TOSOM: The Other Side of Me-Freshman

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Chapter 24: Vacation from the World

They still had two weeks of winter break left. Two weeks of doing absolutely nothing. What could be better? Amarea’s folks were taking her to the mountains for a week to get some fresh air. Joey planned on spending some time with Maddie. Maddie had spent so much time with her cousin that Joey didn’t really know if they were a couple anymore.

“I’ve missed you,” Joey said, his arm around Maddie. She shrugged.

“What did you do at your cousin’s?” Joey asked. Maddie shrugged again.

“How’s your mom doing?” he asked. Maddie pulled away from Joey.

“What is that supposed to mean?” she asked defensively.

“Nothing,” he replied weakly, “I was just wondering how your mom was.”

“She’s great,” Maddie replied. “Why would she be anything less than great?”

“Why do you protect her?” Joey asked.

“What does that mean?” she asked.

“I know that your mom’s been in and out of rehab,” he said.

“How’d you find out?” she asked.

“Amarea was,” he began.

“How can you stand that freak?” she asked, tears welling up.

“She’s not a freak,” he replied.

“She’s a nosey freak,” she repeated. “She always has to be in everyone’s business.”

“Maddie, what’s really wrong,” Joey asked, trying to put his arm around her.

“You,” she replied, as she turned to leave. Joey grabbed her arm, and she swung around.

“Don’t ever,” she screamed and hit Joey, “touch me again.” Joey threw his hands in the air and backed up.

“I’m sorry,” he said. Maddie turned and started to cry. Her shoulders sagged in defeat.

“Maddie,” Joey said putting his hand on her back. She winced and cried harder. Joey put his arms around her. She turned and cried into his chest. Several minutes passed before she was able to compose herself. Joey just held her and stroked her hair.

“You won’t tell anyone,” she whispered.

“About your mom?” Joey questioned.

Maddie nodded. “It’s bad enough that she dates the biggest jerks in the world, but she just can’t stay clean. She dates these sleaze bags who always do drugs, so she does drugs. They always break up and my mom tries to get clean, but then she meets another jerk. She’s like a magnet for creeps.”

“I’m sorry,” Joey said.

“Why are you sorry,” Maddie asked. “I’m so tired of taking care of her. I’m so tired of the foster homes.”

“Foster homes?” Joey asked.

“I don’t have a cousin,” she replied. “Every time my mom goes into rehab, the state ships me off to another foster home.”

“I’m sorry,” Joey said.

“Quit feeling sorry for me,” Maddie said, tears began again.

“Everything’s going to be ok,” Joey said, taking her in his arms again.

“I’m leaving tomorrow,” Maddie said through her tears, as she pulled away from him.

“What?” Joey questioned.

“My mom is off to another rehab,” she said. “Court ordered, two months.”

“What?” Joey asked.

“Which part didn’t you understand?” Maddie snapped as she began to cry again.

“I’m sorry,” Joey said.

“Don’t,” she replied. “Don’t feel sorry for me.” She turned and walked away.

Joey had to run to catch up to her. He reached for her elbow, but thought better of it. “Maddie, wait up!” he called.

“I hate her,” Maddie said.

“She’s got a problem,” Joey said.

“Not her,” she replied.

“Huh?” he asked.

“Amarea,” she replied.

“Why?” he asked.

“Do I need a reason?” She said. “Can’t I just hate her?”

“I guess I just don’t understand,” Joey said. “What has she ever done to you?”

“Nothing,” she replied. “She’s just waiting for me to go away, so she can have you all to herself.”

“It’s not like that,” he said.

“Not to you,” she replied. “But I see the way she looks at you.”

“We’re just friends,” he said.

“She’s more important than I am,” she said.

“I wouldn’t say that,” he replied. “We’re just friends.”

“You are more than just friends,” she said.

Joey began to protest, but Maddie turned and walked away.

“I’m not stupid,” she said.

“I never said you were stupid,” he replied.

“I know you care about her,” she replied.

“She’s my best friend,” Joey said, “of course I care about her.”

“Do you love her?” she asked.

“I don’t really love anyone,” he replied before he thought. “I mean,” he stammered.

“Whatever,” she replied and continued walking.

“Why are you jealous?” he asked.

“Excuse me?” she replied turning to stare at him.

“Jealous.” He repeated, “Why are you jealous?” Maddie rolled her eyes and turned. She picked up an empty water bottle and threw it at him. It bounced off the side of his head. She started to laugh. Joey looked at her. He started to laugh.

Joey walked over and put his arms around her. “I’m going to miss you,” he said.

“You’ll have Amarea,” she replied.

Joey took her chin, tilted her head, and kissed her. “She isn’t you,” he said between kisses.

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