Shane spent half the night straightening his room before he fell asleep, exhausted. He barely heard Eli come home from work. He glanced at his clock. It was after eight. He got off at seven. And then Shane remembered he’d ridden his bike instead of taking Kyle’s truck. He shouldn’t ride that far, Shane thought as he drifted back to sleep.
A soft tap on his door roused him. “Yes?”
The door opened and then Eli stepped in. “Shane?” he whispered.
Shane sat up and kept his voice low also. Apparently, Scott and Kyle were still asleep. Unusual, except Shane thought Scott stayed up as late as he had, straightening the CDs and books in the living room.
Eli sat on the edge of the chair. “What happened here?”
“Ian went wild. Eli, I know Ian probably said things to you, but don’t leave Kyle alone with Ian or his parents.”
Eli glanced toward the door and then down at his hands. He said nothing.
“Anna told Ian everything. Ian’s using it, and Kyle’s talking suicide again. Even threatened to take the truck. You should take it when you’re gone so he doesn’t.”
“I can’t take it without his permission.”
Shane couldn’t fight that, although he wished he could. He went on to his next point. “Ian’s not allowed in this apartment again. Don’t let him in.”
“Will probably agree. You better try to get a little sleep. I have a feeling things might get loud later.”
Eli stood. “But Kyle’s okay. He didn’t take anything.”
“He had a seizure around seven thirty last night, but he seems to be okay.”
Eli’s tired eyes closed. “I’m sorry. Who was with him?”
Eli opened his eyes. “But you had a date.”
Shane shrugged. “Someone had to be with him after Ian’s slurs.”
“Stop being sorry. Just don’t leave until Scott or I come home from work. That’s your job.”
Eli stepped back as if he’d been struck. “Yes, Sir.” He whirled around and left the room, quietly shutting the door.
Sir? What was his problem? Shane lay down and tried to go back to sleep.
An hour later he heard the shower running and got up as Scott left the bathroom. He changed the lock, as Scott made breakfast. He hadn’t wanted to do it last night while Eli was gone. They’d just finished breakfast when a knock sounded on the door. Then someone tried the lock. “Kyle’s parents,” Shane said. He went to the door. “Who is it?”
“It’s us,” Jerry said. “We’ve come to see Kyle.”
A sharp crack sounded against the door. Then, “Let us in, half brain.”
“Sorry. Ian is no longer welcome in our home.”
More pounding at the door.
“If you damage this building, the owner will most likely prosecute. He has not been known to be moved by compassion.”
“Ian, stop it. Shane, where’s Kyle?”
“I’ll fix….” More pounding.
“Ian! Go outside. You wanted to use the pool yesterday, go on.”
“I deserve to go in there. I have a right.”
“You gave up your rights when you trashed the place,” Shane reminded him.
“Go on, Ian. I’ll work it out.”
“You better.” Then someone pounded down the steps.
Shane waited half a minute and then unlocked the door. As Fran and Jerry came in, Ian rushed back up the stairs. Shane slammed the door and bolted the lock. Ian pounded on the door.
“Scott won’t be telling the police to let him off next time. Better make him stop.”
Jerry yelled at Ian, and then Ian could be heard pounding down the steps again.
“Oh, Kyle,” Fran said, going to Kyle who stood by the hall to the bedrooms. “I missed you so last night.” She hugged him. “Come sit with us.”
From the kitchen doorway, Scott said, “There’s some more French toast if you’re hungry, Kyle.”
Kyle went into the kitchen. His parents followed, sitting with him at the small table. Scott set a clean plate in front of Kyle, and Kyle concentrated on the toast, basting it with syrup.
“When you’re done eating, Kyle, we’ll help you pack,” Fran said.
Kyle looked up at his father. “Pack?”
“You’ll move back home now.”
“No, I’m not.” He looked at Scott. “I’m not, am I? You said I could stay. My internship….”
“Yes, we want you to stay, Kyle.”
“I’m staying,” Kyle told his father.
“No. Ian needs you home.”
Kyle focused on his toast. “Ian doesn’t need me. I’m staying here.”
“You can’t force him, Jerry,” Shane said. “He’s an adult, and he is capable of making his own decisions.”
“I will not send any more money down here,” Jerry said.
Kyle head jerked up, and he stared at him. “But… just a little longer. Just until I get back to my work.”
“I’m sorry, Kyle. You can’t go back.”
Shane stepped away from the doorway and stood beside Kyle. “You don’t know that. The hospital hasn’t made that decision.”
“You know it’s over.”
“It’s not! How can you even say that?”
“Kyle, you know you can stay here,” Scott said.
“I won’t be a burden to anyone.” Kyle stood. “I won’t live with Ian either.”
“Now, Kyle….” Fran began.
“I won’t live anywhere.” Kyle walked from the room. His voice was flat and devoid of emotion. He’d made the decision, and Shane had no doubt what he was thinking.
“Wait, Kyle! Wait.” Shane stopped him in the living room. His parents and Scott followed. Eli sat on the couch in the living room. Shane’s mind raced. What would convince him he wasn’t a burden? What would break through the pride and depression? A job. Yes…. “Kyle, Scott was just telling me this morning that Dr. Thorton was thinking about giving you a job to ease your way back into things.” he lied. “Dr. Thorton is very interested in your recovery.”
That did it. Kyle’s face changed from a grim mask to surprise. He turned to Scott. “He did?”
Scott hesitated. He looked at Shane.
“Yes, he did,” Shane said. Scott had never been good at lying. Just as long as he didn’t contradict him, Shane would explain the urgency later. Besides, if Shane’s suspicions were correct, Dr. Thorton would do anything they asked, including giving Kyle any kind of work he could handle. “Dr. Thorton has always cared about you, hasn’t he, Scott?” That was a safe question for him.
“Yes. Dr. Thorton has always believed you would recover. He told me that from the beginning.”
“Really? What kind of job? What would I do?”
Scott hesitated again, but Shane waited this time. “I… we haven’t really discussed… details.”
“We can have him over for dinner sometime and talk about it,” Shane suggested.
“Who is this Dr. Thorton?” Jerry asked. “I need to talk to him.”
Shane was about to protest when Kyle did.
“Why, Dad? You never asked to meet any of the other people I worked with at the hospital. Why now? Think I can’t handle it?” His voice rose. “I can handle it. I’m not stupid like you and Ian think. Just stay out of it.” Kyle stalked to his room.
Jerry followed him. “Kyle, don’t hide. I’m sure I could get you a job at Marquette Medical when we know what’s what.”
“I know what’s what! I have appointments here next week.”
“We have occupational therapists in Marquette also. Now where’s your suitcase?”
“No! I’m staying here. I have a job.” Kyle looked past his parents to Shane, who stood in the bedroom doorway. “I’ve got a job, right?”
“Sure. Dr. Thorton is giving you a job.”
Scott’s hand rested and then pinched hard on Shane’s shoulder to warn him, but he didn’t speak.
“Kyle, I told you, I’ll talk to the people at work for you.” He opened the closet and pulled out the suitcase.
Kyle’s face changed to panic and then resolve as his father opened his underwear drawer and began transferring his things to the suitcase. “I will not live in Marquette,” Kyle said, his voice again flat. He sat on the edge of his bed and opened the nightstand drawer, withdrawing his medicine.
“Kyle, don’t!” Shane shouted.
Jerry looked toward Kyle.
“I will not live in Marquette.” Kyle poured the pills into his hand and then dumped them into his mouth.
“Kyle!” Fran shrieked.
Jerry grabbed him and wrestled with him. The pills spurted out of Kyle’s mouth.
Fran wept now, and Jerry stood before Kyle, his hands on his shoulders. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“I will not live in Marquette.”
“That’s not funny. You could have died.”
“I’m not stupid,” Kyle said with the same even, stubborn tone. Then he stood and shouted. “I’m not stupid! You all think I’m stupid. I’m not a baby. I’d rather die that be forced to live like one.”
Fran left the room, and then the bathroom door slammed.
“Look at how you’re hurting your mother,” Jerry said. “Don’t ever play games with your life.”
“It’s not games. You and she won’t be able to stop me up there. You can’t watch me all the time. You keep your stupid money. Give it to Ian. That’s what he wants, isn’t it? It’s not that any of you care about me. Ian wants the money you give me for expenses. Keep your dumb money. I’ve got a job. I don’t need anyone.”
Eli silently slipped into the room and began picking up scattered pills.
“Kyle….” his father tried to protest.
“Leave me alone. You can pretend Ian’s the smart one now, but you won’t make me the baby.” Kyle lay down on his bed. “Make them leave, Eli,” he asked, his voice changed once again from strong to weak entreaty.
Eli took a deep breath. Then still clutching the pill bottle, he went to Jerry. “We should let him rest.” Eli’s dark circles under his eyes made it clear he needed rest more, but he didn’t waver as Jerry studied him.
“But if he….”
“He won’t if we leave him alone now.”
Jerry finally left the room but stopped in the living room. He grabbed the pill bottle from Eli’s hand and read it. “Mysoline. For the epilepsy?”
“Yes. I found them all.”
“You keep track?”
Eli nodded slightly.
Jerry turned to include Shane and Scott. “Has he tried this before?”
“No,” Scott said, but then looked at Eli. Eli’s silence told Scott that Kyle had tried it before. “No, Eli. Why haven’t you told me?”
Eli shrugged, but didn’t meet his gaze.
Jerry moved them to the dining room table which was further from Kyle’s room. Fran left the bathroom and disappeared into Kyle’s room. Kyle didn’t shout or protest, so Shane relaxed.
“Look, Ian says Kyle tried to have sex with your sister, Scott. That’s completely unlike Kyle. He was proud of his decision to wait, and to force her….”
“Ian wasn’t there,” Shane said. “Anna came on to Kyle. So, his resolve is a little weak right now, it doesn’t mean he’s not recovering.”
“And you have no problem with this, Scott? Your sister and Kyle.”
Scott stood. “Yeah. I have a problem, a big problem. But it’s not with Kyle. It’s with Ian. He’s been writing to Anna and filling her full of lies to get revenge on me. I want my sister left out of it.” Scott’s anger left, and he crumpled back into his chair, his head in his hands. “Wish they weren’t adults. Neither are acting like it, but neither can be restrained.”
Scott took a deep breath in the silence that followed and then looked up at Jerry. “What happened to the plan to wait six months to take him home? I’ve been more than patient with Ian, letting him come even after he tried to bust a chair over my head. Yeah, Jerry. If Eli hadn’t stopped him, I’d have probably been in the hospital again. And now he wrecks my home, and you’re upset that I don’t want him back here. Face it. Your youngest son is a monster, and if he’s not careful he’s going to end up in jail soon.”
Jerry looked at the tabletop. “I’m sorry, Scott.”
“It’s not just that.”
Jerry raised his gaze.
“Kyle has the same temper,” Scott said in a low voice. “And now that his world has been shaken, he’s lashing out. I don’t want him to change into another Ian. If he doesn’t kill himself up north, he’ll become a tyrant, and you know it. Neither of you have control over Ian, and Kyle will make sure you don’t have any over him to prove he’s not a baby.”
Jerry’s face changed. He appeared first outraged, then fearful, and finally resigned. “I’m afraid of what we’ll hear next. We never see him, and then he might die tomorrow. He talked about swimming a lot, and you know he shouldn’t swim….”
“As long as someone is with him who knows what to do, he’ll be okay,” Eli said. “He hasn’t had a seizure while swimming yet, but I always watch him.”
“Why weren’t you with him when Scott’s sister tried to go skinny dipping with him? Why wasn’t anyone?”
Eli cringed and closed his eyes.
“Scott’s sister was with him,” Shane pointed out. “We were wrong to trust her. We won’t make the mistake again.”
“That mistake could have cost him his life.”
Scott sat stiffly in his chair, staring beyond the table. Shane wished Jerry would drop this. Scott felt bad enough over Kyle, the accident, and Anna’s behavior.
Shane leaned forward. “Think of this, Jerry. How will Fran feel when Ian pushes Kyle to the point of suicide, and she doesn’t catch it. You know she can’t watch him twenty-four hours a day. No one can. She says she wants the job of looking after him, but she won’t be able to do it without making him feel babied. Eli can.”
Jerry studied Eli. “Move north with us.”
Eli’s tired eyes flew open. Then he shook his head. “No. I can’t. I….”
“Ian chased him out of the apartment yesterday with verbal abuse which neither you nor Fran put a stop to, and you expect him to want to live like that continually? You’re grasping at straws, Jerry. Kyle doesn’t want to move, and to force him, you’re telling him his worst fear is true.”
“But….” Jerry placed his hands on the table. “I can’t send any more money. That’s the whole point. You’re right about Ian, and the only solution I can come up with is to grant his request to go to UCLA and let life teach him what I can’t.”
“Then why don’t you just tell Kyle that,” Scott said. “Don’t withdraw support as punishment. Explain it to him. And Shane’s right. Dr. Thorton will help. If the accident hadn’t happened, what would you have done?”
“We had planned to send Ian to UCLA for his last two years of college. Ian’s upset we had to change plans because Kyle still needs help.” Jerry sighed. “You’re right, Scott. I should have treated Kyle like an equal and explained things to him.” He stood and then glanced back. “Are you sure he’ll understand?”
“He’s not stupid,” Eli snapped in irritation. Then he blushed. “I’m sorry.”
Jerry left for Kyle’s room.
Eli looked up. “I didn’t mean to snap. Kyle isn’t stupid. He didn’t try to kill himself today. You don’t do that in front of five witnesses all who can stop you. He did it to prove he has control.”
Scott seemed to relax as he accepted Eli’s account. Then he turned to Shane and whispered, “How could you lie like that? What’s Kyle going to say when he finds out the truth?”
“What’s the truth, Scott? Dr. Thorton will help Kyle.”
“With money! You’re pushing it….”
“Then push it, damn it. Kyle was about to give up. And don’t think he wouldn’t kill himself trapped up there. You talk to your buddy and get Kyle a job he can handle.”
Scott closed his eyes, unmoving. He was thinking as well as trying to control his anger, Shane knew.
“I’m sorry, Scott. I couldn’t let Kyle go like that. It was all I could think of to keep him safe.”
Scott relaxed again. “If only it were true, Shane. I just don’t feel right asking for something like that. Taking on an employee is a lot more than just giving money. If he doesn’t need anyone, or there’s nothing Kyle can do, this will hurt both of them.”
“Kyle’s not stupid,” Shane said, repeating Eli’s words.
“Perhaps before Kyle starts, Dr. Thorton should talk to his occupational therapist,” Eli suggested.
Scott agreed, and then studied Eli. “You better get some rest, Eli. You can use my room.”
Eli stood and left the room without speaking.
Kyle seemed on better terms with his parents when they all emerged from the bedroom later, but Kyle still refused to see Ian. It was a relief when his parents and Ian left for Marquette right after church the next day.
Go to Chapter 8
© 2014, 1999 by Deborah K. Lauro. You may make one copy for personal use. To share, please direct friends to this website.