Three Finger Cove: Matthew ~ Book Five

Chapter Eighteen

The morning came and Ken Thomas didn't even realize he had gone to sleep. He woke up in relatively the same position he remembered falling into his bed. The Cove's owner just lay there thinking about all the things he needed to not only do, that day, but also what was in store for him during the next four weeks.

The man's bladder began to stir, so he decided to take care of his morning business and start his day. He dressed in his normal morning clothes and headed out to get his morning newspaper. The air was much cooler than he remembered the past few days. Yes, it was getting towards the end of November, but the air had something in it that morning that he hoped did not portend a major change to the weather.

As the owner of The Cove retrieved his morning newspaper, he saw Ms. Judy and Eric drive into the estate. Even though it was cooler than he liked, he waited for the two to stop at the Foyer Door.

"Good morning you two. I see your son talked you into dropping him off as you went to work," chuckled Mr. Ken.

Eric quickly asked if he could go in and wake Robert. Mr. Ken told the teen to just go in and join his friend and get a few more hours of sleep. The man told the teen they could have breakfast before heading out to cut the field. Eric smiled and didn't waste any time going inside and heading up to Robert's bedroom.

"I see you have a new guard up at the Main Gate. Usually, the men just open the gate and let me in, but this man ... he made me stop and show him who I was. Then, he checked the database. While he was doing that, another man, who recognized me, opened the gate and told me to drive in."

"Ken, that man ... he did it right! He didn't know who I was, so he wasn't going to allow me in without checking the computer to make sure I was who I said I was. You really knew what you were doing when you hired Jules Diamond to staff your security teams."

"Since I've been coming over, so often, most of the guards know me. So, when they see me approach, they open the gate and let me in. I'm sure it is that way with the majority of the boys, too. But ... for that man to do his job says something about his training and the seriousness with which he takes his job," finished Judy Turner, Director, Children's Protective Service.

"Thank you, Judy, for telling me that. I never really thought about how the guards did their job. But now that you told me that story, I think ... I should go up there, now and then, and meet the men. That way they will get to know me and me them. Can you stay for a cup of coffee?" asked Mr. Ken.

"No thank you, Ken. I'd love to, but ... well, with me being gone the last half of the week; I need to make sure everything is set to run smoothly while I'm gone. I will take a rain check, though," smiled Ms. Judy.

"Oh, Judy, before you leave. I told the boys ... I told them they could ask one friend, but no more than two to spend the night. I mention it in case Eric calls to ask you if he can stay. But ... I also asked the boys not to focus on the same friends every time."

"Again, if he doesn't call, you know the back story. Okay, I'll let you go and I am now very cold. I bet the weather changes tomorrow. I hope those boys get that field done today. I'll talk to you later," called out Ken Thomas, as he headed to the Foyer Door to get inside and warmed up.

When Eric went upstairs, he stopped to drain his dragon and then he walked into Robert's room. He never did the Three Knock Rule for his Best Friend. He stopped, looked at his sleeping friend then took off his clothes and climbed into the same bed as Robert.

Robert felt someone get into bed with him and he thought it was Chief sent to wake him up. The teen was going to say something when he was stopped by a warm kiss. He opened his eyes and seeing his very Best Friend; he kissed him back.

"Mr. Ken sent me up to catch a few extra hours of sleep. Robert ... I think ... I think he knows about us. Do you think he'll be mad at you? Us?" questioned Eric.

"No, I think he is okay with us. If he were mad or upset about us he'd have said something to me, already. But, you know what? He told me he wants us to get to know some girls and date them, or at least go to the dances and football and basketball games and do things as a group."

"He told me once ... I wouldn't know who I really am unless I know about girls and how they act. He told me that I will eventually have to work for a woman and I need to learn about their moods and the ways they try to wrap us around their little finger."

"He wants me, well us, to date some and find out firsthand about girls in every way. But that's for later. I'm glad you got here early, so we can stay warm together," smiled Robert, who then kissed his Best Friend and pulled him close to him.

That morning, Mr. Chris arrived at his usual time. He stopped by the Kitchen Nook first, knowing his boss would be there reading his newspaper and drinking the first of his multiple daily cups of Coffee.

"Good morning, Mr. Ken," offered Mr. Chris. "I see you survived the onslaught of boys and house guests. Did everything go well?"

"Chris, even though there were 41 boys here Saturday night, you would never have known it. They are a well-behaved group and I am proud of my 'boys' for picking such great friends. Chris, we did a Dive-In movie and Kyle lamented I didn't have inner tubes or other types of floats for the boys to lie on as they watched the movie."

"Add them to your list of things to do. Maybe we can make it part of their Christmas. Oh, I am expecting a package from my electronics plant. It will be a fairly large box that will be quite heavy. I had hoped it would have been here by now," finished Mr. Ken.

"Mr. Ken, can I ask what is in the box?" asked Mr. Chris.

"Chris, my electronics company is developing a small enough device that we can locate someone with," replied Mr. Ken.

"But they already have that with your cell phone and other devices," said Mr. Chris.

"Yes, but these are made not to look like a GPS. You'll see what I mean if they ever get here," replied Mr. Ken. "Oh, and by the way, I am letting the 'boys' have another sleepover tonight. They can invite one or two friends, but I am thinking of limiting it to just one just to keep it even."

"Oh, please make sure the house cleaning company knows that both bathrooms upstairs were used and the Party Restrooms were also used over the weekend. They will need a very good cleaning," laughed The Cove's owner. "Oh, they need to clean both pool Locker Rooms, as well."

"And, Chris ... do you think your friend who is making more of those Three Finger Cove key fobs could make even more than the two dozen I initially requested? If he can, I think I'll need a total of one hundred. It seems the more I think about them the more I think it would be a great Christmas gift for some people. If he can, great! If he can't by Christmas, maybe he can continue to make them for me until he's made at least one hundred. But my bet is that I'll continue to need more," added Mr. Ken.

"Boss ... you know the more you make the less unique they will be," cautioned Mr. Chris.

Mr. Ken said he'd have to think about that, but for now, he still wanted one hundred. Mr. Chris said he'd call his friend about the fobs. The Estate Manager added he was going to call Central Decorating to make sure they were on schedule to be there on the following Monday. Mr. Chris then went to his small office.

It was after 9 AM when the twins came down for breakfast. They told 'Dad Ken' 'Good Morning', gave him a quick hug and then sat down and waited for Momma Maria to serve them. It was while Momma served the twins some pancakes, bacon and cold milk that Matthew and Chief came into the Kitchen Nook.

"Good morning 'Dad'," said Matthew, as he came over to the man and hugged him.

"Good morning, Son, I trust you slept well, last night. You were fast asleep when I came up to check on all of you. Only Robert was still awake," replied Mr. Ken.

"Yes, 'Dad', I did. I only remember climbing onto the bed. Then I woke up. I feel good after our busy weekend. What's for breakfast? I'm starved," responded Matthew.

"Well, you take care of Chief and by the time you're done, I bet Momma has your breakfast ready," answered Mr. Ken, who then pulled the lad into a hug.

It wasn't too long after Matthew sat down to his breakfast that Charles entered the Kitchen Nook. He went over to Mr. Ken and hugged him and told him 'Good Morning'. The pre-teen then sat down with his 'brothers'.

It was going on 10 AM when Mr. Ken sent Chief to wake Robert and Eric. The boys all wondered when Eric arrived and why he was sleeping in Robert's room. Charles had his suspicions why Eric was sleeping in their older 'brothers' bedroom, but he wasn't about to tell his younger 'brothers' what he suspected between the two teenagers.

It wasn't too long after Chief went up to wake the teens that Robert and Eric came walking into the Kitchen Nook with smiles on their faces.

"Thanks, dad for letting us sleep in," announced Robert. "After we eat breakfast, we're going to start cutting the field. OK?"

"Yes, the sooner you two get started the better chance you'll get it all done today. The weather changed some overnight and my bet is tomorrow is not going to be a nice day at all. So, hurry up and eat and get started."

"Boys, remember ... I don't want to see you out in the field while they are cutting it. That goes for your friends, too. Also, let me know who you want to spend the night before you ask them. Keep in mind their parents might not let them, since we just had a big sleepover. Any questions?" asked 'dad' Ken.

The Cover lads didn't have any questions. Then, when they were all finished eating, the four lads headed upstairs to get cleaned up for the day. All of them headed into the Boy's Bathroom and Charles was surprised that Matthew joined them.

"Matthew ... are you sure you want to take your shower with us?" asked Charles.

"Yes, yes, I do. I've taken my showers with Kyle all last week and ... and now I know what it's like to shower with another boy. And, over the weekend my friends ... they told me they see their older brothers naked at times. They even told me they've taken some showers with them, too."

"They also told me they ... they sometimes see their older brothers with their morning boners," now giggled Matthew. "I figured if they can do it then ... well, then I shouldn't be embarrassed to take my shower with you guys. I still might be, you know, a little bit embarrassed, but I know this is something I need to do and get used to doing," answered Matthew.

Charles and Kevin applauded the young Cover's decision to take his shower with them. Then all four lads took off their clothes, and each got under a showerhead. Charles talked to Matthew about the past weekend as the four lads were cleaned up. The talking helped Matthew stay calm and not think about his taking a shower with three other naked boys.

Robert and Eric got out to the field at about 10:30. They flipped a washer after Eric spit on one side. Robert called 'dry' and it came up 'wet', so Eric got to pick what he did first. He took the riding mower. That left Robert with the string trimmer to trim the areas where the riding mower couldn't get.

The Cover lads' friends began arriving around noon, as they usually did, when it was a free day from school. They took turns skating and talked about the previous weekend with the sleepover and Dive-In Movie. They all couldn't believe and how much fun they had that weekend and how lucky they all were that Mr. Ken was so good to them.

Matthew and his friends, Brant, Ryan, and Noah, stuck together and let the older boys skate first. While they watched the older boys practice their moves on the ramps, they talked about the weekend.

"My brother and I talked last night about the weekend. He said the Dive-In movie was the best thing he got to do here even though he was there for the movie shown out on the patio," said Brant.

"Brad told me there were only about eighteen boys at the patio movie night compared to 41 boys on Saturday night. He also told me it was a lot of fun having so many kids there. Then, he told me the horsey challenge between the older brother, younger brother teams was even better. He told me they often played that game, but it was a lot more fun and it meant so much more that we had done it as brothers."

"Brad told me he thought I'd be a pain in his butt, bugging him to do things with him, because he figured we'd all be bored. But when our parents asked him if I ever bothered him he told them he did his thing and we did ours. I think that was why he talked with me after we got home," added Brant.

"My brother only started coming over here since he met Charles at the Go-kart Track before school started," spoke up Noah. "He told me about the things he got to do here and it all sounded like fun. Then, I got to be over here during the Labor Day Picnic. It was Brant, Ryan, and me who were able to use the ramps without anyone else there."

"I wish we could have used the water rafts this weekend. I got to try them and it was so much fun getting thrown off the top and just climbing all over them. Even Mr. Ken was out there playing King of the Raft with us. I sure hope we can get to do that next year. Then, we got to swim in the indoor pool. Again, we all had fun."

"So you guys know as much about The Cove as I do, or maybe a bit more," laughed Matthew.

Mr. Ken was called up to the Main Gate. When he arrived, he saw Todd and Conner waiting there.

"So, Todd, you having trouble getting in?" laughed the teen's boss.

"No, sir ... they won't let Conner in. I invited him over; I hope that was OK, Mr. Ken. I asked him if he wanted to help me get the Commander ready for the winter. The weathermen are calling for much cooler temps later this week and I wanted to get that done before it got too cold to be out on the water," explained Todd.

Mr. Ken talked to the gate guard. He learned it was the same guard who stopped Judy and Eric that morning, so he talked some more to the man.

"Do you know who I am?" asked The Cove's owner.

"Yes, sir, they showed me your picture, first thing this morning. They told me to remember it, sir," replied the guard.

"Good. So, can you tell me why Conner here can't get into The Cove?" directly asked Mr. Ken.

"Well, Mr. Thomas, Todd and Conner both told me that Conner had been here at least twice before, but I can't find him in the database. When I couldn't find Conner's name, I radioed my partners and they should be here any moment. I guess it was Todd who called you," replied the guard.

"OK, let me see what the problem is," directed Mr. Ken, who then took over the computer.

As the owner of The Cove sat down the other two guards entered the guard shack. They motioned the new guard over to them for him to tell them why the owner was working on the computer. Todd and Conner just stood there watching Mr. Ken go into the computer and open some files. The three guards also watched because they never knew that file even existed.

"OK, here's the problem," announced Mr. Ken. "Conner's name is in the computer under two different spellings. One with a 'K' instead of a "C" and the other time they left off the second "n" or was it the first "n"," laughed Mr. Ken.

"Guys, neither of those spellings would match his real name. Thus the reason for the guard to question the lad. I built the program so it would question a name when there are two or more different spellings. When you put in the proper spelling of his name, the computer immediately asked to enter his full identity."

"The day of the Labor Day Picnic was very hectic up here and the guards were frantically entering the information they had and they made what we call 'fat finger errors'. I've fixed the problem and Conner's alias' has been deleted from the database. Unfortunately, Conner, you'll have to reenter all of your information. And this time make sure it is correct," laughed Mr. Ken.

Then, Mr. Ken called the three guards over to him. "Guys ... I want to thank you for the great job you are doing for me. But, I want to personally thank this man for the awesome job he's done on just his first day on the job. He stopped the Director of CPS and made sure she was who she said she was."

"And, now, he flagged a problem and wouldn't let another person into the estate until he made certain who they were, even though Todd is in the database and vouched for this friend. That is what I am paying for, that unauthorized individuals do not enter my estate until they are approved by me."

"Gentlemen, so you know, I now have someone working for me who can and will speak for me when I am not available. There are times I cannot be here for whatever reason, or because I am out of the area. His name is Wayne Mitchell. He is my Estate Master. I will get a picture of him up here before the end of the day."

"Gentlemen, his word is MY word. Remember, if he is here and makes a decision it is to be considered as if I said it. So, please pass that information along to your relief and have them pass the word on, as well," stated Ken Thomas.

The guards thanked Mr. Thomas for those kind words and said they would pass the information along about Mr. Mitchell. Two guards then went their separate ways as they continued to monitor the estate from all avenues while the other monitored the camera feeds and controlled the access to the estate at the Main Gate.

"So, you're thinking about buttoning up the Commander?" chuckled Mr. Ken.

"Yes, sir. Ryan told me to do that right around Thanksgiving as after that you'll be really busy getting The Cove ready for the Holidays. I listened to the weather reports and they say it will get much cooler towards the middle of the week. No rain, but much cooler temps," replied Todd.

"OK, that sounds reasonable. I did use the Commander yesterday. Owen and Nathan and their boys were here all weekend, so you missed them. By the way, I did take them out and around the lake, so you'll need to top the tanks off before you put on the covers. But, I don't want a large group of kids going along with you."

"So, when you're ready to go get it fueled up, find Matthew and ask him if he and his friends want to go along. Tell them I said it was OK, but also tell them where you are going and that it will not be a lake tour, but just an out and back. Any problems ... call me like you did earlier," directed Mr. Ken, as he walked back into the house.

The Cover lads saw their 'dad' walking up to the Main Gate and about ten minutes later saw him walk back down with Todd and Conner in tow. They wondered what that was all about. They got the chance to find out when Todd and Conner came over to the ramps.

"Hey, Todd, what was my dad doing up at the Main Gate?" asked Robert.

"Oh, that ... the database didn't have the right spelling for Conner's name in it, for some reason. So, I called Mr. Ken and told him what was happening. That was why he came up there. He found the database had Conner's name in it twice, but both times it was spelled wrong. Mr. Ken fixed it and then had Conner input all his info again.

"But before we came down, Mr. Ken thanked one of the guards for doing his job. Mr. Ken said the man stopped Ms. Judy earlier today and then he didn't let Conner in, even though I vouched for him," started Todd, before Eric spoke up.

"Yea, when my mom brought me over here this morning the new guard wouldn't let us in because he wanted to check the computer to make sure who she was. It took him about twenty seconds to verify my mom was who she said she was. I thought she would be pissed that he'd stopped her, but she told me that the man was only doing his job and until he got to know the regulars he would stop them all," said Eric.

"Hey, Matthew," called out Todd. "Can you and your friends come over here, please?"

Matthew, Brant, Ryan, and Noah quickly came over to where Todd and Conner were standing with Robert and some of his friends.

"Matthew, Mr. Ken said you and your friends can come with Conner and me when I go fuel up the Commander. I want to do that before I button it up for the winter. So, are you four interested in going with us? We won't be doing anything other than going to the fuels dock and back, but Mr. Ken said you can go along with me and Conner," explained Todd.

Robert got excited that they could all go, but his enthusiasm bubble was soon burst when Todd told him only Matthew and his friends were allowed to go. Robert wasn't happy and decided to argue with Todd, but the Beach Master told the Cover teen his dad was very specific that only Matthew and his friends could go.

Matthew asked his friends if they wanted to go. They all had big smiles on their faces and asked him how soon. Todd told them to drain their dragons and meet him down at the dock in ten minutes.

The ten-year-olds headed up to the boys' bathroom to use the urinals there. They had to take turns since there were only two, but it didn't take all that long. On the way down the stairs, Matthew stopped by the Study, with his buddies behind him.

"Ahh 'dad', ahh Mr. Ken ... thank you for letting us go with Todd. This will be fun with only the four of us going with the teenagers, and it won't be as full as it was yesterday. Thanks again, 'dad'" finished Matthew, as he and his three friends headed out to the Foyer Door to go down to the dock.

But before the Cover lad got too far away, Mr. Ken called him back to the Study. Matthew went to the man and Mr. Ken whispered to him about asking one of his friends to the sleepover. Matthew got a big smile on his face and whispered back that he'd forgotten. Then, the lad whispered a name to his foster dad, and the man said it would be OK.

Matthew and his friends hurried down to the dock. Todd told them to hurry up before he left without them. The four lads quickly got on-board

"Conner, get ready to bring in the bumpers," called out Todd from the bridge.

"We can do it, Todd. I watched them yesterday," yelled up Matthew.

"Did your friends watch too?" quickly asked Todd.

"NO, but it is easy," responded the youngest Cover.

"OK, you help Conner and your friends can watch you two," said Todd.

Hearing they could watch and learn Brant, Ryan, and Noah all got big smiles on their faces.

"Get ready to cast off. Cast off the bowline," called out Todd.

Conner quickly went to do that and told Matthew to watch how he did that.

"Standby to cast off the stern line," then called out Todd.

Matthew followed Conner to the stern, and the teen told Matthew what to do. When the teen was ready, he told Todd. Todd called out to cast off the stern line and when it was he put the motor in the idle forward setting that made the boat go very slow and move forward.

After the Commander passed Mr. Ken's small marina entrance, Todd called for the bumpers to be brought in. Todd told Matthew to bring in the Port bumpers as he pulled in the Starboard. With that done Todd increased the speed.

"How did you know which side is Port or which is Starboard?" Noah asked Conner.

"The simplest way to remember it is there are four letters in the word left and four letters in the word Port. That way you'll never forget it," replied Todd for Conner.

All six boys were up on the flying bridge as Todd steered the 46 foot Commander to the fueling dock. The three lads who never had the opportunity to ride in the large cabin cruiser had smiles that wouldn't quit. They loved that they could see forever.

When they arrived, Todd made everyone got off the boat. He explained it was a safety issue and the fuel depot didn't want someone on board in case the fuel ignited for some reason. The five lads all headed to the office to get out of the area. The boys looked around at all the boating items they sold there. The boys liked the funny t-shirts and hats.

It was then Matthew noticed a poster that mentioned something about a sailboat race. He went over to it and began to read it. His buddies saw what he was doing, so they walked over, too.

"Wow, they have sailboat races every summer. I wonder what you have to do to learn how to sail?" said Matthew, to no one in particular.

The man behind the counter, staffing the cash register, heard what Matthew said. The man told the lad he needed to take some lessons to learn how to sail and when he was ready he could enter the race. The man told the lads the Lake Yacht Club sponsored the race every year around the lake and they had races in different age levels and sailboat sizes.

"Hey, I bet Commodore Wilson is responsible," said Brant.

"You know the Commodore?" asked the man.

"Well, I don't know him personally, but ... well, he came to Mr. Ken's Labor Day Picnic and gave out some awards. Even Mr. Ken got one from the American Red Cross for helping save a teen out on the lake. He and Todd, the teen fueling the Commander, helped save Walt, somebody," proudly replied Brant.

"You mean that teenager out there, Todd, is the same Todd whose interview was shown on national television? I never knew it was him. He looks a lot different than he did on TV. And, is that the same boat that ... that he drove that day?" wondered the man.

"Yes, sir," replied Brant. "We were there, well three of us were there that day when the Commodore stopped by The Cove and gave Todd Foster and Logan Anderson each a plaque and a $5000.00 scholarship. They also got to meet Walt that day."

"The Commodore then called up Mr. Dan, Brad Sullivan, and Gordon Thomason and gave them plaques for their help with a man who fell overboard. The teens, Brad and Gordon each got a plaque and a $1000.00 scholarship. Mr. Dan only got a plaque."

"Well, I'll be. When Todd is finished fueling the Commander, I'm going out there and shake his hand," announced the man to the boys. "And boys, you should think about taking sailing lessons. You're all young enough that you could learn and have fun sailing the lake the rest of your lives. Make sure you boys take a flyer. Even though it was for this year, the information will be the same."

The boys had smiles on their faces from talking to the man. They waited until Todd was finished and he came into the store to pay the bill.

"Todd, why didn't anyone ever tell us you were one of the boys who helped save that teen last summer?" asked the man. "Come over here and let me shake your hand," said the man, who was behind the counter.

As the man said what he did to Todd, a few other men who were in the store came over and congratulated the teen. Todd was embarrassed at the attention he received, but he also had a smile on his face. Conner and the four ten-year-olds stood back and watched while Todd was patted on his back for doing what he'd done.

On the trip back to The Cove, Matthew asked Todd if he could go by the place he and Logan and Mr. Ken saved the teenager. Todd didn't want to do it, but Matthew said he wasn't here back then and he just wanted to get an idea of what happened.

Todd relented and, taking a slight detour, drove over by the area he, Mr. Ken and Logan saved Walt Tankards. The young lads couldn't see anything but Brant, Noah and Ryan could imagine what happened because they heard the Commodore tell the story.

"Todd," began Matthew, "Would you tell me what happened? Please!"

Todd saw the puppy dog eyes of wishful thinking in Matthew's eyes, so he gave in and told him and his friends how that evening unfolded. The three lads who had heard the story already were now given a first-hand accounting from someone who was actually there.

When the Commander returned to The Cove, Todd called for the bumpers to be put out. That time Conner did the Portside while Matthew did the Starboard side. The other three boys watched and saw it wasn't very difficult putting the plastic bumpers full of air around the Commander's perimeter.

Matthew, with his friends following close behind, ran into the house and headed to the study.

"'Dad', 'dad', Todd showed us where you all saved a teen's life. I bugged him until he drove us over to the area and then he told us the story as he saw it. Don't get mad at him. Everyone, but me, heard the story at the picnic and I wanted to understand what happened," begged Matthew.

Mr. Ken called the youngster over and when he got close the man pulled him into a hug. The youngest Cover melted into the hug and relished he was getting some attention without his 'brothers' around. Yes, his friends were there, but he didn't care. Matthew was getting some one-on-one attention, something he never remembered getting before.

When Matthew and his friends went back outside, they found everyone was gone. Ryan asked if they could be down in the pool swimming. Matthew agreed with that question, so he and his friends hurried to the indoor pool. Seeing all the boys were there, they quickly went to change. None of them hesitated to change in front of each other. Matthew was becoming more and more comfortable being naked around other boys.

While the boys swam and played a few games, Charles asked Matthew if he invited anyone to spend the night. Matthew said he told Mr. Ken whom he wanted to stay, but he hadn't said anything to them. Charles told him he had better do it soon, so they can call home to see if they can stay.

Matthew pulled Brant aside and told him he was allowed to ask one boy to spend the night and he wanted to know if he was interested. The two boys talked for a few minutes about the sleepover and then Brant went into his locker, retrieved his cell phone and called home.

When it came time to cook, Matthew and his friends all volunteered to help. They each helped in an area they hadn't done before. The four lads were more and more surprised at what it took to make the barbeque happen. Matthew wanted to help cook, but Charles told him he'd be doing that soon enough and for him to enjoy not having to do it. Charles reminded him that everyone participates, to some degree or another, setting up and taking down the barbeque and to help, where they could, for now.

Robert and Eric worked hard to get the field cut and trimmed before the sun went down. They got an early start, but they forgot how long it was going to take them and they pushed themselves to get it done that day. Even when Brad came out to ask them what they wanted to eat, Robert asked his friend to bring them a burger and dog each and a couple of cans of soda.

It was when Brad came back with their foods that he told Robert his brother was spending the night. Hearing that made Robert remember he could ask someone to spend the night, but hadn't done so because he was out doing the job he and Eric had almost begged to do.

Robert then remembered his dad asking them not to keep asking the same friend, so the Cover's only teen stopped Brad before he left and asked him if he wanted to spend the night. Brad was totally surprised he was asked instead of Eric. The Sullivan teen told the Cover he needed to ask his parents, but since Brant was staying he told the Cover he probably could too.

Robert and Eric thanked Brad for bringing them something to eat and after they quickly scarfed down their food, they got back to the job.

The boys all went back to skating after they put the barbeque things away. While some of the boys skated the older ones asked the ten-year-olds what they did on the Commander. The older lads were surprised to hear how the men at the fueling station gave Todd a few handshakes and congratulations for what he did for Walt Tankards, so many months ago.

The lads, who were on the Commander the night that Walt Tankard's was saved, listened to how Matthew explained what Todd told him. They in turn filled in what Todd had missed as he was up on the flying bridge keeping the boat in one position. The other lads finally came over to the small group and the ones who weren't there that night listened with high interest to the story.

But before long it was time for the boys to leave. The whole group walked up to the Main Gate, as they usually did, to send off those who were going home. Charles did remind everyone that Mr. Ken was taking some of them shopping tomorrow and told them to call before they came over.

When the Covers walked back down to the house Brad, Brant, James, Gran, and Landon joined them. Those five were the lads the Covers asked to spend the night. Their parents brought them a change of clothes and they all headed up to the bedrooms to store their clothes.

It was almost 6 PM when Robert and Eric finally finished cutting the field and had the equipment cleaned up and put away. The two teens dragged their very tired butts into the house and practically collapsed into the Kitchen Nook chairs.

Mr. Ken came out there for a fresh cup of coffee and found the two teenagers laying their heads on their hands, which were resting on the table.

"Boys ... go up and take a shower, then come down here and we'll all go out for dinner," said Mr. Ken.

The two teens gradually got up from the table and dragged themselves up the stairs to take their showers. The shower did wonders for them as they felt more human than they did a half-hour before. Mr. Ken loaded the eleven boys into the new van and he drove them over to the Four Corners Diner.

Ms. Judy and Mr. Wayne met them at the Diner. The group was so large they took up one corner table, one six-person table, and a four-seater. They were all close enough they could all talk to one another without shouting.

"Ken ... how did you manage to get all these tables together?" asked Ms. Judy.

"Well, Judy, I know the owner," laughed Mr. Ken.

The lads who were close enough to hear that short conversation explained to the other boys that Mr. Ken owned the Four Corner's Restaurant and the attached Diner. That caused a lot of laughter.

Everyone ordered off the menu. Some got burgers, but most got something different. Some ordered chicken fried steak with steak fries and white gravy and others ordered the chicken-fried steak with mashed potatoes and gravy. All the lads got sodas while the adults ordered caffeine-free coffee.

Eric was disappointed he wasn't spending the night. He sulked as he ate and Robert knew he needed to talk to him. The Cover teen excused himself to use the restroom and asked his Best Friend to go with him.

Some of the boys laughed that Robert needed Eric to hold his hand and said so, as the two walked away.

"Eric ... you're mad aren't you ... that you aren't spending the night. I can tell. Listen ... dad ... he asked us NOT to keep inviting the same friend every time. He told us we all have a large number of friends and they would like to spend the night once in a while, too. I think he said that because every time I invite someone I ... I always invite you. That was why I invited Brad to stay tonight."

"Eric ... we are each other's Best Friends. We have been from ... from the start and ... well, I hope we always will be. But ... Mr. Ken, you know, my dad ... he wants us to share some of our experiences with our other friends as well," offered Robert.

Eric had tears coming out of his eyes as he listened. He felt he wasn't loved and after all, they had shared. It was then that Mr. Ken entered the restroom. The man saw the tears in Eric's eyes and he immediately pulled the teen to him.

"Eric ... son ... I take it you are having a hard time listening to what your very Best Friend was telling you. It was me who told the boys to start inviting different friends when it was only going to be one or two staying over. Eric ... you both need to experience different things apart from one another."

"Son ...I know what you each mean to one another. I see it ... and I want you to know ... it doesn't matter to me that you have such ... such love ... for one another. But you two still have lots of living to experience."

"Eric ... if two you are meant to be together, and maybe for life, you both have to do separate things. You have to do things differently or away from one another. I want Robert to do things with other kids, so he has a broad breadth of experiences he can learn from and look back on as he matures and goes off to college. That ... that is the same thing I want for you."

"There is no reason you can't do some of the same things together, but I hope you'll both share them with other friends, including doing some things with girls. Now is not the right time to have a protracted conversation. But, I hope you will talk to me about this one day, so you understand where I am coming from," finished Mr. Ken.

Eric had stopped his tears by the time the man, he wished was his 'dad', finished saying what he wanted to. Eric looked into the man's eyes and then jumped into the man and hugged him tight. After about ten seconds into the hug, Eric pulled away and thanked Mr. Ken for talking to him.

Eric then apologized to Robert for acting like a spoiled brat. Robert immediately forgave him and the two hugged. Then, they laughed which allowed the tension to leave them.

When the three Covers walked out of the restroom, they found Mr. Wayne running interference, telling everyone the restroom was out of order. After Mr. Ken walked out with Robert and Eric, Mr. Wayne yelled that the toilet was now fixed.

Ms. Judy asked Mr. Ken what that was all about. All he would tell her was that he would have to talk to her later when he had the chance.

After everyone was finished eating, Ms. Judy and Eric said their goodbyes and headed home. Mr. Ken had Wayne pay the bill and then the remainder of the group headed over to the Go-Kart Track to see who drove better that night.


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