“What’s going on?” Harriet asked, coming into the kitchen, and Foster shrugged as she and Javi sat down.
“Well, I was in church last Sunday.” Abe shook his head. “I don’t usually go because they… well, they don’t represent me, but my dad told me that I had to go and that he was tired of me missing services. I think he figures that they’ll change me or something. Anyway, at the end of the service, Reverend Felder stood and said that there was a member of the community in need.”
“We have plenty in need,” Harriet said.
“This is different,” Javi broke in, and she grew quiet.
“The reverend then brought Lachlan in front of the congregation and said that he’d been staying with his family for a few weeks and that he needed a home. He stood up there with an old ball cap in his hand, twisting it back and forth. It was so Dickensian.”
“Like you know what that means,” Foster teased.
“I read A Christmas Carol in school once—I know who Dickens was.” Abe rolled his eyes. “The thing is, no one came forward. He just stood there, looking like he wanted to disappear, and it was obvious that the reverend, high and mighty as he is, just wanted Lachlan out of his house.” Abe shuddered. He wasn’t a fan of someone he saw as a hypocrite.
“And now he was walking out in the rain….”
“With no place to go.” Harriet finished Foster’s sentence for him. “He said he’d be eighteen in a few days.”
“Yeah. I can’t imagine trying to be on my own at his age without a home or anyone.”
Abe could tell Foster’s mind was already running a mile a minute by the intensity in his eyes.
“Mom, can you see about getting him back in school? He has to be close to graduating and he needs to do that. Lachlan can help here on the farm, and we’ll give him an allowance and make sure he has what he needs.”
That was why Abe thought the world of Foster. He always thought of other people and what they needed. Foster had given Abe a job on the farm a year ago, when he and his father hadn’t been on speaking terms. They barely were now and at most tolerated each other. Abe didn’t ask his father about his bible thumping, and his father didn’t talk to Abe about the fact that he preferred boys to girls.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone look so miserable as he did that Sunday.” Abe kept trying to imagine how he’d feel if he’d been up there, and the only words that came to mind were naked and completely exposed.
“He said that his mother died of cancer not too long ago.”
“But what do they want from me?” Lachlan asked, his voice touched with fear.
“Nothing. You’ll have chores you need to do, but that’s all.” Abe narrowed his eyes. “Why? Did someone try to hurt you or something?”
Lachlan stiffened but didn’t answer. Instead he went to his dresser, pulled open a drawer, and took out a couple pair of worn tan pants and a few pairs of jeans. Abe folded them and added them to the small pile of clothing. He watched as Lachlan moved stiffly around the room, keeping his back to Abe if at all possible.
Fear welled inside Abe. Something was very wrong. Sure, Lachlan was hurting, but the way he was shutting out Abe was telling. He wasn’t sure he was going to get anything out of Lachlan by questioning him, at least not at the moment, so he took the duffel bag lying in a heap on the bed and neatly put the folded clothes inside. “Is there more?”
Lachlan came around the side of the bed and opened the top drawer to add socks and underwear. “I guess not….” He scanned the room and sighed. “There isn’t anything else here.”
“What about the kitchen or other rooms?” Abe took the bag and set it next to the suitcase at the top of the stairs. “Is the television yours?” It looks ancient.
“No.” Lachlan ambled into the kitchen and returned with a small box of things. “All our stuff fit in the trunk of my mom’s car.”
“Where is that right now?”
“It broke down just after Mom died and I didn’t have the money to fix it, so it’s sitting at the garage down the street. They said they’d put it out back for a while, but I don’t know how long, and….” The abject misery was back, and Abe wished he knew what to do to try to help him.
“Do you know what’s wrong with it?”
Lachlan shook his head.
Abe walked over to him and guided him to one of the tattered living room chairs. He sat down, and Abe got him a glass of water from the kitchen and handed it to him, sitting in the chair across from him. “Try to take things one step at a time. We’ll get your things out of here so the landlord can’t take them. Foster has plenty of room to store what you need him to.”
“But why would he do that?”
“Because he’s a good guy, and so is Javi.” Abe took Lachlan’s hand, not wanting him to feel alone, and as soon as he did, a little jolt of energy shot through him. Even miserable, Lachlan was beautiful, and Abe was willing to bet that with a smile on his face, Lachlan would be radiant. Abe was determined to somehow be the one to help him smile again. “What happened to you?” He gazed into Lachlan’s big, sad eyes. The sad part didn’t surprise him, but the fear he saw as well was nearly overwhelming.
Heavy footsteps on the stairs caught his attention. He released Lachlan’s hands and turned toward the sound.
“Who’s up there?” a deep, gruff voice barked.
“Mr. Hanson?” Lachlan asked, on the edge of tears once again.
“Yeah. Who are you?”
“I thought you were gone already.” The footsteps continued, echoing through the space. “I was coming to clean things out. I have a new renter.” Mr. Hanson entered the room, his hands on his hips. “You need to go now. This isn’t your apartment anymore.”
Abe jumped to his feet. “We know. He and I are getting his things, and we’ll be gone in a few minutes.”
“You have no right to be here. I should have changed the locks when I first kicked you out.” He glared at Lachlan, and Abe saw red.
“I said we’d be gone in a little while. He’s getting his clothes and personal things. Nothing more.” Abe stood toe to toe with the bigger man. “You can give a few minutes and we’ll be out of here.”
“How do I know you won’t try to steal anything?”
Abe growled. “Like what? The television that’s been around since the stone age? Give us a break. He just lost his mother, and all you can think about is how quickly you can rent the place?” He shook his head. “Just go and we’ll be out of here soon.” The man was a piece of shit and smelled worse than the barn after milking.
Mr. Hanson’s gaze flicked over to Lachlan and then back to him. Abe had no intention of giving an inch. Lachlan needed someone to stand up for him and Abe would do it all day if he had to. “Fine. I’ll give you an hour and then I’m coming in to clean the place out.” He turned and stomped down the stairs.
“Are you okay?” Abe said. Lachlan was as white as a sheet.
“He looked like he might hit you.”
“The guy’s a blowhard. He likes to think he’s a big, tough guy. But the strongest thing about him is his smell.” Abe waved his hand in front of his face, and a ghost of a smile curled at the edge of Lachlan’s lips. “Let’s get anything else you want out of here before he comes back.”
Andrew grew up in western Michigan with a father who loved to tell stories and a mother who loved to read them. Since then he has lived throughout the country and traveled throughout the world. He has a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and works in information systems for a large corporation.
Andrew’s hobbies include collecting antiques, gardening, and leaving his dirty dishes anywhere but in the sink (particularly when writing) He considers himself blessed with an accepting family, fantastic friends, and the world’s most supportive and loving partner. Andrew currently lives in beautiful, historic Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
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