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 - 2012 Owen Hudson

Chapter Eleven

"What do you mean you're not getting a medical discharge?" Lacey asked in a quivering voice.

Perry gently took Lacey in his arms and said, "It'll be okay, sweetheart, but instead of being discharged I have to stay in the Army until the end of my enlistment."

"But you said you were being discharged from the Army."

"Yeah, I know," Perry said. "I guess I was given some bad information. The Army doesn't discharge people anymore like they used to. The injury has to be pretty extensive to get a medical discharge nowadays."

"Does that mean that you and Lacey can't get married now?" Amy asked.

"Okay, everybody, just sit down, relax, and let me explain what's actually going on," Perry said. "I have to go back to Walter Reed for a month or two and then I'll be reassigned. There's a bit of good news here though, I'll be assigned to Fort Gage and, as you know, that's just 10 miles from Covington."

"Oh, honey, that's wonderful!" Lacey said. "But what about your going to college?"

"Those plans are still there," Perry said. "I'll take some night and online courses. It'll just take a little longer now."

"When will you and Lacey have any time together?" Amy asked.

"We'll somehow manage to make time," Perry said. "I'm not going to take a lot of courses while still in the military."

"Well, it's good news that you get to be stationed close to home," Haden said. "But I'm still pissed that you can't get discharged from the Army."

"Oh, I was a little pissed too when I first got the news," Perry admitted. "But when I thought about it, it's really no big deal. I just consider myself lucky that I'm still alive."

"We're all happy about that," Darrell said.

After clearing the table, the family retired to the living room where they sat and chatted until late in the night. Finally, Lacey said, "Oh my, look at the time, I'd better be getting home. Perry, do you want me to pick you up in the morning? Remember we have that appointment with Father Jensen tomorrow."

"Yes, you'll have to pick me up since I don't have a vehicle," Perry said.

"Perry, I'll give you the keys to my car," Amy said. "It's unlikely that I'll be using it anyway."

"Amy, you'll need your car, but I can get by," Perry said.

"Really, I won't be using it," Amy argued. "If I go anywhere I'll be going with Tony."

"Are you sure about this, Amy?" Perry asked.

"Of course I'm sure," Amy replied.

"I'll walk you to your car," Perry said as he assisted Lacey with her jacket.

"Is there anything new about your attempted kidnapping?" Perry asked as he and his brother undressed for bed.

"There's nothing new that I know of," Haden said. "I guess they're still looking for the driver of the vehicle."

"Is mom still living over there at the church?"

"As far as I know she is."

"What's she living off of?"

"I guess she's living off the money that they earned from ripping people off."

"That money will eventually run out and then she'll have to do something, I suppose."

"Perry, you know how mom is. She isn't happy unless she has the best. She'll probably find some guy with money and move in just like she did with Reverend McFadden. She's lucky that she isn't in jail with the other two."

"I guess we should get some sleep now," Perry said as he turned off his lamp. "You get to sleep in, but I have to pick up Lacey and meet that priest."

"That's Father Jensen," Haden said as he too turned off his lamp. "I think you'll like him, he's a good guy. Good night, big brother. I'm glad you're home."

"It's good to be home," Perry said as he drifted off into a peaceful sleep.

The next morning Haden woke up when Perry returned from his shower. Haden couldn't resist the temptation to look at Perry's prosthetic toes.

"Wow, they look almost real!" Haden exclaimed.

"They are real," Perry laughed. "They're real fake toes."

Soon after breakfast, Perry left to take Lacey to meet with Father Jensen. Haden had no plans for the day, but Amy soon decided that he could help cook dinner. Haden really didn't mind since he knew that his brother was likely tired of hospital food.

"Haden, would you mind getting some strawberries from the freezer?" Amy asked. "I thought we'd make Perry's favorite meal and I know that strawberry shortcake is his favorite dessert."

"What else are you making?" Haden asked.

"We're making a pot roast, corn on the cob, homemade hot rolls, and a salad."

"Now you're making me hungry."

"You just had a sandwich and chips," Amy laughed.

"I know, but that menu sounds great."

"Amy, do you miss mom's cooking?"

"Mom's a good cook, but I don't miss the stress that came with her living here."

"You're just as good a cook as mom is."

"Well thank you, but remember it was mom that taught me how to cook."

"Haden, will you get the phone?" Amy asked when the phone interrupted their conversation.

"Hello. ... Are you hurt? ... Okay, I'll be right there."

"Is who hurt?"

"No one's hurt," Haden said, after hanging up the phone. "Dad was in an accident, but he's fine. I need to go pick him up."

"Are you sure you're all right?" Haden asked when he saw the mangled mess that his dad's truck was in.

"Yes, I'm fine," Darrell said. "But I'm not so sure about my old truck."

"It looks to me like it's done in. I do believe you're about to purchase a new truck."

"I'm afraid you might be right. Take me back to the store and I'll pick up a company vehicle to drive until I get something done about this wreck."

"What caused the wreck?"

"The driver of the other vehicle was texting and ran a red light. Now you see why I told you and Amy not to be using your phone while you're driving."

"Was the other driver injured?"

"They took her to the hospital, but I don't think it was serious."

"I thought you went to pick up dad?" Amy said when Haden walked into the house alone.

"I did, but I dropped him off at the store to get a company vehicle. He'll be home any time."

"Are you sure he wasn't injured in the wreck?"

"He's fine. The other driver went to the hospital with minor injuries. It looks like dad will be getting a new truck though."

"What caused the wreck?"

"The other driver was texting and ran a red light. Of course I got a lecture about using a cell phone while driving."

Amy rushed to Darrell and gave him a hug when he entered the room. "I'm so glad that you're not hurt," she said.

"That makes two of us," Darrell laughed. "Something smells good."

"I'm making a pot roast with plenty of carrots and potatoes," Amy said.

"Perry's favorite meal," Darrell said. "I'm pretty fond of it too."

"Where's Perry?" Darrell asked. "It surely isn't taking this long to see Father Jensen."

"Father Jensen probably started their premarital counseling, and I'm sure Perry and Lacey want to spend some time together," Amy said. "Being separated like this must be rough on them."

"Yeah, just think about what it would be like if you couldn't spend time with Tony," Haden said.

"Dad, Haden said that you'd be getting a new truck," Amy said, changing the subject.

"Well, probably not a new one," Darrell replied. "I'll probably just get a good used truck."

"Dad, with your new job you can afford a new truck now," Haden said.

"I probably could, but with you three in college, I want to be able to help if I need to."

"Dad, you need to worry about yourself more and less about us," Amy said. "We'll get by just fine in college."

"You probably will, but I want to be able to help if any of you need it."

"Haden, give Perry a call and tell him that dinner will be ready at about six," Amy said.

"Perry, where are you?" Haden asked after calling Perry. "Amy said to tell you that dinner will be ready at about six o'clock. ... Okay, we'll see you. Goodbye."

"Where are they?" Amy asked.

"They're on their way here."

Everyone agreed that dinner was delicious. Amy again proved to be as good a cook as her mother. Perry ate as though he would never see another meal. "This sure beats the hell out of hospital food," Perry said.

"It looks like I'll have to take cooking lessons from Amy," Lacey said. "Mom's a good cook, but she only cooks simple things, you know poor folk food."

"It just takes practice," Amy said. "But I'll be happy to teach you what I know."

"Dad, I didn't see your truck out front," Perry said. "Did you trade for that Envoy that's out front?"

"No, I had a little accident today and that's a company vehicle," Darrell said. "It looks like I'll be shopping for another vehicle."

"Was it that bad?" Perry asked.

"When a vehicle is as old as the old tank, as Haden calls it, it doesn't take much for it to be totaled," Darrell said. "Son, when you get reassigned to Fort Gage I'll help you get a vehicle."

"Dad, I'll manage to get a vehicle," Perry said.

"I helped Amy and Haden get their first vehicle," Darrell said. "And I planned to do the same for you, but you joined the Army before I could."

"But, Dad, are you sure you can afford to help?" Perry asked. "After all, you have to buy a new vehicle for yourself now."

"I can afford it," Darrell said. "I still have all that money in savings from the sale of the cattle. And remember that I make more money now than I did."

"Thanks, Dad," Perry said. "It's getting late, so I suppose I should take Lacey home."

"Amy, dinner was delicious," Lacey said. "I'll see you all in church tomorrow. My family is going to church with me tomorrow also, and mom has invited all of you to come to our house for lunch. My family wants to meet you."

"Dad, why don't you reconsider buying a new truck?" Haden asked after saying good night to Lacey.

"I'll be getting a used one," Darrell said.

"Dad, I still think you should get a new one." Haden said. "You deserve a new one."

"You just heard me say that I was going to help Perry get a vehicle," Darrell said. "And I think you've asked me that same thing a dozen times already. Anyway, I want to see you kids get through college before I think about something like that."

Haden fell into a sound sleep and never heard his brother come to bed. He awoke before Perry and quietly slipped out of bed to take his shower. As he was getting dressed, he heard Perry ask in a groggy voice, "What time is it?"

"It's time for you to get up and get ready for church," Haden giggled. "We usually have a light breakfast before church on Sundays. Then after church we usually go to a restaurant for lunch."

"Remember we're going to Lacey's for lunch today."

"Oh yeah, I forgot about that."

The Harringtons arrived at the church shortly before Lacey and her family arrived. "Go on inside and I'll wait here for Lacey," Perry said.

"No, we'll all wait here," Darrell said.

After brief introductions, the two families entered the church together and occupied an entire pew. Haden couldn't read if Lacey's family was enjoying the church service or not. He did notice that Perry was paying close attention to the service.

Lacey's ten year old brother, Justin, seemed to have trouble sitting still during the services, but otherwise all seemed to go well. Justin did enjoy the refreshments provided in the parish hall.

The Fergusons appeared to have even less than the Harringtons; nevertheless, their home was clean and had a cozy appeal to it. Haden expected a light lunch, but Lacey's mom, Betty, had made a huge pot of chicken and dumplings. Haden thought they were even better than what his mom and Amy made.

"I understand that you too, have a son in the military," Darrell said during the meal.

"Yes, Joe's in Afghanistan and will be discharged in five months," Grant Ferguson said. "We pray that he comes home safe. Lacey, was it our Joe on the prayer list that the priest mentioned?"

"Yes, I mentioned to Father Jensen that he was in Afghanistan and he put him on the list," Lacey said. "Dad, what did you think of the church service?"

"I thought it was strange," Grant said.

"I liked it," Betty said.

"I didn't say that I didn't like it," Grant laughed. "I had trouble following until I realized that not everyone did the same thing."

"I liked it because the preacher didn't preach for two hours," Justin said.

"I'm with you there, Buddy," Perry agreed.

"Brother Gordon doesn't preach for two hours," Betty laughed.

"Well, it seems like two hours," Justin said.

"What church do you attend?" Amy asked.

"We used to attend New Life Gospel Center," Grant said. "I stopped going when the preacher said that gays were going to burn in hell. I know that my brother isn't going to burn in hell just because he was born gay."

"Have you considered coming to our church?" Darrell asked.

"I hadn't considered it until today," Grant said. "I thought it was only a bunch of snobbish rich people there, but everyone I met today was friendly and made me feel welcome."

The remainder of the afternoon was spent discussing wedding plans. Since neither family had much money, it was decided that the wedding would be small, followed by a small reception in the parish hall.

"Where're you going on your honeymoon?" Amy asked.

"A buddy who is also at Walter Reed is from The Pocono's in Pennsylvania. His parents own a bed and breakfast there and have offered us a great deal," Perry explained.

"I'll pay that for you," Darrell said.

"I've already prepaid it," Perry said.

"Then I'll just give you money," Darrell said.

"I'm sorry that we can't afford a big wedding for you two," Betty apologized.

"Betty, we like the idea of a small wedding," Perry said.

"The only thing I'm sorry about is that Joe can't be here for the wedding," Lacey said.

"I hope you can rent a car," Grant said. "I'm not sure that I'd trust Lacey's car for a road trip."

"Dad's going to help me get a car," Perry said.

"I'm pleased to hear that," Betty said.

"Perry, I've been thinking," Darrell mused. "Why don't we get your car while you're here, then you won't have to worry about that the week of your wedding."

"I don't think I'd be allowed to have a car at Walter Reed," Perry said.

"That doesn't mean that you can't get one now," Darrell said. "Unless you have plans, we'll go car shopping tomorrow."

"I'm going to Aunt Carol's for a fitting of my wedding gown tomorrow," Lacey said when Perry looked at her for approval.

"Is she making your wedding gown?" Amy asked.

"She is," Lacey said. "She's an excellent seamstress."

"Then I guess I'm free tomorrow," Perry said. "What time?"

"I'll have to call Paul and let him know that I may need to transfer money into my checking account," Darrell said. "I'll also need to talk to the insurance company about my truck."

"Do you want to go with us to look for vehicles?" Perry asked Haden the next morning during breakfast.

"Sure, I'll go," Haden readily agreed.

"What about you, Amy?" Perry asked.

"Thanks, but I'm going with Lacey for her fitting," Amy said.

"It looks like we'll only be shopping for one vehicle," Darrell said after hanging up the phone.

"Is there a problem?" Perry asked.

"Not at all," Darrell smiled. "Paul wants me to keep the GMC Envoy that I'm driving."

"He's selling it to you?" Haden asked.

"No, he wants me to have a company vehicle," Darrell explained.

"Paul's a good guy," Perry said.

"He sure is," Darrell agreed.

"What type of vehicle are you looking for?" Haden asked as they drove to Covington.

"I thought about getting something like Amy's car," Perry said.

"I thought maybe you'd get a truck or a SUV," Haden said.

"Lacey's car isn't all that dependable," Perry said. "I'll drive her car and let her drive whatever I get."

"Since I don't have to buy a vehicle, we can get her a better car as well as yours," Darrell said.

"Dad, we'll get by," Perry protested.

"She'll be my other daughter when you're married," Darrell said. "I'll do the same for her as you kids."

"I won't need a car until I'm stationed at Fort Gage," Perry said. "Let's get just one for now. Later we can use Lacey's old car for a trade in. She can drive whatever I purchase today."

After checking several car lots Perry decided on a 2006 Nissan Altima. It was low mileage and a decent price. After completing the purchase it was decided that they would meet at Burger King for lunch before going back home.

"Dad, would you be mad if I left on Friday?" Perry asked as they ate.

"Of course not, but why would you want to leave early?" Darrell asked.

"Lacey and I want to spend some time together, and we also want to look for an apartment," Perry explained. "We'll spend a couple of days in Covington before I fly back to Walter Reed."

"Is Paul flying you back?" Haden asked.

"He offered, but it's too expensive just to fly one person," Perry said. "I'll fly commercial from Covington. Dad, I hope you understand about wanting to spend some alone time with Lacey before I go back."

"Of course we understand," Darrell said. "Besides, we'll see you more often once you're stationed at Fort Gage."

The week passed all too fast for Haden. He was sorry to see his brother leave early, but he did understand Perry wanting to spend time with Lacey. Haden watched as his brother drove away Friday morning after breakfast. Darrell soon left for work and Amy was volunteering at Senior Care Solutions. An overwhelming feeling of melancholy overcame Haden. He knew the best thing to do was to keep busy. He decided to drive into town and purchase cool weather garden plants.

Haden had just finished planting the last of the broccoli and was headed back to the house to have lunch when he saw a small boy walking down the driveway. "Mister, could I borrow some peanut butter and a couple of slices of bread?" The boy asked as Ranger ran up to greet him. His clothes were threadbare and dirty. Although it was late winter, a brisk north wind had brought on a chill in the air. It was much too chilly for the thin jacket the boy was wearing.

"I was just going inside to fix myself a hamburger," Haden smiled. "Would you like one too?"

The boy looked around as if to see if anyone was watching and then said, "I guess, if you're having one."

"Yeah, I'm having one," Haden said. "Come on in and I'll have them ready in no time."

Haden couldn't help but wonder where the boy came from. He hadn't seen him around and hadn't heard of a new family moving into the neighborhood. But Haden thought it would be best if he didn't ask too many questions until he gained the boy's confidence.

"My name's Haden, what's your?"


"That's a fine name, Adam. I'll bet you're about 11 years old."

"I'm ten."

"What do you want on your hamburger?"

"I don't care."

"I'm having lettuce, tomato, onion, and mayonnaise on mine. We also have pickles, mustard, and ketchup."

"I guess I'll have what you're having, but no onion."

"The burgers will be ready in a few minutes, in the mean time I'll show you where the bathroom is and you can wash up."

Haden noticed that Adam's fingernails were still dirty, but didn't say anything. Adam consumed his hamburger and potato chips with enthusiasm. Haden cut his burger in half and said, "I'm not very hungry, and I hate to toss this out, would you like the other half?"

"I guess, if you're not going to eat it. This is really good."

"I can cook good hamburgers, if I do say so myself."

"Do you live here by yourself?"

"No, my dad and sister live here also. Where do you live?"

"Over there by the creek," Adam said, pointing in the direction of the creek.

"I don't know of a house over by the creek except for that old shack on the Burgess farm."

"We had to move out of the place where we lived, and mom's boyfriend said that it'd have to do for now."

"Are they there now?"

"No, they went to town yesterday to buy some food and look for jobs."

"You haven't had anything to eat since yesterday?"

"I had a sausage biscuit from McDonald's for breakfast yesterday that Charlie got me."

"You were there all night by yourself?"

"Yeah, and I got cold too. All I had was a thin blanket with holes. I didn't get much sleep."

"Why don't we get you a bath and then you can take a nap?"

"I don't have any clean clothes to put on," Adam said as he looked at his dirty clothes.

"You can put on one of my t-shirts for your nap, and we'll see about getting something clean for you to wear."

After showing Adam where the towels, soap, and shampoo were, Haden placed a call to his dad. "I'll call Rita Holland at Child Welfare, and I'll be there as soon as I can," Darrell said.

"Dad, he needs some clothes," Haden said. "What he had on was filthy and would probably fall apart if I washed them."

"How big is he? I'll pick up a change of clothes, but I want to get something that fits him."

"He's about the same size as Justin."

"I'll call Betty and ask what size Justin wears."

Adam looked like a different boy when he came out of the bathroom. He looked cute in Haden's Sparks High School t-shirt.

"I didn't have a comb," Adam said, as he pushed his hair out of his face. "I guess I need a haircut too."

"I'll get you a comb. Why don't we blow dry your hair before your nap? That way your pillow won't get wet."

Adam was asleep within minutes of lying down. When the doorbell rang Haden rushed to let Rita Holland in. To his surprise, it was Betty with an armload of clothes. "Justin doesn't need these back. My cousin gives me her son's outgrown clothes. She has more money than we have and buys more than he needs. Some of these have hardly been worn. I can't see you buying him clothes until you know his exact size. I also brought shoes and socks."

"He said that what clothes he had are in his mom's boyfriend's car. What he had on was in bad shape and dirty."

"That poor little boy, I'd like to get my hands on that woman who abandoned him."

"Who are the clothes for?" Amy asked when she arrived and saw Haden sorting the clothes that Betty had left.

Haden explained how Adam had shown up dirty and hungry.

"I made a crock pot of stew before I left," Amy said. "I hope he likes stew."

"I doubt that he's a picky eater," Haden speculated.

"Is he still sleeping?" Darrell asked when he arrived home.

"Yes, he said he was cold last night and didn't get much sleep," Haden said. "Betty brought over some clothes for him."

"It appears that Perry is marrying into a good family."

"I think so too. I liked what Grant said about gays too. Oh, it looks like Mrs. Holland just drove up."

"Darrell, it seems like I spend more time here than in my office," Rita laughed. "Where's the boy that you called about?"

"He's sleeping, he said that he was cold last night and didn't get much sleep," Haden said. "I can go wake him."

"Let him sleep a while longer," Rita said. "I need to ask you a few things first anyway."

After Haden told Rita what he knew, she said, "Even if we find his mother, we'll have to place him in foster care."

"Can't he stay here?" Haden asked.

"I'd be happy to foster him," Darrell said.

"I know he'd be well taken care of, but we'd have to do a background check first, and that will take a few days."

"The District Attorney's office did one when my ex-wife attacked Haden," Darrel said. "They even did one on Amy."

"I'll go by his office and get copies," Rita said. "As long as you're clean, we can approve you today. Otherwise, I'd have to put him in a shelter in Covington."

"Rita, I'm wondering why you're working cases since you're a supervisor," Darrell said.

"We had to suspend a caseworker," Rita said. "We were getting too many complaints."

"Would that have been Nora?" Darrell asked.

"I'm sorry, but I can't divulge the name," Rita smiled.

"Nora... that's the voice," Haden almost yelled.

"What voice?" Rita asked.

"The driver when the McFaddens tried to kidnap me," Haden said.

"Are you sure?" Darrell asked.

"Well, I'm pretty sure," Haden said.

"I don't think they can arrest her unless you're sure," Darrell said.

"I can't say for certain, but it sounded like her," Haden said.

"I'll call the sheriff's office about it anyway," Darrell said.

"Yes, you should," Rita said. "Now I'll need to see where Adam will be sleeping, and if he's awake I'll need to talk to him."

"He'll be sharing a room with Haden," Darrell said. "I hope that isn't a problem."

"No, we don't require a private room as long as he has his own bed," Rita said.

"I have twin beds," Haden said. "The other bed used to be my older brother's - he's in the army now."

"The room's back here," Haden said as he escorted Rita to his room.

"He's a cute boy," Rita said when she saw the sleeping boy. "Yes, this room is just fine. Now if you'll wake him, I'll talk to him and then get the paperwork done. I'll wait in the living room so that I don't embarrass him."

"Adam, wake up," Haden said while giving him a gentle shake. "There's someone here to see you."

"Is it my mom?" Adam asked while rubbing his eyes.

"No, it's Mrs. Holland, she's going to be your caseworker."

"What's a caseworker?"

"A caseworker is a person that makes sure you're taken care of," Haden explained. "We have some clean clothes for you too."

"Are all of those mine?" Adam asked when he saw the stack of clothes on Haden's bed.

"Yes, and later we'll get you some new ones," Haden said.

"I've never had new clothes."

"Where did you get your clothes?"

"Mom got them from a second-hand store or yard sales."

"You need to pick out what you want to wear and get dressed. There's clean underwear and socks too. If the shoes don't fit, just wear socks and I'll try to clean your old ones up until we can get you new ones. When you're dressed, come on into the living room. Do you need help?"

"No, I can do it."

"Adam, this is Mrs. Holland, my dad Darrell, and my sister Amy," Haden said when Adam timidly walked into the living room.

"Adam, have a seat and we'll visit for a while," Rita said with a kindly smile that seemed to relax Adam somewhat.

"We'll wait in the kitchen," Darrell said.

"I want Haden to stay," Adam said with a panicked look.

"If you would feel better with Haden here, that's fine with me," Rita said. "Darrell, you may as well stay too."

"I need to get busy with dinner," Amy said and excused herself.

"Now tell me Adam, what's your full name?" Rita asked.

"Adam Lee Woodson."

"What's your mother's name?"

"Lisa Woodson."

"And you're father's name?"

"I don't know."

"Where did you live?"

"For the past four days we've lived in that shack by the creek."

"Where did you live before that?"

"We lived in Covington last, but mostly we moved around a lot."

"What grade are you in?"

"I'm in the fifth grade."

"Does your mom work?"

"No, she just dates men."

"Oh," Rita said with a frown.

"I think she got money for dates. When she dated someone she would sometimes buy food, but mostly she'd buy drugs."

"I think that's all the questions I have for now," Rita said. "Darrell, I'll bring a voucher for new clothes for this young man. I'll also bring the paperwork for you to foster Adam. He'll have to see a doctor and a dentist. If you can't take off work, I can take him."

"I already have clothes," Adam said. "Somebody brought me some."

"Honey, you'll need a few more things," Rita smiled.

"We'll go shopping tomorrow," Darrell said. "And I can take off work to enroll him in school and take him to his appointments."

"I'll go get the paperwork done, then," Rita said. "Adam this will be your family for now. Mr. Harrington will be your foster dad."

"Adam, let's go box up Perry's things to make room for your things," Haden said after Rita left.

"Who's Perry?"

"Remember, I told you that my older brother is in the army?"

"Oh yeah, but will he be mad at me for taking his space?"

"No, he's getting married and won't be living here anymore."

"Don't you have a mom?"

"Yes, but she doesn't live here. She and my dad are divorced. She lives across the highway at the church."

"Is that where you go to church?"

"No, we go to church in town."

"Will I go to the school that's next to the church?"

"No, that school closed last year because enrollment was too low. You'll go to school in town."

"How will I get there?"

"You'll probably ride with Amy and me. There now, you'll have plenty of room for your things."

"I don't have that many things."

"I'm sure you will soon. Put your jacket on and let's go to the barn. I have something to show you."

"Do you have animals out there?"

"No, we sold them all."

"What is it?"

"You'll see."

"This is yours," Haden said after taking his bicycle out of a stall.

"Wow, I've never had a bike before. Where did you get it?"

"It was mine, but I don't ride it anymore. We'll take it up to the house and get Dad to adjust the seat for your height. He used to adjust it for me."

"Adam, I don't want you to ride anywhere but around the house without permission," Darrell said as he adjusted and lubricated the bicycle.

"I won't ... What should I call you?" Adam asked.

"You can call me Darrell, or you can call me dad if you want," Darrell said.

"Alright, Dad," Adam said with a smile.

Darrell pulled Adam into a hug, something Adam wasn't used to. Adam became rigid, then relaxed and enjoyed the embrace.

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