Josh and Alex left Pueblo behind at ten fifteen, earlier than they thought possible, and hit I-25 headed for Boulder. It was twelve thirty when they reached Denver. Alex was driving and said, "Beloved, breakfast was kinda skimpy and it was awhile ago. This boy needs food."
"I really don't know why I am in such a rush," Josh replied. "Let's find a decent restaurant and have a leisurely lunch. We'll be in Boulder in less than an hour and what if it's three hours, four hours before we get there? It will still be there."
"If it isn't when we get there, doesn't matter," Alex laughed.
Josh pulled out his phone, checked on recommended places for lunch and selected a relatively upscale one which required they drive downtown. Since Alex was essentially a new driver, Josh had him pull into a service station on the outskirts of Denver and made arrangements to park the trailer there while they had lunch. He then took over driving as they headed to the restaurant.
Josh had picked a steakhouse and when they were ready to order, Josh ordered a salad, a twelve-ounce medium rare steak and a baked potato with a side of grilled vegetables. Alex ordered a salad, a medium rare sixteen-ounce steak, grilled shrimp, fries, oven-roasted vegetables, and a second side of steamed asparagus. Josh looked at him and grinned when the server said, "I guess you are hungry."
"Kinda, but I wanted to save room for dessert." The server laughed at him. He was not laughing when Alex polished off his lunch and ordered a slice of chocolate cake with ice cream. Josh joined him in dessert.
Just looking at Alex, he seemed to be where he needed to be in the weight department. In terms of weight alone, he was at his ideal, but his body was still determined to store fat after his being malnourished. They had been slack in San Francisco and were determined to mend their ways once they got home.
Josh had mentioned ordering gym equipment before they left the Mountain and Shawn told him there was a gym at Boys' Camp. "Of course, it was equipped long before machines were developed, but free weights are free weights," he said. "You can coat them with plastic in garish colors, but they are free weights. We don't have any machines." Josh told him to check with a good trainer and see what was recommended and to use his own knowledge and judgment and order what was needed and useful. Shawn said, "I'll have to remind a trainer that we are not only dealing with grown men, but also kids from twelve as well as the older ones."
"Just get what we need," Josh had told him.
After lunch, they hit the highway to Boulder and arrived at the riding school at two thirty. When they knocked on Mavis's door, a strange woman answered. "She doesn't live here anymore," she told Josh. "They has moved down the road."
Puzzled, Alex and Josh drove down the road and as they neared Senhor D'Cruz's place, Alex remembered it now belonged to Mavis. They pulled in and walked to the door. Gertrude came out when they knocked and grabbed both in a hug. "I guess you are the rest of 'they', Alex said.
"I suppose, but I don't know what you are talking about. Come in."
"A strange woman answered the door at Mavis's place and said Mavis didn't live there anymore, that 'they' moved down the road."
"In that case, yeah, I'm the rest of the they. Mavis and I had a long talk after you guys left. We have been a separated couple for lot of years and, let's be honest, we are no longer young and the time we have left—we know it is hard for people your age to realize—is limited. Vic House was no longer fun and Mavis's house needed a lot of repairs which had been put off. We had seen very little of this house and when we explored it, we fell in love with it. It was in perfect repair and was a lot nicer than Mavis's, and Vic House would always have people running around in it. We put both on the market and Vic House sold in two days for a lot more than I thought. A middle-aged couple are turning it into a bed and breakfast, and it is going to be fabulous when they finish.
"Mavis's place sold a week later, also for more than she expected. The barns and stables here are also in perfect repair. Mavis only sold the house and five acres which includes the barn, stables, paddock and horse ring. She sold none of the pasture. This week a work crew just completed joining the pasture here with the one there. With the land between the two places that was not fenced, the combined pasture is close to half the size again of the two separate pastures. We plan to add a number of horses and offer more riding classes and the university will be using the place for some classes. I'm not sure what, but that's Mavis's gig. Don't know where we can pick up some good horses do you?" she laughed.
"Matter of fact, I suspect I do. I'll see Sally early next week—tell you that story later—and we'll see that you have a dozen horses as soon as she can get that many trained." In a pretty good imitation of a TV game show host, Josh said, "These absolutely fantastic and fabulous Mustangs will come to you as a gift from Alex and myself as our thanks for all you have done for us. The only cost to you and your partner will be that the riding school and place be called the D'Cruz Riding Academy and Fazenda."
"Well, I guess you two have been together long enough that one doesn't make decisions involving the other unilaterally," Gertrude said with a touch of sarcasm.
"Well, I'm trying to learn that. Actually, that can be a real bugaboo for us. I am used to making decisions unilaterally and thinking I know best. After all, I ran a pretty big outfit where, ultimately, the buck stopped with me. But I'm making progress, I think," Josh looked questioningly at Alex.
Alex got a sly grin on his face and said, "Yes, Lover Boy, small steps, but you are making progress. And I am making small progress in learning not to just be passive. We're learning, Gertrude."
"Well, do come in." She just then noticed the truck and trailer. "Damn, Boy! That rig set you back a bundle."
"Gertrude, that boy has lots of bundles and you would not believe what he did for the man who sold us that." Alex then told about Liam and his partner being the children of a man and woman who befriended Josh while his dad was ill and after he died. "Josh is going to set up shop as a gay marriage counselor, I think. 'Course, he has a limited range of plans. They are all 'love your man and don't let things come between you'. I remind him of that occasionally just so he doesn't forget. Where is Mavis?"
"She went into Boulder to see about something to do with signing up students for the spring semester. The fall quarter started a week ago and she wasn't ready to start anything new then. So what's the schedule?"
"The plan was for us to leave Saturday for North Carolina with Prince and Princess. The first thing that happened was Kelly Blankenship started a mess again," Josh said. "Then Mrs. Blankenship died and Kelly's plot against me and Blankenship got shot out of the water. Then Alex was attacked and Kelly died from a drug overdose, which I suspect was not accidental—either murder or suicide. In all the turmoil over all that, I didn't get the design for the truck and trailer approved when it needed to be, so that delayed us a day. Then Alex asked about Prince and Princess's offspring which I had let slip my mind. The man who has them is playing games so we can't get them until Monday at the earliest and we're going to Wellsburg to do that. We'll probably leave here Saturday or early Sunday. We need to be in Wellsburg Monday morning, at least before noon. Unless we get tied up there, we'll head to the Mountain Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning. Which reminds me, I need to call Rob and Walt and tell them the change in plans."
"Well, you know we'd like for you to stay longer."
"I know," Alex said, "but Gertrude, I am ready for us to be home and we have a lot to do there getting Boys' Camp, now Elijah's Camp, ready. It is Elijah's Camp, isn't it, Josh?"
"Sure. Well, I guess. We'll know after I talk to Rob and make sure that is the final decision. I guess I better make the calls as it is almost seven there." Josh walked out into the front yard where he had a better signal and called Walt first to tell him what was going on and asked about the small plane.
Cam answered the phone and said Walt was on his way back from Atlanta where he had gone to take the pilots back to catch commercial flights home. "Once they got here and had a couple meals, they accepted Janie's offer to spend a couple days. Tell you, Josh, you're gonna have to charge or people will just settle in to stay."
"Have you settled in to stay, Cam?"
"Hell, yes. I've got my horse. Walt's started pilot lessons and Shawn is helping him with the book part. School is going good—boring mostly, but ok—Shawn's helping with my reading and says I'm doing great, and there's Kevin and me…"
"Whoa! There's Kevin?"
"Well, yeah, Kevin's like my best friend; my really, really best friend."
Josh thought he detected something in the way Cam answered. "Is that all, Cam?"
"Well, Josh, I'm not sure. I wanna talk to you and Alex when you get back."
"You're on. Tell Walt we'll let Rob know our schedule as soon as we are sure. Right now something's come up and it may take longer than we planned to get home. And, Cam, don't push things with Kevin, at least before we talk. Ok?"
"Ok, Josh. Love you, Man," he said and quickly hung up. Josh looked at the phone with a strange expression on his face, then grinned. The tough street kid had grown up in the boonies. He was becoming a wonderful young man. But he was still puzzled by his conversation with Cam and not wanting to read too much into it when he dialed Rob's number.
"Sentinel Mountain. This is Rob.
"Rob, Josh. How are things on the Mountain?"
"Just fine. Waiting for the Lord, or I guess that's the Lords, of the Mountain to return," he chuckled.
"Got a promotion while we were away, Rob. We have now been crowned the Kings of the Mountain, at least in San Francisco."
"Well, now, we all know how crazy everything is in California."
"I'm not sure you do! I was surprised at how crazy things were. But we are coming home. Unfortunately, I can't be more exact than that. Seems somewhere in the shuffle I forgot two very special horses, Prince and Princess's twins. I expected the guy who has them would meet us somewhere in Wyoming and we would be on our way. Sally says he is playing games these days. He got religion, so he is very righteous and since I am an evil sinner, he thinks he will be able to keep the pair. I have my Wellsburg lawyer working on it and we're going to Wellsburg Monday, as much as Alex and I hate the idea, to get the horses one way or another. If we get them Monday, we'll likely stay over and leave Tuesday. We hope to make the trip in two and a half days to three, but we will be pulling a trailer with four horses and Alex is still not totally up to snuff, so it may take longer. Anyway, I'll keep you posted as to our progress. What's the decision on a new name for Boys' Camp?"
"Interesting that. We were all pretty much in agreement and settled on Elijah's House until you tossed in Elijah's Chariot. Some liked it and others didn't, but no one hated it. We all talked about it all day and everyone was already calling it Elijah's Chariot, when you tossed in Elijah's Camp or Camp Elijah. Now it would take an Act of Congress to change the name to anything other than Camp Elijah."
"Good. Well, Rob, I'll keep you posted, but we will not be home until long after we want to be there. Rob, it is home and you all are the only family I have and I have a wonderful family. I want you to know that."
"Son, we're proud to have you both."
"Thanks," Josh said and closed his phone before he was completely choked up.
Josh and Alex had only seen the entrance and library of Senhor D'Cruz's house so Gertrude gave them the grand tour. It was as elegant as Josh had imagined it would be, but as Alex would say, it no longer said 'Senhor D'Cruz', but 'Mavis and Gertrude'. Unlike Vic House and Mavis's place, their new place definitely belonged to both. Neither Alex nor Josh ever asked why the two had not lived together before and neither woman ever said anything about it.
Josh and Alex took the two ladies out to dinner Saturday evening and Josh again asked about Mavis being listed as adjunct teacher at Camp Elijah. "I think we need you for a couple weeks as soon as you can come out so we can get the training area built to your specifications and so you and Nelson can pick horses you think could develop into trick riding horses. "Unlike the Royal Couple, who will do just about anything Josh and I ask them to do, these horses will not belong to only one boy," Alex said.
"Maybe not to one boy," Mavis said, "but I would assign boys to horses. That way there would be some consistency in their riders. I would assign the same boys to take care of them as well."
"That never occurred to me," Josh said. "That's a good example of why we need as many as possible in on the planning of Elijah's Camp. No single person or small group of people have the experience and knowledge to think of everything."
"Have you talked to Gertrude about additional horses?" Josh asked.
"Not beyond our talking about needing some and to have them trained specifically for trick riding. You know, trick riding was once very big, but in recent years it has just about disappeared. It would be a grand way to show off the boys and your establishment. When are you adding girls?"
"See!" Alex said. "Everyone thinks the should be a girls' camp as well."
"Frankly, the thought never occurred to me. Boys' Camp had been on the Mountain and was dear to Elijah's heart so reviving it was logical. Stupid me, I thought we could just unlock the place, sweep it out and add boys. It's not that easy I am discovering. Petty bureaucrats have bred like rabbits since Boys' Camp was founded."
"Back to the horses, Josh," Alex said.
"Yeah, the horses. I'll see Sally Monday and see what she has broke and how long it would take to have a dozen broke to the saddle. They are yours if you will name the riding and trick riding school The D'Cruz Riding School and Fazenda in honor of Senhor D'Cruz."
"That's a very generous offer, Josh, but I don't think I can take you up on that. We are talking between, oh, I'm not sure, I'd guess between fifty and a hundred thousand dollars worth of horses."
"Look, Mavis, this is part of a plot," Josh laughed. "You cannot imagine how much Alex and I hate going to Wellsburg, but truth be told, I realized when I talked to Sally, that so long as I have property there something will come up that requires me to go back. So I plan to offer Sally and Brenda the ranch in exchange for a dozen horses. Probably all will be horses she has bred, but she will replace them, I'm sure, with a fall capture. The ranch is a bargain at a hundred thousand, especially since it will cost Sally and Brenda no cash. By naming your riding school after Senhor D'Cruz, I get an expression of the honor in which I hold the man who had a lot to do with my having, as Alex said, a lot of bundles. Additionally, the horses will be a token of the appreciation for what you and Gertrude have done for me and Alex over the years."
"Well, since it involves so many, I guess I can swallow a bit of pride," Mavis laughed. "And you know, The D'Cruz Riding Academy and Fazenda does have a classy ring to it. Sure, Josh, it's a deal. Now when do we go to North Carolina? I want to see this place."
"We'll get back there next week. Give us a couple weeks to get settled and we'll come get you. Do you have someone who can take care of your horses while you are gone?"
Mavis laughed. "You know, Gertrude got rid of Vic House and those annoying students to move out here and the first thing she did was start looking for a place for students. There is a lovely apartment above the hay barn—Senhor called it the guest house. It has a huge living room, a kitchen, a good size bedroom and a small office. Gertrude had me post a notice on a student bulletin board and she had twenty calls within the first half day. Even though the notice said 'Ideal for two men', she still got calls from women. She had to handle that with kid gloves."
"I learned right away as soon as someone asked about it to say, 'It's a part of the ranch set up—you know stables and barns—and it's upstairs. The immediate assumption was that it was over the barn and that eliminated most inquiries!" Gertrude laughed. "If that didn't do it, I said, 'And it's a good deal. It rents for ten dollars a week and ten hours caring for the horses—feeding, grooming and cleaning stables. That's each, for two people.' Out of all the calls, only three guys actually came out to look at the place, a single guy and a couple. The single guy got here first and was very interested, but didn't have a roommate and thought twenty hours working a week was too much with his classes. The couple said, "We'll take it," as soon as I opened the door to show it to them.
"One grew up on a ranch and knows all he needs to know. His partner is a city guy, but hardworking and a quick learner. They have been together since their freshman year. One is working on a master's in psychology and the other in biology. He wanted to go to vet school at Fort Collins, but didn't get in on his first attempt and started his graduate degree in biology and decided that was the way he wanted to go. They will be here at least two years. Great fellows and both love the horses. City boy is becoming an excellent rider."
Later when Alex and Josh were in bed, Alex said, "I am happy for Gertrude and Mavis and the setup here means they will have someone around helping out."
"And it's a big help to the guys living here. They like the animals and when you do, even shoveling horse manure isn't too bad and they are paying practically nothing for rent in a town where rent is not cheap.
The next day, Josh asked Mavis about his Chinese teacher and discovered he had retired to Taiwan. "And Srta. Medina?"
"As you know, she was ancient when you first started working with her. She died last year—at one hundred one, and she had students the week before."
"Makes me feel old," Josh laughed.
"Yeah, you and I will soon be old men of thirty," Alex laughed.
It had been a long day with much going on and Josh knew Alex was tired because he was. After a few gentle kisses and assuring each other of their love, they went to sleep, wrapped in a tangle of arms and legs.
Editors: Jesse and Scott.
As always, I own the copyright, so no use beyond personal copy, without permission. If you are too young or whatever to read literature which may describe explicit sex, don't or take any consequences.
All persons and places are fictional and any similarity to persons or places living or dead is coincidental. Again, it's fiction, folks.