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The Talon House

What's The Difference Between Me And You?

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What's the difference between me and you? Chapter 1

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In July, the air in Virginia is thick and humid. Almost unbearable to someone who has never been in a humid climate. Coming from California, Nick had experienced most types of climates. As a baby and even up until now, he experienced the cold of the Sierra Nevada region of California. His grandfather lived in that part of the state and he visited regularly. Living in the central valley, Nick had felt the blistering, dry heat that his body seemed to soak up and hold onto for hours on end every day. But as he stepped off of the small plane that he and his father rode into Norfolk, he was overwhelmed with the suffocating humidity that enveloped the entire region. Indeed, Nick was far from home.

As they walked through the gate towards baggage claim, Nick's eyes lit up when he spotted his maternal grandparents. He quickly let go of his father's hand and ran toward them. They quickly swallowed him in their embrace and he was smothered with kisses by both of them.

"I missed you so much," said Nick

"Honey, we missed you too," said his grandmother. Nick's grandfather had tears in his eyes by the time Nick's dad caught up to his son.

"Tom, Linda," he said as he hugged the both of them. "I hope you weren't waiting long."

"Not at all, Jim", said Tom offering his hand for a shake. "We were a little worried that you guys might've landed early. We tried to get here sooner, but traffic was bad getting here."

"Are you hungry?"' asked Linda looking at her grandson.

"Yes ma'am," replied Nick. "We ate on the plane from San Francisco, but I'm hungry again."

Nick held his grandmother's hand as the four of them walked to the baggage claim area and patiently waited for their suitcases to come along the conveyor belt. After collecting their luggage, they were off to find food.

"Where should we eat, kiddo?" asked Tom looking at his only grandson in the back seat. His wife was riding in the back seat as well and he could see how happy she was that she had her grandson with her.

"Um....I don't know. Anywhere's okay with me, grandpa." Nick smiled. Jim looked into the back seat and smiled at his son. He could see how content Nick was to be here.

Tom looked over at Jim and said, "Well, what are you in the mood for?"

Jim just shrugged his shoulders and asked, "What's good?"

Out of the back seat Nick suddenly piped up, "Can we eat at Red Lobster?"

"Son, last time we ate at Red Lobster you didn't touch anything," Jim reminded his son.

Nick frowned," I promise I will this time, dad. Please?"

Jim looked at Tom and asked," Do you feel like Red Lobster tonight?"

Tom looked approvingly at his grandson in the back seat, then at his smiling wife, then back at Jim and said, "Red Lobster sounds great. You know, we've missed you both so much. I'm glad you guys made it this year."

After a long ride that seemed like hours to Nick, they pulled into the parking lot at a Red Lobster. They all got out of the car and walked to the entrance. After a long wait, they were seated and the waitress brought out cheddar bay biscuits, Nick's favorite. He colored the kids menu that the waiter had brought to the table for him and beat his grandfather at a game of tic-tac-toe. Soon they were served and true to what his father was suspicious of, Nick managed to eat about three bites off his plate before announcing that he was full.

The conversation at the table seemed to revolve around Nick and his father. Tom and Linda had a lot of questions and quite a few compliments for Jim about Nick's manners. One of the things that Jim always made sure that he taught his son was how to treat others and how to talk to adults. There was not a time in Nick's life when he was allowed to disrespect his elders, even when it might have been warranted. Nick was starting to get bored with the conversation, but the next subject that the adults at the table began discussing stirred Nick's interest........

"I can't get over how much he looks like his mother," said Linda as she looked at her grandson. "He's so beautiful." Linda was starting to tear up, so she quickly looked away and dabbed her eyes.

Nick wanted to hear more, and he quickly asked, "Grandma, did I always look like my mom?"

All of the adults at the table stopped and looked at Nick, and still a little weepy, Linda replied, "Yes, sweetheart. You always did, and you remind me of her so much."

"Can you tell me more stories about her while I'm here?" Nick continued.

"Well, I'm sure that sometime we can all sit down together and talk about her. I think that would be nice," Linda said looking at her grandson with loving eyes.

Tom was looking at Nick, and as they made eye contact, Nick was sure he saw a lot of pain in his grandfather's eyes, but he also saw a lot of bravery in them as well. It was the same look he saw on his dad's face whenever the subject of his mother came up.

Nick fell asleep on the way to his grandparents' house. The next day he woke up in a bed with his dad in a room that was fixed up to be an office. His dad was snoring as usual, something Nick was used to. It wasn't that the snoring bothered Nick, because it never did. He slept right through it, but for some reason he was embarrassed by it. He was certain that his grandparents could hear it from their room and he almost panicked about it. Then he came to his senses and realized that his grandparents must have heard his dad snore in the past.

So he got up and made his way to the hallway to search for the bathroom. When he was done, he decided to explore the house. It was brand new, and it even had a brand new smell to it. He crept down the stairs and into a large room with no TV, but with two couches, two chairs, a fireplace and pictures of his mom on every wall. There were dozens of them, and there were also pictures of him and his dad everywhere.

Then he came across a picture he had seen before but only in a photo album at home in California. It was of him and both of his parents. It was a picture that made him feel like he was part of a normal family. Of course, Nick didn't live in a dysfunctional family to say the least. He understood what had happened in the past. He knew that his mom and dad loved him and each other. He also understood that his mom had died when he was 6 months old. Another thing that he knew for sure was that his parents were young when he was born. Really young. His dad was sixteen and his mom was fifteen when he was born. All of those things seemed to add up in his mind, but there was something that didn't fit. In his mind, he couldn't make the connection that he had a normal life at one time with two parents who loved him. The idea was overwhelming to him so he just went on believing in his mind that he wasn't a normal kid.

Nick looked at the picture one last time before he made his way into another room. The kitchen. His eyes immediately fell on the refrigerator. It had water and ice buttons on the front. So he went into all of the cupboards he could reach until he found a cup to use. He walked over to the refrigerator, got some ice and cold water out of it and drank it. He knew he was going to love his grandparents' house for this refrigerator, if nothing else.

Next he went into the dining room where he saw a huge wood table, the same one he remembered from his last visit with his grandparents when they lived in Florida. He ran his hand along the smooth surface and thought about the last house they lived in. He wondered what made them decide to move to Virginia, but he forgot about it almost as quickly as he thought about it when he heard his grandfather's voice behind him.

"Well good morning kiddo." Tom smiled as he walked up on his grandson.

"Good morning grandpa," Nick said. He was glad he wasn't up alone anymore.

Tom opened the refrigerator and asked, "Are you hungry?"

"What are you gonna cook?" asked Nick

"Well, let's see what we have in here. I know your grandma bought groceries. I'm just not sure what she got." Tom was busy searching the fridge when Nick saw his dad come around the corner. He looked freshly showered and dressed.

Tom eventually gave up on looking for food in the refrigerator and decided to make coffee instead. After a while, Linda came downstairs and greeted everyone. Eventually it was decided that they would drive to IHOP for breakfast. Nick took a shower and got dressed in the clothes his dad put out for him. After his dad did his hair, they were out the door.

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Sitting at the table with his dad and his grandparents, Nick's stomach was grumbling. It seemed like an eternity before someone came to take everyone's order. Jim ordered for his son, and Nick wasn't at all concerned about what his dad was ordering for him. Jim knew his son. He would eat a few bites of his pancakes and a couple pieces of bacon, but not much else.

Today's conversation was about what the plan was for the day. Tom and Linda suggested that they all go to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg. Nick got really excited at this prospect. Living in California, he had been to many fairs and even a few parks like Six Flags Marine World or Paramount's Great America. But it was when they traveled outside of the state when he saw the best theme parks. Especially the last time he and his father visited his grandparents. They lived in Florida at the time and they all went to Disney World. He saw every park and had more fun than he had ever had in his life.

"Are there scary roller coasters," Nick asked hopefully?

Tom laughed and replied, "Are there ever. How fast and scary do you like it?"

Nick smiled. Jim was looking at his son with a look that Nick couldn't really read. He thought to himself that maybe his dad wasn't so sure that he could deal with a big roller coaster, but Nick shrugged it off.

Linda spoke up then and Tom turned serious. "We have some news. I'm pregnant."

Jim had a look of shock on his face. Nick couldn't believe it when he heard the news. The shock of the moment wore off and Jim smiled widely. "Congratulations, you two. I can't believe it. How far along are you?"

"Three months. The baby is due in February," Tom answered for his wife.

Jim reached across the table, took Linda's hand in his and said, "I'm so happy for you. I know how much this means to the both of you." Then he shook Tom's hand and said, "You really deserve this."

Nick took all of this in as he sat at the table watching the whole scene unfold. His dad turned to him and said, "Did you hear that buddy? Your gonna have a little Aunt or Uncle." Nick just sat there for a second, taking the time he needed to digest the news. He wasn't upset, but he couldn't get over it. He thought for sure that his grandparents were too old to have a baby. Finally his dad reached over and rubbed his back a little, then said, "Go give your grandma a hug and kiss, son." Nick did as he was told to do, and then he turned and gave his grandpa a hug and kiss as well. Tom and Linda seemed happy to be sharing the news with the two most important people in their lives. Suddenly Nick frowned as his one worry crossed his mind. "Does this mean that you can't go on the rides with us, grandma?" As Linda chuckled, the food was brought to the table and Nick went back to his chair so he could eat his breakfast. After they ate, they went back to Tom and Linda's house to change clothes and soon they were on the interstate, headed for Busch Gardens.

Nick got excited when they crossed over a long bridge and suddenly went into a tunnel. As they came out of the tunnel, they were back on a bridge. As he looked out the window, Tom explained to him and his dad that they were just under the Chesapeake Bay. Nick was truly amazed by this. As they drove further, Nick noticed that the interstate was lined with tall, green trees. He thought that it was one of the prettiest things he had ever seen. The freeways at home in California were lined with brown, dry, grassy fields and hills. This was much nicer, he thought to himself. When they got out of the car at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, the humidity hit both Nick and Jim like a punch. Nick looked at the expression on his father's face as they got out of the car and he knew his dad was uncomfortable. Jim hated to be hot more than anything. But, like his father, Nick said nothing about it. He didn't want to be rude. The day passed quickly. Nick and his dad had made a pact to try to get on every ride before the day ended, and they might have succeeded, but Nick wasn't sure anymore. They were having so much fun that he couldn't seem to keep up with the rides they had been on. Nick's dad won him some stuffed animals at the different booths that were available and he even won him a humongous Scooby Doo stuffed animal when he used a sledgehammer to ring the bell on a strength contest. By the end of the day, everyone had an armful of stuffed animals to carry out to the car. On the way home, Nick gathered up as many of the stuffed animals as he could and said, "Grandma, these are for the new baby."

"That's really nice of you buddy," Jim said, looking proudly at his son.

"Thank you honey," Linda replied looking at her grandson. Nick beamed proudly at his family. There wasn't a time in his life that he could remember feeling so proud to be who he was. After a while, the sun went down and Nick was asleep when they got back to his grandparent's house.

Nick stirred a little as he heard his dad and his grandparents talking. He knew what they were discussing, so he just laid there with his eyes closed and listened a little. It wasn't so much that he was eavesdropping; it was just that he wanted to hear more about his mom.

"How much more have you told him?" he heard Linda ask.

"Not too much," Jim answered. "I don't think he's old enough to know everything. It's just too much to handle."

"Jim," Tom interrupted. "We don't want you to tell him anything you don't think he's not ready to hear. We just hate to see you walk around like this."

"I'm just afraid he's gonna hate me when he finds everything out," Jim said. "I could never live with myself if I knew he felt that way about me."

"You need to stop blaming yourself son," Tom said. Nick couldn't believe he heard his grandfather calling his dad that. "It wasn't your fault. There's nothing you could've done to change it. None of us could."

"I'm supposed to be the one who protects him, though," said Jim in an almost emotional voice. Nick was sure his dad was about to cry. He didn't like this conversation at all.

Linda spoke up. "Jim, you do protect him. We are so proud of the job you have done. But listen. You are a young man and you are allowed to make mistakes. Nick's gonna understand that. Besides, you know how Tom and I feel."

"When do you want to do it?" Jim asked.

Tom answered this time. "Why not tomorrow? We can just stay home and look at pictures and talk about everything."

"Not everything", Jim said. "Let me take him upstairs and we can discuss what we'll talk about after I put him to bed."

Tom and Linda didn't reply. Nick felt his dad scoop him up and take him up the stairs. When they got into the room, Nick opened his eyes and his dad looked at him.

"Hey buddy", Jim whispered, smiling at his son. "Let's get some pj's on you and you can go to sleep. It's late. Did you have fun today?"

"Hi dad, what time is it?" Nick asked.

"It's after 11, son. We were up late tonight."

Nick hugged his dad. He just wanted his dad to know that he still loved him no matter what they were going to tell him. "I love you dad," Nick said.

"I love you too son," Jim replied to his son. After Jim helped him with his pajamas, Nick crawled into bed and his dad kissed him good night and left the room. Nick lay awake wondering what they were saying downstairs, but he didn't have the courage to go and listen on the stairs. He knew his dad well enough to know that if he was caught, a spanking would surely follow. Eventually, he fell asleep.

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