I couldn't understand why my head pounded. It felt as if it were splitting. Light swirled and I couldn't open my eyes. I wanted to tell someone how bad my head hurt. I couldn't. I heard sounds, but like the light, they swirled. I stopped trying to see or to listen.
Again I became aware of sounds, but now they were voices. Voices I knew. Or I should know. I tried once more to open my eyes, but it hurt too much. The sounds started to make sense. Mom. It was my mom. I felt a hand in mine and I squeezed. I wanted help, relief from the pain. I wanted someone to help me open my eyes. Someone to explain what was happening. All I could do was squeeze.
There were sounds again. Low voices. DANNY! It was Danny's voice. He'd help me. I knew he would. I felt safe suddenly. Say something else, Danny. Anything. When he asked me to squeeze his hand, I realized he was holding mine, and I squeezed. The emotion and the effort were monumental, and I had to rest.
Danny's voice again, low, talking to me. A searing pain as I tried to look at him. I couldn't. Maybe tomorrow.
No, I had to see him. I had to see Danny. I wanted so badly to open my eyes. But it hurt. You know how sometimes you just know if you do something, something else bad is gonna happen? Like I knew if I opened my eyes the light would make this headache a million times worse. But I had to see Danny.
Slowly, so slowly I opened them. And there he was. Danny. My Danny. My lover. My refuge. In whose arms I always found safety. The person in whom I found unconditional love. Peace. To whom I went when I needed out.
I don't really think I thought all of that just that way. But I did feel calm and safe. And beside him was Greg.
"Hi, Danny. Hi Greg," I said. Croaked, really. I could see they were holding hands.
Like a shot Danny was on me. He hugged me. A gentle hug. Tears. My dad, who I hadn't noticed, shot out of the room.
"Oh, my god," he said. I don't remember much after. I was right about the pain. I told him my head hurt. He must have pushed the call button on my bed cuz nurses were all over me. My head hurt and Danny could see it as I closed my eyes again. He was yelling at them to do something. I drifted back into the darkness.
The next day I woke up again. My mom and dad were there. They sort of filled me in on what happened - that I'd been hit by a baseball, that I suffered a skull fracture, that I'd been in surgery to repair the injury and that I'd been in a coma for 10 days. They asked if my head still hurt. It didn't, but I couldn't focus too well. Later a doctor came in. His name was Dr. Smith. He asked me to move my fingers. I did on my right hand, but when I went to move the fingers on my left hand, pins and needles shot up my arm. Like when your hand falls asleep and then you move it. I could move my fingers, but not as much as my right hand, and they tingled. He lifted the sheets covering my feet and asked me to wiggle my toes. My right foot worked okay, but I got the pins and needles on my left again.
When he asked me to lift my right leg, I could. But I couldn't lift my left leg off the bed. The tingling was intense.
Danny came by that afternoon. They were getting ready to move me to a different room, out of the intensive care unit. He was smiling, but it was a sad smile. My mom said hi, then said she was going out for something to eat.
"Here," he said, handing me a sheaf of papers tied together with ribbons. "I kept a journal while you were . . . while you were sleeping. I . . ." he choked, like he was about to cry. "Um, don't try to read it now. You can read it later." I wasn't sure I could. I had begun to notice my vision was a little blurry. It hadn't mattered much, but I really wanted to see Danny. He looked fuzzy.
I wanted to kiss him. I wanted to feel his body next to mine. I wanted to go to bed with him. Not to have sex, but just like we used to, so I could get strength from him.
"Stay with me tonight," I said. "I'll ask the my parents and the doc if you can. They'll let you stay in my room. I'm getting out of this room today, in just a few minutes. Stay with me. I need you. Like when we were little, Danny."
"Justin, I can't."
"I just can't. You . . .um, you need your rest. Tomorrow's a school day. I don't think my mom will let me."
"What day is today?"
"Sunday. I've already missed too much school. I can't stay overnight." There was a catch in his voice again. "I gotta go. Homework." He started toward the door.
"Danny. Wait. I want you to stay for a while. Just a little while? Till they get me into my new room?"
I gave him my most pathetic look.
"Okay. Till they get you in your new room."
"Great. In the meantime, why don't you read this to me." I held out the papers to him. But he backed away from then with a hurt look in his eyes.
"No, I can't. I mean, I don't want to...I already know what's...I mean, I just can't...um, go through it again." He was acting strange, but then, things were pretty weird all around. This was turning into a nightmare, and I was getting terrified of not being able to follow the plot.
"Justin," he said quietly. "Justin, I want you to know that I love you more than anything else in the world. I love you with all my heart. I will never ever stop loving you." He came over to me and took my hand in his. "From the first time you crawled into bed with me I knew how much I needed you. I would never, ever do anything to hurt you. I love you." His tears were falling freely. "I love you. I love you."
He put his head gently on my chest and he squeezed my hand. I didn't know what to do. I stroked his hair as he lay there crying.
"Danny, it's okay. I'm gonna be fine. I know you love me. I love you, too. I love everything about you. Nothing will ever change that. It's okay." I didn't know what else to say, because I didn't know what brought all that on. We stayed like that for a while, being as close as we could be with a metal bed surrounding me. He didn't move his head from my chest, but I could tell he was uncomfortable there. But then, maybe that was just me. I was still a little confused about it all. I didn't understand everything that had happened.
About half an hour later a nurse named Sally came in with a young guy. She introduced him as Kent, a physical therapist. Kent asked me a bunch of questions about how my head felt, what the pins and needles felt like, how much difference I felt between my left side and right side. Then he asked me to move my arms and legs and fingers and toes again. My right side was fine, but I still couldn't move my left side as well, and it still tingled when I did.
"Okay, Justin, I'm going to ask you to sit up slowly," he said, and he grasped me by my right arm and helped me up. The blood rushed from my head and I thought I was going to pass out. Kent held me in his strong arms expertly and kept me from toppling over.
"Hang on. Rest here till you get used to it. You've been on your back for 12 days now."
Slowly the wooziness passed and I wasn't dizzy any more.
"Okay, try to stand up," he said, and slowly helped me down off the bed. I landed on my right foot, but when I went to put my weight on my left, my leg crumpled under me like there was no strength in it. He caught me, then eased me back into bed.
"Okay. Well, we've got some work to do. And I'm sure you're in for another battery of tests. Don't worry about not being able to stand just yet. You will. I've worked with lots of people like you. You'll be fine. Just as long as you're willing to work.
"I've gotta go, but I'll be around tomorrow. I'll have a schedule of things to do, and we'll get started. Bye, Justin," and he was out the door.
What the hell just happened? I looked at Danny and he had a stunned look on his face.
"Danny? Danny, I can't walk." My throat tightened. "What am I going to do? I can't walk, Danny."
He came over and took me in his arms. I cried into his shoulder and he tightened his hold on me.
"You will, Justin. Didn't you hear him? You will. It's your injury, that's all. You'll get over it."
"Danny, tell me exactly what happened. My mom and dad told me I got hit by a baseball. Is that true? Danny, you gotta tell me. I don't remember. I don't remember anything from that day."
Just then mom and dad came into the room. Danny backed away. They could see I'd been crying, and they tried to comfort me. They explained they had just talked to the physical therapist, and he told them he thought things would be okay.
A nurse came in and said they were ready to move me, but first they were going to take me to get another CT scan (Another? Never knew I had one in the first place). She helped me into a wheelchair and I just felt silly. I should be able to walk anywhere. A wheelchair, for crying out loud. I was a strong, 15-year-old boy. I was a baseball player. I was a normal, red-blooded teenager. Okay, so I was gay, probably, but besides that. I can fucking walk. Except I couldn't.
CT scans are sorta scary. You lie on this hard table and they tape your head down. Then they slide you into this tube and if you're at all claustrophobic, you freak. I'm not claustrophobic, and I damn near freaked. There's this whirring sound and you almost expect to be taken away to meet Elvis or something.
When I got to my new room, everything was waiting. Mom and dad were there, Danny was there, and so was Mrs. Shaw. And I saw Becky. They left while the nurse helped me into the bathroom and let me pee, (I forgot to tell you all about the catheter and all; I don't even want to remember. Just let me say that it was SUCH a relief to really pee again) and then got me settled into bed and put an IV back into my arm. They all came back in, but I wasn't much company. I was exhausted. Too much activity. They all understood. Becky and Danny started out the door. I sooo badly wanted Danny to stay, but he was already close to the door. Becky was behind him.
"Say hi to everyone in school tomorrow," I said. "Tell them I'll be okay."
"Tomorrow?" Becky said, surprised. "Tomorrow's Sunday. This is only Saturday."
"But Danny told me..." But he was out the door.
"Becky, can you stay a little while?" I asked.
"Well, okay. My dad won't be here for a while. Are you sure you're not too tired?"
"No, I'm fine." I wasn't. I was beat. "Mom, Dad. Can I talk to Becky for a while? Alone?"
They both said they understood, and said they'd be back in a little while to say good night.
"Becky, what's wrong with Danny?" I asked after they'd gone.
"What do you mean?"
"He's acting all weird." I told her about him breaking down earlier. "But what I'm really wondering about is why he won't spend the night with me. Becky, I really need him. I don't understand all what's going on. I'm scared. I can't even stand up right now. I can't see right. My head hurts. I'm in a hospital, for god's sake. I want him to stay with me now that I'm awake. And when I asked him he said no, tomorrow's a school day and he's missed too much already. Becky, what's he doing? Why did he lie to me? I need him so bad, Becky. Just like when we were kids. I need him, Becky. Why won't he stay with me? I need him."
She put her arms around me and laid her cheek next to mine.
"Shhhhhh. It's okay, Justin. I don't know what's wrong. Do you want me to find out? I can talk to him."
"No, don't do that. I think he needs to tell me. It's just so weird. I've never needed him more and he's lying to me. Like he's trying to avoid me."
I closed my eyes in Becky's embrace. I tried to relive the last couple of days since I woke up. My parents had told me a little bit, but said they'd tell me more when I felt stronger. I remembered back to waking up. Seeing Danny and Greg. Hmm. Greg hadn't been up to see me yet. Well, he probably figured...Oh, shit. Danny and Greg. And they were holding hands. I went limp.
"What?" Becky asked.
"Uh, something," she replied. "Out with it."
"No. I've got to . . . they were holding hands."
"Greg and Danny. When I woke up and saw them. They were holding hands."
"Well, yeah. They were giving each other support. Justin, you have no idea how much those two have been here for you. They stayed with you the whole time when you first came to the hospital. Danny spent the night. They were here every day. Greg was about as broke up about it as Danny was. You have some good friends there, Justin."
"Yeah, but, what if they've fallen in love with each other? What if Danny loves Greg? That's it. I know it is."
It was all a jumble in my head. I couldn't think straight any more. I was losing Danny. I'd lost Becky. She belonged to Kyle now. But there was nothing I could do. I couldn't get out of bed. I was damaged. I'd lost everything.
"No, he doesn't," Becky said, but not convincingly. "Justin, I know he kept a journal for you. Maybe he's just...I don't know. He's tired, and he's probably just afraid he'll show too much emotion while he's around you. He doesn't want to get you down. That's probably it."
Becky had been right about things before. I know I should trust her.
"He already gave it to me. It's . . . where did I put it? He gave it to me in the old room. I hope it got moved." Becky looked around a little.
"Here's a box with cards in it. Maybe they stuck it in here." She rummaged around and camp up with the sheaf of papers.
"That's it. Becky, could you read it to me? My eyes aren't working very well."
"Nothing's working well, Justin. You're too tired. I'm going to go home. You get some rest. I'll read it tomorrow."
Mom and Dad came in to spend some time with me. They said we'd all meet with the doctor tomorrow. They held my hand until I fell asleep. Alone. Without Danny. I ached for Danny.
The next day - Sunday - The doctor came to talk. He told me my skull had been fractured on my right side, and that another half-inch down and in front of where the ball hit me might have killed me. He said as it was, the brain had swelled, they had to remove part of the bone to relieve the pressure, and then had put in a plate to hold everything together.
The injury had some effects on me. Some would be short-term, but one would be long-lasting. He said in the short term, my left side was partially impaired. That's because the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body, and the right side of my brain was still bruised. That's why I felt the tingling. It was really a form of numbness. That's also why I couldn't stand. I still had movement, but not much strength. With therapy, and time for the brain to heal, the doctor said I should make "most" of a recovery.
"Most?" I asked.
"Well, you may never regain 100 percent. It's hard to tell. I hope you do. If you work hard. But it's up to your brain. A little part of it may have died, and that may be just enough to limit some of your movement or strength. In time, I don't think you'll ever notice it. I don't think you'll walk with a limp."
"Will I be able to play baseball?
He looked at me steadily. "I don't know. I hope so. But you may notice some limitations. Stiffness. Loss of range. Fortunately, you throw with your right arm, and that isn't affected. But the rest - you'll just have to wait and see how your recovery goes."
"What about the long-term affects?"
"Mostly your vision. I'm sure you've noticed a little diminished capacity there," he said medically.
"Yeah. Everything is a little blurry. I can't read."
"Well, the broken bones and brain damage affected the optics in your right eye. That won't go away. We can fix it with glasses or contact lenses, but I'm afraid your vision will never be as good as it was. I'm very sorry. That, more than anything, may affect your baseball career. You won't be able to see the ball as well. But a lot of baseball players have to wear vision correction and they do fine. Greg Maddux is damn near blind without glasses or contacts and he's a four-time Cy Young Award winner."
"Yeah," I said, getting more depressed. "What else?"
"Nothing. I think in every other way you're a normal American Boy. If you do okay today, we'll look at springing you from this joint the day after tomorrow."
"Really? Tuesday? So soon?"
Soon?" he chuckled. "You've been here 13 days. Tha'll be 15. That's not so soon"
"Yeah, but I've only been really awake since yesterday."
"But everything looks good. Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention your CT scan. It was fine. I mean, there was still a little bruising, but that's expected. Your brain is healing very well. You're a strong young man. We're going to try to get your vision checked this afternoon and maybe get you a temporary pair of glasses so you can see better."
He looked at me for a moment, and smiled. "Justin, you've got a good mom and dad, and you've got a great group of friends. I've never seen the waiting room so packed with people waiting to hear about a patient. Your friend Dan is fantastic. He was with you almost the whole time, and when he had to leave, he did it very reluctantly. There was another one named Greg, and one named Kyle and one named Rich. They were here a lot too. And Becky. They were here for you constantly. We got all kinds of calls. A lot of people were pulling for you, son. I hope you appreciate that."
I didn't want to cry in front of the doc and my parents, but my eyes got wet.
"I know. I do," I whispered.
We talked a while longer, the doc said he had some more people to see. Mom and Dad said they were going to church - they had a lot to be thankful for, and asked if I would be okay. I said I would.
Someone brought in breakfast - bacon, eggs, toast, hash browns, juice and some fruit. I never knew how much I used my left hand when I ate. I had a hard time eating with only my right hand and the limited use of my left.
Then it started. Word had already got around that I could have visitors. As mom and dad left, Richie came into the room.
"Hi, bud," he said a little awkwardly. "How ya doin'?"
"I'm fine. I'll be fine. I dunno."
He came over to my bed and saw the IV in my arm. It was mostly for the pain medication. We chatted a while like we always do, and then Kyle came in. He said Becky would be by after church. I asked if Danny was coming, too, but both of them shrugged and said they hadn't seen Danny for a couple of days.
A few of the guys from the baseball team came by, too. We talked a little bit, and they wished me well. I think they wanted to see if I was gonna be back on the team, but I told them I honestly didn't know. I sort of filled them in on what the doc had told me.
Kyle and Riche were genuinely sorry. After my teammates left, Richie took my hand and asked if I was going to be okay.
"You mean physically or emotionally?" I asked with a smile. But he didn't smile back.
"I mean both."
"Yeah. I'll be fine."
"It's not fair," he said.
"Getting hurt like that. It's not fair."
"Well, maybe not. But it happened and there's nothing I can do about it. I haven't even come to grips with it, Richie. I mean, I can say yeah, I'll be okay, but I don't even know. I can't even stand up. I have to have help getting to the bathroom. I can't walk." I was starting to tear up, and I didn't want to do that in front of Richie and Kyle. But they could both see what was happening. Kyle came to the bedside and leaned over to give me a hug.
"Anything we can do to help, we will, Justin," he said. "Whatever help you need. Whatever training you have to do, we'll be here. Absolutely everything, Justin. E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G."
"That goes for all of us, bud," Richie added, squeezing my hand. I couldn't believe what they were promising.
"Uh, guys, this could take a while. I mean, they tried to have me stand yesterday. I can't even stand up. I don't know when I'll be able to walk again. The doc says I will be able to, but I don't know when. I don't know how much therapy it's going to take. I start work today with a physical therapist. It could take months."
"We've known each other since before we could walk," Kyle said. "We learned to walk together once, and we'll do it again. Richie said whatever it takes, and that goes for all of us. And I can speak for Greg and Danny, too. This isn't going to stop us, Justin." He said us. He didn't say "you," he said "us." Jeeez, I loved these guys. I think Danny was mostly right. If I hadn't gone to his house that first night so many years ago, I could have gone to any of theirs and found the same support. But you know what? I don't think I'd have found the same love I'd found with Danny.
"Man, I wonder where Danny is. I thought he'd be here," Kyle said.
"He was here yesterday," I said, "and told me he had to go home because today is a school day. Except it isn't. And I don't know if he lied to me on purpose or just got confused. Where's Greg?"
They glanced at each other.
"We're not sure. He spent a couple of nights at Danny's and we haven't seen him since," Richie said. "Except here. And then he wasn't real talkative." They looked at each other again.
"What? Why are you looking at each other?"
"Guys, stop it. Fifteen years, guys. I know something's up. Tell me."
"Well, um, the day before you woke up..." It was Kyle talking.
"Kyle, don't," Richie said.
"Kyle, tell me," I said. "What? What's going on."
He looked real uncomfortable and he wouldn't look at me. "Uh, I was waiting for Becky and we were going to come in and see you. They only let a few people in at a time. Well, Becky was late and I...I decided to come see if anyone was in here with you. But I didn't want to wake you so I pushed the door open real quiet and I saw Danny and Greg. They were sitting by your bed. Danny...um...I don't know how to say this. Um, well, Danny had his head against Greg's, uh, chest and, um, they, uh, they where...uh, em...holding hands. I mean, sorta like Becky and I hold hands, but it was two guys."
I felt the blood drain from my face and I got light-headed. I thought my heart would stop.
"Oh, shit, Justin. Are you okay? Damn, I shouldn't have told you. I mean, I don't think they're queer..."
I couldn't help but wince. I was completely off guard.
"I mean, no, I know they're not. I just, it was sort of awkward cuz they saw me and they knew I'd seen them and I think they were embarrassed, but I think they were just, you know, tired and sort of giving each other a little moral support cuz we're all, you know, pretty drained from all of this not knowing how you were doing and if you were...uh, but, I mean we DID know, but they were just, I think, being friends and not queer or anything..."
He would have gone on babbling, but I just said, "Kyle, it's okay. Stop. Just stop."
I knew then that what I'd suspected last night when Becky was with me was true. They'd spent ten days together. No, they'd spent a lifetime together, just as we all did. They were close friends to begin with. But the last ten days, well, they fell in love. Ten days of spending all your time together can do that.
Oh, shit, now what was I going to do? I was breaking down inside. But I couldn't cry. Not in front of Kyle and Richie. They didn't know about Danny and me. Greg knew, and he knew that Danny is gay. That's how they fell in love. I wasn't sure about Greg, but I guess it must be true. But Richie and Kyle don't know anything about this. They don't know about Danny and me. They aren't even sure about Danny and Greg. But if I cry they'll ask what's wrong and I'd probably tell them and that would be the end of that. They'd know that all three of us are gay and our friendship might keep them from beating us up, but it would also be the end of the five of us.
I wanted Danny so bad. I wanted to talk to him, to tell him it was all ri.....it was all righ.....but it wasn't all right. If I loved him I should have been able to let him go to find his own happiness. But I wanted that happiness to be with me. I was selfish, I know, but I needed my Danny. I had since I was six. I thought he'd needed me, too, but Greg must have given him what he needed and more. My heart felt like it was going to burst out of my chest. I wanted to shout, to scream at the top of my lungs. Just shout. Not a word, just a sound. Something, anything to relieve the pressure.
"Justin, what's the matter, bud?" Richie asked. "You look, er, you look pretty awful. Are you okay? Can we do anything?"
I felt paralyzed. Not just my left side, which wasn't really paralyzed. I felt like I couldn't move. I was watching events from my eyes, but not as a participant. Merely as an audience member.
"JUSTin," Kyle said sharply. "Justin, what's the matter, man? You're scaring us. Should we call the nurse? C'mon, Justin, I just was saying that I think the two of them were embarrassed they got caught holding hands and they're afraid we'll tease them. And they're probably right," he said with a laugh.
With every fiber of my body, I conjured up a weak laugh. I felt sort of like the clown in those stories, the one that's laughing on the outside and crying on the inside. Thank god just then two more people walked in. Becky and her dad. Church was out.
"Hi, Justin," she said in a happy voice. "I couldn't wait to come see you again. Hi Kyle, hi Richie," and she took Kyle's hand in hers. Mr. Decker said hi, too, and chatted a little bit about the weather and the coming harvest. He had a strange look in his eye.
"I'm glad you're going to be okay, son," he said. "I was pulling for you. I just wanted to tell you I've always enjoyed having you around the farm when you come visit. I'm really sorry this happened to you, but the doctor says you'll be out of here soon and on the mend. I'm just really happy."
"Thank you, Mr. Decker. I appreciate that. I'll be back on the farm bugging you before you know it," I managed to laugh.
He patted my hand and left his on mine a second longer than usual. "You've never bugged me," he said.
Just then the door opened and Don and Ronald came in. They looked really scared, like I was going to be mad at them. Uncomfortable. They were very timid.
"Hi, Justin," Don said.
"Hi," Ron added.
"Hi, guys," I said, trying to sound warm. I didn't want them to think I was mad at them. "Thanks for coming."
"We just wanted..." Ron started.
"To come and see you," Don finished. "We wanted to say hi."
"We wanted to say we're sorry," Ron said.
"Sorry? For what?"
"For putting you in the hospital."
"Who said you did that?" I said with a touch of anger. "I was the idiot out there without a helmet. I should have known better. You guys didn't do anything wrong. What makes you think you're responsible for this? Don pitched a ball, you hit it and I didn't watch what I was doing. Guys, it's not your fault."
"It sure felt like our fault that day," Don said.
"Yeah, but it wasn't. Guys, no one is responsible for this. Or if anyone is, then I am." They didn't look quite so glum.
"Well, it's nice of you to say," Ron said.
"I mean it. I'm not just saying it. It's the truth."
"Maybe. But we feel bad. If you need anything, Justin, please let us help." Boy, this was getting to be overwhelming.
"I will. I appreciate it, you guys. I'm not mad at you. It was an accident. It's going to be okay."
The door opened again and I expected it to be Danny. But it was coach Danielson.
"Hi, Justin," he said. "I heard you were doing better. Figured I better come see for myself."
"I'm doing fine, coach. Um, thanks for taking care of me when I got hurt."
"Justin, I..." he couldn't finish the sentence. He took a deep breath. "You're welcome, kid." He was always calling people kid. He wasn't corny in everything he said, just some things.
"So, what's the doc say about you coming back to the team. We gotta get you bulked up over the winter."
"Doc says I might not play again," I said. There was a small gasp from people in the room.
"Why not?" Don asked.
"Cuz right now I can't even stand. My left side is numb. I can move my arm and my leg, but they're all tingly and there's no strength. Doc says I should recover okay from that, but I might not have full use any more. And the vision in my right eye is bad. I've gotta get glasses or contacts."
Don looked like he was going to be sick. "Never again?"
"Well, pick-up games. But maybe not high school ball. Maybe. Doc's not sure yet."
"Listen, Justin," coach said, "no matter what happens, you're on the team. I mean that."
That meant a lot to me. But in my heart, I think I already knew I'd never play again.
A couple more classmates came by, and Mr. Brown, one of the teachers. Most only stayed a little while. Which was a good thing, cuz the room was getting crowded. I was in a double room, but no one was in the other bed, so at least we weren't disturbing anyone. And that meant there was a little more room for everyone. Coach left. Don and Ronald stayed around for a little while longer. Classmates came and went. And then the door opened again.
And in came Greg.
He came over to my bedside and just looked at me for a moment. "How are you?" he finally asked.
"I'm fine, Greg."
He leaned over and put his arms around me to hug me, and squeezed. Not hard, but firm. Gently. Like a life-long friend.
"I'm soo glad you're okay, Justin. I was so worried. I couldn't sleep most nights thinking about you."
"Thanks, Greg. I know. I heard you were here a lot with Danny." He pulled up and had a funny look on his face. I still wasn't seeing clearly; I couldn't quite tell what it was.
"Greg, it's okay."
He didn't answer, just turned away. Kyle and Richie were watching, but they didn't say anything. Probably because of all the people in the room.
A nurse came in to do some nursey thing, and about fell over when she saw all the people in the room.
"Ah, some of you will have to leave," she said. "He can have visitors all day, but I'd like to limit the number of people at any one time."
Mr. Decker said he'd be going, but Becky could stay. Ron and Don said they'd be back, and coach Danielson said good-bye. That left Kyle, Richie, Greg and Becky.
"Becky, can I talk to you for a few minutes. I haven't even gotten a chance to say hi," I said.
"Uh, le's go get some breakfast, guys, and come back later," Richie said. Greg still looked awkward, but followed the rest out of the room. He paused at the door and looked back. He started to say something, then stopped and stepped out.
"We'll be back," Richie said. "Try to keep us away. We're gonna get you back on your feet, Danny. We'll do the work of 100 physical therapists."
I just smiled, but as the door closed, I broke down into tears. Becky came over and practically crawled in next to me. She held me as close as she could, and I sobbed on her shoulders. She didn't ask what was wrong, she didn't try to tell me everything would be okay, she didn't try to get me to stop, she didn't tell me to let it all out. She just held me and patted my back as I cried and cried and cried. Every time I slowed down and was about to stop, a new round of sobs would wrack me. She never flinched. She held me and just let me cry.
I loved her. I truly did. She never wavered. She was sooo great. Her body felt warm and soft against mine. I felt wonderful in her arms, or I did when I could feel anything again. But you know what? It just wasn't the same as with Danny. She felt great. Wonderful. Danny felt - safe. Comfortable. Mine. Off on another round of sobbing.
"Better?" she asked when it finally seemed to be over.
"Not much," I said, truthfully. "How did I get such great friends? All of you are just...I don't know. There isn't a word that says what you all mean to me. Did you hear them? Did you hear what they said?" I choked a little again.
"Yeah, and it goes for me too. Anything, Justin."
"Then tell me why Danny isn't here. Why he lied to me."
"I'll find out, Justin. He wasn't in church this morning. Maybe he really did think it was Monday and he's trying to figure out why no one's at school."
That brought a faint smile to my lips.
I reached over to the stand next to me, where there were bunches of flowers, the debris of a hospital room, cards and photos that people had sent, and the papers Danny had handed me the only time I'd seen him. I picked them up and looked at them.
"Before we talk some more, Justin, let me go do something. I'll be right back."
She went out the door. I tried to read the papers, but my eyesight was just too poor right now. Jeez, I hope it gets better. I can't go through life like this.
And then I realized I was alone. No one was there. If I had to get up right now, what would I do? I couldn't stand.
I decided to try. I pushed myself up off my back with my elbows. Or with my right elbow. Stingers shot through my left arm. But I finally managed to sit up. I let the blood exchange balance out in my head, then slowly swung my legs over the side of the bed. Tingles from my toes right up the leg and the left side of my chest. Hmm. Wonder if this is affecting my left nut, too. Is it still making sperm? Heh heh. I really AM numb nuts now. Or numb nut. Wonder which side of the brain controls my cock? I hadn't had a hardon since I woke up.
My right hand strayed down, but then I remembered Becky was just outside - or I thought she was - and I wasn't about to let her catch me playing with myself.
I started to ease myself to the ground to see if I could stand. But the door opened, and Becky took one look at me and shouted my name.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?"
"Don't swear, Becky. It doesn't fit you."
"Stop it right now, Justin. What are you doing?" she said again.
"Trying to see if I could stand."
"You idiot. That baseball must have knocked common sense out of you. Why are you trying to stand?"
"I dunno," I said. "I just...I feel so helpless. And you guys... and Danny...and..." I just looked at her lamely. Then I held out the papers to her.
"Here. Would you read this to me?'
She hesitated a moment, then took the papers.
"Jeez, you are an idiot. God. What if you'd fallen and hit your head?"
She stopped and her face softened. "I'll read it if you get back into bed."
"Well, I need some help."
Her touch was cool and soothing. Smooth. Soft. She helped me into bed, got my leg up onto the mattress and smoothed the sheets. She pulled the top sheet over me. It was then I realized I was getting hard. Woohoo! That part still worked! Oh, shit. It was Becky who was making me hard.
"Now, don't move. Let me read this if you want me to."
She started, and got about three paragraphs into it, then stopped in mid-sentence.
"Uh, Justin, I don't think I should read this."
"Um, it's sort of personal."
"Um, it's talking about your nipples. And his toes."
She turned several pages, then snapped them shut."
"Oh, god. Cock. The word "cock" is in here. Justin, he's talking about...I can't...Oh, jeez."
"Uh, maybe I'll read it when I get better," I said, red as a beet. Damn. My nipples. And his toes. And someone's cock. Oh, god. How embarrassing.
"Uh, sorry, Becky. I didn't, um, know."
She put the papers down like they were a snake about to bite her.
"Uh, it's, uh, it's okay, Jus...oh, god. Way more than I wanted to know." She giggled. "Your nipples and his toes."
"Yeah, okay." I was as red as I could be. "I'm sorry, Becky. I didn't know he put that stuff in there."
"Why are you so anxious to read it?"
"Cuz I want to know what happened."
"Haven't your parents told you?"
"A little. Some. I dunno. I just want to hear it from Danny's perspective. They don't like to talk about it. I want to hear what happened. I want to know if he was there. I..."
"Of course he was there."
"Yeah. Don't you remember?" He was sitting in the stands watching you play."
"Becky, I don't remember anything about that day. Nothing. Not one thing. I don't remember getting up that morning. I don't remember going to school. I don't remember playing baseball. I don't remember seeing Danny, or Kyle or Richie or Greg or you. Did I see you that day?"
"We all ate lunch together."
"See? I don't remember that. I don't remember anything after dinner the day before. It's all gone. All of it."
She took my left hand. Pins and needles shot up, and I must have winced, because she put it down immediately.
"No, please, hold my hand."
"Justin, I didn't realize you've forgotten everything. If you want me to, I'll try to read you that, but I really think Danny ought to."
"Yeah, well, he's not here," I said with some bitterness in my voice. "I guess he's moved on."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
I told her about how I saw Danny and Greg holding hands, and how Kyle had caught them, too. "What else can it be? Danny's fallen in love with Greg."
"What? You don't even know if Greg is" she shouted, then dropped her voice "gay." in a whisper. Maybe they were two close friends, scared half to death about you, giving each other a little support."
"A little support in bed," I spat.
She slapped me. Becky slapped me. It hurt.
"Stop it, Justin. Just stop it. You're an idiot. You were an idiot for not wearing a helmet, but you're a bigger idiot for jumping to stupid conclusions like that. You haven't even given either of them a chance to talk to you." She glanced at the door.
"Greg had a chance. He was here earlier." I slapped my forehead. And immediately vowed not to do THAT again. It hurt like hell. "THat's what that look was."
"Greg had a funny look on his face. He's feeling guilty that he and Danny are in love and leaving me out of it."
"Oooo, Justin Reynolds, stop it right there or I'll slap you again. Hard this time." I thought the first time was hard, actually. "First of all, how could Greg tell you anything when he was here? There were a dozen people in here. Second, a funny look is in the eye of the beholder. You can't even see well. How do you know what a funny look looks like? Third....third....oh, god, you make me so mad sometimes."
She looked at me angrily. "You're just jealous. You know they spent every day of your coma talking and seeing each other? You should be grateful they were here, talking to you, spending time with you, being your friends. They helped bring you out of it, you know. Neither one of them missed a day visiting you. None of the four guys did. And all you can do is accuse them without giving them a chance to defend themselves."
She was getting worked up.
"You can't appreciate that, can you? You can't appreciate that Danny cried and cried. He sobbed on my shoulder and on Greg's and probably on his mom's. He wouldn't cry around Kyle and Richie or your parents because he didn't want to make them feel worse. Jeezuz, Justin, can't you see what you mean to those four guys? Can't you see what you mean to Danny? You're erasing a lifetime here, just like you did last summer, and you won't even let him defend himself. You are dirt, Justin. Dirt." She looked a the door again.
"Well then where the hell is he?" I asked. "Let him defend himself. Let him talk to me. Only he ain't here. Others have found the time to be here. Becky, you heard him yesterday. He lied to me as he left. He didn't hug me. He left me. Cold."
"Did he say anything before that?"
"Yeah, he said he loved me and always would."
"Oh, hell, Becky. It was a blow-off speech. "I'll always love you, but I've found another, so goodbye.'"
"He said that?"
"He didn't have to."
"Well, until he does, take back everything you've said about him."
"Nope. He's chosen to drop me, to leave me and to lie to me."
Becky softened a little. "Justin, I don't know why he hasn't come today. Maybe he just doesn't want to cry around you, because I'm sure after all this he's so emotional, he's afraid he'll break down, and he doesn't want you to see that."
I didn't answer.
The door opened, and mom and dad came in. Then the afternoon stream of visitors started. Classmates. Man, I couldn't believe how many people came. Some had flowers, everyone had cards, to add to the ones that had been sent while I was in the coma. I was friendly to everyone. In fact, they took my mind off things. Becky stayed around helping mom and staying by my side in case I needed anything. Actually, what I needed was sleep. Dad sensed it and started diplomatically shooing everyone out the door. He said he and mom would be back soon, that I should sleep. But I asked Becky if she could stay a while.
"Sure, Justin," she said.
"Will you hold me while I go to sleep?"
"Yes, I will." She climbed into the bed next to me, and I was almost immediately asleep.
About two hours later, I woke up. The room was dark, but a pool of light from my bedside lamp splashed on Becky, who was sitting in a chair reading a magazine. I stretched, and she looked up and smiled at me.
"Did you have a nice nap?"
"Yeah. I needed that. Thanks."
"You look better. You were looking kind of rough."
"All those people wore me out. They all wanted to talk to me, and I sort of felt like I had to. After all, they were in my corner during all that . . . stuff.
"Hey, where are the guys?" I asked. "They said they'd be back."
"I think they went to run an errand," she answered, glancing at the door. "Do you need anything?"
"A drink of water, and something for my headache"
She poured out some water from the Styrofoam flask by the bed, then called for a nurse. When I explained what the problem was she left and came back with some medicine to take. She also took my blood pressure, temperature and other "vitals." After she left, Becky said again, "Anything else you need?"
"Just one thing. I need Danny."
She looked at the door.
"I guess I can't . . . "
There was a commotion just outside my door. We both looked toward it. There was some whispered shouts - you know what I mean - and I could hear scuffling. Suddenly, the door burst open, and there were Kyle and Richie dragging Danny into the room. He was resisting, trying to tear away from their grip. Becky stood up and moved toward the door. When she had left, Richie and Kyle threw Danny as far into the room as they could, ran out the door and closed it. He looked at the door, but knew if he tried to open it they'd be outside holding it closed. I knew it too. We'd all grown up together, after all.
He looked at the door, then the floor. Then his gaze slowly turned to me. Danny and I were alone in the room. Tears were rolling down his cheeks.
"Talk to him," came the muffled voice of Richie through the door.
Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily.* Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.
[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]
* Some browsers may require a right click instead