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Good Enough

By Ebon Mithrill Blackforest All Rights Reserved ©

Mystery / Romance

Blurb

Acelin Crawford, they tell him. After waking from a coma, the main character is given a name and taken home by his family, but he has deep misgivings about his identity. Is he Acelin Crawford, or someone else? Maybe, he is no one at all and never was. As he struggles to come to grips with these existential matters, sinister incidents begin to escalate. How did he get hurt? Who is after him? Why is 'the lover' missing? The only clues are the abnormal behaviour of a hysterical fifteen-year-old girl and a series vague sensory memories? Memories that only further continue to do damage to his already injured brain. As he continues to hold his head up in the face of all odds, the main character will find himself...but will he be able to survive both a TBI and someone trying to kill him?

Chapter One

He woke in a quiet place, covered in a plain white cloth. There was, beside him, drawing his attention, a sound. A consistent sound, high pitched and evenly spaced with intervals of silence. Beep. Beep. Beep. It continued. There was, with this, a line...it moved, repetitively, measuring or controlling, or being controlled by, the sound.

There was nothing else. Just a white space, from which he gained no information. Something large and black hung in the corner to the right, against the ceiling. There was a cloth or shroud over all of the wall there, not even five feet from where he lay.

Frowning, looking to either side, awareness of the names of things came to him. There was a ‘monitor’ there, beeping. It was connected to his hand, counting his heartbeats. The black thing was a ‘TV’. The cloth was a ‘curtain’. There was a ‘sheet’ over him.

Confusion was not present. There were no emotions. He rested his mind against investigating with his eyes. Naming, in his mind, each thing he looked at. It was calm, soothing, without anything to irritate or alarm him.

He did not have a name. There was no ‘self’. It was concerning; people without names did not exist; yet, he did not have any feeling surrounding this state of existence. Mindless, listless dreams beckoned to him as if he would up and float away.

He knew nothing of the beyond. The entire world consisted of the room in which he lay. But into this world, a portal was opened, and someone came in; a human, a male, someone in white. It was a blurry image, something he did not know. Beyond, outside in the hallway, there was noise. He did not know the outside.

Agitated, lost amid the blank that took up all of ‘himself’, he watched astonished as the ‘person’ came up to the bed. This was an ‘outsider’. ‘They’ made noises, speaking to him.

He wanted to catch them, hold onto them, examine them. He wanted to push them away, expel them, hit them. As much as he wanted to hear words, he also hated the sound. It berated his senses, reaching deep into his brain. He could not shut them out.

He reached out, toward this person…but the sight of his arm there, flopping around at his side, was disturbing. Dysphoria rose against the calm, overtaking it, leaving him frightened. Alienated. This bizarre thing, moving around, through which he could feel sensation. It was not ‘his’. There was no ‘his’. Because, there was no ‘him’.

He did not know his name.

Tears ran over his face, hot and tickling him. The sensation broke through, leaving him traumatised. Tears were...important. He had forgotten about tears. Weeping, to expel the bitter, painful things of the soul. They were vitally important to survival.

Nameless people could still weep. As if to prove their existence.

He knew that this ‘person’ was a ‘doctor’. He knew that. He knew about this person, but he did not know him. He did not know his name, either. That was not unpleasant. There was no need to know someone else’s name. Because they were separate.

Other people entered the world, tearing it open, intruding upon it; they all spoke words, to each other, at him. They were staring at him, they were almost frenzied. One of them touched him, and he recoiled. That was nasty. It was unpleasant.

What did they want from some nameless person?!

He wanted his calm, empty world back. So many people around him made him feel sick. Their scents mingled, creating a thick stench on the air. It was humid. He could hear their footsteps as they moved back and forth, around the bed he lay on.

One of them moved to the shroud, the ‘curtain’, and pulled it open. Light rushed in, pure and unrestrained.

He recoiled, trying to cower away. His other arm flopped around, but again, it was not ‘his’. This appendage that he could move, but which he did not know. He could not look at the window, there was too much...and he was frightened. Fear was something new; he had not felt that before...or had he? It was a nostalgic feeling, something more intense than an emotion.

It was an impulse.

As if someone had just cut open the sky!

He did not want to be sucked out!

His fingers flexed spasmodically, latching onto the bed linens. He refused to be pulled out! It was so strong a sensation, that more tears ran over his face. He felt shattered and betrayed.

However, confusion also set in.

How could anyone be sucked out a window? He knew it was a window. He understood that they were doctors and nurses. They were actually being very nice to him and trying to take care of him. The internal world, and the external world, amounted to what he knew and what he could see. Forcibly expanding that all at once, by opening the window, had not been nice, but it was only normal to do so. And he knew that he could no more be sucked out a window than he could float away.

Yet, he feared it.

He did not fear dying. That seemed like an afterthought. Or something unrelated to him. He could not even really think about it, as it was so distant and irrelevant. However, he was alarmed by the sky. Which his eyes inadvertently went to, as if he might just dissipate right then and there!

The doctor sighed. A heavy, disappointed sound. They were all seemingly upset and sad about something. The atmosphere was heavy; he did not know why. He had not been paying attention to them. He did not know what to do with them.

It came into his mind that they wanted him to make noises, to speak words. Why, he did not know. What could a nameless person have to say? He was too busy with his existential crisis, to know what to say to them.

It also seemed like bad form to just not say anything, if that was why they had mobbed him. There were about seven people in the room now; some had disappeared? He had not even noticed that. Had they given up on waiting for him to speak?

“Who...” He managed to make a sound, forming a word. The most important words in the universe. The only ones that mattered to him. “...am...” He felt tears running over his cheeks, stinging him. “...I...?”

They became excited again. They did not answer him. Moving around, restlessly, they spoke to each other. It had made them happy, he could understand that much. They were smiling because he had spoken. But no one spoke to him. He was a nameless person, equivocal to a ‘thing’.

One of them, a female, took hold of his arm again. As if she would tear it off. Again, he recoiled, possessive of it. Alienated from it though he was, it was something he could feel through...and he only had two.

She could not have it!

Startled, he felt alarmed by this idea. Would they take it away? This form was unknown to him; he knew the names of the parts of it, he knew it was male, he knew it was human, but that did not mean he wanted to give it up. What if they took it away from him...?!

Obsessing over it, unable to get rid of the sensation that someone might try to do that, he glared at her. He would have beaten on her, but she let go of his arm and backed away. She had sensed him coiling to strike her, and she had retreated.

She was not going to try to take it away.

Relieved, he looked over the expanse of the sheet. It made no sense; a nurse would not do that. He had no reason to fear them taking his arm away...nor the rest of the body. It was not some ‘thing’ that could be taken away, like robbing a child of some beloved toy. Just like he could not be sucked out the window, there was no way they could take this body away.

Yet, he feared it.

If she had run at him with a knife, he would not have feared it as much. Her suddenly grabbing his arm, with her hot hands, had been more frightening than the idea of being stabbed.

Indeed, there was a dull pain at his wrists; on the arms that he did not want to lose. Like burning lines going all the way up to his elbows. There were bandages on them. Otherwise, there was something binding on his head. He did not like it; it was in the way, it was constricting him. He wiggled, trying to get it off of him, and he managed to...only to have another nurse sigh and try to put it back on him.

“No.” He managed to say a word, again.

She ignored it, she did not listen to it. It did not make her happy. She was trying to make him be still, holding his head in her hands tightly, while she tried to put the constricting thing – a bandage – on him again.

Wiggling his head, he lifted his arm to hit her. He pulled the tight thing off; it hurt. It was interfering with his ability to think. He did not have a name, but he could still feel pain! It was much better without it on him. The pain retreated, and he relaxed; he looked around...

The number of people had decreased again. The doctor was there, and two nurses. The room was otherwise empty. It was calm again, although their voices made friction as they sent vibrations through the air.

Still, he could focus on them. He really did not know what to make of them, as they continued to talk to each other.

There came into the world of the room, two more people. The doctor cautioned them out there, in the beyond. But they were agitated, speaking loudly, and then one of them burst in on him. A female, middle-aged, wearing very simple, unattractive garments. Superior quality, but nothing very imaginative and not cut to make her look any better than any other middle-aged woman. She was not thin, but not fat, with an oval face; her hair was trimmed to be neither too short nor too long.

She also rushed up to him, reaching out as if she would pull him into her arms.

Leaning away from her hands, instinctively afraid of her body heat, he stared at this person aghast. It was something deeply ingrained in him, far beyond the physical. He loathed the idea of being grabbed like that, and it made him move his arms...but that movement made him aware of how unnatural it felt. Any movement at all felt innately ‘wrong’. And as she spoke to him, somewhat too loudly, he could not think of a single thing to say.

What could she possibly want from him?

Tears ran over his face again, and he trembled incessantly as they crowded into his space there, at the side of the bed. His space was confined to the bed, now, and they kept trying to touch him. It made him nervous.

The beeping on the monitor grew faster.

The doctor came over, looking a touch annoyed and his manner was more hostile than before. “Mr and Mrs Crawford...” He said, with a weary sigh; his posture and expression said more than his words did.

He did not know these people.

“Acelin?” The male said, looking a little uncertain now. “What is it? Why won’t you say anything?”

What was he supposed to say?”

The female turned to him; sharply, as if unable to hold herself back. “Acelin?!” She said, sharply, calling it out. She had tears hovering on her lashes, and she put her hand on her chest. “Why won’t you say anything?! Do you...really...hate us that much?!”

What was hate?

“Mrs Crawford! Please! I told you not to do this; I expressly warned you that he’s still disoriented.” The doctor said, pushing his way between her and the bed. “Your son has only just woken from a months’ long coma, he’s unstable and frightened of everything. We’re not even certain if there is brain damage at this point!” He took a deep breath and let it out. “I know that you’re excited; it’s perfectly normal to react that way. Now that he is awake, you want to talk to him. I understand that. Try to hold on a little longer, we’re going to run some tests. It’s a good thing, really a miracle that he woke up at all, but that does not mean that he’s ready to talk.”

The male looked contrite and he pulled the other back. “No, I’m sorry. I was overwhelmed, and I know that. I’m sorry.” He looked down, biting his lip. “What...can we do? Anything...just, please, give me something to do!”

The doctor took a deep breath. “Okay, first, we were in the middle of assessing Acelin right now...but we’ll have to start over on that. There are a lot of things we need to do, such as tests. I would like to discuss that with you if you do not mind? We’ll give Acelin some space and some quiet, and then we’ll try talking to him again.”

They went into the beyond, and he did feel better like that.

‘Acelin’. They had said that, calling for that person. Who was that? He did not feel any attachment or nostalgia toward that word. Was it a name? It did not feel like it, when they said it; it felt more sinister to him. Like something that he should avoid owning, for now; it felt all too much like it was a threat to his survival, and that extreme possessiveness welled up in him again.

Still, they mostly left him alone. He drifted in thought, bringing himself slowly to the point that he could handle them nearby. He was now fascinated with the world outside the window. He could see so much of the sky, and there were fluffy clouds out there. He could see the tops of trees in the distance and other buildings. He was too far from it to see the ground immediately below the window, so he still felt rather removed from the world outside...

He wanted to nap, to doze a little. There was no real pain, but an ache had begun to agitate him. Something that made him unable to hold still, and he pulled and plucked at the covers until he had gotten the toes out. Just these feet, sticking out; he could see them. They ached, but he did not know what to do with them.

More limbs that were not ‘his’, but were somehow under his power.

The nurses did not let him sleep much, though. He no sooner got to dreaming, and processing all the radical things that had happened to him, then someone shook him and made him wake up. He passed a very rough night and was grumpy the next morning. He refused to acknowledge them, sulking and trying to put up with them, until one of them gave him water.

He had not realised how thirsty he was.

And thirst awakened hunger.

Tears ran over his face, and he would have braved the terror of the unknown to go hunt down prey, but they brought him something to eat. The doctor was there, sitting on a metal perch...a wheeled stool...and the other two, that ‘Mr and Mrs Crawford’, were there. He did not care about them, or what they were ‘assessing’.

He cared about the tray of some lumpy substance they said was food. It did not appear edible. He was not certain that it was anything, really, but he could smell it...and if it was some raw substance that could be taken in without being ‘food’, then likes and dislikes were negligible.

There was no real flavour, either.

He put his fingers into each substance, learning about it. The lines under the bandages pulled and made it difficult to manipulate the fingers. He struggled to put up with these sensations so that he could feed himself...and when he managed to put the substances into his mouth, he felt giddy and triumphant.

He moved onto the ‘tools’. He mentally named them, looking at each one. A spoon, a fork; he managed to use them, although he lacked any real strength. He thought that was because the limbs were weak, though, and had nothing to do with his mindset or willpower.

Indeed, he was overflowing with willpower, and he looked up proudly; he wanted to demand praise, but he saw that everyone in the room was giving him condoling looks. The nurses were wearing frowns and were looking at each other sadly...

“He...he ate like a baby.” The woman, Mrs Crawford, said in shocked whispers. “Doctor...he’s not...like that? Right? He’s not...”

“Hm?” The doctor glanced at them, then seemed to take in what they were saying. “No! He’s not retarded and I do not think he has anything wrong with his motor skills. He was able to feed himself and applied the appropriate force and dexterity. The reason he was fumbling is due to his injuries.” He took a deep breath, seeming to consider it all for a moment, looking at a clipboard laden with notes. “Mr and Mrs Crawford, I believe that Acelin has amnesia.”

“I’m sorry?” Mr Crawford started, then swallowed. “Wait, so...”

“Yes, we cannot say if a person has amnesia until after a day or so. Because obviously if someone is in a coma, and they wake up, they will be groggy and disoriented. They may not know where they are or even who they are, right away. But...” He lifted a hand and took a breath. “...very rarely, people just don’t remember. We need to do some more testing, like a CT scan, but I think that Acelin has a case of amnesia. That is why he’s not talking...he can.”

“So, well, what happens now?” Mrs Crawford asked, sharply. “How long will it take before he remembers?” It was sudden, non-compromising.

“That will depend on the root cause of the amnesia and how severe it is.” The doctor replied, adjusting his glasses. “Right now, I would say that it is quite severe. But, he’s also still receiving a high dose of narcotics, too. It could take a few weeks before we have a clear picture on his functionality.” He sighed, looking a little grave. “I really don’t want to say this, but I also don’t want to lie to you; sometimes people never remember everything.”

It was clearly a blow to them. Mrs Crawford swallowed, her eyes wavering. She was searching the floor for answers, or perhaps just trying to understand what she had heard.

Mr Crawford, on the other hand, let out a breath. “Even if it’s not everything, Thank God.” He said, softly. He turned, not coming up to the bed, and smiled. “Thank God that you are all right, Acelin.”

Startled, he looked at them both. These people that were feeling and expressing so many emotions for his sake. Tipping his head a little, he thought that it would be exceedingly bad form to not respond to them. So, with a great deal of willpower, he managed to make his scratchy voice work.

“Not...unable...to...speak.” He said, although, it made his eyes tear again, and he winced. He thought his throat was probably swollen, or else it had just never been used much. He did not like the sensation, so he had not been speaking much.

And they all made a fuss whenever he did so.

Indeed, the nurses got all jittery again, fussing over him. Some seemed more hostile than others. The doctor stared at him intensely, but then he took a breath and let it out. “Everyone, calm down.” He said, turning to them. “We don’t need six people in the room! Go on about your duties...you can be giggly about him later.” He shooed them out of the room and then he turned to Mr and Mrs Crawford. “Well, as you heard, Acelin is capable of speech; it’s still pretty raw, though.” He seemed to have understood everything.

Relieved, he nodded once, silently.

“Ah, so you understand me. That’s good. Thank you for responding to me. My name...” The doctor turned to him. “...is Dr Marlou. I am a specialist in comas and traumatic brain injury...” He pursed his lips. “...do you know what that means?”

Nodding again, he swallowed thickly. “It is...hurt.” He said, softly, referring to his head, which had been bound in bandages. He had won that war; the nurses had finally given up on forcing the bandages on him. “Comatose...for...months. Hurt. Injured on...these...” He looked at the arms there, resting over him, and he frowned. “Who... am...I...?” He really did not know.

“Acelin!” The woman said, clearly shocked. “We’ve been calling you all this time! You’re our son, Acelin Crawford!”

Stunned, reeling, Acelin blinked slowly at her. Was that it? Was he that person? Did he belong to them? That did not feel right; he did not know them. He felt like he was being ordered to believe it, and he wanted to reject it. But, he also did not have any other name, and he felt that if he denied it too strongly, they would make a fuss again.

He instinctively knew that they were just as much of a threat to him, as they were of any benefit.

“Who...are...you?” He asked, dully.

It was a stupid question; he knew their names. But, a name was not all there was to a person. He was there, existing without even a name; they had to have something else to bring out. To offer him. He got blank, anxious expressions; they had no idea what to say to him.

“It will come in time.” Dr Marlou said, cautiously. “For now, I want Acelin to have some more rest; he just ate, after all. And we’re going to take him over to do a CAT-scan.”

They were, were they?

Apparently, he had no say in that, and it would just be done to him; like everything else, he was unable to do anything about it. It made him grumpy again. Why did not having a name give them ownership of this body? It was not his, but it was not theirs, either. They seemed to think it was his...or somewhere between belonging to him and belonging to Mr and Mrs Crawford.

Dr Marlou was apparently the only one making any kind of decisions, though.

Not that the CAT-scan frightened him. The nurses seemed to think he was nervous, but in fact, he knew what it was. He was calm about that. He was taken there in the bed, though, they did not even let him stand up; they said he was too weak and at risk of falling. He thought they needed their heads examined much more than he needed a CAT-scan.

All that day, there was always someone with him. About the time that he was left alone, another nurse came in to pester him; they chattered at him, never allowing him to just think quietly, and he began to get resentful of them.

The next day broke the stalemate. Although unfortunate, it was lucky for him that an emergency drew all the nurses in the ward, and he was finally alone. For the first time since waking, he was utterly and completely alone. The silence rushed in around him, and he let out a breath...it was priceless.

And, because he did not know when he would be given such divine intervention again, he sat up. Slowly, not forcing it, but then throwing the covers back. He swung his legs off the bed, stretching them; they were thin. So very thin. Like sticks. But, when he put the feet on the cold floor, he felt the temperature and the shock was enough that he was able to stand.

He could only barely stand, but he took a step. He was not hooked up to any machines, aside from an IV, which he was able to drag along beside him. It was all plastic and metal, and it was hardly so fragile that he could not walk around his room with it.

There was a chair by the window, where he went to sit. Looking outside, he was able to get his bearings a little. There was so much out there. A parking lot below was rather ugly, but there were cars and people down there. Some small trees in planters, too. And beyond there was a city...he did not know which city, but it was ‘where he was’.

He put his free hand on the cold glass. The texture reminded him of water, and he immediately became thirsty. As if he would die without it!

Looking around, he spotted a door. Something he could not see from the bed. There was more to this ‘world’ than he had known! But, he knew what that door was, and he got up, moving one step at a time. A very tiny tiled room, in which there was a toilet, sink, and shower. The entire room was technically the shower. There was a bench that folded up against the wall, and he pulled on this, wiggling it until he got it into place... and then seating himself, he turned on the water.

The delicious touch of water! This was life itself! This was something so important, that he could not help but to cry. And as he played in the slightly warm water, he began to feel more animated and connected to the body. He had fed himself with these hands, and now, he was bathing himself.

When the water ran cold, he turned it off and went back into the other room; there were no towels anywhere, but he found a clean sheet in the tiny closet next to the door. There on hand in case of accidents. He put the gown on the floor by the door, and wrapped himself in the sheet, wearing it like a long kilt.

It did not feel unnatural, in fact, and he liked the feeling of the air around him. His hair was sopping, but he did not mind that. The water felt good to him, and he turned to a mirror...

The image that met him was simple, really. He was not quite six feet tall, with creamy skin. Somewhat darker than most Caucasians, but not dark enough to be Asian or Middle Eastern. He had black hair, which was not as short as his chin but not touching his shoulders, either. There was a bit of a curl to it, too, which he thought would become pronounced once it was dry. The face...he did not recognise it, but it was not a bad looking face. Rather delicate features, pretty and even; with large clear blue eyes, heavy black lashes and slightly arched brows.

Turning away from the otherwise uninformative mirror, he seated himself next to the window again. For several hours, he just sat there, looking outside. It was somewhat hypnotising, and he enjoyed it immensely; there were always things moving out there, and even just looking at the contrast between the colours or shapes, was impressive.

This was...being alive.

The door opened and a nurse came in. She was half way to the bed, an apology on her lips, when she realised that he was not there. She stared at the empty bed, her face contracting in fear, and she hastily looked around; he was less than five feet from the bed. Yet she marched over, glaring down at him, and even began shouting at him.

Leaning back, putting a hand to his mouth in shock, he could not think of what to say or do; to him, this person was now veering close to insane, but luck stayed with him, as the doctor came hurrying in, perhaps hearing the shouting, and ordered her to stop it and leave the room.

She went, muttering non-stop, and shot a look back that was highly annoyed and hostile.

The doctor was looking at the bed, but then he sighed and shook his head. “Well! I was wondering if you would like to get up soon, and here you went and beat us to it!” He chuckled. “That’s a good thing, but, Acelin...Acelin is your name...you can ask for help if you need it.”

Could he really?

Even though he had just been yelled at for walking five feet and taking a shower?

Looking down, he noticed that the bandages were wet; he had not removed them before bathing, and they had gotten drenched. “Co...tt...n.” He mumbled a little, but he knew he could speak better than that, so he said it again. “Cotton...please.” And he held up his arms, for the doctor to see.

The doctor himself redid the bandages, and he inspected the wounds while they were exposed. Two very deep cuts went from the heel of the palm all the way up to the inner arm at the elbow. They were not perfectly straight, but they were deeper at the elbow end and tilted ever-so-slightly; as if drawn there at an angle. They were stitched and already mostly sealed shut, but scabbing remained. Both had gotten a little damp but otherwise were fine.

Indeed, it did not hurt to leave them open to the air, either; it was a relief to the rest of the skin on each arm. He relaxed a little, not afraid of the wounds by themselves. He did not feel anything about them since he had realised they were there already. He thought that they looked like serious injuries, but, since they were months old now, he was not worried about them.

They were not fatal, anyway.

The doctor seemed to be worried about letting him look at them, but he was more curious about how the bandages went on; it was not something he could do for himself. At least, not yet. He was allowed to sit for a half hour with them open, to let them dry out, and then they were re-wrapped...but more gently and simplistically.

For a moment, he felt rather dizzy, a pain welled up in his head, and he heard a sound. Some sharp but echoing sound, like a bell or perhaps less defined. It made tears run over his face, and he put these hands over the ears, although he knew that it was not something he was really hearing.

“Did you remember something?” Dr Marlou asked. “Something about how you got hurt?”

“Metal...” He said, softly. “...ringing metal.”


It continued like that, with various tests. The CAT-scan had shown bruising on the brain, consistent with what they were saying was a blow to the head when he had fallen. They were never all that clear about what had happened, though, and the nurses not so tactfully changed the subject if he asked.

Indeed, because he asked more than twice, they began telling him not to speak at all. To just ‘watch TV’, which they would turn on to drown out his voice. Whether he wanted it on or not. He understood, after this happening a few times, and with different people, that they were afraid of him knowing about it.

He spoke to various people, but there was nothing much the matter with him. Aside from not having a name, he was just there; and because he was not sick, they ran out of reasons for him to be in the hospital.

Thus, talk turned to him leaving. Before then, Dr Marlou spoke to Mr and Mrs Crawford about him, and what kind of ‘set up’ they had in place at home. They seemed to think he was very weak, and the doctor wanted him to have various things. Such as a ground floor room, with no need to mount stairs every day. One or two steps was fine, but nothing more than that. He would need someone with him, too, who could help with all daily functions as well as to assist in remembering to take medications.

Of which he had more than a few.

Not that they were explained to him. He just listened to all of this, sitting in a space down from the room he lived in. He was wearing plain garments of a dull beige, as he had refused to wear a gown. He would wear either a kilt or pants, which had gotten several nurses saying he should just be made to go naked then...but several others had seemed to think he really would just walk around ‘naked’.

Apparently, wearing a sheet as a kilt was considered nude to them, leaving him baffled on what really bothered them. The fact that he did not have pants on or the fact that they did not want to see him wearing a ‘skirt’.

Clothing was a huge disappointment. The garments that were brought to him, when it was time to leave, were ugly. He did not want to put on the ugly, scratchy garments. They were rather loose-fitting. He looked at Mrs Crawford, who was standing there in the room with him, as if she expected to get a front row seat – and it took the doctor coming in and shooing her away before he could change.

It left him unable to find anything to say to her. She did sharp, abrasive things. She also seemed to cry almost all the time. As soon as she came into the room, she would start tearing up. She tended to hover nearby, muttering things to him, as if trying to convince him of something.

He did not understand most of it, though. It was all too distant. It was not really a lack of interest, but rather a flat-out desire to tune her out. Because he still felt like she might be a threat to him, so he did not want to take in too much of what she said.

Mr Crawford, on the other hand, never got closer than four feet. He seemed to be more aware of the bandages on his arms, and the man was awkward in how he stood near any of the equipment. Even though it was only an IV, it still seemed to make him nervous.

Finally, he was taken away from the hospital. He was excited to be leaving, although he disliked the ugly clothes he was wearing. The car was nice, and there was a driver, who kept shooting him nervous glances as he took his time getting into the car. On the drive, he just stared out the window. He did not recognise a single thing.

The house was near a lake, which they called a pond. It did not look like a pond to him, as there were actual boats out there on it. They went around a resort, too, which had a lodge and sprawling acres devoted to individual cabins. That property was quite large, but they left it eventually and arrived in a residential area. The houses were large, and well-spaced from each other. There was a private beach on the ‘pond’, which their house had access too.

It was not exactly old fashion, nor was it super modern.

His data bank, the bulk of information that he seemed to have intact, told him that it was a typical lakeside style house and probably worth about five hundred thousand dollars. There was a detached three car garage, but the car they were in did not seem to belong to them. Rather, they had hired it just for this trip, and they tipped handsomely.

He was stuck with one of them on either side of him, and they moved briskly into the house. The door was shut and locked behind him. It felt very forced, and it walked through his mind that he was more like a prisoner, but he was distracted from this odd behaviour by a new person. An adult male, in his late twenties or early thirties, with sandy blonde hair and dark brown eyes. His hair was close-cropped, and the short men’s fashion looked good on his rather square head. His neck was long and slender, so he did not appear too muscular. His physique was good, not too awkward in the shoulders and trim about the waist...an attractive and healthy man.

His name was Benjamin Truesdale. He had been hired by Mr and Mrs Crawford to ‘take care of’ him, and he seemed to be a nice person. After a brief introduction, he got bored with the man, though, and moved on his own, to look over this new space. It was big and he was uneasy about where everything was.

He found that it was quite spacious. From the front doors, there was a small foyer, which faced a formal stair leading to the second level, next to this, there was an arch leading to a great room little off to the right. To the right, there was a coat closet, an umbrella stand, and an over-elaborate mirror. Then, beyond this and set back some way, there was a purposeless room, which did not really look like a parlour, but apparently functioned as one. A narrow hall took him into a massive gourmet kitchen.

This was where he met a woman with dark hair, wearing a uniform, and obviously in charge of all domestic duties. She looked uncertain at first, but then she smiled at him and set a bowl of some delicious smelling broth before him at the kitchen table. He immediately seated himself to eat it, and he enjoyed it very much. It brought up some shimmer of nostalgia, but aside from making him hungrier than he had been before, he could remember nothing.

“Name?” He asked, looking at this woman.

She frowned at him, but then she smiled again. “Mae.” She said, with the hint of an accent in her words. “Mae Alexandria.”

He nodded once in acknowledgement, but then, because he could not think of what else to do or say, he stood up and left. He could project that that portion of the house was where she dwelt, and he did not want to intrude into her territory. So, he returned to the front door, where he found that Mr Truesdale was looking for him. He seemed curious on what his charge was going to do next, but he was quiet and did not try to make him stop, so he just ignored him.

There was, to the left of the front door, a wall that was set back perhaps six feet, and there was a very nice painting there. Again, he knew it, before he could ask about it; the information came into his mind and he said this out loud.

“Rembrandt.”

Mr Truesdale peeked at the plaque on the frame, nodding, and he seemed even more fascinated than before.

There was a little half circular table under the painting, with a vase of flowers on it, but he did not think they were anything but mass-produced objects and turned away from them.

Next, to the arch leading into the Great Room, which took the place of both living room and family room, there were the stairs. Tucked up next to and behind the stairs, there was a full bathroom. It was obviously set up for guest usage, although why a guest would need to use a shower, he could not imagine.

A hallway went down to the right, in front of the door to the bathroom, and there were more simple paintings on display. They were mostly nature scenes, in clunky frames, but hung well and perfectly even. The hall went straight, and on the right-hand side, behind the wall with the Rembrandt, there was a huge office. It took up the entire front of the house on that side, and there was all manner of nice equipment in there.

A turn to the left brought them to another set of stairs on the right, which seemingly lead to the master suite. He did not bother to go up those, but instead, continued down to find a private bathroom and then, on the left, there was what was apparently his room.

There was no scent in the room, though. He walked in, and the only thing that met his eyes, was a bed, a desk and chair, and a set of French doors leading onto the back porch. Which wrapped all the way around the house. There was a single step down out there, and then a terrace or courtyard, before a lush green lawn.

There was pool out there, too.

Looking back and forth, he realised that he had been looking for something to call his own, but there was nothing. Seating himself on the bed, which was perfectly made, he frowned. They had either had everything professionally cleaned, or no one had ever lived there. But, he did not mind, since everything was new to him.

And although he was a little disappointed that he had not found anything familiar to him, he was much more excited and curious about the world around him.

So, he smiled.

It was not a bad place, not yet or not anymore. He did not feel threatened here. If he was alone here, he was safe, and it made him sleepy. He half crumpled, half lay down. The bed cover was soft and fluffy, but the bed was firm...a perfect combination to support and cradle him, and he ended up napping there for a few hours.

He woke to find Ben Truesdale sitting at the desk, having borrowed his outlet, typing on a keyboard. He seemed content like that, but when he realised he was being watched, he turned and smiled. “Hello.” He said, softly. “It must have been exhausting, getting out of the hospital and coming home like that. They made it a bit more dramatic than I think was really fair to you, but forgive them. It was a big deal to them.”

Startled, confused, he frowned. “Confused.” He said, sitting up...but the sudden movement made him dizzy and he almost fell off the bed.

Mr Truesdale turned, catching him and held onto him. For a moment, he just held on, and in that second between heartbeats, he felt something sudden and revolting. Terror infused his limbs and he pushed against this man violently. He was against the farther wall, his chest heaving, and he felt his legs shaking.

He sank down, staring at this person. He did not know him, but he did not think of him as a threat...but that had been too close! Much, much too close! He did not want anyone that near him...or no, that was not right. It was not ‘anyone’, it was ‘someone’. Someone, tall and big, some male, someone hot to the touch, was lording over his subconscious...but he could not remember!

Tears ran over his face, and he sucked in some air. “Hands.” He muttered, putting his own hands to his ears protectively, trying to protect his senses from that sound...that echoing sound that he could not escape from. “Large Hands.”

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