Steve Shay was there to meet us at the airport when we arrived. He had driven my van to pick us up and was waiting at the arrival gate when we strolled into the common area. Uncle Steve was greeted warmly by everyone and followed us to the baggage claim area. Once we had all of our belongings, we followed him out to the van, loaded everything into it, and set off for home.
On the ride back, the boys were busy telling him all about our trip. They gave him a detailed account of our time in Arizona and in Texas, and they even informed him about the incident with Andrew. Steve was concerned about this last experience and advised me he would contact the authorities in Houston, to make sure things were being adjudicated appropriately. He announced he was planning to represent Andrew’s interests in this matter and would make sure the offending individual would not be allowed to accept a plea-bargain that didn’t include a suitable punishment, which meant prison time. He wanted to make sure the guy could never be able to do that to another child.
When we arrived home, Aunt Sally was at the house waiting for us. She had been taking care of everything while we were gone, to make sure nothing happened to the house or our belongings while we were away. Sally also picked up our mail and there was a whole tote full of it sitting just inside the foyer. It looked like it would take me some time to get through that mess. In addition to everything else she had done, it was quite obvious from the wonderful smell filling the house that Sally had also prepared us a meal.
“What is that delicious aroma?” I asked, while sniffing the air.
“You and the boys go wash up and you’ll soon discover what it’s from,” she informed me, while smiling broadly.
“Steve, go call Mary and have her come over,” I quickly advised him. “I want you both to join us for dinner as well.”
“That’s not necessary,” Steve countered, “I’m sure Mary’s already started our meal. Besides, this is for you and your family.”
“Oh, there’s plenty enough for everyone,” Sally advised him.
“So go call Mary and ask her to join us,” I insisted.
Steve did, and it just so happened that Mary was just getting ready to start their dinner, so she quickly agreed to drive over and join us instead. The boys and I were just coming down from cleaning up when Aunt Mary pulled into our driveway. The boys raced out to greet her and escorted her into the dining room, as I helped Sally bring the food to the table.
We had a wonderful meal, consisting of roast beef, roast potatoes, carrots, a tossed salad and chocolate pudding for dessert, and we all thanked Sally for her tremendous effort. While we were eating, the boys filled their ‘Aunts’ in about our trip and both women were getting a kick out of our adventures, until they heard about what happened to Andrew at the Space Center. Steve reassured everyone he would take care of everything concerning that matter and we all went outside to enjoy the beautiful evening.
The boys went off to play a game of kickball, while we adults chatted some more. The women asked me more details about the situation with Andrew and I gave them a full accounting of what had transpired. Sally asked how Andrew reacted to the incident and how he’s been acting since. I told her all I could, stating I thought he had handled it quite well. She advised me to keep an eye on him until we were ready to leave for England and that I should call her if I noticed anything unusual. I thanked her and we went on to discuss other things.
After that, I told them about Mark, our college student waiter, and explained he would be coming to work for me next summer. They all laughed and said they had expected that, from the first moment I had mentioned him. Then I told them about Nick.
“Are you going to bring the strays home from England too,” Steve teased.
“I will try to resist the temptation, but I can’t make any promises,” I joked back.
Steve also gave me some advice about how to handle the situation with Nick’s parents, once Nick arrived here, so I would protect myself legally. Sally then offered her assistance, if I needed help with anything concerning Nick. She graciously volunteered to do whatever she could to aid me, whether it meant helping me keep Nick here or reuniting him with his family. I thanked them both, before we moved to the next topic.
I was still filling them in on some of the finer points of our trip when the boys returned, having finished their impromptu game. At this point we switched our discussion to our trip to England and Steve quickly told us about his favorite places, from when he and his wife had vacationed there. Of course his wife had different favorite places, so we made a mental list of things to look for. It was approaching 9:00 p.m. when our guests announced they would have to leave, since they had to work the next day. We bid them all good night, thanked them once more for all of their help, and walked them to their vehicles. We all waved at them as they drove off.
Before we went back into the house, I announced I’d have to recruit volunteers to do some of the chores that needed to get done. The six little ones offered to rinse off the dishes and load the dishwasher, before I even asked. I thanked them and they went off to do their job. Next, I asked for volunteers to tackle the enormous mountain of laundry we would have once we unpacked and Pat, Carlos, Trey and Dion quickly informed me they would take care of that. The next group would have to help me with preparing the meals before we left again and Danny, Brandon, Dustin and Kevin volunteered to help with that duty, since they’d been spending time learning the basics of cooking from me. They informed me they thought this would be a good opportunity for them to practice their newly acquired skills.
At that point Ricky looked at me and asked what he could do. I thought about it for only a minute, before I suggested he could help me take Jay home and then do the grocery shopping tomorrow. He seemed satisfied with his job, so I sent all the boys up to unpack, put their things away and bring their dirty clothes down to the laundry room. After that it would be bath time and then we could relax until they wanted to go to sleep.
After Ricky and I returned from taking Jay back to his parents, I went into the office and started sorting through the mail, while the boys set about their tasks. By the time they came back downstairs, I had everything sorted into categories and was ready to join them. We all went into the television room, but I told them I had some mail to share with them before we watched anything.
First, I had two letters from Mark and another from Mr. and Mrs. Spence. A few of the boys had forgotten who they were, so the other boys reminded them of the older couple we had met on the flight to Arizona. Suddenly, it was as if a light bulb went off for them and they began talking excitedly, wondering what the Spences had to say. Eager to end their curiosity and interested in discovering what each had to say, I quickly read the three letters. Mark’s first letter was mostly a thank you for the fun times he’d had with us and for the invitation to come to our home next summer. The second letter was to ask Danny and Brandon about the second half of their vacation. I handed them the letter, which caused both of them to blush, and I knew I wouldn’t have to remind them to respond to it.
The Spences’ letter also inquired about our vacation, but they also asked if they could come visit us some time. The boys were really quite excited about their request, since they had taken quite a shine to this couple, and each one of them wanted to write a letter in reply. I told them they could all write what they wished and I would mail them off a few at a time. This seemed to satisfy them and they would start their various letters tomorrow. Tonight, however, we settled in to watch a movie.
Before very long, I saw pairs cuddling up with each other and the four little ones found their way over to me, either sitting on me or snuggled up against me. I also saw Cole and Graham move over to sit on each side of Ricky, leaning up against him, and I concluded they felt bad that Ricky seemed to be the only one without a partner at that point. Once he saw that Cole and Graham were going to sit with him, he was as happy as anyone else there and when the movie was over, we called it a night.
Sammy and Andrew asked to sleep with me, which I had no problem with, while Jordan and Nicky joined the terrible trio in the Jungle room. Before long, all of the boys were asleep and Andrew looked as relaxed and peaceful as I had ever seen him. Maybe he would make it through this without any long-term negative effects. After all, we interrupted the guy before he really had a chance to do anything and Andrew had seen large penises before, with the older boys running around nude so much. I certainly hoped that would be the case and Andrew would have no trauma attached to the experience. It would have been much different and far worse, if the guy had actually penetrated him, but I now suspected he’d be fine.
The next few days were a blur of activity. We were all busy doing chores, writing our letters, having some free time and planning for our next adventure. I had spoken to each of my older children, confirming the details of our joint vacation, and everyone was quite excited about the trip. I had made all of the arrangements, with their approval, of course, but much of what we were going to do there would be a surprise to them too. They had some idea what we would be doing, but the order and exact details would still be a mystery. I think, by now, everyone was used to my propensity to want to surprise them on these trips and they accepted that fact. It always added to my satisfaction by being able to see the pleased and surprised expressions on their faces when they discovered what I had planned or learned what we were going to see.
I also called Nick to see how he was doing, now that we weren’t there, and he was fairly upbeat about his situation. He said the O’Haras were very nice, but kind of boring, although he had found a pool nearby and told me there were lots of cute boys who hung out there. I think that was his signal to me that he would do fine until we returned and he was able to rejoin us. I know most teenage boys are controlled by their hormones, but Nick seems to have more than his share of testosterone, so I knew I would have to have a little chat with him about this, once we were together again.
Over the next few days we finished our preparations for England and each of the boys wrote to the Spences, some more than once, and Danny, Brandon, and I all wrote letters to Mark as well. It was just about time for us to leave again, when we received our responses. The first letter came from Mark, addressed to all of us, so I decided to read the letter to everyone at once.
Hi, Pop and all the rest of you guys,
I was really happy when I received your letters. It’s been kind of lonely around here since you all left. It never really bothered me before, but since I saw how much fun I could have with your family, I really have felt kind of alone now. I’ll be all right, though, as long as you keep writing to me. I can’t wait until next summer, when I can come and join you.
Business has been really good at the restaurant and I’ve been making quite a bit of money. I’m saving it like I should and I’m really getting anxious for classes to start again. I’m going to switch a couple of my courses, so I’ll be more prepared to do my job for you next summer, so don’t worry, Pop. I’m also going to ask my advisor to tutor me on the types of things I’ll need to know in order to work for you too. I’ll do a good job, I promise.
Well, you must be all excited about going to England, because I know I would be. Please take my address with you and send me some postcards from there. That way I can brag to some of my classmates about my new family. By the way, as of the end of August you’ll be able to email me at Mark8@narizu.edu. I won’t have access to a computer until classes start, though. Then maybe we can chat more frequently.
You guys have a good trip and make sure you send those postcards and email me when you get back. I wish I had been able to go with you.
Your new big brother,
The boys were all interested in the letter, but Danny and Brandon were especially moved by it. They, too, felt bad that Mark hadn’t been able to join us. I quickly let them know he would be included in all of our plans next year, since he’d be with us. Danny took the envelope, with Mark’s return address on it, and ran upstairs to put it into his suitcase. He wasn’t about to forget it when we left.
A day or so later, we got a letter from the Spences. I read that one to the boys as well.
Dear Josh and boys,
My husband and I would like to thank you for sending all of those wonderful letters telling us about your trip. It sounds as if you had a wonderful time and that you’re looking forward to your next trip to England. Enclosed you’ll find a check from us and we want you to use it to do something special while you’re over there.
Josh, if it wouldn’t be asking too much, we were wondering if you’d mind if we came to visit you and your family around the holidays. We have no family and wish to share at least part of that time of year with people whom we care about. We would make reservations to stay at a hotel, but we’d like to see all of you whenever you’re willing, if that would be possible. Your family is such an enjoyable and refreshing change to what we’ve encountered these past few years that we’d really like to get to know you all better. Please think it over and let us know.
We send you all our love and best wishes, and we want you to have a splendid time in England. We shall think of you daily while you’re gone.
Margaret and John Spence
I looked back in the envelope and found a check made out to me for $500.00. The boys couldn’t believe that Mr. & Mrs. Spence had sent so much, especially since we had known them for such a short time, and they immediately began to try to talk me into letting the Spences come to visit. I had already decided I was going to write and tell them they were more than welcome to come see us any time they wished.
The boys told me to make sure they stayed at the house too. They could use my room, downstairs, and the boys would share one of their rooms with me while they were here. I agreed with their proposals and told them I’d jot the Spences a quick note. I would invite them for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, allowing them their choice of either time or both. The boys were happy and each went to write a quick thank you note to the Spences, for sending them the money. They all agreed to buy something special with it, to help them remember their trip.
Steve Shay called me a couple of days later, to inform me that he had been working with the Houston authorities on Andrew’s case and it was now settled.
“It turns out the guy had two previous felony convictions for assaulting young boys,” he informed me, “and had only been out of prison for a few weeks.”
“And no one was monitoring his activities?” I asked, startled.
“He’d just been released after serving a 5 to 7 year sentence for his last conviction, so he probably had to check in with his parole officer,” Steve responded, “but they can’t be with him every minute of every day. Most of the parole officers have so many cases assigned to them that they usually just contact each parolee once a week and possibly check in with his employer or landlord every couple of weeks too.”
“It’s a shame they can’t monitor them better than that,” I suggested, “but at least he won’t be out there for a while now.”
“That’s for sure,” Steve replied. “He knew he was screwed either way, so he accepted a plea bargain from the District Attorney’s office, but it wasn’t much of a gift. He agreed to serve a 15 to 25 year sentence, rather than take the chance of getting hit with a 25 year to life sentence, if he were convicted as a three-strike felon. The judge and the DA are both recommending he serve the full 25 years, which would make him fairly old, before he’s on the street again.”
I thanked Steve for all of his help and told him I would let Andrew and the others know the bad man was locked up for a very long time. I also told Steve he was a very dear friend for handling this for us like he had. He responded that it was his pleasure to make sure that creep wouldn’t be able to get to another kid for a long time, before adding that he always took care of family members. I just smiled at his last comment and thanked him again, knowing he had just paid us a very great compliment.