Loneliness

by Andrew Foote

Chapter 31

"I can see nurse. I can see! I woke up and I just knew I could open my eyes!"

"That's wonderful news Justin! You have had a very eventful twenty-four hours. How do they feel? Is your vision blurred at all?"

"They feel a bit gritty and sore but so far as I can tell, my vision seems alright although it's hard to tell in this light."

"I'll get you some eye drops, that should help the soreness and I'll talk to 'Doc Holliday', he might want to get an optician to just give you the once-over to be on the safe side."

Jus giggled. "You call him 'Doc Holliday' as well then?"

"We all do thanks to him!" she said, poking me on the arm, "but he's a real sport and actually I think he rather enjoys it! Look I know you must be very excited but try and get another hour's sleep if you can. It's likely to be a busy day for you."


We didn't really sleep, more like dozing on and off until a ward orderly came round with our breakfasts. Mine was serviceable enough but it is a bit cruel to expect Jus to chew on a piece of soggy toast and neither would it taste too good liquidised so I scrounged a yoghurt off her instead then I ate Jus's toast as well as my own! Well I've got to keep my strength up too??

A bit later a nurse appeared asking Jus if he needed to use the commode before his daily bed bath and hair wash. The answer was 'yes he did' and he managed a goodly piss and a very loud fart which set me laughing!

"You really should be washing him Alexis. Afterall you'll have to help him once you both go home tomorrow morning?"

Jus looked at me as if he'd been terrorised, urgently shaking his head.

"No it's okay nurse. I'm sure I'll manage when the time comes. You go ahead."

Once she'd left and I was busy fitting Jus with his nappy, I asked why he was so dead set against my washing him.

"Hey look. It's difficult enough trying not to get a stiffie when one of them washes me but you? Forget it! I got a semi just thinking about it!"

"Oh okay. Maybe I'll ask your Mum to wash you once we're home or even your Grandmother!!"

"Dickhead! I used to like you, you know?"

"Only joking! It'll be fun having you completely at my mercy, unable to resist my touch as I tenderly soap up your bits!"

"Like bondage without the bonds! Screw you Alex? I'm getting hard already!"

"No don't go doing that? I'm having enough of a problem with this damn nappy as it is! Anyhow, have you got the strength to screw me?"

"Not at the moment but that's what I'll be working towards when they're putting me through hell and back with all the physiotherapy! You just wait m'laddio, my turn will come!"

I had just managed to get Jus back into his hospital PJ's when 'Doc Holliday' walked into the room.

"Congratulations Justin! Home time for you tomorrow morning! Today we will ship you out of here and onto the children's ward to the care of the 'fair Patricia', give you a final check-over and have your eyes tested. Talking of which? How many fingers?"

"Eight and two thumbs."

"What?"

"You asked how many fingers not how many you were holding up."

'Doc Holliday' shook his head and smiled!

"I'm going to miss you two jokers, we all are! Critical Care is normally a very serious work environment but it's easy to tell which members of staff have been attending to you, they all wear happy smiles! Right. I'm off. I'll see you over in the Children's unit after lunch. If I organise a wheelchair Alexis, can you manage to get him there or do you want me to get a porter?"

"No it's cool Doc. Thanks but I'll manage."


An hour later I was pushing Jus through the corridors towards the Children's ward. One senior nurse apprehended us asking what we were doing and obviously 'Hijacking the wheelchair and making a mad dash to freedom' wasn't the right answer so she followed us to our destination where we were met by the 'fair Patricia'.

"Hey Alexis! Hardly recognised you with your clothes on! And you must be the centre of his universe, Justin Armstrong!"

Jus blushed furiously!

"No need to blush Justin. I know all about you and its cool, okay? We've got you a private room away from the other kids so the only question is do you want to lay down on the bed or sit in a chair?"

"A chair please. Bending my legs feels sooo good!"

"Yes I'll bet it does! How long is it now? Four weeks since you were admitted? Don't worry, I know the physiotherapist, she's a tough task master or should that read mistress but anyway, she'll lick you into shape in no time!"

A short while later a lady in a white coat knocked on the door.

"Hello boys. My name is Alice and I'm here to give Justin an eye test. Which of you is he?"

Simultaneously we pointed to each other and said "He is!"

Alice laughed!

"Your reputation goes before you! I was warned you were likely to be a bit of a handful!"

Jus apologised.

"Sorry. I'm Justin but you can check him over while you're at it. I'm not at all sure his eyesight is what it should be! I mean, he recon's I'm good looking!"

"No need. You're a very hansom boy. Now let's get this done, shall we?"


"For all the world Justin? 20-20 vision except for your peripheral sight but that's most probably due to muscle wastage. Read as much as you can but stop if you get headaches. The smaller the print, the faster you'll be back to 100%. Good luck!"

Once she'd left the room, Jus turned to me.

"See? She thought I was hansom!"

"She's an idiot. You're pretty and I love you!"

"Aww? I wanna be hansom?"

"Maybe later but not now!"

Just then 'Doc Holliday' appeared.

"Okay Justin? Last physical and if you check out, it's home for you in the morning! Do you want Alexis to leave the room?"

"Why? I mean he's going to be changing these damned nappies, washing me and more than likely wiping my arse? Is there anything more personal than that Doc?"

'Doc Holliday' laughed!

"No. I don't suppose there is! This won't take very long mate."

After loads of messing around, Doc asked if Jus had any back pain.

"Just a bit. It feels very stiff doc."

'Doc Holliday' opened the door and shouted down the corridor.

"Pat? Can you phone Maud in physio and ask her to come up here please?"

"On it Doc!"

I wondered about this exchange of words.

"Hey Doc? Everybody is always so respectful but Patricia just called you 'Doc'. How come?"

"'Cos we're dating. I'm crazy about her!"

"Oh that is SO NICE! Wow! You deserve each other! I mean she is sooo nice and stuff and you are one very caring guy, you know?"

"Thanks lads! Watch this space! I plan on asking for her hand in marriage but please don't breathe a word, promise me?"

Maud walked in through the door, the total opposite to Patricia! A massive woman who looked more akin to a female guard at Stalag-Luft 19 or whatever but she did have a nice smile!

"What seems to be the problem here Doctor?"

"This young man over here." Pointing to Jus. "He's been comatose for about a month and while he checks out pretty well, his back is almost rigid and I thought you might be able to work a bit of magic for him."

She pointed to me. "Who are you young man?"

"My name's Alexis. I'm Justin's best friend. 'Doc Holliday' knows who I am."

Maud smiled.

"Okay! I've heard about you already! You support Justin's poorly arm while I turn him over."

GOD! She flipped him over as if he was feather-weight! Jus sort of groaned.

"Well sir. I can see your spine is knotted up like so many boot laces, no wonder you're in pain! I'm just going to feel around for the best way to untie you so just be patient."

She felt around Jus's shoulders and down his back, her fingers tracing delicate patterns eliciting moans of pleasure from him.

"Did that feel nice Justin?"

"Mmm! Heavenly nice!"

"Good! But this won't!"

She placed the heel of her right hand in the centre of Jus's back just between his shoulder blades then placed her left hand on top of her right and pressed down sharply. There was a sickening 'crunch' and Jus yelped in pain. She hadn't finished with him yet though as she moved her hands down his back about every three inches repeating the process until she'd reached the small of his back.

"Ouch, ouch! That bloody hurt!"

"No pain, no gain Justin. Right, now we're going to turn you over and see what difference that made. How do your ribs feel?"

"About the same. That isn't where the pain was!"

Between us we got Jus onto his back and using the head rest, Maud had him sitting up with his body at about a sixty degree angle to his legs.

She held her hand up about four inches from his nose.

"Right. Now can you try bending your back, don't try to sit up, just bend your back and see if you can touch my hand with your nose."

Jus concentrated then leaned forward and touched her hand.

"Good. Very good. Again please?"

This time she placed her hand further away so Jus had to bend further forward.

"Again?"

"Again?"

By the time she'd finished, he was bending right forward with his nose almost touching his knees.

"Well done. Now can you wiggle your toes?

Very good now I want you to flex your feet so they're ninety degrees to your legs.

That's good now bend them down like you were on points like a ballet dancer.

Fine. Now lift each leg in turn.

Now try raising each arm.

That's very well done Justin. Do you see just how much more movement you have since I treated your back? That's because just about every movement is dependent on using some of your back muscles and because your vertebrae was so seized up, every movement was being hindered. Can you swim?"

"Yes. Alex and I did a lot of river swimming back in the summer."

"I think it's a bit too cold to be doing that this time of year but I'll arrange for a pass so the pair of you can go to one of the public baths every day or every other day once your cast has been removed, spend half or three quarters of an hour in the water and have a leisurely swim. That gentle exercise will benefit every muscle in your body and that, plus some intensive physio will see you back to full fitness in no time."

"Thanks. That's remarkable what you did to my back!"


What little remained of the day we spent talking and enjoying each other's company but then at seven in the evening Jus had visitors in the shape Mrs Armstrong and surprise, surprise, Mr Armstrong. What came next was like a bolt from the blue.

Mrs Armstrong of course gave Jus a big hug but so did Mr Armstrong, the first outward display of affection towards him I'd ever witnessed.

Mr Armstrong then acknowledged me.

"Alexis? I trust you're well?"

"I'm all good sir. Thank you for asking."

"I'll have a word with you in private later on if you know somewhere quiet we can go."

"The sitting room will be okay, the other kids will be bedded down for the night by now. In fact I will go and check to see if it's okay, give you some private time with Justin."

Having cleared it with the duty nurse, I made my way there and sat reading a comic then an hour later I went back to our room. Mrs Armstrong was still talking to Jus but as soon as Mr Armstrong saw me, he joined me in the corridor and beckoned me to lead the way to the sitting room and as we walked in, he closed the door behind us and took a seat, picked up the comic I'd been reading and voiced his disapproval.

"No wonder the British education system is so lack-lustre." And threw it down on the table.

I was a touch annoyed at his attitude.

"I think that if these children are so poorly that they have to be hospitalised, the last thing on anyone's mind will be their education."

The look on his face was priceless! I had notched up another minor victory. He made no further comment.

"So Alexis, it would seem it is you we have to thank for saving our son's life."

"I did my bit but then so did many other people sir."

"Yes, yes but for the most part all running around like headless chickens without direction or purpose whereas you found him, why you thought to look where you did, I really do not wish to know, but the facts of the matter are, you knew where he was and I am reliably informed that had you not taken the action you did, Justin would have died or be left with severe brain damage and to merely say 'thank you' is wholly inadequate. Is there something we can do for you in return?"

"Actually there is one thing but I hesitate to ask."

"I can always say that whatever it is, is a step too far so ask away."

"I want your word that Justin will never have to go back to Down House, EVER."

"That is something I can promise you. You have my word, my promise that he will not, nor can he ever return to that school."

"Nor can he ever? What is that supposed to imply?"

"It's quite simple. He's been expelled."

"Expelled? Justin? What on earth warranted that!"

"Apparently 'Bringing the reputation of the school into disrepute'. The three boys who carried out that brutal attack, plus the boy who instigated it have also been given their marching orders so there is some measure of justice."

"But that will stick with him for the rest of his life. A major blot on his copybook."

"You're absolutely correct, it will but I have my solicitors looking to see if we have grounds to take legal action against the school and if we have and if we win, the one will balance out the other."

"What of his attackers? Aside from being expelled, it looks like they'll get away scot free."

"Perhaps not. We have been contacted by the police and asked if we want to press charges. I decided to wait and see how well Justin recovered and as it now seems his recovery will be complete, both his Mother and I believe it is Justin who should make that decision, not us."

"That sound very fair. Have you decided which school he'll be attending?"

"Oh Alexis? I was going to keep that under my hat but since you ask, I will tell you.

For the time being, what with physiotherapy and general convalescence he can't go anywhere until after Christmas so I have asked your Father and Mother if they will continue educating him and come the New Year we will look again at our options but if he continues to thrive on home tuition in the same way as he did over the summer then the most likely outcome is you will be lumbered with him!"

"Oh God I want to cry with joy!"

"Please don't do that, the others will think I've upset you again!"

"You have never upset me Mr Armstrong."

"No. You're right. I don't believe I have. You've matched me blow for blow and there are very few people that can manage to do that. I think you and I will have some very interesting debates in the future!"


Mr Armstrong and I walked back towards Jus's room.

"Have you told Justin of your decision yet?"

"No, but now I've told you, I think it entirely appropriate that it should be you who tells him, not us. I'll go and say good-bye to him and we'll see you both tomorrow at the house. By the way, I hope you don't mind but your Father showed me around your boat. I like it and I think the pair of you will be very happy there but just for the time-being, until Justin has regained some strength, I think he should stay up at the house and you with him if you like as I understand from his doctor that you have, umm, certain duties to perform."


I showed Mr and Mrs Armstrong out to their car, said good-bye and went back to join Jus.

"So?"

"So what?"

"So what did my Father have to say for himself, you dimwit!"

"Oh nothing much. Just this and that, you know?"

"Piss off Alex! You looked like the cat who got the cream when you came back with him so spill!"

"Okay already! He thanked me for what I'd done and stuff and asked me if there was anything he could do in return."

"And?"

"Oh Jus??? I asked him to promise me that you'd never go back to Down House. He gave me his word in fact he told me that you couldn't go back there. You've been expelled!"

Jus burst out laughing!

"Me? Expelled? I mean that is so cool but why?"

"Dragging the good name of the school into the gutter or words to that effect! All three boys who gave you a kicking plus your thick friend have also been expelled."

"I don't suppose he said anything about where I might be going instead did he?"

"Yes he did."

"And?"

"You sure you wanna know? You might not like it?"

"Just spit it out damn it!"

"Umm. I really don't know if I should. Maybe I should ask 'Doc Holliday' in the morning, you know, to find out if you're strong enough to take it."

"Alex! Don't be such a bastard! Tell me for fuck's sake!"

My turn to burst out laughing!

"As you are in no fit state to go anywhere for a while, my Mum and Dad have been asked if they would continue with your education and then come the New Year, your folks will look at things again but your Dad told me that if you continue to do well, most likely home tuition would be the way to go!"

"My God! That was the result we'd hoped for all those months ago!"

"Yeah but you took pretty drastic action to achieve that end, bloody nearly killing yourself in the process and no, the end doesn't always justify the means!"

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