Chris and Richard’s Serendipitous Romance

Chapter 3

For the next week, Earl, Hank, and I worked diligently preparing the ranch for a winter storm forecasted to arrive Friday night.

Early Friday morning, heavy dark clouds dimmed the light of daybreak. The house was quiet while everyone slept. I was excited to start the last workday of the week.

After breakfast Friday morning, I drove to the Pleasant Valley feed store to pick up hay and feed. I managed to load 20 bales of hay and 10 bags of feed in the truck. I was glad I had bought the heavy-duty truck that could accommodate the extra weight. After returning to the ranch I drove into the barn, unloaded the feed and placed it in the feed room. I also unloaded the hay and stacked it neatly in the corner.

Hank came into the barn. “Chris, you have a phone call. It sounds like it’s that same feller who called the other day.”

“Thanks, Hank, I’ll be right there.”

After removing my gloves, boots, and dusting myself off, I stepped inside the ranch house to take the call. “This is Chris.”

“Hello, handsome. It’s Richard. How are you doing this morning?”

It was good to hear his voice. “It’s been a good morning. How has yours been?”

“My morning started off good and is great now, thank you.”

“You sure know how to make a guy feel good. How is Steven?”

“Steven is doing surprisingly well. I enrolled him in school first thing Monday morning. When I picked him up Monday afternoon, he told me about all the cool things he did with some new friends he met. Every day after school, he tells me about the things he has learned and about the friends he’s made at his new school. I think he will be fine.”

“That’s great, Richard. Steven is a smart boy and who wouldn’t think he’s adorable?”

Richard paused a couple seconds. “Well, I can think of one person. Chris, last night, Lawrence called me.”

I was apprehensive. “Oh, what did he have to say?”

“He asked me if I was ready to stop playing a daddy, get rid of Steven, and get back to paying attention to what is important in life, that being him.”

I was shocked. “He actually said get rid of Steven? What did you tell him?”

“I told him I’m now a parent, whether he likes it or not, and I meant it when I said we were done and he was no longer welcome in my life. I told him to find someone who doesn’t have other responsibilities to fuss over him. When he called me every name in the book, I hung up on him. I’m finished with him.”

I sat in silence at what Richard said.

I think Richard began to be anxious. “Chris, are you there?”

“Yes, I’m here. Richard, I’m sorry things didn’t go well with Lawrence. I know you did your best with him.”

“Chris, I don’t regret things with Lawrence ended. I’m sorry Lawrence has his own issues but there is nothing I can do about them. I should have ended it sooner.”

“Richard, I know you will do what you think is right for you and Steven.”

“Thank you, Chris. I know one thing; Steven adores you and enjoys spending time with you. Speaking of enjoying spending time with you, if you are free this weekend, would you like to spend some time together?”

I grinned at the thought of spending time with Richard and Steven. “I would love to. What did you have in mind?”

“I was thinking it would be nice to spend a quiet evening at home, cook a tasty dinner, maybe watch a movie, play a board game, and listen to music. Would you be up for that?”

“I’d like that a lot. I have a few chores to do before I drive to your place.”

“How about sometime around five o’clock? That would give me time to do some things around here and plan for dinner. See you soon.”

After a quick lunch, I worked on my chores. Hank, Earl and I went around ensuring the animals had sufficient water and food. We made sure they would be warm and sheltered. By the time we finished it was time for me to say my goodbyes and drive to Reno to spend the evening with Richard and Steven.

On the drive to Reno, under dark overcast skies, I realized I was excited about seeing Richard and Steven. I turned on the truck radio as the D.J. was giving a weather report. Snow was reported in Lake Tahoe and on Interstate-80 over the summit. Verdi, on the California/Nevada border was reporting light snow. The temperature at the airport was 35 degrees, expected to drop to 30 degrees by six o’clock and in the high 20s by nine o’clock. I turned the heater up a notch and was glad I left the ranch when I did. Soon I pulled into Richard’s driveway, a safe harbor for the evening. I walked up the flagstone steps to the porch. Richard opened the door as I stepped up to it.

With his warm smile he greeted me. “Hey, welcome back. Come in.”

I stepped into the foyer and he quickly shut the door, keeping the warmth in the house. We gave each other loving hugs and kisses.

We made our way into the living room, a beautiful wood-paneled space with a glowing fire crackling in the Craftsman-style fireplace, spreading its warmth throughout the house. Richard took my coat and hung it in the guest closet. “How was the drive?”

“It wasn’t bad but I’m glad I left when I did. The storm is coming over the mountain, heading this way. It’s starting to snow in Verdi.”

Steven came running out of the kitchen and wrapped his arms around me. “Hi, Uncle Chris. Uncle Richard said you’re going to be eating dinner with us. After dinner, if you want, you can play with my cars and trucks and we can play games.”

I laughed at his energy and enthusiasm. “That sounds like a lot of fun, Steven. If I don’t know how to play some of the games, would you teach me?”

“Yes, Uncle Chris, but they’re easy. You’ll learn how to play pretty fast.”

Richard was in “Dad” mode. “Do you remember what we talked about, Steven?”

Steven nodded yes. “I remember. You and Uncle Chris want to spend some grown-up time together too, so I have to share him with you.”

Richard and I laughed at Steven’s interpretation of what he had been told.

Steven played on the floor of the living room with his Hot Wheel cars as we drank soothing warm apple cider and talked about the activities of our week. When we finished the apple cider, Richard suggested he start preparing dinner. Steven and I volunteered to help and he gladly accepted our offers. Richard put Steven in charge of mashing boiled potatoes while I gently tore lettuce and chopped carrots, tomatoes and an avocado for a salad. Richard tended to the broiled chicken breasts and warming dinner rolls he purchased from the local bakery that morning.

Dinner was ready in no time. As the three of us sat at the dining room table, I realized how comfortable and natural being together felt. The homemade food was delicious and the conversation was interesting and fun. After dinner the three of us made quick work of removing the dishes from the table and cleaning the kitchen. Something outside of the kitchen window caught my eye.

I leaned over the counter for a closer look. “Hey guys, we have a real blizzard going on.”

Richard turned on the porch light and opened the kitchen door for a closer look. “Wow, it sure is a blizzard. Take a look at this.”

Steven and I peeked out the door to see nearly whiteout conditions of snow falling on to a foot of snow already on the ground.

I was worried about driving back to the ranch in blizzard conditions. Even though my truck had 4-wheel drive and good tires for snow, the roads would be icy and the visibility would be practically zero.

Richard noticed the worried look on my face. “Chris, It looks like the drive to Washoe Valley is going to be nasty. I think we better count on you staying here tonight.”

Steven’s eyes widened with concern. “Uncle Chris, please stay with us tonight. We’ll have fun here and you don’t want to drive home in this snow. Please?”

Richard agreed with Steven. “Steven’s right. You don’t have any business being on that icy road tonight. Better to be safe than sorry.”

I looked once again at the heavy snowfall and relented. “You guys have a good point. All right. I’ll stay the night.”

Richard was relieved that I wouldn’t risk driving on an icy highway. Steven was elated to have me stay the night.

The three of us retired to the comfort of the couch in the living room to enjoy homemade carrot cake in front of the warm fire. As we were finishing the cake, the phone rang.

Richard answered it. “This is Richard.”

Richard’s expression turned to annoyance. “Where are you?...What, you’re where?... Are you locked out of your house?...Then get out of your car and walk the 150 feet home. Frankly, I don’t give a damn. Don’t ever call me again. Goodnight.”

Richard took a deep breath and set the phone on the coffee table. “That was Lawrence. He called for help because he was stranded.”

I was surprised at the possibility of Richard being callous. “Where is he stranded?”

“He’s in his car, pulled over to the curb two houses away from his home. He doesn’t want to get out of the car because he will get his $100 water-proof hiking boots wet in the snow.”

It was obvious Lawrence was a spoiled brat only looking for attention and Richard wasn’t going to enable him.

Steven understood. “Uncle Richard, aren’t waterproof hiking boots supposed to be good in the snow?”

“Yes, Steven. I think Lawrence just wants someone to spoil him more.”

Steven shook his head. “I don’t like Lawrence, Uncle Richard. He doesn’t follow the golden rule.”

Richard agreed. “Following the golden rule is pretty important isn’t it? Well, hopefully he won’t bother us again. What do you say we watch a movie?”

We looked through the many DVD’s and selected a Star Trek movie. Richard unfolded a warm king sized blanket over the three of us. I sat between Richard and Steven to watch the movie. Within a few minutes Richard pulled me close to him and Steven cuddled close to me, taking my arms and wrapping them around him. We three cuddled and watched the movie together.

After a few minutes Steven turned, smiled and gave both of us a big hug. “Thank you for being my uncles and for making me so happy. I love you Uncle Richard and Uncle Chris.”

Richard and I smiled and hugged Steven close. “We love you too, Steven. Thank you for loving us.”

As we cuddled watching the movie I couldn’t help but think it felt so perfect, as if this was the way things were supposed to be. When the movie finished Richard told Steven it was his bedtime. Steven padded off to brush his teeth and get undressed for bed. Richard took my hand and guided me to Steven’s bedroom.

Steven was pulling his covers over him as he saw us standing at the doorway. “Are you guys going to tuck me in tonight?”

Richard smiled. “Would you like that, Steven?”

Steven smiled and nodded. Richard hugged Steven, who hugged him back and gave him a kiss on his cheek. When it was my turn I folded his sheet around his blankets and gave him a big hug. He hugged me tight and gave me a kiss on my cheek.

As we turned out the light Steven softly said “I love you, Uncle Richard. I love you, Uncle Chris. Ni-ni.”

Richard turned off the light and we answered in unison “We love you too. Ni-ni.”

My eyes became misty as I thought about how wonderful the evening had been. Hand in hand, Richard and I returned to the living room couch, where we cuddled in front of the fire. As I stared at the dancing flames I thought about how comfortable, how right and how perfect everything seemed. Was I seeing a preview of how things were to be?

After a few wordless moments, Richard kissed me on my cheek. “I know what you’re thinking.”

I glanced at him. “All right, what am I thinking?”

He smiled. “I’m pretty sure you’re thinking how comfortable being here tonight is.”

I was surprised to be so transparent. “That is exactly what I was thinking. How did you…?”

“I know because it’s what I’m thinking and feeling too. I was thinking about Steven telling us he loved us. I also have never felt as comfortable with anyone as I am with you and Steven. This feels so right. I have a good feeling about us.”

“I do too and am looking forward to spending more time together.”

We drifted asleep holding each other on the couch. When the fire began to die and our eyelids began to droop we knew it was time to turn in for the night.

Richard provided an extra toothbrush and we took care of our final business of the day.

Richard took me by the hand and guided me to the bedroom. He turned off the lights except for a dimly lit lamp on the nightstand. We embraced and passionately kissed. Slowly we undressed each other until our clothes fell to the floor around us. We lightly explored our bodies as we lowered ourselves onto the bed. We held one another, touching, caressing and looking into each other’s eyes.

Richard kissed my lips, turned off the lamp and pulled the covers over us, trapping our love and warmth. Without further words our bond became complete.

Sometime after midnight someone crying awakened me. I turned to see Steven standing beside my side of the bed.

 I sat up and whispered, “Steven, what’s wrong? Why are you crying?”

Steven wiped his eyes. “I think there is a ghost outside my window and he wants to come in and get me.”

“Why do you think there is a ghost outside your window?”

“He woke me up. I can hear him scratching at the window, wanting in.”

I looked at Richard and saw he was in deep sleep. “Shall I go see what he wants, Steven? I promise he won’t get me.”

“Yes please, Uncle Chris. I don’t want to be eaten by a ghost.”

 I grabbed my boxers off the floor and slipped them on under the covers before I folded the covers back and stepped out of bed. I put my hand on Steven’s shoulder. “Let’s go together. I’ll go in and guard your front if you guard my back, all right?”

The house was dark and silent as we slowly walked as quietly as possible from the bedroom into the hall and toward the back of the house toward Steven’s bedroom. When we arrived at Steven’s door he stood behind me, holding on to my sides. I could feel the tension in his hands and hear his breathing increase as I slowly opened the door. I slowly peered in to find a still dark room. Steven peeked around my side and swallowed with anticipation of the ghost lunging toward us.

Steven pointed to the window and whispered, “He’s out there, Uncle Chris. I heard him.”

Satisfied the room was safe I cautiously stepped to the window and slowly pulled back the curtains. Steven’s hold on me tightened as we glanced outside. The snow was falling heavier and accumulating on the branches of the trees. Suddenly a loud eerie screech came from directly outside. The hairs on my arms and neck bristled at the sound and I held my breath to become stealth-like.

Steven whispered, “That’s him. That’s the ghost I was talking about, Uncle Chris.”

Once more the creepy screech came from right outside the window and this time I saw it’s source. As the snow and ice accumulated on the branches of the tree outside Steven’s window, the branches sagged. One of the branches was broken off and its jagged edges touched the panes of window glass. As the tree branch sagged farther it rubbed against the glass, making the eerie screech.

I reassured Steven. “It’s just a tree branch rubbing on the window, Steven. Come look.”

I pulled my reluctant rear guard to my side and we both watched as the branch sagged lower, making the hideous shriek.

Steven let out a sigh of relief. “Uncle Chris, that’s all it was?”

“That’s all, Steven. It’s just the weight of the snow on that branch causing it to rub on the window. Are you going to be okay to sleep in here now?”

A gust of wind came and blew the branch against the window, making the screech.

Steven looked up at me. “Uncle Chris, I don’t think so. I know it isn’t a ghost now but that will keep me awake. Can I please sleep with you and Uncle Richard tonight?”

The wind continued and the branch once again made the horrible sound.

“Yes, I see what you mean. Yes, you can join us tonight. Let’s go to bed, shall we?”

I closed Steven’s bedroom door on the way back to the master bedroom. On the way we took turns using the bathroom to relieve ourselves before returning to dreamland. I crawled under the covers against Richard and gently pulled Steven in bed. I pulled the covers over us.

Steven leaned over close to my ear. “Thank you, Uncle Chris. I love you.”

I turned and kissed his forehead. “I love you too, Steven. Happy dreams.”

He gave me a kiss on my cheek. Soon we drifted off to blissful, deep sleep.

In the next morning I woke on my side with Richard’s arm around me and my backside spooned against his warm body. My arm was wrapped around Steven, who cuddled against me. I felt little kisses on the back of my neck and let out a quiet moan.

Richard whispered in my ear. “Good morning, beautiful man.”

I turned, smiled. “Good morning my handsome man.”

Steven purred a little and moved closer against me. Richard reached over and gave Steven a little caress. “When did he join us?”

“He came in when the ghost outside his bedroom window scared him.”

“There was a ghost outside of his window?”

“Mmhmm, and we have some tree branches to trim so the ghost won’t be scratching at the glass to come inside.”

“Ah, now it makes sense. We can take a look at those today. I have some trimmers on a long pole.”

“I’m sure Steven and I will be happy to help you get rid of the mean ole ghost.”

Richard turned to the clock on the nightstand on his side of the bed. “It’s 8:30. That gives us lots of time to do things this morning.”

“That was the soundest sleep I’ve had in years. It was so comfortable. Do we have to get up?”

Steven stirred, turning over, facing us and smiled happily. “Uncle Richard, Uncle Chris said I could sleep here ‘cause of the ghost outside of my room.”

Richard smiled. “It’s a good thing he stayed overnight with us then, isn’t it? How about we all get up and get some breakfast?”

After morning rituals we gathered in the kitchen where the automatic coffee maker had brewed it’s aromatic morning black nectar. Richard poured coffee in two cups after giving Steven a glass of orange juice. While I fried bacon, shelled and scrambled eggs, Richard made waffles. Steven set the table and in no time our first delicious meal of the day was ready. We sat at the table to eat when Richard and I noticed Steven staring out the window. We turned to see what he was looking at and our jaws dropped in surprise. It must have snowed heavily all night. About three feet of snow had accumulated on the ground. The streets looked impassible as the snow continued to fall so heavily we could not see across the street.

Richard looked at the clock on the kitchen wall. “I’ll turn on the news and weather and see what they say about this storm.”

He turned on the LCD T.V. mounted on the bottom of one of the kitchen cabinets.

The female morning news presenter was just finishing a story. “The Nevada legislature is slated to vote on the measure next week. The governor indicated, if passed, he would sign the legislation into law. Now it’s time to look at our weather with Meteorologist Rory Miller. Rory, what can you tell us about this storm?”

The picture switched to the meteorologist, a good-looking, well-dressed young man in front of a green screen regional weather map. “Paula, as you know, this major winter storm crossed over the Sierra early last evening. Winds of up to 50 miles per hour, together with a heavy snowfall created whiteout conditions for the entire region including the Sierra Mountains, Tahoe, Reno, Sparks, Carson City, Gardnerville, Minden, as well as Stead, Lemmon Valley, Golden Valley Sun Valley and Spanish Springs. We’ll continue to have blizzard-like conditions the entire weekend. The reason for this is the high winds that blew the storm into the area have subsided and now we’re seeing heavy precipitation and accumulation due to the stalled cold front. We can expect continued snowfall, as much as another 48 inches before this storm subsides early Monday morning. Paula back to you.”

The picture switched to Paula. “Thank you Rory. Of course this storm has an impact on our roadways and for the latest with traffic information we turn to Alan Meyer and Channel 8 traffic watch. Alan?”

“Paula, as you said, the storm has impacted our streets and highways adversely. Both N-Dot and Cal-Trans recommend if you are warm, safe and don’t have to drive, stay where you are. Nevada Highway patrol has reported 152 traffic accidents within the last 24 hours. Snow and icy roads along with near zero visibility make traveling on the roadways extremely dangerous. Snow chains are required on Interstate 80, Highway 50 and Highway 395. City and county plows are currently out clearing as much of the snow and ice as they can but it is a hard fight in this intense storm. Additionally, numerous power outages have been reported, making traveling difficult. Remember intersections with non-working traffic lights are considered 4-way stops so drive cautiously. Also Reno-Cannon International Airport has suspended flights due to near zero visibility conditions. So, once again, if you are warm, safe and don’t have to drive, stay where you are. Back to you, Paula.”

Richard turned off the television and we finished our delicious breakfast. After we cleaned the kitchen, I thought it would be a good idea to telephone the ranch. I wanted to be sure things were all right there. Mr. Lester answered the phone. He said there was about four feet of snow at the ranch and it was whiteout blizzard conditions. All the animals were safe and warm. Mr. Lester, Hank, and Earl were pretty much confined to the house except at animal feeding times. He suggested if I were warm and safe, I should stay where I was since they had everything well in hand and road conditions, especially in Washoe Valley were dangerous at best. There had been several vehicle accidents on Highway-395 and there was no reason to travel today. I agreed to take his advice and told him I would be there first thing Monday morning.

When I joined Steven and Richard in the living room, Richard asked me if everything was okay.

“Everything is fine at the ranch, but Mr. Lester suggested I stay put. The roads are pretty bad and there is no reason for me to risk traveling.”

Steven was thrilled. “You’re staying another night with us?”

I laughed at his excitement. “If your uncle will put up with me and allow me to stay, yes.”

Richard gave me a mock scowl. “Put up with you? Don’t be silly. Your staying here is one of the best things I can think of. Of course you can stay.”

I blushed. “Thank you, Richard. I hope you feel that way by the end of the weekend. To be honest, there isn’t any place I’d rather be than with you and Steven. You both are amazing and this is a treat for me.”

Richard kissed me on my cheek. “I feel the same way.”

Steven gave me a hug. “Me too, Uncle Chris.”

Richard suggested we take our morning showers and get the day going.

I thought about my not bringing extra clothes along with me. “I’m afraid  I have a bit of a problem. I didn’t bring any extra clothes for the weekend.”

Richard gave me his warm smile. “Well I think Christmas will be coming early this year.”

I looked at him, confused. “What do you mean? Christmas is ten months away.”

Richard stood and walked into the other room, bringing back with him several bags from Reno Outfitters. He set the bags on the floor in front of me. “Christmas may be ten months away for most people but for you, Chris, it’s today. Merry Christmas.”

I realized when Steven and I had left him to pay the bill for Steven’s clothes he had also shopped a little more for clothes for me.

I felt tears form in my eyes. “You did this for me?”

“Of course. None of these things will fit Steven or me so it may be a good idea to see if they fit you, don’t you think?”

I reached in the shopping bags to find two pair of jeans, two hoodies, undershirts, socks, and a package of boxer briefs. I hugged and kissed Richard as Steven watched with a big smile. I tried on the pants and hoodies and they fit perfectly. We decided all the clothes should be washed before I wore them. Richard suggested I also put the clothes I wore in the washer so I would have three sets of clothes. He provided a plush microfiber robe for me to wear while the clothes were being laundered.

Richard announced he was going outside to trim the branches of that tree outside Steven’s window where the nasty ghost sat, scratching on the window. He put on his new ski pants, parka and galoshes, retrieved the trimming tool from the garage and cut the branches near the window. Steven was happy the ghost didn’t have branches near his window to sit on anymore.

That afternoon, dressed in our warm clothes, hats, and gloves, Richard, Steven and I braved the falling snow and built a snowman in the front yard. When we topped the snowman off he was as high as Richard could reach, about eight feet tall. Richard lifted Steven high up to place an upside down red plastic flower pot on the snowman’s head. Richard named the snowman Devo, after the 1980’s new wave band, known for wearing red plastic flower pot-looking hats.

As Richard was putting the last charcoal button on the snowman he was hit on the back of his head by a snowball. Richard turned to look for the mischievous culprit and saw Steven doing his best to hide his playful grin. “Oh, wise guy, eh?”

Steven broke into giggles and bent down to make another snowball. He was too slow and was hit on his shoulder by a snowball.

Steven looked up in surprise. “Hey, no fair picking on an innocent kid!”

Within seconds the three of us were in a full-fledged snowball battle. Each of us did our best to throw as many snowballs as possible while dodging those thrown by the other two. It didn’t take long for us to get completely soaked. The biggest challenge for us was to keep from laughing and focus on our aim and dodges. It ended up that challenge was futile and the three of us declared a three-way stalemate, ending in a cold, wet giggly group hug.

We raced each other to the house, where inside, we stripped out of our completely soaked clothes and into our fluffy warm robes and slippers. The flames of the fire in the fireplace warmed the room as we sipped comforting hot chocolate while cuddled on the couch. Richard suggested Steven pick a DVD to watch. He selected the 1957 movie, The Spirit of St. Louis, starring Jimmy Stewart, and handed it to Richard. While Richard put the DVD into the player, Steven raced to his room and brought back his die cast DC-3 airplane to hold while watching the movie. Steven was glued to the TV during the entire movie. He was captivated by the story and went through the same motions as Jimmy Stewart as he controlled the Spirit of St. Louis airplane over the Atlantic Ocean. About half way through the movie we agreed to pause for a needed bathroom break. When we returned to the couch, Steven told us he wanted to be a pilot when he grew up. Richard told Steven if that is what he really wanted he would do everything he could to make Steven’s dream come true. Steven gave Richard a big hug.

After the movie Richard called flight services at the airport to get the latest weather and forecast. The storm would continue through the night and begin clearing in the early morning. That was good news. Perhaps tomorrow the city and county crews would have an opportunity to clear the ice and snow from the highways and streets.

That evening the three of us worked together to create a delicious chicken pasta dinner followed by desserts of two scoops of gelato. One scoop was chocolate flavored and the other was coconut flavored. Richard showed us how to scoop both flavors into one spoonful. The result of the two flavors tasted like a yummy chilled German chocolate cake.

After cleaning the kitchen we retired to the living room, where we played Jenga in front of the fireplace, on the living room rug. Steven and I each won three games but Richard had the steadiest hand and won four games. His reward for winning was hugs and kisses from Steven and me.

While Steven put the Jenga pieces back in the box and took the game back to his room, Richard and I snuggled on the couch. He put his arm around me and pulled me close, my head on his chest. I closed my eyes and held him close, caressing him lovingly. I thought how my life had changed since that Valentines Day dinner, when the most handsome charming man I’d ever met swept me off my feet. It only got better when a young angel came into our lives. Tears came to my eyes as I thought about how perfect, how wonderful this was.

Richard heard me crying. “Chris, baby, what is wrong?”

I looked into Richard’s eyes and wiped my tears. “I could have never imagined in my wildest dreams my life could be this way. I’ve never felt like this before, Richard. My heart is overflowing. I love this. It’s so perfect and…” I hesitated.

Richard softly smiled. “And?”

I continued to cry. “Richard, I love you so very much. I have since the night we met.”

Richard started to talk and I placed my finger on his lips, asking him to wait.

“There is more. Richard, I love Steven. I’ve never met a boy as wonderful as he. He has a big heart that gives and receives love freely. I realize I love you both so very much. Thank you for allowing me to share this time with the two of you.”

Tears came to Richard’s eyes. “These last couple weeks I’ve come to realize what true love is all about. I love and care about you more than any man I’ve met. I also love Steven so very much. I’m grateful for both of you coming into my life. It feels like this is how our lives are destined to be.”

We heard sniffles and turned to see Steven standing with tears in his eyes, listening to us.

Richard and I opened our arms and Steven joined us in our cuddle.

Richard kissed Steven on his forehead. “Steven, were you listening to us long?”

Steven nodded his head and hugged us tighter. “I love you so much too, Uncle Richard and Uncle Chris. It feels like we are a family.”

His statement surprised us. Richard questioned him. “Steven, you felt part of a family with your mommy and daddy, didn’t you?”

Steven paused for a moment. “A little but Mommy wasn’t home at night and slept a lot in the daytime. Daddy was gone from home a lot of times. I don’t think they loved me very much.”

I thought that was a strange thing for Steven to say. “Why don’t you think they love you very much, Steven?”

“Mommy and Daddy used to fight and argue a lot. One time Mommy yelled at Daddy and said it was his fault that I was born and now their lives were messed up, only she said a different word for messed up.”

Richard and I looked at each other with tears in our eyes. We couldn’t imagine anyone not wanting to have and love Steven.

Richard gave Steven a kiss on his forehead and looked him in the eyes. “Steven I’m so sorry anyone ever made you feel like you weren’t loved. Uncle Chris and I love you very much. You know that, don’t you?”

Steven nodded and wiped the tears on his cheeks. “Yes, I know you guys love me and I don’t ever want this to change. Can we please be a family forever?”

Richard smiled at Steven and looked into my eyes as he answered Steven’s question. “Steven, I would like that more than anything. I hope Uncle Chris would like that too.”

My heart skipped a beat and I began to cry. I hugged my amazing man and my wonderful new nephew.

That night Steven slept soundly in his own bed. The noisy, abhorrent ghost outside of his window had vanished. Richard and I spooned together in bliss the entire night.