The Mayfield Episodes

Episode 13-Broken Boys (Part 2)



<Aiden and Nolan>
The Lewis County Middle School Arts Festival had been held on the Saturday of the first weekend in June at the County Fair Grounds in Centralia for the last twenty-four years. The festival was sponsored by all the public-school districts in the county as well as three private schools. It was a way to celebrate the artistic accomplishments of the closing school year.
“Not only is my boyfriend a star athlete, he’s also a star writer,” Nolan gushed as he sidled up to Aiden. “A real celebrity.”
“I don’t know about that,” Aiden responded. “But I do know I have a star boyfriend. I mean every time you go up my ass, I wonder why I thought doing anal sex was so gross. You always make it feel so awesomely good.”
“If you do it right, it’s not gross. And we do it right.”
“Thanks to Chase, who was a good teacher.”
“He does know how to do it, that’s for sure.”
Aiden pecked Nolan on the lips. “I’m so happy you could spend the night.”
“Even my mom could figure out I’d be going with you to the Arts Festival tomorrow, so getting there from here would mean no work for them. Your dad picked me up after he was done with work, yesterday. Today, I’m riding with you to the Festival and then you’re being dropped off at my house to spend the night with me there—what’s not for my mom to like?”
“I don’t think she is a big fan of what you just got done doing to me.”
“Probably not, but dad keeps her under control,” Nolan giggled. 
“Thanks for wanting to go the Arts Fest with me,” Aiden said with surprising shyness.
“Hey, that’s what being your boyfriend is all about. After you telling me about that email on Wednesday, how could I not go?”
Aiden had received an email from the Arts Fest committee telling him that his story, “The Real Unreal Dragon”, had been voted as one of the five finalists in the sixth grade short story division. There would be three final votes: one by the students at the fair, one by the teachers, and one by the general public. Between those three and the vote by the judges, the winning story and runner-up would be chosen. Votes had to be cast by one o’clock. The winner would be announced at four o’clock, an hour before the Arts Fair closed.
“Besides, I have to go so I can vote for the best story in all three grades,” Nolan grinned.
“Oh? Whose story is that?”
“Duh! It’s yours, of course, you silly goose.”
Aiden looked up at his shelf and smiled. “I think Horace would call me a silly donkey.”
“Whatever, I’ll just call you sexy.”
The boys made out for a while but were too sleepy to go beyond some kissing and groping. They knew that they had Saturday night at Nolan’s house for another round of fun.
<Troy Miller>
(Troy Miller walked past Eddie and Curt begging on the street. He enticed them off the street by offering to buy them lunch. Troy used his questioning skills as a lawyer to learn how the boys ended up becoming homeless street kids.) 


<Eddie Shaffer>
Troy had treated Eddie and Curt to lunch after finding them begging for lunch money on the street. After they finished eating, Miranda, the hostess rang them up at the register.
She pointed to Troy and said to the boys, “You stick with him. He’s a good man and has helped a lot of boys.” She had met Troy’s sons once when he brought them into the café for lunch and introduced them to Miranda and Lila the waitress. Miranda was instantly impressed by the confident and polite demeanor of his two sons. Those boys told her all she needed to know about Troy Miller and she and Lila went out of their way to help not only Troy but two of his fellow volunteers as well.
“Good luck to you all and make it a great day,” she said as the trio left the café.
The boys walked side-by-side with Troy when the available room on the sidewalk allowed it, otherwise one dropped back to follow the other two. They had no idea where Troy was taking them other than it was to his office. More than once Eddie thought about bolting, but he was afraid Curt wouldn’t follow him. While he wasn’t ready to admit it, Eddie needed Curt as much as Curt needed him.
As they walked, Troy called somebody on his phone. Eddie and Curt knew the call had to do with them, but other than that they couldn’t follow what was being said.
While the boys had learned Troy was a lawyer, they were still surprised when they found themselves walking into the county courthouse. They didn’t know he was THAT kind of lawyer. He took them to the security entrance. As a county prosecutor he could bypass the metal detectors and the security check, but he knew the boys were required to go through the procedure. As instructed, Eddie placed his backpack on the conveyor belt to be x-rayed. The backpack held a large percentage of his and Curt’s personal possessions. The guard set out a plastic bowl and told the boys to place anything metal they had in their pockets into it. Eddie said he had nothing in his pockets while Curt placed a medal on a chain into the vessel.
For the first time in his life Eddie walked through a metal detector. He almost jumped out his shoes when the detector started beeping and a light flashed. “I didn’t do nothing,” he screeched with surprise.
“Do you have anything metal in your pockets?” the guard asked without rancor. He was used to people lying about what they had on them. He had a feeling that in this case the boy wasn’t sure about what was going on.
Red with embarrassment at being caught, Eddie took a fold-up knife out of his pocket. He backed through the detector, placed the knife into a container and walked through the detector again, this time quietly.
When he reached for his knife, the guard stopped him. “I’m afraid you can’t take this into the courthouse,” he told the flummoxed boy.
“But I have to have it,” Eddie said. “It protects me and Curt.”
The guard looked to Troy who said, “Vic will place your knife in a holding drawer. You will get it back when we leave.” While Eddie didn’t trust the guard since he looked like a policeman, he trusted Troy as much as he could trust any adult. Troy had yet to lie to him, but there was always a first time. After all, a big-time lawyer like him had to be in this for something, and Eddie still had his moments when he suspected it might be a blow job.
Vic handed Eddie a pen and a slip of paper and asked him to put his name and phone number on the slip. Eddie was once again ready to bolt, but the presence of Curt kept him in place. He printed his name in the slow writing of an unsure boy. “I don’t got a phone,” he told the guard.
“Put my extension on it,” Troy instructed. “It’s 150.”
Troy then led the boys to his office, which was on the tenth floor and had a southern view. Eddie and Curt could see King Street Station, Century Link Field, where the Seahawks played, T-Mobile Park, where the Mariners played, and beyond. “Take a seat, boys,” Troy said, pointing to a leather couch against the wall in front of his desk.
“You’re one of those guys who puts bad guys in jail, right?” Eddie asked as he and Curt sat down.
“Yep. And that pretty much sums up my job description,” he laughed. “I am a Deputy County Prosecutor and I deal with criminal offenses.”
He then called somebody and within a minute a lady who looked to be in her forties entered the office.
“Gentlemen, this is Megan Simmons. Her main role is prosecuting crimes against children. But, that’s not why she’s here. She also is part of the volunteer organization I told you I belonged to.” Troy had a feeling that before the dust settled Megan would be quite interested in Curt’s uncle not to mention finding out more about Eddie’s father from the Lewis County Prosecutor’s office. “You may address her as Mrs. Simmons.”
Troy’s hand made a sweeping gesture toward the boys. “And these two gentlemen are Ed Shaffer and Curt Jankowski, both of whom are more than eager to get a hot shower somewhere.”
“I am pleased to meet you boys. We have every intention of helping you get off the street if you are willing.” Eddie and Curt both liked the motherly sound of Megan’s voice.
Eddie wasn’t entirely happy with what she said, however. “Me and Curt are together. We won’t be split up by nobody or we are outta here,” he said emphatically. Megan wasn’t surprised by Eddie’s assertiveness; she’d often seen it in street kids. Nor was she surprised by his insistence that he not be split from his friend. That was a frequent request, but sadly one that couldn’t be honored very often.
“Well, you see boys…,” she started out patiently when Eddie stood up.
“I’m serious,” Eddie said. “I may just be a kid, but I’m serious and Curt is serious and you, see, Curt needs me and…and…well….” Tears started dripping down the smudged cheeks of the hardened street kid. He took a deep breath, turned his head away from Megan, and looked directly at Troy. “You see Curt needs me,” he repeated. And then, in a barely audible voice that was the opposite of the assertive demand he had just made, he whispered, “and I need him, too.” Curt scooted over and placed his arm around his suddenly vulnerable friend.
Troy gestured for Megan to step outside with him. She walked out of the office, but Troy stopped in front of the couch. He squatted down to bring himself to the boys’ level, something he had often done with his sons, and still did with Logan on occasion. “I’ll be back in a bit, boys. I’m going to see what can be done for you tonight. Take a deep breath. Everything is going to be fine.”
“Do you promise?” Eddie asked knowing how many times promises adults made to him had been broken.
“Sorry, Eddie, I can’t promise that. I can just promise I will do my best for the both of you.”
Troy stood up to leave when Eddie dropped a surprise on him by rising from the couch and wrapping his arms around him in a heartfelt hug. Much more than Curt, whose parents had been reliable forces in his life, Eddie appreciated Troy’s honesty.
“Hey, Curt, you might as well join in and make it a group hug,” Troy said. Curt grinned as he stood up and joined the scrum. Curt had enjoyed a lifetime of hugs, but this was the first hug Curt had received since his parents died.
Eddie and Curt sat back down after Troy left. “Do you really need me?” Curt asked. He had been surprised by his friend’s vulnerability. He thought Eddie could lead him through anything.
Eddie was immediately upset with himself for confessing the vulnerability Curt had seen. He felt he either had to tell Curt the truth or get up and leave. “Yeah, I need you because you’re…well…I guess you’re a pretty special dude.”
Curt wasn’t sure how to respond so the two boys sat in silence, being both comfortable and uncomfortable with each other at the same time.
Outside of the office, Troy and Megan stopped in the outer office where Troy’s secretary and a paralegal were working. “Let’s use the conference room,” Troy suggested.
After settling in two of the chairs in the conference room, they chatted about the fate of Eddie and Curt. “You seem to be taking this personally, which is so unlike you,” Megan said.
“I am, and don’t ask me why because I have no idea.  Maybe it’s Eddie’s connection to Mayfield, but I truly don’t know for sure.”
“I have two places available for them tonight. Ross Hutchins will take one and Wade Price the other.” Both men, along with their wives, were volunteers for the Seattle Children’s Alliance. “But I know neither one has room for two boys,” she said, anticipating what Troy was about to ask.
“I think Curt is desperate enough to accept anything to get off the street. But Eddie is a fragile commodity and will bolt in an instant if he gets separated from Curt. As fragile as he is, he is also street wise and a survivor. He’s a sharp kid, especially when it comes to street smarts, and has a bigger heart than he wants to admit to. Curt is bringing Eddie’s hidden attributes to the surface. I just don’t know how Eddie is going to deal with his newfound vulnerability if he and Curt are split up.”
“It would only be for a night.”
“I think tonight is the key to saving that boy. As far as Eddie is concerned, if we split him from his friend it will be for much more than a night, it will be forever.”
“Do you have plan?”
“I do, but I will need to clear it with Vern first,” Troy said, referring to Vern Reisinger, the County Prosecutor and his boss. “I’ll let you know what I find out, but in the meanwhile plan tomorrow for them with the idea they will both be available.”
“I’ll take the boys to my office for now,” Megan said. “We’ve left them alone much too long already. Kent will be by to pick them up for the requisite visit in about a half-hour.” Troy agreed and they left the conference room.
Before talking to Vern, however, Troy knew he needed to talk to some other people. First, he called Tyson Carr, who had pledged to help Troy and the Alliance in any way he could. Tyson said he would need to talk to his son, Darnell, about it, but it was more to see if he was okay with their taking in two boys instead of just one. “We have the room for them,” Tyson said. “We just have to see if we actually have the will. If D is good with it, we won’t be able to come down until Sunday.”
Troy was certain Darnell had the will. He had found Tyson’s son to be as remarkable a person as his father, who was a lifelong friend of Troy and Larry. Next, he called his wife.
“So, it’s just for one night?” she asked.
“Maybe two.”
“So, we have one tough street kid who will work his wonders on Logan and one orphan who’s a lost boy? That sounds dicey.”
“Logan will be fine. He has Chase protecting him.”
“Well, we said the day might come when we’d play short-term foster parents. If we hadn’t decided to put Logan’s birthday party off until next weekend, I would have said no. But I can live with it for the weekend.” Logan would turn eleven on Sunday but wanted his party the next weekend so they could also celebrate school being finished for the year on Friday.
While Troy was dealing with their placement, Eddie and Curt were introduced to Kent, who drove them to a nearby medical clinic for a full physical. The clinic donated the physicals for the homeless boys to the Alliance, although the Alliance had to pay a percentage of the fee for the bloodwork.
As the boys were getting poked and prodded, Troy was talking with his boss, Vern Reisinger, about his plan. Troy considered Vern to be the best Prosecuting Attorney he’d worked under in his tenure with the County Prosecutor’s office. Vern had been a Seattle Municipal Court judge when he joined a crowded election field after the incumbent Prosecutor came under attack after he decided not to run for re-election. He was attacked for making the decision not to prosecute two policemen accused of asking for sexual favors from a lady driver they had pulled over at one in the morning after they saw her driving erratically. He said there was insufficient evidence to press charges even though the patrol car’s front camera hinted otherwise. Vern had the second highest vote total of the nine candidates in the primary and won in the general election.
Troy felt Vern not only was a man with a brilliant legal mind, he knew how to handle people and situations. And, most importantly, he was a man of integrity. The County Prosecutor’s office did not try cases in Municipal Court but Troy had known Vern through various social and charitable functions. Troy had come close to resigning because of the scandal in the Prosecutor’s office and was more than happy when Vern won the election. He knew Vern was a man he could work with.
“So, your friend and your wife both approve of your plans?”
“Yes, they do.”
“What about your sons?”
“They are in school and I did not want to pull them out of class to ask. I doubt they will object since it will only be for two nights, but they do have veto power.”
“What will you do if a veto happens?”
“We go to plan B, which is actually Megan’s original plan.”
“I’ve never seen you so involved in one of these cases.” Troy thought Vern sounded just like Megan.
“It surprises me, too. I know Curt will make it if he’s handled right, but Eddie is the enigma. I think he’s worth saving, even if we have to give in some to his extortion.”
“Well, every kid we help is potentially one less person we’ll see in court in the future. I wish you luck.” Vern knew he didn’t have to remind Troy about the big murder case that had a Wednesday court date. There was a reason why Troy Miller was the number two man in the County Prosecutor’s office.
When Curt and Eddie returned from their physicals, Troy was pleased to not only see them with clean faces, but with their hair cut and shampooed as well. Kent brought them to Troy’s office. “How did the physicals go?” Troy asked.
“The doctor said he thought we were still alive,” Curt said, showing an understated sense of humor Troy hadn’t seen before, “but he wasn’t going to give us any of our blood back.”
“Yeah, like he needs it more than we do,” Eddie added. For the first time, Troy was seeing the easy going comradery that the boys had been developing in the homeless encampment. “But we really didn’t have to get our hair cut off.” The haircuts had affected Curt more than Eddie who never cared that much about what his hair looked like. Curt, on the other hand, loved his long, blond hair, even though it had become matted and tangled. Curt had considered throwing a temper tantrum like a little kid. But they never worked with his parents, so he had given them up long ago.
“As I’m sure Kent explained to you, cutting your hair was for health reasons more than looks.” While the boys didn’t get buzz cuts, they wouldn’t need to do much combing for a while.
“Where are we going to sleep tonight?” Eddie asked.
“You’re spending the next two nights at my home.”
“Both of us? For reals? I thought you had, like, two sons.”
“I do and they’ll be happy to see you,” Troy said hoping that was true. “Then on Sunday my friend Tyson and his son Darnell will come down from Bellingham to pick you up. Darnell is twelve. You will be living with them while we investigate something permanent. Who knows, that placement could end up being permanent depending on how things play out.”
After answering a string of questions from both boys Troy announced it was time for them to head for his house. “I just have to sign the temporary guardian form and take a copy for Mrs. Miller to sign.”
“Mrs. Miller is your wife?” Eddie asked. Curt looked at him liked he’d asked the dumbest question of the year while Troy maintained an expressionless face. “Well, she could be his mother or something.”
“We’ll have dinner and then try to find you a jacket or a hoodie,” Troy told Eddie. “It might be June, but this is Seattle and as you know June can be pretty cool.”
“I think you’re pretty cool for doing this for us,” Curt said, and Eddie nodded in agreement.
“Can we stop at the camp so I can get some things?” Eddie asked.
“I thought you had your stuff in your backpack,” Troy said.
“Me and Curt have some clothes there and I have my books there. You can forget the sleeping bag since it’s pretty gross.” Especially with all of the cum I’ve shot in it when Blue fucked me and since Curt’s been sleeping with me, Eddie thought. At least Blue shot his cum into my ass, even if it didn’t always stay there. Curt didn’t shoot cum yet.
“You have books?” Troy asked as if that was impossible.
“I didn’t steal them,” Eddie said in case that was what Troy was thinking. “You try going into a bookstore in dirty ragged clothes and long hair that’s all messed up. I had half the people who work there watching me until I paid for my books. I spent some of my money on books cuz I wasn’t going to school and I didn’t want to be even dumber than I already was.”  Eddie didn’t say where the money came from, but he knew that Troy knew he earned it from hooking.
Gil grinned when he saw Eddie and Curt slogging down the hill. He was leery of the man in the suit who was with them, however. “Hey boys, how did the money-making go?” the old man asked with a big grin.
“Not good, but this dude bought us lunch,” Eddie said. Gil eyed Troy suspiciously.
Troy introduced himself and held out his hand, but Gil didn’t accept Troy’s hand. He didn’t trust a man in a suit who thought it was okay to buy lunch for “his” boys. He pegged Troy as a pervert and had no qualms about showing his disrespect for the man.
“We came to get our stuff, especially my books. Troy says he found a place for us to stay.”
“Humph, I’m sure he did. You boys be careful, you hear?” Gil knew that Eddie was a boy prostitute and had sex with men for money. But a person needed money to eat, which was different than becoming some man’s sex toy in order to get a meal and a soft bed. While he knew Eddie could take care of himself, it was Curt, who, even after a few weeks on the streets, still maintained an air of innocence.
“Don’t worry, Gil. Troy is cool and me and Curt get to stay together.” He led Troy to Blue’s old tent. Curt stayed behind with Gil. He had everything he needed in Troy’s tote bag.
Troy shook his head when he investigated the hovel the boys lived in. Eddie pulled four books out of the mess and stuffed them into the tote bag Troy had brought with him.
“Are you taking anything else?” Troy asked.
“Nope. The sleeping bag is gross, and the tent belongs to Blue. I figure somebody can use it until he comes back. I got everything else in my backpack except the jacket I gotta buy.”
“That’s going to be our next stop.”
They came back for Curt, who was listening to Gil tell him that being homeless and on the streets wasn’t as bad as people said it was. Curt didn’t agree with that; as he saw it being homeless and living on the streets was worse than people said.
Troy took the boys to Northgate where he paid for a Washington Huskies hoodie for Eddie and a Mariners baseball cap for Curt. “I could’ve paid for my own hoodie,” Eddie whined.
“Save your money for when you need it,” Troy told him. “And if you’re worried about my money, I’m not that much of a nice guy. I’ll be reimbursed.”
When Chase and Logan got home from school, their mother told them about the surprise weekend guests. “They’re about Logan’s age. One will be sleeping in the guest room and the other on the pullout couch in the basement.” It didn’t occur to her that the boys might want to sleep together.
“And you said the one boy was from Mayfield?” Chase thought that sounded too crazy to be true.
“Yes. Your father said his name is Edward, but he likes to be called Eddie. Does he sound like any of Aiden’s friends?”
“I don’t remember that name. Do you remember him, Logan?”
“I hope you boys are okay with this. We’ve told you it could happen when your father started volunteering for the Alliance.”
“But you said you’d ask us if we were okay with somebody coming,” Logan said.
“Things started happening faster than your father thought they would. He said everything was rushed because the boys didn’t want to be split up.”
“And they’re going to live with Darnell and his dad?” Chase asked.
“Yes. Tyson and Darnell will come to pick them up on Sunday.”
Chase went up to his room, his young teen mind full of questions. He wondered if Eddie and that other kid would still be coming if they hadn’t put off Logan’s birthday party for a week. He decided he’d ask when he went back downstairs. Right now, he wanted to get the real facts about the mysterious Mayfield kid. He took his phone out of his pocket and speed dialed his cousin Aiden’s number.
“Hey cuz, how’s it hanging?” he asked when Aiden answered the call.
“Just like any dick, which means most of time,” Aiden replied. “Well except yours, which is always up.”
“That’s because it’s thinking of how I’m going to fuck you next weekend.”
“See, that’s what I mean. Is that why you called me?”
“No, I called you because I want to find out if you know somebody.” Chase told his cousin what he knew about Eddie. He said that Eddie and a kid named Curt would be spending two nights at his house and why.
“That has to be Eddie Shaffer, who kind of disappeared a few months ago. Fuck, cuz, if he’s going to be at your house, you’d better lock up your mom’s silverware.”
“Oh? You mean he’s been caught stealing?”
“Yeah, he got caught shoplifting at least once that I know of. I’d call Eddie Shaffer an asswaffle, except I would be, like, rude to all of the rest of the asswaffles in the world.”
“I get the idea you don’t like him,” Chase said.
“Me and everybody else.”
“I wonder if Darnell and his dad know about him.”
“What does Darnell have to do with Eddie?”
“Darnell’s dad is going to be his and the other kid’s foster dad.” Chase’s comment was met by a long and disconcerting silence. “Are you there?”
“Yeah, I’m here. It’s just that what you told me totally sucks.”
“Because when Darnell was visiting last summer, he came to watch me play baseball and Eddie was on the team. At least he kind of was. Anyway, he saw Darnell and gave him a ton of shit for being black. I can tell you this, once Eddie Shaffer sees who he is going to be living with, he’s going to totally freak.”


<Aiden and Nolan>
Breakfast was a light one of cereal and toast. Aiden and Nolan knew that some of the concession stands at the fair would be open, and they wanted to have room for tasty snacks. Of course, the boys were naked when they sat at the table to eat.
“Would you freak out if my dads were naked when they ate with us?” Aiden asked Nolan.
“Nope, they look pretty good for a couple of old guys,” Nolan replied seriously.
“Hmph, old guys? We were going to clean up the dishes after we ate,” Phil said, “but now, I don’t know. What do you think, Larry?”
“I think because we’re going to see something important for Aiden, we’ll give them a pass this time.”
“Hey, it was Nolan who said it, not me,” Aiden protested.
“But you know you were thinking about saying it,” Nolan retorted. Aiden’s deep body blush was all the answer Nolan needed.
Aiden then got serious and told his dads about his conversation with Chase the night before. Larry said Troy had told him about Eddie and Curt. He did not tell Aiden that Eddie had told Troy his name was Aiden, however. Larry said he realized that there might be trouble with Eddie and Darnell, and therefore Darnell’s father, but he agreed with Troy that the idea had to be tried.
Aiden said he didn’t like the idea because Darnell was his friend and Eddie was worse than an asswaffle, but he knew there wasn’t anything he could do about it. When he and Nolan went upstairs to dress, Aiden told him he was really bothered about Eddie being matched up with Darnell.
“I know Darnell was really upset by what Eddie told him when Darnell came here to visit. There is no way that is going to work. There’s going to be a fight for sure. If the adults had just asked us kids about it, we would have told them exactly what we thought. I just hope Darnell doesn’t get hurt by all this, because I know Eddie hurt him before.”
Nolan tried to reassure Aiden that things would work out fine, but he could see that his boyfriend was upset by what he had learned the night before. All Nolan could think to do was hug him and tell him to enjoy the festival and not let the news bother him. Nolan could tell that Aiden was only half listening to him.
Aiden, Nolan, Phil, and Larry made it to the Centralia Fairgrounds just after ten o’clock. They met Nolan’s parents at a prearranged spot and the six of them walked through the exhibit hall. They looked at the student art and photography, read stories, listened to individual students and school bands and orchestras play both in the exhibition hall and on the concert stage. They enjoyed Fairburgers, raspberry scones, waffle cones filled with ice cream, and cold drinks.
They also voted for their choices for best in the show for the different categories. Aiden couldn’t vote in his category, but he could support fellow Mayfield students in other categories. One of the categories in which he didn’t vote for a Mayfield Middle School student was Seventh Grade Photography. He was drawn to the photos of trains by Everett Quinn, a Meadow Park Middle School seventh grader, who received his vote, and Nolan’s, of course.
“I’d like to meet that guy,” Aiden told Nolan.
“He’s really cute. I didn’t know he took train pictures until just now.  We really do have to meet that dude,” Nolan responded.
Larry and Phil were pleased to see Aiden out of the funk he’d been in for a bit. He was his usual sparkly, charming self, and he and Nolan were obviously enjoying each other’s company. They were both aware of the ups and downs of young adolescents as they worked their way into puberty and were glad that Aiden was back into up mode, at least for the weekend.
Aiden had to show off his story, of course. There were six laptops on a table, each one containing all the stories. The voting was done on the laptop. There were safeguards to prevent anyone from voting more than once. He also noted that Heather’s story was one of the five sixth grade story finalists, giving Mayfield two finalists. Phil and Larry thought that spoke well for Mayfield Middle School and for Mr. Lawrence.  
Aiden had heard Heather’s story but read the other three. He could see that the competition was going to be tough—they were all well-written, creative tales.
“Hi, Aiden,” came a girl’s voice from behind him. He turned and saw Heather, who was flashing a wide grin.
“Oh, hi, Heather,” Aiden responded with a polite smile. “Congratulations on being a finalist.”
“Thank you, Aiden,” she gushed. “Mom and dad are so excited. And isn’t it cool that Mayfield Middle School has TWO finalists?”
Nolan wondered why Heather didn’t specifically mention Aiden’s name or congratulate him, but he kept his mouth shut. He wrote her off as a ditsy girl. Plus, he didn’t like her story. He thought Aiden’s was way better and was certain there had to be a lot of stories that were submitted that were better than hers.
“We gotta go,” Aiden lied. “Good luck. You wrote a good story.” Aiden honestly thought that was true, but like Nolan, he thought there had to be a lot of better stories than hers.
“Will you be here this afternoon for the announcement of the winners?”
“Yep, we plan on hanging around.”
“Who’s your friend? You didn’t introduce me.”
Aiden pointed to Nolan. “This is my friend Nolan. He goes to Meadow Park.” He then pointed to Heather. “This is Heather. She goes to Mayfield, in case you couldn’t figure it out.” Aiden wondered if Heather noticed Nolan’s clandestine one finger salute.
“It’s nice to meet you, Nolan,” Heather said in a syrupy voice. “How did you two meet each other?”
“Sports,” they said simultaneously.
“Well, I hope one of us wins best story. I have to go find my parents.” Heather gave her long brunette hair a quick toss and walked off.
“I think she likes you, Aiden,” Nolan chortled.
“Shut up. She’s just looking for somebody to talk to. We hardly ever talk at school.” Aiden quickly changed the subject. “Let’s walk around and see who we can hang out with.”
Aiden and Nolan soon found Gordy and Miles with Kalie and Brittany. They went to the crafts area and looked at the finalists. The Mayfield chorus was scheduled to sing at eleven-thirty. The six of them arrived in plenty of time to get seats together. Mason was a member of the chorus and had a small solo part in the song they would be singing. Mason would also be performing a solo piano work after lunch. The choir sounded great, as did Mason.
There was no voting for the choruses, since they were at the fair by invitation to entertain. The Mayfield chorus was one of the choruses invited since they had won the county middle school choral competition in mid-May.
Mason joined the six of them for lunch at the food pavilion. They sat together at a table not far from where Aiden’s dads were sitting with Nolan’s parents. Gordon and Kalie noted just as they were finishing lunch that their parents were eating together at a table on the far side of the pavilion. 
They started getting bored after lunch. If not for Mason’s upcoming performance and Aiden’s story they would have pleaded with their parents to head home.
The last thing they did was sit together in the bleachers in the concert arena where the Best of Show winners would be announced. Mayfield Middle School ended up with five winners, which everyone agreed was an outstanding showing.
Photography was the first category picked. Everett Quinn, the Meadow Park seventh grader who took the train pictures, was named first runner-up. As he watched Everett go up on the stage to receive his certificate, Aiden agreed with Nolan that Everett was really cute. Brett Vincent, a Mayfield eighth grader, was the photography Best of Show with his snow pictures. Photography encompassed all three grades. The Mayfield sixth graders plus Nolan cheered wildly.
Mason was picked as the top instrumental soloist by a panel of judges, leading to another round of loud cheers. Linda Cox, a seventh grader, was the top entry in the needle work category for her scarf, while Tamara Esche was first runner-up for her crotchet Christmas tree ornaments. Both girls were Mayfield eighth graders.
The short story category was the next one to have its Best of Show selections announced. The selections were announced in order of grade. The Master of Ceremonies read from his notes. “In the sixth-grade category, the second runner-up, from Mayfield Middle School…,” Aiden took a deep breath, “…is Heather Gardner for her story ‘Giant Thunder’.” The applause from the Mayfield section was loud, but not as raucous as it had been for the previous winners. Aiden found he could breathe again. After Heather received her certificate the MC announced Tonya Stephens as first runner-up for her story “Hidden Dogs”. That left the Best of the Show story to be announced.
It was now time to name first place and once again Aiden couldn’t breathe. He found the entire situation more tense than pitching with the bases loaded and nobody out. “And the Best of Show in the sixth-grade division of the short story category, for his story ‘The Real Unreal Dragon’, from Mayfield Middle School…,” Aiden was ready to faint, “…is Aiden Miller.”
Aiden thought that the cheers around him were going to bust his ears. He rose from his seat and headed to the stage to pick up his beautiful engraved certificate. It was the happiest he had been in a long time.
That night Aiden was involved with Nolan and for the fourth night in a row he didn’t say his gratitude prayer. He didn’t even realize he had forgotten it until he and Nolan were cuddled naked on Nolan’s bed, and then his thought was interrupted by Nolan.
“That was good, but I like doing you better than you doing me,” Nolan told him.
“Which is good since I like you doing me better than me doing you,” Aiden said.
“It’s still good if we switch around though.”
“Yeah, and do other things, like blow jobs.”
“Next time it’s BJ time,” Nolan grinned. The two boyfriends kissed, snuggled closer, and were soon asleep.
After brushing his teeth and cleaning up, Aiden kneeled next to his bed. As always when he was ready for bed, he was naked. He was ready to do what he had been forgetting so often—saying what he was grateful for. “I’m grateful to be a good writer,” Aiden whispered aloud. “I’m grateful Nolan loves me like I love him. I’m grateful that Horace listens to me.”
He stopped, wondering if he should say what else was on his mind or forget about it since it was really a stupid thing to be grateful for. He started to rise and then dropped back down. “I’m grateful I didn’t drink alcohol today.” He then rose and climbed into his bed. It wasn’t the first time he’d thought about alcohol, but it was the first time he had been grateful for not using it.
He held his stuffed animal. “Tell me why I should be grateful for something I never thought about doing,” he asked his beloved donkey. As always Horace said nothing. Aiden turned on his left side and fell into a fitful sleep. 
Next: Broken Boys (Part 3)