Silas' eyes flashed open and he surveyed the room. Waking up on the couch in Ian's living room was going to take some getting used to, even if he had already had three weeks to adjust. He hadn't spent a lot of time in the place, preferring to remain aloof despite Ian's attempts to reconcile their differences. After the initial emotional moment at the diner had passed, Silas had returned to his old feelings, and wasn't looking forward to connecting with anyone.
There was just too much pain to fight through, and not enough evidence to convince him that fighting through that pain was worth it. At least not yet. Silas had stayed, and Ian appeared to be satisfied with that for the moment, giving him the space that he asked for and allowing him the ability to live his life the way that he wanted to. Amy hadn't been as keen as Ian on that subject, but she had yet to step in Silas' way. She had only gone so far as to continue to invite him to have breakfast with them whenever they crossed paths.
But Silas had different plans. He made sure to rise early enough that he beat Amy and Ian out of the house, taking Adelaide for a walk every morning before the sun had even risen. By the time he returned to the house they were both gone to the restaurant for the day, and he had the place to himself. Ian had given him their spare key as soon as he agreed to stay, and Silas treated their home with respect, making sure to avoid touching things he had not previously been granted permission to touch, and avoiding rooms that he knew might be seen as an invasion of privacy, such as their bedroom and Amy's office.
They had told him that he was allowed to eat anything he found in the fridge or the cupboards, provided that he cleaned up after himself, and though he took advantage of that level of generosity he made sure to restrain his appetite to make as little impact as possible. One of the other ways in which they had shown their generosity, however, had made him uncomfortable.
By the end of the first week of sleeping on the couch he had woken up to find a package of boxers waiting for him. He had resisted Ian's first attempt to get him to go shopping for new clothes, and Ian had said nothing about it since then, leading him to believe that it was Amy who had presented him with the gift. He was washing his clothes regularly now, while his hosts were gone, and he hadn't seen any need to acquire additional clothing. Two hours was all he needed in order to get a load of laundry, and though he was happy to have the clean feeling afterward he was more than happy to spend those hours naked. It was refreshing enough to have the house to himself.
But gifts were a different matter. No amount of time spent with Ian and Amy would convince him that he needed their help. He had survived without them or anyone for nearly two years, and he would continue to do so if he ended up leaving. For them to offer him clothing was a sign to him that they didn't trust his ability to survive, and he had a hard time avoiding feeling offended by the gesture.
He had almost left town that day, but he had visited with Adam that night, and Adam had talked him into staying. Adam had done his best to convince Silas that he doubted the gifts were meant to indicate that they had any doubt of his ability, but Silas had only been able to distance himself from the thought and not remove it entirely. In the end he had decided to leave the package of boxers on the coffee table, untouched. He didn't even have to look at the table anymore to know that they would still be there in the morning.
Most mornings he would walk Adelaide to Jenny's house, which was a block away. Jenny was nice and left him alone for the most part, giving him the opportunity to speak to Chelsea over breakfast. Chelsea was withdrawn and quiet most of the time, though Silas was able to get her to speak after spending a few minutes with her. She had come clean about a number of things over the first few days, though most of the details he had already learned from others.
Her full name was Chelsea Simms, and she was the daughter of Pastor Simms, the same homophobic bigot who occupied the pulpit at her church every Sunday. Tara hadn't just been her best friend, but they had been banned from seeing each other for years, ever since Tara left the church. They had been meeting in secret for months before Silas met her, and Tara had been the one to press their relationship at the coffee shop, though Chelsea hadn't pulled away.
Officer Higgins had attempted to intervene on Pastor Simms' behalf, but she had been reprimanded instead as the police department began an investigation into the Pastor's activities and what happened between him and his daughter. Although the Pastor had been arrested, he had been released on bail pending a full investigation. Mrs. Simms had supported Chelsea's story, much to Chelsea's surprise, but had then told the police that she would stand by her husband's side as he was investigated. It was a perplexing situation for Silas, but it had been decided by CPS that it would be best for Chelsea to remain in foster care until the investigation was completed, rather than Pastor Simms and Chelsea share the same space.
Tara had been more informative than Chelsea, and had told Silas a lot of their history. Silas spent the afternoons with both girls while they worked on homework, unless Chelsea had a doctor's appointment or was otherwise occupied. Tara was talkative and animated as she spoke of her favorite bands, sharing her love of music with Silas, but while Silas responded easily his attention was on the subdued Chelsea who only seemed to listen and never seemed to participate.
He wasn't sure what to do for Chelsea, but he was determined to find something. He didn't like the look he saw in her eyes; the depression and the guilt. She blamed herself for what had happened with her father, although Silas couldn't understand why. There was no way that she could be held responsible for being who she was, but Silas didn't know how to tell her that. He wasn't sure she'd listen even if he did find a way.
Saturday brought the situation to the forefront of his mind. He wasn't going to beat around the bush anymore, and he was going to confront Chelsea on the issue directly. He and Tara had made plans in secret to work on Chelsea as soon as she returned from her doctor's appointment that she'd be going to first thing in the morning. Silas wasn't going to visit her for breakfast with his intention to spend the rest of the day with her, and he took the time to go jogging with Adelaide while he finalized his thoughts on how to approach Chelsea on her depression.
Adelaide was glad to have the exercise, but Silas was tired by the time he stopped running and staggered back to Ian's house. He hadn't gone on a run specifically to work out in a long time, and he cursed the fact that he was getting out of shape. There had been a time in his life when he had been able to run with the best of them, but that was long gone now, buried beneath his nearly two years of malnutrition and poor sleep.
Silas approached the door and placed his key in the lock but found that the doorknob turned easily instead. Someone was still home. He sighed and looked back to the street and wondered if he should stay away until they left, but his stomach growled and the decision was made for him. He was back to being used to eating regularly, and he knew that both he and Adelaide needed water after their run. With grim determination to not give any ground if confronted by Ian or Amy, he opened the door and stepped inside.
The screech of a tea kettle and the sound of dishes clattering together signaled that someone was in the kitchen, and he was forced to reconsider his position again. He still had an uneaten protein bar and a bottle of water in his backpack that he could use to avoid whoever was home, but as he was considering the option Amy poked her head around the open doorway to the kitchen and said, "Oh, you're back. I was just about to sit down for tea. Would you like a cup?"
Adelaide pulled at the leash in his hand and he instinctively let it go. No matter the law in the town, he would never get used to leading Adelaide on a leash. She trotted toward the kitchen where a water dish was waiting for her and he sighed as he met Amy's eyes and nodded.
"It's going to be hot, but you look like you just took a run. I'll get you some cool water first while your tea cools," Amy said with a pleasant smile.
"Thanks," Silas replied as he followed Adelaide into the kitchen. She was thirstily lapping up the water in her bowl, and eyeing the full food dish next to it every so often. Silas slipped into one of the chairs at the table that sat in the center of the small dining room attached to the kitchen as Amy set a glass of cool tap water in front of him before returning her focus to the tea.
"How was the exercise?" Amy asked, keeping her back to Silas. He considered not answering, but then she turned and looked at him expectantly.
"It was all right. Adelaide enjoyed herself, but I haven't had a good run in a while and I'm worn out," Silas replied. "I've gotten plenty of exercise in, with walking and hiking, but there hasn't been enough time for exercise just to exercise."
Amy nodded and was about to respond when the toaster popped up and she retrieved the two pieces of bread and slid them onto a plate. She then retrieved a jar of peanut butter from the cupboard and coated both pieces of toast before adding honey to one of them. After closing the sandwich she set it on the table in front of Silas and winked at him. "I know you normally eat breakfast with Chelsea, but my mother called and said you didn't make it over this morning. I had two pieces of bread left and figured that I could make you a sandwich before you decided that you only needed a banana for breakfast like last Saturday."
"Um, thanks," Silas said, as he looked at the sandwich. "You didn't have to do that."
"I know," Amy replied, "Believe me, I know you can take care of yourself, but I like to feed people. It's one of the reasons I supported Ian buying the restaurant."
Silas nodded and picked up the sandwich, eating it hungrily despite his misgivings about accepting gifts. He completely ignored Amy as she prepared two cups of tea and set one in front of him before sitting across from him and taking a sip of her own tea. He finished the sandwich quickly and when he finished he wiped his mouth on a napkin he hadn't even realized was next to him.
"Have you thought about what you're going to do next, Silas?" Amy asked, and he looked up at her and blinked several times. Her face was expressionless, and he had nothing to go off of to indicate if she expected a specific answer or not.
"Not really," Silas replied with a shrug. "I'm not really used to making decisions until I'm faced with them, and then I just kind of run by instinct, you know?"
"I suppose that makes sense," Amy replied with a soft smile. "You know, we really want you to stay."
"So I've been told," Silas replied neutrally. "I'm not sure why you're bringing it up again, though."
"Because regardless of what Ian says, I think you need to talk about it, and you can't hide from it anymore," Amy replied, reaching out for his shoulder. Silas pulled back instinctively, and she retracted her hand. "I think it would be good for you to have some stability for once. There is a lot of good that will come out of it for you."
"I've been doing quite all right on my own for the last little while," Silas replied with a smirk, "Why would stability change that? I've survived, I've fed myself and clothed myself. I've made ends meet."
"There's more to life than that, Silas," Amy said sadly. "I mean, what do you want to do with the rest of your life? Don't you have any interest in becoming something? Maybe going to college and getting a degree?"
"They don't just let anyone go to college," Silas said with a shake of his head. "Especially not someone who missed out on half of high school. I'm not exactly on track to graduate."
"Have you heard of a GED?" Amy asked. Silas hesitated as he realized he had been baited. The look in Amy's eyes said it all. She had been trying to get him to talk about his future, and specifically about continuing his education. It was a good intention, though he wasn't sure he appreciated someone trying to tell him that they knew better than he did about how to run his own life.
"Are you trying to imply that I have to get an education in order to have a life?" Silas asked, unable to keep the edge from his voice. "Are you saying that all of the work I've done over the past two years of taking care of myself isn't good enough? I'm happy, all right? I've done plenty, I've seen things few people my age have ever seen, and I did it all through my own hard work."
"I'm not belittling any of that, Silas," Amy said, smiling encouragingly. "I'm just trying to help you consider your options. If you want to continue the life that you've been living, that's your choice, and both Ian and I would support you, but . . ." She trailed off as she met his eyes, seeing his agitation increasing.
Silas sighed and calmed himself before asking patiently, "But what?"
"You're a very smart person, Silas," Amy went on as she stood and walked to the stove. She poured herself another cup of tea before raising the kettle as she turned around to face him, asking him with her eyebrows if he would like another cup himself. He shook his head and she set the kettle down before she retook her seat and sipped from her cup. As the cup clattered back against the saucer in her hand she continued, "I think that you have a great deal of untapped potential, that if you took the time to explore it you'd find that your possibilities are nearly limitless. The first time I laid eyes on you was the night you brought Chelsea to us. Do you know what I saw then?"
Silas began listening with rapt attention. He shook his head numbly and gestured for her to continue before absent-mindedly reaching for the teacup in front of him. He didn't lift it, but held his hand against it, feeling the warmth that was suddenly paired with the gentleness that he saw in Amy's eyes as she lifted them back to meet his.
"I saw a boy who had risked everything to save a girl's life. He had risked coming back to the brother he had run from; risked facing his past, and people he thought had abandoned him. That boy, who kept one hand on the door as he waited to make sure that everything was going to be okay for Chelsea," Amy's eyes were moist as she paused to take another sip of tea, and when she attempted to continue she suppressed a sob before she could speak. "You are quite the remarkable young man, Silas. You're loyal to those close to you, you're smart about how to survive and who to trust, and you're willing to go to great lengths to see to it that the people you care about are taken care of when they need you. That's rare to find in anyone, but especially a teenager."
"Why are you telling me all of this?" Silas asked, "I'm not any of those things that you describe. I'm just a kid trying to survive, and hoping I don't get burned along the way. The world sucks. It sucks a lot more than it should."
"That's exactly the point, Silas," Amy replied meekly. "I think that we, as humans, need to stick together. I think that we need to help each other and to love each other. I think that the only way we can make the world suck a little less is by learning to do that. Sometimes, all that takes is a little trust."
Silas shook his head in wonder and looked down at Adelaide, who was watching him with eyes that seemed to be filled with concern, though it was sometimes difficult to tell her moods. He returned to look at the teacup in front of him that still held his untouched tea. He picked it up and looked at the brown liquid, and then smelled its vapors, feeling the warmth of the cup in his hands. As he put the cup to his lips and sipped the warm liquid, he tasted the refreshing earthiness of the Earl Grey. As the tea slid down his throat it began to warm him instantly, and he looked back at Amy who was smiling at him.
"How's the tea?" She asked when he set the cup back down on the table.
"Better now that I've had some of it," Silas said with a grin. "So, how'd you know that I preferred boxers?"
Amy chuckled and set her tea down on the table before opening her arms wide. "It's a trick I know about men. I've dated enough in my life to be able to tell what kind of underwear they wear before they even ask me out."
Silas winked at her and said, "Nice try, but I know that look in your eyes all too well. You just guessed didn't you?"
"Guilty as charged!" Amy said with a laugh. "I hope you don't mind the present. You've got to be getting sick of wearing the same pair every day."
"Honestly, I forgot that it was even a weird thing to do. I change out my clothing as they wear out. That's how I've had to live for the last little while," Silas replied with a shrug. "Neither money for buying new things nor space to store them are easy to come by when you're homeless."
"That's not something you have to worry about anymore if you don't want to," Amy said. "That's what I've been trying to tell you. You can stay as long as you want. Forever even. Ian doesn't want you to go."
"I'll think about it," Silas said with a shrug, and when Amy sighed he quickly added, "Don't think that I'm not incredibly grateful for the offer, Amy. Take this to heart, I'm here for now, and I don't take my backpack when I leave. I might just stay yet, especially if the tea remains as pleasant as this."
"And what about the company?" Amy asked with a twinkle in her eye. "Is that pleasant enough for you?"
"More than enough," Silas replied with a grin. "I could get used to this. I'm just not sure I'm ready for it yet."
"Well when you are, just let me know. And Silas . . ." Amy paused and met his eyes again. "We really would like to take care of you a little more. You're family, okay? I know that word doesn't sit well with you anymore, but Armistead Maupin once described two kinds of families, biological and logical. The logical ones are the ones that support you and love you unconditionally. I support you in whatever you decide, Silas, and so does Ian. I really hope you'll think about it."
"I will," Silas replied with a nod. "And Amy?"
"Thanks for the talk," Silas said, grinning. "I'm going to go check on Chelsea now. Since it's a Saturday, she won't be going to school, and Tara and I already had plans to surprise her."
"Tell her hello for me, will you?" Amy said with a pleasant smile. "I haven't seen her in a few days, but of course my mother has been telling me how she's been progressing. She said that Chelsea has been kind of sad and in general unresponsive. Has it been the same for you?"
"Yeah," Silas replied, "I mean, she talks, but there's always a distance between us, you know? Like she's afraid to face what's happening to her."
"Well, if there's anyone that could help her, it's . . ."
Silas interrupted Amy by saying, "Me?"
"No, actually I was going to say 'my mother', but yeah, you're pretty good for that too, now that I think about it," Amy said with a grin. "My mother went through hell with my father. He was an abusive drunk who landed himself in prison once he got loud enough that the neighbors were sick of hearing him beat on my mother. She had Stockholm syndrome for a while, but she's doing much better now. Church helped her a lot."
"If you say so," Silas muttered, "I've never put much faith in church helping anyone. And look what it did to Chelsea!"
"Not all church-going folk are like Pastor Simms," Amy replied with a level look, "After that tragic suicide at the church, and what Pastor Simms said about that boy . . ." She shuddered and looked away from Silas briefly. "My mother couldn't keep going there. Now Pastor Simms has taken over the congregation and apparently his abuse of the pulpit wasn't enough for him. Now he has to abuse his own daughter! How shameful!"
"There was a suicide at the church?" Silas asked as he rose to leave.
"Yeah, Daniel Winters," Amy said with another shudder, "Pastor Gregory was the one that found him hanging from the rafters in the toolshed. He left a note saying that he was 'gay and he was ashamed before god' or some other nonsense like that. It's terrible what some people do to kids to convince them to do things like that to themselves. It's one of the most tragic things I can imagine. Pastor Simms was a junior pastor then, and he's the one who delivered the 'eulogy'. It wasn't pretty. He may have started off with comfort to the family but he immediately switched to fire and brimstone about how Daniel was better off dead than living in sin. Mom and I left the church after that, but my mother attends the First Presbyterian Church now, and they welcome the LGBT community with open arms, though there aren't many who are out in this town, and fewer who are Christian."
"Wow, that's awful," Silas whispered, "At least I never had things that bad."
"Some people aren't as lucky, I guess," Amy said with a forced smile, "Or perhaps you just found a different way to escape."
"Maybe," Silas said with a nod. "I've got to go."
"I really hope you'll join us for dinner at the diner," Amy said as Silas paused in the doorway. "You should bring Chelsea and Tara too. We'd love to see them both."
Author's Note: Please let me know what you think of the story by emailing me at Samuel.D.Roe@gmail.com or if you're so inclined feel free to like my page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Samuel.D.Roe.Cynus. Or if you really like my work this is the part where I shamefully ask you to visit my Patreon page: https://www.patreon.com/cynus. I'd love to hear from you wherever and whoever you may be.