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
"Tony, don't let Amy take her books on your honeymoon," Rita said as she gave her new son-in-law a hug.
"Why would she take her books?" Tony questioned.
"She's always studying," Adam pointed out. "As smart as she is she doesn't need to study that much."
"I'm not taking study material with me," Amy assured all.
"I have no doubt you'll pass your nursing boards," Gwen Buffington one of the nursing professors said.
"Thank you Dr. Buffington," Amy said. "I sure hope you're right."
"I am, but its Gwen now that you're a graduate," Gwen said. "I hope you take time for a real honeymoon."
"Thanks to family and friends, we're going to Caneel Bay Resort in the Virgin Islands," Amy explained.
"Oh, how nice," Gwen said. "Your Aunt Julie said you're enrolling in our BSN program, I would encourage you to consider our ADN to MSN instead. You'll end up with a master's degree that way. It will take you a little longer but worth it in the long run. I'd really like for you to eventually join our faculty."
"That would be a long way off," Amy said. "I'd still need to get my PhD."
"If you're already in a PhD program you could be hired," Gwen explained.
"I'll certainly keep that in mind," Amy said.
"Do you have flight connections through Atlanta?" Ann asked.
"No, fortunately Paul is flying us down," Amy said. "We're leaving right after the reception."
"Dad said we need to leave as soon as we can since he is refueling and returning today," Tony said.
"Honey, if you need to leave now we'll take care of everything here," Rita said.
"Thanks Mom," Amy said. "We'll take you up on that offer."
"Amy's going to be busy when she returns from her honeymoon," Lacey said after saying goodbye to the newlyweds.
"I'm going to their house tomorrow and put things away," Rita said. "Her china and linens are still in packages. Actually everything needs to be put away."
"I'll also help," Debbie said.
"I'd help but I'm afraid Dustin would be into everything before we could put it away," Lacey said.
"I'll go watch him," Adam offered.
"Oh Adam, I'm afraid he'd be too much for you," Lacey said.
"He likes me," Adam argued.
"I'll go help too," Justin said. "He likes me too."
"I don't know ..." Lacey began to protest.
"Honey, they can handle him," Perry interrupted. "Besides you'll be there."
"Alright, I guess you're right," Lacey reluctantly agreed.
"Oh good, Lacey," Rita said. "Amy had mentioned she'd like to get you to decorate. She said you were very good. Maybe we could get that done for her."
"It was questionable who had more fun the next day, Dustin or his uncles. "Adam and Justin are really good with Dustin," Lacey observed.
"He's a sweet happy little boy," Debbie said. "Oh, look at this lovely monogrammed serving tray."
"Walter made that," Grace said.
"I'd love to have him make one for me," Debbie said. "How much does he sell them for?"
"This was his first one," Grace said. "You could ask him about it. Did anyone think to write down the wedding gifts?"
"Carol and I did," Julie said.
"They certainly got a lot of gifts," Carol said.
"Lacey, Dustin's hungry," Justin said.
"How do you know he's hungry?" Lacey asked.
"He just said 'eat' and it's past noon," Adam said.
"I'll take him to Mom's and fix him something," Lacey said.
"Lois and I brought food," Grace said.
"Grace, you and Lois think of everything," Rita said.
"I can't take any credit this time," Grace said. "Lois asked me about food first."
By mid afternoon everything was put away and the house was ready for the return of the newlyweds. Haden had even brought the lawn mower over and cut the grass.
"Haden, thank you for mowing the lawn," Debbie said. "I'm sure Tony will appreciate it."
"He just wanted to come over to eat," Adam teased.
"Do you blame me?" Haden countered.
Amy and Tony returned from their honeymoon to find everything was put away and the house was beautifully decorated. Amy resumed her study for her nursing exam and Tony began summer classes. He'd decided on summer classes in order to have a lighter load during football season.
Amy passed her exam with flying colors and began working at the hospital. She was sure she would be assigned to the night shift. But since the hospital paid extra to the evening and night shift workers there were no opening and she was assigned to the day shift.
With Amy no longer a member of the household Haden and even Adam did most of the cooking. Haden was cleaning the kitchen after breakfast one morning when Adam put his plate in the dishwasher and headed out the door.
"Where do you think you're going?" Haden asked.
"Riding, where else would I be going?" Adam answered.
"You forgot that we have garden work to do."
"Well crap, what do we have to do?"
"We have weeding to do and then freeze the squash and okra."
"We never froze it before."
"That's because Amy usually did it."
"I miss Amy."
"I think we all do, but she's a married woman now."
"Why couldn't she and Tony just live here?"
"That's not how it works."
"Why don't the vegetables grow as fast as the weeds?" Adam asked as he began weeding."
"I've wondered that myself."
"Now I know what Grandma meant when she said Dustin was growing like a weed."
"We need to get these in the freezer, but let's eat lunch first," Haden said after finishing the weeding and picking the vegetables.'
'Mom said she'd do it when she got home."
"Adam, don't you think it would be nice if we did it for her?"
"Yeah, I guess so."
"I'll wash and slice the vegetables and you can put them in the freezer bags," Haden said as the two began preparing the vegetables for the freezer.
"Do I use the vacuum bags?"
"Yes, the vacuum sealer is in the pantry."
"Why do we vacuum the vegetables?"
"By removing the air the vegetables keep better."
"I'm going riding now," Adam said after the vegetables were in the freezer. "Go riding with me."
"Okay, I think I will. Are you calling Justin and Jon to go too?"
"No, I want to ride with just you this time. Let's ride over to see Uncle George."
"What's on your mind?" Haden asked when they rode for a while in silence.
"I was thinking about how lucky I am. I have the best family in the world now."
"Well, I think this family is lucky to have you. Do you miss your birth mom any?"
"I think about her some, but I don't miss her. I do love my Uncle George."
"George is part of our family too. We all think a lot of him."
"Hey guys," George called out when he saw the boys opening the gate to his property. "I can't believe how fast these weeds grow. I'm almost finished here and then we'll go inside for a cold drink."
"Adam and I weeded our garden this morning," Haden said.
"Uncle George, did you get a dog?" Adam asked when a mixed breed dog ran up and greeted him.
"Oh, that's Callie," George said. "She came here and decided to stay. I tried to find her owners, but never did. I think the family that lived over on Shiloh Road moved away and left her, anyway that's what the neighbors say."
"She looks like she may be part German Sheppard," Haden said.
"That's what the vet said," George said. "She may also be part Redbone Hound."
"Can we help you finish weeding?" Haden asked.
"Thank you, but I'm finished," George said as he removed his straw hat and fanned himself. "Let's go inside for a cold drink. If you want you can unsaddle your horses and let them graze with mine."
"That's a good idea," Haden agreed. "But we can't stay long. We have to cook dinner."
"I caught a good stringer of fish this morning," George said. "I was going to cook some for my dinner and freeze the remainder. I'll call Darrell and Rita and we'll have a fish fry."
"That sounds good," Haden agreed. "I wasn't sure what I was cooking for dinner."
"I'll go inside and get our drinks ready," George said. "Is ice tea okay?"
"Ice tea is fine with us," Haden said.
"Callie likes me," Adam said as she followed him to the barn.
"I think all dogs like you," Haden said.
"Haden would you mind taking my car and going to the store to buy some frozen hush puppies to go with our fish?" George asked as he began preparing dinner.
"Why not just make our own?" Haden asked.
"I've never made them," George said.
"I can make them if you have the ingredients," Haden said.
"What do you need?"
"Corn meal, flour, onion, baking powder, and that's pretty much it."
"I have all of that. Maybe you can teach me how to make them."
"This was a wonderful meal," Rita said after enjoying the fish fry. "Thank you for inviting us."
"I'm glad you enjoyed it, but Haden and Adam helped," George said. "Haden made the hush puppies and Adam made the coleslaw."
"You guys did great," Rita said. "Adam's learning to cook."
"I'm surprised we're all not as fat as pigs with all the good cooks in this family," Darrell said.
"That's because we're not lazy, Dad," Adam said.
"You may have something there, Son," Darrell said as he gave Adam a hug.
"George, before I forget, we're having a surprise birthday party for Grace a week from this next Saturday," Rita said.
"You know I'll be there," George said. "Do you have any gift suggestions?"
"Julie and I talked about that and decided on a money tree," Rita said. "She and Carol will then take Grace shopping and make sure she spends it all on herself."
"Who's planning the food?" George asked. "Grace usually plans that."
"We decided on pot luck," Rita said.
"Mom, how are you planning on getting Grandma here without her knowing it's for her?" Haden asked.
"Your grandpa said to leave it to him," Rita said.
"Mom, she'll know something's up when she sees all of the cars," Adam pointed out.
"We thought of that, and Lois suggested that everyone meet at their house and we could call when she gets here," Rita explained. "I know all of this is short notice, but Amy came up with the idea just a few days ago."
"Haden, there's someone sleeping over there under that tree," Adam said on the ride back home.
"It may be some drunk who passed out, but we'd better go check to make sure," Haden said.
"Haden, I don't think he's breathing," Adam said after the two dismounted.
"And there's a lot of blood. I'll call 911 and wait here for the deputy. Ride on home and you can show the deputy the way here. I'll call Dad and let him know, and then call Ray."
"What if the person who did this comes back?"
"I don't think we need to worry about that. Now go on before the deputy gets there."
It seemed like more than an hour, but in reality it was less than 20 minutes when a sheriff patrol SUV followed Darrell and Adam to the scene. Ray arrived a few minutes later. Haden was pleased that the deputy was Coy Davis, the same deputy who responded when Brenda attacked him.
Deputy Davis got right down to the business of the investigation. "The Medical Examiner should be here soon," he explained. "Meanwhile we don't want to move anything, not even a stick. How did you happen to find the body?"
"We were riding back from my Uncle George's," Adam quickly answered. "We first thought it was someone sleeping or passed out."
"Did you go this way to your uncle's?" Coy asked.
"Pretty close," Haden said.
"Whose property is this?" Coy asked.
"It's mine," Ray said.
"There're tire tracks," Coy said. "Where would a vehicle enter the property?"
"Down on the highway," Ray said. "I left the gate unlocked and open. I moved the cattle to a different pasture and had arranged for the coop to fertilize the pasture."
"Did they fertilize it yet?" Coy asked.
"Yes, they called me around 3:30 and said they were finished," Ray said. "I don't know if they closed the gate or not. I hadn't gone there to make sure it was locked."
"What time did you guys first ride this way?" Coy asked.
"I think it was around 1:00," Haden said.
"Then it was likely this happened after 3:30," Coy ascertained. "I see that Dr. Upchurch the medical examiner is here now."
Coy explained what he knew to Dr. Upchurch and then asked Ray to go with him to the gate. "There may be tire prints since it rained yesterday," he explained.
"Jon, what are you doing here?" Ray asked as Jon rode up on an ATV.
"Mom sent me here with ice water," Jon explained.
"Alright, you stay here with Haden while I go with Coy to check the gate," Ray said.
"Alright Dad," Jon said.
"There's no ID on him," Wes King, the ME technician, said.
"That's Batman," Jon said when he finally got up enough nerve to look at the body.
"Do you know him?" Dr. Upchurch asked.
"I think so," Jon said. "I don't know his real name, but everyone called him Batman because he has a Batman tattoo on his shoulder."
"He does have a Batman tattoo," Wes said.
"This young man knows the victim," Dr. Upchurch said when Ray and Coy returned.
"You do?" Ray quickly questioned Jon.
"Yeah, he used to come and see my birth mom," Jon said.
"Who's your birth mom?" Coy asked.
"She's dead now," Jon explained. "Her name was Kaylee Young."
"Do you happen to remember the last time you saw the victim?" Coy asked.
"I think I was seven," Jon said. "I was sent to foster care when they got arrested."
"We should be able to pull her arrest records to get his name," Coy said. "Young man, you've been a big help."
"His name is Jon," Adam said.
"Thank you, Jon," Coy said. "Dr. Upchurch, I got some good pictures of tire tracks. They're different from the coop truck. Do you think the victim was shot here or dumped here after he was shot?"
"It appears he was shot here, execution style," Dr. Upchurch said.
It was nearly dark by the time the body was removed and crime scene was cleared. Deputy Davis got the names, address, and phone numbers of all those involved before they were allowed to leave. Neither Adam nor Haden slept well during the night. In fact Adam woke up in Haden's bed, but didn't remember how or when he got there.
Within a few days Adam was himself again. The event didn't bother Jon much since he didn't like Batman anyway. Thanks to Jon's information Batman was quickly identified as Barry Boatman, a known drug dealer. The sheriff's deputies had suspects but no arrests were made.
The day for Grace's birthday party arrived and Walter got her there by telling her Haden called and was having a problem with a tomato plant disease. Grace bought the story and as arranged, Haden and Walter went to the garden where Haden called the Reeds.
After everyone arrived Walter sent Adam inside to bring Grace out to help identify the problem. "Goodness, he knows more about these things than I know," Grace protested as she and Adam went outside.
"What is this?" Grace asked when she saw all of the people.
"Happy birthday, Grandma," Adam said as the others yelled happy birthday.
"Walter, I should've known you were up to something," Grace said after he gave her a quick kiss. "I can usually read you like a book."
"Don't blame me," Walter said. "Blame your granddaughter Amy."
"Grandma, we wanted to do something for you for a change," Amy said as she kissed her grandma on the cheek.
"Let's get a picture of Grace and Walter and their children, grandchildren, and great-grand child," Rita said.
"Rita, you and Darrell need to be in the picture too," Grace said. "You're my family too."
"Betty, I guess you'll be taking the picture," Rita said.
"There're several of us taking pictures," Lois said.
"Now take a picture of me with Dustin," Grace said. "It'll be the oldest and youngest."
"Good idea, Grandma," Perry said and then kissed her on the cheek.
"Oh yes, that's a great idea," Lacey said as she handed Dustin to Grace.
A picture was snapped just as Dustin kissed his great-grandma as he'd seen his dad do. "It's a good thing he did that before he ate," Perry said with a chuckle.
"Oh, I've had worse on me," Grace said and then kissed Dustin.
"Grandma, we decided not to give you gifts that you may not use," Amy said after bringing out the money tree. "Aunt Carol and Aunt Julie are taking you shopping to make sure you spend it on yourself."
"Oh, I know exactly what I want to spend it on," Grace said. "I've been saving for a new refrigerator and stove."
"We counted the money and there's over $900 there," Carol said.
"Goodness, that'll put me over the top with what I've saved," Grace said. "Thank every one of you."
"Come by the store and see what we have, and you can have them at my cost," Darrell said.
"How nice of you, Darrell," Grace said. "Maybe I'll even have enough for a new dishwasher."
"I'm sure we can save enough for that." Darrell said.
"I'll install them for you for free," Jeff said, and then looked at Darrell. "I'll do it on my own time."
"No, you'll do on company time," Darrell said with a chuckle.
"Grace, what do you plan to do with your old ones?" Rita asked.
"I hadn't thought about that," Grace admitted. "Do you have any suggestions?"
"Our housekeeper and her husband just bought a house, but they don't have enough money to buy new appliances," Rita said. "If you want to sell your old ones I'm sure they'd be interested."
"Oh they can have them," Grace said. "They're old, but clean and work fine."
"That's very nice of you," Linda said. "Heidi and Todd have been saving every penny they could just for the down payment."
"I'll go in tomorrow and select my new appliances and they can have them now," Grace said.
"Mom, tomorrow's Sunday," Scott said.
"We're open tomorrow afternoon," Darrell said. "Come and go to church with us and we'll go by the store after church."
"I'll meet you there," Jeff said. "I'll get them delivered and installed tomorrow. I know Todd and Heidi are anxious to get moved, but can't until they get appliances. I'll call Todd and have him meet me at the store to deliver them, and then we can load Grace's appliances and take them to their new house."
Todd was amazed at how good of a condition the appliances were in when he and Jeff delivered the new ones to Grace. "I feel we should pay you something," he said.
"No, some day you can pay it forward," Grace said.
"I've heard of that," Todd said. "We certainly will eventually pay it forward. We're doing better now that I'm working for Darrell, but it's still tough with a family."
"Paying it forward doesn't have to involve money," Grace said. "It can involve labor."
"I hadn't thought of it that way," Todd admitted.
"Is Rita ill?" Betty asked after church.
"No she has a couple of children that she's trying to find a foster home for," Darrell explained. "The parents were Russian immigrants and were killed in an auto accident. She'll meet us for lunch at The Wok."
"I'm sorry I'm late," Rita said when she arrived at the Wok with the two children. "I've been working on finding a foster home for Alan and Lana. Their parents were from Russia and they had no family here. Adam will you help Alan and Lana through the buffet?"
"Sure Mom," Adam said. "Justin will you come and help?"
"I'm at my wits end," Rita said. "For now I'll let Alan share a room with Adam and Lana can have Amy's old room."
"I heard that Mr. and Mrs. Chaban were in an accident, are these their children?" Debbie asked.
"Yes, Alan and Lana are their children," Rita said.
"They're adorable," Debbie said. "How old are they?"
"They're six," Rita said.
"Oh, then they're twins," Lois said. "Yes, they are adorable."
"Yes, they are," Rita said.
"Ray...?" Lois looked over at her husband.
"Of course," Ray said. "It's apparent that you've already fallen in love with them."
"Rita, could we foster them and then if it works out adopt them?" Lois asked.
"Oh Lois, that'd be wonderful," Rita said.
"Jon, how would you feel about having a little brother and sister?" Lois asked.
"That'd be cool," Jon said.
"Jon, why don't you sit with them and Adam when they get their food," Rita suggested. "That way they can get to know you."
"Okay," Jon agreed. "Come on Jarred, we'll all share a table."
"Lois, after we eat we'll meet at your house and tell them that's where they'll be living," Rita said. "I have their clothes and personal things. This isn't like most foster children. Their parents were good providers."
"Do they understand what happened to their parents?" Linda asked.
"I don't think it has fully hit them," Rita said.
"The accident must have been the semi truck that went left of center and hit them head on," Amy said.
"Yes, that's the one," Rita said.
"Were the kids in the accident?"
"No, they were with the babysitter," Rita explained.
"They cried a lot when first told about their parents," Rita said. "But I'm not sure how much a six year old understands."
"Alan and Lana, would you like to live here with Mr. and Mrs. Reed?" Rita asked after arriving at the Reeds with the twins.
"Here with Jon?" Alan asked.
"Yes, Jon's their son," Rita said.
"Yeah, that'd be okay," Alan said.
"What about you, Lana?" Rita said.
"Yeah, if Alan lives here too," Lana said.
Alan and Lana soon settled in the loving home of Ray and Lois Reed. They adored their older brother Jon and he loved having a little brother and sister. They did have times of sadness, but were in counseling.
"Do we have to work in the garden today?" Adam asked Haden as they had breakfast one day.
"The green beans are ready for the freezer," Haden said. "Why do you ask?"
"Jon called and said they were moving cattle to another pasture and wanted to know if Justin and I wanted to help. Is it okay, Uncle Ray will be there?"
"I don't see a problem, I can take care of the beans, but you'd better call Mom or Dad."
"Dad, said I could go," Adam said after making the call. "I called Justin and he can go too."
"Make sure you have your cell phone with you."
"Alright," Adam said. "I won't be home for lunch. Jon said Aunt Lois would fix lunch for us."
"You're home early," Haden said when Adam arrived home.
"Yeah, it didn't take long," Adam said as he took a juice drink from the refrigerator. "They arrested the killers of Batman."
"Where did you hear this?"
"Deputy Davis came and talked to Uncle Ray and Jon. It was the guys Batman got the drugs from. They were the main dealers and even had records where they sold Batman the drugs. He hadn't paid for them so they killed him. Do you need help with those green beans?"
"Thank you, but I'm almost finished."
"Oh, and the guy who was with Deputy Davis said we might have to testify at the trial."
"What guy was that?"
"He said he was an assistant AD."
"Are you sure he didn't say DA?"
"Yeah, that's it. What's a DA?"
"The DA is the District Attorney."
"What is that?"
"The DA prosecutes people in criminal cases."
"Oh, I get it now. Oh, Uncle Ray got a horse for Alan. He bought one from Jeff because he didn't have a small gentle one. Lana didn't want one because she's afraid of horses."
"Did Alan help with the roundup?"
"Yeah, he had fun too. Mom, what are you doing here?"
"I live here, remember?" Rita asked with a laugh.
"I mean this early," Adam said.
"I'm taking some comp time," Rita said. "I thought I'd pick and freeze the green beans, but I see that you guys already did it."
"Haden did it," Adam said. "I went to help Uncle Ray move his cattle."
"Did your dad say it was okay?"
"Yes, I called him and he said I could," Adam said. He then went into detail about the murder case.