“Stay down so they don’t see you,” I instructed Mark when he said that he saw his mom and Coy. I then called 911 and told them that we had spotted Coy and gave our location. The 911 operator told me to back off and keep a safe distance from them. I asked the 911 operator to contact Jessie and inform her of the situation. “We’re going to follow them until the police arrive,” I said.
“That may not be safe,” the operator said.
“We’re not taking a chance of them getting away,” I said. “I will continue to give you their location.”
In about ten minutes a police car passed us and turned on its emergency lights when they were behind the car. I’m not sure what I expected but Lisa and Coy attempted to allude. “We may as well go home and wait for Jessie to call us,” Mason said.
I was a nervous wreck by the time we arrived home. I wanted to make sure that Coy and Lisa were captured.
“Will you let Mom take me away?” A worried Mark asked us.
“Not without a fight,” I said.
“Don’t worry little buddy,” Mason said. “When they’re caught they will both go to jail for a very long time.”
Mark decided to read some of his new book before going to bed, and Mason and I had some silly program on TV that neither of us was really watching. The phone rang and before I picked it up I knew it was Jessie. “Jeff, I’m sorry I didn’t call you earlier, but it has been a little crazy here,” She said.
“Did you capture them?” I immediately asked.
“We now have Coy in jail.”
“Did Lisa get away?”
“Not exactly, she was killed when she crashed the car.”
“Oh my God, I didn’t expect or want that to happen.”
“Are you going to tell Mark?”
“I think I’ll wait until in the morning. I want him to get a good night’s sleep.”
“That’s probably wise.”
“Did they capture them?” Mason asked when I hung up the phone.
“They captured Coy, but Lisa was killed when she crashed the car.”
“I wish I could say that I’m sorry, but I can’t,” Mason confessed.
“This may create a problem for us though.”
“How would that create a problem?”
“He wasn’t eligible for adoption until Lisa’s parental rights were legally terminated. Now he is an orphan and could be adopted or worse still some unknown relative may want him.”
“We’ll have to try and adopt him.”
“Although the courts ruled against the law banning adoption by gays, it is still very difficult. My experience has been that it is easier for a one person to adopt than a gay couple. It’s wrong, but this is the Bible Belt.”
“Then you’ll have to be the one to apply for adoption since you’re already his legal foster parent.”
“We’ll talk to Steve and Roy and see if they have any advice. Regardless, we’re not giving him up without a fight.”
Mark entered the room and asked, “Dad, could we put the new comforter on my bed?”
“Sure,” Mason and I both answered.
“We can also hang your posters,” Mason said.
“We may as well put clean sheets on before we put the comforter on,” I said.
Mark and I took care of the bed while Mason hung the new posters. “Now this looks like a kid’s room,” Mason said.
“No, it looks like my room,” Mark argued.
“Aren’t you a kid?” Mason countered.
“Yeah, but this room isn’t just a kid’s room, it’s mine,” Mark said.
“I give up,” Mason said.
“Why did you decide on posters of horses?” I asked.
“They’re cool,” Mark said. “Sometimes when I was sad I would dream that a beautiful horse would gallop up and let me ride him to a pretty green pasture.”
“Do you still dream that dream?” I asked.
“I’m not sad anymore,” He said. “Sometimes I do dream that Mom and Coy try to take me away.”
“Don’t worry about them,” Mason said. “You’re safe with us.”
“I think it is about your bedtime,” I said. “Why don’t you go take your bath and then I’ll come in and tuck you in.”
“Could I read in bed for a little while?” He asked.
“Sure, you may read for a little while,” I said. “What are you reading?”
“Where the Red Fern Grows,” He said. “I check checked it out at the school library.”
“I read that when I was a little boy,” I said.
“I read it too,” Mason said. “It’s a great book. Did you know that they made a move based on that book?”
“No, could I see it sometimes?” Mark asked.
“We’ll check at the video rental,” Mason said. “If they don’t have it, we can order it.”
When I later went to tuck Mark in he was reading his book, and I said, “Don’t be reading too late.”
“Okay, Dad,” He said. “I want to finish this chapter.”
“Good night, Son,” I said.
In the middle of the night Mason and I were both awaken by screaming from Mark’s room. We both ran to his side to comfort him. “Don’t take me, please don’t take me,” He screamed.
“It’s going to be okay,” Mason said as he hugged Mark to his chest. “You’re safe here.”
“Don’t worry, Mark,” I said. “Nobody is taking you. Do you want me to sit with you until you go back to sleep?”
“Could you sleep in the other bed?” He asked.
“Of course I will, but I’ll sit here beside you until you go back to sleep.”
I woke with the bright winter sun shining through Mark’s bedroom window. He was in the next bed smiling at me. “Hey little man, are you ready for breakfast?” I asked.
“Yeah, could we have waffles?”
“Do you know how to make waffles?”
“No, but you do.”
“Okay, let me go to the bathroom and I’ll make you some waffles. Go wash up and then you can go wake Mason up.”
“Cool, I’ll go pounce on him like a lion.”
Mason came into the kitchen carrying a giggling Mark under his arm. “What trash can do you want this rotten kid in?” He teased.
“Let’s feed him first,” I said. “We wouldn’t want to throw out a hungry kid.”
Mason and I had decided that we would tell Mark about Coy and Lisa after his breakfast. “Could I go watch TV now?” He asked.
“Sure, but first Mason and I need to talk to you,” I said.
“Okay,” He said.
“Last night when the police were chasing your mom and Coy,” I began, and not too sure what words to use. “Coy was captured.”
“Cool,” He said.
“In the chase your mom wrecked the car and was killed,” Mason said.
“Does that mean that I’ll always get to live here?” He asked with no apparent emotion at the news of his mother’s death.
“We will do everything in our power to keep you with us,” I promised.
Mark spent the remainder of the day watching TV, reading, and playing video games. He seemed happy and never mentioned Lisa or Coy.
Monday morning I was back on my regular schedule and Mason and I drove Mark to school before going to work. “Grandma Susan will pick you up from school today,” I said. “Mason and I will pick you up there when we get off work.”
“Cool,” Mark said. It seemed that everything was ‘cool’ with Mark.
My last appointment of the morning canceled and I decided to use the time to call Mark’s social worker, Wanda Beamer.
“I was about to call you,” Wanda said when I identified myself. “It seems that Mark has an aunt in Texas. She hasn’t seen Lisa or Mark since Mark was about two. Bonnie, the sister, said that Lisa got pregnant with Mark while she was a senior in high school. When Mark was about two she began to use drugs and got progressively worse. She stopped all contact with Bonnie a not long after that.”
“Does this mean that we lose custody of Mark?”
“Bonnie asked if Mark was well cared for now. I told her that a young attorney was caring for him and that he was very happy. She has four children of her own and apparently struggles to make ends meet. She wants to meet you and then she will decide if she will request custody of Mark.”
“Maybe there is some hope that we get to keep Mark after all?”
“Of course there is. Bonnie is the only surviving adult relative of Mark. She wants to see Mark and meet you. I haven’t told her about Mason. I wanted her to see how happy Mark is first.”
“That is probably a good plan. Will there be a funeral for Lisa?”
“Bonnie said that she couldn’t afford a funeral herself. After the coroner releases her body, the county will have her cremated. She will drive here when she has saved enough money for the trip.”
“Where in Texas does she live?”
“She lives in Paris.”
“I may be able to do something. May I call you back in a few minutes?”
“I’ll be right here.”
I walked into Roy’s office and said, “Roy, I have a big favor to ask of you.”
“I’d be happy to suck your cock, but I don’t think Barry or Mason would approve.”
“Roy, get your mind out of the gutter. Besides, you would choke on my cock.”
“Okay, if I can’t suck your cock, what else can I do for you?”
“I just found out that Mark has an aunt who lives in Paris, Texas. She is his only known adult relative. She has four kids of her own and is just getting by. She may be willing to let us have custody of Mark, but she wants to meet me and see Mark.”
“That’s good news, but what is it that I can do to help?”
“She can’t come until she saves the money to get here. If I pay your expenses would you fly down to Paris and bring her here?”
“You know I will. I’ve been promising Mark an airplane ride anyway.”
“If you don’t mind I rather that she meet Mark here. She may keep him there and then I wouldn’t have a fighting chance of keeping him.”
“When did you want me to do this?”
“I was thinking Friday would work. Mark wouldn’t have to miss any school and she could spend the weekend getting to know him.”
“I don’t have any appointments Friday afternoon. I should be there by three and back here by five thirty. When I fly her back, Mark can go then.”
“Let’s not tell him until we see how the visit goes?”
“Yeah, you’re right.”
“Thanks Roy, you’re a good friend.”
“That’s what friends are for.”
I called Wanda and told her of Roy’s offer to fly down and pick Bonnie up. I asked her to give Bonnie my phone number and call me collect if she had any questions. Wanda called back to say that Bonnie was pleased that her transportation to Arkansas had been arranged. The next chore was to tell Mark that he had an aunt and cousins in Texas.
“We’re taking you guys out to dinner tonight,” Susan said when we stopped to pick Mark up.
“What’s the occasion?” Mason asked.
“Do we have to have an occasion to take my boys out to dinner?” Susan asked.
Dinner was at Red Lobster. Mark loved it. While we were waiting for our food, a middle aged couple walked in. “Hello Susan,” She said.
“Hello Marge,” Susan said. Susan seemed to know everybody in Northwest Arkansas.
“Well hello, Mark,” Marge said. “I hardly recognized you. You look so nice now. I heard that you transferred to another school.” She turned to Susan and said, “Mark was in my class before he transferred. How do you know Mark?”
“My son Mason and his partner Jeff are fostering Mark,” Susan said.
Marge was momentarily speechless and then she said, “Well, I certainly surprised that they would let someone like that foster a young boy. I don’t think that’s healthy.”
“First of all Marge, I don’t give a rat’s ass what you think,” Susan said in anger. “If you think that he being abused and neglected is better you have no business in the public schools. Look at him, he is clean, has nice clothes, and he gets balanced meals every day. What in the hell gives you the idea that him living with two men who are partners that love and care for him is worse than the way he lived?”
“According to the Bible…” Marge began.
“Don’t you even begin thumping your Bible in front of me,” Susan said. “I think I’ve studied the Bible as much as anyone. The Bible I read doesn’t teach hate, nor does it say you have the right to judge. I hope you retire soon. We don’t need hypocrites like you teaching our children. Don’t play that innocent church lady with me. You forget that we were in high school together and that I know you spread your legs for half of the football team.”
“Come on Harley, let’s find our table,” Marge said as she dragged Harley away.
“Mom, I’ve never heard you talk like that before,” Mason said.
“I hate hypocrites like her,” Susan said. “Mark, I’m sorry you had to hear me talk like that.”
Mark laughed and said, “I didn’t like her anyway. She always said things to me my clothes.”
“Why that bi…” Susan started.
“Susan,” Steve said. “You’re making a bad impression on Mark.”
“You were going to say bitch, weren’t you,” Mark giggled.
“Mark, that’s not a nice word for young boys to say,” I said.
“Jeff is correct,” Susan admitted. “I shouldn’t have been talking that way in front of you.”
“My Mom and Coy said worse things than that,” Mark said. “They said words like fuck and shit.”
“MARK!” I said.
“Our food is here,” Steve said. “Let’s eat and change the subject.”
During dinner Mark ate while looking at Susan and grinning. It was clear that he enjoyed the exchange between Susan and Marge.
“Did you do your homework at Grandma Susan’s?” I asked Mark when we arrived home and he put his backpack down.
“Yes, I did,” Mark said. “I almost forgot, I brought a note home from school.”
“The school counselor wants to see me,” I said. “Do you know what this is about?”
“I didn’t do anything,” Mark protested. “I’ve been good, really I have.”
“I’m sure you have,” I said. “Don’t get upset. I’ll bet she just wants to tell me how well you’re doing in school.”
“What do you think the counselor wants to see you about?” Mason asked as we were getting ready for bed.
“I don’t know, but I guess I’ll find out tomorrow. My first appointment in the morning isn’t until 10:00; I’ll visit with her when I take Mark to school.”
After saying goodbye to Mark I found the school counselor’s office and fortunately she was in. “I’m Jeff Parker,” I introduced myself. “I understand you want to see me about Mark.”
“Have a seat Mr. Parker, I’m Christy Rasmussen,” She said.
“Jeff,” I corrected her.
“Nice to meet you, Jeff.” “I’m Christy. First, Mark is doing just fine here. We’re very pleased that he’s here.”
“He’s a great kid.”
“Jeff, I’m not here to judge you. However, I understand that you’re in a gay relationship?”
“What does that have to do with Mark going to school here?” I was becoming angry at the direction this conversation seemed to be going.
“Don’t be upset, Jeff. I’m not condemning you. Mark’s teacher reported that a couple of boys in Mark’s class were teasing him about having two ‘fag’ dads. I’ve call in their parents and informed them that it was a form of bullying and we have a strict policy about that here. The boys will be suspended if they are caught doing that again. Mark didn’t respond to them, and it appeared that he didn’t know what they were teasing him about. Have you talked to Mark about your being gay?”
“Frankly, no I haven’t. I wasn’t sure if he was old enough to understand.”
“I think children his age understand more than we give them credit for. It isn’t my job to tell you what to do. This is something that you may want to consider though.”
“I’ll call his psychiatrist get some suggestion on how to approach this. I need to have him see the psychiatrist anyway. When I told him that his mother was killed in an auto accident, he didn’t seem to care. I know that he had it really rough before he came to live with us. I just found out that he has an aunt that he didn’t know existed. She will be here this weekend to see him.”
“Oh my, that’s a lot for one little boy to deal with. But, Mark is very smart and I’m sure he will be fine.”
“Thank you Christy for being straight forward with me. It seems as though I have a lot of things to get done today.”
I called Dr. McKee and told him what had occurred at Mark’s school, and he suggested that I bring Mason with me for Mark’s appointment. He suggested that we both tell him that we were a gay couple and he would be there to help us out if we had any difficulty. He wasn’t surprised that Mark didn’t morn Lisa’s death. He thought it would be best if we all talked to him about his Aunt Bonnie.
“Would you be able to leave early today?” I asked Mason when I had finished my telephone conversation with Dr. McKee.
“I have a lot of things left to do, but if it is important I suppose I could.”
“Some bullies at school were teasing Mark at school about have two fags for dads and Dr. McKee wants us both to be there when we tell him that we’re gay.”
“Then I’ll be there. What time will he see Dr. McKee?”
“I’m going to pick Mark up from school and take him to see Dr. McKee. We can meet you at Dr. McKee’s office.”
“That will work. I should be able to finish the report I’m working on by then. It would help if you would pick up a sandwich for my lunch and I’ll work through lunch.”
“I’ll do that.”
“I didn’t know that I had an appointment with Dr. McKee today,” Mark said when I picked him up at school.
“You didn’t, but we had to change.”
“Okay,” He said.
‘What a great kid,’ I thought.
Mason arrived about five minutes after Mark and I did. Dr. McKee took us into a conference room so we could all talk.
“Mark, I understand that two boys in your class were giving you a hard time,” I began.
“They sort of were,” Mark said.
“Did you know what they were saying when they said that you had two fags for dads?” I asked.
“They were saying that you two are gay.”
“Did it bother you that they said that?” Dr. McKee asked.
“Yeah, but I didn’t want to let them know that,” Mark said.
“Why is that?” Mason asked.
“Because if I did they would get worse, and I didn’t want to let them know that it pissed me off.”
“Mark, you’re a very smart boy,” Dr. McKee said. “You’re absolutely correct about that. Do you know what gay means?”
“It’s like Jeff and Mason liking each other like a man and a woman would like each other,” Mark said.
“Does that bother you?” Dr. McKee asked.
“No, because they both love me,” Mark said. I like living with them.”
“Mark, are you upset when you heard that your mother died in a car wreck?”
“Maybe a little, but she wasn’t good to me like Jeff and Mason are,” He said.
“Mark, we just found out that Lisa has a sister in Texas,” I said.
“You’re not going to make me go live with her are you?” He asked with tears in his eyes.
“We’re not going to make you leave us ever,” Mason said. “But, Bonnie is your only living adult relative. She is wants to make sure you are cared for and are happy.”
“I’m happy and like living with you,” Mark said.
“Mark, when your Aunt Bonnie gets here you need to be nice to her and be your normal self,” I said. “When she sees that you are happy she will probably decide that you’re better off with Mason and me. You have cousins in Texas, but they’re not coming with your aunt at this time. If things work out you’ll get to see them later.”
“Gentlemen, I think we underestimated Mark’s ability to understand and cope,” Dr. McKee said. “Mark, are you still having nightmares?”
“Not since I learned that Mom and Coy couldn’t take me away,” Mark said.
“Mark is doing very well now,” Dr. McKee said. “Why don’t you make an appointment for a month from now? If he is still doing well, I won’t need to see him anymore.”
“Thank you Dr. McKee,” I said. “We’re going to try and adopt Mark if his aunt doesn’t object. Would you be willing to write a report for us?”
“I would be happy to,” Dr. McKee said. “If you need me, I’ll go to court for you too.”
“Are you really going to adopt me?” Mark asked.
“We’re going to try,” I said.
“Thank you, Dad,” He said. “Thank you, Pop.”
This was the first time that he had called Mason Pop. I assumed that it was his way of distinguishing between us.
When Friday arrived Mark was somewhat apprehensive about meeting his aunt. Mason and I tried to assure him that we would be there for him. Mason and I left work early so we could pick him up from school and be home when Roy brought Bonnie out. Mark was quiet on the way home. I could tell that he was concerned about meeting his aunt.
When Roy and Barry arrived with Bonnie, Mason and I were cooking dinner. After introductions, Mason said to Mark and me, “Why don’t you two show Bonnie her room and I’ll finish up dinner? Roy you and Barry are staying for Dinner.”
“You bet we are,” Roy said. “It smells good in here.”
“How come I’ve never seen you before?” Mark asked his aunt.
“You’ve seen me before,” Bonnie said. “You don’t remember it because you were about two then. I remember you though. You were a cute little boy and you still are.”
“Why don’t you two get reacquainted and I’ll go help Mason finish dinner,” I said.
“Thank you, Jeff,” Bonnie said.
“You’re welcome,” I said. “I hope you like pot roast.”
“I love it,” Bonnie said.
When dinner was ready I went to Bonnie’s room to let her and Mark know that dinner was ready. She and Mark were sitting on the bed looking at picture and laughing. “Is that picture really me?” Mark asked.
“It sure is,” Bonnie said. “I’ll get copies made of these pictures and then you can have your own.”
Dinner was pleasant and Mark seemed to like his Aunt Bonnie. “Did you know that I have a sister?” Mark asked.
“No kidding, I didn’t know that,” Bonnie said. “How old is she? What’s her name?”
“She’s six, and her name is Heather,” Mark said. “I haven’t seen her since she went to live with her dad.”
“Do you know where she lives?” Bonnie asked.
“I don’t know,” Mark said.
“I understand that her dad lives in Harrison,” I said.
“How far is that?” Bonnie asked.
“About an hour and half from here,” Mason said.
“I’d love to meet her,” Bonnie said.
“Mark’s caseworker may know how to contact her dad,” I said. “I may not be able to contact her since it is the weekend, but I’ll try.”
“Thank you,” Bonnie said. “That’s very nice of you.”
I didn’t have Wanda Beamer’s home phone number, but fortunately she was listed in the phone directory. “I don’t have his phone number, but his name is Carl Workman,” Wanda said.
I thanked Wanda and then went online and found a phone number for Carl Workman in Harrison. I called the number and a female voice answered the phone. “I’m not sure if I have the right number, but I’m looking for Carl Workman,” I said.
“This is his residence,” She said. “May I say whose calling?”
“I’m Jeff Parker,” I said. “He doesn’t know me, but I need talk to him about Heather’s mother.”
“Just a moment,” She said.
“Hello,” Carl said. “What has Lisa done now?”
“She was killed in an auto accident,” I said.
“I’m not surprised. What happened to Mark?”
“I have temporary custody of Mark, and he’s doing fine.”
“I’m glad to hear that. If I could have, I would have taken him out of that mess when I took Heather.”
“I understand. The real reason I called you is that Heather and Mark’s aunt is here from Texas. She hadn’t seen Mark since he was about two and she didn’t even know about Heather. She will be here until Sunday and would love to meet Heather.”
“I’m not so sure about that.”
“She seems like a very nice person and from I can tell is nothing like Lisa.”
“Hold on and let me talk to my wife. Are you in Fayetteville?”
“Just east of there, I’m between Fayetteville and Elkins.”
“Okay, hold on.”
“I talked to my wife and we have nothing planned. She wants to do some shopping in Fayetteville anyway. What time should we be there?”
“How about if you come tomorrow morning and we’ll grill some burgers for lunch?”
“That sounds good to me. How do I find you?”
I gave him directions and phone numbers and said goodbye.
“Heather, will be here tomorrow,” I said.
“Goody,” Mark said.
“Thank you for arranging this,” Bonnie said.
“I think Barry and I had better be getting home,” Roy said. “Jeff, have you thought anymore about Sunday?”
“Yeah, and you can tell him,” I said.
“Mark, how would you like to go on an airplane ride when I fly Bonnie home Sunday?”
“Really?” Mark questioned.
“Really,” Roy said.
“Oh boy!” Mark exclaimed.
“Mark, it’s getting late and I think it is past your bedtime,” I said.
“Dad, I don’t have school tomorrow,” Mark protested.
“I know son, but when you’re tired and when you get to bed late you seem to have those nightmares,” I said.
“But I haven’t had one since I don’t have to worry about being taken away,” Mark said.
“You can stay up for thirty minutes more and then you’re going to bed,” I said.
“Thank you, Dad,” Mark said.
It was obvious that Mark liked his aunt, and I would miss him very much if she took him away. I would at know that she would take good care of him. I had come to love him dearly and would do everything in my power to keep him. Mason felt the same way too.
Before the thirty minutes were over Mark was yawning. When I suggested that he go ahead and take his bath and go to bed, there was no argument.
“What a great kid,” Bonnie said.
“He is, and I’m very proud of him,” I said.
“Jeff and Mason, I know that you are a gay couple and I want you to know that makes no difference to me,” Bonnie said. “I want you to know that has no effect on my decision about Mark.”
‘Oh no, she’s taking him,’ I thought and I gave Mason a look of panic. However, we let her finish what she had to say.
“It is obvious that you both love Mark,” She continued. “He is my nephew and I love him dearly. Loving someone means doing what is best for that someone. I want Mark to come and live with me and my family.”
“Bonnie, you have every right to take him,” Mason said. “I want you to know that we love him just as much.”
“No, I think you guys are misunderstanding me,” She said. “It is obvious that Mark is being well taken care of here, and he is definitely loved. With my financial situation and my family I could not provide for him as you can. As long as you promise to allow me and my family to see him, I want you to have him.”
“Oh my God, thank you Bonnie,” I said. “I would want you to keep in contact with Mark. You would be welcome to come and visit him anytime you like.”
“I knew you would say that,” Bonnie said. “I may not be able to afford to come very often for a while. My husband is a good man, but he lacks education and doesn’t make a lot of money. I work and I’m taking pre-nursing course and hope to someday be a nurse.”
“As Jeff said, you’re always welcome here,” Mason said. “We can always bring Mark to see you.”
“That would be nice,” Bonnie said. “Our house is small and full of kids, but you’re always welcome.”
“You wouldn’t have to worry about putting us up,” I said. “We can afford a hotel.”
“When I finish nursing school, I’ll be able to help improve the finances of our family,” Bonnie said.
Mason looked at me and then said, “I haven’t discussed this with Jeff, but we were both lucky to have scholarships to pay for our education. I still have money in my education account, and I’d like to pay for your education.”
“Oh no, I can’t let you do that,” Bonnie said. “We don’t have much, but we’ve managed to pay our way.”
“Sure you can,” Mason said. “Jeff and I have plenty and we have no house payments. The sooner you get through school the sooner you can help support your family.”
“It may be rough, but we can make it,” Bonnie protested.
“Bonnie, you’re family now,” I said. “You have all of those kids to think about. When they graduate from high school, they may want to go to college. Mason and I have been fortunate in getting a good education.”
“When will you complete your pre nursing courses and start nursing?” I asked.
“I’ll complete everything this semester, and I have been accepted into the nursing program. But, I will have to work for a year before I start nursing,” She said.
“You send use a breakdown of your expenses and we’ll send you a check,” Mason said. “The sooner you graduate the better off you and your family will be.”
“I just can’t let you do that,” Bonnie protested. “It would be like I’m selling Mark to you.”
“Yes you can,” I said. “You had already decided to let us keep Mark before Mason made the offer. There’s still no guarantee that the state will allow a gay couple to adopt him.”
“I’ll sign any legal papers if that would help,” Bonnie said.
“That would be a big help,” I said. “I’ll get the paperwork started Monday and mail them too you.”
“If you don’t mind, I think I’ll go to bed,” Bonnie said. “I was so excited about seeing Mark and making the trip that I didn’t sleep well last night.”
“Good night,” Mason and I both said.
“Good night,” Bonnie said.
“You know where the bathroom is and there are extra towels in there,” I said. “If you need anything, let us know.”
Coy, his wife Sally, and Heather arrived midmorning. Mark and his sister were obviously happy to see each other. “Come on, Heather, let me show you my room,” Mark said.
“Mark, why don’t you let Heather meet her Aunt Bonnie first,” Mason said.
“Oh okay, I forgot that she was Heather’s aunt too,” Mark said.
Bonnie soon had Heather relaxed and they were chatting way. Mason and I had an opportunity to visit with Carl. We learned that Carl had been on drugs until Lisa became pregnant with Heather. He managed to keep Lisa off drugs for the most part while she was pregnant. After Heather was born, he went for treatment. By the time he was clean Lisa was back on drugs, and it took him over two years to get custody of Heather. He said that Lisa wanted Heather and Mark because of child support and welfare.
“I would have gladly taken Mark if Lisa would have let me,” Carl said. “But, I had no legal rights. I can see that he is well taken care of now.”
“I’m happy that you got Heather and I’m really happy that you allowed me to see Heather,” Bonnie said after Mark finally took Heather to see his room.
“I want Heather to know her family,” Carl said. “You’re all welcome to come and see her in Harrison.”
“You’re always welcome here too,” Mason said.
“And, you’re welcome to come see us in Paris,” Bonnie said. “Thanks to some very nice people, it looks like I’ll be starting nursing school this fall. But, there will be semester breaks.”
After lunch Carl said, “I guess I had better keep my promise and take Sally shopping.”
“Daddy, do we have to go?” Heather asked.
“Why don’t you let Heather stay here while you shop?” I asked.
“We wouldn’t want to bother you,” Sally said.
“Mark hasn’t seen her in a while,” Mason said. “We would enjoy having her.”
When Sunday arrived we were sad to see Bonnie go, but we were happy that we got to meet her. Of course Mark was excited about getting his first airplane ride. “You’re lucky Mark, you’re nine and getting your first ride in an airplane,” Bonnie said. “I only got my first one Friday.”
“There’s Roy’s truck!” Mark exclaimed when he saw Roy’s truck was already at the airport when we arrived.”
Fortunately Roy had already done his safety check of the plane because I doubt that we could have controlled Mark much longer. “Are you ready to go?” Roy asked Mark.
“Yeah, can we go now?”
“Go ahead and board the plane. Your dads will show you how to buckle up.”
“Oh wow,” Mark exclaimed during takeoff. He squeezed my hand in part from fear and part from excitement. “Look how small everything looks,” He said when the plane reached altitude.
Bonnie’s entire family was there waiting for her when we arrived in Paris. Her husband, John, greeted us with a friendly handshake. Bonnie introduced us to her children; the oldest was about 15 and the youngest about five. Mark was thrilled to meet cousins that he never knew that he had.
After visiting for about thirty minutes we boarded the plane for our flight back home. We didn’t want to get back home late since Mark had school the next day.
Our family soon returned to its normal schedule. Mark loved school and was doing well. Susan or another family member usually picked him up from school. I applied for legal adoption of Mark. As Mark’s nearest relative, Bonnie had waved her rights for custody of him. Dr. McKee and Wanda Beamer wrote letters supporting the adoption.
Two weeks for the scheduled adoption hearing I received a phone call from Wanda. “Jeff, I’m afraid that I have some bad news.”
“Well crap, what has gone wrong now?” I asked.
“A man in Dallas has filed for parental right of Mark. He claims to be Mark’s biological father.”