XXII. I Was Terrified
When I came to, all I saw was darkness. It felt like my body weighed ten tons and my mouth felt drier than a desert. Pain pulsates through my body with my heartbeat that was hammering in my ears. As I breathed, my nose burned, but it didn’t know why.
But all I saw was black. And it terrified me.
I strained my ears, but all I could hear were uneven breaths for a while until the voice said, “Come on, Noah. Please just wake up. I need you to be okay. Baby, please wake up.” Madison. I felt the pressure of his body on mine. “Open your eyes, il mio amore (my love)."
I willed my eyes to open, but it was as if they were glued shut. The pulsating pain was becoming worse and worse with every heartbeat, slowly splitting my skull open and drilling into my brain. I tried moving my fingers, but again, nothing. It was like my brain had been separated from the rest of my body, unable to communicate what I needed to be done.
Frustration moved through me as I willed my eyes to open, and after avid persuasion, they finally cracked. My vision was blurry but I could make out a figure that I assumed to be Madison with his head in his hands, his quiet sobs filling my ears and breaking my heart. What happened? Where am I?
“Madison?” I croaked, my voice dry and scratchy and sounding like a piercing siren in my ears. The sound of my voice instantly caused Madison’s head to instantly shoot up, revealing his hauntingly red eyes, which told me he’d been crying with the intensity he had less than a week ago when his father...
“Noah, you’re okay,” he breathed and within an instant, his strong, familiar arms were around me in a comforting hug. As he did so, my vision became clearer and I instantly recognized where I was: a hospital. “I was so worried about you, Noah,” Madison softly said into my hair. “I...I was afraid you’d never wake up, or-or...” he trailed as he gently cupped my face and looked me in the eyes, revealing the black eye that was starting to form over his right eye. “I was terrified. The most scared I’ve been in my life, actually.” His lips then came into soft contact with mine. I could taste the salt in his tears. I gently kissed him back, but I almost instantly had to pull away due to the pain that moved through my head and the ache in my jaw.
“What happened? Did I hurt you?” Madison questioned as he looked me over, concern and pain evident on his features.
“My body hurts all over, Mads,” I admitted. “I can’t move and all I feel is pain.”
Madison cursed as he pressed the “call nurse” button on the side of my bed, causing me to see the scabs and dried blood caked on his knuckles. I swallowed and looked up at him. “Madison, what happened to me? Why am here and why is there blood on your knuckles?”
Madison instantly tensed. “You don’t remember?”
“No,” I stated, “but I’d take a guess and say that it has something to do with this killer headache I have?”
Madison’s jaw clenched as he gently swept some of my hair from my forehead. “Those bastards that called you friend decided to beat the hell out of you because they found out about us.” The words seemed like poison as they slid from Madison’s mouth. “They all gathered around you and kicked you and kicked you and kicked you until they kicked you so hard you were knocked out, and it was all lead by that codardo (coward) Trey.”
“No,” I instantly said. “That...that couldn’t have happened. I’ve known those guys since I was little, they’d never-”
“But they did, Noah,” Madison painfully cut me off. “They...they did, and it kills me to see you like this. You’re mate, Henry came and got me then called the cops while I taught them a thing or two about messing with you.” He displayed his knuckles then continued. “An ambulance came along with the cops and the boys were arrested, but we’ll talk about them later. When you came they ran some tests on you, but since you were unconscious, they couldn’t get a clear reading. But I’m just glad you’re okay.”
By now, I found myself blinking away tears. Even though I didn’t remember any of this, though it was probably for the best, the pain that coursed throughout my body confirmed it. My team, my family, did this to me without hesitation just because I had Madison. Just because I’m gay. A strangled sob escaped my lips, causing Madison to instantly wrap his arms around me, delicately touching my bruised, broken body.
“How could they do this?” I sobbed into his shoulder as he held me. “I...Why?”
“Because they’re bastards,” Madison bitterly stated. “And I will make sure that they all pay for hurting you, especially Trey-”
At that moment, the door was opened, revealing a woman in her mid to late thirties in scrubs holding a clipboard. “Good, Noah, you’re awake,” she commented as Madison released me so she could properly see me, “how are you feeling?”
“Everything hurts,” I stated. “When I breathe, when I move. I can’t even move I’m in so much pain.”
“Yeah, Madison over here told me what those awful boys did to you. I’m so sorry and I hope you get justice,” she sympathetically told me, shaking her head before she turned to the chart behind her. “My name is Emily and I’ll be helping get you back in shape, okay? Now, on a scale of one to ten with one being okay and ten being excruciating, what is your pain level right now?”
“A nine and a half,” I instantly answered, causing her to nod as she wrote on her clipboard. “Do you have a mild to extreme headache? Memory loss?”
“Yes,” I instantly answered.
“Okay, Noah. It seems like you have a mild to severe concussion, so I’m going to ask you a few questions so we can figure out what to do next from here, okay?”
“What is your last name?”
“What year is it?”
“Two thousand nineteen.”
“When is your birthday?”
“November thirteenth, nineteen ninety-nine.”
“How old are you?”
“I turned eighteen over the summer.”
“What were you doing all day?”
“I was with my boyfriend,” I easily said, though saying it caused my heart to race due to the last time I said I had a boyfriend resulted in me waking up in the hospital. But I wasn’t ashamed and I refused to hide him.
“Can you confirm that, Madison?” Emma asked without as much as an off look.
“I can,” he said as he took my hand in his, but my body felt so numb that I couldn’t even feel the addicting sparks I usually did when we touched.
Emma nodded. “What was the last thing you personally remember before waking up?”
“I remember...” I trailed, searching through my fuzzy memories that were clouding my brain. “I remember saying bye to Madison and getting out of the car to go to practice then Trey being more dickish than usual, then the next thing I know I’m waking up here.”
She nodded and jotted it down. “How long do you think you’ve been knocked out?”
“A few hours at most,” I answered honestly.
“It’s been seven hours,” Madison piped up, and sure enough the hands on the clock were ticking a bit past one in the morning. That sent a shiver down my spine.
“Okay, final question: who is the current president of the United States of America?”
I sighed. “Please don’t make me say it.”
This made Emma laugh and shake her head. “I don’t blame you.” She put her clipboard down before she slid on some blue plastic gloves. “Now, this is going to be the worst part, but I’m going to lay you down and gently press down on you and I need you to tell me where it hurts.”
“Okay,” I said, taking a deep breath to prepare myself for the pain I knew was going to come.
“Don’t worry, babe. I’m still right here,” Madison comforted as he ran his thumb across my knuckles. I nodded before Emma commenced, causing me to wince and curse once she hit my ribs and sides. She profusely apologized, though she had nothing to apologize for.
“Alright, Noah. Again, I’ sorry for that, but I’m going to issue an MRI because I fear that you have a bruised rib, but only an MRI can tell for sure.” Her words caused Madison to clench his jaw.
“Babe, calm down,” I softly said. I found myself in Madison’s shoes from a week ago: broken and bruised and coming to terms that the people I called my family had turned against me in the worst way possible. And I hated it.
Emma pulled a syringe out of her pocket and approached my IV. “This should help with the pain,” she explained before injecting the clear liquid into my system. “I’m going to schedule you for an MRI in the morning. If you need anything, press the button again, okay?”
“Okay, thanks,” Madison and I said at the same time, causing her to give us a friendly smile, collect her clipboard, and go.
After she’d been gone for a few moments, Madison stood up. “Madison, what are you doing?”
“I’m about to find Trey and those low lives and kick their a-”
“No, Madison,” I said, squeezing his hand. “I know they need to be punished but I...I need you here with me right now. I’m scared and I don’t want to be left alone.”
This instantly caused him to soften up as he quickly sat down again before he scooted his chair closer to mine. “Of course I’ll stay, Noah. I’ll never leave you. I hope you know that I love you and they will pay for what they did to you.”
“Like your dad will pay what he did to you?” I softly questioned, causing him to slightly hesitate before he nodded.
“Like my dad will pay for what he did to me.” This caused me to smile due to my boyfriend, my love, getting justice for the hate crime committed against him. Against us.
Madison slowly craned his neck and placed a gentle kiss on my lips. The medicine must’ve been working because I found myself kissing him back and even cupping his cheek, though my body was still in a considerable amount of pain. He smiled against my lips as he pulled away and rested his forehead on mine. “I think we’re going to be alright, Noah.”
“Me too,” I agreed before our lips were caught in a gentle and intimate kiss once more, silently telling each other how much we loved them in ways words can’t describe and making quiet promises that we’d be there for each other until the end of time. No matter how terrified we both were.