It was a chilly day with a light rain when Adam and Brody saw Wilson pull into the parking lot at school. They were both shocked to see Randall Erickson exit from the passenger side. "Wow, that's Randall with Wilson," Brody said.
"I see that," Adam said. "I wonder what's going on."
"Hi guys," Randall said as he and Wilson approached the two. "Wilson, thanks for the ride, I'll see you after class this afternoon."
"What was that all about?" Adam asked as Randall headed to his class and Adam, Brody, and Wilson to theirs.
"Nothing, I noticed he had the hood up on his car as I drove by his house," Wilson said. "I stopped and asked if he was having car trouble and he said he thought it was a dead battery and I offered him a ride."
"After the way he treated you?" Brody asked.
"It was worth it," Wilson said. "I could tell he was uncomfortable about it. My parents taught me to treat enemies as friends and they too may become friends. And if not I'd be no worse off for friends."
"You're a better person than I am," Brody said.
"He did apologize for what he said," Wilson said. "He said he didn't realize my situation. I told him I'd accept his apology and that it might be best in the future to withhold a statement like his until he gets the facts. I think it was a teachable moment."
At lunch, Tiffany said, "Randall is coming over here; I hope he doesn't want to sit with us after the way he treated you."
"We're cool now," Wilson said.
"Wilson, I won't need a ride after school after all," Randall said. "My dad replaced the battery in my car and he and a coworker are dropping it off for me. Thank you for giving me a ride this morning."
"You're welcome," Wilson said. "Have a seat and join us."
"I'd better not," Randall said. "I don't think your friends care for me after what I said to you."
"Sit down, Randall," Tiffney said. "If Wilson can forgive you we can too."
As the football season was near an end, the basketball season was ready to begin. In spite of being defending state champions, Sparks was ranked number three in the state. As Coach Brewer pointed out, the early ranking didn't mean much. It was how the team was ranked at the end that mattered.
Three days before the first game Coach released the starting five, and to Brody's disappointment, Jason Nottingham got the fifth starting position. The first game was a non-conference game with Covington Mason High. Mason, a class higher than Sparks, was a tough opening game. Mason took the early lead, but Sparks chipped away and ended up winning by nine points. Wilson was the leading rebounder and third highest scorer. Brody also saw significant playing time. The girls lost their game by a basket in overtime.
"Are you still pissed that I got a starting position?" Wilson asked after the game.
"Hell no," Brody said. "I'm pissed that I let Jason beat me out."
"Actually you played better than Jason," Wilson said. "Keep up the hard work and you'll beat him out."
As Wilson predicted, just before the third game of the season Coach Brewer named the starting five, including Brody. Sparks had been invited to play in a tournament at the university. It was a tournament for highly ranked teams. The tournament included teams from every class in the state; most were defending state champions in their class. This meant Sparks, a 4A team, could be playing a champion 6A team as well as a Class C team.
Spark's first game was against a Class B defending state champion. Sparks won a hard-fought game by six points. The next game was against the defending 5A team. Sparks had an early lead by as much as 15 points. By halftime, the lead was down to four points. Early in the second half, the score was tied when Brody hit a hot streak and brought the lead back to ten. Sparks won the game by nine.
Spark advanced to the championship game and would be playing Covington Edison, a 6A team. Edison was the 6A defending state champions, mostly composed of seniors. It was close for most of the game. At the end of regulation time, the score was tied. In the second overtime Sparks lost by one point.
"Coach, I was fouled on that missed layup at the end of the game," Justin said after the game.
"I know you were," Coach Brewer said. "That's part of the game. Sometimes we get a lucky call and sometimes they get it. I'm proud of the way you guys played against the 6A number one team. Hold your heads high. We still have several games ahead of us."
Sparks completed the season with a third 4A state championship and a win over their main rivals the Nash Tigers.
Wilson had become one of the boys. He even went horseback riding with them. There was always a horse available for him to ride. His friends were looking forward to introducing him to camping.
It was a warm early November day when the guys planned on a horseback ride. They decided if they started early enough they could ride up Sutton Mountain and be back home in time for dinner. The lunch would be tuna pouches for making sandwiches, , apples and, just in case that wasn't enough, energy bars.
"Wow, this is beautiful," Wilson said when they reached the summit of Sutton Mountain. "Do you ever camp out up here?"
"No, we have the campsite we showed you," Adam explained.
"But why not up here?" Wilson questioned. "It's beautiful."
"Look around," Jon said. "There's no water up here or grass for our horses."
"I didn't think of that," Wilson admitted.
"We ride up here and enjoy the ride and view," Justin explained. "I like having plenty of fresh water down where we camp."
"Adam, thank you for inviting me on this ride," Chad said as they rode down the mountain. "Dad sometimes considers me a little kid. But he did agree eventually."
"He's overly protective," Adam said. "He made me promise I'd look out for you."
"I know he's overly protective," Chad said. "And, it's better than getting the crap beat out of me."
"Your dad's abusive?" Wilson asked.
"I guess you didn't know that Uncle George adopted Chad," Adam said.
"Oh, your uncle adopted Chad?" Wilson said as he began to understand the relationship.
"All of us are adopted except for Justin," Brody said.
"Yeah, we were all neglected and or abused," Adam said. "Well, Brody wasn't until his parents died and he was placed in foster care."
As it often did this time of the year the weather can turn on a dime. The weather had been pleasant until the wind switched from the south to from the north wind. The boys quickly unsaddled their horses and fed them before going in the house to warm up.
"Where's Dad?" Brody asked.
"He's outside cleaning the grill," Rita said. "We're having steaks."
"It's getting cold out there," Darrell came inside to say.
"Maybe we should have something else," Rita suggested.
"No, we need to cook the steaks," Darrell said. "Wilson, how do you like your steak cooked?"
"Oh, I hadn't planned on staying for dinner," Wilson said. "But Dad's in Nebraska with Paul with a problem with the loan department there, and Grandma and Grandpa are out of town visiting Grandma's sister."
"Then you're staying for dinner?" Brody asked with a laugh.
"And how do you like your steak?" Darrell asked again.
"Oh, sorry," Wilson said. "I like mine medium rare."
"You should just spend the night rather than being home alone," Adam said. "We have a guest bedroom."
"I don't have clean clothes with me," Wilson said.
"There's no reason you couldn't drive home and get a change of clothes," Rita said. "And you can plan on going to church with us tomorrow."
"Is your dad transferring to the bank in Nebraska?" Darrell asked as they ate dinner.
"No, but Paul did ask him," Wilson said. "But Dad said he didn't want me to change schools again. So, Paul asked him to go with him to help straighten out a mess in the loan department there."
"We're glad you're not moving," Brody said.
"Hey, Wilson, why don't you and your family come to our Thanksgiving gathering at the Reed center?" Adam asked.
"Yes, you'd be more than welcome," Rita said. "It's friends and family. We have a big meal at the Reed Center."
"Thank you," Wilson said. "I'll ask Grandma."
"And at Christmas, we offer a Christmas meal for anyone who wants to come and eat," Adam said. "We even buy gifts for needy children."
"Could I help?" Wilson asked.
"Sure, we can always use help," Adam said.
"We also volunteer some at the food pantry during the summer vacation," Brody added.
"I could do that too," Wilson said. "It seems like everyone around here is very generous."
"Yeah, one year for Justin's birthday we had a party for him at the Reed Center. "He asked that rather than gifts people bring food for the food bank."
"Hey, could I do that next month for my birthday?" Brody asked.
"That's a good idea," Rita said.
"We need to think about getting you a vehicle," Darrell said.
"Haden and Adam said they paid for part of theirs," Brody said. "I haven't saved much yet."
"You haven't been with us that long," Darrell said. "I think we could make an exception. But actually, Adam got your mom's old car when she got a new one, he paid his insurance and title transfer."
"Our neighbor has a late model Ford Focus for sale," Wilson said. "I can find out how much they want for it."
"Would a Ford Focus be okay with you?" Rita asked.
"I don't care as long as it is in good condition and good on gas," Brody said. "I don't want to spend all of my allowance on gas."
"Haden and Amy alternated driving to school," Darrell said. "You and Adam will do the same unless you have a good reason not to."
"What if I just don't like him?" Adam joked.
"Then you can ride in the back seat," Darrell said with a grin.
"You could go when I go get a change of clothes and look at it," Wilson said.
"Sure, we could do that," Darrell said. "But Brody you can't drive yet."
"I could if you or Mom is with me," Body said. "Next month I can drive alone."
"And you're going to get the talk all your older siblings got," Darrell said.
"Like what?" Brody asked.
"Like responsible driving," Rita said.
"You're not to allow passengers other than family members until after you're out of the probationary period."
"Even if I have a date?" Brody asked.
"I'll check with Steve about that," Darrell said.
"Most important of all, no cell phones while driving and, of course, no drinking," Rita said.
"Mom..." Brody protested. "You know I don't drink and what if it's an emergency can I use my cell phone?"
"I'm aware you don't drink," Rita said. "And don't let peer pressure get you to either. As far as the cell phone, pull over when it's safe to do so, and if that isn't possible, if your car has Bluetooth use that only for emergencies."
"I can live with that I guess," Brody agreed.
"As Dad said to me, you have no other choice," Adam added.
"Can we go now and look at the car?" Brody asked after loading the dishwasher.
"I suppose so," Darrell said. "Honey, do you want to go?"
"I think so, I want to make sure he gets a car with Bluetooth," Rita said. "I'll still be a nervous wreck just knowing he might be driving."
"Mom, I promise to drive safely," Brody assured his mom.
"It'll be a tight fit, but we can go in my car," Wilson offered.
"That's okay, we can take mine," Darrell said. "If we get the car Adam can drive it home."
"You would trust me to drive it?" Adam asked with a chuckle.
"I wouldn't have much of a choice," Darrell said.
"They're home," Wilson said when Darrell pulled into the Hendrix driveway. "That's it parked in their driveway."
"That's a pretty blue," Rita said.
"I'll go knock on their door and see if they'll let you see it this evening," Wilson offered.
"Mr. and Mrs. Harrington, this is Mr. Schneider," Wilson said when Mr. Schneider came out to greet them.
"Tell us about the car," Darrell requested after exchanging handshakes.
"Well, we bought it new for our daughter and she then moved to New York City after graduating from college," Mr. Schneider said as Mrs. Schneider joined them. "Oh, this is my wife Ruth Ann. Anyway, she'll use public transportation since parking is impossible there. It's two years old and low mileage. Would you like to drive it?"
"I would," Darrell said. "It's for our soon-to-be 16-year-old son here and he only has a learners permit so I'd better drive."
"I'll go in and get the key," Bill Schneider said.
"I brought it," Ruth Ann said.
"Who all's going?" Bill asked.
"I'm going inside and get some things," Wilson said.
"Bill, why don't you go along and we can discuss it as we drive," Darrell said. "I know Rita will want to go since she's concerned about safety features."
"Well, I sure want to go," Brody said.
"I'll wait here with Wilson," Adam said.
"Wilson, I went over to invite you to eat with us but you weren't home," Ruth Ann said as Darrell backed out of the driveway.
"Oh, I ate with the Harringtons after our horseback ride," Wilson said.
"Well, as long as you ate," Ruth Ann said. "I promised Wanda that I'd see that you ate."
"Come over in the morning for breakfast," Ruth Ann said.
"Thank you, but I'm spending the night with the Harringtons and going to church with them in the morning," Wilson said.
"Then I won't worry about you," Ruth Ann said. "I think I'll go inside, it's cold out here."
The smile on Brody's face told Adam that Darrell and Rita were buying the car for him. Then his thumbs up confirmed it.
"Will you take a check?" Darrell asked after exiting the vehicle.
"I think I can trust someone that Wilson knows," Bill said. "Come inside and I'll get the title and the extra set of keys."
Brody was beaming as he drove away in his new car with his parents as passengers. Adam was a little nervous driving his dad's big SUV, although he had driven it a time or two in the past. As soon as Adam and Wilson entered the house Brody was telling them all about the features of the car, including Bluetooth.
"Dad, could I drive to school Monday?" Brody asked.
"You have a learner's permit," Darrell reminded him. "You have to have a licensed driver with you."
"But Adam has his license," Brody protested.
"Adam isn't 18 yet," Darrell said. "Remember the licensed driver has to be 18 or over."
"I guess you could drive to church tomorrow and your dad and I could ride with you," Rita offered. "Wilson and Adam can drive themselves,"
"I'm going to call Haden to come over and see it," Brody said.
"No, it's already dark out and he can see it tomorrow," Darrell said.
"I wonder when Perry is coming so I can let him see it." Brody said.
"Well, tomorrow is Betty's birthday and they will be here to help her celebrate," Rita said.
"Hi Dad," Wilson said when his phone rang. "No, I'm spending the night with Adam and Brody and then going to church in the morning with them. Oh really, are you going to take it?"
"Paul offered Dad a huge pay increase if he'd take the job in Nebraska," Wilson said after talking to his dad.