The Lernier Family
© 2011 Russ Nielsen
All Rights Reserved




Chapter 35: Mark and The General

David woke up early and decided to go out on the beach to think.   He looked to see if Purev was still asleep.   He and Purev had grown closer over the last few days.   Purev was really having a difficult time because Idree’s Dad had forbidden Idree from seeing Purev.   Last night, David had tried to reassure Purev that he could see Idree at school, despite the edict handed down by Idree’s father.   That had mollified Purev somewhat.   Then they had talked about what had happened to Mark’s mom.   He next walked past Kyle’s bed.   He knew that nothing would wake Kyle.   Kyle habitually slept through his alarms.   He and Ashley always had to walk into Kyle’s room to wake him up.   He grabbed his clothes from off of the dresser and walked over to the bedroom door, where he quietly dressed.  

He tiptoed out of the room.   He heard his Dads talking in their room.   He smiled as he imagined what they were doing awake at this time of the morning.   He walked down the stairs and went out the sliding glass door.   He followed the sandy path between the sand dunes and onto the beach.   He sat down on the sand and wrapped his arms around his knees.  There was a chill in the air since it was late December.   He wore a hoodie over his t-shirt to protect him from the cool air; but, otherwise, he wore cargo shorts and flip-flops.   He looked up and down the beach, and noted that there were very few people on the beach at this time of the morning.  

Grandpa had found them a nice house on the beach with a pool and Jacuzzi tub. They had flown into Daytona Beach and had rented a mini-van at the airport.   His grandparents were already at the beach with the rest of his aunts, uncles and cousins.   The house had four floors and lots of bedrooms as well as several game rooms, a big kitchen and a sitting room.  

David loved his extended family; but he really needed some time to himself, especially after last night.   He was really worried about Mark and Michaela.   His Dads had been very supportive of him and his friends.   He was amazed at they always seemed to know just what to do.   He wished he could think as clearly as they did when things needed to be done.   It frustrated him that he was so intelligent; but couldn’t handle some of the simplest tasks.   He knew what needed to be done most of the time.   The problem was something inside his brain wouldn’t let him translate thoughts into actions.  David had struggled with it all of his life.   At first, he didn’t know how to articulate what was going on inside his head.   That all changed when Mr. Bar started working with him.   He loved Mr. Bar.   He was the first person David had really been able to connect with.   Mr. Bar was his second and third grade special education teacher.   Mr. Bar knew just what to do to get David to talk to him.   David had talked for hours the first time he had opened up to Mr. Bar.   Up until that point, he hadn’t really verbalized his thoughts.   His parents didn’t understand him, even though they tried to help him.   It wasn’t until Mr. Bar helped him learn to express his thoughts that his Mom and Dad knew what David had been experiencing.   They knew he was autistic and they understood the medical and psychological diagnosis; but they didn’t know how it applied to him.   He had wanted to tell them for so long, but he couldn’t get the words out of his mouth.   After trying to talk to them and failing most of the time, he gave up trying to communicate with them.  

To him, it seemed he had just started talking to his parents when they were suddenly taken from him.   The freak accident that had taken their lives had left David in a state of panic.   He didn’t handle change well, and the uncertainty of what would happen to him was almost too much for him.   When Mrs. Evans had dropped them off with his Dads, he immediately felt a connection to Daddy.   David remembered looking up into his eyes and thinking he looked like Mr. Bar.   The resemblance, superficial though it was, was enough to get David back into his comfort zone.   He had clung to his Daddy and didn’t want to let go.   He smiled at the memory.   He remembered Dad walking into the kitchen that night.   He had looked up at him and knew that these two men would watch over him and keep him safe.   At the time, he didn’t know they would adopt him as their son; but he knew they would be there for him.  

His thoughts turned to Mark.   He was worried about how Mark was doing.   He wanted to call Mark; but it was still too early.  As David watched the sun pop up over the horizon, he noted how the orange orb looked fuzzy in the morning mist that hung over the ocean.   The sound of the waves breaking on the beach soothed him and helped to calm his troubled thoughts.   He jumped at a touch on his shoulder.

“I’m sorry I startled you,” I said.   I sat down next to David.   Rick sat down on his other side.

“We’re going out for our morning run,” Rick said.   “Do you want to join us?”

David looked at Rick and replied, “No, I need some time to myself this morning.”

I said, “Okay.   If you need to talk, we’re here for you.”   I put my arm around his shoulders and gave him a sideways hug.

David said, “Thanks, Daddy.   I know I can count on both of you.”

I stood up and then gave Rick a hand up.   Rick said, “We’ll see you in a while.”

David watched as they stretched and then took off running down the beach.   He admired their toned bodies.   He liked how masculine they both were.   He, like many gay men, preferred masculine guys.   Effeminate guys need not even stop to talk to him.   Daddy was obviously gay, but not because he was effeminate.   He had seen how Daddy could undress a guy with his eyes and leave no doubt that he was interested in the guy!   In fact, David had asked him how he did it!   Daddy hadn’t been able to explain it very well.   He said it was a skill you either had or you didn’t.   Dad had complained about it from time to time, because guys would hit on Daddy when they were out dancing or just out to dinner.   Dad said Daddy was a guy magnet and attracted men to him with just a look.

David had watched his Daddy closely and had decided that his charm and magnetism were a combination of his quirky personality and his physical beauty.   He had to agree with his Dad that Daddy was a very good looking man.   Dad was very handsome in his own right and had a great personality.   Together, they formed a great couple.  As he watched them recede into the distance, he couldn’t help noticing their tight bubble butts.   His Dads were in great shape and he could see why guys were attracted to them.  He loved watching them; not just because they were ‘eye candy,’ for they were definitely that; but because of how they treated each other.   He had observed the little acts of kindness they did for each other.   He had seen the looks they exchanged, the gentle touches, and the stolen kisses when they thought no one was watching them. 

He also knew when they made love to each other.   There was a special glow about them, and they couldn’t keep their hands off of each other!   It was like they wanted to prolong their physical contact for as long as possible!   They would look into each other’s eyes, and he knew they were letting the other know they were loved.   They seemed so close to each other in those moments.   It was like they were in a universe all their own.   He had commented on it to his siblings one afternoon.   Ashley and Kyle had both said they already knew what he was talking about and chided him for not noticing it before.   He had been irritated with them because he HAD noticed it before; he just didn’t know how to put into words what he had seen!

His Dads’ love for each other gave him great comfort this morning.   Their loving relationship provided David the stability he needed.   It provided him comfort from all of the unknowns in his world.   Other people didn’t understand why he needed consistency and stability.   In order for him to make sense of his world, he needed to know its boundaries, giving context to his life.   He sometimes felt like a human computing machine because he couldn’t shut down his input systems.   All of his senses were constantly providing more information about his world which sometimes overwhelmed him.  His Dads’ love for each other and for him formed a foundation from which he could process the large amounts of information that he involuntarily gathered each and every day.          

Still watching his Dads, he felt that everything would work out for the best because they were there to help him.   His thoughts returned to Mark.   He loved Mark, and he thought Mark felt the same way about him.   He just wasn’t sure how to tell Mark.   He got up and walked down to the water’s edge.   He took off his flip-flops and walked in the surf.   He looked for shells as he walked along, occasionally getting wet when a wave came further up the beach.  

He had always had a fear of the water.   It was a fact that never made any sense to him because Kyle and Ashley took to water like fish.   Both of them loved spending time swimming.   He, on the other hand, hated swimming.   Maybe it was because he always sank like a rock in the pool.   He was very thin, and he had no natural buoyancy at all.   Ashley was born a fish.   She could swim better than either one of the boys.   He sometimes wondered if they were really brother and sister; because they were so different from each other.  

He loved being at the beach.   Not because he loved the water, but because there were so many interesting things to find.   He liked searching for sand dollars, shells, clams and little sea creatures that got trapped in the pools of water left behind by the retreating tide.

His Dads caught up to him and slowed to walk with him.   He looked at them and noted how their sweaty t-shirts clung to them, showing the chiseled muscles of their chests and abdomen.   Of course, Dad’s muscles were more defined than Daddy’s; but that was because he had the physique of a bodybuilder where Daddy did not.   He grinned and said, “You guys look great this morning!”

Rick laughed and said, “Do you mean we look handsome or do you mean we look sexy this morning?”

David blushed, but he managed to answer, “Both.”

Rick gave my butt a squeeze.   “Do you hear that Glenn.   Our son thinks we’re sexy looking.”

I grinned and said, “Of course he does.   He knows a good looking guy when he sees one.”   I looked over at David and said, “I need to get your Dad behind closed doors before he embarrasses the both of us.”   I grabbed Rick’s hand to prevent him from continuing its roaming.  

David laughed.   “I’m glad that Dad is feeling a little frisky this morning.”

I responded, “So am I!   BUT he needs to wait until we’re behind closed doors.”

Rick squeezed my hand and said, “Glenn, I’m surprised at you.   I thought you liked be out and proud.”

“I am; but I’m also aware of the limits regarding what’s permissible on a public beach,” I responded, giving him a kiss.   “I don’t want to be arrested for indecent exposure, which is what would happen if I let you continue.”

Rick pouted and said, “You’re such a spoil sport.”

David guffawed, “You two are so goofy!”

I said, “I learned everything I know from your Dad.”

Rick laughed and said, “Then you know we need to get inside so I can ravage your body and make you beg me for mercy!”

David laughed and said, “Daddy, you had better take him back to the house.”

I agreed, “We’ll see you inside then.   I’ll send someone for you when breakfast is ready.”

David said, “Okay.”

David watched them disappear behind the sand dunes.   He moved up the beach beyond the reach of the waves and sat down.   He pulled out his cell phone and sent Mark a text message, “How are you doing?”

He got an immediate response, “Good.   Call me.”

David hit the call button and waited for Mark to answer.   Mark picked up on the first ring.   “Hey, dude!”

“How are you guys doing?” David asked.

“We’re good.   Mrs. Campbell is great.   I haven’t met the General yet,” Mark said.  “He was in bed when we got here last night.”

“He’s really cool.   I think you’ll like him,” David said.

“I’m looking forward to meeting him,” Mark said.   “How’s the beach?”

“It’s a little cold this morning.   I love being at the beach with my family,” David said.  “My Dads just got back from their usual morning run.   Mark, they are both studs.   They looked so sexy this morning.   They could be models for any magazine or clothing store.”

Mark laughed.   “That sounds like you need someone to give you a blowjob.   Too bad I’m not there to do it for you like I did the last day of school.”

“Mark, you promised not to tell anyone about that,” David said, hoping no one had overheard Mark.

“I know; but there’s no one here.   You did a good job of giving me a blowjob as well,” Mark said.

“Please don’t tell anyone,” David begged.  

“Why are you so afraid to let your parents know?   They are gay men and understand your needs,” Mark said.   “On the other hand, my Dad would kill me if he ever found out I sucked another guy’s dick.”

“Remember what I told you about our family rules?” David said.

Mark answered, “Yes, I remember; but I also remember that you said anyone could request a change to the family rules, and that your Dads would hold a family counsel to consider the changes.   Why don’t you just ask for the rules to be changed?”

David didn’t answer for a moment and then decided to tell Mark the truth.   “I’m autistic and I don’t handle change very well.   I’m afraid of change, Mark.   Asking for the rules to change makes me nervous and very anxious.”

Mark asked, “What does autistic mean?”

“In my case, it means that I am very smart; but that I don’t deal very well with people and my social skills are not where they need to be,” David said.

Mark said, “I think your social skills are just right.   You made friends with me on my first day at Hayfield.  Remember?”

“Yes, but you’re an exception.   I don’t have any other friends at school other than you and my sister,” David said.

“That’s okay with me.   I want you all to myself.   I don’t want to share you with anyone.   I’ve decided that we’re going to be boyfriends,” Mark said.

David absorbed this information and said, “Okay, we can be boyfriends; but we aren’t having anal sex until we’re older.”

Mark laughed.   “Is sex the only thing you think about?   Being boyfriends means a lot more than just having sex.   Listen, I’m going to get a shower and go down for breakfast.   I’ll call you after we visit the hospital.   Mrs. Campbell said she would take us there after breakfast.”

“Cool.   I’ll talk to you later,” David said.   He ended the call and returned his cell phone to his pocket.   He sat staring out at the ocean.   His tried to process what Mark had just told him.   He heard what he said; but he wasn’t sure what Mark meant when he said they were boyfriends now.   He wondered if he should talk to his Dads about his relationship with Mark.   He was still undecided when he got up and walked back towards the house.

Rick and I love running on the beach, especially when it’s not so hot.   This morning was perfect.   After leaving David, we ran north for a few miles.   We average between 5 and 6 miles (between 8 and 9.6 km.) every morning.   It’s just enough to get our blood moving without pushing it.   Of course, Rick insists that we do a 10 mile (16 km.) run at least once a week.   Rick also keeps us on a weightlifting schedule.   I’ve never had the type of physique that would allow me to become muscle bound.   I do manage to keep well-toned; but Rick gains muscle mass like nobody’s business!   I sometimes have to remind Rick that I didn’t intend to marry Arnold Schwarzenegger!   He just laughs it off and keeps pumping iron.  

His big hand grabbed my butt as we started off.   “I want a piece of this when we get back from our run.”

I laughed and said, “Only if you can keep up with me!”

Rick grinned and said, “You know I’ll more than do that; because you have to take two steps for every one of mine!”

“That’s not quite true, Babe,” I said.  

His smile grew broader.   “Okay, one and a half then.”

“Alright, I’ll give you that,” I said.   We ran side by side for most of our run.   As we reached our agreed upon turn around point, I said, “Race you to the pier!”

Rick said, “Okay.”   We poured on the speed.   I won by half a stride!   Rick asked, “I bet we’re feeling pretty good about that aren’t we?”

“I am, but I know you’ll beat me on the other end,” I said with a smile.

Rick laughed and said, “That’s true.”   He stole a quick kiss before we turned around and headed back.  We caught up to David and walked with him a bit as we cooled down.   On our way into the house, Rick said, “I’m a little worried about David.   He’s really fallen hard for Mark.”

“Do you think Mark feels the same way for David?” I asked.

“I think so.   I’ve overheard them talking and it’s pretty obvious that their feelings are mutual,” Rick said.   “I like Mark.   He has a good head on his shoulders.   I hope his mother is okay.”

“Me, too,” I said.   “I’ll call Mrs. Campbell after we get showered.”

Rick helped me out of my clothes, and I did the same for him.   Rick turned on the shower and adjusted the temperature.   He pulled me under the warm cascade of water.   He captured my lips in a passionate kiss while his hands roamed my body.   I love my husband!   He knows just what to do to satisfy my desire for him!

Rick kissed me and held me in his embrace.   He smiled into my eyes and said, “I’m so addicted to you, Glenn.”

I played with the hair on his chest and tweaked his nipples.   I rubbed noses with him and said, “I’m just as addicted to you.   It’s part of being married to the best looking guy in the entire world.”

Rick nibbled on my ear lobe and whispered in my ear, “I love you.”

“I love you, too,” I responded.

There was a knock on the door and Kyle said, “Dad and Daddy, it’s time for breakfast.”

Rick shouted back, “Okay, we’ll be right down.”

I said, “I guess that means we have to get dressed.”

“Yes, it does,” Rick said with a smile.  

He released me and I got on my feet.   I gave him a hand up and put my arms around his waist.   I looked up into his eyes and said, “Mr. Lernier, you are the best thing that has ever happened to me.”

Rick said, “I’d better be.   I don’t like any competition.”

I laughed and released my hold him.   “Help me get dressed.”

He picked out our clothes and proceeded to dress me.   I returned the favor and stole a kiss while pulling his t-shirt over his head.

He grinned and said, “It’s a good thing we’re still in our room.   Kyle would be telling us we needed to get one, otherwise.”

We opened our bedroom door and made our way downstairs to the kitchen.   We found everyone was up and about, including the twins.  

JJ and Josh ran over and hugged us around the legs.   JJ said, “Kyle told us we couldn’t wake you up until breakfast was ready.”

I looked over at Kyle and said, “Thank you, Kyle, for keeping them entertained.”

Kyle grinned and said, “No problem.   I figured you two wanted some alone time when I heard the shower going.”

Josh said, “JJ wants to go out on the beach.”

JJ said, “Yes, Daddy.   May we go play in the sand?”

“Yes, you may as soon as you’ve finished eating,” I said.

The two boys ran back to their places at the table and immediately started shoveling food into their mouths.   Rick said, “But you have to slow down.   Take time to chew your food boys.”

They looked at their Dad and stopped the mad rush to finish eating.   I laughed and said, “You can be so mean sometimes.”

Rick raised an eyebrow and asked, “What do you mean?”

“Telling the boys to slow down when they are so impatient to get out the door and onto the beach,” I said.

Rick grinned.   “I can be such an ogre, can’t I boys?”

JJ nodded his head but didn’t speak since his mouth was full.   I looked around the room and saw that David wasn’t anywhere to be found.   “Kyle, will you go out on the beach and tell David that breakfast is on the table?”

“Sure,” Kyle said.   He opened the sliding glass door and sprinted down the path between the sand dunes.   He found David sitting on the top of one of the sand dunes, staring out to sea.   “Hey David, breakfast is ready.”

David looked up at his brother and said, “Okay.”

Kyle noticed that David looked a little sad.   “Are you okay?”

“Yes, I’m fine.   Mark just called me from the hospital.   His mother has a broken neck.   They performed surgery on her last night.   She was very lucky she wasn’t paralyzed from the neck down.   Mark said that she will be in the hospital for a few more days,” David said.

“Are they going to stay with the Campbells until she gets out of the hospital?” Kyle asked.

David said, “Mark doesn’t know.   His mother was glad they weren’t at home alone.   They are going to stay with the Campbells until his mother gets out of the hospital.”

“The Campbells will take good care of Mark and Michaela.   You don’t have to worry so much about him.   Come inside and have breakfast,” Kyle said.

David nodded his head.   “Okay.”   Kyle helped him to his feet and they walked down the beach toward the house.

“Mark really will be alright,” Kyle said, noting that David still wore a worried expression.

“I know he will.   It’s just that I want to be there with him,” David said.

“You can ask our Dads about going home instead of going to see our grandparents in St. Catharines,” Kyle said.

David thought for a moment.   “I don’t think they would let me do that.”

“I think they would if you went to stay with the Campbells,” Kyle said.

David still wasn’t convinced.   “I still don’t think they would let me go.   I know Grandma and Grandpa Nielsen were looking forward to seeing us.   I don’t want to disappointment them.”

“It’s up to you to figure out what you want to do,” Kyle said, as he opened the sliding glass door.

They entered the kitchen and sat down at the table with their cousins.   Kyle got them both a plate of eggs, bacon and pancakes.   Keith was sitting across the table from them and asked, “David, how is your new boyfriend doing?”  David looked up in surprise.   He didn’t expect everyone in the family to know he had a new boyfriend.   “You shouldn’t be surprised that we know about Mark,” Keith said, smiling at him.   “Purev has been telling us all about Mark.   He thinks Mark is a real stud!”

David blushed and said, “Purev talks too much.”

Purev overheard David’s comment.   “I do not!   They asked why you looked so upset, and I was just letting them know that you were worried about Mark.”

Keith said, “You don’t need to be embarrassed, David.   I’m glad you have a boyfriend and that you care about him.   Do you know how his mother is doing?”

David nodded his head and shared with them what he knew.   “I’m glad she’s going to be okay.   I’m just worried about his father.”

Keith said, “I would be too.   However, I imagine the police will take care of his father.”

David said, “The police took him to jail last night.   Mark doesn’t know what’s going on with his dad.”

Rick and I had gone into the dining room to eat.   We finished our breakfast and took our dishes into the kitchen.   I loaded them into the dishwasher while Rick sat down next to Keith.   He looked across the table at his son and said, “You want to go home to be with Mark.   I can see it in your face.”  David looked at his Dad with relief.   He had wondered how he was going to ask if he could go home.   He nodded his head and waited for his Dad to go on.   “If you really think that being with Mark is where you need to be, then we will change your flight so you can go home.   We’ll call the Campbells to see if they can pick you up at the airport.”

Being confronted with the reality of actually going home to be with Mark gave David pause.   This was a big change to his plans for the holiday.   Part of him wanted to go with the family to St. Catharines, and part of him wanted to be with Mark.   David couldn’t make up his mind.

Rick watched his son’s face, and saw the indecision in his eyes.   “You don’t have to make a decision right now.   We can talk about it later today.”

David smiled at his Dad and said, “Thanks, Dad.”

Kyle jabbed David in the ribs and said, “See, I told you that our Dads would let you go home if you really wanted to go.”

JJ and Josh came into the kitchen, followed by Egan and Diane.   Egan said, “Daddy, may we go outside.   We want to build sand castles.”

Keith looked at me and Rick.   “Are you guys ready to hit the beach?”

“I think we could be.   We need to grab our gear,” Rick said.

“Okay, let’s go,” Keith said.   He stood up from the table and walked into the recreation room.   “Hey, Jason!  We’re taking the kids to the beach.   Do you want to join us?”

Jason smiled and said, “Sure, I’ll come.   Are we taking a cooler with us?”

“We can,” Keith answered.  

Tina said, “Don’t tell Grandma you’re taking it to the beach.   You know how she feels about the consumption of alcohol when there are little ones around.   Are Rick and Glenn going with you?”

“Yes, they are,” Keith said.   “Glenn doesn’t drink beer; so he can be the sober one.”

Corey said, “I’ll go down with the guys, Tina.   I don’t drink, either.   I don’t mind keeping an eye on the kids.”

Dylan smiled and said, “It’s a good thing you like watching over little ones, since we have a child of our own.”   He and Corey had used a surrogate mother.   The woman had been carefully screened by the adoption agency.   Dylan and Corey had gone to New York City where Dylan had provided his semen for the in vitro fertilization.   Everything had gone smoothly and they had brought home their precious son.   They had stayed in New York long enough for the adoption to go through.

Tina asked, “How are you guys adjusting to having a little one in the house?”

“We’re good,” Dylan said.   “We take turns getting up with Dylan Jr.   He used to wake up every 2 hours to be fed; but he has started to sleep through the night.   The first time it happened, Corey panicked.   He thought Dylan had died during the night.”   He took Corey’s hand in his.   “I’ve never seen anyone so relieved to hear a baby cry!”

Corey said, “You would too, if you thought your baby had stopped breathing during the night.”

Tina said, “I completely understand, Uncle Corey.   I worried about my kids, as well, when they were tiny like your Dylan.”

Dylan looked at Corey, “Do you want me to take care of Junior while you go out on the beach?”

“Mom is watching him.   She hasn’t put him down since he woke up this morning,” Corey said.   “He’s going to want to be held all the time if she keeps this up.”

Tina laughed and said, “Grandma is already spoiling her newest grandson.”

Corey smiled.   “Yes, she is.”

Bob said, “Our twins aren’t due for two months.   Then, Mom will have two more grandchildren to spoil.”

Tina asked, “How are the babies doing?   Does the surrogate stay in touch with you?”

Jasper said, “She calls us once or twice a week to give us updates.   She has been very willing to make us a part of her pregnancy.   The babies seem to be doing well; but our surrogate is on bed rest until she delivers.   We offered to have her come and stay with us; but she declined.   She said she would rather stay in her own place.”

“We’re very excited for you guys,” Tina said.   “Are you using the same agency as Corey and Dylan?”

“Yes, we are.   Rick and Glenn used them, as well,” Jasper said.   “They had the best of all worlds; since Glenn’s sister, Nancy, was their surrogate and lived with them at the time.”

Egan entered the room and pulled on Keith’s hand, “Daddy, we’re waiting.   We want to play on the beach.”

Jasper smiled at Egan and said, “I think we’d better get going.”

The guys stood up and followed Keith and Egan out of the room.  We spent the rest of the day on the beach, building sand castles and playing in the surf.   As the sun was setting, David walked over and sat down next to us.

“I’ve decided to go with you to St. Catharines.   I called Mark and we talked it over.   He said I would be bored sitting in the hospital with him.   He and Michaela have been with their mom all day,” David said.

I said, “I’m glad you decided to go with us instead of going home.”

David said, “Thank you for giving me the choice.   It made me feel better, knowing that you trust me.”

Rick said, “Not a problem, son.”

David turned from us and rejoined the little guys.   I turned to Rick and said, “It always amazes me how well David relates to the younger boys.”

Rick nodded his head.   “I think they are less threatening to him than adults, or even teenagers his own age.”

I said, “I think you’re right.   He has so much patience with them.   I love how he takes the time to explain things to them to help them understand what is going on.”

“We did the right thing when we adopted the children.   Each of them has a special place in our family and I can’t imagine life without them.   We have a wonderful family,” Rick said.   He put his arm around my shoulders.   He leaned over and kissed me.   “I love you.”

I rubbed noses with him and said, “I love you, too.”

JJ and Josh ran over to us and Josh said, “David helped us build a sand castle with a moat.”

JJ said, “David calls it ‘Helm’s Deep.’   Daddy, come see it.”

JJ took my hand and tried to pull me up.   I laughed and said, “Okay, I’ll come.   Does Dad have to come, too?”

Josh said, “Yes, he does.   Egan and Diane helped us build it.”

I looked over to see Egan and Diane talking to their Dad.   We stood up and walked over to the sand castle they built.

Rick looked at it and asked, “David, didn’t you build a sand castle just like this one when we went to Hilton Head Island last year?”

David nodded his head.   “Yes, I did, but this time I perfected my technique for building the walls.”   He pointed out where he had made modifications to his design from the last one.

Keith said, “That’s a pretty impression sand castle.”

I said, “Stand next to Helm’s Deep and I’ll snap a photograph of all of you.

The children lined up and I got some good photos.   Then I had the adults join them.   I asked a guy, who happened to be walking by, to take a photo of all of us.   As we posed for the photograph, a huge wave rolled in and swamped the sand castle.

JJ said, “David, what are we going to do now?”

David said, “Let build a new one a little further up the beach.   Bring the buckets and the shovels.”

JJ handed a bucket and a shovel to each of the children and said, “Let’s go.”

Keith grinned, “He sounds just like his Dad, always taking charge and ordering people around.”

Rick put his arm around my waist and said, “JJ has a great future ahead of him.   He’s already off to a great start.”

Keith guffawed, “He’s going to need someone like me to rescue him just like I rescued you.”

Rick grinned and said, “I’m sure he’ll surround himself with good friends just like you.”

We played around in the surf for a while.   Jason said, “Let’s play a game.”   He outlined the rules.   Rick put me on his shoulders and Jason put Keith on his; and we tried to knock each other off, as the guys moved further out into the surf.   We laughed and had a great time.  

Rick said, “I think we won, Babe.”

“I know we won,” I said.   “I knocked Keith off of his perch two more times than he did me.”

Keith grinned and said, “You guys won this game; but we’ll see who wins a game of Risk tonight.”

I groaned and said, “Not Risk.   That game is so boring.”

“Okay, how about a game of Monopoly?” Keith asked.

Rick shook his head.   “Monopoly!   No way!   We can play Uno if you want.”

Jason said, “The girls will play Uno with us.   Tina really likes it.   We can set up two games:  one for the adults and one for the kids.”

“That sounds like a plan,” Keith said.

A while later the women came out with several picnic baskets of food.   We had quite a feast on the beach.   It felt good to be with our extended family.    

Mark and Michaela had stayed in their mother’s hospital room all day.   Mark hated seeing his mother looking like she had been run over by a Mack truck.   Her face was black and blue and she had two black eyes.   Seeing her made him seethe with anger toward his father.   He couldn’t understand how his father could inflict so much physical harm on the one person in the entire world that he professed to love.   That such a thing was possible only confirmed Mark’s fears that his Dad would try to kill him if he ever found out that he was gay.

He sat in silence with his anger while his sister read magazines to their mother.   His brooding was interrupted when his mother called him to her bedside.   “Mark, please hold my hand.”  Mark stood up and moved to her side.   He took her hand in his.   She looked up into his eyes.   “Please don’t be angry at your father.”

Mark didn’t speak for a moment due to the astonishment he felt at his mother’s request.   Then he asked, “How can you ask me not to be angry at him for what he did to you?”

“He wasn’t himself, Mark,” she said.

“No, Mom, he was himself.   He’s been angry and sullen ever since he returned from his last tour of duty overseas.   You know he has been difficult to deal with and even cruel to us.   He has cursed you and emotionally abused you so many times.   I’ve heard you crying because of the things he’s said.   He’s done the same thing to Michaela.   He’s a bully and needs to go to jail for hurting you.”   When she tried to interrupt him, he said, “Mom, stop making excuses for the man.   He may be my father; but I hate him for how he treats you.   He’s always been stern and rather harsh with us; but there is no excuse for how he treats you.”

She looked at her son’s angry face and decided to make another attempt to calm him.   “Mark, being angry doesn’t solve anything.”

“Pretending nothing happened doesn’t either,” Mark shot back.   “You aren’t the only one who is being hurt by my father’s actions.   You need to think beyond just the injuries he’s inflicted on you.”

She flinched as if he had slapped her across the face.   “I’m sorry, Mark.   I know it hasn’t been easy for you and Michaela.”

Michaela said, “It’s been horrible, Mom.   Dad is constantly criticizing me.   I can’t do anything right.   He threatened to beat me if I didn’t load the dishes in the dishwasher following his exact instructions.”

“I told the social worker, Mrs. Evans, that I don’t want to return home if he’s going to be there.   I’d rather live in a foster home,” Mark said.

“You don’t mean that, Mark,” his mother said, her voice quavering with emotion.

Mark replied, “I do mean it, Mom.   You haven’t been there when he threatens us.   You don’t even stand up for yourself when he belittles you in front of us.”

Tears were falling down her cheeks.  “I’ve tried to shield you from the worst of it,” she said.

Mark, seeing her tears, said, “I’m sorry, Mom.   I didn’t mean to make you cry.   It’s just that Dad went too far this time.   You can’t ask us to return to a home where we live in constant fear.   We never know when he’s going to go berserk and attack us like he’s attacked you.”

Their conversation was interrupted by the arrival of Mrs. Evans, Mrs. Shelton and Mrs. Carlton.   The three ladies introduced themselves to Mrs. Henderson.

Mrs. Shelton said, “We’re very sorry about what happened last night, Mrs. Henderson.   I hope you are okay with the placement of your children in temporary foster care until you are able to return home.”

“I met Mrs. Campbell and she is a wonderful person.  Thank you for finding her,” Mrs. Henderson said.

“Your husband is going to be released from jail today; but he has had a restraining order placed on him to stay away from you and the children, pending the resolution of the charges against him.   The judge and the prosecuting attorney have laid out a set of conditions for him to follow in order for him to remain out of jail,” Mrs. Shelton said.   “We have requested and received approval for your children to remain in foster care for the next 30 days.   At the end of that time, we hope you will be in a position to take care of the children; so we can return them to their home.   Mrs. Campbell has agreed to keep them in her home until then.”

Mrs. Henderson said, “Thank you for attending to their needs.   I am sure I’ll be back on my feet by then.   What is going to happen to my husband?”

Mrs. Carlton said, “He is facing assault and battery charges.   He has been instructed to take anger management classes and give 300 hours of community service.   The judge ordered him to have a psychological evaluation.  The prosecuting attorney and the court appointed defense attorney are conferring with the Marine Corps about getting the psychological evaluation done.  Your husband is claiming he is suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome due to his multiple tours overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Mrs. Evans said, “We came to see how the children are doing and to let you know what was happening with them.   I’m glad to see them here with you.   It’s important for them to know that you are doing everything you can to make a quick recovery.”

Mrs. Henderson looked at Mrs. Evans and asked, “Mrs. Evans, what would you do if you were in my place?   I’ve been trying to decide whether to go back to my husband, or file for a divorce.”

Mrs. Evans looked at the other two women before answering.   “We can’t advise you what to do.   Only you can determine if things have progressed to a point where you feel you and your children are in danger.”

Mrs. Carlton said, “I would wait to make a final decision about your marriage until you’ve had some time to recover from the shock of what happened last night.   It’s not good to make life-altering decisions so soon after such an event.”

Mrs. Shelton said, “Your husband is under court order to stay away from you and the children.   That should give you the time and space you need to make up your mind about what actions to take.”

“You need to concentrate on getting better, so you can take care of your family,” Mrs. Evans said.   “That should be your primary concern right now.”

Mrs. Henderson nodded her head.   “I know you’re right; but it’s hard not to dwell on it when all I can do is lie here in bed.”

Mrs. Evans asked, “Haven’t they had you up walking yet?”

“Yes, they have,” she answered.   “They have had me up several times today.”

“Good,” Mrs. Evans said.   “Mrs. Campbell said she would be here in about an hour to take the children home.”

Mrs. Shelton said, “We’ll check back with you in a few days.”

The women said their goodbyes and left the children with their mother.   Mark said, “Mrs. Evans is really nice.”

Michaela said, “Yes, she is.   Mom, I don’t want to live with Dad anymore.   I don’t like it when he gets angry.   He’s been really mean to me lately.”

Her mother looked at her and said, “I’m sorry, Michaela.   I should have left your Dad months ago.   I’m really tired.   I want to get some sleep.   Will you put the head of the bed down?”   She pointed to the controls.

Mark did as she asked, and then returned to the chair he had occupied before she had called him over to her bedside.   It wasn’t long before Mrs. Campbell returned.   She asked, “Are you ready to go?”

Mark said, “Yes, we’re ready to go.”   He stood up and walked over to his mother’s bed.   “Mom, we’re going now.   We’ll be back tomorrow.”

His mother stirred and managed to say, “Be good for Mrs. Campbell.”

The children kissed their mother and left with Mrs. Campbell.   Mrs. Campbell said, “The General is looking forward to showing you his guns.”   She turned to Michaela and asked, “Are you interested in guns?”

Michaela shook her head.   “No, I hate guns.   Mark is the one who likes guns.”

“What are your interests, Michaela?” she asked.

“I like to cook and I really like to bake.  I want to start my own cake decorating business,” Michaela said.

“That sounds like a lot of fun.   Would you like to bake a cake and show me how to decorate it?” Mrs. Campbell asked.

Michaela smiled and said, “I’d love to do that.”

When they arrived at the Campbell’s home, Mrs. Campbell directed Mark to the front room, where the General was waiting for him.   She introduced Mark, “General, this is Mark Henderson.   He’s interested in guns.”

The General smiled and said, “Perfect!   Let’s go downstairs and take a look at my gun collection.”

Mrs. Campbell said, “This is Michaela, his sister.   We’re going to bake a cake.”

The General said, “Welcome to my home Michaela.   I’m glad Mrs. Campbell has someone who enjoys being in the kitchen like she does.”   He looked at Mark and asked, “Would you mind pushing my wheelchair?”

Mark replied, “It would be an honor, sir.”

The General beamed at the young man and said, “I think we will get along famously.”

Mark pushed him down the hallway to the elevator.   Mark was fascinated by the elevator.   He had never seen an elevator in a private residence before.   “This is really cool,” he commented to the General, as they rode the elevator to the basement.

Mark pushed the General down the hallway and into the shooting range.   Mark gasped in surprise as he saw the large collection of guns on display.   “Wow!”

The General said, “I’m glad you like guns.”

“Where did you get so many of them?”

The General grinned, “Let me tell you about each of my guns.”   He spent the next hour telling Mark the history of each of the guns in his collection.   Mark listened with rapt attention.   To Mark, it was like he had died and gone to heaven.   Here was a real life general talking to him about guns and they were going to shoot some of them!   He couldn’t wait to call David and tell him about it! 

When they had finished shooting a variety of guns, Mark helped clean up the shooting range.   The General nodded approvingly as Mark finished up.   “We can come down here to shoot a few rounds anytime.   I like the fact that you know how to safely use firearms.”

Mark was practically floating on air.   The General’s praise meant a lot to him.   It was something he rarely received from his own father.  The General noted the change in Mark’s demeanor.   He wondered what kind of family Mark came from to cause such a reaction to what he considered a minor compliment.

Mark said, “Thank you for trusting me on the shooting range.”

The General said, “You’re welcome.   Are you looking to join the Marine Corps?”

Mark shook his head.   “No.   I’ve seen what it has done to my Dad.   He has become an angry, violent man.   I don’t want to live with him anymore.   He really hurt my Mom last night.”

The General said, “I understand that you’re upset with your Dad.   It’s not the Marine Corps that caused him to be the way he is.   Each of us chooses how we will react in different situations.   Your father chose to act the way he did.   He may claim he wasn’t in his right mind, and maybe he wasn’t; however, each of us is responsible for our own actions.   Don’t put the blame for your Dad’s weaknesses on the Marine Corps.”

“I was thinking of taking Army JROTC at school next year,” Mark said.

“That’s a good choice,” The General said.   “It will help you see what it’s like before you make a decision to enlist.”

Mark nodded his head, “That’s what I thought.   There’s one problem though.”

“What is that?” The General asked.

“I’m gay,” Mark said.

The General raised his eyebrows in surprise.   He didn’t expect such a revelation to come from someone so young.  “How do you know you’re gay?”

“I’m attracted to guys and David is my boyfriend,” Mark said.

The General smiled, as comprehension came to him.   He said, “David told me he had met a guy he really liked; but he didn’t tell me who it was.”

Mark beamed.   It made his day to hear that David had told the General about him.   His cell phone vibrated letting him know he had a text message.   He pulled it out of his pocket.   He looked over at the General and said, “It’s a text from David.”

The General said, “Let’s go back upstairs.   You can talk to him in private if you return to your room.   I’ll let Mrs. Campbell know that you are making an important call.”

Mark grinned and pushed the General’s wheelchair down the hallway toward the elevator.  The General got off on the main floor and Mark continued to the next floor and walked to his room.   He threw himself on his bed and called David.

“Hey!   How’s the beach?” he asked his boyfriend.

“It’s great!  I wish you were here,” David said.

“I do, too,” Mark said.   “The General is really great!   We were just down on the shooting range.”

“He has a great collection of guns,” David said.

“Yes, he does.   He told me that you had talked to him about a guy you really liked,” Mark said.

David said, “I did; but I didn’t tell him your name.”

“I know.   He told me that you didn’t tell him who it was you liked,” Mark said.

David said, “I was so excited to finally have a boyfriend that I had to tell someone.”

“I know how you feel.   I told the General I’m gay.   He asked me how I knew I was gay and told him you’re my boyfriend.   That seemed to satisfy him.   I feel I can trust him,” Mark said.   “We are staying with the Campbells for the next 30 days.   Maybe you can spend the night with me when you get back.”

David’s excitement at the prospect of spending the night with his boyfriend showed in his voice.   “I would really like that.”

They chatted for a few minutes longer and then ended their call with a promise to call each other the next day.

Mark ended the call.   He left his room and decided to take the stairs down instead of riding in the elevator.   He walked into the family room and sat down on the piano bench.   His mother had always wanted him to learn how to play the piano; but he had resisted her because he thought that playing the piano was something that girls did.   Now he wished he had taken the piano lessons his mother had offered to give him.   He ran his fingers over the smooth ivory keys.   He started to pick out the melody of one of his favorite songs.   It took him a while; but he finally got it.  

Mrs. Campbell came into the room and asked, “Would like me to help you put some harmony to that melody?”

Mark jumped at the sound of her voice.   He turned around on the bench and said, “No, thank you.   I was just playing around.”

Mrs. Campbell said, “That’s all I do anymore.   Let me show you some basic chord patterns I learned from my mother.   Once you know them, you can put almost any melody on top of them.”

She demonstrated the chords and arpeggios to him and then asked Marked to imitate her.   When he had mastered them, she asked, “See how easy that was?”

Mark nodded his head.   “Yes, it was pretty easy.”

“Now, I want you to put your melody on top of the chords you’re playing,” she said.

Mark did as she suggested and was pleased to find himself actually playing his favorite song.   It didn’t sound the same as it did on the radio; but it sounded pretty good.   He finished playing his song.   “Thanks for teaching how to play,” he said.

“Not a problem,” Mrs. Campbell said.

Michaela came into the room and she asked, “Was that you playing the piano?”

Mark grinned and said, “Yes, it was.”

“Wow!   Mom will be really surprised,” Michaela said.

“Don’t tell Mom I can play,” Mark said.   “I want to surprise her.”

“Okay,” Michaela said.   “I’ll help you pick out more songs.   It will be really great if you could play more than one song.”

The two siblings spent the remainder of the day working out songs on the piano.   Mrs. Campbell noticed how well they worked together.   She was very happy she could help them during this difficult time in their lives.

Prev To be continued . . .

A Note from Russ:

Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance – Frequently Asked Questions by LGBTQ2 citizens -

Fairfax County Anger & Domestic Abuse Prevention and Treatment -

Music that I listened to as I wrote this chapter:

Savage Garden – Two Beds and a Coffee Machine -