On Ahead

Chapter Two

On the way to his dorm we stopped and had some great cheesecake that Neil had said was the best he had ever had, so of course I had to try it and he was right, it was fantastic and I thought it would make a great wedding cake, stacked in tiers, I really could see us doing something like that so I made sure I had all their contact information before we left to go pack up his possessions in his dorm. We spent almost two hours there, one hour packing his single room and the other having college boy sex.

We made our first flight with no problems and spent that flight to Miami talking over the impending sale of his family home. There were some family heirlooms he would like to keep, but nothing too major, and I told him that next weekend we could fly up and get whatever he wanted to keep shipped to us in Key West and he thanked me for that. Just as we were boarding our 2nd plane for the short hop to Key West from Miami he asked me how much the building in downtown had cost me, and I stopped on the tarmac walkway to the little plane we were about to enter and just blushed, he had seen right through me and my little deception. He certainly was no dummy, I mean, who else would give him a free year of rent?

Thank goodness he wasn't upset or angry with me, in fact he told me that he found it to be such a caring and loving thing I had done for him, he couldn't think of a way to thank me, but he said, he'd spend the rest of his life trying to show me how thankful he really was. We exchanged hugs and kisses and when we entered the plane we were greeted by clapping from the other passengers and the crew.

Neil spent the next week visiting the now empty shop and drawing up plans for what he wanted his shop to look like, making lists of what supplies he needed to make the renovations and what he would need for display units and wall brackets to display his stock. He made the floor space slightly shallower by putting in a false wall and using the shallow space for backup stock so he wouldn't be running up and down stairs all day and he found some slightly used locking display cases for the designer stuff he was ordering from New York, through the company of Eric Javits, and from Australia, from the showrooms of Cody Mitchell.

He made plans to refinish these as he wanted them to look as good as the merchandise he was going to display in them. The third glass case was trimmed in a dark wood and he thought that one would be good for the selection of real Panama hats he was going to import directly from Ecuador (where real Panama hats come from). He had suppliers for the caps already lined up and also for a variety of beach hats for both men and women. He hoped to be able to run his shop alone at first, but after really talking to some of the other independent shopkeepers on the adjoining blocks he decided he would have to have some help as almost every store on the whole street was open from 9 or 10 in the morning to 10 or 11 at night. I told him I could help him until he found someone he could trust in the shop. I really had nothing going on at night unless there was some sort of evening program or class scheduled at the library after hours.

Neil didn't discount my suggestion, but he did tell me that what he wanted to do at the end of his workday was to come home to me. Two days later one of my volunteers at the library mentioned to me that she used to work the millinery counter at the now closed department store downtown. I asked if she knew where Panama hats came from and she laughed and told me that they were from Ecuador, and why was I asking. I explained that Neil was going to be opening a hat shop and where it was located, and she said that it was only two blocks from where she lived, and if he needed help, she would rather work evenings as she had for over 20 years at the department store. She said she was bored at home and was still alert enough to work and keep an eye on the shop, all she would ask is that a panic button be installed near the register, as many of the smaller shops had on the street. Also, she had a very docile golden retriever that used to belong to her late husband who had run a five and dime on the busy Duval Street until his death last year and she would like to have the dog with her if she worked at night.

I thought about it for about 10 minutes. Lucy was a great and enthusiastic volunteer here at the library. She was only in her early forties and her husband's unexpected death had left her somewhat shattered, and the department store closing only months later had made her rather depressed, but after starting here she felt like more her old self and had started putting her name in at some businesses, hoping for something to keep her occupied in the evenings. I called Neil, explained Lucy's situation and he begged me to ask her if she would stop by the shop, he said he had wet paint all over the place, and him, and he'd need my help getting himself clean when he got home.

Lucy and Neil got along great and they had a common interest in the hats and when she told him she hadn't heard of Cody Mitchel, Neil showed her on his laptop some of his designs and the accessories he had designed and a lot of his press coverage. They agreed to day hours Monday through Thursdays with a night shift over the weekend. They would work together for the first two weeks and after that, they would split into two separate shifts.

The shop was looking very fresh and tasteful and when the stock started to arrive he began to unpack, inventory it, and price the merchandise on the sales floor. He began to display what he was unpacking, with the backup stock going in the small stock area he had created behind the false wall. As he was setting up the women's designer hat display case he heard a rapping on the front door of the shop and two women stood there pointing at the hats he was displaying. Neil went to the door and explained that he was probably a week away from opening and he didn't even have money in the register or the charge machine set up yet. They told him they had plenty of cash on them so he invited them in to at least look at the hats he was displaying.

The ladies were off one of the cruise ships docked in town and he didn't have to tell them what they were looking at. They knew the Javits hats from the Mitchell hats and they each bought three. Fifteen hundred from each of them and they said they'd pass the word that he had a great selection. He reminded them he still wasn't open, but since he had all his permits from the state and the city he thanked them for their patronage and even unpacked some promotional hat boxes and presented each of the ladies with one to carry their purchases back on board with. The rest of the three hours he was at the shop he had sold another six thousand dollars of the designer hats and two Panamas to a gay couple off the same cruise ship for another thousand dollars.

As I made sure he hadn't gotten any paint up his ass he was ecstatic. He begged me to fuck him until he woke from the dream he was living, and the second time a bit later he told me his life must be real, and not a dream he was having after all because all the fucking hadn't woken him, it only made him love me more.

The following weekend we traveled to Rhode Island and Neil and I walked through the house and picked out items we both agreed we could use in Key West and had a shipping company come out to the house and pack and ship it down to us. It would take about 3 weeks for the container to arrive and we also packed several boxes of his summer and fall clothing to be sent along with the rest. I held him in the house's front hall after the shippers had left and the neighbors had all come in and picked out what they wanted. He said they were tears for the loss of his parents, the house didn't really mean much to him without them, then he took me to the nearby beach and showed me where he had really spent his childhood, admiring the scantily clad male swimmers and lifeguards on the beaches.

He and I were still scheduled to be married in the library's garden at the end of June and we had invited my staff and their significant others as well as some neighbors and friends. We decided that the reception could be held on our expansive fenced patio and we planned for food for 65 just in case.

Our day turned out to be perfect in every way. Neither of us messed up our vows and we got a standing round of applause at our first kiss as husbands. We all walked to the lane and down it to the cottage. There the caterer had set up tables of appetizers and drinks for our guests, while the final prep was made on the buffet. Our tiered cheesecake wedding cake was a big hit and Neil and I shared a piece without embarrassing each other or ourselves. Lucy was an honored guest and she was dutifully impressed with the "early opening" Neil had experienced the week before. We lived in one of the most famous vacation destinations in the world and so we decided to make our life together one very long honeymoon, besides, I knew he wanted to get his shop open, even if it was the beginning of hurricane season.

We had a few tropical storms during the next two months but they really made me get the huge patio that surrounded my/our cinder block constructed house really clean and store anything loose on the leeward side depending on from which direction the storm winds would approach. I'll tell you, snuggling with Neil on those stormy nights was more like heaven than the hellish winds we experienced. Near the end of July, I had been approached by one of the family court judges to look over a case he was presiding over.

The judge was presiding over the trial of a couple in their twenties who were facing heavy drug dealing charges and it was discovered that they were also users of their products. The problem as presented to me was that their 5-year-old twin boys had no other relatives who could take them in, or even had the desire to, as the two boys were of mixed race. The court wanted my opinion as to what should happen to the boys, it was a given that the two parents would be incarcerated for at least 10 to 20 years each when they went to trial in September. The judge wanted to know if I felt the parent's parental rights should be removed legally or should the boys just be placed in foster care until it was officially determined that the parents were irredeemable, at some undetermined future date.

I bounced facts off Neil at home, of course never giving him details of the persons involved, and he came to me the very next night and asked how hard it would be to adopt in the state of Florida. I told him that after same-sex marriage became the law of the land the state had dropped all its opposition to gay couples adopting. He then surprised me by saying he thought we'd both make great parents; maybe we could pool our money and add a second floor to the house, giving us another two thousand feet of living space, more or less. I asked him if he were serious, I mean really serious, and he said he was. I kissed him for what seemed like hours before he said that we should keep trying to get him pregnant, just in case the twins didn't like us.

In the morning, before the library was open for business, I phoned the judge and told him I would have to recuse myself from his case, that my spouse and I had decided to try and adopt the twins ourselves. He was a bit taken aback, but he agreed to my request, saying he hoped he was the one who could make that happen for us. I contacted the caseworker assigned to the case and introduced myself to her and she laughed and said we had actually attended many county employee functions at the same time and she had even had me do some research for her at the library. Her name then clicked, Karen Evans, and I remembered her as one of the few "out" lesbians on the Child Protective Agency's staff, in fact, she was not only raised by a lesbian couple, but one of her mothers' was a Department of Children and Family Services area manager in Western Massachusetts.

I explained why I was calling and that we were willing to add a second floor to our cottage if that would help and she told me she would like for us to take their online parenting course and she would stop by the cottage on her way home, about 7 tonight and interview us and see what accommodations we now had. I thanked her and then called Neil at his shop and told him what I had found out. He was really excited and he told me that Lucy was coming in for five o'clock that night and he would be home right after she took control of the shop and he'd be home for me to help calm him down and get ready for our visitor.

I did quite a bit of research that afternoon, and I admit it was all for Neil and me. I didn't want to go into all this without having some idea of whether we might be successful or not. Everything looked good to me and I did have to calm Neil down when he arrived home from the shop. I did it in his favorite way, by eating his ass before slipping my leaking cock into his waiting, quivering butt. We had showered and dressed by the time Karen arrived and she stayed and shared the ribs we had put on the grill just before she had arrived. Karen liked both the cottage and the food and told us that were we to add to our family after we had temporary custody, which looked really good, as not many were willing to take mixed-race children, then the second-floor addition would come in handy. We explained that we were going to add the second floor anyway, that would give us 3 upstairs bedrooms, including a master bedroom, and more bathrooms and then the old bedrooms could be a separate dining room and a family room.

She gave us instructions on how to use the parenting class website and then left, saying to let her know when we had both taken the online tests at the end of the course. She had already taken all of our information, she would need our proof of having passed the course and she would set up a meeting between us and the boys. That was a Tuesday night and by 11 PM Thursday we had both passed the online course. On Friday morning I called Karen at her office and gave her the password to access our tests and by noon we had set up a meeting at our home between the two boys and us for Saturday lunchtime

I had explained all this to Darryl, our lawyer, on Friday afternoon when he stopped by my office in the library to give me the news that our proposal to the building department to increase the size of the cottage had been approved. He had been a friend for years and he and his spouse had attended our wedding and reception. He told me that when the proper time came he would gladly handle the adoption for us, for a nominal fee. I laughed and told him we'd like nothing more than for him to handle it for us.

Our meeting with the boys went better than everyone expected. The two boys were definitely charmers and their mixed heritage gave them a slightly exotic look that you only noticed upon a second look. The oriental cast to their eyes and the warm milk chocolate hue to their skin told anyone who looked a second time at them just how handsome they were, even at five years old. Neil and I were in love with them at first sight. They, in turn, took a few minutes to feel comfortable with us, and the real ice breaker was the big 250 gallon fish pond in the far corner of the front portion of the patio, with water snails, plenty of green plants and just over a dozen goldfish, not koi, the fancy kind usually found in aquariums, but mine had grown in their big environment to be six or seven inches long and were exceedingly beautiful with their long flowing lace like fins and the boys spotted the oldest, the albino one with red eyes right off the bat. They were able to stand and look right down in front of themselves because the preformed pond liner was propped up on cinder blocks to raise it about 10 inches off the paved patio which helped discourage cats and the local scrawny raccoon because being raised had let me make a screened cover which fit over the top and we both made sure it was locked down with childproof latches when we were not out on the patio.

The boys, Max and Bill, had oohed and aahed as soon as they saw it and it certainly broke the ice as they had to know the names of each of the distinctly colored fish. We had a great time with them and they clung to us as Karen began to gather their things up in preparation for leaving, I guessed. I tearfully asked when they could come back and she looked at me funny and said that she was sorry she hadn't explained everything better, she was just helping to get the boys stuff into the cottage, into their room, she thought she had told us that if all went well on this introductory visit, she was prepared to leave the boys with us, we had passed all the background and financial checks and our test scores helped us qualify as they were the best she'd seen in a long time. She apologized and asked if we were truly ready for them to stay today, and I turned to Neil and he was now smiling and nodding, as were the twins. Karen said that she had two smallish suitcases in her car and Neil went with her to go get them as I took the boys back to the pond and I showed them how the fish were fed.

I then took them around the back of the house and showed them where Neil had started to install two swings to the four palm trees in a row out there, one swing between each pair of trees. We had just that morning taken up the pavers from under the trees and replaced them with sand, and we had so far only gotten one swing completely secured, so the boys were each given a turn on it, but we all agreed Neil had had a really good idea and once done with his project we'd all have fun out there. The swings were just a few feet from the exercise bench and the weights we had out there under the canopy so as the boys swung Neil and I would work out, always keeping an eye on them. Something hit me late in the afternoon on Sunday.

What the heck were we going to do with the boys on Monday when we had to go back to work? We discussed it while the boys were napping before dinner and Neil suggested he take them in the morning to the shop and then on my lunch break I could walk over and pick them up and take them back to the library with me for the afternoon kids program. After the three hours of crafts and stories they could hang out in the children's room until I got out of work about five in the afternoon. We could eat our lunch before the kid's program started, probably out in the garden next to the library.

When I went to the shop to pick Max and Bill up for lunch the next day they were parading around the sales floor in little fitted caps that Neil said had generated more business than the ads he had been running. The caps had the name of the shop on them, "On Ahead". Neil told me that he had sold 24 of the silly things just that morning after he gave one to each of the boys, and they insisted they wear them in the store. He told me that those that didn't buy took pictures of the boys in their caps.

The boys insisted on wearing their caps and I guess they felt very grown up as they each held one of my hands as we walked the few blocks to the library, with residents greeting me along the way, or asking me if a certain new best seller had reached the library yet. Most everyone asked who the boys were and the boys always responded that I was one of their new dads. We all received many congratulations along the short way to my office so I could pick up our lunches before going out to the garden. The boys almost didn't want to leave until I got the lunches and I told them we would eat outside in the big garden where Neil and I got married and then they were all for getting fed. The staff was all over them, enchanted just like Neil and I were, and we ended up having our lunch outside, with staff stopping by and sitting with us for a few minutes at a time each, either to eat their own lunches or just to bask in the aura surrounding the twins.

They were easy to tell apart if you knew what to look for, as Max had a little birthmark at the outer corner of his right eye, and Bill had one at the outer corner of his left eye. We had checked, there weren't any others visible when they had shirts on, but topless they each had a few scattered on their shoulders, but not so you could tell who was who.

My co-workers, Brian and Carl (who had stood up for us at our wedding) were running that week's kid's' programs and were over the moon with Bill and Max. They had been a couple for ten years and married the last 4 of those. I had figured their party days were over years ago, starting with their marriage, and knew they had tried to be a family with their dogs as their children, but seeing how easy the online course had been for Neil and me they signed up for the next online session. Before the afternoon was over both boys were calling them "Uncle" and they really lapped it up.

Lucy was still volunteering a day or two a week before going to work for Neil in the late afternoons and she was in the library shelving in the children's rooms that day. She was thrilled for us and told me that if we ever needed a sitter she hoped we'd call on her. I told her we couldn't impose on her like that and she told me it wouldn't be an imposition, it just might save her from complete boredom at home, the time she was by herself before going to work at the hat shop. I told her our predicament and that at least for the two days a week that we had day programs for the kids, all summer, and fall, we could bring them here, but that still left 3 days a week that we needed someone to care for the boys and she jumped at the chance to do it. She said we could try it out the next day and see how the boys liked it and I agreed. She left my office and went to spend some time with the boys so they would get to know her better.

It all worked out and in the end, they grew to love one another and she became their surrogate grandmother, actually calling her Grand. When the kid's programs stopped for the winter and spring months she watched them while we worked five days a week, working at the store 3 or 4 nights a week as well. She was thrilled with the money she was making, but we knew she didn't have much of a chance to spend it.

About three weeks after the boys came to live with us the work on the addition was started. There were still two months of storm season for us to get through, but our cocksucking contractor (yes, we hired him, although we told him to pick someone else to get off on, we were both taken), installed a very heavy plastic just below the roofline that could be quickly pulled over the whole exposed area at the first sign of rain or heavy winds. Of course, we couldn't live in the cottage while all the work was going on, so we rented one of the condos in the main house from an absentee owner who only used it a few times a year and had bought it for an investment. He was very open to letting us rent it cheaply for as long as we needed it, he could always vacation at one of his other investment properties. As it was, his was the unit that overlooked our property and we could see the progress being made on our now empty house as the workers toiled away five days a week and sometimes on Saturdays also.

A lot of our possessions were stored at the self-storage units about a mile from our home, and as soon as the roof had been removed we did have three days of rain, but the heavy tarp roof stretched out over the first floor walls held it all outside and work went right on as soon as the rain stopped. Steel beams were used to support the new walls of blocks that grew from the first floor block walls and a new truss roof, rated for a 185 mile an hour wind storm was installed with steel tie downs bolted through the block walls and tied into the concrete flooring and the ten inch thick concrete pad the building sat on. High impact windows were installed and a new solid wood fence wrapped around the surrounding patio on all sides, so we had a very secure, 4-inch thick wooden fence now protecting the first-floor area.

We ended up with two 12'×12' bedrooms side by side with a ¾ bath for each and a short hall connecting to the master bedroom and bath at the other end. Neil and I ended up with a 12'×12' deck off our bedroom up there, totally private with no overlooking windows in any direction. The build was complete a week or two before Thanksgiving and we moved right back in, getting the boys a set of twin beds that could be moved together if they so wanted later, and we used things from Neil's house for the furnishing of the new family room and dining room downstairs. It all worked out beautifully; especially when we had a housewarming / Thanksgiving buffet later and we were blessed then by a visit from our lawyer Darryl and his husband. He brought us the news that we would be signing our adoption papers the following week, that Karen, our CPA case worker and he had set the time for 9 AM on the following Monday.

We were all celebrating after that news and we found out that Karen's wife had had to leave her nursing position at a local doctor's office because of his impending retirement and was looking for work. Neil waded through the gathering and cornered Missy, and they were in deep conversation for about a half hour and when he returned to my side he whispered that Missy was coming to work for him full time, splitting her shifts after she felt comfortable with the stock, so half the time she'd be working with him and the other half she and Lucy would work together. He hoped that this way, after the holiday shopping season was over, he could spend a lot more time at home with the boys.

He had an unusual phone call the day after Thanksgiving at his shop. One of the ladies he had sold to just before he had opened for business called and wanted him to pick out 20 of his nicest women's" designer hats for her to give as Christmas gifts for her friends and daughters and she had the measurements of her three sons and two sons-in-law and her husband's as well. She only asked him to please keep the total price, including shipping under 25 thousand dollars. He thanked her for the order and assured her that he could keep it under 18 thousand for her. She was very pleased and soon there were three more similar calls from women that had been with her on that auspicious day and they also spent between 12 and 18 thousand each over the phone. He hurriedly pulled the desired stock, placing the hats in several shipping boxes and carefully labeling each box, and taking the bar-coded tags and updating his computerized inventory system to see if he had to place a rush order for his walk-in clientele who might buy a hat as a Christmas present. He had lucked out by opening his shop days early to these women, and thankfully they hadn't forgotten him. Both Eric Javits and Cody Mitchell assured him new stock would be sent out ASAP and congratulated him on such a great sales day.

Monday we dressed the boys as we would for church and we were ushered into a hearing room at the courthouse on Whitehead Street, just over 3 blocks from our house and we met with Karen until the judge showed up and took the boys to his chambers to have a little visit with them. The three came back, acting like buddies who had a secret, and the judge then asked if the boys wanted two new dads, and they told him NO!! That they wanted the old ones they had now! I just about shit when they had said no, but I now understood that the three of them had set this all up in the judge's chambers. Neil and I could breathe again and the judge quickly signed the adoption decrees and we were soon on our way home, after thanking the judge for the heart attack and Karen for all her help.

We celebrated by taking the boys out for an early dinner at Old Town Mexican where they got their favorite quesadillas and fried ice cream, and so did Neil and I. The boys went right to sleep at bedtime, but not before telling us they loved us and we were the bestest dads ever. Both Neil and I had tears in our eyes after tucking them in for the night, but we still tried to get Neil pregnant at least twice that night in our beautiful soundproofed new bedroom. In case you're wondering, we had a monitoring system that let us hear anything as loud as a whimper in their room, just for safety reasons.

It was two weeks before Christmas when Karen called and asked if we could help her out of a bind she was in. A local couple had been in a very bad car wreck on the previous Friday, and the father had died in the crash, the mother and son were rushed to the hospital and the mother had just died that afternoon. The 13-year-old son had been hospitalized with a broken arm and nose, and they had been watching him for any signs of internal injuries, but now with both parents dead, and no known relatives, there wasn't anywhere to release him to and Karen was afraid that he would have to be sent to a shelter in the Miami area. She had been calling all around to local foster families, but this close to Christmas she couldn't find anyone who could take him right away. There was a possibility that after the holidays were over one or two of the regular foster homes could fit him in, but they would deal with that then, this was now and if Missy and she were not taking off for the holidays she would take him herself, but they were to leave in two days.

She gave me his basic information; he was 13 and a good student. He was in the 8th grade and he was almost inconsolable about his parents' deaths. He was desperate to remain in Key West and I told Karen I would talk to Neal when he came home from the shop and we would let the twins know what was going on too. I told her that if all was OK at our house I'd call her later and fill her in.

We had a family meeting over dinner and we decided to take in the lad and see if we could keep him distracted enough to help him adjust to his new life, to try and let him get out all his grief and try to enjoy himself again. After the decision was made I called Lucy and explained our situation and asked if she was willing to take care of one more boy for us and she was more than ready for the challenge, in fact, she knew the boy and had known the parents.

They had rented from a neighbor of hers until they bought a small house in the New Town neighborhood about 5 years ago with money they had received from a settlement from a court case. The drunk driver, in that case, had hit the father while he had been riding his scooter to work at 7 in the morning and he had lost most of his left foot in the resulting accident. She used to babysit young Tony when occasionally both parents had to work the same shifts, so she knew the lad and thought he'd fit right in. After talking with her, Neil and I placed a call to Karen and told her that we'd like to meet the lad and hopefully bring him home that night.

We made sure the former "spare" bedroom was made up with clean sheets and the bathroom there had fresh towels and a new toothbrush and soap and toothpaste, we gathered the twins up and drove across the island to the hospital to meet Tony.

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