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 - 2017 Owen Hudson

Chapter Forty-four

Brody and Adam were brothers in all but blood, plus they were also best friends. Justin and Jon were close friends to both; however there's something special between brothers. They shared feelings they didn't share with other friends.

"Adam, do you ever get an erection for no particular reason?" Brody asked one evening as they were feeding the animals.

"Oh yeah, Haden said it's a teen thing."

"You talked to Haden about that?"

"Yes, after all he's our brother. Remember he isn't that old. He finished high school in three years and then did the same in college."

"What did he tell you to do about it? It's embarrassing."

"Like Haden suggested, if I'm wearing jeans I don't think it shows. I wear briefs rather than boxers, and I think that helps contain it, if you know what I mean. I also try to think of something I don't like."

"Like what?"

"Well once Grandma served mustard greens and they were awful."

"You actually ate them?"

"At Grandma's table we have to at least taste everything. If we don't like it we don't have to eat it."

"Thanks, I'll try that."

"Mustard greens?"

"No, if I'm at Grandma's I may have to try mustard greens, but I'm talking about trying the things Haden suggested."

As the Christmas time of year came near plans were progressing for the season. Haden and Kyle were planning the start of their lives together. The Supreme Court had recently ruled same sex marriage legal in all 50 states; and Haden and Kyle had made an appointment with Father Jensen for the ceremony.

"I'm sorry, but I can't perform the ceremony," Father Jensen said during the meeting. "Unfortunately our diocese is one of those forbidding same sex marriages. The Episcopal Church of the United States voted to allow same sex marriages, but left the final decision to each bishop. You could go to another diocese where they're more liberal."

"We want our family and friends to attend," Kyle said. "It would be difficult for them if we have to travel to another diocese."

"Would you like for me to contact the Unitarian Church?" Father Jensen asked. "They're very liberal and allow same sex marriages."

"Could you perform the ceremony there?" Haden asked.

"Unfortunately, no," Father Jensen said. "I'm not even allowed that. "I've discussed this with the bishop and he won't budge. The bishop of the diocese doesn't allow it. He's old and should retire soon, but that doesn't help you two. I will, however, be allowed to bless your marriage."

"I guess we have no other choice," Kyle reluctantly agreed.

"Sorry to say you're right," Father Jensen admitted. "I will, however, be happy to make arrangements with the Unitarian Church for you."

"Our church is progressive, but I guess we still have a ways to go," Haden remarked.

"Regrettably we have a bishop set in his ways and some of them are out of date," Father Jensen said. "When do you plan on this marriage?"

"The last day of school is May sixteenth," Haden said. "We'd like the following Saturday and if this isn't available we could do the next Saturday."

"I'll call Reverend Roberts now and reserve the date for you," Father Jensen said.

"While you do that I need to use the restroom," Haden said.

"So do I," Kyle said.

"Okay, but no hanky-panky." Father Jensen teased.

"Reverend Roberts approved the date you selected," Father Jensen said when the two returned. "I'll be there of course, but Reverend Roberts will perform the wedding ceremony. We can do a marriage blessing later at Saint John's if you like."

"Father Jensen, I don't know how Kyle feels about this, and I mean no disrespect to you, but I'm not sure I want to do that," Haden said. "Maybe if the diocese becomes more understanding I'll feel differently."

"I feel the same," Kyle agreed.

"Believe me, I understand," Father Jensen said. "I hope you don't leave the church because of the Bishop's stand on this."

"This won't keep us away from the church we love," Kyle said.

"Let me say, you two are examples of good Christians and I disagree with the bishop, but he's my superior," Father Jensen said. "I will be reporting to him about your Christmas Dinner for the community. I know you also volunteer at the food pantry when you can."

"The Christmas Dinner isn't just us," Kyle pointed out.

"I'm aware of that," Father Jensen said. "In fact I'm encouraging those parishioners willing to help attend the Christmas Eve rather than the Christmas Day Eucharist. We also have a $1,000 donation from an anonymous donor to help buy gifts."

"That's wonderful," Haden said. "Could we also ask people to bring an unwrapped gift? We'll be attending the Christmas Eve Eucharist since we need to be at the center early and we could pick them up then."

"I'm ahead of you," Father Jensen said. "I sent an e-mail this morning making that suggestion. I'll mention it again during the announcements."

George's and Mary's wedding was small as planned, but it was also well done. Rather than gifts they had requested donations to either the Reed Center or to the Food Pantry. The honeymoon was in Puerto Rico since Mary didn't have a passport and one wasn't required there.

Prior to departing for the honeymoon George tried to give Adam and Brody $100 each for taking care of his animals. Both refused the money and after much insistence from George they accepted the money with $100 going to the Reed Center and $100 going to the Food Pantry.

The Harrington family had decided to open gifts Christmas Eve after the Christmas Eve Eucharist to save time Christmas morning. Brody was surprised there were gifts since each was asked to donate for Christmas gifts for the needy. Perry and family spent the night to also save time. Brody gave up his room since Adam had twin beds. Of course Dustin insisted he sleep in the big boy's room. A rollaway bed was brought into the room for him.

The family was up early for breakfast Christmas morning. Haden had made his grandma's breakfast casserole the evening before and had it ready for the oven. Brody made toast while Adam poured juice.

It was no surprise to find Grace and Walter already at the center when the others arrived. "I needed to get the dressing made," Grace explained.

"Grandma, that's a lot of dressing," Amy said.

"I have a feeling we'll need it," Grace said.

"What do you want us to do?" Rita asked.

"You and Amy, you can start slicing the pies," Grace said. "Where's Lacey? She helped last year."

"She's watching the babies," Betty explained. "She'll bring them over later."

"You young men can set up the tables and chairs," Grace said. "Then you can put the table cloths, cutlery and napkins on the tables."

"Plates too?" Brody asked.

"No, we'll be serving since we want everyone to enjoy a sit down meal," Grace explained. "You weren't here last year to know that. Brody, I want you, Adam, and Ethan to serve the drinks. Everyone gets a glass of water and a choice of coffee, eggnog, or punch. Be sure to offer refills."

"Grandma Grace, what do you want me to do?" Dustin asked.

"You can help your dad pass out the gifts," Grace said. "Hanna and Lana I want you to wrap the cutlery in napkins. I don't care for paper napkins, but unfortunately we don't have enough cloth napkins.

Grace then made assignments as others arrived. All were given strict instructions about proper hand washing.

"Grandma, how do we know what food to put on the plates?" Tony asked as he prepared to help serve.

"We don't have time to find out what people like and dislike," Grace said. "Everyone gets everything and they can eat what they like."

"What if someone wants seconds?" Joe asked.

"They get a second plate," Grace said. "We have plenty of food. Always use a clean plate though."

Soon after the food was on the steam table the first diners arrived. Gifts weren't given to the children until after they ate to make sure the toys didn't distract them from eating. Each guest got a bag to take home filled with candy, an apple and an orange.

Two TV stations sent reporters as well as two newspapers. After a brief interview with Ray, Grace was interviewed as well as a few guests.

"It didn't seem as busy as last year," George mentioned as the workers finally sat down to eat.

"We actually served 47 more guest than last year," Grace said. "I think we were better organized this year and had more people helping. You two could have enjoyed a longer honeymoon."

"We wanted to get back and help," Mary said. "It's a good feeling to be able to help."

"I know what you mean," Grace said. "Next year Walter and I'll have more time for this. We've decided to retire at the end of the school year."

"Mom, you've always been so active, what will you do?" Julie asked.

"I'll volunteer some, maybe even offer to help cook here at the center," Grace said and then looked at Ray. "But I don't want to be here every day."

"It would be good to have another cook when our regular cooks can't be here," Ray said. "However, you can come in any other time you want."

"Is there a day of the week that is busier than the others?" Grace asked.

"It seems to be busier on Mondays," Ray said.

"Walter and I could come and help on Mondays," Grace offered.

"That would be a big help," Ray said.

With the beginning of the second half of the school year the boys prepared for their first basketball game of the season. Jon, Justin, and Adam earned starting positions on the junior varsity team made up of mostly freshmen. Brody was the starting guard on the eighth grade team.

It was the first game of the season with Pineville coming to town. The JV team easily won the game by 25 points. Adam and Jon were high scorers and Justin was fourth highest.

The three friends were allowed to dress for the varsity game, but as freshmen, didn't expect playing time. Tiffany and the girls' team had lost by four points.

The game wasn't going well for the varsity team. A starting guard, a sophomore, had the ball stolen three times. He also made bad passes and turned the ball over several times. Two minutes into the second quarter Sparks was behind 12 points. The guard was pulled and Adam sent in. The first time Adam had the ball he scored a three pointer. By halftime Sparks had closed the gap to within two points. Adam had scored five points and was playing well on defense.

A few minutes after the start of the second half Sparks fell behind by seven points. Coach pulled the other guard and sent Jon in. Sparks pulled ahead before the end of the third quarter and never looked back, winning by 11 points. Justin also got in some playing time.

"You guys did great," Brody said after the game. "Are you coming to my game tomorrow evening?"

"I'm your brother and I have to be there," Adam said.

"I'll be there, what about you Justin?" Jon asked.

"I wouldn't miss it," Justin said.

Sparks ended the season with just five losses; went on to win the district and regional championship before being eliminated by the eventual state champion in the first game of the state tournament. Adam and Jon had earned starting positions with Justin getting significant playing time.

"George and I are thinking about becoming foster parents," Mary said during an after church lunch.

"Oh Mary, that's wonderful," Rita said. "We certainly need foster parents. Drop by the office and fill out some papers. I've seen your house but we still have to do a home inspection; there'll be a training class too. I hope I didn't scare you away."

"Not at all, it's good to know that you do these things," Mary said as George nodded in agreement.

"Is there a particular group you have trouble placing?" George asked.

"Yes, teens and preteens," Rita said. "Plus, many are traumatized from a horrible home life. Many require a therapeutic foster home, but we do pay more for those in therapeutic foster care."

"We'll not be in it for the money," George said.

"I know you won't be," Rita said. "The payments really aren't enough to actually cover all the cost if the child is given proper care."

"You mentioned a background check, how long do those take?" Mary asked.

"We do a federal background check and that can take up to 30 days," Rita said. "Lately we've been getting them back in less than two weeks. We can get that started when you come in to apply."

"Mary, I have some good news," Rita said when she call a few days later. "You're home inspection and background checks were good and we can proceed."

"George, we're approved."

"Put the phone on speakerphone," George said. "Rita, when will we get a child?"

"Are you willing to take teenagers?" Rita asked.

"Sure, aren't we George?" Mary said.

"We sure are, and it doesn't matter if it's a boy or girl," George said.

"How about one of each?" Rita asked.

"Sure, we have three bedrooms," Mary quickly agreed.

"We have a brother and sister," Rita said. "I'd like to keep them together. He's 13 and she's 16."

"That's okay with us," George quickly agreed. "Could you tell us the reason they're in foster care?"

"Their stepdad beat the crap out of Chad," Rita explained. "The mother refused to kick her husband out, so we had to remove them."

"Brody probably knows him if he's 13," George pointed out.

"No, they're from Wilson," Rita said. "They're temporally with their paternal aunt, but she has three kids and her husband has two and they can't keep them. However, she would like to have visitation rights."

"Where's the father?" Mary asked.

"He was killed in Afghanistan," Rita explained.

"When do we get them?" Mary wanted to know."

"Today," Rita quickly replied.

"Cassie is their caseworker and she'll pick them up today," Rita said. "Cassie will get them enrolled in school here in Sparks. We don't like changing schools in the middle of the school year, but it was either that or separating them. Bring them over for dinner and let them meet Brody and Adam. Although Adam is younger than Hailey he can introduce her to some of the other kids."

"Haden would also be Chad's science teacher," George pointed out.

"They can ride the bus to school, but it would be best if you drove them the first day," Rita said.

"We can drive them every day," Mary said.

"Since Hailey is 16 we could get her a car to drive to school," George suggested.

"You wouldn't be allowed to give her a car, but if you had one she could drive that would be allowed," Rita said.

"I'd better get busy getting their rooms ready," Mary said.

"Mary, I know that your house is already clean," Rita said with a laugh.

"I meant making it appropriate for teenagers," Mary explained.

"Honey, why don't we let Chad and Hailey decorate their own rooms," George said. "Let's give them a day or two first."

It was instant friendship when Adam and Brody met Hailey and Chad. Chad was surprised to learn that Haden would be his science teacher. Chad and Hailey were both nice looking, polite and intelligent kids. Both were surprised to learn that Adam and Brody were adopted.

After dinner Rita suggested the teens go to the den and get to know each other better. She realized there may be subjects they didn't want to discuss with the adults around. Adam explained that George was actually his great uncle and that he didn't know who his dad was and that his mother was in prison. Brody clarified that he had great parents who died.

"Dad was in the military," Hailey began. "He was gone a lot and Mom was okay until she married Billy. He was verbally abusive to me, but he became physically abusive to Chad."

"Yeah, he beat the crap out of me," Chad said. "Maybe I had it coming because I told him to shut up and leave me alone."

"No one deserves that," Adam said.

"That's what I told him," Hailey said. "The last time was the worst of all. I ran to the neighbors and called the police. Billy was arrested and we were sent to live with our Aunt Becky until they could find a foster home."

"Well, Uncle George and Aunt Mary will be good to you. Do you have your class schedules yet?" Adam asked.

"Yes, we got enrolled today," Hailey said as she handed her schedule to Adam. "We probably won't be in the same classes since I'm a junior and you're a freshman."

"If it's an elective course we could," Adam said. "Oh look, we're in the same creative writing course second hour. You have Hal Campbell for Trigonometry, you'll like him. I have him for Algebra."

"Chad, we have the same schedule except I'm in basketball and you're in baseball," Brody said. "We have to call Haden Mr. Harrington in class but otherwise he's Haden."

"I kind of figured that," Chad said.

"If you like I can show you your first class tomorrow," Adam offered

"Thanks, but Mr. and Mrs. Woodson took us by the school today and I got to meet my teachers," Hailey said.

"You call them Mr. and Mrs. Woodson?" Adam asked.

"What do you call them?" Hailey asked.

"Aunt and Uncle," Adam said. "But why don't you call them mom and dad."

"I don't know if they'd like that," Hailey said.

"Ask them," Brody suggested.

"I'd feel uncomfortable asking," Hailey said.

"I'll ask them for you," Adam said. "I think they'd like that."

Soon the young people were laughing and enjoying each other's company. George came to the den with Mary and said, "I hate to break up a good party, but tomorrow is a school day.

"Aunt Mary and Uncle George, Hailey and Chad want to know if they can call you mom and dad."

"Of course they can," Mary said. "We'd love that."

"How did it go so far?" Adam asked Hailey when she joined him as he waited for his friends for lunch the next day.

"Alright so far," Hailey said. "You're right about Mr. Campbell he's a great teacher. I was worried about that since I had a great teacher at Wilson."

"Oh, you had Kyle there," Adam said.

"Mr. Holden, yes," Hailey said. "How do you know him?"

"You may as well know now that Kyle is Haden's boyfriend.

"Really? That's cool. "Mr. Holden - Kyle - is a great teacher too. He mentioned he had a great high school math teach. That must have been Mr. Campbell."

"Ms. Delgado, our creative writer teach, is Tony's aunt."

"Okay, who's Tony?"

"Oh, you haven't met our sister Amy, Tony is her husband. Ms. Delgado recently came back to Sparks after taking time off to get her Masters degree and also write a book."

"I think I'm going to like her."

"Oh, there's Tiffney."

"She's cute, is she your girlfriend."

"Sort of," Adam said as he blushed. "And, that's Jon and Justin behind her; they're my best friends. Jon's also adopted and Justin is our brother Perry's brother-in-law."

"Hailey, you got a car," Adam said when she parked a nearly new Ford Focus at school the next day.

"In a way," Hailey said. "Mom and Dad got it, but they can't actually give it to me since I'm in foster care. I get to treat it like my own. They got a horse for Chad to ride."

"Cool, he'll get to ride with us."

Hailey soon became one of the most popular girls at Sparks High School, and Brody and Chad were becoming best friends. Transition to a new school was much easier for Chad with Brody as a classmate.

Sally, Chad's and Hailey's mother wasn't allowed to visit her children as she insisted that her husband also be allowed to visit. Their Aunt Becky did visit when she could. "If she doesn't contact them for a period of four consecutive months we proceed with parental rights termination," Rita informed Mary and George.

"Could we then adopt Hailey and Chad?" George questioned.

"If you wish to adopt you can file for adoption then," Rita said.

"We sure do," Mary quickly replied.

"You probably should visit with Steve and he can file for you as soon as her parental rights are terminated," Rita said. "It has already been just over two months since she last saw them. Hailey and Chad already told their caseworker they wanted you to adopt them."

"We're pleased to hear that and we'll talk to Steve. I still plan to see that Adam has money for his college education," George said.

"Thanks to but you Adam already has a sizeable college fund," Rita said. "We'll be okay."

"I can afford college for Adam as well as our kids," George said.

It was an unusually warm Saturday and Adam, Brody, and friends decided it would be a great day for a horseback ride. The youngest of the group were Alan and Jarred. The plan was to ride over and meet Chad and then show him the camp area. Saddle bags were filled with sandwiches, snacks, and drinks. Haden and Kyle were busy with the final plans on their house and couldn't go, but the parents decided the boys were mature enough to ride alone. George also decided not to go and give the boys some "boy" fun.

"Wow, this is nice," Chad said when they arrived at the camp site. "I can't wait until we can camp out."

"We could plan on camping out during spring break," Justin suggested.

"I was about to mention that," Adam said. "We used to camp at a different location until Uncle Ray showed us this location. We like it much better since it has a spring for fresh water."

"What time is it?" Alan asked.

"It's time to eat," Adam quickly answered.

"Yeah, I'm hungry," Jarred agreed.

After enjoying their lunch the boys rode with Chad to make sure he found his way home. Before they all got home the temperature started dropping and there was a cold wind. Before they got their horses unsaddled and fed it was even colder with a light rain.

By Sunday morning the rain had frozen and brought down power lines. Darrell and Haden started the generator and the house was soon nice and warm. Father Jensen called to say there would be no church services since the power was off and the roads were also unsafe.

"Maybe we won't have school tomorrow if there's no electricity," Adam mused.

"Yeah, that'd be great," Brody agreed. "Oh, but, I guess we would have to make up the missed days."

"No, the school district has built in days for bad weather," Haden explained. "If it's more than three we'd have to make up those days."

Although the schools never lost power there was no school Monday because the roads were still icy. By mid afternoon the roads were clear and the power had been restored. Haden took time to prepare lesson plans. Adam and Brody decided to prepare the evening meal.

"Guys, this taco salad casserole is delicious," Rita said as the family enjoyed their dinner. "Where did you get the recipe?"

"I had it when I had dinner at Tiffany's the other evening," Adam explained. "Her mother gave me the recipe. Brody baked the cake."

"It was a cake mix I found in the pantry," Brody said.

"Well, it's still very good," Darrell said.

"Mom, why did you and Dad go to work today?" Adam asked. "It was really icy this morning."

"I rode with your dad since he has four-wheel drive," Rita explained. "I had a report to the state due today."

After the roads cleared Kyle and I met with Tommy Jamison about building our house," Haden said. "We finally agreed on the house plans."

"He did do a great job when he remodeled this house," Darrell said. "When will he start?"

"He has two more houses to build and then he can start on ours," Haden said. "He said he'd have it finished by early May."

"Haden are you taking your bedroom furniture?" Adam asked.

"We hadn't planned on it, why?"

"I'd like to have it and put the twin beds in your room," Adam said.

"Sure you can have it," Haden said.

"We'll be paying for your living room furniture and Steve and Linda will buy your bedroom furniture," Rita said.

"Thanks Mom and Dad," Haden said.

"You can eventually buy furniture for the other bedrooms," Darrell added.

"Tommy's quote was less than we expected," Haden said. "We were going to use the extra money to buy furniture."

"Now I want to talk to everyone about something important," Adam said.

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