Title: A Change of Grace
Chapter: 8 of 41
Excerpt: Taylor’s hand fell away from his head, as the boy stepped under the light, up close for the first time all day, eyes widened in disbelief. “My God…” The thought was so strong that for a moment he was afraid he’d spoken it, but no… Josh continued his examination of Taylor’s injury, uninterrupted. “My God he looks like Ike…” Oh not exactly. His face was softer, rounder, wider, more like the shape of his own, or more closely, Zac’s. The hair was slightly darker, much shorter of course, and so a great deal more curly. But God it was close. “He looks as if someone took the three of us and mixed us… they didn’t tell me we were related to this kid!”
Benjamin looked up from the paper, eyes oddly dilated, one hand held midair. In the peculiar way of his kind, he scented the currents, the energies flowing over his hand, between his fingers. There… there it was, a new humming, a new vibration. “Contact. He’s made contact.”
Kathryn’s mild gaze settled on him. “You knew he would.”
Benjamin shook his head, brow creased in frown. “No. Not a given. Nothings a given. He might not have.” Smiling indulgently, she nodded. “Benjamin, we knew he would. Now the question is, will he come back?” Ben’s eyes widened a bit at that. “Not come back? He has to come back.”
“You know he doesn’t. He is completely free to choose his own way here. No matter how controlled he feels. He needn’t come back at all.”
Ben waved her off, brow still creased, eyes shut to slits. “Clothes are here. Stinking 90’s things are here. We are here. He’s coming back.”
Josh felt his footing go with the force of the shove to his chest, and grabbed for the nearest thing he could. The horse. “Sorry…” He muttered his apology as his hand nearly ripped the poor creatures face off, and hauled himself back on balance, thanking his stars that the horse was placid enough to have tolerated it, without taking a bite out of him. Cautious now, but not particularly perturbed, he HAD scared him after all, he let go the horse and stepped back a few feet, shaking his head. “I’m sorry, I only meant to startle you, not kill you. Are you okay?”
Taylor’s fear-flashed anger faded quickly, leaving him panting, heart jackhammering behind his eyes. Eying the stranger suspiciously, one hand still holding the side of his head, he nodded. “I’m okay. What do you want? Oh… shit…” He swore softly, as he pulled his hand away, sparkling crimson. “Oh man, I’m bleeding. Good job! You make it a habit to jump out at people and scare them half to death?”
Josh shrugged mildly. “No. Do you make a habit of following people? Let me see that…” He stepped forward, hands palmed out. “I swear I won’t make any fast moves. I just want to see how badly your cut. Do you have far to go?”
Taylor’s hand fell away from his head, as the boy stepped under the light, up close for the first time all day, eyes widened in disbelief. “My God…” The thought was so strong that for a moment he was afraid he’d spoken it, but no… Josh continued his examination of Taylor’s injury, uninterrupted. “My God he looks like Ike…” Oh not exactly. His face was softer, rounder, wider, more like the shape of his own, or more closely, Zac’s. The hair was slightly darker, much shorter of course, and so a great deal more curly. But God it was close. “He looks as if someone took the three of us and mixed us… they didn’t tell me we were related to this kid!”
He laughed a little, and stepped back, wincing as he reached to touch the swollen gash on his temple. “I bet you guys don’t have Neosporin, do you?” Josh shook his head, smiling faintly. “Have what? Are you all right? You look a little like you’re about to go over.” Taylor slid down the pole, and sat on the sidewalk, sighing, wondering if he looked as white as he felt. “If I can just stay here for the night, and never move again, I’ll be fine.” Josh dropped down in front of him, eyeing him carefully. “How far do you have to walk? Come on, get up. I’ll make sure you get home. Since I’m the one who jumped out and scared your wits out of you…” He bit his lip, struggling not to laugh. He’d never had such a reaction in his life. Taylor caught the stifled snigger, and felt his own grin surfacing. “Look shut up, okay? That hurt…” He let the other boy pull him up, grabbing the post for balance. He could see blood streaking the hair that hung in his face. Perfect, just what he needed. He waited a moment, while the throb in his head subsided, and nodded in the direction of the 70’s. “I’m going up there, not that far.” “Fine.” Taylor let go the post, and took a few shaky steps. Yep, he was doing okay. He’d make it. Josh fell into step beside him, frowning as the other boy swiped more blood from his head. “I’m really very sorry, I had no idea you’d react so violently.” Taylor shook his head, sighing. “Not your fault. I’m just kinda used to having someone between me and people.” “Between you?” “Well yeah, so they don’g grab at me.” “Why would people grab you?” Realizing suddenly who he was talking to, Taylor mentally kicked himself. “Oh God I’m gonna screw this up.” Mumbling something about not liking crowds, he let his eyes drift. Maybe if the kid thought he was whacked from having his skull crushed, he could get away with it. Josh’s face was openly curious now. “Really? The crowds in the park today didn’t seem to bother you.” He waited expectantly. He knew a snowjob when he heard one, and nobody was going to put anything over on him. Least of all some greenie who was afraid of his own shadow. Taylor sighed, and looked up at the sky, dark enough now to show the stars. Had he ever seen the stars from the city before? He didn’t think so. Looking at his companion, he shrugged. “I don’t know… at home… crowds, people, really bothered me. It wasn’t so bad today, nobody knows me here, but when you jumped out…” Josh nodded, thinking that while it made sense, it had the feel of a story. “So, where’s home then?” Taylor, his head beginning to ache badly now, shook his head irritably. “Let it go man, please.” Josh smiled, filing it. He’d find out. Later. When the time came. “By the way, I’m Josh…” He stuck his hand out, and Taylor shook it halfheartedly. “Taylor.” Josh laughed and nodded. “Interestingly enough, Taylor, under the circumstances, I’m pleased to meet you. You never did answer my question” “What question?” “Did you think we didn’t notice you following us?” Taylor sighed again, staggered a little, and unconsciously reached for Josh’s shoulder. Josh stopped, waiting patiently for Taylor to get his head on straight again. “Don’t think you can dodge the question by fainting, either. I’ll throw water on you and ask you again.” The tone of his voice was teasing, and Taylor relaxed a little. Josh wasn’t upset or angry, only curious. Smiling, feeling a little stupid, Taylor felt his face flushing. “Well… I guess I didn’t stop to wonder if you noticed me.” “Why did you follow us?” Taylor perked up then, grateful that an honest answer was finally there for the taking. “I wanted to talk to you about the music!” “Music?” Josh was amazed at the animation that suddenly flooded the odd boy’s face. Taylor nodded rapidly, wincing and grabbing his head, bringing a snort from Josh. “I heard you singing in the park. I sing some too, with my brothers…” His voice faded a little, and Josh saw his face cloud briefly, before enthusiasm for the subject drew him back. “I wanted to jump in while you were there, I was hearing you arguing and I knew what you needed to do to fix it, but I didn’t dare… then when you left… I don’t know… I don’t know anybody around here and I thought maybe I’d get my nerve up later.” Joshua glanced sideways at him, oddly puzzled. What reason would anyone have to fear them? This fellow was strange, no doubt about it. They walked in silence for a few minutes, Taylor still knuckling thin blood from his head, feeling the throb in his head becoming a thud. All jokes aside, he was seriously beginning to feel like passing out was a real possibility. “Hey Josh…” His voice was faint, sick sounding, and Josh’s face became concerned. “D’you think we could stop for a minute?” “Of course…” Josh couldn’t quite figure it. Yeah, the kid had hit his head pretty hard, but not so hard as to warrant all of this. “Are you sick?” Taylor shook his head, laughing, crawling down to sit against a wall… “Nope, just stupid.” He took in his new friend’s blank gaze, and laughed harder. “Besides the whack in the head with the lamppost, I haven’t eaten all day. I’m kinda woozy. It’ll go away in a minute.” “You think you’ll make it home?” Taylor leaned back against the wall of the cobblers shed, and sighed heavily. “Home… is a very long way away. Yes I’ll make it back to where I have to sleep tonight. But not home. Right now I’d about kill to go home.” “Well why don’t you?” Taylor shrugged, face helpless. “I can’t… I… had to come here to do something and I can’t go home until it’s done.” He draped an arm over his eyes. “I feel kinda bad though, I had a big fight with my brother right before I… before I left. I never had a chance to talk to him again. You know…” He moved the arm and looked into Josh’s eyes. “You look kinda like him, do you know that?” Josh laughed, and took hold of Taylor’s suspenders, giving them a solid snap. “I do not know that, because I have never seen your brother. Why didn’t he come with you?” Taylor was scowling now, rubbing his chest. “Do you just have it in for me or something? I got called away suddenly.” “Oh…” He wasn’t buying it. Something about this kid just wasn’t right. “Well do you think you can walk again? Where in hell are you going, anyway? Where are you staying?” Taylor thought about it. Yeah, he could walk he was pretty sure. “I’m staying with some… some friends, at the Dakota. You know where that is?” Josh’s face turned contemptuous. “Clark’s folly?. What do you want to stay out there for?” “Well that’s where they live. What’d you call it?” Josh pulled him onto his feet. “Come on. Clark’s folly. It’ll go bust, you wait and see. Nobody will want to live way up there. That’s what they say, anyway.” “Who’s “they”?” “Oh you know…” He tipped his nose in the air, affecting a snottily jaunty stride and deliberately exaggerated accent. “High society, my dear sir, high society. NOBODY who is ANYBODY would live that far UP town. My Goodness, no.” He grinned, and tipped his hat over his eyes. “Or in shelves” “Shelves?” “Boy you really are a greenie, aren’t you? In an apartment building. Shelves under a common roof… you know.” “Oh” He didn’t know, in truth, had no idea what Josh was talking about, but figured it was wise to keep his mouth shut. “Josh, where do you live?” Josh burst into laughter. “On shelves! I live at the knick, do you know it?” Taylor shook his head, and Josh continued, delighted. “It’s the finest co-op in the city! Right down on Madison square. 5th and 28th. But as far as the elite are concerned, it is still shelves.” “Isn’t that going to be an awfully long walk for you?” “Oh…” Josh grinned and his eyes twinkled. “I know people. I expect I can find a ride. Are you really hungry? Follow me.” “What… where…” “Just hush, and follow me.” Puzzled, more than a little hesitant, Taylor followed.
“Now don’t drop it, or we’ll have peach mush.” Josh giggled. Taylor acted positively criminal, looking around him so quickly it appeared his head would spin off. Anyone would think they were robbing the bank, rather than liberating a few peaches. “Ready? Catch…” He lobbed a peach down, noted with satisfaction that Taylor had no trouble catching it, and sent down three others. “Two for each, will that keep you on your feet until you get home?” He truly hoped so. He had no wish to carry the kid all the way to 72nd street.
Skinning down the tree, warily keeping an eye out for dogs, he took Taylor by the shirtsleeve and pulled. “Come on then, blondie, you don’t want to hang around. That hair will be a beacon. Why’s it so long anyway?” “Why not?” His voice was vaguely peeved, the thought that even a hundred years couldn’t stop the cracks about his hair. Josh nodded amiably. If the kid wanted to look like Louise, that was his affair. He certainly didn’t care.But boy, there was nothing unobtrusive or understated about him. He’d stand out like the sun. He watched with some amusement as Taylor bit into the peach, at first as if he were afraid it would bite back, then with unparalleled bliss. Anyone would think he’d never eaten a peach before! He wasn’t sure, but the thought his eyes had rolled back for a minute! Laughing at the other boy’s antics, he happily munched his own peach, walking in companionable silence beside his new friend.
“Which window is yours?” Josh gazed up at what he had to admit, was an incredible facade. He’d heard a lot of talk about this place, he’d never bothered to come out and see it for himself. Yes, it was astounding. No doubt about it. Taylor stood next too him, also gazing upward. “You know, I have absolutely no idea.” Josh gaped at him, then laughed and swatted him in the shoulder. “You don’t even know which window is yours?” “Dude, I been here one night…” “Dude?” Josh had begun to take Taylor’s odd speech for granted. It had begun to stand to reason, that in each and every sentence, he would say something that Josh didn’t quite understand. Taylor waved off the question, and tapped the side of the carriage house. “You know I have never seen anything parked in here.” “Well, you’ve only been here one night…” Taylor bowed comically, and tipped an invisible hat. “You use my own words against me, yes you do. I suppose I better get inside.” “Think you can find your door?” Taylor rolled his eyes. “Yes, for your information, I know exactly where it is… actually I bet I could find it from out here…” He circled around to the Central Park side of the building. “I know it’s all the way up, under the roofline. It has French doors, and a balcony, and lots of windows that look out over the park.” Josh snorted as he glanced across the street. Some park. A few spindly trees and a lot of dug up earth. The park was nice up at the 7th avenue end… it wasn’t much down here. “I’ll go up and hang out the window if you want, then you’ll know and you can show me…” Josh nodded, willing. “Yeah, go ahead. Hurry though, it’s late, I have to get going home. Long walk back to 28th street.” Taylor grinned, and shoved his hair back. “You know a few people, I expect you can get a ride back.” He giggled as Josh took the same comical bow he had, a moment ago. “Touché. You use my words against me sir. That hair’s going to wrap round your throat and choke you.” Taylor nodded, gathering it back, once again longing for an elastic. He stuck his tongue out as Josh rolled his eyes. Taylor’s hair was really bugging Josh, and the more he realized that, the funnier Taylor thought it was. “I’m not cutting it, so roll your eyes all you want. Wait a minute and I’ll yell down to you.” He pounded up the stairs, flashing a grin at the man in the guardhouse, entered the lobby… and froze. “Well…” his grin was rapturous. “Whatdaya know, they DO have elevators!” Happy he wouldn’t have to climb the eight stories, he slipped into the car and started up.
“HEY!” Josh looked up, laughing as Taylor hung out the window above is head. “Here it is! Where is it?!” Josh shook his head. The boy was seriously unbalanced. “Get back inside, you’ll fall out!” “What?!” “Nothing! I’m gonna go now!” Taylor nodded, held up a finger, “Wait a minute! Don’t go away!” and ducked back inside the window. Sighing, Josh sat down on the steps. “Wait a minute, he says. Never mind that I have to go all the way back to 28th street, just wait a minute Josh… fine.” He was sleepy, and close to dozing. He could just see himself falling asleep here on the steps of Clark’s grandiose playhouse. Wonderful. “Here, Josh…” Taylor slipped in behind him, dropped a handful of coins into his friend’s hand, and shrugged, red faced. “My friend Kathryn, said to hire a cab.” “I don’t need your money, Taylor, if I want to hire a hansom, I can pay for it.” Taylor nodded, no stranger to pride. “I know, but she told me to give it to you, so I’m doing what I’m told. Get home safe.” He resisted the sudden, impulsive urge to hug the other boy. His face and voice so like Ike’s… sighing, he dropped his eyes, unmindful of the sudden concern in Joshua’s face. “Taylor, are you okay? Is something wrong?” Taylor looked up, hoping the glimmer in his eyes didn’t show. “Oh, no… I just… no. I’m fine.” “You homesick?” Taylor’s eyes widened in surprise, and Josh nodded. “I know how it is. I went to visit my cousins in Massachusetts for a summer. I wanted to go home the very first evening. You’ll be okay. Meet me back in the park tomorrow, Mr. Singer. You can show us what you know.” With a grin, jingling the coins in his hand, he started out of the drive, turning once to look back at Taylor. “And Taylor… do yourself a favor and keep your hat on…” Laughing wildly at Taylor’s annoyed expression, he broke into a trot. Taylor watched him out of sight, sent a silent prayer heavenward, that he’d reach home safely, and turned back inside. The day had ended well, but his heart was heavy. Josh was right. He was homesick. Homesick for a world that had not yet been born.