Now That You’re Here: Life Moves On
Derek jumped out of his seat at the sudden knocking on the door, causing Aiden to laugh. “Babe, relax. It’s your sister, not a firing squad. Now I’m going to go into the kitchen and check on dinner to give you a few minutes alone.”
Derek accepted a quick kiss from his partner as he walked towards the door. He stopped for a moment and wiped his sweaty palms on his jeans as he chuckled to himself. He really didn’t know why he was so nervous, but as soon as he opened the door, all his nervousness disappeared as he pulled his sister into a big hug. “I can’t believe you’re here! I’ve missed you so much!”
“Oh Derek, I’ve missed you, too!” Deanna cried as she held on to her brother and allowed her tears to fall.
The siblings held on to each other for a few moments before Derek pulled back. “Come on in. Sit down. Are you thirsty? Do you want something to drink? You look so grown up,”
Deanna laughed. “Slow down, Derek. You’re rambling again. I don’t need anything to drink right now. Let’s just sit down and relax for a few. I don’t know about you, but I was so nervous on the way here.”
“I was nervous, too…which is ridiculous since you’re my sister,” Derek laughed. “It’s so good to see you again. For a while there I wondered if I’d ever see you again.”
“There was no way I’d ever let that happen. I’ve been searching for you for a while now,” Deanna assured him. “Luckily Aunt Gina saved me a lot of work.”
“Excuse me, is it okay to interrupt?” Aiden asked softly as he walked out of the kitchen.
“Of course, De do you remember…”
“Oh my God, Aiden?” Deanna asked as she jumped up and ran to Aiden, throwing her arms around him. “What are you doing here?”
Aiden laughed as he hugged the excited girl back and then pulled away. “I live here,” he replied.
Deanna looked confused as she glanced between the two men.
“De, Aiden’s my boyfriend. We live together,” Derek explained with a smile.
“Really? That’s so awesome? How did you meet?”
“I’m glad you approve,” Derek chuckled. “I work at the bar down the street. Aiden used to come in here and there for a drink. One night I got him really drunk and took advantage of him.”
“Technically you did that twice,” Aiden laughed before turning to Deanna. “That’s why we’re together. I figured it was easier to just give in. He was obviously obsessed with me.”
“That I was,” Derek laughed although the look he sent Aiden said he wasn’t far off the mark.
“I can’t believe it,” De said. “You know, I’ve been out of Arizona for such a long time, but the minute I got back to town, I went to the cemetery to visit Christian. I still miss him after all these years.”
“I do, too,” Aiden admitted softly.
Deanna could see the sadness in Aiden’s eyes and wanted to change the subject. “So, what have you guys been up to? How long have you two been together?”
“Well, we’ve been together for about five years now. Obviously, I’m just a bartender, but Aiden here runs the Christian Young Center. It’s an amazing place for not only the LGBT community, but anyone in need. They have a food pantry, a homeless shelter and run all kinds of therapy sessions and meetings. They host AA and NA, offer classes on cooking and mechanics. He’s definitely one of the good guys,” Derek explained, beaming with pride.
“Seriously?” Deanna looked over at Aiden.
“Christian’s parents funded the center. They wanted to help the gay community. They still stop in once in a while and make huge donations, but I have found another sponsor as well and thanks to him, we’ve been able to expand enormously. It’s now bigger than I ever imagined it being. It’s like it took on a mind of its own. I just help to keep things going and to counsel those in need.”
“Don’t let him downplay his value. Christian’s parents and David Jackson may have laid some money down, but Aiden is the reason the place is what it is, and I couldn’t be prouder of him. He’s helped so many people,” Derek replied.
“Whatever. Anyway, what about you De? What have you been up to?” Aiden asked, ready to get the spotlight off him.
“Well…my life hasn’t quite been the success story that yours has. Maybe we should stick to current events until after dinner,” Deanna suggested. “What are we having? I’m up for anything.”
Derek could see that something was bothering his sister and wanted to demand that she spill her guts but decided to let her wait. They could have a nice meal before she filled them in on what’s been going on. “Okay, dinner first. And actually, Aiden whipped up a nice lasagna for us that should be ready in about…”
“Ten minutes,” Aiden filled in. “What can I get everybody to drink? I’ll go set the table and get the garlic bread in the oven. I have some wine chilling in the fridge.”
“I’ll just take a water,” Deanna replied.
“Water it is. And you babe?”
“I’ll take a glass of wine, please. I serve the stuff five days a week. It’s not often that I get to drink it.”
“You got it.”
A little more than an hour later, everyone was stuffed from dinner and all the dishes were cleaned up. Aiden knew that the siblings were going to discuss whatever it was that Deanna alluded to earlier and wanted to give them their privacy. “Why don’t I leave you two alone to talk? I have some paperwork that I brought home that will keep me busy.”
“Aiden, you don’t have to leave. In fact, it’s probably best if you stay. You and Derek are as good as married. You’re family.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah, I’m sure.” Deanna waited until Derek and Aiden were seated before beginning. “The last 13 years haven’t really been the greatest. For most of them, I was a drug addict and an alcoholic doing a lot of things I’m not proud of.”
“Oh De…” Derek said sadly.
“No, don’t feel bad for me. I was old enough to know right from wrong and chose to go down a rabbit hole. I have nobody to blame but myself. Thankfully, about six months ago I hit my bottom and ended up in jail. It was the best thing that ever happened to me.”
“You were in jail?” Derek asked, horrified.
“Yeah, for 60 days. It was just for a minor drug charge, but it sure got my attention. After detoxing, I realized that I needed to make some changes in my life, or I was going to end up dead. I now have over 6 months sober and I’m slowly putting my life back together. I have a steady job and an apartment in a good neighborhood. I do have a roommate, but she’s not a drinker and pays her bills on time so I don’t mind having to share. And now that I found you, things are good.”
“De, I’m so sorry you had to go through all of that. I wish I had looked harder for you.”
“Derek, it wouldn’t have mattered how hard you looked for me. Back then, I didn’t want to be found. I was so wrapped up in my anger that I couldn’t see straight. But it’s all in the past now, and I’m okay. I made it through with minimal damage and a very important lesson learned. I don’t drink or do drugs, I make sure to go to at least 3 AA meetings a week, and I’ve enrolled in college. It’s an online program since I don’t really have the ability to go to classes in person, but it will get me a degree in addictions counseling when I’m finished.”
“Good for you, De,” Aiden said as he reached over and patted her arm. “I’ve worked with a lot of addicts and the one thing they need more than anything is support. You were always such a sweet girl in high school, watching out for the underdog. I’m sure you’ll do well.”
“Thanks Aiden,” Deanna replied shyly. She didn’t like being praised.
“Yeah sis, I’m so proud of you. It sounds like you’ve got your life together and are doing great.”
“I really think so…but there’s one complication that I’m worried about. Something that could potentially ruin everything I’ve been working for, and I don’t know what to do. I was kind of hoping you could help me out. Knowing you have Aiden makes me feel even better about asking.”
“You can ask me anything, De. You know I’ll always be here for you. What do you need?”
Deanna took a deep breath before looking into her brother’s eyes. “I’m pregnant and I need you to take the baby.”
Derek stared at his sister in confusion. “I’m sorry…what?”
“I know it’s a lot to ask,” Deanna said as she got up and started pacing the room. “We haven’t spoken in 13 years, and I don’t know if you even want children, but I don’t know what to do. I’m only six months sober, and for two of those months I was in jail so I can’t really take much credit for them. I don’t know how I would handle taking care of a child. And school? I'll never be able to work, go to school, and raise a baby all by myself. I live in a tiny two-bedroom apartment with a girl I hardly know. I don’t even have room for a baby. What kind of life would I be able to give him or her? I’ve considered adoption, but the thought of having a child out there and not knowing if they’re happy and healthy…I don’t think I could stand that. Derek, I know this is huge, but I don’t have anywhere else to turn.”
Derek couldn’t think over the buzzing in his ears. He had never wanted kids. He wasn’t sure if it was because growing up gay, he figured he wouldn’t be able to have kids so why bother thinking about it, but it was an idea he had never entertained in the past. Then he started dating Aiden, and he knew the younger man wanted to be a father, so he started considering it as a possibility…but even that wasn’t 100%. It was something that would need to be discussed at great length. And if he did agree, it wouldn’t be happening for a very long time. But now…De was pregnant. They were talking months, not years. He wasn’t ready for that…they weren’t ready for that. They hadn’t even closed on their house yet.
Aiden saw the color drain from Derek’s face and knew he was going to have to jump in. It had only been in the last couple of weeks that Derek said he’d even consider them having a child one day, but they were a long way off from making any definite decisions and a longer way off from actually looking for someone to help them. “How far along are you?”
Deanna looked away from the horrified look on her brother’s face and focused on Aiden. “I’m four months along. My due date is June 12th. Look, I know how crazy this sounds. And to be honest, if you guys say no, I don’t know what I’ll do. I can’t raise a child right now. I wouldn’t do that to them. I’m so focused on my sobriety, and I really want to stay clean, but the relapse rate is so high in the first year. I just don’t trust myself.”
“How long are you in town for?” Aiden asked when Derek remained silent.
“I’m here until Tuesday. Then I really need to get back home. I know this is a big decision to make. I don’t expect you to give me an answer right now. I know you have to talk about it and decide if it’s something you’d be willing to do. And then there’s the legal aspects of it all that would have to be decided. Obviously, I would give up all my parental rights. When I thought about this, I knew I wanted Derek to adopt the child, but I would have no problem with both of you being the adoptive parents if that’s what you wanted. Assuming of course that you would be willing, Aiden. I would love to be an aunt, but that would be your call. If you didn’t want me to be in the child’s life, I would understand.” Deanna stopped rambling and then focused on her brother. “Derek, I’m so sorry about throwing this at you. When I decided to start looking for you, I was still in jail. I wasn’t pregnant. I just really wanted my brother back. As soon as I was released, I started looking for you. I didn’t know I’d end up pregnant.”
Derek finally found his voice. “Where’s the father?”
“He’s not in the picture. I’m ashamed to say that I don’t really know who he is. When I was first released, I was having a hard time. I was so worried about staying sober, you know? The first two months were a lot easier because I couldn’t get my hands on anything when I was locked up. Then, suddenly I was out and on my own. My sobriety was in my hands and my hands alone. I started going to meetings seven days a week at first, just trying to keep my head above water. My second week, I met a guy at one of the meetings. His name was Nick, and he could see that I was in bad shape, so he took me for coffee afterwards. He’d been sober for ten years and wanted to offer some advice. For the next couple of days, he helped me out a lot. One thing led to another, and we ended up in bed together. He was horrified afterwards. Well, we both were, but he was so mad at himself for allowing things to happen. He kept apologizing to me over and over again…I felt so bad for him. Yeah, maybe he shouldn’t have let it happen, but it’s not like he forced himself on me. I wanted it. I’m pretty sure I’m the one who initiated it,” Deanna paused for a moment, lost in thought. “Anyway, then he disappeared. I kept going back to the meeting I met him at. I wanted to talk with him again. I wanted to try and get him to see that although our having sex wasn’t the smartest move we made, he wasn’t at fault. He never showed up. A couple weeks later I asked one of the guys at the meeting if he had seen Nick. He told me that Nick was just passing through. He was on his way to the west coast but stopped in Ohio to visit his old college roommate and wanted to hit up a few meetings while he was in town. No one even knows his last name. I can’t even tell him I’m pregnant, not that it would matter. He has his life and I have mine.”
Derek obviously didn’t have anything else to say at the moment, so Aiden chimed in again. “Listen De, why don’t you give us a little time to talk about this. Maybe we can meet up tomorrow for brunch. I don’t know if we’ll have an answer for you by then, but at least some of the shock will have worn off.”
Deanna looked over at her brother and sighed. “Yeah, that sounds like a good idea. Just text me in the morning and tell me when and where to meet you.” She went over to where Derek was sitting on the couch lost in thought and leaned down, kissed his cheek and whispered her love before heading to the door with Aiden right behind her. She waited until the door was open and then motioned for Aiden to follow her into the hall. “I’m so sorry to spring this on you guys and I’ll understand if I’m asking too much. I just don’t know what to do. I really want to get my life together and become somebody more than an addict one day. I just don’t think I can do that if I’m trying to raise a baby by myself. I’m just not ready.”
“Trust me, I understand. I’ve counseled my share of addicts and it’s hard to stay clean in the best of circumstances. Just give Derek time to think about it and we’ll go from there. This isn’t easy for him. He never wanted children and has only agreed to consider it recently because he knows it’s something I’ve always wanted, but it’s not something that we’ve even really talked about yet.”
“Maybe I should just figure out something else. I didn’t know he didn’t want children. I don’t want to guilt him into something he doesn’t want to do. Not something this important. I’m the one who messed up. It’s my job to clean up the mess,” Deanna replied.
Aiden sighed. “De, you’ve made some mistakes, but everyone deserves a second chance. Let me talk to Derek tonight and see where his head is at. If he’s really opposed to taking the baby, we’ll help you in other ways. You’re his sister, and he loves you. He’s never going to turn his back on you. I know that for a fact. We will all find a way to figure this out together, okay?”
Deanna pulled Aiden into a tight hug. “Thank you. It was so good to see you again and I’m so glad you and my brother found each other.”
“Thanks De, me too.”
Aiden watched Deanna until the elevator doors closed and then took a deep breath before heading inside. He had the feeling it was going to be a long night.
“I just love having you home every day. The circumstances around it stinks, but I’m not going to complain that I get to spend so much time with you,” David admitted. He and Matt were lying in bed after an extremely intense round of lovemaking. Ever since Matt’s leave of absence began, David had been spending a lot more time at home instead of the office. “Any chance I can get you to quit your job altogether and just be a house husband?”
Matt chuckled. “Sorry babe, that’s not going to happen. If I ever decided to give up being a police officer, I would just find another career. I’m never going to be a house husband.”
“I figured it was worth a shot. It couldn’t hurt to ask,” David laughed. “Now what do you have going on tomorrow?”
“I’m meeting Aiden, Grayson and Zander down at the center. I volunteered to help them get the Big Brother program up and running, remember? They’ve been really busy lately, so we agreed to meet on Sunday since it’s the only day the center is closed to the public.”
“Oh right, sorry. I know you told me that. I forgot.”
Matt looked over at David. “Are you alright? You’ve been really distracted lately.”
“Yeah, I’m sorry. I just have a lot on my mind. Grant called me last week and he seemed off, you know? Like something was bothering him but he kept insisting that he was okay.”
“Maybe he’s just having trouble jumping back into the swing of things. I don’t know about you, but when I was away at college, starting a new semester after a long break was hard. Getting to spend four to six weeks at home with my friends and family, and then having to leave them again really sucked.”
“I hope being with me made it easier for you,” David replied with a shy smile.
“Believe me, it did. Nothing was worse than my first semester. I felt so alone those first few months. Once we got together, leaving home again was definitely easier, but it was still hard leaving everyone else behind,” Matt admitted. “Maybe Grant’s feeling that, too.”
“Maybe…but I don’t really think that’s it.”
“Did you try calling Vic? Maybe Grant said something while he was home over the holidays.”
David had thought about calling Victor. From the first day they met, Grant and Victor developed a strong bond. It’s one of the reasons Victor agreed to foster Grant, and it showed in the way Grant still considered Victor to be his guardian despite being almost 22 and away at college. “I thought about it, but I don’t know if I want to drag Victor into my suspicions if there really is nothing wrong and it’s just my imagination. I was thinking about taking a trip to Cali and talking to him in person.”
“Yeah, that might be a good idea. If something really is bothering him, waiting until his next trip home might not be a good thing,” Matt said. “Although I’ll miss you when you’re gone.”
“I guess we’ll just have to make sure we get lots of this in before and after my trip to make up for the days I’m gone,” David growled as he reached down and grabbed Matt’s cock, bringing the once satisfied member back to a full erection. Nothing more was said as the two men went another round.
The next morning David woke up to find Matt already gone. He vaguely remembered being kissed goodbye, but after staying awake much later than Matt so he could watch the younger man sleep, he hadn’t wanted to get up before noon. Unfortunately, his cell phone pulled him from his slumber shortly after eleven. He reached over and grabbed the offending object, ready to let the person on the other end have it for calling so late.
“This had better be good!”
“Hey, it’s me. Did I wake you up? I’m sorry.”
“Grant?” David asked as he sat up and forced himself to full wakefulness. “It’s fine. I was up late last night, but it’s not a big deal. What’s going on?”
“I’m…uh…I’m actually out front. I tried ringing the doorbell, but I guess you didn’t hear it.”
“You’re here?” David exclaimed as he jumped out of bed and reached for his robe. “I’ll be right down.”
David quickly pulled on his robe as he ran down the stairs and towards the door. He now had no doubt that there was a problem with Grant. Not when he should be 500 miles from home. When he reached the door, he paused and took a deep breath before opening the door to find Grant on the other side. His eyes took a quick sweep of the young man, and once he was satisfied that there wasn’t anything wrong with him physically, he sighed with relief and pulled him into a hug. It didn’t go unnoticed that Grant held on a little longer than normal. Once they separated, David pulled Grant through the door.
“Come in, are you okay? Are you hungry? Thirsty? Shouldn’t you be at school?”
“Jeez,” Grant laughed. “Calm down. I’m okay. I just…I needed to come home.”
“Okay, come on in. I need coffee before we start talking.” David led Grant into the kitchen. He needed a strong cup of coffee so he could focus his full attention on Grant. Once the coffee was brewed, he poured himself a cup and then sat down at the counter next to the young man, “Now spill it. As much as I love seeing you, you’re supposed to be in San Diego right now. Why are you here? You didn’t drop out of school, did you?”
Grant chuckled. “Relax, I didn’t drop out of school. Do you really think that after busting my ass for the last 4 years, taking way too many classes each semester and taking on extra classes over the summers, that I’d drop out in my last semester?”
“I wouldn’t think you’d be that stupid,” David laughed as he gently elbowed Grant. “Then what’s going on? Does Victor know that you’re here?”
“No, he has no idea and I’d rather he didn’t find out,” Grant replied.
“Are you in trouble?”
“No, but I think Victor is,” Grant said. “When I was home for the holiday, I happen to see a few past due notices on the desk in his office. I didn’t really pay much attention. I figured everyone falls behind here and there. But then, the day he drove me to the airport, I overheard him on the phone while I was putting my bags in the car. It sounds like he’s going to lose the house. I know he said things were slow at the warehouse, so he wasn’t working the overtime he usually had, but now I’m thinking it’s more than that. But you know him, he’s too proud to admit he needs help.”
“Yeah, I don’t know him as well as you do, but he definitely doesn’t seem like the type to ask for help. You didn’t have to come all the way home for this. You could have just called. I’ll go over there and give him a check. It’s no big deal.”
“No, you can’t tell him that you know what’s going on. It’s one thing for me to admit to overhearing his call or seeing some mail laying around. It’s another for me to tell someone else that he’s having trouble,” Grant replied.
David knew he was right. “Okay, then what did you have in mind?”
“I wanted to ask you man to man for a loan. I won’t be able to pay you back until I graduate and find a job, but I will pay you back. We can set up a payment schedule once I’m working somewhere other than the pizza place I'm currently working at. I’ll even pay interest.”
“Grant, I’m not going to loan you money, and I’m sure as hell not going to charge you interest. I have more than enough money to help Victor out if you think he’ll take the money.”
“I can’t ask you to do that. You’ve done so much for me, not only helping me find Victor and giving me a family again, but you’re paying my tuition and I know for a fact that all the extra classes I’m taking, on top of the normal tuition and room and board…it’s a lot of money. When you offered to pay, you didn’t know I was going to end up with so many additional classes.”
“Grant, we’ve been over this before. You know who I am, and although you’ve never seen one of my financial statements, you know that I can easily afford to pay your way and help Victor out. One of the reasons I offered to pay your tuition is because I didn’t want you graduating with a huge loan hanging over your head. I refuse to loan you money. If I did that, then what was the point of paying your tuition,” David pointed out. “Now we need to figure out how to get Victor to let me help him, cause let’s face it, he wasn’t going to just take money from you when he knows you don’t have any yourself.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” Grant sighed. “But I don’t know what else to do.”
“Look, honesty has always been the best policy. Why don’t we go over there together and talk to him? You can admit to knowing what’s going on and see if we can get him to open up. I didn’t know he was having trouble at work. Maybe I can help him find a better job so he can pay his bills. I might be able to find a spot at the foundation…or maybe Eric can use him at the restaurant. Then, if he refuses to just take my money, I can loan him the money. This way I can help him out and he won’t feel bad taking it because he will be able to afford paying it back.”
Grant thought about it for a moment and knew David was right. Victor would never take his money, even if he could offer a reasonable explanation as to where it came from. “I guess it’s worth a shot.”
“Don’t worry, we’ll figure something out. Now, how long as you here for? What about your classes?”
“Don’t worry, I emailed all my professors before I booked my flight to make sure I can get my work and do it from here. I’m actually staying for the week. I told them I had some issues at home I had to deal with,” Grant explained.
“Cool, I’m not going to complain. I talked to Matt last night and told him I was probably going to fly out and visit. I knew something was bothering you and I wanted to make sure you were okay. You saved me a trip,” David laughed.
“You know,” Grant said as he turned serious. “I don’t think I can ever thank you enough for all you’ve done for me.”
“Hey, it’s no…”
Granted stopped him. “Don’t you dare say it’s no big deal. It’s a huge deal. I was living on the streets, selling my ass for food. Now here I am, getting ready to graduate college with a bachelor’s degree and a promising future. And you always say that you had the money to help, and you did, but having it and doing something with it is two different things. My father, if you can call him that, had money. He just didn’t care. You are one of the nicest people I have ever met and I’m so happy you got lost all those years ago.”
David could feel himself begin to tear up, He hated praise for doing something that came so naturally to him. He cleared his throat. “I’m happy, too. My life is better with you in it. You’re like the little brother I never had…or the son I always wanted. Either way, we’re family, and family should always have each other’s backs.” After a quick hug, David excused himself to go take a shower so they could go find Victor and help him out of the predicament he was in.
It was only 9:15 a.m. when Zan’s phone rang signaling that Trevor was officially homeless. Zan answered the phone, told Trevor that he had an option other than the shelter for him, and told him to meet him at the diner in 20 minutes. Once he hung up, he went in search of Chris, who was in his office writing.
“Hey Babe, what are you doing writing on a Sunday? You usually take the day off,” Zan asked as he walked over and kissed the top of Chris’s head.
“I had an idea for my next chapter and wanted to just get the thoughts down while they were there. I’m trying to get a little ahead because I don’t know how much writing I’ll get done while I’m on the road. I’m thinking most of my evenings are going to be spent missing you,” Chris replied as he spun his chair around and pulled Zan into his lap. “What’s up?”
“Sadly, Trevor just called. He’s going to meet us at the diner in 20 minutes, but if you’re in the middle of something, I can go on my own.”
“No, it’s okay. I think it’s better to be there when you talk to him. This way I can let him know I’m behind the decision as well.”
“Behind it? It was your idea,” Zan laughed. “But thanks. I think your being there will be good. The poor kid. I can’t believe parents are still throwing their kids out for being gay. When is it going to stop?”
“I don’t know,” Chris sighed. “It’s getting better though. The world is getting more and more accepting every day. Maybe one day being gay won’t even be an issue. Until then, we’ll just do whatever we can to help. Today we can help by offering Trevor a safe place to live until he can take care of himself.”
“I love you so much,” Zan said as he leaned in and gave Chris a kiss. “I’m going to go to the bathroom and grab my wallet and keys. I’ll meet you by the front door in two minutes.”
Zan and Chris were sitting in a corner booth when Trevor walked in. Zan waved him over and moved over to Chris’s side of the booth, leaving the empty side for Trevor. Once the young man sat down, Zan made the introductions.
“Trevor, this is my partner, Chris.”
“Oh my God, you’re Christopher Kinney!” Trevor exclaimed. “I love your books. I’ve read all of them! I haven’t seen the movie yet. My mother doesn’t like us to watch movies until she sees them first and knows that they aren’t the work of the devil…”
Zan noticed the excitement drain from Trevor’s face at the mention of his mother and jumped in. “Trevor, what happened this morning?”
“Same thing that always happens. The minute I went downstairs, my mother asked me if I got the gay nonsense out of my head. When I told her that it’s not nonsense and it’s not going to go away, she told me that when her, my dad, and my sister got home from church, I should be gone.”
“I’m sorry,” Zan said as he reached out and laid a comforting hand on Trevor’s arm. “I was really hoping that they would have reconsidered when they realized that you were standing your ground. But I’m happy that you did. The situation right now isn’t ideal but living your life as anything other than how you were made to live it, isn’t living. It’s one of the things that causes such high suicide rates in the gay community.”
“And I think we have a better option for you than the shelter,” Chris added.
“Zander mentioned that on the phone,” Trevor said. “I don’t know what option you might have in mind, but I’m willing to take anything you’ve come up with. I don’t want to stay in a shelter with a bunch of strangers, and I really don’t want to live in my car. Especially since I’m not going to have car insurance soon. I’m on my parents’ policy. I’m sure they’re going to call and get it cancelled as soon as possible. I’m just glad I bought the car with all the birthday and Christmas money that they would never let me spend on anything while I was growing up. If they had paid for it, they never would have let me take it.”
Zan looked over at Chris and smiled before addressing Trevor. “We want you to come and stay with us.”
Trevor looked back and forth between the two men. “You want me to stay with you?”
“Yeah, if you want to,” Zan replied.
“Look Trevor,” Chris began. “We know what it’s like to be punished for being gay. My parents turned their back on me when they found out I was gay. I was very lucky though. I was an adult and already living on my own, but it was still painful. Then they threw my little brother Brian out when they found out he was gay. He was 14 years old at the time. Luckily, he was able to get in touch with us and Zan and I took him in. When Zan came home yesterday, he was pretty upset thinking that you were going to be thrown out of your house. You’re only a few months from graduation and as long as you’re in school, you shouldn’t have to worry about where you’re going to sleep at night or how you’re going to pay for your next meal. You need to focus on homework, the prom and graduation. Let us worry about the rest for now.”
“He’s right,” Zan added. “We have a finished basement that’s not being used. It doesn’t have a separate entrance or a kitchen, but it has a bedroom, a living area and a bathroom. We do have a few rules that need to be followed, but I promise they’re very reasonable.”
Trevor could feel himself getting choked up at the kindness of the two men sitting across from him. “Thank you,” he whispered. “I was so afraid of what was going to happen next. And I’ll get a job so I can pay for my own food and stuff.”
“You don’t have to pay for your food. If you want to get a part time job for a little extra spending money, that’s up to you but you’re not going to be using it for essentials. We’ve got that covered. We’ll put your car on our insurance, put you on our cell phone plan, make sure there is plenty of food for you to eat, and if you want to go catch a movie with your friends or something, just say so. We can provide a little cash for things like that. Our main concern is that you have a safe place to live while you finish being a teenager,” Zan assured him.
“Exactly,” Chris added. “And in our family, being a teenager doesn’t end until after college. We don’t need to discuss your future today. I’m sure you’re very overwhelmed with all that’s happened in the last hour or so. We’ll give you time to get settled in, and then the three of us will sit down and discuss what you want to happen after graduation. Okay?”
“Uh…yeah. Okay, thanks. It has been a long morning considering I’ve only been awake for two hours,” Trevor chuckled sadly. “I promise I won’t be any trouble.”
“Don’t worry about that. We’re not. Somehow, I doubt you even know how to get in trouble,” Zan replied.
That made Trevor laugh. “You’re probably right.”
Once the plans were in place, the three of them enjoyed a quick breakfast before heading home. Trevor was a nervous wreck. Moving in with strangers had his stomach in knots, but he had no other options, so he just had to try and relax. He somehow doubted that a famous author would be a serial killer. He hated that his religious upbringing had him questioning who he should trust. According to his parents, unless you had a strong relationship with God, you weren’t to be trusted. He followed closely as Chris drove through town before turning into Fawn Lakes. He knew people who lived in the well-off section of town and wondered how close he would be to them. When the SUV pulled into the driveway of a nice house, he couldn’t help but smile. His own home…former home…wasn’t anywhere near as nice as his new home. His parents gave all their money to the church, insisting that living a minimal lifestyle was what God wanted. He never believed it. Somehow, he didn’t believe God would look down upon someone who had a dishwasher or a microwave.
“Here we are,” Zan called out through his open window, pulling Trevor from his thoughts. “Home sweet home.”
Trevor got out of his car and followed the older men inside. He kept looking around at his surroundings. The house wasn’t as grand as he would expect a best-selling author’s house to be, but it was definitely a nice place. As they entered the living room, his eyes caught sight of a familiar face.
“Oh my God, Trevor?” Sophia squealed.
“Soph?” Trever replied. “What are you doing here?”
“I live here. Zander’s my brother.”
Zander was surprised by their interaction. “How do you guys know each other?”
“Trevor is friends with the twins. We’re all in drama together, Benji, Brad, Trevor, Kaleb and me. A lot of our extra curriculars don’t go by grade,” Sophia explained before turning back to Trevor. “I’m sorry your parents suck.”
“Sophia!” Chris exclaimed.
Trevor chuckled. “It’s okay Chris. I’m used to Sophia. She always says exactly what she’s thinking."
"Yeah, she was definitely born without a filter," Zan teased as he gave his sister a gentle nudge. "Come with me. I'll show you where you'll be staying."
"I can show him,” Sophia offered.
“Actually Soph, I’d like to talk to you for a minute if you don’t mind,” Chris chimed in.
“Okay,” Sophia replied. She waited until Zan and Trevor were gone. “What’s up?”
“I just wanted to check in with you this morning and make sure you’re not still mad at me about the tour.”
Sophia smiled sadly. “I’m sorry I was such a drama queen last night. I know you have to do these things. I just hate the thought of you not being here for so long. But I wasn’t mad at you. I was mad at the situation. I’m still mad at the situation. And Todd! I’m still mad at him, too!”
“I’m really sorry, Pumpkin. I promise I’ll make sure to see you as much as I can. And maybe you can fly to wherever I am for a long weekend once school's out. It can be just the two of us. You can leave big brother behind,” Chris suggested with a smile.
Sophia giggled. “Sounds good to me, but I don’t know how Zan will feel about it. He’s pretty sad too, you know. I know that he was very supportive last night, and he probably wouldn’t want me to tell you this, but last night I came down for a drink after midnight, and I found him sitting alone in the dark and I think he was crying.”
Chris’s heart dropped. “Damn, I should’ve known something was up when he accepted my leaving so well. Maybe I should just call Todd and tell him I can’t go. You and Zan are the last people on earth I want to hurt.”
“We know that. And you’re not hurting us. We’re just sad thinking about you being gone so long. But let’s face it, six months isn’t really that long and like you said, you’ll come home, or we’ll fly to you. There will be phone calls, text messages, and Facetime. We’ll be talking so much that we’ll probably get sick of each other.”
Chris appreciated the way Sophia was trying to be supportive when he knew how she really felt. “I love you so much, Pumpkin. You know that?”
“I know,” Sophia replied as she threw her arms around Chris. “I love you so much, too!”
Chris had a feeling that six months was going to seem like an eternity.
Derek watched as his sister walked through the door to the diner and was once again so happy to see her. Happy about the circumstances on the other hand, he was not. He waved her over and once again cursed Aiden for having a meeting about the Big Brother program. He could have really used the support.
“Hey Derek, thanks for agreeing to talk to me. After seeing the horror on your face last night, I realize that asking you for this is too much. I spent all night thinking about everything, and I’ve decided to give the baby up for adoption. It won’t be easy, but I don’t think I can do it on my own and I won’t keep the baby to ease my guilt if I’m not 100% sure I can give him or her a good life,” Deanna said as soon as she took her seat. “That wouldn’t be fair to him or her. I’m sorry I even asked you. It wasn’t right of me to put you in that position. I’m just so happy to have you back in my life. I’ll figure out my own stuff.”
Derek could see the dark circles under her eyes that let him know how hard the decision she made was for her. He’d bet every penny he had that she was up crying most of the night. “I’ll do it,” Derek said softly.
“I said I’ll do it. We’ll do it. Aiden and me,” Derek confirmed.
“Derek…” Deanna could feel herself tearing up. “I don’t want you to say yes because you think that as my big brother, you have to clean up my mess.”
“That’s not why I’m saying yes.” Derek paused to take a sip of his water. His nerves had his throat dry. “Look, to be perfectly honest with you, I never wanted children. I’m not sure why. It could be because as a gay boy growing up, I never figured I’d be able to have any. Or maybe it was because of mom and dad. I’d never want to put a child through what I went through.”
“I somehow doubt you would throw your child out of the house for being gay,” Deanna pointed out.
“No, of course not. But there were other things, things I never realized until after I was gone that just…didn’t sit right with me. I don’t want to get into them. I’m just wondering if that had anything to do with my feelings. Anyway, I just never wanted kids.”
“But then why…”
“Aiden does,” Derek replied. “I’ve known almost from the beginning that Aiden wanted to be a dad and I would do anything for him. I figured that one day in the future, I would end up with a child, I just didn’t expect it this soon. But last night when Aiden and I were talking…well, he made me see a few things that I wouldn’t have thought about.”
“Well, first of all there are so many gay couples, men and women who would love to be given the opportunity to have a child but can’t because they can’t easily find the eggs or sperm they need and can’t afford to pay a doctor’s office to help them. Here you are, offering us a baby…a baby that is a part of our family. On top of that, I really want to be able to help you out and I know how miserable you would be thinking that you had a child out there and didn’t know if he or she was safe and happy. This way you’ll be in the child’s life and be able to watch him or her grow up, knowing that they’re happy.”
“Are you sure you want me to be in the child’s life? I won’t be upset if you would rather I stay away,” Deanna assured him.
“Of course I don’t want you to stay away. And Aiden and I don’t want to do that thing where we tell our child that you’re the aunt and then he or she finds out that you’re the mom. In the world we live in, secrets always have a way of coming out. We want you to be the mom. Aiden and I will be the legal custodial parents, but we want you to play an active role in the baby’s life. In fact, we’re kind of hoping that once you’re more settled in your sobriety, you’ll move back to the Arizona area so that you can be close to us.”
Deanna didn’t bother trying to stop her tears. “Really? Are you sure?”
“Of course we’re sure. De, if the past didn’t happen the way it did and I came to you and told you that Aiden and I wanted a child and needed someone to help us, would you have done it?” Derek asked.
“Of course! I’d do anything for you,” Deanna replied.
“Well, that’s kind of what’s happening, don’t you think? Yeah, in a perfect world we would have been ready, and Aiden would have supplied the sperm since obviously I couldn’t, but this is close enough. I know plenty of couples that have the same arrangement. The child grows up with one mother and two fathers. That’s what we want. Of course, we need to know that’s what you want, too.”
Deanna didn’t have to think twice. She jumped out of her chair, knocking it over in the process and threw her arms about her brother. “Oh Derek, thank you! Thank you so much!”
Derek laughed as he hugged her back. “No, thank you. I wasn’t planning to do this so soon, but I was wondering how we were going to be able to find someone to help us have a child. I love Aiden more than anything and I want to make him as happy as he’s made me. You should have seen the look on his face when I agreed to take the baby. He’s walking on cloud 9.”
Deanna held on to her brother for another moment until she saw the waiter approaching. She pulled away and took her seat so they could place their order. Once they were done and the waiter went to put in their order, Deanna refocused on her brother. “Wow, we have so much we have to figure out. We’ll need to get a lawyer to handle the adoption, and I should probably start looking for a doctor around here. I’ll make some calls tomorrow. If I can get Friday appointments, I can fly out for long weekends to be seen until we get closer to June. I figured that I would come stay out here when it’s close to my due date and just deliver here. This way you guys are close by. Remember Tracy? From high school? That’s who I’m staying with now. She married a doctor and has this huge house with an apartment over the garage. She said I’m welcome to stay there whenever I need to. Then I need to…”
“De, take a breath,” Derek suggested. “Yes, there’s going to be a lot to do but we have some time. What about work? Are they going to let you take off for long weekends and for the end of the pregnancy?”
“I don’t have to take off. I work from home. You know those programs where people talk into a microphone, like say for meeting notes and things like that, instead of typing and then someone types up what they say? I’m the one who types them up. It’s great because I can work whenever I want. I just log onto the site and choose the jobs I want. When I first saw the online ad, I thought it was a scam, but it’s legit. I’ve been doing it for almost 4 months now. And there are hundreds of jobs to choose from every day. No lack of work. I actually worked for a few hours last night and then again this morning before I came here. The larger the project, the better the payout. I put in anywhere from 8-12 hours a day, but it gives me the ability to be flexible when I need to be, such as for meetings and school and stuff. I don’t have a car, so I go to morning meetings. This way I don’t have to walk or take a bus after dark.”
“That sounds like a great gig, then. And it will definitely help when you’re ready to move back to Arizona, if that’s what you decide to do,” Derek pointed out.
Deanna smiled at her brother. “It’s definitely something I’d like to do in the future, but for now I’m going to stay in Ohio and finish getting my shit together. I’ve got a great support system there.”
“Good, I’m glad,” Derek replied. “But remember, you have a great support system here too. When you think you’re ready, Aiden and I will help you relocate and get settled here.”
“I don’t know how to thank you for this,” Deanna said softly.
“You don’t have to thank me. I’m just so happy to have you back in my life. You, Aiden and I will figure this all out together,” Derek promised as he forced his fears to the back of his mind. He had no idea how he was going to take care of a baby, but he knew he’d have to learn quickly. He was going to be a father in just five months. It’s amazing what he would do for love.
Once Trevor unpacked his things, he dropped down on the bed and laid back, putting his arm over his eyes in an attempt to block out the sun that was shining though the high windows. It had been a very long day and it was only just before noon. He had to admit, the day definitely took an unexpected turn. When he walked into the center the day before, he had no idea that he would be moving in with Sophia and her family. He had no idea he was going to be living with his favorite author either. Boy, would his parents be pissed to find out that he was happy under the circumstances. They expected him to fail, but he was told by his boyfriend that the best revenge against his homophobic parents would be for him to make something of himself and live a happy life.
His boyfriend, Trevor thought with a smile. Now that he was out of his parents’ house, he could fully come out of the closet and be with Benji. They had been kind of seeing each other for over six months, but no one knew that except for his twin brother Brad. He didn’t want to make his home life harder by having his parents find out that he was dating another boy, so Benji agreed to keep his secret. He couldn’t wait to call him and tell him about his morning and that he was now living right around the corner from him. He just needed to find out if his new home had a landline. He wasn’t allowed to take his cell phone with him when he left. His mother made sure to take it with her when she left for church. Zan had mentioned putting him on their plan, but he wasn’t going to ask him when. They were doing enough for him already. A knock at the door pulled him from his thoughts. He sat up and straightened his hair as he called out to whoever it was to come in.
“Hey,” Sophia said as she walked in and dropped down on the bed. “I really am sorry your parents were jerks this morning. It was really weird seeing you walk in with Chris and Zan. You’re the last person I expected to see. I didn’t know you were gay. I take it you’re not out to anyone?”
“Yeah…um…Benji and Brad know. I…uh…Benji and I have been seeing each other since over the summer. I was just trying to keep it on the down low because I knew my parents would freak, which they did. I’m sorry; I wasn’t keeping it a secret because I thought you couldn’t be trusted. I was just worried…”
“Hey,” Sophia said, stopping Trevor mid-sentence. “You don’t have to apologize. I am surrounded by gay men all the time. I know how hard it can be. You needed to do what you thought was the right thing to do. I’m not mad. And I’m also glad you had Benji and Brad to go to for support. It’s all good. But what happens now? Are you staying in the closet?”
“No, what’s the point? I did it to please my parents, but obviously it wasn’t enough. I don’t care what happens now. I’m going to live my life exactly how I was meant to…how God created me to…and fuck them if they don’t like it,” Trevor replied.
Sophia giggled. “Are you allowed to say God and fuck in the same sentence?”
“Now I am. I don’t live with those awful people any longer,” Trevor laughed. “And it feels like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. The only downside is my sister. I doubt my parents are going to let me talk to her anymore.”
“Probably not, but we can work something out, I’m sure. She’s in my grade, isn’t she? I haven’t met her before, but I think she has English with Mr. Miller right after me. I’ll track her down and talk to her. If I go home with her once or twice and your parents think we’re friends, they’ll probably let her come here, too. Then you guys can see each other.”
“I don’t know if that’s a good idea. We were raised to always tell the truth. I don’t know if Megan will go along with that.”
“We’ll find out tomorrow,” Sophia laughed. “Anyway, I was coming in to check on you and to see if you want to go to the mall with Chris and me. Zan had to go down to the center and Chris said something about adding a cell phone to our policy. I’m guessing it’s for you. We’re leaving in about twenty minutes.”
“Uh, yeah. Sure.”
“Let me just give you a little warning. Chris and Zan aren’t parents, and they don’t act like it. We’re all very close. Chris, Zan, Brian, Justin and me. You’ll meet Brian and Justin later. They’re coming over for dinner. Brian is Chris’s brother and Justin is my cousin. We do a lot of stuff together. Then there’s our extended family, who we are also close to. You will find that there is rarely any quite time around here. You might as well get used to it now. Oh, and only Brian and Justin know that Kaleb and I are a couple. We need to keep it that way until I can figure out how to tell Chris and Zan without Chris kicking Kaleb’s ass and locking me up in a convent.”
“Chris? He seems like a pretty chill guy,” Trevor said. “I can’t imagine him freaking out like that.”
“Oh trust me, he’s a very chill guy…until it comes to me dating. I was informed that I wasn’t allowed to date until I turned 18!” Sophia exclaimed. “And when he finds out that not only do I have a boyfriend, but that it’s Kaleb…we’re both dead.”
“What’s wrong with Kaleb?” Trevor asked.
“Well, remember that extended family I mentioned? Kaleb and his adopted dad Trent are a part of that family, which makes it a bad situation. From what I understand Chris freaked when he found out about Brian and Justin dating. It was a little different since they were living in the same house, but he was worried that their relationship was going to be a problem for the rest of the family. Like if they broke up. Which was why, when they did break up, they refused to let any of us hear about it. Of course, with my being a girl, he’s even more concerned.”
“Brian and Justin? You mean Chris’s brother and your cousin dated?”
“Yeah, for seven years. Then they broke up for a few months but are now back together and living together…you know what? It’s going to take a lot more time than we have to give you the ins and out of this group. Let’s pick this up tonight. We’ll pop some popcorn, and you can take notes,” Sophia laughed.
“Oh Lord, what did I get myself into?” Trevor teased.
“You got yourself into the greatest group of people you could ever meet. I know your mother threw you out to punish you but trust me, she did you a favor. Now let’s go shopping.”
Trevor followed Sophia out of the basement with a smile on his face. Things are definitely looking up.
Zan waited until they were all done making plans for the Big Brother project and heading out before he pulled Aiden aside. “Alright, what’s up?”
“What do you mean?” Aiden replied as he held the door for his friend.
“I mean you’ve been smiling nonstop since you got here. Did you win the lottery or something? I don’t think I’ve ever seen you this happy before,” Zan pointed out.
“Nope, no lottery. Even better,” Aiden said.
“Even better than winning the lottery? Damn, what’s up?”
“Derek and I are going to be parents!” Aiden told him.
Zan’s jaw dropped in surprised. “I’m sorry, what?”
“I’m going to be a dad in five months. It’s crazy, isn’t it? I’m so excited!” Aiden exclaimed. “Oh Zan, I’m so happy. I never thought this would happen. I mean, Derek didn’t even want children, but he knew I wanted a child one day and because I wanted one so bad, he was going to consider it, but I never really thought it would happen, you know? And now, not only is it happening, but it’s happening in five months!”
“Okay Aid, you need to slow down a bit because I’m confused. How did this happen?” Zan asked as he led Aiden over to his car.
“Remember when I told you that Derek and his sister hadn’t spoken in years? She called yesterday. The aunt found her and gave her Derek’s number. She lives in Ohio, but she’s staying with a friend in Bisbee, so she came over for dinner last night. Apparently, she hasn’t had an easy life since leaving home. It’s really very sad, actually. She told us how hard it had been, but that she finally started getting her life back on track the last six months and things were going really well. But then she found out she’s pregnant and she knows she can't be a mother right now, so she asked us to take the baby,” Aiden explained. “So, Derek and I were up all night talking and we agreed that we would be stupid to pass up the opportunity. There are so many gay couples that would be thrilled with a chance to have a child handed to them like this.”
“I know,” Aiden replied. “It’s a lot to take in and we don’t have that much time to prepare. She’s due June 12th. It’ll be here before we know it.”
As the shock started wearing off, Zan smiled at the nervous excitement on his friend’s face. “That’s amazing, Aid. I’m so happy for you guys.”
“Thanks! Derek is actually with his sister right now, discussing some of the details but I didn’t want to cancel this meeting yet again. We’ve been trying to set up this program for so long. I didn’t want any more delays.”
“Aiden, we could have met without you and filled you in after,” Zan pointed out. “This is actually more my project and Matt’s helping me. You and Grayson are more of a third party. If you needed to be somewhere else, we could have managed.”
“I know,” Aiden smiled. “I just like to be involved. You know that.”
“I do, but you better start preparing now. You’re about to be a father of a newborn. You’re not going to be able to have your hands in everything once that happens.”
“Hmm…I haven’t really thought about that yet.”
“You might want to start thinking about it,” Zan suggested. “Derek never really wanted to be a parent. I doubt he’ll suddenly want to be a stay-at-home dad while you work 60 hours a week.”
Aiden thought about that for a moment. “Maybe not, but you never know. And I have five months to start preparing him for it.”
“Good luck with that,” Zan laughed as he thought about how much his friend’s life was going to change. “Now I better get going. I’ve got a lot to do today.”
“Yeah, me too. But before you go, what ever happened to Trevor? I checked in with the shelter this morning, but he wasn’t there. Does that mean his parents had a change of heart?”
“Not quite,” Zan admitted. “He is officially moved into our basement.”
“Oh Zan, I warned you that there will be times when you can’t help the people that walk through our door, and you have to be okay with that.”
“And I am okay with that. It sucks, but I know it’s going to happen. But this time I am able to help, and before you say anything, it wasn’t even my idea. I went home yesterday pretty upset about Trevor and told Chris and he’s the one that suggested it, I swear. But the poor kid is very sweet and doesn’t deserve to have his life ruined because his parents are assholes!” Zan replied. “It’s weird, he’s actually friends with Sophia, Trent and the twins that live around the corner from us, so he fits right in. I actually think Chris suggested it so I wouldn’t feel so bad about him leaving for six months. You know, having someone else to watch over to keep me busy?”
“Wait,” Aiden interrupted Zan. “Chris is leaving for six months?”
“Yesh,” Zan signed. “He’s going on a six-month book tour, which will have him over on the east coast and then across the pond. I guess his book sales overseas have picked up since the movie release, so his publicist thinks it’s a good idea for him to get out there before it’s time to advertise the sequel to the movie. …I don’t know.”
“And how are you handling the news?”
“I was the perfect, supportive partner to his face, and I cried behind his back. What am I supposed to do? He’s been so supportive of me, first when I opened the bookstore, and then when I left the store to start working here and eventually sold it to Steve. How am I supposed to tell him not to go when it’s so important for his career? Besides, he’s going to fly home about once a month, and I’ll fly to see him when I can. There will be phone calls, text messaging, and Facetiming. It’ll be fine.”
“You’re a terrible liar,” Aiden said softly.
“I know,” Zan chuckled humorlessly. “But I won’t tell him not to go. I can’t.”
“No, you can’t,” Aiden agreed. “When is he leaving?”
“In about six weeks,” Zan sighed.
“Okay, well then try and spend as much time with him as you can and when he leaves, I’ll be here for you no matter what you need. As your friend with a shoulder to cry on or a drinking buddy, or as a co-worker who will help you make time to go see him. I’m here for you.”
“Thanks Aid, I appreciate that. Now I’ll let you go so you can go home and start planning for your new arrival before he or she gets here. I really am happy for you guys. This is a wonderful gift and I’m sure you and Derek will be great dads.”
“Thanks, I really hope you’re right. I’ve never changed a diaper a day in my life. I have no idea what to do with a newborn,” Aiden laughed.
“Most first-time parents don’t, but they learn, and you guys will too. See you tomorrow.”
Aiden climbed into his SUV and started the car as he thought over what Zan said. Having a newborn was a scary thought, but one that he was completely ready for.
End of chapter 8
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