We all head outside to Doc’s SUV. As we’re getting in, Justine turns to Azalea. “It’s wonderful to meet you. Gus is a favorite of ours…I don’t have children…just lots of pets…and Doc’s kids live in Boston, we only see them on holidays….so meeting you adds a new dimension. He’s a lucky guy!”

“Yes…it’s very fortunate you two met,” Doc adds…which is kinda reassuring after his worrying.

Justine hands me a zippered pouch. “Gus, take this ice pack, and use it as often as you can until the swelling goes down. It has soft fabric on the outside, so it’ll be gentle on your cheek.”

I’m kinda amazed. “Geez…I can’t believe you’re doing all this. No way I deserve it!”

“Of course you do,” Justine says, “and let’s plan a dinner date when you’re feeling better.”

Azalea chimes in. “We’ll have you over…Gussy’ll fire up the barbecue…right, baby?”

“Hell yeah! That’d be super!”

Justine flashes a big smile. “That would be lots of fun…as long as I can bring the salads. It gets quiet around here and you kids certainly liven things up!”

Doc backs down the driveway and we turn down the tree-lined street. For the first time, I notice it’s an incredible September day with sunshine filtering through the big overhanging trees.

Azalea notices too. “Gee, what a beautiful street!”

Suddenly, a worry pops into my head…fucks with my brain. I’m freaked, fish around in my wallet, and lean toward Doc. “Doc,” I say. “Dad gave me a new insurance card last year, so at least you’ll get paid!”

He glances in the rear view mirror. “I’m not worried.”

Whew! I’m relieved. Never want him to think I’m cheap…get sick of treating me.

Not sure if its the worry or what, but my cheek starts throbbing again. Unconsciously, my hand goes to the painful spot.

Azalea shoots a worried look. “You okay, Gussy?”

“Uh…yeah,” I mumble. “Sort of…”

In town, we park in front of the pharmacy and head in. Doc’s welcomed like he owns the place, which it turns out he sorta does.

“I helped them with seed money forty years ago,” he whispers, “so they never charge us. It’s a sweet deal.”

I glance at Azalea who’s surprised as I am…nice to feel important for a change.

As we steer toward the drug counter, I peek in Doc’s envelope. Check out the prescriptions, school absence slips, and money! Holy fuck…there’s a lot…all twenties! I’m stunned and show Azalea whose eyes bug out,

“Doc,” I exclaim. “This is too much! We don’t need it all.”

“Gus,” he says, “just take it. You never know when it might come in handy.”

As usual, I start obsessing. “But Doc, Dad’s got money. We’ll be okay.”

“Think of it as back-up,” he says. “I worry about you guys.”

Azalea squeezes my hand and gives Doc a big smile.”Thank you, sir! It’ll really help…we’re never sure we’ll have enough.”

I kinda wonder if she’s right. I can always ask Dad…but it suddenly hits me she’s got a point…it’s a lot better to have money than beg for it!

Doc winks. “I know Gus’s dad pretty well. He can be distracted at times.”

I nod. He’s right, but the whole thing sorta freaks me out and I pass the bills to Azalea. “You’re in charge of finances,” I tell her, as she stuffs them in her pocket. “Okay, baby,” she says, “but don’t try to sweet talk me for money.”

I laugh. “Hey…I’m not promising anything. How about you look around the store and get stuff we need?”

“Sure!” She says. “Some of our stuff is running low.”

I turn to Doc and Justine. “I can’t believe you’re doing this! It’s like Christmas!”

I’m worried it’s all a dream…that I’ll wake up with nothing. It’s fucking amazing…like I’ve suddenly have grandparents; although I’m not exactly sure what they see in me…a big chipmunk with stork legs??? But, maybe I’m wrong? Azalea, and now the Wards, see me different…definitely gotta figure it all out.

The pharmacist fills the prescription and hands it to me…turns to Doc. “Who are your young friends?”

“This is Quincy Dodson’s boy, Gus, and his friend Azalea,” he explains “They’re classmates.”

The pharmacist sticks out his hand. “Hi, I’m Mark,” he says. “I remember you and your mom coming in. Wow! You’ve sprouted up!”

“Uh…thanks,” I mumble, totally embarrassed.

We chat a little about my mom and dad, then head out to look for Azalea. Out of nowhere, it dawns on me I’m totally selfish for not asking about Doc’s kids. “So, what’s your family up to?” I say.

“Well,” he starts quietly, “I had three children, but my youngest, Glen, was killed in a car accident…my two girls are doing fine in Boston…married…I have five grandchildren.”

I’m kinda stunned. “Oh, wow,” I say. “I’m really sorry about your son.”

“Thanks. He was a great kid, and I miss him every day. He was seventeen…going to a soccer game with friends…not even driving. The other car ran a stop sign.” Doc opens his wallet and shows me a picture of a handsome young guy. I glance at Justine who looks teary…makes me think I should’ve kept my mouth shut.

Doc looks me in the eye.”Honestly, Gus, you remind me of Glen in many ways. You’re sincere and honest…and try your best at everything.”

“He’s was a lot better looking,” I say.

“No, Gus. You’re a fine-looking boy.”

Things quiet down after that. Justine and Doc drive us to my place and say goodbye…give us big hugs. I’m choking back tears as they drive away. Realize how much I love them…so different than my dad who’s totally hung up on his own stuff. It was a pretty nice day in spite of my fucked-up cheek.

To be continued…READ FINAL EPISODE.