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James Matthews

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  1. I sat opposite Mr Watson, watching his face intently. He was looking at me, biting his bottom lip. It was like those times when someone wanted to tell you something but didn't know where to begin or didn't know whether they should say anything at all. The man had been silent ever since he said he had some news I would like. Was he waiting for me to ask more questions? Was he gauging my reaction? I'd had good news before, only for it to crash and burn because these days, the only information I considered good anymore was the kind that had the words, new parents, in it, and we all know how that ends, seeing as I'm still here. I was now growing impatient! "Would you like to give me a clue, sir?" "Sorry, Puppy, I'm just very aware of your potential reaction when I begin." "Can I just ask then, have you found me some new parents?" "Hmm, something like that, but this is slightly different. You see, early this morning, I had a telephone call from a gentleman called Max Chase asking if we had a Jensen living here. Does that name mean anything to you?" I thought about the name hard, tilting my head diagonally and pouting my lips. I wanted that name to mean something, I wanted any name to mean something, but nothing was coming to mind, no picture in my head, no memory, nothing. "Sorry no, sir, that name means nothing to me." "Hmm, Look Puppy, I can't verify the authenticity of a person by one phone call alone, but he asked for you as Jensen Chase, which only leaves me to one conclusion." My eyes grew wide. "Jensen Chase?" "Yes, Puppy, Jensen Chase... and I think I had that same look when he said that name to me." "Are you saying what I think you’re saying?" "That's he is your natural father?" Mr Watson took a deep breath and sighed. "I might be, Puppy, but look, we need to delve into this in more detail. I wanted to give you the news now because I don't want you to think we are hiding anything from you...God knows you have had enough letdowns in your life." He finished, talking more to himself on the last sentence. "I almost thought about not telling you to be honest, just in case, well_." "He's a fraud?" "I don't personally think he is. He sounded sincere and hopeful." I felt a buzzing feeling journey through my body, and I wanted to pinch myself to see if I was awake. I mean, this was about as far away from anything I ever expected, walking up here." "So when...I mean, what happens now, is that it, I mean did this guy just call and that's it, or..." I asked, starting to get excited and fidgety in my chair. "We have to be very careful here Puppy, first of all, we need to establish who this man is and_." "What do you mean who he is?" I snapped. "You just said he was sincere and hopeful, right?" "Yes, I know, but Puppy, he could still be anyone; I can't take the risk of just taking a faceless man's word on something as big as this." "I know, I'm sorry, this is all just a little overwhelming for me; I never knew...I never knew...I mean, my father is dead; this has got to be a wind-up: God, so many thoughts in my head. I just feel something is... I dunno, like it feels, right? Jesus, I just need to know!" "I know Puppy, and you have my word. I will keep you up to date with what we find out." "Did he erm...did he ask to speak to me?" Mr Watson paused for a moment. "Puppy, he asked to meet you, and you know I can't let that happen at least until_" "He asked to meet me, and you said no?" I asked, now perplexed. "Puppy, you need to understand the problem here, the world is not a safe place, and that worries me so much because you have grown up in a bubble. Not everyone is genuine like the people in this home... the staff, your friends...; it's not like that outside." "But he could be my father and_." Mr Watson cut me off. "Puppy, he is not your father until it’s proven he is, and your welfare is my priority, now please, I know this is a lot to take in but let me and my staff do some checks and as I said, I will keep you informed." I sat there and just stared at Mr Watson, his reasoning just bouncing off me. "Can I go now?" I asked, starting to feel angry once again. "Yes, you can go Puppy, but I don't want this to consume you; you are doing well at the moment, and that needs to carry on if there is any hope of you leaving here, understand?" "Yeah, I got it," I huffed, getting up from my seat. Lunch was being served, and I left my room to join the other kids in the eating area. Cindy came up behind me and tapped me on the shoulder while balancing a tray in her hand. "What's up Puppy, I came by your room, and you weren't there." "I was in the garden; I needed to think." "How did your meeting with the home director go? I thought you would have come and told me?" "Can we talk about it later?" I said, dropping my head down. "Sure, whatever you want, but are you ok?" "I said, can we not talk about it." Cindy rolled her eyes and placed her tray on the table before sitting down opposite me. I knew what she was like when it came to me not wanting to talk. She would just keep bringing it up until I cracked and told her, so I took a bite out of the apple I'd got earlier and looked up at her. "I think my real dad has found me," I said softly. "But I dunno how that's even possible!" "Your real dad?" Cindy yelled, reeling her neck back. "But...but Puppy, your dad, is_." "Dead? Yeah, I know," I replied, looking at her directly! Cindy looked off into the distance as if in deep thought. I saw her lips say something silently as she zoned out. "This uh...this guy! So can they like do a test or something?" I shrugged. "I dunno" "Puppy, that's just crazy news" She shook her head. "Unreal, yeah, I know." "So...so how do you feel?" "All over the place, so many questions Cindy, I can't get my head around it all." "I mean, how do you feel knowing or thinking your real dad exists?" "Same answer Cindy, all over the place. I wanna know so much, why he left and why he came looking for me now; I mean, I know nothing about this guy, not a thing, no one has ever told me anything about him." "It sounds frustrating, Puppy; I’m sorry." I sighed. "Well, it would be the sick joke of the century if he was some kind of fraudster. So I can only assume he thinks he has a missing son." Cindy started to eat her food slowly, keeping her eyes locked on me. I placed my apple core on the side of her tray and leaned back in my chair. "Blimey, this is such a mystery", Cindy muttered between chewing. "It is Cindy! I spent so much of my life thinking the guy that killed my mum was my dad, and then when I found out he might not be, I thought about who my real dad could be and...and, argh god, it's just such a mess, Cindy." "Has he asked to meet you?" "Yeah, and he was told he couldn't." "But why?" Cindy asked that same surprised look on her face I had in Watson's office. "Mr Watson said it was because he might be lying and stuff. I don't understand what the fuss is about, but he seems to be worried about it." "But why would someone make that stuff up? But then again, Watson is right that he needs to provide evidence, and I'm not sure what that might be." "I don't know Cindy; as I said, it feels such a mess. But Watson did say he asked for Jensen Chase, which makes me think it must be real because hardly anyone calls me Jensen anymore and who knows I live here?" "Family?" Cindy asked, tilting her head slightly. "I don't know any family, and it’s not like anyone has ever come to visit me or anything. So up until today, I didn't know anyone from outside Greenstone knew I existed." "Hmm, so what happens now then?" "Dunno, Watson said he would keep me updated with news, but it's ripping me apart, not knowing what the hell is going on with this. Part of me wishes he had never told me" "Aww puppy, don't say that, whatever happens, you know there is someone out there who wants to meet you." "Yeah, and I wonder if that will still be the case when he finds out about my medical history and behavioural problems." "Well, if he is your real dad, then I think he should accept you for whoever you are." Bless Cindy, she was always the optimist, and as I looked around the room at all the kids with no parents, I suddenly realised that actually, I was the only one who might just have a parent who wants to know me...hell, might even care about me. I picked up my apple core and started twirling it in my hands, feeling restless. Cindy pulled it from my fingers and placed it on her now empty plate, and smiled. The eating area was full of activity with kids of all ages tucking into their lunch. Greenstone had around forty children living in it with about space for another ten. I remember the place a few years back when there were only around fifteen children here. At that time, it felt like as soon as a child came in, they were finding new parents except for me, who remained here trying to sound happy for the people who were leaving each week. Selfishly, I felt jealous of every one of them. The older I got, the fewer people I spoke to. Most were not capable of holding a conversation anyway simply because of their age, and some, well some just bored the hell out of me to the point where I had to walk away. Maybe it was me; perhaps I just wasn't a very social person. There was something different about Cindy, though, and when it came to her, I got scared when I thought of being without her. She was my emotional support to an otherwise chronic loner. I had no ties to anyone else like her, and I wondered what the future held when I let my mind wander into thoughts of life after Greenstone. If that day ever came! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Greenstone was built in eighteen ninety-seven by a man named Lord Deseer Mountbatten. A wealthy landowner in England, he put his name to many fine buildings in his lifetime but none he thought so special as his Greenstone masterpiece. A self-confessed architect with no formal training, he built his houses for the love of his many mistresses. As you can probably tell, the History of Greenstone was taught to us as we lived in the home. Deseer was a man full of love, he loved women, but most of all, he loved children, especially children who had no love themselves. So close to his death in nineteen twelve, he gifted the house to the townspeople to give children a home that had lost their parents. It was his final act of love before he died. I grew up wanting to know more about Deseer Mountbatten; as to me, he was a legend, a selfless soul who gave back to the community far more than he took. I fantasied about him being my own father and how we would go fishing together down by the old lake at the bottom of the estate. Deseer was every child's dream in a father, and that's what made Greenstone close to my heart. Saying that, I longed to get out of here, not because I was unhappy with the place in general, but because I just wanted to feel like an average child before adulthood took its place in my life. I wanted to learn about the outside world, get loving hugs from parents and play football in the streets with friends as I saw on TV. Only now was it that I saw a glimmer of hope coming in the way of a man who claimed to be my father. But, dark thoughts would enter my mind at not a moment's notice, telling me that he would never want to have someone like me, that it was just a curiosity fad with him, and that when he saw me and got it out of his system, he would be off again doing his thing and living his life. Those thoughts among the hope were pure gut-wrenching! "Knock knock," came the voice of Cindy outside my bedroom door. "You may enter at your own risk," I said in a scary voice before giggling. Then, I heard the door click, and Cindy walked in wearing her trademark jeans and a baggy t-shirt. "Well, someone is in a chirpy mood," she said, flinging herself on my bed next to me, making my body bounce in the air. "Not really, just a better mood than normal, I suppose." "Hmm, well, I've seen all of your moods, and this is a good one compared to most, I'll agree." "Cindy, I need to ask you something." "What's that Puppy," she said, resting her head against the wall. "Is everything ok?" " I just...well, I want to know how you would feel if I ever left this place." Cindy sat back up and went into a thoughtful mode, and I watched as invisible cogs turned in her brain. I knew whatever came out of her mouth would be the truth; it always was, but how much of what she was feeling maybe I would never understand. I heard her sigh gently. "You know Puppy, if this call from your dad turns into something perfect and you eventually leave Greenstone, I will be very happy for you because I know how long you have been here and how many times your dreams have been crushed. I know how much it means to you to be able to live a normal family life." "But?" I said, knowing there was one. She cleared her throat. "But, if I was selfish, the truth is I will be devastated because I can't imagine being here without you; you get me?" Hearing her say that made me want to cry. If it weren't for the stupid drugs I was on, I probably would have been able to, but since taking these pills, I have been void of most raw emotions apart from laughter and anger; it was a strange feeling when I concentrated on it intensely. "I guess there can be no winners from my situation Cindy," I mused. "Yes, there can Puppy; you need to do what's right for you and be happy. If your dad is serious about contacting you, then you need to grab that with both hands and hold on tight; you may not get another opportunity." "I know Cindy, but what if he's an asshole, you know? I mean, he did leave me in the first place, and it has taken him god knows how long to attempt to contact me." "You need to find out the background first Puppy, you don't know why he left, and if he even knew you were alive all those years, I mean, how or where would he have known where to start looking?" "I dunno, that's what I mean; there are so many unanswered questions that I just want to know now." "In good time, Puppy, he has made contact with the home; it must be important to him otherwise, why would he bother? I don't think he is just going to walk away without speaking to you." "I hope not; even if he is an asshole, there are still lots of things I would like to know so I can at least have peace of mind." "So be patient; as Mr Watson said, he will keep you updated, right?" "Yeah, I know, easier said than done." "Most things are Puppy. Say, is that a new poster?" Cindy asked, referring to my picture of the Grand Canyon I had pinned on my wall. "Yeah, I got it today; I traded it." "For what?" She asked inquisitively. "A pack of Haribos and some mints," I said with a grin. "Wow, the black market in this place is thriving," Cindy said, sarcasm oozing from her words. "Hey, it was a good trade; that poster will last forever; the guy I got it from has probably eaten the sweets already." "Who was it?" "The boy?" "Yeah." "Billy Jones, the boy who was gonna be in our class the other day until you_." "Oh him, so he spoke to you?" "Yeah, he's a little shy, but he's real nice. I don't know about his sister though I didn't see her." "Was he in your room?" "No, I saw him in the gardens; he was sitting on a wall reading some book on deserts; I got talking to him and said I would love to visit the Grand Canyon, and he told me about the poster." "Oh, I see...so did you find out anything?" "Like what?" "Like why they are here?" "No, he didn't say anything about it; I didn't wanna ask anyway just in case it was a horrible situation." "Aww, Puppy, I really want to know," Cindy whined, always the lover of home gossip. I shrugged. "Well, why don't you ask him when you see him around?" "Me, oh dear no, I don't want to get a reputation as a_" "Gossip?" I said before laughing. "Cindy, c'mon now, we all know you have that reputation already; just ask Charlotte Grange." "I think she hates me; she would think that." "Charlotte is Charlotte; you know that, and I'm sure she doesn't hate you." "Hmm, well, whatever you say. So, you wanna play a game or something?" "Like what?" "I dunno, snap?" "Not really; I got too much stuff swimming around in my mind. Why don't you put the TV on or something? Maybe there is a movie showing?" "Cindy shrugged and pulled my remote control from the window sill, turning on the TV. As she flicked through the channels, I went to the bathroom and relieved my bladder. When I came back out, she had gotten under the covers of my bed, making herself quite at home. "You know if one of the staff finds you in my bed, they are gonna freak, Cindy." "Let'em, I'm cold, and besides, what have they got to freak about its not like we are doing anything." "Doing anything? Like what?" "Sexy stuff, you know, like on TV." "Aww gross, yeah, we certainly ain’t." Cindy laughed. "Ha, your face, that was funny." "Just move over so I can at least sit on my bed," I stated, unimpressed. She stuck her tongue out before shifting over to the side. I climbed on next to her and waited until she had settled on a programme. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The following day I found myself in Mr Watson's office again after he had called for me. Although Watson was not there yet, I was sitting with Charlotte Grange, who was in charge of the Children's general needs. Another man in the room was Stuart Gentry, who took care of our files and was responsible for vetting parents. In the corner of the room on his own was Doctor Listern, the home behavioural specialist and Doctor. He was already taking notes down on a pad, and the very act of that was making me nervous. I sat in silence while Charlotte and Stuart chatted. Doctor Listern said nothing and just smiled when I happened to look in his direction. Something was worrying me about this meeting; I don't know exactly; I just had a bad feeling about it. Pulling me from my thoughts, the door clicked and in walked Mr Watson followed by my general Doctor, Sam Stillworth. There were now five people in the room, all there I assumed to talk about me and to me. It was very scary. Mr Watson took his place behind his desk, and Sam pulled out a spare chair from the utility room, which joined on to Watson's office. "Ok, so thank you all for joining me today and to you, especially Puppy; I know you are probably wondering why I have asked you here, and we will not keep you in suspense too long, I promise." Mr Watson said, forming a light smile. "I want to start by saying the purpose of this meeting is to evaluate the findings of Mr Max Chase's assumption he is the father of Puppy Stibbs. Now I have had a telephone call with Mr Chase since we last spoke Puppy, and I have said that to verify his identity in the fastest and least stressful way to you is through a DNA test." "A DN what?" I asked, confused. Mr Watson and some of the others lightly chuckled. "Puppy, it's a simple test that will tell us if Mr Chase is your father. It is swift and pain-free, but I need to ask you whether you wish to go ahead with it. There is no pressure on you to do this, and it is entirely your choice." "I um, well I guess that would be ok and uh... painless you say?" "Oh yes, Puppy, all we need to do is take a scraping from inside your cheek with a cotton wool bud, and that's it," Sam Stillworth added. "Is he gonna take the test...I mean my da...Max?" I asked, swallowing hard. "Yes, Puppy, he has agreed to do that," Watson replied. "Now I want to pass over to Stuart, who will be able to tell you some information about this man Puppy, after which you can ask any questions you like, ok?" I nodded the affirmative and suddenly felt uneasy again about what would be revealed if anything. I turned my attention to Stuart and prepared myself. "Right Puppy, so I have gathered some information on Max Chase and created a file. You can look at this file whenever you want if you forget anything of what is said today. The information I have is based on Mr Watson's two telephone calls to Max and several different searches I have done with the assistance of local council and government databases, including child protection." "Ok, sounds complicated." Stuart chuckled. "Not really Puppy, the information is easy to come by once to get the permission to search, and the welfare people take your safety very seriously, so it's in everyone's best interests that this information be available to all of us." "So tell me what you know," I said, just wanting him to get to the detail.
  2. Hi Clancy, I'm sorry to hear you suffer from Panic attacks, they are indeed very frightening. The passages I write about Puppy's health are taken from my own experiences, so I can completely sympathise with your episodes with anxiety. Regarding your question about the story being here before? Yes it was. I wrote Puppy for Sale in 2015. I am really pleased to be able to bring it back to GA. It has been polished up as a novel, so I hope you enjoy this final edit of the book. Warm regards James
  3. Dreams are funny things. It's amazing how you can go from one place to another instantly and yet the act seems natural. Then of course there are those dreams where something is happening in the real world which seems to affect what's happening inside your dream. Well, this was happening to me right before I work up this morning. You see, in my dream, some doctor was sand papering my knee for some reason, but I awoke to what was really the Janitor outside my door buffing the floor with one of those machines. Freaky! My strangest dreams usually happened right after coming down from a manic period. For anyone that suffers from Bipolar will know that during the manic phase you can be awake for days, after which you crash. Luckily I was going through a balanced period right now and my symptoms were manageable thanks to the drugs I took each morning. Bipolar, you got that right? Wish I did! I laid there trying to settle myself from what was a rather weird dream, just listening to the gentle hum of the machine going up and down the corridor outside. I glanced over at my clock seeing it was a little after seven. I still had around twenty minutes before I was due to get up and shower so I flicked my TV on to see what could entertain me for those precious minutes while wrapped up in my warm bed. Darting through half a dozen channels, I settled on The Simpsons. I needed a laugh before class! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ "Puppy?" Cindy called from outside my small bathroom. "Be out in a minute!" I replied, staring into the mirror trying to style my hair. Like so often, I would put too much wax on and have to rinse it again before having another go. If not I would just end up with clumps of hair all over the place and it lookek...well crap really. "Ok, I'm done, are you ready?" I said, right as I opened the door. "You look nice, going somewhere?" "Ha, you're funny, and yes I am, it's called hell." "It'll soon be over, c'mon, lets go." I followed Cindy out of my door and closed it before we both headed down the corridor to the classroom which sat at the western end of the building. Sure enough when we arrived Elaine Bates was sitting at her desk looking her usual miserable self. "Well, are you going in?" Cindy asked, as I stood sheepishly outside the glass door. "Do you think we should knock...I mean I think we should knock, you know how she likes us to knock!" "You're scared of her...I mean still scared of her?" "Uh, like yeah!" Cindy roller her eyes at me and barged passed opening the door to the classroom, walking in. "Good morning Mrs Bates, lovely day isn't it?" She said in an enthusiastic voice, the real tone full of sarcasm not missed on me. "Miss Batton, you need to knock before entering my classroom, where are your manners young lady." "See, I told you," I hissed, getting up close to her. "I'm sorry, would you like us to go outside, close the door and knock?" I sniggerd lightly "What? No, no...Just find your table and sit down... and remember that I require you to knock next time." Cindy smiled at her sickly and found a table to sit at. I scooted up alongside and found a seat next to her. "You know, you really push it with her, one day she is gonna find out you are being cheeky and..." "Jensen Stibbings, why is it whenever you are in my class I have to remind you that you only talk when you are spoken to?" "Uh, sorry Mrs Bates, it won't happen again." "Yes, I distinctly remember you saying that the last time. Keep it down boy; two students have yet to arrive." I put my head down and kept quiet hearing Cindy snigger and snort next to me. The two kids old bag Bates referred to were Billy and Leah Jones. Billy was eleven and Leah was twelve. Both Cindy and I didn't know what their story was since they never spoke to anyone. All we knew was they were brother and sister and had arrived about two months ago, other than that, they were a mystery. "Where is your book?" Cindy whispered, her eyes peering down at the missing mass between my hands which should be my exercise book. "What? Oh shiiiit!" I hissed quietly, wondering if today was going to be the day I die. "Why didn't you remind me?" "You'll just have to tell her, but do it soon, it'll look better if class hasn't started yet." I swallowed hard and looked up at Norman bates, for some reason noticing she looked madder than ever. Maybe it was my imagination because of the monumental fuck up I had made. I'm telling you that forgetting your book? Well let's just say, hell, I may have just as well written a whole book in biro, I would have been better off! "Uh..erm, Mrs Bates?" I got out then cleard my dry throat. "What is it Stibbings, can't you sit still for five seconds?" she bellowed, her face contorting revealing a blanket of wrinkles. "Well, you see, I...well it's just_" "Yes boy, spit it out I don't have all day!" "He's forgot his book, can he go pick it up, I think he wants to say?" "Hush your voice Cindy Batton!" Bates screeched, rising to her feet. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Cindy roll her eyes, and I prayed to god Bates didn't see. The old hag started to walk round from her table towards me in a very slow and deliberate way. It started to set my anxiety off and I began to slightly tremble. Deciding to put my energy in to not thinking maddening thoughts I put my head down in a cowardly way and closed my eyes. I could hear her getting closer and my bad thoughts intensified. Please stay normal, please stay normal, I chanted in my mind. I felt her stop, and then sensed her leaning into me until sure enough I could smell that familiar coffee breath mixed with decaying teeth. "Outside!" she hissed, as if trying to hold in her rage. Without looking at her I slid my chair out and got up, keeping my head facing the floor. Just as I began walking to the door a familiar voice rang out. "Puppy, stay where you are, I'm not having this." It was Cindy! "You keep quiet girl, and how dare you overrule me in my classroom." "You nasty old bag...that's what you are, look what you're doing to him, I will be telling the home director when I see him, you have no right to treat him like this, he only forgot his_" "QUIET!" Elaine Bates screamed, making me jump, petrification surging through my veins. I think even Cindy knew she had gone too far this time when she did indeed, stay silent. But my favourite girl had one more ace up her sleeve. "Mrs Bates, I may be only fifteen but I know one thing, and that is bullying is strictly forbidden at Greenstone and I am going to assume that goes for all cases of bullying, child or not. I will be encouraging Puppy to_" "His name is Jensen in this class!" bates squealed. "I will be encouraging PUPPY to report you and I will fully back him up. This class is over, c'mon Puppy, let's go." Cindy grabbed my arm and started to lead me out of the class. I was in too much shock to say anything and just allowed her to take me. I could hear the dull tones of Elaine's voice screaming at us to come back, but for me it was too late, that dreaded feeling was now consuming me. I was starting to acutely notice that horrible worthlessness feeling that told me things were going to start feeling worse. Coloured dots of light flashed in my peripheral vision like a fireworks display and then the ringing in my ears started. The battle had begun, I was about to go all-out war with the beast of all mental afflictions. The panic attack! Cindy led me towards our room and noticed my posture. "Breathe Puppy, almost there, breathe!" I stayed silent fearing talking would give me a heart attack. My pulse was now racing faster and faster. I felt like there was no air in the room. My face was flush, my chest so tight. I'd been here before, I'd been here so many times, but this time it was different right, no it wasn't, this time was the same, no... no, it was different from the last time this happened, this time I was going to...oh my god, this time I was going to die. "Cindy I can't breathe, you gotta help me!" Cindy squeezed my hand "Yes you can, it's just like before Puppy, keep breathing, there is air and plenty of it." "No it's not the same this time, I really can't breathe." "Plenty of air Puppy, deep breaths, there is plenty of air," she chanted, reassuring me. We got to my door and she opened it before barging past me and throwing open the window. "Lie down, close your eyes and remember what you have been taught." "I can't Cindy, I'm gonna die, I know I am, my heart's going to give out!" "In, two...three... four, and hold...two...three...four, and out...two...three... four." I tried to follow her lead, my body willing me on to hyperventilate but slowly I felt like I was winning the war. Cindy brought her fingers to my neck and held them there for a moment. "There, it's coming down already and you're still alive. Strong heart beat Puppy, strong heart beat" she said quietly, reassuring. "Can you stay with me for a while?" "Puppy, I aint going anywhere, I'll expect we'll have visitors soon anyway." "Its...its that woman, I cant seem to_" "Shh, I don't think we'll be having class with her again, not if I can help it. look at the damage she has caused you. You have been balanced for weeks now and she undoes all that hard work. Once the home director finds out what she did to you they'll not expect you to see her anymore I'm sure of it." "I hope so, I don't want to ever feel like that again," I remarked, still lightly panting. I had broken out into a light sweat and felt very light headed all of a sudden. Cindy closed the door and came to sit with me on my bed. She lightly stroked my hair soothing my tortured mind as the comedown from my panic was now in free-fall. Feelings of anxiousness were now being replaced with pity and anger. Now all I wanted to do was beat the witch to death. But I had to keep a lid on it, I knew after an episode the anger always came and I didn't want to scare Cindy so I tried my best to stay calm. "I might as well be dead Cindy, look at me...look at the state that nasty old bag can get me in. I mean she... she's an old hag and I'm like...like, I'm scared of that? What kind of a man am I gonna turn out to be?" "A caring, thoughtful, sweet young man that everyone including your new parents are gonna love." Cindy kissed the side of my head. "You say that with such confidence, but I know the truth... I know that nobody is gonna want me because I'm a nutjob!" "Puppy, this self-pity really is getting old on me, you know I don't buy it." "Yeah well, I...I fucking hate everything," I said kicking my stainless steel bin across the room putting a large dent in it. "Feel better?" she asked me, not looking impressed. "Angry Cindy, fucking angry!" "Yeah, it's a pattern I have got used to don't worry. But look, why are you angry?" "Because that fuck_" Before I could finish there was a knock at my door, causing Cindy and I to look at each other. We knew this was coming so Cindy got up and went to see who it was. "Ah Cindy, is Puppy in there with you?" It was the voice of Dennis Watson, the home Director. It was kind of unusual for him to come personally and I wondered how much bullshit old bag Bates had spilled on him. "Yes sir he is, it is his room after all." Cindy replied. Typical her, any excuse for sarcasm. I rolled my eyes. "Might I have a word with him please Miss Batton?" Cindy opened the door wider so Mr Watson and I could gain sight on each other. I expected his face to be angry with me, after all when a teacher's word goes against a child's, well you can bet who normally comes out on top no matter who is in the right. But, strangely this was not the case with Mr Watson. He was smiling. "Puppy, are you ok? I understand there was a altercation in your class with Mrs Bates a moment ago, would you like to tell me about that?" "He didn't do anything wrong Sir it was all_" "Cindy, I'm sure Puppy is capable of answering my question himself," he said, cutting her off, his voice set in a firm yet understanding tone. "Well sir, I forgot my book for class, and I asked to go get it, and that's when sh_" "When she went mental at him Sir, I swear to you he didn't_" "Cindy, please, let Puppy finish, you can have your say shortly, I promise." "Sorry sir." "Go on Puppy, please continue." "Yeah so, I asked if I could go get my book and she came right up to my face and told me to get outside, like in a really evil voice. I'm really sorry I forgot my book, it is like the first time I have ever done that I think, but she_" "And that's all you did Puppy, forget your book?" "Yes, sir, scouts honour, that's all I did wrong." "Cindy?" Mr Watson asked, turning to face her. "It's all true, sir, he asked politely and she went crazy at him. I told him to stay where he was and said I was going to report it to you and she just screamed at me as well. I told her she was a bully and said that at Greenstone, bullying is not tolerated, but that's what she is sir, she's a bully and she made Puppy unwell." "Unwell?" "I had a panic attack, Sir," I cut in "it's really nothing, I hope it doesn't have to go into my file, I was hoping to keep that clean for a while." "And your bin over there? Was that part of being unwell?" I gave him a sheepish look and no doubt went a little red. "I'm sorry, Mr Watson, I was angry." "Hmm, those bins are not cheap Puppy, you need to start looking after your room, I know you get angry but this must stop, I can't keep leaving things out of your records if you keep letting me down son." "I know, I'm sorry, Sir, if Mrs Bates hadn't of_" "We are all responsible for our own actions, Mr Stibbings, no matter who says what to us, it's how we manage those emotions, remember what your doctor told you?" "Yes, sir, I apologise for my anger." "Hmm, well, I was planning to come and see you this morning anyway, but this episode with Mrs Bates overshadowed that. Why don't you come up to my office when you have got yourself together, and, Cindy, I will talk to you on a one to one basis a little later." Mr Watson smiled the same as when he arrived and left the room. Cindy closed the door and returned to sit on my bed again. "Well that went better than I expected." She said, more to herself, looking at her feet. "Hmm, I dunno, I think hes gonna let rip at us both when he has us alone or something." "Nah, didn't you see, he was cool...he knows what that old hag is like. If you want my bet, I reckon he has gone marching down there right now and given her a right telling off for how she treated you." "Hmm, Mr Watson has always been fair, I have to admit." I replied, before heaving a sigh. "There you go then, although I'm as intrigued as you are as to what he wants you for." "Perhaps I am getting new responsibilities; after all I am the oldest kid here." "Aww, will you be fetching me my dinner every night do you think?" "In your dreams, Batton!" I snorted, causing her to giggle. "So how do you feel?" "Better... talking to Watson took my mind of how I was feeling and the worst of it now seems to have passed." "I'm glad, and see, you are still alive, isn't that great?" She teased. "You don't understand Cindy, it's really terrifying." "I know, Puppy, and you're right, I don't understand, but I do try to. I know, and feel that it must be a really frightening thing to experience." "It is...well I better go see what Mr Watson wants. What are you going to do?" "Well I don't suppose we are going to escape punishment for skipping Bates's class when Charlotte catches up with us, so I'm going to go back to my room and write all what happened down in case I forget something. I promise, Puppy, I am going to lay it on thick and make sure we never have to see that old bag again in the same room." "Well you have my support on that, Cindy, and thanks back there, I never said it, but thanks for standing up to her...for me I mean, you're a brave girl." "Hey, I look out for my friends, especially my best one," she said, giving me a wink, and with that she got up and left my room. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ After rinsing my face and straightening up my clothes I hurried down the corridor to the main staircase before galloping up them two at a time. At the top, you can either go up once more or go through some thick oak doors which take you into the staff quarters. Mr Watson's office and living quarters were right at the very eastern end of the corridor and I briskly made my way towards them, trying to spike my hair up as I walked. I approached the door which read, Mr Dennis Watson: Home Director, and gave it a gentle tap. "Come!" Shouted the voice I had just spoken with. I slowly opened the door. "Hello, Sir, you wished to see me?" "Ah yes Puppy, come in, sit down." "Thank you sir." I did as I was asked, closing the door behind me and pulling up a chair. "So how are you feeling now?" "A lot better thank you." Mr Watson nodded, looking at me with a creased forehead, concerned. "I'm pleased to hear it. Listen Puppy, before I talk about why you are here I wanted to let you know I have spoken with Mrs Bates about her...well the way she handled the situation regarding your forgotten book. After hearing your comments about what happened today and those of Cindy I have decided to launch an investigation into her conduct as a teacher at this children's home. I cannot divulge any more information than that Puppy as you will understand, but mature enough as I know you are I can say to you that you are not the first person to complain to me about Mrs Bates's unorthodox teaching practises." Watson stared up at the ceiling, pausing, looking regretful. "And what I have heard today has caused me great concern, so I shall be dealing with it." "Well thank you Mr Watson, It's the whole truth, I swear." Mr Watson looked at me warmly and grinned. "You know Puppy, I have watched you grow up in this place and although I can label you many things, a liar is not one of them, so don't worry, just leave it with me." "Thank you sir." "Now, why are you here you must be thinking?" "It had crossed my mind." I replied, squeezing the arms of my chair in anticipation. "Well putting aside all that bad stuff earlier I have some news for you. Some news which I think you are going to like very, very much!" I cocked my head, and leaned forward. "Am I getting a new TV?" "Better!" Watson replied, looking excited for me.
  4. Him in the Dust - Part two: coming 28th July. The Sessions #Visit 2: coming 27th July.

  5. I kicked a small football through the damp grass towards an old cast iron bench that had sat on these grounds for as long as I can remember. It was autumn, and mushy dead brown leaves were being trodden into the moist lawn by my feet as I followed the path of my ball, finally arriving at the old bench. The bench was rusty now, void of any care, with even the wooden slats now rotting... covered in bird shit. The old seat was a symbol to me, a symbol that told me how long I had been in this place...this place being Greenstone Children's home. When I first came here, the kind lady sorting my case out, sat with me on this very bench, trying to settle me down. I remember being scared and disorientated, wondering why my parents had gone and why I was in the strange place. That was ten years ago now, and to be honest, much has been a blank since. The time just before that, I have tried to erase from my memory, but still, even now, I often see my dad shooting my mother through the head with a pistol before turning the gun on himself, like it was yesterday. I was five, and pretty much like all five-year-olds, I didn't know why something like that had happened to me. I knew daddy was angry. I knew mummy was upset with daddy, but at the time, your brain is so primitive you don't understand the full horrors of what drives people to release such devastating anger towards someone they love. Years later, it would all come out, I would be told why my parents are now dead, and ultimately why, since the age of five, I have been cared for in this place. Over that time, it has been problematic information to swallow. I went through an obsessive stage when I was around thirteen, trying to get more and more information from my carers on what happened. I always felt they were hiding something or missing bits out. After that passed, I thought maybe there wasn't anything more that they could tell me. Until one day last summer, Julie Pipe, one of the in-house psychologists, called by my room and slowly began to reveal those missing parts I was always confident existed. I found out that my dad was never my dad at all. The trouble was, the day my dad killed my Mum was the day he found that out too. Don't get me wrong, there were problems in their marriage that added to the situation, and I was also suffering from what was described as behavioural problems, which put a lot of pressure on them. So it wasn't just about a random argument that happened between them one day. I guess you could say the day my Dad put a bullet through her head was created by a perfect storm. How much of that storm was created by me is unclear, but my Mum's Journal that I keep in my room gives insight into a little of what she was feeling. A cool breeze rustled through the trees as if to tell me not to keep thinking about the past. I was out here alone, and looking back at the old building where I lived, I wondered again if I would ever get out of here. I didn't hate Greenstone; in fact after you get your head around the fact that, as a kid, that you have no parents, the place and the people just become the norm. But I did long for a family to call my own, and I waited every year to see if anyone would take me on. But alas, because of my condition and my sometimes unsavoury mood swings, I keep getting overlooked. Those behavioural problems I talked about were later diagnosed as Bipolar. This mental condition can affect mood to such extremes you can end up not being able to function as a human being. Of course, families looking to adopt children don't want the hassle of having someone like me to deal with, and I get that. But if only they knew how much love I had to give back. If they could ever realise that, I'm sure they would change their minds. People looking to adopt a child will typically always see the files on a particular child first and are then told the person’s background. In the case of me? Well, I have a filing cabinet to myself which does not look good, and also, age is not on my side. At sixteen, I am already seen as a handful because of puberty. Add that together with my condition and past violent outbursts; people tend to ask if they can see the next child. I knew how it all worked; after all, I had been doing it long enough...getting my hopes up, having them crushed. Since last year, I really gave up wondering if anyone was ever gonna want me and just tried to get on with life here. Life past the home was uncertain, I didn't know what I was going to do, and I really didn't have a clue where I was going to live. The trouble with being in a place like Greenstone is that you tend to become isolated from the world and what goes on around you. In terms of the people who care for me, I don't think they have a clue. I don't think they have ever had someone as old as me stay as long as I have. I've seen people come and go; other children and staff too. The other kids sometimes tease me about never finding parents, but being bigger than them, I soon put them into place. They were right, though, and I knew that... I was unsellable! Twirling the wet ball in my hands, It was tempting to disregard the muck on the bench, sit on it and lose myself in my thoughts as I often did, but the weather was turning, and I didn't go much on a soggy bottom. I looked up, seeing the clouds hanging low, the sun nowhere to be seen. A bout of loneliness attacked me again as I looked back at the structure that was my home. It was a large, authoritative, mansion-style house with gargoyles that hung from the faucet. The whole place was a brown sandy colour with huge compartmented white framed windows that broke up the otherwise intimidating building. I kicked my football hard towards the house and started to make my way back towards it, eyeing Cindy Batton staring down at me from one of the rooms. Cindy was fifteen, and it felt like she had been at the home nearly as long as I had. She was a pretty girl with long blonde hair that tickled her waist as she walked. Her circumstances were different to mine, in the sense that she was thrown out of her house at the age of ten, with her evil parents jetting off to Brazil and leaving her alone on the street. She was such a sweet girl with soft emotions and a kind spirit. It almost made me cry to think of her cold and lonely those five short years ago. As I looked up, our eyes locked, and she smiled at me, followed by a small wave with her delicate hands. I smiled back and made her location my destination. Then, picking up speed until I was trotting along, I entered the back doors and stopped in the big bland hallway, hearing the doors bang behind me, the sound bouncing off the walls acoustically. "Puppy Stibbs, where have you been?" asked Charlotte Grange, one of the live-in carers. "Just out, with my ball," I replied calmly. "It's way past dinner, young man, and I doubt there is much left. So run along now, or you will go hungry tonight." "Yes, Mam." My Actual name was Jenson Stibbings, hallway, but most people here called me Puppy Stibbs. The name goes back a few years, and it's because all the staff thought I had rather big hands and feet for my body size when I started to enter my very early teens. I didn't really notice, but they would all comment that I was growing like a puppy, starting off with large hands and feet that the rest of my body would grow into eventually. That's when I first started to learn about puberty and my body... how it was changing, and what it would become. I don't know who originally came up with the name Puppy Stibbs, but it's just stuck, and very few people in the home call me Jenson, except for the new children or adult strangers. Not feeling very hungry and ignoring Charlotte's suggestion I eat, I made my way into the recreation room where Cindy was, still staring aimlessly out of the window. I thought I might make her jump, but I think she could see me in the glass reflection because she turned around just as I approached her. "Hey Cindy, whatcha doing?" "What do you do out there... all day, on your own?" she asked, ignoring my greeting. I shrugged. "Just think, that's all." "About what, Puppy?" "Oh, you know... stuff." "New parents?" she asked, taking my little finger in her hand. "Yeah, something like that, it sucks, doesn’t it." "Don't be sad; we have each other, right?" "Always Cindy, you're the best, you know that," I declared before cracking a smile. "What? What did I do...why are you so happy all of a sudden?" "Meh, it's just you always know how to say the right thing when I'm feeling all self-pity and stuff", I responded. She giggled. "I think we just need to do a sign and put it up in one of the front windows." "A sign?" "Yeah... like, Puppy for sale, apply within. That should get you some new parents!" I chuckled. "You're sweet, you know that? But yeah, I like it...yeah, I really like it!" Puppy for sale, apply within! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ It was getting late, and Cindy and I had been chatting for ages, it seemed. We talked about this make-believe world where you could buy parents from a shop, each telling the other what we would look for in potential parents. We talked about them like they were TV's with different features. Cindy said she wanted a mum who could bake, and I said I wanted a dad who could fish. Some of the "features" we wanted were really funny, and now again, we would have to stop talking because our stomachs hurt with laughing so much. "Something tells me you are going to find some parents soon, Puppy. I just know it." "Sweet of you to say Cindy, but look at me! I come with so much baggage; who is going to want all this?" "You know what, Stibbs, you are so hard on yourself. How about looking at how awesome you are as a person and forget the bad stuff for a minute. It's not like you can get a perfect child in this world. I mean, look at Ben Andrews, he was twelve and an asshole, and he went after that nice couple from Wales took him in." I laughed. "Ben Andrews, yeah, he was a character. I wonder how that went?' "That's one way of putting it... I hope he calmed down!" "Didn't he set light to his pillow one night trying to burn a spider?" I asked, remembering, clearly now. "Yeah, that's him; he was a fool and so immature." "Hmm, I wonder how he is getting on?" I asked as my mind wandered back to some more of the pranks he pulled. "They probably have him buried under their patio by now if I look back to some of his ways." "Aww, Cindy, don't be so hard on him. He was okay, just a little weird, that's all. Plus the fact we don't know what kind of life he had before he came here. For all we know, it may have had something terrible happen to him; after all, no one comes here unless it's for a fucked up reason." Cindy sighed. "True enough, just look at my parents; now that was fucked up. I wonder if they ever came back to England or whether they are still out in Brazil." "Don't even think about it Cindy, they are assholes and not worth your time thinking about them." "I just get curious...sometimes I just want to get them in a room and ask why!" "It's a natural question, I guess. I've felt like that several times Cindy, so I know how that feels. But I do wonder if getting the answer would make us feel better. So maybe it's just best not to know, and then you don't have to worry about it." "Wanna watch some TV before bed?" Cindy asked, changing the subject. "Sure, why not?" I got up and followed her to the sofa's that were scattered around the recreation room, and Cindy turned on the TV; it was getting close to eight in the evening, and that meant it would be around the time Family Fortunes was on. Cindy and I always watched that together, each trying to get the top answers before the contestants did. I would generally sit on the floor in front of her, and she would play with my hair while we watched. In a sense, we were a little family unit ourselves, and it was nice to have that closeness to someone. Deep inside, I wanted more than anything for her to find a loving family to join, but that also brought dread. I dreaded the feeling of being alone...being without my best friend. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ "Ok Puppy, Cindy, it’s ten o'clock, time for you both to be heading to your rooms now. Please switch off the TV on your way out. I'll be back in five minutes, so please make sure you are both out of here," said Charlotte Grange, pointing her finger towards the exit of the room. "You seem to be everywhere, Charlotte, do you know that," I said, irritated she was always telling me to do something. Where have you been, what are you doing? Be here at that time, eat this, go here, bring me that, go see that person, Grrr! "It’s magic Puppy, maybe I'm a witch." "No, I've seen Harry Potter and the witches in that are nice," I replied, causing her to roll her eyes. "Puppy, a life without rules is a recipe for bad behaviour; you’ll thank me one day, now c'mon, off with you; I need to clear this room up." "C'mon Cindy, let’s go," I murmured, pulling off the seat. "And separate rooms, I don't want to come by and find you both sitting up until the early hours of the morning. You both have class tomorrow with Elaine Bates." "Actually, Charlotte, I take it back. Compared to Norman Bates, you are wonderful." "It's Elaine. Don’t you let her catch you calling her Norman." Charlotte tried as hard as she could to stay stern with me, but I could see the hint of a smile come to her face with my last comment. I think she hated Elaine Bates almost as much as all the kids did. Elaine, or Norman as most of us knew the movie character called her, was an old wrinkly woman with a naturally miserable face. She never smiled and never said well done when we excelled in class. Instead, she would find any reason she could to shout at us and had a real passion for harsh discipline. I hated her, and I was scared of her. I began to leave the room with Cindy in tow. We walked out into the corridor and travelled along with it until we came to Cindy's room. About a year ago, we both requested that we be on the same floor after the kid next to Cindy's room found new parents. So after going on a hunger strike, we both got our way, and I was allowed to move into the room next door. It was a good thing because, after forty-eight hours of not eating, I was ready to give in, but luckily it freaked enough of the staff out to realise it was a request we felt passionate about. "So, what are you gonna do now?" Cindy asked me as we stood outside her room. "Watch a bit more TV, I guess. Should probably get some sleep, though; I tend to need all the mental energy I can get when Norman Bates is in town." Cindy let out a cackle and cupped my jaw in her hand. "You're a funny guy Puppy Stibbs, you know that?" "Not as funny as you; I’ll see you in the morning. Don't forget your pen; you know what Norman is like." "Oh, don't worry; I keep that in my case all the time now. But, God, do you remember when I forgot it one morning, and she made me stand facing the wall for an hour and a half." "She's a bitch, and yeah, I remember, that's why I'm telling you." Another weird thing about Elaine Bates is that she insisted that all writing be done in fountain pen only. Biros were banned, and anyone using one in her class would have their exercise book ripped in half, and everything written in it had to be copied again into a new book solely in fountain pen ink. It was a mistake any child would only ever make once. "Well, Good night, Puppy, sleep well." "And you Cindy, sweet dreams," I replied, kissing her forehead. I stood and waited until Cindy was in and her door closed before I took a few steps and was in my own room. I opened the door and flicked on the light before chucking myself onto my bed. There was a rule at the home that all beds had to be made by the child from the age of nine, and it was the first thing that had to be done each morning before breakfast. This was to install routine into us and was one of the many things we were taught to do so that should we be picked for adoption, we would be litter trained, as one of the staff so elegantly put it. Making my bed every morning was one act I had got used to years ago, and if I was honest, I could not imagine ever getting into an unmade bed now; it would just seem odd. So I knew there was some sense in what we were taught. My bed was up alongside the window, and I liked it that way, as when the room was hot in the summer, it felt nice having a breeze come through I could handle. I reached up and grabbed my TV remote from my small table, and brought the screen to life. Flicking through the channels, I settled on some old black and white western and started to get myself ready for bed. Mine and Cindy's rooms were two of the few with facilities such as a shower, toilet, and sink. My old room did as well, and these were usually reserved for the older children as maybe they thought we were more self-conscious about our bodies. Well, if that was the case, none more so than me. I was a skinny kid with not an ounce of definition. But this was showing signs of change as my body had started to mature due to puberty, plus the fact I was gifted some weights from one of the workers whose son no longer used them. I stepped into my tiny bathroom and looked in the mirror. My smooth face had started to become fury above my top lip and on my chin. Luckily I was gifted with good skin and didn't suffer from acne. I kept my hair short in this respect to not let grease from it touch my face. I had seen how acne can affect a person, and so did everything I could to limit that. Although you can probably guess quickly that I am very self-conscious, I worry about my looks and appearance. I think I always have because I saw it as a selling point of myself to prospective parents. A fat lot of good it's done me so far! I took my brush and started to comb the product from my blond hair, making it all flat again. I then washed my face and armpits with my face-cloth and brushed my teeth. It was too late to shower now, which is why I settled for a quick wash, but I knew my hair needed washing, so I planned to set my alarm a little earlier to get a proper shower in the morning. Stopping for a quick wee, I stood there in my boxers, feeling a chill wrapping itself around my legs... legs that had very rapidly become covered in thick blond hair. It was a part of my body I felt very proud of because I felt like a man there. I pushed the button on the cistern and left for my room, climbing into bed. Propping my head up using my elbow, I tried to understand what was going on in the old movie. But it was no good; it looked like it was about to finish anyway, so I opted to turn it off and attempt sleep. Before doing so, I clicked a few buttons on my alarm clock that sat on my small bedside table and made sure I gave myself an extra twenty minutes come the morning rush to get ready. It seemed to attempt to sleep was relatively easy as before I knew it, I had drifted off.
  6. Jensen Stibbings longs for a place to call home. But at Sixteen, and the oldest resident at Greenstone Children’s Home, his hopes are fading fast. With a complex medical condition, anger issues and little to no real-world experience, he continues to get looked over for other younger and more adaptable kids. Will Jensen see out his childhood days at the home until he is left to fend for himself at eighteen, or will he be saved from the scrap heap that is the care system? Time will tell, in Puppy for Sale.
  7. James Matthews

    Visit #1

    The Sessions - Visit #1 “Oh Josh, come in. You found me okay then?” “Yeah, thanks for the text; I had to reread it, But, yeah, I pressed the right buzzer. Claire, right?” ”Yes, please follow me through.” “Thanks.” “And here we are, just let me close the door. Please go take a seat… make yourself comfortable. Would you like some water?” “Thanks, and no I'm fine. Hmm, comfy sofa.” “Ha, it’s probably older than you, but it’s comfortable. So let me grab my notebook, and we’ll get started. While I get that, are you warm enough, and would you like the blinds open or tilted? “Thank you, I’m actually pretty warm, and open blinds is fine,” “Excellent. So how are you? How was your journey? “Uh, yes, it was fine, traffic was good, so no issues, and thank you. So yeah, I’m doing okay, just a bit nervous, I guess.” “Oh, don’t be; I’m sure once we get talking, that will go. So here we are, I’m all ready, are you?” “I think so.” “So Josh, before we do anything, there is some legal information I need to let you know, and I'll also tell you a bit of what I do, okay? “Yep” “So I’m Claire Akins, and I’m a consultant psychiatrist. In simple terms, that means I am medically qualified, and a trained therapist rolled into one. I specialise in mental health disorders, So I cover depression, anxiety, PTSD and things like that, okay? “Yep. “Excellent. So I need to let you know that anything you tell me stays within this room, and I cannot discuss your sessions here with anyone. The only time I would release any information is if I thought you were an immediate danger to yourself or others. I would also be obliged to release information if you tell me something that indicates a crime has been committed. Barring that, you can speak with complete confidence.” “Uh, right, okay.” “That’s great; I try to keep that part as short as I can. So, Josh, your medical records have yet to be sent over to me, so I am awaiting those, I'm afraid, but thank you for signing the forms I sent you. It's always better that I have records to look at in conjunction with our conversations then I can better help you.” “Okay,” “So while we chat, anything to do with your medical side, I’m going to be guided by you, if that’s okay? And I will ask questions that might help me.” “Yeah, sure... erm, I think I can answer most stuff.” “So let's start by you telling me a bit about yourself and why you think you’re here?” “Uh, okay, well I’m Josh... as you know, and uh, I’m 18. Erm… well I suppose I would say I’m here for all sorts of reasons... sort of mainly my mum, ha… sorry I’m a bit nervous. Yeah, my mum said I should see my Doctor.” “So you were referred by your GP, yes. Oh, and please, take your jacket off if you like; I know it can get stuffy in here.” “Thanks, I think I will. Erm, so yes, I went to my GP recently… sorry, I’m so nervous I don’t know why.? So yeah, I went to my GP because I was feeling down and my mum….” “Go on.” “Yeah, well, she said I should see my Doctor as I’ve been having some issues, you know? Feeling down and stuff, and uh, I keep getting these periods of horrible feelings? Like panicky and clammy, I had this one thing where I thought I would have a heart attack. It was so bad. Stupid, really, because I was fine after a while.” “And what did your GP say?” “Oh, you know, that I should exercise more and get good sleep, and he said to adjust my diet... cut down caffeine, asked if I smoked or used drugs. Nada nada nada!” “And then?” “Oh, erm, well, I tried to do that, and nothing really happened. But, I mean, I get exercise anyway. My uh… Dad. Well, I help on the farm, you see.” “So your parents are farmers?” “That's right, yeah. So I help with that, and… well, it's a family-run business. We all help.” “Do you enjoy it?” “Early starts… haha, uh, well sometimes I enjoy it, yeah. A very lonely job, I guess you could say.” “You smiled there Josh, what was that?” “Oh, just remembering something, that's all.” “Keep that memory, and we’ll get into that in a while. So let's go back a bit. You say your GP didn’t help the first time? So you said you went back?” “Yeah, and he sent me for a blood test and suggested some pills to take.... here.” “Oh, thanks; I wondered if you’d bring them with you. So let me have a… ahh, yes Prozac.” “So you know them?” “Yes, Josh, very old drug. I’m surprised he put you on those really, there is more effective medication available. I think for your age, you might have been put on Citalopram. So anyway, how have you felt while taking them?” “Hmm, a bit tired, I suppose. Hard to get up sometimes. I think a bit foggy as well, if I’m honest. But I don’t feel any happier.” “Hmm, well, you are on a low dosage. And how long have you been on these… sorry, here you are, you can take them back.” “Thanks, erm well about seven weeks now.” “And you feel no difference and no anxiety reduction?” “Not really.” “Okay, Thank you. So just to add, we can pause at any moment or go back. So how’re those nerves now, feeling a little better?” “Ha, yeah, sorry, I just get… well, I’m feeling better now, yes.” “Good, Josh. So how long do you think you’ve felt down as you put it, can you remember?” “I think for a long time now, maybe a year or so. But it's not been a steady thing. I mean, it started okay, and then got worse, because erm….” “Take your time.” “Sorry, it’s a bit embarrassing, erm. So. My God…” “Josh, just take a moment. I have met many people, heard many stories that would make you blush for months. But, believe me, so don’t feel embarrassed. Remember, I’m here to help you.” “Yeah, thanks, I just, well it’s hard to admit, you know? When things are hard to say, mum said I should just count to 10 in my head and say it, but… well anyway. I’ve been in a relationship, and, well, it didn’t go well. Like pretty violent.” “Violent, and may I ask who was inflicting that violence?” “Oh, uh, no, not me; I mean, they were doing it to me.” “You slowed down at that last bit, Josh. Can I ask what form of violence this was?” “Uh, well, they used to hit me… like, really badly.” “They, Josh?” “It’s uh… It's a him, and uh, well sorry, it’s just I’m not...” “Josh, it’s fine. There see, you did it?” “Yeah, ha, erm. So yeah, that may be part of the reason I'm here.” “Josh, well done. That looked hard for you, and you said it, and guess what happened?” “What?” “Nothing, see?” “Yeah, I guess. I think I’m just a bit embarrassed because I always thought I was strong, and I let him do that.” “Strong as in physically or mentally?” “Well, both really, I mean I’m six foot, I go to the gym, and he was still able to do those things. So I think I just felt….” “Just say what’s in your head.” “I felt weak, I suppose. But, I'm ashamed because he had beaten me up. I mean, I could have tried to fight back, but I didn’t.” “So, is this a masculinity issue, do you think?” “Maybe, I guess.” “You shrugged there.” “Okay, so yeah, I believe that was a part of it.” “So before we explore any more, I just want to get an idea of your health first. You said earlier that you went for a blood test?” “Yeah, I think that was maybe four weeks ago?” “And what did your GP say?” “Oh, right, erm well, everything is fine… like normal.” “Well, that's a good start. So you work out at the gym and exercise too. Do you smoke?” “No, why do you ask?” “Well, nicotine is a powerful stimulant, and that can affect your mind and body, but it's good you don’t.” “Yeah, no… most of my mates did at school, but I didn’t like it.” “Are you taking any drugs at the moment for health reasons for recreation?” “Uh, no, not at the moment.” “But you do, is that it?” “Well, occasionally I smoke a bit of pot, sorry.” “Josh, don’t be silly, I’m not here to judge, but this information helps me. So any other drugs?” “I tried some cocaine once or twice but nothing else.” “Okay, so nothing that's going to kill you quickly, ha! That's great Josh, thanks for your honesty.” “Uh-huh.” “So tell me about family… Do you have any siblings?” “Erm, yeah, I have four brothers, 31, 26, 22 and 21 and a sister who’s 13.” “Goodness, a big family then, and you smile when you mention them. Are you close?” “Yeah, we’re a close family. Life on the farm is hard work, and we all muck in, so we see each other all the time. Well, apart from my second oldest brother, he works for a software company. But the rest of us work for my Dad.” “Your dad must be pleased with all that help. Any close friends?” “I have a couple, but they’re more just people who go to the local pub and who I see in the village. So small place, you see... hard to make friends, and I work long hours so….” “And this person… the one who was violent towards you, is it okay to talk about that?” “Erm, yeah, sure,” “So tell me how….” “Kai… his name is Kai.” “Kai, so tell me how Kai came into your life?” “Well, in the summer we need extra help, and I just knew him from school, you know? And uh, he heard me talking to a friend about what help we would be getting this year and that my Dad said we’d be short. You see, we have people who normally come back every year, but uh, what with Brexit, it was hard to get people, my dad said. So yeah, Kai met me at my locker and said he’d overheard me talking and that he was interested in getting a summer job,” “Okay, and you knew Kai well?” “Not really, just in some of the same classes and all that. Maybe said hello, and played sports together in PE.” “So what happens next?” “Right, yeah, so uh, I asked my Dad, who was pleased and said yeah, hire him. So I invited him to the farm, and that was it really, he started on the first day of the summer holidays.” “Hmm, okay, So may I ask Josh, and we need to be clear on this? Is the violence still happening?” “No, no, he’s left for good now.” “So just an observation, I can see you’re a little bit shaky at the moment. We can slow down or stop at any time, but you’re doing well so far.” “No, It’s fine, you know, uh, it’s just I haven't spoken to anyone about him… us, and, and I… I dunno it’s just still really raw. But, strange as it sounds, I kind of miss him.” “And that is more common than you think, Josh. It’s not strange at all. We can often still have desires for the ones that hurt us the most.” “Hmm, well. I certainly do. But, he warped me.” “Warped. Tell me why you chose that word?” “Dunno, kinda like… well in my head he tricked me.” “You think he was insincere towards you?” “No, no, that’s not it. He was so persuasive, and... God, I don’t know; it’s hard to explain.” “Okay, well, we can explore that. Sometimes the words come later after you have studied the thought. So let's talk about you for a moment. I picked up that nobody knows about Kai and you. Can I make an assumption?” “That I’m in the closet, ha?” “If that's the term that's comfortable with you.” “Yeah, uh, well, no one knows about me. I mean. I’d like them to, and I’ve come close, like. But I think my dad would be really upset and my mum too, I think.” “Recently?” “Uh, yeah. Well, I almost told my mum at Christmas. I remember us having this intense conversation about how well Kai and I had connected, and she was telling me how pleased she was that I'd got a friend. But…” “Take your time.” “Well, it was Christmas, you know? And I almost said it, and then I bottled out because I thought I would ruin the best day of the year.” “Understandable. And at that moment, how do you think your mum would have reacted if you could go back to that conversation and go through with the revelation?” “Hmm, uh, well, that's a good question. In my head, I think right at that moment, it felt like she might be okay. But then my mind changes it to something else.” “Something else?” “Yeah, like one minute I can see her hugging me and saying everything will be okay, and the next… the next she is telling me to pack my things and go. That's what I go through every time I get close to doing it.” “Right, I see. So it’s the fear of the unknown rather than the subject.” “Huh? Oh, wow. I never thought of it like that. I guess so. I mean, if I had a place to go if it all went wrong, then….” “Josh, let me ask you. You said you were a close family. You’ve indicated that you get on very well with your dad and that your siblings love you. Thinking about that, does it change what’s in your head?” “The outcome?” “Yes.” “I guess.” “Food for thought, Josh. So Kai, tell me about Kai?” “What would you like to know?” “Well, your story, Josh. Like how he ended up working on your farm to you sitting here in front of me?” “He’s a big part of why I'm here, I've always been a kind of nervous person.” “Wow, that was a big sigh. So start from the beginning. Tell me about him?” “Uh, God, this is embarrassing.” “We’ve done that bit, Josh, remember, haha.” “Okay, he is… was, lovely. He is smart, funny, and has nice features. He’s fit, quite short, I think around 5, 7.” “You’re smiling; go on.” “Oh, wow, haha, erm, he’s got short dark hair, dark brown eyes, just something about him was… is really attractive and he has a way of communicating which I’ve never seen before. Mind you; I come from a tiny village, so that's not surprising, but yeah, he’s just, I dunno!” “Sounds like a Dreamboy, by the look on your face.” “Uh, yeah, sorry. Just remembering some of the good times.” “Do you think his way of communicating affected you?” “Oh, yeah, I think that's what kept me going back.” “Back? Explain.” “At first, it was just half chats, you know, here and there while we were working in the summer. We’d cross paths when he was moving our sheep, and I was out fixing fences. He’d stop, we’d chat, and it felt like anything he said was interesting.” “Go on.” “But then… then I got more intrigued and would start making excuses to do some work… or fix something in his vicinity. I mean, the farm is massive. It’s over 5000 acres, so sometimes, if you have a fence out or a stray Heifer somewhere, you might not see anyone. I mean, summertime is busy on the farm. We hire around sixty workers, usually from Eastern Europe, to harvest or pick crops, but it can get isolated even then. So when Kai was working, I would find myself being... weird.” “You mean, interested.” “I guess.” “So you wanted to be near him… continue.” “Yeah, so, uh… I remember one day him driving up to the farmhouse early in the morning. I can’t remember why he was starting that early? Perhaps my dad told him to. But anyway, I was on my way back from the VMS, and we caught up to...” “Sorry Josh, I’m interested… VMS?” “Oh, yeah, sorry. Farm lingo. It's where the cows get milked. It’s called the Voluntary Milking System.” “Right, hmm, I see, so please, go on.” “Yeah, so we kind of met by his car early in the morning and just got chatting. It must have been really early, around five in the morning, so it was just us. I remember him saying that he’d noticed I was around a lot more lately. I mean, I tried to laugh it off, but then he said something strange, and that's when I think I’d say we properly… I mean, I’d say when it all started with him.” “Something strange?”' “Yeah, he said, 'I tend to get less work done when you’re following me around' and winked at me. But, of course, at the time, I didn't think about the wink, just the words, and then he got back in his car and closed the door.” “You were disappointed?” “No, I was… dazed is all I can describe it as.” “Sounds like you took an instant liking to this boy?” “I did, and I wanted to chat to him more, but I took his closing of the car door as a….” “Rejection?” “Exactly.” “Okay, so I think you’ve just described your first attachment to Kai. Would I be correct?” “Yeah, I suppose you could say that. Well, anyway, that's where we properly talked.” “So, what happened next?” “Uh, well he… I mean, why is this relevant?” “Why is it not?” “Huh? I don’t understand?” “Okay, so let me put it this way, Josh. If you think of Kai as a ball of string with a stick in the middle.” “Okay,” “And the ball of string is all tangled and knotted round this piece of wood in the middle. Suppose you think of yourself as that piece of wood and Kai as the tangled string. We need to go through your story so we can unpick this string…or rather Kai, from you. And the way we do that is for you to relive your story, so we know where to unpick. As you talk, there will be certain parts of your story that we’ll unpick from the string, and slowly we can release it. Kai will be a neatly wound piece of string in your mind to process, and you… the stick will be free.” “Okay, fine. I get it.” “You seem agitated; tell me why?” “I’m okay, really; I just don’t want to drag up the past.” “Read any Greek philosophy?Josh?” “Can't say I do.” “Well, Humans may seem complex, but Aristotle teaches us that all human actions have one or more of these seven causes: chance, nature, compulsions, habit, reason, passion, desire. Think about all of these as you tell your story. Even now, from the little you have started to tell me, I’d say you will tick all of this 2300-year-old guy’s causes. He might be ancient, but he was on to something.” “I’ll bear that in mind.” “Well, Josh, I'm afraid that is the end of our session today. However, I think we made some foundations, and you seem more relaxed now, which I find is always the main goal in my first session with my patients.” “Yeah, it's been nice to talk… so uh, I see you, erm.” “Next Thursday at 1:15 pm. It’s been great talking to you; I think we’ll have lots to discuss next week.” “Yeah.” “Right, let me get that door for you, and you have a safe drive back.” “Thanks, Claire, see you.” Patient notes: Claire Atkins, Consulting Psychiatrist. 1st session with Josh Fisher. 18-year-old male. Awaiting GP records. No reported medication apart from PZ. Recent full blood count - No issues. 6ft 1ins. Athletic build, no visible eating disorders. Physically very fit and of good weight. Slight bruising to neck and left wrist - Not discussed. On the first meeting, Josh appears nervous with noticeable historic confidence issues. Josh appears of stable character. No signs of BPD. No ticks visible. Patient seems suggestive and vulnerable although no cause for intervention. Visit due to acute anxiety and chronic depression brought on by domestic Violence and possible family pressure - needs further discussion. Patient also appears closed at times with mild agitation at trigger subjects. Possible codependency to be explored. Patient suggests not fully comfortable with Sexuality and family unit not aware - Needs further discussion. No signs of suicidal tendencies and is of sound mind. Josh is able to express emotion in the positive and negative.
  8. The Sessions is a collection of transcripts containing the conversations and subsequent appointment notes between a Consulting psychiatrist and her new patient. As a transcript, the story is told entirely in dialogue and is set in a small, plainly decorated room. A teak coffee table separates Patient and Doctor. Although not seen, the Doctor will be taking notes throughout, and these can be read at the end of each visit. While some of the details within the transcripts may not be entirely medically accurate, I have drawn on my extensive experience of being the “patient” in therapy.
  9. Thanks very much. Yes Part 2 is being written as I speak. As for the departure on my normal stuff. Yeah I wanted to come outside my comfort zone and write something that was fiction, but still real. Unlike my other stuff which was a little bit of me sprinkled in each one, this story had to be researched to get the feel and base right. Of course the characters came from my head, but the setting is real. I'm made up you enjoyed it. Thank you for the comment.
  10. Thank you for the kind words Canuk. I am humbled and glad you liked part 1. It was a pleasure to write.
  11. James Matthews

    Chapter 1

    Oh I like this!!! Great first chapter. It's got me hooked already thanks for writing it.
  12. August 5th 2006 I came around being rushed across the runway tarmac through a set of double doors and into a large room. I saw a sign that said ‘Trauma Wing’ just in time to know where my destination was. I was confused and dazed. What was going on? “Hey, where… I mean, what’s happening?” I slurred out as four medics crowded around me. One of them turned around, and I heard a clattering of metal instruments. He returned to face me, holding a pair of scissors and begun cutting into my fatigues. “Are you in any pain,” one of them asked? I just shook my head. With the scissors now almost through, the medic clanked them back down on a stainless steel tray next to him before ripping open my uniform, exposing my chest. There was blood everywhere as he inspected me. I saw him look at his colleague. “Can we get some spirit and a cloth?” He was duly given it, and he soaked the cloth in some kind of alcohol smelling liquid before gently wiping my chest area. “I need two bags of B plus here right away!” I tried to look down at my chest, but everything was blurry and swaying. I could see blood weeping out of me; at least with what I could actually focus on, it looked like that. “Am I gonna die?” I asked casually, not really putting much thought into what would happen if the answer was yes. The main medic guy, who was doing and saying the most, suddenly stood up and looked again at his colleagues. I could have sworn a smile came over his face. “Phew, That’s a lot of blood for a scratch,” he announced, shaking his head. “Maybe eight stitches?” he added. One of the other medics nodded, and he then walked away. “Private Fisher, can you understand me?” Said another medic, leaning over my face, adorned in a blue mask. “Yes,” I said. “I’m a bit dizzy, though. What’s going on? “You have a shallow wound on your chest, but you have lost a lot of blood. The bullet is probably lodged in your armour vest, you're very lucky. You require some stitches and a blood transfusion but will be good in no time. It was not as bad as the blood was leading us to believe. There may be a small scar left behind, but it will be barely notable. I know how you buff boys like to remain blemish-free.” he said, letting out a small chuckle. “I’m joking, but anyway you can relax, you’re going to be fine.” “Erm, I can’t say I thought about it. Can I ask about Private Hans?” “Thought about what, Private?” “Huh? I dunno; what did I just say? Oh yeah, you said about blemish-free skin. I can’t say I’ve ever thought about it. But, hey, did I ask you about Private Hans? I think I did.” “Who?” Asked another of the medics. “He was with my company. He was hit in the back. What is his status?” “I don’t know if we have anyone in this wing names Hans. But he may come in later.” “No, that’s not possible; he should be here now; he is critical.” “Try not to move too much, Private; We need to get you patched up. Does this soldier come from your company?” “For fuck sake, what is this, some kind of conspiracy?” I yelled, irrationally. The doctors didn’t seem fazed by my outbursts. Was I off my face? Strange feeling! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ It was the afternoon in the hospital wing, and I was lying on a bed with a table like object across my chest. I must have fallen asleep. My whole body felt tingly and itchy, and I was trying to concentrate as hard as I could on the TV that was stuck on the wall. I knew it was the news, and I could hear two people conversing, but whatever was being said was beyond me. I just couldn't take it in! Worst of all, although I’d been here for some time now. I don’t remember much about how I got from that compound to this room. “Nurse?” I called, surprising myself with the sluriness in my voice. A young lady came over to me. “Yes, Private?” “I feel odd.” She looked at me inquisitively. “Are you in any pain?” “No, I itch everywhere.” “You have been administered morphine; this is a side effect.” “Right, okay. Hey, I need to ask. My friend…” “Yes, Private, Lukas Hans, you have asked several times. I’m sorry, but I don’t have any news for you.” “I haven't asked before, have I?” “Try and stay calm Private, you have lost quite a bit of blood and need to rest!” “My wound, is it gonna be okay?” “The small operation went fine.” “Will I be out of here soon?” “Eventually, but right now, you need to try and get some sleep.” She went to walk away. “But I need to know about Lukas. And where is my unit?... And sleeping is what I have just done! Grrrrr!” “I’m sorry Private; I don’t have that much information.” I slapped my hands down on the bed and huffed, “It’s always a secret, ain’t it.” “Private, the morphine will….” “Yeah, yeah, I know! I’m probably talking bollocks, but my questions about my comrades are clear in my head. And can you turn that damn TV off?” The nurse walked over to the wall, switched the device off, and went back to her little makeshift office. I was stuck here and feeling out of sorts. The fucking itching was now getting inside my head. It felt like ants crawling all over me. I closed my eyes briefly before a familiar voice caused me to open them again. “Hey, Sicknote, how you feeling?” It was Tank. “I’ve been better. But, what’s happening? No one is telling me anything.” Tank pulled up a chair. “I need to tell you something, Seb.” “He’s dead, ain’t he?” I asked, feeling emotional all of a sudden. “No, Seb, he made it, just.” “Talk to me, Tank; I need to know where he is. What happened to him?” Tank threw his head back and blew out a breath. “He, uh...he's been in theatre for 8 hours, and he’s now in Intensive Care. They are flying him back to the UK in a few days. He was shot in the back and bled out. His heart stopped four times, but they managed to get it started again and gave him six blood transfusions.” “Is he awake?” “No, he’s in a coma, Seb, and….” “Just say it!” “They erm...uh, they don’t know if he’s got brain damage.” I tried to sit up but failed. “What? What do you mean they don’t know?!” “They need to get him back for a scan. We don’t have the equipment here, so they need to see what's going on in his head. You see….” “Yes?” I said, waiting for more information impatiently. “His heart stopped several times, and they don’t know how much oxygen was still in his body when they got it started again. They said that his brain might have been starved of air for longer than it can be.” “So this scan, will that say if he’ll wake up again?” “Seb, you’re asking the wrong person. I just got told the basics of his condition. So I think you’re gonna have to wait and see.” “Fuck sake. When I get out of here, I’m gonna find that fuck who did this and piss over his pathetic corpse and strap an IED to him and watch him disintegrate!” “I’ve been told you’re done here, is that right?” “Well, I’m no fucking good to any of you like this, am I?” I barked. “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be like this. I just fucking itch, and I’m worried about Spinner. I’m also as angry as fuck!” “We all are, mate. Hopefully, things will work out, yeah?” “I’m sorry I forgot to ask... how are you and Jack doing?” “I’m okay. Jack is pretty shaken up. It was a shit show in there. We got all of them, but it was poorly executed.” “It was that fucking Yank. Where was Sgt Bennet?” “He’s been reassigned to the north with half our regiment.” “What the fuck? Why don't we ever get told anything?” “I think the war is going badly, but no one want's to say it. We need more troops on the ground, and we have lost six Vikings due to IEDs. And we have a C-17 out of action on the runway, which got hit on the tail as it was coming in. We’ve got to borrow another one from the Americans to get some of you home. America is also lending us five C-130’s to help the supply chain. We also have 3 Harrier's out of action needing parts waiting to be shipped from home. I think things will improve once we get more equipment and troops.” “What the fuck is this, we're the fifth richest country in the world, not Sudan! I don’t want to hear any more. But, listen, can you see if you can get me out of here to see Lukas. I need to see him.” “I dunno if that's possible; I don't have any contacts. But I can ask Jack?” “Yeah, yeah, please do, and ask him if he can get me to see Lukas.” Tank looked at me strangely "Uh, Pal?" "What?" "Never mind," Tank replied, not continuing. I hate it when people do that. "Tank?" I whispered, looking over to my right. "I need to tell you something." Tank leaned in to my face. "I swear that nurse over there hates me. She keeps putting that TV on and then turning it off. Don't say anything to her will you. I don't want to let on I know what she's up to." Tank got up from “Cool, well, I'll leave you to it, I have a briefing at eleven, and I wanna get some food.” “Tank, I love you, man. Take it easy, yeah?” “Okay, morphine head. I love you too. Get well; I’ll swing by as soon as I can with Jack.” August 8th 2006 Three days had passed, and I got told Lukas had been flown back home. I hadn’t been allowed to see him and was told virtually nothing. Apparently, only those who had partner’s injured or killed in the country were allowed ‘extra’ information, as they called it. Since Lukas and I were not together, I got treated like any other stranger, which really upset me. I wanted to lie and say we were a couple, but my pride… no, not pride... my reluctance to admit, or suggest I was gay was just not an option. I felt weak, selfish and angry at myself for that. So no, we were not a couple, but we did have something here in Afghanistan. I don’t know what lies ahead in the UK. I’m scared to think about it because I’m worried that back home, the feelings I had, well, won’t be the same. After all, they’ll be playing out in a different environment. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ August 17th 2006 I seemed to find myself in the mess hall quite a lot lately. I was eating far more than my body needed. Jack said I was comfort eating, but the good thing is I was sticking to salads and coffee. Not suitable to fill up on calories when you’re so incapacitated because of a fucking Taliban asshole. I wanted to exercise so bad. It was a way for me to release tension and anger. Anger was now building daily, and there didn’t seem to be an outlet. The mess hall was also an excellent place to be away from my bunk. Yeah, I mean, I had Tank and Jack there, but seeing Lukas’s empty bed each day just reminded me how bad things were for him. I wished he had never gotten under my skin as he did. I resisted him so much. I fucking hated the fact I had to bother about him. I hated the fact I had someone that was on my mind all the time. I fucking hated my life so bad right now! With daily Physio, I was now able to move my arms properly without screaming out in pain. Apparently, all the muscles connect, and my movements earlier were irritating the wound. I did have the option of a wheelchair, which I tried not to rely on too much. But it was great to be up and about. Unfortunately, tank and Jack had been sent back out on patrols, and I worried like crazy each time. I was beginning to hate it here. My motivation seemed gone, and I struggled with being a soldier in a war I thought was going nowhere. My life had been turned upside down by a person I loved to hate! Actually, do I mean that? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ It was eight o’clock, and I was lying on Jack’s bunk. He has offered to swap for apparent reasons. I was trying my best to read. But what with the throbbing pain in my chest and the damn thoughts of Lukas invading my head, I put the thing down and threw a pen I'd found at Tank, who was laying down listening to music. He jumped up, taking his earbuds out. “What?” He asked, mildly annoyed. “Where’s your shadow?” “Playing football with a few of the lads.” “And you’re here because?” “Looking after you.” “Liar! What's up?” Tank got up and sat on Lukas’s bed, opposite me.” “My Nan died today. She passed while I was out on patrol. I only found out when I got back.” “Fuck Tank, I’m so sorry. Why didn’t you say?” He waved his hand at me. “I didn’t want a fuss. And besides. Worse things are going on right now. She’d lived a long life. I just wish I had been with her.” “Man, that sucks. Here, come sit with me.” Tank came over and sat next to me on the bottom bunk, and I put my arm around him. Tank was a hard shell, but I knew this would have hit his mushy interior.” “Anyway, Don’t make too much fuss,” “You can cry, you know, if that's what you need. You might be a soldier, but it’s okay!” “I just have something in my eye. Anyway, how are you doing? You’ve been really pissed off these last few days. Jack says he feels like he’s treading on eggshells around you.” “Can I tell you something?” “Of course, anything.” “Me and Lukas were...I mean are, well….” “Well?” “Sort of involved.” Tank’s eyes seemed to expand outwards, and a wry smile came over his face. “You boning each other? Get the fuck out of here!” “No, it’s not like that. It’s nothing like that at all.” “Well, what then? What are you actually saying?” I took a deep breath and sighed. “I don’t know what we are, but I needed to tell you.” “So what are you saying then? He’s your boyfriend?” “No, not even that. I just think we connected deeply, and maybe the best way to explain it is halfway between friends and something more.” “Sounds intense.” “Do you mind?” “Why, what have I done?” “No, stupid, I mean, do you mind me telling you. And do you mind what I told you?” “No, why should I?” “No, it’s just...ah forget it. But anyway, that's the reason I’ve been pissed off. I’m apprehensive about him. That and this fucking chest wound.” “He’s a good guy and strong. He’ll pull through. Just you see.” Just then, there was a shuffling of footsteps outside the door. Jack came bundling in and Corporal Maddox popped his head in our tent. “Lads, how goes it?” “Fine. But do you think I could get another fan in here? I’m sweating so bad at night,” I asked, wiping my forehead. “No need, Seb, that’s why I’m here. You’re on a C-17 tomorrow at Six am. Get an early night. “Really, Do you know why? I’m healing fine and....” My Corporal dipped his chin and left. Jack and Tank just stared at me. “Why are they sending you home? I shook my head. “Dunno, Jack, beats me.” “So that’s it then, the fab four will be no more.” Tank said, slumping on his bed. “What’ve you both got? Three months left?” I asked, not being able to think of something comforting “About that, I guess. So, you looking forward to going home?” Jack asked. I wiped another few beads of sweat from my forehead and puffed. “Be good to see family again. Oh, and of course, visit Lukas.” “We must all get together again, right?” “Fuck yeah, Tank. We are tight, and I don't think I’d be alive if it were not for you and Jack. I love you both more than you know. What a fucking journey this has been.” Tank smiled and ruffled my hair. “Get some rest; I’m gonna go kick a ball around while the air is bearable out there.” “Go for it! See you later!” ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ August 18th 2006 - 05:20 The alarm went off, waking Tank and Jack up. I grabbed my phone to silence the ringtone I had meant to change since I unboxed it back at home. “Sorry guys, this is it, time for me to get ready.” I could hear Jack shuffling around above me in the top bunk before seeing his hairy legs hang down. Then, finally, he jumped to the floor and rubbed his eyes. “I’ll help you get your gear sorted.” “Tank looked over the side of his bunk and put his hand up. “Man, it's early.” I respected him for not sleeping on the bottom bunk where Lukas used to be. Of course, it was never mentioned, but his bed was left made up neatly, and no one or nothing was ever put on it. “Actually, I’ll make us some coffee, first,” Jack said, wandering around our small box room looking for some plastic cups. “Jack, In the cupboard, chuck us some lube.” “Lube?” Jack asked, wincing, confused. “Yeah, I am super horny this morning. I need to rub one out quickly.” “Ahhh, man,” I said, smirking. Jack hunted through the cupboard and pulled out a small bottle of Liquid Silk Tank had brought with him - him being circumcised… Of course. We never got around to having a conversation about why, as it was not the done thing in our country. “Two sugars for me, Jacko and by the time that kettle boils, these balls will be empty.” I sat up on my bed and contemplated what to do first while Jack made coffee. I briefly looked over at Tank, who had his eyes closed, tugging away. I deliberately watched him for a few seconds just to see if I found the act of him jerking off somehow erotic. But there was nothing. I was okay with it, of course. I mean, we all have needs; we’re young, and with no women around to speak off, I think we all sympathised with our drives. Jack acted like it was something that happened every day. But I must admit I’d never seen any of us ‘publicly’ get off. It was always something done in the shower or when everyone was asleep. At least, that was my routine. Anyway, I am now wondering why I am still speaking about this. The clock is ticking. I got up just as Tank came, and Tank was never quiet in that respect. Jack burst out laughing while I rolled my eyes. “Feel better?” I said, walking slowly over to my tiny closet. “Man, what a load, here guys, come and look at this!” “NO!” We both shouted in unison, laughing… albeit mine rather forced if I’m honest. 05:26 Jack had got most of my gear out of the closets and cupboards and packed it all up neatly like we were trained. So everything was always neat and tidy; it was drummed into us. It was a bonus as we seemed to find spaces where no other human could, I always thought. 05:38 I hugged the guys with everything packed and was overcome by emotion as they both stood there together looking at me. Jack had got three guys to take my bags out onto the tarmac, and another had arrived with a wheelchair which I gladly fell into. “Keep in touch! Or I’ll fucking shoot you with my automatic,” Tank said as Jack wheeled me out. I raised my arm and middle finger but shouted back. “You got it!” 05:49 Out on the tarmac, the sun was already up, and the screaming idle engines from the plane were making it hard for me to hear what Jack was saying. But I think he said he loved me and that we would all get together soon. A line of my regiment has all lined up to see the six of us who were injured and saluted as we were wheeled onto the plane. I don’t mind admitting I found that act overwhelming. The guys we had fought with, each of them keeping us safe, knowing we had their backs also. I didn’t envy them. I was glad to be going home, just not under these circumstances. Looking after all of us, Private Jenkins helped me into one of the seats and strapped me in before ruffling my hair. “Enjoy your flight, muscle man. Be safe.” “Cheers, man. You get back to Bastion safely every day, yeah. Please say goodbye to all the guys for me.” “Of course,” he shouted above the noise. 05:59 With us all now strapped into the side of the plane, with various damaged and beat up vehicles in the middle of the aircraft, the cargo door started to raise. I put my earbuds in and selected a song I knew I would play when this moment came. With Darude’s ‘Sandstorm’ blaring in my ears, I felt the engines rev up. Everything was vibrating, and I just put my head back and closed my eyes. I was going home! 06:00 Take Off! End of Part 1
  13. That is such a moving and lovely comment. Thank you. I'm sorry in one sense but glad you think I do it justice. That's all I set out to do with this.
  14. July 29th 2006 I was feeling low. Sitting in the mess hall on my own, I contemplated the previous day. All four of us had been back in the bunk. Tank and Jack were looking so close now. They seemed to get on so well and felt they were gently orbiting away from me. I was okay with this. As long as everyone has someone was my mantra in this terrible war zone. They also seemed to be happy to let Lukas and I be alone, much to my annoyance. But last night was different. All four of us just laid in our bunks and didn’t talk. Lukas was deliberately not interacting with anyone and had left the tent at six in the morning to go God’s knows where. I pretended that I’d been asleep. He didn’t return until Lunchtime. I half expected Jack and Tank to ask me where he was, but they didn’t. I think they knew Lukas was not talking to me and didn’t want to get involved. But I wanted them to ask me. I wanted them to ask to help me determine whether Lukas is a complete dick or I was going mad. So this morning, I’d got up early and found myself here in the mess hall. Jack and I briefly spoke heading for the showers about how much blood they had taken out of him, but that was about it. He reckoned they left him with about a pint, and I wanted to joke about that comment but wasn’t in the mood. So I just squeezed his neck and thanked him for giving our comrades a fighting chance of living, should they have needed his blood. ~~~~~~~~~~ My cinnamon whirl was now dry and cold, and the coffee I was drinking was now becoming an effort to finish, not to mention tepid. No one came over to join me. Sure, I was sitting here quite early in the morning, but as I twisted my head around, even people I knew just nodded at me and smiled. Whereas I wanted them to come and sit with me, to escape from this self-absorbed pity I was feeling. Lukas was wrecking my fucking head - I felt confused. I was in a war-zone in the middle of the desert. Gone were the thoughts of the enemy I had killed. The blood I had spilt. No, all I could think about was Lukas. It was driving me nuts! “Patrol tomorrow?” came a voice, followed by a stroke on the back of my neck. Lukas! “Oh, so you’re talking to me now?” “Yeah, why wouldn't I be?” “Excuse me?” I yelled, slightly angry. “You stormed off yesterday without a word and then said nothing to me all last night while we were in our bunks.” “Did you attempt to talk to me?” “That’s not the point, and you didn’t answer my question.” “Which was?” he asked, pulling out a chair and sitting opposite me. “Again, with the fucking games, Lukas. I can’t handle this.” “So I was right, I should move tents.” “No...for fuck sake. I just want to know what your problem is?” “My problem is I’m in love with you, and you are not in love with me.” I let my head fall into my arms on the table. Lukas stroked my hair. I pushed his hand away. “You wanna play squash?” “No, my hip hurts, and I have never played it.” “You need to go to physio.” “And if they send me home?” “Then they send you home; that would be good, right?” “And you?” “What about me?” Lukas asked, tearing a piece of my cinnamon whirl and placing it in his mouth. “I want to stay with you.” “Why?” I looked around. “Because… because I fucking care about you, okay, and we stick together. I don’t want you out there with anyone else. We get each other, and we’re a good unit. The four of us are.” “Awww, that’s kinda sweet.” “Yeah, yeah, it’s sweet. But I mean it. I’m not going home without you. I want you in one piece.” “Go to physio Seb, get checked out.” “You can sort me out, right?” “Is that a request?” “Don’t be funny. I mean my hip.” “I could, but I care about you too, and I am a general medic, not a physiotherapist. I think you need to get it checked out. I care about YOU, Seb. More than you know.” “And the kiss?” “What kiss?” he asked, also stealing my now cold coffee. “You stormed out after I said I would let you kiss me,” I whispered, again looking around. “I didn’t storm out; I walked out. Seb, I’m not going to be an experiment for you. I’m not some fucking first aid test dummy to see if you ‘like it’ as you said.” “It wasn't supposed to come out like that. I just meant I feel close to you, and I feel safe. I just don’t know if I can give you what you want.” “Let's go outside and talk in private.” Lukas grabbed my arm and pulled me up. We walked out of the mess hall, and I followed him, scratching my head. He led me around to some fuel talks and pulled up two plastic chairs leaning against the tanks. “Sit,” he demanded, gesturing with his hand. I did as he asked. “I’m sitting, now what.” “You wanna kiss me, do it now.” “Erm...what? I mean, no, I can't; you’ve put me on the spot.” “Does the fact I like you gross you out?” “It did...I mean when you first said it.” “And now?” I sighed and leant back in my chair, shrugging. “God, I can't believe i'm saying this. I guess I’ve gotten used to it. I mean, I never thought I would get used to killing the Taliban. That first one gave me nightmares but now….” “So no then?” I looked at him after he asked that, leaned forward and gently placed my lips on his. I felt his tongue gently enter my mouth and a hand come round the back of my head. My heart was racing, and I wanted to pull away. It was the natural thing to do. I was a straight lad, but somehow this felt okay...it felt nice. I let him explore my mouth. He tasted of him if that’s even an understandable thing to think. There was a hint of coffee, and his fingers were gently massaging the back of my head. His eyes were closed. Everything was gentle. I reluctantly placed my tongue inside his mouth. It was warm, Inviting. He was a good looking guy! Jesus, why did that even come into my head. Did I like this? I think I did. But there was a battle raging in my mind, and I pulled away before putting my head in my hands. “You okay?” Lukas asked, almost whispering. “That kiss was beautiful.” “My head is fucked!” “Thanks, so it was that bad?” “No, it was better than I was expecting. I just don’t think you appreciate my feelings in all this.” “Seb, you chose what you want to do; I’m not forcing this.” “You’re so full of shit. You have been after me since we met, and you say you aren't forcing this? What bullshit.” “Hey, calm down. It’s your heart that is messed up. You just have to sort that out and decide what you want.” “I had decided what I wanted, and I was quite happy being comfortable knowing that I liked girls.” “You’ve never been with one; how would you know? Seb, you’ve never had a girlfriend.” “So! Don’t mean I’m fucking gay. You come into my life and start messing with nature, and my head all gets fucked up.” “Nature? Are you for real? Perhaps I just woke up something inside you.” “No, you tried to alter a path my emotions were comfortably on. Just because I have never had a girlfriend doesn't mean I wouldn't have ended up with one. I'm just not in a rush to have sex or be with a girl. Right now, my priority is the Army, and that comes before everything!” “God, you sound like Hitler. Well, it looks to me Sebbie that you have now been further with a guy than with a girl.” “Exactly, and that’s what is fucking my head up.” “Why? What’s the issue? It comes back to boxes, Seb. You remember, in the shower, I said about you putting everything into boxes. Like I said to you about me just being, Why can’t you just be. Why do you have to slot into what society tells you? Why do you have to be on a set path, as you explain?” “I dunno, I just think being out here, the job we do, the time it takes up. So I was just happy looking after my dick and having no other responsibilities.” “So, what’s changed?” “Well, now I have you to think about!” “Wow, you make us sound like a couple already. Even I haven't said anything like that, Seb.” “I just mean, I care about you, okay?” “Yeah, you said. And I care about you too.” “Yeah, but I wish I didn’t!” “Then don’t.” “But I have to now. Whatever you have done to me has me invested.” “What does that mean?” I lifted my head and looked him in the eyes. “It means I’m okay with us being whatever we have here...here in this place. I’m okay with it, but I'm still wondering what’s happening.” “Happening?” “To me…as in like before I met you, I was fine.” “Wow, that is so cute. You are amazing.” “So what now?” “Well, I dunno about you, but I’m heading to the showers; I need to wash this dusty desert sand and grit out of my hair.” Before I could say anything, he got up and walked away. I followed him with my eyes, seeing him lift his T-shirt and rub his stomach. He looked back at me, and there it was! That stupid smile. That teasing smile. He knew what he was doing. It was another game. He wanted me to follow him. Sorry but that was a step too far! In the morning sun, I watched a Harrier come into land, which was unusual for this time of day. It was a momentary distraction from what was now on my mind - that bloody kiss: the kiss and nothing else. I could have been out on patrol being fired upon, and I had a feeling that ‘the kiss’ would still be front and centre. I felt my hip spasm as I got up. It would have to wait. I was not going to physio, end of! ~~~~~~~~~~~~ August 1st 2006 American marines and British civilian advisers were waging two wars in the hilly northern half of Helmand province. The news was coming through fast, and we were sent out in a Viking. We’d finally got some dogs out front, but we all knew that this tin box would not protect us if we went over an IED. IEDs were always on our minds. All suited up, helmets on, Lukas sat beside me, his hand on my knee. I didn’t remove it and instead gently smiled at him. It was nothing sexual, but I was glad we were together. Tank and Jack were whispering amongst themselves. They looked calm, which helped me. Every time we went out, we knew one, two, or even all of us might not come back. The Taliban were crafty fuckers with no regard for any life. I was learning all the time and now considered myself an experienced infantry soldier. I think we all did. Little by little, more confidence was being embedded each time we went out. It was pulling us closer together as a group. We loved each other. We cared about each other, and I would die for any of them...now, especially for Lukas. We were morphing into something. Lukas had invested so much into me, and it was infectious. I was starting to have strange feelings for him. I did love him. Maybe not in the way he wanted, but there was now something there that wasn't before. At first, I tried to fight it, but now I was giving into it. I had never had a girlfriend, nor a boyfriend. I knew I was straight. I knew I was. I had to be. It was in my genes. I couldn't force what was not meant to be. But somehow, there was...something! ~~~~~~~~~~~ August 4th 2006 The heat was blistering and uncomfortable, pushing just over a hundred, so my watch said. The dust got into everything, and I felt a burning in my chest. Was this place killing me? We’d been travelling east for around 40 minutes. Guns primed on the various compounds we passed. In Musa Qala, the first wave of 40 commando unit, and us, the Yorkshire Regiment, almost ran out of ammunition yesterday after two weeks of challenging combat. Where the fuck were the supplies. Nothing was being dropped in, and no one was saying anything. All we heard was that Brown.,.. Gordon that is, was pouring Billions in. Seven Billion, I heard. So where was that money? What was it buying? We didn’t dare criticise the government. We had to stay quiet. I had hoped we could borrow some ammo from the yanks, but they used different weapons. It was fucking scary to think we might run out of bullets. It was also starting to sink in that this war was fucking shite. We knew things were being kept from us. My guess was either a delay to the new armoured vehicles or supply issues. We were getting fed, and there seemed to be enough fuel for the trucks and planes, but although never said in public, we all agreed we were under-equipped for what we were being asked to do. With no easy way to resupply them – it was too risky to drive convoys or fly dual-rotor Chinooks, the only helicopters we had. Rumour had it we would soon be moving in to get the Taliban out of the city. We knew this would mean guerrilla warfare and building to building searches. I didn’t think we had the firepower. Tank was more confident. Lukas gave gentle talks to settle us. I needed that. I was scared. We drove close to two compounds which intelligence was confident were filled with Taliban. There was no deal to be made in Sangin, so our commanders sent more forces. However, we saw them flicking up dust a mile away and thought it safer to wait for them to arrive. Still, even with them close by, they did not have enough boots on the ground to establish a decisive advantage. ~~~~~~~~~~~~ The insurgents set up bomb-making factories in a valley that hugged the source of the Helmand River, and they struck an informal mutual defence pact with drug barons who ran a network of opium-processing labs in hillside hamlets. Our commanders made matters worse by spreading our regiment across several small outposts along the valley, condemning them to a Sisyphean mission. They would clear insurgents from small parts of the district, but then they had to move on. But, again we knew, more troops were needed. 40 Commando were doing most of the heavy work while we took up the slack. We also found out today the Afghan army commander in Sangin told media outlets that British troops were searching compounds, walking on the roofs of homes, and maltreating the local population – including pointing weapons at people and going into areas where women were working. Well, First, that was a fucking lie. So who side was he on? The fuck! “Where are you getting all this information from?” I asked Jack. “It’s not true, surely? I know we haven’t been up on those compounds.” “It was from a guy I know in 40 Commando. He heard it from another source. It might be bullshit, but things are heating up here. I think we’re spread too thinly.” Another three Viking trucks pulled up next to ours. One of them had been in an ambush and was shot up but still running. Although looking at what shit was coming out the tailpipe said to me it was about ready to give up. We had now moved about half a mile away from the compounds to set up the route. This was about to turn into the most significant push forward with 26 soldiers about to storm the buildings. “It’s gonna be okay, you know,” Lukas said, pushing my gun into my chest. “How's the hip doing?” “Honestly, it’s hurting like crazy.” “When we get back, I'll take another look at it, but you gotta go to physio.” “If we come back.” “Seb! WHEN we come back.” “Right, lads, out of the vehicle. Snipers in position. Infantry, start moving forward.” The Commander said. He was American; I’d never seen him before. Why was he here? Where was Bennet? We started to move towards the compound while the snipers stayed back and looked for targets that might take us out. I stayed close to Lukas. Strangely I felt at peace and not worried at all. “Slowly now, Tank,” Lukas called. “Jack, Luke, Rimmer, Seb, stay to the left. We need to give clear sight to the Snipers.” ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I heard a bullet fly past me, and then it started - Gunfire everywhere! Where was it coming from? “TANK, SEB, SPINNER, RIMMER,” get over here! Jack screamed as we all started moving in the opposite direction. I ran over to the right side of the largest compound and had my gun ready, gripping it hard. I saw one of the Taliban run towards Tank. He had a vest on. I fired and watched his head implode 6 feet away from Tank, with brain matter going everywhere. Thankfully the belt did not go off. “Tank, this way,” I shouted. Lukas went around the other side, and I heard multiple firing. I worried, but I was pinned down by four Taliban who were now out of the compound and running towards a bus shelter. We were in sight and had to move quickly. Snipers Fired about five times. I saw two go down near the bus shelter, but two made it through and hid behind the concrete erection. “Lukas,” I shouted, wanting him to call back, but he didn’t. Tank and another six of us continued to hug the building wall to try and make it around the back. Three Taliban soldiers met us. We all fired and made short work of them. I got splattered with blood in my face and chest, wiping it away immediately. “Tank, where are Lukas and Jack?” “Dunno, quick, we need to get inside. Guys, here, look a gap!” “Lukas!” I shouted again. “Jack!” “Here,” Jack shouted back. “Guys, we have a man down.” I feared the worst, and in a moment of stupidity, I ran across the compound alone towards the other exit, which was to the right of the building. I saw Jack just appear in my peripheral vision. Two Taliban ran towards me. I ducked but felt a searing pain in my chest, and I went down. “Man down, we have another man down,” Someone shouted. More gunfire ensued. It felt like it was coming from everywhere. I tried to drag myself towards a dilapidated machine for cover. I’d been hit, but my mind was so confused as to how bad because of all the gunfire. Jack dived and landed next to me. “Ahhh, no shit, man, your bleeding! Medic, I need a medic over here!” Jack screamed. “It’s fine; I’ll stay here. Do you know where Lukas is?” Jack looked at me seriously but said nothing. I grabbed his uniform, begging him to tell me with my eyes. “He’s down. He’s been shot in the back and ain’t moving. I just saw him in the dust!” “Fucking FUUUUCK, I screamed. Half in pain, half in terror that Lukas was down. Then I caught sight of him as one of our guys dragged him in from outside and lay him flat on his back. But he was now behind some kind of workbench, and I couldn’t see him. Finally, I saw two American Medic’s come running over to where he was. I wanted to see him, but I couldn’t get up. “Lukas!” I shouted. “Lukas, answer me!” He didn’t answer. Two US Marines ran over to me to check I was okay. Then as they were about to move away, I saw one of them wrestle a Taliban to the floor. He had a knife on him. The other aimed his gun but was out of ammo and was trying to reload in a panic. An intense hand to hand fight was now going on right in front of my eyes. The Marine tried to bang the guy’s hand on the floor to release the weapon, while the Taliban scum screamed something in Arabic. I held my gun up in agony, trying to get a clear shot. They were rolling all over the floor. Then, I just held my breath and pulled the trigger. I got him straight in the temple, mushing his scull in. The Marine threw him off and sat there panting before winking at me and getting up again. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The gunfire started to get less intense until finally, there was silence. “All targets eliminated, Sir,” Ryan Keller shouted. “We have three men down - one in a bad way. Requesting air support to lift out, Sir.” Jack stayed with me and tried to keep me calm. Finally, a medic rushed over. First, he pulled out a Trauma patch cloth from his chest kit and tied it tight around my torso. I cried out in pain. “You! Apply pressure and hold it there,” the medic ordered Jack. Jack just nodded and done as he was told. I was now in so much pain. “Can we get out of here?” I asked. Jack seemed scared and on edge, but then his expression changed as his training kicked in again. I saw it. He said nothing and pushed harder on my wound area. “Hey, we need morphine here!” Jack shouted. The medic returned and bit off a cap to a needle, jabbing it in my shoulder blade. Within seconds I could feel the pain subsiding and was able to think a little clearer. “Air support is ten minutes away. We have three down with GSW,” I heard our commander say as he came over to inspect me. This didn’t go well; we were like fucking amateurs. “I’m okay, Sir, but I can't get up.” “Stay where you are, soldier.” he looked at my chest area, shook his head and then looked at me. “For you, the war is over. At least for a while! We may need to send you home Private!. Well done today.” He went to leave me, but I had to know. “Sir, Lukas Hans, do we know if he’s okay?” “Private, it’s not looking good; he’s having CPR now. But, unfortunately, he is badly injured.” The commander walked away, and I saw Tank. His eyes were wet. We caught a glimpse of each other, and I saw him shake his head. Then, looking defeated, he walked out of the compound. Jack came over and hugged me. “I know you two were close. But right now, we need to get you out of here.” A few minutes later, I could hear the faint sound of rotor blades. We had cleared the building. But at what fucking cost? I am bleeding quite badly. The next thing I saw was an American Marine with a red cross on his arm come over to where I was sitting and injected something more into my neck. “What the fu….” I must have passed out!
  15. Thank you guys, really glad you liked this chapter. Apologies for the odd formatting issue. This has been corrected now I hope it didn't disturb the flow too much? James
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