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Blind Sided


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This is my first fan fic. I've never really written anything before but here goes!

Title of Story: Blind Sided

Type of Fic: Long Fiction

Main Characters: Josh, Andy, Evie, Kyle, Oscar, Matt, Maddy and other main characters.

Genre: Drama and Family, Romance, Friendship 

BTTB Rating: G / T

Does it contain spoilers: Not for Australian viewers, Yes for those watching in the UK.

Warnings:  Violence/Death, Adult Themes.

Summary: This story picks up after Josh opens up to Andy about his fears for the future - that he won't be an architect and that he has no idea what the future now holds for him. In this AR Charlotte didn't hear what Josh said to Andy about Jake Pirovic. The wedding hasn't happened yet. Matt and Maddy are still circling each other after her breakup with Oscar. Josh is struggling with his new life as a blind man.



Josh was back on the couch, earphones in, listening to yet another boring podcast. He was trying his best to concentrate on the topic being discussed, to drown out his inner voice, that voice that kept telling him that his life was ruined, that he had no future. At least when he was listening to this stuff his mind filled up with colours and imagined images. Anything that distracted him from the black and frightening place his world had become. He thought about how small his world was now. All measured out in careful steps from one thing to another. His bed, 6 steps from the door. The bathroom, 12 steps to the end of the hall. The couch, 8 steps from the bookcase... was THIS it? Was this his world now? 

The outside world was terrifying! How could he go out there? How could he ever go out there again?!

He thought about his short venture into the outside world, yesterday, with Andy and Hannah. He hadn't wanted to, he'd known he wasn't ready, but they just kept pushing! Why couldn't they let him do things in his own time? It had all been too much. Sounds came out of nowhere. So many sounds of things unknown, all around him, coming at him, an onslaught from all directions. People were laughing, talking, shouting... Were they laughing at him? Were they talking about him? It was all so confusing... frightening... Cars sounded like they were right on top of him. Everything made him flinch. Everything was so loud. How had he never noticed that before?

He tried to picture the walk from his house to the diner, to map it in his head, but the finer details were already fading. He wondered if his imagination would lose its colour over time. Would he forget what red looked like? What yellow looked like? The thought terrified him. What if all he was left with was black? An endless expanse of black? The voice in his earphones was talking about a famous work of art, describing the vibrant colours used by the artist. What if one day those words meant nothing to him? What if those colours no longer appeared in his mind's eye? He closed his eyes and tried to hold the colours in his mind as long as possible. Maybe he could make himself remember.

Josh felt something knock off his knee and it made him jump. He hated that it always made him jump, his heart suddenly beating faster, a jolt in his stomach. Until a second ago he had been alone in his darkened world, alone with his thoughts, in an empty room.  Would he ever get used to people invading his space? Hands suddenly appearing out of nowhere? Voices looming out of the darkness? It made him feel exposed and vulnerable. How long had they been there?! Had they been watching him? He quickly took his earphones out wondering who was there.

"Mate, um... what d'ya want for dinner tonight? I... I could get us something from the diner, if you want?" asked Andy in a cautious voice, clearly hoping this question wouldn't spark another fight.

Josh knew why Andy was nervous. He'd been flying off the handle a lot since he got home. He felt angry all the time, so angry he thought he might burst. He also knew it wasn't fair taking his anger out on his brother but he just couldn't help it.  

He knew that what Andy really wanted was for him to go to the diner with him, to do something vaguely resembling normality. He just wasn't sure he could cope. Half the town would probably be there. They'd all be there watching the blind kid walk in, with that cane, hanging off Andy's arm, calling it out just in case there was anyone that hadn't noticed. The blind kid, the victim, poor, poor Josh... They'd all be there with their sympathy and their pity. It was the pity he couldn't stand. He could hear it in Andy's voice every time he opened his mouth, that soft cloying way that you speak to a small child. He could already hear the whispers, imagine the well meaning pats on the back... and what if Evie was there? He just wasn't  sure he could deal with it right now. Then there was the getting there. He'd only made it half way yesterday and that had frightened him half to death. The thought of going out there again had his heart beating loudly in his ears. But what was he going to do? Stay inside for the rest of his life?  Never talk to anyone again?...

"Maybe...I....maybe I could come with you.......get some takeout?" offered Josh, instantly regretting it as his heart thumped louder in his chest. "I don't know if I'm ready to eat there with everyone gawping"

"Aw mate, legend!" said Andy feeling a wave of relief wash over him. This was a huge step forward but he didn't want to push Josh too much so he added "We'll be quick then, just grab something and bring it home".

Josh knew there would be nothing quick about getting to and from the diner, he couldn't do anything quickly now. But he could hear the relief in his brother's voice and wished he didn't have to be such a burden. He thought how difficult it must be for Andy, having to look after him. It had only been a few weeks but Andy's life has had to change so much too. 'Andy, full time babysitter to a disabled brother' thought Josh sadly. Was he going to be a useless lump on the couch, holding his brother back, forever? What if Andy got sick of him? Wanted a life of his own? What would he do without Andy? How would he manage? The thought of being alone scared him too much to even contemplate... he tried to push it out of his mind. He was going to try to be kinder to Andy. He knew it wasn't his brother's fault, none of this, but he was just so angry! Anger, like a ball of acid, had just been bubbling in his chest, never too far from the surface. Sometimes he felt like he could explode.

There were footsteps outside and Josh heard Maddy's voice call out "Andy? Josh? You guys here?" as she walked in the door. Andy had left the front door open again so she was already in the livingroom by the time she had finished the sentence. Josh would have liked nothing more than to disappear or for the ground to swallow him up. He felt so exposed but it was too late for him to hide.  He squirmed on the sofa wishing he was invisible. He was clearly uneasy but finally managed a lacklustre "Hi Maddy".  She landed suddenly on the couch beside him, her knee knocking off his thigh as she jumped on the sofa with her feet tucked under her. She grabbed his hand and the sudden invasion of space made him flinch. He wasn't used to people being so close anymore. "We've really missed you Josh" said Maddy in a sweet voice.

Then another voice made him jump, coming suddenly out of the darkness "Yeah, we all have".  He hadnt realised there was someone else.  He recognised Matt's voice but he was sitting far too close for Josh's liking. 

With a little flush of anger, Josh felt pretty sure he'd been ambushed. Andy was clearly pleased that Josh was finally catching up with some friends and made his excuses to leave and go check on the gym. He said he'd 'really been neglecting things'. Josh heard him leave and reflected sadly on the fact that his brother obviously thought he needed babysitting. This was his life now.

Josh was trying his best to suppress the urge to run. To just get up and run away...  'Running', he thought, 'Another thing I'll never be able to do again'. 

He felt their eyes on him. It made him feel uncomfortable. He didn't want people looking at him, judging him.  Who knew what secret exchanges were going on between these two, the eye contact, the wordless communication? Something he'd never have again. He imagined the glances between them, the pitying expressions on their faces, and all he wanted was to get away. 

"So, how you doing, mate?" asked Matt as a hand suddenly found its way to Josh's knee. Josh pulled his knee away. He hated the way people kept touching him, the sympathetic shoulder pats, knee squeezing, people pawing at him... Didn't they understand how unsettling it was when you couldn't see it coming?

"How do you think I'm doing!?" snapped Josh, regretting it immediately. He didn't want them to know he wasn't coping. The last thing he wanted was more pity. He retrieved his hand from Maddy's and used it to rub the temples of his forehead. "I don't know, okay I guess.... I'm starting to get used to it" said Josh, lying. He hated people telling him he'd get used to it. Andy kept saying it. As if being helpless was something you just get used to.

"Do you guys want a drink?" asked Josh, getting to his feet. He was feeling claustrophobic with his two friends sitting so close to him. 

Matt jumped to his feet in an effort to clear the path for Josh. "Um, do... do you want me to get the drinks?" 

"No, this is one of the few things I can do for myself.... Come on, I'll show off my seriously impressive juice pouring skills" said Josh with a sarcastic tone as he felt his way around the table to the kitchen counter.  Josh thought to himself sadly 'If they came to stare at the circus freak, I might as well give them a show.'

He was fairly confident he could do this, he'd already managed it earlier today. Hoping that he wouldn't mess things up, he felt for the edge of the sink, then took a small step to the right, and felt for the edge of the shelf above his shoulder with his right hand. This was the difficult bit, getting the glasses down without sending them all crashing down. He lifted each glass down carefully "one...two....and three..." announcing in a theatrical manner ".... A never before attempted stunt. Blind man Josh Barrett will successfully pour 3 glasses of juice, unassisted". 

Matt and Maddy exchanged worried glances just like Josh feared they would. They watched, a little in awe, as he traced his way along the kitchen counter to the fridge, returned with a large jug of orange, and carefully poured each glass without spilling. Josh could feel their eyes on him and, to his surprise, he found he was actually enjoying showing off. He put the juice back in the fridge, and returned to the glasses he'd poured, making a 'jazz hands' gesture in their direction "Ta da!".  He picked up one of the glasses and held it out.  

Maddy and Matt awkwardly moved forward at the same time to take the offered glass, bumping into each other. Maddy giggled in an embarrassed way. They were still very awkward around each other. "That's amazing Josh. I have to say, I'm pretty impressed" said Maddy, taking the glass off him.  She leant in and kissed him lightly on the cheek, making him jump, again. 

"Yeah. Amazing" said Josh, sarcastically.

Matt took the other glass, threw a wink at Maddy, and said to Josh "Actually mate, you spilt a bit". Josh, looking pretty confused, spun around and started feeling the kitchen counter to check.  He couldn't find any spilt juice.  "Uh, no I didn't".

"Ah mate, you are gonna be sooo easy to wind up!" teased Matt, clapping his hand on Josh's shoulder. 

Maddy squealed "That's not funny Matt!!! Seriously!".  

Josh looked hurt and angry for a second but suddenly his face broke into a smile and he said "Actually, Maddy, it kinda is". They all burst out laughing. It was the first time he had really laughed since the attack. It felt good, but a little alien at the same time. Josh wondered when was the last time he had laughed? 

Maddy pulled him into a hug with her head against his chest. He didnt mind so much this time. Putting his chin on top of her head, he hugged her back. He laughed as Matt threw his arms around both of them with a shout of "Group hug!". At least he'd had the good manners to announce it first.


Andy had been worried when he came home to an empty house. Then he found Maddy's note on the diningroom table:



He was amazed to find that Josh had ventured out without him, and looked at the note with a mixture of pride and concern. Yesterday's walk had been a bit too much for Josh, all a bit overwhelming. He didn't want him throwing a tantrum like yesterday, not in public. Josh had clearly been having problems controlling his anger since the brain injury. The doctors had warned them about this but it wasn't easy to deal with. He couldnt help being worried so he turned on his heel and headed for the diner. He thought he'd better get there quickly, just in case Josh was in over his head. 'I hope he's ok', he thought to himself, as he grabbed his keys and ran out the door.

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Matt and Maddy were filling Josh in on all the gossip, all the things he'd missed since he'd been ill. He was surprised to hear about Maddy and Oscar, but now, piecing things together, he realised that these two were into each other. They may not have said it but it explained a lot of the awkwardness. He'd noticed all the weird silences and Maddy's persistent giggling but he'd assumed it was because of him.  He thought they were probably just uncomfortable around him now. He wasn't sure if he was relieved or a little put out that it hadn't all been about him!

It struck Josh that life had just gone on for everybody else. This huge, life altering thing had happened to him but other people's lives had just continued without him.  While he had been lying in a hospital bed, fighting for his life with machines breathing for him, everyone else had just been getting on with things. When he woke up not able to move, when he couldn't speak, when he'd been a prisoner in his own body screaming on the inside, other people had just been eating burgers, and going to the gym, and surfing, and doing all the normal everyday things. They'd never understand. They'd never know what he was going through. How could they? 

Walking into the diner had been difficult. It had taken everything he had to cross that threshold, not knowing who was in there. It had been awkward as well because they'd managed to get him there using his cane but then he'd had to ask for one of them to lead him in. Matt had offered, jumping forward and grabbing Josh by the arm. It took a minute or two to impress on Matt that he needed to be led, not dragged! Matt had led him through the door and Josh had done his best to hide behind his shoulder, hoping to draw as little attention as possible. 

They'd made it to the table unaccosted, and he'd been settling himself, folding up his cane and listening intently to the voices surrounding him. He was surprised that no one seemed to be taking much notice of him.  

Marilyn appeared at the table. "Oh Josh!" she chirped, putting her hands on both his shoulders to give him an awkward hug "I'm so pleased to see you, and looking soooo well!"

"Thanks Marilyn" said Josh trying his best to smile in her direction.

"You really gave us a scare, Josh. We've all been so worried about you.  I hope these two are looking after you?" said Marilyn

Josh wasn't sure how to respond to that. He didn't like that his friends were now being charged with his care, but he smiled and said "Matt's  been doing his best guide dog impression. Only let me walk in front of, what, two, three cars on the way here?"

Matt and Maddy both laughed a little nervously, and Matt said "Yep, thats me, just call me Spot. Arf! Arf!".  Marilyn sensed the tension in Josh's voice and thought it was probably best if she moved things along. "So, do you kids know what you want to order?"

At that moment Andy walked in and did a quick scan of the diner looking for his brother. He was relieved to see it wasn't too busy. He figured that was better for Josh. He looked around and breathed a sigh of relief that there weren't too many people they knew there either. Josh was sitting at one of the tables, with Marilyn cooing at him. Maddy and Matt were at the table with him. He was surprised to see that Josh looked almost happy. Andy looked at Josh as he laughed with his friends and hoped they'd maybe turned a corner. It had been a bit of a gamble, ambushing him like that, but maybe this was just what he needed. Maybe he needed time with other people to bring him out of his shell. He hadn't seen Josh smile since the attack and, seeing him smile now, he felt an enormous weight being lifted from his shoulders. Maybe things would be okay?

Andy arrived at the table and took the seat beside Josh "Hi guys... so... you ordered yet?"

"We were just about to" said Josh, pleased that Andy had arrived. "I want the biggest cheeseburger. I've had nothing but hospital food and Andy's cooking for weeks! said Josh playfully elbowing Andy beside him.  "Seriously, it's no laughing matter, Marilyn! Not good.....I'll have a chocolate milkshake too, please". Josh was trying his best to sound upbeat, hoping his friends wouldn't see through his act.

Andy beamed a smile at Matt and Maddy and mouthed the words "Thank you". 

They talked about Leah and Zac's wedding that was due to happen in a couple of days. They talked about the formal, the breakup, and Oscar going missing in the storm. They talked about Billie showing up again. They ate and they talked.  Josh was feeling relieved to be out of the house and doing something normal again. He caught himself laughing and realised he was actually enjoying himself. It felt good.

Marilyn came to clear the table "It's been so lovely seeing you again Josh! I hope we'll be seeing you out and about a bit more now?"

Josh smiled in Marilyn's direction, "Yeah, Marilyn, today was a good day actually... surprisingly..."

Maddy nodded at Matt, encouraging him to speak up, with a little smile. "Actually, mate, we were wondering if you want to come to the beach with us tomorrow?...Maybe go for a swim?"

"I dont think so" said Josh, a little too quickly. He hoped it didn't sound like he was snapping at him. He was doing his best to control his outbursts.

Maddy jumped in "We'd look after you Josh, you wouldnt have to go in the water if you didn't feel up to it. Just the three of us? on the beach? Bit of sunshine?..........Josh?"

Josh thought how nice it would be to go swimming, to be outside in the fresh air, mucking about with his mates, sunshine on his skin... He thought how the sand would feel between his toes, the warm salty water on his skin, the sun on his face... his heart ached for it... But he just couldn't imagine doing it in the dark. No blue skies, no yellow sand, no white frothy waves crashing in. Just black, lots and lots of black. Then there was the great wide open, the abyss, nothing to hold on to. No walls to navigate by, shifting sands beneath his feet, no way to know where you are. The thought of it terrified him. "I..... I don't think I can" said Josh in a small, sad voice, the smile suddenly wiped from his face. 

Harsh reality had just hit him in the face once again. This was going to be his life now.... forever.

Reality..... Everything he'd ever wanted for his life, his future, had all been taken from him. 'One punch to the back of the head', he thought, 'just one punch! and like that I'm blind'.  He thought about what that meant. It meant darkness, every minute of every day. It meant being reliant on other people for the rest of his life. It meant being a burden. He couldn't even leave now without his brother's help. He could feel the anger building up.

He turned slightly towards Andy "Actually, do you mind if we go home now? I'm just really tired".  

Andy sighed, shooting a glance at Josh's friends, 'why did they have to go and push it?' he thought. Getting to his feet, he said to Josh "Sure mate, we'll get you home now".  Josh, linking on Andy's arm, turned to thank Matt and Maddy "Thanks guys, I did really enjoy today. I'll see you soon" and tried his best to smile convincingly.

Josh didn't say much on the way home, doing his best to concentrate on the walk and ignore the intrusive noises surrounding him. Just putting one foot in front of the other was difficult these days. Andy was painfully aware of Josh's shift in mood and was dreading the inevitable blow up when they got home. He kept making nervous small talk because he couldn't stand the silence but he knew that it was probably making things worse. How was he going to talk Josh round this time? He was sick of being Josh's emotional punching bag but all he really wanted was to make things right for his little brother. It hurt him that Josh was so unhappy and there was nothing he could do to fix it.


Josh sat on the couch staring straight ahead with unseeing eyes. He still hadn't really said anything. Andy was really nervous now, tiptoeing around him, trying his best not to be annoying.  At the same time he just wanted to get it over with, the part with all the shouting, the bit where Josh told him he was useless (again), and that he wasn't needed (again).  The suspense was killing him.

Josh stood up, making his way around the couch "I think I'm just gonna go to bed."

On the one hand Andy was relieved that there wasn't going to be a fight this evening, but on the other he was scared to let Josh go to bed like this, so shut down and withdrawn. What if he did something stupid, hurt himself, when no-one was there to look out for him, to stop him? 

With a sigh to himself, he thought 'I'm gonna have to provoke a fight'. Bracing himself, Andy asked "Josh, wait, don't you think the beach might do you some good?"

Andy studied Josh's face looking for anger but his face was just a mask of sadness. Josh said "I'm just gonna go to bed" and started to make his way across the room towards his bedroom. Andy decided to give it one more try, like poking an angry bear with a stick. As Josh passed him in the middle of the livingroom, Andy put his hand on Josh's shoulder to stop him in his tracks and make him listen. 
Andy said "Seriously  mate, we're gonna take you to the beach tomorrow, even if it's kicking and screaming. It's for your own good, Josh!"

Josh's fist caught him offguard, a pretty hefty punch to the jaw, putting Andy off balance.  'For a blind kid he has a pretty good aim' thought Andy. Josh seemed surprised too, but the anger was clearly still bubbling up, and he was trying to get his bearings to take another swing. Andy, ignoring his bruised jaw, moved forward to subdue his little brother. Catching hold of his wrists, Andy used all his strength to pin them at Josh's sides. His little brother struggled to get away, "Let me go, get off me...".  He pulled him in and trapped his arms in a bear hug, forcing him against his chest. 

Suddenly Josh wasn't struggling anymore, he felt his brother's body slump, Josh's head against his chest. He was crying! "I can't do this, I can't, I can't do this", over and over again. "Not every day, not forever, I cant do it Andy, I can't stand it". Andy felt the full weight of Josh's body as Josh's legs went out from under him and they both sank to the floor. Andy found himself cradling his brother, sitting in a heap on the livingroom floor. They were both crying now. Andy had never seen his brother like this and he didn't know what to do. He rocked him back and forth like he'd done when Josh was little, saying "I know, mate, I know". Josh's body was shuddering as he cried "You should have let me die, you should have let me die...". All the hurt, all the fear, all the anger... This was the explosion Andy knew was coming, one way or another. Josh's voice was small and broken now "It's so dark, I hate the dark Andy, I've always hated the dark...."

Andy thought back to when Josh was little. Josh had never been able to sleep without a nightlight, the dark had always frightened him so much. Andy could never understand why. A stupid little frog nightlight, that Andy had bought him, green, plastic, and cheap. But Josh had always needed it. He must have been twelve years old when their mum's boyfriend smashed it. "Too old for a nightlight" he'd said. That's when the night terrors had started... Andy looked down at his little brother and thought how he'd never been able to protect him, not then, and not now... He rocked his brother in his arms, with a deep sadness in his heart, feeling every bit the failure that Josh kept telling him he was.

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Andy watched from the kitchen as Josh made his way into the livingroom. Things had been awkward between them for the last couple of days and Josh had been spending a lot of time in his room when Andy was around. He wasn't sure if Josh knew he was there so he thought he'd better make some noise to alert him to his presence. He filled the kettle as noisily as he could and shouted "Josh, I'm making some coffee, d'you wanna cup?"

Josh had been in his room waiting for everyone to leave. He'd heard Kyle and Andy talking and moving towards the door, then the door had closed and everything had gone quiet. He'd only come out of his room because he thought they'd both gone. He was startled to hear that Andy was still there.

"Oh... hey" said Josh, standing beside the couch. He was trying to decide whether to go back to his room or stay and face the music. He knew he'd have to talk to Andy sooner or later so he sat in his usual spot on the couch and shouted back "A coffee would be good, yeah." 

Andy smiled to himself in the kitchen, relieved that Josh was finally ready to talk,  even if he had had to ambush him. He made the coffees, and carried them in to the livingroom, taking the space on the couch beside Josh.

"So, you know we have to talk about the other night?" said Andy, in that soft voice he used with Josh since the hospital.

"Do we?" said Josh, "Can't we just drink our coffees without making this some sort of counselling session?". He sounded pretty irritated but was obviously doing his best to hold his temper.

He picked up his cup of coffee and took a sip, making an "aah" sound to show, in an exaggerated way, how much he was enjoying it.

Andy said "Mate, I just don't want things to be weird. You were upset, it's ok! You don't have anything to be embarrassed about."

Josh blushed a little. He was embarrassed! How could he not be? He'd never cried like that in front of anyone before. It had all gotten too much for him, he couldn't hold it in any longer. He was tired of putting on a brave face for everyone else.

"Sorry I hit you" said Josh.

"You've got a pretty impressive left hook for a blind man" laughed Andy. "You should see this bruise" said Andy, regretting his choice of words as soon as they left his mouth.

"Funny" said Josh, in a sarcastic tone, snorting a little.

"Sorry, I didn't mean that" said Andy. 

"I'm not that delicate Andy. You can still say 'see'." said Josh. "Sorry for losing it like that the other night, I don't know where that came from!"

"Mate, can you stop being so hard on yourself...  This isn't easy... I get that. And yeah, I don't know what it's like for you, I haven't been blind... but I'm here... I'm listening... You can talk to me Josh! You can talk to me about anything. I'm your brother. I'm always gonna have your back, no matter what." said Andy. Then lowering his voice, and almost mumbling he said "You do know that I love you, right?".

Josh felt bad for how he'd been treating Andy. He knew Andy was doing his best to be a good brother and trying hard to help him. He figured Andy must be very worried if he was being this soppy.

"I know..." said Josh, nodding his head. He wished it was that easy, that talking would make everything better.

He said "I'm sorry.... I just can't talk about it... to anyone. I'm just so...", He was struggling to find the right word, but failing miserably. With a sigh, he said "I guess I'm just really angry". 

Andy suddenly thought of something that might help. "Maybe we can do something about that" said Andy, wondering if Josh would go for it.


Andy locked the door and turned around, putting the keys in the pocket of his hoodie. He'd kicked everyone out and closed the gym an hour early telling everyone they had some problem with the electrics but they'd be open again, business as usual, the next morning. Josh was waiting for him, hiding in the office. 

Andy opened the door to the office and said "Mate, everyone's gone now, place is empty. You coming?"

He waited for Josh to get up and then guided Josh's hand to his arm so he could lead him. He led him out of the office and across the gym floor, avoiding all the machinery. He brought him to the area with the punching bags. He thought this might do Josh some good. He hoped it might give him some sort of outlet for his anger.  If nothing else, it would be some exercise. All Josh had done for weeks was lie in bed or sit on the couch, and that couldn't be good for anyone, thought Andy.


"I'm exhausted!" said Josh, breathing heavily, soaked in sweat, and flushed red in the face. He felt good for the first time since the attack. Endorphins were rushing through his body and he couldn't help but feel somehow better about things. Something had clicked when he was boxing and he'd allowed himself to think about everything he was angry about. He'd hit that bag with a fury he didn't know he had in him. His arms and legs felt like jelly now and he was hardly able to drag himself back across the room behind Andy, but he felt amazing. 

Andy was leading Josh back across the room, glancing at him every few seconds. He couldn't believe the smile on Josh's face. He had hoped this might help Josh but never thought it would have such a positive effect. 

"You're gonna hurt tomorrow, mate." said Andy, laughing "I think we should make this a regular thing though, you're not bad at this, y'know".

"Guess you'd better watch yourself then, eh?" said Josh, smiling, "Don't want your blind kid brother beating you up, do ya?"

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Kyle was clattering about in the kitchen making breakfast. Josh could hear him from his bedroom, clearly making no effort to be quiet. He could hear Casey screaming the place down next door as well. 'That kid's got a set of lungs' he thought to himself, feeling sorry for Ricky.  He wasn't sure what time it was but it felt like he'd slept a deep sleep for the first time in a long time. He turned over in bed to press the talking clock Andy had got him, it said "10:17 am" in that Stephen Hawking voice. Every muscle in his body ached, some he didn't even know existed. The boxing had been great but he was certainly paying the price today. He figured it would be at least a couple of days before his muscles could cope with going again. He couldn't actually remember what day of the week it was but he supposed it didn't really matter anyway. He had nowhere to be, nothing to do. He was trying to decide whether he had the energy to get up and get dressed and face the world... or just stay in bed? 'What difference does it make anyway?' he thought, as he rolled painfully back onto his side, opting for a longer doze.


A knock at the door made him jump. "Josh, get up! I've made pancakes!" called Kyle. 

Josh really just wanted to stay under his covers and pretend the world outside his room didn't exist. In bed he could close his eyes and escape into a fantasy world, a place where he could still see, a world of colour, and texture, and light. He could still 'see' things in his head. He imagined Evie's face, the graceful lines, the shape of her nose, her mouth, her eyes, almost like he was sketching them. In his mind he drew her, painted her, over and over again. He knew he was supposed to be angry with her, but it was to her face that he returned, time and time again, seeking comfort. Summer Bay too. He had sketched the beach, the sea, the shoreline, so many times he could 'see' it right in front of him. He didn't want to open his eyes, and surrender himself to the darkness. He buried his face in his bed covers and pretended he hadn't heard.

Suddenly his door flung open and someone landed excitedly on his bed, bouncing up and down. He groaned as they leaned on his stomach, the muscles felt bruised and tender. 

"Hey Josh! It's Phoebe! You are gonna join us for pancakes Mister! Kyle has been working his little butt off to make us all breakfast..." said Phoebe, pulling the covers off Josh's face. She grabbed his hand and started pulling him up out of the bed. "C'mon Josh, get your butt up out of that bed!"

He thought how annoying Phoebe could be, but he was almost half way across the room, letting himself be dragged, by the time he realised what was happening. He had to give it to her, she was hard to say no to. He let her lead him towards the kitchen, suddenly aware of the grumbling in his stomach. He was actually hungry.

He could hear a muddle of voices in the kitchen as he approached, all talking over each other, arguing light heartedly and laughing. He was trying to decipher who was in there. He picked out Andy and Kyle, and he thought maybe Nate? He felt suddenly very self conscious as he arrived at the dining table. Phoebe helped him take a seat. 

Andy had watched as Phoebe dragged Josh across the livingroom to the dining table, still half asleep. He could see how stiff and sore Josh was after the boxing yesterday. You could tell by the way he was walking, wincing with every step, and the careful way he seated himself. He wasn't at all sure this was a good idea, springing this on him, but he hoped he'd enjoy it. When they'd got back from the gym last night, Kyle had been amazed at Josh's good mood and talked Andy into doing this breakfast. He was really hoping it would help bring him out of his shell.

Kyle threw Andy a look as though to say 'here goes'. 

He walked over to Josh and clapped a hand on his shoulder, making him flinch. "Hey mate! Sorry I let Pheebs strong arm you like that, but you know what she's like" said Kyle in a teasing tone that was clearly aimed at Phoebe.

"Heeeeey!" said Phoebe, pretending to be offended. She wrapped her arm round Josh's shoulder and, much to his surprise, plonked herself down on his knee, making him wince a little. Phoebe continued, "You're glad I made you come out here though, aren't you?! What else would you be doing on a beautiful day like this?" She threw her arms up in the air in that theatrical way of hers, "I mean, the sun is shining! There are pancakes for breakfast! What more could you ask for?!"

'Well, being able to see would be a good start' thought Josh, but he didn't say it. 'No one wants to hear the blind kid whinging about his crappy life and feeling sorry for himself' he thought to himself so instead he said "Yeah, thanks Pheebs. Sleep is so overrated".

"Yes, well Phoebe doesn't really take no for an answer, does she?" said Nate, laughing. His voice made Josh jump a little. He hadn't realised Nate was sitting next to him.  

Kyle shouted from the kitchen, banging about at the stove, "Pheebs!  Can you give me a hand out here?". Phoebe jumped up and skipped out to the kitchen to help Kyle.

He could hear Ricky approaching, padding across the floor in her flipflops. He wished everyone would wear noisy footwear like Ricky, he hated people sneaking up on him. She pulled out the chair next to him and sat down. He could hear Casey gurgling beside him now.  

"Hey mate" said Ricky "wanna hold Casey for a minute? He's missed his Uncle Josh. Haven't you little man?" She was already passing Casey to Josh as she spoke. 

"What!? Wait, no!" said Josh, but he suddenly found himself holding the baby. 

Ricky said "You're doing fine mate. See? He's happy." patting Josh on the shoulder as she got up. "I'm just gonna nip to the bathroom, I'll be back in a tick."

Josh felt the weight of the baby in his arms, leaning back against his chest, a chubby little hand holding his thumb. Josh thought how strange it felt to be holding this little person and not be able to see his face. Casey began to wriggle when he saw Ricky leave the room making it difficult for Josh to keep hold of him. Josh was growing more and more frightened he would drop him.  "Seriously, someone take him, please! I'm gonna drop him. I'm gonna hurt him! Please, someone take him off me!".  He was panicking, and the baby started to cry, picking up on the stress in Josh's voice. 

"Okay, Josh, I've got him" said Nate, lifting him out of Josh's arms. 

Josh started to get up, he wanted to go back to his room. This was all too much. 

Kyle, grabbed Josh's shoulder, pushing him back into his chair and plonked a plate in front of him. "Here's your pancakes mate! C'mon, stay and eat with us. They're ready now"

"Yeah, banana and nutella, Josh! Who doesnt love that?!" said Phoebe, taking the chair opposite him.

Reluctantly, Josh gave in and pulled his chair in closer to the table. He was both tired and hungry. He figured he was here now, he might as well get fed. Everyone else took their places and started eating. He wasn't sure how to eat the pancakes without making a mess.  He could hear cutlery clattering off the plates and everyone talking and laughing. He put his hand on his plate to feel the pancake, to figure out how best to tackle it. He realised pretty quickly that this wasn't going to be something he could eat easily with his hands. He couldn't just pick it up, there'd be banana and nutella all over the place! He found the knife beside the plate, and guiding it with his other hand, started cutting the pancake into sections. He was concentrating so much on what he was doing he hadn't noticed that people had stopped talking. He suddenly realised that all eyes were on him. 

"What?!" snapped Josh, slamming his knife down on the table. He didn't like being watched.

"Nothing, mate, we're just eating" lied Andy. They'd all been watching Josh struggle to cut up his pancake. Andy had been wondering whether to offer to help.

"I'm just trying to eat, I wasn't expecting an audience" said Josh, angry and embarrassed. His face flushed red.

"Nah mate, it's not like that!" said Kyle, "I just hadn't thought, y'know that pancakes might be difficult"

"Do you need some help?" asked Ricky, starting to reach for Josh's plate. 

"It's fine" snapped Josh, feeling humiliated. Through gritted teeth, he said "I'm managing... and no, Ricky, I don't need your help. Can you all just please stop watching me?" 

"Okay, mate, no one's watching you" said Andy. He felt bad they'd upset Josh, especially when they'd been making some progress. He knew there'd be ups and downs with Josh but it just seemed there were so many more downs. It was tiring, walking on eggshells all the time.

Everyone went back to eating and pointedly changed the subject, actively not watching Josh eat. The conversation was jovial and lighthearted, with Phoebe teasing Kyle about his cooking. Josh couldn't make himself join the conversation no matter how much they tried to include him. The more they tried, the more cut off and disconnected he felt. He couldn't enjoy the pancake either. He was sure he was making a mess, and he couldn't shake the feeling that they were all still watching him, judging him. He felt like an animal on display at the zoo. All he wanted was to escape back to the safety of his bedroom.  


"Well that went well!" said Andy in a sarcastic voice, keeping his voice low so that Josh wouldn't hear him from his bedroom. 

Kyle, taking Andy's lead, lowered his voice almost to a whisper and replied "Yeah, maybe not my best idea", looking disappointed. He had meant well. "I never thought pancakes could be so difficult to eat!"

"You weren't to know" said Andy, shaking his head. "Life just sucks for him at the moment" sighed Andy, running his fingers through his hair. "He has to relearn how to do so much stuff... I guess it's just gonna take time." He slumped back on the couch, and rubbed his face in both hands. He was exhausted both emotionally and physically. He hadn't been sleeping well since Josh was attacked and all the stress with Josh since he got him home was taking its toll. "It's exhausting. I mean, I'm exhausted and I'm not the one that has to learn how to do all this stuff. Can you imagine how he's feeling?! I don't know what to do to help him".

Kyle looked at Andy's face, with dark circles under his eyes, and thought how tired and drawn he looked. "Maybe Josh is gonna have to figure things out for himself, mate." said Kyle. "The more we try to help him, the more he pushes back. Forcing him to be sociable clearly isn't helping. Maybe you need to take a step back? Maybe we all do?"

Andy shook his head sadly and sighed "Maybe you're right".


As he sat there on his bed, listening to the voices out in the livingroom, speaking quietly in the type of hushed voices that automatically draw your attention, Josh had a sudden moment of clarity. The words from one of his favourite films floated back into his head. "Get busy living. Or get busy dying". He thought about how close he'd come to dying and how many times since he'd wished he hadn't made it. He thought how difficult this life seemed now, how insurmountable the challenges. Today, surrounded by people who loved him, who were reaching out to him and trying to help him, he had never felt more alone. He thought how much easier it would be if he just ended it. He imagined the various ways he could take his own life. He imagined Andy finding his body. He imagined his funeral. He imagined ending his life like turning off a light switch.  In that moment he knew he didn't really want to die. He'd never been so sure of anything before in his life. There was only one option for him. "Get busy living!". He would have to find a way to make this new life work for him, he thought. He would have to stop feeling sorry for himself.  He would have to embrace life and carve out a future for himself, whatever that might be...

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"Knock knock" said Oscar, as he rapped his knuckles on the door frame.  The door was open but he didnt want to just walk on in. He could see Josh sitting on the sofa with his earphones in and his feet on the coffee table, but he didn't seem to have heard the knocking. Oscar hesitated for a second trying to decide what to do. He didn't want to startle Josh. Sneaking up on a blind man would be pretty uncool, he thought, and it felt a bit like trespassing, just walking in to the house uninvited. 

Kyle suddenly appeared, coming back in from the garden. "Oh hey Oscar, you here to see Josh?" asked Kyle, waving for Oscar to come in.

"Uh, yeah, do you think he's up for visitors?" said Oscar, feeling a little awkward talking about Josh right there in front of him.

"I'm sure he'll soon tell you if he's not" said Kyle, "He's not the easiest to talk to right now." 

Kyle walked over to the couch where Josh was sitting and pulled out one of Josh's earphones making him jump. Josh's music was always so loud it drowned out everything else around him so he couldn't help being startled when someone interrupted, but nevertheless, it was getting on his nerves.

"Mate, Oscar's here to see you" said Kyle.

"Yeah, hi Josh....It's Oscar here" he shouted loudly from the doorway, slowly and carefully enunciating each word, as though Josh was deaf as well as blind. When he saw the way Kyle was looking at him, and the expression on Josh's face, he realised his mistake and lowered his voice.  "I mean, of course you probably know it's me from my voice... and obviously Kyle just said it was me, so I have no idea why I'd think that you needed me to tell you... and... I'm babbling...sorry". Oscar had flushed red with embarrassment.

Kyle rolled his eyes. He'd always thought Oscar was a little weird. "Right" said Kyle, "well I'll leave you to it. If you need anything Josh, I'm minding Casey over in Ric's".

"Yeah, fine" said Josh, tired of the constant babysitting. Kyle headed out past Oscar who was still standing awkwardly just inside the door, looking distinctly red in the face. Josh turned towards Oscar and said "Hey, Nice shirt".

Oscar looked down to see what he was wearing, then back at Josh in confusion, and said 'What? Can you..."

Josh smiled a sarcastic smile and interrupted him "It's a joke Oscar." He waved a hand in front of his eyes and said "Still blind... Are you coming in or what?"

Oscar walked across and sat beside Josh on the couch. "So, I really just came to see how you are, I mean to check how you are" said Oscar, wishing he hadn't used the word 'see'. "I haven't sss, I mean, I haven't... caught up with you since you got out of hospital." He realised he was babbling again, he always did this when he was nervous. "So how are you doing?"

Josh hated that question. He had no idea how to answer it. Truthfully, he was in a pretty bad place, struggling to get through each day. But no one really wanted to hear how difficult his life was now. What they wanted to hear was that he was doing better, that things were getting easier, that he was getting used to it, and that he was coming to terms with it.  Those were the words they expected to hear. It made everyone else feel better about things. It meant they could move on and stop worrying about him. That question wasn't really about him, it was about them, and their need for reassurance. He was so tired of playing along, but the alternative would be much more difficult.

"I'm ok, it's gonna take some time to get used to, I guess" said Josh, trotting out the answer he knew Oscar would want to hear. "I'm sorry to hear about you and Maddy" said Josh, wanting to change the subject.

"Uh thanks" said Oscar, grateful to have someone to talk to about it. He'd been feeling a bit lost since the breakup. "It's been rough. She and Matt haven't been too subtle about it either. I wish they'd stop all this pretending and just get on with it... I'm not an idiot, I do know they want to be together. I can't pretend I'm happy about it but I guess me and Maddy just weren't right for each other".

"Sorry to hear that." said Josh, genuinely sorry for Oscar. "I heard about you going missing on the night of the formal. That was pretty full on. Maddy said you nearly drowned?!"

"Yeah, not my best idea" said Oscar, frowning to himself. He didn't really want to think about it. "But nothing compared to what you've been going through"

"I've been so wrapped up in my own problems, it's easy to forget other people have stuff going on. My world is pretty much these four walls now" said Josh, immediately regretting that glimpse of misery he'd just given Oscar.

"Seriously mate, how are you coping with all this? I don't know what I'd do if I just woke up blind. It must be terrifying. I mean.... what... what's it like? What's it like to be blind?" asked Oscar.

Josh was taken aback. In all this time, no one had actually asked him how it really felt. Everyone else had skirted around the subject or ignored it entirely. They asked him how he was doing, or how he was coping, but no one asked him what it felt like. Oscar had asked this question so openly, with an innocence, almost like a small child. He wasn't sure how to answer.

"I... don't know how to answer that" said Josh, truthfully. He wasn't sure he wanted to open this can of worms. 

"Sorry... that was insensitive  of me, we don't have to talk about it if you don't want to" said Oscar, worried that he'd crossed the line.

"No, it's not that, it's just not easy to talk about...." Josh rubbed the temples of his forehead and ran his fingers through his hair, letting out a sigh, before he began again. "I guess I feel like part of me died." said Josh, shaking his head sadly, "It's like a huge part of what made me 'me' is just gone. I don't really know how to be this... this person.... I'm so tired, I'm trying to figure things out. But more than anything, I'm just angry all the time."

"You don't think that's normal? You're allowed to be angry Josh. I think I'd be pretty angry if I were you!" said Oscar.

Josh was pleasantly surprised by Oscar's response. He hadn't said 'you'll get used to it' or 'it'll just take time'. Josh was getting very tired of people telling him how easy it would be to adjust to things, making him feel like a failure for not getting used to things faster. Why could no one understand how hard this was? Oscar was right, he had a right to be angry!

"I just dont know what to do about it. I feel... so.... trapped sometimes. I have no freedom, I can't go anywhere on my own anymore, can't even go outside.... I might as well be in prison." Josh was surprised at how good it felt to talk to someone openly about it.

Oscar was shocked. Josh was obviously in a pretty bad way. He tried to imagine himself in Josh's shoes, in a world of darkness, with no way out. He didn't think he'd be coping half as well as Josh. He had no idea what to say, but blurted out "I can't imagine what that's like".

"No, no one can" sighed Josh. 'At last, a bit of honesty', thought Josh, he was grateful for Oscar's company.

They sat in silence for what felt like ages, Oscar racking his brain for something to say. "I read somewhere that when you lose one sense, your other senses become more developed. Like your hearing becomes more sensitive, and you develop a more acute sense of smell. Is that true, do you have super powers now?" asked Oscar, genuinely interested.

Josh laughed "No, not that I've noticed Oscar, sorry to disappoint you."

"That is a pity" chuckled Oscar. "So you're not secretly a masked vigilante, out fighting crime on the mean streets of Summer Bay?"

"Well, only in my spare time...  I'd really like it if I could develop sonar though, that would come in pretty useful right now" said Josh, enjoying the thought of having super powers."You know, like in Batman?"

"What would you do with it, if you had sonar right now?" asked Oscar, chuckling a little.

"I don't know" laughed Josh "...Mainly not walk into furniture.... and maybe make myself a sandwich"

Oscar started laughing and said "That'd be fantastic, a comic where everyone has super powers but uses them for really mundane things!".

Josh was laughing too, "Yeah, like someone with XRay vision who just works 15 hour shifts in the radiology department in the hospital!"

"Or Mr Freeze....who works in Starbucks.... making iced coffees!" said Oscar laughing so hard he was having trouble getting the words out.

"Spiderman, who cleans windows on high-rise buildings!" offered Josh.

"Wolverine shredding paper at a recycling plant" wheezed Oscar.

They were both laughing loudly now. Josh's stomach muscles were hurting from all the laughing and he thought he might pee himself if he didn't get up and go to the bathroom. He excused himself and slowly made his way to the bathroom leaving Oscar still chuckling in the livingroom

This was going better than Oscar had envisaged. While he waited for Josh to come back, he pondered whether to bring up Evie or not. He reasoned that it was part of the reason he'd come to see Josh in the first place, so he decided he'd have to give it a go. He just hoped it wouldn't upset Josh, seeing as they'd been getting on so well.. 

"So.............. Evie really misses you. I know you're pretty angry at her right now, but..."

Josh interrupted him "I don't think I'm ready to talk to her, not just yet".

"I get that you blame her for Tank. I do. I know you need someone to be angry with. But she didn't hit you, Josh! That's on Tank, not her.  You do know that. I know you know that. Not being able to see you is killing her, Josh. She cries all the time. She pretty much lived at the hospital when you were in there. You know that, right? Can you not just give her a chance?" 

Oscar had been speaking fast to stop Josh from butting in. He'd  rehearsed this speech over and over on the way to Josh's house and he wanted to make sure he got to say his piece. He'd seen Josh tense up at the mention of Evie's name but decided to plough on anyway. It needed to be said.

He looked at Josh's face. To his surprise, Josh looked more sad than than angry, so he continued "If you're honest with yourself, Josh, I think you still love her".

"I always loved her" muttered Josh, talking more to himself than Oscar. Then he said to Oscar  "I don't think Evie ever really loved me, not the way I loved her. She moved on to Tank so fast, and just threw away everything we had. She didn't even try to fight for us. And after everything we'd been through she just cut me out, wouldn't listen to anything I had to say. I didn't deserve that"

"Evie does love you Josh..... But Tank was like a drug. Surely you can understand that? We all tried to reason with her, she just wouldn't listen.... Sound familiar?" said Oscar.

"Yeah, and if my drug taking had resulted in Evie being blind for the rest of her life, do you think she'd forgive me?! Would you?!" said Josh more loudly than he'd intended. He could feel his heart beating faster. 

"Come on Josh, you can't blame Evie for what Tank did! He's a psycho. You know how scared Evie was of him!" said Oscar, trying to reason with him.

"Yeah, and who did she call for help? Good old reliable, here. Like an idiot I went running! And look how well that's turned out!" Josh's voice was raised, he was trying not to shout, but not doing a very good job.

"Ok, then here's a question for you? What would you do different, if you could go back? Would you leave Evie out there with Tank?" asked Oscar.

"No, of course not!" said Josh, he knew he wouldn't. Just the thought of her with Tank, scared out of her wits, made his heart hurt. He just wanted to scoop her up in his arms and protect her. He did still love her.

"Then you can't blame Evie for what Tank did. Can you? He's the one you should be angry with." said Oscar, hopeful that he was getting through.

Josh slumped back on the sofa, feeling exhausted and a little defeated. Tank wasn't around to be angry with. He'd needed someone to blame, to make himself feel better, but he realised that pushing Evie away was only making him more unhappy. He didn't want to admit it, but Oscar was right.

"I'll think about it" said Josh, having already made his decision. "You're a good brother, you know that right? Evie's lucky to have you". 

"I know" said Oscar, smiling to himself.

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Josh was lying on his bed thinking about the conversation he'd had with Oscar. He couldn't get Evie out of his head. He missed her. He hated to admit it to himself but Oscar was right. Somewhere in the back of his mind he was still angry with her. There was a resentment he couldn't quite let go of but it was surfacing less and less. As time went on he was finding it harder and harder to be angry with her. He loved her and he couldn't deny that. He needed her. He longed for the intimacy that they'd once had, and he couldn't ignore the crushing loneliness he felt any longer. He needed her to be there, a warm body next to his, a hand to hold on to. He needed to know he wasn't lost and alone in the dark.

He thought about how frightened he felt sometimes when he awoke to the darkness, unsure of the time of day, or where he was. For a second he would forget he couldn't see, reaching for the switch on the lamp beside his bed. The realisation always left him feeling scared and vulnerable. More than anything, in those moments, he wanted Evie to crawl into bed with him. He wanted to feel her warm body pressed against his, her arms around him, just so he could feel safe again. Even if it was only for a moment.  He thought about the attack. Tank had taken something from him that night, not just his sight, but that feeling of safety, the sensation that everything would be okay. He needed to feel safe again, to be held, to be loved... Maybe it was time he made his peace with Evie?


The phone was ringing as Josh waited nervously for Evie to answer. He'd pressed cancel so many times already, chickening out after a few seconds. It had taken him all day to pluck up the courage to call her.

After the tenth ring he figured she wasn't going to answer. He wouldn't blame her given the last time she'd seen him. He felt a little guilty for writing that note.

Just as he was about to hang up, he heard her voice. "Josh?" she said in a slightly breathless way, obviously surprised that he was calling.

He replied, hesitantly, "Evie... I need to talk to you.... could you come over?". 

He would have gone to her but he'd have to ask Andy to drive him and he knew Andy would make a really big deal of it. Josh was nervous enough.

There was silence at the other end of the line. "Evie?.... Are you still there?"

"Okay" she answered, hesitantly, "When?"

He was relieved that she'd accepted, but worried that he might lose his nerve, so he said "As soon, as you can Evie, I really need to talk to you. Can you come now?....Please?"

Silence again... 

"Okay, give me 20 minutes" said Evie, hanging up. 

Josh let out a huge breath that he realised he'd been holding in for too long. His stomach was doing somersaults, his heart was racing, and he thought he might be sick. He hadn't felt this nervous in a long time. Evie was on her way! He wondered what on earth he was going to say to her.

As he waited for her to arrive he began to feel very self conscious, wondering what he looked like. Of course he had no way of knowing anymore. Andy had been helping him to shave since he got home from the hospital. He hadn't quite got the hang of it yet, cutting himself a couple of times. He hated that he had to ask Andy for help, especially with stuff like this. It was one of the more embarrassing aspects of suddenly being blind. Every day was a learning process. He was managing most other things himself. The mechanics of getting dressed was fine but he didn't know if the tshirt he was wearing went with his jeans, or even if it was the right way round, or inside out. Shirts with labels on the inside were easier but it was taking time to figure things out. Andy or Kyle usually let him know when he'd made a mistake, though it didn't happen too often. Andy had helped him organise his things better so he could match up tshirts and jeans and get dressed more easily. He'd never been that vain but it was a strange thing not being able to see yourself. 

He was nervous for Evie to see him again. He wondered what he had looked like the last time she saw him in the hospital. He wanted to look as close to the old Josh as he could, not the pitiful version she had left behind in that hospital bed. He didn't want her pity, he wanted her love.


Evie arrived at the door and knocked. Josh, jumping up from the couch, shouted for her to come in. Evie, walking through the door, caught sight of Josh standing beside the couch, looking in her direction. She was surprised to see Josh looking so normal, even smiling a little, clearly nervous. She thought for a moment his sight must have come back. Maybe that was why the sudden change of heart?

Josh began to feel his way around the edge of the sofa and made his way toward the door, his hand outstretched in front of him. "Evie?" he called, his voice catching slightly in his throat as his emotions got the better of him.  He was feeling very self conscious and exposed.

"I'm here, Josh" said Evie, sad that she was wrong and that Josh was clearly still blind. She reached for his hand as he walked with careful measured steps towards her. 

He took hold of her hand, and, interlacing his fingers with hers, he pulled her hand to his chest, never wanting to let it go again. She could feel his heart racing, thumping in his chest. "I'm sorry" he said "I shouldn't have blamed you, it wasn't your fault".  In that moment he realised that he meant it. It wasn't her fault.  All he wanted was to be close to her, to hold her, to have her hold him. 

She could see he was shaking, his hands were trembling, and his eyes were filling with tears. "I was so scared, Evie. I think I just needed someone to blame. I'm sorry I pushed you away."

Evie thought 'How can he forgive me?'. This was the man whose life she had ruined! He would never see again because of her! She felt so guilty for giving up on him so easily. She'd been arrogant and selfish, she thought to herself. She hated herself for taking the moral high ground, judging him for taking drugs, and refusing to listen when he tried to apologise. He'd needed her help, not her judgement! When she looked back now she didn't recognise herself. She chose Tank over Josh! What was she thinking?!  She shuddered to think what might have happened had Josh not found her that day. Why had he been the one to pay such a terrible price? It wasn't fair! How could she ever make this up to him? She knew she'd spend her life trying if he'd let her.

Evie said "I'm so sorry Josh", reaching up to Josh's face and gently caressing his cheek. She wiped away his tears with her thumb. She looked at Josh's face, so full of hurt. She was looking into his beautiful brown eyes, those eyes she had fallen in love with, that had always been so full of light before. There was no light now. Josh returned her gaze with unseeing eyes, glistening with tears. She didn't know what else to say. "I'm sorry, Josh, I'm so so sorry. It is my fault. If I hadn't...", she sobbed.

Josh interrupted "Evie, it isn't.... it isn't.  Okay? I should never have said it was. I was angry, and frightened, and I just wanted to punish someone."  

With that, Josh pulled Evie in tight against his chest, enveloping her in his arms. Her head against his chest, she could hear his heart beating fast, and feel his body shuddering as he started to cry.  She pulled away from the hug enough to stand on her tiptoes and gently kiss him.   He took her face in his hands and traced its shape with his thumbs. "I've missed this face" he said, "I wish I could see your eyes.... I need you Evie... I still love you". Finding her lips with his thumb, he leaned in and kissed her with a sudden urgency, a need for intimacy and comfort. Evie steered them towards the couch as they kissed.

"Wait, what about Andy and Kyle? Should we go to your bedroom?" asked Evie. 

"They won't be back for hours" said Josh.  

Andy had never been so happy to find the couch occupied when he got home. Two bodies intertwined, asleep on the couch in a warm embrace. 'Good for you, Josh', thought Andy, smiling to himself, as he tiptoed off to bed.

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"Hey, wake up sleepy head" said Evie, stroking Josh's hair away from his eyes. They'd moved to his bed in the early hours of the morning, a much more comfortable place to sleep. 

Evie had woken up a little while ago but she'd been enjoying this feeling of closeness, lying in bed next to Josh. She had her head on his chest and had been lying there, feeling the rise and fall with each breath he took, listening to his heartbeat. She thought about that day in the hospital when she'd had to say goodbye to him, and how they'd nearly lost him.  She shuddered to think how close they'd come to switching him off. This heart she was listening to now would have stopped beating, this body would have grown cold, and just like that, Josh would gave been gone.  She would never have got to hold him again, to have his warm, protective body next to hers... to hear his heart beat. She thought it had to be the most beautiful sound she would ever hear. 'I'm never going to take this for granted again' she thought.

"Hey, wake up" said Evie again, pulling herself up the bed a little to give him a peck on the lips.

"Mmmm" said Josh, stirring a little. He smiled, and with his eyes still closed, he yawned and stretched and said "morning". She leaned in and kissed him again, lingering a little longer this time. He opened his eyes, his smile falling a little as he registered that the world was still dark. He rubbed his face and pulled his fingers through his hair, and said "what time is it?".

"Close to 10, I think" said Evie. 

"I haven't slept so well in a long time" said Josh, yawning and stretching.

Evie laughed and said "I know, I've been watching you. You know you snore by the way?"

"Uh, no I don't!" said Josh, pretending to be offended.

"Uh, yeah you do" said Evie, mimicking Josh's voice as she leaned in to kiss him. He laughed a little as he kissed her back.

"I'm hungry" said Josh, "wanna see what's in the kitchen for breakfast?" starting to sit up,

Evie grabbed his tshirt and pulled him back down onto the bed beside her. "Can't we just stay in bed a little longer? I'm still not convinced this is really happening. I keep expecting to wake up and for you to still be mad at me." said Evie, as she pulled him in close to kiss him.

She pulled his tshirt up over his head and started to kiss his chest. "If this is a dream, I don't want to waste it eating breakfast! "


"Was it different?" said Evie, lying in Josh's arms, smiling a contented smile.

"Was what different?" asked Josh, his voice a little sleepy.

"You know... is it different?... when... when you can't see?" said Evie. It had certainly been different for her, she thought. 

"Oh" said Josh, "uh, yeah, it's... different" said Josh actually feeling a little embarrassed. "Why? Was it.... not good?" asked Josh, suddenly a little worried.

"No, Josh!" said Evie, rolling onto her side to face him "It was amazing! You were amazing!" 

She was giggling in an excited way, holding his hand and playing with his fingers. When she giggled like that Josh could picture her smile and the way she wrinkled her nose. He loved that image of her that he kept in his head. 

"Really?!" said Josh, suddenly beaming. "So, it was... better?" ventured Josh.

"Better!... Definitely, better!" said Evie, nodding her head emphatically and giggling some more.

Josh wasn't sure whether he should be offended on behalf of the old Josh who could see, or puff his chest out with pride for the Josh who couldn't. He laughed and said "So there's something I can actually do better now that I'm blind. Is that what you're telling me?!"

"I'm saying, if you ever get your sight back, we're gonna have to blindfold you!" laughed Evie. 


"So... you two are back on track then, yeah?" asked Andy. He'd found them in the kitchen giggling like idiots. Evie had made them some breakfast and she was sitting on Josh's lap feeding him a piece of toast. 

"Looks like it, yeah" said Josh with a big dopey smile on his face. "Evie and I sorted a few things out" said Josh, smiling mischievously at Evie.

"Yeah, you could say that" said Evie, snorting as she laughed. 

"Okay, too much information, guys!" said Andy, pretending to be grossed out. 

He was so happy for Josh, he couldn't help but smile. Last night was the first night he'd slept well since the attack. He'd gone to bed happy, knowing Josh was safe in Evie's arms. Looking at the two of them cuddled up on the couch, he had felt a great weight being lifted from his shoulders. Watching them together now, he just wanted to pick her up, and hug her, and thank her for being there for his brother. Now Evie was back, Josh would be a lot easier to deal with and there'd be an extra person to help out. Who'd have thought when he left the house for work yesterday that so much could happen? He didn't know who or what had changed Josh's mind, but he couldn't have been happier.

"So, what have you two got planned for today, then?" asked Andy.

They both burst out laughing, Evie burying her face in Josh's chest, snort laughing. 

"Oh... right." said Andy, a little embarrassed, but enjoying the joke at the same time. He was so relieved to see Josh happy. "I guess I'll get out of your way then."

"Actually, Andy?" said Josh, "What would you think of having a barbecue tonight? Maybe invite some people over?"

Andy was surprised, to say the least. This was such a big turnaround, in such a short time, he wasn't sure what to make of it. 

"Uh, are you sure you're up for that?" asked Andy, sounding a little hesitant.

Evie gave Josh's hand a squeeze and he smiled at her, before turning more in Andy's direction. "I think I'll be ok. It might be good to just get everyone together and get it over with. Y'know, show them I'm still me, white cane or not"

"Well, if you're sure?" said Andy, throwing Evie a concerned look. She smiled back at him and mouthed the words "It'll be ok". 

Josh pretended he hadn't heard Evie, but he'd been able to hear her mouth moving.  He knew Andy was worried, and with good reason. 

"I am." said Josh with a smile, "I'll be fine, Andy... really." 

"Okay then, I'll spread the word. I'll get Kyle to organise the food, he's off today." said Andy, still not sure this was a good idea. 

Leaving the house to go to work, Andy couldn't decide what he was feeling. He had been elated when he'd discovered Josh and Evie on the couch last night. He'd been even happier when he found them in the kitchen this morning cooing at each other like a couple of little lovebirds. Evie was just what Josh needed right now, he thought. He was grateful she was back in Josh's life. He just couldn't shake the feeling of dread he had about this barbecue. He was sure it wouldn't go well. He just hoped that Evie knew what she was getting herself into.

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Evie gave Josh's hand a little squeeze. They'd been holding hands all evening, Evie at his side at all times.  She was so proud of him. He'd done so well, talking to all their friends and family. He'd even been making little jokes to put everyone at their ease. Evie knew this was really hard for Josh and as the evening wore on he'd been holding her hand more and more tightly. She could feel the tension building.

"Burgers are ready!" called Andy, from over by the barbecue. People started milling in that direction.

Josh and Evie had been sitting on the garden bench all evening, allowing people to come to them. It was a lot easier than trying to walk around with so many people in the garden, and Josh felt less under scrutiny when he was sitting. He didn't really want to put on a show for everyone, making his way around with his cane.

He'd spoken to so many people, all wishing him well, and telling him how well he looked. He was surprised to find he was actually enjoying himself. 

"Well, young fella, sounds like the food's up. I reckon I'll head over and get one of those burgers. What about you two?" asked Alf, winking at Evie. He'd been having a chat to them about his morning's fishing trip. It had been pretty successful and he'd brought some of the fish over for Andy to throw on the barbecue. He was pleased to see Josh and Evie back together, and Evie looking so happy.

"Yeah, Josh, do you want to come up with me or will I just put together a plate for you?  asked Evie.

"Think I'll wait here. Just get me what you're having... Thanks Evie." Josh smiled, and reluctantly let go of her hand. He didn't think there was much point in him going up there with her.  It wasn't like he could see what was on offer anyway, and he could hear that the crowd had formed up round the barbecue. He knew he wouldn't be able to cope with so many people all around him.

Evie walked away with Alf towards the barbecue and the growing crowd of happy voices. Josh sat on the bench and listened to them all, a short distance away, laughing and shouting. He smiled. Only a few days ago this would have been overwhelming, he thought. Again, he was on the outside, left behind, not part of things. But this time he didn't mind. He had Evie now, and that was all that mattered. With Evie by his side he felt he could deal with anything. 

Someone sat down beside him. He knew instinctively that it wasn't Evie, and he got the sense it wasn't someone he knew, so he said "uh... hi?" wondering who it was.

"Josh, hi, it's uh... Greg... uh... Mr Snelgrove. I just wanted to talk to you for a minute. I know my son Wayne... Tank, did a terrible thing... but he's been going through some....things.... "

Josh's face had blanched white. He suddenly felt sick to his stomach. He felt his heart speed up and he was beginning to shake. He tried to tell himself to calm down. It didn't make sense to get this upset. This was just Tank's father, not Tank himself.

"I'm not going to make excuses for him but he's been doing a lot of counselling... and well, part of that is to sit down with those he's hurt..."

Josh felt sick. It was like he was suddenly transported. He was back in that hospital room, lying in that bed, not able to communicate. He could feel everything like he was right there, the cannula in his hand, the catheter, the stiff bedsheets wrapped around him. He could feel the fear and the panic just like he'd felt for weeks in that room, unable to do anything about it.

"I was wondering if you'd be willing to meet with Wayne?" said Snelgrove, ignoring the obvious fear on Josh's face.

Josh started to get to his feet.  He wanted to get away. "Um... I... I....I... can't!" said Josh, his voice shaking. He was fumbling for his cane but he couldn't find it. 

"Evie! Andy!" shouted Josh as he backed away from the bench. Mr Snelgrove was following him, saying "Josh, I don't mean to upset you. I just want to talk for a minute..." Every step Josh took, moving backwards, Snelgrove matched it, moving forward. Josh was beginning to panic.

Andy rushed across the garden, and shoved Snelgrove backwards, pushing him away from Josh. "Get away from him!" yelled Andy, "Can't you see you're freaking him out?!"

Josh had gone pale white and was standing there shaking, clutching his chest. Evie had arrived at his side and taken his hand, but he was having trouble breathing. He was hyperventilating quite heavily, wondering why on earth he was reacting this way.

Kyle put his arm around Josh's shoulder, protectively, and said "Mate, calm down. We'll sort this".

"Can you make him... go?.... Please?" wheezed Josh. He had no idea what was happening to him, he just knew he wanted Snelgrove to leave. The world felt like it was spinning, he felt nauseous, and he was struggling to take in a full breath.

"I'm sorry Josh... really. I just wanted to talk to you about Wayne." said Snelgrove, backing away with his hands up. An angry crowd had formed around them making it very clear he wasn't welcome. Andy was squaring up to him to make him leave. "I'm sorry Andy, I didn't mean any harm" said Snelgrove.

They walked to the garden gate, Andy wanting to make sure he was leaving.

"Can you please just go?" said Andy "Now's not the time. I get that you don't mean any harm but you can see you're upsetting him, so you need to go."

"I'm leaving, I'm leaving..." said Snelgrove as he left the garden, shaking his head. 

Andy turned and ran back to Josh who was seated on the bench again, with Evie by his side.. Nate was kneeling in front of him, taking his pulse. His breathing was calming down but he was clearly very shaken.

"Mate, are you okay?" asked Andy, putting a hand on Josh's shoulder. Josh was so pale and frightened looking. Andy looked at Nate for reassurance.

"You've just had a bit of a panic attack, Josh. You'll be okay. Just try to slow your breathing.... 
that's right....nice and slow.
Yeah, that's better Josh... 
....You'll be okay". said Nate.

Everyone was standing round watching. They didn't know what had happened but whispers had already started that Snelgrove had threatened Josh in some way. 

Kyle started to shepherd the crowd away towards the house. "C'mon everyone, lets give Josh some space. There's still loads of food, and it's getting cold." He was walking towards them with his arms held out like he was herding cattle. They slowly moved away, leaving Josh with Andy, Evie, and Nate.

"I'm okay" said Josh, his breathing beginning to return to normal. He was feeling embarrassed and very confused. He'd never had a panic attack before and couldn't understand how a middle aged man simply sitting beside him on a garden bench could set one off. It was Mr Snelgrove, not his son. Why on earth had he reacted this way?!

The hospital had been an absolute nightmare for Josh. He'd just about gotten through it with his sanity intact, although there had been times when he'd thought he would go crazy. The frustration was overwhelming. Having people manhandle him like that, like a ragdoll, stripping him, washing him, shaving his face. He couldn't even see who they were. Some of them didn't even talk to him, just hands pawing at him in the dark. They had treated him like someone not there. He'd been there alright! Trapped inside, screaming for them to listen to him, angry and humiliated and scared. Paralysed. Even the thought of those first weeks, when he'd woken up, made him feel anxious. He couldn't let himself think about it, pushing it to the back of his mind. He didn't know why Mr Snelgrove showing up and talking about Tank had triggered such a strong memory of the hospital. It didn't make any sense. He rubbed at the top of his hand where the cannula had been. He could still remember the sensation when he'd accidentally pulled at it. A burning sting he could almost feel now.

Andy kneeled down beside Josh and put his hand on his knee. "What did Snelgrove say to you, mate?"

"Nothing... just that he wanted to talk about Tank" said Josh, feeling embarrassed for causing such a fuss. "I don't know what happened, I just freaked out".

"Right, well, he's gone now. You don't have to talk to him.... How you feeling now?" said Andy. 

Josh shrugged his shoulders. He was embarrassed, more than anything.

Andy looked at Nate, with a questioning expression.

"I think you'll be alright now, Josh. I'll leave you with Evie here." said Nate, patting Josh on the shoulder. "If you need me, I'm here, just across the garden".  He signalled to Andy to follow him as he walked away.

Andy got up and said "I'm gonna go see if Kyle's ok with everything. Will you be okay here Josh?". He didn't want Josh to know he was going to talk to Nate about him.

"Yeah, fine. Just go" said Josh, sounding defeated. 

Evie was holding Josh's hand and leaning her head on his shoulder. She put her hand to his chin and turned his face towards hers. She leaned in and kissed him lightly on the lips. She turned back to Andy and said  "He'll be fine Andy. I think he just needs some space." She'd never seen Josh like this and it had frightened her but she wasn't going to let Josh know that. 

Andy walked over to Nate, looking concerned "What the hell was that?!"

"A panic attack. Given what he's been through it's not that surprising. It can be pretty scary though. I'd keep an eye on him. I'm not sure he's coping with this as well as he's pretending. I think some counselling might be a good idea. Has anyone spoken to him about that?" said Nate.

"He refused" said Andy, shaking his head. "They wanted to get him into some support group for other young blind people, like some sort of youth group, but he flat out refused.....You can't reason with him sometimes."

He smiled at Andy, thinking this was like the pot calling the kettle black. Stubbornness was something the Barrett boys certainly had in spades. Nate looked over at Josh and Evie on the garden bench. She was joking around with him and he was even smiling a little. "Maybe see if Evie can persuade him?" said Nate, thinking she had the best chance of talking him round.

Andy followed his gaze. Josh had calmed down and was smiling and laughing a little. A couple of days ago, if this had happened, he'd have retreated to his room. There's no way he would have stayed in the garden after that, with everyone watching. With Evie there, he seemed to have a new confidence, a willingness to try. Maybe Evie could get him to try this counselling thing. "Good idea" said Andy.

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Thank you for the lovely comments :-) I really appreciate it.


Josh was trying not to shout. He didn't want to draw attention to himself, especially since this was his first time back at Angelo's, but Evie's persistent nagging was getting on his nerves. He just wanted to have a nice lunch with his girlfriend without an argument. Was that so much to ask?

"I'm not going Evie, I'm not talking about this anymore! Can we just get some pizza and talk about something else?!... Please?!" said Josh, trying his best not to shout at Evie.

"Josh, I'm just trying to..." said Evie sounding exasperated.

"Evie! Seriously, leave it!" snapped Josh. She was really getting on his nerves now. 

"Okay, okay, Josh" said Evie, sounding unimpressed "but we're not done talking about this. I think it would be good for you".

Josh clenched his jaw and breathed heavily. He was doing his best to keep it together. It would be really easy to lose it right now, he thought.

Kyle had seen Josh and Evie come in so he made his way across the restaurant to meet them at the door. Josh was letting Evie lead him but they were clearly arguing and he could see that Josh looked a bit upset. Even so, Kyle was relieved to see Josh out and about again. For a while there, he and Andy had thought they might never get him out of the house again. It was amazing the effect that Evie had had on him in only a few days.

"Hey guys!" said Kyle, putting a hand on Josh's shoulder. "You two here for dinner?".

"Yeah, thanks Kyle" said Evie, looking a little flustered. 

"Okay, well, I'll put you at the table closest to the bar, Josh. You know to the right of the bar, that first booth table." said Kyle. 

They sat down in their booth and Kyle gave Evie a menu. He had a second menu in his hand, through sheer force of habit, and he dithered with it for a second before putting it back under his arm. He thought how difficult this must be for Josh and felt bad for him. Kyle missed having his brothers around and had grown quite attached to the Barretts, like a replacement family. 'Poor Josh', he thought, 'this isn't fair'. 

"I imagine you know the menu pretty well, Josh" said Kyle "You should, you did work here.... Do you know what you want?"

"The one with the parma ham on it, can't remember what it's called" said Josh. He was glad Kyle didn't start reading out the menu to him.  

Evie ordered a pizza with ham and mushrooms and they both ordered beers.

Kyle smiled and winked at Evie as he left to go place the order. He was amazed at the change in Josh, he'd really come out of his shell the last few days. Obviously he was still struggling, who wouldn't be? That panic attack the other evening had been frightening for all involved but Evie seemed to have given Josh the strength to get past it. He'd picked himself up, dusted himself off, and got on with it. Kyle was proud of him and thought Josh was very brave. He wasn't sure he'd be coping half as well in Josh's shoes.


"I don't want to do it Evie. How is talking to some group of blind people, all feeling sorry for themselves, gonna help?! I'm just not that kind of touchy feely, 'talk about my emotions' kind of person" said Josh,  trying to hold his temper. He'd asked Evie not to bring it up again but she just wouldn't leave it. She was like a dog with a bone sometimes. He was getting angry. He could feel the tension building, but he didn't want to end up shouting at Evie. Not in a busy restaurant.

"You don't have to do the group session... Although I think it might be good to meet people who've been through the same thing..." said Evie.  She refused to let this go, not after that panic attack the other night. This was too important! She tried a different tack , "Nate said he can get you in to see a counsellor one on one."

"Pleeeease Josh?" she continued. "How bad can it be?  Someone who's paid to listen to you?..." She took a deep breath. This wasnt something she liked to tell people. "I saw a counsellor after Dad died... Oscar and I both did."

"I didn't know that" said Josh, a little hurt that Evie had never told him before.

"Yeah, well, I needed to talk to someone. That was a really difficult time in my life. I was very confused... about everything. Having someone to talk to who isn't a friend, isn't family, is... liberating. I told my counsellor things I thought I could never tell anyone." 

"Things you've never told me?" asked Josh, feeling even more offended.

"Things I'm never going to tell you, Josh. Things I've never told Oscar." She gave his hand a little squeeze, "Please, Josh?! I really think it would help..."

He was tired of arguing with her and he thought, if it made her happy, he could sit through one session.

 "Uggggghhh... okay!!!... But I'm only doing it for you.  If I go and I don't like it, you have to stop torturing me about it? Deal?" said Josh. 


Kyle brought the pizzas across to Josh and Evie's table. The atmosphere had certainly changed in the 15 minutes he'd been gone and he couldn't help but laugh.  He had to hand it to the girl, she was good! She could wind Josh round her little finger when she wanted to. Josh was laughing at something Evie had said, a big silly smile on his face. She had her chin on his shoulder and was holding his hand in both of hers, playing with his fingers. She did that a lot these days, now she couldn't make eye contact with him. They were every bit the image of young love.

"Right, guys" said Kyle, placing the pizzas down on the table. "It's on the house".

"Wow, that's really nice of you!" said Evie, smiling up at Kyle. 

Kyle put a hand on Josh's shoulder, "Yeah well, I'm just glad you got this guy out of the house!" 


Josh was dreading that door opening. He and Evie had been sitting in the waiting room now for about 10 minutes and Josh's anxiety levels had been building. Evie kept squeezing his hand and rubbing her other hand up and down his arm in an attempt to be reassuring. It wasn't working. If he was honest, it was just getting on his nerves. He didn't want to be there and he resented her for forcing him into this. How was this going to help, anyway?

The door opened and a man's voice called "Joshua Barrett". 

Josh felt sick to his stomach, he didn't want to do this! Evie leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. Normally he would have been grateful for her affection, she was always trying to reassure him, but he was angry with her for making him do this so he pulled away. He let go of her hand and slowly got to his feet. He felt like someone being led to the gallows.

The counsellor let Josh take his arm and led him into his office, leaving a worried looking Evie behind in the waiting room. She hoped he wouldn't be too angry with her when he got out. His moods were very volatile these days.

"Okay, Joshua, there's a chair here" said the counsellor, guiding Josh's hand so he could feel the seat.

"It's just Josh" he said, sinking into the chair. He was relieved it wasn't one of those beds. He'd pictured himself lying on one of those leather psychiatrist beds being asked to talk about his childhood or his dreams. This was just a soft chair with wooden arms, and a lot less embarrassing.

"Okay, Josh. Well... I'm Dr Stephens but I don't mind if you'd prefer to call me by my first name. It's really up to you. My name's Mark... As I said, it's up to you. Some people prefer to keep their distance, some people prefer familiarity."

"Uh, ok..." said Josh, thinking it didn't really matter what he called him, he'd never be back. He'd promised Evie he'd do one session and that was all she was getting. "Mark, then I guess".

"Right, well. Why don't we talk about why you're here today, Josh. Why did you want to come see me?"

"I didn't" said Josh, already fed up with how this was going. He wondered why he had let Evie manipulate him like this? 

"You didn't want to?" asked Mark. This wasn't the first hostile patient he'd dealt with. "Someone forced you into it?"

"My girlfriend... And my brother." said Josh. "They think I'm not 'dealing' with things". He'd made the inverted commas sign with his hands thinking how strange it was to use visual gestures when he couldn't see them himself..

"And you think you're dealing with things just fine?" asked Mark. 

Josh didn't like his tone of voice. He thought it sounded very patronising and he wasn't in the mood to be talked down to.

"Yeah. I'm doing pretty well, considering... I wish people would give me just a little bit of credit. I'm doing my best. This isn't the easiest thing to get used to!"

"What isn't?" asked Mark. 

Josh was a bit dismayed. He had assumed that the counsellor would know his history, how he'd lost his sight. He wondered how anyone thought they could help him if they knew nothing about him. This seemed like an even bigger waste of time than he'd originally thought! He couldn't hide the anger in his voice. "Um, Suddenly being blind! Losing my sight... Didn't you read my case notes?"

"I did Josh, yes. I just wanted you to say it out loud. Sometimes it's the actual word that scares us. We think if we don't say it, it isn't real." 

He sat forward in his chair and cleared his throat. "Josh... It's a terrible thing that has happened to you. You need to allow yourself to grieve for your old life." He paused to allow that to sink in. "Grieving is a process with many stages. You need to allow yourself to experience those stages, at your own pace."

"Now, I want you to think of this as a safe place. Anything you tell me is confidential, you can say anything you want, there'll be no judgement here. We can talk about anything you want.  I won't make you talk about anything you don't want to... but with counselling you get out what you put in. So it might help you to talk about certain things, even if they're painful to talk about."

He sat back. This was a speech he had made many times. He allowed Josh a moment to think about what he'd said. He could see that Josh's expression had softened. He didn't look as defensive now.

Josh was beginning to think this might not be so bad. He'd imagined something a lot more like he'd seen on TV, some stuffy old man peeping over a clipboard at him making notes. From the sounds of things, this was just someone to talk to. Maybe he could manage that.

"So, Josh... is there anything you'd like to talk about?" asked Mark.


Evie was starting to nod off in the waiting room. It felt like a lifetime had passed since Josh disappeared through that door. She hoped he was doing okay in there.

The door opened and the counsellor led Josh back out. Evie jumped up and went straight to his side. She put her arm round his waist and leaned in against him. He didn't pull away, which she took as a good sign.

"Thanks Mark" said Josh "Same time on Thursday then?". 

"Yep, I'll see you then" said Mark. He left Josh with Evie and returned to his office.

"How did it go, Josh? Was it ok?" asked Evie, a little worried what the answer would be.

"It was good". He smiled and kissed her on the top of the head. He sighed an exaggerated sigh "I really hate to admit it but you were right..." He shook his head,  pretending to be annoyed with her "Why are you always right?!"

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"Who are you and what did you do with my brother?!" asked Andy, smiling and laughing, he was amazed to find Josh and Evie down on the beach. 

"Haha, very funny" said Josh, smirking a little. 

Josh hadn't been in this good a mood for as long as he could remember. Talking to Mark was helping. He didn't really understand why, but it was. The second and third session had been much more intense.  They'd talked about the attack, and about the hospital, which was something Josh usually didn't like to think about. For some reason he'd been able to talk to Mark about it. Mark had taught him some techniques to deal with his anxiety, mainly breathing exercises. He was feeling a little more in control, a little less powerless. He was actually looking foward to going back next week. 

Josh had been getting out a lot more over the last couple of weeks. He felt so much better not being cooped up in the house and was starting to feel a little more confident finding his way around with his cane. He still couldn't go anywhere on his own, but Andy and Evie had been great about taking him places, and making him feel like he could actually do things. He'd been doing boxing sessions with Andy and really enjoying doing something physical for a change. Evie had him out and about talking to people every day. He found that it was getting easier and he was feeling less self conscious as time went on. He was surprised that life didn't feel so bad these days. Maybe he could cope with this after all?

Josh and Evie were lying on towels enjoying the sunshine. Josh had taken some convincing but she'd got him to come to the beach in the end. He wasn't ready for swimming yet but he was proud of himself. 'Small steps' he thought, smiling to himself. Mark had told him to recognise each small step as a victory, that sometimes the smallest step was the most important on the way to recovery. He knew he was getting on Evie's nerves with what she called "Mark worship" but he couldn't help it. 

Andy sat down on the sand beside them, still wet from being out surfing.  He shook his head like a dog, laughing, and deliberately spraying both of them with water.

"Andy!!!" shouted Evie, pretending to be annoyed. 

"What are you two doing later?" asked Andy. He had something he needed to talk to Josh about but he knew it was likely to upset him. He didn't want to ruin his day out on the beach so it would have to wait till later. He wasn't looking forward to this conversation.

"Not much" said Evie, yawning. "We were just gonna get some takeout and chill at yours... Why?" 

He gave her a look to let her know he was worried. "Ah nothing. Just wanted to know if you'd be around this evening".  He patted Josh on the shoulder and said "I'm off to work. We don't all get to laze around in the sunshine all day".

He regretted saying it as soon as it left his lips. He could see that Josh had taken it as a bit of a cutting remark, flinching a little. It wasn't like Josh could work at the moment and it was hard to imagine what job he'd get in the future, especially in a small town like Summer Bay. 

"See you tonight" said Evie, throwing Andy a sympathetic look. It was so easy to put your foot in it with Josh these days, she thought, Andy was too hard on himself.

"Okay, go" said Josh, waving Andy away, jokingly. "You're blocking my light" 


"Why would he think I wanted to do that?!" said Josh, his voice raised and his face flushed red. His heart was suddenly beating faster. He hated that sensation, it was something he had been experiencing all too often since the attack.

A letter had arrived for Josh, and Andy had opened it. Tank wanted to meet with Josh as part of a mediation session, something his counsellor had suggested. Andy was shocked to read that Tank was out of the hospital and back at home. He was angry. How could the person that did this to Josh just be out walking about the place, like nothing had happened? How was that even allowed?!

Andy continued, "Apparently, it's called a 'victim mediation meeting'. He says you get to tell him how his actions have affected you." Andy thought back to the day they'd nearly turned the machines off, and his blood boiled. How his actions had affected Josh?! He wanted to smash Tank's face in.

Josh had turned away from Andy, so he couldn't see his face. Evie was sitting on the arm of the sofa, biting her lip nervously. She could see that Josh was struggling with this. He'd clenched his fists and had his eyes closed. He was breathing in and out in a slow and measured way. A breathing technique Mark had taught him. He was on the verge of another panic attack. The thought of meeting up with Tank was too much to handle.  He'd never hated anyone more.

The hospital was flashing through his mind again. The smells, the noises, the sensations.... It made him feel sick to his stomach.

"I'm not doing it!" said Josh, shaking his head and breathing heavily. "I can't!". He could feel the anger rising in his stomach, he just wanted to hit something. He was angry that Tank could have this effect on him, like some kind of boogie man hiding in the dark. The thought of coming face to face with him made him feel so anxious.

"I dont think you should either" said Andy. "He's probably just trying to get his sentence reduced when it comes to trial." 

Andy decided not to tell Josh that Tank was out of hospital. He wasn't sure how he'd cope with that. Josh had been doing so well the last few weeks and he didnt want him to freak out again. 'What Josh doesn't know can't hurt him', thought Andy. With a bit of luck they wouldn't run into him between now and the trial.

Evie gave Josh a hug, pulling him in close and putting her head against his chest. She could feel that he was shaking. "It'll be okay" said Evie,  "You don't have to do anything you don't want to do." She caught Andy's eye across the room and gave him a worried smile. They were both concerned about him, this was the last thing he needed.


"Mark thinks I should do it" said Josh, frowning. He really didn't think it was a good idea.

Josh and Evie had come to the diner after his counselling session. They had a little routine going now. Josh would have his hour with the counsellor while Evie got to catch up on trashy magazines. Then they would walk back to the diner, and have a coffee together. It made it something enjoyable for both of them. Normally she couldn't shut Josh up on the way back. 'Mark this' and 'Mark that'. They had a running joke where she would make fun of him for his 'man crush' and he would pretend to be annoyed. Today was different. He'd been very quiet all the way back to the diner. This was the first full sentence she'd got out of him since they'd left Mark's office.

"He thinks it would be a step forward" said Josh, looking miserable.

"Does he really think you're ready for that?" asked Evie. She was worried that Mark was forcing him into something he wasn't ready for, and that he would fall apart again when they'd made so much progress. Mark wouldn't be the the one that had to pick up the pieces!

 "He thinks I'm giving Tank too much power over me... that I need to see that he's just... a guy... not some scary monster." said Josh. He was shaking again, furiously blinking back tears, and feeling like a failure for not being able to keep it together.

"I just don't think I can" said Josh, with a heavy sigh.

Evie reached across the table and took his hand. "Mark doesn't know everything, Josh. You do what's right for you." She hated to see him like this, so fragile.

He gave her a little smile. "I don't know what I'd do without you." said Josh. 

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