The Way You Say My Name Ch. 04bywavyscribe©
All the euphoria from lunch evaporated in the split second it took Dillon to get from the school to his car, only to be replaced by raw fear. He peeled out of the parking lot, not caring that his tires squealed or that half the school probably heard it. He had to get to Jamie. He was out there, in the cold, alone, and grieving for his best friend.
Dillon drove like a maniac, taking the most direct route to Jamie’s house. He found Jamie about a block from school, walking in what Dillon could only describe later as a trance. He pulled over and rolled down the window. “James?”
Jamie turned to look at him, his eyes glassy and dazed. “Dillon?”
“Yeah, James, it’s me.”
Jamie shook his head, as if he was trying to clear it. “You heard about Ben?”
For the second time that day, Dillon put his car in park and got out to go to Jamie, this time approaching him with a delicate care he hadn’t known he even possessed. The last thing he wanted to do was frighten him and make it worse. The blank look on Jamie’s face scared the daylights out of him, but he did his best to keep the worry from showing.
“I heard.” He took Jamie’s hand and led him, unresisting, to the car. “Let me take you home, baby. You shouldn’t be out here by yourself.” He helped Jamie into the passenger seat and buckled him in. Closing the door, he whipped out his cell phone and removed the card Brandon Nash had given him from his pocket. Home. He’d try the home number first. He just prayed to God someone was there who could help.
When Nathan Nash picked up on the second ring, Dillon wanted to weep with relief. “Hello?”
“Dr. Nash, it’s Dillon Carver. I need your help.”
“Dillon? What’s the matter, kiddo? Are you okay? Is Megan?” The concern in Nate’s voice was almost Dillon’s undoing, but he knew he had to stay strong for Jamie.
“Megan and I are both fine, but Jamie isn’t doing so hot. To be honest, Doc, I’m scared to death here.”
“Jamie? You mean James Walker?” The light must have dawned, because Nate said. “Oh my God. He was dating Ben Lewis, wasn’t he? Then he knows?”
“About Ben’s death? Yes, sir. They weren’t dating, but they were close. And the whole school knows. Principal Morgan announced it right before sixth period.”
Nate swore. “Brandon is gonna have kittens over that one. How did Morgan find out, anyway? Brandon’s still out at the scene, and I know for a fact he hasn’t made a press release.”
“I don’t know. I missed the announcement, but, according to Megan, he didn’t give any details. Morgan just basically said, ‘Ben’s dead,’ and that was it.”
Nate swore again, this time using a more colorful word that seemed out of place coming from the staid doctor. “What’s done is done, but I feel damn sorry for Morgan when Bran finds out.” He blew out a deep breath. “So, what’s going on with James?”
Dillon looked towards the car, where Jamie was sitting, stock still in the same position Dillon had left him in. “I’m not sure, Doc. I found him on Harp Street, about a block from school. His eyes are glassy, and he seems really confused. It’s almost like he’s not even in there.”
“It sounds like he’s in shock. Where are you now?”
“Still on Harp Street. I called you as soon as I got him in the car. I was gonna take him on home, but I wasn’t sure if he needed to go to the hospital or not.”
“Usually, if the shock is fairly mild, the patient does better in his own home. Where does Jamie live?”
“2238 Lambert Lane. He lives with his aunt. She’s probably not home, though. She usually keeps busy during the day.” A thought occurred to him. “Should I try to get in touch with her?”
Nate said, “Go ahead and get him home. I’ll meet you there, and then I’ll call her myself after I’ve checked him over. That way I can explain what’s going on, hopefully without scaring her to death.”
“Okay, Doc. I’m headed there, now. And Doc? Thanks.”
“I’m glad to help, Dillon. You go take care of James, and I’ll see you in a few.”
Dillon disconnected and returned to the car. Even when Dillon got in and closed the door behind him, Jamie didn’t stir. With one eye on Jamie and the other on the road, Dillon drove the rest of the way to Sadie’s house.
He pulled into the driveway and turned to Jamie. “James? We’re at your house. Do you have your keys?”
With the same blank stare on his face, Jamie reached into his pocket and handed over the keys, but made no move to get out of the car. Dillon ended up having to lead him into the house.
Once inside, Dillon said, “Come on. Let’s get you upstairs and into bed.” Jamie just stood there, not saying a word. Dillon got behind him, and, putting his hands on the slight curve at Jamie’s hip, guided him up the stairs
Jamie’s room was located on the far side of the upstairs hall. Unlike the rest of the house with its Victorian wallpaper and heavy furnishings, Jamie’s room was pure Jamie. The walls were painted a deep burgundy, and the drapes and coverings for the queen-size cherry bed were a warm shade of green. The rest of the furniture, which included a dresser, a table, a couple of chairs, and a computer desk, were finished in the same cherry tones as the bed. But instead of the posters and pin-ups most teenage boys had scattered across the walls, Jamie’s room was decorated with magnificent architectural sketches he’d drawn himself and Aunt Sadie had framed. He was gonna make a heck of an architect one of these days. Dillon only hoped Jamie would allow him to be there to share in his success.
Dillon moved Jamie to the edge of his bed. “James? I’m gonna undress you now so that you’ll be more comfortable, okay?”
When Jamie didn’t say anything, Dillon took the silence as agreement and grabbed Jamie’s long-sleeved t-shirt, pulling it over his head. It wasn’t until Dillon started removing the t-shirt he wore underneath that Jamie started whimpering.
Jamie’s voice was ragged, laced with upset, “Please, don’t. I can’t . . . I don’t--”
“Shh.” Dillon rubbed his hands up and down Jamie’s arms. “It’s nothing like that, I swear. I just want to make you comfortable so you can rest until Dr. Nash gets here.”
Something in Dillon’s voice must have reassured him, because he allowed Dillon to strip him down to his boxers without further protest. The sight of Jamie’s near-naked body, well-toned without being overly muscular, had Dillon fighting a losing battle with his rapidly hardening penis. He willed it to go down, mentally cursing at it, calling it names. Damn. That was the last thing Jamie needed to see.
Thankfully, Jamie wasn’t paying attention, and Dillon was able to get him under the covers without incident. Jamie curled up into a ball, closing his eyes and burrowing under the blankets. Dillon stared at him for a full five minutes, his heart aching for the pain Jamie must have been going through. Eventually he left, pulling the door to and going downstairs to wait for Nate.
He didn’t have to wait long. He’d just reached the front hall downstairs when he heard the doorbell. Without even checking to see who it was, he turned the knob, letting Nate in with a weary sigh.
“Dr. Nash, you have no idea how glad I am to see you.”
Nate placed his medical bag on the floor and closed the door behind him. “How many times do I have to tell you, Dillon? My name is Nathan or Nate. No more of this Dr. Nash stuff.” Then he did something that surprised the heck out of Dillon. He wrapped both arms around him and pulled him into a crushing hug.
What surprised Dillon even more was how good it felt. Neither of his parents were touchy-feely folks. His mother was moderately affectionate, but his father rarely ever did more than pat him on the back, and the older he got, the less often that happened. Dillon found himself returning the hug tenfold.
“It’s gonna be okay, kid. I promise.” Pulling back, Nate said, “Where’s James now?”
“Upstairs, in his room. I thought he might rest better in bed.”
“Good thinking. Which room is his?”
“Last one at the back of the upstairs hall, to the right.”
Nate nodded. “I’m going to go up and examine him.” He reached down and picked up his bag. “Why don’t you see if you can find a phone number for his aunt while I check him over?”
“I will.” Phone number? Shit. He smacked his forehead. “I’ve got to call my boss. He’s gonna wonder where I am.”
“Go ahead. I’ll come back downstairs as soon I’m done.”
Dillon waited until Nate was on his way upstairs and then pulled his cell phone back out. Dialing the number from memory, Dillon waited for someone to pick up.
“Savings Central Drugs. How can I help you today?”
“Carl? It’s Dillon. Is the boss around?”
Dillon wasn’t surprised by Carl’s next question, considering they went to the same school, though Carl was only a sophomore. “Hey Dillon. Did you hear about Ben Lewis?”
“Oh wow. I bet it was a drug deal gone bad. Everyone knew Lewis was a user. Either that, or a suicide. Oh, or a gay love triangle. Bet James Walker found him with another guy and offed his ass.”
Dillon gritted his teeth. “Carl, could I please speak to Mr. Pembroke?”
“What? Oh, sure Dillon. Just a sec while I get him.” Dillon was stuck listening to a lame rendition of a Garth Brooks song while he waited for what seemed like an eternity. He’d just about decided to hang up and try again when Jim Pembroke picked up.
“Dillon? Carl said you needed to speak with me. Sorry it took so long, son. I was in the back taking inventory.”
“No problem, Mr. P. I was calling to tell you that I’m not gonna make it in. I know it’s short notice, and I swear I’ll make up the time.”
“Nonsense. You’re the best worker I’ve got. You’ve come in above and beyond what was asked of you. In fact, I think this is the first time you’ve ever called in to tell me you weren’t coming.” Pembroke paused. “I hate to pry, Dillon, but is everything all right?”
“I think it will be soon, sir. I just need time to get a couple of things sorted out. If that’s okay?”
The warmth in Mr. Pembroke’s voice was reassurance itself. “You just take care of business, and I’ll see you as soon as you can make it back in.”
“Thanks Mr. P. See you soon.”
After hanging up, Dillon searched around for some idea of where Sadie might be. He’d just abandoned his efforts when the front door opened and Sadie came barreling inside. She spotted Dillon immediately.
“Dillon Carver. What are you doing in my house? And whose Buick is that in the driveway?” She looked around the living room, then marched down the hall to the kitchen. Coming back into the living room proper, she said, “Where on earth is Jamie, and what in the blue blazes is going on?”
Dillon was saved from having to answer by Nate, who came back downstairs at exactly the right time. “I think maybe I can clear that up, ma’am.” Nate walked into the living room and motioned towards one of the richly upholstered sofas. “Do you mind if we sit down to discuss this, Miss Banks?”
Sadie put her hand to her chest. “Dr. Nash, what are you doing here? Oh, lord. Is it Jamie? Is he all right?”
Nate took her elbow and led her to the sofa, joining her there and gesturing for Dillon to take one of the wingback chairs. When all were seated, Nate said, “Miss Banks, James has suffered a mild shock. Dillon found him wandering out on Harp Street, dazed and confused. He picked him up and brought him here after calling me to come and check him over. I gave James a brief examination, and it’s my feeling that the shock is only temporary. I can write him a prescription for a mild sedative, if you’d like, but in all honesty, I prefer to let these things run their course, especially given the nature of the situation. If you’d like a second opinion, however, I’ll understand completely.”
Sadie shook her head. “That won’t be necessary. I know your reputation, and I feel comfortable enough to go with you on this. But, Dr. Nash--”
“Please, call me Nathan.”
“Only if you’ll call me Sadie. Now, as I was saying, I appreciate you coming and looking Jamie over, but if someone doesn’t tell me exactly why my nephew is in shock, and just what in the bloody hell is going on, I swear before the Lord Jesus Almighty I will pull out my Grandmother Bank’s cast-iron skillet and lay open every last one of your thick skulls.”
Dillon could tell that Nate was doing his best not to crack-up. “You’re absolutely right, Miss Sadie, and I’m sorry for not explaining earlier. This afternoon, Brandon got a call about a suspicious death. Since today was his day off, the call came through to the house. I’d just finished up a shift at Chicago General, so I was at home when the call came in. I can’t give you any of the details, mainly because what little I know hasn’t been released yet. Since it seems that Principal Morgan jumped the gun and made the infamous ‘announcement’ over the loud speaker at school, I think it’s safe for me to tell you that the victim was Ben Lewis.”
Sadie pressed her knuckles to her breastbone. “Ben Lewis is dead? No wonder Jamie’s in shock, Lord love him. He must have heard that idiot Morgan’s little speech.” She sighed. “Are you sure he’s going to be all right? Can I see him?”
“He was resting when I left, but of course you can see him anytime you like. As for whether or not he’ll be all right, my belief is that he’ll start to come out of it soon. If we don’t see an improvement over the next four to five hours, I recommend that we take him on into Chicago to have him examined more thoroughly than I can do here.” He stood up. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go call Brandon and let him know where I am and what’s going on. If Jamie’s initial shock wears off the way I think it will, I’d like to have Brandon talk to him directly and explain exactly what happened.”
Sadie nodded. “That sounds reasonable to me. I’ll let him rest until the sheriff gets here. Oh, did you need to use the phone in the kitchen?”
“No, ma’am. I have my cell with me.” Nate pulled it out of his pocket. “I’ll just take my bag back out to the car and place that call.” It wasn’t until after he left that Dillon realized he was alone. With Sadie.
The minute Nate was gone, she did her version of a verbal pounce. “While I appreciate you bringing Jamie home, Dillon, given the dubious nature of your recent relationship--namely the fact that you threw my nephew away like a piece of trash two years ago--I think perhaps it’s time for you to go.”
The metallic taste of raw panic rose into Dillon’s throat. He’d just re-established a slight connection with Jamie, tenuous at best, but enough to have him hoping. He couldn’t lose it now. Clearing his throat, he said, “Miss Banks, please don’t send me away. I promise not to cause Jamie any pain, but I . . . I need to be here.”
Sadie’s hawk’s eyes narrowed on Dillon’s face. “And why is that?”
Dillon’s voice was choked with emotion, but he kept his eyes locked with Sadie’s. “Because I’m gay, and I’m in love with him.”
Instead of the stunned silence he expected to come from his announcement, Sadie nodded and said, “Thought so.”
Dillon felt like he’d been whapped with a brick. “You knew?”
Sadie shrugged. “Just because I never married doesn’t mean I don’t know what love looks like, nor does it mean I couldn’t see the way you and Jamie smiled at each other when you thought I wasn’t looking. And it didn’t take an act of genius to realize why the two of you spent so much time up in Jamie’s room. Didn’t take me long to put together the reasons why you broke off all ties with him, either. You were afraid your parents would find out, weren’t you?”
“Yes, ma’am.” He got up and paced the length of the room. “I got scared and ruined everything.”
Sadie leaned back into the soft cushions of the sofa and smoothed her fingers over the skirt of her dress. “And what about now, Dillon? Aren’t you still scared? You and I both know your parents have been nothing if not vocal in their opposition of homosexuals.”
Dillon turned back to face her, his voice stronger this time. “I am scared. I won’t lie about it. I know that my folks will toss me out, and I also know that I’ll be basically on my own. I’m scared of their reaction, scared of the future, and scared of having to face it all. But I intend to tell them--and everyone else--all the same.”
“If you’re so frightened, then why come out at all?”
Dillon came back to sit beside her on the couch. “Because, as scared as I am of what’s gonna happen to me once I come out, I’m that much more terrified of living without James for another minute, much less the rest of my life.”
Sadie reached out and ruffled his hair the way she had when he and Jamie were kids. “You know you’re going to have your work cut out for you, don’t you?”
“Well, for what it’s worth, you have my support.”
The front door opened and Nate came back in before Dillon had a chance to tell her how much that meant to him. The look on Nate’s face was grim as he removed his coat.
“Brandon’s on his way here. I’ll let him explain everything.” He hung his coat on the hall tree and tucked his gloves into the pocket. “I’m not sure how much of what he has to say will help James, but we can always hope. I’m going to check him over one more time before Bran gets here.”
Sadie and Dillon both nodded. Dillon longed to go upstairs with Nate, but forced himself to wait, instead. He prayed that whatever the sheriff had to say would give Jamie some peace, but the gnawing in his gut told him otherwise.
Jamie fought his way through a fog of whispers and stirrings. He kept the truth about Ben at bay by pushing at it with a blank wall, a wall of carefully crafted ignorance. He could hear someone talking to him, but in the fuzzy blankness, it didn’t matter. Here, in this place, Ben was still alive because Jamie said it was so.
Gradually, though, the fuzzy comfort began to ebb. The reality of someone in his room, prodding at him, urging him back, proved to be too much. He didn’t want to go. He fought and struggled, but in the end, he was no match for the hypnotic pull of consciousness. He opened his eyes to see Nate Nash standing over him.
“How are you feeling, kid?”
Good question. He wished to God he knew how he was supposed to feel. Be nice if someone would just tell him how to feel and be done with it. Instead of saying all that out loud, his only response was a feeble shrug. He hoped his non-response would prompt the doctor to leave.
Nate more than matched him with persistence, though, and he showed no signs of giving up or going away. He sat down on the side of the bed. “Do you hurt anywhere, James? Any nausea or dizziness?”
Jamie’s reply was little more than a soft grumble. “No. I just wanna go back to sleep.”
Nate’s eyes were filled with sympathy. “I know you do, but I need you to stay with me for a few minutes. Can you do that?”
He didn’t want to. He wanted to yell, to tell the doctor with the kind words and soothing tones to get out, to leave him alone. But being raised by Sadie Banks marked a person with good manners for life. He heard his own voice betray him by saying yes.
Nate said, “Good. Brandon will be here in a few minutes, and I think he’ll want to talk to you.”
Jamie’s voice sounded small, fragile. “About Ben?”
Nate reached forward and smoothed Jamie’s hair away from his brow. “Yes, James. About Ben.”
Jamie backed away from the touch, as far as he could without unwrapping the layer of covers he had banded around him. Nate backed off, but didn’t move from his post on the edge of the bed. “I know you’re hurting, James, but you have people who care about you, who understand what you’re going through. Let us help.”
Jamie’s initial shock was slowly being replaced by anger. How dare this guy come into his room and start claiming he knew how Jamie felt? Manners be damned. Jamie sat up.