There was no crying this time. I strapped him in right quick, and, just like that, we were off. He was actually really happy it seemed. But it was a damaged, almost drunken sort of happiness.
“I have a best friend,” he said giddily. “And nobody believed me. I told them. I said my best friend is so pretty. And they just… ‘Shut up, Will.’” He started laughing. “But I didn’t. ’Cause she’s so pretty.”
I pulled into the truck lot. “I bet she is. What’s her name?”
He looked at me. “Laura. Duh.” He snickered at me.
I actually blushed a little bit. “Oh. I didn’t—”
“My last best friend was Casey,” he went on without missing a beat. “But she was my girlfriend. You know she didn’t come see me? I called her, but she just… ‘You messed up, Will.’ Well, she messed up too. Now I’m single and free!”
I didn’t know how to feel about that. We still didn’t know each other all that well, and I didn’t want him prematurely baring his soul to me, especially while his mental faculties were so impaired. He seemed more or less at ease, but I couldn’t exactly trust him in his current state. I decided to just get him inside.
Walking to my room tired him out again. He sat down straight away to catch his breath.
“All right, you settle in, and then we’ll go get dinner.”
He shook his head. “I’m not hungry. Can I go to sleep?”
“Will, you have to eat.”
“I’ll eat tomorrow.” He started pulling his shoes off.
I knew I needed to feed him; that was like rule number one of babysitting. But he’d already made himself at home, and I didn’t want to pester the poor guy after everything he’d been through at work.
“You’ll be okay by yourself for a little bit? I’ll be right back.”
He nodded. “Okay.”
It didn’t feel right leaving him alone, but I’d worked a full day and needed food. The cafeteria line wasn’t too long, but I worried the whole time I was there. Nothing in my room could really hurt him. I had nothing sharp or flammable, no choking hazards. My biggest concern was that he’d roll out of bed onto the hard concrete. The more I thought about it, the more likely it seemed.
I almost ran back home with my bag of food, but I forced myself to calm down. It had only been a couple of minutes.
Of course he was fine. I got back and saw he’d gotten under the covers. He wasn’t asleep yet though and looked up at me when I entered.
“Hey,” I said. “You want half of my sandwich?”
He sighed. “No, thank you.”
I smiled. He was still so sweet, even with his brain fried. That was the Will I’d known. Debilitated as he was, there was something very childlike in his behavior. It was almost like no time had passed since our elementary days. We’d never grown up and were just a couple of prepubescent fifth graders without a care in the world.
I sat beside him as I ate my food.
“I’m cold,” he said after a minute.
I swallowed a bite and wiped my mouth. “You have blankets.”
“I know. My clothes are cold.”
I felt his jumpsuit. “It’s damp. Is that from work?”
“Okay… Next time we’ll make sure you have a change of clothes. For now, stand up. We’ll let your clothes dry overnight.”
He shook his head against the pillow. “My head hurts.”
I sighed. And this was where the mentality of a child got annoying. “You won’t get up. Fine.” I threw my food scraps back in their bag and pulled the covers off him. I unzipped him. He did lift his arms and help kick the pants off, but I had to awkwardly roll him on his side to get it out from under him.
I hung the jumpsuit over the bathroom door.
“Will you take this too?” He pulled the T-shirt off over his head, wriggling quite a bit in the process.
I got a little stupid for a second. He may have had a child’s mind, but that body was a man’s.
I cleared my throat. “Sure thing. But let’s keep the rest on, okay?”
He grinned. “Whatever you say.”
God! Was he a kid or not? I mean, obviously not, but what mindset was he in? How was I supposed to treat him? He was totally oblivious but all too aware at the same time. And he, in all his damaged confusion, was making me nervous, seemingly on purpose.
I snatched the shirt from him and hung it up. I changed in the bathroom with the door slightly ajar due to his drying clothes.
Then came the awkward part. I wished I had a separate bed for him or at least a bigger one. But no, we had to be snuggled up together, him all shirtless and beautiful and not in any position for me to be focusing on such things.
If I’d had my way, he’d have faced the wall and I’d have faced out so we could ignore each other. But when I turned away from him, he took that as an invitation to go ahead and spoon me. And, hey, if he’d been mentally stable at the time, I maybe wouldn’t have objected. But it was wrong like this.
“Will, could you not do that, please?” I asked gently.
“But I’m cold,” he whined.
Darn me and my sexual assumptions! I turned to face him, his arms still around me. There was such innocence in his eyes. He was thin but muscular, and, if he hadn’t been so abused, I could tell how crazy gorgeous he’d have been.
I couldn’t think of anything to say, so finally he just pulled me against his chest and said goodnight. Naturally, I had some trouble getting to sleep. But he was out in a matter of moments, which took some of the edge off our situation.
I wasn’t as worried as I’d been the first night. He wasn’t upset, and I knew what would happen in the morning. But that gave me so much more time to worry about myself. What was I getting at inviting him into my home and my bed every other night? Was I expecting this to stay platonic, or did I expect a reward? Was I so selfish a person that I couldn’t help him simply out of the kindness of my heart? And if not, why did I feel the way I did? There wasn’t supposed to be attraction in charity. Nor was there supposed to be attraction in death, which I’d accepted as my present state.
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