“Would you stand still?” Troy’s father was becoming frustrated as he attempted to shave his son. “You’re going home tomorrow, and we’ve got to get his mess off your face.”
“You’re going to cut me, Dad!” He took a step back and ran his hand through the shaving cream on his face.
“For God Sakes,” replied his father, “It’s a Bic. I’m not going to cut you.”
Troy sought his father’s hand. “Let me do it.”
“That’s ridiculous, Troy,” he replied as he held the shaver from Troy’s reach. “You can’t even see what you’re doing.” As soon as the words left his mouth, he regretted them.
Troy reached for a towel and wiped the shaving cream from his face. He then turned and felt his way from the room. He made his way across the room and got in bed. He then turned his back away and pulled the sheet over his head.
Mr. Neal walked over and rubbed Troy’s back. “I’m sorry, Son,” he said apologetically.
“It’s okay, Dad.” Troy’s voice was full of emotion. “I guess I’ll get used to it someday.”
“You want to go back in and try again?”
“No, Dad,” replied Troy as he pulled the covers tighter over his head. “I’m kind of tired. I’d just like to be left alone.”
“All right, Son.” He gently rubbed Troy’s back. “I’ll be back later this evening,” he sighed.
He looked down sadly at Troy’s curled body. He knew he was being too protective of his son, but his father’s instincts made it difficult not to try and make Troy’s life easier. Adjusting to the changes in their lives was difficult on everyone, but he realized that what he was feeling was only a fraction of what his son must be experiencing.
“I love you, Troy,” he muttered softly as he turned away from the bed.
“Dad?” He stopped when Troy sat up in bed.
“I love you too, okay?” Troy knew that his family was trying to do what was best for him. He had been working with therapists, and they were beginning to make him realize that he shouldn’t take his anger and frustration out on those who loved him. As hard as it was for him to accept, he knew he’d never be able to see again. His world had changed dramatically. Now, he had to adjust.
He listened as the door closed, then he started to cry.
“Why me?” That was the question that had been plaguing him since he had become aware of his injuries. His life had been set on a course prior to the assault. He and Claire had talked for hours about their futures. They were going to graduate high school and then attend college. They had both applied to a state university two hundred miles away. Will had even applied, and they requested to be roommates their freshman year.
And where was Will?
Not once had anyone mentioned his name. He had asked that no one come to his room to visit him, but he still thought that Will might ignore his request. Claire and Allison had. They visited him everyday. Even though he appeared irritated, deep inside he was glad that they did show up. He enjoyed the sound of their voices and found comfort when they would include him in their conversations. In some ways, it took away the darkness that constantly surrounded him.
He knew that his life would never be the same. There would be no graduation. There would be no college, and there would be no Will. He knew his dreams had been shattered along with his body.
He feared the future and cursed the past. His life had been filled with joy and friendship. He was popular at school, and he was an excellent student. He had his path planned out. It appeared to be bright and clear. And now, darkness and uncertainty. Where there was once hope was now replaced with despair. He was afraid of the darkness; not the one that surrounded him constantly, but the dark future he was doomed to face.
He thought again of Will. He had planned to make love to him on graduation night. He had been holding back, waiting with anticipation to the time their bodies would meld into one. He was going to make it a night that he would remember for the rest of his life. Now it would be no more.
His life now would be spent in darkened solitude. Who could possibly want someone who would only be a burden to them for the rest of their life? Who would have the patience to endure a life with someone who was sightless? He was young, but now he felt so old. His life was over before it had even had a chance to begin.
And the tears rolled like a steady stream down his face.
“Are you really sure about this?” Allison handed Claire another balloon to blow up. It was Friday afternoon, and they had been decorating the Neal’s dining room for a small gathering when Troy returned home the next day.
“It’s only a few people,” insisted Claire. Allison laughed when her face reddened as she attempted to blow up the yellow balloon.
“A few people!” Allison shook her head. “You’ve practically invited our entire senior class.”
“I couldn’t help it,” remarked Claire innocently. “When I invited Sam and Jennifer, everyone else found out and asked to come.”
“Sam and Jennifer live across the street,” replied Allison. “They’ve known Troy since you guys were in diapers. He probably wouldn’t mind them being here.” She grabbed the list of invited guests from Claire’s hand. “Thirty four people!”
“Well...” Claire responded sheepishly. “I couldn’t tell anyone no.”
Just then Mrs. Neal walked into the dining room. “Couldn’t tell who no?”
Allison stood up and stared down at her girlfriend. “Claire has invited thirty four people to be here tomorrow when Troy arrives home.”
Troy’s mother looked thoughtfully around the room. “Oh, Dear,” she quipped. “I’d better call the caterer and order more food.”
Allison slammed the list down on the table. “Troy isn’t going to like this,” she insisted. “He didn’t want anyone visiting him at the hospital.” She turned to Claire. “What makes you think he’s going to want people to be here tomorrow?”
“If they are his friends,” replied Mrs. Neal, “then they’ll understand. They certainly understand what he’s been through.”
“They may understand,” responded Allison, “but will Troy? I really don’t think he’s ready to be around people again.”
“But his doctor said he should start socializing more,” insisted his mother. She reached over and grabbed Claire’s hand. “It won’t do him any harm to be around his old friends.” Claire looked over and nodded.
“I still think this is a big mistake,” remarked Allison. “Troy has to start meeting people on his terms. You can’t force him into being like he was before. He’s no longer the Troy we used to know.” Claire went over and sat down at the table. She looked worriedly at Allison.
“Maybe I did get a little too excited,” she admitted. “I really thought it might help to know that people still cared about him.”
Allison kissed her on her forehead. “He knows that,” she said. “Just give him a little time to adjust.”
“So I shouldn’t call the caterer?” Mrs. Neal was buzzing around the room straightening things out.
“Perhaps not,” said Claire. She looked over at Allison. “I’m going to start calling around and see if I can persuade people not to come tomorrow.”
“Good move,” smiled Allison. She grabbed Claire’s hand and pulled her up. “I’ll help you.” They left the room as Mrs. Neal positioned the balloons in the center of the table.
Troy’s room was dark when Jayden entered. It was the first time in several days that the drapes had been pulled. Claire had dropped him off and said she’d return a little later after picking up Allison.
“Don’t say it,” she warned as he got out of the car.
“Say what?” he joked. “I wasn’t going to say anything about quality time.” He laughed when she flipped him off and drove away.
“Troy?” He walked cautiously over to the side of the bed. Troy was lying with the sheet pulled tightly over his head.
“Leave me alone, Jayden,” Troy begged softly. He curled himself into a tighter ball.
“Are you all right?” When he reached out and tried to pull the sheet away, Troy gripped it tighter.
“Sit up and tell me what’s wrong,” he pleaded worriedly.
“No.” Troy whined like a little child under the sheet.
He tried again to remove the sheet. “Come on, Troy. Tell me what’s wrong.”
“No,” he whined again. “You’ll laugh at me like you did yesterday.”
“Well, you have to admit,” he insisted, “you did kind of take me by surprise. I wasn’t expecting you to show me your dick.”
“Shut up,” Troy replied, but Jayden could sense the amusement. He once again tugged at the sheet. This time Troy released it. Jayden stepped back and howled with laughter.
“See,” he pouted. “I knew you’d laugh.”
Jayden looked down again and started laughing louder. “Who messed your face up?” He laughed again when he looked at Troy’s half shaven face.
“Dad was here earlier,” he explained, “but we got into a fight, so I had him stop.”
“Oh, Man,” laughed Jayden. “You should have let him finish.” Troy touched his face and felt where his beard was unshaven.
“Maybe I’m starting a new style,” he quipped. Jayden grabbed his hand and pulled him to the side of the bed.
“Maybe you’re not,” he laughed. “You’re going home tomorrow. You can’t be looking like this.” He grabbed Troy’s waist and helped him stand. He stood back and watched as Troy crossed the room and entered the restroom. He was doing it almost effortlessly.
He followed Troy into the restroom. The shaving cream and razor were still sitting on the counter. He turned Troy towards him. “Now stand still,” he said. “I don’t have much of a beard, so I really don’t know how to do this.”
Troy asked, “Can I feel it?”
“Your face,” he replied. “You know what I look like, but I don’t know what you look like.”
“Sure,” replied Jayden. “I guess.”
Troy raised his hands and placed them on the side of his face. Jayden’s skin felt smooth. He then ran his hand across his chin. “You were right,” he said. “You don’t have much of a beard.” He then ran his hands over Jayden’s lips and then his upper lip. “You have a small mustache?”
“Yeah,” Jayden said. “That’s about the only hair I have on my face.” He closed his eyes when Troy ran his hand over his nose and then over his eyes.
“You’re thin like me, aren’t you?”
“I suppose,” Jayden responded.
Troy cupped his hands around the side of his face. “You have a thin face.” He then ran his hands over Jayden’s head.
“You’re hair is soft,” he said as he ran his hands over Jayden’s head. “It’s cut short, too.”
“I have my mother’s hair,” Jayden responded with sadness in his voice.
“Sorry,” Troy apologized.
Jayden turned and grabbed the can of shaving cream. “It’s all right,” he said. He poured some on his hand, and then turned towards Troy. “Let’s lather your face so I can shave you.”
“Maybe I should wait for Dad,” Troy said worriedly. “This may not be a good idea.”
“I have this crap all over my hand now,” Jayden laughed. “Stand still.” He applied the creamy lather to the portion of Troy’s unshaven face. He then picked up the Bic and placed it to his face.
“Don’t cut me,” Troy pleaded. “That’s why I had Dad stop.”
“I have an idea,” Jayden said. “Turn around and face the mirror.” He put the razor in Troy’s hand and then stepped behind him. He reached down, held Troy’s hand and brought it to his face.
“Go carefully,” he warned as Troy positioned the razor on his face and removed the hair from the side. “Good,” he said as they did it again. He moved closer and pressed his body against Troy’s.
Troy stopped briefly before letting Jayden continue to guide his hand. He began to tremble feeling the nearness of Jayden’s body against his.
“You all right?” Jayden cupped his hand tighter around Troy’s as they removed more beard from his chin.
“Jayden?” he asked nervously.
“You know I’m gay, don’t you?”
He gasped when Jayden reached his arm around his waist and pulled him tighter. They continued shaving the remainder of Troy’s facial hair. Troy’s cock began to harden when he felt Jayden’s cock pressing into his ass.
He felt for the sink and then took a step to his right. “I’m sorry, but I’m not ready for this.”
“I’m not, either,” Jayden responded.
Troy turned and faced him. “Then why are you doing this?”
“I just want to hold you.”
“I don’t know,” he replied. “I just feel like holding you.”
“Okay.” Troy felt for the sink and positioned himself in front of Jayden. He reached behind him and found his hand. He then had Jayden wrap his arm around him as he took a towel and wiped his face clean of the shaving lather.
Jayden was sitting on the side of the pool kicking his feet in the water. The moon illuminated the quiet, gentle water below. His body had never felt so peaceful. However, his mind wasn’t at peace.
Something happened earlier in Troy’s bathroom. He couldn’t explain the emotion that surged through his body as Troy stood in front of him. At first, he cast it off as just a normal reaction. He hadn’t had sex in a couple of weeks, so the nearness of another body would trigger a reaction.
But it was more than that. He was beginning to feel something he hadn’t experienced since Vince. It began the moment he took Troy’s bloody body into his arms on that deserted street. It was the same thing that kept him going back to the hospital each day. It was the reason he had agreed to stay at the Neal home.
Suddenly, a shadow emerged from behind him. Without looking back, he knew who it was. “It’s nice out tonight,” remarked Penny as she sat down and lowered her feet into the water. They sat in silence for a minute as they continued to gently kick their feet.
Penny was the first to break the silence. She turned and looked at Jayden. “Are you all right? You’re awful quiet.”
“Just thinking,” he said solemnly.
“Anything I can help you with?” She asked. “I’m a pretty good listener.”
“I don’t know,” he sighed. “It’s just things are happening suddenly. I kind of feel like I did two years ago when my mother died.” He turned stared into her face. “I can’t really explain it. It’s like I don’t have control of what’s happening in my life.”
“It’s that bad?” She studied the worried look on his face.
“No,” he said quickly. “It’s not like that. This time it’s like things are, I don’t know, kind of good. It scares me.”
She reached out and took his hand and squeezed it. “I’m glad to hear that.”
He sat quietly for another minute before speaking. “I’m afraid that I may get hurt.”
“Hurt?” Penny looked worriedly at Jayden. “How?”
He looked tearfully at her. “I’m getting too involved here. In your lives, I mean.”
“We are happy you’re here, Jayden.” She squeezed his hand again. “Believe me.”
“That’s not it.” He pulled his hand from hers, got up and walked over and sat in a chaise lounge. Penny waited a minute before getting up and sitting down on the end of the seat.
“I’m not following what you’re trying to say, Jayden?”
He looked off to the side a moment. He wasn’t sure he could explain to her what he was feeling. However, he needed to discuss it with someone to see if he could better understand his feelings.
Finally, he spoke. “It’s Troy.”
“Troy?” She gave him a puzzled look. “What about Troy?” Jayden stood up, walked over to the garden bed, picked a flower and started plucking the petals off. Penny walked up beside him.
“What about Troy?” When Jayden didn’t respond she grabbed his shoulders and turned him so he was facing her.
“Wait a minute,” she said as she looked into Jayden’s eyes. “You said you’re afraid of getting hurt.” She studied his face closely. “You’re falling in love with him, aren’t you?”
Tears appeared in Jayden’s eyes as he stepped away. She watched as he walked back over to the pool, sat on the edge and dropped his feet into the water.
She walked over, sat down beside him and reached for his hand. “There’s nothing wrong with being in love with someone.”
“I know,” he sighed. “I’m just afraid he may not feel the same way. What if I’m not what he wants?” He looked over sadly at her. “ Besides, he already has a boyfriend.”
She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. “You really are a very special person, Jayden.”
Jayden gave her a puzzled look. “Why?”
She started laughing. “You’re acting like a typical teenager who is having his first crush.”
“It’s not supposed to be funny.”
Penny could tell by the harshness in his voice that she had insulted him. “No,” she insisted. “I’m not making fun of you.”
“Then what is so funny?”
She squeezed his hand tightly. “Because not once have you mentioned Troy’s physical problems. You’re talking like he’s a normal person.”
Jayden pulled his hand away and replied, “He is a normal person.” He started to get up, but Penny stopped him.
“That’s what I mean, Jayden.” She again kissed him on his cheek. “You’re the only one who sees that.” Tears welled up in her eyes. “I think Troy’s a very lucky boy.”
Claire and Penny were sitting in Troy’s room. His parents had left minutes earlier and they were getting ready to leave.
“Claire?” Troy sat up and turned his head toward the direction of the chair.
“What?” She got up and walked over to the side of the bed. Troy had been in a good mood since their arrival. He seemed excited about returning home.
“I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but could I speak to Allison alone for a minute?” Claire looked back at Allison who merely shrugged her shoulders.
“What can you say to her that you can’t say to me?” She seemed to be hurt by his request. She felt that after all the times they had shared together, that she was his closest confidant.
“Never mind,” he responded. He turned his head away from her.
“All right.” She leaned in and kissed him on his cheek. “Just remember, she’s MY girlfriend.” She giggled and kissed Allison. “I’ll be downstairs in the lobby.” Troy waited until he heard the door close.
“Allison?” She gripped his hand and sat down beside him.
“What is it, Troy?” She was puzzled why he wanted to talk to her and not Claire.
“Can I ask you something?”
“Of course,” she replied. “What is it?”
“What is Jayden like?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean,” he said shyly, “I know what he’s like when he’s here, but what’s he like when he’s not. What’s he like at school?”
Allison started to smile. She understood why Troy had asked Claire to leave. If he had asked her questions like these, she would immediately have started playing the role of matchmaker.
“Is there a reason for you asking?” She wanted to tease him a little. She was enjoying seeing the old Troy beginning to emerge.
“No,” he insisted. “I was just wondering is all.”
“And what?” She giggled when his face began to redden.
“Okay,” he sighed. “I think he likes me.”
His cheerful attitude quickly changed as he pulled his hand away and laid his head back on the pillow. “Nevermind,” he sighed.
He rolled on his side and pulled the sheet over his face. “Who would ever want someone like me,” he muttered to himself.