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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?

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Chapter 03 - By Nick

Nick looked out of the second story window from the bedroom he and his father were sharing and he could see the trees outside bending from the force of the wind. The sky was covered with churning clouds and the rain was falling hard outside.

"Dad, wake up," he called to Jim, who was still sleeping. Jim stirred in his sleep and rolled over to see his son standing at the window.

"What's the matter, Nick," he said almost in an irritated voice. Nick knew that his dad wanted to sleep in after a long ride back to Virginia Beach from Washington D.C., but he couldn't help himself. There was talk of Hurricane Dennis on the news but Nick wasn't certain if it had touched down yet.

"I think the hurricane's here, dad. Come look," he said.

Jim rolled out of the large bed to look out the window and his eyes got huge. "Good God almighty," he exclaimed as he looked at the bending trees. "Get away from the window, boy. Those trees look ready to snap."

"Should I wake up Grandma and Grandpa," Nick asked.

Jim shrugged his response, and used his hand to guide Nick away from the window.

"Let's go downstairs, son," he said. "If no one's up, I suppose you could knock on their door."

Jim led the way down the stairs and as he and Nick reached the bottom they heard Linda behind them.

"The wind woke you up too, huh?" she said as she followed them down the stairs.

"It woke me up, but not dad," Nick said, giggling. "He was snoring too loud to hear it."

Jim gave his son a playful push on the back of the head as Linda walked into the family room to turn on the TV. They quickly learned that Dennis hadn't made landfall in the region yet, but it was fast approaching.

"Man, it looks like we went to D.C. on the wrong day," Jim commented.

"We don't have anything to worry about," Linda said. "Tom and I have been in way worse than this."

Tom and Linda had spent seven years living in Tampa, Florida. They had seen every hurricane that blew through, including hurricane Andrew. Obviously, Linda wasn't concerned about Dennis.

"In reality," she continued, "This isn't a hurricane yet, just a tropical storm. I'll worry when I hear category five."

Jim shook his head and smiled at her.

"Grandma, can I watch cartoons in the kitchen, please," Nick asked.

"Why don't you watch them in here, sweetheart," Linda replied. "I can turn on the TV in the kitchen while I start breakfast."

Nick smiled and grabbed the remote control off the coffee table and turned it to Cartoon Network. By now, he had figured out how to find all of the channels he watched at home in California. Ed, Edd and Eddy was on, and he was soon consumed with the show. He occasionally glanced over to the entrance of the kitchen from where he was sitting, just to see what his dad and his Grandma were up to. During a commercial he got up and walked into the kitchen to ask for something to drink. When he waked in he saw Jim and Linda hugging tightly. He noticed that Linda had tears in her eyes and he wondered what was wrong. Rather than interrupt he quietly went back into the family room and sat back down on the couch.

After a while he glanced back into the kitchen and saw that Jim and Linda were sitting together at the table, drinking their coffee, so he walked over to join them.

"May I please have a glass of juice, Grandma," he asked.

"Sure you can, honey," Linda answered. She got up to get it, but Jim spoke up.

"I'll get it for him, Linda," he said. "You shouldn't be waiting on us hand and foot."

Nick felt a little guilty for asking at that point, but Jim smiled warmly at him, got him a small cup from the cupboard and poured him some orange juice.

"Here you go, babe," Jim said as he handed Nick the cup.

"Thank you, dad." Nick smiled as he took it from his dad.

Nick walked over to the table and sat with Jim and Linda as they drank their coffee. He was curious about what Linda was so upset about, but he was afraid to ask because he didn't want to make his dad mad. He knew that if he did ask, Jim would scold him at the very least for being nosey. So instead, he sat and studied the two as they talked about everything except what had his grandmother so upset earlier.

Finally, Tom walked into the kitchen and leaned down to kiss Linda good morning. He then made his way around the table to Nick, who reached up to hug and kiss his grandfather.

"Did the weather wake you guys up," Tom asked, looking at Jim.

"Not me," Jim answered. "It woke Nick up, and he woke me up."

Tom reached over and messed Nick's hair up with his hand and grinned.

"Were you scared, buddy," he asked.

"No," Nick answered, smiling widely.

Tom looked closer at Nick and in a teasingly disbelieving voice, he asked, "Are you sure about that?"

"Grandpa, you're silly," Nick said. "Dad was more scared than me. He made me get away from the window."

Jim reached over and tickled Nick in the ribs and then he said, "Well, I didn't want a branch to hit you in the face and make you any uglier than you already are."

Nick looked at his dad then he smiled and said, "Well, I get my looks from you. Maybe you should go stand in front of the window. It could only help in your case."

Jim put his head down and laughed hard. Over the years, Nick and his dad had grown accustomed to trading playful put-downs, and Nick had Jim's sense of humor. He was able to throw out an insult at the drop of a dime, and as often as he and Jim teased each other he had plenty of practice. As strict as Jim was about Nick showing respect to others, Nick knew that this was one area where that rule didn't apply, because it was all in fun.

"Ok, well, you got me this time," Jim said, still chuckling. "But you won't get off so easily next time, pal." Jim reached over and gave Nick a noogie on top of the head with his knuckle, and Nick just laughed.

Tom cooked breakfast and after they ate, they all took showers. As wild as the weather was outside, Linda wanted to go to the mall in Norfolk. Nick was nervous about going outside with the tree's bending the way they were, and he could sense that Jim wasn't exactly excited about the idea, but Tom and Linda seemed totally comfortable with the idea. Soon, they were all in the car and headed to Norfolk to shop.

As they walked through the giant mall, Nick looked in disbelief. He had never seen such a large mall, and it was crowded. They went into several stores and Linda seemed to buy something at each one of them. It seemed like hours had passed since they had arrived, and soon they headed back to the car, but only to put the things Linda bought in the trunk. Soon, they went back inside and shopped for more things. As they approached the food court, Tom announced that he was hungry.

"You're always hungry," Linda said. "How about you, Jim. Are you ready for lunch?"

"Sure, whenever you guys are," Jim answered.

"What do you feel like," Tom asked.

"You tell me what's good, Tom," Jim said. "I'm up for whatever."

Tom kneeled down behind Nick and put his hand on Nicks shoulder. He leaned in close and asked Nick, "Have you ever heard of the Rain Forrest Cafe?"

Nick shook his head no. Tom pointed over to a restaurant just across the mall, and it looked like a jungle from the outside. Nick saw the mist rolling from the inside, and he thought it looked cool.

"You want to eat there, kiddo," Tom asked.

Nick smiled and answered, "Ok."

Tom took his hand and the four of them headed toward the cafe for lunch. While they sat at the table, Nick looked around. He noticed that there was a large mechanical gorilla in the corner, and some model birds hanging from the ceiling. The mist was still present and Nick was fascinated by it.

As the waitress took there order, she noticed Nicks interest, and told him it was ok for him to walk around and look if he wanted. She also pointed out that there was a gift shop if they wanted to buy souvenirs.

Nick looked at his dad hopefully, and Jim rolled his eyes sarcastically and told him, "Go ahead. But don't you dare bother the other people in here who are trying to eat."

Nick got up from the table and walked around, looking at all of the different displays. He touched the gorilla, and it felt soft. He walked over to one of the sources of the mist and put his face over it, and then walked to the gift shop which was more of a glass display case with several items in it. His hands were still wet from the mist and he ran them over the glass causing a cloudy streak to appear. Nick took this as a sign that it was time to go sit back down.

After lunch they headed back to Virginia Beach, and not a moment too soon. Almost as soon as they got inside the power went out. The wind had picked up outside and it was howling loudly. Nick sat down next to his dad who wrapped an arm around Nick to make him feel safe. Tom lit some candles and Linda got flashlights out of the laundry room. Tom and Linda seemed well prepared for this and Jim and Nick just sat together on the couch as the couple took care of every detail. Tom unplugged the TV, the computer and several other appliances in the house and soon he and Linda joined Nick and Jim in the family room.

Nick was starting to panic. He looked up at Jim, who squeezed his shoulders and said, "Don't worry, honey. Nothing's going to happen. Look at how calm Grandma and Grandpa are."

Nick looked across the family room at his grandparents, who were smiling at him. Linda got up and brought him a flashlight.

"Here, sweetheart," she said as she handed it to him. "If it gets dark, you have this. The batteries are brand new and if they die, we have more. Lots more."

While the lights were off, they all talked. They talked about things like their trip to the mall, going to the beach later in the week and even the trip that they were going to take to King's Dominion, a huge amusement park in Richmond. Thirty minutes after the electricity went out, it came back on. The wind had also died down and Tom opened the back door. It was calm outside but the backyard was a mess. There was lawn furniture spread out all over the place most of it belonging to the neighbors. Nick noticed that there were water hoses spread out across the yard, and that a tree had fallen in another yard. They all walked outside and started picking up the mess. Soon, it started to rain again but this time there was no wind.

As they made their way back inside, Tom looked proudly at Nick and asked him, "How does it feel?" Nick looked confused so Tom continued. "You survived a hurricane today, kiddo. You're a veteran now. How does it feel?"

Nick looked up at his Grandfather smiled and shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know," he answered. "I guess I didn't think about it. It feels ok, I guess."

Tom laughed at Nick's comment and patted him on the back. Nick followed him to the garage where he hit the button on the wall to open the garage door. As they looked out of the garage door Tom's face turned sour. There was a car sitting in the street that belonged to a neighbor with a huge branch across the roof, which was crushed. "Stay in here, kiddo. I don't know if it's safe to go out there yet," Tom said to Nick as he walked out to the street. Nick watched as Tom crossed the street and looked at the car. A crying woman came out of the house that the car was parked in front of and she had a girl that Nick thought could have been in his grade with her. He heard his Grandfather tell her that he didn't think it was a good idea for either of them to be outside but they both kept walking toward the street.

Nick wondered what the difference was between going out into the front yard and going out into the backyard was, but he soon got his answer when another branch broke off of a tree, this time in the front yard of his grandparents' house. It came down with a loud crash and Tom, the neighbor woman and the girl all jumped. The woman turned to her and said something and the girl ran back into the house. Linda walked out to the garage followed by Jim, who looked worried. When he saw Nick still in the garage he seemed to relax.

"Son, I would really like it better if you would go inside," he said.

Nick didn't argue. He went into the house and decided he would watch cartoons, but no one had plugged in the TV so he had to wait. It seemed like it was taking forever and he was getting bored fast. He looked around the family room, and his eyes lit up as he noticed the picture albums. He didn't really want his dad or his grandparents to see him looking at it but he decided that he could look really quick and no one would know.

He took the album and he sat on the stairs and opened it up. As he sat looking at the pictures his mind raced back to the other day when his dad and his grandparents seemed to fall apart while looking through the album. He could feel tears welling up in his eyes again so he closed the album and took it back over to the bookshelf.

After he put it back he went upstairs to the room he and Jim were sleeping in and looked out the window. Linda was walking back across the street with the lady whose car was crushed. Nick moved to the stairs and he heard his grandmother talking to the woman. They were looking for the phone and Linda was cursing the fact that her husband had a bad habit of taking it off of its charger and not putting it back. She hit the paging button on the base and the phone chirped. They found it and the woman made a call. She was still crying saying that her phone wasn't working and that one of her cars was wrecked by a branch.

Nick came back downstairs and approached his grandmother. He didn't want to be rude but he was hoping she would plug in the television if he asked nice enough.

"Grandma," he asked.

"Yes, sweetheart," Linda answered.

"Will you plug the TV in for me?" Nick knew that there were more important things happening now than the television but he was nervous and normally at home if he was nervous or uncomfortable with a situation he would watch TV and he could forget about his troubles.

"Of course I will, Nick," Linda said. "I'm sorry you've been sitting in here with nothing to do."

"It's ok, Grandma." Nick smiled at her.

The woman from across the street came into family room and smiled at Nick. He looked at her and smiled back. He thought she was pretty. She definitely looked younger than his dad did.

"What's your name, cutie," she said.

"Nickolas," he answered. Nick had always been told by his dad to use his proper name when he was introducing himself to new people. It was good manners.

"I have a niece that's about your age," she said.

"What's your name, ma'am," Nick asked.

"Lori," she smiled.

Nick noticed that she wasn't crying anymore. Linda was finished plugging the television back in and Lori turned to her and thanked her for letting her use the phone.

"Well, I better get back over there," Lori said, looking toward her house. "My niece is alone and I need to see if she's ok."

"Well, why don't you two come over here while the guys finish cleaning up in your yard," Linda asked.

"We better not," Lori said politely. "My brother will be back soon to pick her up and if we aren't there he'll worry."

"Then I insist that you at least come over later for dinner," Linda said. "Tom's gonna cook out and we would love for you to join us."

Lori looked at Linda and said, "Well, what can I bring?"

"Yourself," Linda replied. "Now let's head back over and see how the guys are doing. Nick, are you gonna be ok here?"

"Yes ma'am," Nick answered.

With that Lori and Linda were out the door. Nick went back to watching cartoons and before long Jim, Tom and Linda were back. Jim and Tom went upstairs to shower and Linda started working in the kitchen. Nick got up from the couch and walked into the kitchen to visit with his grandmother, who looked like she had something serious on her mind.

"What's wrong, Grandma," Nick asked. He quickly looked around for his dad who would have scolded him for asking an adult a question like that.

"Nothing, sweetheart," Linda replied.

"Ok," Nick said looking at the floor. "Can I help you?"

"Yes you can," Linda said smiling at Nick. "You can go wash your hands then you can go tell Grandpa that I said to hurry up and get the grill going then come back down here and I have a job for you."

Nick ran to the bathroom downstairs and washed his hands as fast as he could then he ran upstairs to his grandparent's room and made his way to their bathroom. The door was open and the shower was still running so he stuck his head in and called out, "Grandpa, Grandma says to hurry up and get the grill going."

"Tell Grandma I said to keep her pants on, I'm coming," Tom said over the noise of the shower.

Nick ran out the door to give Linda the message and as he made his way into the hallway Jim was coming out of the bathroom.

"Where are you going in such a hurry, son," Jim asked.

"I have to tell Grandma to keep her pants on," Nick said, excited as ever.

"You absolutely will not, young man," Jim almost shouted with authority. "You know you aren't allowed to talk to anyone that way, and certainly not your Grandma."

"Yes sir," Nick said, looking up at his dad. He hated it when Jim scolded him, and his happy mood was gone now. His feelings were hurt by the way his dad had come down on him.

Nick was about to head down the stairs, but Jim stopped him.

"Come in the room, son," Jim said. "I want to talk to you."

"Yes sir," Nick said again, as he followed his dad down the hallway to the room they were sharing.

"Have a seat, buddy," Jim instructed as he zipped up his suitcase. "I'm sorry I yelled at you. I know you were just having fun."

Apologies like this were almost unheard of from Jim, and Nick looked up at his dad. He was still upset, and unintentionally he had a sad face as he looked up at his dad. Jim reached out and Nick moved over into his arms. Jim gave Nick a hug and ran his fingers through his hair and Nick hugged his dad back.

"Are you mad at me for something, dad," Nick asked.

"No son, I'm not," Jim answered. "I'm just in a grouchy mood because I'm worried about someone."

"Is it Lori," Nick asked again.

"Maybe," Jim answered, then pulled back from the hug and looked at Nick and smiled.

"She's pretty, huh, " Nick said.

"Yeah, she is, isn't she," Jim agreed.

"She's gonna eat dinner with us tonight," Nick said.

"I know that son," Jim smiled, looking at his son. He planted a kiss on Nick's face, then he pulled Nick's shirt up and pressed his lips Nicks belly button and blew air out, causing Nick to laugh hysterically. Then Nick got brave and put his finger in his mouth, coated it with spit, then inserted it into his dad's ear. Jim quickly stopped what he was doing to put his hand over his ear and Nick giggled again.

Nick climbed up onto his dad to hug him again, and told him, "I love you daddy."

"I love you too, babe," Jim said, hugging Nick back. After awhile, Jim said, "You know, that wet Willie was a dirty trick."

Nick looked his dad in the eyes and smiled, "You had it coming for yelling at me."

Jim didn't offer any argument and instead he just sat on the bed a little longer with Nick, then he said, " C'mon, son. Let's go downstairs and help Grandma and Grandpa."

During dinner Nick noticed that Lori and his dad were spending a lot of time talking to each other. Lori was in the Navy and she was stationed at the Naval Air Station, Oceana. While Jim and Lori were talking Linda was looking on and smiling as if she was happy with something. Nick saw Tom roll his eyes at Linda, then smile when she put an elbow in his side.

Even though Linda told her not to bring anything Lori brought along a sweet potato pie that she had made the day before. Nick had never tried sweet potato pie and he was a little nervous about having a piece. He knew that if he didn't like it his dad would still expect him to eat a decent amount. Against his better judgment Nick said "Yes, ma'am," when Lori asked him if he was going to try it.

Nick was pleasantly surprised when he actually took his first bite. He took a second bite and suddenly realized that this might have been the best tasting piece of pie he ever had ever eaten. He quickly ate the rest of his slice and without asking him if he wanted more Lori put a second piece on his plate.

"Thank you, ma'am," Nick said.

"You can call me Lori if you'd like to, Nickolas," she replied.

"You can call me Nick if you would like to, Miss Lori," Nick said. He noticed his father looking on with pride as he showed off his manners.

"Thank you Nick," Lori said, smiling at him as she spoke. Her smile was sweet and genuine and it put Nick at ease around her, even though she was still a stranger to him.

The conversation turned to Lori's car that was wrecked by the tree limb that fell, and somehow became about Tom and Linda expecting a baby in February. Linda mentioned that February was also the month that Jim and Nick were born in. Jim excused Nick form the table and Nick went into the family room to watch TV.

While he was watching Rocket Power on Nickelodeon he heard Tom and Linda talking about Nick's mom. He knew that they were telling Lori all about it. It wasn't that they were dwelling on it. It was more that they were explaining Jim's being there with Nick on vacation, and he heard Tom and Linda telling Lori how proud they were of Jim. Nick couldn't hear his dad talking anymore so he knew that Jim was probably embarrassed by all of this, but Lori seemed to be touched by all of it and pretty soon she was talking to Jim again.

Not long after Lori turned her attention to Jim, Tom joined Nick in the family room. Nick handed his grandfather the remote, but Tom didn't change the channel. Nick laid his head on Tom's lap and asked, "Do my dad and Lori like each other?"

Tom laughed and said, "Well, I think if your Grandma has her way, they will soon."

Nick chuckled a little at the comment, but he figured that Linda probably was trying to fix his dad up with Lori. It was well past 10 o'clock when Linda came inside from the backyard patio leaving Lori and Jim alone out there. Nick lifted his legs up to his chest so that his Grandma could sit on the couch, then he laid them back down across her legs. After a while, he fell asleep watching Dragonball Z on Cartoon Network.

* * *

"Grandma, I don't think this is such a bright idea," Nick said as he looked on from behind the metal guardrail that separated him and Linda from Tom and Jim.

"It's ok, sweetheart," Linda replied reaching for Nick's hand as she spoke. "Let's just watch from back here. We'll get a better picture of their faces when they're falling." They watched as Tom and Jim were lifted several hundred feet into the air by a crane. A moment after they reached the top Tom gave a thumbs up and suddenly he and Jim were sailing back toward the ground. Nick noticed the terrified expression on both of their faces as they neared the ground at a high rate of speed and Linda took the opportunity to snap several pictures of them as they were falling. The ride attendant unharnessed the two men and Nick laughed as his dad and grandfather quickly walked toward the exit of the ride.

"Were you scared dad," Nick asked.

"Heck no," Jim said unconvincingly. "Your Grandpa and I were in complete control the whole time, weren't we Tom?"

Tom looked especially queasy as he made his way toward them. "Of course we were, son. There was nothing for us to be afraid of."

Nick smiled because he knew that they were both fibbing but he didn't press the issue. Instead he grabbed his father's hand and led the way to more rides. He was very excited to be at King's Dominion. It was all he thought about the night before when he learned that this would be the day that they were all going. He knew that in a few days he and Jim would be flying home, but this took his mind off of that. As glad as he was that he would get to see his other family he was upset about leaving Tom and Linda behind. He wondered why they had to move in the first place. They used to live in California, but they moved when Nick was one and had never returned, not even for a visit.

As the day was ending Nick started to get sad. He was having so much fun that he wanted the day to last forever. The park was closing soon though and it was time for them to leave.

"Can't we just go on one last ride, dad," Nick begged. Linda looked at him sympathetically then she gave Jim a "c'mon, let him" look, and Jim finally agreed.

After the ride was over they piled into the car and started the long drive back to Virginia Beach. They pulled into a Wendy's near the freeway and everyone got food. After he ate Nick leaned against his dad and fell asleep.

He woke up the next morning in the bed he had been sharing with his dad but he was alone. Jim was nowhere to be found. Nick crawled out of the bed and, after stopping to use the bathroom, he started down the stairs. He froze when he heard his dad talking to Tom and Linda.

"Jim, you won't have to work," he heard Tom say. "You can move here and go back to school if you want to. Linda and I will do whatever you need us to do."

"Tom, there's no way I could just move here and live off of you guys," Jim answered. "Look, I really want this for Nick and I think it would be good for me too, you know?"

There was a moment of silence and then Jim continued. "If I did decide to do this, it would have to be on my terms. I would need to have a job and Nick and I would need our own place to live. I'm not going to bring him here so he can see his dad be a bum."

"No one thinks that, son," Tom said. "Linda and I love you and Nick so much, and you know that. If you need help just tell us. We'll give you whatever you need."

"Just think about it, Jim," Linda said. "We just want you to have it easy for a change. Also, it would be nice to have family around us again."

Nick sat at the top of the stairs and listened to all of this feeling uncomfortable. He didn't like where this was going and he was scared to interrupt the adults. They were having an important conversation and if he came downstairs it would surely be over.

"What about my dad," Jim asked. "I don't know if I can just leave him out there like that with my brothers. You guys know what happens."

"Sometimes you need to think about yourself too, Jim," Tom answered. "I really like Nick a lot, but you have to do what's best for yourself and for Nick."

Nick had no idea that Tom knew his other grandfather. He couldn't believe that he heard him mentioned by name as if he and Tom were old friends.

"I just don't know, guys," Jim said. Nick heard him get up and move to the stairs, so Nick quietly made his way to the bedroom, where he layer on the bed and thought about what he just heard. After a while Jim opened the door and saw Nick lying down but awake so he went into the room and sat on the edge of the bed.

"Good morning, buddy," he said as he leaned down and kissed his son.

"Good morning, dad," Nick replied looking up at his dad nervously. Jim must have figured out that Nick overheard what was said because he sighed and told Nick to scoot over. Nick moved to the center of the bed and Jim lay next to him.

"What's the matter, son?" Jim said as he wrapped an arm around his son.

Nick looked at Jim and couldn't speak. He was scared and he was about to start crying. He did everything he could to keep the tears from falling but it was no use. He looked up at his dad and, trying to compose himself, he asked, "Are we moving here, dad?"

"Maybe, son," Jim answered honestly. "If we do it's gonna be because I think it's what's best for the both of us, ok?"

"Yes sir," Nick said still crying.

"Nick," Jim continued, "I don't want you to worry about this at all. You just need to let daddy worry about it. No matter what we do I'm always going to be here to protect you. Do you understand?" Nick nodded yes and wiped his eyes and Jim went on. "So, do you want to tell me why you were listening to our conversation?"

Nick knew he was busted. He looked at his dad and then looked down at the bedspread that he was laying on top of. He didn't have an answer but he knew that he had to say something or his punishment would be swift and painful. He tried to speak but the only thing that came out was more crying. Jim sighed loudly and gave Nick a squeeze with his arm.

"It's ok, son," Jim said in an understanding tone. "From now on I don't want you to give this another thought unless I come and talk to you about it, ok?"

"Yes, sir," was all Nick managed to get out before he started crying again. Nick knew that he wasn't going to be able to get this off of his mind but he didn't know what to do. In his own mind Nick was conflicted about what he really wanted. Jim rubbed Nick's back and spoke again.

"Son, I want you to spend a little bit of time alone with Grandma and Grandpa today," Jim said. "They're going to take you out to lunch and to the park."

"What are you going to do while we're gone, dad," Nick asked.

"I'm having lunch with a friend," Jim answered. Nick already knew he meant Lori. Jim was at her house more than a few times since the night they had dinner in the backyard and Nick could tell that they really liked each other. Nick was wondering if his Grandmother had anything to do with the lunch date his dad was having with Lori today.

Nick looked up at his dad and smiled through his tears. "You like her, don't you?" he said.

"And what if I do, young man?" Jim said smiling at his son.

"I like her to," Nick said. "She's nicer that Ho-livia."

Jim gave his son a stern look but his face turned into a smile and he chuckled a little. "Son, where did you learn to talk like that," he asked.

Nick was a little embarrassed but he answered honestly. "I heard you taking to Uncle Brandon about her. You guys were calling her that."

"Well, that was wrong of us, son," Jim said. "Her name is Olivia and that's what we'll call her from now on, ok?"

"Ok, dad," Nick answered.

"Let's get ready, son," Jim said, nudging Nick to get off the bed and move toward the door. "You need to take a shower and brush your teeth. I'll do your hair after breakfast."

Jim started to get out of the bed, but Nick tapped him on the shoulder. As he turned around Nick blew his morning breath into Jim's face, then hopped off the bed and ran toward the bathroom door closing it and locking it before Jim could seek his revenge.

After his shower Nick made his way back to the room to get dressed and from the bedroom window he could see his dad in the driveway leaning against Tom's Explorer and talking to Lori. He was holding both of her hands and smiling while they talked. Nick was shocked, though, when he saw his dad lean in and kiss her on the lips. This wasn't just a normal kiss either. It was taking a long time to end and he could tell that his dad was French kissing. Nick moved away from the window and went downstairs to the kitchen.

"Well, good morning sweetheart," Linda said as he made his way to the kitchen table.

"Good morning Grandma, good morning Grandpa," Nick said as he sat down. Linda brought him a small cup of juice and kissed him.

"Where's my dad?" Nick asked playing dumb. He didn't want anyone to find out that he was watching his dad make out from the bedroom window.

"He's outside talking to someone, kiddo," Tom said.

"Is he going to eat breakfast with us, Nick asked.

"I'm sure he will, honey," Linda answered. "He'll come in when he's done talking, ok?"

"Yes ma'am," Nick said. He was hoping that Tom or Linda would send him outside to get his dad so that he could see if Jim was still kissing Lori or not. Instead, Linda brought Nick a hot bowl of Grits and a side dish with grape jelly on it for the grits.

Nick was halfway through his bowl of grits when Jim walked into the kitchen and sat down at the table. He apologized for being late for breakfast and Tom and Linda just grinned widely at him. Nick knew that they knew what Jim was doing out front with Lori. He couldn't look his dad in the eye at the moment because he knew that if he did his dad might know that Nick was watching them from the window. So instead Nick concentrated on his grits and jelly.

After breakfast Nick sat still on the floor while Jim did his hair. Unfortunately for Nick he let his hair dry without having it brushed out and styled and now he had knots in his hair. Of course he blamed his dad for this. Jim promised that he was going to do Nick's hair when he got out of the shower but instead he was out front making out with Lori. Nick was in an especially foul mood by the time Jim was done removing the tangles.

"Hold still, son," Jim said, pushing Nick back down to the floor by the shoulders.

"Dad, it hurts bad," Nick complained.

"Well who let their hair dry without brushing it out", Jim asked in a lecturing tone. "Certainly not me."

Nick couldn't believe what he just heard his dad say. He was already angry about the pain he went through having the tangles removed topped with the anger he felt about his dad not being there to do his hair when he got out of the shower and then Jim made that last remark. What popped out of Nick's mouth next shocked him as much as it did Jim, Tom and Linda.

In a loud and angry voice Nick turned to Jim and said, "Shut up, dickhead!"

Jim's eyes got huge and he put the brush down. He stood up over Nick and in a calm but angry tone he said, "Nickolas James. Go sit in time out upstairs right now." With that, he snapped his fingers and in that same action his index finger pointed to the stairway. He had a look of fury on his face and Nick wasted no time scrambling to his feet and dashing up the stairs.

He sat on the bed and wondered what was going to happen to him for what he just said. Not only did he totally disrespect his dad by telling him to shut up but he managed to say a bad word and direct it at his father all at the same time. He got nervous when he heard footsteps coming toward the room. The door swung open and Linda stood in the doorway with an angry look on her face. She walked into the room and sat on the bed next to Nick who had never seen his grandmother angry with him before.

"I'm disappointed in you, Nick," she said in a soft voice. "You know better than that. Why would you say that to anyone?"

"I'm sorry, Grandma," Nick answered. "I don't know why I said it. Do you hate me now?"

Nick already knew the answer to this question and he didn't like the game he was playing but he thought that maybe he could drum up a little sympathy from his grandmother if he acted like he wasn't sure. Linda fell for it hook, line and sinker.

"Honey, you know I love you. We all do but right now we're all upset. Why did you do it, Nick?"

"I don't know, ma'am," Nick replied. "I just got mad that's all. He was pulling my hair."

"He was getting the tangles out, Nick," Linda said. "Your father was not pulling you hair and I doubt he ever would."

"He does when I'm in trouble sometimes," Nick tattled. "If he wants to spank me and he can't find his belt, he pulls it then." Nick was hoping to get a little more sympathy from his grandmother but his tactic was not working.

"I know your dad, Nick," she countered. "He would only spank you if he thought you needed a spanking."

"Is he mad at me," Nick asked.

"I think he was, but he isn't now," Linda said.

Now Nick was nervous. He had figured out long ago that if his dad was angry with him, he wouldn't be whipped. But if Jim had time to think about it and calm down, Nick could almost always count on a spanking.

"How long am I in time out for, grandma, "Nick asked.

"That's up to your dad," Linda said. "I'm going downstairs. I'm sure that he's going to be up to talk to you soon."

Linda got up and closed the door as she exited the room. Shortly after she left, Nick heard a different set of footsteps moving up the stairs. He saw the knob turn and the door open and Jim walked into the room. "Son, you need to stand up take your belt off," he said.

Nick didn't argue. Instead, he did what he was told. He tried one last time to escape his fate by giving Jim a look that he used when he wanted his way, but Jim simply held his hand out and Nick handed him the belt. Jim grabbed Nick by the wrist and raised his arm, then with the hand that was holding the belt, he pulled back and whipped Nick three times on the legs. Nick was wearing jeans, so the impact wasn't as severe as it would've been had he been wearing shorts. But it was enough to make Nick cry, and he cried hard as his dad led him back to the spot on the edge of the bed where he was sitting in time out before Jim came upstairs.

"You need to just sit here and think about why you got a spanking today, Nick," Jim said in a normal voice. "I'm sorry you earned a spanking and I'm sorry that it had to happen while we were visiting with Grandma and Grandpa, but you did earn this son. You know better than to talk that way to anyone, and you made it worse by using that kind of language in front of your Grandparents. What made you think that it would be ok for you to do that?" Nick didn't have an answer. He just sat there and cried and eventually Jim left the room. After a while, Nick laid down on the bed and continued crying until he fell asleep.

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