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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.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

A to Z - 67. Chapter 67 Epilogue

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/

Happily Ever After.

Well, 'ever after' hasn't happened quite yet. It has been seven years since your last entry in that journal. We were given beautiful matching bound books as wedding gifts, and you've been writing in a series of those ever since. Mine have become sketchbooks. After seven years, we're still together and still very much in love.

But 'ever' isn't here yet. We have a lot of life together left to live.

As for happily? Yeah. Happy. Definitely happy.

We've met plenty of people who are going through life unhappily for a lot of reasons. Some are victims of terrible misfortune, some suffer from their own bad decisions. Some choose unhappiness, over and over again.

Marilyn O'Shea told us that we could choose happiness, and I think we did, seven years ago.

This isn't to say every day since our wedding has been hearts and flowers. The world still has bigots and hopelessly small-minded fools. And, like any couple, we have had our trials and arguments from time to time.

The summer between junior and senior year in high school turned out to be pretty stressful. You insisted that I go to an architecture program at the University of Miami. It was important for me to do it, and the experience was really helpful. I learned a lot. But I didn’t want to go, because I'd be leaving you behind. We'd be apart, and I didn't want that. When I got back, I would be going directly to swim camp – and we'd be apart for two more weeks.

Those five weeks were brutal for both of us – we tried to use our cell phones to see each other every day, but you were working for Eustace again that summer, and cell service at the farm was pretty sketchy. It still is. You discovered that there were two places with a reliable signal: up at the pond, and up in the hayloft. Phone sex with you in the hay? Oh, boy.

When swim camp was finally over, I expected mom or dad to pick me up, but you surprised me and came to do it yourself. You'd gotten your driver's license while I was away and never told me. I'll never forget how I jumped into your arms in front of everyone in the lobby when I found you waiting for me at the dorm. And then you helped me pull a prank worthy of Frank on a couple of the guys who'd actually been hitting on me while I'd been there. But that's another story.

Best of all, Eustace decided that you were perfectly capable of watching the farm and handling the list of tasks that needed to be done for about a week. He figured it was time to take his grandkids on a fishing trip. He left us together at the farmhouse for a whole week.

Yes, we worked very hard; you wanted everything to be perfect when Eustace came back. But we also played – and not just in bed, either. We wrestled in the hayloft getting the hay in, discovered an icy swimming hole deep in the woods, and threw weeds at each other in the garden. You took me up to the pond for a starlight skinny dip. I will never forget making love to you on the grass under the stars for as long as I live.

We came back to the farm in the fall at Thanksgiving that year.

Eustace invited us – all of us, mom, dad, you and me, along with Ambrose and his family, and Allan Walker and his family, and your grandmother Walker – to the farmhouse. The place was packed. Eustace put all the younger children in a fixed-up space in the far back of the house, while the adults got sorted out in all the various bedrooms; you and I got the hunting cabin.

I get a blissful, warm feeling thinking about that, still.

I'd forgotten that you'd never seen a Thanksgiving before; never lived through the smells, the excitement, the anticipation, the joy, and, of course the taste of such a holiday. Come to think of it, I'm not sure I can remember a meal like that one, either. To watch you experience those days was a gift to add to the huge pile of things we had to be thankful for that year.

After the meal, we had to lean on each other for support as we staggered back to the cabin under skies so clear and cold that every star in heaven must have been visible.

Living at home while being married and in high school was weird. Hell, the situation challenged almost everyone. Our friends seemed unsure of how to treat us until we made it clear we weren't any different than we had been. At home, mom and dad had to learn how to talk to us as people who weren't quite adults, but pretty close. Chores and coordinating life got to be much more cooperative and less dictated. On the other hand, I had to learn to keep my voice down during what mom discreetly chose to call "playtime."

Now that was seriously embarrassing.

Mom and dad kept their promise to help us learn how to be a married couple. Dad gave me instructions on how to "fight fair," instructions that sounded a lot like Father Brewer's counsel. Nonna Costanza came back up to teach you how to cook Italian.

Their advice and example really helped when we applied to college, because we were both so tense and anxious that we wouldn't both get into the same university – me for architecture, you for agricultural engineering. You were absolutely adamant that if I got in and you didn’t, you weren't going to school.

We got the best deal at State. I got a swimming scholarship, and you got a full ride from a little-known scholarship fund for victims of violent crime. At first, it was me all the coaches and admissions people were after; later, it was you.

And it was you who supported me through some pretty dark times after my shoulder got injured in my junior year, and I lost my scholarship. You never wavered even when I wanted to quit and let myself go.

You never, ever wavered, not then, and not when I had to take an internship year in San Francisco two years ago. More time apart. You went to work while I went off to study and apprentice for a year. I was miserable until you were able to come out and rescue me. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

We had our fights, too.

One big disagreement was over money. Specifically, the money your father's estate left to you, once all the legal dust had settled. With the sale of your old house and everything in it, the amount turned out to be pretty impressive. And it turned out there was a rather large, mysterious savings account your father had maintained – it had thousands of dollars in it.

Your Uncle Ray cleared up that mystery for us, eventually. It was blackmail money. Your father had been setting it aside, month by month, to hand over to your uncle once he was released from prison. But your father, greedy, tight-fisted and cheap as he was, found excuse after excuse to put your uncle off once he got out.

Of course, they fought over it, and your dad was murdered. But your uncle never found the account number, so he never touched the money.

You wanted nothing to do with any part of it. You called it "filthy money," and refused every attempt by my dad to get you to deal with the cash at all. At one point, you wanted to give every penny away.

I argued that you ought to keep it, use it to go to college with, or use it to do something that your father would surely have denied you as a way of posthumous spite.

Eventually, you gave in, once I suggested a way for you to clean up the money from the estate by giving some away – you chose a charity for runaway kids – and letting my dad invest the rest for a while.

In the end, we were both right. Because you kept the money, we could use it for something really important; because it didn't go to college payments, we have a home of our own now. And not just any home. When Eustace decided it was time to get out of farming completely, you worked out a way for us to buy the farm.

It's ours, now, with no debt. We just finished moving yesterday, and we're unpacking all this week. I'll be able to travel on short trips for most of my work, and we're turning one of the rooms upstairs into my studio. My wedding present to you – that portrait of you I did when I first got you to pose for me the fall we met – that's going to hang in the living room. I had it framed right before our wedding, and it still suits you perfectly. We'll have a library downstairs, but these journals had to go on a shelf in the bedroom where I can see them every day. I don't think I'll ever want to leave.

Everyone congratulated us on making this move to the farm – our parents, Kaz and Terry, Ambrose, all our friends and family. And I think there may be a little bit of envy there, too. But I watch your face whenever you receive a compliment from someone. You always reply that you've just been very lucky.

In a way, that's true. You have. Good fortune let you survive eight years of brutal horror with your father. Luck brought you to Eustace; more luck brought you to me. But that's only part of the story. You’re the most courageous, persistent and energetic person I know. It took bravery to walk away from Carlsberg, courage to take to the road on your own. It took guts and persistence to stay on the road, day after day, in the rain, in the heat, hungry and weak and vulnerable. It took fantastic audacity to pretend – for a whole semester – to be a normal kid, while living a dual life as a homeless boy, hiding in the library closet. And it took courage to take me on as your husband, even though so many people didn't think it very wise.

You have been the great constant in my life. Your love for me, and mine for you, only seems to get better and stronger. More than this place, more than this house, you are home for me.


(Undated addition – written on the inside back cover)

I smile whenever I read this.

I sometimes sneak into the house while you're working, Zander, or when it's lunchtime and you're traveling, and I re-read your final note in this journal. You wrote it five years ago, and it still makes me happy. To anyone who reads this: I want everyone to know that Zander still makes me happy, even after twelve years.

A lot has changed in the five years we've been here.

The farm is expanding – the flock is bigger and healthier now than when we took over. I've made some great contacts that get me better prices for both wool and meat than Eustace got, which means there's money for improvements.

I'm thinking about how we can branch out, try other things. I want to try fruit trees; Zander wants to build three or four rental cottages for vacationers. Architectural gems, by the look of their design sketches. They'll attract aficionados who might pay to stay in something stylish or offbeat. Maybe you're onto something, Z.

We might have the money to buy some more acreage soon, so we'll see.

Some things you forgot to include, Zander: how did you forget Terry and Kaz's wedding the summer after we graduated? Their kids – twins! – call us uncles, as if they don't have enough of relatives of their own. Or the time you just about got into a fistfight because some guy in college was flirting with me? I had to drag you away, but deep down, I felt thrilled at your protectiveness. Or what about our trip to Africa? You joked that the only scenery I looked at were the shepherds and their flocks. You left out a couple of trips south to see Delia Walker. Do I have to remind you how I felt about all those beach boys ogling my husband? Or remember how you got me out of my self-conscious funk and into the surf, where nobody cared what I looked like, and all I could do was take joy in your abundant happiness? Remember?

Maybe you're right. Maybe I am too focused on how lucky I've been. Fine. Maybe I should say that I've been blessed. Is that better?

Every day God sends is a blessing when I wake up next to you.

Tonight, we've had another blessing which has me taking notes again. Right after the supper dishes were put away, someone came rapping on the kitchen door. There stood a thin, wiry boy, maybe fourteen. Tangled red hair, searching green eyes. I didn't need to ask his last name – it was obvious.

He had cuts on his cheek, chin and forehead. Bruises were going to blossom elsewhere on his face, I could see. He stood there a moment. "My name's Reed. Reed Anderson, and I'm looking for work. Do you got any?" The teenage voice just about cracked. His lip trembled.

I wanted to wrap the kid in a hug, but you were more sensible.

"Nope, no work tonight," you said cheerfully, "but we've got some leftover supper, if you need, and a table to eat it on. Come on in."

Food lit the boy's eyes right up.

I put together some supper really fast, while you peppered the kid with questions. Turns out little Reed got caught sucking off one of his cousins in the tool shed. His daddy decided to 'beat that gay shit right out of him.'

Didn't work; daddy's been beating on Reed for about a month now.

There's a room upstairs for Reed. You're upstairs with him right now, helping him shower and getting his cuts cleaned. He's staying. I took some pictures, and I'm calling Ambrose in about fifteen minutes. We'll fix Reed's daddy if I have to take on the whole damn Anderson clan. And we're keeping his boy.

See what happens? I spend a few minutes writing in the old journal, trying to calm down and think rationally, and I'm just getting angry again.

But there isn't any backing down on this. Reed isn't going back to Andersonville. You're right, Zander: you are my love and my hope and faith; we're home for each other. And I think we're about to discover that there's room in our home for someone new.

But that's going to be another story.

em>I wish to express my deep, deep gratitude to Craftingmom for editing all of A to Z. Her wisdom, encouragement, patience and enthusiasm were invaluable.
If you have any final thoughts or comments to make, please leave a review. I have appreciated and valued every one of them.
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.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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Chapter Comments

On 03/12/2016 12:25 AM, avidreadr said:

LOVE IT, LOVE IT, LOVE IT. I'm a sucker for a good epilogue. It's wonderful how everything came together for them so beautifully. This is one story I think I'll be re-reading now and again. Thank you for gifting it to us.

Thank you. I am so very glad you found the epilogue satisfying. And what you said about re-reading A to Z is about the nicest thing you can say to an author, I think. Thanks again.

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On 03/12/2016 12:25 AM, skinnydragon said:

BRAVO Parker!


A perfect ending(?) to Andy's Odyssey.


I'm thrilled you maintained the felicitousness of the writing you employed in the final chapters.


You also left us with a faint hope for Reed's Journey.

You Devil.

Andy had to have the last word. And now some years later, I suspect the poor Anderson clan won't know what hit them. I am so glad you stayed with the story and found your way to the end. And your suggestion for a new title...there's an idea...;)

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On 03/12/2016 12:26 AM, pant1111 said:

Thank you for writing and sharing this story with so many "not so talented" people like myself. I have enjoyed your story from the beginning through the end. I could see that the story was rapidly coming to its conclusion. I dreaded the coming end but I waited with eager anticipation to read more. Your story was well written and well thought out. Thanks again for the gift you shared.

Thank you for your very kind words. It was time for the story to end; A and Z have quieter, happier lives to lead for a while. I am really happy you enjoyed the story so much; this is why any of us write here. Again, thanks for reading!

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On 03/12/2016 12:30 AM, Mikiesboy said:

((hugs)) you did it! And now its out there forever and people will continue to read it and love these two. Congratulations, Parker.

tim xo

((HUGS)) right back :) Thank you, Tim! And thank you for your encouragement, support and honesty. I am glad you love A and Z as I do.

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On 03/12/2016 12:33 AM, Paqman said:

Thank you. I was hoping there was going to be an epilogue so we could find out what happened to them.

The last line keeps hope alive there'll be a follow up,I wondered if they'd adopt or foster in the future, or employ a surrogate mother.

Anyway, thanks for one of the best tales here.

It is wonderful to know you liked this story. It was good of you to read it through to the end after its rough beginning. It was a satisfying epilogue, I hope. Thanks again for reading!

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On 03/12/2016 12:40 AM, xleroc said:

Thank you for writing this wonderful story, Parker. It's going to be tough not having Andy's story to look forward to twice a week, but we'll manage. Hopefully this will be just the first of many great novels we'll get to read from you.

I am very happy you enjoyed this story - and your encouraging comments (and wickedly accurate plot predictions) will be sorely missed. Thanks so much for reading A's story all the way through to Z.

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On 03/12/2016 12:45 AM, flamingo136 said:

Tears of happiness are blurring my vision as I attempt to express my deepest gratitude to you for sharing Andy and Zander's journey. It is and always will be an inspiration to those of us who have endured and survived abuse as kids.......It's the hope of a better future that seems to evade our thoughts while being in the midst of abuse....Andy found that hope and it reminds us all that hopefully life can be brighter.....Parker, you are a blessing to us all..................:)Mike

If you end A to Z feeling more hopeful, happier and fulfilled, then I am very happy, too. Thank you for reading Andy's story all the way through to its end, despite its very dark beginning. It is readers like yourself who are such great blessings.

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On 03/12/2016 01:09 AM, Kjamieson said:

Wow. Thank you for sharing this incredible story. I am sad to see it end, but I loved every chapter. You have a real talent and I hope you continue writing.

Thank you for your really kind comment. I am glad you liked what you read in A to Z. Many, many thanks.

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On 03/12/2016 01:39 AM, Ricki said:

Wonderful story, from beginning to end. Thank you for sharing it with us.

Thank you. I'm very happy you liked what you read.

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"Happily Ever After" fittingly begins your beautiful epilogue. I am slightly reluctant to use phrases like "fairy tale" and "magical" even though "A to Z" is magical and is a modern day fairy tale, a modern day Odyssey. I can just as readily use the phrase "photo realism" to describe the combination of excellent writing, brilliant story telling, and realistic potrayal to explain what brought this powerful and uplifting story to life.


Andy captured my heart back when he was Stefan. The darkness of his experience made me want to turn away, but I could not. In the first review I wrote for GA, I asserted that you had created a wonderful and compelling character; I asserted that to be the essence of good literature. I reassert both sentiments in my final review. Of all the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of stories I have read, from amateurs and Nobel laureates alike, your Andy, our Andy, is my all time favorite!


Thank you ...

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