A Mourning Storm
Chapter 19
I was nervous the entire day. It had been a couple of years since I had celebrated my
birthday. Mom tried, but she was usually too weak for me to enjoy it. After eating ice
cream and a store bought cake, I’d usually take her to her bedroom and put her in bed.
She would kiss me and wish me happy birthday.

She knew when I turned fifteen it would be the last birthday she’d celebrate with me. I
think I did too, but I didn’t want to admit it at the time. “You’re turning into such a
handsome young man,” she said weakly as she brushed my long black hair from my eyes.
Then she just stared at me. She didn’t say anything. She just stared. Then tears formed
in her eyes as she looked up and smiled. She sighed, put her head back on the pillow and
closed her eyes. I knew the reason for the tears.

Gabe and Freddy surprised me at lunch. When I sat down, Gabe pulled out a cupcake from
a lunch bag and put it on the table in front of me. I started laughing because it contained
sixteen candles. You couldn’t see the icing because of the candles.

“I’d light them,” said Freddy, “but I don’t want to get suspended for starting a fire in
school.” He pretended to light them with an imaginary match. “Now blow them out and
make a wish.” I pretended to blow them out as the guys at the table laughed.

“What did you wish for?” Gabe asked excitedly.

“That you’d grow a bigger dick.” The guys at the table erupted into laughter as Gabe’s
face turned a bright red. A teacher walked over and asked us to quiet down.

Gabe and Freddy were waiting for me when I arrived at my locker after school. We were
talking as I put my books in the locker when Earl came walking up. He reached out and
gently touched my arm.

“Hey, Richie.” He looked at Gabe and Freddy and brushed the hair from his eyes. “Hi,
Guys.” Freddy nodded and Gabe merely rolled his eyes. He turned back to me and asked
excitedly, “Are you still picking me up in the morning?”

“Sure, Earl,” I assured him. “We’ll be there around ten.” He flipped his hair back and
smiled.”

“I can’t wait,” he replied enthusiastically. He then turned and started skipping down the
hall.

Gabe looked angrily at me. “I’ll kill you, Richie, if I get stuck with him all day.”

I started laughing. “Maybe you’ll get lucky and lose your virginity.” I ducked when he
swung a book at me.

As we walked home, Gabe kept talking about how much fun we were going to have. He
was trying to make my birthday feel special. Since his birthday was in a couple of months,
he was planning a huge party. I think he felt guilty that mine wouldn’t be as big as his.

Freddy looked over and asked, “Why don’t you spend the night with me?”

“Ohhh!” Gabe squealed. “Birthday sex!” He laughed when we both started blushing.

“No!” Freddy insisted as he looked at me. “It’s not like that, Richie, honest.” His face
continued to redden. “I just thought it would be fun if we slept together tonight.”

“Damn!” Gabe laughed. “Birthday sex!” Freddy’s face started to redden even more which
caused Gabe to laugh harder.

Freddy nervously looked pleadingly at me. “I just thought it would be fun if you spent the
night after the party tonight. I don’t want to have sex or anything.” I reached out and
touched his arm.

“I know what you mean.” I turned to Gabe and frowned. “Even if this idiot doesn’t.”

Gabe grinned. “You have to admit, birthday sex sounded like fun.”

“Okay,” I said. “We’ll plan it for your birthday.” I put my hand to my chin and pretending
to be thinking. “Let me see, should it be Sasha or Teresa?” I started laughing. “I know. I’ll
ask both of them.”

Gabe’s eyes lit up. He reached out and high-fived me. “Hell, yeah!” Freddy and I started
laughing when he reached down and rearranged his growing cock.

                                                     ********

“Don’t be so nervous, Dear.” Aunt Barbara turned around in the car and smiled at me. I
tried to return her smile, but it was difficult. My stomach was turning flip-flops. I hardly ate
anything for dinner because I was afraid I would throw it up.

One of the things that worried me was feeling like I was part of ‘their’ family, and I wasn’t
sure how I felt about that. Returning home and enjoying myself would seem like  I had
abandoned my mother. So much heartache had been felt there the past few years, it
didn’t seem right that I should be having fun. Dad had moved in with Linda and her
children. Andrew and Melinda seemed to be accepting the situation.

But to me, it didn’t seem right. I felt that everyone had forgotten Mom. When I had visited
Freddy the past couple of weeks, it seemed like with each visit more of Mom disappeared
from the house. Gone were the pictures on the wall. The furniture she and Dad had
purchased was slowing being replaced by newer. Even the pink towels in the guest
bathroom that I had always told her were ugly were gone. In their place were designer
blue towels.

Home didn’t seem like home anymore. Even my bedroom had been redecorated. Freddy
never took me there; but once when I was thirsty, I went upstairs to the kitchen. No one
else was in the house, so I snuck down the hallway and peeked into it. I didn’t recognize it
as being the place where I had spent fifteen years.

When I looked in Mom’s room, the same bedroom furniture was there, but it had been
rearranged and completely redecorated. It also smelled fresh.  Mom’s sickness had been
removed.

My hands started trembling when Uncle Ray pulled into the driveway. Seconds later,
Andrew and Harley came running out to the car. When I got out, Andrew threw his arms
around me and hugged me tight. I could also feel Harley hugging me from behind.

“Happy Birthday, Richie!” Andrew shouted excitedly.

“Yeah,” mimicked Harley. “Happy Birthday.” When I turned around he was grinning. “We’re
going to have chocklit cake. Mommy made it special for you.” He grabbed my hand and
started pulling me toward the house.

Linda greeted me at the door and gave me a hug. Freddy was standing behind her smiling.
I walked to him and he pulled me into a hug. I was startled when my father came in,
walked over to me and gave me a quick hug.

“Happy Birthday, Son.” He pulled away and patted me on my back. Melinda then ran into
the room and hugged me.

Harley grabbed my hand and pulled me into the dining room. “We got you some
presents,” he announced excitedly. “I made you a birthday card at school.” He rushed
over, took it from the table and handed it to me.

Linda walked over and gently took it from my hand. “I think we should wait at least until
Richie has blown out the candles on his cake.” Harley let out a squeal and sat down in
front of the beautiful cake in the middle of the table.

It was decorated in yellow icing and had a large, “Happy 16,” written in black icing. I
turned to her. “It’s beautiful,” I said. “Thanks, Linda.” I then gave her a hug. I looked
over at my father. He was standing with his hands on Melinda’s shoulders with a wide
smile on his face.

“I want some cake!” Gabe shouted excitedly. My father took out a match and lit the
candles.

“Blow them out!” Harley shouted. I took a deep breath and blew them out in one breath.

“Did you make a wish?” Linda asked. I smiled and nodded my head.

Freddy stepped up beside me and asked, “What did you wish for?”

“I’ll tell you later. Okay?” He smiled and nodded his head.

Linda cut the cake and gave me the first piece. Harley, of course, got the second. My
father went around the table and scooped out strawberry ice cream onto everyone’s plate.
I was surprised that he remembered it was my favorite flavor.

When we finished, Harley took his card from the table and handed it to me. “I made it
myself,” he said proudly. I opened it and it said, “Happy Birthday to my brother.” He had
signed it and put a smiley face beside his name.

“It’s beautiful,” I said as I gave him a hug. “Thank you.”

Andrew started to cry. “I didn’t make you a card.” He handed me a wrapped gift. “I just
got you a stupid movie.” I unwrapped it and smiled.

“I’ve wanted to see this for a long time,” I said excitedly. His face lit up.

“Really?”

“Yeah, sure,” I reassured him. “I didn’t get to see it when it came out at the theaters.”

“Can we watch it together sometime?” he asked hopefully. “I’d like to see it too.”

Harley shouted, “Me, too!”

“Sure,” I replied as I gave them both a hug.

Gabe walked over carrying a package wrapped in the Sunday cartoon section. “I guess I’m
next.” He handed it to me. I held it up and shook it.

“It’s not going to explode, is it?” Everyone started laughing as I carefully unwrapped it.

“You didn’t!” I shouted when I saw the printing on the box. It was the latest Xbox 360
video game. I gave him a big hug. “Thanks, Gabe.”

“It’s more for me than you,” he laughed. “Now I can come over and beat your...”

“Gabe!” My aunt shouted. Everyone started laughing.

Freddy walked over next and handed me a large package. “Mom and I made this for you.”

I started crying when I opened it. It was a large picture frame, and they had taken pictures
from a photo album and made a collage of Mom, me, Andrew and Melinda. In almost all
the pictures we were smiling and laughing. Most appeared to be taken during vacations
when we were little. Andrew was only a few years old in most of them, and I appeared to
be about six or seven. Dad was in one of them. He and Mom were sitting on the beach
with their arms around each other.

“Thanks,” I said tearfully. I gave Freddy and Linda a big hug. Andrew took it off to the side
and he, Melinda and Harley sat on the floor and looked at the pictures.

“That’s a hard act to follow,” my father said as he walked up to me. “It’s taken them
several weeks to put that together. I hope you like it.”

“I do,” I responded as I looked down at the floor where my brother, sister and Harley were
giggling at how young we all looked in the pictures. He nodded to Freddy. Freddy left the
room. When he returned, he was carrying a large teddy bear. He handed it to my father.

“I hope you like it, Son.” He handed me the bear. I took it and gave him a puzzled look. I
was becoming angry because I thought he was trying to embarrass me in front of
everyone.

“Thanks,” I said disappointedly. I looked over and saw Freddy put his hand to his mouth
as he tried to stifle a laugh. I then looked back at my father. “What’s going on?”

“You don’t like the bear?” He, too, was trying hard not to laugh.

“It’s okay,” I said, “But don’t you think I’m a little too old for stuffed animals.” I looked
over as Freddy started laughing loudly. Even Linda started laughing.

“Maybe,” replied my father, “but I don’t think you’re too young for what is in his hand.” I
gave him a puzzled look as I opened the bear’s hand. A car key was tied around one of its
fingers.

I removed the key and held it up. “What’s this?”

My father took it from my hand. “It looks like a key.” He held it up and examined it.
“I wonder what it goes to?” He put his hand on my back and led me towards the front
door. Everyone was following closely behind. When we stepped out onto the porch, I
immediately noticed a silver Honda Civic sitting in the driveway.

“No fucking way!” Gabe shouted.

“Gabe!” My aunt, uncle and Linda shouted. He ran over and started looking in the windows.

I looked up at my father, and he nodded. “It’s yours, Richie.” Freddy followed me over to
the car. I opened the driver’s door and sat down. Gabe got in the passenger’s seat.

“Jesus, Rich!” he said excitedly. “You got a car for your birthday! You lucky shit! My
parents are only going to buy me a new computer.”

I listened as my father talked to Uncle Ray as they stood outside the car. My father told
him he had bought the car at a sheriff’s auction. It had been seized in a drug sweep.
When I got out, he called me over to him.

“Now, Son,” he said as he put his hands on my shoulders. “You realize there are certain
responsibilities to driving a car?” I nodded and tried to hold back tears. Images of Wade’s
driving suddenly appeared in my mind.

“I have two requirements for you having a car so young.” I nodded my head.

“First, you will start Wednesday taking a three week driver’s education course taught by
one of my friends. Agreed?” I nodded.

“Second,” he said. “I will pay for your gas and insurance for the first year. When you turn
seventeen, I expect you to get a part time job and maintain the expenses yourself.
Understand?” I nodded my head. He then handed me a plastic card.

“What’s this?” I turned it over in my hand. It was a gasoline credit card.

“Like I said,” he explained. “I’ll pay for your gas the first year. Use that card. Just don’t
take a trip to California.” He smiled and patted me on my back.

Gabe asked excitedly, “What about Florida, Mr. Ferguson?” Everyone started to laugh.

“How about to school and back?” My father responded. He turned back to me. “Well,
aren’t you going to take it for a spin?”

“I can’t drive, Dad,” I reminded him. He looked over at Freddy.

“Freddy can drive you around.” He opened the driver’s door and Freddy got in.

“Shotgun!” Gabe shouted. I walked over to the passenger’s door and leaned in toward
Gabe.

“Can we go alone?” He gave me a disappointed look. “Please? We’ll come back and go
somewhere later.” He got out and I sat down beside Freddy. He backed out onto the
street and drove away.

I didn’t have to say anything to him. It was as if he read my mind. We rode in silence as
we passed through the double wrought iron gate. We drove up the winding road. I took a
deep breath and then got out of the car. As I approached, I noticed that the grave was no
longer bare. There was now a marble gravestone with her name engraved on it. Grass was
beginning to grow where there once was dirt.

                                  Judith Ferguson 1972- 2009
                                 She is now an angel among us

I sat down cross-legged before it. “Hi, Mommy.” Tears welled up in my eyes. “I wanted to
come here because today is my birthday.” I sat silently for several minutes before saying
anything.

“I’m keeping my promise to you,” I said tearfully. “I’m trying to be good now. I’m back in
school and making good grades. I’m not getting into any trouble.” I ran my hand over the
new grass.

“I’m getting along better with Dad.” I wiped the tears away with my sleeve. “He bought
me a car for my birthday.” I pulled a blade of grass and started tearing it into small pieces.
“He said we’re trying to find a common ground. I think I know what he means.”

I turned and saw Freddy still sitting in the car and looking worriedly at me. “I want you to
meet someone. I hope you won’t be mad, but he’s helping me find my way back.” I
motioned for Freddy to come over to where I was sitting. He approached slowly and then
sat down beside me.

“This is Freddy.” From the corner of my eye, I noticed him wave timidly at her gravestone.
I reached down and took his hand. “I like him, but I guess you already know that.” Freddy
squeezed my hand tighter. I wiped my eyes dry and then stood up. Freddy stood beside
me.

I looked down at the gravestone. “I just wanted to come by so you could wish me a happy
birthday. I know you wanted to.” I leaned down and kissed the cold marble. “I love you,
Mommy.” I turned, took Freddy’s hand and walked back to my silver car.

                                                  ********

When we returned, Gabe had already left with Aunt Barbara and Uncle Ray. We went
downstairs, cuddled up on the couch and watched a movie. I was almost asleep with my
head on Freddy’s shoulder when Andrew and Harley came bounding down the stairs.

“Whatcha doing?” Harley asked as he plopped down in my lap. Andrew scooted in between
me and Freddy. I looked over at the clock. It was past ten.

“Shouldn’t you be in bed?” Harley wrinkled his nose.

“I’m not tired yet,” he said. “I’m too excited about going to the park tomorrow.”

“You’ve got a sugar high from all the ice cream and cake,” Freddy replied. Andrew sat up
and looked over at me.

“Can we sleep down here with you guys tonight?” Harley jumped from my lap and stood
before me.

“Yeah!” he squealed. “Please?”

Freddy looked at me then back to his little brother. “We only have one sleeping bag, and
it’s for Richie.”

“We can sleep on our blankets,” squealed Harley as he grabbed Andrew’s hand. “Come on.
Let’s go get them.” They tore off screaming up the steps.

Freddy looked at me and frowned. “So much for a quiet night.”

“Don’t worry,” I assured him. “If I know Andrew, he’ll be asleep as soon as he lies down.”

“Don’t count on Harley to,” he replied. “With everything he’s eaten tonight, he may not be
able to fall asleep.” Just then both boys came bounding down the stairs carrying their
pillows with their blankets thrown around their shoulders. They placed them on the floor
and made a bed for themselves. They then covered themselves and grinned at us.

“Comfy?” I asked.

“Yeah!” Harley said excitedly. “This is fun.” They watched television for a little while. Soon
we heard them both snoring softly.

“That didn’t take long,” laughed Freddy. He stretched his arms out and yawned. “I’m kind
of tired myself.”

I looked around the room. Except for the sofa, there didn’t appear like there was any place
for both of us to sleep. “How are we going to do this?” Freddy shrugged, and then looked
down at the two sleeping boys.

“I’ve got some blankets in the closet,” he said. “I’ll go upstairs and take some out of the
other bedroom. We can sleep on the floor like them.”

He walked over to the closet, pulled out the blankets and pillow and tossed them to me. I
laid them down on the floor. I wasn’t sure if I should make two beds or one like Harley and
Andrew had made. I decided one would be better.

Freddy smiled when he returned and saw that I was planning for us sleeping together. We
completed making our makeshift bed.

Freddy looked nervously at me. “How do you want to do this?” I shrugged my shoulders.
He walked over, turned out the light and then started removing his clothes. I couldn’t
believe it when he pulled off his boxers and then crawled into the bed naked. I was
trembling when I took off my clothes and crawled in beside him.

We lay quietly on our backs for several minutes. I stopped breathing when he rolled over
and put his arm across my bare chest. He then leaned in and kissed me.

I turned and looked over at our brothers who were lying about six feet away. “Do you
think we should be doing this?”

“Probably not.” His voice was trembling as he rubbed his hand up and down my chest.
“But I can’t stand it anymore, Richie.” He rolled over on top of me. His hard cock rested
atop mine. He moaned into my mouth as he kissed me passionately.

After several minutes, he pulled away and looked down at me. “Do you want me to stop?”
I shook my head. He kissed me again and then began to move down my body kissing me
gently. I had to put my hand over my mouth so that I wouldn’t shout out. I looked over
at Harley and Andrew. They were still sleeping with their faces turned away from us.

Freddy continued to move downward. Even though he was under the blanket, if one of the
boys awoke, they would be able to see what we were doing. I gasped when his warm
mouth engulfed my stiff cock. He gently ran his lips up and down my shaft. I again had to
cover my mouth so I wouldn’t moan. When he quickened his movements, I thrust my hips
to match his. After several minutes of ramming my cock into his mouth, I was ready to
cum. I grabbed his head to pull him off, but he batted away my hand. I started whimpering
softly as I erupted into his mouth. I quickly looked over to make sure that Harley and
Andrew were still asleep.

He continued to suck me until my cock became soft. He kissed it gently, moved up and lay
down beside me. He put his arm across my chest and pulled me into him.

“Happy Birthday,” he whispered softly into my ear. I nodded and then kissed him.

“That was the best present ever.”

“Better than the car?”

“Yes,” I replied as I kissed him again. “Better than the car.”

I looked over at our brothers. They were still sleeping. I reached down, grabbed Freddy’s
hard cock and started to slowly masturbate him. “You  don’t have to,” he whispered lustily
into my ear.

“I know,” I whispered back, “but then my birthday wish won’t come true.” His body
stiffened when I disappeared under the covers and covered his cock with my mouth. It
was wet with precum. Sucking him was different than sucking Wade’s. He was much
larger, and it was covered with foreskin. I gagged when I tried to force as much of it into
my mouth as I could. Soon I found a rhythm I was comfortable with. After several
minutes, I felt the head swell in my mouth. I knew from sucking Wade that he was getting
ready to cum. Within seconds, I felt a flood of cum invade my mouth. I tried to swallow it,
but there was too much. I opened my mouth and let it ooze out onto his cock.

Tears appeared in my eyes as I tried not to gag. I pulled off and started coughing. I froze
and laid my body down when I heard one of the boys stir next to us. A minute later,
Freddy grabbed my shoulders and pulled me up beside him. He reached over, grabbed his
tee shirt and then wiped himself clean under the blanket.

When he was done, he rolled over and smiled at me. “I love you, Richie Ferguson.”  
He leaned in and kissed me. I pulled away with tears in my eyes.

“Me, too,” I replied as I kissed him gently. I rolled over on my side. He spooned his body
against mine. A few minutes later, we were both sleeping peacefully.

                                                  ********

It was nine when Gabe came bounding down the stairs. The younger boys had left an hour
earlier to get ready for the day. Freddy and I were on the sofa. I had my head in his lap
and he was running his hand over my head.

“Hey, Guys!” Gabe suddenly stopped when he saw us. “Shit!” he exclaimed.

“What?” I asked as I sat up.

“You guys had birthday sex!”

Without thinking, I said, “How do you know?”

“I knew it!” he shouted as he sat down beside us.

Freddy looked up the stairs. “Would you be quiet! Mom’s going to hear you.”

“You Fuckers!” Gabe frowned. “Now I really gotta get me a girl to give me some on my
birthday.”

“There’s always Rosy Palms,” I giggled. Freddy rolled over on the sofa laughing hysterically
as Gabe turned his hand over and looked at it.

Dad hollered down the stairs that everyone was ready. I heard him telling Harley and
Andrew to stop playing and go get in the car. Uncle Ray was waiting for us outside. I gave
him directions to Earl’s house.

Earl was waiting on the porch when we pulled up. He came running down to the car with a
big smile on his face. Freddy scooted over nearer to me while Earl jumped in beside him.

“How was your birthday?” he asked as he handed me a small package. Gabe turned
around and told him about the car my father had given me.

“You’re lucky,” he said. “My mom says I can’t drive until I graduate from high school.” He
and Freddy watched as I opened the gift he had given me. Inside the box was a gold pin
with the rainbow colors on it.

“It’s beautiful,” I said as I leaned over Freddy and hugged him. I couldn’t resist giving
Freddy a quick kiss when I sat back. Earl’s eyes widened and then he started grinning.

“Lucky shit!” he muttered softly. Freddy and I started laughing.

Most of the car ride consisted of us talking about school. Gabe wanted to talk about
sports, but Earl wanted to talk about boys. I noticed Uncle Ray shake his head several
times in disbelief from some of the unusual comments Earl said. Since he was already
familiar with Earl from the meeting in Mr. Latham’s office, I guess he was somewhat
prepared for some of his comments.

Gabe let out a loud sigh when we exited the car. Earl walked ahead with Freddy while we
lagged behind. “I swear to God, Richie. If I ever have to spend another two hours with Earl
again, I’m going to poke drumsticks through my ears.” I laughed and patted him on the
back as we headed for the entrance.

Once inside the park, Aunt Barbara gave her usual warning. We were to meet back at
six, which gave us more time than previously. Gabe immediately disappeared. Freddy
remarked that he was probably going to look for someone to give him birthday sex. Earl
stayed with us for a while, and then he too headed off to ride some rides alone.

Freddy and I rode several rides, but since most of the lines were long, we just decided to
walk around and watch others having fun. I wanted to hold his hand as we walked, but I
knew I couldn’t. Occasionally, we’d let our hands touch lightly as we walked beside each
other. We did manage to make out briefly. We rode a caged ride that stopped at the top
while others got on. Since no one below could see us, we kissed until the ride started
again.

We were sitting on a bench in the shade eating a hot dog when Earl approached. He had
his hand on another boy’s arm. I recognized him as a freshman at our school. He was also
a boy whom I had suspected was gay. We had looked at each other a few times in the
hallway, but we hadn’t spoken. He was about a foot taller than Earl. He had mousy brown
hair and brown eyes and a slight a goatee.

“Hey, Guys!” Earl said excitedly when he came nearer. He took the boy’s hand and pulled
him toward us. “This is Jeremy.” He waved timidly at us.

Earl was beaming with excitement. He kept looking up at Jeremy and smiling. “I talked to
your dad and he said it was all right if I stayed later with Jeremy. He called my mom and
okayed it with her. Jeremy’s mom is going to take me home.” He looked up at Jeremy and
then grinned at us mischievously. “If I go home tonight.”

“You don’t care, do you, Richie?” I was amused because it was if he was getting my
permission to see another boy.

I stepped forward and gave him a hug. “Of course not. I’m happy for you.” He whispered
in my ear, “I think he likes me, Richie.” I squeezed him tighter before he pulled away,
grabbed Jeremy’s hand and walked away.

When I looked over at Freddy, he was grinning. “See,” I laughed. “Now you  don’t have
anything to worry about.”

“I wasn’t worried anyway,” he stated confidently.

“What makes you so sure?” I kidded him.

His expression softened. “Because you love me.”

Our eyes meet. “Yeah,” I replied softly. He put his arm around my shoulder, pulled me into
him and we walked away.

Gabe came running up to us as we were heading toward the exit about ten minutes before
six. He was waving his cell phone in front of him. “I got five girls’ numbers!” he announced
excitedly.

“Maybe one of them will give you birthday sex,” joked Freddy.

He waved his phone over his head and shouted, “Hell, yeah!”

Everyone was waiting for us at the place we were to meet. Harley and Andrew appeared
ready to fall asleep. Aunt Barbara also looked exhausted. She had been the one who had
to follow them around all day.

“Are you ready, Boys?” My father asked as we approached. He turned to me. “Did you
have a good time, Son?”

“Yes, Dad,” I replied as I looked over at Freddy. “I did.”

As we headed to the exit, a man walked up with a camera. He showed my father a card
and explained to him that he was a photographer for the park. He wanted to take a family
photo of us. My father agreed, so we began to position ourselves for the picture.

I was in the center. My father was to my left with Linda beside him. Aunt Barbara and
Uncle Ray were next to her. Freddy was to my right with Gabe next to him. Andrew, Harley
and Melinda knelt down in front of us.

Just before the photographer took the picture, my father put his arm around my shoulder.
I put my arm around Freddy‘s waist, and Gabe locked his arm around mine.

“Smile!” The photographer shouted out as he pointed the camera at us. “Say
Rumplestiltskin.” Harley and Andrew started giggling. After Linda admonished them, the
photographer lifted his camera.

“Smile!” The camera flashed.

                                                 ********

The picture hangs in our bedroom. Our bedroom is Freddy’s and mine. I moved back home
about a month after my birthday. Dad fixed up the basement for us. It looks like a small
apartment. He put in a dividing wall and turned half the basement into a bedroom for us.

We were afraid to ask for a king size bed, so we ended up with twin beds. I think they
suspect that Freddy and I are boyfriends, but right now we are acting like we are just best
friends. Gabe is the only one who really knows. After everything everybody has been
through, it seems to be the best thing to do.

I still wake up in the middle of the night thinking about Mom or Wade. Freddy will hear me
sniffling softly. I try not to let him hear me crying, but he always seems to know. He’ll get
out of his bed, crawl into mine and hold me until I stop crying. I then fall safely asleep with
his arms wrapped around me. I’m falling deeper and deeper into love with him, but I still
haven’t come right out and said the words to him. I know he’s waiting to hear those three
little words from me. It won’t be long, though.

Dad and I have found that common ground he talked about. I don’t know if I’ll ever be
able to love and trust him like I did when I was younger, but I don’t hate him anymore.   
I even like Linda. She mothers me, but without trying to be my mother; if that makes any
sense.

Gabe’s still jealous. He received the computer for his birthday, and I got my driver’s
license. I now drive the three of us to school each day.

The storm clouds don’t hang over my head like they used to do. The sky darkens up now
and then, but Freddy or Gabe is there to help me. Uncle Ray was right when he said it
gets easier with each day. The hurt is a little less than the day before.

I don’t ever want Mom or Wade to become just memories. I want them to live in my heart
forever. Like my uncle said, they’ve become a part of who I now am. I’m finding it easier to
live with that, and it gives me strength to face a new morning.

And Gabe- he didn’t get any birthday sex.

THE END

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