“We can do this, buddy. As difficult as it’s gonna be, we will get through it together.” Judah held out the cell phone, while Bethie sat next to him, one hand in Judah’s, the other in Jay’s.
Liam came up behind Jay and knelt down, wrapping his arms around Jay’s neck from the back. He gave Jay’s cheek a kiss. “You don’t have to do anything yet, if you’re not ready.”
“You’re sabotaging,” Judah mouthed and narrowed his eyes at Liam.
Jay shook his head. “No, I’m ready. I am.” His fingers hesitate, hovering over the cell phone screen. It seemed as if everyone was holding their breath. Jay taped the number into the phone and there was an audible release of breath. “Hello, Dad? Can you hear me? Yes, I realize it’s late there. Yes, I know you’ll be back next week, but I wanted to discuss-”
Judah cleared his throat.
Jay caught his stare from his seat on the floor of the shared apartment. “I wanted to tell you some things.” Jay paused and listened. “No, I’m afraid they can’t wait. It’s important.”
Judah gave him a supportive nod. “Go on,” he mouthed.
Jay swallowed hard and then cleared his throat. “I wanted to talk to you at graduation, but... yes, I understand you couldn’t attend, I’m not complaining.”
Liam rested his cheek on Jay’s shoulder. Bethie was so thankful for her parents. They came to graduation with hand-made signs congratulating the five of them and gifts for all of them. Her father insisted on taking everyone out to dinner afterwards. They cared for Jay as much as Judah and Mac, more because they knew Liam loved him.
“Dad, I’ve made a decision. I’m not coming back home. I’m moving to New York... yes, with Liam.” There was a lengthy pause while Jay listened to his father speak on the other end. Bethie wished he was using the speaker, but understood his need for discretion. Jay’s face contorted with the rolling emotions he was feeling. “No, I don’t agree... I have been seeing a counselor, one of my own choice... no he’s not with the church... My mind is clear... I’m not doing this to hurt anyone... Please try to understand...” Jay paused and listened. “No, I won’t do that.” He listened once more. He gasped and stifled a small sob. “I’m sorry you feel that way... We can talk again when you have had time to process... I know it’s late... I love you, Dad. Goodbye.” Jay set the phone on the table between them and wiped at his eyes.
Liam hugged him.
“I’m proud of, Jay,” said Judah and patted his shoulder. “Dr. Lee will be too.”
Jay nodded. “I know. I feel awful for causing him heartache though.”
Bethie smirked and then gave Jay’s hand a squeeze. “He’ll come around, Jay. He’s your father, and he loves you.”
“Yeah.” Jay’s voice was low. “I think I’m going to call it a night. Thank you all for the support.”
Liam and the others watched as he got up, his hand trailed limp from Lima’s shoulder and he walked to the bedroom. His body seemed weighed down and looked like it was taking all his effort to make it down the hall.
“Will he be okay?” asked Bethie.
Liam bobbed his chin. “Yeah. It’s the new medication. It zaps his energy for a little bit, but then he’ll be up all night. Which is great because we have a lot of packing to do.”
“Speaking of packing,” said Judah as he got up and stretched, cracking his back before moving to the kitchen and taking up an empty packing box. “Where’s Mac? He has no excuses to be MIA. We leave tomorrow night.”
As if by magic, or bionic hearing, Mac appeared through the apartment door. “Hey, hey kids. We ready to get on with the rest of our lives?”
By the time they had packed and stacked all the kitchen and common room boxes by the door, it was dark. Bethie and Judah went to their room to pack and Mac went to his. Liam quietly opened his and Jay’s door. Jay was lying on the bed, in the darkness, staring up at the ceiling, his eyes wide open.
“Hey,” whispered Liam into the dark room.
Jay scooted over and Liam climbed up beside him, taking his hand in his. “You, okay?”
Jay shrugged. “My dad wants me to try the camp again.”
Liam bit down on his lips and steadied his internal rage. “Do you want that?”
Jay turned his head from side to side. Liam squeezed his fingers, feeling the relief wash over his nerves, like a complete adrenaline dump. They lay there for half an hour, looking at the shadows on the chipped ceiling spackle together.
“I love you, Jaylin Keller.” Liam’s whispered words broke the silence. “I support any decisions you feel you need to make. If you need to go home to speak with your dad, I’ll be waiting for you to get back. Of course I can’t be held responsible for the decorating of our new place.” Lima turned and gave Jay a playful smile.
Jay turned to his side and looked at Liam, “You’re a wonderful man, Liam Evans. I’m gonna love you forever.”