The meeting with Gerald and Carlos went very well. We spent the majority of the morning discussing the various legal, financial and tax consequences of the sale. It all came down to what I really wanted to do. The responsibility of the boys was weighing heavily on me. They needed a fulltime parent. Of course, they loved Hildy but she was not their mother and she had her hands full keeping house and cooking for all of us.
I made up my mind that the best thing for me to do was to sell the business at the offered price. It was a fair price for me and the conditions to be placed on retaining the consultants was fair for the employees. The condition that they would assume all debts of the company and continue to pay my ex-partners wife for the deal we had to pay for his share of the business made it even more enticing. With that settled, I called Weller to let him know of my decision to sell provided all the details could be worked out to both our satisfaction. I gave him Carlos' name and phone number to call to work out the legal framework. I also gave him Gerald's information in case there was a need for financial information on the company. It was agreed that we would try to complete the sale by the end of June. That gave us a month and a half to work out all of the details.
After Gerald and Carlos left I remembered to call Becky Sue to let her know that we wanted her to come to work for us. We agreed that she should begin work next Wednesday. The boys only had to go to school to pick up their report cards and then would be off the rest of the day. I think that the salary that I offered her was more than she expected, but I knew she would earn every penny looking after five very active boys.
As usual I left in time to get home when the boys got off the van. Samson knew that when my car arrived home that it would soon be time for the boys to return and he would head down to the gate to meet them. If we had to wait more that a few minutes he was a dog in constant motion running to the gate then back to me again and again until the boys arrived. He couldn't wait for the gate to fully open. Instead he would squeeze through as soon as there was a space big enough for him to get through. Whichever one of the boys was first off the van got the tongue licking of his life. Although Samson loved all of the boys equally, Joel was first among equals.
Darcie came to pick up JR because Eric had to go to Dallas for the project up there. She fairly bounced into the kitchen where I was talking to Hildy. You could tell she was bursting to tell us something.
“Guess what! Mel proposed to me and I said yes," she bubbled.
Hildy and I stood there for a moment with our mouths open in surprise. Hildy was the first to recover. "That's wonderful! Have you set a date?"
"Congratulations," I finally said recovering my senses.
"Thanks, yes we are going to get married June 24. It is going to be a small wedding with only a few friend and family. Of course, you all are invited."
"Where is it going to be?" I asked.
"There's this quaint little Presbyterian Church in Fredericksburg where his mother lives. We have been going there almost every weekend. The pastor is a young man with an amazing presence. His sermons speak to your heart directly from his heart. Mel grew up with him."
While Hildy and Darcie discussed marriage plans, I decided to get JR ready to go home. I just hoped that Darcie had enough of her senses intact to get them home safely.
Sitting down to one of Hildy's delicious meal, I announced to the table that I was going to have to start my routine of swimming laps every morning if I was going to continue to eat like the boys. I also vowed to give up snacks with them. I made my vow public so that I would feel bad if I didn't stick to it.
After supper Joel asked me if I would help him study for his year end tests. Of course he knew I would. Anyway about all I had to do was to look over his amazingly organized notes and papers he had on every subject and read a question off and he would answer it. I don't think he missed over a couple of questions over the course of the hour and a half we spent reviewing and those he was able to answer with a little hint. I knew he would do well on his tests when we were finished.
The next morning at work I received a call from Weller saying that they wanted to send a team in to do their due diligence on Tuesday. After I agreed, he said that there would be a team of five senior people. Two would work with Gerald on the financials while the other three would be working with Foster and the other consultants going over the current projects and status.
Upon completion of the call I asked Carol to set up a meeting with all the consultants for Monday morning at nine and to arrange for the out of town people to attend by conference call. I knew that everything would be set up perfectly. I was going to miss having Carol's efficiency in organizing my work day when I was no longer the boss.
The rest of the day was filled with the usual routine which consisted mainly of mountains of paperwork that passes over a manager's desk. Now that the decision had been made to sell the company I was almost glad. Maybe I would be able to get back to doing some "real" work. Actually getting to solve client problems again was very appealing to me at this point. Oh, I got to review all of the project proposals for the company and to add my insight and experience to them but it was not the same as doing the original work on the proposal. Nor was it as satisfying as working at the client site getting your hands dirty writing code, analyzing and solving unexpected problems or changes to what the client had asked for. It got my blood racing just to think about it.
Eric picked up JR that evening. I asked him if he and JR would like to go fishing with us on Saturday. Before he could answer, JR made the decision for him. I didn't know that JR was listening but once he heard that was it, they would be going or there would be one very unhappy boy. I told them we would try to leave the marina at around ten and return about two and if we caught enough fish we would grill them.
I was glad that they accepted because I had ulterior motives. I wanted to have a talk with Eric where we would be fairly free from distractions.
Saturday morning as I was swimming my laps that I had faithfully done each morning since I had announced I would I saw something out of the corner of my eye as I made a turn. Stopping to shake the water out of my eyes, I saw that it was Chris.
"What are you doing up so early, son?" I asked a little surprised.
"You said you was gonna swim so I thought I would too. Is that alright?"
"Of course it is. I'm glad to have the company. Come on, I have about fifteen minutes to go."
I knew that Chris was a good swimmer but I didn't know if he could keep up with my longer strokes so I slowed them down so that he could keep up. After about ten minutes I could tell that he was beginning to tire so at the end of a lap I decided that we should quit. I didn't want him to get too sore from all the exercise. I also wanted to give him the satisfaction of keeping up with me. We got out of the pool and I dried him off with the only towel that I had brought out before drying myself.
"Okay, you go jump in the shower and wash the chlorine off and I'll go see what Hildy is fixing us for breakfast."
I made the detour to the kitchen but before I got there I could tell by the smell that she was fixing waffles and sausage. She said she needed about 15 more minutes before she thought that she would have enough fixed to keep ahead of the boys' appetites. That gave me just enough time to grab a quick shower before I woke the other boys.
They were reluctant to get out of bed until they smelled the aroma of waffles and sausage. That brought them wide awake and it didn't take them long to wash up and make their way to the breakfast table.
Saturday had come none too quickly for the boys. They were beginning to love the water and anytime that they knew that they were going to get out on the boat they could hardly wait.
Before we left the house I made sure that the boys all had applied a liberal supply of sun block. I didn't want to have any sunburned boys when we got home. It was a good thing that we had the van. By the time we had all of the lifejackets, fishing poles, tackle boxes and coolers along with the boys it was bulging at the seams. All the boys had seated themselves and had fastened their seatbelts except Joel. He was saying goodbye to Samson. They both looked at me with a pleading look in their eyes that said "Can I come too?" How could I refuse?
"Okay, get the other lifejacket out of the garage. It may be a little big for him but if he falls overboard, it will keep him afloat until we can rescue him. And make sure he does his business before he gets on the boat. There are no trees on the boat."
We got to the boat just before ten. The marina had prepared the boat for our arrival. They had removed the tarp the covered it but had not put up the canopy. I decided to wait until the sun was higher to put it up. They had also filled the gas tanks so we wouldn't run out in the middle of the lake.
About half way through loading our gear onto the boat, Eric and JR arrived. That interrupted the process while everyone greeted each other. It didn't take long to load the rest of our gear and Eric's. Joel took Samson into the trees before they joined us.
Before we left the dock I made sure that everyone had their lifejacket on and secured. I steered the boat to a spot not to far from our house where we had some luck landing fish last week. Although the boat was rated for twelve people, the eight of us, all the gear and a dog looking into every nook and cranny made the boat seem crowded. At first Samson was not sure that he liked the gentle rocking of the boat. He was a little unsteady on his feet for the first fifteen minutes or so before he got acclimated. It wasn't long before he was curled up at Joel's feet.
Eric and I got the boys' fishing gear out and baited the hooks before we helped them cast their lines.
"Now be careful when you cast. I don't want to have to dig a fishhook out of any of you. That would not be fun for either of us" I told them.
When the boys were all settled down to the business of fishing, I turned to Eric and said. "I think that we need to talk."
"Yes we do."
We left the boys and went to the stern of the boat and sat at the small table on the port side. Neither one of us said anything for a minute or so. Finally I screwed up the courage to start the conversation that both of us wanted to have.
"Eric, you said at one time that you were attracted to me and I told you that I felt the same way. I also told you that I would do nothing that would jeopardize my ability to adopt my sons. Well that obstacle is out of the way and my sons are secure in my home. The other obstacle, to me at least, is the employer/employee relationship and that will soon be taken care of."
"I still feel the attraction for you Crane. How do we go about establishing a more personal relationship?"
Just then TJ said, "I'm hungry. Can we have something to eat?"
"Sure, I think Hildy packed some fruit and juice for a snack. Let me see if I can find which ice chest it is in."
Fishing was quickly put on hold while everyone consumed the apples, pears and grapes that Hildy had packed. The apple juice also disappeared in record time.
When the boys went back to fishing, Eric and I resumed our conversation.
"Crane, are you ready to become involved? You have standing in the San Antonio business community. Any hint of scandal would ruin that. You know how provincial they are. Even the short time that I have been here I have seen how prudish they can be. I'm not even sure that they approve of your adopting five young boys. You know how they love to gossip."
"I wish that I could say yes and know that I really mean it. What I do know is that I'm lonely. That may sound strange with five active boys filling my life. But I need the company or friendship or maybe even love of another adult."
"I know what you mean. When I moved here I didn't really want any entanglement. I was getting over the bitterness of the divorce and I thought that all I needed was JR. And that was true for a while. Now that we have settled in, I find myself yearning for someone to relate to on an adult level."
"I caught a fish. I caught a fish. Daddy, I caught a fish," JR hollered.
"Take it easy son. Keep your line taut. Reel him in slowly. That's it, you're doing fine. As soon as you get him close to the boat I'll net him and bring him aboard," Eric said to his son.
When the fish was finally on the boat, all the other boys had to stop and congratulate JR. The first fish of the day was always a special moment. It didn't take long before the boys were back to fishing and Eric and I were back to our conversation.
"How do we get started?" he asked.
"I guess we just need to get some time alone. Set aside some time for ourselves."
"Yeah, I guess we need to take our time. Much as I would like to get to the ‘good stuff', I think it is best that we take it slowly."
As the boys caught more fish we were interrupted more and more often. Both TJ and JR caught a couple but soon tired of fishing and were more interested in watching the other boats and playing with Samson. There were an unusually large number of sail boats out on the water today. I later found out they were practicing for the race scheduled for next weekend.
Around noon I asked the dumb parent question, "Anyone hungry?"
I was nearly trampled as they reeled in their lines and made a bee line to the ice chests. Hildy had packed a variety of sandwiches including ham and cheese, roast beef and tuna salad. Carrot and celery sticks, hardboiled eggs, chips and bananas rounded out our picnic.
"Didn't Hildy give us dessert?" Chris asked.
"The bananas will have to do, son, at least for now. Hildy said that she was going to prepare a special snack for us when we get back so you'll just have to wait a little while," I said.
By two o'clock the boys had caught their limit of fish and were ready to go home. I started the motor and headed back to the marina. The boys had a fun time as we headed back, every boat we passed they waved and hollered at. In return most of the boaters smiled and waved back. One guy on a jet ski came along side our boat and talked to them for a minute or so.
"Can I ride one of those?" TJ begged.
"Maybe some day you can. In a few years when you are bigger," I responded barely able to control my snicker.
"Okay," he said and went back to the other boys.
It didn't take long to unload the boat. I think that the boys were thinking of the special snack that Hildy was preparing for them at home. Samson was equally happy to be off the boat. He headed for the nearest tree.
Eric and JR accepted our invitation to come and have the grilled fish with us. Even with my boys' appetites, I didn't think we could eat all of the fish we had caught.
As I drove the van into the garage I said to the boys, "You guys go jump in the showers and wash the fish smell off."
"Do you want me to help, dad?" Joel asked.
"Thanks for asking son, but I can handle it. You go help TJ get cleaned up."
I was unloading the last of the tackle when Eric and JR arrived. When they got out of the car I asked, "Do you want to go take a shower and get rid of the fishy smell?"
"That sounds like a winner. I put us in a change of clothes just in case we went swimming or something, but a hot shower sounds like a better idea," Eric said.
"Well I hope there is some hot water left. The boys are in the showers now. You know where the spare bedroom is. You can use it or the shower in my bedroom. Take your pick."
I finished putting away the tackle and empty coolers and put the one containing the fish by the back door. I hoped that I could get Eric to help me clean them later. As I walked into the kitchen I saw what the special snack was that Hildy prepared. It was a "turtle" cheese cake. She was going to top it with caramel and whipped cream. I gained weight just thinking of all the calories.
That didn't stop the six boys and Eric from enjoying the high calorie treat. With Eric's almost obsessive exercise routine he could afford to indulge, but my less rigorous routine didn't burn as many calories. Instead I went and took a shower.
Eric agreed to help me clean the fish while the boys played three on three soccer (more like kickball). It gave us another chance to talk privately. During the cleaning process I learned that he liked to go to the symphony but had not done so since he moved here because he didn't like going alone.
"The first two years I was in town after college, I had season tickets to the San Antonio Symphony," I told him. "I quit going also because it wasn't very much fun going by myself."
"They have a special program next Saturday that I would like to go to but I hear that it is sold out," he said.
"Hey, if you want to go, I think I can get tickets."
"How? They're sold out."
"Well, I contribute to the symphony every year even though I don't go anymore. They always hold back a few tickets for patrons in case they want to go at the last minute. It's a little late to call today, but I'll call first thing on Monday to see if I can get a couple of tickets."
"Great, it's a date!" Eric said.
I felt almost giddy at the prospects of a ‘date' with Eric. It had been a long time since my last romantic adventure. As I thought back on it the flood of unpleasant memories that I had suppressed for so long overwhelmed me. I guess I showed the pain on my face.
"What's the matter, Crane? You look almost ill. Are you alright?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. Just some bad memories surfaced. I'm alright, really."
It wasn't long before Joel approached with the other boys. "Can we have some soda to drink? We're thirsty," he said panting.
"I don't know about soda, but I think Hildy might have some juice if you ask her."
They raced off to quench their thirst and I turned back to the fish cleaning and Eric. "Did you notice that Joel seemed more out of breath than the other boys?"
"Yeah, he did seem to be panting more than the others. It could be an allergy. It's past Mountain Cedar pollen season but maybe it's mold or ragweed," Eric said.
"Well, I need to schedule physicals for the boys before they start their summer sports activities anyway. I'll have Dr. Sam check him for allergies when we go. I suppose I had better set up an appointment for them next week."
Our meal was excellent. The taste of freshly caught fish grilled over a mesquite fire is heaven on earth. Hildy's side dishes only added to our total enjoyment. Eric was a witty and charming dinner guest. I was really beginning to look forward to next Saturday's concert.
It wasn't long after we ate that Eric said to his son, "JR, it's time we headed for home. Your Aunt Darcie expects us for church in Fredericksburg at ten in the morning. Say goodbye to the boys and let's get going."
As JR hugged each of the boys and went to find Hildy in the kitchen, Eric thanked the boys and me for the great day. We followed Eric back into the house to round up JR. He was having a very serious conversation with Hildy as we walked in. She gave him a big hug and a kiss on the forehead.
Eric received a hug from each of the boys before he and JR got into their car. I shook his hand and he held it longer than normal as we each said our goodbyes.
Next Saturday seemed a long time off.