Graduation Present

Chapter Thirteen

The tour was on the very last toe of its first leg. The group was in Hershey, Pennsylvania preparing their baggage and getting it ready to be loaded onto the bus. Everyone was busy packing except Kate Bradley who decided to stay on tour at her own expense. Kellen thought it was very unnecessary, but knew it was futile to expect his mom to leave after his ordeal. She said she wanted to see what tour life was like for her son. Even guys liked having a 'Mom’ on tour. It seemed kind of like the old days when they were in Europe and Lance and Justin’s moms tagged along with the group.

Kellen was in his room packing his things when he heard a knock on his bedroom door. "I’m coming!" Kellen yelled. He sat his stack of shirts down on the bed and walked to the door to open it.

"Hi, Sweetheart." His mom greeted as she walked into the room not quite shutting the door behind her. "I finished my packing, and wanted to see if you needed any help."

"Thanks, Mom, but I think I’ve got it."

"Oh, don’t worry; we can get it done quicker." His mom said. "Besides, I have to find something to do until Ms. Bell comes back from an errand I sent her on." She walked toward the bed and Kellen walked into the bathroom to gather his toiletries. "Where is your laptop case? I can pack that for you." His mom spoke up.

"It’s on one of my pillows," Kellen replied.

Kellen then remembered that he wanted to talk to his mom about possibly buying the family mansion in Orlando or maybe just getting instead of buying it. His father had either purchased or built large estates around the world for his family and Kellen knew that he wanted to be on his own and Orlando would be close to Josh. The problem is he knew that it would be near impossible to get this idea past his mother. He decided that it would be best to just broach the subject and get it over with. He took a deep breath and started to talk.

"Mom," Kellen began. "I was thinking that after this tour winds down, I might talk to Dad about buying the new house in Orlando. They are supposed to be done with it by now and I thought that with me being a man now, I should start my life." Kellen waited for a response from his mom but didn’t get one. "I promise I won’t let anyone hurt me. Besides you can never be too safe from some of the nuts out there." Kellen added. There was still no answer from his mom. "Also, I could look into getting a record deal." There was silence from the other room. "Mom, what’s wrong?" Kellen put his things on the bathroom counter and walked back into his room. Kellen’s face went white. There was his mom holding the picture of JC that he forgot to take off of his nightstand.

Kate turned around to look at her son. "What’s going on Kellen?" Kate asked holding up the picture. "I’ve had some suspicions the last couple of days, but I want to hear it from your own lips. Why didn’t you tell me about you and Joshua?"

Outside in the hallway, Lance was walking towards Kellen’s room to ask him what he wanted for dinner before they had to pull out. He stopped when he heard Kellen’s mom talking. He could make out what they were saying and heard Kate ask Kellen why he hadn’t told her about him and JC. Lance turned around and headed to the other end of the hall where the main suite was. He practically ran into the room.

"Whoa, Scoop. What’s up?" Chris asked as Lance ran into the room out of breath.

"Jace, you might want to go to Kellen’s room," Lance said in between breaths.

JC was on alert immediately. "What’s wrong?"

"I think Kate found out about you and Kellen. She’s in his room now questioning him about it." Lance said. JC ran out of the room and down the hall towards Kellen’s room.

Kellen’s heart stopped dead in his tracks. His legs felt weak and before he collapsed, he sat down on the bed avoiding making eye contact with his mother. Tears started making their way down his cheeks. He had kept this from his mom for two-and-a-half weeks. It was easy before because his mom wasn’t around, but for the last couple of days after she came on tour, it was almost hopeless to keep from her.

"Mom, I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner," Kellen said, still crying. "I wasn’t ready to tell you or Dad yet. I was trying to find a way."

Kate sat there looking at him. He looked up at her and it was settled. She slid closer to him and wrapped him in a tight hug like she had done so many times in his life. When she did, Kellen knew that she would be okay with his and Josh’s relationship. He knew it would take time for her to adjust to it, but he knew she would make the adjustment.

"I was afraid you wouldn’t love me after I told you," Kellen said shaking.

"Oh Honey, I could never hate you. You are my son. There is nothing you could do that would warrant my rejecting you. It’s the same with your brother and sisters. A true mother’s love grows. It doesn’t diminish."

"I know, but I was still scared."

"You know Kellen, you still haven’t actually told me," Kate said looking at her son. Kellen looked at her for a moment then spoke.

"I want to tell you something," Kellen said confidently wiping the tears from his face. "Josh and I are seeing one another. It’s nothing sexual at the moment. Neither of us is ready for that. Just because we’re dating, doesn’t mean that our relationship has to be based on sex."

"I’m happy for you Sweetheart," Kate said hugging her son.

"Oh and Mom, I’m gay," Kellen said

"I kind of figured that one out Honey," Kate replied.

"Just be careful Kellen. I want both you and Josh to be safe when you do start exploring the deep physical aspects of your relationship. Don’t be afraid to say no. You don’t have to rush into some things. I think Josh would understand." Kate said hugging Kellen again. She had her doubts about this situation, but wasn’t going to stand in the way of her son. No matter how hard she tried, she wasn’t in control of his life anymore. Above all else though, she wanted her kids to be happy and if Josh could make Kellen happy then so be it.

"I know Mom. When we’re ready to have sex, we’ll be safe about it." Kellen said he didn’t want to have this conversation with his mother. He was saved when someone knocked on the door. "I’ll be there in a second!" He yelled.

"Is everything okay?" JC asked poking his head in the door. He said it like he was afraid for his life. Kellen found it kind of cute and realized that JC must’ve been listening in the hall.

"Yes, Josh. Things are okay. Could you come over here?" Kellen asked. JC crossed the room and stood next to Kellen. Kellen grabbed JC’s hand and held it. "Mom, I’d like you to meet Josh."

"Uh, Kellen we’ve already met," JC said stating the obvious.

"No, she met JC, my friend. Now, she gets to meet Josh, my boyfriend." Kellen said kissing JC’s hand.

"It’s nice to meet you, Joshua," Kate said humoring her son.

"It’s nice to meet you, Mam," JC said nervously.

Kate grabbed Josh in a hug and leaned into his ear. "Joshua, you’re dating my son. That makes you part of the family. Call me Mom." Kate backed away from JC smiling.

"Okay. It’s nice to meet you, Mom." JC said shrugging his shoulders.

"Oh, shoot!" Kellen said slapping his forehead. "What’s Dad gonna say? What about Nicole and Jordan when they find out?" Kellen looked almost like he’d start crying again. Josh looked at him with sympathy.

"You don’t have to tell them until you’re ready. If you want, I’ll be there for you when you want to tell them." JC said reassuring Kellen.

"Thanks, Josh. I would like you there. I just hope my father doesn’t pull out his rifle collection to express his feelings about it when he finds out." Kellen said. JC gave him a weird, almost scared look.

"Don’t worry boys I’ll take care of Anthony. He may be the head of the family, but I decide who gets to sleep in my bed and who sleeps on the couch." Kate said chuckling. "As for your sisters, they have lots of gay friends. I don’t think they’ll mind. Though, they might not like having to treat you as competition."

"Oh believe me; they don’t have to worry about that. I already have someone and I don’t plan on letting him go." Kellen said giving JC’s hand a light squeeze. All three of them laughed.

"Hey, Mom, what’s Mel doing for you?" Kellen asked suddenly remembering his mom’s words when she came into the room.

"Why do you want to know?" Kate asked back.

"You said something about needing something to do while you waited for her to return so I was curious as to what she’s doing," Kellen said full of interest.

"Well, if you must know, I’ll tell you," Kate said letting out a heavy sigh. "Do you remember me telling you that Nicole had to go to Maine to check on one of the stores for your father?"

"Yeah," Kellen said.

"She had a layover at the airport here and I asked her to bring something from home for you and Ms. Bell was kind enough to offer to pick it up for me."

"It’s for me?" Kellen asked getting excited. "What is it?"

"Something that I know you’ve been missing and need very badly," Kate replied as her phone beeped. She took it out of her suit pocket and looked at the screen. "Ah, it’s here." She said. Both Kellen and JC looked at her strangely. Suddenly there was a knock at the door.

"I’ll go open the door." JC offered. He turned around and walked over to the door.

Kellen leaned into his mom, "You can tell me what it is." He whispered.

"That’d ruin the surprise though." She replied.

There was a loud bark and Kellen heard it. He turned to the door. He saw JC jumping back in surprise and watched as a golden retriever came into the room. The dog seemed to sniff the floor and then looked up at Kellen. Kellen’s eyes got wide, and he looked at his mom and smiled a very big smile. "Keegan!" he yelled as his golden retriever ran up to him and jumped up on him. He let the dog give him a few licks and then spoke up. "Sit, boy." The dog obeyed. "Good boy" Kellen rewarded by rubbing the dog’s ears.

"Is he safe?" JC asked from the other side of the room.

"I’m sorry Josh," Kellen said forgetting that JC was there. "Yes, he’s very safe. I’ve spent three years training him. Actually, he’s been trained to help handicapped people as well. You have nothing to be afraid of." Kellen said rubbing the dog's back. "Come here and I’ll show you." JC walked across the room and stood by Kellen and Keegan. "Put your hand down and let him smell it." JC obeyed. The dog sat there and smelled his hand then gave it a lick and looked back at Kellen. JC looked at Kellen for an answer. "He likes you," Kellen said. "If he didn’t, he would have smelled your hand then moaned and lay down."

"Ah, I see," JC said. "Can I pet him?"

"Sure, go ahead," Kellen said. Kate watched as two boys played with the dog. Mel watched from the door. Kellen looked up and noticed her. "Thank you, Mel, for doing this for my mother and me." He said.

"It was no trouble, Kellen. He is a very well-behaved animal. I haven’t seen many that can be walked in public without a leash. He didn’t even bark once at anyone." Mel smiled at the dog. "Oh, your sister said that she fed him this morning, but he hasn’t had anything since then. She also gave me this bag." Mel came into the room and handed the backpack to Kellen.

"Ah yes, we keep a small container of food in it as well as treats and some toys," Kellen said taking out a treat. He turned to the dog and made a clicking noise with his mouth. He pointed two of his fingers at Mel and then brought both of his opened hands to his mouth and brought them out away from his mouth, signing thank you. Keegan walked to Mel and lifted his paw for her to shake.

"That’s so sweet," Mel said as she shook his paw.

"Good dog," Kellen said pulling a treat out of the bag. He tossed the treat into the air; Keegan caught it in his mouth and ate it. "I told him to tell you thank you," Kellen said.

"You’re very welcome Keegan," Mel said petting the dog. "Well, I’d love to stay and chat, but I need to go make sure that the bellhops are getting things onto the right buses. I’ll talk to you guys later."

"Bye" Came a chorus of replies as Mel turned and walked out of the room.

"Is he staying for the rest of the tour?" Kellen asked facing his mom.

"I talked to Mr. Duarte about it. He was a little hesitant at first, but I told him about Keegan’s training and he gave it the okay. So yes, he does get to stay and if you decide you want the house in Orlando, I guess he’ll be with you there also won’t he?" Kate asked. JC’s attention was off the dog and on Kellen when he heard Kate’s statement.

"I didn’t know you were moving to Florida." He told Kellen.

"I haven’t decided to yet, but I was thinking about it. We can talk about it later though." Kellen said.

"How much later?" JC asked.

"We can talk about it after dinner and after things settle down for the evening. I’m almost positive that we’ll have time on the bus."

"Speaking of dinner, Lance was wondering where you wanted to go," JC said.

"Um, I’m not sure, why don’t we go see what everyone else wants and decide from there. You can come with us if you want to Mom." Kellen said.

"I think I’ll take you up on that offer. Oh, and Kellen, I want you to know that I am proud of you. You are growing up. You’re not my little boy anymore. I’ll speak to your father and talk to him about giving you the mansion in Orlando. I don’t want you to have to buy it." Kate said.

"It’s no problem, Mom," Kellen said shrugging his shoulders.

"I know, but we can add it on to your birthday gift. I’ve been wracking my brain trying to think of something to get you. This is my chance." Kate responded.

"Thank you, Mom. I’d like it if I didn’t have to buy it." Kellen said. They started to walk out of the room. "Come on boy. Let’s go meet the guys." Kellen said. Keegan was at his side immediately.

"I wonder how things are going in Kellen’s room," Lance said after JC had been gone for several minutes.

"Well, it can’t be bad, no one’s come in here with a black eye yet," Chris said.

"I hope she accepts what Kellen has to say." Justin offered.

"Well, Mrs. B is cool. I think she’ll go for it. We’ve all seen how much she loves Kellen and how quickly she has adapted to us." Joey said.

"That’s true. If she can get used to you bozos, then she can get used to anything." Lance chimed. He bent down as three pillows flew at him.

"Ya know Scoop, the last time I wrestled you, you lost," Joey said.

"Yeah, Joey and I don’t need to be reminded of how that felt," Lance said. Justin was about to say that lance needed to be reminded when the door opened. The four guys looked towards the doorway.

There was a loud bark and Keegan ran into the room and jumped up on a big oversized empty chair and barked again.

"Whoa!" Chris said. The guys jumped off the furniture and moved to get away from the dog that was now lying on the chair.

"Keegan get off the furniture and stop playing around," Kellen said walking into the room. He snapped his fingers and point downward. Keegan obeyed and stood next to Kellen.

"You bought a dog?" Justin asked surprised.

"This is my dog, Keegan. My mom had Mel pick him up for me from the airport. My sister had a layover, and she had him with her." Kellen said. "Isn’t it great?"

"Um, sure," Justin said hesitantly. Kellen caught Justin’s uncertainty.

"He’s harmless. He just likes to play with people’s heads a little." Kellen said.

"Keegan, meet the guys," Kellen said as he clasped both his hands together in a handshake. The dog walked over to the guys and stuck his paw out to each of them. They looked at Kellen for assurance. "Go ahead, guys. He won’t hurt you." They each took turns shaking Keegan’s paw.

"So, who’s hungry?" Joey said clapping his hands together.

"Leave it to Joey to remind us about food," Chris said playfully slapping Joey’s shoulder.

Kellen sat at the table in the middle of the bus as it drove through the night on its way to its next stop in Joliet. His laptop lay open with headphones running from the computer to Kellen’s head. He’d been working on a musical arrangement for one of his songs for a while now and didn’t notice JC watching him from behind the half-closed curtain separating the bunk area from the front lounge area. JC walked out of his hiding place and walked up behind Kellen. He reached around Kellen’s head and took off the headphones that were around his head. Kellen jumped a little and turned around; his muscles tensed. They loosened when he realized who it was behind him.

"Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you," JC said sitting down across from Kellen.

"No, it’s okay. I was really into my work and wasn’t paying attention." Kellen said putting the headphones on the table.

"Do you want any help?" JC offered.

"No, I know where I’m going to be going with this, but I do need your help with something else though," Kellen said clicking his portable mouse and turning the laptop so that JC could see the screen as well.

JC looked at the screen confused as to what he was looking at. Then he realized what it was. "Those are house plans aren’t they?"

"Yes, they are," Kellen said clicking a couple of icons. A new set of pages opened containing another set of house plans.

"What are they for?" JC asked looking at the screen.

"They are the plans for my mansion in Florida. My family had several estates like this one built all over the country and even a few in foreign countries." Kellen said looking at JC.

"I hope I’m not prying too much, but where are the rest of them located exactly?" JC asked looking at Kellen.

"It’s not prying. We are a couple, Josh. You have a right to know about that aspect of my life." Kellen said looking at JC. "My dad contracted these houses four years ago. The one in Florida was just finished last month. My family has others in Oklahoma, Hawaii, California, Colorado, Maine, DC, Tennessee, Georgia, New York, and Texas. We also have some in Paris, London, Rome, St. Petersburg, Sidney, Madrid, and one near Toronto." Kellen said trying to remember each one. JC looked at him surprised then looked back at the screen.

"How much…" JC said then stopped. "I’m sorry, that’s none of my business."

"How much money do we have?" Kellen said finishing JC’s statement. "I’ll tell you, but you have to promise to keep it a secret. We don’t tell many people." Kellen said laughing. "With all the profits from the stores, stocks, bonds and savings that my family has accumulated over the last one-hundred and fifty years, it’s hard to say. I think it’s somewhere around 1.6 Billion." Kellen said looking at JC. His eyes almost bulged out of their sockets.

"You have a billion dollars?" JC asked wide-eyed.

"No, I’m only worth sixty million. My family has a billion dollars." Kellen replied.

"Only?" JC said. "That’s a lot of money, especially for someone who’s only 18," JC said.

"Yeah, I guess," Kellen said. "So, what do you think?" He asked.

"About the money?" JC asked.

"No, the house. Do you think I should buy it from my dad?"

"Where in Florida is it?" JC asked.

"Orlando," Kellen replied.

"Well then, yes, I do. I think you should buy it." JC said. "My house is in Orlando as well. Well, mine and Justin’s. We share one and if you live in Orlando, we can see each other anytime after the tour." JC said.

"Well, you’d be welcome to move in with me if you wanted," Kellen said. "If you don’t that’s okay also."

"Actually, I think I’d like to move in with you. Once you get the house that is." JC said. He went back to looking at the screen and opening the different pages. Kellen’s watch started beeping letting them know it was midnight. Suddenly a new screen popped up and two female voices started singing 'Happy Birthday’. It was a pre-recorded file. JC recognized Jordan’s voice but didn’t recognize the other one.

"Aw, man," Kellen said sighing. "I was hoping they’d forget," Kellen said.

"It’s your birthday?" JC asked looking up at Kellen’s face.

"Yeah, it is. I’m nineteen today." He replied meekly.

"Why didn’t you tell me?" JC asked a little disappointed. "I would’ve done something special for you," JC said faking a pout. He tried not to let Kellen see that he felt a little bad about it.

"I don’t like people making a big fuss over my birthday," Kellen said. "Besides, we’re on tour. There isn’t much we can do."

"Well, as your boyfriend, it’s my right to make a big fuss for your birthday," JC said still trying to maintain his fake pout. Kellen started laughing at JC trying to break his pout. Eventually, it worked and JC’s pouting lips turned into lips full of laughter. "That’s not fair. You can’t do that."

"As your boyfriend, I have the right to," Kellen said laughing at JC. Their laughing died down and they continued to stare at each other. Then they leaned in close and shared a kiss. After a couple of seconds, Kellen ended the kiss and stood up. He turned his laptop off and put it in its case. "I need to get my beauty sleep." He said.

"If you could be any more beautiful, I think I’d die of shock," JC said.

"Awe, you’re sweet, but we both need to get some sleep," Kellen said. He snapped his hands and Keegan jumped out of the booth and walked behind JC. Kellen opened the curtain and crawled into his bunk. Keegan jumped up into it as well. He laid down after succeeding in finding enough room. JC looked at the site before him. He mouth 'Goodnight’ and 'I love you’ to Kellen before crawling into his own bunk. Each one fell asleep after their heads hit the pillow.

Kellen woke up as a squirt of water hit his face. He looked up to see Joey holding a small water gun, and it was pointed directly at him. "Joey." Kellen wined. "I was having a nice dream. We can’t already be in Joliet." Kellen said turning over to go back to sleep.

"Kellen man, it’s already 9:00. Everyone’s already up; everyone but you that is. Boy, you are a hard sleeper." Joey said. He aimed the gun at the back of Kellen’s head and squirted it.

"I’m not going back to sleep am I?" Kellen stated throwing his pillow at Joey.

"Not today you aren’t. Come on, it's breakfast time and we have yours ready. We’re all waiting for you." Joey said throwing the pillow back into Kellen’s bunk. He got up out of it and started walking towards the front of the bus while rubbing his eyes.

"SURPRISE!" Came an extremely loud chorus of yells. Kellen’s eyes shot open, and he looked at the scene in front of him. Josh, Joey, Chris, Justin, Lance and Kate were all there wearing party hats and blowing noisemakers. Even Keegan was wearing a party hat. The lounge had been transformed from the neutral tan color it was into a lively array of decorations that adorned each wall, cabinet and chair. Kellen looked at the table and saw a chocolate birthday cake sitting on it. There were three envelopes in front of the cake. Kellen’s face blushed as everyone started singing happy birthday.

"Make a wish and blow out your candles," Kate said after the song ended.

Kellen bent down to blow out his candles then Chris decided to add something. "Just don’t use all your energy on the candles. Save some blowing for JC over there." He said snickering. The whole room erupted in laughter except for Kellen and JC who were blushing.

"Chris really," Kate said flabbergasted. She paused then spoke again. "Don’t sell Kellen short; he has enough energy for both blow jobs." The guys looked at her and laughed even harder; almost to the point of rolling on the floor. Kellen looked at his mom speechless. He’d never heard anything so vulgar leave her lips before. He turned his head to look at JC and saw that he was just as surprised.

"Mother!" Kellen said. "That’s not appropriate. We are in public."

"Oh Kellen, you need to lighten up a little and blow out your candles." She replied. Kellen bent down to put the candles out. He stopped and looked his Chris and then his mom. Both were standing there looking like they’d just broken something but were trying to hide it. He sucked in a breath and let it out full throttle. The candles were out and he received claps all around. After a few hugs, cake was served and everyone ate a very unhealthy breakfast. Kate had the driver pull over so that she could go to the other bus and eat a more healthy breakfast. The phone in Nsync’s bus rang about half-way through the morning.

"I’ll get it," Joey said as he got up from the table and walked back to the back lounge.

"There’s something I can’t figure out," Kellen said looking up from his cards.

"What’s that?" Lance asked.

"How’d you guys do all this?" Kellen said referring to all the decorations and the half-eaten cake that was still on the table.

"Well, none of us knew anything about it until JC woke us up this morning. He made us all pile out of bed at 7:00 to tell us that he wanted to surprise you when you woke up." Justin said.

JC took over. "And since I know you sleep like the dead, I knew we could stop in the next town and pick up some supplies and a cake. Fortunately, we found a Wal-Mart and were able to get all of this." He said. "Your mom asked what we were doing and we told her so that’s why she was here when you woke up. Though I guess she didn’t want to be around us anymore, since she decided to go back and bother the staff members on the other bus." JC said jokingly.

"Well, thank you all for doing this. Even though I don’t like a big fuss, I enjoyed it immensely." Kellen said as Joey came back into the front lounge.

"What’s up, Fatone?" Lance asked.

"Well," Joey said pausing. "How does an early vacation sound?" Everyone looked at him questioningly. "Because the venue in Joliet was destroyed by a storm early this morning and they’ve cancelled the concert and moved it to the second leg of the tour." Joey said.

"So we get to go home early?" Justin asked.

"Yep. We’ll be back in Orlando tomorrow night. At least that’s what Ibrahim just told me." Joey finished. There were cheers and shouts all across the room.

"So, where do we want to go first? We do have a couple of months." Chris said.

No one offered any suggestions so Kellen took the initiative to make a statement. "I have a better question for you guys." He said. Everyone looked at him waiting for the question. "How’d y’all like to come back to good ole’ Oklahoma with me for a few days," Kellen asked letting his country accent come out. Five sets of eyebrows rose about an inch.


Well, another chapter done. Again, thank you to everyone who has sent me emails about the story. It’s a fun story to write and I’m opening the doors for really cool things to happen as well as going deeper into a blossoming relationship. Feel free to send some feedback so that I know that you are all either enjoying it or hate it. Thanks.

Any questions or comments can be emailed to me at Josh Brandon

I would like to hear what you the readers have to say about my story. But please, don't send me flames. I would never do that to other people.

Thank you.