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Related article: Date: Thu, 6 Jun 2002 00:44:45 -0400 From: Sequoyah Subject: Aaron and Andreas 1 Warning!The usual warning applies: This story contains erotic events involving alternative sexualities. Do not read the contents if such will offend you. If accessing this site causes you to break local laws (village, town, city, county, province, state, or country, etc.), please leave now or accept the consequences, should there be any.By reading or downloading this file you implicitly declare that you accept total responsibility for your actions in regard to material intended for mature, responsible members of society capable of making decisions about the content of documents they wish to read. You are accessing this site of your own free volition. You have been warned! DisclaimerThis is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or Illegal Toplist locales is entirely coincidental. Copyright Notice ReminderThis story is copyright by the author and the author retains all rights. Expressly prohibited is the posting of the story to any sites not approved by the author or charging for the story in any manner. Single copies may be downloaded and printed for personal use provided the story remains unchanged. Author's CommentsThis story is the outgrowth of an event which resulted in a very long story, A Special Place, and its parallel sequels, The Concord Five and The Oberlin Five, although it has no direct connection to those. A Special Place was written at the request of a gay student who said, "Doc, you ought to write a story which includes the things you have told us and we have talked about," us being gay students for whom I was a shoulder to cry on, a counselor and, most importantly, friend. One afternoon, I found myself imagining what might have been the story of that young man's acknowledgement of his sexuality. "Aaron and Andreas" is the result of that imagining. It is in no way the real story of that young man's life. It is pure fiction. It is, however, presented in tribute to him. This is for you, D, with thanks wherever you are. May the gods smile on you.Sequoyah If you liked this story, you might enjoy A Special Place, posted on Nifty-High School and at http://go.to/gaywritersguild. A note is always appreciated: sequoyahcharter.net. Andreas and AaronThe next few weeks were very strange with getting used to a new job and having someone in my apartment. Andreas was certainly no trouble--in fact, he was often a real help. So long as I gave him some indication of what he could prepare for dinner, it was done. He was an excellent cook and very creative. We had picked up the table and chairs from Ralph, but Andreas insisted on removing his work from the table at dinner. I did insist he leave it there when he was doing a project that required a large, multi-colored chart. It took longer to get it out and put it away than he had to work on it.Thursday evening after Andreas had been at my place for three weeks, Jerry called to say he had the weekend off and asked if I was free for that mountain hike I had missed. I told him I was not working weekends--well one every month or so. "I think so. I'm sure Andreas can make it without me.""Bring him along. Susan has been hounding me about her going. With her along, the pace should be slow enough for Andreas.""I'll ask him. I don't want to force him into anything. What's your mom going to say about extra bodies?""She'll probably raise hell because we haven't been up before. Guess we need to take both our vehicles in case either of our significant others needs to come back.""Vehicles? Jerry, you sound like a policeman," I laughed. "And what's this about significant others? You have one, but I don't think I have unless someone is hiding something from me.""Well, maybe someone is. Anyway, how about it? Why don't you bring the city boy along?""I'll give you a call as soon as I talk with Andreas. And, Jerry, I don't mind kidding, but how about no more comments about significant others? It suggests something which is not true and could do great harm, especially to Andreas.""Sorry, Aaron. I know better, but you'll have to admit he is one good-looking dude.""If you say so, Jerry." After I hung up, I thought about what Jerry had said. Joking? I wondered. After all, Ms. Allen had kinda made the same suggestion. I knew I was pretty mixed-up in my Illegal Toplist own mind--or was I just pretending, hiding? From whom? From myself? One thing for damn sure, any suggestion that Andreas was anything other than a young man I was providing with food and shelter would probably cost me my job, any relationship with Andreas, and God only knows what else. Jerry had to know that. And I had better watch my step.Andreas had insisted on doing some laundry Illegal Toplist and I insisted he not lug a huge basket of clothes downstairs and back up. "You have been told about lifting," I reminded him. He was right when he said the clothes weighed less than one of his school books--of course they are massive these days. He came back upstairs with a basket of clean, neatly folded clothes shortly after I had talked to Jerry. When he walked in I asked him, "How'd you like to spend the weekend in the north Georgia mountains?"."The land of 'Deliverance'** and good old-boy rednecks? Think I'll pass on that.""Just prejudice. You racist, Boy?" I asked him in my best bro accent."Yeah, I am very prejudiced about staying in one piece after I've just been put back together."I then told Andreas about Jerry and his family. "Jerry and his family have been a real family to me and I love going to the mountains. Jerry promises easy hiking since his fiancee is going along. It's beautiful this time of year and if anyone tries to get out of line, Mrs. Coghill will handle it." I told Andreas about Edward almost using the "N" word and what happened. Andreas got so tickled he ended up with tears in his eyes. I think more because he had been so on edge emotionally and was not able to start working through the mess he had been in."I guess if Mrs. Coghill is there for protection, this black boy would be safe as Moses in his basket," Andreas laughed. "Sure I'd like to.""You're going to need hiking boots. Your fancy Nikes just won't do." I started to give Andreas money and tell him what brands to look for and to make sure the ones he chose were properly fitted, but there was still time to get the boots. We went to an outfitters and got the boots. Andreas was surprised at the cost. "I thought only Nikes cost an arm and a leg.""The big difference is these, with proper care, will be good years from now." Andreas wore the boots home and I suggested he wear them to school Friday. "Not a real break-in, but enough to show up any problem," I told him."Aaron, I can't just keep taking money off of you. I've got to get a job and help pay my way.""Not a very smart idea, Kiddo. The smart idea is for you to keep up your schoolwork and have a little fun. A job would be too much right now. You are going to have to think long term.""So are you. This can't go on forever.""It won't. You'll be making money this summer and maybe have a job next fall, depending on how college turns out, but don't worry about money right now. You have more important things to worry about." What I didn't tell Andreas was that the boots were the last big purchase he would be making because I had gotten into the maxed-out credit cards trap a year or so ago, and when I got out vowed never to do that again. I still used a card, but it was paid off every month unless I had to make a major purchase, and then it got paid off in two months. If I couldn't pay for it in two months, I went without. Andreas being with me didn't cost a whole lot more but, of course, the utilities and food bills had increased. But he would never know that.I called Jerry and told him we both would be going to the mountains. "Why don't we meet at my place? Even though we're taking your truck and my Jeep, we can go together.""Fine. Think you can be ready by 5:30?""Probably, but why don't we grab a bite to eat and miss some of the rush hour. We'll be going up 575 and you know that's a parking lot until 7:30 or 8:00. We'll get to your place about the same time if we leave Atlanta at 8:00 as if we left at 5:30.""Right as usual, Aaron, me lad," Jerry laughed. "Better yet, why don't I have Susan whip up dinner at your place. She can get off work early with no problem.""YOU have SUSAN fix dinner?" I asked. Jerry was very much a mountain kind of guy and always talked as though he was lord and master of his house. But we all knew he was like his dad had been, very much at the beck and call of his woman--not that either were henpecked, they just knew what they had when they found a good woman. To tell the truth, I was surprised Jerry was dating again because Linda had absolutely been his life. "I'll let Andreas take the Jeep to school tomorrow and he can be back at my place by 4:00-4:30 and help out. He's a great cook. We have everything we need here unless you want steaks.""You know I want steak! I'll pick them up when I get off in the morning and bring them over. Susan can just meet me there." I had forgotten Jerry was still on the night shift."Say, Bro, why don't you get your things together tonight then come here from work? You can get in your beauty sleep and we'll have dinner and then roll.""Sounds good. By the way, have you added Andreas to your vehicle insurance? If not, you best.""I'll take care of it tonight." When I hung up, I looked up the 800 number and called and had Andreas added to my insurance. An eighteen-year-old male cost a bundle, but being an honors student got a big discount for him and the fact that he was the secondary driver helped as well. That finished, I told Andreas the plan. He was hesitant about taking the Jeep, but I assured him it was ok.Friday was uneventful to say the least. In police work, you kinda hope a day is uneventful, but it sure makes it long. At 4:00 Ralph said, "Let's call it a week". We went back to headquarters, turned in our reports and were on our way. Ralph offered to take me home but it was out of his way, so I suggested he just drop me off and I'd take MARTA.Susan and Andreas had reached the apartment and had started fixing supper. "A great Illegal Toplist cook you rounded up here," Susan said as I kissed her on the cheek."Yeah, think I'll keep him." Andreas dried his hands, walked over and gave me a hug, a habit he had started almost by the time he first walked in the door. We had talked about it and he said he had always been starved for affection and now that he had someone who didn't think hugging made you a sissy, he was going to make up for lost time."Jerry still asleep?" I asked."I guess so, neither of us have been in the bedroom to see.""How'd the boots do, Andreas?" I asked. In answer he held out a foot and said they were fine. I hadn't noticed last night, but the kid's feet were huge. "I wonder how many Illegal Toplist cows it took to make those," I joked."No cows, genuine water buffalo," I was told. "Dinner in twenty minutes. Want a beer?""Not just a cook, Susan. He's my houseboy as well.""Watch it with the boy stuff," Andreas said, attempting to appear insulted. "Here's your beer." He handed me a frosty mug which was just what I needed. When I finished my beer, I went into the bedroom and woke Jerry. I hate people who wake up cheerful and Illegal Toplist Jerry was one of those."Think I'll shower and change before dinner," I said."I probably need to do the same. I had a rough night. There was a major free-for-all at the Cheetah Club again. I swear, I think that place should be closed down.""Never happen because it brings in major income for the city from old bald-headed guys, here for conferences, who go there and watch the bouncing titties. Shower first? I can wait.""Go ahead. I need to get awake and I'm not really."After I showered and got dressed, I took down my backpack and put in things for the weekend. When I went back into the living room I asked Andreas if he had packed and he said he didn't know what to pack. "Take your school stuff out of your backpack and throw in socks and underwear for two days, jeans and jacket, shorts and T for hiking, depending on where we hike, and other clothes for around Coghills' place. Have homework you need to do this weekend?""No. Things are sorta winding down. Now that AP exams are over, physics, calculus, English and chem are anticlimactic. We are just passing the time in those. No homework for my photography and PE classes, although I'd like to get some photos this weekend, but I forgot to get a throw-away camera.""Know how to use a good one?" Susan asked."Yeah, sure do. Just never had one to use except at school.""It's not too far out of the way to swing by my place. I have a great camera and all the works which I never use. I got used to using a little point-and-shoot one and since I just do snapshots, that's fine. So my good outfit I got for high school graduation is just gathering dust. You can keep it as long as you like.""Great! Thanks a million!" Andreas said Illegal Toplist as he grabbed Susan and started to swing her around. "I forget," he said, when I started to tell him to watch it. "I'd like to take my sketching things as well. Is that ok?""Sure.""Sounds like an art trip," Jerry said as he walked into the room. "Man, I am starved.""Dinner in a few Illegal Toplist minutes," Susan said as she kissed Jerry."Beer?" Andreas asked and, when Jerry nodded, poured one and handed it to him.Andreas had already set the table and, when the food was ready, he and Susan put it on the table and we sat down. I kinda wondered what Andreas would do about grace since it wasn't something Jerry and I had observed except at his mom's place. As soon as he was seated, Andreas' head went down and Jerry's was right behind his. Susan looked amused for a moment and bowed her head as I did mine. "Good friends, good meat, good God, let's eat. Amen." Andreas said."I'll say amen to all that, Andreas," Jerry said.Susan was having beer with her dinner and Jerry and I had a second one. Andreas had iced tea. The food was absolutely delicious and we enjoyed it tremendously. Jerry and I cleaned up from dinner while Andreas got packed. Since Susan lived only a few blocks away, she ran home and got the camera outfit for Andreas and we were ready to go at seven.We had a great drive to north Georgia after we left the metro Atlanta traffic behind. The night was clear and it didn't get really dark until after 8:00-8:30. There was a full moon so the countryside was bathed in silvery light. When we entered the mountains, Andreas was captivated. I was surprised the only time he had been outside Atlanta was when he was a young kid and spent summers with his grandmother in Macon. She had died when he was nine, so his memories were of over nine years ago. The last few years he had gone to Macon, his grandmother was not up to going fishing with him which he remembered her doing when he was younger.Jerry and Susan were ahead of us and pulled off at a lookout. When the car lights were turned off, our eyes gradually got used to the darkness. Even well into the mountains, the glow of Atlanta's light could be seen on the horizon, but there was no light where we were except the light of the moon and stars. The mountains lay in row after row of peaks to the north, all bathed in the natural light of the sky. No-one spoke for the longest time, then I heard Andreas release his breath. "It is so beautiful," he said. "It takes your breath away." Susan was standing beside Jerry and he had his arm around her. As I stood, gazing across the mountains, I felt Andreas' arm encircling my shoulders and it felt so very right.Once again I wondered about my sexuality. Having been raised very much in the black community, I asked myself, "Aaron, are you a candy-ass nigger?" The answer to that was a definite no, but was I gay? I honestly didn't know and didn't know what would change if I could/would ever answer yes. All I knew at the moment was that Andreas' arm was around me, it felt so very right and I had very strange feelings toward him, feelings which I dare not express and which I better suppress."Beautiful, isn't it? Jerry asked softly. "One day I want to leave Atlanta behind and come back to these mountains and I'd like for it to be before I am old enough to retire.""I don't think I'd like to live here all the time," I said. "As beautiful and peaceful as it is, I am just a real city boy. I need the hustle and bustle of the city to keep my blood flowing, but it sure is nice to be able to get off the fast train now and then. How about you, Susan? Andreas?"Susan was snuggled up against Jerry and was silent for a few minutes and said, "Yeah, I wonder if I could live up here. Not sure I could, but if I did, I'd have to make frequent trips to the city--the way you guys make trips up here, but more often. Maybe I could get used to being here most of the time, but I'm not sure. It's something Jerry and I are working on. I hate to be this way, but it may be the one thing that breaks us up.""Since this is my first time to really be out of the city--I mean really out of any city--I'm just wandering along. It's sure beautiful but I think I, like you, Aaron, need the bright city lights most of the time."We all were silent again when Andreas cried out "WOW!" as he pointed to the sky. I thought at first he was referring to the stars--you never, ever, see stars in the city as you do in the mountains where there is little or no artificial light--but as I was about to comment, I saw the last glimmer of a shooting star."Your first shooting star?" I asked.Andreas nodded. "I read about them, but didn't really believe there was really anything called a shooting star.""Make a wish?""I did remember that much. I sure did," he said as he turned to look at me. I could see his eyes sparkling in the star and moon light and it did things to me."We better get moving as we still have miles to go before we sleep," Jerry said."Robert Frost, American poet," Andreas spoke as if he were on a quiz show."Correct," Susan said. "Poem?""'Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening'," my favorite, I think," Andreas mused. "No, I think 'The Road Not Taken' is my favorite.""You don't sound much like a basketball player," Susan said."Duh... like, you know, duh... what does a... you know, basketball, like player... sound, you know, like?" Andreas said while almost drooling. Susan cracked up and Jerry and I had a good laugh, as did Andreas.When we were back in the Jeep, I said, "You keep surprising me Andreas. I would never have thought you read poetry. I mean other than what you are forced to read.""Actually I got turned on to Frost when I was in the ninth grade. I was assigned to do a report on him and really got into it. Later I read other poets, but Frost remains one of my favorites--but I absolutely get carried away by D. H. Lawrence. I like Langston Hughes among the African-American poets, but not the usual stuff. Come to think of it, how does a cop know poetry?""Kinda the same as you, but later. I did AP English, believe it or not.""Why didn't you go to college, Aaron?""Lack of money--even with scholarships I had to have money for living expenses. And after my girlfriend and mom both did themselves in with crack, I felt that college was a waste of time since I had decided to go into police work. It was not the worst decision I have made, but it was not the best either. I took a few courses after I got out of the academy. I want to do more. I don't know that I want to be a policeman all my life." I soon became involved in my own thoughts and I suspect Andreas did as well. We both fell silent and we rode into the night, I think very much in tune with each other.It was nearly 10:00 when we arrived at the Coghill home place. Mrs. Coghill was waiting for us. She hugged all of us, including Andreas. "Andreas, if you are a friend of Aaron's, you are welcome. He's kinda my darker son," she chuckled. "Leave your stuff," she said. "Come on in. The pie's awaitin'." Mrs. Coghill always had apple pie and ice cream waiting for her returning son and those he dragged in. Tonight the pie was still warm. "Andreas, you still doing ok? Jerry told me you had the stuffing beat out of you and got rescued by old Aaron.""Yes, ma'am. Thanks to Aaron getting all the pieces to Grady in time, I got put back together. Think I'm as good as new.""Good! Well when you have finished with your pie and ice cream, you can get your things and bring them inside. Susan, I don't know your sleeping arrangements in Atlanta, but in my house I insist on a piece of paper before there's any bed sharing. All the boys think I'm old fashion and they are right. Jerry, put her in John's room. Joseph and Edward may be coming in this week-end so, Andreas, if you don't mind sharing with Aaron, you two can take the twins' room. I know they won't be coming in.""Mom, if they object, Illegal Toplist I'm sure Susan and I won't mind sharing the twin's room.""I suspect that's at least true for you, but you know the rules, buddy boy."Since I had been to the Coghill place many times, I knew the house very well. The Coghills, being all guys, shared a large bathroom. I guess Susan would be shown the small bath in what was to have been a guest room until every nook and cranny was occupied by a Coghill son."Mom, I think we better hit the bed. We've all had a full day and I'd like to take a short hike before breakfast.""Are you nuts, Jerry? Hike before breakfast?" Susan asked."You don't have to go. No-one does, but I want to get up to the cliffs overlooking the river for the sunrise. Mom can get you up in time for breakfast when we get back,""Thanks. I like that idea better."After our good nights, we all went to our rooms.Since Andreas moved in, I had been pretty careful to allow him privacy such as when he was getting undressed for bed. We both had been sleeping in boxers although I had slept in my birthday suit before his arrival. A couple times I think he started to get into bed nude and remembered. At least it seemed that way. Tonight we'd share a bathroom with Jerry. "Guess we better just get dressed for bed and then do the bathroom bit," I said as I started getting undressed. When Andreas stripped, I glanced up into a mirror which displayed him in "full frontal nudity". The kid came with a nice set of equipment I thought, and quickly realized what I was doing and blushed. Dressed in boxers, we grabbed our toiletry bags and went to the bathroom. Jerry was already there, brushing his teeth.When he finished he said, "Andreas, I want to watch the sunrise in the morning. The only disadvantage to that is we'll have to leave here about four-thirty, quarter of five. Are you planning on coming, Aaron?""I hate the hour, but you know I'll be there. Andreas, I'll set the clock in time for us to get up and get dressed and you can get up or not as you please.""To be honest, it would be a totally new experience for me. I don't ever remember seeing a sunrise. I think I can crawl out of bed. We'll see."After we got into bed, Andreas was asleep and snoring softly in no time at all. I wasn't. I was really working myself into a mess about my sexuality. My girlfriend and I had sex and it was great. In thinking back, that was what it was, sex. I mean I liked her, but love? To be honest, I hadn't loved her. Before she overdosed, we had stopped having sex. Not by her choice, but by mine. I knew enough about the crack business to know that if she needed to, she'd trade sex for crack and I had seen a high school friend die from AIDS, the result of passing a needle around, and no sex was good enough to make that a good trade.I long ago admitted to myself that LaTonya turned me on a lot more than she thought. Of course, she had hinted that I was gay so I guess she would miss some of the erections she had given me just by being nice. But she had hinted that she thought I was gay. So had Ms. Allen. Even Ralph had kinda questioned me about it. I supposed I should have reacted one way or another to the hints, but I didn't. I guess I didn't because I wasn't sure myself. I do know one thing, when we were at the lookout tonight, I got a raging hardon when Andreas just draped his arm over my shoulder. And a couple times recently when he hugged me, I had a sudden and strong urge to kiss the guy.I guess I needed to talk to someone, maybe the department's shrink, but that might put my job on the line or at least make it tough. I couldn't talk to Andreas. I could, but it wouldn't be fair. He already thought he owed me big time and, since he knew he was gay, he might feel obligated to do something with me. I liked the kid a lot. I loved the kid Illegal Toplist as a big brother should and it better stay that way for his sake. Obviously nothing was going to get settled tonight and I finally drifted off to sleep.When the alarm went off, I was very confused. I wasn't in my own bed and for a moment I didn't know where I was. I was confused for only a moment because Andreas immediately got me squared away when he groaned, "I hope to hell a sunrise is going to be worth it".We went to the bathroom, both sporting piss hards which were impossible to hide. After a piss, we brushed our teeth, washed our faces and went back to the room and got dressed. "I hope your boots are broken in enough. You did wear them to school, right?""I should be earning a commission from all those sold this weekend because of my wearing them," Andreas laughed. Illegal Toplist "They are going to be the latest fad at Lakeshore."Jerry came to our room and said, "Are the sleeping beauties ready for a short walk? I have some coffee in a thermos and some energy bars for when we reach the cliffs."The three of us walked in silence, single file as the path was narrow. Before we reached the cliffs, the roar of the river cascading over a series of falls could be heard. Suddenly the path seemed to widen and Andreas, walking ahead of me, was ready to charge ahead. I reached out and grabbed his jacket and said, "Better slow down, Hoss, or your next step will be into pure mountain air."The path ended abruptly at the edge of the cliff, which was a couple hundred feet above the river. The sky was quite light and the river visible below. "WOW!" Andreas said, just as he had done last night. I remembered the first time Jerry had brought me up here and that had been my reaction as well. Jerry walked out to the edge of the huge shelf overhanging the cliffs. I always got a strange feeling when I walked out to sit beside him. Andreas seemed to have no fear of heights at all as he walked onto the rock and sat down Illegal Toplist between my legs and draped his arms over them, pulling my legs to himself.Jerry opened the thermos, took three cups from his backpack and poured coffee for us. He then handed us a couple energy bars and we sat, silent, drinking our coffee and eating. The sky was gradually growing lighter and suddenly the fingers of dawn shot into the sky, fingers of reds and oranges. Andreas' sudden intake of breath broke the stillness, which before had been broken only by the sound of the river far below.We sat for, I guess, half an hour, all in silence. Finally Jerry said, softly, "I could be here every morning and never tire of the sunrise. Every day it is different."Andreas answered, almost in a whisper, "Thanks, Jerry, it sure was worth the trip. Yeah, I think I could join you." And Andreas was definitely not a morning person.As we walked back to the house, unlike our trip up to the cliffs, we talked. Jerry asked Andreas what he wanted to see while he was in the mountains. Andreas responded he didn't know because he had never been anywhere that wasn't inhabited. "The wildest place I have ever been is the park," he said."And the wildest things there are the people," Jerry laughed, and Andreas joined in his laughter. "Aaron, you have any suggestions for hiking?""Since we will have Susan and Andreas, it needs to be a hike for seeing, not speed hiking.""Yeah. I'll come up with something. Now I am ready for breakfast, one that I don't have to cook.""As I recall, that's the kind you usually have, a Waffle House special," I said and Jerry laughed.We were nearing the house and, like a horse, the closer to home he got, the longer Jerry's strides became and the faster his walk. It was just 6:30 when we got back, ready for a shower and shave.Ms. Coghill was busy cooking when we walked in the kitchen door. "You have thirty minutes," she said as Jerry kissed her on the cheek."Susan up?""Don't think so," she replied. "Morning Aaron, Andreas. Sleep well?""Sure did and I'm starved," Andreas replied."I'll take care of that as soon as you take care of the shower and shave bit."As I said, the boys' bathroom was very large. There were two showers and two basins on either side of the door and two toilets in stalls in a room beyond the bath. Jerry headed straight to the toilet and closing the stall door. Andreas and I shared the remaining toilet for a piss. I know it's kinda hard to believe, but we had never seen each other nude. Well, thanks to a mirror, Illegal Toplist I had seen Andreas last night. Andreas said, without embarrassment, "Both pretty well-hung, I see". I blushed.When Jerry came out of the toilet, I asked him how we should dress. Sometimes when we were getting ready for a hike, Jerry would say, "Better wear jeans," because we would need protection for our legs. At other times it was definitely shorts and T's, especially in the summer. Of course late April was not generally warm in north Georgia, but it seemed unusually warm as we were walking back from the cliffs, especially for early morning."It's going to be a shorts and T's day," he responded. "If you want to make sure, throw a light jacket in your backpack." Jerry was the only one with a backpack for our predawn stroll, but everyone would be carrying one for the day. Each of us would carry food and water--but if Jerry chose the right route, there was a stream from which it was safe to drink, about half-way to where we could eat lunch. Andreas, of course, was packing a camera bag full of goods, so I offered to carry both our part of lunch. He accepted, which was somewhat of a surprise since he usually asserted his independence.Andreas and I got dressed and went to the kitchen. "Need any help?" Andreas asked Mrs. Coghill."Seems Jerry is hiding so you can do his job and set the table. Plates and all up there," she said, pointing to a cabinet with the spatula she had in her hand, "silver in that drawer," she said pointing again. "There'll be six of us. Edward came in last night. Aaron, if you will fill water glasses and get the napkins, we'll be ready when the latecomers arrive."As she spoke, a finer-featured version of Jerry walked into the room, dressed in shorts and a T, barefooted. It was Edward. He, as all the Coghill boys, had their mother's coloring--dark, dark brown eyes, dark complexion, black hair. Some of the boys had curly hair, some straight. Edward was definitely from the curly side of the family. His longish hair framed his face in curls. He had his dad's height and build, over six feet, and had a well-defined body which was lean and clean. Jerry told me when he got to high school some of the bullies took him on, thinking his lack of sheer bulk meant he was a weakling. "They learned otherwise and often had to apologize from the ground, and word got around quickly," he had said."Good to see you, Edward," I said. "This is a stray I picked up off the street," I said, pointing to Andreas. "Andreas Jackson, Edward Coghill." The two shook hands."This is a surprise," Edward said. "Andreas Jackson was just picked up off the street or did you kidnap him so you can get ransom from the NBA?" he laughed. "Saw you in the State All-Star game," Edward said. "You're awesome."Andreas smiled and said, "Thanks."Susan and Jerry finally arrived and we all sat down at the table. "Edward," Mrs. Coghill said, and Edward said grace.The table was loaded with biscuits, hot country sausage, scrambled eggs and fried apples. "Andreas, you need to know the sausage is great, but definitely pepper hot and I don't know whether you have ever had fried apples or not. I hadn't the first time I came, but if you have or haven't you are in for a treat. But even better will be next fall when apples are fresh."We all fell to eating and there was little talk for a few minutes, then everyone kinda slowed down. "Edward, how much longer before you are home for the summer?" Jerry asked."I finish in three weeks. Not sure I will be home though. I'm giving some thought to going to summer school. I want to get more of the hard stuff out of the way before I transfer to Emory next fall. I have already been accepted and, with summer school, I would be an advanced sophomore when I get to Atlanta.""What's your major?" Andreas asked."I'm taking a liberal studies program which is designed as pre-law. I hope to go to Emory School of Law. Where are you headed next year?" Edward asked."Not sure. I have scholarship offers from Tech, Emory and Georgia State. Tech is a basketball scholarship. I guess if I could be sure I'd make the NBA, I'd take it for the money, but sooner or later I'd like to get into medicine and if I got in the NBA, I'd probably be too old to get accepted to med school. I'm still not sure. Then, well, my basketball Illegal Toplist career may be over. Tech expected me to sign with them a month ago, but I couldn't make up my mind. Now, I don't know..." Andreas didn't say why his career may be over and I said nothing."Must be good to have options," Edward said."Need I remind you, you would have had options had you not thought partying was what high school was for," Mrs. Coghill said."Mom," Edward whined."It's true," Jerry said. "But, Mom, he really did a turnaround before his senior year in high school and this year in college, a turnaround that Emory recognized and accepted him. I'm proud of him.""So am I," Mrs. Coghill said. "But he needs to remember why his options were limited.""So what are you up to this weekend, Edward?" Jerry asked."Nothing, I guess. I just wanted to get away before I get in the final exam rat race. Why? You have a suggestion?""We had planned on a hike today but, with you here, we could pack enough stuff for an overnight. Anyone interested?""You mean out in the woods with bears and tigers and stuff?" Andreas asked. I looked at him expecting to see a smile on his face but, when I looked, he wasn't kidding."Yeah, and the guys from 'Deliverance' as well," Edward laughed. Andreas blushed and got a shy grin on his face. "I take it you have spent most of your life in the city.""Yeah, I spent some time in summers with my grandmother in Macon and we went fishing some, but that was practically in the town.""You'll be in less danger from wild animals in the mountains than you are from the wild people in Atlanta.""You expect me to go off into the woods when there are a flush toilet and hot shower here? No, thank you," Susan said."Ah, Susan, you don't want to be a spoilsport," Jerry said."Look, Jerry, I like it here at your mom's place. I'd like to have a get away place here in the mountains. That doesn't mean I'm interested in the outdoors: roughing it, hiking and all that sort of thing. No, thank you!""Ah, Susan," Jerry was sounding like a kid begging a parent."Jerry, you can come back later and you men can camp out. Susan doesn't want to. You brought her up expecting a hike, not a camp-out," Mrs. Coghill chided Jerry."I can go back to Atlanta," Susan offered."Nah, I just thought since Edward was here, it would be a good time. We can come back later," Jerry said, but I had known Jerry long enough and we had been close enough for me to see he wasn't as at ease with the situation. "Edward, want to go along? Easy hike to High Falls, lunch and Eagle's Nest for the sunset.""You're walking back in the dark? That's an adventure if you know the way," Mrs. Coghill said."Nah, I thought Aaron and I could drive up to Eagle's Nest and leave his Jeep and drive back here. Then after the sunset, we could all come back in the Jeep.""Sounds like a winner to me," Edward said. "What are we waiting for?""For you to help Mom clean up after breakfast and get lunch packed while Aaron and I take the Jeep to Eagle's Nest.""Ok, let's get on it, Edward," Andreas said as he got up and started clearing the table."I can clean up," Mrs. Coghill said."No doubt," Andreas said, giving her his brightest, double-dimple smile. "Edward and I probably won't do it as well, but we'll do it.""Then I'll start getting a lunch together," Mrs. Coghill said."Tell me what to do and I'll help," Susan said.Jerry and I drove to a clearing near Eagle's Nest, parked the Jeep and drove back to the house. Jerry was uncharacteristically silent. I started to ask him what was wrong, but decided against it for two reasons. First, I knew what was wrong and second, he knew me well enough to talk to me if he wanted to.When we reached the house, Andreas and Edward were running around like two young puppies at play. It was refreshing to see Andreas so relaxed, not that he had been withdrawn or anything. He had broken down and cried a few times when he was telling me something about his life before and after he had been put on the street, but generally he had seemed ok. Watching him now, I wondered.Susan and Mrs. Coghill had packed a picnic lunch, which had been distributed among backpacks belonging to the males. Susan had a practically empty backpack, I guess just her light jacket and nothing else. Jerry handed her a first aid kit which she placed in her pack and we were off, Jerry and Susan holding hands leading the way, and me bringing up the rear. Andreas and Edward were still acting like young puppies darting off the trail here and there, Andreas with Susan's camera at ready. We hiked Illegal Toplist at a lively clip for a half hour without stopping. When we reached an outcropping overlooking a deep valley, Jerry asked, "Anyone for a break?" and stopped when Susan answered in the affirmative.Jerry and I have been on this trail before and this was a favorite spot of mine. The outcropping extended a couple hundred feet out over nothing, just several hundred feet of clean mountain air. Water bottles came out of backpacks and after we each had downed half a bottle, we all sat down, Susan between Jerry's legs, her arms over his knees as Andreas had sat with me earlier. The two boys sat side-by-side, still and silent for a change.The view from the outcropping was awesome and we were all drinking it in. I thought back to the first time Jerry and I had climbed to this point and how awestruck I had been. It was hard to tell Andreas' reaction as he sat very still, gazing across the valley. After a fifteen-minute or so break, Jerry stood as did the rest of us except Andreas. No-one said anything for a couple minutes then Jerry asked, "Ready to go, Andreas?".Andreas reacted as he would have being awakened from a dream. "Oh, sorry. I could stay here the rest of the day," he replied softly. "It's strange, it's scary, knowing you are hanging in midair, but awesome too. Well, I guess awesome is scary," he said with a kind of puzzled look on his face. He stood slowly and we moved out in silence for a while, then the two boys started running about as before.It had been almost nine when we left the house. Jerry and I would have left after the sunrise and not gone back, but this was something new to Susan and Andreas and to make a hike look like work rather than pleasure could ruin the whole idea for them.After another forty-five minutes or so of hiking we reached another favorite spot of mine. The trail was level for about half a mile with a small stream running beside it when, suddenly, it turned sharply and just ahead was a wall of rock, I guess fifty or sixty feet high. Pouring over the edge was a waterfall, not a large one, but very pretty. Jerry had told me it was called Bridal Veil Falls and it was easy to see why: because the water coming over the end of the cliff looked lacy.There was no basin at the bottom of the falls. Instead the water flowed down through round rocks, reappearing as the small stream some distance from the falls. "Anyone for a drink?" Jerry asked as he held a cup under the edge of the falls. Andreas was first in line and after gulping down a cup full said, "Man, that is cold! I thought about a quick shower, but no thank you! The water is icy, and even though I don't like a hot shower except for relaxing, it isn't warm enough in north Georgia for me to get under that falls!"Everyone drank from the falls and we emptied our water bottles and refilled then with the cold water. "Everyone's feet doing ok? The going is rougher for a mile or so.""Rougher than it has been?" Susan asked. She was sitting on a rock, taking her shoes off."Yeah, we're going to be doing so serious climbing--I mean there is a trail, it's not mountain climbing as you might think about mountain climbing, but the trail is steep. Susan, you are wearing footies? You need socks," Jerry said as he opened his backpack and took out a pair of heavy socks. "Footies don't soak up sweat and you sure don't want wet feet for the next few miles.""Miles? Did you say miles?" Susan asked, as she took off her footies and put on the socks Jerry gave her."Yeah, we've got about a couple miles before we reach the spot for lunch. You doing ok?" Jerry asked Susan as he sat down beside her.She looked at him with a half-hearted smile and said, "Sure. I guess I never thought we'd be walking so far and so fast. But, yeah, I'm ok. Thanks for the socks.""Are we ready to move?" Jerry asked."Let's gooooooo," Edward said and started toward the trail that went up the side of the falls in a kind of natural steps. Being natural, the steps were not even and wound back and forth like switchbacks on a mountain road. As a result, Edward and Andreas, who were ahead, didn't look back at us but down on us. Jerry was walking ahead of Susan and often stopped, turned and extended his hand to help her up when the steps were far apart.It wasn't long before Edward and Andreas were no longer playful puppies, but tired ones. I knew they would run down when they had approached the falls' path as if it was nothing.Jerry and I both stayed in good shape--Jerry had to get on my case after I partnered with Ralph, since Ralph's idea of a heavy workout was hefting a couple large beers, and I just couldn't seem to find the time for a workout on my own. Jerry suggested we work out at the beginning of his shift and end of mine. That was working fine. Andreas asked about joining us, but I wasn't about to let him start a workout before his doctors gave their ok. So far they had nixed the idea.Andreas had asked questions about when he could start exercising and was told he could walk all he wanted to, but no workouts and no running. When he asked the doctors why, they just said they had to be sure all his internal wounds had healed. Andreas hadn't said anything about it to me and I didn't feel I could ask him about the situation. Not because of him, but I was afraid I'd let slip what the doctors had told me. There were very serious doubts about Andreas ever playing basketball again. I didn't understand all the technical jargon, but what it all boiled down to was that while Andreas was lying on the floor being kicked repeatedly by Kumba Richardson, his insides were bruised and organs torn and ruptured. He really was lucky to be alive, especially since he seemed in such good health.It was forty-five minutes after we started up the trail beside the waterfall when we reached the top. All of us were sweaty, breathing hard and ready for a break, even though the distance we had traveled was less than a quarter mile. The top of the cliff was very deceptive since it appeared to be a kind of mountain meadow with a small stream flowing through it. When we reached the top, we all flopped down on the grass and pulled out our water bottles and drank deeply.After a fifteen-minute break, we started the last bit of the hike before we'd eat. The hiking was easy as we walked along the grassy bank of the small stream. Jerry and Susan were again walking side-by-side, holding hands. Susan seemed to be enjoying herself again, but she was definitely an unhappy camper when I reached the top of the falls. Edward and Andreas had recovered and were again running ahead, veering off into the woods at the edge of the grassy stream bank. I was glad I had insisted Andreas buy several rolls of film because he was using it like it was going out of style.We were walking like we were out for an easy stroll, so it took a while to reach the turnoff when we left the stream and walked into the forest. The trail we took wandered through huge old trees, forming a leafy arch over our heads. As we walked, Andreas stopped and waited until I caught up with him. When I did, he wrapped his arm around my waist and motioned for Edward. When he came over, Andreas slipped his arm around Edward's waist and the three of us walked together. "Old friend and new friend," Andreas said. "Thanks, Aaron.""For what?""For everything, but especially for today. It has been wonderful. I never knew the world could be so beautiful, so interesting, so exciting.""Thanks to you for making me see it again, with new eyes.""Yeah, that's what it is," Illegal Toplist Edward said. "I have been wondering what made today different from all the other times I have been hiking here, but that's it! Andreas has made me look, I mean really look. It's almost like I was hiking in a place I had never seen before."The three of us walked arm-in-arm until we reached a glade surrounded by huge old oaks. "Anyone for lunch?" Jerry asked, as he dropped his backpack on the ground."As if you needed to ask," Edward laughed, dropping his backpack.We opened our backpacks and soon had our picnic spread. Along with cold fried chicken, Mrs. Coghill had put potato salad--"I'll put this is Jerry's backpack with two bottles of frozen water so it won't spoil and make you sick"--pork and beans, carrot and celery sticks and fried-apple pies for dessert. She had also included plastic forks and a plastic table cover, which we spread out in a sunny spot near the middle of the glade.When we had finished eating, there was nothing left of the food except chicken bones. Jerry opened his backpack and took out five folded sheets of plastic. "If you're going to take a nap, you might want to put one of these under you to keep you off the damp ground." He took two of the sheets and he and Susan moved across the glade from us--not private, but not right under our noses.I spread my sheet and lay down. When I did, Andreas spread his next to mine, but perpendicular to it. He lay down with his head on my chest. "Hey, I like that idea," Edward said, as he lay down with his head on Andreas' chest. I might have thought something was going on here if I wasn't so tired and sleepy, so instead I drifted off to sleep.I expected us to take a short nap, but I guess no-one was anxious to get moving again, because Jerry shook the three of us awake after an hour's nap. "Aaron, what do you think? We can get to Eagle's Nest either by way of the Alpine Meadows or the Cascades.""You know what my choice would be," I said. "I'd always choose the Cascades but, since Susan is new to this, Alpine Meadows is definitely an easier hike. It would take about the same length of time since Alpine Meadows is easier, but longer.""Or we could split up," Edward said. "I know both routes as well as you do.""Ok, Susan and I will take the Alpine Meadows trail. Aaron?""I said I would choose the Cascades trail but, if you and Susan don't mind, I think I'll tag along with you.""Andreas, the Cascades trail is pretty steep and rugged, but it is beautiful. It is up to you. I'll hike either one," Edward said.Andreas looked at me as if asking for permission. That was something we had to talk about. I certainly didn't want him looking at me as a parent, although I did some of the duties of one I suppose, but I was not his father. "Andreas, the Cascades trail is really beautiful, but is very rugged. You need to decide whether you are up to it or not.""I'm fine," he answered. "You don't mind if I go with Edward?"I started to ask "Why should I?" but thought better of it and just said, "Not at all".We all got our backpacks on, after making sure we had all our trash in them, and started. Shortly after we left the glade, we separated.The Alpine Meadows are a series of mountain meadows rising in what were natural terraces. The slope was gentle, but constant, between Illegal Toplist the stone ledges forming the terraces. Some of the terraces were very steep, essentially straight up, but they were never very long so hiking was generally very easy. A couple times Jerry went on ahead so he could help Susan up a ledge which was very steep and with few footholds, but she seemed to be enjoying the hike, unlike the morning one.About half-way across the meadows was a huge boulder, twenty or thirty feet high at the front and ground level at Illegal Toplist the back. The three of us walked onto it and to the forward edge. The day had been cool and, when we got to the top, there was a gentle breeze which seemed almost cold--since we were all sweating from exertion getting to the top of the boulder. The sun had warmed the rock and it felt soooo good when I lay on my stomach, looking across the valley to rock cliffs on the other side. After lying on my stomach for a while, I turned over and watched the white fluffy clouds moving slowly across the sky. After several minutes I laughed when I realized I was playing a game I had played as a child--imagining the clouds were first one thing and then another."Something funny, Aaron?" Susan asked."Yeah, see that cloud up there? It's Mickey Mouse. See? There's his ears and there is his nose," I said as pointed out parts of a large cloud almost overhead."Look, he's changing into a duck," Susan laughed."You both have lost it. A cloud's a cloud," good-natured and literalist Jerry said."Use your imagination, Jerry," Susan said."I did, and it's still a cloud," he replied.Our talk drifted from one thing to another. Susan asked about Andreas. Jerry told her about his being beaten, but not why. She was very clever at probing for an answer to that question, but I was clever enough to realize what she wanted and not to give it to her. Jerry asked what the latest from the doctors was. "There was good news and bad news," I answered. The good news is that he's doing very well. The bad news is that he probably will never play basketball again and may have to restrict other activities. I don't understand it all, but one of his doctors said, 'Look, his insides took a real beating and think about it as leaving some weak places which could bust loose if he overdoes things'. He seems fine, but I worry. He has an MRI and CAT scan next week and they should give a more definite answer about the future. I don't know how he will take it if he is told no more basketball. He had been told he had a clear path to the NBA, and being told the fame and money are not to be is bound to be a blow. We'll see.""I guess a final decision may come as a blow, but he certainly seemed at ease when he told Edward his career might be over. I think being a doctor is more important to him than fame and money," Susan said."Yeah, and I hope you're right," I replied.Lying on the warm rock made me sleepy, so sleepy I was reluctant to get up and get moving--as were Jerry and Susan--but finally we did. We hiked at a leisurely pace, stopping when something interesting caught our attention. We finally reached Eagle's Nest half an hour or so before sundown. I had expected the two boys to arrive before us since they could move at a good clip without Susan and both were in good shape, so while the trail was strenuous, the distance was much less than the meadows trail and they should have been present, but were not. As time passed, I began to get worried and I could see Jerry was as well, but neither of us said anything--to avoid upsetting Susan.After waiting twenty minutes, and growing increasingly anxious, I said, "I think I'll go down the Cascades trail and see what's holding up the guys.""Sure you know the trail?" Jerry asked."Yeah, no problem.""Got a flashlight?""Yeah. I'll be fine." I started down the trail and as soon as I entered the woods, it became very dark. Even though the sun had not gone down, it was so low on the horizon that the trees blocked its light. I had gone about a hundred yards down the trail when I saw a light ahead. As I drew near it, I could see the two boys, arm-in-arm coming up the trail. I finally acknowledged a feeling, an emotion I had felt several times earlier in the day. I was jealous! "You really have something to deal with, Aaron," I said to myself, "and damn soon".As I drew near the two, I felt relief and shame because they were not walking arm-in-arm. Edward had an arm around Andreas' shoulders, using him as a crutch, favoring his left foot. "What's the problem guys?""I stepped on a loose rock. It rolled and I turned an ankle about three-quarters of a mile back. Man, I couldn't have made it without Andreas.""I got worried," I said, "and decided to see if I could find you. Here, Edward, let me and Andreas pack you to Eagle's Nest. "Andreas and I formed a Illegal Toplist pack saddle with our arms, bent forward and Edward sat down. We lifted him and walked as quickly as possible to where Jerry and Susan were waiting."What happened? Edward have one of his lazy attacks?" Jerry asked."Yeah, I guess he decided there was no way he was going to get away with it otherwise, so he turned an ankle," Andreas answered."How bad is it, Bro?" Jerry asked."Pretty sure it is only a sprain, but it hurts like hell. Got an ace bandage in your backpack?""Sure." Jerry took out the Ace and bound Edward's ankle. "That'll hold you 'til we get home.""We're not going yet are we? Look, the sunset is going to be awesome," Edward said.The sun was almost touching the horizon and it was easy to see a spectacular sunset was already started. "Think you can stand an hour more, Sport?" his brother asked."Sure. Wouldn't miss the show," Edward answered.Jerry took from his backpack the two water bottles which had been frozen, and handed them to Edward. "These will help," he said, as he poured the water and what little ice was left into a plastic bag, making an ice pack.The sunset did not disappoint us and it was quite dark when we started down the path to where the Jeep waited about a quarter-mile away. Edward was clearly in pain, but didn't complain. When we reached the house, Mrs. Coghill had Edward ice his ankle and as soon as that was underway, she started serving Illegal Toplist up a great country supper.After supper, we cleaned up for Mrs. Coghill and were all ready to turn in after a day hiking. I was half-asleep when Andreas said, "Thanks, Aaron. Thanks very much.""For what, Andreas?""For bringing me up here, for letting me get to know your friends, for showing me just how beautiful the world is and can be. For letting me know you are there when I need you. For giving me a day with Edward.""Thank you, Andreas, for making me aware of... I'm not sure of what except of being alive, of seeing and wanting to see, really see... Just thanks, Andreas. Thanks. I guess it was good being with someone your own age. I know you must miss that.""Come off it, Aaron. I'll be nineteen shortly and you are what? 40?""Not quite that ancient. I'm twenty-two.""No! Really? Three whole years older! I was six and you were nine. You were twelve and I was nine. You were sixteen and I was only thirteen. You were..." Andreas couldn't go on because we both were laughing so hard. When he got calmed down he said, "No, it was not about being with someone my own age--he's older too, you know--it was just good to be with someone like myself who is essentially carefree. I mean he has to worry about grades in college, and I do in high school, but that's it. I don't have to worry about anything. Well, Illegal Toplist maybe whether or not I get to play basketball again, but we don't have to worry about things you and Jerry have to worry about--work, getting shot, those kinds of things. Well, I do worry about that sometimes, your getting shot, I mean.""Nothing to worry about, Andreas, I don't plan on getting shot.""You do and I'll kill you," he laughed.Sunday Mrs. Coghill went to church and left the five of us to fend for ourselves, which we did very nicely. She had just walked in when the rest of the Coghill clan came in and all of them pitched in finishing Sunday dinner.After dinner, the grownups gathered on the deck overlooking a stream behind the house where the youngsters were playing. "Andreas, how about joining the kids? This bunch of adults are getting b-o-r boring," Edward said. The two young men were soon in the creek with the kids.It was about 3:30 when we were all packed, said our goodbyes and headed back toward Atlanta. "What a great weekend! It was fantastic," Andreas said. "And now it's back to school.""And next weekend?""It's really late this year, but it's prom weekend.""You going?""I paid my prom dues, but I guess not. I'd have to rent a tux and all that stuff.""Don't have a date?""Nope, I'm gay, remember?""So?""So it wouldn't be fair.""Why not? You take a girl to the prom, you have a good time, you show her a good time. Take her home, give her a goodnight kiss. You don't have to fuck her for heaven's sake.""I don't know. I wouldn't feel right.""Because you are making too big a deal of it. Go stag if you don't want a date. Of course, I suspect there are few women available this late in the game, but a girl who hasn't been asked would tell her grand kids about you. Give it some thought."When we got home we put things away, had leftovers from Sunday dinner Mrs. Coghill sent home with us, and both got a shower and crawled into bed.Sometime in the night I woke to hear soft sobs from Andreas' bed. I got up, walked to his bed and sat on the edge. "Andreas, you awake? Bad dream? What's wrong?"Andreas sat up in bed, wrapped his arms around my neck and really started sobbing. I didn't know what was wrong so I just held him close. When he regained control, he looked up at me and said, "Aaron, he was beating me again"."A bad dream, Andreas, just a bad dream. He will never touch you again. I promise he will never hurt you again." I held him until he relaxed and went to sleep. I eased him into the bed and stood for the longest time looking at him, wondering what I could do to make his life easier, and I did not come up with an answer.Monday Ralph came by for me, and I let Illegal Toplist Andreas drive the Jeep to school since he had an appointment for a follow-up exam at 1:00. I knew he was anxious about it, but he didn't want me to go with him even though I told him I thought I should be there."Man, you sure are uptight today," Ralph said as soon as I was in the car. I didn't even have time to say "good morning"."You got that right.""Today's the big day for Andreas. Surprised you're not with him.""He didn't want me to go with him. I let him take the Jeep. His appointment--I guess that's appointments--start at one.""That what he told you? And you believed him? Man, you have a lot to learn about raising teenagers.""That's another thing he got on me about this weekend. He reminded me I wasn't that much older than he is. He's a teenager for only a bit over a year then he hits the roaring twenties". Time dragged terribly. Ralph and I stopped for lunch at noon and when we got back in the car, we had to do a run out to the airport to pick up a package. It was some special stuff really needed by the lab downtown. The plane was late so it was after two when we got the package, and almost three when we got back downtown. When we got back in the car, he drove as if he knew where he was going. "Where are we headed?" I asked."Where do you suspect? We're headed for Grady." Ralph picked up the car mike and said, "Mattie, Ralph. Aaron and I are headed to Grady to check out something in case you need us." When we reached Grady, there was a police cruiser parked in the tow away zone. Ralph walked up to the car and spoke to the officer in the driver seat. As he walked back to the car, the cruiser left. "You have to have a few years service before Grady provides free parking," he said as he pulled into the space just vacated by the cruiser.When we reached the information desk, Ralph walked up to the elderly pink lady sitting behind the desk and said, "Honey, we're supposed to be accompanying Andreas Jackson who is here for tests. Can you locate him?""It might take a minute. He's not a patient, right?""Right. He's just here for tests."The pink lady dialed a couple of numbers and after the second one said, "He's in the outpatient waiting room. Do you know your way?""Yes, I do. Thank you, Honey.""Laying it on a little thick, ain't you, Dude?""Dude, I learned one way to keep pink ladies and waitresses at Waffle House from calling you Honey is to call them Honey first. Here we are."Andreas was sitting in the waiting room, a notebook on his lap, his head in a book. "How you be doin', Dude," Ralph asked.Andreas looked up and a huge smile spread across his face. "Hey, Old Dude, I knew you'd come. Thanks.""Yeah, Couldn't keep Aaron away. What's 'appin'?""Looks like nothin' 'appin'. Well, actually, they have taken my blood, my piss, and punched and probed. They did an ultrasound and a CAT scan, and I am waiting to have an MRI made and then I can go. It will be a week before I learn anything.""Hurry up and wait... Yeah, I know that routine," Ralph said."Guess you need to be out catching doers of dark deeds," Andreas smiled."Nah, we placed them all on hold while we checked on you."We stayed with Andreas until they came and got him for his MRI. I don't know what took so long, but it was after four when he came back. "I'm done for the day," he announced. "Want a ride, Roomy?" he asked with a great Andreas smile."See you in the morning, partner," Ralph said as we walked out of Grady. Andreas and I walked to the parking lot and picked up the Jeep. He drove.I could tell Andreas was uptight and I wasn't sure if it was because of what he had gone through today, or remembering what had happened, or worry about what might happen. "Worried, Tiger?" I asked."Yeah, a little bit. There seemed to be an awful lot of tests and things today, like they were looking for something and couldn't find it. I don't know whether I have lost something or what.""Know it won't do any good to tell you not to worry. I do. But you're in good hands.""Yeah, I know." As Andreas spoke, the phone rang. He was sitting near it and picked it up. "Aaron's and Andreas' place, this is Andreas... Oh, hello Ms. Helms. How you doin'?... Yeah, I spent the day at your place... No, don't know anything yet... Yeah, the man's here. Aaron, Ms. Helms.""LaTonya, what's 'appin'?""How'd you like to do a repeat of the prom, Aaron?""What do you mean?""Ms. Allen called me today and asked if I could chaperone for the prom. Illegal Toplist I asked if I could bring a date and she asked if DeWayne was in town. I told her no, but I thought I might round up an old prom date. Interested, or do you think it would put a crimp in Andreas' style?""He says he's not going. Got any spare maidens he might escort?""As a matter of fact, I do. My next door neighbor's daughter is in the same fix I was in. She thinks she's engaged to a sailor who is under the ocean somewhere. I'm sure she'd like to go, but thinks most men might get the wrong idea. Probably be an early night for Andreas since she only wants to go to the prom.""Does she bark?" I asked."No, you fool, she's actually very good-looking. Let me talk to Andreas.<
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