But that’s not what he finds when he looks outside.
I was the first to wake and get ready for the day on Saturday. Adam got into the bathroom first to quickly wash then brush his teeth. When he finished, I heard him knock on the guest bedroom door and let Eric and John know that the bathroom was available.
I was thinking about what to fix for breakfast when Adam joined me in the kitchen.
“What would you like for breakfast?” I asked.
“I don’t know. If we’re going to have lunch around noon, maybe we should have cereal and a bagel, something like that.”
“Okay. We have blueberries for the cereal, bananas for anyone who’d prefer them. We have sesame seed and asiago cheese bagels. You think that’ll be enough for Eric and John?”
“Sure. We had a huge Chinese dinner last night and ice cream after, so we don’t need a huge breakfast.”
“Okay, let’s do that.” I got the blueberries out of the refrigerator, poured about half the package into a sieve, and then rinsed them under cold running water. Adam set the table and got the boxes of cereal out of the cupboard. While the blueberries drained, I got the bagels and cut each into two halves. Adam got the butter and peanut butter out of the refrigerator. He winked at me, then said, “I’ll get the milk out when the lover boys are here.”
“I am here, and I heard that!” Eric said.
Adam turned and said, “Oh, Eric! I didn’t know you were up already.” He couldn’t keep from laughing.
“Yeah, I’ll bet,” Eric growled. “I’ll bet you’re ticklish, aren’t you!” He ran up to Adam and ended up on the floor with Adam sitting across his hips and straddling his arms with his legs. All Eric could say was, “Oof!”
“You forgot that I’m on the varsity wrestling team, didn’t you. I’m a lot stronger and more agile than I look!”
“Whoa! I’ll agree with that. Please let me up.”
“Okay, just as long as you drop the tickling threat.”
“I will. No tickling.”
Adam got up and put his arms out to help Eric get up. As soon as Adam had Eric’s hands, in a single motion he stepped back and pulled Eric off the floor to a standing position.
“You are strong! You got me up, and you didn’t have any problem doing it. I’m seventeen and weigh a hundred and sixty pounds. You’re fourteen?”
“What do you weigh?”
“A hundred and fifteen pounds.”
“I need to start doing some exercises to build up my muscles,” Eric said, shaking his head. “Any suggestions?”
“Take the weight training class in PE. They should offer that at Davis High.”
“But I’m a junior, and I don’t take PE anymore.”
“You should be able to take it as an elective. Take one semester of weight training and some other one-semester class the other half of the year. You may find that you like weight training, and you’ll want to take it all year.”
“It’s too late to make a change this semester. I could drop chorus at the end of the semester and take weight training next semester.”
“Go see your counselor. Chorus and weight training are both elective non-academic classes at Lincoln High. You’re graded based on the class you were in at the end of the semester. If it’s the same at Davis High, they might let you switch now. At least, that’s what they would do it at Lincoln High.”
“That’s a good idea. I’ll give it a try.”
“Talk John into taking weight training, too. That way, you’ll have a partner when you’re working out.”
“Talk me into what?” John asked as he walked into the kitchen.
“Taking weight training.” Eric explained what Adam had suggested — and what Adam had done to him that resulted in their discussion about weight training.
While that was going on, they ate breakfast. Eric and John were satisfied with cereal and blueberries.
They all looked up when they heard the doorbell.
“I’ll get it,” I said.
I opened the door. “Hi, Brian. I thought the guys were meeting you at the theater.”
“My dad suggested that he drop me off here. He was going to Costco or somewhere to get stuff we need now that Mom will be home tomorrow. Is that okay?”
“Sure. We’re eating breakfast. Cereal with blueberries and bagels. You hungry?”
“Not really. But maybe a little cereal with blueberries. I love blueberries.”
“Well, come on in. You know where the kitchen is.”
When Brian walked in, Adam looked up. “Brian!” He stood up, and they hugged. “This is my cousin Eric Chang…” He looked at me, and I nodded. “…and his boyfriend, John Ito. Guys, this is my boyfriend, Brian Wong.”
Eric grinned. “Adam, we’ve got you outnumbered. Three Asians to none.”
“Nope, Eric, you’re half-and-half, so it’s an even number if we include my dad,” Adam retorted. I noticed Brian’s reaction to Adam, calling me ‘dad.’
“But he’s not going to see ‘Guardians of the Galaxy 2,’ is he?” Eric asked.
“What are you going to do today, Dad?”
“I have work to do, and when I’m finished with that, I’ll watch the replay of Thursday night’s Cal basketball game. I don’t know the score and don’t want to know it so I can watch the game and enjoy it.”
“Who were they playing?” John asked.
“UC Riverside. They are a lot smaller school than Cal.”
“Cal oughta win, then,” John said.
“I’ll let you know when I see you later. And, speaking of later, where do you guys want to go to dinner? You’re included, Brian.”
They had a lively discussion and finally agreed they’d go to Maria Maria, a good Mexican restaurant in Walnut Creek.
Adam asked, “You’re coming too, Dad, aren’t you?”
“Yes. I like Maria Maria. Since I have to drive downtown to join you for dinner, why don’t I drive you to the theater at noon, and after dinner, I’ll take Brian home, and the rest of you will come back here with me. Eric, the advantage is the garage at the theater has a maximum of four hours, and you’d be parked there longer than that.”
“That’ll be great if you don’t mind,” Eric said.
“Okay, How about I meet you at Maria Maria at five-thirty?”
“Sounds like a plan,” Adam replied. The other three boys nodded to indicate they agreed.
“Adam, I assume you know where the restaurant is.”
“Yup. It’s at the corner of Lincoln and Main, across the street from the Walnut Creek main library.”
“Okay, you’re all set. What are you going to do until we leave? And what time do you want to leave?”
“We’ll find a video game that we can switch around, so everyone gets a chance to play. How about we leave at noon?” Adam suggested.
They agreed the time was okay, and it worked for me, so I agreed, too.
They took over the family room, so I went into my office, closed the door, and checked my voicemail. I’d hoped there would be a call from Ashley at the Paradise police department, but there wasn’t. There was a call from Jared’s cellphone asking me to call him back, so I did.
“Hi, Rick. Thanks for returning my call. I hope it was okay to drop Brian off at your house.”
“Yes, it was. It made it easier to take care of the introductions of Eric and his boyfriend.” I let that sit waiting for Jared’s response, which took almost five seconds.
“So, that was what Eric wanted to talk about?”
“Yup. He was freaked about telling his folks that he’s gay and has a boyfriend. Who, by the way, is a nice kid. His name is John Ito.”
“Yes. he’s been trying to talk Eric into telling his folks, and he’s convinced they already know. He has some rather convincing examples showing that’s probably true. So he, Adam, and I talked Eric into telling them when he gets home on Sunday, and we convinced him that John shouldn’t be there when he does.”
“Do John’s folks know he’s gay and they’re boyfriends?”
“Yes, they do. And they are supportive and like Eric a lot.
“It was funny when Brian got here they were laughing about there being more Asians than non-Asians in the quote-unquote ‘extended’ family now. Of course, Eric is half Chinese and half whatever I am. So it’s two-and-a-half of each if you include me, and three-and-a-half if you include Adam.”
Jared chuckled. “That’s funny. I take it that the boys are all getting along?”
“Yes. All four are great kids. Being around them, you’d think they’d all been best friends for years.
“By the way, Adam decided he’s going to call me dad from now on. I said that was fine.”
“That’s great, Rick. You deserve a nice kid like Adam to raise. He’s what, thirteen?”
“He turned fourteen last month. His birthday is October twenty-first.”
“At least his birthday is never on Halloween!”
“That’s true. I hadn’t thought about that.”
“What are they doing today?”
“They’re going to see the movie Guardians of the Galaxy 2. I said I was going to be busy.”
“They invited you to go with them?”
“No.” I laughed. “But I did tell them that I have work to do today. It’s true. I’m waiting to hear from Ashley Allisonn from the Paradise police department to find out if the coroner found anything new about June Rios’ cause of death. He’s doing the autopsy today.”
“How’s Adam holding up?”
“He seems relieved that he won’t have to deal with his mother and Ted Loaming, her boyfriend. Adam said in his relationship with his mom she had always been aloof. That was the word he used.”
“Pretty good English for a high school freshman.”
“He’s a smart kid. He’s eager to have the adoption finalized.
“By the way, if you don’t have any dinner plans, we’re all going to Maria Maria and meeting there at five-thirty. How about joining us? Then you can take Brian home with you.”
“Sounds good. I like Maria Maria. It’s one of the few Mexican restaurants that realizes that a Chile Relleno isn’t always stuffed with cheese. I like the version they have that includes crab and shrimp.”
“You’re right. I’ve visited New Mexico, and they have a lot of varieties there. I like those with crab and shrimp and with carnitas at Maria Maria. I’ll call and include you in our reservations. Also, you can take Brian home from the restaurant.”
“Okay, then I’ll let you go. I have some things to do at home before Joyce gets home tomorrow.”
“Okay. I hope I’ll hear from Ashley about the autopsy today. If I do, I’ll let you know.”
“Or you can tell me about it when we see each other at dinner.”
“Since Adam will be with us, I’d prefer to not discuss that topic at dinner. I’ll send you a text instead. In the meantime, I’ll see you this evening.”
After ending the call, I checked the time. It was almost ten-fifteen a.m. so I had an hour and a half before we’d leave. I had nothing to do until then, so I decided to read. I had Alexa set a timer for eighty minutes, then sat back and brought up the book I’d been reading on my tablet.
The Alexa timer sounded, notifying me it was time to take the boys to the theater. I got up and went to the family room.
“Time to get ready to go to the movies,” I announced.
Adam picked up the game console, cables, and two controllers and put them in the box they’d come in and took them to his bedroom. I’m always surprised by how neat Adam is and how he takes care of his things. That was so different than how my brothers — including me, too — had been when we were teens Adam’s age.
When he returned from his room, he said, “Okay, all put away. Let me check the weather on my phone to see if we’re going to need jackets.”
“You know, it wasn’t too many years ago that if you wanted to know what the weather was going to be, you’d walk outside and guess, or look on the first page of your daily newspaper. But the results were limited. Now you can look at your phone and see what the weather’s going to be hour by hour.”
Eric looked at me then at Brian. In a stage whisper, he said, “Don’t you like it when old people talk about what it was like back in the day?”
All four boys burst out laughing.
“Since you think it’s so funny, maybe you would like to stick around so we can all watch the replay of the Cal-UC Riverside basketball game.”
“Come on, Uncle Rick!” Eric said. “Didn’t you think it was funny? Anyway, you’re not one of the old people. Yet.” He grinned and wiggled his eyebrows.
“Eric, why are you kids wiggling your eyebrows all the time?” I asked.
“It’s a way of saying we’re kidding.”
I grinned and shook my head. “So, Adam, will you guys need jackets by five or so when the three of you are walking to Maria Maria?”
“Yes. Something lightweight will be enough.”
“Eric, do you and John have something lightweight to wear?”
“We have lightweight zip-up hoodies. They’ll be okay while it’s warm out and even better when it cools down.”
“Well, you two and Adam should put whatever you’re going to wear on now. Brian, do you have something?”
“No. I didn’t think about it.”
“I have a hoodie you can use,” Eric said. “We’re about the same size, so it should fit you. It was with the clothes I’d left here. I’ll get it, and you can leave it with me when we drop you off.”
Eric went to his bedroom and came back with the hoodie.
Brian put it on. “Thanks, Eric.”
I gestured to Adam, and we stepped into the kitchen. “I have your allowance.” I gave him five ten-dollar bills. “That’s twenty-five dollars a week for the two weeks you’ve been living with me. In the future, I’ll be giving it to you each Saturday.”
He stood looking at the five ten-dollar bills, then put them in his wallet, then looked at me. “You were serious about giving me an allowance,” he said.
“Yes. And you deserve it.”
“You’re welcome, Adam.
“Okay, guys, time to get going,” I said.
We arrived at the theater five minutes before noon.
“You guys have fun. If there’s anything you need or a problem, you have your cellphones, so give me a call. I made reservations at Maria Maria, so I’ll see you at five-thirty. If you want a ride, call me by five o’clock.”
They each said ‘bye’ and ‘see you’ and ‘thanks for the ride’ and walked up to the ticket counter. I left and drove home.
When I got home, I thought about what having a son would be like. I decided it would be amazing, astonishing, fulfilling, and way too short. Adam was already fourteen. He’d be eighteen and going to college in just four years. Way too short, and too soon. That’s what happens when you have a late start. But we would still have many wonderful years, my son Adam and me.
I went to my office and checked my phone for a text message. There was nothing from Ashley Allisonn yet. I logged on to the CPS server and checked my email. There was a message from Gail Leaf complaining that we had failed to respond to her demand — I had to stop for a second and laugh at her use of ‘demand’ — to reinstate the Rodriguez fostering license. If we didn’t respond to the demand by Tuesday, November twenty-first, she’d file a lawsuit. Good luck with that. She hadn’t included Jared Wong on the email distribution list, so I forwarded it to him. He could deal with her.
I went to the family room and turned on the TV. The replay of the November tenth Cal-UC Riverside basketball game was just starting. UC Riverside was ahead at the half, 40 to 21. But then Cal got it together and outscored UC Riverside in the second half, 45 to 34, but it wasn’t enough, and UC Riverside won the game 74 to 66.
Because the game was a replay, they cut out timeouts, parts of the game with no action, and most free throws. Of course, they added multiple commercials. That’s how we pay for ‘free’ TV these days. Anyway, it was compressed to a little over an hour.
I checked the time; It was only two forty-five. I turned off the TV. and returned to my reading. It was a short story, Dreams Can Come True, about Bradly, a teenager in Canada who jumped in front of a car in an attempted suicide. The car struck him, but he wasn’t killed. The driver of the car visited him while he was recovering in the hospital. It turned out Bradly was in the foster system and was gay, and when his foster family discovered that, all hell broke loose. They claimed Satan had possessed him.
I knew caseworkers who had run into situations like Bradly’s. It took a lot of effort to get a teenager out of a situation like that and into a foster home where the foster parents were accepting if he or she was gay.
When I finished the short story, I read a novel using my Kindle app. The title was Backfield Boys, and it had a high school football theme. No one was in the foster system, and no boy was gay in this story. It was about racial prejudice in a prestigious private high school that focused on sports.
I was maybe a third of the way through the novel when my phone reminded me had to leave so I’d be at Maria Maria by five-fifteen. I’d already reserved a table, and I wanted to be at the restaurant ahead of the boys and Jared.
When I turned onto Main Street, I saw the four boys walking to the restaurant. I pulled over and picked them up. They told me about the film, and they were enthusiastic.
“And it only cost six dollars each to get in!” Eric said. “I thought it would be ten bucks or something like that.”
“Yeah, I thought the tickets would be a lot higher, too,” Adam added.
“The popcorn was five bucks, though,” Brian said, “and they only have the big bucket size.”
“So, we bought one bucket and shared. It only cost us a dollar twenty-five each,” John added.
“We didn’t bother getting it with that fake butter on it. It always tastes weird, like it’s artificial,” Brian said.
“And they always put too much salt on the popcorn,” Adam complained, “whether it’s got fake butter or plain.”
“That’s so we’ll buy sodas,” Eric said.
“And we think they took out the drinking fountains. Either that, or we couldn’t find one,” John said.
“Dad, did you know they show commercials before the previews now?” Adam asked. “Some are the same as the ones we see on TV.”
“I’m not surprised,” I said. “On the news recently, I heard that people aren’t going out to see movies in a theater because it’s gotten so expensive. Now people wait until what they want to see comes out on Netflix or Vudu or one of those services. That way, the whole family can watch for one low price or even free if they have a subscription. You can watch for more than one day, pause it if the phone rings or if someone needs to go to the bathroom, have microwave popcorn for less than a dollar for what you’d have to pay five dollars for in the theater, have snacks and sodas to drink, and so on.”
“I guess investing in movie theaters is a bad idea,” Brian said.
“It sounds like it,” I said. “Of course, in the theater you get to watch movies on a lot bigger screen.”
I found street parking with no meter and no time limit a block from Maria Maria. We were seated immediately, and they brought tortilla chips and salsa right away.
“Don’t fill up on chips,” I suggested. “The servings here are large.”
“And everything’s delicious. I love the Chile Relleno stuffed with shrimp and crab,” Adam said. “And they have it stuffed with carnitas, too.”
“The carnitas one is my favorite,” Brian added. “It’s huge!”
Jared joined us, and I introduced Eric and John.
While we ate, they talked about Lincoln High’s wrestling team.
“Our next meet is at home versus Valley, then next is an away meet versus College Park. Do either of you ever go to see Davis High’s wrestling team?” Brian asked.
“No,” Eric said.
“You ought to go see a meet. I think you’ll like it,” Adam said.
“Because the guys are practically naked?” John asked.
“No, that would be swimming and water polo. They are fun to watch, too,” Brian said.
“What place are you in your league?” Eric asked.
“First place,” Adam said with a grin.
Brian laughed. “Yeah, but we’re tied with half the teams since we’ve only had one league meet each so far.”
“How did you two do in your meet?”
“Brian and I both won our matches,” Adam said. “We also won our matches in the non-league meets we were in.”
“What happens if you wrestle a guy who’s a lot bigger than you?” John asked.
“Never happens. Matches are based on a weight range. For example, my weight range is 114 to 120 pounds. My weight is 115. Probably 119 after I finish my dinner!” Adam grinned. “Anyway, you can see I’m not going to be over-matched by someone who weighs a lot more than me.”
Brian added, “My weight is 135, and I’m in the 133 to 138 weight range. The weight ranges are usually called a weight class, which is the heaviest weight for each range. Wrestlers usually have a problem being overweight and not underweight. For someone close to the bottom of their weight range, they have to worry about being moved to a lower weight class.”
“What do they do then?” Eric asked.
“There’s a margin the CIF applies. If you’re just under your weight range, you can wrestle in your weight class with official CIF approval. The problem is your current weight can give you too much of an advantage or disadvantage. So it also depends on the weight of your opponent.”
When we finished, Jared and I were amazed at the amount of food the boys had consumed. They refilled the tortilla chips and salsa at least four times, and none of it was left after our meal.
They didn’t want to order dessert. That also amazed me. Then I discovered why. They wanted to have ice cream at San Francisco Creamery. Again. That’s where we went for ice cream after dinner on Saturday. I pointed that out to them. Adam had his rationale for returning to San Francisco Creamery. “Brian wasn’t with us that night”.
“Okay,” I said,“then we’re going to walk from where I’m parked to San Francisco Creamery and back. That way everyone can get some exercise. Any problem with that?”
The uniform response was, “Nope!”
It was less than a ten-minute walk. The lack of exercise didn’t stop the boys. It stopped Jared and me; we passed on having ice cream.
After they finished, I warned them. “I don’t want to hear any complaints about how full you are. Okay?”
“Aww, come on,” Eric whined, “complaining is one of the best parts of being a teenager!”
“You, Mr. Eric Chang, can do all the complaining you want as long as tonight you, John, Adam, and Brian, do not complain about how full you are.”
“Huh!” That was Adam.
“Yes? You have a comment?”
“One and done,” he said. Then he giggled; it turned to laughter, and soon the rest of the boys were laughing, too.
However, it worked. There were no complaints. Instead, they talked about what they would do for Thanksgiving. Adam and I had an invitation to have Thanksgiving dinner in Davis at my sister’s home, which was also Eric’s home. This was news to Adam; it was something I’d planned to discuss with him when I had time. Hey, it was on the schedule on my cellphone. I hadn’t wanted to talk about it while Eric was here, wondering if Adam was reluctant to go to my sister’s for Thanksgiving dinner. He wasn’t. Instead he was excited about it. Jared, Brian, and Joyce were staying home; John and his parents were going to Seattle, where most of his relatives lived, including both sets of grandparents.
Jared and Brian went to their car. Adam walked with them, and he and Brian kissed. “That’s nice,” John said. “Just like it was a date.” His tone said he was serious and wasn’t being smarmy.
When we got to our car, John said, “Adam, you and Brian are a cute couple. Both of you are lucky.”
Adam grinned. “Thanks. You two make a good looking couple, too. It’ll be much better after Eric tells his folks that he’s gay and that their favorite non-relative teen is his boyfriend. That, of course, is you, John. What’s your opinion about that, Dad?”
“I agree with you.”
Adam tapped Eric on his shoulder. “Are you going to grow a spine and tell them when you get home tomorrow?” he asked.
“Yes, I already said I would, and I will. John will be the first one I call after I make my announcement, and then Uncle Rick. I’ll either tell John and Uncle Rick that my folks were fine with what I told them, or I’ll tell them that I’ll be arriving in Walnut Creek with my clothes so I can move in and Uncle Rick and Adam should expect me.” His expression showed he was kidding.
It was around seven o’clock when we got home. I wanted to check my email to see if there was an email message from Ashley Allisonn about the autopsy.
There was. What she wrote stunned me.
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