Part 3 of 4
I flipped forward in the journal, but didn't find any clues to the Uncle Butch/Silas mystery. I remembered Butch, but never knew him very well, aside from the fact that he was Dad's younger brother, the crazy uncle who'd chase us and tickle us and lock us in closets at family gatherings. Never knew anyone who could get kids so wound up. But I did clearly remember that he never stopped the teasing until at least one kid was crying.
Had he ever made Silas cry? Huh, I wasn't sure.
One thing I do remember – after Melanie came back, Uncle Butch never teased her again. And I definitely remember Melanie crying about that, at Thanksgiving or Easter or something. She once said something like, "Uncle Butch thinks I'm broken, because he won't play with me anymore." And it was true, in fact, when me and Elizabeth and Melanie buried Uncle Butch with our stuffed animals, he'd sent Mellie away, saying, "Your mother needs your help in the kitchen." Elizabeth and I had been puzzled, because we hadn't heard Mom calling.
But I think we ultimately blew off the whole thing, because Mel was broken, and no matter how much she denied it, we girls could see it on a sisterhood level.
Wondering about Mel, however, was an old mystery, and one I was well accustomed to. A new mystery about Silas– that was exciting. This was a little bit of what I was hoping to find in Mom's journals.
It was time to get Annabelle moving and head to mom's. I assumed Sam wasn't coming, since I hadn't heard anything more from him since the "broken truck" text. Ah well, that's how it goes for business owners, even on special days.
The wind had died down and it felt like one of the warmest afternoons we'd had so far.
Josie and Jeremy had gone balls to the wall in anticipation of warmer temperatures. They'd hauled the lawn furniture out of the garage and set up chairs around the small fire pit. Dad's old charcoal grill was hot and ready for the food. Caleb was on the lawn swing, one leg on the ground pushing it gently back and forth, his eyes trained on the Gameboy he held in his hands. Annabelle squealed her happiness over the swing, and was chattering about the kite before he even acknowledged her presence.
Silas, shirtless, was behind the garage, chopping wood.
Mel was at the picnic table, drawing lines in the wood where her beer bottle had left moisture rings.
I'd had a plan to announce my big news to the whole group at once, but it busted out of me before I could stop it. "Guess what? I got an acceptance letter. My book's going to be published!"
"Awesome," she said. "Is that why you're late? It's been wonderful, sitting here doing nothing."
I laughed. "No, I was kind of waiting around to hear from Sam. He's got a broken truck. I'm surprised to see Caleb. His dad didn't want to spend Father's Day with him?"
Melanie shrugged. "He did, but he has to be at a company meeting early tomorrow morning in Minneapolis, so he's driving down tonight."
"Ah. Caleb gave Annabelle a kite last week," I said. "She flew it this morning and had a blast. Then I got the email from the publisher, and so we were both flying high."
Jeremy and Josie came out with a platter of dogs.
"Hey, guys, guess what?" I called out, and repeated my news.
Josie jumped up and down. Jeremy congratulated me. Then they sent me into the kitchen for plates, buns, and condiments. Oh, the glory of a published author.
Elizabeth was digging in the cupboards for paper products.
"To your right," I directed her. "Bottom cupboard."
"Thanks," she said.
"Guess what, guess what, guess what?" I sang at her as she pulled out a stack of paper plates and handed them to me. I felt like I was seven years old, and desperate to tell my big sister that I'd won the first grade weekly spelling prize.
"What, what, Jessie?" she said, standing up and peering into my face.
"I'm going to be published!"
"Oh! That's wonderful news," she exclaimed, and wrapped her arms around me in a hug. "I knew you'd get there."
Once we were all settled on the patio with plates, drinks, and food, I pulled out my phone and read them the acceptance email. It was family legend that you only get the full attention of this group while everyone is eating.
Josie flitted around after the meal, collecting plates and cleaning up. Liz and I tried to help her, but she waved us off. "I'm the hostess today. You guys just chill."
Caleb and Annabelle went inside to watch TV. I'd have liked to see them play outside, go explore the creek or something, but it would be getting dark soon anyway, and at least they were getting along.
I tucked myself into a corner of the yard swing to read my acceptance letter again. Liz sat beside me. Call me obsessive, but after fifty rejection letters, I thought I deserved to bask in the wondrous light of acceptance.
Silas wandered back to the garage to start hauling the wood to the patio, and Jeremy followed him. They had an exchange of words in almost-raised voices, and I looked up, startled, and thinking for a minute that there was going to be some big drama-filled argument. They toned it down almost immediately, but Silas's rigid stance still indicated anger. Or maybe not exactly anger, because Silas took a giant step into Jeremy's space, and pushed Jeremy hard against the side of the garage. I was alarmed and halfway off the swing when Silas attacked Jeremy's lips with his mouth.
Ah. One of those kind of arguments.
"Am I really supposed to get used to this?" Liz asked, nodding toward Silas and Jeremy.
"I don't know," I answered, and I didn't. I mean, for someone like Liz, it would take time, maybe a lot of time, and she might never be comfortable with Silas and Jeremy. Especially if they keep having volatile, passionate difficulties. "Let's go in the house and see if Josie needs dish monkeys," I suggested. "Let them deal with their stuff alone."
Josie was wasn't in the kitchen. We found her slumped on a chair in the dining room, holding an ice pack to the left side of her head.
"What's going on, Jo-Jo?" I asked.
"Headache," she said. "Really bad."
"Did you take something for it?" Liz asked. "Do you have anything stronger than Tylenol?"
"No, it's okay. The ice usually works. I hate taking medicine."
True, she did. She'd always hated taking any kind of drug. She didn't smoke, didn't drink, and didn't consume large amounts of caffeine. Josie the wonder child.
"Usually?" Liz said then, her voice sharp with the question. "How often are you having headaches? And are they always in the same place of your head?"
"Once or twice a month," Josie said. "Either here on the side, or behind my left eye."
"Have you been to the doctor?" I asked.
She shook her head, then groaned a little. "Too busy with mom dying and finals and all."
"Call for an appointment tomorrow," Elizabeth commanded. "No excuses."
"Yes, Little Mom," Josie agreed. "I'm going upstairs to lay down. I'll try to come back for the fire. Congrats on the book, Jess. I'm so happy for you."
"Thanks. Do you need help getting upstairs?"
"No, I'm good." She shrugged me away and went off to her room by herself.
"Headaches," Liz mused. "Migraine, maybe. Have you ever had one, Jessie?"
"Nope," I said. "And thank God. I hear they're awful."
We puttered around for a bit, doing a final wipe of the counters, wrapping leftovers and stowing them in the fridge. "I met with Dean Johnson," Liz said, oh, so very casually."
"Yeah?" I asked. "And how was that?"
"Well, he got me registered for the right class."
Her words made perfect sense, but her body language was odd. Her eyes slid away from mine, and her hands fluttered to her hair, then to the hem of her shirt, then back to her hair, as if she couldn't quite settle them.
"And?" I asked.
I kept looking at her. She peeked at me, then grinned. "What?"
"I don't know," I said. "Josie said he's a hottie. Is he?"
Elizabeth, my sister, suddenly blushed to the roots of her hair.
"Seriously?" I said. "That hot?"
She nodded, and I could see she was trying to fight a smile.
"Like, detour past his office as often as possible in hopes of seeing him kind of hot?"
She laughed. "Well, maybe not. That would be undignified."
"Not to mention inappropriate," I said. "Did you tell Eric your credit liason is a hottie?"
She shook her head. "That wouldn't be very nice, now, would it?"
She had a point there. Although if it were me, I'm not sure I wouldn't be able to tell Sam. Sam and I tell each other everything. It would feel weird, deceitful, not to. Plus – if I kept something like that to myself, I would detour past the office in hopes of seeing him, and then it would turn a silly playful crush into a dirty little secret, which is a lot more stress and a lot less fun.