"Charles, do you know why 'Dad Ken' wants us to meet with him?" asked a concerned Kyle.
"Yes ... I think I do, but ... well, I better let our 'dad' tell us why he called us into his Study. We better hurry up," replied Charles.
Mr. Ken and Mr. Wayne were already seated in the Study when the five Cover lads arrived. The twins sat together and Matthew sat with Mr. Wayne, while the two older Cover boys each got their own chair.
"Boys, I can see it in all of your faces ... that you are all probably wondering why I asked to meet with you. First, I want to thank you for being such great hosts to our guests this weekend and, of course, your friends. This was truly a first having 41 boys spending the weekend. I am very glad we all survived," laughed 'dad' Ken.
"Owen and Nathan couldn't say enough about how you all accepted their sons and how their boys felt so at home here even though it was their first visit. You five had your hands full having to host Jayden, Ryder and Chase and then entertain your friends as well. You all did a great job. Thank You," finished 'dad' Ken.
"Well, you did the Dive-In movie for us, 'dad' and ... and I know that made the sleepover very special for all of us who weren't here for the one you did back during the summer," spoke up Kyle. "I just hope we have some floats in the pool for the next time," teased the younger twin.
"Wayne, bop him for that remark," teased back 'Dad Ken'. "That was the first Dive-In movie ever and I never thought of getting inner tubes, rafts and other floating devices so you could lounge in the water at the same time. I'll have to talk to Mr. Chris and ask him why he hasn't gotten any," laughed Mr. Ken.
"OK, secondly, I wanted to talk to you all about some things, but especially to Matthew and Mr. Wayne. I told Matthew when he first arrived there were a number of Rules he'd have to learn and as time went on he'd hear them from either me or his older 'brothers'.
"I want to preface this by saying this weekend almost didn't happen as it did. If it weren't for Momma Maria, Sophia and Isabela there was no way I could have cooked for 45 people. I say that because if you want to have a sleepover you need to talk to me far enough in advance, so we can work out the logistics."
"What are the logistics you are talking about?" asked Matthew.
"Well, for one we needed enough people to cook for 45 people. Then, we had to have a menu and the food stuffs to cook. Lucky for us Momma Maria keeps the Pantry well stocked and she has a credit card to buy the stuff we might need at the last moment.
"Robert, Charles you two really need to make a special attempt to talk to Momma and thank her for keeping your burgers, dogs, drinks and the utensils and other accessories well stocked all during the summer.
"We may sometimes take her for granted because she is an employee, but keep in mind, she is not only an integral part of The Cove, as much as you are, but she is also a Cover as elected by you all last weekend. Momma loves cooking for all of us, but ... well, she especially loves there are children around The Cove making it a home.
"Now, for some of the Rules Mr. Wayne and Matthew need to know going forward. I already mentioned that you need to plan, and I stress plan in advance, something you want to do. Like going to visit your parents, or having a sleepover. The sooner the better.
"Another thing is ... do not ask me, or Mr. Wayne if he is sitting in for me, in front of anyone, what you want to do. Robert learned that the hard way back when he first began living here. If you want a buddy to spend the night then pull me aside. But do NOT, and I stress the NOT part, ask me in front of them. I may have other plans that you are not aware of yet.
"Also, do not ask your friend to spend the night before talking to me, or Mr. Wayne, if he is the one to make the decision. Ask me first and let me know who it is you want to spend the night. Why, you may ask? Well, it would be nice if you didn't keep asking the same person to stay over. You all have a number of friends, and I bet they would all like to spend the night if it is going to be just you and him.
"I do not want to have a disagreement between us to happen in front of your friend or friends. Robert knows what I am talking about on that front. Also, I want to say something about the skinny-dipping. In the beginning, it was harmless and fun for the boys who got to do it. But, for 41 boys to skinny dip this weekend ... that was way too many to even consider it.
"Robert and Charles and their friends ... they know not to talk to anyone outside The Cove about doing what I consider is a friend bonding thing. They understand that there are people out there, just waiting to jump over backwards in order to trigger trouble for me ... but especially you.
"And, it is because of that ... that I am going to restrict the skinny dipping to small groups. How small, I haven't decided, but ... if you are wanting to skinny dip with your friends, then think about who is there and are they trustworthy enough not to go blabbing it all over the countryside.
"Matthew, you are new here and haven't been baptized into swimming without your swimsuit on yet, but ... if you are even asked to do that there are two Rules I want you to know about. One, no one is to be teased or coerced into taking their swimsuit off. And, two, no one is to be forcefully made to take their swimsuit off. Those are steadfast Rules, boys. I know of no one ever being teased to do that and I never want there to be.
"Also, as I think of it ... if any of your friends balk about changing in front of all those older boys, or even in front of boys their age, you can take them over to the Women's Locker Room and let them change there. You can also take them up to your bedroom to change.
"I was surprised to learn Matthew and his friends changed there in the locker room. It took a lot of courage for you ten year olds to show other people your 'boy parts'. But, just as with the skinny-dipping, I do not want anyone forced to change in front of anyone. Some people are just not ready to do that, so be kind to them in that regard.
"Does anyone have any questions about what I just said?" asked Mr. Ken. "If you want to talk to me in private after this meeting that will be OK, too."
"Boys, I am very sorry about not having our Tuesday meetings. Things are just happening too fast, or the days are getting away from me. That is not an excuse, by the way, but you are also a major part of the meeting process, and if I don't mention it then I hope one of you will say something at dinner, so we can talk about things.
"Matthew, Wayne ... after Robert arrived I saw some problems we were having between us and also some miscommunications. So, knowing that, I had started having a meeting just about every Tuesday for us to talk. For the most part, I think, it worked because it gave us time to talk and get to know one another better and it was as equals. We could say what was on our minds without there being any bad feelings afterwards.
"But, because we haven't been doing those meetings, I want us now to discuss what is going to happen with, to and around us up through the Holidays.
"Tomorrow, Robert and Eric will be taking care of the large field. So, that leaves the hosting duties to Charles and Kevin and Kyle. Matthew you just need to stand back and watch and observe for when it is just you and your friends.
"Also, since there are so many of your friends coming over now, I would ask you to work together and ice down the drinks the night before or first thing in the morning. Get your friends to help, but otherwise make that part of your hosting duties.
"We just had a huge sleepover, so do not ask me to do that again this coming week. If you want to have one or two friends stay tomorrow night, let me know later today, or tomorrow right after they arrive. But no more than two, but it would be best if it was only one, so you don't have an odd number.
"And speaking about your friends sleeping over, I know you all have or will have a special friend that you share things with more than some of your other friends. But, I'd ask you not to forgo your other friends because you have that 'special' buddy. Please give them all a chance to enjoy a unique experience without a bunch of other kids there, too. So, if you decide to ask a friend to spend the night, remember, ask me first! Tell me who it is and then I'll decide.
"Wednesday morning we are all headed to Collin's for Thanksgiving. We'll leave here by 9 AM, which means ... there will be no sleepovers Tuesday night. After we depart The Cove, we'll stop and pick up Ms. Judy and Eric along the way. You will need to pack your bag Tuesday night with enough nice clothes that will get you through to Sunday.
"Even though we are coming back Saturday evening, one more day of clothes is good in case you dirty them beyond wearing them, or if we get snowed in," smiled 'dad' Ken. The boys all laughed at the 'being snowed in' comment.
"But what do we pack them in?" quickly asked Matthew. "I don't have a suitcase, do I?"
"Hmmmm, then I guess we'll have to do a shopping run to get a suitcase for you, Matthew," replied Mr. Ken.
"But, we need them too!" spoke up Kyle. "You told us you'd get us some before we go on our trip with you."
"OK, Mr. Wayne, make a note that Tuesday, after lunch, those who need suitcases will head out to get them and any new clothes the boys may need. And I stress the word MAY need. Santa Clause will be coming soon, and if you have all new clothes he can't bring you any," laughed Ken Thomas.
"And speaking of Santa, let's look at the coming Holiday schedule. This of course is Thanksgiving week. That only gives us three weeks before the big Three Finger Cove Christmas Parties. The first one is for our neighbors and will be the Friday night before Christmas. The second one is for the important people and our special friends in the community. That one is scheduled the next day on Saturday.
"When we return from this relaxing week at Collin's, we are going to get each of you a suit that you will wear at all the Holiday parties including New Year's Eve. As a part of The Cove, you will be expected to be there and help host the events.
"Also, the decorating company, Central Texas Decorating, which was where Mr. Wayne worked when I first met him, will start decorating The Cove next Monday. You'll begin to see some small changes as the days go along, but before you know it the whole house and grounds will be decorated in the Holiday spirit.
"Also, this year I've challenged the three local high school Career and Technology Education Departments to build an eight to ten foot Toy Soldier/Nutcracker using the street light poles in the driveway as their electric source and main support.
"I will also be looking for a number of high school students to help with the coat closet and helping Santa distribute presents from his bag. Collin's friends joined in that first Holiday and they continued through last Christmas Season. So, I am now looking for some more high school students to help. I will probably ask Todd if he knows any of his classmates who may be interested.
"Christmas Day is the following Friday. So, Mr. Wayne and I will need your List of things you want Santa to bring you. When I was a kid we'd get out the JC Penney, Montgomery Wards and Sears and Roebucks catalogs to get ideas for things to ask Santa for. I want you to list the things you really want and that you will use if it is something like a game.
"You can count on Santa to bring you briefs, socks, shirts and pants, so you won't need to list any of those unless ... unless there is a particular piece of clothing you saw and would really like to have. Remember this is a 'Wish' List, so don't be concerned about asking for things. Kevin, Kyle, if you want you can ask Santa for new bikes. If you think you need a new skateboard put that on your list.
"We'll be at Collin's and he isn't that much older than you. So, when you get the chance, get him aside and talk to him and ask him for some ideas. He might say something that keys something in your mind for you to ask for. Boys ... keep in mind that although I told you list everything you would like to get, you probably won't get everything you ask for unless ... it's just one or two things you are asking for.
"Now ... do any of you have any questions?" finished 'dad' Ken.
The boys looked back and forth to one another to see if anyone had a question. Then they saw Robert raise his hand.
"Dad ... you mentioned you needed teens to help with the Holiday parties," started The Cove's only teenager. "Why not ask Christy, Megan, Russell, Audrey and Jordan. They did a good job for you watching us out on the rafts and inside when we used the indoor pool. I bet they would like the chance to work again. And Christy and Megan are in college and I bet they can use the money they would earn."
"I knew there was a reason I keep you around, son," laughed the teen's dad. "But, I guess I'm stuck with you until you go off to college in 4½ years," laughed Mr. Ken. Robert smiled at what his dad just said.
"Wayne, make a note of that and talk to Mr. Chris tomorrow about calling those five teenagers. Christy and Megan both worked for me during my first Holiday parties and until they graduated from high school. They also might know if some of the other teens who worked with them might be in the area.
"But, I still want to ask Todd if he knows if any of his classmates may be interested. I'll need individuals to act as servers, to walk around with non-alcoholic drinks and finger foods and some of them to go around and pick up the empty drink glasses and plates and keep the home straightened.
"I will need students to help with the coat closet to check hats and coats if the weather is cool. I also need some of them to be Santa's Elves. And, then, I have one special task that I will need someone to volunteer to do. They will help Santa distribute presents from his bag. Wayne, I'll talk to you about that one later.
"That sure was a lot of information I just told you. I don't expect you to remember it all, but I did want you all to be aware that activities at The Cove increase dramatically until after the New Year. Now ... does anyone have any questions before we head out for dinner?" finished Mr. Ken.
Not hearing any questions, Mr. Ken told everyone to wash their hands up to their elbows and meet in the garage in ten minutes. As the owner of The Cove dismissed the boys, Robert spoke up and told everyone to wait.
"Dad ... I ... I want to apologize for what ... for what I did earlier today. ... Guys ... the reason my dad had us meet him was ... well, I think it was ... was to subtly tell you what I should not have done earlier. Dad told you some of the Rules he has about asking him for favors in front of guests. I ... I did that when we were walking down from the Main Gate.
"I didn't think it would be a problem, so ... so I asked him if Eric could spend the night. I ... I wanted him here in the morning, so we could get an early start on cutting the field. But, we were walking with Mr. Owen and Mr. Nathan and I knew the Rule, but ... I asked anyway.
"Dad told me and Charles long ago NOT to ask at the last minute or in front of our friends if we wanted them to spend the night, or go with us, or whatever. But, I ignored the Rule and ... and dad said, 'NO!'
"I got pissed at him and I acted like a little kid ... who, you know, didn't get his way. I ignored our guests until Charles said something to me. So, besides apologizing to my dad, I ... I think I owe you all an apology for making you come to this meeting when dad could have easily sat down and told Matthew and Mr. Wayne the Rules without this meeting," finished the teary eyed teenager.
Robert looked at his dad through his tear stained eyes hoping he would forgive him. When his dad opened his arms, Robert flew to him as fast as he could. The teen then broke down and cried and apologized to him some more. The four other Cover lads saw what just happened and after a few moments they ran to Mr. Ken and joined in a group hug.
Mr. Wayne stood there and watched and took in everything he had just witnessed. He knew he just learned more about one of the Cover boys and part of their fragile nature. He figured the other four were of just as delicate. Knowing that, he knew he had to be calm and cool when dealing with the boys.
The group hug broke up and everyone had smiles on their faces. Even Robert smiled at his dad.
"Boys, what say we get cleaned up and head to the garage, so we can go out to dinner? We'll eat on the Diner side tonight. Go. Hurry," added Mr. Ken.
After the boys had all exited the study, Mr. Ken looked to Wayne and said, "What you witnessed was something you might have to deal with when I am away. You've done well with the boys by not getting riled and acting without thinking. All of the boys are fragile in their own way. At any time they could act out, although none of them have yet to do that.
"Charles is probably as fragile as Robert is, even though Robert now has a permanent home. Charles doesn't know what is in store for him in the future. He is essentially taking it one day at a time even though he acts as if this is his forever home.
"Wayne ... I am going to wait until the Holidays, or just after, to begin making inquiries into Charles' mom. She will probably be a hard nut to crack as she was strung out on drugs and was used by that man Smokey. She and he even used Charles in their own way to get what they wanted.
"I'm not sure if Charles has ever forgiven his mom. We haven't talked about her very much, but if he wants me to adopt him ... then ... we will have to sit down and see what he wants," explained The Cove's owner to his Estate Master.
"So, you are going to try to adopt Charles as you have Robert?" asked Wayne.
"With Robert, we were able to get his parents to sign away their custody of him, to enable him to become eligible right away for adoption. With Charles, we may have to get the courts involved to legally get him into the system in order for him to be adopted. And, if we get that, there is no guarantee I will be the one to adopt him," filled in Mr. Ken.
Wayne had loads of questions going through his mind right then. He didn't know if he should ask them or wait. The boys running down the stairs and coming into the Study that helped him decide to wait.
"Hey, you two haven't washed up, yet. Come on! Hurry up, will ya? We're starved," said Kyle, running out of the Study and out to the garage.
Mr. Ken and Mr. Wayne laughed at the twins antics and went to wash up. When the men arrived at the garage, Mr. Wayne said he would follow in his vehicle and head home from there. The newest member of The Cove, Matthew, asked if he could ride with him over to Four Corners. Getting permission, Matthew hugged Mr. Ken before heading over to Mr. Wayne's car.
The seven Cover's had their usual fare of hamburgers, fries and cokes. They talked about the weekend and what would happen in the weeks to come. After dinner, Kyle asked if they could drive the Go-Karts. Mr. Ken smiled and told them Mr. Wayne was buying and to ask him.
Matthew got in line with Mr. Wayne and they talked while in line. When it was the Cover's turn, Matthew got in the last line of karts, so he wouldn't hold up his 'brothers'. Mr. Wayne got in the kart opposite the youngster. When the race started, Matthew didn't start out too fast.
Mr. Wayne stayed close behind to make sure the boy wouldn't have any problems. Matthew was only passed once during that race and he was happy he was getting used to driving the go-karts and that he was doing better.
The Covers stopped by their favorite ice cream store and they all had sundaes. Matthew had asked and got permission to ride with Mr. Wayne. The youngster felt special that the man accepted his being with him as the lad couldn't ever remember a man ever paying attention to him.
All the lad knew, lately, was Lincoln's penchant to over react to anything he did and strike out and hit him using a belt or his open hand. Matthew felt safe at The Cove and hopped he would be able to stay there for a very long time.
Mr. Wayne told the boys he'd see them tomorrow and then got into his vehicle and drove away. Just before the Covers departed the ice cream place, Matthew was given some money to get Chief a dish of vanilla ice cream. The youngster was also the one to present the cold concoction to the resident dog and learned first-hand how much she appreciated it.
Chief thanked Matthew, after finishing her treat, by jumping up on the lad. The lad wasn't prepared for the onslaught and lost his balance and fell onto the floor. Chief took advantage of his predicament and began to lick him all over. Her kisses made the boy giggle as he squirmed all over the Kitchen Nook's floor. The rest of the Covers just stood there watching and laughing at the antics of the two. If Mr. Ken hadn't called Chief away from Matthew, he would still be on the floor.
When Matthew got up off the floor, he went over to Chief, knelt down and hugged and thanked her for her kisses. Chief gave the lad one "Woof!" and her last doggie kiss. Matthew had a great big smile on his face.
The Covers went to the Study to talk some more. Kevin and Kyle asked if 'Dad Ken' had any of those catalogs he mentioned, so they could look through them to get some ideas for their Christmas List. Mr. Ken had to laugh as he told them catalogues he spoke of are no longer printed. He told the boys to think about the things their friends used to have and wished they also had them.
The twins did their special twin speak and then asked where they could get a large pad of paper as they had a big list to make. Their 'brothers' laughed at them, but knew deep down in their hearts they wanted to do the same thing.
"Boys ... remember ... Santa can only bring so much. I would ask you to make your lists and then wait a few days and then review it. Delete the things that were wishful thinking and keep the items you would really love to have. Talk it over and don't forget to talk to Collin.
"Now ... do any of you have any questions for me?" finished Mr. Ken.
"'Dad' ... what will happen at the Christmas parties?" asked Charles.
"Ohh, OK ... let me give you a rundown of how it goes. The Sheriff's Explorers group will show up first. The young men are here to learn police duties and to help with the parking. Now, for the locals, we tell them in the invitation that parking is limited and for them to walk over. We will provide parking to people who have disabilities and for those from outside the area.
"The Party will start at about 6:00. I'll greet the people as they arrive at the Foyer Door. You can choose to be with me, or you can be walking around the Great Room, or outside if the weather is nice, talking to our guests. You can answer any questions our guests have, and if you do not know the answer, tell them that. Please don't make something up.
"People may still have questions about the shootout. If they ask, be nice, but tell them you weren't here then and don't know and tell them to ask me. Also, there will be areas that will be posted OFF LIMITS and if you see anyone go behind the sign then you quickly call me.
"If you know someone who has never seen the inside of The Cove and you want to give them a private tour you can. Just keep them to the main and bottom floors. Please do not take them to any of our personal spaces and do NOT let them take pictures. We don't need them out on the internet.
"There will be loads of food items and soft drinks. I usually don't offer many alcoholic drinks for the adults at this party. There will be beer on tap and a bartender working the bar in the Great Room. It will be easy, you'll see. And Saturday's party will go just about the same way. Some of the adults may ask you some personal questions, since none of you were here last year. Again, be nice and polite and direct them to Mr. Wayne or me.
"OK, guys, how about you all head up to your rooms and get settled before climbing into your bed. I'll stop up in a little while to check on you. If you have questions you can ask me then. Now, go on. We've all had a very busy weekend and, even though you may not feel tired, I bet you all go right to sleep when you lay your head on your pillow," directed The Cove's owner.
Chief followed Matthew up the stairs. The young lad stopped at the boy's bathroom and used the porcelain god. He stopped by Robert's room and gave him a 'thank you' for all he did for him and his friends that weekend. Robert got up from his desk, went to the boy and hugged him.
"Matthew, thank you for being such a good and caring 'brother'. You made all of us proud that you were able to handle your first sleepover with no major problems. You even helped dad make up his mind and to let us have a Dive-In movie. And, that movie you picked, that was the right one for all the different ages we had this weekend. You did good!" said the teen, as he hugged Matthew one last time.
Matthew walked away with a big smile on his face. He never had a big brother and now he had four. But he really liked Robert because he had more experience than the other three. Matthew went into his room, closed the door and lay down on his bed. He was asleep before he could even think about the great weekend he just had.
A half hour later, Mr. Ken walked up the stairs to check on his boys. He stopped at the twin's room first. There, he found Kyle fast asleep and under the covers and Kevin lying on the top of his bed sleeping. 'Dad Ken' carefully slipped the covers from under the older twin and then covered the lad before leaving the room.
Mr. Ken found Charles' room quiet and the lights off after he did the Three Knock Rule. The man watched the pre-teen sleeping for a few moments before closing the door and heading to his son's room.
"Robert ... may I come in?" asked the boys new dad.
"Yes, dad ... come in," replied Robert.
"Robert ... son ... you know you didn't have to tell your 'brothers' what you did. I felt that using the meeting to tell Matthew and Mr. Wayne of some of my Rules would keep it simple and not focus on you. You knew I was upset and ... well, I had to find a way to remind you of my Rules without making an example out of you," explained dad Ken.
"I know dad, but ... well, I wanted to let them know when we make a mistake we should own up to it and get it out and over with. I made a big mistake and I knew better, dad. It was only fair that they knew that you do not play favorites.
"I think Charles knows that, but Kevin, Kyle and Matthew are young enough to think that if they see one of us getting away with something they could begin to feel they don't belong here or that you don't love them," replied Robert.
"Dad ... I really am sorry that I did that. You were right! I should have asked you away from our guests. It is a lesson well learned," continued the teenager, who then got up from his desk and hugged the man who chose to adopt him.
Dad Ken hugged his new son back and rubbed his back as he usually did to calm any lad down. The two enjoyed the hug, but Robert enjoyed it more because he really missed his family.
Dad Ken told his son "Goodnight", ruffled his hair, and told him to drain his dragon and get to bed. The man then headed to Matthew's bedroom.
The owner of the Cove visited Matthew's room last. The man did the Three Knock Rule and when he didn't get an answer he slowly opened the door. Chief was standing waiting to see who was coming in. When she saw who it was she went over for a few ear scratches, which Mr. Ken gratefully gave.
"You've done real good, Chief. Thank you for giving Matthew your special attention. I think he needed what you did with him. And, did you see that smile on his face when he got up off the floor. Just don't overdo it, OK?" said Ken Thomas to The Cove's resident pet.
Mr. Ken went back to his Study and brought out his own Christmas list he's been adding to as he thinks of something. The list was not too extensive, but when he looked at buying the same thing for three or four boys he knew it would add up. Thinking about Christmas, he remembered he needed to talk to Chris about his main Christmas present to all five boys.
He thought to himself that he hopes they would all like it since it would be for the five of them. Then, he smiled to himself knowing they would probably forget about the rest of their gifts when he reveals it.
Mr. Ken also made a note to himself to have Chris check on where his special package was. He had hoped it would have already arrived. He wanted to talk to all of his boys' friends and their parents about what he wanted them to do for him.
With his mind on Christmas, the man thought about another Christmas present he was planning to give to his boys. He added another note to his list. This one told him to ask Mr. Chris about the extra key fobs he asked for his friend to make for him.
When The Cove's owner first asked Mr. Chris about having his friend make some more for him, he thought that two dozen was going to be enough. Now, he thought that two dozen weren't going to be enough and that he probably needed four or five dozen if he was to fill all the boys' friends' hopes to get one just like Robert had.
Mr. Ken looked at the time and realized he stayed up way longer than he planned and would probably pay for it in the morning. He shut down his computer, straightened out the top of his desk, then walked out of the Study and turned off the lights.The man yawned four or five times as he walked back to his en suite. He drained his own dragon, slipped out of his clothes and fell into bed. It had been a long weekend and he was now feeling it.
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