tagGay MaleThe Way You Say My Name Ch. 22

The Way You Say My Name Ch. 22

bywavyscribe©

Jamie placed one more box on top of the stack in the back of the U-haul and moved aside so Ash could close the door. “Is that everything?”

“Yep. That was the last box.” Jamie wiped the sweat out of his eyes, not that it did any good. The late August sun was relentless, especially at three o’clock in the afternoon. He couldn’t wait to get back inside the air-conditioned apartment. But first, thanks were in order. “I appreciate your coming over here and helping me load all this up, man. Dillon wanted me to wait until he got back, but I hate packing. I figure it’s better just to get it over with.” When Ash nodded his agreement, Jamie said, “I still can’t believe your dad is doing this. I can’t believe he bought and furnished a house near Garman just so the three of us wouldn’t have to live in the dorms.”

Ash grinned and shrugged back into the t-shirt he’d shed while they were loading the truck. “I can. You know my dad, Jamie. He’s still pissed that you wouldn’t keep that money Ben left you. You should have known he’d find a way to pay you back, somehow. He feels like he owes you for all you’ve done for me. Hell, I wouldn’t even be here if it weren’t for you.” His face fell. “Not to mention the way you helped me when Chad. . .well, you know.”

Jamie nodded. “How are you doing with that?”

Ash sighed. “I still can’t believe he’s gone, even though it’s been over three months. After everything he did, I think a part of me will always miss Chad.”

“Understandable. He was a part of your life. And watching a guy kill himself isn’t something you just get over.”

“I know. I’m glad that you and Dillon didn’t have my death to add to the shit you’ve already been through. Where did you say Dillon is, again?”

“Saying goodbye to Heath.”

Ash leaned against the back of the truck. “Heath’s not coming to the going-away-party your aunt’s throwing for you guys tonight?”

“Nope.”

“Not that I’m sorry to hear it, but why?”

“Said he didn’t want to be around a bunch of people right now. He’s taking Megan’s leaving town a whole lot harder than I thought he would.”

Ash curled his lip. “It’s his own damn fault. I feel the same way about Heath that I feel about Chad’s father.”

Jamie propped his foot on the bumper of the U-haul. “What do you mean?”

“You saw how Mr. Minton acted that night at the police station. A whole roof full of people heard Chad confess to killing Ben, and Mr. Minton still didn’t want to believe it. He practically accused us of pushing him.”

Jamie winced. “Don’t remind me. Talk about misery. The thing is, though, I felt sorry for the guy. He’d just lost his son. He must have loved Chad a lot to be so torn apart by his death.”

Ash shook his head. “That’s just it. Up until that night, he acted like he didn’t even know Chad was alive. Mr. Minton drank or gambled away every paycheck he ever got. If it hadn’t been for Chad’s grandma, the guy wouldn’t have even had clothes to wear. And Chad’s mom was just as bad, leaving him home alone every night while she was out screwing around on his dad.” Ash spat on the ground. “Heath’s exactly like they are. He treated Megan like some whore he picked up for the night, then acts like he’s dying with love for her now that she’s gone.”

“Yeah, well, some people don’t know when they’ve got it good. At least Megan sounds like she’s doing okay. She called us this morning to tell us she finished up her summer credits. She sounded better than she’s sounded in a long time.”

“Yeah. I talked to her for a little while last night. She’s still giving me lip about not walking with the rest of you on graduation night.”

Jamie’s skin itched just thinking about that stupid cap and gown. “You didn’t miss anything, believe me. Megan did miss you at graduation, though. She mentioned you not being there only about a hundred and fifty times. She’s really come to depend on you.”

“I’m just glad she had someone to lean on. With you guys, her family, and me, Megan was able to pull it all together.” Ash drew a deep breath. “Someone should have done something like that to help Chad. I should have done something. If I had, maybe--”

Jamie didn’t let him finish. “Don’t even say that. You had no way of knowing that the guy was obsessed with you. He killed Ben because he wanted him out of the way. You couldn’t have known Chad was that close to the edge. Ben sure as hell didn’t, or he wouldn’t have taunted him that night.”

Ash shoved his hands in his pockets. “I know. Here I am bellyaching, when you’ve been through just as much as I have. How are you taking this?”

“I can accept it. Morgan’s gonna do life for offing Carpenter, and with Mitch’s testimony, a good chunk of Carpenter’s clients are gonna get what they deserve. As for Ben’s killer,” Jamie shrugged. “Seeing Chad take a twelve story leap still gives me nightmares, but I’m dealing with it. You still in therapy with Dr. Carson?”

“Yep. He upped my sessions to twice a week just in case all this turned out to be more than I could take, and he’s recommended a good therapist not far from Garman.” Ash pulled his keys out of his pocket. “Speaking of Garman, I’d better get this truck back to my dad. One the guys who works for him is gonna drive it up there for us tonight. You and Dillon gonna head up in the morning?”

“Yep. We’re gonna crash with Aunt Sadie tonight and then head out at dawn. You?”

“We’re heading for New York tonight, after the party. Dad and I are driving up together, then he’s gonna ride back home in the U-haul with the guy who’s driving the truck.” Ash started towards the cab of the truck, then stopped. “Hey, I just thought of something. How are you guys gonna get both cars up to Garman? Is someone gonna drive the Firebird up there for you? Cause I’m sure my dad would be glad to, if you asked him.”

“Not a problem, dude. The Firebird is staying here.”

Ash narrowed his eyes. “Don’t think that by leaving the car here you’re gonna get out of learning how to drive. Dillon and I have both told you that we’re gonna teach your ass to drive once school starts, whether you like it or not.”

Jamie smiled. “Believe me, that’s a fate I’ve resigned myself to. When I said the car was staying here, what I meant was, it isn’t mine anymore. I sold it.”

Ash whistled. “I’d have bet good money that you’d never get rid of that car. What made you change your mind? Price too good to turn down?”

“Something like that.” Jamie didn’t bother to tell Ash that he’d sold the car for a whopping one dollar and fifty cents.

“Cool. Who bought it? Whoever it is got one heck of a sweet ride.”

“Actually, I sold it to Mitch. Now that Morgan’s sentencing is over and the investigation is coming to a close, he’s out of protective custody. He’s gonna need wheels for his new job.” Jamie glanced up for just a second at the cloudless blue sky. “I think Ben would have wanted it that way.”

“You’re probably right. Where’s Mitch gonna be working, anyway? Chicago?”

“Nope. He’s working for the guy who bought Nora’s house. Blake, I think the guy’s name is.”

“Over at the new domestic violence shelter? Damn. I guess he and Ben knew all about that. Violence, I mean.” Ash turned away, but not before Jamie saw the sadness and pain shadowing his eyes. Jamie started to say something, but thought better of it. Some wounds couldn’t be healed with words. Ash took a second to compose himself, then said, “Okay, enough of this. Things to see, people to do, that sort of thing.” He punched Jamie on the shoulder. “See you at the party, roomy.”

“You know it.” Jamie watched as Ash got into the truck and pulled out of the driveway. As nice as it was of Aunt Sadie to throw them this party, Jamie had another party in mind. A private party. All he had to do now was wait for Dillon to come back, and then it would be time. This particular celebration had been delayed long enough.

#

Heath grabbed two sodas out of the fridge, taking one for himself and tossing the other one to Dillon, Slumping down on the couch, he said, “So, you’re a college man now, huh? How does it feel?”

Dillon stretched his legs out in front of himself and leaned back in his chair, kicking a pile of clothes out of the way in the process. Heath’s apartment had reverted back to the pigsty it once was, but Dillon was too excited about leaving for Garman to worry about it. “It feels damn good, even though I won’t officially be a ‘college man’ until I take my first class.”

Heath cracked open his drink and took a sip. “You’re in at Garman, and that’s what counts. You made it, kid. Oh, that reminds me,” he placed his can on the coffee table and reached into his pocket, “I have something for you.” Heath pulled out an envelope and passed it across the table to Dillon. “I should have given you that the night you graduated, but, well . . . you know.”

Dillon knew exactly what had happened graduation night. Heath had been so afraid of ruining it for Megan, he’d stayed away. Dillon didn’t say anything, though. Heath was hurting bad enough without having it rubbed in his face. Instead, Dillon reached for the envelope. “What’s this?”

“Open it and see. Call it a late graduation present.”

Dillon slid his finger under the flap and broke the seal, recognizing the watermark of a cashier’s check sitting inside. Dillon pulled the check free and nearly dropped it when he saw the amount. “Eighty-thousand-dollars? Jesus Christ, Heath, where did you get this kinda money?”

Heath shrugged. “I always knew I wanted to be a firefighter, but Mom and Dad thought it was beneath me. Dad wanted me to follow in his footsteps, the next big time lawyer from the Carver clan. The old man set up a college fund for me, same as he did for you. And just like you, the thing was in my name, so I got to keep it when I moved out. I never used it, and I figure it’s only fair for you to have it.”

Dillon didn’t know what to say. He tried to give it back. “I can’t take this, Heath. You could use this money for anything. Hell, you could buy yourself a house.”

Heath’s eyes darkened. “I don’t need anything, Dillon. Not that money can buy, anyway. As for a house, there’s only one person I want to set up housekeeping with, and she’s out of my reach.”

“You don’t know that. Megan could still come around.” Dillon knew it was a long-shot, but he had to say something.

“You know better than that, kid. Megan told me the last time I saw her that she doesn’t love me, not anymore.” Heath laughed, a sound devoid of humor. “Isn’t that the definition of irony? Just when I realize I’m so in love with the woman I could die for her without blinking, I kill whatever love she felt for me in the first place.” Before Dillon could form a response, Heath shifted the subject. “Anyway, like I was saying, I want you to have that money. You’ll have enough to deal with when school starts without having to work extra hours just to make ends meet. Besides,” Heath smiled the first true smile he’d given Dillon all afternoon, “I think it’s the perfect revenge on our esteemed parents. Can you imagine how hard it’s gonna be for them knowing that you’re spending their money not only your from your own account but mine, too? I can just see it now. Dad will be sitting in his study, thinking about you and Jamie enjoying a night of sin-filled debauchery on his dime. Priceless, I tell you.”

Dillon laughed. “Who’s gonna tell them, you?”

“I already told them, my friend. Pissed isn’t the word to describe their reaction.”

Dillon stiffened. “You saw them? When?”

“Settle down, Dillon. Open up that Coke you’re holding in your lap, take a drink, and relax.” Heath picked his own drink back up and took another sip. “Mom and Dad came to see me at the fire station last night. Claimed they wanted to know how you were doing.”

“What did you tell them?”

“The truth, that they lost the right to ask about you the minute they threw you out of the house. When Dad tried to argue that leaving was your choice, I asked him if nearly being tortured by a mad scientist in psychologist’s clothing had been your choice, too.”

Dillon whistled. “Bet he liked that.”

Heath laughed. “I thought the old man was gonna have a stroke. Mom tried to cover, saying they had no idea what Henderson had in mind for you.”

Dillon’s outraged protests sent soda spewing halfway across the room. Wiping Coke from his chin, he said, “What a crock. The only reason our parents weren’t prosecuted as accomplices is because of that deal Alicia struck with Dad to drop the charges against Jamie and testify against Henderson.” Dillon sighed. “Thank God Henderson had sense enough to plead out. He’s gonna shave a couple of years off his sentence, but at least Jamie and I won’t have to come back to testify.”

“I know. I told them as much, about the deal Dad made and all, but you know how they are. Mom had some bogus explanation, and Dad just ignored me. I finally told them that I was busy just so they’d leave.”

Dillon nodded. “I don’t blame you.” He glanced down at his watch. “Shit. I gotta go, Heath. I told Jamie I’d be back like half an hour ago.” He stood up, and so did Heath. Dillon clutched the cashier’s check to his chest. “I still don’t know how to thank you for this Heath. I’m at a loss.”

“Like I told you, you don’t have to thank me. Just . . .” He paused. “Just make sure you tell Jamie everyday how much you love him. Don’t fuck up your chance at happiness the way I did, okay?”

“I won’t.” Dillon grabbed his brother and pulled him into a tight hug. Heath was stiff at first, but before long he was returning the hug tenfold. Dillon said, “I love you Heath.”

Dillon heard a suspicious sniff. “Yeah, yeah.” Heath pulled back. “Now, get out of here before Jamie thinks you’ve stood him up.”

“He knows that will never happen.” Dillon slapped Heath on the back on last time. He started for the door, but Heath’s voice stopped him. “Dillon?”

Dillon turned. “Yeah?”

Heath shuffled his feet. “It’s not easy for me to say the words, you know? Mom and Dad have told us all our lives how much they love us, and look how that turned out. And I love Megan, but look what I did to her.” He looked Dillon in the eye. “Even so, you know I love you, too, right?”

Dillon nodded. His brother’s love was one thing he’d never doubted.

#

Jamie smiled when he heard Dillon’s car pulling into the driveway. Meeting him at the door, he said, “I was starting to think you’d run off to New York without me.”

Dillon wrapped him tight in his arms and spun him around. “Never happen.” Dillon put him down and looked around the apartment, noticing the boxes were all gone. “I told you I’d be back to help you and Ash load the truck.”

“Ash came early, so we decided to get it over with. It didn’t take long with the both of us working.”

“Still, I wanted to help.”

“I know you did, but it was no big deal.” Jamie kissed his nose. “How was Heath?”

“Missing Megan like crazy, and trying not to show it. He hasn’t been the same since she left town, but he doesn’t talk about her much, other than to say he fucked up, which we already knew.” Dillon remembered the check. “You won’t believe what he gave me as a belated graduation gift.”

Jamie listened as Dillon told him the story and then showed him the check. All he could think of to say was, “Damn.”

Dillon grinned. “That was my reaction, too.” Dillon took another look at the apartment. “Are you sure there isn’t anything I can do?”

“Well, there is one thing. Come with me into the bedroom.”

“What’s the matter, baby? Didn’t you get enough of me this morning?”

Jamie gave his arm a solid whack. “Since when do we have to go to the bedroom for that? As I remember, we’ve managed quite nicely in the living room, the kitchen . . .”

“The garage, the car.” Dillon laughed. “I get the point. Well, if you’re not gonna let me have my wicked way with you, what’s in the bedroom?”

Jamie grew serious. “Ben’s ashes.”

Dillon caught on. “Does that mean what I think it means?”

Jamie nodded. “Ben’s instructions were to wait until I was ready, then scatter his ashes.”

Dillon ran his fingers through Jamie’s hair. “As I remember it, Ben wanted you to wait until you were completely happy and then scatter his ashes.” Dillon used one finger to lift Jamie’s chin so that they were eye to eye. “Are you happy, Jamie? Completely, I mean?”

Jamie leaned into his touch. “Do you doubt it?”

“No, but you’ve been through so much. If you want to wait a while, until you’re sure you’re ready to say goodbye, I think even Ben would understand.”

“I’ve already said goodbye, in my heart, anyway. All that’s left now is to say goodbye in the physical sense.”

“Do you have any idea where you want to go?”

“Actually, I do.”

#

To say that Cain Lucas, owner of Reed’s largest junkyard/garage--and the place where Ben had bought most of the parts for his car--was surprised by Jamie’s request was putting it mildly. The three of them stood inside Cain’s immaculate shop. Cain pinned his dark eyes on Dillon, looking to him for help.

Dillon said, “Don’t look at me. This is Jamie’s show. I’m just along for the ride.”

Cain turned back to Jamie. Jamie knew Cain from the times he’d come out here with Ben, looking for parts. Jamie was a little in awe of the big man. With his long black hair and his bronze skin, Cain looked more like a Cherokee warrior than a garage owner. He was a study in beauty.

Jamie waited a tense minute while Cain made his decision. Jamie was afraid Cain would deny his request, but finally, he said, “Ben Lewis was a good customer of mine. I always try to put my customers first,” he glanced down at the urn, “no matter what the circumstances.” Cain wiped his grease-stained hands on a rag he’d pulled from the pocket of his coveralls, then pointed one long finger towards the rear of the junkyard. “The Firebirds and Camaros are in the back. Take your time.”

Jamie almost sighed with relief. “Thanks, Mr. Lucas. I appreciate it.”

Cain smiled, softening the lines of his face. “You can thank me by calling me Cain.”

Jamie thanked him again and walked outside. Dillon followed, but stopped just outside the door. “You want me to go with you?”

Jamie shook his head. “This is something I have to do by myself, I think.”

Dillon kissed him on the lips. “I’ll be waiting for you here then.”

Jamie made his way through the junkyard, dodging wrecked cars and homeless engines. It took him about ten minutes to make it to the back. He stopped in front of a car that looked to be the same make and model as Ben’s and sat on the slightly crooked hood. Holding the urn in his lap, he began to speak.

“I don’t know if you can hear me or not, Ben, but I kinda think you can. Maybe that’s just wishful thinking on my part, but I don’t believe it is. Anyway, I’m here to fulfill your last wish.” Jamie took a deep breath. “You asked me to release your ashes when I was completely happy. I’m not sure if it’s possible to be totally happy, not forever after, anyway, but I can honestly say that there’s nothing more in my life that I want or need.” He paused. “Okay, so that’s not true. If I could just have you back here with me, then I’d want for nothing. But that isn’t possible. You’re gone, and I’m still here.”

Jamie stopped long enough to watch a barn swallow dip and dive over the wreckage of an old Ford a few cars away. Looking back down at the urn, he said, “I’m sure you already know this, but Chad is dead. He paid for what he did to you, just like Burke Carpenter paid. Like Morgan paid.” Jamie sighed. “I don’t know if that will give you peace, but I hope so. I hope you find in death what you never had in life.”

Jamie took the lid off the urn. “By your own count, there were two things in this world you loved: me, and your car. I never could understand why you chose me out of all the guys you could have had, and I’m sorry I couldn’t give you what you wanted in return. The best I can do is honor your memory. I wracked my brain to come up with the best way to do that, and all I could come up with was living my life to the fullest, enjoying each day in ways you’re no longer able to do.” Jamie grinned, “That, and I can give you a decent burial, so to speak.” He slid off the hood of the car, clutching the urn close to his body. “Knowing how much you loved that car of yours, I can’t think of a better place for you to spend eternity. Well, your ashes, anyway.” Jamie took a handful of ashes, scattering them in the slight breeze. He repeated the action until the urn was empty, then placed the container on the ground. “Goodbye, Ben. God knows I’ll never forget you.”

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