“Wake up sleepy head,” Mason said as he crawled on top of me and kissed me.
“What in the hell time is it?” I asked as I was both agitated and confused.
“Five o’clock,” Mason said with more energy and enthusiasm than I deemed necessary.
“Why in the fuck are you waking me this early?”
“Did you forget that we’re leaving for Denver today?”
“How in the hell could I forget since you’ve reminded me every day since we decided to go?” Besides we don’t have to leave in the middle of the night since we’re only driving as far as Wichita today.”
“Quit your bitching and get your ass out of bed. I’ll start breakfast while you shower.”
“It’s too damn early for breakfast. Just make some coffee and we can stop on the way for breakfast.”
By the time I stepped out of the shower Mason was handing me a cup of coffee. It was his tactful way of telling me to drink fast and get on the road. Just as I finished shaving and brushing my teeth Mason was refilling my coffee cup. While I dressed Mason carried our bags out to the car. He then began pushing me out the door when I reminded him that we hadn’t set the security alarm.
While Mason was setting the alarm I quickly got in the driver’s seat because I knew that he would drive way too fast. We arrived in Tulsa just before eight and I exited the freeway when Mason asked, “Why are you exiting here?”
“I’m hungry and I saw a sign for a Denny’s at this exit.”
“It would be faster to go to a McDonalds.”
“Hey, we have plenty of time for a sit down breakfast.”
“Okay, but eat fast.”
“I’m not going to scarf down my food just because you’re anxious to get there.”
“Okay, but I’m driving after we eat.”
“No you’re not. You’ll get a speeding ticket.”
After Breakfast Mason didn’t say anything about driving, but I could tell that he was impatient with the speed that I was driving. “I’m driving a little over the speed limit,” I said. “We’ll have plenty of time there and we’ll arrive safely.”
“I know. I haven’t seen Mark and his family in long time. I know my nephew has grown a lot and I haven’t even seen my niece.”
We arrived in Wichita before noon and decided to drive on to Hays, KS to spend the night. After we stopped for lunch I decided that Mason had calmed down enough to drive. I did remind him that he had to keep his speed down. “I’ll use the cruise control,” he promised.
Mason kept his promise and drove at approximately the same speed I had been driving. As we drove west I was amazed at how far it was between towns and how few houses there were. We would drive for several miles without seeing a house. There were lots of wheat fields and pastures with fat cattle.
“What are you thinking, Babe?” Mason asked when he noticed that I had become quite.
“I was just thinking how lucky we are to live where there are lots of trees. I wouldn’t want to live in an isolated place like this. Although, I suppose people that live here like it or they wouldn’t live here.”
“I wouldn’t either, but I’d be happy anywhere as long as I was with you.”
“Awe, how sweet.”
We arrived in Hays by mid-afternoon and checked into a hotel. After resting for a while we decided to explore the town. We discovered that there was a university located there. However, we didn’t find much to interest us, so we went back to the hotel for a swim before dinner.
We had dinner at an Applebee’s then went back to the hotel and made love before going to sleep. I kissed Mason goodnight and said, “If you wake me up before seven in the morning I’m going to kick your ass.”
Mason laughed and then kissed me back. “Okay, I’ll wake you up at 7:01.”
I woke up a little past seven and saw Mason dressed and sitting in chair smiling at me. “Good morning sleep head. I made us some coffee. I wonder why they have such small coffee makers and just one package of coffee.”
After having breakfast we filled the gas tank before heading west on I-70. The drive from Hays through western Kansas and eastern Colorado was even more isolated. As we were near Denver we could see the mountains in the distance. Mason seemed to know where he was and drove into a nice residential area. “It’s early afternoon, will there be anybody home?”
“Ashley will be home, and Mark said that he would try to leave work early.”
“I never asked, but what type of work does Mark do?”
“He’s an attorney.”
“Why didn’t he go into practice with Steve rather than come here to Denver.”
“Ashley is from Denver. They met in college and after they got married he agreed to live here in Denver.”
Mason pulled into a driveway of a very nice house and said, “This is it.”
For the first time I became nervous about meeting Mark and his family. Mason must have seen this and said, “They won’t bite, I promise.”
I gave a nervous laugh as Mason rang the doorbell. A very pretty young woman answers the door and immediately said, “Mason! It’s so good to see you, and this must be Jeff.” She gave us both a hug and then said, “Come on in. I just put Emma down for a nap and Logan is watching cartoons.”
“Logan, look who’s here,” Ashley said when we entered the den.
A cute little boy that looked a lot like Mason did in his pictures at that age looked up and said, ”Hi.” It was obvious that hadn’t seen his Uncle Mason in a while.
“It’s your Uncle Mason and Uncle Jeff,” Ashley said. “Do you remember your Uncle Mason?”
“Noooo,” he said.
Before Mark arrived home from work Mason and Logan had renewed their acquaintances and Logan was always within two feet of his uncle. He even warmed up to me and was also calling me uncle.
Mark was a handsome older version of Mason. He, the same as Ashley, made me feel welcome. We chatted until dinner time about our plans for college and was pleased learn that I as planning a career in law. He seemed accepting of Mason’s decision to go in a different direction.
Mark and Ashley suggested that we take a day trip to Vail. Ashley arranged for her parents to babysit Logan and Emma for the day. Vail was a beautiful mountain ski town. However, since it was summer we went to enjoy the mountains. There still was plenty to do and see, even in the off season.
The week went by very quickly and Mason and I wished we had planned a little more time. After saying our goodbyes, we headed east on I-70. Mason and I were quite during the first couple of hours of our drive, each in our own thoughts. “You know that you have a wonderful family,” I said as we cruised down the interstate.
“We have a wonderful family,” Mason corrected me.
“Yes, we do,” I agreed. “That includes Grandpa too.”
After having lunch in Hays we continued our journey toward home. We had driven a short time when Mason turned off the interstate into a rest area and said, “Damn, I have to piss. I knew I shouldn’t have drunk all that tea.”
I finished my business sooner than Mason and walked outside the restroom toward the car. I saw a young boy who appeared to be about fourteen or fifteen sitting on a bench with an overstuffed backpack at his side. He was staring off into the distance, and I noticed tears streaming down his face.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he replied.
Meanwhile Mason had finished in the restroom and stood beside me. “Do you need a ride or anything?” Mason asked.
“Yeah, I could use a ride,” the kid said.
“Where are you headed?” I asked.
“Atlanta,” he said.
“We’re going as far as Arkansas,” Mason said. “Grab your backpack and hop in. I’m Mason and this is Jeff. What is your name?”
“Jacob,” he said. “But, my friends call me Jake.”
“Jake, have you had anything to eat?” I asked.
“I’m okay,” he said.
“There is some peanut butter crackers in that bag there, and there are some cold sodas in the ice chest,” I said. Help yourself to them and we’ll stop late and get you a real meal.”
“Thanks, but I’ll manage,” he said.
I knew that he was going to be a tough one to get anything out of and said, “At least eat some of those crackers.” He his hunger soon surpassed his independence and he began devouring the crackers.
“How did you manage to get stranded out here in the middle of nowhere?” Mason asked.
“I caught a ride with a truck driver and he kicked me out when I wouldn’t let him fuck me,” he said with no visible emotion.
“Jake, how old are you?” I asked.
“Eighteen,” he answered.
“Yeah, I said I was eighteen too when I ran away from home too,” I said.
“You ran away from home too?” “He asked.
“When I was about your age,” I said.
“Why did you run away?” Jake asked.
“I got tired of my parents beating the shit out of me,” I said. “Why are you running away?”
“Pretty much the same reason you did,” he said.
“Why did you choose Atlanta as a place to go?” Mason asked.
“My friend, Chance, lives there,” Jake said.
I then suspected that Jake might be gay, but I didn’t press the issue. “Are you sure that Chance and his family will take you in?”
“I think so,” he said. “If they won’t, Chance and I will manage.”
“You’re welcome to stay with us until you know for sure,” I said.
“With you two?” He asked. “Are you two a couple?”
“Yeah, we are,” Mason said. “Are you gay?”
“It’s none of your damn business,” Jake said.”
“You’re right,” Mason said. “But, you asked us first.”
“Yeah, okay I’m gay,” Jake said. “That’s why my old man beat the crap out of me and kicked me out.”
We decided to stop and spend the night in Salina, Kansas. When we stopped at the hotel Jake got out of the car and said, “Thanks for the ride.”
“We’re only stopping for the night,” Mason said. “You can ride with us to Arkansas tomorrow.”
“Thank you,” Jake said. “But, I don’t have enough money for a room.”
“Jake, we’ll get you a room,” I said.
“And then you’ll try to fuck me like that truck driver did?” Jake asked.
“Listen to me Jake, I know what you’re going through,” I said. “I was lucky when I ran away and met a man who asked nothing of me. He sort of became my foster grandfather. I now think of him as my grandpa. I made a commitment to help anyone that I could. Please let us help you.”
“Okay,” he reluctantly agreed. “Someday I’ll pay you back.”
“No, someday when someone needs your help you should help them and ask only that they help another when they can.”
We got Jake a room next to ours and told him we would go to dinner in about an hour. “I’ll just eat some more of those crackers,” he said.
“No you won’t,” Mason said. “We’re going to get you a decent meal.”
It was apparent that Jake hadn’t eaten a good meal in a while. We had selected a Chinese buffet so Jake could eat all he wanted and not have to worry about ordering light.
The next morning I wasn’t sure if I would find Jake in his room or not. However, when I knocked on his door to wake him, he had already showered and dressed. He grabbed his backpack off of the bed and seemed anxious to get on the road. We had our breakfast and were soon on the road home.
Mason and I had discussed how we would try to convince Jake to stay with us at least until he could confirm that he was welcome to stay with Chance and his family.
After about six hours we arrived in Fayetteville and we managed to talk Jake into spending the night with us before going on to Atlanta. Mason and I had decided to talk to Jake after dinner about staying with us.
“Jake, will you reconsider and stay with us for a while? Then you can call and make sure you’re welcome to stay with Chance? Mason asked.
“You don’t understand,” Jake said. “Chance is my boyfriend and I love him. I have to see him.”
“We’re not asking you to not ever see him again,” I said. “Just make sure you have a safe place to go to.”
“How old are you really?” Mason asked.
“I’m fifteen,” he admitted.
“Fifteen is pretty young to be going off to Atlanta on your own,” I said.
“You said you were sixteen when you were on your own,” Jake argued.
“You’re correct,” I said. “I was lucky that I found a place and I had some money when I got here. How much money do you have?”
“About fifteen dollars,” he admitted.
“I had $2500 that I had saved when I ran away,” I said. “It wasn’t easy, but I managed. Did you see that travel trailer parked out there?”
“Yes, what about it?” He asked.
“I paid $1200 for it, and it was my home for two years,” I said. “Why don’t you reconsider and stay here? If you don’t want to be in the house with Mason and me you can live in the travel trailer.”
“No, I have to see Chance,” he said with determination.
“We can’t let you hitchhike there,” Mason said. “We’ll put you on a bus if you’re that determined. We would drive you there, but we start college classes Monday.”
“I guess that would be okay,” Jake said.
“I’ll call and get the scheduled,” Mason said.
I tried one more time to talk Jake out of going to Atlanta while Mason called for the bus schedule, but his mind was made up.
“The next bus to Atlanta leaves at 1:35 tomorrow afternoon,” Mason said.
“That long?” Jake asked with disappointment.
“It would still be faster than hitchhiking, and much safer,” I said.
“I guess you’re right,” Jake agreed.
Jake opened up and told us a little more about his situation. His mother had left his father when he was about six. He never saw her again. His father remarried a year later, and he never got along with his stepmother or her daughter. His father always took his wife’s side of the argument. His stepmother found a letter that Chance had written him that indicated that they were both gay. She gave the letter to Jake’s dad and he went off the deep end and kicked Jake out after beating him up.
Jake and Chance had been friends since seventh grade, but Chance’s family had moved to Atlanta in May. They exchanged letters often since Jake’s dad would let him call.
We sadly drove Jake to the bus station and bought him a ticket. I gave him $100 in $20 bills. “Hide part of this in your shoes in case someone tries to rob you,” I said. “Here are our phone numbers in case things don’t work out. You’ll always be welcome here.”
“Thank you for all you’ve done for me,” Jake said as he hugged me and then Mason.
My heart broke as I saw him get on the bus. I wondered if I would ever see him again. Would he be lucky as I had been? Would Chance’s family accept him?
I couldn’t hold the tears back as the bus departed the bus station. “We’ve done everything short of tying him up and keeping him here,” Mason said.
“I know,” I said. “I pray that he will be safe.”
I hardly slept that night worrying about Jake. I finally got up and made a pot of coffee at about 4:00 am. At about 4:30 Mason joined me and asked, “You couldn’t sleep either, could you?”
“No, I know he is still on the bus on his way there,” I said. “I’m sure he is okay now, but what will happen when he gets there?”
“He promised he would call,” Mason said.
“We’ll go get enrolled in our classes and then come back home and hope he calls,” I said.
Mason and I went to the university to enroll as sophomores. We both had taken college level classes while in high school and had enough hours to be sophomores. After enrolling we met for lunch before going back home and wait for the call neither of us really expected.
The first thing I did when we arrived home was to check the answering machine for a message from Jake. I really wasn’t surprised that there wasn’t one. I got busy cleaning the house, and Mason joined me. We both knew we were just keeping busy to keep our minds off of Jake.
The phone rang while I was dusting; Mason and I hesitated a moment while hoping the call was from Jake. “Hello,” I said when I picked up the phone.”
“Jeff, this is Jake,” he said. His voice sounded shaky.
“Jake, I’m glad you called we were worried about you,” I said. “Are you alright?”
“Not really,” he said, and then he began to cry.
“Jake, tell me, what’s wrong?” I asked.
“What’s happened to him?” Mason asked with concern.
“Jake, tell me what happened?” I asked again. “Are you alright?”
“Chance has another boyfriend,” he said and began to cry again.
“Come back to Arkansas and live with us,” I said. “Do you have enough money for a bus ticket back?
“No, I was robbed,” he said.
“Oh my God, were you hurt?” I asked.
“What happened?” Mason asked.
“I’m trying to find out,” I said. “Pick up the other phone.”
“They took my backpack and all the money I had in my pockets, but I had twenty dollars in each shoe.” He said. “I was trying to find my way to the bus station.”
“Where are you now?” Mason asked from the other phone.
“I’m at a mall,” Jake said.
“What’s the name of the mall?” I asked.
“Lenox Square,” Jake said.
“Talk to Mason for a minute and let me make a quick phone call,” I said. I used my cell phone and made a call to Roy. When Roy answered I said, “Roy, I need your help.”
“Sure, what can I do for you?” Roy asked.
I quickly explained the situation with Jake and asked him if he would fly us down to Atlanta.
“Of course I will,” Roy said. “Pack a bag and meet us at the airport in about thirty minutes. We’ll spend the night in Atlanta and fly back tomorrow. Tell Jake we’ll be there in about three to three and a half hours.”
I picked up the phone and said, “Jake, we have a friend who owns an airplane and he is flying us down there to pick you up. It will take about three to three and a half hours. Get yourself something to eat and maybe go to a movie and then in about three hours from now go to food court and wait there for us. You have my cell phone number, if you need anything before we get there be sure and call me.”
“Thank you Mason and Jeff,” Jake said. “I’ll be waiting for you.”
Roy had refueled the airplane and was doing a safety check when we arrived. “Climb aboard,” Roy said. “We’ll be ready to lift off in about ten minutes.”
On the flight down Mason and I filled Roy and Barry in on all we knew about Jake. “He sounds like a good kid that got bad breaks,” Barry said. “Roy lets adopt or foster Jake if he is willing.”
“I think that would be great,” Roy said. “But, the decision has to be Jake’s.
“If he doesn’t want to live with you, he will be welcome to live with Jeff and me,” Mason said.
“Since his dad kicked him out he would likely give up all parental rights,” Roy said. “Legally, that would make matters much easier. It would be less complicated for one of us to become a parent or guardian of him than one of you. You are only three years older than he is.”
“I’ll explain that to him and maybe he won’t feel as though we don’t want him,” I said.
Once we arrived in Atlanta we rented a car and got directions to the mall. It of course was on Peachtree Road. I wondered how anybody found a location in Atlanta since there were so many streets, lanes, avenues, and such with the name Peachtree. However the agent’s directions were good and we found the mall with no trouble.
Jake was sitting in the food court drinking a coke when we arrived. When he saw us he ran and hugged Mason and me. After introducing Jake to Roy and Barry, we agreed to have dinner in the mall since we hadn’t had a chance to eat. I also felt that would give Jake a chance to get to know Roy and Barry.
During dinner I brought up the subject of Roy and Barry becoming Jake’s foster parents. After Roy explained the legalities of it all, Jake seemed to like the idea. “Could I still be like brothers to you and Mason?” He asked.
“Of course you could,” Mason said. “You would always be welcome. Maybe come out and spend some weekends with us.”
“I had one worthless dad, and now maybe I’ll be lucky and have two good ones,” Jake laughed.
“I understand that your backpack with your clothes in it was taken,” Barry said. “Let’s go to a clothing store while we are here in the mall and get you a few things. We’ll buy what you need for school when we get back to Fayetteville.”
After making the purchases we went to find a hotel. It was decided that we would get a suite with two bedrooms with a hide-a-bed for Jake. I intended to pay for the suite, but Roy insisted that they pay since they came down to Atlanta to pick up their son. We finally agreed to split the cost of the room. “But, the flight down here is on me,” Roy insisted.
“On us,” Barry corrected him.
The next day Roy contacted Jake’s dad to arrange for Barry to have legal custody of Jake. At first his dad refused. Roy explained to him that he had won a similar case in Chicago and the young man ended up with his parent’s property. Jake’s dad quickly changed his mind and agreed to sign the legal documents. By the end of the week Barry had legal custody of Jake. Roy believed it was faster to have Barry become the legal guardian and he act as Jake’s attorney. Needless to say Jake and the rest of the family was very happy.
Jake became a younger brother to Mason and me. He would often spend the weekend with us, but he was very happy being Roy and Barry’s son. Roy filed paperwork for Barry to legally adopt Jake.
School was going great for Mason and me, and the Christmas break arrived almost before I expected it. Mason had finished his last final examination and I had one more in the afternoon. When I finished my exam I drove home and Mason met me at the door with a big kiss. “I found them,” he said.
“Found who?” I asked.
“Your family in Tennessee,” he said. “Your grandma lives in Memphis.”
At first I was shocked and then yelled, “God damn you, you had no right to do that.”
I then stormed out the door leaving him standing in shock.