Someday Out Of the Blue

By LittleBuddhaTW


Special thanks to Kitty (PiscesRising) from for editing!





As the bell for the end of the day sounded, I jumped out of my seat at the back of the classroom and quickly made my way out the door. Three weeks into my sophomore year at an all new school (having moved here over the summer with my mom -- although I use that term loosely, as she has never done much "mothering" since I came to live with her when I was nine), I had already developed a routine. I had to catch a public bus to get home (another term I use loosely, since it's always hard to call the trailers we lived in "home"), but if I didn't run to the bus stop as soon as I got out of class, I'd miss the bus and have to wait thirty minutes for the next one.

So, I made my way through the halls, dodging the masses of students, at the same time remaining vigilant, lest I come across one or more of the bullies that had taken it upon themselves to give me a hard time since my first day. Usually it was just getting tripped in the hallway, shoved from behind, getting slammed into my locker, and of course the requisite name-calling, like "pussy boy," "loser," and "cocksucker." I'd found that bullies usually weren't that creative with their insults.

The worst of them, the one who seemed to instigate all of it, was Trent Lomax - the King of Assholes. He wasn't the most popular kid in school, but he had his own group of friends and played on the school's basketball team. I was usually a target for him and his friends, considering the fact that I wasn't very big (I think "scrawny" is the word I've heard used to describe me), was obviously a "poor kid" (whereas Trent seemed to have plenty of money, what with the BMW he drove and designer clothes he wore every day), and never fought back. At least the small amount of bullying I had to endure at school was nothing compared to what I often had to face at home.

Anyway, my sprint to the bus stop usually took about ten minutes, and I'd figured it was at least a way for me to get a little exercise. I'd gotten to be pretty fast over the years, having to run away from my mom and the numerous "boyfriends" she brought home with her from time to time after long nights spent out drinking, as well as from the aforementioned bullies.

Shortly after I'd begun my after-school routine of sprinting to the bus stop, I'd learned of a short cut, by going across the sports practice field at the side of the school. As I started running down the slope towards the field, I noticed that they were having lacrosse practice ... a game I had absolutely no clue about, and had never even heard of until we moved here. Apparently, at our school, though, lacrosse was a big deal, but I'd never really paid much attention to sports of any kind. Anyway, I wasn't making very good time, so I just ran as hard as I could, not paying much attention to what was going on around me. I'd already made it about halfway across the field, when ...


I felt a sharp pain on my head and suddenly everything went dark.

Slowly, I started to hear noises all around me, something shaking my arm, and then the noises started to become a little clearer.

"Hey kid, are you okay?!"

"Can you hear me?!"

"Coach, you'd better get over here!!!"

As I started to process all of this in my now throbbing head, I slowly began to open my eyes, but everything looked blurry, and I felt a sharp pain shooting through my head.

My eyes finally began to focus, and I noticed a middle-aged man with a dark moustache looking at me and frowning. I guessed that he must be "Coach," since he was wearing a ball cap with the school's logo on the front and a whistle around his neck.

"Hey kid, are you okay? Can you hear me?" the coach asked.

"Uhhh ..." was all that I was capable of mumbling at the moment.

The coach flashed a few fingers in front of my face.

"How many fingers am I holding up, kid?" he asked.

"Uhhhh ... three?" I answered, hesitantly.

"Good. Can you tell me your name?"

"Yeah ... uhhhhh ... Connor ... Connor Matthews," I replied.

"Excellent. Connor, we're gonna call an ambulance and get you to the emergency room to get that bump on your head looked at. You took a pretty good shot there," he said.

The emergency room?! No, I did not want to go back there ... I'd been there too many times in the past. Hospitals freaked me out!

"No!!! Wait!!! I don't need to go to the hospital. I'm fine, really! Please!" I managed to blurt out.

"Son, you really need to get your head checked out, and we should get in touch with your mom or dad, too."

"Uhhh ... I'm really ok, I promise ... just a little headache ... and my mom's ... uhhhh ... out of town ... and my dad doesn't live here," I replied, starting to panic a little.

As I lay on the ground looking up at the coach, another face appeared in front of me, looking equally worried. It belonged to another teenager, obviously one of the lacrosse players since he was all decked out in his uniform and pads. I noticed that he had reddish brown hair, bright green eyes, and a really friendly face ... sometimes you just get that kind of vibe from people, I suppose.

"Coach, I can take him home and let my mom check him out. She's a pediatrician. I'll call her at her office and ask her to meet us at my house. I'm the one who hit him, afterall, and it sounds like he really doesn't wanna go to the ER," the boy said.

The coach looked over at the boy, his brow furrowed, and concern still evident on his face. "I'd still rather take him to the hospital, and it's not his call to make anyway. This happened on school property."

"He said his mom's out of town, so who'd fill out his insurance information and sign for his treatment? It'd be a big hassle, trust me. It'll be a lot easier if I just take him home and let mom check him out. It'll be okay, really," the boy replied.

"Ryan, there are all kinds of liability issues here. But, since I know your mom and she's a doctor, I suppose it will be alright, as long as she gives me a call as soon as she checks him out and gives him a clean bill of health."

"No problem, Coach," the boy agreed.

I didn't really like it when people were talking about me in front of my face as if I wasn't even there, but I still wasn't totally with it, and the prospect of possibly having to go to the hospital was wreaking havoc on my nerves. At the same time, I wasn't really thrilled with the idea of going off with some strange kid, either. See, I didn't deal well with people ... at all. Any kind of social situation or interaction terrified me.

At my last school, about a year and a half before, I was diagnosed with "Generalized Social Anxiety Disorder" by the school psychiatrist after I'd had a bit of a panic attack. He wanted to give me a prescription for an anti-anxiety medicine, but of course my mom couldn't afford it, not like she really cared anyway. So, I had to live with this debilitating fear of people as well as the threat of panic attacks that occasionally washed over me.

Fortunately, for the time being, I was still too dazed from the shot to my head, and my nerves were too frazzled to even think about having an attack ... at least I hoped so. I was already embarrassed enough lying prostrate on the ground, having just been smashed in the head with what I'm assuming was a lacrosse ball, and now being the center of attention with the coach and a group of kids hovering over me. I certainly did not need the added embarrassment of having a panic attack right then.

The coach looked back toward me again. "Okay, kid. Ryan here is going to take you home and his mom'll check you out. Are you all right to stand up?"

"Uhhh ... I think so," I replied nervously.

I tried standing up, but soon realized that I was going to have a little trouble with balancing myself as I started to wobble. Before I fell down on my face, however, I suddenly felt a strong pair of arms around me. I looked up and it was the red-headed boy that was supposed to be taking me home to see his mom ... I guess his name was Ryan.

"I've got ya, buddy. Don't worry," he said to me.

"Uhhh ... thanks ... I guess I just have to get my sea legs," I said.

SHIT! That was a really lame joke. He's totally gonna think I'm a loser now ... not that it would've taken him long to figure it out anyway.

And then he just looked at me and wiggled his eyebrows. What the hell was that?

"Let's go, bud," he said, and proceeded to wrap my arm around his neck and help me start to hobble off the field.

"I really don't like this idea, Ryan," the coach called after us. "You'd better make sure your mom calls me right away, and if he starts to lose consciousness or anything at all seems wrong on the way home, you take him directly to the hospital and call me, do you understand?"

"Yes, sir!" Ryan shouted back at the coach.

Luckily for me, the parking lot wasn't far, and we made it to his car pretty quickly. It was dark green (I think the "technical" term would be "forest green") and looked like a newer model Toyota Camry. When he unlocked the passenger door and helped me slide in (he even buckled my seat belt for me!), I noticed how clean and new the inside of the car appeared. It had a really nice sound system and beige interior ... nothing like the rusted out tinbox-on-wheels my mom drove. He opened up the back door and threw his pads and gear in the back, then walked around to the driver's side and got in.

"You okay there, Connor?" he asked.

"Yeah, I think so. But hey ... uhhh ... Ryan? You can just drop me off at my house or something. I don't wanna bother you and your mom, and it really wasn't your fault ... I ... uhhh ... just wasn't watching where I was going. You really don't need to do this. I mean ... uhhh ... this is really nice of you and all, but I'm really fine ... honest."

Wow! I couldn't believe I managed to string that many words together into a relatively coherent statement. That ball must've hit me harder than I thought.

"No way, dude. That's a nasty bump you've got on your head there. You really should let my mom check it out. And you're not a bother at all, so just chill out, I promise it'll be okay."

"Okay," I sighed. I guessed this was my own fault for running into a stupid lacrosse ball. I just hoped Ryan's mom wouldn't be like the other doctors I'd been to and start asking me all sorts of embarrassing questions ... plus, I wasn't really into the whole concept of "moms" either. I didn't like mine, and I didn't really expect other people's mothers to be all that much better.

"Jeez, it can't be all that bad hanging out with me for a couple hours, man. I didn't think I was that ugly," he said, sticking out his bottom lip in a kind of mock pout.

"No, no, no! I didn't mean that ... I'm sorry .... uhhh ... never mind ... I'm just being stupid."

Jesus, I really needed to learn to keep my mouth shut. I'd been doing fine for the past few weeks at my new school by doing just that - keeping my stupid mouth shut. Here was someone actually trying to be nice to  me (or so it seemed at the moment), and I was acting like a total moron!

"Hey, it's okay, man. I was just joshin' ya!" he said.

And then he winked at me.

Okay ... first the "eyebrow wiggle," and now he's winking at me. So, now that I had reached the epitome of uncomfortableness, I just turned my head and looked out the passenger side window, hoping to get all of this over and done with as soon as possible and get home. Not that I really wanted to go home, but at least my mother probably wouldn't be around for a few days since she'd hooked up with her latest fling ... I'd stopped keeping track of their names about five years ago.

The drive was short and uneventful. Ryan, to his credit, didn't try to engage me in anymore conversation, and I, for my part, just continued to stare out of the window. We finally pulled into the driveway of a really nice-looking two story house with a Victorian porch. It wasn't a mansion or anything, but it was big, especially compared to the shitty trailer that I lived in.

"Okay, bud, let's get you inside, and then I'll call my mom." he said, looking over toward me.

"Uhhh ... sure ... okay," I replied.

Before I could get my seatbelt undone, he was already on my side of the car, opening the door and helping me to get out. He draped my arm around his neck again, leading me up onto the porch and into the house.



The inside of Ryan's house looked even nicer than the outside. As we walked into the foyer, there was a really fancy-looking dining room to the left, a staircase in front of us, and a huge living room off to the right side. He helped me into the living room and sat me down on one of the sofas.

"I'm just gonna go give my mom a call and then I'll be right back, okay?" he asked, looking down at me.

"Yeah, sure, no problem," I replied. I'd pretty much resigned myself to my fate at that point. Afterall, I was already here.

After he left the room, I took a look around from my spot on the sofa. The furniture in the living room didn't look as "formal" as the stuff in the dining room, but it was still nice ... definitely nicer than anything I'd ever sat on before. The whole room was decorated in navy blue and maroon, and besides the large sofa I was sitting on, there was a loveseat, coffee table, and several large recliners. There was also a huge television sitting in an entertainment center, and at the other end of the room was a large breakfast area. All of the floors were hardwood, and there were some really expensive looking rugs covering the floor.

Despite it's upper-class decor, it still felt lived-in, and surprisingly warm and comfortable. The house also had a really inviting, "homey" smell. However, being in a place as nice as this was starting to make me realize how little I had, and wonder why other people always seemed to get all the breaks, and I was the one to always get shit on.

My mother was only 18 when she had me (my grandmother, on the other hand, was about 45 when she had my mother), and she was a mess back then, too. According to my grandmother, she'd dropped out of high school when she was only 16, and got into it pretty bad with drugs and alcohol. When I was born, she didn't want to have anything to do with me, so my grandmother ended up taking  me in. I was lucky in that my grandmother loved me very much. If it hadn't been for her presence in my life during those most important formative years, I would have turned out to be a lot more jaded and bitter than I had already become.

My grandmother was the only person in my life who had ever loved me or even given me a hug, and she showed me the importance and value of caring for other people. She never had to discipline me, but then again I never gave her any trouble. We had lots of fun together. Almost every weekend we would go to Meijer's, a big store kind of like K-Mart or Wal-Mart, and have breakfast together. We also often took a picnic out to the beach on Lake Michigan, or just spent time talking about anything and everything. I'll always remember her apartment, too. She had very peculiar taste, and it was all decorated in an art deco style, with really gaudy colors, but it was the happiest place I'd ever known. My grandmother didn't have a whole lot of money, but she did the best she could.

Probably the best gift my grandmother ever gave me was sitting me down in front of the old upright piano in her living room when I was three years old and teaching me how to play. What surprised her, though, was that it didn't take much teaching on her part. She wasn't that great of a pianist, and I think she just intended to teach me some simple songs, but something about the notes, chords, and progressions just made sense to me, even from such an early age. I quickly became much better than my grandmother, and the only thing she could do to feed my voracious appetite for music was to buy me cassette tapes or records (yes, she still had a record player ... she wasn't much into technology).

I fell in love with the early rock & roll music of the 50's and 60's, and even enjoyed some country and blues music. I was totally blown away by musicians like Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard. I learned to play many of those songs and sing along with them. The funny thing is, I could never read music. I always played by ear. I could hear a song two or three times and just know it. Sitting in my grandmother's living room and playing the most recent songs I had learned for her is probably the best memory I have from that time.

My world collapsed around me when I was only nine years old, and she died of lung cancer ... the price to be paid for so many years of chain smoking. At that point, I had no one, until my mother finally took me back in. She'd promised my grandmother before she passed away that she would, but it was obvious that she didn't want me. To go from being loved so much to being despised and resented isn't easy for anyone, especially a shy, timid nine-year-old boy. So, I moved in to my mother's trailer, and we lived off of the welfare checks she got each month.

Things weren't especially bad the first year, as my mother had received a small inheritance from my grandmother, but that didn't last for too long, as my mother's alcohol and drug habits cost a lot. To her credit, she tried to take care of me when she was sober, like going to the grocery store, doing my laundry, and even occasionally cleaning up the pig sty of a trailer we lived in. By the time I was eleven, though, she was too far gone to do any of that. I managed to sneak (steal?) some of her welfare money every time she cashed her check, just to make sure I had some money for food, and I had learned to do my own laundry at the laundromat down the street.

The worst part, however, were the beatings. I was on the receiving end of frequent beatings from my mother and the numerous men she brought home. Usually they were for minor infractions on my part, like forgetting to put the seat down on the toilet or accidentally waking her up in the morning as I was leaving for school. But more often than not, she just hit me because she didn't like me. She said I "cramped her style." And it wasn't just a hand across the butt. I got punched, whipped with a belt or electrical cord, thrown into walls, had cigarettes put out on my arms, had various different objects thrown at me, and even learned what it felt like to get burned by a clothes iron a few times.

She and her boyfriends had conditioned me to be so scared that I never dared to fight back. It also made me too scared and timid to ever try to make friends. Fortunately (if you can call anything about my situation at home "fortunate"), she was hardly home at all, so I usually had some time to heal between beatings, and she never gave a shit about where I was or what I was doing. She was so fucked up all the time that she probably wouldn't even notice if I didn't come back home one night ... hell, she probably would have been happy. But I had nowhere else to go.

When I was fourteen, I got a part-time job playing the piano and singing at a little pub/bar down the street from where I lived. It was mostly "country folk" who frequented the place, and although it was constantly full of smoke and drunken "good 'ol boys," it allowed me to keep playing the piano. The owner, Mr. Bill (I never knew his last name, he was always just "Mr. Bill" to me) was very good to me, and he was really the only person that I had to talk to.

He had an inkling of what my life was like from the bits of information that he gleaned from me, and always made sure I had enough cash to keep myself fed and buy some new (albeit cheap) clothes to get me through. I'm not sure if the job was even legal, I mean a fifteen-year-old working in a bar, but it wasn't like I was serving alcohol or anything. Nevertheless, Mr. Bill had wanted to do everything "under the table," and always paid me in cash, but since I needed the money, I never questioned the situation. He treated me well and that was all that mattered to me.

The best part of my job was being up on that small stage, sitting alone at that upright piano with a microphone in front of me (I'd never played with a band, it was always just me and the piano). It was on those evenings that everything else in my life just disappeared and I felt truly safe. No psychotic drugged-out mother, no poverty, and even the crowds that gathered there in the evenings seemed to vanish as soon as I placed my hands on the piano keys ... it was just me and the music.

That was truly my saving grace, the thing that had kept me somewhat sane. And despite my anxiety disorder, when I was up there, even with the crowd sitting out there, I never once got nervous ... it just seemed natural, it was home ... and the patrons of that little bar LOVED me. Despite my lacking much self-esteem or confidence, music was the one thing that I just knew I was good at. But given my situation and the environment that I was in, I knew that my talent would never go beyond that little pub. Even so, that was enough for me.


Ryan's voice broke me out of my reverie, and I suddenly looked up, startled, and saw him grinning down at me.

"My mom's gonna be here in about an hour. I'm gonna go take a quick shower and then we can wait together for her, all right?" he asked.

"Ummm ... sure ... sorry for spacing out like that ... I was just thinking about some ... uhhh ... stuff," I replied.

"No problem, dude. You can watch TV or something for a couple minutes, and I'll be right back." And with that, he darted out of the room and up the stairs to the bathroom.

I turned on the television and started flipping through the channels. I'd never really watched much TV before, let alone ever realized that there were so many stations (I'd heard about "cable television," but really wasn't too clear on the whole concept). Before long, Ryan came bounding back down the stairs and into the living room, hair still damp from his shower, and looking a much darker shade of red (almost brown), and wearing nothing but a towel around his waist and a big grin.

As he stood there, for the first time, I really took notice of what he looked like, other than the reddish brown hair, green eyes, and huge smile. He was about 5'10", smooth, pale skin, and he was solid. He didn't have what I would call a muscular physique, but he was definitely strong. I guess you could describe him as "stocky," but when I think of "stocky," I think fat ... and fat he was not. He was just ... solid, and totally smooth. I'd never paid much attention to people's looks before, usually avoiding eye contact with other people as best as I could, but I couldn't help but think that Ryan was really beautiful ... or handsome ... I'd never thought of another person in that way, so I didn't really know how to describe it. He was definitely much more good-looking than me.

Even though he was only about a couple inches taller than me, I was much thinner, and I didn't find anything attractive about the mop of curly, dirty blond hair that sat on my head or my big blue eyes. I always thought they gave away too much of what I was thinking, so I usually let my hair fall down in front of them. At any rate, it was that image of him standing there in front of me that just captivated me, and the smile on his face was the most sincere smile I had seen since I lost my grandmother. I wasn't really ready to start trusting him yet, and didn't even harbor any illusions of ever being proper friends with him, but still, that smile made me feel what I can best describe as "happy" for the first time in a very long time.

"Take a picture, it'll last longer," he said to me.

I blushed. "Sorry."

"Don't be. Let me just grab some clothes and we'll talk," he said as he went into the next room and came back a few minutes later, wearing a pair of soccer shorts and a t-shirt.

He proceeded to sit down next to me on the sofa and give me another one of those huge grins, and I couldn't help but grin a little myself. He just seemed so easy-going and happy, and it was infectious.

"I guess we haven't really been formally introduced yet," he said to me. "My name's Ryan McCormack."

He stuck out his hand, and I hesitantly shook it.

"I'm Connor ... Connor Matthews," I said.

"Yeah, you kinda mentioned that when you were lying on your back on the practice field at school," he said, grinning at me.

I blushed again and looked down at my shoes, suddenly finding them really interesting.

"Connor, I'm really sorry about hitting you back there. I'm usually much more accurate, but I totally missed the goal on that one. I feel like such a fuck up. Do ya think you can forgive me?"

"Uhhh ... it's ok, really, I'm ok now ... don't worry about it," I replied. I still wasn't able to look up at him, more out of self-consciousness than anything else. My head was still hurting, but fortunately the dizzy feeling had already gone away for the most part. Now I was just thinking about getting this "doctor's visit" over with and extricating myself from this awkward situation as soon as possible.

"Cool," he said, and then he draped his arm over my shoulder, leaned back into the sofa and we watched TV together. I was a little surprised at first by the gesture but didn't think anything more of it.

About thirty minutes later, his front door opened, and a woman whom I assumed was his mother walked in. Like Ryan, she had reddish-brown hair, cut short, and wore glasses. She also shared the same incredibly warm and kind features as her son.

"Hey mom, this is my friend, Connor," Ryan said.

"Hi, Connor, I'm Dr. Maggie McCormack. You can call me Maggie if you'd like," she said to me.

"I hear my son hit you pretty good with his lacrosse ball. Mind if I take a quick look at your head?"

"Ummmm ... sure, I guess ... but I'm really ok, it's not a big deal," I answered.

"Well, just the same, let me take a look at you and make sure everything's still working all right."

She led me into the breakfast area and sat me down on one of the chairs. As she rummaged around in her medical bag, I noticed the sliding glass door that led from the breakfast area out into their back yard. It was really beautiful, quite large, and had a nice garden as well as a few really large trees that kept it well-shaded from the sun. I'd always dreamed of having a backyard where I could rake the leaves into a big pile in the fall and jump into them. Silly, I know, but that was my dream anyway.

She pulled a pen light out of her bag and looked into my eyes. Then she asked me to follow her finger as she moved it in front of my face, and took a good, long look at the bump on my head.

"Well, I think you'll live. I can't say for sure, but it's possible that you could have a mild concussion. Are you feeling dizzy? Any blurred vision? Any sharp pains in your head or eyes?" she asked.

"I've just got a headache. I was dizzy at first, but I'm okay now," I answered truthfully.

"That's good. Well, I should give your mom a call and let her know what's going on," she said.

UGH!!! How was I supposed to tell this nice woman, in front of her equally nice son, that my mother was a junkie and alcoholic, wasn't home, and possibly wouldn't be home for a few more days? So, I just did what I usually did in such situations. "She's out of town for a few days," I lied. "So, if Ryan could just drop me off at my house, I'm sure I'll be fine."

With that, she raised an eyebrow and made one of those clicking sounds with her tongue that mothers seem to do so well (except for mine). "Well, we can't have that now. I want to make sure that you're all right, and you shouldn't be home by yourself anyway."

"It's really fine, ma'am. I'm used to it," I said, trying to reassure her and hoping to stop the interrogation before it got too personal.

"Do you have I number where she can be reach?" she asked. "I really do need to get in touch with her."

"No, ma'am. I'm ... uhhh ... I ... she gave me one, but I lost it." She's never gonna buy that one, I thought.

She furrowed her brow disapprovingly.

"How old are you, Connor?"

"I'm fifteen, ma'am," I replied.

"Are you a sophomore like Ryan?" she asked.

"I'm a sophomore, ma'am, but I didn't know Ryan was. I figured he must be a junior since he drives and all," I said.

"He just turned sixteen a few weeks ago, actually. But, he's a sophomore."

"Oh ... okay ..." I looked up at Ryan and he just grinned at me, and I blushed ... again.

"Anyway," his mom said, "since you say that your mom's not home, and you have no way of reaching her, you're going to be staying here for a couple days, no arguments. It's Friday, anyway, so it's not a problem at all. Plus, I want to keep my eye on you, doctor's orders, so unless you'd rather have me take you to the hospital, you'd best just do what I say."

She said it with a tone of authority that I didn't feel like arguing with, so again, I just resigned myself to my fate, hoping I could just sleep all weekend or find some other way to go unnoticed so that I wouldn't have to answer any more potentially embarrassing questions. I didn't have to work at the pub over the weekend, so I couldn't really use that as an excuse, and I kind of figured she would have made me call in sick anyway.

"Yes, ma'am," I said sheepishly.

She gave me a warm smile, a pat on the head, and then turned to Ryan.

"Ryan, go set him up in your brother's room and let him get a little nap, and you can go do your homework in your room while he's sleeping."

"Sure, mom." He turned and started to help me up the stairs.

"Oh, by the way, mom," he called back over his shoulder, "Coach wanted you to call him and let him know that Connor is gonna be okay."

"No problem, kiddo," she answered back.

When we got to the top of the stairs, I took a moment to look around. It looked as though there were four bedrooms, and considering the size of the house, I assumed they were all pretty spacious. He led me to the second one on the right and walked in. It was an absolute mess and was obviously a boy's room. My assumption about it being large (at least by my standards) turned out to be true. There were sports posters all over the walls (I didn't recognize any of the athletes, though), with dirty clothes and books strewn all over the floor.

There was a small TV in one corner with a Playstation 2, and the desk and dresser were both covered with all kinds of junk (there might have been a computer on the desk, but I couldn't be sure). I was a neat freak, and always kept my little room in the trailer as clean as possible, so this was a bit disconcerting, but it wasn't my place to complain. At least the double bed was made up and looked comfortable, much better than the old, hard mattress that I had to sleep on at home.

"Well, Connor, this is my little bro's room. Just go ahead and lie down and get some rest, and I'll come get you when it's time for dinner. I'll be in the room next door, so if you need anything, just let me know, ok?"

"Ummm ... sure ... thanks ... Ryan," I managed to stutter out. "You really don't have to do all of this for me. I'm really sorry to put you guys out like this."

He laughed a really sweet laugh. "Dude, stop it with the apologies. I'm the one who should be apologizing to you for hitting you like that. I'm just glad that you're okay. And anyway, I'm happy to have you here. I don't have friends stay over very often."

Friend? Was he implying that I was his friend? Hmmm ... I'd have to ponder that one for a while, I wasn't used to having any friends.

"Well, thanks anyway," I said.

"For what it's worth, it's nice to have you here. Just make yourself comfortable, and after you've had a little nap, maybe we can get to know each other a bit better, alright?" he asked -- no grin this time, just a really caring look.

"Yeah ... sure ... I'd like that," I replied.

"Oh, and by the way," he added, "if you come across any crusty socks or hand towels, I wouldn't touch them if I were you." This was again followed by a cheeky grin and a wink.


With that I took off my shoes, laid down on the bed, and as soon as Ryan went out the door and closed it, I was out like a light.




I sat bolt upright in bed, momentarily unaware of my surroundings, and feeling rather disoriented. The room was dark, with the only light coming from the doorway, where a boy stood staring at me. At first I thought it was Ryan, they both had the same color hair and were about the same height, but this one looked a little younger and thinner, but not scrawny like me.

Suddenly, with the shock of being awakened like that, and unaware of what to say or how to react, I started to have a panic attack. It started off feeling like there was a large rodent running around in my stomach, trying to claw its way out, and my whole body started to shake. I felt like I wanted to either throw up or pass out, but my mind couldn't decide which, so I just scooted myself over to the farthest corner of the bed, bringing my knees up to my chest, wrapping my arms around them, and shaking uncontrollably. At that point, I wasn't that concerned with the boy standing there glaring at me. All I could concentrate on was my own erratic breathing and the way my body seemed to be reacting beyond my control.


The next thing I knew, I felt a strong pair of arms around me, holding me tightly, and there was the smell of Ryan that was now starting to become strangely familiar to me, kind of like a combination of Irish Spring soap and strawberries. I also heard him call out for his mom, and the other boy asking, "What did I do? What the hell is going on here?"

All I was aware of was my own shaking, the sensation of my stomach doing somersaults, an indescribable fear, and Ryan's arms around me. I heard more footsteps rushing into the room, and then the sound of Dr. McCormack's voice.

"What's wrong? Ryan? What happened?" she asked, sounding a bit alarmed, which unnerved me even more.

"I don't know mom! I heard Toby shouting, and ran in here to find Connor just shaking and looking as white as a sheet."

"It looks like he's having a panic attack. Hold on to him while I go get something. I'll be right back," she said, more calmly this time.


I heard Dr. McCormack coming back into the room and sitting next to us on the bed. She had a glass of water and a couple of pills she was holding up in front of my face.

"Connor, sweetie, you need to take these right now," she ordered me.

I was shaking too much to hold the glass, let alone those small pills, so she and Ryan managed to feed them to me. After I managed to swallow them, Ryan kept holding on to me, gently rocking me, while Dr. McCormack rubbed my head and massaged my neck. Then I heard the other boy's voice again.

"When is someone gonna tell me what's going on here? I come home, walk into my room, and there's some kid I don't know lying on my bed?" He was sounding rather annoyed at this point, and I can't say that I blamed him.

"Toby, go downstairs and watch TV or something. I'll be down in a few minutes and let you know what's going on," Dr. McCormack said to her other son.

Ryan's mom kept rubbing my head and neck gently as Ryan continued to hold me. After a few minutes, my breathing slowly started to return to normal and my stomach began to calm down. I was still shaking, but I was starting to feel better. Dr. McCormack must have noticed, because she started talking to me.

"Hon, are you okay now?" she asked softly.

"Yeah ... I ... uhhhh ... I think so," I replied. I was still trembling a little but feeling much more relaxed. I don't know if it was those pills she gave me, or Ryan's arms around me.

"Conner, you were having a panic attack. I gave you two milligrams of Klonopin. It's an anti-anxiety medication. It will help you relax," Dr. McCormack said to me in a soothing tone, her voice filled with care and concern. "Has this ever happened to you before?"

"Yes, ma'am ... I'm really, really sorry about this," I replied. "My doctor told me a while back that I have somethin' called 'Generalized Anxiety Disorder'. It happens sometimes ... I'm really sorry, I just freaked out there for a minute."

"Hon, there's nothing to be sorry about. I suppose you had a bit of a shock there. Toby sometimes has that effect on people." I could hear Ryan chuckle when she said that. "But you'll be fine in a few more minutes. Are you taking any other medications for your anxiety?"

"No, ma'am. My mother couldn't afford it ... we're not too well-off," I replied.

"This kind of thing needs to be treated. If your family doesn't have enough money, you should be able to qualify for Medicaid."

"I don't know, ma'am ... my mom's really busy and stuff ... I guess she didn't think it was a big deal." I was trying my best to not let any details slip about what my mom was really like. I didn't want them to take pity on me; at this point, I just wanted to go home, even if my mother was there with one of her boyfriends, I was just too embarrassed to stay here any longer.

She gave me a measured look, as though she wasn't really buying my dubious excuses.

"Well, I'm going to go talk to Toby and get him something to eat. When I've gotten him taken care of, I'll come get the two of you, ok, boys?"

"Yes, mom," answered Ryan. After just witnessing me wigging out, he definitely must have been thinking I was a total freak ... but his arms were still wrapped firmly around me, and for the first time, I noticed my arms were wrapped around him, too.

And with that, Dr. McCormack walked out of the room, and Ryan and I remained practically glued together on the bed. Despite my total embarrassment, I liked the feeling of being held, and in spite of my emotional anguish, I was starting to feel better physically. Ryan's embrace just felt so ... safe.

When I felt calmed down enough (at this point, I was really relaxed ... whatever Ryan's mom gave me was some good stuff!), I finally let go of Ryan and sat up on my own, and I actually felt like talking a bit. Other than the nagging fear that I'd totally freaked him out and he'd never want to speak to me again, at the same time I was curious about what he was thinking.

"I'm really sorry for freaking out like that, Ryan," I said. "I've been nothing but a walking disaster all afternoon. You really don't need to feel responsible for me anymore, and I don't want anyone feeling sorry for me. I know I'm weird, and you're probably wondering right now what you've gotten yourself into. I don't know if your mom will let me leave, but if not, I'll do my best to just stay out of your way this weekend and won't bother you."

Ryan just looked at me incredulously. "What are you talking about? What did I tell you about apologizing? I'm not freaked out by anything that's happened. I told you before, I'm the one who should be sorry. I should have remembered what time my brother would be home from swimming practice and explained to him what was going on before he walked in on you ... and your panic attack is nothing, so just forget about it. You actually intrigue me, and I still plan on using this weekend to get to know you, whether you like it or not."

That last statement was then followed by one of his lop-sided grins and a pat on my back.

"And besides," he continued, "I'm not perfect either. I've got ADD, 'Attention Deficit Disorder.' It's not the hyperactive kind, but I have a lot of trouble concentrating on things. I have to take medicine for it and even see a shrink once a month don't go thinking you're crazy or anything. I've had it since I was a little kid, and one of the reasons I play lacrosse is 'cause my shrink said that it would help me learn to focus. So you definitely don't have the market cornered on being a 'freak.'"

I just looked at him. I really had no idea what to say to that. He seemed so easy-going and happy. It was hard to imagine that there was anything "wrong" with him ... maybe there wasn't anything wrong. And, at least I started to feel a little less "crazy."

"Tell ya what, Connor. We've got all weekend to get to know each other, and I'd really like to try. If you think I'm a total freak by the end of the weekend, then we don't have to be friends. Deal?"

"Ok, deal," I sighed.

With that said, Ryan's mom came back in and asked us if we wanted to come downstairs to eat. Apparently it was already seven o'clock. I wasn't hungry, so I told her that I'd just stay here and rest for a while. She seemed to think that was okay, considering what I'd just been through, and the medicine was making me feel like I really didn't want to get out of bed. So, she and Ryan left and closed the door. Maybe this wouldn't turn out to be so bad afterall, I thought to myself.

I'd just barely laid back down and closed my eyes when the door opened yet again, and in strolled Ryan's brother. For a second, I thought I might have another panic attack, until he sat down next to me on the bed and gently placed a hand on my shoulder.

"Hey, dude, I'm really sorry about freaking you out like that earlier," he said, sounding quite guilty.

"It's ok ... I'm sorry for taking over your bed."

"I'm Toby," he said. "I'm a freshman at the same school you and my brother go to, I'm on the swim team, and I'm fourteen. How about you?"

"Uhhh ... I'm Connor," I replied. "I'm a sophomore, fifteen years old ... that's about it ... I'm not really into sports or anything like that."

"That's cool," he said, smiling at me. I noticed how much his smile was like Ryan's. They looked very much alike, except that Toby was smaller and younger, plus he had some freckles that Ryan didn't have. But the red hair, green eyes, and captivating smile were all the same. He was actually really, really cute! This was the second time in one day that I'd actually really noticed how someone else looked, and as with Ryan, I found that I felt comfortable sitting here talking to Toby. This day was definitely full of surprises ... although I still had some serious reservations as to how it would eventually all turn out.



Later in the evening, after everyone had been fed (I'd even managed to eat a ham sandwich), we were all sitting in the living room talking. I'd found out that Dr. McCormack was a single mom, their dad having passed away only two years ago from a massive heart attack. Having lost my grandmother, the most important person in my life, I could definitely sympathize with their loss. They seemed to have dealt with it pretty well, though. I mean, they didn't get teary-eyed or anything when they were talking about him.

We talked about all kinds of things, including school, Ryan's lacrosse, Toby's swimming, and their mom's work. It seemed like she usually worked a lot, and when she wasn't at her office, she was often on call. But she seemed to love it, and based on how she'd treated me that afternoon, she seemed like the type of person who was really good with kids -- warm, compassionate, and understanding.

Fortunately, no one pressed me on the details of my family life, and the few questions that did come up I managed to evade quite tactfully. As far as they were concerned, my mom was very busy with work and wasn't at home very often. I felt bad about keeping the truth from them, but I preferred to deal with that aspect of my life in my own way ... I'd done fine for myself since I was nine, and I didn't need anyone else butting in.

I also told them about my job playing piano and singing at the pub. At first, Dr. McCormack didn't like the idea of a fifteen-year-old working in a pub, but I convinced her that I was only the "entertainment," and wasn't exactly serving drinks or waiting on tables or anything like that. Ryan seemed particularly interested in my musical abilities, and told me that he'd like to hear me play something.

He mentioned there being a concert grand piano on the stage in the auditorium at school, and we could go in there some time so he could hear me play. I didn't think I'd feel comfortable playing for just him ... a nameless crowd was one thing, but a private concert for one made me a little nervous. Nevertheless, the opportunity to play on a real concert grand piano would probably help me get over it. I'd always wanted to play one of those!

At around 11:30, Dr. McCormack announced that it was time for bed, and asked which of the boys I'd be bunking with.

"He can stay with me," both boys announced at the same time, then glared at each other.

I didn't like the look of that, and I didn't want to have to chose between Ryan and Toby. They both seemed really cool and had both been nice to me, despite the little run-in with Toby earlier. Fortunately, Dr. McCormack decided for us.

"Connor, why don't you sleep in Ryan's room? Toby's room is an absolute disaster area, possibly even an environmental hazard, and if you had to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom or something, you'd probably end of tripping over some of his garbage and breaking your neck," she said with a wry grin on her face.

"Mom!!!" Toby groaned.

Ryan perked up and grabbed me by the arm. "Let's go, Connor. I'll show you my room and then you can take a shower and we can get some sleep."

I had felt the medicine I had taken earlier already wearing off, so Dr. McCormack gave me one more pill to help me sleep more comfortably, and sent us on our way. Ryan then proceeded to lead me back upstairs and to his room, which was right next door to Toby's. Ryan's room was spotless, which I definitely liked. He had basically the same set-up as Toby, although his walls were covered with posters of bands rather than sports figures. Ryan got me a towel, a large t-shirt and clean pair of boxers, then showed me to the bathroom the he shared with Toby. As soon as I finished showering and changing, I walked back into Ryan's room, and he took my place in the bathroom to take his own shower.

I was enjoying the relaxed feeling from the medication and started looking around Ryan's room. He had a computer on his desk, and a really nice stereo system. I started to peruse his collection of CDs and noticed that he liked many of the same older bands and singers that I did, like the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones. He even had all of Elton John's early albums, from the 1970 Elton John album all the way to Blue Moves from 1976.

Elton John was absolutely my favorite singer! I sang and played more of his songs than anyone else. What many people don't know is that Elton John has written quite a few "country" songs, especially in his early years, and I often added them to my set list at the pub. No one ever seemed to realize that they were songs written by "that guy who did The Lion King."

As I finished going through Ryan's CD collection, he walked back into the room wearing only a pair of boxer briefs, and I noticed again how nicely he was built and how smooth his skin was. And for the first time all day, I actually initiated a conversation with him.

"So, you like Elton John?" I asked.

"Yeah, but not his newer stuff. I prefer the stuff he did back in the seventies. He's one of my faves. You like him too?"

"Definitely. Elton John's like my idol. I play a lot of his songs at the pub," I replied.

"That's really cool. Do you play his older stuff?" he asked.

"Yeah, but occasionally I'll do some of his newer songs too. I mostly play country songs at the bar - its that kind of place - but Elton's done a lot of country songs over the years. His last album, Peachtree Road, has a lot of country and gospel influences. Made in England and Songs from the West Coast are also really good. They sound a lot like his earlier stuff, more of a raw, acoustic sound than his stuff from the eighties and early nineties."

"Sounds like you really know your stuff." he said.

"I guess something in his music and the lyrics that Bernie Taupin writes just connects with me," I shrugged.

He seemed to be contemplating that, and I was just enjoying engaging in my first significant conversation with another guy my age (well, almost a year older than me, but you get the point!).

"That's really cool," he said. "Do you mind if I come to the pub with you one night to hear you play? I'd really like that."

"Uhhh ... yeah ... I guess that would be okay. Other than me, though, you're supposed to be 21 to get in, but I'll talk to Mr. Bill and see if he'll let you in for the show," I said.

"Cool, that'd be sweet," he grinned at me ... and I blushed ... AGAIN!

"How about we get some sleep, it's getting pretty late, and I bet you're tired," he said.

"Should I sleep on the floor, or do you have a sleeping bag or something?" I asked.

"You can just sleep with me in my bed ... I promise I won't bite!" he replied, followed by a quick wiggling of his eyebrows.

"Ummm ... okay ..."

I really wanted to talk with him some more, but being the brilliant conversationalist that I am (NOT!), I didn't know what to say without sounding like a total dork.

So, we climbed into the bed, with me on the side closest to the wall. Ryan turned off the light beside his bed, and I turned onto my side, facing the wall. He turned the opposite way and we laid there comfortably, back to back. I enjoyed feeling him pressed up against me. It felt warm and safe, and I quickly drifted off into the land of dreams, silently praying that those dreams wouldn't turn into nightmares