You can go in now.” The door to the ward swung open, and the nurse emerged. She gave Luke and his parents a reassuring smile. “He’s awake and comfortable, but don’t expect too much out of him. It can take a while for the anesthetic to wear off. A good night’s sleep, and he’ll be fine. He's in Lemur—it's on the right.
Feeling tense, the tree of them hurried down the hall.
Luke hadn't realized when he’d visited Sam Carter that the bedded areas had names. They passed ‘Giraffe’ where three boys sat together on one of the beds, two of them watching the other playing on a Nintendo Gameboy. After Giraffe, was Lemur, and Luke pointed. It was apparent that the only place Simon could possibly be was behind the freshly curtained-off bed right next to Sam Carter.
“That’ll be him,” Luke said, and led the way. Inside, he let his mum and dad go past the curtain first. It only seemed right.
Luke could hear the difficulty in his mum's voice and it shook him deeply. Another familiar, yet unusually accented, soft voice was at his shoulder.
“Are you okay?” Elliott murmured.
Luke shook his head, right on the edge of tears, and averted his eyes. Embarrassed, he still couldn't keep the keep the stinging out of them. “Not really,” he admitted. "It’s been a bit of a day…”
Saying nothing more, Elliott gave him a brief sideways hug and was gone. Luke blinked hard to try to get the tears to back off, and waited as he listened to his mum and dad behind the curtain, trying to encourage his brother. “Luke’s here,” he heard, and the curtain came back a little, beckoning him inside.
His first impression was what a good call it had been by the doctor that Simon should stay at the hospital that night. As he studied the comatose figure, there was no way that his brother could have been bundled into a van, and whisked home for a nice warm bath. Curled up on his side, he looked like crap!
This was ‘comfortable’?
Briefly, Simon’s eyes opened, and then closed.
So, he was awake, at least.
"Hey, Si—" Luke tried to insert a grin into his tone, "—if you didn't wanna get in my car that bad, you could have just said!"
He wasn't really expecting much of a reply, but it was still a relief that Simon was resting still at last—a far cry from the convulsing screams of just a few hours earlier.
They stayed with Simon for another half an hour, but it was a one-sided conversation that even Lucy was unable to keep up for long. Even so, Luke could tell that leaving was the last thing on her mind. As his brother seemed to be asleep and it was getting late, his mum and dad tried to decide when they should leave, or if one of them should stay—where, Luke had no idea. They slipped outside the curtain and huddled for a quick conference.
The voice caught their attention and they turned towards the end of the bed where Elliott's mum, Rose, hovered far enough away so as not to crowd them, but near enough that she didn't have to raise her voice. Again, Luke found her lilt mesmerizing. She drew closer and reached out to take his mum’s hand.
“I couldn’t help but hear,“ Rose said. She seemed relaxed, but determined. “Benedict and I would like to help if you would let us. We’ve already booked a hotel room not far from here. We’d like you to use it.”
Just behind her, her husband stood tall, and reassuringly solid. He nodded, but Luke could see his mum already beginning to turn down the generous offer. Rose seemed ready for that, and overrode her.
“We’ve kept a room booked nearby for a number of days, just in case. Tonight we plan to go home, and we need to take Becky home anyway.” Rose gave a slight shrug. “It’s just going to lie empty. Please...it's nothing special, but if it helps you, feel free to make use of it.”
His mum hesitated, and Luke could see the conflict in her eyes. She was a funny old fish. It wasn't pride, but her English soul tended to be a little…not suspicious…perhaps cagey was the right word. She didn’t usually take free handouts from people she hardly knew. On the other hand, it didn’t look like she wanted to be far from Simon’s bedside, even if—like Geoff had pointed out—there wasn't much they could do anyway.
“That’s really kind of you, Rose. We'd love to, but—" Luke could see his mum evaluating the offer and not getting past her inability to accept freebies, "—we need to get Luke home.”
“Psssttt.” Rose swatted away the idea. She wasn’t to be so easily put off. “We can take him home easily enough.”
“Perhaps you could just stay, Luce,” Geoff suggested. His eyes flicked to Rose. “If you've got room for two, Lucy can keep the van. Luke and I can come back in the morning.”
“More than enough,” Rose chimed. “Becky told us you don’t live too far away from us. We’d be delighted to take you.”
Luke saw his mum tip over the edge and her features resolve into relief. “Well, if you don’t mind? We’d really appreciate it, and we’ll pay you for the room, of course.”
“Really, there's no need." It came with that very South American hand gesture again. “It’s paid until lunchtime tomorrow, we’re just glad it can be used.”
And so it was decided. Shortly after, Luke found himself walking out to the parking lot and climbing into big a Chevy Tahoe—a man’s vehicle with oversized wheels that fitted Benedict Carter with ease. Luke shuffled in alongside Elliott on the second of the two long, plush back seats. Rose and Becky sat in the row in the front of them and his dad rode shotgun, talking with Benedict.
They motored past the perimeter and quickly joined the 400 going north. The car was quiet and Becky was already asleep, slumped over Rose’s knee.
Funny girl, Luke mused. Maybe it was the age; full of energy one minute, and crashed out the next. He wondered if the day could get any stranger? He’d only properly met the Carters a few hours ago, and he was already traveling in the back of their car alongside—alongside what? A dilemma sure!
He leaned forwards to make conversation with the people who'd been so kind to them. "Elliott was saying that you used to live in the UK, Mrs. Carter."
"Do call me Rose." She smiled as she turned carefully in her seat, careful to avoid disturbing Becky.
Next to him, Elliott snorted. "Mom always says 'Mrs. Carter' is far too presidential."
"Behave..." Chuckling, Rose flicked her fingers at her eldest. "For a while, yes we did. A year wasn’t it, Elli?"
"It was close on two, Mom. We came back when I was thirteen, remember. That was—" Elliott started counting on his fingers "—four years ago?"
"Did you like it there?" Luke returned to Elliott's mum. "In England, I mean."
"Oh yes. It’s a beautiful country. And with so much history..."
"And rain!" smirked Elliott.
Luke grinned. Elliott was right—it was hard to deny! "Elliott told me you've traveled a lot as a family."
"Far too much. When you're young it's an adventure. I'm far too old for any of that anymore." Another hand gesture and Rose laughed, musical and entrancing as she brushed it away. “Your father was telling us that your family came to live here about the same time?"
"Mmmm…yes, it was about five years ago." In fact, Luke recalled, it wasn't so far off this time of year, five years previously, that he’d been anxiously waiting to discover whether he would be admitted to the Academy after the entrance exam. Christ, where had all the time gone?
"We came across because of Dad’s work," he continued. "I guess you bumped into them in the cafeteria? Mum said something about the Gunners?"
"We did!" Her eyes twinkled. "The one thing my husband really misses from our times in Europe is the football. Geoff overheard Benedict moaning about Arsenal."
Elliott rolled his eyes. "Dad says he's just a fan, but it's more like a fanatic."
Geoff appeared to be listening in too. He turned and chuckled. “You have no idea how many times I’ve got blank looks when I talk about the Gunners around here.”
"So how about you, Luke?" asked Elliott. "I thought all Brits were football crazy?"
"And that from the guy born in Argentina!" Luke shot back.
"Fair point." Elliott grinned and seemed to consider Luke from behind thoughtful eyes. "So do you count yourself as British or American?"
Mmmm... It was a good question. Still a Brit on the inside, he decided, though he now looked like an American on the outside—at least below the belt! "Still a Brit. And you?"
"Me?" Elliott shook his head and smirked. "I have to be the most confused person you'll ever meet!"
Laughter filled the car and, like them, Luke felt upbeat. Everything seemed to be working out. His mum was planning to stay by Simon's bedside for as long as she could, though even with the lax visiting rights, the nursing staff would finally called time on her to allow all the kids to sleep. Tomorrow, if all was well, Simon would be home, and hopefully the next day or two would see him getting back on his feet again, though somehow Luke had the feeling that it was going to take more than just a warm bath and a good night’s sleep. Either way, there was nothing he could do about it yet.
The noise of their laughter woke Becky, and she stretched and magically went straight back into full-on mode. With his dad guiding the way as they passed under the neon streetlights, they soon arrived at their subdivision.
“It’s just here,” Becky informed them, pointing as if they had happened to forget where they lived. “We come here all the time,” she told Rose in a voice that was probably meant to be a subtle murmur. But…well, that was Becky!
They pulled up alongside their driveway and Geoff slipped out of the front seat. "Again, thank you so much for everything," Geoff said through the open door. "You’ve been a life saver!"
Luke scrambled out of the back, too. “Yes, thanks for the lift,” he said, glad to be home, despite the circumstances.
"I guess we might see you in the morning?" said Elliott through the open window
"Oh...probably." Luke tried to sound airy to cover the satisfaction he felt at something to look forward to. Then the SUV roared away, leaving him and his dad to go inside.
* * *
A dull throbbing pain woke Simon, and he opened his eyes to sinking unfamiliarity. Everything felt alien—even the smell. The area they’d left him in tried to look like a bedroom, but it wasn’t.
His mum had stayed the longest, though he'd hardly uttered a word all the time she'd been there. But after she'd gone, he'd buried his head into his pillow and cried; silent sobs of aching loneliness. He’d never been alone before. Someone had always been nearby—even on holiday, he and Luke shared a room.
They'd given him some tablets just before his mum had left. Restless sleep had come quicker than he'd expected, and he’d drifted in and out of confused dreams filled with anger and betrayal. And now it hurt again, physically as well as emotionally—a deep-set throbbing in his groin that kept sleep at bay.
The ward was dim—neither light nor dark—and overly warm, and there was no way to be sure of the time in the soft gloom. He wished it were already morning, so the nightmare could end and he could go home.
He’d seen enough of the open plan ward when he’d been awake to know that around about him a dozen or more other kids would be sleeping. He turned his head to see that the kid in the bed next to him, Sam, who he'd not spoken, was breathing softly and evenly, with his head snuggled comfortably into his pillow, apparently at peace with himself in his dreams.
Simon shifted position and tried to shut it all out, but the discomfort was pressing and he found it impossible to slip back into oblivion.
They said it was called a catheter, and he reached down under the light sheets to touch the foreign tube that sprouted out of the end of his dick, wrapped tightly in restricting bandages. Though he couldn't feel it, he knew enough biology to know that tube was pushed deep inside his bladder. It didn't hurt, but he mistrusted it; felt violated by it almost as much as he felt violated by Toby. His hand fumbled to his right and found the call button. He pressed it and waited.
It seemed to take an age for anyone to come, and the thoughts in his head drifted. None of the painkillers had softened the horrendous memories that lingered there, and while he'd hardly spoken after they brought him to the ward, it was in stark contrast to the journey curled up in the back of the car. He didn't think he could hurt any worse, but he’d been wrong. By the time they got him into a room surrounded by medical people in surgical gowns and gloved hands, his crying had become screaming as they'd examined him.
As he'd writhed, they'd peeled back his jeans and underwear, many hands holding him still until they stripped him naked. It had been excruciating as they'd pulled him straight, stopping him curling into a protective ball, so they could examine him. His swollen dick had reached a purple, distended, splitting agony as they pushed and prodded. It was so bad he was convinced he was going to die.
Finally they'd stuck a needle in him, and he mercifully retreated into blackness and knew no more.
He'd come round lying on a hospital bed partially surrounded by a curtain, relieved that the burning agony had reduced to a hot ache. No longer naked, he was dressed in some kind of ethereal white gown, covering him to his knees, and tied at the back.
In the ward where children slept, he still wore that same garment.
Apparently held in some kind of recovery room when he’d first surfaced, they'd seemed happy to watch him, passing his way ever so often to check his vitals. The only person he knew of those that came to study him was Dr. Tiberius, and he remembered snatches of a phone call his mum had had with the doctor in the van on the way to the hospital.
Soft words were spoken between Tiberius and a staff nurse, and Tiberius had lifted Simon's gown to take a look. The only word Simon caught was 'circumcision'. Tiberius seemed satisfied, but Simon didn't care, nor was interested in looking himself. He just wanted to go back to sleep.
That, at least, they seemed happy to allow.
He'd come to again to the sound of lift doors closing. Guarded by two male orderlies, his bed was pushed into an enormous elevator with ample space for all of them. They'd been talking about some basketball game, and hardly seemed aware he was even there. He'd opened his eyes enough to see grey steel walls as the lift ascended, finally stopping to disgorge them onto another corridor. Then he'd shut his eyes again and hoped it would all go away.
Then, the sounds around him had changed, and a curtain was pulled around his bed. More nurses came to look, make notes and study his bandages.
Then, others had come through the curtain: his mum and dad, and Luke. They all tried to sound upbeat and cheerful. He hardly said a word. Nobody mentioned the pipe with the yellow pee passing out from under the sheets to a bag hanging on the side of the bed, and nobody mentioned anything about circumcision. It was only when they said he couldn't go home that he started to cry.
His mum stayed longer than the others, and he was grateful. She promised to stay until he was asleep, and be back first thing in the morning. Then they could go home, she promised.
God, he so hoped so!
After everyone but his mum had left, a nurse had pressed some tablets into his hand. He'd swallowed them with a drink as she’d opened the curtains so all the ward could see him. The boy in the bed next to him had leaned over immediately and grinned, wasting no time introducing himself. Sam, he'd called himself. But Simon had ignored Sam and turned the other way. The last thing he wanted was to chat, or even have friends at all! He'd only intended to pretend to be asleep, but he must have dropped off.
Now, it was sometime in the middle of the night, and his mum had left him, too. He'd almost given up hope that someone would answer his call, when he was startled out of near sleep by a huskily musical voice coming from the end of his bed.
"What is it, Sugar?"
"It hurts," he muttered, as quietly as he could so that no one else who might be listening would have to know any specifics. To him, his voice sounded dry and disjointed—out of place in a setting he'd never expected to be in earlier that day.
The nurse—a rather plump African American woman—had come gliding through the gloom like a modern day Florence Nightingale. She busied herself at his side, and seemed not to have heard him as she lifted his chart. Studying it for a few moments, she replaced it on its hook.
"A bit stingy still is it, Sugar?" She appeared competently cheerful. "Let's take a look shall we?"
Friendly or not, her voice was firm. He saw her intentions clearly as she swished the curtain around its rail, giving them privacy from a group of children who were all asleep anyway. She turned on the light and, without giving him any warning, drew back the soft blanket and the pressed, white sheets.
He stared at his knees warily.
"Just lift back your jammies for me, Sugar."
He cringed as he realized what she was about to do. He'd only wanted painkillers. However, even though the words were motherly, he was under no illusions he had any option other than to do as he was told. Not that he would describe the dress-like gown that gaped at the back as PJs!
From the moment he’d got here, he’d been prodded and poked. Even before that, ever since he was diagnosed with Phimosis, it had been the same story, and it never got easier. Everybody wanted to see his wanger. Everyone had an opinion. And now this new nurse wanted to take a look, too. He despaired, but hid his feelings and he shuffled up on the pillows. Doing as he was told, he slid the ugly gown up past his backside.
Up until then, he’d stoically refused to look, but it wasn't something he could avoid anymore, and his eyes tracked with the nurse's, wondering what he'd find as he pulled the gown clear. Even though he'd sensed what was there when his hand had previously brushed over the area, in truth he didn't quite know what to expect.
The first most immediate and obvious feature was the rubbery looking, yellow tube issuing out the end of his bandaged dick. The catheter.
In his minds eye he recalled the well-annotated diagram in his human biology textbook—the one they'd all giggled about in class as Moffat, their Science teacher, tried to keep them on track. Simon had studied the section for that particular week's test, and knew all the right terms, and that his pee came from his bladder and down his urethra. However, that a rubber tube could be forced to go up the other way wasn't something Moffat had covered.
The rubber tube ended in a 'Y' shaped connector, and from one branch another clear plastic tube ran away over the side of the bed. It was filled with a yellow liquid, and it wasn't rocket science to guess what that was! He didn't remember it being inserted—presumably it was while he was knocked out—and he fretted about how, and more importantly, when, they were planning to remove it.
The second thing that was hard to miss were all the enclosing tight bandages that were wrapped around the length of his dick, squeezing and elongating his shaft almost to the point of making it appear he was aroused. The crisp white cloth was badly discolored in places with the marks of dried blood, where it appeared that he must have bled a lot. Those bandages went all the way down to where there should have been a burgeoning bush of hair, but with dismay he could see that it had all gone—shaved off without him knowing. His bare skin was stained with the remains of a lurid yellow color, and he resisted the impulse to put his hand over his junk to hide his embarrassment.
Finally, at the other end of his bandages, and partially covered by them, was the part of him that he wasn't yet able to come to terms with.
With everything bare, the nurse seemed to be sizing him up.
"Hurting in what kind of way, Sugar?" she inquired. She unhooked a bag from the side of the bed and lifted it, and seemed to be speaking more to herself as she murmured, "Cath seems good."
"It throbs quite a bit." Whatever painkillers they gave him earlier had worn off.
Her face softened, the motherliness there becoming more apparent as she stroked his hand. Then she lifted the chart again. "I see you've had Dr. Chowdry."
He gave a slight shrug. He assumed it was in there, but the name meant nothing.
"Oh, he's such a dear...got a heart of gold. I always feel like giving him real a big hug!" Her eyes sparkled and she grinned, showing white, buck teeth. "Big woman like me...I'd probably smother him!"
Simon couldn't help it. For the first time since leaving Toby's place, he smiled. She prattled on, and he found it comforting to let her.
"That's gonna be a nice neat and tidy little circumcision you've got there, my little man!" She nodded knowingly, and took his wrist, apparently quite capable of taking a pulse while chatting softly. "Good for you, Sugar. Better late than never I say! I know it's a bit sore now, but it'll soon pass!"
Simon held his arm still as she pressed her fingers into his wrist and kept his thoughts to himself.
"I got kids, too," she said, whipping out a pen and making a quick entry in the notes. Her eyes were full of mirth as she squeezed the pen back next to her ample bosom.
"Strapping boys they are! I even got me a couple your age. Always best to get you boys done as babies.” She wagged her finger playfully. "That's what my old momma, bless her soul, always told me! She was never wrong, my momma!"
She sighed and put back the chart.
"But never mind," she said, winking at him in an uncomfortable and far too knowing a way. "Like I said, you’re gonna heal up in no time and you'll soon be good to go, looking right fine and handsome!"
She rummaged in another pocket of her light blue tunic and drew out a small plastic container. Popping the lid she shook out a couple of tablets. "Here ya go, Sugar. Those are for the pain."
He took the tablets from her hand and she poured water from the jug on the side into a plastic beaker. Knocking them back, he found he was thirsty too, and kept swallowing from the beaker until it was empty.
Retrieving another canister from impossibly-full pockets, she shook out another, larger tablet. "And this too," she said. She refilled the cup for him and he used it to get down the second tablet. There was a small bonus; with a pipe in his penis, at least he wouldn't have to worry about needing to get up for a pee!
Patting his hand one last time, she turned off the light and drew back the curtain, leaving him waiting for the hospital grade Tylenol, and whatever else she'd given him, to kick in. He lay motionless in the soft gloom, listening to the soft breathing of kids around him. He wished now that she hadn't gone so quickly, leaving him alone with his dark thoughts. He was lonely again and tears welled and slipped unhindered down his cheeks, wetting the pillow. Everything had been taken from him: his hairs, his foreskin, his modesty, his virginity, his self-worth, his closest friend, his choices, his belief in himself.
They were even taking his fucking urine without asking!
What was left?
He couldn't think of anything that actually mattered, and blackness stole over him, well before sleep closed his eyes.