We surveyed the chaos we'd been creating in the dining room, the boxes of china and shoes, bags of clothing and coats, lined up and piled against the wall. We had to move some of it out before we 'd have room to eat at the table again.
"I don't like him," I murmured, "and I'm not real comfortable about him being in the house."
"I would say that about any number of Melanie's stellar choices in men."
"Yeah, I'm especially feeling the vibe about this one. I have all of mom's jewelry in nice neat rows on her dresser. Maybe one of us should take it home, and we'll go through it after we've taken care of everything else."
"That's probably a good idea," he agreed. "Why don't you go gather it up, and I'll start loading my truck. Liz should be here soon."
I went up to mom's room, half expecting to find Melanie picking through mom's jewelry, with Helper Travis at her side. But no. The room was empty, and the jewelry looked undisturbed. Mom had more than one velvet pouch reminiscent of the Name Bag, and I gently gathered her pretty things and tucked them away. Funny how I never had a second thought about leaving these things around, not even when we met Jeremy. I felt a little bit guilty about that – like... we had such low expectations of Melanie, and high expectations of Silas... but Melanie had proven her bad choices over and over again. She had a track record of dating people she met in rehab, and we'd learned from experience that the guys she chooses generally aren't worth much. Sad but true.
I heard a shuffling sound from down the hall, and went to investigate. I found Josie putting her room together, her bed a mountain of clothes and books.
"Are you really going to be okay living here, Jose?" I asked.
"Yeah, I'm good. Except that I can't watch mom's stuff get loaded into a truck and taken away, so I'm going to hole up here and get myself organized."
"I hear you, I said, and sighed. "I'm feeling sad about mom today, too, but I'll help Si and Liz, and leave you to your own stuff."
"Thanks," she said with a tired smile. "Aren't we lucky to have each other?"
When I got back downstairs, a dent had been made in the piles. Silas and Travis were carrying boxes, and
was supervising. Elizabeth
"Where is Melanie?" I asked Travis, as I held the door open for him.
"Ah, I think she went to the store for something. Or maybe she fell asleep somewhere, she was dragging hard this morning."
"Hung over?" I asked. "Or still drunk?"
He grinned a wolfish grin at me. "One or the other."
jumped in to crack the whip. "Let's get this done with." She turned to me. "Jessie, I'm sorry, I just don't have time for lunch today," she said, with an exaggerated head nod toward Travis. Elizabeth
, in fact, Silas and I were thinking the exact same thing." Elizabeth
The look of relief on her face was comical. "I don't know how much more of this kind of thing I can take."
"Yeah, I know. Well, anyway, Si said Jeremy's not going to be around, so there's one less thing for you to deal with."
"Um," she said.
"Um?" I asked. "What's that supposed to mean?"
She answered my question with a question of her own. "What did Silas say about Jeremy not being around?"
"Not a lot. He said he sent him home to his mommy. Why?"
"Because Josie said something about him staying here with her for the summer."
"Here, here? Like here in the house?"
"Exactly like here in the house. That's why I thought we'd better get some of mom's things moved to the church."
"Wow." I said. "Wow. Well. Maybe we don't want to mention that to Silas right off. He might flip out." I stared at her. As the bearer of news such as this, she was surprisingly calm. "You're okay with that idea?"
"I wasn't, at first. But the more I think about it, the more it seems like a good idea. I know Josie doesn't want to stay here alone. But she doesn't want to bunk with any of us, either. I think Jeremy's okay. He seemed nice and all. And with Silas to vouch for him, I don't know. I guess he'd be safe enough. And he's gay, so it's not like Josie's asking a boyfriend to move in. It could be worse."
"I think it's a great idea." I felt a happy sense of relief inside. Poor Silas. He was not going to be happy, inside or outside. Not if he really wanted Jeremy to go away. I giggled.
"I'm just remembering that Silas said he'd had some trouble getting Jeremy to go away. And I'm thinking that's not going to change. He's going to freak."
"He deserves it for what he's put me through with this whole gay thing."
But you're suddenly comfortable with it now?" I asked. I couldn't help myself.
She sighed. "I had a long talk with my pastor this morning. I felt so humiliated admitting that my only brother is a homosexual that I cried."
"Aw, Liz, that sucks." We were standing at the door, watching Silas and Travis shuffle boxes and trash bags around in the back of Si's pick-up, trying to make everything fit. Seemed like we were all having a rough day.
"It was miserable. But it was good, because he reminded me that homosexuals are God's children, too, and that it's God's job to judge, not mine. I guess I needed that, because I can already feel myself accepting this gay thing. I don't want to lose my brother. I have to love him, even if I don't agree with him."
"Good for you."
"And Josie is crazy about Jeremy. I think they're best friends already, and Josie needs that. All her high school friends went away to school, and she doesn't have anyone here to be close to. I asked her why she's not dating, and all she said is that no one's really caught her eye. I think it's Josie glowing over Jeremy that's helping me the most. He can't be evil if he melts her heart."
"True." I said. "I don't think she's dated anyone since Aaron went to basic training. Friends make the world better. Now, where the heck is Melanie? Silas looks like he's ready to kill Travis, and I don't blame him. I hate when there's some random guy hanging out. In fact," I held up the jewelry bag. "We need a safer place for mom's jewelry."
"Oh, I'd love to take it home and look through it."
"Yours." I said, and handed it to her. "I thought maybe when everything else has been organized, we'd lay it all out on the table and take turns choosing."
"You have good ideas, Jessie. We're lucky to have you keeping track of all the details."
I think I glowed. "Thanks."
"I'm going to check upstairs for Melanie," I said. "And see how Josie's getting on organizing her room."
Josie was fine. And I found Melanie passed out in her childhood bed. "Wake up," I said loudly and shook her foot. "Damn it, Mel, don't leave us with your sleaze-ball. Get up."
She opened her eyes to little flat slits. "Wha-?" she managed to get out, before she dissolved into a fit of coughing.
"You should be entertaining your friend Travis. You brought him."
She laughed a little. "Cute, ain't he? Has he played you with his
accent yet?" Georgia
?" I said. "I was thinking Georgia backwoods. Sure, he's adorable, if you like meth teeth." West Virginia
"What?" Her outrage was palatable and she sat up. "He hasn't done meth in months! Who are you to judge? He's had a hard life."
"Whatever, Melanie. He's your guest, so what the hell are you doing taking a nap?"
"He was napping with me." ] She pouted. "Did anyone make coffee?"
"I don't know, I doubt it. And he's not napping now, he's bugging Silas, who looks ready to kill something."
Silas can't figure out if the hollow in his stomach is anger or hunger. Travis was a regular twat. He said twenty different stupid things in less than thirty minutes, and apparently cracked himself up, because he kept braying like an ass. Silas feels wound so tight that if he doesn't get away from this freak he's going to snap and pound his head in. Every time Travis makes some gay reference that's supposed to be funny, Silas is reminded of Jeremy.
Jeremy, who loves to tease and bait and shock, embarrass him, even, but with a finesse that makes it forgivable. Or maybe it's his pretty blue eyes, or his smiling mouth that makes it forgivable. Something.
Never mind. He wasn't going to think of Jeremy. Jeremy is home where he belongs, which is exactly where he should be. How can he grow up normal if he makes Silas his mentor? Silas is more fucked up and emotionally stunted than any of Jeremy's own peers.
Sending him home was the right thing to do.
Now if only he could get rid of the heavy ache in his chest.
Maybe he was getting the flu.