"He came over and stayed the
night, and seemed a little better until it
was time to go home again, and then he got all jittery," Derek replied.
"Did your mom go with you guys and talk to his parents?" I asked.
"Yeah, although it wasn't exactly a pleasant experience," he sighed.
"What do you mean?"
"Well, his parents did agree to let him come back home, but they weren't exactly friendly with my mom," he answered. "His mom and dad asked how she could stand having 'the little faggot' staying in her house, probably molesting her two 'well-behaved' and 'upstanding' teenage sons."
I couldn't help but chuckle at that. Derek and Ben were hardly well-behaved and upstanding. They both got into their fair share of trouble at school, usually from pulling some kind of practical joke. Of course, being twins, they loved switching places and confusing the hell out of people (including me, several times). Then there was the time that Derek's teacher wouldn't let him go to the bathroom during class, and he'd said, "I can't help it that I have a heavy flow and a wide-set vagina!"
Of course, that didn't come
close to Ben's personal feud with Sally "Big Ass" Bolero, the captain
of the cheerleading squad, who he convinced to buy a case of high
calorie snack bars that were usually given to starving children in
Africa, passing them off as diet food. Needless to say, that's how she
ended up with the nickname "Big Ass." No, the twins were definitely not
"Anyway," he continued, "they also ranted about how Maggie could tolerate having two 'fags' living under her roof, doing unspeakable things to each other every night, right down the hall."
I laughed again. "I guess they don't know that Toby is gay, then."
"Actually, they know that Toby is gay. They think that you and him are together. They still think that Ryan is your typical, all-American, boy-next-door jock," he said with a laugh.
"If only they knew," I sighed, with a chuckle.
"Yeah, tell me about it," he laughed. "Anyway, like I said, they agreed to take him back, although they refused to un-ground him. My mom said that she wouldn't mind taking Mikey in for a while until his parents had time to settle down and think about things, but they weren't having any of that."
"Why do you think they took him back in the first place, after he showed up at our house that night?" I asked. That was something I'd been wondering about for a while. It seemed strange that one phone call from Maggie could magically make them change their minds ... but obviously things hadn't gone exactly according to plan. He might have been back at home, but it clearly wasn't a happy environment.
"They probably realized what kind of trouble they'd be in for throwing their underage son out on the streets," he replied. "I always knew they weren't very nice people, but I had no idea how bad it was until my mom told me how nasty they were when she was talking to them."
"Do you think he'll be ok?" I asked, before I realized how stupid a question that probably was.
"Emotionally, no," he answered. "But I've never seen them get violent with him before. When we asked him point blank if they'd ever hit him, he said the last time was when he got a spanking from his father when he was ten. So I don't think we have to worry about that. Although, maybe it would be better if they did hit him. At least then we could do something more about it."
"I saw him in just his undies not too long ago when he showed up at our house, and I didn't see any bruises or other marks," I added. I really wished we could get Mikey out of there, too, either to the twins' house or here with us. Unfortunately, it didn't appear as though it would be that simple. It wasn't fair that just because he wasn't being physically abused, he had to be stuck there with people who clearly didn't want him.
I told Ryan about the intervention with Mikey, and although he did seem concerned about Mikey's well-being, he said that it was in the twins' hands now, and they would take care of it. I didn't think that was a particularly appropriate way of facing it. It was the responsibility of all of us, because we were all Mikey's friends.
By the time I had finished talking things over with Derek and Ryan, I was feeling pretty bummed out and needed to get away from the house for a while. I decided that I would go hang out with Cody and maybe jam a little bit. Playing music always made me feel better, but I didn't think it would help to sit in the house and play alone on my electric piano. I needed to be around someone who could cheer me up, and Cody was always good at doing that.
Before I left, I went to check on Toby. He looked even worse than usual. When I held his hand for a moment, it was clammy, and when I brushed my hand against his forehead, it felt like he had a fever. I almost decided to forget going over to Cody's, but Toby swore that he was fine and that it was just the effects of the chemotherapy. Nevertheless, before I headed out, I emptied his pail for him, wiped him down with a cool washcloth, and gave him a kiss on the forehead.
I also tried to get him to take a few sips of Gatorade, but he insisted that he wasn't thirsty. I was worried, but even though Ryan had been acting funny ever since Toby got sick, I figured that if something serious really did happen, he wouldn't just sit there ... at least, I hoped not. So with that, I grabbed a light jacket and headed out, although I couldn't help but feel a little bit guilty for leaving Toby's bedside.
I did end up feeling a lot better when I got to Cody's. I even managed to laugh when I walked in and found Tatyana wearing a hula skirt and coconut shells over her breasts, and Cody in nothing but a loincloth and some kind of necklace that appeared to be made out of sharks' teeth or something. They told me that it was "Hawaiian Night" at their house, and Tatyana’s nom du jour was “Lady Mauna Loa.” Despite the absurdity of it, though, Cody definitely looked hot in his loincloth, with his bare, smooth chest and tummy.
Sick or not, Toby is being such an idiot for not wanting that cuddled up next to him every night! I thought to myself.
Before going downstairs to hang out with Cody and jam, I sat around and drank coconut juice with them and discussed what had been going on with Mikey and Toby. Even though I had Dr. Frazier to vent to when I needed it, it felt good to talk about it with someone different. And Tatyana certainly had a unique way of looking at things.
"You should feel very fortunate, Connor," she said in her thick Russian accent.
"Why should I feel fortunate?" I asked, nonplussed. "Toby has a potentially fatal illness, and Mikey's parents are just assholes and are making his life a living hell. Neither of them deserve what's happening to them. It's not fair."
"Everything happens for a reason," she said enigmatically. "You have been presented with these situations to learn more about yourself. You can choose to either feel miserable and angry, or you can look for the lessons that are right in front of you."
"What those lessons are is something that you will discover in time," she replied. "In the meantime, focus on how lucky you are."
"I still don't get what you mean about me being 'fortunate' or 'lucky'," I said, starting to feel a little annoyed. "There's nothing lucky about any of this."
"Of course there is!" she exclaimed, with a dramatic wave of her arms. "You are fortunate because you know that you have the ability to completely and unconditionally love others with all of your heart. That is something that most people are unable to do. That is your gift, despite what you have been through in your life. You must treasure that gift, and use it well."
I wasn't exactly sure what she was getting at, but I just nodded and smiled, hoping that we could change the subject. Eventually, Cody and I finished our coconut juice and managed to break away from his mom and head downstairs. Cody asked if he could go back with me to see Toby when we were finished, and it killed me to have to tell him that it probably wouldn't be a good idea. I could tell that he was really disappointed.
We ended up playing a few songs together, although almost everything had a melancholy tone, starting with Annie Lennox's "Waiting in Vain," then moving on to the Bee Gees' "I Started A Joke," Soul Asylum's "Runaway Train," and Meat Loaf’s “Two Outta Three Ain’t Bad." We then played Fleetwood Mac's "Beautiful Child.” It was an incredibly beautiful song, with a very touching melody and lyric. I took the lead vocal, and Cody sang the background vocals in a beautiful falsetto.
Beautiful child, beautiful child
You are a beautiful child
And I am a fool once more
You fell in love when I was
The years disappeared
Much has gone by since then
I bite my lip, can you send me away
You touch, I have no choice
I have to stay, I had to stay
There is so little time
Your eyes say yes
But you don't say yes
I wish that you were mine
You say it will be harder in
I wait for you to say, just go
Your hands held mine so few hours
And I'm not a child anymore …
Something about that song
touched me deeply, and I wasn't sure if maybe it had
something to do with Ryan and me, or possibly
Toby and Cody. I
hoped it was neither. I couldn't take much more of the depressing
though, so I decided to head on out. I gave Cody a hug and a kiss on
before leaving, and told him I would call him the next day and let him
Toby was doing.
It was still pretty early when I left Cody's house, so I decided to head over to the mall to fill out the application for that job at the piano store. In spite of all of the crap that life had been throwing at me lately, that job was one thing I was looking forward to. The manager told me that the application was just a formality and hired me on the spot, although I wouldn't be able to start until school ended for the year, which was still a couple weeks away.
My pay was to be mostly based on commission, meaning the more pianos I was able to sell, the more money I'd make. I wasn't sure how much of a salesman I would be, though, since I wasn't known for having very good people skills. But I wasn't doing it for the money. I needed something to do during the summer, and I knew I would enjoy hanging around pianos all day long. And if I was making some money on my own, I wouldn't feel like such a leech, just taking the check from Social Services every month. I needed to feel like I was doing something productive and not just mooching off of Maggie.
And despite all of the drama over the past couple of days, I was actually in a pretty good mood as I headed home. Even the crowds of people that I had to wade through in the mall didn't seem to bother me as much as they usually did.
our street, I was horrified to find an ambulance parked in front of the
with its lights flashing. Could my worst nightmare possibly be coming
When I ran into the house, already in a state of panic, I saw the paramedics carrying Toby down the stairs on a stretcher. He looked absolutely horrible. Maggie didn't look too hot either. I had never seen her so distraught.
"What's going on?" I asked her, not even trying to mask the fear in my voice.
"He's extremely dehydrated. He can't keep any fluids down, and he's got a very high fever. We're taking him to the hospital to run some tests and see what's going on. We need to get him hydrated as quickly as possible and bring his fever down, or he could be in serious trouble," she said.
"Is Toby going to be okay? Can I go with him to the hospital?" I asked, nearing a state of total panic.
"The doctors are going to do everything they can for him, Connor," Maggie replied, trying to sound a little more reassuring. "And I think it would be better if you stayed here with Ryan for now until they get him stabilized. He's been in and out of consciousness."
Oh, God! That did not sound good at all!
"Where is Ryan?" I asked.
"I think he's up in his room watching television or something," Maggie replied.
WHAT THE FUCK?! His brother is unconscious and being taken to the hospital, and he's watching television in his room?!
As soon as the paramedics had Toby loaded into the ambulance and turned on the sirens, I bounded up the stairs to give Ryan a piece of my mind. I loved him to death, but this was his brother, and he needed to face whatever his problem was. I was going to put a stop to this insanity once and for all.
So I marched right up to Ryan's room ... well, our room. But based on the way he had been acting, I was starting to have second thoughts about that.
"What the hell is wrong with you?!" I shouted at him. I couldn't remember ever being so angry at my boyfriend before, or yelling at him like that. But I was seriously agitated ... no, pissed would be a better word. This had been going on for too long.
"What're you talking about, Connor?" he asked, sounding almost as peeved as I was.
"Your brother was just taken to the hospital, and you're sitting up here watching television and playing video games like nothing's wrong. You've been acting this way ever since Toby's leukemia came back, and it's not right. You're his fucking brother!" I shouted.
"Keep your voice down, Connor," he chided me. "You're overreacting, as usual."
"The hell I am, Ryan. Something is wrong with you, and I want to know what's going on. You promised me that we would always talk about things, and you're just shutting everyone out of your life. And it's got to stop," I said, trying to bring my temper under control. Maybe that's what Dr. Frazier had meant when he was talking about my "anger issues." But fuck it ... I was angry!
"Quit being such a goddamn drama queen, Connor. Toby's just having a reaction to his treatment. It's no big deal. And it's really starting to irritate me that you won't just let it go," he retorted angrily. "He's my brother, not yours. So just let it go, and let us deal with it. It's none of your business anyway."
I couldn't believe he could say something so cruel to me. I was absolutely stunned. Sure, I had a tendency to get a little melodramatic at times, and I knew I was a worrywart, but for chrissakes, Toby was just taken away in an ambulance, and Maggie certainly didn't seem as calm about all of this as Ryan appeared to be.
"What happened to the sweet and caring boyfriend and brother that I fell in love with?" I asked, tears welling up in my eyes.
"Maybe you were just wrong about me," he said matter-of-factly, and then went back to playing his video game.
I had no idea how to respond to something like that. I was completely and utterly flabbergasted. This was definitely not the Ryan I knew or fell in love with. And I needed to get out of there before I completely lost it.
So without saying another word, I went to my room, grabbed some clothes, and stuffed them into my back pack. I then ran out of the house, got into my car, and drove as quickly as I could back to Cody's house. I knew he and his mom would know what to say. Unfortunately, no one was home when I got there.
The only other place I could think of to go was to Ben’s and Derek's house. It was already nearly eleven o'clock, but I was pretty sure they would still be awake, and I really had nowhere else to go. Before leaving Cody's house, however, I left a note on his front door and told him to call me on my cell phone -- which I'd finally figured out how to use -- as soon as he got home. He had a right to know what was going on with Toby.
"What's wrong? What're you doing here, Connor?" Ben asked worriedly when he opened the door.
"Can I stay here tonight? I'm really sorry for coming over unannounced, but some stuff happened," I said, trying my best to keep my emotions under control.
"Of course you can," he said, ushering me into the house.
I spent the next hour explaining to the twins about Ryan's behavior, from the time we found out about Toby's leukemia, to what happened tonight. It was a relief to get all of that off my chest, although it still didn't really solve anything. But after the evening’s jam with Cody, and the whole fiasco with Toby and Ryan, I soon found myself totally exhausted, so Ben and Derek suggested we try to get some sleep, and said we could talk some more in the morning if we needed to.
They really were great friends. And for some weird reason, I kind of liked the idea of having straight friends. Spending so much time with Ryan, Toby, Cody, and Mikey, the whole "gay thing" got a little overwhelming sometimes. Being with Ben and Derek was different.
Unfortunately, they slept on twin-sized bunk beds, but Ben invited me to sleep next to him, even though it would be a tight fit. On any other occasion, I might have felt a little awkward sleeping with Ben, since he'd definitely given me some mixed-signals before, and I knew I wasn't very adept at controlling my teenage hormones. Tonight, however, I needed to be with someone. I needed someone to hold me. And Ben was there. So I agreed without hesitation.
We all stripped down to our underwear and climbed into bed. Within minutes, I heard the unmistakable sound of Derek's snoring coming from the top bunk, and I hoped that wouldn't prevent me from getting a decent night's sleep. I was totally wiped out. As I lay there thinking about everything that had happened, I felt Ben's arms wrap around me from behind, pulling me into a tight embrace, his face nuzzling into the nape of my neck.
"It's going to be okay, Connor," he said softly. "I agree that Ryan's being an ass, and I just want you to know that both Derek and I will be here for you."
"Thanks, Ben. That really means a lot," I said, unconsciously running my fingers gently across his forearms. I felt so safe and relaxed in his embrace.
"You know, Connor, that day in the hospital when I kissed you ... well, it wasn't exactly just a joke," he said quietly.
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"I mean, I wanted to kiss you," he said.
Oh, Lord! Here we go again! Was I some kind of irresistible sex object for every guy I became friends with? Ryan, Toby, and Cody were much hotter. Why would all these guys be so interested in kissing me? And I'd definitely had enough drama for one night. If Ben was hinting that he wanted to kiss me again, I was not going to go for it this time.
"I thought you were straight," I said.
"I am ... well, sort of," he admitted. "But I still find you attractive, for some reason. Maybe I'm just a little curious."
"So what are you getting at?" I prodded. Actually, I had a pretty good idea of what he was getting at, but I was hoping to avoid it. Things were already so messed up right now, and I didn't need to add to that.
"I guess I just wanted to try kissing you again ... but a real kiss this time. Just to see what it feels like," he said, rolling me over to face him, our noses just centimeters apart. I could see the almost pleading look in his eyes, and the scent of his peppermint toothpaste was tickling my nostrils.
No way. I was not going to fall into this trap again and end up kissing another one of my friends. I'd already learned my lesson with Toby and Cody, and was not about to make the same mistake again. Definitely not!
"Ok," I replied.
Huh? How in the hell did that slip out of my mouth? Dammit, Connor, get a grip on yourself! You’re becoming a kissing whore!
"Ok?" he asked. "You mean you'll really let me kiss you?"
"If it's just a one-time thing and it's only to satisfy your curiosity, then I guess it's okay. But I'm not a very good kisser, so I think you'll probably end up sticking with girls in the future," I said. At least, I hoped that's what would happen. I'd come to the conclusion that having too many gay friends was not a good thing, because it always led to too much sexual tension and potential drama.
As silly as it may have sounded, I really wanted the twins to be straight. I needed them to be straight. That way, they could be impartial when it came to dealing with my problems, or problems between Ryan and me. If there were underlying feelings, I might lose that sense of security that they provided me.
But before I had time to finish thinking things through, Ben had wrapped me up in an even tighter embrace, and placed his lips gently on my mouth. What began as a very tentative, awkward kiss quickly turned more passionate, as our tongues found each other, becoming entangled together in a feverish battle, and our hands began wandering along each others' smooth chests and kneading our underwear-clad bottoms.
Ben was an even hotter kisser than I could have imagined, and his embrace was so warm and comforting. I felt that spark that I really didn't need to be feeling right then. There was definitely something there, and I couldn't let it go any further, so I forced myself to break off the kiss, even though the throbbing erection in my undies apparently didn't like that idea. I was sure to have a serious case of blue balls!
"Wow, that was incredible," Ben gasped. "Guys are definitely much better kissers than girls."
I had no idea about the accuracy of that statement, since I'd never kissed a girl, only guys ... four of them, in less than a year.
"Ben, please, we can't do this again. I'm going through so much right now, I just really need you to be my friend. Toby's sick, Ryan's acting all weird ... I just really need you right now .... please!" I practically begged him, trying to keep my voice a whisper so as not to wake up Derek.
"You're right, Connor. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have even brought that up ... I don't know what I was thinking, doing that to you ... or Ryan. I promise I'll be here for you, and I'll keep myself under control," he said. I could practically feel him blushing in the darkness.
After chatting quietly for a few more minutes, we finally fell asleep, wrapped up in each other's arms.
I woke up early on Sunday morning, and decided that I’d better go home to face the music. Ryan would undoubtedly be pissed off at my disappearance. He'd be even more pissed if he ever found out that Ben and I had kissed the night before. But then again, he'd been the one to push me away. I couldn't hide forever, though. Plus, I wanted to know what was going on with Toby.
were you last night, Connor?" Ryan scolded me as soon as I walked in
front door. "You had me worried senseless. Don't you ever do that
"Well, I got the impression that you really didn't care last night, Ryan, so I don't think it's any of your business. But I went and stayed at Ben and Derek's house for the night. I just needed to get away for a little while," I said, barely able to suppress my outrage.
"I'm sorry, Connor,” he said, this time in a much softer voice. “You know I love you. But I can't help feeling the way I do. I just think you're overreacting about everything. I've told you so many times that we've all been through this before, so you just need to trust us.”
He sounded sincere, much different from the way he had the night before. But I was still wondering if I knew the "real" Ryan anymore. And that was breaking my heart. We finally agreed to let things go for the time being, but I knew I wasn't going to keep my mouth shut if he started acting like an asshole again. I also decided not to say anything about the kiss with Ben last night, and hoped Ben would do the same. But before I let the issue of Toby drop entirely, I had to at least find out whether or not there had been any news.
mom call last night?" I asked.
she called about two hours after you ran off. She said they got him
but wouldn’t know more until later today," he said.
we’ll have to wait then," I sighed, which just got a slight nod from
As soon as I'd had my little
chat with Ryan, I called Cody to let him know what
was going on. He immediately wanted to go to the hospital to see Toby,
told him that Maggie would call and let us know when it was okay to go
although I was on the verge of just going on over there myself anyway.
not knowing what was happening. It had been, like, twelve hours, and we’d only
gotten the one brief phone call. But I promised to call
Cody again when I heard something
For the rest of the afternoon, we just lounged around the house, watched some television, and played catch out in the backyard. Every time Ryan threw the ball to me, it stung my hand, even though I was wearing a glove. I could see how he was doing so well on the baseball team. I was having a difficult time concentrating, though, and nearly got beaned in the head a few times by the ball. I kept looking over at the portable phone that we had set out on the patio table, willing it to ring … but it didn’t seem to be working.
Finally, the phone did ring, and I ran faster than the Road Runner on crack to go answer it. I knew that if it was someone other than Maggie on the other end, I would probably end up being rude out of sheer frustration. I needed to know that Toby was okay.
"Hello?" I answered.
"Hi, sweetie." I heard Maggie's familiar voice. "I just wanted to let you know that Toby's stabilized and awake. You and Ryan can come down to the hospital to see him."
Thank God! I thought to myself.
"Great, no problem! We'll be there in a few minutes," I replied, then hung up the phone and nearly tripped over myself, running into the house to get my car keys.
We ended up getting to the hospital about thirty minutes later. Ryan had taken a lot longer getting ready than I would have liked, but at least Maggie had said Toby was okay now, so that helped keep my emotions in check ... somewhat. As we walked in the front door of the hospital, my nostrils were stung with the strong smell of disinfectant, and that familiar odor immediately conjured up a flood of memories. I quickly brushed them aside, though, as I saw Maggie walking briskly towards us, looking unusually tired and haggard.
After giving Ryan and me quick hugs, she led us up to the third floor where Toby had a private room. I was sure that was one of the perks of being the kid of a doctor at the hospital. It was a pretty nice room, too, with its own bathroom and shower, a television, a couple comfy-looking chairs, and a cot folded up in the corner, obviously kept there in case a relative wanted to stay over. I actually felt a little chagrined that the hospital room I stayed in hadn't been that nice. I just had cheap, plastic chairs and no cot. Pssht!
Unfortunately, the room's sole occupant didn't look too hot. I suppose I thought that when Maggie said Toby was "okay," that meant that when we got there, he'd be sitting up in bed playing on his Gameboy or something, smiling and joking around as usual. But although his eyes were open, he fit the definition of "death warmed over" to a T.
He had an IV in his arm, a bunch of wires attached to his chest -- which were connected to some kind of moniitor that was beeping rhythmically -- and tubes stuck up his nose. He looked very pale and weak, and if I hadn't known it was Toby beforehand, I might not have recognized him. There was no gleam in his eyes, no dimples visible on his cheeks, his hair was matted down to his forehead with sweat, and he just looked ... defeated.
As we walked toward his bed, Toby slowly turned his head to look at us.
"Hey, guys," he said hoarsely.
"Hey, Toby, how're you feeling?" I asked. I was trying hard not to show my dismay at the way he appeared. I was sure that if given enough reason, he'd worry about me more than himself, but he needed to focus on getting better, not on his nut-job foster brother.
"Well, I'm still here, aren't I?" he said, managing a slight grin.
"So, what's the deal?" Ryan asked, turning to look at his mom.
"Well, he was extremely dehydrated and couldn't keep anything down at all, so we're having to give him fluids through an IV. He also had a dangerously high fever -- almost 104 degrees. We've managed to get it down a little, but it's still pretty high," Maggie said. She looked like she hadn't gotten much sleep over the past twenty-four hours.
"It's just a bad reaction to his chemo treatments, right?" Ryan asked.
"Most likely," Maggie answered. "But his doctors still aren't totally sure. He's never had this bad of a reaction before. But he's awake again now, which is a good sign."
Ryan chewed nervously on his lower lip. For the first time since Toby's leukemia had come back, he actually looked a little worried.
"Hello! I'm right here," said Toby weakly. "You can start talking about me behind my back when I'm dead, which I'm not yet. Damn rude people!"
Maggie and Ryan both chuckled, but I wasn't happy with his assertion that he wasn't dead "yet." I walked over to the bed and sat down next to Toby, taking his hand in mine. It felt cold and clammy, but feeling him squeeze my hand somehow comforted me.
"Don't you dare leave me, Toby," I said to him, fighting hard to hold back my tears.
He managed a small smile. "I wasn't planning on it."
Eventually, Maggie got called away to see a patient, so the three of us were left alone together. It was creepy being back in the hospital again for the first time since I'd been put there by that man. Since Toby didn't feel up to talking, and Ryan hadn't said anything since he asked Maggie what was wrong with Toby, we just sat around watching re-runs of Little House on the Prairie and The Dukes of Hazzard. Every so often, a nurse came into the room and stuck a thermometer in Toby's ear, checked his blood pressure, and wrote some numbers down on his chart.
After a couple hours of that, I had to take a dump, so I excused myself before I started stinking up the whole room with my gaseous emissions, which always closely preceded a movement of my bowels. It was a good twenty minutes later when I got back to the room, and I was pleasantly surprised to see Ryan sitting next to Toby on the bed, wiping away some of the sweat with a washcloth. They weren't talking, but I noticed that they were doing that silent communication thing with their eyes, and a huge wave of relief swept over me.
My moment of happiness was quickly shattered, however, when none other than the spawn of Satan herself, Nurse Gertrude, barged into the room.
"Toby McCormack, it's time for your enema," she barked.
As soon as the words were out of her mouth, though, she noticed me standing there, giving her my glare of death. It probably wasn't as intimidating as I'd hoped it would be, since Ryan always said I just looked constipated when I tried to look angry.
"It's you!" she practically shouted at me, looking both startled and angry. Obviously, I’d made as much of an impression on her as she had on me, since I doubted that she remembered every patient she’d ever seen.
"Biiiiiiitch!" I retorted immediately. I could feel the blood rushing to my face. My nemesis had returned, and this time I wasn't laid up in a hospital bed. I was ready to snatch the enema tube right out of her hand and strangle her with it.
Ryan quickly jumped off the bed and came between us.
"Maybe you could just come back later to do that," he said to the nurse, attempting to placate her.
"No, she won't do it later," I growled. "She's not getting anywhere near Toby."
"Fine then," she said, tossing the enema supplies at me. "You do it."
She turned and marched out of the room, slamming the door behind her. So much for the strangling I was hoping to give her, but I did feel a slight sense of pride as I realized that I had managed a small victory in driving her away.
But despite how much I loved Toby, and how cute his ass was, I was not about to give him an enema. From the way Ryan was warily eyeing the plastic tube and enema bag that I was holding, he wasn't too keen on the idea either. So, I just put them aside, figuring that if it was really necessary, Maggie could do it later.
Maggie returned at around eight o'clock and told Ryan and me that it was time to go home. I objected, of course, and demanded that we be allowed to stay. There was that fold-up cot in the corner, after all. Plus, I wanted to be close by in case anything happened. But a stern look from Maggie, and a reminder that we had school the next day, got my butt moving.
The drive back home was silent, and as soon as I got in the door, I went to call Cody and let him know what was going on. He really wanted to go see Toby, but I knew how Toby would feel about that, so I lied to Cody -- something I felt absolutely terrible about -- and told him that they were only allowing family members to visit. I could tell by the tone in his voice that he was disappointed, but I didn't know what else I could do. Things between Toby and Cody had definitely been going downhill ever since Toby's diagnosis, and for no good reason other than Toby not wanting his boyfriend to see him sick. It didn't make any sense. I hadn’t pushed anyone away when I was in the hospital. If anything, I wanted them to be closer.
After I got off the phone with Cody, I also called the twins to let them know what was happening. They were equally worried about Toby, but I tried to reassure them that he was okay -- although that was a difficult task, since I wasn't so sure of that myself. I wanted to call Mikey, too, but I was afraid of what would happen if one of his parents answered the phone. Based on my earlier conversation with Derek, I knew what they thought of my "deviant behavior," even though they thought that it was Toby I was being "deviant" with. I figured I could just fill Mikey in the next day at school.
Ryan and I didn't say much as we got ready for bed. There were so many things on my mind, so many things I wanted to talk to him about. But I was scared. Lately, I felt like I couldn't share what I was feeling with him, afraid that he would get defensive or upset. So I just kept my mouth shut and got into bed, feeling only slightly reassured when he wrapped his arms around me and we drifted off to sleep.
I was not happy that Maggie
made Ryan and me go to school
on Monday. I wanted
to stay at the hospital with Toby. It's not like I'd even be able to
attention in any of my classes, so what was the point?
As expected, I wasn't able to concentrate on my school work. Fortunately, since the school year was almost over, most of our teachers were just reviewing for final exams, and some of those were take-home exams, anyway. I wasn't worried about my grades at all. I was concerned about Ryan's and Toby's grades, though, especially since Toby had been missing quite a bit of school and wasn't really in any condition to be working on his homework while he was in the hospital. So far, his grades had been pretty good, so I was hoping that we could find some kind of solution to keep him out of summer school.
The fact that my mind was obviously elsewhere during school didn't go unnoticed by our friends, either. They all knew about Toby, and I'm sure they realized how hard I was taking it. They tried to comfort both Ryan and me, but Ryan still swore that he was fine and didn't need any comforting. Delcondris tried to get me to go over to his house after school and work out with him to burn off some steam, but I had to get back to the hospital to see Toby, so I politely declined.
As soon as the final bell of the day rang, I bolted out of the school, got into my car, and headed right for the hospital, with Ryan following along in his own car. When we got there, I was relieved to see that Toby was awake and bitching about the crappy television shows. But we had only been there for a few minutes when the door suddenly opened, and a distraught-looking Cody walked into the room.
"Uh ... hi, Cody," I stammered. "What're you doing here?"
Well, duh! He was obviously there to see his boyfriend!
"I need to talk to you, Toby," he said in a determined voice, ignoring my question, and looking right at his boyfriend ... or at least I hoped they were still boyfriends.
"Ummm ... Ry, I'm kinda hungry. How about we go check out the cafeteria? The hamburgers down there looked somewhat edible," I suggested.
"Sure," he agreed, putting down the copy of Sports Illustrated he had been reading, and walking out of the room with me.
I wasn't really hungry, but I figured Toby and Cody needed to talk ... especially Cody. Maybe Toby wasn't in a very good condition to be dealing with this kind of emotional stress, but I wasn't about to throw my friend out of the room. So whatever was going on between them, it looked like it was going to get some kind of resolution today ... if we were lucky.
Ryan and I ended up walking all around the hospital, hitting the gift shop, and grabbing a soda in the cafeteria. We even stopped by the maternity ward to look at the newborn babies. I'd never really thought about it before, and obviously I was still way too young, but seeing those new little lives lying there, so pure and innocent, I hoped that one day I would be able to have one of my own. And I would treat him or her like a little prince or princess. I would not turn out like my mother had.
Eventually, we headed back to Toby's room, figuring Toby and Cody had had ample time to talk about whatever it was they needed to get off their chests. As we walked into the room, I saw Cody sitting in a chair next to the bed, his head laid down near Toby, who was gently stroking Cody's hair. And Cody was obviously upset. I could clearly see his tear-stained cheeks and the sound of sniffles. I could only guess at what had happened.
As soon as Cody noticed Ryan and me, he quickly stood up, wiped the stray tears away from his eyes, and walked out of the room. He didn't look angry ... just hurt. Toby didn't look to be in much better shape either, and I figured it wasn't a good idea to interrogate him about what had happened. Even though I was curious, I had learned to develop a slight amount of tact.
We ended up staying until about eight o'clock that evening before Maggie sent us home ... again. I didn't have any homework that night, so I left Ryan to study for his upcoming finals and sat down at my Wurlitzer piano, to try to get my mind off of things. The one song that came to mind immediately was Elton John's "Sorry Seems To Be the Hardest Word."
The next day after school, we returned to the hospital again. This time, though, Toby was looking worse, and Maggie was checking his vital signs as we walked into the room.
"Is everything alright?" I asked, starting to get worried again.
"His fever's back up," she replied matter-of-factly. "The fever-reducing medication we had him on doesn't seem to be doing the trick anymore."
"So what does that mean?" I prodded, getting more and more nervous by the second.
"It means that we're going to have to try something else and hope that it works. If his temperature gets over a hundred and four, he could be in some trouble," she sighed.
Over the past few weeks, I hadn't really thought about how difficult all of this had to be on Maggie. Not only was she trying to take care of three sons now, but one of them was on chemotherapy, gravely ill, plus she was maintaining her own hectic work schedule. I'd felt that she hadn’t handled the Mikey "situation" as well as she could have, but in light of everything else that had been going on, I could see why. Now I had to add yet another person to my list of worries.
We didn't stay long that afternoon, because Toby was obviously in need of rest, and he was pretty out of it anyway. So, after wiping down his forehead with a cool washcloth and giving him a soft kiss on the cheek, I headed back home with Ryan. If I had been worried before, I was even more worried now.
When we got home, Ryan continued studying for his finals, and I went back to my piano to try to find some solace amidst all of the suffering that was going on around me. I wanted to call Cody and talk to him, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. I didn't even feel like calling the twins. I just wanted to be by myself for a while.
That night as Ryan and I got into bed, though, I couldn't hold back my feelings anymore. I had to talk to him.
"Are you feeling any different now, Ry?" I asked.
"What do you mean?" he responded.
"I mean, are you as worried about Toby now as I am?"
"Jesus, Connor. I thought we'd talked about this before. Yes, I'm worried that he's sick, but he's in the hospital now, and they know what they're doing. He'll be fine. Please, just let it drop. I've got my last baseball game of the season coming up this weekend, and I need to finish studying for my finals. So please just lay off," he said, sounding extremely exasperated.
"Ryan, please stop doing this. I don't know what's going on with you. The way you've been acting towards Toby and Mikey ... it's just not like you. Please tell me what's going on in your head ... I'm really worried about you. Please, Ryan, just talk to me," I pleaded.
"I told you to drop it, Connor," he said sharply, then turned away from me, facing the wall.
Even though I was in bed with my boyfriend, like I had been every night for months, I had never felt so alone as I did right then. And I felt like my heart was going to break into a million pieces. I needed him, and it was obvious that he needed someone. The first day we had gone to see Toby at the hospital, things had seemed to be looking up, but now I wasn't so sure anymore.
After tossing and turning for an hour or so, I eventually fell asleep, once again aided by my medication. I wouldn't have been able to get any rest otherwise.
The next thing I was aware of was the sound of the phone ringing. As I looked over at the alarm clock, I saw that it was only four-thirty in the morning. Who in the hell would be calling this early?
"Hello?" I answered the phone groggily.
"Connor, it's Maggie. You and Ryan need to get down to the hospital right away. It's serious."
Copyright 2006. All
Rights Reserved. No parts of this story may be copied, reproduced, in
print or in any other format, without express written consent from the