Mother had gone to Florida toward the end of February and still had not been released by the doctor in mid-March. Seems there were some neurological problems from the poisoning which were proving difficult. She phoned or I phoned her at least every other day. She was impatient at first, but finally realized I was ok and she needed to relax and get well.
While spring usually arrived by mid-March, this year had proved to be an exception and the cold, gray, soggy days of February were still around. School? Dull, boring for teachers as well as students I suspect. I was sure both were ready for spring break, scheduled for the last week in March, which seemed as if it would never come. Anyway, the first week of March, the Clan were in my place, studying and complaining in about equal parts when my phone rang. I picked it up and said, "Marc Porcher."
"Marc, Betsy Crandall. Good to hear your voice. Just talked with your mother and have a proposition for you. I have invited her to accompany me on a cruise the last two weeks of March and first two weeks of April. We'll fly to Italy and sightsee, then take a Mediterranean cruise including the Greek Islands, etc. She was reluctant to accept since you would be on spring break during the time she would be away, and she had thought the two of you might do something together. I laughed and told her when she was your age the last thing she wanted to do was spend holidays with her parents and she had to agree. Anyway, I suggested you come down here and spend the break at my place. How'd you like that?"
"Don't get me wrong, Mrs. Crandall, as nice as your place is and all, I'd planned to spend spring break here with my friends."
"Bring them along," she said. "Think there would be plenty of room. How many friends do you have? Whoa, wrong question. How many would you be spending time with?"
"There are five -- six including myself -- but two of them will probably have to work and could not come."
"I'd be surprised if you could give me an answer right off the bat. Talk to your friends and see what you can work out and give me a call back in the next day or so. I've made reservations for your mother, but if she decides she can't go, I'll take someone else. Think about it."
"I will and thanks."
When I hung up the phone, I said, "Fellow scholars..."
"Yeah, from the looks of that last math test, you can scratch three of us from the scholars list," John said. Susan, who was the only one of us in AP calculus, had sailed through her practice AP calc BC test, flags flying as usual, but John and Justin has joined me in the barely afloat group in AP calc AB. Only flag flying we were doing was the one for distress.
"A temporary setback and a fluke," Susan said.
"A temporary setback and a fluke," I responded, "yeah, right. Anyway, that was Mrs. Betsy Crandall, friend of Mother's and wealthy -- and I mean wealthy with a capital W -- Floridan. She has invited us all to her place for spring break. You heard what I said about working. True Adam? Justin?"
"Oh, I think I can get out of it," Adam said. "Doubt Dad even knows when spring break is, so I doubt he's planning on my working extra."
"But you do have your regular hours," Justin said. "I haven't talked with Mr. Sanford, but I was hoping I could work full-time spring break. I need the money for next year."
We talked about the offer for a while, but nothing was decided. Well, I was pretty sure Justin would be staying and working if we went and I didn't want to go without him; I wouldn't go without him. Finally I reminded the Clan I didn't have to have an answer right away.
Justin didn't stay over and I lay awake thinking about him and his having to work while I did nothing except school -- which he did as well. Didn't seem right, but that was the way it was.
When I picked Justin up the next morning, he took one look at me and said, "Appears you got about as much rest last night as I did."
"If you didn't get a lot, you're right."
"What's the problem?" he asked.
I hemmed and hawed and finally told him what had kept me awake.
"Well, that's just the way it is and I have no problem living with it," he said. "I was also worrying about working -- or rather not working -- and about the future. I thought of Mama and her lonely life without anyone special until I was nearly grown and then that blew up in her face. I can see myself in the same boat -- without anyone special, I mean. But mostly I worried about college. I have been accepted a couple places and need to decide since a deposit is required soon. I have that much, but that's only the beginning."
"I don't have to worry about money, of course, so that's one problem you have that I don't. I, too, have to make a decision about college soon, but don't have to worry about paying for it. Being lonely the rest of my life? Yeah, I can see that happening for me as well." I noticed neither of us said why we thought we might go through life alone. And two barely eighteen-year-olds talking such?
"Guess maybe we'll just have to be lonely together," Justin laughed. Damned if I didn't blush!
After school, John and I talked about Florida. He said, "Look, I know we'd all just love to go and we'd have a great time, except I won't if Justin is here working and I know you won't. Maybe we can come up with a way to help him out that will allow him to accept it and to go."
"Maybe, but I don't have any ideas," I responded.
"Neither do I."
When Adam and Bobbie arrived, Adam said his dad said he could go to Florida and work overtime when he got back. "Since I'm not playing a sport, that'll be no problem. By the way, when I left, Dad was headed to the other store to talk to Justin. I assume it was about spring break, but he didn't say and I didn't ask."
We had just set out the snacks and started eating when Susan and Justin came in. After the usually greetings, Adam said, "Justin, hope the old man wasn't giving you a hard time."
"Well, not in the usual definition of that. The long and short of it is he thought I was working too much and he wanted me to take off spring break. 'I understand you have an invitation to the Florida Keys for spring break and I think you should take it,' he said. I told him I needed the money and he said he thought I could make up the time if I wanted to, but did everything but tell me he'd fire me if necessary so I'd take a break, so I guess I will. Trip still on?" I was so excited I grabbed Justin in a bear hug and started to kiss him, but caught myself just in time.
Needless to say, it took a while for us to settle down and we didn't until I had talked with Mother and told Mrs. Crandall the good news. "Great!" she said. After we had talked a while, she said, "There are six of you, right? Four boys and two girls." I agreed and she said, "Well, I'll leave any chaperon decisions up to the girls' mothers. I'll not take that on," she laughed. "I'll make arrangements for your flight down and for your stay here. And, remember, I mean it when I say mia casa, es su casa."
When I raised the issue of chaperons, Susan and Bobbie said they would handle that. Of course, we all knew Bobbie and Adam had been getting it on for months now, so a chaperon for them seemed a little foolish -- but some parents need to pretend and look the other way. Susan and the guys were all good friends, but I didn't know how her family would react to her going on spring break with four men. Oh,well, that was her problem, not mine.
Two days later when we all gathered for study hall, Susan said, "Talked to the 'rents about spring break and, after they discussed the pros and cons, Mom was almost in tears when she said, 'Dear, our little Susan is growing up,' to which Dad replied, 'Sally, our little Susan HAS grown up. She'll be in college next year and probably be able to do just about anything she pleases. We'll not be able to tell her when to come home or any of that. If we have brought her up right, she'll do right. That's what we hope and trust. Now she's asking to go on spring break with friends she has known and we know. I see no reason why she can't go. Susan, we trust you to be a responsible adult. We do reserve, however, the right to worry about you a little,' Dad laughed. So, I'm on go!"
John grabbed Susan and said, "See I told you we needn't worry!" as he kissed her on the cheek.
"Not so easy in my case," Bobbie said. "Mom is hanging on and not saying yes or no right now. Damn foolish. Adam and I have been doing anything she's worried about since before the end of football season."
"But she doesn't know that," Adam said as he was turning very red.
"You want to bet?" Susan asked. "Even Marc has figured it out and if he has, your more experienced mother certainly has. I bet my T-bird that she knows you two have gone way beyond an innocent kiss. Take it from me, she knows."
"Sure she knows. She's not, I suspect, any more snoopy than any other mother, but I did ask her about the pill and she said I didn't need it yet. Sure hope she's right!" Susan laughed. Adam just sat there with what is known in our part of the world as a "shit-eatin" grin on his face. "She'll come around soon—about the trip, the pill was taken care of awhile ago--or we'll figure something out."
Two days later, Bobbie announced that her mother had said since Susan was going, she was sure everything was quite proper and Bobbie could go.
We had talked about driving down since Adam, Susan, and I all had great 'going to the beach' cars or John had the SUV which meant we could all travel together but, as much as the idea appealed, it meant we'd have two days on the road each way, even if we drove around the clock, and that would leave very little time in the Keys. Mrs. Crandall said she'd arrange transportation, but hadn't called back the day after I told her we would love to come. Finally, a couple days later, she called to say we had transportation from the Elizabeth City airport which would be ready to leave at 4:00 or as soon after school as we could get there.
"You'll probably need to tell the women they will need less than half their wardrobe and cosmetics," she had laughed. I didn't understand what she meant, but told Bobbie and Susan. Adam started laughing and pointing to Bobbie who started pounding him on the arm.
Several days before we were to leave, Clarisa came to my room carrying two suitcases, which she put on the floor in my bedroom. She also had two new DOP kits, which she had already packed. "Check these," she said and waited while we looked at the contents: toothbrush, toothpaste, razor and foam -- Justin handed her the razor and foam with a "I won't need these" -- hair brush, shampoo, lotion, cologne (neither Justin nor I had used colognes since so many fellows reeked with too much of a too loud scent, but Clarisa has finally found one with a very light scent we liked), deodorant, etc.
"Looks like everything we could need is here," I said.
"Here's a list of what I am sure you'll need," she said as she handed me a page of paper.
I wasn't sure we'd need dress clothes and after the Clan discussed it, we decided we definitely wouldn't be dressing up. Otherwise, the list looked complete. John had a list Consuela had prepared for him and we exchanged copies just in case one had something the other missed.
When I got in from school Wednesday before we were to leave, there was a pile of packages in my living area with Clarisa standing guard. "I have been shopping," she said, and added, "for you and Justin." Justin was still working and, since there was no band practice, I had hitched a ride home with John and left the car at the store for him. "You can look through these things and see what else you two need. I'll be downstairs."
"If you think yo'mama doesn't know your business, you haven't been paying attention," I thought as I opened a bag which had two dozen packages of briefs. I had always worn briefs, as had Justin, but given his economic situation, they were always the least expensive ones he could find. Back in early fall, we were at the marina when he slipped and ripped a pair of shorts and the briefs beneath them and I had given him a pair of mine. "Man, this is living," he grinned after he had pulled a pair of bikini flyless pouch briefs. They were a new style and felt great. When I told Clarisa about Justin ripping his briefs, she found out how much he liked mine and had given him six pair -- three white and three black -- and took no sass from him when he was reluctant to accept them. She had told him she had bought the wrong ones for me and couldn't take them back. The fact that they were exactly the same size, style and color as mine didn't seem to faze her. Justin just laughed and as soon as he was upstairs, turned his back to me, slid his briefs off -- revealing his luscious bubble butt -- pulled on a pair of the white briefs and when he turned around, presented a well-defined, very adequate basket.
Justin and I had an ongoing argument with John and Adam about our underwear. Adam absolutely hated any kind of brief including boxer briefs, which was John's choice. He wore boxers. "They let it hang free," he said of his choice. "Sure does," John would reply, "you get half a hard-on and you have a snake down your leg -- not a very large snake in your case, I would add!" Truth be told, from what I had seen, neither John nor Adam were lacking in that important department.
Adam had bopped John on the arm and asked, "Why you lookin'? Interested? 'Sides, I've had nooo complaints."
"If you had one as nice as mine, it'd be big enough to want to be cuddled," John laughed. The boxer briefs he chose were flyless with a pouch. And he did present a nice basket, but when Little John escaped, he was plastered between boxer brief and John's leg. Fine for him, but I liked Marcus Junior safe in his cradle.
Anyway, Clarisa had purchased for each of us a dozen pairs of briefs and two very nice swim suits -- one was a loose, halfway to the knees kind and the other a trainer trunk, kinda like a boxer brief-a very loud silk Hawaiian shirt, three regular sports shirts and four T-shirts which would go with the four pairs of shorts of varying styles and lengths. She also bought us lounging pants. Of course she knew we didn't wear PJs, but the lounging pants would be nice for when we got up for breakfast and didn't want to get all dressed. There were a few other things as well.
I knew if I had given Justin the things Clarisa had bought, he would likely refuse to take them, but since Clarisa had them for him, he'd not raise a fuss -- and she knew it.