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I was stunned. I wasn't sure what he meant by 'It's better if the boys don't see each other again'. When I got over my initial shock, I started to boil and get really pissed off. I decided I should wait a few minutes to cool down before I called him back, as I wasn't going to let him off the hook that easy. There was too much at stake for all of us to let this fade away.
I dialed his number again, and waited for him to pick it up. I got the answering machine and left a message.
"Pietro, this is Al. Please pick up and let's talk. I need to know what the problem is."
I waited, but he didn't respond. I hung up and called again, but this time I was a little more direct.
"Pietro, this is very unfair of you. If I have to I will come down to your house to talk to you. Whatever the problem is, I'm sure we can work it out. Please call back, for everyone's sake."
Finally, as I was just about to hang up he picked up the phone. I could tell he was very emotional from the way he said hello.
"Please tell me what's wrong, Pietro."
"I can't accept your offer," he said with a shaky voice. "I just can't take the risk."
He went on to say that if he couldn't pass the TOEFL exam and get the certificate to get into Community College he would be left with nothing but debt that he would have a hard time paying back. His solution to keep the boys away from each other was because he felt over time they would drift apart because it would be too difficult for them to keep up their relationship. He felt it was better to make a clean break now, so they could get over it and move on with their lives.
"Pietro, I have some news that might change things for you. I have located a grant that would not have to be paid back, and would be more than adequate to fund your goals."
I went on to explain that this was funding especially designed for foreign trained professionals to gain their certification. Technically I wasn't lying, as I had 'custom designed' the funding.
There was a long pause on the other end, and finally he said, "But what if I can't master English enough to qualify?"
I assured him that I had seen many others be successful that didn't have as good a command of the English language as he did. I also said, that I could arrange free of charge a tutor that would help him through it, if he needed it.
Finally he gathered himself together and said he would like to come up on Sunday, and talk more. He also said that he would allow Jake to come up on Saturday and stay overnight. It appears that he lacked confidence after so many years out of school, and I was hoping that my news of the grant gave him the security blanket he needed.
The next day Bryce, the real estate agent, picked Sean and me up about 10 am. Sean was a little difficult to get going, as he was missing sleeping in every day, now that he was back in school.
"I hope you wake up before we get there," I said as we were on our way to the first house.
He looked like he was half asleep and gave me a weak smile.
Bryce led us through both houses and pointed out the various features he thought would interest us. I was looking closely at Sean's reaction, as I thought his body language would tell me what he thought. I wasn't disappointed, as he reacted very positively to the house that I had as my number one choice.
After we came back to the townhouse, Bryce sat down with us for a few minutes to gauge our reaction.
Sean wasn't shy, and spoke up, "I like the last one we went through. I liked the pool and the hot tub," he said as he gave a big smile.
Bryce suggested that we go to my den without Sean to talk about the business stuff. He wanted to give me advice as to the next steps, if I was really interested in the house. I told him that whatever was transacted, Sean would be present, and that going to the Den wouldn't be necessary. I wanted Sean to see the process, as I thought this would be a good learning experience for him.
"The house is overpriced at $1.4 million, so I want to offer $1.1 million firm, and a 48 hour window for them to accept. I also want this subject to a satisfactory home inspection, and a June 1st closing date. I have some renovations to do before we move in," I said matter-of-factly.
Bryce was caught off guard, as he hadn't expected me to have him write up the offer that day. He started to tell me that he thought my offer was too low, and they would definitely counter back.
"You need to tell their agent that I don't do business that way. This is the only offer they will get from me. That house has been on the market for 3 months, and I know that because of the price and the economy they haven't had much action."
He didn't raise any more objections as he was starting to get the idea I had done this before and that I knew what I was doing. He got out the papers, and I signed the offer sheet, which he said he would present that evening.
Sean was fascinated by the whole experience, and I could see that once Bryce was gone he would have some questions for me.
After Bryce left, Sean asked, "How come you didn't have to pay the full price of the house?"
I told him that in the case of Real Estate, price was negotiable. I told him there were other examples such as buying cars where that was also the case.
"It's not like you're buying say an iPod in the store, and you have to pay the price that's on it. You can't really go up to the cash and start to negotiate with the cashier in that case," I said.
I then went over some strategies about negotiation, and I could tell that he was really interested. I could also tell he understood what I was talking about.
"You always try to negotiate from a position of strength, that's why I offered $300,000 less than they were asking. They haven't been able to sell their house for 3 months, and Bryce told us they had already bought another house, which means they need to sell."
"So you're kinda giving them something, like their house sold, and you're getting a good price?" he asked.
"Correct, except it's us getting a good price," I said as I emphasized the word us, and smiled at him and tickled his ribs.
He giggled as he wiggled away from me.
By now it was almost noon and we went to pick up Jake and go to the gym to work out. I was going to have a light workout to loosen up for my championship game later that night. On the way back, Jake of course brought us up-to-date on his week in detail. Even though Sean had been emailing him all week, and knew most of what he was telling us, he was polite and didn't get annoyed at Jake. I could tell the two of them had really missed each other.
Sean was happy to see Jody, and they had a great workout. Jake and I worked out together, but since it was a light workout, Jake was much happier.
"Whoa, that's better. I'm not dead or anything," Jake said with a big smile on his face.
"I took it easy on you this time, young fellow. You're lucky I have a game tonight," I said as I laughed.
The three of us showered, and I noticed Sean was starting to fill out. His ribs were not as visible as they were some weeks ago. I also notice he was sprouting underarm hair, so I thought it was time he started to use deodorant. We stopped into Walmart on the way home to get some for him.
"I guess you want Axe deodorant?" I said with a big smile.
I guessed correctly, as he returned my smile.
We made our protein shakes after we came into the townhouse. When we finished them, the boys went down to the media room to play games on the Playstation.
I decided that since Jake was here, we would have a pasta meal. It would also give me some extra energy for my championship game that night.
Jake said he could make the pasta with the speciatly sauce I had and some vegetables we found in the refrigerator. Sean and I made the salad, and I had some fruit and frozen yogurt for dessert.
Both the boys sensed that I was a little tense, thinking about my game later on.
"Are you nervous, Pop?" Sean asked as we were having our herbal tea in the living room.
"A little. Being the goalie adds a little extra pressure," I said.
"Are there going to be like lots of fans tonight?" Jake asked.
"Well, I hope our team has at least 2 fans," I said as I smiled at them.
When we arrived at the rink, we found Rick's boys, Ricky and Jason, as they were going to watch the game as well.
"Hey little bro, and little bro's friend," Ricky said as he gave both Jake and Sean an athlete's handshake. "Long time no see."
They took off for the stands and I went to get dressed.
The game was a typical Oldtimers game, a little rough, and slow. It was by and large a see saw defensive battle. I had to make a few tough saves in the first period, one of which was a point blank shot from their best player.
With 2 minutes to go, the game was a scoreless tie, and their best player came over the blue line and was going to shoot. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the left winger, who was a dirty player, coming at me full bore to the net, and I knew he had no intention of stopping. I made the save, just as the winger ran me into the net. Somehow, I managed to keep the puck out of the net, but I felt a twinge in my back. I was also really pissed, and was about to smack the goon in the face with my blocker, when I remembered that Sean and Jake were watching. I restrained myself as I didn't want to set a bad example or get a penalty. I did however have a very heated verbal exchange with him using some very colourful language, which Sean and Jake couldn't hear. The referee wasn't going to give him a penalty, as he deemed it was an accident, but, during the ensuing verbal exchange the idiot managed to cross the line with some comments he made to the ref and was thrown out of the game. Shortly after that, our best player scored and we hung on to win the game 1-0.
"Congratulations, Pop," Sean said as I came out of the dressing room afterwards.
"You were awesome," Jake said as he had a big smile on his face.
I was very happy at winning the game and getting a shutout, but I was happier with the fact that both boys were with me watching it. Sean wheeled my bag out to the Lexus and Jake carried my sticks, as they could see that my back was bothering me.
"How come you didn't give that guy a shot?" Jake asked.
"Discipline, young man. If I had popped him I would likely have been penalized, and put my team into jeopardy."
"What did you say to him that got him so mad?" Sean asked.
"I just told him how disappointed I was at his behaviour," I said with a grin.
"Ya, right," Sean said as both boys just laughed.
We had a great celebration and each player was presented with a small trophy and a gift certificate to the pub. Sean and Jake left with Ricky shortly afterwards. I arrived home by taxi about 1:30 am. Ricky was snoozing on the couch downstairs in the media room, and both boys were upstairs sound asleep. I paid Ricky, and thanked him for looking after the boys.
"No problem, Uncle Al. We watched Blood Diamond on the movie channel," he said with a smile.
I realized that was the movie I told the boys they couldn't watch in Disney. I decided this wasn't the time to broach the subject of appropriate movie ratings, as it was very late.
The next morning, the boys woke me up in time to go to church. I was a little hung over, and the boys found my discomfort amusing.
"This is why you should never drink in excess," I said as I downed 2 Tylenols.
Both of them smiled, as Jake gave me my cereal and Sean poured me a coffee.
The Contemporary church service was again a good one. Both boys seemed to get a lot out of it. Reverend MacLaughlin gave a sermon about personal integrity, and being a righteous person.
Both boys seemed to enjoy the church experience once again, and I could see that they liked singing the hymns and songs. Both of them had good voices, and some musical ability. Sean's voice was still a soprano, as it was still in the early stages of changing. He didn't seem shy about singing, as he was quite audible. Jake's voice was also a sporano, but not as high as Sean's. Naturally he wasn't shy about projecting his voice either.
When the service was finished, the woman in front of us turned to the boys and asked if they wanted to join the junior choir that sang in the regular service 3 times a year. She was the choir director, and she said she was very impressed with the two boys' ability.
"I'm sure both boys would like that very much. We'll have to see if we can work something out for the fall when practices start again," I said answering for the boys.
They both smiled at me and shook their heads. I could see that Jake was a little puzzled at how that would work out.
"I'll talk to your uncle, Jake. I'm sure we can come to some arrangement," I said as I smiled at him. I crossed my fingers and hoped that my plan would be successful to allow this to happen.
"That would be so cool, eh Sean," Jake said with a big smile.
Sean smiled and when Jake turned away he looked at me with a puzzled look. I just gave him a big smile back, and raised my eyebrows. He knew there was something up.
Jake was walking in front of us talking to Stéphane, who had joined us, as we exited the sanctuary.
"How's that going to work with the choir, Pop?" Sean asked.
"I have a plan, young man," I said with a grin.
He looked at me, smiled and bounced on ahead to join up with Stéphane and Jake.
We were in the foyer afterwards and I could see Serena Lang off to the side having a discussion with some older women. She glanced at us, but turned away quickly when she saw me looking at her.
We were just about to line up to shake hands with Reverend MacLaughlin when my business partner's wife Barbara came over to me.
"Al, Serena's spreading a very nasty rumour around, I think you should know about," she said as she motioned me to the side away from the boys.
Serena had been telling the ladies that Sean's grandfather was the one charged in the big pornography bust, and that Sean had willingly acted in a number of the films. I told Barbara that the part about Sean was a huge lie, and I thanked her for the heads-up.
I went over to where Serena was still talking to the ladies and rudely broke into their conversation.
"Ms. Lang, I'd like to see you in private. Please step over here now," I said with fire in my eyes.
"I beg your pardon, but you're being very rude. I have no intention of stepping over there with you. Whatever you have to say you can do it here," she said with a condescending tone.
"The Sliver Slipper," I said as I glared at her.
Her mouth dropped, and she turned to the ladies and said, "Excuse me for a moment." She followed me to the parlour, which was empty.
"That rumour about Sean is a bold-face lie, and you know it. You're going to go out there and straighten this out with those ladies, and anyone else you've told, or I'll let a few key people know about your antics at the Sliver Slipper nightclub, where you've been banned for propositioning young guys."
"How do you know that?" she asked with a nervous expression on her face.
"One of my former students used to be a part-time bartender there, and I just happened to have a conversation with him this week where your name came up. He told me about your escapades as a, what's the term ... cougar?"
Now she was squirming and stammered, "You can't prove that!"
"Oh yes I can, and I will also have a talk with my friend Ken Bainbridge, the Director of Education. I'm sure he wouldn't be too happy knowing there was a sexual predator teaching for the board."
She looked at me with a defiant look but didn't say anything.
"It's your choice. I believe the cause for termination would be 'conduct injurious to the moral tone of the school'," I said as I glared at her.
Finally she reluctantly agreed and was about to leave to tell the ladies she was wrong.
"One more thing, Serena. This will be the last time you set foot in this church. Do I make myself clear?"
She stomped off and slammed the door as she left. When I went out into the hall I could see her talking to the ladies. I glared at her as I passed. I joined the boys and Barbara, who stayed with the boys while I was in the parlour.
"Why were you and Ms. Lang talking, Pop?" Sean asked, with a concerned look.
"There was a small misunderstanding that I had to straighten out with her. Everything's fine now," I said as I smiled at the boys, and Barbara.
Barbara returned my smile. We then lined up to shake hands with Reverend MacLaughlin.
"I'm so glad to see the 3 of you again," he said as he shook our hands.
He noticed that I had pulled Serena aside, and he asked if everything was alright.
"Everything is fine reverend. I was just discussing a change of venue for Serena," I said as I smiled at him.
He had a brief chat with the boys and was pleased they were able to get something out of the service.
"I'm so glad you were able to bring your Pop this morning. I understand he had cause to celebrate last night," he said as he gave us a big smile.
I blushed a little with embarrassment and the boys just laughed.
We went home and had lunch, and I dropped the boys off at the teen centre to hang out with Stéphane and his friends. That gave me some time to have an afternoon snooze and a quick grocery shopping for the dinner tonight with Pietro and the boys.
I had just nodded off when the phone rang. It was Bryce, the real estate agent.
"I have some good news, Al. I can't believe it, but they accepted your offer with no additional conditions. You've got yourself a new home."
I thanked him, and I was very happy at the result. Now I was hoping the other part of the plan would fall into place.
I picked the boys up about 4 pm. and brought them back to the townhouse. I decided not to tell Sean about the house until I had some indication from Pietro what he was going to do.
Pietro arrived about 5 pm. and we had a great dinner. The boys went downstairs to watch TV and left Pietro and me to talk at the dining room table.
"Have you come to a decision about my offer Pietro?"
He hesitated, and voiced his concerns again about his English skills, and the prospects of getting a job in the field.
I once again assured him he would be successful on the TOEFL test, and that the grant I was able to secure was a very generous one, and would meet all his needs. I then went over to the phone and dialed a number.
"Come over here, there's someone I want you to talk to," I said as Scott picked up the phone on the other end.
They had a good conversation, and I could see Pietro relax as he talked to Scott about the job prospects. When he hung up he looked at me and gave me a big smile.
"When do I start my TOEFL classes?" he asked.
I shook his hand and called the boys upstairs.
"Let's all go into the living room, as there's some news Pietro and I would like to share with you boys," I said as I smiled.
Pietro and I took turns telling the boys the details of the plan, but I went last.
"I also have to tell you boys, that all of us are moving at the end of June. Sean and I have a new home two streets over, and Jake, you and your Uncle are moving in here."
Both boys were stunned at all of the news, and neither could speak for a few moments. Finally Sean came over to me and gave me a big hug. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Pietro and Jake were doing the same.
The boys were so excited, and both broke the hugs and went over and gave each other the athlete's handshake.
"I can't believe we're going to get to live up here with you guys," Jake said as he wiped his eyes with his sleeve.
Pietro and I moved on either side of Jake and hugged him.
"This will be a new life for both you and your uncle. You both deserve this," I said as I gave Jake a Kleenex.
Sean was beaming from ear-to-ear.
Finally we all calmed down and started to talk about the plans.
After Jake and his uncle had left, Sean went upstairs to get ready for bed. I came up later to tuck him in and say goodnight. When I entered his room he was sitting on his bed, texting on his cell phone.
"I'm just signing off, Pop."
"What was Melissa's reaction to the news?" I asked.
"She thinks it's cool," he said with a big smile on his face.
I looked behind him and Teddy was propped up on one of his pillows.
"I'm guessing Teddy knows. Is he cool with it too?"
"Yeah," he said as he climbed under the covers and put his arm around Teddy.
I said goodnight, and as I was going out the door he said, "Thanks, Pop."
"You're welcome, young man. Sleep tight," I said as I smiled at him and turned out his light.
Both Sean and I were in great moods Monday morning as he went off on the school bus to school. I was just going over email shortly after 9:30 when the phone rang. It was Katharine.
"Hi, Uncle Al. I guess you don't have your snail mail yet."
Note: You might want to check the Glossary for some of the terms I've used in the last few chapters.