Saturday morning Scott waited until eleven for Eli to call. When he tried the number again, it was busy. He couldn’t wait any longer. Scott started for the door.
“Hey, wait. We can ride together,” Shane suggested. He wore his jeans and his contacts, instead of his glasses.
“I planned to do a little shopping….”
“I can go with you.”
Scott hesitated. How could he tell him no? “Up to you. You’ll probably be bored.”
Shane grinned. “I’ve been bored before. Didn’t kill me yet.” He sobered. “You’re not scared of driving me, are you?” He locked the door after they entered the hall.
“Hadn’t thought about it.”
“Good.” They headed downstairs and out to the Jeep Grand Cherokee. The sun was bright and the air humid, a forerunner of a summer of humid days. “Where are we going?”
Scott pulled into traffic and tried to ignore Shane’s question as long as possible. He grabbed his sunglasses from his visor to block the glare. “Just pricing stuff.”
“Look. What’s the big deal?”
“Nothing. What’s got you all hyper?”
Scott turned into the parking lot of the strip mall. “Sorry, Shane. I just know you won’t approve.” He left the truck and walked toward the jewelry store.
Shane caught up with him at the door. “You’re buying something for Kayleigh.”
“Maybe? Yes or no.”
“Depends on the price.”
“What does she want?”
“An engagement ring.” Scott slipped off his sunglasses and leaned over the counter to study the rings.
Shane looked into Scott’s face. “She doesn’t love you.”
“Don’t! Just don’t.” Scott motioned an employee over. “May I see these?”
The woman brought out the rings he pointed to, explaining the qualities of a good diamond. The ones Scott liked cost more than he knew he should spend right now.
Shane watched in silence until Scott held the more expensive ring in his fingers, debating. “You’d practically drain your savings right when Kyle needs you.”
Scott handed the woman back the diamond and settled on one that cost half as much. It was still a pretty ring, over a quarter of a carat, and judging by Kayleigh’s home and car, she would be more than happy with it.
“What happens if she won’t accept it,” Shane asked.
“She will! Shane just….”
“Just find out the return policy. You’re not thinking.”
“I’m not the one who gets ditched every other month. This is none of your business.”
Shane left the store abruptly. Scott took a deep breath before completing the transaction. Then he went to the SUV. Shane didn’t say a word as Scott got in. He didn’t look at him either, staring straight ahead.
Scott reached over and locked the ring in the glove compartment. Then he watched Shane. “I’m sorry.”
Shane didn’t look his way. “Why? You’re right. Just because I’ll never be able to convince a decent girl to marry me, doesn’t mean you won’t.”
“That’s not true. You’ll find her someday. Just… just don’t try so hard.”
Shane shook his head; then he faced Scott. “You’re gonna get hurt on this one. I’ve never seen you so strung out on anyone before.”
Scott turned the key and then backed out of the parking space. “Know something, Shane?” he asked quietly. “You’re probably right, but I can’t do anything about it.”
Shane stared out the side window. “Been there. Helps to have good friends to turn to afterward. Me an’ Kyle will always be here for you.”
“I know that. Thanks.” He drove to the hospital.
At the hospital they went into Scott’s office, leaving the outer door unlocked for Jerry, William, and Eli, if he came. Scott tried calling again. The person who answered said Eli wasn’t home, and he didn’t know anything about any message. Scott left his name and number a second time.
Jerry came in first. They decided to use the conference room, and he settled into a swivel chair. William arrived a few minutes later. Shane introduced him.
William’s blond hair hung down in waves to his shoulders. He shook hands with them and sat in the chair, looking around the conference room. “So you work here?” he asked Scott. “A programmer?”
“No. Manager. Are you working now?”
“I run errands for Quality Printing.” He leaned back and stretched out. “These are great chairs.”
“You have your own car?”
“Yeah. It’s a ‘78 Camaro. A classic. I’m gonna restore it someday.”
A beater, Scott thought, not impressed as he knew William wanted him to be.
“How much medical training have you had?” Jerry asked.
“I’m going to be an x-ray tech. I’m half way through.”
“So you haven’t had any first aid?”
“Oh, sure. I passed life guard training down at the pool back home. You know, what to do if anyone takes in too much water, passes out, that kind of thing. I even had to rescue this kid….” He stopped and looked past them to the doorway.
Scott turned and then stood. “You got my message, Eli. I was afraid you hadn’t.” He held out his hand.
Eli’s handshake was firm. His eyes held more violet than blue, and his almost black, straight hair was in a classic conservative cut, almost military if it hadn’t been touching his ears. A blue canvas backpack hung loosely over one shoulder. He shook hands with Shane and Jerry, before shifting the bag to the floor and taking the seat Scott offered.
“So he’s applying for the job, too?” William asked.
“Yeah. Kyle has to have a choice,” Shane said.
“Have you had any first aid training?” Jerry asked.
Eli nodded. “My father taught me.”
“He was a doctor?”
“A missionary. We worked away from the city, so we always had to be prepared.”
Jerry leaned forward. “Your parents are missionaries? Where are they?”
“They’re dead.” His voice wavered ever so slightly, but his gaze was steady as he looked into Jerry’s face.
“I’m sorry. Was it recent?”
“Four years August twenty-first. A plane crash.”
“I’m so sorry.”
Scott and Shane murmured similar sentiments, unsure how to proceed with such a loss.
Eli gave a slight nod of acknowledgment. The silence stretched on. Eli leaned down, unzipped his back pack and withdrew a plain blue folder. He pulled out several sheets of paper, passing them to Scott, Jerry, and Shane. “I have another if Kyle wants one.” He passed another resume to Scott.
William glanced at Shane’s copy. “Resume?” He gave a nervous laugh. “I’ve never needed one.”
Scott glanced through it, noting that Eli now worked at an Ypsilanti grocery store as a stock boy and attended Eastern Michigan University with a straight A grade point average. The resume also listed Eli’s boarding school in Pennsylvania and the jobs he had performed there. Then he had written about the work he’d done with his family in Venezuela, South America. They were support with a translation team. Eli could speak three languages fluently, English, Spanish, and one Scott knew he couldn’t pronounce and wouldn’t embarrass himself by trying. Eli also had a list of references at the bottom. Other than Pastor Joseph Prescott and a family in Venezuela, all the other people listed were from New York.
“This is good, Eli,” Scott said.
“Yeah,” Jerry agreed. He glanced toward William. “Where do you go to church?”
William hesitated. “Back home I go to St. Michael’s. I check in St. Chris and Holy Family once in a while here, but I’m not like a missionary or nothing. I’ll take Kyle to church if he wants me to.”
“We’ll all go together,” Shane said quietly. “That’s just the way it is. We’re a family.”
“Aaah… I thought you said weekends were off.”
“Yeah. Weekends off,” Shane said.
“And one forty cash a week.” He looked at Scott and Jerry.
“That’s what the insurance will give,” Scott conceded. “Any other questions, Jerry, or should we take the guys up to meet Kyle?”
Jerry leaned forward. “Have either of you guys been around epilepsy?”
“One of our friends in the village is epileptic,” Eli stated. “Once when he was with us he had a grand mal attack.”
William rested his arms on the table. “I can handle it. Learned it in school.” He picked up the resume Shane had set down. “What’s your major anyway? Doctor? Are you a freshman? You’re only eighteen?”
Eli glanced at Jerry and then focused on William. “I’m a sophomore now, and I’m looking into teaching.”
Scott glanced at the resume again and did a little math. Sure enough, Eli was still eighteen until October. “How old are you, William?”
“Twenty-one,” he said with a bit too much pride. “I can take him anywhere he wants.”
Jerry stood. “Let’s go up.” He held Scott back as the others filed out of the room. “Scott, see if you can get Kyle to hold off a decision until you talk over with him what’s been said here. Read him the resume and… Can you get Will to give you a resume also?”
“Why didn’t you speak up?”
Jerry looked at the floor. “You’re right about Kyle. I can’t say anything without him getting upset. He’s too sensitive about control.” He met Scott’s eyes. “You’ve got a way of leading without leading though. I’ve been through it all with Fran and Ian. Kyle will not cooperate for us. I pray he’ll work with you.”
Scott rested his hand on Jerry’s arm. “I’ll do everything I can for him. I promise.”
They left the office, and Scott locked up before they followed. Shane, Eli, and William were waiting at the elevators. As they started up, Scott looked at William. “Think you can slap together a resume for us? Just something we can go over with Kyle later. I don’t want him to feel pressured to make a quick decision.”
The elevator stopped, and they got out. “When will he decide? I thought that’s what today was for.”
“Wednesday,” Jerry said. “We leave Wednesday.”
“Yeah, but I can tell him everything now,” William insisted.
“Write it down.”
“Yeah,” Shane agreed. “Can’t tell him everything at once. Don’t overwhelm him. Still recovering. Takes a while.”
“But he’s making the decision?”
“Yeah. Whoever he likes best.”
William seemed to relax. “I can get along with anyone.”
They stopped outside the room. Shane glanced at Jerry. “Will this be too much with Ian and Fran, too.”
“I sent them out.” Jerry entered the room. William and then Eli followed. Shane and Scott entered last. They made a semicircle around the wheelchair Kyle sat in.
Scott crouched beside him. “We brought two guys for you to meet. Don’t have to make a decision today. Just get to know them, and we can read their resumes later.”
Kyle gave Scott a jerky nod. “Go down to the room.”
“The rec room? Sure.” Scott motioned them to follow Shane down to the end of the hall to a large visiting room. Jerry pushed the wheelchair to the table and they all sat around it.
After short introductions they visited. Kyle remained stiffer and spoke choppier than when he was alone with Scott and Shane. Scott guessed he was nervous. William spoke the most, several times cutting off Eli’s already short replies.
They stayed until Fran and Ian entered the room. Fran leaned over and kissed Kyle’s cheek. “We’re back, Sweetheart. We found some nice shirts on sale that’ll look so good on you.”
Kyle closed his eyes. “Later.”
Scott stood. “We’ll come back later, Kyle. Eli, Will, we should let Kyle spend some time with his family now.” He motioned them toward the door. Eli stood immediately and left.
William greeted Fran and Ian with a smile. “It’s great to meet you, Mrs. Sloan. I’m sure Kyle and I will get along well.”
Ian stood before Scott. “If you and your buddies hurt Kyle anymore….”
“Ian!” Jerry chastised.
“William,” Scott said once more, motioning for the door.
William went out the door. “What was that all about?”
“His little brother has taken the accident pretty hard. It’s not personal. When can you get me the resume?”
“If I can use that computer in your office, I’ll type one up right now.”
Scott hesitated. The guy was one of the most unprepared job applicants he’d ever run across, but then they weren’t officially hiring anyone. “Sure. Let’s do that now, and I’ll be able to talk to Kyle tonight or tomorrow.” Shane followed them down to Scott’s office.
Eli leaned against the wall beside the door and straightened as they approached. He didn’t speak, but looked at Scott as if asking a question.
Scott unlocked the door. “Shane, take him down to my office.” Shane complied, leading William down the narrow hall.
“Have some time?”
Eli nodded. “I work third shift.”
Scott led him to the conference room where they sat again. “Do you have any family or friends around here?”
“No. No family.” He hesitated. “Pastor Joe has been a good friend.”
Eli shrugged. “We keep different schedules.”
Scott leaned back. “Shane was serious when he said we’re like a family, the three of us. It has never worked out when we tried to get another roommate.” He smiled then to ease any fears he may have given Eli. “But then we never had the sense to ask Pastor to recommend anyone.” A bold thought came to him, one he probably wouldn’t have considered before all his prayers with Kayleigh. “Will you pray with me about this?”
Eli gave a slight nod before he bowed his head.
Scott prayed for guidance to do what was best for Kyle. He prayed for healing, and he prayed for wisdom. Then Eli prayed that the best person be chosen to help Kyle in his recovery, and that Scott, Shane, and Kyle be able to keep their sense of family.
Scott met Eli’s eyes when they finished. He liked this kid — this guy with no family who had prayed that Shane, Kyle, and Scott be able to remain family. His voice held more than his words. An ache — a longing. “I hope Kyle chooses you,” Scott said. “I think it’d work out this time.”
“I’ll do my best.”
Shane came into the room. “There you are. What are you doing?”
“Just talking. William done typing?”
Shane shook his head. “That’ll take a while. He uses one finger. I’m tempted to play secretary.” He leaned against the edge of the table. “When are we going to talk to Kyle? Can’t go near him with Ian there.”
“Guess we stay up late tonight or tomorrow.”
“You might as well go home, Eli,” Shane said. “Nothing to do but wait until Kyle makes up his mind. We’ll call one way or the other.”
Eli glanced at Scott and then stood, hoisting his backpack on to his shoulder. “See you tomorrow at church.”
Scott walked with Eli to the door of the department. “Thanks for coming, Eli.”
Eli gave a slight nod and left.
Scott followed Shane back to his office. He finally motioned William out of his chair and set his fingers to the keyboard, trying to type the nonstop flow of self-promotion coming from William.
“And make sure you tell him I know how to fix anything on my car so we’ll never be stranded. What kind of car does that kid drive?”
“Look, this is already four pages long. It should be enough. I’ve got to close up and get home.” It was a lie, but Scott was tired of William — bored by him.
“Are you sure? There’s more. When I was in junior high I had….”
“Scott,” Shane said, irritation in his voice.
“Never mind. Scott’s been snapping all day, so don’t let it bother you.”
“As long as it’s enough… course that kid doesn’t have half the credentials I do.”
“Nor half the mouth,” Scott muttered.
Shane stared at Scott.
William continued as if he hadn’t heard. “I can take care of your friend. I know you two are really making the decision, or is it his father?”
They both looked at William. “Kyle is.”
Shane motioned William toward the door. “Let’s let Scott alone for a while. I’ll call when Kyle makes up his mind.”
Shane returned a minute later. “Man, you’re rude today. Are you feeling all right, or is this thing with Kayleigh bothering you?”
Scott printed the overlong essay trying to pass itself off as a resume, taking the time to think through his uneasiness. “We still haven’t studied epilepsy.” Scott grabbed Shane’s arms. “Ian’s right, you know. I nearly killed him once. What if I mess up and finish the job now?”
Shane looked into his eyes without speaking, and slowly the burst of tension in Scott subsided. He dropped his hands and shut off the computer.
“It’ll be all right,” Shane said. “We’ll have it down. Let’s go.”
Scott followed Shane from the office. They drove over to the medical library and spent an hour photocopying anything they and the guy Kyle picked might need to know.
He felt more informed when they left the library, but still apprehensive. None of the literature they gathered was comforting except the reports that stated how well medication was working to keep the seizures under control.
They went back to the hospital. Scott hesitated at the elevators. “It’s not quite nine. Ian is probably still there. Let’s wait.” Scott sat on the bench.
Shane shrugged. “Let’s get something to drink.”
Scott leaned back and closed his eyes, wishing he could go home to bed. “Bring me back something.” He wished the weekend was over. He wished he knew how Kayleigh would react to the ring. He wished Kyle was home, and he’d chosen the roommate. He wished everything could go back to the way it was before the accident.
“Scott,” said a low voice. As he opened his eyes Dr. Thorton sat beside him. “Kyle’s going home Monday.”
“Yeah. With us. We finally got his parents to come around.”
“Good. Need anything?”
“Not yet. Still got most of what you gave me. I’ve only paid for the lawyer out of it. He says Kyle should get excess medical expenses paid by my insurance so that’ll help. We’ve just got to worry about paying the helper guy a hundred and forty a week until caregiver allowance kicks in. And….”
“And making his student loan payments if we can’t get an extension.”
“I can handle that when the time comes. Anything else?”
Scott sat up and smiled. “Only that epilepsy scares me to death. We’ve been to the library, but if you have any advice I’m listening.”
Dr. Thorton shook his head. “I’ve been told that the tremors and the epileptic fits should both diminish in intensity over the next six months, but Dr. Franklin could not tell me to what extent. That’s the variable. All you can do is make sure he doesn’t injure himself further if he does have convulsions.” Dr. Thorton glanced up. He stood and walked quickly away, passing Shane.
Shane handed Scott a ginger ale and sat down. “Who was that? Looked like you were chatting pretty cozy.”
“Our friend with the money.”
“Really?” Shane started to stand.
Scott grabbed his arm. “You promised. You can’t say anything to him. You saw him run. He doesn’t want you to know.”
Shane settled back on the bench. “Why? That sounds kind of suspicious to me.”
“Let it rest, Shane. Don’t we have enough problems without you creating more?”
The elevator doors opened to release Jerry, Fran, and Ian. “What are you two still here for?” Ian asked. “You’re not going up now. Visiting hours are over.”
“Ian, don’t cause any more trouble,” Jerry said.
“You’re just going to let them kill Kyle.”
Shane and Scott slipped into the elevator as the doors slid shut. “Glad I’m not Jerry.”
Shane grinned. “No. Not with a son like Ian.”
“Even Fran probably hates his decision to let Kyle stay here.”
They made it into Kyle’s room. Kyle lay with his eyes closed. Scott and Shane looked at each other. “He’s probably exhausted,” Scott suggested in a whisper. “We should let him sleep.” They crept from the room.
“Wait!” Kyle said.
They went back in. Kyle adjusted his bed to sit. “Those guys. They both still interested?”
“Yeah. Both of them. Like one more than the other?”
“Hard to tell with so many people. When I go home… want to spend some time with each — alone.”
“One on one? I’ll set it up,” Scott promised. He brought out the resumes to read to Kyle. The nurse kicked them out not long after they finished reading.
Go to Chapter 11
© 2014, 1998 by Deborah K. Lauro. You may make one copy for personal use. To share, please direct friends to this website.