Author's Note: These are my original characters. Written May 2007.
Disclaimer: I am not making any money from this story.
Warning: Non consensual disciplinary spanking of a teen by a parental figure.

How To Save a Life


For the first time in a long time Frank didn't have a lunch meeting scheduled, and he wasn't quite sure what to do with himself. Hearing a knock on his office door, he said, "Come in."

His assistant, Louise, poked her head in the door and said, "I'm going to lunch."

Smiling Frank said, "You want company?"

Louise had two more years before she could retire. She had seen many bosses come and go over the past twenty years with the company, and she had only known Frank for a year, but she liked him better then most she had met. She smiled back and said, "I'm just going down to the café on the first floor."

Frank stood, and put on his suit jacket. "Sounds good to me."

Louise waited for him, and they went down together exchanging pleasantries. While they were waiting in line to order, Frank saw some flyers on the counter about a fundraiser for the local Big Brother Program and picked one up. Once they were sitting down Louise saw what he had in his hand and said, "Are you thinking about joining?"

Looking surprised Frank said, "No, I was going to donate."

Giving Frank an appraising look she said, "You should think about joining. Might do you some good."

Frank's eyebrows drew together in thought. Louise paused a few seconds wondering if she should butt into his thoughts, and eventually the mother and grandmother in her won out over the assistant. "In fact I think it would do you a world of good Mr. Shannon. You've been on your own now for over a year."

Frank looked back up at her and said, "I know but…."

Shaking her head and interrupting Louise said, "You're thirty two, in the prime of life. I understand that you're not ready to date again yet, but that doesn't mean that you should shut yourself away from other people in that big old mansion of yours all alone. You told me how much you and Alice wanted to have children. Why not reach out to someone in need? You might find that you get just as much out of it as the child."

Frank looked back down at the flyer that read, 'Please come and help us support the Big Brother program in Sunset park for the five mile walk-a-thon. Donations will be accepted at the booth near the entrance to the park from seven AM until noon.'

Frank said, "I'll think about it."

Giving him a decisive nod, Louise said, "Good. You do that."

Frank was too busy to think much about it for the rest of the afternoon, but when he got home that night he found the same flyer in one of the folders he had taken home. He did a double take and then smiled and thought, 'Very subtle Louise.'

He walked into the living room and picked up his favorite picture of Alice. It was one he took of her while hiking during their honeymoon in Hawaii. She was giving him her beautiful smile. He said to her, "What do you think sweetheart? Louise thinks I need to get out more. Not stay in this 'big old mansion' all by myself."

He sat down on the couch still holding her picture and the flyer and thought about it. The walk-a-thon was two weeks away, but Frank found himself calling for information about the program later that night.
**********

Kyle stumbled into the house and set his skateboard down by the hall closet with a thunk, which made him laugh. He was laughing as he went back and tried unsuccessfully to get his key out of the front door. He heard someone clear her throat and he turned around quickly to see his mother, Cheryl, sitting on the couch obviously pissed and waiting for him. His laughter died and he said, "Oh… Hi Mom."

"Hi Mom? It's twelve in the morning and all you have to say is 'Hi Mom.'?"

Kyle wrenched the key out of the lock and said, "Um… Why are you home so early?"

Cheryl couldn't decide if she should yell or cry. "I only worked half a day so I could be home for your birthday."

Kyle felt bad for a second, because he could tell his mom was trying to be nice, but the alcohol in his system quickly turned his guilt into self-riotous anger. "Well, maybe if you had told me about your plans, I would have been home."

Standing, crossing her arms, and raising her voice Cheryl said, "You should have been home anyway! Your curfew is ten o'clock."

"Some of my friends wanted to take me out for my birthday."

"You know Kyle, now I have to wonder about all those times you were 'in the bathroom' or 'sleeping' when I tried to call you from work when it was past ten."

Kyle took a step closer to her and yelled, "You know what Mom, I don't really care what you think! I can take care of myself."

"You just turned sixteen! You can't take care of yourself."

Glaring Kyle shouted, "Well it's not like you're around to take care of me!"

Cheryl felt that like a punch to the stomach. Her anger turned into guilt and regret. Uncrossing her arms, she took the few steps that separated her and her son. She put a hand up to his face and said, "Kyle honey, you know I have to work to keep the house now that your dad is nowhere to be found, and when I work nights I get extra."

Kyle lost some of his anger too. He looked away, "I know mom."

Cheryl got a big whiff of beer. "Have you been drinking?!"

Kyle backed a few steps away, tossed his hands in the air, and said, "I can't even talk to you when you're so judgmental! I'm going to bed!"

Cheryl yelled at his back as he walked away, "I've had it with you! You're getting more and more out of control, and it's gonna…"

Kyle's bedroom door slammed. Cheryl's voice lowered as she finished, "….stop."

Cheryl flopped down on the couch with a big sigh and tried not to break down into tears. She had gotten divorced when Kyle was five, and neither one of them had seen Kyle's father since. But up until three years ago she had been getting child support checks on and off when the government could find her ex and garnish his wages. Now she only had her income, and it wasn't really enough unless she worked nights. But that had left Kyle alone most evenings to fend for himself for the past two years. Now Cheryl wondered if that had been a big mistake.

She turned on the TV for some background noise as she sat and thought about what she should do. Then something caught her attention. It was a fluff piece about a local fundraiser that was happening tomorrow for the Big Brother program. There was a 1-800 number that flashed up on the screen, and without really thinking too much about it, Cheryl wrote it down.
*************

Frank went into work Monday morning with a smile. Louise greeted him and asked, "How did the fundraiser go this weekend?"

"I think it went well. They raised over ten thousand dollars."

Raising an eyebrow Louise said, "Ten thousand huh? And how much did you add to the pot?"

Frank turned a little pink still not entirely comfortable with his excessive wealth and mumbled, "I don't think that's relevant."

"So that means about half?"

Changing the subject Frank said, "My sponsor Phil said that they finally got my background check completed."

Smiling Louise said, "So you should be paired up with someone soon then?"

"I think so."

"Well once you do, you be sure to bring him by for everyone to meet."

Frank smiled back and said, "I definitely will."
**************

Cheryl looked over at her sullen son and said, "Can you try to be nice please?"

Kyle sneered, "You're making me do this retarded program even though you know I hate the idea, and you want me to be happy about it? Screw that."

Cheryl stood up straight and said, "You better snap out of it, or I swear I'm gonna… I'm gonna sell your skateboard on Ebay."

Kyle rolled his eyes and muttered, "Fine I'll play nice with the pedophile. Don't blame me when I need therapy a year from now."

Raising her voice Cheryl said, "They do all kinds of background checks on these people Kyle. Believe it or not, some people actually want to spend time with kids who don't have any father in their lives."

He refused to comment or look at her, and just turned on the TV to block her out.

She went into the kitchen to get out a snack tray and muttered, "Probably because they've never actually met a teenage boy."

While putting the tray on the kitchen table she heard the doorbell ring. She went back to the living room and turned off the TV on her way to the front door. Opening the door she saw a kind looking man in his thirties with sandy blond hair and blue eyes. Smiling she held out her hand and said, "You must be Frank."

Frank took her hand and shook it once. "Yes, and you must be Cheryl. It's nice to meet you."

Cheryl stood back and said, "Please come in."

Frank came in and saw a teenage boy sitting on the couch. They boy had pale skin and dark brown hair that was kind of long and flopping down into his face. Frank said, "And you must be Kyle."

Muttering under his breath Kyle said, "No I'm the Pope."

Frank was slightly surprised at that and looked back at Cheryl. Cheryl turned slightly pink and said, "Kyle."

Sighing dramatically Kyle stood up. He said unconvincingly, "Yeah, I'm Kyle. Nice to meet you."

Cheryl tried to cover and said, "Why don't you both come into the kitchen. I have some crackers and cheese out for everyone."

Frank followed her and said, "That sounds good."

A few minutes later they were all drinking some iced tea and eating a few snacks while sitting at the kitchen table. Cheryl asked, "So what do you do for a living Frank?"

"I'm the northwest regional manager for Thompson's Sporting Supplies."

"I've heard of them before."

"We're the largest sporting goods distributor in the United States."

Cheryl realized this meant he probably made good money. Frank asked, "How about you?"

Cheryl said, "I'm a nurse."

"That's nice."

There was a slightly awkward silence, and then Kyle asked, "What made you want to join the Big Brother program?"

Frank smiled at Kyle thinking it was a good sign that he actually had looked at him to ask the question. "Well my assistant at work put the idea in my head, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought it would be a good thing for me to do."

Squinting his eyes suspiciously Kyle asked, "Why?"

"My wife, Alice, and I always wanted to have children. We had talked about it quite a few times during the first three years of our marriage. But…. "

When Frank paused Kyle guessed, "You got divorced?"

Shaking his head Frank said, "She was diagnosed with cervical cancer about a month after she got her Masters in Sociology. Ironically she was getting a physical with the thought of trying to conceive soon when they found the first tumor. She died two years later after a few surgeries and some kemo that didn't work."

"I'm so sorry." Cheryl said with sincerity.

Frank took a drink of his ice tea and cleared his throat before he said, "That was over a year ago. We lived in Oklahoma back then, but after she was gone…. I needed a change and transferred to the California branch."

Frank looked over at Kyle and said, "Why did you want to join the program?"

Kyle felt a little bad for jumping to conclusions, but not bad enough to keep the irritation out of his voice when he answered. "I didn't want to join. Mom signed me up without asking."

Cheryl thought maybe Frank would get up and leave after that comment, but he just turned to her with a slight smile and said, "Okay then, why did you decide to join him up?"

Cheryl took a deep breath and said, "I think Kyle needs a positive male influence in his life right now. I work nights Tuesday through Saturday, and Kyle is by himself. I just… worry about him."

Kyle sat back in his chair and crossed his arms defensively. "You mean you don't trust me. It was one night Mom."

Cheryl hadn't really wanted to bring it up first thing, but since Frank hadn't been scared away yet, she decided to give him the full story. She ignored Kyle and said to Frank, "A few days ago Kyle came home drunk at midnight when he didn't know I would be home to catch him. It was kind of the last straw, so I signed him up."

Kyle looked away from both adults and said, "I wasn't drunk, and the only reason I even had a beer is because my friends found out it was my birthday. I told you that already, but you're still acting like I'm out taking meth every night or something."

"Oh trust me mister, if I thought you were doing any kind of drugs I would be calling the authorities, not signing you up for this program."

Frank observed Kyle and saw his jaw clenching in anger, but he refused to answer. There was another awkward silence. Then Frank said, "What kinds of things do you like to do with your spare time Kyle?"

"My friends and I go to the skate park a lot."

"I remember going to the roller skating rink when I was younger. I always thought it was fun."

Sneering at Frank and speaking to him as if he were slightly retarded Kyle said, "Skateboarding. My friends and I are into skateboarding not roller skating."

Frank could tell Kyle didn't think much of roller skating. Frank nodded and said, "Ah, of course. It seems the older I get the less cool everything I loved about my childhood is. So tell me what you like about skateboarding."

Kyle said with little enthusiasm, "Learning to do new tricks, especially when they are hard and I know not very many other people can do them."

"How often do you practice?"

"Every day if I can."

"So you must be pretty good by now."

Kyle shrugged. "I guess."

"What else do you like to do?"


There was a slight pause and then Kyle said, "Just hanging out with my friends."

"How about reading? Have you read any good books lately?"

Giving Frank a look of disdain Kyle said, "I have to read stuff for school, but I wouldn't call any of it good."

"How about comics then? Do you enjoy those?"

Kyle scoffed, "Not likely."
Frank nodded, "Right, not cool again. Any other sports you like?"

Kyle shook his head no. Frank wasn't put off, "What about girls? Any special girl in your life?"

Kyle rolled his eyes and said, "No. I mean I like girls and all, but I don't have any special girl."

Frank smiled knowing Kyle thought his use of the word special had been lame as well. Frank didn't mind. Alice had often called him a dork with affection. He knew he was, he just didn't care. Frank pretended not to notice and said, "That's too bad. How about movies or TV? Are you a movie buff?"

Kyle almost turned to his mother and asked where they had found such a nerd, but kept himself under control. He said, "I like TV and movies just fine, but I'm not one of those obsessive people who have to see a certain show every week, or who wait in line for a movie on opening night."

"What about outdoor recreation like hiking or swimming?"

Kyle shook his head, "Outdoor recreation? Did you get that from a catalog of things to ask or something?"

Frank smiled even wider and said, "Nope, that's just the way I talk. But you didn't answer the question."

Kyle said, "I like to swim."

Happy to find something Kyle liked, Frank said, "I have a pool at my place. Maybe sometime you can come over and go swimming. Maybe bring a few friends over if you like."

Cheryl happy to see Frank wasn't offended by her son's sullen behavior decided to put in her two cents. "Actually Frank I was hoping we could work out a little schedule. One of the reasons I wanted to sign Kyle up is because I want him to have a little closer supervision than he has been getting for the past couple of years."

Kyle whined, "Moooommm."

She continued, "I have Sunday and Monday off, but work most of the afternoon and evening on Saturday."

Frank nodded and said, "I would be happy to spend time with Kyle on Saturdays."

Cheryl smiled and said, "Good. And please feel free to tell me you don't have the time for this, because I know we all live busy lives, but I was also hoping we could squeeze in one or two nights a week when Kyle could have dinner with you."

Kyle sighed loud enough that everyone in the room knew he wasn't happy about this. Frank said, "I have no friends or family that live here in town, so I'm free most nights. I work not too far from your house. Kyle could ride the bus to my work on Tuesday and Thursday after school, and I could take him home to have dinner with me. Then I could drop him off back at home around eight or nine."

Cheryl couldn't put her finger on why, but she felt relief wash over her. It was like she knew in that moment that she had made the right choice by signing up for this program, and that all her worries about Kyle turning into a criminal were going to be assuaged. Smiling at Frank she said, "That sounds perfect."

Frank turned to Kyle and said, "What do you say, are you willing to give it a try?"

Kyle knew his mom wouldn't be giving up on the idea, and if the guy really did have a swimming pool, then he was willing to give it a try for a little while. "Sure."
***************

Tuesday afternoon Kyle got on a different bus and went to the address Frank had given him. He got off the bus and looked way up at the building in front of him. It was about thirty stories high. Looking back at his note Kyle went into the lobby. The front desk security guard glared at him as he walked in. Kyle opened his mouth, but the security guard beat him to it. "You can't bring your skateboard in here kid."

Kyle glared at him and said, "Well I'm not giving it to you."

"Then you can just turn around and get out of here. You and your punk ass friends are always bumming money off the decent folks that work here. Go get a job or something."

Kyle knew Frank was waiting for him, and he knew he should just give the guard Frank's name like the note said, but he was kind of pissed. He was about to turn around and leave when he heard the elevator open. Frank came out and saw Kyle there. He smiled and said, "Hey there Kyle, did you have any trouble on the bus?"

Shaking his head Kyle said, "It was fine."

The security guard stammered out, "Mr. Shannon… you… know this boy?"

Frank searched his memory for the guard's name and said, "Yes, Marshall is it?"

Marshall nodded. Frank put a hand on Kyle's shoulder and said, "This here is my little brother Kyle. He'll be coming to see me every Tuesday and Thursday around this time. I'd appreciate it if you could keep an eye out for him. Make sure no one gives him a hard time and all that."

Kyle had looked back and forth between Marshall and Frank, and could tell Marshall seriously regretted making assumptions. Kyle got an evil smile and said in a super sweet voice, "Hey Marshall is it okay if I bring my skateboard up to Frank's office."

Marshall coughed a little and his cheeks were slightly flushed as he said, "Yes of course. Nice to meet you Kyle."

Frank seemingly oblivious patted Kyle's shoulder and said, "Come on up, and I'll introduce you."

Kyle followed Frank to the elevator. Once the elevator doors closed Frank hit floor number 30 and said, "How was school today?"

"Fine."

"What kinds of things did you learn about?"

Kyle gave Frank a sideward glance to see if he was serious. Kyle shrugged, "Math and stuff."

"How specific. What kind of math? Algebra perhaps?"

Kyle sighed and said, "Yeah that's right."

"What other classes are you taking?"

Kyle wondered if glaring at the elevator panel would make it go faster. He answered, "I have English, World History, Biology, P.E., and Art."

"What is your favorite subject?"

Kyle changed the subject, "Did you come down just to meet me in the lobby?"

Frank looked down at Kyle and gave him a sheepish look. "It's not that I didn't trust you to make it to my office by yourself. I was just kind of anxious to make sure no one gave you a hard time your first visit. We don't get many teenage visitors around here."

Wondering if Frank was being honest, Kyle nodded and fell silent. Soon they were on the correct floor, and the elevators opened to show them a reception area. There were three women and one man sitting at desks answering phones and doing general office work. The lady who was at the front desk looked up and smiled at Kyle. "You must be Kyle, I'm Pamela."

"Hi."

Frank introduced Kyle all around, and Kyle found himself feeling underdressed in his black Green Day tee-shirt, and torn blue jeans. Frank headed towards his office and Kyle followed. He could feel everyone's eyes on him as they walked away. Frank opened the door to a large room which had it's own front desk where an elderly woman sat waiting for them with a smile. Frank said, "Kyle, this is my personal assistant, Louise. And Louise this is my little brother Kyle."

Louise held out her hand and as Kyle shook it she said, "It's very nice to meet you young man."

Kyle muttered, "Nice to meet you too."

Heading to the office that was off to the left Frank said, "This is my office."

Walking to the window Kyle saw the view and said, "Damn!"

Sounding concerned Frank said, "Are you afraid of heights?"

Kyle shook his head. "No, it's just…. It's a nice view."

Frank stood next to him and looked out as well. "I suppose it is."

Frank turned and said, "Come on, I'll show you where you can put your stuff down."

Kyle followed Frank and they went to the office that was to the right of Louise's desk. It was a small conference room with a table and chairs in the center. This room also had an impressive view. Frank said, "We don't use this room much, so while you are waiting for me to finish up with work, this will be your area. If we do have a meeting, you can stay in my office or visit with Louise."

Kyle kept his eyes on the view and said, "Okay."

Frank looked at his watch. He had a conference call in ten minutes. He said, "Why don't you start on your homework. That way you can be done with it by the time we head for my house, and we can spend some time in the pool after we eat."

Shaking his head Kyle said, "I don't have homework."

Frank wasn't sure what to say to that. "You're a sophomore in High School. I doubt things have changed that much since I was there. You must have some kind of homework to do."

Kyle turned and lied, "I did it all on the bus ride here."

Frank wasn't sure how Kyle was going to stay entertained for the next hour if he didn't have any homework to do. "Do you have anything to keep you occupied for the next hour before I get off work?"

Kyle shrugged. "I have an MP3 player in my pack."

"Okay good. I have a conference call in a few minutes here, and it will take at least half an hour, so if you need anything, just ask Louise."

"Okay."

Frank left to do his conference call, and Kyle spent most of his time just watching what was going on outside thirty floors below while listening to music.

When Frank was done working he took Kyle out to the parking garage. Kyle was kind of surprised that everyone they passed in the building seemed to know Frank, or 'Mr. Shannon', as they all called him. Kyle had been to the hospital when his mom was working before, and people all seemed to know her name too, but it was somehow different, and he couldn't figure out why.

In the parking garage Frank walked over to a sleek black new BMW. Kyle whistled and said, "Company car?"

Frank hit the button that unlocked the doors and got in along with Kyle. He said, "No, it's mine."

Kyle said, "Damn."

Frank looked over at him as he started the car and said, "What kind of food do you like to eat?"

"Pizza."

"What kind of food do you like to eat that's healthy?"

"Pizza with sausage?"

"Let's try this again. Is there anything you're allergic to, or anything you hate to eat?"

"No I guess not."

Frank used his hands free phone and called someone. He said, "Hi Missy, could we have grilled chicken, rice, and green beans for dinner?"

Kyle wondered if they were going to a fancy restaurant. Frank said, "Yes that sounds fine. Thank you. Bye."

Once Frank was done talking Kyle said, "Where are we going?"

"Home. Well to my home anyway."

There was some silence, and then Kyle put his headphones on. Frank thought about asking him to take them off, but in the end just concentrated on driving.

Thirty minutes later they drove up to Frank's house and Kyle sat there with his mouth hanging open for a few seconds. It was the biggest house he had ever seen. Frank pushed a button and a garage door opened. Frank parked the BMW next to a nicely restored 1940's Jaguar. Kyle got out and looked the Jaguar over. He pulled the earphones out of his ears and said, "Damn!"

Sighing Frank said, "I think we need to work on getting you a bigger vocabulary."

Kyle was too focused on the car to notice anything Frank said. "Is this yours too?"

Looking away with pain obvious on his face he said, "It's mine now."

Kyle turned to Frank with a grin and said, "It's totally awesome."

Touching the car lightly Frank said, "It was my father-in-law's car. I've never taken it out for a spin, but if you like it, we could go for a short drive later tonight."

"Yeah. I'd like that."

Frank put a hand on Kyle's shoulder and said, "Come on in and meet my housekeeper and cook Missy."

"You have a friggin housekeeper?"

Frowning Frank said, "You swear a lot."

Rolling his eyes Kyle said, "I said frigging, not fucking, and Damn isn't a swear word. Jesus."

Frank squeezed Kyle's shoulder and said, "I don't like swearing Kyle. I understand as a teenager your friends are going to expect you to talk like them, but when you're around me I would appreciate it if you could keep it clean."

Shrugging Frank's hand off his shoulder Kyle said, "Whatever man."

Frank didn't like that answer but they were at the door to the house, and it opened for them before they could open it. A short plump woman in her late sixties opened the door for them. She was smiling and looked cheerful. She came out and said, "You must be Kyle. Let me take a look at you."

She put her hands on the sides of his face and tilted his head up to look at it. Kyle was startled enough that he didn't really react much. She brushed the bangs out of his eyes and looked at him for a second. She tutted, "Much too thin. We'll have to fix that."

She let him go and turned to Frank. "Dinner will be ready in five minutes. Go wash up."

"Yes ma'am."

The woman gave Frank an affectionate pat on the cheek and went back into the house. Kyle turned to Frank and said, "You call your cook ma'am?"

Frank said, "Come on, I'll show you around."

They walked into a large kitchen where Missy was busy stirring something on the stove. Frank took them through a spacious dining room and then into a living room. Off to the side of the living room was the main entryway to the house. Kyle looked up and could see the ceiling two stories above, with a huge crystal chandelier in the center. He saw a curving staircase that led up to the second floor and said, "D… Wow. This place is huge. Like it's straight out of MTV cribs or something."

Frank smiled, appreciating Kyle's effort on the swearing, and headed towards the staircase. "Come on, I'll show you the upstairs."

Kyle followed and Frank showed him three of the upstairs rooms. As he showed Kyle each room he said, "This is my bedroom. This is the main upstairs bathroom. And this will be your room if you ever need one at my house."

Kyle looked down the hall and saw at least four more doors. He said, "What's down there."

"More bedrooms. They don't get used."

Frowning Kyle said, "Are you like some weirdo millionaire who lives alone because you're all crazy or something?"

Frank burst out laughing for a few seconds while shaking his head no. When he could finally talk again he said, "I'll tell you the story over dinner. Go put your backpack and skateboard in your room and then wash your hands. Think you can find the dining room again?"

Giving Frank a wary look, Kyle nodded in the affirmative. Frank walked into his bedroom still chuckling and shut the door behind him. Kyle shook his head and muttered, "Fucking weird."

Kyle put his stuff in 'his' bedroom and looked around a little bit. He looked out the window and saw a huge lawn out back with no visible fence or other houses in the distance. He shook his head and said, "Damn."

He looked around and saw that there was not only a flat screen TV, but also a Nintendo system on the dresser. He saw there was a desk and opened it to find some new office supplies and some Nintendo games still in their wrappers. He muttered to himself, "Yeah Mom, he's nothing like a psychopathic pedophile."

He put the game away, and went to wash his hands, even though he wasn't sure why. He went down to the dining room and saw there were two places set. He walked around the room looking at some artwork on the walls, and at some of the glassware in the china hutch. A few minutes later Frank came in. He had changed out of his suit, and was now wearing jeans and a tee-shirt. Frank gave Kyle a small smile as he walked past him and into the kitchen.

A few seconds later Missy and Frank both brought some serving bowls in and set them on the table. Once all the food was out Missy said, "All right then. There's pie in the oven, be sure to get it out when the bell dings."

"Thank you Missy, it all smells wonderful." Frank said.

Missy gave him a short hug and said, "There's a small casserole for you in the refrigerator for tomorrow, and I'll see both of you on Thursday."

"Drive safe."

Missy looked at Kyle and said, "You clean your plate now, and have some pie. If there's anything special you want me to make for Thursday just let Frank know."

Kyle nodded, not really sure what to say. Missy left, and Frank sat down. Kyle sat as well and both of them put food on their plates and started eating. Kyle asked, "You said you would tell me your story."

Frank swallowed and said, "Well I already told you about my wife, this house belonged to her family when she was growing up. Missy was their housekeeper since before Alice was born. Actually her name isn't even Missy. It's a nickname that Alice gave her when she was tiny because she couldn't pronounce Mrs. Eli. Alice's mom died when she was ten in a car accident. Alice and her father, Oliver Thompson, were very close while she was growing up. Oliver founded Thompson Sporting Supplies and made literally millions."

"Alice and I met in college when I was a TA and Alice was in the class I was helping with. We fell in love and eventually married. I met her father and got to know him before I knew they were well off. I looked about the same way you did when you walked in here the first time, but I was so in love with Alice it just didn't matter that much to me either way. When I got my degree Oliver offered me a job with the Oklahoma branch of his company and I took it. Then when Alice got sick…."

"It's like time stopped for everyone who loved her. Even with the best medical care there was nothing that could be done."

Frank paused for a few seconds looking down at his plate, and Kyle wondered if that was all Frank was going to say. Finally Frank added, "Two weeks after Alice's funeral my father-in-law shot himself in the head. There were no other relatives. He left everything to me, including his shares in the company. Well that's not exactly true. He left Missy a substantial amount. Enough that all her grandkids can go to college without having to pay, and enough that she won't take any pay from me when she comes over and cleans the house and makes me food."

Kyle really wanted to ask exactly how much Frank was worth, but he could tell Frank had been upset from talking about it so he didn't. After a few minutes of quite eating Kyle said, "So why did you decide to live here? You said you guys had been in Oklahoma?"

"I grew up in Oklahoma. My folks and sister still live there. Alice and I had a nice house, and a good life there. I tried staying there, but I just couldn't. I don't know why. I thought living here would keep me close to her, but not in a painful way. Not sure if it worked, or if just enough time has gone by, but I am better now then I was six months ago."

They both heard a bell go off in the kitchen and Frank got up to get the pie out of the oven. When he came back he saw that Kyle was done eating and asked, "Do you have your driver's license or your permit?"

"I have my permit. Mom hasn't had time to take me to get my license yet."

"Do you know how to drive a stick?"

"Yeah."

"You want to take the Jaguar out for a little drive?"

Kyle's eyes opened a little wider. "You serious?"

"Sure."

Kyle thought about it for a second and then smiled a genuine smile, "Okay."

An hour later they were back, and Frank was complementing Kyle on his driving abilities. Kyle shrugged and said, "As soon as I got my permit Mom made me drive us everywhere so I would get a lot of practice."

They had pie, and a little later Frank drove Kyle home.
****************

Thursday was very similar to Tuesday except that after dinner instead of taking a drive, Kyle went swimming while Frank read a book by the side of the pool. When Saturday rolled around Kyle found he was almost looking forward to Frank coming over. Frank pulled up to the house about noon, and Kyle went out to meet him. Getting out of his car Frank said, "I see you're up and ready to go."

"So what are we gonna do today?"

"Have you had lunch yet?"

"Nope."

"Good. Get your stuff, and come on, I have an outing planned for us."

Rolling his eyes with a slight smile at Frank's choice of words, Kyle turned and went back into the house. He came out a few seconds later with his MP3 player, and his skateboard. Cheryl came out too and said, "Hi Frank, how has it been going?"

"I think it's been going well. What do you think Kyle?"

Kyle shrugged. "It's okay."

Smiling Cheryl said to Frank, "That means he's having a good time with you."

Kyle rolled his eyes and got into the BMW not wanting the conversation to linger. Frank said, "I'll have him home between eight and nine again."

"Sounds good. I'll call him from work around nine thirty."

Frank gave her a nod and as he was getting in the car he said, "See you later."

Once they were on the road and Frank asked, "Have you ever been fishing before?"

"No."

"Really?"

"Really."

After a short pause Frank said, "How old were you when your Dad left?"

"Five."

"And he never took you fishing?"

Kyle snorted, "No. I don't remember much about my dad, but the little bits I do remember are of him sitting in front of the television, smoking and drinking beer."

Kyle looked out the window and his voice got lower as he said, "I can't remember him taking me anywhere. I remember him yelling at me to shut up a lot, and my mom taking me out of the house when something important like a game was on TV so I wouldn't annoy him. Him and mom were always fighting about money, and about me. I'm glad he's never come back to see us. Sucks for mom that she's not getting any more money from him, but I'd rather not have his money. Don't want to feel like I owe him anything you know?"

Frank thought about it and then shook his head, "I can't say I understand exactly how you feel having never been in that situation, but I think it's a valid way to feel towards him."

Kyle was sucked into his own thoughts for a while. The next time his mind focused on something other then his inner thoughts he realized they were parking. He looked around and said, "Where are we?"

"It's a little lake where Alice and I went the first time I came to California to visit with her family. There are some picnic tables over there where we can eat the lunch I packed, and we can do some fishing if you're into it. I got a couple of licenses for the day."

Kyle looked over at Frank, not quite believing that people really did 'outings' like this. Frank said, "What do you say?"

Kyle thought, 'What the Hell?' and shrugged. "Sure."

Frank got stuff out of the trunk, and Kyle walked over to the picnic tables and looked around. He had to admit it was pretty. Soon Kyle had scarffed down lunch, and Frank was showing him how to cast a line.

An hour later Frank could tell the novelty had worn off, and Kyle was bored. It didn't help that neither one of them had had any bites. Frank reeled his line in and said, "Looks like the fish aren't cooperating today. We can try another day if you're ready to stop for now. Is there anything you'd like to do?"

Kyle wasn't sure if it would go over well, but he decided to be honest. "I spend most Saturday's over at the skate park."

"Ah right, how silly of me not to remember that. I don't mind taking you over there for the afternoon as long as you don't mind being seen with me in front of your friends."

Kyle looked out at his fishing line and started reeling it in while he thought about that. He had been thinking Frank would drop him off and pick him up. He wasn't sure if he was okay with his friends meeting Frank. After his line was in, he handed the pole to Frank and said, "You could just drop me off for a while."

Frowning Frank said, "I'm here to spend time with you on Saturdays, so if you're too embarrassed to introduce me to your friends, then I guess we should pick another activity."

Kyle worried that maybe he had hurt Frank's feelings and tired to cover, "No, it's not that I'm embarrassed about introducing you I just…… thought you might have other things you needed to do."

Frank's frown deepened. "It's okay if you're too embarrassed to tell your friends about the big brother program, and if you're too embarrassed to introduce me around. I know I'm not a cool guy. But I'm not going to just drop you off somewhere. That defeats the purpose of the program."

Kyle knew Frank had done everything in his power to be nice to him so far, and felt bad that Frank knew Kyle would be embarrassed about introducing him to his friends. Kyle took a deep breath and said, "Let's go to the skate park. I'll let you meet my friends."

Smiling Frank said, "Sounds good."

An hour later they pulled up to the skate park. Frank could see Kyle fidgeting in his seat, and knew he was nervous about introducing him to his friends. They got out of the car and walked towards a large cemented area where there were at least ten other kids with skateboards. The cement area was obviously built with skateboarders in mind. It was quite large, and there were wooden structures on two sides that curved up seven feet into the air. Frank saw some of the kids skating from side to side going up the slopes and turning in mid air to then skate to the other side.

A few of the kids saw Kyle coming and started to either wave or smile until they saw Frank walking next to him. Frank noticed all the skating stopped and some of the kids looked ready to bolt as they watched him warily. Kyle walked up to one of the older looking kids and gave him a half hearted punch in the shoulder and said, "Hey."

The kid didn't take his eyes off Frank as he said, "What's up Kyle?"

Kyle looked over at Frank and said, "This is Frank. He's my mom's cousin. He just moved here last week, so I'm showing him around."

Frank raised one eyebrow and gave Kyle a somewhat displeased look. Kyle turned to his friend and said, "This is my friend Matt."

Frank didn't want to embarrass Kyle in front of his friends, so he decided to let the lie go for now. He held out his hand and said, "Hello Matt, nice to meet you."

Matt regarded the hand for a few seconds without taking it and said, "Hi."

Kyle moved along and pointed at the various kids standing around and named them all for Frank. Frank didn't try to shake any other hands, but he noticed that most of them were friendlier then Matt had been. Kyle pointed to a few benches that were over to the side and said, "If you want to watch for a while you can sit over there."

Frank nodded and went to go sit down. Once he was out of earshot he saw a few of the other kids talking quietly with Kyle. He was sure he was the topic of conversation, but wasn't sure what they were talking about. A few minutes later they apparently decided he was an all right addition to the day, and everyone started skating again.

Frank watched for the next two hours and had trouble staying in his seat a few times when he saw Kyle up at the top of the seven-foot wall upside down with one hand on the edge of the ramp, and the rest of his body in the air. As he watched he noted that about half the kids wore helmets. Kyle and Matt were in the non-helmet group. He also noticed that Kyle and Matt were the best skaters and were able to do many more tricks then the others. Frank was duly impressed with Kyle's skills.

Frank kept track of the time on his watch, and after three hours he decided he had seen enough close calls that his blood pressure couldn't take anymore. He got up and walked towards Kyle. Again he noticed again that most of the skating stopped and the kids all kept their eyes on him. He figured most adults stayed away from this area. Kyle saw him and skated up to him. Kyle flipped his skateboard up to his hand by flicking it with his foot and said, "Yeah?"

Frank said, "Time to go."

Kyle looked disappointed but didn't want to ask Frank if they could stay longer, because he didn't want Frank to tell him no in front of his friends. He nodded and said good bye to some of his friends before following Frank back to his car. On the way Frank said, "It's five, are you hungry yet?"

"I could eat."

"Since it's Saturday I thought we could go out to eat. Is there someplace you'd like to go?"

"Genie's pizza is good."

Frank smiled and handed Kyle the car keys, "Pizza sounds good. I assume you know where it is, because I haven't heard of it."

Kyle took the car keys with a smile. As soon as they were in the car and on the road Frank said, "Why did you lie to your friends about who I am."

Trying to shrug it off Kyle said, "Seemed like an easier explanation."

Frank could see Kyle gripping the steering wheel harder even though his words sounded casual. Frank gave him a non-committal, "Hmmm."

After a few seconds of awkward silence Kyle darted his eyes over to Frank who was looking out the front. Kyle said, "Are you mad about it or something?"

"I wouldn't say mad. I'd say I'm a little disappointed that you thought the opinion of your friend was more important than your own integrity."

Frowning Kyle thought about that. He wanted to jump in and deny it, but as he thought about it, he realized he couldn't. The more he thought about it, the more embarrassed he was about it. He pulled up to the pizza place in a bad mood at having been read so clearly, and at having it pointed out to him. He gave the keys back to Frank before getting out of the car, and headed into the restaurant without saying anything.

Frank caught up with him inside and said, "You go ahead and order. I like anything on pizza."

Kyle ordered a large pepperoni since it was the special and then afterwards realized the price wouldn't matter in the least to Frank. Frank added two side salads and handed one plate to Kyle as he said, "I want to be able to tell your mother I gave you something healthy."

Kyle took it and went to the salad bar still thinking about what Frank had said even though he was trying not to. He was irritated that Frank's comment was having such an effect on him. They ate quietly for a few minutes, until Frank said, "You're very good on your board. Better then anyone else at the park besides Matt, and you might even be better then him."

The words made Kyle smile a little. "Thanks."

"Some of the stuff you did must have taken hours of practice. That thing you do at the top of the ramp where you hold on with one hand is especially impressive. How long did it take you to learn that?"

Kyle was suddenly more talkative then Frank had ever seen him. They spent the next half an hour talking skateboarding.

As he listened Frank couldn't help but think about Kyle not wearing a helmet, and before dinner was over he decided to do something about it. He asked Kyle a few questions while trying not to be too obvious about it. He asked, "Are some boards better then others for doing stunts?"

And a few minutes later, "Is your board exactly right for what you do, or would a different board be better?'

Then as they were getting up to leave Frank asked, "Is there someplace you like to go look at boards? Some sports store, or skating store?"

Kyle said, "I like to go to Skate World sometimes."

Frank knew where that was. Thompson's Sporting Supplies sold to them fairly regularly. They got into the car and Frank turned to look at Kyle before he started it up. He said, "I'd like to make a deal with you."

Kyle gave Frank a wary look and said, "What kind of deal?'

"I noticed that when you skate you don't wear a helmet."

Kyle made a face and a curse word slipped out as he realized where this would be headed. Frowning at Kyle's choice of words, Frank said, "What's that for?"

Kyle sighed and said, "Look, I used to wear a helmet when I was first learning, and if I try to do a new stunt I do put one on, but they're a pain, and they look stupid."

Frank raised one eyebrow and said, "But everyone with brain damage looks super cool."

Kyle rolled his eyes, crossed his arms defensively and turned to look out the front window. He said, "Are you gonna tell my mom?"

Frank hadn't thought about that. "Does she know you skate without one?"

Kyle clamped his mouth shut and refused to answer, in effect giving Frank an answer. Frank sighed and said, "Tell you what, if you agree to my deal, I won't tell her."

Kyle gave in a little and turned towards Frank to show he was listening. Frank said, "We go to Skate World and you pick out any board you want along with all the accessories including a helmet. Then every time you use it, you agree to wear the helmet."

Kyle just sat there for a few seconds, not quite sure he understood correctly. He uncrossed his arms and said, "You're offering to get me a new skateboard?"

"Any board you want, no matter how much it costs."

Kyle gave a little laugh and said, "Hell yeah I agree to the deal!"

Frank smiled and turned on the car. "Okay then, let's go."

Two hours later Kyle had the skateboard of his dreams in his lap as they were driving back to his house. He couldn't take his eyes off it, and he thanked Frank for the third time. This time instead of saying 'you're welcome' again Frank said, "I'm serious about this being a deal Kyle. You wear your helmet when you ride it. If I see you without it…."

Kyle was too happy to listen and interrupted. "I know. I'll wear it."

Frank was pleased as well. They pulled up to Kyle's house about eight thirty and Kyle noticed his mom's car in the driveway. He said with concern, "Mom's here."

Frank and Kyle both got out and met a very irate Cheryl at the door. Cheryl focused on Kyle and said, "Kyle James Hyatt, do you know what came in the mail today?"

Kyle could see a paper in her hand and realized his grades had come. He had a sinking sensation in his stomach and wished Frank had just dropped him off and driven away. Kyle blushed and looked away as he lied, "No."

Cheryl waved the paper in front of his face and said, "These are the worst grades I have ever seen from you! How can you be getting a D in Algebra? You used to love Math. Three C's, two D's, and a B are unacceptable. I got a letter that says I have to have a conference with your guidance counselor this next week. What the Hell Kyle? Don't you have any sense of responsibility? What do you have to say for yourself?"

Kyle shrugged and said nothing. Cheryl yelled, "That's not an answer!"

Needing to get away, Kyle tried walking past her to his room, but she put a hand on his arm. She said, "I took the rest of the night off work to talk to you about this, I expect some answers young man."

Kyle glared at her and yelled, "You want answers? Fine! I'm a total loser just like Dad, and you shouldn't bother taking time out of your busy schedule to worry about me!"

Kyle wrenched his arm out of her hand and stormed off towards his room. Cheryl yelled after him, "Don't you dare compare yourself to your father! I raised you to be better then him, and I know you know the difference. You're grounded until these grades improve!"

He muttered, "Whatever." as he slammed the door to his room.

Cheryl took a deep breath to calm herself down and turned to shut the front door only to find Frank standing there looking both surprised and dismayed at what he had just seen. Cheryl had known he was there, she was just too upset about the whole thing to wait until he was gone to start yelling. She looked down and said, "I'm sorry you were here to see that."

Frank cautiously put a hand on her shoulder and said, "It's okay. Sounds like you've had a hard day."

Cheryl was surprised by the kindness she heard in his voice and looked up at him. "I know he can do so much better then this, and I just… I don't want to see him drop out of school."

Frank held out his other hand and said, "Can I see."

Cheryl handed it over. Looking it over Frank shook his head and said, "I can see why you'd be angry."

He handed it back to her, and she sighed as she took it. Frank said, "Have you had any dinner yet?"

She shook her head no. He said, "How about I come in and make you something to eat while you sit and relax. We can talk about what might help Kyle do better in school."

Cheryl thought, 'I shouldn't talk to him about the problems with Kyle. I should deal with it on my own.' But what came out of her mouth was, "Okay."

Frank walked all the way in and shut the door behind him. They went into the kitchen and Cheryl found herself pouring her heart out to him. They were both surprised when Frank realized an hour had passed. Frank said, "I really should be going soon, but before I go I have to ask you something, and then tell you about today."

Feeling much better then she had before Cheryl said, "Go ahead."

"How do you feel about bribery?"
***************

Sunday Kyle spent most of the day in his room avoiding his mother and looking longingly at his new skateboard. He did a little bit of studying to appease her, and was irritated when she told him he was still grounded until his grades went up.

Monday Kyle was happy to go to school – he couldn't remember the last time that had happened - because it would get him away from his mother, and he could finally ride his new skateboard for a few minutes before school. He didn't even mind putting on the new helmet before he went out the door.

He had a fairly typical day in school until the last class of the day when someone interrupted his teacher with a note that said Kyle was supposed to report to the office. As he walked to office, Kyle couldn't help but wonder what was going on. Once he got to the office, the secretary told him he didn't need to take the bus because his mom was meeting with his counselor. Slouching down in one of the office chairs to wait, Kyle thought about how much report cards sucked. He knew his grades sucked, he just didn't care, because he planned to skateboard professionally. But he also knew his mom would never be okay with that as a carrier choice.

Kyle heard the last bell ring, and watched while the other kids left. He watched the clock, and as the time went by he started getting more nervous about what might be going on in that meeting. Half an hour later he was shocked to see not only his mother, but also Frank coming out of the guidance counselor's office.

Kyle stood and waited for them to come over to him. Frank gave Kyle a very serious look without the hint of a smile and said, "Starting tomorrow you're spending that hour at my office with a tutor."

Frank ignored Kyle's glare and turned to Cheryl. He put a hand on her shoulder and said, "Thanks again for inviting me. I'll give you a call tonight to let you know what I've found."

Cheryl put her hand on top of his to give it a squeeze and said, "Thank you for coming."

Frank nodded once and turned back towards Kyle. Before Frank could say anything Kyle said, "I don't need a fucking tutor."

Frank leaned down into Kyle's personal space with a glare of his own and said in a calm voice that Kyle found somewhat unnerving, "Your mother and I disagree. You will be meeting with a tutor every Tuesday and Thursday."

Kyle wanted to come up with some kind of snappy response, but his mouth was dry and he found himself swallowing reflexively and looking away. Frank stood back up and turned to Cheryl, "If you don't mind I'd like to speak with Kyle alone for a few minutes."

Nodding Cheryl said, "I need to go to the bathroom anyway. I'll meet you two out by my car."

Frank and Kyle regarded each other for a few seconds. Frank said, "Let's go to your locker and get your things, including your books so you can do some homework tonight."

Kyle wanted to yell at him, but they were in the office with the secretary, the guidance counselor, and the principal all working still. Setting his jaw Kyle walked past Frank and went to his locker. Knowing Frank was right behind him and scrutinizing him made Kyle uncomfortable, but he forced himself to keep his eyes in front of him when he was packing his stuff. Once he had his backpack full and over his shoulder, he got his skateboard out of his locker and turned to Frank.

Frank said, "Why have you been skipping school, and why did you stop doing your homework?"

Kyle knew they were alone in the hall and couldn't hold in his frustration and anger anymore. "Where the hell do you get off? You just met me a week and a half ago, and you're acting like you have some kind of say in my life!"

Leaning down into Kyle's personal space again he said, "And you're acting like a five year old throwing a tantrum. I may have only met you a short time ago, but I find I generally like you and care about your future, so why don't you drop your attitude, drop your swearing, and answer my question."

While Frank was talking, Kyle had backed himself up against the lockers without realizing he was doing it. They glared at each other for a few seconds, with Kyle looking away first. He muttered, "School is stupid. I hate it."

"What do you do when you skip school?"

Kyle shrugged. Frank waited a few seconds and then said, "Look at me."

Taking his glare off the floor Kyle turned it to Frank. Frank said it slowly and clearly again, "What do you do when you skip school?"

Kyle tilted his chin up and sneered, "I go get my nails done."

Standing up straight, Frank closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and let it out slowly. Tensing up, Kyle was ready for the explosion.

After a few seconds Frank looked back at Kyle and said calmly, "My guess is you go to the skate park. But I suppose it doesn't matter, because if you miss two more days this semester you will have to repeat your sophomore year. I would think if you hate school so much, you would want to avoid spending an entire extra year here."

Not quite able to understand why Frank wasn't yelling, and finding the whole thing unsettling, Kyle stammered out, "I don't want to do an extra year."

"Good. Then we have a common goal. Come on, let's go find your mom."

Following Frank, Kyle thought about their little talk. He couldn't remember a time when he had given an adult attitude that they hadn't reacted. His mom would have started yelling, and his teachers would have sent him out of the class. But Frank just ignored it and continued with the talk. Kyle wasn't sure what to make of that.

As soon as they were outside the school doors Kyle felt a hand on his shoulder. Looking up at Frank he saw the serious expression still in place. Frank said, "When you talk to your mom about this, try to remember that she loves you, and wants what is best for you. Try to think about what your life would be like if she were gone before you decide to get smart with her."

Kyle thought, 'Should I be stupid with her then?' but all he said was, "Okay."

Frank gave him the first smile of the day and patted his shoulder as he said, "Good boy."

Kyle cringed at how stupid those words sounded and he walked towards the parking lot. They saw Cheryl waiting by her car, and she gave them both a smile. Frank's car was two spaces before hers, and when he got to it, he waved at her and said, "Talk to you tonight."

Kyle watched Frank get in his car and drive away. He thought, 'Good riddance.'

Cheryl caught Kyle's attention as she said, "Get in. Let's go home."

As they were driving home Cheryl told him about the meeting and gave him the same basic information Frank had given him. When she was done explaining she said, "Frank has been generous enough to hire you a tutor, and you damn well better take advantage of it and bring your grades up."

There was silence in the car while Kyle thought about things. Even though he tried to get the thought out of his head, he did wonder what would happen to him if his mom died. There weren't very many good options. When they pulled up to the house Kyle turned to his mom and said, "I'm sorry Mom. I'll do better."

Cheryl was taken aback for a second but recovered quickly. She brushed the bangs out of Kyle's face and said, "Thank you sweetheart."
*****************

Tuesday Kyle seriously considered just not showing up at Frank's office, but in the end he knew that would only cause him more trouble. He had a scowl firmly in place as he entered the office and saw Louise sitting at her desk. Louise smiled at him and said, "Hi Kyle, how are you this afternoon?"

"Fine."

"Both Mr. Shannon and a Mr. Wagner are waiting for you in the conference room."

Kyle gave her an unenthusiastic, "Great." as he walked by.

Walking in the room he saw Frank sitting next to his would be tutor, Mr. Wagner, who looked to be in his forties with short dark brown hair. Frank introduced the two, and then excused himself to get some of his own work done. Sighing heavily Kyle got out his books and sat down next to the tutor to start studying.

When the hour was up Kyle had decided that Mr. Wagner was an alright person, and that with his help he would be able to catch up fairly quickly. Kyle and Frank spent the drive to Frank's house talking about school work and what he was going to do to catch up.

They arrived at Frank's house and as usual Missy greeted them at the door. She ushered them into the house and the whole kitchen smelled like brownies. Frank gave Missy a look and said, "I thought I told you Kyle was grounded and not to make dessert."

Kyle was surprised by both the fact that Frank had told Missy he was grounded, and that he had decided that meant he shouldn't have dessert. Missy waved Frank's look away and put an arm across Kyle's shoulders, "Don't you give me that look Franklin. He's a growing boy, and much too thin."

Frank sighed in defeat and said, "Alright. You win."

Missy gave him a curt nod and patted Kyle on the shoulder before turning towards the stove to serve up dinner. "You boys go wash up."

Frank and Kyle started walking through the house. When they got to the stairs Kyle snickered, "Franklin?"

Frank smiled and said, "It was my grandfather's name on my mother's side."

Kyle said, "It fits you."

There was no anger in his voice when Frank said, "You mean it's just as dorky as I am?"

Laughing Kyle nodded and added, "Just as dorky as not having dessert because you're grounded. Where did that come from?"

Frowning Frank said, "My mom."

Kyle shook his head with a smile still on his face. "Sorry man. I guess it never happened in my house, because we just don't have dessert as a regular thing. But then we don't sit down to dinner as a regular thing either because mom's at work."

They had reached Frank's room and he said, "Meet you downstairs."

After dinner and dessert Kyle said, "So what are we going to do tonight?"

Giving Kyle a somewhat apologetic look Frank said, "You get to study until nine when I take you home."

Kyle groaned and said, "But that sucks. I'm tired of studying."

Frank nodded sympathetically and added, "I'm sure you are, but it needs to get done, and the sooner the better. If you have made good progress by Saturday we can go to the Skate Park together."

Kyle didn't like it but sighed, "Okay."

"And your mother and I were talking about an incentive."

"Incentive?" Kyle perked up.

"If you don't get any D's or F's, and you get at least one A and two B's on your next report card I'll buy you a laptop and wireless internet service for a year."

Kyle sat up straight, "No way! Really?"

"Your mother didn't like the plan at first, but she came around to my way of thinking after we talked for a while."

"That would be so awesome! Our computer is a piece of crap, and dial up sucks."

"Well then looks like you have another good reason to study doesn't it?"

Kyle nodded, but as he thought about it a little more his smile faded. "What if I don't get any D's or F's, but also don't get any A's?"

Frank smiled, "Then I'll be proud of you for doing better in school, but there will not be a laptop involved."

Making a face Kyle said, "Damn."

"Kyle, I've told you I don't like swearing repeatedly, and yet you keep doing it."

Suppressing the urge to roll his eyes Kyle gave in insincere, "Sorry."

After a few seconds of silence Frank said, "How about every time you swear you have to give me a dollar."

Kyle glared and thought fast. His glare turned to a smirk and said, "Okay then how about every time you say something so dorky I want to groan, you have to pay me five dollars?"

Frank raised one eyebrow at that, but Kyle didn't look away or back down. Eventually Frank smiled and said, "Okay, it's a deal. Why don't you get your books and study down here while I read a book."
****************

The rest of the week went well, even though Kyle missed the skate park. When Saturday came around Frank showed up and knocked on Cheryl's door. Cheryl opened it and greeted him with a small kiss to the cheek as she said, "Come in."

Frank didn't see Kyle anywhere and said, "What did his teachers say when you called yesterday?"

Smiling even wider Cheryl said, "They said he's doing so much better, he's like a different student entirely. He keeps talking about that laptop. I think that really is what turned him around to the idea of getting good grades. Thank you for talking me into it."

"No problem. I'm just glad he decided to take it all seriously."

Kyle came out of his room with his skateboard and stood next to the two of them. "Tell him mom."

"Since Kyle has been doing so well he's not grounded anymore."

Frank patted Kyle on the back and said, "Sounds like you've been working hard."

Kyle shrugged and said, "So do we get to go to the skate park?"

"You bet."

Smiling Kyle headed for the door and said, "Come on then."

Frank said to Cheryl, "Looks like the boy is anxious. I'll have him home by six so he has some time to study."

As they got in the car Kyle said, "You owe me five bucks."

"For what?"

"For 'the boy'. Maybe if I were five you could say that. I'm sixteen."

Frank got out his wallet and handed Kyle a five dollar bill before starting the car and heading to the skate park. They spent most of the afternoon there, and Frank was pleased to see Kyle wearing his helmet, even though he could see Matt gave him a hard time about it. That night they went out to eat pizza again before Frank took Kyle home. By the time Frank dropped Kyle off, Kyle had racked up twenty dollars, and Frank hadn't even gotten one since Kyle had refrained from swearing. As Frank was giving Kyle yet another five dollars he said, "I think you got the better end of our deal."

Kyle laughed, "Ya think?"

Frank shook his head in amusement. "See you Tuesday Kyle."
**************

The next week Kyle dedicated himself to studying, and got himself close to caught up in all his classes. Friday night he got a call from Frank.

"Today at work some of my business associates asked me to go golfing with them tomorrow morning."

Kyle felt a rush of disappointment that Frank wasn't going to do something with him on Saturday, and then berated himself for caring. He gave Frank a halfhearted, "Five bucks for business associates. Say friends from work."

Frank heard the unhappy tone in Kyle's voice, "Is something wrong?"

"No."

There was a pause and then Frank continued, "So I was calling to see if you could be ready early tomorrow. Unless golf is just too abhorrent an outing for you."

Kyle found himself smiling. He could tell that Frank hadn't even thought about not spending Saturday with him, and even though the idea of golf had never appealed to him he found he wanted to go. "I could be ready early, and five bucks for outing."

Kyle could almost hear the scowl as Frank said, "What's wrong with outing?"

"Everything. Just be happy I didn't add another five for abhorrent. Who says that?"

"Educated people."

Kyle laughed. "What time tomorrow?"

"I'll pick you up at eight in the morning."

"Do I have to wear something stupid like slacks?"

"Slacks aren't stupid, and jeans will be fine."

"Okay, I'll see you then."

"Could you please call your mom at work and make sure she's okay with it?"

"Sure. Do we still get to go to the skate park later in the afternoon?"

"Sure."
***************

Saturday morning went well for the both of them. Frank found he enjoyed having Kyle there. It helped him see the day from a new perspective and got the talk away from work a few times. Kyle, being the only teenager there, got lots of attention and praise for his beginning skills as a golfer from Frank and his three friends. He also didn't mind looking like a bit of a nerd since he saw no one that he knew there, and since Frank let him drive the golf cart.

Once golf was done they all went to the country club that was attached to the grounds for lunch. They sat down to order, and when Kyle saw their waitress he said, "Allison?"

Allison said, "Kyle? What are you doing here?"

Kyle turned towards Frank and said, "I'm with him. You work here?"

"On the weekends."

"Are you going to introduce us?" Frank asked.

Kyle said, "Frank this is Allison, Matt's older sister. Allison this is Frank, he's….."

Kyle paused not sure what to say since he had told Matt that Frank was his mom's cousin, but the other men sitting at the table knew Frank was his 'big brother' from the program.

Allison spoke up before the pause was uncomfortably long; "Matt told me there was an adult who had been coming to the skate park with you. Nice to meet you Frank."

Frank held out his hand to her and said, "Nice to meet you too."

Allison got out her order tablet and said, "So what would you gentlemen like to eat?"

Kyle breathed a sigh of relief and everyone ordered. Once Allison left Frank said, "Does Allison go to school with you, or has she graduated?"

"She's a senior, and a straight A student. On the fast track to becoming a corporate drone."

Kyle paused, realizing all the men at the table might take offense to that and hastily added, "Or at least that's how Matt puts it."

A couple of the men at the table laughed but Kyle could tell Frank wasn't amused. Soon the talk turned to business and Kyle was bored. After they ate the talk continued and Kyle started fidgeting in his chair wanting to get to the skate park. When Allison came to take the plates away she said, "Hey Kyle, Matt and my mom are here to pick me up from my shift if you wanted to say hi."

Kyle said, "Sure." and then realized Frank might not be happy that he had agreed without asking.

He turned to look at Frank who smiled and nodded. Kyle said, "I'll be back in a few minutes."

Kyle went to see them and Matt was shocked to see him there. "Kyle? What the hell are you doing here?"

"I came with Frank."

"You're spending a lot of time with your mom's cousin. He seems like a douche to me, don't see why you're hanging out with him."

Kyle shrugged. He liked Frank, but he liked Matt too, and he knew Matt would never see Frank as anything but lame. Matt said, "My mom's gonna drop me off at the skate park. You wanna ride, or are you stuck here with the loser?"

Kyle knew they were planning to go to the skate park anyway, and he was finding the lunch excessively boring. He said, "Hold on and I'll go check."

He walked back to the table but didn't sit down. He said, "Hey Frank, would it be okay with you if Matt's mom took me to the skate park, and then you could meet me when you're done here?"

Frank knew he was going to be talking business for another half an hour at least and that it would be boring for Kyle. He said, "That's fine. I'll be there in about an hour. Here are the keys so you can get your skateboard out of the car."

Grinning Kyle said, "Thanks."

Kyle got his skateboard into Matt's mom's car and ran the keys back to Frank. Soon he was on the road sitting in the back next to Matt. Matt started in, "So were you like golfing or something?"

Kyle shrugged. Matt continued, "That's the lamest thing I've ever heard. What would make you want to do that?"

Allison piped up from the front seat. "Give it a rest Matt. You just think it's lame because it's a rich person's sport, and skateboarding is for penniless losers like you."

"Bitch. Go marry some rich grandpa and move out."

Matt's mom said, "Hey! Knock it off, both of you."

The rest of the ride was silent. Kyle had seen Matt and Allison fighting so many times it just seemed normal, and he was kind of glad Allison had distracted Matt so he didn't have to come up with any answers.

Once they got to the skate park, Matt and Kyle spent some time just skating and enjoying themselves. When they were both taking a break, Matt pulled out a pack of cigarettes and took one out. Kyle had never seen Matt smoking and said, "Where did you get those?"

"Swiped 'um from my mom."

Bewildered Kyle asked, "Why?"

Giving Kyle a look that seemed to say he was stupid, Matt answered, "To smoke them."

"Well yeah, but why?"

"Why not?"

"Because they give you cancer, and they're addicting, and they smell bad, and it's hard to skateboard when you're hocking up a lung."

Matt gave Kyle an angry glare. "Since when did you turn into such a pussy? First you start hanging out with that loser, then you stop skipping school to skate with me, and now you're golfing and giving me a lecture on cigarettes? Who are you? It's like you've turned into a whole different person."

Kyle got pissed himself, "Fuck you. I would have said the same thing about smoking three weeks ago, and you're a jackass for doing it."

Looking surprised Matt was silent for a few seconds. Then he smiled and said; "Well that's more like the Kyle I know. I'm not talking about smoking all the time. I'm talking about trying it. Haven't you ever wondered what it was like?"

Somewhat appeased by Matt's words Kyle shrugged, "I guess."

"So here's your chance."

Matt handed Kyle the pack and got a lighter out of his jeans to light the one in his mouth. Kyle looked at the pack, looked around the park nervously and then took one out. He never really had wondered what it was like to smoke. He always associated smoking with his father, and he always associated his father with bad feelings. But he didn't want to look like a pussy in front of Matt now that Matt wasn't making fun of him. He thought to himself that trying one wasn't going to make him a smoker. In fact he was pretty sure it was just going to make him sick. Kyle handed the pack back to Matt and put the cigarette in his mouth. He put his hand out for the lighter and lit up.

He faked it at first, only letting the smoke in his mouth and then exhaling, but Matt laughed and told him he was doing it wrong while coughing. Kyle rolled his eyes but decided to do it right. He regretted it the second the smoke infiltrated his lungs. He hacked and coughed it out. Matt slapped him on the back while laughing and saying, "Now that's the right way to do it."

Kyle finally caught his breath, only to lose it again when he saw Frank walking his way looking pissed. Kyle muttered 'Fuck' as he tossed the cigarette down and stepped on it. Matt looked over wondering what Kyle had seen and stopped laughing. He punched Kyle lightly in the arm and said, "Sorry man."

Matt, with the cigarette dangling from his mouth, turned and skated away from Kyle and the approaching Frank. Kyle was irritated that Matt had taken off, but the closer Frank got, the more Kyle thought maybe that was a good thing. When Frank was a couple of feet from Kyle he stopped and said, "Are you a smoker Kyle?"

Kyle didn't like the fact that Frank could make him nervous just by talking calmly. "No."

"Then what were you doing just now?"

Kyle looked away and shrugged. Frank waited for a few seconds and then said, "I asked you a question Kyle."

Knowing it sounded lame Kyle muttered, "Just trying it."

Frank found himself very angry. When he had first saw Kyle bent over and coughing he thought maybe something was wrong, until he saw his friend laughing and then as he got closer saw the cigarettes in their hands. Frank was quiet so long Kyle darted his glance back up to him. Frank said, "Surly you know smoking causes cancer."

Kyle looked away and nodded feeling embarrassed. Frank said, "And you know Alice died of cancer."

Kyle's head snapped back to Frank and Frank could tell that connection hadn't occurred to him yet. Kyle looked appalled; knowing how much Frank has suffered watching his wife die. Frank leaned down a little so their faces were pretty close and said; "If I ever hear about or catch you smoking again, I'll put you over my knee and spank you."

Some of the blood that had drained from Kyle's face when he first saw Frank coming came back in a rush. He shook his head no with disbelief. Frank glared and said, "You want to test me on that?"

Kyle shook his head a little harder. Frank stood back up and crossed his arms. He said, "What would make you want to try smoking?"

Kyle was reeling from the threat and couldn't form any answer other then, "Matt."

"Please elaborate."

Kyle looked away and tried to pull himself together even though his stomach was full of butterflies. "He was laughing at me. Called me a pussy."

Sighing Frank said, "That's not a very good reason."

"I know."

The silence lingered and Frank finally looked at his watch and said, "You can skate for another hour, and then we're calling it a day."

As Frank turned and walked to the bench, he tried to calm himself down. He thought, `Smoking once isn't going to hurt him. He seemed sincere when he said he didn't smoke on a regular basis. Even people who smoke for years don't necessarily get cancer. You're too emotional about the issue to be reasonable.'

Frank sat down and looked over at Kyle who was standing in exactly the same spot starring off into space. Sighing and shaking his head Frank realized Kyle was too shocked to move. Frank thought, `He's never been spanked, or at least not for a long time, and can't believe I said it. I can't believe that was my gut reaction either. It would be one thing if he were my son, but he's not, and I've only known him for a few weeks. But I would….. no I will if I think it'll keep him from hurting himself. I wonder what Cheryl would say.'

Kyle just stood there for a few seconds not sure what to do with himself. Pretty soon Matt road up to him and said, "Is the douche gonna tell your mom?"

Glaring at Matt, Kyle said, "Thanks for staying with me and taking some of the heat."

Matt blew him off, "He's your relative, not mine."

Kyle pushed past Matt and went to skate. Kyle couldn't concentrate, and fell five different times while doing basic maneuvers. Frank winced as he saw Kyle fall a few times, and almost regretted his threat, but then told himself it was a good think Kyle was taking it seriously. Finally after only half an hour Kyle went over to Frank and said, "I'm ready to go."

Frank stood and they walked to the car. When they were on the road Frank said, "Did you get hurt? Looks like you fell pretty hard that last time."

"I'm fine."

"You sure?"

"I said I'm fine." Kyle said with irritation.

Frank let it go, and the ride was silent until they pulled up to Kyle's house. Frank turned to Kyle and said, "Are you going to tell your mom about it, or should I?"

Kyle's eyes widened and he shook his head no. "Neither one?"

Frank sighed and started to say something but Kyle beat him to it pleading, "Look Frank, I've never tried smoking before, and I wouldn't have even done it if Matt wasn't being such an ass. Please don't tell Mom. I swear it won't happen again."

Looking at Kyle, Frank thought he seemed sincere. After a few seconds Frank gave in. "I won't tell her this time. If there's a next time I will."

Relieved Kyle said, "Thank you."

Frank said, "I'll see you Tuesday."

Kyle opened the door to the BMW and was about to get out but stopped half way. He turned to Frank and said, "I had a good time playing golf today. Sorry I wrecked it."

Frank gave him the first smile he had seen all afternoon and said; "You didn't wreck it. I had a good time too."

Kyle felt slightly better at those words and got all the way out. Frank added, "You owe me a dollar for ass."

Looking back into the car Kyle saw that Frank had a slight smile. Kyle got a dollar out of his pocket and handed it over. "It's not a bad word in anyone's book but yours, but I'll try to say jerk instead."

Smiling a little more Frank said, "There are plenty of people who think it's a bad word, but I doubt there are many sixteen year olds that think so."

"See ya Frank."

Kyle watched Frank drive away and then walked into his house. He spent a good portion of the afternoon wondering about Frank's threat. He had believed him at the time, but now it seemed kind of ridiculous. It crossed his mind to ask for five dollars just for the mention of spanking being lame, but knew he never wanted to bring it up again. And he did feel bad that it had made Frank think about Alice. After a while he turned on the TV to try and forget about the whole thing, happy that he had convinced Frank not to rat him out to his mother.
**************

Over the next two weeks Kyle did a lot of studying, and by the end of that time he was not only caught up in all of his classes, but doing well. His teachers had all confirmed that if this continued through the semester his grades would be improved. On Monday Cheryl took him to the DMV to get his driver's license. Kyle passed with flying colors, and Cheryl invited Frank over to dinner at their house to celebrate. As soon as they had exchanged hellos Frank said, "So let's see it."

Kyle got out his wallet and handed over the license. Frank took a good look at it and said, "It's actually a pretty good picture of you. How'd you manage that?"

Kyle shrugged. Cheryl said with a smile, "He was so happy to finally get it, that he couldn't keep the smile off his face."

Smiling Frank said, "Looks like that's true for you too."

Putting an arm around Kyle's shoulders and giving him a one armed squeeze she said, "Yeah, I think you're right."

Handing the license back to Kyle, Frank said, "Good job sport."

Kyle made a face and opened his mouth, but Frank beat him too it. "Right, sorry. We've talked about `sport' before haven't we? How about buddy, is that better?"

"Not much."

"Maybe pal?"

Smiling Cheryl went into the kitchen to finish cooking dinner.

Groaning Kyle asked, "Where do you come up with this stuff?"

Laughing Frank said, "Why do you think terms of affection are lame? I've heard your mom call you sweetie and honey before."

"Well yeah, but she's my mom, and girls are like that anyway."

After a few seconds pause Frank put a hand on Kyle's shoulder and said, "I knew you'd pass the test. You've demonstrated to me more then once that you're a good driver. But I wanted to tell you that I'm really proud of you for working so hard at getting back on track with your school work."

Blushing and looking down for a second Kyle said, "You owe me five for sport."

Frank could tell Kyle was both happy with the praise and embarrassed about it at the same time. Frank pulled out his wallet and got out five dollars, but instead of handing it over to Kyle he said, "You know it's been about a month since we made our deal, and I've been thinking about it."

Kyle didn't like the sounds of that but just nodded. Frank said, "I've paid you well over a hundred dollars during that time, and you've only paid me three dollars for swearing."

"I guess that means you needed a lot more help with your speech then I did."

"I started our deal because you kept swearing, but since I've only heard you swear three times in the past month, that says to me that you can keep it clean when you want to."

Frowning Kyle said, "So?"

"So I'm calling the deal off. This is the last five I'm giving you for the way I speak." Frank handed the money over.

Kyle said, "But that's…."

Shaking his head Frank said, "You feel free to tell me when I say things that are cringe inducing, and I'll try very hard to alter my speech mannerisms for you, but no more money."

Sighing heavily, knowing it had been too good to last, Kyle said, "Okay."

"And I expect you to try just as hard to keep it clean around me. Now that I know you're capable of not swearing every time we get together, I'm going to hold you to that standard."

Still frowning Kyle said, "That sucks."

From the kitchen they heard Cheryl said, "Dinner's ready."

Frank put his arm around Kyle's shoulders and headed them into the kitchen. "Come on, it's not all that bad. Some food will make you feel better."

While they were eating Kyle told Frank about the drivers test. Once everyone was mostly done eating, and Kyle's story was done, Frank turned to Cheryl and said, "How has work been going?"

"Really well thanks. And actually I was going to talk to the both of you about that tonight. There's a convention coming up in two weeks, and the hospital administration has asked me if I could attend."

"Well that's great. Are you going to go?" Frank asked.

"I'd like to go, but it's up in Washington. The hospital will pay for my airline ticket and my room and board, but I would be gone for a whole week."

Kyle shrugged, "I'll be fine for a week. I can take care of myself. You should go, I mean if it sounds like fun to you, then you should go."

Cheryl looked at Frank, and he could tell she wasn't all that happy with this as a plan. Frank said, "Or you could stay with me for a week. We could have fun hanging out."

Kyle said, "Seems kind of silly to plan on that when all my stuff is here."

Trying to sound cheerful Cheryl said, "Seems kind of silly to pass up an opportunity to go swimming every night of the week. You could pack a few things and spend your time with Frank. Sounds like fun to me."

Kyle looked back and forth between Frank and his mom a couple of times. He tossed his fork down on the plate and said, "You don't trust me to stay by myself?! Did the two of you talk about this and come up with a plan for getting me to agree without telling me you don't trust me?!"

Cheryl could tell Kyle was getting worked up she said in a placating tone, "Of course not sweetheart. This is the first I've said to Frank about this."

"So it's just that both of you automatically think I can't be trusted to stay alone for a week?!"

Frowning Frank said, "No one said that Kyle. You need to calm down."

Kyle glared at Frank for a second, but then took a deep breath and said with a calm voice, "Okay. If I'm wrong then I'm sorry, but I'd rather stay here for the week."

Cheryl sighed and said, "I don't need to go, I just thought it could be fun."

Kyle shouted, "So go! I'm not stopping you!"

Cheryl's voice rose as well, "Well I was going to go after I asked Frank if he could watch you, but since you're obviously going to be obnoxious about it, I just won't go!"

Standing abruptly Kyle yelled, "I'm being obnoxious? I'll tell you what's obnoxious…"

Frank trying to keep things calm said, "Hey now…"

Kyle kept shouting, "…the two of you thinking I can't spend a fucking week by myself! That's obnoxious!"

Kyle turned and stormed off to his room ignoring both Frank's, `Kyle!' and his mother's; `Don't you yell at me!'

Frank and Cheryl heard Kyle's bedroom door slam. Shaking her head Cheryl said, "I'm sorry. Thank you for the offer anyway."

Frank put his hand over Cheryl's and said, "Did you want to go to the convention?"

"Well I did, but now…."

"Then go. I'm sure Kyle could stay by himself if he needed to, but he doesn't need to. If you feel more comfortable with him at my place, then that's what we'll do. I know I'd worry less with him at my place too. Kyle is sixteen, and in no position to tell you what he will and won't do."

Thinking it over for a few seconds Cheryl stared at her plate. Frank squeezed her hand and she looked up at him with a tired smile, "Okay, you're right. I do want to go, and I'll feel better knowing he's staying with you."

Letting go of her hand Frank said, "Let me go talk to him for a few minutes and get him back out here."

"Okay."

Cheryl got up and started to clear the table and do the dishes as Frank walked to Kyle's room. Frank knocked on the door and waited a few seconds. Getting no response he knocked a second time. Kyle's voice came to him, "Go away."

Pursing his lips in irritation Frank opened Kyle's door and let himself in. He closed the door behind him while Kyle sat up on his bed and said, "I said go away!"

Frank walked up to Kyle, grabbed his upper arm and yanked him up off the bed. Kyle felt his anger change to fear, but he was too startled to struggle. His eyes were wide with shock when Frank swatted his butt. Keeping a grip on Kyle's arm Frank said, "That was for the cursing less then fifteen minutes after I told you our deal was off, and this…"

Frank swatted him hard again, and Kyle released the breath he had been holding in a grunt. "…is for losing your temper and talking to your mother with such disrespect."

Frank let go of Kyle's arm, and Kyle put his hand up to cover that spot on his arm, even though that wasn't the part of him that stung. Kyle realized Frank's threat from two weeks ago hadn't just been a threat for smoking; it had been a threat for bad behavior in general. He had never been spanked or even swatted, and he had trouble believing Frank had just smacked him. But the lingering sting forced him to believe it really had happened. .

Frank pointed at Kyle's bed and said, "Sit down."

Kyle's emotions were scattered, but mostly he felt hurt and unhappy. Kyle slowly sat and looked up at Frank with big sad eyes. Frank could tell Kyle was close to emotional tears. Frank lost some of his own irritation and sighed. He sat down on the bed next to Kyle and put an arm around his shoulders. "I know for a fact that you could take care of yourself for a week, and I'm sure your mom does too. But we don't want you to have to. Your mom and I would worry a lot less if you were staying with me. Don't you want your mom to be able to go away for a week and not worry over you every night?"

While Frank was talking Kyle tried to be surreptitious about wiping away the one tear that had fallen. In a quiet and subdued voice Kyle said, "If she trusted me she wouldn't worry."

"Parents worry no matter what. My folks still worry about my sister and me even though we're grown. Has your mom ever left you alone for more then a few hours while she's working?"

Kyle thought about it, "I guess not."

"So she's used to coming home, looking in on you to make sure you're asleep, and then going to bed feeling secure that you're safe. If she's out of town she can't do that, so she wants to make sure someone else is doing it."

Kyle shrugged, not really liking that answer, but seeing where his mom might feel that way. Frank continued, "Your mom works really hard at her job and at keeping you as safe and happy as she can. Don't you think she deserves to do something fun once in a while?"

"Of course, I just…."

Interrupting Frank said, "Don't you usually like it at my house?"

"Yeah, but…."

"Then give me a valid reason why you shouldn't spend the week with me other then the fact that you don't want to."

Silence stretched out between them. A full two minutes later Frank said, "Then I want you to go apologize to your mom, and tell her you'll be staying with me when she goes to the convention."

Kyle didn't like it, but mumbled, "Okay."

Frank gave Kyle's shoulders a squeeze and said, "I'm sorry I had to be firm with you Kyle, but there are some behaviors that cross the line, and as your friend and as your big brother in the program, I just don't think I can let them slide."

Kyle was still too upset about the swats to point out how lame that had sounded, and he had been around Frank long enough to know what he meant, even if he didn't express it very well. Kyle nodded that he understood. Frank stood up and headed towards the bedroom door. Kyle got up and slowly followed. As soon as Frank turned the corner in the hallway, Kyle put a hand back and rubbed at the fading sting on his rear, mostly because he still was having trouble accepting that it had happened.

Frank and Kyle entered the kitchen and saw Cheryl was just finishing up putting the dishes in the dishwasher. She didn't hear them at first over the running water but saw them out of the corner of her eye. She was a little surprised Frank had gotten Kyle to come out of his room, but pleased as well. She turned the water off and crossed her arms. She was about to give Kyle a lecture and a directive about the week she was gone, but Kyle spoke before she did.

"I'm sorry I was angry and shouting. I'll stay with Frank while you go to the convention. I want you to go and have a good time, Mom."

Cheryl looked to Frank for some kind of answer to Kyle's behavioral change, but he just smiled and patted Kyle's shoulder. Cheryl said, "Well… thank you for being so mature and understanding about it Kyle. I'll tell the hospital that I can go."

Kyle nodded and while there was a pause Frank said, "Anyone up for a little walk? You could get some skateboarding in Kyle."

The three of them went for a walk around the neighborhood even though it wasn't something Cheryl or Kyle would have done by themselves.
***************

Over the next week Kyle thought a lot about what Frank had done. He was excessively careful not to swear, and he was a little guarded around Frank in general. But then on Saturday Frank took him bowling and to the skate park, and Kyle was finally able to let it go and relax around Frank again.

The next week on Monday Cheryl invited Frank over to dinner again so they could finalize their plans for the next week, and also because she found she enjoyed his company. She was flying out on Sunday afternoon, and then coming home the following Friday late at night. Frank offered to drive her to and from the airport both times, and she accepted thinking Frank was going to have to come over and pick up Kyle anyway.

The Saturday before Cheryl left, Kyle talked Frank into going to see a movie that had just come out. They both enjoyed the movie and after that went to the skate park together. Kyle enthusiastically told Matt about the movie, and Matt said he wanted to see it too. Kyle said, "We could go see it tonight after dinner. I want to see it again."

Matt shook his head; "I don't have the cash."

Kyle had saved up a lot of the money that Frank had given him and said, "Could you borrow your mom's car tonight? If you could drive us, I'll buy tickets and food for both of us."

Matt smiled, "I could probably swing a car, but what about your chaperone over there?"

"Frank is dropping me off at six tonight. I could call my mom and ask her about the movies, look up the times, and then give you a call."

"Sure. Sounds good."

On the way home, Kyle thought about telling Frank his plans for the night, but decided against it. Since the smoking incident, Kyle had the distinct impression that Frank didn't like Matt. Frank dropped Kyle off and said, "I'll see you tomorrow afternoon. Make sure you're all packed."

"Okay. See you then."

Kyle went in and called his mom. A few minutes after they paged her she answered. "This is Cheryl, how can I help you?"

"Hey mom it's me."

"Hi sweetie, is everything okay?"

"Yeah, I was just wondering if I could go to the movies with Matt tonight."

There was a pause. "I don't know Kyle…."

"Come on mom. It's Saturday, and we won't be out past eleven. Matt's gonna borrow his mom's car, and we're just going to the movies and then home again."

Cheryl had met Matt a few times, and wasn't overly fond of him. But Kyle had been doing really well since Frank had been around, and she knew he loved going to the movies. "Okay, but just to the movie and then home. I want you to call me as soon as you walk in the door."

"Thanks mom, I will."

Half an hour later Matt arrived and picked Kyle up. They went to the theater in a good mood talking about the movie they were going to see. When they got there Kyle paid. They were early to the show, so they both went to play some arcade games while they waited for the movie to start. A slightly chubby ten-year-old girl was playing Matt's favorite driving game, so Matt played the game beside her waiting. When he saw her game was over he turned play it, but then saw her put another couple of quarters in it. He said, "Hey kid, I'm next."

The girl looked over at him for a second with a glare; "My mom gave me five dollars and said I could play as many times as I wanted while I waited for her."

"Yeah? Well I'm telling you, you get to play one more time and then it's my turn."

The girl said nothing more, but turned and started playing. Matt looked over at Kyle who was playing a shooting game and doing fairly well killing zombies. Kyle noticed Matt watching and said, "You can play this next if you want."

Matt shrugged and watched Kyle play for a while. Once Kyle finally lost, Matt turned and saw that the girl was starting another game. He went over to the game and said, "Hey, I said I was next."

"And I said I was gonna play as many times as I wanted."

Matt glared at her, and saw a little pile of quarters sitting next to her on the seat. Matt grabbed them all and put them in his pocket. "I guess you're out of quarters."

She yelled, "Hey! Those are mine! Give them back!"

"Get off my game and I'll think about it."

"It's not your game. Give them back or I'm gonna tell."

Kyle was now beside Matt hearing the ruckus and said, "What's wrong?"

The girl pointed a finger at Matt and said, "He took my quarters!"

Kyle had seen Matt do this with other kids in the past. He sighed in a tired sounding way and said, "Give them back."

"I will as soon as the bitch gets off my game."

The girl's eyes widened at the swearing and she said, "I'm gonna tell."

She was getting out of the game and Matt called after her, "Go ahead fatso. While you're at it, maybe you should buy some candy so you can put on another ten extra pounds.

The girl stopped in mid stride and suddenly veered off to the bathroom. Kyle got a look at her face and could tell she was about to cry. Kyle glared at Matt and said, "You're a jackass."

Matt shrugged while sitting down at the driving game and said, "I tried to be nice about it. She wouldn't get up."

Kyle held out his hand and said, "Give me the girl's money."

Matt looked at Kyle like he had lost his mind. "You're fucking kidding me right?"

Kyle glared, "No I'm not fucking kidding. I'm tied of you pushing little kids around, and picking on her because she's fat is horrific. Give me the fucking money."

Matt got a handful of quarters out of his pocket and tossed the whole handful in Kyle's general direction. They scattered all over the floor and Kyle glared at Matt. Matt glared back and said, "Horrific? You're as much of a douche as your mom's cousin. In fact since you've been hanging out with him, you've turned into a complete loser."

Matt turned to his game and started playing. Kyle picked up the quarters off the floor and thought that maybe Matt was right. He had changed since knowing Frank, and horrific was definitely Frank's word. Kyle wasn't sure if changing was a good thing or not, but he knew if this same situation had happened a month and a half ago, he would have felt bad for the kid, but he would have just stood by and said nothing. Kyle took the quarters and walked to the entrance to the ladies room. He stood there for a few seconds and waited until a middle aged woman walked by. He said, "Excuse me."

She turned to him and he held up the hand full of quarters. "There's a little girl in there who's about ten, and probably upset. These belong to her. Could you give them to her?"

The woman took the quarters and said, "Sure."

Kyle turned and walked back to Matt. Matt had already lost, which was kind of unusual for him. Kyle still wanted to see the movie, and Matt was his ride home, so he said, "I'm gonna go get some popcorn. You want something?"

"Nachos."

Kyle nodded and went to buy the food. By the time he got back Matt had stopped playing and was just leaning against the wall doing nothing. Kyle handed him the nachos and said, "Ready to go see the movie?"

Matt took the nachos and followed Kyle to the theater. They sat, ate, and talked about how stupid the ads were on the screen while more and more people filed into the theater. As soon as the lights dimmed and the previews started Matt took something out of his jacket and took a drink. Kyle looked over and saw a water bottle. He leaned over and said, "I could have gotten you a soda with your nachos."

Matt smirked and said, "I doubt you could have gotten me this."

Kyle was bombarded with the smell of alcohol from Matt's breath. Kyle shook his head and looked at Matt like he had lost his mind. "You're fucking drinking?"

Matt offered Kyle the bottle and said, "Straight vodka. Want some?"

Raising his voice Kyle said, "You're my ride home you idiot!"

"Jesus Kyle, get a grip! It's not like I'm gonna drink the whole thing. I was planning on sharing, but you're obviously too much of a pussy to join me."

"I don't give a fuck what you think, I'm not getting in the car with you after this. Either I'll drive, or I'll call Frank to pick me up."

Matt took another drink and shook his head. "You want to be some kind of Boy Scout? Fine by me, all the more for me to drink."

Kyle crossed his arms and glared at the previews, wishing he had never brought up the idea of going to the movies with Matt in the first place. A few minutes later a man who worked at the theater came in with one of the women who had been sitting behind the boys. She pointed at them, and the man walked up to the two of them. Kyle felt his heart rate going up and muttered, "Shit."

Matt shoved his water bottle into his inside jacket pocket and pretended to watch the very beginning of the movie. The man leaned into the row and said, "You two. Out."

Matt ignored him, but Kyle stood up. Kyle looked down at Matt who just sat there. Kyle kicked Matt's lower leg a little harder then was nice and said, "Get up."

Matt put a hand on his leg, glared up at Kyle, and said, "You're gonna regret that Kyle."

Matt got up and walked over to the man. Once they all got out of the theater Kyle could see the tag on the man's vest that read 'manager'. The manager said, "You boys come with me."

Matt said, "Screw that, I'm out of here."

Matt turned to leave and the manager said, "You leave and I call the cops with the make and model of your car. You stay and I'll just call your folks."

Turning around Matt had hate on his face. "You think I care about the cops?"

"You might when they pull you over and give you a DUI."

Matt looked surprised for a second but then tried to hide it. He scoffed, "I haven't been drinking."

The manager's voice was full of sarcasm, "Riiight. The lady must have overheard you practicing lines for a school play."

Matt started to look worried and didn't have a response. The manager held out his hand and said, "The bottle please."

Matt crossed his arms. "I don't know what you're talking about."

Muttering Kyle said, "Inside jacket pocket."

Matt punched Kyle in the shoulder hard. Kyle looked ready to throw a punch of his own but the manager reached out and grabbed the drink out of Matt's jacket while he was distracted. The manager pointed towards the front of the theater and said, "Come on, we're going to my office."

They started walking, and Kyle's heart was racing at the thought of telling his mom about this. Matt glared at Kyle and hissed, "Why couldn't you have kept your mouth shut? This is your fault."

Kyle just ignored him. Soon they were in the manager's small office and he had them sit in some chairs that were against the wall. He sat down at his desk, opened the water bottle to sniff it, and then put it down on his desk. Picking up a pen he looked at Kyle figuring he would be the easier of the two. "Give me your name and address, and a phone number where your folks can be reached."

Kyle looked at the floor while he gave his information and explained that his mom was at work and gave her work number.

The manager wrote it down and turned to Matt. "Now yours."

Matt refused to say anything and looked away. The manager picked up the phone and dialed the number Kyle had given him. He asked for Cheryl and then after a pause left his name and number for her to call him back.

He looked at Kyle and said, "They said she was helping in surgery and wouldn't be done for about an hour. Is there someone else I can call?"

Kyle figured it would have to be a family member, but he didn't have any others that lived near by. He said, "We can call my Uncle Frank."

The manager nodded and got the number. He dialed and once Frank answered he said, "Hello, may I please speak with Frank."

"This is Frank."

"I have your nephew Kyle here in my office."

Startled Frank said, "Nephew? Is he okay? What's happened?"

The manager said, "Kyle's fine. My name is John, and I'm the manager at Regal Cinemas on Maple Street, and I'm calling to have someone pick Kyle up."

Frank was still worried and said, "I can be there in half an hour. What happened?"

John said, "Kyle and his friend were causing a disturbance in the theater. Normally we would just toss them out, but since there was underage drinking involved I felt compelled to do more. I couldn't reach Kyle's mother, so he suggested I call you."

"I'll be there as soon as I can."

"Thank you."

Hanging up, John looked at Matt. "Tell me who to call, or I promise you I will call the police."

Matt was seething, and gave John his mother's work number knowing she wouldn't be there. John left a voice mail and then asked Matt if there was anyone else he could call instead. Matt shook his head no, thinking that after a while the manager would give up.

Kyle and Matt sat waiting while John did some paperwork. Twenty-five minutes later an upset looking Frank showed up. One of the theater employees showed Frank to John's office. John watched while Frank leaned down and put a hand on Kyle's shoulder and asked, "Are you okay?"

Kyle didn't make eye contact by nodded that he was. Frank turned to John and held out his hand to shake, "You must be John."

John held out his hand and they shook. "Yes, and you must be Kyle's uncle."

Frank let go of John's hand and said, "I'm sorry to say that I'm not. If you need to have a relative pick Kyle up, then we'll have to wait for his mother to get off work."

John looked confused; "You're not related?"

Kyle started shaking his head no, but Frank couldn't see him.

"No. Have you ever heard of the big brother program?"

John nodded, "Sure."

"I'm Kyle's big brother."

Kyle closed his eyes and his face turned red while Matt started laughing. For a few seconds the only sound in the room was Matt's laughing. Finally he was able to get out the words, "Big brother?" and started laughing again.

Frank could tell Kyle was embarrassed, and had to resist the urge to go smack Matt in the back of the head. John said, "It doesn't have to be a relative, just someone who has a vested interest in the kid, which you seem to have"

"Yes sir, I do."

John looked over at Kyle and said, "You wanna tell your version before I give him mine?"

Kyle did want to explain things to Frank, but wanted to do it alone, so he shook his head no. John said, "A woman who had been sitting behind them told me that this kid…"

John pointed at Matt and continued, "….got out a bottle of water filled with alcohol, drank some, and offered some to Kyle."

John handed the bottle of water over to Frank and continued, "Kyle refused it, and they argued. The lady left to get me when the yelling started."

Frank opened the bottle and smelled it, confirming that it was alcohol. He handed it back to John and said, "Is that it?"

"The woman said the argument had to do with driving, so I felt I shouldn't just let them leave."

Frank said sincerely, "I appreciate your efforts, and I'm grateful to you for calling."

Turning to look at Kyle, Frank asked, "Could I speak with Kyle out in the hallway for a few minutes?"

"Sure."

Frank opened the office door and Kyle got up to follow him out. They went into the hallway and shut the door. Frank said, "Tell me what happened."

Kyle explained the whole thing, and because he was angry about it, he even told Frank about Matt teasing the girl. Frank put a hand on Kyle's shoulder and said, "I'm sorry you had such a bad night. It sounds like you did the best you could under the circumstances."

Kyle felt relief wash over him and said, "Thanks Frank."

Frank pulled Kyle into a quick hug. Kyle hugged back and took a deep breath to help calm himself down. He had been hoping Frank wouldn't be angry, but he never would have guessed that Frank would be on his side of things. Frank let him go and said, "Is Matt's mom coming to pick him up?"

Kyle shook his head; "I doubt it. Matt hasn't given the manager his home number."

"Do you know it?"

Nodding Kyle said, "I do, but Matt's already pissed at me, I can't rat him out."

Frank said with disbelief, "After everything you just told me, you're still sticking up for him?"

Kyle looked away while thinking about it and Frank added, "A man isn't just measured by his own actions Kyle, he's also measured by the actions of the friends he keeps. While all of your actions tonight tell me you're growing up to be a man of principle, the fact that you decided to come here with Matt also says something about who you are and who you want to become."

Kyle sighed and told Frank the phone number. Frank got out one of his business cards and wrote Matt's home number down on the back of it. He put a hand on Kyle's shoulder again and said, "I want you to apologize to the manager for all the trouble your friend caused tonight, and then I'll take you home."

Cringing while thinking about Matt laughing at him again, Kyle said, "But I…."

Frank's tone held a warning, "Kyle."

With a dejected sigh Kyle said, "Okay."

They went in and Frank had an arm around Kyle's shoulders for support. Kyle looked at John and said, "I'm really sorry for all the trouble we caused you tonight."

Matt was snickering in the background, but John ignored him and said, "Apology accepted son."

Kyle glared over at Matt and said, "And just so you know, the number Matt gave you was his mom's work number."

Matt stopped laughing and hissed, "Shut up!"

Frank handed over his business card to John and said, "His mother's home number is on the back, and my number is there on the front if you need anything else from me."

John took the card and held out his hand to shake again as he said, "Thank you Frank, I appreciate your help. You and Kyle are free to go."

Matt called out; "You're an asshole Kyle!"

Frank squeezed Kyle's shoulder as they walked out. As soon as they were out in the parking lot Kyle said, "Can we go to see Mom at work? I don't want her to call John back and get the story from him."

"Sure."

They got in the car and started driving. Kyle said, "I'm really glad you came tonight. Thanks for… you know… everything."

"Anytime Kyle."

They went to the hospital and waited for Cheryl. As soon as she saw the two of them she rushed over and asked, "What's wrong?"

Kyle explained the whole thing to her and she said with a glare, "I don't want you hanging out with Matt anymore. He's done nothing but get you into trouble since the day he met you."

Kyle thought she was over reacting. He whined, "Moooom."

"I mean it Kyle."

Kyle rolled his eyes in irritation and gave her a snide; "We go to the same school. Am I supposed to skip Algebra every day so I don't have to sit next to him?"

Frank put a hand on Kyle's upper arm and turned him slightly so they were looking at each other. Frank said, "You have no right to give your mom attitude tonight, and I believe we talked about you skipping school. Apologize."

Glaring at the floor, and hating both adults in his life in that moment Kyle muttered, "Sorry."

Cheryl was a little shocked at Frank's reaction, and even more so at her son's immediate change in behavior. She looked back and forth between Kyle and Frank a couple of times wondered what had happened between them for this exchange to be unsurprising to either of them. Frank let go of Kyle's arm and said, "I'm sorry to say that I agree with you Cheryl. I've seen Matt quite a few times over the past two months, and I've never seen anything good to speak of."

Cheryl put her hands on Kyle's shoulders and her voice was softer when she said, "Do you still want to be friends with him after all this?"

Kyle shrugged, "I don't know. I guess not."

"I'm not saying you can't be friendly towards him when you're in school, I'm just saying I don't want you doing things with him outside of school anymore."

"Okay."

Cheryl gave Kyle a hug and looked at Frank. "I've got to get back to work. Can you give him a ride home?"

"Of course."

Cheryl let go of Kyle and then went to Frank and gave him a hug as well, which surprised him. She said quietly, "Thank you for watching out for him."

He hugged her back and said, "You're welcome."
*****************

The next day Frank came to pick up both Kyle and Cheryl in the afternoon. He took Cheryl to the airport, and she gave him a list of emergency phone numbers. Then Frank watched with amusement as she gave Kyle a kiss on the cheek, which Kyle wiped off and complained about while she hugged him.

Soon she was gone and Frank drove Kyle back to his house. Kyle got settled in and then did some skateboarding in Frank's huge driveway. That night Kyle saw Frank making soup and sandwiches for dinner and asked, "Where's Missy?"

"She usually only comes over on Tuesdays, and Thursdays. Before you started coming over it was Mondays and Wednesdays, but the second I told her about you she changed her schedule before I even asked."

Kyle looked at the food with disappointment and said, "Can you cook?"

"Not like her I'm afraid. But when she's here she usually makes dinner for that night and makes some kind of easy to bake dinner for the next night as well, so you should only have to suffer through my cooking tonight and Monday."

"Okay. Can we go swimming after dinner?"

"Is your homework done?"

Kyle gave a hopeful, "Almost?"

"If you finish your homework before eight you can swim for a little while."

Frowning Kyle said, "That sucks."

"You've been outside skateboarding for the past two hours. I don't want to hear it."

Kyle scowled and went to the dinning room table to wait. After a quick dinner, Kyle finished his homework with time to spare.
***********

Monday morning Kyle couldn't stop thinking about Matt's reaction to finding out Frank was his big brother. He didn't have that many friends at school, but all of them were also friends with Matt. He had no doubt they would all be laughing at him today. He sighed as he got his stuff ready to go. Frank drove him to school, and told him to meet him at his office like he usually did on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Kyle got out of the car with his head down trying to avoid eye contact with everyone and make it to his locker unnoticed. Before he could even get into the building he heard some whistling, and then Matt's voice rang out, "Did your boyfriend just drop you off Kyle?"

Kyle's face burned, but he kept walking and tried to ignore the laughter of his friends. Matt called out, "I didn't know you had a thing for older men. Do you call him Daddy while he fucks you?"

Kyle couldn't take it. He turned and called back, "Fuck you Matt!"

Matt smirked, "Sorry Kyle, I don't swing that way."

"Neither do I and you know it!"

"The two of you seemed awfully close last night when he came to pick you up from the movies."

Kyle glared, "Speaking of last night, how'd your mom like coming to pick you up, or did she even bother?"

The bell rang, and Kyle got into the school before Matt came up with a reply. Kyle's head was reeling. Of all the things he had anticipated after last night, Matt making gay references wasn't one of them. He knew his friends would be laughing, and making jokes about him needing some kind of father figure, but his mind hadn't come up with the worst possible outcome. He shook his head, berating himself for not thinking of it before Matt did.

He sighed and went to his first class. He noticed quite a few looks turned his direction, and whispers circulating the room. He opened his book and pretended to look at it until the bell rang again. The next three hours were hell for him. The rumors had circulated and no one was talking to him, but everyone was staring. At lunch Kyle wasn't quite sure what to do. He usually sat with Matt and his friends, but that wasn't really a possibility today. He was hungry, but decided to skip lunch. He didn't want to sit alone and feel everyone's eyes on him. He walked around outside in the yard and wondered what he was going to do.

The rest of his classes were all the same, and when it was time for Algebra he almost skipped. But then he told himself that would mean Matt had won and went in anyway. He sat in a different seat then usual, and tried not to notice that Matt was talking to a group of kids about him.

When school was done for the day Kyle got his stuff and started walking to the bus stop. Less then a block off the school grounds he heard Matt's voice behind him. Matt called out, "Hey Kyle, don't be mad. We all understand don't we guys?"

Kyle turned to face Matt and his friends some of who were smiling in a mean way and nodding in agreement. Kyle looked around and saw quite a few kids from school had stopped walking home and were watching. Matt continued, "I mean it might be worth it to bag a rich sugar daddy who will buy you nice things and take you to the country club. Did you get that idea from my sister?"

Kyle felt more hatred for Matt in that moment then he had ever felt for anyone in his life. He yelled, "Shut up! I'm sure you can't understand my relationship with Frank since your own mother is counting down the days until you're eighteen so she can kick you out. Too bad you were held back in fifth grade after your dad left, that means your poor mom has to keep you until your nineteen. Do you suppose your dad took off because he couldn't stand you either? I know for sure your mom and sister hate you, so my guess is he did."

Matt lost his smirk and looked angry himself. He walked up to Kyle. He yelled, "Shut the fuck up!"

Kyle glared, "But then it's not very likely that you're gonna pass this year anyway is it? So my guess is that five years down the line, you'll be serving me fries at McDonalds."

Matt glowered, "Well at least I still won't be taking it up the ass."

Kyle lost it and swung a punch at Matt's face. It connected, and Matt's head snapped back. Matt dove at him, and within seconds they were rolling around on the sidewalk both trying to get he upper hand while trying to punch the other.

Even more kids rushed up to see what was going on. A few seconds into the fight Matt's sister Allison saw them and yelled out, "Matt! Kyle! Stop it both of you!"

They ignored her. Matt had gotten the upper hand, which wasn't a surprise since he was taller, older, and weighed more then Kyle, and he was now sitting on top of Kyle and punched him in the face a couple of times. Allison ran in, and used her backpack full of books to whack Matt in the side of the head. Matt fell down hard and lay still on the pavement for a second while his head spun. Kyle scooted away and stood up. Allison held her backpack in a threatening way and said, "You start it up again and you get whacked too."

Kyle held his hands up and backed away. He accidentally bumped into his gym teacher who had just arrived on the scene. The teacher said, "Kyle, Allison get yourselves back to school and into the office now."

Kyle and Allison slowly started that way while looking back at Matt every few seconds.

The teacher leaned down and put a hand out to Matt. "You okay Matt? Can you hear me?"

Matt sat up and didn't take the offered hand as he stood. The teacher said, "Come on, office for you too."

All too soon, Kyle was having his scrapes and bruises looked at by the school nurse while the vice-principal called Frank at work. Kyle wasn't sure who looked worse, him or Matt. They both had black eyes. Kyle had a gash on his forehead, and Matt had a split lip. Neither one looked good. Allison was sitting in the reception area waiting for their mother to come and pick them up. Kyle and Matt refused to speak to one another as the nurse worked on them.

Soon all three kids were sitting in the reception area with Allison sitting between the two boys. Matt's mom showed up first and she looked pissed. She came in and hissed at Matt, 'What have you done now?!"

Matt crossed his arms and looked away. His mom continued, "It's not enough that I have to come and get you at the theater yesterday, but now I have to miss work to come pick you up for fighting? I am this close to kicking your ass out of the house."

Matt said nothing. His mom turned to Allison and said, "And you! I expect this from your brother, but I never thought I'd have to come pick you up too."

Allison looked apologetic and said; "I'm sorry mom."

Looking slightly appeased at that her mom turned to talk to the receptionist. A few minutes later the vice principal came out and said she would have to wait until Kyle's guardian got there as well so they could all talk together. She glared at no one in particular and said, "Great. I needed to miss more work."

She paced around the room for the next ten minutes until Frank showed up. Frank came in and went straight to Kyle, but Kyle kept his eyes on the floor. Frank had been told that Kyle had been fighting and wanted to reassure himself that Kyle was okay. He said, "Look at me."

Kyle looked up, and Frank put his hands on the sides of Kyle's face to tilt it towards the light to get a good look at the injuries. He said, "Looks painful. They said the nurse looked at you. Do you have any other injuries? Anything that hurts that she didn't know about?"

Kyle shook his head no. Frank took a deep breath of relief and then turned to talk with the receptionist. Soon all five of them were in the vice-principal's office. Matt's mom turned to Frank and said, "Are you Kyle's father?"

"No, I know him from the big brother program. His mom's out of town this week, so he's staying with me." This explanation seemed to suffice for Matt's mom.

The vice-principal cleared his throat and started out with, "We have a strictly enforced no fighting rule here at this school. But since school was technically out for the day, and they were off the school grounds, legally there isn't much I can do other then have this meeting and put a note in all three files. We can however investigate how the fight started, and if there was some sort of altercation during school hours we can and will do something about that."

Kyle swallowed hard thinking this was much more serious then he had thought. The vice-principal looked at Allison who was the oldest and most responsible of the bunch. He said, "Miss Jackson, you tell me your story first please."

The vice-principal took notes while Allison spoke. "Kyle and Matt have been friends for years now. I've never seen them fight. I've hardly ever seen them arguing even. So when I saw them fighting I was shocked and yelled at them to stop. They didn't, and Matt had gotten on top of Kyle and was punching him in the face. I could tell by the look in Matt's face that he wasn't going to stop until someone made him. I was worried that Kyle would be permanently hurt, so I used my backpack to hit Matt in the side of the head. Then when Kyle got up I told him I'd hit him with it too if he didn't stop fighting."

"Do you know what the fight was about?"

"No."

The vice-principal looked over at Matt and said, "Let's have your version."

Matt shrugged, "I was just walking home and out of no where Kyle attacked me."

Kyle couldn't believe his ears, "You liar!"

Frank put a hand on Kyle's shoulder to calm him down as the vice-principal held up a hand and said, "You'll get your turn in a few minutes Mr. Hyatt."

Matt said, "He started the fight. We were just talking and he punched me in the face for no reason."

Kyle seethed. There was a pause and then the vice-principal turned to Kyle and asked, "Okay Mr. Hyatt, let's have your version."

Kyle opened his mouth ready to give his version and set the record straight, but as he thought about repeating the things Matt had said he turned red. His words were a bit subdued when he said; "Matt told everyone that Frank was my boyfriend."

Allison gasped and said, "Matt, why would you do that?!"

The vice-principal said, "It's not your turn Miss Jackson."

Frank was too shocked to say anything at first, and he just shook his head at how wrong that idea was for the relationship he had with Kyle, and took his hand off Kyle's shoulder. The vice-principal looked over at Kyle again and said, "Continue."

"I tried to ignore it, but he wouldn't stop. The whole school knows. In every class I was in today there were whispers and looks behind my back. Then when I tried to leave school Matt and some of our friends followed me and kept saying stuff about Frank."

"What kind of things was he saying? I know it's hard, but I'd like to hear some specific quotes if possible."

Kyle shifted around uncomfortable about it and muttered; "He asked me if I called Frank daddy when he fucked me. He said Frank was my sugar daddy and that I was just dating him because he was rich."

Allison shook her head and said, "Oh, Matt." with disappointment.

There was a pause while the vice-principal wrote, and then he asked, "Who threw the first punch?"

Looking down Kyle answered, "I did."

"And how did it end?"

"Allison hit Matt with her backpack, and then a teacher showed up."

"Anything else?"

Kyle shook his head, but as an afterthought said, "I'm sorry."

The vice-principal turned to Matt and said, "We have strict policies about both sexual harassment and hate crimes"

Matt scoffed, "I never said anything to him. He's just looking for some excuse for attacking me, and you heard him admit he hit me first. I was just defending myself."

The vice-principal turned to Kyle and said, "Is there anyone who could collaborate your story?"

"Lots of people heard him."

"Give me a few names."

Kyle gave him six names, and then the vice-principal looked at the other two adults in the room. He said, "Anything to add?"

Matt's mom shook her head no. Frank said, "What's going to happen now?"

The vice-principal thought it over for a few minutes and said, "I'm going to need a day to conduct an investigation about these accusations. Kyle and Matt will both be suspended for one day while I look into this. Wednesday morning at eight AM I would like to see both of them in my office again, and we will take it from there. But I warn you that if the accusations turn out to be true, it's likely that Matt will be expelled."

Matt yelled, "What? He hit me, and I'm the one that might get expelled?!"

"The two of you were off school grounds when the fight occurred. If you want to take legal action against Kyle for assault, then you will have to get a lawyer. But if you've created a hostile environment for Kyle to go to school in, then expulsion is a real possibility for you. I'll have an answer for you on Wednesday morning."

Matt was obviously pissed, but didn't say anything else. The vice-principal had both adults sign a few papers about the meeting, and then let everyone go for the day.

As they were all walking out, Frank dug out a business card and handed it to Matt's mom. He said, "I personally think Matt would be a perfect candidate for the big brother program. It's free, and he would get quite a bit of one on one attention. Please feel free to call me if you have any questions about it."

Kyle got a look at Matt who looked properly appalled, especially when his mom took the card and said, "Thanks. I'll think about it."

Soon Kyle and Frank were in the BMW driving. Kyle noticed they were headed away from downtown and said, "You're not going back to work?"

"I took the afternoon off."

Kyle wondered how upset Frank was about all of it. He said, "I'm really sorry that you had to leave work early to come get me, and I'm sorry I fought with Matt in the first place."

Frank sighed and said, "I'm sorry too."

"For what?"

"You threw the first punch Kyle. I'm never going to be okay with that."

Kyle looked at the floor of the car and felt like crying. He didn't want Frank to be mad at him, especially after it had felt like everyone had been against him all day long. Frank said, "You're grounded for a week. No skateboarding, no swimming, and no computer or video games."

Kyle said, "You didn't hear all the things he said to me Frank. They were awful."

Frank reached over and put a hand on Kyle's shoulder and said with sympathy, "I'm sure they were. The things I did hear about horrified me. But it still doesn't excuse you striking out first."

"What if he had hit first?"

"Then you wouldn't be grounded. I have no problems with you defending yourself if it comes to that, but you will not start a fight."

Frank patted Kyle's shoulder once before putting his hand back on the steering wheel. They both thought about things until they arrived home. They got into the kitchen and Frank asked, "Did the school nurse give you anything for the pain?"

"No."

"Come on."

Frank led them through the house to the downstairs bathroom where he got out some Advil and handed a couple to Kyle along with a glass from the sink. Kyle took the pills, and then Frank said, "Why don't you go lie down for about half an hour and let them take effect. I have a few work calls to make, and then we'll talk after that."

"Okay."

Heading up to his room, Kyle thought about everything. The fact that his best friend had turned on him, that the whole school would be making fun of him, that his mom was out of town, and that Frank had just grounded him and was probably going to lecture him about it as well. He got to his room, closed the door behind him, lay down on his bed and cried.

About an hour later Frank found Kyle asleep on his bed. Frank had had time to think about what Kyle had done, and had decided that being grounded was enough punishment for what he had done, especially since he had clearly been provoked. But he wanted Kyle to try and think about ways to avoid a physical fight in the future. Frank put a hand on Kyle's shoulder and shook it once while he said, "Hey buddy, time to wake up."

Kyle woke with a start, and gave Frank a groggy look. Frank said, "Come on downstairs and meet me in the kitchen."

Frank left and Kyle sat up with a groan. The pain medication had worked, but his ribs and face were still sore. He met Frank in the kitchen and saw that Frank was reading the directions on a box of frozen lasagna for dinner. Frank set the oven to preheat and then looked over at Kyle. Kyle could tell by the look that Frank was in serious mode.

"You want to tell me any more of what Matt said to you so you can get if off your chest?"

Kyle shook his head no. Frank seemed to accept that and said, "I know today was awful for you, and I'm so sorry that someone you thought was your friend hurt you."

Feeling like maybe he was gonna cry again, Kyle looked away and shrugged, "It's okay."

Putting a hand on Kyle's shoulder Frank said, "We both know it's not okay."

Kyle nodded. Frank sighed and said, "We need to talk about you punching Matt. I want to know what was going through your mind when you did it."

Not having any kind of good answer, Kyle shrugged. Frank shook his head, "That's not going to be good enough. Try again."

"I…. I guess I wasn't thinking much at all…. I was just reacting to how much I hated him."

"Every action you take has a consequence Kyle, and learning to control your anger is something you have to learn to get along in our society."

Nodding, Kyle started to get nervous while thinking about Frank's threat to spank him from a while ago. Frank continued, "We have about an hour before dinner is ready, and I want you to use that time to think about what you could have done differently today."

"What?" Kyle seemed genuinely confused.

Frank pointed to the wall beside the kitchen door said, "For the next half hour I want you to go stand in that corner and think about everything you did today."

Shocked and horrified, Kyle shook his head no and took a step away from Frank. Frank took a step forward and got a hold of Kyle's upper arm so he couldn't back up again. Kyle said, "That's ridiculous! I'm not five!"

Frank started walking Kyle to the corner as he continued as if Kyle hadn't said anything, "I want you to come up with at least two things that you could have done differently today to avoid the fight. After the half-hour is up, you and I will sit down and talk about what you could have done differently. If you haven't thought of anything at all that you could have done to avoid the fight, then you can go back to the corner and think about it for another half an hour."

Frank and Kyle were both standing right next to the corner of the kitchen facing each other and Frank still had a grip on Kyle's arm. Kyle was pissed and tried to yank his arm away from Frank but failed. He yelled, "I will not stand in the corner!"

Frank turned Kyle so that he was facing the corner and swatted his butt twice. "If you won't stand here calmly and think things through, then I'm going to spank you."

The swats and threat did nothing to calm Kyle's anger. There was no doubt in his mind that Frank would do it, and he wanted to avoid that situation entirely, but he also wanted Frank to know what he thought of the whole situation. He kept his head turned to the wall and said with obvious anger; "Of all the cheesy, out of date, and retarded things you've done and said, this is the worst."

"Remember when I told you there were some things that crossed the line?"

Kyle nodded to the wall. Frank said, "You're really close to stepping over it right now."

Kyle said nothing and silence stretched out between them for a few seconds. When Frank was sure Kyle was calm enough to stay put, he let go of Kyle's arm and said, "I mean it Kyle. You stay there facing the wall and think things through. I don't want to hear another word from you until I tell you the half hour is up "

Kyle's whole body radiated anger as he stood there with his hands in fists at his sides. Frank waited for a few seconds to make sure Kyle was going to comply, and then went to put the lasagna in the oven and set the timer. Frank had brought some work home with him, and he put it on the kitchen counter to work on where he could keep an eye on Kyle.

Kyle's mind raced with all kinds of hate and anger for Frank for the first ten minutes, but after he had run out of insulting things to think, his mind started going over the events of the day. Not because Frank had told him to, but because the events were still upsetting to him and he couldn't keep his mind away from it. Twenty minutes into it he did start thinking about things he could have done differently to avoid the fight.

When half an hour was up, Frank said, "Okay Kyle, come over here and let's talk."

Kyle felt is anger at Frank rushing back. Frank was sitting on one of the kitchen stools at the counter. Kyle went and sat on the one next to him with anger clearly written on his face.

Frank said, "Tell me what you could have done differently today."

Glaring at the counter Kyle said, "I could have just kept walking when Matt was talking. I shouldn't have turned around to listen to him, and I shouldn't have responded to him at all."

Frank was pleased. "Very good. That would have helped you avoid the fight. Anything else?"

"You probably think I should have told one of the teachers right?"

"I think it would have gotten Matt to stop sooner, and you would have avoided the fight, but it also would have made you a snitch in the eyes of your classmates. So while that would have been an option, I would understand why you wouldn't want to take it. Any other ideas?"

Kyle didn't have any other ideas, but he really didn't want to go stand in the corner for another half an hour either. He said, "I could have pretended to be sick and gone home."

Frank gave Kyle a look of disapproval and Kyle muttered, "Or not."

"Anything else?"

Kyle was irritated; "I gave you a couple of answers."

"Do you need to go think some more?" Frank asked with some irritation of his own.

Turning whiny Kyle said, "No. I just don't know what else you want me to say. I did think about it, and I told you what I came up with. Standing there longer won't help."

Frank gave in, "You're right, you did do what I asked, and I appreciate it. I won't make you stand there anymore. The only thing I was thinking about that you haven't brought up is your reaction to Matt's taunting."

Pleased that Frank was relenting Kyle asked, "My reaction?"

"What if the first time he said something about me, you had just walked up to all your friends and told the truth about the situation. When Matt said something repulsive, instead of responding or saying something unpleasant, you could have focused on the other people in the group and told them some of the stuff we did. You still could. Tell them about driving the Jaguar or swimming in the pool. Tell them about your new skateboard, and invite them over to come see the place for themselves. It's not like Matt is your only friend."

Kyle did think about that, and thought it was a better answer then any he had come up with. Frank patted Kyle on the shoulder and said, "I need to finish this paperwork up. Why don't you get out some of your homework and do it at the table until dinner is ready."

Nodding absently Kyle walked over to his backpack and got out some homework. He set it on the table but wasn't able to concentrate, because his mind was busy thinking about what Frank had said. Half an hour later dinner was ready, and while they were eating Frank said, "We're going to have to call your mother tonight and tell her."

Having skipped lunch Kyle had wolfed down his first helping and had put a second helping on his plate. But at the thought of telling his mother about the day he lost some of his appetite. "Yeah, I guess we do."

"Do you want to talk to her first, or do you want me to explain things to her and then let her talk to you?"

Kyle thought it over for a few seconds. "Could you tell her about it first?"

"Sure."

"She's gonna be mad."

"I think she's mostly going to be worried, but that might manifest itself into anger."

"Are you gonna tell her that you grounded me?"

"Yes I am."

"How about….. thinking things over"

"You mean standing in the corner?"

Kyle nodded. Frank sighed and said, "I hadn't really thought about it."

Kyle's voice was very quiet as he said to his plate, "It was embarrassing."

"You don't want me to tell her?"

"I don't want her to know." Kyle's voice was barely above a whisper.

Frank felt kind of bad about making Kyle do it now. He said, "Hey buddy, look at me."

Kyle did with some difficulty. Frank said, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean for it to be something harsh. I just wanted you to really concentrate on what I had told you without distractions."

Looking back down Kyle said, "I know…. I just…. I don't want her to know."

Thinking it over Frank said, "Okay, I won't tell her."

Kyle pushed the food around on his plate. Changing the subject, Frank said, "I've arranged for your tutor to come over here tomorrow afternoon. He should be here about three."

"Okay."

"I leave for work at seven, and I plan to wake you up right before I go. I'm trusting you to spend the day studying, or reading in your room. I would take the day off, but we're having a big meeting with some people from out of town and….."

Kyle was feeling pretty bad about all of it and said; "It's okay, I understand. And I won't do anything I'm not supposed to do while I'm grounded."

Frank believed him, and they finished eating in silence. As soon as the dinner dishes were done, Frank called Cheryl and told her what had happened. She wasn't happy about it, and apologized to Frank for having to deal with it while she was gone. He assured her that he didn't mind, and after a short conversation he handed the phone to Kyle.

Kyle was pleasantly surprised that his mom was sympathetic about the situation with Matt, even if she did agree with Frank that Kyle should be grounded for the fighting. And when she said she missed him before hanging up, Kyle realized he really missed her too. He stood there holding the dead phone for a few seconds. Frank gently took it from him and hung it up.

Frank pulled Kyle into a hug and said, "It's been a rough day. Why don't you go get ready for bed, and read something for a while."

Kyle hugged Frank back surprisingly hard, and Frank waited him out. Kyle finally let go and gave Frank an emotional, "Night."

"Good night."
******************

The next morning Frank woke Kyle up and told him there was cereal in the cupboard for breakfast before he left for work. Once Frank was gone Kyle got himself some breakfast and thought over the events of the day before. He found his ribs were still pretty sore and took some more painkillers before taking a shower and getting dressed for the day. He had been studying for about half an hour when the phone rang. He wasn't sure if he should answer it or not, but then thought it might be Frank. He rushed to the living room and picked it up. "Hello?"

"Kyle?"

Recognizing the voice Kyle glared at the phone, "How did you get this number Matt?"

"It was written on the back of the business card the douche gave my mom."

"What do you want?"

There was a pause, and then Matt said, "I want to make a deal."

"What?!"

"Not over the phone. I want you to meet me at the skate park."

"No." Kyle couldn't believe that Matt had the gall to even ask.

"If you don't meet me I'm going to get a lawyer and sue your ass for assault. I really don't think you want that on your record do you?"

"Like you have the money to sue me, and like anyone would blame me for punching you after what you said."

"Your buddy Frank there is a pretty famous guy. You ever google his name?"

A little nervous and unsure now Kyle said, "No."

"You should. It's not going to look very good for his image if this goes to court. And once the public hears about what I said, there is always going to be some doubt as to what happened between the two of you."

Kyle took a few seconds to think about that. After everything Frank had done for him, he couldn't let that happen. Kyle gave in. "Okay, I'll meet with you, but I don't have a way to get to the skate park."

"Sure you do, you told me all about that Jaguar you got to drive, so hop in and get over to the park. See you in thirty minutes, or I'm calling the first lawyer in the phonebook."

Matt hung up before Kyle could say anything else. Kyle slammed the phone down in anger and said some choice words under his breath. Kyle looked at the clock, which read nine AM.

Kyle thought, 'Frank's in meetings all morning. Mr. Wagner isn't gonna be here until three, and Frank won't be home until after five. I know where the keys to the Jag are, but if Frank finds out…. Damn. Stupid fucking Matt. I wish I'd never met him. But if Frank's image is wrecked because of me after all the nice stuff he's done for me and for mom…. Frank doesn't have to find out. I'll be back in no time at all. I have to try and convince Matt to keep his big mouth shut.'

Knowing it was risky; Kyle sighed and went to get the keys for the Jaguar. As he got in the car and started it up he thought, 'If Frank finds out he's gonna spank me for sure. No, don't think about that. Just think about getting there and getting back before anyone finds out. Maybe Frank would understand even if he did find out. It's not like I'm out joyriding, I'm only doing it because I have to.'

Feeling a little better Kyle backed out of the garage and headed to the skate park. Soon he was there and saw Matt skateboarding alone. Kyle parked and got out to meet him. Matt skated up to him and said, "Your face looks worse today."

"Yours too."

"Yeah."

There was a pause. Kyle said, "You said you wanted to make a deal."

Matt sighed, "Look Kyle, I was talking to my mom last night, and she said if I got expelled I'd have to get a job or move out."

Kyle shrugged, not caring. Matt continued, "I don't want to get some nine to five gig, and I don't have any money to move out."

"So?"

"So tomorrow morning I want you to tell everyone that we were just joking around. I want you to tell them that it was no big deal, and that our fight was about something else entirely."

Kyle couldn't believe it. "No fucking way."

"And I want ten thousand dollars to keep my mouth shut about you and Frank."

Kyle shouted, "I don't have ten thousand dollars, and you know it!"

"You may not, but Frank does."

Kyle shook his head, and actually started to laugh at that. "You don't know Frank at all if you think he's gonna give in to blackmail."

"We'll see. You tell him what I said, and we'll see."

Kyle couldn't help but ask, "We've been friends for six years. Doesn't that mean anything to you?"

Matt's face changed, and Kyle could see that their friendship had meant something to Matt. Matt looked away and said, "You haven't been acting like much of a friend lately. You got me into trouble at the theater, you haven't been hanging out with me nearly as much as you used to, and then you started the fight."

Kyle's mind screamed out, 'I haven't been acting like a friend?! You're the one who hasn't been acting like a friend!'

Keeping his thoughts to himself Kyle said, "Tell you what Matt, tomorrow morning I'll tell everyone that we're still friends, and that I don't want you expelled. I'll tell them that it was just a fight between you and me, and that it was a one-time thing that won't happen again. Then if you still get expelled, I'll ask Frank to help you find another school or get a tutor like he got me so you can get your GED."

Matt thought about it for a second. Knowing Matt well enough to know it would help persuade him to agree, Kyle said, "Please Matt, I'm begging you not to cause trouble for Frank. I'll owe you big."

There was a long pause but eventually Matt said, "Okay."

"Okay what?"

"I'll keep my mouth shut about Frank as long as I don't get expelled."

After everything that had happened between them over the past couple of days Kyle knew he couldn't really trust Matt, but he hoped that he was telling the truth. "Thanks Matt."

"But if I do get expelled, then I'm gonna need some compensation for keeping quiet and not taking you to court."

Kyle thought it was best not to argue this point right now, and before he could come up with some kind of reply he saw someone approaching out of the corner of his eye. He turned and saw an irate Frank walking towards them. Kyle involuntarily shook his head no and took a few steps away. All he could think was, 'No. No. No. NO!'

Matt, confused by the obvious panic in Kyle's face, looked over to see what had caused it. Matt jumped on his skateboard and skated away as quickly as he could without waiting for Kyle to answer. Kyle barely noticed that Matt had left. When Frank was close enough to reach out and touch Kyle he stopped and said, "Home. Now."

Swallowing hard, Kyle gave a slight nod and got out a shaky, "Okay."

Kyle sidestepped around Frank and walked as fast as he could back to the Jaguar. He started driving with shaky hands and found it difficult to concentrate on driving as his mind raced. 'How the hell did he find out? How did he know where I was? He looks really pissed. Damn it, he's gonna….. Maybe if I tell him why I left he won't….. But what if I tell him and then he tells the vice-principal about Matt's blackmail attempt. Matt will get expelled, and then cause trouble for Frank. Shit.'
*************

Half an hour ago Frank was at his office in a meeting when Louise had interrupted him with an urgent phone call. Frank had answered and found Missy on the other end. He was immediately worried and said, "What happened, is Kyle okay?"

Missy sounded confused, "Kyle? Isn't he in school?"

"No, he got suspended for a day."

"Oh…."

There was a long pause and Frank said, "If it's not about Kyle, then what's wrong?"

Sounding more reluctant now Missy said, "I was calling to tell you that when I showed up to start the housecleaning this morning I found that both the BMW and the Jaguar were gone. I assumed the Jaguar had been stolen, but if Kyle is supposed to be here…."

Frank couldn't believe it. "Could you go check Kyle's room? He said he would stay there."

Knowing it was futile, but understanding that Frank needed to be sure, Missy said. "Sure. Hold on."

While Missy was gone Frank thought, 'He said he knew he was grounded. He agreed to stay in his room and study. Where the heck would he be going with the car? Why would he leave?'

Missy came back on the phone, "I'm so sorry sweetie, but he's not in the house."

Frank let out a long disappointed sigh and pinched the bridge of his nose with his fingers while closing his eyes on an impending headache. "Okay Missy. Thanks for calling me. I'm going to try and find him."

"You call me if you need anything, and I'll call you if he comes home."

As soon as Frank hung up, he went back into the meeting and apologized for having a family emergency. He left the meeting and told Louise to cancel all of his appointments for the day. She asked, "What's wrong?"

"Kyle is missing."

Louise didn't ask anything else, just started to make phone calls. Frank gathered up his briefcase and headed out the door. He tried to think about where Kyle would go, and could only think of two places - his own house, or the skate park. Frank got into his BMW and tried to decide which place to check first. He decided on the skate park since it was closer.

When Frank arrived he couldn't believe his eyes. There in the distance he could see Matt and Kyle talking. Shaking his head with disbelief, Frank felt his worry turn to anger. He got out and headed for the two of them. Matt dashed off as soon as he saw Frank, and Frank could see there was worry and some fear in Kyle's face. Frank thought, 'Good. He should be worried.'

Frank got a little closer to Kyle then was necessary and found he was too angry to say much besides a directive for Kyle to go home. He followed Kyle to the cars, and then followed him all the way home. On the ride he was able to calm down a little bit, but not much. He tried to tell himself that there might be a good reason for all of it, but in the end knew there was no excuse that was going to be acceptable.
***********

Kyle parked the Jaguar in front of the garage and a few seconds later Frank pulled up next to him in the BMW. The garage door went up and they both pulled in and parked. Frank got out and walked purposely towards Kyle. Kyle got out quickly, shut the door, and stood with his back to the Jaguar. Frank got a hold of Kyle's upper arm, which Kyle found unpleasantly familiar, and walked them both towards the house. As they got close Missy opened the door, and Kyle realized that was how Frank had found out he had left.

Missy just stood back with a sad look on her face as they entered. Frank said, "Kyle and I are going to go talk in the office for about half an hour."

Missy nodded in acceptance and went back to the laundry room to fold some clothes. Kyle looked appalled and shook his head no, knowing exactly what Frank was planning on. Kyle felt himself being drug through the house, and said, "Frank. Frank! I'll be grounded for two weeks okay?"

Frank didn't acknowledge Kyle and kept them walking through the house. Getting no response, Kyle started to try and pull away from Frank's grip as he said, "Okay a month! Frank! Please…"

Kyle put his hand on top of Frank's hand to try and pry the fingers off. Frank stopped abruptly and swatted Kyle hard. Kyle gasped and stopped trying to pull away. Frank took a few more strides to the office door. They went in and Frank shut the door behind them.

Frank pulled Kyle along with him, and got the armless office chair out from behind the desk. He wheeled it into the middle of the room away from any other furniture, and sat down. Only after he was sitting, and Kyle was standing beside him on the right, did he let go of Kyle's arm.

Kyle's stomach was twisted in knots as he looked down at Frank's lap, knowing exactly what was going to happen. Kyle could tell that it took some effort for Frank to keep his voice level as he said, "Tell me what happened."

Giving Frank a hopeful look Kyle said, "Matt got your number from that card you gave his mom, and he called me. He said he wanted to meet me, and talk to me about tomorrow. He said he wanted to make a deal. I told him no at first, but then…."

Frank was relieved to hear that going to the skate park hadn't been Kyle's idea, and his voice was more calm as he said, "Then what?"

"Matt said he would take me to court for assault if I didn't meet with him."

Frank sighed. "And so you agreed to meet with him?"

Not wanting to tell Frank that Matt had also threatened to wreck his reputation, Kyle just nodded. Frank asked, "Why didn't you call me after you got off the phone with him?"

"You said you were gonna be in meetings all morning."

Realizing what Kyle had assumed, Frank took a hold of Kyle's wrist and said, "You're always more important to me then anything at work. If you have a problem, then you call me, no matter what I said I was doing that day. Understand?"

Flushed with a mix of pleasure at hearing how important he was to Frank, and embarrassment that he hadn't even considered calling, Kyle mumbled, "Yeah, okay."

Frank let out another sigh and said, "Did you think about the fact that you were grounded before you left?"

Kyle nodded at the floor as his face turned redder. Frank said, "And?"

Talking so low that Frank could barely hear him Kyle said, "I thought I'd be back before anyone knew I was gone."

"That was the wrong decision, especially after you told me you were going to stick to being grounded while I was at work."

"I'm sorry."

"I'm sorry too, because you've crossed the line and now….."

In a panicked rush to get out of the impending spanking Kyle looked at Frank said, "Matt told me he would ruin your reputation. He said he would tell everyone in court what he said at school, and that because you were famous it would wreck your image. I couldn't let that happen after everything you've done for me and mom."

Instead of having the desired affect, Kyle saw a flash of anger in Frank's eyes. Frank let go of his wrist and used both hands to undo the button of Kyle's jeans. Kyle tried to take a step back but couldn't. Kyle pleaded, "No! Frank, please don't…"

Kyle's baggy jeans fell to the floor as soon as Frank let go. Frank grabbed Kyle's wrist again and pulled him over his lap with a firm yank. Kyle caught his upper body with both hands on the floor. His stomach was directly on top of Frank's right leg, and his upper thighs were on Frank's left leg, which meant Kyle's legs dangled in the air behind him, and his butt was dead center on Frank's lap.

Kyle said, "No one spanks their kids anymore! Can't we think of something else?!"

Frank had one hand on Kyle's hip to keep him in place and the other hand was in mid air ready to strike when Kyle spoke. Frank lowered his hand and rested it on the back of Kyle's thigh. He looked down at the back of Kyle's head and said, "No I don't think we can. You should know me well enough by now to know I don't care much what everyone else does, I do what I think is right. You were suspended from school after having a fight, and then after I grounded you, instead of staying in your room, you took my car and went to meet with the person you had been fighting with in the first place. Now I understand that there was an element of blackmail here, but the fact that you didn't call me tells me that you are insecure about your place in my life. You seem to think you owe me something because I've done things with you for the past two months, but that's just not the case."

Frank looked back at Kyle's underwear covered behind and said, "Neither one of us are going to enjoy the next few minutes, but I think it's important to show you that I care enough about you to correct you when you make the wrong choices."

Frank raised his hand and said, "This is for leaving the house after you were grounded."

Bringing his hand down Frank landed a solid swat dead center on Kyle's rear end. His hand was large enough to cover a significant portion of Kyle's butt with each swat. Kyle's body jerked in response, and Frank brought his hand down again in the same spot.

Kyle was thoroughly embarrassed about the position, the fact that he was in it, and the fact that he knew he had been wrong to leave the house in the first place. The first few swats were more embarrassing then painful to Kyle, but as the swats continued to come down in the same spot, Kyle found his body jerking and tensing in response. Kyle wasn't sure how many swats constituted a spanking according to Frank, but he hoped it wasn't much more, because it was starting to hurt a lot.

The swats kept coming in a steady rhythm for a few seconds. Kyle wondered if Frank was waiting to hear some kind of apology and called out, "I'm sorry. Frank, I'm sorry I left the house. I won't do it again."

The swats didn't stop as Frank said, "I'm glad you don't plan to do it again, but it doesn't change the fact that you already did it."

Kyle couldn't keep his voice under control anymore. Some grunts and ows slipped out before he could stop them, and once they started they only increased in frequency and volume. After a few more seconds, Kyle was pretty desperate for it to end. "Please Frank! Ow! I'm really sorry! Mmfh! Please stop!"

Frank did stop and Kyle tried to collect himself and calm down. Kyle was breathing hard, and the stinging sensation in his butt made it hard to calm down. Frank sighed with regret and said, "This next part is for taking my car without asking."

Kyle's voice was an octave higher then usual as he said, "Next part?"

He felt Frank's fingers in the waistband of his underwear and yelled, "NO!"

Kyle put his hand back to try and keep his underwear up, but his butt was bare before his hand made it all the way back. He covered as much of the spot Frank had been hitting as he could with his hand, and gave a desperate, "Please Frank, I said I was sorry, and I swear I won't do it again."

Frank got a firm grip on Kyle's wrist, pulled the hand away, and held it against his right knee a few inches away from Kyle's hip. Seeing the large red mark on the center of Kyle's butt that was in the vague shape of his hand, with some distinct finger shaped red marks here and there on the left butt cheek, Frank stopped for a second. He had never spanked anyone before. He'd been spanked a few times growing up. And his sister, who had been more wild then he ever was, had been spanked more then a few times. But it was somewhat of a shock to see the glaring physical evidence that he was causing Kyle pain.

Frank told himself it was the right thing to do even if it was a difficult thing to do, and started spanking Kyle again, but aimed for the skin that wasn't red yet. Kyle was dismayed that the spanking hurt even more now and let out a long and frustrated, "Owww!" while trying to squirm away.

While he spanked Frank said, "I have no problem with you driving my car Kyle, but you will get permission first."

"Okay I wiiiiiill!"

"What if Missy had called the police first when she found the Jaguar missing? What if you had gotten pulled over for driving a stolen car? Did you think about that?"

"Noooo!" Kyle hadn't considered that at all, and it wasn't a thought he wanted to dwell on – not that he could concentrate on much of anything other then the continued slaps to his backside.

"Taking someone's car without asking is wrong. I don't want to hear about you doing it again."

Kyle hated the spanking in the first place, but having Frank scolding him while spanking was much worse. "I won't! I won't! Frank! I said I won't!"

Frank heard Kyle's voice breaking on the last word, and knew he was about to cry. He gave him ten more swats and stopped. He could hear and feel Kyle's shuddering breathing as he tried to conceal his crying. Frank said, "This last part is for meeting with Matt."

Kyle shook his head no frantically, but Frank wasn't swayed. "Meeting with Matt alone was a dangerous thing to do. You had both been in a fight just yesterday, and he's bigger then you are. If he had decided to finish the job that his sister interrupted, you could be in the hospital."

Frank heard a choked sob from Kyle right before he resumed the spanking. He aimed for the center of Kyle's butt again, and Kyle yelped in response. Frank gave Kyle twenty more swats that were slightly harder then the rest had been, and by the time he was done Kyle was crying openly.

Taking a deep breath to calm himself down, Frank let go of Kyle's wrist, and pulled his underwear up for him. He rubbed his back for a few seconds and said quietly, "Okay, it's over now."

Getting no response from Kyle he flipped the boy over so that he was sitting in his lap with his butt between Frank's thighs and free from pressure. Frank pulled Kyle into a hug and held him while he cried. Kyle immediately wrapped his arms around Frank's shoulders as well and clung to him. Frank ran a soothing hand up and down Kyle's back while he waited.

A few minutes later Frank was the first to speak after the crying was down to sniffles. "Listen to me buddy, I know that hurt, and I'm sorry I had to do it. You're forgiven, and I'm sure you won't make the same mistakes again."

Kyle tried and failed to keep fresh tears from rolling down his cheeks at that. His voice was thick with tears as he said; "It hurt a lot."

Feeling even guiltier then he already did Frank hugged Kyle tighter and said, "I know."

Kyle whispered, "I am sorry."

"I know."

They sat quietly for a few more minutes while Kyle tried to calm down. As he calmed down he became more aware of the fact he was sitting on Frank's lap and let go of Frank so he could get off. Frank let him go and Kyle stood up. Kyle bent down and worked on untangling his jeans from around his feet while Frank stood up and wheeled the chair back to it's place behind the desk. When Frank turned around Kyle was dressed and had both his hands on his butt gently rubbing. Frank got a box of tissues off the corner of the desk and handed it to Kyle. Kyle took a few and wiped at his face and blew his nose.

Frank put the box back and half sat half leaned against the edge of the desk. He said, "What did Matt have to say when you met with him?"

Kyle wouldn't look at Frank, and his voice was quiet and shaky. "He said he didn't want to get expelled, and so he wanted me to tell the vice-principal that it had all been a big joke. He also said he wanted ten thousand dollars to keep his mouth shut. I said no, and I told him you wouldn't give in to blackmail."

"You're right about that."

"So I compromised and told him I'd tell the vice-principal that the whole fight was a one time thing, that it won't happen again, and that I don't want Matt to be expelled. I also told him that if he did get expelled I'd ask you to help find him another school or get him a tutor so he could get his GED."

"And what do you get out of the deal?"

"He won't sue me, and he won't tell lies about you…. us… you know."

Frank shook his head, "Is that it?"

"He said if he got expelled he'd need you to give him money to keep his mouth shut."

Frank crossed his arms and said, "I won't have you lying about what happened, and I won't be blackmailed."

Kyle shrugged, "It's not exactly a lie. Our fight was a one time thing, and it won't happen again."

"And you really don't want Matt expelled?"

"Well not if it means he's gonna cause trouble."

The room was quiet for a few minutes while both of them though things over. Finally Frank said, "Look at me."

Kyle found it difficult, but did look up. Frank said, "Matt can say whatever he wants about us to whomever he wants. You and I know it's not true, and that is all that matters to me. My reputation won't suffer, because all the people who know me will vouch for me."

Kyle hoped Frank was right about that and gave a nod. Frank said, "Matt is not a nice person, and I won't reward his bad behavior with money."

"Okay."

Frank stood and walked over to Kyle so he could put a hand on his shoulder as he said, "I want to be very clear about this next part, because it's important to me."

Feeling a little nervous and unsure Kyle nodded. Frank said, "You said that you had to make sure Matt didn't do anything to wreck my reputation because of everything I had done for you and your mom."

Kyle swallowed once and nodded again wondering where Frank was going. "I want you to know that I get just as much, if not more from our relationship then you or your mom do."

Frank could tell from Kyle's look that he didn't believe him. Frank let go of Kyle's shoulder and looked away as he said, "I'm not the type of person who would ever consider suicide, but after Alice died…. I…. Well I was basically going through the motions of life without caring much about anything. I spent every day being irritated that I had a long life in front of me, because I was impatient to reunite with my wife."

Frank looked back at Kyle and could tell his words had shocked him. Feeling a little embarrassed about telling Kyle something he hadn't told anyone else, he put his hands in his pockets and looked at the floor as he said, "But now I find I have something to wake up for. Something to look forward to. Something to focus on. So I'm grateful to both you and your mom for giving me that. Anything I give you in return pales in comparison."

Kyle didn't know what to say to that, but knew without a doubt that Frank was sincere. He had trouble seeing himself as that important in anyone's life other then his mothers, but as he looked at Frank he could tell it was true. He took the step that separated them and wrapped his arms around Frank's middle in a tight hug. Frank pulled his hands out of his pockets, and hugged Kyle back with one arm around Kyle's back and the other hand on the back of Kyle's head.

After a minute Frank cleared his throat and tried to lighten the situation, "Don't let it go to your head. You're still grounded for the rest of the week."

Kyle muttered, "Yeah I know." and let go.

Letting go as well Frank said, "I took the rest of the day off, but I'm going to need to make a few phone calls and a few apologies about that."

"Sorry."

"I know, and I told you I forgave you, so you don't have to keep apologizing. You paid the price for what you did, and I'm not angry about it."

"Okay."

"Then after I make some calls I'm gonna think about the situation with Matt for a while, and see what I come up with."

Kyle doubted there was anything Frank could do, but gave him a hopeful nod anyway. Frank put an arm around Kyle's shoulders and headed them both to the door. He said, "I want you to go to your room and stay there until Missy or I come and get you for lunch."

Kyle mumbled, "Okay."

Frank opened the office door and walked Kyle to the stairs. He let him go and said, "Try to do some studying. Getting behind again isn't an option."

Frank heard Kyle give a dejected sigh as he headed up the stairs to his room. Once Kyle was out of sight Frank went to find Missy and reassured her that everything was fine before he started to make phone calls.
**************

Kyle went to his room, undid his pants, and pulled them down just enough to look behind him at his red butt. He mumbled to no one, "Never want to do that again."

He put the pants back on and flopped onto his bed stomach side down. He bunched up a pillow beneath his head, opened a textbook, and pretended to look at it while he thought over the day's events.

A couple of hours later Kyle woke with a start when someone knocked on his door. He rubbed at his eyes for a second and then said, "Yeah?"

Frank opened the door a little and said, "Lunchtime."

"Okay, I'll be down in a minute."

Once the door closed again Kyle sat up and said, "Damn. Still hurts."

He stood and rubbed at his behind for a few seconds before taking a deep breath and heading downstairs. In the dining room he found two places set to eat, but Frank wasn't sitting in one of them. Kyle went into the kitchen to find him, but only found Missy. Missy gave him a smile and said, "Hello there dear, how are you feeling?"

Kyle blushed wondering if she knew what had happened. It was a huge house, so he doubted she heard anything, but she had known Frank for a long time, and knew what kind of person he was. He muttered to the counter, "I'm fine thanks. Where's Frank?"

"He's getting ready."

Kyle thought that sounded a little odd, but let it go and asked, "What's for lunch?"

"Some chicken noodle soup with sandwiches, a side salad, and cookies."

Kyle's stomach growled in response. Missy smiled at him and handed him a plate with some sandwiches. "Take that into the dining room please."

Before Kyle could make it to the dining room Frank came through the kitchen door. He teased, "Did you have a nice nap?"

Kyle muttered, "Not funny."

"I'm taking Matt's mom out to lunch."

"What?!"

"I called Matt's mother, and I'm taking her out to lunch so we can discuss things."

Shaking his head Kyle said, "But I don't…."

Interrupting Frank said, "It's going to be fine Kyle. Don't worry so much. I promise I'm going to take care of it one way or another."

Not used to putting his trust in someone so completely Kyle paused and then said, "But Frank I…."

"Kyle." Frank's voice held a warning.

"What?"

"You mind Missy while I'm gone, and after lunch you go back to your room and study."

Irritated at being cut off, Kyle rolled his eyes and thought, 'Mind Missy? What am I three now?'

Frank crossed his arms and said, "Are we going to have a problem here?"

"No." Kyle's voice was slightly belligerent.

Missy rushed over and put an arm around Kyle's shoulders and said, "Can't you see the boy is hungry Frank? We'll be just fine. You go on now and don't worry about us."

Frank gave Kyle a pointed look and said, "I expect you to behave."

Kyle glared at the plate of sandwiches and didn't answer. Frank turned to Missy and said, "I'll be home in a couple of hours."

Once Frank was gone Missy patted Kyle's shoulder and said gently, "Go on and take the sandwiches to the table."

Kyle took them in, and then sat down in his spot. Missy took a couple of trips and brought in the rest of the food before sitting down herself. She looked over at Kyle and said, "Eat up."

Kyle started eating, and tried not to be obvious about squirming in his chair while he ate. Once he was having seconds Missy said quietly, "I'm glad we have this little chance to talk, because I wanted to let you know how much of an influence your presence has had on Frank."

Kyle's hand stilled half way to his mouth, and he looked over at Missy with curiosity. She said, "The first time I met Frank was when Alice brought him home to meet her father. I could tell straight off that he was the one for her. He was kind, caring, and affectionate towards her, and she was so head over heals in love with him… Well they were just meant to be. And over the years as I got to know him better both from Alice's stories, and from seeing him myself I found him to be a hard working and honest man. Not something that is as easy to find as you might think."

"When Alice got sick…. Frank always had a smile for her, always kept her spirits up, never let her think the treatments weren't going to work. But when she wasn't looking I could see the worry and fear on his face. By the time we all knew she only had a few days left, he still always had a smile for her as he read to her, and held her. But once she was gone… it was like he had used up all the joy that there was in him, and all that was left was despair. Then when Mr. Thompson killed himself,…. Frank became almost robotic. He still got up every day. He still ate, and worked, and read, but he was on autopilot. Until he met you."

Missy looked over at Kyle and said, "Now I see that spark of life back in his eyes."

She brushed some hair out of Kyle's eyes and said, "Alice would have liked you."

Kyle put his food down not sure what to say after such an emotional outpouring. He gave her an inadequate, "Thanks."

"You're welcome child."

A few minutes later Kyle said, "Missy?"

"Yes?"

"Doesn't it seem like… "

"Like what?"

"Well like I've caused Frank a lot of trouble since I've been around?"

Missy gave him a small knowing smile and said, "Yes you have."

"Why would putting up with me help him feel more like living?"

"Because it helped him remember there are still people who need him."

Kyle shook his head. "I don't get it."

"You will when you have kids of your own. Okay enough of this talk. Finish up your lunch and I'll get you some cookies to take up to your room."
***************

Kyle did get some studying done, and looked at the clock when he was done. It had been three hours. Kyle thought, 'Frank must be home by now. I wonder how his lunch went. I'm supposed to stay in my room though, so I can't go ask. But what if I had to go to the bathroom? Then I could go out.'

Kyle got up and opened the door to his room a crack. He looked around and didn't see anyone. He went out and looked around at the empty hallway. He went to the stairs and looked down at an empty staircase and entryway. He thought about going downstairs to look for Frank, but then rubbed his butt once and decided not to risk it. He sighed and went to the bathroom next to his room even though he didn't really need to go. All too soon he was back in his room. He looked out the window for a while thinking about things.

A little while later, there was a knock on his door. "Yeah?"

Frank came in with a smile and said, "Problem solved."

Kyle gave a wary smile, like he didn't quite believe it, and asked, "What happened?"

Sitting down on the edge of Kyle's bed Frank said, "Matt's mom, Rosalie, was very nice. She has been worried about Matt for a long time now. I told her what Matt did today, and then we talked for a long time about what Matt needed to make a change in his life."

Kyle gingerly sat down on the bed next to Frank and asked, "What did you two decide?"

"Matt is going to be transferred to Oklahoma Military Academy tomorrow."

Kyle was shocked, "An honest to God military school?"

"Yes."

"That's horrible! Why would she do that to him?! He'll hate it there!"

Frank stayed calm. He had expected Kyle to be unhappy. "He'll hate it there at first, but I think it will help him despite that."

Kyle stood up and glared at Frank. He accused, "This was your idea!"

"Yes."

"That was a really shitty thing for you to do Frank."

Frank glared back and said, "I know you're upset, so I'll excuse your language once, but only once. Now calm down and let me explain before you get yourself in trouble."

Kyle had a hard time keeping his mouth shut, but did it. He crossed his arms and waited. Frank said, "My father was in the Air Force for forty years, and thirty of them were spent teaching at the Oklahoma Military Academy. I went to public school, but through my father I've met and made good friends with many people who work there and who went there. I'm sure you'll find this hard to believe, but it's not some horrific place. My father and many of his colleagues really cared about the kids they taught, and genuinely wanted to help them become better people. I've just spent the last hour talking with my father, and with some of the current teachers there. They've all agreed to help Matt."

Frank could see Kyle wasn't convinced. He said, "This isn't some kind of punishment for the things Matt has done, though I'm sure he'll see it that way. It's an opportunity for him to make something out of his life."

Shaking his head Kyle said, "I may hate some of the things Matt does, but military school? That's just too cruel. I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy."

Frank could tell there was nothing he could say that was going to change Kyle's mind. He said, "I'm sorry you're upset about it Kyle, but it is going to happen. Six months from now we'll go visit him, and you can see for yourself that he's much better off."

"Because he'll be a brainwashed pod person instead of himself."

"And the person he is now is so likable? Kyle, the person he is now is going to be a high school drop out working at a fast food restaurant five years down the line. The person he is now is unhappy in life with no future ahead of him."

"Does he get a choice?"

Frank sighed, "Yes. He goes to the school, or he gets kicked out of the house and lives on the streets."

Kyle couldn't believe Frank and Matt's mom could be so cruel. "Some fucking choice that is!"

Frank moved fast and had Kyle over his lap in a matter of seconds. Frank landed six solid swats, which was more then enough to reignite the fire in Kyle's behind. Kyle yelled a few ows, and squirmed wildly to get away.

Frank stopped and said, "You certainly aren't behaving like someone who has a sore bottom. Did I not do a good enough job earlier?"

Kyle yelled out, "Nooooo! I mean yes! I mean you did!" while Frank swatted him five more times.

Frank said, "You were giving me attitude before I left, and now I get attitude along with swearing?"

"I'm sorry!"

Frank swatted him five more times. "Sorry because I'm spanking you, or sorry for not keeping your temper in check?"

Kyle didn't think before answering, "Both!"

Frank almost smiled and said, "Well that's honest I suppose."

Kyle tried to get up, but Frank held him in place. He said, "You can disagree with me, and you can be angry with me. You may not swear at me or yell at me. Have I made myself clear?"

"Yes."

Frank let Kyle get up. Kyle backed away and put both hands over his butt. He wiped a stray angry tear off his face with his shoulder. Frank sighed and said, "I'm sorry you're so upset about it Kyle, but it's really not about you, it's about Matt and what he needs. You spend some time thinking about things here in your room until I come get you for dinner."

Frank got up and walked out, leaving Kyle to his own thoughts. Kyle paced around his room calling Frank all kinds of names in his head. After a while his thoughts turned to Matt, and wondered if he would be out sleeping on the street tonight. He didn't think he could ever see military school as a good thing. But it would be nice not to have Matt in school picking on him, or trying to blackmail him. Kyle sighed and lay on his bed to think about it some more.
****************

A couple of hours later Frank knocked on Kyle's door again. Kyle opened it for him. Frank said, "Can you be civil enough to come eat dinner with me, or shall I fix a plate and bring it up to your room?"

Kyle looked down, ashamed of his earlier behavior and said, "I'll be good."

"Come on then."

Kyle trailed Frank into the dining room and saw a box of pizza on the table. Kyle looked at Frank and said, "Pizza?"

Frank said with some irritation, "I don't know what you did to wrap Missy around your finger, but she claimed to be tired around five o'clock and informed me that she had already called for a pizza since it was your favorite and you had had a bad day. The woman hasn't skipped cooking a meal because she was tired since I've known her."

Kyle smiled and decided he really liked Missy, and would have to give her a hug the next time he saw her. The two of them sat down and ate in silence for a while. Once Kyle was stuffed, he looked over at Frank and said, "I'm still not happy about what you're doing to Matt, but I'm sorry I yelled and swore at you."

Frank sat back as well and said, "Apology accepted. I'm sorry you're so unhappy about our decision. I hope in time you can see it in a more positive light, but if you can't, I hope you can forgive me anyway. I didn't decide on military school out of anger for Matt."

"I know that, but he's not going to see it like I do."

They sat quietly for a few seconds and then Frank said, "I called your school and spoke with the vice-principal. He said we don't have to come in for the meeting tomorrow, you can just go back to class as usual."

"Okay."

After a pause Frank said, "Kyle?"

"Yeah?"

"I think we should call your mom tonight and tell her what happened."

"We already told her about the fight and…."

Kyle suddenly realized what Frank was talking about and shook his head no with a look of horror, "….You mean tell her that you… "

"That I spanked you, yes."

"No, no, no, please let's just keep that between us."

"I think we should tell her."

"But it's so embarrassing, much worse then standing in the corner. Please can't we just skip telling her about it?"

"I'm sorry it's embarrassing for you, but it's not something I think I should keep from her."

Kyle thought fast and said, "Could we at least wait until she gets home?"

"I don't think so."

"Come on Frank, it's going to wreck her trip."

"That seems slightly melodramatic."

Kyle could tell Frank wasn't going to be swayed. "I think you suck today."

Frank sighed and said, "Come on, let's get it over with."

Frank went into the kitchen and waited until Kyle was there too before he called. Once she answered he said, "Hi Cheryl this is Frank."

"Hi Frank, has Kyle been a handful since he's been grounded?"

"Actually that's why I'm calling."

"Oh no. What did he do?"

"Early this morning after I went to work, Matt called Kyle and told him to meet him at the skate park or he would sue him for assault."

"That little creep!"

"Kyle took my car and drove it to the skate park to meet Matt without my knowledge or consent."

There was a long pause. Frank said, "Cheryl?"

"Yes I'm here. Sorry. I just…. He what?"

"He took my Jaguar out of the garage and drove it to the skate part to meet with Matt."

"I am so very sorry Frank. I'll get a new flight and come home right now. If I'd…."

"That's not all."

"There's more? Great. Let me sit down. Okay go ahead."

"I don't think you're going to be very happy with me when you hear this next part, but please hear me out."

"Okay, I'll try."

"My housekeeper found the car missing, and called me at work. I went looking for Kyle and found him talking to Matt at the stake park. I made him come home with me, and after we talked about what he had done I spanked him."

"I'm sorry you what?"

"I put him over my lap and spanked his behind for leaving the house while he was grounded, for taking my car, and for meeting with Matt."

Frank looked over and saw that Kyle had his elbows on the kitchen counter, and had his head in his hands. After a long pause Cheryl said, "Is he there? Can I talk to him?"

"Of course. Hold on."

Frank held out the phone and said, "She want's to talk to you."

Giving a sarcastic "Great." Kyle took the phone and said, "Hi Mom."

"Are you okay honey?"

"Yeah."

"Did Frank… did he hurt you?"

Kyle was bright red as he said, "Well yeah, but I understand why he did it, and I…. I guess I might have deserved it."

There was a pause. Kyle said, "Mom?"

"I'm here. I just can't get my head around it."

Kyle turned towards the wall and away from Frank. He said, "Don't be mad at Frank. He's just doing what he thinks is right. I mean I'm not happy about it or anything, but… well I know Frank is trying to help me."

"You mean it?"

"Yeah I do."

"And you're really okay?"

"I am."

"I miss you sweetie."

"Me too."

"I'll see you Friday."

Kyle didn't want the conversation to end. "Are you having a good time?"

Cheryl laughed, but it sounded to Kyle like maybe she was close to tears. She said, "Yes I am."

"I'm glad. I want you to have a good time. Don't worry about me. I'm fine."

"I always worry about you honey. It's ingrained in me. I can't help it."

Kyle smiled, "I guess I don't mind."

"So what are you going to say to the vice-principal tomorrow?"

Kyle told her a somewhat one sided version of what Frank had set up for Matt. Once Kyle was done talking Cheryl asked if she could talk to Frank. Before Kyle could hand the phone over Cheryl said, "I love you honey."

"Me too. Here's Frank."

Frank picked up the phone and said, "Are you angry?"

"Yes. No. I don't know."

"I'm sorry I didn't talk to you about it first, it was just… I saw him there in the park talking to Matt, and I had pictures in my head of Matt beating Kyle up and leaving him for dead. I felt that I had to take action."

Cheryl said with sincerity, "I do understand. It's not like I've never had the impulse myself; I've just never carried through. I guess since Kyle isn't hurt or angry about it, then I'm okay that you did it."

"Thank you. It means a lot to me that you're being understanding."

"It means a lot to me that you're trying to do right by Kyle, even if it means doing things he may not like."

Frank changed the subject and asked her how her conference was going. Half an hour later Frank hung up the phone and saw Kyle standing there looking at him with an odd expression. Frank asked, "What?"

"Nothin'." Kyle thought Frank had been awfully enthusiastic about talking to his mom.

"Okay Kyle, dinner's over so it's time for you to go back to your room. I'll come and check on you before bed. And tomorrow it's back to school."

"Okay." Frank pulled Kyle into a hug before sending him upstairs.

That night Kyle lay in bed thinking about everything that had happened since he had met Frank, and especially about what was happening to Matt. Before he fell asleep he decided that it was a good thing he had met Frank when he had, because he knew Frank had helped him not to go down the same road Matt had taken in life.


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