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As we left the house, I felt a wave of panic wash over me.
"Ken?" I asked in nearly a whisper.
"Right here." Ken said from behind me where he was pushing my wheelchair.
I struggled to turn and see him. The position was awkward, but I was finally able to see him out of the corner of my eye.
"Jake, will you drive? Rory needs me up front." Ken asked seriously.
"Sure Ken, go on." Jake said and moved to take Ken's place.
A moment later Ken was beside me.
Without me having to say a word, he offered his hand to me.
I took hold of his hand desperately and gripped it with force.
"It's going to be okay Rory. We'll make sure of it." Ken said assuringly.
I couldn't find words, all I could do is hold tightly to Ken's hand.
'Dear God, I believe you heard me this morning and sent help to me when I asked for it. I thank you for today and everything you've given me. Now that I've been reminded what it's like to live, I promise that I will fill each day with joy and love... if you'll let me... Please let me.'
"Which one is Rory's house?" Allen asked, drawing my attention.
I looked up and saw Ken pointing at my house with his other hand.
I followed his pointing finger and felt a fresh wave of dread wash over me as I saw my house in the distance.
"Rory, do you want to hear about how I got the bruise on my back?" Ken asked me quietly.
I looked at Ken with confusion for a moment, I mean... where the hell did that come from?
But before I could say something to that effect, my curiosity got the better of me and I nodded.
"We were all having dinner the other night at Pizza Hut and I kind of, um, noticed that there was a problem in the alley and went to see if I could help." Ken said shyly.
"It's more like he screamed 'Guys, come on!' then took off running like his life depended on it." Jake said seriously.
Ken looked back at Jake for an instant, then continued, "There was this big guy beating up a... little guy, and I mean he was really hurting him."
Ken glanced at Jake, then back to me and said, "I was the first one there so I tried to stop him..."
"...You tackled him Ken. This guy had to be six-two and over two hundred pounds and you plowed into him and knocked that sucker flat." Jake said with pride.
Ken flashed a look at Jake, as if to ask 'Are you finished?'
A moment later, Ken said, "Me and Kevin and Jake and Xain all jumped on the guy. I got that bruise on my back during the fight."
"Bullshit." Jake said firmly.
Ken looked back at Jake in surprise.
"That giant asshole was about to hit Kevin and you threw yourself on top of Kevin to protect him." Jake said seriously.
Ken seemed to be thinking about the statement for a moment, before he shyly nodded.
"And the little guy you've been so careful not to name was Lawrence. That's how we met him." Jake said in a more gentle voice.
I looked at Ken with surprise and question to receive a nod in response.
"I just wanted to tell you about that so you'll know we're not just saying the words. When we see someone in trouble, we do whatever we can to help them." Ken said with concern in his voice.
Ken stopped someone from beating up Lawrence. Ken took a punch that was aimed at Kevin. If he can do all that then maybe...
"We're here." Allen said from my other side.
I looked around in surprise. The story had distracted me to the point that I didn't even realize where we were.
Before we could get to the door, Zombie Hyper-Mom was standing there with a panicked expression on her face.
"Hello Mrs. Teeter. This is my dad Allen Thompson." Jake said quickly.
Zombie Hyper-Mom didn't even answer, she just ran to me and started looking at me for... something.
"Thank God you're alright. Oh, it looks like you've been out in the sun. We'd better get you inside." Zombie Hyper-Mom said quickly.
"It's okay Mom, I'm wearing sunscreen." I said, hoping to stop her fussing.
Zombie Hyper-Mom froze for an instant... then exploded, "WHAT DID THEY DO TO YOU?"
I shrank back a little, not so much in fear of her as a natural reaction to that level of volume... The Zombie Hyper-Mom's got some lung power... I never knew.
"Mrs. Teeter, if you wouldn't mind too much I'd like to explain what happened when your husband gets home." Allen said cautiously.
In an icy, predatory voice Zombie Hyper-Mom said, "Either you tell me what you did to my baby right this minute, or I'm going to call the police."
"MOM!" I screamed, hoping to get her attention.
Zombie Hyper-Mom looked at me with her ever present look of confusion.
Well, my red headedness took over before I could stop and think and the words spilled out, "Why are you so mad? Do you want to keep me helpless and silent so you can pretend that I'm still a little baby? Do you get such a charge out of being needed that you don't want me to get better?"
Zombie Hyper-Mom looked at me with wide eyes for a long moment before she whispered, "Baby..."
I interrupted with a buzzer sound, then said, "Wrong answer. I'm not a baby. I'm a teenager, I'm fourteen. Allen and his family gave me a wonderful gift today, they gave me my voice back. If you try to hurt them in any way, I'll use that voice to tell everyone how you're trying to keep me sick and helpless."
Zombie Hyper-Mom looked at me with wide eyes as her mouth dropped open.
Jake moved to my side and quietly said, "Xain told me to tell you that such emotionalism is more appropriate for a four year old than a fourteen year old."
I snapped a quick glare at Jake to find him looking at me without any anger or accusation in his expression.
I looked again at Zombie Hyper-Mom to find her staring at me with confusion.
After taking a deep breath to help me get my anger under control, I quietly said, "Mom. I'm sorry I yelled at you. These people have been very nice to me and helped me a lot. Can we please go inside and wait for dad to get home? That way Allen can explain everything."
Zombie Hyper-Mom looked around at us, as if just noticing that the guys were there, then said in a rush, "Yes. Yes, please come in. Can I get you something... would you boys like some brownies and milk?"
"NO!" Ken yelped, then in a quieter voice continued, "I mean, no thank you Mrs. Teeter."
* * * * *
Jake pushed me into the living room where Zombie Hyper-Mom led us and positioned me next to the couch.
Ken automatically took a seat on the couch right beside me and I looked at him warmly.
"Mr. Thompson, can I get you anything?" Zombie Hyper-Mom asked a little too quickly.
"Some coffee if you have it. And please call me Allen." He said casually.
"Oh no. I don't have any coffee, but I could make you some tea. Let's see... I have dandelion root and willow bark." Zombie Hyper-Mom said in a considering voice.
"No... thank you." Allen said hesitantly.
"How about you Jake? Would you like a brownie now?" Zombie Hyper-Mom asked hopefully.
"No thank you Mrs. Teeter. I'm going on a date later and don't want to spoil my appetite." Jake said carefully.
"I need to check on dinner, I'll be right back." Zombie Hyper-Mom said quickly and rushed out of the room.
"Dandelion root?" Allen asked me with an incredulous look.
"It tastes like mud." I said with a queasy look in return.
Allen nodded, then looked around the room.
I felt something and turned to see Ken with his hand laying on the back of my arm.
I looked in his eyes and mouthed the words 'Love you'.
He mouthed 'Love you' in return.
Just then I heard the front door open.
I saw dad walking past the living room door toward the kitchen and called out, "Dad! We're in the living room."
Dad turned with a look of surprise and walked cautiously into the living room.
"Dad, this is Allen Thompson..." I began to say.
"Rory!" Dad said joyfully as he dropped his briefcase and ran across the room to me.
Before I could say another word, Dad had picked me up out of my wheelchair and pulled me into a tight hug.
I rested my chin on his shoulder and returned the hug as best I could with my one good arm.
After a long moment of hugging, Dad leaned back enough to look in my face and asked, "How are you doing son?"
"I'm great." I said, feeling more joy at that moment than I knew was possible.
Dad hugged me again, then suddenly stopped all movement.
"Oh. Excuse me..." Dad trailed off in a quiet voice as he looked around the room.
"It's okay dad. They're my friends." I said quietly.
Dad leaned toward the wheelchair as if to put me down and I quickly asked, "Could you put me on the couch next to Ken?"
"Ken?" Dad asked as he looked at Jake and Ken sitting on opposite ends of the couch.
Ken raised his hand and said, "I'm Kenny Thompson."
Dad took a few steps over and sat me beside Ken.
"Will you sit with me Dad?" I asked and patted the cushion beside me, the other side from Ken.
Dad smiled at me and took the offered seat.
"Dad, this is Ken, Jake is sitting on the other side of you and Allen is sitting in the chair. Guys, this is my dad, Marcus Teeter." I said in introduction.
"Nice to meet all of you." Dad said as he draped an arm around me and hugged me.
"Mr. Teeter..." Allen began to say.
"Marcus." Dad interrupted.
"Okay Marcus, I wanted to talk to you and your wife about Rory's condition." Allen said seriously.
"Are you the one who helped Rory?" Dad asked carefully.
"My son Xain is the one who helped him. But what he did has only temporarily relieved some of the symptoms of Rory's condition." Allen said in thought.
"Sorry I was gone so long, I had to turn the eggplant filets so they would cook evenly." Mom said as she walked into the living room.
"Honey, please sit down so Mr. Thompson..."
"...so Allen can tell us what he did to help Rory." Dad said seriously.
Zombie Hyper-Mom took a seat in the other armchair beside Allen and waited expectantly.
After a moment of thought, Allen said, "My son Xain is my adoptive son. His biological father is a Vulcan healer who specializes in neurological conditions like Rory's."
I tried to look casual as I laid my arm across my lap and held my hand open where Ken could reach it.
As I had hoped, Ken took my hand and gave it a squeeze.
"If you would agree to it, Solak, Xain's father, would like to examine Rory tomorrow to see if there is anything he can do to reverse Rory's condition." Allen said seriously.
Dad looked at me, and I swear, it looked like someone just kicked him in the gut.
"Allen. I can tell that you really care about Rory and you want to do what's best for him. But... well, the truth of the matter is that I'm broke." Dad said and sounded like he was on the verge of tears.
"The medical bills have been coming and coming and... My health insurance hit the cap. I've gone through all our savings, mortgaged the house... hell, I even sold Rory's electric wheelchair." Dad said and I saw a tear starting to trail down his cheek.
"What I'm trying to say is, whatever it is that you think you can do to help Rory... I can't afford it." Dad said with misery in his voice.
"Marcus. All that I'm asking you to do is allow Solak to examine Rory. Solak is a Vulcan healer, he doesn't charge for his services. If Solak says that there's something he can do to help Rory, then we'll deal with that when we know what it is." Allen said seriously.
"If you can answer right now, Solak can make the arrangements to be here by 10:00 in the morning... local time." Jake said distantly.
"So this doctor is going to look at Rory and... what?" Dad asked with a flicker of hope.
"Jake?" Allen asked curiously.
Jake closed his eyes in thought for a moment, then said, "If Solak finds Rory to be an acceptable candidate for his genetic modification therapy, then he will need to take Rory to Vulcan where he can have access to everything he needs."
"And if he isn't an acceptable candidate?" Mom asked suspiciously.
"Then arrangements will be made to give Rory regular neural alignment treatments to relieve the worst of his symptoms." Jake said distantly.
"That's what Xain did so I could talk and move my hand." I explained quickly, hoping they would understand.
"And how much does that cost?" Dad asked quietly.
"There will be no charge either now or in future for any treatment given to Rory by a representative of Vulcan." Jake said firmly.
"Just because you said so?" Mom asked sarcastically.
Jake turned to look at Zombie Hyper-Mom and said, "Mrs. Teeter, I am Jake Thompson, a member of Clan Short of the House of Surak of Vulcan. It is the mission of our Clan to help children in need. Therefore, it would be logical for me to offer any and all aid for the purpose of restoring Rory to full health or at the very least, to the best possible quality of life."
He paused for a second, then said in a lower voice, "When I speak as a representative of Clan Short, I can make such promises because I know my patriarch will see the logic of my decisions and support me."
I looked at the Zombie Hyper-Mom to find a 'lost and confused' expression on her face.
I turned in time to see Jake smile as he slowly said, "Yeah, because I said so."
What the hell happened to Jake? One minute he's like a Vulcan and the next minute he's like himself... and what was that stuff he said about helping kids... like that story Ken told me...
"Ken?" I asked in a whisper.
"Yeah?" Ken responded as he leaned close to me.
"Are you a member of that Clan thing too?" I asked curiously.
"Yeah. All us kids are." He whispered back to me.
"Why didn't you tell me?" I asked, not sure I really wanted to hear the answer.
"I didn't think about it." Ken said with an expression that couldn't be anything but complete honesty.
Silence had fallen over the room and I looked around to find everyone looking at Dad.
"Okay. What do I have to do?" Dad finally asked.
"Solak is making the arrangements for travel as we speak. All you need to do is bring Rory to the Short Compound at 10:00 tomorrow morning." Jake said seriously.
"Short Compound? Where's that?" Dad asked in confusion.
"Do you know where the Southcrest Ranch is?" Allen asked seriously.
"Yes. I've never been there, but I know where it is." Dad said carefully.
"The Short Compound is right next door." Allen said with a smile.
"And when you pull up to the gate just have your ID ready, they'll be expecting you." Jake said with a distant look.
"If you wouldn't mind I'll stop by about 9:30 and drive over with you. I'm pretty sure all the boys will want to be there for Rory." Allen said with a gentle smile.
I turned to look at Dad and found him looking at me with love. Without warning, he pulled me into a hug and gave me a kiss on the cheek.
"I'm so glad to have you back 'Skeeter'." Dad said in a loving voice.
I heard a giggle from behind me and could imagine the expression on Ken's face.
I turned my head slightly and said, "Cute Stuff."
Yup. That shut him up.
* * * * *
"I would invite you to stay for dinner..." Dad began to say, when Zombie Hyper-Mom jumped up and ran out of the room.
"That's okay Marcus, Jake and I both have dinner dates tonight." Allen said with a dreamy expression.
"What about you Ken? No date tonight?" Dad asked with a teasing smile.
I looked at Ken and raised an eyebrow.
Ken looked back at me and... okay, don't ask me how he did it because I don't even know. But somehow, just with his facial expression he asked me if I was going to go ahead and 'come out' to my parents now. Maybe we're learning to talk with each other like Jake and Xain do.
"Dad..." I said hesitantly, not even knowing how to lead up to the subject.
"Okay Skeeter, I won't tease your company." Dad said as he hugged me again.
"Oh, that's not it. You can tease Ken whenever you want." I said, then glanced at Ken to find him sticking his tongue out at me.
That made me smile, and made me feel a little better about what I had to do.
"Dad..." I started again, this time sounding a little more sure of myself.
"I forgot the eggplant filets in the oven and they're ruined. Burnt to cinders." Zombie Hyper-Mom said with disappointment.
I took a deep breath to brace myself and decided to try again.
"Dad..." I said, this time hearing the tremble in my voice.
"Go ahead." Dad said softly, paying me his full attention.
I decided to do it quick, you know, like pulling off a band-aid.
Time froze in a long silent moment as I waited for their reactions.
There was a high pitched squeak, then the next thing I knew, Zombie Hyper-Mom was racing out of the room.
I felt Dad's arms close in around me as he said, "It's okay. I love you."
Peace... I never, ever expected Dad to be so totally cool.
I snuggled against my Dad and felt like I was really home for the first time in years.
"Marcus, if you need to talk about anything, just let me know... I have some experience with this." Allen finished with a shy smile.
Before Dad could answer, Zombie Hyper-Mom raced into the room with a small cardboard box.
"It's in this one." She muttered to herself as she sat the box on the coffee table and started pulling out the contents.
There were a bunch of small books and pamphlets. If Dad weren't still holding on to me, I think I would have fallen over when I saw the titles.
"Dealing With Your Homosexuality", "Coming Out: A Guide To Gay Lifestyles", "So I'm Gay, Now What?", "Homosexuality: A Way Of Life"...
"Here it is!" Zombie Hyper-Mom said in triumph and opened "Accepting Your Gay or Lesbian Child" to a bookmarked page.
In a serious voice, Zombie Hyper-Mom read aloud, "I just want to tell you that I love you... and support you... and there is nothing wrong with you... You're just the way nature made you."
I looked around to see Jake and Allen fighting to hold in their laughter, then looked at Ken to find him looking back at me lovingly.
Finally Allen said, "I'm guessing that you had a clue."
"You could say that. But we weren't going to say anything until Rory came to us and told us." Dad said, then hugged me again.
Allen was all smiles as he looked at my father holding me.
"So Rory, is there anyone special?" Dad asked and I could tell from his look from me to Ken that I didn't really have to tell him.
I looked at Ken with question and got a nod in return.
"Ken and I are boyfriends." I said quietly as I looked my Dad in the eyes.
"Way to go Skeeter." Dad said and gave me a quick squeeze.
"I've got to go to the store..." Zombie Hyper-Mom said suddenly and hurried out of the room.
"I'm sorry I haven't been there for you lately. When you started getting sicker and sicker, I started working harder and harder to make enough money to get you the help you needed... and to keep the house." Dad finished off quietly.
"I missed you Dad." I said as I snuggled against him.
"I missed you too Skeeter." Dad said gently.
"Do condoms come in sizes?" Zombie Hyper-Mom asked as she raced back into the room and looked at my crotch with question.
All of us looked at her with disbelief as I noticed that now she was 'sizing-up' Ken with her eyes.
"Well I'm sure they must have a variety pack." Zombie Hyper-Mom finally said then started looking through the booklets on the table in a rush.
"Do you have a favorite lubricant?" She asked as she looked at a check list in the back of a book.
"Um. No." I said, wanting to crawl under the couch cushion and hide.
"Oh, well I'll just ask the clerk what he recommends." She said with a smile.
I felt Ken's hand on my bad arm and turned to look at him. He gave me a full warm smile of love and suddenly... it was all okay.
"Ken, will you be able to sleep over tonight?" Zombie Hyper-Mom asked in her manic way.
I looked at Ken hopefully.
"Pop, can I please stay over here tonight?" Ken asked in a pleading tone.
Allen smiled and said, "Of course you can. I'll stop by a little later with some clothes for you when Billy and I leave for our date."
I looked up at Dad in time to see his look of surprise change into a smile.
"Ken, is there anything you especially do or don't like to eat?" Zombie Hyper-Mom asked, and I swear to god, her eyes were vibrating.
"Well, to tell you the truth, I don't really like health food." Ken said with an apologetic look.
"Not everyone does. I'll get you some drive-thru on the way back from the store. Is KFC okay?" She asked in a delighted tone.
"Yeah, great." Ken said happily.
"Can I have some too?" I asked suddenly.
"Are you sure? Oh, of course you are. You want to eat with your boyfriend. I'll be back before the tofu casserole in the oven is done." Hyper-Mom said in a rush as she hurried out of the room.
After we heard the front door slam, Dad said, "That's not fair. You get KFC and I get tofu casserole."
I looked at Dad with a smile and said, "Sometimes life's not fair."
He looked at me with amusement and nodded his agreement.
* * * * *
"We really need to be going." Allen said as he stood.
Dad stood and walked to Allen to shake his hand.
"It was nice to meet you Allen. Thank you for everything you and your family have done for Rory." Dad said seriously.
Okay, that's just freaky. I mean, I always knew that dad wasn't very tall, but seeing them shaking hands... Allen must be six or eight inches taller than Dad.
"It was very nice to meet you too. Please feel free to call me if you need anything, even if it's just to talk..." Allen trailed off, then looked at Ken and I before continuing, "We appear to have a lot in common."
"I'll do that." Dad said shyly.
As Jake was standing to leave, Corina barreled down the stairs and into the living room.
"Daddy..." She began to say, then stopped short and stared at Jake.
"Hi Pumpkin, I'd like you to meet Allen and his sons Jake and Ken, this is my daughter Corina." Dad said with a smile.
"Nice to meet you." Corina said in a distant voice as she looked into Jake's eyes.
"We really have to be going." Allen said quietly, then turned to Ken and said, "If you need anything, Juana will be in her apartment."
"I'll be fine." Ken said and I felt him put an arm around me.
"I'm Corina." My sister said to Jake in a dreamy whisper.
Jake looked away from her and I could see the 'trapped' expression in his eyes.
Jake has been so cool and done so much to help me, there was only one thing I could think to do to help him in return.
"Hey Corina! How's the zit?" I called across the room.
She got a wide eyed look of horror, then ran out of the room and up the stairs.
"That was mean." Dad said to me with a disapproving look.
"I had to do it before she started writing 'Corina Thompson' all over her notebooks. Besides, I'm her little brother, it's my job." I said, hoping Dad wasn't too mad at me.
Allen walked over to Ken and pulled him into a quick hug and said, "You behave for the Teeters and don't terrorize Corina too much."
"Okay Pop." Ken said as he hugged Allen in return.
Allen shifted over to hug me and said, "And I'll see you in the morning Rory. Try to get 'some' sleep tonight."
"I will, I promise." I said with a smile.
"Thanks Rory." Jake said gratefully to me as he followed Allen toward the door.
"Anytime Jake." I said, glad to see that he appreciated the help. Even if Dad is mad, it was worth it.
* * * * *
When Dad got back from walking Allen and Jake to the door, he stood in the living room doorway and asked, "So what would you boys like to do now?"
I glanced at Ken and received a look of question in response.
"I'd like to sit in here with you and talk for a while unless you've got something else you need to do." I said honestly.
Dad quickly looked at his watch, then said, "I just have to make a quick call, hang on."
He walked to the phone between the two armchairs and quickly dialed a number.
After a moment of waiting, Dad quickly asked, "Is Howard still there?"
"Can I talk to him for a minute?"
"Sure." Dad said quickly, then glanced at us with a smile.
"Howard, I'm glad I caught you, this is Marcus. You know how you've been telling me to take my personal time or I'm going to lose it? Well, I need to take a couple days off..."
"No, he's fine. In fact, I'd classify it as a miracle. He can talk again..." Dad said and when he looked at us on the couch, I could see the tears in his eyes.
"I'll tell you the whole story when I come back in to work. We're going to take Rory to see a Vulcan healer tomorrow to find out if there might be a way to completely cure him."
Dad laughed and it was such a wonderful sound to hear... I haven't heard it in so long.
"Thanks Howard. If you could just do the paperwork so I can get paid for tomorrow and Saturday I'd appreciate it." Dad said happily.
"Thanks. All my accounts are up to date so I don't think you'll have any problems, but if any of my clients need anything, Susan knows where everything is." Dad said in a professional tone.
"Well, you're the boss. If you tell me not to worry about work, then I have no choice but to obey." Dad said with a happy smile.
"I'll see you next week. Thanks again. Bye." Dad said with contentment, then hung up the phone.
Dad walked over to take his seat beside me again and said, "I've missed you so much."
"I've missed you too." I said as I looked up at him.
"So tell me how all this happened. What did Allen's son do to help you?" Dad asked as he looked at me with an expression of joy and wonder.
"Well, I kind of fell asleep while they were doing it. Ken could probably explain better." I said shyly.
Dad looked at Ken with question.
"From the way Xain explained it, what he did was kind of like a Vulcan back rub. But instead of relaxing the muscles he relaxed the nerve paths or something like that... at least that's how I understood it." Ken said with difficulty.
"And Xain is your brother?" Dad asked slowly.
"Yeah, he's really cool." Ken said with a smile.
Dad shook his head in disbelief and said, "After spending tens of thousands of dollars on quack doctors you get helped by your boyfriend's Vulcan brother... for free."
I shifted to hug my Dad again and said, "Thanks for not giving up."
Dad began to hug me tightly as I heard a knock at the front door.
"I can get that if you want." Ken said and looked at Dad with question.
Dad nodded at Ken with an expression of gratitude as he continued to hug me.
"Your boyfriend seems nice." Dad said in a quiet voice.
"He's really great." I said as I pulled back enough to look into Dad's eyes.
"How did you meet?" Dad asked as he released me from the hug and rested back into the couch.
"Ken and Jake found Possum over at their house this morning and brought him back to us." I said, barely believing that it was still the same day.
Ken walked into the living room leading an older boy and said, "This is Davis Plimpton, he's here to talk to Rory."
"Gray." Davis corrected.
"What?" Ken asked in confusion.
"My name is Davis Gray, Plimpton is my mom's name." Davis said, then looked around the room.
I looked at the guy curiously. He was close to six feet tall with wavy brown hair and... kinda cute, I guess. Not as cute as Ken, but okay.
He focused on me and said, "I heard that you met my mom today and I just came over to see if you're okay."
"Come in and sit down. I'd offer to get you something, but I'm not sure what we have." Dad said in thought.
"Dandelion root or willow bark tea." Ken said from beside me with a giggle.
I couldn't help but smile at Ken's laughter.
"Really? Some dandelion root tea would be great if it's not too much trouble!" Davis said with excitement.
I looked at Davis with disbelief, then noticed that Dad and Ken had the same expressions.
"It's no trouble at all. Would anyone else like some?" Dad asked as he stood.
Ken and I immediately shook our heads in a definite 'no'.
"Thanks Mr. Teeter." Davis said with a happy smile.
Ken and I turned our attention to Davis as Dad walked out of the room.
"So you're Mrs. Plimpton's son?" Ken asked cautiously.
"Yeah. But please don't hold that against me." Davis said with a casual smile.
"Are you here to beat me up for yelling at your mom?" I asked, not really believing that he would, but trying to find out why he was here.
Davis gave a chuckle and said, "No way. I just wanted to be sure that my mom didn't upset you too much. She has a natural talent for saying the wrong thing and hurting people's feelings... she's oblivious."
I couldn't help but smile at Davis. His casual and friendly attitude made him easy to like.
"Well, I'm okay. I felt kinda bad for yelling at her like I did... I can't help it. I have red hair like my dad." I finished with a one shouldered shrug.
Davis laughed and said, "Good for you. More people need to tell her off when she's doing the snob thing. The part that gets me is that she doesn't have a clue that she's doing it."
"How's your mom doing? She really looked surprised when I told her off." I asked cautiously.
"Oh, don't worry about that. She's looked like that since her last plastic surgery. The plastic surgeon said that one more facelift and she'll need to bikini wax her chin." Davis said with an impish grin.
Dad's laugh announced his arrival in the room as he carefully sat a cup of tea beside Davis and said, "Watch out, it's hot."
"Thanks. I keep asking Mom to get some 'real' herbal tea, but she keeps getting the 'flavored' teas... she just doesn't get it." Davis said, then carefully picked up the cup.
"You really like that stuff?" I asked cautiously.
"Sure, it's great. I guess since I'm a vegan, I appreciate different flavors. Dandelion root is just so... Earthy." Davis said, then took a cautious sip.
"That's one word for it." I muttered and saw Dad's nod of agreement.
"I'm glad to see that there are other kids on this block. I moved in with mom a few weeks ago so I could go to school here and you guys are the first people I've met that are under sixty." Davis said casually.
"Where did you move from." Dad asked with interest.
"Portland, Oregon. My dad lives there. It's a nice place but the schools suck so I came here for my senior year of high school. It'll look a lot better on a college transcript." Davis said, then took another drink.
"Well, we're not the only kids on the block. Ken has three brothers and... did Reuben say he was your cousin?" I asked Ken with distraction.
"Yeah, it's kind of complicated. My brother Jake's daughter is Reuben and Ricardo's niece. I'm not sure exactly how it all works out, but we just decided to call each other cousins and not worry about it." Ken said in thought.
"I thought I was the only one who had a family like that." Davis said with a delighted smile.
Dad, Ken and I all looked at Davis with question.
"Well, I guess what it comes down to is that my parents like 'getting' married, but they don't like 'being' married." Davis said seriously.
I could see Dad nodding that he understood what Davis was talking about.
"If you count all the steps and halfs, I have fourteen brothers and sisters, and one on the way." Davis said carefully.
I know the look of surprise had to have shown clearly on my face.
"It's not that many when you consider that Mom's been married six times and Dad's been married five." Davis said seriously.
"It must be difficult to keep up with them all." Dad said in thought.
"Yeah. My sister Jenny and I have been trying to work out a diagram of the family, but... well the genealogy charts weren't designed with a family like ours in mind. Jenny is my dad's first daughter from his third marriage." Davis said, then took another sip of tea.
"So is your mom married now?" Ken asked, sounding really interested.
"No, she unloaded Daddy-six last spring and is on the prowl for Daddy-seven... She's got her eye on someone named Billy." Davis said as he rested back in his chair.
"She'll have to fight my Pop for him." Ken said frankly, then got an 'Oh Shit!' expression.
Davis looked at Ken with surprise for a moment, then laughed and said, "Don't worry about it. Your choice of coffee table books kind of tipped me off."
I looked down at the collection of booklets and pamphlets and felt the blush rising up my face.
"Okay." Ken said shyly, then continued, "My Pop and Billy are really in love so your mom doesn't have a chance."
"On top of that, Billy is like, twenty years old." I said carefully.
Davis shook his head with amusement as he said, "Mom thinks that every plastic surgery makes her twenty years old again. I don't know what she sees when she looks in the mirror, but it has nothing to do with reality as we know it."
Ken quietly asked, "Do you think we should tell her that Billy's taken?"
"And gay?" I interjected.
"It probably wouldn't do any good. She doesn't hear what she doesn't want to hear." Davis said and took another drink of tea.
The sound of the front door opening drew everyone's attention.
We all looked up to see mom race past the living room door with her arms loaded with shopping bags.
"I'd better get going. Thanks for the tea, it was wonderful." Davis said as he sat his cup on the side table and stood.
"It was nice meeting you Davis. Please feel free to come over anytime, we have plenty of herbal tea and would enjoy your company." Dad said in a friendly voice.
"Thank you Mr. Teeter. I might do that." Davis said, then looked at Ken and I and said, "It was nice to meet you guys. You're both welcomed to come over anytime and hang out. I have just about every game ever made for Play station." Davis said with a smile.
"Yeah. Thanks." I said in wonder, realizing that I had just made another friend.
As Davis and Dad started walking toward the door I quickly said, "Good luck with your mom."
Davis smiled back at me and said, "Maybe when I tell her that you're okay, she'll get down off the cross and make dinner."
Dad and I both chuckled at the statement as Ken looked at Davis with confusion.
Oh God, 'Confused Ken' is even cuter than 'Shy Ken'...