Christmas trees were put up at Arkadelphia Thanksgiving weekend except at the Taylors’. When Sally had said she wanted a real tree, Scotty was adamant that Christmas started Christmas, not Thanksgiving. “Christmas for me has always meant the Midnight Eucharist with opening gifts afterward.”
“They have church at midnight?” Sally Ann asked.
“Actually starts about 10:30 with a choir concert, but usually ends around 12:30. I love it.”
“Then we’ll go,” Ethan said.
“Why don’t we have dinner in Audubon before?” Jamie asked.
Scotty called and made reservations at the Lyle Plantation for 8:30 thinking that sitting would be at a premium both in the restaurant and church Christmas Eve.
Scotty did suggest they get a tree for the house and wait until Christmas Eve to decorate it. He took Sally Ann shopping for ornaments and decorations and they came back loaded. Then, the Saturday before Christmas they all went to a Christmas tree farm between Braggton and Dawson to get a tree. He also insisted on buying the tree. The Taylors had never bought a tree, just cut a small pine which they decorated with popcorn strings and paper chains.
At the tree farm, you would’ve thought they were all 10-year-olds as even Ethan got involved in the ‘find the perfect tree’ game. When they finally agreed on one, the Christmas tree man said it was a ‘Carolina Sapphire.’ They all liked its bright blue-green color and especially its ‘Christmas’ smell. The man asked if they were sure they wanted the one they’d selected as it would be eight feet after he trimmed the base. Ethan assured him their house was old and had ten-foot ceilings as most nice old houses did because they were cooler in the hot summers. The tree was perfect in the eyes of the four gathered around it when they had it standing in the living room ready to be decorated Christmas Eve.
Christmas Eve afternoon, the four decorated the tree. It was a happy/sad time. It was the first Christmas without their father for the Taylors and the first without his family–such as it was–for Scotty, but it was also the Taylors’ first when they were warm, had plenty of food and a bit of money for presents. For Scotty and Ethan, it was their first Christmas as a couple, the first of what they hoped would be many, many more.
Ash and Kathy were going to the Midnight Eucharist as well after having dinner with friends in Audubon, and asked Kathryn if she would like to spend the night with them. Jamie had been surprised when they asked him if he would like for them to invite her and even more surprised when Mr. and Mrs. Heffner approved.
After a very nice dinner Christmas Eve, they did a bit of window shopping before going to St. Matthew’s. The church was already beginning to fill at 9:45, when they joined Miss Mattie. With the addition of Kathryn, Ash and Kathy, Miss Mattie’s pew was full to overflowing and she was delighted.
Although the choral concert was very good and they enjoyed it, the Taylors were surprised when there was no music they thought of as Christmas music. The concert concluded at 11:45, the choir left.
While everyone waited quietly, a group of musicians took their place in the chancel and tuned their instruments. Promptly at 12:00 Fr. Mason’s voice was heard at the back of the church, “Alleluia! Unto to us a child is born!” and the congregation responded “Come let us adore him! Alleluia!” Immediately afterward the organ and brass ensemble began ‘O come all ye faithful.’ At the head of the procession, instead of the crucifer carrying the cross was a young man swinging a pierced ball which was billowing smoke. As he passed, Ethan realized the smoke was incense as the fragrance began permeating the church. The Eucharist was magnificent. As it ended he understood why the Midnight Eucharist meant Christmas to Scotty and was sure in coming years it would mean Christmas to him as well. They got home at 1:30 and Ash told Katherine they would leave a light on for her and to come on when she was ready.
Sally Ann had prepared snacks and Scotty had Rich buy a bottle of champagne before he and Doug left for Australia. After toasting Christmas, they all gathered around the Christmas tree, sipping champagne while Jamie played Santa Claus. After the presents had all been opened, Jamie walked Katherine to Ash and Kathy’s. The night was very clear and the moon was not visible so the night sky was aglow with stars. Unlike many plantations, Davis had decided there would be no mercury vapor lights, so when when there was no moon, the heavens were filled with stars.
The Arkadelphia family gathered at the plantation house Christmas afternoon for dinner. As they had at Thanksgiving, the tables again groaned under the weight of all the good food. After everyone had eaten their fill and things had been cleared away, they gathered around the piano and sang carols. Finally, it was time to go home and people left, carrying boxes of food.
The week between Christmas and New Years was down time. The weather was unusually cold for December; the days gray and dreary. There was no real desire to be outside, so Scotty and Ethan used it to get a jump start on their independent studies. Joe had laid out their independent studies in four modules which would provide Ethan and Scotty’s eight hours for their second majors, horticulture and animal husbandry, spring semester. The first two modules were mostly review since they had been working on the materials since summer. Jamie worked right along with Scotty as did Andy. Since the independent study Scotty had was the same as theirs and was pretty much review for them as well, Scotty helped them get it in the form needed, but told them they needed to do it to get the experience. He checked over their work and thought they had done an excellent job. He was interested in seeing how, while the three had done the same reading and had discussed it together, their presentation of their findings and conclusions were different. None would have found one incorrect, but because of their own outlook and approach, it was clear the reports for the first module were done by three different people.
Andy and Jamie were kept very busy with school. They were lucky in that Scotty was working on the same material for Joe as they were and he was a great help. Ms. Bates’ observation that the two complemented each other proved to be true. After the adventures of the previous summer and fall, winter was practically dull. Dull, but welcome at Arkadelphia Plantation.
In mid-January, Dek, Ash and Ethan were cleaning up the last grove at Pleasant Grove. It was a cold, gray day and at 3:30, a mist hinted at another evening of drizzle. “Forget this!” Ethan exclaimed. Let’s head in.” When they stopped to let Ash off at her place, she said, “Ethan, check with Scotty and find an evening the two of you can come to dinner. Give me a call.”
“Ash, one evening is as good as another except Tuesday and Thursday when we go to class. All we’re doing in the evening is school work and we’re on top of that.”
“Wednesday evening then. Come around 6:30 and dinner will be at 7:00.”
Ethan told Scotty of the invitation as soon as he got home and promptly forgot about it. When he left for the grove a few days later, Scotty reminded him of their dinner date that evening and told him not to work over. “That’s good,” Sally Ann said, “Molly is going into Audubon for some women’s get-together and asked me to go with her.”
As he was headed to the equipment shed, Ethan saw Molly headed for the office and made a detour to catch up with her. After greeting her, he said, “Molly, Sally Ann said the two of you were going to Audubon after school today. Any idea when you’ll get back?”
“Not later than 5:00 as school is on early release so we can leave about 1:00. Something I can do for you?”
“If you would, could you bring me some flowers? Ash invited Scotty and me to dinner tonight.”
“No problem. What did you have in mind?”
“Something nice. You pick them out. January has been cold, gray, rainy and dull so spring flowers would be nice.”
Scotty and Ethan left work at 5:00. They showered—with some quality playtime--and got dressed. When they went downstairs, Sally Ann was arranging a large bouquet of Dutch iris. “They’re beautiful,” Ethan said.
“Thanks. I picked them out,” Sally Ann said.
Ethan and Scotty left for Ash and Kathy’s at a quarter of six. When they arrived, Ethan handed Ash the bouquet and she was very pleased with it. “You didn’t have to,” she said, then added with a laugh, “but glad you did. Reminds me that spring is just around the corner even if it doesn’t look like it.”
Ash offered them drinks and as she did said, “We have just about anything you want and if you like and want wine, we plan on having a nice red with dinner.” With wine coming later, Ethan opted for a coke. Scotty had bourbon in his coke.
The two had gone all out to serve a delicious meal around a perfectly prepared Beef Wellington, so conversation at the table was slow at first. The fact that neither Ethan or Scotty knew Kathy as well as they would have liked also played a part in that. “I’m sure you are tired of talk of pecans, Kathy,” Ethan said, “so tell us about school. I know it must be different from teaching in the Atlanta metro area.”
“It’s definitely different from the Atlanta area,” she responded. “Schools there are so large teachers and students don’t know each other. Also, the urban mindset is very different from here. There, people tend to live in isolation. Here everyone knows everyone and their business. There’s a bad side to both but, on the whole, I think a student in a small school has the advantage. For example, when there are so many, a student can get labeled bright or average or, frankly, dumb and expectations are tailored to the label. As a result, say a child in the first or second grade, for whatever reason, has a difficult time and is labeled as dumb and nothing is expected of the student, then the child fulfills that expectation. No-one knows enough about a student to help them out of a rut. Here teachers and students know each other. Teachers also know parents. Makes helping students who need help easier or at least more likely.”
After dinner, Ash and Kathy served a wonderful chocolate cake and coffee. “Ash, Kathy, kinda looks like you’re buttering us up for something.” Ash actually blushed and Ethan did a double-take, finding a blushing Ash hard to believe.
“Can’t fool the boss, I guess,” Ash said. “Ethan, I know you already have a family, but Jamie and Sally Ann will be moving on before you know it. Have you ever given thought to having children of your own?”
“Well, I have, knowing it’s highly unlikely. As Doug says it’s not from lack of trying, but Rich just doesn’t seem to get pregnant.”
“We haven’t talked about children,” Scotty said. “No reason to, absolutely no reason. Until Sally Ann’s on her own, seems foolish to even think about it. Ethan, you know as well as I do that you have two kids now and, while they are exceptionally mature, they place demands on you. Whether you realize it or not you devote a tremendous amount of time and energy to them. I can’t imagine how much more time and attention a baby would require and how you’ll squeeze it in since you never have time for anything except work and family now. You’ll have Jamie for at least two more years and Sally Ann four—at the least. You’ll be in your late twenties the earliest before you’ll be free. I guess I am selfish, but I am not interested in having kids with their demands. Right now we should be free to have fun and raise hell. We’re tied down entirely too much by kids now. Have you thought about having more time for us?”
The other three didn’t notice, but Ethan was shocked into silence.
“May change your mind later, Scotty,” Ash said.
“Well, Kathy and I very much want to have kids and we’d like to give birth to them. I guess that’s selfish too. She laughed and said, “Anyway, we’ve made the same discovery Doug and Rich have. But right now we are at the ideal child-bearing age. You two are pretty special young men and, we think, physically and in all other ways, perfect to father our children.”
Both Ethan and Scotty were gobsmacked. Scotty was finally able to speak and said, “Ah, Ash, I tried having sex with a woman once and, to be honest, I couldn’t get it up. As much as I like you and Kathy, I seriously doubt that has changed. Also, as I pointed out, I am not the least bit interested in having anything to do with children and that more than includes fathering them.
“In regard to the first part of your objection, we don’t expect you to have to perform,” Kathy said. “We have been seeing a doctor in Audubon and she is willing to impregnate us with your sperm. Ash and I would go to her office when we are most fertile and you two would be there as well, provide the sperm and the doctor would impregnate us.”
“That’s the way we do most of our cows,” Scotty said with a grin.
“Yeah, I guess it is, but you weren’t interested in any personal relationship with a child so it seems appropriate.”
“I’ll have to think about this,” Ethan said. “I guess how you get pregnant doesn’t really matter, but a child of mine will know his or her dad and I’d expect to be involved in his or her life.”
“Exactly the problem,” Scotty said.
Over the next week, Scotty and Ethan talked a lot about Kathy and Ash’s proposal. Scotty finally got tired of it all and said, “Look, Ethan, I really don’t give a shit what happens to the sperm when I get off. If Kathy or Ash would like some to get pregnant, they can have it. It doesn’t matter to me. Once I shoot, I’m finished with my ball juice, but I’m sure as hell not interested in having a little Scotty running around calling me daddy. I know you had little choice in being daddy to Jamie and Sally Ann, but it’s tied you down, limited you, made you sacrifice a lot. Maybe I’m selfish, but I not only don’t want that, I hate the very idea. If Kathy and Ash are clear about that, then they are welcome to some of my cum, but you need to think long and hard about what your having another kid is going to do to our relationship. You have too many kids already.”
For the first time in their relationship, Ethan allowed himself to take a realistic look at Scotty’s attitude and, frankly, he didn’t like what he saw. After he thought about it, he realized Scotty was just being honest about his feeling and he said he’d never allow himself to come between Ethan and his family. Same would be true with another child wouldn’t it?
By the end of the week after Kathy and Ash had made their proposal, Ethan and Scotty had reached a stalemate. With the understanding that he’d have nothing to do with any offspring of his and that Ethan knew he was not in favor of Ethan taking on another child to raise, the two found themselves in a lawyer’s office.
Scotty had insisted on a legal agreement which severed any and all relationships to a child or children which came about through the use of his sperm. Ethan’s agreement was almost the exact opposite. Any child he fathered was to know he was the father and he was to have complete access to the child or children. He even insisted they bear his as well as the mother’s surname. Further, he, Kathy and Ash agreed and had it included in their agreement, that should Kathy and Ash, for any reason, be unable to rear the children—and he insisted any of Scotty’s be included—he would take them and have full legal custody. After the documents were duly signed, witnessed and recorded by the clerk of courts, they went to the doctor’s office.
Ethan was adamant in his demand that the children be conceived through an act of love and he and Scotty made love in the doctor’s office and gave two very full condoms to the doctor. Scotty and Ethan were not told if their sperm was mixed or only one’s sperm was given to a woman. Mid-March, Ethan was told he was going to be a father. In accord with the agreement, Scotty was told nothing.
The four had agreed they would keep the pregnancies a secret as long as possible. Kathy sailing through early pregnancy with no problem helped keep the secret. Poor Ash, on the other hand, had severe morning sickness. She was so sick she finally told Molly she was pregnant.
Other than the excitement over the pregnancies, life at Arkadelphia Plantation was just what would be expected on pecan and cattle stations.
The blue lupine survived a sometimes exceptionally cold winter and put on a breathtaking display. Andy and Jamie spent much of their free time just lying in the midst of the display, watching the clouds and enjoying the flowers’ honey fragrance. Ethan and Andy wanted to show their girlfriends their beautiful lupine so one Sunday after Jamie had Sunday dinner with Kathryn and her parents and Andy had Sunday dinner with an uncle of A’isha, the four headed to Pleasant Grove.
The lupine was in full bloom, the sun was shining and the sky pure blue with a few fluffy white clouds — a perfect day. When they reached the grove and the lupine, Jamie and Andy spread a large blanket in the midst of the flowers so they could cloud watch and enjoy the plants. A’isha thought they were being nuts and said so in no uncertain terms. She finally told Andy she was tired of just lying there, doing nothing, so he took her home.
School parties had always been something others did, so far as the Taylors were concerned. They were lucky to have clothes from the thrift store on their backs, much less party clothes. Now that there was money for such things, Ethan insisted Jamie take Kathryn to the junior-senior prom in style. He took Jamie and Andy to an Audubon men’s shop and rented tuxes. Ethan was pleasantly surprised when neither young man went for outlandish, so-called formal wear. Both chose classic tuxes.
Davis called to say he had hired a limo for the Andy and Jamie and their dates for the evening. They had reservations for dinner at Lyle Plantation so the limo picked up the two guys at Arkadelphia then went into Braggton and picked up their dates, Kathryn and A’isha. After dinner, it took the four to the hotel where the prom was being held.
Jamie had suggested he make reservations at the hotel for the night, but the Heffners nixed that very quickly. A’isha’s parents had cracked down on her when she came home an hour past curfew after an evening with some girlfriends a few weeks before the prom. Since the prom was over at midnight, she had a strict one o’clock curfew which left little time for anything since the hotel was almost an hour from her home.
The four left the prom before midnight and Jamie had the limo driver drop Kathryn and him off at his truck before taking A’isha home. He and Kathryn headed to Pleasant Grove and the blue lupine. The moon was a mere sliver of light so the sky was awash with stars. The gentle, warm spring breeze carried the honey fragrance of the blooming lupine. Jamie spread a blanket in the midst of the flowers and undressed Kathryn and she lay in her nude beauty in the silvery starlight. She then slowly undressed her dark lover who then made beautiful love to her.
Jamie was a good lover and made sure he was giving Kathryn as much pleasure as she gave him. After Kathryn had several orgasms and Jamie had an earth-shaking one, they lay in each other’s arms exchanging soft kisses and enjoying the spring night. Kathryn reminded Jamie of the time and they decided they had time to make love again before Jamie had to rush her back to Braggton.
Even though Kathryn was on birth control, Jamie still used a condom. Both were very clear that accidents do happen and they knew they were not ready to be parents. Knowing the two of them, Jamie was prepared and Kathryn rolled a new condom down his rigid manhood. As Jamie’s body rushed to a second climax, he trust deeply into his beloved. As he started pouring his seed into her, he felt the condom break. He didn’t worry too much since Kathryn was on the pill and she assured him they were safe. “The condom is just backup,” she reminded him.
Friday two weeks after the prom was the last day of school before spring break. Ethan had expected Jamie to ask about going to the beach and he hadn’t. While he wanted Jamie to have time off for some fun, he worried about him getting into the wildness of spring break at the beach. Further, it was a very busy time at Arkadelphia. Since they were now breeding stock, they had calves being dropped almost every day. The pecan groves also required a lot of work in the spring. He decided to find out what Jamie was thinking about break and asked Thursday night.
“Ethan, I was planning on hanging around the plantation,” he responded when Ethan asked. “Maybe I can go to the beach when there’s less to do around here.”
“Well, I’ve been in south Georgia over a year without a break,” Scotty said. “I’m leaving tomorrow for the beach and won’t be back until Tuesday or Wednesday. A cousin has a condo on the beach and invited me down,” Scotty said. “I really need to get away awhile.”
Ethan was shocked that Scotty had just sprung the beach trip on him and maybe a bit hurt that he wasn’t invited along, but he reminded himself that Scotty hadn’t really been away from Arkadelphia and the Taylors for almost a year and said nothing.
That night when they went to bed, Scotty said, “Ethan, I hope you’re not mad. When my cousin called I told him I’d have to think about it and talk it over with you, but I never got around to it. Yesterday I was thinking about my situation and realized I needed to get away for a day or so. I was sure you wouldn’t go and leave the kids, so I didn’t say anything until tonight.”
“Scotty, you should have known I would not stand in your way. I can understand your needing to get away. I would have found a way to go if you had wanted me, but maybe we both could use a few days apart. Just remember I love you.”
Scotty wrapped himself around Ethan, kissed him passionately and said, “I love you too.”
Scotty left early Friday morning. As he kissed Ethan goodbye he said, “See you Tuesday, Wednesday morning latest.”
When he had not called or returned Wednesday by noon, Ethan began to worry. Wednesday at supper no-one mentioned the elephant in the room until finally conversation died completely and Jamie asked, hesitantly, “Heard from Scotty?” Ethan just shook his head. Thursday while Ethan was having lunch with his family, Scotty called. He said he had just been enjoying himself too much to leave, but would be back Friday.
When Scotty came in late Friday, he looked the worse for the wear, but blamed it on the drive back from the beach and added, “and it was a party week. When they went to bed he admitted that he spent most nights stoned and drunk. “I really needed to let my hair down, but I’m back.”