Chelsea was leaning against the window when Jenny let him inside, staring out at the street in front of the house. Tara was sitting in the large cushioned chair in the room and watched Chelsea with eyes full of concern. Silas smiled at Tara and nodded before entering and sitting down next to Chelsea.
"How are you doing today, Chelsea?" Silas asked. Chelsea didn't turn toward him, but her nose crinkled as she sniffed.
"I've been getting used to you showering," Chelsea said as she turned toward him. "Did you not have a chance today?"
"No," Silas said as he lifted his arm and sniffed underneath, "God, you're right. I'm sorry. Amy surprised me with breakfast and tea when I got back from my run and I totally forgot. It's good to see you being so talkative. Has Tara already warmed you up?"
Tara shook her head and said, "Actually, she refused to talk to me today. Jenny said that the doctor told her the cast has to stay on for another five weeks. I assumed that's it."
"Is that it, Chelsea?" Silas asked.
Chelsea shook her head and returned her attention to the window. A car drove by but she didn't follow it with her eyes. There was something distracting her, and Silas didn't like the level of hurt and pain in her eyes that she seemed to be lost in.
"Chelsea, I think we need to talk," Silas began, and Chelsea looked away, staring at the piano that dominated one wall of the room. It was dusted and well-maintained, but the way the bench sunk down into the carpet gave the indication that it hadn't been played in a long time. Chelsea looked at her hands and then looked forlornly at the instrument.
"Jenny says I can play it once I get my cast off," Chelsea said quietly. "I don't know that I want to. I always used to play in church, and I think it would hurt too much."
"What do you mean? You can always play something different," Tara suggested as she moved to Chelsea's other side and rested a hand on her shoulder. "I can get you some piano music that isn't hymns, you know. Something a little more . . ."
"Don't touch me!" Chelsea said as she shifted her shoulder and threw Tara's hand off of her. "It's your fault! All of this is your fault!"
"Chels . . ." Tara began, but Silas cut her off with an upraised hand.
"Tara, I know that we decided we were going to talk to her together today, but I think it would be best if I took the lead on this one," Silas said with a weak smile. "I promise that I'll talk to you soon, okay?"
Tara stared at Silas open-mouthed until she glanced down at Chelsea and said weakly, "I love you, Chels. Please know that. I just want you to get better."
"Whatever. You don't love me," Chelsea spat. "If you loved me then you would have never kissed me. Now I'm damned to hell! Damned!"
"Chels!" Tara said, but Silas cut her off again by stepping between them.
"Tara, get your coat and take a walk, okay?" Silas said forcefully. Tara nodded and walked slowly back to her chair, sliding into her jacket and then starting toward the door, walking past a concerned Jenny who was watching from the hallway.
"Bye, Drake. I'll see you soon, okay?" Tara said as she rested her hand on the doorknob.
Before she opened the door Chelsea spoke up from behind Silas. "I hate you for what you did to me, Tara. Don't come back."
Tara's back straightened and she looked as if she were about to respond but Silas shook her head and she turned the doorknob, opened the door, and stepped out without another word. The look in Tara's eyes and the tears that had just started to fall down her face were enough to tell Silas everything he needed to know. Tara wanted to fight for Chelsea, and she wasn't going to stay away just because Chelsea was being unreasonable. All Silas had to do was convince Chelsea that it was in her best interest to let Tara back in.
"Chelsea, Tara's gone, and we need to talk," Silas said as he turned back toward her. "I know that you're feeling a lot of pain right now . . ."
"What do you know, Drake?" Chelsea spat, "Have you ever had a good friend betray you?"
"Yes, actually. The first boy I ever came out to went straight to my scout leaders," Silas said with a smirk. "But I don't think that's really why you're angry. And I think deep down you know that's not it."
"Of course it is!" Chelsea replied, crossing her arms over her chest. "She kissed me at the coffee shop. She's the one that drew Officer Higgins' attention to us. She's the reason my father broke my arm. Seems to be pretty clear to me."
"Has she ever kissed you before?" Silas asked, refusing to be baited into an emotional battle. He kept his voice neutral and his face expressionless.
"Well, yes, but . . ." Chelsea began, but Silas was already speaking again.
"Did you ever kiss her back?"
Chelsea was silent as her mouth hung open, staring back at Silas. She shut it slowly and looked away again. "Yes," she mumbled, "But that's just it. She's the one who convinced me that it was okay. But it's not okay! Look what happened to me!"
"Chelsea, Tara didn't break your arm, your dad did," Silas said firmly. "Tara's trying to help you. We all are."
"Then why is she making wisecracks and talking to you about all of her favorite music when I'm going through all of this?" Chelsea asked defensively.
"Two reasons; one, because she's trying to get to know me. We're becoming friends, and considering you introduced us I'd think you'd find that appealing. Two, she's trying to put you at ease and take your mind off of things," Silas replied smoothly. "I certainly don't think she meant anything other than trying to make you happy."
"But . . ."
"But nothing, Chelsea. You're just trying to put the blame on her because you think it's easier than feeling guilty about it yourself," Silas said softly. Chelsea opened her mouth as if she were going to respond again but then quickly shut it. "The thing you have to come to terms with is the fact that it isn't your fault either. This is entirely your father's fault, and he's the only one who needs to be held accountable."
"But I'm a sinner," Chelsea muttered, "I can never go to heaven now. Because Tara kiss . . . because I kissed Tara."
"Who says? Your father?" Silas asked as he sat down next to her again. Chelsea looked down into her lap and avoided his eyes. "The pastor who broke your arm and let you run off into a blizzard with nothing to keep you warm against the cold? He doesn't deserve your attendance."
"The bible says . . ." Chelsea started again, but she sighed and stifled whatever she had been about to add to the conversation.
"Jenny, you've attended church your whole life, what exactly does the Bible say about homosexuality?" Silas asked as he turned back to see Jenny still watching from just outside the room.
Jenny stepped inside and crossed over to the chair that Tara had previously occupied. She sat down and folded her hands in her laps as she smiled warmly at Silas before turning her full attention to Chelsea. "That's a difficult question to answer. The scriptures that apply to it are very vague about exactly what they reference. I know that many churches interpret it one way but others interpret it differently. Do you remember Pastor Gregory, Chelsea?"
"Of course I do," Chelsea replied. "He was the pastor before my father took over."
"Did you know that Pastor Gregory never taught a sermon about homosexuality?" Jenny asked. Chelsea shook her head and Jenny continued, "I asked him about that once. Right after Daniel Winters died. He said that he considered homosexuality to be a non-issue. After Daniel died, Pastor Gregory decided he had to step away from the church because he believed that he failed his flock. That was when your father took over."
"What does that have to do with anything?" Chelsea asked.
"It means that even within the same church opinions can differ a great deal," Jenny offered with a smile. "You need to stop being so hard on yourself about this. You didn't do anything except try to live up to what your heart was telling you. Hatred never gets anyone anywhere, except for into trouble. Which is exactly where your father is right now, and you deserve to be safe here, away from him. Silas and Tara, they're both trying to help you just like I am. We just want you to heal."
Chelsea was silent as she looked out the window again, watching as a sparrow landed in a tree in the front yard. The bird flitted from branch to branch, chirping. It flew away a moment later and Chelsea sighed and turned back to Jenny and Silas. "I just want to be free. I just want this to end."
"It will end sooner than you think, Chelsea," Jenny said. "One day you'll be able to look back on this and realize it for what it was; a trial that you were able to endure. You'll be stronger once you reach the other side."
"Maybe I'm not strong enough to make it there," Chelsea muttered.
"You were dealt a nasty hand, Chelsea," Silas interjected. "Some of us are, you know. It isn't always easy, but fighting for what's right is always worth it. There were times that I was out there that I really wanted to just lie down and die. My stomach was empty, I was cold and sick, but in the end I was able to see that giving up wasn't an option. I had to keep fighting. If I hadn't, I would have never met you."
"You consider that a highlight of your life?" Chelsea asked as she turned toward him with a smirk. Although he appreciated a bit of her sense of humor returning, Silas didn't like the darkness in her eyes.
He smiled and reached out to touch her shoulder. "Yes, actually. Knowing you has been one of the best things to happen to me in the past two years, and I'll never forget it." He motioned for Adelaide to come to him. Adelaide approached but then set her eyes on Chelsea instead and rested her head in Chelsea's lap. Chelsea looked down and Silas added with a chuckle, "Adelaide considers knowing you to be a highlight of her life too."
For the first time in three weeks, Chelsea smiled as she reached down to pet Adelaide. Silas turned toward Jenny and asked, "Can I use your phone?"
"Sure," Jenny said as she stood and walked to retrieve her cordless phone from the wall. She returned a moment later and handed it to Silas who looked at Chelsea expectantly.
"What?" Chelsea asked.
"Do you want to call Tara, or should I?" Silas asked neutrally.
"I'm not ready to talk to her yet," Chelsea replied. "Please don't ask her back over."
"I was planning on inviting her to dinner at the restaurant," Silas replied with a patient smile. "You and Tara have both been invited. I'm assuming we'll go in when Jenny starts her shift tonight."
Chelsea shrugged and stood up, making Adelaide whimper. "You can call her if you want, but I'm tired. I'm going to go take a nap, and you should go take a shower."
Silas laughed as Chelsea walked away, and was pleased to see the faint smile on her lips. She was starting to come around, slowly but surely. He reached into his pocket to retrieve his wallet, which had a slip of paper with Tara's number on it waiting inside. Another paper fell out of his wallet as he dug for Tara's number, and he picked it up and unfolded it before realizing that it was the same one Jack had given him at the gas station. He stared at the paper for a moment before folding it up again and sliding it back into his wallet, and then finding Tara's number.
The phone rang only once before Tara picked up and asked, "Chelsea?"
"Nope, just Drake," Silas replied. "Chelsea says she's not ready to talk yet, but I think Jenny and I got through to her. We'd like to see you at the Diner tonight if you're available. What time does your shift start, Jenny?"
"At five," Jenny said.
"Yeah, so five. Can you make it? I think after Chelsea's had a chance to rest she'll want to make it up to you," Silas continued, and then waited for the long pause on the other end of the call.
"Yeah, I can. If you're sure that's a good idea," Tara replied.
"I'm sure," Silas confirmed. "I think you'll find that Chelsea is ready to start healing."
"You three can take a seat at any table you'd like," Jenny said as Silas stepped through the door with Chelsea close behind, only to find that Tara had beaten them there and was standing awkwardly by the entrance. She smiled at Chelsea sadly as Chelsea avoided her gaze. "I'll bring you menus and water in a second."
"Thanks, Jenny," Silas said when neither of the girls responded. "Though if you have coffee I'd prefer a cup if you don't mind."
"I swear, you and caffeine," Jenny said with a roll of her eyes. "One cup of black coffee, coming up."
"Make it two," Tara added, and with an exasperated sigh Jenny walked toward the kitchen.
"You know that they don't exactly have premier coffee here, right?" Silas asked as he led them to a booth. Tara slid in on one side and then Chelsea slid into the opposite, pulling into the corner as she leaned up against the wall and stared out the window. Silas sighed and sat down next to Chelsea.
"I know," Tara said, "I need something strong today."
"I just assumed you wanted something black to go with your style," Silas said with a wink.
"Oh? Look who is making jokes," Tara said with a grin. "And you drink coffee black because . . ."
"It goes with my strength," Silas said as he lifted his arm to show off his bicep. Tara rolled her eyes and leaned back in the booth, and Silas chuckled softly. "All right, that was pretty weak, I admit. I'm not very good at making jokes."
"No, but at least you have a sense of humor," Tara replied.
"What is that supposed to mean?" Chelsea asked as she spun back toward Tara. Her eyes flashing dangerously. "Maybe I don't appreciate jokes at inappropriate times."
"Chelsea, that wasn't supposed to ''mean'' anything," Tara replied. "I'm sorry if I've made you feel uncomfortable. You know that the way I've always tried to cope with bad situations is by trying to laugh through them. Why do you think it's anything different?"
"I don't feel like laughing right now," Chelsea said darkly, "I feel like dying."
Tara gasped and shook her head. "Chels, how can you say that?"
"Every time I think about what's going on, I just want it to end," Chelsea replied. "I want my old life back, before any of this happened, but I can't do that now. I can never go back!"
"Then move forward with me," Tara pleaded. "We can be together now without worrying. Didn't you always say that you wanted that?"
"I'm not sure anymore, Tara," Chelsea mumbled, "I'm not sure."
"Two coffees and a water, and here are your menus." Silas looked up to see Jenny's concerned eyes as she looked at Chelsea. Jenny set the drinks down on the table and then looked at Silas for an explanation.
"Everything is under control," Silas said with a forced smile. "We'll be ready to order in a minute."
"Okay," Jenny said. "I'll be back. Ian will be out in a minute when Earl shows up. Amy called and said she was running late, so it might just be the three of you and Ian tonight."
Silas nodded and turned back toward the others. "Should we look at the menu, then?"
Tara opened hers but Chelsea kept her focus locked on the outside world. "I'm not hungry," she said. "You guys go ahead and eat."
"Are you sure?" Tara asked. "You should really eat something."
"I'm okay. Thank you for your concern," Chelsea replied, smiling weakly. Tara shared a look with Silas before they both returned to their attention to the menus in front of them. Silas cast occasional glances over at Chelsea as he made his decision on what to order, but she remained unchanged in her focus. He sighed and made his selection just in time for Jenny to come back and take their orders.
"What are you guys going to eat today?" Jenny asked.
"I'll have the French Dip with fries," Silas said as he closed the menu and handed it to Jenny.
"And I'll take the Pastrami and Swiss," Tara said, "With the chicken noodle soup instead of fries."
"Sounds good," Jenny said with a smile. "Chelsea? What can I get for you?"
"I'm not hungry," Chelsea mumbled. "I'll just have water."
"Okay," Jenny said as her smile faltered. "Whatever you say, dear."
Jenny walked away just as Ian was leaving the kitchen and heading toward them. He passed by Jenny and asked her a question that Silas couldn't hear, and she shook her head and frowned in response. Ian nodded and continued toward them, pulling up a chair from a nearby table so that he could sit on the end.
"It looks like my wife can't be here," Ian said as he sat down. "But I'm glad the three of you could make it. Amy's running late with the grocery shopping. Apparently the store is a madhouse."
"Is there a holiday coming up or something?' Silas asked. "Something unique to Colorado?"
"Not one I'm aware of," Ian replied.
"When I used to attend the church they always held a spring celebration," Tara offered. "It's possible they're preparing for that."
"That's not it," Chelsea said with a frown. "It's the community bake sale that raises money for the event. This year our church was going to join with First Presbyterian and the United Methodist to host the celebration. The bake sale was going to be a joint operation as well. Since none of you attend church, it's no surprise that you didn't know about it. It's going on tomorrow."
"Interesting," Ian said. "I wish I could go. Maybe I'll send Amy to go pick some things up for us. We'd love to go to the celebration this year. We don't get out much."
"It doesn't sound like something I'd really go for," Silas said. "Even when I was Mormon I didn't enjoy spending my time in large groups of people."
"Jenny was mentioning yesterday that she might want to bake something. She asked me to help, and I told her that I would," Chelsea explained, smiling at the thought. "I've always liked baking, even if there isn't much I can do with only one arm."
"I'd like to help you out if you'll let me," Tara offered. "Do you remember when we used to help my mom bake cookies? We haven't done it in years, but I always had fun with you in the kitchen."
"Sure," Chelsea said with a smile. "I'd like that."
"It's good to see you smiling again," Silas said with a grin. "I think I'll leave you girls to it though. I'm useless in the kitchen."
"What about that rabbit you cooked for me?" Chelsea asked. "I seem to remember that being pretty good, if a bit under-seasoned."
"A campfire is not a kitchen," Silas replied with a chuckle. "I can make a lot more sense cooking over an open flame than I'll ever do with an oven. Wood makes sense to me, pans don't."
"I suppose that's fair," Chelsea said with a shrug. "You know, I think I might be getting hungry now. Do you think I could get a grilled cheese or something? Just something light."
"You bet," Ian replied. "I'll go have Earl start that for you. Anything else you'd like? A soda or something? Maybe a strawberry lemonade?"
"How about a coke? Mom and dad never let me drink coke, so I rarely get it," Chelsea replied.
"Growing up our parents never did either. They claimed it was against the Word of Wisdom, one of the Mormon Church's beliefs." Silas chuckled and continued, "Which was really funny, because half of the town disagreed with that perspective. Like most things in scripture, it can be interpreted many ways."
"God, you guys are all weird," Tara said with a shake of her head. "I've never understood the need to deprive people of making choices that don't affect others. My parents never did either, which was why we left the church in the first place."
Ian laughed and said, "Your parents and I would get along well I think. You should bring them down here for dinner sometime, though I'm afraid they'll have to pay for what they order. In fact, bring down everyone you know. As you can see, we're a little slow during dinner and I'd love to ramp up my business."
"Well, focus on giving me the best pastrami and swiss I've ever had and we'll talk," Tara replied while wiggling her eyebrows. Ian laughed loudly and walked toward the back while Tara returned her attention to the table and reached out to grab Chelsea's hand. "I'm glad that you decided to get something. From what I understood you hadn't eaten yet today."
"I'm sorry for how I've been acting," Chelsea said with a forced smile. "I know you guys don't deserve to be treated the way that I treated you earlier. I'm just really confused by my emotions right now and I'm not always certain what they want from me."
"It's okay, Chels," Tara said with a supportive grin. "We'll manage somehow."
Author's Note: It's good to see Chelsea starting to come around, right?
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