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cherokee morning song

Cherokee Morning Song

Chapter Eighteen

Jeremy finished loading his car to begin his trip home for Christmas break and then looked around his apartment thinking he may have forgotten something. Satisfied that he had packed everything he would need for the next month, he locked his apartment to begin the drive home. Suddenly he remembered that he had left food in the refrigerator that would spoil during the long break. He went about the task of empting the refrigerator of the perishable items such as milk, eggs, butter, and juice. Not wanting to waste food he put these items in a bag and called Julie.

"Hey Julie, I'm leaving now. I hate to throw out food and will bring over the thing in my refrigerator that would spoil, you know, things like milk and eggs."

"Sure bring them over."

"I hate it that you're staying in Norman to work during Christmas break," Jeremy said as he placed the bag of food on Julie's counter.

"I'll be going home some, but remember that Wes lives in Moore and will be around to keep me company."

"Oh crap, I almost forgot your Christmas gift. I left it by the door so I wouldn't forget it. I'll be right back."

"You got me an iPod?" Julie asked in disbelief when Jeremy returned with her gift. "You shouldn't have spent that much money."

"After all you've done for me; it's the least I could have done."

"Now I feel bad about the gift I gave you."

"I'll love it, I'm sure."

"Go ahead and open it now, since you let me open my gift."

"It's beautiful, I love it," Jeremy said when opened his gift. "You saw me looking at this sweater when we were at Dillard's the other day, didn't you?"

"Yes, and I knew you liked it but wouldn't buy it for yourself. It's from Wes and me."

"Will you give Wes my gift to him?"

"Sure, if you tell me what it is."

"Two tickets to the Billy Joel and Elton John concert in Tulsa. I'm sure he can find a date to take."

"He'd better take me or I'll kick his ass."

"I need to get going. You and Wes have a Merry Christmas."

"You too."

Jeremy put a Christmas CD in the CD player and headed his car east toward Tahlequah and home. After a few minutes of Christmas music, he decided he wasn't in a frame of mind for Christmas music. He instead put in a Josh Groban CD.

When Jeremy saw the exit sign for Shawnee he couldn't help but wonder what had become of Chad, the Oklahoma Baptist University student he had helped. 'It's too bad people can't live their lives as they were meant to live it,' he thought. 'It seems that most religions will forgive adultery, theft, or even murder, but are unwilling to forgive homosexuality.'

Jeremy arrived home to a familiar scene of Nancy and Annie in the kitchen preparing a welcome home dinner. "How does he always time his arrival just as dinner is almost ready," Nancy teased as she kissed her son on the cheek.

"I have a very predictable mother," Jeremy countered. "I'll bet you even invited Scott and Molly for dinner."

"She did not," Annie laughed as she received her hug and kiss from Jeremy. "I invited them. Scott is bringing Kerri tonight."

"Where is Dad?" Jeremy asked.

"He is feeding the horses," Nancy said. "I don't know why we keep them. Since you've been away at college they are rarely ridden."

"I won't be away to college forever," Jeremy argued. "I think I'll go help Dad with the feeding."

"Too late," Allen said as he returned from his task. "How are you feeling, Son?"

"I'm feeling fine," Jeremy said as he received a welcome home hug from his dad.

"Jeremy would you please set the table for me?" Nancy asked.

"I thought Kerri was coming with you," Jeremy said when Scott and Molly arrived.

"We broke up," Scott quietly said.

"Do you want to talk about it?" Jeremy asked.

"She was cheating on me," Scott said.

"I'm sorry to hear that," Jeremy said. "How are you doing?"

"I'm doing okay," Scott said. "I suspected something for a while."

"Is it anybody that I know?" Jeremy asked.

"Parker Jensen," Scott said.

"She is seeing that jerk?" Jeremy asked in surprise.

"She likes his money," Molly said. "I hope I'm never that shallow."

"You'll never be, Honey," Nancy said. "I hope everybody is hungry. Annie made a big pot of her chicken and dumplings."

"I'm starving," Jeremy said. "I'm glad Annie made plenty."

"Scott, don't fret over her," Annie said as she dished him a second helping of chicken and dumplings over his protest.

"There is no hurt worse than being dumped," Scott said.

"Oh yes there is," Jeremy said as a bit of sadness came out in his voice.

"I'm sorry, Jeremy, I didn't mean that the way it came out," Scott said.

"I know you didn't," Jeremy said. "I guess losing someone you care for hurts regardless."

"You will both find love when you least expect it," Annie predicted. "Sometimes we look into the night sky and there it is; a star that suddenly twinkles just for us. It seems to stand out among all the stars. One day you'll see that star. You won't be looking for it, but it will suddenly appear when you least expect it."

"I hope I find my star too," Molly said. "It seems like all the boys I know only want one thing, and I'm not giving that to them just to have a boyfriend."

"You'd better not," Scott warned.

"You should talk," Molly laughed. "I know you and Kerri were doing it."

"Shut up, Molly," Scott scolded as he blushed revealing that Molly was correct.

"How about some apple pie a la mode," Nancy said rescuing Scott from his embarrassment.

"Are you two ready for our trip to Florida?" Allen asked as they enjoyed their apple pie.

"I am," Molly said.

"He wants to spend some time with his parents and friends before he leaves so he has a flight that arrives in Tulsa about two hours before we leave for Florida," Jeremy said. "So we'll be meeting him at the airport in Tulsa. He'll spend a couple of days with us here in Oklahoma before flying on home to California.

"It looks like everything is planned," Allen said.

"If we all go, who will feed the horses?" Scott asked.

"I hadn't thought about that," Allen confessed.

"I can stay and take care of them," Scott volunteered.

"I'll call Jim Sixkiller, and asked if one of his boys can do it," Annie said. "They're both honest boys and are always looking to earn extra money."

"Tell them I'll give them $50 each," Allen said.

"That's a lot of money for just a few days," Annie said.

"It will be worth it knowing that they're honest," Allen said. "Tell them to come by and either Jeremy or I will show them where the feed is.

"When will Casey be here?" Nancy asked.

"He'll be here the twenty-sixth," Jeremy said. "He wants to spend some time with his parents and friends before he leaves so he has a flight that arrives in Tulsa about two hours before we leave for Florida," Jeremy said. "So we'll be meeting him at the airport in Tulsa. He'll spend a couple of days with us here in Oklahoma before flying on home to California.

"Isn't he your cute friend from California?" Molly asked.

"He's Jeremy's friend from California and a college guy," Scott said. "And he is too old for you."

"I'm almost sixteen," Molly protested.

"Oh my, it doesn't seem possible that you're almost sixteen," Nancy said. "I guess you'll soon be driving."

"I wanted to take driver's education next semester, but Dad said no," Molly said.

"Why in the hell not?" Jeremy asked.

"He said he wouldn't pay for my driver's education class and that he saw no reason for me to learn to drive," Molly said.

"That's bullshit," Annie said. "I'll have a little chat with your dad."

"Please don't," Molly said. "He'll just take it out on me."

"If he does, you let me know," Nancy said to everyone's surprise.

"Nancy is right," Annie said. "He's lucky that I'm letting him off easy about getting you a car."

"You are?" Molly asked unable to hide her disappointment.

"Don't worry honey," Nancy said. "Annie and I talked it over and decided that we'll get you a car. Your dad already has to pay for Cody and Scott's insurance."

"Dad doesn't pay for my insurance, I pay it myself," Scott said.

"He agreed to pay for it," Annie said. "I'll talk to him about that."

"No, have him pay for Molly's insurance," Scott said. "I'll continue paying for mine."

"Isn't he paying for Cody's insurance?" Annie asked.

"I believe so," Scott said.

"I was going to pay for Molly's," Annie said. "You bring your next insurance bill to me and I'll pay yours instead. Your dad will pay for Molly's."

"You've done too much for us already," Scott protested.

"Nonsense," Annie said. "I have more money that I'll ever need. You young people are like my grandchildren. I was a lonely old woman until the day this skinny kid rode his bike up and offered to help me change a flat tire."

"Who was the skinny kid," Molly asked.

"Jeremy was that skinny kid," Annie laughed.

"Jeremy was a skinny kid?" Molly asked. "Look at him now, he is a hunk."

"He gets that from me," Allen bragged.

"You are becoming buff dear," Nancy laughed.

"I'll take credit for that," Scott said. "I'm the one that comes by and drags his butt out to the workout room."

"After a meal like tonight and then Christmas next week, I'll have to spend extra time out there," Allen said.

"Oh yeah, Christmas," Scott frowned.

"Are you not looking forward to Christmas?" Nancy asked.

"Dad always wants to drag us off to a 'family' Christmas," Scott said. "This year I'm not going. I'm tired of being preached to by that bunch of hypocrites."

"Then if you're not going, neither am I," Molly said.

"You're both welcome to spend Christmas with us," Nancy said.

"Thank you," Scott said. "I may end up in a fight with Dad over this, but I refuse to spend another miserable Christmas day like in the past."

"If you really don't want to go I'll talk to your dad when I talk to him about Molly's driver's education class," Nancy said. "He thinks I'm a witch and is afraid of my powers."

"You do have powers," Jeremy said. "But, I think of it as good powers."

"I don't know if I have the gift or not," Annie admitted. "Mitch thinks I do and for now that's good enough."

"They day I turn eighteen I'm moving out," Molly declared.

"When you turn eighteen, I'm moving out too," Scott said.

"You're both welcome to move in here with us," Allen said as Nancy nodded her agreement.

"As long as Molly has some place safe to live I can make it on my own," Scott said.

"You two know that we love you as our own," Nancy said. "Our home will always be your home too."

"Thank you," Scott said as he fought back tears. "I guess I had better go home and to bed. I have to work in the morning."

"I'll go with you," Annie said. "I want to talk to Mitch. I'll help Nancy clean up the kitchen first."

"No, you go on," Jeremy said. "I'll help."

"I know you wished that you could have had a daughter like Molly," Jeremy said as he loaded the dishwasher.

"Oh Honey, I'll never be sorry that I had you," Nancy said. "I wish I could have had more children. But, you were an unexpected blessing. The doctors told us that we would never have children. When I discovered I was pregnant with you I couldn't believe it. However, if I'd ever had another child I would have been pleased if it were a girl like Molly."

"I feel sorry for Cody that he can't see real life like Molly and Scott," Jeremy said. "He'll never be happy until he can deal with being gay."

"Maybe he isn't strong enough to admit it like you," Allen said as he joined the conversation.

"He wasn't fortunate enough to have great parents like I have," Jeremy said, putting a smile on the faces of his parents.

"What do you have planned for tomorrow?" Allen asked Jeremy.

"I thought I'd go horseback riding tomorrow, why do you ask?" Jeremy asked.

"I'm going shopping for a new SUV hybrid in the morning, and if I find what I want I'll need you to drive the old one home," Allen said.

"I suppose I could ride in the afternoon, but why don't you trade the old one in?" Jeremy asked.

"That's part of the plan that your mother and Annie came up with," Allen said. "Molly will get your car and you'll get my old SUV."

"Why wasn't I asked about this?" Jeremy asked.

"Honey, I guess we should have," Nancy said. "We assumed you would want the SUV, but if you don't we can sell it and get Molly a different car."

"I didn't say I didn't want the SUV," Jeremy admitted. "I'm just surprised by all of this."

"I don't understand," Nancy said. "Do you think we shouldn't let Molly have your car?"

"I'll admit I've loved my car," Jeremy said. "It is my first, but I can't think of a better person to hand it down to than Molly."

"The plan is for you to leave your car here when you go back to college, and Molly can learn to drive using it," Allen said.

Jeremy woke the next morning to a light tap on his door. "Are you going to sleep all day?" Allen asked.

"I'm awake now, but it's only seven ," Jeremy said.

"I want to get an early start," Allen said in anticipation of shopping for a new SUV.

"I can't believe you bought the first one you looked at," Jeremy said when Allen handed him the keys to the old SUV.

"Well, it was exactly what I wanted," Allen said. "I'm taking your mother and Annie to the mall for some last minute Christmas shopping. Do you want to meet us there?"

"Oh hell no," Jeremy said with a laugh. "That will be a war zone today. Besides, I want to get back and home and go horseback riding."

To Jeremy's surprise, Cody answered the phone when he called to invite Scott over for a horseback ride.

"Hi Cody," Jeremy said. "I was calling to see you guys wanted to go horseback riding this afternoon."

"I'm kind of busy," Cody lied. "Scott drove Molly to Wal-Mart, but they should be back soon. Do you want me to have him call?"

"Thanks, but I'll call his cell phone," Jeremy said. "Bye."

"Ok, bye," Cody said.

"Hey you're home early," Scott said when he saw that it was Jeremy calling.

"Yeah, I couldn't believe that Dad bought the first SUV he looked at," Jeremy said. "I was calling to see if you wanted to go horseback riding now."

"Sure, Molly is in the checkout line now," Scott said. "I'll be there as soon as we finish. Wait, hold on a minute." After a short pause, Scott said, "Molly wants to know if she can ride with us."

"Sure, she can ride with us," Jeremy said. "She can ride Thunder. He is the gentlest horse we have. Mom would be pleased to have Molly ride her horse."

"We'll be there shortly," Scott said.

"Okay, I'll go ahead and saddle the horses," Jeremy said.

"I can't believe how nice the weather is," Scott said when he and Molly arrived. "It's a perfect day for riding."

"Yeah, here it is almost Christmas and it is over 50 degrees," Jeremy said. "Okay Molly, I saddled Thunder for you. Let me help you up into the saddle. Have you been riding before?"

"Yes, I went a few times with Allen and Scott," Molly said.

"I can't believe Dad has actually been riding," Jeremy said.

"He said that he missed riding with you," Molly said.

After riding for a short time Scott's cell phone rang. His tone of voice made it obvious he wasn't happy about the phone call.

"I'm sorry, but I have to go to work," Scott said. "Rob called in again. I don't know why they don't fire him."

"Well Molly, I guess we can go riding some other time," Jeremy said.

"You two go on," Scott said. "I'll unsaddle Lightning and let you feed him when you feed the rest of the horses."

Jeremy and Molly rode for another hour and decided to end the ride when a cold front came in and dropped the temperature several degrees. As they rode near the house Molly said, "I wonder why Daddy's truck is here."

"I don't know, Jeremy said. His gut feeling told him that this wasn't good.

"Get your ass off that horse and in the truck," Mitch yelled when they arrived at the pasture gate. "You know you're not to go riding without my permission."

"But Daddy, Mom said I could go riding," Molly protested.

"I didn't give you permission," Mitch yelled. "Now get off that horse before I pull you off."

"I'll be right there, but first I need to help Jeremy unsaddle and feed the horses," Molly said.

"I said get your ass off of that horse," Mitch said as he started toward Molly and Thunder.

Jeremy quickly blocked Mitch's path with Smoky. He wasn't sure if Mitch was intimidated by the size of Smoky or the fact that Jeremy was larger than he was and could easily take him on.

"Alright," Mitch caved in. "I'll expect you home as soon as you finish."

"You can wait until Mom, Dad, and Annie get home before you go home," Jeremy said after they had finished with the horses.

"No, if I don't go home he will just be angrier," Molly said.

"Scott isn't there to protect you if he goes crazy on you," Jeremy said.

"I'll be okay," Molly said. "Cody and Mom are home."

"It's getting cold," Jeremy said. "I'll drive you home."

"Thank you for driving me home," Molly said as she kissed him on the cheek before going inside.

Jeremy reluctantly drove away. 'I wish I could have talked her into staying at the house until Mom, Dad, and Annie get home,' he thought to himself. He had a bad feeling about the way Mitch reacted.

After showering and changing clothes, Jeremy grabbed a coke and was headed for his room when he heard someone at the door. He opened the door to see a bloody and bruised Molly at the door. She fell into his arms and began sobbing loudly.

"Did Mitch do this to you?" Jeremy asked.

"Yes," Molly managed to say between sobs.

"Sit right here," Jeremy said. "We need to get some ice on that eye before it swells shut."

Jeremy decided to call his parents as he prepared the ice bag. "Where are you?" He said when Nancy answered her cell phone.

"What's wrong?" Nancy asked after hearing the panic in his voice.

"Mitch beat up Molly and she is here all bloody and bruised," Jeremy said.

"That son of bitch," Nancy yelled. "Take her to the hospital and we'll meet you there. We're about a mile from the town near the casino."

Jeremy wrapped a blanket around Molly and got her into the car as she protested. "It will just make everything worse if I go to the hospital."

"Mom said to get you there and they will meet us there," Jeremy said as he started the car.

"What happened to her?" The admission clerk asked as Jeremy arrived at the emergency room.

"Her dad beat her up," Jeremy said.

"Are you a relative?" The clerk asked.

"I'm her neighbor," Jeremy said. "Can she lie down?"

"We can't treat her without a parent or guardian permission," the clerk insisted.

"Yes you can in a case like this," Jeremy said. "This is a case of child abuse and I suggest you get busy."

"Don't get smart with me young man," the clerk snapped back.

"I suggest you do as he asked," Allen said as he, Nancy and Annie entered the emergency room.

"I'm his father and I'll be the one that makes your life miserable unless you get her in to see the doctor," Allen said.

"I already told your son that we can't treat her without parental consent," the clerk argued.

"Don't you realize that it was her parent that did this," Allen yelled.

The loud arguing immediately brought out the nurse and doctor from the treatment area. "What's going on?" The doctor whose name tag said he was Doctor Holloman.

"This young girl was beaten up by her father, and this clerk here said that she can't be treated without a parent's approval," Allen said.

"Under most circumstances we can't, but in this case we'll call Child Protective Services and get permission," Dr. Holloman said. "I'm glad to see that someone was smart enough to put ice on her eye."

"That was my son," Allen said. "Could my wife go back with Molly?"

"Sure, that would be fine," Dr. Holloman said.

"Mr. Morgan, I'm Nora Walker with the Cherokee Nation Youth and Family Services," a woman of about Allen's age said as she extended her hand to Allen. "I understand your son is the one that brought Molly into the hospital."

"I did," Jeremy answered.

"Would you mind if I asked you a few questions?" Nora asked.

"I don't mind," Jeremy said.

"Could you tell me what happened?" Nora asked.

"When Molly and I arrived back from horseback riding, Mitch was waiting," Jeremy began. "He told her to get her ass off the horse and in his truck. Molly said she wanted to help feel and unsaddle the horses first. Mitch started toward Molly in a threatening way and I blocked his way with my horse. He backed away and told her to get home as soon as she finished."

"Did Molly appear frightened?" Nora asked.

"Yes, she did," Jeremy said. "I tried to get her to wait until my parents got home before she went home. But, she said that Cody and her mom were home and she would be safe. I reluctantly drove her home. About 45 minutes later she was at our door looking like she does."

"I was afraid something like this would happen," Annie said. "Mitch is a coward when it comes to the boys, but I knew he hit on his wife. I never said anything because she is an adult. Now he has gone too far."

"Who are you?" Nora asked Annie.

"I'm their neighbor, and these kids are like my grandchildren," Annie said.

"Would you mind sitting with Molly while I talk to the Morgan family together?" Nora asked. "I'm sure Molly doesn't want to be left alone at this point."

"Sure, I'll go sit with her," Annie said.

Soon Nancy joined them with a puzzling look on her face. "What's going on?" She asked.

"After talking to Molly, it's apparent that she doesn't want to go back home," Nora said.

"Do you blame her?" Nancy asked.

"No, I guess I don't," Nora admitted. "Molly told me that if she were sent back home that she would run away. I think it would be in her best interest if she and her brother are removed from the home. I don't know how else to ask this but to just ask. Would you be willing to foster them until we can make other arrangements?"

"We would be happy to have them," Nancy said before Allen could answer. He did nod his agreement.

"Do you have room for two teenagers?"

"Sure, Jeremy is away at college in Norman, and when he is home he can share a room with Scott," Nancy said. "We'll be happy to keep them as long as they want to live with us."

"I haven't visited with Scott yet," Nora said. "Molly said he was at work."

"He should be off work any time," Jeremy said. "I'll call him."

Jeremy took his cell phone and stepped outside to place the call. After a few minutes he returned and said, "Scott is very upset and said he was going home and beat the crap out of his dad."

"Oh no," Nora said. "That would be the worst thing he could do."

"I think I talked him out of it," Jeremy said. "At least for now," he added. "I told him that Molly needed him here."

"It is most likely that Mr. Downing has been arrested anyway," Nora said.

At that moment Annie came and joined the group saying, "She's gone to radiology now. The doctor wants to make sure that there are no fractures. What is this I hear about Mitch being arrested?"

"There's an order for his arrest," Nora said. "There is also an order for Mrs. Downing's arrest."

"I don't think she had anything to do with this," Nancy said.

"Mom, she is almost as bad as Mitch is," Jeremy said. "She has allowed him to beat on Cody and Scott in the past."

"I know that, honey," Nancy said. "But, she is afraid of Mitch herself."

"Mom, when I was beat up you, Dad, and Annie all came to Norman as soon as you heard," Jeremy argued. "Do you see her here? I'm just as angry with Cody. He was home and allowed this to happen too."

"Nancy, he is right," Annie said. "A mother is supposed to protect her children. She should protect them even if she has to put herself in danger."

"You're both right," Nancy agreed.

"I'll visit with Scott as soon as he arrives," Nora said. "I'll then prepare the paperwork for you to have temporary custody of Scott and Molly. Scott will soon be 18 and can decide on his own what he wants to do then."

"He can live with us as long as he likes," Allen said. "We already think of him as our son."

"There is Scott now," Jeremy said as Scott walked in the door.

"Where is she?" Scott asked.

"She's in radiology now," Allen said. "Scott, this is Nora Walker with the Cherokee Nation Youth and Family Services, and she needs to visit with you."

"Hello Scott," Nora began. "I've already talked to Molly and now I need to talk to you. I want to give temporary custody of you two to Mr. and Mrs. Morgan. Would you be alright with that?"

"Of course I would," Scott said. "I never want Molly to go back home."

"Scott, I know you're angry with your father for what he did," Nora said. "However, you have to let the courts deal with this. We don't want you to jeopardize your future for something you might do in anger."

"Son, she's right," Allen said. "I want you to promise not do anything foolish."

"Okay, I promise," Scott said. "But, if he ever lays his hands on her again I can't promise not to do anything."

"Tomorrow a Cherokee Marshall will take you to get your personal possessions," Nora said. "I don't think Molly should go back, but Mr. and Mrs. Morgan can go with you for her possessions."

"She's back from radiology now," the nurse informed the group. "Two of you may go back to see her now."

Scott's expression indicated that nobody was keeping him out. "Scott, who would you like to go back with you to see her?" Nancy asked.

"Would you go back with me?" Scott asked.

"I sure will," Nancy replied. "Before we go back, you need to know that she is bruised and swollen. I know it will be hard for you, but you need to control your anger at your father."

"He is no longer my father, but I'll control my anger when I'm with Molly," Scott said.

"What are the chances of their parents regaining custody of Scott and Molly?" Allen asked Nora after Nancy and Scott had gone back to see Molly.

"Both are teenagers and usually the judge will respect their wishes," Nora said.

"Will the judge be a Cherokee County judge or a Cherokee Nation judge?" Allen asked.

"Since they are Cherokee, the judge will be a Cherokee Nation Judge," Nora said. "The judge will always try to place foster children with a Cherokee family. It is a plus that you're Cherokee."

"I will do everything I can to help," Annie said.

"For now, the best thing we can all do is make Molly feel safe," Nora said. "There is a good possibility that Mr. Downing will be released on bond. There will be a court order restricted him from seeing Scott or Molly. Of course we all know that a court order is only a piece of paper."

"He'd better not come around us," Scott said in anger.

"At least we'll all be in Florida for a few days after Christmas," Allen said. "Nora, we had permission to take Molly and Scott with us for a trip to Florida. Would it still be legal for us to take them out of state for a few days?"

"You will have custody," Nora said. "However, just to be on the safe side we'll mention it to the judge. I had better get busy with the paperwork. I'll be out to your house tomorrow, if that's okay with you."

"Sure it will be fine," Allen said.

"I'm sure your house is fine, but I have to verify that you have room for Scott and Molly," Nora said. "I'll bring the paperwork giving you temporary custody of Scott and Molly."

"Temporary custody?" Allen questioned.

"It will be temporary because we have to do a complete investigation of your background," Nora said. "I don't foresee any problems."

After about an hour Nancy came out and asked Allen to bring the SUV around because Molly was being released.

"This will be your room," Nancy said to Molly as she showed her the guest room. "I know it doesn't look like a teenage girl's room now, but you can decorate it anyway you like."

"I've dreamed about having you and Allen as parents," Molly said. "Now my dream has come true."

"Well my dream has come true too," Nancy said. "I've always wanted a daughter like you. I'll get you some of my pajamas to sleep in tonight. Tomorrow Allen and I will be going to your house to get your things. After you've changed come into the kitchen and we'll have something to eat. There is plenty of Annie's chicken and dumplings left. Since it is late we'll have that."

"Thank you for everything," Molly said as she hugged Nancy.

"You know we would do anything in the world for you and Scott," Nancy said and then added, "Even Cody if he would let us."

"Will she be okay?" Scott asked when Nancy returned to the kitchen.

"Physically, yes," Nancy said. "I'm worried about her mental state more. Parents are supposed to protect their children and not hurt them. I think I should make an appointment for her to see Dr. Carlton. He was wonderful working with Jeremy."

"I'll pay for it," Scott said.

"No you're our responsibility now and we'll pay," Allen said.

"Scott, you should see Dr. Carlton too," Jeremy said.

"I'm okay," Scott said.

"I know you probably are," Jeremy said. "But, it would be support for Molly and she wouldn't feel like she is different. She could even feel she is to blame."

"She isn't to blame," Scott said.

"We know that, but her mind may be telling her otherwise," Jeremy said.

"Alright, I'll go with her," Scott said.

Annie smiled at Jeremy letting him know that she understood and appreciated what he was doing.

After dinner Molly began clearing the table when Jeremy said, "No you don't. Scott and I'll do that. You should take it easy for a few days."

"I need to earn my keep," Molly protested.

"Honey, just being Molly will earn your keep," Nancy said. "You don't need to worry about that. Just having a daughter is more than enough payment."

After coffee and the last of Nancy's apple pie, Annie said, "This has been a long day. Would one of you handsome gentlemen mind driving me home?"

"I will," Jeremy quickly volunteered.

"Stop," Annie said as Jeremy was driving her home.

"What's wrong?" Jeremy said as he stopped the car.

"There's a road kill possum in the road," Annie said as she exited the car.

"There are always road kill animals in the road," Jeremy said as he followed Annie.

"Do you have any plastic bags in your car?" Annie asked.

"Yes, but why do want a plastic bag?" Jeremy asked.

"I want to put this possum in it," Annie said.

"Why would you do that?" a puzzled Jeremy asked.

"I want to put a dead animal on the hood of Mitch's truck," Annie said.

"Is that for some sort of spell on him?" Jeremy asked as he handed a plastic bag to Annie.

"No, it isn't for a spell," Annie said as she scooped the dead possum into the bag.

"Then what propose does it serve putting it on Mitch's truck?" Jeremy asked.

"Absolutely nothing," Annie giggled. "Except it will scare the shit out of him and make him think that I'm up to something."

"You're evil," Jeremy laughed. "This is priceless. But, isn't Mitch in jail."

"No, while you finding some clothes for Scott to wear Nora called and said that Mitch's church had posted bail," Annie said.

"Why would his church do that after he beat up Molly?" Jeremy questioned.

"It's that dumb 'spare the rod, spoil the child' mentality of those hippocratic rednecks," Annie said.

"I'll put that on his truck," Jeremy volunteered when they were near the Downing's house.

"No, it has to be me," Annie said. "If he should happen to see someone doing it, it has to be me. He's afraid of me and this will frighten him even more. When we go past his house I want you to go around the curve and stop. I' walk the short distance back and place this possum on his truck."

Annie was preparing her breakfast the next morning when her phone rang. "O-si-yo (hello in Cherokee)," she said.

"What in the hell do you think you're doing by putting a dead possum on my truck," Mitch said.

"There was a dead possum?" Annie asked knowing the answer. "That's a really bad sign."

"I want it stopped," Mitch demanded.

"I know that your church will assist in your fight to regain custody of Molly and Scott," Annie said. "That would be a serious mistake."

"They are my kids and I have every right to discipline my own kids," Mitch argued.

"Yes you do," Annie agreed. "But that doesn't including beating the hell out of them."

"She disobeyed me when she went horseback riding with that fag," Mitch said.

"First of all, she had permissions from her mother," Annie said. "Second, she lives with a 'fag' as you call a gay person."

"I, I'm not a fag," Mitch protested. "It's a sin."

"Then you're a sinner," Annie said. "You and I both know that you're gay. You can deny it all you want, but it won't change what you are. Wouldn't you hate for the word to get out about your previous homosexual affair? Now tell your church to back off."

"I can't do that," Mitch said as the defeat came out in his voice. "They will insist on fighting to regain custody of Scott and Molly."

"Just tell them that you were legally advised to not pursue custody," Annie said.

"No, I can't do that," Mitch argued.

"Now you listen to me, Mitch Downing," Annie yelled. "You will not pursue custody. That would be the worst thing you could do."

"Are you threatening me?" Mitch asked.

"I don't make threats and you know that," Annie said with the real intent of the statement left unsaid.

"I don't know what I'll tell my church," Mitch said as he realized he was defeated.

"If you insist on letting them push you into pursuing custody you may find that you are excommunicated when they discover you're gay," Annie said.

"They're not going to believe you," a not so confident Mitch said. "You have no proof."

"Oh my Mitch, how little you know," Annie laughed.

There was a long pause on the line when Mitch finally said, "I'll see what I can do."

Christmas day was filled with mixed emotions. Molly and Scott were very happy with their gifts, yet there was a sense of sadness. Nora had delivered documents giving custody of Molly and Scott to the Morgans. The Downings had even sign the documents giving up their parental rights. Molly seemed happy with her new living arrangements, but Scott seemed angry. Jeremy understood his anger and was thankful that he would be seeing Dr. Carlton the next day.

Scott's anger wasn't completely gone after his appointment with Dr. Carlton, but he was much improved. "He is helping me see that what happened to Molly would have eventually happened regardless," Scott said. "At least now I don't have to worry about her safety when I'm not around."

Since the group had boarding passes they were permitted to greet Casey as he arrived from his flight from California.

"He's cute," Molly whispered to Nancy.

"And, he lives in California while you live in Oklahoma," Nancy laughed.

"Well is still cute," Molly countered.

"Yes, I agree that he is cute," Nancy laughed.

"So is Jeremy," Molly said. "But he's now my brother and he's gay."

"I can see that you have an eye for handsome men," Nancy said.

"I should be working and earning some money," Scott said as the group waited to board their flight to Florida.

"You don't really have to work now," Allen said. "We didn't require Jeremy to work as long as he was in school. We'll not expect you or Molly to either."

"Jeremy is your real son though," Scott said.

"Don't you ever think like that again," Nancy said. "Yes, Jeremy is our son and we love him very much. But, now God has blessed us with you and Molly. We have room in both our house and our hearts for the three of you."

"Scott, if you want to work Nancy and I will allow it," Allen said. "But, we would like for you to cut back on your hours and be a teenager while you can."

"Your parents are right," Annie said. "Spend some time being young. Besides, don't you think that Molly would like to have her big brothers around more? Jeremy is away at college, so that leaves you."

"They just announced our flight," Molly excitedly said.

"Yes, we will soon be on our way to Florida," Nancy said.

"Oh my Dorothy, you look exhausted," Annie said when she saw her old friend.

"My sister isn't doing well and her children are no help in caring for her," Dorothy admitted. "The nursing home where they have her should be closed down. She wouldn't be cared for at all if I didn't go by to see that she ate and had her bath."

"Can't you put her in a better home?" Nancy asked.

"I don't have that authority," Dorothy said. "Her children say that she is being taken care of there. She is, but I'm the one taking care of her. I see that it is time for me to go see that she eats her dinner."

"You stay here and rest," Annie said. "I'll go see that she has dinner."

"I'll go with you," Nancy volunteered.

"Thank you, but I'll go along at least tonight," Dorothy said. "You two don't even know where the home is."

"Alright," Annie relented. "But, tomorrow you're staying home to rest."

"It looks like she's sleeping," Dorothy said when they opened the door. "I'll wake her up and feed her dinner." Dorothy bent down and gently shook her sister. She then looked at Nancy and Annie with teary eyes and said, "She's gone."

"I'm so sorry," Annie said as she hugged her friend.

"She's in a better place now," Dorothy said. "She will get to meet Blake."

"I'll go get the nurse," Nancy said. "I suppose they'll have to call the doctor or somebody."

"Will you be calling her children?" the nurse said after seeing for herself that her patient was dead.

"No you call them," Dorothy said. "I don't want to hear them cry and carry on like they care. They rarely came around when she was alive."

"I think it would be best if her children heard it from another relative," the nurse said.

"Didn't you hear her?" Nancy asked. "She already explained why she wanted you to call."

"Alright," the nurse said as she picked up the chart and left the room.

"Goodbye Sister," Dorothy said and then turned and left the room.

"Are you alright?" Annie asked they walked back to the car.

"Yes, I've been expecting this to happen any day," Dorothy said. "I'll stay here until the funeral and then I'm going back to Oklahoma."

"Come and live with me," Annie said.

"I can't impose on you," Dorothy said. "I'll stay with you until I can find a place though."

"Dorothy, I'm serious," Annie said. "It would be nice to have someone to talk to when I wake up in the morning."

"Annie as much as I care for you, I can't do that," Dorothy said. "We are both getting old and the time may come when I can't care for myself. As much as I loved my sister, I've felt burdened down with her care. I've done some checking and I'll buy a retirement condo in Tahlequah. It is expensive, but when I will be cared for when I can no longer care for myself."

"I have money and could hire someone to take care of us," Annie argued.

"No, I know you well enough that you would take on all the responsibility yourself," Dorothy countered. "We will still spend a lot of time together."

"You both know that you have young people that care for you," Nancy said. "Allen, the children, and I all consider you two as our family, and any of us would see that you're taken care of."

"Dorothy, I get it now," Annie said. "Anyone in this wonderful family that we have would care for us. I would never burden them down caring for me. Maybe I'll look into one of those condos. We could have our own place, yet we could see each other every day."

"Annie you love your home so much," Nancy said. "Wouldn't you miss it?"

"The house is old and not worth remodeling, and needs to be demolished," Annie said. "I'm giving the land to Jeremy. He doesn't know that yet, but ever since we met I knew that he loved my land as much as I."

"But Annie you should sell your land and use the money toward your condo," Nancy argued.

"Nancy, you heard me tell Dorothy that I have money," Annie said. "The fact is that I'm very wealthy. My husband worked his way up in the oil industry and made some very wise investments. I know that by looking at my old house one would never suspect that I have money, but that's the way I wanted it."

"You pulled it off," Nancy said. "I would never have guessed that you had money. Dorothy, do you want us to see if we can get another ticket for our flight back home?"

"Thank you, but I have a few affairs here to take care of before I can leave," Dorothy said. "Besides, I'm not ready to give up my care yet. I'll drive back to Oklahoma."

I'll stay and ride back with you," Annie offered.

"No, you go back with the family," Dorothy insisted. "I want all of you to continue with your vacation plans as if nothing happened. Besides, I have a cousin living in Little Rock that I want to stop by and visit with on my way back."

"That would be disrespectful to you if we continue as if nothing happened," Nancy said.

"No it wouldn't," Dorothy argued. "You didn't know my sister, and I know that all of you care for me.

"I'll call Allen and have him meet us at that restaurant across the street from our hotel," Nancy said. "I'll bet you're hungry."

"We're almost at the house now," Dorothy said. "I need to use the bathroom and then we can go."

"Whose car is in your driveway?" Annie asked as Dorothy parked her car beside the car.

"That's my niece Cassandra's car," Dorothy said. "I can't believe she's here already."

"Where in the hell have you been?" Cassandra asked when Dorothy opened the door to the house.

"Not that it's any of your business, but we went to the nursing home to feed your mother her dinner," Dorothy said.

"You could have at least stayed with my mother until I could get there," Cassandra said.

"When was the last time you had gone to visit your mother?" Dorothy asked with anger in her voice.

"Well, I have to work and you're retired," Cassandra said.

"You had time to go on a cruise for a week," Dorothy said. "Yet you didn't have time to see your mother."

"I want you out of my mother's house," Cassandra screamed.

"I'll be moving back to Oklahoma as soon as after the funeral as I can get everything packed," Dorothy said. "If you think I took care of your mother for her house, you're crazy. I took care of her because she was my sister and I loved her."

"There isn't going to be a funeral," Cassandra said. "You can get your things and get out."

"You have to give her time to get her possessions together," Annie said. "Legally you can't make her move until you file eviction papers."

"Who in the hell are you?" Cassandra asked.

"I'm her friend since college," Annie said as she gave Cassandra a look that would have stopped a charging bull moose. "She will be moving back to Oklahoma to be with us, but meanwhile you will not harass her. Now, get out of here before we call the police."

"This is my house now," Cassandra said. "You can't tell me to get out."

"You don't know the law very well, do you?" Ann asked. "This is her residence until you evict her or she moves voluntary. She is moving to Oklahoma in a few days. Now do you want to give her a chance to get her things packed, or do you want to take the months it will take to get her out by eviction?"

"Alright, I'm going," Cassandra said. "You'd better not remove a thing that doesn't belong to you."

"You know me better than that," Dorothy said. "I will have my things out in a few days. Now as Annie said, you need to leave."

"We'll all come by tomorrow and help you pack," Nancy said after Cassandra stormed out of the house. "Then you can come and stay with us until we go back home.

"I'll take the offer to help me pack," Dorothy said. "But, I'll drive on to Little Rock to spend some time with my cousin. I'll meet you later in Oklahoma."

"Are you sure?" Annie asked.

"I'm very sure," Dorothy said.

The next day all made short work of packing Dorothy's possessions. Her car was packed and ready by late morning. After having lunch with the family Dorothy began her drive to Little Rock and then home.






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