As Mr. Samuels rolled Alexi’s chair out the hospital’s front doors, the young man groaned and squinted, the sun blasting him full in the face. The pavement and the parking lot were wet. Puddles lay scattered about, but the sun was now out in full force.
“Summer rains…” said Mr. Samuels. “And the sunshine afterwards….They make life worth living, don’t you think?”
Alexi mumbled in agreement and Mr. Samuels just chuckled softly.
“Sir?” A man was suddenly by Mr. Samuels’ side. He was tall. About 6’4”. And built like a bull. The suit he wore, though finely tailored, seemed ready to burst at the seams because of the pressure exerted on them by the man’s muscle mass. Alexi just stared into his black eyes. There was no expression in them, save for confidence. The man handed Mr. Samuels a shiny brown cane.
“Ah, thank you, Vince” and Mr. Samuels took it. “Alexi, I do believe you’ll need this. We wouldn’t want the hospital staff thinking we’re stealing their wheelchair, now would we?”
Alexi didn’t even seem to hear. He was just staring dumbly at the huge linebacker that stood next to Mr. Samuels. “Alexi?”
“What? Oh, yes.” He said, shaking his head, in hopes that the confusion would be driven away. He took the cane and looked at it for a long moment, then sighed and got to his feet, planting the cane firmly on the ground. He took one tentative step and before he knew it, he was falling. Vince was by him in the blink of an eye and caught him.
“You should be more careful. The pavement is still wet. And you obviously need practice with that stick.” The man said.
“Thank you.” Alexi answered, gathering himself. “Good advice.” Then he breathed in deeply. “Okay, this is just weird. Can we maybe get some introductions going?”
“Oh, sorry. I’m a bit of an airhead at times” Mr. Samuels said. “This…is Vince” he explained, while gesturing at the man as if he were presenting a prize-winning race horse.
“Yeah…That doesn’t really help.” Alexi responded, a goofy smile on his face.
“Right you are. He is my…err…assistant.” Vince raised a curious eyebrow at this. “Well, that is, he assists me in most everything I do. He’s more like a second in command. He’s the Tigh to my Adama.”
“Yeah…you lost me.”
“Not a Galactica fan, huh? We’re gonna have to fix that. Anyway, he handles most of the daily operations at the office, which gives me more time to spend with the family. I usually just handle the important decisions.”
“Right…Lots of life-and-death situations in the flower import business?”
“Oh, you’d be surprised just how busy we are.”
“And why is he here, if you don’t mind me asking?” Alexi shifted a bit, nervously scratching his head. He was becoming increasingly uncomfortable under Vince’s stare. Those black eyes unnerved him.
“Well, I don’t do much driving. So, he’s acting chauffeur. Besides, I thought you ought to get to meet him as soon as possible. He’ll be around the house a lot. And I know people need some time to get used to him. So, you know, thought we’d get an early start. Now, shall we?” Mr. Samuels gestured towards the parking lot.
Slowly, they made their way through row after row of cars, Alexi slowly getting accustomed to a pace with which he felt comfortable. A few minutes later, they were next to a polished black town car. Alexi whistled admiringly, then looked at it inquisitively.
“Huh, guess the flower business really IS booming.”
They all got into the car and drove away. Alexi glanced at the hospital through the car’s window, then murmured something under his breath.
“Hmmm?” Mr. Samuels inquired.
“Just saying a prayer. I’m glad to be out of there. Do you mind if I close my eyes just for a bit? My head is pounding and…well, I’d rather not see the city as we leave.” Mr. Samuels simply nodded and placed a comforting hand on Alexi’s shoulder, then squeezed slightly. Alexi leaned back in his chair and was immediately asleep. He awoke as usual, startled and panting heavily.
“Are you alright, Alexi?”
“Yes. It’s just…sleeping in a moving car…It’s not very resting to me” he lied.
“Well, you’ll be able to sleep in a normal bed soon. Your bed.” Mr. Samuels pointed out the window. “We’re almost home”. The car was slowly making its way down a typical suburban street. Trees on each side, lining the sidewalk, the same houses, though not all of them identical flying the good old red white and blue, nicely pedicured lawns and the occasional man walking his dog.
“Oh, God. It’s Wysteria Lane!” Alexi exclaimed and Mr. Samuels barked out a sharp laugh.
“Not quite, but you’re not far off. This isn’t a very large town, but, seeing as it’s the American dream and all, it does have your usual suburb. Or “home”, as you’ll come to call it.”
A few minutes later, the car pulled into a driveway. When Alexi stumbled out of the car, he let out an appreciative whistle. The house in front of him was a long way from being called a mansion, but it was quite obviously one of the largest in the neighborhood as well.
“Wow, Mr. Samuels, you sure you’re just a flower guy?” Alexi immediately regretted his words, as he saw Mr. Samuels tense up and his expression becoming hard, his mouth forming into a line. “Sorry. I’m sorry.” Alexi started, backing away slowly. “I didn’t mean to be disrespectful.” Mr. Samuels took a step towards him and reached out a hand. “No, please!” Alexi croaked, flinching away even more, and covering his head with his hands.” Mr. Samuels pulled away immediately and his expression softened.
“Alexi. God…I’m sorry. I wasn’t gonna hurt you.”
Alexi composed himself again, but he shifted his gaze towards the ground, not able to meet Mr. Samuels’ gaze. “I misspoke. I’m sorry, Sir. It’s just…sometimes I forget myself.”
“You’re a teenager, Alexi. Not a paige in Medieval Europe. And my name’s Sam, got it?” Alexi only managed to nod, still keeping his eyes downcast. Sam sighed. “Come. The family’ll be home by now.” Alexi carefully made his way to Sam’s side and the two of them walked up the stairs to the front door. There, Alexi stopped and looked back to the car, where Vince just stood, watching him. Alexi simply couldn’t shake off the nasty feeling he had around Vince. It was a coldness he hadn’t experienced in a while. About a month and a half, he thought to himself.
“Honey, I’m home!” Sam shouted as he closed the door behind them. The sound of footsteps above and then a red-haired woman appeared at the top of the stairs. She rushed down, a huge smile on her face the whole time, then she came to Alexi and hugged him tightly. He was taken by surprise, so all he could do was mumble a “hello”. She let go and Alexi looked down at her. She was quite short, maybe 5’1”, which made even Alexi, at his 5’8”, feel like he was towering over her. She had brown eyes and the warmest smile Alexi had ever seen. She looked him up and down, pursed her lips and shook her head.
“This just won’t do.” She declared and Alexi’s heart sank. Once again, he lowered his head.
“Oh…” he murmured.
“What?” she replied startled. “No, dear boy. You misunderstand me. I was just commenting on your general appearance.”
“Well, I never thought of myself as good-looking, but…”
“Oh, Lord. I was just saying that you’re thin as a stick and pale as a ghost. Damn hospital food.”
“Ah, yes…that.” Alexi laughed nervously. “Well, I was always fairly slim. I loved keeping in shape, but not weight-lifting or anything.” A faint smile on his lips. “I just ran. A lot…” He stopped, looking down at his leg, all traces of the smile gone.
“Well, you’re gonna have to find yourself a new hobby. Maybe chess in the park with the elderly.” came a voice from the top of the stairs. Alexi looked up as Mrs. Samuels and her husband both shook their heads disapprovingly. Sitting on the last step was Hunter, unruly blond hair, blue eyes and all. “You can even watch me skateboard as you sit there with the other gimps.” He got to his feet, turned around and disappeared out of sight.
“HUNTER!” yelled both his parents. “Get your ass down here this instant!” Mr. Samuels started going up the stairs, anger playing on his face.
“No, please.” Alexi said, catching his arm and holding him back. Sam looked down at Alexi’s hand and the young man once again flinched away. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to…”
Sam shook his head. “Stop apologizing. You didn’t do anything wrong. But Hunter crossed the line.”
“No, it’s my fault. He doesn’t want me here. I understand. Who would want a stranger in their house all of a sudden? He doesn’t know me. All he sees in me is someone to take away from his parents’ attention to him. I…I’m a burden on you. You shouldn’t have done this. Your son’s happiness is important. I’m sure Mr. Szalinsky will understand.”
“Understand what? That our son is a spoiled brat? You’re not going anywhere except to your room to get some rest.” Mrs. Samuels said, pulling Alexi into a hug. He wanted to cry right then. He wanted to sob and never let go of her. But he did and she led him down a corridor on the ground floor. She opened a door and they walked into a bedroom. There was a double-sized bed against the far wall, with a nightstand on each side. On the right side of the room was a door, slightly ajar, that led to what looked like a bathroom. The room also had a wardrobe, a desk and a very large TV in it. And on the left side, large windows through which the afternoon sun was streaming in. Dusk was close and the red tinge to the light gave off a certain ambiance that just made Alexi breathe in deeply, with his eyes closed. Mrs. Samuels smiled and embraced him again.
“This is your bedroom. I’m afraid there’s nothing in the wardrobe, but we’ll take care of that tomorrow. The bathroom, on the other hand, is fully stocked. So, feel free to take a shower. Then you can take a nap before dinner. Sound good?”
“Sounds fantastic, Mrs. Samuels” Alexi answered sincerely, tears in his eyes.
“It’s Dana, you understand?” and she patted him slowly on the back as he made his way into the room.
He placed his cane on the bed and started getting undressed until he was left just in his boxers. He hobbled into the bathroom, where he found a large towel, shower gel, soap, toothpaste and brush, deodorant, parfume, and even a razor and aftershave. He dragged a palm over his chin and realized he still didn’t really need the last two. He closed the door and looked himself over in the long mirror. Running had indeed kept him in shape. He was never truly muscular, but lean. Dana had been right though – he now looked sickly thin. He ran his hand over his smooth chest, stopping for a few seconds on his ribs and he winced.
He opened his green eyes and ran his hand through his hair. He hadn’t had a haircut in almost two months. He had always liked to have his hair cropped short. Though long and messy suited his looks just as well, it was just something he had become accustomed to. He would have to visit a barbershop as soon as possible. He realized Dana had been right about the other thing as well – he really was pale. He usually had a healthy tan. Now, he was chalk-white. He scrunched his face up in disgust, then glanced down to his leg, where the surgery scars were clearly visible. He shuddered. He turned on the hot water, slipped out of his boxers and once again looked in the mirror. He always did like looking in the mirror. He had always felt proud before. Of his body, of his hard cock…He just shook the thought out of his head and got under the hot jet of water.
He stood there, letting the stream hit his body. He always felt dirty after traveling. Even if they weren’t long journeys. He supposed it was more of a psychological effect. A different way for tiredness to manifest itself. All the same, the hot water felt great. He closed his eyes and thought. Why did Sam and Dana want him? He didn’t deserve them. He knew that. Maybe they only took him in because they didn’t know the full story. Sure, they knew what happened to him, but not why. How would they react to it? Should he even tell them? They deserved to know, if they were to open their house to him. But he was afraid. He had seen rejection in Hunter’s eyes. He didn’t want to see it in his parents as well. In time, he thought, he’ll tell them. Hunter…he really needed to talk to him. Apologize for intruding on his life. He knew he needed friends in his new life and Hunter was the first step.
He finished his shower and climbed into bed, where he immediately dozed off. Dana woke him up what seemed like only minutes later. But he had slept for close to two hours. Darkness had settled outside and a cold breeze was flowing through the open window. He went to the kitchen.
Dinner was quiet, the main discussion focusing on the following day’s plans, which included shopping for clothes, any kind of electronic accessories Alexi might need and, of course, a trip to the school, to finalize the transfer and pick up his schedule.
Hunter didn’t come down for dinner, which put his parents in a sour mood.
“Do you think it would be alright if I went up to talk to him?” Alexi asked.
Sam seemed reluctant, but finally agreed. After helping cleaning up the kitchen, Mr. and Mrs. Samuels settled in the living room, in front of the TV and Alexi made his way up the stairs. He only had to follow the sound of music to find Hunter’s room. He knocked on the door, but there was no answer. He knocked again, then tried the handle. The door opened.
“Hello? I’m coming in.” No response. Alexi walked in and shut the door behind him. He peered around the room. It was fairly similar to his own, except that it featured a wide array of posters on the walls, all kinds of clothing strewn across the floor and a laptop on the bed, music streaming from its speakers. There was a closed door on the opposite wall and Alexi figured it must be a bathroom. Sure enough, he could hear the sound of a faucet. He made his way to the desk, where he sat in the big, comfortable chair. He didn’t hear when the water stopped in the bathroom. Something on the desk caught his eye. A baseball. It was signed. Alexi wasn’t a baseball fan, but the ball seemed fairly old…and valuable.
“You thinking of stealing it, punk?” he heard from behind him.
Alexi jumped from the seat, which caused him to almost lose his balance, but he used his cane to stay on his feet. Hunter was looking at him from the bathroom doorframe, eyes narrowed, hatred on his face.
“No. I’m sorry. I was just admiring it. Listen…”
“Oh, you a baseball fan?” Hunter asked, leaning against the doorframe.
“What? No, not really. Listen, we need to talk. I know how difficult this must be for you.”
“Too bad. About baseball, I mean.” Hunter said, moving away from the bathroom, towards his bed.
“Yes, well, as I was saying, I know you probably see me as a burden, but I promise I won’t get in your way, at school, or at home. I just want to be your friend.”
“Maybe we could have played ball together. Well, you couldn’t run, obviously, but throwing a ball would be okay, no?” Hunter said, as he went down on his knees, rummaging for something under his bed.
“See, that’s the spirit. I’m sure…” The words froze in Alexi’s throat as Hunter straightened himself up again, a baseball bat in his hand. Alexi stood still, his eyes wide. Hunter swung the bad idly.
“I’m a pretty good pitcher, but my swing’s better.” Hunter said, moving towards Alexi.
Alexi backed away quickly, stumbling and falling down. He crawled towards the door and put his back against it, looking up at Hunter in horror.
“No, please, please, don’t.” he sobbed.
Hunter studied Alexi’s face and spat at him in contempt. “Coward. You’re afraid of someone younger than you.” But Alexi wasn’t listening. Trembling, his gaze was fixed on the bat in Hunter’s hands. Hunter noticed and swung the bat. Alexi scrambled on the floor, trying to get away. His fingernails dug into the floor and started bleeding. Hunter became somewhat alarmed, but something inside him told him to keep going. That part of him that hated his parents for bringing the miserable fuck sobbing on his floor into his life, that part that wanted him gone at any price told him to keep going. So he did. He advanced once more until he was only a foot away from Alexi. He crouched down and grabbed the panicking young man by the collar, forcing him to look into his eyes. Then he gently tapped Alexi’s shoulder with the bat. Alexi screamed in horror and pain. He yelled and sobbed and tried to pull away. Hunter was taken aback and he stepped away a few feet. Alexi was now curled up into a ball, shaking uncontrollably. Hunter shook his head in puzzlement. “What happened to you?” he whispered.