At seven Scott and Kyle arrived at Shane’s office. “We’ve got to get it tonight,” Kyle said. He leaned on the desk and then lowered himself into the chair next to it. He didn’t seem much better than he had that afternoon when he’d left Mr. Hammond’s law firm.
“Get what?” Shane asked, pretending not to notice Kyle’s condition.
“That lizard. And we have to hide it in your room tonight.”
“Are you sure?”
Kyle nodded weakly. “I need Eli. Please get him home.”
Scott placed his hand on Kyle’s back. “We’ll get him back.”
Shane saved his work on the computer and locked up his office. Then they headed for the pet store. He was a little relieved that a different clerk was at the store than the one who’d heard them talking about the ways to cook guinea pigs.
The clerk was a college student, and he helped them choose all they’d need for the iguana, sometimes trying to talk them into things Shane had read were unnecessary and sometimes harmful. He told the guy about the web site he’d been to.
“That’s the same one, I found,” Scott said. “Man, she’s thorough.”
Then they went to the iguana cage. “Which one?” the clerk asked, opening the top of the terrarium.
From behind them, Kyle said weakly, “The smallest one that doesn’t bite.”
Scott glanced at Shane and shook his head slightly. They both agreed. A feisty one was likely to be in better health.
The clerk reached in and pulled out an iguana not quite quick enough to get out of the way. “This one’s pretty friendly.”
“No. Not him.” Shane glanced at Scott. “See that one hiding behind the tree.”
The clerk shook his head. “He’s too fast. I’ve been trying to catch him for the last two days.”
Scott grinned. “He’s the one we want. Let us try.”
The clerk glanced around the almost empty store. “I’m not supposed to let you.”
“We won’t tell.”
He hesitated and then gave in. “Okay. Guess you’re spending enough money.” They’d chosen a much larger aquarium than the man had said they needed. He moved away from the cage and let Scott and Shane in.
They worked together to block him until Shane was able to grab him. He gripped the baby, as it squirmed, clawed and tried to bite. The clerk held open the box, but Shane held on until the little lizard finally stopped squirming and just looked around. Scott reached over to run a finger down his head. Shane turned to show Kyle. “Want to pet him?”
Kyle backed away. “Don’t need to pet a snake with legs. Let’s get him home.” Shane finally set it in the box. “He’s not going to be able to get out of there, is he?” Kyle asked.
“He’ll be fine on the way home but try not to let him get too cold.”
They had driven separately, and Kyle asked that the iguana ride with Shane instead of Scott and him. The rest of the supplies, including the large aquarium which would serve as a terrarium, went into the back of Scott’s Cherokee.
Scott and Shane only set up the minimum to keep the iguana comfortable since everything would be moved to Kyle’s room the next day. Kyle had gone straight to bed not bothering to watch.
Shane slept intermittently, hearing the iguana every time he moved. He wondered if Kyle would be able to adjust, but then knew Eli would be with him also. Before he left his room the next morning, he draped the large glass cage with a blanket.
When Eli arrived the next morning, Scott and Shane bid Eli a happy birthday and then left for work. Shane didn’t get much work done. He was on the phone with Amber and then Scott several times, making last minute arrangements for Eli’s party. They all met in the parking lot of the apartment complex at twelve fifteen. Amber lifted the cake from her trunk along with a thin wrapped package, as they’d agreed upon. Scott and Kayleigh followed them upstairs.
When they opened the door, Eli jumped up from the dining table. “What?”
“Happy Birthday, Eli!”
Amber brought the cake to the table and removed the cover. “Hope you like chocolate.”
“Kyle said not to….”
“Because Amber was making a cake,” Kyle said, grinning. “You shouldn’t make your own cake.”
Kayleigh and Scott withdrew the ice cream and candles. “Are we having cake first? Or should we order pizza for lunch first?” Scott asked.
Amber grabbed the ice cream and took it to the kitchen. “Order the pizza, and let’s save the cake.” She placed the ice cream in the freezer.
Shane made the phone call, and then they stood around. Eli glanced at them nervously. “I… I didn’t expect you home yet.”
“Going to open your present?” Kyle asked, pointing to the wrapped present Amber had brought in.
“Actually,” Amber said, as she handed it to Eli. “This is one of those presents that is more for me and Kayleigh when we move in.”
Eli took it, showing no emotion but nervousness. He unwrapped the paper, revealing an eight by ten frame. Eli read the paper mounted in it. Then he shot Shane a glance. “When unattended the iguana must be caged. What does this mean? I can buy an iguana when I have the money?”
Kyle nudged his arm. “You haven’t gotten our present yet. Go show him, Shane.”
Shane motioned Eli to follow him. Everyone else did also, including Kyle, but he didn’t come into the room, staying instead in the doorway.
Eli stared at the blanket covered lump.
“Go on,” Shane prompted. “Everything under that blanket is yours.”
Eli shook his head. “But I have no place to….”
“Yes, you do!” interrupted Scott. “This is your home. You’ll always have a place with us.”
“One big happy family,” Kayleigh said dryly.
Amber grinned. “It’ll be fun. Just promise me I won’t have a St. Bernard sized lizard begging for crumbs when I work in the kitchen. They don’t really get six feet long, do they?”
Shane grinned, but then noticed Kyle get pale.
Eli watched Kyle also, but then focused on the blanket. “Six feet, but they’re only fifteen to twenty pounds.” Carefully, Eli removed the blanket from the terrarium and extra supplies. The iguana ran behind the box Shane had given him to sleep in.
Eli smiled and shifted the lid of the terrarium. He began speaking gently in Spanish as he caught and lifted the iguana. It squirmed for several minutes before accepting his fate. Eli stood before Amber. “This guy will get to be about the size of a dachshund or a large cat.”
“Really?” Kayleigh said. “I was hoping for Chihuahua, but I guess it’ll be hard to crush him accidently.” She reached out to touch the ridge along his spine. “Will he be as friendly as a dachshund?”
“Probably,” Eli agreed.
“What are you going to name him?” Amber asked.
Eli shrugged and directed a few more words of Spanish to the lizard.
“Shane said you had one before,” Scott said. “What did you name that one?”
“Blue?” asked Amber. “I’m rusty. I only had one year in high school. I can’t understand a thing you’re saying.”
“You could call this guy Green,” Shane joked. “What’s green in Spanish?”
“Verde.” Eli looked at Kyle in the doorway and walked over to him.
Kyle backed against the wall not taking his eyes from the iguana. “You’ll come home now, won’t you?”
Eli focused on the iguana as it squirmed again.
Eli raised his gaze to Kyle’s. “Yes.”
Kyle nodded and then slipped into his room.
Eli watched, smiled, but didn’t follow. “Thank you — all of you.” He went back into Shane’s room and set the now still iguana in the glass cage. “Hasta la vista, Verde.” He looked through the supplies until the doorbell rang.
Scott went to pay for the pizza. The girls followed. Eli stood. “Does he stay in here?”
Shane hesitated. “Kyle may need a few days, but he made the decision knowing it’d be in your room.”
Eli looked toward the room he shared with Kyle and smiled. It was almost a tender smile that reminded Shane of the way Eli cared for Kyle, as a parent for a strong-willed child.
Shane pretended not to notice. “As long as Kyle adjusts before Amber moves in, it doesn’t bother me to keep him in here for a while if you think it’d be better.”
“He really is frightened of him, isn’t he?” Eli asked in a near whisper. “I didn’t realize it bothered him so much.”
“Neither did I. Guess it never came up before.”
Eli started from the room.
Shane stopped him with a hand to his arm. “Eli, Scott and I wouldn’t have forced him or the girls to live with something they fear, but they all agreed because we want you with us.”
Eli looked at the floor, nodding slightly.
Shane realized it was the emotions again. He tried to go back to something less threatening. “I think Kyle’s learned to think beyond his own pain again. No need to stay away any longer.”
Eli shook his head. “He’s learned.”
“Come on, you two. It’s time to eat,” Scott said. He peeked into Kyle’s room and then back at Eli. “He okay?”
“I’ll get him,” Eli said, his voice not quite even.
Eli sat on the edge of Kyle’s bed, placing a hand on his shoulder. Shane and Scott went back to the living room. The girls sat in the chairs with pizza on paper plates. “Wondered when you’d join us.”
They joked, and soon Kyle and Eli joined them. After the cake and ice cream, Amber went back to work. Then Scott and Kayleigh left. Finally, Shane left.
He lost track of time and didn’t get home until seven. Kyle was alone, listening to Mozart and reading a textbook. He threw the book down as Shane came in. “I don’t remember this stuff being so boring last time around.”
“Probably cause you already know it.”
Kyle hesitated. “Yeah, that’s it. Eli insisted on cooking. Left you a plate in the kitchen.”
Shane heated it up and brought it to the living room. “Think he likes the lizard?”
“Loves it. He’s coming back. I gave him the truck keys, and he’ll get his stuff on his way home.”
“Still wouldn’t tell me where he’d been.”
Shane smiled. “Does it matter? This is his home.”
“Yeah. Home.” Kyle studied him. “If I get Bert to agree with all my demands, we can invest in real estate, can’t we? We could all go in together. If my income isn’t enough, I could do the maintenance.”
“What kind of real estate are you thinking of? A large house?”
“Or an apartment complex like this, at least two bedrooms in each apartment. Then we will all live close. I know Kayleigh and Amber would prefer their own place. Eli would stay with me. Maybe have his own room he can keep his lizard in.”
Shane smiled. “Let’s start looking and running numbers. Sounds like a great investment to me. We can always rent out extra apartments in this city.”
Kyle relaxed. “Thought it was, but you’re the numbers guy. Only problem is if Bert doesn’t come through. I don’t know what Dr. Rigel’s thinking, but there’s a good chance I won’t be with her long. I need that monthly allowance and Eli’s wages.”
“I’ll work out the numbers. We’ll figure out something. Besides Bert has to come through or we’ll sue him, right? Relax.”
Kyle appeared to take Shane’s reassurances, but he’d left Shane a little shaken. Shane assumed everything was getting better. It was, but Kyle feared he wouldn’t make it in the workplace. Only time would ease that fear.
Shane went to bed before Eli returned home. He awoke to a tapping on his door. Then it opened. The person hesitated.
“Didn’t realize you were sleeping. Sorry.” Eli backed out and began closing the door.
“I’m not asleep yet,” Shane said, sitting up and turning on the lamp.
Eli came in, closing the door behind him. “Just thought I’d check on Verde.” He went to the terrarium. Verde scrambled away from him, but Eli quickly grabbed him and settled on the floor.
Verde nipped his hand, but Eli held on, smiling in amusement. He looked up at Shane. “About the other night.”
“I didn’t mean to pry.”
“No. I didn’t mean that. You thought I did, but I didn’t.”
Shane leaned forward and rested his arms on his knees. “It doesn’t matter.”
“Yeah. It does. It was easier not to be friends because… because loss doesn’t matter as much. That’s what I meant.” He shrugged and rubbed Verde’s now still head. He murmured a few more words of Spanish. Verde’s name was the only sound Shane understood.
Eli finally focused on Shane. “Doesn’t make sense, I know.”
“It does,” Shane said.
“But I realized I already care about you guys too much, and it was too late to back out. I was trying to figure out how to come back last night.” He glanced up at Shane. “You made it easy for me.”
“I tried,” Shane admitted.
Eli let Verde scramble up his arm but snatched him when he started to go onto his back, out of reach. Verde squirmed, clawed and nipped again. When he settled down, Eli finally replaced him into the terrarium.
He stood and went to the door, hesitating. “First time I’ve felt like I’m really home in over five years. Thanks, Shane.” He slipped out of the door, reclosing it.
Shane smiled, turned off the light, and pulled up the covers. Yeah. This was home. His family. Eli’s family now also, no matter where they moved.
The End of Shane’s Secret
Go to Contemporary Novels
© 2014, 1999 by Deborah K. Lauro. You may make one copy for personal use. To share, please direct friends to this website.