A Different Blue Page 33

Wilson exchanged his cello for a second set of keys and a clean shirt and jeans. He hadn't been splattered by vomit, but he insisted he reeked of it. I had never seen him in anything but slacks and dress-shirts. The T-shirt was a snug soft blue, and his jeans were worn, though they looked expensive. He hadn't bought them at Hot Topic. Why is it that you can see money even when it comes wrapped in a T-shirt and jeans?

“Nice pants,” I commented as he approached me at the door.

“H-huh?” Wilson stammered. And then he smiled. “Oh, uh. Thanks. You mean my trousers.”


“Yes. Pants are underwear, see. I thought . . . um. Never mind.”

“Underwear? You call underwear pants?”

“Let's go, shall we?” He grimaced, ignoring the question and pulling the door closed behind him. He looked so different, and I tried not stare. He was . . . hot. Ugh! I rolled my eyes at myself and stomped back out to my truck, feeling suddenly morose. I spent the ride back to Wilson's car in quiet contemplation which Wilson did not intrude upon until we reached the school.

Before he climbed out, Wilson gazed at me seriously, grey eyes tired in the paltry dome light triggered by his open door. Then he extended his hand and clasped mine, giving it a brief shake.

“Here's to redemption. See you on Monday, Blue.” And he climbed out of my truck and loped to his Subaru. He unlocked it easily and gave a little wave.

“Here's to redemption,” I repeated to myself, hopeful that such a thing existed.

Chapter Eleven

Beverly's Cafe was located on Arizona Street in the center of Boulder City, a refurbished restaurant in the old part of town, established in the 1930's when Hoover Dam was being built. Boulder City was a master-planned, company town, completely built by the US government to house dam workers after the Great Depression. It still had most of the original structures, along with a neat hotel, not far from Bev's, that had been built in those early days. Boulder City was a strange mix of big city cast-offs and Old West traditions that make most people scratch their heads. It isn't very far from Las Vegas – but gambling is illegal. It holds the appeal of a small-town community that Vegas can't boast.

I had known Beverly, the owner of the cafe, since my days with Jimmy. She had a small gift shop in the cafe that was filled with southwestern art, paintings, pottery, cactuses, and various antiques. She had taken Jimmy's work on commission, and Jimmy had always seemed to like her. Jimmy had kept my existence pretty low-key, but Beverly had been kind to him and kind to me. He had trusted her, and it was one of the places where we let down our guard a little. I had eaten in the big red leather booths many times.

A few years back, when I was old enough to drive and get around on my own, I approached Beverley for a job. She was a woman on the heavy side of pleasantly plump, with red hair and a welcoming way. Her laugh was as big as her bosom, which was pretty impressive, and she was as popular with her customers as her milkshakes and double cheeseburgers with jalepenos were. She hadn't recognized me until I'd told her my name. Then her jaw had dropped and she had come out from behind the cash register and hugged me tightly. It had been the most genuine expression of concern anyone had shown me since . . . since, well . . . ever.

“What ever happened to you two, Blue? Jimmy left me with five carvings, and I sold them all, but he never came back. I had people wanting his work, asking for it. At first I was puzzled, wondering if I'd done something. But I had money for him. Surely he would have come back for his money. And then I got worried. It's been at least five years, hasn't it?”

“Six,” I corrected her.

Beverly hired me that very day, and I had worked for her ever since. She had never said anything about my appearance or my taste in men. If she thought my makeup was a little thick or my uniform a little tight, she also never said. I worked hard, and I was dependable, and she let me be. She even gave me the money from the sale of Jimmy's sculptures six years before.

“That's after I took twenty percent, plus six years worth of interest,” she had said matter-of-factly. “And if you've got any more of his carvings, I'll take 'em.”

It was five hundred dollars. I had used it to buy tools and secure the storage unit behind the apartment. And I had started carving in earnest. No more dabbling as I had done since Jimmy died. I attacked the art with a ferocity I didn't know I was capable of. Some of my carvings were hideous. Some weren't. And I got better. I parted with a couple of Jimmy's carvings, and finished the ones that he hadn't had the chance to complete. I then sold them all with his name – my name too, Echohawk - and when it was all said and done, I had made another $500. With that, and a year's worth of savings, I bought my little pick-up truck. It was very beat up, and it had 100,000 miles on it. But it ran and it gave me the wheels I needed to expand my wood gathering capabilities.

I had practiced on every log, branch, and tree I could get my hands on, but it wasn't like there were vast forests surrounding me. I lived in a desert. Fortunately, Boulder City sat higher up at the base of hills with mesquite growing in enough abundance that I could forage and pretty much take what I wanted. I became pretty good with a chain saw. Nobody cared about the scrubby mesquite anyway. And I have to admit, cutting it down was therapeutic in a very gut-level way. Within a year of getting a job at the cafe, I had sold a few of my pieces and had ten or so pieces lining the shelves of Beverly's little shop at all times. Three years later, I had a nest egg of several thousand dollars.

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