This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

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After The Game

© 2010 Felix_P

Chapter Fifty-one

The flight back was a good one as well, as once again we had sleeping births in Business Class. We had a short stop in Heathrow airport as we couldn't get a direct flight from Dublin to Toronto with the creature comforts I wanted. We then took British Air from London to Pearson airport in Toronto.

We were a little tired as we got off the flight in Toronto and thank goodness it didn't take us too long to get through customs. We were getting in early Friday morning Toronto time, but of course it was the afternoon as far as our bodies were concerned. We got a porter and everything was loaded into the large limousine I had ordered to take us back home. The limousine that was sent was big enough to take our entire luggage and the golf clubs.

When the limousine dropped us off at the house, we got everything loaded into the hallway. The boys noticed the smell of new construction immediately when we opened the front door.

"It smells like paint or something," Jake said as they sniffed the air.

I told them I had some work done off the Media room and that after we had taken our luggage upstairs we could go downstairs together to see what was different. I told them though, they had to wait until Dana and I were ready. The boys were very curious as to what had been done and didn't waste any time getting their luggage upstairs and their dirty clothes in their laundry baskets.

"We're ready to go downstairs," Sean said as the two of them stood impatiently at our bedroom door.

Out of necessity, Dana and I decided we would leave the unpacking until later and we all went downstairs to see the new renovation.

"I had a new room built through those doors," I said as we walked across the Media room.

I had the boys open the double doors and go in first, as Dana and I wanted to see their reaction.

"Whooaa," Sean said as both of them stood there with their mouths open.

They were looking at their new music/recording studio that I had built for them to practice in. The fabric covered wall panels were made from a sound deadening foam and it was complete with microphones, speakers, music stands, a sound board and recording panel as well as a computer with the appropriate sound mixing software. It was large enough so the 'band' could practice, complete with room for a full drum set, keyboards and amplifiers.

"Happy pre-birthdays, boys," I said as Dana and I put our arms around them and gave them a squeeze.

They had huge smiles on their faces, but were overwhelmed for some minutes as they flitted back and forth across the room looking at the various components. I explained some of the capabilities of the equipment and told them that Colin, their music teacher, would have to come over and give them a lesson on how to use the room properly and the equipment that went with it. He was the one that drew up all the specifications from a musical point of view. It was similar to the studio he had in his house for his recording business.

I turned on the sound board and we set up boom stands with microphones for their guitars and regular stands with microphones so they could sing.

"How about a concert," Dana said after they got out their guitars and sat on two of the new stools.

"We need another guitar player for 'Lyin' Eyes'," Jake said as the two of them looked at me.

I smiled and got my Gibson and hooked up a boom mike for my guitar as well.

"We don't have Charles here to lead us into the song, so how about if you count off, Sean."

We played it a few times and it got successively better, as we were all a little rusty. Dana enthusiastically clapped each time we finished, as she was getting a real kick out of the three of us playing together. We left the boys to experiment with the new toys and went upstairs. As we closed the doors to the studio, I was surprised at how quiet it was in the Media room, as we could barely hear any noise.

"Do you want to bet that they'll be calling Charles and Stéphane tomorrow to come over?" Dana said as the two of us chuckled.

When we got upstairs, the phone was ringing. I answered it and smiled when I heard the voice on the other end.

"Hello, Mr. Burger. Is Sean or Jake there?" Charles asked.

I called down to the boys to get the phone and then I remembered that I had an intercom system installed in the Music room for times like this. The conversation wasn't too long, as this wasn't one of their love interests, so it was short and to the point. I'm sure if it had of been Melissa or Rachel, it would have gone on quite a bit longer. Before the boys hung up I asked if I could speak with Mark.

"Charles and I have been busy the last two weeks, but he sure missed the boys," he said.

I looked at Dana and she shook her head yes and I invited him and Charles over for a swim and BBQ which he accepted. After I hung up, I called down to the boys on the intercom and told them we were going to have guests in an hour. I asked them if they wanted to invite Stéphane, but they said he was still at the cottage and he wouldn't be home until Labour Day Monday. Dana and I came up with a quick grocery shopping list and I went over to the food store while Dana put on the laundry.

They arrived early afternoon and Charles of course brought his drum kit with him, as the boys had told him of the new Music room. When they heard the doorbell they flew upstairs and got to the door before either Dana or I could. When we finally caught up with the boys at the door, Mark and Charles were already in the hall. Charles said hello to us and his voice was noticeably cracking, as it was finally changing. It was obvious that he was really self-conscious about it, as he screwed up his face.

I put my arm around him, smiled and said, "That sounds like the same frog in your throat that Sean and Jake had. You know that goes away after a while. It did for them... and me... and your dad."

He looked at me, then his dad and gave us a tentative smile. The boys were very happy to see him and quickly helped him take his equipment downstairs to the new Music room.

"He's so self-conscious about his voice. I've talked to him until I'm blue in the face, but he still gets embarrassed every time it happens in front of people," Mark said.

We all went down to the Music studio and Charles was so excited as the boys showed him around. Mark couldn't believe the set-up and was quite amused at Charles' excitement.

"Something tells me you guys won't be swimming for awhile," he said as he smiled.

"Why don't you boys practice a bit and call us in when it's time for a concert," Dana said.

We got some drinks, left the boys and went to sit by the poolside. Mark looked quite relaxed and it seemed the stress of the last month was finally easing for him. He congratulated Dana and me as he noticed the ring on Dana's finger. We told him of the tentative plans and that we would like him to join us at whatever celebration we decided on. He said he would keep the Thanksgiving weekend free. He then told us that Charles and he had done a lot together over the last two weeks and how much he was enjoying having Charles with him.

"I finally feel like a real father," he said as he smiled.

He asked us some child rearing questions about things that had happened and we gave him some of our sage advice. It was becoming apparent that he viewed us as not only friends but parental figures to him as well, which both Dana and I found somewhat amusing.

"Remember, we told you kids don't come with instruction manuals. You just have to play it by ear sometimes, just like the boys are doing with their music," I said as Dana and I smiled.

After a while Jake came out to the pool and told us they were ready for 'the concert'. They told me I had to play 'Lyin' Eyes' with them and I got my guitar set up with a boom mike. Charles tapped his drumsticks together and we started. We got through the piece and I was impressed at how well the song sounded. It certainly wasn't ready to be recorded, but it was quite passable.

"Well, someone I know has been practicing since we've been gone," I said as I looked at Charles. He had a big grin on his face.

Mark and Charles didn't stay too late after the BBQ, as they realized that we were pretty tired. Before we went to bed the boys were on Skype to Rachel and Melissa. Later, the boys came downstairs in their pyjamas and asked if they could get together with Rachel and Melissa on Sunday. I said that we could make a day of it and visit Carol and Katie in Toronto if they were home and take Rachel along with us. I told them I would call Janet and the Morgans tomorrow to ask if those plans were OK with them. They were quite pleased.

On Saturday morning Dana and I had our Lattes by the pool, as we were up early. The boys were sleeping in as they were still tired from the two weeks away and the long flight. We finished up and Dana went upstairs to call her girls and I decided to go to the Studio and do something I hadn't done for quite a while.

I got out some of my old sheet music and started to play the Clavinova. While the piano was the first instrument I learned, I was much more comfortable on the guitar. My parents had started me in lessons when I was seven years old and I took them until I was sixteen and passed my Grade 8 Conservatory piano exam.

I loved playing popular tunes as well as classical pieces, but I rarely played Jazz, as I didn't have the skill necessary to be able to play to my standards. I was playing 'Prelude Op. 28 No. 4' by Chopin, when I realized I had an audience. I finished the piece without too many mistakes and turned around to see Sean and Jake sitting on stools behind me.

"We didn't know you could play the piano," Sean said.

"How come you never played it for us before?" Jake asked.

I explained to them again about my performance anxiety issue and that it was worse when I was playing the piano. I told them that it didn't come as easy to me as playing the guitar and that most of the time I needed the music written down to be able to play it. I also told them that their sisters were accomplished pianists and were much better than I ever was.

"That sounded pretty good to us," Jake said as Sean agreed.

They asked me if I could play the piano part to 'Get Back' by The Beatles, as they wanted to jam with me. I told them I couldn't as I didn't have the music. Jake then went to his guitar case and pulled out the music that Stéphane had written down and gave it to me. After some pleading by them I agreed.

"Ok, Ok. I give up, but let me run through it before we put it together," I said as I took a look at the music.

Thank goodness it was in a key with not too many sharps and flats, so after a couple of minutes I felt reasonably comfortable with it. We played it a couple of times and the boys looked so serious as they concentrated on their parts. Jake played the bass part on his guitar and sang as Sean played the guitar part. We were finishing the third time through and we noticed Dana standing in the doorway listening.

"Bravo," she said as she clapped.

We left the boys in the room as they were going to play a little bit more before they had breakfast and then took a swim. We were going back-to-school shopping in the afternoon, as they were starting to outgrow a lot of their stuff. We went to the Kitchen to get some breakfast prepared as we knew they would be thundering up the stairs soon complaining about being famished.

"I've never heard you play the piano before. You never played that in the 60's and 70's when you were performing. I knew the girls played, but not you," she said as we got up to the Kitchen.

She then proceeded to tell me again that I was wasting my talent and that I needed to start playing seriously again.

"Those boys' faces light up each time you play for them and with them. You're a role model to the boys for everything else and you need to be a good musical one to them as well," she said.

I knew she was right and I vowed that I would spend some time brushing up on my piano skills. We had just started to make breakfast when they invaded the Kitchen.

"You two are just wasting away, aren't you," Dana said as the two of us chuckled.

After breakfast I called and made arrangements for Sunday. We were going to pick up Rachel after Church and then Melissa in Toronto and go to Katie's place. We were then going to the show where we would meet Carol and Kyle and afterwards go out for dinner at The Kit Kat Bar and Grill, which was one of our favourite restaurants.

Shortly after I hung up a call came in about an offer on Dana's house. She was very excited as the offer was close to full listing price. The agent was bringing the offer over for her to consider. When he arrived Dana was pleased after he had presented the offer to her. It was a firm offer that included no conditions, except for a house inspection. We had already hired a house inspector before it went on the market and corrected everything on the list, so we were confident that it wouldn't pose a problem. She accepted the offer as it stood, even though it was a few thousand dollars below her asking price. She wanted to have it done with as soon as possible.

"I know I could've got my asking price, but it's worth it to me to have the sale tied up. That's one worry off my mind," she said.

After he left, we went over to the mall in the early afternoon to go shopping.

"Do we have to go back to school?" Sean asked as we entered the mall.

I wasn't quite sure if he was really kidding or not, as I noted an anxiousness in his voice. It brought me back to reality, as I realized that this was the boy who had such a rocky school history. Both Dana and I made a joke about his statement, but I made a mental note to watch and see if things got worse as we approached the start of school on the Tuesday.

We got some of their clothing in The Bay, which was the largest department store chain in Canada. It used to be called The Hudson Bay Co. and was established in 1670. It was the oldest corporation in Canada and originally started up in the Hudson Bay area as a trading post, but changed to a department store in the early 20th century. It changed its name somewhere in the late 20th century to just The Bay.

We picked up some socks, shirts, jeans, cotton twill pants and other clothing that would see them through the fall and part of the winter. The winter stuff would come out later in the fall. We also needed to get them underwear and when we went over to that part of the clothing department Dana picked up that Sean wasn't too comfortable with her around, so she made an excuse to go to the womens clothing for a while. She joined us later in the Hilfiger store.

"I'm not sure what he was so modest about. You wash his underwear every week," I said.

"Who knows what goes through teenage minds. I guess that's the same as when your girls were shopping for bras and underwear. I'm sure they didn't want their dad around," she said as she smiled.

"They weren't the only ones who didn't want me around then," I said as I frowned.
When we were finished we had about $1000 worth of clothing, shoes and school supplies. We still had one more thing on the list and that was new backpacks. They realized that the Disney packs with Mickey Mouse on them wouldn't be very cool for grown-up sophisticated grade 9ers!

"You've outgrown Mickey Mouse already?" I asked the boys as Dana and I smiled.

We stopped into Horton's when we were finally finished and had a late afternoon snack and had a chat about the business with my partner John. He congratulated Dana and me on our engagement and we told him to keep the Thanksgiving weekend free for the wedding.

After dinner, Dana and I sat by the side of the pool and finished our tea while the boys were swimming. We finally had a chance to talk about the plans for the wedding. I was going to have Rick as my best man, as he had performed that duty when Lorraine and I got married. Unfortunately, his former wife would not be attending, as they had broken up some years before. She was living in Alberta and Rick's kids chose to stay in Ontario and live with him. Rickie was the last one at home with him now.

Dana's former sister-in-law was going to be her maid of honour. They were still good friends even though Dana was divorced from her brother. Dana was going to be given away by her father who was now in his early 80's. Her father was on his own in a retirement community about two hours away as her mother had died five years ago. I knew her parents as our lives had intertwined over the years and they were very nice people, much like Dana and unlike her ex-husband.

"Dad is thrilled. He was glad I found someone who will finally be good to me, as he put it," she said as she smiled.

We also talked about the ceremony itself, the reception and where we wanted to go for our honeymoon. We decided that we would have the ceremony at the church with Reverend MacLaughlin presiding. I was hoping the golf club was available for the reception and I would call the next week to explore that with our general manager. We were still undecided about whether it would be a sit down affair, or just hors d'oeuvres and a buffet. I suggested Paris, France for the honeymoon, but Dana wanted to stay in the area.

"I would prefer to spend a couple of nights at The Prince of Wales Hotel in Niagara-on-the-Lake. I don't want to leave the boys too long. Besides, it's really romantic," she said as she took my hand and gave me a kiss.

I smiled as she was already acting like their mother. We also talked about getting Ray to prepare the documentation needed for her to adopt the boys. That was another of my jobs for the next week.

"Are we gonna watch the DVD soon, or are you two like gonna be lovey-dovey for a while," Sean said as the two of them were drying off beside the patio table. They were ready to go into the media and watch the movie that we had rented for the night, which meant our moments of intimacy were over.

We enjoyed Randy's church service on Sunday. The boys enjoyed singing and Randy's message about not being locked into traditions that were outdated or meaningless. We gathered that his message was aimed at some of the inflexible members in the church who were trying to shut down the contemporary service. They didn't think it was 'holy' enough and was somewhat blasphemous. What they were ignoring was the fact that the attendance at the regular service was severely dwindling and the attendees were older. The attendance at the Contemporary service was double that of the traditional service, as all the younger members with families were attending, as they found it more relevant.

The last song was fitting that Randy chose for the band to play. They put up the words on the screen and the boys were singing away.

"I've heard that song before," Sean said as we were walking to the front to shake hands with Reverend MacLaughlin after the service.

"That was 'Waiting For The World To Change' by John Mayer. Fitting wasn't it?" I said as we all smiled.

"Well, we missed the Burger family the last couple of weeks. I hope your holiday was a good one," Randy said as he shook our hands.

We had a short chat with him and he told the boys he was looking forward to them joining the Junior choir. He didn't know that they were taking music lessons and he was quite interested.

"Maybe we can have a guest appearance sometime in the future from your band," he said as he gave them a big smile.

I also told him that I may have some new members for his congregation, as Mark had expressed interest in joining us some Sunday. Dana and I then told him that we needed to talk to him about our wedding plans and he congratulated us.

"I'm so happy you two finally came to your senses and decided to tie the knot. I bet you boys are happy," he said as he turned to Sean and Jake. They gave him big smiles.

After church, we picked up Rachel from my niece's place and drove to Toronto. I had hired a limo as the Lexus wouldn't be big enough for six people and I really didn't want to drive.

Jake gave Rachel her necklace from Florence before we left and she was thrilled. Jake blushed as she gave him a kiss and hug in front of all of us. Her parents and I smiled as we looked at each other.

Sean, Jake and Rachel had a great time catching up on everything that had happened over the two weeks. Even though Jake had been on Skype with her numerous times, they didn't seem to have trouble finding something to talk about.

When we arrived at Melissa's place, Sean gave her the Belleek plate with the Irish blessing and the pendant. She was speechless and I thought she was going to break out in tears. This certainly wasn't the hockey playing Melissa that was thumping opponents into the boards. She gave him a big hug, but no kiss and naturally he was a little embarrassed. We went into the family room and chatted with her parents, Gary and Suzie and they congratulated us on our impending nuptials. After a few minutes, Melissa asked Sean to go up her room to see some of her new school clothes. Jake and Rachel stayed with us.

"Now don't be too long and hold everyone up, dear," Suzie said as she smiled at her as they left the room.

Dana and I glanced at each other, as we knew what was going on. After a few minutes we were ready to leave but they still hadn't come downstairs.

"I don't recall us getting you that much clothing, Mel," Gary called upstairs as we were waiting in the hall for them.

They came down and were blushing. As we went down the walk to the Limo, they held hands. Dana and I smiled at each other as they got in the limo.

My girls congratulated Dana and me when we met up with them. Marty and Kyle started to plan the Stag with the boys as they took them aside before we entered the theatre for the show. Sean and Jake had big smiles on their faces as they were talking and I was feeling a little nervous as to what was being discussed.

"It's Ok, Dad. Marty and Kyle said they probably weren't going to hire a stripper or anything and we told them we didn't like beer," Jake said as the two of them giggled as we were going to our seats. I gave Marty and Kyle a glare, but they just laughed.

The movie was great and everyone enjoyed it. We weren't sure how much Sean and Melissa took in though, as they were holding hands the entire time and mooning at each other.

When we got to the Kit Kat Bar and Grill we had to wait as they didn't have our table quite ready. My girls, Sean and Jake stood off to the side and were having a conversation. They were being a little secretive and I was suspicious as to what was going on.

"What was that all about?" I asked Carol as we were being shown to our table.

"Don't be so nosy," she said as she smiled and walked away and took her seat.

On the way home, Sean was a little quiet, but he had a contented glow on his face. That night when Dana and I were putting Sean to bed, I noticed Teddy was sitting in the chair and hadn't been with him since we had come back.

"So I guess Mel really liked her gifts," Dana said as she gave him a big smile.

"So how come Teddy's not sleeping with you?" I asked.

He smiled as he rolled onto his side and said, "He told me I snore."

I ruffled his hair as Dana and I chuckled.

Sean was a little out of sorts the next morning as we guessed that he was still experiencing jet lag. Nothing about his breakfast pleased him and he let us know it.

"I want strawberry jam, not marmalade and I wanted oatmeal not that whole grain stuff," he said as he pouted.

"Well, well, well. Someone got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning," Dana said. "Maybe you should make your own breakfast this morning, young man" she said with that piercing look only a mother can give. That was enough to snap him back to reality and he dug into his cereal without another word being said.

After breakfast I got a call from the boys' hockey league convenor that threw me for a loop.

"Al, I'm sorry to tell you, but the goalie that was assigned to your team is moving at the end of the month to BC. The father just found he's transferred."

That was going to cause a real problem, as he was highly ranked and was going to be a key part of the team. What was worse was the convenor didn't have any replacement for me.

"I'll see what I can do, but it's not going to be easy, particularly in this age group," he said.

When I got off the phone, the boys could see I wasn't very happy. I told them what the problem was and they looked worried. I told them that the convenor was looking to see what he could do for us, but they knew that goalie was going to be a key part of the team. I told them not to worry, as I was sure it would be resolved satisfactorily.

Colin came over shortly after and showed the boys how the studio worked. There was some reasonably sophisticated equipment to record with and I knew that we would have to have a lot more help with that part of the studio setup. We weren't at the point of needing to overlay sound tracks, as they simply wanted to be able to play a song from their iPod or CD and record what they were playing.

After Colin had left, Stéphane called. He had come home late Sunday night and was touching base with the boys. They asked if he and Charles could come over in the afternoon to jam and swim.

When Stéphane arrived he was really excited when the boys showed him the Studio. They played back some of the sessions they had recorded and then they got down to business. Shortly afterwards Charles arrived with his drum kit as Mark dropped him off. I closed the doors as they were just starting 'Get Back' and joined Dana by the pool.

Dana and I were relaxing under the patio umbrella while the boys were in the Studio. About an hour went by and we thought it was odd that we hadn't been called in for a concert. Just then Jake, Stéphane and Charles came out in their bathing suits, to go into the pool.

"Where's Sean?" I asked as they passed.

"He's upstairs," Jake said as he eased himself into the water to join the other two.

The three of them started to play Frisbee and Dana and I kept a lookout for Sean.

"Is Sean coming out to swim?" I called over to Jake after a few minutes.

"I don't know," he called back as he shrugged.

Something wasn't right and Dana and I looked at each other with the same concerned look. I motioned to Jake to come to the table as I wanted to talk to him.

"He got all in a snit cuz he didn't like the way I was playing this one song. Then he got all stupid and like ragged on all of us and then took off," he said with a disgusted look on his face.

I was pretty sure I knew what was wrong and I told him to go back to his friends.

"I think I better go and do some damage control," I said as I got up to go upstairs.

When I walked into his room he had his pillows propped up behind him and he was sitting on the bed with his laptop. He looked up when I came in and quickly went back to his laptop. I sat down on the side of the bed.

"You want to tell me what's going on, or do I have to guess," I said.

He shrugged his shoulders but didn't say anything or look at me.

"It wouldn't have anything to do with going to school tomorrow, would it?"

He looked at me and shrugged his shoulders again. As much as he had come such a long way since he had been with me, we still had a ways to go. I had a hunch, given some of the clues I had seen over the last couple of days, that he was very anxious about starting school again. This was not just the normal starting high school anxiety. I put my arm around him and drew him closer as he put his laptop on the bed beside him.

"I think you're really anxious about starting into high school, but I think it's more than just that, isn't it?"

I told him that I thought it was because of his past and that he was nervous about fitting in with the other kids. He looked up at me and shook his head yes. He told me that he was afraid that some kids might find out about his past and make fun of him. He was also afraid that he wouldn't do as well in school as he wanted to.

"Sean, you're a smart, funny, talented, good looking boy. You have everything going for you and everyone that knows you knows that. The only one that has to be convinced is you," I said as I gave him a squeeze. Finally he gave me a smile, then put his arm around me and gave me a hug.

"I think you have something you need to take care of now," I said as I looked at him.

"What do you mean," he said as he gave me a puzzled look.

"You need to apologize to your brother and your friends."

I'm not sure what was said, but things looked like they were patched up as they played in the pool after Sean came down and joined them.

That night when Dana and I were putting the boys to bed, we went into Jake's room first. I could see that he had something on his mind that he wanted to talk to me about.

"What happens if they can't get a goalie for us, Dad?" he asked.

I told him I didn't know, but I suspected they would have to ask if any player in the league would be willing to play goalie. I told him that there were a few kids that had played the position before and they might be willing to be a goalie again. I had the feeling there was more to his question though.

"That's not the real reason you're asking, is it?"

"I was sort of thinking that... well maybe you know... I could try it," he said

I was surprised and didn't know quite what to say. I knew Jake had played hockey some years ago, but I didn't know if he had ever played the position before.

"I tried it a couple of times. Everyone on the team had to take a turn at playing goalie when I started to play," he said.

I knew that's how they did things nowadays in the younger age groups, but at this age, when the boys could shoot harder and faster, it demanded a decent level of skill, even at the house league level. I decided that I wasn't going to disappoint him by discouraging him.

"If that's what you really want, I'll call the convenor tomorrow."

"I know a good goalie coach that can give you a hand," Dana said as she had a big smile on her face.

When we went into Sean's room to say goodnight we noticed that Teddy had joined him.

"I hope you're going to get some sleep tonight, otherwise you're going to keep Teddy awake," I said as I gave him a big smile.

He gave us a weak smile in return.

"Everything will work out just fine," Dana said as she kissed his forehead.

I was certainly hoping that she was right.

Kit Kat Bar and Grill

The Bay

The Prince of Wales Hotel

Waiting For The World To Change

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