The Man from Swift Current
© 2011 Russ Nielsen
All Rights Reserved




Chapter 132: Peyton’s Proposal

I rode in the backseat of Duane’s white Chevy 4x4 pickup truck.   He had driven it out from Spokane, Washington, and it was beginning to show its age, despite everything Duane could do.   I smiled at the memory of Mason, claiming Duane loved his truck more than he loved him.

Mason said, “You need to wash your truck, Babe.   It’s really getting dirty.   I told you not to buy a white one.”

Duane said, “I know, but I like the look of it.   Besides, I fit right in around here.”

Mason laughed and said, “NOT!!”

Duane chuckled.  “You’re right.   Not everyone here drives around in a 4X4 pickup truck with a do-it yourself lift kit.”

“You’re just a redneck,” Mason said, laughing.

“I’m mighty proud of it,” Duane responded.   He glanced in the mirror at me.   “Hey, are you and Rick up for a work out at the gym tonight?”

I laughed.   “You already know the answer, Duane.   Rick is always game to hit the weights.”

Duane nodded his head.   “Yeah, he’s quite the fanatic about his exercise routine.”

Mason looked at his husband and asked, “And you’re not?”

“Well, I have to make sure you don’t get fat on me,” Duane responded.   “I don’t want you to be embarrassed when you put on the bikini swimsuit you like to wear at the beach.”

“I’m not the only one who likes to wear practically nothing when we’re on the beach,” Mason shot back, laughing

“True,” Duane said.   “All the more reason we need to keep in shape.”

Duane pulled into the parking lot of our condo building, and we piled out of the truck.   We raced up the stairs and arrived at our front door, just as Rick was opening the door.

Rick glanced up at us and smiled.   “Who won the race to the top?”

Panting, Mason said, “I did, by one foot.”

“Only because you cheated,” Duane declared, equally out of breath.

Mason grinned.   “I did cheat a little; but it’s only fair, given you cheated, yesterday.”

Rick laughed, shaking his head in disbelief.   “You two are something else.”

Duane asked, “Do you want to go to the gym?”

Rick said, “Yes, I was just about to go in and change into my workout clothes.”

I said, “I told Duane you wouldn’t turn down a chance to work out on the weights.”

Rick finished opening the door and we walked inside.   Rick hung up his backpack on the hook behind the door.   He turned to take mine and placed it next to his, then, took me in his arms.   He gave me a passionate kiss.

Duane tapped me and Rick on the shoulders, and said, “Hey, none of that, or we’ll never make it to the gym.”

Rick released me and laughed.   “You’re right about that.”   He took me by the hand and led me to our bedroom, where we changed into our gym clothes.   Rick came up behind me and squeezed my buttocks.   “I love your bubble butt, Babe.   My exercise program is keeping it firm and muscular, just the way I like it.”

I grinned at him, in the mirror.   “Is that all you like?”

“No, but we’ll discuss that later, in bed,” Rick said, grinning broadly.   He wrapped his arms around my waist and kissed my neck.   I leaned back into him and moaned softly.   “You taste good.   Maybe, we should tell Duane and Mason to go ahead without us.”

I said, “I would love to do just that, but you wouldn’t be happy, because we didn’t get a workout today.”

Rick chuckled.   “You know me so well.   Okay, let’s go, Babe.”

We came out of our room to find Duane and Mason had changed their clothes, as well.  All four of us wore white mesh tank top shirts with dark blue workout shorts and cross trainers.  

Rick said, “Let’s go.   I need a good workout to help me unwind.”

We left the condo and made our way to the parking lot, where we climbed into the Land Rover and Rick drove us over to the gym.   We checked in at the front desk, and hit the weight room.   As always, Rick supervised our weight training.   He keeps a chart on each of us, to track our progress.   He pulled out his clipboard, with its charts, and reviewed our goals for today.

I grumbled when he told me how much I needed to bench press this time.   He said, “Now, Babe, it’s for your own good.”  I stuck out my tongue at him.   He laughed.   “You know I’ll collect all my kisses later tonight.”  He was referring to the interpretation of what it means to stick out your tongue at someone, and that is, “Kiss me quick, and don’t slobber!”  

I asked, “What if I won’t let you kiss me?”

Rick laughed, and said, “Oh, I think you’ll let me kiss you, alright.   You know you’ll give me anything I want, when I’m making love to you.”

He had me there, and he knew it.   I’ve never been able to resist him when he’s caressing my bare skin and kissing me all over my body.   As if to reinforce what I was already thinking, Rick ran his hand over the inside of my bare thigh.   I shivered and looked up to meet his eyes.

He gave me a lecherous grin, and said, “Don’t complain, Babe.   I promise I’ll reward you for your efforts.”

I smiled and said, “Okay.”   Rick spotted for me as I worked on the bench press.   From there, we worked our way from one weight machine to another.

While we lifted weights, I noticed a really cute blond guy working out next to Rick.   He kept looking at us, but, when I caught his eye, he would look away.   Finally, I walked over and introduced myself, extending my hand, I said, “Hey, I’m Glenn.   What’s your name?”

He took my hand, and said, “I’m Revell.”   Revell had removed his shirt and was sweating profusely from his efforts.

“Do you come here often?” I asked, noticing his washboard abs.

“No, this is my first time.   You guys look pretty buff.   I wonder if you would mind if I follow your workout routine,” he said, looking me over appreciatively.

Rick overheard him and said, “We don’t mind at all.   Hi, I’m Rick.”   They shook hands.

“Revell Marsden,” he said.   “I just moved to Atlanta from Richmond, Virginia.   I’m working for HP.”

“We live not too far from here,” Rick said.   He told Revell our address.  

Revell said, “I live in those same condos.”

Rick said, “That’s really cool.   You’re welcome to join us for workouts.   We also go out running every morning, before work.”

Revell smiled.   “That’s perfect.   I was wondering if you guys did any running or cycling, to balance out your weight training.”

Rick said, “I’ve set up a whole physical training routine to keep us fit.”   He outlined his regimen.

Revell said, “That sounds wonderful.   It’s a little different from what I’m used to, but I can see it produces fantastic results.”

Rick grinned, and flexed his muscles.   I said, “Rick has us all beat in the muscle department.”

Rick laughed and said, “And I’m not only the best looking, but I’m the smartest of the bunch.”

I punched him in the shoulder.   “Alright, wise guy, enough of that.”

Revell laughed.   “I like you guys.   Who are your other friends?”

I waved Duane and Mason over.   “This is Revell.   Revell, these are our friends, Duane and Mason.”

They shook hands.   Revell said, “It’s nice to meet you guys.”

Duane looked him over and said, “You look pretty good, Revell.   I can see you’ve been taking good care of yourself.”

Revell blushed.   “Thanks, Duane.   You guys look great, yourselves.”

Rick said, “Revell will be joining us for our workout sessions.   He lives in our same condo complex.”

Mason said, “That’s great!”

Revell said, “Where are you guys from?”

“We’re from Spokane, Washington,” Duane said.

Mason said, “We moved here for our jobs.”

Revell said, “It’s the same for me.   I’m from Richmond, Virginia.   I just started a job, working for Hewlett-Packard (HP).   Our office is near the Perimeter Mall, just off Highway 400.   I looked at some places in Alpharetta, but I decided I like being closer to the center of the city.”

“We bought our condo when we were attending Georgia Tech,” I said.

Revell said, “That makes sense.   I graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University last year.   My parents live in Midlothian, just outside Richmond.”

Rick pulled out a blank chart and began filling it in.   He said, “Let’s see where you are, so we have a baseline to work from.”

We chatted as we continued our workout.   Revell’s performance on the weights was impressive.   Rick laughed, and said, “I think I’ll have some pretty good competition to keep pushing me to do better.”

Revell grinned and said, “I’m glad I can be of service to you.   I really appreciate the time you’ve spent, working with me; especially since you’ve already got three other guys you’re helping.”

Rick said, “Not a problem.”

I said, “Do you want to join us for dinner?”

“Sure, if I’m not imposing on you,” Revell said.

Rick said, “Let’s go, then.   I’m starving.”   Rick reminded him of our building and condo number.   “We’ll see you at the condo, shortly.”

Revell said, “I’ll stop by my place for a shower, first.   Can I bring anything?”

“No, just bring your appetite,” I said.

He grinned and said, “I’ll see you at your place.”

We left and made our way back to our condo.   We took a quick shower, as did Duane and Mason.   We were sitting around the kitchen table, discussing what to do about dinner, when there was a light tap on the door.  Rick stood up from the table and went to answer the door.   He returned a moment later with Revell.  

Revell said, “Hey, guys!”

“What do you want to eat?   Anything particular?” I asked.

Revell slid into a chair at the table, and said, “I’m good for just about anything.”

I said, “We’ve got some leftover brown rice and lots of fresh vegetables.   I could make up a shrimp stir fry to go with the rice.   Does that sound okay to everyone?”

Duane said, “Sounds like a plan to me.   What can I do to help?”

I said, “You can chop vegetables, and Mason, you get to peel the shrimp.”   I turned to Rick.   “Babe, will you make your signature wonton soup?”

Rick said, “I’d be happy to do so.   Revell, you can help me with the wonton soup.   We made up the wontons last week, and put them in the freezer.   All we have to do is make the soup broth, and chop up a few scallions to throw in it.   We also cooked the pork and froze it, too.   Glenn and I are really into cooking our own Chinese food.   That way we can make it healthier and still eat what we like.”

“Not to mention we get in all of our vegetables in one meal.   We eat fruit and plain yoghurt for breakfast, and have a light lunch,” I said.

“Glenn has found all kinds of great recipes on-line,” Rick said, enthusiastically.

Duane asked, “Have you ever thought of making your own curry, like in Thai or Indian food?”

“No, but that’s a good idea,” Rick said.   “I like a good curry, but it’s so full of calories.”

Mason said, “Duane has figured out how to make our favorite curried dishes with low fat ingredients.”

Revell looked around the room, and said, “I can’t believe I’m sitting here, listening to you guys talk about cooking.   You’d think you were gay, or something.”

There was a dead silence in the room, as we looked at each other.  I laughed and said, “Revell, I think you’ve finally figured it out.”   Revell looked at me, with his mouth wide open.   “You can close your mouth, now, Revell.   If you’ve got a problem with gays, you can leave now, and we’ll pretend we’ve never met.   Otherwise, start chopping up those scallions!”

Revell closed his mouth with a snap, and began chopping up the scallions Rick had washed and placed on the cutting board next to him.   The rest of us continued what we were doing.   Mason finished shelling the shrimp and placed them in a bowl, next to the wok.   Duane and I finished chopping the vegetables – bok choy, cabbage, carrots and celery.   I opened a can of water chestnuts and pulled out a package of fresh bean sprouts from the refrigerator.

Rick made his broth and began cooking the wontons, as I cooked the vegetables in the wok.   I threw in the shrimp last, so they wouldn’t be overcooked.   Rick’s soup was ready at the same time as the stir-fry.  

Duane and Mason set the table and we brought the food over to the table.   We sat down and Rick said, “I’ll say grace.”   We held hands around the table and listened to Rick.   When he said, “Amen,” we chorused, “Amen.”

We served ourselves and began to eat.   Revell said, “I’m sorry if I offended anyone, earlier, with my comment about being gay.”

Duane patted him on the back.   “That’s okay, Revell.   You stayed and you didn’t make a scene.   I think you’re okay.”

Revell said, “I guess I had this image of gays being all sissified.   The way you guys act, I would never have guessed you’re gay.”

“That’s because we’re normal red-blooded American guys,” Duane said.   “We might like fucking a guy; but, otherwise, we’re pretty much just like every other guy you might meet on the street.”

“May I correct that statement?” I asked.

Duane looked at me and raised his eyebrows.   “Oh, I forgot.   Glenn, here, is Canadian.   Sorry, Glenn, I didn’t mean to leave you out.”

“Not a problem,” I said, grinning at him.   “I just have to keep you guys in line, that’s all.”

Revell asked, “Where are you from?”

“I’m from Swift Current, Saskatchewan,” I replied.

“Where’s that?” he asked.

“Saskatchewan is one of the western provinces of Canada.   Swift Current is straight north from your state of Montana,” I said.

Revell said, “Okay, I know where Montana is.”

“After we’re done eating, Glenn can get out the map and show you where he’s from,” Rick said.

We finished our dinner and made our way to the family room.   I pulled out a map of Canada, spreading it out on the floor.   I pointed to Swift Current.  “This is where I’m from.”   

Revell sat down on the floor beside me and peered at the map.   “What’s it like there?”

“Saskatchewan is one of the three prairie provinces of Canada.   Where I’m from in Southwestern Saskatchewan, it’s pretty much flat, with wheat farms as far as the eye can see,” I said.

Rick said, “I can attest to that.”

“So, it’s a lot like Kansas, or Nebraska?” Revell asked.

“I guess you could say that,” I said.  

Revell asked, “What brought you to Atlanta, Glenn?”

“I came here to attend Georgia Tech,” I said.

“Is that why you moved here, too, Rick?” he asked.

“Yes, it is.   I moved here with Glenn’s cousin, Keith.   We graduated from the same school and decided we would room together,” Rick said.

“So, what happened to Keith?” Revell asked.

“He got married,” I said.   “He and his wife, Kerry, live downstairs from us,” I said.

“That’s cool,” Revell said.

He looked at his watch and said, “I need to get back home.   I’ve got to get some things done before I can go to bed tonight.   Thanks for dinner.”

He stood, and extended his hand to help me get to my feet.   He held my hand a little longer than was necessary.   On impulse, I kissed him.  Revell went very still, but he didn’t pull away.   After a moment, he returned the kiss.

I pulled back and looked him in the eyes.   “How did you like that?”

Revell grinned.   “It wasn’t anything like I thought it would be.”

“Why?   What did you expect?” I asked.

“I expected there to be stars and fireworks,” Revell said, still grinning from ear to ear.

Rick said, “Well, next time we’ll have to show you how to get the stars and fireworks.”

Revell said, “I can’t wait.   I’ll catch you guys, later.”

He walked out of the room, and we soon heard him open and close the door.  

Duane asked, “So, what do you make of Revell?”

Rick said, “I think he’s a closet case.”

I said, “My gaydar must be failing me, because I didn’t get even a slight vibration Revell was interested in guys.”

Mason said, “Then you’re going blind!   He couldn’t keep his eyes off of Rick all evening!”

“But, that’s normal.   Everybody looks at Rick.   He turns heads wherever we go,” I said.

Duane said, “No, Glenn, Revell was undressing your boyfriend with his eyes all night long.”

Rick said, “Duane’s right.   I noticed Revell kept glancing at my crotch.   I caught him doing it, just a few minutes before he left.   That’s when he said he had to leave.”

Duane laughed.   “I saw you staring at him, while you played with your dick.”

“Where was I during all of this?” I asked.

“I think you were focused on Rick, Glenn, and didn’t see Revell’s reaction,” Mason said.   “Face it, Glenn, no one else exists in your universe, whenever you’re with Rick.”

“I’m sorry, I don’t mean to ignore you guys,” I said, embarrassed.

“Don’t worry about it.   We’ve gotten used to it, so we aren’t bothered by it.   We understand you’re completely in love with your man,” Duane said.   “But, returning to the subject of Revell.   I think he’s gay, but is so far in the closet he can’t see the light of day.”

Mason said, “But, he didn’t bolt out the door when it finally clicked with him we’re gay.”

I laughed.   “He sure didn’t seem like the sharpest tool in the shed.   Maybe he was so distracted by Rick; he failed to recognize we’re gay.   I don’t exactly hide the fact I’m gay.”

Duane nodded his head in agreement.   “That’s an understatement, my friend.”

“Well, he should have had a clue, long before he figured it out,” I said.   I turned to Rick and asked, “Do you want to watch a DVD?”

Rick said, “Sure.”

I picked one out and threw it into the DVD player.   I walked over and joined Rick on the couch.   Duane and Mason took up residence on the loveseat opposite us.  I leaned back against Rick’s chest, enjoying the feel of his arms around me.   After an intense workout session at the gym, I was ready to relax.   Rick had pushed us pretty hard this time.   As a result, I felt pretty washed out.   I didn’t dare complain to my boyfriend about it, because he would only push me that much harder the next time.   I’ve learned, the hard way, not to whimper about Rick’s fitness regimen!    Rick has been blessed with a fantastic physique, and his muscles seem to get larger every time he works out.   I’m NOT complaining about that at all.   I love his gorgeous body.   He has to keep in good shape, since he’s in the Marine Corps.  

However, I do not have the same physical make up as he does.   I don’t have muscles popping out everywhere when I work out.   Don’t get me wrong, I’m solidly build; but no matter how hard I try, I just can’t get the huge muscles, like Rick.   I’ve got washboard abs, but they just don’t pop out as much as Rick’s.   Yes, I’m whining a bit, because I wish I could match Rick’s physical strength.   He teases me about the fact he’s so much stronger than I.   I’m okay with that, because he is a bigger man than I am.   I expect him to be stronger, because he’s been my knight in shining armor and my protector for a long time now.

I could tell Rick was bored with the movie, because his hands started roaming.   I caressed his legs and inner thighs, loving the feel of his muscles.   Rick put his hands under my shirt and tweaked my nipples, causing me to gasp in pure pleasure.   Since meeting Rick, I’ve discovered how sensitive my nipples are!  

Duane noticed what was happening, and grinned broadly.   “I can tell someone’s horny!”

Rick laughed, and said, “I wondered if you would notice.”

Mason said, “It’s kind of hard to miss.”

Rick grabbed the remote and turned off the television.  Duane and Mason stood up.   Duane said, “We’ll see you guys in the morning.”

Rick grinned and said, “Thanks, guys.”

After they left, Rick continued his assault on my defenses!   It wasn’t long before he had my shirt off and had me on my back, staring up into his deep blue eyes.   I ran my hands over his bare chest, caressing his pecs and abs.   I reached up and pulled his head down, until our lips met.   As we kissed, Rick pulled off my shorts and underwear.   I shoved my hands down his shorts and squeezed both cheeks, before pushing them down as far as I could.   He kicked them off and began kissing me all over.   His ran his tongue along my jaw line until he reached my chin.  

He said, “You taste good.”

“So do you,” I said, huskily.

We continued to make love to each other until the flames of our passion completely engulfed us, melding us into one raging inferno!   Afterward, Rick lay on top of me with my arms wrapped around him, enjoying the feel of his bare skin against mine.  

I gently nibbled on his earlobe and whispered, “I love you.”

He murmured, “I love you, too, Babe.”

We stayed like that for some time, before I ran my hands lightly over the muscles in Rick’s back and shoulders, then down his back to his perfect bubble butt.   Rick stirred as I kissed the nape of his neck.   He lifted his head and turned to rub noses with me.

“I love you, Glenn,” he said.

“I love you, too,” I said.

Rick sat up and pulled me onto his lap.   “I think we should take a shower, then play some more.”

I kissed him, and said, “I think that’s a wonderful idea.”

As always, he amazed me by standing up with me in his arms, and carrying me into our bedroom.   Rick grinned, as I clung to him.   “I love doing that.”

“I know,” I said.   “It reminds me you’re my Prince Charming and you’ve come to carry me off to your castle.”

Rick put me on my feet and pulled me into his arms.   “How do you know I’m not the villain, come to lock you up in my castle, and turn you into my willing sex toy?”

I laughed, and said, ‘I’m already your willing sex toy, Babe.   I was completely yours from the day we met.”

He guffawed, “That is truly an understatement!   I’ve never seen anyone look at a guy like you looked at me, that day.”

I grinned like a Cheshire cat.   “I knew I’d met my man, when I saw you.”

“It’s more likely you were so much in lust; you couldn’t think of anything other than having sex with me,” Rick said.

“Okay, I’ll admit it,” I said.   “But you have to agree you’re the hottest stud I’ve ever met.”

Rick didn’t answer, but captured my lips.   As he ran his hands over my body, my skin felt like it was on fire!  Every fiber of my being wanted him and he knew it!

Rick took my hand and led me to our en suite.   He turned on the shower and adjusted the water temperature.   He turned and pulled me under the warm cascade, and he began washing my body.   I, in turn, washed his.   We played for some time, before turning off the water.   We dried each other off and returned to our bedroom.   We climbed into bed and held each other close.   I really enjoy being held by my guy!   We have some of our best talks when we’re cuddling in bed.

Rick said, “Peyton finishes his sentence this Friday.”

“I know,” I said.   “We’ve got his bedroom ready.   I’m excited to have him live with us.   I’m really glad we’ve been able to help him recover from what happened in prison.   We’ve become really good friends.”

Rick said, “Yes, we have.   I know you’ve grown to like him.   Would you let him fuck you, if he asked?”

“I think you already know the answer to that question, Mr. Lernier,” I said, giving him a tender kiss.

Rick grinned, and said, “I was just checking.   He’s enough like me, I thought maybe you would let someone else, besides me, fuck you.”

“Not happening, Babe!   You’re my one and only man,” I said.   “I’m game for most other things; but, no one, and I mean NO ONE, gets to fuck me, except you.”

Rick said, “The same goes for me, Babe.”   He kissed me deeply.   He pulled back to look me in the eyes.   “I’m wondering if Jonathan will be coming with Peyton.”

“I’m sure he will be,” I said.   “It’s been pretty obvious they’re in love with each other.”’

Rick said, “You’re right about that.   They remind me of us, when we first met.   Do you remember?”

“Yes, I do.   I was so star struck, I couldn’t think straight.” I said, tracing the outline of his abs with my fingertips.   I knew I was turning him on, because he was very hard and erect!

Rick said, “And you’re still that way.”

I kissed him.   I moved my hand from his hard, flat stomach down to his pulsing, steel pole.  “Yes, I’m still madly in love with you.”

Our passion for each other rekindled, as our hands roamed over each other’s bare skin.   I kissed him deeply, and the fires of desire exploded within us, driving every other thought from our minds!

Later, Rick lay awake, listening to Glenn’s even breathing.   He loved this man more than anyone else in the entire world.   When he met Glenn, he never dreamed he would fall in love with a guy.   He had been the worst womanizer anyone had ever met, bedding a different woman every weekend.   In his mind, those women were surrogates for Angie.   His only goal was to use them, just like he felt like he had been used by Angie.   He had felt so much anger toward all women, as a result of his experience with her, he wanted to make them beg him to fuck them; then leave them, never to see them again.   He made sure they knew exactly what he thought of them – whores who were meant to satisfy a man’s need for sex and nothing more!

However, all of that came an end when he met Glenn.   He couldn’t explain why he had been so intrigued by Glenn.   He remembered, at first, he had wanted to fuck Glenn out of curiosity; and to see if he could satisfy a man, just like he did the women he bedded every weekend.   Glenn had been so obviously lusting after him he had decided to give him what he desired.   He had intended to bed Glenn; and that would have been the end of it – a one-night stand.

However, he hadn’t counted on feeling so protective of this man.   He didn’t understand why he felt the urge to pull Glenn close and shelter him in his arms.  He couldn’t make logical sense of his feelings for Glenn.    He only knew that Glenn had captured his heart.  Since the day they met, they had faced many challenges which had served to draw them closer together.   He ran his fingers gently through Glenn’s soft blond hair.   The love he felt for Glenn, right at this moment in time, knew no bounds.   It filled his whole being with light and happiness. 

His thoughts turned to his cousin, Peyton.   He sincerely hoped things would work out between him and Jonathan.   Last weekend, he had observed them together, and it had been very obvious they were in love with each other.   Peyton deserved to be happy, after everything he had been through.

Glenn shifted in his sleep, and Rick put his arms around his lover to reassure him.   He smiled when he heard Glenn give a sigh of contentment, as he snuggled closer to Rick.   Glenn was so like a little child, sometimes, because the littlest things made him happy.   Things like being held in Rick’s arms.   That’s what made him so easy to love.   Rick relaxed, knowing he loved Glenn, and, was loved by Glenn, in return.      

Peyton rode in the Porsche, next to Grandpa, as they drove to Mr. Diven’s office.   Grandpa looked over at Peyton and asked, “Are you ready?”

Peyton looked over at Grandpa, and said, “I’m more than ready, Grandpa.”

Grandpa pulled into a parking space in front of Mr. Diven’s office.   They both got out of the car, just as we were pulling up.   We parked the Land Rover and jumped out to join them; we being Greg, Cory, Rick and me.

Bob pulled up in the conversion van with the rest of the family.   Bob and Jasper had outfitted the conversion van with captain’s chairs and a couple of bench seats.   They had started working on it the day Peyton came home without his casts, and finished it a little over a week ago.   Jasper, Corey, Dylan, Paul, Grandma and Mr. Curtis rode with Bob.   Bob parked the van and everyone got out, surrounding Peyton and Grandpa.

Peyton was dressed in a nice pair of khaki slacks, a dark blue dress shirt and matching tie.   He looked great and he knew it.   Grandma came up to him and put her arm through his.   She looked up at him, and said, “I’m very proud of you, Peyton.   I’m glad you’re finished with your probation.   Let’s go inside to get the paperwork certifying you’re a free man.”   She put her other arm through Grandpa’s, and they walked into Mr. Diven’s office together.

We followed them inside.   Mr. Diven was waiting for us at his receptionist’s desk.   “Please come into my office.   I believe there is room for everyone.   Sheriff Smith warned me I might need some extra chairs, so he brought over some folding chairs from his office.”

Grandpa said, “Thank you for arranging things so we could all be here.”

Mr. Diven said, “It’s my pleasure, Mr. Scarborough.”

Grandpa led Peyton and Grandma to the front row and took a seat.   The rest of us filtered into the remaining seats.   Sheriff Smith stood behind Mr. Diven’s desk with his son, Jonathan, at his side.   Mr. Diven closed his office door and made his way to his desk.   He stood next to Sheriff Smith and lifted a folder from his desk.

“Normally, I would meet privately with an individual to present them their release papers, including the restoration of the civil and political rights.   However, in this case, I am honored to be able to accommodate the Scarborough family’s request to allow the family to be present, with Mr. Campbell’s permission.”   He paused and pulled out several documents from his folder.   “Mr. Campbell, will you please come forward.”

Peyton stood up and moved to Mr. Diven’s desk.   “Mr. Campbell, this document states you have completed the terms of your sentence, and are hereby discharged from any further supervision by the State of Georgia.   You are now a free man, Mr. Campbell.”

He paused, while we applauded Peyton’s return to free society.   “I am also giving you your documents stating your civil and political rights have been restored, effective immediately; with the exception you may not own or carry a firearm.”

He handed the documents to Peyton and shook his hand.   “Welcome back to society, Mr. Campbell.   From what I’ve seen these past six months, I’m confident you’ll move past this stage of your life into one filled with unbounded opportunities.”

Peyton said, “Thank you for working with me.”

Mr. Diven said, “I wish all of my parolees were as easy to work with as you have been, Mr. Campbell.”   He turned to Sheriff Smith.   “Since Mr. Campbell is now a free man, would you remove the electronic monitoring device?”

Sheriff Smith smiled, and said, “With pleasure.”   He signaled for Peyton sit down.   He knelt down and removed the electronic device from Peyton’s ankle.   Peyton handed him the bag with the transmitter and battery pack.

Sheriff Smith said, “I think we’re done here, Mr. Diven.”   He shook Peyton’s hand.   “I hope to see you around town, now you can roam the streets freely.”

Peyton said, “I’m afraid I won’t be staying here long.”

Sheriff Smith raised his eyebrows in surprise.   “Is that so?”

“Grandpa wants me to move to Atlanta to stay with Rick and Glenn,” Peyton responded.

Sheriff Smith turned to Jonathan, and asked, “Does this mean you’re moving to Atlanta, as well?”

Jonathan was stunned by his father’s question.   When he didn’t answer, Sheriff Smith said, “I’m not blind, Jonathan.   I know you’re gay and you’ve been dating Peyton.”

Peyton stood and said, “I hadn’t planned on doing this here; but, I guess now is as good a time as any.”   He walked over to Jonathan and knelt down on one knee.   He took Jonathan’s hand in his, and asked, “Jonathan Ezekiel Smith, will you marry me?”

Jonathan met Peyton’s eyes and tried to gain control over his emotions.   He finally managed to say, “Yes, I’ll marry you.”

Peyton stood and pulled a ring from his pocket, slipping it onto the ring finger of Jonathan’s left hand.   He gently kissed Jonathan and said, “I love you.”

Jonathan said, “I love you, too.”

The two men turned to face Sheriff Smith, who stood, smiling at them.   “Well, aren’t you going to ask my permission to marry my son?”

Peyton blushed and said, “Sheriff Smith, do I have your permission to marry your son?”

“Yes, I give my permission, as long as it is what Jonathan wants,” Sheriff Smith said, looking directly into his son’s eyes.

Tears of happiness were cascading down his face.   “Yes, it is what I want.”

“Then it’s settled,” Sheriff Smith said.   “Now, let’s go celebrate your engagement.”

Mr. Diven said, “Congratulations, boys.   I’m very happy for you both.”   He shook their hands; then turned to Sheriff Smith.   “I think Jonathan has chosen wisely.   Peyton will be a good husband; from what I’ve seen of the young man.”

Sheriff Smith met Peyton’s gaze, and said, “I know he will.   I’ve seen how happy he has made Jonathan.”

Jonathan was beaming.   He felt like his fairy tale was coming true.   He didn’t know how his father knew he was gay, but it was a relief not to have to come out to him.   It was even more amazing to him how his father knew about him and Peyton. 

Sheriff Smith said, “Just in case you’re wondering, I’ve been monitoring your activities pretty closely; thanks to Mr. Scarborough and Mr. Curtis.”

The two gentlemen in question came up to the happy couple.   Grandpa said, “I hope you aren’t upset with us.   We’ve been providing daily reports to Mr. Diven and Sheriff Smith on what’s been happening on the farm.   In part, it was to satisfy the requirements of Peyton’s parole, but we also wanted to ensure your safety.”

Mr. Curtis said, “I also hope you will forgive us for our intrusion into your private lives.   It was not our intention to deprive you of your privacy.”

Jonathan looked at them and said, “Since no damage has been done, there’s nothing to forgive.   However, it had better come to an abrupt end, as of this moment.”

The edge in Jonathan’s voice caused Peyton to look at his fiancé in surprise.   “Are you okay?”

“Yes, I am, but I wanted to make it clear we won’t tolerate any further intrusion into our personal lives,” Jonathan said, looking directly at his father.

Sheriff Smith said, “I promise you I will honor your wishes, now there is no longer a legal requirement for me to assist Mr. Diven with his duties as Mr. Campbell’s parole officer.”

Jonathan nodded his head.   His father’s answer seemed to satisfy him.   “Let’s go, Peyton.”   Holding Peyton’s hand, he led him out of Mr. Diven’s office, to the parking lot.   He stopped beside his silver Ford F150 Pickup.  

We gathered around them to congratulate them on their engagement.   I pulled each of them into a tight embrace.   “I’m so happy for both of you.”

Rick asked Jonathan, “Does this mean you’re going to join us in Atlanta?”

“Yes, it does.   I was planning to go with Peyton anyway; but, now we’re engaged, I’ll move in with him,” he replied.   “However, I want to be married as soon as possible.”

Grandpa and Grandma came up beside us.   “I thought that might be the case, so I’ve already made arrangements for us to fly to Toronto next month, and I’ve made arrangements for your wedding at the same wedding center where the twins were married,” Grandpa said.

Grandma laughed at the surprised looks on both of their faces.   “You two have been so absorbed with each other, you haven’t noticed the rest of us even exist.   So, being I know love when I see it, I encouraged Grandpa to make the wedding arrangements, especially when Peyton asked Grandpa to help him buy a ring.”

Peyton looked at Grandpa, and said, “How can I ever repay you?”

“You can’t, so don’t even bother to try,” Grandpa said.   “Am I to assume you two are okay with the wedding plans we’ve made?   If not, we can change them.   I just wanted to make sure we had reservations for all us to accompany you to Toronto.”

Tears were streaming down Peyton’s cheeks.   He was so overcome with emotion he was unable to speak.   He cleared his throat several times before he was able to say, “Thank you for everything, Grandpa.”

Grandma said, “Let’s go home, boys.   I’ve got a nice lunch waiting for us.   We spent all day yesterday getting it ready.”

We piled into our vehicles and drove back to the farm.   At the farm, we were joined by Sheriff Smith.   He was accompanied by Jonathan’s mom and younger sister.   Jonathan walked over to his mother and gave her a hug.

“Mom, I’m engaged to be married,” he said.

“I heard about that.   Congratulations, son,” she said.

“You’re not upset?” he asked, tentatively.

“No, should I be?” she asked, looking up into his face.

“No, but I didn’t think you would approve,” he said.

“What is important to me is your happiness,” she said, sidestepping the issue of her approval.   She had argued with her husband about it, and had decided harmony in the family was more important to her, than trying to enforce her belief system on her family.

Jonathan’s sister, Mary Anne, came up and asked, “Do I get to be a maid of honor?”

Jonathan grinned at her, and said, “Only if you want to be.”

“I do,” she said.   “I’ve always wanted to be in a wedding, and now I can be.   Dad said we’re going to Toronto, where you’re going to get married.”

“That’s right,” Jonathan said.

Sheriff Smith joined them.   “Let’s go inside.   The Scarboroughs have invited us all to join them for lunch.”

Peyton stood by the door, waiting for Jonathan.   It was obvious he was a very happy man.   He was practically levitating off the ground.   He took Jonathan’s hand and asked, “Are you going to introduce me?”

Jonathan blushed.   “I’m sorry.   Mom and Mary Anne, this is my fiancé, Peyton Campbell.”

Peyton bowed, but didn’t attempt to shake their hands.   “It’s nice to meet you both.”   Peyton had sensed Mrs. Smith’s disapproval of their marriage; but refused to let her put a damper on his happiness.   “Please, come inside.”

He held the door open to allow them to pass inside.   Jonathan gave Peyton a quick kiss and took his hand, as they followed the Smiths inside.   Grandpa directed everyone into the dining room.   The table was set with crystal, china and the silverware.   It was apparent this wasn’t going to be a casual affair!  

After everyone was seated, Grandpa said, “I’ll say grace.”   Everyone took the hand of their neighbor on either side.   “God, our Father, thank you for our many blessings, and especially for Peyton and Jonathan’s engagement.   We are grateful for the food we have before us and ask a special blessing be on it to nourish our bodies.   We also ask that you bless us as a family to love and accept one another for who we are.   Please strengthen our resolve to love one another.  Amen.”

We chorused, “Amen.”  

Grandpa said, “Let’s eat.”

Grandpa turned to Peyton.   “Peyton, I think you should delay going to school a few months longer.   You’ll be married right after the first of the year; then school will start.   I think you two need some time to get to know each other, before beginning college.   Of course, if you still want to begin college right away, I’ll support your decision.”

Peyton looked at Jonathan, before answering Grandpa.   “I think we’ll need to talk it over between us, Grandpa.   Jonathan and I haven’t decided what we want to do, as a couple.   All of my plans were made around me, as a single guy.   Now Jonathan and I will be a family, we need to review our plans and decide what is best for the both of us.”

Jonathan smiled, and squeezed Peyton’s hand.   “Yes, we’d like to think about it for a bit, Grandpa.   I’ve thought about becoming a lawyer, after talking to Greg and Cory.   Peyton wants to be a lawyer, but may find it rather difficult, since he’s got a record.”

“It’s not impossible,” Sheriff Smith said.   “But, you’re right, son, it will be difficult for him.”

Peyton said, “I know it’s a long shot, but I want to try.   I figure if I can’t become a lawyer, I’ll become a social worker.   However, I will never work for the state.   I saw, first hand, how the state treats people entrusted to their care.”

Sheriff Smith said, “Please don’t judge all state workers by those who abused you.”

Peyton’s eyes flashed with anger.   “How can I not judge them all to be as vile as the ones who beat me?   I not only experienced the abuse and outright evil of the prison guards, the counselors and the warden; I witnessed the same treatment meted out to many of my fellow prisoners.   Inside those walls, there are no witnesses to the cruelty inflicted upon the prisoners, day in and day out.   Those who have charge of the well-being of the imprisoned, are the very ones making sure there are no witnesses, and ensuring documentation of the abuses is destroyed before it can be used against them.   They used the excuse that I needed to be protected, to put me into solitary confinement.   While I was in there, I was severely beaten on a daily basis by the guards.   I thought I would die, before I would get out of solitary confinement.   The only reason I was put back into the prison population was because Grandpa’s lawyers filed an appeal with the warden.”

Sheriff Smith couldn’t hold Peyton’s gaze.   He knew the man sitting across from him had suffered far worse things than he could ever imagine.   The righteous indignation in Peyton’s voice, and the fire in his eyes, communicated the depth of the anger, pain and suffering residing just beneath the surface.   Sheriff Smith raised his eyes to meet Peyton’s.

“I’m deeply sorry for what happened to you, Peyton.   I wish there was something I could do to make things right for you,” he said.

“There is something you can do.   You can make sure those you put in your jail are treated with dignity and respect.   They may be criminals, but they’re still human beings; just like you and I,” Peyton said.   “I was treated worse than you would treat your dog.   Since I’ve been here, I’ve researched the state and county web sites regarding the treatment of prisoners.   Every one of them talks about reentry; and how it’s up to the prisoner to make the most of the time he has in jail.   There’s even a handbook, detailing appropriate behaviors for prisoners; but nowhere does it provide exact specifications about how prisoners are to be treated by the state and county prisons.   There isn’t an independent outside board, or process, to prevent abusive behavior on the part of prison employees.   Prisoners are completely at the mercy of their captors.   Not only that, each prison warden can change the policies and procedures for the treatment of prisoners at his facility, whenever he wants.   Even worse, prison staff can’t be sued or held accountable for following those policies and procedures.”

“But, there are laws against assault and battery that apply inside the prison, just like they apply on the outside,” Sheriff Smith said.

Peyton’s voice was hard, and full of rage, “As if I could get anyone to listen to me, or even investigate the violence inflicted upon my body every day.   The guards claimed I provoked them, and told everyone I was the one with the problem, not them, or my fellow inmates.”

Jonathan put his hand on Peyton’s arm, “Babe, calm down.   Dad can’t fix the whole system.”

“No, but he has control of the local jail,” Peyton said, pointedly.  

Sheriff Smith said, “He’s right, Jonathan, I do have control of the local jail.   Your points are valid ones, Peyton.   I’m sorry our prison system failed to protect you.”

Peyton met Sheriff Smith’s gaze, and said, “Maybe you can work with me to help change the system.”

Sheriff Smith smiled, and said, “That, I think I could do, along with some assistance from Mr. Scarborough.”

During the entire exchange, Mrs. Smith had been watching Peyton and Jonathan very closely.   She said, “Dear, I think Peyton’s experience could be a powerful force for good.   You should consider speaking at some of the local schools about your experience; to help them understand how their actions have consequences and they don’t want to be in jail.”

Peyton looked at his future mother-in-law, and smiled.   “Maybe we could do a couple of presentations like that, if we included prison reform information for the adults.”

Sheriff Smith said, “I’ll give it some thought.   Let’s talk more about it later.   I’d like to know more about your wedding plans.”

The conversation turned to the anticipated happy event, and the many plans Grandpa and Grandma had already put in place.  The meal was delicious, as always.   I was so full; I could hardly move.  

Rick teasingly asked, “Do I need to get a wheel barrow to cart you out of here?”

I laughed, “No, but almost.”

Rick stood up and helped me to stand.   He took my hand and led me into the family room.   Grandpa was already seated in his favorite armchair.   Grandma came into the room with the Smiths.   I watched as she turned on the charm.   Grandma certainly knew how to reach Mrs. Smith.   The two of them were talking animatedly about quilting, something Grandma loved to do.

Sheriff Smith walked over and sat down next to Grandpa.   “Mr. Scarborough…”

Grandpa cut him off, “Dan, you can stop calling me Mr. Scarborough.   Please call me Chris, or Dad, since we’re nearly in-laws.”

Sheriff Smith smiled.   “I guess I can call you Dad.   You’ve always been like a father to me, since my sisters and I have lived here.   We’ve never forgotten your kindness and generosity.   My parents have never ceased to talk about how you helped them get back on their feet.”

Grandpa said, “Your father is a great man, Dan.   He has raised you well, and you’re credit to your father, as your son, Jonathan, is to you.   I’m honored to have Jonathan become part of our family.”

“Are you going to adopt Peyton as your son?” he asked.

“I would like to do that, but Peyton wants to wait until he can get his pardon from the state,” Grandpa replied.   “He is just as stubborn as his cousin.”

Sheriff Smith laughed.   “Yes, I’ve seen how stubborn Rick can be, but he always treats Glenn like royalty.”

“Yes, he does,” Grandpa agreed.   “They make a fine couple, just like Peyton and Jonathan.   I know Jonathan has already earned a bachelor’s degree, but I’d like him to pursue a graduate degree while Peyton does his undergraduate work at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.”

Sheriff Smith’s expression was somber, as he said, “I hadn’t thought they would live so far away; but, I can see the wisdom in it, especially for Peyton.   I’ve just gotten used to having Jonathan home, again, after his time in college.   It makes me sad to have them move so far away.”

Grandpa nodded his head in understanding.   “It’s always hard to let them go.   It nearly killed me when Eva moved to Canada after she married Glenn’s father.”

Sheriff Smith said, “I remember that.”   He paused, before asking, “Chris, do you really think Peyton will be able to become a lawyer?   I know how difficult it is to get into law school; and, add to that the difficulty he’ll have convincing a state bar association to let him become a lawyer.”   He shook his head.   “I don’t want to discourage Peyton, but I think pursuing a career in law is a waste of his time.”

“I agree it will be difficult; however, if he wants to be able to help other former prisoners, he needs to know the laws and what can be done to prevent discrimination in employment, housing, education, etc.   I don’t see a better way for Peyton to gain the knowledge he needs to be an advocate for ex-convicts.”

Sheriff Smith said, “Peyton definitely has the fire in his belly to be a great advocate for former prisoners, but he has so much anger in him.”

Grandpa said, “I’ve seen the anger, Dan.   He keeps it under tight control, and we rarely see it.   The only times I’ve seen it is when we’ve just come from his therapist.   I’ve spoken to him about it, and I’m afraid he won’t be able to let it go until those who hurt him have been put behind bars.   He wants justice to be served on them for what they did to him.”

“If he doesn’t let go of the anger, it will poison him, Chris,” Sheriff Smith said.

“That’s true, but we’ll have to be very careful how we help him to get past the anger he feels.   He is still very fragile right now.   He looks healthy and strong, but under the calm exterior is a severely damaged young man,” Grandpa said.

“That worries me,” Sheriff Smith.   “I’m sure Jonathan is aware of Peyton’s mental and emotional state.”

“That he is, Dan,” Grandpa said.   “I think we need to let Jonathan’s love work miracles with his fiancé.   I know you want to step in and keep them from experiencing any heartache, or hardship; but those are the very things that will strengthen their relationship and make them better husbands.”

Sheriff Smith sighed in resignation.  “I know, but it’s hard not to try and prevent them from stumbling over things.”

Greg, who had been listening to their conversation, said, “Sheriff Smith, since they will be living with us in Minneapolis, Cory and I will keep a close eye on Jonathan and Peyton.”

Grandpa said, “Dan, I can reassure you the boys look out for each other, and they check in with me on a regular basis.”

Sheriff Smith said, “Okay, I get the picture.   I guess I’m worrying about them, unnecessarily.”

The two men in question walked into the room, holding hands.   They walked over and sat down next to us.   Peyton asked, “May Jonathan come and live with us at your place?”

Rick grinned broadly.   “He is more than welcome to come live with us, since he’s practically part of the family.”  Jonathan blushed and ducked his head.   “Don’t be embarrassed, Jonathan.   We’ll make sure Peyton doesn’t deflower you before you’re married.”

Jonathan turned a darker shade of red.   “Rick, you’re not making things easier for the poor guy,” I said, with a mild rebuke in my voice.   Jonathan gave me a thankful look.   “We have a spare bedroom where you can stay, until we fly to Toronto for your wedding.”

Jonathan smiled.   “Thank you.”   He turned to Peyton.   “See, they understand my desire to have our first time together be on our wedding day.”

A look of disappointment appeared on Peyton’s face, which he quickly replaced with a smile.   “Okay, you win, Babe.”   He looked at us, and said, “I was trying to convince Jonathan he could sleep with us; but he thinks I wouldn’t be able to control myself, now we’re engaged to be married.”

Rick gave his cousin a punch in the shoulder.   “It sounds like he already knows you pretty well.”

Peyton acknowledged the truth of Rick’s statement.   “You’re probably right.   Jonathan knows I’m an impatient man.”

“Exactly,” Jonathan said.   “You need to wait to have sex with me until after we’re married.   I want a ring on your finger and I want a marriage license, stating you’re all mine, and no one else’s.”

I laughed, and asked, “Does this mean you won’t let him sleep with us after you’re married?”

Jonathan replied, “Only if I’m in bed with you.”

Rick gave Jonathan a lecherous grin.   “I believe that can be arranged.”

Peyton laughed.   “Jonathan, you just said we could sleep with them, as a married couple.   I thought you didn’t want to share me with anyone.”

Jonathan blushed, again.   “Well….”

“We understand where you’re coming from, Jonathan,” I said.   “Rick and I have the same rule as a couple.   Neither one of us will do anything with anyone else, unless the other one is present.   Also, everyone involved has to agree to certain limits.”

“I tried to explain that to Jonathan, but he wasn’t convinced,” Peyton said.

I glanced across the room, and met Sheriff Smith’s gaze.   He shook his head slightly.   “Guys, I think this conversation should be saved for our bedroom, where we can discuss things in private.”

Jonathan looked at me with relief in his eyes.   He had begun to squirm uncomfortably, trying not to bolt from the room in embarrassment.   I mouthed, “It’s okay.”

He nodded his head, and asked, “Are we going back to Atlanta tomorrow?”

I looked at Rick, who shrugged.   “It’s up to you guys.   We’re fine with going back in the morning.”

Jonathan said, “Good.   I just needed to know when we’re leaving, so I can plan to get my stuff packed and ready to go.”

Peyton said, “We need to make sure you take plenty of warm clothes, because Minneapolis isn’t exactly warm.”

I said, with feeling, “That’s for sure!   I practically froze to death when I lived there.”

Greg said, “You’re just a wimp, Glenn!   I’m amazed at you, boy!   You’re the one from Canada, not me!”

“That’s true, but I’ve been corrupted by the mild weather around here,” I said.   “I guess I’m starting to become more of a Southern boy.”

Grandma said, “That’s because you are a Southern boy, dear.   You may not have been born here, but you’ve got deep Southern roots.”

Mrs. Smith smiled, “You’re Grandma is right about that.   The Scarborough, Christian, and Fortson families have been here since colonial times.   Your Grandma and I are distant cousins.   I remember the family reunions your Grandma helped put together.”

Grandma said, “Yes, we’ve had some wonderful family reunions.   Speaking of family reunions, it our family’s turn to host the Scarborough family reunion next summer.   Does anyone have any ideas about what we should do?”

I said, “I think we should have lots of activities like horseback riding, swimming, and lots of good food.”

Rick said, “I think we should have a pie-eating contest, especially if it’s pecan pie!”

Grandma said, “That a good idea, Rick; however, I won’t waste good pecan pie on a pie-eating contest.   I think we’ll stick to some kind of cream pie.”

“But, I love your pecan pie,” Rick said, in protest.

She laughed.   “I’ll make sure you get a whole pecan pie to yourself, dear.”

Greg asked, “Does that mean we all get our own pecan pie?   You can’t give him one and not give the rest of us one.”

Bob said, “That’s true, Mom.   We all love your pecan pie.”

Grandma looked around at her family, and smiled.   “I guess we can make a pecan pie for each of you; however, I think all of you should help make them.   It’s a lot of work to make that many pies.”

Cory said, “Grandma, I’ll help, and I know Greg will help, too.”   He leaned over and kissed Greg lightly on the lips.

Greg said, “I’ll do whatever you want, sweetheart.”   He squeezed Cory’s hand.

Rick asked, “Greg, have you heard from Joey and Tyler?”

“Yes, they called me yesterday.   They plan to be in New York for the next two months,” Greg said.   “Their babies are due in mid-January, so they are already getting things ready for their new arrivals.”

“So, they know it’s going to be twins?” Grandma asked.

“Yes, two boys,” Greg said.

“That’s wonderful,” Grandma said.   “I’m sure Tyler is very happy.”

Greg confirmed, “Yes, he’s very excited.   Joey wanted to have two boys, since they already have two girls.”

Mrs. Smith asked, “Who are Tyler and Joey?”

Greg said, “Joey is my brother-in-law.   When my sister died, he married Tyler.   I have two nieces, Rachel and Sarah.   They live in Madrid, Spain.   Since Spanish law forbids surrogacy, they had to come back to the United States.   They have gone through an adoption agency in New York City to find a surrogate mother.   Tyler is their natural father, and the surrogate mother has agreed to terminate her rights to the children.   If things go well, Joey will adopt them as his own children.”

“I didn’t know gay parents could adopt children,” Mrs. Smith said.

Greg said, “In Georgia, they can’t.   Only single adults over the age of 25 may adopt a child.   New York allows gay couples to adopt, so that is why Joey and Tyler went there.”

Mrs. Smith looked over at Jonathan and Peyton.   “That means I can still have grandchildren.”

Peyton smiled at her.   “Yes, it does, and they’ll be Smiths, since we’ve decided I’ll be changing my last name to Smith, after we’re married.”

Grandpa said, “I thought you were going to wait until you get a pardon from the state.”

“I was, but Jonathan wants everyone to know we’re married,” Peyton said.

“I want us to start with a clean slate, and that means Peyton has to become a Smith,” Jonathan said.   “I think it will be best for us, as a couple.”

Grandpa smiled, and looked over at Sheriff Smith.   “I think your son knows how to handle Peyton, already.”

Sheriff Smith nodded his head in agreement.   “It appears so.   He has a good example in his mother.   She learned very quickly how to handle her husband.”

Mrs. Smith laughed.   “I’ve taught Jonathan all I know.”

Jonathan smiled, “You’ve done a good job, Mom.”

Peyton grimaced.   “You’ve done too good of a job.   He’s making me wait to have sex with him until after we’re married.”

Mrs. Smith beamed at her son.   “I’ve always taught my children the importance of chastity before marriage.  The greatest gift spouses can give to each other is their virtue.   I’m glad to hear Jonathan is making you wait.”

“He’s insisted we have a formal courtship,” Peyton said.   “We’ve been dating for months, now.”

Corey said, “We can vouch for that.   They’ve been inseparable.”

Jasper said, “I’ve enjoyed watching them.  They’re a really cute couple.”

Mrs. Smith said, “I agree they make a nice looking couple.”

Both Peyton and Jonathan were blushing.   Peyton said, “I hope we do, because we’re going to be together for a long time.”

Grandpa’s cell phone rang.   He pulled it out of his pocket and answered it.   My grandparents are really with it when it comes to new technology.   Grandpa loves new electronic gadgets and has to have the latest gizmos.   He finished talking on the phone and ended the call.

“Peyton, please come with me,” he said, standing up.   He looked around the room.   “The rest of you may as well come, too.”

We followed Grandpa out of the family room, down the hallway and outside.   I whistled in appreciation when I saw the two Ferraris parked in the driveway.   One was red; the other, black.

Mr. Curtis walked up to Grandpa and handed him the keys to the two cars.  Grandpa turned to Peyton and Jonathan and said, “Peyton and Jonathan, these cars are an early wedding present to you both.   You will have to decide which one belongs to whom.”

Peyton was speechless.   He looked from the cars to Grandpa and back.   He finally managed to blurt out, “I don’t know what to say.”

“Thank you would be appropriate,” Grandpa said, smiling.

Tears were cascading down Peyton’s face, as he walked over and hugged Grandpa.   “Thank you for everything.”

Grandpa said, “There is nothing but the best for my family.”

Jonathan joined them.   He hugged Grandpa, as well.   “Thank you so much,” he said.

Peyton kissed Jonathan, and asked, “Which one do you want?”

“I know you like the red one, so I’ll take the black one,” Jonathan replied.

“They are registered in both your names,” Grandpa said.   “So, it doesn’t matter which one you drive.”

“Can we take them out for a drive?” Peyton asked.

“Sure,” Grandpa said.   “They belong to you.   Just remember to obey the traffic laws.   You don’t want your future father-in-law to give you a ticket for speeding.”

Sheriff Smith laughed.   “The same goes for you, son.   Keep the speed down.”

Joy and excitement were plainly visible on their faces as they approached their new cars.   The rest of the family gathered around them, as they explored the new vehicles.  

Greg said, “These are the latest models.   You guys will love them.”

Cory said, “We love ours, and I’m happy Grandpa gave you Ferraris, as well.”

Rick asked Peyton, “Are you going to give me a ride in your new car?”

Peyton grinned from ear to ear, “Absolutely!”

I watched as the two got into Peyton’s car.   I could see Rick was as excited about the new car as Peyton was.   They pulled out of the driveway.

Once they were out on the road, Peyton said, “Rick, this has been the best day of my life.   Thank you for being there for me, when I needed you most.   If it wasn’t for you and Glenn, I wouldn’t be here now.”

Rick said, “You’re family, Peyton.   We’ll always be here for you.”

He said, “I’m glad we’ve become part of the Scarborough family.   I only wish our own families were like them.   I miss Mom and Dad, sometimes.   Don’t you miss your parents?”

Rick replied, “I miss them, but I know I’m not wanted by them.   They disowned me, remember?”

“Just like mine have disowned me,” Peyton said.   “That’s why it’s imperative we support each other.   I wish I hadn’t wasted so much time being envious of you.   You’re my best friend, Rick.”

Rick laughed.   “What about Jonathan?   Isn’t he your best friend?”

Peyton said, “Yes, but that’s different.   Jonathan will be my husband and best friend.   You’re my cousin, and I love you.”

“I love you, too, cuz,” Rick said.   “So, when do I get to drive?”

Peyton grinned, “You can drive us back home.”

Rick said, “Okay.”   He sat in silence for a moment as he reflected on what Peyton had just said – home.   The Scarborough’s farm was, indeed, home.   More than any other place on earth, they both knew they were loved and accepted in the Scarborough home.   He said, “You’re right.   Glenn’s grandparents have made their home, our home.”

Peyton gave Rick a quick glance, before returning his attention to the road in front of him.   “Yes, they have.   We’re both very fortunate.” 

Meanwhile, Jonathan turned to his father and asked, “Do you want to take a spin with me?”

Sheriff Smith said, “Only if I get a chance to drive it.”

Jonathan said, “Okay, you can drive it on the way back.  Let’s drive down to your office.   I want to show off my new car.”

Father and son climbed into the new Ferrari.   As Jonathan drove to the sheriff’s office, he said, “Thanks, Dad, for being so supportive of me and Peyton.”

Sheriff Smith said, “You’re welcome, son.   I want you to be happy, and I can see Peyton makes you happy.”

“Yes, he does, and I make him happy,” Jonathan said.

Sheriff Smith said, “Your mother and I are very happy for you.   Your mother wasn’t too happy, at first, but I think she’s okay now.”

Jonathan said, “She seemed to be happy today.”

“She is happy for you.   However, I think it will take her a while to adjust her thinking to the reality you’re marrying Peyton,” Sheriff Smith said.

“But, at least, she hasn’t shut me out, or disowned me,” Jonathan said.

He said, “No, she hasn’t done that.   We’ve talked and we’ve decided we want to be part of your life.   If that means accepting Peyton as your husband, then that is what we’ll do.”

Jonathan said, “Thanks, Dad.”

“That’s what we do for family,” Sheriff Smith.    

Later that evening, Peyton and Jonathan were cuddling on Peyton’s bed.   Peyton said, “Grandpa’s gifts to us are totally awesome.”

Jonathan laughed at Peyton’s boyish enthusiasm.   “You’re like a kid at Christmas!”

Peyton grinned and poked Jonathan playfully in the ribs.   “Don’t try to pretend you’re not just as excited as I am about the two Ferraris we were given today.”

Jonathan said, “I didn’t say I wasn’t excited about them, because I am; but you’re just a tiny bit exuberant.”

Peyton said, “I guess I’m a lot more excited than you are.   I’ve never been given anything like a Ferrari before.   Grandpa keeps telling me I’m a part of the Scarborough family and he’ll take care of me; but it still amazes me every time he does something like this.”

“Didn’t he give Greg and Cory new sports cars when they got married?” Jonathan asked.

“Yes, but he adopted Greg as his son,” Peyton said.

“Didn’t he ask to adopt you, as well,” Jonathan reminded him.

“Yes, he did; but I told him I didn’t want to sully his family name,” Peyton said.

“And, what was his response to that?” Jonathan asked.

“He said the only way that would happen is if I did something really stupid.   He didn’t think I would ever do that, given my experience in prison.   He knows I would do anything to stay out of jail,” Peyton said.

“So, why don’t you let him adopt you?   It can’t hurt, and I think you’ll feel much better about yourself,” Jonathan said.

“I already feel better, because you’ve agreed to marry me,” Peyton said.   “I’ll be taking your name as my own.   That will give me the fresh start I need.   I feel like I’ve taken advantage of the Scarboroughs enough without letting them adopt me as their son.   I don’t have anything to offer them in return.  I’m an ex-con with no real future.   I don’t have any particularly valuable skills, or any talents to recommend me to them.”

“Babe, have you not heard anything they have been telling you since you arrived here six months ago?” Jonathan asked, very concerned to hear Peyton put himself down.

Peyton said, “I just can’t believe Grandpa really believes I can become a lawyer, accountant, or any other kind of professional.   I’ve already shown you how much he has been paying me to work on the farm.   It’s an outrageous amount of money.   I’ve never had that much money in my bank account, and today he gives me a brand new Ferrari.   It’s a car I’ve only dreamed of owning.”

“Grandpa let you drive his sports cars didn’t he?” Jonathan said.

“Yes, but that didn’t mean he would buy a new one for my very own,” he said.

“He obviously knew you like his Ferrari and bought you one,” Jonathan said.

“But you don’t buy a car like that for just anyone,” Peyton said.

Jonathan sighed, and said, “You’re right, Peyton, you don’t.   You need to get it through your thick skull you belong to the Scarborough clan, whether you want to, or not.   They’ve adopted you as one of their own.   Face it, Peyton, even if you don’t ever carry their last name, you’re a member of the Scarborough family.”

Peyton’s eyes were full of unshed tears.   Hearing Jonathan tell him what he already knew, brought it home so forcefully, he finally began to believe it wasn’t all a dream.   Jonathan stroked Peyton’s cheek, then kissed him tenderly.   “I love you, Peyton Campbell.   Don’t you ever forget it!”

“I love you, too,” Peyton said.   “I’m the luckiest man alive.   I’ve got the perfect fiancé and the best family in the entire world.”

Prev To be continued . . .

A Note from Russ:

Music for this chapter:

Enya – Only Time

Here are the lyrics:

Other information of note:

Pre-law at UMass -

Georgia Justice Project -

Southern Center For Human Rights Prisoner Advocacy Handbook -

Prisoner Rights -

American Bar Association Treatment of Prisoners Standards -

Police Brutality in the USA: