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
"Come with me, Roger," Nora ordered when Steve asked her to leave.
"Do I have to go?" Roger asked.
"Only go if you really want to," Steve said as he dialed a number on his cell phone.
"I'm not going," Roger replied. "She's just like the rest of them; she goes to my uncle's church."
"Deputy, put him in my car," Nora commanded.
"If I put him in a car, it'll be my patrol car and I see no reason to do so," Deputy Davis responded.
"Ms. Holland wants to talk to you," Steve said as he tried to hand his phone to Nora.
"I don't know that it's really her on the phone," Nora said, refusing to take the phone.
"She heard that," Steve said. "She said that she's calling your phone and that you'd better answer."
"Hello," Nora said when she answered her phone with a look of panic. "Yes, Ma'am. Yes, Ma'am. Alright, I'll wait here."
Nora sat sulking and staring daggers at Steve. Steve looked at her and smiled, just to piss her off. And it appeared to work.
Steve's phone rang almost immediately and he stepped away to answer it. When he returned, he said, "Rita Holland's on her way and will be here in about ten minutes. Roger, Rita wants to talk to you. She'll be reasonable, but if you want, I can sit in on the interview as your attorney."
"Yes, I'd like that," Roger said.
"Is there some place where we can visit?" Rita Holland asked when she arrived.
"You may use the kitchen table," Darrell offered.
"You're no longer on this case," Rita said when Nora tried to follow. "Have a seat and wait until I'm finished."
A little later, Rita said, "Deputy, I'd like for you to accompany me to visit Roger's father. Nora, you may go home. I'll talk to you in my office in the morning. You're not to discuss this case with anyone. Do you understand?"
"Yes, Ma'am," Nora meekly answered.
"Roger, I'll be back after I visit with your father," Rita said.
Upon her return, she said, "Roger, he was arrogant enough to admit to everything you said. He even admitted that he'd given the car to you. Here's your keys and your cell phone. He may cut off your phone service, but it's a nice phone that you can always use with another plan. Now Deputy Davis will accompany you to get the remainder of your possessions. We'll arrange a temporary place for you to stay until we can contact your mother."
"He's welcome here," Darrell offered.
"He's also welcome in our home," Steve said.
"I think it would be better if I stayed here since I left this number for my mom to call back," Roger said. "How did you get my keys?"
"Deputy Davis threatened to arrest him for kicking you out without making arrangements for your welfare. I don't think he liked the idea of spending time in the 'county hotel'," Rita said with a smile.
"Here's my number." Rita said as she handed her business card to Roger. "When your mother calls, have her contact me and we'll discuss child support from your father and ask the judge to return custody to her."
"If you're ready, let's go get your things," Deputy Davis said.
"Do you want me to go help you?" Haden asked.
"Maybe I'd better go," Steve said. "Remember the restraining order against your mom? If you bump into her there it may jeopardize the order. Also, as an attorney I can sometimes bluff my way around about some things that may be questionable."
Roger returned, pleased to have his car back, which was loaded down with his possessions. "Roger, your mom's on the phone," Amy said as soon as he entered the house.
"Would you mind if I talked to her first?" Steve asked. "I have just a few things to talk to her about and then I'll be on my way."
Steve quickly explained how he'd offered to represent Roger, and that he'd be most happy to represent her, if needed. He also explained how he could file court papers in the morning for her to obtain custody of Roger. "I'll be sending my bill to your ex-husband," he added with a smile.
"You can take the phone in my room and talk in private," Haden offered when Steve gave the phone to Roger.
"Mom had gone to Pittsburg to see a friend," Roger excitedly said when he returned, "I told her that I was gay and she's fine with it. She'll fly here as soon as custody is transferred to her. She also said to tell you thanks for taking me in. She'll call me back as soon as she talks to Ms. Holland and Steve tomorrow."
In spite of the excitement of the day, Haden had little trouble falling asleep. He woke at his usual time and quietly went to the bathroom to avoid waking Roger. "Good morning, I'm sorry to wake you," he said when he returned and saw that Roger was awake.
"I was already awake," Roger said.
"Breakfast is ready," Amy said, after knocking on the door.
"We'll be right there," Haden answered. "Roger, I've already showered, you can shower now or after breakfast."
"I'll just empty my bladder and wash up," Roger said. "I'll shower after breakfast."
"It's just oatmeal and toast," Amy apologized when Roger and Haden sat down for breakfast.
"I love oatmeal," Roger said. "I usually just have cold cereal for breakfast."
"Did you sleep well, Roger?" Darrell asked.
"I sure did," Roger said.
Shortly after 10:00 a.m., Steve called to say that custody had been granted to Roger's mom. "The judge ordered that the title to your car be transferred to you and your mother," he added. "Drop by my office and pick up the documents this afternoon."
Roughly 20 minutes later, Roger's mom called to say that she would be arriving in Covington at 3:05 p.m. She didn't want him to drive to West Virginia by himself. Roger was to pick her up at the airport and they would drive for a few hours before stopping to spend the night.
"Let us know when you arrive in West Virginia," Amy told Roger as he prepared to leave for the airport in Covington. "Here's $20.00 to get you by until your mom arrives."
"Thank you, but Deputy Davis got my wallet back," Roger said. "I had almost $40.00 in it, and my car has almost a full tank of gas. I want to thank you for everything you've done for me. I didn't deserve it after the way I acted."
"Forget it," Haden said. "If you ever want to come back to Sparks for a visit, you have a place here to stay. I wish I had really known you. I think we could have been friends."
"I'd like to think that we are friends," Roger said, extending his hand.
"I'm going to the store to get a few things," Amy said, after Roger left. "Do you want to go?"
"No, I think I'll go to Kyle's for a while." He wanted to pick up Amy's laptop and printer that Kyle was keeping for him and give Kyle his gift.
"Alright, but if you're not going to be home for dinner, call me."
"I'll be home. If you don't mind, I may ask Kyle to have dinner with us. I haven't seen him much lately."
"Kyle is always welcome. I may invite Tony."
"Why don't you call Lacey too?"
"That's a good idea.
"Well, hello, Haden," Linda said when she answered the door. "Come on in out of the cold. Kyle went to the store for me and should be back soon."
"I dropped by to give him his Christmas gift and to pick up Amy's gift that he was keeping for me," Haden said.
"How pretty, did you wrap it?"
"Oh no, Amy wrapped it for me. I tried and it looked awful."
"I have plenty of wrapping paper, would you like me to wrap Amy's gift for you." Linda offered. "Steve can't wrap a gift without it looking like ... well, you know what, and Kyle isn't much better." Linda said.
"I'd really appreciate that."
"What are you doing for Christmas?"
"We usually open gifts right after breakfast, have a light lunch and then dinner."
"Why don't you bring Amy and Darrell over here for dinner? We usually go to church, then have a light lunch too. In fact, why don't you go to church with us and then come here for lunch and stay for dinner?"
"I'm not much of a church going person since Mom used to drag us to her church."
"I can assure you that our church isn't like that one."
"What church is that?"
"St. John's Episcopal Church."
"I guess I'll go to see what it's like. I can't speak for Dad or Amy."
"Tony's family goes to our church, maybe Amy would like to go too. I'll invite his family over after church too."
"There's Kyle now, I'll go help him carry things in."
"I saw Amy at the store, she said that you were here," Kyle said as he handed Haden a couple of bags before giving him a quick kiss.
"I brought your gift over. Your mom invited us to go to church with you Christmas and then come here for lunch."
"Why don't you leave my gift to you here, and we can open them together?"
"That's a good idea."
"Have you heard anything from Roger?"
"Nothing yet, but he and his mother were going to drive for a while and then stop for the night," Haden said. "He'll probably call when they stop."
"It was good of you and your family to help him out," Linda said.
"Steve was a big help too," Haden pointed out.
"I probably would have driven right by him," Kyle admitted.
"No, you wouldn't have," Haden said.
"Well, he was an ass to you," Kyle pointed out.
"So was Perry at one time," Haden said. "It's all different now. All of that bitterness from Mom had our family in constant unrest."
"That reminds me, since my mom's move to a retirement center, I have a lot of things that she didn't have room for," Linda said. "Tell Lacey to come over and go through it, she can have what she wants. It's in the garage now."
"Amy was going to ask her to dinner tonight," Haden said. "I'll tell her then. Kyle you're invited too."
"Great, Mom and Dad are going out to dinner, and I really don't want to go with them," Kyle said.
Haden woke up Christmas morning with the excitement he hadn't experienced since he was a little boy and had run to see what Santa had brought him. This year the excitement wasn't in anticipation of what he might receive, but the excitement was the enjoyment of watching his family open gifts given by him. This was the first year that he'd had money to buy real gifts. He recalled how he bought inexpensive trinkets at the Dollar Store. Amy and his dad pretended to enjoy their gifts, while Karen would simply say 'thank you' and the gift was never seen again.
Realizing that he was the only one up, Haden decided to make a pot of coffee and maybe eat a bowl of cereal. He enjoyed a bowl of cornflakes while the coffee was brewing.
"Good morning," Darrell said as Haden poured himself a cup of coffee, but handing it to his father instead.
"Good morning, Dad, and Merry Christmas."
"Merry Christmas to you too."
"I just had a bowl of cornflakes, would you like something for breakfast?"
"Not at the moment, but thank you. I'll have some toast after I have my coffee. Well, good morning, Amy, and Merry Christmas."
"I didn't mean to sleep in this morning," Amy said.
"Actually, you didn't," Darrell said. "I heard Haden up and about, so I thought I'd better get up too and make sure he didn't tear into the gifts."
"Yeah, he's still a kid at heart," Amy laughed as she poured herself a cup of coffee. "I'm going to have some toast, anybody want some too?"
"I'll have some," Darrell said.
"I've had cornflakes already," Haden said. "When you finish, we need to open gifts so we can be at the church at 10:30."
When Amy opened her gift, she was thrilled with her new laptop and printer. Haden was surprised and pleased with his new Kindle and gift card. Darrell loved his new digital camera that Amy and Haden gave him.
"How should we dress for church?" Haden asked when it was time to get ready. "Mom made me wear a tie when we went to her church."
"Tony said that some wear jeans, while others dress up," Amy said. "But this is Christmas, I'd say wear something nice and let the tie be optional."
"If it's anything like Mom's church I'm walking out," Haden declared.
"Tony said that the Episcopal service is pretty much by the book," Amy said. "We can even take communion since Mom had us baptized before McFadden came to town."
"Yeah, that church wasn't that bad back then," Haden said.
"Lacey will be here soon, she's going to church with us too," Amy said.
"I'm happy that you thought to invite her too," Darrell said.
Steve and Kyle were at the church door handing out bulletins when the Harringtons arrived. Haden later learned that they were the ushers for the day. "Linda and the Millers are inside, saving you a seat," Steve said.
The church was decorated with a large number of poinsettias. To Haden's surprise, there was almost no visiting among the parishioners. Some were kneeling in prayer while others sat in quiet meditation. Linda moved to make room for the Harringtons, but only smiled a greeting. Haden wondered why Tony wasn't in attendance. The answer came when the processional began and he entered wearing vestments and carrying the cross. In spite of being somewhat nervous about making a mistake, Haden enjoyed the church services - he just followed Kyle's lead. Following the services, the family was invited to join the parishioners in the Parish Hall for refreshments.
The quietness of the Nave certainly didn't carry over to the Parish Hall. Many parishioners made a point of greeting the Harringtons and inviting them back. The priest and a woman, whom he introduced as his wife, gave them a friendly greeting. Haden wasn't aware that Episcopalian priests were allowed to be married.
After socializing at the church for a while, the three families gathered at the Holden's for lunch. "Let me have Haden open his gift before we eat," Kyle said.
"You just want to open yours," Linda laughed. "But go ahead."
"How did you know?" Haden asked when he opened his gift from Kyle.
"When you picked up Amy's printer you said that you were going back after Christmas to get one for yourself."
"Open mine now," Haden said.
"I wasn't hinting when we were at the mall that day, but I love it," Kyle laughed when he opened his gift from Haden and tried on the jacket.
"What did you think of our church?" Linda asked as the group enjoyed a lunch of sandwiches, soup, and a vegetable tray.
"It was different, but I enjoyed it," Amy said.
"I didn't understand everything that was going on, but it was nice," Haden admitted. "It was nice to go to church and hear a positive sermon and not a negative one."
"You're all welcome to come back anytime," Debbie said. "You don't have to wait for Christmas or Easter."
"I've sworn that I'd never force my kids to attend church, but if they attend, I'd like for it to be St. John's," Darrell said. "I plan to attend church there in the future."
Haden couldn't remember a better Christmas. The only thing that could have made it better would have been having Perry home. Roger even called to wish all a Merry Christmas.
Although Haden enjoyed his Christmas vacation, he was ready to return to school when the vacation ended. Rumors were rampant about Roger. "I saw a sheriff's patrol car at his house," Kristin Woodson said.
"He must be in jail," Emma Falton speculated.
"You're right," Kristin agreed.
By the week's end, the rumors had subsided, and by the end of the next week, Roger was no longer mentioned. "I'm thankful that people stopped gossiping about Roger," Haden said.
"Next week it'll be someone else that they're gossiping about," Amy said. "Some people thrive on gossip."
True to Amy's prediction, the gossip shifted to another person when Heather McDermott sat at their lunch table and asked, "Kyle, you live next to Mr. Campbell, is it true that he's gay and has a boyfriend?"
"Why in the hell would that concern you?" Amy quickly asked.
"Well, we all know that homosexuality is a sin," Heather said.
"I don't know that it is," Amy said.
"Nor do I," Tony agreed.
"The Bible says that it's a sin," Heather said.
"You know, Heather, I've actually studied the Bible," Tony said. "There're lots of things in the Bible that were considered a sin at one time. For example, I know for a fact that you eat catfish. According to the Bible, it's unclean because it doesn't have both fins and scales. People like you take parts of the Bible to prove your views, but ignore the rest. Either take it all or shut the hell up."
"I still say it's a sin to be gay," Heather argued.
"Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven," Tony countered.
"My church teaches that it is an abomination punishable by death for a man to have sexual relations with another man as he would with a woman," Heather disagreed.
"Is that blouse you're wearing 100% cotton?" Tony questioned.
"What does that have to do with being gay?" Heather asked.
"Those same texts are surrounded by laws prohibiting acts that Christians no longer regard as sinful, such as wearing clothing made from blended fabric," Tony explained. "If you're going to argue the Bible, you need to actually study the entire Bible."
"Wow, you really know your Bible," Haden said when Heather left in a huff.
"I decided that if I was going to believe in something I needed to understand it," Tony explained. "I took an intensive Bible study course one summer."
"I hope Hal does have a boyfriend," Haden said. "He deserves happiness."
"You're right, and he does have a boyfriend," Kyle said. "Hal is the best teacher I've ever had. I hated math until he became my teacher, now I'm thinking about majoring in math and even teaching it."
Heather spread the rumor about Hal like a prairie fire out of control. "I knew he was a fag," Kevin Wentworth said during Haden's last class of the day.
"How do you know that?" Haden asked. "Did he proposition you?"
"I just know," Kevin said.
"Oh, is that what they call gaydar?" Haden laughed.
"Are you calling me a fag?" Kevin demanded.
"No, I don't use that word," Haden countered. "But if the shoe fits ... Besides, most people that talk about other's sexuality are worried about their own."
"I may have to kick your ass," Kevin proclaimed.
"Bring it on," Haden said. "You used to bully me when we were students at Wilmot. Those days are over."
Haden was thankful that he'd worn a shirt that revealed his new muscular body. He slightly flexed just to intimidate Kevin. He then added for good measure, "I'm no longer that scared skinny kid."
"You two cut the chatter," Mr. Yates, the chemistry teacher said. "You're supposed to be doing your lab assignment."
"I'm glad you put Kevin in his place," Elina Hobson said as Haden walked to his locker after class. "Watch out for him though. He's a coward and cowards can't be trusted."
"I'm not worried about him," Haden declared.
"He'll not try anything unless he knows he has the advantage," Elina said.
"I need to stop by the store and get some milk," Amy said as Haden started the Explorer.
"I'll run in and get it," Haden offered after parking.
"It's time to settle this," Kevin said when Haden walked back toward the Explorer.
It appeared that Elina was right, Dennis Guthrie and Matt Vogel were leaning against Kevin's car. "I came to kick your ass," Kevin proclaimed.
"I see you brought help," Haden said. "You're going to need it."
Kevin rushed toward Haden in anger. Haden stepped aside and Kevin ran right past him. Even Dennis and Matt giggled as Kevin stumbled and nearly fell. Kevin turned and swung on Haden, only to have his fist blocked. Haden landed a punch that nearly knocked Kevin down. Matt and Dennis saw that Kevin was on the losing end of the fight and moved in to help, only to have Amy spray each with pepper spray. Kevin made a desperate lunge at Haden, only to have Haden's fist connect with his nose. Kevin stopped the attack as blood spewed from his nose onto the pavement.
"What's going on here?" A police officer asked as he exited his patrol car.
"That one attacked this one," an older lady said, first pointing at Kevin and then Haden.
"It sure doesn't look that way," the police officer said.
"That one just bit off more than he could chew," the witness said.
"What about those two?" The officer asked as another woman was pouring water into their eyes.
"They tried to join the attack and this young lady sprayed them," the store manager, who had joined in the conversation, said. "I'm sure our security cameras caught it all and we'll have it on tape."
The school rumor mill had something else to gossip about when Kevin came to school the next day with a broken nose and a black eye. Kevin was known as a bully and many were happy to see that he was on the losing end of the fight.
"Hey, I heard that you kicked Kevin's ass," Perry said when he called that evening. "When did you learn to fight like that?"
"I learned from you," Haden said. "Who told you about that anyway?"
"Lacey told me. What do you mean, you learned it from me?"
"You used to wrestle me around when we were younger. I wanted to kick your ass, but you were bigger and stronger. I did learn a few moves. You even tied boxing gloves on me and made me go against you. It was either fight back or get boxed around."
"Haden, I'm sorry about that."
"It's water under the bridge. Besides, it made me tough. You always stopped before it went too far."
"I'm proud of you for standing up for Hal. Not many would have the guts to do that."
"Lacey told you about that too?"
"Yes, and why didn't you tell me that you're gay too?"
"Who told you that I'm gay?"
"Nobody told me. I asked Lacey if she thought you might be gay and she said to figure it out myself, but would it really matter? I got to thinking about it, and it doesn't matter. You're my brother and I love you."
"Yeah, I'm gay. Dad and Amy know about it too."
"Why did you think you couldn't tell me?"
"I planned to tell you, but when you called Hal 'that old fag', I couldn't bring myself to tell you."
"I didn't mean it that way."
"Then you shouldn't have said it."
"You're absolutely right. I've learned a lot lately, especially respect for others. We had a gay soldier in our unit. I saw him risk his own life to pull a wounded fellow soldier to safety."
"And when will 'our' wounded soldier get to come home?"
"It looks like around the end of April, but I may get to go home for a week before then. I've asked for spring break. Lacey and I want to start making plans for our wedding."
"We had a substitute teacher in our algebra class this morning," Brandon Murphy said when he joined Haden in their government class. "He tried to work a problem on the board and got the wrong answer, we had to help him."
"I wonder if Mr. Campbell is ill," Haden said.
"He's suspended," Heather McDermott said with a smirk. "My dad went to the board and got him suspended because he's living with another man."
"Look what that got us," Brandon said. "We get a fool who can't even work the math problems."
"We have to do something," Haden whispered to Brandon just before the class began.