Richard's garage was clean and orderly. It's the way he'd ordered his life, no risks. Now here he was with a runaway boy in his mid-teens sitting next to him as he guided the car into his designated space within the garage. The garage was lit with a single bare overhead bulb casting dark shadows on the floor around the things in the garage.
In contrast to the harsh lighting in the garage, Cory had the feeling that the lights inside the house would be warm, inviting and accepting. This is what Cory had wanted for the last three years.
As they entered through the door connecting the garage to the house, Cory looked around the family room that they had just entered, and he saw a sectional couch facing a wide screen TV that he estimated to be at least 42". He also noticed that the room was very contemporary with no flowered prints anywhere. Cory felt that this was a man's room. Well, maybe Richard's room, because Cory thought his own room wouldn't have been so neat and orderly.
Cory looked to his left through the sliding glass doors and saw a wooded deck ending in what looked like a swimming pool. It was dark outside, but he could see the moon's reflection on the shimmering water.
Richard plodded along without a word as he led Cory through the living room and up the staircase to the second floor. Cory noticed that the living room was just as nicely decorated as the family room, very contemporary with a bronze sculpture of a horse with rider on the coffee table. It was definitely a man's home without a feminine touch, Cory thought. As he and Richard reached the second floor, Richard paused at a bedroom doorway and turned to Cory.
"This is my daughter's bedroom, but she has an apartment up at Michigan State in Lansing. She's engaged to be married when she graduates in a couple of months, so I suspect she won't be coming back here. You can sleep in here tonight."
Cory sheepishly peered through the doorway and grinned as he saw an orderly room fashioned with the trappings of a high school girl. This is definitely a "girl's" room, he thought. Posters of rock bands adorned the walls. The colors of the room were bright and warm and looked so inviting to Cory that he continued inside. A smile crept over his lips.
Cory was broken from his trance by Richard's voice.
"The bathroom is right over there across the hallway. Sorry to say this, but you look awful. Would you like to clean up or take a shower before you go to bed? There's a new toothbrush in there for guests, and you qualify as a guest. It's in the top drawer of the cabinet."
"Yeah, I think I need one." Cory chuckled, but paused, not knowing what to do next.
Seeing Cory's hesitance, Richard retrieved a towel from the linen closet and handed it to Cory.
"Go on inside and get yourself cleaned up. I'll be back in a minute. You can throw your dirty clothes out in the hall, because I need to wash them. I don't have anything your size for you to wear, so you'll need these cleaned."
Moments later, Richard retrieved the sports bag from Cory's room and the clothes piled on the hall floor and went downstairs to the laundry room. As he started to put the wet and dirty clothes in the washer, he felt something inside of Cory's jeans pocket. It was Cory's wallet. He knew that this was private and should not be opened, but he also knew that he had to eventually contact someone about Cory. He would need some information that was probably contained in the wallet.
Reluctantly, Richard put the wallet on a shelf above the washing machine and continued to pull out Cory's clothes from the sports bag, tossing them in the washer, added the soap, closed the washing machine door and turned the knob. The water started rushing in.
Just then Richard looked up as he heard the other sound of running water stop.
Cory stepped out of the bathroom wearing only a towel wrapped around him as Richard reached the top of the stairs.
Richard looked at Cory for a moment. He was slim with a swimmer's build, had broad shoulders and a narrow waist. Cory appeared to have just come out of one his adolescent growth spurts. He looked to be about 5'-10" tall, but only about 130 lbs. His curly dirty blond hair was cut short.
Seeing the embarrassment on Cory's face as Cory looked down at the floor, Richard retrieved a dark blue terry cloth robe from his bedroom and handed it to Cory.
"This will have to do tonight, because your clothes are still in the washer."
Cory slowly put the robe on and pulled the terry cloth belt tight around his waist. Letting the towel fall to the floor, Cory walked toward the bedroom that would be his for tonight. As Richard walked into the room behind him, Cory stopped and looked around at the room, turning slowly. Cory's eyes, normally a dark blue, began to take on a gray hue as he continued his turn and eventually stared back at Richard.
Richard noticed the change in color and saw the pain return, thinking it was probably the uncertainty about his life. Richard put his arm over Cory's shoulder and led him toward the bed, saying softly but with reassurance,
"Cory. Everything will be alright. You're going to be fine."
Cory sat on the side of the bed, and Richard sat himself next to him. Still wearing the uncertainty, Cory looked over at Richard and mumbled,
"I don't know why you're doing this, why you're being so nice to someone who you don't even know. But all I can say is thank you."
Richard looked away from Cory seeing a part of his own life that had been missing. He had been missing the ability to care.
"I guess there's more to life than just moving through the days, watching life's games go on around you as if you were in the bleachers looking down at life. It's about being a part of this world, being on the court playing the game, making a difference instead of being just an observer."
After a moment and while still looking at Richard, Cory mumbled,
"I don't understand."
"It's about taking a chance, Cory. You may not understand right now, but you will one day. One day you will."
Cory looked at Richard silently for a moment.
"You're taking a chance with me, aren't you?"
"I have this feeling, Cory, about you. And yes, I am taking a chance with you. And I'm taking a chance with myself, too."
Just then the tears welled within Cory and his arms shot out and around Richard's neck. Cory was crying openly and couldn't stop. They embraced for a few moments without words between them.
Cory finally lessened his grip on Richard, and he slowly pulled back.
"I'm sorry, Richard. I didn't mean to do that. I guess, I don't know, I guess I'm really tired. I don't know why I did that."
Richard stared at Cory for a few moments, knowing what that emotional outburst was all about. Cory was so wrapped in his fears, his thoughts of escape and his unknown future that he couldn't put his mind around what was actually happening to him. Someone helping him seemed so foreign to Cory.
"Get some sleep, Cory. We'll talk more in the morning when you're feeling better, okay?"
Cory laid back, putting his head on the pillow as Richard got up from the bed. He put a blanket over Cory, drawing it up to his shoulders. Richard stared at Cory for a moment as his own emotions were running at full throttle. He was looking at pain that he had not experienced before and wasn't sure what to do about it. Richard knew that he needed to face his own uncaring past if he was going to help Cory.
Richard turned to leave but turned back toward Cory as he reached the door. Cory raised his head to nod goodnight and Richard saw the blue eyes again. There was a slight sparkle that he hadn't seen before. The eyes appeared to be filled with contentment.
Richard spoke softly, "Good night, Cory" and left the room closing the door behind him.
Downstairs in the laundry room, Richard retrieved Cory's wallet from the shelf, moved into the kitchen and sat at the kitchen table. He stared at the wallet, moving it around in his hands for a few moments and then tossed it on the table as he stood again. He walked around the kitchen table several times, his eyes still fixed on the wallet.
After a minute of staring, he grabbed the wallet again, but this time he opened it. Inside he found Cory's school ID and another ID card. There was no money or driver's license. The other card had Cory's name, address and telephone number, neatly typed. Richard's mind continued to wrestle with the question of what the right thing to do. Just then, Richard saw the basketball court in his mind again. He was seated in the bleachers, watching the action on the court below. But just then his image in the bleachers moved, stood up straight and paraded down the aisle toward the game.
Richard knew that Cory's father had to know what had happened to him. Cory was not 18 yet and that man was still responsible for him. Richard had moved onto the court.
Richard swung around and pulled a pad of paper and a pen from the hutch behind him and wrote down Cory's address and telephone number. As he returned the card to Cory's wallet, he noticed another scrap of paper tucked deep in the paper money pocket. He removed and unfolded it and stared at the name written on it, "Mikey." Richard's resolve was now certain as he put 'Mikey' back inside and flung the wallet onto the table.
Richard sat back and covered his face with his hands, rubbing his eyes. He quickly glanced to the picture of his daughter for a moment and then looked toward the ceiling to where Cory was sleeping above. Richard knew what his daughter would do. He knew that she'd do exactly what Richard was about to do.
Richard moved across the room and grabbed the telephone and dialed. After a few moments of waiting, the other end of the line was picked up.
"Yeah," was all that Richard heard.
"Hello. Is this Mr. Anderson?"
"Yeah, what do you want?"
Richard was taken back by the roughness coming from the telephone.
"My name is Richard Mathews."
Richard knew that this was not going to go well. "Ah, I picked up your son this evening. He was hitchhiking and I..."
"Well, I thought that you might want to know where he is."
"Listen! I don't know who you are, and I don't care. And I don't give a damn where the little shit is. He can be in hell for all I care."
Richard pulled the phone from his ear in total disbelief. He choked not being able to speak, but slowly he composed himself and continued.
"Mr. Anderson, I wanted to tell you that he's alright. He was very tired and hungry. So, I bought him a burger and I'm letting him sleep at my house tonight and I'll bring him back tomorrow after he's rested."
"Are you one of his faggot friends? Don't you dare bring him here. I don't want to see his faggy ass anywhere near me! Do I make myself clear?"
Richard flinched as the other end of the line went dead. He stared at the telephone for a few seconds and then slowly replaced the receiver in the cradle.
Richard hardened as his head turned again toward the ceiling, enraged. He spoke to Don Anderson as if he were there.
"You will get your wish, Mr. Anderson. I have no fucking intention of returning Cory to a piece of trash like you."
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