Life Can Be Lonely by Colin Kelly

Chapter 21

What is it like when those closest to you are not there any longer?

Tuesday, April 2, 2019, At School

Kevin’s meeting with Mr. Langer started with the counselor’s usual question: “What can I do for you, Kevin?”

“I have three questions.

“First question. How am I doing? I’ve been back in school since the twenty-first. You get information from the teachers about each student that’s assigned to you. Am I doing okay? Have you heard any teacher who’s worried about me?”

“Kevin, you’re doing fine. More than fine. Everything I hear is positive. All of the teachers I’ve talked with say you’re going to get an A in their classes.”

“Thanks, I appreciate that.

“Second question. Have all of my teachers talked about me with you?”

“Most have.”

“How about Ms. Arnold?”

“Yes. She likes you, Kevin. Though she isn’t a teacher who shows things like that in the classroom.”

“I know. I actually made her smile one day before class. I didn’t tell anyone because they’d never have believed me.”

“How about Mrs. Weston?”

“I know she’s not… personable. Still, you’re getting an A in her class. You’re one of the few who is.”

“It’s weird. I like history, and I wonder if she notices that.”

“I think she does. Just keep your grades up and ignore her personality.”

“I have an approved absence for Thursday, Friday, and Monday. Mrs. Weston is giving an exam this Thursday. Does she have to let me take a make up exam next week?”

“Yes. I see that you have World History on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. When you return to school on Tuesday, see her before the class starts and ask when you can take the exam. If there’s a problem, let me know.”

“Okay, thanks.

“Third question. Mr. Sommers gave us a sort of weird book to read and discuss in his class. It’s not a novel. It’s not a textbook. It’s not non-fiction. It’s more like a textbook written like a novel. It’s about philosophy. It seems more appropriate for a college-level philosophy course, not a tenth grade English class.” He pulled the book out of his backpack and handed it to Mr. Langer. “Do you know why we’re doing this in Mr. Sommers’ third period English 2 class?”

“Yes. It’s an experiment to see how your class reacts to the book. We’re considering adding an AP Philosophy class next year and might use The Dream Weaver as the textbook.” He returned Kevin’s book, then asked, “Are you finding the book hard to understand?”

“The prologue and chapter one were okay. Chapter two is almost impossible to understand, so it’s totally confusing and frustrating. I read it several times and didn’t get it at all; the class discussion made it even worse. Chapter three is better, but sometimes it’s confusing, too. How are we being graded on this experiment?”

“Everyone in your class will get a grade of 100 for this experiment as long as they participate at least once in the discussion.”

“Okay. I can live with that. Though I think we should have been told right at the beginning what this experiment is about and how we’re being graded.”

“I’ll suggest to Mr. Sommers that he explain what it’s about during your next class. Until then, please keep what I told you to yourself.”

“Alright, I will.”

“Anything else?” Mr. Langer asked.

“Nope. You answered all of my questions. Thank you.”

Tuesday, April 2, 2019, After School

After school, Laura and Kevin rode their bikes to his house. He told Laura about his meeting with Mr. Langer. He was glad that his teachers said he was doing okay. He told her that Mr. Langer had little to say about The Dream Weaver, keeping the promise he’d made to him. She said she’d ask her counselor about it when she saw him in two weeks.

When they got to his house, he asked, “What do you want to do?”

“Pre-Calc problems, first. Then we can talk about our World History assignment. Since you had the class today, you can bring me up-to-date, and we can begin studying for the exam you’ll have on Thursday and that I’ll have on Friday.”

“I won’t take the exam on Thursday. I’m taking this Thursday and Friday off to get ready for the meeting, and the Monday after to recover.”

“Will Mrs. Weston let you make up the exam?”

“Yes. Well, she has to, so I assume she will. I asked Mr. Langer about it. My approved absence permits require that any exams are to be made up.”

“That’s good,” she responded. “What other homework do you have?”

The Dream Weaver, but I say we should forget about it,” Kevin said. “I’ve read enough of that book for now.”

They ate an early dinner, then Laura rode her bike back to her house to wait for Mr. Burney.

At five o’clock on the dot, Mr. Burney arrived with Rick sitting shotgun. Kevin got in the back seat. He gave directions to Laura’s house, they picked her up, and then drove to school.

As they watched the lacrosse game, they both caught on — more or less — to how it’s played. Rick explained what was going on when something was confusing. So he had to do a lot of explanation. Especially about checking. Laura and Kevin decided lacrosse was an exciting sport to watch, and though Edison High had both boys’ and girls’ teams, neither had any interest in playing the game.

Alex joined them for the ride home.

“You guys did great,” Rick said about the game, which Edison won 16 to 9. “And you scored four goals, Alex. Congrats!”

They had questions about some checks that Kevin said looked like fouls. Alex agreed with one of them, but not with the others, and he explained what checking was allowed and how it was judged by the officials. Kevin decided he’d look for a book on lacrosse to learn the details of the game. That way he’d be able to talk about it with Alex.

They dropped Laura off at her house, then Kevin was next.

“See you tomorrow, Alex,” he said.

“And remember, you’ll see me, too,” Rick said. That was the meeting Kevin had scheduled to talk about computer classes. Rick has said he didn’t want Alex to know he was meeting with Kevin. But Alex must know now. So much for Rick keeping things from his big brother.

Kevin ate dinner, then watched a sitcom on TV. He was tired, so he cleaned up and went to bed.

Tuesday, April 3, 2019, After School

Kevin realized that tomorrow was the last day he’d be at school prior to the meeting with the police and FBI. It was also the day Graeme would arrive. He needed to figure out what he had to do this week.

He’d already asked Dr. Ranse if he could skip his Wednesday session, and she’d agreed.

Rick Burney was coming over to talk about computer classes.

Kevin had talked to his teachers on Monday, and they’d posted his homework assignments for the next two weeks. So he brought his laptop downstairs.

He researched computer classes while he waited for Rick to arrive. He looked up the DVC — Diablo Valley College — course catalog and the class schedules for summer and fall semesters. Then he searched for ‘best free online computer programming courses,’ and there were over fourteen million hits. One was for a webpage titled ‘fifty websites for free computer and math classes.’ The sites listed looked like good choices for introductory and intermediate level computer programming classes. Next, he checked the Edison class schedule. It had a few courses, including a new robotics class and AP Computer Science — the class Kevin was taking. With this information, he was ready for Rick.

While he waited, he finished his pre-calc problems. He checked his answers, then posted them on School Loop. He wanted a snack, so he went into the kitchen and ate a banana.

A few minutes later, Rick arrived. They scanned the computer classes offered at Edison High and the summer session classes at DVC. Then they reviewed the websites Kevin had found. Rick made detailed notes about each, and included Kevin’s comments.

At six o’clock, Rick’s phone chimed. “It’s time for me to get going,” he said. I want to be home in time for dinner.”

“Did the computer classes that we looked at help you?”

“Yeah. I’m glad you were here to talk about the plusses and minuses of each. I’ll probably have more questions. Can I call or text you?”

“Sure. Do you have my cell number?”

“Yes. I’ll head home now. Thanks for all of your help. I’m glad you’re Alex’s boyfriend.”

“I am, too!” Kevin said. Then he grinned. “And it sort of makes you and me related, too.”

Rick laughed, gave a thumbs-up gesture, then walked out the front door, closing it behind him.

Thursday, April 4, 2019, Morning

Kevin had four classes on Thursdays. He went to the two morning classes, Algebra 2/Pre-Calc and World History. He expected his classes to drag like they had Tuesday morning. But they didn’t. The pre-calc demonstrations that Ms. Arnold gave the class were interesting, and she talked about how calculus was used in science and industry.

In World History Mrs. Weston did something different with the assignments that she returned. She had students stand up and each read a short selection from what they’d written. She only picked selections that wouldn’t embarrass the students. Instead, she had two students with different conclusions read the same selection. Then she explained to the class how each might and might not be interpreted.

When the class was over, everyone left the room talking about the class. Kevin hoped Mrs. Weston would do this more often.

He was excused from his last two classes, English 2 and Tennis. In English 2 they would continue to discuss chapter two of The Dream Weaver. As he told Laura, he was tired of it. Tennis was a lecture about safety; he’d heard the same thing when he was a freshman, and it was no loss to skip it.

As he walked to the bike rack, he felt his phone vibrate. He saw it was Graeme, so he answered.

“I just arrived at SFO, and I’m waiting for my luggage. I’ll let you know when I’m on BART.”

“Okay. I’m just heading home from school. I’ll see you later.”

He rode his bike home. Connie was there, fixing dinner for him and his uncle.

“Hi, Connie. What are you making for us?” he asked.

“I made a meatloaf, a mixed mushroom pilaf, and fresh vegetables. I left the instructions for heating each on the counter.”

“I’m sure my Uncle Graeme will enjoy your cooking. Everything sounds delicious. There’s also some cranberry bread pudding in the refrigerator we can have for dessert. I know that my uncle will enjoy everything you prepared for dinner.”

“When will he get here?”

“He arrived at the airport about a half-hour ago. He’s going to take BART to Walnut Creek, then he’ll get an Uber or Lyft. I suppose he’ll be here in about an hour — no more than an hour and a half.”

“I hope he enjoys his stay. When will he return home?”

“Next week, on Tuesday.”

“Well, it’s time for me to leave. I’ll see you Saturday morning in time to fix breakfast for you and your uncle so you’ll be finished before the meeting. It’s still at ten forty-five, isn’t it?”

“That’s when Lieutenant Richardson and the stenographer will arrive. I guess it’s so she — or he — can set up. Everyone else will arrive at eleven.”

“On Saturday I’ll pick up the bagels and cream cheese and have two pots of coffee ready and on the stove. I’ll set up everything else on the kitchen table before I leave.”

“Thanks, Connie.”

“By the way, I fixed a pot of coffee in case your uncle would like some when he arrives.”

She looked around the kitchen, then said, “I think I’m finished for today. I’ll see you on Saturday, Kevin.”

“Okay, thanks, Connie.”

Thursday, April 4, 2019, Early Afternoon

Graeme sent texts to Kevin when he boarded BART and when he arrived in Walnut Creek.

Fifteen minutes later, Kevin heard the doorbell. His uncle had arrived.

“Hi, Graeme!”

“Hi to you, too, Kevin!”

They hugged, and Kevin said, “Come on in. I’ll take you upstairs to the guest bedroom. You can leave your suitcase there, and you can hang your clothes if you want.”

When Graeme was finished he came downstairs, and they sat down at the kitchen table.

“Would you like something to drink? Connie made a pot of coffee.”

“A cup of black coffee, please.”

They talked about the Saturday meeting, then Graeme asked about Alex.

“You’ll meet him this afternoon. He’s at school now, and he’ll be here around three-thirty.”

“Tell me about the people you invited to be at the meeting.”

Kevin named each person, who they were, and why he wanted them to be there.

“That’s an interesting group, Kevin. You’re lucky to know the attorneys you selected, especially Mr. Burney, your criminal attorney. He’ll be able to ask questions and give you advice. That will be important when they get into the who and why of the perpetrators.”

“I agree,” Kevin responded.

“How’s school?” Graeme asked.

“Funny you should ask. I met with my counselor on Tuesday. I wanted to know how my teachers are reporting my progress. I’m getting A’s in all of my classes. All I have to do is continue to get A’s on my homework and exams.

“My most challenging class is Algebra 2/Pre-Calc. We’re into the pre-calc part now, and the problems are more complex. One of my best friends, Laura Wilkes, is in the same class as me, so we study together Sunday mornings. She found a college textbook that covers the material, and that’s helping us, too.

“My easiest class is AP Computer Science. That’s what I want to have as my major when I go to UC Berkeley.

“The rest — other than tennis — are pretty much same-as.”

“How are you doing at tennis?”

“I’m doing okay. I made the varsity team. We start our matches next week.”

“Isn’t it unusual for a sophomore to be on the varsity?”

“I guess it depends on how we do in our practice matches. I’ve been winning most of mine, so I'm doing okay.”

Graeme laughed. “I’d say you’re doing a lot better than just okay.”

“Maybe. I should know for sure by the end of the month after I’ve had more matches against other schools.”

“Would you like to go out to dinner?” Graeme asked.

“Alex should be here in a few minutes, and we could eat here. Connie made a meatloaf, rice pilaf, and veggies for us. All I have to do is heat them.”

“That sounds good.”

As if he’s willed it by mentioning Alex, Kevin heard the doorbell.

Alex followed Kevin into the kitchen. “Alex, this is my uncle, Graeme Young. Graeme, this is Alex Burney, my boyfriend.”

They shook hands. “Nice to meet you, Alex.”

“Nice to meet you too, Graeme.”

“We’re going to have dinner here,” Kevin said. “Connie prepared it for us.”

“Everything Connie cooks is wonderful,” Alex said.

After Kevin heated everything, they sat down to eat.

Graeme raved about the meal. “You need to keep Connie happy, Kevin. She’s good enough to work in an expensive restaurant.

“Alex, Kevin hasn’t told me how you two met. So, how did that happen?”

Alex explained. “Kevin had been a straight-A student in chemistry, and I was assigned to be his chemistry tutor when he returned to school. I guess I was picked because I’m planning to be a chemistry major when I go to UC Berkeley. Kevin got perfect grades for each of his make up experiments and exams. He’s caught up now.

“Anyway, we clicked, became friends, then best friends, then boyfriends.”

“You play lacrosse?”

“Yes. I’m on the Edison varsity. I’m an attacker or midfielder, depending on where I’m needed.”

“You’re a sophomore?”

“No, I’m a junior. Kevin and I are both sixteen, but I turned sixteen before he did. I started first grade when I was five and a half. That’s why I’m a year ahead of him in school.”

Eventually, they finished talking about school, and the boys asked about the new and most interesting projects that Graeme’s company was working on.

“Are you designing any skyscrapers?” Kevin asked.

“Our projects are usually shorter than skyscrapers. What we design are buildings up to fifteen or twenty stories — by the way, we Canadians spell it s-t-o-r-e-y-s. If you look at the blueprints I sent you, you’ll see they have that spelling.”

“I’m embarrassed to admit that I hadn’t looked that closely at the blueprints,” Kevin said. “One I’ll give the police lieutenant on Saturday for the district attorney, and the other I put in my dad’s…” he paused for a second “…the office.” He concluded speaking softly, with a catch in his voice.

Changing the subject, Graeme asked, “You both said you’re planning to go to UC Berkeley. Isn’t it hard to get into?”

“Yes, but they’ve made it easier for students who are residents of California,” Alex replied. “But, unless you get a scholarship, it’s expensive.”

“Is that going to be a problem for you?” Graeme asked.

“No. My folks took out tax-deductible 529 education savings plans for my sister, for me, and for my brother. My sister goes to Cal now, and most of her expenses are being paid from her 529 plan.”

“How about you, Kevin?”

“My folks took out a 529 plan for me, too. I should ask Mr. MacIntosh how I can get an update.”

Their conversation continued after dinner.

Kevin asked, “Graeme, tell us about some more about the buildings your firm is designing now.”

He told them about a high school his firm was designing that would be built in the city of West Vancouver, and that would be an ultra-modern design, unlike any other high school in the school district. They were also designing a branch library for a suburb of Vancouver.

Graeme segued into talking about his family. He headed his own architectural firm; his wife was a nursing supervisor at Burrard Children’s Hospital; and their son Don was a high school sophomore and had a boyfriend.

Alex talked about his family, saying that he had a younger brother and an older sister; about lacrosse; and his classes at Edison.

Kevin talked about his classes; about tennis and that he was looking forward to their first opponent, Lincoln High, next week.

After watching the news, they agreed that it was time for bed.

When they got upstairs, Graeme asked, “Since I’m using the guest bedroom, where will you sleep, Alex?” He raised his eyebrows.

Alex pulled Kevin to him, they kissed, and he turned to Graeme. “Together,” he replied.

Graeme laughed, then said, “Sorry, I had to ask that question. I used it on Don and Brian — Brian is Don’s boyfriend. They were so shocked they didn’t know how to respond. You did, and it was perfect.” Then he walked into the guest bedroom and closed the door.

Alex and Kevin looked at each other, burst out laughing, walked into Kevin’s bedroom, and made sure the door was closed and locked.

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