Part 1 of 4
This Sunday was as much about Friday as the actual Sunday. Maybe more.
My mother's last heart to heart with Silas had been painful to hear. I deserved to be uncomfortable about it, I know, for being the one who chose to eavesdrop, but still. I remembered laughing with Silas, and how easy it was to love him when we were kids. And how confusing it was later to be rebuffed, shut out of his room, and told to go away.
His music was too loud, his eyes too glassy, and his voice too angry, although it was probably when he was fifteen or so that he became completely unapproachable.
I know we girls tried – we loved our big brother, but we grew wary of him, never sure if our childish advances would earn a smile or a scathing word.
For the most part, Silas seemed to pretend we didn't exist. Silly little sisters, who couldn't possibly understand the effort a boy must put into growing to be a man.
He started college at eighteen, and the distance grew, even though on Sundays he tried to play nice. Well, the Sundays that he wasn't holed up with Dad in dad's office, that is. When Dad died, Silas joined the rest of us on Sundays, but he never had much to say.
When he did talk, he was smart-assed, sarcastic, and condescending, almost like we were bugs that he watched through a microscope. Or a television sitcom that he watched about a family he felt superior to.
There's always a "but," or there wouldn't be a story.
These past few months he has been a little bit different. Quicker to smile, prone to rolling his eyes at some lame attempt at a joke, and he actually teased and wrestled with Annabelle once until she screamed, "Uncle, please!" giggling all the while.
During Mom's illness, I'd often found him sitting on the bed next to her, rubbing her hand or brushing her hair.
The tiny bits of engagement were a major improvement. He seemed more relaxed and less prepared to lash out at the smallest perceived insult.
Maybe he even seemed... happy.
Mom wasn't the only one in the family to suspect Silas had met someone important.
And of course, now we all knew about Silas. And about Jeremy.
Something happened, though, when Jeremy moved in with Josie. Maybe his getting that close to Silas's people was a threat somehow, because Silas had cooled considerably toward him, which is a point I will explain in a little bit.
Anyway. On Friday I met Silas at his office to go over my exciting new book deal.
Silas and I pulled into the parking lot at the same time. I walked into the office about two steps behind Si.
Jeremy was sitting in the chair behind the desk.
Silas forgot I was even there. "What are you doing here?"
"I just came to ask if you want to go out tonight."
"Yeah, well. Don't. Come. To. My. Office." Silas said it slowly, like he was talking to a person who's a little slow.
"Why the hell not?" Jeremy asked, scowling a little. It was a really cute scowl, kind of pouty and innocent.
"Because these people don't need to know anything about my life. This is a construction company you know, filled to the brim with boys who like girls. Jesus, Jeremy."
Jeremy flinched. "What? They don't know you're gay?" He grinned and mouthed an exaggerated, They don't know he's gay, to me, eyes widened in a parody of shock. Then he took off his long-sleeved denim shirt and pointed to his chest. He was wearing a simple white t-shirt with black lettering. It said, "Shh. Nobody knows I'm gay."
I shrugged and tried not to laugh. Jeremy must not realize that no one outside of the Twin Cities knew Silas was gay. No one but us and him.
Silas was glaring at Jeremy, "Put your shirt back on, you goofy little twink. I don't advertise my personal life here. It's none of their business."
"Come on, Silas," Jeremy said. "It's not 1998 anymore. What do you think would happen?"
"I could lose clients."
"I doubt it," the kid said. "Minnesota's pretty liberal."
"Duluth isn't." I said, pushing past Silas into the office and settling on a chair by the window. I suppose I could have been polite and circumspect and left them to have their argument in privacy, but hell with that.
Silas pulled the door shut and stalked toward the desk.
"God, you work with these people every day," Jeremy said, looking up at him. "And they don't even know who you are. How can you stand it?"
"I said it's none of their business," Silas said through clenched teeth.
Jeremy was shaking his head and laughing. There was a knock at the door.
Silas pointed a finger at Jeremy and gestured for him to spin the high-backed chair around. Jeremy complied.
Another soft knock, and Silas answered, "Enter." I almost giggled.
It was his secretary. "Hey, Si," she said in greeting. "Alpha Crew finished framing in the house on
"Yeah, thanks Susan, I was just there. You've met my sister, Jessie, right?" he asked, gesturing to me.
"I have," she said. "Nice to see you again." And to Silas, "I thought you were visiting
Lismore Road this afternoon?"
"I was. But I stopped by Schulz on my way back. They're fast."
Susan agreed, Alpha Crew was very fast. "So anyway, some of us are stopping for drinks later to celebrate. You want to join us?"
"Not tonight, thanks." Silas said.
Jeremy spun around in the chair so Susan could see him. "You should go," he said, serious eyes on Silas. "Get to know your employees better. I'd go with you." At least he'd covered up the t-shirt again.
Susan didn't bat an eyelash. "Well, hi," she said. "I didn't see you. Of course any friend of Silas would be welcome. I'm Susan, Si's secretary."
"Susan," Silas said, in the kind of soft, patient tone some people get right before they do something irrational. "This is Jeremy."
"Nice to meet you," Jeremy said. "I bet it's not easy working for him."
God only knows what Susan was thinking. I felt a little sorry for her, because I'd worked for Silas, and it hadn't been pretty. But Susan never lost her footing. "It's all right," she said with a laugh. "He's the best in the industry this far north. And he pays the best, too, so we deal."
"Oh, I'm sure he is the best," Jeremy said, his face lit up with a grin. "Where will these drinks be consumed?"
"Grandma's, at 5:30."
"I'll do my best to get him there. With bells on."
Silas was looking positively aggravated. He said, "I'll have to check my calendar."
Susan laughed right out loud. "I'm your secretary, your calendar is clear tonight."
"We'll see," Silas said. "I'll consider it, if Jessie comes along to protect me."
And that was how we ended up at Grandma's Saloon by quarter after six, because, as I discovered, it's very difficult to dissuade Jeremy when he sets his mind on something.
Five and a half hours later, I was heading past tipsy and straight toward oblivion. The Alpha Crew had been great fun, but they headed off to livelier bars, or home to bed, depending on their family situations. When I focused my bleary eyes on Susan, I was amazed that she still seemed sober. We were sitting on stools around a high table, and I was clinging to the edge to keep myself from sliding to the floor. We'd all been quiet for a few minutes. I don't know about the rest of them, but I was assessing my ability to get off the bar stool, walk to the restroom, and do what needed doing. I decided maybe I'd try it later. I traced my fingertip along the table top, feeling the ridges in the old nicked up then polished wood.
"I'm curious about something, Silas," Susan said, with a sly smile. "You haven't been lighting out of the office at two pm on Fridays to burn up I-35."
"Ah, well, the situation in
seems to have resolved itself." Minneapolis
"I hope everything's okay."
"It was me, "Jeremy said. "My dad's not around, so Silas has been my... mentor."
"Oh?" Susan asked. "What happened to your dad?"
"I'm getting another round," Silas said with a scowl, and headed for the bar.
Jeremy watched him go with soft, dreamy eyes. Or at least that's what I saw. He gave Susan a wry smile. "Nothing happened to my dad. When I told him that I'm gay, he said if I didn't come around and embarrass him, he'd continue to pay for my education."
Silas got fast service and returned to the table. He always gets fast service. He set a drink in front of each of us, then a drink and a shot in front of himself. He downed the shot in one quick swallow.
Jeremy shrugged away Susan's sympathy. "It hasn't been too bad. At least I have Silas."
"So you're like his little brother."
Silas made a snorting sound. "More like my boy-toy," he said, eyes glittering.