Friday, March 2, 2012

The Lernier Family Chapter Twelve - Kyle, David and Ashley

Chapter Twelve – Kyle, David, and Ashley

After our harrowing encounter with Child Protective Services (CPS) and Arlington County Human Services, our lives seemed to return to normal.   I say “normal” with the caveat that it was a new “normal” because we could never return to our previous happy state of ignorance regarding the maliciousness of the self-righteous “Christian” who tried to tear our family apart with the assistance of government agents.  

I am still astounded at the unbridled power Child Protective Services has over innocent people’s lives.   They didn’t care that everything Vincent had claimed was false.   They didn’t care that we were innocent victims.   They didn’t care that they traumatized our family by showing up with the police on our doorstep and treating us like we were criminals of the worst kind.   It didn’t matter that there was ample evidence that the twins were being well cared for and were the light of our lives.

Rick has tried to calm me down by telling me things like:   “They were just doing their jobs, Babe,” or “You can’t blame them for checking out a claim of severe child abuse and neglect,” or “They followed all the proper procedures.”  

Despite Rick’s best efforts, I still feel that both CPS and Arlington County Human Services overreacted to a false claim and that their employees are prejudiced against us based on their religious views.    I strongly believe that discrimination of the worst kind happened to us at the hands of our own government officials.   They weren’t just following proper protocol or their documented procedures.   They intentionally set out to destroy our family without regard to the truth.   It didn’t matter who we were.   All they could see was that we were a gay couple and that was all they needed to know to set things in motion to take away our children.       

My belief that the government is supposed to protect and defend her citizens has been deeply shaken if not completely demolished by our experience.   I once had faith in the goodness of other people but no longer.   I feel so violated and traumatized by my experience with CPS and Arlington County Human Services I have difficulty sleeping at night.   I wake up in the middle of the night with nightmares that our babies have been taken from us, again, and put up for adoption by the government.   When I wake up like that, Rick always holds me tight and tries to comfort me and tells me that everything is okay.   I can’t sleep after having such horrifying nightmares.   I usually get up and go into the boys’ room to check on them.   At first, I set up a cot in their room so I could sleep near them.   Over the last few months Rick has gradually convinced me that the boys aren’t going anywhere and that I don’t have to sleep near them anymore.   I believe him but I haven’t allowed him to take the cot down, at least not yet.    

Anyone who has been through such an experience knows just how I feel.   The whole thing seemed like a cross between a Salem witch trial and the Spanish Inquisition.   The government’s reason for taking our children from us was a spurious claim made by a religious leader.   Vincent’s claim was acted upon by similarly minded religious county employees.   Just like the Salem witch trials, the accused (Rick and I) were assumed guilty because someone claimed we were and as in both the Salem witch trials and the Spanish Inquisition, we were declared to be the spawn of the devil and had to be guilty of the crimes we were accused of committing.   The CPS and Human Services employees who took our children from us did so with the intent to harm and to destroy our family which they thinly disguised under the pretext of “saving the children from harm.”  

The fact that we were presumed guilty and had to prove our innocence was a shock and a surprise to me.   I had always been taught that the United States had based their justice system on the premise that you are presumed innocent until proven guilty and not the other way around.   I had never considered how horrible it is to be considered guilty without anyone even stopping to look at the facts.

Fortunately for us, we had a judge who recognized the travesty of justice that was being carried out by the CPS and Arlington County Human Services.   I am grateful to her for turning back the tide of malignant hatred for gays that has infected most CPS and Human Services employees and returned our boys to our home.   I am also grateful for those county employees who came to our aid in our time of need.   That being said, I am very fearful of what could happen if those wonderful people were to be removed from their positions and replaced with people of malicious intent like those who took our children from us in the first place.   To say that I have an intense distrust of CPS and Arlington County Human Services is a huge understatement.

These thoughts keep running through my head all the time.   They have caused me to distrust everyone I meet because I never know which one of them will decide they must “save” our children from their evil gay dads and call CPS to come to the rescue and destroy our family.   There are too many busybody neighbors who don’t think before they act because they often don’t have all the facts.   I used to try to reach out to my neighbors to get to know them.   Now, I try to avoid them as much as possible.   Rick has tried to bring friends home from work but I have refused to meet them and have stayed upstairs with the children.

Rick accuses me of being overly paranoid.   He laughs at my fears when I tell him that we need to be cautious about who we invite to our home.   He makes me so mad sometimes.   In fact, there have been a few nights I have slept in the boys’ room because he has infuriated me so much with his attitude that everyone can be trusted to do the right thing when we have seen the opposite to be true.

As I tried to sleep on the cot in the twin’s room, I kept going over the today’s events trying to make sense out of my feelings.   I had left Rick in our bedroom after our argument.   I felt betrayed by my sweetheart, yet, I was struggling with my desire to help the three children Mrs. Evans brought to our home this evening.   In my mind’s eye, I went back to how the evening started:

*** ***

Keith and Kerry were over with Egan and Diane as were Zach and Todd and their boys.   We had just celebrated the boys’ 1st birthday with cake and ice cream.   The twins made such a big mess of everything we just had to snap a couple of photos before we attempted to clean them up.

Kerry laughed, “The twins are so sweet.   You can’t help but love the little darlings.”

Keith said, “They just like their Dads.   Look at them.”

Rick laughed, “Yes, you can tell they are related to us.”   Rick put his arm around my waist and leaned down to kiss me.   “Don’t you agree, Glenn?”

I smiled up at my husband and said, “Yes, they are very much like us aren’t they?”

Egan said, “Look, JJ is throwing the cake on the floor!”

As we watched, JJ proceeded to dump everything he had on his tray onto the floor.   I laughed, “That has to be something he got from his father because I know that I never made such a mess when I was little!”

Diane laughed as she watched Josh do the same thing.   “Look, Josh copied his brother.   They always seem to copy each other.”

Kerry said, “That is quite natural for twins, Diane.   Just make sure you don’t follow their example, sweetheart.”

Diane said, “I am a grown up now.”

“Yes, you are growing up,” Keith said.   Diane was sitting up to the table on her booster seat.   We had strapped it onto one of our regular chairs so she could sit up to the kitchen table with the rest of the family.   It has arms on its sides to keep her from falling off as well as a safety harness.   She always protested that she didn’t need the safety harness but we insisted that she wear it just in case she took a tumble.

Keith said, “Finish eating your cake and ice cream.   We need to get you kids home to your beds.   Egan has school tomorrow.”

Zach said, “We should be heading home as well.”

Rick asked, “Have you found a house you like, yet?”

“No, we are still looking.   We like where we are living but it’s not very conducive to raising a family,” Zach said.

Todd agreed, “We want something on the water.   Since we are both from Duluth, we are used to having access to a boat.”

Zach and Todd were my roommates from the University of Minneapolis and played for our school’s hockey team.   They were married during our sophomore year.   After college, Zach went professional and Todd went on to graduate school.   Zach was traded to the Washington Capitals last June and he moved to the DC area with Todd and their twin boys, Cameron and Skye.   Their twins are 5 years old.   They missed the deadline to start kindergarten since their birthday is in November.   The twins were seated in between Zach and Todd.   They had already devoured their cake and ice cream and were reaching for more.

Todd stopped the boys, “Boys, did you ask for another piece of cake?”

The boys looked at their Dad with those innocent expressions kids get when they are caught doing something they know they shouldn’t be doing.   Cameron spoke up, “No, Daddy, but can we have some more cake?”

Todd smiled at Cameron, “Yes, you both may have more cake.”

Zach said, “I’m glad we called you before we rented our house.   After what you told us happened to you here, we made sure we stayed away from rental units in Arlington County.”

“We like living in Kingstowne but we need a place with room for the boys to play and we definitely want a place with water access,” Todd said.

Keith said, “We looked at some properties near Mason Neck when we were first looking to build a new home.   Maybe you should look down along the waterfront in Lorton.”

Zach said, “We found a home we like yesterday.   Here’s a pic of the property.”   He showed us the pic on his cell phone.


“I think you should go for it,” I said.   “It looks like the perfect place for you guys.”

“It’s a little pricey though,” Zach said.   “We found a couple of other homes nearby that we thought were more like what we were looking to buy.   In fact, we found two homes for sale next door to each other and thought we would talk to you guys about buying the home next to ours.”

Kerry looked at me and Rick, “You guys should at least consider it.   Keith and I will be moving to Minnesota in the summer when I start my new job.   Your friends in Minneapolis were a big help to us.   I am looking forward to living in the Twin Cities area.”

“I’m glad Justin and Brian were able to help you out,” I said.

Rick said, “Kerry, I think you are right about us moving from here.   I know that Glenn would be just as happy to never set foot in Arlington County, again, once we leave here.”

Keith said, “I completely understand Glenn’s feelings about Arlington County.   In part, that is why we chose to look for jobs in other states.

Zach looked at me and Rick, “So what do you think?”

“I want to look at the homes first,” Rick said.   “I want to make sure we aren’t buying into huge problems.”

“We looked at both homes and we didn’t see any major problems with them.   I think that you two will want to remodel them to suit your needs just as we will,” Todd said.

Rick said, “Let’s spend Saturday morning looking at them.   Do you have a realtor you are using?”

“Yes, we found a very nice gay realtor to work with us.   Dan and his husband, Jake, have been great at finding homes that will meet our needs,” Todd said.

“Good.   Let them know we will be joining you to look at those two properties.   I think we will take a drive tomorrow to check out the neighborhood ahead of time,” Rick said.

Kerry said, “Do you mind if we join you tomorrow?   I would like to see the neighborhood you are looking.”

Zach asked, “Are you guys going to rent out this place or are you going to sell it?”

Rick said, “We will sell it.   Glenn doesn’t want anything to do with Arlington County whatsoever.”

“We agree with Glenn,” Keith said.   “Given how poorly Rick and Glenn were treated by the county, we won’t keep any property here.   We plan to put both houses on the market in mid-March or so.”

Kerry said, “We hope you guys get houses close to each other.   I was worried that Glenn wouldn’t have a support network when we moved.”

“I hope it works out,” I said.   “I think it would be totally awesome to live next door to you guys.”

Todd grinned, “I agree.  If we don’t like the places we are going to see on Saturday, we have a couple of other places we have found that might be of interest.   We will bring the specs on those places with us on Saturday.”

“We need to be going before the little guys decide to demolish the rest of the cake.” Zach said grinning at his boys.

Cameron had chocolate frosting all over his face as did Skye.   It was obvious that the boys had enjoyed their cake!   I looked at our twins and saw that they had either initiated the face decorating or had imitated Cameron and Skye!   I laughed, “I think that all four boys need a bath and pajamas!”

Zach smiled, “I agree.   Do you mind if we bathe them here?   I brought their pajamas just in case we ended up staying the night.”

Rick said, “Sure.”   He turned to me, “I’ll grab Josh if you’ll take JJ.”

Keith said, “We will see you guys tomorrow.   Come on Egan and Diane.   It’s time for you two get your baths and pajamas on as well.”

“Do we have to,” Egan whined.

“Yes, you need to get enough rest so you won’t fall asleep in class tomorrow,” Kerry said.

“But I want to stay and play with the twins some more,” Egan protested looking up into his Dad’s face.

Keith held his son’s gaze and said, “I would love to stay and play as well, son, but we need to be getting home.”

Rick and I got the Keith’s double meaning and laughed, remembering our little tryst with Keith when Rick and I first met.   Keith looked at us and grinned, “Not only that, your mother wouldn’t approve.”

Kerry smiled, “No, I wouldn’t approve.   Now let’s get your coats on and walk home.”

Egan said, “Do I have to wear a coat?   It’s only next door.   I can run fast enough I won’t get cold.”

Kerry said sternly, “Egan, we talked about this before.   Please get your coat on.”

They moved into the foyer to retrieve their coats from the coat closet.   They were soon bundled up against the cold.   I handed Egan and Diane a small plastic bag with two chocolate chip cookies and gave each of them a kiss.   “I have given your mother a thermos of hot chocolate to go with those cookies but you can’t have them until you have had a bath and have put your pajamas on.   Is that clear?” I asked looking Egan in the eyes.

Egan nodded his head, “Yes, Glenn.   I promise I’ll wait until I’m bathed and in my pajamas before I eat my cookies.”   Egan grinned and threw his arms around me.   I knelt down and gave him a hug and I turned to Diane.   “Do you promise to do the same?”

Diane said, “Yes, Glenn.   I will.”   I hugged her and then stood up.  

“Thank you for coming to the twins’ birthday party,” I said.

Kerry smiled, “Thank for inviting us.   We wouldn’t have missed it for anything in the world.”

Rick and I gave her and Keith quick hug and I returned to the kitchen.   Rick saw them out the door and soon joined us.

Zach said, “Keith and Kerry are the most wonderful people in the world.   You are so lucky to have them as your neighbors.”

Rick said, “Yes, they have been a huge support to us over the years.   I am going to miss them when they move to Minneapolis.”

“I know they are going to miss us as well, especially Egan,” I said.   “We have been the only babysitter he has ever had.   He has spent a lot of time in our home.”

Todd said, “I hope that we can be as close as you guys are to Keith and Kerry.”   Todd’s eyes were bright with his emotion.   “It’s been hard sometimes to all alone while Zach has been on the road with his team.”

Zach put his arm around his husband and kissed him, “I love you, Todd.   Thank you for standing by me all these years.   I know it’s been difficult at times.”

“I know it’s been hard for you to be on the road all the time, too,” Todd said.   “But that’s part of what I signed up for when we got married.”

Zach said, “Do you remember all the properties we invested in back in our college days?”

“Yes, I remember,” I said.

“Well, the rental income from those properties has allowed Todd to stay home with the kids.   In fact, we used it to get Todd’s business started,” Zach said.

“We have you two to thank for believing in us,” Todd said with a smile.

Rick replied, “It’s the least we could do since you watched over Glenn for me while I was on active duty.”

Todd grinned, “You don’t know how hard it was to keep Glenn under control!”

“Yes, I do.   I spent enough time with you guys in Minneapolis to know how things worked when I wasn’t there,” Rick said laughing.

Zach responded, “I’m glad we are back together, again.   I’ve missed being close to our friends.   I hope we can work things out so we can be neighbors.”

Cameron asked, “Can I have some more ice cream?”

Todd looked over and noticed that the rest of the cake had disappeared.   “I don’t think so since you guys finished off what was left of the cake.”

Cameron’s face showed his disappointment.   “Okay, Daddy.   Can we get a bath now?”

Todd smiled, “Sure.   Let’s get you guys in the bath tub.”

Rick and I each grabbed one of the twins while Todd and Zach guided their two boys upstairs.   I said, “Let’s put all the boys in the Jacuzzi tub in our master bedroom.   It’s big enough for all four of them.”

Zach and Todd directed their guys into our en suite and helped them get undressed and started the bath water.   Zach turned it off when there was enough water to cover the boys’ legs and reached up to their navels.   Rick and I laid the twins on our bed to change their diapers and wiped the majority of the chocolate frosting off of their faces before we took them into the bathroom to join their friends.   Cameron and Skye took charge of the twins.   JJ said, “Cammy,” and reached for his Cameron’s nose.

Cameron smiled, “No, JJ.   Let’s wash your face.”   Cameron took a wash cloth and washed JJ’s face.   JJ scrunched up his nose and tried to turn his face away from Cameron.

Josh sat next to Skye who took another wash cloth and said, “Josh….”

Josh cut him off, “No wash face.”    Josh was shaking his head and put his hands up to ward off the wash cloth. 

Skye smiled and said, “I will read stories to you if you will let me wash your face.”

 Josh thought for a moment and then nodded, “Okay.”

Todd and I helped the boys wash their hair.   Then Cameron and Skye took over the job of using the bar soap to wash everywhere else.   Soon we had all four boys dressed in their pajamas and took them back downstairs to the family room to let them play with their toys. 

I asked, “Are you going to stay overnight with us?   You know you are more than welcome to stay.   Your rooms are ready for you as always.” 

Zach looked over at Todd and said, “Yes, let’s stay.”

Todd nodded his agreement and smiled, “Thank you.”

Rick said, “You know you are part of our family and we want you to make yourselves at home.”

Zach and Todd both nodded.   “We do know that.   Todd and I chose to come to DC in part because we could be close to you guys,” Zach said.  

“I’m glad you did,” I said.   I stood up from the couch, “I need to clean up the kitchen.”

“I’ll help you,” Todd said.

Todd and I left Zach and Rick in the family room to watch over the boys as we returned to the kitchen to clean up the cake and ice cream.   I was standing at the kitchen sink washing up the last of the dishes while Todd dried and put them away when the phone rang.  

Rick called out, “I’ll get it, Babe!”

I let the water drain out of the sink and wiped my hands dry on a dishtowel.   I looked at Todd, “I wonder who that is?   We weren’t expecting anyone to be calling since our family called earlier to wish the twins a happy birthday and you guys are here with us.”

Todd shrugged his shoulders, “I wouldn’t know.   Maybe it’s one of your violin students calling to cancel a lesson.”

We returned to the family room just as Rick finished speaking and ended the call.

He turned to me with a big grin, “You won’t believe who just called!”

I smiled, “Okay, do tell!”

“That was Mrs. Evans.   She wants us to become foster parents for three older children whose parents were killed in a car accident near here,” Rick said.

Zach and Todd looked from me to Rick.   They both knew about what had happened 10 months ago.   From the looks on their faces, they were as surprised as I was that Human Services would call here asking us to be foster parents.  Then what Rick had said hit me.   I didn’t say anything at first.   I was so shocked that Rick would even entertain the slightest thought of getting involved with Human Services.  

I gave him the “look” and said, “You know how I feel about CPS and Human Services.”

Seeing my look, Rick paused momentarily to gauge how I might react.   He decided to soldier forward, “The children are a boy age 11, another boy age 9, and a girl age 7.   They want to keep them together but there isn’t room for all three of them with a current foster family.  We would only have them until Mrs. Evans could place them elsewhere.”

I glared at my husband, “Rick, do you realize what you are asking me to do?” 

Rick tried to avoid my gaze but he nodded and said, “I am asking you to put aside your feelings of bitterness and hatred towards the CPS and Human Services people and look at trying to help these children.”

“If you are so set on helping Human Services, then ask Keith and Kerry to take the children in until they can be placed with a permanent foster family.   I do NOT want CPS and Human Services people poking around my house or anywhere near our children,” I said my voice making it very clear I wasn’t about to let Rick try to change my mind on the subject.   “Don’t you think we have suffered enough at their hands already?   Why would we invite them back into our home?”

Zach and Todd remained silent as they sat listening to our energetic discussion.   They had never seen us in a situation like this where there was a very real difference of opinion.   I didn’t want to make scene in front of our friends but Rick had hit on a nerve and I wasn’t going to just let it pass for the sake of appearances.

Rick knew he wasn’t going to get anywhere with me so he changed the subject.   “Let’s read stories to the boys and then we can put them down for the night.”

I gave him a suspicious look.   Rick had employed this tactic before when he was trying to win an argument – redirect the conversation to give me time to think about what he wanted and then later bring it up, again, hoping he could convince me.   “Okay,” I said.   “But don’t think you are going to get me to change my mind.   You will need to call Mrs. Evans back and tell her we are NOT hosting anyone here.”

Rick didn’t respond.   He stood up and went over to where the children were playing.   “Who wants to read a story?”

Cameron and Skye immediately dropped the Lego blocks they had in their hands.   They looked at each other and Cameron said, “We do!   Can I pick out the books to read?”

Rick smiled at Cameron, “Yes, Cammy.   You and Skye can each pick out two books to read.”

I walked over and picked up JJ and Rick picked up Josh.    We chose some the twins’ favorite Dr. Seuss books from the stack on the bookcase next to their play area.   Cammy and Skye had chosen Dr. Seuss books as well.   They climbed up on the couch between their dads.

Cameron asked, “Can I read first?”

Todd said, “Yes, son.   Go ahead.”

Cameron liked showing off his reading skills.    Both Cameron and Skye could read already.   Todd and Zach were home schooling them.    Rick and I had talked to them about joining forces to home school the twins.    We had downloaded the materials about home schooling from the internet and had ordered many of the materials so we could determine how best to proceed.   Todd took great pride in providing a positive learning environment for his boys.  

When the older twins were done, we took turns reading several of JJ and Josh’s favorite Dr. Seuss books:   “Hop on Pop,” “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish,” “Sleep Book,” and “The Foot Book.”

The boys were getting pretty good at memorizing the words as we read them.   They couldn’t read the letters but they knew what to say when they saw the pictures on each page.   They are totally amazing.   They had started walking at nine months of age and now were completely mobile.  

Already the boys were demonstrating their individuality.   JJ is taller than Josh by about an inch.   Other differences have manifested themselves such as their language skills.   JJ mainly pointed at what he wanted or signaled that he needed something while Josh was very verbal and made sure we knew he wanted something.  

After reading stories, we went into the kitchen and put them in their high chairs for their bedtime snack.   The boys love to eat cereal and fruit.   Their food disappeared rapidly.   They drank their milk from their sippy cups.   JJ signaled he wanted more which Rick provided with a smile.

“JJ looks so much like you, Rick,” I said with a smile.

“Yes, he does just like Josh looks like you.   We each have a mini-me,” Rick said with a smile.   He took me in his arms and gently kissed me.   “I love you, Glenn.   I am so happy.   I have a good job, a nice home with two wonderful children, and the most wonderful husband in the whole world.”   He kissed me, again.

Josh said very distinctly, “More.”

Rick released me and smiled, “Okay, Josh, you can have some more cereal.”   He gave Josh what he wanted.   He took the boys’ sippy cups and added more milk.

Cameron and Skye had finished their snacks as well.   Skye asked, “May I have another scone?”

Zach smiled, “Yes, you can have one more and another glass of milk.”   As Cameron reached for another scone, Zach asked, “Did you ask?”

Cameron looked at his Dad and asked, “May I have one?”

“Yes, now that you have asked first,” Zach replied.

The boys finished eating and I said, “It’s time for bed boys.”  

Rick and I took the twins out of their high chairs and carried them upstairs to their bedroom.   Last week we had switched out their cribs for youth beds.   The boys had picked out race car beds which rested on the floor and were low enough that they could easily climb in and out of their beds.   JJ’s was blue and Josh’s was red.  

Zach and Todd guided their twins to their room.   Cameron climbed up the ladder to the top bunk while Skye took the lower one.   Sky looked up at his dads and asked, “Are we going to live with Glenn and Rick?”

“No, but we hope they will live next door to us,” Todd answered.

“Good, because I like playing with JJ and Josh,” Skye responded with a big grin.

Zach said, “It’s time to say your prayers, boys.”

Each twin said their prayers.   Todd and Zach kissed each boy on the forehead.   Zach asked each one, “Do you know you are special?”

The boys chorused, “Yes, because we are your sons!”

“That’s right and we love you very much,” Todd answered.   

Meanwhile, Rick and I helped the twins get their pajamas on and then we rocked them to sleep.   The twins like to be rocked to sleep every night.   I know we are spoiling them but after the CPS incident I tried to spend every moment I could with our precious boys.   Tonight, Josh climbed up on my lap and JJ walked over to Rick who picked him up.   We wrapped the boys in their blankets and kissed the tops of their heads.   I looked across at my husband and smiled.   I love to see him in the rocking chair with one or both of the boys.   The twins absolutely adore their father and it was very evident that he loved them in return.  

About 30 minutes later, the boys were sound asleep.   Rick stood up and gently placed JJ on his bed.   I followed suit and placed Josh in his bed.   We turned on the bay monitor so we could hear them if they woke up in the middle of the night.   I shut off the lights as we left the room.   I gently closed the door and followed Rick back down stairs.

We entered the family room and found Zach and Todd sitting on the couch cuddling.   I walked over and flipped on the fireplace and turned the lights down.   Zach said, “Now that’s more like it.”

I nodded, “We like to unwind after the boys go to bed.   Turning on the fireplace and lowering the lights does the trick.”

Rick turned on some nice background music and said, “Then we turn on some music and then we like to relax in each other’s arms.”

Todd smiled, “Thank you for letting us stay with you tonight.   It is so nice to be able to put the kids down and then enjoy some time with our adult friends.”

Zach said, “Glenn, please don’t get offended, but I would like to say something.   Would that be okay?”

I nodded my head as I cuddled up to my guy, “Sure.”

Zach looked at me and said, “Glenn, you have changed a lot.   You used to be the first one to help anyone who needed your assistance.   I have always held you and Rick in very high esteem because of what you have done for Todd and I.”

Todd, “Yes, we were rather surprised to hear you say you wouldn’t help those children.   They are innocent and don’t deserve to be judged by the crazy people you have dealt with from the county.”

Zach could see I was getting upset so he said, “Please, Glenn, hear us out.   Since we moved here last summer, we have noticed that you have shut almost everyone out of your life except those who are the very closest to you.   That is not the Glenn we used to know.   We are worried about you, Glenn.   We aren’t saying you have to let CPS or Human Services into your home.   We are saying don’t shut us out.   We have tried to help you overcome your bitterness but it’s been hard on us, too, seeing how much pain and suffering you have in your life because of what happened.”

Rick’s arms tightened around me, “Please listen to them.”

I nodded my head but I didn’t respond.   “I know you guys are trying to help and I am grateful to you for standing by me even though I changed from that happy, naïve person I used to be.   I’m afraid my innocence was taken from me the day the twins were taken from us.   As result, I have become an extremely cynical person.   I may be able to overcome the bitterness I feel but I will never be able to recapture my previous belief in the innate goodness of human kind.   That belief has been completely and utterly extinguished from my soul never to be found, again.”

Zach and Todd looked at each other and then Todd said, “Is there anything we can do to help you?”

“Yes, there is,” I said.   I paused and looked at my friends and Rick.   “I need you to keep reminding me that there are good people in this world such as you three who love me and want what is best for me.”

Zach said, “That is something we can do.   However, you have to promise to not get angry at us when we do.”

“I promise,” I replied.

Rick leaned over and kissed me.   “Glenn, I think we should leave these two to enjoy themselves in front of the fire.”

Todd laughed, “May we have a blanket or two?”

I grinned, “Yes, I will be right back.”

I walked into the hallway and opened the closet where we stored extra bedding and retrieved a comforter and another warm blanket.   I handed them to Todd who was still grinning.

“I think we can handle things from here,” Todd said.   He winked at me and returned to the family room, closing the door behind him.

Rick took me by the hand and led me upstairs to our room.   Rick closed the door.  He turned on our fireplace and turned out the lights.    He turned on some music and then led me over to sit before the fireplace.   I thought, “Zach and Todd aren’t the only ones who will have fun tonight!”

I love our evenings together.   It is a special time for us.   We love our children but we cherish the time we have alone with just the two of us.   I smiled up at my lover boy and curled up next to him as he pulled me close.   The gas fireplace gave the room a cozy, warm glow mirroring the love we had for each other.

Rick kissed me and his hands started roaming over my body causing my skin to tingle.   Our passion for each other built to its climax leaving both of us completely exhausted.    The warm afterglow of our lovemaking had lulled me into that state between waking and sleeping.   Our state of bliss was interrupted by the ringing of the door bell.

Rick kissed me and then rolled to his feet and retrieved his clothes, pulling them on as he moved towards the door.   He went down the stairs and into the foyer to answer the door.  Meanwhile, I reluctantly found my clothes and got dressed.   I wondered who was at our door at this time of night.   I heard Rick invite whoever it was to come inside.   I came down the stairs and entered the foyer.  I stopped dead in my tracks in shock when I saw who it was.   There stood Mrs. Evans with three children, two boys and a girl.

Mrs. Evans smiled, “I am sorry to be so late.   I promised the children I would take them out for dinner and we lost track of time.   Thank you so much for agreeing to keep the children until we can find a permanent home for them.”

I looked at Rick who wouldn’t meet my gaze.   He turned to Mrs. Evans and said, “It’s not a problem, Mrs. Evans.   Please come into the front room.”

As Rick passed me, I didn’t say anything but Rick knew I was more than a little miffed at what was happening.   The children followed Rick into the front room.  

Mrs. Evans turned to me and gave me a hug.   “Thank you for taking the children.   I promise you they won’t be any hassle.”

The last time we had seen Mrs. Evans was just before we left for Nancy’s wedding.   She had dropped by with a wedding gift and had visited with us for a few minutes before she had to leave for another appointment.   She looked happy and vibrant.   I remembered how she had looked when she had first appeared in our home.   She had appeared as the leader of the Gestapo with her henchmen waiting to arrest us and take us to jail for abusing our darling children.   And then, I remembered how she had lost her job and had come to help us win back custody of our children and how she had been reinstated in her job after everything was said and done.   All of these memories flashed through my mind as I tried to make up my mind how to react to what was happening.   Despite my antipathy for Human Services, I decided that since the children were already here that they could stay for tonight.

Mrs. Evans was looking at me, waiting for me to respond.   I shook my head, trying to bury my feelings of distrust, and said, “You are welcome.”

Mrs. Evans looked at me closely, “Rick didn’t tell you they were coming did he?”

“No, he didn’t,” I replied trying not to let my anger manifest itself in my voice.

“Please don’t blame him for agreeing to host the children.   The children have had a very rough day.   Their parents were killed in a car crash this morning and they have no one to care for them,” she said.

Hearing what had happened to them caused some of my anger to dissipate but I still had an issue with how Rick had handled the whole situation.   “Let’s join them in the front room,” I said smiling at Mrs. Evans.   “I am sorry to hear that these children have lost their parents.”

We entered the front room where Rick and the children were now seated.   I glanced at Rick and turned my attention to the children.   I could see that the children weren’t sure what to expect.   The oldest seemed very nervous.   I smiled at them.   “Mrs. Evans will you introduce us?” I asked.

“Yes, this is Kyle he is 11 years old, this is David and he is 9, and this is Ashley and she is 7,” Mrs. Evans said.   “Children, I want you to meet Glenn and Rick Lernier.   They have agreed to host you until your grandmother is well enough to care for you.”

I took a moment to look at the children.   Kyle was about 5 feet tall and chunky.   He had dark brown hair and eyes.   He wore glasses that made him appear to be a Harry Potter look alike.   He had dimples in both cheeks when he smiled.   Turning to David, I noted that he had reddish brown hair and blue eyes.   He was a couple of inches shorter than his brother and was bone thin.   His face was long and thin with sharp angles that gave him a severe look.   Ashley had the same dark brown hair as her brother, Kyle, and the same chocolate brown eyes but where Kyle’s face was round her face was heart shaped with almond shaped eyes.   Ashley smiled up at me as I looked at her.

Kyle said, “Thank you for letting us stay with you tonight.”

Rick smiled and said, “You are welcome.”

Ashley had taken off her coat and had made herself comfortable.   She got up and came over to me and took my hand.   She looked up at me and asked, “Will you rock me to sleep?   I miss my Daddy.”

Looking into her eyes, my heart melted and I said, “Yes, I will be happy to rock you to sleep when you are ready for bed.”

Mrs. Evans smiled, “Seems like you have made a friend already, Glenn.”

I nodded my head, “It kind of looks that way.   Would you like some milk and chocolate chip cookies?”

Ashley nodded her head, “Yes, please.”

I looked over at the boys who both nodded their heads.  “Okay, then take your coats off and let go into the kitchen.”

They shed their coats and followed me and Ashley into the kitchen.   The kids got up to the table while I got out the milk and cookies.   I served them and sat down across from the three of them.

“So where are you from?” I asked.

Kyle answered between bites of cookie, “We are from here.   All three of us were born in the Alexandria Hospital.   We live in Crystal City.   We all go to school at Oakridge Elementary School.   I’m in 5th grade.   David is in 3rd grade and Ash is in 2nd grade.”

Ashley said, “And Grandma is in a nursing home.   She has to have someone take care of her.   She fell and broke her hip.”

“Don’t you have any cousins or relatives nearby?” I asked.

Kyle shook his head, “No.   Mom and Dad were only children and the only one I know about is Grandma.   We visited with Grandma today.   Mrs. Evans took us to the nursing home to see her.”

“What is going to happen to Grandma?” Ashley asked looking at me.

“I don’t know.   Why do you ask?” I asked.

Kyle answered, “Mom and Dad were paying for her to stay in the nursing home until she could come home and live with us.    Now that they are….”   Kyle stopped talking as tears started rolling down his cheeks.

I stood up and moved around the table and sat next to him.   I put my arm around his shoulders, “It’s okay to cry, Kyle.”

I was a little surprised when he wrapped his arms around me and buried his head in my shirt.   I smoothed his hair as he continued to let out his grief.  

David’s deep blue eyes met my grey-blue ones and asked, “Mom and Dad aren’t coming back are they?”

“You are right, David.   Your Mom and Dad won’t be coming back,” I said.  

The next thing I knew, David had climbed up on my lap and wrapped his arms around my neck as he started to cry.   I put my free arm around him and held him tight.   Ashley walked over and joined David on my lap.   Kyle put his arms around her and hugged her as she too was crying.   Feeling their grief, I too had tears running down my cheeks.

We sat that way for some time.   After their initial flood of tears subsided, Kyle pulled back from me and looked me in the eyes, “Can we stay with you.   Grandma can’t keep us because she is in that nursing home.   I like you and I want to stay here if you will let us.   I don’t want to go somewhere else.”

I looked into his warm brown eyes and saw the hope in them.   It was like he had reached inside me and wrapped his arms around my heart.   David and Ashley nodded their agreement.   I saw the same hope reflected in their eyes.   How could I turn them away and tell Mrs. Evans to find somewhere else for them to stay?

All three children were looking at me expectantly.   I smiled and said, “We will have to talk to Rick first to make sure he is okay with letting you stay with us.”

They all smiled at me.   Their changed countenances were like the sun coming out from behind a cloud.   It was very apparent to me that these three had just captured my heart.

Rick walked into the kitchen.   He stopped and stared.   He looked at me in disbelief.  I still held Ashley and David on my lap with Kyle’s arms wrapped around me.   I held his gaze and slowly smiled, “I think we have three children who want to stay with us.”

The children turned their heads and smiled at Rick.   Kyle released me and turned to face Rick and said, “Glenn says we have to get your approval to stay here.   Are you okay with that?”

I was amazed at Kyle’s directness.   He showed no fear of addressing adults and soliciting information from them.   Rick looked from Kyle to me and then back, again.   Rick smiled, “Let’s agree that you will stay the night with us and then we will need to talk to Mrs. Evans and with your grandmother before we can make any decisions about where you will live.   Is that okay?”

Kyle nodded his head, “Yes that will be fine.”   He stood up and told Rick why they should stay just like a lawyer laying his case for the jury, “We talked to Grandma today and she agreed with Mrs. Evans that we should stay with you if you would have us.   The school is just down the hill from your house so we won’t have to change schools.   You are both nice people and Mrs. Evans told Grandma that you have a very loving home where we will thrive while Grandma recovers.   We like you and we want to stay with you.   We have already have convinced Glenn so now we just have to convince you.”

Now that his little speech was done, Kyle sat back down and smiled up at Rick.   Rick laughed, “You are quite the young man.   I believe I like you, too.   I will take what you have said under consideration.   Mrs. Evans, what do you think?”

Mrs. Evans smiled, “Kyle has a very quick mind; however, I think that major decisions need to be made cautiously and with due diligence to make sure everyone’s needs are met in the best way possible.   I think we should all get some sleep and then we can talk more about this in the morning.”

I nodded, “I agree with Mrs. Evans.   Let’s get you settled in for the night.”

The children got down from the table and lined up, waiting for us to take them to their rooms.   I stood up and said, “Follow me.”  I led them up the stairs and showed the boys to their room.   “Kyle and David, we only have a queen-sized bed in here so is it okay for you two to share a bed for tonight?”

They nodded their heads.   David said, “I share a room with Kyle but we have bunk beds at our house.”

“So this will be like a sleepover,” Kyle said smiling.   “I get this side.”   He jumped up on the bed and stretched out.   “I like this bed.”

I smiled, “I’m glad you like it.   Go ahead and get ready for bed.   The bathroom is the second door on the left.   Ashley will be in the room next to yours.”

I stepped out into the hallway and opened the door to Ashley’s room.   She looked inside and saw another queen-sized bed.   She looked up at me and said, “I brought my teddy bear with me.   I think we will like it here.”

She stepped into the room and, like Kyle, stretched out on the bed.   She smiled up at me, “The bed is really nice.”

Mrs. Evans stepped into the bedroom, “I will help you get ready for bed, dear.”

That was my cue to leave.   I nodded my head and closed the door behind me.   As I entered the boys’ room, I saw that David was sitting on Rick’s lap with his arms wrapped around Rick’s neck crying, again.   The whole scene pulled at my heart strings.   Kyle was trying not to cry but wasn’t doing very well.

He looked up at me with tears in his eyes and asked, “Why did Mom and Dad have to die?”

“I don’t know why, Kyle.   All I can tell you is that it happened and we have to figure out how things will work for us now that they are no longer with us,” I answered.

I sat down next to Rick and Kyle climbed up on the bed next to me.   I could tell he was trying to be the big brother and didn’t want to show that he was just as scared and upset as his little brother.   I looked him in the eyes and said, “It’s okay to be a big brother who doesn’t have all the answers.   It’s even more important that you show David and Ashley that it’s okay to cry when you are sad.”

Kyle nodded his head and asked, “Will you hold me?”

I said, “Sure.”   I pulled him onto my lap and wrapped my arms around him.   He clung to me as another flood of tears overwhelmed him.   I looked over at Rick who was holding David and comforting him.   Mrs. Evans and Ashley came into the room with Ashley wearing her pajamas.

Mrs. Evans said, “It has been a very traumatic day for the three of them.   I know Kyle has tried to be so brave about everything.   I am glad to see him letting some of his grief come out.”

Rick said, “Let’s get to bed.”   He sat David down and pulled back the blankets so the boys could climb in bed.   We all said, “Good night,” to the boys and we closed their door and went next door to Ashley’s room.   Mrs. Evans tucked Ashley into her bed and we said, “Good night,” to her as well.  

Mrs. Evans followed us downstairs and into the front room.   She looked at us and said, “The children’s grandmother fell and broke her hip and is undergoing physical therapy to help her get back on her feet.   Her doctors think she should be able to live on her own in a month or so.   Of course, she will have to sell her daughter’s home and move into a place without stairs.”   She stopped when she saw the look on my face and smiled, “I’m sorry, Glenn.   I know this is all very sudden.”

I said, “I don’t have a problem with letting the kids stay with us or even bringing their grandmother to stay with us after she gets out of the nursing home.   What has me concerned is having interaction with CPS and Human Services, again, after what happened to us that last time.”

A look of pain crossed her face, “I understand your hesitancy.”

“I know you understand.   Have things really changed?” I asked.   “Do Mr. Stubbs and Ms. Choi still work there or people like them?”

Mrs. Evans said, “They have been transferred to other jobs but yes, they still work for the county.   However, Mr. Sheppard is still our boss so I don’t anticipate any problems.”

I looked at Rick.   I hope he had taken note of the fact that Mrs. Evans didn’t answer my question completely.   She had only stated that the two individuals I mentioned weren’t working there.  That left unsaid the fact that there were others like them still working for CPS and Human Services.    I asked, “You do realize that we are putting ourselves at risk despite the fact that we have friends who work there?”

Rick nodded his head, “Yes, I do, Glenn.”

Mrs. Evans said, “I will do my best to minimize that risk if you decide to let the children stay with you.”

“How do you propose to do that, Mrs. Evans?” I asked.

She didn’t answer right away.    She couldn’t hold my gaze.   Looking away from me, she said, “I don’t know for sure what I can do.   I will do what I can to make sure that those who come to your home are unbiased.”   She stood up and said, “I will see you tomorrow.”

We saw Mrs. Evans to the door.   As soon as the door was closed, we returned to the front room.   I looked at Rick and said, “You realize that I am not very happy with how this whole situation has developed.   Did you know that Mrs. Evans was bringing the children over here tonight?”   I held his gaze and waited for his answer.

From the look on Rick’s face, I knew that things were going to get ugly between us.   Very quietly, he said, “Yes, Mrs. Evans told me she was on her way over with the children when she called.”

He confirmed what I had already deduced from Mrs. Evans’ earlier comment.    I didn’t blow up at him despite the white hot anger I felt inside.   I said, “It hurts me to know that you didn’t tell me what the situation was or that you had already agreed to let them stay with us.   Yes, the children have captured my heart already but that still doesn’t address the issue I have with you.   I don’t like people forcing me into situations like this one.   I think that keeping the children with us is the right thing to do for the moment but the way we got to where we are is all wrong, Rick.”

Rick started to speak but I cut him off.   “Don’t try to give me an excuse.   I am too angry to think straight so I think that this conversation will have to wait until I have calmed down enough to talk dispassionately about it.   I will see you in the morning, Rick.”   I left the front room and climbed the stairs.   I took a quick shower and pulled on a pair of pajama pants and a t-shirt.   I walked down the hall and quietly opened the boys’ door.   I tiptoed across to the cot and made myself comfortable.   I quietly pulled up the covers and tried to get some sleep.

*** ***

As I continued to think about what we were going to do with the children, I heard the door open and I looked over to see Rick standing there.   He walked over to the cot and knelt down next to me.   He took my hands in his and whispered, “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you everything that was going on.  Please forgive me.”

I looked up into his face and could see that he was being sincere.   I sat up and took his face in my hands and gave him a gentle kiss.   I stood up and helped him up.   I led him out of the boys’ room and back to our master bedroom.  

As soon as the door was closed, I said, “I think you were trying to do the right thing by helping Mrs. Evans with the children.”  I paused to make sure he was listening to me.   I held his gaze for a few seconds before continuing,   “However, the next time something like this comes up, please talk it over with me first and don’t hide any of the details from me so we can JOINTLY make an informed decision.   You know how much I hate being manipulated into doing something I don’t necessarily want to do.   This time you made a decision that impacts not just you but our entire family.  It really bothers me that you didn’t allow us to have a full discussion about whether or not the children could stay with us so we could consider all of the consequences of making a decision to take in three older children.   Now that we have them here, it will be very difficult to send them off somewhere else even if it is the right thing to do.”

Rick said, “I’m sorry, Glenn.   I am not trying to excuse my behavior but you have to admit that your hard feelings towards CPS and Human Services wouldn’t have let us discuss something like this situation rationally.”

I lost it when I heard his statement, “Rick, this is exactly what I am talking about!  You have made assumptions about what I am going to say and how I am going to think about things that aren’t true.   I hate it when you put words in my mouth and thoughts in my mind without giving me the opportunity to express my own thoughts and feelings!   You make me out as being extremely stubborn and unfeeling sometimes and it’s just not true.   Yes, I am still very bitter about what CPS and Human Services did to us.   I can’t just let it go like you seem to have done.   I thought you lived through the same experience I did when they ripped our children from our home and made us feel like criminals!”

Rick said, “You are confirming what I said before about your hard feelings.”

“Yes, I might be confirming them but you have endangered us by letting those children be here.   You have brought us back into the spotlight with Human Services.   Mrs. Evans may be our friend; however, she is first and foremost a county employee dedicated to carrying out the mission of Human Services which means she or anyone else from her office could take our children from us, again, based on their religious beliefs and there would be no one there to stop them this time,” I said.   “You call me paranoid but have you stopped to consider the risks you are exposing us to by what you have done?”

Rick sat down an armchair in front of our fireplace.   He sighed wearily and nodded, “Yes, I have considered the risks and no, I haven’t forgotten how close we came to losing the twins because of the religious bigotry of CPS and Human Services employees.”

“So why did you agree to let Mrs. Evans bring the children here?” I asked taking the chair opposite his.

Rick looked at me and said, “Mrs. Evans described their situation to me and I felt that we could help out in the short term.   We are the only family Mrs. Evans knows in this area.   She and the Children’s Advocacy Center wanted to keep the children in their same school to lessen the shock of losing both of their parents.   Mrs. Evans told the case worker that she would contact us about fostering the children temporarily.   They had already checked us out when they took the twins from us so they didn’t have to conduct any additional background checks or a new home assessment to allow the children to stay with us for a short time.”

“Rick, this doesn’t sound like a temporary situation to me.   It has the appearance of a longer term stay for the children.   In fact it looks like they will be here until the end of the school year in June unless their grandmother finds a place to live close to their old house,” I said.

“I agree, Glenn.   It appears that way to me, too.  Mrs. Evans believes that the Reeds have designated the grandmother as the children’s guardian in case of their death.   However, she is unable to care for them since she is in a nursing home,” Rick said.

“That is another thing.   What is this talk of bringing the grandmother to live with us,” I asked.

“Mrs. Evans suggested that we bring her here and hire someone to care for her full time so she can be with the children as much as possible,” Rick said.

“Do you realize what you are saying?” I asked.   “If you thought having three older children here would change things, adding an invalid and a caregiver to the mix is definitely going to challenge us.   Are you ready to make such drastic changes in our lives, Rick?   It’s been barely 10 months since we survived the last attack on our family.   I am not ready to take on the added responsibility of caring for three more children and an invalid grandmother as well as having to deal with a full-time live-in caregiver.   It’s bad enough that we have 24 X 7 security forces surrounding the house.   At least they stay outside and leave me in peace so I can at least pretend to live a normal life.   Now, you expect me to voluntarily accept these changes and do it with a smile on my face and a song in my heart?   I don’t consider myself to be a bad person but I do have limits to what I can handle in the way of change, Rick,” I paused to catch my breath and to give Rick an opportunity to express his viewpoint.

Rick looked at me and said soothingly, “I am not asking you to do any of the things you have mentioned.   I simply agreed to host the Reed children until Mrs. Evans could find a suitable home for them while their grandmother fully recovers.   She said that they wanted to keep the three children together.   On such short notice, she wasn’t able to find anyone who would take all three of them.   She called us because she knew we have the space to host them for a short time and that our home is a safe place for them to be close to their school.   Mrs. Evans is not asking us to become foster parents nor is she asking us to adopt them.   She knows how you feel about what happened to us and she completely understands because she was being forced to lie because of her supervisor’s religious beliefs.”

“Rick, I know that she understands how I feel but does she really think we can trust her or anyone else who works in that office?”  I asked.

Rick responded, “Glenn, we have to be able to trust someone.  You have become so suspicious of everyone.”

I said, “I agree I have become suspicious of everyone.   The only people I trust are other gay parents like Zach and Todd because they understand what we are going through.   They know what it’s like to be subjected to so much of the hateful prejudices and harassment of so many ignorant straight people.   It’s everywhere, Rick.   Every time we turn on the television, read the newspaper, surf the internet or just have a conversation with your co-workers, we are denigrated and vilified.   I am really tired of being called a sinner and that I am evil and spawn of the devil.   I want to surround myself with friends and family who love us and care for us.   I want to keep our home environment free of the hatred and prejudices directed at gays.   I need to have a safe haven from the rest of the world who would just as soon put us all on a desert island somewhere at the very least or put us all to death at the very worst.   Rick, I feel that by letting Mrs. Evans bring those children here we have brought the enemy into our home.   It’s not the children we have to fear.  It’s the CPS and Human Services employees.   We will be, once again, under the intense scrutiny of CPS and Human Services.   I can’t live with that kind of pressure, Rick,” I said.   I got up and knelt next to Rick’s chair.   I took his hand in mine and looked into his eyes, “Rick, I am trying very hard to overcome my own fears and prejudices towards straight people while at the same time I am trying to protect my little ones from those who would destroy our family just because we are gay parents.   Please be patient with me, sweetheart.”

Rick pulled me onto his lap and put his arms around me.   He kissed me and said, “I love you, Glenn.   I will always be here for you.   I know and understand your internal struggles with your feelings about what happened to us.   Believe me Glenn I know how you feel because I feel the same way you do.   I feel your pain and that is why I have tried to help you overcome your feelings of hatred for CPS.   Holding onto those hard feelings is not healthy.   I am not saying that you shouldn’t have a healthy distrust of them due to their unbridled power and their tendency to think they are all knowing and all powerful.   I want you to be happy.   A big part of being happy is letting go of the hurt and the suffering so you can heal.”

Rick put his hands on either side of my face and looked deeply into my eyes, “I love you.   Please don’t shut me out.   I want to help you heal the wounds that are causing you so much pain.   Let me shoulder the burden for you.   You did it for me when my parents rejected me.   You stayed by my side and patiently worked with me until I was ready to let you in and help me to heal.   Let me do the same for you now, Glenn.   I need you to be whole so we can move forward together.”

I searched his soul as my eyes bore into his.   I knew he was right and that realization broke the floodgates.   The tears started flowing freely down my cheeks.   Rick took his hands from my face and wrapped his arms around my waist pulling me close to him.   I melted into his chest and let my emotions go.      After a while, Rick said, “Let’s go to bed, sweetheart.”

I stood up and then gave him my hand to help him out of the armchair.   We climbed into bed and Rick pulled me into his embrace.   I said, “Thank you for being so patient with me.   I love you.”

Rick tenderly kissed my lips and said, “We are a team.   We are equal partners in this marriage, Glenn.   Please let me help you carry the burden until we can work through your feelings together.   I know we can do it.”

“I promise I will let you help me,” I said.  I looked into his eyes and saw his love for me reflected there.   It made me feel that I could overcome any obstacle that I found in my path.   Rick is my rock!   I had been foolish not to let him help me sooner.    “I am sorry I wouldn’t listen to you.   I know you tried to tell me many times that I needed your help and I refused to hear it.”

Rick smiled, “Yes, I have tried to tell you.   I knew if I didn’t give up that you would eventually hear me and let me in.”

I said, “I am glad you didn’t give up on me.   I am married to the most wonderful man in the entire world!”

Rick grinned, “Yes, you are married to a great guy and so am I.”

“I hate to spoil the mood but what are we going to do about the children?” I asked.

Rick said smiled, “I think you already know what we are going to do with the children because they have already captured your heart.”

I put my hand up to Rick’s face and caressed his cheek, “You know me so well.”

“I knew that you would want to help them in any way possible when I saw you comforting all three of them in the kitchen.   Those little urchins had you figured out from the very first moment they saw you,” Rick said.

“I guess I am a softy when it comes to children,” I said smiling at Rick.

“Yes, you have a very tender heart and I must say that you relate very well to children,” Rick said.

“And so do you, sweetheart.   You are a wonderful father,” I said giving my guy a kiss.

“You know that if we agree to foster the children in our home that we may be subjected to additional home assessments, etc.   Are you okay with that?” Rick asked.

“No, I am not okay with having strangers come into my home to tell me how to raise my family and how to run my household,” I said.

“Then we will have to tell Mrs. Evans that this will have to be temporary stop for the children,” Rick said.

“I hate to do that to the children but I refuse to have those people back in my home,” I said firmly.

“What if Mrs. Evans can assure us that those coming to visit our home are personally screened for prejudices against gays?” Rick asked.

“Do you think she will really be able to do that?   She has no control over who the Family Court sends to our home if I remember correctly,” I said.

“Let’s ask her in the morning what she can and can’t do,” Rick said.

“Agreed,” I said.   “I love you, Rick, and I love our boys.   I want to avoid anything that will endanger our family, Rick.   As much as my heart goes out to those children, they come second to protecting our family.   We have had them taken from us once.   I do NOT want a repeat of that event because of someone’s prejudice against gay families.”

Rick responded, “I am totally in agreement with you, sweetheart, and we will make that perfectly clear to Mrs. Evans in the morning.”

Rick pulled me close and kissed me, “Let’s get some sleep and leave our worries to take care of themselves in the morning.”

I rested my head on his chest and listened to the steady rhythm of his heart as it lulled me into a deep sleep.  

*** ***

I awoke to someone pulling on my arm.   I opened my eyes and tried to make out who was pulling on my arm in the darkness of our room.   There was barely enough light from the digital clock to make out Ashley’s small form.

“What’s wrong Ashley?” I asked.

“I’m scared of the dark,” she answered.

“Would you like me to find a night light for your room?” I asked.

“Yes, please,” she replied.  

I untangled myself from Rick’s arms and got up from our bed.   It was a good thing we had left our boxers on since we normally slept naked.   That would change if the children stayed with us.   I walked into the hallway and opened the linen closet and reached up on the top shelf to retrieve a night light.   We had purchased extra ones and stored them there just in case the ones we had in the boys’ room went out in the middle of the night.   I closed the closet door and took Ashley’s hand and we walked back to her room.   I opened the package and plugged into the electrical outlet and switched it on.

“There.   Will that be okay?” I asked.

Ashley looked at it and said, “Yes.   It looks like the one I have at home.   Will you stay with me until I fall asleep?   My Daddy always stayed with me until I was asleep.”

“Yes, I will stay with you until you fall asleep,” I said.   “Hop in bed, please.”

Ashley climbed into bed and pulled the blankets up to her chin and smiled up at me.   “I like you, Glenn.   I hope we can stay with you.”

I walked over to the closet and pulled out an extra blanket.   I sat down in the rocking chair next to the bed and spread the blanket over my legs and pulled it up to my chin.   “Good night, Ashley,” I said.

“Good night, Glenn,” Ashley said.   She closed her eyes as I watched her.   She rolled over clutching her teddy bear in her arms.

I leaned back in the rocking chair and relaxed thinking about what she had said about wanting to stay with us.

*** ***

Rick woke up alone in his bed and wondered what had happened to Glenn.   He didn’t remember hearing the twins wake up in the night.   Usually, he was at least minimally aware when Glenn left to attend to their needs.   He rolled over and looked at the alarm clock.   He noticed that there was still another hour before the alarm would go off for him to get up to get ready for work.  

He got up and padded across the room to their en suite to relieve himself.   Rick decided to check on the twins just in case Glenn had gone into their room to comfort them.   He quietly opened the door and could see their sleeping forms in their beds but there was no sign of Glenn.  

He was puzzled as to where Glenn might be.   He walked down the hallway and was going to head downstairs when he noticed the light coming from underneath Ashley’s room.   He quietly opened the door and was surprised to see Glenn asleep in the rocking chair next to her bed.   Glenn had put up the footrest and had reclined the rocker so he could sleep more comfortably.   Rick decided to leave him sleeping since he would have to wake him up in an hour anyway.

Rick returned to their bedroom and climbed back into bed.   He tried to get back to sleep but his mind was running a million miles a minute and wouldn’t let him sleep.

After their talk last night, Glenn seemed to be making some progress towards letting go of his anger because of what Mr. Stubbs and his sidekick had done.   Rick thought to himself, “I told Mrs. Evans that, as a family, we had yet to recover from the emotional and psychological damage from our previous encounter with her agency, CPS and the family court.   She knew the wounds were deep because she was there when it happened and witnessed how heartbreaking it was to have our twins taken from us as the result of the vile and malicious mechanizations of religious bigots exercising the unbridled power of the child protection laws to rob us of our children.  I told her that we had filed a discrimination suit against the county for damages because Glenn was still not back to normal as result of their unwarranted assault on our family.   She said she knew of the lawsuit and had been threatened by the county with dismissal if she testified on our behalf.”

 Rick’s thoughts were interrupted by the alarm going off.   He rolled over and turned off the obnoxious sound and got out of bed.   He attended to his toilet and then walked down the hall to wake Glenn.

*** ***

I opened my eyes to see Rick shaking my arm.   Seeing that I was awake, he smiled at me and leaned over to kiss me on the lips, “Good morning, Babe.”

“Good morning,” I responded.   I sat up in the chair and put down the footrest.   “Ashley woke up in the night and came into our room.   She said she was scared of the dark so I put a nightlight in here and then stayed with her until she fell asleep.   I must have fallen asleep myself.”

Rick grinned, “I woke up and came looking for you and found you here.   I left you here until the alarm went off.   You need to get up and get dressed because Mrs. Evans will be here early to take the children to school.”

“Okay,” I said.  Rick took my hand and helped me up into his arms.   I put my arms around his neck and gave him a kiss.   “I love you.”

“I love you, too, sweetheart,” he replied.   He took my hand and led me from Ashley’s room.   “Mrs. Evans made a proposal last night that I need to discuss with you after the children are in school.   I will call you from work to give you the details.   I didn’t dare tell you last night for fear the children would overhear us talking about them.”

I looked at Rick with more than a little curiosity.   “Okay,” I said as I went into our en suite and took a quick shower.   I dressed quickly and went downstairs to get breakfast ready.   It wasn’t long before I had eggs, sausages, pancakes and orange juice on the table.   I poured Rick a cup of coffee and placed it next to his plate.   Rick wrapped his arms around my waist and pulled me to him for a very passionate kiss.   “Thank you for everything you do for me, Glenn.”

“You are very welcome.   You know I will do everything I can to make my husband happy,” I replied with a grin.

Rick laughed, “Okay, I will keep that in mind!”

Zach and Todd came into the kitchen and joined us.   I poured each of them a cup of coffee.   I looked them over noticing their tender touches and that glow that comes from having good sex with the one you love.   I grinned, “Good morning, guys.   It looks like you two have taken good care of each other!”

Zach grinned, “Absolutely!   We wouldn’t have it any other way!”

Todd was blushing but grinned just the same, “Yes, we have to keep the fires burning!”

I nodded my head in agreement, “That is so true.”

Rick agreed, “That is for sure.   Mrs. Evans came by last night with the children.”

“We heard them but we were otherwise engaged last evening,” Zach said, giving Todd a grin.

“Can you stay with Glenn until after Mrs. Evans comes today?” Rick asked.   “I have to go to work today and can’t be here.”

Zach and Todd looked at each other.   “I think that would be okay,” Zach said. 

Todd agreed, “Yes, we will stay with Glenn.”

“Thanks guys,” I said.    “What time do the children need to be at school?” I asked Rick.

He replied, “Mrs. Evans said she would come by and pick them up and take them to school around 7:30 AM.”

I glanced at the digital clock on the microwave, “Then we need to be getting them up soon so they have time to eat breakfast before they leave for school.”

Todd said, “Zach and I can help you with them.”

We finished eating our breakfast.   We put our dishes in the sink and Rick took me in his arms.   He looked me in the eyes and said, “Everything will be alright.”   He kissed me and then held me tight for a moment.

“I love you,” I said.

Rick replied, “I love you, too.”

I reached down and squeezed his package, “Don’t forget that we have a date tonight.”   I grinned and kissed him as I kept massaging his dick through the fabric of his suit.

Rick reached down and took my hand, “If you keep that up, I will need to send this suit to the cleaners!”

I laughed, “That’s the idea.   Then you would have to stay home and I could help take care of your needs!”

Todd laughed, “It’s good to see you two still have spark in your marriage.”

Rick grinned, “We have always had it, Todd.   Glenn has such a heavy libido that I am hard pressed to keep him satisfied!”

I gave him my most innocent look, “Who?   Me?   I am not the one with the hyperactive sex drive!”

Zach laughed, “I think you both love having sex so I think it is a draw.”

I kissed my lover boy and said, “I think Zach’s right.   Don’t you, Rick?”

Rick didn’t answer but he gave me a very passionate kiss that had Todd and Zach giving us a wolf whistle.   Rick put his hands under my t-shirt and then ran his hands down my back and into my shorts.   He squeezed my butt cheeks for a moment then he slipped a finger inside me.   I had me squirming with pleasure as he hit my button.  

“Okay, you guys.   We get the point,” Todd said laughing.   “Zach and I are happy to know we aren’t the only ones who enjoy having sex all the time!

Rick grinned and released me.   He said, “I will call you in a little while.”

I looked at him and said, “You can’t leave me in this state!”

I was so hard it hurt.   It was obvious by the tent in my shorts that I was very aroused.   Rick laughed, “I can and I will.   You will have to wait until tonight, sweetheart!”

I said, “You can be so mean sometimes, Mr. Lernier!” 

That drew laughs from all the guys.   “I think you can wait a few hours, Glenn,” Rick said smiling at me.   He gave me another quick kiss and then took my hand and led me upstairs so he could help me bring the twins downstairs for their breakfast.

He stopped in the bathroom to wash his hands and take one last look at his appearance in the mirror.  I said, “You look absolutely stunning today.”

Rick grinned at me in the mirror, “Thank you sweetheart.”

We entered the boys’ room to find them already awake and playing with their toys.   When we entered the room, Josh immediately got up and walked over to us holding his arms up to Rick who picked him up.   Josh said, “Love you, Daddy.”

Rick said, “I love you, too, Josh.”

I walked over to JJ and picked him up.   He hadn’t even noticed we were in the room.   I thought it was a little odd I didn’t give it anymore thought.   I said, “Good morning, JJ.”  

JJ reached up and put his little hand on my cheek.   I took his hand and kissed it.   JJ smiled and then put his arms around my neck and gave me a kiss on the cheek.   We took the boys downstairs and put them in their high chairs and fed them breakfast.   Todd and Zach had gone up and brought Cameron and Skye down for breakfast as well.   They were seated at the table and were enjoying a bowl of their favorite cereal.

Rick gave Josh and JJ their favorite cereal – dry honey-nut Cheerios and a sippy cup with milk.   He kissed each of the boys on the top of the head and gave me a quick kiss.    “Glenn, Mrs. Evans said she wanted to meet with us later today to talk about the children.   She wasn’t sure when she could get here but said she would call me.”

I didn’t like what I was hearing but I decided not to say anything more since we had already talked about this so I said, “Okay.”

Rick looked me in the eyes and kissed me, again.   He whispered in my ear, “I love you,” and left for work.

I turned to Todd and said, “Thanks for staying with me this morning.”

Todd said, “No problem, dude!  I was just thinking about how fortunate we are that all of our friends seem to be happily married.”  

Zach smiled, “Todd, you are right.   I think the rest of our former roommates from the University of Minnesota, Justin and Brian, Mark and Brandon, Robbie and Adam, are all still happily married.”

“As are my cousin, Ben, and his wife, Janice,” I said.

Zach observed, “I don’t understand how some people can say we don’t need marriage for gays.   I believe marriage has been a real blessing for us and our friends.   I know it has helped us to maintain a stable relationship.   Living in Canada was a real blessing because our marriage is recognized there.   We were accepted for who we are and it was so nice to not have to worry about people knowing I am gay.   I am still amazed at how much prejudice you and Rick have experienced here.”

I said, “The politicians here say that there are already enough protections under the law for gays and that we don’t need to have gay marriage laws.   Those people are wrong!   It’s worse now than ever before because of all the anti-gay rhetoric that is in the press.   There is more hatred and bullying happening now than ever before.   Even the civil union laws in some states don’t help because religious bigots ignore them as being invalid.   When I took Rick to the hospital emergency room, the hospital staff wouldn’t tell me anything.   They said I wasn’t related to Rick and couldn’t share patient information with me.   It was so frustrating!”

I paused to for a moment and then continued, “When CPS came to take our children away, it didn’t matter whether or not we were married (since we are) because under Virginia law we aren’t considered married.   It’s really insulting to me when people tell me I can’t really be married because Virginia doesn’t recognize my marriage.   It’s like they are telling me I am not human and that I can’t possibly be in love with my husband.   How can people be totally ignorant and insensitive as to tell me to my face that because I am gay that my marriage to Rick is a sham?    Do they think that my marriage magically disappears when I cross the border from one state to another or from Canada into the United States?   Are they so blinded by their prejudices that they refuse to acknowledge the fact that we are indeed married and that we have a family that deserves the respect and dignity of being recognized as much as any other family?”

Todd said, “I know how you feel because our marriage isn’t recognized here either and we have been married longer that you and Rick have.”

I glanced at the clock and realized I needed to get the other children up and ready for school.   “Will you keep an eye on the little guys while I go wake up the children?”

I went upstairs and opened the boys’ door.   I found they were already awake and were sitting on the edge of their bed talking.   “Good morning, boys,” I said.

Kyle said, “Good morning, Glenn.   I know it is time to get ready for school but I didn’t know where the towels were.”

I smiled, “The clean towels are here in the linen closet.”   I opened the door to the linen closet and pulled out three clean towels for each of the children.

I handed one to Kyle and David.   “Do you need me to fill the tub up with water or do you want to take a shower?”

David said, “Can we take a shower?”

“Sure.   Let me get the shower going for you and then you boys can get in,” I said leading them into the bathroom.   I turned on the water and adjusted the temperature.   “If you need anything, I will be helping your sister.   When you are finished, breakfast is on the table waiting for you.”

Kyle said, “We’re good.   Thanks.”

I left the boys getting their shower and walked down the hall to Ashley’s room.   I tapped on the door before I started to open it.   Ashley called out, “Come in.”

Ashley was sitting up in bed hugging her teddy bear.   “It’s time to get ready for school,” I said.

“I know.   I heard you telling the boys.   May I get a bath instead of a shower?” she asked.

“Yes, you may.   Follow me please,” I said smiling at her.   She climbed down off the bed and followed me down the hall.   I opened the bathroom door and then I filled the tub with warm water.   “Here is the soap and shampoo.   When you are finished getting dressed, come down to the kitchen for breakfast.”

Ashley smiled, “Thanks, Glenn.”

It wasn’t long before the three children were sitting at the table with scrubbed faces, wet hair and clean clothes.   The twins were just finishing their cereal and had decided to have a food fight.   I placed several boxes of cold cereal on the table, “Please help yourselves to your favorite kind of cereal.”

While the children ate their cereal, I cleaned up the cheerios and washed the boys’ faced and hands.   

Todd said, “Boys, let’s go play with the Lego blocks.”

Cameron and Skye scrambled down from their chairs and made their way into the family room.   I took the twins out of their high chairs and put them down on the floor.   The both got up and followed the older boys into the family room.

Zach said, “I will keep an eye on the little guys while you finish up in here.”

I said, “Thank you, Zach.”   I turned to the children and asked, “Do you eat school lunch or do you take one from home?”

Kyle answered between mouthfuls of cereal, “We eat lunch at school.”

The doorbell rang and I stepped into the foyer to answer the door.   Mrs. Evans smiled and said, “Good morning, Glenn.   I hope the children haven’t been a bother to you and Rick.”

“They have been very well behaved, Mrs. Evans.   They are in the kitchen just finishing their breakfast,” I said.   “Please come in.”

Mrs. Evans came inside and I closed the front door.   I followed her into the kitchen.   She smiled at the three children, “Good morning!   How are we doing this morning?”

Kyle answered, “We are okay, Mrs. Evans.”

David frowned and asked, “Do we have to go to school?”

“Yes, you have to go to school.   It is better that you keep up with your studies since you will be out of school for your parents’ funeral,” Mrs. Evans replied.

“When will we know where we are going to live?” Kyle asked.

Mrs. Evans responded, “I don’t know that for sure.   I will let you know as soon as I know anything.   Is that okay?”

Kyle nodded his head.   Kyle turned to me and said, “Thank you for letting us stay with you, Glenn.”  

“You are welcome, Kyle,” I said smiling at the young man.

Mrs. Evans asked, “Are we ready to go?”

“Yes, we are ready.   Do we leave our things here or do we need to take them with us?” Kyle asked.

Mrs. Evans looked at me and I replied, “You can leave your things for now.   I will see you after school.”

Mrs. Evans smiled and said, “Thank you, Glenn.   I will return around noon.   I promised Rick I would meet with you two over lunch.”

I tried to hide my surprise but was unsuccessful.   Here was another instance where Rick had not communicated everything to me about what was going on.   Somewhere in the back of my mind, I realized I wasn’t being fair to Rick.   I knew I was looking for malicious intent that wasn’t there.   Rick loved me unconditionally and I needed to stop doubting him.   Maybe he was right, I needed to let go of my bitterness because it was causing me to draw away from the person closest to me.   With that thought, a slight crack developed in the prison walls I had built around me.   It was like I was looking out from a room full of darkness into a beautiful landscape filled with warmth and sunlight.   When I didn’t respond, Mrs. Evans said, “I am sorry that I am causing problems between you and Rick.   I know how you feel about dealing with my office and I will try to keep your interactions with our office to a minimum.”

I looked at Mrs. Evans and said, “I appreciate that.  I know that you are trying to do your best for these children.   I am grateful to you for what you did for us and I know that Nancy really thinks very highly of you as does Rick.”

Mrs. Evans smiled, “Thank you, Glenn.   I will see you at noon.”

She shepherded the children out to her car and waved at me as she started the car and backed out of the driveway.

I closed the door and returned to the kitchen.   I pulled out my cell phone and hit the speed dial for Rick.   He picked up on the first ring.   “Glenn.”

I was trying to decide how to broach the subject of Mrs. Evans’ visit when Rick said, “Please don’t be angry with me for setting up an appointment with Mrs. Evans.”

“Rick, I thought we had agreed to be completely open about what is going on here,” I said quietly.   I still couldn’t believe that after our discussion last night that Rick wouldn’t tell me about a meeting with Mrs. Evans.   Yes, I know, I was being hypersensitive, again.

“I will be home an hour before our meeting with Mrs. Evans.   Can we postpone our discussion about this until then?” Rick asked.

I sighed in resignation.   “Yes, we can discuss this later.   I am sorry for being so difficult about this whole situation.   I will see you in a few hours then.   I love you.”

Rick said, “I love you, too.   Please try to remember that I am trying to do my best to make you happy.   You are the light of my life, Babe.”

“I know, sweetheart.   I haven’t forgotten,” I responded.   “I love you.”

We ended the call and I walked into the family room where Zach and Todd were helping the boys set up the wooden train tracks.   Cameron and Skye each had a complete train set up waiting for the tracks to be connected.

Cameron had the little green train engine named Percy and Skye had Thomas the Tank Engine.   They were very excited and had built several buildings out of Lego blocks to serve as the train station and other buildings.

I joined them on the floor to help assemble the train tracks to meet Cameron’s specifications.   He was very serious about where the tracks should be placed.   When we finished, the boys quickly set up two more trains for JJ and Josh and showed them how to make the engine noises as they pushed them around the train track.

Soon, the twins tired of playing with the trains and came over and climbed on my lap.   Josh brought me a book to read.   Josh looked up at me and said, “Please read book.”  

Cameron and Skye heard me reading and grabbed their favorite books and joined us on the couch.   Zach said, “I will see you guys tonight.”  I stopped reading while Zach hugged his boys and then kissed Todd.

After he left for work, Todd said, “Let’s read for a bit and then we can put in the Thomas the Tank Engine DVD for the boys to watch.   Cameron and Skye love watching any program about trains.”

I nodded my agreement and continued to read Josh’s book.   We had a great time with the boys.   We read stories, watched the DVD, and then we played with the trains, again.   I heard the front door open and close and looked up to see Rick enter the family room.

The twins jumped off of my lap and ran to their father.   I loved watching Rick interact with our sons.   He knelt down and took both of them in his arms.   They wrapped their little arms around his neck and clung to him as he lifted them both off the ground.   He walked over to the couch and sat next to me.  

Josh gave his Dad a kiss on the cheek and said, “I love you, Daddy.”

“I love you, too, Josh,” Rick responded with a smile.

JJ, not to be out done, kissed Rick’s other cheek.   He said, “I love you, Daddy.”   His words weren’t clear but we understood what he said.

Rick said, “I love you, JJ.”

I leaned over and kissed Rick, “I love you.”

Rick grinned, “There is nothing like being welcomed home by the three most important people in my life.”

Todd said, “We do the same thing for Zach when he gets home.”

Skye said, “Cammy and I get to kiss my Daddy when he comes home from work but sometimes he comes home after we go to bed.”

Cameron said, “I like watching Daddy play hockey on television.   He is the best hockey player!”

The doorbell rang and I went to answer it.   I opened the door to let Mrs. Evans come inside.   “Hello, Mrs. Evans.   We are in the family room.”

She followed me into the family room.   She smiled when she saw Rick holding the twins who were asking their Dad to read a story to them.

Rick looked up and said, “We will have to wait until I have read a story to the boys.”

I sat on the couch next to Rick while Mrs. Evans sat in an armchair next to the fireplace where she listened to Rick read the books the boys had chosen.  

When they were done, Rick said, “Boys, Dad and I need to go with Mrs. Evans for a few minutes.   Can you play with Cameron and Skye until we get back?”

They both nodded their heads.   Rick set them down on the couch and he got up and took my hand to help me up from the couch.

“Thanks, Todd, for watching them for us,” Rick said.

Todd smiled, “I will see you guys in a little while.”

Mrs. Evans joined us as we walked out to our cars.   Mrs. Evans gave Rick the address of the nursing home and said, “I will meet you there just in case we lose each other on the way over.”

We climbed into the Land Rover.   We waited for Mrs. Evans to start to her car and back out onto the street.   We did the same and followed her to the care center.   We parked next to her.   I noticed that the care center was well kept and appeared to be doing well as we entered the office.   Mrs. Evans talked with the center’s director and then we were led down a hallway to Mrs. Reed’s room.

When we entered, we saw a thin, grey-haired woman sitting in a chair next to the window.   Her face was very thin and elongated.   Her nose seemed barely wide enough to hold her glasses up.   Her watery blue eyes were so hugely magnified by her lenses that her eyes became her dominant feature.   She smiled, showing that she had perfectly white teeth.

Mrs. Evans said, “Hello, Mrs. Reed.   This is Rick and Glenn Lernier.   They are the couple I spoke of yesterday when we met.”

Mrs. Reed reached out with her hand which we shook.   It was like holding a stick of wood in your hand.   She looked so frail to my eyes that I was amazed she was still able to sit up on her own.

Mrs. Reed said, “Nice to meet you boys.   Thank you for coming to talk to me.”

“We are glad to meet you,” Rick said.

“Please sit down,” Mrs. Reed said.   We took a seat on the sofa next to her while Mrs. Evans sat down on the other side of the window.

Mrs. Evans said, “Mrs. Reed, we spoke about having the children stay with a foster family until you are able to care for them yourself.   I have placed them temporarily with the Lernier family so the children are able to continue to attend their classes without disruption.”

Mrs. Reed looked at us and said, “Thank you so much for taking care of the children.   It is all so unfortunate that my son and his wife came to such a tragic end.”

Rick said, “You have our condolences, Ma’am.”

Mrs. Reed raised a handkerchief to her eyes as she spoke, “Thank you.   I’m afraid that I am the last of the family still living.   Everyone else has predeceased me except for my three grandchildren.”

Mrs. Evans said, “We have contacted your son’s lawyers and they will submit their wills to probate today.   Your son has left you and the children very well off.”

Mrs. Reed said, “Tommy did very well in his business dealings as did Patty.   I am not surprised that there is a sizable sum of money for the children.”

Mrs. Evans agreed, “That is true; however, we still need to determine who will care for your grandchildren in the short term.”

Mrs. Reed looked at us and said, “I was hoping that you would be able to let them stay with you for a short while.   The doctors are happy with my progress but still insist that I need to continue with my physical therapy here for another week or two.”

I looked at Rick who said, “I think that we can host the children in our home for a couple of more weeks, if that is what the county decides is best for the children.”

Mrs. Evans looked at us and gave a sigh of relief, “Thank you, Rick and Glenn.   I wasn’t sure that you would agree to let the children stay with you.   I am sure we can work things out with the Children’s Advocacy Center and the Family Court.”

Mrs. Reed smiled, “Thank you for making things so much easier for me at this time.   If you know of a good realtor, please let me know.    I need to get a new place to live since Tommy’s house has so many stairs in it.   I imagine that I will need to sell it in order to afford a new one.  The doctors are telling me that I need to avoid stairs as much as possible.”

Mrs. Evans said, “I will bring the children by to visit you after school gets out.”

“Thank you so much for bringing them,” Mrs. Reed said.   “I feel like we are imposing on you so much.   I really wish I could get out of here sooner so I could care for the poor little darlings.”

Mrs. Evans smiled, “It’s no trouble at all to bring them to see you.   I will see you later today.”   She stood and came over to give Mrs. Reed a hug and said, “Everything will be alright.”

Mrs. Read said, “Thank you for helping me.   I don’t know what I would do without you.”   She turned to us and said, “Thank you for keeping the children safe and providing them with a loving environment during this difficult time of their lives.   God bless you for your generosity!”

“We are more than happy to help,” Rick said.

We left the care center and bid farewell to Mrs. Evans.   We climbed into the Land Rover.   Rick drove us to one of our favorite Indian restaurants for lunch.   After hitting the buffet, Rick asked me, “What are your thoughts about the Reed children?”

I looked across the table into Rick eyes and said, “I think you did the right thing by agreeing to let them stay with us.   I owe you an apology for being so harsh with you last night.”

“Apology accepted, Babe.   I was thinking we could help Mrs. Reed find a house nearby that suits her needs,” Rick said.

“I think that would be a great idea.   There are a number of homes that don’t have a lot of stairs near the school.   I think we could see if our realtor can help her,” I said.   “I think that keeping the children in their current school will help them immensely.   That way they will have familiar teachers and friends to support them during the grieving process.”

“I like your thinking,” Rick said.   “Now you are starting to act like the man I married.”

I said, “I am still not back to normal, Rick.”

“I know, sweetheart, but that will come in time now that we have taken the first step to help you begin healing,” Rick said.

We finished our lunch and headed back to the house.   When we came into the family room, we were greeted by our little ones as if we had been gone for centuries instead of only a few hours.  

Todd grinned, “They kept asking when you were going to be home.   They are very much attached to you guys.   I thought I was going to have a major mutiny on my hands if you hadn’t shown up when you did!”

“Thank you for watching them for us, Todd,” I said.

“You are welcome.   I fed them lunch and they should be ready to take naps now that you are home,” Todd said.

“That sounds wonderful,” I said.   “Did you want to put Cameron and Skye down for a little nap as well?”

Todd nodded, “That sounds good to me as well.   Boys, it’s time for a nap.”

Skye protested, “We want to keep playing, Daddy.”

“You can play some more after you have your nap,” Todd said smiling.

Skye said, “Okay, Daddy.   Cammy, let’s hurry and take a nap so we can come back sooner.”

We laughed at Skye’s statement.   “Well, I think Skye has the right idea,” Rick commented.  

We gathered up JJ and Joshua.   After changing their diapers, we each took one of the twins and rocked them to sleep.   It didn’t take them long to fall asleep.   We put them in their beds and then tiptoed out of their room.

Rick quietly closed the door and then took my hand and led me to our bedroom.   As soon as the door was closed, he pinned me against it and kissed me passionately.   “I promised you I would take care of you later.   Well, later has arrived!”

*** ***

Our little “nap” was interrupted by our twins.   They had both awakened and had come into our room.   We heard Josh telling JJ, “Let’s climb up and wake up our Dads.”   Then we saw their heads pop up above the comforter and then the rest of their bodies.    They giggled when they saw we were watching them and they crawled in between me and Rick.

Rick said, “Hello, boys.   Did you have a nice nap?”

JJ said, “Yes.”

Josh said, “We wanted to be with you because your bed is so much bigger.”

Josh had learned to open the doors in our house only a week ago.   He had taught JJ and now there was no way to keep them out of things without putting safety latches on every door in the house.   We already had them on all the cupboards.   We had baby-proofed the house to make sure there wasn’t anything dangerous within their reach.

I am still amazed at how inventive the twins are.   Whenever an obstacle is in their way, the two of them look at other and they start trying to figure out a way around whatever is stopping them.   I have had to stop them sometimes before they could injure themselves as I have watched them decide on a course of action and begin to implement it.   I told Rick that we were in for a real challenge when they get older.

Josh and JJ snuggled up to us and we cuddled with them for a few minutes before Josh announced, “I’m ready for cookies.”

I laughed, “Is JJ ready for cookies, too?”

JJ said, “Yes.”

Rick grinned, “That settles it then.   Let’s go have some cookies and milk.”

Rick and I got up and took the boys downstairs for said cookies and milk.

*** ***

Zach and Todd had left for home and we were just sitting down to dinner when Mrs. Evans arrived with the children.   Rick answered the door to let them in.  Mrs. Evans said, “I am sorry we are so late.   We needed to stop and get clothes for the children.”

Each child carried a suitcase.   Rick looked at Kyle’s suitcase in surprise.    It was a giant sized trunk like the ones you only saw in the movies.   It was big and it looked very heavy.   Kyle had dragged it to the front door but was having trouble getting it over the threshold.   “I can I help you with that?” Rick asked.

Kyle looked at Rick over the top of his glasses, “Yes, please.”

Rick picked up the trunk with ease and brought it inside.   “Let’s take your stuff directly upstairs.”   Rick went up the stairs two at a time and placed the heavy trunk in the boys’ room.  

A moment later, David dropped his suitcase next to his brother’s.   Rick said, “Go wash up for dinner.”

The two boys skipped down the hallway and disappeared inside the bathroom.   Mrs. Evans carried Ashley’s suitcase up the stairs.   Rick walked over and took it from her and took Ashley’s hand and led her to her room.  

Ashley stepped into her room and squealed in delight.   She looked around the room in wonder.   She saw the new floral comforter and stuffed animals on the bed.   The solid oak dresser had been replaced with a smaller much more feminine one with a vanity mirror.   A new little desk and chair with a laptop computer sat in the corner.   There were fresh cut flowers on the nightstand next to the bed and a cute little princess night light next to the bed.   The four-poster bed had colorful streamers tied between the bedposts and a little canopy was stretched between them with little stars and the moon printed on it.   “Thank you so much, Rick.   I love the stuffed animals.   She jumped on the bed and hugged the stuffed animals:   a giraffe, a monkey and a lion.   She grabbed her teddy bear and hugged all four at the same time.   Her face showed her happiness.   She jumped down from her bed and grabbed Rick’s hand.

“Thank you for making my room so nice for me,” Ashley said.

He looked down at the beautiful little girl holding his hand, “You are very welcome.   We want you to be happy here.   Do you want to put away your things before you come down for dinner?”

“No, I will go wash up with the boys.   I’m hungry,” Ashley said.   “I can’t wait to tell my brothers.”  She smiled up at Rick and let go of his hand and joined her brothers.

Mrs. Evans came into Ashley’s room and looked around.   She nodded approvingly, “This is a perfect room for a little girl.   Thank you for making it nice for Ashley.”   There were tears in her eyes as she turned back to look at Rick, “Thank you for coming through for me, Rick.   I know how hard it was for Glenn but I really felt strongly that these children needed to be as close as possible to their home, school, and friends right now.   I especially feel that way about Ashley.”

Rick said, “It is the least we can do to help these children.   We will go out after dinner to pick up bunk beds for the boys.   We didn’t have time to finish with their room before dinner.”

“I’m sure they will be just as happy as Ashley is when you are done,” Mrs. Evans said.   “Thank you so much.”

Rick and Mrs. Evans followed the children down the stairs.   Ashley was telling the boys about her room in very excited tones.   As they entered the kitchen, Kyle turned to Rick and said, “Thank you for making Ashley so happy.”

He pushed his glasses up on his nose, again, and brushed his dark hair out of his eyes and sat down at the table next to Ashley.   “Ash, did you thank Glenn and Rick for the nice bedroom?”

Ashley nodded her head, “Yes, I did but I can say it, again.”   She looked at me and Rick and said with a big smile that reached her eyes, “Thank you for making me so happy.”

I looked into her very expressive chocolate brown eyes and saw her happiness reflected there.   “You are very welcome,” I said.   “I am glad you like it.   We will be taking the boys out later tonight to get things for their room.”

David said, “Do we get our own laptop just like Ash?”

Rick laughed, “Yes, we will pick up a laptop for each of you.   That way you can do your homework without having to wait for the computer to be free.”

At the mention of homework, David’s face fell.   I asked, “What’s wrong, David?”

“Homework – that’s what is wrong.   I have lots of math to do tonight,” David replied his shoulders slumped and he looked miserable.

“Tell you what, David,” I said.   “I will help you with the math if you will help me with the twins.”

David’s face brightened, “I would like that.”

“Then it’s settled,” I said.

Mrs. Evans said, “I can see that the children are in good hands.   I spoke with the Children’s Advocacy Center and they have approved you to be foster parents until their grandmother can care for them herself.”

Rick smiled, “Thank you, Mrs. Evans.”

Mrs. Evans cautioned, “I didn’t say that they would be visiting you to do a home assessment.   They will probably be here tomorrow.   The assessment will be conducted by Mrs. Brizzee.   She is very nice.   She is aware of what has happened to you in the past and has promised to make it as painless as possible.”   This last statement she directed at me.

I acknowledged it and said, “Thank you for trying to make this process a little less onerous.”

Mrs. Evans said, “I will leave you for now.   I will stop by tomorrow to see how things are going.   Good night, children.”

They chorused good night and Mrs. Evans looked at me, “Do you know where the school is located?”

“Yes, I know where it is.   I will take them to school in the morning.   I am sure that Kyle can give me directions,” I said looking over at Kyle who nodded his head.

Mrs. Evans departed and we sat down and had a nice family dinner.   After dinner, Rick took the boys out for a shopping trip and returned with bunk beds, laptops, and a number of other items.   Rick took everything upstairs and began assembling the bunk beds while I turned our kitchen table into “homework central” for the children.   The twins sat in their high chairs eating their snacks.

By the time the children finished their homework, the twins were ready for their baths.   David helped me by carrying Josh upstairs.   We put the twins in the bath tub and David helped wash them.   David helped dress them and then we returned to the family room to read stories.

Josh decided that David was his very special friend and climbed up on David’s lap and presented him with the book he was to read.   JJ, not to be outdone by his twin, climbed up on Kyle’s lap with his book and opened it.   He pointed at the pictures on the page and then turned to look up at Kyle.   Kyle got the message and started reading the story to JJ.

Ashley looked through the books and chose three and walked over to me and handed me her books, “Will you read to me, Glenn?”

“Yes, I will,” I replied.   She climbed up on the couch next to me and listened intently as I read to her.

We read several more stories before Rick came downstairs and announced, “Boys, your room is ready for you to inspect it!”

Kyle and David brought the twins to me and bounded up the stairs.   They raced each other to see who would get there first.   Rick grinned at me and turned to follow them up the stairs at a much more sedate pace.

When Rick reached their bedroom door, he found Kyle standing in the middle of the room looking around in amazement.   “What do you think?” Rick asked.

Kyle said, “It has everything I have ever wanted.”

The bunk beds were heavy oak with the beds forming an “L” shape.   The top bunk went in one direction and the lower one in the opposite direction.   Each bunk bed was covered with matching dark blue comforters with lots of stars, planets and space ships.   Seated on each bed was a huge panda bear and in the corner was a green and blue beanbag chair with a sign over it that said, “Study Corner.”   There were two matching desks each with a laptop.

Rick said, “We can decorate the walls if you want to put up some posters of your favorite sports teams or something.”

Kyle said, “Yes, I want to do that if that is okay.”

“Okay, we will take a look at what we can find tomorrow,” Rick said.   Turning to David who was sitting in the beanbag chair, Rick asked, “What do you think?”

David smiled, “I think this chair is totally cool!   I can’t wait to bring my friends over to see my new room.   Can Tony come over to play tomorrow?”

Rick said, “Yes, but we need to talk to Glenn and to Tony’s parents first.”

David said, “Okay, I have his phone number in my backpack.”

“Sounds like we have a plan,” Rick said.

“Can we show Ashley our room,” Kyle asked.

“Certainly,” Rick said.   Kyle ran down the stairs and into the family room.   He grabbed Ashley’s hand and said, “Come see our room!”

They passed Rick on his way back downstairs.  He came into the family room and grinned at me.   He gave me the thumbs up sign and said, “We did good, Glenn.”

I smiled, “So I gathered by the look of excitement on Kyle’s face when he came to get Ashley.”

The children soon returned to the family room and gave me and Rick great big hugs!   Kyle and David both said, “Thank you,” several times.   We read some stories and then Kyle asked, “Can we pray?”

Rick looked at me and I shrugged my shoulders, he looked back at Kyle who was waiting patiently for an answer.   “Sure,” Rick said.

Kyle folded his arms as did David and Ashley.   He closed his eyes and said, “Father in Heaven, thank you for giving us Rick and Glenn to care for us.   Thank you for watching over Grandma.   Bless Mom and Dad that they will be happy with you.   Tell them we miss them.   Bless us with a good night’s sleep.   Amen.”

The children said, “Amen,” and then they came over and gave each of us a hug.   I looked over at Rick and saw that he had tears in his eyes.   My vision was blurry from the tears I was trying to hold back.   Ashley clung to me and started crying.   Josh and JJ came over and tried to comfort her.   Josh said, “Don’t cry Ash.”

Watching our twins trying to comfort Ashley pulled at my heart strings and I pulled them up on my lap to give them a hug.   Rick took David and Kyle into his arms and hugged them as they, too, were crying.  

After a while, the tears stopped and I said, “It’s time for bed, children.”

We climbed the stairs with the children.   Rick and I put the twins in their beds and kissed them.    I said, “Is it okay for us to go say good night to the other children?”

Josh said, “Yes, Daddy.”

We turned out the light and closed the door to their room.   We went to the boys’ room first.   Kyle and David were kneeling by the bottom bunk saying their prayers.   We waited until they were done and then we came into the room.

Kyle walked over and gave us each a hug, “Thank you for everything.”

David followed his brother’s example and gave us each a hug.   He said, “Thank you.”   They boys climbed into their new beds.   David took the lower bunk and Kyle the upper one.   Rick said, “Good night, boys.”

The boys chorused, “Good night.”  

I turned out the light and closed their door.   We then went next door to Ashley’s room.   She was already in bed and had pulled the covers up to her chin.  

I said, “Good night, Ashley.”

She replied, “Good night.”  

“If you need anything in the night, you know where we are,” I said.

She nodded her head and cuddled with her teddy bear and her new stuffed animals.   We turned out the light and left her room.   We walked across the hall to our bedroom and closed our door.

Rick pulled me into a close embrace, “I love you, Glenn.   You are so awesome with the children.”

“So are you, sweetheart.   I am glad we took them in.   I hope we can help their grandmother find a new home nearby,” I said.

Rick nodded, “I hope so, too.   Let’s get a bath.”

Rick went into our en suite and started filling the Jacuzzi tub.   He lit a couple of candles and turned on our favorite music.   He quickly stripped out of his clothes and helped me out of mine.   He led me into the bathroom and helped me into the tub turning on the jets before climbing in behind me.   I leaned back against his solid chest and relaxed as he put his arms around me and nuzzled my neck.

I love my husband!   He knows exactly what I need and when I need it!   A nice leisurely bath with my favorite guy!

*** ***

We were up early the next morning.   Rick helped me get the twins their breakfast and then dressed to go out.   We had decided that instead of all the hassle of using the car that I would take the boys’ out in their jogging stroller.   That way I could get in a good run since the school was just down the hill from the house.

The three children arrived in the kitchen ready for school.  They sat down at the table and I served them their breakfast.

Kyle asked, “May we say grace?”

Rick nodded, “Yes, you may.”

Kyle reached out and took David’s hand and Rick’s.   As soon as we were all holding hand, Kyle said grace.  Afterwards, the children ate their breakfast and it was time to go.  

I was dressed in my running shorts and a sweat shirt.   I don’t like running in sweat pants if I can help it.   I get too hot!   I like wearing an under-armor shirt under the sweat shirt so I can peel off the sweat shirt once I warm up a bit.  

Rick helped me load the boys in their stroller.  Rick grinned and said, “I love how you look in jogging shorts.”   He pulled me into his embrace and whispered in my ear as he grabbed both my butt cheeks, “You have such a nice ass.”    I blushed despite the fact that Rick has told me that many times in the past.   Rick kissed me and said, “I love you.”

I said, “I love you, too.   I like seeing you in your running gear, too, sweetheart.”

Rick grinned and struck a muscleman pose.   His muscles popped out all over.   He wore his mess shirt and running shorts that showed his awesome body off to perfection.

While he was posing for me, the children came out the door with their backpacks.   Kyle saw Rick and his eyes just about popped out of his head, “Wow!   Are you a bodybuilder?”

Rick smiled at him, “No, but I like to work out a lot.   We have a small weight room downstairs if you are interested in learning how to lift weights.”

Kyle looked up at Rick and said, “I would like that.   Will you teach me?”

Rick nodded his head, “Sure.  I’ll do some research to find out how to teach you to lift weights safely since you are much younger than I was when I started lifting weights.   I want to make sure we don’t do any damage by overdoing weight training when you aren’t ready for it, yet.”

Kyle said, “Thanks.   I want to look like you.   I hate looking like a Harry Potter look alike.   The kids at school tease me and I hate it.”

Rick said, “Okay, we will see what we can do when you get home from school.”

We walked down Arlington Ridge Road and turned down 24th Street.   We went down the hill to Oakridge Elementary School.   As we approached the school, Kyle said, “We go in the front door by the office.”

We said, “Good-bye,” to the children and then Rick and I began our morning run.   We took turns pushing the stroller as we ran.   I love watching Rick tight bubble butt when he runs ahead of me and the twins.   From the school, we ran down South Pierce to 23rd St., and down to Army Navy Drive.   We ran along it until it reached South Eads St.   We took our usual route through Crystal City and then we did a couple of laps around Virginia Highlands Park and up South 21st St. and home.   We switch off who gets to push the stroller up the hill on 21st Street because the deal is that whoever is pushing it can’t slack off the pace.   It’s a pretty steep hill and it comes at the end of our run when we are already tired from running.   Today was my turn.   I managed to keep up the pace without out faltering.

Rick kept pace with me as I went up the hill and gave me encouragement, “Don’t slacken your stride, Glenn.   You know what the reward is when you get to the top.”   Rick leered at me.

I grinned and kept going.   The thought of getting to chose when and where I get to fuck Rick was motivation enough to keep me moving!   Of course, when he pushes the stroller up the hill on our daily runs, Rick gets to chose!   We have had some pretty interesting make out sessions as a result!   The only problem was that the boys keep getting heavier and making it harder to maintain a steady pace up the hill!

We walked around for a bit to cool down.   Rick grinned at me, “So where are we going to make out today?”

I thought for a moment, “In the weight room downstairs.”

Rick laughed, “You aren’t planning anything weird are you?”

I leered at him and then laughed, “You will have to wait and see.   I don’t want to give away all my secrets!”

Rick laughed, “Okay, but don’t keep in suspense.   You know how I hate not knowing what you are planning to do.”

I said, “I promise to tell you soon, sweetheart.”

We walked up to our front door and we unloaded the twins from the stroller and took them inside.   We took off their coats, etc., and put them in the family room to play with their toys.   We took turns getting a shower while the other kept an eye on the twins.  

We had just finished getting cleaned up when we heard the doorbell ring.   Rick went to open the door.   There were three women at the door who introduced themselves.   “I am Rachel Brizzee,” said the one who had dark brown hair, brown eyes, and bright red cheeks.   She was a little on the plump side for her petite stature (approximately 5’4”) and looked to be in her late forties.   The second one said, “I am Ms. Donovan.”   She was a tall, slender woman in her mid-twenties with blond hair down to her waist, bright blue eyes, and a ready smile.   The third said, “I am Mrs. Dricky.”   She was medium height and build with grey hair that was tied in a bun on top of her head.   She had a very severe look caused by her perpetual frown, jet black uni-brow and black horn-rimmed glasses.   Her green eyes were not friendly at all. 

Rick said, “I am Rick Lernier.   Please come in.   Mrs. Evans told us you would be paying us a visit today.   Thank you for coming early in the day.”

Mrs. Brizzee said, “Thank you for agreeing to meet with us.”

Rick returned to the family room followed by the three women.   I stood up and introduced myself, “I am Glenn Lernier.”

Mrs. Brizzee said, “Nice to meet you, Glenn.   This is Ms. Donovan and Mrs. Dricky.”

We sat down on the coach and three women scattered themselves between the loveseat and the two armchairs on either side of the love seat across from us.   “I have your folder here from the last time Human Services visited your home.   Mrs. Evans told me about the circumstances surrounding that visit and I apologize for what happened afterwards.”   She paused and looked at me, “I also understand your reluctance to have us in your home, again.”

I returned her gaze and answered, “Then you also understand why I still harbor some hard feelings towards Human Services employees.”

Mrs. Brizzee nodded her head and glanced at Mrs. Dricky, “Yes, I do.   Mrs. Evans thought we should talk about the home assessment process and its goals and objectives before we go any further.   I want to make sure that we understand why I am asking certain questions so you won’t be offended by them.”

“I believe that there is a set of standard questions to be asked and that you have a check list of things to watch for or observations you are to make.   Am I correct?” Rick asked.

Mrs. Brizzee said, “Yes, that is true.”

Josh came over and climbed upon my lap.   He looked at the three women and asked, “Daddy, who are they?”

I said, “They are here to see if Kyle, David and Ashley can stay with us.”

Josh said, “Okay.”   He climbed down and returned to where he had been playing with his blocks.   Josh pointed to the three women and told JJ, “They are going to help Kyle, David and Ashley.”

Mrs. Brizzee said, “I see that your son is very articulate for such a small one.”

“Yes, he is,” Rick said.   “He amazes us all the time because of how advanced he is.   He seems to do everything much earlier than the pediatrician says he will.   He doesn’t fit the development stages we have found in our research on the internet.”

“Does your other son exhibit the same behaviors?” Mrs. Brizzee asked.

“No, in fact, he seems to be developmentally delayed,” I said.   “We are worried that there may be something may be wrong.   Our pediatrician has suggested we wait another six months or so before we decide to take him to a specialist for evaluation.   That way we can see if there are any drastic changes between now and then.”

Mrs. Brizzee continued asking her questions and then she asked, “May we see your home?”

Rick said, “Sure.   I will be glad to show.   Please follow me.”

The women followed Rick.   He showed them the main floor and the upstairs.   When he went to take them to the basement, Mrs. Brizzee said, “We only needed to see the main living areas where the children would normally be present.”

The other two women hadn’t said much but had been busily taking notes.   Mrs. Dricky said, “You have a very nice home, Mr. Lernier.   I am happy to see that you have taken all the necessary precautions to protect your children from harming themselves.   I wish all parents were as diligent at keeping up with the safety issues in their homes.”

Rick smiled, “Thank you, Mrs. Dricky.”

Mrs. Dricky’s normally sour face actually looked pleasant for a moment as she returned Rick’s smile.

They returned to the family room and Mrs. Brizzee said, “We have completed our visit and will give Mrs. Evans our report.”

I stood up from where I was playing with the boys and joined Rick as he escorted the women to the door.   Mrs. Dricky was the last one to exit the house.   She turned and stepped back inside and said, “I want you to know that I was initially against Mrs. Evans idea to place the children with a gay couple.   After visiting with you today, I have changed my mind.   Thank you for allowing us to visit with you today.”  

She addressed her next remark directly to me, “Mr. Lernier, I should tell you that you are fully justified to be wary of any visit from our department.   I am not the only one in the office who harbors doubts about placing children with gay parents.   If it were not for Mrs. Evans insistence, I would have overruled Mrs. Brizzee’s decision to go ahead with the placement of the children in your care.   After meeting you today, I plan to do what I can to counter the prejudice against gay families in the office.   Many of us have concerns about placing children with gay couples and not just for religious reasons.   Maybe we can have a conversation sometime in the near future about some of my concerns so that we can address them when we meet with other gay couples.”

I returned her gaze and I listened to her words.   I wasn’t sure how to respond because she had confirmed my worst fears but at the same time she offered hope that things could improve.   I decided that maybe we could help start that change process by working with Mrs. Dricky – that is if she was really being sincere.  

My thoughts must have been reflected on my face because Mrs. Dricky said, “I don’t blame you for not trusting me.   If I were you, I wouldn’t trust me either given the circumstances.”   She gave us a tight smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes as she turned and followed her co-workers.  

Rick closed the door and pulled me into his warm embrace.   “I am very proud of you, Glenn.   You were civil to them and answered their questions without being sarcastic.”

“Yes, I made sure they knew I didn’t like the fact that they were in our home,” I said looking up into Rick face.

Rick grinned, “Yes, you did manage to make that very clear.   I think that is why Mrs. Dricky told us what she did as she left.”

“I still don’t trust her or anyone from that office,” I said.

“Unfortunately, Glenn, neither do I,” Rick said with a sigh.   He gave me a kiss and we returned to the family room.

I smiled as I watched Rick playing with his sons on the floor.   Both of them attached their Dad by climbing on top of him laughing and bouncing up and down on his rock hard stomach.   Rick let them pull his ears and nose.   They gave him sloppy toddler kisses which made me laugh as Rick grinned up at me as the boys tried to get Rick to roll over.   The two boys pulled on his arm and managed to get him up on his side.  

I asked, “Boys, do you need me to help you?”

Josh looked up and said, “Yes, Daddy.”

Rick laughed, “Ganging up on your Dad is not allowed!”

“Since when is it not allowed to have a little fun,” I said as I knelt down and helped the two little guys roll Rick over onto his stomach.  

Rick put his head on his arms and completely relaxed as the climbed onto his back.   Josh put his arms around his Dad’s neck and said, “Dad, we want elephant rides.”

Rick said, “Okay, but only one at a time.  I don’t want one of you to fall off and get hurt.”

Josh said, “JJ, you go first.”   Josh released his hold on his Dad and guided JJ into position.   JJ wrapped his arms around Rick’s neck and Rick rose up on all fours and crawled around the room with JJ on his back.   JJ laughed and held tight.   When Rick returned, Josh took JJ place and Rick repeated his performance.

JJ climbed onto my lap and put his arms around my neck and said, “Kisses.”   He gave me a kiss on the cheek.

I gave him a hug and a kiss on the forehead in return.   JJ didn’t stay on my lap for very long.   He climbed down and went over to his trains and started playing with them.   Josh joined him and Rick sat down next to me on the couch and pulled me into his arms.

“I love spending time with the favorite guys,” Rick said smiling at me.

“Same here,” I responded and gave Rick a quick kiss.   I leaned my head on his shoulder as I enjoyed a quiet moment with my sweetheart watching our wonderful boys playing with their trains.   A feeling of contentment swept through my mind as I savored this moment of happiness

Author’s Note:

More information about family services -                         

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