Jeremy’s life is changing. It leaves him with a question: Are all of these changes good?
This is a sequel to the story One Acceptable Outcome and the last story in the series.
Because he’d gone to bed early Saturday night, Jeremy woke up early Sunday morning. After eating two toaster waffles with real maple syrup for breakfast, he decided to see if Mike was up yet. He called his boyfriend’s cell number.
“Uh… hello?” Mike answered. He sounded half asleep.
“Hi, boyfriend. Are you awake yet?”
“Jeremy. Why’re you calling me so early?”
“It’s not that early. It’s almost nine o’clock.”
“That’s definitely way too early on a Sunday morning. But now that I’m almost mostly just about awake, why did you call me?”
“I didn’t have anything else to do until we go to Lyle’s for the study group.” Jeremy laughed. “Actually, the reason I called is my mom wants me to send her a picture of you and me together, and one of you and your family, too.”
“Why does she want those pictures?”
“Maybe it’s so she can find out if my boyfriend and his family are real and I’m not using stock images claiming them as my boyfriend.”
“I’ll scan one of my pictures and email you the file. It’s the same one that’s in my sophomore yearbook.”
“That won’t do. She wants a picture with you and me together. Otherwise she might not believe that a picture of you by yourself is really a picture of my boyfriend.”
“Okay, okay. Why don’t you come over at about eleven o’clock. We’ll have my dad take our picture. Then you can take a picture of my family. Except for my sister, of course, since she’s in Los Angeles. Then you can stay for lunch, and we’ll walk back to Lyle’s after.”
“Okay. I’ll bring my APUSH textbook and notebook and my camera with me. Should I bring my tripod, or does your dad have one?”
“My dad has a tripod, and I know where it is in case he forgot. So, don’t bring your tripod.”
“Okay, that’ll work. I’ll see you at eleven… lover boy!” Jeremy ended the call before Mike could respond, and that made him laugh. ‘Gotcha, lover boy!’ he thought.
When Jeremy got to Mike’s house the triplets were outside waiting for him. They rushed him and grabbed him in a group hug.
“You are a great friend,” Paul said after they pulled back. “Yes,” Joe said, “you supported us about going to DVC. If you hadn’t done that, there wouldn’t be any chance.” Tom added, “Now we have a chance. We’re trying to figure out what class to take this summer. What are the prerequisites for your statistics class?”
“You have to have the equivalent of Algebra 2 with Trigonometry. You won’t take that until you’re in high school.” Jeremy laughed. “Or maybe during your first semester at DVC. Anyway, you’re not eligible for the statistics class. If you want, Mike and I can sit down with you and go over the course catalog and the class schedule for this summer.”
“That’d be great,” Paul said. “You know a lot more about it than we do, so we could use your help.”
“Well, talk with Mike and find a time when we’re all available. You better allow about a half-hour to forty-five minutes.”
“You going to be here for a while?” Joe asked.
“Mike invited me to have lunch, so we’ll be here until about twelve-thirty. Then we have to leave for our AP U.S. History study group.”
“Okay. We’ll figure out a time and talk to Mike later. See ya,” Tom said. The triplets ran into the house. As usual, Jeremy didn’t have a clue about which of the triplets was which. He got an idea. Get them name badges! Or different colored exercise watches, though that would be expensive. Or something.
Jeremy rang the doorbell. He heard Mike’s voice above him. He stepped off the porch and looked up. Mike was leaning out of his bedroom window, holding the window screen open.
“Come on in, and come on up. The folks aren’t here right now. They’ll be home in a few minutes.”
“Is the front door unlocked?”
“Bad idea, isn’t that?”
“Come up, Jeremy. You can lock the front door on your way in.”
Jeremy walked upstairs to Mike’s room. The door was open, so he knocked on the jamb and walked in. He grinned. “Hi. I locked the front door.”
“Hi. I asked the triplets to leave it unlocked when they came in so you could walk in.”
“I guess they forgot to tell me.”
“Oh.” Mike took a deep breath. “Okay.”
“You seem like you’re upset about something.”
“I am. Not about you. About my sister. She just called. She’s planning to drop out of UCLA.”
“Why? I thought she had a scholarship.”
“She does. She decided that she doesn’t like UCLA.”
“Say, what? Why?”
“She’s allergic to smog.”
“Really? I didn’t know people could be allergic to smog.”
“Well, she claims she is. She said it makes her nose run all the time. Of course this is just an excuse for her to drop out. It isn’t really about smog, she’s just making it all up.”
“Do your folks know?”
“Why did she dump this on you?”
“She wanted my advice.”
“What did you tell her?”
“Get allergy pills.” Mike grinned.
Jeremy laughed. “How’d that go over?”
“Not very well.”
“Are you going to tell your folks?”
“Absolutely not. That’s her job.”
“I’m am so glad that I don’t have any siblings. Though, if you want to loan me the triplets once in a while….”
“As if! It would take about one day and you’ll have ‘em hog-tied and would drag back here to return ’em.”
“They want you and me to sit down with them and go over the DVC course catalog and the summer session class schedule to pick out a class they can take.”
“Okay. Not today, though. We need to take our pictures and eat, then get Gary and Nikki and walk to Lyle’s house.”
“Why don’t you figure out a couple of times that work and let me know.”
“Okay. I’ll work it out with them.”
“Should we set up my camera on the tripod so we can take our picture first? My camera has a self-timer. I can focus the camera on you and set it to take three pictures in a row. Once I press the shutter it’ll give me twenty seconds to get into the picture. We can say, ‘Cheese, please,’ and… click! click! click! Then we can take a look at the pix. If there’s a problem, we can do it again. Okay?”
“Okay. Here’s the tripod. Let’s take it downstairs to the family room and do this.”
They looked at the first set of three pictures and both were pleased with the results.
“You, Mike Butler, are the most handsome guy I’ve ever seen,” Jeremy said, looking at the image on the camera’s LCD display. He turned it to show Mike.
“Wow. You look great.” He looked at Jeremy and grinned. “Too.” They both laughed.
“So, you think any of these three are okay to send to my mom?” Jeremy asked.
“Sure. All three are about the same, so any of them would be fine. When are you going to send it to her?”
“This afternoon after our study group meeting. My mom said her new husband has a favorite nephew, José, who’s sixteen and is gay. She’s going to send him our picture, and she’s sending me his picture.”
“Oh… do I have anything to worry about?” Mike asked, and he tried to look worried.
“Oh, yeah. Like this kid lives in Guadalajara, Mexico, he might not speak much English, and there’s no way that he’s as cute and wonderful and sexy as my current boyfriend. Would you like to know who that is?”
“Yes, I would!” Mike growled, but then he grinned.
“Hmmm… now, what was his name? Oh, yeah, Michael Butler. He looks sort of exactly like you. In fact, he is you!” Jeremy got up and pulled Mike into a kiss. “I love you, Michael Butler.”
“I love you, Jeremy Sievers.”
“Now, my mom wants a picture of your family too. Let’s leave the camera set up so we can take it when they get back.”
“When who gets back?” Mike’s mom asked, as she and Mike’s dad walked in.
“Jeremy’s mom wants a picture of me and Jeremy. She also wants a picture of our family. Show them the picture of you and me that we took.”
Jeremy showed Mrs. Butler the picture.
Mr. Butler walked up and he saw it too. “That’s a really good picture, Jeremy,” he said. “Can I assume you’re going to send the file to Mike, too?”
“Sure. As long as the tripod is setup, I’d like to take a picture of your family for my mom. I think she wants it as proof that Mike and I are really boyfriends and he’s not a stock photo from the internet.”
“Should I call the triplets to be in the picture?” Mrs. Butler asked.
“Yes, if that’s okay with you,” Jeremy replied.
“I don’t see any reason why not,” Mr. Butler said. “I assume there won’t be any commercial use of the pictures.”
“No, they’re just personal for my mom and her husband, Armando Moria. She’ll also send the picture of Mike and me to Armando’s favorite nephew, José. Mom said he’s gay and is also sixteen. She’s sending me his picture, too.”
The triplets were herded in by Mrs. Butler. Jeremy had Mike and his parents sit on the sofa, with the triplets sitting in front on the floor. It took several tries before Jeremy was satisfied.
“I’ll send Mike these pictures, too,” Jeremy said.
Mr. Butler looked at Jeremy’s camera. “That’s a nice little camera.”
“It’s only a point-and-shoot but it has a good zoom lens and takes good pictures. It can even take them in RAW mode, which means there is no compression and no automatic adjustments so everything the camera sees is exactly what’s in the image. I take the RAW images to school and edit them in Photoshop.”
“You don’t have Photoshop at home?” Mr. Butler asked.
“No. I can’t afford it. We have Photoshop CS5 and Dreamweaver CS5 at school, so I use them in the computer lab when I want to work on something of my own, like my personal website.”
“I have Photoshop CC,” Mike said. “Remember, my dad works for Adobe and he got it for me. Maybe he can get a deal for you. Dad?”
“How about the Adobe suite for free?” Mr. Butler said.
“You’re kidding!” Jeremy said. “That’s like, really expensive.”
“I can get you a copy for educational use at no charge on our Friends and Family program. That’s what I got Mike. Do you want me to do that?”
“Wow. Yes, please. It will make working on my personal website a lot easier because I’ll be able to do it at home. Thank you so much!” Jeremy was very excited!
Mrs. Butler interrupted the technical discussion. “Alright, since these two kids have a study group meeting at one o’clock, let’s have lunch. We bought some sandwiches at Ike’s Place. Have you tried their sandwiches, Jeremy?”
“No. I never even heard of them.”
“They are very good and very large,” she said.
“They are ginormous,” Paul said. “Bet ya can’t eat a whole one!”
Mike and Jeremy did manage to eat a whole sandwich each. They felt stuffed, though, so they agreed that Ike’s sandwiches were ginormous.
After lunch they joined Greg and Nikki and walked to Lyle’s house for the APUSH study group. All five had read ahead and were ready to go over the material to see how much they’d retained, and even more important, what they hadn’t retained. After two hours they came away feeling that this was a very effective way to prepare for their midterm.
“Even more important,” Lyle said, “we’ll also be prepared for the subject exam in May.”
“Where do you go to take your AP subject exams?” Nikki asked Jeremy.
“I took AP Psychology last year,” Jeremy said. “We took the subject exam at Las Lomas High on a Monday. I don’t remember the date, but it was the first week in May. This year the APUSH final is on Friday, May 8th, at seven-thirty a.m. My AP Chemistry final is on Monday, May 4th, also at seven-thirty a.m.”
“I’m taking three AP classes,” Greg said. “They’re the same ones that I was taking at Yorktown High. I was able to transfer into the same AP classes at Northgate. I have my APUSH final at seven o’clock in the morning, then AP Computer Science at in the afternoon on Saturday, May 9th. I have AP Physics in the afternoon on Sunday, May 10th. All AP finals for our district are at a place called the Willow Center in Concord. It’s a long drive, and it isn’t near BART. Nikki and I’ll have to get someone to drive us there and drive us home.”
“When I started at Las Lomas each of my teachers scheduled to meet me after school to review where I was in my classes,” Lyle said. “I just found my notes for APUSH. Mrs. Lehman told me our final will be in the big gym at Las Lomas High. That’s going to be convenient. It’s like being there for a regular school day.”
“Hey,” Mike said, “since these Las Lomas guys are taking their APUSH final before we take ours, we can get together and they can tell us the questions and answers.” Mike grinned and wiggled his eyebrows.
“Good luck with that,” Lyle said. “There’s no way we can memorize the questions and answers. Accurately, that is.”
Nikki looked at Lyle. “And here I thought Lyle had eidetic memory.”
“Eidetic memory? Is that what’s also called photographic memory?” Mike asked.
“Yup,” Nikki replied.
“I don’t have eidetic memory,” Lyle said. “I wish I did. It would sure make studying and taking exams easier.”
“Okay, let’s decide on what we want to cover Thursday night. That way we’ll know what to study and we’ll be ready,” Jeremy said. They talked about that for a few minutes, made several suggestions, and accepted all of them.
“I know our next study group is at my house. There’s a problem; meeting at one o’clock on Sunday is too tight. Can we change it to one-thirty from now on?” Greg asked.
“I agree with Greg,” Jeremy said.
“Okay. I also think our meetings on Sunday should be able to run longer, if necessary,” Nikki added.
They all agreed, so the Sunday study group meetings were rescheduled to start at one-thirty and end at three-thirty. If they agreed they needed more time it would be easy to add.
“How come the AP subject exams are over a month earlier than regular class finals?” Mike asked.
“It’s because the AP exams are run by a testing service, not the teachers or school district,” Greg said. “Think about it. There are thousands of high schools across the country where AP testing is being done. The earlier schedule gives them time to grade the AP subject exams and send the results to each school. Otherwise, they wouldn’t get them in time, and our results wouldn’t be included in our grades. That’s critical when you’re a senior and colleges need your grades to see if you actually qualify for admission.”
“It’s too complicated,” Jeremy commented under his breath.
“Okay, that’s it then,” Mike said. “We have our study notes for Thursday night’s meeting. It will be at Greg and Nikki’s house. Next Sunday will be at Jeremy’s, assuming his rug is cleaned, then it will be at Mike’s a week from Thursday, and… whose house should it be at for our last Sunday meeting?”
“Since there’s more of us in our neighborhood, how about we have it at our house on the fifteenth?” Nikki suggested. Greg nodded, indicating he agreed with his twin sister.
“That’s okay with me,” Lyle said.
“Me, too,” Jeremy added.
“Okay, our midterm study group meetings are all set,” Mike announced. “We should plan to have study group meetings in April to prep for the AP subject exams in May. I’ll come up with a schedule, and there will be two more meetings so we can have two at each house.” Mike pulled out his cell and jumped ahead to April in the calendar app.
“This is going to work out great. Spring break is from Monday, March 30th, to Friday, April 3rd. We’ll have our first meeting at my house the following Thursday; then at Lyle’s on Sunday; Greg and Nikki on Thursday; Jeremy on Sunday. Then we’ll repeat the same during the next two weeks. That means we’ll have about a week between our last study group meeting and the APUSH exams. It works out that all of the Thursday meetings will be my house or Greg and Nikki’s house, and all the Sunday meetings will be at Lyle’s or Jeremy’s house. Is that okay?”
Everyone agreed with Mike’s schedule, and the APUSH final exam study group was created.
“I move we close this meeting,” Nikki said, followed by a big grin.
“I second the motion,” Jeremy said.
“All in favor?” Mike asked.
“Aye!” everyone called out.
“All opposed?” Mike asked.
This was followed by silence.
“The aye’s have it,” he said. “Tuesday at Greg and Nikki’s house, at seven p.m.”
“We’re going to walk home,” Greg said. “You coming, Mike?”
“I think I’ll stick around and help Jeremy clean up some of the things leftover from when Leo broke into his house.”
“Okay. See you tomorrow morning.”
Everyone said their goodbyes, and the house got quiet.
“See you tomorrow morning, Lyle. Mike and I are going to head to my house now,” Jeremy said.
“Do you need a hand cleaning up?” Lyle asked. “I’m available.”
“Sure! Come with us.”
When they got to Jeremy’s house, Lyle asked what he could do.
“There are three things. First, the rug in the living room needs to be vacuumed, staying away from where Leo bled on the rug. I gave it a quick pass getting some pieces out, but there’s still a lot of small shards of glass embedded in the rug. Second, Leo messed up the front garden. The concrete block that Leo threw through the window needs to be put back at the edge of the planter, the plants that got knocked down have to be replanted, and the ground and bark have to be smoothed out around the plants. Third, there are bloody handprints on the corner of the garage wall where Leo held on to it, and that’s gotta be cleaned and painted.”
“Sounds okay. What would you like me to do?”
“Which would you prefer?”
“Where’s your vacuum?” Lyle grinned.
“Let me show you.” Jeremy led Lyle to the closet in the hall. “Here it is. Any questions?”
“Nope. It’s not much different than the one we have at home. Show me where the glass is, and where the blood is so I can avoid it.”
“Okay. The space with the glass is in this triangle, from the boarded-up window to here,” Jeremy walked around pointing out the area.
“Okay, got it. There’s some blood drops in the area in front of the window. Is it okay if I vacuum those?”
“Yeah. The part to avoid is that area in the dining room along the pass-through from the kitchen.”
“Okay, I’ll get started,” Lyle said. “Where’s an outlet? Oh, never mind, I see it.”
“I’ll be outside with Mike working on the garden and painting over the blood on the wall. If you need anything, give a shout.”
Jeremy went outside. “Hey, Mike.”
“Hey, Jeremy. I’ll do the garden stuff.”
“Okay, I’ll take care of the blood on the house.”
Mike dug out some of the dirt and put the concrete block back. “One corner was busted off, so I put that side of it in the ground. All the blocks are pretty much even now. I’m starting to clean up the plants that got stomped on. A few should probably be thrown out. I don’t think they’ll survive.”
“Okay. I can always replace them someday.”
“Jeremy, where’s your green recycle can?”
“On the side of the garage, just inside the gate.”
“Okay. What are you going to do about the blood over there on the wall?”
“I’ll wash off what I can, and then I’ve got a can of paint in the garage that’s supposed to be the color of the stucco.”
Jeremy got a bottle of hydrogen peroxide, a scrub brush, and a rag from the house, and the paint, a brush, a screwdriver, and a stir stick from the garage. The hydrogen peroxide did a fair job of cleaning the blood, but the rough surface of the stucco made getting it all off just about impossible. He made sure the paint can cover was on tight, and shook the can for about thirty seconds. Then he pried off the cover with the screwdriver and stirred the paint with a stiring stick until it was thoroughly mixed. He scraped most of the paint off the stir stick and set it aside, then painted over over one of the bloody handprints he’d cleaned. He stepped back to check how the paint covered the blood and how the color matched the wall.
“Hey, Mike. Take a look. Do you think the paint matches?”
Mike walked over to take a look. “The new paint is still wet, so it looks a little brighter. But it should be okay. It’s on an edge, so I don’t think any difference will show. If it does you can repaint that narrow area between the edge and the frame around the garage door; that’s not real big. You’ll know for sure in a half-hour or so.”
Jeremy concentrated on painting over where Leo had used the wall to help him stand and as a result had left blood on the light tan stucco. It took about twenty minutes and he was finished. The house faced west so the paint dried quickly in the afternoon sun. He decided it was good enough.
Mike finished cleaning up the flower bed and raked the bark so it was even. Then he stepped back and joined Jeremy on the driveway. They looked at the flower bed and the paint job, and both nodded.
“Lookin’ good, Jeremy!”
“I agree. Now that the paint is dry I think it matches just fine. The flower bed looks great. You evened all the concrete blocks so they look even better than before. Let’s clean up at the sink in the garage and go in and see how Lyle’s doing.”
Lyle had finished vacuuming. When they came in he was on his hands and knees carefully feeling the carpet with his hands for stray shards of glass.
“Hey, Lyle, you don’t have to be so precise,” Jeremy said. “Be careful so you don’t get cut.”
“There were a lot of little pieces of glass that got stuck in the carpet and the vacuum couldn’t get them out. I found these tweezers in your bathroom and I’m using them to pick up the stray pieces. Take a look at that bowl.” He pointed to the coffee table. “That’s what I’ve picked out by hand.”
“Whoa! That’s a lot of little pieces of glass. How much more do you think there is?”
“Actually, I think I’m finished. This is my third pass, and the bowl is over there because I haven’t found any more.”
“Thanks loads, guys,” Jeremy said. “With your help we got all three things done that I wanted to do today. It would have taken me a lot longer if I’d been doing it all by myself.
“How about something to drink? Or, I have some vanilla ice cream and root beer. I can make root beer floats.”
“I haven’t had one of those in ages,” Mike said.
“That sounds great,” Lyle added. “Can we help?”
After they finished making the root beer floats they sat on the patio in the backyard enjoying them. Jeremy and Mike told Lyle about their visit to DVC on Saturday. Lyle didn’t know anything about the local community college, so he was interested and had a lot of questions.
“It’s huge,” Jeremy said. “22,000 students. You should take a look at the catalog and the summer session class schedule and see if there’s something you’d find interesting. They’re both online at dvc.edu.”
Jeremy and Mike talked about their classes, and Mike mentioned that he was going to try to switch from he online creative writing class to one one in a classroom on the same days and times as Jeremy’s statistics class.
It was getting late, so Mike decided he’d better leave for home before it got dark. Lyle said he should get home in time for dinner.
Jeremy made a salad and heated one of the ‘two-dollar’ frozen dinners, then sat down and ate. It always seemed lonely to eat alone, but by now he was used to it, though he still didn’t like it. He liked that all three sets of his close friends’ parents invited him to eat with them, but he didn’t want to overdo accepting their generosity.
After eating he sat down at the computer and transferred the pictures he took at Mike’s house to the hard drive. He had a freebie image editing program that was okay, but it wasn’t Photoshop. That reminded him about Mr. Butler’s offer to get him the complete Adobe software suite. He leaned back and looked at the old PC he was using. It definitely wouldn’t run that software. It didn’t have enough memory, the processor was too slow, and the video used the integrated graphics on the processor chip and wouldn’t meet Photoshop’s minimum requirements. He’d already checked those requirements on the Adobe website. If he got that $5,000 from Armando and his mom he’d be able to buy a new PC. That would sure be a big help.
He used PIXLR, a free image editing program that was good, except it had ads along the right side of the screen that took up space and were distracting. Jeremy used the web-based version so it worked well despite the limited power of his PC.
Jeremy spent a few minutes reducing the size and simplifying the picture he took of himself and Mike, then the best one of the several pictures he took of Mike’s family. He opened Gmail and looked through the messages. There seemed to be a growing amount of spam; sometimes the same message was repeated several times but from different senders. He assumed most of the senders’ email addresses were fakes. He marked all of those for deletion. Then he saw that he had an email from Armando and one from his mom.
He opened Armando’s email first.
I hope you are doing well and that your study group will be a successful way for you to achieve a 5 on your AP US History exam. I am doing well, and the new personnel I needed to complement my management team have been hired. Your mother is excited because now we will have the ability of more time together. I am certain that she will tell you more in her email.
I have attached the picture of José which is an attachment to this message. Your mother asked me to also send you the picture of us together, so it is also an attachment to this message.
I have looked at your web site and I am very impressed. I will call you on your cell phone tomorrow evening and talk to you about the wonderful job that you have done.
I will also ask what you think about my company web sites. Do not tread lightly because I am not pleased with what we have. Perhaps you have some ideas about them and what could be done to improve them.
Well, I will say goodbye now, and I will speak with you tomorrow evening. I will send an email tomorrow in advance of my call.
“Well,” Jeremy said out loud, “that is interesting. Now I’m going to have to spend time looking at his websites.” He clicked on the first attachment and opened it.
“Whoa!” he thought, “This José is screamin’ hot! I can’t wait for Mike to see the pic and hear his comments.” Jeremy grinned, then started laughing. Yeah, José was definitely cute and definitely could be gay.
Next he opened the picture of his mom and Armando.
He laughed. Armando looked almost exactly the way Jeremy had pictured him, just a little chunkier and a little younger, and without a mustache. His mom looked good. But she always looked good. That’s why she was able to get good bartending and server jobs in classy restaurants. He stared at the picture. It looked like they were in a park. It was nice. They looked like such a normal couple.
He remembered that he still needed to send Mike the pictures he’d taken. So he started a new message in Gmail and addressed it to Mike.
I’ve attached the pictures I took of us and of your family this morning. Armando sent me a picture of José and one of my mom and him, so I’ve attached those. Let me know what you think.
As soon as Jeremy had sent the pictures he realized that Mike had never seen his mother. There was a picture of her in her bedroom, but Jeremy didn’t think Mike had ever been in that room. He looked at the picture of his mother and Armando again. She didn’t look like she was totally ditzy, even though she sure acted that way most of the time.
It was like she would never think things through before doing them, like dating Leo and moving to Mexico with him, and marrying Armando.
Even more important were the things she’d never given a thought to and never did, like not leaving Jeremy a note when she left with Leo, not worrying about how Jeremy would be able to cope without her, not worrying about how Jeremy would be able to pay bills, not contacting Jeremy for six months, claiming she called Jeremy many times but never leaving him voicemail messages, not telling Jeremy she was married until three months later, and not remembering to send Jeremy a card for his sixteenth birthday.
In his mother’s world none of these things, absolutely none of them, mattered.
Jeremy hoped his brain wouldn’t get frazzled the way hers was. He also knew he was a much different person than she was, and that he’d never understand her.
Jeremy thought about his grandma. She had been nothing like his mother. They lived with her in a two-bedroom apartment from the time he was born. It was his grandma who raised him. Jeremy believed that his grandma was the best mom any kid could ask for. When he was little she’d read to him, and he’d follow along and quickly learned to read. She’d sing to him, not just nursery rhyme songs but current pop hits, and he’d sing along with her. She checked and would help him with his homework. She praised him when he brought home report cards that were all A’s. She taught him how to ride a bicycle. She liked it when he’d have his friends come over to play. She took him to see the Oakland Athletics play baseball; they were her favorite team. She didn’t push him into Little League when he didn’t show any interest in playing her favorite game. She encouraged him to do the things he was interested in.
His mother worked nights from six p.m. until two a.m. as a bartender or a waitress and she seldom took a day off. She preferred that shift because it generated excellent tips. During the week he’d leave for school before she’d get up, and when he got home she had already left for work. Jeremy almost never saw her except on the weekends after she got up at noon until she had to leave for work. His grandma was his mother. His mother was like an aunt, or maybe a stranger, who lived with them.
When Jeremy was ten his mother came into some money and bought the house he was living in now. It was much nicer than the apartment because he had his own bedroom. It had a big backyard where he and his friends could play.
When Jeremy was thirteen his grandma died in her sleep. The coroner said it was her heart that stopped. Jeremy thought that was a stupid reason; everybody dies because their heart stops. He wanted to know what was wrong with her heart, but he never found out.
Things changed for him when his mother had the responsibility of actually being his mother. She didn’t know how to be a mother, and she didn’t seem interested. Her life wasn’t focused on Jeremy and their home. Her life was focused on her job, wherever she was working at the time.
Jeremy looked at her in the picture. He realized that he looked a little like her. No one would question that they were a mother and son. Their faces had the same shape and the same kind of nose and chin. Their hair color was similar, though his tended to curl up at the ends. Neither of them tanned. He still had a few pale freckles across his cheeks and nose; as he got older they’d been fading. The biggest difference was his eyes were dark blue and hers were pale gray.
Looking at the picture made Jeremy feel sad. Why couldn’t his mother be like his friends’ mothers? He couldn’t understand it.
He opened his mom’s email message.
Armando said he sent you the pictures of us and of José. It’s so exciting that you’re going to meet them later this month. José has two weeks off at Easter, the week before and the week after, so we will come to visit those two weeks. The date we will arrive is March 28th, that’s a Saturday. We will fly home on April 8th, that’s a Wednesday. Don’t you always have spring break the week before Easter? Let me know what you think. Can we stay with you? Armando and I can use my old bedroom. José can use the spare bedroom. You will keep your own bedroom. Write me soon and let me know. Please copy Armando on your email.
I love you, Jeremy,
‘Good grief!’ Jeremy thought. ‘Okay. Let me check the date for our spring break.’ Since he was at the computer he went to the school district calendar. She was right, spring break was from Monday, March 30th, to Friday, April 3rd. Easter Sunday was April 5th.
Did their trip interfere with the schedule for the APUSH finals study group? Mike had named the dates, and Jeremy had written them down. He opened his backpack and pulled out the spiral notebook he was using for that class. He found the schedule. It was amazing. There was no conflict. The first APUSH subject exam study group meeting was one day after they would leave.
Of course, Jeremy would have school Tuesday thru Thursday, April 6th, 7th, and 8th. They could go off and do whatever they wanted and on Wednesday fly home. They wouldn’t have to worry about him. Maybe José would be interested in coming to Las Lomas one day to see what a U.S. high school was like. He’d have to check with the office and find out if that would be okay. Also it would depend on how well José understood English, if he did at all.
Jeremy decided to reply to his mom’s email, and copy Armando.
Hi Mom and Armando,
The schedule for your visit is fine. Our spring break is from Monday, March 30th, through Friday, April 3rd. I will have school on April 6th, 7th, and 8th. Maybe José would like to come to Las Lomas High on the 6th or 7th to see what a U.S. high school is like. If so, I will get permission from the Principal.
Of course you can stay here. The rooms are clean, and I’ll have the beds made up before you arrive.
Do you have any plans for what you two want to do while you’re here?
What does José like to do? We could go to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo and ride roller coasters. We could go to Waterworld in Concord if the weather is hot enough. If he likes to hike we could go to Mt. Diablo or one of the open space areas.
José will meet Mike and a bunch of my friends, and you and Armando will meet them too. So it’s not like it’s just going to be José and me doing things. Of course, you two can come along when we go to some of these places. Like riding roller coasters. Was that a “NO!” I just heard you shout all the way from Guadalajara?
José will meet Mike’s brothers, the triplets, and their parents, too. They’re in the picture I’m sending you.
If José reads English, I’d like to write him about what we could do while he’s here. Please give him my email address and I’ll need his email address, too. I’ll send him the picture of me and Mike and a longer list of things we could do while he’s here and ask him which he’d like to do.
I’ve attached the picture of me and Mike and the picture of Mike’s family for you two.
Jeremy attached the two picture files and sent the email. He was getting excited about his mom and Armando and José coming for a visit. Of course, they’d need to figure out how to get from the house to the places he’d listed in his email to his mom. Maybe Mike’s mom or Greg and Nikki’s mom could drive them. There’d be six of them. Jeremy, José, Mike, Greg, Nikki, and Lyle.
Or seven if Bill Kendall would want to come. He planned to invite Bill to join him and his friends at lunch. He seemed to be basically a nice kid and needed the coat he took from Jeremy’s open locker. It bugged Jeremy when he read about how poorly many foster kids were treated. Bill said he liked his foster family, but they didn’t seem to have much money for things like buying him a winter coat.
Then there were the triplets who almost certainly would want to come along. It would take two SUVs to drive ten kids to go to most of the places on the things-to-do list he was making for José.
Jeremy thought about what else he needed to do…. Oh, yeah, he had to go online and look at Armando’s websites. He located the link for the Gonzalves corporate website and started going through the links to the individual restaurant websites. He immediately saw a number of user interface problems. Each restaurant chain had their own look and feel. There was apparently one site used to make reservations for every restaurant. It seemed jarring to be in a colorful website for a chain, then be dumped into a dull and boring reservation page that didn’t look like it had anything to do with that chain. That should be easy enough to fix. Once it was fixed everything would fit together better. Another problem was that, other than on the reservation page, there wasn’t anything to indicate that each chain was owned by the Gonzalves Corporation. There should be some standard way, maybe at the top of every page, that provided that connection to the parent company. Again, that should be easy enough to fix. Also, almost all of the chain websites were Spanish-only, which could keep tourists who only spoke English from finding out about the company’s restaurants. The parent company site allowed visitors to select either Spanish or English. That would be more complicated to implement for every chain, but seemed like a good idea that could increase their business.
After about an hour Jeremy had seen enough of the websites and had two pages of notes. He was ready to talk to Armando Monday evening. He recalled that when he got home from school Monday afternoon he wanted to phone State Farm about the cleanup of the rug and paying the window repair bill. He also wanted to go online and see if the bank knew about the $5,000 deposit yet. He made a note on a pad by the house phone to remind him to do those two things.
After staring at websites in Spanish he was tired and it was time to get to bed so he could be up on time to go to school in the morning. So that’s what he did.
It was hard for Jeremy to get up Monday morning, but he did and was at school on time. Every class seemed to be more of the same. One difference was that he saw Bill Kendall in the halls several times before lunch, and they waved to each other each time. As Jeremy was walking to his fourth period Creative Writing class he stopped Bill outside of the Language Arts building and said that he’d see him at lunch. Bill smiled and said okay.
Jeremy introduced Bill to the lunch group, and after the usual interrogation he seemed to fit in with the others. Afterward Bill stopped Jeremy in the hall.
“Thank you for inviting me to your table, Jeremy. Your friends are real nice.”
“You’re welcome. From now on just come on over to our table and sit down. You’re a member of our group now.”
“Thanks. That’s cool!” Bill seemed enthusiastic, and Jeremy was glad about that.
Because Jeremy rode his bike to school on Monday, he was able to be home by three forty-five. He checked his email and there was a message from the State Farm agent. He phoned and was able to make an appointment for Tuesday evening to have the damages inspected and complete the forms so he could have the bill for replacing the window paid and to get the carpet cleaned.
He checked the Central County Bank website, and as he expected there was nothing about a $5,000 deposit.
There was a short email from his mother thanking him for his reply and the pictures. She wrote that the triplets were very cute, and that Jeremy and Mike made a very handsome couple. The part about being a couple made Jeremy blush.
There was also an email from José.
Hola, Jeremy, Hello
I saw the picture of you and your boyfriend Mike. You are both very handsome. I am looking forward to meeting the two of you.
I know my uncle told you that I am gay, and I have a boyfriend. I have attached our picture. I am the one who is grinning. His name is Antonio Acosta. His nickname is Tony, which is not very Spanish and I tease him about it. We have known each other from our first year of school. We are now in our eleventh year. We both go to Liceo Del Valle in Guadalajara. That translates to Valley High School in English.
You know that I am going to accompany my uncle and my aunt, your mother, to visit you during Easter vacation. My uncle said you would write me with ideas about what we could do while I am there visiting. So, if you were to ask me ¿«What do I want to see when I visit California»? I would of course say «Visit Disneyland»! But I know Disneyland is not near where you live, so instead I must say «Visit San Francisco, the gay capital of America»! (I am blushing now.)
Your mother said you have the week prior to Easter for your spring vacation, but must return on the Monday following Easter. If you have other things to do, please do not change your plans. I can be a tourist with my uncle and aunt while you are busy. I am very open to anything you have to suggest for the time you have available to be my tour guide.
My aunt, your mother, says your high school is named Las Lomas. Is it hilly where you live? I am very curious about your school and how different it might be from my school. I am interested in becoming a teacher or a high school administrator, so I will have a lot of questions for you. My uncle always jokes that I never met a question that I would not ask. That makes me laugh, because it is true.
Well, I must go to bed. Our first class is held at 7.30 in the morning. I like to be at school early so I can say hello to friends and have something to eat.
Please write! I am eager to hear from you, Jeremy.
Your new cousin,
Jeremy opened the attached file with the picture of Antonio and José.
Jeremy grinned. José’s email message proved that he had a good command of English, even though it sounded rather formal. Both of his pictures showed him smiling. That’s something that Jeremy liked. The picture he sent with his boyfriend showed them in a pool. So Waterworld would be a good destination during spring break. He also noticed that José said it was Easter vacation, and that they got two weeks off. He wondered if his high school was religious, or a public high school. He also wondered it José was out as a gay kid at school. He wondered what José would think when he found out that both Lyle and Greg were gay. It was like a veritable nest of gays within walking distance of Jeremy’s house. That made him chuckle. There were lots of things for them to talk about.
He decided to reply to José. He opened the email he’d sent his mom and Armando and copied the suggestions he’d made and pasted them into the new email, and added some others including a trip to San Francisco. He also suggested that on the Monday or Tuesday after Easter, if José was interested, he would talk to the principal and obtain approval so he could spend the day with Jeremy at Las Lomas High School, just like he was a student there. He sent the email.
Then he forwarded José’s email including the attached picture of Antonio and José to Mike.
About five minutes later Jeremy heard the ringtone from his cell. It was Mike.
“Hi, boyfriend,” Jeremy said.
“Hi, and back atcha, boyfriend,” Mike replied. “So your new cousin is hot!”
“You got it. Did you see the pic of José with his boyfriend in a pool?”
“Take a look in your inbox. I forwarded the email he sent me a few minutes ago. It should be there by now.”
“Okay, got it. Lemme open the attachment. Yeah, nice. They seem touchy-feely, don’t they.”
“I think so. Guess what? My mom, Armando, and José are coming here to visit during spring break. I’ve been trying to think where we can go with José. Maybe Waterworld, assuming the weather’s hot enough. Six Flags in Vallejo and ride rollercoasters. Go hiking on Mt. Diablo. He wants to go to San Francisco one day to see the gay capital of America.”
“He what? Really?” Mike chuckled.
“Really. I guess that means we take him to the Castro.”
“It’s pretty dull, really, unless the Pride Parade is going on.”
“I agree. But if he wants to go there, why not?”
“Might as well. Is there any conflict with our study group meetings?”
“No. The only conflict is that they’re here for half of the week after Easter. We have school then. José wrote that he wants to be a teacher or a high school administrator, and he’s interested in what our high schools are like compared to his in Guadalajara. So I’m going to try to get approval to bring him to school, probably on that first Monday we’re back, and have him come with me to all of my classes.”
“That’s a good idea. How are the two of you going to get to school?”
“Maybe my mom or Armando can drive us and pick us up. Or we can walk. On the way home I could show him around downtown Walnut Creek and Mom and Armando can join us for dinner and take us back home. They’re staying at my house.”
“So where is José going to sleep?”
“In the spare bedroom; it was my grandma’s room. It’s got a lot of stuff stored in there, so I’ll have to move the boxes to the garage. But other than that, it’s okay. It has a double bed and all the usual furniture. Just not a lot of it. And it has a closet. We’ll have to share the bathroom. My mom and Armando will use my mom’s bedroom and the master bath. It’s actually smaller than the bathroom I use off the hall.”
“You know, I never saw a picture of your mom before. Seeing her and Armando was quite amazing. She’s beautiful.”
“She looks a lot like you, too.”
“Except for our eyes. Mine are dark blue and hers are light gray.”
“Since José’s uncle is your stepfather, what relationship does that make José and you?”
“Geez, I don’t know. It’d be some sort of cousin, I guess. A step-cousin? A step-second-cousin? A half-step-second-cousin? Hell, I don’t know. I guess I’ll have to Google it.”
Mike laughed at Jeremy. “He’s your step-cousin. If Armando was your father, then his nephew would be your cousin. Since Armando is your step-father, then his nephew is your step-cousin.”
“Speaking of step-cousins, José says you and I are very handsome.”
“Tell him I said he’s cute. Also, I think you should just call him your cousin.”
Jeremy chuckled. “Okay, I’ll do both. You have a lot of homework tonight?”
“The usual suspects. Speaking of same, I better get going. I have about 30 Algebra 2 and Trig problems to finish for period A first thing tomorrow morning.”
“Alright. Sleep tight, lover boy.” Jeremy waited for Mike’s response, which was laughter followed by the call ending.
Before he could put his cell back in his pocket, the house phone rang. He hurried to the living room and picked it up.
“Hi, Jeremy. It’s Roger Butler. I have some news about Armando Moria.”
“Not bad news, I hope.”
“No, actually good news. He’s genuine. His company is profitable, and they are expanding their restaurants to new cities in Mexico. My sources say they are very conservative about spending and investing, they pay higher wages than their competitors, and their employees get good benefits.”
“That’s a relief. Armando, my mom, and Armando’s 16-year-old nephew José, are coming for a visit during spring break. They’ll be here the week before Easter and are leaving three days after. I have to go to school starting the Monday after Easter. Armando’s nephew gets two weeks off from his high school.
“By the way, I sent a picture of Armando and my mom and one of his nephews to Mike. His nephew is cute. He’s gay, and he has a boyfriend.”
“Are you planning on doing tourist things together during the break?”
“Yes, with Mike, Lyle, and Greg and Nikki too, if they’re available. There are a lot of things we can do around here. José wants to go to San Francisco one day to see the gay capital of the U.S.A.” He laughed, and heard Mr. Butler laughing, too.
“I assume you haven’t heard anything from the bank yet.”
“No. I didn’t expect to. My mom just made the deposit on Saturday afternoon, so I figure it’ll take several more days. Have you heard anything about Leo?”
“Yes. His arraignment is scheduled for Wednesday morning at ten a.m. He’ll have a bail hearing immediately following the arraignment. Dave Morrison expects that bail will be refused because of exacerbating circumstances: he is both a flight risk and a danger to the public and to a minor.”
“I sure hope he doesn’t get out on bail.”
“As soon as I hear on Wednesday, I’ll let you know. I’ll send you a text so you won’t have to answer your phone at school.”
“Thanks. Anything else?”
“No, that’s all for now. I’ll say Goodbye and Good Night, Jeremy.”
“Thanks and g’bye, Mr. Butler.”
That ended the call. There wasn’t much else to do, so Jeremy started on his homework.
After he finished, he sat down and thought about everything that had happened over the past few months. It started with his mom disappearing in Mexico with her idiot boyfriend Leo and ended with her married to Armando, a really nice guy, and with Leo, a really bad guy, in jail. It started with not knowing how he was going to cope and ended with the best of all possible boyfriends, Mike Butler. It started with not having any money and ended with the promise of $5,000.00 every month paid until he graduated from college. It started with not having any friends in his neighborhood and ended with having new friends who lived nearby.
His life had changed. So much, so fast, so good, so satisfying, so amazing, and all at once. Jeremy felt tears begin to pool in his eyes, and he let them flow. They were happy tears, and he was smiling. Yes, for once his life had changed, and for the better. That’s what it was:
One life changed.
Thanks to Cole Parker for editing One Life Changed
If you enjoyed this story,
you can read the other stories in the series on Codey’s World:
|One Warm Coat|
|One Best Friend|
|One Perfect Boyfriend|
|One Complicated New Year|
|One Sexy New Neighbor|
|One Cute New Neighbor|
|One Questionable Outcome|
|One Satisfactory Outcome|
|One Confusing Phone Call|
|One Acceptable Outcome|
|One Life Changed|
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This story and the included image are Copyright © 2016-2021 by Colin Kelly (colinian). The original image is Copyright © 2009 Matthew Benoit | Dreamstime.com; the two images of the boys are Copyright © 2016 sylv1rob1 | Adobe Stock; the image of the couple is Copyright © 2016 Andy Dean | Adobe Stock. None of this content can be reproduced without express written consent. Codey’s World web site has written permission to publish this story and include these licensed images. No other rights are granted.
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