As the three lads walked out the Foyer door and where on the stoop, Brant stopped them and told Matthew that they realize that sometimes bad things happen to good people, like Robert, Charles, and the twins, and they sort of understand why he is living with Mr. Ken.
Brant also told the newest Cover that he was very lucky to be living at Three Finger Cove. He explained that all the kids want to be invited over there and here he is, the newest kid to the area, and he gets to live here. Brant and Ryan laughed.
The three ten-year-olds were stopped just outside the Foyer Door, so they sat down on the front steps to talk and try to get to know one another some before catching up with the other boys. Brant took the lead, and he told Matthew something about himself. Ryan then took his turn to tell Matthew a little about himself. Then, they told their new friend about their school.
When the two ten-year-olds finished telling him about themselves and their school, Matthew knew he needed to tell his, hopefully, new friends, about himself. The newest Cover told them what he did all summer as he traveled all around. He then asked them if they knew why he was living with Mr. Ken.
Brant spoke up and said no one told them why he was living at Three Finger Cove. He added that Mr. Ken asked his dad to let him come over that day to get to know him because they would be going to school together.
Then the youngest Sullivan told Matthew that Ryan was spending the weekend, which was why he was there, too. Brant concluded that as far as to why he was living there that it would be up to him to tell them why he was living with Mr. Ken and only when he was ready.
Matthew smiled at Brant and thanked him for telling him that. The young Cover then asked Brant and Ryan if they heard about the people who were arrested at the hospital last week.
Brant said he had because Charles, Kevin, and Kyle told everyone at school the next day about how exciting it was to actually see the police arrest someone in live action rather than on TV.
Matthew smiled and told his new friends that he watched it, too, as his 'brothers' were visiting him at the hospital. Hearing that surprised both boys, so they asked him why he was in the hospital.
"So, you heard about the people being arrested, but you don't know why I was in the hospital," asked Matthew.
"Well, I heard about the police chase and the arrests of the two people, and all, but they never said who they were," answered Brant.
"Later, I also heard that the people, who were arrested, were there to take their kid out of the hospital. I also heard some of the kids talking that the kid had been beaten and his back looked real bad. ... You ... you how what? I bet .... I bet they were there to take him away so the police couldn't have him testify against them," finished Ryan.
"Yeah, I heard that story the next day, too," spoke up Brant.
Then, it dawned on Brant. He looked at Matthew and wondered if he was the boy those people were after. He looked over to Matthew and then to Ryan, not knowing if he should ask the question after telling Matthew that he could decide to tell them when he was ready.
But not knowing got the better of him, so he asked. "Matthew ... you don't have to ... to answer this ... if you don't want to, but ... but were ... were you the kid ... that those people were at the hospital to take away with them?"
Ryan got a shocked look on his face after hearing Brant's question. Then it dawned on him that Matthew just might be the boy who those people were after.
Matthew wasn't too shocked when he heard the question. He figured that eventually, it would all come out and now that they knew about the arrests at the hospital and the boy was beaten on his back he decided to tell his new friends about himself.
"Brant, Ryan ahh ... I'm going to tell you something and ... and I would appreciate it if you would not tell anyone what I'm going to say. At least not until it does get out. This way you can help get the truth out," began Matthew.
"NO, you don't have to tell us anything," replied Brant, as Ryan was shaking his head 'no'.
"Well, it's probably better that you hear the truth rather than listen to the speculation at school. ... You see, I ... I AM the boy they ... they were after. It was my mom and ... and her boyfriend. I haven't seen my dad in ages and we've been traveling all around since the beginning of summer and living in lots of places. I haven't been to school yet. Anyway, the night they found me ... it was Mr. Ken and Mr. Dan who did."
"Mr. Ken came over to me to talk to me, but ... but I told him I wasn't supposed to talk to strangers. Well, he had Mr. Dan come over to talk to me, then. Mr. Dan showed me his badge and identification and it was when he touched my back he learned ... they both learned my back had been beaten," started Matthew.
Brant and Ryan were completely stunned upon hearing what their new friend just revealed to them. They looked back to one another and then to Matthew. Matthew stood up, turned his back to them and then pulled up his shirt. Both boys were shocked that he'd done that, but were more startled at seeing what his back looked like.
"They gave Mr. Ken this gel to put on my back to help heal it and it's worked really good. ... You ... you should have seen it the night Kyle helped me get into one of those hospital gowns. They ... they told me that most of the redness has gone away and the rest will go away pretty soon, but there are scars ... and the scars ... they will have to be removed by doing something like sanding them off or plastic surgery. I heard them talking about them and they told Mr. Ken they could help me fully heal," said Matthew, as he pulled his shirt down.
"Matthew, you didn't have to tell us what you did, and you sure didn't have to show us your back," said Ryan.
"Yes ... yes, I did ... because when we go swimming later they all will see it and ... and I wanted you to see it first. This way you won't be surprised as they will probably be," replied Matthew.
Brant and Ryan thanked Matthew for telling them what he had and then showing them his back. They told the new Cover they would help get the truth out when the time came. They all shook hands then decided to head over to catch up with the other boys.
Inside the Study, Mr. Ken thanked Barbara and John Sullivan for coming over and bringing Brant and Ryan. He then told them how Matthew came to be living at The Cove. He told them everything that occurred from the time they met Matthew up until then.
It was then John told Mr. Ken that Frank Longger would be stopping by The Cove later to collect Ryan. The man further added that then he wouldn't have to stop by their house only to learn his son was over there. They all had a good laugh.
As the boys walked over to where the ramps were, Matthew was thinking to himself that everyone he's met so far had told him that he was very lucky to be living at Three Finger Cove. But what he couldn't understand was why he didn't feel that way. He decided then that when he got over to the ramps, he would try to find a good time to talk with his 'brothers'.
"Here comes my brother and Ryan and Matthew," said Brad, as the three ten-year-olds walked over to the ramps.
Kyle heard what Brad said, so he quickly ran over and greeted the three lads. The younger twin then reminded everyone that Matthew had only been with them less than a day and they should not tease him or make fun of him until he'd gotten used to living there and he knew everyone better.
Kyle also asked them to call his new 'brother' Matthew until he decided if he wanted some nickname. Hearing that, some of the other boys chuckled 'Yea, just like Robert and Charles'. That brought out some laughs and smiles.
The older lads told the three ten-year-olds to take the ramps first, so they could help them out with their moves. The three ten-year-olds smiled at one another and quickly ran over to the half-pipe and put the skateboards down and began to skate.
Brant and Ryan saw that Matthew wasn't very good, but he did tell them he was gone all summer, so they figured he was a bit rusty.
After watching the younger lads skate for a few minutes, the older boys started to give them a few pointers. The younger boys were grateful for the help and they gained a bit more confidence in themselves. When the older lads told them it was their turn to skate the three younger boys went and sat down on the ramp no one was using.
"Are you going to be in our class when you start school?" asked Ryan.
"Yes, I'm ten and I would have started the 5th grade if we hadn't been traveling all over this past summer and up until now. I know I missed a lot. I just hope I can catch up pretty fast," answered Matthew.
"You'll do okay, I bet," replied Ryan. "And besides, you have four 'brothers' who've already gone thru 5th grade and they can help you if you have trouble," now laughed the smaller boy.
The three lads talked and talked and got to be good friends. When they saw Mr. and Mrs. Sullivan began to leave the three hurried over and walked them up to the Main Gate. The three new friends did get to use the ramps a few more times before the older boys said they wanted to go swimming.
All the lads got their satchels and began walking around the side of the house. The three ten-year-olds followed along, but only Brant and Ryan had a bag with their swimsuit and towel in it. Kyle saw that Brant and Ryan had their bag with them and knew what they had in it. He also realized Matthew needed to get his swimsuit. He suggested to the three they could use Matthew's bedroom to change while Matthew got his swimsuit out and put it on, too.
The three new friends went up to Matthew's bedroom and the Cover lad's new friends told him they'd never seen the bedrooms before and they were glad they could change up there.
When the three new friends walked into Matthew's bedroom, Brant and Ryan placed their bags on one of the beds while Matthew rummaged through his dresser to find his swimsuit. Acting as if they were in the shower changing room, the two boys got out their swimsuits and started to change into them.
Matthew heard and then saw what his new friends were doing and he was totally surprised. When both boys had their shorts off Matthew asked them, "Aren't you embarrassed to let other people see you, you know, without your clothes on?"
Ryan looked to Brant as if saying that he should answer.
"Matthew ... we both changed in the Men's Locker Room back when Mr. Ken had his Labor Day Picnic. We were afraid the older boys would laugh at our puny, you know, our stuff but Sam and Terran told us how we could change into our swimsuits and not be embarrassed about it. And that's what we did," explained Brant.
"Yeah, but what we didn't know was they did see our butts," added a smiling Ryan.
"Yes, they did, but we did change into our swimsuits and when we went out to the pool deck to put our clothes into a locker my older brother teased us. That's when we learned they saw our naked butts," now laughed Brant, thinking back to his sending the fickle finger of fate to his brother and friends and how Mr. Ken and Mr. Frank saw him.
"So, you aren't embarrassed to, you know, let other people see you without your clothes on?" quickly asked Matthew.
"Well, my older brother has seen me naked in the bathroom and he's teased me a few times, but I've seen him too. I've even seen him with a stiffie in the morning. Boy is it ever bigger than mine," replied Brant.
"The same thing with my older brother," began Ryan. "But you know what? We don't fight as much as we used to, especially when we both need to use the bathroom, at the same time, to get ready for school."
"Has anyone ever seen you without your clothes on?" asked Brant
Matthew inwardly smiled at the question, so he told his new friends that he and Kyle took a shower together that morning and they both saw how their underwear tented out when they got out of bed this morning. The three boys had a good laugh at that.
That said, Brant and Ryan continued to drop their underwear and put on their swimsuits without batting an eye. Matthew thought back to what Kyle meant this morning about being seen naked, so he quickly dropped both his shorts and underwear at the same time and while, facing his new friends, slipped into his swimsuit.
The three friends smiled at one another and they headed down to the pool to put their clothes into a locker. Matthew even brought his along. Along the way, Ryan asked Matthew if he wanted to go back and get a t-shirt to wear, so he wouldn't be asked so many questions about his back when everyone saw it.
Matthew thought about it for a few moments. Then, he told his friends that he decided it would be better to get it out of the way and over with and let the other boys see his back and get used to seeing it. The youngest Cover reasoned, and hoped, that his new friends could help explain to other people what they knew and saw if the question ever came up or people started to talk about him and his back.
When the three friends entered the indoor pool area, Kyle went over to his new 'brother' and privately asked him if there was any trouble with him not wanting to show his new friends his boy toys. All Matthew said, with a big smile, was that he thought about them showering that morning and he decided to change in front of his new friends. Kyle smiled back and hugged his new 'brother' at hearing that.
As the three young lads walked over to the lockers, Matthew could hear the other boys sort of whispering. He figured they saw his back and were talking amongst themselves. He'd already shown Brant and Ryan his back and told them he wanted the other boys to see it, too, so they could get used to seeing it. Now it was up to him to decide what he wanted to tell all the boys.
After Matthew finished putting his clothes in the locker and putting the locker key around his ankle, he looked over to all the boys. He smiled at them as said, "This was what my mom's boyfriend did to me."
"And if you didn't know it already ... I was the boy ... that the people who were arrested at the hospital last week were after. Mr. Ken and Mr. Dan discovered me at the miniature golf course last weekend and called Ms. Judy who told them to take me to the hospital"
"When I was there Kyle helped me get into one of those paper gowns and after that, he came to visit me almost every day. We became good friends. Last Thursday night, Kyle, Charles, and Kevin came to visit me and we all saw the police chase and then how they captured my mom and her boyfriend, Lincoln."
"Lincoln used to beat me when I did something he didn't like. The night before I was found Lincoln beat me because I told my mom I was hungry. He'd beaten me many times before that for just about anything and that is why my back is scarred."
"In the hospital, they put this cooling gel on my back, at least three times a day, and it had helped take away the redness and some of the lighter scars. They told me as Mr. Ken continues to put the gel on my back it will continue to heal and the only thing they figured would remain are the heavier scars."
"I wanted you all to see my back so ... so when the kids at school start to wonder if I was the boy the people were after you will all know the truth. I can't change what happened, and I didn't do it to myself, so I am not going to hide from it. And ... I hope ... you will all ... be my friend!" finished Matthew.
The boys who heard Matthew's little speech were dumbfounded. Robert and Charles more so because of the reason they were in the foster care system. They knew they could never tell all their friends, at least not yet, about themselves. Even Kevin was surprised at what Matthew told everyone, but he knew he had to keep his secret with only the people he trusted and they were the Covers.
As Matthew's revelation sank in, the boy's looked around at one another. Then, one lad started clapping and then another and another and before long all the kids on the pool deck were clapping. Soon, they all went up to the youngest Cover and shook his hand and thanked him for being so open and honest with them.
The lads, especially the older ones, also told him they 'had his back', no pun intended, and would be there for him if he ever needed another 'big brother'. The 'no pun intended' comment had brought out some laughs that lightened the mood.
Before the group broke up, Robert said, "Guys ... ... HEY, EVERYONE! It took a lot of courage for him to tell his story and I am glad you will have Matthew's back. What I want to say, well ask you, that is ... is to not talk about what Matthew just told us with anyone else."
"I'd ask you if you hear people talking about him just give them, you know a little tidbit of the truth without revealing too much. Then, tell them you know his story, but it is up Matthew to tell anyone or every one his story. Can you do that for our newest 'brother'?"
The entire group of 10 to 13-year-olds all agreed to what Robert asked. Then, it was time for Matthew to take the swim test before being allowed to swim anywhere in the pool. And even though he wasn't a strong swimmer, he did pass the test and with that done, and over with, the boys began playing their games.
What Matthew, Brant, and Ryan didn't know was that Robert told everyone, before they arrived, to leave their swimsuits on and there would be no skinny dipping until the three ten-year-olds had swum with them a few more times. That edict brought out a few moans and groans, but all the boys understood what Robert meant by telling them that.
After the boys played their games of tag, horsey, Marko-Polo, and shark and minnows, they decide to jump off the ledge to see who could make the biggest splash. The three ten years hadn't ever jumped off of the ledge and looking at it from down on the pool deck and it didn't seem all that high to them until they got up to the top.
What they didn't realize was that on the pool deck, from their eyes point of view of about four feet high off the pool deck as they looked up to the ten-foot-high ledge it made the platform look only about six feet high. It was when they arrived at the top and looked down and their eyes now being almost four feet above the ledge made it now look fourteen feet high. The three young boys were all now scared to jump.
Brad and some of the other teenagers began to tease the three ten-year-olds about not jumping. But Robert and Charles didn't want the three newest kids to ever be afraid, so they told them to stop it. Robert then went up to the ledge to talk to them about how to do the jump. Then, while Robert talked to the ten-year-olds, Charles talked to the other boys and told them they should encourage them, not tease them.
"But, it looks ... it looks so high," whined Matthew.
"That's because you're standing up looking down," counseled Robert.
"Yeah, it looks a lot higher from up here than it did from down there," spoke up Ryan.
"Guys, if you sit down on the ledge with your legs hanging down it won't look so high," said the older Cover lad. "Come on, sit down with me on the edge."
The four boys all sat down with their legs hanging over the ledge.
"It still looks pretty high, though," offered Brant.
"But not AS high, right?" replied Robert.
While the three ten-year-olds were contemplating to jump off the ledge and into the pools waters, Mr. Wayne came into the pool area. The boys near the entrance welcomed the man into the pool enclosure and asked him if he was going to swim with them. The man said he was, and that was why he was wearing his swimsuit. The boys all cheered.
The lads at the top of the ledge then looked over to see what everyone was cheering for. When Matthew saw it was Mr. Wayne, he stood up, waved and called to the man. Mr. Wayne waved back and began walking in that direction.
When Mr. Wayne walked up to the top of the jumping ledge, Matthew was all smiles.
"Mr. Wayne, did you come to swim with us?" gleefully asked the newest Cover.
"Yes, I came over to talk to your Mr. Ken. I told him today was my last workday for the new homes sales company I was working for. They found someone who already had the experience, so I won't have to train him next weekend. Now ... why are you three up here? Are you all trying to decide if you want to jump?" asked the smiling Estate Master.
"Yes, Mr. Wayne," started Brant, "we want to do it, but ... but it looks a lot higher from up here than it did down on the pool deck."
"Well, that's because your eyes are higher up than the edge of the jumping ledge. I take it you were all sitting down there to reduce the feeling of height. Am I right?" asked Mr. Wayne.
Robert took the question and explained how he was trying to get them to understand what the Estate Master just told them. The teenager told the man he was going to try to get them to slide off the edge and fall into the water for their first time. Mr. Wayne smiled at the idea, so he sat down on the edge and had the three ten-year-olds join him. Matthew took the far side and sat close to the man.
"Okay, guys ... I know you all can do this. ... I saw two of you playing on the water toys at the Labor Day Picnic and that is a lot higher than this is. What say we all hold hands and slide off the edge and fall into the water together? Are you game?" said an encouraging Mr. Wayne.
The three boys looked back and forth to one another and then said they were ready. Mr. Wayne told the lads he'd count to three, and that was when they should all slip off the ledge. Then, on the count of three, the four slid off the edge, together, and fell into the water. When the four rose up from the depths, from where they had plunged, the other boys all clapped that the youngest kids had done that. The three ten-year-olds all had big smiles on their faces.
"Let's do that again, Mr. Wayne," cheerfully said Matthew.
Brant and Ryan agreed, so the four climbed the stairs to try it one more time. This time Mr. Wayne asked them to just bend at their knees and jump. The four held hands again, and on the count of three, and they jumped.
"Wow, that was fun, too," said a smiling Matthew. "Let's do that one more time!"
"Boys, this time let's jump from a standing position. You game?" asked Mr. Wayne.
The three shook their heads in agreement and when they got to the top, they didn't hesitate. The four all jumped together and when the younger lad's heads came up out of the water they were laughing and hollering that they had done it.
The rest of the boys now hurried to get in line to climb to the top of the faux rock. Once there, they started to jump off the ledge. Then, before long, they challenged one another to see who could make the biggest splash. They asked Mr. Wayne to be the judge, and he in turn asked the three ten-year-olds to help him. That put another smile on their faces.
The older boys got into the challenge and after each lad had jumped off three times the judges made their decision. Logan had won.
Logan then challenged the three ten-year-olds to do it, too. Matthew wasn't too sure if he wanted to but when Brant and Ryan said they wanted to try it Matthew joined in. This time Mr. Wayne and Logan were to be the judges.
The three youngsters were a bit hesitant to jump off by themselves. Their first jumps were more like falls with no attempt to make a splash. When they got out of the water to try again some of the older boys gave them some pointers.
By the time the three ten-year-olds had finished their last jump, they were all having fun. Their splashes weren't anywhere near half the size of the older boys but they did manage to make some sort of splash. When the winner, Ryan, was announced the older boys started yelling jokingly, "The fix was in," as they all thought Brant should have been the winner.
By that time Mr. Ken had arrived at the pool and watched the three youngsters do all three of their jumps off the ledge. He then walked over to the boys where they greeted him.
"Mr. Ken, Mr. Ken ... did you see ... I jumped off that high rock?" stated Matthew.
"Yes, I saw and I have to concur with Logan that Ryan did make the biggest splash," said the smiling owner of The Cove. That comment brought out a lot of "See, I told you so," and "We were right" comments
"Dad are you going to swim with us?" asked Robert.
The owner of The Cove did swim with the boys for about 30 minutes, but by then the boys were all 'waterlogged' and they decided they were hungry.
But before his dad could get away to change, Robert pulled him aside and asked him why Mr. Wayne and he hadn't rung the bell. The teen said it hadn't mattered, because he'd told everyone no skinny-dipping, but the teenager asked what about the next time? Mr. Ken understood his new son's concern and said he'd talk to his Estate Master and remind him to always ring the bell no matter what. Robert hugged his dad, and the two went off to change,
The lads who changed first started to get the barbeque together. They took care of the tasks they were most comfortable with and allowed the ones who knew how to cook to get the grill ready. Before long David and Cooper, with Logan watching over them, were burning the burgers and dogs while everyone waited to be called to 'Come and get it'.
Matthew saw, with the lull in what was happening, his opportunity to talk to his 'brothers. He went over to them and said, "Robert, Charles, Kevin, Kyle ... can I ... can I talk to you for a few minutes?' spoke out Matthew with hope in his eyes.
The five Cover Boys walked over to the Patio banister that looked over the dock area. When they had all stopped, Charles asked him what he wanted to talk to them about.
Matthew froze for a few moments, but then said, "I ... I wanna apologize to all of you for ... for the way I acted earlier. I ahh, I ... I shouldn't have said what I did. I ... I am so ... everything is happening so fast for me that I don't know what to think, or what to do." Then Matthew started crying.
Kyle and Robert got to the youngster at the same time and they both hugged the crying boy from the side. The other lads saw the Covers walk away to talk and then a few moments later they saw Matthew break down and cry and Kyle and Robert grab and hug him.
All the lads ran over to see what they could do to help. Brant and Ryan were perplexed at seeing what just happened and, only being there but once, they stayed back and watched and listened.
"Matthew it's not all that bad," counseled Robert. "You ... you're just being overwhelmed by everything and you still haven't gotten settled in yet. Maybe ... well maybe we just pushed you too fast to be one of us."
"That doesn't matter. I ... I shouldn't have said what I did. I didn't mean it. I hope you'll believe me. I saw ... you all talking together, and you were all whispering and not including me. I thought ... I thought you were talking about me behind my back. That was why I got so angry and said what I did. Please forgive me and let me still be a Cover?" said Matthew, though his tears.
Kyle looked to his older 'brother' to get him to allow him to take the tearful boy aside. Then Kyle said. "Matthew ... please come with me and we'll talk."
Matthew looked into Kyle's eyes and only saw concern and he wiped his eyes of his tears and nodded his head. Robert was going to balk, but he knew Matthew and Kyle had a sort of connection. The teen wanted to let Kyle do what he could, but he was going to follow along.
After Kyle and Matthew walked away, Robert's friends asked him what that was all about. The Cover teen told them they had a disagreement that morning and Matthew is blaming himself for it and that was why he was apologizing to them. The lads accepted the explanation and they all went back to waiting for the cooks to ring the proverbial chow bell.
"Matthew," began Kyle, "we were talking about when we were going to tell you why we were in the foster care system and living with Mr. Ken. None of us knew why the others were living here, well Robert and Charles knew each other's story because they had lived together at one time, but me and Kevin ... we didn't learn about them until we'd been here a couple of months.
"We were trying to decide when we should tell you why we are all living here. We didn't know if your mom would be able to get custody of you and if she did, and it happened right away, we didn't want you to know all about us," explained Kyle.
"But why... why wouldn't you want me to know about you? You all know about me?" countered Matthew.
"Matthew ... it isn't all that easy. I think I told you that Kev, and I were in a car crash with our parents, who were badly hurt, and that is why we are here. But, since then, other things have happened and ... well ... we would be very embarrassed if people, other than Mr. Ken and our 'brothers' knew about it right now."
"We just want to make sure ... that you are going to be staying with us for a long time before we even begin, you know, to tell you some of our stories. You've only been here a day now and ... well, just like Kev and me we decided to wait until we all know one another better and we know what your status will be. I hope you'll understand that Matthew. Please believe me," finished Kyle.
Matthew thanked Kyle for telling him why they were together and whispering and he said he now understood why they didn't want to tell him about themselves until things settled down. The two smiled at one another and began to walk back to the large group of kids.
Brant and Ryan saw the two younger Covers walking back to the group, so they went over to talk to their new friend. They asked Matthew, in front of Kyle, why he was crying and what had happened that morning that he had to apologize to his 'brothers'.
Matthew looked to Kyle to see if he should answer and all Kyle said was that it was up to him if he wanted other people to know his personal secrets. Kyle then walked away.
Ryan and Brant looked to their Cover friend to see if he would tell them. Matthew thought about it for a few moments and then told them a quick synopsis about what transpired that morning. The newest Cover then asked his friends to not spread it around; that it was something just between friends. Brant and Ryan said they understood and wouldn't say anything to anyone.
The three ten-year-olds got back to the group just in time to get one burger and a hot dog, each. They stopped to top them off with ketchup and mustard and then got a soda out of the cooler and found a spot to eat. With knowing smiles they ate their meal.
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