He was floating in air without a care in the world. Darkness surrounded him, but for once it didn’t scare him. This darkness was almost peaceful, serene and it felt…it felt nice. There was something safe about the inky night that engulfed him and he wondered why anyone would want to leave it. He could hear things in the distances; voices, sounds…some faint, some loud. He closed his ears to the noise, shutting out the world…leaving life behind for the moment. He just wanted to enjoy the silence.
He reveled in the darkness. There was no pain here, no punishments, and no conflict. He wasn’t confused, and he wasn’t scared. He could get used to this. There weren’t people looking over his shoulder, and no blaring signs of danger, he didn’t have to think and he had no reason to be sad. There were no expectations…no fear of disappointment. Here he was alone. That part he didn’t like.
The voices wouldn’t let him be. They were persistent, intruding on his quiet. He could pick and choose what he heard, like flipping the dial on a radio. As much as he enjoyed the silence, he was curious about the voices and the sounds.
“I’m just not understanding how these tests can be conclusive…” That voice sounded familiar, he was pulled towards it, wanting to hear more…needing clarification, but not wanting to get too close. “My son was in Alcohol Rehab for a year,” the voice continued. “What rehab facility do you know of that would use electroshock therapy?”
He backed away from the voice, confusion settling in as he mulled over what he just heard. That was his dad, an honest man…would never lie. Was he telling a lie right then? No! It didn’t make sense…why would his dad tell the doctors he was in Rehab unless… He didn’t want to think about it anymore, he just wanted to escape into the inky blackness…he wanted to be left alone.
Time stood still in the black, no definition, no point of beginning or ending. It just was. He measured time by the voices, and how they made him feel. His mom’s voice made him sad. He longed for her. He felt that she didn’t want him to be there. There was a longing in his soul, it hurt. Pain found him when he heard his mother, he wished it would let him stay lost.
There was confusion when he heard his dad, mixed with something else…something tangible. He sensed that the voice cared, but he didn’t understand. He couldn’t return to the confusion…didn’t want to be drawn to this voice. He was afraid that getting to close would cause pain, he wasn’t sure why he felt that way.
“I’m very proud of you son.” the accented voice reached his ears. The voice sent shockwaves through him, as he recognized it. He wanted to turn the dial, change the channel. “I knew you would stick with the foundation, and now you will become the man I know you were born to be. I knew you could do it, Colton. You are a Vasaar through and through and you will do our family name proud. When you get out of here Colton, I will take you to live with me; it is where you belong.”
Panic found him…and fear like he had never felt before. He stopped floating, the sounds became louder, the voices closer. He frantically sought to shut it out, turn the dial, switch it off…
Marshall stopped the car and Bryan didn’t budge. He was looking at the building that would be his home for the next few months. Marshall pulled him out of the car and practically dragged him to the front door of the foundation.
Bryan could feel his heart pounding, and an alarm sounded as images began to flood his brain.
Dr. Herbert Orr stood in front of the room, his smiling face staring out at the boys in the therapy group. His eyes were focused on Bryan as he spoke about the virtues of the program. “You WILL become the men you were meant to be.”
“Marshall, what are you doing here? What did you do to him?” Thomas’s voice? When had his father been there?
A single sheet of paper that decides his future; Thomas’ signature stood out on the bottom and Bryan felt like he’s just been stabbed in the heart multiple times.
Suddenly, a roaring in his ears competed with the blaring of the alarms. Over it all he could hear a male voice shout, "His blood pressure is spiking!"
“What is wrong with him?” Marshall yelled.
He screamed as Adam’s whip sliced through his back. He had lost count of how many times he had been hit. He wished he could just pass out from the pain, or better yet, just die. The whip sliced his skin again and he vomited.
“I think you all should leave. Get them out of here!” Dr. Wilkerson’s voice rang out.
The monitors continued screaming. Bryan writhed and shook, his head moving from side to side…his body shivering as beads of sweat appeared on his forehead. He just wanted to get away…as far away as he could, away from that voice…the words, the thoughts, the pain... the pain plunged once more from his back, knifing through his entire body. He just wanted to be gone. “We’re losing him!” one of the nurses yelled, “He’s crashing!”
“I need a sedative in here, STAT!” Dr. Wilkerson snapped. “I told you to go Marshall, Thomas! Get out now!”
Bryan felt the drug enter his veins like ice water and he started to slip backwards, back into the darkness. But the pain…and the blaring alarms refused to let him go.
“He’s not responding! Give me ten more CC's...”
The voice drew him closer to the surface. One voice, soft and deep…it kept him in focus. No radio dials necessary, it was like an inner calling, part of him wanted to answer. This voice confused him as well…but somehow he thought he understood.
“…Maybe you don’t feel like people need you here anymore. And maybe, just maybe you think that you would be better off staying in that dark place you’ve gone to…”
He drew closer to the voice…this one seemed to understand. It seemed to get what he was feeling, that was a comfort. Confusion circled him, yet still he wanted to listen…he didn’t want to switch the dial again.
“…You aren’t better off because even if it were true that no one else wanted you here, I want you here.”
It was as if the voice bore right into his soul. Was it possible to seem so close yet so far? He wanted to reach out to that voice, but there was fear right beneath the surface. He didn’t know if he could muddle through. Did he want to muddle through?
“…I meant it when I said I’d be lost without you. I am lost, Bryan. So much so that it’s like I don’t even know how to do what needs to be done. I somehow manage to do what I did before…but it’s not the same. My life was completely changed when you came home.”
Bryan drifted closer still, heading towards the surface. He was hesitant, not sure why he was being pulled by these words. He liked them…he wanted to be needed, yet he didn’t understand how he could be. How it possible…this voice, this presence needed him? That made no sense…but still he drifted…floating ever closer.
“…You’ve given me a reason, Bryan…”
He started to wonder if this was a good idea. He had an urge to turn and run from this, avoid the pain that would surely come, he couldn’t. He wanted to be someone’s reason…he wanted to be important. This voice understood. He didn’t know if he could trust it…could this voice…this person keep him safe?
“…I already knew I wanted to make movies, and I know that your parents like having me around. But none of that matters as much as the fact that you need me, and I’m here for you Bryan. Please wake up…let me be there for you like I want to.”
Want…that was the magic word. He allowed himself to drift back through the sadness, the confusion, and the pain. He embraced the words…embraced his body…his soul. He had heard what he needed to hear and for the moment he would keep uncertainty at bay.
Bryan awoke to relative silence, the now familiar beeping of the monitors was the only noise. Almost the only noise. A steady, soft, low rumbling came from nearby. Bryan could feel something warm against his right hand. He opened his eyes, and saw Jeff, snoring softly, his head on the bed, both hands wrapped around Bryan’s hand.
“Jeff?” Bryan tried, but the word seemed stuck in his throat, like he’d been gargling with gravel. “J-Jeff”
His mouth fell open when Jeff moved and soon Bryan was staring into deep blue eyes. There were feelings in his head as he sat there reveling in that gaze. In his mind’s eye he could see the bookshelf that represented his mind. It seemed that every emotion with a name had found its way to the floor, scattered about as if by the wind. The mess was disconcerting and he didn’t really know how to deal with it. He was being drawn into that gaze, and it frightened him. He was curious, intrigued by the depth of the intensity he felt there. There were hints of happiness and joy, emotions he hadn’t touched in a very long time; he wasn’t sure if he could tap into them now. Those sapphire gems continued to pull him deeper, until he broke contact. He closed his mouth and frowned, no longer sure what to think about what was going on.
He watched curiously as Jeff stood and went over to a table. There was a cup of water there and something that looked like a sponge on a stick. He wondered what Jeff planned to do with that. “Jeff,” he said wanting to communicate that his lips were dry. He tried licking them, but that only seemed to make it worse.
“Don’t try to talk,” Jeff instructed as he dipped the sponge thing into the water. “You can’t have anything to drink right now,” he explained. “But try this.” The sponge touched his lips, wetting them swiftly and efficiently. He opened his mouth, intending to speak again but Jeff asked him to stay still.
“You can trust me, Bryan,” and Bryan knew even as Jeff’s fingers touched his lips that he could indeed trust his friend. Yet, He didn’t know what to think about the tingle he felt at that touch, or the look he saw cross Jeff’s face before he turned away. Bryan parted his lips slightly as he watched Jeff place the cup back on the table. Bryan welcomed the cool, wet swab in his mouth, and tried to suck on it momentarily.
“Yuck,” he said wrinkling his nose.
“The nurse said you wouldn’t like the taste,” Jeff said a grin crossing his features. It was a nice smile, it made him want to smile too, and that confused him.
“Thank you.” Bryan’s voice cracked as Jeff took a seat beside him and he turned his attention to his hands.
He lifted his hands up so he could examine them better. He opened and closed them and examined every finger until he was satisfied that everything was okay. He traced the dent on his ring finger, where his signet ring had been. He frowned, wondering momentarily where it was and if he would get it back. He needed that if he was going to be what they wanted him to be. The ring was part of the image, the face he had to display in order for his family to love him. That was all he was looking for really, for them to accept him again. Could he be who they wanted him to be now? Would things be better with his mom, or would she still be sad? Maybe it was too late, maybe he had failed and that was why the ring was gone. He needed to try harder to do what was necessary…if only he could figure out what he was doing wrong.
He traced a finger up his arm, looking for any signs of bruising, swelling and sore spots. Had they been able to find a vein this time when they drew his blood? He wondered; thinking about the last time…the nurse had tried several times before finally finding a vein. That didn’t seem to be a problem here though. Next he touched the IV as if it were the most fascinating thing, and briefly watched the liquid flow through the tube.
After a quick examination of his other arm his hands fell to the blankets and he gripped them tightly and lowered his head. Minutes passed before he lifted up the blankets. There was less light here, but he had to be certain that nothing had happened to him this time. He wanted to be sure, and he wondered if he should ask Jeff…he had said he could trust him…right?
He lifted the blanket and felt around, wincing when he reached his genitals. He was expecting pain, and was surprised to find none. He tried not to focus on it too much because he knew Jeff was watching him. He lifted his head and lowered his sheet and nodded when Jeff asked him if he was done.
“You have to call the doctor?” Bryan asked even as Jeff reached for the call button. Jeff had already explained to him that he needed to tell someone that he was awake. He just wasn’t looking forward to it.
“I promised to let someone know you were awake,” Jeff explained. “They just want to check you out Bryan, I’m sure it will be alright.”
Bryan didn’t know how to explain to him that this was the problem. He didn’t want to get checked out. He just wanted to be left alone. He wasn’t even sure how he had ended up in the hospital this time. It was another question he’d have to ask Jeff.
“It’s good to see you awake, Bryan,” he heard the doctor say as he entered the room. He glanced over at Jeff in confusion. He didn’t recognize this doctor. Where was Doctor Wilkerson?”
“That’s Dr. Hamilton,” Jeff explained, even as he left Bryan’s side. “He’s the specialist Dr. Wilkerson asked to help with your case.”
Bryan frowned, but focused on the man who had spoken to him.
“Jeff, will you let Bryan’s parents know he is awake while I examine him please.”
“No!” Bryan cried out before Jeff could answer. “Don’t make him go…please.”
“Bryan I’m just going to be in the hallway, your parents are right in the waiting room.”
“No buts,’ Jeff said gently. “I’ll be back, I promise. You won’t even know I was gone. Dr. Hamilton will take good care of you, and Dr. Wilkerson will be in soon. Okay?”
“Okay,” he said reluctantly. He watched Jeff leave the room and then eyed the doctor warily. Jeff seemed to trust him, but Bryan could never be too sure. The doctor smiled at him and looked down at his chart. Bryan wondered what that chart said about him. “Can you tell me what happened?” he asked, trying to get the doctor’s attention.
“That’s what we were hoping you could tell us, Bryan,” Dr. Hamilton explained, making eye contact with him. “I’m glad to see that you are awake and talking though. That is a good sign.”
“I don’t…understand,” Bryan said frowning again. “That’s a good sign of what?”
“Do you know why you are here, Bryan?” Dr. Hamilton asked, just as Dr. Wilkerson reentered the room, with Jeff right behind him. Bryan could see his dad and his mom in the distances as well.
“I’m not sure,” he said in response to the question. “Jeff hasn’t explained it to me yet.”
“Do you remember what happened before you were in here?” Dr. Wilkerson asked as he came closer to the bed.
Bryan looked towards the door, wishing that Jeff would come closer. He would know all the answers. “I’m…I’m not sure,” he said slowly. “I…think we were at work and…we were going to have lunch.” He frowned, trying to concentrate on the memory but there was nothing but darkness there. He could see him and Jeff leaving the studio but everything after that he couldn’t recall. “I don’t remember,” he said beginning to panic. “Jeff I don’t remember why I’m here. What’s wrong with me?”
“Bryan you need to breathe,” he heard Jeff say even as he saw him come closer to the bed. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the two doctors step back, but his attention was focused solely on Jeff as he tried to do what he asked.
“I don’t remember what happened…when? Yesterday? It was yesterday right?”
“No, Bryan,” Jeff said. Bryan didn’t know why he sounded so sad. “You were unconscious for over a week.”
“Over a week? But I don’t even know why I’m here Jeff!”
“I’ll explain it all to you…later okay?” Jeff assured him. “The doctors need to examine you so they can figure out why you don’t remember.”
“I don’t even know what time of day it is?” Bryan said frowning. “Is it night time or daytime? Do I have to take tests tonight?”
“Shouldn’t you let him get some sleep before some of those tests,” Jeff asked curiously. I mean it is late now…and he hasn’t really slept.”
“I think Jeff’s right, Bob,” Thomas spoke up. “Maybe we should let Bryan sleep?”
Bryan listened to them all speaking as if he wasn’t even there. His head was tilted to the side as he watched the two doctors converse, whispering in secret doctor code.
“Tomorrow will be test day then,” Dr. Hamilton spoke breaking the silence.
“He’ll need a shower,” Dr. Wilkerson added. “His hair needs to be clean for the EEG….” They said more words but he tuned them out. They weren’t talking to him anymore anyway. Just about him…and he was used to that. They always talked about him….never to him.
“You’re upsetting him,” he heard Jeff say. “If you have something to say you should say it to him, especially since he can hear you.”
Bryan felt a strange sense of pleasure that Jeff was defending him. He didn’t’ quite understand it, but it felt nice. Everyone cleared out of the room after that, and he could hear Jeff talking to him, but it almost sounded like his friend was in a tunnel.
“Bryan? Are you okay?”
He blinked and turned to see Jeff frowning at him. “What?” he asked as he tried to figure out what he has missed of the conversation.
“I was just saying good night,” Jeff repeated.
“Are you leaving?” Bryan asked yawning.
“No, I’m going to sit here and watch you sleep. Tomorrow is going to be a long day. You need your rest.”
“Good night, Jeff,” he said his eyes growing heavy as he spoke.
He jumped when the hand touched his shoulder, but he didn't open his eyes. "Sorry, Buddy, I didn't mean to startle you," a voice reached his ears, it was his dad he was certain of that. "It's time to wake up; we need to get you ready for your tests."
"Hi Mr. Dobbs," Jeff's voice met his ears. He sounded tired; Bryan wondered if he had sat up all night. "Is it morning already?"
Bryan closed his eyes tighter as he waited for his dad to answer the question. He didn’t want it to be morning. He didn't want to take any tests.
"Have you gotten any sleep, Jeff?" his father asked. "Maybe you can rest today while Bryan takes his tests." Bryan frowned. He didn't want Jeff to be tired, but how could Jeff be with him if he was sleeping? Were they trying to take Jeff away from him too? Would they turn Jeff against him just like they had turned Adam?
He cringed and opened his eyes. Thomas and Jeff were still talking. He wondered which one of them would realize first that he was awake.
"Bryan, you’re awake," Jeff said a smile alighting his lips. That smile bewildered Bryan. Would he ever understand his best friend? Could he really be that happy to see him?
"Hi Jeff," he said speaking slowly. It's morning?"
"Yes," Jeff told him; though it didn't go unnoticed that Bryan hadn't said anything to Thomas. That fact put Jeff on alert. "Your dad is here to take you for a shower, and the nurse should be in too...Bryan what's wrong?"
Bryan had sat up so fast that it sent a wave of dizziness through him but he shook his head as if he needed to get a point across immediately. Did Jeff really want him to go with his dad? He frowned. Should that idea upset him this much?
"I don't need a shower," he said crossing his arms stubbornly.
"But you need to," Jeff said gently. "Your hair has to be clean for the tests, and your dad will be with you, you will be safe with him."
Bryan didn't look convinced and he eyed his dad warily. Jeff sighed; he was beginning to realize just how bad this was. For whatever reason, his friend did not trust Thomas. Jeff just couldn't begin to grasp why.
"Give me a few minutes with him, please," Jeff said turning to face Thomas. Thomas looked sad but he nodded and turned to leave the room. Jeff sighed and turned back to Bryan. "Okay he's gone now. Can you tell me what's wrong?"
"I don't want to go with him." Bryan said simply as if it were the most logical response. He frowned, and hugged himself tighter.
"You don't want to go with your dad?" Jeff asked. "He's not going to hurt you, you know that right?"
Bryan lowered his head, finding himself unable to meet that intense gaze head on. He shook his head. "I don't know how to explain it," he admitted. "I'm just so confused."
"Can you try to explain it to me?" Jeff asked keeping his tone gentle. He wanted to help, but he could only do that if Bryan would talk to him.
"You won't think it’s crazy will you? I'm not crazy, Jeff."
"I don't think you're crazy, Bryan," Jeff assured him. "No one here thinks you are crazy. Just tell me what's going on, please? Trust me."
Silence reigned for a long time and Jeff began to wonder if he would have to try a different approach. He was just about to corner Bryan with another question when his friend spoke up.
“I…I don’t think I can trust him.”
“Of course you can,” Jeff said not missing a beat. He sat on the bed beside Bryan and lifted his chin up so he couldn’t ignore him anymore. “Your dad loves you, and he only wants what is best for you…”
“Then why did he sign the paper?” Bryan exclaimed.
“What paper?” Jeff asked bewildered. He wasn’t sure what Bryan was talking about.
“He gave them permission to do those things…he sent me away because he didn’t want me. How can I trust him?”
Jeff was confused. Thomas had said that Bryan chose to go to rehab on his own. This wasn’t the first time that Bryan claimed that Thomas sent him away. He had to think of something. Bryan really needed to have those tests… “Will you answer a question for me?” he asked placing a hand on Bryan’s shoulder.
“Okay,” Bryan agreed after a moment’s pause.
He squeezed Bryan’s shoulder and tried to figure out the best way to ask. He knew he had to be careful with Bryan; he didn’t want Bryan to think he didn’t believe him. “Your dad said this was your decision, Bryan. He aid you decided to go to rehab on your own and in order for you to do that he needed to sign the contract for you to be admitted as a live in patient. What did they do at this rehab facility to make you believe your family doesn’t love you? I’m fairly certain that’s not the way rehabs usually work. They’re supposed to teach you how to stand on your own, but to lean on your family in times of need. Is this not what you learned at rehab?”
“But Jeff,” Bryan said frowning at his best friend. “I wasn’t in Rehab. I didn’t learn anything like that in…this place…I wasn’t in rehab.”
“If you weren’t in rehab then where were you?” Jeff asked gently. “Your parents were told that you decided to check yourself into rehab, so that you could get help for your drinking.
“That…that doesn’t make sense, Jeff,” Bryan said frowning. “I…I didn’t decide to go anywhere. I was convinced I should go.” His frown deepened as he tried to grasp the memory that was just out of reach. “He said my dad wanted him to…” He let the thought trail off because he knew he wasn’t making much sense. “He said my dad wanted me to go, Jeff that’s why I went. And it wasn’t rehab.”
Jeff sighed. He didn’t like where this was going, though it made sense to him somehow. “But I don’t understand, Bryan. Your parents were told by Marshall that you wanted to get help, and felt that rehab was the best place for you.” Even as he said the words he thought about what Bryan had just admitted. Bryan was convinced that he had to go away? He was told that Marianne and Thomas didn’t want him there…who would tell him such things? Jeff knew the answer immediately, but he couldn’t just confront the man…not without proof. And unfortunately Bryan’s word wouldn’t be enough.
“Bryan,” He said squeezing his friend’s shoulder again. “Marshall brought the form for Thomas to sign. Your dad said that signing that form, knowing that you were in such a state in your life that you felt rehab was the only place you could get help, was one of the hardest things he ever did. And then when you were gone for so long he felt like you might never come home.”
He felt like this conversation was going nowhere. He wanted to believe what Jeff was telling him. Could it be true that his dad had missed him…that maybe just maybe he wanted him? Was that too much to hope for?”
“Are you sure?” he asked grasping at the thread Jeff was dangling before him.
“Absolutely positive,” Jeff replied. Thomas even commented a few weeks before they found out you were coming home that if he didn’t’ hear something from you soon, he was coming for you personally.”
“He couldn’t have,” Bryan said slowly, a frown settling across his features again. “That doesn’t make sense, Jeff. I wasn’t supposed to come home. They let me go…after I was in the hospital. No one knew I was coming…I don’t think they even knew I was in the hospital.”
Jeff’s hands touched his cheeks, and Bryan found himself staring into those blue depths once more. The gaze was intense, and he had to keep himself from getting lost in it. “Trust me.”
Bryan held his breath as he allowed his dad to help him shower. He wondered what the older man thought about the scars and the bruises that lined his back. Would they make him squirm and feel guilty? Would they cause him to ask questions that Bryan didn’t really have answers for? He was surprised when his father didn’t ask any questions. He just gently washed over the scars, pausing every few moments as he did so, and helped Bryan wash his hair. The shower was over in no time, and Bryan was being wheeled back to his room where Jeff was waiting…both Dr. Wilkerson and Dr. Hamilton were there as well.
His eyes bulged at the sight of all the electrodes they would be using on him. He hated those things, and he didn’t really want to put them on. He shook his head as Jeff and Thomas helped him back into bed. “No,” he said pointing at the electrodes. “I am not doing this; you can’t make me do it. I don’t want those things anywhere near me.”
“It will be alright Bryan,” Dr Hamilton’s voice met his ears. “We’re just going to put the electrodes on your scalp.”
“No,” Bryan yelled. “Get away from me. I don’t want to do this and you can’t make me do it. Just keep those things away.”
“Bryan,” Jeff said placing a hand on his shoulder. “Calm down. Come on, you need to breathe.”
“I don’t want those things near me…I don’t like them, Jeff.”
“Bryan…the doctors need to find out what happened to you, so they need to do these tests. Will it help if I hold your hand?”
“No!” Bryan snapped. “I don’t want to do it. Those things are horrible. I thought you were on my side. You are supposed to be my best friend.” He frowned, he had said that once before, but to someone else with blue eyes. He shrugged Jeff’s hand away and glared at him. He felt a dull ache, but didn’t have a name for the emotion. Had he been wrong about Jeff?
Jeff was speaking in the distance, but he couldn’t quite make out what he said. He was lost in his own tormented thoughts, and he winced when a hand once again touched his shoulder.
“I told you, you could trust me right?”
Bryan focused back in on the presence and was surprised to see that the room was empty of all occupants except him and Jeff. He blinked and tried to clear his thoughts before ducking away from that gaze. He didn’t understand why those eyes bothered him but intrigued him all at once. He opened his mouth to speak but words wouldn’t come so he settled for a nod.
“And you know I would never tell you to do something that wasn’t good for you…right?”
“I hate those things,” he said shuddering as he thought of all those little electrodes. “They stick them everywhere and then send electric shocks through…” He stopped talking as he realized he was saying way too much. “I just don’t want to do it,” he said glumly.
He looked up at the sound of his name and saw the questions even before Jeff voiced them. He swallowed and wished he could look away…but the gaze was magnetic and it was as if he had been cast under a spell.
“How many times have you been shocked with electricity?” Jeff asked his voice controlled.
Bryan shuddered and shrugged his shoulders. He had lost count of how many times it had happened. He frowned, knowing Jeff would want a number…he wished he could give him one.
“Okay…don’t answer that,” Jeff sounded frustrated and Bryan’s frown deepened. “Can you tell me why? Why were you being shocked with electricity?”
“It was part of the treatment,” Bryan said matter-of-factly.
“You didn’t like the treatments…did you?” Jeff said frowning. Bryan titled his head to the side, trying to read his friend’s eyes but he couldn’t tell what Jeff was thinking.
“How can I help make this easier for you, Bryan?” Jeff asked gently. “We need these tests to figure out what happened and what’s causing these headaches and the blackouts too.”
“So these are tests…and…not treatments?” Bryan asked slowly.
“No more treatments. The doctors want to help,” Jeff assured him. “I want to help and I’m going to be here for this test, okay? “
Bryan visibly relaxed and nodded. He could handle this if Jeff was there to hold his hand. It wasn’t a treatment…no more treatments. This was simply a test and Jeff wouldn’t send him to do something that would harm him. He took a deep breath and squeezed Jeff’s hand for comfort. “Okay…I’m…I’m ready.”
“Can you explain it to me?” Bryan asked as he watched the doctors around him. They were preparing the electrodes, and there was a third guy in the room mixing what looked like paste. “What are they doing?”
“Well the technician has to measure your head first,” Jeff explained as the process began. He has to mark on your scalp where the electrodes are going to go. He is putting some kind of cream there too…I guess so that the electrodes will stick.”
“Oh.” Bryan said as he felt the fingers in his hair.
“They are attaching twenty five electrodes now, and they are going to press on your scalp a bit to make sure they are connected right.”
“Why so many?” Bryan asked frowning as the technician applied the electrodes just right.
“I think they want to get as clear a reading as they can,” Jeff replied. “When they are finished applying they are going to ask you to relax and close your eyes. You won’t see me but I will be here. I can’t hold your hand for the whole test…okay. They need to have your complete focus first.”
“But you’ll still be in the room, right?” Bryan said getting worried.
“They are going to tell you to close your eyes for most of this…but when they let you open them Bryan you will see me. I’m not going anywhere.”
“Okay,” Bryan agreed.
“Okay, Bryan I need you to close your eyes so we can begin,” the technician instructed. Bryan looked at Jeff who nodded, before he closed his eyes tightly. His body tensed and he held his breath as he waited for the test to start.
“Bryan,” Jeff’s voice reached his ears. “Relax.” Jeff’s voice was soothing and he listened to it willingly. His shoulders relaxed first as the tension left his body. Soon all he could hear was the steady beeping of the machine. There was no pain…trusting Jeff had been the right choice to make.
He wasn’t sure how much time passed before the electrodes were being taken out of his hair. Jeff was standing off to the side watching the technician, who was speaking in tongues for as much as Bryan could comprehend.
“We’ll have to take you down to radiology for the other tests, Bryan,” Dr Wilkerson spoke up once the Tech left the room. The doctor’s voice was surprisingly gentle and it put Bryan at ease, though he didn’t really want to take more tests.
“I…I don’t suppose I have much of a choice do I?” he asked reluctantly.
“It will be okay, Bryan,” Jeff said returning to his side. He took Bryan’s hand in his own and gave it an encouraging squeeze. “I’ll be right here when you come back. Your mom and dad will be here too. And Alison is going to help the doctors. You remember Alison right?”
“You’re not coming?” He asked focusing on what Jeff said first. “I don’t want to take the tests if you can’t come.”
Jeff came closer and touched his face. He felt a tingling sensation as those fingers brushed his cheeks and he found it hard not to look into those blue eyes. “Trust me.”
Bryan was silent as they wheeled him down the hall. He looked straight ahead and listened to the noises in the hospital. His hands were folded on his lap and Jeff’s words were foremost in his thoughts. He trusted his best friend, and he knew Jeff wouldn’t send him somewhere dangerous. He didn’t like being far away from him. That was why he wanted Jeff to come. Right now he seemed so far away and everything was bearable when Jeff was there.
Jeff couldn’t be there however, and he would have to do this on his own. It wouldn’t be too bad, he tried to reason that much. The first test had been simple and painless…and these were tests, just tests.
Dr. Bob explained that they were trying to figure out what was causing his headaches, and also find a key to his missing memories. The next test was the MRI scan, which meant that he would have to lie still inside the magnetic machine. Bryan was only partially listening to what the doctor said. He was trying to keep his breathing controlled as they neared the room where the MRI would be performed. He wasn’t looking forward to being encased inside the machine…it was dark in there, and closed in...He didn’t think he could take it.
“Alright Bryan, I need you to lie down on the table here,” Dr. Wilkerson instructed. Bryan did as he was told, and tried to be as still as he could be. He knew this was an important part of this test…he couldn’t move.
He was fine until the table started its descent into the darkness. Even before he started entering the tunnel he was shaking and his breathing grew erratic. The table stopped moving but Bryan couldn’t turn off his reactions to the dark. He tried to move, until he felt a gentle hand on his arm.
“Easy Bryan,” a familiar female voice soothed as she rubbed his arm with something wet.
“A...Ali?” he asked.
“Yes it’s me,” Alison replied smiling even though her friend couldn’t see her. “I’m going to give you something to help relax you okay? I know you don’t like the dark, but the lab technician and the doctor are going to be talking to you the whole time…you won’t be alone.”
He felt the prick of the needle and within minutes he was calmer, and his breathing returned to a normal rate. Before he could react he was surrounded by darkness, and he remained as still as he possibly could while the machine made loud clicking noises. The lab technician talked to him throughout the entire exam, asking him to breathe and letting him know that they would be done with the test soon.
He barely had time to relax after the MRI before they were preparing him for the next test.
“You’re doing great, Bryan,” Alison told him as she started his IV.
“Is it almost over?” Bryan said groggily.
“You have to get a CT scan now and then you should be able to go back to your room after that.” Alison explained. She made sure Bryan was positioned properly on the table, and that the contrast was flowing through the IV. “Now stay still.”
That was easier said than done. Even in his groggy state he could feel the panic coming as his head neared the tunnel. He took a deep breath and tried to stay still. A strange sense of peace settled over him, allowing him to relax. He breathed when he was told to, and he couldn’t move which suit the doctor’s purposes just fine.
Just as he had promised, Jeff was waiting for him in his room. Seeing him put Bryan at ease at once, not that he could explain why Jeff had this effect on him. His parents were there as well, but their presence made him a little uneasy. He couldn’t quite explain that either.
“Okay, Bryan, are you up for one more test?” the doctor asked him. His foggy mind thought it was a really silly question. If he had said no, would they have nixed the test? “You need to lie on your side for this test, Bryan. Put yourself in the fetal position…yes just like that. Okay the anesthesiologist is going to numb your lower spine…you’ll feel a sting. And then we will perform the test.”
“Can Jeff at least hold my hand for this one?” Bryan asked sadly.
“I don’t see why not,” Dr. Wilkerson gestured for Jeff to come stand by Bryan’s side. He held on to Jeff’s hand tightly and shut his eyes, prepared for the pain that was to come.
“Relax Bryan,” Jeff’s voice soothes. “They need you to relax, and not move for this one…okay?”
“Needed to relax for all of them,” Bryan tried to tell him, his words slurring as he spoke. His eyes closed tighter when he felt the pressure of the needle against his spine, and he suddenly felt like he would pass out from the pain.
“Bryan,” Jeff’s voice reached his ears. “The doctor wants you to lie on your back.”
He felt disoriented. Was the test over? Had he missed conversation again? “Sit…up?” he asked. He had been flat on his back for hours now…the last thing he wanted was to lie down.
“Maybe the doctor will raise your bed a little…but you have to lie flat,” Jeff explained
“But the back is what hurts,” he complained even as he allowed Jeff to help him onto his back. He winced and folded his arms, quickly masking his emotions as he looked at his parents who were standing a few feet away from the door. Their presence made him uncomfortable and he couldn’t explain it, not even to Jeff. His mom made him feel sad, and his dad…he felt a pang of anger.
“Hi Mom…Dad.” His tone sounded harsh to his own ears and it made his frown deepen. These feelings confused him and he wished they would make sense.
“Bryan, are you ready to be moved into your new room?” Dr. Wilkerson asked suddenly appearing in the doorway again.
“Why am I moving?” he asked Jeff as if his friend had all the answers.
“Because you are well enough to move out of intensive care,” Jeff explained.
“But I thought they want me to lie still? That’s why I couldn’t sit up?”
“We’re just going to move your bed and all into your own private room, Bryan,” Dr. Wilkerson spoke up again. Bryan looked to Jeff who nodded, and he sighed. It really wasn’t as if he had much choice here.
As he was rolled down the hall he was briefly reminded of his last hospital stay. They had wheeled him down the hall quickly while he was thrashing on the bed. The memory made him frown. They had been moving very fast, and the lights went by in a blur. This trip down the hall was slower, and he could see the white spaces between each block of light on the ceiling.
In his new room the rest of his family visited and the doctors wanted even more tests. He was cross and didn’t want to cooperate. They had told him to lay still…on his back, and he was supposed to be happy with them wanting to do more tests. It still bugged him that he couldn’t remember why he had been brought to the hospital. He knew he could ask Jeff when they had a moment to themselves. Jeff seemed to be the only one who didn’t want to hide things from him.
He wasn’t even certain what to feel about Kristin. She had been his best friend before he went away, and she seemed to have accepted him back into her life…but his parents seemed to want him back too on some level and he certainly didn’t trust them. How could he trust anyone? He couldn’t help but wonder if any of them even really missed him while he was gone. Did they even realize that he had left or did life go on as always and no one realized that Bryan Dobbs fell off the face of the earth?
She came to the hospital to see him, and he wondered if she could sense he had been thinking about her. He didn’t know where these feelings of resentment were coming from, but they made him awkward in her presence. She had welcomed him on his first day of work, but she never questioned his absence. She had to have realized he was not there right…had she been told a story? Were they all told the same story that Jeff was told? Did everyone think he had been in Rehab? All this thinking was really starting to make his head hurt more.
“Hi Kristin,” he said his voice laced with sleep.
“Welcome back to the waking world,” Kristin responded coming forward to give him a hug. It took a moment for him to register that he should hug her back. His arms lifted and he gave her a quick squeeze.
“I’m sorry I missed work,” he said frowning.
“That’s the last thing you need to worry about,” Kristin replied as she pulled away to look him over. He tried not to cringe under the scrutiny. He felt like he was in one of those observation rooms at the foundation where you couldn’t see them, but they watched your every move. He didn’t like being looked at. “You look tired, but I am so glad you’re here so I can talk to you again.”
He didn’t know what to make of her statement. It was a 50/50 chance here. She could be sincere or she could be faking it. And it wasn’t something he wanted to think about. His mind was too jumbled.
“How is everything at work,” Jeff jumped into the conversation. “Is Tiphani still being a pain?”
“When isn’t she a pain?” Kristin responded, turning her attention to Jeff. “All she does is gripe. She’s wondering when you’re coming back.”
It made him sad to think that Jeff had missed work for him…though that fact made him strangely content as well. He felt bad for being gleeful about Jeff missing days at work. What if he got in trouble for that? What if Jeff lost his job because of him.
“Don’t tell me I’ve kept you out of work too, Jeff?” He was so tired, he wasn’t even certain if Jeff had understood what he said.
“It’s okay, Bryan. I wanted to be here in case you woke up. I was worried about you.”
“But…why?” Bryan asked, meeting Jeff’s eyes head on. He was blinking, and trying to stay awake, but it was a losing battle.
“Because you’re my friend,” Jeff explained. “And that’s what friend’s do.”
“You did Jeff a favor, Bryan,” Kristin smiled softly. “He’s a workaholic.”
“I am not,” Jeff laughed as he turned on her. “I just never had a reason to take off.”
“Until now,” Kristin teased.
Bryan blinked as he watched Jeff usher Kristin out of the room. He knew they were still speaking but he wasn’t paying attention to the words.
“W…why am I so sleepy, Jeff,” he asked when he had Jeff’s attention again. “I just woke up…didn’t I.”
“They gave you some medicine for the pain,” Jeff explained even as he began the process of positioning Bryan just right so he could sleep. “Just lie down and get some rest.”
“Medicine?” Bryan murmured. “I don’t like medicine.” His eyelids were heavy and it wasn’t long before he was lost in a deep sleep.
He was beginning to think that he would never get out of the hospital. Every day it was the same thing, Jeff would be by his side, and sometimes using his computer. The doctors would come in, and ask him questions about how he was sleeping and then tell him they wanted more tests.
“I really don’t like hospitals,” he lamented to Jeff, breaking the silence that had fallen after Dr. Hamilton had left the room. The doctor had sworn that the tests Bryan took today would be the last ones needed. He had explained that they just wanted to be thorough in their search for what happened to him. He still couldn’t remember how he had ended up in the hospital in the first place.
“I don’t think anyone likes hospitals, Bryan,” Jeff commented softly. “It’s no fun being sick.”
“I was just in the hospital,” Bryan told him, a frown crossing his face. Thinking about the last time he was in the hospital made him reflective. He didn’t have fond memories of the experience.
“You’re in the hospital now,” Bryan heard Jeff say. He turned to face his friend, confusion clear in his eyes. “Is that what you mean?” Jeff continued his query. “You’ve been here for two weeks.
“No,” Bryan shook his head sadly. “I mean before this. I was just here…but not this hospital.” His frown deepened for a moment before something occurred to him. “Were you always here?” He asked abruptly.
“When I could be,” Jeff replied.
“So you saw who came in and out of here right?” he asked trying hard to mask the fear he was feeling. He had to hope that Jeff understood how important these questions were. If he didn’t, Bryan wouldn’t know how to explain it to him.
“Your parents were in here,” Jeff admitted. “And your grandma. Dr. Hamilton was in and out, but that’s pretty much it besides me and a few nurses.”
“Are you sure?” Bryan asked his voice nearly inaudible.
“Well, your,” Jeff caught himself, “Marshall was in here once, but you didn’t react well to him and he shouldn’t have been in here anyway. He didn’t come back though he tried.”
“And that’s it?” he asked, chewing on his lip nervously.
“What’s wrong, Bryan?”
Bryan watched Jeff look around the room, looking for some unseen phantom. This gave him hope that he could really trust Jeff. His friend didn’t think he was crazy.
“You…you’re sure that there were no other people in here?” he asked again. His friend shook his head, but somehow that did not set Bryan’s mind at ease.
“Bryan, do you want me to get the doctor-”
“No!” he said adamantly and the fear was no longer hidden. “Please Jeff don’t do that I…I just need you to listen to me. Please don’t tell the doctor.” He was frantic, and his heart was beating fast. His eyes were wide as he looked at Jeff, and it was only when his friend’s hands touched his shoulders and pressed their foreheads together that Bryan started to relax.
“You can trust me, Bryan. Always remember that. I won’t tell, but I need you to talk to me, okay.”
Bryan nodded and immediately felt a chill when Jeff moved away from him. He was lost in his thoughts, trying to work out what were real vs. what was a figment of his imagination. He had been told many times that he was making up stuff, but he was sure they were wrong. He couldn’t have fabricated some of the things that happened to him. He just knew it.
“When can I get out of here?” he asked, shifting uncomfortably in the bed. “I don’t like hospitals.”
“Will you rest for me?” Jeff asked even as he fluffed Bryan’s pillows and straightened out Bryan’s blankets. “I’m sure you’re exhausted.”
“You can’t leave me alone with them, Jeff,” he said seriously. He looked at his friend, needing confirmation before he went to sleep that he was not going to be alone.
“No one can get to you while I’m here.” He didn’t know what to make of the sad smile that crossed Jeff’s lips, but he did take comfort in his words. He felt safe with Jeff…he trusted him and with that thought he was able to slip away into sleep.
Jeff was the first person he saw when he opened his eyes the next morning. His friend was leaning forward, his head resting against Bryan’s arm. Jeff’s laptop was in his lap, and Bryan figured that he must have fallen asleep while working on something. A wistful smile crossed his lips as he lifted his hand, wanting to touch the dark hair to see how thick it was. It wouldn’t hurt to touch it just once.
There was no way to describe how he felt running his fingers through the dark strands. It felt nice, and Jeff’s hair was so soft…yet his actions confused him as well.
For an entire year now he had been taught how wrong it was for him to feel anything at all for a man. It was sinful and wrong, and if he was still away and someone had caught him there would be repercussions. That didn’t make sense though. Jeff was so good and kind to him, he had been since day one. Why would it be so wrong to develop feelings for someone who was so good to him?
Jeff’s hair was soft to touch and he weaved his fingers through the locks gently, not wanting to wake Jeff up. He didn’t know what his best friend would think of his impulsive actions. Jeff could never know that he had indulged himself like this…that would surely be the end of their friendship, and Bryan could not bear the thought of that.
A knock on the door startled him and he jumped moving his hand from Jeff’s hair as if it had been on fire. “Oh good you are awake,” Alison said as she came into the room. “Your breakfast will be up soon, and Dr. Hamilton has your test results today. Here open up,” she said sticking the thermometer in his mouth. His hands were in his lap but he turned his head to look at Jeff who surprisingly was still sleeping. Alison pulled the thermometer out of his mouth and wrote down the results. She checked his blood pressure as well, all the while chatting, and letting him know what she was doing and what to expect from the day.
“At least it seems like you won’t need any more tests,” she said as she checked his IV to make sure he was getting his meds. “Okay I’m all done here. Your breakfast should be here shortly.”
“Thank you,” he said as she prepared to leave. She smiled at him and he watched her walk away. Once his door was closed again he looked at Jeff. It made him sad to think that Jeff was so tired. He didn’t have the heart to wake him…but at the same time he needed him. Especially if the doctors would be coming in. He didn’t want to be in there with doctors if Jeff wasn’t awake.
“Jeff…Jeff please wake up.”
He felt Jeff move beneath his fingers and he snatched his hand away and placed it on his lap. When Jeff lifted his head, Bryan moved his arm and folded his hands neatly in front of him.
“Are you okay?” Jeff asked him, a frown settling on his lips. Bryan was still in awe of the amount of concern Jeff seemed to have for him. He just didn’t get it, and right now he couldn’t focus on it. “Bryan?” Jeff called his name and he tried to focus. He hated when he drifted off like this, he always ended up missing something.
“I…I’m fine,” he said lamely. “YOU slept with the computer on.”
“Oh,” Jeff looked away from him and focused on the computer for a moment. Bryan was curious to know what his friend was doing, but he didn’t want to ask. “Okay,” Jeff said closing the computer, “You have my full attention now. “What’s going on? “
“Alison said the doctors will be in soon to tell me the test results. And they will probably want to ask questions. The thing is I don’t’ have the answers because I don’t know anything about anything.” Bryan said in one breath.
Jeff blinked, and Bryan wondered if he had confused his friend. The thought made him frown and he tilted his head to the side for a moment. “Did I confuse you, Jeff?” he asked when his friend still stayed silent.
Jeff shook his head. “I’m just trying to figure out how to ask you what you want to know,” he explained. “
“I need to know everything,” Bryan responded matter-of-factly.
“Everything is a lot,” Jeff pointed out. “You think you can narrow that down.”
“Are you trying to confuse me on purpose?” Bryan asked scrunching up his face, and crossing his arms at the same time.
“I’m trying to get you to relax,” Jeff explained softly. “Now please ask me your questions, I will answer them best I can okay?”
Bryan was silent as he looked at his friend. He was weighing Jeff’s words and reading the expression he saw on his face. “What do you know about me?” he asked once he was satisfied that Jeff was sincere.
“I know that you don’t like hospitals,” Jeff responded quickly. “And I know that doctors freak you out, and that you’ve been beaten and have had electroshock treatments. You’re afraid of the dark, and you don’t like being alone in a room with anyone besides me. I know that there is a discrepancy in the story your parents were told and what you have to say about what happened last year. Your biological father makes you angry and frightened all at the same time, and I know that somehow he holds the key to unraveling the mystery to where you really were…because I believe you when you say you weren’t in rehab.”
Bryan didn’t know what to say to Jeff’s speech. It wasn’t exactly the answer he was looking for, but it was the answer he needed. Jeff actually listened to him…and he believed him. He really could trust his friend, and that touched his heart.
“What else though,” He asked frowning. “I mean what did you learn about me before I came home? What did my parents say?”
“I’m not sure what you’re asking me Bryan,” Jeff admitted “Your parents talked about how much they love you and that they missed you terribly.”
“But they didn’t tell you anything about who I am…or who I was…nothing?”
“NO…why would they? Is there something I should know?”
“No…forget it,” Bryan said shrugging his shoulders.
“Bryan,” Jeff started a serious expression on his face. “I can’t help you if you won’t talk to me. I know you are scared, I know you have a hard time trusting. Let me help you.”
“The last time I trusted someone completely, Jeff, I was sent to isolation…and then I was punished. I ended up in the hospital, and now I’m here. So…you....you can excuse me if I am finding it hard to believe anything from anyone…even if it’s you.”
“What kind of facility was this?” Jeff asked, perplexed. Bryan could tell he was frustrating him, but he also knew he couldn’t help that at the moment. “I don’t think I have ever heard of a rehabilitation center that puts their patients in isolation for any reason.
Bryan was silent for a moment as he mulled over what he needed to do. Jeff was asking, and despite what he had said, Bryan did want to put his trust in him. He sensed that for whatever reason, Jeff was on his side and had been since he came home. He didn’t understand it, probably never would but he needed to tell someone. He wanted someone to understand.
“I wasn’t in rehab. I…I do or did have a drinking problem but…that wasn’t why I…that wasn’t what sent me away last summer. It’s not what kept me away for a year. And I was sent away. It wasn’t necessarily my decision…though I guess in a way it was…I don’t know, Jeff. I just don’t know anymore. I just know that things are so…my head it’s so…screwed up.”
When Jeff’s arms wrapped around him, he didn’t know how to react at first. Ever so slowly he sunk into the sensations he was feeling and hugged Jeff back. It was a simple gesture, yet very powerful. He couldn’t even begin to express to Jeff how much it meant to him that he didn’t bolt or pass judgment even though Bryan knew he had to be learning strange things.
“Sorry to interrupt,” Dr Hamilton said coming into the room. Bryan let go of Jeff reluctantly and put some distance between them as the doctor came closer. He still didn’t feel he was ready for the questions the doctor would have...he didn’t even want to think about what would happen if he didn’t cooperate. “Bryan we have your test results and I would like to discuss them with you, in private,” he said directing the last words at Jeff.
“No,” Bryan said even as Jeff stood, prepared to give the doctor time to speak with Bryan. “I want Jeff here.”
“Bryan it is important that we speak with you on a one on one basis. Your full attention is necessary, and Mr. Burton will have to step outside.”
“You can’t make Jeff leave,” Bryan insisted. “I need him here to help me understand what’s going on. He can answer the questions better than I can.”
“I’d actually prefer to get those answers from you, Bryan,” Dr Hamilton insisted. “Mr. Burton cannot be in the room and that’s final. Mr. Burton if you would please leave while I speak with the patient.”
Bryan locked eyes with Jeff for a moment and frowned. He really didn’t want to be alone with the doctor.
“Sorry Bryan, I have to listen to the doctor…but I’ll be right outside okay?” Jeff tried to reassure him. Bryan could sense that he Jeff was worried and that stoked the fire that Bryan hadn’t allowed himself to feel in a long time. He was miffed, and he felt like letting the doctor know it.
He crossed his arms defiantly as he watched Jeff leave and he refused to look at Dr. Hamilton. If the doc was going to be stubborn then he would be too.
“Now about the results,” Dr. Hamilton started as he shifted through some papers. “Your scans seem to show that you have some bleeding on your brain, and the memory loss may be due to the pressure there. Have you had electroshock therapy before, Bryan?”
The question was met with silence. Bryan knew all too well how to be quite when needed be.
“Bryan I need you to answer my question.” He sighed when Bryan shook his head and tried a different approach. “Are you still having trouble remembering what happened before your coma?”
Once again the question was met with silence.
“Can you tell me where the bruises and scars on your back came from, Bryan?” It was obvious to Bryan that Dr. Hamilton was getting frustrated. This was nothing new to him. Doctors often got frustrated with him, and their nice facades would disappear and their true personalities would seep out, and by the time the truth was revealed the damage was already done. “Bryan,” Dr. Hamilton rested a hand on Bryan’s shoulder. “I need you to cooperate with me here. We aren’t going to have any answers if you don’t talk.”
“Why should I cooperate with you,” Bryan said shrugging off the hand, “when you can’t even cooperate with me?”
“Do I need to get your parents?” Dr. Hamilton asked, and Bryan fumed.
“I don’t want my parents. And I’m not a child. I want Jeff here, and if he can’t be here than you can get the hell out too.”
No sooner had the words left his mouth, then he knew he had crossed the line. Dr. Hamilton glared and Bryan recoiled, afraid of what was going to happen next. He had done it, he had angered another doctor…and he didn’t know what to expect when the man left the room. And he was left alone yet again.
An eternity passed before he heard someone in the room again. His head was down, and his stomach was tied in millions of knots. If they were going to do something to him, make him compliant wouldn’t they have started already? It didn’t usually take this long for him to get a reprimand. He sensed his presence before he saw him, and just that alone helped him to relax slightly. He was wary though…this had been how he was betrayed before…they sent in the one person he dared to trust.
“Bryan?” Jeff’s voice was full of concern, and Bryan felt the extra weight on his hospital bed and a hand on his shoulder. He dared to look up and found sympathetic eyes staring back at him. “I saw the doctor leave, did he upset you? Are you okay? What can I do? Did you answer his questions?”
He shook his head and closed his eyes, the questions were overwhelming and he didn’t know how to explain it to Jeff. “I just don’t know how to answer the questions,” he confessed. “I know if I don’t do it, I get in trouble but I just…how do I answer something that I don’t completely understand? And the doctors won’t let me do what I want to do and if I defy them then I get in trouble. I CAN’T WIN Jeff! And I don’t want to be here.”
“Bryan.” That voice coupled with hands touching his cheeks made Bryan shudder. It was a potent mixture…intoxicating and dangerous, yet he craved it…yearned for those moments. It was as if Jeff had somehow tapped into his deepest, secret desires and pulled them to the surface. These were the things that could really get him in trouble if they were ever truly revealed.
His eyes were locked with those sapphire stones, and he knew the difference. He knew this wasn’t Adam…the sea he was sinking into was all Jeff. He wanted to drown.
“I need you to calm down,” Jeff’s voice soothed. Bryan marveled at the power behind that simple tone of his. He was speaking simple words…but to Bryan they meant volumes and he didn’t think anyone could truly understand that. For a moment it was just about them, and nothing else in the world mattered. The doctors, the hospitals…the punishments, he wasn’t thinking about any of it. It was as if Jeff had managed to draw him away from all the bad things…Jeff offered a world where he could truly just…be.
“What’s wrong?” Jeff asked, pulling Bryan in deeper and deeper.
Bryan shook his head, his forehead resting against Jeff’s; he could feel Jeff’s hot breath just inches away. “Nothing…Nothing.” When their lips met he felt like he was transported again, to a place far beyond the Heavens where dreams were reality. It was sweet, tender and pleasant. There was electricity…urgency and for Bryan it was pure bliss.
And when it ended…Jeff was still there. Their foreheads still touched and Jeff was still offering comfort. “It’s going to be okay, Bryan…I’m going to talk to the doctors for you okay? I will explain to them that you need me here…you trust me?”
Bryan loved the feeling of that hand…it confused him and excited him and he would think about it later. He just wanted to concentrate on Jeff…his protector…his best friend...
“Okay,” he said. “I…I can do it if they will let you stay.”
Tears filled his eyes for a moment when Jeff pressed their lips together briefly before pulling away completely. Bryan felt the difference immediately and shivered from the loss of warmth. He watched Jeff leave the room and tried to gather his thoughts as he waited. That was proving more difficult then he wanted to admit…but if Jeff was there he was sure he could get through this.
“Are you ready to answer questions now, Bryan?” the doctor asked, breaking into his thoughts. Bryan saw Jeff walking toward him, and he nodded. He wasn’t sure what was going to be asked, and what he could say…but he was going to try. “Yes, Sir.”
“Okay,” Dr. Hamilton said nodding towards Jeff. “Mr. Burton will be here just in case there is something you don’t remember. “Now can you start by telling me if you’ve had electroshock therapy treatments in the past?
“Yes,” Bryan said grabbing Jeff’s hand for support. Jeff squeezed his hand and smiled encouragingly. Bryan took a deep breath and focused on the doctor. “I’m familiar with them.”
“Can you tell me how many times you’ve received such tests, Bryan?”
Confusion clouded his features for a moment and he turned to Jeff. “I don’t…remember.”
“Give as best a guess as you can, Bryan,” Jeff told him.
“Um,” Bryan said frowning as he looked up at the doctor again, “I…I think I lost count....at twenty.”
“And can you tell me why you received electroshock therapy?” Dr. Hamilton asked.
“They were part of the treatment,” Bryan said grimacing at the word.
“And what about the bruises Bryan? Where did they come from?”
“Which ones?” Bryan’s frown deepened.
“Did they all come from last year?” Jeff asked looking at the doctor long enough to mouth “trust me.”
“Yeah,” Bryan replied. “Some were from…diversion tactics and then others were because I failed the conversion tests.”
“Did you have to take a lot of tests?” Jeff questioned.
Bryan nodded. He was starting to relax now, with Jeff’s voice guiding him through. “There was a test for everything, every day. And if you missed it…if you were sick or anything then it was doubled.”
“Were you sick a lot?”
“I’m always sick. I was…” he paused for a second as if he were trying to piece together a fragment of his memory. “I don’t like hospitals.”
“I know, Bryan, I know,” Jeff soothed. “Look you’re doing good answering the doctor’s questions here and I know this is hard. What you are describing here doesn’t sound like a rehab to me though.”
“I wasn’t in rehab,” Bryan exclaimed turning to face Jeff head on. “You said you believe me.”
“I do believe you,” Jeff said remaining calm. “That’s why I need you to tell me where you were? Who was giving you electroshock therapy and who sent you there?”
Bryan was silent for a moment as he tried to weigh his words carefully. He knew he had to answer Jeff’s question, there was no putting it off anymore. If Jeff wanted the truth then he would tell him. He just didn’t think his friend would like it.
“I was at the Orr foundation,” he said just as Marianne and Thomas appeared in the doorway. “I was sent there by my parents and Marshall because I wasn’t the son they wanted me to be.”
And now that the cat is out the bag the story, the adventure as it is can truly begin. This roller coaster is about to take it's first dip. Thanks to everyone who is reading and commenting. I hope you stay tuned to see just how tangled this web is. :)
next up Jeff reacts to Bryan's confession and confronts Thomas