The next evening at dinner Shane told Eli and Kyle about his date for Friday night.
Kyle snickered. “So when will she dump you?”
“She’s not going to dump him,” Scott said.
“He’s dated about every loser in the state. You think he’s suddenly wised up?”
Shane bit back his sharp reply, remembering Kyle was still hurting over Anna’s cruel words.
“Kyle,” Eli said in a low voice. “Motive.”
“It’s the truth!” Kyle insisted.
Kyle scowled and focused on his roast. “I’m not going to lie to him.”
“Yeah,” Shane said, “But you used to use a little more tact. Sure, she’ll probably dump me, but not because she’s a loser, but because I am. This girl is classy. Scott met her.”
Kyle glanced at Scott and then focused on Shane. “Didn’t mean you were a loser. Don’t need women anyway. You’ll stay here, right?”
Shane looked at Scott instead of Kyle. “I’m not going anywhere, Kyle.” He couldn’t tell him anything else. Amber would dump him eventually anyway.
Thursday when Shane came home from work, Kyle’s family was at the apartment. Ian, Kyle’s brother, didn’t acknowledge Shane or Scott. Fran wasn’t much warmer to them. Only Jerry, Kyle’s father, spoke to them, but his main attention was on Kyle. Shane, Scott, and Eli went down to the pool after dinner to escape the tension.
“Chased out of our own place,” Shane complained.
They didn’t go back up until the sun disappeared. Then they each went into their room, shutting the door. Kyle’s family didn’t leave until after ten.
Friday Shane stopped home to change his clothes after work. Ian, Kyle, and Fran were out on the balcony. He heard Kyle snap. “Shut up, Ian.” Shane stepped closer to the door.
“It’s the truth. Your friends are trash. Look at Shane. His parents don’t even care about him. And Scott. His family is pathetic. I’ve been writing his sister, and let me tell you, she’s no angel.”
“You shouldn’t write to girls like that, Ian,” Fran said.
“She used to think she was in love with you, Kyle,” Ian laughed. “Loves me now.”
“No, she doesn’t love you,” Kyle said.
“Sure, she does. I can get her to do anything. She’s even planning to drive up to Marquette over Labor Day just to see me.”
“Please, Ian,” Fran said. “I don’t want you hanging out with loose girls. Find a nice girl. Tell him, Kyle.”
“Find a nice girl,” Kyle said. “Stay away from Anna.”
“Why, Kyle? You don’t love her, do you? You’re not that stupid, are you?”
“Ian!” Fran chastised.
Kyle came into the apartment and stalked to his room. Ian laughed. Fran scolded.
Shane followed Kyle. His door was locked, but Shane took a toothpick and released the lock. Kyle was lying on the bed. Shane shut the door, relocking it before he sat beside Kyle and put his hand on his shoulder.
“Get Eli. Make him come home,” Kyle said without moving.
“Where’d he go?”
“I don’t know. Ian… Ian chased him away… teased him.”
“Will you be okay here, Kyle?”
Kyle looked up into Shane’s eyes. “I… I’ve never hated before. I hate my brother. Shane… help me.” It came out as a small cry.
Shane’s heart ached. Kyle was so different from the confident med student he used to be. He’d barely had a chance to use his new title Doctor before the accident. Shane wished he knew how to help him. “Lord, our Father, help us to have Your wisdom. Help Kyle. Give him wisdom. Give him strength, and take away the hate and pain. Only You can. Thank you. In Jesus name.”
“Amen,” Kyle whispered. He gave a weak smile. “You learned how to pray.”
“Learned a long time ago, but you always took the lead and never gave me a chance.”
Kyle’s smile left. “Never lead again.”
“Yes, you will.” He had to. “It just takes time.”
A knock sounded on the door. Shane opened it to let Jerry in. “Is everything all right? The food is ready. Kyle?” Jerry sat on the edge of the bed.
“Shane,” Kyle said. “Tell… tell Dad. Let me sleep now. Get Eli.”
Shane motioned Jerry out of the room and closed the door. Then he went into his room and offered Jerry the chair. He told him about Ian’s involvement with Anna, Anna with Kyle, and Ian’s digs. He left out the suicide attempt. “Jerry, please do not leave Ian alone with Kyle. Kyle’s fighting enough without those kind of digs. I’ve got to find Eli.” He glanced at the clock. Amber.
“Is Kyle doing well here? Scott sends me updates, but what do you think? Should he come home now?”
“Kyle is well enough to make his own decisions, and he’s improving all the time. He’ll stay here. By the way, don’t let Ian pick on Eli, either. He lives here and has every right to be here unharassed.”
“Ian needs to see Kyle.”
“Ian harasses Kyle.”
“Brothers do that all the time.”
“Kyle’s not up to it!”
Scott came in. “What’s going on?”
“Got any idea where Eli would hide? Kyle needs him.”
“He doesn’t do anything but work, go to church and to school. Where’s Kyle?”
“In his room. Go check on him.” Shane finally made it out of his room and to the phone in the living room.
Amber answered on the second ring. “Shane? How come I just knew it was you?”
“I’m sorry. Things are so crazy here. I’ll explain when I get there. You don’t mind me being late, do you?”
“Just late? You’re still coming?”
“Yes. I just have to find Eli for Kyle. Maybe Scott will.”
“I’m here,” Jerry said beside him. “You don’t need to get Eli.”
Shane ignored him. “I promise you dinner even if I don’t get there until nine.”
“Nine? Shane, maybe we should just forget….”
Behind him, Ian taunted, “You love Anna.”
“Leave me alone!” Kyle shouted. “Shane, take me away from here.”
“Ian, knock it off now,” Jerry said.
“Amber, I can’t hear you,” Shane lied. “I’ll be over as soon as I can.” He hung up the phone and turned to the group. “Scott, what are you doing?”
“Kayleigh and I are meeting Bert and Carol at six thirty. I have to go.”
“You both have dates. I don’t need anyone. I’ll drive myself away from here.” Kyle stomped out of the apartment. Jerry tried to stop him, but Kyle pulled away and slammed the door.
Shane followed, rushing down the steps, passing Kyle and stopping him. “Come with me. We’ll look for Eli. I told Amber I’d be late. It’s not a problem.”
“Kyle, we came to see you,” Jerry called, coming after them. The others poured out of the apartment.
Kyle started walking again. Shane stayed with him.
“I’ve got to leave,” Scott said, heading for his Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Shane let Kyle into his car, and they drove out of the parking lot as Jerry protested. He glanced at Kyle. His eyes were closed, and his tremors were more pronounced. Shane focused on the road, silently wondering where Eli could possibly be. He didn’t think he’d be at school. It was between terms, and the school was ten miles from their apartment, but he turned in that direction, going around to the park by the Huron River on the way. He didn’t see Eli’s beat up, blue ten-speed anywhere. He stopped in front of the registration building at Eastern Michigan University.
“Now where should we look, Kyle?”
“I don’t know. Let’s get something to eat.”
“I promised I’d have dinner with Amber.”
“Fine. Drop me off at the park. I won’t be in anyone’s way. Then Ian will get to go to school in California since I won’t be eating up the family’s money down here.”
“Oh, great, Kyle. Things get rough, you want to throw yourself in the river. You never used to give up before.”
“Well, I’m not the same. Any idiot can see that. Let me out and go see your tramp. She’ll dump you tomorrow.” Kyle opened the car door.
“Kyle!” He grabbed his arm and lowered his voice. “Kyle. Let’s go home.”
“No! I’m not going back there.” Then his anger evaporated. “Please, don’t take me back,” he asked in that little boy voice. “Anna told Ian everything. I can’t face him.”
“Close the door.”
“I won’t take you back.” Shane restarted the car. “You can eat with me and Amber. She works for your lawyer; you should meet her.”
“Scott’s lawyer.” He shut the door.
Shane headed for Milan. “If we ever find the guy who hit you, you could sue.”
Kyle didn’t speak. Shane glanced over. Kyle’s head rested against the back of the seat, his eyes closed.
Shane let him rest and tried to figure out where he’d take them now. He hadn’t had time to change and was overdressed in a suit. Kyle wore jogging shorts and a baggy T-shirt. Maybe he’d ask Amber where she preferred to eat. By now all the decent restaurants would have long waits. He wished he’d been able to get an earlier start.
He pulled into the driveway of Amber’s home ten minutes later. Amber and her parents, Ray and Pam, sat in lawn chairs under an oak tree near the left corner of the house.
Kyle opened his eyes. “Guess I’ll have to get in back so you can be next to your girl.” He didn’t move though.
Shane left the car and approached Amber and her parents. “All set?” he asked.
Amber looked beautiful as always, but she didn’t smile at him. She didn’t rise from the chair either. “You brought your friend?” Her voice held a tone he hadn’t heard from her before. She was angry.
Shane tried to ignore the sinking feeling in his gut. Her parents just watched. He glanced over his shoulder. Kyle was out of the car now, leaning against the roof. “Yeah. Long story. Ready?”
“You set the time, Shane. You didn’t have to tell me you’d come.”
“Huh? Amber, I couldn’t….”
“Save your excuses. I don’t need them.”
Shane hesitated. “So… are we still going to dinner?” He cringed inside. He was doing it again. Acting stupid when she’d made herself clear.
“I already ate.”
“Movie?” Man, Shane, you’re an idiot. Give it up.
“You are unreal.” She stood, her voice raising also. “You think I’ll just believe all your promises and pretend it doesn’t really matter every time you forget me. Excuse me, but I’m not going to put up with that.”
Ray and Pam said nothing, and Shane didn’t bother trying to interpret their looks. He turned and walked back to the car, his head down. He opened the door.
“No,” Kyle moaned.
“She dumped me,” Shane said, without looking at him. “Get in the car.” He sat down.
Kyle’s scream cut into his bones. Shane jumped up and ran around the car, falling to his knees in the grass beside Kyle’s jerking body. He could do nothing but keep him from hitting the car or the gravel. When the seizure was over, Kyle rolled on his side away from Shane, facing the car. Deep, ragged breaths shook him.
Shane, still on his knees, leaned forward to rest his forehead on Kyle’s shoulder, as his own tension became unbearable. He didn’t lift his head until he heard them approach.
“Should I call an ambulance?” Ray asked.
“Give us a minute. We’ll get out of here. Ready to go home, Kyle.”
“No, no,” he cried weakly. “I can’t.”
“He’s probably gone.”
“No. He’ll stay. Please, Shane. I… I’ll sleep… in the back seat.”
“We have a spare room,” Ray offered. “You’re welcome to stay as long as you need. Pam will fix you something to eat.”
“We won’t bother you,” Shane said.
“Shane,” Kyle protested weakly. “Let’s stay.”
Shane took a deep breath. Kyle tried to rise, and Shane helped him sit. Then they stood. Kyle leaned against him as they followed Ray into the house. Shane didn’t look at Amber, but he knew she followed them.
In the bedroom Shane helped Kyle take off his shoes and covered him with the sheet. “Stay close,” Kyle begged.
“I will.” Shane sat in the chair by the window and leaned forward to put his head in his hands. He didn’t want to be here in this house. He wanted to be alone. Only alone did it not matter that he’d let his heart get ripped out again. He’d let himself care even when he knew she would dump him eventually. He just hadn’t expected it to be so soon. He’d never learn. He looked over at Kyle. No, he wouldn’t have done anything differently. Kyle had always been there for him.
Shane remembered the time he’d gotten a C in one of his classes his sophomore year and decided he’d be better off dropping out of college. Kyle had stopped him, pointing out his low grade was because he’d taken a second part time job. He’d have to cut back. When Shane protested he needed the money, Kyle, with that sharp and humorous way of his, had somehow made it clear that he and Scott would never let him down, and they’d be extremely disappointed if Shane wasted his intelligence by dropping out of accounting and working as a waiter the rest of his life. Shane had retaken the course summer term and gotten an A. Without Kyle he’d have dropped out. Scott’s friendship had been invaluable, but Kyle knew how to goad him to action. Had known. God, my Lord, please restore him.
“Shane,” Amber asked softly.
Shane looked up. “Yes?”
“Dinner is ready. You and Kyle can eat now.”
Shane stood and leaned over Kyle. “Hey, Kyle,” he asked softly. “Ready to eat?”
Shane straightened. “I don’t think he’ll be ready to eat for a while.” He waited for her to exit the room, but she didn’t.
“Shane, about earlier. I’m sorry. I guess sometimes there are good reasons.”
Shane followed her to the dining room and sat at one of the two places set at the table.
“These are just leftovers. We could still go out,” Amber suggested.
“I can’t leave Kyle.”
“He asked me,” Shane said, concentrating on his food. “He doesn’t know them, and they don’t know what he needs.” And he wasn’t going to let her jerk him around anymore. As he remembered his humiliation at being dismissed in front of her parents, his resolve strengthened; his anger grew. He couldn’t lash out at her in her own house, so he focused on Kyle. “So you think Bert Thorton should just get away with that. Look what he’s done to Kyle! And you don’t think we should sue.”
She sat across from him. “I can’t make that decision.”
“No. Of course not. You don’t give a damn about Kyle anyway.”
“That’s not why I was upset. I just don’t like being stood up.” She hesitated.
Shane decided he’d said enough. He focused on the food. It was still good, warmed over.
“I know you had a good excuse today.”
“But if Kyle hadn’t had a seizure in your front yard, you’d have never spoken to me again.”
“That’s not true. I’d have still been your friend.”
“And now? What? You’ll date me?” He shook his head. “I don’t know what I was thinking Tuesday. I don’t have time for games.”
“Neither do I.” Amber stood and left the room, going toward the living room.
Shane finished eating alone. Then he took his plate and glass to the kitchen and left them in the sink. He walked back toward the guest room.
As he passed the study, Ray called him inside and motioned him to a seat. “How long will Kyle sleep?”
“Probably until tomorrow morning, except when I get him up to go home.”
Ray relaxed into the chair next to Shane. “Were you and Amber able to straighten things out?”
“Nothing to work out.” Shane noticed the grass stains ground into his slacks. Another suit ruined.
Ray shook his head. “Shane, you must realize it wasn’t you she was upset with. It was her father. He still tells her he’ll be here at a certain time, and then he’ll be late or never show up. Please don’t take that too personally.”
“She doesn’t want to go out with me. Besides, even if she did, I can’t guarantee something won’t come up again — not with Kyle so bad and Scott getting married. How was I to know that his parents would let his stupid brother push him to the point of sui….” Shane stopped. “Never mind. I should check on Kyle.”
He left the study and went to the guest room. Kyle still lay as he had before, snoring softly. He was still alive and hadn’t done anything stupid. He waited a moment and decided to go back to the study with Ray. It was better to find out now how contingent Ray’s friendship was on Amber’s goodwill.
Shane sat back in the chair in the study. “He’s okay. Your friend doesn’t mind if I join you two for taxes?”
Ray smiled. “No. We’ve been looking for someone. He’d like to meet you some time.”
“His name? No more surprises.”
Ray laughed. “No more surprises. Rick Chancellor.” He sobered. “Your father hasn’t contacted you, has he?”
“No. I didn’t really expect he would.”
“Don’t be. I don’t need him.”
“Guess not,” Ray said. Then he switched the subject, talking about some things that were happening at his church. They spoke companionably for quite a while, and Shane was surprised to realize how comfortable he was becoming with Ray Pearson.
At nine thirty Ray’s sons came home from a friend’s house they’d been visiting, and Shane knew it was time for him to go. He decided he better call home to make sure Ian was gone. Ian answered on the second ring. “Hello.”
“Great. Can I talk to your father?”
“Where’s Kyle? What did you do to him?”
“Nothing. Let me talk to your dad.”
“You better bring him home.”
“Not until you leave.”
Crashing and banging sounded into the phone. “Ian,” Jerry said in the background.
Then Ian said, “I’ll trash this place if you don’t bring him back now.”
“I’m not bringing him back.”
“Fine. Your room’s first.” The phone slammed and disconnected.
“Great! The kid is tearing apart the apartment.” If it wouldn’t hurt Kyle to be exposed to it, Shane would go home, beat Ian’s smart little mouth, and teach him a lesson. He hoped Jerry had enough control over Ian to keep the damage to a minimum. Shane immediately saw the advantage of the situation. This was the excuse they needed to ban Ian from their home completely. Whatever Ian damaged, Shane would demand payment for, and Jerry would quickly see that bringing Ian to visit was too expensive.
Ray came back into the study. “Everything okay at home?”
“No. I can’t take Kyle home yet.”
Ray’s son, Mark, ran into the room. “Dad, you have to see this….”
“I’ll be there in a minute.” Ray turned back to Shane.
“I know you’re busy. Kyle and I will get a motel room until his brother leaves.”
“Why don’t you just stay here? Really. It’s okay.”
Shane hesitated. It would be hard to move Kyle. He’d be groggy. And who knew how much they’d have to replace because of Ian. It’d be better not to spend the money. “If it’s not a problem. I’ll just rest in that chair near his bed.”
“No problem at all. There are extra blankets and pillows in the closet if you need them.”
“Thanks.” Shane went back to Kyle’s room, found a pillow, and tried to get comfortable in the chair.
He must have dozed off, because he awakened abruptly when a knock sounded on the bedroom door. Then it opened, and Ray whispered, “Shane.” Shane followed him to the study. “Telephone for you.” Ray handed it to him, and then left the room.
“Shane?” Scott asked. “What’s going on? What happened? Where’s Kyle? Is he with you?”
“Whoa, Scott. Kyle’s fine. What’s wrong?”
“Wrong? The place is trashed. The police are here. They need to know if you know who did it. Why aren’t you home?”
“Because Ian was there. He trashed the place. Tell them. Give them his address and hotel room number. Serves the idiot right.”
“Ian did it? But… Why’d you let him break the computer?”
“I didn’t let him do anything! I’ve been here with Kyle all evening while you’ve been entertaining Dr. Face-lift….”
“He doesn’t do face lifts. Shane, we can’t file charges against Kyle’s brother.”
“If you don’t, I will. You’re not doing anyone any favors letting him get away with it. He tried to kill you, remember?”
“He really didn’t want to kill me, just maim me.”
“Okay, okay. You’re coming home now, right?”
“Yeah. I’ll get Kyle up.”
Shane hung up and then went to wake Kyle. Groggily, Kyle stumbled beside him to the car. Then they drove home. “You’re sure Ian’s gone?”
“So Scott said.” He hesitated, and then thought he better prepare Kyle. “Scott also said he trashed our apartment. Police are there now or were there when I spoke to him. I told him to file a report on him.”
Kyle didn’t speak. His eyes were closed.
When they pulled into the parking lot, they went upstairs. It wasn’t as bad as Shane had feared. The monitor on the computer was broken. The two living room lamps were on, but the shades were bent and cracked. Scott was replacing CD’s, tapes, and books on the shelves when they entered.
“Me and Eli will do that tomorrow,” Kyle said wearily. “Where is he?”
“He had to work, remember?” Scott said, standing. “Shane… your room is….”
“I know. He said that was first. How about yours and Kyle’s?”
“Not touched. Or the kitchen. Guess Jerry got him out of here by then.”
Kyle wandered to his room.
“Just a minute, Scott.” Shane followed Kyle. He was already lying across his bed. Shane pulled off his shoes, and then went back out to Scott. “He had a seizure earlier. He’s not completely awake yet. Scott, we have to change the locks tonight. I don’t want any chance that they’ll get in here again. I don’t care if they’re relatives of Kyle’s, they can’t control Ian.”
Scott nodded. “I already talked to Jerry on the phone. He says he’ll pay for the damage, so I didn’t….”
“So Ian’s off the hook again. Scott! How do you think he got that way?”
“They want to take Kyle.”
“They can’t. Kyle’s an adult. He can make up his own mind.”
“Tried to say that, but….”
“But nothing. I’ll go get the lock.” In his room his table and dresser were tipped over, and his clothes were strewn across the floor. He found some jeans and a short-sleeved pullover and changed his clothes. Then he went to a get the lock.
Go to Chapter 7
© 2014, 1999 by Deborah K. Lauro. You may make one copy for personal use. To share, please direct friends to this website.