Jayden didn’t consider where he would go once he left school. He stopped at a nearby Starbucks, sat on the patio and watched people walk by. An elderly couple sat down next to him and tried to engage him in conversation, but he wasn’t in the mood to be friendly. He picked up his coffee and left without saying goodbye.
Things were happening too quickly in his life. He had just recently adjusted to his mother’s death and moving in with his aunt and cousins. Now, once again he had been displaced. He liked living with the Neals, who wouldn’t? The only probably was, it didn’t feel like home. He was a stranger living in a strange home. He knew it wouldn’t last. He had told the Neals he would only stay with them until he graduated. That was only three month away. Then what would he do? How would he support himself?
There was also another problem-Troy. It had been several years since he felt anything for anyone. He had carefully protected himself and his emotions. But somehow he had let his guard down and let Troy enter. He wondered if he felt sorry for him, but he knew it went deeper than that. When he saw Troy, he didn’t see a young, blind boy with scars on his body. He saw someone who touched him like no one else had ever, not even Vince. Vince had been two boys experimenting with their sexuality. He didn’t feel that way with Troy.
He wanted Troy to need him in the same way he needed Troy. Somehow it had happened. Somehow he had fallen in love.
“May I help you?” He looked down at the receptionist. Without thinking, he had aimlessly ended up at the hospital. When he arrived, he scanned the names on the board beside the elevators. Dr. Imogene Turner.
“Is Dr. Turner in?”
“And who are you?”
“Jayden Henderson.” She looked down at her appointment book and searched for Jayden’s name.
“You don’t seem to have an appointment,” she said as she looked up and smiled. “Are you a patient? I don’t recall seeing you before.”
“No, Ma’am,” he replied. “I wanted to speak to her about Troy Neal.”
“Troy Neal?” He nodded. She got up from her seat and disappeared down a hallway. Jayden looked around and then sat down in a seat. A few minutes later, Dr. Turner walked in. He remembered seeing her the day Troy left the hospital. She was the doctor who had been counseling Troy and his family on how to deal with Troy’s blindness.
“Jayden.” She walked over and extended her hand to him. “It’s good to see you. I understand you want to talk to me about Troy. Is he all right?”
“Yes, Ma’am,” he replied politely. He became embarrassed and then turned to leave. “I’m sorry, Dr. Turner, I don’t know why I’m here.” She grabbed his arm and stopped him.
“Well, you are,” she said warmly. “Now let’s go talk about whatever is on your mind.” She had worked with teen boys enough to know that it was sometimes hard to get them to open up and talk about their problems. Experience told her that Jayden was feeling very distraught.
“Sit down.” She pointed to a chair as they walked into her office. It wasn’t as he had expected. He thought it might look like a typical hospital room, but it wasn’t. The walls had been painted a warm, green color and plants accented the room. The furniture was colorful and comfortable. He immediately felt relaxed as he sat down.
“Would you like a soda?” He nodded his head as Dr. Turner picked up the phone and asked her receptionist to bring her two sodas and a bag of potato chips. She then pulled up a chair and sat facing Jayden.
“So, Jayden,” she spoke in a motherly voice, not like a doctor. “What brings you here today?” Just then, the receptionist walked in with two glasses and a bowl containing potato chips. She set them down on a table and then left without saying anything.
He reached for a handful of chips and then looked out the window. “I don’t know,” he answered shyly as he bit down on a chip.
“So you’re going to make this hard for me?” Dr. Turner smiled and took a sip from her glass. “All right, let’s play twenty questions.” Jason looked up and smiled, and then looked down at the floor.
“Question one,” she said. “How long have you been in love with Troy?”
Jayden’s head shot up and looked into the intent eyes of Dr. Turner. Her gaze softened and she let a smile form on her lips. “Do I need a second question?”
Tears appeared in his eyes as he dropped his head. “Well?” she asked softly. He shook his head.
“Jayden?” she said. “Look at me.” He raised his head and looked at her through misty eyes. “There’s nothing to be ashamed of.”
“How did you know?” He tried to look away, but turned and met her eyes.
“Troy spent a lot of time talking about you in our therapy sessions,” she stated. “Of course I can’t tell you what he said, but let’s just say I picked up on a few things.” She waited for Jayden to speak, but he sat quietly and looked out the window.
“Would you now like to tell me why you’re here?” She started to laugh. “Or do we have to play twenty questions again?” When he didn’t respond, she cleared her throat.
“Okay,” she said. “Let me see.” She studied the sad expression on Jayden’s face.
“Question two. Are you afraid that Troy doesn’t feel for you what you feel for him?” Jayden looked up with an astonished look on his face. “And question three. Are you afraid that you may get hurt emotionally?”
Tears once again welled up in Jayden’s eyes. He rose, walked over to the window and looked out. “What do I do?” he mumbled almost inaudibly. Dr. Turner walked over and placed her hand gently on his back.
“Troy’s been through a life changing experience,” she said. “His whole world changed in a matter of seconds. He’s trying to adjust. He may not be ready to love someone right now.”
Jayden laughed nervously. “Yeah, he told me that.”
“Jayden.” She turned and faced him. “Give him a little time. You’re someone new who has just come into his life.”
“What if he never does love me?” Tears started to gently flow down his cheeks. She took his hands and squeezed them.
“I don’t think you need to be worried,” she assured him. “I met with him yesterday afternoon and he spent half the time talking about you.”
Jayden looked at her through his tears. “Really?”
“Really,” she smiled as she gently squeezed his hands. “Just give him some time and don’t push him.”
“So you think I have a chance?”
“I know you have a chance,” she assured him as she reached out and gave him a hug.
“There he is!” Tyrone pointed down a side road Anthony had just passed. He hit the brakes and quickly backed up.
Jayden heard the squealing of tires, but he thought nothing of it. It wasn’t unusual to hear horns honking or cars braking on the streets. He was walking back to the Neal’s home after meeting with Dr. Turner. She had given him a feeling of hope that things might improve with Troy.
One thing he knew for sure, he wasn’t going to turn his back on Troy. He had made a few negative statements recently which he now deeply regretted. He decided to follow Dr. Turner’s advice and give Troy time to sort out his feelings. Perhaps they would never be lovers, but he knew they would always remain friends.
He quickly turned when he heard a car’s brakes behind him. His eyes widened when he saw Anthony’s blue van. Tyrone was pointing a gun at him.
“I want every available car to head toward Broadway!” Wallace shouted into his microphone. “This is a Code Red! Be on the lookout for a blue van last seen heading south in the 1900 block of Broadway. Subjects in the van are believed to be armed and very dangerous. Proceed with caution!”
Wallace sped his car in the direction of Broadway. An officer had radioed him that he had spotted the van, but he had lost visual contact with it. He was extremely worried because he knew that was direction Jayden would take if he was on foot to the Neal home.
“Damn it,” he shouted as he pounded on the steering wheel. He looked at his speedometer. He was traveling almost sixty miles an hour on a narrow city street. He had to get to Jayden before his cousins found him.
“Subjects in the blue van have been spotted near King Street and Broadway,” announced the dispatcher. “A patrol car is following behind them.”
“All units to King and Broadway! No sirens!” Wallace screamed into the microphone. He was only three blocks away. He hoped that he could overtake the van without incident. If they heard sirens approaching, they would have a better chance of eluding them before he could arrive.
He looked in his rearview mirror and saw a patrol car closely behind him. Another patrol car pulled up to an intersection, but let him pass before they fell in behind him.
When he turned onto Broadway, he saw the blue van stopped in the street. He also noticed a figure on the sidewalk fall to the ground.
“We’ve got a person down!” he shouted into the microphone. He hit the accelerator just as the person in the van saw him approaching. They were attempting to drive away, when he pulled his car in front of them and blocked their path.
“Drop the gun!” He shouted as he jumped from his car and ducked behind the door. Another officer ran up and knelt down beside him. He saw two more cruisers pull up behind the van, and officers get out with their weapons drawn.
“Give it up, Anthony!” he screamed. He glanced to the side and saw Jayden lying motionless on the ground. “It’s all over!”
Tyrone threw his arms in the air. Wallace watched as Anthony opened the door and stepped out with his gun pointed at him. He felt his finger pull the trigger, and then Anthony’s eyes widened as he fell to the ground. Officers approached the van and yanked Tyrone from it. After he was handcuffed, Wallace walked over and looked down at Anthony as an officer tried to find a pulse. He looked up at him and shook his head.
“Detective!” He looked over at some officers who were kneeling beside the figure lying on the sidewalk. When he approached, he noticed a small pool of blood on the ground beside him.
“Get me an ambulance here!” he screamed into his microphone. “Now!” He sat down on the ground and placed Jayden’s head in his lap. “It’s going to be all right,” he said soothingly.
“You know Jayden calls this our quality time?” Claire laughed as she lay beside Allison on her bed.
Allison laid back and pulled Claire onto her body. “This feels good.” She leaned in and kissed Claire. She then rested her head on Allison’s shoulder and enjoyed the closeness they shared.
It was several minutes before she pulled away and sat back up. “We’ve got to figure out a way to get Troy and Jayden together.”
“Oh, no you don’t,” laughed Allison as she sat up. “Don’t go trying to play matchmaker again. Remember it was you who hooked up Troy with Will. Besides, we don’t even know yet what will happen with them.”
“Will’s a bastard,” exclaimed Claire angrily. “He didn’t even show up Saturday when Troy came home. I called him all day and he never answered his cell phone.”
“Maybe he had a good reason,” suggested Allison.
“I don’t care if he was in Rome meeting with the Pope,” she replied. “He still should have been there.”
She looked over and grinned. “Besides,” she said. “I think Jayden really likes Troy.”
“Duh,” laughed Allison. “Do you think so?”
“So I’m not imagining it then?” She looked expectantly at Allison.
“No,” she replied. She began to remember her conversation with Troy. “But...”
“I just don’t think we should force it,” she suggested.
“Okay,” Claire said as she lay back on the bed.
Allison laughed as she laid back and rolled on her side. “You’re going to do it, aren’t you?”
“Do what?” Claire asked innocently.
“Never mind,” she sighed as she pulled Claire towards her. She knew her well enough to know that once she set her mind on something, it was useless to try and convince her otherwise. She knew Claire was determined to see Troy and Jayden together.
They were snuggled together asleep when Claire’s cell phone rang. She yawned, picked up the phone and saw that it was a call from Sarah, a friend from school.
“Hello?” she asked sleepily.
“Are you watching the news!” The voice on the other end shouted. Allison sat up and looked worriedly at Claire.
“My God, Claire!” Sarah shouted. “Jayden’s been shot!”
Claire closed her phone and collapsed into Allison’s arms.
Detective Wallace was sitting in the hospital waiting room and filling out a report of the shooting incident. Immediately after he shot Anthony, he had surrendered his gun to a sergeant on the scene. He knew the next few days would involve long, exhaustive questioning from internal affairs.
Anthony had given him no choice. Wallace saw the determined look on his face when he emerged from the van with his gun pointed toward him. He knew Anthony wouldn’t give up without a fight. He knew it was his life, or Anthony’s. As he pulled the trigger, he thought of his wife and two young boys. He wanted to return home at the end of the day to see them.
As he continued the endless report, he looked up when he heard the waiting room doors open. Mr. and Mrs. Neal were hurriedly approaching him. Troy had his arm wrapped tightly around his father’s.
“How is he?” Mr. Neal asked excitedly. His wife walked up beside him and held his other arm tightly.
Wallace shook his head. “I don’t know,” he said. “No one has come out and said anything yet.”
“Was he badly hurt?” Mrs. Neal asked. Troy turned his head slightly to hear his answer.
“I don’t think so,” he replied. All three of the figures before him let out a sigh of relief. “I was at the scene and rode in the ambulance with him. He was responsive and alert. He was shot in the shoulder. The bullet didn’t exit his body, so they have to run x rays to determine where it’s lodged.”
Troy asked anxiously, “So he’ll be all right?”
“I hope so,” Wallace replied. “Sometimes a bullet’s path can be tricky. If it ricocheted off a bone, it could have ended up anywhere.”
“Oh, Dear,” cried Mrs. Neal. She took hold of Troy’s arm and led him over to a sofa. She took out a tissue and wiped the tears from her eyes as Troy tried to console her.
“He’s going to be all right, Mother,” he said reassuringly. “He has to be,” he added.
“What happened?” Mr. Neal asked the detective as he sat down beside him.
“It appears Jayden was walking back to your home when his cousins spotted him on the street,” he said. “We had a tip that they were looking for him, so I went to his school to get him this afternoon. It seems he checked out before I got there.” Troy and his mother leaned forward so they could hear him.
“An officer spotted the van; but before we could get to them, they had already shot Jayden. One of his cousins surrendered, but the other came out of the van with his gun drawn.” He looked sadly at Mr. Neal. “I had to shoot and kill him.”
“Oh, Dear,” cried Mrs. Neal.
“Good,” mumbled Troy. He couldn’t see the disapproving look his father gave him.
He held up the report he was working on before they arrived. “Now I’ve got a ton of reports I have to fill out. I’ll also be assigned to a desk job until internal affairs finishes investigating the matter.”
“But you said you had to shoot him,” said Mrs. Neal.
“It’s procedure,” he replied. “Anytime an officer shoots someone it has to be investigated.”
“I’m glad you shot the son of a bitch,” spat Troy. “After what he did to me, he deserved what he got.”
“Troy!” admonished his father. “No one deserves to die.”
“He didn’t care if I died that night,” he responded angrily. His father started to respond, but Wallace grabbed his arm and stopped him. He knew that there was little use in trying to argue with Troy over the events of that evening. It would be a long time, if ever, he could come to understand what had happened.
They stood when Claire and Allison came rushing in. Claire immediately ran over to Mrs. Neal and fell into her arms. “Is he alive?” she cried. She pulled away and grabbed Troy. He wrapped his arms around her and held her as she continued to cry.
“We don’t know anything yet,” he said softly. “But the detective thinks he’ll be all right.” She looked at Wallace who nodded his head. Allison walked over and wrapped her arms around Claire and Troy.
“Oh, Troy!” Claire cried. “When is all this going to end?”
“You’re a very lucky young man,” exclaimed the doctor as he finished applying the bandage to Jayden’s shoulder. Jayden was sitting up in the emergency cubicle with his legs dangling from the gurney.
“So it didn’t do any permanent damage?” he asked as the doctor filled out a prescription and handed it to him.
“This is for the pain,” he said. “You may feel a little discomfort for a few days.” He patted Jayden’s leg. “As to your question, no. You were shot with a small caliber gun from a distance. It looked a lot worse than it was. The bullet lodged in the muscle tissue, and I was able to remove it rather easily. As I said, you were very lucky.”
A man in a business suit walked into the room. He approached Jayden and asked how he was feeling. “I’m fine,” Jayden responded. He looked at his name plate. It read, Dr. John Van Dyke, Hospital Administrator.
“Good,” he said as he turned to the doctor who had been attending Jayden. “We have a number of people from the media who want to speak to you concerning this young man’s injuries. Do you think you can have a brief news conference?”
A puzzled look came over the doctor. “Why?” Dr. Van Dyke walked over and placed his hand on Jayden’s arm.
“It appears this young man is quite famous,” he smiled.
“More like infamous,” frowned Jayden.
“Yes, well,” he stated as he turned back to the doctor. “Stop by my office when you finish up here. I’ll call for a press conference in a half hour. You should be done by then?”
The doctor nodded his head as the administrator left the room. “Well, Jayden,” he said as he looked at the bandaged shoulder. “You’re about ready. While you get dressed, I’m going out into the waiting room and speak to your family. They should be worried sick about you.”
“I don’t have a family,” he replied sadly. “However, I’m sure the Neal family is out there. You can tell them.”
“Yes, of course,” he said as he turned and left Jayden alone. He jumped off the bed, removed the hospital gown and started putting on his clothing. As he was carefully putting on his shirt, the green curtain was pulled back, and Wallace walked in.
“I heard the good news.” He walked over and helped Jayden place the shirt over his head. Jayden winced in pain. “You’d better wear button-down shirts for a while.”
“Yeah,” he agreed. His shoulder was throbbing with pain. After putting on his shoes, Wallace asked him to have a seat on the bed. He then sat down beside him.
“Before you leave, I need to talk to you,” he informed Jayden. “Because this is a homicide investigation, you’re going to be asked a lot of questions.”
“I understand,” he answered sorrowfully. Even though he didn’t like Anthony, it bothered him to see him get shot. Much of what happened to him after Tyrone had pointed the gun at him was a blur, but he was alert enough to hear gunshots and then watch as his cousin dropped dead to the ground.
“Don’t talk to anyone about this matter until you’ve been questioned thoroughly. And please don’t say anything to the media. As you know, the doctor is going to have a press conference soon. He’ll tell them everything they need to know. My chief had a briefing earlier this evening, so they have all the information they need at this time.”
Jayden nodded his head. He had been through this earlier when Troy had been injured. One reporter had even tried to stop him when he left school and ask him questions.
“Will you be all right?” Detective Wallace asked with concern. He knew that the past few weeks had been traumatic for Jayden.
“I guess I don’t have much choice,” he tried to smile. “Do I?”
Just then the green curtain was pulled back again. This time Mr. Neal entered with Troy tightly grasping his arm.
“Jayden?” Troy called out. Jayden stood before him and placed his hands on his shoulders.
“Jayden!” Troy cried as he clutched him tightly around the waist and pressed his head against Jayden’s. Jayden winced in pain, but he didn’t care. He looked over at Wallace.
“Yeah,” he said tearfully. “I’m going to be all right.”