Chapter 21: Call Me Family
When Joey left the hospital at midnight, Jimmy met him at the entrance.
“My mom hasn’t been home for two weeks,” Jimmy said.
“What?” Joey asked, staring down at his feet.
“My mom, she’s been gone since the first,” Jimmy replied. It was the 17th.
“What, like she went on a trip or something?” Joey asked.
“I guess,” he answered. “She took all her stuff and left. I haven’t heard from her.”
“What do you mean, left?” Joey asked.
“I think she moved away,” he bleakly said.
“So who’s watching you, your sister?” Joey asked
“Nope, she moved in with her boyfriend months ago,” he stated.
“Well, then who’s at home with you?” Joey knew the answer before he asked the question. Jimmy just shrugged his shoulders.
“Man, what are you going to do?” Joey asked. He had never seen Jimmy cry before. Joey never even knew he was capable of it.
“I don’t know what to do,” Jimmy sobbed. “I don’t have any money, and there’s no food. Today, there was an eviction notice on the front door.”
“Why didn’t you say something sooner? Joey asked.
Jimmy shrugged his shoulders.
“Why are you still at the hospital?” Joey asked.
“The center is the closest thing I have to a home,” he said. “I figured I’d just hang around here until it opened.”
“Why don’t you come home with me?” Joey asked. “My mom will be here to pick me up in a couple of minutes.”
“Really?” he asked, tears welled in his eyes.
“Really,” Joey replied. “Do we need to stop at your house first and pick up your stuff?”
“What stuff?” Jimmy asked. Joey suddenly realized he had never seen Jimmy in any other clothes, just the same old dirty jeans, t-shirt, and jacket.
“How’s Amarea?” Mrs. Moore asked when he got in the car.
“They’re putting her in ICU for a couple of days,” he replied. “Her immune system is shot.”
“Hello, Jimmy,” she greeted him as he climbed in the backseat.
“Hello, Mrs. M.” Jimmy replied. “Thanks for letting me spend the night.”
“Not a problem,” she said, glancing at Joey, who just shrugged slightly and smiled. “We’re glad to have you.”
Sunday, Joey spent the day at the ICU with Amarea. He wasn’t allowed in the actual ICU, but in the small waiting room. He spent his time thinking about what to do with Jimmy and hoping Amarea would get better.
Monday was the start of winter break. Maddie and Jimmy joined him in the waiting room. Jimmy only stayed for a short time. He was anxious to get back to the center.
Maddie had spent the night with her cousin. She spent more and more time there. He asked her what she did there; her response was always the same, “Homework.” Even after missing more than a month of school, Maddie managed to keep her grades up.
“Thanks for coming. I’ve missed you,” Joey said.
“Me too,” Maddie replied.
“How’s your cousin?” he asked.
Maddie just shrugged her shoulders.
“Want to go out tonight?” he asked.
“Can’t,” she replied, “I’ve got three papers to write. I’d better get going.”
“Ok,” Joey said, dejected, “can I call you later?”
“My phone’s dead,” she replied. Joey realized her phone had been dead for four months.
“Thanks for coming by,” he said, standing to kiss her goodbye.
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” she replied, kissing him blandly on the cheek.
That was touching, Amarea said.
Joey was so relieved to hear Amarea’s voice that he overlooked the comment. Mar! Welcome back to the world of the living, he called back.
Is that supposed to be some kind of joke? Amarea shot back.
No, I’m sorry, Joey stammered, I’m just glad you’re awake.
Feeling peachy, Amarea replied. You can come up and see me, if you want.
Really? Joey asked.
Yup, Amarea smiled. They’ve moved out of ICU to Room 312.
Cool beans, Joey said, I’ll be right up.
When Joey walked into the room, Amarea was propped up with several pillows.
You look, Joey paused, well.
Actually, Amarea began, I feel like a dried up apricot.
Joey laughed. We could stick you in water and rehydrate you.
I think that’s what all these needles are for, Amarea rolled her eyes. Sometimes Joey was just clueless.
Right, he blushed, sorry.
You’ve got a lot on your mind, Amarea conceded.
I do, Joey admitted.
I heard something today, and I don’t know if I should share it with you, Amarea said.
What is it? Joey asked.
It’s about Maddie, she said hesitantly.
Oh. Joey wasn’t expecting that.
Actually, it’s about her mom, Amarea continued.
Oh, he said quizzically.
I heard two nurses talking about her earlier today, Amarea said. She’s been in rehab for the past two weeks.
Oh, Joey replied.
She left yesterday, Amarea continued.
She completed the program? Joey asked.
No, she just left, Amarea stated.
Oh. That explains a lot, Joey said, only it didn’t explain anything. It opened up a whole new level of questions.
I just thought you might want to know, Amarea said sheepishly. She kind of felt like she was tattling or gossiping, only this was important.
Thanks, Mar, Joey replied. I appreciate the heads up. Joey thought for a minute.
There is no easy solution, Amarea began, I don’t know how you can help. Have you figured out what to do about Jimmy yet?
Nope, Joey just shrugged.
Amarea smiled, that one’s easy.
How so? Joey asked.
Two words, Amarea replied.
How so? Joey’s brow furrowed.
No, silly, Amarea smiled, Aunt Judy.
Holy crap, you’re right! A smile broke out on Joey’s face. Why didn’t I think of that?
Because I’m the smart one, remember? Amarea joked.
True, true! You’re a genius! Joey exclaimed. I could just kiss you.
So do it, Amarea said.
A confused look crossed Joey’s face, huh?
I know I’m a genius, Amarea sidestepped the question.
Oh. Thanks, Mar! Joey beamed. I’m going to call her now. He put his hand in his pocket and took out his phone.
She’ll be here in about 15 minutes, she stated.
Cool beans! Joey exclaimed. I’ll ask her then!
She already said yes, Amarea replied.
What? Joey looked confused.
I told her all about Jimmy’s situation when she called, Amarea smiled.
You did? Joey exclaimed, you’re amazing!
I know, an amazing genius, Amarea blushed slightly.
Now I really want to kiss you, Joey beamed.
Amarea groaned, Silly boy, don’t tease me like that.
Huh? Joey looked baffled.
Never mind, Amarea smiled sheepishly, you better go and tell Jimmy the good news.
Thanks, Mar, you’re the best! Joey reached out and started to hug her, but couldn’t quite figure out how to maneuver around all of the wires and tubing. He gave her a fist bump instead.
Jimmy started to cry when Joey told him the news. He had gone through the haunted house at Aunt Judy’s house. He’d sampled some of her delicious cookies and had felt welcomed in her home, if only for a brief moment. He remembered thinking how cool it would be to live there. How neat it would be to be a part of Aunt Judy’s life. She had touched him deeply in the few moments they were together. Aunt Judy was one of those people who could love you unconditionally no matter who you were or what you’d done.
Aunt Judy showed up at the hospital about ten minutes later. She embraced Jimmy and welcomed him to her family. Jimmy cried again, thankful to have a place to call home. Joey returned to Room 312. Amarea was sleeping.
Thanks, Mar, he thought anyway. He went back to the waiting room and sat in one of the incredibly uncomfortable chairs, and soon, he was sleeping too.
When he woke up, he went back to Room 312, but Amarea wasn’t there. He found a nurse and she told him Amarea had been moved back to the ICU for the night.
“For observation,” the nurse said.
Somehow, Joey doubted it was just “observation.”