mr. Stevenson said it would. We parked in a run-of-the-mill strip mall without ever actually entering Mason City; the office was one of five or six storefronts there. The place looked only mildly busy. We didn’t have a very long wait. I presented my forms and identification papers at the counter and was handed a paper learner’s permit test to fill out while my papers were examined.

Mr. Stevenson was right: the test was pretty much common sense. After walking all summer, I had a really good understanding of road signs, anyhow. I passed the test, and after due deliberation, the clerk handed me back the copy of my birth certificate, my school ID, and the copy of my name change order from Judge Harrison. And then I received a big paper receipt and a temporary learner’s permit. Lastly, I had to stand and have my photo taken for the actual permit, which I was told I would receive in the mail, later. Pretty simple, really. But now I’ll have something to look for in the mailbox every night.

About forty minutes later, Mr. Stevenson and I emerged from the DMV office and walked under a bright late afternoon sky to the car. I noticed him headed to the passenger door at the same moment he tossed me the keys.

“Here. You’re the one with the permit. You drive.” He laughed.

“Are you serious?” I couldn’t help myself. I thought this was just an exercise, a rite of passage, and a means to identification. He couldn’t possibly want to trust me with a car. His car.

“Of course I’m serious,” Mr. Stevenson said, still smiling, “what’s the point of having a permit if you don’t learn to drive?” He got in.

I was slower seating myself behind the wheel. I checked the pedals and the mirrors and buckled carefully. Mr. Stevenson watched me but didn’t say a word. I knew how to do this; hell, I’d driven Eustace Whitley’s farm equipment. I’d even gotten behind the wheel of his pickup once. The key went in the ignition. Foot on the brake. Turn the key, let the engine catch. Just like Mrs. Marjorie’s Volvo. Look behind me; put the car in gear. Back out very, very slowly.

Mr. Stevenson must have had his heart in his mouth, but he kept silent throughout. When I put the car into a forward gear, he told me “turn right out of the parking lot and head back towards home.”

I followed his instructions, and I soon found myself driving tentatively northward along the highway we’d taken earlier. Somehow, the road seemed a lot busier than it had been before. I held the wheel with a death grip.

“You’re doing fine, relax,” Mr. Stevenson said calmly, finally breaking the silence. “You can probably ease a bit closer to the center of the road, if you want.”

I tried to will the tension in my hands and shoulders to go away.

“Turn right at the next intersection,” he directed.

I slowed and turned.

“Don’t forget to signal,” he added. Shit. I’d forgotten.

The new road was much quieter, no traffic, but narrower. Nonetheless, I soon found myself driving more comfortably, though well below the speed limit. I was driving. Really, actually, driving.

“So, how did you and Zander meet?” Mr. Stevenson asked conversationally. Was he trying to distract me as a test, or was he trying to get me not to be nervous? I kept driving.

“At school. Terry – Kaz’s girlfriend – introduced us at lunch one day.” I didn’t figure Zander’s dad needed to know I’d crushed on his son since the first day of school. I’d sound like a creepy stalker.

“How’d you get to be friends?”

“Zander asked me to help him with an art project. I posed for a bunch of drawings he did.”

His father seemed surprised at that. I guess Zander hadn’t told his parents.

“I see,” Mr. Stevenson said. “And what turned it into love?”

I wasn’t prepared for that question, especially while driving for the first time. I kept driving in silence. Was it at lunch every day at school? When Zander drew me in the art room? Watching James Bond in bed? Learning to skate? Watching Zander swim? The moment I saw him the first day at school? All of the above?

“I don’t know,” I finally admitted. “I’m not completely sure when it happened. I just realized I wanted more than friendship from Zander.” I decided to change the direction of the conversation. “So how did you fall in love with Mrs. Stevenson?”

Mr. Stevenson laughed pleasantly. “We were high school sweethearts, right here in Blackburn. I’m not sure her family approved of me, but we hit it off from day one when we were freshmen. She sat down at my lunch table, and that was the end of that.”

I smiled at that story. “No other girls for you, then?”

“Nope. One thing you’ll learn about the Stevenson men, Andy, is that when they fall, they fall hard. That was true of my dad, true for me, and for Zander’s brother, Frank. You can bet it’s true for Zander, too,” he added seriously. “I can see it in the way he looks at you. He’s a goner.”

I had a moment to bask in the glow of that knowledge. Zander loves me, and it’s obvious. Maybe all my worries this morning were just stupid.

“Just be good to him, too, Andy. Try not to break his heart, okay?” his father continued.

“How would I ever hurt Zander?” I asked, feeling defensive.

“I don’t think you’d do it on purpose. But you two are so new to each other, and you may grow up wanting very different things in life,” he said thoughtfully. “Andy, you’re young, handsome, smart, hardworking – you’ll have lots of opportunities – and you might find that your heart leads you someplace else, with someone else. That’s all.”

I bit my tongue and tried to reflect on what Mr. Stevenson had said.

“You’re right that I’m young, and I do have a lot to learn,” I said, trying to speak carefully, “but there are some things I know for certain. I want what we have together now. Zander loves me, and I love him.” My voice gathered growing conviction. “I really don’t know what he sees in me, but Zander understands me, and he cares for me. He’s a real home for me.” I paused. “And he’s beautiful – you don’t mind my saying that about your own son, right? If he fell hard for me, well, I’ve fallen hard for him, too.”

There was silence for a time. “Turn right at the stop sign,” Mr. Stevenson said, eventually. I complied.

“It’s obvious you love him,” he went on, “and while I never expected to say this about one of my children, Zander's relationship with another boy – with you – is beautiful, too.” He waited while I made a left turn. “Monica and I worry about the obstacles you two will face as gay men, as a couple. But I want you to know that we’re prepared to support you. No conditions, no questions.”

I nodded. How was I supposed to drive while getting choked up? “Thank you,” I managed to get out after a few seconds. It was time to change the subject to something less heavy. “So what happened with you and Mrs. Stevenson? How did you get past the family?”

Mr. Stevenson smiled. “I just kept being persistent. I showed up when the family needed someone. I was there for birthdays and to help out at confirmations, and baptisms and weddings, and all kinds of occasions. I guess Mama Costanza got used to me.”

“Why didn’t they approve of you?” I prodded.

“Well, for one thing, I’m not Italian,” Mr. Stevenson replied. “For another, I’m not Catholic. I wasn’t exactly ideal boyfriend material for Monica. We scandalized the family, I’m afraid, because I wouldn’t convert. The wedding had to be at her house and not in the church. It was like that still, back then.”

“How come I haven’t met any of that family?” I asked.

“It’s funny, but they all moved away. There were six Costanza children; Vito and Pasquale, the oldest brothers, then Maria, then Joe, then Monica, and finally baby Ricardo. We’re the only ones to stay in Blackburn.” Mr. Stevenson paused. “Vito started a bakery business in Syracuse, Pat – that’s what everyone called Pasquale – went to Pittsburgh to work in the steel business, then switched to construction equipment sales later. He moved to Atlanta with the business. Maria got married to a nice guy, Larry DelVecchio, who works for the state of Massachusetts doing water quality regulation; Joey’s a free spirit. We hear from him sometimes. Last we knew, he was living and working in Santa Fe. That was last September. Ricardo was the apple of his mother’s eye; he studied for the priesthood and now has a parish in Philadelphia.” There was another pause. “Papa Francis – we named Zander’s brother Frank for him – died a few years back. When he passed, Mama Costanza moved down to Atlanta to be out of the cold and nearer Pat and his kids. It made sense, I guess, because she really didn’t want to manage the house alone anymore.”

That was quite a summary, and I took a few minutes to digest it. After a few more intersections and turns, I ventured “and what about the Stevenson clan?”

“Oh, there were only two of us Stevenson children, me and my sister Katherine. My father worked for the railroads here in Blackburn, and had to move as they slowly closed down operations here. My mom and dad moved to North Carolina about the time I graduated from college. Katherine married a good man – William Overtree – and they live in Connecticut. He works for the dark world of finance,” Mr. Stevenson added with a grin. “They have a couple of kids a little younger than you and Zander, but we don’t see them very often. Mom and dad still live in North Carolina, though they moved to the coast and live in a pretty nice retirement community down there.”

We’d covered a lot of back roads while we talked this way, and I was enjoying getting Mr. Stevenson to tell me more about Zander’s extended family. I wondered if I’d ever get to meet any of them.

“Mr. Stevenson, can I ask you – have you told anyone – your parents or Mrs. Stevenson’s mother – about me at all?” I asked hesitantly.

“No. Not yet, Andy,” he admitted. “We’re going to, but, honestly, we kind of wanted to wait until you and Zander were more comfortable with being more open about, you know…” his words hung there awkwardly.

“ – being gay,” I finished his sentence for him.

“Yes,” he said, lamely, “about that. I guess it’s something I want to be candid with the family about. I’m not interested in maintaining dark family secrets, you know?”

I could appreciate that point. Clearly, there’s going to be some discussion about this with Zander when he gets back.

About then, I began to recognize familiar landmarks. I knew where we were, and how to get home from where I was. That felt good, knowing that I was driving home.

My bed without Zander is a huge, empty thing. I lay there, trying to work on homework, trying to get reading done, trying to write. But nothing felt right without Zander’s presence next to me, full of ideas, telling jokes or just sharing a little warmth. Finally, I scrambled out of bed and sat down at the desk in my room. Its pristine surface practically mirrored my reflection back at me. I’d used it only to park things overnight, never as a workspace. But maybe it was a good idea to try to use it that way, if only to get away from missing Zander.

Surprisingly, I managed to get my homework done and out of the way pretty efficiently. The chair wasn’t anywhere near as comfortable as the bed – maybe that’s why. The vibration of my phone interrupted my reading.

I reached for it – someone was calling me. Kaz.

“Hey, Andy,” came the voice on the other end, “just wanted to be sure we’re still on for our big double run tomorrow, right?”

I sighed inwardly. “Yup. Still on for tomorrow. What time should I meet you?”

“Why don’t you meet me at eight o’clock at my house? And bring a gym bag with a change of clothes,” Kaz directed me, the enthusiasm detectable in his voice.

Eight in the morning? I’d hoped to sleep in, but I’d already promised. I was stuck. “Okay, Kaz. Sure. Eight tomorrow. With a change of clothes. Got it.”

The call ended soon after that, and I went right back to my reading assignment. The phone vibrated again not two minutes later. I didn’t check to see who was calling, I just hit the button and answered it, assuming it would be Kaz again.

“Yeah?” I said a little abruptly.

“Hey. It’s me,” Zander’s voice emanated from the little rectangle in my hand. Suddenly, I felt warm and happy and alive again.

“Hey, back,” I said, delighted. “You called.” That was obvious. God, why did Zander love me?

“Did you think I could go to bed without talking to you?”

I couldn’t help smiling at that. “It’s early,” I said into the phone, glancing at the clock, “don’t tell me the coach is making you go to bed now.”

“Practically,” Zander laughed. “Coach strongly urged us to get our rest tonight after the first heats were done. Why didn’t he just tell us to stay in our rooms?”

“How’d you do tonight?” I asked, knowing Zander had a couple of trials right after getting off the bus. That hardly seemed fair.

“Qualified in both the 100 and 500 free,” he said. I could tell he was psyched about that. “I’ll do trials for the 200 fly and 200 free tomorrow.”

“Congratulations, Zander. I wish I was there to cheer you on,” I told him.

“I wish you were here, too. Some of the guys are going to sneak out and go party with a couple of chicks from the girl’s competition tonight. They’re gonna look for a party at the university. My roommates are doing that.” Zander had explained to me earlier that he’d have to share a room at a hotel with three other swimmers, chosen pretty much at random. While the coaches were expected to be chaperones, a certain amount of messing around was probably expected.

“You’re not going?” I asked.

“Are you kidding? When my boyfriend is at home, in my bed, waiting for me? Why go out looking for trouble?”

I smiled. “Well, you caught me at the desk in my room, doing homework, really. I couldn’t work on the bed. You weren’t there.” Immediately, I realized how pouty that sounded. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to sound childish.”

“Don’t worry, Andy,” Zander laughed. God, I love hearing him laugh. “I’m missing you, too. I’m looking at this great big queen size bed here, and it’s looking very empty without you in it. In fact,” and his voice suddenly dropped to a low whisper, “I’ve been thinking about all the things we could do on it.”

I shivered, and my mouth kind of went dry. “Like what?” I ventured.

“Like making out with you for as long as I want,” he said, slowly drawing out the words, “like stripping you down to your sexy shorts and kissing every part of you.”

“Every part of me?” I nearly squeaked. I leaned back in my chair, stretching against the hard-on in my jeans. I touched myself. I couldn’t help it.

“Every place you’ll let me go,” Zander whispered. “I want to make you squirm, Andy.”

“Zander, you’re already making me squirm,” I told him.

“Good, because just thinking about you has me all hot and bothered, too,” I heard him say.

Nothing was said for moment or two. “Zander, what if…what if I let you strip me down to nothing at all?” I asked in a very quiet voice. “Would you kiss me every place then?” For a second, I didn’t think he had heard me.

“Yes, Andy, you know I would,” he said back, softly, but much more seriously, his voice a little unsteady. “I want to make you feel so, so good. But only when you’re ready. When it's right for you. I don't want to push you.”

“I’m ready,” I told him, a whine in my voice. “I’m ready right now.” And I was. I leaned back in my chair, my legs spread wantonly, imagining Zander between them, kissing me deeply, his hardness probing for entrance. My own cock began to weep.

“Andy - ” I heard Zander pant, with an urgency to his voice.

“I can’t help it, Zander,” I spoke into the phone, trying not to sound needy, “I miss you. And I want you…”

I heard Zander groan at his end. “Oh, man, Andy, you gotta stop it. You’re gonna make me cum in my shorts.”

“Oh. Sorry,” I said, snapping back to myself. But I couldn’t help thinking about it. Had I really just made Zander as stiff and leaky as I was? The idea made me smile.

“No, it’s okay,” I heard Zander say, his voice returning to something a little more normal. “It’s just, I…I want to actually be there with you when it happens, okay?”

And that made me feel really, really good. Of course, despite all this writing I'm doing, I'm going to go to bed as hard as a rock. I have no idea how I’ll manage to fall asleep.

I am enormously indebted to Craftingmom for her patient and considerate editing of this and every chapter. I am grateful for her encouragement and kindness.

Please leave a review. I value your remarks, reflections and comments, whatever they may be.

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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On 01/20/2016 12:54 AM, Mikiesboy said:

Hehe boys and their di...erm toys!

 

Nice family chat with Mr. S, this felt natural to me. There was a nice calm everyday feel to this I liked.

 

Nice one, Parker!

Um, yes. Toys. But how normal this all is. Unthinkable for Andy a year ago, or even a month ago. The family talk only plants Andy more firmly into the Stevenson constellation. I am so very glad you felt this calm, simple stuff to be a good contrast to the drama that has preceded it. I really appreciate your take on these chapters, and thanks for your support. I really appreciated it.

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I had a feeling that Zander's little trip away would bring the boys closer together. That's often how it works. You suddenly realise just how much you love your partner when he's not there. I love this story, great work Parker.

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Man Parker, you had me all tense with this chapter, I kept waiting for something to happen. When you named the chapter "Departures" it made me worry more. I'm just expecting that Carlsburg stuff to come back soon. Maybe soon? The calmness of the whole thing threw me off.

 

The talk between Mr. Stevenson and Andy was great, Andy needs to feel more comfortable around him. I also love how Andy and Zander are getting closer and closer. That phone call brought back memories too! Great work as always.

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Thanks Parker, again a chapter which has been a pleasure to read.
But you did have me on tenterhooks down to the last paragraph with your title even though you do not torture us with cruel cliffhangers. Departures. I knew about Zander going to a meet but what would be the second departure? The only one which seemed likely was for Andy and Mr. S to go to Carlsberg... No, so - relief!
Is there a second meaning I am missing... I know that you do not choose your words at random, so - anyway - beautiful and convincing scenes. Also that Zander can guess what his father might have planned.
There seems to be some surprise Kaz has planned for Andy to while away the weekend... I guess practically everything will be new to Andy - from spending a day with a friend or his new friends to meeting a track and field coach and trying out - this is a cliffhanger, albeit not a cruel one. so thanks

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On 01/20/2016 01:09 AM, Dodger said:

I had a feeling that Zander's little trip away would bring the boys closer together. That's often how it works. You suddenly realise just how much you love your partner when he's not there. I love this story, great work Parker.

So it appears. Zander is away, and Andy misses him terribly. But won't Zander be surprised when Andy can get behind the wheel on his return! Thanks for your comment and for your continued reading and support.

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On 01/20/2016 01:26 AM, mayday said:

Thanks Parker, again a chapter which has been a pleasure to read.

But you did have me on tenterhooks down to the last paragraph with your title even though you do not torture us with cruel cliffhangers. Departures. I knew about Zander going to a meet but what would be the second departure? The only one which seemed likely was for Andy and Mr. S to go to Carlsberg... No, so - relief!

Is there a second meaning I am missing... I know that you do not choose your words at random, so - anyway - beautiful and convincing scenes. Also that Zander can guess what his father might have planned.

There seems to be some surprise Kaz has planned for Andy to while away the weekend... I guess practically everything will be new to Andy - from spending a day with a friend or his new friends to meeting a track and field coach and trying out - this is a cliffhanger, albeit not a cruel one. so thanks

Zander departs for his state invitational championships. But Andy's departure is a little different; his new foster father takes him for a milestone driver's permit application. This is totally new to him: a parent willing to teach him something - a different sort of departure, if you like. No cruel cliffhanger here, just a day in the life of a teenager. Almost normal, in its way. And maybe that's a departure from Andy's drama, too. Sorry to have alarmed you. Thanks for your remarks and reading Andy's story. I really appreciate your encouragement and support.

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Another couple of milestones for the boys and Andy. Both is best if you take it slow at first. I'm so happy for Andy being able to release these feelings without his previous trauma making it impossible. Perhaps testing the waters long distance is a good start? Safe to give into longing.

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On 01/20/2016 01:21 AM, spikey582 said:

Man Parker, you had me all tense with this chapter, I kept waiting for something to happen. When you named the chapter "Departures" it made me worry more. I'm just expecting that Carlsburg stuff to come back soon. Maybe soon? The calmness of the whole thing threw me off.

 

The talk between Mr. Stevenson and Andy was great, Andy needs to feel more comfortable around him. I also love how Andy and Zander are getting closer and closer. That phone call brought back memories too! Great work as always.

Sorry about making you worry. The departures here were more subtle ones. Zander leaving for swim finals was the most obvious. Andy getting a learner's permit - becoming a sort of Official Normal Teenager - was a big departure. And his becoming more firmly a Stevenson - not just Zander's Andy, but Andy himself in relation to the constellation of Stevensons - well these are departures from Andy's 'normal' life as he knew it. Again, sorry my deep metaphor misled you. Many thanks for your reviews, encouragement and support.

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On 01/20/2016 03:31 AM, Puppilull said:

Another couple of milestones for the boys and Andy. Both is best if you take it slow at first. I'm so happy for Andy being able to release these feelings without his previous trauma making it impossible. Perhaps testing the waters long distance is a good start? Safe to give into longing.

"Safe to give into longing." What a lovely phrase for Andy, and Zander, too. Andy is certainly feeling more a part of the Stevenson family after his talk with Garrett. Zander has made Andy feel increasingly safe and comfortable, too. But remembering can always hurt and make one pull back, too. Thanks so much for your encouraging remarks and for your continued reading of Andy's story.

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Thank you Parker! Interesting chapter ... surprisingly easy ... really nice ... and wonderfully written.

 

We get to see a more relaxed, confident, and "normal" Andy. I admire that you were able to present him this way without breaking character. "But my smile hid a worry. Things have been good. Too good", "I got kind of choked up at this. Nobody had ever done anything like this for me", "I hardly had a moment to think about what I looked like", "“What would that be?” I asked with some caution.", "He couldn’t possibly want to trust me with a car. His car", ..., ... All the known feelings are present as expected, but they can now exist in the background. The insecurities did not magically vanish; they have merely lost some power. They are no longer so debilitating.

 

The conversation between Garret and Andy after Andy receives his permit is absolutely brilliant! For all the love Zander and Monica show Andy, Garrett best understands what Andy needs: "You’re the one with the permit. You drive". As Andy "drives", Garrett opens a deeply personal dialog. Andy converses with Garrett about his history and feelings with Zander ... WOW! Implicitly, Andy is given permission to sate his own curiosity about the family; he feels free to ask and learn. A simple, not particularly dramatic conversation transforms the unfamiliar to familiar, metaphorically and literally. "We’d covered a lot of back roads while we talked this way". In learning about the extended family as well as Garrett and Monica's history together, Andy deepens his place in the family. The conversation mirrors the physical reality of Andy driving: "About then, I began to recognize familiar landmarks ... That felt good, knowing that I was driving home."

 

The subtle shift in Andy following the conversation with Garrett is equally beautiful. Andy seems more free. I liked puppilull's words, "Safe to give into longing".

 

Great stuff Parker; I can't help but think of arrivals ....

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On 01/20/2016 08:24 AM, said:

Thank you Parker! Interesting chapter ... surprisingly easy ... really nice ... and wonderfully written.

 

We get to see a more relaxed, confident, and "normal" Andy. I admire that you were able to present him this way without breaking character. "But my smile hid a worry. Things have been good. Too good", "I got kind of choked up at this. Nobody had ever done anything like this for me", "I hardly had a moment to think about what I looked like", "“What would that be?” I asked with some caution.", "He couldn’t possibly want to trust me with a car. His car", ..., ... All the known feelings are present as expected, but they can now exist in the background. The insecurities did not magically vanish; they have merely lost some power. They are no longer so debilitating.

 

The conversation between Garret and Andy after Andy receives his permit is absolutely brilliant! For all the love Zander and Monica show Andy, Garrett best understands what Andy needs: "You’re the one with the permit. You drive". As Andy "drives", Garrett opens a deeply personal dialog. Andy converses with Garrett about his history and feelings with Zander ... WOW! Implicitly, Andy is given permission to sate his own curiosity about the family; he feels free to ask and learn. A simple, not particularly dramatic conversation transforms the unfamiliar to familiar, metaphorically and literally. "We’d covered a lot of back roads while we talked this way". In learning about the extended family as well as Garrett and Monica's history together, Andy deepens his place in the family. The conversation mirrors the physical reality of Andy driving: "About then, I began to recognize familiar landmarks ... That felt good, knowing that I was driving home."

 

The subtle shift in Andy following the conversation with Garrett is equally beautiful. Andy seems more free. I liked puppilull's words, "Safe to give into longing".

 

Great stuff Parker; I can't help but think of arrivals ....

You saw something new in Andy in this very easygoing and almost 'normal' chapter. Normality is a big, new departure for Andy. And so is becoming a part of the family as he learns more about the family history how far it extends beyond Blackburn. I don't know just how relaxed Andy was in driving - it must have been very anxious for him at the start - but he seemed to grow into it. As you put it so rightly, his insecurities have lost some of their power. And I, too, loved Puppilull's words as especially appropriate to Andy at this point - he is beginning to feel safe in giving in to longing. And he has been longing for so very much. I thank you for your remarkably kind and encouraging reviews, and for continuing to read Andy's story. I deeply appreciate it.

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Although there was a lot of Zandy at the beginning, this chapter has demonstrated Andy functioning as an independent teenage boy. We knew he could be independent, walking a bazillion miles showed that, but to fit into a normal family and school and function independently of Zander is sort of a big deal.

 

You brought that out nicely today, Parker. It'll go a long way for Andy too.

 

Thanks for this!

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Congrats on Chapter 50 :) You've reached a milestone of your own with this chapter. ;) It's nice to see Andy settling in and doing normal teenager things - like getting his permit. I'm a little surprised that Mr. Stevenson had him on the road immediately and not in an empty parking lot first, but maybe he knew that Andy had driven the farm equipment before. Maybe it's everything that has happened to Andy in his past, but I can't help feeling that we're in a bit a of a lull before the storm...the issue of his father's death hasn't been resolved and I'm very curious as to what is going to happen with that. I think with the Stevensons having his back, he'll have a lot more confidence to face the future than he ever has before. Great chapter :)

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On 01/20/2016 10:15 AM, skinnydragon said:

Although there was a lot of Zandy at the beginning, this chapter has demonstrated Andy functioning as an independent teenage boy. We knew he could be independent, walking a bazillion miles showed that, but to fit into a normal family and school and function independently of Zander is sort of a big deal.

 

You brought that out nicely today, Parker. It'll go a long way for Andy too.

 

Thanks for this!

Thank you for your encouraging words and remarks. Andy emerging as more independent and yet more his own part of the Stevenson family is a mind boggling change for Andy. A departure, of sorts. And a nice change from the drama of the past month or so, really. He could use that. I hope you continue to enjoy Andy's journal.

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On 01/20/2016 10:42 AM, Valkyrie said:

Congrats on Chapter 50 :) You've reached a milestone of your own with this chapter. ;) It's nice to see Andy settling in and doing normal teenager things - like getting his permit. I'm a little surprised that Mr. Stevenson had him on the road immediately and not in an empty parking lot first, but maybe he knew that Andy had driven the farm equipment before. Maybe it's everything that has happened to Andy in his past, but I can't help feeling that we're in a bit a of a lull before the storm...the issue of his father's death hasn't been resolved and I'm very curious as to what is going to happen with that. I think with the Stevensons having his back, he'll have a lot more confidence to face the future than he ever has before. Great chapter :)

You are right about the parking lot bit; I wondered about that, but the segue into Andy driving seemed more natural, so I let it go. And Andy does know about driving farm equipment, as you say. Hard to believe fifty chapters have gone by, Harder to believe how far Andy has come in those pages. Thank you so much for your encouragement and for reading the story. Believe me, as I started posting, I had my heart in my throat, wondering if anyone would want to read this. Thanks again.

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Another great chapter Parker. I was a bit surprised that Mr. Stevenson would grill Andy on his love life while taking driving lessons, when he needed to concentrate on the road. After all he was white knuckling it there for awhile. However that being said, it shows how far Andy has progressed, especially with his conversation with Zander when he phoned! :rolleyes:

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On 01/20/2016 12:42 PM, slapshot said:

Another great chapter Parker. I was a bit surprised that Mr. Stevenson would grill Andy on his love life while taking driving lessons, when he needed to concentrate on the road. After all he was white knuckling it there for awhile. However that being said, it shows how far Andy has progressed, especially with his conversation with Zander when he phoned! :rolleyes:

You could easily make the case that Garrett Stevenson distracted Andy. The roads they drove on were pretty quiet - not much traffic, he reported in he he journal. And maybe Garrett was trying to take Andy's mind off being nervous. And yes, the um, phone call took a decidedly interesting turn, but a turn almost normal for a teenage, no? Thanks so very much for all your encouraging reviews and for continuing to read Andy's story.

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Parker,
Hi, faithful reader here....although I have been unpardonably lax in leaving comments, I just had to stop for a moment to acknowledge your work. I admit to nearly stop following Stephan's cruel existence in the early chapters, his constant running away from opportunities of safe harbor in the middle chapters....but somehow I always came back when a new chapter posted. Maybe there is a shared experience thing with S/A that won't let me walk away....I keep reminding myself that he is just a kid...a kid just trying to survive.....ALONE
I am hoping for HEA, although realize that seldom occurs in real life....This chapter, to me was probably the best so far....It feels that Andy ( I had always hoped that Stephan could regain his true identity at some point, although I understand his need to start his new life with his new family with his new name..legally) has been fully accepted by Zander's parents.
Anyway, it's 4:00 AM, I'm rambling, I know......I wanted to publicly let you know that Andy's journey has been very touching to me.....thank you for sharing this story......I'm truly glad that I kept reading....:)Mike

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On 01/20/2016 08:33 PM, flamingo136 said:

Parker,

Hi, faithful reader here....although I have been unpardonably lax in leaving comments, I just had to stop for a moment to acknowledge your work. I admit to nearly stop following Stephan's cruel existence in the early chapters, his constant running away from opportunities of safe harbor in the middle chapters....but somehow I always came back when a new chapter posted. Maybe there is a shared experience thing with S/A that won't let me walk away....I keep reminding myself that he is just a kid...a kid just trying to survive.....ALONE

I am hoping for HEA, although realize that seldom occurs in real life....This chapter, to me was probably the best so far....It feels that Andy ( I had always hoped that Stephan could regain his true identity at some point, although I understand his need to start his new life with his new family with his new name..legally) has been fully accepted by Zander's parents.

Anyway, it's 4:00 AM, I'm rambling, I know......I wanted to publicly let you know that Andy's journey has been very touching to me.....thank you for sharing this story......I'm truly glad that I kept reading....:)Mike

I thank you for your continued reading of A to Z. It is a long tale, and admittedly hard going at times. The early chapters are especially difficult, as you say. Stefan maddeningly runs when he should stay, covers up when he ought to be open, shuts out help when he could receive what others would give. The early hard going has conditioned this behavior - but who can tell the reader that early on? Not Stefan, certainly. And he is so, so alone, as you say.

 

Not sure what 'HEA' means, but I'm guessing you mean a happy ending? Like Andy, I'm just going to shrug.

 

In this chapter, the big news is that Andy is less the guest or foster boy, and is instead becoming a part of the family. Of course, means learning about the rest of the Stevenson clan.

 

I am enormously grateful for your encouraging words and for writing responses. I am especially happy you have continued to read through Andy's story. Thank you.

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I love how the counselor is asking pretty much the same types of questions I would have asked the kids I worked with when I was a counselor. She is very cognitive in her approach, focusing on what Andy wants to talk about, asking him about his thinking and avoiding the quagmire of getting into his feelings (which is the typical approach to counseling found today).
It's interesting that you know about this approach.

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On 01/21/2016 11:24 AM, Nahrung said:

I love how the counselor is asking pretty much the same types of questions I would have asked the kids I worked with when I was a counselor. She is very cognitive in her approach, focusing on what Andy wants to talk about, asking him about his thinking and avoiding the quagmire of getting into his feelings (which is the typical approach to counseling found today).

It's interesting that you know about this approach.

I am glad you thought Dr. O'Shea's approach to be a sound one. There are almost as many approaches as there are counselors, it seems. Andy appears to be working through some of his issues and experiences, enough to grow and become more of who he was meant to be. I Am also very glad you continue to read Andy's journal, and I am most grateful for your reviews.

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Parker I have to say that the more I read of the story the more that I can understand why Andy took off after he was talking to the police about his dad. I have read all of the comments left by other readers and I can honestly say that the title was a bit misleading for the chapter but it becomes clear what was meant by departures with Zander going to the meet almost all of the way across the state and Andy making a right of passage that every teen yearns for the learners permit for driving. Once they were on the less traveled roads Garrett started asking Andy questions about how he and Zander met and then when they started to fall in love with each other and Andy got to ask questions of his own and he found out that the rest of the family doesn't know about him yet because Garrett and Monica are waiting to be sure that Zander and Andy will tough it out and stay together. Andy got a call from Kaz about the run tomorrow morning since they didn't run or do weights Friday afternoon due to the fact that Garrett took Andy to get his learners permit. Andy thought Kaz was calling back about something else but it was Zander who was calling to tell Andy about all the guys sneaking out to go to a party. Zander also told him that he wasn't going or hanging out with any of the other swimmers because he had a wonderful boyfriend at home who was better than anyone else around him. I hope that Zander and Andy make it and that their relationship grows stronger with time. 

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@Butcher56:  I'm glad that you detected how many departures were going on here, not just Zander's leaving for the other side of the state. Andy's driving, and even more, his own courage to ask questions are important departures from the norm. And the phone call from Kaz - and his own call with Zander - are departures from his previous life, too, unimaginable to Andy even when he was on his own at Eustace's farm.

 

You are very kind to write so thoroughly and to continue reading the story.

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A nice family chat with Mr S, whilst driving home from getting his driving permit. Andy and Zander almost ended up having phone sex, but they stopped before completion.

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