The Castaway Hotel: Next Generation Book 2

Getting Ready for Christmas

As we entered the first weekend of December, the house was decorated, both inside and out, and we were playing Christmas music to get everyone into the holiday spirit.  We were also watching the seasonal specials on TV, so the boys were all starting to get Christmas fever.  Sure, most parents prefer to keep their kids calm for as long as possible, but seeing this was the first time Benny would be able to celebrate the same as other kids, we wanted him to have plenty of time to enjoy it.

Over the weekend we were advised that Joshie and Benny would be performing in the Christmas concert at their school, but Noah wouldn't be taking part in the one at the high school.  Even though Elliot had been very involved, thanks to his talent on the piano, Noah didn't seem to be interested in those types of things.  He wasn't in the chorus, band, or orchestra, so this meant there would be one less event for us to attend this year. 

The elementary school concert was held on Wednesday the 17th, so Brandon and I rushed home from work, had dinner with the family, and then helped Benny get dressed.  Since Joshie was going to wear a suit, and even though we didn't know what the other boys would be wearing, we had Benny wear his suit as well and helped him with the tie. 

Even though we were looking forward to the concert, we knew the fourth grader's performance would be an anticlimax to the event.  The kindergarteners, along with the first and second graders would precede them, and they usually stole the show with their cuteness.  Regardless, we wanted to be there to support the boys, especially after we were told that Joshie was going to be singing a solo.  I guess he must have inherited his parents' vocal abilities, because both his mom and dad had fantastic voices. 

We drove to the school early so we'd be sure of getting good seats.  Dion and Trey took Joshie and Wyatt with them in their car, since we wouldn't all fit in one vehicle, and Brandon and I drove our family in Brandon's car.  Noah was going too because he wanted to see Joshie and Benny perform, which I thought was admirable.  Not many high school students would choose to attend an elementary school concert, even if their siblings were taking part in it. 

After walking the boys to their classrooms, the rest of us headed to the gym and found seats near the front.  We had quite a while to wait before the concert began, and then even longer before it was the fourth grade's turn to perform.  We didn't mind, though, because the other kids did a nice job too, but now we were ready to see how our boys would do. 

The younger kids had been very cute and made the audience smile and giggle, but we were eager to see what the fourth graders were going to sing.  We were slightly surprised at the songs they chose and thought they might be a bit too 'mature' for this group, but they did a very nice job with them.  They sang 'The Christmas Song' and 'Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas', and after finishing, they marched off the risers as their music teacher addressed the audience. 

"We have a very special treat for you this evening.  For the past few years I've had the pleasure of working with an extremely talented student and have asked him to sing a solo for you.  I'm certain a great many of you have heard his father sing solos over the years at school concerts, church, special functions, or with professional groups.  He's now the vocal music teacher at the middle and high schools, and it is our good fortune that his son has obviously inherited his talent.  It is now my privilege to introduce Joshie Currie to sing 'O Holy Night'. 

Joshie then walked back to the risers, but this time he was all alone as his piano accompanist began the introductory chords.  His teacher was correct, because Joshie had an amazing voice, and I saw Dion and Trey both beaming as they listened to him sing.  When he finished, Joshie received a standing ovation from the crowd, with Benny and Noah clapping and cheering the loudest.   

"That was amazing!" Noah told Joshie when he rejoined us.  "I mean I knew you had a nice voice, because sometimes I'd hear you singing at home, but listening to you just now gave me goose bumps."

"You were really awesome," Benny agreed. 

"You singed good," Wyatt added as Joshie picked him up.

"I don't think I've ever heard your father sing better," Brandon added. 

"You sounded like an angel," I chimed in, and I meant every word.  We then walked away to let Dion and Trey spend some time alone with Joshie, although various other parents and students dropped by to congratulate him as well. 

When they finally came outside to join us, we talked them into taking the boys out for a treat and drove to Friendly's.  We all had ice cream and a drink while we discussed the concert.  We also talked about getting ready for the various events at home the following week, which included welcoming Grandpa Josh back, because we were all eager to see him again. 

When we got home, we had to hurry to get the boys in bed, seeing it was late and they still had school the next day.  There were two more days before their Christmas break began and Benny and Joshie's class was having a party on Friday, so they were excited about that too. 

Once the boys were in bed, Brandon and I sat downstairs to chat with Dion and Trey for awhile.  "When did you know Joshie was going to sing a solo?" Brandon asked. 

"Not until I picked him up after school today," Dion replied.  "He hadn't said anything before that, and it's why I had him wear his suit." 

"I'm glad you did, because Benny got to wear his suit too," Brandon agreed, "but I'm amazed Joshie didn't mention he was singing a solo before today." 

"Me too, but I think his teacher must have asked him not to say anything, because she wanted it to be a surprise," Dion reasoned. 

"He did a fantastic job and I want you to know that I meant it when I said he sounded like an angel tonight," I added. 

"And I couldn't have been prouder of him," Trey added.  "You know I can't sing very well, but I love listening to Dion and Joshie." 

"I think we all do," I concurred.  "So you two will be off from work for a couple of weeks starting when you get home Friday night?" 

"Yes, and I'm looking forward to it," Trey answered.  "I'm hoping to get some time to do some writing, but I know I'm probably going to get caught up in all the Christmas activities with everyone else." 

"Have you finished your shopping yet?" Brandon wondered. 

"No, but Trey and I will take turns running out during the week while the other one watches the boys.  In fact, we'll keep an eye on Benny and Noah for you this weekend, if you two want to get out to do some shopping without them." 

"That would be fantastic and we want to thank you for the offer," Brandon responded.  "Danny and I thought we might have to do the rest of our shopping after work next week." 

"Nah, it's the least we can do to thank you for letting us get away for my birthday."

"I agree," Trey chimed in.

Brandon and I had to work the rest of the week, including a half day on Saturday, but now we'd be able to go shopping after we left work on Saturday afternoon.  We'd already bought all of the major gifts for everyone, but there were still a few things we needed to pick up, including some stocking stuffers.  We would leave those purchases in the SUV when we got home and then sneak them into the house later, after the boys were in bed.  The house was big enough so there were plenty of places to hide things to keep nosy youngsters from finding out what they were getting before Christmas morning. 

Shortly after we arrived home on Thursday, we got another little surprise.  Although we knew he would be coming home soon, we had no idea when he'd show up, so we were slightly amazed when Elliot walked in the front door that evening.  We hadn't even heard his car pull into the driveway, but that was probably due to the Christmas music we'd been playing. 

"Welcome home, but we didn't think you'd be showing up until the weekend," I stated after I gave him a hug. 

"Nah, I wanted to get home as soon as I could.  My last final was yesterday, so I slept in this morning and then left just before noon.  Now, I need to talk to the boys and make sure everything remains cool while I'm here." 

"Uh, what are you up to?" Brandon asked as a scowl formed on his face. 

"Nothing bad, but I want to enjoy my time here instead of having to worry about someone pulling a prank on me." 

"Oh, so our prankster is worried about payback," I teased. 

"Kinda, and that's why I want to talk to the rest of them.  Where are they anyway?"

"I think they're all upstairs," Brandon informed him.  They apparently hadn't heard his car either, or they would have come downstairs by now. 

"Can you ask them to join us in the family room, because I want both of you in there when I do this so everyone knows what's going on?"

"I can do that," I offered, before going upstairs and asking the boys to come with me. 

"What's up, Dad?" Noah wanted to know as he walked behind me. 

"You'll find that out in a few seconds," I answered as we kept moving toward the family room.  When we walked through the door they noticed Elliot. 

"Hey, when did you get here?" Noah asked as he went over to greet his brother.

"Just a few minutes ago, but I wanted to talk to everyone so I had Dad get you." 

"Why?  What's up?" Noah challenged. 

"Nothing really.  I just wanted to call a truce during Christmas break."

"What do you mean 'call a truth'?" Benny wondered. 

"Not truth, but a truce.  That means we'd stop playing pranks on each other during the Christmas break.  I think we all want to enjoy ourselves without worrying that someone might pull a prank on us." 

"Oh, so you're just worried that Benny is going to get even with you?" Noah joked, looking coy. 

"No, you already got even with me before I left." 

"Not really good, though, because we had to tell you where those things were so you could leave," Noah replied. 

"It was good enough, because I didn't do that much to Benny either." 

"Yes, you did!" Benny chimed in.  "You made me think I knocked your head off, so I was really upset because I thought I'd killed you."

"I didn't think you'd actually believe you did that and would just find it funny."

"I didn't think it was funny until Dad D showed me the head was a fake," Benny spat back.  "Then, I was mad that you'd made me feel so bad."

"Ok, I'm sorry about that, but will you all agree there will be no more pranks played while I'm home for Christmas?" 

The three boys looked at each other and reluctantly began to nod their heads.  "As long as you do the same," Noah added. 

"Ok, then it's a deal." 

"So how do you think you did on your finals?" I asked, changing the subject. 

"I think I did really well.  I studied like crazy and felt I knew the answers for everything that was on the finals."

"I'm glad to hear that." 

We talked for a few minutes more before Trey called us out to eat.  He was placing the food on the table as we came walking into the dining room, but he looked up and had a surprised expression on his face when he noticed Elliot. 

"When did you get home?  I didn't hear you arrive." 

"I guess no one did.  I'm kinda hurt that I didn't get a better welcome." 

"That might be because of the way you left the last time," Dion added.  "I heard about what you did, but I'm sure everyone is glad to have you back now." 

"I hope so." 

As we ate, we talked about a wide variety of topics, which included the boys filling Elliot in about the concert the previous night, especially Joshie's solo.  We also discussed ideas about what types of things they might want to do over the break when they mentioned their eagerness to have Grandpa Josh at home again.  No one was more excited about that than Jake, because he hadn't been himself without Dad being here too.  Even though he'd helped Noah with the Haunted House and then they put up the outdoor Christmas decorations together, the rest of the time he'd remained aloof from the family.  As I mentioned previously, he spent a lot of that time on Skype chatting with Dad and Shannon. 

When we finished eating, Noah had a special request for Elliot.  "Hey, could you play 'O Holy Night' on the piano so Joshie can sing it for you too." 

"Sure, if Joshie is willing to do that."  Suddenly, everyone began encouraging Joshie to comply with this request and they kept it up until he finally gave in. 

The rest of us followed them into the family room, as Elliot sat down at the piano and Joshie stood beside him.  After Elliot played the introductory chords, Joshie began to sing.  Although I'm not sure it was humanly possible, I think he sang even better tonight than he had at the concert. 

"That was beautiful," Elliot said when Joshie finished.  "I'm glad you gave me a chance to hear you sing too." 

After that, Elliot played a few more Christmas songs and we all sang along.  It was a fun way to get in the Christmas spirit and we all enjoyed ourselves, especially Benny. 

"I never done that at home before.  Do you do this a lot?" 

"Only when Elliot is here to accompany us on the piano," I replied. 

Since Friday was the boys' last day of school until after the New Year and the rest of us were going to be at work, it meant Elliot would be home alone on his first day back.  "Do you have any plans for tomorrow?" I asked, somewhat concerned. 

"At first I was hoping to go to the airport to pick Ian up when he got in later, but his parents said they were going to do that and they wanted to spend the rest of the day with him.  Ian told me they also want to spend Saturday morning together, so I won't get to see him until Saturday afternoon or evening.  Since I won't be doing that, I planned on doing some Christmas shopping instead." 

"I know you're not happy about having to wait to see your boyfriend, but we parents like to spend some time with our kids too.  Unfortunately, Brandon and I will have to work Saturday morning, so depending on when you plan on leaving to be with Ian, we won't be seeing much of you either."

"You'll have all next week, though, because Ian is going with his mom and dad to spend the week with his grandparents.  He told me they're leaving Monday and won't be back until Friday night." 

"So you'll have part of this weekend and then most of the next one, as well as New Year's Eve to be with him, at least that's what I would imagine." 

"Yeah, and I hope you won't get mad about this, but I agreed to spend New Year's Eve with him and his parents.  Otherwise, I wouldn't get to see him then either.  Afterward he's coming back here with me so we can have a little fun in private." 

"I didn't know you had made other arrangements, because we were planning that all of us would be together for New Year's Eve.  Grandpa Josh will be returning to Atlanta before then, but I was hoping the rest of us could celebrate together." 

"Please don't make a big deal about this, because I want to spend time with Ian too.  We've been apart since August and on opposite coasts, so after he goes back to Stanford we won't see each other again until this summer." 

"Ok, I understand that too and won't make a big deal about it, but you'll have to promise that next year you'll both celebrate New Year's Eve with us."

"Ok, I'll talk to Ian about that so he can start preparing his parents.  Thanks for not making a major issue out of this."

"You're welcome, and even though you might find this hard to believe, I was once young and in love too, so I know what it's like to want to be with your boyfriend as well."  Elliot merely smiled and nodded in acknowledgment before walking away. 

By the time Brandon and I got home on Friday, everyone else was already there.  Benny and Joshie were eager to tell us all about the party they'd had at school, while Elliot told us about some of the people he'd run into while shopping.  Noah then complained that a couple of his teachers had given them a surprise quiz instead of a party. 

"That really sucked, because no one was thinking about the crap we'd been doing in class.  We were just excited that we'd be getting away from there for two weeks." 

"I know, but maybe your teachers felt you'd forget what you'd been working on before you got back," Brandon offered.

"I think we'd already forgotten about it before we went to class today." 

"Well, now you're off for two weeks, so let's put that behind us and enjoy tonight and the rest of the weekend together," I urged.  "What would you boys like to do this evening?"

"Can we drive around and look at everyone else's Christmas decorations?" Joshie asked.  "Benny's said he's never seen houses decorated like ours before, so I want to show him what some of the other places look like too." 

"I'm fine with that, if the rest of you are."  They all chatted about it briefly and then Elliot looked at me and spoke. 

"Yeah, let's do it.  Let's show Benny what Christmas is really like around here." 

"Ok.  Joshie, will you go ask your fathers if they want to go with us?"

"Sure!" he agreed as he dashed off, but he was only gone a short time before he returned.  "They said they'll stay here because there won't be room for all of us and they know we want to be together." 

"Ok, then get ready and we'll go.  I'll go see if they'll let Wyatt go with us too." 

As we got in the car, I noticed how excited Benny, Joshie, and Wyatt seemed to be.  I knew Elliot and Noah were only doing this because of Benny, but they were trying to act excited too, which made me proud of them. 

After everyone was buckled in, we started driving around the various neighborhoods so we could check out how everyone else had decorated.  We hadn't been doing this for very long before Benny spoke up.  "If you look at the snow you can see the different colors of the lights shining there too." 

He was correct.  A nor'easter had hit the area earlier in the week and then began to melt before it froze again, so there was a crust that reflected the lights strung on the houses.  It was a beautiful effect and something Benny was enjoying for the very first time, so I was glad Joshie had suggested we do this. 

"Hey, that house has a building and some lighted people out in front," Benny observed. 

"That's a Nativity scene, with a manger, Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus," Brandon explained.  "Do you know who they are?"

"Yep.  I heard 'bout them before."

"And if you look across the street there's a lighted snowman and Santa Claus," Noah added. 

"This is really nice," Benny stated, as he did his best to take in everything we passed. 

After we returned home and before we got out of the car, I felt I should announce something else to the group.  They would still be sleeping when Brandon and I left for work in the morning, so I felt this would be the best time to fill them in. 

"Brandon and I both have to work tomorrow, but then we'll be doing some other things afterward, so you'll be here with Dion and Trey.  We'll be back later and then we can do something together, so just don't get into any trouble." 

"Are you going shopping?" Noah asked with a knowing grin on his face. 

"Possibly, or maybe we just want to be alone for a while." 

"We'll be good so Santa will leave us presents," Benny added.  "He never left me none at my old house, so I hope he'll leave some for me here." 

"I'm sure he will," Elliot offered before Brandon and I could respond.  We were both a little choked up after hearing what Benny had just said. 

"Yes, I think you'll find that Santa will be much kinder to you this year," I eventually concurred. 

As soon as we got inside, I told Joshie and Benny to get ready for their shower.  I was planning on going up with them, but they told me they'd rather take their showers with Elliot and Noah again.  When I looked at the older pair to see what they thought about this, they just shrugged their shoulders. 

"We told them we wouldn't be able to do this every night, but we'll do it with them this time," Elliot confirmed. 

"Hey, as long as you're ok with it.  Are you all going to sleep together too?"

"I told Joshie and Benny we'd do it with them tonight and maybe a couple of other times while I was home, but I'd let them know when," Elliot clarified as he gave me a half-hearted grin. 

"Ok, I just wanted to know."

Seeing that had been cleared up, I went to spend time with Brandon, Trey, and Dion.  We decided to watch a movie on TV and cuddled with our partners as we enjoyed what was happening on the screen.  As soon as the movie ended, Brandon and I headed to our bedroom, but we stopped to look in on the boys first.  They were cuddled together just like the other times they had done this, which reminded us of a litter of puppies snuggling with each other. 

Saturday proved to be a fairly easy day at work and we rushed out the door to do our shopping as soon as our last patient left.  We stopped to grab a quick bite to eat before heading from store to store looking for the last few items we had to get.  I was glad we'd done most of our shopping already, because the crowds were huge and irritable, and a lot of the items we'd previously purchased were now sold out. 

Once we'd found everything on our lists, we returned home.  The boys were outside engaged in a snowball fight as we pulled into the driveway.  As soon as Brandon and I stepped out of his car we immediately found ourselves being pelted too, so we hurriedly began making our own snowballs and returning fire.  The boys all seemed to be enjoying this, but before long we had to stop, because Brandon and my hands were starting to grow numb from the cold.  Unlike the boys, we weren't wearing gloves. 

"That was fun!" Benny chirped as we headed inside.  "I've never done that before."

"Not even at school?" Noah countered, while looking at him oddly. 

"If we did it there we would get in trouble and then we couldn't go outside for recess again until the snow melted, so I didn't ever do it.  I didn't want to have to stay indoors the whole time." 

"That makes sense," Elliot responded, "so I'm glad you enjoyed doing it with us today." 

"Did you like throwing snowballs at your dads too?" Joshie followed. 

"I was kinda scared to do that at first, but then after everybody else did it, I did it too.  Then they started throwing snowballs at us too and it was really fun."

"Maybe later we can go out and build a snowman," I stated.  "Have you ever done that before?" 

"We made some small ones at school." 

"Well, we'll make a big one out in front so everyone can see it," I offered, which earned me a grin from Benny.

"Hey, if you went shopping, then where's the stuff you bought?" Noah wondered.

"I only said we MIGHT go shopping, but I also said we might just spend some time alone."

"So you didn't buy us anything?"

"If we did, it must be invisible," I teased, not giving him a definite answer.  Of course he was irritated by my response.   

The boys eventually decided to play video games while Brandon and I went to our bedroom to change.  We put on some warmer clothes this time, and when we came downstairs we asked the boys if they were ready to go outside to work on the snowman. 

"Yeah!" Benny and Joshie chimed in, but the older two remained silent, which made me wonder if they were going to join us.  When we got up to put on our coats, hats, and gloves, though, Noah went with us. 

"I'll let you guys do this, because I want to call Ian to find out when we can get together," Elliot offered to explain why he wasn't joining us. 

We told him that was fine before the rest of us headed outside.  We rolled three snow balls, with one being extra large, another just large, and the final one medium in size, and then we stacked them one on top of the other.  Once they were stacked in place, Benny and Joshie went to find two small branches we could use for arms, and then they found some small stones along the driveway that they used to make the eyes and mouth.  While they were doing that, Brandon went inside to get a carrot to use for the nose and a hat to put on the snowman's head.  When it was done, we all stood and admired it. 

"That's the bestest snowman I've ever seen!" Benny crowed gleefully. 

"It's right up there with the Mona Lisa of snowmen," Brandon teased, as the rest of us giggled.

When we went inside, Elliot came up to Brandon and me so he could fill us in.  "Ian wants to go out tonight, so I'm picking him up at 8:00.  It will probably be pretty late when we get back, but you don't have to wait up.  I'm only telling you this so you won't call the cops if you hear someone coming in and moving around the house later." 

"Why not?  It might prove to be fun," I teased. 

"Only for you, but we don't want to end up spending the night in jail." 

"Just be careful and have a good time.  Seeing you'll be staying here, we'll see you both in the morning for breakfast." 

"Ok, but not too early, and thanks.  I knew you'd be ok with this."