The doorbell rang and Chief got up to go greet the visitor. Momma Maria showed up a few moments later with Mary Taylor in tow.
"Well, he still lives, I see," spoke Mary as she went over to her son and got a hug from him and then from Collin.
"Mooooooommmmmmm!" whined Ryan. "What brings you here?"
"Well, if you need to know, I came by to bring you home. You're spending a lot of time over here and I want you home for a change."
"But mom, remember it was you who went out on that HOT date. All I did was stay here and stay out of the way. And besides, Mr. Ken has been asking for our help. Haven't ya, Bro?"
"I'll bet," an unbelieving Mary Taylor said.
"Well, actually, Mary, it was the boys idea for me to look into buying some property and it appears I will be getting it," offered Ken in the boys' defense. "Oh, and since you're here, I want to invite you over Thursday afternoon to help in the discussion over just what I should put on this property."
"Thursday, you say? Don't you think everyone will be a bit hung over after the New Year's Eve bash you're throwing the night before?" inquired Mary.
"Well, the boys are going to be hosting Judy's son Eric and some of his friends and Alex and some of his friends for what Collin is calling the 'New Year's Day Swim'. I figured that while the kids are swimming I'd have Judy, and Doc Powers and you and a few other people over for a simple get together and discussion. You know, to kind of get some other people's ideas of what to put on the property at that corner where everyone has to turn to go out to the major roads. You see, I just bought 60 acres out there and I now, or by February at least, will own all four corners."
"I didn't know you were thinking of doing that Ken." And looking at her son she asked, "And why didn't you tell me, Ryan, that he was doing all this. See, if you'd be home more you'd tell me all this stuff." A now smiling Mary said while hugging her son to her.
"Mom, we didn't even know he was doing it until he told us that his offer was accepted. You know, the night he took us out for pizza we talked about there needed to be something close by and we kinda teased him about spending some of his money. We never knew he took us seriously," spoke Ryan in his defense.
"So, what do you say, Mary? Will you join us Thursday afternoon for some light snacks and refreshments? Knowing Maria, there will be enough to fill you up for dinner as well," teased Ken.
"Yes, that sounds like it would be an interesting discussion. I bet these two have already filled your mind with putting in pizza joints and arcades and ice cream stands."
"Mom, now, would we do that?"
"Oh, by the way, mom, Mr. Ken has another question to ask you."
"I do," a startled Mr. Ken asked.
"Yea, you know … about tomorrow," a now bashful Ryan was trying to get Bro to ask about meeting the girls at the Mall tomorrow.
"No, Ryan, I think it is you who needs to ask. Collin already has my permission."
"What's this all about, Ryan? What do I need to give my permission for now? You're already gone a lot now, young man!"
"Mom, it's our Christmas vacation. You knew I'd be out and about while school was out for the Holidays. And at least I was here with my Bro and Best Friend and not getting into any trouble hanging out on the street corners and causing a ruckus," answered Ryan.
"Ok, that's true. The police haven't been to my house, yet." And Mary laughed out loud as she said that and so did Mr. Ken while the two boys just smiled at her attempt at humor.
"Ok, mister, what's this all about that you need my permission for?"
"Bro?" asked Ryan meekly, hoping his Big Bro would come to his rescue. But seeing a smile and a slight head jerk to the right and left from Mr. Ken, Ryan knew he had to ask his mom himself.
"Mom, you see … ah … well it's like this. Our dates want to meet us tomorrow at the mall."
"Your dates?" a surprised Mary asked.
"Yes mom, our dates for the Dance. Shelley called Collin earlier today, she's his blind date for the dance, and asked if we could meet them at about one o'clock at the Mall. She wants to get to know Collin a bit before they are at the dance together Wednesday night so she won't feel awkward about it."
"So, who are you taking to the dance, my too fast growing up son?"
"Mom, her name is Megan. You met her at the Christmas parties. She was a hat-check girl. She was the one who suggested Shelley for Collin. She and Shelley are good friends and it would be nice for Shelley and Col here to get to know one another some before Wednesday night. So, what do you say? Can I go with Col tomorrow to the Mall? We'll be there all day, probably taking in the sights and then a movie and then we'll get something to eat there. And besides, it will be good for Collin to get out and about. He hasn't been outside this house much without Mr. Ken."
"Well, since you put it that way. And since Ken is ok with this, too, I don't see any reason not to let you do this. You are growing up and I can't keep you home forever. You need to be trusted and I do trust you. I just didn't think I'd have to start letting go so soon. I also guess I need to start getting used to you dating now that you are in high school.
"I'll tell you what. Since you are here so much, why don't you invite Collin to stay over tonight and I'll take you boys over to the Mall tomorrow. This way, Mr. Ken can have a peaceful and quiet evening alone for a change. How does that sound? Will that be ok, Ken?" finished Mary
"That's ok with me. Collin, you want to do that, then?"
"Yea, that will be kinda fun. I never got to spend the night away much before … ah … before … well at my last house," expressed Collin while a tear slowly fell down along his cheek.
"Come here, son," said Mary as she reached for the lad and pulled him into her. "I know this is difficult for you, but you have to go on living, my 'second' son. We all want you to get out and enjoy what is offered to you and get to know what being a teenager is all about. Spending the night at your friend's house is just one of them. Dating is another and I know Ken here has tried his best to give you as many experiences as he could. So, what do you say to me treating you two to a nice dinner and then we'll get home and you guys can stay up late and watch a movie or do whatever?"
"Yea, that sounds nice. Thanks Misses, err, 'mom'," replied Collin.
"Ryan, go on upstairs and get all your dirty clothes. Heaven knows there's probably a ton of them up there. Collin go get the clothes you want to wear tomorrow and whatever you wear to bed. Or do you; ok let's not go there," a now embarrassed Mary choked out.
The boys ran upstairs to get their things. Ken got from behind his desk and sat in one of the plush leather chairs opposite Mary who had allowed herself to slither down into the softness of another.
"So, did you have a good time on your date?" a curious Ken asked Mary.
"Why, yes I sure did," was all that Mary would volunteer.
"Will I get to meet him this Wednesday night at the dance?" Ken asked, trying to get Mary to talk about her possibly new beau.
"Yes, he will be my escort for the night. And I know what you are trying to do here, Mr. Ken. I am trying to decide if I want to give you any more information right now," a defensive Mary shot right back at Ken.
"You know at the dance, I can draw him away and get all the information that way." Ken then laughed after he said that and watched for a reaction from Mary.
Changing the subject, Mary said, "Ken, I want to ask you for another favor. After the New Year's Eve parties are over would it be Ok for Ryan to spend the night? I'll understand if you say no. Ryan's spent almost his entire Holiday vacation here. Here you are a single guy and having to deal with two 15 year old teens. You should be out living it up and doing what bachelors do when they are, what, 23. Oh, and on second thought, why don't you let Collin spend the next night as well? It will give you some quiet time. Maybe let you get out and 'burn down the town'. Will you be ok with that? I do have a house, you know so the boys won't be any bother and I can drop them off and pick them up from the Mall so you won't have to deal with that either."
"Yes, there is no problem with Ryan staying after the parties. I figured he would anyway as he and Collin are the Hosts for the younger boys swim party that afternoon. And as for me, the bachelor, I am doing very well, thank you, with Ryan here. He has done me a tremendous favor being Collin's best friend. Collin used to hang around me most of the time and although I never pushed him away, it was a bit unnerving having him watching everything I did. I suspect he'll go back to doing that when school starts in less than a week."
"Isn't he going to start back to school when Ryan goes back? I thought that was the plan?"
"It is, kind of. His tutor, Steve Ashland, wants Collin to do another full week of intense teaching and studying. Then he wants three days for review and then the last two days for Collin to take his qualifying exams. When he passes those, the high school will accept him as a sophomore at that point in the school year. It will be up to Collin to grasp what was actually taught his fellow students so he might be in a 'vortex' for a few weeks until he gets into a groove there. I just hope the kids don't harass him about the shooting and kidnapping," a truly concerned Mr. Ken relayed to Mary.
"That poor boy has gone through so much. He told me how much he 'loves' you for what you've done for him. He looks to you as his 'older brother' you know that, don't you?"
"Oh, yes as much as Ryan does and more. You know what? I love having him here. He has added so much to Three Finger Cove. He's made the place come alive. I don't know what I'd do if they came and took him away after the New Year?"
"He might be taken away? I didn't know that!"
"Well, and he doesn't know this yet, so please do not even talk around this, but after the New Year, his dad's lawyers will be coming to discuss Collin with me and my lawyers. I'm going to fight to keep him here. The boy needs to be allowed to grow up and enjoy being a teenager. I'm afraid they'll take him back there and put him into a cubby hole and not let him out. He is way too young to run his dad's companies and I know he must be the heir to everything. The best thing they can do for Collin is to appoint someone who can handle everything until Collin graduates from college. At least that is what I hope for him!"
"Yes, he is way too young for all that to be thrust upon him. What is keeping those boys?"
Just then the boys thundering feet could be heard coming down the stairs. A few moments later, Chief's paws could be heard tapping their way towards the Study. Then in no time, all three entered with lots and lots of bags.
"Collin," began Mr. Ken, "Mary asked if you could stay tonight and also tomorrow night as well. Will you be ok with doing that? That'll mean you can't sleep in and you'll have to be back here by noon on Wednesday, though, in order to help your band get set up."
"Yea, that's ok with me, Bro. Ryan can show me around his area some and maybe I can meet some of his other friends as well. I think we're ready to go. Ryan had more clothes over here than he thought."
Collin went over to Ken and gave him a big hug. Ryan did also. Both boys scratched behind Chief's ears and then they grabbed their things and followed Mary out the front door. Chief looked up at Ken and sighed. Her two 'boys' were gone and she knew they would not be home tonight. The house would be quiet for the next 36 hours or so. Chief would sleep in Ken's room until her 'boys' were back.