“This one is supposed to be released later today.”
Nick opened his eyes when he heard the doctor’s voices outside of his room, he slowly sat up and rubbed the sleep out of his eyes. It was Saturday.
Released? Where was the question. Nick didn’t have many belongings but a few clothes and his school things…along with the beaten up looking backpack. He wondered where he would go once he was let out of the hospital briefly as the nurse brought him breakfast.
“I’m not supposed to do this, but I snuck you an extra orange juice, dear. You’ll need all the food you can get.” the older woman said sweetly. Nick smiled at her, she had been very kind to him.
“I hope you’ll be all right. Wish I could adopt you myself. You’re a nice boy.” she added before leaving the room. Nick felt safe with her but he didn’t like the idea of being adopted. He looked at the plate of eggs and took a bite, but they tasted like cardboard and he only had a few swallows. The orange juice tasted much better so he had that instead.
When breakfast had been taken away by the afternoon nurse, Nick really wondered if anyone was coming to get him. He even thought about his father….but he’d run off when he was five. Nick didn’t know if he was alive or dead, or if he was looking for him.
“It’ll be time to go soon, you should get dressed.” the afternoon nurse said. Most of the nurses liked him because he was quiet and polite, remembering to say thank you when they brought food or came to check on him.
“I- I don’t have anywhere to go.” Nick whispered, rubbing at his arm where the IV line had been. The nurse lowered the bars so he could get out of bed. When he was done changing, Nick saw Brian and his dad were waiting for him.
“What’s going on? I’m not in trouble, am I?” Nick asked, wondering why Brian’s father was there. He rarely saw him because he was usually busy down at the station.
“No, son. You’re coming to stay with us.” Harold said warmly.
“Yeah, you are. My mom and dad said it’s cool. Ya know, so you can still go to school with us.” Brian replied. Nick had a grin on his face as they drove to Brian’s parent’s house. They gave him his own room and to Nick’s surprise, his own bed.
“I have a bed?” Nick asked, looking at Harold.
“Yeah, why wouldn’t you?” Harold said, chuckling. Nick wasn’t sure what to make of the room as he set down his backpack. Everything he owned was inside, not to mention the garbage bag of a few clothes. He had very few possessions to begin with, so having a bed……a real bed- was a HUGE deal.
Nick kept to his room for most of the day but didn’t sleep, instead he wrote in his notebook. A while later, someone knocked on the door and Nick opened it….Brian’s mother was standing there. She wore a apron and a smile on her face as she eased her way into the room.
“Hello, Nick. I’m Jackie…”
Nick just stared. She held a plate of chocolate chip cookies in her hand, fresh ones. Nick closed his eyes and smelled them, he felt his mouth water.
“Normally we don’t allow sweets before dinner, but I wanted to make you feel welcome. Would you like some?” she asked sweetly. Nick stared at her again, harder this time. When she got too close he backed away, trembling.
“I’m not going to hurt you, dear.” she said, but Nick wouldn’t go near her. She set the plate down and walked back by the door again, leaving Nick alone with the cookies as a peace offering.
She was disappointed to see later on that Nick didn’t touch a single one, nor would he come to dinner.
“I’m worried for the boy, Harold. He has to eat. He’s so thin.”
Brian heard them talking and knew it was about Nick as soon as he went into the kitchen.
“I know, honey. He’s been through a lot. Just give him time.”
Brian went upstairs where he heard Nick’s voice….he was crying. He walked to the door of his room and poked his head inside.
He called him again but didn’t see Nick anywhere until he opened the closet.
“What are you doing here?” Brian asked, raising his eyebrow. Nick’s room was nice and the bed was comfortable, why would he choose the closet? He sat on the floor in the small space, his head buried in his knees.
“I….I can’t stay h-here. I want to go h-home.” he sobbed. Brian knelt down and reached for him but Nick backed away, well as much as he could.
“Come on, Nick. Please come out of there. My parents are letting you live here now. You can’t go back.” he whispered.
“I don’t belong here…” Nick cried, more tears spilling. After some careful coaxing, Brian finally managed to get Nick out of the closet. He went downstairs and got a night light for Nick’s room, which made Nick a bit more comfortable. After doing all of this, he felt very tired as it was getting late.
“I’m sorry for this, Brian. I just don’t know if I can live here with you. I’m not like your family. I saw the way your mother looked at me like a wounded animal. I don’t want pity.”
“Nick, I understand. Believe me- I do….but you can’t shove everyone away that wants to help you. You did it to my mom, to me….even Amanda. Stop being so proud. We all need help sometimes.” Brian told him. Nick nodded but he still didn’t feel like he belonged at the Littrell’s.
“You don’t understand, Brian. You think you do, but you don’t.” Nick said before he laid down on the bed. He was not used to sleeping in a bed but would have to make do. Brian headed for the door and Nick called to him just before he closed it.
“Don’t close it please.” he begged. Brian nodded and went down to his room next door, thinking that this would be a trying process….but there had to be some way to help Nick. He was still afraid of people….and they would have to work on that together.
He just hoped it would be sooner rather than later.