Page 66


Dr. Frank closed his office door behind him and reached to shake my hand. “Boyce, good to see you. Have some questions for me, or have you reached a decision?” He sat behind the desk, and I took one of the chairs facing him. The positions were familiar enough that all sorts of smartass comments were pouring into my head. But this wasn’t school and I wasn’t in hot water. I was a businessman speaking to a potential investor.
I sat straight as a rod, pressing a fist to my thigh to pin down my leg, which wanted to judder a mile a minute. “You’ve made me a real fair offer, Dr. Frank, and I’ve got no reason to turn it down. But—and I’m sure I’m going about this all wrong—I have a proposition of my own.”
He nodded and sat forward. “All right.”
“I started working for my father ten years ago. He was an asshole, pardon my language, but he knew cars and he passed that know-how down to me. If I told you I’d thought that garage would be mine since then, that would be a lie. Truth is, I didn’t have any kinda goals or plans when I was a kid. I just… did what was easiest.”
What was easiest was surviving the loss of Mom and Brent and ducking my dad’s fist, but by seventeen I could’ve shaped up. I could’ve followed Maxfield’s lead and got the hell out. I chose not to, because staying required nothing. It was so fucking easy.
I’d dug my own hole, and it was time to dig myself out.
“A couple years ago, my dad was diagnosed with liver disease. He never quit drinking, so he was ineligible for a transplant. He was going to die fast and ugly and we both knew it. Once I knew—or thought I knew—Wynn’s was going to be mine, everything shifted in my head. How I saw the place, the customers, my work, my connection to this town—everything changed. So the thing is—I know I can do the work. I can run the place for someone else.” I swallowed. “But what I want is to own it.”
“Oh?” His brows rose and he steepled his hands on his desk. Dr. Frank seemed like a good-humored, plainspoken sorta guy. He’d gotten his MD from Baylor in 1986—diploma on the wall behind him—which meant he and my dad had been of an age. But whereas my dad had been a hard-living son of a bitch who believed a man taking care of himself was for pussies, Thomas Frank had a George Clooney thing going on. I could see how his sexploits got to be part of local folklore before I was even born.
And then he met Pearl’s mom.
“There are two paths to owning Wynn’s: purchasing it—cash on the barrel—or financing it,” he said. “I assume you don’t have the funds on hand to buy your mama out.” I shook my head, as he knew I would. “So that leaves financing a business loan. How might you feel making payments on something you thought was yours?”
“Well, I reckon that’d depend on the terms of the loan.” Thank Christ I’d looked this shit up last night.
He smiled. “My initial assumption was that your mama would sell Wynn’s to me at a fair price and I would pay you to run it. If you were to take on a loan for that property, you’d have to make that payment every month, as well as support the business and yourself. That’s a lot to ask of a young man with marketable skills who could command a steady salary and undertake no risk instead.”
Working for him was the easier path, and it should have been tempting, but it wasn’t. “I’m probably shooting myself in the foot to say this to the guy offering me a job, but I’m not sure I’d bring the same amount of dedication to something that isn’t mine.”
He eyed me more closely. “All right. Just a moment.” He pulled up some software on his computer and entered numbers and turned the monitor toward me. “My CPA sent over property and business valuations yesterday—both asset-based and income-to-value. Here’s the possible range of the loan payment amount—high to low—depending on what she’ll sell it for, at a typical rate of interest.”
I braced myself for something between barely doable and hopeless.
“That’s—less than a grand per month? For—uh, principal and interest? That’s all? I could do either of those.”
He nodded. “You’d have to pay taxes and insurance separately, but I’m sure you have a good idea what those will be since you’ve already been keeping up with them. I’m glad the upper limit looks doable, but why don’t we see how close we can get her to the lesser amount?”
“Are you… are you saying you would be willing to loan me the money?”
“Confession—I looked into your credit history as well.”
“Ain’t much there,” I said. “No car loans or rent paid. One credit card I don’t much use.”
“What I see is that you live within your means when a lot of people your age don’t. You took responsibility for a business and built it up instead of squeezing what you could get out of it or abandoning it. I’d be proud to invest in you, Mr. Wynn.”
My throat squeezed tight. I couldn’t swallow, and I sure couldn’t trust my damned self to answer. I nodded and stuck out my hand and we shook.
By the time I was at work Thursday night, I couldn’t take it anymore. Almost a week had passed since I’d seen Boyce. He’d told me not to come over, and I knew he had his hands full running Wynn’s, watching over Sam, and dealing with his mother and her boyfriend. But my heart only knew I missed him.
I had my excuse when I remembered that his birthday was six days away—exactly two weeks after mine—or exactly one year and fifty weeks before mine. He’d flunked third grade and I’d skipped ninth, throwing us into the same forty-three person graduating class in high school.
Some people might have called that destiny, but I wasn’t one of them. I’d never believed in the illogical concept of fate—owing an A on an exam to a lucky hat or attributing a touchdown to a preordained miracle. Fortunate outcomes were the result of hard work or happy accidents. There was no correlation between wearing a hat and earning an A. It was coincidence.
Like Boyce spotting me in the water seconds before I would have drowned. Or the two of us ending up in the same biology class in tenth grade because Mel and I made the dance squad and we had to switch out of last-period biology and into Boyce and Landon’s section. In life, bad things happen, good things happen, and we do what we can to encourage one and prevent the other. Boyce was one of the good things in my life. One of the best things. I wanted to be one of his best things, even if someday all I’d be was a memory.