Sunday morning Shane and Scott drove to church. Eli rode up on his beat up ten-speed as they arrived. Scott paused to wait.
“Come on,” Shane said.
“So. Kyle might not even choose him. Come on.”
Eli approached, making the escape Shane had tried to maneuver impossible. He had the same backpack over his shoulder, and this time Scott noticed his striking violet eyes were dark and set in puffy lids. Third shift, Scott remembered. The kid hadn’t had any sleep. “Hey, Eli. How’s it going?”
Eli smiled briefly. “Good.”
“Sit with us,” Scott offered.
Shane poked him with a finger to his waist. At least he thought it was Shane. When he looked, Shane was walking into the church.
Eli accepted with a slight nod and followed Scott into the sanctuary. Scott slipped into the pew next to Shane, and Eli sat beside him. Both Shane and Scott wore suits like they did to work, but Eli wore plain blue slacks and a pullover as he had the day before. Scott glanced at him again. It was the same clothes as the day before. Eli pulled a worn Bible from his back pack.
Shane stared straight ahead, his fingers absently moving over the corner of his Bible.
Scott looked back at the door, nudging Shane. “Kyle’s parents are here.”
Shane shrugged, but didn’t look at Scott.
Scott studied him. “Hey, what’s wrong?” he whispered.
“Later then,” Scott said. He focused on Pastor Prescott as he began the service.
After worship Scott turned to Eli, “Lunch with us?”
Eli smiled briefly and shook his head. “Not today.”
Scott turned to glance at Shane. He was gone. He focused on Eli again. “Kyle wants to spend time alone with you and with William before he makes his decision. Is Tuesday afternoon good for you? About three?”
Scott made sure he had the address. As Eli walked away Scott realized he’d be riding that ten speed for miles to and from work, church, his apartment. They lived closer to the hospital, and Eli had ridden a long way yesterday to make the appointment. Perhaps he should find a way to give him a ride – maybe when he took Kayleigh to school.
Scott found Shane in the car waiting for him. Shane started the engine without speaking and headed home.
“What’s bothering you, Shane?”
“Nothing. You know you’re leading that kid on. Kyle will probably pick William.”
“Why would he do that? Besides even if he does, I’d like to be his friend.”
“Sure. Mr. Friend-to-the-World. Replacing Kyle or me?”
“I’m not replacing anyone. Lighten up, will you? Eli would work better with us than William, and you know it. William doesn’t even want to go to church.”
“Not any more a heathen than we were when we first got together.”
After a few seconds, Shane smiled, too. “So, don’t you think Kyle would be a good influence on him, too?”
“Probably. Didn’t hurt us any.” Scott hesitated. “What have you got against Eli?”
A block before they got to their apartment, Shane turned down a side street. “Let’s eat out. Unless you want to fix us something.”
“Fine with me. About Eli….”
“You’re like a dog with a bone, you know. Let it drop. There’s nothing wrong with Eli. I just like William better.”
“I don’t know.” Then he grinned. “Because you don’t like him. You don’t, do you?”
Scott shrugged. “I like Eli better.”
Shane pulled into the restaurant parking lot. As they ate Scott thought about what Shane had said and what he hadn’t said. Was it possible Shane was jealous of their friendship? Did he not want anyone else joining their “family”? And maybe that was why he wasn’t supportive about Kayleigh. But Shane had had many failed relationships, so it could just be his natural pessimism coming through in both cases — just like his suspicion of Dr. Thorton.
They spent the afternoon cleaning the apartment and doing the laundry. They changed Kyle’s bedding, dusted and vacuumed for him. Then they went to the store and bought his favorite TV dinners and desserts.
After they could find no more ways to prepare for Kyle’s homecoming they reread the papers about epilepsy they had photocopied in the library and went over ways to make Kyle feel he was still in control. One of the papers they read said that was one of the primary dangers of epilepsy. The person should be allowed to function as normal, not being treated as incapacitated. The only exceptions were activities which might risk the lives of others if a seizure were to occur, such as driving a motor vehicle. Or surgery, Scott thought grimly. Jerry was right. His dream was shattered. How could they help him see other specialties as viable alternatives?
Monday morning Scott drove to Kayleigh’s and parked out front. Then he reached into the glove compartment and took out the ring box and papers on the diamond. He wondered if now was the time. She never wanted to be alone with him anymore. This might be his best opportunity. She rushed down the staircase in the same fearless way she had last week.
Kayleigh got in, setting her back pack on the floor. “I wondered if you’d still come.” She fastened her seat belt. “About Friday… what’s wrong?”
“Nothing. About Friday?”
She looked at the box he was turning in his fingers. “Aaah. Friday. I didn’t mean to be so blunt.”
“So you’ll go out with me?”
Kayleigh sighed. “Scott, can’t we just be friends. I liked that. I don’t like feeling like you’re undressing me with your eyes.”
“I haven’t.” Not yet. “Should I return this?” Scott handed her the box and then the jeweler’s certificate and the pamphlet explaining diamond quality. He glanced up.
Kayleigh’s face seemed whiter in the early light. She stared at the diamond in the box, and her hands shook a little.
She looked into his face. “You… you bought this… for me?”
“Wish I’d been able to give it to you in a more romantic way, but….”
Tears ran down her cheeks.
“Kayleigh?” He touched her face, and she leaned toward him. Scott shifted so she could rest against him.
Scott didn’t know what she wanted. He leaned down and kissed her forehead.
Kayleigh sat up abruptly. “Don’t touch me.”
Scott raised his hands and backed away to lean against the door. “What did I do?”
She snapped the box shut and threw it at him. It hit his shoulder and fell to the floor. “I’m not some high priced slut.”
“Whoa. What are you talking about?”
“You rich guys can just throw your money around any old way.” She left the truck.
“I quit! So don’t bother me again.”
The door slammed. Kayleigh ran toward the house, but then before she reached the steps she veered around them, going behind the house.
Shock had immobilized him, but now he got out of the Cherokee and ran after her. He caught her as she attempted to unlock her car. He turned her to face him.
Terror clouded her features. “No! No!” She pulled away and then hit his shoulders when he wouldn’t release her.
“Hold it. Kayleigh, just hold on. Stop it. I’m not going to hurt you. Kayleigh!”
She stopped struggling and stared into his face.
“You know me, Kayleigh,” he said softly. “I won’t hurt you. You’ve been hurt — raped, haven’t you?”
Kayleigh just stared.
“It’s okay, Kayleigh. You don’t have to take the ring today. I’ll save it for when you’re ready. You don’t have to quit. I’m not going to hurt you,” he repeated.
She still didn’t move, but her gaze lost a little of that frightened terror.
He took a step back to reassure her and tried to bring the conversation back to normality. “For the record, I’m not rich. I’m still paying off student loans. I can understand if marrying a financial fool frightens you, but don’t be afraid of me.”
Kayleigh took the two steps to him and leaned against him, her whole body shaking with sobs.
Scott held her, but was careful not to move his hands lest she take it the wrong way. His heart broke with her tears. Whatever had happened it was worse than Sandy’s bad relationship in college. He held her until she moved away, releasing her immediately. She didn’t meet his eyes.
“Coming back to work?”
Kayleigh walked away from him toward the front of the house. Scott followed her. She got into the SUV. When Scott made it around to the other side, she was leaning over. Then she straightened, holding the box with the ring. She opened it and studied it.
Scott got into the truck.
“Why do you want to marry me?”
Scott decided he better get moving so she couldn’t jump out again. It gave him time to think through the answer. A simple ‘I love you’ wouldn’t do it. “I told you before there’s never been a woman I felt so comfortable praying with. Shane and Sandy both think I’m crazy, but once after we were praying I just knew we’d get married someday.”
“So you’ve talked to Shane and Sandy about this.” She turned quickly. “You told her before I met her! You’ve been planning this ever since we met.”
“Not quite, and I haven’t exactly been planning. If I had, things might be going a bit smoother.”
“Smoother?” The skeptical fear was in her voice again. “What do you want?”
“I haven’t been clear?”
“Marriage? When? In five years? Then when you’re ready to settle down, you’ll ditch me for someone better? The perfect little wife with the perfect little family?”
“Marriage whenever we go through premarital counseling with Pastor Prescott.”
“Your pastor? What if I wanted mine?”
“What if you’re trying to find a reason to argue with me? Your pastor or mine. We’ll work it out.”
“And where would we live? With Shane and Kyle? You want someone to help take care of him?”
“I’m hiring someone for that. If you have a problem with living in the apartment, the marriage will have to wait. I’m committed to Kyle as long as he needs me, and I can’t afford to buy a house for us until I save up a little.”
“I thought so.”
Scott couldn’t help the sigh of exasperation. Maybe Shane was right. But she’d been hurt. He had to have patience. He pulled into the parking garage and found a spot.
Kayleigh sat in the silent vehicle, staring at the ring. She pulled it from the box and slipped it onto her finger. “It fits. How did you guess?”
“I didn’t. I just bought the one I liked best. Glad it doesn’t have to be sized.”
“You still want me to have this?”
“Even if I’m not going to kiss you until after we get married?
“If that will convince you I’m sincere.”
“No matter how long that will take?”
“Doesn’t matter how long. I told you — it’s your friendship and prayer which first attracted me. If I just wanted a physical relationship I could have found it a lot easier somewhere else.” He left the SUV, slamming the door.
Kayleigh caught up with him. “What’s your middle name?”
“My middle name? Ryan. Scott Ryan Alexander.” He didn’t ask hers. It had been in her application. Kayleigh Marie Edwards.
They reached the department door. “Scott?”
Scott stopped with his hand on the door knob, facing her. “Yes?”
“I’m going to ask for a transfer. I think it’d be best.”
Scott studied her face. His career was in her hands. “I wish you wouldn’t, but I know I’ve made things difficult for you. I’m sorry.”
Kayleigh bit her lip, her face still red and streaked from her tears.
He touched her cheek. “Probably should wash your face before Elaine sees you.”
Kayleigh left abruptly without looking back.
Scott went into the department and back to his office, barely returning Elaine’s greeting. He spent the morning on the phone.
It was almost noon when he called up to Kyle’s room. No answer. Scott replaced the phone and put his head in his hands. He’d missed him. Kyle was on his way home, and neither he nor Shane were there to greet him.
Scott decided to run home for lunch. He didn’t care if Ian was there. It was his apartment, after all, not Ian’s.
Elaine stopped him as he went through the outer office. “Hey, Scott, have you seen Kayleigh’s ring?”
Scott glanced back at Kayleigh, who still seemed nervous.
“She’s getting married. Someone named Ryan.”
Scott smiled. “Congratulations, Kayleigh.”
“Show him the diamond, Kayleigh. It’s a nice one.”
Kayleigh turned back to the keyboard. “I’m sure Scott has better things to do.”
Scott smiled. “I’ve got to run home for lunch. I’ll be back by two,” he said, so Kayleigh would know he hadn’t forgotten she needed a ride to school.
When Scott pulled in the parking lot of apartment complex, Shane was just leaving his car. He waited until Scott caught up before they continued in together. “Looks like we both had the same idea.”
“We’re Kyle’s family. It’s our home,” Shane said in a fierce whisper as they climbed the stairs.
They hesitated outside the door. Then Shane clasped Scott’s hand in the way that they would sometimes pray silently in the morning. After his prayer Shane released him and opened the door.
Kyle sat in the far living room chair. Ian and Jerry were on the couch, and Fran was in the kitchen. When Kyle saw them he stood and walked to them. Scott could only watch, his throat tight. Kyle wore his jeans, which fit a little loose, and a button-down, plaid, short-sleeved shirt, instead of the loose fitting jogging outfit or pajamas he’d worn at the hospital. His eyes still had that sunken look, but as he walked toward them, he looked great. Healed. Recovered.
The emotions of the day got the best of him, and when Kyle stood before him, he grabbed him and hugged him tightly. “Welcome home.”
He heard Kyle’s throaty chuckle near his ear. “Great welcome.” He pulled away, and then Kyle went to Shane, taking the first move to embrace him. That was typical. Shane always hung back.
“Just lunch?” Kyle motioned to the chairs and love seat, and they moved to sit down.
Ian glared at them, but said nothing.
“Just lunch,” Shane agreed. “But I’ll be home at five thirty. Are you still working late, Scott?”
Scott glanced at Ian and Jerry. “Yeah. Hopefully another week will catch me up.”
“How’s your secretary?” Shane asked. “She’s been praying for you, Kyle.”
Shane’s grin left. “You’re serious? She took it? After only a month she said yes?”
“What? What is it?” Kyle asked.
Kyle seemed to freeze. “I thought….”
“Hey, relax. I’m not going anywhere. And she didn’t exactly say yes. I told her if living here wasn’t good enough, then we’d have to wait quite a few years to get married. So… relax. I’m here, and I’m staying here.”
Kyle seemed to take his advice. His smile returned. “You’ve got a bit of talking to do. I missed a lot. I want to meet her.”
“He doesn’t give a rip about you. Just come home with us,” Ian said.
Kyle frowned, but focused on Scott. “Secretary. That’s not right.”
“Yeah, I know,” Scott admitted.
Ian stood and glared down at Scott and Kyle. “He’s trash, Kyle. Come home.”
“Shut up,” Kyle said, almost under his breath.
Scott touched Kyle’s arm. “We’ll talk all about it later. Promise.” Then he grinned. “Course, Shane may beat me to it, telling you how addle-brained he thinks I am.”
Kyle lifted his hand to grip Scott’s for a second.
Ian glanced at his father. “See, Dad. Do you want some addle brain watching out for him?”
“I don’t need watching,” Kyle almost shouted.
Scott grinned. “Note, he didn’t say I wasn’t addle-brained.”
Kyle’s anger left at Scott’s gibe. He smiled. “You need me.”
“I need you. But I have to get back to work.”
“To your secretary,” Ian sneered.
“No, just away from you. Excuse me.” Scott walked to the door, trying hard not to make it look like he was running out. He was rarely so blunt, but Ian had exhausted his patience. Shane was right. Some people you just couldn’t be friends with, and it was better to avoid them. He went through a drive thru and then back up to work.
Kayleigh came to his office with a stack of work for approval. She remained businesslike until the end. “How’s Kyle? He went home, didn’t he?”
“Kyle’s looking great, Kayleigh. He wants to meet you.” The wariness came into her eyes again so he continued. “Of course that should probably wait until after his parents leave Wednesday. I couldn’t even eat lunch at home because Ian was being such a jerk. How are things with your brother?”
Kayleigh studied him a moment, and then she sat in the chair near him. “Terry is… getting into trouble. He didn’t come home Friday night, and Sunday morning he came home drunk and… and probably high. He spent the day sleeping it off, and then… well, he wasn’t very pleasant to be around. He acts a lot like my dad. I try and try to pray for him, but I wish he’d just leave like he threatens. But my mom is afraid she’ll never see him again, so she puts up with it. She’s afraid of him, too.”
“And so are you.”
Kayleigh turned toward the door. “I can’t leave my mother alone.”
Scott wasn’t sure how much he should read into that statement. “She’s not alone now?”
“I mean… I can’t move out.”
“That should make for an interesting marriage,” he said as dryly as he could.
Kayleigh rolled her eyes. “I knew you wouldn’t understand.”
“Whoa. Don’t pull the ‘all men are brain-dead’ routine on me. Give me the benefit of the doubt for a change.” He tentatively reached for her hands, and when she didn’t react, he held them. “Kayleigh, you seemed to respect me before. Have you started believing office gossip? Am I just a dumb manager?”
“It’s not that….”
“Then you think that anyone who shows an interest in you is either after no strings sex or brain dead.”
Kayleigh didn’t speak.
“That’s the one.” He sighed. “I’m not a psychology major. I can’t help you. I can just be me.”
“And when you come to your senses….?”
“What makes you think I lost them?”
She shifted and studied her fingernails. “You did get knocked on the head a couple times in the last month.”
Scott laughed, and Kayleigh looked up quickly. “Yeah, I did. But I’m a stubborn one. I’ve made up my mind, Kayleigh Edwards. I love you.”
Kayleigh stared as if he’d lost his mind. Then she stood and rushed for the door.
She stopped with her hand on the knob, not facing him.
“Let’s pray like we used to. For Kyle, for this new roommate, for your mom and your brother….”
Kayleigh turned to watch him.
“And for us,” he continued softly. “That we each have patience, wisdom, and understanding, keeping God at the center of our relationship and not fear.”
She came back to the seat. “You mean I shouldn’t fear. You’re never afraid of anything.”
“When you fight me like this I’m afraid that Shane is right. I’m acting foolishly, and my conviction that we’ll marry was just post-accident jitters. I’ve never wanted to marry anyone before, and you hold not only the keys to my heart, but my career. It’s a very large, black mark to fall in love with your secretary, especially a secretary who thinks you’re undressing her with your eyes. Yes, I have fears.”
“You don’t have to marry me. I won’t tell anyone you came on to me.”
Scott closed his eyes and shook his head. “You still don’t get it, do you? I didn’t risk it all for a little fun. I may have lost a few brain cells in the last month, but not that many.” He took her hands. “Let’s pray.” He began the prayer immediately, able to reveal his doubts and fears directly to God.
Kayleigh prayed after him. Several times she began to speak, but then stopped, her voice choked with emotion. He didn’t know what she ultimately prayed, for he knew she prayed even when she was silent, as Shane would. The comparison helped. He understood Shane after living with him for seven years. It would take time, but eventually Kayleigh would confide in him also.
Afterward she rose to leave. At the door she faced him. “For the record, I wasn’t really raped.”
“But you were attacked.”
“You’re not ready yet,” he said softly. “I’m here when you are.”
Kayleigh gave a slight nod and left the room. A half hour later he took her to school, and after class they worked late. He tried to keep the conversation light, vowing to wait until she was ready to pursue their relationship.
Jerry, Fran, and Ian were gone for the night when Scott returned home. Kyle, Shane, and Scott were able to spend their first evening together at home in over a month. The subject was Kayleigh. Kyle recalled his comments about her when he was in the hospital, which proved to Scott that his short term memory was returning. Scott rehashed how they’d met, and the impression he’d had that day after they’d prayed. He almost expected Kyle to agree that he was nuts, but Shane spoke first.
“You said she wasn’t interested. What changed her mind? Was it just your classic good looks wearing down her resistance?”
Scott looked at them both, but then focused on his hands which longed to be holding something. He grabbed the deck of cards from the small drawer inside the table. Smiling, he cut and shuffled them. When they’d read, the two that were the listeners many times played cards or other games with little strategy. They’d been able to recover the reading, but not the game playing.
“Scott?” Kyle asked. “What’s wrong?”
“Wrong? Nothing. I’m just missing this. We probably don’t have time to read tonight, do we?”
Kyle shook his head. “No cards tonight.”
“What about Kayleigh, Scott,” Shane said. “You’re hiding something.”
Scott shrugged. “She’s wearing the ring, but she’s not convinced yet. No use announcing to the world I’m engaged when she’s not saying it.” He set the cards back into the drawer.
“She wears the ring and says what? She bought it at a garage sale? You’re not making sense.”
“Neither are you. She’s just not engaged to me, okay?”
“Scott! That’s… that’s inhuman. She’s taking your ring and marrying someone else?”
Scott stood and rubbed his head. “Shane, she’s not marrying anyone, okay? Let’s just drop it. You’ve got it all mixed up anyway.”
“I wouldn’t if you’d just tell me.”
“I can’t just tell you because I don’t know!” Scott shouted. He shook his head. “Sorry.”
Shane was watching him with that sympathetic pity again.
“And don’t feel sorry for me. Kayleigh just needs time.”
“Yeah. I’ve heard that before, too. Not ready to settle down, have to finish school, let’s just be friends. Yeah, I’ve heard it all.”
Scott wanted to snap back that he wasn’t Shane. It wasn’t the same because he hadn’t picked some loser to begin with. But then Kyle stood and made his way from the room without a word. Scott’s attention went to him.
“Going to bed?” Shane asked.
“Yeah,” was all Kyle said, without turning around. He shut his bedroom door.
Shane glanced at Scott, and then they both knew. “Sorry, I got upset,” Scott said.
“Don’t mean to hurt you. Just worried, you know.” His voice lowered. “I guess we’ll have to keep this kind of stuff from Kyle. Maybe he can’t handle the tension yet.”
“Maybe.” Or maybe it was something more. Maybe he was upset his family was fighting his first night home. Maybe he, like Shane, didn’t really want Scott to get married. Maybe it was neither of those, and Kyle was just weary from his long first day from the hospital.
Shane went to the desk across the room that had their newest computer on it. He withdrew an envelope from the drawer. “This came. Kyle’s car insurance is due for the next six months. We hire William we can forget it. We hire Eli, we have to pay it. Almost seven hundred.” He tapped the envelope against the desk. “A good reason to push William.”
“Don’t push either. He’s got a mind. Let him use it.”
“Man, you’re snappy today. Love doesn’t agree with you.”
“Never agreed with you either,” Scott snapped back before he caught himself. Shane looked shocked. “I’m sorry, Shane. I didn’t mean….”
Shane shook his head. “If I acted like that then the truth is the truth. Why didn’t you say anything before?”
“We knew it was just because you were hurting. Hey, I’ll try to lighten up. You’re right. Kayleigh’s tearing me up, but I can’t back up now. I’m committed. And the thing is, I know she doesn’t mean it….”
Shane’s expression changed to sympathy again. “I’ve been there.”
“Don’t! Please, Shane. Don’t. I have to believe it’ll all work out, cause I don’t have a choice. This really isn’t the same.”
Shane closed his eyes, the muscles in his jaw moving. Then he took a deep breath and looked into Scott’s eyes. “Of course it’s not the same, Honeydrops,” he said, and Scott knew the lift in his voice was faked. He was trying so hard.
“I love you like a brother, Shane. You and Kyle both. I feel half crazed most of the time, but I know you’ll never let me down.”
Shane shook his head and turned away. “Are you going to contact your money friend about the insurance?”
“Sure. I’ll write him a message.”
“E-mail? Think I could take a look… Didn’t think so. Well, we should know something soon.” Shane stretched. “I’ve got to get some sleep. I hope Jerry isn’t late tomorrow. I really don’t want to leave him alone yet.”
“Me neither.” Scott went to his room and changed for bed.
Go to Chapter 12
© 2014, 1998 by Deborah K. Lauro. You may make one copy for personal use. To share, please direct friends to this website.