Scott walked over to them. “What’s up?” He glanced at the table. “Still eating?”
“I got home late.”
“Got to school on time,” Shane assured him.
“So, you think I should sue, right, Shane?”
“Shane! Don’t be pushing him to sue. All you care about is the money. Just stay out of it.”
“Is that what you want, Scott? You want me out of your life? You think I’m just a damn money-hungry, vengeance-fixed fiend.” He raised his hands as he turned from him. “Might as well. Hell, my father thinks I’m a homosexual who wants to rape my own sister. Guess you and he have been talking and taking notes.” He paced back to Scott. “What else am I? Better let me know, so I can warn Amber. Are you gonna post it, so people know to stay away from me? I don’t give a damn about anyone. I just manipulate people for fun and profit.”
Scott grabbed his arms. “Stop it. Stop, Shane.”
Shane shrugged him off. “You decide. I promised Kyle I’d be here for him. I will. You move, or I’ll move out with Kyle.”
“No! No one’s moving!” Kyle shouted.
“I can’t live with someone who doesn’t trust me. Trusts everyone in the whole world, but me.”
“No, Shane.” Kyle tried to block Shane from leaving, but he avoided him. “He trusts you. He does! No one moves.” Kyle reached for Scott who stood stiff, with an odd expression on his face. “Scott, it’s not him. It’s me! I want vengeance. It’s me! Scott, don’t leave. Scott! Scott! Shane?”
When he reached the door, he glanced back and saw what Kyle did. Scott was trembling but staring straight ahead. Something was wrong. Oh no, Amber was right. Scott was breaking. He never could handle conflict. Shane went to Scott’s side and spoke as softly as he could, his anger completely replaced by his concern. “Hey, Scott. We can work it out. We can. I’m just a little stressed over my dad and all. Didn’t mean to be so sensitive.”
Scott still wasn’t responding.
“Come on, Scott. Let’s go lie down. You need to rest. Bet you haven’t slept since last Thursday, have you?” He motioned Kyle to the other side of Scott, and they each took an arm, gently escorting him to his bed. They got him to lie down, but he still trembled.
“He needs some kind of tranquilizer,” Kyle said. “Something to help him sleep. Maybe Valium. I’ve got some Valium, I think… unless Eli tossed it.”
“You have Valium?”
“It sometimes helps minimize seizures. Didn’t seem to work for me.” He looked at Scott. “Shoot. I don’t know where Eli keeps the stuff.”
“I’m okay,” Scott mumbled. “I’m okay.” But he still seemed to be trembling.
“Why don’t we turn out the lights, and let him sleep?”
“But he can’t sleep,” Kyle pointed out. “That’s the problem. Isn’t it, Scott?” He bent over to look into his face. “Shane’s right about you not sleeping, isn’t he?”
Scott gave a weak nod. “Can’t… can’t stop thinking.”
“And you aren’t on the stuff you got right after the accident, are you?”
“Got any left?”
Hoping the darkness would help relax him, Shane flipped off the overhead lights.
“Shane,” Scott called, barely above a whisper.
Shane knelt beside the bed. “Yes, Scott?”
“I trust you. I can’t… can’t… no way to stop people from hurting. No solution. Even… even yelled at Kayleigh. Tell… tell her I’m sorry. You decide. I trust you.”
Shane rubbed Scott’s shoulder. “Even if it’s not the decision you would make? Will you still trust me?”
Scott nodded. “You… you… stand back and… and pray and… and be objective. You can do that. I can’t. I don’t even know if I’m still his friend because I should be, or because I’m stubborn. I hate he’s hurt us like this. Help me, Shane.”
“Sure. I’ll pray and read and talk to Pastor Joe and Amber. You relax. Don’t worry about anything.”
Scott gripped his hand for a moment. His eyes almost closed, but then he looked up. “Don’t forget Kayleigh. She’s hurting.”
“I’ll talk to her,” Shane promised. “You try to rest.”
“Maybe some music,” Kyle suggested. “I’ll get Brahms. And we’ll try to call your doctor.” He left the room.
“I’m sorry, Shane. Don’t want to hurt anyone. Specially you.”
“I’m sorry, too. Don’t worry about it. Don’t worry about anything.” Amber had been right about everything. Scott was breaking, and he needed him. And he knew she was right about one other thing. His brother loved him. It wasn’t as his father had accused him, nor any of the cheap imitations lauded as love on the radio and in night clubs. It was the deepest caring. “And Scott?”
He opened his eyes to focus on Shane.
“I love you, too.”
Scott’s face changed, first relaxing, before a small smile appeared. He gripped Shane’s hand briefly.
Kyle returned with the CD and placed it in Scott’s small stereo, adjusting the volume down.
“You rest now, and I’ll take care of everything.” Shane stood and followed Kyle from the room, closing the door except for a crack.
They went to the dining room table. “Call his doctor.”
“And tell him what? Besides, he wouldn’t be in now.”
“Page him. Get his answering service.”
“Kyle, I don’t understand the problem. You’ll have to talk to him.”
Kyle hesitated. Then he shook his head. “Won’t work. We have the same doctor, and he knows I have a problem. Eli made me tell. He’s not going to prescribe anything on my say so.”
“Maybe he doesn’t need anything.”
“He hasn’t slept in five days.”
Shane realized he was probably right. Making peace between them might not be enough. “Would Valium work? It wouldn’t hurt him, would it?”
“He’s not allergic to anything. It’s generally safe. Just addictive. But all he needs is enough for tonight to break the cycle. If I knew where Eli put my medicine. Can you call him?”
“I’m not sure where he is. How late does his class run? He could be anywhere on campus or studying in the break room at work.”
“He needs to quit that job. Tell him he needs….”
“Please, Kyle. Let’s focus on Scott. I’ll leave a message for Eli to call when he gets to work. Maybe Scott will be asleep by then, and we won’t need the medicine.” He reached for the phone and the Rolodex.
Kyle rested his head in his hands, face down.
Shane focused on dialing because he wasn’t ready to face Kyle’s problem. He hoped he wasn’t weakening again. He’d been strong for a while, almost like he used to be. A woman answered the phone. “Westmart Foods. Margie speaking. How may I help you?”
“Hi, Margie. Could you give Eli White the message to call home when he gets in tonight?”
“Eli quit. He hasn’t worked for a couple weeks at least.”
“Thanks for your help,” Shane said as neutrally as he could. “Bye.” He hung up.
He watched Kyle still sitting at the table with his head in his hands until he decided what he needed to do. He touched Kyle’s back. “How are you feeling?”
Kyle raised his head. “Rotten that I can’t even get my friend the help he needs. I’m useless. I’m….”
“I need your help.”
“I’m serious. Remember Scott made me promise to talk to Kayleigh, right? I’ve got to go do that. Maybe I’ll stop at the store, too. Is there anything over the counter I can get? What about Nyquil or something kind of sleeping pill?”
“If Eli tossed the Valium, guess you could get something.”
“Okay. You’ll keep an eye on him, right? Just in case he gets worse or something.”
“He shouldn’t. But… yeah. I’ll watch. Better go talk to Kayleigh. He’s probably listening for you to leave and do that.”
Shane rested his hand on Kyle’s shoulder for a moment before he left him.
He glanced at the clock in his car. It was only a little after eight. Hopefully Eli’s class didn’t get out until nine or ten. He decided to fulfill his obligation to Kayleigh first.
Shane stopped before the run-down apartment house. He’d only been there once before when he was investigating Kayleigh’s motives, and then he hadn’t gotten out of his car. Now, he climbed the rickety outdoor steps, noting that they’d probably be a little dangerous once it started snowing. Then he knocked on her door and waited. He knocked twice more before he heard her.
“Who is it?”
“Shane. I need to talk to you.”
“Terry’s not home.”
“I’m not here for Terry. Kayleigh, I need to talk to you about Scott.”
Kayleigh opened the door. “Save your stupid apologizes. Take your ring and….” She’d raised her hand as if to throw something.
Shane grabbed the raised hand. “Whoa. Before you go throwing around expensive pieces of jewelry, let me talk to you.”
Kayleigh’s eyes opened wider. She released the ring into his hand and backed away into the house, trying to close the door.
Shane stopped the door with his body. “Wait, Kayleigh. We need to talk.”
She pushed hard on the door. “No. Just go. Go!”
He resisted her efforts enough to slip into the apartment and then let the door slam. “Are you alone?”
Kayleigh backed away from him. “Please leave.”
He couldn’t believe she was afraid of him. Was it the lighting? “It’s me, Shane. We need to talk about Scott.”
“Just go away. I’m engaged to your best friend. Just… you’re not mad at him, are you?”
He decided to pretend the fear wasn’t there. It unnerved him. “Then you better wear your ring.” He held it out to her.
She snatched it and placed it back on her finger. “Okay. Better? You can go now.”
Shane glanced at the formica-topped, metal-legged kitchen table and slowly sat in one of the three chairs, hoping it was sturdier than it looked. “Kayleigh, Scott’s sick.”
“Sick?” She sat across from him, her fear replaced by concern and then a look of confusion. “But… but I just saw him.”
“Yes, and I believe he was on the verge of a breakdown then. Has he mentioned whether he’s been sleeping the past few nights?”
“A breakdown? What are you talking about?”
“Kayleigh,” Shane insisted. “Did he talk about his sleep?”
“No! He kept talking about how he had to convince Kyle not to sue.”
“Is that what you fought about?”
Kayleigh looked at her hands. “That’s none of your business.”
“Scott made it my business when he asked me to talk to you.”
Her eyes narrowed and she stood. “Want to know how it started this time? All I said was that you probably were home telling Kyle to sue his ass off. And he got all hyper saying you were the best friend the world had ever known, and he was never going to move away no matter what anyone said, including me, so I better get used to it. I told him he was an idiot if he really thought you’d stay living with him and Kyle after you married Amber. No woman wants to live with her husband’s buddies. You guys are just plain weird.”
Shane didn’t respond right away, thinking through the implications, realizing what Scott had been facing, and what he would have to if he pursued his relationship with Amber.
Kayleigh backed away toward the door. She was expecting him to attack, he realized. But he wasn’t angry. “Kayleigh, if the accident hadn’t happened, Scott would not have thought to stay with us after he married. That was never our original plan. I’m saving for my own place, too. But right now Kyle needs us. I don’t think it’ll be forever, but it will be at least another couple years. Kyle helped me through school. I’m going to help him, now.”
“But if he sues, he wouldn’t need you or Scott.” Kayleigh came back into the room.
“Money isn’t Kyle’s only need.”
“He has Eli.”
“Eli can’t do it alone. Please, Kayleigh, be patient. You are welcome to marry Scott and come live with us, but don’t make him break a promise. He’s never broken one before, and it’s ripping him apart that he can’t be everyone’s friend.”
“What happened?” Kayleigh asked softly, sitting down again, apparently ready to trust him now.
“He just started shaking and all. We’ve put him to bed, but I don’t know if he’ll sleep. He doesn’t when he’s stressed, you know. I’m pretty sure he won’t be at work tomorrow.”
Kayleigh seemed to think about his words. Then she looked up. “What can I do?”
Shane shrugged. “Be supportive and try not to fight with him….” He saw her not quite agreeing with the restriction. “At least until he’s able to deal with Bert Thorton’s betrayal. Can’t you save your disagreements for a few weeks or a month?”
“It’s not like I try to disagree with him. It’s just when he says something, I need to make sure he knows how I feel. I don’t want a marriage where I’m pushed around and have no say.”
Shane shook his head with a sarcastic snort. “You don’t even know Scott. He’s the last person to push anyone around. He’ll go out of his way to make everyone happy.”
“That stuff rarely applies to a wife. Men are always one way with their friends and another at home. I’m not moving in with four of you to jerk me around.”
The pain underneath her bravado left him cold. Scott was right. She’d been hurt worse than he had. “I’m sorry your father hurt you.”
“But Scott will never hurt you. He’d never let us hurt you either.”
Kayleigh shook her head, standing and backing away. “As if he knows what you guys do all the time.”
“I’m sorry,” Shane repeated again, feeling like he was apologizing for all men everywhere. “We wouldn’t push you around or hurt you. I know I can’t convince you, but please don’t judge Scott by your father.” It was bad enough he’d made that mistake. Why was he here? “Scott’s sorry about tonight. Lack of sleep and pain causes people to say things they don’t really mean.” Shane stood.
Kayleigh froze, as if expecting an attack.
Shane sighed. “I’ve got to go see if I can find some kind of sleep aid. He hasn’t slept since last Thursday, I’m sure.”
“But that’s almost a week. He’s had to sleep some… but not enough.”
“Probably not at all, Kayleigh. Let him know you still love him.” Shane went past her to the door, careful not to make the move more threatening than possible. If Scott didn’t have everything else thrown at him right now, he’d be the perfect person to work past Kayleigh’s fears. He hoped Scott could, for his sake, because he’d never give up on her. He wished he could help. He stopped with the door open and looked back at Kayleigh. “Marry Scott, and let the four of us prove not all men are jerks like your father and my father are.” He left before she could respond.
He’d spent more time at Kayleigh’s than he’d wanted to. If he didn’t find Eli at Eastern Michigan University, he didn’t know where to look. Did he sleep in the truck those nights he pretended to work? And what about the nights he and Kyle argued, and he rode his bike?
Shane drove slowly through the university parking lot, looking for Kyle’s truck. He found it but had to park away from it. He walked to it. The doors were locked, so he climbed into the back to wait, staring up into the black sky, hoping to see stars in spite of the security lights in the lot. As the parking lot started to clear out, Shane wondered if Eli had a place on campus he slept. Maybe he shared someone’s dorm room. How would he find him?
Then Eli stopped beside the truck to unlock it, almost indistinguishable from the other students rushing by with back packs slung over their shoulder.
Shane stood. “Hey, Eli.”
Eli jumped back from the truck.
Shane hopped to the ground. “Hey, Eli, we need to talk.”
“Is Kyle okay? What happened?”
Eli pulled open the door of the truck and swung his backpack onto the seat. “Why are you here then?”
“Because I couldn’t leave a message for you to call home from work.”
Eli faced him. “Did you tell Kyle?”
“No. I understand your reasons.”
“Can’t let him think I have no choice.”
“I know. Where do you sleep?”
Eli leaned against the truck. “Is it important?”
“Might be in an emergency.”
“In the church basement. Tap on the window of the Sunday School office if you need me. What happened tonight?”
“Scott hasn’t been sleeping. He’s kind of had a little nervous breakdown or something. We put him to bed, but I still don’t think he’s sleeping. Kyle says a Valium might help.”
“Do you need me to come home?”
“You can tell me where you keep Kyle’s medicine if you don’t want to.”
Eli frowned and leaned against the truck. “Kyle thinks I kept the Valium? I flushed it. Why don’t you call Scott’s doctor?”
“Let’s go someplace to talk. You’re going to the church?”
“I can tell Kyle I took the night off for Scott. Meet you at home then?”
Shane agreed and jogged back to his car. He met up with Eli again in the hall of their apartment building, and they went into the apartment together.
Kyle rose from the couch. “Where is it, Eli? Did you quit tonight?”
“He took the night off,” Shane lied. “He tossed the medicine. Is he sleeping… No.”
Scott stood in the bedroom doorway. “What did Kayleigh say?”
“She loves you. She’s just scared of being controlled. Told her you’d never hurt her.” He went to Scott’s side. “You can relax. Bet she’s praying for you right now. She was worried about you. Didn’t want to wake you if you were sleeping like you were supposed to though.” He managed to get Scott back in his room.
“I can’t sleep, Shane. What about Eli? Is he losing money because of me?”
“No. He won’t lose any money. We’ll make sure of that. Just take it out of that account if he does, right?” He’d tried to reassure Scott, but it didn’t work.
“Won’t have the account if Kyle sues.”
“Hey, don’t worry. Eli will be fine. You try to sleep.” Shane pulled Scott’s blanket over him.
Scott stared at the ceiling. At least he wasn’t trembling anymore, but he wasn’t sleeping either.
Shane went out to the phone and tried to get Scott’s doctor. The doctor told them to come in the next day; he wouldn’t call in a prescription for him. Shane tried to argue his case, but got nowhere.
“Told you,” Kyle said.
Shane had the feeling he’d made the mistake of naming a specific medicine — an addictive one at that. And after that the man wouldn’t consider anything else. “Maybe I should go to the store and get some Nyquil. I forgot to stop.”
“There is a doctor you can contact right now who will do anything he can to help,” Eli said and then shrugged. “Least that’s what he promised.”
“Dr. Face-lift? What would he know about sleep disorders?”
“More than we do. If it were me in his shoes, I’d have lost quite a bit of sleep.”
Kyle leaned forward. “Yeah. He owes us. Go get some Valium from him.”
Shane glanced from Eli to Kyle before he stood. “Don’t tell him where I’m going.” He was glad Eli had come home. He was much more comfortable leaving this time. And the kid was proving he wasn’t near as meek as Kyle thought he was. Scott had been right about him. He fit well in their family.
Go to Chapter 16
© 2014, 1999 by Deborah K. Lauro. You may make one copy for personal use. To share, please direct friends to this website.