His phone rang as he was getting into the car. Severance felt a headache coming on. He realized he had forgotten to eat. Blood sugar must be low.
“Yes?” he answered with a slight snap. He rooted around the box between the seats, looking for a nutrition bar. Between him, Shara, and his kids, there was usually something to eat in the car.
“It’s Wolf,” came a familiar voice. The sound on the line was as though he were speaking into a tin can, which was normal when talking to the Northwest Territories. “There’s some bad ju-ju in the bones for Karrin and she isn’t listening to me.”
Severance put his headache on hold. “What is it?”
“Don’t know,” Wolf said. “She needs to stay out of traffic for a few days. She’s insisting on going to work.”
“I’ll call her,” Sev said. Wolf was the best reader Severance had ever seen; if anyone needed listening to, it was their Lone Wolf in Canada’s Northwest Territories. For Wolf to call and tattle on someone, it was serious. Severance dialed his sister.
“I have work to do and I’m not letting my clients down,” Karrin said as soon as she answered the phone. She knew why he was calling.
“Wolf gave a serious warning, Karrin,” he said. “You know he’s never wrong; please stay home. Call in sick or something. I’ll write you a note.” She was the owner of the architectural company; she could afford to take a day off.
“This project I’m working on is netting me a quarter mil,” she informed him. “If someone wants to plow into me and break a bone, let them. You can patch me up and I can get my twenty-five.”
She hung up.
Severance swore at the ceiling of his car and informed the gods of his opinion. He called Terry and waited for him to pick up the call holding.
“Would you please go into Tacoma and babysit Karrin? Wolf’s bones are speaking. Thank you.”
She wouldn’t appreciate it, but Terry would sweet-talk her around and probably into his bed. That should take her mind off work for a couple days; at least until Wolf’s reindeer antlers looked better.
His phone rang again. Severance considered tossing it down a garbage disposal but answered it anyway. “Allen.”
“Your youngest son is wearing black eyeliner.”
He considered his ex-wife’s statement; whenever their kids were making her life difficult, they became ‘his’ kids. “Well, he has your eyes so I’m sure it looks good.”
Nancy sighed with exasperation. “Severance, if he’s gay, I’ll learn to accept it. The eyeliner is not acceptable. You need to talk to him.”
Snort. Severance shook his head. “Nancy, you would never be alright with a gay child. You’d learn to deal with it for their sake, but you wouldn’t be alright with it. And Danny isn’t gay, he’s going on sixteen, has your body structure, and is dealing with teenage boy issues. Let him be. He’s coming up this weekend. I’ll try and find out what’s on his mind.”
Well, he was pretty sure Danny was straight; he had never shown any sign of interest in other boys. It didn’t help that he had a tall, willow-thin body and long, straight auburn hair. More than once someone looked at him from behind and mistook him for a tall girl.
Morgan and Kerry had Severance’s lumber-jack build, which his daughter complained about during bikini season, while Shane and Danny looked like their mother; although Shane wasn’t as willowy as his baby brother. Growth had also filled out Shane’s slim body, making him a target for modeling agents, of which the young man ignored.
Age and motherhood had filled out Nancy’s thin frame, but Sev was fairly certain that Danny wouldn’t be able to count on motherhood filling out his own thin frame.
He put the car in drive and finally got underway, heading home.
The minute he pulled into his driveway, his phone rang again. Without looking at the caller ID, he pressed the answer button on the steering wheel. “Yes, Danny.”
“Dad, make-up is not part of my daily routine.”
Tired though he was, a small smile came to his face. “I’m glad to hear it,” he said. “That stuff isn’t good for your skin. What was your mother going on about?”
Daniel sighed. “I went clubbing last night,” he said. “There was a Goth crowd, so I dressed appropriately.”
“What kind of club?” Severance asked, an eyebrow going up. “You’re underage.”
“It was a teen club up on Capitol Hill,” Danny told him. “No alcohol. Dad, she keeps waiting for me to start dressing like a girl. I’m not gay and I have no interest in girl’s clothes aside from getting them off some girl at some point in my life.”
Severance chuckled. “I know, son,” he said. “Just relax and be yourself. I’ll talk with your mother. Are you still coming up this weekend?”
“Yeah, I guess. At least I’ll have a couple days of peace and quiet.”
Daniel hung up and Severance called his ex-wife as he pulled into the driveway. “Danny called,” he said when she answered. He let himself into the house through the garage. Kissa was waiting for him in the kitchen, standing beside her empty bowl which she looked at reproachfully. Sev got out a can of cat food. “He was clubbing at a teen Goth club. The boys wear just as much make-up as the girls. I think I’m more interested in why you expect him to announce his sexuality as something other than straight.”
Nancy huffed silently for a moment. “He’s the fourth son.”
Severance looked at a family photo on the wall and counted. “We have three sons, Nancy.”
“Four if you include the one we lost before catching with Kerry,” she reminded him. He hung his head and nodded.
“I’m sorry, yes, you’ve carried four sons,” he acknowledged. He hadn’t wanted her to get pregnant so quickly after Morgan, but she wanted the babies; he wasn’t going to hold back on sex just because she refused to use contraceptives. It was her choice; sex was never one of their problems. “I don’t understand what that has to do with Danny and his eyeliner.”
“Research says that the more sons a woman carried, the more likely one will be gay. And with the addition of genetics from you…”
Severance squeezed his eyes shut, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Nancy, I appreciate the fact that you’ve done some research on this, but those statistics are not one hundred percent. There is also no ‘gay’ gene that has been discovered, although I’m convinced there is a gene. And I’m not gay, I’m bi. Nance, he’s fine. He’s discovering who he is, so let him be.”
He hung up, took a couple of hard boiled eggs from the refrigerator, gave them a little salt for the electrolytes, popped them into his mouth, and went upstairs to take a shower.
The hot water pounded on the back of his neck as he leaned his hands against the tile. He tried meditating the headache away, but it wasn’t working. When he got out of the shower, he heard a cupboard close in the kitchen. Shara was home.
“Do you want a sandwich?” Shara called up the stairs, hearing the water turned off.
“No, thanks,” Sev responded over the banister. “I have a headache. Going to bed.”
Everything felt a little better with the lights off. It wasn’t a migraine; he didn’t get migraines. Just stress, he decided. Shara came in and looked at him.
“Do you want a back rub?” he asked.
“Sure,” Sev said. Without opening his eyes, he pulled the pillows away and turned onto his stomach. Shara had great hands and gave great back rubs. Sometimes the rubbing led from one thing to another, but Severance really wasn’t in a mood for ‘another’ that night. Shara understood and kept his ministrations on a therapeutic level.
After tossing and turning all night, the bad feeling in his head was much worse in the morning. He showered, dressed, and left for his office which had a full schedule for the day. Maybe he’d call down to Swedish and invite Ron Kelly up for lunch. Ron was a neurologist. He had a needle that went into the base of the skull which injected a nice medicine, stopping headaches in their tracts.
Something was missing. There was a blank spot in his head. Severance kept pausing in his work and then shaking his head. He decided to make calls and check in, starting with Shara. Shara was fine. The kids were fine. Maybe it was just a weird day.
And then his stepfather called.
“Severance, you need to come home,” he said gruffly. Severance knew. He began to hyperventilate. He couldn’t feel her. That was what he was sensing all morning: his sister was gone from his world.