Blue and Austin speak every day, for longer and longer each time. Getting to know each other without the distractions of school, friends and hobbies the two finally feel like boyfriends.
One afternoon when the boys have been chatting all day Blue’s Momma comes in to his room.
“Blue Sky I cannot believe I am telling you to get off your computer and get outside.” Momma says.
“Sorry Momma, I forgot the time.” Blue says blushing.
“Sorry Ms Day, I just miss Blue so much I want to talk all day.” Austin says with a grin.
“Well I’m happy you two have found each other. Blue has made lots of friends but they are all very different to him, you two share a lot of the same values and that has made him a lot less homesick.” Momma says.
“Talk tomorrow.” Blue says and blows kisses to Austin who does the same.
“Can you see to your chickens, they need a good cleaning out. It’s not like you to slack on chores.” Momma says.
“Sorry. I really did forget the time and I’m not into the rhythm of home yet.” Blue says running out the door barefoot despite the cold.
The next day Blue does his outside chores then spends the morning baking, things for the café for now and to freeze for when he’s back at school. He’s noticed his Momma is a lot busier than usual so he wants to make things easier. He feels guilty for all the time he spends with Austin.
He heads to the café and takes over the afternoon shift. So many people come in to see him and find out how he’s doing at college the time passes in minutes and he’s surprised when it’s closing time.
At home he’s back calling Austin and they talk until late into the night. Blue is happy. He finally feels he has a relationship that is going somewhere, he’s falling for Austin the person and knows they’ll be able to tackle the physical issues when they get back to school.
Andy is having a hard time of it. He’s missing Spence and not getting on so well with his family. His sister has become a nightmare overnight. His Mom is dating a new guy who has views similar to his ex-stepfather and it is clear Andy will not be welcome if they move in together. The new man is likely responsible for his sister’s attitude as much as hormones Andy muses.
“If she moves in with him will I still be able to come here for school breaks? Will Katelyn have to move in with them?” Andy asks in a rush.
“Katelyn has made it clear she wants to stay with me and I support that. Your Mom has different ideas as Jacob likes Katelyn. I was actually thinking Katelyn and I should move closer to you at school. Would that cramp your style?” Aunt Roe asks.
“Yes but I’d love to see you both more. You know that. Is Mom dead set on this guy?” Andy asks.
“I think so. She doesn’t see him the way the rest of us do and he is a master at isolating her. She lost you guys once and doesn’t seem concerned that she’ll lose you again.” Roe says.
“So what is happening for Christmas dinner?” Andy asks.
“Katelyn and your Mom are going to his house and we stay here.” Roe says.
“No point cooking much just for us.” Andy says.
“I know how much you eat. I bought a ham a while ago which will make a delicious meal and we can eat leftovers cold in sandwiches and with eggs. But I’ll not do many side dishes.” Roe says.
“I’m looking forward to helping, I need to learn how to cook better. Spence and I always get by but if we live out next year I want to eat better than we did in high school.” Andy says.
“How is Spence doing?” Roe asks.
“Amazing. He is so single minded and working towards his goal and he’s happy.” Andy says with a smile.
“And you two are solid again?” Roe asks.
“Yeah, I was a fool and now we’re stronger than ever. Will Katelyn be okay going to Jacob’s house?” Andy says worrying about his sister’s happiness.
“I very much doubt she’ll go but we need to pretend she is until she stays here.” Roe says.
“Sounds like you have a plan.” Andy says.
“No, I just plan to maintain a welcoming home for her.” Roe says.
“I’ll talk to her when she gets back. I’d hate for her to be feeling alone.” Andy says.
“She’s in her room.” Roe says.
“Really? Is it okay if I make hot chocolate and take some cookies in to her?” Andy asks.
“Of course. Andy my home will always be your home and you will always be family and not a guest.” Roe says.
“I’m sorry. Do you want a cup?” Andy asks and Roe nods.
He takes the drinks and a plate of gingerbread Roe has made to his sisters room
“Hey.” Andy says putting things down.
“Hey.” Katelyn says not looking up.
“I expected your room to be a disaster zone but it’s so organized.” Andy says.
“I may be a mess right now and I know you’ll have been talking about it to Roe but I’m still the same person, just angrier because of that jackass.” Katelyn says.
“Roe says she’s thinking about moving closer to me. Would you be okay changing schools?” Andy asks.
“Yeah. Not that I think you’d have time for me but that scum owns half this town and has spies everywhere.” Katelyn spits.
“Hence your permanent anger.” Andy says.
“Yeah, I can’t go to a movie or pizza with friends or anything without him telling Mom I was doing something wrong. Let’s face it I’m a good kid, I don’t do stupid shit. But I’m still in the wrong for makeup or what I wear. I’m 12, I wear jeans and I have 1 lip-gloss and its clear!” Katelyn says clearly feeling victimized.
“Trying to turn you Amish?” Andy asks.
“He wants a doll to show off. He buys me dresses to wear to functions and they are for 8 year olds. Its gross, he goes on and on about how I look in them, I think he wishes I was his girlfriend not Mom, its fucking creepy.” Katelyn says.
“Have you told Roe that part? He dresses you up.” Andy asks angry as hell.
“She knows. It’s why she is thinking of moving. It is so gross and he always asks if I have a boyfriend and gets mad if he sees me talking to boys. He picks me up from school somedays and just shouts at me, its humiliating.” Katelyn says.
“Who does he think he is and why the hell didn’t you tell me before?” Andy asks.
“You got out, I didn’t want to ruin that. I was planning to run away to you if it got worse. If he did more than look and comment. Andy he’s really creepy.” Katelyn explains breaking Andy’s heart. He needs to protect his sister, save her just like she saved him.
“I wish you could move now, start a new school next semester.” Andy says.
“Me too. If you weren’t in a dorm I’d come back with you.” Katelyn says.
“How would you feel about going to a tiny school with no dances or sports teams?” Andy asks putting together a plot in his mind.
“Sounds lame. Does it have anything going for it?” Katelyn asks.
“A caring community, loads of outdoors stuff, you’d learn yoga and work in café once a month and a lot of your classes would be self-paced online.” Andy says trying to remember the details of Blue’s life.
“Sounds like it would be heaven for Roe.” Katelyn says.
“But you’d do it? To get away from him? To feel safe?” Andy asks.
“Yeah I would. I mean there are other kids there right?” Katelyn asks.
“Some not many, more in summer.” Andy says.
“I know I’m becoming a nightmare but I can’t seem to stop it. He makes me so mad and Mom makes me mad not sticking up for me.” Katelyn says.
“We’d have to cut Mom off.” Andy says.
“She left you for dead. That we talk to her at all is a miracle. You and Roe are my family.” Katelyn says making Andy feel so protective.
“I’ll talk to Roe and make some calls. Start packing, make it not obvious.” Andy says and Katelyn nods.
“Did you know Jacob was a sick creep?” Andy asks Roe.
“I suspected and try and make sure Katelyn is never alone with him.” Roe says feeling ashamed she hasn’t been able to do more yet.
“I have a plan. I need to talk to someone but I am certain it is a good option.” Andy says to Roe.
“Go on.” Roe says intrigued.
“My friend Blue lives in a small community which is almost off grid, it isn’t but they live like they are. Lots of farmers, artists and old hippies. They have a system of bartering and community run facilities. You could go there with Katelyn, she can go to school there and you can run your art classes as you always have. There’s a big yoga retreat up there and I know an art teacher would be appreciated.” Andy says.
“You think we could stay with your friend?” Roe asks.
“At least initially. I know his Momma would help you get settled.” Andy says.
“It sounds wonderful for me, but not Katelyn.” Roe says.
“She’s willing to try. She and I can do something this summer, maybe we can get her into whatever camp Spence works at if she’s craving other kids company. Look she can’t get into much trouble up there and she is scared of Jacob and paranoid that she’s being watched whenever she goes out.” Andy says.
“I know, I know. Make your calls. Talking to you has made up my mind. Christmas day is a great day to go. I’ll bake the ham tonight we can eat it on the road.” Roe smiles and picks up her phone.
Andy goes to Katelyn’s room to call Blue and explains the situation.
“You best talk to Momma and I think she’ll need to talk to Roe. She will help and we have space. Are you sure about leaving your momma if this guy is as bad as you say?” Blue asks.
“I care about Katelyn more. I want her to have what you had. I know it wasn’t perfect but she needs to feel safe with people who care.” Andy says.
“Let me talk to Momma and we’ll call you in a few minutes.” Blue says.
Blue explains the situation quickly.
“Of course they must come. You and Andy can go back and pack up their furnishings in a few days. They can stay here to begin with. The old Wray property will likely work for them, but it’s been empty a year and it will take a little while to get ready.” Momma says.
“Do you own it?” Blue asks.
“I always buy when people need to move on. The farmers usually sort themselves but we own a few and lease them, you know that.” Momma says.
“I guess. I’m never quite sure just how rich you are Momma. We live how we live and you rarely say no if I want to buy something, even if it is expensive.” Blue says.
“I don’t spoil you and you rarely ask for anything that isn’t practical so its easy to say yes. Now call your friend back, they’ll be wanting an answer.” Momma says.
Blue calls Andy and sits by as Momma and Roe talk. Blue can see they’ve hit it off. He goes and looks at the guest rooms, they have 2 that will work for Roe and Katelyn, Andy will come in with him. He hopes Austin doesn’t mind.
Momma beckons him back over.
“So you all ready? You’re really coming to my world?” Blue asks.
“Yeah tomorrow as soon as Momma leaves to go to Jacobs we’ll drive up. It’ll take a day at least. Then when we’re settled you and I will come back and sort out packing up the house. We’ll hire some help but because Jacob knows everyone we need to think carefully about that. It’s all go.” Andy says.
“So much for a relaxing break.” Blue laughs.
“Yeah I guess we’re spoiling your Christmas.” Andy says.
“We don’t celebrate it anyway. Are you ready to renovate a house? We need Spence to help.” Blue says.
“I’ve not even told him. No signal and dodgy wifi is the only message he’s sent. Have you heard from Gervais?” Andy asks.
“No not at all. I talk to Austin for hours every day and I’ve barely thought of him.” Blue says happy that it’s true.
“Good. Once you and Austin sort out your issue you’ll be a great pair. I’m glad it’s going well. Okay I have a million things to do. See you tomorrow night. Your Momma has given us instructions when to call so you can meet us part way.” Andy says.
“Best of luck. See you tomorrow. Oh and Happy Christmas.” Blue says.
“Those are really nice people.” Roe says to Andy.
“Yeah. It’s funny all year Blue and I have been close, I never realized he reminded me of you until now. Did Ms Day tell you about the house?” Andy asks.
“Yes and she told me I’ll be paying for it in paintings and classes. She even offered to buy this one.” Roe says.
“Wow, I don’t think we’re the first people to flee to her.” Andy says.
“We’re not fleeing. It isn’t quite that bad, not yet.” Roe says.
“But a locksmith is here and we’re not telling anyone where we are going.” Andy says.
“I know it feels like we’re sneaking off. I’m legally still Katelyn’s guardian, so we’re not actually abducting her though it may feel like it.” Roe says quietly.
“If you think there’s even a chance Jacob might do something to her then it is the right choice.” Andy says.
“Agreed I don’t trust him at all and your mother is besotted. We are failing Katelyn here and she needs a fresh start. I didn’t know how much you going to college would affect her. You were always away for school.” Roe says.
“It wasn’t Andy’s fault.” Katelyn says coming out.
“Are you all packed?” Andy asks.
“Yeah I’m ready. What will we do with Mom’s things, given you’ve changed the locks?” Katelyn asks.
“Once she leaves tomorrow we’ll put her things in the garage. She hasn’t got much.” Roe says.
The three talk and pack and make plans until Andy’s Mom comes home.
“I’m engaged, engaged!” She cries plashing a diamond as she comes through the open door.
“Congratulations Mom. When do I get to meet him? Don’t you think I should check him out first as man of the house?” Andy asks.
“Oh I don’t think you need to worry about that.” Mrs Parker says.
“Oh so I get a new stepdad without meeting him ever. Nice to know you’re so proud of me Mom. I’m going to bed.” Andy fake huffs and Katelyn follows trying not to laugh.
“You are so bad. You know she pretends she’s cut you off to him. Your name is banned at dinner.” Katelyn says.
“Really? No wonder you’re so fucked up not being able to talk about your wonderful perfect brother.” Andy laughs and Katelyn joins in.
“Need any help with your stuff? I don’t have much here and I barely unpacked.” Andy says.
“I don’t have much either. Its Roe who is giving everything up again.” Katelyn says.
“Don’t feel guilty about that. She and Blue’s Momma got on so fast you saw that. She is going to be fine. It is you that might not. I’m sorry I didn’t call you as much as usual this semester.” Andy says.
“It’s okay I cannot wait for college.” Katelyn says.
“You’re not in high school yet.” Andy says.
“I will be when we move.” Katelyn laughs.
“Yes you will, and elementary and middle all at once.” Andy laughs.
“It’s going to be hard starting over again.” Katelyn says.
“Have a think about the summer. If you want to go to camp or maybe we could take a trip together, if you’re tired of living in the sticks.” Andy says.
“We can’t afford Paris.” Katelyn laughs.
“No but maybe Chicago.” Andy suggests.
“Thanks Andy. You’re a great big brother. Even if you did abandon me.” Katelyn says.
“Hey I could have gone skiing this break and left you to face this alone.” Andy says.
“Yeah because you and snow and exercise go together.” Katelyn laughs.
“Cheek, sheer cheek.” Andy says and heads to bed himself.
In the morning the three try and have a normal breakfast, its abnormal that Andy is awake at all but they are using the cover of Katelyn wanting to exchange gifts early when their mom comes in.
“Mom I want to spend Christmas with Andy. You go and enjoy your first Christmas engaged with Jacob.” Katelyn says with a maturity that defies her years.
“But Jacob really wants to see you.” Mom replies.
“I understand but I can see him any time Andy is hardly ever here now.” Katelyn pushes.
“You are abandoning me, please let my sister stay.” Andy says trying the guilt angle.
“How about you join us this afternoon. Have the morning here.” Mom says.
“Okay.” Katelyn and Andy say at once.
“I have to go I’ll be late for church.” Mom says and leaves.
“Right new plan, we need to be gone by the time she finishes church, he is bound to want to come by and collect Katelyn. He won’t accept the excuse but won’t make a scene in church. Andy start putting your Mom’s things in the garage. Katelyn start packing the car.” Roe says.
“Sure thing.” Andy says.
The three work quickly putting as much as they can in the car. Making sure all their Mom’s possessions are stacked in the garage. Roe tapes a note to the door and they take off.
The drive takes all day, Roe and Andy take turns driving every few hours. Andy keeps up a long stream of stories about Blue, making up many of them. They all switched off their phones and left them at home after copying out important numbers.
They buy a cheap one on the way and charge it in the car so they can call Blue’s house at the right time.
Eventually they get there and after another hours driving Blue and his mom are waiting at a truck stop for them. Roe gets in the car with Ms Day and Blue gets in with Andy and Katelyn for the last 2 hours. It’s nearly midnight when they get to Blue’s house. Blue shows them all where to shower and sleep and tells them he’ll unpack the car for them.
“You okay sharing with me?” Blue asks when Andy comes in.
“Of course. It’s a small price to pay. When Katelyn told me Jacob had been buying her frilly dresses and things my skin crawled. I am so grateful you guys could take us in without question.” Andy says.
“One question. Given how lovely and open Roe is why did Spence never join you for family occasions?” Blue asks.
“I always thought that my Mom tolerates me being how I am as long as she doesn’t have to see it in reality. Roe always made it clear Spence was welcome but I never felt fully okay with mom there and didn’t want Spence to have to put up with that. He has his own issues with parents.” Andy says.
“He seemed pretty upset about Christmas but given this drama I imagine its best.” Blue says.
“I miss him like crazy but if he was here I’d not get to give Katelyn the attention she needs. And she needs a lot. She has been a nightmare since I got back but now I know why I think it’ll be better.” Andy says.
“I bet Roe didn’t tell you because she wanted you to enjoy college and they all hid it from you at Thanksgiving.” Blue says.
“Yeah or maybe I wasn’t listening. I’ve been back twice. It all seemed to come to a head this time.” Andy says.
“You’re safe here. Tomorrow we’ll go visit the house and see if it’s what you guys need and then I’ll take Katelyn to meet the kids her age.” Blue says.
“Thanks Blue. I can’t believe there might be a house for them. We all really appreciate it.” Andy says.
“Mom has a couple I think. It’s a bit controlling her deciding who lives up here. But the community is great and I can see why she does it in a way.” Blue says.
“I guess she was once in a situation like we were. I’m glad no ones ex can just rock up and buy a house here.” Andy says.
“I’d not thought of it like that but yes I guess we have a fair number of families who have escaped someone or something.” Blue says.
Blue wakes as early as usual, takes his laptop downstairs and calls Austin.
“Hey babe. I’m not going to be around so much this week.” Blue says and explains everything.
“Oh wow. Well call me every morning and night at least, so we can say good morning and goodnight.” Austin says.
“Of course. I need to do my chores right now but I’ll call after as I expect them all to sleep late. Yesterday was crazy long.” Blue says.
“Speak soon. Miss you loads.” Austin says and blows kisses which Blue returns with a goofy grin on his face.
Blue deals with the chickens and checks over the property before heading in to shower. He chats to Austin again briefly and then heads to the kitchen to do some baking.
“Morning darling. What are you cooking?” Ms Day asks.
“Hey Momma, I’m making honey cakes and I thought I’d make some pancakes when the others are awake, which could be tomorrow for Andy.” Blue laughs.
“They’ve been through a lot. Not just the drive. I think Roe has been worried for months.” Momma says.
“Yeah I know. She hid it well at Thanksgiving but couldn’t this time.” Blue says.
“That’s right. Wow something smells good.” Roe says coming in to the room.
“There’s coffee on the table or do you want tea? We have a million mixes.” Blue says.
“Coffee as it is is good for me.” Roe says.
“Would you like some pancakes and eggs? I’m about to make some or I can make toast.” Blue says trying to make Roe feel comfortable.
“Pancakes and eggs sound wonderful. I am hungry after yesterday’s activities.” Roe says with a smile letting the young man make himself useful and enjoying a morning off herself.
Katelyn soon comes in to join them and Andy is down earlier than expected.
“The food smells woke me up. Man no wonder you are picky at school. This looks amazing.” Andy says taking a plate and inhaling the contents.
“You’re picky at school?” Momma asks.
“The breakfast eggs are from powder its gross.” Blue says.
“And he grimaces at pizza, is baffled by other fast food and grew tired of the veggie options in the dining hall very quickly.” Andy says.
“Cheryl has been a life saver. Giving me meals a couple of times a week. I can make her food last pretty well.” Blue says.
“So you’re bartering and not starving, shame we have to pay so much for the meal card.” Momma says.
“I sometimes eat my weight in ice cream. It pays for itself in coffee.” Blue says laughing.
“I think I will live on ice-cream and coffee in college.” Katelyn says with a smile, Andy looks up and smiles back, for the first time this break his little sister looks like his little sister.
“Oh when you are looking at colleges I am coming on every visit and will check out all the food options. You are not going anywhere with powdered egg and bland curry.” Andy says.
“You’ll be a grown up and working by then.” Katelyn says.
“I’ll make time for you.” Andy laughs certain that he won’t neglect his little sister again.
“Blue here are the keys to the house. When you’re ready go and take a look around. If you think it will work I’ll get the utilities back on. There is no rush, enjoy your breakfast. It’s lovely to have a house full of people again. It’s been a lonely fall.” Momma says.
“Do you have to go out?” Blue asks.
“Yes there are people I need to visit. Are those buns done? Can I take a batch?” Momma asks.
“For sure. I made a lot.” Blue says putting some into a paper bag. Andy stands up and pinches one.
“Why, why do you want to stay in the dorms next year when you could be out cooking things like this?” Andy laughs.
“Get a place with a good kitchen and I’ll come by, I’ll leave you baked goods in exchange for electricity and the use of your kitchen.” Blue says.
“Deal.” Andy says.
“I just need to call Austin. Let me know when you’re ready to go. Does anyone need anything? Towels, toiletries?” Blue asks.
“Bro you are a great host, who would have thought. I’m good, I take it we can use what we find in the bathroom?” Andy says.
“Yes, there are more soaps, toothpaste and things under the sink and towels in the cupboard by the shower.” Blue says.
“Thank you. I’m sure we’ll be fine we packed most things we’ll need.” Roe says.
Blue has a too quick call with Austin while the others get ready.
“This is the house. It’s in pretty good shape but needs a good clean. You can easily have a veggie garden when the ground is less hard and if you want chickens I can supply some to get you started, I think we have too many for Momma to deal with alone.” Blue says.
“Its bigger than I expected.” Roe says looking round.
“Where’s my room?” Katelyn asks and runs off to look.
“It’ll take a bit of work but not as much as I expected.” Andy says.
“Admit it you expected a cabin in the woods with an outside toilet.” Blue says.
“That is what I thought your house would be. I was expecting a tent for us.” Andy jokes.
“I’ll help you get it ready. We can go and get your furniture in a few days.” Blue says.
“No, I’m not risking you two going back. We’ve taken away Jacobs treasure he might get violent if he finds out you’re there.” Roe says quietly.
“Have you heard something?” Blue asks.
“I left your Momma’s number with one friend. She doesn’t know where we are and knows not to ask. She called early this morning and said there was a scene at church before he even knew we’d gone. I feel for my sister but if he rejects her, well maybe she’ll learn to stand on her own feet.” Roe says.
“Well we can help find things for now, there are several furniture makers and recyclers in the area. It is just mattresses we’ll need to buy. We can go to the city in a few days or order online.” Blue says.
“I love it.” Katelyn says coming out.
“Really?” Andy asks.
“Yes I can have some chickens and the upstairs room has a balcony. It would be a good art studio for Auntie Roe.” Katelyn says clearly meaning a good bedroom for her.
“There are a couple of outbuildings that might be good for a studio.” Blue says and Katelyn grins.
“What can I do for fun though? Is there anything up here?” Katelyn asks.
“The café has a lot of events, open mic and the like, we play films in various people’s barns. I fish and swim at the lake. Not so good this time of year but kids will hang out there when it gets warmer.” Blue says.
“So that is why you can bake so well. You need real hobbies here. I will just have to learn something.” Katelyn says with surprising enthusiasm.
“Whatever you want to learn just ask and someone will teach you. If you want to work with wood, if you want to learn to horse ride or kit or sew someone will be able to teach you. We’ll get you a bike too before I go back to school.” Blue says.
Happy the house will suit them Blue drives them on to the café and leaves Andy and Roe there while he drives Katelyn round to meet other tweens.
“Feels like fate you meeting that boy. If you and Spence ever split up he would be a great match for you.” Roe says.
“I should be so lucky. He is utterly in love with our friend Gervais.” Andy says.
“I thought his boyfriend was Austin.” Roe says.
“He is, Gervais keeps turning him down for stupid reasons. Want another drink?” Andy asks.
“That would be lovely. This place is wonderful. I can’t believe how much Katelyn has turned herself around already and is really trying hard to make the best of it.” Roe says.
“I am so proud of her and so upset I didn’t know what she was going through. I thought it was pre-teen hormones kicking in and she was pushing Mom because of that not that she was being groomed by a creep.” Andy says.
“We’re safe now.” Roe says and Andy nods and gets up to get the drinks.
“Are you new in town too?” Andy asks the man at the counter.
“How did you guess?” He asks.
“Blue said he’s never met another gay man, yet here you are.” Andy says boldly.
“I am yet to meet the famous Blue. I’m Robert, Bob.” Bob says.
“I’m Andy arrived last night. What brought you here?” Andy asks.
“I came for the harvest and stayed for the quiet. I’m a carpenter, the money I earned from laboring on the farms meant I could afford to buy tools and get back to work.” Bob says.
“Alone?” Andy asks.
“Yes, I landed here after a breakup. It’s a very healing place.” Bob says.
“Well if you’ve an itch to scratch, I’m here a week or two.” Andy says.
“I finish at 5.” Bob says with a grin.