Mr. Heere was… confused, to say the least.
Today was Father’s Day. He didn’t really think about it, expected maybe a tie from Jeremy or something, and he didn’t stress over it too much. He had other things to deal with, he didn’t very much mind if they skipped over it.
Even with it being said holiday, they had needed him at work. So, he worked for the allotted hours and was happy when it was over. He thought, maybe he could fix something he wanted for dinner tonight, and the kids would just have to put up with it, and that would be the end of it.
But as he walked out to his car, he found his kids parked next to and waiting for him.
“Hey, Mr. Heere!” Michael yelled out to him, getting everyone’s attention. “Are you ready?”
“Ready for what?” He laughed as he greeted them.
“For your Father’s Day present!” Chloe told him like it was the most obvious thing in the world.
“You kids got me a present for Father’s Day?” Mr. Heere asked them, looking to them all graciously. “You didn’t have to do that.”
“Of course we did!” Rich spoke, springing out from his seat in the opened-door cruiser.
“…And you couldn’t wait to give it to me at home?” Mr. Heere questioned.
He felt uncomfortable in not knowing what was going on as the kids grinned to one another.
“It’s, uh… a big surprise.” Jeremy told him.
Mr. Heere raised his hands, as if in defense. “Okay, whatever you kids say. So, let’s go home and see it, hm?”
“The thing is,” Christine told him, running to stand in front of so he couldn’t get into his car, “that it’s such a big surprise, that we kind of, maybe need to blindfold you and take you home ourselves.” She said quickly.
Mr. Heere stared blankly at her, and she waited patiently for him to cave in.
“Okay, okay. Who am I going with?”
He was driving with the boys in Michael’s cruiser as Jake drove, apparently because “Jake knows the way best.” (as put by Christine).
They’d made completely sure he couldn’t see out of his blindfold, and they’d been off.
“Why does it feel like a longer drive than normal?” He asked them suspiciously.
“I don’t know, Dad. I think you’re imagining things.” Jeremy laughed to him.
“Ha ha,” Mr. Heere laughed sarcastically. “So, how has everyone’s day been so far?”
“Exhausting.” Rich answered honestly from behind him. “My everything hurts.”
Michael groaned and told him, “Same.”
“What? Why? What happened?” Mr. Heere asked, starting to get somewhat worried.
“Oh, no, we’re fine… you’ll see.” Jake told him, and he felt the car turn.
After a few more minutes, Mr. Heere felt Jake park the car and he reached up for his blindfold.
Until Jake stopped him.
“No! We have to lead you, Mr. Heere.” Jake told him, chuckling with anticipation.
Mr. Heere sighed in mock annoyance. “You know, I am getting way too old for this stuff. You kids better not give me a heart attack.” He warned.
“We won’t… I mean, hopefully.” He heard Michael tell him.
“What?!” He asked, now intensely curious as to what in the world was going on.
He felt the car door open at his side, and he got out, letting one of them grab his arm to guide him. They didn’t walk very far, maybe just around the car, and then he was hearing the excited giggles of all his kids.
“Okay, stand right there.” Brooke’s voice instructed him.
“Aaaaaand, take it off!” She instructed again, sounding farther away.
He did, and he was so stunned, he didn’t know what to say.
“Happy Father’s Day!” All of them shouted, huddled together and striking poses as if to display the house they were standing in front of.
“What… what is this?” Mr. Heere asked them.
“It’s our new house!” Chloe answered.
“Our… new… house.” Mr. Heere said slowly, still mentally reeled back.
“I mean, if you don’t like it, it’s okay. If – If the other one holds special meaning or anything, we can stay there.” Jake told him, although sounding a bit disappointed.
“No, no, it’s not that.” Mr. Heere told him, his hand reaching out to grab Jake’s shirt sleeve. “It’s just, how did you get a new house?! And look at it!” Mr. Heere gestured madly at it.
“With… money?” Jake answered, his face confused.
“What money?!” Mr. Heere asked him, starting to worry that they had secretly stolen someone’s home.
“I told you, Mr. Heere, my parents left me a bunch of money.” Jake explained.
Mr. Heere was shocked into pure silence for a moment.
“They left you that much money?” He was almost shouting.
“I mean, the laundered a shit-ton more of it, so… yeah?” Jake smiled cheekily to him.
Mr. Heere turned and started to walk up the driveway to inspect the outside of the house more.
“And… and you bought this house? This is our house?” He asked them, hands still wildly gesturing at all of it. It felt so huge to him, he just couldn’t handle it.
“Yeah! It’s got five bedrooms!” Rich told him eagerly.
“Five bedrooms?!” Mr. Heere shouted in disbelief.
“We made sure of it!” Jenna told him. “There’s your bedroom, and the four others for us to share. Because, no offense to you guys, but we all needed more space.” No one argued with that, just nodded.
“And we already decided who gets what rooms!” Michael said happily. “Jeremy and Rich are gonna share, Jake and I are gonna share, and then Jenna and Chloe, and Brooke and Christine!”
“Did… did you not like sharing the rooms so much?” Mr. Heere asked them, feeling disappointed in himself for not realizing it if they had been uncomfortable.
“No, no! I loved sharing a bed with Jake, we just, kind of agreed that we weren’t really ready for all that.” Rich explained, and everyone nodded again.
“Aaand we already moved everything in and bought beds and furniture and stuff so please don’t hate it!” Christine got out in a rush.
Mr. Heere was quiet yet again.
“You bought furniture, too?!” He yelled.
“Actually, Chloe did.” Jake answered, pointing his thumb at her.
“What? Did you guys think I would be stupid enough to not ensure I had my money while I could?” She smiled brightly, almost proud.
“And you got it moved here, all while I was at work?” Mr. Heere eyed them.
“Well, we’ve been looking at houses and stuff for a couple weeks.” Brooke admitted. “But we paid for the house yesterday, and yes, paid some movers and helped move it all here while you were gone.”
“You paid for it already?!” He yelled again, feeling like his eyes were going to just fall out of his head if they kept bulging like this.
“Yep! It’s our present to you!” Jake told him, spinning him around and making a grand sweeping gesture of the entire front of the house.
“But before we go inside, we all have some things we’d like to say.” Jeremy spoke, and Jake spun them back around and went to join the others in front of him again.
“Okay, and I’m first.” Jeremy started, stepping up a step so he was in between the group and Mr. Heere. “I just wanted to tell you how happy I am to have you as my dad. You have been and continue to be the wisest and kindest man, like, ever, and I feel lucky that I get to look up to you. Happy Father’s Day Dad, I love you.” Jeremy walked over to give him a quick hug, and stood beside him as Michael stepped up.
Michael took a deep breath, held it, and released. “Uh, I just wanted to say, that you’re the first parent to accept me. I mean, the only parents I really knew were my own and Jeremy’s, but, you accepted who I was without a second glance. You’ve helped me in more ways than you’ll know, and I’ll never be able to fully repay you for it, but here’s a shot.” He gave Mr. Heere his hug and stood beside his boyfriend, grabbing his hand and quickly wiping away the tear that got out.
Rich stepped up next, and he took his own deep breath, looking utterly serious. “I genuinely love you, Mr. Heere.” He told him, and if Mr. Heere wasn’t already tearing up, he was now. “In the few short months that I’ve lived with you and this makeshift family, I have become so much… happier.” His voice broke, and Jake extended a hand to rub his back in support. “You have treated me with only kindness and love, and I hope to only return it in the future.” He tried to laugh away the tears leaking out when Mr. Heere returned his hug as tightly as possible. He went to stand with Jeremy and Michael as Jake stood to take his turn.
“So, I’m not exactly the best with words,” He rubbed the back of his head, “But uh, what Rich said, same goes for me.” He laughed. “It’s kind of amazing to go from living all alone and feeling like a ghost in your own home, to living with eight other people. Every day I’m more and more thankful for you, Mr. Heere. On my last birthday night, I sat at home alone, crying as I blew out a candle I lit myself, in a store-made cake I bought for myself.” He refused to meet anyone’s eyes. “The- the point is, that night, I wished for a family… And you’ve given it to me. Thank you.” Jake hugged him, and hoped Mr. Heere wouldn’t tell anyone about him crying into his shirt a little bit when he so fiercely returned the hug.
Chloe stepped up, the tears already forming in her eyes. “I feel bad, I don’t have such a long speech or anything.” She laughed. “I just wanted to say: thank you for showing me what real family is like. And, you know, not just Mr. Heere, but all of you. Thank you so much, for encouraging me, and loving me, and dealing with me when I get a bit… you know.” She laughed again. “I’m not good with words, either.” She said a bit too quickly and enveloped Mr. Heere in her hug. She stood with the rest, and gave an encouraging smile to Brooke as she stepped closer.
“You always hear so many stories about parents never accepting their kids – I mean, look at my own – that you never really expect there to be a parent that does accept you.” She smiled sweetly and started fiddling with her hands, looking to the ground. “And that night, after my family did all that horrible stuff, you took me in. You were angry when we told you what happened, you yelled at us for possibly getting glass in our hands, and you refused to let me drive my busted car home. You’ve shown me so much open love that I don’t really know what to do with it. Other than to say thank you.” She hugged him, kissed his cheek, and stood with the others.
“At first, I felt like I didn’t actually belong with this adoptive family.” Christine admitted for the first time, earning everyone’s concerned look. “I felt like, everyone came to you with bad home lives, and I showed up just because I ran out of other options.” She dabbed at the tears starting to form. “But my grandmother used to tell me that when you find people you love and who love you, you never let them go. And since I made the mistake to let her go when she got sick, I’m never letting any of you go.” She was letting tears fall now, her voice wavering as she cried. “Hope you don’t mind.” She ran to hug him, taking a minute to let him calm her down and cry into his shoulder. When she was okay, she joined the others, and they all smiled encouragingly to Jenna.
“I have lived my whole life gossiping about other people.” She started. “I learned everything I could about others, because nobody wanted to get to know anything about me. Every foster care parent could care less, every classmate at school acted like I wasn’t there at all unless I made myself known. And then I met you guys. And that night, even after I said all those awful things to all of you, you broke through and helped me. Mr. Heere, you have asked me more things about myself than even I had known. I’ll always be thankful for you. You’re the best father we could all ask for.” She laughed a small bit to try and stop her own forming tears, and gave him his final hug.
“Thank you all, so much. I love you.” He told them, wiping at his eyes. They all smiled sincerely back at him with shining eyes.
“Alright, let’s go check out the cool house my kids bought me.”