Trials and Tribulations
Chapter 12: It’s In The Cards
Dad made me stay home, while Joey and Roger went to school on Tuesday, but he promised if I didn’t have any problems, I could return to school on Wednesday. To say I was bored, would be like saying Justin Bieber had a few fans. Okay, I guess to be honest, for about two hours, I did enjoy myself. I had recorded Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, and after breakfast, I watched the movie in my bedroom. It was a really good place to watch it, since Jake Gyllenhaal in my opinion, is a major hottie. While I was watching, every time I thought about Jake being naked, the image of Joey standing in front of me, with his crotch at eye level, his manhood hard, and that wet spot growing, kept replacing Jake in my mind. Who needs Hollywood actors when you have the real deal?
While I was taking a nap, out of boredom that afternoon, I dreamed I was at the hospital again, and Joey stood in the same spot he had been after our kiss. This time, Roger wasn’t there. I looked up from Joey’s hard-on to his eyes, and he moved towards me. His hands came together at his belt; then he slowly unfastened it, unbuttoned his pants, and slowly unzipped. He leaned against the bed, and pushed his jeans and boxers down his thighs. I moved closer to his manhood when it was free, and mere inches from my face. It was beautiful, above average size, with blond hair hovering above it like a crown with perfectly proportional balls. As I leaned forward to lick it clean of his essence, I felt someone gently shaking me. I had been laying on my right side facing the door, and when I opened my eyes, I found myself in my own room, not at the hospital, and Joey’s crotch was in my face.
I groaned and looked up into my angel’s face.
“Hi,” I said, in a husky voice, still half asleep, and wishing the dream I had been woken from had been for real.
“Sorry to wake you. Should we come back later?” Joey said, he gestured with a backward glance at Roger standing in the doorway to let me know Roger was there, too, and then bit his lower lip.
“No, no, I’m awake now. What’s up?” I said.
I sat up, wiped the sleep from my eyes, and motioned for both of them to take a seat on my bed.
“What time is it?” I asked no one in particular.
Roger looked at his watch, “ten after five.”
“You all are just now getting home?” I asked.
“Mmm… no,” Joey paused, with a smile on his lips. “Roger and I made a side trip before we came home.”
I glanced at Roger. “Are you trying to steal my boyfriend?”
I received a light punch in my arm from Joey, and Roger rolled his eyes.
“No silly, I had an appointment with my lawyer, Mr. Bennett.”
He had my attention now. Joey sat on my bed, Indian style, with his hands in his lap. I looked into his eyes, and I could tell he had happy news, for they sparkled.
“Okay, what did Mr. Bennett want?”
“Well, I didn’t tell you last night, but yesterday afternoon, I told Mr. Bennett, the lawyer we met at the hospital, that I would agree to testify against my parents if the commonwealth attorney really needed me to. I asked if there was any way I could help them, and he said that it was really in the hands of the judge. He said that the judge would want to talk to me before any decision was made.” Joey wore a sad smile, but reached out and patted my knee.
“Today after school, I met with the Family Court judge, Mr. Bennett, my parents, Miss Anderson, and Aunt Alice. After I told the judge I no longer wanted to live with my parents, he asked me why. I just told him that I didn’t feel wanted or safe there anymore.” He said, sadly, but plowed on. “The judge reviewed the doctor’s notes and the recommendation of Miss Anderson to end my parent’s custodial rights. He stated it wasn’t something he did lightly, but for my safety and my future, I needed to be away from them.” When he finished, his lower lip was quivering. “After… after that…” He cleared his throat, and paused to compose himself. “About an hour later, they had another meeting to do with the criminal side of things.” Joey finally finished the sentence in tears.
“Oh baby, come here.” I said, gathering him in my arms. He laid his head on my chest and his tears soaked my tee-shirt. “Joey, just remember you’re not alone. No matter what, I will never turn my back on you. I love you, and so do other people, not because of what you have been through, but because of who you are, baby.”
“That’s right!” Roger spoke up, and put his arm around Joey and me. “Besides, you always have us. We are the three musketeers!” He announced.
Joey turned his head and stared at Roger. I’m not sure if Roger was more shocked than me with what Joey did next. He sat up and wrapped his arms around Roger’s neck and kissed him on the cheek.
Before I could enjoy seeing Roger turn several shades of red, my breath was taken away when Joey planted his sweet lips on mine. Too bad it didn’t last long, but I was over the moon that now, Joey seemed past his sadness.
“I love you both so much! I dreamed of a boyfriend like you, Andy. And Roger, I couldn’t have asked for a better brother.” He beamed, and I felt awesome.
Then his smile faded. “But, there’s more. After the meeting with the judge, my parents met with the prosecutor, and they reached a plea agreement. They plead guilty to child endangerment, and the commonwealth dropped all other charges. After they have another hearing before a trial judge and if that judge agrees, Dad will be sentenced to three years, with 32 months of it suspended, and five years of probation, with several conditions. I guess that means dad will have to spend six months in jail and if he breaks any of the conditions, he’ll have to serve the full three years. Mom was sentenced to a year, but the jail time was suspended, with three years of probation, with some of the same conditions as my dad has. So now, I don’t have to testify in court. Also, my parents have to leave me alone, and not spread rumors about me. There are other conditions, but they don’t concern me.”
When he finished, he laid his head back on my chest, and I wrapped my arm around him.
His voice was soft now, “I’m just so glad it’s all over.”
“I’m glad too. I would have liked to see them get some jail time for what they did to you, but they are your mom and dad, so if you’re happy with it, I am too.” I hugged him a little tighter.
Roger reached over and ruffled Joey’s hair. “There’s more still.” He smiled. “We’re going to try and adopt him.”
Joey looked up at me with a huge smile. “Yeah, that’s the best news. I’m going to have a new family. A family that really loves me: loves me for who I am, and not for what I am.”
His words reminded me of my experiences the last couple of days, and then the lyrics from Chasing Cars popped into my head.
I need your grace
To remind me
To find my own
“Joey, I read something in a series of stories online called, The Clan Short Universe, that help me deal with the visions I’ve had lately. It goes something like this, ‘…sometimes, bad things have to happen, so that good things can happen…’ So, I’m not worried about the future. You and I both are surrounded by people that love us. Mom taught me that with love, all things are possible.”
His gaze met mine; he leaned in, and planted a soft kiss on my lips. I have no idea where Roger got it from, but the next thing I knew, Joey and I were hit with a pillow.
“Get a room guys! Jeez.” Roger groaned, playfully.
“We have one, numb nuts.” I teased back.
“Andy, I’m home.” Dad called from downstairs.
The next day at school was uneventful, thank God. However, the afternoon at the clinic, made up for it. Aunt Alice picked us up from school, and when she stopped to drop us off at the clinic for our check-ups, an old beat-up GMC pick-up truck almost hit us in the rear. We turned around to see what all the noise was about, but the truck quickly pulled away. It kinda looked like a truck that had been parked in the school’s parking lot when we were picked up, but I decided it probably wasn’t the same truck. Once we settled down from almost getting rear ended, Aunt Alice took Roger with her to do the grocery shopping. There was no doubt in my mind at all that Roger wasn’t a happy camper, about having to go with his mom.
Once inside, Joey and I approached the receptionist, introduced ourselves, and told her our appointment times. She gestured to a seat where we waited for a nurse to call for us.
“Lawd have mercy, if you two youngins aren’t lookin as fit as a fiddle.” I heard a familiar voice sing out. Both of us blushed.
We turned to find Nurse Nancy standing there, a clipboard in her hand, and a huge smile on her face.
“Hi, Nurse Nancy,” I said.
“Why don’t both of you come in together, since you’re like brothers, and it would save everyone a heap of time.” She said, motioning for us to follow her.
She weighed us, took our blood pressure, temperature, and then had us sit down. She removed a few vials from a drawer, and grabbed a plastic cord out of another drawer.
“I hope you don’t mind,” she began, as she tied the plastic around my arm, “but please make a fist. I need to take a few vials of blood for the tests they wanted to run on you.”
I didn’t mind, but it wasn’t my favorite thing to deal with. While the blood drained into the vials, she held my attention.
“So, Andy, have you had any headaches? I see the swelling has gone down nicely.”
“No, no headaches.”
“Is there anything I should be worried about?”
“No dear. I’m just checking to make sure you are alright. Thank you. That was the last one.”
She quickly bandaged my arm and then turned her attention to Joey.
“Alright, strip to the waist young man. I need to check your bandages, and make sure you’re healing up nicely.”
He blushed, but was able to slide the shirt off without my help. There were only a few bandages now. I could see the scars that had formed over what had been the open wounds.
“These are doing nicely. The doctor has some cream he wants you to apply that should help eliminate scarring. If things don’t go as he expects, you might have to see one of the plastic surgeons.”
He blushed again, and quickly tugged on his shirt. We were done long before our joint appointments were supposed to be over. Nurse Nancy looked at her watch, then turned to us and asked, “When is someone picking you boys up?”
“We were told to call when we were ready.” I said, not sure where this was going.
“Have you ever been to a carnival, where people will tell you your future for money?”
“Well, yeah I have.” I said, and then looked at Joey, who was shaking his head.
“Would it seem like fun if Nurse Nancy tried that for the both of you?” She asked, smiling.
“Sure,” I laughed. “Sounds like more fun than grocery shopping.”
Joey shrugged his shoulders. I was comfortable with her suggestion, however Joey appeared uneasy. His religion condemned such things, but she smiled kindly at him, and he seemed more at ease.
“Good, let’s go into the break room and I’ll show you an old trick from the old country.” She said, and lead us down a hallway that opened up into a large kitchen area with soda and snack vending machines, a good size refrigerator, a large metal sink, multiple cabinets, and a large, round, white, cafeteria table, that had six chairs sitting around it. The table was large enough to easily seat eight people. There was also a tall, wide, metal cabinet that appeared to house lockers with six doors that had combination locks on them.
Joey and I took a seat, and she pulled out a deck of cards from a purse in one of the lockers. She sat opposite us, and shuffled the deck of weird looking cards for about fifteen seconds, slid them across the table to me and asked me to cut the deck without putting the bottom half above the top half. She placed the bottom half on top of the other half, and laid cards out on the table, face up. The cards were all different, so I guessed they were face up.
She studied them for what seemed like a long time before glancing up at me.
“This spread is called the Celtic Cross. It’s one of the most popular spreads, and since I’m from a very long line of people that can trace our family ties all the way to the beginning of the Celtic traditions, it’s the one I like to use.”
I observed her closely and asked, “Are we kin?”
“In a manner of speaking. If we looked back far enough, I’m sure our branches, of the tree touches, and intertwine; but, there are other ways to be a family besides blood.” She said with a smile. “I’m going to tell you what each card means and what it means in the position it sits. Okay?”
I nodded, not knowing what to say. I was spellbound by what laid before me.
“Now, let me explain what I see. This first card tells us what influences currently surround you; it’s the Nine of Swords. It means that you know that you have troubles, but if you don’t face them, it will lead to despair. This isn’t exactly a happy card to see, because it often shows deeply rooted emotional pain that simply refuses to go away. Usually this is either guilt or regret, and in either case you feel the pain because you wish you could go back and change what happened – but you cannot. The event is not as painful as the reminder that it is your fault, and that you can do nothing about it. Only by accepting responsibility can you ever hope to defeat this anguish, and in the majority of cases submitting to the pain is worse than trying to fight it. But if you do not, it remains to terrorize and taunt you.”
“The second card is the Hang Man. It tells me that you are your biggest obstacle. Just by admitting to yourself that you are afraid will give you strength to conquer your fear. When you relinquish your desire for control, everything begins to work as it should. In a world in which you must run as fast as you can to stay where you are, the Hanged Man tells you to stop struggling – and you can move forward.”
She paused, and her face softened before she asked. “Are you still with me sweetie?”
“I think so.” I said, without much conviction.
“Listen honey, you know your life better than I do. After I explain the meanings of the cards and the positions, all you need have remember is to use them to guide your path. Okay?”
“Yes, ma’am. I think I understand now.”
“Okay, child. I’m going to turn a new card to see if there’s an influence in your life to help you with this.”
She turned over a card that looked like a king of something.
“This is the Emperor. He is the archetypal Father, wise in the ways of the world and knowledgeable of how to live as part of a structure along with everyone else. The Emperor does have a strong and powerful heart, as every father should, but he shows this side of himself through the imposition of strict guidelines and rules, as most fathers do. If anything he is even more protective than the Empress, because he has created order from chaos and wishes nothing to disturb that order. Underneath his royal robes, hides the suit of armor which the Emperor proudly wears when defending those under his protection. Andy, I think even you know who this card represent – your father.”
I smiled at her and nodded. Joey squeezed my hand under the table. We had been holding hands since we both sat down, but out of sight.
“She’s right. I feel there’s nothing he wouldn’t do for you, Andy.” Joey said, and squeezed my hand again, which I returned, with a smile.
“Okay, in the third position is Death, but don’t freak out on me. It doesn’t mean you’re going to die, like most people think. In the Tarot, as in reality, Death is nothing more than a transition to the next level of life. Whether you believe that a soul goes to heaven or back to Earth to be reincarnated, the fact remains that the soul lives on. The candle is extinguished, but only because the day has come. The river shown on many versions of the Death card is a symbol, showing that life will go on, no matter what disastrous things happen. The river water will reach the sea, rise into the clouds, then rain onto the land to flow into the river again. Nothing is destroyed, because nothing can be destroyed – there can be only transformation. In this position…”
“Nurse Nancy,” a lady at the door paused to see if she had Nurse Nancy’s attention, when Nurse Nancy turned to consider her, she continued, “your next appointment is ready, and the Doctor will be ready to see the boys in about five minutes.”
“Thank you, I’ll be with my next patient in about five minutes, too, and I’ll send the boys back to the examination room.” She said, before turning back towards us, and patted a card with her right hand that looked like a Queen sitting on a throne with a cup in her hand.
“Andy, to quickly sum up what I see in the cards is this: you have been troubled by the death of your mother, but something recently happened that has helped you through it. It has given you a new beginning, which is what The Sun here means in this position. You have a lot of people willing and able to help you now and in the future. I see your dad, a pastor or religious man of some type, a woman or mother type, and many others as guides and helpers. There’s more troubles coming, but these people will help you through it. I also see a very long, healthy, loving, relationship.” She said, reaching over to take my hands. And then she said something in a language I didn’t understand, but it sounded like some old forgotten language. I didn’t know how I knew that, but somehow I did. I also knew for some reason that it was a blessing, so I bowed my head. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that Joey had bowed his as well.
She led us back to the same examination room we had been in. A minute later, the doctor walked in and took a quick look at us both. He told us we were doing fine. Joey asked him about camping this weekend, and the doc told us he didn’t see any reason we couldn’t, as long as we kept Joey’s back cleaned and bandaged. So, with our promise to do as he asked, he gave the idea his okay. He also told me I was cleared to go about my normal activities, and wrote a note for school lifting all restrictions.
I was excited about the camping trip with Joey. However, I knew we needed our parent’s approval, too, but I didn’t think Dad would object; Aunt Alice was another story. I wasn’t sure how she felt about allowing Joey to romp about in the woods with Roger and me. If everything worked out, we could go camping Friday after school, since we didn’t have to work for Mr. Horn, with the team playing an away game this week. That way we could hike around Saturday morning, head home Saturday afternoon and still get Joey to church on Sunday morning. The key was going to be Aunt Alice.
Coach Nettles was well liked by most and tried to get along with everyone. He was the kind of coach that didn’t believe winning was everything. That’s why he didn’t have to think twice about suspending JT from the football team during the same week he was suspended from school.
After hearing the reasons surrounding JT’s suspension from Mr. Horn, Coach Nettles waited to cool off before talking to the boy. Coach had a cousin in Johnson City, Tennessee, who had been picked on during his high school years. Finally it became too much for him and he ran away from home. No one had heard from him in years.
The coach and his cousin had been as close as two boys can be, even with the distance between them. The two had been inseparable at all the family reunions while they were growing up. They even wrote each other at least once a week, before there was the internet. When the coach learned that his cousin ran away, it hurt him that he hadn’t been able to help, and that his cousin hadn’t told him what was going on.
From that point on in coach’s life, he made it a point to try and help those who needed it, and to stop bullies from hurting others. While in college, he learned how to deal with both the bullies and the bullied. He found out that there is always a reason behind a bully’s actions and learned how to de-program most of them.
By the time JT had entered his office, the day of the first fight, coach had cooled down and decided what he was going to do with JT. He had suspended him from practice and that week’s game, and punished him with an extra ten extra laps after practice for the rest of the year. However, what the coach hadn’t told him was if he noticed a change for the better in JT’s attitude, he would stop the extra laps. He believed that if a kid was given a reason and a way to change to be a better person, they would.
When JT came to his office, on his first day after suspension, to confess what he, Jonas, and Kevin had done to Andy Collins and Joey Adams, the coach was both shocked that JT had learned nothing during the past week, and relieved that he finally got it, today. There was no doubt in coach’s mind that JT had changed as he sat there and watched JT confess in tears about how sorry he was, and that now he realized how wrong he had been.
After JT had finished running his laps, at the end of practice Wednesday afternoon, Coach Nettles called him to one side.
“JT, how are things at home?” He asked, placing a hand on his shoulder.
JT answered in a sad, soft, voice. “Okay.”
“Look at me son.”
Slowly looking up from the ground, not wanting to make eye contact with coach, their eyes finally met. As soon as they did, the flood of tears JT had been trying so hard to hold back gushed from his eyes. Coach wrapped his arms around the boy, telling him everything would work out. He had figured correctly that JT’s troubled behavior started at home, as it usually did with kids in the same predicament.
“Come on JT, we’ll go to my office. We can sit down where we’ll be more comfortable and talk about everything.”
It had been about an hour since Aunt Alice had dropped us off, so I figured she was probably done shopping. Once we were outside of the clinic, I called her and told her we were ready. As it turned out, Aunt Alice and Roger were already on the way back.
I looked over at Joey. “They’re on their way to pick us up.”
Joey moved closer to me until our shoulders touched. From my short time with him, it was easy to tell he had never experienced the physical affection most of us kids received from our parents. I looked around to see if anyone was paying any attention to us and decided, fuck it, he was my boyfriend and I loved him. I didn’t care what anyone else thought about it. I was no longer concerned with anyone else except my Joey. I threw my arm around his shoulder and hugged him. The smile I got in return, made my day, just like the smiles he gave me at the hospital, for falling on my ass and bumping my head on the door. I’d do anything to bring a smile to his face.
“Andy,” Joey started, bringing me out of my thoughts, “when should we talk to Steve and Alice?”
“Well, probably after we tell her all the good things the doctor said, and ending with him saying it was okay for us to go camping this weekend.”
Joey nodded just as Roger and his mom drove up.
“I’m not sure what to make of this Joey kid.” Randy said, as he looked back and forth between Timmy, Gary, and Debbie.
“I think he’s sweet.” Debbie said before taking a bite of a French fry.
“I don’t think it matters much what we think about him. It’s clear to me that Andy has made him a friend, and in a way, Roger and Joey are like brothers now, right?” Gary said, after taking a drink from his coke.
“No, but Joey is living with Roger and his family now. I get the feeling that they’ll adopt him soon.” Debbie said to Gary, and then she turned to Timmy sitting beside her in the booth they were all sitting in at the Quillen Drug Store, “Isn’t that what Roger hinted to you, Tim?”
Looking a little put out for being put on the spot, Timmy stared at Debbie and said, “Look, it’s not my place to say anything, but if you asked me, I’d say Joey is queer and he’s turning Andy into a queer too.” Everyone stopped eating and anything else they were doing and stared at Timmy.
He threw his hands up in defense, “Wait, before you say anything.” Timmy looked around to make sure no one else was listening. He leaned forward, followed by the other three, and spoke slightly above a whisper. “I didn’t mean to say that the way I did. I mean, I don’t care if Andy or Joey is gay or not. Andy is still Andy.” He shook his head. “I’ll admit I didn’t like Joey at first. He just looked like one of those pretty boys that loved attention, but after talking to Roger some, I’ve changed my mind for two reasons.” He held up two fingers.
“One, Roger told me some of the stuff Joey has been through his whole life and some really bad things he’s had to deal with the last couple of years.” Timmy gathered his thoughts as he looked down at the table. Having reached a decision, he examined their eyes, “I think we should all give him a break for that, if for no other reason. But if you need another reason, here’s number two. If you wanna keep Andy and Roger as friends, you better be nice to Joey. And that alone tells me that Joey is cool, no matter anything else. Don’t forget that Andy and Roger already took on JT, Jonas, and Kevin, at the same time, over Joey. Not to mention that’s the second time Andy and JT have gotten into it, over Joey.”
“I agree. I say we give Joey a chance.” Gary said, and then tapped the table with his index finger to punctuate every word he said next. “My cousin is gay, and anyone that gives Joey a hard time about it, if he is, will have to deal with me too.”
“Personally, I think they make a cute couple.” Debbie said, with a grin. The guys groaned, rolled their eyes, and leaned back against the booth simultaneously. Debbie just laughed at their antics.
As soon as Joey and I climbed in the back seat, Aunt Alice turned and asked, “How did the appointments go?”
“My back is almost totally healed up, and the doctor asked that I not be rolling around in any pig pens in the near future.” Joey said, with a smile.
I spoke up, “He told me I was good to go and released me from any restrictions at school. I guess that means I can play basketball during gym now.”
“I’m glad to hear that, Andy. Did he have anything else to say about you, Joey?”
“Yes, ma’am. He said if I kept my back clean, I could go camping this weekend with Andy and Roger.”
“Oh, he did, did he?” Even though I couldn’t see Aunt Alice’s face, I could tell she was smiling.
“Uh huh. He sure did. I think it would be a good idea. It would give me a chance to get out and see more of this beautiful place. My father never allowed me to go camping or even have sleepovers.”
I reached over, took his hand in mine, and gave it a squeeze. When I looked up, I saw a single tear escape his eye and flowed down his cheek. I glanced up and saw Aunt Alice’s eyes on us in the rear-view mirror. I could see the sadness she felt for Joey in them.
“Well, you’ll need to talk to your fathers, but I don’t see a problem with it either. In fact, I think it’s a great idea.”
Joey’s face lit up. When he turned to look at me, even his eyes smiled at me. There was no doubt that Aunt Alice’s words had made him very happy.
“Thank you, Aunt Alice.” Joey said.
Roger turned around, and quickly laid out the game plan. “We’ll talk to our dads tonight when they get home. Since it’s only Friday night and part of Saturday, we’ll go light with our sleeping bags, hot dogs, and snacks. There’s plenty of water from that underground spring we found last year.” He looked at Joey. “You’ll love it, Joey. It’s the best water I ever had a drink of. It’s so cold, clear, and tasty. But more than that, you’ll love the sights. It’s really beautiful up there. It’s like a place time forgot.” Roger was in his tour guide mode. “Even after all this time, it’s not hard to find arrow heads. Who knows how long they have been there. They say these mountains are the oldest in the world. The reason they aren’t still the tallest mountains in the world today is because the weather and water caused erosion and wore them down to what they are today, after millions of years.”
I slightly poked Joey in the ribs, and said with a smile, “Now, there’s one proud hillbilly.” We all busted up laughing. Even Aunt Alice joined in.
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