Chapter 27: LOL
I just can’t think, Joey said, more to himself than to Amarea.
What? Amarea asked. Her head jerked up when she heard his voice.
I’m just so tired, Joey sighed. He laid his head down on his desk. Hopefully, his teacher wouldn’t notice.
Why? Amarea asked. She started to doodle little hearts on her notebook.
It’s been a long week, Joey stifled a yawn.
Why? Amarea asked cheerfully.
It just has, Joey said. He was beginning to get annoyed.
Why? Amarea asked, even more cheerfully.
Will you please stop asking questions? Joey snapped.
Why? Amarea giggled. She thought they were playing a game. She thought wrong.
Joey? Amarea thought after a long pause.
What? Joey shot back. The question had woken Joey up. He sat up in his chair and wiped the drool off of his chin.
I’m sorry, Amarea said quietly.
Why? Joey asked. His teacher was staring at him. Joey stifled another yawn and tried to pay attention.
I didn’t mean to bug you, she blushed. Maddie leaned over to see why Amarea was blushing. She saw the rows of hearts on Amarea’s notebook, and rolled her eyes. She wanted to kick Amarea’s chair. Scratch that, she wanted to kick Amarea.
Why? Joey asked.
I don’t know why, Amarea shrugged.
Why? Joey asked.
What? Amarea was confused.
Why? Joey demanded.
Huh? Amarea asked.
What? Joey laughed. It wasn’t often he confused Amarea. Usually, he was the one feeling baffled.
I feel like a text message, Amarea said.
LOL, Joey laughed. Sadly, he laughed out loud, and his teacher shot him an evil look.
Ha Ha, Amarea rolled her eyes.
Eh, Joey replied. He put his head down and pretended to be writing a paper.
Colon parenthesis, Amarea smiled.
What? Joey frowned.
A smiley face, Amarea beamed.
You are so strange, Joey said.
I know, Amarea replied. Why has it been a long week? Did someone add an extra day?
What? Joey asked. His cell phone buzzed in his pocket. He almost jumped out of his chair.
Long week, like two extra Mondays? Amarea asked cheerfully.
I feel like I’ve had seven Mondays, Joey replied. He glanced at his phone. It was a message from Maddie. She wanted to know what he was doing. Joey sighed and pushed the phone back into his pocket.
I love Mondays, Amarea said cheerfully. If you have a good Monday, you have a great week.
Not true, Joey sighed, I had a great Monday, and the rest of the week went downhill quickly.
It’s only Wednesday, Amarea said.
So? Joey shot back.
Sorry, Amarea said. Then she said, “Sorry,” to Maddie. Maddie accidently knocked Amarea’s notebook off her desk when she got up to go to the bathroom.
Why? Joey asked.
Amarea paused for a minute to pick up her notebook and think of what she could be sorry for to Joey. I’m sorry you had a bad week, she finally came up with.
Why? There’s nothing you could have done about it, Joey said.
Really? Amarea said cheerfully.
Really? Joey sighed. Maddie walked past his classroom door. She gave him the weirdest look.
Really? Amarea repeated.
Maddie walked by again and held up her cell phone. Joey looked at her and shrugged. Really what? Joey asked.
There was nothing I could have done to make it better? Amarea asked.
Not now, Joey said to Amarea, but he meant it for Maddie. He held up both of his hands and shook his head. The week’s already over, he said to Amarea.
It’s only Wednesday, Amarea said thoughtfully.
Maddie frowned from the doorway. She made a come here motion. Joey looked at his teacher and shook his head no. Don’t remind me, Joey said.
So is there anything I can do to make things better now? Amarea asked.
Joey thought he saw Maddie stomp her foot and put her hands on her hips. He had to be imagining it, because all he could see was the top of her head. Joey shook his head and put it down on his desk. I need sleep.
So sleep, Amarea said simply.
I can’t, Joey sighed, there’s too much to do. Maddie kicked the door and half the class jumped. The teacher went and looked in the hallway. When he couldn’t find the culprit, he returned to the front of the class and gave Joey a dirty look.
Anything I can help with? Amarea asked.
Write my English paper? Joey asked.
No, Amarea replied flatly.
Finish my science project? Joey hoped.
No, Amarea replied.
Work for me at the center? Joey threw out.
No way, Amarea shot back, not in a million years. Her face suddenly hot with anger.
So then, no, you can’t help me, and I can’t sleep, Joey said flatly. His cell phone must have buzzed over twenty times in the past three minutes.
I know! I’ll take a nap for you, Amarea said cheerfully.
Thanks! Such a help, Joey mocked.
I won’t do your class work, Amarea said, that’s cheating.
So take my shift at the center, Joey shot back.
Why don’t you ask Maddie? Amarea glanced over her shoulder. Maddie had returned from the bathroom and was staring at her. The hairs on the back of her neck began to prickle.
Joey laughed, that’s not her kind of thing.
But it’s mine? Amarea felt hurt.
Why not? Joey shrugged. You won’t be a patient. His phone buzzed again. He reached in his pocket and turned it off.
No, I can’t, Amarea said meekly.
Then don’t offer to help if you are unwilling to help. Joey threw up his hands in frustration. His teacher raised an eyebrow and asked if Joey had a question. Joey just shook his head and slunk down in his chair.
I’m willing to help, Amarea said, just not in the ways you want me to help.
Thanks anyway. Joey rolled his eyes. Apparently, rolling his eyes was the last straw, and his teacher ordered him to the principal’s office.
Joey? Amarea thought after several more minutes of silence.
What? Joey snapped.
Don’t be mad at me, Amarea whispered.
I’m not mad, Joey said, I’m tired. He was sitting outside the principal’s office. He put his head back against the wall and closed his eyes.
I’m sorry, Amarea said softly.
Don’t go there again, Joey snapped. If you really cared, you would help.
If you really cared, Amarea shot back, you wouldn’t ask me to do things I can’t do.
Playing with play-dough and coloring? Joey replied.
What? Amarea asked.
Reading a story and finger painting? Joey continued.
What are you talking about? Amarea was confused.
Those are the things you can’t do? Joey asked.
I can do all those things, Amarea said warily.
You just said you can’t, Joey shot back.
I can’t go to that place, Amarea said.
It’s just a room, Joey sighed.
In a hospital, Amarea shot back.
In a building, Joey replied.
People die there, Amarea said, a look of disgust spread across her face.
Maddie sat back in her chair. She blushed slightly. Surely Amarea couldn’t hear what she was thinking about her.
People die everywhere, Joey said.
Whatever, Amarea said. She put her head down on her desk. When the teacher asked if she was ok, Amarea just groaned.
Thanks anyway, Joey said.
Joey? Amarea asked after another long pause. She was sitting in the nurse’s office. Her teacher thought it best if another student escorted her, so of course Maddie was sitting in the chair across from her.
While sitting outside of Mrs. Humphries’ office, Joey had put his head back on the wall and fallen asleep. Mrs. Dane woke him up and told him Mrs. Humphries was out of the office and he needed to go and see Mr. Crockett.
Maddie’s face lit up when she saw someone walk past the door. She poked her head out and yelled, “Hey Joey!”
I’m busy, Joey yelled back.
Wrong person, Amarea smiled.
Sorry, he said meekly. He waved in Maddie’s direction.
Maddie practically bounced back to her chair. She had a stupid grin on her face.
Joey? Amarea asked again after a longer pause.
What? Joey asked. He sounded defeated.
What time do you have to be there? Amarea asked.
4:30-8, Joey replied.
Three and a half hours, Amarea said.
Yup, Joey nodded, just three and a half hours.
I’ll do it, Amarea said. A shiver of fear ran through her.
Really? Joey almost jumped out of his chair; which wouldn’t have been a good idea as he was sitting in front of the Dean of Discipline.
I guess, Amarea shrugged.
Thanks, Mar! Joey beamed, you’re the best!
You owe me, Amarea said. Her hands were beginning to shake and sweat ran down her temples.
“Oh, dear,” the nurse said, “you don’t look well. I better call your mom.” Mrs. Dustin arrived fifteen minutes later. Maddie walked her to her car.
“Hope you get feeling better,” Maddie said lamely. Amarea knew she didn’t mean it.
Amarea told her mom about volunteering to work at the hospital. She told her mom she would feel better after a short nap.
Mrs. Dustin didn’t think it was a good idea, but she drove her to the hospital. They pulled up to the hospital doors at 4:15. “You don’t have to do this,” she said.
“Yes, I do,” Amarea replied. She was shaking. She felt like she needed to throw up.
“You look sick,” her mom began, “and you did come home early from school today. You have a valid reason for not doing this.”
“I’m fine,” Amarea said weakly.
“You look sick,” her mom said again.
“Good,” Amarea replied, “I feel sick.”
“You don’t have to do this,” she repeated.
“Yes, I do,” Amarea replied. She opened the car door and stepped out.
Mrs. Dustin rolled down the window, “Call if you need anything.”
“I will,” Amarea replied.
“I’ll be back at eight,” she said.
“Thanks, mom,” Amarea said, “I love you.”
“I love you, too,” she replied. She watched Amarea walk through the doors. She waited for her to look back, but Amarea never turned back.
The fish swam happily in the tank. Amarea put her hand on the glass. The fish swam up to her hand.
“Ben,” a voice said behind her.
Amarea jumped, “I’m sorry,” she said.
“Ben,” the woman repeated, “his name is Ben.”
“Oh,” Amarea said, “the fish.”
“I’m Mrs. W.,” Mrs. W. said, extending her hand out.
Amarea shook it, “Amarea Dustin.”
The woman waited for her to say more.
“He didn’t call you,” Amarea said.
“Who?” Mrs. W. asked.
“Joey,” she replied, “he didn’t call.”
“Joey Moore?” Mrs. W. asked.
“He was supposed to call,” Amarea said.
“He should be here shortly,” Mrs. W. said. “You can talk to him then.”
“No, he isn’t.” Amarea said.
“I’m sorry?” Mrs. W. asked confused.
“I’m here to work for Joey,” Amarea explained. “He was supposed to call and let you know.” Amarea was on the verge of tears.
“Welcome,” Mrs. W. said as she embraced Amarea.
Amarea swallowed back the tears, “Thanks.”
“I hope you don’t mind getting dirty,” Mrs. W. said.
“Not really,” Amarea replied.
“Great,” Mrs. W. said, “We are finger painting today.”
They walked to a small room. Two kids were covering a table with newspaper.
“Ready,” Mrs. W. asked.
“Almost,” the boy replied.
“Basil and Jerilynn, this is Amarea,” said Mrs. W.
“Hello,” Basil said.
“Hi,” Jerilynn said.
“Hello,” Amarea replied as she sat in one of the chairs. She placed the colors on the table and helped the kids put on their aprons. Twenty minutes into the painting process, another kid joined the group. Amarea couldn’t help but stare at her. She was so pale. Her hair was thin and patchy. Amarea knew this child was battling leukemia.
“Hello,” Amarea said, “What’s your name?”
“Hope,” she replied.
“Welcome, Hope,” Amarea said, offering her a chair and apron.
Hope painted quietly for several minutes. “How old are you,” she asked Amarea.
“Fifteen,” Amarea replied.
Hope was silent. “You’re very pretty,” Hope finally said.
“Thanks,” Amarea said, seeing so much of herself in Hope. “So are you.”
Hope painted silently. Suddenly, she slammed her hands down on the paper.
Hope smeared paint all over the paper. She grabbed the paper, crumpled it up and threw it across the room. She stood up and ran from the room.
Amarea just stared. She stood and followed her out of the room. Hope was wiping paint all over Ben’s tank.
Amarea reached out and touched her shoulder. Hope jerked away.
“What’s wrong?” Amarea asked.
“Sweetie,” Amarea said, “Don’t cry.”
“I’m not crying,” Hope said as she wiped away her tears.
“What’s wrong?” Amarea asked sweetly, motherly.
“I hate you,” Hope said.
“What?” Amarea asked as she stepped back.
“I hate you!” Hope screamed. She ran around Amarea and into the bathroom.
Mrs. W. had been watching the exchange. She followed Hope to the bathroom.
Amarea was standing in the same spot when Mrs. W. escorted Hope from the bathroom to the paint room.
Hope’s eyes were red and puffy. Amarea took out her cell phone and called home. No answer. She was dialing her mom’s cell number when Mrs. W. took her phone.
“Hey!” Amarea protested.
“Amarea,” Mrs. W. said as she handed Amarea her phone, “Let me explain.”
“Ok,” she said.
“Hope is,” Mrs. W. paused, “dying.”
“Oh,” Amarea said.
“She will never reach your age,” she continued. “She will most likely not reach her next birthday.”
Amarea nodded, tears filled her eyes.
“She saw you, and you look a lot like her, only older,” she continued.
Amarea nodded, tears splashed on the floor. Mrs. W. put her arms around Amarea. Amarea felt a tug on her pant leg. She looked down and saw Hope.
“I made this for you,” Hope said, holding out a finger painted rainbow.
“Thank you,” Amarea said as she took the picture.
“That’s you,” Hope pointed to a stick figure. “That’s me,” she pointed to a stick figure slightly smaller than the other stick figure.
Amarea smiled. “It’s beautiful,” she said. She bent down and gave Hope a hug. “Thank you.” Amarea’s phone buzzed, Mrs. W. looked from the phone to Amarea. “Hello? No, nothing’s wrong, just making sure you are going to pick me up at eight. Ok. Love you too, bye.” Amarea out her phone in her pocket and turned to Hope. “Let’s go paint some more.” She took Hope’s hand and skipped back to the paint room.
Mrs. Dustin arrived at 7:55. Amarea watched her through the window. She was anxiously drumming her fingers on the steering wheel. Her eyes never left the door. When Amarea said goodbye to Mrs. W. and walked out the doors, Mrs. Dustin visibly tensed.
“How was it, sweetie?” she asked. A plate of snickerdoodles was sitting on the front seat.
Amarea shrugged, “Ok, I guess.” She took a cookie and ate it. It tasted like cement. Amarea kept it together until she got home. She gave her mom a hug and told her she was tired and needed to go to bed. She took the cookies to her room and cried herself to sleep. She had a dream about Hope, a grown up Hope. Hope was dancing with a man. She was wearing a beautiful white dress. When Amarea woke up, she was smiling. She grabbed one of the snickerdoodles and ate it. She smiled, they were probably the best snickerdoodles her mom ever made.