Mending Wounded Hearts

Chapter Twelve ***Thunder and comfort

"This probably will sound really lame because you’ve only known me for like, nine hours or so, but I don’t want to be alone. It’s a nice room, but I’ve been alone for so long I can’t face going in there by myself after this evening. Could I sleep in your room?" Brandon asked.

It took immense courage for him to ask and I told him it would be fine. I warned him that I tended to sleep nude and he stated that he used to and would like to get back in the habit. He claimed his dreams were better that way. 

I made sure Aahz had plenty of kibble and milk and headed up to bed with Brandon in tow. I watched about fifteen minutes of news and the cable went out. It usually does during severe storms. I expected the power to go next, but it never did. 

Brandon asked if we could talk for a while and I agreed.

"Rob, are you like, um, rich? He asked sheepishly. It struck me funny because it was more tentative than when he asked me if I was gay.

"I believe wealthy is a more appropriate label. I can’t buy the Lakers or anything like that but I’m probably worth a few million." I told him.

"How did you get it? Or make it? He asked.

"It’s kind of boring but here goes. When I was in college getting my engineering degrees, I worked for a summer at a place that made stuff for the military. They had a very complex and expensive method of doing this one job. It’s all classified technology so I can’t really say what. I thought about their methodology and refined the process and took several expensive labor-intensive steps out of the process.” 

“I was going to go back and show them, but an advisor told me I should apply for a patent on the process before I showed it to potential clients. He speculated that it might pay for my student loans, which appealed to me greatly. The military stepped in and classified my work. but I was granted several blind or classified patents for the different phases of production.”

“The Department of Defense is the only license holder and they have paid a lot of money to keep it that way. They have the right to have a manufacturer use the process to make their stuff, but if it gets out somebody’s ass will end up in Guantanamo. Patenting a process is always more profitable than patenting a device. Devices become obsolete but processes can be refined and I’ve renewed patents on that basis. If I think of a new wrinkle that saves a step or improves the end product and bingo I get a new patent. And, they’ll never reach public domain. That’s about all I can say about how I got my money. But I did some shrewd investing and got incredibly lucky with "Apple" and "Microsoft" and a few others.” 

“It’s how I use it that brings me joy. I fund a lot of projects for people locally and all over the country. Scholarships, land conservancies, historic buildings and architecture, music and fine arts, but especially music. I’ve helped a lot of guys with good ideas go into business. Money is not something you just sit on or use to amuse yourself. It has to get out and work. My dad taught me that when I was a kid. We weren’t rich but we were well off and Dad helped people get things done in the community. He did a lot more than any politician and never held public office."

"Wow, your right, it is boring," Brandon groaned playfully. Then he grinned at me, "You know that is the coolest way to handle money I ever heard of. Is that what Bill Gates does?" he asked.

"Yes, but he does it on a much larger scale, and with more publicity."

Several loud cracks of thunder, coupled with some very bright flashes signaled the arrival of the main storm.

I looked over at Brandon and he looked terrified.

"Are you okay, Son?" I asked.

"No, not really, storms never used to bother me until I spent a night under a bridge in one. The water kept rising and the lightning kept hitting the bridge rail and lampposts and I had a lot of company from raccoons and foxes and rats. I didn’t get any sleep and I thought I was going to be killed any minute. I was so scared I messed my pants. When it stopped, the water was only a foot lower than my feet. I stripped and washed my lower half in that filthy water and while I was doing that, a couple boys came under the bridge and saw me. But instead of doing anything mean one of them opened his gym bag and gave me a towel and some clean shorts and told me he had spares in case he ripped them or peed himself on a long run. They were tight but they were so warm. I told him thanks and I owed him and he told me to help the next guy, and then they went on about their business. I never saw them again."

"Well, I can understand that pretty well, kind of a nice thing to do wasn’t it. Did it do anything to make you feel better about people in general?" I asked.

"A little, and later I ran into a kid who had lost all his stuff to older guys and he got raped in the process. So, I gave him my extra jeans and jacket. He was at a rest stop in shorts and a tank top. He offered to blow me, but I told him no. I told him we could keep each other warm though, so we found the picnic table furthest from the road and wrapped up in my bedding. It was kind of nice to cuddle up with another human for a night. In the morning, he begged a ride from a trucker and asked if there was anything he could do for me. I told him what the kid told me. Just help someone else when you can. He gave me a hug and got into the truck. I hope he was okay after that," he sighed.

He was weeping at this point and I reached out, he rolled into me, held onto my neck, and wept, whimpering when lightning and thunder flashed and crashed around us. A knock sounded on my door and I called out "come in." It was Kelly; he was frightened out of his wits. I lifted the covers and the boy dove in and latched on to my other side.

This was actually a problem for me. One of the reasons I sleep nude is that I tend to overheat and being sandwiched between two very warm boys made it pretty difficult to sleep. Once the storm let up a bit, I hoisted Kelly up and over me and let him cuddle up to Brandon while I hit the toilet. I checked on Wade who was oblivious to the storm and then read in my study until I felt tired and cool enough to get some sleep. When I returned to bed, Kelly was backed up to Brandon’s chest and Brandon’s arms were wrapped around Kelly, while Kelly’s arms were crossed over Brandon’s. Both boys looked peaceful and I tried not to disturb them as I climbed into bed.

When I woke, the two boys were sound asleep and still in the same position.

I dressed in a T-shirt and shorts, having learned a long time ago that one does not fry bacon naked. I greeted the dogs, turned them loose outside, and prepared their morning meal. Aahz made his appearance and demanded both petting and feeding. Once those animals had been seen to, it was time to feed the two-legged ones still asleep upstairs. I had put out some dough to rise before going to bed so I rolled it out, made cinnamon rolls, and stuck them in the oven. I fried some bacon and potatoes and mixed up some scrambled eggs. 

Wade padded into the kitchen and asked about the other two boys. I asked Wade to watch the potatoes and I went to rouse them. I had to resort to toe pulling to get a response. The boys were in the same position I had left them. A few sheepish looks later, all concerned were assembled around the kitchen island enjoying the breakfast. Wade gave everyone a hug and kisses and lit out for home with the dogs on his heels. My phone chirped and Jack had sent a message asking about a meeting place. I suggested the park and he agreed. I saddled up the old FJ Land Cruiser and off we went to collect Ronny. The utility crews were hard at work but the weather was beautiful. Sunny skies and warm temperatures made the old topless Toyota a good choice for the jaunt. 

When we pulled into the parking area, Jack and Ronny were just behind us in his old battered CJ-3. Ronny was on the ground running before Jack even got the Jeep fully stopped. The boys hugged and jumped around while Brandon and I walked over to talk to Jack.

I introduced Brandon and explained he was staying with me but not why. Jack indicated that Mary was keen to get started on their excursion, so I didn’t hold him up. He called Ronny over, they exchanged hugs and kisses, and Jack hopped into his Jeep and bombed out of the parking lot.

Brandon grinned at me knowingly and I took the opportunity to introduce him and Ronny.

We loaded up and drove back to my place. When we arrived, I asked Kelly what they would like to do first. I suggested a tour of the place on one of the quads and then maybe a swim. That was all it took, once Ronny’s gear was stowed, both boys bounded down the stairs in shorts and sneakers with no shirts. I reminded them about wearing the helmets and cleaning them once they were done. They charged out the door with the dogs in lukewarm pursuit. When I turned around, I found Brandon unloading the dishwasher. 

"You needn’t put yourself out; I had planned on doing that in a few minutes," I told him.

"It’s okay, I kind of like being in the kitchen, I have a lot of great memories with my mom in our old kitchen; you know, baking and learning how to cook things. And canning season was always a lot of fun with her. She could have taken her degrees and left the farm, but she loved it there." Brandon spoke wistfully, a dreamy look settled on his face and I could tell he was missing her.

"My dad was the cook in our family. He did most of the meals when he was home. Mom could cook but Dad was a chef. Stuff like Beef Wellington and Duck à l’orange and that sort of thing. And his Napoleons were fantastic. His crème brulee was very good also. I was thinking of making some this afternoon for tonight’s dessert." I mused.

"Can I help?" Brandon asked with a hopeful expression.

"I don’t see why not." 

"Rob, can I talk to you about something?" He queried.

"Sure Brandon, what’s up?" 

"It’s about last night; I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable, I’m really sorry." 

"But you didn’t, I just got a little too warm with the two of you up against me. You guys put out a lot of heat, I was roasting. I enjoyed cuddling you though and I hope it gave you some comfort."

"I thought I did something wrong; you were just hot?"

"Yup, I cooled off and read for a while and came back to bed and you were wrapped around Kelly so I didn’t want to disturb you. Trust me, if you do something that makes me uncomfortable, I’ll let you know."

Brandon took two steps and put his arms around my waist. I hugged his shoulders and rubbed his back.

"Brandon, I think part of the problem you’re having is that you’ve suppressed your emotions for so long now you’re afraid to let them out. But I want you to feel free to talk about whatever is bugging you, and trust me when I say I’ve heard a lot of weird stuff; I don’t think you’ll shock me. And if you do, I’m a big boy, I can deal with it. If you want we can get you a professional to talk to. I’m pretty sure Kelly will be needing one after what his life has been," I shared.

"Do you think you can rescue him from that situation?" 

"I’m sure going to try. I’ve set up a safe place for him to go and got him a new phone that he can hide from Lyle. I’m working on getting Lyle somewhere else to live for a few years. My lawyer is talking to a sympathetic judge about him being an at risk child in the meantime. If I can get Lyle out of the picture, we can try to get his mother into treatment. If she won’t go and I can get the judge to grant custody, he’ll stay here with me. At least that’s the plan so far. I just need to keep him safe before Lyle gets the idea to sell him or rent him out."

"Is it weird that I’ve gotten so attached to him already, it’s like we’re brothers or something and I hardly know him." Brandon asked.

"I don’t think so, he’s such a nice person considering what he has to live with, he’s pretty easy to love and so are you." I kissed Brandon on the top of his head. 

At that moment, two boys and two dogs charged through the door.

In the quiet environment of our little ranch, I watched Kelly and Ronny rekindle their friendship and love for each other. The boys swam together and Wade returned and joined in and also kept Brandon company when the other boys were off by themselves.