Not Alone is an accompanying short story, to follow the journey of human foster kids Phil and Ella, from the Evanders Trilogy. Book 1 is available to read here. This short takes place after Book 1, but can also be read on it’s own.
Phil tied his last shoelace and listened carefully to the sounds of the house. All was quiet. He glanced at the clock on his bedside table and noticed that it was right in the midst of that sweet hour: it was almost midnight. His foster parents, foster brother and little Ella would all be asleep by now.
He lifted his bag and walked to the window, quietly opening the shutters and fastening them back on the inside of the walls so that they didn’t clatter in the night breeze. He slipped out the window, stepped over to the thick tree branch and pulled the chord. The shutters slowly closed, thanks to the mechanical pulley system he’d built and prepared for such outings.
His foster parents thought he kept running away, but he wasn’t that stupid. He knew if he was reported as missing too many times children’s services might come looking for him and send him away to another foster family. He couldn’t do that to Ella. But he needed his freedom too.
He’d made a deal with the Martin’s; he would always come back if they agreed not to report him missing. And he knew they would agree because they didn’t want to lose the cheques he was bringing in every month.
Phil dropped to the ground quietly and ran off into the night. It took him an hour on the bus to reach his final destination, but he didn’t care. He just sat there with his headphones in his ears, texting on his phone to let Logan know he was on his way. When the bus finally stopped he was just a five minute walk from where he desperately wanted to be.
He ran the distance and stopped outside the fancy white house with its pristine garden and manicured lawn. He took a minute to catch his breath and then walked around the back to the rear door. Logan was already there, waiting for him.
They both smiled when they saw each other and Phil ran the rest of the way. He didn’t even get a hello; hands reached out and grabbed the open hoodie jacket he was wearing, dragging him in for a kiss. Phil smiled and kissed back, letting his hands trail up those strong arms to the back of his neck.
“I’ve missed you,” He confessed as he pulled away. Logan smiled and kissed him again briefly, before taking his hand and quietly leading him inside.
“My folks came home early.” He explained in a whisper as they took the well travelled route to his bedroom.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Phil whispered back with a frown. They never spent time together when Logan’s parents were around. They were always afraid they would catch them and blow up about it or try to have Phil taken away by social services.
“I wanted to see you.” Logan flashed a gorgeous smile at him and opened the door to his room. Phil slipped inside first, since Logan could at least say he was going for a drink if he was caught in the hallway. He would have no excuse.
Logan’s parents weren’t exactly happy that their nineteen year old son was gay and not likely to change his mind just to conform to their wishes. He was supposed to follow his father into the family business to do accounts for the wealthy people of their town. Logan had no such plans; he wanted to be a landscape gardener so he was saving up money so that he could leave home. That plan had been stalled the minute they met.
Phil had been depressed and angry with his foster parents, as usual, chilling out with a smoke down by the river. Logan had shown up, sitting down beside him as if they knew each other and asking to bum a smoke. He didn’t have another one and he couldn’t afford any more, so they had shared. Within an hour they had poured their hearts out to each other, discussed their problems and ended up making out on the bank of the river.
They had been seeing each other for a little over a year now and somehow, though he thought it would be a problem, Logan never complained about him being so much younger. There were just over three years between them with his sixteenth birthday fast approaching. His boyfriend hadn’t long turned nineteen, but they were both short on cash with no way of escaping the hell of their lives. They chose to appreciate that they were better off than some and no worse off than others their own age.
Phil dumped his bag on the floor by the bed and climbed onto the soft mattress. Logan climbed on after him, kneeling in front of him as he started slipping off his hoodie jacket.
“Did you have any trouble getting away?” He asked casually. Phil shook his head, wishing Logan wouldn’t care so much about him not being legally of age yet. He was so, most definitely ready to take things further. But his boyfriend refused. Before he could ask him to change his mind, yet again, he was kissed. It was sweet, lingering, but somehow still hungry with the way his tongue invaded his mouth and caressed his as if he enjoyed the taste of him.
“I’ve missed you like crazy.” He repeated, unable to keep the words back. Logan smiled and nudged their noses together.
“I’ve missed you too. As soon as we have enough money, we’re moving. Far away from both our families and we’re living together.” Logan promised, not for the first time.
“And Ella? I can’t just steal her away in the night.”
“I know. We’ll make sure we keep tabs on her and then when we’re settled, we’ll adopt her.” He said, also not for the first time. But somehow Phil found it hard to believe. He was scared that it wouldn’t work that way. Everything else in his life was messed up, so he didn’t see how their plans could possibly succeed. He was kissed again, lightly as Logan lowered him to the bed, his dark floppy hair brushing his forehead.
Phil loved that about him. Logan hated having long hair, but he was too lazy and too broke to get it cut. Phil liked it long. He liked brushing his fingers through it, watching the way it moved with a life of its own whenever Logan moved.
Two hours later they lay on the bed facing each other, sharing brief kisses and a lot of catching up chatter. Phil felt his eyes drooping shut. He was safe, loved and where he wanted to be. There was no better remedy for the sleepless nights he’d been having than being with Logan.
“One last question, before you fall asleep.” His boyfriend smiled at him, brushing his fingertips over his jaw. “How’s Estelle? You sounded…disappointed when you called after your last chat.” He admitted, full of concern. Phil smiled and let his eyes close as he thought about the answer to that.
“I was, I guess. She was so different, so arrogant. It felt like she was keeping this great big secret from us. The foster folks weren’t too happy to hear that she had friends and that they weren’t allowed to talk to her teachers about her discipline. I think they feel like me; it’s not the kind of school she said it was.” He explained what he could, without going into too much detail. Estelle had called just a day or two ago, full of life but with a shortness to her words that said not to badger her. It wasn’t like her.
“She wasn’t herself, but I can’t explain how. It was as if she felt better than all of us; as if she was something special and we weren’t. Like she pitied me and Ella because we weren’t at her fancy school. Like she had made some great escape from being an orphan.” He sighed, opening his eyes as he reached out to brush his hand against Logan’s bare chest.
He loved that he never wore a t-shirt in bed; just shorts in warm weather and joggers in cold. It was comforting to be so close to him, wearing so little, knowing that they were both happy to be so close and casual with each other. It gave him a warm feeling he couldn’t get anywhere else. This, Logan, was his home. His real home.
“I’m sorry. I know you thought she was going somewhere special, but I just don’t understand why she’d lie about it.” Logan agreed, automatically opening his arms when he shuffled closer. He was enveloped in those strong arms and held tight.
Phil didn’t want to talk about it any more. He snuggled into his boyfriend and held him close, hoping that someday he would find out what was going on.
“I love you, Logan.” He whispered as he felt sleep taking him.
“I love you too, babe.” His boyfriend smiled into his hair and brushed his lips against his forehead. Then he fell asleep to dreams of better days.
Phil nearly choked on the drag from his cigarette when his phone rang two days later, flashing the Martin’s name on the screen. Logan turned from where he was choosing a movie for them to watch with a look of concern all over his face. No-one ever called him.
Phil took a deep breath and placed his cigarette on the ashtray on the coffee table. They were downstairs since Logan’s parents were away on a weekend sailing trip. They wouldn’t be back for two days so he could leave the confines of Logan’s bedroom and wander the house freely. He lifted his mobile carefully. It was the only luxury he’d been allowed so that his foster parents could get in touch with them if he was supposed to return home for a surprise inspection. His cover story was that he was hanging out with friends at the movies, since he had to take the hour long trip on the bus to get back.
“Hello?” He answered, nervous about what was going to happen.
“Phil, get home now. The social worker’s coming by in two hours. You have ten minutes to get on the bus. Text us when you do so we know when to expect you.” His foster father explained, before hanging up. It gave him no time to argue.
Phil looked up at Logan, disappointed and upset that their time together was being cut short.
“I’m sorry. I have to go.” He apologising, quickly explaining the phone call as he got to his feet and approached his boyfriend on the other side of the room. Logan sighed and looked away, looking as disappointed as he felt. Phil cupped his face in his hands. “I’ll call you as soon as they’ve left. I might be able to get back here tonight.” He smiled, giving him what little hope he could. Logan laughed and looked doubtful, but he nodded.
“I’ll be sitting here, staring at my phone.” He said. Phil believed him. He ducked in for a quick kiss, letting their tongues brush briefly before backing away again.
“I better go.” He sighed to himself.
Ten minutes later after difficult goodbye’s he was on the bus, texting his foster parents that he was on his way back. Not home. No, that was Logan. Logan was his home and he was leaving it behind to go somewhere he didn’t want to be. But at least his foster father had sounded more angry with the social worker for the surprise visit than with him for taking off in the dead of night, again.
Phil walked into the house and went straight up to his room to hide his overnight bag under his bed. He didn’t want anyone finding it if they did a search of his room. It was usually just a cursory check from the doorway. It wouldn’t look good to have what might look like a runaway bag already packed. He headed downstairs after giving his room a quick clean, hiding the cigarettes and ashtray he wasn’t supposed to have. He’d even hidden his art work.
“What’s going on?” Phil wondered as he walked into the living room to find Ella playing with her doll on the sofa. He took the seat beside her, unsurprised that she snuggled in. It had barely been a few days since Estelle had left them to go to her posh school in Glencoe so he had no hopes that he and Ella were about to go join her.
“No idea. Just sprang it on us as if we don’t have other things to do.” His foster mother said. The poor excuse for a father patted her shoulder and actually explained.
“She called ten minutes before we called you to say that she was coming over. No explanations, no reason. I asked if it had anything to do with Estelle, but she said no. It’s about you two.” He said, actually sounding confused. And Phil had to admit, he was too. As far as he could tell he hadn’t done anything wrong, lately. He had his agreement with his foster parents so they couldn’t have ratted on him to the social worker, unless they found out some other way.
“I asked you to come right home because I need your help. She said you were both to pack up your belongings. Everything you have. And anything Estelle might have left behind.” He continued, frowning to himself.
Immediately Phil began to panic. Logan was only an hour away from him now, but if he moved or was moved against his will, who knew if he could even get to see him again. And he couldn’t explain that to his foster parents because they were homophobic. He knew because he’d seen it for himself with other kids they’d taken in for a few days and outside in the wider world.
With his heart thudding inside his chest he made his way upstairs and began to pack everything he and Ella owned into two rucksacks that his foster father had provided. They were worn and battered, so he guessed they were old junk from the attic. As long as they held his stuff he didn’t care. He pulled out his phone while he packed, dialling out to Logan. It was only fair to give him advanced warning.
“Hey gorgeous, are you calling to say you got home? Or, please say that she cancelled?” He answered hopefully.
“No such luck. Logan…” He sighed and wet his lips, not sure how to say it. “Logan, we’ve been told to pack.” He explained briefly, sure that was all it needed. There was silence on the other end for a while before his boyfriend spoke to fill it.
“My foster dad. He said that’s why we were given two hours notice. The social worker told him that me and Ella are to be packed up and if Estelle’s left anything we’re to take that too. I don’t know what it means.” Phil confessed, feeling as if his whole world was falling apart. “All I can think is that we’re being moved on. Maybe they know the Martin’s don’t really like us or they’re only after the money or maybe it’s something I’ve done…I don’t know. I just…” He rubbed his forehead, worried that his life was going to break into pieces suddenly.
“I know, babe. You want me to know that you love me. I know that. And I love you.” He could almost hear Logan’s smile as he talked; probably sad and sweet, with a little pout. “No matter what happens that won’t change.” He promised.
“I’ll call you again, if I can, once I know what’s happening.” He vowed, in return.
“Yes, and Phil?” He sounded unsure, so he hummed to let him know he was listening. “If you can I want to see you tonight. Only if it won’t get you in trouble.” He asked softly.
“I know. I love you.”
“Don’t say goodbye.” Logan whispered.
“I wasn’t planning on it.” Phil hung up before he could start crying.
He hated living in foster care. If he had a normal family things like this wouldn’t happen. But he didn’t and he had to get over that. With a sigh he hung up and switched off his phone. Some social workers didn’t like getting interrupted by phones and others thought them a luxury he shouldn’t have. But he’d bought it with money the Martin’s had given him and they told him it was his forever as long as he did chores to earn his monthly bill tariff of only ten quid. It wasn’t a lot, but it was enough to keep in touch with Logan.
An hour later the doorbell rang and the tension in the room rose even higher. Ella was sitting on Phil’s lap, playing with her doll and asking him to sing with her. He didn’t have the heart, so he told her to make up a new song that they could sing later; that would keep her distracted for a while.
The social worker who walked into the living room wasn’t the one he was used to seeing. She was tall, very pretty and had long blonde hair down to her waist. He figured from the way his foster father goggled at her that if he was into girls he might have a crush on her.
“It’s so nice to finally meet you all.” She beamed at them with perfect white teeth. “I’ve heard so much about you. And you must be Phil and Ella?” She asked, walking towards them. Ella instantly tensed and turned to hide her face in his chest. He wrapped his arms around her and watched the woman carefully. “That’s all right, sweetie.” She said to Ella. Then she raised her eyes to his and smiled softer. “Are you packed?” She asked.
“Look here, Miss,” His foster father interrupted just as he nodded in reply to her question. The woman winked at him and turned to face his foster father. “I don’t know what you’re even doing here.” He protested.
“Oh, how silly of me. I was sure the office called ahead. I’m so sorry.” She smiled, holding her hand out. “I’m Jezebel. This is my first job working for children’s services, so I was assured that the office would call you to explain the situation. No matter. I’m here to take Ella and Phil to their new home.” She explained, turning to smile at him.
“What new home?” His foster father asked, with a disapproving frown.
“Why…they’ve been adopted.” She revealed, winking at him again. Phil couldn’t figure out if it was a nervous tick or if she was trying to tell him something with those winks. She didn’t seem the type to flirt and his t-shirt that said ‘Sorry Girls I Kiss Boys’, pretty much shouted out his gayness to the entire room. It had been a gift from Logan and he’d changed into it so that he could have something of his boyfriend close during the visit.
“Wait…we’ve been adopted? By the same person?” He asked for clarification. Jezebel turned to him and gave him her undivided attention.
“That’s right. You, Ella and Estelle. All by the same family. The Sutherland’s are so looking forward to meeting you. They’re outside in the car right now.” She claimed with a giggle. “I can bring them in if you want to meet them or you can take some time to get to know them in the car.” She offered sweetly.
“I want to meet them.” His foster father burst in, as Phil had predicted he would. He was trying to safe guard his investments.
“Phil?” Jezebel asked him. Phil gently touched Ella’s chin with the crook of his finger and lifted her head.
“What do you say, Ella? Do you want to meet our new parents?” He asked with a smile, hoping to encourage her out from hiding. She nodded meekly, so he nodded to Jezebel. She left the room for only a few minutes.
“If you leave, you give back that phone.” His foster father told him sternly. He wasn’t surprised in the least. But he ignored him for a moment as Jezebel returned, followed back inside by the most beautiful people he had ever seen.
“You would be Phil?” The man smiled at him as he stepped forward, hand out stretched. “I’m Byron.” He introduced himself.
“Phil,” He nodded. “And this is Ella.” He explained to the pair. The mother smiled and turned to her husband.
“They’re even more perfect than I imagined.” She whispered to him. Phil smiled at the fact that Ella ducked her head out to gaze at them, before blatantly staring with her mouth open.
“You are so pretty.” She cooed at them. They both laughed and he found himself joining in. The woman sank down to her knees so that she was at Ella’s height and held her hand out.
“My name is Jackie,” She explained. Ella took her hand, but didn’t shake. She just held on and slowly turned herself on his knee to gaze at the woman. “Ella, would you like to come home with us? We have a great big house just a two hour drive from here. We have a garden out front and out back and we have a Wendy house and a tree house all set up for both of you. You could have your own room and a permanent home with us. Would you like that?” She asked softly. She was saying all the right things; Phil almost wanted to tell Ella that if she didn’t want to take it, he would.
“And of course, Phil, we have a games room and a basketball hoop out back. I teach hockey, if you were interested in playing.” Byron continued for her, intriguing him.
“You say you’re just two hours away?” He asked, getting a rather intriguing thought. Byron nodded.
“Yes, just in Potter’s Hill.” He explained, making his smile widen.
“On the south or east side?” He asked, his heart rate climbing.
“East.” Byron smiled. “I guess that you have a particular interest in that area?” He asked as his gaze moved down to his t-shirt. Phil looked at his foster parents, scowling and whispering at the side of the room and decided to take a risk.
“My boyfriend lives in Glanville. Just a twenty minute bus ride from the East side.” He admitted excitedly. Byron smiled and stepped up behind his wife, rubbing her shoulders almost absently.
“Then we’d be glad to meet him. He would be welcome any time.” He said, as if he was well aware of how nervous he was about losing Logan. “But I’m afraid you won’t be taking the bus. A young chap like you will be taking your driving test soon, won’t you?” He guessed with a smile.
Phil’s heart just about leapt out of his chest. He nodded, too lost for words to reply. The Martin’s told him he wasn’t allowed to take even the free school driving tests because he wouldn’t be allowed a car. If he wasn’t mistaken Byron was insisting on it.
“Ella?” He looked down at his foster sister and watched her eyes dance with light as she listened to Jackie explain how the light reflected off the crystal pendant she wore. Ella was clearly fascinated by the colours so he gave her shoulder a little shake. She finally turned to him and he smiled. “Do you want to go live with Byron and Jackie?” He asked. “They want to take both of us, and Estelle when she gets home. What do you think?” He asked.
“Yes please.” She whispered, clearly not wanting the Martin’s to hear her. He was so relieved; a permanent family that wanted to take him and Ella, just twenty minutes from Logan. He couldn’t have asked for anything better.
“We’ll come live with you.” He promised them. Jezebel beamed as Byron turned and whispered to her. She nodded and ushered the Martin’s into the dining room, talking about papers that needed signed.
“We’ll put your things in the car and get Ella comfortable while Jezebel takes care of the formalities.” Byron explained. Phil nodded and only when he stood did he realise that he hadn’t written Logan’s number down. He knew it off by heart, but he wanted the security of having it written down as well. Byron frowned when he pulled out the brick of a phone he’d been given. “May I see that?” He asked, holding his hand out.
“Um, I’m just going to write down my boyfriend’s number. I can’t take it with me.” He explained nervously, not wanting anything to happen to it. He didn’t want to give the Martin’s any excuse to rip this new dream life away from him. Byron frowned at it and pulled a fancy phone from his jean pocket. It slid sideways and he pressed a few buttons on each phone before handing it back.
“I’ve saved Logan’s number. The other says ‘The Martin’s’ and I assume you don’t want to retain contact with them,” He winked. “It’s on here, ready to transfer once we get your new phone.” He explained, as if it meant nothing.
“I can’t afford a phone.” Phil warned him. He didn’t have a job. Byron frowned at him.
“Son, don’t you have anything of your own?” He asked, sounding unhappy. He shrugged since he really didn’t. “Well, we’ll fix that when we get you home. We’ve already sent a phone to Estelle so that you can keep in touch with her. The number is programmed into your new phone already. A boy your age has to have a way of keeping in touch with his friends.” He said, slipping his phone into his pocket and lifting their two packed bags effortlessly.
“I don’t have any friends. Just Logan.” He responded instinctively. Byron’s hand appeared on his shoulder as they walked out of the house and over to the car. It was a big people carrier, already with a child seat for Ella.
“You will, son. You just have to be introduced to the right people.” He said, kissing the top of his head as if it was instinctual rather than a ploy to get close to him. Phil couldn’t help his reaction; he turned into Byron and hugged him. He was hugged back. “We’re going to take care of you from now on, Phil. You and Ella are our children now. We will love and care for you as any other parents love and care for their children. All we want is to make you happy.” He promised in a whisper.
Although it seemed too good to be true, Phil was sitting in a fancy living room with bay windows and expensive furniture just two hours later. He had a bottle of coke in one hand and a burger in the other while Ella sat beside him, picking chips off her plate. Their new parents were outside talking to Jezebel, but he didn’t feel one ounce of worry. He could hear laughter and through the window showing the front porch he saw everyone smiling and hugging as if they were all friends.
The minute Ella said she was hungry on the way home, Byron pulled over to a drive-in to get them something to eat. Phil had then been asked to explain how they had been treated by the Martin’s. He told the truth; ignored, left to fend for themselves and with him being Ella’s real carer. He didn’t confess to get them in trouble, but because it felt so easy and natural to tell the truth to Byron and Jackie.
Then he’d somehow been encouraged to talk about Logan. He confessed everything then as well. How Logan hated his homophobic parents, how old he was and that he was looking for a job. He even told them how in love he was; that Logan was the first person in the world to really understand him.
“Well, now that that’s sorted Jackie and I have something to talk to you about.” Byron explained as he walked back into the room and sat on the sofa opposite them. “You remember that Estelle went away to a boarding school?” He asked, making them both nod. “Well, it’s not the kind of school she told you it was. We’ve spoken to her headmaster there, Mister Evander and he’s explained your situation to us. We’re going to give you tonight to settle into your rooms and get to know the house and feel comfortable. Tomorrow we’ll share a secret with you. But we have to insist that you don’t tell anyone.” He began, intriguing Phil. He nodded as he put his bottle down onto the coaster on the coffee table.
“And Phil, we know you smoke so all we ask is that you be sensible and keep a window open or smoke outside.” He asked, looking right at him. He nodded since he wasn’t sure how they knew. But he was happy with their compromise; at least they weren’t asking him to stop. “We will give you both pocket money to spend how you wish. Every Friday morning we’ll give you a few pounds, Ella so you can buy some toys or books and Phil, you will get a single ten pound note. If you choose to do chores around the house then that may change. All we ask is that you save or spend it wisely.” He explained.
Phil was stunned but he nodded, thinking about what he could use his money for.
“As for necessities, they will be provided for you. Phil, you already have a computer and a phone waiting for you in your room. The phone is on a monthly contract; we’ve started you off at forty pounds, but if you need more then just say so. Now that we know about Logan I would say that you’ll need it, but Jackie and I have talked it over and we don’t think you will.” He continued, making him worry that he was going to see a new side to them now that Jezebel was gone. He didn’t care about the fancy computer or phone if he wasn’t allowed to see Logan.
“We can’t agree to you travelling to Glanville just to see Logan. With his parents so hostile we’re not comfortable allowing you to walk into a situation that you can’t handle. So we’ve agreed that we’ll make you an offer. We would like you to invite Logan to stay with you tonight to help you settle in. And while he is here you can discuss whether he would like to move into our guest house in the garden.” Byron smiled at him and he was sure his heart stopped.
“If you are truly in love then we want to do all we can to help you. Logan can see his parents whenever he likes and live here rent free, on one condition. If you are going to sleep together then we ask they you do so safely and in the guest house. For Ella’s sake.” He explained, stunning him all over again.
“Of course. But we’re not…I mean…we won’t, for a while. Logan wants me to be eighteen.” He admitted, no longer feeling so awkward about admitting it when his new parents were offering to let his boyfriend live with him.
“Good. Food, rent and clothing will be taken care of. He can think of himself as just another family member. He can eat and sleep within this house if he chooses, sharing your bed if that’s what you both want. We don’t care if he barely spends any time in the guest house at all, just as long as you’re aware of the rules.” He hinted again. Phil nodded and tried to hold his excitement at bay. “If Logan agrees to stay he will also be present when we tell you our secret tomorrow morning. He will have to know if he’s to live here.” He admitted.
“That brings us to only one more thing.” Jackie beamed at them. “Who wants ice cream?” She asked, gazing at Ella. Phil laughed when his little sister put her hand up and her eyes were wide with eagerness. They weren’t allowed ice cream at the Martin’s house; that was saved for their son. While Jackie took Ella’s hand and led her off into the kitchen, Byron smiled at him.
“I want to thank you for trusting us, Phil. I know it’s never easy to have such an unstable life when you’re young, but you’ve done remarkably well. You’ve taken care of Ella as if she’s your blood and she will never forget that.” He said, making him want to well up. “If you don’t want any ice cream then perhaps you should call your boyfriend? Perhaps if you explain our offer over the phone he can pack and leave home tonight?” He suggested, before getting up and leaving the room.
Phil was so excited that he ran upstairs to what was now ‘his room’ and goggled at the double bed, expensive wooden furniture and fancy gadgets all over the room. What he most cared about was the piece of paper in his hand with Logan’s mobile number that Byron had written down for him and the mobile phone sitting on the desk in ‘his room’. It was almost identical to Byron’s.
He picked it up, dialled the number and sat himself on the bay window to gaze out over the garden as he listened to the phone ring once, before it was answered.
“Hello?” Logan sounded upset.
“Guess where I am?” He asked teasingly.
“Logan?” He gasped in surprise. Phil chuckled; he’d forgotten that his new phone would come up as an unknown number. He was just glad that Logan had answered, even if he did sound like he was depressed.
“I’ll give you a hint. I’m at a window, looking out over a garden of two acres. Just beyond those two acres I can see Potter’s Field.” He explained.
“You’re at Potter’s Hill?” Logan asked, finally sounding excited.
“That’s right. In a bedroom the size of the Martin’s entire lower floor, about the size of your parent’s kitchen.” He laughed, glad to have good news for his boyfriend. He heard Logan let out a sigh of relief and imagined him relaxing in his seat. “I have even better news. In those two acres is a little guest house with two bedrooms, a games room and a bathroom the size of your bedroom. And if you pack up your entire life and get your ass over here then it’s yours.” He explained, too excited and enjoying tormenting him too much to ease into it.
Byron had sat and told them what was in both the main house and the guest house for Ella’s sake. She had so many questions and everything was so new, he wanted her to know what rooms were off limits when she was alone. Which was just as well because Phil had planned to go over boundary issues with her later. Now he didn’t have to.
“What are you talking about?” He laughed, sniffing in a way that made Phil frown. He realised that his boyfriend had been crying.
“Logan, I’m saying that Ella and I were just adopted by the most amazing couple. Officially. The Sutherland’s are great and they say that since you’re not happy at home they don’t want me being around your parents. They say it’s a bad, hostile environment and it’s not safe. So they’ve offered to let you move into their guest house, rent free, as if you’re just another kid they’re adopting.” He revealed, hoping it eased his mind. “They say that you can stay with me as much as you like, sleep in my bed and everything as long as we only ever have sex in the guest house.” He laughed, unable to hold it back as he thought about the ‘rules’.
“Are you serious?”
“As a heart attack. Byron, that’s my new dad, he said that you don’t have to pay for anything. Not food, clothes or whatever…I’ve got everything we’d ever need anyway. There’s a brand new laptop; I’m calling from my brand new phone. I’ve got a big double bed,” He hinted playfully. Logan laughed on the other end and sniffed again.
“I thought I was going to lose you.” He admitted quietly.
“I know. Me too. But we don’t have to. Byron said that we should talk about it tonight; but if I was sure how you’d feel I could tell you now and you can pack up and move here tonight. Either way he wants you to come over and spend the night with me. I can’t say I disagree.” He teased him. Logan laughed again, still unusually quiet.
“You think I could refuse an offer to share a bed with you?” He asked. “Give me twenty minutes and I’ll be there. I don’t want to live without you, Phil.” He whispered the last part, as if it was a secret. Phil couldn’t help but cherish the words and hold them close.
“I don’t want to live without you either. And now we don’t have to. As soon as I hang up I’ll text you the address. I’ll have to ask Byron, but I want to meet you at the bus stop.” He admitted, hoping it would be allowed.
“I can’t wait to see you.” Logan sighed. They hung up on the knowledge that they would see each other very soon and they would never have to be apart again.
Phil was surprisingly happy that Byron hadn’t let him walk to the bus stop alone. His new dad had walked with him, claiming with happy eyes and a light laugh that he wouldn’t want him getting lost on the way there or the way ‘home’. For the first time in his life he could imagine a new home. One that wasn’t just his boyfriend, but a real home with parents and a sister and love.
He felt stupid, but he was feeling a little clingy already with Byron. He didn’t seem to mind though. They talked quietly about Estelle and Ella and how he’d only been nine when he was put into foster care because his mother had died from an accidental overdose. It felt strangely comforting to talk to him about such things and have his big strong arms wrapped around him in a hug.
Phil was expecting a bus to pull up, but instead a beat up old truck pulled over and Logan jumped out. Before he could even ask where the truck came from he was being pulled into a bear hug. He hugged back, staring at the truck in wonder.
“Where did that come from?” He asked, as he pulled back and Byron stepped over with a soft frown.
“It’s mine. I bought it today.” His boyfriend beamed at him excitedly. “I uh, used the money I’d saved up for leaving and bought this. With some elbow grease and a new paint job, I can spruce it up over time.” He revealed, turning to look at Byron. “You going to introduce me?” He asked.
“Yeah,” Phil blinked out of his daze and turned to smile at Byron, who was now looking impressed rather than worried. “Byron, this is my boyfriend Logan. Logan, my dad.” He explained.
“Dad?” Logan laughed and quickly shook hands with Byron. “Babe, you must really be happy. You’ve never called anyone dad in your life.” He noticed.
Phil hadn’t realised he’d even used the word. He turned to look at Byron, who was as surprised as he felt. He figured if he thought about it too much he’d well up. Before he had a chance his ‘dad’ pulled him into a hug and held on tight. The side of his head was kissed just before he was let go and then Logan took his hand and he realised that he had an even more perfect new life ahead of him than he’d imagined was possible.
“Logan, would you mind if I drive? We have to go around the back way and I’m sure you’d rather be catching up with Phil.” Byron said, holding his hand out. Logan nodded without question, handing over his keys. They climbed into the car, Byron in front and Logan in the back with him. He wasn’t sure why, but Logan kept kissing him in the back seat and telling him how much he loved him, how much he missed him. It was as if they hadn’t seen each other in months. He loved it.
An hour later he and Logan were curled up on his new bed, talking about what they were going to do. Byron had made it clear that Logan didn’t have to live in the guest house permanently, just if they were going to take things further.
“Maybe I should stay there until Ella knows me a little better?” He suggested.
“No, this is the perfect time for her to get to know you. She’s got to get to know Jackie and Byron, so she can get to know you at the same time. Besides,” Phil smiled at his loving boyfriend, realising that he was willing to put distance between them for Ella’s sake. It was adorable. “There’s no-one Ella trusts more than me. She trusted me enough to move here with the Sutherland’s so if I explain she’ll trust me enough to accept you.” He promised. The more time they gave Ella to adjust the more time she had to decide that there were enough new people in her life.
“Okay, if you think it’s for the best.” He smiled back, leaning in to kiss him. Phil kissed back, finally able to be in a house, any house, with Logan and not be afraid of what might happen if anyone walked in on them. Logan obviously felt the same, because it wasn’t long before he was on top of him, his fingers in his hair, his tongue in his mouth adoring him with slow, meaningful kisses. It was the most perfect, sweetest moment they had ever had together. Phil lay his arms over his shoulders and enjoyed the knowledge that they were together and no-one was going to rip them apart. Not now, not ever again. He had a home. A permanent home, for the first time in his life.
Someone cleared their throat, breaking their kiss. Phil glanced over at the door and saw Byron hovering there with a knowing smile.
“Sorry to interrupt. Ella wants to see the woods. I figured you would both be happy enough to have the house to yourselves. We won’t be too long, but I’ve left the keys to the guest house on the kitchen counter if you want to go exploring later.” He offered, before backing away and leaving them alone.
“Wow,” Logan looked down at him and laughed. “Did he just…?”
“Yeah, I think he did.” Phil laughed with him, brushing his hair back from his eyes. “He really just caught us making out and didn’t say anything about it.” He agreed.
“No babe, he just left us alone in the house together, after finding us making out. If we broke the rules and had sex while they were out no-one would know. And I’m not sure he’d care.” Logan said, climbing off him and sitting back on his knees.
“I’d know.” Phil smiled, wanting to keep to the rules but also very badly wanting Logan to make love to him.
“I know. And I love that. I kind of want to stick to the rules too. The last thing I want when we finally have sex is for anyone to walk in. Especially your little sister.” He smiled down at him, holding his hand out. Phil took it, not sure he had ever heard anything better. “Let’s go look at my new digs.” He urged, looking like an excited kid in a candy shop. Phil couldn’t blame him, the whole house was like a fun fair with prizes around every corner. Only this time he got to keep every single one of them.
They left his room and picked up the keys from the kitchen worktop before heading out to the guest house. It was set back in the garden, well away from the house, just on the outskirts of the woods that covered the rest of the one and a half acres.
“I’m glad I bought my truck. It’s kind of perfect for taking the back road in through the woods.” He realised, glancing at the well worn path through the trees. Byron had driven them in and he promised to make a map for them so that they didn’t get lost driving through the extensive land.
“I still can’t believe you bought it. I thought Byron was going to blow a fuse when he saw it. I think he thought you’d nicked it from your folks.” Phil admitted with a smile. Logan turned to look at him and winked as he unlocked the front door of the guest house and headed inside.
“I thought the same thing. But I wouldn’t risk it, even if I did want anything they’d bought. They’d probably have the cops come after me.” He confessed as they walked into the front room together, holding hands. It was a nice space with a decent sized living room and an open plan kitchen to the right. The two bedrooms were to the left, doors opened and airing the rooms. Logan took off to check them out, dragging him along behind.
“Did you leave them a note to explain where you’d gone?” He wondered, still a little surprised that he had packed everything he owned into his truck and just took off without any warning.
“Nope. They don’t care, babe. They’ll come home, find my room empty and that’ll be that. They’ll probably have my room rented out before the end of the week.” He shrugged it off, but Phil knew it must have hurt him to feel that way about his own parents. Unfortunately, he didn’t doubt it.
“I’m sorry to hear that.” Byron’s voice caught them off guard. Phil turned to see him walking into the house just behind them, hands in his pockets with a sad look on his face. “I’m sorry to bother you again, but I’m afraid Ella won’t leave for her trip to the woods without Mister Fluffy. I thought you might know where he would be.” He asked, making Phil smile.
“Yeah. He’s in the blue duffel, wrapped in her pink winter coat with the fluffy hood.” He explained, with a fond smile.
“Thank you.” Byron dipped his head and then looked at Logan, who was watching his toe scuff the floor. “I’m sorry your parents have treated you so badly, Logan. But you will have a home here with us as long as you choose. I hope we can show you how appreciated you are and that you can find some semblance of peace here with us.” He said kindly, before leaving again.
“It’s annoying how he does that,” Logan said, only to look up at him and smile. “Always popping up at the weirdest moments and then being way too nice about it.” Phil could tell this move was harder on his boyfriend than it would be on him. He walked up behind his boyfriend, enveloped him in his arms, holding on tight until he raised his hands and held onto his arms in return. “I’ve waited my whole life for this, Phil. Acceptance, love, understand from my parents. I never got it, but I always expected it of them. All my friends had it, so why couldn’t I?” He asked, surprising him with the fact that they had never talked about this before.
“Then I met you and I realised how lucky I was just to have parents and a stable home life. Now Byron’s just making it worse. He’s too nice, too kind…he’s everything I’ve wanted in parents but never had. Everything I wanted your parents to be.” He said. Suddenly Logan turned and hugged him so hard that it hurt. But Phil didn’t care. He held him back and thanked his lucky stars that he was home with Logan and they both had what they had always wanted. A family.
“I love you, Logan.” He whispered, kissing the shell of his ear.
“I love you too, babe.” He smiled into his neck and then pulled away. “We’re going to be really happy here, Phil. And I mean, so happy that we’re going to hate it and love it at the same time. So happy that it’s going to feel wrong…like it’s too good to be true and something has to go wrong any minute. But it won’t. Because here we’re loved and wanted and appreciated. Here we don’t have to hide who we really are or how we really feel.” He gushed, looking excited.
“I know. We’re safe here, Logan.” Phil agreed with him.
He had never truly felt safe before. Not unless he was with his boyfriend, completely alone with him. There was no-one to scream at them, beat them or hassle them for no reason or because they were in a loving relationship together. Here they could be happy and create a real family from the biggest bunch of misfits he’d ever seen.
It wasn’t long before they were both laughing and heading through the guest house to see what other wonders they would find. They ended up curled up on the sofa together, watching one of the dozens of movies that were already sitting on the bookcase in the living room. Eventually, Phil fell asleep in Logan’s arms, truly happy for the first time in his life.
When dinner time came and they were called into the main house Phil was decided. He had to tackle the issue with Ella before he got too comfortable.
He took his seat at the table with Logan and Ella and his new parents and smiled when Jackie asked them to bow their heads for grace. He hadn’t done that in years. He had only done so back then grudgingly, not sure what he had to be thankful for. Now that he had so much in his life, so much to be thankful for, he thought it was fitting that everyone around the table said a little bit about how bountiful their lives really were.
“Ella,” He began, as everyone finally tucked into the well cooked meal before them. His little sister looked up at him while carefully shoving a fork full of peas into her mouth. “Do you remember when we had that talk about what a boyfriend was?” He asked, wanting to make sure she remembered. Byron and Jackie looked comfortable with the conversation, so he knew he hadn’t crossed some imaginary line where they asked him to keep his relationship with Logan a secret.
“It’s someone you love, like a mummy loves a daddy.” She said, so innocently. It made him smile.
“That’s right. Well, Logan is my boyfriend. And he’s going to be living with us from now on.” He told her, trying to give her a bit at a time to mull over without overloading her with information. He watched Ella watching Logan closely as he smiled at her, waiting to hear what she was going to say about it.
“And he loves you? The way a mummy loves a daddy?” She asked finally.
“Yes sweetie. And I love him.” He confessed, reaching across almost absently to take Logan’s hand. He held back and they both waited to see what Ella was going to say.
“And he’s staying with us?”
“Yes. He’s going to stay in my room tonight, for the same reason you’ll sleep with Mister Fluffy and Miss Hedgehog.” He tried explaining things in terms that she would understand and watched the little girl nod and look thoughtful.
“So you won’t be scared.” She said, as if it made perfect sense.
“No sweetie. I won’t be scared because we’re safe here. I promise you that,” He vowed, watching her eyes turn over to Jackie and Byron, who kept quietly eating, letting him handle the situation. “Logan is going to stay with me so that I’m not alone. So that we can both get used to this move together. Because this is the last move we’ll ever make, Ella. We won’t leave again.” He promised.
“Never?” She asked.
“Not until you’re a lot older and you choose to leave.” He explained.
“What if I don’t choose to?” She pouted.
“That’s fine with us, Ella.” Byron promised, smiling that reassuring smile at her. Ella smiled and kicked her feet under the table for a minute.
“Okay.” She chirped, before turning back to her dinner as if nothing had happened.
“So you’re okay with Logan staying with us?” Phil asked, just to make sure. That little pony-tailed head bobbed in a nod as she opened her mouth for another massive helping of food. He sighed and took the fork from her before it reached her mouth. He scraped off half the helping of potatoes and gave the fork back. “Don’t hork it down. Take your time.” He reminded her. She bobbed her head again and went back to eating.
“I guess that’s that then.” Logan commented, his eyes on Ella with a faint smile. Phil smiled at him.
“I guess so. Easiest coming out I’ve ever had.” He joked lightly. Even his parents laughed and a few minutes later, they were sitting around the dinner table having a normal conversation like a normal, regular family would. It was utter heaven.
Phil went over his letter to Estelle one more time over breakfast. He was sitting on the outside patio with Logan, enjoying the rare sunshine while Ella was upstairs with Jackie. His new mother was helping his little sister get dressed. A more pleasant thought had never crossed his mind before and it momentarily distracted him from his read through of the letter.
“What do you think the big secret is?” Logan wondered, while breaking off a piece of his croissant to pop in his mouth.
“No idea, but they said it has something to do with the school Estelle went to. I think there’s something about the school that no-one wanted us to know.” He admitted absently. Logan reached across with buttery fingers, holding his hand out for his. Phil chuckled and took his hand.
Byron appeared from the woods, walking into the garden with a paper under his arm and a letter in his hand that he was busy reading. He moved through the garden, around the pool and past the kid’s bike he already had for Ella without a thought. As if he knew every inch without even looking.
“Morning boys,” He chirped as he walked past them into the house.
“Morning.” They smiled back and then to each other. “Is it me or does that not even feel weird?” Phil asked, as his boyfriend looked into his eyes with a look of contentment.
“Not a bit. It feels like a dream that I really don’t want to wake up from.” He agreed. Phil smiled and leaned his head on the back of his hair. He could see a few birds dropping onto the ground, dipping their beaks into the water. One or two dunked under the cool water of the pool before taking off again, their wings flapping the water everywhere.
Before he knew it twenty minutes had passed and Ella came skipping outside in a summer’s dress, with her hair in a French plait.
“Do you like it?” She asked him, twirling so fast he could barely make out the pattern.
“Love it.” He reassured her. She beamed at him and gripped the arm of his chair excitedly.
“We’re going to find out the secret today. Are you excited?” She asked, trying to shake the arm of his chair as she bubbled over with joy.
“Very.” He whispered. Before they could say any more Byron appeared, holding Jackie’s hand. They took a seat on a bench just opposite them, watching them all gravely.
“What we have to tell you might sound ridiculous. You might not want to believe us. But we can prove it and we will if you give us a chance.” Byron began. Phil nodded and Logan put down his breakfast plate on the table beside him. They both sat up a little straighter to pay attention. “Jackie and I are what you might call…magical. We are an ancient breed of magic known as the Kelpie. I’m sure you’ve both heard of them, but I will explain for Ella’s sake.” He said, while Phil’s brain tried and failed to make sense of his words.
“Ella, did anyone ever tell you a story about water horses?” He asked.
“Phil did. He let me watch the film once.” She replied, making Byron smile.
“Well, do you remember the water horse?” He asked. She nodded and seemed fascinated with every word he said. “That’s what Jackie and I are. We are in our human form now, but when we’re in water we transform to our water horse heritage. We can choose to transform or not, but we love the water and it’s very important to us.” He explained so sincerely that Phil looked over to Logan, who was frowning. He looked angry so he gave his hand a squeeze and smiled when he looked across.
“They’re crackpots.” He whispered.
“They said they can prove it.” He insisted. He wanted to wait until they showed their proof before deciding whether to condemn his new parents or not. Logan nodded, but didn’t look happy about it. Byron looked up at them and smiled.
“I understand it will be harder for you boys to accept. Which is why Jackie and I have agreed to show you our true selves. All we ask is that you tell no-one of our secret. It will be a family secret, shared just between us six.” He insisted.
“Six?” Logan wondered.
“Estelle knows what we are. She has accepted this because Estelle is also magical.” He explained. “She has had a terrible burden, keeping her own secret from you both. She loves you, but it was forbidden for her to share her secret until you were officially her family. Now that you are, we have her permission to tell you that Estelle is a fairy.” He continued. Phil stared and thought about all those times he found Estelle whispering Latin to herself. Somehow it made sense.
“And her school?” He wondered.
“Is a school for magical beings. It will help her hone her magic and learn to control it. Just before her letter of acceptance arrived her magic started to grow. It could have been dangerous to both of you had she not left.” Byron smiled at him and wrapped his arm around Ella when she snuggled into him. “Her parents were also magical creatures and they put her name forward for consideration. Evander, the headmaster, doesn’t take just anyone into his school. He will accept only the brightest students with the most potential. And unfortunately, only magical students which is why neither you nor Ella could go with her.” He explained.
“Estelle has wings. This letter arrived this morning with a photograph I asked her to take of herself with wings. I hope it will help you believe her story, though she isn’t here to prove herself to you.” He explained, handing over a full colour photograph where Estelle was flying in the air, beautiful shimmering wings protruding from her back. There were three boys on the ground, all laughing and talking beneath her. “Those are her friends. One is a Banshee, one a vampire and one is a wizard.” He promised.
“So…?” Phil looked to Logan, who was studying the picture, looking for any way that it could be fake. “You said you could prove it?” He asked, feeling bad about asking. But he knew that he and Logan needed definitive proof that they weren’t just delusional.
“Absolutely. How do you feel about swimming?” He wondered with a smile. Logan looked up at him and nodded his agreement, so he nodded to Byron. “You put on Ella’s costume upstairs?” He asked Jackie.
“Yes, under her dress.” She smiled then turned to Ella. “Do you want to go swimming with us, Ella?” She asked.
“I don’t know how.” She shrugged.
“That’s okay. We can teach you. Let’s take your nice dress off and sit you beside the pool. When you feel ready Byron and I will show you how to swim.” She promised, gently helping Ella out of her dress to show off a pretty red swimming costume underneath.
Byron stood up and lifted off his t-shirt and removed his loose trousers to show off swimming trunks. Then he walked over to the pool and dove right in. Phil got up and walked over to the side of the swimming pool, eager to see what was going to happen. Logan followed, still studying Estelle’s photography.
“It could be done with strings. And at the right angle they wouldn’t show up on the camera.” He said as Ella walked over to sit beside them. Jackie slipped into the water and both parents disappeared under the surface for longer than was necessary. Ella started to panic.
“Won’t they drown?” She cried out.
Phil had to wrap his arms around her to contain her. If she fell in she would drown. He looked over at Logan, who bit his lip. Just as he stood up, and made a move to remove his t-shirt to go in and save his new parents, a small rounded grey head popped out of the water. It emerged just a few inches, revealing a dinosaur like head that slowly rose out of the water.
“Ella, look.” Phil gasped, pointing to the creature. She goggled and giggled, clapping her hands.
“It’s Jackie,” She claimed, surprising him. He turned back and noticed that the creature had bright blue eyes like Jackie did. Then another head popped out of the water, followed by a long neck that just seemed to keep going. After a few feet of long neck was out of the water he realised that the creature had dark brown eyes like Byron. Ella was waving at them frantically. And then, to his surprise, Byron’s head dipped into the water and a flipper appeared out of it. It waved back.
“I’m not seeing this.” Logan muttered to himself. “This is impossible. I can’t be seeing this.” He insisted. Phil slowly let go of Ella.
“Stay here, sweetie. I’m going to go into the water. You stay with Logan.” He urged her, only to get a frown from his boyfriend. “I’m just going to check.” He told him. Logan reluctantly nodded and took Ella’s hand. She held on willingly.
Phil stood up and removed his t-shirt, before diving into the water. He went right to the bottom of the pool and found large bodies with small legs and a really long tail under the surface. When he emerged again, he looked over to Logan.
“There are no humans in this pool. Except me.” He corrected himself.
Logan bit his lip and looked unsure. The one that looked like Byron, that was Byron he told himself, came over and nudged his head with it’s long nose. It felt nice so Phil wrapped his arms around the long neck in a hug. Suddenly the neck rose higher and took him with it. Logan cried out, but then Jackie’s head gave his leg a nudge and he swung it over the long neck. Before he knew it he was ten feet in the air and Ella was screaming in delight while Logan looked panicked.
“I’m okay,” He shouted, around his cupped hands. He watched, fascinated as Jackie moved her head over to where Ella and Logan were standing. Logan backed off a step but Ella jumped forward to pat her head. Then suddenly Jackie was a human again, dressed in a swimming suit, holding her hands out to Ella. His little sister took her hands and let herself be carried into the swimming pool. He could see her paddling while Jackie held her carefully, letting her get a feel for the water. “Dad, can I go down? Logan’s freaking out.” He told the creature beneath him. The head lowered until he could step right off the long neck and onto the solid ground beside Logan.
He was instantly wrapped up in his boyfriend’s arms.
“You scared the ever loving crap out of me.” He protested, holding him much tighter than necessary. Phil hugged back.
“But at least now we know it’s real.” He reassured him. His boyfriend laughed and gave him one last squeeze before pulling back. He turned to where the Byron creature was gazing at them.
“I believe you.” He promised. In the blink of an eye Byron was leaning on the edge of the pool in his human form.
“I’m glad. This is a big secret and we wouldn’t tell you if we thought it would put us in danger.” He said, with a smile. “Why don’t you join us?” He suggested. Phil looked at his boyfriend and glanced over to where Jackie sat on the edge of the pool with Ella, fastening a pair of arm bands and handing her a kick board. He was happy to see that both were red and matched her costume. Ella would love that.
“Well, what do you think?” Phil asked his boyfriend. Logan sighed and removed his shirt.
“This day couldn’t get much weirder, could it?” He asked in amusement. Phil laughed and dove back into the pool with Logan right behind him.
That day, spent in the swimming pool with his new family, learning all about his parents Kelpie heritage and the school Estelle had gone to, was one of the best days of his life. The magic had nothing to do with it really. It was knowing that his new parents had a massive secret that they were more than willing to share with him. A secret which risked their lives if anyone outside the family found out. He was trusted and loved and respected enough to understand and keep that secret.
For the first time in his entire life he finally felt complete.