Someday Out Of the Blue

By LittleBuddhaTW


Special thanks to Kitty (PiscesRising) from for editing!





"So, how's your recovery coming along, Connor?" Dwayne asked.

"Pretty good, I think. I'm still a little sore, though," I replied.

I wasn't really in the mood for the small talk. I felt like the defendant in a murder trial, and just wanted to be read the verdict.

"Well, I'm sure you don't want to beat around the bush, and I don't want to keep you all too late. So let's get right down to it," he said, opening up one of the file folders in front of him.

I figured that was probably the information on the new family I was going to be living with. I was really hoping they would be nice and wouldn't live too far away. I knew I couldn't stay with Ryan anymore, but I'd at least hoped that maybe I would be able to go to the same school. If I was shipped off somewhere else, then even though Ryan had a car, it would still be difficult to see each other as much as I would want. And being young and still relatively new at this whole relationship thing, I knew that that could certainly put a strain on things between us.

"Now, I see from your file that you've been visited by social workers before," Dwayne continued. "I'm sorry that they didn't do more to get you out of that situation, Connor. It shouldn't have come to this. If your case had been handled directly by me back then, I would have definitely tried to do more for you."

"It's okay, Mr. Jacks ... errr ... Dwayne. It's all over now. I just wanna find out what's gonna happen to me next."

I'd been freaking out about this for over a week now. Why couldn't he just get it over with? I'm dying here!

"Connor, I'm not sure if you realize it or not," he continued, "but getting kids placed in good foster homes isn't an easy task. The system is so over-crowded right now, and there aren't enough certified foster homes to take all of the kids we've got. And we've only had a week to work on your case. It's almost impossible to get someone placed right away, and most kids have to stay in one of our group homes for a while."

"You're not sending him to some group home!" Ryan interjected angrily. I'd rarely seen him get angry like that, although it made me feel good that he was trying to stick up for me.

"Ryan!" Maggie scolded him. "I told you to sit there and keep quiet. If you can't, then you and Toby can both go upstairs until we're finished."

Ryan just rolled his eyes, huffed angrily, and slouched back into his seat.

"He should just stay here with us. This is where he belongs anyway," he muttered, though loud enough for everyone to hear.

"Yeah, I don't see why we can't just take him in. He's been staying with us all the time for months now anyway," Toby agreed. "He's finally happy now, and shuffling him around isn't gonna help him any. Plus, we all love him. He's not going to get that at some orphanage or group home."

"Tobias McCormack! Just hear Dwayne out before you go getting all angry," Maggie said.

Toby looked like he wanted to argue, but Maggie silenced him with her glare. It was heart-warming that they were both sticking up for me like that, and I was especially moved that they both wanted me to stay with them, even if I knew that wasn't possible or realistic. I'd learned long ago that dreams like that didn't come true, at least not for me.

"Well, it looks like your friends wanna keep you," Dwayne said with a chuckle. "Would you like that, son?"

Huh? Was he seriously asking me if I wanted to stay here?! He had to be joking.

Even though I was pretty sure he was just kidding around, part of me wanted to scream out, "Yes! Yes! Yes! Please let me stay here!" But I couldn't do it. I wasn't sure if it was pride, my low self-esteem, or what. I just couldn't bring myself to do it.

"I don't think so, sir," I mumbled, looking down at the ground.. "I don't want to be a burden anymore. I'm ready to go whenever you want to take me."

"Mom!" Ryan pleaded. "Say something to him! Please!" He sounded as desperate as I had that night I begged him not to break up with me, and it made my heart skip a few beats. But I didn't want this to turn into a family argument.

"It's okay, Ryan. I'll be fine ... really," I said quietly, still looking down at the floor. I couldn't look any of them in the eyes. I knew I would just break down crying.

Then Maggie walked over and knelt down in front of me, placing her hand on my knee, and with her other hand, lifted my chin up to look her in the eyes.

"Connor, you wouldn't be a burden. We all want you to stay with us. I didn't want to say anything to you before because I wasn't sure if it was going to work out with Social Services or not. If you want to stay here with us, you're more than welcome to. But that's up to Dwayne," she said, looking over at the large man, who was now wearing a knowing grin on his face.

Considering how my entire fate was resting on this one decision, it was kind of unnerving (and irritating) that he was friggin' grinning!

"I discussed this with Maggie back at the hospital, Connor," he began. "She really wanted you to stay with them, and although I thought it would be a great idea and was willing to give her tentative approval, I still had to check some things out, talk with my supervisor, and then come and meet you in person. I asked Maggie not to say anything until I got everything situated and finally had a chance to meet with you. I didn't want to get your hopes up just in case something didn't work out. But if you'd like to stay here, it's fine with us."

I couldn't believe what I was hearing. This kind of thing didn't happen in real life ... at least not to me. It didn't make any sense. I knew enough about how things with Social Services worked, and you had to have a foster care license, go through background checks, and all that kind of stuff. It wasn't like you could just say you would take in a kid and that was that. Plus, Maggie was a single mother with two boys. I didn't think it would be feasible, or that she could even qualify.

"But how?" I asked, not believing what I was hearing.

"Well, it's complicated, Connor," Dwayne explained. "But basically, I was able to pull a few strings since I've known Maggie for a long time, and I trust her judgment, as a doctor and a parent. It'll still take a while for all of the official paperwork and stuff to go through, but I've signed another temporary placement order for now so you can stay here. I don't know how long the paperwork will take to get settled, but I don't foresee any serious problems. You've been staying here for a while already, so as long as Maggie and the boys, and most importantly, you, are willing to do it, then I'm willing to go along with it."

"So that's it?" I asked, feeling quite shocked. This hadn't gone like I'd expected at all. Actually, that would be the understatement of the century. There had to be a catch, though. There always was.

"No, that's not it," Dwayne replied. "I'm gonna keep a close eye on things and make sure everything's going smoothly, and that you're adjusting to living here. It's obviously not ideal to be in a single-parent family, but since Ryan and Toby have both turned out so well, I'm willing to take that chance. If you keep your grades up at school, don't show any serious behavioral problems, and you go to counseling like we've suggested, then things should be fine when the time comes for the final approval of the foster care arrangement. The only thing I need to know from you is if this is what you want. If not, we'll have to place you in a group home on a temporary basis until we can find another suitable foster home."

I glanced around the room and noticed everyone looking at me expectantly ... well, Ryan's look was more of the pleading kind. How could I refuse that? And it's not like this wasn't what I had dreamed about. I would have to be the dumbest kid on the face of the earth not to agree to this. But then again, I'd been known to make some pretty dumb decisions in the past. But not this time. Hell no!

"Yes, I want to stay here," I said confidently, looking everyone in the eye to let them know I was certain about my choice.

"Well, then that's that," Dwayne said, picking up his files off the table and standing up. "I'll be checking in from time to time to see how things are going, and I'll be expecting reports from your school and therapist. But as of right now, this is where you'll be living."

I couldn't contain myself any longer, and despite my still tender ribs, I jumped up and gave huge hugs to Maggie, Ryan, and Toby. I almost planted big, wet kisses on both Ryan's and Toby's mouths, but managed to restrain myself. I was sure that wouldn't look too good in front of Dwayne.

"Thank you so much," I beamed.

"I don't wanna keep you guys, so I'll show myself out," Dwayne said, patting me on the shoulder before walking out toward the hallway.

As I stood there grinning like an idiot, not sure what to do with myself, Maggie turned back to look at me after saying goodbye to Dwayne.

"There are still a lot of things we have to talk about and go over, honey. But that can wait until later," she said. "For now, I just want you to know that you're part of the family now, and I want you to feel comfortable. We do want you here."

That was definitely good, because I wanted to be there, too. But there was one little thing that suddenly popped into my mind, and I was wondering if it would make a difference as to whether or not I could really stay. As soon as I heard the front door open and close, making sure Dwayne was gone, I turned back to Maggie.

"Ummm ... Maggie ... does ... uhhh ... does Dwayne know that Ryan and I are ... uhhh ... together?" I asked nervously.

Maggie chuckled. "No, he doesn't. And I think we'll keep it that way for now. It's really none of his business, or the state's, but that reminds me of something I wanted to show you anyway."

With that, Maggie led the three of us upstairs. I was a little surprised when we stopped in front of the guest room, and even more surprised when Maggie opened the door and turned on the light. Everything that had been in there before, mostly boxes full of Maggie's files, some filing cabinets, a sofa bed, and some other random stuff, was all gone.

Instead, there was a brand new twin bed with a comfy-looking duvet, a nightstand, dresser, desk, and a bookshelf. There were also new blue and maroon colored curtains to match the colors on the bedding. It wasn't anything really fancy, but it was still nice. There were also a few new outfits laid out on the bed, which I could only assume were meant for me, and even a poster of the Detroit Lions' former star running back, Barry Sanders, on the wall. That's what made me realize that this was all meant for me. The Detroit Lions were my favorite team! I was stunned.

But what really caught my eye was an old Wurlitzer electric piano sitting in the corner of the room by the window. And it looked to be in nearly mint condition. Most young people probably would have no idea what a Wurlitzer electric piano was, or why they were so totally cool. Well, basically, it's a 64-key electric piano (whereas a standard piano has 88 keys). It was first made popular during the late 1950s by Ray Charles, and was frequently used by many bands because of its portability and unique sound.

Unlike an acoustic piano, or even the Fender Rhodes electric piano, the Wurlitzer has an extremely unique sound, which can be sweet, kind of like a vibraphone, but becomes more aggressive-sounding when played harder. While the Fender Rhodes tends to blend in with other instruments, the Wurlitzer sticks out more. During the 1960s and 1970s, it was frequently used as the "stage piano" for many famous rock bands, including Three Dog Night, Joni Mitchell, Marvin Gaye, The Carpenters, Pink Floyd, and Queen. Unfortunately, the company ended production in the early 1980s.

Wurlitzer electric pianos were no match for the modern digital piano brands, like Yamaha, Kurzweil, or Roland, when it came to producing a variety of different sounds and effects. But because of its place in rock and roll history, and its unique sound, it was still a classic. They were also pretty rare nowadays, not to mention very expensive, so I had no clue how Maggie had managed to get one. But I'd always dreamed of playing one, and because of its smaller size, it would make an excellent practice piano. And if this was mine to use, I could play anytime I wanted to!

"Maggie, do you have any idea what this is? Where did you get it?" I asked excitedly.

"My dad, Ryan's and Toby's grandfather, used to play piano, and he played in a small band a long time ago. After he died, we put a lot of stuff into storage, not wanting to throw it away. I'd forgotten that we even had this until about a week or so ago," she said.

I explained to her all about Wurlitzer pianos, and although I was talking a mile a minute, she obviously got the gist of what I was babbling about, because she looked a little surprised at how valuable it was. She'd just thought it was an old piece of junk that I might be able to get a little use out of.

"So all of this is for me?" I asked, still not completely able to wrap my mind around the whole idea.

"Yes, it is, Connor. This is your room, and all of this is your stuff," she replied with a smile.

"How did you do all of this without any of us noticing?" Ryan asked.

"You guys were at that sweat lodge thing all day today. I didn't really have to work, so I got busy on getting things ready for Connor's room," she explained. "I didn't really find out for sure until tonight when Dwayne came over, but I thought I'd do it anyway. I really wish I could have told you sooner, Connor. I'm sure this has been a hard week for you, and maybe it wasn't a good idea to keep this from you. But I was afraid that if something didn't end up working out, then it might make you even more upset. It was a really difficult thing to do."

She had a sad smile on her face and tears in her eyes as she was saying that, and it was making me emotional, too. I could understand why she wasn't able to say something before, because knowing myself, I would have been utterly devastated if I'd gotten my hopes up about living with them, and then suddenly found out that it wasn't going to happen. And it wasn't like I had come out and told her that that's what I wanted. I had done my best to keep it to myself. But now wasn't the time to start regretting anything, because I got what I really wanted!

I liked the idea of having my own room, with a real bed and furniture, rather than the cramped closet-sized space I used to call a "bedroom" in my mom's trailer, where I only had an old, hard mattress to sleep on. I was definitely grateful to Maggie for all the trouble (and cost) that she must have gone through to do this for me, but at the same time, I was wondering if this meant that I wasn't allowed to sleep with Ryan anymore. I didn't say anything, though, because I didn't want Maggie to think that the only thing I cared about was sleeping with her son, but she must have noticed the troubled look on my face. Either that, or she was a mind-reader.

"Connor," she said, "you can still stay with Ryan whenever you like. I just wanted you to have your own space where you can be by yourself if you need to. And it will also make things look more ... errr ... proper ... for when the social worker stops by," she said with a conspiratorial grin.

I just nodded and smiled. That was enough for me. I'd get my own room, I could still sleep with my boyfriend, and I now had my own electric piano to play whenever I wanted. What more could I possibly ask for?

"But what did you do with all the other stuff that was in here, Ma?" Toby asked.

"Oh, I had the movers take that all down to the basement. I've been thinking of having it finished off anyway. I think we'll fix up part of it, and make another section into a storage room or something. We can make a little rec room down there for you boys, too."

Toby and Ryan both got very excited looks on their faces, and I was glad that they were going to get something out of this whole thing, too. I still wasn't sure what Maggie would end up getting out of it, except for another mouth to feed and an emotional, stubborn, and occasionally neurotic teenager -- namely, me.

"I ... uhhh ... I really don't know what to say," I stuttered. "Thank you so much."

I felt like an ungrateful idiot for not being able to come up with something a little more meaningful or poetic other than "thank you." I guess I was just a bit too overwhelmed by everything. I felt like I was dreaming.

"So, are you gonna play something for us, Connor?" Maggie asked, motioning toward the electric piano. "I've never heard you play anything before, and I'm sure you're aching to try out your new toy."

"Yeah, I'd love to," I replied.

I walked over and sat down at the small piano bench that was positioned in front of the Wurlitzer, and thought for a moment about what I should play. And then something occurred to me.

"Back when I first met Ryan, he asked me to play something for him. Something that said how I felt, what was going on in my mind. I told him that I couldn't, because sometimes a song can reveal too much. And I wasn't ready for him to see what was really inside of me then," I said, looking directly at Ryan, who appeared a little teary-eyed. "But now I'm ready, and I want all of you to know how I'm feeling. I don't know how good this song will sound on this kind of piano, but I'll give it a shot anyway."

And with that, I began to play the opening chords of the Meat Loaf song "Heaven Can Wait," a beautiful, soul-stirring ballad from his classic Bat Out of Hell album. I played its moving melody and sang out the impassioned lyrics as powerfully as I could. This wasn't a big show where I had to be at my best, just a little impromptu performance for my friends ... or should I say my family? But to me, it felt like it was one of the most important performances of my life, because I was expressing my love for Ryan, and for all of them.

Heaven can wait
And all the gods come down here just to sing for me
And the melodyís gonna make me fly
Without pain
Without fear
Give me all of your dreams
And let me go along on your way
Give me all of your prayers to sing
And Iíll turn the night into the skylight of day
I got a taste of paradise
Iím never gonna let it slip away
I got a taste of paradise
Itís all I really need to make me stay --
Just like a child again ...

When I finally finished the song, there was no applause and no words spoken. All three of them just wrapped me up in a tight hug, and unless I was hallucinating or something, I could have sworn I felt a few warm tears falling down onto my neck, and I was pretty sure they weren't mine.



Sitting alone with Maggie in her office wasn't exactly how I'd hoped on spending my Sunday morning, but I knew there were things that needed to be discussed, so I tried to be as agreeable as possible. I wasn't going to put up a fuss about going into therapy or anything like that. I didn't want to screw up the great chance that I'd been given to start a new life. But I was also wondering how having her as my legal foster mother now would change our relationship.

I hadn't been "mothered" since I came to live with my mother over six years before, and wasn't sure how I would handle it. I hadn't really been subject to rules or anything, since my mother was always too drunk to care or not even at home. I also didn't know how a "good son" was supposed to act. I supposed that this conversation would deal with some of those issues. The way she was looking at me, it seemed as though she had a lot to say, but I had some questions as well.

Even though there had been some power struggles between us before, such as at Thanksgiving time when she'd gone to see my mother, I really did like Maggie, and I was beginning to trust her judgment. So I would listen to her and try my best not to get too defensive, which I was well aware that I tended to do when I felt like I was being confronted or backed into a corner.

"Connor, I just want you to know that we all really do want you to feel like a part of this family," Maggie started. "And I will treat you just like Ryan and Toby."

I just nodded in response.

"But with that comes some responsibilities, and in your case a few extra things we need to talk about," she continued.

I wasn't sure if I liked the sound of that, but I nodded again, letting her know that I was listening and following what she was saying. I wanted to hear exactly what she had in mind before I opened my big mouth -- which had never really been that big before, oddly enough.

"First of all, I know you're a good student, and you've also helped both Ryan and Toby with their school work. Ryan did much better on his final exams last semester than he usually has, and I credit your tutoring with that," she said with a smile. "So that's why I'm not too hesitant to let you continue sharing a room. But, if either your grades or Ryan's start to drop, then we'll have to make some adjustments. This is a privilege, not a right, and I'll be watching carefully. I also expect both of you to be ... discreet. Is that understood?"

"Yes, ma'am," I replied. So far, that sounded fair enough. School wasn't a problem for me. It never had been. I just had to make sure Ryan kept his grades up as well.

"Also, as we discussed before, you need to start seeing a therapist. I'm still looking around for a good one who specializes in situations like yours, but you'll be starting up with that soon. Is that going to be a problem?" she asked, probably expecting another argument with me.

"No, ma'am," I answered politely. "I can deal with that."

"Excellent. Now, as for the rules of the house, I think you know that they're pretty relaxed, and I don't think we need to go over any specifics. None of you are the type to go out partying and drinking until all hours of the night. But remember, I'm now legally responsible for you, so I expect you to cooperate with me when I have to be a parent. And you'll also be expected to help Ryan and Toby out with the chores, like cleaning, taking out the trash, putting the dishes in the dishwasher, doing the laundry, and any other little jobs I may have for you. Are you going to be able to handle that?"

I nodded my head in agreement. So far, nothing had set off my "bitch meter." Everything sounded perfectly reasonable. I was still expecting something to set me off, though. There had to be a catch somewhere.

"And finally," she continued, now looking a bit somber, "we need to discuss some things about your mother."

"Well, I thought she was dead, isn't she?" I said in a somewhat sarcastic tone.

"Yes ... she is," Maggie replied cautiously, obviously a little surprised at my reaction.

"Then what is there to talk about?" I asked somewhat defensively.

"Well, there's the issue of her estate and her remains," Maggie explained.

I laughed. "Estate? Like my mother would have an 'estate'!"

"What I mean are her possessions and things like that," Maggie said. "But you're right. She didn't leave much behind, except for her car and the things in your trailer. Is there anything that you'd like to keep?"

"No," I answered immediately. I didn't want anything that would remind of me of my old life.

"I was thinking, Connor, that you'll be turning sixteen in less than two months, so you might want to keep that car. Sure, it's not the nicest car, but we could have some work done on it, and you'd have your own transportation instead of having to rely on Ryan all the time," Maggie reasoned.

She did have a point there. But that car was a piece of crap. They'd have to do a lot of work on it, and that would certainly be expensive. But we could keep it around for a while and see what could be done, I figured.

"Sure, okay. I'll keep the car," I agreed. "What else is there to go over?"

"Financially, your mother didn't have anything in the way of bank accounts or even a life insurance policy. However, you will receive a small check from Social Security each month until you turn eighteen, and the state will also be sending me a monthly check for six hundred dollars to take care of your needs. However, money isn't really a problem, so I'm just going to give that check to you, and I'd suggest you start up a savings account. You'll need the money for gas, car insurance, and some repairs and stuff when you start driving," she said with a wink.

In the grand scheme of things, it wasn't really that much money, but it seemed like a fortune to me. And I knew that many foster parents just pocketed the money that the state sent them, so I was surprised that Maggie was going to hand it over to me. It wasn't enough to make me financially independent or anything, but it was enough so that I wouldn't have to worry about money like I used to -- not that I really expected to anyway, since I knew that Maggie would take care of my basic needs. But it would be nice to finally have some of my own spending money, as well as be able to pay my own way on certain things.

"That's really nice of you," I said. "I've never had a bank account before. Do you think you could help me open one up?"

"Actually, I'll have to, since you're under the age of eighteen. You have to have your legal guardian co-sign for you anyway," she said. "Now, the last thing is what you want to do with your mother's ashes."

Maggie looked slightly nervous as she said this, probably expecting me to have a bad reaction or something. But I didn't really care. I was over it, and I wasn't going to grieve for my mother. Why should I? She'd never done anything for me anyway, except treat me like shit and sell my body for drugs. I felt no sorrow about her death whatsoever.

"You could just dump them in a pile on the driveway and let me piss on them, for all I care," I said, with no attempt to hide the disdain in my voice.

Maggie gave me a measured look. "I'm not going to start talking to you about grieving for your mother, despite what she did to you ..."

"Good!" I interrupted her. "Because I have no plans to grieve for her!"

"But Connor," she continued, "I still need to know what you want done with the ashes. You're her only surviving family that we know of. Do you want a burial, or have them spread somewhere, or what?"

"You can spread them out over Lake Michigan, I guess," I said unenthusiastically. "My grandmother told me once that she loved to play in the water there when she was a little girl. Maybe she'll find the peace there that she was never willing to give me."

Dammit! Why in the hell were these fucking tears starting to run down my face? I wasn't supposed to get emotional about this!

"That sounds like a nice idea, sweetie," Maggie said with a smile. "And I'll take care of that for you, so don't worry about it."

"Thanks," I muttered.

I didn't really think my mother even deserved that much. But I was worried about regretting it or feeling guilty later on about not giving her some kind of burial. And I couldn't bring myself to be as hateful and uncaring as she was. I'd be damned if I let myself turn out to be anything like her.

"Now, are there any questions you have for me, hon?" she asked.

"Just one, I guess. When can I start back to work at the pub?"

"Uhhh ... now please don't get upset, Connor," Maggie started, looking decidedly concerned that I might blow a gasket or something, "but I don't think it would be a good idea if you went back there to work anymore."

"Why not?" I shot back, now realizing that there was indeed a catch. She'd never liked the idea of me working at the pub, but that was my refuge. It wasn't so much about the money, but the feeling I got being up there on stage. She couldn't take that away from me!

"Connor, sweetie, please just hear me out," she continued. "I know how much it means to you to go there, and it's very likely that it's been one of the few things keeping you going all this time. But if Dwayne and Social Services found out about you, a fifteen-year-old boy, performing in a bar, then they'd have every reason to take you out of here and put you somewhere else. Please try to understand that."

Well, she did have a point there. I knew that my playing at the pub wasn't exactly above board, and the last thing I wanted to have happen, even more than not being able to perform there anymore, was to be taken away from Ryan and Toby. That made the decision relatively easy for me, even though I wasn't exactly happy about it.

"Fine," I muttered. "But can I at least do one last show before I have to 'retire'? I didn't know the last time I performed would actually be the last time, and I want a chance to say good-bye properly."

"Alright, Connor, but if anyone finds out, I'll deny knowing anything about this until my dying day," she said, grinning at me.



After I finished talking with Maggie, I immediately went to call Mr. Bill at the pub. It was only noon, and a Sunday, but I knew he would be there. He was fanatical about his pub. Apparently, Maggie had called him while I was in the hospital to tell him what had happened, and he was happy that I was alright. He was disappointed when I told him that I wouldn't be able to perform at the pub anymore, but he was very nice about it and told me that when I was older, I was welcome to come back anytime. He also readily agreed to one final show, and said he would schedule it for the following Saturday night. After a quick check with Maggie, she said I should be in good enough health by then (and I would also be going back to school on the coming Wednesday).

I was a bit depressed about having to give up the job I'd loved so much, and I didn't really feel like seeing what Ryan and Toby were up to for the afternoon, so I went up to my new bedroom and decided to tinker around on the electric piano. It was going to be really nice to have it there whenever I felt the need to escape for a little while. With all the big changes that had taken place in my life, now was one of those times when I just needed to let my mind go off to that special place for a while.

I played through Elton John's classic "Daniel" and "Little Jeannie," which sounded perfect on the electric piano, the way I'd imagined they had originally been meant to sound -- gentle and wistful, echoing my slightly melancholy state of mind. I then started on one of my favorite songs from Elton's Blue Moves album, about a nameless, aging rock star from the fifties and sixties, who found that he was no longer the same man he was before. It was a pretty dark song, with a slow, haunting melody and depressing lyrics. But it was one of my favorites.

"What's that you're playing?" I heard Ryan's voice from behind me, startling me a bit. I hadn't even noticed that he'd come in.

"It's a song called 'Idol'," I replied, my hands still gently tinkering away at the keys.

"Is that how you feel right now, Connor? Alone?" he asked, sounding concerned.

I looked over my shoulder and saw him standing there with his eyebrows furrowed, his expression mirroring the concern in his voice.

"No, babe," I answered. "I just like the song."

And I wasn't lying. I didn't feel alone. I may have been depressed about a couple of things, like the topic of my mother and not being able to play at the pub anymore, but I was still happy to be where I was. To be with Ryan. And I was even happier when he reached down from where he stood behind me and wrapped his arms around me, kissing me softly on the neck, then resting his chin on my shoulder.

"Are you glad you're here, Connor? Are you sure this is what you want?" he asked softly.

"I'm sure as long as you're sure," I replied.

"Is there anything on your mind that you'd like to talk about, babe?" he asked.

Actually, there was one little thing that had been worrying me a little, but I wasn't sure how or even if I should bring it up to Ryan. But I knew that my anxiety wouldn't be eased until I did.

"I guess I'm a little worried that if something happens between us, like we break up or something, what will happen to me?" I asked quietly.

I felt Ryan sigh into the nape of my neck.

"Neither of us can predict the future, or what will happen between us. But I know that right now, at this moment, I love you very much. And I don't see that changing any time soon. But even if something did happen, I'd still want you to be here. Nothing is going to change that, at least as far as I'm concerned. I hope you know that, and I hope you can trust me. I don't want you to worry about that," he said.

"I'm trying," I admitted. "The whole trust thing is kinda hard for me, I guess. But I'm trying. And I love you, too."

"If anything like this is every bothering you, babe, I want you to talk to me about it. We'll figure things out together. Okay? I don't want you hurting if I can do anything about it. And I think talking to each other is pretty important, so don't keep things like that bottled up."

"Okay," I promised. It would be hard, since I was so used to keeping everything to myself, but I would try ... for me and for Ryan.

Shortly after our little "lovey-dovey" moment, Maggie sent us to the mall to pick up some more things that I would need, since there wasn't much worth salvaging from my old home. And I wouldn't have gone back there to try to look for anything I might want for all the tea in friggin' China anyway. We would've asked Toby to go with us, but he was over at Cody's house ... again. So, Maggie handed me a wad of cash, saying it was an "advance" on the checks I'd be getting from Social Security and Social Services, and we were off.

As usual, the mall was quite crowded, but for the first time, it didn't seem to bother me that much. Ryan decided he wanted to get something to eat before we did our shopping, so we stopped at the food court and ordered some Chinese food. After a few bites of the way too oily fried rice, I handed it over to Ryan, who would eat anything, and went over to McDonald's to get some McNuggets, fries, and a chocolate shake. A nice, well-balanced meal.

It was kind of weird shopping for things like new underwear with Ryan, but it was cute the way he would pick out a pair of boxers or briefs and tell me how sexy I'd look in them. I'd never really paid attention to what kind of underwear I wore before, just buying whichever ones were cheapest, but I ended up picking out a bunch of different kinds, all of which Ryan said he'd love to see me in. That was the deciding factor when it came to picking out underwear for me. I didn't even care if they'd be comfortable or not. The only one I vetoed was the leopard print G-string, but he was probably just kidding about that pair ... at least I think he was.

We also picked up some other things I'd be needing now that I'd be living with the McCormacks full-time, like deodorant, shampoo, a new book bag, and some new school supplies. I'd always had to just get the cheapest stuff before, so it was a nice feeling to actually be able to pick out things that I wanted for a change. I also decided that I wanted something new to wear for my final show at the pub, so I picked out a wild-looking pink and yellow polka-dot suit and pink dress shirt from one of the more upscale boutiques.

Ryan thought I was crazy, but I liked it and thought it would be fun to wear. It was expensive, but I figured it would be worth it for my last show at the pub, and I was sure I could wear it again for any future performances I might end up doing, like the talent show at school next year ... and I was definitely planning on doing that again. I had to start thinking of other places I could perform, too, because I still needed to experience that feeling of being on stage in front of a crowd. After all the changes that had taken place in my life, I needed that safe, familiar feeling to help keep me at least somewhat balanced. When things became too bad to handle, it was always the stage that was my temporary sanctuary, and I had to find away to keep that part of my life alive.

Later that night, after we got home, I decided to sleep alone in my new bedroom. It wasn't because I didn't want to sleep with Ryan, and I was sure I would end up doing that almost every night in the future, but I just wanted to have one night in "my room." Sure, I'd had my own shitty room in the trailer, but it wasn't comfortable and never felt like my own space. To me, it was just a little hole in the wall where my mother stuck me and occasionally came to give me a beating.

But now I had my own bed, my own furniture, my own nice clothes hanging in the closet, and even a framed picture of Ryan, Toby, and me goofing off in the back yard together sitting on my night stand. Maggie had even managed to salvage the small box of books and all of my Elton John cassettes from the trailer, which I hadn't found out about until she suddenly remembered that night when we got home from the mall. When Toby got home from Cody's house, he also brought with him a beautiful Chinese landscape painting to hang on the wall (a gift from Tatyana), and a Native American "dreamcatcher," which Cody had explained would "catch" all of my bad dreams while I was sleeping if I hung it next to my bed.

Ryan seemed a little upset that I wanted to be alone that night, but I assured him that nothing was wrong. And it was the truth. I just needed a little time on my own. Time to think and process everything that had happened to me over the past couple of weeks. I was also really glad that Maggie had given me my own room (although I would probably never admit that to Ryan), because it allowed me to be independent in a way, and I'd always valued my independence. I didn't want to become too dependant on him, or anyone. I didn't understand it completely myself. It was just the way I felt. So I didn't expect him to understand it either, hence the reason for keeping those random, complicated thoughts to myself.

As I lay there thinking, I realized that it was a good thing that I wasn't going back to school until Wednesday. Physically, I felt like I could probably go back right away, even though I was still in a little bit of pain (and my "ass cream" treatments hadn't ended yet), but I was kind of nervous about what people would be saying when I went back. The story had ended up in the newspaper, and although they hadn't mentioned the fact that I'd been raped, only beaten severely, I wasn't sure if people might have found out somehow, and I was still extremely ashamed of that. With me staying home for a couple more days, Ryan and Toby would be able to find out if anyone knew anything, and I'd at least be able to mentally prepare a little for facing things when I did go back.

Unlike the previous week, I wouldn't have anyone staying home with me, which would also give me more time to think. And thinking is something I still had a lot of to do. They weren't necessarily bad thoughts, just some things I had to figure out, like how to make peace with myself and deal with starting a new life. But I certainly didn't have any regrets about moving in with the McCormacks. I loved Ryan, and being able to see him every day, to hold him every night, would be wonderful. Besides that, I also had a new "mother" -- although it would be strange to think of Maggie that way -- and something else that I'd always wanted, a brother, Toby. And as much as I loved Ryan, I loved Toby, too. They were both my guardian angels, and I didn't know what I would do without either of them.

Even with all of these random thoughts floating around in my head, I still managed to fall into a restful sleep ... although the medication may have had something to do with that. My last conscious thought before I drifted into the land of dreams was how much love I felt. I'd never felt anything so intense before in my life. And it made me feel safe, warm, and free.