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Author's Note: Contributions, Advice, Editing and Inspiration for portions of this chapter were provided by JeffP. Some of the characters, situations and locations used in this chapter are from the story 'Sentenced To Life' by JeffP and are used with his permission.
NOTICE: 'A New Door Opens' occurs a little more than a month before the events of 'Memories 2' or 'Sentenced To Life'. Please keep this in mind when reading or it might get REALLY confusing.
I looked at the peaceful expression in Dad's eyes and wanted nothing more than to hold him again.
"Do you want to come in and sit with us?" I asked Dad hopefully.
Dad looked at us with surprise, then his gaze shifted to the bag of items between us.
"I wouldn't want to interrupt anything..." Dad said hesitantly.
I looked over at Ken to find him completely red faced and putting everything back in the bag.
"You're not interrupting anything, I promise. Please come in and talk with us." I said hopefully.
Dad smiled and led Possum into the room.
As soon as Possum was off his leash, he went immediately to the big pillow in the corner of the room and... well... got comfortable.
As the licking progressed, I noticed that Dad and Ken were both staring.
"Does he do this often?" Dad finally asked.
"Every single day." I answered, amused by their shocked expressions.
Finally Dad tore his attention away from Possum and began to look around the room.
"Do you want to sit on the bed with us? There's plenty of room." I said, trying not to sound too desperate.
Dad smiled at me and took a seat on the bed beside me, the other side from Ken.
As I had hoped, Dad helped me sit up and pulled me to rest with my back against his chest and his arms wrapped around me.
Ken got a tender look that was somehow sad.
"What's wrong Ken?" I asked cautiously.
"My Dad used to hold me like that." Ken said distantly.
The hollow sound in his voice tore into my heart.
"Does Allen think you're too old to be hugged?" Dad asked with concern from behind me.
Ken looked at Dad with momentary confusion, then shook his head and said, "No. Allen's my Pop. My Dad's name was Carl. He died almost two weeks ago..."
At that moment I would have given anything to be able to crawl over to Ken and pull him into my arms.
Nothing in my life had ever hurt as much as the sight of Ken in pain. The tears were welling up in his eyes and there was nothing I could do to help him.
My Dad picked me up and shifted us both over on the bed, then pulled Ken into a hug with me sandwiched between them.
I shifted a little and was able to get my good arm around Ken and guide his face into my shoulder.
After a moment of the three-way hug, Ken hesitantly said, "I'm sorry. I wasn't trying to... I mean... when I saw you like that..."
"Shhh. It's okay Ken. There's nothing for you to be sorry about." Dad said in a soothing voice.
I felt some relief as Ken snuggled into my shoulder, like it was a safe and comfortable place.
"Ken, if you ever need a hug, you don't even have to ask." Dad said and I could tell from his voice that he was about to cry.
"What's wrong Dad?" I asked quietly.
"I feel so ashamed. I feel like I let you down." Dad said, and I knew that if I looked at him right now I'd see tears in his eyes.
"I should have been in here with you every single day talking with you and holding you like this." Dad said and I could tell that he was really crying now.
"It's okay. I understand why you didn't visit." I said in a small voice, wanting to somehow make him feel better.
There was a long moment of silence before Dad hesitantly asked, "What did you understand?"
"I could see it in your eyes that you were afraid that if you loved me that I'd die and it would hurt so much you couldn't stand it. So you stayed away so when it happened it wouldn't hurt as bad." I said quietly.
Dad's hug on both of us tightened as he said, "I never stopped loving you. And if anything would have happened to you part of me would have died too."
I thought about Dad's words and from the way he said them, I couldn't help but believe him.
"Then why did you stay away?" I asked. I mean, I probably shouldn't have, but sometimes my mouth doesn't pay attention to what it should do.
There was another long minute of silence that was finally broken by Ken.
"When he saw you getting sicker and more helpless, he felt like a failure as a father. He would have traded places with you without a second thought to make you better, but that wasn't an option. Every time he saw you it just proved to him some more that no matter how hard he tried, no matter what he did, he was never a good enough father to protect you and make it all better." Ken said in a distant voice.
I felt Dad's arms go slack around us as I puzzled over Ken's words.
"He started working long hours, doing the only thing he could think of to make you better. He focused all his attention on earning enough money to get you every treatment that might possibly help you." Ken continued in a voice of deep thought.
"How?" Dad gasped from behind me.
Ken sat up suddenly and pulled out of our arms.
"How did you know all that?" Dad asked in a voice of wonder.
"I'm sorry... I didn't mean for that to happen. You were touching me and I could just see it." Ken said in a frightened voice.
I reached out my hand to Ken, silently begging him to rest on my chest and feel safe again.
Ken looked at my hand, then behind me at my Dad in question.
"It's okay Ken. But how did you do that?" Dad asked in a voice that clearly said that he wasn't mad at all.
Ken wilted with relief and gave a timid smile before saying, "I can just know stuff when I touch things. When I touch people I can see parts of their lives. It doesn't always work and I don't always understand what I'm seeing."
I thought about what Ken had said and once again my mouth took off before my brain could stop it.
"Did you see stuff when you touched me?" I asked cautiously.
Ken looked at me and seemed to drift off in thought for a moment before answering, "No. I don't remember seeing anything. Like I said, it doesn't always work. I guess that's a good thing. It'd be really bad if it was always on."
"Why's that?" Dad asked curiously.
"Well, if it was always on, every time I touched a doorknob I could see everyone who ever touched it before. It'd be like that for everything. I'd go nuts." Ken said in thought.
I thought about that and had to agree.
Before Ken could go any further with his explanation, I held out my hand to him again and gave him an urging look, silently asking him to snuggle against me again.
Ken smiled and took his place nestled into my chest.
"I'm glad you boys found each other. I hope things will work out for you two to be together for a long time." Dad said in a peaceful voice from behind me as he pulled us into a loose hug.
Ken started shifting around, obviously avoiding direct contact with Dad.
I guess Dad realized what he was doing because he quietly said, "Ken, I won't hug you if it bothers you. But I'm not worried about what you might see. I'm sure I don't have anything in my past that's much different from anyone else."
I felt Ken relax against me again as he said, "No. It's okay. I like to be hugged. It's just that I have a couple friends who are telepaths and I've seen how hard they try not to look at people's private stuff. I guess seeing that made me realize how important it is."
I thought about Ken's words and realized how lucky I am. This wonderful, loving, cute guy who knows all kinds of famous and talented people wants to be with me.
"I love you Ken." I whispered as I held him tight.
"I love you too Rory." Ken mumbled into my chest.
"I think it's time that I leave you two alone." Dad said quietly from behind me.
My mouth took off again before I had time to think.
"You don't have to leave for us. It just feels right for me to tell Ken that I love him while you're here holding us like this. It's like, I don't know, like it's more real when I say it in front of you." I said with difficulty.
I thought about it for a second, then realized that sometimes my mouth can say the right thing when stopping and thinking about it would mess it all up.
Ken lifted his head from my chest and moved up so he could give me a tender kiss.
Heaven. Absolute, pure heaven.
After the kiss, Ken turned slightly and rested his cheek on my shoulder, just holding me gently.
"Um, what was that one for?" I asked quietly, hating to destroy the moment, but curious to know what he was thinking.
"Because you just said that you're proud to be my boyfriend." Ken said happily.
"I did?" I asked and thought about the words.
"Yeah. When you said that it feels right to tell me you love me in front of your Dad, you were kind of saying that you don't just want us to be boyfriends when we're alone and no one else can see." Ken said in a warm, gentle voice.
I hugged Ken a little more tightly and said, "Yeah, that's exactly what I meant."
* * * * *
A sound drew all our attention and we looked as one to see Possum nosing through the bag that Mom had left.
"There's stuff in there he probably shouldn't get into." Dad said with concern as he released his hug.
"I'll get it." Ken said quickly as he got off the bed.
"Be careful. Possum doesn't know you." I warned.
As Ken knelt beside Possum he said, "We became friends this morning."
I was impressed to see how easily Ken was able to get the bag away from Possum and set it on the computer desk.
"I guess he likes you." Dad said from behind me.
"Yeah. He's a good dog. We're old friends now." Ken said as he began to scratch Possum behind the ear.
I felt Dad chuckling behind me and craned my neck to try and see his face.
"I guess it's official now, Ken's a keeper. Possum's vote made it unanimous." Dad said with a smile.
I began to chuckle with Dad.
Ken looked up at us and smiled as he said, "I'm not sure about unanimous, Corina would probably vote against me."
I could feel it as Dad shook his head, then said, "I wouldn't be so sure. I think you won her over with a piece of chicken."
Ken smiled and nodded, then went back to petting Possum.
I had an odd thought and decided that now would be a good time to find something out that was bothering me.
"How did you know I was gay?" I asked as I turned and tried to look into Dad's eyes.
"Well, while you were at school, your mother used to clean your room." Dad said in thought.
"Yeah." I said hesitantly.
"And change your sheets." Dad said as if that should have some significance.
"Uh huh." I said, prompting him to continue.
"She found the pictures under your mattress." Ken said from beside Possum.
I glanced down at the trash can, then up at Dad with question.
"That's right. That night she told me about it and we had a long discussion. We finally decided that we love you and just want you to be happy." Dad said in a reflective tone.
"Did you look at the pictures?" I asked Dad carefully.
"No. Your mother told me about the pictures, but I didn't look at them." Dad said quietly.
I looked at Ken to find him looking back at me uncertainly.
"I've had too many secrets already. I want him to know." I said seriously.
"You mean there's more?" Dad asked in a pained voice.
I hugged Dad's arm that was around my chest and said, "It's nothing bad. It's kind of funny when you think about it."
Dad looked at me and I could tell that he wasn't buying it.
"Here." Ken said and held out the envelope for Dad to take.
Dad released me from the hug and took the envelope.
He opened the flap at the top, then stopped and asked, "Are you sure about this?"
"It's okay Dad. I bet it's not half as bad as what you're imagining." I said, trying to sound sure of myself.
Slowly, Dad opened the top of the envelope and pulled out the first picture.
I held my breath as I waited for his reaction.
"It's Billy." Dad said in astonishment.
"Yeah." I whispered.
Dad pulled out a few more pictures, then turned me in his lap to look me in the eyes.
I felt a tingle of fear wash over me at his expression.
"Did he give these to you? Did he do anything to you?" Dad asked in a firm voice and I could tell that his red-headedness was rising quick.
"NO! No. I never met Billy before today. I just got those pictures out of a magazine." I said quickly, hoping to stop Dad before he did something.
Dad looked me in the eyes and it was as if he was looking directly into my soul.
"Then why did you show me the pictures?" Dad asked cautiously.
I know my Dad was just worried about me, but it scared me to see him like this.
I pulled together all the courage I could manage and said, "I've kept too many secrets from you. If I didn't tell you, I'd feel like I was keeping another secret and that would be like lying to you. I never want to lie to you again."
Dad froze in thought for what seemed like a week as I continued to look into his eyes.
Finally he said, "Okay. But if he did something, you'd tell me, right?"
I let out a gust of breath as I felt the crisis had passed, then said, "Yes. I promise."
Dad got a look of relief and pulled me back into a much needed hug.
"Thanks for telling me Skeeter." Dad whispered into my hair.
"I love you Dad." I whispered in return.
A beeping noise interrupted the moment.
Dad and I turned simultaneously to look at Ken.
"Um, sorry." Ken said shyly as he fished the communicator out of his pocket.
Ken opened the communicator and hesitantly said, "Kenny Thompson."
"Kenny? Oh good. I wasn't sure I could get this thing to work." A voice said from the other side.
"Kevin? Is that you?" Ken asked cautiously.
"Yeah. I need you to come over to Mamacita's real quick. I just drawed a picture and... just hurry." Kevin said in a panicked voice.
I could see by the look in Ken's eyes that he knew what Kevin was talking about.
Ken looked at me and Dad and quickly said, "This is really important. If you want to come with me I'll explain it to you along the way."
I twisted to look at Dad to see what he was going to say.
"Let's go." Dad said decisively and picked me up.
A second later I was in my wheelchair and dad was unlocking the wheels.
"We're on our way Kev. Meet us at the bottom of the stairs, Rory's coming with me." Ken said firmly.
"Hurry." Kevin said and the communicator went silent.
* * * * *
"Does this have something to do with the Clan thing Jake was telling us about earlier?" Dad asked as he quickly pushed me, trying to keep up with Ken.
"Yeah. From the sound of Kevin's voice, there's a kid in trouble. But Kevin needs me to touch his picture so I know what kind of trouble it is." Ken said in deep thought.
"Like when you touched me?" Dad asked carefully.
"Yeah. Exactly like that. When I touch one of Kevin's pictures I can feel what that person is feeling and know where they are and what's happened to them... stuff like that." Ken said quickly as he ran into their driveway.
Before Dad and I had made the turn into the driveway, Kevin was running up to Ken and holding out a picture to him.
Dad and I slowed down as we arrived beside Ken and Kevin.
Ken was holding the picture in his hands and had his eyes closed in deep concentration.
Ken's eyes snapped open and he suddenly said, "I've got to go help him."
"Where is he?" Kevin asked quickly.
"South Carolina... Kevin, there's no time to call Cory and do this the right way. Stay here and keep your communicator handy. If Cory calls, tell him that I'll explain it all when I get back." Ken said with a look of deep worry.
"Yeah." Kevin said firmly.
Ken looked at me and Dad for a second, then seemed to be lost in thought.
I glanced up at Dad to see if he understood what was going on any better than I did.
"Mr. Teeter, if you'll allow it, I'd really like to take Rory with me. I think he'll probably be able to talk more sense to this guy than I can." Ken said seriously.
"Is it going to be safe?" Dad asked with concern.
"Yeah. I promise. I've really got to go right now. Can Rory come with me?" Ken asked desperately.
Dad looked down at me and I gave him my most hopeful and begging expression (I've been perfecting it for years).
"Yes. Do you need me to drive you somewhere?" Dad asked cautiously.
"No time." Ken said as he moved behind my wheelchair and pushed me into the middle of the driveway.
"What..." Dad began to say when Ken opened his communicator.
"Terra Main, this is Kenny Thompson of Clan Short requesting an emergency beam out for two people... and a wheelchair." Ken stammered on the last part.
All of a sudden I felt a tingle and everything seemed to sparkle around me.
The next thing I knew I was sitting in a big room with a guy in a Starfleet uniform looking at me.
"Can you pull up a map of Charleston, South Carolina, a place called 'The Battery'?" Ken asked as he ran to the guy in the uniform.
"You said it was an emergency." The guy said carefully.
"IT IS! If I don't get to this guy before the sun sets, he's gonna kill himself. Can you pull up the map so I can show you where I need to beam down to?" Ken asked in a mix of panic and anger.
"Yes. I'm sorry." The guy said as he started doing something on the console in front of him.
"That's it. Zoom in on that part." Ken said and pointed to the console.
The guy in the uniform did some more stuff and I could see Ken looking at the console in deep concentration.
"Here. I have the satellite scanners focused now. We can get real time data." The man said and did something else.
"That's him, that red dot. Can you put us down as close to him as possible without him seeing us?" Ken asked seriously.
"How about behind that rock? Is that close enough?" The man asked carefully.
"Yeah. Do it now. And be ready to beam all three of us out if we can't talk him out of it." Ken said as he ran to my side.
"Keep the channel open and just say the word 'Energize' and you're out of there." The guy said firmly.
"Yeah. Okay." Ken said as he adjusted his communicator.
"Here you go." The man said, then the tingle started again.
* * * * *
I think that before the sparkles even stopped, Ken was pushing my wheelchair from the spot behind the rock where we had appeared.
I looked around and the only person I could see in the diminishing daylight was a boy leaning on the sea wall, looking out at the ocean.
Ken slowed down as he pushed me closer to the boy. The ride started to get bumpy as we went off the path and started across the grass.
As the boy looked like he was about to climb up on the wall, Ken called out, "Hey."
The boy turned with surprise at the sound and looked at us curiously.
"Hey." He said in a cautious voice as he watched us approach.
"How you doing?" Ken asked in a friendly voice.
"Honestly? I've been better." The boy said, and now we were close enough that I could tell that he'd been crying.
"I know that feeling. I'm Ken and this is Rory." Ken said as we came to a stop.
"I'm JR." The boy said slowly.
"JR? It seems like half the people I know just use initials. Maybe I should start going by KT." Ken said in a considering voice.
JR got a strange look on his face, then carefully said, "You might want to think about it before you do that."
"Why? It works for my friends TJ, CD, DJ and JJ." Ken said frankly.
"Okay. If that's the way ya want it... Katie." JR said seriously, then broke into a smile.
Ken froze at the statement, then broke into a smile as he said, "Kenny will be fine."
"Thought so." JR said with a chuckle.
I couldn't help but give a little chuckle at Ken's expression.
"So what's there to do around here?" Ken asked conversationally.
"Right now? Leave. It's curfew in a few minutes." JR said as he looked at the sky.
"Oh. Um, I didn't know that." Ken said shyly.
"Y'all ain't from around here are ya?" JR asked curiously.
"No. We're from Orlando, Florida. We just came up here to check on a friend that we're worried about." Ken said with concern showing in his voice.
"What's wrong with your friend?" JR asked, drawn into Ken's concern.
"He lost someone close to him and... well, he's been having some dark days... I just wanted to tell him to hang on... it gets better." Ken said quietly.
"Does it?" JR asked in a hollow voice.
"Yeah. It does. I lost someone a few weeks ago... the most important person in my life. It left such an empty hole in me that I didn't think anything could ever make it better." Ken said distantly.
"Yeah. I know how that feels." JR mumbled.
"I had some dark days. And when things were at their darkest, I thought about doing some stupid things... things that couldn't be undone." Ken said quietly.
"Yeah." JR said in a whisper.
"But here I am. I made it through to the other side, and it really DOES get better." Ken said honestly.
JR nodded at the statement.
I looked at his expression and got the feeling that the words weren't really sinking in.
"JR." I said to get his attention.
He looked down at me with question.
"I didn't wake up one day in this wheelchair. I've been getting sicker and sicker for three years. I'm not going to tell you all the details, but trust me, I've seen some seriously dark days. I'm here to tell you, Ken's right. It gets better. This morning I was thinking that this was the single worst day of my life. Now... I think I'll look back on this day as the beginning of my new life." I said, hoping that I was getting through.
JR looked at me in thought but said nothing.
Ken nodded and said, "You know the old saying, 'When One Door Closes, A New Door Opens'. It's true. When my Dad died, a door closed in my life forever. But a new door opened and now I have a new life that's pretty good."
JR looked up at the sky again and said, "I hope wherever you're staying is close by. The cops will pick y'all up if you're out after dark."
"Yeah. We'd better go." Ken said seriously, then started patting his pockets.
"Rory? You don't happen to have a pen do you?" Ken asked hopefully.
"Check my pouch. There might be one in there." I said and reached behind me to pat the pouch on the back of my wheelchair.
Ken dug around in there for a second and found a pencil.
After a few seconds of writing, Ken held out a piece of paper to JR and said, "This is my cell phone number. If you're ever having a dark day and need to talk to someone who understands, call me."
JR took the paper, then said, "Yeah, I will. By the way, what happened with your friend?"
Ken smiled and looked at me with question.
"We just talked to him and let him know that he wasn't alone. I think he's going to be okay." I said quietly.
JR nodded, and said, "Good. It's good to know that there's someone who understands."
I felt Ken starting to move my wheelchair and looked up at him in question.
I glanced back at JR to see a look of shock on his face as he looked at the paper.
Ken moved us quickly behind the rock and quietly said, "Two to beam up."
Sparkles and tingles washed over us a heartbeat later.
* * * * *
JR looked at the phone number, then on impulse, unfolded the paper it was written on.
His eyes went wide in astonishment at the sight before him.
In his hands he held a hand drawn image of Jeremy.
The look in Jeremy's eyes was just like he remembered, love and life and just a touch of mischief.
"Hey JR, do you need a ride home?" Corporal Jackson asked in a quiet voice of concern as he approached.
JR looked up suddenly and said, "Yeah, maybe these guys..."
JR looked around and the two boys he had been talking with were nowhere to be seen.
Corporal Jackson looked around and didn't see anyone but JR in the park.
"Come on, it's not good for you to be alone out here after dark." Corporal Jackson said with concern at JR's sullen mood.
JR looked back at the picture in his hands, then quietly said, "Yeah. I don't need to be alone."
* * * * *
As the sparkles of the transporter faded, I noticed that there were about ten people in the room looking at us.
"Thanks. He's going to be fine." Ken said shyly from beside me.
"I know. I was listening. I knew what Clan Short did but this is the first time I've ever heard one of you at work... I'm impressed." The transporter technician said frankly.
"Thanks." Ken said shyly, then looked at the group of people who were all still looking at us with question.
"Oh, I've been holding transporter traffic in case I needed to get you out of there quickly. Are you ready to go back to Orlando now?" The technician asked in a professional tone.
"Yeah. Thanks." Ken said, and I could tell from the sound of his voice that he wanted to duck down behind me and hide to get away from everyone's attention.
"On your command Mr. Thompson." The technician said respectfully.
Ken straightened his posture, and in a clear voice he said, "Energize."
* * * * *
The tingles and sparkles fizzled out and we were standing in Ken's driveway, exactly where we had left from.
"How did it go?" Kevin asked immediately.
"Good. I think he's going to be okay." Ken said with relief in his voice.
I thought about JR and nodded my agreement.
Even though I don't know everything that Ken saw in the picture, I think I understand enough of what JR was feeling to make sense of what just happened.
"Cory called, he wants to know what's going on." Kevin said seriously.
"I'll call him when we get back to Rory's house. Thanks for calling me Kev, I think you might have saved JR's life." Ken said as he looked his brother in the eyes.
"So he was really gonna do it?" Kevin asked with a wide eyed expression.
"I don't know for sure. He could have still changed his mind at the last second." Ken said in thought.
"Do you think he's going to try again?" Kevin asked with worry.
"I don't think so. Now he knows that he has someone that he can talk to who will understand if he's feeling like that again." Ken said in thought.
"I think what we did was let him know that he's not alone and that if he can just hang in there for a while, it'll get better." I said in a considering voice.
I felt a hand on my shoulder and looked up to see Dad looking down at me with a loving twinkle in his eyes.
I smiled at Dad, then looked over to Ken to see what he was going to do next.
"I'll see you tomorrow Kev. Thanks again for calling me." Ken said, then pulled his brother into a hug.
"Are you sure JR's going to be okay?" Kevin asked with concern.
"I think so. He wasn't really wanting to die, he just wanted an end to the loneliness and confusion." Ken said quietly.
"Thanks for helping him." Kevin said quietly as he pulled out of the hug.
"That's what we do." Ken said with a smile at his brother, then turned to look at me and Dad, obviously ready to leave.
* * * * *
"So how was it Skeeter?" Dad asked as he pushed me at a leisurely pace back toward our house.
"It was really cool. Besides getting to transport four times, I got to watch while Ken helped a guy in trouble." I said happily.
"You helped him too." Ken said immediately.
I thought about it for a second. I don't think I really did much of anything.
"I don't know if it's what you were saying or the wheelchair or those cute freckles of yours, but something got him to listen to you when he wouldn't listen to me." Ken said seriously.
Ken sounded so definite, like there was no doubt in his mind. If he was so sure about it, then maybe I really did do something to help JR.
"Way to go Skeeter." Dad said from behind me and I could hear the pride in his voice.
"Hey guys!" A voice called from out of nowhere.
I looked around and finally spotted Davis sitting on the front porch of the house catty-cornered across the street from ours.
"Hi Davis, how are you doing?" Dad asked as he stopped pushing me and waved.
Davis hopped up from where he'd been sitting and ran across the street before he answered.
"I'm kind of bored out of my mind right now. What are you guys up to?" Davis asked as he approached.
I looked at Ken with question, not knowing if we were supposed to talk about it.
"We were just talking with a friend of ours who was feeling down. Now... I guess we're walking around for a little bit." Ken said and glanced at Dad to see if he minded continuing the walk.
"We need to stop at the house for a minute so Ken can make a call. But then I think a walk around the neighborhood would be a great idea. Would you like to walk with us?" Dad asked in a friendly tone.
Davis' eyes lighted up as he said, "Yeah, I get so totally bored sitting around the house all day. There's nothing to do here."
"Do you need to let your mom know where you'll be? I wouldn't want her to be worried." Dad said seriously.
Davis looked at Dad with surprise, then said, "I don't think mom would notice if I left for the weekend without telling her. What's funny is, if her little rat-dog is out of her sight for more than two minutes she has a panic attack."
"Would you go tell her anyway? I'd just feel better about it." Dad asked in a quieter voice.
"Okay." Davis said reluctantly.
"Ken, do you need to go in and use the phone?" Dad asked as he watched Davis walk away.
"No, it's easier to use the communicator... besides, I don't have Cory's phone number." Ken said and pulled his communicator out.
There was a little chirp of the communicator coming on, then Ken said, "Kenny Thompson to Clan Short Headquarters."
A second later a voice answered, "This is Cory. I got a call from Terra Main saying that you called for an emergency transport. Is there something going on that I can help with?"
"No. Everything is fine. Kevin just drew a picture of someone who was thinking about suicide and I had to get to him before he did it." Ken said seriously.
"How did it work out?" Cory asked with concern.
"He's fine now. He was just having a really crappy dark day and it was kind of an impulse thing. Rory and I talked to him and made him stop and think about it. And I gave him my phone number in case he needs to talk some more." Ken said in thought.
"Rory?" Cory asked curiously.
"Oh yeah. Rory Teeter, Jake and I met him today and we became friends... really good friends." Ken said with a big smile and winked at me.
"Daddy? Mom was looking for you. What are you all doing out here?" Corina asked as she walked toward us.
"Really good friends, huh? I'm guessing you're talking about the kind of friends who swap spit." Cory said in a teasing voice.
Ken glanced at Corina, then said, "I'm over at Rory's house right now. Rory and his father and sister can hear you."
"Sorry Kenny. Hey, I want to meet this guy of yours. Maybe we can set something up for this weekend?" Cory asked and sounded like he was smiling.
"Yeah, I'll call you as soon as I know what we're doing for sure." Ken said quickly.
"Y'all have fun. Short out." Cory said in a relaxed tone.
"Thompson out." Kenny said quickly and closed the communicator.
"Is that real?" A voice said.
I turned to see that Davis had joined us again.
Ken looked at his communicator and said, "Yeah. Pretty cool huh?"
"I'm Corina." My dorky big sister said in a dreamy whispered voice.
I looked up at Davis to see his reaction and he was staring at her.
"This is Davis Gray. Davis, this is my daughter Corina." Dad said hesitantly as he looked from Corina to Davis and back.
"I'm Corina." She whispered again.
I rolled my eyes then looked at Dad and Ken
Dad was shaking his head in exasperation and Ken looked like he was about to bust out laughing.
"I'm Davis." He finally said and he was using the same whispered voice that Cor was using.
Dad gave a little snicker, then said to me and Ken, "I'm going to tell Doris that we're going for a walk. I'll be back in a second."
I nodded at Dad, then reached out and took Ken's hand to watch the show in front of us.
"What grade are you in?" Corina shyly asked as she stared into Davis' eyes.
"I'm a senior, what about you?" Davis asked quietly.
"I'm a junior. You're new here aren't you." Corina said breathlessly, and I'm kind of impressed that she was able to put that many words in a row.
"Yeah, I just moved here a couple weeks ago. I live right there." Davis said and pointed to his house.
"That's great." Corina said, then gave a nervous, kind of maniacal and scary, giggle.
I felt Ken squeeze my hand and looked up.
Ken swooped in and gave me a quick kiss.
"Oh gross! Why don't you two get a room?" Corina barked, totally destroying the image of dainty femininity that she had been constructing.
Ken looked at Corina with mischief dancing in his eyes as he said, "We will if you will."
Corina's eyes went wide in panic and she looked as if she were about to do the whole running off and hiding thing again.
"I don't mind if they kiss. It's kind of nice." Davis said as he looked deeply into Corina's eyes.
Corina gave another of those nervous scary giggles, you know, like the kind the insane bad guy in a cheesy movie gives right before he starts killing people... like that.
I saw Dad and Mom approaching with Possum and felt a slight sense of relief.
If I had to watch Davis and Corina much longer, I might just have to puke.
"Are we ready to walk?" Dad asked as he and Mom joined our group on the sidewalk.
I nodded enthusiastically.
Dad gave a knowing smile and handed me Possum's leash. Dad and Mom started walking up the sidewalk. Ken got behind me and began pushing me as Possum walked along side me.
I leaned over to look behind us and could see that Davis and Corina were following a little ways behind us, kind of lost in their own little world.
"I hope you guys weren't counting on spending any time with Davis. He seems to have his mind on other things right now." Dad said in a teasing voice.
"I'd try to warn him but I think it's too late. I guess she finally got that feminine thing she's been perfecting to work on someone." I said to Dad with a chuckle.
We came to the corner of our block and Dad looked both ways before crossing the street.
Fortunately when they built this gated community, someone had thought to build ramps into the corners of each block. Ken didn't have any problem following Mom and Dad across the street.
All of us watched from the opposite corner as Corina and Davis crossed the street without once glancing to see if there was any oncoming traffic.
"They'll make a cute couple if they don't get themselves killed." Dad said with a shake of his head.
I looked again at Davis and Corina and had to reluctantly admit that they did look cute together. But I'd never tell Corina, I'd be disgracing little brothers everywhere if I did something like that.
* * * * *
Dad had put his arm around Mom and they were just walking slowly ahead of us.
Corina and Davis were walking behind us.
They'd walk in silence for a few minutes, then both of them would start to say something at the same time.
Then both of them would break into nervous laughter and start talking a mile a minute, trying to talk over each other.
Whenever Possum would want to stop and sniff something or do whatever, Ken would reach up to play with my hair or might lean in and give me a quick kiss.
What a beautiful wonderful night.
I don't know what's going to happen with Xain's father tomorrow, but right this minute I'm just so incredibly happy with everything in my life that I can't help but believe that everything is going to be okay.