"And you're saying the kid-"
I bite my tongue. "His name is Evan."
"-Evan didn't want you to call nine-one-one?"
My mom takes my hand. "It sounds like a textbook abuse case. He didn't want you to alert authorities even though he was badly hurt, which he wouldn't have done had it just been a street assault. And he's got old scars, injuries someone's given to him before. I've seen this a million times." She takes a deep breath. "The worst is, with this kind of cases, because the system is so messed up, I'm not sure if contacting the authorities would be very safe for him. I mean, I should know."
"Where is he, anyway?"
My mom gestures to our guest room. "James' examining him now. I thought it best to leave the medical stuff to him and the legal things to me.
It makes sense. Dad's a doctor and Mom's a police officer. I'm worried that Evan will be angry that I brought him home, but I'm secretly relieved. My parents agree with me.
I suppress the thought of Evan being a victim of abuse as much as possible, but once it enters my mind, there's no going back. I'm so glad I didn't just leave him there, or worse, take him home. Is home "there"?
My dad appears in the doorway and beckons me in. I get up wordlessly and enter to find him half-naked on the bed.
Shit, he's hot. I'm immediately ashamed when I notice the bruises speckling his chest, the blood.
My dad sighs. "Two broken ribs, maybe three. Some nasty cuts, but there are only about two deep ones. The worst thing is some second-degree burns on the right arm. They'll hurt like hell but won't leave lasting damage. Several shallow contusions and a concussion. A torn ligament in his arm and a broken finger. I did what I could for now, but it'll take weeks to heal at home. You're sure this kid didn't want you to the hospital?"
"Evan. Not 'the kid.' And no, he didn't. Said something about how it would make it all worse. Mom thinks it's an abuse case."
Dad nods. "I'm inclined to agree with her. Anyway, have you put any thought into what we'll do tomorrow? I've got him on some drugs now that'll knock him cold until the morning, but we can't just keep him here."
"I just sort of want to wait and see what he wants, what he thinks is safest for him in this situation. In the meantime, though, he can stay in the guest room."
"Of course. I recommend we leave Evan now. He's going to wake up with a hell of a lot of pain and probably a migraine. In the meantime," he turns to me. "you're excused from being grounded because you were doing something right. But next time, text us."
Dad pulls Evan's shirt back on and leaves him, shirt and boxers, on the bed. He looks calm. I hope Evan doesn't dream unless it's okay. I doubt after whatever he went through yesterday, however, that his dreams will be pleasant. So I murmur a goodnight, and maybe I imagined it, or perhaps I didn't, but I can almost hear him whisper a reply.
The moment I wake up, I throw on a sweater and hurry down to find my father sitting at Evan's beside, helping him drink some tea. Evan smiles weakly when he sees me. "Hey."
I sit down next to him. "Feeling better?"
He shrugs and winces. "Sort of. Killer headache though."
"You're not angry?"
"I was confused when I woke up. Your dad told me what happened. Thank you, anyway. I'm sorry I didn't trust your parents. They're quite nice people."
My dad smiles. "No problem at all. Finish the tea, and then maybe put some thought into what you want to do now? It's your decision, after all, but I hope you understand it's not entirely possible for us to keep you here without some authority involvement.
The smile disappears from Evan's face, and he buries his head in his hands. "I dunno. I think I should go home, but I'm not sure what would happen if I did. I mean, I sure as hell can't stay here. Nothing is going for me right now." He bites his lip, something I try in vain to ignore because it might be one of the cutest things I've ever seen. "What would contacting the authorities mean, exactly?"
My father sighs. "Well, there would be child protective services involved -"
"How did you know? That it was an abuse case, I mean." He doesn't like surprised, just resigned.
"So it is?"
I can see Evan trying not to slip back into "there." He takes steady, deep breaths and grounds himself by grabbing on to the pillow. "James."
My father's voice softens. "Who is he to you?"
Evan closes his eyes. He's trying so hard. "Biological dad. He doesn't deserve to be called a dad, but he's my biological father, yes."
Dad rubs his shoulders. "Is there anyone else at home?"
"Mom. But she can't really do anything, honestly. She's got something; I think it's schizophrenia. She doesn't have a job, and she spends her time in bed. I try to get her to eat and stuff, but I think I'm the only reason she's still alive. I would've run away a long time if it hadn't been for her needing someone there to help her out. He does stuff to her too. Except, sometimes, it's worse for her."
I hope that doesn't mean what I think it means. I take Evan's hand (like strictly platonic bros do, of course) and turn to my dad, eyes pleading for him to leave. He nods and exits. We're silent for a bit.
I decide to break the silence. "So about what you said yesterday, about how you said those words to me because you didn't like that I was so open - are you, you know? Because I am, if that's an issue."
"It's not. And I think I am gay and I fucking wish I wasn't, 'cause everything would be so damn easy if I weren't."
"Does he know?"
"Fucking hell, no. God, no. No chance of him finding out until I'm in college or somewhere far away from here. It'd just make everything so much worse. You know, I've got a whole plan for when I'm done with high school. It's my senior year, and I'm applying to as many colleges as I can - outside of this shithole that is Indiana, of course. I've got good grades, and some college's bound to accept me. What about you?"
"I'm not sure," I say. "I mean, I know I want to go to college, but I'm not sure if I want to leave. I mean, my family's here, my sister and her girlfriend -who's basically my aunt by now anyway - ... I don't know if I could go too far. But I do know that once I'm out of college, I want to live in LA."
Evan nods. "So what now?"
"I don't know. It's really your choice. My dad, um, washed your clothes, so you could home if you wanted to. We can drive you there or you can walk if you prefer."
"I should walk."
I step away from the bed, realizing uncomfortably that I'm still holding his hand and drop it quickly. "Um, sorry."
"No, it's, uh, it's not an issue."
"Okay. Well. Bye, I guess. See you later?"
I mean it as a question.
"See you later."
He means it as an answer.