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.

This story is copyright by Owen Hudson, all rights reserved. Distribution, including but not limited to: posting on internet sites, newsgroups, or message boards, or in book form (either as a whole or part of a compilation), or on CD, DVD or any other electronic media, is expressly prohibited without the author's written consent.

Dreams Don't Grow on Trees

© 2011 Owen Hudson

Chapter One

To Haden Harrington early August hardly seemed an appropriate time of year to start school. School should begin when the leaves transform from green to shades of red and yellow. The mornings should have a chill to them, not a summer like mugginess. Nevertheless, it was Haden's first day of high school.

"Are you nervous about starting big kid's school?" Amy's question interrupted her younger brother's thought as they waited for the bus.

"A little," Haden admitted.

"I was too when I started high school," Amy said. "Perry was no help either." Perry hastily moved several feet away from his younger siblings to separate himself. "He let me get on the wrong bus after the first day of school and Dad had to drive to the school and pick me up after the bus ran its route."

"Perry doesn't care about anyone but Perry," Haden said. Haden was closer with his sister than his older brother who was now a senior. Perry was often moody and would go for days without any conversation with his brother and sister. "I'll try to get on the right bus."

"Don't worry, I'll wait for you by the door and make sure you don't make the same mistake I made," Amy promised.

Amy was a very pretty girl and had a friendly personality. Haden adored his sister and considered her to be his best friend. Amy was smartly dressed, but not because the family had money. Their mother was a bargain shopper. Brenda Harrington managed to purchase name brands on clearance or from resale shops. She would never let neighbors see her shopping in the resale shops in their home town of Sparks, but would drive thirty miles to Covington, a much larger city. Amy wasn't pretentious and probably would have been just as happy with clothes purchased from Wal-Mart, but her mother insisted that she wear name brands.

Haden's stomach churned as he saw the bus approaching, and it was an effort to keep his breakfast down. "Don't worry about it," Amy said when she saws the panic expression on her brother. "The other freshmen are probably just as nervous as you are."

"I doubt it," Haden said. "Most didn't go to school at Wilmot. Wilmot is the rural school across the highway from the Harrington farm. The Harrington children had attended Wilmot from kindergarten through the eighth grade. After the eighth grade they had to go to the high school in Sparks five miles away.

After boarding the bus, Perry joined the jocks in the back. Amy found an empty seat, pushed Haden into the seat, then sat beside him. "Tony, this is my brother Haden, this is his first day of high school," she said. Tony, a sophomore the same as Amy, was sitting in the seat across the aisle from them.

Tony smiled politely and said, "Hi, Haden, are you a little nervous?" Tony attempted to hide his disappointment that Amy hadn't taken the seat next to him.

"Yeah, a little," Haden admitted. "Amy said that she was too on her first day."

"I was too," Tony admitted.

As the bus arrived at Sparks High School, Haden's stomach began to churn again. "Trust me, it'll be okay," Amy said. "What's your first class?"

"English with Ms. Delgado in room 124W," Haden said.

"You'll like Ms. Delgado," Tony said. "She's my aunt, she's cool."

"Where is 124W?" Haden asked.

"W means that it's in the west wing," Amy said. "The lockers are in the main corridor and all of the classrooms are in the north, south, east, or west wings. Just find the wing and locate the room in that wing."

"Yeah, it's really pretty easy," Tony assured him.

Tony was right, Haden did like Ms. Delgado. However, his second class was biology with Mr. Luna, who reminded him of a drill sergeant. After passing out the course syllabus, he began lecturing and continued until the bell rang. History was with Coach Wiggins just before lunch. Haden wasn't sure if he was going to like Coach Wiggins or not. He seemed like a typical coach who loved coaching, and taught a class only because it was part of his job.

Haden followed the noisy crowd to the cafeteria where he saw Amy and Tony at a table with a couple of other kids. He made his way to the table and said, "Amy, I forgot to bring lunch money. Could you lend me lunch money?"

"I didn't bring any extra money," Amy said. "But I'll share my lunch with you."

"I'll lend you the money," Tony said as he opened his wallet and handed Haden a five dollar bill.

"Thanks, I owe you," Haden said.

"Yeah, you owe me five dollars," Tony laughed. "You can pay me back tomorrow."

As promised, Amy was waiting for Haden by the door at the end of the school day. Perry and Tony had football practice and wouldn't be riding the bus home. Upon arriving home from school, Haden changed out of his school clothes and began doing his required chores.

The Harringtons lived in the farmhouse on thirty acres of what was at one time a much larger family farm. Darrell Harrington had inherited the house and the thirty acres following the death of his parents. His other siblings had inherited larger portions of the land. Darrell was the youngest and didn't own a home, so it made sense that he would inherit the house.

Darrell worked at the lumber yard in town, this left most of the farm chores to be done by the Harrington children. It wasn't much of a farm operation, just a few cows, a pig or two for the freezer, a few chickens for fresh eggs, and a few for the freezer. The family grew most of their food. The large vegetable garden and fruit trees provided plenty of fruits and vegetables for canning or freezing.

"Hi, Mom, I'm finished with my chores," Hayden said as he entered the kitchen where his mother was home from work preparing dinner.

"Hi," Brenda said while she continued peeling potatoes without looking up. "Go do your homework and we'll have dinner when your father gets home." Brenda was still wearing the fashionable dress that she wore to work. She was a teacher's aide at Wilmot across the highway, and she dressed as nicely as her daughter.

Brenda was the daughter of sharecroppers and thus the daughter of poverty. She was poor, but had pride and great looks. She married Darrell as soon as they graduated from high school. They rented a small house near the lumber yard where Darrell still works. Just before Haden's birth, Darrell's father died and a month later his mother died. Darrell moved his family into the house that he now owned.

The farm house was the only home that Haden knew. The original house was a large two-story house that had been damaged beyond repair by a tornado. Since Darrell was the last child still living at home, his parents saw no need for a large house and had built a small two bedroom house. Darrell wanted to add another bedroom, but there was never enough money.

The house wasn't Brenda's dream home, but at least it had indoor plumbing with a bathroom. This was something that the shack she called home as a girl didn't have. She had learned to cook at a very young age since her mother often worked in the fields with her husband. Brenda had also learned to sew and made her own clothes. Making her own clothes allowed her to dress much nicer than the other sharecropper's daughters.

Haden went to the bedroom that he shared with his sister and brother. There was a curtain that was used at night to allow some degree of privacy for Amy. "Are you almost done with your homework?" He asked.

"I just started," Amy said. "I ironed yours and Perry's jeans."

"Thanks, it isn't fair that we have to do all the work around here just because Perry has football practice."

"It's worth it." Amy smiled, then continued. "He's become such a grouch lately. I for one will be happy when he graduates from high school and moves out."

"Do you really think he'll move out?"

"Haden, get real, he hates it here."

"You just want his closet space."

"I do not. You'd better get busy with your homework."

"I only have biology homework and that won't take long."

"That's right, you have Mr. Luna for biology. He'll load you down with homework, you'll learn a lot though."

They'd almost finished their homework when Perry arrived home from football practice. "You could have at least put these in my chest of drawers," he said when he saw the newly ironed jeans on his bed.

"You're very welcome," Amy scoffed. "Keep bitching and you'll iron your own next time."

Perry chose not to argue, since he knew that their mother would back up Amy. Brenda saw in Amy the hopes and goals that she never achieved.

Haden knew that Amy could have gotten by with murder. He also knew that Amy rarely took advantage of her relationship with their mother, especially now that they were older. She used this relationship to protect Haden from being bullied by their brother.

Perry shoved his jeans into a drawer and had just climbed into the top bunk for a quick nap before dinner when their mother called out, "Perry, come and sit the table for dinner."

"That's Amy's job," Perry moaned. "Why can't she do it?"

"Just because you have football practice doesn't mean you get out of doing chores at all," Brenda said. "Amy and Haden have already done theirs. Now get in here and set the table. After dinner I'll expect you to clear the table and load the dishwasher."

Dinner was delicious as usual. Brenda was a wonderful cook and used the bounties of the small farm to feed her family well. She would appear to be a perfect mother, but to Haden she didn't provide the one thing he craved from her - a mother's affection. She seemed incapable of giving motherly affection. Haden couldn't remember the last time she'd hugged him and said she loved him. Amy seemed to know that Haden needed affection and had become somewhat of a surrogate mother, hugging him often.

Darrell, on the other hand, saw that each of his children got some personal time with him. He often hugged them and told them that he loved them. What he lacked in material things for the children, he made up for with love and personal time.

Much to his own surprise, Haden really liked high school. He discovered that he liked biology and even liked Mr. Luna. He was developing a small group of friends, but he still considered Amy to be his best friend. Tony and Haden were becoming friends as well, but it was obvious that Tony wanted to be more than just friends with Amy.

"He likes you," Haden said as he and Amy got off the bus at their house one day after school.

"Who likes me?"

"Tony, and don't pretend that you don't know who I'm talking about."

"We're just friends."

"Amy, don't tell me that. I know you and you like him too, you think he's hot."

"I'm not the only one that thinks that. You think he's hot too."

"I what?"

"Look, I don't care if you like boys."

"Shut up, Amy. You don't know what you're talking about."

"I'm just saying that if you're gay, it doesn't matter to me."

"I'm not gay," Haden shouted and ran to the barn's hay loft. This was one of the places where he went when he wanted to be alone. He should have remembered that he and Amy used to play there when they were younger.

"Haden, we have to talk about this," Amy called out as she reached the top rung of the ladder and pulled herself into the hay loft.

"Go away, Amy. Just go away and leave me alone."

"I don't care what you are. You're my brother and I love you."

Haden began to sob loudly. Amy put her arms around him and pulled him into a hug. "I can't be gay," he sobbed. "I don't want to be gay."

"You can't choose to be or not to be gay. If people could choose, there'd be very few if any gay people."

"What am I going to do? What if others figure it out too?"

"You're not going to do anything until you're ready. I probably know you better than anyone, and I've just now figured it out."

"How did you know?"

"It's the little things. When a cute guy walks by you glance quickly at him, but if a cute girl walks by you never look."

"What if Mom or Dad found out?"

"I don't know. Don't tell them until you're ready."

"I love you, Amy, you're a great sister."

"You're a pretty good brother yourself, but we'd better get our chores done before Mom gets home. She went over to the church for a meeting after school."

Haden got though the school year with his secret safe. He earned all A's, mostly because he worked hard for his grades.

Perry seemed unwilling to discuss his post graduation plans. Finally at dinner the day before his graduation, he announced that he had joined the army. "I'll be leaving next week for basic training at Fort Polk, Louisiana."

"You can't just up and join the army without discussing it with us first," Brenda said.

"Sure I can, and I already did," Perry confessed. "I'm eighteen now and I can legally make my own decisions."

"Son, I know that you're eighteen, but I wish you'd discussed this with us first," Darrell said. "Regardless, we'll support you in your decision."

"Thanks, Dad," Perry said. "I know I've been hard to live with over the past several months, but joining the army was something that I needed to do."

"He just didn't want to go to work to help bring in an extra income for this family," Brenda charged. "God knows how we need a larger house."

"It's his decision and we'll respect that," Darrell said in a tone that told Brenda that the subject was closed.

Summer vacation was busier for Haden than the past summers had been. He now had to do his work as well as the work that Perry had done in the past. However, he still had some free time. He'd sometimes ride his bike into town and hang out at the lumber yard where Darrell worked. Other days he'd ride to the library and check out a few books.

One early afternoon after completing his job of tilling the garden, Haden decided to ride his bike to the library. As he turned onto Washington Avenue, he took the shortcut through the alley and heard someone calling out for help. He stopped his bike, looked around, but didn't see anyone.

"Up here," a voice called out.

Haden then spotted a man, who appeared to be about his dad's age, on the roof of a small apartment behind a larger house.
"Are you okay?"

"My ladder fell to the ground and I'm stuck up here," he said. "Could you put it back up for me so I can get down?"

Haden put the ladder back in place and held it secure to make certain it didn't fall again as the man climbed down.

"Thank you, young man," the man said. "If you hadn't come along, I might have been stuck up there for hours before anyone came to help. I guess I don't know you, I'm Harold Campbell. My friends call me Hal."

"It is nice to meet you Mr. Campbell. I'm Haden Harrington."

"Now what did I just tell you? My friends call me Hal, and I'd have to say that you're a friend since you rescued me from the roof."

"Are you re-roofing your apartment?"

"No, I'm demolishing it. I bought this place a few months ago and discovered that this apartment had been built without a building permit. The city is requiring that it be demolished. I was checking the roof to see how difficult it would be to take it off. Say, would you be interested in a job helping me knock this thing down?"

"Sure, but I'll have to ask my dad first. I have chores to do on the farm."

"Oh, so you're a farm boy?"

"Not really, we have thirty acres about five miles out of town. I was just riding my bike to the library."

"Now that's different, a young man who reads and uses the library. Let me give you my phone number. After you talk to your parents call me and let me know about the job. I can't pay you much; it would just be minimum wage."

"That would be fine. My dad works at the lumber yard over on Hillcrest. I'll just ride over there and ask him now."

"I'm sure he'd want to meet your employer, why don't I drive you over there?"

Darrell Harrington was pleased that Haden would have the opportunity to earn a little spending money, but cautioned him, "Remember, you still have chores to do around the farm."

"I'll get up early and get'em done," Haden promised.

"I suppose I'm going to need another crowbar now," Hal said. "How about I buy what I need here, then we go get a sandwich and get started?"

"I'll call your mother and let her know that you won't be home for a while," Darrell said. "Did you finish tilling the garden?"

"Yes, I got up early and did it," Haden said.

"Okay, I'll pick you up when I get off work," Darrell said.

After a stop at Burger Barn, Haden and Hal began the demolition of the apartment. "I suppose we should start inside first," Hal said. "We may as well start with the bathroom. We have to take the shower, stool, and sink out."

"What are you going to do with them when we get them out?"

"I don't know, I suppose we can haul them to the dump."

"Could I have them?" Haden had an idea, but would need to discuss it with his dad first.

"I have no need for them, if you can use them please take anything here that you can use."

By the time Darrell came to take Haden home, the two had the sink and stool out, but discovered they'd have to take the wall out to remove the shower.

"Dad, Hal said that I could have all the materials from the demolition."

"Why would we want any of that?"

"I was thinking that Amy needed her own bedroom, and we could make a bedroom for me out of half of the back porch. The utility room is really big, and there would be room for a small bathroom that Amy and I could share."

"And you get a bedroom out of the deal too," Darrell laughed. "Let me figure how much it would cost for extra materials and then I'll decide."

"What extra cost is that?"

"There would be wiring cost, materials for plumbing, floor covering, and other supplies."

"Wouldn't you get a discount on those things if you bought them at work? We could use the lumber, windows, and doors from Hal's apartment."

"If we can do it for under $1,000, then we'll do it. I can do the work myself. But you'll have to help."

"I can give you the money that Hal pays me."

"You won't need to do that, keep your money."

After dinner, Haden looked over the back porch and then went to the huge oak tree that grew in the back yard. There was a large branch that he used to sit on to read or escape the torments of Perry. He was sitting on the branch day dreaming about finally having his own room when Amy called up, "Haden, what are you doing up in that tree?"

"Day dreaming," Haden admitted.

"Don't you know that dreams don't grow on trees?"

"Where do they grow, Amy?"

"Some say that they grow in your head, but I think they grow in your heart."

"You're such a philosopher, Amy."

"Maybe so, what are you dreaming about?"

"I'm dreaming about you and I having our own rooms."

"Dream on."

"No, really, we may have our own rooms. Hal is giving me the materials from the apartment that we're demolishing, and Dad's checking to see how much the additional material will cost."

"Who's going to pay to have it built?"

"Dad and I will do the work. There will even be an extra bathroom, but I guess we'll have to share that."

"Just having my own bedroom would be enough for me."

Haden was up early the next morning and, after a quick breakfast of cereal and toast, set about getting his chores done. He picked all of the vegetables that were ready for his mother and Amy to either can or freeze. He next went to mend the fence that their neighbor Mr. Reed's bull had torn down to get to one of the Harrington cows that was in heat.

By 9:00 am Haden arrived at Hal's back yard where he found him enjoying his third cup of coffee. "What time did you get up?" Hal asked. "I wasn't expecting you until at least 10:00."

"I got up at daybreak; I'll just hang out until you're ready."

"I'll be ready as soon as I finish my coffee. I thought you had chores to do before you came."

"I got up early and did them. It was mostly just picking vegetables from the garden. Would your wife like to have some vegetables? We always grow more than we can use."

"I don't have a wife. I see no need for one. I retired from the army and then went to college and got my teaching degree. I'll be teaching math at the high school here this fall. But I'd be happy to have a few vegetables."

"Wow, maybe you'll be my teacher then."

"Maybe I will."

By the time Darrell arrived to pick up Haden, all of the bathroom and kitchen fixtures were taken out. Most of the drywall was in the dumpster and the carpet ripped up. Darrell and Haden loaded the bathroom fixtures on the truck.

"That carpet appears to be nearly new," Darrell said. "Do you have plans for it?"

"No, as I told Haden, take whatever you want."

"Why are you bringing in that junk?" Brenda asked when she saw the fixtures being unloaded to the back porch.

"It's for the bathroom when we convert half of the porch into a bedroom for Haden," Darrell explained.

"I'm not having it," Brenda almost screamed. "It's bad enough living in this small house, but we don't have to live like a bunch of...."

"Sharecroppers," Darrell finished the sentence for her.

"I've tried to raise my children better than I was. I won't be embarrassed by having a tacky room attached to this house."

"It's going to look fine. The children are of an age that they need their own room. I just wish I could've managed something while Perry still lived here."

Brenda gave up the argument. She knew that once Darrell Harrington made up his mind about something he rarely relented. After dinner, it was obvious that she was angry when she went to bed as soon as dinner was over, leaving Amy and Haden to cleanup.

Haden was exhausted after his busy day and fell asleep almost immediately upon going to bed. He was up early the next morning, his task for the day was to weed the strawberries. This was a backbreaking job that he hated, but set about getting it done. He arrived at Hal's shortly after nine, and again found him having his morning coffee on the back patio.

There was a large pile of 2 X 4's to load on the truck when Darrell picked Haden up at the end of the day. "I think we can start the framing of your bedroom this weekend," Darrell said on the drive home. At work today, I had Chuck Sanders look at my measurements and rough drawings of the room, and he drafted some plans for us. He even drew in the electrical and plumbing."

After mowing the lawn Saturday morning, Haden and his dad began the framing of his room. By the end of the weekend the framing was done, along with the electrical wiring and siding. "I'll get Don Martin to connect the electrical outlets and then we're ready for the drywall. I'll bring some paint from work and you can paint the siding to match the rest of the house. I'm afraid your mother will have a stroke if we don't get that done soon."

The next week continued with Hal and Haden finishing up the demolition. There was still a large pile of lumber left over when the job was finished. Darrell decided to take it and build a new storage building to make up for the space given up for the new bathroom.

After dinner each evening, Haden and Darrell worked partitioning the utility room for the bathroom. By Friday the demolition and cleanup job was finished. Haden had earned $385 for his work; Hal was impressed with his work and gave him a $50 bonus. "Just because we're done with the work here doesn't mean you can't stop by to visit," Hal said as he gave Haden his salary.

"Sure, I'll stop by to visit," Haden promised.

Haden's new bedroom was completed by the end of the month and he began moving in. The room turned out surprisingly well. Even Brenda admitted, "It doesn't look all that bad after all."

"What are you going to do with Perry's bed?" Amy asked when they were moving Haden's things into his new room.

"I guess I'll move it into my room too," Haden said. "I assume he'll need it when he comes home on leave."

"He will," Darrell said. "And he'll be home on leave next week. His basic training is over, then he'll be stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas."

'Well crap,' Haden thought.

The dreaded day finally arrived that Perry would be home. Brenda seemed to be annoyed that her eldest son was coming home for a two week leave. "I don't know why you have to go into Covington to pick him up," she said. "He could've taken the bus from there to here."

 "It's a three hour layover for the bus from Covington to Sparks, if you don't want to go, then don't. We'll have dinner when Perry and I get home."

"That's an hour past our regular dinner time," Brenda said while not hiding her irritation.

"It won't hurt this family to eat an hour or so late," Darrell said. "I expect you to treat Perry respectfully. That also goes for you two."

"Yes, sir," Haden replied. He knew better than to argue with his father when he was angry.

"Are you sorry that he's coming home?" Amy asked Haden after their father had departed.

"I was," Haden admitted. "Now I kind of feel sorry for him. You saw how mom reacted about him coming home."

"She does seem even worse since she's been going to that weird church. Church should make one happy, she seems angry."

"Yeah, I've never understood how she and Dad got together. He's so different than she is."

"I've wondered that myself. Let's go put clean sheets on Perry's bed."

"He can make his own bed."

"Haden don't be that way. Maybe we should be nice to him. Didn't you just say that maybe he became the way he is because of the way Mom treated him?"

"You're the only child that Mom has."

"I didn't ask that she treat me any different. Has it bothered you that she's like she is?"

"There were times when I wished she could show some affection. Now it doesn't matter. But to answer your question, no, it doesn't bother me that she treats you differently. You're not only my sister, but you're also my best friend. Okay, let's go put clean sheets on Perry's bed."

"Then we agree that we try to be nice to Perry?"

"I'll be nice to him if he'll let me. I'm not going to take anything off him though."

"I think I heard Dad drive up. Let's go and at least try to be nice," Amy said, after they'd finished the bed, getting the room ready for Perry's arrival.

"Amy, you're even prettier than you were," Perry said as he hugged his sister. "And you, I think you've grown some since I've been gone," he said as he hugged Haden.

"Where's our real brother?" Haden whispered to his sister as they followed Perry and Darrell into the house

"You promised," Amy said, giving Haden a playful hit on the shoulder.

"Dinner's ready," Brenda called out from the kitchen, without bothering to greet her son.

"Let me put my things away and go wash up," Perry said as he headed for the old bedroom he'd shared with his siblings.

"That's Amy's bedroom now, we're back here," Haden said as he pointed toward his new bedroom."

"We're sleeping on the back porch?" Perry questioned.

"No, Dad and I converted part of the back porch into a bedroom," Haden said.

"Oh!" Perry said, not sure what to expect.

"It turned out okay," Haden assured him. "We even took part of the utility room for an extra bathroom. We moved the freezer to the back porch until we can get the new storage building built."

"Hey, this is pretty nice," Perry admitted upon seeing the new addition. I like how you're using the bunk beds as twin beds. I always felt so juvenile sleeping on a bunk bed. Dad always said he wanted to build a third bedroom, but he never had the money."

"I helped Hal Campbell demolish his apartment and he gave us the materials," Haden said. "We only had to buy the things we couldn't use from the old apartment. Then Dad and I did the work."

"Hal Campbell gave you the material? I didn't know that you knew that old queer," Perry said.

"I didn't, he was stuck on his roof after his ladder fell and I helped him down," Haden said as he frowned at his brother's remark. "He offered me a job, and when I found out he was just throwing this away, I asked him for it. How do you know Hal?"

"He lives next door to Kyle Leach," Perry said. "Kyle told me about him."

"Let's go eat," Haden said, wanting to change the subject.

Brenda was obviously unhappy that Perry was home on leave. Her greeting was very cool and she hardly made eye contact during dinner. "What's basic training like?" Haden asked in an effort to start a conversation.

"Not that bad," Perry said. "It's a lot like football practice, except that it's longer hours."

"Do you like the Army?" Amy asked.

"Well, I don't want to make a career of it," Perry admitted.

"Then why did you join?" Brenda snapped.

"Because I'm not smart like Amy and Haden, and I wasn't good enough in football to get a scholarship," Perry confessed. "I know how hard Dad's had to work to support us."

"I've worked hard too, you ungrateful bastard," Brenda barked.

"Brenda, that's enough of that," Darrell ordered. "I don't think that's what Perry meant."

"You're defending him like he was your real son," Brenda shouted. "I'm stuck here in this shack because he came along."

"What are you talking about?" Perry asked.

"I was pregnant with you when Darrell and I got married," Brenda said as her voice was getting louder. "When Scott Baker found out I was pregnant he left town. If it weren't for you I'd have married someone with money and class."

Brenda stormed out of the room leaving her stunned children. "Dad, is it true?" Perry asked after several awkward minutes.

"Yes, Son, it's true," Darrell admitted. "You must know that I've always loved you as much as I love Amy and Haden."

"I know, Dad, but I don't understand why Mom hates me so much," Perry said as tears streamed down his face.

"It isn't your fault," Darrell said in a wavering voice. "I've never been able to provide for her in the lifestyle that she wants."

"I'll go get my things and you can take me to Kyle's, I'll stay there until my leave is over," Perry said.

"No, Son, this is your home and you'll stay here," Darrell said.

"Mom isn't happy with me being here," Perry said.

"Then the problem's hers," Darrell said. "This is, and will always be your home."

"Thanks, Dad," Perry said. "I don't know this Scott Baker, but you're the only real dad I've ever had.

"Scott was an only child whose parents had a lot of old southern money. Your mother was the prettiest girl in high school and started dating Scott. When she got pregnant, Scott's whole family just up and moved to Dallas, Texas. I knew that your mom was pregnant when I married her, but at the time it didn't matter. When you were born, I couldn't have loved you more than if you were my biological son. I understand that Scott is now a big time lawyer in Dallas."

"But why does Mom blame me?" Perry questioned.

"Your mom has to blame somebody," Darrell admitted. "She also blames me, and if it wasn't us it would be Haden, or even Amy."

"I still don't understand why," Perry said.

"That's just the way her mind works," Darrell said. "I don't understand it either."

"I'm going for a walk," Perry said. "I need to think. I'll help with the dishes when I get back."

"You go ahead," Darrell said. "Amy and Haden can take care of it."

"Leave it and I'll do it," Perry said.

"No, you go on," Amy said. "Haden and I don't mind."

After cleaning the kitchen, Amy went to her bedroom. Haden wasn't ready for bed and climbed up the oak tree to think. He'd been in the tree thinking when the nearly full moon night allowed him to see Perry coming up the path from the creek. "Are you okay?" Haden asked from his perch in the tree.

"Damn, Haden!" Perry exclaimed. "You scared the crap out of me."

"I'm sorry," Haden said as he climbed down from the tree.

"It's okay," Perry said. "What were you doing up there anyway?"

"It's my thinking place," Haden said. He didn't want to mention that he used to hide there to get away from his brother. "Sometimes I sit up there and dream about the future. Amy told me that dreams don't grow on trees."

"Maybe they don't, but we all need a thinking place," Perry admitted. "Mine's that big rock down by the creek. I used to go there and sit for hours."

"I know," Haden said.

"You knew I was down there and you never said anything?" Perry questioned.

"Sure, but I figured you needed your private place just like I needed my tree to hide in," Haden said.

"You were really hiding from me, weren't you?" Perry asked, while already knowing the answer. "I'm sorry I was so mean to you and Amy."

"You knew I was up there and didn't do anything?" Haden asked.

"I guess we both knew more about the other than we were willing to admit," Perry said. "We've missed out on a lot, haven't we little brother?"

"Yeah, we have," Haden agreed. "Now you're gone from home. I should have known that none of this was your fault."

"No, it's my fault," Perry acknowledged. "I treated you and Amy like I did because I was angry with myself."

"I understand now," Haden said. "The way Mom treated you wasn't right."

"Does it bother you that I'm only your half brother?" Perry questioned.

"I don't see half of a person standing there," Haden said. "You're my brother, period."

"Thanks, Haden," Perry said. "I'll always feel the same about you."

'Maybe you wouldn't if you knew everything about me,' Haden though as he wondered how Perry would react if he knew that his brother was gay.

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