The badly withdrawn boy

Blonde Close-up Eyes Mesmerizing Blue Beautiful

I was no weakling though, being almost the tallest in my class. I dislodged his fingers and raised my voice, “No. You’re sick and injured. You can’t get out in this weather now.” He curled up in pain again.

“Fuck you.” He spat without venom but his stare was piercing. Even his bad eye was capable of that. I didn’t know where my strength came from but I went through the drugs and medical kit my mum left again and handed him two more sleeping pills and ordered him to take them. He faced the back of the sofa again and muttered a quiet “fuck” and nothing else.

Later, I started dinner. I wanted to have it ready when mum got back. I wasn’t sure whether the boy would eat and assumed he wouldn’t. Anyway, I just put some chips and a large pizza in the oven. That should be enough. If not, I’d have more toasts and snacks later. My mind drifted back to the sleeping form. The guy was as tall as me but so skinny that he was practically malnourished. I had butterflies in my tummy when I remembered his beige hair and eyelashes, that lazy gaze when he looked at me in the sun. Damn. What was wrong with me? He was ill, and mum was right. There was obviously something really dodgy about him, so how come I couldn’t stop myself focusing on him?

As I waited for dinner and my mum, I sat and watched a stupid game show on the telly. The boy was awake but he didn’t move and didn’t say anything. When I offered him more tea, he shook his head. I could see sweat pour down his forehead, so I tried to pull the blanket away but he grabbed it back and glared at me. He really was very grumpy. That was when mum got back. She’s still in the blue hospital uniform as she shook off her jacket. Cold wind sailed through the front door with her.

“Oh, Jay. Turn the radiator on or something, the flat’s freezing.” She kissed me and ordered, whispering. “How’s he been?”

“Ah, well.” I shifted and looked at him but he closed his eyes again, pretending to sleep; he was awake just before mum got back. “He was hot and cold, so I didn’t know what to do.” That was the truth. I was concerned. Besides, being a growing lad, I had so much energy that I didn’t feel the chill myself.

She shook her head, “That’s got nothing to do with the room temperature. It’s drug withdrawal, the poor boy.” Again, my mum talked as if he was not there but I knew he would have heard her. She went in the kitchen to turn the boiler on. I was so naïve then. That’s right. Withdrawal from heroin. I wondered how long he would be in that condition.

Mum dished three plates up and I took mine to the table and tucked into it straightaway. She carried the smaller portion over to him who had turned his back to us again.

“Hey. Are you going to try eat something?” She asked gently, “We never asked your name. I’m Maggie by the way and my son’s Jay. How old are you, dear?”

When he ignored her, she put the food down and tried to help him sit up but he pushed her away. Hmm, I wasn’t sure how my mum would react to that. She’s a tough girl, my Ma. She said more firmly, “It’s good you’re better today. Try sit up and have some dinner.” It’s probably her nurse mode, some kind of firm but caring routine that she used on her patients.

The boy stared at her for a second. He then tried to get off the sofa too quickly and ended up kneeling on the floor and he was sick. My mum was in shock. I ran to the kitchen and brought out our dish bowl but he didn’t have much to be sick, perhaps just bile and the one slice of toast he ate earlier. And even after that he was doubled up in pain. Ma and I cleaned up the floor the best we could.

My mum was a saint for her patience. I guess she had to be. At the end, the boy looked up and asked for more painkillers and mum gave him some. When he eventually calmed down, my mum sat by him on the couch and asked one more time, “Is there someone I can call for you?”

He scowled and repeated, “No one. Let me go. I’m sorry to bother you.” He did seem genuinely grateful.

“Oh no, you’re in no state to go back out there. But you don’t look eighteen. There has to be someone who can help.” She insisted.

He stared at her but refused to answer. I was worried that my mum would drive him away. Perhaps I was just selfish and didn’t want him to leave yet. But why? I didn’t know my own reason then. My mum sighed once more. That was her default response when it came to the boy on our sofa.

It was much the same on the Sunday. I was secretly glad that mum was working all day again, so I could care for the boy. He was definitely improving. He hadn’t been sick again and the bruises were getting yellowy rather than black and blue, which was a good sign. He drank tea and ate toasts but still refused anything else. In the afternoon, he sat up and asked if he could have a wash. I was such a moron for not thinking that he had not had a shower for three days.

“I think a bath would be better, if it’s okay.” He asked politely, so I ran the bath for him. I let him lean on me while I wound my arm around his waist and helped him to the bathroom, supplied him with a fresh change of clothes, toothbrush and toothpaste. He started to take his clothes off. Oh, I didn’t know whether I should just leave him but he did not seem self-conscious and my feet were glued to the floor. I tried to tell myself that he would need further help getting into the tub and all that. My eyes were drawn to the ugly marks all over him again and his physique. He’s scrawny for sure but his body was also graceful in its own way, with lithe muscles and pale skin that I had the urge to touch. Oh crap.


Let me go

Mum held out two pills. “I don’t know how to deal with withdrawal. Take these sleeping pills. They might just help.” He took them and after more turning and twisting he went back to sleep. Mum glared at me. I didn’t know what for exactly, for spotting the guy out front, for refusing to turn him over to the police? I had no clue. I only knew I wanted him there, I needed to nurse him back to health.

He was restless all night, and since it was the weekend I was free for two days. I should have gone to football practice on Saturday morning but somehow even in my immature mind I feared he’d disappear, so I stayed at home, justified by having to make sure he was all right. My mum went to work for a long shift till seven at night.

He woke numerous times during the morning always shivering, sweating and not eating or speaking. Mum left painkillers and sleeping pills. While not telling me to fuck off any more, he refused to speak, just gazed at me with his good eye. I checked on the Internet about heroin withdrawal but apparently he should have gone to a detox rehab. I had a feeling that he would never agree to that.

In the afternoon, I made a cup noodle and sat and watched some vids on my laptop. I became aware that he was awake and watching me. I started a monologue. I didn’t mind. Perhaps he felt awkward to be here, so he could listen to me like a radio for comfort. He was undoubtedly feeling awfully ill with the beating and the withdrawal. I tried to smile. Do people smile at homeless junkies? Probably not often. It wasn’t surprising that he didn’t smile back.

“Want some?” I held out my cup noodle. He shook his head and tried to sit up with some difficulty. I rushed over to help but that only met with his strong arms pushing me away and another glare. He sat up eventually by himself. Okay, he’s as stubborn as me and my Ma.

“You got a smoke?” He asked, his voice low, less croaky than yesterday and I noticed it had a honeyed quality to it. By his accent, I’d say he’s definitely a Londoner.

I forked up most of the noodles in one go and said with a mouthful of food, “Hmm, have some dope. We have to do it out back though. If mum smells cigarette, she’ll kill me.”

He continued to look at me. I was so mesmerised by those blue eyes, I felt the urge to touch his face and more, but I shook my head, finished my lunch and went to get the gear instead. I came back and helped him stand up. The tension in his body told me he was pissed at having to be supported just to walk to the back door but he had little choice. In fact, I was sure mum would be angry with me for moving him. I helped him ease onto the step by the kitchen door and he sat down with a wince. Oh, yes. I remembered now his ass had to hurt and he didn’t have a jacket. I dashed back to grab a blanket and wrapped him in it, and a cushion for him to sit on. He resisted looking at me at all as I helped him to get comfortable.

I rolled the joint in silence and shared it with him, observing how he held it like an old dope head, pinching the end with his thumb and first digit and inhaling deeply. I started saying shit like telling him my name and I was doing my GCSEs; I liked football and basketball. In fact I was into all different kinds of sport. He listened quietly but was also distracted, his attention on someplace else, in another dimension.

“You’re what then, fifteen?” He asked, the voice, just like the first time, sounding a little older than his age, but the quiet quality of it drew me in.

“Two months short of sixteen.” I said too quickly, appearing to boast and regretting it straightaway. He didn’t tell me how old he was in return, like most people would. He didn’t volunteer any information at all. The sun was out for a change and we sat there smoking with me conversing pretty much one-sided. The boy wasn’t dismissive even though he didn’t say anything. He was just distracted and still in pain, and as I should know later he didn’t talk about himself and his past, certainly not to strangers. I watched in awe the sun on his dirty blond hair. Even with the masses of black and blue, I could tell he was gorgeous. He was the best looking boy I had come across and somehow I felt comfortable with him sharing the silence, joints passing between us. I told him about people at school, my football team and playing computer games. He was patient and his facial expression never changed, and I was in no doubt that he was listening.

After about an hour, he started to shiver again and he clutched his stomach, “Help me back. I need to lie down.” That was all he said. I gave him some more painkillers and let him sleep but he did so badly, twisting and turning. When he woke I forced him to have a cup of tea. He hadn’t eaten for at least a day if not longer. No wonder he felt ill on top of everything else. He didn’t have much of an appetite but he ate a slice of dried toast at my insistence.

Mum told me to lock the doors. I gathered she knew the boy would want to escape if he was up to it. She was right too. I managed to do a bit of my homework project in the afternoon and watched some football on television before he stirred again. He sweated and tremors went through him. When I offered him more Codeine and water, he gripped my wrist, “Get me dressed and let me go.”

smoking man

Getting to nurse you

Finally mum told me to get a glass of water and prop him back up, so I did, and she gave him a couple of pills. She patted his head gently and spoke to him in the maternal way that she used on me too, “These are strong painkillers. They’ll help you rest. But when you start to withdraw, I can’t really help you here.” She sounded full of regrets.

The boy’s better eye half opened and he regarded my mum for a second before turning his head to the back of the couch. I guess he didn’t want to respond to her or was simply exhausted. I put a cushion under his head, and hoped that would help him sleep. Mum took her gloves off carefully and wrapped them and the bloodied gauze carefully in a plastic bag. Mum told me to get him a duvet, so I did. The flat was surprisingly quiet. I could hear his breathing though, so low and even for now. I wanted to hold him like I did some minutes ago, to have him sleep in my lap. It was absurd but I felt I needed to be there to give him that comfort. I didn’t even know anything about him then.

Our dinner had long gone cold and neither of us had the appetite anymore. I helped mum take the dishes into our tiny kitchen. She washed up and I dried. As we did, she turned to me, “Jay. I don’t think it’s a good idea for him to stay here longer than necessary. He’s a complete stranger and a drug addict, obviously mixed up with some nasty people.” She looked really worried, her frown deepened.

I knew she had already done her best and to be honest other women would probably turn the boy away or at most call for an ambulance and police. Mum’s pretty courageous like that.

I smiled because I knew she couldn’t resist me when I did. “Let’s wait till he’s well enough. We can ask him what happened and…”

She cut me off, “It’s not our business. We shouldn’t get mixed up in it. I’m sure the boy needs help but it’s not something we can do.”

“Mum.” I flashed my big puppy eyes as she often called them. So she sighed again.

“Well. He’s not going anywhere the state he’s in. We’ll let him rest up, for now.”

After mum went to bed, I crept back into the sitting room and watched the stranger sleep. His face was almost calm and even through the bruises, I wanted to touch his cheeks. I didn’t, wouldn’t want to wake or hurt him, so after a while I went back to my room.

A few hours later, I woke to the very faint noises in the front room, the shifting of the duvet, the squeaking of the sofa. I gingerly got up and put a pair of sweats on, and went back to him. In the darkness, once my eyes got used to it, I could see that the boy was sweating, his body contorted. I imagined it was just the effect of the beating and the painkillers wearing off. I knelt over him and asked, “Hey, you need something?”

But he only pushed me away. I persisted, “I’ll get you some Paracetamol.” That I did and let him have three. He gripped his stomach and was doubled up in pain.

“Man, do you want food, may be some toasts?” I remembered now he didn’t exactly have dinner. He faced me for a second and I realised how blue his eyes were. Well, from the good eye that he could open a little, I saw the sea blue and fire, burning up, that hit me in the guts.

“Fuck off.” He said with little energy. I didn’t know what else to do, so I went back to my bedroom but I couldn’t sleep, lying awake and listening to his struggles. He fell briefly back to unconsciousness, as did I. When I heard more movements later, I got up again.

He had gotten out of the sofa and was crawling on the floor, searching for something.

“Hey, man. You shouldn’t be up.” I tried to help him sit.

“Give me my fucking clothes.” He yelled, tried to push me away but that caused him to curl up in pain. My mum came out in her pyjamas, startled by the sight of the boy. I managed to prop him against the sofa. He looked really pale and ill, still sweating even though the night was cold.

My mum pushed him back up a bit, “You’re withdrawing. You need to get to a hospital or a drugs clinic.”

“No, no.” He grabbed my mum’s wrist. She didn’t resist but was clearly alarmed. He dropped it. “Sorry, lady. I need to go. Score.” His voice remained croaky and his chest heaved, his eye pleading desperately.

“Kid, you either stay here to get better or go back out there to find drugs. Your choice.” She said flatly. “You’ll die in that cold.” I noticed how he smelled bad and everything but my earlier thought of protecting him or helping him hadn’t changed. I would lend him my good jacket if it meant he didn’t catch cold, but that seemed to be the least of his worries.

I wondered which he would choose. I knew for sure which I preferred but I guess he felt so bad, he wasn’t quite himself. I didn’t know then what heroin was really about and how it affected people. Like I said, I didn’t think deeply about any of it before that night. He tried to stand up but ended up crawling on the floor and onto the couch to try support himself. “Give me my clothes.”

I looked at my mum and she gazed back. But his legs gave out and he was in a heap again on the floor. I pushed him up and onto the sofa, his resistance was wearing out. “Fuck’s sake, man. You can’t even stand up.”

He shook like a leaf again and eventually spat, “Help me.” His voice sounded like someone crying though no tear came out.


I considered her, “How do you know?” Heroin, as in the hard drug. I smoked pot with friends. I thought mum knew but I was scared of anything harder like heroin and crack. There’s enough of it going around the estate and we knew families that were drug addicts and my friends and I stayed away from them, our parents’ warning deeply ingrained in the better kids on the estate. Like I said, I wasn’t a straight A student by any means but I wasn’t so bad. My mum made sure of it.

She sighed, “The track marks.” It dawned on me then, the signs on his arms. Hard drugs scared me. I assumed drug addicts were all old and shady men though, not someone with a frail beauty and this young. “Besides, he needs urgent medical care. I.” She hesitated, “I don’t know what happened to him. What those men have done but I can’t take the responsibility.”

I read her face and I knew she was hiding something to protect me. She would have guessed what happened to the boy but didn’t want to say it out loud.

“I am going to call the hospital.” She turned to find her mobile phone.

I believed the boy had passed out but now he mumbled. I wondered if he had heard the whole conversation all along, “No. Police.” His voice was low and croaky. He flopped back after that like he was exhausted to get the two words out. He then struggled to move off the sofa, “M goin.” He couldn’t even talk properly with his mouth and face so swollen and as he tried to get up he fell onto the floor in a heap.

“Fuck!” Here I went again. I tried to manoeuvre him back onto the couch but he continued to struggle and thrash about, trying to get up. I pleaded with my mum, “Please, you’re a nurse. You can help him. He’s hurting himself to try and get away.”

Mum was paralysed for a minute watching the boy fight against me. Then she knelt down and placed her hand on his arm, “Okay. I’ll see what I can do. I’m not promising anything.” On hearing this he all but collapsed into my embrace. I could feel how thin his arms and wrists were; I liked being the one who he held onto, like he trusted me already and he was dependent on my help. I thought for a second that his frail arms would snap if I put any force on them. When he settled back on the couch, he seemed to lapse back into oblivion.

Mum told me to get the first aid kit. She put on a pair of surgical gloves and started with his face, using gauze and saline solution to clean off the blood. I could see then his eyes were swollen shut, his left cheek was puffy and black and he had a terrible split lip. All I could tell was that he was gaunt and pale, his skin almost translucent in the few places that weren’t covered in bruises. The night hum seemed louder than ever as my mum concentrated over him and he laboured his breaths.

She then asked for ice and used it to set his deformed finger in a splint, telling him at one point that it would hurt but he didn’t move and didn’t flinch. I hoped he was just so out of it that he couldn’t feel the pain too much. Or he was simply a very brave and stubborn victim. Mum carefully lifted his T-shirt that was threadbare and ripped in places. There were more ugly bruises all over his torso. The men clearly kicked the shit out of him as he lay defenceless, which made my blood boil. Mum pressed on his chest, “Can you breathe in, please? Does this hurt a lot?” He only managed some hardly audible noises.

Mum muttered to herself, “God help us. I hope you haven’t got any broken ribs.” That sounded painful. She hesitated and turned to me, “Go and get him a pair of your boxers, Jay, and a clean shirt.”

I knew where she was about to treat and she sent me away to spare me the nasties. I was not embarrassed though. I had seen boys naked lots of times when I played sports and we changed together in the locker rooms. But I didn’t argue. My mum had a stubborn streak as bad as me. In my room, I randomly picked out the underwear and top as I reckoned they would be loose on the skinny boy anyway. When I returned from my bedroom with the clean clothes, my mum was speaking to him in a hushed voice that sounded almost calm and soothing. “You need to report this to the police. What they did was a serious crime.” I assumed she meant the beating because I was pretty naïve then.

He pleaded again, like he did earlier but he was quieter now, resigned. “No police, please.”

Mum shook her head. “If I clean you up, I’ll destroy the evidence, you understand that?”

He sagged back on the couch, submitting to being at my mum’s mercy. “Please.”

Mum asked me to help turn him round so he was face down on the sofa. She tried again. “If it’s not the police, do you have relatives, mum and dad, a social worker?”

He shook his head. Ma didn’t look happy but she cleaned his asshole. I might have blushed. Okay, I did know why because I had fantasised about assholes and searched for gay porn online. Mum didn’t know that, so I hoped she didn’t see the colour surging on my face. He was not in a good way down there and it was still oozing. Mum pressed gauzes on it to soak up the blood.

She half turned to me and told me off, “Don’t stare.” Was I staring? Was it bad to want to see what wounds the boy had? It had to hurt quite a bit as my mum cleaned him up but he didn’t moan or move. Since he was now facing down, I could only see his right cheek and eye, which was wired shut.

When mum finished, she said gently to the boy, “I hope you have yourself tested when you get healed up.” He didn’t respond. I was confused about what sort of test she meant but the way she told him, she had assumed that he knew. I made a mental note of checking that out.





That night


Leyton, London.

It happened when Ma and I were having dinner in the front room. Well, if you grew up in a poor, single parent family in fucking East London, you were lucky to have a sitting room separate from your bedroom. Mum always said that the flat cost her half her salary, and “don’t you complain”. I didn’t. I had a box room, a single bed and I could never fault my mum for feeding me. After all, I was not even sixteen and nearly six feet tall and I ate like an elephant all the time, which was down to my father’s genes apparently. My mum should hate the way I reminded her of my dad because he walked out on her when I was only five.

Anyway, this night we were in the sitting room with our dinner hot on the table. It was only October but the sky had darkened early in the late afternoon. A loud squeak cut through the thick blackness outside. We could hear a car stop; a tyre skidded across the road right in front of our place. Two or three men got out and loudly threw something heavy in our front lawn. They shouted to each other incomprehensibly and got back in the car, the doors slamming with brassy bangs.  I called it our lawn but it was a patch of grass that’s basically part of the pavement. That’s why we had all kinds of crap being dumped there all the time. The car sped off, tyre screeching with the friction. Mum and I looked at one another. If you lived in our bit of London, you kept your nose out of other people’s business.

“What the fuck!” I exclaimed and stood up to look out, expecting to see fly tipping in our front garden again. The bastards.

“Language!” Ma never failed to remind me.

Now that the men had gone, I wasn’t afraid to go and investigate. So I lifted the curtains and peered out onto the dark front, my breath misting the window up instantly. I assumed that they had left a bag of rubbish, a piece of old furniture or something like that but it was not. I screwed up my eyes to see in the dark, to make out the shape of the thing that they tipped. I could see a person’s arms and thighs that were oddly white, almost shimmering, in the night.

“Shit, mum. There’s someone out there. They dumped a body.” My heart pounded. Perhaps I grew up watching too much TV drama about crimes and detectives because my mum loved them. I did not imagine it. It was a person – a man – and alarm bells rang loudly in my head. It’s entirely possible that it’s a dead man, around our part of London.

“A corpse?” Mum was a nurse which was a good thing because she sounded curious rather than scared or panicky.

I ran out first. The man, well, a boy about the same age as me, lay there, legs drawn up. My heart thumped when I saw that his trousers were down just below his knees, his bare ass was bloody and his balls were black, like someone literally had kicked his nuts. The rest of him was the same, black and blue everywhere; his face was covered in blood. In the pale yellowy lamplight he looked dead. The boy had only a short sleeve T-shirt in the wintry frost. He had to be freezing. I could make out that he’s pale and his hair colour was light, probably blond. My eyes were drawn back to his ass and the limp penis. I couldn’t help it. I wasn’t frightened or disgusted but fascinated by the boy as if the scene put a spell on me.

My mum had come out by then and stooped next to me, watching with weariness. I could practically sense her concern vibrating in the air as she came closer to inspect the boy. She touched the side of his neck for pulse and declared simply, “He’s alive, just.” Thank fuck for the nursing profession, I silently declared, and thanks for my mother’s presence. My mum and I were solid. It’d been the two of us forever so I didn’t have a choice but to be part of the team.

She drew his trousers back up as gently and carefully as she could. Okay, yes. Give him some dignity.

“Come on, we’d better bring him in before calling an ambulance. Don’t want him to freeze to death out here.” Ma asked me and together we lifted him up. I didn’t expect him to be so heavy. As his body uncoiled, I realised he was probably as tall as me, though his arms and legs were very skinny, and his skin was freezing like we were carrying a bag of ice. With much difficulty we carried him through to our warm room.

Ma told me to put him down on the couch. I got a better look at him now, his hair was a bit long, messy and dirty but it was beige blond, and his eyelashes were so long, they formed half-moons over his eyes. Well, his eyes were both black and swollen but I could still make out the blond lashes. His thin arms had these marks on them that were just as bruised as the rest of him. I felt angry even though I didn’t know who he was. Who were the men who did this? How could they beat him so badly? What could he have done to deserve this? I didn’t even know why but I was sure he was a nice guy and he was only my age, so how come these people were so cruel to him?

I turned to see that mum was examining him too but for a different purpose, her eyes running past every exposed wound. She lifted his left hand. One of the fingers looked bent.

“Jay, we’ll have to call an ambulance and the police.” She shook her head.

“Really? We don’t even know who he is and what happened.” I reasoned. I had my fair share of troubles at school but never experienced something this bad. I just gathered that if I were him or if he was a friend, I wouldn’t like the police involved without knowing what went on. Even though mum’s white, I grew up with the black kids in the area and my schoolmates were almost all black, so I didn’t have a particularly strong trust in the police. Deep down, despite the fact that I just met the boy, I knew he’s in trouble and I wanted to protect him. If he turned out to be a mass murderer, which I doubted, we could always do something about it then.

An ambulance, perhaps.

“He’s a heroin addict. We can’t keep him here.” Her brows were drawn down, all the worries clearly written on her face.

YA gay romance: The boy who fell to earth

This is the post excerpt.

Jay Palmer is two months away from his sixteenth birthday. He doesn’t realise how his life will be changed forever when a gang of thugs leaves a badly injured boy on his doorstep. The biracial boy and his white single mum Maggie nurse the stranger. He is sixteen-year-old Aleksander Zukowski or Sasha who has run away from care two and half years ago. Sasha sleeps rough, is addicted to drugs and sells himself on the streets of London to fund his habit. For the first time in his life, he has a reason to change.

Sasha confirms what Jay knows about himself but it doesn’t make it easy for him to come out to his macho mates in a largely black neighbourhood. Sasha already has an uphill struggle to stay clean when his past threatens to throw him back into the abyss. Are the two boys strong enough to stay together against all odds?



the boy_1.jpg

The first chapters will be serialised here as weekly posts. Please like or drop me a line if you have any comment or want to know more. A.