CHAPTER 12 – When We Were Young

The night before Enzo is to be discharged, Hank strolls over to Enzo’s ward after Joey leaves.

Hank climbs onto Enzo’s bed and snuggles up to him when he sees Enzo already fallen asleep.

Enzo is woken up by Hank’s action, he tries to push Hank away but Hank holds on to him tight.

What are you doing? Let go of me.” Enzo says in hushed tone.

Hank ignores Enzo and pretends to snore softly.

Despite how hard Enzo tries to break away from Hank’s embrace, he fails, as Hank is too strong for him.

Enzo gives up after numerous tries, allowing Hank to hug him to sleep; not noticing the smile on Hank’s handsome face when that happens.

When the nurse comes into Enzo’s ward for ward checks and sees Hank hugging Enzo to sleep on his bed, she first feels warm and fuzzy before she recollects herself and insists Hank goes back to his own ward.

Enzo has to order Hank to leave when Hank refuses and pleads with the nurse but ultimately has to leave the ward with reluctance.

After visiting Hank, Joey makes his way to Zayden’s grandmother’s ward and takes a seat at the bench in front of the ward.

Joey dozes off while waiting and almost falls off the chair when the door slides open.

Oh you are here. Why didn’t you come in?” Zayden is surprised to see Joey.

I didn’t want to disturb you so I thought I will wait outside.” Joey replies and notices the appreciative look on Zayden’s face.

Are you hungry? Accompany me for supper? I will send you back thereafter.” asks Zayden gently. Joey nods.

Feeling uneasy with the silence during supper, Joey finally summons his courage to ask Zayden, “How are you holding up? Have the rest visited your grandmother yet?”

No, I told Enzo not to tell anyone so even Titus and Maximus are not aware.” Zayden speaks softly.

Not even Georgina? Wouldn’t you wish for her to accompany you?” Joey asks absent-mindedly.

Why would I wish for her to be here? She is not a doctor, how can she help?” Zayden asks.

I thought you would want your girlfriend to be with you?” says Joey.

Zayden looks at Joey questionably before saying, “Why am I not aware that she is my girlfriend?”

Joey looks embarrassed before muttering a weak “oh?” and looks at his soup in silence.

Zayden is amused at the sight, he teases, “So what else do you want to know? Tonight could be your only chance to ask.”

Zayden shares with Joey everything about him and his grandmother that night.

Hank makes his way over to Enzo’s ward early next morning, worried that he might not be in time for Enzo’s discharge.

Enzo is already up and packing his belongings when Hank enters the ward.

Hank tiptoes over to Enzo whose back is facing him, he then hugs him from behind and that startles Enzo; he tries to wrestle his way out of the embrace but Hank is too strong for him.

Similar to last night, Enzo gives up struggling and allows Hank to hug him.

Oh come on! You two do not need to be so lovey dovey.” Maximus exclaims when he steps in and see the two of them hugging.

Hank releases his hug from Enzo and turns back to look at Maximus, smiling but not saying anything.

Hank’s smile grows even bigger when he sees Joey, Zayden and Titus standing together with Maximus.

Enzo’s face is as red as a cherry when he sees the whole gang looking at them.

Titus laughs, “Hopefully we are not disturbing your sweet moments, all we want is to fetch Enzo home; that is if Hank allows.”

Enzo opens his mouth to speak but is interrupted by Hank, “Good that you guys are here to fetch Enzo, I can’t send him back as I am told to remain in hospital for another few days.”

Enzo lets out a loud sigh before saying, “I do not need you to answer for me.”

To everyone’s astonishment, Hank gives a quick peck at Enzo’s flawless smooth face, “I am relieved you will be in safe hands.”

The teasing and Enzo’s irritation continue for a while when Zayden’s Iphone 13 Pro Max rings.

After answering his call, Zayden’s worried face is extremely obvious and he says to the group, “I need to go to my grandmother now.” He then turns and runs out.

The group is left stunned but Joey quickly reacts, he says; “I will go with him, you guys should send Enzo home and Hank you, you go back to your ward.”

When Joey reaches Zayden’s grandmother’s ward, he sees Zayden waiting outside anxiously. He walks quietly to his side and places his hands on Zayden’s muscular shoulder.

Both of them wait in silence for almost two hours when the ward door slides open and the doctor and specialist step out looking apologetic. “I am sorry for your loss, Zayden.”

Zayden falls to his seat with a blank look, unable to react.

The rest of the day goes by in a rush, with Joey roping in his mother for advice on the aftermath of a deceased.

Zayden just hangs around Joey helplessly and signs the relevant papers when told to.

Titus and Maximus make their way back to the hospital as well, after sending Enzo back to Earl’s Hall.

They help Joey to make the necessary arrangements and start to contact Zayden’s friends for the grandmother’s funeral service.

By the time Zayden’s father makes his way to the hospital, it is already late at night and the funeral service arrangements have been made.

Not looking at his father, Zayden says to his friends, “Let’s go home. Early day tomorrow.”

When the four of them reach the car park level, Titus says, “Let’s go in my car. Zayden, leave yours here and I will send you back to collect your car tomorrow.”

I am fine, I will drive my car.” Zayden says emotionless.

Don’t be stubborn, you should not be driving in your current state.” Titus objects.

Zayden waves his hand weakly and walks towards to his BMW M8 Coupe parked at the far end corner.

I will go with you then.” Joey offers and gives a reassuring look at both Titus and Maximus.

After getting in the car, Zayden says to Joey; “I don’t want to be alone tonight. Is it ok for you to stay over?”

Of course.” Joey says gently and places his hand on Zayden for encouragement.

Joey is taken slightly aback when Zayden’s car enters the ultra posh condominium car park’s lift that leads straight to the penthouse.

Stepping in, Joey is mesmerized by the expensive taste of the gorgeous apartment with minimalistic look.

Zayden slumps onto the Ron Arad Stainless Steel Sofa and within seconds, he starts to weep softly.

The sight pains Joey as he fully understands Zayden has been controlling his sorrows the whole day and finally able to let it all out, similar to what he went through when his father passed away.

Joey sits down beside Zayden, keeping quiet. Zayden leans over and buries his tears soaked handsome face in Joey’s chest.

After a while, Zayden rests his head on Joey’s lap and pleads softly, “Please can I?”

Joey pats Zayden’s shoulder and caresses his hair, “Take all the time you want.”

Zayden falls asleep on Joey’s lap but Joey does not dare to go into a deep sleep, afraid that any move may wakes Zayden.

At the funeral service, Zayden’s gorgeous handsome face looks sunken and listless.

His father focuses his attention on his business associates while Titus, Maximus and Enzo help with Zayden’s classmates and friends with Joey staying by Zayden’s side the whole time.

Georgina shows up at the funeral in the late afternoon, walking up to Zayden, she hugs him tightly and starts to sob; “I am so sorry I am not there for you, I am here now.”

Zayden remains emotionless.

Georgina then turns to Joey, “I am here now and I should be staying here with Zayden. You should go take a rest.”

No, he stays.” comes Zayden’s soft but affirmative tone.

Georgina’s unbelievable look is too obvious and wants to say something when Zayden continues; “Thanks for coming.”

The guests start to leave as the day goes by, including Georgina when she hasn’t been able to have Zayden’s attention.

Zayden’s father too leaves, walking out of the memorial hall with the last of his business associates.

Titus, Maximus and Enzo walk over to Zayden and Joey after seeing off the last guest.

Placing his big hands on Zayden’s shoulder, Titus says, “Let me drive you home, Maximus and Joey can go with Enzo.”

Thanks guys for helping out today, you guys go ahead. I want to drive Joey back, he stayed with me last night.” Zayden looks at his buddies appreciatively.

Titus nods understandably, “We will leave him with you, Joey. You have been a great help to us.”

Inside the car, Zayden asks Joey gently; “Can you accompany me to one place before I send you back?” Joey nods.

Joey feels the area familiar through the journey and memories come back fast and furious when Zayden’s car drives into the district where Joey used to live in when he was way younger.

Why are we here?” Joey asks.

I used to live with a nanny before I moved back to live with my grandmother. With her passing, I have a sudden urge to come back here to take a look.” Zayden says softly.

Joey’s suspicions grow further when Zayden’s car pulls up in front of an old building.

This is where I lived with the nanny and her children, it was all laughs running around with her children, something I never get to experience after leaving this place. They of course are no longer living here but I haven’t been able to find her.” Zayden says.

Joey feels his throat getting dry and swallows his saliva before asking; “Your nanny, she has four children with three girls and the youngest is a boy. Is that correct?”

Zayden looks at Joey with a look of surprise in his eyes, “How do you know Madame Pauline has three girls and one boy?”

Joey could not believe what he has just heard – “Pauline” which is his mother’s name.

Joey shakes his head unbelievably and smiles, “My mother’s name is Pauline. I now recalled we used to have a boy who lived with us for a couple of years, much to the delight of my sisters.”

Joey sees Zayden breaks into a weak smile, the first time since he meets him in the hospital.

Zayden tries to clear his head, “Wait. You are saying my nanny is your mother? So we already know each other since young?”

We already lived here when I was still a toddler, we only moved out the following year after the boy my mum looked after; was taken home by his parents. We used to play hide and seek around the area, and there was once my sister fell and cracked her lips when we were racing each other.” Joey recalls.

Zayden’s weak smile grows bigger into a grin, “Yes yes, I remembered that too. Also your sisters love to dress you up and force us to role play as husband and wife while they were our children.”

Both Zayden and Joey laugh.

They remain inside the car and continue reminiscing those fun times, the atmosphere light and happy but turns an awkward silence when Zayden suddenly says; “Do you remember I used to tell you I will marry you when we grow up and your sisters will scream in ecstasy?”

Joey’s face turns red, “You remembered saying that?”

Yes I remembered very clearly, I said that so many times and was very sure whenever I said that.” Zayden says.

Joey takes a deep breath and says softly, barely audible; “I believed. I never forget those promises but when you left us, we did not hear back from you. I was devastated and the memories only faded away when I was in junior school.”

Zayden stares at Joey, loss of words for a while before recomposing himself; “You believed? You mean you believe we will get married?”

Yes. I was confused of my sexual orientation when I was in junior school but I knew then I was never interested in girls because I had to wait for that boy to come back to marry me.” Joey’s whisper is audible enough for Zayden.

Zayden swallows hard, at a loss of words. Both of them just look ahead for a long while before Zayden breaks the awkward silence, “I will drive you back now.”