Life Choices and Mistakes

by Robijean

Universe: LB Teen ATF/AU

Characters: JD and Vin

Language Warning: some minor swearing

Summary: JD and Vin's thoughts on JD's future as high school graduation approaches

Disclaimer:  I know they're not mine, if they were the series would still be on the air.

Thanks to Mog for the ATF Universe and to Barbretta Haydn for LB/ATF

Thanks to Sue M. for her beta work and encouragement.


JD Electronic Journal Entry
Friday Evening, 2nd week of April

I'm alone in the house tonight, Chris is out of town on business and both Vin and Da are on dates. I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about the choices you make in your life and how they seem so good at the time. It is only later, that you realize you've made the wrong choice, a mistake that will impact on the rest of your life. I'm feeling really sorry for myself lately, throwing myself a real pity party. I don't like feeling that way and I hope writing and venting my negative feelings will help me come to terms with things and lift up my spirits.

I'm only fifteen but I let my eagerness to learn, my need to gain more knowledge lead me astray and I will pay for it in ways I never imagined. It really hit home to me this year at the time of Homecoming and I've been thinking on it ever since.

I made a choice and it took away things from my life I can never get back. It has put me in a position of always breaking new ground. I'm not completely unhappy with my choice, but at least, now I know I would never want a child of mine to make the same one.

I've been thinking on a lot of other things too as Vin and I approach graduation. We both have made our college selections, if you can call what I did selecting a college. I didn't really, it was selected for me by circumstances. My selection being made by the choice I made years ago. I'm not old enough to go away to school, have to stay at home, just one of the many ramifications in my present and future caused by my earlier decision.

I think rather than just ramble all over the place, I'll try to put my thoughts down in some sort of order. Of course, that doesn't mean I won't still ramble all over the place. I do tend to get repetitive and say things in a lot of different ways when I'm thinking things through, guess it's just the way my mind works. My teachers think it's a good thing. I approach a problem from a variety of directions seeing what works the best for me. When I'm trying to think things through I just keep saying it differently until I see the answer that was there all along. So here goes.

Topic --- Da, Chris and the uncles

Obviously Vin and I were growing up, we changed from little boys to teenagers, but it was only recently that I realized that Da, Chris and the others were all getting older. I never noticed them changing, but they have. Da and Chris are in their mid-forties now. Chris' hair has silver strands in with the gold ones. Da has a little grey at his temples and his mustache is really dusty colored.

Da kept his condo and rented it out all these years saying he'd move back when I left home. He's now talking about deeding it over to Vin and me. He's planning on staying here at the ranch with Chris. I think both he and Chris have given up on the idea of marriage and kids of their own. I know Chris did after the incident with Mary that almost got Vin killed. Da dated but I always came first with him and he never got serious with any of them. Maybe he never would have got serious without me in his life, I don't know. I hope he never feels cheated by life because of me. I hope I can always be the son he wants me to be.

Uncle Josiah is silver haired now, very distinguished. He had his fiftieth birthday last year and is now talking about retiring when he turns fifty-five. Says law enforcement is a young man's game and he's getting up there in years. I can't imagine the team without him. He plans on doing more with some of the inner city shelters, counseling and all. He'll be good at it but I hate that he won't be there everyday with Da and Chris.

Nathan talks a lot about leaving the team and finding a safer occupation. He's been talking that way ever since the twins were born. It's hard to believe that he and Rain just celebrated their seventh anniversary and their oldest, Jed, is five and will be starting school in the fall. The twins will be two this summer. Nathan is going grey too. I know he is only a year younger than my Da but sometimes he seems much older.

He will reach his twenty years in nine more months and I think he will leave the team then. It won't be the same and I dread the thought of Da and Chris not having Nathan there to take care of them if they get hurt on the job. It hasn't happened often, but having a trained medic as part of the team has saved lives at least a couple of times in the past.

Ezra decided he was too old to do undercover work a couple of years back and they brought in a new agent for some of the assignments, especially any that called for a younger man. He's nice and all but no way will Josh ever be family. He doesn't do much with the team outside of the job, never comes to any of the events here at the ranch. He likes to keep his business and personal life separate, says it keeps him sharp for his undercover work. Sure glad that Ezra never felt that way.

Somehow, Vin and I always imagined growing up and joining the ATF and one day being part of team seven. I guess we never figured on our dads and uncles growing older and leaving the job. We really wanted to be part of the team one day. Of course, realistically they'd never allow fathers and sons to work on the same team, but we could dream and we did. Now the dream is gone, team seven as it was, is no more and will soon be even less.

Chris and Da both say they're feeling their age and it won't be too long before they have to either retire or take administrative duty. I don't think either one wants to work in an office at some desk job so they will probably quit and do more with the ranch. Chris always wanted to have an active horse ranch when he was younger and Da was going to be part of that. When Chris lost his family that dream was put aside, I think they are going to act on it when they retire.

So Vin and I are going to join the ATF and nobody we know will be there. We may not even be on the same team. Our dream is changing, now we just want to work out of the Denver office and be on the same team. Hopefully, we can achieve that. If Director Travis was still there, I know we wouldn't have any trouble convincing him to let us work together, but he retired two years ago and the new director is a pain in the ass, at least, that's what Da and the others say.

Who knows what Vin and I will finally do. I already have to live with the mess I've made of my life because I made the wrong choice. No way am I going to do that again, make a commitment to doing something that could turn out to be wrong for me. I guess it was really just a silly childhood dream, working with the family on team seven. Everything and everyone changes not just Vin and me. For some one who is supposed to be so smart, that totally escaped me. I think Vin knows, I'll ask him but I think he figured it out some time back. Just another example of how wrong my choice was back then, and what a big mistake I made. Vin and I are both graduating and Vin is ready to graduate but I'm too young. I have book smarts but I'm socially stunted and I think that makes me young for my age. I should have realized that life moves on for everybody long before now.

It's not like I can even talk about it to Da or Chris. They were part of the decision and I don't want them to think they did the wrong thing by me. I just don't know how to get past it, to move on, it touches so much of my past, present, and future life. I have to figure this out, I need to talk to someone and there is no one I can talk to except Vin, but I don't want to burden Vin with my problems. He's got worries of his own, he's real nervous about college, concerned about his girlfriend going to a college back east and how that will affect their relationship. He doesn't need my problems to add to it. Especially since there is nothing anyone can do to change things, the choice was made over five years ago.

What Vin will do is tell me how to live with the choice I made. He's real good at that, taking what life throws at you and making the best of it. Hell, I wouldn't be alive today if it wasn't for him taking care of me before Da and Chris found us. Talking to Vin would help but I've got to get my thoughts straight first. Then we'll talk it out and he'll explain how to cope with the consequences of my choice, my stupid, stupid choice.

Topic --- High School

What can I say about high school, it was a disaster, and I made things worse, compounded my original mistake because I thought it would make things better. It didn't it just pushed the problem further out into my life. I entered middle school when I was nine years old. I made that decision when we discussed it---my choice. Da and Chris said they wouldn't listen to the teachers and would keep me in the grade I was supposed to be in if that was what I wanted. They had talked about it a lot and decided they were fine with either decision. It was what I felt comfortable doing. I had always been in work or study groups with older kids because I was "advanced", "precocious", or whatever word the current instructor wanted to use. And so I felt it wouldn't matter, I didn't know how different our school was from the real educational world.

It wasn't so bad in middle school even though I was only nine when I entered and eleven when I left. Not all the kids matured at the same rate so I wasn't the only short, 'not interested in girls' kid around. Even the first year of high school wasn't too bad. I didn't have a lot of friends, my friends from middle school ended up at another high school, but I still had Vin.

Then in tenth grade Vin's interests began to change, he was growing up and we didn't want to do the same things anymore. That was when I first started to feel alone and I guess that's why at the end of tenth grade I took up the offer to go into the Running Start program for my junior and senior year. I really pushed it since Da and Chris weren't all that thrilled with the idea. I even found another student who would let me ride to the community college with him. So I took college classes part of the day and high school classes the rest of the time. What it means is that I will graduate not just from high school in June but also from community college with my AA degree. I will enter college in the fall as a junior, a sixteen year-old college junior. How screwed up is that?

I realized it at the time of Homecoming that I'd really messed up my life. I mean I knew it with the driver's ed situation, but Homecoming really brought it home to me. I have had virtually no social life all through high school and I will have no social life through college. I'm not developing social skills that I will need later in life. I've ostracized myself through my own stupidity and it will be years before it will be, if ever, rectified.

I was so anxious to learn as much as I could, as fast as I could that I never stopped to consider the other things besides knowledge that you have to learn in life to be a well-rounded person. I've cheated myself of the opportunity to ever have that. There will always be regrets for the things I never experienced when I should have and things I won't know how to handle properly.

High school was only saved by Vin's presence. He never left me out or made me feel unwelcome. I shouldn't have gone into the Running Start program and then we could be going to community college together. Only that wouldn't be fair to Vin, to have to watch over his kid brother. He deserves to have his college years unmarred by responsibility for me.

I'm just so afraid of going it alone. I know we are both living at home or if the weather is bad in the winter staying at the Da's old condo together. So I won't really be alone except at school taking classes with adults while I'm still a child. Not just two years younger than everyone else but four years. Four years at a time when those years are such a big difference. I am going to be the sixteen year-old in a class with twenty and twenty-one year-olds. No way will I ever belong with them or likely make friends and so my college years will be as lonely as my high school years. And again, any social skills will continue to go unlearned.

Topic --- College, Career, the Future

I look at my college plans and realize that I need to change them. I can't plan on getting my Batchelor's Degree in Computer Engineering and Programming. I can't stop there. I will turn eighteen the month after I get my BA. If I want to go into Law Enforcement I need to be at least twenty-one. So there are three more years before I can act on my career choice. Even if I do a double major, since I took AP college classes in my sophomore year prior to Running Start that means I can get the double major in only two years so it won't take any additional time. Hell, if I want and if I'm clever enough in my class choices I can actually get a double major with a minor.

Originally I thought I'd go for my Bachelor's in Computers with a minor in Criminal Justice. Instead I think I'll go for two Bachelor's, one in Computers and a second in Psychology with a minor in Criminal Justice. I really enjoyed all my psychology classes and would like to take some of the more advanced classes.

Even doing all those classes and degrees I will still graduate in just two years. So that means my best bet would be to do a two-year Master's program after that. And again everyone will be at least four or more years older than me. It will continue to delay my gaining the necessary social knowledge and skills to fit in with the rest of society.

So I will graduate at twenty with my Masters Degree and still be too young for my career choice. I could do the two-year Doctorate program. Having the title Dr. in front of your name can be very impressive but what would it gain me? More delays in development as I acquire more knowledge. When does it end? When will I be able to relate to my associates? If I don't get my doctorate and get taken on as soon as I turn 21, there will be the stigma of my age, of having to prove myself over and over, of being one of the youngest and having to show I deserve to be there, to deserve being given the chance someone older should have had.

I've had that throughout my school years, being the youngest, proving that I merit being where I am and I don't know how much longer I can endure being in that position. I don't think I would have made it this long without Vin being there for me. I have Da, Chris and my uncles supporting me every step of the way, but they're not like Vin. Vin was able to somehow make me feel at least for a little while like I was part of what went on around me.

When I go off to college in the fall, not really off to college since my age dictates that I can't attend any except a college here in Denver. I have limited educational choices because of my youth. Another example of how my earlier choice still impacts on my life today. I couldn't go through the normal college selection process, choosing a college that appealed to me, trying to see if I got accepted and checking the computer daily for word. No I applied at the local university knowing I would be accepted as I had already been notified of a scholarship I had won to their school.

So I get my doctorate and turn twenty-two. I go into law enforcement where you don't really need a doctorate unless you are trying for positions my age would never allow me to attain. And I try finally to develop the social skills to fit into a team and work with others. I'll finally be out in a world where I may actually be able to meet girls of my own age, not years older, and maybe I will finally be able to date.

I had one date in high school for the Homecoming Dance. That's it, one date in four years. Of course, I wasn't old enough to date until my senior year and even then it was only for group dates. I won't be old enough to double date until a month after I graduate. Thank goodness, Da and Chris made an exception for the Homecoming Dance or I wouldn't even have had that one date as a memory of my high school years.

You don't think about things like that when you are nine. Don't think about being too young to date or to drive when you are in high school. Hell, because I never took Driver's Ed in high school I won't be able to get my driver's permit or license until I'm 18 unless Da pays for me to take a special driver's Ed class. I could actually graduate college without ever having a driver's license. Boy does that put a cramp into any possibility of a social life---if I ever meet a girl my own age to ask out.

At least, if I was going to the community college next year, if I hadn't done Running Start, I might have been able to meet some Running Start girls who would be my own age. There would have been a chance for dates then. Stupid me, I make one mistake and can't handle the results of that choice, so I compound the problem and make it worse. Deciding on Running Start, what was I thinking, how did I think that would help? It only made things worse and I wasn't nine when I did that I was almost fourteen. And I could have opted out of it at any time. You'd think I would have learned from my first mistake but I'm slow in the ways of life, and I made things worse with my second choice.

I'll be paying for these mistakes for a long, long time. I just hope that when I talk to Vin he can give me some idea of how to try and make things right. I can't just wait until I'm twenty-two and have my doctorate for my life to start. I need to find a way to gain the non-book knowledge that I need in order to be a complete person. I can only hope and pray that Vin can help me find the answers I need.

I'm going to call it a day. Da and Vin will be coming back soon and I don't want them to wonder what I'm writing. I'm not real good at keeping things secret from them and I need to think on this some more before I talk to Vin. I'm not going to talk to Da or Chris. Like I said, it would hurt them to know that the decision they let me make was the wrong one. They would take all the blame and convince themselves I was too young, that they should have decided. I don't want them to ever feel that way, I don't blame them, hell, I don't even blame myself. I knew what I wanted back then, it just turned out to be the wrong thing. Would I do things differently now? Yes, I would and I definitely won't allow a child of mine to make the same mistake. Am I mad at my parents, at myself for the decision I made? No, we did what we thought was best at the time, we were wrong. It's as simple as that. Unfortunately, it will have serious ramifications for a number of years and in many aspects of my life.

Will I get past this? Yes, I will. Will it be easy? I don't think so, but I will do it. I've got a great support group behind me and I will succeed in making this right. I just know now there is no quick fix. I will live with it, conquer it, and eventually move on. I have enough confidence in myself, confidence instilled by my family, to know I will succeed in life despite this mistake.


Late Saturday Night, mid-April

The house is real quiet. Everybody is asleep, Although JD's restless, not surprising, really after today's revelations. I tried to sleep but realized I couldn't until I had today's events written down. Maybe then I'll be able to relax enough. I had a talk with JD today and it really shook me up. We talked long and hard, decided on some things, and there will be changes made to our college plans.

I'm so confused about how I feel. I'd guessed there was something bothering JD, tried to talk to him before today but he wasn't ready. JD doesn't talk about things until he has it all mapped out in his head. A lot of people don't think he's like that, think he just says the first thing that pops in his head and rambles all over the place about it. He doesn't really ramble but acquaintances and strangers don't know that. His mind is always working, making connections, going so fast. Then he says something and there are two or three connections missing in what he says out loud. His family and close friends know differently though. We've realized down through the years that he doesn't always say every thought that got him to the point he's making. We've learned to understand 'JD speak', it is sort of like verbal shorthand. Written shorthand can only be read if you know it, well we know JD and understand him just fine.

Oh, he often makes off the wall remarks and then rambles---he does that a lot, but only about the unimportant things. For something important he has to work it out in his mind first. Figure out exactly what's happening and how he feels about it. Only then does he talk to anyone about what's bothering him. Of course, he still might be all over the place in the conversation but that's JD. I couldn't imagine him, and wouldn't want him to be, any other way.

I see I'm having some problems myself. As I look over what I've written, I see my writing, my thoughts, are all over the place. It doesn't seem to make much sense. I guess I'm avoiding writing the hard stuff. Hell, I'm having a hard enough time dealing with what happened today and what it means for both of us. I feel like I've failed JD, he says I didn't but I don't feel like I've been a good big brother to him. He explained enough to me so I know that's not right, at least in my head I know it, my heart is having a hard time accepting that.

I guess I'm having so much difficulty getting my thoughts together because JD sure knocked me for a loop when he hit me with everything. I just haven't had a chance yet to get it straight in my mind.

I love my kid brother so much and can't bear to see him hurting like this. Just like he can't bear it when I'm hurting, always jumping right in to try and fix things for me. He sure has a hard time when I want to fix things for him. Of course, neither one of us can really do that, we have to do it for ourselves. It's just easier when the other is helping, and that's what I'm trying to do, what I'm going to do, help JD fix this mess.

I'm going to start again, from the beginning. Tomorrow is going to be a momentous day and I want to have all my arguments in order before our talk with Dad and Buck. It's going to be a difficult talk. It won't be easy convincing our dads into accepting the plans JD and I have made together. Hopefully Dad won't freak out because I'm reversing the decision I made after all our long discussions together about my college plans. He needs to realize that this is the best thing for both JD and me. I have to convince him I'm not making a sacrifice. This is a brother thing, JD would do it for me and has made similar sacrifices in the past.

Okay here goes. As I said JD's been worried. Until now, he's been brushing off any attempts I made to get him to open up and I realized he wasn't ready to share, so I backed off and waited, but this morning he asked me if I wanted to go riding and make a day of it. I knew then, he was finally ready to talk. I told him to pack us a lunch while I saddled the horses. We rode to our favorite place. We all have favorite spots of our own we go to sometimes. Then there is JD's and my spot our special place---has been since we were little.

I figured we'd take a leisurely ride, have lunch, relax and talk, then ride home. And that's pretty much what we did, except for the relaxing part. When JD began to talk he was pacing and couldn't sit at all and once he began talking, there was no way I could relax either. What he told me upset me so much my heart ached and my throat got tight. I let him vent, get it all out there in the open, everything he was thinking and feeling.

Then the real work began, trying to figure out what to do next. How could I make things better for my little brother? Okay, I'm doing it again. Racing ahead and not telling the story. I guess it still hurts thinking on how I feel I've failed him in this.

JD told me how he feels like an outcast at school. How lonely it has been for him. How could I not have seen that? I'd give anything to turn back the years. Go back to the tenth grade and do things differently. I never thought about JD being different or younger than everyone else. He was just JD, my brother. Some of my friends called him a geek but what do you expect from a bunch of jocks. I figured he had plenty of friends that shared his interests. Now I find out he didn't, he was too young to hang out with anyone in school. Outside of school, JD and I did a lot of things together but because I was older I was able to stay out later and do a lot of things he couldn't. It never occurred to me, that he didn't do things with friends like I did.

I'd change that now in a heartbeat if I had the chance, would have included him in more things. I could have been a better brother, he says I'm the best brother ever but I feel I failed him. Well, I won't fail him again. There will be changes and I know just what to do. If it had been different in tenth grade and he hadn't entered Running Start we could go to community college together. That's out now. So there is only one other thing we can do. It's going to take a lot of talking to convince Buck and Dad without letting them know everything and just how lonely JD feels.

We're going to talk with them and discuss some of the problems he's facing but not all of them. He doesn't want to hurt them and neither do I. So we are going to mention some of the current problems, not the past ones. Then we're going to tell them of the solution we came up with in our talk today.

Boy, coming up with that solution sure wasn't easy. At one point, JD and I weren't actually discussing anything, we were having a full- blown argument. JD was telling me I'd do no such thing---yeah, right, like that was going to stop me. He said he could stand on his own two feet and didn't need big brother fighting his battles, like I would try to do that---but he was mad, so I yelled at him. I told him for someone so smart he could really be dumb sometimes. When he calmed down some, I explained where I was coming from and he slowly came around to seeing I wasn't fixing things. I was just helping him toward making it a little easier for him to set up his own life.

All our solution does is give JD a chance to start making things right now rather than waiting until he's twenty-two. He'll still have to work hard and it's not going to be easy. Hell, when is life ever easy? But JD's strong, he won't let this defeat him and we both know, one day he'll be a better man for it.

Tomorrow will probably be the same, a lot of discussion, maybe some arguing and even some yelling. Our dads won't be happy and will probably want to consider keeping JD out of school for a couple of years. That won't help the social situation, and JD loves learning and knowledge too much to keep him out of college until he's older.

So we will push our solution and they will come around to our point of view. I know that, I just dread the thought of how much we might end up telling them to win them over to our idea. Our idea isn't going to be popular because they'll see it as a sacrifice on my part and they wouldn't want that, so what I need to do is convince them I don't see it as a sacrifice but a way to force me to face up to my own fears. That's not going to be easy.

I am afraid, afraid of failure. I know I'm not the best student. I worked real hard to get grades good enough to get me into college. I only have a 2.7 grade point average, not usually high enough for most four-year colleges although there is one in town that will take you with a 2.5 or better GPA. but not the school JD was planning on attending, not the best one in town. So I guess you could say we are both making sacrifices. I'm giving up my safety net, two years at community college before I move over to a four-year school. JD is giving up his chance to attend the best school in Denver for another Podunk university.

But that's what brothers do, you do what has to be done for the other. I don't have the grades to get into his school and that's why we came to our decision. We'll go to college together. I'll be a freshman and he will hang out with my friends and me, we're only two years older than him. Of course, it won't be like that for long, as he attends events with us he'll meet other freshman with interests similar to his. We share a lot of interests but JD and me are different in a lot of ways. He needs those friends too, the ones with similar interests. He just needs a confidence boost right now.

Once he starts making friends, people can't help but like him. He is a true friend and people sense that about him. That's one reason I had such a hard time with what he said today. Didn't anybody in our high school give him a chance to show what a wonderful person he is? Did nobody see past his age to how big a heart he has, what a wonderful, caring, loyal friend he would make? I don't understand that.

Sure there are some difficulties with our plan. I'll have to work a lot harder to get the necessary grades at this school. Dad and I talked about me going there and I decided I didn't want to do it. I wanted to go to the community college first to get the feel of a college environment. At college there are so many kids in the classes, more lectures. I thought like a lot of kids do, it was the best idea. I'd still be taking the same classes just with fifty kids rather than two hundred.

Now I won't have that luxury, the next two years are important for JD's social development. He could still go to the best school in town but he wouldn't meet any freshmen. He needs to make the connections. Then he'll take it from there. I'm going to be there for him now like I should have been in tenth grade. He just needs to meet people, he should make friends easily enough once they get to know him.

I wish he could go to the better school, but schools are funny places. The different grades don't really have a chance to mingle. He can't even take freshman classes since he's already taken all he needs for his degree. So this way is best. I face my fears and work a little harder---lectures, note taking, and larger classes. And JD goes to this school too, it may have less prestige but it's still a good school. And he'll get more than most kids out of what's being taught. He loves doing extra work in almost any class, always wants to know just that little bit more.

In two years, he'll go to the better school for his Master's degree. I won't transfer with him. He'll be on his own when that happens. Only he'll have the necessary social skills and won't feel such an outsider and he'll still have the friends he makes in the next two years to do things with outside of school.

It doesn't sound so bad when I write it all out. Yeah, I'll have to stretch myself a little more than I feel comfortable doing but that's a good thing. I probably should have been willing to do it without this added push.

I'd better go to bed, I need my rest for our talk tomorrow. Dad and Buck won't be easy to convince but they want what's best for JD and me. And this is what's best. I need to do this for my brother and for myself. I need to know I did the best by him that I could and hopefully chose a better path for myself also. I love my brother and want him to be happy. It hurt today to realize how unhappy he's been lately. I don't want him to ever feel that way again. I know I can't control that, future events are beyond my control, but this I something I can do. I can make the next two years great years for both of us, we both can---and we will.

JD Electronic Journal Entry
Sunday Night---3rd week of April

It has been a very interesting two days since my last entry. We talked to our dads today and that was something else. Vin lost it, I mean really lost it. He started yelling at Chris, something he's never done before. We were all shocked, hell Vin was more shocked than the rest of us, by his outburst.

I guess if this is going to make any sense I'd better start at the beginning. After I finished my journal entry Friday night, I went to bed. Neither Da or Vin were back from their dates and Chris wasn't due back until Saturday afternoon, so I was alone in the house and able to think over what I'd written. I never really sleep until I know everyone is home so I figured I had plenty of time, which was a good thing because I had a lot to think about and ideas to come up with to solve my problem. I heard Vin and Da both arrive home and although I still hadn't come up with a solution I wasn't able to stay awake any longer.

When I woke up Saturday morning, I knew it was time. I was ready to talk to Vin. He'd been patient with me, waiting until I was ready to talk. Like all the other times, he knew I was troubled and even though he'd tried to get me to talk earlier, he could see I wasn't ready then, so he waited.

On Saturday at breakfast I suggested we go for a ride. He knew what I meant by it as soon as I had said it. He told me it was a great idea and put me in charge of the food while he took off to the barn to get the horses ready. We headed out less than an hour later, left a note for Buck saying we'd be back towards evening, and rode to our special place.

We figured on talking after lunch, I knew what I was going to say, had it all planned in my head. Then it was time, Vin leaned back against the tree and I sat down. Sat down for all of about half a minute, then I was up pacing around, waving my arms around and talking a mile a minute, my thoughts all over the place, not at all the way I'd planned. Vin just sat up straight and listened.

Every time I'd start to run down, he'd nod and let me know he was there, listening to me rant. God the things I said, I couldn't believe some of the things coming out of my mouth. It was like I was feeling bad so let's say something to make Vin feel bad. I mean that wasn't what I was trying to do, but I did it anyway. Said things I had never planned on saying and they hurt Vin, hurt him a lot.

I guess I can't escape telling what happened. I need to write everything down so I can try and understand why I said them. As I was explaining everything to Vin, acting like an idiot, ranting and raving, I started asking Vin questions. Asking questions but not waiting for answers. They were really just rhetorical questions, only they weren't questions as much as accusations. I apologized and Vin said he understood, that I wasn't angry with him or accusing him of anything. That's what he said, but I know better, I know my words hurt and for that, I feel bad.

I asked my big brother, the one who has always been there for me how could he not know what was happening? How could he not see I had no friends? And worst of all, why hadn't he done something to make things better?. When my rant was finished I was so ashamed I just sat down next to him and hung my head. I couldn't look at Vin. He leaned me into his shoulder and rubbed my back and asked me if I was done, I said I was and then he looked at me and told me we'd work it out, the two of us.

I started to apologize for what I had said, but he stopped me before I could get a complete sentence out, and said he knew I wasn't really angry with him and that I had a right to question him. He said, he was so sorry he hadn't realized what was happening with me. How was he supposed to know, when I'd done everything I could to keep it from him?

He laughed at that and said I may have hidden it, but it didn't mean I didn't want others to figure it out anyway. He said Josiah would say it was the 'human condition', about how we try to keep our problems secret because we want to protect others but really, we want them to see past all that, figure it out, and help us with them. Vin said, that's why I'm as angry with myself for keeping it a secret as I am with him for not seeing past my subterfuge.

He's right about that, it seems so stupid now that I didn't let on to him or our dads how miserable I was in tenth grade. I should have gone to them, trusted them to help me. What a waste, if I had done that, things would be so different now.

For a time we just sat there, getting comfort from leaning against each other. Eventually, Vin asked what ideas I had to solve my dilemma. 'cause if I hadn't come up with any answers yet, he had one.

That's when I told him, all I could see for now was waiting until I was twenty-two. I let on how worried I was about waiting that long, but I wanted to attend college. I let him know how afraid I was that our dads would decide I should delay college.

A lot of the college plans we made depended on what was the best school for us to attend, just not all of them. I would have liked to go to the same four-year college as Vin if that had been his decision. Only I have a major scholarship at the best college in town, and I'm not going to make Da pay for me to go to school when I can go for free.

Da and Chris have been saving up for when they retire. They're going to start a horse ranch and that costs a lot of money for breeding stock, equipment, and buildings. Da was so thankful four years back when his mortgage was paid off and the rent money from his place could go into savings. How could I ask him to take money out to send me to school?

And it's not like I can get a job, I'm not old enough yet. Hell, Chris said Vin couldn't get a job until he was eighteen and even then only summer jobs for the first two years of college. Then he can take part-time work on campus the next two years. Our dads really worry about the weather and how far out of town we live. Living this far out makes it difficult to find any work, so we'd have to work in town and then make the trip late at night. Not too safe in the winter months. Of course, they said we should stay in Da's old place if the weather's bad so I don't see what difference it makes.

Damn, I've wandered off subject again. I'd just told Vin I hadn't any ideas and he said that he had a good one. I was surprised since I thought I'd taken everything into consideration. So he hits me with the idea I'd already rejected of us going to the same school.

I asked him about the money angle and he told me Chris had said not to let money be a consideration when he chose, that Ezra had advised him on investing and he had done very well. There was enough money for Vin to go to whichever college he wanted. Vin still didn't want to see Chris spending more money when he could go to community college for less, but now it meant he knew there was enough for him to change his mind without worrying about that.

Of course, I couldn't be so sure about Da and his finances since he never said anything like that to me. Why would he? I had a scholarship that would pay for my tuition and books. Vin suggested if Ezra had coached Chris on investments, he'd likely coached Da too.

It means a lot to me that I have options now. There are other scholarships out there I can try for if I want to help Da out financially. I have choices now and that means the world to me. I don't know what I'd do if I didn't have a brother like Vin. One who is willing to listen to my problem and work with me to answer it.

I don't feel like I'm carrying the world on my shoulders any longer. I've got my brother to help with my burden. That's another great thing about Vin, he doesn't try to do it all himself, he helps me handle things.

Vin is talking about our new plans, so confident, like nothing can stop us. I don't think I've ever loved him more than this minute. At the time Vin and me were found by our dads, I didn't realize just what a difference it would make in our lives. I had been scared and now I felt safe. But it was so much more, we got the two best dads in the world and three great uncles. The best role models two young boys could have. In addition, I got the world's best big brother, another great role model. I just hope that I have given Vin as much as he's given me. I give thanks each and every day for having Vin and our dads in our life.

We talked for a couple of hours, planning out what to say to our dads. Neither one of us wanted to hurt them by letting them know the problems I have been having. We decided to say we just really wanted to go to the same school. And if push comes to shove we'll admit to my feelings of being a little young to go to college by myself. We'll convince them no matter what, I just hope we can do it without going into all the details of what I now consider to be a huge mistake.

After our talk we headed back to the ranch expecting Chris to be there so we could talk that evening. Only Chris wasn't there, he had been delayed and his flight wouldn't be in until late. This was a real problem since it meant we'd have to wait until tomorrow. I'd waited for weeks before talking to Vin and now I didn't want to wait a few extra hours. I guess the difference is, I now know there is a solution to my problem and I want to act. Before I didn't have an answer and needed to think on things.

Vin and I decided it would be best to let our dads sleep as late as they wanted. We'd to the chores, make a late breakfast, brunch kind of thing, and after that, sit down and have the talk.

Things went okay right up to the discussion. I don't know how it happened, but Chris and Vin got off on the wrong foot with each other. Not that Da and I did much better, but at least I didn't yell at him. Like I said earlier, Vin totally and completely lost it. He misunderstood something and decided Chris had been lying to him all these years and had thought he was stupid.

Vin has always had to really work on his self-esteem issues. Chris hadn't said anything like that. I wish Vin would stop thinking he was stupid because it means he ends up feeling others think the same. This is the first time I ever heard him accuse Chris of feeling that way.

He was so shook up by his accusation that he stormed out of the room. Chris made to go after him but Buck stopped him. I went after him instead, told him what Chris had really said. Vin nodded his head, and headed back inside and apologized. Chris forgave him. Told Vin and me to go to our rooms for an hour and then we would all talk. He said, we all needed to cool down before we could have a civil conversation. Of course, I knew what he really meant was that he and Vin needed the time, although Buck and I had got a little heated there for a bit.

We had finished breakfast, cleaned away the mess and asked our dads if they could give us an hour or two. We needed to have a serious talk with them. Of course, they said sure, no problem. If they had said anything else I would have been surprised. They've always been there for Vin and me whenever we needed them.

So we all sat down around the dining room table where we always had our talks when we were kids. We told them our new college plans. Buck right away starts telling me I have a scholarship to the best university in the area and I can't just throw that away. At the same time Chris is telling Vin, he can't believe after all their discussions, Vin just changed his mind. Then he went on to say, Vin should go to the community college, it was the best solution, that it was what was best for Vin.

That's when it happened, Vin jumped up and yelled at Chris, you liar, you've lied to me all these years, said you were proud of me, you don't think I can do it, you think I'm stupid. Then he just stood there looking like he couldn't believe he said that. He turned and ran from the room and out of the house. Chris started to get up but Buck pulled him down and I ran out after Vin.

Vin was standing out by the corral breathing like he'd just run a marathon. He was leaning forward, his hands on his thighs and gulping breaths as fast as he could take them. His whole body was heaving and when I looked at him there were tears in his eyes, only he wasn't letting them fall.

He was muttering to himself, how could I do that---say that--- didn't mean to say that. I tried telling him that Chris knew but he just stared at me. He looked so lost that I did something I hadn't done in years. I reached over and pulled my big brother into a hug. And he leaned into that hug, took the comfort I was offering, at least for a few seconds.

Then he straightened up, squared his shoulders, looked at me and said, I've got to apologize to Dad. I've got to let him know I didn't mean it. That's Vin for you, he knows the right thing to do and he doesn't put it off.

We went back inside and Vin apologized. Chris accepted telling Vin he knew he didn't mean it. Then said, we all need some time to calm down and then we can have our talk. You boys go to your rooms and we'll meet back here in an hour. What he meant was he and Da wanted to discuss our decision before things got out of control a second time. They wanted to present a united front.

Well we decided to go to my room so we could also present a united front. First, though I had to give my big brother what for. I'm real tired of Vin putting himself down and decided it was time to make him face up to some home truths. And that wasn't going to be easy. Vin can be real stubborn about seeing things his way. Someone did a real number on his head when he was younger and he just can't get past that he isn't stupid. So I guess I have to work a miracle before we attempt to talk to our dads again. I have to make him believe the truth, that he's smarter than most people.

I guess I'll have to write the two talks down later---mine with Vin and ours with our dads. Da just came in and told me to close down the computer and get ready for bed. It's pretty late and it is a school night. I'll finish this after school tomorrow.

JD Electronic Journal Entry
Monday Afternoon after school---3rd week of April

Okay where did I leave off? Oh, right---Vin and me in my room with me about to light into him. I wasn't sure what to say. He was hurting so bad after his blow-up with Chris. So I took a page out of Da's book---I went over to him and pulled him into another hug. It wasn't easy, this time he was stiff at first, then suddenly he melted and put his arms around me. We held on to each other for about a minute. Then he pulled away. He knew how I felt and I know he isn't much for hugs now that he's no longer a kid. In fact, I still can't quite believe he let me hug him twice in one day. Just shows how upset we both were---I think he knew I needed the hug as much as he did.

I sat on my bed and Vin pulled the desk chair, sitting like always, facing the rear of the chair and resting his arms on the back. He looked over at me and told me he figured we'd have to tell our dads part of the problem to get them to agree. We needed to decide just what and how much to tell them. He wanted to start our strategy session, but I wasn't ready to do that just yet.

So I told him right then we needed to do something else first--- something much more important than getting our dads to agree to our plan. We needed to talk about his outburst and why he had made it. I said I was fed up with him having such a poor opinion of himself---no one else thinks he's stupid, so why does he?

Vin didn't like what I was saying and got up to leave. I grabbed hold of his arm and pulled him back down. I guess he didn't fight 'cause he could see my eyes were filling. I wasn't about to cry---at least I was trying hard not to. I had heard the expression about being mad enough to cry but this was the first time I ever really knew what it meant.

It took me a minute or so to get myself under control---the whole time Vin just staring at me. Finally I told him how much I had always looked up to him---that just because he didn't get straight A's in school didn't mean he wasn't smart. There is a whole lot more to this world than just book smarts, there's street smarts, and knowing about nature and things. I said if I was ever lost in the wilderness, I´d hope he was with me 'cause I know he'd get us out alive. He just stared at me like he thought I was nuts so I kept talking.

I asked if he remembered when he saved me and kept me alive until Da and Chris found us---asked him how many seven-year olds had enough smarts to do that? Why did he think Da and Chris were willing to trust us to stay by ourselves in Denver if the weather was bad? Told him it was because they knew he would always do the right thing, they knew he would take care of me---told him they trusted him to be smart enough to make the right decision when needed and because of his influence on me---they also trusted me.

Then I asked him why he let an artificial marker like grades in school make him feel stupid. Why didn't he listen to what his family and friends said not just with words but with their actions. Then I stopped because the tears were falling, I couldn't hold them back longer.

Vin reached over and mussed my hair---and said I was the best little brother ever.

I told him, if I was the best little brother, he was the bestest big brother. He laughed when I said it that way, just like I did when we were little.

I could tell by him mussing my hair that I had reached him, I don't mean I magically solved his self-esteem issues---just that he was thinking on what I said. And once he gets to thinking on something, he'll look at all sides and I know he'll come to the right conclusion. Don't mean he won't sometimes feel stupid, but he'll know deep down he isn't.

That over, we finally got down to strategizing for our meeting with our dads. We agreed on a plan and at the end of the hour we headed for the dining room to face the music. I could only hope our plan would work because I didn't want to hurt my Da and Chris by telling them how messed up my life really was.

We all got seated around the dining room table again. Our dads looked at each other, then Da asked us, "JD you've got a scholarship to the best school in the area, why do you want to throw that away? And Vin, you and your father talked over your college plans for almost three weeks and you decided on the community college. When did that change?"

I didn't know what to say, I mean Vin and I agreed but I just couldn't answer. I may have hesitated but Vin he spoke up and said we were talking on our ride yesterday and we both had doubts about the decisions we had made.

I piped up then and told Da and Chris that I wasn't ready to go to college by myself. That I could handle being younger in high school because I knew my big brother was there with me. I just wanted another two years of being at the same school as Vin. Then I'd be the age most kids were when they went to college, but right now I didn't feel ready to go it alone. What I didn't tell them about was the loneliness in high school and my poor social skills.

Chris and Da looked at each other, then at us. You could see them thinking about what I had said and wondering if Vin's change of plans was for him or for me. Chris spoke up then, "JD, you know we both want what's best for you, but we also want what's best for Vin. Vin and I decided that community college was the best thing for him. Buck and I don't feel that Vin should change his plans at this time. If you're nervous about college, we think it would be best for you to wait a year or two and then go. You don't have to go this year. You're young and can afford to wait."

That was so not what I wanted to hear---yet it was exactly what I expected to hear. I knew they would think the best thing was for me to wait. I didn't want to do that. For one thing, it wouldn't be any better for me two years from now, but they didn't know that 'cause I wasn't telling them everything.

It looked like I'd have to tell all when Vin jumped back into the discussion. His eyes were focused on Chris as he spoke, "Dad, I'm not just doing this for JD---I made my decision to go to community college out of fear. I jumped over you earlier for thinking I was stupid when it's me that's scared. I didn't have enough confidence in myself---wasn't sure I could handle real college classes. Not just the work, but also the size of the classes, the crowding in the rooms. Those were the reasons I chose community college and they aren't important enough reasons to delay JD's education. I don't want JD to have to wait so I can play it safe."

Da motioned to Chris and they excused themselves and went into the kitchen. Vin leaned over and told me he thought it would be okay. I wanted it to be okay but was afraid that we'd have to tell them the rest of it before they would go along with our plan.

Da was the one who started talking when they came back into the room. "JD, Chris and I have discussed this and we understand your worries. I know you don't want to wait, but that's the only solution we can see. Tomorrow, I'm going to contact your college and see if you can't exercise the scholarship in two years time. You'll be more mature then and ready to attend by yourself. It will be better anyway, you'll be in with kids your own age."

I just sat there, all my dreams would be destroyed unless I spoke up and risked hurting both him and Chris with my real reasons. I tried to figure the best way to tell them everything. And I didn't even know if telling them would make a difference. They still might think that holding me back was the best thing and I would have hurt them to gain nothing.

While I was still trying to figure out what to say, Vin spoke up and even though he didn't raise his voice you could tell he was angry. "That's not true. Even if he waits two years JD will still be younger than the rest of the kids. He's going to be a junior not a freshman. So are you going to make him wait four years? At our high school, the counselors all say that if you wait to go to college you probably won't go. I don't think that could happen with JD, but what if it did? You'd be pretty angry with yourselves if making him wait ruined his whole life.

"And I'd be pretty angry with you myself if that happened, if JD didn't go to college 'cause you were so busy protecting me from something I already said I could do. We spent hours discussing which school I'd go to, Metro State or CCD. Dad, you said I was 18, an adult, and it was my choice and I chose CCD---but for all the wrong reasons.

"Is it still my choice or are you going to dictate where I go? I'm not going to CCD now no matter what you say. If you won't pay for me to go to Metro State, I'll get a job and save up money and in two years JD and I will both go there for our first two years. JD will be 18 and can make his own choice and you know they'll give him a scholarship if he applies. So, is it still my choice or not?"

I couldn't believe what I was hearing and I wouldn't let it lie there. No way was my brother going to wait two years when all he ever wanted was to get his degree as soon as possible so he could work in law enforcement. I didn't give Chris a chance to answer. "Vin, I won't let you wait. I'll go to CU like we planned. I was just being a baby, it will work out."

Vin lit into me saying he wasn't going to CCD no matter what I did. I started arguing with him and we were both shouting at and over each other.

Chris gave this whistle that we both knew meant not another word. We stopped yelling and sat back down, but we were both huffing and glaring at each other. So much for our united stand---pretty pathetic effort.

Chris looked at Da, then at Vin and me. Da was doing the same thing. Chris looked at me again and said, "It's hard to make decisions without knowing the whole story. I get the feeling that nothing we say will get to the heart of this matter. I thought we had taught you boys that you could tell us anything---guess I was wrong. This situation is escalating out of control. You're fighting with each other and the threats you are each making could end up ruining your lives. So we'll agree to your plan since it is obviously so important to you. You can both go to Metro State for the next two years."

Chris stood up, looked at us both again and walked out of the room. Da looked at me almost like he didn't know me, looked over at Vin, shook his head and walked out too. I heard the back door open and shut when Chris left and then again after Da. I figured Da was going to talk to Chris about what had just happened.

I looked over at Vin and could see he felt as bad as I did. We wanted to protect them and not hurt them by telling the truth. We didn't handle it very well or maturely and we ended up doing something much worse. We made them think we didn't trust them. I couldn't believe how much it hurt to do that to our dads.

Vin had tears on his cheeks that he quickly brushed away, then headed into his room. He hasn't silently cried like that for years. I was crying too and I didn't know what to do. I went to my room and started writing in my journal but I was tired and couldn't finish. I needed to write it all down and figure out what had happened---so I started writing as soon as I came home today.

We got what we wanted and we lost so much more. I'm going to Vin's room and see if he'll talk to me---the silence between us is deafening. We haven't spoken since the meeting yesterday. Our dads came back in later and we all had dinner together but they were the only ones that said anything. After dinner we both went back to our rooms. We didn't even talk in the car on the way to and from school.

I know what we have to do---Vin knows it too but he's leaving it up to me. It's my problem to share and he won't push. I'm glad he doesn't---I have to know I can do the right thing without being pressured. When our dads come home, we'll have dinner ready and after dinner we'll sit down with them and tell them the truth. It surely couldn't be worse than the hurt we inflicted on them yesterday.

More later. I've got to go get Vin and see if we can prepare a dinner, somehow combining Chris and Da's favorite foods. That'll be a real challenge.


Late Sunday Night, mid-April

I've tried to sleep for the last few hours but it won't come. I thought yesterday evening was bad---having to deal with what JD told me---but it was nothing compared to today.

I thought the worst day of my life would always be the day my mama died. I don't really remember it anymore except to know how lost and alone I felt. I was just a child then, I'm an adult now, at least in a month's time I'll be an adult. You wouldn't know it by the way I feel right now. I feel just like I did then---I'm so lost, alone, scared, cold.

I guess I should write down what happened---maybe try and make some sense of it myself. I didn't act like an adult today, more like a spoiled child. Forgot all the good things Dad and Buck have done for JD and me. I attacked them both and then even ended up fighting with JD.

First, I screamed at Dad and said horrible things. Accused him of thinking I was stupid. At least I wasn't a complete brat---I didn't say I hated him---didn't really need to say that to hurt him. And it did hurt him---I couldn't believe the words I heard coming out of my mouth. Even as I said them I couldn't understand why---I mean I was upset by what he said but I know he doesn't think I'm stupid. JD says I'm the one who has doubts and so I put those doubts on other people when they say the wrong thing.

That was bad enough but it is only the beginning. After Dad and Buck went off to talk, JD and I went to my room and decided to calm down and work together to make our dads listen so they could understand our plan.

That is not what happened---I lost it again and started making threats---as JD and I were yelling at each other I even threatened to move out and go live on my own. I've tried to figure out what went wrong---how we screwed up so bad. I think it goes back to when JD was mine---I took care of him, was responsible for his wellbeing---I thought I was over that. It was a problem for a while after we first came to live here, but we worked it through and I haven't felt that way until today.

It all came back, I knew what was best for JD---I had all the facts and they should just accept that. I made them---my Dad and Buck- --I made them the enemy---the ones I had to defeat to protect JD. How warped is that? They weren't against us, they were trying to do what they thought was best for both of us just like always.

Only I couldn't see it, I knew JD didn't want the whole truth to come out and I tried to prevent that from happening. The next thing I know I'm making ridiculous threats and the threats worked. That's the horrible thing---they worked and we got our way. Only the look on our dads' faces---I know I'll never forget that look. They were so disappointed---in me---in JD.

I don't know how we'll ever get past that. The house was so silent this evening---not a good quiet---a horrible heart-breaking stillness. Our dads tried to act normal at dinner but JD and I didn't talk to them or each other. After the blow-up this afternoon, I went to my room and JD went to his. I walked away from JD as he sat at the table crying---he was hurting and I just walked off and left him and haven't spoken since it happened.

I think we may have broken our family and I don't know how to fix it. It's going to be up to JD and me to fix it---we're the ones that really messed up. Our dads will forgive us and move forward, but we'll always have to live with the memory of those looks. Right now I don't want to talk to JD---don't want to think on what happened.

Do you know what I really want? I want to go back to Saturday morning before JD told me his problems. I don't want these two days to have ever happened. I want to go back to being a good son who doesn't hurt his father by saying hateful destructive things.

JD didn't say as much as I did---everything got out of control and most of the hateful things from his mouth were directed at me. My little brother was yelling and I feared the look in his eyes was saying he hated me and I was making everything worse. I don't want to see him right now---I'm afraid if I look closely I'll see disgust for me in his eyes.

I'll have to talk to him sometime soon though. We have to figure out how to try and put things right---if they can be put right. I think our only option is to come clean---tell them everything so they can understand why we feel so strongly about this.

Our dads are good men---they love us---they will eventually forgive us---we just have to find some way to forgive ourselves.

I need to get some sleep---maybe I can now that I've written it all out. I hope so, I need to be at my best tomorrow if there's any chance of fixing this.


Monday Evening, mid-April

What a difference a day can make. If yesterday was the worst day of my life, then today ranks up among the best. The best day of course was the day we all became a family. Today we reaffirmed that. JD and I finally talked just before dinner and agreed to tell our dads the whole story---everything, nothing left out. We knew it might hurt them but nowhere near as much as we had done yesterday.

At dinner we asked our dads if we could have another talk after we were done eating. They looked at each other and I thought they were going to say no. I mean why would they want to talk to us after the way the last two went. Anyhow they ended up saying yes and we all sat down after dinner.

We apologized for our behavior and explained we hadn't told them the whole truth---we had wanted to protect them. Then we told them everything, they asked questions, and finally deciding that we would both go to Metro State. I think we all at some point in the discussion had tears in our eyes---it got pretty emotional.

I feel today what I felt the first day I came here---I feel loved, safe, warm---a far cry from how I felt yesterday. Our family managed to survive this upheaval and we're going to be stronger than ever. I hope someday when I have a family of my own that I can be as good a father as Dad and Buck.

I'm real sleepy and need to get my rest so I will stop for tonight. Tomorrow we have a lot of details to work out---everyone was too drained to do that tonight. I'm looking forward to it.

JD Electronic Journal Entry
Monday Night---3rd week of April

What a difference a few hours make. After I finished my last entry, I went to talk with Vin. He had decided the same thing as me--- we need to tell our dads everything. First we need to apologize for yesterday and then we need to tell them the whole truth and not just selected parts of it---it may hurt them but it can't hurt more than what we did at yesterday's meetings.

Of course, we had made this decision---felt a lot better---forgot to plan out how we'd go about doing it. I don't think we learned all that much from yesterday---I mean we learned that telling the whole truth was needed---we learned that losing our cool was a bad thing--- what we didn't grasp was planning out who will say what and when we would say it.

Vin and I asked our dads for another meeting during dinner. They did not look pleased at the idea but we've always as a family worked through things so they said yes. Well because we hadn't learned how to plan from yesterday's mistakes the meeting started out in pure confusion.

We, Vin and me, were talking over each other with only part of what we each were saying being heard by our dads. It was sort of like this.
V: We wanted to tell you how sorry we are about yesterday and try...
M: …didn't mean for it to happen.
V: Everything just got out of control and we couldn't …
M: It's cause we lied to you and …
V: …not really a lie more like not the whole truth about things.
M: …wasn't to trick you we were trying to protect …
V: …didn't want to hurt you and make you feel …
M: …they weren't your mistakes not really they were mine

Finally Chris whistled us to a stop like he used to sometimes when we were kids and carrying on something fierce and he wanted to get to the bottom of things. He pointed to Vin and said, "You first."

Vin looked at me, shrugged and started off saying, "We wanted to apologize for how we acted yesterday. We know you're disappointed in us and don't blame you, we acted like brats. JD and I talked about college on Saturday like we said but we didn't tell you everything. JD wants to tell you about it but I want to say I still think our plan is the right way to handle it. I hope you will still give it serious consideration even after how we acted yesterday.

"We were both so uptight about how we were going to convince you without telling you everything that we messed up. We should have realized as soon as you said you didn't like the idea that we'd have to tell you the whole truth but we panicked and you know what happened then."

Chris and Da just sat there staring at us with that look of disappointment still written on their faces. I could tell how upset they were that in addition to acting up yesterday we were admitting to lying to them. I mean we called it not telling the whole truth but it was really telling a lie. And worst of all we were telling the lie to get them to do what we wanted not what they had decided was best. We deliberately didn't give them all the facts so they could make the decision they felt was right. I came into this meeting feeling low but right then I felt even lower. I've been a terrible son and a horrible brother because my not wanting them to know dragged Vin down with me. I knew Vin would say it was his choice to support me in not telling them everything so it wasn't my fault. But right then I felt like any and everything was my fault.

Chris motioned to me to talk. I guess he didn't trust himself to speak right now. I looked over at him and Da, then began to speak, "I was ashamed to tell you my problem and I didn't want you two to feel responsible for it. Things were ultimately my decision and I made the wrong choices. I didn't know it at the time, I don't know maybe I would still have made the same decisions. If I had chose differently, I might have gotten bored with school and lost interest. I don't know, I'll never know and neither will you so I don't want you to feel bad.

"My first wrong choice was my decision to move up two grades and go into the advanced program. We all talked about it and once you decided that it was an acceptable choice you left the decision up to me. You didn't want to force me to stay back or to force me to move up. You laid out all the facts and I chose to move up. The only thing was that neither one of us considered the fact that while I might be okay in middle school, when I reached high school the age gap would be more significant. I couldn't really date, I couldn't drive, I didn't fit in and I wasn't making new friends, I stopped socializing with other kids outside of school activities.

"Then I compounded my mistake when offered the chance to go into the Running Start program I convinced you it was the best thing. I really wanted to do it, but now I'm going to turn sixteen and be a junior in college. Juniors are twenty or twenty-one, some are old enough to drink. I don't fit in with them at all.

"What Vin and I thought I could do is be a junior at the same school he was a freshman. He'd introduce me to his freshman friends and I'd start to develop my social skills. I would still be younger than everyone else when I go for my master's but I'd be eighteen and have the social skills I need.

"Staying home for two years won't solve my real problem---the lack of social skills. I need them and sitting at home waiting until I'm older to start college isn't the answer. When Vin and I talked, we thought us both going to Metro State was the right solution. We didn't tell you all the facts so it is understandable that you felt the way you did. Vin knew how much I hated the idea of staying home and he was just trying to help me when he pushed for our solution--- he did it---for me.

"Please don't be mad at him, if you should be mad at anyone it's me. I'm the one who decided not to tell you about the real reason we wanted to do things our way. I hope you'll let us go to Metro State together but Vin and me we agreed we'll go along with whatever you decide is best."

I had been looking down at the table as I talked but decided I needed to be a man and look them in the face now that I'd finished. What I saw made me feel both better and worse. The look of disappointment was gone but it had been replaced by the hurt look I knew I'd see---the look that says I failed as a parent---I hurt my child. I had hoped I wouldn´t see it but it was there.

"Oh, Li'l Bit, " Da said to me, he hadn't called me that in ages. "You should have come to me when you realized there was a problem. Why did you wait so long? We would have figured something out. It hurts to think you weren't able to enjoy high school. Most people look back on that period of their life as the best time. Did Chris and I do something that made you think you couldn't tell us when you're hurting? We never meant to do that."

Chris butted in before I could answer, "Buck, you know JD would tell you anything. It's something else, you go ahead and tell us JD, we're listening."

So it was back to me to explain some more. "I didn't even tell Vin until Saturday. I didn't really mind all that much. I had my studies and my family---that was really all I wanted. I thought everything was fine until the announcement about the Senior Prom. The prom had always been open to all grades until this year when only Juniors and Seniors could go. I realized that I couldn't go because no girl in those classes would go with someone younger. Here I was a senior and couldn't even go to my own prom. If you hadn't made an exception I couldn't have gone to the homecoming dance.

"That was when it was all brought home to me just how little I mixed with the other kids unless I was doing something with Vin. I got to thinking about college when Vin wouldn't be there and I realized I didn't know how to do any of the fun things I should have learned in high school. I tried to figure out how I could learn what I needed before graduation and when I knew there was no way I started getting scared about college.

"You know me I thought everything through and then I told Vin. I hadn't come up with a solution because it never occurred to me that Vin would change his own plans. I just knew when we talk things out together we can usually find a way to make things work. I don't blame you---I don't even blame me---it just wasn't in our calculations when we decided things. Now though it has to be and I really want to go to Metro State with Vin."

"Of course, you're going to Metro State with Vin. We want what's best for both of you, don't we Chris," Da was speaking for Chris like he does sometimes. He always seems to be able to read Chris. I think there has only been once or twice when Chris didn't react like Da thought he would. Thank goodness this wasn't one of those times.

Chris smiled at me and then took charge like he does. "Okay, first we need to contact CU and tell them you aren't attending. We also need to get all the information we can about how to apply for their graduate program. See if there is any scholarships you need to try and get.

"Then we need to get in touch with the admissions office at Metro State and get your application in immediately. The deadline for applications is the end of this month so we need to act right away on that. We have to reply to Vin's acceptance letter from them and let them know he will be attending.

"Vin do you still have the school catalog? JD is going to need to go over it and get an idea of which classes he needs and when they are offered. We worked out a schedule for you when we were discussing schools, do you still have it?

"Tomorrow is going to be a busy day, so you boys better get some sleep now. When school lets out tomorrow I want you both to come into town and we'll all head over to the
Auraria campus. Buck you can go to CU while I take the boys to Metro State. Once you finish and join us, I'll head across campus to CCD and let them know Vin won't be attending in the fall."

Vin and I burst out laughing. It was so good to know our dads were there for us. Things were back to normal. When Chris acts like that it means he's 100% behind us. We were a family again---working together instead of opposing each other. Our dads just looked at us, then each other, shook their heads, and joined in the laughter. When we finally stopped we headed to our room. In the hallway, Vin and me high fived each other then went to our separate rooms.

Well that's it for tonight. I think I'm really going to sleep now instead of the tossing and turning I did the last two nights. It feels so good to have things out in the open. It is wonderful to have a family like mine. As excited as I am at the prospect of college, it is just another step in the road that will lead me away from this home. I know you can't live at home forever but I will miss this place when I leave. I won't miss my family though because they will always be with me no matter where I live. As I live life the way they taught me and as I carry them always in my heart and mind.