Chapter Ten: Stolen Innocence

Fuck that doctor. He left me in this God-forsaken hellhole, hooked to an IV, forcing me to stare at the ceiling because my "emotional outburst" was obnoxious enough to have restraints issued. It took three nurses to wrestle me to bed. Two caught my legs and pulled back my arms, and one took the liberty of sticking me with a needle. I went from literally kicking and screaming to dead weight, trying hard to break their grip on me, but knowing internally that I had already lost the struggle.

At least I didn't go down without a fight. I reasoned, faintly smirking in the glow of the moonlight.

Then again, my mind has a weird way of evening things out. In my stupidly wasted head, I was still the victor, no matter what I got myself into. If I wouldn't have been sedated, none of the women who touched me would still be alive now. Not even the bastard checking me into the loony bin. Matter of fact, he would have been the first to go. Shot, stabbed, or thrown off of lofty medical throne twelve stories up, I wanted him dead. Not breathing, not moving, dead. Keeping me locked in a room small enough to make an ant claustrophobic is a sin. And that single point alone gives me the right to be his judge, jury, and executioner. Hope he's ready for his sentence. Just for the record, I'll never rule in his favor. My court, my rules. Straight up justice.

Can't stand being here any longer, though. I don't like the idea of being tube fed as if I were some elderly moron who can't control his motor skills. What I do with my body and how I treat it is my business, my concern, my way of contending with life. Interferences like this are never tolerated. I can't afford for them to be.

That's why I've got to find a way out of here. The only intervention service I need is that of a janitor, groundskeeper, or even some kid or a random visitor to the ward. Any of those people would probably jump at the chance to help me out if they knew I'd give them a decent wage for doing it. Which of those individuals didn't have use for money? Better yet, who would have the nerve to turn it down?

Slowly, I turned my head, scanning the shadows for the entrance to my cell. It all looked the same, grays blending into blacks, angular smears of cracks in the walls, the blah dresser and other equally plain furnishings drifting past my eyes as I searched for my last shot at survival. Double-checking every glint of light on a surface, I surprised myself by praying.

Please let the door be open, God, just please let the damned thing be open. Not totally ajar, but just enough to see what's going on in the halls. Enough to watch for visitors or staff. Just wide enough to try and catch someone's attention so that I can—

Suddenly, a strip of silver glittered in the twilight. I blinked, shook my head, then re-focused my sight to make sure that my eyes weren't deceiving me.

It can't be…I moaned loudly, it just CAN'T be!

The handle was stuck to its side. When it was lying horizontal to the wall like that, it meant something I didn't want to face. The door was closed. Regardless of how much I thrashed about, swore at the nurses, or cried shamelessly, no one would hear my voice. Slumping in the restraints, I chewed my lower lip, worrying about my future and the horrible things yet to come.

What's gonna happen to me? Where do I go from here? How long do I have to stay in a nut house? Will I ever see anyone I know again?

Out of the blue, a mental picture of a boy flashed in my mind, his big indigo orbs peering out from behind a curtain of raven tresses.

And Mokuba! My eyes went wide. So far, everything I had thought of had been about me. Somewhere out there, my little brother was by himself, alone in the world and probably scared out of his wits. Without me beside him, he'd fall apart. He'd be lost. Oh, CHRIST! MOKUBA! What will he do without me? More than that, what will I do without him?

Wallowing in a well of self-pity, my chin dipped into the hard ridge of a brittle collarbone. Our entire estate would be forfeited to the city government if I was hauled to a mental institution. All of the things I worked overtime for at my tech company would be gone. And, once again, my sibling and I would be the byproducts of a serious case of neglect. Except this time, I wouldn't have a set of selfish relatives to blame for evading responsibility. The only one I'd hate then is myself. Me for committing the same mistake that those heartless family members did when our parents died. Myself for demolishing a fortune that to so long to build, years of torture, pain, tears and anguish to construct an empire known for producing the top gaming devices globally. And I would be taking down someone totally innocent in the process. Someone depending on me for better opportunities in life. Someone that refused to give up on me, even though our foster dad always told me I was a lost cause. Someone who never let me fall asleep without hugging me, brushing his fingers through my hair, and chanting "I love you" until I carried him off to bed.

How could I do this to him? I wondered painfully. How could I just wait to be taken away and put behind bars, never to be seen again?

"I'm sorry." my dry, cracked lips whispered to the brother that wasn't there. "I'm sorry, so so sorry."

Feeling tired and pretty much out of it, there was nothing my body wanted more than a good, long rest. Gradually, my lids were growing heavier by the minute, sheets of skin morphing into miniature anvils that wouldn't stay air born for long. Soon they'd close, leaving me to drift farther and farther into the abyss known as deep unconsciousness. While gallivanting around in the land of dreams, I'd re-create happier occasions, ones where I still called Mokuba "Mokie", gave him limitless piggy-back rides, and promised him that he'd never have to agonize over us being apart.

Almost losing myself in the fantasy of endless happiness, I barely heard the hushed tone of someone attempting to rouse me.

"Set?" whispered an all-too familiar Bronx twang. "Dude, Set, are you in there?"

I couldn't figure out what was worse-having a coke bottle-glassed quack send me to a low class asylum, or listening to my arch nemesis use my first name as if we were best buddies. Impulsively, I turned over on my side, completely disinterested in whatever was being said to me.

An annoyed sigh blew across my cheek. I could tell it was a frustrated gesture, but I didn't care. What really started going through my head were images of all the terrible diseases that could have been blown on me by his germ transfer. Wheeler's fresh spit on me…way past the point of gross. I just had to grimace at that.

"C'mon, Set," chastised the vexing blond, "I know you're in there, so don't act like you don't hear me."

Lazily, I opened one eye. "Hearing and listening are two different concepts, Jou." I lectured, my classically cruel, smug smirk outlining my mouth.

He sighed once more. "Well, it'd prob'lly be in ya best interest ta listen now."

"Unless you're about to inform me that I'll be sharing a room with you at St. Mary's, there's nothing I want to hear from you." I told him, wrapping the itchy hospital blankets around me tighter.

"Listen," he said, "I just want ya to listen-"

"There's nothing I want to listen to, either."

It got quiet after that. So quiet, in fact, that I truly believed he left out of whatever hole he crawled in here from.

HeeeyyyI thought excitedly, Maybe the mutt did something right for a change! Maybe he actually left the door open so I can call to others in the hall!

As it turns out, I knew I wouldn't be that lucky. I heard a grunt, sneakers tapping the tiles, and that same, aggravated sigh resound. He was still here, Joey was still hanging around in my room, and there was nothing I could do but "listen" to his whining. A little irritated myself; I blew out a heavy gust of air.

"What? What is it? Why the hell are you bothering me?" I asked, squeezing my sore, sleep deprived eyes closed. When he didn't answer right away, I pressed, "Well? Don't tell me that you don't know what you're in this place for. You either come clean about what you're up to, or I'll just give the nurse on call a little wake-up call."

"In restraints?" he asked, throwing me another one of his goofy, trademark grins.

"Yeah," I replied, "in restraints."

"Exactly." Jou echoed. "How you gonna alert anyone when you're like you are now?"

I didn't want to admit it, but the bastard had a point. There would be no way for me to reach the round, red button on the wall. My wrist grips wouldn't allow it. Not willing to give up just yet, I shrugged him off.

"I could if I wanted to."

"Wanted to what?"

"Get a hold of a staff person."

Jou snickered. "Oh, yeah?" he challenged playfully, "Let's see it."

He had me there. Not wanting to dig myself a deeper hole, I gave him the nastiest, dirtiest glare I had in me to flaunt. "I've said it once, and I'll say it again. Go screw yourself, Wheeler." I spat venomously. Really emphasizing the "screw" part of my advice to him was the most important part. Attitude, it was all about attitude. My strategy was to hit him with everything I had, every backbiting bit of sarcasm, every twisted slur to get the desired effect. I had to stop him from doing this, from his relentless puppy dog efforts at bringing me around to his standards. Starving myself into skeletal oblivion is one thing, but drawing a naïve street kid into my battle of self-acceptance was something entirely different…

This time, he shrugged me off. "Eh, I'm used to ya bullshit." he claimed carelessly. "You ain't tellin' me anythin' I don't already know."

"Then why don't you listen to me and get the hell out?"

Instead of fighting fire with fire, he came at me from an entirely different angle, totally catching me off-guard.

"Don't ya ever wanna see ya brother again?" he questioned me, his voice low and soft and strangely compassionate.

Although I didn't say a word, my face said a thousand of them. All at once, too. Hiding the heart-wrenching guilt I had gnawing at me, I turned away from him.

"Bingo." said the blond. "I knew I hit the jackpot there."

"This isn't some game, you dolt." my wavering tone shot at him, dangerously bordering on the edge of tears. "That's my kid sibling you're joking about. He's the same boy who spent those years in the orphanage with me. He's also the same person who cared for me when our other father hurt-"

I was going to say "me", but stopped myself from going into too much detail. After all, this was Wheeler I was talking to. He didn't have a right to know what happened to me while I lived with that monster. He didn't deserve to, either.

The ridiculous smile on his lips faded. "Look," he told me softly, "I didn't mean ta hit a raw nerve. I know you're in 'dis place not 'cuz ya wanna be, but 'cuz you ran outta choices ta make."

"What the fuck do you know?" I muttered under my breath. "You weren't living with me and Mokuba in that house while that—that man was alive. You don't know what he put us through. And you sure as hell don't know what the fuck went on when I was alone with him."

"You're right, I don't, but-"

"But nothing. Don't bring up shit you don't understand, Joey." I warned, sounding cold and distant from reality. "Don't you fucking dare."

"Man, I don't wanna make ya relive whatever the hell it was that made ya into what ya are t'day. That ain't why I'm here."

"Then why are you here?"

"To make sure those creeps don't fuck with ya more than they already have." he revealed, his voice mimicking a top secret tone.

Bewildered, I glanced at the leather strap pinning my left wrist down. One second, it was doing its job, and the next, it lay in two pieces on the floor. My mouth moved before anything else did, forming the question, "How?"

The remaining three straps fell to their doom as he answered, "Butterfly blade." Resting the light, index-finger-length knife on a prominent dimple, he added, "Never leave home without 'em."

Automatically, my hand scooped up the wrist opposite of it, rubbing the lines that the restraints had dug into my skin. The marks hurt like a bitch, throbbing beneath my fingertips as if Jou had missed the leather and accidentally ripped into me. I wouldn't let myself wince, but I did grit my teeth. At least that helped to dull the pain.

"Christ Almighty!" I swore angrily.

"What, does it hurt or somethin'?" inquired Wheeler. After shooting him a vicious look, he laughed nervously. "Okay, okay," snickered the blond cautiously, "stupid question."

"Damn straight."

"Yeah, man, it won't happen again." he promised.

I shot him another frigid glare. "Oh, really."

"Oh, geez!" protested Jou. "Gimme a break, dude, I'm only human! Besides, it's not like I'm gonna--" Stopping in mid-sentence, he hissed, "Man, what're ya freaking doing?"

"Getting out of here." I replied, fatigued but certain. "It's my only chance."

Arching an incredulous brow, Wheeler inquired, "By yourself?"


"Right now?"


"With 'da way ya are now?"

Hoisting myself off the mattress, I snapped, "What part of 'I'm leaving this dump' don't you understand?"

"I dunno," he admitted, "how's about the part where you pass out 'cuz you can't stand up straight?"

I ground the tops of my teeth together heatedly. "That's not going to happen." I declared, my top and bottom jaws clenched so tightly that I thought I might chip a canine.

"How do ya know?" Jou countered, not hatefully, but not quite nicely, either. "You got some special string 'dat's gonna hold ya up whenever you're on the verge a fallin'?"

"Maybe." I growled. "Or maybe I'm fine. Maybe I'm not like everyone says I am, and I'm as good as the next guy, ready to stand up and take on whatever comes along. Don't be so quick to underestimate me. I don't need your sympathy, or empathy, or whatever the hell it is you want to call it. Just stand back. Stand back and watch me handle myself. I can do it, can make it in this world, can stand on my own two feet and just-"

Unintentionally, I started to lose my balance. My right foot tripped over my left, missed a step, didn't recover, and the limb twisted inward. Yelping in shock and pain, I continued on my downward spiral, inwardly afraid of what was to follow. The ground was coming up fast, but I had no way to prevent the bad from happening. Unthinkingly, I threw my arms in front of myself, ready to break my fall. There was no question about it, this was going to hurt, bruise the cheek I landed on, maybe even spill some of my weak, thinned blood that a mosquito wouldn't prey upon—

"Gotchya!" Joey exclaimed, fighting the urge to drop me. Dead weight always seemed heavier to lug around than anything else. Breathing a bit heavily himself, he asked, "You okay over there?"

Without responding, I stared up at the ceiling, not seeing the Styrofoam-like squares, but something different. Something altogether different. The white blocks reminded me of the textured parts of my mansion back home, bringing up pictures of everything from the sturdy columns out front to the gravel paths in the gorgeous gardens in back. It was beautiful there, all so beautiful, and there's nowhere else I'd rather be than in the middle of the wildflowers and homegrown exotic plants, pushing my brother on the swing tied to the banyan tree, singing songs that mother darling used to sing when we were tiny children in her arms. God, I miss her, Mokuba practically pines for her, and there's not a day that goes by that I don't wish that she could have raised us in that same house with the same love she lived to share. Joey might be making off with my body, but my head is somewhere else, in another time and place that Mokie could trust me unconditionally, Mother could cradle me with her dreamy, enchanting voice, and I could actually sleep at night, knowing that my body was a sacred temple of innocence that nobody would ever steal.