Two Addresses Blair Left (And One He Didn’t)
“Blair, honey, come on,” Naomi tugged on her recalcitrant child’s arm as he tried to hang back, “I want to be gone before David gets home from work.”
“I don’t want to go,” Blair said stubbornly, twisting his hand within hers, trying with all his five year old strength to pull free. “I want to stay here with David.”
“We can’t,” Naomi said patiently, moving inexorably towards the door, taking Blair along with her, “people don’t stay together if they don’t love each other, Blair.” Sighing, she stopped and crouched in front of him, looking into his tear-filled eyes. “People move on, sweetie, that’s all. It’s time for us to do that. I can’t be what David wants me to be. I can’t stay home and cook and clean.” She waved a hand around as if encompassing the whole big world outside David’s little suburban house. “There’s so much to see out there, baby. It’ll be wonderful and we’ll find another home.”
Blair didn’t want another home. He wanted this one, with David, and Rex, the old sheepdog, that greeted him at the gate every day after school; with old Mrs. Smith next door who waved at him from her porch every morning; and Joe, who owned the deli down the street where David took him to buy candy every Saturday. This was home.
Naomi stood up then scooped him up into her arms and carried him from the house, out to the waiting cab.
Blair kneeled up in the seat as they drove off, watching until the house became nothing more than a tiny speck and then disappeared.
It wasn’t until he was older that he realized what different meanings the word ‘home’ had for him and his mother. If a place became home to Naomi, it meant she’d been there too long; home to Blair was a place he never wanted to leave.
Blair rubbed a sooty hand across his face then bent down to pick up the singed library book at his feet. ‘Great,’ he thought morosely, ‘another sixty bucks to shell out on top of having to pay the police department for the camera Jim borrowed off Carolyn.’
He turned in a slow circle and surveyed the remnants of what had once been his home. It might not have looked like much to Jim but to Blair it was home, had been for a year. His mom had been pretty unimpressed by it when she’d visited too, but to Naomi, home was portable. She took it with her wherever she went and made whatever part of the world she ended up in her own. Blair wanted roots and stability and Cascade had finally given him that. Well, until the 357s and the Deuces had decided to go to war and made his home collateral damage, that is. Now he had nowhere to call home. Well, Jim had said he could stay for a week so that wasn’t strictly true but a week seemed hardly long enough to make a dent in the ground, let alone put down roots so the loft wouldn’t be home either. He put the book back on the ground and firmed his resolve. It wasn’t like he was destitute after all. He had his TA’s position at least and maybe he could get a job somewhere that would give him enough money to rent another place… ‘In a week?’ his incredulous mind snorted but he tamped down the skepticism and instead started looking for what still might salvageable among the detritus.
“Sandburg? You in here?”
Blair looked up as Jim stepped in through what had once been his doorway. “Yeah, just seeing if anything else survived,” he replied, trying desperately to keep any self pity from coloring his tone.
“You need a hand?” Jim asked. “I picked up some boxes from the supermarket just in case.”
Blair felt as if a load had been lifted off his shoulders just by this small offer of help. “Yeah, man, thanks. Hey, look, I’m really sorry about the camera. I’ll get the money together as soon as I can to replace it.”
“Why?” Jim looked up from where he was bent over a pile of rubble on the floor. “It was insured, Chief. Don’t worry about it. I already spoke to Carolyn and she’s cool with it. Told me she’s going in for the next model up as soon as the insurance claim gets approved.”
“Really? That’s great.” Blair heaved a sigh of relief as the amount of money he needed to raise in the next week dwindled by a couple of hundred or so. “Hey, listen, if you don’t need me tomorrow I might go speak to Sal at the deli and see if he needs any help.”
“A job?” Jim stood up and dusted off his hands.
“Well, yeah. I need to find another place to live and I have to replace these books for the university.” Blair held up a waterlogged tome then dropped it with a grimace.
Jim frowned. “Having a job’s going to cut into our project, isn’t it? I mean, you’re already juggling university with working with me. You sure you’re up to adding in another responsibility.”
Blair shrugged. “Don’t have much choice, Jim. You’ve been great about letting me stay with you for a week but I don’t think I’m going to get a place to rent for free.”
“Yeah, I guess.” Jim handed Blair one of the boxes he’d carried in. “Well, let’s see what we can salvage here, Chief.”
“Thanks, Jim. I really appreciate you helping me out.”
Jim patted his shoulder. “Well, you’ve been helping me out with my senses. I figure it’s the least I can do.”
Blair’s feet dragged heavily as he walked upstairs to the loft. It had been a very long day. He’d been up at 5 AM to go help Sal open the deli then from there he’d headed to the university and put in a solid five hours teaching classes and working on his thesis. He’d met up with Jim at the PD in the afternoon and gone with him to interview a witness to a bank robbery. Jim had seemed distracted and Blair had had to nudge him several times when he’d seemed to lose his train of thought. It was now six o’clock and Jim had stayed behind to type up the witness interview while Blair headed home to cook dinner.
Wearily, he unlocked the door and walked inside the apartment. His bedroom door was ajar and Blair looked longingly at it. What he wanted more than anything was to just lie down and go to sleep but Jim had put in a hard day’s work too and considering he’d let Blair stay for the past week, Blair thought the least he could do was cook the guy a decent meal. Which reminded him… His week was up the next day and Blair still hadn’t come up with anywhere else to live. Not that he hadn’t tried, but there seemed to be a distinct lack of apartments in Blair’s price range available right now. He’d even looked for share housing on the bulletin board at the university but everyone seemed happy with their current co-renters at the moment and there was nothing like that being advertised either. At the moment, it looked like his only option was going to be living out of his car or in a motel till he could find something more permanent.
He hung his jacket on the coat hook then put the bag of groceries he’d bought on the countertop. He’d decided to just grill some burgers for dinner. It wasn’t anything fancy but then again Jim was big on burgers so he’d probably be happy enough.
Blair got the burgers under the grill then checked the time. Jim had said he’d be home by 6-30, which would be perfect timing. He walked across to the fridge and opened it, grabbing lettuce and tomatoes as well as a beer for himself. He was about to close it again when he saw an envelope in the crisper drawer. Okay, that was weird. Blair picked it up and saw his name written across the front. He put the vegetables on the counter and then, with his heart in his mouth, opened the envelope. Was this Jim’s way of reminding him his time was up?
“Hey, Chief,” the note inside read, “figured this was the best place to put this seeing it was your turn to cook dinner tonight.
I’ve been thinking… We get along okay, even though you still need housetraining. Actually, I kind of like having you here. How about you forget about looking for somewhere else to live and just stay here? You’ll have to pay some rent and help with the utilities and you still get to take turns at cooking dinner and keeping your mess picked up. But I think it’d work. If you want to stay, that is. Oh, and if you do, tell Sal you don’t need the job anymore. You’ve got enough to do with the university and keeping me on track with my senses. I’ll make sure I don’t ask you for more rent than you can afford.
Oh, one more thing, that ugly ass mask in the living room has to go. Put in your room or down in the storage area but get it out of our living room.
‘Our living room.’ Blair smiled at that.
“Well, what do you think?”
Blair spun around to find Jim lounging against the kitchen counter. He lifted his hand and dangled a keyring from his fingers.
“I got this cut today. You know, just in case you wanted to stay,” Jim said.
Blair felt as if a huge load had been lifted from his shoulders. “I’d love to stay, man. Thank you.”
Jim walked across and handed him the keys. “Good. Welcome home, Chief.”