The next several days had everyone involved on pins and needles as Randy's condition kept swinging back and forth. Finally, his vitals stabilized and he was moved to a room in the critical care unit. He had been awake and alert, but was still weakened by the shock to his system. He was unable to move around on his feet for any length of time or distance.
Too weak to get out of bed, Randy became depressed as he lay there most hours of the day. Twice a day he would be taken for short walks by a physical therapist and once a day an occupational therapist would work with him. The walks were short, only about one hundred feet, but it could take almost an hour to complete. The physical therapist would see Randy in the morning at about 9:00 AM and then again in the afternoon about 3:00 PM.
The therapist's name was Judy McLean. She seemed to take a shine to Randy and worked extra diligently with him. Judy was in her late thirties and had three children of her own. One of her sons was Randy's age, but went to Immaculate Heart in Watertown, a Catholic high school, and didn't know Randy. Judy often told Randy he reminded her of Scotty, her son, and perhaps that's why she took such an interest.
Joey's condition seemed to be getting better too. Although the strong round of chemo sessions took their toll on him, he seemed happy as ever when he wasn't nauseous or tired from them. His red cell count was rebounding too, but while the doctors were hopeful for his quick improvement, they remained somewhat pessimistic. After all, he did seem to be breaking some of the odds and there was cause for hope, but the form of Joey's cancer took so many of its victims that the chances for recovery were still slim. Joey never listened as the doctors doled out the statistics and he remained convinced he'd be a miracle.
"Randy, when you get out of here will you still come and visit me?" Joey asked as he sat in his wheel chair beside Randy's bed.
"Wild bulls couldn't keep me away." Randy quipped, winked, and smiled, referring to how he had gotten there in the first place.
"I hope not."
"Joey, could I ask you something?"
"Sure, Randy, anything." Joey wheeled his chair a little closer to the bed.
"It's just...well...it's like...ummm," Randy stammered as he struggled to find the words to express what had been bothering him.
Randy took a deep breath, closed his eyes and felt tears begin to well up. He'd been tormented since he'd regained consciousness about his love for Jim. Nightmares and bad dreams had plagued him on a nightly basis and woken him many times in a cold sweat. Visions of being thrown off a large mountain into a ravine or demons chasing him through the streets haunted him often as he tried to sleep.
He kept his eyes tightly closed and put one of his arms over his face to hide his crying from Joey. His body trembled under the thin white sheet on his hospital bed. Fear and anguish overwhelmed him and ate at him. Randy needed to let it all go; he wanted to scream out. Instead, he lay in the bed, his eyes covered, tears streaming down his cheeks and kept all his troubles bottled up inside.
"What is it Randy? You all right?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. I'll be ok, maybe you should leave," Randy was able to say between sobs.
"Randy, please. You can tell me."
"No, really, it's ok, just go. Go now please, Joey, I need to be alone."
Joey sat silently in his chair, his eyes glued on Randy. He wasn't moving. It hurt him to see Randy crying. He loved him too much to leave him in that state. He dropped his right hand to the wheel of chair and he pushed down on it raising his body so his head would be nearer to Randy's. Then he leaned his face closer to Randy's. He was taken in by the innocence of Randy's expression. Randy's smooth pale skin, his rounded boy cheeks and the wet tears running down them seemed to call out to Joey. It was like Randy had become a magnet and his lips the object of attraction. Joey couldn't seem to control himself as he lowered his face and placed his own lips onto Randy's. He closed his eyes and kissed his friend tenderly, full on the mouth. The sweetness of Randy's lips against his lingered in his mouth as he withdrew from the kiss. The heat of Randy's body clung to him like a glove as he sat himself back down into his wheelchair.
Randy pulled his arm from his eyes; he looked right into Joey's, amazed. He was shocked, but he liked it. As dismayed as he was by Joey's sudden show of affection, he relished the comfort he had felt as his lips were caressed by another boy's. A half smile crossed his lips as his tears subsided. He rolled his body over so he faced Joey and propped himself up on an elbow as he continued to gaze into his friend's eyes.
Joey became instantly frantic. He didn't know what had overcome him and he was scared of what Randy was going to say. His eyes quickly riveted to his lap and he lowered his brow. A tremor of nerves and jitters took hold of his body and he shook uncontrollably. His mind raced with thoughts, but he was speechless, the words stuck in his throat.
"Joey?" Randy finally broke the silence.
"Randy, I'm sorry. I'll leave," Joey said as he quickly turned his chair around and wheeled out of the room.
His arms and hands pushed the large wheels of the chair. He used all his strength to speed down the hallway. Joey didn't notice the doors as he passed them. His mind was a blur. Reeling from the effects of what he'd just done and filled with guilt and fear, he didn't know how he'd gotten safely back to his own room. He pulled back on the brakes, the chair stopped just short of his bed, and he practically jumped out and threw himself under the clinically clean white sheets. Then he pulled the covers over his head and closed his eyes, already trying to think of an explanation.
Still in a daze, Randy looked at the doorway through which Joey had departed. 'Did it mean, could it mean,' he wondered to himself, 'maybe, just maybe, Joey was like him?' Quickly dismissing it as nothing more than the strong concern of a friend, Randy rolled back onto his back and stared at the ceiling.
"Hey, Randy," Jim called out as he walked into the room with Steve in tow.
Randy smiled, happy to see Jim, but a sinking feeling filled his belly because he didn't like Steve and hated to see Jim with him. Wishes to be out of the hospital and working on the farm began to circulate in his head. He couldn't wait to be back with Jim and at his side once again. To him, as long as he was in the hospital, he couldn't be with Jim and he couldn't let Jim know just how much he loved him while he still was.
Randy thought about what Nurse Holmsley had said. It was a few days after he'd regained consciousness and his vitals had stabilized. They had discussed the note he'd scribbled telling her he loved Jim. The nurse seemed non-judgmental as she talked with him and listened as he confessed his love out loud. She even rubbed his forehead, as he told her how much he loved Jim and how long he'd known he was different, it was a show of affection that made Randy feel safe.
Randy remembered the words she'd spoken to him. They rang over and over again in his head. "God made us all different; that's what makes each of special. He wants us to love one another. It's just too bad man thinks he's smarter than our creator."
As he looked at Jim and felt jealous of Steve, he knew what he had to do. He just didn't want to do it with Steve there. He wanted to pick a quiet moment, a moment when he'd be alone with Jim. The more he thought about it, the more it teased at him. Every time Jim came to visit, Steve was always at his side. Randy wasn't going to let on; he would be patient. It was something else the nurse had said to him, "Love knows no bounds, love knows no time; it is endless." He held onto those words and kept them tightly wrapped in his mind.
"How you guys doing?" Randy asked as Jim took a seat near the bed. Steve always stood near the foot.
"Great. Any idea when you'll be coming home?" Jim asked.
"Soon, very soon. I hope you're keeping the barn clean, and taking care of the ladies."
"Of course. Old Number 5 has been calling for you. I think she misses you. Was you sweet on that Jersey?" Jim teased.
"Yeah, that's why Charlie got me, fucking bull was jealous."
"Oh yeah, I've seen your thing and he wasn't jealous. He was mad that such a little thing could excite one of his girls."
"I got your little thing," Randy continued the joking but deep inside wished he really did.
"You guys are sick. You know that don't you? Talking `bout fucking cows and shit," Steve shot out with some disgust in his tone.
"Hey, Steve," Randy said, "you know what the young bull said to the old bull as the two stood high on a ridge over the grazing pasture above a herd of cows?"
"What's that?" Steve asked, only half interested.
"The young bull said, `look at all them nice cows down there, what say we run down and fuck one?' The old bull said, `I got a better idea. How about we walk down and fuck `em all?'" Randy said and burst into laughter.
Jim laughed too, but Steve was even more disappointed.
"Hey, Jim, I'm gonna run to the cafe and grab a drink. You want anything?" Steve said, intentionally ignoring Randy.
Randy felt the sting of the insult but ignored it.
"Yeah, bring me back a coke, and Randy likes root beer."
Randy shot Steve a look, then smiled. Steve just turned and walked away.
Jim watched Steve as he walked out the door. His brown eyes followed Steve's ass, and Randy noticed how Jim kept his eyes locked on it. Jim looked up and saw Randy staring at him with a confused look on his face. The time had come, Jim figured, the time to explain how things were between himself and Steve. He was going to wait until Randy was home, and had practiced several times in front of his bedroom mirror what he'd say. But when he saw the look on Randy's face, the private moment had presented itself and he knew there was no time like the present.
"Randy, I have something I need to talk to you about," Jim started.
"Ok, cool `cause I have something to tell you too."
"Do you mind if I go first? It's real important, and I really think I have something to explain." Jim paused and waited for Randy's response.
"No, go ahead, it's ok, I just wanted to have a few minutes with you privately when you get a chance. So if Steve comes back, can you ask him to leave?"
"Well that's kind of what I need to talk about, Randy, Steve and I. You see I really like him, and he really likes me. It's more than friends, Randy. We're in love with each other. Please try to understand, I don't know why, or how, I just know we are. I hope you and I can still be friends and you won't hate us. And please, Randy, this is really confidential. I know I can trust you to keep our secret." The words came out so fast, Jim didn't even take a breath.
Randy felt his heart as it sank in his chest, the wind knocked right out of him. His eyes held wide open as he stared at Jim. What had happened? Where did this come from? He'd known Jim for three years, loved him for almost the entire time, and constantly let his feelings tear away at his insides for fear of what would become of their friendship if he had confessed. In one fell swoop his entire life seemed to be pulled out from under him.
"I hope we'll still be friends Randy. You know you're my best friend, and you always will be no matter what. And if you hate me because I'm a homo, I'll understand." Jim finished his pre-rehearsed speech and waited for Randy's response.
Randy felt his head spin, his face go numb as the words rang in his ears. He was stricken with a sense of loss. Emptiness took over his soul and his being as he just continued to stare at Jim in disbelief.
Jim was scared now, wondering what was going on in Randy's head. He remained silent and waited for something, a word, a nod, or a hand to be offered, yet nothing came. Randy sat up in his bed and pointed towards the door.
"Listen Jim, I'm really happy for you and Steve. I just feel really sick right now. Could you come back tomorrow? I really need to be sick." Randy squeezed the words out as he grabbed for his bedpan and began to heave.
Jim didn't want to go, but understood. He had no idea why Randy was sick all of a sudden but chalked it off to his condition and left without saying another word. He knew Randy wouldn't say anything to anyone about Steve and him. Yet he still worried about what Randy thought and left wishing the next day would come sooner than it would.
Randy lay back on his bed after Jim had left
To be continued:
I'd like to welcome Ron aboard, my new editor, and thank him for his fine work. If you liked what you just read and want to read some more write me at Justin69SK@aol.com
May your holiday season be filled with goodness and joy, and you have a prosperous New Year!