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Ronyx

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  1. Chapter 13

    Claire grabbed Allison’s hand and pulled her towards the door. “We’ll try to catch him.” She couldn’t understand Troy’s outburst when he heard Jayden’s voice. They seemed to have been getting along so well the day before. Earlier in the day, Jayden had walked blindfolded around the mall just so he could experience what Troy was feeling. Now, he was gone. She pulled Allison frantically down the hallway and to the elevator. “What just happened back there?” Allison asked as they waited for the elevator to open. “I don’t know,” Claire responded worriedly. “I’ve never seen Troy so upset. He’s been moody recently, but that’s the first time he’s shown rage. And poor Jayden. I don’t even know what he did to deserve it.” The elevator door opened and they entered. Claire pushed the down button a dozen times in an attempt to close the door so they could resume their search for Jayden. Back in Troy’s room, his parents and Penny were extremely upset with Troy’s behavior. When they tried to question him why he had shouted at Jayden, he remained quiet in his bed with the sheet pulled over his head. Penny paced back and forth, occasionally looking down at Troy’s hidden body. Suddenly, she stopped before her parents and asked, “Would you mind going down to the cafeteria for a little while?” Mr. Neal rose and stood before her. “Why?” Penny looked down angrily at her brother. “I have some things I want to say to Troy, and I don’t want to say them with you here.” “Penny, don’t,” pleaded her mother as she stood and took her arm. “Troy’s been through enough.” “Please, Mother?” Mr. Neal grabbed his wife’s arm and led her to the door. “Let’s go, Sheila,” he said calmly. Troy’s mother looked worriedly at Penny as they left the room. She continued to pace around the room, occasionally stopping and looking out the window. She knew if she started talking while she was upset, she may say some things she would later regret. She had stood by for days and watched as Troy experienced mood changes, and she could understand them. But she would not tolerate him attacking Jayden. Jayden had lost everything as a result of helping her brother, and she didn’t want to see him hurt. She walked over and yanked the sheet from Troy’s face. He attempted to pull it back, but she held it firmly. “Sit up!” she ordered. “Leave me alone, Penny!” he mumbled as he rolled over away from her. “What is wrong with you?” She walked around to the other side of the bed. “Why are you acting like a complete jackass?” “Fuck you!” Troy sat up and shouted at his sister. “Fuck all of you!” “Why?” Penny grabbed his shoulders and gently shook him. “Why are you acting like this?” “Like anybody cares,” he responded sadly. She reached out and attempted to hug him. “We love you, Troy.” He pushed her away and lay his head back on the pillow. “Yeah, right,” he remarked sarcastically. “Poor Troy. Poor blind Troy.” She grabbed his shoulders and shook him more forcefully. “Stop it, Troy!” He rolled over and turned his back to her. She walked over and stood staring out the window. When she felt she could talk without getting upset, she walked back over to the side of the bed. “What did Jayden do to you?” She became confused when he started laughing into his pillow. “Keep poor Troy in the dark.” He sat up and looked in Penny’s direction. “In the dark, get it?” “What are you talking about?” “When did you plan to tell me?” “Tell you about what?” “Jayden.” “What about Jayden?” Troy reached up and yanked the wrapping from his eyes. “About this!” he screamed. “That it was his cousins who did this to me!” Penny turned away and walked over to the window. She realized that they had been wrong by not telling Troy sooner about Jayden’s cousins. She walked back over to the side of the bed. “Who told you?” “It doesn’t matter,” he replied angrily. “I want to know why no one told me.” She attempted to hold his hand, but he yanked it away. “We were trying to protect you.” “Protect me?” Troy sat up and started laughing. “Protect me from what? The truth?” Penny reached for his hand and held it firmly. She refused to let him pull it away. “You’ve had enough to deal with. It’s only been the last couple of days that you’ve started talking. We weren’t hiding it from you.” She squeezed his hand tighter. “We were just waiting for a good time to tell you.” Troy remained silent. He kept his face turned from Penny, but he let her continue to hold his hand. There were a lot of unanswered questions, and he was waiting for her to tell him. “You want the truth?” She grabbed his shoulders and turned him toward her. “Then I’ll give you the truth.” Troy pulled away and lay his head back on the bed. “You’re right,” she said. “It was Jayden’s cousins who hurt you.” She squeezed his hand tightly. “But you have to believe me, Jayden wasn’t involved. He was standing at his bedroom window and saw you collapse on the street. He’s the one who called 911. He then went outside and held you in his lap until the ambulance arrived.” Troy remembered back to that night. He remembered stumbling blindly down the street and begging for help. He could recall someone grab him and put his head in their lap. The stranger had tried to calm him while gently stroking the side of his face. It was the last thing he remembered before darkness overcame him that night. He now knew that someone was Jayden. He understood why his parents and sister took such an interest in him. His sister squeezed his hand gently and continued, “He’s lost a lot since that night, Troy. He testified to the grand jury about his cousins. His aunt kicked him out of her home. He had nowhere to go, so Mom and Dad have let him stay in the downstairs bedroom until he graduates from school. You’re not the only person whose life changed that night.” She kissed Troy’s forehead, walked over to the window and stared out onto the parking lot below. She wiped away the tears that had fallen unnoticed from her cheek. “Penny?” Troy sat up and whispered softly. “Yes, Troy?” “Thanks.” He sighed, lay his head back and appeared to fall asleep. ******** “Where did he go?” Claire was standing out front of the hospital scanning the sidewalk. She didn’t see Jayden anywhere. “Maybe he went to the cafeteria,” suggested Allison. Claire turned back towards the hospital door and hurried through the corridors. She scanned the cafeteria, but she didn’t see him anywhere. “Let’s go get my car,” suggested Allison. “We’ll drive around and see if we can find him.” They drove south for several blocks but didn’t see him. Allison circled the block, hoping he had walked in the opposite direction. “Where the hell is he!” Claire shouted as they drove several blocks. “He couldn’t have walked this far.” “Let’s head over to the Neal home,” suggested Allison. “He may have gone back there.” She reached over and held Claire’s hand as they turned around and headed toward Troy’s house. Jayden stepped out from the alley and watched Allison’s car disappear in the distance. He felt guilty because he could see the anxious look on Claire’s face when they circled around the street. However, he was too upset to talk to anyone. It’s my life, he thought. There is never a clear direction. All I do is wander down one dark path and then another. My life is a maze of uncertainty. Nothing ever changes. He had been feeling hopeful the past few days at the Neal home. They had taken him in unconditionally. The only request they made was that he graduate. He had become comfortable in his new surroundings, and felt that he finally had found some place he could call home. But as he had become accustomed the past two years, things could change suddenly. He didn’t understand Troy’s outburst. “Get him out of my room!” The words echoed in his ears. And they hurt. He was becoming emotionally drawn to Troy. He couldn’t explain it, and he didn’t try. He only knew that when he was with him things seemed to fit. Even his family and close friends had accepted him as someone they had known for a long time. Things sometimes happen, he would tell himself. Maybe it was time for my life to change for the better. But now, it was another dark path leading to nowhere. “Get him out of my room!” Why? What had happened between yesterday and today to make him scream at me? The day before we had connected in the hallway. It appeared that he had accepted me, almost found comfort in my presence. What had happened? Jayden walked aimlessly around the streets as he tried to figure out what he had done wrong. Before he knew where he was going, he found himself at the entrance of the hospital. He stood staring at the automatic doors as they opened and several people walked out. One man rudely bumped his shoulder. “Watch it, Buddy!” he shouted. “Are you blind?” Jayden turned and looked blankly at him without responding. He walked into the hospital waiting room and sat down in a chair. He looked at the clock. It was almost eight. Visiting hours would be over soon. He waited until he saw Troy’s parents and Penny walk past the door. He held up a magazine to his face so they wouldn’t see him. A few minutes later, he walked to the elevator and headed to the fourth floor. The room was dark when he entered. Only a small light from the bathroom illuminated the room. Troy was lying on his side with his back turned away from the door. When he didn’t stir, Jayden walked over and sat down in a chair. He stared at the motionless body for about fifteen minutes until Troy suddenly began to thrash around in bed. “Don’t!” he screamed. “Don’t hurt me!” He threw his hands up to his face as if he was trying to prevent someone from hitting him. “No! Don’t!” he screamed louder. Jayden was getting up from his seat when Troy sat up in bed. He had a panicked look on his face. Jayden sat down on the side of the bed and took Troy in his arms. “Shhh,” he said soothingly. “It’s all right,” he assured him. “You’re safe. I’ve got you.” He remembered a Saturday night a week earlier in which he took a beaten boy into his arms and tried to comfort him. He rocked Troy gently when he tried to pull away in panic. “It’s okay, Troy,” he said softly as he continued to rock him. “No one’s going to hurt you.” Troy threw his arms around Jayden’s waist and held him tightly. “I’m scared!” he cried. “I know,” Jayden responded as he ran his hand over Troy’s face and wiped the tears away. “You’re safe now, though.” He rocked Troy for several minutes until he could feel his body start to relax. He tried to have him lie back, but Troy refused to let go of him. “Hold me, please.” he begged. “I don’t want you to go.” He buried his head into Jayden’s shoulders and trembled. Jayden tightened his arms around him and rocked him. “Do you want me to call your parents?” he asked after Troy seemed to settle down. He could feel Troy shake his head against his neck. A minute later, Troy pushed away and lay his head against the pillow. He reached out and attempted to find Jayden’s hand. When he felt it, he took it in his and held it tightly. “Are you all right?” Jayden ran his hand against the side of Troy’s face. “I hate these nightmares,” he replied. “This one was really bad.” “I’m sorry,” Jayden said softly. He knew his cousins were the cause of all Troy’s problems. He knew there was nothing he could do to change things, but he felt it was something he had to say. Troy lay quietly for several minutes. He appeared to be asleep, but his hand kept squeezing Jayden’s occasionally. Jayden took his other hand and cupped it around Troy’s. Without thinking, he leaned in and kissed Troy’s forehead. “Thanks,” Troy whispered softly. “For what?” “Coming back.” Jayden became filled with emotion. He thought that maybe, just maybe, the dark path was going to lead somewhere this time. He leaned down and once again kissed Troy’s forehead. He listened as Troy sighed. A minute later, his body relaxed as he fell asleep. Jayden rose from the bed and sat back in the chair. He watched Troy in the darkened room as he slept peacefully. ******** “Where have you been?” Claire jumped up from the school step when she saw Jayden walking toward the school. She ran up and embraced him tightly. “We’ve been worried sick about you. Mr. Neal drove the streets all night looking for you.” Jayden began to feel guilty. He thought that since he spent the night with Troy, no one would be looking for him. He hadn’t thought to use Troy’s room phone and let them know he was all right. “I spent the night with Troy.” He laughed when Claire stepped back and gave him an astonished look. “What? Where? When?” He started to laugh louder. “Slow down,” he laughed as he took her hand and led her up the steps. “We’re going to be late if we don’t move it.” “Wait!” She grabbed his arm and turned him toward her. “You can’t just say you spent the night with Troy and leave it like that. After the way he shouted at you, we thought you might have run away.” “It crossed my mind,” he admitted. “I walked around for a long time. Somehow I ended up back at the hospital.” He grabbed her hand and started walking. “Wait!” She stopped again. “And?” “And what?” He teased. He was enjoying the confused look on Claire’s face. “Would you stop it!” She hit him gently on the arm. “Be serious, Jayden. What happened when you went back?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “We just kind of made up, I suppose.” “He wasn’t upset?” “When I got there he was asleep,” he explained. “I sat down and closed my eyes. Then, he had a nightmare.” “Nightmare?” “Yeah, a bad one.” “And?” “And I held him.” “Held him?” “Yeah, he asked me to hold him, so I did.” “That’s it?” “Yes,” he said as he took her hand and led her to her first period. “I held him. I guess we kind of made up.” She looked up at Jayden and stopped. She then stood on her tip toes and gave him a kiss on his cheek. “What was that for?” “I don’t know,” she said. “I just felt like doing it.” “I know what you mean,” he grinned. He remembered kissing Troy on his forehead the night before because he ‘felt like doing it.’ ******** “Anthony!” Jarvis ran across the lobby of the police station when Anthony and Tyrone came strolling from behind the barred door. “Hey Little Man,” replied Anthony as he knelt and hugged his younger brother. He stepped back and gave him an angry look when he noticed that he was crying. “Hey, Boy!” he said angrily. “Wipe your eyes clean. You got to toughen up.” He grabbed him playfully around the waist. “Real men don’t cry.” He then noticed his aunt standing off to the side with Tyrone. “Auntie!” He walked over and gave her a hug. “I told you not to worry none. My boys got us out.” Just an hour earlier, three of his neighborhood friends had come in and made bail for them. It had taken a few days to gather enough money, but now Anthony and Tyrone were free until they had to appear at trial. He threw his arm around his aunt and headed for the door. “Man, I can’t wait for a real home cooked meal.” She looked up at him and smiled. “How does barbequed chicken, potato salad and coleslaw sound?” “Mmm, mmm,” he replied. “Let’s hit the road. I’m starving.” They found his blue van in a parking area behind the station. While he was behind bars, his friends had gone to the police impound and gotten it out. Since it had been searched for evidence, the police had signed it back over to his aunt. His friends had earlier in the day brought it down for him to use when he and his brother were released. Jarvis was riding in the back seat with his aunt. He caught Anthony’s attention in the rearview mirror and grinned. “Did you bend over and pick up the soap?” He stopped laughing when Tyrone turned and scowled at him. “None of that gay shit, Little Bro!” he warned. “Got it?” Jarvis hung his head and nodded. “Speaking of gay,” he turned and looked at his aunt. “Where’s that faggot cousin of ours? We got some unfinished business to take care of.” “In hell!” Jarvis shouted. His aunt smacked him lightly on his arm. “I don’t know,” she replied. “I haven’t seen him since I kicked him out of the house.” “That mother fucker is mine,” Tyrone hissed. “My boys told me he snitched on us to the cops.” Anthony spoke for the first time. “We’ve got some guys looking for him. Some guy who goes to his school heard he could be staying with that white boy we roughed up.” “What are you going to do?” Jarvis asked excitedly. He still hated Jayden for what he had done to his brothers. Tyron turned and gave him a concerned look. “Sometimes it’s best that you don’t know certain things, Little Bro.” He looked over at Anthony. “Just let us take care of it.” “I hope you fuck him up,” spat Jarvis. He jumped when his aunt slapped him on his arm. “Watch your language,” she warned. “Anthony and Ty say fuck all the time.” They laughed when he shouted again as his aunt slapped his arm. ******** Claire pulled up to the hospital entrance and let Jayden off. “I’ll be back in about an hour. I have to go pick up Allison.” “That’s going to take an hour?” Jayden wiggled his eyebrows. He started laughing when Claire’s face started to redden. “Shut up,” she giggled. “It’s been a week since we’ve spent some quality time together.” “Quality time, huh?” Jayden smiled. “So that’s what they call it now?” Claire’s face reddened deeper as she flipped him off and drove away. When he entered Troy’s room, the curtain was drawn back and the sun was shining in. It was the first time Jayden could remember it being so bright. “Who is it?” Troy sat up in bed and looked in the direction of the door. “Jayden.” He walked over and took Troy’s hand and held it. “Where’s your mother?” “She left to go run some errands.” He squeezed Jayden’s hand. “Are you alone?” “Yeah,” he replied. “Why?” He smiled when he saw Troy begin to blush. “You got to help me out,” he said nervously. “Yeah, sure,” Jayden replied. “What do you want me to do?” He waited for Troy to ask him to help him to the bathroom or to get him a glass of water. He wasn’t prepared for what Troy asked next. “I got a problem,” he stammered. “Promise not to laugh?” “Yeah, sure.” He gave Troy a puzzled look. “Look.” Troy lifted the sheet and showed an erection poking through his pajamas. Jayden stepped back and started laughing. Troy sulked, “You promised me you wouldn’t laugh.” “Okay,” Jayden apologized. “What do you want me to do?” “I’ve been hard all day,” he explained. “I need to jack off, but I’m afraid Mom or a nurse will walk in and catch me.” “Okay,” Jayden grinned, but he didn’t laugh. Since he was the same age as Troy, he could empathize with his situation. He often felt the same way at his aunt’s house when he would masturbate. He was always afraid someone would walk in and catch him. “Can you stand by the door and let me know if anyone comes?” Jayden started laughing. “Sounds like you’re the one who’s going to be cumming.” “Come on, Jayden!” he said anxiously. “Get serious. I got to do this now before Mom comes back.” “Wait a minute.” Jayden walked into the bathroom and got a wad of toilet paper. He returned and put it in Troy’s hand. “Cum in this.” Troy nodded his head. “I’ll keep an eye out. I’ll knock twice on the door if anyone comes.” He again started laughing. “I’ll knock once when you do.” “Smart ass,” laughed Troy. He pulled down his pajama bottoms to his knees, leaving him completely exposed. The head was bright red and swollen. Jayden knew it wouldn’t take him long to reach a climax. For a second, he felt like reaching out and doing it for Troy. Jayden hadn’t reached the door before Troy took his cock and started to feverishly stroke it. He opened the door and poked his head out. He scanned the hall and then looked back and watched as Troy continued to masturbate. He could feel his own cock hardening and wished that he could join him. After about three minutes, Troy moaned and arched his back. Jayden watched as volleys of cum shot out onto his chest. He couldn’t believe the amount of cum that exploded from his reddened cock. When Troy lay back and tried to catch his breath, Jayden knocked on the door once and started laughing. “Damn!” Troy shouted. “I forgot to cum in the toilet paper.” He ran his hand over his stomach. “I’ve got this shit everywhere.” Jayden scanned the hallway quickly, and then he walked over and took a towel lying on the nearby sink. “I’m going to wipe this off you,” he informed Troy as he began to wipe his cum soaked body. “Damn, dude,” he laughed. “No wonder you had to get off.” “I told you.” Troy’s face started to redden. “This is so embarrassing.” “Don’t worry,” Jayden assured him. “I liked the show.” He took Troy’s hand and ran it across his erection. “See.” “Damn!” Troy ran his hand up and down Jayden’s erect cock. Jayden continued to wipe the cum from Troy’s body. When he ran the towel over Troy’s cock, he arched his back and came a second time. “Unnggg!” he moaned again. Jayden quickly cleaned his body and stepped away. He was afraid that someone might enter and catch them. Troy pulled up his pajamas and covered himself with the sheet. He then reached out and searched for Jayden’s hand. “Thanks,” he said as he squeezed Jayden’s hand tightly. “Any time,” Jayden laughed. Just then the door opened and Mrs. Neal walked in. They released their hands, but not before she saw them. “Are you boys enjoying yourselves?” She gave them a puzzled look when they started laughing.
  2. Chapter 12

    It is, droughtquake. I found mine at Wally World. LOL. Okay, I corrected the error. Thanks.
  3. Chapter 12

    “It’s so nice of you to help me, Jayden.” Jayden picked up the chair and moved it to the other side of the room. When done, he sat down and rested. “I just can’t wait until he comes home.” Mrs. Neal sat down on the side of the bed. “The doctor said last night that he could be home as early as this weekend.” “That’s great,” replied Jayden. “I know you’ll be happy to have him home again.” “Yes,” she responded sadly. “I wish it were under different circumstances, but I guess we really don’t have much control over what happens in our lives.” “Nope,” replied Jayden as he thought of his mother, “I guess we don’t.” “Anyway,” she continued as she got up and fluffed the pillow on Troy’s bed, “we have a lot to do before he comes home.” She turned and looked at Jayden. “I’m sorry,” she apologized. “I guess it would be proper of me to at least ask you for your help.” Jayden walked over, picked up a small table and placed it beside a chair. “I’m more than happy to help. After what you and your husband have done for me, how could I possibly refuse?” She walked over and held Jayden’s arm. “I don’t want you to think like that, Dear. You don’t owe us anything. We’re the ones who owe you so much. Watching you with Troy in the hall yesterday was worth all the help my husband and I can extend to you.” “I still want to pull my weight around here,” he replied. Jayden stepped back and observed the room. “Do you think the bed should be moved so that when he gets out of it he will have a straight walk to his bathroom?” “That’s a wonderful idea,” she said. “When Robert and Penny come home tonight, we’ll turn it around.” She put her finger to her chin. “We might move the dresser over there,” pointing to the wall beside the door to the restroom. “That way he can find his clothing easier. “I read the books the counselor at the hospital gave you,” Jayden remarked. “Before he comes home, I’ll arrange his clothes in the closet and the dresser.” He walked over and opened the door to Troy’s step-in closet. The floor was littered with clothing and shoes. Mrs. Neal stepped beside him. “Good luck,” she laughed. “In nineteen years, I’ve never been able to get him to put his clothes away.” Jayden bent down and picked up a large pair of what appeared to be clown shoes. Mrs. Neal took them from his hands and started laughing. “My God!” she exclaimed. “I had forgotten about these. He wore them to a Halloween costume party last year.” She turned and headed out of the room. “Wait here,” she said as she left. She returned a minute later carrying a photo album. She sat on the side of the bed. Jayden walked over and sat down beside her. She started thumbing through the album. “Here he is.” She pointed to a picture of Troy dressed up in a clown outfit. Claire was standing beside him dressed like Goldilocks. Jayden let out a loud laugh. Mrs. Neal turned the page and showed him a few more pictures of Troy and Claire. She then sighed and closed the book. Jayden looked over and saw tears in her eyes. “This is so hard,” she said as she got up and walked out of the room clutching the photo album. Jayden started straightening items on Troy’s dresser. Mrs. Neal appeared about ten minutes later. She was carrying two glasses of iced tea. Jayden looked into her face, and it was apparent she had been crying. “I’m sorry,” she said as she handed Jayden the drink. “Sometimes I just become so overwhelmed with what has happened.” “I know how you feel,” Jayden responded. “Yes, Dear,” she patted his hand, “I suppose you do.” She stood up and smiled. “We’re not going to get anything done if we don’t get started.” She walked over to Troy’s dresser and looked at the clutter on top. “Oh, Dear!” she exclaimed. “What a mess.” She turned to Jayden. “Go to the garage and get me a large box. I think most of this stuff can just be thrown away.” Jayden saluted her. “Yes, Ma’am,” he laughed as he left the room. * * * * * * * * “You’ve got to try harder, Troy.” Detective Wallace was sitting in the chair beside Troy’s hospital bed. “I’ve told you everything I can remember!” he yelled. He was becoming irritated with Wallace’s questioning. Going back and remembering that Saturday night was painful. He knew that the nightmares would come again. They always did when he closed his eyes. They were much stronger when he had to talk about what had happened. “You said there were two men?” “How many times are you going to ask me that?” “Troy,” Wallace spoke calmly as he rose and walked over to the side of the bed. He placed his hand gently on Troy’s arm. Troy pulled his arm away and tucked it under the sheet. “We have to be sure we have the right men.” Troy sat up and turned his head toward Wallace’s voice. “I told you what I remember. There were two black guys. They were driving an old blue van. They wanted my cell phone and wallet. I gave it to them, and they still beat the shit out of me.” He laid his head back on his pillow and wished that Wallace would leave. “Do you think you could recognize their voices again if you hear them?” He sat back up and turned to Wallace. “Yeah,” he replied angrily. “I can’t go to sleep at night because I keep hearing their fucking voices in my head.” He patted Troy’s arm under the sheet. “I know this is hard on you,” he said comfortingly, “but we want to make sure we put these guys behind bars for a long time. From what you and Jayden have said, I think we can do that.” Troy sat back up in bed. “Jayden? What’s he got to do with this?” “He testified before the grand jury what he heard his cousins say.” “His cousins!” Troy reached out and grabbed Wallace’s arm. “What are you talking about?” Wallace became concerned when he observed Troy’s reaction. It was apparent that no one had spoken to him about Jayden’s testimony. He was sure since Jayden was now living with the Neal’s that he had been informed. “No one’s spoken to you about this?” “About what!” he screamed. He touched his hand to his eyes. “Jayden’s cousins did this to me?” “Troy, you have to calm down.” He gently put his hand on Troy’s shoulder and pushed him back down on the bed. “I assumed your parents talked to you about this.” Troy turned his head away from the detective. “No one has said a fucking word to me about anything. Just leave me alone.” Wallace placed his hand on Troy’s arm. “Jayden took a big risk testifying for you,” he said. “Don’t blame him for what his cousins did.” “Someone should have told me,” responded Troy as he buried his head into the sheet. He didn’t know if he was feeling anger or hurt. He had trusted Jayden. Besides his parents, Penny and Claire, he was one of the people he thought he could depend on. He felt a certain connection to the boy he had never seen. Now he felt betrayed. It seemed that everyone knew that Jayden’s cousins had been responsible for his injuries, but no one had told him. “Troy?” Wallace squeezed Troy’s arm tightly. “Get out!” Troy pleaded. “Please. I’ve told you everything I can remember. Just go.” Wallace looked down at the boy lying in the bed. He couldn’t understand why no one had spoken to him about Jayden’s involvement. He had assumed that when the Neal’s invited him into their home that they had discussed it first with Troy. Surely, they had seen the news and knew that it was Jayden’s cousins who had harmed their son. They had to have known when they took Jayden into their home that his aunt had kicked him out of hers because he testified against his own cousins. If they knew all this, then why didn’t they tell Troy? “If you remember anything else, tell your father to give me a call.” He waited for a response from Troy. When he got none, he sighed and left the room. When Troy heard the door close, he let out a loud wail and cried into his pillow. * * * * * * * * “This is stupid,” Jayden said as he tied the blindfold around Claire’s face. She had suggested that he go with her to the mall after school. She said she wanted him to help her pick out a shirt for Troy. However, when they arrived, she told him the real reason she had wanted him to go with her. “Look, Jayden.” She turned and lifted the blindfold she had made from a checkered handkerchief. “How else will we know what Troy is experiencing if we don’t experience it for ourselves?” “People are going to think we are idiots,” he replied as he looked around the crowded mall. “Couldn’t we have done this somewhere more private?” “Someday Troy is going to have to pick up the pieces and live his life again.” She looked sympathetically at Jayden. “He’ll have to come out in the public. He’s going to depend on us to help him. I just want to know what he’s going to be feeling.” “Since when did this become ‘us’?” He liked staying with the Neal’s; however, once he graduated, he planned to get a job and find his own apartment. He was becoming increasingly concerned that Troy’s parents, and now Claire, were planning his future for him. “He should be coming home soon,” Claire insisted. “I know he’s going to want you to help him sometimes. Doing this will help us understand what he’s going through.” “There you go with that us again,” he huffed. Claire placed the blindfold over her eyes and reached for Jayden’s arm. Playfully, he stepped away so she couldn’t touch him. She swung her arms trying to find him. He circled around and giggled at her wild antics. She stomped her foot and pulled the blindfold off. “Forget it, Asshole!” she shouted as she started to storm away. “I’ll get Allison to help me.” Realizing he had gone too far, he ran up beside her and grabbed her arm. “Okay, Claire,” he said apologetically. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize this meant that much to you.” “I love Troy.” She began to wipe away the tears that were falling down her face. “I want to be a part of him,” she cried. “I want to know what he’s feeling.” Jayden reached out and pulled her into a hug. She cried softly into his chest. “Okay,” he said softly. “Let’s do this.” She pulled away and smiled. “Here,” she said as she grinned and held out the handkerchief. “You go first.” “Me!” He looked anxiously around the mall. “People will think I’m crazy.” “And how do you think Troy will feel when he comes out in public?” She grabbed Jayden’s waist and turned his back to her. She stood on her tiptoes and tied the blindfold around his eyes. She then walked around and waved her hand in front of his face. “Can you see?” she asked. “No peeking. That’s cheating if you can see.” “I can’t see,” Jayden assured her. He jumped when she grabbed his left arm and pulled him away. He instinctively extended his right arm and felt the air in front of him. “Relax,” Claire said. “I’m not going to run you into anything. Although, I probably should after what you did to me.” “Please, don’t!” Jayden pleaded. “This is really freaky. If you let go, I’m taking off the blindfold.” You can’t,” insisted Claire. “You have to leave it on until I tell you to take it off. Remember, Troy isn’t going to be wearing a blindfold. So, no matter how scared you become, you have to leave it on.” He nodded as she took his arm and led him forward. Without his sight, he realized that he depended on his hearing more. He listened for voices and noises around him. He also realized how important it was for Claire to keep her hand on his arm. Troy jumped when a man came out of a store and ran into him. “Watch out, Freak!” he said angrily. “What are you kids doing? You need to get a job and quit playing around in the mall.” “Fuck you!” Jayden spat as he turned toward the direction he last heard the man speaking. “He’s gone,” Claire said as she led him forward. As they walked, Jayden focused on the sounds around him. To his right he heard a mother comforting a crying baby. Behind him, he heard what sounded like three boys talking about an upcoming basketball game. The sound of shoes pounding on the pavement echoed in his ears. “What’s that?” He stopped and listened to a strange sound coming up from his right. It sounded like an electric wheelchair, but it was moving too fast. “That’s a security guard on a Segway,” Claire explained. He listened as it passed him and faded away. “Come on.” Claire pulled him to his right. He held out his hand and felt a door. He knew they had entered into a shop. Claire led him to a counter and told him to wait. He could hear her whispering to a clerk, but he couldn’t make out what they were saying. She returned and led him back outside. She walked him over to a bench and had him sit down. “Here.” She took his hand and gave him a small bag. “What’s this?” “Take it out, and you tell me,” she giggled. He reached in and removed something round and sticky. It had the shape of a cookie, but he knew it wasn’t. He held it to his nose and smelled it. It had the aroma of chocolate. “Well?” Claire asked. “What is it?” “I’m not sure,” Jayden said as he stuck out his tongue and licked it. “It’s chocolate,” he said. “I’m not sure exactly what it is though.” “Eat it,” Claire giggled. “You’re not giving me something gross to eat, are you?” he asked skeptically. He thought he knew Claire well enough that she wouldn’t try to do anything to hurt him. “Just bite into it,” Again, he smelled it before taking a small nibble on it. “Mmm,” he said. “This is good.” He took a bigger bite. He could tell it contained chocolate, nuts and what tasted like caramel. She asked, “What is it?” “I don’t know,” he answered as he took another bite. “But it’s good.” He finished eating it and then licked the gooey remains from his fingers. “It’s a turtle,” Claire giggled. “Really?” Jayden started laughing. “I always heard that turtles taste like chicken.” “Silly.” Claire reached out, took his hand and pulled him to his feet. “But didn’t it taste better by not knowing exactly what you were eating? Didn’t your other senses kick in?” “Yeah,” Jayden thought. “It did. Even though I wasn’t sure what I was eating, I could better tell what was in it.” They continued their journey through the mall. Claire took him into Sears and had him walk around the men’s department feeling different items and trying to guess what they were. “What’s this?” He reached out for the item and then tossed it to the ground. “That’s just plain gross!” He could hear Claire laughing as she reached down, took the brassiere from the floor and returned it to the shelf. After a half hour, they sat on another bench and Claire had Jayden remove the blindfold. He squinted when he removed it because of the intensity of the light flooding into his eyes. It saddened him that Troy would never be able to feel that sensation. “Well?” Claire looked expectantly at him. “What do you think?” “It was really strange,” he replied. “Without my sight, I could hear things better. I had to pay more attention to what was going on around me. I heard things I normally wouldn’t have noticed, like that guard on the Segway.” He looked over and smiled at Claire. “I also couldn’t have done it without you. About halfway through, I realized just how much I really depended on you. I had to place complete trust in you.” “I became your eyes?” “Yeah,” he said thoughtfully. “You became my eyes.” She took the handkerchief from his hands and covered her eyes with it. “It’s my turn now,” she said. “Now I have to trust you, so don’t do what you did earlier.” “I won’t,” he assured her. She wrapped her arm around his as he led her through the mall. Like Jayden, she concentrated on the sounds around her. “What’s that?” She asked as they passed one of kiosks that were set up throughout the mall. “What?” Jayden looked around but he didn’t know what she was hearing. “That chopping sound?” Jayden looked at the man chopping raw fish at the sushi bar kiosk. He laughed as he pulled Claire over to the counter. He put his finger to his lips and motioned for the attendant to give him something from the bar. It looked gross. The inside was pink, and it was wrapped in what looked like seaweed. “What are you doing?” Claire asked worriedly. “Trust me,” he grinned at the attendant as he handed him a five. He took the slice of sushi and placed it in Claire’s hand. “What’s this?” She raised her hand to her face and smelled it. “Just take a bite,” Jayden snickered. “I ate what you gave me.” “Yeah,” she replied, “but I gave you chocolate.” She held it to her nose again. “This smells like shit.” She put her tongue to it and licked it. “Eww,” she said as she wrinkled her nose. “It tastes like shit.” “Eat it,” he insisted. “It won’t kill you.” “If it’s so good, then you eat it.” “I’m not eating it,” he laughed. She held it to her nose again, and then licked it. “What is this?” “Sushi.” “Oh, hell no!” she shouted angrily. “I’ve seen sushi before, and it grossed me out.” She handed it back to him. “Take this.” He led her to a trash container and threw it away. They then continued their walk. After strolling for several more minutes, she asked Jayden to take her to a bench so she could sit down. Once there, she removed the blindfold. “That was really strange,” she said. “I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like for Troy.” She held up the handkerchief. “We can always take the blindfold off. But for Troy, darkness is something he’ll have to deal with the rest of his life.” Jayden looked into Claire’s saddened face. She leaned over and rested her head on his shoulder. “Life can be a bitch sometimes.” “Yep,” he replied. “And a mother fucker every once in a while; especially when your back is turned.” You got that right,” she sighed. “A mother-fucking, back-stabbing bitch.” They laughed as he put his arm around her and held her tightly. * * * * * * * * Troy’s parents noticed a change in him as soon as they entered his room. The curtain was pulled, and the room was dark. He was lying on his side with his back turned from the door. When they went over to kiss him, he pulled the sheet over his face. For the past few days he seemed to be getting better. He was talking more, and occasionally he would even laugh. They had been told by the doctors that Troy would experience mood changes, but this seemed more than mild depression. “Are you all right, Son?” Mr. Neal put his hand on Troy’s back and rubbed it gently. Troy attempted to shake it off. His mother asked worriedly, “Do you want me to go get a nurse?” “I just want you to get the fuck out of my room,” he muttered under the sheets. “I don’t want to see any of you.” They became puzzled when he started laughing. “Get it?” he asked. “I don’t want to ‘see’ any of you.” Mrs. Neal gave her husband a worried look. “Son.” Mr. Neal rubbed his son’s back. Troy sat up in bed and yelled, “I want you to get the fuck out of my room!” “Troy!” his mother shouted. “What is wrong with you? Why are you talking to us like that?” “Like what, Mother?” He leaned in towards her voice. “Like someone who you don’t give a flying fuck about?” “Troy!” This time it was his father who shouted. “Stop that right now!” “Or what?” he asked sarcastically. “What are you going to do? Take away my driving privileges? Or...Or... tell me I can’t watch television?” He held up his fingers and snapped them. “I got it. You’ll just keep secrets from me like I’m some kind of a child.” “What are you talking about, Troy?” His father gave his wife a puzzled look. She was wiping tears from her eyes and trying hard not to let Troy know she was crying. “Does it matter, Dad?” He lay back, turned away from them and pulled the sheet once again over his head. “Does it really matter anymore? Poor Troy. He can’t handle the truth, so let’s keep him in the dark.” His shoulders started jiggling as he began to laugh nervously. “Get it, Dad? I said keep me in the dark.” “Son.” He attempted to raise Troy and hold him, but he was met with resistance. “Just leave, please?” He pulled the covers tighter over his head. “I’m tired, and I don’t want company.” Just then, Claire, Allison and Jayden walked in. They stopped when they saw the anguished looks on the Neal’s faces. “What’s wrong?” Claire asked. “Is Troy all right?” Allison asked worriedly. “Has something happened to Troy?” Jayden asked as he approached the bed and looked down at the hidden body. Suddenly, Troy sat up in bed and pointed in Jayden’s direction. “Get him out of my room!” An astonished look appeared on Jayden’s face. He looked anxiously around the room as everyone stared at him. He turned and fled.
  4. Chapter 11

    I'm overwhelmed by all the wonderful comments this story has generated. Such insightful and profound remarks. Thanks. -Ron
  5. Chapter 11

    Jayden sat nervously across from Mr. Fallingsworth as he thumbed through some papers on his desk. He looked up and peered at Jayden over his glasses. “I’m glad you decided to return,” he said. He looked down and continued to read before looking up again. “You have excellent grades,” he remarked. “I’m surprised I never knew who you were before the other day. I guess you’ve never played sports?” “No, Sir,” responded Jayden. “I’ve only been here two years.” “I see.” Fallingsworth closed the folder on his desk and removed his glasses. “I really don’t see any reason why you won’t graduate. Your grades are good. You don’t seem to have an attendance problem, and there are no disciplinary problems that I can tell.” He smiled at Jayden. “You’ve never even spent one afternoon in detention.” “No, Sir.” Jayden looked down and studied the veins in his hands. “Jayden?” He looked up at Fallingsworth. “Mr. Neal called me this morning. He said you’ll be staying with them temporarily.” Jayden found it strange when he started laughing. “You’re a very lucky young man. My wife and I have been to their home for a few cocktail parties over the years. Their home is rather... how can I say this? Ostentatious.” “Yes, Sir,” Jayden replied. “I guess it is.” He thought he would he have to go to the library and find its meaning. It was the second time he heard it used when referring to the Neal home. Fallingsworth reached behind him and took several books off a table. “Here,” he said as he placed them in front of Jayden. “I guess you’ll be needing these.” Jayden took them and placed them in his lap. “You only have a few more months to go,” Fallingsworth stated. “Hang in there; and if you need anything, don’t hesitate to come see me.” Jayden started to get up and then sat down. “Can I ask you a question, Sir?” “Certainly.” “What’s going to happen to Troy?” “What do you mean?” “He was supposed to graduate in May. I don’t think he’ll be able to.” Fallingsworth sat back in his chair and studied Jayden for a minute. “I probably shouldn’t be telling you this, but I’m sure you’ll find out soon anyway.” He sat up and looked at Jayden. “Troy will graduate with his class.” “I don’t understand,” Jayden replied. “He won’t be able to take any of his final exams.” “Troy already had met the requirements to graduate at the end of last semester. Many seniors do. He could have left during Christmas break. He was aware of this, but he decided to stay because he wanted to perform in the play.” “I see.” Jayden thought a minute and then grinned at the principal. “Do I have enough credits?” Fallingsworth opened his school file again and looked down. “I’m afraid not,” he informed him. “I was looking earlier. I hoped that you had. But it appears that you missed a semester your sophomore year.” He looked up. “I guess it was when your mother passed away?” Jayden nodded his head. “Well, you only have a few months to go,” he assured him. “I don’t think you’ll have any problems. Just make sure you show up for your final exams.” Jayden nodded and stood. He hesitantly extended his hand. “Thank you, Mr. Fallingsworth,” he said appreciatively. “It was my mother’s dream to see me graduate. I’m glad you let me come back.” “Think nothing of it, Son.” He stepped from behind his desk and placed his hand on Jayden’s back. “I’m sure your mother is looking down right now and is very proud of you.” “Thank you, Sir.” Jayden turned and hurried from the room before tears started to appear. ******** “I said get out of my room!” “But Troy,” the nurse replied patiently as she pulled on his arm to get him to get out of bed. “The doctor wants you on your feet so you can walk around.” “Walk around!” he shouted. “Where the fuck am I going to walk to?” He pulled his arm away and rested his head on the pillow. “Now just leave me alone.” “If you don’t get up and walk,” the nurse informed him, “you won’t be able to go home.” “I don’t want to go home! I don’t want to go anywhere!” His voice boomed throughout the hospital floor. Mrs. Neal rose from her seat and stood beside her son’s bed. “Troy, Dear,” she said. “Are you still here?” he asked harshly. “I thought I made it clear to the doctor I don’t want visitors.” “I’m not a visitor.” He could tell by the tone of her voice that he had hurt her, but he didn’t care. He was tired of living day after day; lying in the hospital bed unable to see what was going on around him. Simple tasks, like eating, were a chore. He refused to let anyone feed him; and on more than one occasion, his food had ended up in his lap. He also refused to let a nurse take him to the bathroom and watch to make sure he didn’t fall. He was tired…tired of living. “Troy.” His mother spoke softly as she ran her hand over his bare head. He reached out and slapped it away. “I know this is difficult for you, but you’ve got to accept what has happened.” “Accept what has happened?” He sat up and turned his head toward her. He then removed the bandages covering his eyes. She let out a gasp. “You want me to accept this, Mother?” He could hear her weeping softly. “You’re being cruel,” said the nurse as she placed the bandages back onto his eyes. “She loves you.” “Yeah,” he replied sarcastically. “Everyone loves the poor, blind kid.” “Stop it!” His mother shouted. He listened as she sat back down and cried. He sat up and threw his legs over the side of the bed. “I have to go to the bathroom.” The nurse stepped up and grabbed his arm, but he pushed her away. “I can do it myself,” he said angrily. He stood on wobbly legs and then took a step. “Six steps forward.” He carefully walked with his arms outstretched until he found the door. He stepped inside. “Two steps to the right.” He felt for the toilet and sat down. He then reached out and closed the door. ******** Jayden was heading to lunch when he decided to go into the restroom and relieve himself. As he was at the urinal, another student walked in. He turned to see Will standing at the door waiting for him. Jayden finished and then went to the sink and washed his hands. “How is he?” Jayden looked into the mirror to see Will standing beside him. He had a sad look on his face. “He’s getting better,” Jayden replied as he reached in front of Will and pulled some paper towels out of the dispenser. “Good,” Will responded. “I’m glad.” Jayden turned and faced him. “Why haven’t you been by to see him?” Will looked down and shrugged his shoulders. “I thought you guys were boyfriends?” Will looked up with a surprised look on his face. He didn’t know that Jayden was aware of their relationship. He then looked down and shrugged his shoulders again. “He’d probably like to see you,” Jayden said. “He’s well enough to have visitors.” “I’m not sure I can,” Will stated nervously. “I already saw him once.” He started to turn. “Look, I got to get to class. I just wanted to know how he was doing.” Before Jayden could stop him, he dashed from the room. ******** Penny was waiting for Jayden when he left school. He was walking down the sidewalk when she pulled up beside him and honked the horn. “Want a ride?” she asked as he walked over to the window. “Yeah, sure,” he replied. “I was going to walk to your house.” “It’s over two miles!” “It doesn’t bother me.” He looked up into the clear, blue sky. “Besides it’s a nice out today.” Penny reached over and unlocked the door. “Well, get in. We’ll go by the house to drop your things off, and then you can go with me to see Troy.” He opened the door and got in. On the way to the Neal home, Jayden asked Penny something that had been bothering him since his encounter with Will. “Do you know a guy named Will?” Penny gave him a skeptical look. “Yes,” she replied. “What about him?” Jayden shrugged his shoulders. “I was just wondering about him is all.” He turned and looked out the window. Penny drove in silence for several minutes before speaking. “He and Troy are boyfriends,” she said. “At least they were.” “What do you mean, were?” Penny gave him a concerned look. “From what Claire has told me, Will doesn’t want to see Troy anymore.” “Why?” “This thing with Troy is hard on all of us,” she responded. “It’s changed all our lives.” She looked sadly at Jayden. “It’s even changed your life.” He didn’t say anything as he turned and looked back out the window. He knew what she was saying was true. “Anyway,” she continued. “Some of us have to deal with it; we don’t have a choice. But someone like Will doesn’t. He’s only known Troy a few months. It’s easier for him to walk away than stay.” “I guess you’re right,” he replied. “It still sucks, though. You’d think if he really cared about Troy, he’d want to stay around.” “I think he cares about him,” she said sadly. “I just don’t think he loved Troy enough to have to deal with what’s happened.” “It still sucks.” Jayden rested his head on the window and closed his eyes. He dozed off briefly until he felt the car come to a stop. He opened his eyes to notice that they had arrived at the Neal home. He went to his room and changed into something more comfortable. Thirty minutes later they were arriving at the hospital. They took the elevator to the fourth floor. When they got off, they noticed Troy’s mother sitting in a small waiting room. It was apparent she had been crying. “What’s wrong, Mother?” Penny sat down beside her and put her arm around her. “I can’t take much more of this,” she sobbed loudly. “He’s become like a stranger. Every time he says something, it’s so hateful.” Penny rubbed her back gently. “He’s angry and upset, Mother. Look what’s he’s been through. He has to take it out on someone.” “But why does he have to be so hateful?” “He’s depressed, Mother,” Penny replied. “He’s nineteen, and he realizes he has to live the rest of his life without sight. How do you think you would feel?” “I wouldn’t be mean to the people who love me.” She dabbed the tissue at her wet eyes. “You don’t know how you’d react,” said Penny. “Just be glad you’re here for him to take his anger and frustration out on.” “What do you mean, Dear?” “I think what she means, Mrs. Neal,” offered Jayden as he sat down beside her, “is that Troy has a lot of anger and hate inside him. He needs to release it, and take his anger out on someone.” He took her hand and held it. “Who is better to understand that than someone who loves him?” “But it hurts me when he says those awful things,” she replied tearfully. “Just think how badly he’s hurting right now,” responded Jayden. He looked over at Penny as she nodded her head. “We have to help him through this, Mother,” she said. “If it means he has to scream and shout at us every day, then we have to be there for him to scream and shout at. He needs us more than ever.” She rested her head on Jayden’s shoulder and cried softly. “I guess you’re right. It just hurts me so much to see him suffering.” After several minutes, Jayden got up and went to Troy’s room, leaving Penny and her mother alone so that they could talk. The room was dark when he walked in. He went over to the window and pulled back the curtain. “Who is it?” Troy muttered as he woke up. “Jayden. The room is dark, so I thought I’d open up the curtain.” “Really?” Troy spoke sarcastically. “I hadn’t noticed.” It occurred to Jayden that every day of Troy’s life would be filled with darkness. He would never be able to tell if it were day or night. Jayden walked over and took a seat. He watched the sad figure lying on the bed. Other than the movement of his chest rising and falling, it appeared that he had no life left inside him. Jayden closed his eyes briefly, but opened them when he heard Troy stirring. He looked over as Troy threw his legs over the side of the bed and stood on the ground. He watched him carefully as he got up and went into the bathroom. Minutes later he came out. On the way back to bed, he lost his balance and started to fall. Jayden sprang from his chair and caught him before he fell. “Thanks,” Troy said as he sat on the side of the bed. “No problem,” replied Jayden as he sat down beside him. “Have you been up a lot? Your legs are probably weak from lying in bed all day.” “They try to get me to walk,” he replied angrily, “but they act like I’m some kind of a baby. I can’t even go to the bathroom without someone holding onto me.” “Do you feel like walking a little?” Jayden looked over and Troy nodded. “As long as that stupid nurse doesn’t start bitching,” he spat. Jayden stood and then told Troy to stand. He then turned his back and said, “We’re about the same height. Put your hand on my shoulder, and I’ll walk slowly out of the room. Just keep your hand on my shoulder and you should be all right.” Troy put his hand on his shoulder and nodded. “If you get tired, let me know and we’ll come back.” “Okay,” Troy replied. Jayden headed to the door and opened it. “Put out your right hand and hold the door open while we leave.” Troy did as he was told. They entered the hall, and Jayden looked to his left. Mrs. Neal and Penny stood and started to approach them, but he held up his hand. “We’re making a right turn,” he informed Troy. Troy gently held his shoulder as they turned. “It’s a long hallway, I’d say about thirty yards,” he stated. “Do you think you can make it?” Troy gently squeezed his shoulder. They had walked about twenty yards when they approached the nurses’ station. One of the nurses looked up and then jumped from her chair. Once again Jayden held up his hand. She stopped and watched as they passed. Jayden could see her following behind them. “I feel warmth on my left arm,” Troy said. Jayden stopped and turned him so they were facing left. “There’s a row of windows,” he said. “The sun is shining outside. That’s what you’re feeling.” Troy tilted his head and let the sun shine on his face. Jayden looked over at the nurse who was standing about ten feet away. She had a wide grin on her face. He looked down the hallway and noticed Troy’s mother and sister watching them. Mrs. Neal was dabbing tears from her eyes. Troy squeezed his shoulder and then turned right, indicating that he wanted to move on. They had walked about ten feet when a nurse hurriedly exited a room and ran into Troy. “Watch it!” Troy shouted. “Why don’t you watch where you’re going!” The nurse responded angrily. “I would if I could, Shithead!” Troy screamed. Jayden watched as the nurse who had been following at a distance stopped the other nurse and they had an angry exchange. He couldn’t hear what the nurse was saying, but it was obvious she was extremely upset. Troy squeezed Jayden’s shoulder tightly. “I want to go back to my room,” he said angrily. Jayden turned and faced him. “It’s all right, Troy,” he spoke softly. “She didn’t know. You can’t get upset with people all the time.” “You don’t understand,” he said dejectedly. “No, I don’t,” Jayden replied. “I can’t begin to imagine what you’re going through. But things aren’t going to change, Troy. You can either learn to live with it, or let it destroy you. I’ve been there, I know.” “I don’t think I’m that strong, Jayden.” Tears were beginning to flow from underneath the bandages on his face. “I don’t think I want to live like this.” Jayden looked down the hall and saw a bench. He turned and led Troy to it. As they walked, he held up his hand to those behind him that he didn’t want them to approach. When they reached the bench, he turned Troy so that he could feel the side on his back legs. “Sit down, Troy.” He held his shoulders as he sat down, and then took a seat beside him. “Two years ago, my life was changed in an instant, just like yours now. My mother was killed by a drunk driver one night.” He stopped when his voice began to tremble. When he thought he could speak without becoming emotional he continued. “In a second my life changed. Everything I had was taken from me. The person I loved most in this world was no longer here.” He stopped again as tears started to fall from his face. Troy reached out, found his hand and gently squeezed it. He looked over at Troy and continued speaking. “I made it, though. I hated every minute of my life, but I didn’t quit. It’s not what my mother would have wanted.” He squeezed Troy’s hand tightly. “I haven’t known you very long,” he said, “but I’ve known you long enough to know you’re not a quitter, either. I’ve met your family and friends, and I’ve never seen anyone who has been loved by more people.” Troy squeezed his hand tighter. “You’re mad as hell right now,” he said. “I know. You don’t know why it happened, and no one can give you any right answers. Shit sometimes just happens.” He turned to Troy, once again holding his hand tightly. “Kick, scream, tell the world to go to hell.” He grinned when he saw a smile form on Troy’s face. “But never, ever, give up.” They sat quietly for a minute. Troy turned his head toward Jayden. “So, your mother died?” “Yeah,” Troy responded sadly. “Hurts like a son of a bitch.” “I know what you mean,” replied Troy. He squeezed Jayden’s hand. Jayden looked down and realized they had been holding hands for several minutes. He gently ran his thumb over the back of Troy’s hand. Troy turned his head towards him and smiled. “You ready to head back to your room?” Troy nodded and Jayden got up and helped Troy stand. He then stood in front of him as Troy placed his hand on his shoulder. “Ready?” “Yep,” he laughed. “Lead the way, Kimosabe.” When they passed Mrs. Neal and Penny, both were smiling as tears streamed down their faces. ******** Claire and Allison were sitting on the chair in Troy’s room. Allison was gently rubbing Claire’s back as they talked. Both were surprised by Troy’s happier mood. They usually sat and talked while Troy kept his head turned away. This time he was sitting up and seemed to enjoy their company. Troy had informed them when they arrived that his mother, Penny and Jayden had left a little earlier. Claire had given Allison a knowing glance when Troy mentioned Jayden’s name. “You can’t believe the support you have at school,” said Claire. “I can’t walk down the hall without a dozen people asking me how you’re doing.” “I wish you’d change your mind and let people come visit you,” suggested Allison. “It might do you good to have some of your friends around.” They immediately noticed a change come over Troy. He laid his head back down on the pillow and turned away from them. “I’m sorry,” apologized Allison. “It was only a suggestion.” Claire looked up and gave her a worried look. Troy turned his head and faced them. “I really don’t want anyone to see me,” he said sadly. He touched his hand to his face. “Especially like this. It’s bad enough knowing what you are thinking.” Claire got up and walked over to the side of the bed. “Troy,” she replied softly as she ran her hand over the side of his face. “There’s nothing wrong with the way you look.” “Yeah, right,” Troy replied. “I’m sure everyone wants to see this.” He lifted the gauze from his eyes. His left eye was shut tightly, but there was a deep depression where his right eye was removed. “I look really pretty, don’t I?” Claire stepped away and wiped tears from her eyes. Allison walked over, stood by the side of the bed and took Troy’s hand. “All right, Troy,” she said harshly. “You’re not the same as you were a week ago, but you’ve got to start accepting what happened to you. You can’t be angry at people all the time.” She gave Claire a puzzled look when Troy started to laugh. “You’re the second person to tell me that today.” He replaced the gauze to his face and sat up. “Jayden told me the same thing earlier when we were taking a walk.” “You walked today?” Claire asked excitedly. Troy’s mother had told her how difficult a time the staff was having getting him to participate in his therapy. “Yeah,” he smiled. “Jayden and I walked down the hallway. I’m not sure how far we went, but he helped me.” “That’s wonderful,” said Allison cheerfully. She looked over at Claire and grinned. “It seems like he’s becoming quite a friend.” “I guess,” he replied. “I still don’t know much about him. Any time I ask someone, they just say he’s in our class at school. When he left today with Mom and Penny, they said something about him doing his homework. It sounded like he’s staying at our house.” Claire looked over at Allison. She wasn’t sure if they should be the ones to tell them about what had happened to Jayden since he had helped him that night. It seemed obvious he didn’t know much. They weren’t sure if Troy’s parents were keeping it from him, or if the subject had never been raised. “So?” “So, what?” Claire looked over anxiously at Allison. She knew Troy was waiting to be told something about Jayden. “Don’t play dumb, Claire,” Troy replied angrily. “How long have we known each other? Since like when we were still in diapers? I can tell you’re holding something back from me. Everyone is.” “I really think this is something your parents should discuss with you,” she responded. “It’s really not my place to.” “So, there is something going on?” Claire glanced over quickly at Allison. Allison shrugged her shoulders, leaving Claire trying to figure out how to stop Troy from questioning her. “How about those Yankees?” Allison laughed. “Never mind, then,” Troy huffed as he laid his head back on the pillow. “I guess I’ll just have to ask Jayden for the truth. He seems like the only person I can trust around here.” He waited for them to respond, but they just looked at each other. They returned to the chair and sat down. Allison put her hand on Claire’s back and began rubbing it again gently. Nothing was said for several minutes. Finally, Troy lifted himself on his elbow and turned toward them. “Okay,” he sighed. “You can at least tell me one thing.” “What? Claire asked. “Is he cute?” Claire looked at Allison and giggled. “Why do you want to know that?” She said in a teasing voice. “I know he’s about my size,” he stated, “because when he’s helping me walk, I can tell he’s about as tall as me and he’s thin.” “Okay,” teased Claire. “You’re right about that.” “So,” pleaded Troy. “Tell me if he’s cute.” “Extremely!” cooed Allison. “Really?” Troy asked. “What color is his hair?” “Black,” stated Claire. “His eyes?” “Dark brown,” replied Allison. Allison nodded her head at Claire when Troy lay back on the pillow and grinned.
  6. Chapter 10

    Haha, ColumbusGuy. Confession is good for the soul. Others have made comments that they have read this story previously. I'm glad that you and they aren't ruining the story with spoilers. Many prefer to keep up with it as I post it weekly, and they look forward to what is going to happen next. Ron
  7. Chapter 10

    Thank you for commenting BlindAmbition. I'm glad you have adjusted so well to the loss of your sight. Ron
  8. Chapter 9

    Hi Lisa, No stress at all. I'm glad you recommended the story for me to share with others at GA. It has generated a lot of interest. Don't stay away so long! Ron
  9. Chapter 10

    Questions! Questions! Questions! Why don’t they leave me alone? The questions make me see things- things I don’t want to see. When the questions stop, the nightmares begin. Did you see them? See them! Their dark and violent features are etched forever in my mind. They are the last things I saw, and the first things I see. Troy rested his head on the pillow. The two faces again emerge. Dark and dangerous. They crawl from the crevices of the hard concrete and run at him. He wants the dream to go away, but when he tries to open his eyes, there is darkness- and the two ominous creatures. They tear at his face and dig their claws into his sides. He fights back, but it only makes them stronger. It’s only a dream he screams inwardly. But if it’s only a dream, why can’t I emerge from it? Why is there continuous blackness? “Give me your wallet!” One of the creatures shrieks madly. He approaches and devours his head. Wake up, Troy! But I can’t wake up. Then a face emerges. This time it’s a young black man. But again, his face is dark and dangerous. He yells, “I said give me your wallet!” I fall. Heavy shoes pound my body. Excruciating pain. “Wake up, Troy!” My inner voice screams out. I open my eyes- but darkness. Get up and run! Run from the beastly creatures! But my body won’t move. It is trampled down by their heavy feet pounding wildly on my body. I hear a voice laughing, but I can’t move. Then suddenly it is quiet. Deadly silence. I can hear my pain. I can feel the blood gushing from my face. Deadly silence. Am I dead? I lift my body, but it falls from the weight of my pain. I open my eyes, but darkness. My senses are intensified. I can taste the blood oozing from my lips. I can hear my heart pounding- perhaps taking its last beats. I can smell the rancid urine on the sidewalk. I touch the ground and try to raise myself up. But one sense has deserted me. Only darkness. I scream out, but like a tree falling in a forest, no one hears me. I am dead and no one knows. “Troy!” A voice shouts my name. I look, but darkness. “Troy!” They shout again. I strike out into the unknown darkness, afraid of the demons. They grab me and hold me tightly. “It’s all right.” Again, my senses react. I can smell shampoo from someone’s hair. I can feel his skin against my body, and I can hear his gentle voice telling me everything is all right. But still the darkness surrounds me. The darkness scares me, and I shout once again. I reach for a hand and I squeeze it twice. Then twice again, and yet again. “It’s going to be all right,” the voice says softly. “We’re going to give you something to calm you down.” Then darkness overcomes me once again, and I sleep. The demons are gone- at least for a while. ******** Jayden rested his head on the window of Mr. Neal’s large Suburban as they drove away from the hospital. Penny was sitting beside him, and she kept looking worriedly at him. She tried to engage him in small talk, but he didn’t feel like talking. He wasn’t sure he was making the right decision by agreeing to go home and staying with the Neal’s. His life had changed so much the past two years, and he didn’t think he could go through more emotional turmoil. He had barely survived when his mother died. Living with his aunt and cousins had been a banishment to Hell. As he looked around the truck, he didn’t know how his life would once again change. One thing he was sure of, though; he really didn’t have many options available. It was staying with Troy’s family or living on the streets. He lifted his head and looked out the window when Mr. Neal’s SUV slowed down and pulled into a long driveway. His eyes widened as he looked out onto the large house before him. It was enormous. The two-story home was meticulously landscaped. It was well-lit with trees and shrubbery adorning the large front yard. “Big, isn’t it?” Penny giggled beside him. “Daddy designed it himself.” He pulled into the circular driveway and stopped beside the steps leading up to the arched, double doors at the front of the house. Jayden got out of the truck and scanned the front of the home. He had never seen anything so beautiful. He felt as if he had walked out of his life and into a fairy tale. “Don’t be too impressed,” laughed Mr. Neal as he put his hand on Jayden’s shoulder. “I have to work my ass off to pay for this.” “Wow!” Nothing else could come to Jayden’s mouth as he looked around him. He jumped when Penny grabbed his hand and pulled him toward the steps. “Come on,” she said. “I’ll give you a tour. You’re going to love the pool.” “Pool?” Jayden replied in amazement. “Of course,” she laughed. “I hope you like to swim. We spend a lot of time at the pool.” “I don’t have a swimming suit,” replied Jayden. Penny looked over and grinned. “We don’t swim in suits.” An astonished look appeared on his face. “Gotcha!” Penny laughed. Jayden felt embarrassed when everyone started laughing loudly. “You don’t know how many times she’s used that,” laughed Mr. Neal. “It’s always the same reaction.” He put his arm around Jayden and led him up the steps. “I’m sure one of Troy’s swim suits will fit you fine.” Jayden again stopped when they entered the door leading into the immense foyer. It was larger than the bedroom he had at his aunt’s house. Off to the right was the grand room. The furniture was large and ornate. There was a large leather sofa and several wing back chairs. Colorful pictures adorned the walls. “Wow!” Jayden stood gazing into the room. Penny grabbed his arm and pulled him down a large hallway with smaller pictures on the wall. Jayden quickly glanced at them and realized they were family pictures. Several he recognized as Troy and Penny taken several years ago. “I’m starving,” she said as she continued to lead Jayden down the hall. “Fix your mother and me a sandwich!” yelled her father. “Do you mind, Dear?” Jayden looked back and saw them walking up a large staircase. He assumed they were probably heading to their bedroom. Like the rest of the house, the kitchen was immense. There was a marbled center island. Penny motioned for Jayden to have a seat. He looked around at the cherry cabinets and stainless steel appliances. The kitchen rivaled any he had seen in magazines. “What do you want?” Penny looked at him and grinned. She was accustomed to people staring at their home the first time they entered. It used to embarrass her when she was younger because she always felt that her surroundings might discourage her friends from visiting. Many times she had to beg her friends to let her go home with them. They often felt embarrassed because their homes couldn’t compete with her lavish lifestyle. However, Penny never felt superior to them just because her family was wealthy. Her parents had never let her or Troy feel that they were better than other children. In fact, they went out of their way to make them realize that money wasn’t something that one could take for granted. Since an early age, they had been paid a meager allowance for doing chores around the house. As they grew older, they were given more; but it often came with a price. They were expected to do well in school, volunteer for charitable causes in their church and community and to participate in extracurricular activities at school. That was the main reason Troy had participated in the play. Jayden sat with his mouth agape as he looked around the kitchen. “Jayden?” Penny giggled. “What do you want to eat?” “Um...” he stammered. “I’ll have whatever you’re having.” “Good,” she replied. “I’m fixing us a breakfast.” Jayden looked up at the clock. It was after nine in the evening. Penny started giggling. “Nighttime is the best time for a good breakfast. How do you want your eggs?” “Fried, I guess,” Jayden replied. It had been several years since he had eaten breakfast. His aunt always slept late in the mornings, so he usually grabbed a bowl of cereal before going to school. “How about a western omelet?” He shrugged his shoulders. “Yeah, sure.” He didn’t have a clue what he had just volunteered to eat. He watched as Penny moved quickly around the room. He could tell it was something she had done often. “Can I help?” He got up and stood beside her. She motioned for him to open a cabinet door. “Get out four plates and coffee mugs.” She the pointed to a drawer. “The silverware is there.” She pointed outside to a table on a large, redwood deck. “You can set that table. It will be nice to eat outside by the pool.” Jayden got the plates and mugs and opened the sliding glass door. He then stepped out onto the deck. As the rest of the house, it was large. There was a patio table with a large umbrella. Several lounging chairs were strewn about in no particular order. Once he placed the plates and mugs on the table, he walked over and peered over the railing. Below was an large pool. There were numerous plants and trees surrounding it. Jayden felt that he was looking down at a tropical island. He jumped when Mr. Neal walked up and placed his hand on his shoulder. “This is Sheila’s favorite place. When she designed it, I thought she had overdone it. But sitting out here late at night is the most relaxing feeling. It almost makes you forget your problems.” He looked sadly at Jayden. “Almost.” “Everything is so.. so..” He looked admiringly around. “Beautiful,” he finally said. He gave Mr. Neal a puzzled look when he started laughing. “I thought you were going to say ostentatious. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve heard that.” “I don’t even know what that means,” Jayden responded. “It’s just really nice.” Mr. Neal put his hand on Jayden’s back and led him down the steps to the pool. “I’ve got a successful business,” he said. “I’ve made a lot of money in my lifetime.” He turned to Jayden as tears appeared in his eyes. “But you know what?” Jayden shook his head. “I’d give this all up tomorrow if...” his voice began to crack. “If it would bring Troy back to us the way he used to be.” He turned and Jayden could hear him softly crying. He felt helpless as he watched Troy’s father was overcome with emotion. “Are you all right, Mr. Neal?” He turned and wiped his eyes dry. “Yes, Jayden. I’m fine. Sometimes the reality of the situation hits me, and it’s a little difficult.” “I know how you feel,” Jayden replied. “I felt like that when my mother died.” When he noticed the surprised look on Mr. Neal’s face, he realized he had revealed too much. “When did she die?” Mr. Neal walked over and put his hand on Jayden’s arm. “Two years ago,” he replied sadly. He stepped away and looked over the pool. The moon was shining brightly down on the shimmering water. “But I really don’t like to talk about it.” “Very well,” Troy’s father replied as he stepped up beside Jayden. He looked over and saw the tears shining in his eyes. He touched Jayden’s arm softly. “But if you ever need anyone to talk to, I’m always available.” He looked over and smiled. “I helped two teens get through some rough times.” Again, his face became taut. “I just wish this was something I could solve with some fatherly advice.” “It’s going to be okay, Mr. Neal.” Jayden placed his hand over Mr. Neal’s. “I haven’t known Troy very long, but he seems to be a survivor. He’ll get through this.” Mr. Neal smiled warmly at the young man beside him. “I’m glad you’re here, Jayden.” He reached out and pulled him into a tight embrace. “I think you’re going to be able to help my son.” He pulled back as his eyes shimmered with wet tears. “More than you probably realize right now.” Jayden tensed when he hugged him again, but soon he relaxed and returned the embrace. It felt good to have someone hold him once again. Mr. Neal stepped back and looked up at the house. “I guess we should go back. I see Penny putting food on the plates.” They walked up the stairs and sat at the table on the deck. Jayden didn’t say anything as he looked down at the pool. The full moon was glimmering on the water. He couldn’t remember feeling so relaxed in two years. It was nothing like the noisy neighborhood he had just left. He was stirred from his thoughts when Mrs. Neal cleared her throat. “I’ll drop you off at school in the morning, Jayden, when I go to the hospital.” He looked down at the table. “I’m not in school anymore,” he replied softly. “Why?” Mr. Neal leaned over and looked at him. “I thought Claire said you were graduating this year.” He looked up and attempted a smile. “I kind of quit.” “What?” Penny said excitedly. “How can you quit when you’re so close to graduating? I know it’s not your grades because I heard Claire telling Allison how good a student you are.” “It’s kind of personal,” Jayden replied. He looked down at the pool. He then excused himself from the table and walked down the steps and stood before the clear blue water. He heard footsteps approach and then felt a hand take his and squeeze it. He looked over at Penny as she looked at the water. “I love it here,” she said. “When I was younger and needed to get away from everyone, I’d come out here and sit. Troy would do the same thing. I used to look out my window and watch him just sitting on the side of the pool, kicking his feet in the water.” She squeezed Jayden’s hand tighter. “We were here one night, like you and I are now, when he told me he was gay.” She looked at him tearfully. “He asked me if I hated him.” She broke down and cried. Jayden moved nearer to her and put his hand on her back. “I had a similar talk with my mother when I was fourteen,” he confessed. Penny looked at him with a surprised look. His sad expression turned to a smile. “I even had a bag packed and hidden in my closet just in case she said she did hate me.” Penny looked at him and smiled. “But she didn’t?” “No,” he said as he looked back over the water. “She told me she still loved me.” His wet eyes shimmered in the moonlight. “She sounds like she was a wonderful mother.” Jayden looked over and smiled. “She was,” he replied softly. Penny reached down and took his hand again and held it. “Tell me what happened.” Jayden sighed and sat down by the side of the pool. Penny removed her shoes and kicked her feet in the water. Jayden pulled his shoes and socks off and did the same. They sat for several minutes without saying anything. Jayden looked at Penny and decided if he should explain things to her. Since she had a younger brother, he was sure she would understand. It also helped that her younger brother was gay and she accepted him. He sighed and then spent the next fifteen minutes telling her about his mother’s death and the life he had lived since that time. It surprised him when he finished that he hadn’t broken down and cried. Instead, it felt like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. Penny looked at Jayden and smiled. Her eyes were moist with tears as she gripped his hand and merely said, “Thank you.” She sensed that Jayden really had no more to say. He had said it all. To give him advice, or try to tell him things would be all right, would be useless. She could tell that he had come to terms with his situation long ago. She stood and reached her hand to his, lifting him to his feet. “I’m going swimming,” she grinned. She then proceeded to pull her sweater off. Jayden tried to stop her, but she began laughing. He was relieved when she had a tee shirt on underneath. “Gotcha!” she laughed. She disappeared into a small room off to the side of the pool. When she emerged, she walked over and handed Jayden a pair of swimming trunks. She had already changed into hers. “You can change over there.” She pointed to the room she had just left. “This is one of Troy’s suits.” She quickly scanned his body. “They should fit you.” Jayden walked into the room, removed his clothes and put on the pair of red Speedos Penny had given him. He tried to arrange the bulge that was protruding through them. He walked out of the room with his hands in front of him. Penny was in the middle of the pool and swam over to him. She looked up and smiled. Jayden became embarrassed when her eyes roamed over his body. “Wow,” she said admiringly. “You have a nice body.” “Thanks,” he said embarrassedly. He continued to cover himself with his hands. Penny started laughing. “I have a boyfriend,” she giggled. “You don’t have anything I haven’t seen before. Besides, I used to swim all the time with Troy. A teenage boy sometimes can’t control himself.” She turned and started swimming away. Jayden sat down at the side of the pool and dangled his feet into the water. A minute later, Penny came swimming back. “Aren’t you getting in?” “I can’t swim,” Jayden confessed. “I never learned.” Penny offered him her hand. “This is only three feet deep,” she said as she slowly pulled him into the water. “You can stand up in it. Maybe later I’ll give you some lessons.” Jayden walked around in the water, feeling the sensation of warmness on his body. Even though the weather outside was still cool, the pool was heated and felt soothing on his body. Penny waded over to the side and threw her arms over the sides and let her body float in the water. Jayden waded over and sat beside her, mimicking her movements. He felt like he was sitting in a large hot tub. He closed his eyes and relaxed. They sat and quietly enjoyed the water’s warmth. After several minutes of relaxing, Jayden looked over at Penny. Her eyes were closed and her body was floating on top of the water. “Can I ask you something?” She opened her eyes and turned her head towards him. “Sure. What do you want to know?” Jayden looked around the pool and towards the house above them. “Just what am I doing here?” She turned her body and gave him a puzzled look. “What do you mean?” He stood up in the water. “I mean, what am I doing here? Troy’s in the hospital because my cousins beat the shit out of him; yet your family invites me to stay here. Why?” She stood, sat on the edge of the pool and kicked her feet in the water. Jayden jumped up and sat beside her as he waited for an answer. Penny looked him in the eyes. “One, you are not your cousins; and two, it’s because of your cousins you don’t have a place to stay.” “I still don’t know why I’m here.” “We had a long talk in the cafeteria when Claire called us down and said you didn’t have a place to stay.” She took his hand and held it. “You’re a good person, Jayden. My mother and father think the world of you. I guess they think they owe you for helping Troy.” “But...” Jayden started to protest, but Penny put her finger to his lips. “But it’s more than that,” she said. “I can’t explain it, but the moment we met you, it was like you were a part of our family. Mom adores you, and Dad thinks you’re one of the nicest young men he’s ever met. And I think if Claire were straight, she’d want you for a boyfriend.” “But I can’t live up to their expectations,” he said sadly. She smiled warmly at him. “You don’t have to live up to anyone’s expectations, Jayden. We’re just providing you with a place to stay until you graduate. That’s only a few months away. After that, what you do is up to you.” He shook his head. “I still don’t understand why your family is being so generous to me.” She squeezed his hand tightly. “Don’t try to understand it, Jayden.” She smiled. “I know it’s hard to believe from where you are, but good things happen in this world. Just accept my family’s help.” Jayden looked anxiously at Penny. “But what about Troy?” “What about Troy?” “What’s he going to say when he finds out I’m staying here, and it was my cousins who are the ones responsible for his blindness?” She looked at him and shook her head. “We’ll have to deal with that when the time arises,” she said worriedly. “He seems to like you, so it may not be a problem.” “I don’t know,” he responded. “I’ll stay here a few days. I’m sure I can find somewhere else to go.” “Where?” Penny turned and stared into his face. “You don’t have anywhere else to go.” She gripped his hand tightly. “Just stay here until you graduate. Then you can find a job and get an apartment. Daddy might even hire you to work for him.” Jayden looked down at their hands and then back at Penny. “We’ll see,” he muttered. “I still don’t think this is a good idea.” Penny began to yawn. “I’m sleepy. It must be late. Let’s go inside, and I’ll show you where you’ll be sleeping.” Jayden grabbed his clothing, and they walked up the stairs to the house. He followed her through the kitchen and down a stairway off the main foyer. He suddenly stopped when he reached the bottom. He looked around the dimly lit room. There was a pool table in the center of the room. A bar was located on the right. To his left was a den with a large screen television, a leather sofa and several comfortable looking chairs. “Wow!” Jayden said surprisingly. “We really don’t use this much,” Penny responded. “We each have our own rooms. Occasionally, we’ll rent a movie and watch it together. Troy used to entertain his friends down here.” He followed her when she started walking across the room, but he stopped and walked into another room off the den. The room was relatively bare, except for a baby grand piano in the middle. Jayden thought it was a strange place to have a piano. Penny walked over and rubbed her hand gently along the piano. “This is Troy’s favorite room of the house. He’d come down here for hours and practice. Daddy wanted the piano in the parlor upstairs, but Troy insisted that he put it down here so he could play without anyone around.” Jayden walked over and admired it. “It’s beautiful,” he said as he walked around it. “Do you play?” “No,” he replied. “I always wanted to learn, but my mother couldn’t afford to have someone give me lessons.” “Maybe Troy can teach you,” she suggested. “He gave lessons to a neighbor girl down the street. She had a crush on him, and she stopped when he wouldn’t ask her out on a date.” Jayden sat down at the piano bench and ran his hands gently over the keys. He would hit one occasionally, listening to it echo around the room. “Daddy had a designer come in and install acoustical walls. I would come down and sit in the other room and listen to him play. He is quite good.” He hit a few more keys and then stood. “I guess you should show me where I’m going to be sleeping.” He grabbed his mouth just as he began yawning. He followed her as she headed across the room and opened a door. “You’ll be in this room.” Jayden peered inside. There was a king-sized bed in the middle of the room. A large bureau was on one side of the room, and two wing back chairs were on the other. Several large pictures adorned the walls. “We really don’t use this room,” she said. “Mom didn’t know what to do with it so she turned it into a spare bedroom.” She walked over, opened a door and turned on a light. “You have your own bathroom.” He looked inside at the ornate fixtures and marble top counter. There was also a large shower with sliding glass doors. It appeared no one had ever used it. She walked over and kissed him on the cheek. “I’m going to bed,” she said. “I can hardly keep my eyes opened. We eat breakfast at seven. Mom will drop you off at school on her way to the hospital.” Jayden started to protest, but she turned and left before he had a chance. He turned and looked around the room. He couldn’t believe that his life had changed so much. A few days earlier he was living in a shabby house and sleeping on a thin mattress. He lay down on the bed. His body sunk comfortably into the pillow top mattress. He thought of climbing out of bed and taking a shower, but sleep overtook him before he could get up.
  10. Happy Birthday Wesley8890

    Happy Birthday, Wesley!!!!!!!!!!!
  11. Chapter 9

    Jayden was asleep when he heard a faint voice. “Are you still there?” He opened his eyes and could see Troy with his face toward him in the darkness of the room. “Yeah,” he mumbled. He got up and walked over to the side of the bed. “Are you all right?” “Yeah,” replied Troy. “Can you do me a favor?” “Yeah, sure.” “I have to go to the bathroom,” Troy announced softly. Jayden looked around the room. “Where’s the bedpan?” “No,” Troy responded urgently. “I don’t have to piss. I have to take a crap. I can’t do it sitting on one of those stupid things.” “You want me to go get a nurse?” Jayden started to move away, but Troy reached out his hand and felt around until he found his arm. “No,” insisted Troy. “You can help me to the bathroom.” “I don’t think you should be moving around,” Jayden said worriedly. “The nurse had me up walking earlier,” he assured Jayden. “She said the doctor wanted me to get out of bed a couple times a day.” He watched as Troy removed the monitoring device and scooted to the side of the bed. “I really have to go,” Troy pleaded. “I don’t want to shit in the bed.” He let his feet fall to the ground and attempted to balance himself. Jayden reached out and put his arm around his waist. Troy felt lighter than he had expected. Jayden looked frantically at the door. “I really should go get a nurse.” “There’s no time,” Troy replied as he took a step forward. “Either help me to the bathroom, or get a mop to clean it up.” Jayden sighed and then steadied his hand around Troy’s back. “Okay, now listen. We’re going to go straight about six steps and turn to our left.” Troy nodded and then began walking. Jayden held him tightly as they counted off the steps. When they reached the door, Jayden helped him swivel to his left. “Now take two steps and turn to your right.” Troy nodded and they entered the restroom. He helped position him in front of the toilet and then looked around. “Okay, now listen. I’m going to help you sit down. When you’re done, the toilet paper is directly to your right.” Without hesitation, Troy lifted his hospital gown and sat down. Jayden took his hand and showed him where the toilet paper was located. He then lifted his hand behind him. “This is the where the handle is to flush the toilet. Got it?” Troy nodded. “Knock twice on the door when you’re finished.” Troy nodded as Jayden left the restroom and closed the door. He was worried that Troy might fall and hurt himself. He considered getting a nurse, but he was afraid it would upset Troy. He had trusted him to help him, and he didn’t want to make him hesitant to ask for help in the future. He watched the door intently and waited for Troy to knock. After several minutes, he walked over and opened it slightly. “Are you all right?” He stepped back from the foul odor that emanated from the small bathroom. “Yeah,” Troy whispered. “But I can’t find the handle to flush.” He was searching on his left side. “It’s on the right,” Jayden said as he entered, took Troy’s hand and directed it to the handle. Troy flushed the toilet and then stood. His gown was still open, and Jayden looked down at his limp cock. He quickly looked away. He felt guilty looking at Troy’s body when he knew Troy couldn’t see what he was doing. Troy reached his hand out and grabbed Jayden’s arm. “Where’s the sink?” he asked. “I need to wash my hands.” “Take two steps to your right.” He watched as Troy stepped over in front of the sink. He took Troy’s hand and directed it to the sink. “This is the hot water, and this is the cold,” he instructed him. He led his hand up to the paper dispenser. “Here are the paper towels.” He then led his hand downward to the trash can. “When you finish, throw your paper towels in here.” Troy nodded and Jayden watched as Troy followed his instructions. When Troy stepped back, Jayden had to catch him as he teetered backwards. “Help me to bed,” Troy muttered weakly. “I’m really tired.” Jayden decided to forego giving him instructions and just helped him to bed. When they reached the bed, he helped Troy lie down. Again, he took a quick look at his nakedness before pulling the sheet over him. “I’m really exhausted,” Troy announced. “Thanks for helping. I know it wasn’t the most pleasant experience in the world,” he remarked jokingly. “Anytime,” Jayden responded as he reached out and took Troy’s hand in his. He became emotional when he looked at the young man lying on the bed. He thought how handsome he must have looked before all this happened to him. Realizing he’d been holding his hand for too long, he quickly released it. He saw Troy’s chest rising and falling, and he knew he must have fallen asleep. He went back to this chair and stared at the thin figure on the bed before he too fell asleep. He was asleep about ten minutes when he was awakened by someone entering the room. He opened his eyes and saw a nurse walk around to Troy’s bed. “Why is this monitor off?” She looked accusingly at Jayden as she replaced it. “He had to use the bathroom,” Jayden responded. “I was going to come get you, but he wouldn’t let me.” “He went to the bathroom by himself?” She turned and gave Jayden a surprised look. “Well, yeah,” he answered guiltily. He was afraid he had violated some hospital policy. She looked over at Troy who appeared to still be sleeping. “We tried for an hour this morning to get him out of bed and walk around the room. He’s as stubborn as a jackass,” she said as she walked into the bathroom to check that everything was all right. “I guess he needed a reason to really get up,” Jayden laughed. “Nature called.” “He told us then he had to go,” she said, “but he didn’t want us to help him. He said if we just told him where the bathroom was, he could find it himself. When we refused, he said he’d just...um... soil the bed.” She looked at Jayden and smiled. “Only he didn’t exactly say soil.” “Maybe he was embarrassed to go in front of a woman,” Jayden suggested. “Perhaps,” she said. She walked over and looked down at Jayden. “Since you seem to be a friend and he seems comfortable around you, maybe you could be more helpful.” “How?” “The doctor wants us to try and get him to take a shower.” She looked pleadingly at him. “He’s only had sponge baths since he came in.” “Oh, no!” Jayden held up his hands. “I can’t do that. Surely, there must be some male nurses around.” “There was a male nurse this morning, but he still refused.” She looked pleadingly at Jayden. “He must feel comfortable around you.” Jayden looked at Troy. He appeared to be asleep. “Let me think about it,” he said. “Maybe tomorrow.” “All right,” she replied. “I’ll ask his father when he arrives this evening. Perhaps Troy will let him do it.” She walked over and looked down at him. “He also needs a shave.” Jayden noticed that Troy’s beard was beginning to grow thick. There wasn’t a lot on the side of his face, but he had developed a lot of growth under his nose and on his chin. He hoped that Troy’s father would be able to shave him before they asked him to do that task. Since he didn’t have a lot of facial hair himself, he had to rarely shave. He wasn’t sure he could do someone else. When the nurse left, Jayden walked back over and sat down. He looked up when he heard Troy moving in the bed. He turned his head to Jayden. “Thanks.” “For what?” “Helping me earlier,” he replied. “No, problem,” Jayden responded. Troy lay his head back down and tried to figure out who the boy was sitting in the room with him. Claire had said he was a classmate, but Troy had been trying to go back and remember if he knew anyone by that name. Since their senior class was graduating over three hundred students, it was possible that they had never met. Troy just assumed that he must have run in a different social group than he did. Since he was regaining awareness of what had happened, he didn’t want anyone to be around him. He could feel his face, and he knew that it was marred. When he was alone, he had inspected his features. He could feel his shaved head and the stitches on it. He was also aware of the bandages around his eyes, and his face seemed slightly swollen. He knew his appearance must be hideous to others. That was why he turned his head whenever anyone was in the room. He had told his parents that he didn’t want anyone from school visiting him. They had so far respected that wish with the exception of Claire. He knew that there was no way that she would stay away, but he hoped that he could make her mad and stop her from coming to visit. He was happy that Will had not come to see him, although he wondered why he hadn’t. “You need anything?” He was stirred from his thoughts by the voice in the room. Who was this Jayden? He remembered the care he took in helping him earlier. For some reason, he felt safe when Jayden put his arm around him and helped him back to bed. “Is there any water in the room?” Troy asked. “I’m thirsty.” He listened as Jayden got up and walked around him. He heard a faucet running, and a minute later a hand took his and placed a cold glass into it. He helped direct it to his mouth. The water felt refreshing. “Slow down,” Jayden warned. “You’ll throw it up if you drink it too fast.” Troy held the boy’s hand as he continued to slowly sip the water. “Thanks.” He quickly released his hand when he heard the door open. He turned his head to the side. Seconds later, he felt lips press on his cheek. “Hi, Troy.” It was his sister, Penny. He pulled his hand away when she took it and tried to hold it. “Hi, Jayden.” He could sense that Penny had walked over to hug Jayden. Again, he was confused. Everyone seemed to know Jayden except him. “How is our boy today?” She walked over and once again tried to take Troy’s hand, but he pulled it away. “I’m not a boy,” Troy muttered into the pillow. “Of course not, Troy,” she replied as she patted his arm. “How are you feeling today?” When he didn’t respond, she turned to Jayden. “How are you today, then?” Jayden looked down at the floor and responded, “I’ve had better days.” Penny walked over and sat down in one of the chairs. She patted the other for Jayden to sit beside her. “Tell me about the better days then.” “There aren’t very many,” Jayden responded as he walked over and looked out the window. It was a view of the parking lot. He could see people walking into the hospital. He wondered who they might be visiting as he watched them walk slowly toward the entrance doors. Troy seemed entranced by the sadness in Jayden’s voice. Until the past few days, he had never experienced depression. However, the tone in Jayden’s voice indicated that he must have suffered much in the past. Perhaps, that was what made him feel more comfortable with Jayden than he did with his own family. “You two are a bundle of fun,” Penny remarked sarcastically. “So much for making small talk. I can see this is going to be a long evening.” “No one is asking you to stay,” responded Troy bitterly. Jayden looked over and saw the hurt look on Penny’s face. He felt sorry for her. She seemed like a loving sister who cared deeply about her brother. Even though he understood Troy’s anger, he thought it was cruel to take his anger out on his sister. He turned, walked over and sat down in the chair. “How was your day?” She smiled when she realized what he was attempting to do. “It wasn’t too bad. I’ve spent most of the day studying.” “What are you studying?” This opened the door for Penny to talk. She spent the next few minutes telling Jayden about attending college. She was a political science major who hoped to intern for a congressman when she graduated in a year. “That sounds exciting,” remarked Jayden. He looked over at Troy who seemed to have been listening to the conversation. “Now, Jayden,” asked Penny. “What about you? Are you still in school or have you graduated.” “No,” he replied sadly. “I don’t attend school anymore.” He looked over when Troy lifted up on his elbow and faced him. “I thought Claire said you were graduating this year?” “I was,” Jayden replied. “But things have changed.” “What’s changed?” Penny asked with concern. Jayden looked over and saw Troy still listening intently. “Just things have changed.” He then stood to look out the window. “Does that explain the two pillow cases crammed full of clothing?” Jayden turned and scowled at Penny. Troy asked, “What pillow cases?” “I should go,” Jayden said hastily as he walked across the room and started to pick up his clothes. “Don’t go,” Penny pleaded as she grabbed his hand and prevented him from picking up the bags. “Yeah,” Troy said. They both turned to look at him. “You’re supposed to give me a shower this evening.” “What?” Jayden started choking. “You were listening?” He looked over at Penny who raised a suspicious eyebrow. “I don’t want that nurse to do it,” Troy stated angrily. “And I sure as hell don’t want Dad to do it. Besides, you’ve already seen me naked.” Jayden looked once again at Penny. Her eyes were wide with astonishment. “It’s.. not.. like..that,” stammered Jayden. “I helped him go to the bathroom is all.” He looked over as Troy let out a laugh and then rested his head back down on the pillow. Penny looked over at her brother and then back at Troy. “It’s good to hear him laugh again.” She quickly blinked away the tears that were quickly filling her eyes. Just then, Troy’s parents entered the room. His mother walked over and kissed him on the cheek. He rolled his head to the side and tried to ignore her. Mr. Neal took Troy’s hand and squeezed it. “Hello, Son,” he said. Troy ignored him. Penny gave Jayden a puzzled look. She motioned for Jayden to follow her out of the room. Once outside, she took Jayden’s hand and began walking down the hall. “I thought you said you didn’t know Troy very well?” “I don’t,” Jayden confessed. “Today is really the first day we’ve ever talked.” She stopped and faced him. “That’s hard to believe.” “Well it’s true.” “I’m not doubting you, Jayden,” she said reassuringly. “It’s just that he’s ignoring everyone, except you. When you talk, he sits up and listens. Claire called me earlier this afternoon in tears because Troy was so rude to her. He would hardly talk to me until you started talking. Then he gave Mom and Dad the cold shoulder when they arrived.” “So, what are you saying?” Jayden gave her a puzzled look. It did seem like Troy was more animated whenever he was talking to him. He had also witnessed the way he treated his parents, Penny and Claire. Penny took his hand and they continued to walk. “He seems to trust you. Maybe it’s because you’re a stranger and you didn’t know him...” She stopped and started to choke up. “Maybe I didn’t know the old Troy?” Jayden asked. Penny nodded and wiped the tears from her eyes. He tentatively reached out and gave her a hug. She wrapped her arms around him and cried into his shoulder. “What’s wrong?” Claire walked up with a worried look on her face. “Has something happened to Troy?” “No,” assured Penny. “Nothing is wrong. I just got a little upset is all. Jayden was trying to comfort me.” Claire reached down and grabbed Penny’s hand. “Come with me to the cafeteria. I need something to drink.” Penny looked down and noticed that she was already carrying a can of Pepsi. Seeing Penny’s reaction, she walked over and tossed it in a trash container. “This is stale. Jayden, please go back to Troy’s room while Penny comes with me.” She grabbed her hand and started walking quickly down the hall. “What is this about?” He heard Penny ask as they walked away. Mr. and Mrs. Neal were sitting and staring at Troy. He had his head turned and appeared to be asleep. Mrs. Neal put her finger to her lips so that Jayden wouldn’t awaken him. He tiptoed over to the corner and picked up his pillow cases. He walked over to Mrs. Neal to inform her he was leaving. Just as he approached, her cell phone rang. She put up a finger for him to wait and then she answered the phone. She didn’t say anything, but nodded several times. When she closed the phone, she looked over at her husband. “The girls want us to come down to the cafeteria,” she informed him. She then looked at Jayden. “Would you be a dear and stay with Troy until we return?” He told them he would. When they left the room, he took a seat and looked over at Troy. He was surprised when he suddenly sat up in bed. “Jayden?” he whispered. “Yeah?” “I have to use the bathroom,” he said. “Can you help me again?” “Yeah, sure.” Troy lifted himself up and hung his legs over the side of the bed. Troy put his hand on his shoulder. “Do you remember how to do it?” “I think so,” he replied as he stood up. Jayden put his arm around his waist to steady him. “Straight six steps.” His legs wobbled as he began walking to the bathroom.” After taking six steps, he put his hand out and felt for the door. “Two steps to the right.” He then reached down and felt the toilet. He turned, lifted his gown and sat down. “I’m just going to piss,” he said as Jayden slowly closed the door. When he heard the toilet flush, he opened the door and saw Troy standing in front of the sink feeling for the faucet handle. He watched as Troy washed his hands, found the paper towels and wiped his hands. “Jayden?” “Yeah?” He walked over and touched Troy’s shoulder to let him know he was beside him. “I know you told the nurse you didn’t want to, but can you help me into the shower?” Jayden sighed and then squeezed Troy’s shoulder. “Yeah, sure.” Troy removed his hospital gown and stood naked before him. His body was extremely thin; probably Jayden thought, from not eating for several days. There were several dark bruises on his chest and a large bruise on his side. Jayden winced when he imagined the pain Troy must have experienced from his cousins. “Okay.” He turned Troy around. “The shower is two steps opposite the toilet.” Troy reached out and felt for the shower stall. Jayden helped him enter. “The faucet is directly in front of you. The hot water is on the left, the cold water is on the right.” He gently put his hand on Troy’s waist. “Take one step back so you don’t get water in your face. You don’t want to get your bandages wet.” He watched closely as Troy turned on the water and adjusted the temperature. He put his hand out to make sure it wasn’t too hot or too cold. “If you reach to your right of the cold water, you’ll find the soap.” He stepped back and rested his body against the sink. He then watched as Troy lathered his body and washed himself. He knew it was wrong to get aroused watching him, but the sight of Troy’s naked body was exciting him. He hadn’t seen a naked guy since Vince. He stood up when Troy turned off the water. He reached for a towel and handed it to him. “Thanks,” Troy said as he started to dry himself off. He stepped out of the shower and handed the towel to Jayden. “Would you dry my back?” Jayden nervously took the towel and cautiously ran it over Troy’s naked back. “I need a clean gown,” he stated. “Do you think you can ask the nurse for one?” “Yeah, sure,” Jayden replied as he opened the door and stepped out into his room. He was surprised to see that Troy’s parents, sister and Claire had returned. Allison was sitting on the arm of the chair with her hand on Claire’s shoulder. “Um...” he stammered as his face reddened. He felt guilty knowing that they knew he had helped Troy shower. “Troy needs a clean gown.” His mother smiled, and then reached into a bag and pulled out a pair of blue flannel pajamas. “Give him these,” she said. He returned to the bathroom and closed the door behind him. Troy was standing naked as he waited for him. “Here.” He took Troy’s hand and placed the pajamas in them. “This isn’t a gown,” he said as he felt the material. “They’re your pajamas,” he informed him. “Your mother gave them to me.” He took the bottoms and slipped them on. “So, they came back?” He took the top and slipped it over his head. “Yeah,” replied Jayden. He took the towel and carefully wiped some water off the side of Troy’s face. Troy reached up and grabbed his hand. “Thanks,” he said softly. Jayden replied, “It was nothing.” “Yes, it is,” Troy said as he continued to hold Jayden’s hand. “Everyone else is treating me like a baby. They think they have to do everything for me. You don’t act that way. You tell me where things are, and then you let me find them on my own. That means a lot to me.” He squeezed Jayden’s hand one last time and then released it. He took two steps to the door and opened it. He then walked six steps, turned and climbed into bed. Troy’s mother started to get up to help him, but Jayden held up his hand and stopped her. Jayden looked over at the clock. It was almost eight. He hadn’t realized he had been at the hospital the entire day. He had stopped into the waiting room to get a couple of hours of safe sleep. After Claire’s arrival, his day turned out completely different than he had expected. He walked over and picked up his bags. Troy’s father stood and took them from his hands. “Come out into the hall with me, Son.” He put the bags down and then led Jayden outside the room. He stepped a few feet away and then turned to Jayden. “When Mrs. Neal and I left earlier, Claire had called us down to the cafeteria to tell us something.” He looked worriedly at Jayden. Jayden’s head dropped and he stared at the ground. He knew what Claire had told them. “Jayden,” Mr. Neal said softly. “Look at me.” Jayden lifted his head and looked into the concerned face of Troy’s father. “Where are you going when you leave here tonight?” “I don’t know,” Jayden replied sadly. “I’ll be all right. I can take care of myself.” “You’re going home with us tonight,” Mr. Neal replied adamantly. Jayden started to object, but Mr. Neal stopped him. “You’ve helped my son, now I think it’s time we repaid you.” Jayden shook his head. “You don’t owe me anything, Mr. Neal. Besides, didn’t Claire tell you that it was my cousins who hurt Troy?” Mr. Neal placed his hands on Jayden’s shoulders and stared into his face. “It was your cousins, Jayden, not you. We can’t hold you responsible for something they did.” Jayden looked down at the ground. “I don’t know. It just doesn’t seem right.” “I’m not going to take no for an answer,” responded Troy’s father. “We have a spare room in the basement. You can stay there until you get back on your feet.” “I can’t pay you, Mr. Neal.” “You don’t have to pay us, Son.” He gently squeezed Jayden’s shoulders. “When Troy comes home, he’s going to need someone to help him. Penny says he trusts you. We’ll work out some compensation for your time.” “I don’t know.” Jayden hung his head. “You’re being kind and all, but do you really want to take someone like me into your home?” “Listen, Jayden.” He looked up at Mr. Neal. “I own a very large manufacturing company. I have over two hundred employees. I’ve personally hired every one of them, and I have become a good judge of character. If I interviewed you for a job, I would hire you immediately.” “Why?” “Like I said,” he smiled. “I’m a good judge of character. Besides, my wife adores you. If you don’t go home with us tonight, I’ll be sleeping in the guest room.” He put his arm around Jayden and led him back towards Troy’s room. A half hour later he was sitting beside Penny looking out the window of Mr. Neal’s SUV as it pulled out of the hospital parking lot.
  12. Chapter 8

    Firstly, Brian, thank you so much for your kind words. This is a story loosely based on a true event. Unfortunately, real people suffer in a real world. Many tend not to read stories such as this for that very reason. They want fantasy, and entertainment that doesn't reflect real life. That is understandable. I thank those of you who are staying with this story, and particularly those of you who are commenting each week. Secondly, I would never kill off characters just to chase another plotline. I prefer, instead, to take a character who is suffering a misfortunate situation and rebuild their life to a satisfactory ending. Over the years, many readers have pointed out to me that real life doesn't always have a happy ending. However, I'm the master of my characters, and I want them to reflect hope for a better tomorrow for a reader who might be facing a crisis in his or her life. I write with one concept in mind: No matter how dark and dangerous the storm, a rainbow appears when it has passed.
  13. Chapter 8

    “Hey!” Claire stepped up behind Jayden as he was trying to shove the pillow cases filled with his clothes into his locker. She walked around and looked worriedly into his face. “What’s wrong, Jayden?” She became even more concerned when tears welled up in his eyes. “Nothing,” he replied as he turned away and wiped the tears off with his sleeve. He was extremely tired and just wanted to go to first period so he could try and get some sleep. Since leaving his aunt’s house, he had spent most of the night wandering around the city. He found a safe spot in a park near the school, but the police drove by around three in the morning and told him he would be arrested for loitering if he didn’t leave. He made his way to school and curled up in a corner of the quad until it was time for school to begin. She grabbed his arm and turned him toward her. “Don’t tell me nothing’s wrong.” She gave him a pleading look, hoping he would talk. She knew from previous conversations with Jayden, that it was difficult to get him to discuss his personal life. “Nothing’s wrong.” He gave the pillow case one last shove and then slammed the locker shut. “Just leave me alone, all okay? I was doing all right until last week.” He turned and hurried off down the hall with Claire running behind him in an effort to catch him. He managed to avoid her by slipping into a boys’ restroom. He was unable to sleep in his first period. The teacher had scheduled a test which he was unprepared to take. He attempted to answer a few questions, but gave up in disgust. He thought it was useless to even attempt to graduate. With nowhere to stay, it would become extremely difficult to attend school. He needed to find a job so that he could support himself. He quickly gathered his books and stuffed them into this book bag. He stood and left the room. He didn’t respond when the teacher called out his name. He was pulling the pillow cases from his locker when he felt a hand on his shoulder. He jumped and turned quickly around. Standing behind him was Principal Fallingsworth. “I thought I might find you here,” he said. He attempted to shove Jayden’s clothing back into the locker, but Jayden yanked them out and let them fall to the floor. “Why don’t you come to my office?” Fallingsworth asked calmly. “Your aunt called me this morning, so I have some idea what is going on.” “Do you, really?” Jayden stepped before the tall man defiantly. “Do you really know what is going on?” Fallingsworth took him gently by his arm and attempted to pull him toward his office. “Let’s discuss this in my office, Jayden.” Jayden forcefully pulled his arm away. “What do you want to discuss, Mr. Fallingsworth? You want to tell me how my life is going to get better, huh?” He wiped the tears away with his sleeve. “You want to tell me how to do that? Huh?” “Jayden, please,” pleaded Mr. Fallingsworth as he looked around the hall to make sure no other students were witnessing Jayden’s outburst. He noticed a boy duck into a nearby restroom. “Or do you want to hear about how fucked up my life has been since my mother was killed by a drunk ass driver? Huh, Mr. Fallingsworth? Or how about how fucked up it’s really gotten since I helped that hurt bastard on the street the other night?” The tears were falling faster from Jayden’s eyes than he could wipe them away. Jayden reached down and grabbed his book bag. He then handed it to Mr. Fallingsworth. “Here,” he said as he shoved it into the principal’s chest. “I won’t be needing these anymore. I quit.” “Jayden, don’t,” pleaded Mr. Fallingsworth. “Let’s go to my office and discuss this.” “No, thanks,” Jayden replied as he picked up his pillow cases and hurried down the hall. The principal called security, but Jayden had disappeared before they could find him. ******** Mrs. Neal was fluffing the pillow up around Troy’s head. “You look better today,” she said cheerfully. Even though she tried to keep a cheerful exterior, she was still extremely worried about Troy. She looked down at the plate of breakfast he hadn’t touched. “Weren’t you hungry, Dear?” Troy turned his face to the side and didn’t respond. She took some egg and placed it on a fork and then touched it to Troy’s lips. He hit her hand and the egg flew in all directions. “I’m not hungry!” he yelled angrily without turning his face. “Would you and everyone else just leave me the hell alone!” She sat down and started to silently cry. She didn’t want Troy to know he had upset her. The doctor had explained to her and her husband that Troy may experience depression. It was not uncommon for someone who experienced a traumatic event like he had to be despondent. She looked at the sad figure lying in the bed and wept. She knew this was a battle that only Troy could face. She would be there to support him, but the journey back was going to be long and painful. She got up, walked over to the bed and ran her hand across Troy’s head. It was now shaven, and the bruises were still visible. “It’s going to be all right, Troy,” she said reassuringly. Troy reached out and slapped her hand away from his head. “That’s nice to know, Mother,” he spat angrily. “I guess the next thing you’re going to start doing is singing that song from Annie.” He started shrieking, “The sun will come up tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow...” “Stop it, Troy!” His mother cried. She laid her head on his chest and sobbed. Troy buzzed for the nurse. A minute later, a nurse appeared and led his mother from the room. “He needs his rest, Mrs. Neal,” she insisted as she pulled Troy’s distraught mother from his room. “There will be sunshine...” cried Troy. “Just thinking about tomorrow...” He started sobbing loudly. The nurse reappeared, and seconds later he was asleep. ******** “Um,” purred Claire. “That feels nice.” Allison was straddling her back and kneading her shoulders as she gave her a massage. She learned how to do massages when she first started playing volleyball. The girls would often return to the locker room and give each other massages to get rid of the muscles cramps they would often experience. “You’re really tense today,” she remarked as she continued to massage her lower back. “Bad day?” Claire turned over and rolled her eyes as Allison lay down beside her. “What do you think?” Claire said sarcastically. “My best friend is in the hospital. Will’s acting like a stupid fuck, and God only knows what’s going on with Jayden.” Allison lifted herself up on her elbow. “I heard the strangest rumor today?” “What?” “Someone in my fifth period said Jayden quit school.” “What!” Claire sat up in bed and stared at Allison in disbelief. “Yes,” continued Allison. “Bobby Adams said he was coming out of the restroom and saw Jayden and Mr. Fallingsworth arguing in the hall. He said Jayden told him he quit, and then he left school. Fallingsworth called security, but I guess they couldn’t find him.” “Shit!” Claire pulled her legs up to her chest and placed her head on her knees. Allison reached over and put her arm around her. Soon she could feel Claire start to tremble. “What’s happened to us?” Claire cried. She looked pleadingly at Allison. “What happened?” She buried her head into Allison’s shoulder. “Just last week we were all so happy. The play was a success, and we were excited. I had never seen Troy so happy. We were planning for graduation and then going off to college.” Allison wiped the tears from Claire’s cheeks. She looked into Allison’s eyes, desperately seeking an answer. “What happened, Allison?” Allison wrapped her arms tightly around Claire and rocked her. “I don’t know, Baby,” she whispered in her ear. Claire sat back and looked again into her eyes. “Why Troy, though?” she sobbed. “All the fucking shit heads in this world, and it has to be Troy. He never hurt anyone.” She buried her head into Allison’s shoulder and continued to weep. “And that fucking Will,” she said angrily. “Turning his back on Troy when he needs him the most. He won’t even go see him.” “He’s confused,” replied Allison. “Give him some time.” “Fuck him!” Claire spat. She rested her head on Allison’s shoulder and sighed. “You would never do that to me, would you?” she asked softly. Allison took Claire’s head in her hands and smiled. “Never, Baby,” she answered as she kissed her gently. They lay back on the bed and tenderly embraced. ******** Claire was walking through the hospital to Troy’s room when she peered in through the window of the emergency waiting room. She thought back to several days ago when the room was filled with so much sorrow. Suddenly, she stopped when she noticed a lone figure curled up on one of the sofas. She approached the sleeping figure cautiously. She couldn’t understand why he would be sleeping in such a busy place. “Jayden?” she asked softly. He moved slightly, but didn’t open his eyes. “Jayden.” Claire spoke louder. He opened his eyes and looked up at her. He then rolled over and faced the back of the sofa. “Are you all right?” Claire sat down beside him. He looked tired and unkempt. “Go away,” he mumbled. Claire reached out and touched his arm, but he quickly withdrew it. “What’s wrong?” Claire asked worriedly. She recalled Allison telling her earlier that there was a rumor circulating around school that Jayden had walked out. “You don’t hear very well,” he said angrily as he turned over and glared at Claire. “Is there some part of go away you don’t understand?” “I’m not going anywhere until you tell me what is wrong,” she responded adamantly. “Why, Claire?” He sat up and stared at her tearfully. “Why do you give a shit? I’m nobody to you.” “Because you’re a friend.” She reached out and took his hand, which he quickly pulled away. “Since when?” Jayden started laughing. “We’ve been going to the same school for two years and you didn’t even know I existed. I hold your friend for a few minutes the other night, and now we suddenly become best friends. Is that how it works?” “You’re being cruel,” cried Claire. She knew what he was saying was true. She had sat in several classes over the past two years and had never said more than a few words to Jayden. “Life’s cruel.” Jayden replied coldly. He laid his head back and closed his eyes. For the first time in months, his mother’s face appeared before him. He had been trying since he came to live with his aunt to forget his past. It hurt too much whenever he remembered the happy life he had lived before her death. He reached up and wiped the tears from his face. Claire sat back and rested her body against his. She thought he would move away, but he leaned against her and rested his head on her shoulder. “I’m so tired,” he sighed. “Want to talk about it?” Claire asked softly. “No,” Jayden replied. “You’ve got enough shit to deal with.” Claire looked at him and smiled. “I’ll go to Home Depot and buy a bigger shovel.” She felt reassured when he returned her smile. “I don’t think they make shovels that big,” he responded. He quickly grabbed his stomach when it began to growl. “Sorry,” he apologized. Claire stood and extended her hand to Jayden. “I’m hungry. I haven’t had a bite to eat all day. And from the sounds of your stomach, you haven’t either.” Jayden shook his head. “I don’t have any money.” “My treat.” Claire reached down, took his hand and pulled him to his feet. He grabbed the two pillow cases and followed her through the waiting room. He was too hungry to refuse a meal. The last thing he had eaten was a bowl of cereal the previous morning. They walked to the hospital cafeteria in silence. When she noticed that Jayden was having trouble carrying both bags, she took one from him. It surprised her when he didn’t resist. They went to a table toward the back and sat down. “You wait here,” she told Jayden as she stood up. “I’ll go get us something to eat. You want anything in particular?” “Beggars can’t be choosy,” smiled Jayden. “Just get me whatever you get.” When she walked away, he put his head on the table and rested. He still didn’t know where he was going to spend the night. No one had said anything to him when he slept earlier in the waiting room; but he was sure they would ask him to leave when they discovered he was not there to visit someone. He had asked about Troy when he arrived, but he was told that he had been moved to a private room. He was almost asleep when Claire placed a plate on the table beside him. He sat up and looked at the chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans and cheese cake. He noticed that Claire only had a salad on her plate. “I thought I told you to get me whatever you were having?” “I did,” she grinned. “That’s what I wanted.” She looked down at his plate. “But since I’m on a diet, this is what I’m having.” She playfully tossed the lettuce with her fork. “I’ll watch you eat and pretend it’s me.” “Thanks,” he mumbled as he took a piece of chicken and began to hungrily eat. Claire smiled as she watched him quickly devour the food. Within minutes, it disappeared from his plate. When he was done, he looked at Claire. “I’ll pay you back whenever I get a little money.” “It’s okay, really,” she insisted. Jayden gave her a puzzled look. “Why are you being so nice to me? You really don’t even know me.” She sat back and stared into his eyes. “I like you,” she replied thoughtfully. “I thought you were gay?” “Not like that,” she grinned. “I really can’t explain it. You know how you just meet someone, and it’s like you’ve known them all your life?” Jayden thought back to the first time he met Vince. He knew instantly that they would become best friends. He looked at Claire and nodded. “There’s something about you,” she said. “It’s like I felt when I first met Troy. I knew we’d be friends for life.” Her smile quickly grew to a frown. “You really care about him, don’t you?” Jayden asked. Tears began to appear in her eyes. “You don’t know, Jayden,” she cried. “He’s closer to me than any of my brothers. He’s always been there for me.” She started sobbing. “And now there’s nothing I can do to help him. It’s killing me to see him the way he is.” Jayden scooted beside her and took her in his arms. Her head fell to his shoulder and she cried, “I don’t know what to do.” Jayden held her tighter. “Sometimes there’s nothing we can do.” Once again he remembered the pain when his mother died. “We just get up in the morning and do the best we can. Then we go to bed at night and pray that we don’t have to do it again tomorrow. But tomorrow always comes.” “God, Jayden.” Claire pulled back and looked into his sorrowful face. Once again they found themselves comforting each other. Suddenly, he pulled away and stood up. “I’ve got to go to the bathroom.” He rushed from the cafeteria. Claire kept looking at the door for him to reappear. She became concerned that he had left the hospital. She let out a sigh of relief when he came walking through the door. She took his hand when he sat down. “I bought you dinner,” she said. “Now you owe me.” “I told you I’d pay you back,” he said indignantly. “I don’t want money.” He gave her a puzzled look. “I want the truth.” “What truth?” “I want to know why you were sleeping in the waiting room.” She looked at the two pillow cases. “And why do I have a feeling everything you own is in those two bags?” “Claire, please,” he begged. “I really don’t want to talk about it.” “Does it have anything to do with you quitting school?” “Who told you that?” “It doesn’t matter,” she said as she squeezed his hand. “Tell me what’s going on.” Jayden looked at the concerned look in her eyes. He didn’t want her pity, but perhaps she could suggest a place for him to spend the night. He let out a sigh. “Okay.” He explained how his aunt had kicked him out of her house after finding out he had testified against his cousins before the grand jury. He told her how he had roamed around aimlessly trying to find a safe place to sleep. He then told her about the confrontation with Mr. Fallingworth, and that he had decided to quit school. “God, Jayden.” She said after he finished. “Is that all you know how to say?” He looked at her and grinned. “Listen.” He squeezed her hand tightly. “I’ll be all right. I’ve been making it on my own for two years. I’ll get through this.” “You’re going home with me,” she insisted. “What? I’m not going home with you.” “Yes, you are. My brother is away at college. You can sleep in his room. My parents won’t mind.” “Yeah, right,” Jayden responded sarcastically. “Hey Mom and Dad. I want you to meet this black guy who I just met. He’s going to sleep in...” He stopped. “What’s your brother’s name?” “Baxter.” “Baxter?” Jayden laughed. “Who would name a child Baxter?” “The same parents who would name their daughter Claire,” she laughed. “Yeah, right.” Jayden smiled. “Anyway. Mom and Dad, this black kid I just met and really don’t know anything about is going to stay in Baxter’s bedroom. He doesn’t have a dime, so you’re going to have to feed him too. And we’d better keep an eye on him so he doesn’t steal the silverware and pawn it for some weed.” “You smoke weed?” “Come on, Claire,” Jayden replied. “Thanks for the offer, but I think I’ll decline it.” “I’ll take you home and introduce you to them.” She was beginning to believe that Jayden was probably right. “Once they meet you, they’ll be willing to help you.” “I’m such a charming person.” Jayden stuck out his face and grinned broadly. “I’m sure this smile will win them over.” “Okay,” Claire stated sadly. “Maybe it’s not a good idea. We’ve still got to find you some place to stay.” “I’ll be all right,” he said as he took her hand. “I’m a survivor.” He stood, grabbed his pillowcases and turned to Claire. “Thanks for the food. I’ll pay you back as soon as I can.” “Wait!” Claire stood before him. “Don’t go yet.” She was afraid that if Jayden left, she may never see him again. “At least go with me to see Troy.” “And why would I want to do that?” She looked at him and frowned. “Because I asked you to?” She then grinned. “Besides, you owe me for the meal.” “I already paid you, remember?” he replied. “I told you about my sorry life.” Claire took his arm and started leading him toward the door. “I want to hear more. You can tell me all about it on the way to Troy’s room.” “You won’t take no for an answer, will you?” He stopped and faced Claire. She shook her head. “All right,” he sighed. “Right now I’m too tired to argue. I’ll go with you, but I’m only going to stay a few minutes. Okay?” “Yes,” she grinned as she rested her head on Jayden’s shoulder. They walked in silence to the elevator. The room was dark when they entered. Claire walked over and opened the curtains to let some light in. “Who is it?” Troy muttered as he turned his head toward the door. “It’s me, Claire.” She walked over and took his hand. He turned his head and pulled his hand away from hers. Claire looked sadly over at Jayden. “How are you feeling today?” She ran her hand over Troy’s naked head. Jayden moved closer to get a look at Troy. He hadn’t seen him since his visit to the ICU. Troy appeared to look better. His head was shaved, and there didn’t appear to be much swelling. He could, though, see the dark bruises and stitches from the surgeries. The bandages had been removed from his face, except for the gauze that covered his eyes. Again, there were faint bruises, but much of the swelling had diminished. Most of the monitors had been removed. There was only a machine that continued to monitor his blood pressure. From what Jayden could tell, it appeared to be normal. Troy didn’t respond to Claire’s question. Jayden watched as his chest rose and then he sighed deeply. “I brought someone with me,” she informed him as she continued to hold his hand. She motioned for Jayden to move nearer the bed. Troy turned his head and said angrily, “I told Mother I didn’t want any visitors!” He returned his head to the side of the pillow and mumbled, “That includes you, Claire.” Claire choked back tears but continued to talk. “Jayden is a senior in our class. He’s getting ready to graduate with us.” Troy sat up and faced Claire. “Look at me, Claire!” he shouted. “Does it fucking look like I’m going to graduate?” He threw his head back on the pillow. His shoulders began to tremble as he began to cry. He lifted the sheet and covered his head. His voice broke as he pleaded, “Please leave, Claire. I have a terrible headache.” “Do you want me to ring a nurse for you?” “No,” he cried. “I just want you to leave.” Claire looked at Jayden. Tears were streaming down her face, but she was trying hard not to let Troy know she was upset. “I’ve got a couple of errands to run,” she said as she leaned down and kissed his cheek. “I’ll be back later this evening.” “Don’t bother,” Troy responded sharply. She turned to Jayden and pulled him toward the door. “Do you want me to take you somewhere?” she whispered. Jayden shook his head. “I’ll be all right.” He looked over at Troy. “I’ll stay here until someone comes to keep him company.” Claire looked at her watch. “His mother should be here soon. I’ll be back in about two hours. Why don’t you wait until I return? I’ll talk to my father about letting you stay with us until you can find someplace else to stay.” Jayden looked at her and frowned. “I told you I’m not staying in your home. I’ll be all right, honest.” “We’ll talk about it when I get back.” She kissed him on his cheek and left. Jayden walked over to the chair in the corner and sat down. He rested his head back and sighed. “I thought you were leaving, Claire?” Troy lifted his head and looked over in the direction of the chair. “She did,” replied Jayden. “Why are you still here?” Troy asked angrily. “I don’t even know who you are.” “Neither do I,” Jayden responded sadly.
  14. Chapter 7

    Jayden passed the police cruiser and looked inside. Anthony stared out the window and sneered. He walked up the stairs just as Detective Wallace was exiting the front door. “Thanks to you, Jayden,” he remarked as he shook his hand, “we’ll be able to put these guys behind bars for a long time.” When Jayden looked behind Wallace, he saw Jarvis standing with an astonished look on his face. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Jayden responded abruptly before pushing Wallace out of his way. He hurried to his room and looked out the window just as the cruisers were pulling away. He pulled off his sweater and tossed it on the bed. When he turned, Jarvis was standing at his door. “What did that cop mean?” he asked angrily. “Why did he thank you?” “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Jayden stammered. “You must have misunderstood him.” “No, I didn’t.” Jarvis entered the room and stood defiantly before Jayden. “If you had anything to do with my brothers getting locked up, you’ll be sorry.” He pushed Jayden back and then stormed out of the room. He showered and then returned to his room and lay down on his bed. He could still hear his aunt crying downstairs. He heard several people enter and leave the house. He assumed friends of Tyrone and Anthony were stopping by to see what happened. He grew afraid that if they found out he was the reason for their arrests, then they might try to harm him. He had violated the code of the street. Even worse, he had informed on his own family. His aunt was gone the next morning when he got up for school. Jarvis came into the kitchen, but turned and left when he saw Jayden. He knew it would only be a matter of time until Jarvis told others what he suspected- if he hadn’t already. When he entered school, students were talking excitedly about what had been on the morning news. A news crew had videotaped Tyrone and Anthony entering the jail in handcuffs. Everyone was relieved that Troy’s attackers had been captured. He jumped when someone came up behind him and grabbed his arm. “Isn’t it wonderful news?” He turned to see Claire grinning up at him. “They got the guys who beat Troy. I hope they put them behind bars and throw away the keys.” She wrapped her hand around Jayden’s arm and walked down the hall with him. After they had walked in silence for a minute, she stopped him. “What’s wrong?” “Nothing,” he replied as he continued to his first period class. He was beginning to regret having said anything to Detective Wallace. He didn’t realize at the time it would generate so much attention. Claire hurried to catch up with him. “Aren’t you glad they got the guys? After seeing what they did to Troy, I thought you’d be happy.” “I am happy.” He turned to face Claire. “It’s just that..” He started to tell her that they were his cousins, but he was afraid it might change her feelings for him. He had felt that they were becoming friends the past few days. “It’s just what?” “Nothing,” he replied. This time he hurried down the hall, darting in and out of students so she couldn’t catch up to him. He was taking notes in his second period Currents Events class when he was summoned once again to Principal Fallingsworth’s office. He shook his head when he saw Detective Wallace standing at the secretary’s desk. He looked up and smiled. “Jayden.” He motioned for him to follow him into the principal’s office. A woman in a black business suit stood up when they entered. She appeared to be in her mid-forties, and she was professionally dressed. She extended her hand to Jayden. “I’m Marsha Conyers,” she said. Jayden recognized her from the television news. “I’m the prosecutor for Richards County.” She sat down as Wallace pulled up a chair and sat beside Jayden. “Before we begin,” said Mr. Fallingsworth as he looked with concern at Jayden, “This is a very serious matter, Jayden. You’re nineteen, so you can make your own decision; but would you like me to call your aunt and have her present?” “What is this all about?” Jayden asked nervously. Mrs. Conyers handed him an envelope. “What’s this?” “A subpoena,” she stated flatly. ‘You’re to testify before a grand jury.” “Well, Jayden?” Mr. Fallingsworth asked. “Do you want her here?” Jayden shook his head while he nervously handled the envelope. He looked up at the stern look on Mrs. Conyer’s face. “Right now, you’re the only witness we have for the Neal boy’s assault. I’ve read Detective Wallace’s report, and according to you, they admitted to you their involvement in this crime.” Jayden jumped to his feet. “I can’t testify against them!” he shouted. “They’ll kill me!” “Sit down, Jayden,” she said calmly. “I understand your feelings, but I only have forty-eight hours to take something to the grand jury so I can keep them from being released. Until Troy recovers enough to identify his attackers, you are all I have. I think it’s important for the community’s safety that we keep them incarcerated.” “I can’t testify,” insisted Jayden. Mrs. Conyers leaned forward and stared directly into Jayden’s eyes. “I’m afraid you have no choice.” She looked down at the envelope Jayden was turning nervously in his hand. “This is a summons to appear before the grand jury this afternoon at three.” “But...” Jayden started to protest. “No, buts,” she stated firmly. “Detective Wallace will pick you up here at school at 2:30 and drive you to the courthouse. Do you understand?” Jayden shook his head and looked down at the letter. He knew he had no choice. If he didn’t appear, he was afraid he too could go to jail. He certainly didn’t want to confront his cousins there. Mr. Fallingsworth escorted Mrs. Conyers from his office, leaving Jayden alone with Wallace. Wallace looked over at him as he put on his coat. “You’re doing the right thing, Jayden,” he insisted. “Guys like Tyrone and Anthony don’t belong on the streets. They’ve committed so much violence in your neighborhood. This is the first time we’ve been able to make anything stick.” Jayden looked at him sorrowfully. “You really think I’ve done the right thing?” How are you going to feel when you find my dead body in an alley someday? Will it all be worth it then?” Tears welled up in his eyes as he turned and fled from the room. ******** “Troy, Honey?” Mrs. Neal was leaning over Troy’s hospital bed and speaking softly in his ear. She turned to her husband, “I thought the doctors said he would be able to hear us.” Mr. Neal looked down at his son. Twenty minutes earlier, he had been brought down from the ICU and placed in a private room. He had made steady progress over the past twenty-four hours, and the doctors felt he didn’t need as much medical attention. Time would now be a factor in how well Troy’s battered body healed. “You have to remember,” replied her husband, “Troy’s still pretty doped up. He needs it for the pain.” She wiped tears from her eyes as she positioned his pillows to make him more comfortable. They sat down and began the long vigil one takes in a hospital waiting for someone to recover. They talked about the good times they had shared with Troy in case he was alert enough to hear them. “Do you remember the time he and Jeremy built that go cart?” Mrs. Neal started laughing. “They almost killed themselves the first time they rode it.” Her husband looked over at Troy and laughed. “They were so sure they were going to win the Indy 500 someday. When the wheels fell off and Troy landed in the bushes...” He started laughing uproariously, “all you could see were arms and legs flying in the air.” They stopped laughing when they heard Troy’s sheets ruffle. They looked over as he sat up in bed and looked around. “Mom! Dad!” he screamed. They rushed to the bed and grabbed him up in their arms. “It’s all right, Son,” said Mr. Neal soothingly as he held tightly to Troy. “We’re here with you.” “What’s wrong with me?” he screamed. “I can’t see!” He reached up and attempted to tear off the gauze covering his eyes. Mrs. Neal pulled his hands away. “Don’t, Dear,” she warned. “You could hurt yourself more.” He laid back and started sobbing. Mrs. Neal pressed the remote for the nurse. She soon appeared and gave Troy a shot. Within seconds he was sleeping soundly. ******** When Claire entered the cafeteria, she scanned the room for two people- Will and Jayden. She hadn’t seen Will since their talk a few days earlier. She had called him on his cell phone several times, but all she got was a recorded message. She was also worried about Jayden. He seemed extremely upset when she saw him before school. Allison was beside her and was the first to see Will. “There he is,” she said as she pointed him out. She trailed behind as Claire approached him. He was sitting with another boy who had worked on the set of the play. They were deep in a conversation and didn’t notice Claire as she walked to the table. “Hi,” she said as she sat down. Will jumped and then scooted away from the boy with whom he was talking. “Hi, Jasper.” He waved timidly and then started eating a slice of pizza. Allison sat down and stared angrily at Will. She had been angry since Claire had told her about their previous conversation. “We need to talk,” insisted Claire. Will looked nervously at Jasper. “Not now,” he said softly. Jasper took one look at the angry look on Allison’s face, picked up his plate and joined some friends several tables away. “Why haven’t you been at the hospital?” Claire stared intently at Will and waited for him to respond. “I told you the other day,” he replied. “That was bullshit and you know it,” she spat back. “You can’t turn your back on Troy right now. He needs you.” He looked up tearfully and replied, “I can’t, Claire.” Allison stood up and stared down scornfully at him. “You selfish piece of shit.” “I’m not being selfish,” he said. “It’s just... I can’t see him like that.” “Fuck you, Will.” Claire stood up. “All you wanted from Troy was sex. Now I understand why he didn’t want to.” She gave him an angry look as Allison tried to pull her away. “Let’s get out of her,” she warned, “before I kick his sorry ass in front of everyone.” “You don’t understand!” Will cried as they stormed away from the table. ******** It was late afternoon when Detective Wallace drove Jayden home. As Jayden had requested, he dropped him off two blocks from his house so it wouldn’t raise any suspicions. “You did do the right thing,” Wallace tried to reassure him. He was sure that after Jayden’s sworn testimony, the grand jury would hand down indictments on his cousins for assault and attempted murder against Troy. “Yeah, I know,” sighed Jayden. “But it still doesn’t bring me much satisfaction knowing I’m sending my cousins away to prison for several years.” “If it hadn’t been Troy,” he said, “it would have been some other guy, or perhaps several more people. You may have just saved someone else’s life.” “Yeah, sure,” Jayden responded sadly as he looked at Wallace and slammed the door shut. He pulled his hood over his head and headed home. He turned and watched as Wallace did a turned and sped back down the street. His aunt was in the kitchen preparing supper when he entered. He looked over at the dining room table where she had set the table for five people. He assumed she did it expecting his cousins to return home soon. She walked into the dining room, wiping her hand on her apron. “Where have you been?” She looked over at the clock on the table in the corner. “You are usually home before now.” “I had things to do,” he said dismissively as he headed toward the stairs. “Well, you really should come home right after school,” she replied, “just in case I need you to ride the bus with me to go see my boys.” He left the room without responding. She had suggested several times the previous day that she wanted to go to the county jail to visit Tyrone and Anthony. Anthony had been taking her places since he was fifteen; now without him, she had to depend on public transportation. He went to his bedroom and started working on his homework. He had a research paper for his American history class that was due in several weeks. He was thumbing through a book when his aunt called out that dinner was ready. He took his seat at the dinner table. Jarvis came in and sat down across from him, but as usual, didn’t speak. Jayden looked at the two empty plates on the table. His aunt entered and they began eating in silence. Usually, it had been his two older cousins who had dominated the conversation at the table. Without them, the room was deadly quiet. Jayden turned his head toward the living room when he heard the television announcer from the local evening news. “This just in,” he said as he quickly scanned the sheet in front of him. “Two young men were indicted by a grand jury just moments ago for the brutal beating of Troy Neal last Saturday evening.” “Oh, God!” His aunt jumped from the table, hurried to the living room and stood before the television.” “As you will recall, Troy Neal is the high school senior who was driving home late Saturday night when his car ran out of gas on the west side of town. He was confronted by two young men, Tyrone Hamilton, age 22, and his brother, Anthony Hamilton, age 19. He was brutally beaten and still remains in critical condition at Grand Memorial Hospital. After a witness, believed to be a relative, testified before the grand jury this afternoon, they returned an attempted murder indictment against the two men. If convicted, they could be facing twenty-five years in prison.” Jayden looked up from the television into the eyes of his astonished aunt. Her eyes narrowed as she questioned him, “Where did you say you were this afternoon?” His knees buckled when a fist slammed into his temple. He lifted his arm and stopped Jarvis from landing another blow to his head. “You Mother Fucker!” Jarvis screamed. He lunged at Jayden and they both fell backwards onto the floor. He could hear his aunt screaming hysterically in the background. As he wrestled with Jarvis on the floor, he could hear his aunt shouting, “Get out of my house!” He rolled Jarvis on his back and sat on his chest while holding his arms out so he wouldn’t hit him again. He looked down just as Jarvis spit into his face. “You son of a bitch!” Jarvis shouted as he struggled to break free. “Let me up so I can kill you!” Suddenly, he felt his aunt’s hands on his shoulder. She grabbed his shirt and attempted to lift him to his feet. “You stay right there!” She screamed at Jarvis. “But Momma!” he shouted as he started to get up, but she kicked him in his side. “I told you not to move!” Tears filled Jarvis’s eyes as Jayden rose off him. His aunt stood defiantly before him. “I want you out of my house. You have five minutes to go get whatever you can bring down.” Jayden pleaded, “Where will I go?” “To hell!” cried Jarvis as he continued to lie on the floor and cry. “If you’re not out of here in five minutes,” warned his aunt. “I’m going to go get Anthony’s gun and shoot your ass.” She started crying hysterically. “I can’t believe you told on my sons, your own flesh and blood.” “But they beat that innocent boy!” Jayden shouted. He didn’t react fast enough to avoid his aunt’s hand as it landed flatly against the left side of his face. “It wasn’t your responsibility!” she screamed. “You shouldn’t have said anything.” She looked over at the clock. “You’ve got four minutes.” Jayden left the room and ran up the stairs. He turned to see his aunt kneeling on the floor trying to comfort Jarvis. He grabbed what clothes he could and stuffed them in two pillow cases. He shoved his books into his book bag and slung it over his shoulder. After carefully checking to make sure he hadn’t forgotten anything important, he sighed and left the room. He knew he would never return. Since he was nineteen, there was little he could do except leave. His aunt and Jarvis were sitting on the sofa in the living room. She was still holding him as they both sobbed loudly. Jarvis tried to jump up, but his aunt held him tightly. “Just leave!” she shouted angrily as Jayden stopped before them. He wanted to apologize, but he knew it would be useless to do so. Instead, he shook his head sadly and walked out the door. Once on the sidewalk, tears started to fall down his face as he walked away. ******** “Troy?” Troy was jarred awake by someone shaking his shoulder. He didn’t know where he was, and he couldn’t think coherently. He couldn’t tell reality from the foggy sleepiness he had been experiencing. He thought he had heard his parents talking beside him, but he couldn’t comprehend if he was dreaming or if it they were actually there. He felt the hand gently shake him again. He attempted to open his eyes, but he was surrounded by darkness. “Troy,” the voice said softly again. “It’s Dr. Ramey. Can you hear me?” He felt a hand wrap around his. “Squeeze my hand if you can feel mine.” He instinctively attempted to move his hand, but like all the sensations he had been feeling recently, he wasn’t sure if he was imagining them. “Good!” he heard the voice say excitedly. For the first time, he felt that he was sensing some form of reality. To make sure, he attempted to move his hand once again. He felt his hand gripped tighter. “Excellent!” the voice responded. “Where am I?” he muttered, but he wasn’t sure if his lips were actually making any sounds. “It’s okay,” he heard the voice say soothingly. “You’re going to be all right.” He felt a cool sensation on his lips as a nurse pressed a damp cloth to his dry mouth. He moved his tongue against his lips and tasted the moisture. It felt cool and refreshing. He again felt the hand grip his tightly. “Squeeze my hand once for yes, and two for no.” He squeezed the hand once, hoping they would know he could hear them. “Are you in any pain?” He tried to feel his body, but couldn’t feel any sensation except the hand against his. He squeezed twice. “Do you know where you are?” Two squeezes. “Do you remember what happened to you?” Two squeezes. Suddenly, unwanted images came soaring at him. Two figures, fear, kicking, pain. He felt the board cracking his skull, and he could feel his body reeling from the kicks to his face and sides. One squeeze. He gripped the hand he was holding and shouted out, “NO!” He attempted to sit up in bed, but a firm hand held his shoulder down. “Don’t move, Troy,” the voice insisted. “I don’t want to give you a shot to put you back to sleep. You’ve got to stay alert for me. I know this is painful, but you’ve got to get through this. Do you understand?” Troy rested his head back. One squeeze. He was slowly remembering what had happened. He was in the hospital. He could recall running out of gas, and a van pulling up and two guys getting out. They approached him and began beating him. He managed to get away and stumble blindly down the sidewalk until someone came to help him. After that, he could remember no more. The voice asked worriedly, “Are you all right?” One squeeze, then two. Panic swept over his body, but he knew if he reacted the voice on the other end would only put him back to sleep. He wasn’t sure how long he had now been asleep. He needed to stay awake to find out what was wrong with him. He couldn’t understand why everything was dark when he attempted to open his eyes. He could also sense that something was wrapped tightly around his face. “Don’t try to think about anything right now,” the voice said. “Just lie back and relax.” He sucked at the moisture that once again was pressed against his lips. He felt the covers removed and hands pressing around his body. He winced when he felt a sharp pain jabbing into his side. “Did you feel that?” One squeeze. He tightened his grip when the doctor once again pressed the spot. He jumped when what felt like a needle enter the bottom of his foot. “Did you feel that?” One squeeze. Someone lifted his back and sat him up. He felt the rim of a cup on his lips. “Take a sip of this water,” the voice said. “Sip slowly,” he warned when Troy tried to gulp the cold water from its container. He wanted more when the cup was finally removed. Troy felt his senses growing stronger. He could hear movement around him, and he was more aware of the probing that continued to his body. “Doctor?” He gripped the hand that was still holding his. “Yes, Troy?” “Am I going to be all right?” He panicked when the hand was pulled from his. He could feel the doctor removing the bandages from his face and feeling around his eyes. He couldn’t understand why he couldn’t see. He reached out and grabbed the doctor’s hand and squeezed it. “What’s wrong with me!” he screamed. “Why aren’t you telling me anything?” He attempted to sit up, but again the firm hand pushed him back down. He could feel the bandages once again being placed around his face. He grabbed the hand once again and gripped it. “What’s wrong? Why can’t I see you?” The doctor held his hand and rubbed his other hand gently across the side of Troy’s face. “You’ve lost your sight,” he said calmly. Troy screamed, “You mean I’m blind?” “Yes,” the doctor replied sadly. “You’re blind.” “NO!” Two squeezes. Two squeezes. Two squeezes. He was still tightly squeezing the hand when he felt sleep once again approach.
  15. Chapter 6

    I think this, Graeme, falls into the debate involving nature (inherited genes) vs. nurture (environment and surrounding culture.) So far in this story, we have only been given a glimpse of his present surroundings which is extremely dangerous. Jayden does what he has to do to survive. He briefly indicated that his life before his mother died was happy. She seemed like a warm and caring mother. She instantly accepted and comforted him when he told her he was gay. This may be a trait that Jayden too possesses. As you mention, had his environment not changed, he could have been a completely different person.
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