We called upon Bishop James once again for a marriage ceremony for Daniel and Brooke. There wasn't as much time to plan this service, as it needed to be performed before Dan left us, and his health was fading fast. He had been lucky and had a few good days while we were gone for our civil union, but we all knew that those days would be getting fewer and farther between now.
I could hardly believe that Edan and I were now legally joined together as life partners. I knew we weren't recognized legally in our own state, but that would come, I was sure of it. I just hoped we both lived long enough to see it. I had every confidence that our boys would see it happen nationally in their lifetimes. I still do actually.
This time the wedding took place in the Bishop's church, Trinity Cathedral. It wasn't the largest church in town, but it was easily one of the most beautiful. The building was constructed of rough-cut limestone imported from Ohio quarries and had incredible stained glass windows. The building was over one hundred years old, but had been modernized very carefully to preserve the 19th century beauty.
We had expected a small group of people for the wedding, but to our surprise, the pews of the church were nearly full. It seemed that Gramps, and now Grandma, were very well liked within the parish. Dozens of people came out to witness Reynolds' oldest new grandson get married. It made quite an impression on us all, which we discussed during the reception. Dan and Karen, Edan and I, as well as Janice and Beth were made to feel so welcome along with all of the boys that we all decided to start attending the church on a regular basis. Gramps and his friends were delighted to hear of our decision.
The people of the church proved their friendship to us two weeks later when Dan Walborn slipped into a coma and passed away the next morning. We were all devastated by his loss, even though we had been prepared for it. The church members stepped in and helped with food for our families, much more than we could possibly eat, and even gave a place in the church cemetery for Dan, despite the fact that he had not had a chance to be confirmed as a member of the congregation. Edan and I insisted that the church accept a donation to the cemetery upkeep fund for their generosity.
When the work on the cabin was finished, Brendan and Derek refused to accept the gift of the cottage. They said they were a little too uneasy about the location now, somewhat understandably. They discussed an idea with Edan and I that we told them was very thoughtful, however. They were aware of the fact that Karen and Peter had been unable to stay in their own house since Dan's death, so they opted to give the cottage to Karen. Naturally, the two younger boys were overjoyed at the prospect of being even closer to each other. I failed to understand their joy since they had slept over with one another every night for the past two months.
Brooke and Daniel stayed in the Walborn house, and Karen and Peter moved into the new cottage. We were all helping them pack and move, which was no easy chore for any of us. Their home was filled with things that reminded us all, and especially Karen, of Dan. Janice, Brendan, Ephraim, and I were helping pack the house. Edan, Brooke, Daniel, and Derek were at the cottage unpacking. Karen and Peter were going back and forth between the two. We kept telling Beth that she wasn't supposed to be working with us, but it seemed every time I turned around, I saw her moving something. It was mostly little stuff, but I gave her my very best evil eye glare every time. She would duck her head and pout as she went to sit on the sofa again.
It was on my fifth trip into the house that I noticed that she wasn't misbehaving for a change. Instead, she was sitting there with a terrible look of pain on her face as she clutched her stomach. I'm no doctor, but the signs were pretty obvious. She looked up as I walked in.
"Cameron, can you ask Janice to come here, please?"
"I'll get her for you, I believe she's in the kitchen," I told her. "They don't need her in there anyway. She keeps slowing them down asking what everything is and does."
"She's going to smack you for that one when I tell her," Beth grinned in spite of her obvious pain. I smiled as I walked quickly into the kitchen, but to my surprise, I found only Ephraim.
"Son, Aunt Beth is about to have the baby, do you know where Aunt Janice is?" I asked quietly.
"I'll get her, Dad," he assured me. "AUNT JANICE COME QUICK!!!! IT'S THE BABY!!!" he screamed as he ran from the room.
"Subtlety is not your strong suit, son," I laughed as he disappeared up the stairs. Within seconds, it sounded as if the house were going to fall in around us as everyone in the house came running to Beth's side.
"OH MY GOD, BETH, WHAT DO I DO? WHAT DO YOU NEED?" Janice bellowed.
"First, I need you to calm down, just in case this is another episode of false labor," Beth whispered.
"You're not in false labor this time, Beth," Karen pointed out. She indicated the floor and added, "Your water just broke."
"EEEEWWWW!!!!!!" Peter squealed.
"You made a bigger mess on this floor than that when you decided to show up," Karen told her son.
"MOOM!!" the poor boy blushed profusely.
"Can I get a ride to the hospital, Cameron?" Beth asked me.
"Don't you want Janice to take you?" I questioned as I turned back to face her.
"I would if she hadn't just passed out," Beth complained. Sure enough, Janice was out cold on the floor behind the sofa.
"Karen, help me get her to the car, Bren, you and the boys get Janice and follow us," I ordered.
"How are we going to wake her up?" Peter was asking as we left the house.
I never heard a response, but I would have paid good money to see it. Janice arrived at the hospital soaked to the skin. She was literally dripping wet.
"As soon as my son is born, I'm going to kill yours," she growled as she stormed into the delivery room. I walked into the hallway to see Brendan holding his sides and laughing.
"I was pulling the car up to the door," my brother defended before I could say anything. "That was all Ephraim's idea."
"Well, that's how they wake people in the movies," Ephraim pointed out. "It worked, too." At that point, he too started giggling. "Dad, Aunt Janice has a potty mouth."
"Somehow, I'm not surprised," I managed to get out before I too started laughing.
Karen had been right. It was not false labor, but it still lasted for four hours. Finally, Ragland Wehrmann-Prevett made his debut. The girls' talent for names had not improved any. Ephraim and Peter promptly nicknamed him Ragdoll. Brendan suggested that Andy might be a more suitable name for public use.
Ray Banks and his two sons, Reynold the third and Todd had arrived the day before the baby was born, so Ray had to start work right away. He asked his uncle and new aunt to find him a home while he took care of the law firm. Just as they began to look, a notice went up that the farm across the road from ours was going to be sold at auction. It had two small houses on it. To my surprise, Gramps and Ray went in together and bought it. Ray and his boys moved into one house, and Gramps and Grandma took the other. By the end of July, I was convinced that I never wanted another person I knew to move again. If they did, I certainly wasn't going to help. We could have hired movers, of course, but we all thought that was so impersonal. Besides, while it was tiring, it was also a lot of fun getting to spend that much time together building our ever-growing family.
Ray was a really nice guy who looked enough like Gramps to have been his son instead of nephew. He was a year or two older than I was, and his hair was just beginning to show some gray at the temples. His boys had no trouble at all fitting into our clan. They immediately grasped the dynamics of the family. Gramps and Grandma were the easiest acquisition needless to say. Edan and I were instantly uncles, Janice, Beth, and Karen all became aunts. Todd, who was four years old, wasn't sure how to classify Brendan and Derek, but his big brother, Trey had no problems with it.
"Those two are studs," he mused quietly, apparently thinking no one could hear him.
"EEWW," Ephraim moaned. "They're not hot, Derek's my brother and Brendan's like the missing link."
"You want to explain that, Rimmie?" Brendan demanded.
"Not that kind of missing link," Ephraim tried to explain. "It's just that sometimes you're more like a big brother, and sometimes you're more like an uncle."
"You're both," Peter piped up. "I guess that makes you a bruncle, or maybe an unther."
"Thanks, I think," Brendan replied.
"Unthew Bwendan?" Todd asked innocently.
"Yeah, little dude?" Brendan responded.
"Yup, youw an unthaw," the boy giggled. "You just answewed to it."
"He's got you there, unther Brendan," Derek laughed.
Trey seemed relieved that no one had made a big deal out of his slip of the tongue. I wanted to make sure that the boy understood that he was safe here, though, because I had seen the moment of fear on his face when he had realized that he'd been overheard.
"Guys, I think we should do some real introductions for our new family," I told everyone.
"I'm Cameron and this is my life partner Edan, that means he's my boyfriend. This is my little brother Brendan and his boyfriend Derek."
"Watch that little brother comment," Brendan growled, but grinned as he did it.
"I'm Ephraim, and this is my boyfriend, Peter," Ephraim introduced.
"You guys are boyfriends?" Trey whispered. It was hard to tell which emotion was stronger, his excitement at finding other boys like himself, or his disappointment at learning that they were already taken.
"Yeah, and don't worry, the kids at school won't give you any problems," Peter added. "They all know about me and Rimmer."
"Ephraim and I," Karen and I corrected simultaneously.
Peter ducked his head as Derek called out, "Busted, little bro."
Once Grandma was settled into her new home, she told me that she had never been happier in her life. She had always loved taking care of kids of all ages and had wanted children of her own. She now not only had kids by her adoption of Janice, Scooter, and I but she also had more grandchildren than she had ever dreamed possible. Gramps was just as delirious. He was as happy as the proverbial clam teaching all of his grandsons how to fish in the stocked pond that was on his farm.
To our surprise, two of the boys from Ephraim and Peter's school started coming over to spend more time with them during the summer. After Jack's outburst on Peter's first day back to school following the New Year's incident, we were all glad to see that he was now just fine with the idea that Peter and Ephraim were a couple. His twin brother, Zack, might have had something more to do with their coming over so often, though. It would seem the wonderful Uncle Tony wasn't the only gay member of the family. Zack had seen Trey in the mall with Ephraim and Peter, and according to my eyewitness, Derek, the boy had practically drooled on himself. Jack and Zack started hanging out with our boys immediately afterwards.
A couple of weeks after Andy was born, I got a message inviting Edan and I to eat lunch in town with Janice and Beth. They had listed me on the birth certificate as his father as they had said they would, and wanted to discuss arrangements for us to have time with Andy. Edan would meet them at the restaurant since he was teaching a summer class.
I was to drive in and meet the three of them. On the way out of the house, I decided to make sure that Gramps and Grandma weren't overdosing themselves with boys. When I got there, Gramps was cleaning fish with Jack and Todd. Todd wasn't the most helpful, but he thought fish guts were cooler than cooking. When I went in the house, I found Grandma smiling from ear to ear as she taught four boys her secret double chocolate chip cookie recipe. Needless to say, I got a little distracted myself, which made me a little late for the lunch appointment.
I grimaced as I saw the flashing lights in my rearview mirror. I couldn't dispute the fact that I was speeding; I just had hoped I wouldn't get caught. I pulled over, but to my surprise, the siren blared past me. Before I could get back into the main traffic flow, several more emergency vehicles roared past. As I listened, I could hear sirens coming from every direction. At that moment, a sharp pain clutched my chest. It was more intense than the gunshot I had received on New Year's Day. Something terrible had happened.
The flashing glare of the lights seemed to intensify as I got closer to the restaurant. I grabbed my cell phone and tried to call Edan. I got the out of service error message. I got the same thing when I tried Janice and Beth. I punched Brendan's number next. Derek answered and I quickly told them to meet me at the restaurant. I knew something had occurred that would affect us all terribly, but I couldn't tell what it was. I just knew that there was now an emptiness within me, eating me from the inside out. I could only pray that I was wrong.