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?”
“I have to go to the bathroom,” Troy announced softly.
Jayden looked around the room. “Where’s the bedpan?”
“No,” Troy said 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 said 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 thought of going to get 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.”
“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 down 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.”
“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’d really 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 ten 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,” said 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 laid 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 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 in the chairs 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.
“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 again 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.
“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 by 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 the 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 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 he 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.”
“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.