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Like Dust in the Wind

by Jack Lynch

Chapter 9

White Haze.

Most of the time his world consisted of a white haze.

Unable to open his eyes. His eyelids were just too heavy. Instead, his other senses did the work. Carey could hear people talking, moving around. He smelled laundered cotton. When a straw was nudged against his lips he sucked water into his mouth.

Something was wrong but he couldn't tell what it was. A dull soreness, an ache, parts of his body held in place. Finally, he was able to get his eyes open, at least for short periods of time.

He turned his head. His parents were at the side of his bed.

"Oh, Mom!"

And then he screwed up his face and cried. His mother cried, too. His father looking on, a sad expression on his face.

That's when the pain was the most intense. His head pounded, his heart hurt. Well, more like heartbroken. He'd been driving the car. Three people were dead.

Randy Bergman. Handsome. Long medium brown hair styled in a Bieber cut, bangs across his forehead. Blue eyes, pale lips. Slender. 18 years old, about to be a senior in high school. Smiley eyes. Carey and Randy were quickly turning into an LTR. Cut short, never to be.

He'd only met Scottie that day. Dark hair, down to the middle of his back, parted in the middle. Dark eyes, incredibly fine features, full lips, brown skin. His soft sensuous voice. Native American, as it turned out. 19 years old. He'd previously been Connor's camp counselor.

Connor Roy. 13 years old. Long, silky blonde hair, down to his shoulders. A cute mess. Pink skin, dimple on his left cheek. Eyes the color of a pale blue sky. Star forward for his Bantam youth hockey team. Just feeling his way sexually. Discovering the power he possessed with his incredible beauty. Gone forever.

Randy had been sitting next to him in the front seat. Scottie was behind him in the back seat. Connor, that beautiful boy, seated directly behind Carey.

Carey had no memory of what happened. In a rare waking moment, he'd been told an 18-wheeler had broad-sided them. The driver was distracted. Apparently, he'd been watching porn on his phone instead of paying attention to the road. Treated and released from the hospital, charged with criminal vehicular homicide.

Why was he even here? He should be dead. The impact was on the driver's side. Apparently, front and side airbags had saved him.

After ten days in the hospital and three surgeries on his badly mangled left leg, he was able to sit up for short periods. First water, then he developed an appetite for dry white toast.

Eventually, he was able to get himself out of bed and over to the bathroom with the help of an aide. Initially, so dizzy he thought he would tip right over as he stood to pee in front of the toilet. Afterwards, he got a glimpse of himself in the mirror. Two black eyes, cuts and bruises all over his face, a large bandage covering a nasty cut on top of his head, separated shoulder. He looked, but the person reflected in the mirror must have been someone else.

Carey Sterling used to be this decent looking guy. 20 years old, 5'10," around 140 pounds. Brown eyes, kind of a flat nose, thin lips, narrow jaw. Blondish, brownish hair, neatly cut. Fair skin indicative of his Anglo-Irish-Danish-Scottish-mutt background.

Randy's parents came to see him. He'd never even met them. Even still, they all cried together. The four guys had been at the Bergman lake cabin that day. Carey told them about the sail they'd taken on Mr. Bergman's boat. Then they all cried some more.

Connor's mom came to see him the next day. She looked so sad and down trodden. What could he say? How could he make it all better? She smiled through tears, telling him how fond Connor was of him. It was painful to see how much Connor took after her. He started to say how sorry he was but she kind of shushed him up. That was the wrong thing to do. He started crying, unable to control himself, even after she left.

Afterwards, he slept for a very long time.

When he woke up this time, he sensed something was different. The lights had been turned down. It was night time. Nevertheless, someone else was there with him. Carey's eyes flickered open and he turned his head.

"Apollo! What are you doing here?!?" he gasped.

"Just happened to be in the neighborhood." A smirk.

Carey had first encountered Apollo as he sat on the ground in a boulevard median. His father, holding a cardboard sign, panhandling for money. He'd never really found out his age. Every time Carey asked him, he got a different answer. Maybe 15 or 16, at the time.

Apollo. Such an odd name. Named, not for the Greek god, but for Apollo Creed from the "Rocky" movies.

Skinny, more like emaciated, when Carey first met him. Long, stringy, greasy dirty blond hair, falling across his face. Narrow, almond shaped blue eyes, Thin face, pointy chin. A smart ass, scornful attitude.

A secluded spot by a small lake. They'd jerked off together. His dusty, pale skin, almost completely hairless. An amazing cock, thick and pale like a turkey sausage. Afterwards, they'd snuggled. Carey was taken with his unique smell. Sort of like oatmeal.

More than a year later. Carey encountered Apollo again. This time, at a nude gay dance club. Apollo was one of the dancers. They spoke only briefly, him standing there casually naked as they chatted. Later that evening, they'd somehow hooked up at Carey's place. The most unbelievable night of lovemaking and sex he'd ever experienced.

Gone early the next morning. Heading to the West Coast with some other guys to dance in another club. Just like that. Carey thought he'd found his true love. He begged for him to stay. Had to go, he'd said. And, then he was gone.

Carey's arms wound around Apollo's shoulders and neck. When he was pulled in close like that, he was able to drink in his smell. Oatmeal. Pleasant memories.

"Easy!" Apollo directed.

Together, the left side of his body almost dead weight, they got Carey up on his feet. Or, on his right foot, rather.

If this had been a rehab session, a therapist would have been there to assist. But, there wouldn't be another workout until tomorrow and Carey just needed to be upright and moving. A sure sign of recovery.

First, with a walker, then crutches. Now, a cane. The hardest part was getting up. Other than that, Carey's leg didn't really hurt that much. It was more stiff than anything else. As long as Apollo held onto his elbow, he felt comfortable walking the hospital corridor. They even went outside. His two week plus hospital stay was nearing an end.

His other wounds were fading except for his torn heart. Three sessions with a hospital psychologist had helped. Long term treatment was recommended.

Apollo was there with him everyday, all day. It was amazing, really. Carey's parents wondered what was going on.

"Just someone I met, Mom," Carey explained, purposely vague.

Apollo loved every minute of it. Sure, the circumstances that put Carey in the hospital were horrific. But, for the first time in his life, he felt like he was doing something purposeful. Taking care of Carey, coddling and cuddling, gave him great joy.

As Carey's head became clearer, he started to talk it all out. Connor. Randy. What they meant to him. What Apollo meant to him. There were lots of tears, of course. It was hard to explain about Connor. He had fallen for the kid. It was so inappropriate. Outside of some heavy flirtation, well, more than that, it was a kind of puppy love. Then, Randy. So sweet. He was really hot for Carey. The sex was unbelievable. But, there was more than that.

Apollo just stared at Carey. Not with that scornful look that he usually had. Not judging. Just listening.

Then, he talked about the other guys. Other girls, especially Harper. Carey squeezed his eyes shut, his fingers pinching the space between them, high up on his nose.

"You know. I'm a fuckin' whore."

Apollo smirked.

"Compared to…?"

It broke some of the tension. Carey laughed. Laughed hard enough that his still healing ribs hurt.

A couple of days before Carey was discharged, Apollo met his parents at the apartment. Together, they packed everything up. The plan was to move Carey back home for the foreseeable future.

"How are you doing?"

Part of the community's response to the death of a young person was to bring in a crew of grief counselors. With classes just starting for the school year, students were offered the opportunity to speak with a professional if they wanted.

"I'm all right."

Jo-Jo sat in a chair across from a woman who had introduced herself as Linda.

With that, her shoulders slumped as she looked down at the floor. She put her hands, palms flat against each other, between her knees.

"Did you know Connor?"

"Kind of."

"How did you know him?"

"We had a couple of classes together."

"Anything else?"

"I'd see him in the halls."

"Did you hang out at all?"

Jo-Jo just shook her head.

"Did you talk to Connor?"

Head nodding.

"What did you talk about?"

"I dunno. Stuff."

Jo-Jo grimaced. Why was she talking so stupid like?

"Sorry, I mean. We talked about school work."

"Anything else?"

"Not really. We never got around to it. I wanted to talk to him about other things."

"What things?"

"I don't know. Anything?"

A question, as though she had no idea what to say.

"Did you like Connor?"

"Yes. I called him Connie and he called me Joanne."

Linda looked down at the form.

"Everyone calls you Jo-Jo. Did you like him calling you Joanne?"

"Yes," she replied in a higher tone.

The tears welled up in her eyes, spilling down her cheeks.

Linda stopped talking and looked at her. Jo-Jo's lower lip quivered. Then the crying began. In torrents.

Thirty seconds. A minute. She cried and cried.

Linda looked down at the form. Read the information again. At the bottom, she checked the box, "Refer Out." Looking up at the still sobbing girl, she wrote on the corner of the page, underlining it twice. "Expedite."

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