April began with Nick’s return home and I think everyone was glad he was coming back. Jake went to pick Shannon up from college on Friday, so he could be with us when we went to pick Nick up at the airport. It had not been an easy decision to allow Shannon to come home for the weekend, because Jake and his son were in severe disagreement as to whether this relationship should continue. They’ve had more than a few tense and heated conversations about Nick’s wandering eye and unfaithfulness, which caused an incredible rift between Jake and Shannon. They just didn’t agree as to whether Shannon and Nick should continue as a couple.
Since Jake had read Nick’s emails and learned about many of his casual encounters, he wasn’t thrilled about his son being involved with Nick any longer. Although Shannon was willing to turn a blind eye toward Nick’s proclivity to play the field, because Nick always came back to him, Jake wasn’t as generous. Shannon obviously loved Nick and was willing to accept his more liberal moral views concerning sexual matters, but Jake was much more traditional, conservative and even old-fashion in how he looked at being partners for life.
Jake felt that being involved in a relationship was an absolute and unwavering commitment. He believed it was an obligation that should be taken seriously and remain monogamous, so he saw no room for compromise on this point. It made me wonder how the difference in how each of them perceived this relationship with Nick was going to resolve itself. Would one of them give in and change his viewpoint or would Shannon and Nick break up instead?
The minute Nick came into view, Shannon raced off in his direction and gave him a very warm and enthusiastic welcome home. He did this, even though he knew it was happening under his father’s disapproving glare. Although their affection was limited to hugs and words at that point, he and Nick did manage a very passionate kiss, once they were out of sight of the majority of the public.
I believe even the other boys noticed Jake’s intense scrutiny and realized what was going on. They understood it had nothing to do with his liking or disliking Nick, but was more about Nick’s promiscuity. They were also aware that Jake was fearful Nick might inadvertently transmit an STD (Sexually Transmitted Disease) or worse to his son. With that in mind, Jake and I took a precautionary stance and warned Shannon that he and Nick were not to be intimate until after Nick had been thoroughly examined by a doctor.
Shannon had agreed to honor this request, even though he wasn’t totally happy about having to wait. However, his compliance did not put our minds totally at ease. Both Jake and I suspected Nick might still try to pressure Shannon into giving in to his sexual demands, once they were alone, so we did our best to convince Shannon to not allow that to happen. Hopefully, our badgering would pay off.
After we got to the house, I urged Nick to sort out the things he had brought back and pick out those items he might want to show others. I explained I was telling him this because I had a welcome home party scheduled for the next afternoon. Once the extended family was here, we’d have a big dinner and then he could show everyone the items he wanted them to see at one time, rather than showing each person individually. After hearing me out, Nick decided that was a great idea and thanked me for doing it for him. A short time later, once things began to settle down, he and Shannon slipped off to their room, so he could unpack and Shannon could help him get his things ready for the party.
When I saw them heading up the stairs, I asked them to wait a second. I then told Shannon to go on and explained Nick would be up shortly, but I had a few things to discuss with him before he disappeared. Shannon didn’t seem happy and wondered about my intentions, but he reluctantly left us alone. Once he was gone, I handed Nick some mail that had come for him during the past month and he excitedly began opening the assortment of letters. I anticipated Nick might want to discuss the contents of a few of those items, once they had been read, and eventually he looked up at me and spoke.
“I got accepted to two of the three colleges I applied to,” he announced. I was a little relieved, since I hadn’t been sure whether those letters were acceptance or rejection notices.
“That’s great,” I told him, in an effort to reinforce his good mood. “Do you know which one you want to attend then, or what you might major in?”
“I’m not sure about my major. I guess I’ll just start off taking all those required courses first,” he stated, “but I’ll probably end up doing something with computers. I was thinking about maybe taking a minor in music too, so I could keep up with my guitar and singing. I want to improve enough to be in a band, so I can make some extra money performing when I need it. I jammed a lot with one of my host brothers, because he played guitar too, and he taught me some Brazilian songs. I did the same for him and taught him some songs he didn’t know. We had a really great time doing it.”
“That’s very interesting,” I told him. “How much do your parents know about what you want to do?”
“I discussed my college plans with them last summer, before I started to apply,” he replied, “but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do then either. I did know I wanted to go to a college closer to home, but I’ll bet you must have guessed that already, after seeing what colleges these letters were from.”
“Yes, I did notice the return addresses, but I remember you telling me that you might go to school closer to your parents’ home,” I conceded. “Wherever you want to go is up to you, as I always leave those types of decisions to you boys and don’t try to pressure you. However, I am here if you want to talk things over or want my input. I want you to realize that I never tried to influence where any of the boys went to school, but somehow it worked out that most of them wanted to stay fairly close to home. I think they did this so they could come back more often than just for the major holidays, because sometimes they even come back for the shorter breaks too.”
“I know and I’m going to miss being here for those times,” Nick acknowledged.
“Look at it this way: you’ll now be able to spend the holidays with your parents and I’m sure they’re going to appreciate it,” I noted.
“I know they will,” he agreed. “They’ve already told me so, but I’m still going to miss being here with all of you and Shannon.”
I could see the disappointment on his face was sincere, since he realized Shannon probably wouldn’t be able to go there for the holidays. Not only would Shannon have to talk his father into paying for the plane ticket, but it would also most likely lead to major arguments between his father and him. At that point, I made a mental note to talk to Jake about being open to the possibility of allowing Shannon to spend some of the time with Nick, although I felt my request was most likely going to fall on deaf ears. Why would he be willing to do that when he didn’t even want the two of them together?
“Well, that’s still months away,” I consoled, “so let’s not worry about it yet. So, where have you decided to go?” I asked, to get us back to which of the colleges he had picked.
“Well, Oklahoma turned me down, but I was accepted by Oklahoma State and Northern Oklahoma. I think I want to go to Oklahoma State, though.” He was studying me closely as he said this and his expression told me he might be seeking my approval about his selection.
“I think it’s an excellent choice,” I advised him, hoping that would help. However, our discussion also made me realize there was someone else I had to talk to about concerning his college plans. I knew I couldn’t do that right this minute, because I still had more pressing topics to discuss with Nick.
However, before we did that, I asked Nick to call home and speak with his parents. I wanted him to do this so they’d know he arrived here safely, but also to see if he could make some changes in the dates he was going to visit them this summer. Although it was fairly late to make such a request, I had discovered the vacation I wanted to take the boys on this year had to be done in June. I wasn’t about to divulge where we were going or why it had to be done then, because I didn’t want to spoil the surprise. Instead, I asked him to check with his folks and see if they’d mind changing his visit from June to July or August, to fit in with our vacation plans.
After making sure Nick did as I asked, I called Brandon at college and asked him to do the same, if he wanted to go on vacation with us this summer. If it weren’t possible for the boys to change the dates they would be with their parents, then they’d just have to miss going with us this time. Although I didn’t really want this to happen, it was more important for them to spend time with their families. After hearing both boys’ reactions to my suggestion and the reasons behind it, I knew their parents would be up for a battle if they said no, but I hoped it wouldn’t come to that.
When I saw Nick again later, he was kind of moody and stayed that way for the rest of the night. I assumed it was his reaction to Shannon informing him there’d be no sex until the test results came back. Even though I had discussed this with Nick before he came home, I don’t think he felt I was totally serious about it. I believe he thought he could find a way around the restriction, so I decided it might be best to confront him about it.
“Hey, Nick, you don’t look as happy as you did earlier,” I commented. “Is something wrong?” He looked at me, but didn’t immediately respond to my question.
“Yeah, kind of,” he offered, although not very enthusiastically. He had a long face, so I was positive something was bothering him.
“What’s up, Bud?” I asked.
“Shannon and I had sort of a disagreement,” he offered, dejectedly.
“Over sex?” I asked, trying to pin him down.
“You might say that,” he responded, as if he were trying to avoid my interrogation, as much as possible.
“Well, if you’re trying to get him to have sex with you,” I began, “I warned you that wasn’t going to happen until after we’ve received your test results back.”
“But what’s the harm, if we use protection?” he asked.
“The harm is,” I replied, “that no protection is one hundred percent safe and I told you so before you went to Brazil. I also warned you that sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS, are much more prevalent and rampant there than in the States, so with the amount of sexual contact you’ve admitted you’ve had while you were gone, we just need to be certain you haven’t picked anything up before you two are intimate.”
“But, Pop, I was careful,” he whined. “I did everything you told me to do.”
“I think what I told you to do was to avoid such contact,” I countered, “but even if you didn’t, did you take precautions ALL of the time you were with others?” He looked defeated.
“Most of the time,” he finally answered.
“I know and that’s the problem,” I informed him. “So, until we are sure you didn’t pick anything up during your travels, nothing sexual is to happen.”
Nick started to say something, but then thought better of it and began to walk away. Before he got very far, though, he stopped and turned back toward me.
“Oh, by the way, my mom and dad said it would probably be best if I came home in the middle of July and stayed until the middle of August. Those times would work out even better for them and then I’ll be able to head directly to college from there.” Without waiting for my response, he turned around and walked away. I knew he was still unhappy about what I’d told him, so I’d give him time to get over it on his own.
Instead of continuing a conversation with Nick, I decided to talk things over with Jake later, because I knew he was beside himself with concern for Shannon. I made certain to let him know both boys understood and agreed to the sexual restrictions and Shannon was obviously sticking to his promise. Nick’s first appointment was for Monday and we should have his test results back by the following weekend, which meant they might only have to abstain from sex and remain celibate for a week or two. I emphasized that I thought both of them could handle it for that short a duration of time and Jake seemed somewhat relieved after hearing my explanation. The thing was, I knew Jake would still be watching both boys closely, to make sure their were adhering to their promise.
Shannon and Nick did go to bed together later that evening, because they had agreed they still wanted to be close and snuggle, even if they couldn’t have sex. However, as they were getting into bed, they discovered another problem.
“What the hell!” Nick exclaimed, as he slid between the sheets.
“I think there’s something on the sheets,” Shannon responded, as he had also become aware of the problem.
“No shit, Shakespeare,” Nick quipped. “What is hell it and how did it get there?”
“It feels like sand,” Shannon told him, “but I’ll bet it’s sugar or salt,” he added, before tasting a small sample. “Yep, it’s salt,” he concluded, before wiping his mouth, to get rid of the taste.
“How did salt get on our sheets?” Nick asked, incredulous.
“I think our prankster has struck again,” Shannon replied.
“But Ricky’s away at college,” Nick countered, thinking that would negate his conclusion.
“No, someone else has been doing things too,” Shannon explained, “but we can’t figure out who it is. He seems to be trying to duplicate Ricky’s stunts or outdo him.”
“You’re shitting me,” Nick responded, rather crudely.
“Nope, and it looks like you’ve been targeted, which put me in the line of fire too,” Shannon added, amused yet slightly annoyed.
“We’ll investigate tomorrow and find out who did this,” Nick told Shannon, “but let’s change the sheets now, so we can get some sleep.”
Shannon agreed, so Nick headed out to the linen closet in the hall, to get a new set of sheets. While Nick was going for the replacements, Shannon carefully removed their old sheets, to keep the salt from going all over the place.
“FUCK!” Shannon heard Nick scream from the hallway. He went running out to see what was up, only to discover Nick standing with the linen closet door open and stacks of sheets, pillowcases, towels and washcloths covering the floor in front of it.
“What happened?” Shannon asked. He was confused as to what had caused the mess.
“I guess the bastard struck again!” Nick advised Shannon, while the rest of the boys began to emerge from their rooms and gather around them. They had come out to see what all the commotion was about.
“What did you do?” Dion asked Nick.
“I didn’t DO anything,” Nick screamed back. “Someone did this TO me,” he added, sounding pissed.
“What do you mean?” Sammy asked.
“Someone salted our sheets,” Nick explained, sounding extremely irritated, “and when I came out to get new sheets to put on the bed, this happened.” Now, everyone began to look more closely at what exactly had taken place.
“It looks like you were set up,” Trey acknowledged, which drew a very harsh glare from Nick.
“You’re a fucking genius,” he quipped, while still shooting Trey a harsh look. “Why didn’t I think of that?” His tone was dripping with sarcasm.
By this time, I’d arrived in the hallway to join them. I’d heard the loud conversation going on and thought I should see what was up. I caught most of this latest exchange as I was reaching the top of the stairs.
“It appears someone went to a great deal of trouble,” I announced, after looking over the situation. That got all the boys looking at me, so I thought I’d explain.
“It looks as if our prankster put plastic under the items on each shelf,” I told them, “and then tied a string through each piece of plastic and secured the other end of the string to the doorknob. That way, when the door was opened, it pulled the plastic and other items forward and dumped everything on the floor.” The boys all studied the linen closet, to confirm what I had just said.
“Damn, who would have done that?” Andrew asked, innocently.
“Yeah, that would have been a lot of work,” Graham concluded, as if that would have deterred our newest prankster.
“I’d say the jokester doesn’t mind a little hard work,” I confirmed, “as long as he gets his target. Knowing he is willing to do so much would exclude most of you as the prankster then,” I added. This drew a combination of surprised, hurt and disgusted looks and comments from the boys.
“Hey, we’re not lazy,” Sammy shot back, insulted.
“Yeah, but dad’s right,” Cole countered. “How many of us would have taken all that time and done all that work just to pull a stunt like this?”
“True,” Trey agreed, “but someone did.”
“Yeah, but who?” Nick asked, summing up the same thought everyone else had in their minds – that is everyone except the guilty party.
As I looked at the mess, the boys must have noticed my concern and offered to help pick the mess up for me. They actually folded the various items, before putting them back into the linen closet, and then they returned to their rooms. Nick and Shannon grabbed a set of sheets before they left, so they could remake their bed and I thanked each of the boys for their help. As they walked away, I listened to their various comments about having to find out who was doing this, but I had to admit, I was really confused too.
‘WHO could be pulling all of these practical jokes?’ I wondered to myself. ‘Was it just one boy or were a couple of them working together?’
Although everyone fit part of the profile for the type of person who might do this, I couldn’t think of anyone who would match all the attributes our newest trickster would have. Therefore, I was leaning toward the possibility that more than one of them were working together. No matter who was doing this, figuring it out was truly a conundrum.