Chapter 11: The Broken Bridge
We had to build a bridge today, Amarea stated.
Joey jumped. It had been the first time all week she had interrupted his thoughts. A who? Joey’s brow wrinkled.
Not a who, a bridge, Amarea laughed. Mrs. Castle broke us up into groups and gave us newspaper and tape. We had to construct a bridge that was big enough to let her remote control tank drive over it.
Wild! Joey exclaimed. How did your bridge do?
Caved in half way across, Amarea said excitedly. Our homework is to try again. Want to help tonight?
Sure, I’m not doing anything Saturday if you want to help then too, Joey replied.
Aren’t you going to the hospital? Amarea asked.
Of course, Joey said, but I’ll be home by noon. You’re not even awake until 11:00.
True, Amarea laughed, do you have any newspaper?
Yup, I’ll bring it by after supper, Joey said.
Sounds great! I’ve got lots of tape!
Joey smiled. He guessed Amarea had forgiven him for whatever it was he had done wrong. He arrived at Amarea’s house around 6:30. He brought a paper bag stuffed with newspaper.
“How big does this bridge have to be?” Joey asked.
“Strong enough to hold a five pound bag of sugar,” Amarea said.
“Is that possible?” Joey asked.
“She had a picture of a bridge supporting a bag of sugar,” Amarea said. “I think the trick is to twist the paper into tight rolls and twist the rolls together and then tape the rolls together.
“Ok, I think I saw a video about bridge building that used a method like that,” Joey said. “Want me to Google search it?”
Amarea shot him a look and he just shrugged, “Then let’s get started.” He dumped the bag of newspaper on the floor.
Joey and Amarea had twisted several piles of newspapers when Amarea froze. She was staring at an article.
“What’s up, Mar?” Joey asked. “Find a good sale on shoes?”
Melissa Dayton, Amarea said quietly.
“Who?” Joey asked.
She was a girl who was in the hospital with me last time. She had leukemia too, Amarea said, tears forming in her eyes.
“Had leukemia?” Joey asked, “You mean she kicked it?”
No it kicked her. “Look,” Amarea said, handing Joey the newspaper.
Joey read the obituary heading, Melissa Danielle Dayton, age 14. He paused and looked up at Amarea, and then he read, “Our community, family, and hearts mourn the loss of Melissa.”
Don’t. No more, tears trickled down her cheeks.
Joey continued to read the two page obituary to himself. When he was finished, he handed the article back to Amarea.
Promise me something, Amarea whispered.
Sure, Mar, Joey said, as he reached out to take her hand.
I don’t want a long obituary, she began. What’s the point? If you knew me, you’ll miss me. If you didn’t know me, you really won’t want to because I’m already dead.
You don’t want people to know about your life? Joey asked.
Why? Amarea laughed dryly. I’ll be dead. The money my parents spend on the obituary could be given to cancer research so that someone else can live.
That makes sense, I guess, but let’s not talk about death, ok? “Let’s just build this bridge, ok?” Joey said. He squeezed her hand, and she pulled it away, not meeting his gaze.
Joey continued to work on the bridge. An hour and a half later, the bag of sugar was soundly resting on the bridge.
Ta-da! Joey exclaimed spreading his hands in front of the bridge. “Beautiful, isn’t it?”
“Kind of plain,” Amarea replied. She had been neatly organizing the cookies her mom had brought in. She had them stacked by the number of chocolate chips in each cookie.
What batch is this? Joey asked, grabbing a cookie from the plate.
Amarea just shrugged. “Let’s paint it pink, tomorrow,” Amarea said.
“Pink?” Joey asked.
“I’ve got some paint left over from my bedroom,” Amarea answered.
“Cool beans,” Joey said.
Maddie says that, Amarea said.
Cool beans? Joey asked.
Yes, she replied.
“You’re right,” Joey said. “I was trying to figure out where I picked that up.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow, Joey,” Amarea said softly.
“Oh, ok,” Joey said, he stood quickly and headed for the front door. “See ya tomorrow,” he called as he closed the front door behind him.
Amarea was crying, and Joey could feel it. He also knew she wanted to be alone.
The next morning, Joey received a cryptic text message saying the bridge was painted, no need for him to come over. Monday, Amarea wasn’t at school. Tuesday, she left before Joey could talk to her. Wednesday was the last day of school for the week. Thursday and Friday were some sort of teacher training on how to be better teachers. When Joey asked a couple of teachers about it, they just rolled their eyes. Amarea was still avoiding him, so he came up with a plan. He needed to spend some alone time with her. He needed her to see he was still her friend; he was still there for her. Wednesday he decided to try.