The next morning Shane grabbed his coffee and slid into the kitchen chair across the table from Scott. “How’s your head? Doesn’t look like you slept much at all.”
“I’m okay. Just got a lot on my mind.” He took another drink of his coffee, hoping the caffeine would help wake him up. If he hadn’t spent the night wondering how he could have gotten so confused about Kayleigh, putting that aside, then wondering how the new roommate would affect their life, wondering if Kyle really could recover, going back to wondering why Kayleigh was so secretive, and how he could have mistaken friendship. You didn’t pray ‘with’ your enemies, did you? But he’d overstepped, and she was just drawing a line. Nothing else.
“You’ve never been dumped before, have you?” Shane asked softly.
“I wasn’t dumped. I just made an error in judgment.”
Shane nodded. “Yeah. Error in judgment. I do that a lot, too.” He took another sip of his coffee. “Never gets any easier.”
“Shane, I wasn’t….” But Shane was watching him with sympathy. Scott took a deep breath. “For the record I never talked to Kayleigh about dating….”
“No, I didn’t tell her that. Just you. You and Sandy. Now just drop it.” Scott took his cup to the sink and rinsed it. Then he started for the front door.
“I wasn’t trying to harass you. Never mind. I know what it’s like.”
Scott turned and watched Shane who was now staring across the table at the wall. Shane did know what it was like. He knew it far too often because he wanted love so deeply. “Yeah, Shane. I was dumped. Thanks for caring.” Scott left so he wouldn’t be required to keep up the lie. What difference was there between reality and what he’d said anyway? They’d never get together like he’d predicted. So why couldn’t he forget that certainty he’d felt that day?
Scott pulled to a stop in front of the apartment house Kayleigh lived in. He was ten minutes early. He debated about blowing the car horn, but then remembered the times he’d been awakened from a sound sleep by someone honking for his neighbors. He decided to go up. The stairs didn’t look any safer this morning than they had the day before. Glancing at the mailboxes he saw the name “Edwards” on box four. He went up the steps, gripping the railing carefully so as not to get splinters in his hand.
The steps led to a landing in back which overlooked the yard, or rather the parking lot, as all the tenant’s cars were lined up in the narrow lot. Scott knocked on the second door, and then studied the cars below.
“Yes?” asked a short, plump woman in a meek voice.
“Hi. I’m here for Kayleigh.” He held out his hand. “I’m Scott Alexander.”
She shook her head, ignoring his hand. “I… She… about what?” She shrunk away from him, and the door began to close.
“A ride to work. She’s my secretary.”
The door opened wider, and the woman placed a hand over her mouth. “Oh! Oh, my. Here? But….” She glanced into the room behind her. “Everything’s such a mess.” She looked up into Scott’s face. “Her boss? But… but….” She glanced back again. “Kayleigh?”
Kayleigh appeared in the background. “Oh, Scott, I’ll be right out.”
“You know him? Your boss, Kayleigh? Bosses don’t come….” The door shut.
Scott stared at the door in disbelief. Next time he’d wait downstairs.
Kayleigh opened the door and came out, shutting it behind her. “I’m sorry, Scott.”
Scott turned and went downstairs. “Yeah. Whatever.” He got into his Cherokee and glanced at Kayleigh as he started the engine. “Who’d she think I was?”
Kayleigh’s lips quivered, and she stared at him, her eyes wide. But she didn’t speak.
“I forgot. We only talk about my problems. Don’t worry. I won’t bore you with them anymore.”
Kayleigh closed her eyes.
Scott concentrated on the road. When he glanced over again her eyes were still closed, and her face was wet. Scott turned off the main road onto a side street and pulled over. “Hey, what’s wrong?” he whispered. “You can trust me.” He unbuckled his seat belt.
Without much persuasion she leaned against him. She breathed deeply for a few minutes before she spoke. “Please don’t help me fix the car. My brother will expect to use it. He did last night. I’ll try to adjust to the bus schedule.”
“He used your car last night?”
Kayleigh sat up. “Do you know anything about cars? Is there some way I can remove something so that it won’t run at all? If he’s caught driving my car, I’ll get in trouble, too. I got a ticket last time he was caught.”
“Why’d you get a ticket?”
“Letting an unlicensed driver operate a motor vehicle.”
“No. He just took it.”
“Then he stole it.”
“I can’t say that! He’s my brother.” She shook her head and looked out the window. “You don’t understand.”
Scott had a feeling he finally did understand. “Your brother is wanted for theft, and he’s in your apartment.”
She whirled around and stared. “He’s not wanted. Yet. I don’t think. How did you know that?”
“You and your mom can’t act more suspicious. If he steals from his own sister, it’s not hard to guess he’d do it to other people.” Scott started the truck and headed back the way they’d come.
“Where are we going? Scott? Where….”
“Relax. We’re going to take the battery out of your car. I promised you that you could trust me, but I think you know what you need to do.”
“You expect me to turn him in? I can’t believe you’d expect that.”
“Well, it’s not like he’s sorry and trying to make things right.”
“You haven’t even met him!”
“Don’t have to. Kayleigh, he took your car last night, and you can’t even use it for fear he’ll take it again. That doesn’t sound like he has any intention of stopping his criminal behavior.”
“I shouldn’t have told you,” she protested, as he pulled up in the alley behind her car. She got out, unlocked the door, and popped the hood. Scott removed the battery and set it in the back of his SUV. After closing up her car, she got back into the passenger seat. “Thanks. When he’s gone, we can put it back in.”
“When will he be gone?”
Kayleigh shrugged. “I’ll take the bus….”
“No! I’ll pick you up.”
“But Kayleigh, I need you here, and you have school and homework.”
“Just another two weeks… if I can make it through.”
“Two weeks where I bet you need to study for exams. Can you study when he’s there? What’s his name anyway? When’d he come back? Is this the one from California?”
“No. But he’s talking about going out there. I hope he does. He got out Monday.”
Kayleigh glanced at him. “Yeah. Washtenaw County jail. Wish I’d never told you, don’t you?”
Scott glanced at her, and then refocused on the road. “Is this your way of saying we’re friends now?”
“Your choice,” she said evenly.
“What do you want?”
“What are you offering?” she asked in that too even voice that wavered at the edge.
Marriage. Scott laughed at his thought.
Kayleigh stared out the window.
Scott pulled into the parking garage and found a spot on the third floor. Kayleigh opened her door immediately. Scott grabbed her arm. “Whoa. Wait. Let’s finish this before we go in front of gossip Elaine.”
Kayleigh stopped half out of the truck, but did not face him.
“Kayleigh,” he said softly. “Look at me.”
Kayleigh turned and lifted her chin. Her cheeks were damp.
He rubbed the dampness with his finger. “Kayleigh, I’m interested in more than friendship, but we’re not in a good position for that right now.”
Her face changed. Wariness replaced the hurt.
He needed to clarify his statement. “I’m in no hurry. You trusted me; now I’m trusting you. I won’t say anything about your brother, and you won’t tell the powers that be that I’m falling in love with my secretary.”
She backed away from the truck, shaking her head. “After today? You say that after you saw… after….”
Scott got out, locked up his truck, and followed her. “No. This started when I first met you.”
“You’d been hurt!”
“Yeah. Sandy thinks I had my brain addled.” He shrugged. “If it bothers you, I’ll cease and desist. Just say the word. I know I’m putting you in an awkward position.” He took her hands, stopping her before they entered the Taubman Center. “I promise I won’t make things difficult for you if you don’t return my feelings.”
“Feelings? You’ve floored me. Scott, look at you.” She shook her head. “You’ve got to be messing with me.” She pulled away and grabbed the door. “I don’t do anything before marriage. Not even kisses, so don’t even try it.”
Scott followed her into the building. It took thirty seconds to remember she’d been burned, and another thirty seconds to guess how deeply. He stopped her at the door to their office. “I’m in no hurry. Let’s go into my office and pray first.”
Kayleigh hesitated and then gave a slight nod before entering the department office.
Scott was careful not to mention his feelings to Kayleigh again, bringing their relationship back to comfortable ground — work and talk of Kyle’s progress.
After Scott dropped Kayleigh off at Eastern Michigan University at two, he stopped by the church to drop off the rules Pastor Prescott had requested.
“Thanks,” Joe Prescott said, looking over the paper. “I’m hoping Eli will return my call today. He stays away from that mad house of an apartment he’s in now as much as possible.”
“Elijah White. He’s been here about a year now. Almost black hair. Vivid blue-violet eyes.”
Scott searched his memory of the people he saw Sunday morning. “Rides a beat up ten speed, even in the dead of winter?”
“You think he’d really watch out for Kyle’s needs and not just come for the room?”
“If Eli decides to care for Kyle, he will. He’s serious and hard working. His references are excellent.”
“References? I didn’t know you checked references for your parishioners.”
“Not usually.” He didn’t elaborate. Instead he looked over the papers Scott had given him.
“What’s his major?”
“He hasn’t decided yet. Right now he’s getting his prerequisites out of the way.” He looked up at Scott. “I’ll call you as soon as I hear from him.”
Scott left and went back to work until it was time to get Kayleigh.
Thursday Scott opened a special checking account with the money from Dr. Thorton. Then he went to his appointment with the lawyer. The suite of offices for Hammond and Hammond, attorneys at law, was located on the first floor of a three story office building. The petite, black secretary led him back to Leonard Hammond. Mr. Hammond introduced him to his paralegal Amber Greystrom. Amber’s hair matched her name, and she wore it wrapped up on the back of her head and held with a pearled comb.
Mr. Hammond agreed to help Scott with the paperwork involved in dealing with the insurance company and hospital, and Amber would be available to answer questions when he was not. Scott paid the secretary by writing a check from his new account of Dr. Thorton’s money.
That evening Scott and Shane met in Kyle’s hospital room to read The Holiness of God. Sometimes Fran stayed and listened, but often she left. Today she stood by the door for the first five minutes, and then she slipped out. Shane kept reading, but also stood and walked to the door, glancing out. He stopped reading, and came back into the room, sitting near Kyle. “Okay, guys. We’ve got to rethink this roommate deal. As William pointed out, he can work less than nine hours a day at minimum wage, make his rent if he shares a room somewhere, and still have a bit of spending money to help with college. We have to offer some money.”
“I don’t need anyone,” Kyle said with a scowl.
“What do you think is fair?” Scott asked, knowing Shane already had thought the problem through.
“He wants two hundred a week. I told him that was out, so he backed to one fifty. That’s seventy five a piece.”
Kyle shook his head, and then looked as if he were concentrating. Then he shook his head again. “Not seventy five… Three divided… Three… Know it’s not seventy five.”
“Kyle, you don’t have a job,” Shane said softly.
“Yeah, I do… can’t fire….”
“Can’t work yet, either.”
“Maybe you can go back by the first of next year,” Scott suggested quickly, when Kyle seemed to get upset.
Shane hesitated and glanced at Scott. Something worried him, but he wasn’t going to say it in front of Kyle. “Don’t worry about the money, Kyle.” Shane said. “Just thought you’d want to know how things were going. Scott’s insurance is getting it. They’ll pay the guy.”
Kyle looked at Scott to confirm Shane’s words.
“I just talked to a lawyer today,” Scott said. “He said there’s a caregiver allowance. It’ll work out. You better finish that chapter, Shane.”
Shane opened the book and began reading again.
“No. I pay… somehow I’ll pay my part or I leave.”
Shane brought down the book against the edge of the bed with a wap. “Kyle, cut the pride trash, okay. You wouldn’t ditch us out if we had a bit of a setback so don’t go thinking we will do it to you. You leave now, and you know you won’t get back into your internship, so stick it out here. We’ve got insurance and all kinds of ways to help you. Don’t work against us.” Shane picked up the book and with barely a pause began reading about Martin Luther’s encounter with a severe thunderstorm.
Kyle closed his eyes. His head jerked in a slight, steady rhythm. Slowly he relaxed, until the jerking stopped. Then he opened his eyes and appeared to listen to the book.
Fran came back into the room at five minutes to seven. Shane stood and stretched. “See you tomorrow, Kyle.”
“Jerry and Ian will be here tomorrow evening,” Fran told him. “The doctors think he’ll be released Monday. A whole month. It’ll be good to be home, won’t it, Kyle?”
Kyle looked at Shane. Then he glanced at Scott. “Back later?”
“Sure. I can stop back later,” Scott agreed. “Right now I’ve got to see what Kayleigh’s up to. See you later, Fran.” He followed Shane from the room.
They walked in silence until they reached the cafeteria. “Coffee?” Shane asked.
Scott stopped at the pop machines in the entryway. He put in his quarters and got an orange soda pop. Shane bought a root beer instead of coffee. Then they bypassed the few people standing in line for a late meal and found a table in the far corner of the room. Shane cracked open his root beer and took a long drink before leaning forward with the can on the table between his hands. “He couldn’t divide a hundred and fifty by three.”
“What if he can’t go back, Scott?”
“We have to try.”
“It’s not just the roommate. His student loans are due now. How’s he going to pay them off? They’re way more than mine. We can’t do it.”
“One thing at a time, Shane. Maybe we can apply for an extension or something.”
“But if he’ll never go back….”
“Just last week you were with me on this. If you don’t want to help I’ll do it myself.”
“Right!” Shane shook his head and leaned back. “You and what bank.”
“There is a caregiver allowance. Twenty dollars a day. And I have a… my parents offered to help, remember?”
Shane leaned forward again. “Twenty a day? That’ll almost pay the kid.”
“Yeah. But I’d do it even if they didn’t have it. What chance does he have at home? Therapy’s here.”
Shane shook his head. “We’ll keep him here. I just wish we knew for sure. His mom’s right. He hides a lot from us.”
“He’s still recovering! It takes time. Attitude, Shane. He has to think it’s possible.”
“You sound like a positive thinking guru now. What’d they do? Send you to one of those seminars?”
“I’m serious. He may not try as hard if he doesn’t think it’s possible.”
Shane still looked skeptical.
“Look, it happens all the time. Look at sports. What about the four minute mile. For years no one thought it could be done. One person does it; now it happens all the time, because they know it can be done.” Scott leaned back. “It’s not positive thinking magic. We don’t know if he can return, so let’s not doom and gloom him. That will make it harder. That’s all.” Scott drank the last of his pop.
“I’ll tell William the insurance only allows for one forty a week.”
“That won’t kick in right away, you know. But… I have some in the savings, so I’ll cover it to start.”
“The whole thing? Scott….”
“I’ll get reimbursed. Don’t worry about it.” He studied his pop can, twirling it around with his fingers. At the silence he glanced up at Shane.
Shane studied him. “It’s guilt again, isn’t it?”
“He’s my friend. I want him to have every chance possible. I’d do the same for you.”
Shane nodded and leaned back. “Yeah. Me, too. Let me throw in my half.”
“If I need it.”
“No, seriously. The insurance and all… don’t know how fast that will work.”
“We should keep track,” Shane insisted.
“We’ll make up a spreadsheet tonight.”
“I’ve got it under control.”
Shane hesitated. “But accounting is easy for me….”
Scott wanted to give the whole mess to Shane to keep track of, but he’d promised Dr. Thorton. How could he do it without breaking the promise and losing the help?
“Hey, look, Scott. Fester in your little guilt trip, but he’s my friend, too. Let me help.”
“It’s not that. Man, Shane, I need your help. I’ve got receipts and papers to keep track of, forms to fill out for insurance claims, but….” Scott looked around the cafeteria. No one was near them, but he leaned over the table close to Shane. “Someone gave me some money — anonymous, and I have to give receipts and stuff. We’re getting help to keep him here,” he whispered. “Someone here believes in him. That’s all I can say.”
Shane’s eyes widened. Then he glanced around. “Who?”
“I don’t know who they are. I’ve just talked to a spokesman. If they know I’ve told you, they may cut him off and help someone else.” Scott reached into his suit jacket and pulled out the new checkbook, passing it to Shane. “He gave me some cash Tuesday.”
Shane looked at the checkbook. “A thousand….”
“Ssssshhh.” Scott looked around. “I don’t know who’s all in on it, but the rule was no one. Not even his parents.”
“This is crazy.”
“You know how good he was. Scholarships and fellowships. This is the same thing. They believe in him. Doctors!”
Shane studied the two entries in the checkbook register, and then shook his head. “But why you instead of his parents. That doesn’t make sense. They have more control over the situation than you do.”
Scott didn’t have an answer. He wished he did. “Maybe they tried to approach them first, but he didn’t get along with them as well.”
“So they came to Mr. Charm. Nice try, but I don’t believe it. I need some kind of paper, a written guarantee. What came with the money?”
“Nothing. A white envelope.”
“No paper? No rules? No conditions?”
“I just pass on copies of receipts.” He took the checkbook and replaced it in his suit pocket.
“It doesn’t sound right.”
“Well what do you suggest a group of people do when they want to help someone out? Throw it up for notice so every beggar in the state can knock on their door?” He tried to keep his voice low, but it began to rise. He took a deep breath. “I’ll help Kyle whether they give any more money or not. I’m not placing all my hopes on this thing. I’m just letting you know we have money to start out. I should have kept my mouth shut.” Scott stood and walked from the cafeteria, throwing his can in the recycling box on his way out.
Shane caught him in the hall. “Wait. Stop.”
Scott stopped and faced him.
“Thanks. It’s good to know someone believes in him. We’ll set up the spreadsheet when you get home.” He hesitated. “Be careful. Don’t sign anything without showing it to your lawyer.” Then Shane abruptly headed for the parking garage.
Scott watched him until he was out of sight. Shane was suspicious of everyone. There was nothing to be careful about. Nothing had even been asked of him. What possible danger could there be? He went back to his office and then took Kayleigh home.
He remembered his promise to Kyle and went back to the hospital. It was after visiting hours again, but he didn’t think twice about it. He slipped into Kyle’s dimly lit room.
Kyle grinned when he saw him and raised the head of his bed to sit. “Knew you’d come.”
Scott pulled the chair close to the bed. “Something you wanted to talk about?”
Kyle’s grin left. “I… I don’t know… work.”
Scott took his hand as it motioned and shook. “It takes time, Kyle. Wait six months to decide that, okay?”
“But… I… sometimes can’t think.”
“Six months. Please.”
“Not your fault.”
Scott closed his eyes and squeezed his hand. “Thanks, Kyle.” He looked into Kyle’s face. “Even Shane agrees though. Give it six months. I’ve talked to doctors. They think you can do it.”
“No one comes, ‘cept you, Shane, and Pastor. They’re all here.”
Scott squeezed his hand again because he had no words. Kyle had always enjoyed the company of his classmates and instructors.
“I know… know stuff though. I know all the veins and arteries. I can name them. And the valves of the heart – aortic, mitral, pulmonary, tricuspid. I still know it all.”
“Yes, you do. See! You’ll be able to go back. The rest just takes time. Work with your therapists, and we’ll get you back.”
“But… but what if….”
Scott shook his head. “No what if,” he said softly. “Don’t give up.”
“But Scott! What if! Tell me, what if!” He shouted, and his jerking increased.
“Then I’ll have my best friend with me for another six months before your parents force you home. Come on. Stay with us as long as possible.”
Kyle relaxed, his nodding becoming more controlled, as if he were agreeing.
“Sir, visiting hours are over,” a young nurse said from the doorway.
“Gotta go, Kyle.”
“Good.” Scott gave his hand one last squeeze before he released him and left the room.
Go to Chapter 9
© 2014, 1998 by Deborah K. Lauro. You may make one copy for personal use. To share, please direct friends to this website.