Chapters 11 - 15
Copyright © 2009 by the author under the pseudonym Gee Whillickers. All rights reserved.
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** 11 **
Ray awoke to see paramedics bustling around him with their equipment. His armed burned slightly and he could feel tape pulling his skin. He looked over to see an IV in his arm. There was an oxygen mask over his face. One of the paramedics appeared to be discussing him on the radio with the hospital.
"Yes Doctor, he's stable. Oxygen levels, BP, and heart rate are normal. What are your instructions?"
The paramedic listened for a moment, then resumed his half of the conversation. "Right. Will do. Thank you Dr. Mills."
The paramedic looked in Ray's direction and appeared to notice he was awake and listening. He approached Ray and smiled. "Hello Ray."
He removed Ray's IV, cleaned the area, and put a small bandage on his arm where it had been inserted. The other paramedic was busy packing up some gear.
"Your doctor seems to think you will do better at home for now. We will be leaving you with this oxygen tank and mask. You are not to exert yourself this evening. Stay in, get some rest, and try to recover. It sounds like you're going to need it." With that the paramedics grabbed the last of the gear and with some final instructions to Ray's parents they left.
Ray sat up and removed the oxygen mask. He saw his Aunt Kate sitting across the room looking at him with her arms crossed. His parents were busy occupying Kimberley with a card game.
"Uh, thanks again Auntie," Ray said. "I was kinda lost there."
"I think you might have some explaining to do Ray. Just how in the world did you get yourself in this predicament?" Despite the words Kate was smiling slightly to soften the accusation.
Ray opened his mouth to respond and realized he had no idea where to start. He was tired. He was angry. He was embarrassed. He was scared. It was just all too much for one anxious eleven year old boy to deal with. He just closed his mouth again and looked at his Aunt with a lost expression on his face.
This time, his dad came to his rescue. Craig put his cards down and turned to Kate. "Kate, it's kind of complicated, and we've all been through a lot. Come into the kitchen and I'll put on a pot of coffee and fill you in." He turned to Ray. "Ray, I know this isn't something you want me talking about. But I don't see that we have much choice here if your Aunt is going to be able to keep helping. I think we may need her."
Ray just nodded glumly in response and watched as his dad and Aunt Katie moved into the kitchen.
He felt numb. This was too much. He didn't know what to do with all of these feelings. He desperately wanted to talk to someone about everything. He just didn't know what to do! He wanted to curl up in some nice warm safe hole somewhere and sleep for the next year or so. Ray had to figure out who he could talk to about some of this stuff. Mom was out for obvious reasons, despite her seeming turnaround of sorts tonight. Dad seemed to be having his own problems managing all of this. Dr. Mills, well, he just didn't have that kind of relationship with him. Ray thought of Dennis, but as supportive as he was he really felt he needed someone with more experience and maturity right now.
A thought occurred to him. He made a decision and jumped up before he could change his mind. "Mom, I'm just running to the park for a few minutes!" he yelled over his shoulder as he crashed out of the front door and jumped on his bike for the short ride. He was gone before his mom could turn around and forbid him to go.
Ray rode as fast as his weakened body would allow. It wasn't nearly fast enough, and he had to stop every block to catch his breath. Still, he made it to the park in 15 minutes. He dropped his bike near the picnic table where he sat on Monday and walked quickly up to the clump of bushes where he had talked with Patrick. Kneeling down he began pushing branches up and over to the side, searching for the information he needed. He didn't have the benefit of Patrick's retractable stick and so his arms were getting scratched up by the brambles as he frantically searched. It was getting dark, making the search even more difficult. He spied the plastic box finally and pulled it out and open. Quickly, he grabbed the notebook and rifled through the pages. Ray located Monday's date and breathed a sigh of relief. Only one entry on that day. He tore out the page with the entry from the notebook and stuffed it in his pocket. Shoving the container back where he found it he half walked, half ran back to his bike and began the ride home.
He had no idea if this would work, but he had to try.
Once Ray arrived home he braced himself for what he knew would be his parents' reaction at him leaving after the night's events, after his fainting spell.
"Raymond Thomas Huntley!" his mother exclaimed angrily. "Just what did you think you were doing leaving like that! And after everything we've been through tonight!? We've been worried sick! You head up to your room right now young man. We will talk about this later!"
Just the reaction he expected and hoped for. Ray climbed the stairs and entered his room, closing the door behind him and hitting the power button on his computer, waiting impatiently for it to boot.
Ray sat down on his desk chair and closed his eyes while he waited. His thoughts tumbled over each other in his head. Tears began falling steadily down his face and onto his shirt.
Opening his eyes Ray noticed the computer had finally finished booting. He opened a web browser and googled the site he was looking for. Ray scanned the web page his results brought up, carefully searching the page for the link he needed.
Finding it, he clicked on the link labeled "Search Usernames" and pulled out the piece of paper from his pocket. The scribble Patrick had left under the date was difficult to make out. He made his best guess and entered it in the search field on the computer. No results. Ray looked down at the paper and made a second guess. Still no results. His third guess did get a result and he began to get excited. Clicking on the username brought up a page with the writing in German and a picture of a family that definitely didn't include Patrick. He angrily clicked the "back" button and looked at the paper again. He tried again, guessing what he thought was an "e" was really an "o". People should choose easier usernames on web sites, Ray thought as he clicked the enter button and waited. A result popped up and he clicked on it with baited breath.
The web page that opened up listed some sparse information about the user. He scanned through it and tried to figure out if he made the right guess, if this was Patrick's username on the web site. Most of it was blank unfortunately, aside from the Join Date, which was roughly two years ago, and the Location field. This wasn't any help at all though, as he read "Andromeda Galaxy" written in this field. He noticed a link labeled "Gallery of Pictures" and clicked on that. Another page opened up with thumbnails of photos. Ray scanned these quickly. Most of them appeared to be landscapes and pictures of more caches. He noticed one near the bottom of the page that looked hopeful, and clicked on it. The larger picture popped up and Ray leaned back in his chair and exhaled noisily. It was a photo of Patrick holding his GPS receiver up so it was visible in the picture, standing in front of a very large canyon, the lopsided smile Ray found so enticing beaming out of the computer monitor. A plaque of some kind also appeared in the picture behind Patrick. It appeared Patrick took the photo of himself with the camera held at arm's length. Ray guessed this was some kind of requirement for the GPS game Patrick had introduced him to.
Ray had found him.
Ray scanned the rest of Patrick's user information frantically before spying what he wanted. A link labeled "Email this User." Ray clicked on it and then sat staring at his computer with the cursor blinking steadily on the subject field of an empty email.
Now that he was at this stage Ray hesitated. He didn't know what to say. Slowly he reached forward and filled in the subject line. "Dying Boy" was all he wrote in it.
In the body of the letter, he wrote, "Hi Patrick. It's Ray. You probably don't remember me but we met the other day at a park. You called me Dying Boy, remember?
"Contact me please. It's important. Please," was all he wrote. He followed that at the bottom with his email address and Instant Messaging information. His hand hovered over the mouse button for a moment and then he clicked "Send." It was done.
Ray closed the open windows on his computer and then started his Instant Messaging software and logged in. Making sure his status was set to available he sat back in his chair and suddenly felt at a loss. There's was nothing more he could do right now. Getting up, Ray moved across his room to his bed and lay down on top of the covers, still dressed, and stared up at the ceiling, watching the completed models of several decades of military aircraft hanging on their strings slowly moving back and forth.
Ray awoke groggily to a dark room. He realized someone had laid a blanket over him and turned off his light. He then realized he had been awakened by the sound of an incoming message on his computer. The monitor was off, but fortunately the computer and speakers were still on. He glanced at his clock. Ten PM. Wide awake now he stood up and then more slowly moved towards his computer and turned on the monitor. He looked at the IM window that had popped up. It was Dennis.
"Hey Ray, just wanted to wish you luck for tomorrow. Call me after your treatment session," Ray read.
Treatment session. So much had changed in a short period of time it took him a moment to put it all together. He answered. "Hey Dennis. Things have changed a bit. I don't start tomorrow anymore. It's all a mess."
"What do you mean a mess? Why don't you start tomorrow? What's happened?" replied Dennis.
Ray explained the day's events, downplaying significantly the pain issue. He also filled in Dennis on Detective Stimson's visit.
"First of all," Dennis replied, "You're full of shit. The only way they'd delay the treatment like that is if the pain was a lot more than you're leading on. It sounds brutal. Second, that Stimson sounds like an ass."
Another IM window popped up as Ray was typing his reply. He froze. It was Patrick. The man from the park. He quickly erased what he had been typing to Dennis and typed in instead, "Be right back, a man I met the other day and have been trying to talk to just messaged me. Talk to you later."
"Ooh La La!" responded Dennis, "A man! Do tell!"
"No," said Ray, "It's not like that. I just want to talk to him. I'll talk to you later."
He moved the mouse into the window containing Patrick's message and read what it contained. "Hi Ray, of course I remember you. Nice job tracking me down. What did you need to talk to me about?"
Ray was suddenly at a loss. He had no idea how to start this conversation. He so desperately wanted someone he could talk to about everything that was going through his mind, and now that he had the chance to do so he didn't know what to say.
He decided to just say that. "Hi Patrick. Thanks for answering. Now that I'm talking to you, I don't quite know how to start."
"Well," responded Patrick, "Start at the beginning, and when you get..."
Ray typed at the same time, "...and when you get to the end...stop. Yeah, I read it too. Can you take me out for one of those treasure hunts tomorrow?"
"Take you out? Somehow I have a hard time believing your parents would approve of some guy you met at the park once taking you anywhere. Why me? Anyway, didn't you say you were supposed to start that treatment Friday? That's tomorrow."
"You remembered that? Well, that's kind of why I want to see you. I don't know why, but I need someone to just spill all of this to, and for some reason I thought of you. There's a huge mess going on here right now. I need an outside opinion."
"Look Ray, I'm flattered. But you don't even know me. How do you even know I'm safe? You really shouldn't be meeting up with some adult guy you've talked to on the internet and met once. You should really be talking to your parents or a teacher you trust first."
"That's why I know you're safe. Please Patrick. Just meet me."
Ray waited a full minute for a reply before he finally saw an answer.
"This goes against my better judgment Ray, but ok. If I hadn't already met you I would swear this was some kind of set up by the cops or a TV show. Boys and men don't usually meet in parks after talking on the internet. Not if they're smart anyway. Where and when?"
Ray answered excitedly, "But we didn't meet on the internet. I already met you. The park. Our picnic table. Can you be there at ten in the morning?"
"I suppose. Obviously you don't have any school or appointments tomorrow? You can fill me in when we meet. We'll see you tomorrow."
Ray was excited. "Great! We'll talk to you later! G'night!" and at that he signed off.
** 12 **
Ray waited at the picnic table. He hadn't slept well and he was glad when morning had finally arrived. It hadn't been too hard to get permission to go out. He just told his parents he needed a walk so he could think about his decision. That was true too. He knew his parents would see right through one of his lies. He looked at the clock on the tower in the center of the park. 10:15. Maybe Patrick wasn't going to come. He stared at the ground watching an ant work mightily to scale the underside of a piece of grass. The ant reached the top and uncerimoniously fell off. Ray was miserable.
* * *
On the side street facing the park Patrick sat in his truck looking at Ray sitting at the picnic table. He was carefully looking around for any cops or camera crews hidden nearby. He felt somewhat foolish for doing so. Still, he thought, you can't be too careful. He licked his dry lips, pulled the keys out of the ignition and opened the door. There's no way anyone can know about me, thought Patrick, it's gotta be safe. Besides, something big has to be going on with this kid. He could read it between the lines on his computer last night. He walked towards the table, where Ray sat facing the other way.
"Hey Dying Boy, shouldn't you be in school?" asked Patrick with a grin.
Ray turned around quickly. "Patrick! You came!"
Patrick came around the other side and sat down beside Ray, turning towards him one leg propped up on the bench. "Ok, my curiosity has arisen. You got me here." He looked around theatrically. "I don't see any camera crews, so I guess it's safe." He smiled. "What's going on?"
Ray appeared to think for a moment. "There are things worse than death, aren't there Patrick?" he asked, looking gravely at him.
Patrick stared back at him. "My, you really don't believe in starting off conversations with people you barely know with small talk, do you?" he asked, biding for time to figure out an answer. He answered slowly, "Most people who have been through a lot think that's probably true, yes. Obviously you're asking for a reason. I'm here. I'm listening. Tell me your story."
Ray breathed in and out twice slowly and started in. "I have to decide. Die or be tortured."
"What?! What are talking about...." Patrick stopped himself. No, that wouldn't work. He started again. "Ok, obviously someone has given you a tough choice. Something about your treatment. Something about your diagnosis. And there's more too, I can see it in your eyes. You have no idea what to do." He waited quietly, looking at Ray steadily with a kind smile on his lips.
"Maybe you really are Mr. Psychic." answered Ray, looking back. Ray took a deep breath and Patrick listened carefully as Ray explained about his medical treatment and the pain it would cause to Patrick. Then he hesitated and began again.
"You're right, there's more. This is harder."
"Harder than what you've already said?" asked Patrick wonderingly.
"Well, yeah. It's about sex," answered Ray bravely.
"Ok, I take that back. I can see how that's harder. Go ahead, I'm still listening."
"The cops and children's services think I'm being abused. They won't leave me alone. They keep asking me embarrassing stuff and trying to get me to say things that aren't true."
Patrick thought hard before answering. He wondered if this was how a mouse felt trying to navigate through a room covered in mousetraps. He was sure now that he was not the person Ray should be talking to. If Ray knew his feelings about sex. About boys. Feelings he was working so hard to suppress. Well, he would run screaming, not be asking his opinion.
"You, Ray, are a complicated boy," Patrick said, stalling for time.
"Are you?" Patrick tried. "Are you being abused?"
For some reason Patrick couldn't figure out, Ray smiled for just a few seconds before answering. "No. No I'm definitely not being abused. I don't know any adults that would want to have sex with me."
Patrick suppressed a smile. If he only knew, he thought. However he did notice the odd wording and inflection in the way Ray answered.
"So," he answered, "I'm guessing this didn't just happen out of the blue. Something happened. That's why they're asking the questions. Feel like telling me?"
"I was stupid. I said something dumb. At the hospital. About sex, and adults. Guys I mean. To my doctor and my dad. Dad told Mom. Mom freaked and went to children's services. Now mom has been acting all weird and I've got some hard ass cop trying to make me scared of him."
"Ok, hang on a minute." Patrick rubbed a hand across his face while he thought to himself. How the hell did he get himself involved in this? This kid, this dying kid, this incredibly likable, cute, smart, dying kid with gorgeous blue eyes is asking for advice about sex abuse and life or death and pain and torture to a guy who would like nothing more than to take him home and boff him silly given half a chance, and a guy who thinks paper cuts are too much suffering to handle without an aspirin. Great. Just great.
"Maybe fill me in more. There's stuff here you haven't told me. Tell me about children's services, and the police, and your mom. Tell me what you said to the doctor and your dad."
Patrick listened silently while Ray explained the events leading up to Detective Stimson's visit. Patrick couldn't help but notice that Ray seemed to be leaving out the most important detail of all. How this all started. What he said or did to start this chain of events.
"Stimson is a bully," answered Patrick. "Your Aunt dealt with him correctly. Bullies only respect power and force. He needs to be kept an eye on. He's already decided somebody is doing something to you, and he's not likely to change his mind. Theresa, on the other hand, sounds different. She probably genuinely wants to help. But she's been misled. Taught some odd things about people. She probably believes kids your age never ever want anything to do with sex, and what they do know about sex just grosses them out and nothing more. She probably would never even believe kids your age can fool around with each other and like it."
Raymond blushed hard and looked down at the grass.
Patrick grinned at him, and said, "Ok, my psychic powers are telling me more than I need to know here. Don't worry about it. Believe me, I was your age too. I was there. And it was fun."
Patrick shifted and looked at the clock. "Listen Ray. I think we have a lot more to talk about. I'm still willing to listen if you're willing to talk. We haven't really touched at all on the more important subject here. Your treatment. Unlike Stimson, I believe that is by far the more important issue at hand here right now. Let's go have lunch. My treat. If you're willing. You just need to phone home first so your parents know where you are. That is, if you haven't had enough of this old fart telling you his outdated opinions. Besides," he looked hard at Ray, "you still haven't told me how this started, what you said to your dad and the doctor."
* * *
Ray liked Patrick. More now than ever. His smile, sure, but he listened well. He wasn't judging him. He seemed to want to understand. He wasn't telling Ray what to do, just asking questions that forced him to think about things. He couldn't help it, he didn't want to help it. He just wanted to get closer.
Ray borrowed Patrick's cell phone and called his dad. He told him he was going to grab some lunch with a friend he met up with at the park. Fortunately, all of this was true. He was a lousy liar, even over the phone. Also fortunately, his parents were used to giving him a fair bit of freedom, despite his age. His explorations had often taken him to libraries or museums or cultural displays for almost a full day. Despite this, Ray was glad his dad answered the phone. He was sure his mom would have told him to come straight home. His dad still seemed too preoccupied with his feelings and worries about Ray's treatment to set any real limits on Ray. He handed the phone back after the call and he nodded that he was allowed to go. Ray stood up when Patrick did and started walking with him towards a small diner through the park and across the street.
He knew he needed to take a chance. Despite it blowing up the first time. He decided to take the risk.
Ray turned his head towards Patrick as they walked and asked, "Have you heard of the Dreams Come True Foundation?"
** 13 **
Patrick and Ray sat in a small booth at the diner. The diner was set up as a faux 50's style drive-in. Red and white vinyl seats, stools at a counter. An old juke box near the door. Red formica tables with silver trim around the edge. Ray had finished eating, and was idly stirring a pool of ketchup with a french fry while talking. He had done it. He had told Patrick he liked guys. Adult guys. So far, it hadn't blown up. So far. In fact, Patrick seemed to be as supportive as before. They had talked and talked, telling each other more about themselves. Patrick kept trying to change the subject though, to steer the conversation to his treatment. Ray knew he was avoiding it. And he knew why. He was scared. Petrified in fact.
"Ray," Patrick was saying, "you're avoiding. You're scared. Of course you're scared. You'd have to be stupid not to be, and you are most definitely not stupid." Patrick sucked the last of his drink out of the bottom of his cup through the straw and dropped some money on the table before looking at Ray carefully. "You talked about your choice. Die or suffer. You didn't tell me what your parents want you to do, or your doctor, or your friends. Why not?"
Ray thought about the question as they stood up and began walking back towards the park. Towards the picnic table Ray now thought of as their picnic table. "The only friend who knows is Dennis." Ray smiled as he thought of his friend. More than friend. "He won't tell me what to do. But I know what he's thinking. He lov.... Umm, he really likes me," he finished, blushing yet again. "My parents, well, I'm not sure. They are trying very hard to not cloud my opinion. I know them. They think if they tell me too much about what they want it'll influence my thinking and impede my independent thought." He said this in a tone that was obviously right out of his father's mouth.
"In my experience," said Patrick slowly, "when people spend a lot of time trying to make a hard decision, and go back and forth asking people's opinions, they've really already made the choice. People usually make decisions almost immediately. Then they spend the next few hours or days trying to find evidence or rationalizations to back up what they have already decided. Even if they won't admit to themselves that they've decided.
"You, Raymond, have already decided what to do. I'll bet you a slushee on it. I haven't known you for long, but I think I know enough. And you've said enough. Are you brave enough to tell me what you plan to do?"
They sat down at their picnic table, on the same bench beside each other. A gentle breeze played with Ray's hair. A sprinkler in the distance gently scolded them by tsk'ing to itself repeatedly. Ray spent an inordinate amount of time examining his fingers in his lap before slowly looking back up at Patrick.
Tears poured out of Ray's eyes. "I want to live," he said with a wail as he fell into Patrick and hugged him close.
** 14 **
Patrick pulled his arms around the boy and hugged him close, saying nothing, just moving his hands across Ray's back, rubbing slowly. His scent was intoxicating. His body warm and comfortable. Patrick, despite himself, found himself becoming aroused. He was angry at himself for thinking that way. That was the last thing this boy needed right now, no matter what Ray had told him in the diner. He just hugged and waited, tears slowly falling from his own eyes now as he thought about the boy's predicament.
Patrick knew he was now involved. Whether he wanted to be or not. Despite the problems and likely consequences. He couldn't help but think of a line from a favorite song. "Life is just what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." How appropriate, he thought, as he remembered the song it came from. He began mentally rearranging his schedule for the next few weeks.
Once Ray's crying had subsided Patrick said, quietly, into Ray's ear, "Then let's find a way to get you through this."
His comment provoked a further crying bout from Ray, this time more of relief, it seemed to Patrick, that he was supporting him.
Ray's crying slowly stopped and he pulled away, looking carefully at Patrick's face with tears staining his cheeks, saying nothing for a moment. Then he suddenly leaned forward and surprised both of them.
He kissed Patrick hard on the lips.
Pulling back quickly, Ray looked shocked at what he had done. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry! I didn't mean to do that. I'm stupid. I don't know why I did that," he finished sadly, crying all over again.
Patrick just pulled him close again, quickly looked around and then gently and fleetingly kissed Ray on the lips again before pulling him back into a hug.
** 15 **
Ray sat in the passenger seat of Patrick's truck an hour later and smiled to himself. He felt different somehow. He thought for a moment and then realized what it was. He was still scared, still worried, but his old confidence was seeping back. His bravado. It was kind of like now that he had decided what he was going to do it was just a matter of getting on with it, and dealing with everything the best he could as it came. Speaking of getting on with it.... He turned and smirked at Patrick. "So, where are you taking me? Do we have to stop at the drugstore for any supplies first?"
Ray had made his comment at exactly the unfortunate moment that Patrick was taking a sip of water from his water bottle. He coughed and choked for a moment before looking over at Ray.
"I'm taking you home you little scamp. It's getting late. What, are you trying to seduce me? Now, what's your address."
"Yes," is all Ray answered.
"Your address is 'yes'?" smiled Patrick.
"No. Yes I'm trying to seduce you. So sue me," he answered back cockily.
Patrick looked back smiling. "Who are you and what have you done with the sad, scared boy I met with earlier? Now. Your address. Give."
They pulled up near Ray's house and Patrick stopped the truck and turned off the engine. "Ray, I don't know how you want to handle this. I made you a promise, and I am going to keep it. I will be there to support you through this. But your parents, your doctor, hell, half the city seems to know about your Dream. One look at me and your mom is going to fire up the chainsaw. Even if we haven't done anything," said Patrick.
"Yet," answered Ray. Then, seeing Patrick's look he continued quickly, "I don't know what I'll tell them right now. Look, I'll call you tomorrow, and I'll tell you what happened. First, I need to tell my parents that I've decided to go ahead with the treatment." He looked down at the business card Patrick had given him and read "Patrick Duncan" in large embossed letters followed by some phone numbers, fax numbers and business information.
Ray moved across and put his arms around Patrick. "Thank you Patrick," is all he said, all he needed to say. His lips met Patrick's, this time for a much longer and wetter kiss. Ray opened the door, climbed out of the truck, and walked up to his house with a much lighter step than the one he had when he left home.
* * *
Detective Stimson watched Patrick smile as he waited for Ray to go inside. Patrick started his truck and pulled away down the street, chuckling to himself. Detective Stimson smiled in satisfaction as Patrick appeared not to notice the unmarked cruiser with him sitting inside. Stimson began punching Patrick's license plate number into his computer.