“I took the bus,” he replied quietly, dropped his bag and hugged her back. “Dad left again.”
“You…” Shane started and stepped back to look him in the eyes, her own wide open like she couldn’t believe what he’d just told her. “You took the bus all the way from Oregon in the middle of the night all by yourself?”
Shay looked down at his sneakers and mumbled so quietly Shane could barely hear him. “He just left one night. Some lady came over and they left and he never came back. I didn’t know where else to go.”
“Shay, if you’d called me I would have come to get you.” Shane took a deep breath, glancing back at Jenny for a moment and giving her a look of desperation. She couldn’t believe her father. It was one thing what he’d done to her, first when she was a kid, and then all over again when she’d gotten to know him as an adult. But doing it to Shay? She’d thought he meant at least something to him, even if she didn’t.
“You came to the right place,” she said to him, her voice breaking, and she wrapped an arm around him again. “Let’s get you inside. You want some hot chocolate?”
Shay shook his head. “Can I just sleep?”
“You can have my room,” Jenny offered and smiled at him, but she didn’t think he could see it. “I’ll just go and put some clean sheets in the bed.”
“I didn’t mean to wake you up,” Shay mumbled when Jenny disappeared into the hallway and he shrugged uncomfortably when Shane tried to brush some hair away from his eyes. She probably thought he needed a haircut. He hadn’t gotten one since last time she cut it, but he liked that he could hide behind it. He didn’t want people to be able to see how much he hurt inside.
Shane felt tears welling up in her eyes and tried to hold them back. Her crying wouldn’t make anything better for him, but looking at him standing there was like watching herself when she was his age. She never in a million years wanted him to have to go through that.
“You didn’t wake us up,” she smiled encouragingly. “Are you sure you don’t want anything?” When he just shook his head, she went on. “Okay. We can try to figure out all this in the morning. Don’t worry about it. You can stay here for as long as you like.”
Shane picked up his backpack, pulling the strap over her shoulder and when she looked back at him he grabbed her hand. She smiled again, hoping he hadn’t seen her tears.
“He’s drunk all the time,” Shay said out of nowhere just as Jenny came back into the living room to announce that his bed was made, but instead she just stood there watching them.
“I’m so sorry,” Shane replied softly, trying hard not to show how her emotions were boiling inside of her, and squeezed his hand gently. “Do you—do you want you talk about it now or do you want to wait until after you’ve gotten some sleep?”
She nodded and both women followed him to his new room and made sure he got settled there all right. Shane promised once again that they would try to sort it out in the morning, but before she stopped talking, her brother seemed to have fallen asleep.
“Come,” Jenny whispered from the hallway and pulled Shane with her back to their room. “I took the toys out,” she said and Shane stared dumbfounded at her.
“Toys? What toys?”
“My toys.” She nodded at a bag on the floor by her side of the bed. “I didn’t think it would be such a good idea to leave them in there for him to find if he starts digging around in my drawers.”
“Oh,” Shane sighed and shook her head. No, she didn’t want her ten-year-old brother anywhere near Jenny’s sex toys. “I’m sorry, I just—I can’t think right now.”
Jenny wrapped her arms around her and just held her close for a while, hoping it would make her feel at least a little bit better. “It’s okay, Shane. He’ll be okay.”
“I don’t know.” Shane gently slipped out of Jenny’s embrace and sat down on the bed with her elbows on her knees and rested her head in her hands. “I can’t believe he did this again. How the fuck could he just leave him like that?” She took a few deep breaths trying to calm down and then felt Jenny’s hand gently stroking her back. “God only knows how he’s been treating him the last few months.”
Jenny sat quietly for a moment, trying to find the best way of asking Shane the question that seemed to hover above them. “Maybe this time you should try to get cust…”
“You know I can’t do that!” Shane exclaimed but it came out much harsher than she’d intended and she looked apologetically at her girlfriend. “I’m sorry.”
“Shane, he abandoned him.” Jenny kneeled down on the floor in front of her and looked into her eyes. “He just left his ten-year-old son alone in his house and took off with some random woman. And Shay said he drinks a lot.”
Shane looked away for a moment, sighing. “And since when am I any better?”
“Stop that.” Jenny placed her hand softly on her cheek and made her look at her again. “Shane, you’re nothing like him. Okay? You’re not. I know you’re so convinced you are and I don’t understand why, but you would never do anything to hurt Shay, or anyone else for that matter. You’re the most loving and caring person I’ve ever met.”
“Thank you,” Shane replied, but from the look in her eyes Jenny could tell she doubted every word she’d just said.
“I mean that,” she assured her. “And they have to see it.”
“Even if you’re right, what if they don’t? What if I start something up that ends with Shay going where I did? Even living with Gabriel has to be better than that. I couldn’t live with it, knowing I did that to him.”
“Listen, I can’t make the decision for you, but you’ve got to give yourself more credit. You’re so amazingly good at taking care of Shay, there’s no one in the world that could do it better. And he loves you.”
“I love him too, but… Jesus, I don’t know!” Exasperated, she sat up straight and raked her hands through her hair. “I just don’t know what the fuck I’m gonna do.”
“Maybe right now you should come back to bed with me?” Jenny suggested. Shane was clearly exhausted, the dark circles under her eyes spoke for themselves. “Everything might not seem as hard to figure out if we just get some rest first. We both have work tomorrow as well and it’s already 4 AM. Please, Shane, he’s fine here. He’s already asleep and he’s not going anywhere.”
“Okay,” Shane nodded and stood up with her hands reached out to help Jenny up off the floor. “Come here,” she said when Jenny was back on her feet, and Shane wrapped her arms around her.
“It’ll be okay, Shane. We’ll figure it out tomorrow.”
“Okay,” Shane replied, placing a soft kiss on Jenny’s forehead. “I love you so fucking much.”
“I love you too,” Jenny said with a small smile and tugged the sleeve of Shane’s t-shirt. “Now, please come to bed with me. It’s late and I need my beauty sleep.”
“Says the only woman I know who can stay up and write for days and still look gorgeous.”
“Aw, flattery won’t get you anywhere this time, but thank you.” Giggling, Jenny took her hand and led her back to her side of the bed. When they were both finally back between the sheets in the bed Shane built when she first moved in with Jenny, Jenny looked concerned into Shane’s green eyes. “Do you think you’ll be able to sleep?”
Shane wrapped an arm around her and kissed her goodnight. “Yeah, don’t worry about it. I’ll figure it out tomorrow.”
Jenny soon fell asleep with her head against Shane’s shoulder, but Shane just lay there watching her, unable to shut her worries out.