“You need me to do what?” Chelsea asked as they stood across the street from Mom’s Diner. She was looking at Silas like he was crazy, but he hoped that she’d do what he asked anyway.
“I need you to go in there and ask to use the restroom, and then tell me if a man named Ian Drake is inside,” Silas replied, anxiously watching the windows of the diner for any sign of Ian moving around on the inside.
“Wait, Ian Drake . . .” Chelsea said thoughtfully, “Is he a relation of yours or something?”
Silas cursed under his breath as he felt a drop of sweat form on his forehead. He hadn’t thought through that side of things when he had asked Chelsea to do this, but then again she had already proven that she was trustworthy. She had already helped him out of one mess, and there remained the possibility that she wouldn’t hate him for having lied to her the day that they met.
But he needed a lie and he needed one quick, because he wasn’t about to do something that could jeopardize his position, even if he did like Chelsea. “Um, he’s my second-cousin,” Silas said with only a slight hesitation, and then he started rambling and hoping that an excuse would tumble out of his mouth that would satisfy Chelsea’s curiosity. “We’re actually visiting his family and it’s his birthday soon but I don’t know him very well. I need to work out the details of a surprise party that my family is planning on holding for him at the diner and so I need to ask some questions of his staff.” He paused and looked at Chelsea with eyes full of hope, holding his breath as he realized the strength of his lies was about to run out.
“Oh? A surprise party!?” Chelsea said, clapping her hands together in excitement. “I love surprise parties! That’s very exciting. Sure, um . . . What do I say if he’s in there?”
“Well don’t ask for him,” Silas replied, suddenly horrified by the thought. He shook his head and shuddered as he said, “You’ll know it’s him if you see him. He’ll look a lot like me, but older. Just peer into the back while you stare at the menu board or something, and then excuse yourself to use the restroom. Once you’re done come back out.”
Chelsea nodded and started forward when Silas reached out and caught her arm. “One more thing, Chelsea,” Silas said anxiously, “Don’t mention my name, whatever you do. Remember, this is supposed to be a surprise.”
“I got it,” Chelsea said with a nod. “Don’t you worry about me, Drake,” she added as she pulled her arm away, “I’ve got this.”
He watched her go and then returned to crouching in his hiding spot behind a car that was parked on the side of the road. He started holding his breath as soon as she walked into the diner, and then let it out as he watched her walk toward the restroom. He heard a car door open from further down the road, and he glanced up nervously until he realized that it was a woman in a black hooded jacket that was getting out of her car and not Ian.
He ignored her and returned his focus to Chelsea, waiting for her to leave the restroom and head his way. He felt a tug on the leash that was wrapped around his left hand, and he looked at Adelaide to see that she had caught movement somewhere in the distance. Assuming that it was likely to be either another dog or a housecat Silas ignored Adelaide and once again resumed his surveillance of the diner.
“Silas Drake,” a feminine voice said from a few feet away. His blood went cold as he tensed up and prepared to run. He turned slowly as he rose from his crouch and stared into the eyes of the hooded woman. Jenny, the waitress from the day before, was standing in front of him with a look of concern in her eyes.
Silas was about to bolt when Jenny saw it in his eyes and said, “Wait!” He turned back toward her, surprised by the urgency in her voice. He saw something in her eyes that he couldn’t identify, though he was sure it was something close to empathy. “Please don’t run,” she pleaded. “There are things you and I need to talk about.”
“Why would there be?” Silas said neutrally as he hesitated, though he kept one foot turned and ready to propel him forward should he decide to make a break for it. “You don’t know who I am.”
“I know your brother, Silas,” Jenny said with a calm and nurturing voice. “Ian was beside himself when he came back yesterday. He had to have his assistant come in early to take over the rest of his shift. Why did you run?”
“If you think I’m going to tell some random waitress my whole life’s story just because she thinks she knows who I am, you’ve got another thing coming,” Silas said, glancing nervously at Chelsea who was walking back toward them. She was still on the other side of the street, but it would be less than a minute before she reached them. “I don’t have time for this,” Silas said to Jenny.
“Look, you can come in and talk for a minute. Ian is off today, and I don’t start my shift for another twenty minutes,” Jenny said with pleading eyes. Silas watched her for a moment, already beginning to shake his head when Chelsea joined them and gave a questioning look to both of them.
Silas waved Chelsea forward and replied, “Some other time, perhaps.” He was angry, and he didn’t even know where the anger was coming from, but he definitely didn’t want to talk to Jenny about everything that was going on. He had come to the diner to investigate the environment in which Ian worked and lived, but he had been hoping for a completely different crew that didn’t know who he was, and Jenny was right up there with people he didn’t want to talk to. “Chelsea, let’s go. I got what I came here for…” He turned his back on Jenny as he grabbed Chelsea’s arm and started walking away.
“He said it was like seeing a ghost, Silas,” Jenny blurted out, and Silas stopped, hearing the desperation in her voice. “He had thought he would never see you again. He said that he wrote letters to your house for years but never got a reply. He tried calling but they changed the number. He searched for you on Facebook and otherwise but your name never appeared. The one thing he didn’t do was go home because he knew he wasn’t welcome.” Silas listened to every word, his eyes widening further and further as he heard the first true words about what had really happened, and all in the tone of a mother who seemed to be desperately clinging to a child that she thought was dying. It was like hearing his own mother’s voice the time he was in the hospital for pneumonia, or hearing his father cry out for him to not run into the street when a car was coming. He turned back toward Jenny, and she was shaking as tears streamed down her face. “Please, Silas,” she begged. “Don’t walk away.”
“How do you know?” Silas asked, his voice deathly calm. He was in a state of shock as he pushed all of his emotions away, not wanting to face them. Not yet. He couldn’t face them until he was sure that what she had said was true and he wasn’t just imagining things. “Why would he tell you any of that?”
“I’m his mother-in-law,” Jenny replied wiping the tears away from her face with the back of her hand and smearing her mascara. “I’m also the one who held him yesterday when he came back in, panting and worn out after chasing after you. I’m the one who sat him down with a fresh cup of coffee and held his hand as he trudged through all of those years he had spent out on his own. He’s like a son to me, Silas, and that makes you family as well.”
That was it. The one thing she could say that would make it all fall apart. He met her eyes, fury filling his own as his hands clenched into fists. Adelaide fed off of his anger and started to growl, sensing that something had just snapped within her boy. “I have no family!” Silas growled, pointing down at Adelaide, “Except her. She’s the only one who has stood by me. The only one who never abandoned me. She is the only one who has cared enough to do everything in her power to make sure I was alive.”
“Silas . . .” Jenny began, but he cut her off with the deadliest glare that he had ever given anyone.
“If it was like seeing a ghost, then maybe I am one to him,” Silas roared. “And I’ll stay that way! I owe nothing to Ian. Nothing! He left me alone to fend for myself against our parents, and I’ll never forgive him for that. Ever!”
He turned on his heel and started walking away, not even noticing that Chelsea was too busy consoling Jenny who had collapsed to the ground and that she wouldn’t be following.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Silas was watching from the end of the dirt road. It was close enough that he could make it down as soon as she arrived at the bottom of the hill. He knew that she’d have to come home eventually, and when she did he wanted a chance to make things straight with her, before she had a chance to overthink it and assume that he had been trying to take advantage of her for nefarious reasons. Chelsea rounded the corner, walking slowly. Her eyes were downcast and he could see her mood in her steps. She was definitely upset, and he had been the cause.
“Go get her,” Silas commanded Adelaide, and he unhooked the leash from the collar and let her run free. Adelaide sped down the hill, reaching Chelsea in under two minutes, and Chelsea was obviously surprised when she crouched down and Adelaide began licking her face. Chelsea then looked up, all the way up to the top of the hill where Silas stood at the side of the road, waving.
It took longer for Chelsea to climb the hill than it had for Adelaide to race down it, and Silas waited for nearly ten minutes for Chelsea to make it to him with Adelaide excitedly leading the way. When Chelsea neared him she slowed her pace down even more until she stopped ten feet away from him and looked up to meet his eyes.
“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you the truth,” Silas said neutrally. It was another lie. He wasn’t very sorry at all, though he was sorry that it had hurt her. That had never been his intention, but he did what he had to in order to survive.
“No you’re not,” Chelsea said evenly, “But I get why you didn’t. I know that you’re not living with your parents here and visiting Ian’s family, but I still don’t know why you’re here at all. Jenny didn’t either.”
“So you had a nice long talk with her, did you?” Silas asked with an annoyed shake of his head. “Did she tell you any more lies about my brother?”
Chelsea gave him a hard look and shook her head firmly. “Drake, or Silas, whatever you want to be called, you’ve been through a lot and I get that, but you’ve got to stop assuming the worst all the time. Pessimism gets you nowhere in life.”
“I don’t know about that, Chelsea,” Silas replied with a roll of his eyes. “I’ve been to fifteen states over the past two years. Seems to me like it’s gotten me pretty far.”
“You’re a . . . you’re a . . .” Chelsea stammered as her face flushed red with anger.
“Asshole? Jackass? Douche bag?” Silas asked tauntingly. “Any of those fit?”
“I don’t curse,” Chelsea replied in a huff as she crossed her arms over her chest.
Silas shrugged and whistled for Adelaide who returned to his side a second later. “Sorry I couldn’t help you figure out what to call me. I don’t do Christian very well.”
“Screw you, Drake!” Chelsea spat. “I know you’ve been hurt in the past by religious folk, but you can’t assume that we’re all cut from the same cloth. Some Christians may have hurt you, but I didn’t. And I’m not the one who left a woman crying on the side of the road when all she was trying to do was help you. Why do you have to be a jerk to everyone around you? All I want to do is be your friend!”
Silas met her eyes and saw her determination in there. He had underestimated her again, and there was definitely some truth in what she was saying. She did want to be his friend, and she had only been kind to him so far, except for now, and he deserved to be treated that way for how he had acted.
“I do what I think is necessary to keep me alive,” Silas replied, crossing his arms over his chest defensively. “How can you fault me for that?”
“Jenny was trying to help you, Drake! I am too!” Chelsea replied with a shake of her head. “You wouldn’t have to work so hard to keep yourself alive if you’d just let someone in.”
“What happens when it all gets turned upside down, Chelsea?” Silas asked with a smirk. “What happens when your parents find out that you spend your time with a gay homeless kid? Are you going to stand by me then? No, and I wouldn’t ask you to. I’d ask you to sell me out to protect yourself. It’s what I would do in your shoes.”
“I don’t believe that,” Chelsea said with a shake of her head. “Your heart is too good. If it wasn’t then you wouldn’t have the loyalty of your dog,” Chelsea added with an emphatic nod toward Adelaide. “You’re a lot better than you give yourself credit for.”
Silas’ eyes widened almost to the point where he thought they were going to pop out of his sockets. “You’re serious?” Silas said, shaking his head in disbelief. “You really think you know me that well? You’ve known me for two days and spent at maximum a few hours with me. You really think you know how I’d decide in a crisis?”
“You were going to pay for that dog collar and leash by trading sexual favors with the cashier, weren’t you?” Chelsea asked, and Silas took a step back under her piercing gaze. “I see a lot more than you think I do. I see a lot more than most people think I do. You’re a good person, Drake. You’ve just forgotten it behind all this pain you’ve built up. You don’t think you deserve to be happy, well let me tell you one thing I know for certain. Everyone deserves to be happy.”
“I’d love to hear how you figured that out about Adam and me,” Silas muttered, “We cut that conversation off as soon as you walked through the door.”
Chelsea shook her head and grinned. “That one’s simple, actually. A man doesn’t turn the shade of red that Adam was unless he’s embarrassed about asking someone out, or embarrassed about being asked out. Judging by the difference in your age and his, and giving him the benefit of the doubt that he’s not some creep, it was easy enough to tell who had asked who. What with you being short on change, I ventured a guess and your face just confirmed it.”
“You sly girl,” Silas said, chuckling dryly. “Maybe I could trust someone as smart as you, who stuck by me even when I was sinning in the eyes of her church. The question remains as to whether or not you’re strong enough to be my friend.”
Chelsea grinned broadly and said, “Wait right here. I’ve got something for you.” Silas watched in bewilderment as Chelsea turned around and ran back down the hill. He looked down at Adelaide who seemed just as confused as he was about the strange turn of events. He waited until Chelsea exited her house with large bundle tucked underneath her arm. As she neared him he realized that it was an open bag of dog food that had been partially rolled up.
She handed the bag to a shocked Silas and said, “You may be a jerk, Drake, but Adelaide isn’t. I’m sure if you don’t have money for a collar and leash then you probably don’t have any for food either. You must have your own way of feeding both of you, but my parents won’t miss the bag. I’ll just open the new one and tell them our own dog has been eating more lately.”
Silas looked down at Adelaide and then back up at Chelsea with a wide-eyed stare. “Thanks, Chelsea,” he said, “I really don’t know why you’re being so nice to me but . . . This really will help.”
“How about you repay me by meeting me tomorrow morning?” Chelsea asked with a sly grin. “We’re off school tomorrow for some teachers’ conference going on in Denver. When would you be available?”
Silas chuckled as he looked down at Adelaide and then shrugged, “I could make it as early as eleven. It’s a long walk to and from camp.”
“Then eleven it is,” Chelsea said with a wide smile. “I’ll meet you up here, and then we can all go for a walk together. How does that sound?”
“You’re not going to try to convince me to go talk to Jenny and Ian?” Silas asked with a raised eyebrow. “I would have assumed that would have been on the agenda.”
“Only if you want me to,” she replied without hesitation. “I told you that I want to get to know you. Stop making assumptions, all right?”
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