That evening, Robert and his dad sat in the man's special chair, down in the Theater. There was a movie on but neither was actually watching as the two were deep in conversation. They talked about the days swim and had a good laugh over that. They discussed the Household Manager ad, as Ken was now calling the position, and what Ken was looking for in the new hire. Robert brought up Eric, wanting to have a serious talk with his dad about his best friend.
"Can I talk to you … about what Eric told me? I know you said if it is important enough the person should go to the other but I don't think Eric will, on this one," stated Robert.
"You know I don't want to … well, it isn't right if you tell someone something another person doesn't want revealed," cautioned Mr. Ken.
"That's the thing, 'dad', I'm not sure he'd mind … I mean I don't think he'd mind me telling you this … but, if I tell you, you got to promise you won't tell his mom! OK?" Robert said, as seriously as he could.
Hugging his 'son' with a few quick pulls to his side, Mr. Ken told Robert, "You put me in a bad position, 'son' by making me promise something like that. What if you're going to tell me Eric is a drug user. I'd have an obligation to tell his mom. Or, what if he got a girl pregnant; I'd for sure have to tell her. You understand what I'm saying?" 'dad' Ken tried to explain, to his new 'son'.
"Yes, 'dad', I understand that … but, this isn't anything like that. None of my friends use drugs, at least that I know of, and Eric … he hasn't had sex with anyone but mm…eee. Sheesh, I stepped in that one, didn't I?" the now blushing boy said.
"Robert, okay, I'll tell you what. If it is something I think Mrs. Turner should know I'll give you time to let Eric tell her first. Do you think that would be fair?" quizzed Mr. Ken.
"Now, you've put me in that same position … but, I'm gonna take that chance. I think you should know this for Eric's sake!"
"Are you sure, 'son'?" asked Mr. Ken.
"Yea … OK, here goes. 'Dad' … Eric … well, he wishes you were his 'dad'! Wait, Wait … he knows you aren't going to marry his mom for that to happen, because your ages are too far apart. He … he just wishes he had … you know … someone like you he could talk boy-to-man stuff about. He thinks you are really kewl and he sees how well we get along and … he's just miserable, sometimes. He's had me ask you questions for him so he could get an idea of how you'd act, or reply," Robert quickly described the conundrum.
"So, that is why I got those weird questions from you. When you asked, I figured we covered that once before or that you would have known that but … so, it was actually Eric wanting to know the answer. Why, 'son', didn't he just ask me?" a perplexed 'dad' Ken asked.
"He was afraid, 'dad'. He didn't know how to approach you and even though he talks to you all the time, he was … he was afraid you'd tell his mom what you talked about. He doesn't want her to know he has some issues he needs someone to talk to about and he says he can't talk to her about … you know, certain boy things and SEX and Boners and …" Robert began to tail off.
"Ahhh, I get it now! Robert, this is unusual for sure, and I can surly identify Eric's dilemma. I'll tell you what. I told Eric once before he could talk to me about things and I wouldn't tell his mom, but maybe he thought it wasn't for everything he needed an answer for. I like Eric. Maybe not as much as you do" he chuckled "but, 'son', I hope you know I will help you, and your friends, out any way I can, short of breaking the law! Next time Eric is over here I think the three of us should talk. Maybe like our Tuesday night chats. How does that sound to you?" coaxed Mr. Ken.
"Well, if he came over every Tuesday, Miss Judy would want to know what was going on!" exclaimed Robert.
"No, no, not have him over on that day. We would chat like we do on any night with him, say, maybe on a night he stays over. We'd have lots of time then and he can ask and say what he needs to get stuff off his chest. Will that work?" a hopeful Mr. Ken asked.
"Yeaaa, I get it now. OK, let's try that! Thanks, dad. Eric really looks up to you as much as I do! I just know he will want to try that, too," agreed Robert, and then the lad gave his dad a great big hug.
The two of them reclined there for quite some time relaxing and relishing the close contact. Robert always looked forward to these times with his 'dad'. He just thoroughly enjoyed his company and he felt so safe and secure being held by this man who has changed his world for the better. Ken too, enjoyed the association and the company of the youngster. He could feel his influence on the boy had been well received by the lad's response to him and the returned 'love' he freely gave him, a stranger not so long ago.
With Mildred Johnston gone, Ken felt the quiet in the house. It seemed she did a lot of walking around and checking this and that but he never really understood what she did, and why. At the time, all he cared about was that the household ran smoothly and the employees and bills were paid, on time. He had to wonder if he got his money's worth from her for what he paid her. All of a sudden, he realized that it didn't matter and the only thing that did matter, right now, involved his 'son' and his security and happiness.
Now that he had to take care of running the household, once more, Ken Thomas found the days ran together. He complained to himself he didn't have all the needed time to work on his projects, like the rezoning of the lakefront property, so he could build a hotel and office building, and run The Cove, too. He also knew he would need to press Bill Jackson on approving the ad for a new Household Manager. Time became an issue and he didn't have enough of it to suit him.
Robert too, noticed the change in The Cove. He no longer had to contend with Ms. Johnston every day, especially after school. And, even Maria seemed a lot happier too. The one thing the lad did enjoy, due to the removal of Mildred, came from the 'after school snacks' Momma Maria had for him. Then it hit him. As Mildred began to harass him after school, the snacks became simple cookies and milk and not the special sweet cakes he'd gotten use to before Mildred's aggressiveness. 'There's gotta be some correlation to what happened to him and the decline in Maria's attention to making special treats', the lad thought. 'Mildred must have done or, at least, said something to Maria to upset her and caused the decline in his snacks.' Robert continued to think. The lad then made a notation to his List to talk to 'dad' about that when they had the chance.
On Wednesday, Mr. Ken asked Robert to meet him in the Study after the lad finished his homework. The lad then began to wonder if he'd done anything wrong to get his 'dad' mad at him. He thought and thought about all he'd done since he arrived at the Cove and couldn't come up with anything other than the nude swimming and what he and Eric did together. Then, thinking back, he remembered 'dad' Ken never got mad at him, for those things, and even laughed at the boys for being naked in front of him, the day he brought those cokes and sandwiches. He just couldn't come up with anything so he'd figured he'd find out soon enough and quickly finished his homework, and walked, not run, to the Study.
"Hey there buddy, you got you school work all done?" asked Mr. Ken.
"Yep, this school is just as good as my last one and I got lucky because I didn't have any extra school work to do to get caught up to my classmates. And, I really like my teachers and the guys at school are all pretty neat," responded Robert.
Ken smiled at the lad's comment about the 'guys' all being 'pretty neat'. So, he decided to tease his 'son' and just as he began to ask 'what about the girls' Robert beat him to it.
"I see that smile 'dad' and you're going to ask 'what about the girls' aren't you?" laughed the preteen. "The girls are nice and all, and as long as they stay away from me and then we will continue to get along," teased Robert.
"Oh … do tell," smiled Ken in response.
"'Dad' you know what I'm saying. You were my age once and you know how the girls just bug you about stuff. They play these games of theirs and all they care about is who likes who and if you like so-and-so. Us guys … we just want to be left alone, well, most of them do anyway. But, I haven't been there long enough for the girls to start in on me, yet, but I can see it coming," answered the lad.
"So, what did you want to talk to me about, 'dad'?" added Robert.
Still smiling, Mr. Ken Said, "Well, Robert, there's a 3-day weekend coming up. I wondered if you thought about doing anything special during the weekend."
"Wow, I never realized it was this weekend," excitedly replied Robert. "I never thought about doing anything because I never did anything during that school holiday, before."
"Well, I did think about it and … I got Ms. Judy's permission to take you somewhere, if we want to go. So, if you had the chance to go someplace … where might you want to go?" challenged the new 'dad'.
"You had to get Ms. Turner's permission to take me away? Why'd you have to do something like that?" asked the lad.
"I take it then, your other foster families never took you anywhere. Is that how it was?" solicited the man.
"Yea … I never got to go anywhere, while I lived in those other houses. And, when I lived with my mom and dad, the last time we went anywhere I was nine and just before … well … you know," relayed a somber Robert.
"Okay, then we can change that this weekend, my 'son'," excitedly declared Mr. Ken. "As for your question, about getting permission, CPS and the State of Texas requires I fill out a form to tell them where we'd go and how long we'd be gone, and more. I've already done that and Ms. Judy sent it back to me in today's mail. So … where would you like to go?"
Robert sat there and thought for a few moments before blurting out, "Walt Disney World!"
"Well, we can't do that one this time out. We only have three days and there is so much to do at Disneyworld we'd need at least a week. I thought we'd stay inside Texas for this trip. For example, we could go to the coast and visit the Lexington down in Corpus Christi, or we could go to the coast and just chill and do some fishing or dolphin watching," suggested Mr. Ken.
"The major amusement parks are closed for the season, except for Kemah Boardwalk, located east of Houston. If we went there, we could also visit the Battleship Texas and then there is Seawolf Park that has a sub and a destroyer we could also visit. We could also just stay in downtown San Antonio and visit the Riverwalk, the Alamo and the Tower of the Americas. Does that give you some ideas? Now, we don't have to do those, but considering we only have those three days, and not much time to make the arrangements, what do you say there, Tiger?"
"I never thought I'd get the chance to do anything like this, so … I don't have any idea. Can I think about the places you mentioned and tell you, tomorrow?" inquired the lad.
"Well, I was hoping to make the arrangements tomorrow morning, while you were at school. I want us to leave right after school, Friday, so we can have all the time we can," explained 'dad'.
"Ah, 'dad', ah could … do you think … ah could Eric come with us?" tepidly probed the lad.
"Well, 'son', I thought it would be just you and me for this trip. We haven't had much together time and I hoped going on this easy trip we could get to know one another a little better," came back Mr. Ken.
"Ah … OK, 'dad', I was just wondering … that's all," answered back Robert. "But, I think seeing the battleship and the sub and the other ship would be fun. Is that OK, with you, 'dad'?"
Dinner that night was great, as always. The two told Maria they would be gone Friday night through Monday evening letting her know she had a long weekend to herself. She thanked them for telling her so early and quickly went off to make a call to make plans of her own. While she did that the two residents of Three Finger Cove talked about their upcoming trip with Robert asking what clothes to take and did 'dad' have an extra suitcase for him to use. Of course those questions brought back the memory of when Collin needed suitcases and immediately after finishing dinner the man and boy, departed for The Mall to get Robert a suitcase or two, and a few more clothes, just in case.
Robert told Eric about his pending trip, at school the next day, and apologized that he couldn't go. Eric then told his best friend that he'd already done that back when Collin lived there and told Robert to enjoy the trip and to get to know his new 'dad' better. That made Robert happy knowing Eric had already seen those ships and wouldn't be missing anything. On Friday, a limousine waited for the lad to exit the school at day's end. His 'dad' waited inside the long car and greeted him as he entered. Robert's first trip in a long time, had begun.