Junior year Papa Quade talked Jed's parents into the emancipation of the boy so he could learn to take the reins of the family business, 'just in case.'
Just-in-case happened two months later. Quade had died of a massive embolism. Jed was given "The Orange Plant" and Papa Quade's vehicles in the will. Jed left the vehicles at The Orange Plant and would not drive them. He had the distinction of being the youngest person in high school to have to pay property tax. In fact Jed's holdings were more than half the taxable assets for the county.
When the will was read Jedidiah's first impulse was to bulldoze the old factory, including the real vault. If he did that he would be forced to take the cash payout on the remnant of the estate and the trust would be dissolved. Papa Quade continued to exercise his control, even from the grave.
His father told him to take the wiser course. "You should use some of your inheritance to make the place your own. You're going to need a place when you go to college. Who knows you might even want to have a few friends move in with you. You could have a killer frat house as a freshman. I love you son but God knows you are no farmer. You need to find your own way."
Jedidiah realized there was no way to win the argument without breaking his father's heart. Above all, a son should be able to look up to his father. Jedidiah could not give many gifts to his father, but he can preserve the good memory of Papa Quade in Buck's eyes.
Jedidiah quickly move to plan B. He changed everything he could afford to change inside the factory home. He had a good eye for design and architectural salvage. When the Bijou Theater across the street caught fire and had to be demolished, the owner let him go through and pull out items that could be salvaged. The big victory was a few of the new seats from the balcony section. He was also able to grab the balcony structure and the large spiral staircase that led to it.
Big Jimmy Johnston was re-roofing The Orange Plant at the time. Jed wanted the aging roof water tight again. He used his crane to drop the implements in through the skylights before they were replaced. The salvage transfer was done at no charge.
Apparently his wife lost her cherry and their eldest son was conceived in that balcony. He was overjoyed to help Jed save that treasured memory.
The furniture items that Jed couldn't replace, he had reupholstered. Jed's mother taught him the art of dealing with retailers. Especially when dealing with furniture companies. Between hotel remodels, and year-end closeout items he was able to get enough furniture to fill the entire living area of the old factory.
By the time Jed finished he had spent millions on the updates, most going to local trades' people. The act erased a lot of the damage done by his grandad. Jed held a housewarming inviting the tradesmen and their families in to marvel at the finished product. Jed laughed as he saw Mr. and Mrs. Johnston settle into a loveseat in a corner of the old balcony.
On the long ride from the pizzeria home Jedidiah slept leaning against Arian. The alpha jock had his arm wrapped around the younger boy. Jed woke up as the pickup pulled off of the paved road onto the long shredded bark driveway.
"I'm going to need some help getting the furniture out of the way at The Orange Plant. I don't suppose you know where I can find some manpower? It took a couple of days to get it ready to use as a shelter back in the day."
Arian smirked as he replied back, "I think I can scrape up some bodies." Then he leaned down and kissed Jedidiah. As soon as the truck pulled up to the house, the flood lights came on. It was almost laughable how quick Jedidiah's parents were on the porch.
Everyone was cordial and on their best behavior. Mr. Glynis was impressed that his boy landed the quarterback of the team on his first day out of the closet. Looking back he saw how close the boys had always been. Being Monday, and a school night, the evening visitation ended after fifteen minutes. Both boys needed to get to bed and one had a long ride home to the other side of town.
Arian gave Jed a peck on the cheek as he said good night. He told Jed he would pick him up in the morning, and would not let his boy object. Jed was surprised that his mother and father approved. Jed considered this his first real date. Something else odd, his heart felt empty as the older teen departed. It was as if he could feel his strength fade as the other boy got further away.
He also had a cold feeling at the bottom of his heart that someone was watching, someone he knew, someone evil. He felt the rage but couldn't identify the source. With a look at his mother he knew, she felt it too.
Early Tuesday morning Jed was awoken from his restless sleep to the sound of a pickup pulling in the driveway. Without seeing the vehicle or saying a word he knew it was Arian. The strong teen helped Jedidiah complete his morning chores. There were also some playful exchanges of touching.
Jed's father hollered out, "Play grab-ass, after the animals are fed."
To which Jedidiah let out a loud whine, "D-a-a-ad!"
Jedidiah's morning chores took about two hours to complete. Both boys being normal hormonal males were dripping sweat. Buck told his son to let the older boy shower first. While Arian was in the shower, Buck and Jedidiah had a talk about the facts of life, the condoms and consequences talk. "If dad only knew..." Jed thought.
Jed shuddered to think what his father was talking to Arian about while he was in the shower. He was likely showing Arian the family's fine collection of hunting rifles, it's a southern thing.
The boys wolfed down the large breakfast that Hachi prepared. Buck told his son that he was proud that he opened up The Vault to the homecoming dance. "It's been a long time since we've had a community activity in that building. It's long overdue.
The men's group from the church is going to be grilling steaks for you kids. We can't arrange a caterer in time. Ferguson really screwed us all. Would you believe the bastard is even trying to keep the security deposit? So we're going to be the caterer. Mr. Perkins is providing the servers."
Arian replied, "My dad's got six deputies and a couple troopers volunteering to work the security detail off the clock. The rest of the guys from the team are going to be showing up after practice tonight and tomorrow to help Jedidiah clear the furniture away."
He turned his attention to Jedidiah, "Oh, which reminds me Steph wanted me to ask if the homecoming decorating committee can come by tonight to see how much more supplies they are going to need. How big is this place?" Arian's family had never seen the inside of The Vault, and even fewer people knew how it got its name. Back in his great-grandfather's day it was simply called The Orange Plant.
Jed asked, "Did anyone but me try to sleep last night?" Then he dropped his head and sent the text reply to Steph, earning him a dark look from his mother. She hated technology at the table. She picked her battles carefully; right now she had other fish to fry.
Hachi asked a pointed question to Arian. "Are you still going out with Stephanie Jacobson, Arian?" Jed swallowed hard seeing his mother's protective side.
"We never were going out ma'am. Our families have been friends forever. Her dad asked me to look after her at school. Her last boyfriend was a major stalker. He roughed her up a bit. Everyone assumed because I'm the quarterback and she's the head cheerleader we were dating. After today I guess everyone will know better."
Jed could tell his mother was impressed by how far the boy would go to protect a friend. That said he could also tell his mother wanted Arian to stay away from her son. Jed could feel her discomfort each time Arian touched him.
The boys realize that morning was slipping away, and they had to head to school. Jed had that same cold feeling as they turned off the driveway onto the road. For a moment he thought he saw a man standing in the tree line.
During the day Jed's circle of friends had increased. The whole student body heard about the offer of the free location for homecoming. Sadness also stalked Jed during the day. There were times he thought about his friends and burst into tears. It was odd that when those moments happened Arian was right there.
At one point the boy asked about the coincidental arrivals of Arian. It was on the way to lunch that Arian explained he had a link with Jed since his family moved here in the seventh grade.
"You were the nicest guy in the school. Not too many people accept the new guy. Back then I was unsure of myself and dorky. I hadn't even had my first shift yet. When you helped me with the bullies, I thought you were the bravest kid on planet Earth..."
Through the day Jed noticed a whisper campaign in the works. There were groups of four to five kids in the hallways exchanging information. Those conversations stopped whenever he approached the group. Those sudden silences were accompanied with odd looks, and goofy grins, from the now quiet students.
After school Jed had another theater rehearsal, as Arian and the team practiced for homecoming. Between scenes Steph zipped in and out of the booth. The two exchanged notes on homecoming. She offered an observation "Oh, you know he's been head over heels for you for years."
"I thought he was totally into you." With that Steph laughed.
"No Jed, he wanted to make a move on you after your granddad passed. He just didn't want to appear weird. He wanted to give you your space and hoped you would make the first move. He and I had a lot of conversations about you. I'm glad you're one of us now."
"Steph, why is it I'm so stressed and tired but too anxious to sleep when he and I are apart, and yet I get so energized, excited and happy when we're together? It seems like I get incredible strength just being around him."
"You're feeding on his strength. He's your Alpha; he's the one who converted you. He's always had a connection to you on an emotional level. Now you two share a biochemical link."
At that point a bean bag splatted against the window of the soundproof booth. The director was letting him know he missed a cue. Jed apologized over the sound system and made the correct adjustment as Steph laughed.
After practice, the director made a comment about the absence of Jed's understudy. Jed reminded the teacher that Arian was just an extension of his arms. He also pointed out Arian had other obligations to the school.
With the technical run-through complete Steph and Jedidiah went out to the football field and watch the team finish their practice. Cheerleaders would practice tomorrow as the team rested. That was the plan at least, until the coach decided that there was a need for another scrimmage to work on defense. In the bleachers Jed had that unsettling feeling of being watched again.
The team ran into the locker room and changed. Showers were optional because the coach realized they were going to be doing hard work at The Vault. Arian emerged from the locker room and gave Jed a strong sweaty hug. The younger teen was overcome by the heavy musky smell. Steph grabbed hold of Jedidiah's hand. "I'm driving you to The Orange Plant. I'm not going to have him stinking up my cheer partner."
In the car Steph looked at Jedidiah. "Okay that link I was telling you about, it works both ways. He gets just as excited when you get close. Right now he can feel your moods. He feels your stress about this parting. He needs to pay for your attention." The girl let out a playful laugh.
The "A" squad followed behind Steph's vehicle in a convoy of cars and trucks. "I wanted to be alone with you Jed so I could thank you. I was one of the wolves you healed last year. I was the one who got her paw caught in a trap. The damn thing broke my wrist. I didn't know that it cost you so much. Thank you."
She leaned over and kissed his cheek. Jedidiah felt a flush of jealousy as well as gratitude. Gratitude from Steph, but he shared Arian's jealousy watching the girl kiss HIS boy. "Jed, you felt that?" The teen nodded his head yes. "It's not going to take long for you to change. You shouldn't feel us this strongly. You shouldn't have felt him at this distance."
On arrival at The Orange Plant the mini pack assembled and Stephanie shared her observation. It was Arian who felt Jedidiah's wave of fear, "There is nothing to be afraid of it's just a change of being. You are, and will still be you, but soon you will be more."
When the large security doors retracted and the team saw the size of the first bay some were amazed. "Guys this is nothing this is just the garage." One by one the rest of the bay doors opened down the length of the industrial side of the building. It was a rare thing to see the building wide open. Jedidiah knew this rare treat was necessary in order to remove all of the furnishings from the bays that would be used.
Jed really hated this building. He could feel the old dead man's presence in the air. He also felt someone evil staring at him. He felt a familiar and uncomfortable presence.
There was another sensation he felt as the students walked around the front of the building, Jedidiah thought, no... He knew he was being watched. Not just by the people he was with. He felt anger, a feeling full of pure rage. Jealousy, that Jed was being touched by another. Arian felt Jedidiah's discomfort and rubbed the back of his neck.
A couple of the older local students remembered the last time they saw this building as a shelter. There was reminiscing about how many days they spent during such and such a storm. That was long ago, it had changed.
Then Jed remembered the last time the building sheltered someone from the storm, other than a family member. In the ninth grade Jedidiah pleaded with Papa Quade to allow Kyle and his family to stay with them. The price Jed had to pay was high, but Kyle's family was safe. Another wave of sorrow over took the boy. Not for his dead Papa Quade but for his dead friend.
Jed quickly pushed those thoughts back then asked a couple of the boys to open the shipping containers outside the far end of the bays. "The big furniture gets loaded in first. Then you have to pack the smaller furniture around it."
The rest of the team joined Jedidiah as he opened the living side of the facility. Steph let out a, "Holy shit! This place looks different." Then she realized she let her proper southern belle persona slip. "Sorry."
"This side is just a house. A really big house, but a house none the less."
Coach McNabb quickly added, "Most houses don't have, I'm counting four seating areas that most of us call living rooms...
"You remember, until five years ago we were sheltering most of the whole town during storm season. We only stopped when the county built the new school."
The coach fired back, "Your Papa Quade was quite the humanitarian, a truly great man." Jedidiah grimaced, and the coach noticed and let it drop.
"Okay let's gather up in the home office upstairs. We need a plan of attack." The home office was something of a joke. How many home offices have a conference table that can seat twenty? Jed took his usual spot in the middle of one of the wide sides.
Coach McNabb pointed to the head of the oval shaped table. "I think that's your seat pal."
"If I'm in charge of the meeting, the head of the table is wherever I'm sitting." Jedidiah replied, earning a chuckle from all. Jed took a quick inventory of who had worked on the shelter in the past.
Coach was put in charge of the large item load teams. He knew how to work the forklift from previous storms. Arian volunteered to work on his team, along with the strongest members of the squad.
The one good thing about this building was that it came with all of the factory accoutrements. The scissor lift was a hit with the decorating team. It meant they could do paper streamers from the top rafters and have them swoop down.
Jedidiah saw Steph's father Mr. Jacobson. He ran a party supply store. "Sir whatever Steph and the decorating crew need please put it on my account. I'll pay it out of my trust fund."
The gentleman acknowledged and said he would charge cost only. "Thank you sir, but keep your finger off the scale. I don't want you to be out of pocket a single dime on this."
"Quin, I don't think you understand what that phrase means. Quade used to say it to me a lot; only when he was accusing me of shortchanging him."
"Sir, I know how he used it, and I am ashamed of his actions. I'm not him. In fact sir, the greatest compliment you can give me is not comparing me to him. I appreciate everything that you do for this community. I want this to be my gift. You are donating your valuable time and effort that's more than enough."
Jed smiled down the table, "Please Sir, could you please just call me Jed?" With one exchange from a point of respect and admiration, a rift that developed between the families ended.
"Stephanie if homecoming is dedicated in Karl and Kyle's memory, make it something remarkable. They were both something equally remarkable." Jedidiah's eyes misted over and he was fighting to maintain control.
Coach rubbed Jed's shoulder in support, and then took the large item load team putting them to work. Mr. Jacobson offered to handle the small item load team. Jed told him to load everything into the bedrooms, with the exception of the large bedroom on the first floor. Grandpa's room was always hands off. Jedidiah pretended that room never existed.
At the end of the meeting the rest of the football team picked up the conference table and loaded it and the chairs into the master bedroom. "Holy crap this is 'YOUR' room Jed! We could play half field touch in here."
"It's only my room when I'm here, and I don't like this place much. One of the joys of converting industrial space to residential space is big rooms." he replied.
With the small load team and decorating team separated Jedidiah started to disassemble the kitchen modules. He knew the cook team would work out of the church's mobile kitchen trailer. With most of the student body and dates coming he knew that they needed the seating space.
An hour later, Jedidiah's parents and the sheriff's family arrived at the same time. Buck took over taking apart the kitchen for his son. "Take a break boy you're sweating and you look like hell." The big man smiled down at his son.
The boy rose to his feet, and then showed the sheriff how to log into the security camera network. The sheriff took the information of a security camera system with great glee. "Why on Earth did we start using the school as the shelter?"
"Papa Quade said it was a private property thing." Jedidiah replied. Both knew the truth but let it drop.
Half hour later Jed saw his mother and the other women setting up the buffet. It was only fair to feed the volunteer labor. He felt as if he wasn't doing enough and started walking over to help.
Jedidiah was staggering as he approached the table. He heard Arian's mother Carolyn shout, "Catch him!" Then he fell into someone's arms. The next few moments were like something out of a fuzzy underwater like dream.
Carolyn turned to Steph, "Hurry, Go get my son!" There was a sharp pain in Jedidiah's chest. It felt as if someone was jabbing a hot knife into his heart. He saw Doc Daniels leaning over him performing an assessment.