Daniel woke up feeling sore from the beating he took the previous day from his drunken Dad. Since Daniel’s Mom died his Dad seemed to turn to alcohol more and more, in turn, Daniel took beating’s that other sixteen-year-olds never envisioned. Stumbling from the bed, he stood in front of the mirror in his room softly running his hands over the purplish skin on his chest, wincing as he done so. His long shaggy hair draped over his blue eyes hiding the emotional hurt he felt. Digging in his dresser drawer he found a baggy black tee shirt and gingerly pulled it over his head, today was gym day so he would have to create a good excuse to not participate. Pulling on a pair of loose black cargo shorts, along with socks and shoes. Making his way downstairs his father was in the kitchen drinking coffee before work, Daniel grabbed a banana off the counter and was trying to make a hasty retreat to leave for school. “Don’t be late from school Daniel, I expect the lawn mowed and trimmed before I get home from work, and cook supper.” His Dad grumbled. Daniel knew better than to argue after the thrashing he took the previous night so he put on a fake smile, “Yes sir, I’ll see you tonight.”
Daniel walked to the bus stop, and he met his best friend Luke there. Luke picked Daniel up in a tight hug to where his feet didn’t touch the ground, and he grimaced. Shelly, Luke’s twin sister noticed the look Daniel made, “Luke, put Daniel down something is wrong.” She looked at Daniel with concern, “Danny what’s wrong?”
“Uh, nothing I must have slept wrong I’m just sore is all…” Daniel hoped that would be enough to hold off any other questioning. Shelly shot him a dirty look like she knew there was more to the story than he was letting on, but she dropped the subject.
Luke smiled at Daniel, “Sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt ya, you big wuss.” He joked and laughed at himself as some of his brown hair fell in his eyes and he shook his hair. “I can’t wait until we can drive to school and skip the damn bus rides,” He stated, knowing his Mom would get him a car once Shelly and him turn sixteen. “It’ll be cool, right Daniel?” Luke questioned, as Daniel nodded his head. The three got on the bus and rode quietly to school.
Luke wasn’t the most popular kid anymore since his Mom died, he quit participating in all sports and only speaks to Luke and Shelly at school a few of his old friends still reach out but they go largely ignored. The trio walked into homeroom, Mrs. Gates who happens to teach their English first period took attendance and slurped her morning coffee. The bell rang and they moved to the seats for English class, a kid that liked to bully people – Robbie Roberts – walked by Daniel’s desk accidentally tripped slamming his shoulder into Daniel’s chest causing him to gasp. Luke leaned over to Daniel whispering, “You ok man, he’s an ass.” Daniel nodded as he held his arm tight to his battered ribs. “Are you sure D?” Luke placed his hand on Daniel’s shoulder with a look of concern. Again Daniel nodded, fighting off tears.
Mrs. Gates had seen the so-called accident and called the class to order, “Mr. Roberts you may take this slip and report to the office immediately.” He grumbled as he vacated his seat storming past Daniel snatching the note for the Principal, slamming the door as he left. “Daniel, would you like to see the Nurse?”
Daniel shook his head, “No Ma’am, thank you.” She nodded and then commenced her lecture on literature. After the bell signified the end of class, Daniel slowly got out of his seat reaching for his bookbag, placing it over his shoulder leaving class with Luke in pursuit.
“Dude, you sure you shouldn’t go see the Nurse?” Luke asked with concern in his voice.
“I said I’m fine Luke, please just leave it alone.” Daniel turned and stormed off trying to hide his pain. The day progressed and it was soon lunchtime.
Daniel stood in line for mystery meat surprise as they called lunch, once through the line he made his way to the table the trio shared. Sitting down beside Luke he glanced over at him, “Sorry about storming off earlier, I’m just having a really bad day.”
Luke stuffed some French fries in his mouth and mumbled,”S’ok, shit happens man.” Luke grinned with puffed up cheeks from his fries.
“You’re disgusting, but I love you anyway.” Daniel chuckled with a small smile.
“You just want a piece of this Daniel,” Luke stood up motioning his hand over his body like he was a model.
Daniel rolled his eyes and laughed, “You wish Lukey, someday maybe you can find a blind person that can see past your pitiful looks and actually take pity on you.” Luke shook his head and laughed. Meanwhile, Daniel thought to himself, “I wish I could actually take you up on that but I can’t my Dad hates me enough without dragging a boy home.”
The day progressed to the final class, which was Gym, which Daniel hasn’t been able to figure out how to get out of. As he walked into the gymnasium he approached the teacher, “Coach I forgot my gym clothes today, can I just sit out the class?”
The Coach’s eyes narrowed, “Mr. Callen, I don’t know what your issue is as of late with not wanting to participate but the answer is no. You have shorts on and a tee shirt, we are playing dodgeball so you can deal it.” The teacher looked around and saw the boys forming up, “Gentlemen 20 laps around the gym and then break into your assigned groups for dodgeball.”
Daniel gathered with the rest of the group, and Luke whispered in his ear, “Wouldn’t let you sit out, huh?” Daniel shook his head as they started running, the burn in his chest from the sore ribs was taking its toll. Once laps were complete the boys formed up for dodgeball, Robbie was on the opposing team and smirked to his teammates when he got the ball, “Watch this,” He thought to himself. He launched the ball as hard as he could at Daniel’s chest making a direct hit which dropped Daniel in his tracks.
Daniel laid on the ground unable to breathe, Luke hurried to his side. “Daniel just lay still don’t move, try to breathe.” The Coach ran over to check on Daniel, as he sent one of the students to get the Nurse. The other kids other than Luke was sent to the shower’s and Robbie was sent to the office for the second time today, with no explanation other than the Coach would meet him there.
Nurse Donna knelt beside Daniel, “I need to get this shirt off of you and take a look, the ambulance has already been called.” She tried to slip his shirt up but Daniel was in too much pain, so she elected to cut the shirt off, when she revealed his blackish purple chest everybody present gasped in horror. “Daniel this isn’t from gym alone, what happened?” Nurse Donna asked in concern. Luke had tears in his eyes as he looked at Daniel, waiting for an explanation. Daniel was still struggling to breathe, as the paramedics arrived they immediately applied oxygen to him and lifted Daniel onto the stretcher then whisked him away.
Luke shouted out to Daniel, “I’m calling my Mom, we will meet you at the hospital.” He ran to the locker room and fumbled for his cell phone dialing his home, “Mom there’s been an accident at school they are taking Daniel to the hospital, can you pick me up on the way?”
“I’m on my way, what happened? Is Daniel gonna be okay?” Mrs. Miller asked with concern.
The emotions were getting the best of Luke he broke down sobbing as he dressed talking to his mom, “I dunno… His chest is all blackish-purple, he can’t breathe Mom.” Sniffle… cough… sniffle… “Something bad happened to him, Mom…”
“I’ll meet you in front of the high school in five minutes, find Shelly,” Mrs. Miller stated as the phone disconnected.
Luke ran through the school looking for his sister, having no luck at all, so he made his way to the front doors of the school. Shelly grabbed him by the arm, “Where the hell have you been? I heard Daniel is hurt, and he was taken out of here by ambulance…” Luke held up his hand to stop his sister’s ranting.
“He’s hurt bad Shelly, I don’t know how bad, other than he couldn’t breathe…” Tears rolled down Luke’s cheeks as Shelly pulled him into a hug.
“Shhh… He’ll be ok, he has to be ok,” Shelly soothingly said into her brother’s ear. Just then their Mom wheeled into the parking lot like she was driving in the Indy five hundred.
“Get in!” Mrs. Miller yelled out to her children. As the door slammed shut a chirp of the tires on the pavement was heard as they headed for the hospital.
Mrs. Miller stormed into the hospital with Luke and Shelly chasing after her as she reached the information desk, “I’m Candice Miller, I’m looking for Daniel Carson, I’m his emergency contact and he was brought in by ambulance.” She said so quickly the nurse had a puzzled expression on her face.
“One moment while I figure out where Mr. Callen is…” The nurse said as she called somebody and stated Daniel’s name. After a few minutes of talking on the phone, the nurse turned to Candice, “Ma’am he’s being transferred up to the Intensive Care Unit he has badly bruised ribs and lungs. The doctor would like to speak to you in the conference room if you could follow me please, I will show you where it is.” The nurse led the family to the conference room and shut the door as they took a seat.
“Mrs. Miller I’m Doctor Ung, and this is Darlene Symko, she is a social worker.” He motioned towards the prim and proper female that was seated writing in a ledger. “We have a few questions. Do you know what Daniel’s home life is like?” The Doctor pointedly asked.
“Daniel’s Mom passed away a little over a year ago, his father doesn’t really speak to me but I was best friends with Daniel’s mother,” Candice said with concern. “My children,” She pointed towards Luke and Shelly, “Are best friends with Daniel.”
Mrs. Symko cleared her throat and straightened her jacket, “May I ask the children a few questions about Daniel?” Candice nodded and looked towards the kids. “Children do you know was Daniel ever hit at home?”
Luke looked nervously at his Mom and then towards Mrs. Symko, “I’m not sure, but I think so, he wouldn’t ever tell me directly though. But today I picked him up in a hug and he was in pain, Shelly noticed it.” He said worriedly, with a look of panic, while Shelly nodded her confirmation.
“Well I guess once Daniel is ready for discharge, I will need to find placement for him. As a mother I can’t in good conscience let him go back home, as a State Mandated Officer of the Court he will be removed from his home,” Mrs. Symko stated with authority.
“Mom, he can’t be sent away, why can’t he live with us?” Luke begged his Mom, with sad puppy dog eyes.
Candice thought for a second, “It’s been years since I fostered but I still have a valid certificate, granted it was before my husband passed from cancer, but we would like to take Daniel into our home.” She said with conviction looking at Luke and Shelly.
Mrs. Symko asked for the required information, then stating she would make sure their credentials were valid. As long as they were she would make arrangements for Daniel’s placement in their home until a court hearing. She then left to go to her office to get the required paperwork completed.
Dr. Ung stood up at that point, “If you would like to follow me, I will take you up to Daniel’s room, he should be settled by now. Only two at a time is permitted to visit and you only have a little over an hour left of visiting hours. As long as Daniel is in no distress tonight I will have him moved to a private room in the morning.” He led the family to the intensive care unit waiting area. “If you could wait here a few minutes I will make sure Daniel is settled. Someone will come for you when he’s ready. If Daniel has any issues overnight, I will make sure somebody contacts you, Mrs. Miller,” He gave a brief smile and walked through the double doors.
“Mom, you and Luke should go back, I will see Daniel tomorrow,” Shelly stated kindly. Luke hugged his sister whispering, “Thank you, Sis.”
“Thank you, sweetheart, that’s very thoughtful of you,” Candice said as she glanced at a worried Luke.
A Nurse entered the waiting room, “Mrs. Miller?” Candice nodded as she stood. “If you would follow me, I will take you back to Daniel.” Luke hopped from the chair, Candice placed her hand on his shoulder while they followed the Nurse. “Okay, Daniel’s right there, just remember he is on some pretty heavy pain medications so he will be groggy. Daniel will get short of breath if he talks very much, please keep him from talking any more than need be.” The Nurse turned and walked away.
Luke walked beside Daniel’s bed and brushed his blonde hair out of his eye’s whispering, “Why didn’t you tell me your Dad was hitting you, I would’ve helped man.” Luke sniffled and wiped his eyes. Candice rubbed her sons back and sat in the chair next to the bed.
Daniel woke up rubbing his eyes with confusion, “Where am I?” He looked around the room spotting Mrs. Miller, “I gotta go, I have to get the lawn mowed or…” He stopped as the words started to leave his mouth.
“Or what honey?” Candice asked calmly. “Honey we know your Dad has been beating you, but why didn’t you tell us? We could’ve helped you, sweetheart.” Daniel had tears in his eyes and looked at Luke who was holding back tears himself.
Luke steeled himself, “Daniel I’m sorry man, I knew something was wrong but didn’t know what. You should have told me…” Daniel looked at him with confusion on his face and reached for his hand.
“What are you sorry for Luke you didn’t beat me or hit me in the ribs with a ball to make it worse,” Daniel said as he squeezed Luke’s hand with a sad smile.
“Maybe I could’ve stopped you from getting hurt anymore,” Luke said sorrowfully as a stray tear trickled down his cheek.
“Stop it, okay, it’s not your fault dammit.” Daniel struggled to breathe, Luke gave him a moment to calm down, “You have been the one to cheer me up after…” Daniel stopped talking and debated whether to be as honest as he could at the moment. “After Mom died, Dad started drinking, and it just kept getting worse,” Daniel winced, and a tear fell from his eye, he took a slow, shallow breath, and sorrowfully continued, “When he beat me, Dad always made sure it was where I could cover it up, I guess this time he didn’t realize or just didn’t care how bad he'd hurt me.” Daniel wiped away the tears that were now cascading down his cheeks, short of breath from crying and his injuries, “He told me how useless I was, and it was my fault Mom got sick because she was always worrying and pampering me instead of taking care of herself.”
Candice leaned forward taking Daniel’s hand in hers, “Honey that’s enough talking try and calm down to catch your breath.” She said soothingly as she rubbed the back of his hand. “Your Dad can’t hurt you any more baby boy when you get out of here, you’re coming to live with us. I’m pretty sure Luke will hurt anybody that tries to touch you now.”
“Damn right I will,” Luke said forcefully.
“Calm down and don’t use that language, Lucas Miller,” Candice admonished him.
“Sorry Mom,” Lucas said as he felt ashamed saying that in front of his Mom.
Just then a Nurse popped her head in the door, “Sorry folks, but visiting hours have been over for about five minutes I have to ask you to leave.” Candice nodded.
Honey we will be back in the morning, if you need anything, call a nurse.” She grabbed the call button and placed it in Daniels right hand. “Are you okay right now?” He nodded with a faint smile. “Do you need some pain medicine?” Daniel shook his head, while Luke rolled his eyes. “Here pick your head up so I can fluff your pillow.” Daniel raised his head off the pillow, while Luke snickered. “Hush you,” Candice said to Luke as she tended to Daniel. “Alright, goodbye honey, let's go, Luke, I think you have a date with a bar of soap for the language, and Daniel needs to rest.” She said as she headed out the door.
Luke paused rolling his eyes until his Mom was out of hearing distance, “You better get used to the royal treatment under Mom’s control.” The boys both snickered knowing Luke’s Mom was the most loving person in the world. “Hopefully tomorrow they will get you into a private room, and home in the next few days. I’ll see you tomorrow. Maybe, Mom will let me ditch school to be here with you and it’s a Friday. Bye, love you man.” Luke rubbed Daniel’s shoulder and then he walked out of the room.
Candice let Luke miss school the following morning to be with Daniel, but only after he promised not to expect it again since she received a phone call from Mrs. Symko that she needed to come down to Children & Youth Services to update some paperwork to take custody of Daniel. She drove Luke to the hospital and dropped him off providing him with Daniel’s new room number.
Luke walked up to Daniel’s new room and found him laying in bed watching the television, “Hey slacker, you think you’re on vacation or something?” He said, and Daniel winced as he flinched. “Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you and make you jump. Are you ok?”
Daniel calmed down and tried to find a comfortable position again, “Ya, I’m doin’ better… My ribs are still pretty sore.” He said as he tried to raise the head of the bed with the controller.
“Guess we get to share my bedroom once you come home, I’ll take the top bunk since you’re in no condition to climb up in it,” Luke said with a smile.
“God I love him more than I could ever put in words,” Daniel thought to himself. He looked at Luke with a faint smile, “Thanks, Luke, like for everything you have ever done for me and for being my friend.”
“Stop the mushy shit, or you’ll make me get all sentimental and shit,” Luke joked. “But seriously dude, I’d do anything for you, when I said I love you I meant it.”