Lucy is coming to see me during today’s visiting slot. This is probably why I feel so uplifted today. I don’t feel as groggy as I did yesterday. I can’t wait to see her. But, I feel that today is going to go be really slow while I’m willing for visitation hour to come around. Right now, it’s only breakfast time. I’m sitting with Cole and Matt again. Cole’s stuffing his face with another slice of toast. I look at him and smirk.
“What?” he says. “I’m hungry.”
I sigh in amusement. “Nothing.”
“Ready for the gym?” I ask.
The corners of Matt’s mouth turn up into an amused grin. He looks to Cole, who smirks back. I dart a series of wary glances between them. “What?”
“What’s put you in such a good mood today?” Matt smiles.
“Nothing, I ju--”
“Thomas just can’t wait to see Lucy,” Cole teases.
“Shut up,” I say, my face turning pink.
Lenny is coming our way with his breakfast tray. I didn’t see him at all yesterday after our brief encounter. I really want to talk to him about this again, but there hasn’t yet been the opportunity. I never get to approach him while I’m by myself and there’s nobody else around. I’m hoping that later I’ll get the chance. I desperately want to know what he meant about my dad. “Thomas,” Cole says.
I direct my focus back to him and Matt. “Sorry,” I say. Cole glimpses to Lenny, who’s still making his way in our direction. “What’s up with you and him?”
“Nothing,” I reply.
Cole narrows his eyes suspiciously. “Okay. Anyway--”
I jump up from my seat as the cold liquid drips down my face and neck from the cup of orange juice Lenny has just thrown over me. “What the hell, Lenny?”
Cole is looking down, trying as hard as he can to suppress bursting out into a fit of laughter. He’s forcing the corners of his lips to turn downwards into a frown. Matt is looking away and biting his lip. I presume he’s also trying desperately hard not to laugh. I think if I was them, I’d probably be the same. But right now, I’m fueled with a burning sense of exasperation. I bring my flushing face to face Lenny’s. “What was that for?”
Everybody in the canteen has their gazes fixed on us. “Sorry,” Lenny smirks. “That was meant for your dad. Do pass it onto him for me, won’t you? That’s if you get to chance to, of course. Because he didn’t show up to your visiting slot last night, did he? It’s because he doesn’t care enough, if you ask me.”
I don’t know why I ever considered standing up for this guy. He’s a prick. The anger bubbling from within me is overtaking me. I know I probably shouldn’t feel this vexed, as it is just a bit of orange juice, but he has just humiliated me in front of everybody. And I don’t endorse the use of violence, but I’m not letting him away with this. I’m not letting him walk over me and have everyone sitting here label me as a pushover. More than anything, it was the comment he passed about my dad not showing up that pissed me off the most. I know I shouldn’t be doing this, but I’m lunging forward right now, taking a swing at his face with my clenched fist.
I’m on top of him, striking him over and over with my fist. “Don’t fucking pass judgments when you have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Thomas, stop,” Cole says. Everybody in the canteen is watching on in what I’d describe as awe as my fist plummets his face again. I look to Cole. “Stay out of this. This is my fight.”
I wince and slide to the floor. Asshole. He’s just kneed me in the nuts. I lean forward on my knees and he comes running at me. Now, he’s leaning over me, and there’s a punch coming my way. I dodge it and his fist smashes into the floor. I shove him off and grab his shirt. “Thomas, come on, enough,” Cole calls. He’s grabbing me from behind and pulling me to my feet, aided by Matt.
As I look down to Lenny lying on the floor, I can feel the anger fading. What did I just do? I just attacked the guy. His nose is streaming blood. My arms are becoming less tense, a sense of self reproach replacing my rage. I turn back to my audience, all of whom are staring at me. “Show’s over,” I snap. “Get back to whatever you were doing.”
“Burton,” calls Marc.
Great, I think. All I need right now. I turn to face him. “Go to your room and get yourself cleaned up. I’ll be talking to you in a few moments. “Lenny,” he barks. “Get to the Nurse’s office now.”
I storm out of the cafeteria as he addresses everyone else. “What are you all looking at?” he roars. “Get back to eating. Your exercise slot is in ten minutes.”
“You can’t be serious,” I say.
“It’s called appropriate consequences,” Marc sneers. “Your rights to visitation are hereby revoked for two days, both of you.”
I turn to Lenny, who looks down. “But,” I object. “My girlfr--”
“No buts, Burton. For the next two days, while everybody else is with their visitors, you two will be helping the catering staff to prepare dinner for every patient after visitation hour. And you will also be on clean up duty afterwards. Leading on from that, your free time slot will be reduced to a half an hour, and for the other hour, you will help the caretakers in their cleaning duties around the building.”
“Come on,” I say. “That’s not fai--”
Marc stands up and leans his face closer to mine. “Life’s not fair, Thomas,” he hisses. “On top of that, you two will also be helping the catering staff in preparing breakfasts for the next two days, meaning your wake up calls will be at five thirty.”
I inhale sharply as I look at him. “You got a problem with that Burton? Because I can bring it back to five fifteen.”
I can’t believe this. ”You’re going to be the one with the problem, Marc, if you do that.”
“Is that a threat, Burton?”
“No,” I purr. “It’s just a request. You see, when I’m pissed off, I tend to let things slip. And I’m sure you wouldn’t like for me to let it slip just how you intimidate all the other patients in the hospital with your hostile demeanor. I mean, if that got out, that could cost you your job. And what a worse person to discover it than my dad, the Mayor of Eventide. Because, I find that when he’s delivering speeches to my town’s people, he can be very persuasive in getting the public on side with him. And I can guarantee you that you really don’t want to piss him off.”
Marc leans backwards and sinks back into his chair. “What are you saying? You want me to let you off the hook, because I can’t do that. Rule breakers need to be made an example of.”
“Fair enough,” I say. “But scratch off preparing breakfasts and getting up earlier off my list of punishments and this can stay between us.”
Lenny scoffs as Marc nods. “Fine.”
I glance to Lenny. “And Lenny too.” He looks me in the eye and I gaze back at him, my eyebrow raised. “Okay,” he says. “But, if you get involved in any such business again, I won’t hesitate to have you serve that punishment next time.”
“Agreed,” I smile.
Admittedly, behind the smile, I’m really irked that my plan on seeing Lucy later on has been thrown out the window. But, I guess, I can see her, it’ll just be in two days time.
He nods. “You’re dismissed. Go join the others at the gym.”
“Why did you get my punishment reduced?” Lenny demands.
“Because, despite what you may think, I’m not like my father.”
I take a seat on a bench in the changing room as I pull my trainers on. “And now, I want to know why you hate me and my father so much.”
He looks down. “I’m sorry for what went down in the canteen. I don’t hate you. What I did, that was me expressing my hatred for your dad, not you. And I guess, Thomas, as cringe worthy as it sounds, I envy you. You’re the kind of person I’ve always wanted to be.”
His head is bowed, his eyes sunken slightly. He looks really troubled and sad. Like the version of Lenny I perceived when I first saw him. The one I felt sympathy for. “What did my dad do to you that was so awful?”
“Thomas,” he says. “Do you know who I am?”
I wrack my brain for all memories I have. I try to think if I’ve met Lenny before. But, I don’t recall that I have. “I’m sorry, but no. I don’t think so.”
“I was in the same school as you for a year, before I was sent here, when I was twelve.”
My eyes widen. “You were sent here, when we were twelve? That means, you’ve been here for--”
“Six years,” he nods. “Too long. But, I’m not getting out of here, ever, Thomas. And it’s because of your dad. He kind of paid my medical expenses to be admitted here. They were treating me for PTSD, and they still tell me I haven’t recovered. But, I can’t return to Eventide, because everyone thinks I’m dead. My parents included.”
“What?” I say. “Why do they think that?”
“Because your dad made sure of it. I nearly was dead, but I was saved. Of course, you know--”
Lenny’s shoulders tense. He shivers slightly. “You know the Grim Reaper,” he whispers.
I nod. “Yeah, well, about six years ago, I was one of his victims. Except, he didn’t quite succeed with me. I survived. And your dad admitted me here. He said it was to keep me safe and to have me recover from the trauma of it. But, I don’t believe that anymore, Thomas.”
I swallow. “Lenny,” I whisper. “I’m so sorry. I had no idea.”
He nods painfully. “Thanks. I know I shouldn’t have taken it out on you, but I’m just so angry. My whole life was taken away from me.”
“If it makes you feel any better,” I say. “My dad kind of did the same thing to me, and he’s my dad. I know how you feel.”
“The trauma is never going to go away. It will stay with me forever, what happened that night.”
“I’ve encountered the Reaper too,” I say. “And I understand, because I’ll never forget it either. You can talk about it if you want. I’ve found it hard to discuss with anyone else, because they all think I’m crazy. So, I kind of know what you’re going through.”
“Thanks,” he swallows. “That night six years ago, he stabbed me four times. I begged him to stop, but he leaned over me, with this mask on his face and kept going.”
A tear drop rolls down the side of Lenny’s face. “It’s like he was getting off from it. He did it as slowly as he possibly could, watching on as I screamed and cried for his mercy. Mercy he didn’t give. I remember just wishing I’d die and that the pain would end, but it never did. The whole time he was leaning over me, I couldn’t help but notice his eyes. I’ll never forget his eyes.”
I look at him with tears in my eyes as he continues. It’s not just me who found his eyes striking. I know I’ll also never forget them. “His deep brown eyes. I still dream about it every night, and it always ends with me looking into his eyes.”
My eyes widen. “Brown eyes?” I gasp. “You’re sure?”
He nods fervently. “A hundred percent sure. They were brown. There’s no mistaking that.”
My heart is beating really hard. I swallow. “I’m sorry,” I gulp. “I’ve got to go.” I dash from the room and into the toilet. I fling open one of the cubicle doors and slam it closed. Sinking down to the dismal bathroom floor, I descend into a fit of hyperventilation.
If the Reaper’s eyes are brown, then who was the man I encountered? His eyes were blue. His eyes were definitely blue. That’s one detail I’m completely sure of.