The Lernier Family
© 2011 Russ Nielsen
All Rights Reserved




Chapter 38: JJ’s Peanut Butter Adventure

The twins came into the family room and announced, “The cookies are done.”   JJ held a plate of cookies in his hands and Josh carried two glasses of milk.

Rick smiled at his boys.   “Thank you, boys, for making the cookies.”

I took my glass of milk from Josh.   “Thank you for doing such a good job baking these cookies.”   I retrieved a couple of warm chocolate chip cookies from the plate.   I bit into one, and felt the warm chocolate chip melt on my tongue.   I closed my eyes and savored it.   “Hmmm!   That tastes good!”

Opening my eyes, I saw that JJ and Josh were beaming.   Rick followed my lead and bit into his cookie.   “These are the best cookies I’ve ever tasted.”

Josh said, “We used real butter.”

“And we put in extra chocolate chips.   David said that would make them super chocolaty,” JJ said.

“David was right.   They are very chocolaty,” I said.

Josh said, “David and Purev are cleaning up the kitchen.”

“Shouldn’t you be helping them?” Rick asked, pointedly.

JJ piped up, “No, they said we were the waiters.   It’s our job to deliver the cookies and milk.”

Josh said, “We have to take cookies and milk upstairs to Kyle and Ashley.”

JJ said, “Let’s go, before the cookies get cold.”

The two boys ran from the room.   We heard them chattering excitedly as they returned to the kitchen.   A few minutes later, we heard them on the stairs, as they continued on their errand to deliver fresh baked chocolate chip cookies to everyone in the house.

I finished my cookies and milk, and was about to get up to take them to the kitchen, when Purev appeared in the doorway.   He asked, “Did you like the cookies?”

Rick said, “Yes, they were delicious.   You did a great job of supervising the whole operation.”

Purev grinned.   “I even got David to clean up his mess in the kitchen.”

I rolled my eyes.   “That’s for sure.   David is the only one I know that can make a kitchen look like it had taken a direct hit from a tornado.”

Purev laughed, and said, “This time I helped him clean as we went.”

David appeared next to Purev.   He put his arm around Purev’s waist and pulled him close.   Purev put his arm around David’s shoulders.   I looked at the two boys and raised my eyebrows.

David saw my questioning look, and said, “Purev and I resolved our differences.”

I waited for more of an explanation, but when none was forthcoming, I asked, “May I ask what you two were arguing about?”  Purev glanced at David, who shook his head.   It was becoming obvious that they weren’t going to tell us.   “Was it about Mark?”

David looked at me in surprise.   “How did you know?”

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that Purev still has feelings for you, even though he had been dating Idree,” Rick said.   “So, what was the argument about?”

Purev said, “I was upset that David decided to date Mark, and not me.”

David nodded his head.   “But we’re okay now.”

Purev grinned and said, “I’ve decided it’s okay for David to date Mark, because David is going to help me find a new boyfriend.”

I looked at Rick and said, “Why do I get the feeling that there is more to this situation that you guys are sharing with us.”

David got a panicked look on his face and said, “Please don’t ask any more questions, Daddy.   I promise we’re not doing anything bad, I just don’t want to talk about it.”

Rick considered his son’s statement in silence for a moment.   He knew something was going on between the two boys, and he suspected what that might be.   “It wouldn’t be something that would require us to change some of our family rules, would it?”  David shifted his weight from one foot to the other.   He couldn’t hold his Dad’s gaze and looked away.   He remained mute, so Rick continued, “Purev?”

Purev blushed and slowly nodded his head.   “I gave David a blow job.”

Rick laughed and said, “Is that what resolved your dispute over Mark?”

Purev nodded his head.   “Yes.”

David looked at his father in surprise.  “You’re not mad at us?”

“No, I’m not mad at you,” Rick responded.

I turned to Rick and said, “I suspected something like that had happened when I saw them this morning.”

David quickly said, “But we’ve never done anything else, beyond that.”

“Would you tell us if you had?” I asked.  David looked guiltily at Purev, but didn’t answer me.  “Boys, please come and sit down,” I said.  The two teenagers moved to the loveseat opposite us, and sat down.   “We want you both to be happy and that is why we’re asking questions.   We don’t want either one of you to get hurt.”

Purev said, defensively, “We’re not fucking each other, if that is what you want to know.”

“I did want to know; but only because we had an agreement, and we expect you to live up to that agreement.   You both agreed to the process for changing our rules, and making sure everyone’s okay with those changes,” I said.   “It’s called keeping your word; and shows that you are honest, and that you have integrity.”

Rick said, “It’s not that we don’t approve of having sex.   We do.   In fact, we had sex during high school ourselves, boys.   We aren’t saying it’s not okay.   We want you to think about WHO you’re having sex with, and want to encourage you to make sure you give the precious gift of your body to someone who loves you; not to someone who wants to get his rocks off.”

“When I was in my senior year of high school, I made the mistake of letting Ian fuck me, because I thought if I let him do what he wanted, that he would come to love me.   I was dead wrong.   All he wanted was to have sex, period,” I said.   “He used me as his fuck boy, and dumped me as soon as we graduated.”

Purev said, “We haven’t violated our family rules in that way.   Besides, you never said we couldn’t suck each other’s dicks.”

Rick looked at me and said, “Purev has a point.”

I laughed and said, “Okay, I’ll give you that one.   As long as it doesn’t go any further than just a blowjob, I guess I’m okay with it.”

David looked relieved.   He hoped they could escape the inquisition soon.   He said, “May we go now?”

Rick nodded his head.   “Okay, I’m satisfied, but please talk to us about what’s happening next time.”

Purev said, “I promise.”

The two boys practically bolted from the room.   “You would think they were wild animals that we had held captive,” I said.

“They are wild animals,” Rick said.   “With raging hormones, those boys are bound to get into trouble at some point.”

“Well, it’s our job to try and keep them safe, while at the same time, letting them learn how to live with all those hormones,” I said.   I leaned over and kissed Rick.   “It’s not like we don’t have raging hormones, just like they do.”

Rick laughed.   “I think in some ways, we’re worse than they are.”

I put my hand up Rick’s shirt and ran my fingers over his nipples.   “It’s not like we have sex all the time.”

Rick moaned and said, “No, just most of the time.”

David pulled Purev upstairs to their room.   “Whew!   That was a close one, Purev!”

Purev laughed.   “Yes, it was.   I don’t know how you’re going to keep it a secret.”

“I don’t know, either,” David said.   “Mark is pretty insistent that we keep our relationship a secret.   He doesn’t want anyone at school to know that we’re having sex.”

Purev asked, “Are you guys really fucking each other?”

David sat down on his bed and grinned.   “Yes, we flip-flop.   Mark fucks me, then, I fuck him.”

“How does it feel?” Purev asked.

“It feels wonderful.   It hurt the first time, but it got better.   We knew the basics, since we both looked at stuff on-line,” David said.

“How many times have you guys done it,” Purev asked.

“I haven’t kept count.   It’s been a little over a month, since Mark asked me to be his boyfriend, and we’ve had sex almost every day after school,” David said.

“Weren’t you afraid that his parents would find out?” Purev asked.

“No, because we’ve never had sex at his house.   I don’t go over there, because his Dad is very anti-gay,” David said.

David’s phone rang.   He pulled out his cell phone and answered it.   “Hey Mark!”

Mark said, “Hey, yourself!”

“We’re at our house in St. Catharines,” David said.

“I know.   You said you were going there.   Send me a photo of your place,” Mark said.

“Okay.   What are you doing today?” David asked.

“I don’t know.   The Campbells have been really nice, but I want to go home,” Mark said.

“Do you really want to go back home with your Dad?” David asked, surprised.

“Well, no, I don’t want to be around my Dad, but I want to be with my Mom.   I miss her,” he said.

“When will she get out of the hospital?” David asked.

“She gets out tomorrow, they said.   She will come here to stay until things are settled about my Dad,” Mark said.

“What are they going to do with him?” David asked.

“He’s out of jail, but he can’t have anything to do with us for the next 30 days,” Mark said.   “Mom says that Dad is staying in the barracks at Quantico until the Marine Corps determines what kind of help he needs.   I guess they’re doing a psychological analysis on him.   Dad’s commanding officer called Mom to let her know that Dad won’t be getting off base until the 30-day restraining order expires.   He reassured Mom that they are taking care of Dad’s mental and emotional issues.   I think Mom is going to stay with us here at the Campbells.   She asked the social workers if that would be okay.”

“I’m glad your Dad is getting some help.   We’ll be home next Monday,” David said.  

“I can’t wait to see you,” Mark said.   “Since Dad isn’t here, we can have a sleep over.   ”

David smiled.   “You mean we can spend all night fucking each other.”

Mark laughed.   “Exactly!”

David said, “I told Purev that we’re having sex.”

Mark asked, “You promised not to tell anyone!”   Mark couldn’t believe David had told Purev, of all people.

“I needed someone I could talk to about us,” David replied, defensively.

“But didn’t he have a crush on you?” Mark asked.  

 “Yes and he still does,” David said.

“You had better not let him fuck you,” Mark said, jealousy coloring his voice.   “And you’d better make him promise not to tell anyone about us.   I don’t want anyone to know that we’re having sex, especially my parents.”  

“I’ll make him promise,” David said.   He had intended to tell Mark that he had given Purev a blowjob, but thought better of it.

Mark said, “Cool!   I’ll chat with you later, okay?”

 “Okay,” David said.

“Later, dude,” Mark said, ending the call.

“Do you want to play a video game?” David said.

“Sure,” Purev said.

The two boys spent the next couple of hours playing games.

Mark sat staring at his cell phone after David ended the call.   He was very angry with David for breaking his promise not to tell anyone about their relationship.   He wanted to join the Army Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) next year, and he knew they wouldn’t let him in the class if word got around the school that he was gay.  He loved David very much; but also wanted to go into the army, like his father.   He really hoped that the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell law would be repealed before he became old enough to join the army.

Mark decided to go downstairs to the music room.   He was in the mood to play the piano.   He entered the room and sat down at the piano.   He started picking out a melody, and soon was adding his own harmonies as he went.   He kept working on it until he had worked the entire song.   He loved making up his own music.   He never wrote it down, because he played by ear.   But once he had committed a song to memory, he never forgot it.  

He was interrupted by the doorbell.   He stood up and wandered into the foyer to see who it was.   Mrs. Campbell was already at the door.   She peered through the window to see who was at her door.   She stepped back and opened the door.

She said, “Hello, you must be the Pauls.”

Mr. Paul said, “Yes, I’m Markley Paul and this is my wife, Michelle.”

“It’s nice to meet you both.   Please come inside,” she said.

As they stepped inside, Mark ran to them and threw his arms around them.   “Grandma and Grandpa, I’m so glad you’re here.   I didn’t know you were coming.”

“We wanted to surprise you,” Mrs. Paul said.   “We called Mrs. Campbell yesterday to let her know we were coming.”

Mr. Paul asked, “Where is Michaela?”

“I’m here, Grandpa,” Michaela said.   She threw herself into her grandfather’s arms.   “I’m so glad you’re here.”

“We’re glad, too,” Mr. Paul said.

Mrs. Campbell said, “Let me have your coats.”

Mr. Paul said, “Mark, come help me bring in the luggage.”   He turned to his wife.   “Michelle, we’ll take care of everything.   You go with Mrs. Campbell.”

Mrs. Paul said, “Thank you, dear.”   She took off her winter coat and gloves and handed them to Mrs. Campbell. 

After putting them in the coat closet, Mrs. Campbell asked, “Would you like some coffee or tea?”

“Yes, please,” Mrs. Paul responded.  

“Come into the kitchen,” she said.   “I’ve also made up some hot chocolate for the children.”   She had made a fresh pot of coffee, knowing that the Pauls were due to arrive within the hour.   She also had hot chocolate warming on the stove.   She walked over and turned off the burner and poured the hot chocolate into two large mugs.   She poured three cups of coffee, placing the hot beverages on a tray.   She carried the tray to the table and set it next to the tray of cookies that was already there.

She had just settled into her chair when the men joined them.   Mark saw the hot chocolate and exclaimed, “You are awesome, Mrs. Campbell!”

She smiled and said, “Thank you, Mark.”

Mrs. Paul said, “Thank you for taking care of the children, and for opening your home to us and our daughter.”

“Mark and Michaela are fine young people,” Mrs. Campbell said.   “I wish that they were here under happier circumstances.”

Mrs. Paul said, “As do we.   Clay is a good man, but he has been through a lot since he returned home from his last overseas assignment.”

Mr. Paul said, “That’s true, Michelle; however, that is no excuse for what he did to our daughter.”   It was obvious that he was very angry with his son-in-law.   “I hope she divorces him, before he kills her or one of the children, in a fit of anger.”

His wife looked at him, and shook her head disapprovingly.   “Clay has made a huge mistake, but that doesn’t mean he is an evil person, Mark.”

He shook his head in disagreement.   “He hurt our daughter.   He needs to be locked up for a long time.”

“Janelle told me he’s getting the help he needs.   The Marine Corps is taking good care of him,” Mrs. Paul said.

“As long as their definition of help means he stays in jail, I’m all for it,” Mr. Paul said.

Mrs. Paul said, “I’m sorry, children.  Your grandfather is still very upset with your father for hurting your mother.”

“We’re angry, too,” Mark said.   “He hasn’t treated us very well since he came home from Afghanistan the last time.”

Michaela said, “He’s been really mean to us.   I’m almost glad that he’s not around, anymore.”

“I understand that you’re angry and hurt, but you need to remember that your Dad is a very sick man.   I’m not trying to excuse his behavior, because what he did was very wrong; however, we need to be willing to help him get better.   We don’t just abandon those we love, because they make a mistake.”

“I don’t want to help him,” Mark said, heatedly.   “He hates everyone.   He is always angry.   I don’t want to be around him.”   The memory of his mother lying in a pool of blood on the kitchen floor still haunted him.

Mrs. Campbell said, “Mark, you need to give yourself some time to heal, before you decide you don’t want anything to do with your father.   It’s never good to make important decisions when you’re upset.”

The General rolled his wheelchair into the kitchen.   “Hello, everyone.”

Mrs. Campbell said, “Let me introduce you to my husband.   This is the General.   This is Mr. and Mrs. Paul.”

Mr. Paul stood up and crossed the short distance to the General’s wheelchair.   He extended his hand to shake the one that the General offered him.   “Please call me Mark.”

The General looked up into Mr. Paul’s face, and said, “Nice to meet you, Mark.”  The General rolled his chair around the table to shake Mrs. Paul’s hand.   “I’m glad you are here with us.   Mark and Michaela are such wonderful children.”

Mrs. Paul said, “Thank you for having us.   Please call me Michelle.”

The General moved his chair into his usual place at the head of the table, where Mrs. Campbell had placed his cup of coffee.   He picked up the cup and took a sip.   “Hmmm….just the way I like it.   Thank you, dear.”

“You’re welcome,” she said, smiling.

“Mark has been entertaining us with his music, since he came to stay with us.   I’m afraid that he’s spoiling us,” The General said.

Mark blushed.   The General’s words of praise embarrassed him; however, he sat a little taller in his chair and smiled.   “Thank you for your kind words, General.”

“Michaela and I have been working on a cross-stitch pillow,” Mrs. Campbell said.   “She is very good at it.”

Michaela said, “I have a great teacher.”   She stood up from the table and walked over to give Mrs. Campbell a hug.  

“Thank you, dear.   It’s been a pleasure to teach you,” she said.

Mark and Michaela finished their hot chocolate before the adults were done with their coffee.   Seeing that they were done, Mr. Paul asked, “Mark, will you and Michaela take our luggage up to our room?”

Mark stood up and replied, “Sure.”

Mrs. Campbell said, “They will be staying in the room next to yours, Mark.”

Mark nodded his head in understanding.   The two children left the kitchen to complete their assignment.   The adults took the opportunity to discuss the state of affairs, and their plans to help the children and Janelle to heal from such a traumatic experience.

When the children returned, the General said, “Let’s go into the music room.   Mark, will you play for us?”

Mark grinned, and said, “Absolutely.”

They moved into the music room, where Mark entertained them with many of his original compositions, as well as his favorite songs.  

Rick said, “You’re such a cuddle bug.”

“I know,” I said, as I snuggled closer to him.   I love being in Rick’s arms.   Somehow, just being able to lean against his chest and have his arms around me makes me feel like a little kid again.   I like the fact that Rick is so protective of me.

Rick was twirling my hair around his fingers, when JJ came over to us.   “I’m hungry.  When are we going to eat dinner?”

“You just had cookies and milk.   How can you be hungry already?” I asked, in amazement.

JJ responded, “I’m a growing boy.”   He jumped up and down.   “See?   I’m getting taller already.”

I laughed, and said, “Yes, I can see that.”   I turned my head to look at Rick.   “What do you think?   Should I start dinner early?”

Rick smiled, and said, “I guess you could, but if you wait an hour, it will be closer to dinner time.”

JJ whined, “But I’m hungry now!”

I looked at JJ, who was giving us his puppy dog look.   JJ was very well aware that he was cute as a button, and that he had us wrapped around his little finger.   Rick and I had talked about not spoiling him so much by giving into his demands.   However, neither one of us was very good at telling the little guy “no.”

I said, “Okay, I’ll start dinner in half an hour.   Will that make you happy, JJ?”

JJ nodded his head.   “Okay,” he replied, and returned to playing with his trains.

Rick turned on the television, and we watched a news program.   When the program was over, I stood up and walked into the kitchen to begin cooking dinner for the family.   I had just placed a pot of water on the stove to boil, when JJ came into the kitchen.  

“I just put the water on to boil for some pasta, JJ.   Dinner will be ready in about twenty minutes,” I said, anticipating JJ’s question.

I was surprised when JJ said, “Daddy, I don’t feel good.”

I sat down on a kitchen chair, and said, “Come here and let me look at you.”   He walked over to stand in front of me.   I put the palm of my hand on his forehead to see if he was running a temperature.   That is when I noticed the huge red splotches all over his face.   “JJ, what’s going on with your face?  It’s all red.   Have you been scratching it?”

“It itches, Daddy.   I itch all over,” JJ said.

I lifted up his t-shirt to find the same read splotches all over his chest and stomach.   “Turn around and let me see your back.”  JJ complied.   Seeing his back was also covered with them, I called out, “Rick, come here, please!”

Rick walked into the kitchen in response to my call.   “What’s going on, Babe?”

“It looks like JJ is having a major allergic reaction to something.   He has hives all over his body,” I replied, noting that there were angry, red splotches on his arms and legs, as well.   “Are you having difficulty breathing?”

“No, I can breathe just fine,” he replied.

“Does your throat feel like it’s closing off, or does your tongue feel like it’s growing too big for your mouth?” I asked.

“No, Daddy.   I just itch all over,” JJ complained, scratching a particularly bad spot on his arm.

“Don’t scratch!   We’ll give you some medicine to help with the itching,” I said.   I went to the medicine cabinet and found the children’s Benadryl.

“Did you eat something new?” Rick asked.

“No, Dad,” JJ said.

“Whatever it is, we need to get him to the emergency room,” I said.   “I’m going to give him some of this to help with the itching, but I want to take him where we can get help if things get worse.”

Rick agreed.   “Let’s go, then.   I’ll let Kyle know that he’s in charge until we get back.”

“I’ll call Aunt Hannah, too.   I’d feel better about leaving the children, if she could come over for a while,” I said.

While Rick told our teenagers what was going on, I called Aunt Hannah.   She agreed to come over to stay with the children.   Aunt Hannah and Uncle Carl live a few houses away, so it made sense to call them first.   I called my parents to let them know we were on the way to the clinic.   Mom said they would meet us there.

Kyle came into the kitchen, looking worried.   “Do you think JJ will be okay?”

“Yes, I do.   He’s not experiencing any problems breathing, so I think he’ll be fine,” I said, trying to reassure our oldest son.   “Will you help Aunt Hannah cook dinner?”

“Yes, Daddy, I like helping Aunt Hannah.   I hope she will make us a pecan pie,” Kyle said, rubbing his stomach.   “I love her pies.”

I walked over to the pantry and opened the door to pull out a box of pasta and a bottle of spaghetti sauce.   Aunt Hannah usually makes her own sauce; but she might use the bottled stuff this time, given the short notice.   I turned to leave the pantry, when I stumbled over something on the floor.   I looked down to see what was in the way.   It was a large, open jar of peanut butter with a spoon standing upright in the peanut butter.   I bent down to pick it up.   I was surprised to see that the jar was over half empty.   I placed the pasta and sauce on the kitchen counter and turned to JJ, holding the half empty peanut butter jar in my hand.

“Did you eat the peanut butter?” I asked.

JJ nodded his head.   “I was hungry and didn’t want to wait until dinner time.”

“How much of this did you eat?” I asked.   “Was the jar full when you started?”  JJ looked down at the floor and didn’t respond.   “You’re not in trouble, JJ.   I need to know how much peanut butter you ate.”

JJ looked up and met my eyes.   “It was full, Daddy.”

“So, you ate half of a jar of peanut butter?” I asked, already knowing the answer.

“Yes, I did,” JJ admitted.

Rick joined us, and I said, “I think I know the cause of JJ’s allergic reaction.”   I showed him the peanut butter jar.   “JJ ate half of a jar of peanut butter.”

Rick eyes widened in surprise.   “Do you mean to say that JJ ate all that peanut butter?”

“I do.   He just told me he did.   I think he’s allergic to peanut butter,” I said.

“Well, at least we know what caused him to break out in hives,” Rick said.

We heard a knock on the door.   “That will be Aunt Hannah,” I said.

Kyle left the kitchen and returned with Aunt Hannah.   Kyle said, “JJ ate a lot of peanut butter, Aunt Hannah.”

She looked at JJ and exclaimed, “Oh my!   You look miserable, dear.   Have you given him anything to calm the itching?”   This last was directed to me.

“Yes, Aunt Hannah, I just gave him some Benadryl,” I said.   “Kyle has agreed to help with dinner.   The pasta and sauce are there on the counter.”

Aunt Hannah said, “Don’t worry about dinner, Glenn.   Just take the wee one and go.   I will take care of the children here.”

We bundled JJ up in his winter coat and grabbed our own winter gear as we left the house.   It was a short drive to the emergency department.  

The triage nurse took one look at JJ and said, “Let’s get him into an examination room.”   She asked us questions as we went.   As soon as JJ was settled in the room, I stayed with JJ while Rick followed the nurse back out front to complete the necessary paperwork.  

The ER doctor walked in and introduced himself.  “Hi, I’m Dr. Siegel.”   He was about my height and build, with curly, dark brown hair, brown eyes and a Charley Chaplin mustache.   He turned to JJ and said, “You must be Jared.”

JJ said, “Yes, but call me JJ.”

“Okay, JJ.   Can you tell me what happened to cause all of these red bumps?” he asked.

JJ nodded.   “Daddy thinks I’m allergic to peanut butter.”

He looked over at me for confirmation.   “Yes, he ate half of a jar of peanut butter a little more than an hour ago.   We gave him children’s Benadryl.”

“What did he look like before you gave him the Benadryl?” he asked.

I described for him what I’d seen.   He looked at JJ and asked, “Is that what it looked like?”

“Yes, and I itched all over.   It still itches, but not as bad as it was,” JJ said.

Dr. Seigel examined his throat and asked, “Does your throat feel funny?”

JJ shook his head.   “No, it feels okay.”

“I think we’ll need to give JJ some additional medication, just to make sure he doesn’t go into anaphylactic shock.   He had a system-wide allergic reaction.   He is very fortunate not to be having breathing problems.   I would strongly recommend that you take him to an allergist to be tested.   He may have other severe allergies that you don’t know about.”

He left the room, and I sat down next to JJ.   “You gave us a bad scare, JJ.”  

He climbed onto my lap and hugged me.   I gave him a kiss on the cheek.   He said, “I love you, Daddy.   I’m sorry I ate the peanut butter without asking you first.”

“It’s okay, JJ.   I’m just glad that you’re going to be okay,” I said.

Rick walked into the room, followed by Mom and Dad.   Mom sat down on the bed, and JJ moved over next to her, giving her a hug.   “Hi, Grandma.”

“Hello, JJ.   I hear you have been eating a lot of peanut butter,” she said.

“Yes, I ate too much, and it made me sick,” JJ said.

Mom nodded her head.   “I’m afraid you won’t be having peanut butter anymore.”

Rick said, “That’s right, little buddy.   If you’re allergic to peanut butter, like we think you are, you won’t be eating any more peanut butter.”

Dad said, “I won’t be surprised if JJ is allergic to peanut butter.   Our family has a history of being allergic to different foods.   Randy is allergic to milk and ice cream.”

I said, “I know, but he can eat cheese without any problem.”

“Uncle Carl is allergic to watermelon,” Dad said.

Rick said, “I’m allergic to sulfa drugs.   I had a pretty bad reaction to a sulfa-based antibiotic drug.”

“What puzzles me, though, is that JJ has eaten many peanut butter sandwiches, and never had an allergic reaction,” I said.

The nurse came in with a syringe.   “I’m here to give JJ a shot to help the hives go away.”   She smiled at JJ and said, “Do you want your Dad to hold you, while I give you the shot?”  JJ nodded his head.   He got down off the bed and walked over to Rick, holding his arms up to be picked up.

Rick picked him up, and said, “Are you ready champ?”

“Yes, I’m ready,” JJ said, putting his arms around Rick’s neck.   Rick walked over to the only chair in the room and sat down.

The nurse said, “If you’ll hold his arm, I’ll give him the shot.”   She took out an alcohol wipe, and cleaned the targeted area on his upper arm.    She said, “This is going to feel like a mosquito bite, but then it will go away.”

Rick said, “Look at me, son.”

JJ looked up at Rick, and said, “Okay, Dad, I’m looking at you.”

The nurse acted quickly, injecting the medication and placing a bandage over the site.   “All done,” she announced, smiling at JJ.

JJ said, “That didn’t hurt.”

“You did a good job of not looking,” Rick said.   “I’m proud of you, son.”

Dr. Seigel returned.   “We need to check on JJ in an hour or so.   If everything seems to be under control at that time, you can take him home.   Meanwhile, if you want to go out to the waiting room, there are some toys and a video he can watch.”    

Rick said, “That sounds like a good idea.”   He stood up, carrying JJ out of the room.   The rest of us followed him out to the waiting room.

Dad said, “I was surprised you weren’t still waiting to be seen when we got here.”

Rick said, “They took one look at JJ and took us right back to the examination room.”

“I think they realized his situation was a little more serious than a sprained ankle or a runny nose,” I said.

“I wish we could go home now,” JJ said.  

“Well, we need to make sure you don’t have any more problems,” I said.   He frowned and I quickly added, “We want to go home as much as you, JJ, but we need to stay for a little while longer.”  

Mom said, “I see that there are a lot of building blocks over there.   Could you build me a train station?”

JJ looked up at her and said, “Okay.”   He walked dejectedly over to the Lego table and began constructing the requested train station.

Rick walked over and sat down on the floor next to the Lego table.   “Hey, buddy, may I help you?”

JJ said, “Sure, if you really want to.”

Rick said, “I want to help you, because I’m just as bored as you are.”

JJ looked at his father in surprise.   “Are you really bored?”

“Yes, I am, JJ.   I don’t like waiting anymore that you do,” Rick responded.

JJ nodded his head wisely.   “Daddy says I’m just like you, except I have brown eyes.”

Rick looked over at me, and grinned.   “Your Daddy is right, you are a lot like me, so that means you’re pretty special.”

“Josh looks like Daddy,” JJ said.   “That makes him very special, too.”

“That’s also true,” Rick agreed.

Mom said, “JJ looks like Rick, but he also looks like your Dad’s brother, Allen.”

Dad looked at JJ, appraisingly.   “JJ does resemble Allen.   Allen was always the best looking of all of us.   I think JJ has inherited Allen’s good looks and charming personality.”

Rick laughed.   “I always thought JJ inherited his good looks from me.”

Mom smiled, “He did, but I think his personality is more like Allen’s than yours, or Glenn’s.  

JJ asked, “What does personality mean?”

Rick explained, “Your personality is made of the things that make you who you are, like being happy all of the time, or wanting to share with everyone.”

JJ smiled, and said, “I like being happy and I like sharing.”

“Yes, you do,” Rick said.   He stopped putting Legos together, and handed them to JJ.   “Is this okay for the wall?”

JJ took the Legos and examined them.   “Yes, but you didn’t match the colors.”   JJ took the blocks apart and collected blocks that were the same color.   He reconstructed the wall and handed it back to Rick.   “See?   This is how you do it.”

Rick nodded his head.   “Okay, what shall we build next?”

While they worked together building the train station and an airport, Dad talked to me about the farm.

Dad said, “We need to go back to the farm.   I feel strongly that our family has lost its way.   We’ve left the land and have become disconnected from reality.”

I looked at him in surprise.   “What do you mean?”

“God meant us to work the land.   In the Bible, we learn that it’s important to have an inheritance that includes the land.   We need to go back to the farm,” Dad said.

I looked over at Mom and asked, “What is this all about?”

Mom said, “Your Dad misses the farm.   You know how much he loved farming.”

Dad said, “I’ve had a vision that our family needs to return to the earth.   There are tough times ahead, and we need to be where we can raise our own food.   Here, in the city, we are too dependent on others for our food and water.”

The more he talked, the more convinced I was that something was wrong with him.   “What are you trying to say, Dad?”

“We need to keep God’s commandment to till the earth.   We have strayed from God’s path for us,” Dad replied.   “We’ve lost our way.   We need to move back to the farm.   You and Rick need to move your family to the farm, as well.   Rick doesn’t have a job that is holding him in Virginia anymore.   You need to move your family to the farm.”

Rick overheard Dad and said, “I don’t have a job, but Glenn does.   He will be working in Austin, Texas, for the next few months.”

Dad looked at me and asked, “Is that true?”

“Yes,” I replied.   “I’ll be leaving for Austin the day after we return to Virginia.”

Mom asked, “What will you be doing?”

“I’ll be working with Todd on a software development project.   Todd is the chief system architect, and I’ll be doing the programming.   I’m looking forward working on a new project.   I’ve worked on a couple of projects with Todd, but I’ve always been able to work from home.   This time the company we’re working for requires us to do all of our work on-site,” I said.

“You could live on the farm, and fly out of Regina,” Dad said.

“I could, but that’s a lot of driving to get to the airport.   Where we live now I can get to the airport in about 30 minutes,” I said.

“God will bless you for returning to the land,” Dad said.  

I wasn’t sure how to respond to Dad’s statement, so I decided not to say anything.   Mom, seeing that I wasn’t going to comment on his statement, said, “Don, I’m sure God will bless our family, no matter where they live.”

Dad shook his head vehemently.  “No, Eva, we must return to the earth.”

I said, “Dad, we will think about it.   We don’t need to argue about it now.”

Dad said, “Just don’t wait until it’s too late.”

Rick said, “We’ll let you know soon.”

Dad seemed satisfied with Rick’s answer.   He nodded his head, and said, “You are a fine son-in-law.”

I stood up and walked around the waiting area.   Dad had always had some different ideas about religion, but this fixation with the farm and the necessity of moving our family there was a little too crazy for me.   I hated living on the farm, and Dad knew that.   There was no way I would ever return to the farm.   Gary and Jessica still lived on our family farm, but even they had purchased a home in Swift Current where they stayed during the winter.

I stood looking out of the windows of the emergency department, when my mother joined me.   “Is Dad okay?”

“No, Glenn, he’s not okay.   His diabetes is out of control, and he has been acting really strange the last few days,” Mom said.

“Doesn’t high blood sugar cause mental problems?” I asked.

“Not always, but there have been studies that link diabetes to mental illness such as depression and schizophrenia,” Mom said.

“I think Dad has gone wacko, Mom,” I said.   “I can’t believe he actually wants us to move back to the farm.”

Mom said, “You haven’t heard the rest of his REVELATIONS, Glenn.   He’s been predicting that the end of the world is at hand, and that we need to move away from Ontario to save ourselves from being destroyed.”

“Have you taken him to see a doctor?” I asked.

“Yes, but your Dad won’t take any of the medications he’s been given.   He won’t even take the medication for his diabetes,” Mom said.

“Is he trying to commit suicide or something?” I asked.   “Doesn’t he need to take his medications to keep his sugar from getting too high?”

“Yes, but he claims that God will fix his blood sugar problem if he only has enough faith,” Mom responded.

I looked at her in shock.   “He really IS nuts.   Can’t we force him to take his medicine?”

“No,” she replied.   “We would have to have him declared incompetent, before we could do that.”

“Well, it seems he’s not exactly sane,” I said.

“He’s still not bad enough for him to be declared incompetent, Glenn,” Mom said.

“Is he hearing voices, as well?” I asked.

“Yes, he says that God speaks to him all of the time.   He claims he is God’s prophet, and has been sent to save the world,” Mom said.

“Have you told the rest of the family what is going on?” I asked.

Mom said, “I haven’t had to do that, because your Dad has called the rest of them, trying to convince them to move back to the farm.”

“Why didn’t he call us before we came?” I asked.

“He said he wanted to talk to you and Rick in person,” Mom said.

I shook my head, still not fully comprehending what was going on with my Dad.   We walked back over, and sat down next to Dad.   Dad said, “God has appointed me to be his messenger.”

I tried not to laugh in his face, but the thought of Dad being God’s messenger was one of the most absurd statements I had ever heard.   I said, “Okay, Dad.”

Dad continued to recount his discussions with God, while we waited for time for JJ to be checked by the doctor.   I breathed a sigh of relief when the doctor called us back.   Rick and I took JJ back into the examination room, leaving Mom and Dad in the waiting area.   The doctor examined JJ and gave us the all clear to take him home.

As Rick drove us home, I said, “Dad has completely lost it!”

Rick nodded his head.   “Yes, I think things aren’t working right for him.   He has certainly become obsessed with the end of the world.   What concerns me, Glenn, is the fact that he’s hearing voices.”

“That does have me worried.   He said he hears different voices in the morning than those that he hears in the evening.   He definitely needs some help,” I said.   I thought for a moment, before continuing, “With all of his religious talk about the end of the world, I guess we should be grateful he isn’t on his anti-gay thing again.”

Rick laughed.   “Yes, we should be grateful for that.   I don’t want to repeat the experience we had with him before we got married.   Back then, he thought he was being so crafty and sly about his campaign to split us up and convince us to marry a woman and have a family.”

“I think he still feels that way; but, since we have children, there isn’t much he can say,” I said.

Rick glanced in the rearview mirror to check on JJ.   “Hey, buddy!   How are you doing back there?”

I turned my head to look over my shoulder at our son.   “I’m okay, Dad,” JJ replied.

“Now, you can say you’ve been to the hospital, just like Josh,” I said.

JJ nodded his head.   “Yes, but it wasn’t any fun.   Josh can go to the hospital if he wants, but I don’t want to, anymore.”

“I don’t want either one of you to go to the hospital again,” I said.

JJ asked, “When are Cameron and Skye coming?   I miss them.”

“They are coming to our house tomorrow, along with all of our other friends,” Rick said.

JJ clapped his hands.   “Yeah!   Then there will be lots of friends to play with.”

“That’s right,” I said.   His question reminded me that I still had a lot of things to get ready for our party.    Some of our friends from our college days were coming over with their families.

Zach and Todd had caravanned down from Toronto with Robbie and Adam.   Cameron and Skye helped get their cousins out of their car seats.   The five-year old triplets ran ahead of Cameron and Skye.   I opened the storm door to admit the five boys.  

Brian, Justin and Robin chorused, “Hello, Uncle Glenn.”

“Hello boys.   I’m glad you’re here.   Take your coats off and hang them on the pegs over there.   Take your shoes off and place them on the floor under your coat.”

Cameron and Skye had already complied with my instructions.   They were used to taking off their coats and shoes and putting them on the pegs, since they practically lived with us.   The twins helped their cousins take off their coats and shoes.

I knelt down and hugged each of the triplets.   “You guys are getting so big,” I said.

Brian said, “We have to get bigger, Uncle Glenn, because we will be in kindergarten next year.”   His emerald green eyes holding my gaze, as if to make sure I understood the urgency about the triplets need to grow bigger before they entered school.

I smiled and ruffled his blond hair.   “I’m sure the three of you will be big enough to handle going to kindergarten when it’s time.”

Three pairs of green eyes met mine.   Robin spoke up this time.   “We don’t want to be the smallest kids in the class.   Our Dads said we have to eat all of our vegetables, so we will grow big and strong, like them.”

Justin wrinkled his nose in disgust.   “I hate vegetables.”

His brothers chorused, “Me, too.”

Being a father of twins still didn’t stop me from being amazed at how alike the triplets were.   Of course, JJ and Josh aren’t identical twins, but still you would think I would be used to the strong similarities there are between multiple-birth children.   “Let me tell you a secret,” I whispered, conspiratorially.   “I hate vegetables too.   Just don’t tell anyone, okay?”

The triplets grinned and chorused, “We won’t.”

Robin said, “Did your Dad make you eat your vegetables when you were little?”

I nodded my head.   “Yes, he did, and I hated it.”

Justin said, “But Dad says we’ll learn to like them as we get older.”

“He’s right about that,” I said.   “I like some of them, but I still don’t like spinach, broccoli, peas, or squash.   I especially hate sauerkraut.   Green beans are okay, and so are asparagus and celery.”  At that moment, Robbie and Adam came inside with their older brothers.   “Remember not to tell anyone I don’t like vegetables.”

Brian nodded his head.   “We won’t.”   They turned and followed Cameron and Skye into the family room, where they were greeted enthusiastically by the twins.  

I stood up and hugged the Anderson-Ingram boys.   Adam asked, “What was all of that about?”    

I grinned, and replied, “We were just discussing the merits of certain vegetables.”

Robbie laughed.   “We’ve been trying to convince the triplets that it’s okay to eat them.”

“I know.   They just told me about that,” I said, as they guys shed their coats and shoes.   We joined the boys in the family room.  

Rick stood up from the couch, and greeted the guys with a hug and kiss.   “I’m glad you guys made it.”

The guys sat down, and Robbie let out a huge sigh.   “I am too.   We’ve been unpacking boxes for the last two weeks, and we’re still not done.”

“How do you like your new house?” I asked.

“Much better than the old one,” Adam said.

“Thank you for letting us stay here while we looked for a new place,” Robbie said.

“It certainly made it easier on us after Justin’s death,” Adam said.   “We sold our old house just last week.”

Rick said, “Good.   That will finally allow you guys to move on.”

Robbie said, “Yes, it is a relief to have it sold.   We still have to go through Justin’s things.   I wasn’t emotionally ready to deal with that.   Even now, I’m not sure I’m up to it.”

Adam put his arm around his husband’s shoulders.   “We’ll get through it together, Robbie.”

Robbie leaned over and kissed Adam.   “As long as you’re with me, I’ll be fine.”

Zach said, “I like their new house.”

Todd agreed.   “It’s much better than the old one.”

Adam asked, “Are you guys still planning to stay with us tomorrow night?”

Rick said, “Yes, we are.   We can’t wait to see your new place.”

Robbie said, “The boys are very excited to have their cousins stay with them.”

Todd gave Zach a long look, and said, “Cameron and Skye want us to move back to Toronto, so that they can be with the triplets.”

Zach nodded his head.   “I know they want to move back here, but I’m still under contract with the Capitals.   We’ll have to wait until my contract expires with them.”

Robbie asked, “What will you do after you end your hockey career?”

His brother looked out the window, his expression pensive.   “I don’t know, Robbie.”

Todd said, “He’s going to be a stay at home Dad, while I work to support the family.”

Zach put his arm around Todd’s shoulders.   “Todd is growing his business, and I’m thinking I will retire from hockey to support him.”

“I’ll be working with Todd in Austin, starting next week,” I said.

Robbie looked at me in surprise.   “Who will watch the children?”

“I will,” Rick said.   “I’m currently unemployed, so I’ll take over Glenn’s duties with the children.”

Robbie looked at Rick in amazement.   “I don’t see you staying home, playing the role of Mr. Mom, Rick.”

Rick smiled and said, “You’re right, it will be a big change for me.   I’m actually looking forward to it.   I won’t be alone, since Zach will be around some of the time.”

Zach said, “I’m the one who will suffer the most, with Todd and Glenn gone for a couple of weeks at a time.”

Todd patted Zach’s arm sympathetically.   “I think you will survive, Babe.”

Zach grinned.   “I don’t know about that.   Who will keep my bed warm at night?”

Todd laughed.   “We’ll have to get you an electric blanket and a teddy bear.”

Zach said, “Okay, as long as you get the same thing for Rick.”

I looked over at Rick, and asked, “Is that what you want, as well?”

Rick shook his head.   “I’ll be okay, especially since you guys changed your plans, so you will be home on weekends, instead of staying in Austin for 3 weeks at a time.”

The change had been my idea.   I didn’t like being away from my family for such extended periods of time.   It also would give me and Todd a break from each other.   Todd wanted to save money by renting a studio apartment.   I agreed, but had insisted that we get two twin beds.   Todd had been disappointed, but accepted the fact that I wasn’t going to allow him to tempt me into having sex with him.   As much as I loved him, I didn’t want to ruin the friendship we had by engaging in activities that we would both regret.  

Todd’s relentless pursuit of me was starting to have a negative impact on Todd’s marriage.   Before the holidays, we had sat down with Zach and Todd to have a very candid discussion about the whole situation.   Todd had admitted that he needed to refocus his priorities on maintaining his marriage relationship with Zach.   Todd seemed to finally recognize how much he was wounding Zach every time he made a pass at me.   Rick and I had left them alone to work out their differences after we had made it clear to Todd that we wouldn’t tolerate his behavior anymore.   I love Todd very much, but I’m married to Rick and that is where my loyalties lie.   He is the father of our children and we are very happy together.

I watched Zach and Todd very closely for any signs of tension between them.   Seeing none, I breathed a sigh of relief.   We hadn’t had much interaction with them since our discussion.   Rick and I had timed that discussion to coincide with our departure for winter break, so the two of them could work things out without any interference from us.

Todd said, “I won’t be staying the entire week.   I will be there to get the project kicked off and introduce the project team.   I’ve hired another programmer to work with Glenn in Austin.”

I looked at Todd in surprise.   “When did you do that?”

“Yesterday,” Todd responded.   “We will meet up with him in Austin.   His name is Lenny Matarossa from Allentown, Pennsylvania.   He helped build our client’s current system and will be a great asset to our team.   I’ve also made him the project manager.   He will be on-site for the entire project.   His wife is from Austin, and wants to be near her parents.   He comes highly recommended by our client as someone they trust. “

I was very surprised to hear that Todd had ceded his role of project manager to someone else.   I started to ask a question, but Todd cut me off.   “With the change in project leadership, I’ll need you to stay three consecutive weeks with one week at home.   I can’t afford to bring you home every weekend.”

I looked at Rick and said, “I think we’ll have to re-evaluate whether I will be able to work on the project for you.   We’ll discuss it and let you know before we leave for Virginia.”

Rick said, “We won’t be discussing it today.   Let’s stop talking about work and enjoy being together.”

Later, I was in the kitchen getting things ready before the rest of our friends were due to arrive.   Robbie and Adam joined me.   Robbie said, “What happened between you and Todd?   Things were pretty tense in there a little while ago.  Zach mentioned that things got pretty intense between the four of you, just before you left for the holidays.”

I explained what happened and why.   Robbie gave a low whistle.   “That’s heavy stuff.   I wondered what was wrong, because they are talking about putting their house on the market.   I thought you guys were getting along really well from what Zach and Todd have told me.   I had no idea anything was going on that shouldn’t be.”

Hearing Robbie tell me that they were planning to sell their house told me that we had pushed them too hard to change things.   We never intended for them to become so offended that they would take such drastic steps like selling their house.   I stopped what I was doing and walked into the family room, where Zach and Todd were still talking with Rick.   “Would you all come into the kitchen for a few minutes?”

Robbie looked at Adam.   He whispered, “I think I’m in trouble.”  Adam gave him a blank look.   “I’ll tell you later.”   He sat down next to Adam, and looked worriedly at me.

Rick looked up at me in surprise.   My tone of voice must have tipped him off that I wasn’t happy about something.   Todd and Zach picked up on it as well, because they looked at each other before they stood up and followed me into the kitchen.  I motioned them to take a seat at the kitchen table.

“I think we need to clear the air a bit,” I said, fixing each of them with an intense stare.   “I know we haven’t spoken much since we had our discussion, but I think we need to know where we stand with each other.”

Todd’s expression hardened as he said, “I thought you made it pretty clear where we stand.   What more is there to say?”

“So, instead of coming back to talk to us, you’ve decided to sell your house and run away?” I said, with an accusatory edge to my voice.

Rick’s eyebrows shot up in surprise.  “What are you talking about, Glenn?”

“I’m talking about Zach and Todd’s decision to sell their house and move,” I said.

Zach looked guiltily at Todd.   “I told you we should have talked to them first.”

Todd said, “Why?   We’re not obligated to clear our every move with them.   They made it pretty clear that they wanted there to be more space between us.”

Rick said, “Todd, you have it all wrong.   Glenn and I never said we wanted more distance between us and you and Zach.   We needed you to reconsider what you were doing.   Throwing yourself at Glenn needed to stop, because you were hurting all of us.   We didn’t say we didn’t love you, because we do.   I thought you understood that you guys are part of our family.”

Todd wouldn’t meet our gaze.   I walked around to where Todd was sitting.   I straddled his lap and pushed my face close to his, rubbing noses with him.   I took his face in my hands and kissed him deeply.   He stiffened and tried to pull away.   I didn’t let him go, but continued to kiss him until he started to respond to me.

When we came up for air, I pulled back and looked deeply into his eyes.   “Don’t you dare tell me you don’t love me, Todd.   We’ve been closer than brothers for too long for me to let you throw in the towel now.   I love you Todd Anderson-Ingram.”   I rubbed noses with him, and kissed him gently.

He held me tight and said, “I thought you hated me.”

“What made you think that?” I said, incredulously.

“Just the way you told me I needed to stop throwing myself at you.   You made me sound like I was a real creep, and that you didn’t want me hanging around anymore,” he said, his voice was thick with tears.

I reached up and wiped away the tears that were running down his cheeks.   I said, in a firm, but loving voice, “That isn’t what I said, and you know it, Todd.  Even you agreed that you needed to refocus your attention on Zach.”

Todd nodded his head, and said, “I did need to refocus on our relationship.  I admit that, but you said some things that really hurt.”

“I’m sorry, Todd.   I never intended to hurt you.   I wanted you to have the best marriage possible and to be happy with Zach.   I didn’t want to be the cause of problems within your marriage.”

Zach said, “We have had some pretty heavy discussions since that night.   We’re much more united than we were; but, most of all, we’ve come to an agreement about setting certain boundaries in our relationship.”

Todd said, “We modeled them on the boundaries you two have set in your relationship.”

I gave them a surprised look.   “I thought you guys already had agreed to those same boundaries a long time ago.”

Zach shook his head.   “No, we didn’t.   We both wanted to have sex with you and Rick since before you guys got married.”

“I know that,” I said, laughing.   “I remember having conversations with you about being faithful to Rick when he was overseas.”

Zach grinned.   “I was heartbroken that you wouldn’t even consider giving me a blowjob, because you were saving yourself for Rick.”

“Well, I did save myself for him,” I said, looking over at my husband.   “I still do.”

Todd said, with feeling, “Yes, we know.”

“But that doesn’t mean I don’t love you, Todd,” I said.   “I love Zach, too.   You two have been our closest friends since forever.”

Zach said, “Yes, and you have been ours.   That is why it hurt us so much when you and Rick laid down the law about maintaining certain boundaries in our relationships with each other.   We thought we were getting along great and that you two were okay with where we were.  

I moved off of Todd’s lap and sat down next to him.   I took his hand in mine.   “I’m the one who was uncomfortable, Zach.   I love Todd so much that I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to maintain control, if Todd kept pushing me to have sex with him, especially when we’re alone in Austin for such an extended period of time.”

Todd grinned, and asked, “So, I was getting pretty close to victory then?”

“Yes,” Rick said.   “That is why I agreed to have a discussion with you guys about it.   I’m not opposed to having sex with you guys, but it really bothers Glenn.   He has always insisted on a monogamous, closed relationship.   Out of respect for him, I’ve never stepped outside the boundaries of our relationship.   It is also the reason I’ve been able to accept how close he is to you Todd.   I know that he will never cross that line, and cheat on me with you.   When things got to a point where he couldn’t honor his commitment to me, he asked for my help to keep it.   We never intended to destroy our friendship with you guys over this issue, but we needed to give Glenn some breathing room.”

Todd nodded his head.   “I understand now.   I still haven’t given up hope that someday, you two will agree to play with us.”

Zach said, “We still want to have a much closer relationship with you guys.”   Here, he stopped and looked at Todd.   “I’m just as responsible for encouraging Todd to have sex with you, because I wanted to do the same with Rick.   We still want to have a foursome with you guys.   We think that the four of us get along so well that we could live with you guys in an intimate relationship.”

Rick looked at me, and said, “We’ll have to talk about it, guys.   Until we’re all comfortable taking such a step, I think we need to respect the boundaries we’ve set in place.

I looked at Todd and said, “If there were two people in the world that I would invite into my relationship with Rick, it would be the two of you.   We love you both very much, and we’re highly attracted to you guys.”

Todd said, “I’m sorry I’ve kept pushing you to do something you aren’t ready to do.   I guess I deserved to be scolded for what I was doing.”

“It’s okay,” I said, smiling at him.   “You’re family, Todd, and we always make allowances for family.   Are we good?”

Todd squeezed my hand.   “Yes, we’re good.”   He leaned over and brushed his lips against mine.   “I love you.”

“I know you do,” I said, grinning.

We finished getting things ready for our guests and were sitting around the kitchen table, when Robbie said, “Glenn, you should try having an open relationship with Zach and Todd.   Adam and I included Justin in ours, and it was a very rewarding experience for us.   Justin provided maturity and balance to our relationship with each other, especially after Brian left him.”

Adam agreed.   “Justin was such a wonderful person.   I really miss him.”

“I miss him, too,” I said.   I paused to give some thought to what Robbie had said about opening up our relationship.  “I guess I’m just not secure enough in my relationship with Rick to open up our relationship like you guys did with Justin.   You guys took him into your relationship almost from the beginning.   Maybe if we had taken Zach and Todd into our relationship early on, it would seem natural to us now.”   I looked over at Rick.   “I know that I’m being illogical about my fears, but that’s how I feel sometimes.”

Rick grinned and said, “You’re right about the illogical part.   At least you’re willing to admit it.”   He put his arm around my shoulders and leaned over to kiss me.   “As for your fears about losing me to someone else, they are completely without merit, because you’ve got me so addicted to you that I would never leave you for someone else.”   He looked meaningfully at Todd and Zach.   “Call me old fashioned, but I still believe in fidelity in marriage.   However, I do enjoy taking a shower with you guys!”

Zach laughed.   “That’s only because you always win our jerk off competition!”

Rick grinned, broadly.   “Of course, I have to remind you guys who is the boss around here.”

Zach playfully cuffed Rick up the side of his head.   “Down, boy, down!”

We all broke into laughter.   Rick and Zach, being the alpha males in our relationships, were always trying to outdo each other.   It was a friendly competition, but one that was very real.   Of course, Todd and I weren’t wallflowers in our relationships with our husbands by any means.   We both had them firmly in our grasp, and they knew it. 

I looked at Todd and grinned, “Our husbands think they’re in control; however, they are sorely mistaken about that.   Should we disabuse them of such silly notions?”

Todd smirked, and said, “No, I think we should let them continue thinking they’re the alpha males in our relationships.   I wouldn’t want them to attempt a palace coup to try and upset the balance of power.”

Zach looked from Todd to me and back to Todd.   “Rick, I think we need to show these two who really rules the roost.”   He winked at us and gave us a wicked grin.  

I had seen that grin before and knew what it meant.   I looked over at Rick and saw the same wicked gleam in his eyes.   Rick said, “I think you’re right, Zach.   We’ll have to wait until tonight, though.   We have too many guests coming to dinner for us to show them right now.”

At that moment, the doorbell rang, and Kyle shouted, “I’ll get it!”

We heard Kyle open the door.   We stood up from the table, and walked out into the foyer to greet our guests.   Mark and Brandon were standing in the doorway, with their daughter, Giselle.

“Come in out of the cold,” I said, inviting them inside.

They took off their coats and shoes.   We exchanged hugs and kisses with them.   I looked Brandon over from head to toe.   I grinned and said, “You haven’t changed, Brandon.   You’re still just as good looking as the day we met.”

Brandon put his arm around my waist, as we walked into the kitchen.   “Does this mean you’ll finally have sex with me?”   He leaned over and kissed me.

Mark laughed.   “Brandon still feels slighted that you wouldn’t have sex with him, Glenn.   You really did a number on his ego that day, when you told him you wouldn’t give into his charm and good looks.”

Brandon said, “You sure knew how to bring a guy down.”   He stole another kiss, before releasing me.   He sat down next to his husband, Mark.

Mark said, “Have you been out to see Adam and Robbie’s new house?”

“No, we haven’t, but we’re going out there tomorrow,” Rick said.

Robbie said, “We managed to find a place a few blocks away from Mark and Brandon.   Zach and Todd are looking at buying the house next door to us.   You know the one with the big oak tree in front.”

Brandon smiled.   “That sounds great!   If we can convince Greg and Cory to move here, all of our former roommates will be living in Ontario, at least part time.”

“Greg and Cory love living in Boston,” I said.   “I’m not sure we could convince them to buy a place here, unless they could get some waterfront property.”

Rick said, “They were looking at some property on Cape Cod a couple of months ago.”

Robbie said, “Well, they can afford to buy a home there with the kind of money they are pulling in.”

I agreed.   “Their law firm is doing very well.   They are on a cruise of the eastern Mediterranean.”

“I’m glad they are enjoying themselves,” Zach said.   “I’m lucky to get a week off, given my hockey schedule.”

Robbie chuckled, “That comes with the territory, big bro.   You can’t be the hot shot hockey player without sacrificing something.”

Zach grinned.   “Well, this hot shot hockey player is thinking of retiring.”

Robbie’s widen in surprise.   “You can’t be serious!”

“I am, little bro.   I’m getting tired of being on the road all of the time.   I miss being with my family,” Zach said.

The doorbell rang again.   As before, Kyle answered the door.   This time Ben and Janice walked into the kitchen.   Ben was carrying their newest addition in the infant carrier.   Ben said, “It’s good to see you guys.”

Janice said, “Thanks for inviting us over.”   Their two boys clung to her legs.   She pulled them loose and said, “Alain, take Mitchell to the family room.   You know where it is.   I’m sure the rest of the children are already there.”

I said, “I can’t believe how big they are getting.”

Janice smiled.   “Alain is 6 and Mitchell is three, just like your twins.”

Rick said, “I remember now.   Mitchell was born about three months after the twins.”

Ben said, “That’s right.”

“The twins will be four next month,” I said.   “May I hold the baby?”

Janice said, “Sure.   Merodee is a sweet little thing.   She never fusses or cries.”

Ben unbuckled Merodee from her car seat, and passed her to me.   “How old is she now?”

“She is almost two months old,” Janice said, smiling at her tiny daughter.

I held the tiny infant in my arms and looked down into her face.   Her eyes were open and she was very alert.   “Hello, little one.”

Ben said, “She has a pretty strong grip for such a small one.   She likes to hold onto my finger.”

I put my finger close to her hand, and she curled her tiny fingers around it.   Rick, seeing my expression, said, “Don’t even think of trying to adopt another baby.”

I looked up at him and laughed, “You know me too well, Babe.   I had just been thinking how much I would love to have another child.”

Rick said, “We have five children of our own already, plus one foster child.   How many more do you want?”

“At least a dozen,” I said, teasingly.

Rick shook his head.   “You are so crazy, sometimes, Glenn.”

“You have to admit that our children are the light of our lives,” I said.

Rick agreed.   “Yes, I love them very much, but we need to make sure we can continue to meet their needs before we add more children to our family.”

Janice said, “I think that if you’re meant to have more children, things will work out that way.   So, I wouldn’t worry about it, guys.”

I laughed.   “You have always been the peacemaker, Janice.   Of course, you’re right that things will work out for us.”

The doorbell rang, and, this time, Kyle returned with Uncle Dave, Aunt Mary, Mom and Dad.   Uncle Dave looked around the room.   “It looks like the gang is all here.”

Rick said, “Almost everyone.   We’re still missing Aunt Hannah and Uncle Carl.”

“Not anymore,” Aunt Hannah said, as she came into the kitchen bearing two pies.   Uncle Carl followed her with two more.  

Rick looked over the pies and nodded his head approvingly.  “My favorites:   pecan and pumpkin.”

“I also made an apple and a cherry pie,” she said.   “I wanted to make sure there was enough pie to go around.”   She turned to me.   “Is everything ready?”

“Just about,” I responded.   “The turkey is almost done.   The potatoes have been mashed and the salads are in the refrigerator.”

“The sodas and beer are chilling in the cooler,” Rick added.

Kyle said, “We set up the banquet tables in the recreation room.”

David and Purev crowded into the kitchen.   Purev said, “David and I set the tables.”

I said, “I think we can eat as soon as the turkey’s been carved.”

We spent the rest of the evening enjoying the company of our family and friends.

We had seen off the last of our guests and the children were in beds.   Well, at least in their rooms for the night.   I could see light escaping under the door of Kyle’s bedroom.   I turned to Rick and said, “I’m sure Kyle is talking with Catharine.”

Rick laughed, “I’m sure he is.   He is quite taken with the young lady.   Ashley told me Kyle has a serious crush on her, and, apparently, she has one on him.”

“I just hope he doesn’t get hurt,” I said.

“Well, Babe, you have to let him experience love for himself,” Rick said.   “Even if you know that it’s more like puppy love at this point.   We’ve taught him to control his sexual desires and to respect the people he dates.”

“I have no doubt he will treat Catharine with respect, but I worry about how Kyle will react when the inevitable breakup happens.   You know how sensitive he is.   I’m afraid of the damage that will be inflicted on his self-esteem.   Kyle puts up a good front, but his self-concept isn’t as good as it needs to be, Rick.   We need to be extremely vigilant.”

Rick said, “He’s not as fragile as you think he is, Glenn.”

“I know you disagree with me about his mental and emotional state, but I think we need to keep a close eye on this new relationship.   I want to make sure we’re there to help him pick up the pieces, if you know what I mean.”

Rick nodded his head in understanding.   “Just like I was there for you when Ian dumped you?”

“Well, not quite in that way.   More like how my Uncle Dave was there for me when I needed to talk to someone.   He listened to me without making judgments, and offered his advice when asked.”

“Okay, I get it; however, I think we need to give him the space to make his own mistakes.”

I put my arm around his waist.   “I promise not to hover over him, but promise me you’ll help me keep an eye on him.”

“I promise,” Rick said, as we walked down the stairs to join our friends in the family room.

Todd looked up and asked, “Are the boys settling down?”

“Yes, they have already dropped off,” I said.   I walked over and turned on the baby monitor.   We still kept the monitor in the twin’s room, despite the fact that Josh hadn’t had a seizure in months.   We could hear the sounds of their breathing coming over the monitor.

Todd said, “I’m glad you keep the baby monitor in their room.   I still remember Josh’s seizure at the pool.   It really freaked me out to see him flailing around like that.”

“You seemed pretty calm to me,” I said.

Todd met my eyes.   “I tried to stay calm, so you wouldn’t lose it, Glenn.”

“I’m glad you were there,” I said.

Rick said, “The baby monitor not only helps us keep tabs on the boys, it also gives us a warning that they’re coming when we’re having sex.”

“Speaking of sex, I believe that we promised to show these two who was boss,” Zach said, grinning at Todd.

Rick said, “You’re right, Zach.   I think it’s time for us to do just that.”

“Well, what are we waiting for?  Let’s go!” Zach exclaimed.

We followed Zach and Todd up the stairs to our bedroom.   Rick locked the door behind us.   Rick looked me over and said, “Strip.”

Zach repeated Rick’s words, “Todd, you, too.”

The look in his eyes made me shiver in anticipation as I stripped off my clothes.   Rick looked at Zach, who nodded.   They began a strip tease routine that had both of us amped up.   They ended by picking us up and carrying us to the king-size bed.   That was the beginning of a very wild night!

Prev To be continued . . .

A Note from Russ:

Music for this chapter:

Sara Bareilles – Brave -

Katy Perry – Roar -

Prince Royce – Darte Un Beso -

Celine Dion – Loved Me Back To Life -