Chapter 19: The Fall
After Thanksgiving, Joey found himself spending more and more time at the center. Every day after school, Joey met Jimmy at the hospital. The kids were doing a play about Fall that Samuel had written. Joey found it odd to do a play about Fall. In Fall, everything dies.
They had the task of painting the props and making several trees, rocks, and hills. Some of the mothers were busy fitting the kids with costumes. Most of the kids were fallen leaves.
Joey thought, “Fallen leaves? What kind of a morbid reality was that?”
A few of the kids were the stars of the show. They had the privilege of being rabbits, foxes, squirrels, or birds. Most of the stars were what they considered “part-timers” or kids who were only coming to the center a couple times a month, in all there were twelve kids in the show.
The play was about the changing of seasons and how everything adapts to change. The rabbits and foxes changed coats from brown to white. The squirrels stored a stash of food and made a warm nest for the winter. The birds flew south with their young. Samuel had done a great job with the play. The parents seemed pleased with it, and the kids weren’t complaining.
It was fun to watch the kids act. They didn’t have any lines; they just moved around and did what the narrator told them to do. The falling leaves danced around the stage in the opening scene. The play ended with a happy song about adapting to change. Joey found himself humming the tune as he worked.
Jimmy and Joey spent the next two weeks working on the rest of the props and lighting. Joey didn’t speak to Amarea much. Maddie had returned from her cousin’s house. Amarea wasn’t thrilled to see them together again. It seemed like Amarea was avoiding him. Joey just thought she was mad at him and let her have her space.
The night before the play Joey went over to her house to see if he could drag her to the show. He knocked on the door and Virginia, Amarea’s aunt, answered the door. Joey had heard Amarea talking about her dad’s sister, but he had never met her before. He knew immediately, from her bright burgundy hair and black horned rimmed glasses, who she was.
“Is Amarea home?” Joey asked.
“She is, but she isn’t feeling well,” Aunt Virginia told him.
“What’s wrong with her?” He asked.
“Her doctor started her on some new medication, and she didn’t take to it,” she replied.
“Didn’t take to it?” Joey asked.
“It made her really sick,” she answered. “We may have to take her to the hospital if she doesn’t get better soon.”
The way she said “soon” scared Joey. “Can I see her?” He hoped.
“I’m not sure if she wants any visitors, but let me go ask,” she replied.
Aunt Virginia didn’t invite Joey in, so he stood looking at the front door, hoping it would open. He waited what seemed like an hour. Finally, he heard footsteps.
Aunt Virginia opened the door and said, “Sorry, she doesn’t feel up to seeing anyone.”
“Ok, I guess,” Joey said. “I’ll check back tomorrow.”
Joey wasn’t so easily deterred. He knew Amarea spent most of her time in the screened-in back porch. As soon as the door was closed, he ran around to the back of the house. Joey dove under the hedge in the back yard. He crept around the side of the house and glanced at the porch. Sure enough, Amarea was sitting on the porch in her dad’s favorite recliner. She was wrapped in blankets and had what looked like a pink flowered towel wrapped around her head.
“Mar,” Joey whispered.
“Mar,” Joey repeated slightly louder, “Can you hear me?” She appeared to be asleep.
Mar, can you hear me? He called out.
What could you possibly want? Amarea snapped. Do I not look sick?
Can’t be too sick with an attitude like that, Joey replied, a little too harshly.
Oh, Mister Know-It-All, she huffed. She pulled the blankets up around her nose.
Hey, there’s no reason to get nasty, Joey protested, I was just worried about you.
You lie! Amarea shot back. You haven’t thought about me in weeks.
Now that is a lie! Joey retorted. I thought you were mad at me, so I just gave you some space. How was I supposed to know you were sick?
Maybe if you cared, you would have called or come over, Amarea said weakly.
Hello? Joey shook his head, I’m here, aren’t I?
Two weeks late, Amarea replied.
Better late than never! Joey smiled. He was trying to make her smile, but it didn’t work.
Whatever! Amarea turned her back on him and pulled the covers up higher.
Hey, I can leave, you know! Joey responded.
Why don’t you? You’re not my friend, she replied.
Amarea, you know, Joey began, sometimes I just wonder why I even care.
As Joey turned to leave, he could hear her crying. He just couldn’t leave her like that. Joey started to walk towards the screen door when he heard the house door open. He panicked and dove back under the hedge.
I’m sorry, Joey said simply and sincerely, I’m sorry. Please don’t be mad at me.
Joey pleaded, but Amarea didn’t listen. Just like when he was taking a test, she tuned him out.