"Hey kid...You need help?"
The boy stared at Ryan, then shrugged his shoulders and said "I'm fine" in a way that told Ryan that he really wasn't fine. Ryan made a move to open his car door, but stopped-- he couldn't just leave this kid. So he pulled a little business card out of his pocket.It read: Ryan Atwood Cohen, Merrin Construction Co., 957-0109. Ryan hesitated, then walked over to the kid and held out the business card.
"I know this is gonna sound kind of weird and maybe a little freaky, but if you ever do need help, give me a call."
The kid was looking warily at him, but made no move to take the card. Ryan stood and continued to offer the card until the kid finally reached over and took it. Ryan went to his car and drove away, watching the boy in through the rearview mirror.
An Hour Later
The phone rang gratingly loud, and Ryan flipped off the TV and went to answer the phone.
"Mr. Cohen?" It took a few seconds for Ryan to recognize the kid's voice, and when he did, he wasn't sure of what to say so he stuck with a simple "Hi."
"Why do you want to help me? You don't know anything about me."
"Okay, Jeremy. The thing is, when I was a teenager I got kicked outta my house. I was offered help, and I took it and ended up having a great life because I was given that second chance." Ryan didn't know why he'd told all that to Jeremy, but it seemed to help because the boy started to reply: "Oh...well, I kinda have a problem..."
Forty Minutes After That
Ryan pulled into the driveway, Jeremy sitting silently beside him. Ryan said, "You mind waiting in her for a while? I gotta go talk to my wife."
Jeremy nodded tersely, though he started to look more relaxed after Ryan said the word "wife." Ryan went inside the house to find Taylor in the kitchen. The two had gotten married a couple of years ago, after Taylor had come back from France for the final time. Now, she was washing dishes while the smell of baked chicken floated from the oven.
Ryan quickly explained about meeting Jeremy, then at the end of his speech he kind of threw in the statement that the kid was sitting in the car, waiting. Taylor's mouth dropped open a little, then: "You brought him home?"
"Yeah. I couldn't leave him. I was this kid."
"I know, but..." she sighed. "You know what, fine. I'll go set up the guest bedroom. But he's only staying for a little while, okay?"
Two Weeks After That
"Jeremy, welcome to the family." Ryan grinned at the look of shock that ran across the boy's face. Over the past couple weeks, Ryan had been talking to Sandy about the situation with Jeremy. After the two men looked at Jeremy's legal and medical files, they decided that there was no way they were sending Jeremy back to his parents. Ryan had talked to Taylor, and couple agreed to adopt Jeremy.
Now, as Ryan watched Taylor awkwardly hug Jeremy, he remembered his own adoption into the Cohen family.
Jeremy looked happy for once, and Ryan couldn't wait to see the looks on Jeremy's face when he was introduced to the rest of the Cohens, and to the Coopers.
One Day After That
Ryan had barely stepped out of the car when he was assaulted by a blonde blur that threw its arms around him with the cry "RyRy!" Ryan grinned and hugged Sophie back. She was now ten, but was taller than most girls her age. She looked like a miniature Kirsten. Sophie hugged Taylor as well, then stopped when she got to Jeremy and wrinkled her nose cutely while asking, "Who are you?"
Sandy and Kirsten appeared in the doorway, followed by Seth and Summer. There was much hugging all around, and when Ryan introduced Jeremy, the family enthusiastically welcomed the boy into the house. A few minutes later, Julie, Kaitlin, and Anthony arrived. Anthony was a little younger than Sophie, and looked a lot like a miniature Frank.
At the dinner table, Sandy lightened the mood by saying that there was something very important that Jeremy should know about: Chrismukkah.
This was followed by conversations about Lindsey, Caleb, Marissa, the model home, the earthquake, and how the Cohens managed to convince the former owners of the Berkely house to sell. The stories about the history of the Cohens and the Coopers were told all through the night.
Four Years After That
Ryan and Taylor were absolutely bursting with pride as they watched their son take his diploma. Jeremy was graduating from high school, and all the Cohens and Coopers and Frank had come. There were thirteen of them (Seth and Summer had two kids of their own who were there), and they took up a full row. Kaitlin's T-shirt read Team Jeremy!, and Ryan, Seth, and Sandy sung a rousing chorus of "Check out my boy Cohen! Can you believe how he's growin'? The competition away he's blowin'!"
Ryan laughed at Jeremy's embarrasment.
Six Years After That
Ryan and Taylor and the rest of the family watched while the bride sashayed down the aisle. Jeremy was now 24, and after graduating from college had gone to work in construction like his father. Then he'd met Maria, and they'd dated for two years before Jeremy got up the courage to pop the question.
Everyone cheered and rice was thrown up in the air as Jeremy crushed the glass cup under his foot.
Taylor and Ryan waltzed on the dance floor. Ryan watched Jeremy, staring at Maria with a dazed look in his eyes as if it were all a dream. Ryan understood; he felt the same way as he looked at the other couples dancing. Kirsten and Sandy were waltzing, their silvered hair somehow not making them look old, while Julie and Frank twirled nearby. Seth and Summer were talking while they danced, but the conversation ended with them kissing passionately at the end of the song. Sophie was attempting to teach Anthony how to waltz, but Anthony seemed to have a bad case to two left feet. Everything was perfect.
Ten Years After That
Jeremy Cohen was walking to his car when he saw something that made him stop in his tracks. A teenage boy wearing a black hoodie was sitting on the curb, his bike leaning against the brick wall behind him.
"Hey, kid." The boy looked up, and Jeremy saw that his eye was bruised. He hesitated, then continued speaking.
"You need help?"