The ground was frozen beneath my feet, crunching under the soles of my shoes as I walked onto the construction site. It was freezing out and we had at least another couple of months left before we’d get any respite from the cold.
As a Boston boy, born and bred, I was used to the cold. Didn’t mean I had to like it, though. My cheeks burned when a sudden gust of wind blew through the tunneling on the site that would soon be unveiled as the newest museum ready to be added to Boston’s collection.
Reaching up, I rearranged the scarf around my neck and tucked my chin into it. Moving to warmer climates sure felt like a great idea right around now.
Maybe my dad had a point by spending most of his time down in Texas. A little sunshine never hurt anyone. Dad always said he would’ve gone mad if he had to stay in Boston year round.
Fuck. It was hard to believe he was really gone.
Shoving my gloved hands into my pockets, I released a heavy sigh. It was too easy to just believe he was still in Texas and that was why he hadn’t been home for Christmas.
It wasn’t that.
He wasn’t there.
Some tools lying on the ledge of a half built wall with a tape measure on the ground caught my eye, distracting me from my miserable thoughts. There was a work bench right there, the tools and the tape measure should have been on it.
I scooped up the offending items and stowed them where they should have been all along.
Things had a place and I liked it when they were in it, or on it in this case. I didn’t understand why it was so difficult to put stuff in its proper place. Working on the job site all the time, surely they knew it was dangerous to leave things lying around.
Dwelling on it wasn’t why I was here, though. Following the low hum of men’s voices, I walked up to what would become the museum’s main entrance.
No matter how many times I experienced it, I still paused to take in one of my designs come to life. Sitting down at a drafting table with a pencil, I saw my buildings in my mind’s eye long before they were at this point of construction. It was always a thrill to see my drawings springing to life, changing the city scape in one way or another.
A big change or a small one, the rush remained the same. I couldn’t imagine a better job.
“Well, well, if it isn’t the architect himself.” A loud voice boomed behind me. “Come to check up on us?”
I turned to the voice, coming face to face with a six foot four brick of a man. He probably didn’t even know where the gym was, but his nine or ten hour work days on construction sites showed. A guy like him didn’t need a gym to be as big as he was. Bastard.
Shaggy, light brown hair peaked out from under a woolen beanie. There was concrete dust on his black work coat and thick sludge on his boots. He had the kind of rugged face you would expect to see a scowl on, but Craig was almost always grinning.
Smirking at my lead contractor and best friend, I said. “Someone’s got to check up on you, Craig. Just to make sure you’re not down here drinking beer or getting laid on my tarps.”
“You know me too well,” he joked, winking a hazel eye at me. “Thank fuck I just finished the keg and kicked the girl out. Wouldn’t want the boss to fire me.”
“You probably shouldn’t have told the boss about the girl or the keg then, genius,” I shot back, knowing there was no way he would ever fuck around on the job. “If you promise to save me a beer next time, I’ll let it slide just this once.”
Bringing two tattooed fingers to his big forehead in a mock salute, he laughed. “You got it, boss man. What are doing standing out here? You’ll freeze your balls off. Let’s get our asses inside before we freeze them off, too. Wouldn’t want to disappoint the women of Boston by losing two of its sexiest butts. Or your balls, for that matter.”
“I don’t give a shit about the women, but I couldn’t afford the time off to be treated for frostbite,” I replied, walking up the five steps into the foyer of the museum. “Another day away from the office and I wouldn’t be able to catch up even if I had the rest of the year to do it.”
The glass front of the building hadn’t been installed yet, but having walls on three sides shielded us effectively enough from the biting wind. It wasn’t much of a consolation, but at least it was a little warmer.
“Yeah, wouldn’t want to hold up construction if both of us ended up in the hospital,” Craig said, following me into the half completed building.
“Since you mentioned hold ups, how are we doing on timing?” I asked, shaking out my stiff arms while bouncing lightly on the balls of my feet to try to restore proper blood flow to my extremities. I didn’t particularly feel like losing my butt, balls or fingers to the weather. “I need to know if you think we’re going to run into any penalties.”
“Not on my watch,” Craig replied, his tone becoming more serious. “We’ll get it done on time. I’m glad you’re here, though. I wanted to show you something.”
“Show me what?” I wasn’t ashamed to admit that I was a perfectionist when it came to my job. Everything had to be just right. From the look on Craig’s face and the way his forehead furrowed, something was wrong. “What is it?”
Hunching his broad shoulders, he jerked his head at one of the corners of the building. “They’re not at a perfect angle. I built them exactly according to your design, but they’re a little off.”
Familiar nausea spread from the pit of my stomach. It couldn’t be. Before I signed off on any of my designs, I double checked every inch of the building.
Fuck, not even double checked. I triple checked. And then I checked one last time just in case. The city trusted me to add something permanent to its face. It was a responsibility I took seriously. “You’re kidding. They were perfect.”
Craig shook his head glumly. “They’re angled just shy of ninety degrees. Go check them.”
I did just that. Hurrying to the corner to my left, the one closest to me, I wished I had some of my own tools with me to check, but I was going to have to trust my own two eyes for now. If I needed to, I could always come back later with the proper equipment.
Dropping down into a crouch, I squinted at the corner just as I heard bellowing laughter from Craig. “I’m fucking with you, man. Shit, you should have seen the look on your face. It was epic.”
“Epic was that prank we pulled on Dave when we told him about the water main on the office park project last year. This was lame.”
Craig’s eyes crinkled with the memory of the water main prank. “That was a good one, but honestly man, I just had to do something to loosen you up.”
“And you thought telling me I fucked up the design was it?” I raised an eyebrow. “Clearly, you don’t know me as well as you think you do.”
Shrugging his shoulders, he had the good sense to look genuinely sorry. “I was in a pinch. I had to think fast. It’s not like I had a lot of time to come up with that one. Seriously bro, how are you doing?”
“With the prank?” I rolled my eyes. “I’ll be fine. My design was perfect. No harm, no foul.”
Craig shot me a look. “That’s not what I was talking about and you know it.”
I inhaled deeply, the crisp air burning my lungs before I sighed. “I’m okay, it’s just been a rough couple of weeks.”
“You lost your dad, Layton. That’s more than just a rough couple of weeks.” He was right, it had been much worse than rough. It still was. “First Christmas and New Year’s without him. First couple of days of a year he’ll never see. That sucks, dude. You can be honest with me.”
“It does suck.” I agreed, but I didn’t give him more. I didn’t really want to talk about it. “My dad passed, no one can deny it sucks balls, but I’ll live. There’s nothing else to say about it.”
My father was Jeffrey Bridges. The Jeff Bridges, the guy who started Brilliant Aviation and became a multi-billionaire for his trouble. An aeronautical engineer, he designed planes for some of the biggest names in the industry, and even for the military at times.
He was a well-respected man, as evidenced by the fact that his funeral a couple of weeks ago had been attended by several hundred people. A few people had approached me in the week before, asking if they might say a few words at the service.
As his only living relative, organizing the massive event had been up to me. I figured that he would have liked being remembered by his friends and colleagues, so I said yes to those who requested the chance to talk.
The man they talked about was fierce, passionate, intelligent, and had been responsible for several of the biggest breakthroughs aviation had seen in a long time. What few people knew was that while the man might have been a hell of an engineer, he hadn’t been much of a father.
I was an only child and my mom passed when I was young. Dad believed in a ‘less is more’ approach as his personal parenting style and hired a slew of nannies to raise me. He spent more than half of his time down in Texas, not that I had ever been there with him.
While he was gone, I finished school, went on to college and became an architect. I did well enough for myself that I never had to ask him for anything. Not that he cared, or even noticed.
It didn’t seem to matter what I did, he was never proud of me. I stopped trying to earn his pride and respect at a young age, opting instead to just keep my head down and work hard.
Many people couldn’t understand why I did, since I had a trust fund large enough to sustain several small countries for a couple of years at least. I also stood to inherit a fortune now that Dad was gone, but I’d never wanted his money.
As if Craig could read my thoughts, he piped up, “Fine, you don‘t have to talk about it, but if you ever need someone to help you spend your inheritance, I’m available.”
Craig was one of the few people in my life who honestly didn’t care about who my dad was or how much I would be worth now that he was gone. Even now, humor cracked in his voice when he spoke.
I told him, “Yeah, yeah. I’ll remember that. Speaking of which, I’ve been summoned to see my dad’s lawyer tomorrow.”
“That’s going to be fun.” Craig commiserated. “Okay, well if you don’t want to talk, want me to buy you a cup of coffee before we do a walk around on the site?”
“Yeah, that sounds good,” I told him, appreciating that he wasn’t pushing me to talk about Dad any longer. We walked to a coffee shop down the block from the site and each ordered a mega cup.
Craig pulled out his wallet and slapped a couple of bills down on the counter. “I guess this will be the last time I have to pay for coffee.”
He winked, chuckling as he spoke. I lifted my middle finger and showed it to him, jokingly replying. “Don’t worry, big guy. I‘ll still let you pay for coffee after tomorrow.”
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