“It was you,” Truman said, surprised it hadn’t clicked before while the puzzle pieces fitted themselves together in his mind. “You were the one who whaled on Haas.”
Lucky shared a quick glance with Owen before nodding once to confirm.
Truman’s lips pursed as he processed this new information before cutting a path past the two boys, and dropping to a downed tree trunk, the bark rough against his jean clad legs. Leaning forward, an elbow resting on each knee, he took a breath. “That was pretty stupid. What you did. Shit! I don’t know if I should say thank you or kick your ass.”
“You’re welcome,” Lucky muttered sarcastically as he crossed his arms over his chest defensively.
Eyeing Lucky with the same annoyed expression one would give to gum on the bottom of their shoe, Truman asked, “You were going to tell us what happened at Haas’ house this morning?”
Looking around, “Not here. Let’s go back to our house and we can talk there,” Lucky responded.
“No way. Mom’s home with the kids,” Owen piped in, determined to keep their mother in the dark as long as he could. She was going to freak out when she learned what her oldest son had done to the teacher.
“I know a place. We can get coffee and maybe a piece of pie,” Truman offered, rubbing the back of his neck. This weekend was not shaping up to be what he had hoped. Holding up his hand, he gestured. “Keys.”
“Pie?” Lucky perked up. For being so lean, he ate like a linebacker.
Digging the keys from his pocket, Owen tossed them to Truman before looking at Lucky and demanding, “Just tell me this. You made him cry, right?”
With a small grin that showcased his dimple and a shoulder shrug Lucky responded, “Like a baby.”
Truman sighed and planted his hands on his hips, annoyance eating at him for the small amount of gratitude he was feeling toward Owen’s brother. “Hell, I guess it’s gonna be a thank you after all.” And didn’t that just piss him off even more.
Turning and meeting the older boys gaze, Lucky solemnly replied, “You may want to wait until you hear what I have to say. I’m thinking ‘Thank you’ won’t be necessary.”
“What are you talking about?” This from Owen, the self-appointed protector of all things Harper.
“Yeah, what are you talking about?” Truman seconded.
“Pie first. I’m hungry.”
“You’re always hungry,” Owen laughed, as he grabbed his brother in a head lock and started dragging him up the path to the car.
Truman followed at a slower pace wondering if Lucky was right. Could it really be over with Grace before it even started? Only one way to find out. When he was done with the Juicy Fruit twins, he was going to track her down and get it straightened out. Because one thing he knew for sure, Grace was the only one he wanted to be with now.
When the car stopped at the red light, déjà vu bombarded Owen as he spotted the pink car, reminding him of the day at the mall Lucky asked the very same question. “Isn’t that Grace’s car?”
“Son of a… What are they doing here?” Truman moaned.
“Pull over.” Lucky ordered.
“What? Why?” was tossed over Truman’s shoulder.
“Haas is gay.”
The statement dropped like a bomb, leaving a silence in its wake that not even the radio could penetrate. Owen and Truman exchanged glances clearly asking, “What the fuck?” Questions were thrown at Lucky in quick succession as both front seat occupants turned to face him in the back.
“How do you know?”
“How much did you have to drink tonight, anyway?”
“Gay? Where did you get that from?”
Lucky turned to look out the window, but didn’t see the Diner across the street. Instead he was back, reliving the moment of driving away from Haas’ house when some perverse voice–he refused to think of it as guilt–nudged him to look out the rear view mirror. Before he turned the corner, he saw a young man rush from the house, clothed only in boxer shorts, drop down and cradle the teacher in his arms.
It hadn’t been the embrace of someone worried for a friend. No, it had screamed intimacy, not the kind between a teacher and his student. And the young man had most definitely been a student. Because in that last moment before Lucky turned the corner, he had a clear view of the boy’s face and recognized him as a classmate of Owen’s.
Shaking himself back to the present, Lucky leaned toward the front of the car and said, “This morning, after–" What’s it called when one of you doesn’t fight back, he wondered. “I saw someone run from the house to help him. It wasn’t a female.”
“That’s it?” Truman demanded. “That’s your proof? You saw a kid run from his house and you think he’s gay? Seriously, Owen, does your brother have a drinking problem?”
“Let him finish,” Owen defended.
“No, it was the way he ran to his side and kind of hugged him. Loving, almost.” Shrugging over his inability to find the word, he added, “Trust me. Haas is gay.”
“I don’t understand. If he’s gay, what the hell happened between him and Harper?” Owen asked, confused.
“That’s not all,” Lucky continued.
“There’s more?” Truman asked drolly, even as relief settled around him like a cloak that his sister had not been sexually violated.
“The kid I saw.”
“Yeah?” Owen asked when Lucky didn’t go on.
“You know him. In fact, he’s in your class.” Lucky winced on that.
Before Owen could interrogate Lucky any further, the front door the retro diner opened, and Harper stepped out putting her cell phone to her ear. She stood out in stark relief against the backdrop of the overhead fixture illuminating the sidewalk in front of the entrance.
While they couldn’t see her clearly, they could read her body language, and it was screaming ‘get me out of here’. Truman didn’t miss when she swiped her hand against her face to brush away tears. He had seen the move one too many times to not recognize it.
“Call her, Owen. Call her right now.” Truman instructed in a voice that brooked no argument from either boy. “We are getting to the bottom of this–whatever this is–and it stops tonight. Put it on speaker.”
Silently, Owen made the call and cringed when Harper’s too cheery voice came across the line, “Hey, Grace says hi.”