Brandon consulted Zip Todd, Anjali Pennington, and Peter Hoff, all of whom praised his concern for the two street boys he had picked up entirely by chance. He also looked into schooling. To register the boys for either Baltimore, Clifton Prep, or the public schools, they had to have identification which he thought might alert the Public Welfare system as to their whereabouts. Hence, Brandon looked into home schooling. Up to now, home schooling had been of use primarily for pregnant females who could not attend their regular schools for a limited time, but clearly one could go through the entire elementary and secondary curriculum in that manner. The problem there was he also needed identification. He put that aside for the time being, deciding he needed to win more confidence from them before asking for their real identities.
During the evening, the entire household viewed the movie Precocious Grace, and then they talked about it. This was the movie in which Brandon played himself, detailing his first meeting with Chris Todd. Daniel and Colby obviously recognized Brandon in the movie, but were initially confused by Craig Crews, who played his romantic interest. Chris explained in an exasperated manner that the powers that be thought he was too young to play himself. There was almost five years difference between Brandon and Chris. The group talked about being gay, and how it was more or less scientifically proven that this was not a choice, not something you could decide, but something built in when you were born. The two boys felt even more accepted as gay and buddies after that.
The next morning, when Chris again went off to his classes, Brandon packed both boys into his Lamborghini and drove out to the Farm. Daniel and Colby were impressed with the car, and thrilled to be riding in it. They were considerably less thrilled when told they would be riding horses. Horses were big. They arrived at Todd Farm about nine o’clock, and were greeted by a whole new cast of characters. Brandon chuckling asked whether the boys could help out with the fence crew, but was told that the crew painting the white fences did not operate in cold weather. He feigned disappointment, saying the boys needed some work to get the kinks out of their muscles. Scott suggested the perennial task of mucking out stables. Neither Daniel nor Colby felt up to challenging Brandon, and were really confused about their status, so they decided to go along unless something really obnoxious were proposed. They were assigned to Mel Hamilton, who took them to Stable B and set to work with them.
Brandon, meanwhile, met with Scott MacKenzie and explained as much as he could about the boys. Scott grinned. “You fit right in with the Todds,” was his equivocal evaluation. “They’re always helping out somebody.” They went on to discuss the condition of the Farm, as they did whenever Brandon was in his capacity as an intern working under Scott’s supervision, learning the ropes. Someday, he and Chris would live full-time on the Farm, and, while Chris was an accomplished equestrian, Brandon would succeed Scott in the more pedestrian position of manager.
Not long after, it was dinner time. The boys were already tired out and dirty. They complained to Brandon that Mel was a slave driver, and they had not signed up for hard labor, but Brandon merely grinned, complimented Mel, and told them this pointed out how weak and out of shape they were. Mel, who had worked along side them and accomplished more than they, was not even breathing hard. The boys complained that their new clothes were getting dirty, but Brandon replied that they would deal with that later.
After dinner, and a time to let the food settle, Brandon led the boys out to the corral and Stable A. There, he asked Mel to show the boys how to saddle up, and so they were instructed in preparing three horses for riding. Then came the really frightening part. They were expected to actually get up on those huge beasts and ride them. Their first riding lesson, at the hands of Mel, but observed by Brandon from outside the corral, lasted only a half hour, but it made a difference. They were not converted into enthusiastic equestrians, but at least they were no longer really afraid.
Later that afternoon, Chris arrived after his last class. He quickly saddled Beauty, and the boys witnessed just how impressive horseback riding could be. Chris and his mount, CH Todd’s Beauty, were like two halves of a single being, like grace in motion. The boys and Brandon stayed on the Farm the rest of Thursday and all day Friday, but Chris went back to town for his classes. The boys worked and got riding lessons, while Brandon continued to work at just what he was going to do with them. On Thursday evening, they also visited the stores in Westbrook, and obtained a set of work clothes for each boy. Their ‘good’ clothes were washed and returned to them in prime condition.
On Saturday morning, Brandon and the boys returned to town, but Chris, who had returned to the Farm after his classes on Friday, remained on the Farm. Brandon was even more anxious than Daniel or Colby to receive the results of their blood tests. They were able to get those results just before lunch. To everyone’s relief, they were free of STDs, thanks in large part to insisting on condoms most of the time. After lunch, they were introduced to a new experience, soccer. Naturally, there was a game beginning at Mansfield Park, as there was most Saturday afternoons. Brandon walked the boys down there, and explained something about the game. He also talked to some of the other boys there, explaining that Daniel and Colby had never played before. They did not object, as this happened from time to time. They simply took the two newcomers into their midst, placing one on each team, and set about playing and teaching at the same time. By the time they broke up, the two newcomers were happy at having been accepted by this band of boys, and also glad Brandon had insisted that they wear their work clothes to the park.
On Saturday evening, with Chris back in residence, it was time for another discussion about the future. After dinner, Brandon, Chris, Daniel, and Colby gathered in the library. Brandon led off.
“Well, guys, I hope your enjoyed your break, because now it’s time to get to work.”
“Break!” both boys cried.
“We worked our asses off out at the Farm,” Colby insisted.
Brandon was laughing. “I know. And you did a fine job. I thought that would get you stirred up.”
“You’re evil,” Daniel declared, but he had a big grin across his face.
“Seriously, though, there are obviously some things which still need to be settled. First of all, except for the mucking out of stables, is there anything you two have to complain about, or anything you need we haven’t thought of?”
Daniel and Colby looked at each other, then, Daniel replied, “Can’t think of anything right now, but give us a little time and I’m sure we can come up with something.”
Chris gave him a little swat on the ass.
Brandon resumed his leadership. “First thing is, tomorrow is Sunday. We told you about our being members of the Catholic Church. Have you decided whether you want to go to church with us tomorrow morning?”
“We have a choice, right?” Colby asked.
“Absolutely. We will not force you to attend,” Brandon assured the boys.
“You guys have been really great, and I can’t imagine you would steer us wrong, so I’m willing to give it a try,” Daniel said.
“How about you, Colby?” Chris asked.
“I’m not real sure. Daniel was raised Catholic, but I’ve never been inside a Catholic church. The church my mom attended had some real bad things to say about Catholics. I don’t know what to expect,” Colby answered.
“Daniel can give you a general idea, although I suspect the way we do things at St. Rose will be a little different from what he was used to. But, basically, just follow along with the rest of us. I assure you, we don’t eat little boys,” Chris commented.
“I resent the ‘little boys’ comment,” Colby said, taking a swat at Chris in return for the one he received earlier. “But, well, I don’t want to be left here all by myself, so I’ll go along.”
“Aunt Luisa will be here. She goes to the early Mass at St. Francis Xavier,” Brandon informed them, but that did not change Colby’s decision.
“Now, here’s the second important decision this evening,” Brandon announced. “I’ve been looking into home schooling for you two. We don’t want you ending up complete ignoramuses, and working by loading garbage trucks all your lives. But, there’s a snag. I need some identification, primarily Social Security numbers. Do you have them? And will you let me have them?”
Daniel and Colby looked at each other.
“If we don’t have them, does this mean we don’t have to do the school thing?” Daniel asked.
“No, it just means you won’t get credit for it,” Brandon told them.
“Well, I had one once, I’m pretty sure, but I don’t any more. Either I lost the card, or I did not have it with me when my step-dad threw me out,” Daniel said.
“I’ve got a card, but if I give you the number, won’t that alert the welfare people?” Colby worried.
“I don’t think so. I’ve checked this out with a friend of ours who works for the Child Welfare Department there. From what she tells me, they do not check on home schooled children unless they are being home schooled as part of the public school system. You know, like when a girl gets pregnant, and they send someone from the County Department of Education to visit them, bring them assignments, and grade papers. I’ll supervise your schooling myself, so that should not come up,” Brandon informed the boys.
“You can do that?” Colby questioned.
“I can. In case you don’t know, I actually teach a class over at the University. I’m not just a pretty face, like other actors,” Brandon clowned.
“My boyfriend has a doctoral degree, so you’ll have to start calling him Dr. Dowling,” Chris joked.
“You do?” a surprised Daniel asked. “When I first saw you, I thought you were a student.”
“It hasn’t been that long since I was,” Brandon replied, “but, how about it, guys? Do you feel confident enough to trust us with your real identities?”
“Oh, shit! When you put it like that, what can I say? These past few days have been the best in my life so far, so here,” Colby said, pulling a Social Security card out of his wallet and tossing it on the table in front of them.
“Like I said, I don’t have a card,” Daniel said. “What do I do?”
“Give me your real name and I’ll see about getting a replacement,” Brandon promised.
“Okay. My real name is Thomas Aquinas Eidem Jr. That’s E I D E M,” Daniel said.
“Nice. Where did Daniel come from?” Chris asked.
“I didn’t want to be called by my real name after I got tossed out, so I just picked one. Daniel was a guy I liked in my grade at school,” he replied.
“And you?” Brandon said, looking at Colby’s card, which identified him as Chester Everett Wallingford. “Where did Colby come from?”
Colby grinned. “If you tell anyone outside this room what my real name is, I’ll murder you and cut your body up into little pieces and feed it to stray dogs,” he threatened. “I think it was child abuse to saddle me with that name. Anyway, I saw a program on TV with a guy named Colby, and I thought it was a cool name.”
“Okay, for now, anyway, we’ll keep calling you Daniel and Colby, but I will use your legal names to get the home schooling project off the ground,” Brandon told them. “I also need your birthdays.”
“Are we going to have a birthday party?” Colby joked, but they supplied the dates as well. Daniel was born on 13 May 1993, and Colby on 9 August. He remembered that it was right after his birthday that he ran from his last foster home.
Brandon consulted Zip Todd, who was something resembling a father-in-law, by phone later that evening, and together they set about recovering Daniel’s Social Security number. With Zip’s computer skills, they had the number by the next day, but it would take longer to get an actual card.
The next morning, both boys appeared in their good clothes, and, after a great breakfast from Aunt Luisa, they rode in the Cadillac to St. Rose for the 11:00 Mass. November 23 was the last Sunday of the current liturgical year, before starting over with the First Sunday of Advent the following week. Hence, it was the Feast of Christ the King. Always taking advantage of any excuse to celebrate, Father Harvey, the Pastor, had sixteen altar boys lined up, and was generous with the incense. Isabelle da Conte, the Music Minister, and Bob Logan, the organist, had an impressive musical feast on offer as well. Thus, the new boys were treated to quite a celebration.
Perhaps the first thing they noticed was that among the altar boys were several with whom they had played soccer the day before. Colby also noted that the music was a lot different than what he had previously experienced. Daniel recognized the entrance hymn, “To Jesus Christ, Our Sovereign King,” but it sounded a lot different when performed at St. Rose than he remembered it from his previous parish. As they were getting settled in a pew, they were joined by Martin Sotomayor, who had also been among the soccer players the day before, and his two dads, Ben Spalding and Gabriel Valderama. He grinned at them, and, when Colby admitted he had never been to a Catholic church before, responded, “Just do what I do.” That made it a lot easier.
At the sermon, Father Harvey preached on Christ as the ideal king or ruler of our lives, someone who was understanding, loving, and providing support. That was a lot different than either boy had encountered, too. Then, at communion time, Martin pointed to the brief notice in the order of worship advising non-Catholics to approach for a blessing. Although technically a Catholic, it had been so long since his last confession, and he had been engaged in such questionable activity, that Daniel joined Colby in this approach.
Afterwards, in the parking lot. Daniel declared that he liked this church, and would come every Sunday. Then, realizing that he had no idea how long they would be staying at Brandon’s place, he added, “as long as we’re around here.” Brandon grinned and hugged him. “A long time, then.”