Brian Goes To College

by Nick Brady

Chapter 8

Copyright © 2015-2016 by Nick Brady, all rights reserved.

Saturday morning Brian woke up early. He had slept like a rock and felt great. All his anxiety over Louisa had resolved itself much better than he could have hoped for and his heart was light. Besides, this was graduation day; the end point of twelve years of public school and the beginning of the next chapter in his life.

He got out of bed, passed through the bathroom, dressed and walked into the kitchen to find Marco sitting at the table with a cup of coffee in his hand reading the newspaper.

"Good morning. Looks like we are both up early."

"Oh, you startled me," Marco exclaimed. "I thought I had the house to myself."

"I guess I'm kind of excited about the big day."

"Of course you are. It's not everyday a fellow graduates from high school. "Would you like a cup of coffee?"

"Sure, but don't get up. I can fix it."

Brian poured a cup and doctored it with milk and sugar then sat down across the table from Marco.

"How did dinner with Louisa go?"

Brian smiled, "It was very nice as a matter of fact."

"So how is that going?"

Brian shook his head. "Better than I could ever have hoped for. She is something else."

"Really?" Marco smiled. "Want to tell me about that?"

"You are probably going to think this is funny, but I was really worried about the prom. I was nervous and uncomfortable about being on a date with Louisa and assumed that she was disappointed with me."

"Well, it's not funny if you felt that way. What made you think it was a bust?"

"Louisa is such a lovely girl, beautiful, sweet and nice as she can be. I think she is very attractive and it's pretty obvious that she likes me too. I should have been excited about taking her to the prom, but I felt, well, scared actually."

"Why were you afraid?" Marco wondered.

Brian sighed, "I guess I thought I was supposed to try and put the make on her, you know? I assumed that she expected me to want to be all romantic and everything. There was another party after the prom that her friends were going to and I just didn't want to do that. I begged off and took her home. She was nice about it but I figured she probably wanted to go and maybe I spoiled it for her."

"Why did that frighten you?"

"Look, we danced and I held her close. She looked so beautiful in her prom dress. I really like Louisa, but the chemistry just wasn't there. I kept thinking that if we went to another party where people were drinking and fooling around that I would be expected to be Joe Stud and I didn't think I could that. As much as I like Louisa, the thought of being sexual with her just scared the crap out of me."

Marco smiled, "So what did you learn from that?"

"Well shit, Marco, I'm gay. Any guy who would hesitate to get in bed with Louisa would have to be gay. I wish I weren't. Louisa is a doll, but she just doesn't do it for me. Not like that anyway."

Marco looked at him, "I think there is more to this story. You looked pretty happy when you got back last night."

Brian smiled, "Right, I was happy. What happened was that on Sunday after we played tennis, I tried to apologize for wimping out on the after party. I felt like I had to explain why I was such a klutz and assure her that it wasn't because of her or anything she did. I decided the night after the dance that I should confess that I'm gay so she wouldn't think I just didn't like her or something. I got so nervous trying to think how to tell her that she guessed it. I didn't have to tell her."

"Really? How did she feel about that? Was she shocked?"

"No, she was totally cool with it. It blew me away. She said she was fine with that and liked me as a friend. But not in a condescending way, she wants to be good friends, like do things socially. She said she wasn't looking for a boyfriend, just a boy to be her friend. I think maybe I solved her problem."

"You're kidding. Really?" Marco looked both pleased and surprised. "And I told you that was the worst thing you could do. Shows you what I know."

Brian shook his head. "It's confusing, I mean the way I felt was confused. I like this girl a lot. But I assumed that she was like some girl in a sitcom and wanted me to be the big lover. What I wished was that we could just be friends without all that drama. Turns out that all she wanted too."

"So you talked all that through?"

"We did, not just on Sunday afternoon, but last night too. We talked about a lot of things."

Marco nodded and waited to see what else Brian wanted to share with him.

"I told her everything Marco. I told her about my father and everything. I just wanted to be honest with her. She seems to be so trusting that it seemed only fair to tell her who I am, or at least where I come from."

"You must trust her as well if you shared that. How did she take it?"

"She held my hand and cried for me. She said I was brave and she only felt respect for me. She was amazing, Marco."

"That must have been hard for you to talk about."

"Oh, it was," Brian nodded, "I cried too – it was pretty emotional. I have never told anybody about what my father did except you, and now Louisa. Well, I didn't get real graphic about it, but she got the picture."

Marco nodded thoughtfully, "How did it feel to talk about those things with Louisa?"

"It felt good, well it did after I finished. It was like something nasty got taken out of me. It was a relief really. And she was so great about it, as if knowing about my past made her respect me even more. That's not what I expected, for sure. I think maybe she is the best friend a person could ever hope to have."

Marco smiled, "Sounds like you had quite a conversation."

"I told her about you and Marty too. I don't think many people know that I live with a gay couple. It's not like I am ashamed of you guys, its just not something I want to get into, you know?"

"No, of course not. I understand that. It's a private matter. I would be the same way if I was in your situation."

Brian smiled, "In a way, Louisa reminds me of you, Marco. I think I can be totally honest with her and she will understand and still accept me. You never judge me Marco, and neither does Louisa."

"It sounds like you've made a good friend."

"Yes I have. I like to be around her. I'm not afraid anymore. It really feels good."

Marco smiled and leaned back in his chair. "Want some more coffee, or maybe some breakfast?"

"How about two eggs over easy and some toast?"

"I can do that. Marty and the boys will be up soon. Maybe some pancakes instead of toast? I could use some pancakes myself."

"Sure, that sounds even better." Brian smiled broadly, "Marco, you know I love you so much. With you and Louisa on my side, I think I can do anything. I'm the luckiest guy in the world."

"Lots of people love you Brian, not just me and Louisa. Marty, Sam, Ben, Father Hoover – there are a lot of people in your corner. You're an easy person to love."

They were interrupted by two sleepy boys sniffing the air for pancakes. "What smells good in here?" Sam asked

"It's pancakes, dummy," his brother Ben remarked. "Anybody can see that."

"Hello, it's grouchy Ben. You get out of bed on the wrong side this morning?" Marco asked.

"No, I'm sorry. I don't think I'm awake yet."

"I bet a plate of pancakes will revive you," Marco said. "You guys have a seat, they're about ready. What do you want on your cakes?"

"I want syrup and peanut butter on mine," Ben said.

"Me too," Sam agreed.

"Do we still have that apple butter?" Brian asked. "Apple butter and peanut butter sounds like a good combination to me."

"I'll have the same," Marty wandered in tying his housecoat. "You are doing good work here Marco. The smell of pancakes is an excellent alarm clock."

"We have a big day coming up. We have to get this senior graduated," Marco chuckled.

"That's right. When is the big event?" Marty asked.

"It's at two but I have to be there at twelve thirty," Brian answered.

"Why so early?" Ben wondered.

Brian shrugged, "Because they said so I guess. Whatever it takes. I'm ready to get it over with."

"It's at the high school auditorium, right?" Marco asked.

"Yep," Brian replied as he spread peanut butter over his pancakes.

"We'll all be there to cheer you on," Marty assured him.

When Brian arrived at the high school he looked for Louisa and saw her talking to Melissa. "Hey! Louisa," he called and she waved him over.

"Are you ready for this?" he asked.

"Oh yes, more than ready. I see you have your cap and gown, and a gold thingy, what's that?"

"Honor student," he replied proudly, displaying the long cord with a tassel at each end. It goes around my neck and hangs down on each side, see?"

"Hoo hoo, look at you," Louisa laughed with that smile. I won't be near you. We have to sit in alphabetical order so they can keep us straight."

"That's OK, I'll see you after the ceremony," Brian told her.

"Our little gang is going to the Olive Garden afterwards, my parents are coming too. Can you join us?"

"I think so. I need to touch base with my family though. I think they will all be here."

"Oh good," Louisa smiled. "I want to meet them."

"They would like to meet you too. Maybe we can all meet there. Would that be OK?"

"Sure, the more the merrier."

After a good bit of shuffling the school staff got everyone in the right place and then told them to wait for the ceremony to begin. The noise level rose with sound of chatter and laughter. The front three rows of the big auditorium was full of black gowned seniors as the rest of the hall began to be filled with family and friends. Brian assumed that his family was back there somewhere.

Just after two o'clock the principle and assorted dignitaries took their seats on the stage and the graduation ceremony was under way. There were speeches from several, welcoming all those present. After what seemed too long, the superintendent finally began to call out the names.

They lined up on the steps to the stage as they waited for their names to be called. Brian saw Louisa stride across the stage as Louisa Carpenter was called. Even in the clumsy cap and gown, he thought she looked lovely, walking straight and tall. Some of the students had received some sort of honor or achievement and that was noted with compliments as they received the tightly rolled white paper tied with a red ribbon that represented their diploma. It was a blank piece of paper of course, The real diplomas would be mounted in a black leather folder to be picked up at the office later.

Finally he heard Brian Montgomery, and he stepped onto the stage to walk to the center. As he did so, he glanced out into the audience to see if he could spot his family. He would not have been able to find them except that Ben stood and waved his arms briefly before Marco pulled him back down into his seat. But at a glance, Brian saw Marco and Marty with Noah sitting between them. Next to Marco were Ben and Sam. Next to Sam was Father Hoover. Brian's heart swelled. His cheering section was in place.

When he looked back at the center of the stage he saw the imposing figure of Mr. Blankenship, the Vice Principal smiling at him.

Mr. Blankenship handed Brian his diploma then spoke, "You can see by the gold cord that Brian is an honor student. He missed being the Salutatorian by only a few points. It is my honor to present him with the Mathematics Award. Brian took and aced every math course that we offer here." He placed a large gold medallion on a red cord around his neck and shook his hand.

"I am especially proud of this young man. He has overcome a great deal and has proven himself to be an exceptional student and a fine citizen. Congratulations Brian." Only then did he release Brian's hand and clapped him on the shoulder as he walked off the stage to loud applause from his personal cheering section and many others. The quiet boy had more friends than he knew.

As soon as the ceremony was over there was a loud cheer and the air was filled with four cornered mortar boards. There was a scramble to retrieve one. It didn't matter which one, they were all the same. Brian made his way outside to find that his family was looking through the crowd to find him.

"Congratulations," they all cried, and took turns hugging him. Father Hoover, you made it, and Noah. I didn't expect to see you here."

Noah laughed, "This is as close as I will come to a graduation ceremony. I couldn't miss this. Congratulations Brian."

"Listen," Brian said with excitement, "Some of my friends are going to the Olive Garden to eat. Can you all join us?"

Father Hoover politely declined, but the rest agreed. "I will meet you there, OK? There will be eight of us if you get there first." Brian said as he spotted Louisa and their small group of friends smiling at him. He rushed to join them.

"My family is all coming. Would you like to ride with me Louisa?"

"Yes, of course," she replied and turned to the others, "We will meet you there, OK?"

With a wave they were off. In the car Louisa said, "I don't think I have ever seen Mr. Blankenship smile before. He had some nice things to say about you."

Brian laughed, "Don't let his gruff exterior fool you. He is really a good man."

"I'm so proud of you Brian. Honor student and the Math prize. Wow."

They arrived at the restaurant and queued up at the desk to be seated. Brian looked around and spotted Ben waving at him. "We are with those people," he told the hostess.

"Fine, we are pulling some tables together so you can all sit together," she told him.

After a minute she led them over to join the others. "Louisa, these are my parents Marco and Marty, my brothers Samuel and Benjamin, and my friend Noah. Everybody, this is Louisa, and our friends Lanny and Melissa, and Keith and Francine."

"Oh it is so nice to finally meet you," Louisa told them, dazzling them all with her smile as they arranged themselves around the big table which soon erupted with noisy chatter.

They all ordered, were served and enjoyed their dinner. Brian looked around to see his family and his friends. Ethan and Cathy were chattering away with Marco and Marty like they were old friends. It was all Brian could do to suppress a tear, he was so happy.

When the bill came at the end of the meal Ethan raised his hand and took the tab. "This is my treat," he said firmly.

"Oh let's drive around a little," Louisa told him as they pulled away. "I'm too excited to go straight home."

"Where to, my lady?" Brian asked.

"Let's go to the rose garden at Woodward park," Louisa suggested. "We can walk around so I can work off my nervous energy."

Brian parked his car and they began to stroll through the rows of lovely roses. Louis took his hand as they walked. "Oh, aren't they beautiful. What is that pretty red one?"

"Europeana," Brian read from the placard stuck in the ground. "It was sure nice of your father to pick up the tab for all that food. It must have cost a fortune."

"He doesn't usually do that," Louisa laughed. "He must have been in a good mood."

Your mom and dad were talking with Marco and Marty a lot. I wonder if they sat with them on purpose."

"I'm sure they did. They were anxious to meet them."

"No problem with them being a same sex couple?"

"Of course not silly. They are charming people, and I would like to know them better. And those handsome twins! How in the world do you tell them apart?"

Brian laughed, "It's pretty easy once you get to know them. Ben is a little bigger then Sam, and a little noisier. They are both good kids really. I enjoy them a lot."

"And they are Boy Scouts too?"

"Yes, they are both Star scouts, working on Life then Eagle. It's kind of a race to see which one makes it first," Brian said. "I suspect it will be a tie actually. They do everything together."

"Tell me about them. You said they were adopted when they were four?" Louisa was curious.

"Right. I only met them when they were eight and starting Cubs, but I think their parents were killed in a car wreck and there were no other relatives."

"They look just like Marco. Are they Indian too? I don't know anything about them."

"They are all Seminole, Marco and the twins. I guess that's just a coincidence but they are. They aren't really related to Marco, at least I don't think so," Brian told her, "Everybody assumes they are his natural children but they aren't."

"Don't you know anything about their birth parents?"

"I don't think so. Well, they know their names and that they are Seminole, but I guess there was no family for the boys to go to, so they were put up for adoption," Brian explained as best he could. "Actually, Marco didn't know much about his family for a long time."

"Was he an orphan too?" Louisa asked.

"No, he lived with his mother until he was sixteen I think. I take it she drank a lot and it wasn't a good situation."

"What about his father?"

Brian shrugged, "From what Marco has told me he didn't know who his father was for a long time. Then when he figured it out he learned that his father is in prison."

"My goodness, you do have an interesting family."

"Marco found out he has an uncle in Owasso and we have connected with them. Uncle Eugene and Aunt Eunice are really nice people. They are active in tribal stuff and have introduced Sam and Ben to powwow dancing."

"Oh, Indian dancing? Like with costumes and all that?" Louisa sounded excited.

"Right, but call them regalia, costume sounds like Halloween."

"Can I see them dance?"

"Sure, they go to several powwows a year. They're pretty good too. Now they are trying to learn how to hoop dance," Brian explained.

"Hoop dance?"

Brian laughed, "You would have to see it, it's hard to explain."

"I would like to." They walked among the roses holding hands, and Brian did not feel the least bit frightened."

The sun was getting lower in the sky and Brian took Louisa home then went home himself. It had been a very nice day.

"Hey, here comes the scholar," Marty greeted him.

"That was really nice," Marco told him, "You know that Mr. Blankenship presented that Math award to you just so he could congratulate you. I don't think he would usually be the one to do that. Lots of people were in your corner today."

"No joke. Father Hoover and even Noah. I can't believe he showed up," Brian grinned.

"He was proud of you. We are all proud of you," Marty assured him.

"Stop it you guys," Brian protested, "I'm going to get a big head."

At church the next morning, Father Hoover recognized all the graduates in the church. Brian was pleased. After church they ate the rest of the grilled chicken and Brian took a long nap instead of going for tennis..

School was over now and Brian had given his notice to Wayne at the bicycle shop where he worked. He planned to work Monday and then Tuesday would be his last day there. Wednesday was the trip to Santa Fe and when they returned his classes would begin at OU Tulsa. He was greeted by a smiling Noah.

"Hey Superman. How are you today?"

"I'm good, I had a pretty nice weekend as you know."

"I guess you did. That was cool getting the medal and all."

"It was," Brian acknowledged, "I didn't know that was coming. I didn't know you were coming either, that was a surprise too."

Noah shrugged, "I kind of decided to do that at the last minute. What can I say Brian. You have worked hard here in the shop and have tried to be a friend to me. I maybe didn't show it, but I really appreciated that you encouraged me to get back in school. That's something I have been thinking about for a long time but kept putting off. You nailed me when you said I was avoiding failure by not even trying. It kind of pissed me off at the time, but it was true. I talked to the guidance counselor at TCC and she explained about the two year computer programming course. I plan to do that starting next fall."

"Hey, thats great Noah. I sure hope that works out for you. I think you can do it, I really do."

"I hope you're right. We'll see," Noah looked at Brian, "I guess tomorrow is your last day, right?"

"Yes it is. I'm leaving Wednesday for a trip with my family and my classes start the next week."

"I wish you luck, Brian. Don't let this go to your head, but I'll kind of miss you," Noah shrugged.

"I've enjoyed working here. Look, I'm still going to be in Tulsa, maybe we can get together to ride bikes or something."

"Sure. Maybe, maybe not. It's OK man. You are going to be busy and moving on to other things. I appreciate your help but I don't need anybody to hold my hand. Besides, you have Louisa now. What a beauty."

"She is a really nice girl Noah, but we are friends, just friends, that's all."

Noah shrugged again, "Hey, I'm happy for you. That's your business."

Brian decided to pass on a discussion about Louisa. "We better get to work. I'm here today and tomorrow, I need to earn my pay."

"You have, don't worry about that. But I think that Wayne wants to take us out for lunch tomorrow so don't bring a sandwich."

"Really? That's nice. I will look forward to that."

And the next day they did just that. Wayne took them to the Pizza Hut just down the street, picked up the tab and told Brian to take the rest of the day off. He wished Brian good luck and gave him a check for his final wages plus a nice bonus. It was all good.

Brian went home to find the rest of the family packing bags and getting ready for the trip to Santa Fe. There was a large wooden crate in the back of the Sienna. They laid out clothes for the trip and loaded everything else into the van for an early start. When everything was loaded, Marty took them all out to Ollie's Station to eat dinner and watch the model trains run around the tracks that circled the restaurant around the top of the walls. The food was good and the boys loved the trains.

Back home, Marco advised them all that he wanted to leave by six in the morning and an early bedtime would be a good idea. They were all in bed by ten o'clock.

Bright and early in the morning Marco tapped on the bedroom doors to roust everyone up.

"Let's go. Doughnuts and coffee in the kitchen," he called out.

Marty was already up and stood with coffee cup in hand as three disheveled boys stumbled into the kitchen. They were dressed, they were ready, they were very sleepy.

"These are still warm. Where did you get doughnuts at this hour of the morning?" Brian asked.

"The Daylight Doughnut shop opens at five," Marco told him, "eat them while their hot."

"These are good," Ben mumbled with his mouth full.

"Drink up all the milk, I don't want to leave it for when we get back," Marco said. "I packed the cooler with soda and sandwiches and put it in the van. I want to make good time, OK?"

They got the picture. This was Marco's trip and he was the boss for now. They tossed the empty doughnut box and the empty milk jug in the trash, made a last trip to the bathroom and got in the van. At six o'clock they were off.

They left Tulsa on I44 then dropped down to I40 and started the long trip west. At first it was quiet in the back seat as Sam, Ben and Brian quickly fell asleep lulled by the hum of the tires. Marty tried to stay awake to keep Marco company but he soon found his chin on his chest. At eight thirty the sound of conversation drifted up as the boys woke up and looked around.

"Where are we?" Ben wondered.

"We are just outside of Weatherford Oklahoma, and halfway to Amarillo Texas. About another seven and a half hours to Santa Fe. Is everybody OK?" Marco told him.

"Gee, that's a long way," Sam decided.

"It is, but if we can minimize our stops we can make better time."

Brian spoke up, "I hate to say it, but I could use a bathroom stop."

"Anybody else?" Marco asked. Brian was not the only one.

When they got to Weatherford Marco pulled into a convenience store with the instructions that they should all take advantage of the opportunity to relieve themselves and get back on the road as quickly as possible. They took care of business with Brian buying a bag of hard candy to share.

"Can we watch a movie?" Ben asked.

"Sure, they are in the little box in front of you," Marty said.

Sam and Ben had talked Marty into buying some new DVDs and they selected one and put it in the player overhead. "There are only two headphones, who gets them?" Sam and Ben looked at Brian.

"Go ahead guys, I will just watch. I don't need the sound, I can read lips," Brian told them.

They were impressed until he started to laugh. They shrugged and put on the headphones. The noise level dropped and it was quiet again. When that movie finished they put in another and in that way made it all the way to Amarillo.

As they approached the city the second movie played out.

"Are you guys getting hungry?" Marco asked.

"We've been eating chips and soda but I am hungry for something else," Sam admitted.

"I need to stop for gas up here," Marco said, "Lets all use the bathroom then we can eat some sandwiches and I think I'll let Brian drive for awhile."

The van was gassed up and everyone had relieved their bladders in only fifteen minutes. Good time. Brian got in the driver's seat, Marco took his place and they were back on the road.

"What do we have to eat?" Ben wanted to know.

"There are sandwiches in the cooler and more chips and soda if you have any left. I packed peanut butter and jelly, and turkey and cheese. There should be enough for everyone to have a couple of sandwiches. There is a jar of dill pickle spears in there and a bag of Oreos too," Marco said. "Work it out amongst yourselves."

Sam handed up sandwiches to Brian and Marty in the front seat and they busied themselves with a mobile picnic lunch while they looked out over the flat terrain of the Texas panhandle. With some food in their bellies first Sam then Ben fell asleep again as they rolled on westward.

Marty looked around as the scenery grew a little more rugged. They had been rising in elevation all day and they noticed that their ears kept popping.

"How high are we? My ears are popping," Sam asked.

"I don't know, this car doesn't have an altimeter," Brian replied. "Look it up on your cell phone. Google 'Tucumcari, New Mexico' and look for the Wikipedia entry. That will tell you."

Marco handed Sam his smartphone and Sam did as instructed. "4091 feet" he announced.

Santa Fe is at about 7200 I think," Marco told him. "We have more climbing ahead. This area around Tucumcari is what they call the 'high plains'. In about 2 hours we will come to Cline's Corner and turn north from I40 to US285 and take that all the way to Santa Fe. That's about another hour."

"So we have 3 hours more to go?" Sam calculated.

"That's right. We're getting closer. Can your bladder make it?"

"I don't know, I could use a pit stop."

"Yeah, me too," Ben said.

"Santa Rosa is the next little town. We can stop there," Marco told him.

"How do you know all this," Brian asked, "Have you been here before?"

Marco laughed, "Everything I know comes from Google or Map Quest. I scoped this out before we left."

"You should have been the Boy Scout," Brian said.

They stopped at a little station outside Santa Rosa and refilled the gas tank. They all relieved themselves and made a token thank you purchase. Marty replaced Brian as the driver and Marco came back to sit in the front. Then they headed on.

"We should be able to make Santa Fe without any more stops now," Marco estimated.

When they turned north of US285, the road narrowed and began to curve around more. They were noticeably climbing now. They were all getting road weary but the end was in sight. An hour later they drove into Santa Fe. The boys were wide awake now.

"Where are we staying?" Brian asked.

"I booked us at the Eldorado, it's the closest to the center. We can park the van and walk around," Marco told them.

They pulled into the parking lot about five thirty in the afternoon. Marty went inside to check in while the boys stretched their legs. After a few minutes he came back out with two sets of keys.

"We have adjoining rooms," he told them. Marco and I will have a room and the three of you can share the other. Yours has a pair of queen sized beds. I figure that Sam and Ben can have one and Brian the other. Is that OK?"

"It's OK with me," Brian said. The twins shrugged and nodded their heads.

"OK guys, let's grab our bags and go inside. We can leave the car here and lock it up tight. I will take my paintings over to the center in the morning." Marco told them.

The rooms were very nice. This was a first class hotel with a big swimming pool in the center courtyard. The twins were impressed.

"This is nice," Ben said. "It must cost a lot to stay here."

"Don't worry about it, you aren't paying," Marty chuckled. "This will work out best for Marco. He can run back and forth to the Convention Center. This trip is all about Marco and his paintings."

"Can we go swimming?" Ben asked.

"If Brian will go with you," Marco stipulated.

"Sure, I'll go. Sounds like fun to me," Brian agreed.

"I'll give you guys an hour then I want to go for dinner. Something besides sandwiches," Marty told them.

There was no argument.

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