Christmas with Colt

by Rob Warr

Chapter 1

We're not rich, but my folks and I do live a pretty sweet life. Dad has his own web design business and even works from home a lot. He does have an office, a very nice one, and about ten other people working for him. Mom used to sell real estate, before dad's business really took off, but these days she just takes care of the house, and me, and my brother, Samuel, or Sammy, as we all call him. By the way, I'm Blake, Blake Andrew Caldwell, to be exact, and this is the story of what happened to me last Christmas.

My dad is Peter Dewayne Caldwell, and my mom's name is Cynthia, but of course, to me and my brother Sammy, they're just mom and dad. I've actually heard that some kids call their folks by their first names, but I don't really get that. Dad will always be dad, and mom will always be mom to me, even when I'm old and grey.

I'm not going to say exactly where we live, but I will say it's a medium-sized city with mild temperatures, and...we nearly always get snow at Christmas. That's something that I really like, because to me Christmas is the best time of the year, and snow is just the icing on the cake. That was kind of clever, don't you think, icing...get it? Okay, so I'm only a half wit, but I thought it was funny.

Oh, I forgot to mention, I'm 14, and my bro, Sammy, is 12. Mom says she can't wait for Sammy to turn 13 so she can have two crazy teenagers in the house. Wait, is that sarcasm? Yep, she's very sarcastic, but in a funny way. She's so much fun, both my rents are, and well...Sammy is about the best little brother a guy could ever have.

I guess this might be a good time to describe the two of us boys, since I know you're gonna want that info up front. Sammy is about 5 foot, 95 pounds, black straight hair, dark almond shaped eyes, and a cute pudgy face. He is actually about average for an Asian boy...wait, Asian? You say. Yeah, Sammy is adopted.

I, on the other hand, am 5'6", 115 pounds, blond hair, blue eyes, and I've been told I'm cute, but I'm not stuck on myself or anything. I'm active in sports and have a lean, well-muscled body, but I also like school and consider myself to be fairly intelligent. Intelligent enough to write this story, anyway, though it's starting to be more of a challenge than I'd first thought.

Oh, you probably want to know more about why my folks adopted Sammy, so here goes. Mom's sister, my aunt Helen, is a supervisor at DHS, and works with foster families as well as regular families that need help. In her words, "sometimes a kid comes through the system that really breaks your heart," and Sammy was one of those kids. To put it simply, Sammy's mom was an illegal alien, though Sammy was born here, and therefore an American citizen. At first my Aunt Helen was trying to help Sammy's mom become a citizen, then she got sick, Sammy's mom, not my aunt, and after running some tests on her, they discovered she had cancer, and the doctors only gave her a few months to live.

Meanwhile, Sammy went into foster care, and he was having a really hard time adjusting. He was only 10 then, small, frightened, and alone, and I can only imagine how awful his life must've been. Sometimes I get teary-eyed thinking about that, but that only inspires me to be a better big bro, everyday.

To make a long story even shorter, Sammy's mom died just as Sammy was being removed from his latest foster home, because he was being mistreated. Here's where fate, or karma, or whatever comes in. My folks are licensed foster parents, but usually we only got kids short term, like on an emergency basis till they could find a permanent placement.

Well, one look at Sammy and we all fell in love with the little guy, and we wound up keeping him. He's been ours for over a year now, and everyday I thank God for bringing him into our lives.

My dad is what people call a philanthropist, which I guess means that he helps other people financially. For instance, he goes out of his way to hire qualified people who might have had some problems with their background or living situation. He even hired an ex-felon, when no one else would, and he wound up becoming my dad's most valuable employee, who basically runs the office when dad's not there. His name is Michael, and though dad never really said what crime he'd committed, it was bad enough for him to spend five years in prison. As far as I'm concerned, Michael is a cool guy, and if dad trusts him, that's enough for me.

Another thing dad does to help people is that he has like a dozen charities that he gives money too. Most of them help families or children mainly, including a couple of hospitals that treat kids for free. I'm sure you've seen their commercials on TV, well, dad is one of those guys who gives on a monthly basis.

But Dad says just giving money isn't enough. Although he does say that if every person in the top 1% of income gave just 1 billion dollars, there would be no hunger in this country. A sobering thought for a kid like me, who has never known hunger. So...besides the money, mom and dad volunteer at a food bank once a month, and sometimes me and Sammy go too.

It's kind of sad to see all the people lined up for food, but when I see the happy smiling faces of the kids, and hear the heartfelt thank yous from the adults, it makes it all worthwhile. Sammy, especially likes talking to the kids, and even the shyest of them always open up to my little bro. He's just so good with people in general, and I predict that when he's older he is going to be a major force in this world.

For Thanksgiving that year, Dad volunteered us to help at the mission where they feed the homeless and needy. Boy, talk about a real eye-opener. I mean, you hear about the homeless and maybe you see one on the street corner with their cardboard sign asking for help, but seeing them lined up to get a hot meal really brings it all home.

Sammy and I were too young to work the steam table, so we were assigned to throw away the empty paper plates and wipe down the tables after the people got through eating. Needless to say, the plates were usually completely licked clean, especially by the kids. Yeah, I said kids. Did you know there are homeless kids? I guess I did, but it's one of those things you just sort of put in the back of your mind. I even found out later that a few of the kids I went to school with were homeless, most of them living out of their cars or whatever. So sad, and it made me want to do something to help them at school, and I decided I would look into that first chance I got.

So, Sammy and I are busing a table (that's fancy talk for clean-up) and in walks this boy who looks about my age, (14, in case you forgot) and he is just about the most beautiful boy I have ever seen. Wait, did I mention I'm gay? If not, well I am, and my last statement makes much more sense if you know that little factoid.

The kid is dressed in a ragged hoodie, dirty jeans, holey tennis shoes, and he looks as if he hasn't bathed or washed his long shaggy hair in a while, but despite all that: his beauty shines through like a beacon in the night. His hair is what they call dishwater blond, and even from a distance I can see that his eyes are green, two emeralds that seemed to almost glow. And...the look in those eyes and on his face says: "No matter how bad things are, you can't beat me down, I win." Well, that's what I thought it said anyway.

At first I just stared, and when Sammy noticed, he stopped wiping the table and looked to see what had caught my attention.

"Oh my God, he's pretty," Sammy giggled.

I smiled, Sammy has such an innocence about him, but he had hit the nail directly on the head this time.

"I wonder where his folks are?" I muttered, usually kids, even teenagers came with their parents, but this kid seemed to be all alone.

I watched as he looked around, then when he caught my eye he nodded and smiled, as if we shared some secret. I blushed, and was torn between looking away from those beautiful green eyes, and getting lost in them. I chose the latter.

"He's coming over here," Sammy giggled, "he must like you."

Now, I guess it's a good time to tell you that Sammy knows I like boys, and he's cool with it. He says he's not sure what he likes yet, but he's keeping an open mind.

"Ohmigod," I said finally tearing my eyes away.

"What? He probably just wants to ask if it's okay to use the bathroom or something," Sammy said, being his usual logical, level-headed self.

But it was too late to reply, because suddenly, there he was, not more than a foot from me.

"Uh, I too late for the meal?" the boy said, still smiling despite his not knowing if he was going to be fed or not.

"Nah,'s not too late," I said in a shaky voice, then blushed ten shades of red.

'Stop being a dork', I screamed in my head, he probably thinks I'm an idiot already.

"Great," he said turning up the smile a bit, "my umm, folks couldn't make it, but they told me to come on down. I hope that's okay."

Okay? Okay? Of course it's okay," I stammered. If I have to go back there and get the plate myself, you shall be fed, my thoughts coming across a bit theatrical.

"More than okay," I finally said, pulling myself together a little bit, "Sammy, finish up here, I'll be right back. Come on, umm..."

"Colt," the boy said, and when I gave him a curious look he added, "Short for Colton, my name."

"Oh, Colt, I like that," No, no, no, I did not just say that I liked his name, grrr, "I'm Blake, that's my bro, Sammy."

"Oh, hi, good to meet ya," he said offering his hand, which I numbly took. I really wasn't used to handshakes since most kids fist-bumped these days, but it was kind of nice to have some skin on skin contact. Skin contact, ohmigod, that sounds so dirty.

"Come on, my folks are on the serving line, I'll make sure you get a good plate."

"Oh, wow, thanks. It's nice to have connections," he chuckled.

"Anytime," I said blushing a bit more, but it was just so hard not to smile or be happy around this boy. My God, if I could get away with it, I'd take him home with me and keep him forever.

"What's up, sport?" my dad chuckled, "you getting hungry?"

"No, Dad, this is Colt. He's come for dinner. His folks couldn't make it, and he wanted to know if it was okay if he had some dinner, and I told him yes. I was hoping you could fix him up, he's sort of a friend of mine," I said blushing a little. Well, it wasn't completely a lie, we were formerly introduced and shook hands and everything, so...we were at least acquaintances, if not friends.

"Any friend of yours, and all that," Dad chuckled, as he threw on an extra large helping of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy before passing the plate over to mom, who had observed the whole thing with what I considered to be a knowing smile.

I guess here I should interject that not only do my folks know I'm gay, they support me completely, mom is always asking me when I'm gonna find a boyfriend, so...I could almost bet she was wondering if maybe Colt could fill that position.

Mom piled on yams, some green beans, cranberry sauce, and two rolls, then handed the plate to Colt, who looked about ready to cry. I'll grab your dessert I said, you grab a drink," I said grabbing a piece of pumpkin, and a piece of pecan pie for my new crush.

Sammy was chatting up some cute little girl who was blushing so bright red she looked ready to explode. I sat Colt's dessert down nearby and pulled out a chair for him, and he dropped down into it and scooted up to the table.

"Well, I'll let you enjoy your meal," I said, wishing more than anything that I could stay and talk to Colt, and just bask in his loveliness.

"Oh, okay, well...thanks...uh, Blake," he said giving me a warm smile, "maybe I'll see you around school or something."

"Wait, you go to my school?" I sputtered.

"Yeah, but we don't have any classes together. I've seen you around though."

"You have?" I said, completely gobsmacked. (I really like that word, don't you?)

"It's okay, I won't bother you then. I mean, you probably don't want your friends to know that you know me..." he said sadly, his smile fading for the first time since I'd seen him walk in the door.

"No, no, it's not that. I just, I mean, how could I have never noticed you before now?"

"I pretty much keep to myself and I don't have many friends, so people don't notice me most of the time. I like it that way, sorta. The less questions I have to answer and all..."

"Can I sit down for a minute?" I said, scooting out the chair next to him without waiting for his answer.

"Sure," he said grinning, "help yourself."

"You haven't touched your food, please go ahead and eat," I said as I gathered my thoughts.

He nodded, then dug in, his table manners typical of a kid his age. Wait, what was his age?

"Are you 14 too?" I asked next.

"Yep, 9th grade. Go Trojans!" he said looking amused,

"What a stupid name for a football team," I laughed, "named after condoms."

I kid you not, suddenly Colt was laughing so hard he almost spit out the last bite of food he'd taken. However, I guess he didn't want to waste it, and he soon managed to get himself under control.

"Yeah, they should call em 'The Rubbers'," he said, and we both laughed. Gosh, it felt good just sitting next to Colt and laughing with him.

"So, umm, do you live near the school or do you ride the bus?" I asked, hoping I wasn't being too nosy.

"Nearby, I don't ride the bus. I walk, you?"

"I ride the number 7 bus most days, but sometimes my mom takes me and Sammy. He's in 7th grade, so for this year anyway we're at the same school."

"He's your bro, huh," I guess he's adopted, or you are?" he joked.

"Yeah, I'm adopted," I said trying to sound serious, "mom and dad wanted an older brother for Sammy and they ran an ad in the newspaper...and I applied."

Colt was laughing again. God how I loved his laugh, "Really, would they like two brothers for him, cause I am totally available?" he said, then his smile faded and he turned back to his plate.

What did that mean? Had he lied about his parents? Was he really all alone...and, homeless?"

"You know, maybe we could meet up after school some time," I said, not pressing him on the other issue, "like...go get a Coke or something, my treat."

"I can pay,'" he said almost angrily, "sometimes..." he added, softening some.

"Whatever, but I just...I mean, mostly just to hang out...and stuff..." God, now I was being lame again. Why would he want to hang out with me? He's so cute, he could be with any girl or boy he wanted.

"Yeah, that would be cool. We could meet on the track field bleachers or something," he suggested, and my whole world just got a little brighter.

"Yeah, that would be cool. If you didn't want to go anywhere, we could just sit there and talk or something..."

"Sure, sounds good," he said turning his attention to dessert now. While we had been talking he had somehow managed to clean his plate, and there was nothing left but some gravy stains in one of the sections.

"Blake, heads up!" Dad said pointing at a table that needed busing.

"Oh, sorry. I have to go. Hey, before you go, can we swap numbers?" I said, hoping I didn't sound too desperate.

"I uh, I can take yours, but my umm, my phone is busted," he said frowning.

"K, I'll write it down and give it to you before you go," I said, wondering if he didn't have a phone because he couldn't afford one.

I got busy busing tables but I was able to slip Colt my number before he finally said he had to go. We sort of agreed to meet on the bleachers the following Monday, but for some reason I feared he wouldn't show up. I was afraid I'd been too bold, too prying, and had become a threat to his solo life below the radar. Sure, maybe he'd enjoyed sharing a few laughs with me, but was I worth the risk he'd have to take to become my friend? I had a lot to think about, and I was glad when our shift ended and we loaded up in the SUV to head home.

"That boy, Colt," my mom said once we were on the road, "he's very attractive. Do you know him from school, or what?"

"School," I said simply, not wanting to discuss it further.

"Oh," mom said, no doubt trying to figure out how to get more info out of me without being too intrusive, ha.

"Blake likes him," Sammy giggled.

"Sammy!" I cried, feeling betrayed that my little brother, who I idolized, could make such a crass remark. It didn't help that it was true either.

"Sorry, but he's so pretty, and he likes you too," Sammy said touching my arm and giving me those sad eyes that I couldn't resist.

"I just felt sorry for him..." I said, turning my attention to the scenery outside.

"Oh, what is his situation?" this from dad.

"I...I'm not sure," I said turning to face the back of dad's seat, "I mean, he came to get a free meal, that has to say something about his situation, right? And he was pretty vague about where he lived, and even though he said his folks sent him there, later I got the feeling there weren't any parents."

"OH," Dad said with concern, "we need to learn more then. I couldn't rest at night if I thought that boy was sleeping on the street, or in the park."

"It can't be that bad, can it?" I muttered, "surely he has a place to live..." then, I thought of how he looked, dirty, unkempt, and I hate to say it, but he smelled kind of ripe. At that moment I realized, he has no place to bathe, no clean clothes. Dad is right, we need to find out more, before it's too late.

"We're supposed to meet up Monday after school. I'll try to find out more then, okay?"

"Yes, please do," Dad said, "there are organizations that can help that boy find a place to stay, food, clothing, and make sure he's safe."

"I can do that too," I muttered before I could stop myself.

"Oh honey, you really like this boy, don't you?" from mom, of course.

"To be honest, until today I didn't even know he existed, despite the fact that he goes to my school. We don't share any classes, and apparently he's on the down-low at school."

"Probably because of his living situation," Dad offered, "all the more reason to find out what's going on with him. You do what you can, and Monday I'll call Mr. Burk, your principal, and see if he knows anything about him. I'm sure there aren't that many Colts attending school there," he added the last with a chuckle, I guess because of the novelty of Colt's name.

We rode home in silence after that, and once we were home we had our own Thanksgiving dinner to enjoy. It was six before we finally sat down to eat, and as we went around the table telling what we were thankful for, I thought about Colt and what it must be like to be alone, cold, hungry, dirty, with no one to care, and I started crying right there at the table.

"May...I be...ex...excused?" I sobbed as I scooted out my chair.

"Son..." Dad said, looking at me with concern, "what's wrong, is it about your friend Colt?"

I nodded, unable to reply, then sat back down. It wasn't fair to disrupt my family's dinner just because I was a whiney-assed cry baby.

"You're just going to have to trust me when I say I won't rest till we find out his story, and fix things for him, if we can, all right?"

"Yes, Dad," I said, my lip still quivering, "thanks, I love you."

"I love you too, son," my dad said reaching over to give me a sideways hug, "now, how about I carve this old turkey and we chow down?"

Monday dragged by, and by lunch time I was wondering if by any chance I shared the same lunch period with Colt. If so, I had to admit I had never noticed him, which seemed impossible considering how awestruck I was when I first caught a glimpse of him at the mission. Nah, I decided either he doesn't have this lunch period or he just doesn't use the cafeteria. That got me to thinking, if he did have this lunch period, but didn't use the cafeteria, where would he most likely be during lunch period?

My friends, Jake, Mary, and Bill, must've noticed my funk, but no one spoke. Then I had another thought. Even though I didn't have any classes with Colt, maybe my friends did, so...I casually went about the task of finding out.

"So, um, I was wondering, do any of you guys know a kid named Colt, or Colton? He's our age, and goes to school here, I mean, duh," I laughed.

"Not me," Bill said looking interested, "why, who is he?"

"Oh, just someone I met, recently."

"A boyfriend?" Mary asked looking excited. Girls, they're all over romance, no matter who's.

"No, not a boyfriend," I said, but I was still blushing.

"Wait..." she said sounding almost giddy now, "Long hair, the most dreamy green eyes, always smiling?"

"Yeah, that sounds like him," I said excitedly, then toned it down, "I mean, that might be him."

"Oh my God, he's gorgeous," Mary said, but...I think he might have some issues at home or something."

"What do you mean?" Bill asked, perking up some.

"Well, sometimes he looks tired, like he didn't get much sleep, and...he wears the same clothes a lot, and, well...I hate to say this, but sometimes he smells dirty."

Bill laughed, he actually laughed, "Dirty, as in unclean, or in nasty?"

"Shut up, Bill," Mary scolded, "like maybe he doesn't always bathe, for whatever reason."

"Like what?" Jake asked, "like the shower is broken, or the water has been turned off...what do you mean?'

"Like, well...I'm just guessing, but I think he's homeless."

There was a silence that fell over our table that was so oppressing that I felt like crying again. Kids like us, from middle and upper class families never had to deal with things like that, and though I saw it second hand a lot of times because of our charity work, till now it had never hit home like it did in Colt's situation.

Colt was one of us, a kid, a young teen, a fellow Trojan (ha, Rubber) and it didn't seem real that one of ours might be in a situation like that. However, if I could do anything about it, I was sure gonna try.

"So, you have a class with him?" I finally said, "have you had that class yet?"

"Nope, next period," Mary said moving closer, "why, do you want me to pass a love note to him?" she giggled.

I rolled my eyes, "No, but can you tell him I said 'hi', and that I'll meet him after school. He knows where."

"Um, so you guys are meeting after school?" Bill said, sounding very interested now.

Oh, did I mention my friends all know I'm gay as well? If not, now you can see why they were so invested in my sudden interest in this new kid.

"Yes, and I'm not telling you where," I said rolling my eyes, "we're just friends, well, I hope we will be soon. We've only met once...outside of school, and we agreed to meet up and talk some more, that's all."

"Hmm," Jake said, "I hear wedding bells..." he joked.

"Shut up," I laughed, "you guys are awful."

"We just want you to be happy," Mary said touching my hand gently, "we love you, Blake, and it's about time you found a boyfriend.

Maybe by thinking bad thoughts I jinxed myself, but as I'd feared, Colt was a no show. I guess I really wasn't all that surprised, but I sure the heck was disappointed. So much so that I felt like crying. I waited for over an hour, but I guess I knew after five minutes that I'd been stood up.

Kids came and went, the wind picked up, and it began to get cold. I'd long ago missed the last bus, so I pulled out my phone and called mom, who was more or less expecting my call. She arrived ten minutes later and as I climbed into the car, she gave me a hopeful look.

"Well, how did it go?" she asked almost cheerfully, despite the hangdog look on my face, (another cool word).

"It didn't," I sighed, "he didn't show up"

"Oh," mom said reaching over to touch my arm gently, "maybe he had to stay after school, or perhaps he had somewhere he needed to be. Without a phone he couldn't let you know, right?"

"Yeah, I guess, but..." then I told him about Mary having a class with him and what she'd said. When I'd asked Mary if she'd passed my message along to Colt, she'd said that she did, but she really couldn't read his reaction.

"Well, we'll see what dad has found out from Principal Burk, and go from there. I know you're upset right now, but he could have a good reason for not showing up."

"I know, hey, where's Sammy?" I said, having been so despondent I hadn't noticed my little bro's absence.

"He's at Roger's house, we'll swing by and pick him up, but first...why don't you and I go get some ice cream? You look like you could use a treat."

That was mom, good old mom, always there to kiss a boo boo and bandage a skinned knee, and now trying to fix a broken heart.

We picked up Sammy, who looked at us suspiciously and even went so far as to smell my breath.

"No fair, you had ice cream," he whined, and mom and I broke out into laughter.

"What are you, a hound dog?" I teased, "what was the tip off?"

"You have some on your shirt," he said pointing to a little stain on my chest, "and I can smell it on your breath."

"Don't begrudge us some mother/son time alone," mom said, "next time will be your time, okay?"

"Sure, I was just kidding," Sammy said, finally picking up on my mood.

At home, we button-holed dad as soon as we got in the door, but he didn't have much to report.

"Principal Burk was out of the office today, but I left a message for him to call me. The Assistant Principal, someone named Joy, or Joyce, was no help at all."

I laughed, "Mrs. Joyce is new, and acts like she's lost all the time."

"So, what did this boy say when you talked to him today?"

"He didn't show up," I sighed, "but I did find out that Mary Roberts has a class with him," I said, then went on to explain about the message I'd sent and his reaction.

"Hmm, maybe he's afraid he's giving too much away by agreeing to meet up with you."

"Yeah, I think you might be right, but I'm not gonna give up," I said with conviction.

"Good boy, just hang in there. If anyone can break down his walls, it's you."

"Or Sammy," I laughed, "I should've let Sammy talk to him, everyone loves Sammy."

"Aww, I just like people and they like me back, that's all."

"It's a gift," mom said, "maybe someday you will be President of this great country and you can spread that message around the world."

Tuesday, I sent a hand written message via Mary, but later when I saw her in the hall she handed the note back to me and said Colt hadn't shown up for class. Maybe he was sick, I reasoned, and maybe that's why he didn't show up yesterday. I'd try again tomorrow.

At home that night, I waited for dad to get home, but he still didn't have any information to share. Apparently Principal Burk was out of town till the following Monday, and Vice Principle Joyce was still of no use. She apologized and said she didn't have the authority to look into the files without the Principal's permission, and I wondered why she'd been left in charge then, if she couldn't be trusted with something as simple as that.

My dad, however, not one to be thwarted so easily, had an idea for a different approach.

"You said Mary shares a class with Colt, do you know who teaches that class?"

"Yeah, Mrs. Sanders, I know cause Mary talks about her all the time. She really likes her."

"Good, that probably means she's a teacher who cares about her students, and if she knows anything about Colt's home life, maybe she'd be willing to share it with us."

"Good idea, dad," I said getting excited then, "I can look her up in the student directory online and give you her number or email."

So, that's what I did, and dad sent her a rather long and detailed email spelling out what we knew and what we suspected. I really didn't expect her to reply so quickly, but she did, and instead of an email, she actually called my dad. He'd put his phone numbers in the email, both private and business, and she called his cell.

Putting the call on speaker phone so I could hear too, we listened as she told us what little she knew.

"He's a very bright boy," she said sounding genuinely fond of him, "and always hands in his assignments on time, and his work is exemplary. I suspect if he does this level of work in all his classes, he will no doubt be able to go to college on a scholarship. However, she said, her tone changing immediately, lately I've noticed some changes in him. "

"Changes, like what kind of changes?" my dad asked.

"Well, for one thing, sometimes he looks a bit frazzled, and tired, as if he hardly slept. And his clothes are sometimes rather wrinkled and soiled....and at times he smells as if he hasn't bathed. He'd always been a very neat looking boy with impeccable hygiene before that, but slowly that started to change. It didn't happen overnight, but over the course of a week or so, I noticed drastic changes in his appearance and demeanor."

"Did you ask him if there was anything wrong at home or offer any help?" my dad said, not one to beat around the bush.

"Yes, I did, but you have to understand, as a teacher I can only do so much. He told me that his mother was ill and that was why he didn't have clean clothes. He said he'd been taking care of her and didn't get as much sleep as he used to. I suspected there was more to it than that, but when I pressed him for more details about his mother, he became a bit defensive."

"What do you know about his mother? What about the dad, is he still in the picture?"

"It's just his mother, as far as I know. Her name is on all his forms and signed slips, and he's never mentioned a father. I looked up his address, and the address listed is a mobile home in the Willow Creek Mobile Home Park. Willow Creek is just across the highway, but falls within our school district. In fact, we have several students enrolled who live there."

"Willow Creek, yes, I know where that is. The lots there seem pretty well kept and the trailers aren't rundown like in other parks."

"Well, you might be interested to know that I called the office there, and discovered that Colton and his mother moved out about a month ago, and the only forwarding address was a P.O. box."

"So, we don't know where he's living at the moment," dad said, more to himself than to us, "that fits with my theory of his being homeless. Do you know what kind of car his mother drives, maybe they're living out of that."

"Yes, all parents are required to list any vehicles that might be picking up their children, let me see..." there was the sound of some papers shuffling, then she was back, "2010 Chrysler mini-van, red..." she rattled off the plate number as well and dad wrote it down, then read it back to make sure he had it right.

"Anything else you can tell us that might be of help?" my dad asked then.

"Well, only that if you need anything, anything at all, please let me know. Colton is a very special boy, and I'd like to make sure he has a shot at life."

"I'll keep you in the loop," my dad assured her, "as I said in my email, my son Blake is very concerned about him and we want to make sure he is all right."

They ended the call, and though we knew a little more than we did before, we still didn't know where Colt was, or what had happened to bring him to this point. If they weren't living in the trailer park anymore, than where were they?

I was exhausted from worry, and after a quiet dinner, I showered and piled into my bed. Sammy and I shared a bath, but had separate bedrooms which were joined by the bath. As usual Sammy came in to say goodnight, and when he saw me lying there looking so miserable, he sat down on my bed to try to comfort me.

"I know you're worried, Blake, but dad is doing everything he can, and he'll figure something out."

"I know," I sighed, "it's just that, well...I feel so guilty sometimes because we have so much, and some people have nothing."

"I know what you mean. Once I had nothing too, now I have everything," he said smiling, "but the most important thing I have is a family. I don't care if we're rich or poor as long as we have each other, as long as I have my big brother."

I smiled then, Sammy was right, family was the most important thing, and with their help I'd find a way to get through this just like I had all the other trials in my short life. The most important thing now was to stay positive and do my best to find out what Colt needed and provide that.

The next day at lunch I gave Mary another note for Colt, just in case he showed up today. She seemed quiet and almost sad, and when I asked her what was wrong, she just said it was a personal thing and that she'd be fine. That wasn't like Mary at all, but I didn't press her, I had enough on my mind as it was.

After school, I headed to the bleachers by the track and climbed to the top so I could see all around me, just in case Colt got my note and came to meet me. I'd been there about ten minutes when I saw him headed my way, and my heart sort of sped up as I watched him approach.

Today he was wearing a black hoodie, red sneakers, and what looked like brown corduroy pants. Corduroy?" I thought, "who wears corduroy these days?"

As soon as he saw me he sped up, and in no time flat he was climbing the bleachers headed my way. I stood, my blood pumping like mad as my eyes locked on his, and he smiled that smile that lit up the whole sky.

"Hey," I said, being the brilliant conversationalist that I am.

"Hey, sorry about the other day. I, um, got caught up and couldn't come, and yesterday I was sick....sorry."

"Hey, it's fine, are you okay now?"

"Yeah, just a 24 hour thing, I guess," he said as we stood inches apart, neither of us knowing what to do next.

"Wanna sit?" I finally asked, "or go get a Coke or something?"

"Just sit, I guess. Talk some, I guess."

"Great," I said happily, "I didn't feel like walking anyway," I chuckled.

"So...what have you been up to?" he asked, looking around nervously.

"Not much, just school and the usual, how about you?"

"Same, well...and being sick," he laughed nervously.

"Are you sure you don't want a Coke or something?" I said, wondering if he'd even eaten today.

"Only if you do," he said giving me a shy sideways glance.

"I'm starved, to be honest, but I can't eat a whole pizza, would you consider sharing one with me?"

"I would, except, I spent all my money on...umm, lunch today," he said sounding embarrassed.

"Oh, no problem, it's my treat. I know this great place near here and the pizza is to die for."

"So, it's poison?" Colt joked, and we both laughed, breaking the tension.

"I haven't died yet, but if I did I'd be a happy boy. Come on, it's not far."

At the pizza place, I ordered a medium pepperoni and two large drinks, which came with free refills. While we waited for the pizza, we sat in a booth and talked about school mostly, while I thought about ways I could find out more about what was going on with Colt without being too nosy.

"So what does your mom and dad do?" I asked nervously.

Colt shrugged, "Don't know much about my dad, as far as I can remember it was just my mom and me. But, I really don't want to talk about my family right now, okay?" he added looking panicky.

"Hey, no prob, just making conversation. Oh, that's our pizza," I said, glad they were calling my number at that moment.

"Oh man, it does look good," Colt said when I returned with the steaming pie, and I swear I could see his mouth watering.

"It's hot, so be careful," I said, sounding like my mom, but I was afraid he'd burn himself in his haste to fill his poor empty tummy.

He pulled a slice out and placed it on a napkin, then waited a few minutes as he blew on it. I followed his example and soon they were cool enough to eat. As much as I like pizza, about three slices is typically my limit, and there were eight in this pie, so...that meant five for Colt, and he had no problem putting them away. We'd both refilled our drinks about halfway through our meal, and Colt refilled his again to take with him. I, however, was too full to even think about drinking more soda.

"I should be going, I guess," Colt said once we were outside.

"Yeah, me too,'' I said, though I really didn't want to leave Colt, not knowing if he had a place to go to.

"Well, thanks for the pizza, you were right, it was to die for," he said grinning.

"Don't die though," I joked, "I'd miss you."

He looked at me then, his beautiful green eyes staring into my blue ones, and he smiled, "Really, no one has ever said that to me before."

"What?" No one? That's crazy."

"Like I said, I'm pretty much a loner. No friends, till now," he said, gauging me for my reaction.

"Well, you got one now," I said smiling back at him. Oh, God, how I wanted to kiss those sweet lips of his right then.

"Thanks," he said, then laughed, "I guess that's the thing to say. Is it? I don't know, I'm sort of new to this friend stuff."

"Even when you were little, you didn't have friends?"

"Nah, not really. We moved around a lot, mom and me, and I never stayed anywhere long enough to make any friends, I guess. This is the longest we've ever been in a place, two years now."

"Well, in two years you could've made a few friends," I observed.

"It's...complicated," he said, "I can't really explain, but I kind of like the idea, of having a friend, I mean," he said, looking at me again with those emerald orbs.

"Thanks," I said grinning. Then I had this wicked thought, "hey, what would you think about coming over to my house some day after school and hanging out? You've already met my family and they think you're cool, especially Sammy."

Colt laughed nervously, "I don't know. I'll think about it, okay?"

"Sure, anytime. Just let me know. Well, I'm gonna call my mom now, can we drop you off somewhere?" I said, knowing the answer to that question already.

"Nah, it's not far, I can walk. I need to walk off some of that pizza anyway."

"Okay, cool. Um, do you mind waiting with me while I wait for my mom, or are you in a hurry?"

"No, I can wait," he said sounding happy, "I got nothing scheduled this evening," he laughed.

"Good to know," I laughed, "like, are you sure you don't need to check with your secretary?"

"Nah, she's long gone by now," he joked, "probably had a hot date with that French guy she's been seeing."

"Oui," I said in a really crappy French accent, and we both cracked up.

I suddenly realized that Colt was not only gorgeous, but also a lot of fun to be with. And...Mrs. Sanders had said he was smart too, so...basically he had the whole package, looks, brains, and a personality to boot. Damn, if only I could find out if he was gay, or at least curious.

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