My Gothic Boyfriend X

The hours crawled by. After M. Anderson and I consented to blood draws, Julia came by to check on the situation, and I promised to not leave Justin’s side while they went to get some food. A nurse in pink scrubs embroidered with kittens came by with some water and snacks for me. After she checked his IV, she brought in a couple blankets.

“Okay, I know he’s seventeen, but he should still have something besides those white hospital sheets,” she said in a friendly voice. I thought maybe she hadn’t been a nurse for very long, she looked so young. “So, race cars or dinosaurs? Or should I go back to the closet and get the Pokémon one?”

I smirked and accepted the dinosaur blanket. “He likes dragons,” I said as I draped it over him, “so this will have to do.”

Then she pulled some black socks with thick grip-pads on the soles from her pocket. “I brought some socks for his cold little feet,” she added. “We’ll keep him warm until his metabolism can get back to work and he puts on a little weight.”

“Thank you,” I told her, my voice breaking.

“Any time,” she said. “Okay, you have the call button, water– do you need a blanket? No, I didn’t think so. Just hit the button and Ask for Nurse Jasmine– that’s me– if he wakes up or you need anything.”

I dimmed the lights a little when she left, and gently closed the door. The sun was setting outside. I’d already declined food– strange as that felt, knowing how that had gone for Justin. But I would be eating later, when I knew he was a little more stable.

Once I had the socks on his feet and the blanket wrapped around him just right, I sat back down beside Justin’s bed and took his hand. It felt so limp and cold; he he been cold the night before? I kicked myself mentally for not noticing, then made sure his other one was tucked in so it could stay warm. I wanted to slide into bed next to him and give him my body heat, but I knew that wouldn’t go over well with the hospital staff, so I got as close as I could and justed watch him sleep.

I think I’d dozed off at some point, because when I felt something fluttering over my cheek and realized my eyes were closed, it was dark outside. Once my vision cleared, I noticed a pair of beautiful brown eyes peering up at me.

“Hey,” I whispered. “You have no idea how glad I am to see you look at me.”

Justin’s expression became a little worried. “You’re off work already?” His voice was weak and hoarse. “Damn, I’m so tired… I think I had a nightmare, and that kept me from really resting…”

I ran my fingers over his temple and through his hair; he liked having his head rubbed and his ears caressed, as long as it was by someone he cared about. I didn’t think he knew where he was yet, and I intended to let him know gently. We inched closer together, until we were forehead to forehead.

“Tell me about your dream, Little Moon.”

He shivered a little. “I had to lie down after breakfast… my stomach hurt so bad. I fell asleep and dreamed about being sick. There are some parts I can’t remember, but later I was doing the dishes, and no matter how many I did, they just kept coming, and no matter how much I scrubbed, they wouldn’t get clean. Then my head started to hurt… I think some of the dishes broke…”

It sounded like he thought what had happened was all just a bad dream.

“Does your head feel better now?”

He nodded meekly. “My throat hurts, though.”

I massaged the back of his head and kept him close to me. He stretched his arm out to try holding me, too, but stopped suddenly.

“Hey, what– what am I stuck on?”

I rubbed his arm to soothe him. “It’s okay,” I whispered. I’m here with you.”

“Blackthorne, what’s going on?” he asked in a shaky voice. Then he hissed. “Dammit, why does my hand hurt so bad?”

“I’ll tell you, Little Moon. Just try not to panic, okay?”

He froze and looked up at me.

“Sssssshhh… You’re safe. I think some of your dream wasn’t actually a dream, Little Moon. Your aunt found you on the kitchen floor and had to call nine-one-one.”

I could feel his terror as his breathing increased. “No…” he whispered.

“It’s okay, baby,” I assured him, holding him closer. “You’re going to be okay. Just breathe. Hold me and breathe.”

He squirmed to look around the room. “No,” he whimpered. “Take me home, Blackthorne. Take m– ow!”

I held him tighter, trying to keep him from tugging on his IV. “Be careful, Little Moon. They had to give you medicine while you were asleep. If you pull it out, they’re just going to place another one. Let’s just keep the one you have, okay?”

Justin turned to look at his arm. He was shaking terribly, and tears streak down his face. He saw the IV, and traced the tubing up to the sacs hanging near his bed, then gave me a sorrowful look. “Why…?” he asked in a tiny voice.

“You fainted, Little Moon,” I told him still holding and caressing him. “The doctors and nurses have spent all day trying to find out why.”

“I’m okay now,” he said. “Please take me home.”

“I can’t, baby.”

“Yes, you can. They’ll listen to you. They’ll help me take this out of my arm and– oh, shit!”

“Stop squirming, Little Moon. You might pass out again.”

“Umm… Blackthorne… why did they…”

I realized that he was referring to the catheter they’d placed hours ago. “You were unconscious for a long time,” I told him. “They’ll take it out when you’re strong enough to walk to the bathroom.”

“I’m fine,” he insisted. “I’ll show you.”

I watched him try to sit up on his own, only to lean on me to rest before trying again. I wrapped my arms back around him, and he laid his head on my chest and sobbed.

“We’ll take care of you, Little moon,” I whispered as I rocked him. “We’re going to help you get strong again.”

“Not here,” he murmured. “I’ll try again with you… I’ll eat for you. I’ll sleep and then… then…”

“Sssssshh… Don’t get yourself worked up, my sweet Little Moon. I can’t help you all by myself, baby. You have to let the doctors and nurses help you, too.”

His fingers clawed into my shirt, and he sobbed into my chest. I rocked him slowly until his tension started to fade.

“Why does crying hurt, too? And my hand feels like it split open.”

“You were cut on one of the broken dishes when you fell,” I told him. “Little Moon, I met a very nice nurse earlier. Let me call her in and we’ll see what you’re allowed to have okay? Just don’t panic again.”

“What… Why can’t I…” He sighed and rested his body against mine.

When he was a little more relaxed, I pressed the nurse button.

“Nurse’s station,” a voice came through the tiny speaker.

“Nurse Jasmine? Sorry to bother you, but could we get some extra pillows?” It was a little bit of a dumb request, but some part of me said that I should get the nurse to come in alone so as not to overwhelm Justin.

There was a brief confirmation over the speaker, and within a few minutes, a soft knock came to the door and Nurse Jasmine entered. I placed my finger over my lips to ask her to stay quiet.

“Hello… Sorry for not saying anything over the intercom,” I told her. “He just woke up and he’s feeling nervous.”

“Oh, that’s great news.” She gave Justin a gentle smile. “Hi, honey, I’m Nurse Jasmine. You’re at West Park Hospital, okay? Can I give you these pillows and check on how you’re feeling?”

Justin leaned closer against me as she approached. I accepted the pillow from her and arranged them behind him while she checked on his IV bags. She noticed him watching and smiled again.

“This one is just saline,” she said, “and then you’ve got a whole bunch of vitamins here.”

“Are they almost done?” he asked timidly. “Can the IV come out soon?”

“Well, I don’t know, honey. The doctor might need to give you more medicine and nutrients. It doesn’t hurt, does it?”

He shook his head, though he seemed reluctant to admit it. “I just don’t like how it feels. And I can’t move very much.”

They talked a little about the IV and the other things that had happened while he was asleep. Once that was out of the way, she asked him, “How does your throat feel? Do you think you can drink anything? Maybe some orange juice?”

He made a concerned face and shook his head. “No way… that would sting going down. My throat really hurts.”

With a little more discussion, she got him to drink some water, and then a little bit of milk. She couldn’t give him anything acidic or bubbly, but the milk seemed to help a little. He declined crackers because they were dry and crumbly, and he could only manage a few bites of applesauce. She came back with some soft cheese, white bread, and a little packet of peanut butter. He didn’t finish all of it off, but what he did get into his stomach seemed to help.

“That’s enough for now,” she said. “If you eat too much, you might throw up again.”

“Again?” he croaked before taking another sip of water.

“You don’t remember throwing up earlier today? Or maybe yesterday?”

“I…” He rubbed his temples. “I don’t know. I’ve been really tired lately, and I have weird dreams all the time.”

“Do you get a tummy-ache after meals?” she asked him, keeping her tome gentle.

“I guess… sometimes.”

“That’s okay,” she said, giving his hand a gentle squeeze. “I’m not here to ask you too many questions right now; we’ll let the doctor do all that work.”

“Okay, speaking of doctors,” I said, “is there anyone else besides Doctor Klein? We just really needs someone open-minded and compassionate.”

“Well, he went home a few hours ago. Doctor Smith is on for the night, and I’ll ask her if he can have a little something for the pain. I think Klein is off for a couple days, so I’ll check on who she assigned to the day shift for you.”

“I want to go home,” Justin whimpered.

“We’ll get you there, honey. Let Dr. Smith come talk to you a little about what the plan its. Did you call your mom yet? I bet she’ll be excited that you’re awake.”

Justin shook his head, then winced, immediately regretting the movement.

Nurse Jasmine gave us some privacy so I could make the phone call. Justin snuggled against me and let me put the phone on video mode, and when his mother saw him looking back at her, she just about exploded with joy. She could barely talk to get out a few basic questions, and ended up just saying that she’d be right there. True to her word, she was in Justin’s room in hardly twenty minutes. I gave her space so that she could embrace him and cry tears of joy that he was all right– at least, all right enough that he could wake up. I think she’d been terrified that he was going to be asleep for a lot longer and possibly end up in the ICU.

Once they’d had enough time for greetings and hugs, and their emotions settled down a little, Dr. Smith came in to Talk to Justin and his mother.

“Well, it certainly is good to see you awake young man,” she said once she’d introduced herself and made sure everyone had a place to sit. She seemed very compassionate and motherly. “I was worried you were going to sleep right through my shift and I wouldn’t be able to meet you. How are you feeling, dear?”

“Pretty tired,” he admitted. “My head hurts, my arm hurts, and my hand hurts,” he added, showing her the stitches in his palm. “And my…” He decided to stop before he said anything too personal.

“I thought you might be feeling that way, honey. Do you know why you’re in the hospital?”

“Kind of,” he said with a shrug. “They said I fainted, but I thought I laid down and went to sleep– in my bed, you know?”

“He said he dreamed about getting back up,” I added, “but obviously that part wasn’t a dream.”

“You haven’t been feeling well for a while, have you, honey? Are you having a hard time eating? Does it hurt to eat?”

“Ummm… No,” he said. “I mean… a lot of food just doesn’t taste that good. And sometimes afterwards my stomach really hurts.”

“I see,” the doctor said. “Is it bad enough that you have to throw up sometimes?”

Justin shrugged again. “I’m not really supposed to waste food, so if I don’t feel good, I just try to drink water. If I’m allowed to, I’ll just lay down and go to sleep.”

“Okay, dear. You’ve done a good job answering my question so far. I have some more for you, okay? I know you just woke up, and it seems like everybody’s asking you every question in the world, but can you keep answering my questions honestly? It’ll help me get you better if I have the right answers.”

He gave her a worried look, then nodded. “Okay,” he croaked.

“Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night to go throw up? Or maybe dream about doing that?”

“I don’t know,” he said, “I don’t usually remember my dreams. Maybe? Sometimes my dreams get really weird, and they keep waking me up.”

“That’s okay, sweetie. No wonder you’re so tired. Well, Justin, the ER doctors and Dr. Klein looked in your throat, and it looks pretty red and swollen, as though a lot of stomach acid had been through it. There’s a good chance that you did throw up in the middle of the night and don’t even remember it.”

“But we never saw throw-up anywhere,” his mother said. “His blankets are clean, nothing in this trash can…”

Dr. Smith thought for a moment, then asked, “Is he usually pretty neat and tidy at home? Does he help clean up and keep the house looking nice?” When Ms. Anderson nodded, the doctor went on. “What I think is that in his subconscious, he knows he shouldn’t make a mess, so somehow he makes it to the bathroom when he needs to throw up, and then he goes back to bed once his stomach settles.”

Ms. Anderson looked ready to cry as she looked between the doctor and her son. “Oh my sweet baby,” she said, “you– you did all that just to not make a mess?”

His blank stare told her that he really didn’t remember doing that.

“But what is subconscious didn’t make him do was drink some water or milk to help rinse or neutralize the stomach acid, so now his throat is inflamed. That also means he also probably didn’t brush his teeth afterwards. We’re going to get him some gentle mouthwash and a fresh toothbrush so he can take care of that and reduce the risk to his tooth enamel. I’ll get some medicine to help soothe his throat and reduce the pain. How is he about taking liquid medicine?”

“He’s good,” Ms. Anderson told the doctor. “He’s great, actually. He’ll take whatever you need him to take. It’s just needles and big tests that scare him.”

Ms. Anderson went on to explain why. Back when Justin was two years old, he’d been hospitalized for a few weeks. He’d had an IV, but it repeatedly needed to be replaced because he kept pulling it out. Sometimes it was an accident, and sometimes he hated the thing so badly that he ripped it out. At first they didn’t know what he was sick with, so they ran test after test trying to figure it out. The scanners were so big and loud that he was terrified, and there were so many tests that it got to the point where he thought it would never end.

He didn’t like that the doctors had to try so many different treatment plans. Even if the treatment was supposed to be gentle, when Justin saw another doctor or nurse, he feared the worst and struggled and screamed, but all that crying just ended up making his head hurt– not that two-year-old Justin understood that. They eventually found out that it was pneumonia– some uncommon variety– and he got the treatment he needed so they could let him go home.

These days, Justin knew logically that the doctors were there to help him, and he’d had a lot of experiences that were calm and positive, and where he’d gotten the help he needed. Still, that early experience was so ingrained in him that anything more than a regular doctor’s office or pharmacy really set him off. It even took a lot of soothing and coaxing for him to get his regular immunizations.

“Well, it must have been really horrible for you if it’s still hard to be in a hospital even fifteen years later,” Dr. Smith said. “Well, honey, I can’t promise you that we don’t need to do any of the tests that use those big machines, but we’re going to be as gentle as we can about them. We’ll tell you about the test as we get ready for it, and your mom and friend can be with you for as long as possible. It’s okay if you get scared; we’ll be there to help you through it. Do you know why we have to do so many tests even though you don’t like them?”

Justin watched her curiously and nervously.

“It’s to help make sure you’re not hurt even worse than we thought. The more we know about how you’re doing now, the better we can help you heal and go home faster– and not have to come back. You seem like a really sweet boy, Justin, but the hospital is no place for a young man like you.”

He nodded and tried to muster a faint smile.

“Can I ask you some things about what happened at school a few weeks ago? Would you call it a fight, or would you say you were attacked?”

“The bullies started it,” Justin said weakly. “The teachers said I turned it into a fight when I defended myself, but if I didn’t get them away from me…”

“It’s okay, it’s probably really hard to talk about. Your chart says the bullying didn’t break any bones, but let’s talk about soft tissue. Did your stomach only ever hurt that badly like this after the bullying, or before, too?

Justin looked down and away from his mother. This was going to really hurt her to hear, I thought.

“Whatever it is, Justin, just tell the doctor the truth,” his mother said. “You’re a good boy no matter what.”

Justin nodded and took a deep breath. “My stomach hardly ever hurt back when we lived in Portland. But when we moved, Aunt Julia said I had to finish everything on my plate, and sometimes my stomach hurt afterwards.”

“I see. Was it more than you were used to eating?”

Justin nodded. “Aunt Julia really doesn’t like wasting food.”

“Oh, baby…” Ms. Anderson said; she was probably feeling terribly guilty. “I’m so sorry”

She held Justin tightly as they went on talking with Dr. Smith. The more they said, the more she seemed to understand what was going on. The move had been very hard on him; leaving everything he knew and loved behind had been a sort of trauma for him– and on top of that, his aunt wanted her household run a certain way, his cousins overwhelmed him, and the school was never on his side. He’d been mocked and pushed around ever since his schoolmates found out he was gay– even the one person who was starting to be friendly with him turned away when Justin mentioned having a boyfriend.

Mrs. Carlton hadn’t taken into account the effects poverty has on the mind and body when she’d insisted Justin behave a certain way, clear his plate, wake up even when he didn’t feel his best, and everything else. Justin had sometimes gone to bed with only a thing or two from the food box in his belly. He was used to disappointment and– not exactly chaos, but certainly not the way his aunt tried to keep everything running like clockwork.

Dr. Smith wanted to get a few consults set up. She was worried that Justin would need to be treated for depression, and there were plenty of tests that had to be done to make sure he wouldn’t permanently be harmed by practically starving. A nutritionist would be by in the morning to help plan out his refeeding and get more intravenous nutrients into him. There would probably be more than that as his treatment progressed, but she didn’t want to overwhelm him.

Ms. Anderson said that she would meet with her boss the next day and work out her schedule with him, and I said that I would do the same. She wasn’t sure whether she wanted her sister keeping Justin company until they could talk and make sure Julia would drop all her expectations and just be compassionate. I decided that I would be the one to stay with him that night, and when Ms. Anderson got ready to leave and said she’d bring over some of Justin’s schoolwork the next day, Dr. Smith asked her not to, explaining that he needed to rest and just focus on getting well. He and I were both relieved to hear that.

At her insistence, I took some time for myself. Ms. Anderson stayed in the room with her son so that I could get some food and a change of clothes. I could also call David to see about coming in later the next day, since my friend was in the hospital and I planned to look after him in the night. I got a meal at a drive-through and headed back to my guest house to put a small overnight bag together. I also got in a shower, since I probably wouldn’t have time for it the next morning.

About Legends of Lorata

Eleanor Willow is the author of the high fantasy series Legends of Lorata, which takes place on a medieval-style world filled with elves, dragons, and faeries. There is also a fourth race, one that is rare and magical: the angelic Starr. Lorata is a distant planet watched over by four deities: good, evil, elemental, and celestial-- and there are plenty of legends about them all! One of the most important ones is the prophecy of Jenh's champion, Loracaz, who is promised to return to the realm whenever evil threatens to take hold. There are currently three books completed, and the first one can be read online. Book four is currently being written, and a fifth will most likely be in the future.
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