He dug out a pair of jeans, a purple T-shirt.
Grenville smothered a gasp at the sight of Jamie's mutilated back.
Oh, good God, he had never dreamed it had been that bad ... though at the time no one thought he would live through it, not a doctor thought he could survive...
Yet Grenville had suspected he would, having realized very early that Jamie Sommers was a survivor.
Jamie looked at him, apprehensive. He knew Grenville couldn't stand scenes, he'd probably had all he could tolerate for one day.
"You are mistaken. You have much to be proud of." Jamie blinked hard. "Thanks."
Jamie rolled the T-shirt down over his head, pulled on his jeans without bothering with underwear. He stuck his feet into flip-flops.
"See you around, Grenville," he said. "Yes, Jamie. See you around."
Sussex Airport, Delaware August 1968
Louisa Kahne was a little late. Jamie and Grenville had already left the plane as she reached the gate.
"I'll take it out of your wages for the next five years—no, ten—my God, Jamie you must have been drinking like the proverbial fish to run up a bill like that! Did you never draw a sober breath the whole time?"
"I don't think that's fair. You never told me drinks were separate. I thought they were included. You said it was my vacation, too.... Hey, Louisa."
Grenville stopped to give Louisa a quick hug and a kiss on the cheek. She squeezed him back and turned to Jamie.
"Jamie Sommers, you must have put on ten pounds."
Jamie felt self-consciously at the small roll around his waist.
"Well, Louisa, there wasn't a whole lot to do on that ship besides eat and fu—lay around." He caught himself.
She didn't miss the unsaid word or the quick glance he and Grenville exchanged, but ignored both.
"Well, you do look relaxed." And she noted, not the least bit nervous.
"If he were any more relaxed, he'd be dead," Grenville commented dryly.
Grenville looked well, too. Not tan and pudgy like Jamie, but much less grim and tense. And something else ... she realized he was wearing a blazer over an open-necked polo shirt—it was the first time she'd seen him travel in anything other than a business suit.
It was only too becoming... but she frowned, suspecting the hand of a woman.
Louisa suddenly wondered suspiciously what exactly had gone on during the cruise.
Both men had an unmistakable, gleefully guilty look.
And as she joined them at the baggage claim from a trip to the ladies' room, she heard Grenville say, in a voice of awe: "Both? Actually?"
And Jamie chuckle wickedly. "Oh, yeah." This was the last time, she thought, that she'd send those two off together.
Entirely too much male bonding.
The three stood silently waiting for the luggage to appear.
Grenville was thinking how good it was to see Louisa again. Leslie had been very dear, but there were so many things she didn't know about him, could never know.
Louisa knew the worst and loved him in spite of it. He could share anything with her. He realized how lucky he was to have her in his life.
In one of his rare gestures of affection, he put his arm around her. She leaned against his side.
Jamie watched them absently. Those two together always seemed so right to him....
Jamie was thinking he needed a girlfriend. Sex was great, but what he was going to miss most was waking up to soft girl bodies snuggled on him, going to sleep in their arms. That was what he'd miss the most. That and the sex.
He had mooned around about Katie Roddendem long enough. Maybe he never would be over her completely, but he could be happy again.
But then, there was no rush.
The girls had promised to visit. He'd better rest up. "It's nice to be back," he said, at the same moment as Grenville.
Like they were somehow connected. Like there was some kind of bond.
Frederick Hawkes Elementary School Hawkes Harbor, Delaware November 1968
"I toldja, Louisa, you want me to work for you, you have to make an appointment, pay me. And I'm getting booked up."
"Jamie, this is an important project with a tight deadline—it is incredibly cold down here."
Louisa shivered, wrapping her coat tightly around her.
"That's why I'm fixing the furnace," Jamie said patiently. "It's an important project with a tight deadline, too. School's back in session Monday and it's twenty degrees out."
"I didn't think the school had a budget that could accommodate paying you by the hour," she said tartly.
"I charge by the job," he said. "I know I'm slow."
Louisa bit her lip. She didn't mean to hurt him. Jamie could be so exasperating, but she was very fond of him, too.
"Grenville doesn't mind you taking outside jobs?" she asked, curious.
She and Grenville had both been surprised when Jamie had fliers printed advertising his services for hire, had rented a post-office box for messages. Grenville refused to question him about it, but Louisa was dying to know....
"Not as long as I've got everything taken care of at the Hall. I'm just working extra on my time off."
If he minds he can give me a goddamn raise, Jamie thought. He'd needed some extra money, figured out a way to make it; it wasn't their business.
Except for his motives.
"Jamie," she said—something in his quiet defiance, his strangely confident air, aroused her suspicions. "Just why exactly is it that you need more money?"
"Everybody can always use more money."
"Well, it's not like you pay room and board."
She sounded just like Grenville, he thought. Like the freezing dimly lit isolated Hawkes Hall was the fucking Ritz.
"Mr. Sommers!" Another voice spoke loudly from behind him. Jamie jumped, dropped his wrench on his foot, and hopped around, trying to keep from swearing and not doing a very good job.
He hadn't heard anyone come down the stairs. Louisa might have warned him....
"You are just the man I wanted to see."
Jamie turned, rubbing at his foot through his boot.
It was one of the schoolteachers, a short, dark, mushroom-shaped woman he'd seen that morning upstairs. She was busy going through desks, cleaning out trash—since Wilson, the regular janitor, was in the hospital, the teachers were having to do things like that.
Jamie had made it clear to the principal; he was a repairman, not a janitor. He hoped she wasn't expecting him to mop her room.
"Hello," Louisa said, extending her hand. "I'm Louisa Kahne."
"Oh yes yes yes, everyone knows who you are. I'm Lucinda Maples, I teach fourth- and fifth-grade English, and I am also in charge of all the plays, the drama department. And when I saw you this morning, Mr. Sommers, I thought, there is the man I wanted to see."
She fixed him with her bright dark eyes.
Jamie wrung his hands together, wiped the palms on his pants. Busy women like this made him nervous, gave him flashbacks to the nuns. He suddenly felt trapped down there with her and Louisa—I'd rather be locked up with a vampire, he thought.
"I want you to help us with the scenery. And the props."
"She means for the plays, Jamie," Louisa explained.
Jamie was irritated. She was always treating him like a moron. He would have figured it out.
"Yes, our props right now are pitiful, the children would love something more elaborate, like the sets they see on TV. I've toured the Hall, I know what you can do—you are quite marvelous at woodcraft."
"Well, thanks, but..."
"Of course it would be pro bono—there's barely any budget for materials."
"I know what it means, Louisa."
"But you would be giving to the community, practicing good citizenship, and the children would be so pleased. And, it wouldn't be so very time-consuming."
/> "It ain't—isn't the time, Miss Maples."
"I think there's a way you could use it as a tax write-off. Mr. Hawkes might know."
Yeah, if it's a write-off I bet he does, Jamie thought. "No, it's not the money either."
"Well what? Speak up!"
Jamie felt like he was back in a classroom, about to get whacked with a ruler.
"I-I-I d-d-don't think the parents would like it. Me bein' around their kids."
"What on earth are you talking about?"
Louisa was looking at him strangely, too.