The boys all pitched in and it didn't take long to do the cleanup work. Kelly and Ronny helped Ally with stripping all the guest beds and the boys’ beds and getting the laundry going.
I found Kelly later, tucked into the corner of the big sofa with Carter cuddled into him. I took a picture and showed Ally.
"I think Kelly likes being a big brother, Rob," she smiled.
"So what did you think of our clan, Hon?” I asked.
"They're a great bunch, Rob, and I feel welcome amongst them; my ex's family were all so cold but your family and friends are the type of people I grew up with, I've missed that."
"I hope you're ready to do this again at Christmas, I always throw a big party," I advised.
"You bet, as long as it's a family thing like today, kids make Christmas for me. I can't imagine it without children around," Ally responded.
"I will depend on you to help me plan it," I told her.
"I'm in Babe, whatever you need."
"Um Rob…do you plan to adopt Brandon and Kelly?"
"Yes I do, I just have to wait until the review and I'll start the process," I affirmed.
"How do you feel about adopting Carter?"
"I had planned to ask you about that, I would gladly adopt him if you agree, is that what you want?"
Her answer was a deep kiss and a very strong hug with a few tears thrown in for good measure.
"Now, I have question for you, how do we plan the wedding? And when? Do you want a traditional wedding or do you want to ask Pamela to marry us in her chambers?"
"I think a private wedding with Pamela and the witnesses and then a big reception in town. What are your thoughts?" Ally asked.
"I think that's the best solution, do you want to do it sooner or later? We could do it at the first of the year, maybe February. The Bonaventura has a great banquet hall," I suggested.
"Well that was easy, I expected a lengthy discussion but we seem to be on the same page," Ally confirmed.
"Here's a question for you, when do you want to move in?"
"I'll need to think about that, I know Carter doesn't want to go back, but I do have a lease. I don't have a lot to bring with me. Some nice furniture and personal stuff, but most of it will be donated. The other thing is, I will need an office and I don't really want to share yours. Beyond that I guess any time you're ready for us. Carter won't mind. He had nobody his age in the building. At least out here he has room to roam, brothers and a man who cares about him."
"I wouldn't worry about the lease, I know the manager,” I smiled. Besides, we have a waiting list as long as your arm to get in. We can get a moving company to bring everything here and you can sort at your leisure. As for your office, do you want that in the house or maybe a standalone building with an examining room? There is space inside the house for an office. There are at least three unfinished rooms, they have paint and flooring but no finish work. I figured until I had a purpose I could always put beds in them as extra guest rooms."
"I'll have to think about that; I was thinking of a place to do my writing about medicine but I'm not sure I want a private practice. That's definitely going to take some thought.
"I think we'll bring the rest of the clothes and toys up during the week and I'll get a mover to gather the rest. Will you speak with Dave or should I?" Ally inquired.
"I'll have a word with Dave, he can start checking the waiting list to see who is still interested and he can get the contractors ready to refurb the paint and flooring," I assured.
"Sounds good, should we gather the boys and let them in on things?" Ally suggested.
I asked Petes to round up the rest of the boys. He located them all and soon we were explaining our plans. I asked if they had questions and little Carter stuck his hand up like he was in school.
"What's your question, Carter?" I asked.
"I um…it's not fair that Kelly and Brandon can call you Daddy and I can't, do I have to wait until after the wedding? Will it be okay then?"
I reached out and pulled him into a hug, "Carter sweetheart, you can call me Daddy whenever you're ready. Your mommy and I discussed it and I plan to adopt you and we plan to adopt Kelly and Brandon at the same time, what do you think of that?"
Carter couldn't speak, he buried his face in my chest and cried his relief. It had obviously been bothering him for a while. I heard a very faint "I love you Daddy" and I couldn't contain my own tears.
Brandon and Kelly had surged forward and hugged Ally and plenty of happy tears were shed by all. Our little display affected Petes, Randy, Espen and Ronny the same way. We included them in a large group hug and I suggested a dip in the pool.
Once we were out of the pool and lunch had been eaten, I saw it was time to run Ronny home. I needed to repark the Lancia and retrieve the pickup that Dan had chosen to drive back to the airport. So, with Kelly and Ronny in the back and the top down we set out for the restaurant and the airport.
A few blocks short of Jack and Mary's diner a man held up a stop sign and tried to direct us to the small park.
"Aren't you here for the car show?"
"Ah no, we're just out for a drive. Whose car show is it?"
"Kiwanis," he answered. You should enter next year, you don't have to be a Kiwanis member to enter."
I handed him my card and asked him to send me a form and I would try the next one.
We stopped in at the diner and said hello but they were fairly busy. Kelly asked if they needed him to stay and help but it was nearly closing time and it would slow down soon.
We drove on to the airport. Ally asked Kelly if he wanted to ride with her but he told her the Lancia was too cool to pass up.
Ally headed home and I buttoned up the hangar. Kelly buckled in and off we went. Near his new school, he asked if we could stop and talk.
I stopped at the park where we had met Jack and Ronny the first time he stayed with us.
"Dad, do you really want to adopt me?"
"Of course I do, I wouldn't have said it otherwise. What has you worried son?"
"I'm not worried, I just wanted to be sure of where I stood with you. I mean are you doing it because you feel sorry for me?"
"No darlin', I'm doing it because I love you and because you seem to be happy with me as your Dad. The adoption won't change anything but your last name and your rights to my estate. It's only a legal thing but it binds us together as a family. You and Brandon deserve the security that being adopted offers. If you don't want that I won't force it on you."
"I am happy here with you as my dad and even with Ally as my mom. Will she be okay with me calling her Mom? I guess I'm just confused and worried that I'll mess it up or something."
"Kelly, it's not something you can mess up, Ally and I love you. Even if we get mad at you for something, we will still love you. You have a new life to explore, make the most of it and don't look for problems where there aren't any. We can make an appointment for you to speak with Sandy again if you need her help. I know that for years you've been living a precarious existence with Lyle, the bullies at school and all the other stressful things you were dealing with. But that's over now, it's time for you to relax and let me take over worrying for you, deal?"
"Okay Dad, it's a deal. I love you Dad; I still like saying that."
"I like hearing it, I wonder if maybe I should see how Brandon feels about all this, maybe he has some of the same concerns," I speculated.
"We haven't really had time to talk about it much. He's with Espen most of the time but his mom is coming to get him today so maybe after he leaves we can talk about it," Kelly ventured.
"I'll talk with him too and see how he's doing; it's been kind of crazy around here lately but it should calm down for a while now," I added.
"So are you excited about starting a new school?"
"Yeah, but also a little scared. Wade and Ronny both say it's great there but maybe I'm not smart enough or advanced enough to go there."
"That's why they want to have you come in and do placement tests, so they can tailor the curriculum to you and your needs. They'll determine where you're strong and where you're weak. The subjects you have problems with will be presented to you in such a way that you can get a better handle on them and have a chance to excel at them too. We can also set up a tutoring program to help with anything you need. But, let's not worry about that now, instead I think we'll give this old girl a little exercise and run her up the 33 through the canyon. Have you ever had a ride in a convertible on a country road?"
"Only your Landcruiser, but it was fun."
"It's a different experience in a machine like this, you'll be wishing you spoke Italian by the time we're through."
"I know a little, Andiamo veloce!" Kelly yelled.
"That's what she likes to hear buddy," and we were in the wind.
I asked Kelly to text Ally to tell her what we were doing as we bypassed the ranch and eased through Ojai. Soon we were past the high school and in the hills where we were having a really good time. I was right at the speed limit when an eight series Beemer appeared on my rear bumper. He obviously wanted to go much faster than was prudent so he decided to pass me on a double yellow line approaching a curve. Then the idiot brake-checked me to show his displeasure. I noted his plate number and hit the horn. Defying logic he came to a complete stop and jumped from his car, I told Kelly to video the encounter but he had started when the car began tailgating. I pulled my badge and I.D. and stepped out.
He began spouting invective and I warned him to knock it off because of my son. I held up my badge and demanded his driver's license, I seized it and ordered him to pull into the next turnout and I would discuss his actions with him at that point. Fortunately, there were no other cars coming up behind us to run into either car.
I pulled in behind him and got out; I motioned for him to join me.
"Now look here I know the Sheriff of this county; all I have to do is give him a call and you're all done." The man from the BMW was Tom Schraeder, the developer that had connived to shut down Carter's school and ruin the aesthetic of a very nice historically significant area of Ventura. This little incident was not going to help his cause.
I pulled out my phone and dialed the Sheriff.
"Hey Rob, what's up?"
"Hi Bill, sorry to bother you on a Sunday but I have a gentleman here who claims that you will intercede for him, one Thomas Schraeder; are you familiar with the name?"
"Put me on speaker Rob, I want him to know you can hear me!"
"Mr. Schraeder, the Sheriff would like to speak to you," I said cheerfully.
"Schraeder! If you ever mention me as some sort of free pass again, I will have the officer involved put you in cuffs and impound your vehicle, is that clear?"
"Er…um…yes sir, it won't happen again. I apologize for the whole thing," Schraeder wheedled.
"Okay Rob, put me back on regular, please. Shit, you meet somebody at a fundraiser and he thinks he can get away with anything. Thanks though, I can't stand that toad. It was good to yell at someone like that for once," Bill chuckled.
"I appreciate your help, Bill, I guess I'll give him his license and send him on his way."
"Happy to do it, Rob, I'll see you soon, have a great afternoon."
"Okay, Mr. Schraeder, here's your license, you're free to go. By the way, there's a passing lane just a quarter mile ahead, you might bear that in mind."
I watched him stalk off to his car but he pulled away at a sedate pace.
"OMG Rob! What was that guy's problem?" Kelly asked.
"Oh just somebody who thought they were important, he just found out otherwise. May I see the video?"
I watched the video and it showed the car and the driver tailgating while holding a phone in one hand and then passing illegally and recklessly and then the rest of the confrontation. The camera didn't catch what the Sheriff was saying but Shraeder's statements came through loud and clear including his simpering reply to the Sheriff.
I asked Kelly to send it to me and I would forward it to someone who could make use of it.
"Can I put this on YouTube, Rob?"
"Better you didn't, I'll send it to a few people who will send it to someone who has no connection to me or the department; it could end up on Eye Witness News and then you'll get credit for the video."
"Oh okay, I understand, maybe after it's public I can send it to a dashcam channel on YouTube."
"I think that would be okay."
I found a turnoff and got the car pointed back towards town and we were off again.
Kelly looked very happy as we rolled up to the car barn and I was pretty happy too. I jockeyed cars around so I could exercise another one Monday when I was to take Petes and Randy to the train station.
The old ‘52 Dodge Coronet convertible fired up on the first try and sounded great. I dusted her off and headed inside with Kelly.
"How was your little road trip guys? Can I get you something to drink?" Ally grinned.
"Do you have to ask, look at the grin on that boy. We had a pretty good time. I have a bit of news for you when we have time to talk privately."
"Kelly, please call Wade, he called a few minutes ago about going for a ride at the stables," Ally directed.
"Okay Ally, I will."
The next time we saw him he was wearing jeans and boots. He smooched us both and took off for the stables.
I took the opportunity to inform Ally about the encounter with Schraeder. I showed her the video and she laughed her ass off.
"This has to get out; I can put it on Facebook if you like."
"I have to be careful with this or it could look bad for the department. I will share it with a few people who will be strategically indiscrete. Kelly wanted to put it on YouTube but I had to say no for now."
"I understand, but you guys had a good time together, right?"
"Absolutely, he's a little concerned about the adoption thing and what he's allowed to call you. I told him to work that out with you," I informed her.
"I can see he might be a little reluctant to call me Mom since his mother recently died. But we'll work something out," Ally agreed.
"Actually that's not it, he feels like his mother was taken from him years ago. I think he's afraid you might reject the idea of him calling you Mom."
"I'll set him straight while you guys go to the train tomorrow. Oh, you just missed Claire, we talked a while and then she gathered Espen and went home, she was tired from all the hiking."
"Where might I find our oldest boy?"
"I think Brandon is in his room, Peter and Randy are hiking around the property cataloging the plant life. That Randy is very bright and he's a budding botanist, excuse the pun," Ally grinned.
"I need to have a chat with Brandon about some things, just the two of us. Their one on one time has suffered a bit with the recent craziness but I aim to put that right. Um, where's Carter?"
"He's down for a nap; he's been going non-stop since five this morning. He just sort of ran out of gas and slipped off his stool at the counter. Brandon caught him and lugged him upstairs."
"We need to decorate a room for him and find out what kind of bed he wants. Since I presume you're moving in with me, we could put him in the room you guys are in now, what do you think of that?" I asked.
"That sounds great; he's always wanted bunkbeds so that might be nice for him. That way he can have a guest and not kick them to death."
"Restless sleeper? I hadn't noticed."
"It's only when he's on his own, then he thrashes around like a fish fighting a hook."
"Bobby was like that unless you held him; he grew out of it eventually."
That's how Carter is, if you hold him he's fine but on his own he thrashes.
"Hey there he is," I laughed finding Brandon reading my old copy of The Hobbitt.
"Hi Dad, did you guys have a good drive?"
"We sure did, we had a little issue with someone but Kelly will tell you about that when he gets back, he went riding with Wade."
"So how are you digesting the news of our family plans?" I asked.
"I'm good, I love Ally, and Carter too. I like having a little brother. I mean Kelly's younger than me but he's not a little guy like Carter. I love Kelly too, it's just different with someone Carter's age."
"I get that, so how do you want to address Ally?"
"You mean what to call her? Oh. Do you think she'd be mad if I called her Mom? I mean, I miss my mom but she's gone. I think she would want me to be comfortable enough to call someone Mom if I had the chance."
"I think you're right; your Mother would want you to be happy and loved. I know that Ally would welcome you calling her Mom and she loves and respects you. Brandon, you've maintained your humanity through some pretty tough times and that tells me you have character. I couldn't be prouder of you if you were my biological child.
"Thanks Dad, I do have a question though," Brandon hedged.
"Well spill it, I can't answer if I don't know what it is," I laughed.
"You can tell me to mind my own business, but um…are you and Ally going to have any more kids?" Brandon asked.
"Well that's a family thing so it is your business because it affects you. The decision is ultimately Ally's, but we have discussed it and she and I agree that a baby would be welcome here. Do you agree?
"Oh man, that would be so cool to have a baby around. You know I'll help whenever I can. I hoped you would have a kid or kids even. I just think babies are cool."
"Well, they are cool a good portion of the time but then there's the loud and messy part to deal with too. And every child is different. Luke hardly ever cried but Sean screamed quite a bit. You don't know what they'll be like until you meet them."
"Yeah I know, Dad, I've been around them before, I just never got to hold them or feed them."
"I think you'll be a great big brother, Brandon; I see the way you treat Carter and you and Kelly can both teach him how to be a great big brother. I also think you'll be a great father someday."
Brandon hugged me tight but couldn't talk. I understood without words.