It would be two weeks after the end of the school year came before the Sparks School Board was to meet and approve the superintendent's recommended hires. Haden decided to begin work on his master's degree, and Kyle agreed to do the same.
With Haden being in classes for most of the summer, there was the question of what to do about Adam. "I'm old enough to be home alone," Adam argued. "You do know I'll soon be 14, don't you?"
"I'm aware of your age," Darrell countered. "I'm just not sure that 'soon will be14' is old enough to be home alone."
"But, Dad, have I ever done anything to make you doubt my ability to be home alone?" Adam pointed out.
"Honey, remember when Adam started riding alone?" Rita asked. "I was a nervous wreck, but you'd made a promise to Adam that when he was big enough to saddle Rusty himself, he could ride alone. Adam proved himself as being responsible then."
"Yes, but Haden was always available, in case of an emergency," Darrell stated.
"Dad, I'll be home early afternoons," Haden added.
"It seems that I'm outnumbered here," Darrell relented. "Adam, if we agree, there'll be some rules."
"I know, I'm to always have my cell phone on me and make sure that it's charged," Adam said with a smile.
"That and others," Darrell began, "You're to have no visitors."
"But Dad, what about my friends?" Adam argued.
"Rita, what do you think, maybe Jon and Justin?" Darrell asked.
"They too are good boys," Rita admitted. "But, no others."
"Thanks, Mom and Dad," Adam said, and then gave each a hug.
"We're not finished," Rita said with a smile, and motioned for Adam to sit back down.
"Like what?" Adam reluctantly asked.
"No swimming," Rita said.
"No swimming ..." Adam moaned.
"Your mother's right," Darrell agreed.
"Adam, you can always swim when I get home," Haden pointed out.
"Well, I guess I don't have a choice, then," Adam reluctantly agreed.
"That's right," Darrell said as he patted Adam's shoulder.
"Hey, what if Uncle George came over?" Adam asked.
"George is welcome to come over and join you in a swim," Darrell said. "But don't bug him about coming over just so you can swim."
"Alright, Dad, I won't," Adam agreed.
"One other thing," Rita said. "You're not to leave the property without permission from your dad or me."
"Even to Jon's or Justin's?" Adam asked.
"Even to Jon's or Justin's," Rita said.
"Alright," Adam agreed.
Adam wanted to have Jarred hang out with them while Kyle was in class, but Rita quickly ruled that out. She believed Adam and his friends to be mature enough to be home alone, but was uncomfortable having them watch Jarred, although he wasn't that much younger than Adam. Jarred wasn't very disappointed, since he would be going to church camp.
Haden decided to send his resume to several school districts in the area. He felt there might be some opposition by the Sparks School Board to hiring him. He knew Steve would vote to hire him, but worried that the other school board members wouldn't.
When the night of Sparks School Board meeting arrived, Haden decided not to attend, and Steve agreed that it might be best. Steve pointed out that very few of the applicants ever attended. The meeting was progressing smoothly, until it came to the approval of the hiring of Haden and, as expected, Shannon Pendleton objected.
"Is there a reason you don't wish to approve the hiring of this applicant recommended by our superintendent?" Steve asked.
"Steve, I think you know," Shannon stated.
Although he knew what Shannon was getting at, Steve asked, "Shannon, what do you know about this applicant that we don't?"
"Alright, I'll just put it out there ..." Shannon angrily replied. "I've heard that this Harrington kid is queer."
"Shannon, this Harrington kid is an adult, who is well qualified," Steve countered. "And I also know that we could be in a lawsuit, if there's evidence of any discrimination... and you, of all people, know that this school district can't afford such a lawsuit."
"This school district can't allow the hiring of a person who might molest one of our students either," Shannon argued.
"Do you have information that one of our applicants is a child molester?" Sally McAlester, another board member, asked.
"No, but I've heard that Haden Harrington is gay, and that's all I need to know," Shannon said.
"Hold on there," Steve said. "Are you aware that the Child Molestation Research and Prevention Institute research said that 90% of child molesters target children in their network of family and friends, and the majority of these are men married to women? Most child molesters, therefore, are not gay as much of the religious-right rhetoric suggests."
"I don't believe that," Shannon said.
"Here's the documentation," Steve said as he handed the reference to Shannon and a copy to the other board members.
"I just don't think this is correct," Shannon objected.
"I've cited my sources, why don't you share your sources that gays are all child molesters," Steve said with a 'got you' smile.
"I didn't come prepared to prove my point," Shannon said.
"Why not, you came prepared to vote against a qualified applicant just because you suspected he may be gay," Steve countered.
When the board got around to voting, Shannon was the only vote against Haden. Even Stacy Landers voted yes, after she realized the only no vote would be Shannon's. Haden received other offers, but wanted to teach at Sparks.
Adam began sharing meal preparations along with Haden and Rita. He had become quite good with basic recipes, and often tried new ones. He and Justin were also helping Ray and his boys with the cattle. They refused to take pay, but Ray insisted. Adam and Justin finally agreed, but would donate the money to the food pantry.
"Why are all of these vegetables on my counters?" Rita asked when she came home from work early one afternoon.
"They're from our garden," Adam said. "I need someone to drive me to donate them to the food pantry."
"That's a lot of vegetables," Rita said.
"That's what's left over from the ones I put in our freezer."
"You did this yourself?"
"Yes, Mom, I'm not a kid anymore. I also cooked dinner."
"Goodness, you've been busy. What did you cook?"
"I have a pot roast in the crockpot. Hi, Haden, I'm glad you're home. Will you drive me to the food pantry?"
"It looks like there's plenty of food on the counter," Haden joked.
"Your brother has been busy," Rita said. "He picked vegetables from the garden and even froze some for us. And he made a pot roast."
"I'm proud of you," Haden said. "Let's get these down to the food pantry before they close."
"Thanks, Haden," Adam said. "Oh, Mom, I invited Amy and Tony to dinner."
"That was thoughtful of you," Rita said. "I'll bake a cake while you boys are gone. What are you putting those vegetables in?"
"I saw a couple of big cardboard boxes in the garage," Adam said. "I'll get them."
Needless to say, the volunteers at the food pantry were delighted to receive all of the fresh vegetables from the Harrington's garden. They were also surprised when Adam donated almost $100 from his earnings for helping Ray with the cattle.
"Tony and Amy are here," Adam said as he and Haden pulled into the driveway.
"Yeah, I can see that they are," Haden said with a chuckle.
"Okay, I guess you can," Adam admitted as he gave his brother a playful punch.
"Adam, this is delicious," Amy said as the family enjoyed the meal. "I can't believe my little brother is preparing meals now."
"He did the complete meal," Haden boasted.
"No, Mom made the cake," Adam said.
"Another one?" Tony asked when Amy's expression changed.
"Another what?" Adam asked.
"Another contraction," Amy said. "I could be in early labor."
"Maybe we should get you to the hospital," Tony said with concern.
"No, it's too early," Amy said.
"Have you finally decided on a name?" Darrell asked.
"Yeah, we decided on Molly Renee," Tony said.
"I like it," Rita remarked.
Later in the evening, Amy said, "Tony, we need to go."
"Go home?" Tony asked.
"No, it's time to go to the hospital," Amy said.
"Oh, my God!" Tony exclaimed. "Somebody call Mom and Dad."
"I'll call Debbie, and we'll meet you at the hospital," Rita said. "Haden, I'll call you when Molly gets here, and you can bring Adam to see her."
"When?" Adam wanted to know. "Why can't we go now?"
"It could be a while," Darrell said. "There's usually a lot of waiting time."
Molly Renee arrived at 4:06 a.m. Rita sent Haden a text of the announcement, and asked him to bring Adam to the hospital after breakfast.
"I wonder why Mom hasn't called," Adam said as he was busy making toast.
"Mom sent a text that Amy had the baby, and we're to go see her after breakfast."
"Hurry with those omelets, then."
"We have plenty of time."
"She's beautiful," Adam said as he viewed his niece in the nursery.
"Yes, she is," Tony agreed as he stood next to Adam. "She looks like her mother. You grandparents should go home and get some rest."
"We will, and you too," Debbie said.
"I'm going home soon," Tony said. "But I'm not sure I can rest after seeing my daughter."
Haden knew something was not right when he arrived home from class and saw Adam sitting on the front porch with the dogs; so he didn't bother parking in the garage. Adam met him before he had completely exited his vehicle.
"We have to go to the hospital," Adam said before Haden could even say a word.
"Are you hurt or sick?" Haden asked in a panic.
"No, but Uncle George is in the hospital. I called dad and asked if I could ride my bike there, but he said to wait until you got home."
"Did he have an accident?" Haden asked as they drove to the hospital.
"No, he called and said he was admitted because he was having a lot of pain. He asked me to take care of his animals."
"Did he say what was causing the pain?"
"No, he said he had to hang up because the surgeon was there."
"Hi guys," Mary said, when the two entered George's hospital room. "George is in radiology."
"Do they know what's wrong?" Haden asked.
"Dr. Parker is sure it's his gallbladder," Mary said. "Dr. Parker is the surgeon who saw him. He has tentatively scheduled him for surgery in the morning. He'll know more after the sonogram."
"How serious is this?" Adam asked.
"Adam, remember Grandma Grace had hers out, and she's still going strong," Haden pointed out.
"Is she ever," Mary agreed.
"Hi boys," George, who appeared in good spirits, said when he was returned to his room.
"Uncle George, are you okay?" Adam asked.
"The pain is pretty much gone now," George said. "Maybe I can just go home now."
"Dream on," the plump but pleasant nurse, who was taking his vital signs said with a chuckle. "If you have gallstones they're still there."
"Yes, they are," a tall handsome doctor, who had entered the room said.
"But the pain is mostly gone now, Dr. Parker," George said.
"That's typical of gallstones," Dr. Parker said. "I'm sure we can do laparoscopic surgery, but occasionally we have to do open surgery."
"Yeah, they had to do open surgery on Grandma," Haden said. "But she did great anyway."
"That's right, young man," Dr. Parker agreed. "The major difference is there's a longer recovery time. If we don't have to do open surgery, you'll likely get to go home the next morning after surgery. And you should be able to resume normal activities in a week to ten days."
"How much do I feed Callie and Dakota?" Adam asked after Dr. Parker left the room.
"George, Adam doesn't need to go over to feed them," Mary protested. "I can feed them."
"I don't mind," Adam said.
"I know you don't, but there's no need for you to go over when I'm already there," Mary said. This confirmed Haden's suspicion that Mary was pretty much living with George. The smile on Adam's face indicated that he also got it.
"Uncle George, I'll be here tomorrow to see you, if I can get a ride here," Adam said as he and Haden left for home.
"Adam, tomorrow's Friday and I don't have Friday classes," Haden said. "I can drive you."
"Oh, I forgot that tomorrow's Friday," Adam admitted.
As expected, George's surgery went well, and he was discharged the next morning. He was back swimming with the boys a week later.
It was just short of two weeks when Amy Grace Harrington arrived. Dustin was very proud of his little sister, and wanted to do everything for her but change dirty diapers. Of course, Grace was happy to have another grandchild, especially one with her name.
The summer was passing all too soon for the "Three Musketeers," as Adam, Justin, and Jon were often called. The boys would be entering their first year of high school, and were all apprehensive about the change. Of course, Amy had to tell them how nervous Haden had been about his first day of high school.
A large swim and cookout party was planned the weekend before the start of school. Well over 100 people attended the event, including the two youngest members of the family.
As soon as Haden's summer classes ended, he began preparing lesson plans for his classes. He had about 20 ready by the time school started. Although he was well prepared, he was still nervous about running a class on his own. He quickly realized he had made a mistake by arriving much too early his first day... this only gave him time to worry about how it would go. He rearranged things in his classroom before he decided to go to the faculty lounge; while there, he received a text message from Darlene Compton, his mentor for his internship, wishing him well and assuring him he would do well.
Haden's schedule included science classes for grades 6-8, and a class for gifted students also in grades 6-8. The gifted class was smaller, and would allow for special science projects.
The teachers who had gathered in the faculty lounge gave Haden a warm greeting. He had met them during faculty meetings, but still hadn't put their names with their faces. Haden went back to his class before the first student arrived and remembered that he probably should write his name of the board. It seemed strange to write Mr. Harrington.
The first day of class was spent discussing expectations and getting to know the students. It all went well until third hour with the eighth grade. When Haden asked the students to introduce themselves, the boy in the last seat in the second row said, "Puddin Tain, ask me again and I'll tell you the same."
"Alright Puddin, there's an empty seat here up front," Haden said. "I want you to move up here."
"I'm comfortable right here," Puddin said.
"Let's get one thing straight," Haden said. "A classroom isn't a democracy; you don't get a vote in this. A classroom is under the teacher's control, with the approval of the administrator. You may either move up front or sit in the principal's office."
"Do you think you can move me?"
"I know I can, but that's not my job. That's a job for the school resources officer."
Puddin picked up his book bag and reluctantly moved to the front seat.
"Thank you, Puddin," Haden said. "Now do you want to tell me your name, or do you stand by telling me again that it's Puddin Tain?"
"Alright, it's Brody," Brody responded.
"Look Brody, I don't want to fight with you. I'm here to teach, and you're here to learn. If you don't like science, we can work on that; and if you don't like yourself, we have counselors for that. As long as you're here for the right reasons, we'll get along just fine and this incident never happened."
"Mr. Harrington, could I talk to you?" Brody asked after class.
"Of course you may," Haden said.
"I want to apologize for the way I acted. I tried that Puddin Tang thing on a new teacher last year and got a big laugh out of it. She laughed too, and I thought it would be fun to do it again."
"Brody, I don't mind if we have fun in class, but this was serious business. Now, let's forget this ever happened."
"Thank you. Mr. Harrington, are you related to Adam Harrington?"
"Yes, Adam is my little brother. He's in high school this year."
"I know him from basketball practice. If he could shoot free throws, he'd be the teams' high scorer."
"That's probably why he got permission to use the outdoor court at the Methodist camp across the highway from us."
"Brody, I need to visit with you," Haden said a few weeks later.
"What did I do?" Brody questioned.
"Don't panic," Haden said with a laugh. "You currently have a 96 percent average, and I think you probably should be in the gifted class."
"I don't know," Brody responded. "That'd be a lot of work."
"It'd be more challenging, but I think you can handle it. Take this form home and talk to your parents about it. If they agree, have them sign it, and we'll move you to the gifted class."
"I'm in foster care, and they don't care about anything but the money the state gives them. I'm not sure I'd have time anyway, since I have to help my foster dad with his lawn care business."
"Give me a few days, and I'll see what I can do. You'd better go, or you'll be late for your next class."
"Mom, do you know Brody Proctor?" Haden asked as he helped prepare dinner.
"Yes, he's one of our foster kids, is he in your class?" Rita asked.
"He is," Haden said. "I talked to him today about moving him to my gifted class."
"Oh, that's good to hear. He's had some problems in the past."
"Well, when I gave him the form to take home for a signature, he said his foster parents only care about the state money. He also has to help his foster dad with a lawn care business."
"I'll check this out first thing tomorrow. It's so difficult to find foster parents. Stacy is his caseworker, and she's still learning."
"Mom, we have an extra bedroom; maybe he could live here. Kyle and I are saving for a down payment on our own place, so I won't be here much longer," Haden said.
During dinner, the family discussed the possibility of Brody living with them. The consensus was that he would be welcome. "Remember, it would be only if I can't find another foster home," Rita said.
"Hey, I might get a little brother," Adam said.
"You might be the big brother of the house, since Kyle and I are saving for a down payment on our own house," Haden said.
"Son, Rita and I talked to Steve and Linda, and we're going to try and help you with that," Darrell said. "We talked to Ray, and he has agreed to sell us five acres the other side of our property. We can build you a house, and the material would be at cost."
"Wow, that's great!" Haden remarked.
"We're buying the land from Ray and Lois next month," Darrell explained. "Rita and I have an investment that matures in the spring, and we'll have the money for the house then."
"I don't want you spending your savings on us," Haden said.
"No Son, this is money that Darrell and I used as an investment; and it's separate from our retirement," Rita explained. "We helped Tony and Amy with their house, and we want to do the same for you. And when the time comes, we'll help Adam."
Shortly after the final bell rang the next day, Rita appeared at Haden's classroom with Brody. "Haden, Brody will be living with us for a while," she said. "I have to go back to the office and finish some paperwork; so Brody will be riding home with you. I already took his things to the house and put them in his room. Maybe you and Adam can help him put his things away."
"Sure, Mom," Haden said. "Welcome to the family, Brody. Here at school, I'm Mr. Harrington; but once we leave, I'm Haden."
"Thank you, Mr. Harrington," Brody said.
"Brody, you get to live with us!" Adam remarked when Haden picked him up at the high school.
"At least for now," Brody said.
"Maybe forever... like me," Adam said.
"Huh ...," Brody said.
"I was fostered, and then adopted," Adam said.
"I didn't know that," Brody said.
"Yeah, he showed up like a stray dog, so we had to keep him," Haden joked.
"And I made this family better," Adam countered.
"Yeah, actually you did," Haden agreed.
After Adam explained how he became a Harrington, Brody said, "Wow, you're lucky."
"How did you end up in foster care?" Adam asked.
"Adam, maybe he doesn't want to talk about it," Haden said.
"No, that okay," Brody said. "My parents and little sister died from carbon monoxide poisoning. I was hospitalized when it happened. I was sent into foster care because I have no other family. I know I'll probably never be adopted, since most people want babies."
"This is home," Haden announced as he pulled into the driveway.
"Wow, it's nice!" Brody exclaimed.
"Why don't you two go upstairs and put Brody's things away while I start dinner," Haden suggested.
"What's for dinner?" Adam asked when the two came back downstairs.
"Steaks, baked potatoes, salad, and corn on the cob," Haden said.
"Wow, I never got steaks at the Grahams," Brody said.
"Maybe they couldn't afford steaks," Haden offered.
"Oh, they ate steaks; but all I got was a sandwich," Brody said.
"Man, that pisses me off," Adam said.
"Well, I'm out of there now," Brody said.
"Do you need help with anything?" Adam asked.
"No, I have the potatoes in the oven and the salad made," Haden said. "I'll put the corn and steaks on the grill when Mom and Dad get home."
"Then Brody and I are going over to the Methodist Camp and shoot some baskets," Adam said.
"Alright," Haden agreed. "When you see Mom and Dad arrive home, come on back... and make sure you have your phone."
Rita and Darrell arrived home simultaneously. "Where're Adam and Brody?" Rita asked.
"They're over at the Methodist Camp shooting baskets," Haden said. "I told them to come home when they saw you. I'm going to put the steaks and corn on the grill now."
"I'll do it," Darrell offered.
"Mom, Brody said the Grahams would eat steak and give him a sandwich when I mentioned we were having steaks," Haden said.
"Those bastards," Darrell said as he headed out to the grill.
"I'll see that they never foster again," Rita said.
"Another thing," Haden said. "Don't you think we should get a phone for Brody?"
"I do, and I got one for him," Rita said with a smile.
"Hi, Mom," Adam said when he and Brody returned. "Where's Dad?"
"He's grilling the steaks," Rita said.
"Come on, Brody," Adam said. "I'll introduce you to Dad."
"Mom, Brody seems like a really good kid," Haden said. "Is there a chance you and Dad could adopt him?"
"It's funny that you asked that," Rita said. "Darrell and I talked about that when we met for lunch today."
"And we decided we will, if that's what Brody wants."
"I'm sure that would make Adam happy. They seem to be getting along great."
"That was delicious," Brody said after enjoying his dinner.
"I'm glad you enjoyed it," Darrell said.
"Brody, lets clear the table, and then we'll go feed the animals," Adam said.
"Go on and take care of the animals; I'll clear the table," Haden offered.
"When you finish, come back in and we'll have a family discussion," Rita said.
"Those are some beautiful horses," Brody said when the two came back into the house.
"Yes, they are," Rita agreed. "Brody, we're all happy that you're here with us. But we need to have a discussion about the family and rules."
"Alright," Brody nervously said.
"Don't be nervous, Son," Darrell said.
"Brody, I picked up a phone for you," Rita said. "We'll talk about the rules later, but the first thing is you're not to have it on during school hours."
"Wow! My own phone," Brody remarked. "Thank you."
"You're welcome," Darrell said. "We don't have a lot of rules, but the big one is that your education comes first. You can participate in school activities as long as you keep your grades up."
"Alright," Brody agreed. "Oh, how do I address you?"
"You can call us Mr. and Mrs. Harrington, Darrell and Rita, or Mom and Dad," Rita said. "The choice is yours."
"I think I'd like to call you Mom and Dad, the same as Adam," Brody said.
"We'd like that," Darrell said.
"How long will I get to live here?" Brody asked.
"How would you like to live here permanently?" Rita asked.
"I'd like that," Brody said with a broad smile.
"So would I," Adam quickly said.
"How do you like your room?" Haden asked.
"I love it," Brody said. "I can't believe I have my own bathroom."
"Brody, I noticed that your clothes are a little small for you," Rita said. "We'll go shopping for new ones tomorrow."
"I'll go with you," Haden said. "I want to get Brody a laptop. It'll help him in some of his science assignments."
"Thank you," Brody said. "But Adam said I could use his."
"You will likely be doing your homework at the same time," Rita said. "Haden, we'll buy his laptop, but come along and help Brody select the right laptop."
"Then I'll get his printer," Haden offered.
"Alright," Rita said.
"Could I call Perry and ask them to meet us, so Brody can meet his other brother?" Adam asked.
"Why don't you text him instead, in case the baby is sleeping," Rita said.
"I got a text from Perry, he wants us to stop back by their house," Adam later said. "He said he'd grill burgers for lunch."
"Tell him thanks and we'll be there," Darrell said.
Brody soon settled in as the newest member of the Harrington family.