Little Boy Lost: Sacrificed
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by J. P. Barnaby
Category: Gay Fiction/Romance
Description: Sequel to Escaped
Little Boy Lost: Book Six
Reunited with his father but missing the one man he loves more than any other, Jamie Mayfield attempts to put his life back together amid rehab, seizures, and the gutting loneliness of Brian's rejection. As he tries to cope, Jamie finds that relying on his friends isn't nearly as difficult as he'd imagined, and soon he can once again stand on his own two feet.
While recovering from his addiction, Jamie starts a new phase of his life at college, working to become the man Brian needs him to be. Only one question remains: Can Jamie earn Brian's forgiveness and win back his trust, or will their love be sacrificed at the altar of Jamie's demons?
Brian and Jamie's epic journey comes to a close in this thrilling conclusion to the Little Boy Lost series."
eBook Publisher: Dreamspinner Press/Dreamspinner Press, 2012 2012
eBookwise Release Date: August 2012
3 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [303 KB]
Reading time: 214-300 min.
My eyes burned with the need for sleep as they followed the sun's early morning progress through the lightening sky. I don't think I remembered for certain the last time they'd closed. As I lay back on my childhood bed and checked the new smart phone, I saw that there were no calls, no texts, no messages of any kind. The clock, however, reminded me that in just four short hours, I'd officially be a junkie in rehab. The label wasn't one that I looked forward to carrying. It made me feel like I should walk into the clinic wearing a T-shirt with the word "failure" blazing in bright scarlet letters. With little chance of sleep in those last few hours, I fumbled through yet more apps on the phone to see that Brian still hadn't accepted my friend request. My heart broke a bit more as I traced the lines of his face in the tiny profile picture. Em, Alex, Leo, and even Mike had accepted the requests almost immediately, leaving only Brian's outstanding. I took a deep breath and tried to quell the burning disappointment in my chest.
Closing my eyes against the throbbing pain, I rolled to the side of the bed. There was no point lying there knowing sleep would never come, so I walked into the bathroom to shower. Only after I'd taken my shirt off did I remember that the doctor said not to shower alone until the seizures were controlled. It frustrated me, being so fucking helpless. The rage boiled just beneath the surface like a teakettle filled with roiling water. Fucking Steven. Even in death, he haunted me. The seizures were caused by rat poison in the coke I'd used to try to kill us both, and were worse without sleep. Between the guilt of surviving, the fear of the police, the desperate need for drugs, and the heartbreak of losing Brian--it felt like my mind never shut off long enough for me to rest. The stress and exhaustion caused by the seizures triggered them in a never-ending cycle.
Throwing on a T-shirt, I padded barefoot out of my room. It still felt a little strange calling it "my room" since the house didn't feel like home. I was so fucking grateful to my father for taking me in and helping me, but without Brian, I would probably never see any place as home. Brian was my home. My feet made no noise on the thickly carpeted stairs as I went down to the kitchen like a thief in the night, prowling around my father's house. The guttural silence masked everything except the tick of a grandfather clock my father had bought for my mother as an anniversary present a few years before our family shattered.
It killed my father that I tiptoed around the house like a guest, asking before I ate anything and being far more meticulously neat than any teenager should ever be. But no matter what he did, I felt like a stranger there. Most of the furnishings were the same, from our house in Alabama, but everything was different. It was almost as if aliens had come in the night and beamed us up to a spaceship and into a pod that looked like our house but missed little details, which made it look all wrong.
Coffee had become my new best friend. It helped to keep me alert and coherent without sleep. The smell of a freshly brewed pot met me when I walked into the kitchen, and I was surprised to see my father sitting at the small kitchen table at five in the morning. A mask of worry covered his face as he sat sipping from a black mug.
"You're up early," he commented, startling me as I pulled a mug down from one of the walnut cabinets over the coffeemaker. I noticed a tremor in my hand when I lifted the pot from the machine and carefully filled my cup. Only a few small drops of coffee escaped onto the counter before I finished. Another residual of the chemical damage within my brain--it seemed like something on me always shook. My hands shook, my knee bounced when I sat for too long, and my body was endlessly restless, like some kind of twitchy little rodent.
"I haven't been sleeping very much," I explained as I carried the mug carefully to the table and sat across from him. As I drank, the steam rose from my cup, warming my face. I closed my eyes for just a moment and inhaled. When my eyes opened again, my dad was watching me.
"I don't think I've slept an entire night since we moved to San Diego," he admitted, and I set my mug down on the table, surprised. He shrugged and went on. "I didn't want to move, but your mother... something snapped inside of her when she found out about you and Brian. Honestly, I was afraid for her, so I went along with her idea to send you to that place. All I wanted to do was keep our family together, but it was the wrong decision. I know that now, but then...." He sighed and took another drink of his coffee before staring into its depths. "Anyway, we should talk to your doctor and see if there's something we can do. Not sleeping can't help with the seizures."
"I don't want any kind of drugs if I can help it. What if I get addicted to them, too?" I asked as I added a bit of sugar to my coffee from the bowl sitting between us on the table. The sugar took the edge off the bitterness when I took another long sip.
"Oh, I didn't think of that. Damn it. I'm really flying blind here." His heavy sigh weighed on my conscience. I knew I should still be angry with him because of the Center, because he didn't stop my mother from fucking up my life, but the fear and heartbreak in his voice just pushed that to the side. The dark circles under his eyes bothered me almost as much as the rough stubble on his face and his haunted tone. He looked ten years older than when we'd moved to San Diego, and my chest ached because I knew the change was my fault. I wondered how he could still feel so guilty after everything he'd done.
"Dad, do you love me?"
My father's head jerked up, and his hands wrapped tightly around his mug as he looked at me closely for the first time since I'd come downstairs. Emotion welled in his eyes.
"Of course I do, Jamie. I love you more than anything." It was almost a plea, as if he was begging me to believe him.
"Then that's all that matters. You took me in. You're taking care of me and helping me to get clean. You saved my life." I took another drink of the hot coffee as the statement rang true through the small kitchen. Without my father, I wouldn't have been able to go to rehab. I wouldn't have a lawyer to help with the police investigation. Leo, Alex, and maybe even Brian would have been on my side, but my dad had resources they didn't. "I'm lucky to have you."
"Don't say that," he snapped. "If I'd had the balls to stand up to your mother, you'd be in college and happy right now. The shit that's happened to you is my fault."
"I'm not going to blame you for what's happened. Whatever happened before, you're here for me now." I was glad that he was, especially because I felt so fucking hollow without Brian. Dad opened his mouth and closed it again, seemingly unable to voice whatever continued to plague him. He took another drink from his mug and gazed with glassy, wet eyes out the nearby window. I followed his lead, letting the conversation die, and watched out the window as well. The sun had risen fully over the dew-covered yard, bringing sparkles of light to the freshly mown grass. I had to tilt my head at a different angle when the sun reflected off an ornate but neglected birdbath and nearly blinded me. As I let my gaze trace over the sharp, symmetrical lines of flowers in their bed near the back fence, I wondered exactly how I would fit back into my father's perfectly manicured life.
Later, he sat at my tiny student desk near the window and read his e-mail on his smartphone while I showered. For nearly a week, I'd needed parental supervision to bathe, and it still humiliated me. My dad never said anything about it, but I was sure he had better things to do than sit in my room and wait for me to crack my head open on the porcelain sink because I couldn't control my body.
"Detective Sanchez wants us to come down to the station this afternoon so you can give a formal statement. I left a message for your lawyer, and he's going to meet us there." My father's voice floated in on the billow of steam from the shower. I closed my eyes against the spray and let the hot water melt some of the tension that tightened my muscles and made them ache. To be honest, I'd wanted to meet with the police since coming home a few days earlier, but the lawyer my father hired hadn't been available. He said once my father paid the retainer, he became my attorney of record, and I couldn't talk to anyone about that night unless he was present. He was just one more baby-sitter.
"Okay, Dad." My voice carried over the rush of the shower as I hurried to finish. Because of the seizures, I never lingered in the shower. I could do a hell of a lot of damage to myself if I lost my shit in there.
Rinsing the shampoo from my hair, I thought about how much Brian loved to run his fingers through it. For just a moment, I imagined Brian in the shower with me, sliding his hands over my slick, naked body like he used to when we lived together at the apartment. God, he loved showering with me. Sometimes he'd wash my hair and wrap his arms around me under the pretense of rinsing out the soap. We'd even made love in the shower once or twice. I smiled at the memory even through the ache in my chest. Missing the coconut smell from our body wash, I opened the medicinal-smelling stuff my dad had given me.
I finished up quickly and let my dad go get ready for his day. He was about to start the second week of emergency vacation time he'd taken to be with me. Already feeling like an inconvenience, I didn't want to make things worse by being late. My hair, still somewhat short, dried quickly as I dressed. It had been a while since I cared about the way I looked. Throughout the withdrawal, being with Steven, and then in the hospital--my appearance had never been a priority. However, I wanted to make a good impression on the therapist, so squirting out some hair gel, I got to work.
It turned out to be a very long day.
* * * *
"James, my name is Dr. Fisher," the woman said as she sat down behind a large, well-worn desk, which seemed to be empty except for a nondescript phone and blank notebook. She was either a complete neat freak, or she didn't have that much to do. Sitting in one of the thinly padded chairs in front of the desk, I put my hands in my lap and waited. After a few minutes, I slid them under my legs. My legs bounced when she unlocked a lower drawer of the desk and pulled out a cream-colored file folder. I didn't need to be able to read it to know that it would bear my name.
"I just need to add some information to your file, and then we can talk for a while." The tone of her voice didn't sound as if I had an option.
"Okay," I replied, but the word came out more like a croak. After clearing my throat, I tried again. "Okay, uhm, what did you want to know?"
"James, it says here that you're nineteen and you were treated for an addiction to oxycontin, is that correct?" She looked up from the file, and I swallowed thickly.
"Uhm... Dr. Fisher, could... could you call me Jamie?"
"I'd like to call you whatever would make you feel comfortable," she said, making a note in her little file.
"How about a cab?" I asked with a nervous giggle. Her expression never changed, and I sighed quietly. "Sorry. Yes, I'm nineteen, and I was treated for oxy." Going through rehab would be a hell of a lot easier with a therapist who had a sense of humor. Maybe after she got to know me, she'd loosen up. Looking at her perfectly cut bob and razor-sharp suit, however, I doubted it.
"How long had you been taking the oxy when you came to the clinic?"
If she was going to help me, she'd need the whole truth. Still, I paused before answering, not wanting to admit it aloud. "Since the beginning of August, but before that, I'd been doing cocaine and ecstasy. I started the oxy because of an injury," I admitted. After scribbling in the file, she looked up again.
"Thank you for being so candid," she said, and the sentiment sounded completely genuine. The lines around her eyes disappeared as she smiled, and I smiled back.
"Okay, Jamie, can you tell me why you're here?" she asked as she sat back. Resting her elbows on the arms of the chair, she let her fingers steeple under her chin as she watched me with brown eyes that seemed, in that moment, to be almost kind.
"I'm here because Dr. Lindman said it would be part of my treatment," I explained, a little confused. Why the hell did she think I was here? It wasn't like a day at the spa or something.
"Yes, but why did you come to the clinic in the first place?" Oh, duh, I really need to get some sleep.
"Right, sorry. I haven't been sleeping well. There are a few reasons why I'm here, I think. First, the doctor said that the drugs I'd been taking would be really bad with my new anticonvulsant medications. He told me that staying on them could kill me. Then my dad came back into my life while I was in the hospital, and said he'd help me. I also want to... I want to get clean to show Brian I'm serious about our relationship." I watched her as she made a few notes on the legal pad, but upside down from that distance, I couldn't read what they said.
"Jamie, do you notice who is missing in that explanation?" she asked as she set the pen down again and settled back into the chair.
"My mom, I guess. She isn't a part of my life anymore." My gaze followed the course of her scribbling pen as she made a note. Then she looked up at me, and I could have been wrong, but her eyes looked almost sad.
"No, Jamie. Of all the people you talked about quitting drugs for, you didn't mention yourself." She wrote something on the pad of paper as I thought back over what I'd said. I wanted to get clean for the doctor, for my dad, and for Brian. I didn't trust myself enough to want anything for me. As long as I did it for my dad or for Brian, I could manage. But for myself, I deserved to be face down in a ditch, not living in a comfortable house bleeding my dad dry with rehab.
"I didn't," I admitted, unsure if I wanted to get into all of the dark things in my head on the first visit. What if I said something that scared her? Would she throw me into an institution somewhere? I didn't know if I could stand being locked up again. Standing quickly, I started to pace the room.
"Jamie?" she asked, remaining seated at the desk. Her calm unnerved me.
"I... I'm just... I don't know what you want. I don't know what to expect, and I'm scared I'm going to fuck this up, just like I fuck up everything else in my life." It all came out in a rush, and I hadn't meant to say most of it, but my nerves were shot from lack of sleep and being there in the first place.
"Okay, then let's start there," Dr. Fisher said as she held out her hand and indicated that I should sit back down. I didn't want to sit, so I stood behind the chair and rested my forearms on the back.
"I'm... restless," I admitted. The exhaustion caught up with me, and I pressed my head to the back of the padded chair for a just a minute before looking back up at her. The sweet oblivion of the E, or even the oxy, would be so fucking nice. I hated myself for having that thought on my very first day of rehab.
"It's normal for you to be restless. It's also understandable to be scared. You've never been through the process before, and you have no idea what's going to happen. Today, we're going to get to know each other a little better, and we're going to set some short-term therapy goals. I also want to address some of your fears about therapy. Have you ever talked to a therapist before?" Her face relaxed into a kind smile again, and I sagged against the chair, pushing it forward an inch before walking around it and sitting down.
"No, I've never been in therapy before."
"Okay, what do you think is going to happen?" she asked and laid her pen on top of the pad of paper so that she could focus all of her attention on me. My T-shirt collar suddenly seemed too tight.
"We're going to talk about my addiction. I'm scared if I say something wrong... that you're going to put me somewhere, that I'm going to screw up so bad that... I... I...." I had to stop there. A huge weight compressed my chest, and the air seemed to solidify in my lungs. The edges of the desk swam in front of my eyes, and I wanted to scream please not now! The thinly padded floor nearly broke my knees as I dropped onto it and fell over onto my side.
"Jamie, it's okay," Dr. Fisher said. She came around the desk at a run just before the seizure took over.
* * * *
"How was your first day?" my father asked as I fell into the front seat of his car. After I slammed the door a little too hard, I leaned my head back against the headrest and closed my eyes. Mentally and physically exhausted, I didn't want to get into the horror of my first day, but since he was paying, I probably owed him a status report.
"Well, I had a seizure during my therapy session, my lunch made me vomit, and some guy threw a punch at me because he wanted the blue paint I was using." I recited. I could feel his gaze on me even though my eyes were still closed. "But on the bright side, they gave me some pills to help me sleep."
"What happened with the guy who tried to punch you?"
"He was just having a bad day--edgy, you know? Okay, well, no, you probably don't know. Anyway, he apologized. I just want to get this shit with the police over with."
"Dr. Lindman called to let me know that you'd had a seizure. We rescheduled your meeting with the police." His voice, low and tense, wavered a little at the mention of taking me to the police station.
"They're okay with that?" I asked. They'd been wanting to talk to me for nearly a week, and the lawyer kept putting them off. That couldn't bode well for me.
"Once I explained about the seizures, they were, yes. They offered to come to the house tomorrow if you felt more comfortable, but I told them the station would be fine. I didn't want them to think you were being evasive."
I sighed and ran a hand through my hair; the fear of not knowing what would happen with the police just made everything ten times worse. Like looking at something through a microscope, it made all my other problems seem exponentially bigger. The seizures, Brian, my future--everything would become horrifyingly worse if I went to prison for murder.
"Fine, then I want to go home and work on this assignment Dr. Fisher gave me so I don't have to think about it anymore."
"Dr. Fisher is your new therapist?" he asked as he turned the key in the ignition. I breathed a silent sigh of thanks that he would drive while he talked.
"Yeah, she wants me to do some directed writing. Do you have any notebooks or anything at the house? I just thought of that."
He was quiet for a moment before throwing the car into reverse.
"How are you feeling now? Are you up for dinner and a little shopping? We can get you what you need," he said as he pulled out of the space. The thought of going out and spending time with people almost paralyzed me. If I had a seizure at the restaurant, I'd be fucking mortified. When I opened my eyes, I saw that my dad was watching the road with a little too much attention, as if he wanted to give me time to think about it.
"Can we pick up the stuff and then take something home?" My counteroffer sounded like a much better alternative.
"That sounds good to me," Dad said with a smile. About twenty minutes later, we pulled into the parking lot of a local shopping center. At first, I thought he would head for one of the discount retail stores. Instead, he parked in front of an electronics superstore.
"Uhh, Dad, I don't think they're going to have notebooks and pens in there," I reminded him, but he just grinned and turned off the car. With a jerk of his head to indicate that he wanted me to get out, he opened his door and climbed out. Curious, I followed, my fears about having a seizure momentarily pushed to the background. The fears never left me entirely, but sometimes I could turn them from a high-pitched scream to a murmur in my head.
It had been years since I'd been in a store like that. I'd only been able to visit a short list of stores when I lived with Steven because he controlled me so completely. During that brief, beautiful time that Brian and I were together, we spent almost all of our time in the apartment. When we walked through the doors, it was like entering another world. I'd always loved video games and other electronic gadgets, but the last couple of years I'd been completely out of touch. I'd watched other people get new toys from afar, always on the outside looking in.
My dad didn't seem to be any more knowledgeable as he stood searching the overhead signs.
"Ah!" he said suddenly and followed the aisle to the right past cell phones and music players to a huge section with laptop computers on every available counter. The sheer assortment they had on display made my head spin. Then I started looking at the prices. I knew my dad had money, but some of those computers could feed a homeless kid for a year.
"Dad, I don't need a laptop," I said, and something inside me felt torn. Unable to deny it, I had to admit to myself that I wanted the computer. Games, social networking sites, even mundane things like e-mail and chat were all better on a computer than on my phone. But I didn't deserve it. It's not like I contributed anything to society, or even to my own life. Other people did everything for me, and I really just existed. How did that deserve a reward?
"It doesn't have anything to do with need," Dad told me as he waved over one of the blue-shirted guys. "First, I want to buy you a computer. Spoiling you a little will make me happy, so it's for me, not you. Second, you can use it to find online support groups to help with what you're going through." I noticed that he never used the word addiction. It was almost as if using the word reminded him of his failure with me.
"I just feel guilty about it. You're doing so much already," I admitted. The salesperson looked like he was finishing up with a teenager holding a small piece of plastic that I couldn't identify from that distance.
"Me too. I feel guilty for letting you down, and no matter how much I do, it will never be enough. I'm doing what I should have been doing for the last two years. Or is there something else?" He stopped looking around for the salesperson and really looked at my face. "It's not just about you and me."
"There are so many kids on the street. I saw them and tried to survive with them for those weeks I had nowhere to go and nothing to eat. What's so special about me that I now get to eat every day and live in a beautiful house and get computers and cell phones?"
"Oh, Jamie, I... I can't answer that. I don't know why any kids ever have to end up on the streets. But my firm is partnering with Leo's shelter, and we're going to help as many as we can. I know we can't help them all, but...." His voice trailed off. I had no idea he was trying to help other homeless kids. His eyes were filled with remorse about what the decisions he and my mother made had started in my life. I didn't fight him about the computer again as he spoke to the sales clerk.
"Hi, we're interested in a laptop, a printer, and whatever accessories he'll need." My father put his hand on my shoulder, and for the first time since he walked into my hospital room, I didn't flinch at the touch.
"Great, why don't you guys come with me?" the eager little sales clerk suggested as his eyes lit up behind thick-rimmed glasses. He couldn't have been any older than me, but the passion in his voice for the electronics that surrounded him made me envious. I wished I had passion for something like that in my life.
Well, for something other than Brian.
The thought sent a blinding pain through my chest. I drew in a quick, unsteady breath as I reminded myself that it had been Brian's choice, not some evil force, that had pulled us apart. It killed me that I knew exactly where to find him, but I couldn't do a fucking thing about it. I'd called, I'd texted, I'd e-mailed, and I'd friended him, all with no success.
It took another hour as the sales guy helped my father assuage a bit of his guilt by buying me not only a laptop, but a printer, mouse, backpack, and external backup hard drive with minimal involvement from me. I knew I should have been more grateful, but everything ached from the seizure. Exhausted and a bit nauseated, I stood idly by as my father whipped out his credit card to pay the nearly three-thousand-dollar tab.
On the way back to the house, as promised, he picked up Mexican takeout. Usually, he ordered pizza or Chinese because they delivered. Since we were out, I was glad that he decided on something different. My automatic reaction to agree with whatever he wanted for dinner stemmed from living with Steven. I knew that, but I couldn't quite break myself of the habit, even though we'd had pizza three times in the week I'd lived there.
After dinner, my father watched excitedly from my doorway while I took the laptop out of the box and removed the packaging. I stared at the open machine with its gleaming new keys and dark display with irritation. Picking it up, I looked on the back, the sides, and the front but still couldn't find the magic button that would turn the fucking thing on. The quick start guide I'd thrown to the side slid to the floor as I pushed the computer away.
"Jamie, do you want some help?" my father asked, sounding slightly amused, which just pissed me off further. Rolling my eyes, I grabbed the instructions and skimmed them quickly. They even had pictures for the technologically challenged, like I had become. I took the power cord out of the box and plugged it in, both to the laptop and to the wall. When I hit the same button I'd pressed a dozen times before, it finally lit up, and the machine started to whir.
"I think I've got it now," I replied, and even in my own head, my voice sounded tired and distant. The excitement of getting a new toy had worn off even before the welcome screen appeared, and I wondered if that's how my life would be from then on--brief pinpoints of light and joy in an otherwise inky night sky.
"Okay. I'll run downstairs and get the information for the wireless." I heard the swish of his shirt as he turned and the muted padding of footsteps on the stairs before I let out a breath. It had been on the tip of my tongue to tell him to go find something else to do because I didn't want to play with my new toy, but that seemed so fucking ungrateful I couldn't make myself say it. He had no way of knowing just how sore and tired a seizure made me. Even hours later, I just wanted to go to bed. Unfortunately, the directed writing Dr. Fisher wanted me to do wouldn't write itself, and I had to leave too early to do it in the morning.
Following the quick start guide and the on-screen prompts, I got the wireless working, the software installed, and had set up my e-mail in relatively short order. It seemed that once I got the damn thing turned on, computers were pretty much like riding a bike. The technology built on itself, but nothing ever truly changed.
We decided to put the wireless printer in my father's den because my desk just didn't have the space. That way, he'd also be able to use it, and maybe I wouldn't feel like such a leech. I didn't say that aloud, because I knew he would just argue, but the feeling settled in my heart like a shadow. I grabbed my battered messenger bag, the one I used to carry to school, off my bed and found the paper Dr. Fisher had given me with my "homework."
Who in your life do you admire most and why?
I hadn't really looked at the paper when she gave it to me at the end of our nightmare session. Though one of the male staff had helped me clean up in the bathroom, shouldering my weight as the strength returned to my muscles, the seizure humiliated me. Jerking and twitching on the floor wasn't exactly the first impression I wanted to make with my new therapist. I hated the look of mingled horror and pity as she stood above me when it finally stopped.
Shaking myself, I pulled up the word processor and typed in the question out of habit. It surprised me how easily the ingrained response to an essay question came back to me. Unfortunately, that's as far as the conditioning went as I sat staring at the question and the cursor blinking back at me from a nearly empty screen. Leaning back in the ancient student desk chair, I heard the ominous creaking of springs as I laced my fingers behind my neck and thought. People started to come to mind as I turned the question over in my head. I admired my dad. He was successful, he could figure out a solution to any problem, and his life was more in order than mine would ever be. Then I thought of Alex. He ran away from home when he was barely an adult and figured out a way to survive. His relationship with Mike seemed to be strong and happy. It took me a moment, but I wondered if I actually envied Alex more than I admired him. Closing my eyes, I considered other people I'd known in my life. George certainly had my admiration. He'd spent years on the streets, fighting and carving out a life for himself in the underbelly of San Diego society. Even with everything he had done to save himself, he had taken the time out to take a terrified boy under his wing.
With all of the people in my life, I had to admit that Brian would be the person I admired most. He had the balls to get on a bus and leave his parents, his life, to start from scratch on the other side of the country, all in the name of love. Not for the first time, I wondered what it must have been like for him to make that leap. It had to have been like my decision to leave the Sunshine Center and strike out on my own. Brian had more money and ended up landing on his feet instead of his ass like I did, but we'd both jumped out of the plane hoping against hope that our parachutes opened.
With that picture firmly planted in my mind, I placed my fingers on the keys and began to type.