The Shadow of a Soul

Copyright ©2002-2022 by MultiMapper
All Rights Reserved.

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Chapter 16: Altering That Which Is Certain

"What?" Derek asked in confusion.

"He's an angel. Don't worry about that now. We've got to get our stories straight before Mom gets home... where is she, anyway?" Mark asked curiously.

"Out running some errands." Derek said with a shrug.

"How can we get her to let me go with you?" Mark asked anxiously.

"From what she told me, you were upset with her about having to move to New Mexico." Derek said in a leading tone.

"Yeah. I mean, it's not like New Mexico is a big deal or anything, I just didn't want to have to leave Enoch." Mark said simply.

"Right." Derek said slowly, then cautiously asked, "Where were you, anyway?"

"Right over there." Mark said as he pointed across the room, then added, "Except in another dimension."

"I should have paid more attention to the Twilight Zone." Derek said absently.

"What you really need to know is that about a hundred years ago, Enoch got trapped in limbo and has been here in this room ever since. I guess that after a while, he learned how to move things in this world, so that's why everyone thought that this room was haunted. Now he's back and he needs a place to live and someone to help him get used to the twenty-first century and stuff like that." Mark said frankly.

"And I need to stay with you. Without you, I might as well have stayed in limbo." Enoch said gently.

Mark smiled at the comment, then moved in to give Enoch a firm kiss.

"How about this? We tell your mother... and anyone else who asks, that Mark didn't run away. He found out that Enoch was in trouble and was trying to help him. I found both of you and brought you back here. Enoch doesn't have any family... does he?" Derek thought to ask.

"None of whom I am aware." Enoch said quietly.

"So I'm going to see to it that he gets placed with a good family." Derek continued.

"You're not putting Enoch in a foster home!" Mark said firmly.

"Our good family. I'm just saying that that's my official motivation. That's the story we'll use while we're here. Once we get to Michigan, we won't have to explain most of this. We can just tell people that I went to Texas and adopted a son." Derek said simply.

"Can you really do that?" Mark asked cautiously.

"I'm pretty sure I know who to talk to to make it work." Derek said thoughtfully.

"So, what are we telling Mom, again?" Mark asked nervously.

"How about you tell her that I said that I'd really like it if you came to live with me? And that since she's starting a new life in New Mexico, this way she can focus on her new job and get things set up for herself. Then, when she's ready, maybe you can come back down and spend the summer or Christmas with her." Derek said seriously.

"Do you think that she'll go for that?" Mark asked uncertainly.

"Your mom can be a fairly reasonable person. I think that if you speak to her practicality and let her know that you aren't doing this because you're mad at her, that she might." Derek said honestly.

"What about the custody thing? Is that going to be a problem?" Mark asked anxiously.

"No. Your mother and I agreed on the terms of the custody and the judge signed off on it. If we can get her to go along with this, then there shouldn't be any reason that the judge would have a problem." Derek said frankly.

"Where are we going to live? You sold the house, didn't you?" Mark asked thoughtfully.

"Yes. I've got a studio apartment that I just moved into. It's got a bed and a hide-a-bed sofa, so we'll all have places to sleep." Derek said thoughtfully.

"And NO privacy." Mark said with a dire look at his father.

"I admit that it won't work for the long term, but we'll find a way to manage until we can get something better." Derek assured his son.

"How are we going to get back to Michigan?" Mark asked carefully.

"Oh yeah. Oz was right about that. We can't fly, not until Enoch has ID..."

"When you speak of flying, do you mean as in a hot air balloon or a blimp?" Enoch asked cautiously.

"No... but if we could do that someday, it might be nice." Mark said with a smile, then continued, "Nowadays we have airplanes. They're kind of hard to explain, but I'm sure you'll get to see lots of them before we get to Michigan."

"When will we be leaving?" Enoch asked timidly.

"I'm going to need to investigate whether it's cheaper to rent a car or buy a decent used one for the trip." Derek said frankly.

"Whatever you get, make sure it has air conditioning. I can't believe how hot it gets here." Mark said honestly.

"The heat was a bit of a rude surprise for me, as well." Enoch agreed.

"How are you feeling, now?" Derek asked with concern.

"Much better, however, I am afraid that I am in dire need of a visit to the water closet." Enoch said timidly.

"That means the bathroom." Mark explained to his father, then asked Enoch, "Do you feel strong enough to walk there?"

"I am willing to try, although I may be a bit unsteady." Enoch said honestly.

"I'll be right there with you, every step of the way." Mark assured him.

"Are you feeling hungry, at all? I can fix you something to eat." Derek hesitantly offered.

"Not that I am aware." Enoch said cautiously.

"Go ahead and fix something, he's a teenage guy. If he's not hungry now, he probably will be by the time it's ready." Mark said confidently.

"Let me help you to the bathroom first, then I'll fix something." Derek said decisively.

* * * * *

Enoch was unsteady on his feet, but by the time he reached the end of the hall, he was able to stand on his own.

"Are you going to be alright in there?" Mark asked as he stopped at the bathroom door.

"I believe so, but..." Enoch trailed off anxiously.

"I'll go in with you, if you want." Mark offered quickly.

A smile of relief crossed Enoch's face, and that was all the answer that Mark needed.

"You guys yell for me if you need my help with anything. I'm going to be downstairs making us a late lunch." Derek said warmly.

"Thanks, Dad." Mark said with appreciation at the offer.

"Would there be any way..." Enoch began to ask, then seemed to think better of it.

"What is it, E?" Mark asked gently.

"If it wouldn't be a terrible imposition, could I possibly take a bath?" Enoch asked hopefully.

"Sure. If you'll go in and take care of your business, I'll go and get us some clothes so that we can shower... together." Mark said happily.

"Thank you." Enoch said sincerely, then muttered, "I must go."

"Go on. I'll be back in a minute." Mark assured him.

"When you guys are done, I'll be waiting on you downstairs, with lunch." Derek said warmly.

"Thanks, Dad." Mark said before hurrying back to his bedroom.

"Thank you, Mr. Taylor." Enoch said timidly before hurrying into the bathroom.

Derek smiled, then walked casually back toward the stairs. He had an idea of how long it might take for the boys to shower, so he knew that he didn't have to hurry.

* * * * *

"I didn't get any phone calls from you, did you have any errands that you needed to run?" Pat asked as she walked into the kitchen.

"No. No errands." Derek said cautiously, then turned to look at his ex-wife before carefully saying, "I found Mark."

"You did? How is he? Is he safe? Where is he?" Pat asked excitedly.

"He's fine. He's upstairs taking a shower." Derek assured her.

As she began to hurry out of the room, Derek called after her, "Just let him finish his shower and you can talk to him about it when he comes down for lunch."

Pat stopped on the second stair step, and although it was apparent that she wanted to go and see her son immediately, she was able to make herself turn around and go back to the kitchen.

* * * * *

"What happened to him? Where was he? Why did he run away?" Pat asked as she looked around at the meal that Derek was preparing.

"Mark didn't run away. He found a boy who was in trouble and he was trying to help him. I can't really go into too much detail about that except to say that Enoch has lost the rest of his family and needs someone to take care of him." Derek said cautiously as he went back to slicing tomatoes.

"Let me do that." Pat said impatiently and nudged him out of the way.

Derek knew better than to argue and stepped away from the cutting board.

"But Mark's alright?" Pat asked as she took over the lunch preparation.

"He's perfectly fine, except for being worried about Enoch." Derek said simply.

She turned to look at her ex-husband for a moment before cautiously asking, "What is it that you're not telling me?"

"Enoch's upstairs with Mark, right now... showering with him." Derek said tentatively.

Pat thought about that for a moment, then quietly asked, "They're a couple?"

"Yes. It seems that while Mark was trying to help him, they formed a very strong attachment." Derek said carefully.

Pat looked around at the food, having lost her place in what she was doing, then she asked, "If they're 'boyfriends'... how is that going to work?"

"That's something that we're going to need to discuss." Derek said honestly.

The sound of laughter on the stairs interrupted them.

"It's a lot easier in the light, isn't it?" They heard Mark saying playfully.

* * * * *

"Mom?!" Mark said in surprise as he led the way into the kitchen.

"How are you?" Pat asked with concern.

"Hungry." Mark answered seriously, then added, "Besides that, I'm fine."

"I was just explaining things to your mother. Why don't you boys sit down at the table? The food should be ready in just a minute." Derek said as he looked his son in the eyes, silently begging him to go along with it.

"Um, sure." Mark said then automatically took a seat at the kitchen table.

Enoch timidly followed and took the seat next to him.

"So, where were you?" Pat asked firmly.

"That's something they really can't talk about." Derek said before either boy could formulate an answer.

"Are they in some kind of trouble?" Pat asked with concern.

"No. Not anymore." Derek assured her, then added, "But if we want to keep them out of trouble, we can't discuss where they've been or what happened to them."

"Why not?" Pat asked cautiously.

"I can't tell you that." Derek said frankly, then glanced at the boys and winked.

Mark and Enoch were surprised, but were content to watch the master at work.

"Alright... I guess... For now... But what are we going to do next?" Pat asked in an aggravated tone.

"Eat lunch." Mark volunteered happily.

"Are you hungry yet, Enoch?" Derek asked the timid boy, sitting beside his son.

"Yes, Sir. Mark was right. After a short time, my hunger made itself known." Enoch said quietly.

"It's on it's way." Pat said simply, then continued, "What I was asking is, how is this going to impact the plans that we've already made?"

"I was thinking that, if you'd allow it, we could get the custody decree modified and Mark could come and stay with me." Derek said hopefully.

"Why would we want to do that?" Pat asked cautiously as she placed empty plates around the table, in front of each person.

"The way I see it, there really isn't any good way that Enoch could go with you to New Mexico. There would be too many questions that you wouldn't be able to answer about his origin and things like that. I'm fairly confident that I could manage to get him the documentation that he'll need to get around and function in society." Derek said carefully.

Pat placed platters of sandwich fixings in the middle of the table as she said, "Without knowing more about Enoch's situation, I'll grant you that."

Derek seemed relieved by her concession and quickly added, "Enoch needs to be with Mark, not only to help Enoch get used to how things are done here, but also because both of them would be miserable if they were kept apart."

Pat slightly nodded, but didn't say anything in response.

"Then there's your new job. You're just getting established. If Mark and Enoch are with me, that'll leave you free to do everything you need to do to get things set up with your new life." Derek said encouragingly as he took bread from the bag on the table and started to assemble a sandwich for himself.

Once again, Pat slowly nodded as she ferried jars of condiments to the table.

"Of course, once you've got everything settled, then we can talk about the boys coming down for a visit or possibly even to stay during the summer break. We'll just have to see how things are going when that time comes." Derek said thoughtfully.

When his father had finished making his selections, Mark took pieces of bread for both himself and Enoch from the bread bag, then silently pointed at things, encouraging Enoch to build himself a sandwich.

"How is that going to work with your job? You won't be able to be there with them. You're working all the time." Pat asked seriously.

"How old are you, Enoch?" Derek asked curiously.

"Fourteen, Sir." Enoch said timidly as he was trying to identify all the things that Mark was offering him.

"So am I!" Mark said happily. He had known that Enoch was close to his own age, but they'd never discussed his 'exact' age before.

"I think the boys are mature and responsible enough that they don't need me watching over them every minute of the day. And they'll always be able to call me on my cellphone if they need anything." Derek said confidently, before taking a bite of his sandwich.

"This is a lot for me to take on faith. It would be a lot easier for me to decide if I knew all of what was going on." Pat said frankly, then opened a bag of potato chips and placed it in the center of the table, within easy reach of everyone.

"I know. And I'm sorry about that." Derek said honestly, then continued, "But this is one of those situations where the best thing that we can do is pick ourselves up and move forward without looking back."

"What is the chance that whatever you're not telling me is going to come back to haunt us, later?" Pat asked anxiously as she got up from the table and walked to the refrigerator.

"I can't promise that that won't ever happen. But from what I've seen, I think everything else has been resolved. If we just leave it be, the entire future can be open to us. We just have to decide what we want to do next, to make everyone as happy as possible." Derek said cautiously.

Pat returned to the table with a gallon jug of sweet tea, then walked back to the cupboard to get glasses for everyone.

"All I care about is being with Enoch. Whether it's here or New Mexico or Michigan doesn't really matter to me. We'll deal." Mark said seriously before helping himself to some potato chips. When he noticed Enoch's uncertain look, he grabbed another handful of the chips and deposited them on Enoch's plate.

Derek considered Mark's words, then nodded his agreement.

"But I think what Dad said sounds right. If we went to Michigan, Mom could get her new job started and get things done the way she wants them without having to worry about what me and Enoch are doing. And when she's finished, then we could visit or even move to New Mexico, if that's what everyone wants." Mark said thoughtfully.

"It's true. It might be easier for me to get settled." Pat reluctantly admitted.

Mark looked around the table, then asked, "So, what do we need to do to make it happen?"

"I think the first thing that I need to do is some investigation about the best way to get the boys back up to Michigan. Since Enoch doesn't have any documentation, we can't fly." Derek said thoughtfully.

"He's an illegal alien?" Pat asked with surprise.

"No, Mom. He's from here. He just doesn't have any paperwork to prove it." Mark quickly explained.

"That's right. And I should be able to take care of that fairly easily when we get back to Battle Creek. I'm just not sure who I would talk to about it here, and besides, it would probably take more time than I have to deal with it before we leave." Derek said frankly.

Pat reluctantly nodded, seeing the sense of what he was saying.

"Do you know of anyplace where I could buy a used car that's in decent condition, so I could drive it back to Michigan?" Derek asked his ex-wife hopefully.

"Dad or Joe Bob might know of someplace, but from what I've heard, buying a used car around here can be kind of tricky. Even though the body might be in nearly perfect condition, the heat causes the engines to fail long before their time." Pat said thoughtfully.

"Yes. I remember hearing something about that." Derek said thoughtfully, then added, "It would probably be best for me to rent a car, then. So not only do I have the peace of mind, knowing that I'm not buying someone else's problems, but if there is any trouble on the drive, I can just contact the rental company and they can provide us a replacement."

"Even if it costs a little more overall, I think that makes the most sense." Pat agreed, then thought to ask, "When are you thinking of leaving?"

"There are a few things that we'll need to take care of locally before we leave. We'll have to get the custody sorted out and other legal matters." Derek said seriously.

"You should know that, on one of my errands today, I had my name officially changed. So when you're doing any legal paperwork, make sure to list me as Patricia James." Pat said seriously.

"I'll keep that in mind." Derek assured her.

"Enoch's going to need some new clothes." Mark interjected before his parents could get everything planned.

Pat looked at her son with surprise.

"I mean, he can share mine, if he wants. I think we're close enough to the same size. But most of E's clothes are... like that." Mark said reluctantly as he gestured to Enoch, then continued, "And besides that, he's going to need things of his own."

"I am accustomed to making due with what is available. There is no need for you to spend money on me." Enoch said timidly.

Pat looked at her son's boyfriend and took stock of his appearance.

The boy was a beauty, there was no doubt. His creamy green eyes immediately drew her attention. But his clothing, although neat and clean, had definitely seen better days.

"I don't think it would be any problem for us to spend a little money to update your wardrobe." Pat said to Enoch with a gentle smile.

"Yeah. And that would be one less thing for people to notice. Until we have all your legalities in place, I'd rather not do anything to draw attention to you." Derek said honestly.

"So, what are we doing now?" Mark asked his parents cautiously.

"I suppose that I could talk to someone about modifying the custody arrangement. As soon as I know what we need to do and who we need to talk to, I could call you with that information." Pat said thoughtfully.

"And I could go ahead and get the rental car. That way we'll have it whenever we need to go somewhere." Derek said seriously.

"Do you want for me to drive you out to the airport so you can get that done?" Pat asked as she started gathering their lunch dishes.

"Only if it's not going to be too far out of your way." Derek said cautiously.

"It'll only take a few extra minutes. And then you'll be able to go wherever you want whenever you need to. I'll think of it as an investment." Pat said with a grin.

"If you're sure it's no trouble." Derek reluctantly agreed.

"Come on, E. Let's see what we can find for you to wear." Mark said happily.

"Thank you for the meal. It was very good." Enoch said timidly as he stood.

"I'm glad you enjoyed it, Enoch." Pat said sincerely.

* * * * *

"That went a lot better than I expected." Mark said frankly as they walked up the stairs.

"I believe it would not have been so if not for your father. He was somehow able to deflect some of the most inconvenient questions." Enoch said honestly.

"Yeah. I guess being a cop, he has to be good at stuff like that." Mark said as they crested the stairs.

"He has gone to such trouble on my behalf. I cannot think of how to repay him for his generosity." Enoch said quietly.

"Try thinking about it this way. He's going through all of this stuff so that you can stay here with us and be part of our family. So the best thing that you can do to repay him is be part of our family and prove to him that what he went through was worth it." Mark said seriously as he led the way into the bedroom.

Enoch thought about the words for a moment, then slowly nodded.

"Get naked for me." Mark said with a grin.

"Pardon?" Enoch asked in astonishment.

"I know you're used to wearing your own clothes, but we need to get you ready to go into town, so you're going to need something a little bit more modern." Mark explained.

"Oh. So this isn't simply because you want to look at my naked body?" Enoch asked as he began to undress.

"I didn't say that." Mark said with a smile.

* * * * *

"So, what aren't you telling me?" Pat asked, once she and Derek were alone.

"I'm not telling you what I can't tell you." Derek said honestly.

"And just what is that supposed to mean?" Pat asked seriously.

Derek sighed heavily, then said, "It means that in rescuing Mark and Enoch, I had to agree to certain conditions. I believe that if I were to break that agreement, there would be consequences."

"What exactly does that mean?" Pat pressed.

"I honestly don't know. And what's more, I don't care to find out. All we're being asked to do is not talk about it, not think about it, and pretend it never happened. If we can do that, then we'll be free to live our lives and do whatever else we want." Derek said frankly.

"Do you really take it that seriously?" Pat asked cautiously.

"Let's just say that today I witnessed something that impressed me, and leave it at that." Derek said as he looked her in the eyes.

"What about this boy... Enoch? Is there any chance that he's going to hurt Mark?" Pat asked anxiously.

"There's always that chance, when you're in love. But I don't think Enoch poses any greater threat than anyone else that Mark might fall in love with. I mean, yes, he has a few challenges to face, but who doesn't? I think that Mark helping him to overcome them will only make the two of them grow stronger as a couple." Derek said assuringly.

"He does seem to be a very nice boy... very respectful." Pat said consideringly.

"Don't worry. I'm sure Mark will get him past that." Derek said with a grin.

"How does he look?" Mark asked as he hurried down the stairs.

Pat and Derek looked up to see Enoch walking down the stairs, much more slowly, wearing jeans and a tee shirt.

"Uncomfortable." Derek said frankly.

"Embarrassed." Pat said at the same time.

Mark looked at them with confusion, then back at Enoch.

"I know that you say this is proper. However, I feel ill at ease exposing my undergarments in public." Enoch said anxiously.

"It's a tee shirt. It's not like you're sagging or anything like that." Mark said frankly.

"Maybe you should let Enoch wear one of your button up shirts, if that would make him more comfortable." Pat suggested gently.

"We tried that. His shoulders are too big. We're going to need to get him the next bigger size." Mark said frankly.

"Go ahead and help yourself to one of mine." Derek said easily.

"I would not want to inconvenience you by borrowing your clothing." Enoch immediately objected.

"You can either borrow a shirt of mine to wear for as long as it takes for us to buy you some of your own, or you can wear the tee shirt and feel like you're walking around half naked. It's up to you." Derek said frankly.

"I will borrow one of your shirts. Thank you very much, Sir." Enoch said timidly.

"That's not going to work." Mark said seriously.

"Why not?" Derek asked cautiously.

"The shirt thing is fine. But Enoch calling you 'Sir' like that, it's gonna make people look twice." Mark said seriously.

After a moment to consider, Derek quietly said, "He may be right."

"How would you prefer that I address you?" Enoch asked cautiously.

"You said that Enoch's going to be part of our family, right?" Mark asked reasonably.

"Yes." Derek cautiously agreed.

"Then he should call you 'Dad'. Anything else is going to cause people to ask questions." Mark said firmly.

"I could not..." Enoch began to say.

"If you start talking about uncles and cousins and stuff like that, there's lots of questions that people can ask about your parents and why you're here with us. If you say that Dad's your dad and I'm your brother, then that shuts it all down. When they see your hair and green eyes they might ask if you're adopted. But then you just tell them 'yes' and that should be the end of it. You're a part of our family, end of story." Mark said seriously.

"I would feel as though I am encroaching on your relationship with your father." Enoch said quietly.

"No. You'd be confirming your relationship with our father." Mark said simply.

"Don't pressure him, Mark. If Enoch doesn't want to be my son, it wouldn't be right to force him." Derek said sternly.

"No. I did not say that I objected to being considered as though I were your son. I simply did not want for you to feel that you had to include me in your family in such a way. I would be content to be considered a more distant relation." Enoch hurried to explain.

"Enoch, whether we call you my son or my nephew or a friend of the family, you're still my son's boyfriend and I'm going to consider you to be just like my son. Go ahead and figure out what you want, but I'm going to think of you as my son, no matter what you decide." Derek said seriously.

"That being the case, I will gratefully accept the honor of being regarded as one of your children and would like to address you as 'Father' if you would allow it." Enoch said sincerely.

"I think that 'Dad' would probably make me more comfortable. If people hear you calling me 'Father', they're going to think that I'm a priest." Derek said frankly.

"I do not know if I could address you as... 'Dad'. It seems diminutive and somewhat disrespectful." Enoch said in a conflicted tone.

"Go ahead and call me 'Father' if that's most comfortable for you, but if you ever feel like calling me 'Dad', you'll already know that it's okay with me. You won't have to ask." Derek assured him.

Mark turned to his mother and cautiously asked, "What do you want for Enoch to call you?"

Pat considered for a moment, then said, "I suppose that if he's going to be your adoptive brother, that it would make the most sense for him to call me 'Mom'."

Mark looked toward Enoch, ready to shoot down his objection, but was surprised to find him standing frozen, with tears filling his eyes.

"It's okay if you want to, E. I don't mind sharing a mom with you." Mark gently encouraged.

"I am certain that there is a reason that doing so would be improper." Enoch said in a conflicted tone.

"Yeah. Well, until you can figure out what that reason is, why not just go with it?" Mark asked with a gentle smile.

Enoch found himself unable to speak and simply nodded his agreement to the arrangement.

* * * * *

"Is everybody ready to go?" Pat asked seriously.

"Enoch still needs to change." Mark answered quickly.

"Go ahead." Derek encouraged.

"I would feel uneasy going through your personal belongings." Enoch said in a conflicted tone.

"Yeah. Actually, I would, too." Mark quietly admitted.

Derek turned to his ex-wife and said, "We'll be down in a minute."

"I need to gather some legal documents, anyway. I'll meet you back down here when you're ready." Pat said before starting up the stairs.

* * * * *

"How did we do?" Mark asked when they were all in the bedroom.

"I think we're okay. I told your mom enough to keep her from asking you too many questions. But if she does ask you something, just be firm in saying that you can't talk about it." Derek said as he opened his suitcase.

"I would like to thank you for all the trouble you are going to on my behalf." Enoch said timidly.

"I think that there's always a lot to do to add a new member to the family. At least this time, we don't have to worry about diapers." Derek said with a smile as he held out a white tee shirt for Enoch.

Mark laughed at the statement, then added, "And you don't have to plan a big fancy wedding, either."

"Yes. I fell for that once. Next time, it's the JP, all the way." Derek agreed.

After taking off the printed tee shirt and putting on the white one, Enoch accepted a white button up shirt from Derek.

"Who knows that I was missing? We should probably let them know that I've been found." Mark said thoughtfully.

"I hadn't thought of that. You had lots of people worried about you. We should tell them that you're alright." Derek said seriously.

"I'm sorry that I made people worry. It seemed like the right thing to do, at the time." Mark said honestly.

"Let's just accept that you did what you thought was right and let it go at that." Derek told his son gently, then added, "But I hope that you know that whatever happens from here on out, you can come to me and I'll do my best to help you."

"Yeah. I got that." Mark said with a smile.

Derek smiled at his son's casual, but sincere, response.

"Hey, E. That looks nice! Now I feel underdressed. Let me change, too." Mark said quickly.

Enoch smiled at Mark's words and waited as he quickly changed into a white button up shirt.

* * * * *

"Don't you look nice! I need to get a picture!" Pat said with delight.

"Until Enoch is more comfortable in casual clothes, I think we'll probably be dressing like this a lot." Mark said shyly.

After a moment of digging in her purse, Pat came up with her phone and promptly took half a dozen pictures of Enoch and Mark, posed by the staircase.

"Did you get everything that you needed?" Derek asked when she seemed to be finished.

"I think so. I'm probably not going to be able to get much done on my own, but at least I should be able to find out what documentation I need and who needs to be present." Pat said decisively as she put her phone away.

"While we were upstairs, Mark was saying that we might want to get in contact with everyone who was worried about him and let them know that he's okay." Derek said seriously as he started walking toward the door, with Pat leading the way.

"Good idea. You can make the phone calls while I'm driving, if you want." Pat said as she led the way to the car.

"I guess you don't have to ride on my lap, this time." Mark said regretfully as he got into the back seat, behind his mother.

Enoch's blush was as much of an answer as he was willing to give as, he too, got into the car.

"What was that?" Pat asked curiously.

"Nothing. Just something we did while we were gone." Mark said quickly as he realized that he would need to be more careful about what he said around his mother.

* * * * *

"Hello? This is Derek Taylor, I spoke to you yesterday." Derek said carefully.

"Yes. That's right. Could you please pass a message along to Joe Bob, Jim Bob and Beau? Tell them that we found Mark and that he's fine." Derek said carefully.

After a moment, Derek smiled, then said, "Yes, he's really fine. I promise."

"Thank you." Derek said a moment later, then continued, "We're driving away from the house right now, but as soon as we get back, I'll call you so that the boys can arrange a visit."

"Yes. Thank you, again. Have a good day." Derek said before disconnecting the call.

"Was that Lindie?" Pat guessed.

"Yes. She sounded so excited you would have thought it was one of her own kids that'd been found." Derek said with a smile as he took out his phone.

"What are you doing?" Pat asked curiously.

"Putting Lindie's number into my phone so I can call them back when we're back at the house." Derek answered simply.

"Good idea." Pat said with a nod.

* * * * *

While his parents were talking in the front seat, Mark leaned over to put an arm around Enoch and give him a quick kiss.

"It is improper to do such as this in front of your parents." Enoch said in a mortified whisper.

"They're our parents, and if we can't kiss in front of them, then who can we kiss in front of?" Mark asked simply.

"It seems disrespectful." Enoch shyly muttered.

"You guys mind if we kiss?" Mark called loudly, so his parents could hear.

"It's okay for now, but not when we get into traffic, you'll cause some old biddy to have an accident." Pat said with a smile.

"Keep it above the waist." Derek said with a devilish grin.

"See? They're okay with it." Mark said warmly, then asked, "Just for a little bit?"

"For a moment." Enoch finally reluctantly agreed.

To Be Continued...

Editor's Notes:

The situation seems to have resolved itself rather nicely, especially considering how forceful Pat was originally acting with regard to making Mark pull out and move to New Mexico.

Although, admittedly she really didn't know anything about Enoch being Mark's boyfriend.

Of course, I don't know if that would have made any difference to her, either. After all, no amount of complaining by Mark seemed to have the slightest amount of influence on her decisions.

Sadly, parents seldom seem to take the feelings or emotions of any sort, belonging to their youngsters into the decision making process.

I am just very pleased that she did finally take Mark's and Enoc's feelings for each other into account and she seems more amenable to the idea of Mark going to Michigan to be with Enoc and his dad.

I can hardly wait to find out what happens next.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher