Here I stand with my brother Mark and the rest of our team. I can't believe I'm about to play my first game at Verona High School. Well, I'm not sure I'm going to get to play but you know what I mean. Mark and I are new to the school so I'm sure we still have some proving of ourselves before we get to play. It's not like we aren't good. All those years we played youth soccer in California were definitely good training. Even during the years when Daddy Jordan was still touring all the time, Daddy Ralph would take us to a park or an empty soccer field somewhere and let us run and play.
I guess I inherited some of my grandfather's ability to play soccer even though my dad was never much interested except to play for fun with the guys. Daddy Jordan and Phantom had agreed a few years back that they'd take off for a few years to allow Mark and me to attend Verona High for a few years. Our dads wanted us to experience life in Verona and learn a bit about our family history. Our great grandparents weren't getting any younger either and they wanted us to know them better while they were still able to play some with us.
They, along with our dads, Uncles Ethan and Nathan, Sean and Nick were all sitting in the stands waiting to see us play. Mom and Grandma Stephanie wanted to be here, but their flights were delayed. They promised they'd be there for the next game.
I was a bundle of nervous energy, and I looked over at Mark and could see he was too. We high-fived each other and looked at the rest of our team in the blue and white uniforms. I felt sorry for our opponents because our team is kick-ass. We definitely were gonna win!
As we walked from the locker room towards the field, I could feel the team's level of energy grow stronger with each and every step. When we got to the edge of the field, we paused before running out to begin our warm up. Mark and I both walked over to the boulder with the plaque. We already knew what it said. Our dads had brought us here many times before, but today seeing it was even more special. We were going to play on that very field, the field where Granddad Taylor and Granddad Mark had lost their lives so many years ago.
There was a wreath of light blue and white flowers in front of the boulder. I knew Daddy Jordan had put that there. They were his dads after all. Mark and I each touched the plaque and thought about making them proud of us. Each of our teammates did the same. I don't know if that had always been a tradition at VHS or whether they had started it because of us. But it was the team's way of remembering and pledging as the plaque said to never let those events repeat themselves.
After a few moments, our team captain, Sam Brewer, yelled, “Let's go kick some ass!” and we ran out on the field and started warming up. I did take a moment during our warm up to find our cheering section in the stands. Not like I had to look hard. They were yelling for us so much they weren't hard to find.
Finally the game began. Yes, both Mark and I were standing on the sideline but we were hoping to get to play later on. The other team didn't have much offense, at least to begin, with but their defense was pretty good. So it was a good game. We pretty much controlled the ball but were having difficulty scoring.
At half-time the game was still scoreless. It was a rougher game than we expected. Our coach told us he wanted to shake things up in our offense. Do something different to see if that would work. He was going to put Mark and me in the game. YES! Now even though Mark and I aren't identical twins we still are twins. I don't know if it comes from being in the womb together or what but we almost have a psychic ability to read each other's thoughts and know what the other is going to do even before he does it. I think Coach hoped it just might be the trick to allow us to score. I was sure hoping it would work.
Uncle Ethan said that our granddads had that psychic ability too when they played, so maybe it ran in the family. Who knows, but we were going to make the most of it for our team.
As half-time ended, we rushed back onto the field. I found my dads in the stands and gave them the thumbs up to tip them off that we were going in. They both stood and cheered for us. We finished our warm-ups, and the game was about to begin again. This time Mark and I were on the field!
Just before the opening kick, I had a strange sensation of someone patting me on the back and whispering, “You've got this,” in my ear. I looked around but no one was there. I was a bit freaked out, and I looked over at Mark. He was looking back at me with the same look on his face.
As the game resumed, Mark was able to get the ball and we drove down the field. I knew just where to be to get the pass and take the shot on goal. Like a knife through butter, Mark cut through our opponent's defenses. I got in position for the pass I knew was going to come. And sure enough it did. It was a bit high because one of our opponents got a foot on the ball but it came right at me and I headed it right into the goal!
In a matter of seconds, my entire team was on top of me cheering. I grabbed Mark and hugged him. Walking back to mid-field I took a second to glance up in the stands and our family was going crazy! Even our great grandparents were up and yelling. It sure was special to have those three there for us. Both of Granddad Taylor’s parents were there along with Granddad Mark's mom.
Unfortunately, our opponents wised up to Mark and me after that. We had a couple close shots but no more luck. We even tried to set up some of our teammates to score and nothing worked. However, our defense was kicking butt and taking no prisoners. They never came close to scoring on us. After a hard-fought battle, the horn sounded ending the game. It wasn't the blowout we hoped for but we won! Everyone on the team was jumping and slapping each other on the back. Mark and I were definitely the heroes of the game.
Once things calmed down a bit with the team, I grabbed Mark and we looked up at our family cheering from the stands. It took me a few seconds to realize what was happening. But there in the stands with the family were three additional people. Two were young and they were wearing VHS letter jackets. One looked just like Daddy Jordan. The other had dark hair and a smile as big as the field. They hugged each other and smiled at us. It finally dawned on us that what we saw was our granddads. They were there to see us play. The other man was older, he was standing between Granddad Mark and Mark's mother. He had an arm wrapped around each of them. If it was possible his smile was bigger than his son's.
Mark and I just stood there in shock. Mark's dad removed his arm from his wife's shoulder and turned and gave his son a huge hug and kiss on the cheek. At that point, I broke out in tears and my brother Mark wasn't far behind. Slowly though, the three of them faded away. Somehow, we both knew that they weren't gone but simply no longer visible to us.
I'm sure the rest our teammates thought the two of us had completely lost it but we didn't really give a shit at that point. Our granddads and Great-Granddad came to see us play. They came to see us bring life back to that field. It would no longer be a place of sorrow for our family and friends. It would be a place of hope. Hope in a future that was better than the past. Some day we would tell the family what we saw but for now it was just for the two of us.
Twins, Mark and Taylor, are once again visited by their granddads, this time on the soccer field after practice.
The following day after practice as we were running off the field, two players ran up next to Mark and me. I didn't notice at first but, I looked over and saw not two of my teammates but our grandfathers. I elbowed Mark, and we both slowed down saying to our teammates. “We'll catch up with you guys in a bit, guys.”
As the rest of the team ran on to the showers, Mark and I stopped as did our grandfathers. I looked from my brother Mark to my grandfathers. Grandfather Taylor spoke, “Surprised to see us?” I nodded not quite sure I could speak. Taylor continued, “Sorry to be a bit, well, dramatic but we needed to talk with you both about what happened yesterday at your game. We hope you aren't freaked out over it.”
My brother replied, “I'm not freaked out. It actually made me very, very happy to see you there. Like you care and watch over us.”
Both Mark and Taylor smiled. “That's exactly right. We do care about you very much, and we are often watching over you and your parents. We love you both very much.”
I said, “I know how and why you did what you did. Are you ok now? Are you happy?” As I said that, I looked at the soccer goal where I knew both of them had died. They both smiled even bigger if that was possible.
“We are very happy. You could almost say ‘it's heavenly,’ literally!” We all laughed. Granddad Taylor continued, “We are in a place very much like this but it's even more perfect. Do you want to see it? We can let you visit very briefly.” Granddad took each of our hands, and instantly we were standing in what could have been the very same place but it seemed different. More something that I couldn't begin to describe. He let go of our hands, and we returned to the soccer field where we were standing before. “See? That's our heaven. It's the place where we are the happiest. Mostly we're happy because we are together.”
Granddad Mark spoke next, “There is a reason we're here today. We want you to share what happened yesterday with all your family, even Ethan, Nathan, Sean, and Nick because they are your family as well. We know that they feel much better about what happened to us all those years ago than they were at one time, but there is still a lot of pain. Knowing that we are around and looking over them will bring them some comfort.”
I looked at my brother nervously. “Won't they think we're crazy?”
“Maybe at first, but you're not the first we've talked to since we died. We have spoken to your Dad once when he was at his lowest point, and we have spoken to Ethan once as well. As for Sean and Nick we talk to them so much we think of them as best friends. Trust us, everything will be just fine.”
I looked at Mark and he looked at me. We nodded to each other in silent agreement to do as we'd been asked. We turned back to our grandfathers but they were gone.
Mark asked me, “Wow! What do you think?”
“I don't know. I guess we need to trust them. They're our grandfathers after all.” Mark shrugged his shoulders and we headed to the locker room. I hope it wasn't already locked up for the evening.
After their second home soccer game, the family gathers for a small victory celebration. Twins, Taylor and Mark, tell the family about their recent visit with their granddads.
It wasn't until the next game, a week later, that everyone was together. This time Sean and Nick had invited everyone over to Graymoor to have a small party for our family and friends to celebrate our victory. Every-one was able to come to the game this time. Even Mark's and my mom, and Grandmother Stephanie were there. Daddy Ralph's parents also were at the party but they had a flat tire and missed the game itself. We didn't care. We were just glad to see everyone and have something to celebrate.
Mark and I talked about our granddads a lot over the last week. We didn't see them today, but I sure felt their presence. We had mixed emotions about telling everyone. On one hand, we were sure they would be as happy as us at their presence, but on the other hand, they may think we are crazy.
After the game, Grandmother Stephanie grabbed us both and hugged us like crazy. She was the most affectionate grandmother ever. I think she has plenty of regrets that she wasn't there more for Daddy Jordan and was doing everything she could to make it up with us. I will never complain about that. She is the best. As soon as she let us go, it was Grandfather and Grandmother Rogers' turn to hug us. There was a lot of love in that room; that's for sure.
At the party, after all the guests had gotten some food and were sitting down eating, Mark and I looked at each other and without speaking asked the other, “Should we tell them?” Now was the perfect opportunity with everyone together. I could see in Mark's eyes he was just as terrified about it as I was.
As Mark and I were looking at each other, Grandfather Taylor faintly appeared in a corner of the room. I looked at Mark and used my eyes to get him to notice he was there. My namesake put his finger to his lips to get us to be quiet. Mark and I looked at each other, then to Taylor with our mutual question in our eyes. After a moment, he just nodded his head. I looked at Mark, and he also nodded. He was signaling me to start.
“Everyone. I need to tell you all something. Something that happened at the end of our first game last week.” The crowd instantly got very quiet and quite concerned. “Don't worry, it is nothing bad. In fact, I think it was amazing and Mark agrees with me.”
I started my story and when I got to the end, there wasn't a dry eye in the room. The tears only increased when I told them that Taylor was just in the room and let us know that it was ok to tell them about what happened. Everyone started looking around to see if they could see him too. Slowly, Grandfather Taylor appeared to all. He had a huge smile on his face, and the tears increased once again. Mark and I looked at each other and our smiles matched the one on our grandfather's face.
Great-Grandmother Potter stood and walked to her son. He opened his arms to her and she all but fell into them. She said, “I'm so sorry Taylor. I should have known better. I should have loved you no matter what.”
Taylor took a hold of her face in his hands and smiled at her. He said to her, “I know, Mom. I forgive both you and Dad.” He looked over to his dad and smiled. “I have never left you. I have especially watched how you have accepted Jordan, Ralph, and my wonderful grandsons. I thank you very much for being there to give them the love I sometimes can't. Although, I'm there for them much more than they ever realize.”
Grandmother Bailey spoke up next as Grandmother Potter continued to hold her son. “Is my Mark here? Can I see him too?”
Taylor looked at her and smiled, “Yes, he'll be here shortly. He had something he needed to do first.” Mark's mom smiled while she wiped fresh tears from her eyes.
Next, Taylor turned his eyes to Grandmother Stephanie. “Stephanie, I'm so sorry. I truly never meant to hurt you. I still love you to this day, and if I had known about Jordan, I would have been there for you and endured whatever I had to for both of you.” He let go of his mom and went over and hugged her tightly. You could almost see the weight of all those years fall from her shoulders. He continued, “Thank you for being a wonderful mother to Jordan and for being there for his sons. Jordan and I had a chance to talk years ago. I don't know if he told any of you. I know he knows I'm always there when he needs me too.” Turning to Jordan, “I love you, Son. I love you as much as I possibly can and you know that is a lot. I cannot even begin to tell you how proud you and Ralph have made me. You have raised two beautiful young men, who just happen to be kick-ass soccer players.”
Mark and I high-fived each other! It felt so good to hear him say that. Tears started to flow from our eyes as well. He came and gave each of us a big hug. It was a wonderful sensation to be hugged by him. I could feel so much love in it.
Soon thereafter, a new voice said, “I'm sorry I'm late for the party. Looks like everyone is having fun.” It was Mark. “I had to make an extra stop before I could come.” At that point his dad appeared as well. Mark's mom rushed to them both. Tears were flowing from her as she hugged them both.
“Oh, Mark and Jeffrey! How I've missed you both,” she said through her sobs.
“I've never left you for one moment.” Mark's dad replied. “I feel horrible for what happened. Mark and I just had a very long talk, and it's not the first one either. He has completely forgiven me and I have tried to do everything I can to make amends for my actions.” Grandfather Mark looked at his mom and nodded.
Mark surprisingly turned towards Grandfather and Grandmother Rogers. “Mr. and Mrs. Rogers, I want to thank you for your son. As Taylor said, we're both often there with them. We love your son as much as we do our own. He is the perfect complement to Jordan and is a wonderful parent to our namesakes, who ‒ forgive me for being a bit partial ‒ are the most wonderful boys ever.”
“Ethan. Nathan. I don't know how to tell you how happy you've made Taylor and me with all the work you've done at the Gay Youth Center. Mark and I still get a bit misty-eyed when we think that you and Jordan named it after us.” All three of them smiled and wiped a tear from their eyes. “You cannot even begin to know the number of lives that your work has saved. And not just in Verona. I would say it's in the thousands if not near a million.”
Taylor looked at his father-in-law and nodded. He stepped forward and joined my grandfathers. “Today, one of the reasons that we wanted to visit was to let you know that Dad here has asked to be the guardian angel for the center. He'll not only look after the center itself and all those who visit but the wider circle of gay youth that center helps. He will help you in any way he can. He thinks he needs to make up for how he treated us. We've told him that's not needed because we know he loves us now, but he insists.”
Ethan, Nathan and Jordan all stood and hugged Great-Grandfather and thanked him for looking after them. I could tell they were very touched.
Once everybody was seated again, Grandfather Taylor said, “Sorry everyone, but our time here has come to an end. We're always around when you need us even though you don't see us. Just remember we love you all very much.”
“Dad,” It was Daddy Jordan speaking, “Can I ask you a question?”
“Of course you can Son.”
“Grandmother gave me the poems you wrote. I want to know if you would mind if I used them as lyrics for my first solo album. It would just be me and a piano, not even my regular keyboards. It's something I've been toying with since she gave them to me. The best part is I've already talked to the record company. Every dime of the proceeds would go to gay youth centers around the country, as well as The Trevor Project.”
“Jordan! That is perfect. I would be so proud to have you do that.”
“I would even do a bit of touring to promote the album and every concert would benefit the local gay youth center in that town. I'm going to underwrite the costs of the tour and the album so that 100% of the proceeds go to help. I've even talked to the rest of Phantom. In the future, I'll do a few songs from the album at our concerts and a portion of the money from those concerts will also go to The Trevor Foundation.
I think everyone was speechless at that point. Taylor and Mark just nodded and then just faded away.
The next couple weeks were back to normal for us. Well maybe not normal for us since Mark and I spent a great deal of our lives traveling with Phantom and living in Los Angeles and at the Ranch in Oklahoma. But things had returned to what would be normal for most people, school, soccer, and spending time with our parents at home. I love life in Verona. I enjoy the quiet life of a small town. I am also getting used to the fact that our grandfathers were angels and would make occasional appearances to us.
We hadn't seen the original Mark and Taylor for a month or so, but we knew they were there. We sense their presence most often on the soccer field. It was there Grandfather Taylor made his next appearance to us after practice one day towards the end of soccer season. As we ran to the locker room he suddenly appeared jogging between us. It took us a few moments to realize he was there, but when we did we stopped and said we'd catch up with the rest of the team. Mark and I turned towards Taylor because we knew he didn't just show up for no reason . Boy were we right!
“I need to ask you both a big favor. I need your help.”
“Sure you know we'll do whatever we can to help Grandfather, but what in the world can we do that you can't? You're an angel.”
“Even angels have limits Taylor.”
Mark spoke up. “Of course we want to help. What do you need us to do?”
“It's one of your classmates. He's feeling abandoned, unloved, like no one cares. He is friendless or so he thinks. He's even considered suicide because he doesn't think anyone will care if he lives or dies.”
“Wow! That's not good. What should we do?”
“Not only do you need to be his friend but you need to show him that he's not nearly as friendless as he thinks he is. There are people who already care about him. Some he knows and some he doesn't. You need to get him to open his eyes and point him in the right direction.”
“I think we can do that. I already want to be his friend. Who is it?” Mark said.
“That's just it. I can't tell you. It's against the rules for me to interfere more than I already have. You'll just have to figure it out for yourselves. Plus you never know who else you may touch and help along the way.”
I asked, “Can't you at least give us a hint? Something to go on? I wouldn't want to figure it out too late!”
“I can only tell you it's someone in one of your classes or on the soccer team. Someone that you see every day. Oh yeah! You also have to do this by yourselves. You cannot ask for help from your dads or anyone else.” With that he vanished.
“Wow! That is quite a job we've been given. Where do we start?”
“I don't know but let's hit the showers. Keep an eye on the guys on the team. He said that he could be on the team.” Once we get home we'll try to come up with a plan.”
We finished running into the locker room and were more quiet than normal as we watched our teammates. Occasionally Mark and I would make eye contact and just shrug. We had no clue. After showering and getting dressed we started walking home. It had taken a lot of convincing to get our dads to let us walk the few blocks home from school. They were always concerned for our safety. Because of Daddy Jordan's celebrity they were concerned someone would try to kidnap us. We wanted to be normal. We wanted to enjoy the crisp fall air, smell the leaves and feel the warmth of the sun as it set in the distance.
Once home, Mark and I went to our room so we could work on our plan to do as Grandfather had asked.
Mark started, “What do we do first?”
“Well let's make a list of the guys in our classes and on the team. Grandfather did say he so I think that would eliminate all the girls.”
“Ok that's our job tomorrow then. Make a list in each of our classes. But we can start the list the guys on the team right now.”
Mark and I made the list of the guys on the team. We discussed them who we thought it could and couldn't be. There weren't many on the “could be” list. After all the guys on the team were pretty tight. They were all good friends.
After dinner we did our homework but couldn't completely put our task out of our minds. As we got ready for bed Mark asked, “What do we do once we figure out who it is?
“I'm not sure. I guess it's gonna kinda depend on who it is and why they feel that way. We do always have the resources of the Potter-Bailey Center to help us. I don't think that is breaking Grandfather's rules.”
“That's true. We need to spend more time there anyway. Maybe we can even do some volunteer work there after soccer season is over. I think that would really please our Dads.
As we got ready for bed Mark turned on our television. He was about to flip the channel from the local news when a story caught our ears. We both sat focused on the reporter who was talking about some large corporation that had just purchased a large tract of land next to the center. They are planning on building a large factory that would bring lots of much needed jobs to Verona and northern Indiana. After the story ended I wondered how this would affect the center. Would definitely need to make sure our Dad's knew about this.
Not The End
The next morning as I sat down to breakfast. Daddy Ralph joined Daddy Jordan and me at the table sitting his cup of coffee in front of him.
“Dads, last night as Mark and I were going to sleep there was a story on the news that someone has bought a large tract of land next to the Potter-Bailey Center. They're going to build some kind of factory on it.”
Daddy Ralph looked at me and said, “Well that's definitely interesting news. We will need to keep an eye on developments.”
Mark came running in as late as always. Why couldn't he get moving in the mornings? He grabbed a Danish and ran out the door to school. I looked at my dads and rolled my eyes and followed him.
As I ran to catch up with Mark I reminded him to work on making his list of the guys in his classes today. He said he would. I was incredibly sad thinking that one of our classmates or teammates was that sad. How does someone get to that point. I was going make sure that whoever it was would not do something stupid. As I walked into school I happened to think maybe it would be useful to know the signs of suicide, what we should be looking for. I decided to make a detour to the library to see if there were any books available.
I found a couple books I thought might be useful. When I got to the desk to check them out the librarian gave me a look of concern.
“Oh, given what happened to my grandfathers I was just curious and wanted to read up on the subject.”
“Yes, Mark Bailey and Taylor Potter were my grandfathers.”
“Oh I remember those boys. They were students here when I first started working in the library. They were such kind boys. Such a tragedy. I remember it like it was yesterday.”
I quickly made my way to first period and barely made it when the bell rang as I walked through the door. I took my seat and opened my notebook and began making my list. I repeated that task each period. I watched as many of the guys as I could during lunch to see who was eating alone. Who was quiet.
After practice Mark and I compared notes and combined our lists. There were a total of 60 names on our joint list.
“That's a lot of names,” I said.
“I know. How do we go about narrowing it down?
“ I don't think we should at this point. You never know what secrets someone is hiding. I did get this books this morning at the library. Maybe they'll help us.”
Brilliant idea. I'll take one and read it. You read the other then we'll switch.”
“Great! Let's go up to our room and start reading.”
As Mark and Taylor start to work on the mission given to them by their grandfathers. Another problems arises that threatens the Potter-Bailey Gay Youth Center.
Mark and I started reading. Daddy Jordan was working out music on the piano for his solo album and Daddy Ralph was sitting on the sofa reading a book, probably Harry Potter for the 100th time. A little while later we heard a knock on the door. We don't get a lot of visitors so Mark and I decided to go see who it was. When we got to the living room we saw Daddy Ralph letting Uncle Ethan and Uncle Nathan in. They were followed by Coach Brewer from the football team at school and Mr. Brewer, his husband who helps run the Potter-Bailey Center. I was surprised when Sam Brewer my soccer team captain followed them in the door.
Uncle Ethan spoke first once everyone was seated. “I have some bad news. I'm sure you heard about that company that wants to build a factory next to the Center. Well apparently they are now claiming that they need the land that the Center sits on to build or the project is a no go. They are planning on getting the State to use eminent domain to take it if we won't sell.
Daddy Jordan was furious, “They can't do that! Think of all of the kids we will no longer be able to help. I'll call my lawyer right away.”
Uncle Nathan said, “Well they would have to pay for the value of the land and the center and we could rebuild elsewhere but I can't think of a suitable tract of land anywhere nearby.”
Casper replied, “I can't believe all our hard work getting the Center going will be lost. We've made so much progress, but there is so much more we need to do.”
Mark and I invited Sam to our room so we could talk.
“Nice room guys! What's up?”
I said, “I didn't realize you are Coach Brewer's son.”
“Yeah they adopted me about ten years ago. The man I refer to as my sperm donor dropped me off at the Center when I was four years-old. He caught me playing with my sister's dolls and screamed he wasn't going to have a faggot for a son and drove to the center and barely slowed down when he dropped me off. I was so young I had no idea what my address was or how to get back home. So my dads took me in at first, as a foster child, then adopted me a few years later. I think the main reason they actually got married was they thought it would increase the chances of the adoption going through.
“That's so cool,” Mark said, “They must really care about you then.”
“Oh yes, they're the best. I do think I turned out to be something different than they expected though.”
I said, “Why's that?”
“Well I turned out to be straight.”
“I guess that would be a shock after what happened when you were little.”
“Maybe so, but I never had any feelings towards guys. I'm not sure why I was playing with the dolls I guess I thought it was fun.”
“Well what do you think about what is happening to the Center?”
“I hate to see it happen the Center does a lot of good work. My Dads got me to do some volunteer work there during the summers. I really like the work I do there.”
“We were thinking of doing some volunteer work after soccer season. What did you do?”
“Lots of different things. I got trained to work the suicide prevention line. I just spent time with the guys and girls staying there. Sometimes just spending time with someone makes a world of difference.”
Mark spoke up, “Oh I'd especially like to get trained for the suicide line. Given my family history that something that is really important to me and I know Taylor too.
I shook my head.
“I can understand that. That history would be something that you could use with the callers as well. It would help them to understand that their actions have ramifications for others.”
About that time Sam's dads called him that they were leaving. So we walked with him back to the living room.
“So what's the plan?,” I asked my dads.
“Right now it's just wait and see. Ethan is talking to the lawyer that helped with Nick's and Sam's adoptions. He's a long-time friend of the Center. I'm also calling my lawyer who helped with getting protecting the Center when we first built it.
“Well sounds like we're started in the right direction. If there is anything we can do please let us know.”
“We certainly will.”
Mark and I went back to our rooms to continue reading our books.
This chapter does contain some spoilers for "Ugly."
The next morning, Mark and I went to school as usual everything was pretty normal until lunch time. I spotted one of my classmates sitting all by himself. I told Mark that I'd catch up with him later and went over to where my classmate was sitting.
“Do you mind if I sit here? I'm tired of always eating with my brother,” I said with a smile. “My name is Taylor Rogers.” My Dads thought it was best if we didn't use our Potter last names at school for our protection.
“I guess.” He looked up shyly. “I'm Cory Brenner. We're in Algebra class together right.”
“Yeah, I saw you sitting here by yourself and thought I might join you. I'm always looking to make new friends outside of the soccer team.”
“Well soccer team material I'm definitely not.” he said with a slight smile.
“What do you like to do then?”
“Oh my favorite thing is the world is playing the piano. It's a talent that I guess you could say I inherited from my father.”
“I guess you could say I know something about pianist. I'd love to hear you play sometime.”
“I'd love to play for you. I don't have a piano at home and they started locking the music room here during lunch and after-school.”
“Why don't you come over to my house after-school then. We don't have soccer practice today and we do have a piano and more keyboards than most schools.”
“Are you sure your parents won't mind.”
“I'm positive. My Dads love piano music.”
Cory got a huge smile on his face and started eating his lunch.
After-school Mark met me at my locker. He told me about a guy in his gym class that loves soccer but just isn't very good at it. Since there was no practice today, he offered to meet him after-school and teach him some of the basics. He said that he felt so bad for the guy in class. He wanted so badly to have fun but just didn't have the skills and the other guys kept picking on him for it which just got him more frustrated.
I said no problem I'd see him at home and quickly told him about my lunch with Cory. He smiled and took off to meet his new friend.
Just after Mark left I spotted Cory headed towards my locker.
It didn't take long for Cory and I to walk home. We mostly made small talk.
When we walked in the house and Cory saw the baby grand piano and the rack of keyboards he almost peed his pants. He practically ran over to the piano and started playing. It was the most beautiful thing I had heard in a long time. He just played and played. At about 5:00 Cory noticed the partially written piece of music sitting on the piano.
“What's this?” he asked.
“Probably something my dad is working on for his next album.”
“His next album? Just who is your Dad?”
“Um, Jordan Potter from Phantom.”
“You're kidding me right?
“Wow! I would have never guessed. Wait! My Dad told me once he was on the soccer team with your Dad's dad.”
“That's cool. You should have him come over sometime. My Dad would love to meet him.” Since he never knew his Dad, he loves any connection he can make.”
“Do you think he would mind if I tried to play this?”
“I don't think so.”
Cory started playing the music before him. At first it was a bit rough but on the third of fourth play through you could tell he was starting to explore it and make it his own. It was beautiful. Just as he was really getting into it, my Dads walked through the door with Mark behind them. You could instantly see the look of shock on Daddy Jordan's face. He was in awe.
“Taylor, who is this?”
“Hey Dads, this is my new friend Cory. He was telling me at lunch how much he likes playing the piano but doesn't have one to play on a regular basis any more. So I invited him over to play some. I hope you don't mind.”
“Normally I like to know before hand when you have someone come over but that was beautiful. Cory that was just amazing. I have been working on that for a while and couldn't figure out what I wanted to do. I hope you don't mind if I use at least some of what you just did.”
“Not at all Mr. Potter. It was a privilege just to play your piano. I've always been a big fan.”
“Hey Dad, Cory was just telling me that his Dad went to school with Granddaddy Taylor and Mark and was on the soccer team with them.”
“Oh I would love to meet him. What is his name?”
I gave Cory a look that said, “See I told ya so.”
“Julian Brenner. Dad said he didn't get to play much but he did know your Dad. He even came over to his house not long before they died.”
“Wow! I must meet him then. Maybe we'll have you all over for dinner sometime soon. Now Taylor said you no longer have a piano to play on a regular basis?”
“No they used to keep the music room open at lunch and after school. But someone stole something so now they lock it up.”
“Well we need to do something about that. A boy with your talent needs to practice. Honey do you think we have enough to have them over tonight. I think I have a plan.”
“Sure I can come up with something.”
“Cory go call your Dad and invite him over for dinner. Let me see what I can do.”
Cory went to call his Dad. Mark helped Daddy Ralph in the kitchen and Daddy Jordan went to his office to make a few phone calls. I could tell he was working on something big. Cory came back in the room and said his Dad would be right over.
Maybe fifteen minutes later the doorbell rang. I ran over and let Mr. Brenner in. I looked to see if there was maybe a Mrs. Brenner with him but no one was there.
I introduced myself to Mr. Brenner and my Dads. Apparently Cory didn't tell his Dad who's house he was invited to. He was shocked.
“Jordan, Jordan Potter?”
“Yes Sir, Mr. Brenner, it's a pleasure to meet you. Cory was tell me that you knew my grandfathers.”
“I did. I was on the soccer team with them. It just wasn't the same though...well you know...after. I'm so sorry.”
“I want you to tell me everything you remember about my Grandfathers. But before that we need to discuss some business. When I got home this evening Cory was playing a piece of music I have been working on for days. What he did with it was amazing. I'd like to use what he was playing for my next album, with credit of course. In exchange I want to buy him a piano. I understand he doesn't currently have access to one either at home or at school.
“Oh my gosh! That is so nice of you. It's way too much.”
“No it's not. It's actually less than what I'd have to pay someone else to do what he did and it's less than what I intend to do for Cory. Talent like his should be nurtured.”
Mr. Brenner's eyes got big at first then they got misty. “I played piano too when I was his age. It's what brought the love of my life to me. Cory's name sake. My boyfriend Cory first fell in love with me because of his love for my music even before he saw me. For weeks and weeks we exchanged notes back and forth and shared our deepest secret of being gay with each other. Right after your Dad's died we actually met for the first time at their graves. We were both deeply in the closet at that time concerned that what happened to them would happen to us too. We figured the cemetery would be a place we could be alone. We started dating keeping everything a secret all through high school. When we go to college we thought we could be more open about our relationship. We were just about to graduate college when it happened. We were walking down the street holding hands in a neighborhood we thought was safe. Some bigot took offense and tried to beat us both senseless. Cory told me to run and tried to protect me. He didn't survive the attack. They never even found out who did it not that the police tired real hard to find him. From that day on I just couldn't bring myself to play the piano again. A few years later Cory's sister got cancer and asked if I would take her son, that's how I came to be a single dad. Even as difficult as it is to hear Cory play the piano I too want to help him be all that he can be with his talent that even makes mine seem inadequate.”
“Oh my. That's horrible. I'm so sorry for your loss as well. Well I hoped you wouldn't mind my buying the piano I've actually already ordered it. It should be here by the end of the week. I just need to know where to have it delivered. I also want to work with Cory on his music writing talents. Heck he may even be able to teach me a thing or two. Then I want to put him in contact with some friends of mine who could really help him with career prospects.”
“Wow that is so amazing. I'm just speechless.”
“Good! Glad I could help. Now let's go eat. You can tell me more about my Dads.”