Old Souls

Chapter Four

It didn't take long to collect what I needed, Art was busy looking at a first edition to see if it was genuine. It's what he does.

He stopped just long enough to acknowledge Chase and then I introduced Chase to Seneca and put out his food. Seneca was the only force of nature that could pull Art away from a book in progress. He and Art had reached an agreement in which Art did pretty much what Seneca wanted.

We walked back across the room and met Jeff at the door.

Jeff greeted me with, "Do you want me to keep Carter off your back for a while? I know you're just getting to know each other."

"No Jeff, that's not necessary, Carter is a cool little guy and he adores his brother."

"Okay, I just thought I'd ask," Jeff said.

"If you give me your coat and your bag, I'll take them upstairs for you," Chase offered.

I handed them over and watched as he kind of floated dreamily up the stairs.

"Are you and Art close, Étienne?"

"Yes Jeff, but not on the scale that Chase and Carter share. If you scratch Carter, Chase will bleed."

"Occasionally you sound much older than your years, Étienne. You and Chase are a good pairing. He needs a friend with a maturity at his own level. For Carter it's very much like he has two fathers except we don't contradict each other. We're both careful about that. He never seems to put himself in a position where I have to overrule his decision."

"The way he treats Carter is one of the things that caught my attention, it seems to go beyond brotherhood and like you say, more on the order of parenting."

"You converse at a very adult level Étienne, it's impressive. You must attend a private school."

"Yes sir," I agreed, "I will be attending Rainier Academy with Chase when school starts again. My parents thought it would help me to get the lay of the land and perhaps make a few friends over the summer by coming up early."

"That's actually a good idea, less chance that someone will take advantage of your unfamiliarity with the area and cause you trouble," Jeff expanded.

"I think Chase and I will explore a little once we're done with Mr. Ozaki. I'm anxious to meet him, Chase seems to hold him in high regard."

"You'll find out why when you meet him. You mentioned your brother was working on a book, is he a writer?"

"No, he has a PhD in Library Science and he works as a book conservator. He also verifies the validity of first editions and ancient folios. He was examining a book last year and remembered one had been stolen from the Bodliean Library in nineteen ninety-five. He was able to get enough information from them to at least make a case for their conservator to examine the copy and it turned out to be the stolen book."

"That pretty much made his reputation in the business and now he works with the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress," I explained further.

"That is so interesting, perhaps you could introduce us, I find that sort of thing fascinating."

"I'd be happy to, he's not quirky like some of his colleagues, most of them are OCD or borderline Autistic. Decent people but not real sociable unless they've known you for years or you do something that impresses them. That's over simplistic I know, but I don't have a degree in neuro science."

"I quite understand Étienne, and I'm not going to scream 'Not PC' at you for what is essentially a valid observation. I would imagine that sort of work would appeal to someone who was gifted yet very detail-focused in the extreme."

"I'm glad you understand, Jeff. I think Chase said you were an architect, what is that like?"

"It depends on what I'm working on. As a partner I have to do what brings in revenue, but I set aside some time to do projects that are more for the sake of art. As soon as I finish this last round of changes for Carr's new building in Tacoma, I have a client who has been waiting patiently for me to design my own "Falling Water" project for him."

"That was Wright's pinnacle piece, wasn't it?

"Well opinions vary, I am a devotee of Falling Water."

"I do like the Prairie School of architecture, but I think I will always prefer Greene and Greene."

"Well, there's no arguing with that, but there are so few surviving examples these days."

"I've seen and toured all the ones that are available in California and a couple that don't offer tours. Did you ever see Bicentennial Man with Robin Williams?"

"You mean you toured the Fleishhacker estate?"

"Yes, my history teacher had an in and he conspired with an art teacher to make it a field trip. It was worth all the travel, and was certainly a departure from their joint ventures."

"You seem to know the subject quite well; do you have a field of endeavor picked out for the future?" Jeff queried.

"Not yet, perhaps Astrophysics or Engineering, also Material Science looks interesting. My dad insists that I learn actual physical arts like metallurgy and blacksmithing and wood working. He says it may come in handy if everything goes south, not when, just if."

"Your dad sounds interesting, I think I'd like to meet him, as well. What does he do?"

"He just accepted an engineering position with Boeing but I don't know which project."

"Perhaps your family will join us for dinner once the move is complete."

"I think they'd like that."

"Ah there's my boy, where have you been, Chase?"

"In my room, I thought Étienne would be right up, were you interrogating my friend, Dad?" Chase smiled.

"Guilty as charged, but he wouldn't crack."

"We should go up and wash for dinner, I looked at the timer and it's nearly done," Chase explained.

"Well, I better get ready with the vegetables, will you set the table when you come down?"

"Sure Dad, we won't be long."

When we returned, Chase led me to an elegant sideboard, it was all at once ancient and incredibly modern. Within, we found plates and flatware along with napkins and drinking glasses. Once the table was set, I helped him lug in pitchers of water and tea and a small carafe of Grape juice for Carter. We located Carter and got him washed up and plopped in his seat.

Jeff brought out a serving dish and placed it on the table. Chase followed him with a large bowl of noodles and they returned to the kitchen for salad and vegetables.

"That smells wonderful, what is it?" I asked.

"That's Janisse's savory peach chicken with farfalle noodles in a peanut sauce," Jeff announced with a flourish.

It was truly remarkable; the fusion of Italian and Asian cuisine was outstanding and the taste was phenomenal.

"Well, I'm glad we didn't dawdle, I would have hated to miss this meal." I said.

"Janisse is a godsend, I don't know what we would do without her," Jeff expounded.

After dinner, Jeff gathered us around the piano in what was probably a solarium when the house was built. "Since I know you sing, perhaps we can hear something to accompany," Jeff suggested.

"Do you know Blue Skies"?

"Oh ho, that's a classic, let's give it a shot."

Jeff played and I sang and we had a great time.

"Chase, what will you surprise us with?" I asked. "Maybe something by Ariana Grande?"

"Well, I know some of her songs, but since you started with a real old song, I'll sing one, too." He whispered in Jeff's ear and I saw Jeff's heart melt a little as he began to play Oh My Papa and he did it quite well.

This time it was me with teary eyes, but I recovered quickly.

"What about you, Carter? Do you want to sing something?"

"I want to but I don't know any."

"Well, the best way to learn is to start with a fun song with a chorus you can sing along with. Jeff, do you know I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts, the chorus is easy and Carter will love it."

"No I'm sorry, I never learned that one."

"Well, move over then, and I'll show you." And I slid in beside Jeff.

"Okay Carter your part is like this." 'Roll or bowl a ball a penny a pitch, Roll or bowl a ball a penny a pitch, Singin' roll or bowl a ball, roll or bowl a ball, Singin' roll or bowl a ball a penny a pitch.'"

"Now when you hear me sing, 'There stands me wife, the idle of me life, Singin' Roll or bowl a ball a penny a pitch,' then you jump in and sing your part. Let's try just that part."

After a couple run-throughs, Carter thought he was ready and with Jeff and Chase giving him the cue, he was right on time. By the time we were through, Carter was a regular trooper. After an hour of that, Carter was sagging so Chase and I helped him up the stairs so he could pee and brush his teeth. He hugged each of us and we kissed his warm little cheek and tucked him in, he was asleep almost instantly.

Chase and I returned downstairs and found Jeff trying to read but losing the battle. Chase roused him after we cleared the table and loaded the dishwasher, "Looks like you know your way around a kitchen, too," Chase said.

It was only 8:40 pm and I wasn't ready for bed myself. I asked Chase if he was tired and he said no.

"So you won't be in Choir with me will you?" he prodded.

"No, we chose Rainier because of the Music program, as you may have guessed, I play piano."

"Really, I hadn't noticed, are you any good?" he grinned at me.

"Is that a challenge? Are we going to play Stump the Chump?"

"Well, I would love a demonstration," he suggested.

"Let's see what's in the piano bench, oh, here's Moonlight Sonata, will that do?" I asked.

"Sure, I love that piece."

"Oh dogfarts, who charted this, a blind Gibbon? The time signatures off and there're sharps marked as flats. Oh, printed in 1954, I'm probably ranting at a dead person."

"Dogfarts?" Chase asked, "do you swear much or are you afraid of offending me.?"

"No, not really. My parents don't  swear much and although some of my friends did, it never rubbed off."

"I don't swear a lot either, I don't want Carter to hear me and he doesn't need to hear that stuff at his age. Mikey taught him the "F" word though. But Mikey didn't hear it right, so they were saying 'Fluck'. It was hard to keep a straight face when I told him he shouldn't use those words."

"That's funny, I envy your relationship; I always wanted a little brother. They were going to have another but he died before he was born."

"I'm sorry, but you're welcome to share Carter, maybe he can wear you out for a while."

"I'd like that," I affirmed.

I began playing from memory, I didn't really need the music and Chase gazed at me from across the piano. A placid expression covered his features. When I was done we decided to go upstairs and talk. We had only just gotten undressed to shower when my phone tinkled, announcing a message.

It was Benny asking if I could take a call. I told him yes and moments later my phone rang.

"Hi Benny, I'm hanging out with Chase, how did things go?"

"Put me on speaker so Chase can hear, this concerns him too."

"Okay, done."

"So, I called the cops right after Larry raped me the last time so I would have proof.  Adam punched me right after my mom opened the door in front of the first cop to arrive. I got to watch them handcuff him and then they made him sit on the couch while they cuffed Larry and then my Mom. The stupid bitch was still spewing at me. Larry was crying like the little bitch that he is. I'm sorry I've been such an asshole Chase, if you see any of the neighborhood kids tell them what happened and tell them I'm sorry."

"Are you in a group home, Benny?"

"Ben, it's Ben from now on. I'm in a temporary facility while they work on matching me with someone who won't mind what sort of stuff comes with me. I'm pretty fucked up inside, both my body and my mind. After they arraign my family they'll move me."

"Étienne, this is hard but thanks for talking to me like a person. I never expected anyone to care, especially someone I tried to push around. I'm done doing stuff like that, I just didn't know how to deal with the shit they were doing to me. I think you saved my life man, I was really thinking of jumping off a bridge or a ferry or something stupid like that. So really thanks… I mean it, thanks."

I heard him sniff and realized he was being extremely honest, he wasn't posturing or saving face, simply thanking me.

"I'm glad I could help Ben, I hope you find a place where you can heal and grow. It might be weird at first, even creepy to have someone offer you love, but you might find it's pretty cool."

"It's weird just having people being nice to me, that's going to take time to get used to. Um, can I call you sometimes and let you know how I'm doing and you can tell me how you're doing too?"

"I'd like that a lot Ben, maybe we'll see each other again sometime soon."

"That would be really cool, I should have this number. The state will pay my phone bill or give me another phone. If they give me a different number, I'll call and give it to you."

I heard Ben talking to someone and then he returned.

"They have a curfew here and we have to get ready for bed, but I'll call you soon and let you know what's happening. I gotta go now, bye."

"Goodnight Ben, I look forward to hearing from you."

"Me too," added Chase.

Ben disconnected and I felt kind of drained. Emotional turmoil never gets easier. I looked at Chase and he had tears running down his face; I moved over and sat next to him on the bed and wrapped my arms around him.

"That's so sad, Benny has always been a jerk but now I know why. I hated him or maybe just dreaded seeing him. I understand why he was so nasty to everybody. It doesn't make what he did right, but he can be forgiven for acting like that when you know why."

"You are a very sweet person Chase, I sometimes think you lack the capacity to hate."

"I love you Étienne, I know it's too soon, but I really do. You are inside me now and I want you to stay there. I just love you."

My own eyes were leaking now, I grabbed tissues for both of us and we dried our eyes and wiped our noses. Then we kissed for a long time. Long deep kisses of unbelievable passion and emotional depth. Eventually we just stopped and held each other.

"We should get showers and go to bed, it's after nine and we need to get up early to go with Dad."

We weren't ready to shower together although we did each glimpse the other's body, Chase had a tiny bit of stubborn baby fat in a couple places but he was fit and fairly muscular. A small growth of fuzz was staking claim to his groin, much the same way as mine and he was circumcised like Carter and myself. I noticed with satisfaction that he was equally interested in my bodily development. I wear fleece sleeping shorts to bed and Chase did the same.

"Do you think you might want to do stuff sometime?" Chase posed.

"When we're ready, but there's no rush. Let's just take it slow. But we can cuddle and kiss. I would love to hold you while we sleep."

"I'd like that," Chase cooed, and he scooted backwards towards me. I wrapped my arms around him and kissed his neck. I must have been more tired than I thought because the next thing I knew, weak sunlight was filtering through the curtains. I untangled from Chase and went to pee which took more time than usual do to the condition of my penis. Eventually I was able to drain out and I slid back into bed. It was only a little after five. I heard the door creak open and soft footsteps approach the bed. Carter crawled under the covers at the foot of the bed and commando crawled his way between me and Chase.

"Good morning Carter, I guess I won't be going back to sleep."

Carter grinned at me and I kissed his little nose and then cuddled him to my chest. It was so different from cuddling with Chase.

"I got two big brothers now," he said as he burrowed into me.

"It sure seems that way, Carter."

A sleepy groan emanated from Chase, "Carter are you in here?"

"I think he dozed off again," I said as Chase turned over.

"Sorry, he's always up with the first sunlight and then he pees and comes in here and sleeps a little more before it's time to get ready."

"He's not bothering me, I've never had this before. He told me that now he has two big brothers, I feel honored."

"I'm glad you like him, he's a big part of my life. He won't need me as much as he gets older but I kind of like the feeling I get from being his big brother and I bet you like it too."

"Is he like this with all your friends?"

"No, some of them he ignores and a couple he avoids completely. Like creepy Pete, Carter was downright scared of him and I found out why. He had the nerve to ask if I messed with my little brother and could he join in?"

"What did you do?" I asked.

"I just asked him to leave, we had just finished dinner and it was early. I told him I didn't want him near my little brother and he told his Mom that he felt sick and they came and got him. I've only ever hit two people in my life, but I wanted to beat the crap out of him."

"It sounds like you handled things right, is he still around?"

"No, they moved away suddenly in the middle of the school year. I heard some stuff about Pete and maybe he was why they moved."

"You know that usually means someone is messing with them, molesting them."

"I didn't know that!" Chase exclaimed.

"Well, I hope he got some counselling."

"Yeah I hope so, we should get up and get dressed and then get Carter ready."

We slid out of bed and I discovered Chase was a grower. He saw me smiling and blushed and tucked it back into his sleepers. I let him hit the toilet and started putting on underwear, socks and jeans. When he came out, I went in and brushed and washed my face. It was a good skin day and I didn't have any new pimples. My skin had improved in the damp environment of the Pacific Northwest.

I tickled Carter awake and then tossed him over my shoulder and lugged him to his room. I kept him on mission and got his sleepers off and sock and undies on. He walked up to me with his red and white briefs and said, "You wanna see stars?"

"What do you mean?"

Carter spun around and bent over waggling his little bottom at me. On each cheek there was a large yellow star. I couldn't help laughing.

"Okay, so what are you wearing over those?"

"My white Boardies and my yellow shirt."

He even had a pair of yellow canvas slip on shoes. Carter it seemed, had a flair for fashion. And he looked adorable. Jeff joined us and asked if we were ready to go down.

Squeals of jubilant laughter echoed through the house as Jeff came down the stairs with Carter under his arm like a rolled up floor mat. He swung his young son up and gave him a kiss and released him at the base of the stairs. Carter whooped and ran for the kitchen.