Summary: Mr. Danforth offers fatherly advice--to his son's boyfriend.
A late model BMW pulled up in front of a modest colonial and a man emerged from the passenger side. He shut the car door and bent to wave at the driver.
"Thanks again, Earl," he said. "I'll see you Monday."
"Have a good weekend," Mr. Danforth replied, returning the wave. He drove down the block and made a left turn, headed for his own house two miles east. He fiddled with the CD player as he made his way out of the subdivision, smiling when he found the track he wanted. He began to hum along to the melody as he made another turn. Up ahead he saw a familiar figure standing beside a car. Mr. Danforth drew to a stop and frowned.
"Hey, Mr. D," he replied as he lifted the hood of his convertible and peered at the engine.
"What's the problem?"
"I haven't the vaguest idea. It won't start."
Mr. Danforth pulled his car up and parked in front of Ryan's convertible.
"Let me take a look."
"Oh, that's all right. I can call my mechanic."
"There may be no need," Mr. Danforth replied, bending to look at the engine. Ryan shrugged and followed suit.
"See anything?" he asked as Chad's father began to check the connections.
"Not yet," he said absently. "Get in and try to start her up again. Sometimes it's just a matter of a loose connection."
As Ryan got into the car, Mr. Danforth took a moment to glance around at his surroundings. It wasn't a neighborhood he was familiar with and it certainly wasn't one in which he expected to find Ryan Evans. Ryan turned the ignition key, bringing his attention back to the matter at hand. After a few tries, Mr. Danforth told him to stop.
"I think it's the battery," he declared after checking a bit more, turning to go back to his car.
"I'll call my garage," Ryan said, reaching for his phone.
"No need; I've got battery cables in the trunk."
"Okay…" Ryan said blankly. Mr. Danforth couldn't suppress a smile.
"You don't know the first thing about cars, do you?"
"I know how to choose one that is so sex on wheels it'll make every kid in East High drool with envy," he said brightly. Mr. Danforth gave him a look that Ryan knew for certain had been passed genetically from father to son. "All right, no," Ryan replied petulantly. " I'm not very mechanically inclined."
"There's a shock," Mr. Danforth said as he fetched the cables. "Get in the car and start it when I tell you."
"Yes, sir," Ryan said circumspectly. In a matter of moments, Ryan's engine was alive and purring. As Mr. Danforth removed the cables, a pretty blonde teenager came out of the house on the other side of the road and walked over.
"I thought you were gone," she said, folding her arms and looking at the engine.
"My car wouldn't start," Ryan said sheepishly, reaching up to close the hood.
"Oh. Why didn't you tell me? I could have gotten my dad's cables and given you a boost."
"Thanks, but my friend's dad came along and helped me out," he replied. The girl looked over at Mr. Danforth, who glanced up and nodded curtly as he stowed the cables.
"Cool," she said. "I'll see you Monday, then." She threw her arms around Ryan's shoulders and kissed his cheek. "Have a good one."
"Bye, Mandy," Ryan said with a sigh. He waited until she was out of earshot before he let loose with a little groan. Mr. Danforth pulled out a wet wipe and cleaned his hands, gazing at Ryan suspiciously.
"Do I want to know who that was and why you were at her house?" he asked. Ryan cringed slightly and turned around to face him. Mr. Danforth shook his head. "Never mind," he said. "It's none of my business. Get home safe, Ryan."
Ryan watched him get into his car and drive off, confused by his behavior. By the time realization dawned, the BMW was at the corner. Ryan leapt into his car and followed Mr. Danforth home. He arrived only a few seconds behind him, but Chad's father had already disappeared into the house. Ryan knocked once before letting himself in. Mr. Danforth had just set down his briefcase on the table and he looked up as Ryan entered.
"Hey," Chad said, from his place the sink where he was washing tomatoes for a salad. He turned off the water and reached for a towel as he made his way over to greet Ryan with a kiss. "What are you doing here, dude? I thought you were going to Mandy's to rehearse tonight."
"I did," Ryan replied, his eyes on Chad's father. "I got done early."
"Oh, well, you're just in time for dinner. Want to stay?"
Earl Danforth nodded and Ryan gave Chad a half smile that was read as an acceptance. Ryan went into the guest bath to wash his hands while Chad finished the salad. When he emerged he went to Mr. Danforth's study and knocked on the open door.
"Mr. D," he began.
"Ryan," Mr. Danforth replied, rising to his feet. "I owe you an apology. I had no right to cast aspersions--."
"No, no," Ryan interrupted. "I suppose things did look somewhat fishy."
"It was still none of my business."
"You were thinking of Chad. I can't blame you for wanting to protect your son."
"My son is fully capable of looking out for himself. He's also capable of making a simple assessment of a dead battery. If you're going to be driving a car that's 'so sex on wheels it'll make every kid in East High drool with envy,' you ought to know how to take care of it."
"Yes, sir," Ryan said, averting his eyes. He looked up again. "I don't suppose you could…maybe… show me a thing or two? My dad isn't mechanically inclined, either."
"You could ask Chad," Mr. Danforth suggested. But he thought better of it and smiled. Ryan had asked for his help, not his son's. "Of course, if you two start messing around in my garage I'll--. Tell you what: why don't you come over Saturday and I'll give you a little primer on car care."
"That'd be really cool," Ryan said enthusiastically.
"Now that we've settled that, let's go eat." Mr. Danforth headed for the door, but Ryan didn't move. "Was there something else?"
"I love your son, Mr. D," Ryan said bluntly. He saw Mr. Danforth's almost imperceptible wince, but Ryan didn't mince words to spare him discomfort. "I love Chad very much and I wouldn't cheat on him."
"I--. Thank you for telling me," Chad's father said awkwardly.
"And if I were going to cheat on him it wouldn't be with a girl, anyway," Ryan continued. "I'll be honest with you. Mandy has been coming onto to me lately. I've made it very clear that I wasn't interested, but she's been persistent. That's why I left early."
"Did you tell her you already had a boyfriend?"
"Yeah, but she thinks it's just a phase that I'll get over. As if!"
"Does Chad know about this?" Mr. Danforth asked, inexplicably amused.
"Are you kidding? I can't tell Chad," Ryan cried. "He'd tear her heart out and eat it raw while she bled out."
"Right," Mr. Danforth said hastily, clapping Ryan on the shoulder. "As I said, he's quite capable of protecting his own interests. Let's go eat." Ryan smiled and allowed himself to be led to the dining room where the other Danforths were already waiting.
"What time on Saturday?" Ryan asked as he toyed with the last of his ice cream. "Never mind; I think it's my turn to stay over." Mr. Danforth shut his mouth and averted his eyes momentarily. "Any time you're ready works for me."
"Just remember to bring your owner's manual," he said.
"Owner's manual?" Ryan repeated, frowning.
"It's that book in your glove compartment behind your sunblock," Chad said teasingly as he rose to help his mother clear the table. "Why do you need it?" he asked, looking from Ryan to his father.
"I'm going to learn how to take care of my car," Ryan declared smugly.
Chad laughed heartily for the next two minutes. But over the next four Saturdays he watched with pride as Ryan and his father learned the fundamentals of caring for a complicated and persnickety "sex on wheels" luxury sports car together.
On to Life Lesons II