Joel Goran (Saving Hope) & Darren (Wasted on the Young)
Set after Xandrie’s suicide (Wasted on the Young)
The first time Joel Goran saw that kid, it was at his hospital. Joel had just finished a real nasty case and was on his way for some refreshment when he spotted a boy sitting alone on one of the scattered benches along the hallway. His uniform all crumpled, his face bruised and his right hand basically smashed, he was waiting to be admitted in with his head hung low and his eyes staring blankly into the wall in front.
Maybe it was the boy’s lonesome state, maybe it was the subtle yet blatant hints of a huge mess he had gotten himself into, or maybe Joel Goran was generally a nice guy, Joel found himself buying an extra juice box and approached the boy.
Up close, the boy’s eyes were really large, giving him a child-like look. The irises were a striking blue, made all the more prominent by the red rims around his eyes.
Strangely enough, there were no visible tear stains on his face.
“Hey,” he called out.
Joel’s voice pulled the kid out of his trance and he lifted his head to eye the stranger speaking to him.
“I’m Joel Goran. Orthopedic doctor here,” Joel greeted, holding out the juice box.
The boy appeared somewhat hesitant to receive Joel’s treat. Stranger-danger or simply unaccustomed to kindness?
“Thank you,” he muttered, hoarsely. “I’m Darren.”
Since he had some difficulty attaching the straw to the box with only one hand, Joel offered to aid him. More hesitance. Joel just shrugged.
Darren finished it in a long gulp.
“You alone, Darren?”
“My friend’s filling up the forms,” replied Darren, his voice no longer raw but still quivering. So were his shoulders. He clenched the fist of his good hand so hard that the juice box was reduced to half its original size and his knuckles all went snow-white.
How small and helpless he looked.
“Hey, easy, easy! Are you all right?”
Something in this high schooler spelt a profound sadness that was injected into Joel’s veins like a drug so strong that it gathered heat at the corner of his eyes. “Are you in pain?” he asked out of concern, putting his hand on Darren in an act of reassurance.
And somehow that small act flipped a switch inside Darren, for he burst into tears the next moment. His good hand clung to the front of Joel’s surgical gown as he pressed his face into the doctor’s firm shoulders.
It was awkward, Joel knew, as he had never encountered such a situation before, nor had he been well trained to deal with it. Couldn’t say it did not catch him off guard.
Perhaps it was just a hunch, but Joel could clearly tell Darren wasn’t crying out of pains. Well, not the physical ones – wounds big and small littered on his face which could be treated with prescribed medicine – anyway.
The doctor Joel might not know what to do in this circumstance but the human Joel did. So he acted on his humane instinct, wrapping his arm around Darren’s small form.
“There, there,” he cooed, giving Darren gentle pats on the back. Worked every time with his child patients. “It’s alright. Just let it out and you’ll be fine.”
He dared not ask the kid what had happened, fearing he would carelessly probe into a purulent wound and worsen it.
Darren’s cry softened, turning into sobs, and sobs eventually ceased. When he looked up to Joel, his face was the very definition of ‘mess.’
Joel left and came back with some wet tissues for Darren to clean up.
He wished to stay with him a little longer, but by the time Darren had finished wiping his tears and snots, Madeleine’s red head poked from behind the door and called Darren in.
“Take care of him,” Joel mouthed to Madeleine before leaving himself. Summoned by the siren reverberating around the hall.
Work heaped upon work and Joel mostly forgot about the kid named Darren. By the time he did, it was already 3 in the morning. Darren must have gone home long ago.
Joel wondered what the boy’s parents would say about his injuries. Or worse, what they wouldn’t say. No matter how he looked, Darren fitted the image of a child neglected to a T.
Some time passed and when Joel saw Darren again, it was in a small black-and-white photo on the third page of that day’s newspaper. What he learned about the kid weighed heavily on his heart and mind for longer than he would wish.
The brief title read: “High schooler’s Firearm Suicide.”