Protecting David-Christopher Grows Up 18
Jeff had gone to the farm to talk to the couple there that we wanted to work and live at our house. I asked Gavin to tell security to pull the SUV around and to call Jeff and let him know we would be headed out there.
On the way down in the elevator they told me that there was a reporter and a camera man waiting outside of our building in a van across the street. So they had us wait just inside the door until the SUV, moving pretty fast, pulled up in front of the building. Oliver and I were inside the car before they had a chance to get out of their van and we took off like a bat-outta-hell. I kinda felt bad for them. I mean it wasn’t as if they’d been bugging us.
There’s a freeway onramp just a block away and as soon as we were on it security from the house called me and told me that my brother, Andrew, had just pulled into the driveway at home, so we made a quick course change. Actually I had been wondering how long it would be before they started showing up. The dads and David and Mark would wait a couple of weeks for Christmas, although the emails were coming in an electronic flood and all of the dads and granddads had talked to Oliver on the phone. It always seemed to leave him with a frozen smile on his face.
Oliver and I were in the back seat of the SUV and I turned to him and said, “You’re about to meet your uncle Andrew.”
I’ve learned that Oliver is pretty good at hiding his feelings but I caught the mille-second look of panic before he could hide it. I said, “Relax, Andrew is a college kid and believe me as much as anyone he’ll understand what you’ve been through. He’s a twin, his brother, your other uncle, is Aiden and when I met them they were about your age and they were living under a bridge. Their mom and dad were dead just like yours.”
He whispered so faintly I barely heard it, “Dead?”
I nodded. “They were living in the cardboard box a refrigerator comes in and they were really scared too.” I smiled at him. “But it worked out, we made it work out.”
“The point is that you can tell them or me anything. Believe me we all understand and we’ll all do whatever we have to to make sure it works out for you, too.”
There was what appeared to be a brand new, black, Audi SUV parked in front of the house and Andrew was standing on the top step of the stairs wearing jeans with his hands in the pockets of a brown leather hunting jacket with the collar turned up. His blond hair was blowing slightly in the cold wind. When he saw us he smiled.
He looked sinfully handsome and he wore it well. I can’t get over what hot looking guys the boys are turning into. It was pretty obvious that they were going to get better looking as they got older as opposed to some teenagers who, as they get older, develop a courser, heavier look.
When the car stopped Andrew opened my door and said, “Hey bro. Sit up front, I wanna meet Oliver.”
I said, “Okay but…”
Andrew glared at me and said, “What?”
I smiled and mumbled, “Play nice with the other boys and girls.” This was something I used to tell them both all their way through school. It was kind of our shared joke, but it also was kidding on the square. I didn’t want Oliver fucked with and my remark cautioned him to be gentle. Not that he wouldn’t be gentle anyway but Oliver’s wounds were all very new.
While I was getting in the front seat Andrew slid in next to Oliver and introduced himself.
“Hi Oliver, I’m Andrew.” He reached over and shook a stunned Oliver’s hand.
“Not that this is all that important right now but I just wanna mention that I’m really the best looking uncle you’ve got.” He reached back over and took Oliver’s hand again and then just held it. “When I was your age I used to hate meeting new people, especially adults because so many of them are all, you know, adult, but you’re doing a great job of putting up with it.” Andrew talked basically non-stop for the next half-hour, his slight Texas accent with its soft consonants, soothing. Somewhere in the middle of that Oliver laughed and I knew that it was going to be okay. When they want to be charming the twins can really pull it off.
The land we were driving through had changed a bit, the fencing was becoming less barbed wire and now more even white painted wood surrounding perfectly tended pastures and paddocks. As we approached the farm I looked back at them and said, “I’ve never been here but Jeff is supposed to be meeting us.” I asked the driver to pull off the road for a minute so I could talk to them. He pulled over into a small driveway.
I turned in my seat and looked at Oliver. “We’re almost there. Oliver, you remember, we’re thinking about hiring Mr. and Mrs. Crowly, who work here, to come and stay at the other house and cook and clean for us. The thing is that I want us to like them. If we don’t then I won’t go through with it. So just get to know them a bit and we’ll talk about it later.”
Andrew said, “Do I get a vote?”
I said, “Ask Oliver, maybe he’ll share his vote with you.”
Andrew asked Oliver, “You’re gonna share with me, right?”
Oliver grinned. “I dunno, maybe.”
I turned back and said to Oliver, “Andrew’s studying to be a doctor.”
That seemed to pique Oliver’s interest and he looked at Andrew and said, “How come you wanna be a doctor?”
Andrew laughed. “I dunno, sometimes I wonder, but to make folks feel better I guess.”
I said, “Andrew’s wanted to be a doctor since he was about your age.”
Oliver looked at Andrew and asked, “Really?”
Andrew nodded. “Yep, pretty much. Maybe a year or two older, but pretty close to the same.”
“Do you got one of those things that you can listen to my heart with?”
Andrew nodded and said, “Yep, sure do, but I didn’t bring it. Why, you sick?”
Oliver smiled, “Nope. I was just wondering. I had a doctor listen to it once.”
“We’re you sick then?”
Oliver shook his head. “I don’t think so. I don’t remember. But it was cold.”
I smiled at Andrew and asked, “Was that a new car or rental?”
Andrew laughed. “I’m afraid the Honda bit the dust. Plus I wanted to reward myself for studying my ass off.” I knew but didn’t say anything but my dad had told me that Aiden had bought the exact same car but in silver. Then he said, defensively, “And the dads were all for it so don’t be giving me no grief about wasting money.”
I laughed. “I’m not given you any grief, Tex. I think you really deserve it.”
Andrew tapped Oliver’s arm and said, “See how he gives me crap over my accent?” He laughed again and said, “A considerate man wouldn’ta done that.”
Oliver seemed to be catching on that this was all just a friendly routine and he said, “Can I get a ride in your car?”
“Course you can, Oliver! You’re gonna be my favorite nephew.”
Oliver said, “How many nephews you got?”
Andrew grinned and said, “Well, so far you’re the only one, but I got hopes for more.”
I asked Andrew. “How’s Tyler doing?”
“He’s good, but studying his ass off like everybody. Then for Christmas he’s going to Europe to be with his mom and dad.”
I said, “The dads are coming on the fifteenth and Aiden on the twentieth.”
“My finals are on the twelve and thirteenth. So whenever it is I’ll be here the next day. Is Aiden’s girlfriend coming? He said it might be a conflict.”
I shook my head. “As of this morning she was figuring on a family Christmas. The family was gathering in New York and apparently it’s a command performance. I didn’t mention that when I talked to my dad I got the impression that there might be a problem in that particular paradise.”
Andrew turned to Oliver. “You’ll like Aiden. I mean he’s not as nice as I am and God knows, not as good looking, but still, nice. You’ll like the dads too, the dads and the granddads. They’re really all nice and anyway, with me around, I won’t let nothin get weird. Me and Aiden and Chris will make sure everything is okay. You’re one of us now. Besides, once you meet the dads you’ll see how cool it’ll be.”
Suddenly we started to turn into a private driveway and stopped at two large steel gates. There were plaques on the stone pillars that held the gates that said Morgan Farms. A small structure that looked brand new seemed to hold a guard house and one of Jeff’s men looked out at us then pressed seemed to press something and the gates swung slowly open.
As our driver moved forward he said, “This guard house is just temporary. Jeff said they’ll be building a brick one that goes with the look of the house.”
We were climbing a slight rise and then we began to see the roof of the house which was still a thousand feet ahead. It slowly came into view and my first thought was that it had been transported from some place in New England. It was a light brown brick with large bay windows and it seemed to go on forever. It looked great, unbelievable actually, but just a little out of place, kind of improbable. Like someone had seen a house in Greenwich, Connecticut and thought that it’d look great in Wisconsin farm country. Then it occurred to me that that may well have been exactly what happened.
As we pulled up to it Jeff came out and walked over to my side of the car. I got out to talk to him.
Jeff said, “Before you decide how you feel about this Mrs. Crowly says she’d love to come and cook for you but doesn’t want to move there. She’s says she would stay until one of you guys came home, but she really doesn’t want to live there and that her husband really needs to concentrate on this place. She said she hoped you wouldn’t be too upset.”
I thought for a second and then said, “I think that’d be even better. For one thing it’d settle one of the things I was a bit leery about, privacy. It’s nice to have the house to ourselves at night. Is she a good cook?”
Jeff grinned. “If you can go by the lunch she made me she’s an amazing cook.”
I smiled. “What did she make?”
I dunno, some sort of chicken in a cream sauce. Crazy good.”
I said, “Okay, let’s go meet them.”
When I met the Crowly’s the first thing that popped into my head was the painting American Gothic. Mr. Crowly could have been the model for the painting and while Mrs. Crowly was less so, she was still kind of close, although when she started talking it changed her a lot. She was as outgoing and charming as her husband was saturnine. When I said hello to him and shook his hand the only word I got out of him was “Howdy” while his wife bubbled away.
She took us into a formal living room and got us situated with coffee and some amazing little cakes. I sat in a wingback chair and Andrew and Oliver sat on the sofa. Andrew had been holding Oliver’s hand but released it when they sat down. Oliver seemed to have his very own body guard.
Mrs. Crowly sat forward and said, “Did Jeff tell you how we felt about the job?”
I nodded. “Yes and that sounds fine as long as I’m there or one of us is there before you leave. I just don’t want Oliver to be there alone. Ninety-five percent of the time it won’t be an issue and if it should ever be a problem then you can call on the security guys to come. But I don’t think it’d be an issue. Do you have any problem with supervising the people who come to clean the house. You don’t have to do anything, just make sure they do.”
She said, “No, no, not a problem at all. We have them come here too. I’m used to all that.”
I said, “Did Jeff mention this Christmas?”
She nodded strongly. “The family is coming. That’s no problem Mrs. Morgan used to do that all the time.”
I smiled, “Nick, my grandfathers, my dad’s, Oliver and my two brothers. So that’s what…nine of us. How’s the bedroom situation.”
She laughed. “Oh that’s no problem. When Mrs. Morgan would have her long weekend parties there’d be a dozen people staying here. Of course then some of them would be sleeping in the Library and so on, on fold up beds we’d bring in. But there are six large bedrooms and two small ones, so that’s no problem. Would you like to see them?
I stood up and said, “That’d be great.”
On the south side of the house was a huge Great Room that was two stories tall with what had to be ten foot high windows and the sun flooding in. There was also a huge foyer and what was supposed to be the front door that I guessed no one used. We came in the entrance on the east side of the house which was also pretty grand. The foyer had a wide staircase that led to the second floor. The foyer also had a door that led to the library and an office beyond.
The bedrooms were nice, more than nice really. Pretty much what I was expecting from a house like this. And weirdly I found out about the towels we have at home when I noticed them here.
“My God, you’ve got the same towels here that we’ve got at home.”
She smiled. “Mrs. Morgan liked the best. All the towels and sheets are from France.”
I smiled and nodded like that made sense to me. Can the only place that makes great towels be France. But I remembered what Larry always said, which is if you don’t know, either ask or say nothing. “That’s great.”
Andrew and Oliver had gone off ahead of us exploring and now came lopping back.
Andrew pointed down the hallway. “The bedroom all the way down on the left should be for the granddads and the one opposite for Alex and Larry, then the next one on the left is for Oliver and opposite of him for you, the one next to his for me and Aiden across the hall. That way Oliver has the dads on one side of him and, you and Nick across from him and me and Aiden on the other side of him. So there’s always someone around.”
I looked down at Oliver. “That okay with you?”
He nodded instantly. “That’d be great.”
I touched the top of his head and smiled. “Then that’s the way it’ll be.”
I looked at Mrs. Crowly and surprisingly, she had been writing it all down in a little notepad.
I said, “Oh, you wrote it down.”
She smiled. “In the old days this happened a lot. Pays to get it straight from the beginning.”
“I’ll have Gavin send you all the details in an email.”
After that we all put our coats back on and wandered out the back way to see what that looked like. The area that was devoted to the back of the house was about two acres and held a big swimming pool, all closed up now, and various sitting areas, quite places that would be good for reading a book on a warm summer day. All of it was covered in a light dusting of snow. Mrs. Crowly had said that they’d be putting up Christmas decorations in the next view days.
Behind all that was a wall of trees and shrubs which probably acted as a shield in the summer, but now you could see through it to paddocks and the stables beyond. I was beginning to realize that there was way more to this place than I had imagined.
One of Jeff’s men pulled up in the SUV and said, “It’s farther than it looks. Jeff said I should drive you.”
We all got into the SUV and drove slowly past paddocks all of which were made of white fencing but with wire on each site at the top. There were at least a dozen horses walking around or easting hay from a couple of large bales. Beyond the paddocks was a really large barn with wings moving out from the center. From the car it seemed like it would be hundreds of feet long and wide.
We pulled up to a door on the side of the building where a short guy wearing a padded vest walked out and came over to us.
“Hi, I’m Byron Harrison. I manage the horses.” He grinned. “I know, Byron. My dad’s idea of a joke.”
I held out my hand. “Chris Bending.” We shook hands and I nodded to the paddocks. “This looks amazing.”
He nodded. “Mrs. Morgan liked the best, although frankly, she didn’t actually take much interest in it. She just really liked to know that it was first class. She liked going to the shows and all.”
He gestured towards the barn. “Can I show you around?”
“That’d be great, I nodded at Andrew and said, “My brother, Andrew.” Then pulled Oliver in front of me. “And this is Oliver, my nephew.”
“I hope y’all are horse people. I mean, I’d hate to lose my job.”
Andrew pushed forward and put a hand on Byron’s shoulder. “No worries bout that. Were as much inta horses as you can get. What kinda breeds you got?”
Byron grinned. “Freisian’s, and a few Shetland ponies.”
Andrew said, “Chris I want a Freisian. You’re gonna be up to your butt in em and I want one.”
I looked at Byron and said, “I got two brothers, this one and Aidan, they’re Texans and horses are kinda a big thing for them.”
He grinned, nodded at the barn and said, “You came to the right place. Far as I’m concerned you guys pick’em out and we’ll take real good care of em.”
I looked down at Oliver. “What’s your attitude towards horses?”
He looked at the horses in the paddock and said, “I dunno. They’re kinda big.”