A Second Chance
Blaine stopped in the hallway and caught the eye of the counselor across the way. The sound of singing filled the corridor, an acoustic version of an old Lady Gaga classic. The door to room 21 was ajar and in the light of a bedside lamp Blaine could see the figure of a boy strumming on his guitar intently.
"He's got quite the voice," whispered Steve sidling up to Blaine. There was a reverence to the hushed tones he used as neither man wished to disturb the kid and draw attention to his impromptu audience. The boy had not been at Trevor's House for long and was having a rough time settling in. Blaine hoped that his singing showed that he was beginning to let his guard down.
The two men listened in silence for a moment longer until the spell was shattered by the influx of ten teenagers returning from the cinema trip. They invaded the hall, chattering loudly, quoting the best lines of the movie back and forth to each other at the tops of their voices. They jostled Blaine and Steve in a joking manner and shouted a variety of gentle, bantering insults in their direction. The guitar playing stopped instantly and the door to room 21 slammed shut.
"Not quite the breakthrough then," Steve stated to Blaine, as he moved automatically to head off the growing chaos of the teenage boys returning and to encourage them to start settling down before bed. Blaine breathed a sigh of disappointment and headed off the floor. His shift was over and he knew his friends would be waiting by the front door, anxious to head out for Friday night drinks.
That weekend he mulled over the enigma that was Jack, the new occupant of room 21. As one of the Social Work team at the Trevor House in Columbus OH` , it was his job to provide therapeutic support to each of the boys on his floor. This meant helping the boys settle in, setting them up in appropriate educational provision, engaging them in direct work such as setting goals for their stay at Trevor House, and hopefully over time providing a space for the boys to begin to work through some of the trauma of their previous lives.
Blaine was damn good at his job too. Usually the boys would settle with him and open up quickly but Jack had so far refused any and all sessions that he had offered. The counselors reported that he rarely left his room and avoided all the other boys on the floor. He had also refused all offers of educational input, which was frustrating as his transcripts from his freshman year at high school showed a smart kid with an aptitude to learn. His sophomore grades had fallen off but given the written accounts of Jack's last few months from the teachers that knew him, this was not at all surprising.
There was a handwritten note in the file that looked as though it had been surreptitiously slipped in by one of Jack's teacher that outlined a number of episodes of homophobic bullying that had taken place at the school. What followed was a heart wrenching statement from the teacher about how a number of staff had tried to intervene but their efforts to protect Jack only appeared to exacerbate the problem. The final paragraph talked about the deep distress and worry that the staff had felt when Jack disappeared and the relief when, three months later, the Trevor House called them for information.
It was clear to Blaine that Jack was a kid who had been highly regarded at least by some of the adults in his life. This was good to know as the boy who had walked in to Trevor House had been almost off putting in his refusal to engage. Staff had reported moments when he had become very angry, verbally abusive and had even raised a fist to punch a counselor when he felt that the counselor was becoming too pushy and intrusive. As a result Jack was still on the highest level of restrictions as no staff member felt that they could accurately assess his ability to keep himself and others around him safe.
By Sunday Blaine was frustrated with the amount of his own emotional energy that he was spending thinking about this kid. Blaine had worked with troubled teens pretty much as soon as he stopped being one. He had volunteered in youth clubs while at college and his first job had been working as a teaching assistant in an inner city high school in Chicago. He had decided to go in to Social Work rather than teaching as he felt that he wanted more freedom to engage with teenagers on their level rather than being restricted by any curriculum or other structure imposed on him. He was now almost thirty and had learnt very early on that the only way to stay sane and not burn out was to not bring the job home and to have a full social life on his own time.
But Jack was wheedling his way in to Blaine's thoughts throughout the weekend. While meeting with friends on Friday night he had discussed the boy. On Saturday he had picked up a well-thumbed book about reaching isolated teens. During a gig on Saturday night he found himself comparing Jack's voice to the lead singer of the band he was watching. Finally he had a dream that he had not had for years, about a certain college student with an equally mesmerizing voice who had taken Blaine's heart when they were still in high school and trampled all over it.
Of course that was the problem, wasn't it? By Sunday afternoon, while trying to pound out his stress on a long run by the Olentangy River, Blaine had to accept that the reason Jack was bothering him so much was that his voice, coloring and certain mannerisms reminded him strongly of Blaine's first boyfriend Kurt. As a result, the distress that he was seeing radiating off of Jack felt far too much like it had come from Kurt instead.
Of course, logically Blaine knew that this was twelve years later and he certainly had no romantic feelings for Jack, but when he thought about the boy in room 21 he also saw the kid sitting across the table from him at Dalton, crying over a cup of coffee and explaining that he felt so alone and lost. Blaine stopped running, breathing hard at the view from the river of the Horseshoe stadium. He kicked the gravel under his feet in frustration. Kurt was long gone from his life and now living in the stratosphere of Hollywood, a world away from the boy that Blaine had driven to Lima to protect from a bully twice his size.
Jack was here though, and doing a good job at making Blaine feel insignificant by rebuffing his offers to help. Blaine was drawing a blank on how he would change things when he arrived back to work on Monday. He wondered if Kurt ever felt uninspired and helpless, but decided that his minions in LA kept him too busy. He doubted that Kurt ever felt lonely and out of his depth as he had legions of fans to surround him with adulation. Finally he wondered bitterly if Kurt ever thought about him. Angrily he turned around and began the run home. How pathetic that almost ten years and three irrelevant relationships later, Blaine was still so fixated on his high school sweetheart that he could not even distance himself professionally from a poor, lost sixteen year old boy.