Chapter 20: Stars of the Show
The play began promptly at 7:00 p.m. The auditorium held close to 100 people, and it was standing room only. Many of the seats were taken by patients well enough to attend. The audience laughed as the foxes and rabbits ran around the stage. There were “ahs” when the mother squirrel made a nest for her little ones to hop into. There was more laughter when the father squirrel dropped his bucket of acorns. As the little squirrel cried in the center of the stage, the foxes and rabbits gathered his acorns.
They received a standing ovation when the job was completed. The birds all flew South, though Jerilynn had pointed out earlier they were actually flying West. At the close of the play, the leaves danced across the stage singing their song about change. Joey realized halfway through the song that he was singing along. As Joey predicted, there wasn’t a dry eye in the auditorium as the kids sang the closing song. The play was a big success. The kids all did a great job. Parents brought bouquets and balloons for their little stars.
It took a while for the auditorium to clear. Jimmy and Joey had to wait until it was completely empty before they could begin taking down the set. They were about an hour into the demolition when they heard the ambulance sirens. They were always curious to see who was coming and what major trauma was unfolding. As he looked out the auditorium’s front door, Joey had not expected to see Amarea’s parent’s car.
Joey watched as the paramedic pulled out the stretcher with Amarea on it. She had an IV in her arm and an oxygen mask on. She looked so pale, so frail, and so very sick.
Mrs. Dustin got out of the ambulance and took Amarea’s hand. She brushed Amarea’s forehead, as if to brush hair out of her eyes and gently stroked Amarea’s pale head. Joey could tell that she was trying to hold back the tears, trying to be brave. Mr. Dustin parked the car and ran to Amarea’s side.
“Hey, that’s Amarea’s parents!” Jimmy exclaimed.
Joey guessed he had not realized that the person on the stretcher was Amarea. “Yeah, that’s her mom and dad,” Joey said, “and that’s Amarea on the stretcher.”
“No way,” Jimmy said in shock. “She looks like death.”
Jimmy couldn’t have stated a truer fact.
Joey took off running towards the Emergency Only Entrance. By the time he got to the entrance, there was no sign of Amarea or her folks. Joey went to the admittance desk.
“Amarea Dustin?” Joey asked the nurse.
“I’m sorry,” the nurse paused.
“She’s dead!” Joey screamed.
“No, sweetie,” the nurse smiled politely and reached out and patted his hand, “I just didn’t hear what you said.”
“Amarea Dustin,” Joey repeated slowly and clearly, “Can I see Amarea Dustin?”
“Are you family?” The nurse asked.
“No, but,” Joey began.
“Then, sweetie, you will have to wait over there,” the nurse stated as she pointed to the waiting room.
”But I’m her friend,” Joey said.
Some friend you are, Amarea called out weakly.
Are you all right? Joey replied, I saw you come in the ambulance.
Well, I didn’t want to miss the play, Amarea smiled.
You missed the play, Joey replied, clearly confused.
I was joking, she said.
You can’t be that bad if you’re cracking lame jokes, Joey replied. Suddenly he felt relieved.
I’m fine, Amarea confirmed, my medication just doesn’t like me.
Can I come see you? Joey asked.
Just a sec, Amarea replied.
Joey waited for several minutes.
Amarea? Joey called out. Did you put me on hold?
Mrs. Dustin walked through the restricted double doors of the emergency room.
“Joey,” Mrs. Dustin said, kind of surprised. “Amarea said you would be waiting out here.”
Joey didn’t really know what to say, he just shrugged and said, “The play.”
Mrs. Dustin’s face brightened, “Oh yes, Amarea told me about that. I forgot it was tonight. They just put her in her own room. Do you want to come back and see her?”
“Yes, please,” Joey said.
Amarea was in room 21B. She was on her side with an IV in her arm. A pink plastic container was sitting under her chin.
Barf bucket? Joey asked.
Shut up, or I’ll barf on you! Amarea exclaimed weakly.
“Joey,” Mrs. Dustin said, “She is kind of weak; I’m not sure she will be able to say much.”
Being weak never shut you up before! Joey laughed.
I’d laugh, but it hurts too much, Amarea smiled.
“Would it be ok if I just sat here?” Joey asked.
“That would be fine,” Mrs. Dustin said. “I’m going to go and find Dr. Watkins. I hope he will have some answers for us.”
So, you missed me so much you decided to come and see me, Joey grinned. He placed his hand on the railing of her bed.
Sing me that song Joey, Amarea said.
What song? Joey asked.
You know, she began, the one from the play, the one you have been singing for the last couple of weeks.
Amarea, I don’t know what you are talking about. I’ve never sung that song to you, Joey said.
Not out loud, she replied, but I’ve heard it hundreds of times. Sing it for me.
But… Joey protested.
That’s not how it starts, Amarea smiled.
The times, they are a changing, Joey sang.
Out loud, Amarea said, I want to hear you sing it.
Without further complaint, Joey sang the whole song. When he came to the final line, tears were streaming down his face.
“Again,” Amarea whispered as she stretched out her hand towards Joey.
Joey took her hand and sang the song again. This time, he was unable to finish the last verse, instead he began to sob. “Please don’t die, Amarea!”