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Chapter VI. Part III
“Yeah,” Cade says.
“How do you feel about it?”
“Feel about what?” he asks, shaking his head.
“Well, I know the project has been controversial,” I say.
“What’s controversial about helping the needy?”
“Nothing,” I say with a smile.
“To be perfectly honest,” he continues, “I’d take a shelter for a next-door neighbor over another sterile, overpriced condo building filled with pretentious people and their spoiled dogs.”
I laugh. “You make a good point.”
“Think about it,” he says. “First the condo building goes up, then come the chain restaurants. Before you know it, my favorite café on Main will be a Gap.” He pauses for a moment, catching my eyes under the streetlight. “You’re so beautiful,” he says suddenly.
My cheeks feel hot as I smile, then look away.
“You are,” he says, squeezing my hand.
After finding what we need at the liquor store, we walk back to the apartment. Cade makes us drinks and we both sink into his sofa. I rest my head on his shoulder, quietly nestling into him. My eyelids are heavy, and when they flutter I don’t fight to keep them open.
Disoriented, and what feels like hours later, I open my eyes and sit up frantically. “What time is it?”
Cade is awake beside me. “It’s almost two in the morning. I couldn’t bear to wake you. You looked so peaceful.”
I smile. “I should go.”
“I know,” he says. “Let me call you a cab.”
I fumble to button my cardigan sweater as he makes the call. And for a moment, I wish I could stay. Tonight and the next night. And the night after. Always.
Cade walks me to the sidewalk and pulls me into an embrace. He holds me like that for a long moment before letting his lips find mine. We kiss as the cab approaches and makes a U-turn to circle back to me.
I remember the quarter Tracy gave me earlier. Before I wave good night to Cade, I reach into my pocket and toss it into the hat of a homeless man sitting beside his dog on the sidewalk nearby.
Chapter VII. Part I
NOVEMBER 16, 2008
Cade. He saw me, he recognized me. I saw a flicker in his eyes. “I’ll come back,” I promised him. “I’m going to help you.”
My heart pounds as I pull out my phone and frantically search for James’s number. Keatley. James Keatley. Element Records has long since closed its doors, but I know that James started a successful venture-capital group downtown, and its portfolio of start-ups is impressive. Apparently he and his partners have made millions, or at least that was the insinuation of the article in The Wall Street Journal I came across six years ago. At the time, I called to congratulate him. I casually asked if he knew how Cade was doing, but he said, like everyone else from the past, that he’d lost touch with his old friend. Part of me was glad. At least I wasn’t the only person Cade had cut out of his life. Another part of me grieved. He was really gone from the face of the earth, it seemed.
I remember being struck then by how quickly life can move on. James shut down the record label, married his girlfriend, Alexis, and had a few children. One chapter closed, another begun. A life too full to wonder about an estranged friend who slipped off the grid. But now? My fingers race through my phone’s address book to find his name. I have to tell him that Cade is in Seattle, that he’s been under our noses perhaps the entire time.
“There,” I say to myself, pulling up his contact information. James Keatley. I hit the call button.
“You’ve reached the offices of Keatley, Brown, and Sloane,” croons a male receptionist on the other end of the line. It’s Sunday, and I’m surprised to hear a live voice.
“Yes — hello — I’m calling for James Keatley,” I stammer. A weekend receptionist. He really must have made it big. “It’s very important.”
“Who may I say is calling?”
“I’m sorry,” he says after a brief hold. “Mr. Keatley is busy.”
“No, you don’t understand. Please tell Mr. Keatley that this is an emergency. I need to speak to him now, either on the phone or in person. Your office is not far from Westlake Center, is it? I’ll come by.”
“I’m afraid that won’t be possible,” he replies. “We’re normally not open on the weekends. Mr. Keatley is not taking any meetings. I’ll pass along the message that you called.”
Sunday or not, James is in his office, and I’m undeterred. I hang up the phone and immediately hail a cab. “Take me to the Fourth and Pike Building, please,” I say to the driver.
A gust of wind whips my hair into my eyes as I struggle to open the heavy brass door. I’m grateful to see the security desk empty as I find my way to the elevator, which takes me to the seventh floor. To the left is a law office suite, so I turn right. At the end of the hallway, a gold placard with James’s name on it is affixed to the door. I take a deep breath and walk inside.
“I’m here to see James,” I say, peering past the reception area into the mass of empty cubicles.
“Wait, you have to—” the man behind the counter begins to say. He wears a suit, a cobalt-blue bow tie, and the sort of dark-rimmed glasses that have the air of being for style, not vision correction.
I set my sights on James’s office and walk ahead, clearing my throat as I walk into his open doorway.
James’s eyes widen as he looks up from his computer. “Kailey?” His voice is just as I recall: urgent, abrupt, with a touch of jovial sportscaster that rounds out the edges. “What’s going on?”
“Hi,” I say. There’s a dusting of gray at his temples; he’s aged more than I imagined.
“It’s been a long time,” he says, standing up and waving away the guy from the front desk, who is hovering like a pit bull puppy. James clasps his hands awkwardly, as if he doesn’t know what to do with them.
His office looks like a page from the latest issue of Dwell, with a desk made of iron and reclaimed wood and a space-age swivel chair. I eye the photos on the wall, all in matching black frames: babies, a big happy family posing barefoot in front of palm trees by the beach, Hawaii, maybe; James with band members from Element Records, at shows; and one of him and Alexis standing on a yacht called Stella May. None of Cade.
“You look good, Kailey, the years have been—”
“I found him,” I say, no interest in small talk. Not now.
“I found Cade.”
“What do you mean, you found him?”
“Here in Seattle,” I say. “Right under our noses.”
“Well, I didn’t realize he was lost,” he says, shaking his head with a strained smile.
I sit down. “I didn’t either, at first. But when he left, when he never came back, part of me worried that something had happened. I guess I’ve always worried that. And, James, something did happen. He’s on the streets. Homeless.”
I nod solemnly. “I saw him outside Le Marche last night. I was too stunned to know what to do, but I decided to come downtown this morning to try to find him. And I did. I saw him at Westlake Center. James, he looks terrible. He’s in rags.” I exhale deeply. “I don’t even know if he knows himself.”
James clasps his hands together once again. “Are you sure it was him?”
“Perhaps it was just someone who looked like Cade.”
“No,” I say, pulling up the sleeve of my shirt to reveal my tattoo. “A man at the homeless shelter recognized it. It’s Cade, James. It’s really him.”
I hear the hinges of the door behind me, and I turn around.
“Oh, hi, sweetie.”
Alexis, now with a baby on her hip, is just as I remember her: dark curly hair, a little round; big, wide-set eyes. After Cade’s disappearance, she reached out on numerous occasions to see how I was, offering to have lunch or coffee. As much as I appreciated the gesture, I was too raw to discuss the past, and by then I’d moved to New York.
“Hi, Alexis,” I say.
“Kailey!” she exclaims, rushing over to lean in and give me a one-armed hug. The baby, a little boy with blond hair, smiles as she jostles him higher on her hip. Alexis flashes James a quick glance. “It’s been…such a long time. You look great!”
“You too,” I say, though I notice bags under her eyes. Age has snuck up on her, or perhaps just the stress of parenting.
“Lex, Kailey is here because she believes she saw Cade downtown,” he says, raising an eyebrow.
Alexis looks stunned. “You’re kidding?” They exchange a knowing look before her gaze returns to me. “Cade’s back? That’s…wonderful.” She looks at her husband again, then back at me. “How is he?”
“Not well,” I say. “As I was just telling James, he’s living on the streets. Something happened to him.”
“That’s terrible,” Alexis says, shocked. “James, can we do anything to help him?”
James sighs and runs his hand through his hair. I try to remember Alexis in the nineties, but the images that rise to the surface of my mind’s eye are blurry and incomplete. She was there, all along, of course, working alongside Cade, at all the parties, all the concerts, and yet there was something oddly unmemorable about her, something vacant about her presence. I watch her tenderly rock the small child in her arms and wonder if she’s happy, if motherhood is the path she’s been on all along. The baby coos at me, and I feel a twinge in my heart. I look away.
“It’s been years,” Alexis continues. “But it’s never too late to come home. He must have changed his mind about the new life he started somewhere else. He always talked about France, remember, Kailey?”
I close my eyes tightly, then open them again. We talked about France, specifically that little seaside town in Normandy I’d visited once as a child with my grandparents. Coincidentally, Cade had traveled there, too, that very summer, with his aunt. We laughed about how we probably saw each other on the train. After Cade disappeared, it crossed my mind that he might have moved to France. The very idea of it sent shock waves through my beleaguered heart.
James turns in his chair to face the window. How strange it seems, suddenly, to see how life unfolds. Once a record label executive in Vans and jeans, he’s become one of the masses. A businessman, in a bland office building, with a chair that swivels.
“Cade’s out there,” I say, looking out at Seattle in all her gray glory beyond the window. “Right now.”
A moment later, he spins his chair around and nods like a doctor who has deliberated and settled on a diagnosis. “Alexis has always been sentimental, and, Kailey, you used to live with your head in the clouds. But I see your byline on the business pages these days. You’ve joined the real world. And the reality is that when it comes to Cade, it’s his life, not ours. If he wants to live on the streets, that’s his prerogative.”
I shake my head. “James, no one chooses to live on the streets. Something happened to him, I know it. He’s not well. He needs help.”
He shakes his head. “Kailey, I helped Cade so much at the end. You remember what it was like then. You remember how bad it was.”
I don’t want to remember, but I do. The accusations James made. The way everything spiraled out of control. I had Cade’s back until…well, until I couldn’t any longer. And even then I wondered if I’d gotten it all wrong. Wondered if I’d misread the situation. Wondered if I would have stayed, for just another hour, just one more conversation, if life would have turned out differently for me, for Cade, for all of us.
“It’s no longer my job to help him,” he says.
Alexis walks closer to her husband. “But, James —”
“I’ve moved on,” he says, disregarding her. “I have a new business to run, and”—he points to his wife—“a family to think of. What if he’s on drugs?”
“James,” I say, shaking my head.
His eyes narrow. “There was a lot he kept from us,” he says. “A lot he kept from you.”
I close my eyes tightly, then reopen them.
“I think we both know that.”
I search James’s eyes. They’re void of any love, any bond, any loyalty he might have once had for Cade. Did it wither and die over the years? Was it missing all along? “But, James,” I say, almost pleading. “He was your best friend.”
James stands up. “When I was a kid,” he says, straightening the collar of his oxford shirt, cuffs embellished with custom gold links. “But somewhere along the way, I grew up. Obviously he didn’t.”
Alexis gives me a sympathetic look as James reaches for the baby in his wife’s arms.
“I’m sorry, Kailey,” he says, kissing the child’s forehead. “You have our sympathy, and I do hope you’re able to get him the help he needs. We all make our choices. Cade made his.”
“Right,” I say, walking out the door.
My heart sinks lower in the elevator with each descending floor.
If Cade is going to be saved, I’ll have to do it myself.