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




Chapter 43: Ruth Ann

The next morning I awoke with Rick in my arms.   I looked at his face trying to memorize every feature.   I still am amazed that I managed to find such a handsome boyfriend.   A smiled played around the corners of his mouth and the expression on his face was one of happiness and contentment.   Rick is my angel sent from heaven to be my soul mate!   I am very lucky to have him.   My thoughts turned to how much he has gone through since we've been together.   I love him so much that my heart aches for him for the loss of his family.  

My reverie was broken by Rick's voice, "I feel badly that I was so rough with you last night, Babe.   I needed a physical release from my pent up frustrations and you kept encouraging me to let it all out."   He paused and gently caressed my cheek.  "I'm afraid I hurt you.   You didn't say anything to me even though I know you were hurting.   I don't deserve to have you as my partner.   You are so kind and gentle."

His eyes were full of tears as was his voice as he apologized to me.   "I'm okay.   Really, I am," I said smiling at him.   "I'll be little sore today, but I know that you love me and will never intentionally hurt me.   Not only that, I loved every minute of it!"   I put my hand under his chin and raised it until I held his gaze, "I love you and I love how you make me feel when we have sex."

"You are the best thing that ever happened to me, Glenn Nielsen," Rick said giving me a tender kiss of gratitude.

Rick continued, "I'm thankful for your Grandpa's willingness to help us get a safe place to live.   I feel like I owe so much to the Scarborough family.   I wish I could repay them somehow.   They have come to my rescue so many times I'm starting to get a complex about it.   You don't know how fortunate you really are to have such a wonderful family."

"I do know what a great family we belong to, Rick.   You are part of that family now, too," I reminded him.   "Neither of us carries the Scarborough surname but we are still members of the Scarborough family."

"I know I've got to stop feeling sorry for myself and get a grip on things; but I can't help comparing how my family treats me to how your family has accepted me for who I am," he replied despondently.  

"Would you be willing to see a counselor or someone like that?" I asked with trepidation.

"Why?   I don't' need a shrink to tell me how I'm feeling!" Rick said with some heat.

I blanched at his words.   I knew that bringing up counseling sessions might elicit a strong reaction from my lover boy.   I replied, "My Uncle Dave insisted I attend a few sessions with a counselor when I started my relationship with Ian.   I was so confused about my sexuality and who I was.   I was pretty torn up inside and Uncle Dave could see how badly I was struggling so he set up the counseling sessions."

"So what did this counselor do that was so great?" Rick asked sarcastically.

"Mainly, he helped me to accept myself for who I am and not what everyone else wanted me to be.   I didn't realize how much I hated myself.   I thought I was going to rot in hell for being gay and that God hated me.   Not only that, I thought everyone else hated me, too, including Ian.   My self-esteem was so low that I contemplated ending my life," I said gazing into his eyes.

"Were you really that bad off?" Rick asked, astonishment showing in his voice.

"Yes, I was.  He helped me to realize that I am not an evil person just because everyone else told me I was.   He helped me to learn that I had value just for being me and that it was okay to have weaknesses and not be perfect at everything.   He made realize I was worth something.   He kept telling me to remember all the positive things about myself like my musical abilities," I said.

"Wow!   You always seem so together and self-confident.   I never would have guessed that you had self-esteem issues," Rick said as he held me close.

"I'm still very vulnerable because I tend to trust people too much and end up getting hurt in the process.  I never had many friends in high school.   I was always afraid someone would discover that I was gay, so I stayed away from sports as much as possible.   Other than family, I have only had one other close friend and he betrayed me.   You are the second," I said.

"Glenn, I'm honored that you have chosen me to be that close friend.   I promise not to betray you like Ian did," Rick said kissing me lightly on the lips.   "We need to get up and get ready to go.   Keith and Kerry will be here soon."

We both got up and took a quick shower together.   We had just finished dressing when Keith and Kerry knocked on our door.

We had packed our things the night before so we grabbed out bags and headed down to the waiting Corvette.   Rick approached his baby almost dreading to see her.  

"Last night, I had nightmares that Peyton and Angie had totally destroyed my car like they did the Jeep," Rick said apprehensively.

 Rick signaled to me to help him take the cover off the car.   He gave a sigh of relief when he saw that his car was untouched.   We folded up the car cover and I stowed it with our gear.

Rick turned to Keith, "We'll follow you."

"Okay, but I know that you won't follow me for long in that car.   I'll be following you!" Keith said laughing.

Rick just grinned and nodded in the affirmative, "Yep!   I will pass you and leave you in the dust once we hit the freeway."

Keith and Rick slapped a high five and we got in our cars.   Rick started the engine and revved her up.   Man!  She sounded wonderful.   He threw her into gear and followed Keith out of the parking lot.  

I noticed a look of distress cross Rick's handsome face and asked, "What's the matter?   You look like you've seen a ghost."

"I just saw Peyton and Angie step into the parking space we just left.   It gave me chills to see them standing there.   I will have to hide my car when we return or they will do the same thing to the Corvette as they did to the Jeep," Rick said letting his concern for his car show in his voice.

My face grew troubled.   "Do you think they will try to break into our apartment?"

"I don't know what those two are capable of doing," Rick replied, giving me a troubled look.

As we approached the freeway entrance, Rick looked into his rearview mirror and saw Peyton's car following us.   "They are following us, Glenn."

"Are you serious?" I asked.

"Totally," Rick said.

"I guess they have a long ride ahead of them.  I hope they have enough gas to make it to the beach.   I would hate to lose them if they have to stop for gas!" I joked trying to lighten the mood in the car.

Rick glanced over at me, "You are one crazy guy, Glenn Nielsen!  How can you see any humor in our situation?"

"I'm not crazy.   I'm trying not to be completely freaked out by the whole situation.   Part of my way of coping with stress is to make jokes.   Are you okay with that?" I asked sincerely.   I looked at Rick to see his reaction to my words.

"Yeah, I can be okay with it now that you explained it to me.   I really thought you had lost it there for a minute," Rick said grinning.

As Rick merged into traffic, he maneuvered across to the passing lane and sped past Keith and Kerry.   He kept checking his rearview mirror to see if Peyton was keeping up.   He didn't see him at first but then Peyton's car moved into the lane behind us.  

This was going to get interesting before the day was over!  

Rick looked over at me and grinned, "Are you ready for the ride of your life?"

"Why?" I asked.   "Are they behind us, again?"

"Yes, they are and we're going to give them a run for their money," Rick said.   I could see Rick was getting just a little excited about the chase aspect of it.   He slammed on the gas and the car shot forward and changed lanes. 

 "What are you going to do? "  I asked with some trepidation, a pit forming in my stomach.

"Well, my cousin, Peyton, has never been the sharpest tool in the tool shed.   Let's see if he can keep up," Rick said by way of explanation.

We shot out from behind a UPS truck and continued to accelerate as we weaved in and out of traffic.

"He's keeping up with us," I said as I kept looking back to see where Peyton's car was.

Rick saw a highway patrol car ahead on the side of the road so he slowed way down and Peyton had to make a quick lane change to keep from hitting us.  

"The police must have seen you slam on the breaks, Rick," I said.   "He has pulled out of his hiding spot and is coming up on us pretty fast."

Rick responded, "I'll  keep driving like nothing is going on and hope I don't get pulled over."   Fortunately for us, the cop passed us and pulled in behind Peyton.

"Whew!   I thought we were toast there for a minute," Rick said with relief.   "Peyton's sudden move must have got the cop's attention." Rick observed.

I waved at Peyton as we passed.   The look on Peyton's face was priceless!  

"I'm glad we don't have to worry about Peyton trying to follow us.   Now I can enjoy driving down to Savannah with my guy," Rick said looking over at me.  

I was a little flushed with the excitement of the chase and couldn't stop bouncing up and down in the seat!  "You are the best driver ever, Rick.   I've only seen chase scenes in the movies but I have never been in one in real life.   It was totally awesome!"

My excitement and good spirits were contagious and it wasn't long before Rick was feeling much better.   We actually started to enjoy the trip as we talked about our plans for the beach.

We stopped in Macon for a pit stop.   It felt good to get out of the car and stretch.   We were soon back on the road and travelling fast.

"I'm sorry I've been so difficult to live with the last few days," Rick said apologetically.   "I know you have tried not to say anything to me about it."

"It's okay, Rick.   We've both been under a lot of stress since we were at your parents' place.   It's a good thing we had those two weeks by ourselves to really get to know each other.   Those were the best two weeks of my life, Rick.   You made me so happy I completely forgot about all my worries and started to heal from the bad experience I'd had with Ian," I said.

"Was it really that good?" Rick asked wanting me to reconfirm what I had told him before.

"You know it was good, Mr. Lernier," I said smiling from ear to ear.   "You know I was pretty sore the first time we were together."

"Yeah, I did notice you walked a little funny the next morning!"  Rick laughed wickedly as he rubbed his hand up and down my thigh and grabbed my rapidly growing package.

"You are such a tease!   Stop!   I don't want a mess in my pants!" I exclaimed putting my hand over the top of his as he continued his assault.

"Why?   You have a change of clothes in the back," Rick responded mischievously as I started to squirm.

"Rick Lernier!   Pay attention to your driving and leave me alone, please!   Pretty please!  You can be such a pervert sometimes," I said trying not to cum as he continued to massage me.

Rick relented and let go of me, "I only let you go because you said "please" but you will pay for the pervert comment later!"

"I'll gladly pay the price if it means I get you all to myself all night long," I said grinning and rubbing my hands together in anticipation!

"That's what it means lover boy," Rick replied with a mischievous grin.  "You know that having sex with you has gotten better because it's more about showing you how much I love you than the physical act itself.   It means so much more to me now than it did before."

"I agree with you.   Does this mean we're really a couple now and not two horny guys getting each other off?" I asked half jokingly.

"I guess it does.   Does this mean you'll marry me?" Rick asked waiting see what my reaction would be.

"If that's a real proposal, the answer is yes," I said grinning.

"I just wanted to know how you felt about me," Rick said.   "I want us to talk about it some more and consider the consequences before we seriously consider it."

"I think you know how I feel.   The problem is that you are still in the Marines.   We can't realistically get married even in Canada as long as you are in the United States military," I said seriously.

"I know," Rick said sadly.   "Sometimes I wish I hadn't been so quick to join the military but it seemed the only way to go at the time.  Are you willing to wait until I get out of the Marines?"

"Yes, I am but are you willing to wait six years?"  I countered.

"I don't know.   I want to make you legally mine.   I don't like the feeling that I could lose you at anytime.   There's something about being married that seems to make a relationship seem more permanent," he responded seriously.

"Why do you feel that way?" I asked.   "Is it still because of Ruth Ann?"

I knew I hit the nail on the head from Rick's expression.   He knew he had been caught.   I knew he was still very nervous about me being around Ruth Ann the next few days.  

Rick finally replied, "Yes, I guess it is."

"Maybe I can ease your fears a little bit.   I want to teach you a secret code that we can use whenever we are around other people and want to express our love for each other," I said.

Rick's curiosity was piqued, "Okay, what is it?"

"This is it: 8-3-1-4."

"That's it.   8-3-1-4?" Rick said doubtfully.   "What does that mean?"

"Listen carefully.   It stands for eight letters, three words, one me forever," I said smiling.

"I don't get it.   What do the letters, words and me have to do with anything?" Rick said, puzzled by the 8-3-1-4 thing.

"It means – I love you, forever.   The three words are "I love you" which are made up of eight letters and the one me is "I" and of course, forever is kind of obvious."

Rick finally got it.   I couldn't believe he couldn't figure it out without me having to tell him!   He can be so dense sometimes!

"So we can say 8-3-1-4 and no one will know that we're saying "I love you, forever."   That is so cool," Rick said.

"It will be our secret code.   That way we can say it as often as we want, anytime we want, anywhere we want to remind each other that we love each other," I said.   "You can even write it down in a note or send it in an e-mail without anyone figuring it out."

"Where did you learn that secret code," Rick asked.

I responded, "From Keith.   He and Kerry use it all the time."

Rick groaned, "So if we use around them they will know.   I'd hoped it would be just our little secret code."

"It still can be.   It's okay for Keith and Kerry to know what we are saying.   They already know how we feel and have accepted the fact that we love each other.   We can use it around other folks who may not be as comfortable with our public displays of affection," I said.

"It sounds like you have given this some thought," Rick said.

"Yes, I have been doing some thinking about how to keep your military buddies from finding out about us.   I'm still a little concerned about what would happen if they did find out."  I said.  "We don't know that your parents haven't called your commanding officer and told him about us."

"To be honest, I haven't even thought about that possibility," Rick said despondently.   "Just what we need – one more thing to worry about."

"I'm sure we will figure out how to deal with it somehow.   I'm excited to start classes next week.   I'm glad to have at least one class with you.   Our Spanish class is on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.   I have calculus and accounting every day.   I have Greek on the same days as Spanish," I said.   "I'm not looking forward to the math and accounting classes but I love learning new languages except French that is.   I hate French."

"I still can't believe you convinced me to take a Spanish class with you.   I must be totally in love with you because English is my worst subject and I can't imagine how I'm going to survive a Spanish class," Rick said laughing.   "By the way, why do you hate French?   I thought all Canadians had to learn French in school,"

"No, it's highly encouraged but it's not required.   I took it because my parents insisted that I take it.   They said that we needed to learn it because Quebec is part of Canada.   My cousin, Ben, and I got kicked out of French class last year for fighting with a couple of Quebecois kids.   We had to have a French tutor at home to finish the class," I said.   "We eventually became friends with the guys we fought with that day but I still don't like French."

"I'm surprised that you got into a fight with those Quebecois kids.   You seem so even tempered that it's hard to image you doing something like that.   I learned something new about my partner today!" Rick said smiling at me.  "If you hate French so much, what makes you think that you'll like Spanish and Greek?"

"I'm taking Spanish because I already speak English and French which are two of the world's most universal languages and Spanish is the third.   I'm taking Greek because we have some neighbors back home who are from Greece.   They don't speak any English and I've always wanted to talk to them and learn about where they came from.   They are really nice people.   I went to school with their kids who always translated for them," I answered.

"Do they live in Hazenmore where you took me to meet Emil?" Rick asked.

"Yes, they live next door to Emil and Evelyn.   They are the Toulatos family.   Their son, Dmitri, is my age," Glenn said.   "He's very cute.   I had a huge crush on him from about age 12 on!   I used to go out running with him sometimes.   He lifts weights and is really buff.   He caught me looking at him one time and offered to let me suck him off but I was too scared to do it back then.   Oh, well!" I sighed thinking of the lost opportunity.   "I've got you now so I don't need Dmitri."   I reached over and took Rick's hand in mine.

"Am I better looking than Dmitri?" Rick asked, "I'm just curious to know more about your thoughts about men."

"Of course, you are better looking than Dmitri!   He was good looking but I didn't know much about guys back then."

"So what makes a guy a perfect ten?" Rick asked.   "I know what I look for in a woman.   What do you look for in a guy?"

I reflected a few minutes before answering, "I look for someone who is physically fit.   He doesn't have to be a body builder but has to know how to take care of himself.   I'm not super athletic so I'm not looking for Mr. Super Jock.   I want someone I can hold a decent conversation with about almost anything so that means he has to be intelligent.   No dummies need apply!" I laughed.   "A great sense of humor is also required.   I want someone who is good looking but yet not so full of himself that no one wants to be around him.   He needs to be caring and loving.   Tender at times and most of all wants to make me happy because I'm the center of his universe and he'll be the center of mine."

I continued, "He has to know when to be gentle with me and when to be tough.   He has to be a good kisser, good in bed and know how to take me to the heights of passion and, yet, know how to just hold me and love me without the need for sex."

I stopped speaking because my emotions overcame as I realized that I had just described everything Rick is to me.   Tears were running down my cheeks, yet, I was smiling through my tears.

"Are you okay, Glenn?" Rick asked seeing my tears.

After a few minutes of silence, I responded to his question, "Yeah, I'm okay.   I am just so happy I started crying.   I met my perfect ten when I met you, Rick."

"Are you sure, Glenn?   You know I get pretty moody and you've seen me get angry.   I've sometimes not been very kind to you," Rick said.

"I'm sure, Rick.   You are very patient with me and even tolerate listening to me practice my music for hours on end.   Ian couldn't stand being around the house when I was practicing the piano or the violin.   He would always make excuses why he had to be somewhere else," I said.

"I love listening to you play.   It helps me relax.   I'm afraid I've fallen asleep many times listening to you," Rick admitted sheepishly.

"That's okay, old man!" I teased him.   "You're so ancient!   No wonder you fall asleep listening to me just like Grandpa does!"

"I'm not ancient!   I'm only two years older than you," Rick protested loudly.

"Yeah, but you have to admit you are older than me!" I responded.

"Okay, I'm older than you so that means you have to respect me because of it!"

"Nope!   Age doesn't guarantee that you'll get respect.   I only respect those people who earn it," I said seriously, "And that means you have to start by respecting me."

We continued our conversation for the remainder of the trip to Savannah.   A little while later, Rick asked, "Do you have the directions Kerry gave you?"

"Yes, I have them right here in my pocket.   Do you want me to navigate for you?" I asked.

"Yes." Rick replied.   I read the directions out loud and we arrived without incident at Kerry's parents' house.   Rick parked in front of their house.   As we were getting our things out of the car, Keith and Kerry pulled into the driveway.

Keith asked Rick, "We saw that car almost hit you on the freeway in Atlanta.   You guys were lucky.   That guy was following way too close."

"That was my cousin, Peyton, and my ex-girlfriend, Angie."

Keith's eyes widened in surprise, "They were following you?"

"Yep!   When I slowed down because of the cop, Peyton nearly hit us and had to swerve to miss us.   The police pulled him over and we waved as we went by," Rick laughed.

"You should've seen their faces," I said also laughing.   "It really was priceless!"

Kerry said, "I'm just glad you lost them.   We really didn't need them to be causing trouble here this week."

"I'm glad we lost them, too," Rick agreed.

"Let's go inside, guys.   We can talk more after we get settled in," Kerry said as she led the way.   She opened the front door and held the door for Keith to bring in their bags.   "You know where our room is, dear, go ahead and take them on upstairs."

Keith obediently went upstairs hauling their suitcases.   Rick thought to himself, "I'm sure glad Glenn doesn't treat me that way.   I'd give him a good smack up the side of his head to set him straight if he ever tried talking to me like that!"  

Katie joined us in the hallway, "Welcome boys!   I'm glad you could make it.   Glenn, why don't you and Rick put your things in the same room you and Keith shared when you were here last time.   When you've had a chance to freshen up, come on back downstairs so we can visit for a bit.   Your grandparents are already here."

I led Rick upstairs and into our bedroom.   I put our things in the closet while Rick loaded our swimming gear and underclothes in the dresser drawers

As I closed the closet doors, Rick came up behind me and wrapped his arms around me kissing the top of my head.

I turned around in his arms and kissed him.   "I love you."  

"I love you, too," Rick responded, pulling me closer to him.   "I want to make passionate love to you tonight," he whispered in my ear.

Smiling, I responded, "I will definitely be able to accommodate that special request."

"Good.   It's date then!" Rick smiled back at me.

"Let's go down and get this over with.  I'm not quite ready to face Ruth Ann but we can't put if off any longer.   I need you by my side, Rick.  Okay?"

"You bet I'll be by your side," Rick said.

I heard a tinge of jealously enter his voice.  "But you have to be kind to her, Rick.   It's going to be hard enough without rubbing her face in the fact that she lost me to you," I reminded him.

"But she did lose you to me and I'm not going to let her forget that fact, Glenn," Rick said.   I gave him a look that let him know I wasn't going to accept his answer.   Seeing my look, Rick said, "Alright, I won't try to ravage you in front of her but I will hold your hand.   Okay?"

"Okay, I can't say no to that but remember I want her to still be our friend after today," I said seriously.  "Ruth Ann is a really nice person and she is a great one to have as a friend if you let her.  Let's go," I said and pulled Rick out of the room and then followed him downstairs.

We went into the sitting room where we found my grandparents and my Uncle Stan and Aunt Sharon with Joe and Katie.   Keith and Kerry hadn't come back downstairs, yet.   Ruth Ann was sitting next to her parents on the coach.   Her eyes widened in surprise when she saw Rick holding my hand as we entered the room. 

Grandpa motioned us to sit down, "Boys, I'm glad you're here."   Just then, Keith and Kerry joined us as well.  "Keith and Kerry, please join the boys."

Grandpa continued, "We need to talk to all of you young people.   Your parents and I have worked out a solution to the housing situation that I think will help all of us."

That got our attention!   We all looked at Grandpa and waited for him to proceed.  

Grandpa looked at Uncle Stan who spoke, "We've decided to form an investment corporation to purchase properties and manage them.   The corporation will be called MST, Inc.  MST, of course, stands for Mitchell, Scarborough and Turner.   The corporation will purchase the two condos you all decided you liked in Atlanta," he said looking over at the four of us.

Joe looked at Ruth Ann, "Ruth Ann, we called a realtor in Salt Lake City who will work with you to find a suitable home for you there.   Your mother and I have given the realtor instructions as to what kind of property we are looking for as an investment property.   We want you to be in a safe neighborhood."

Ruth Ann looked totally astonished.   This whole situation must have caught her completely off guard.

Grandpa took up the conversation, "Let me introduce our lawyer and our accountant."

I hadn't noticed them when we entered the room.   I had been concentrating on Ruth Ann and her reaction to me and Rick.    The lawyer was a tall, skinny man.   He was balding and had a friendly, open face.   The accountant looked like he was Italian.   He had olive skin, dark hair and eyes.   He looked to be of medium height.   He smiled but the smile didn't reach his eyes.   He would be one to watch.

"This is Mr. Stewart.   He has drawn up all of the papers of incorporation and will file the papers with the state today after we have all signed the paperwork," Grandpa said.   "Mr. Cianflone has taken care of all the tax implications and is handling the financial end of things for us."

Mr. Stewart addressed us, "The corporation will be established with Mr. Chris Scarborough as Chairman of the Board of Directors, Mr. Stan Turner as Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Joseph Mitchell as Chief Financial Officer,  Mrs. Katherine Mitchell as Vice President of Property Management, Mrs. Era Scarborough as Treasurer, and Mrs. Sharon Turner as Vice President of Procurement  and Investment Strategies.   As members of the Board of Directors, Mr. Richard Lernier, Mr. Glenn Nielsen, Mr. Keith Turner, Mrs. Kerry Turner, and Ms. Ruth Ann Mitchell."

Mr. Stewart sat down and Mr. Cianflone stood up, "I will be working with you regarding the establishment of the financial accounts for the new corporation.  I have all the requisite paperwork here to establish the accounts.   I look forward to work with all of you."

Mr. Cianflone sat down.   Grandpa stood up and looked around the room.   "Is everyone in agreement with what we've said so far?"

Everyone nodded their agreement.   I looked around the room and saw the amazement still reflected in the faces of my peers.   I know I was still reeling from the news.

Grandpa spoke, again, "For you young folks, I will explain things in more detail a little later today after we've taken care of the formalities.   If everyone will follow Mr. Stewart and Mr. Cianflone into the dining room where they can explain the papers we are signing."

About an hour later, the last of the paperwork was completed and Mr. Stewart and Mr. Cianflone took their leave of the family.   Grandpa, Uncle Stan and Joe sat with us around the dining room table and continued to explain how the company was going to operate and our role as members of the board of directors.   We were all made equal owners in the corporation with the adults.   Grandpa made it clear that we were to have as much of a say in running the company as they did with the expectation that we would take over full operation of it when we all had accomplished our educational goals.

"Each of the families has put up a third of the money to get this company up and running.   Between Stan, Joe and I, we believe that this company has the potential to provide all of you a good firm start in the business world and a source of steady income so you can pursue other ventures as well," Grandpa said.

Uncle Stan elaborated a little more, "The properties we are buying for you all will revert to rental properties after you have finished college unless of course you decide you want to purchase them from the company as your permanent residence.   I don't foresee that will be the case since none of you can predict where you will be after college."

Joe added, "Ruth Ann if you decide you want to keep the house in Utah, we will arrange for you to purchase it after you graduate.   Otherwise, it will become a rental property like the condos in Atlanta.   The rental income from this first set of properties will become yours and you will have to maintain the property from the rental income.   These properties will help you to learn how to maintain a home and since you will be living in them, you will become intimately aware of those things that need to be done." 

Joe paused for a moment to see if we were following him, "We envision each of you building an inventory of rental properties that you will manage on behalf of the company.      If you come across a promising piece of property and want to look at investing in it, please bring it to our attention and we will convene a meeting of the board of directors to make a decision to invest or not."

Grandma asked, "Are you all okay with what we have set up for you?"

Keith spoke first, "Yes, I'm okay with it because I talked about something like this with Dad when I graduated from high school."

Kerry surprised me when she said, "I'm okay with it as long as Keith is okay.   I trust that you all have our best interests at heart and will mentor us as we learn how to run our end of things."

All eyes turned to me and Rick.   I spoke up, "I'm okay with what you've done for us."

Rick said, "I'm also in agreement with what you've done.   Thank for looking out for our best interests."

Grandpa said, "We've instructed Mr. Robertson to put an offer on the two condos.   He will fax us the paper work tomorrow for us to sign the offer.   Glenn and Rick we want you to move into the condo as soon as you return.   Mr. Robertson has already contacted the seller who has agreed to let you rent from him until the sale is completed and we take ownership of the condo.   The same goes for you, Keith and Kerry.   I've taken the liberty of reserving a rental truck for you four to use to get your things moved as expeditiously as possible."

I took Rick's hand and gave it a squeeze.   The relief I felt was so immense.   I could feel the weight roll off my shoulders.   I know the worry I felt, however, is nothing compared to what Rick has been going through. 

Rick smiled at me and squeezed my hand back.  Now he wouldn't have to worry about Peyton trying to hurt me or taking out his hatred on Rick's vehicles!   I can't wait to get back and get us moved.   I guess my excitement must have shown on my face because Rick laughed.

"You are my heroes today!  You've managed to make Rick happy!   He has been so worried about his family attacking us and how we could protect ourselves from them.   Thank you for helping us," I said.

Joe said, "You're welcome.   We've had enough serious stuff to talk about today.   Why don't you young folks go on down to the beach and relax a bit while we finish making the preparations for the ring ceremony tomorrow.'

"Dad, I want to help," Kerry said.

"Not today, sweetheart.   There will be plenty of things for you to do tomorrow.   Go on down to the beach and enjoy this afternoon with your new husband," he responded.

Keith stood up and pulled Kerry up with him, "Come on, dear.   Let's go get our swimming gear."  Looking at the rest of us, "Come on!   Ruth Ann, Glenn and Rick don't wait for another invitation!  They may change their minds if you don't get moving."

We laughed and stood up and head upstairs to change into our swimming trunks.   Of course, Rick and I wore our Speedo swimsuits underneath them.   A few minutes later, we met the rest of them downstairs.   Katie handed us a picnic basket, "Here's your lunch and there's plenty of snacks, etc.   We will have dinner at 6 PM so make sure you're back before then."

"Yes, Ma'am," I responded as I took the basket from Katie.   We headed down to the beach and set up our chairs as well as the beach umbrella.   Rick and Keith spread out the blanket and I put the basket down in the center.

I was starving so I immediately started unpacking the picnic basket.   Katie had packed sandwiches, sodas, chips and slices of pecan pie.   I unpacked the utensils and the paper plates.

"Come on, let's eat.   I'm hungry!"   I said.   Everyone took their places around the edges of the blanket as I passed out the food to them.

After eating, Rick and I set up the volleyball net and invited the others to join us for a game of beach volleyball.   We had a great time playing in the sand.   Later, we all swam in the ocean which was quite warm.   By late afternoon, we were completely worn out from our activities.   We collapsed in the beach chairs and chatted about school and what we were going to do to keep up with our classes.

Ruth Ann seemed pretty relaxed around me and Rick.   Every once in a while I would catch her watching me and Rick.   She would quickly look away.   I can tell she's still upset at us.

I grabbed Rick by the hand and pulled him up.  I led him down by the water's edge and we walked for a while in silence.

Rick broke the silence, "You're trying to figure out how to talk to Ruth Ann aren't you?"

"Yeah, I'm not sure how to approach her.  She seems to be upset with us but at the same time she seems really sad," I said.

"Why don't we ask her to take a walk with us down the beach a ways so we can talk," Rick suggested.   He stopped and took both my hands in his, turning me to look at him.

"Okay, but I'm not sure she'll come," I replied uncertainly.

"She can only say, "no," and you won't know if you don't ask," Rick pointed out.

We walked back up the beach and approached Ruth Ann.   Keith and Kerry were playing in the water, again.

"Ruth Ann, Will you come take a walk on the beach with us," I asked nervously.

Ruth Ann looked at me for a moment.   I was afraid she wouldn't come.   Then she said, "Sure, I'll come."

We walked down the beach in the opposite direction than we had gone earlier.   Ruth Ann was first to speak, "I'm glad we finally can talk among ourselves.   I've needed to ask you some questions and now is a good time to ask them."

I just nodded my head not daring to look at her.   She continued, "Were you in love with Rick when you were here with us earlier in the summer?"

"No, I had just met Rick a few days before when Keith took me to tour the Georgia Tech campus.   I was still hurting pretty badly from what Ian had done to me," I said.

"I remember.   We talked a lot about Ian and how devastated you felt.   As we talked, I came to really care for you.   I wanted to protect you from ever being hurt, again.   It's one of my character traits.   I always want to help people.   Mom says I have a gift for healing people.   That's why I've chosen to be a nurse," she said.

"You worked wonders with me, Ruth Ann.   I was feeling suicidal at that time.   I've never been so depressed and thought so little of myself as I did then," I said.   "You helped me through a very difficult time.   I didn't mean for you to fall in love with me."

"I know.   I was the one who threw myself at you in hopes that you would learn to love me as I loved you almost from the moment I saw you.   When I left for school, I wasn't certain what feelings you had for me," Ruth Ann said.

"I didn't know what my feelings were either.   I was pretty mixed up emotionally and I was not in any kind of mental or emotional shape to commit to a serious relationship," I said.

"I know that now.   I can see how happy you are with Rick," she said.   "I wish you two the best.   I can't say I'm not sad to lose you."

"But you don't have to lose me, Ruth Ann.   Can we still be friends?" I asked earnestly.

"I'm not sure I can be just friends.   I need more time to come to terms with the fact that you have fallen in love with Rick," she said.

"I hope you don't hate me," I said.

"I don't hate you, Glenn.   I could never do that.   It isn't in my nature to be hateful.   I'm angry, yes.   I'm angry with myself for thinking I could change you.   I thought I could turn you away from wanting to be with a guy.  I wanted to be your soul mate, the one you came home to every night, the light of your life," Ruth Ann said her voice full of grief from dashed hopes.

I didn't know what to say so I remained silent.   Ruth Ann continued, "Rick, you are a very lucky guy.   Glenn is one of the most sensitive, kind and loving people I know.  I hope you will always remember to be gentle with him and protect him."

Rick nodded his head, "I promise you I will always love and protect him."

"Glenn, Kerry told me how much you wanted to remain friends with me.   Why don't you and Rick come out to Utah for Spring Break?   I should be better able to cope with my emotions and I would really like to show you guys how beautiful it is there."

Rick spoke for us, "We'd love to come visit you.   You should be in your new house by then as well."

Ruth Ann's face brightened, "That's true.   I'd forgotten about that.   I'm so glad our families have figured out a way to help all of us.   I'll make sure I find a big enough house so all of you can come for Spring Break.   I'm getting excited for Spring Break already and we haven't even started the fall semester!" Ruth Ann laughed.

It was good to hear her laugh.   Rick squeezed my hand and I smiled at him.   Ruth Ann didn't hate us and had invited us to spend Spring Break with her.   Things were working out beautifully for us!

Ruth Ann grew even more animated as she planned for our visit.  "Have you ever been to Yellowstone National Park or the Grand Canyon?" she asked us.

We both shook our heads in the negative.   "I'm going to ask Dad if we can rent a cabin in Yellowstone.   I know he loves going there so it shouldn't be hard to convince him and Mom to join us," Ruth Ann said, her cheeks flush with the excitement she felt.

We turned and retraced our steps.   As we approached Keith and Kerry, Ruth Ann ran up to them and started to explain her plans to them for Spring Break.

Keith smiled and Kerry gave me the thumbs up sign.   They both knew that Ruth Ann was going to be okay and that they wouldn't have to worry about keeping us apart.   I know I felt relieved as well.

The remainder of the week went quickly.   The ring ceremony was beautifully done.   The adults filled us in on more of the details regarding the new company and our roles and responsibilities.   By the time we headed back to Atlanta, Rick and I were very much relaxed and rejuvenated.   We all had very dark tans from the many hours on the beach!    Katie and Joe called us their "gingerbread" children!

Prev To be continued . . .