Chapter 28: Told You So
Joey popped into Amarea’s mind before homeroom the next morning.
How was it? He asked.
Good, Amarea replied. But please don’t ask me to do that again. Once in a lifetime is plenty for me.
OK? Joey asked with a frown. But did you have fun?
I guess, Amarea shrugged. She sat down in her usual homeroom spot and put her head down on her desk.
Really? Joey asked.
Yeah, Amarea said blandly.
Really? Joey pushed.
Yes, it was fun, Amarea shrugged.
Can I say it? Joey gloated.
What? Amarea asked.
I told you so, Joey beamed.
Whatever, Amarea rolled her eyes, and you can.
Can what? Joey asked.
Say it, Amarea smiled.
I just did, Joey was beginning to get confused.
No you didn’t, Amarea replied.
I told you so, Joey sounded confused.
No, Amarea giggled.
What? Joey shook his head.
It, Amarea replied.
Huh? Joey was truly confused. The bell for homeroom rang, and he realized he was still standing by his locker.
It, Amarea replied.
What? Joey asked. He ran down the hall towards the door. It was locked. He looked in the window, hoping his homeroom teacher would allow him to enter. She just shook her head and pointed to the cafeteria.
Say it, Amarea replied.
I told you so, Joey repeated. He turned and walked slowly to the cafeteria.
I guess you can’t say it, Amarea giggled.
What? Joey’s head was beginning to hurt. The late line was rather long. He saw Maddie standing a few people ahead of him. He didn’t say anything to her. She seemed to be involved in a discussion with a boy Joey didn’t recognize.
It, Amarea said simply.
It? Joey questioned.
Exactly, Amarea said triumphantly.
What? Joey shook his head. Maddie was laughing now. Joey watched her reach out and swat the boy playfully on the arm.
You said it, Amarea beamed.
I really don’t understand, Joey said.
Silly boy, Amarea giggled.
What? Joey asked. Maddie had leaned close to the boy and whispered something in his ear. They both started to laugh.
Never-mind, what are you doing tonight? Amarea asked.
English paper, Joey replied through gritted teeth.
Canterbury Tale? Amarea asked.
Yes, Joey replied, it’s such a stupid assignment.
Why? Amarea asked.
It’s just stupid, Joey replied. He watched as Maddie bent over to write her name on the late sheet. The boy was right behind her. Maddie shifted a little to her left and brushed against him. They both laughed again.
When is it due? Amarea asked.
Friday, Joey replied. His face was turning red.
Tomorrow? Amarea asked, shaking her head. Why did he always wait until the last minute to get anything done?
Maddie turned and walked past Joey. She smiled sweetly and asked, “Jealous?”
Joey just stared at her, his mouth open. The kid behind him had to tap him on the shoulder to make him move ahead in line.
No, Joey answered. He didn’t know if it was true or not.
So the project isn’t due tomorrow? Amarea asked.
What? Joey asked. His conversation with Amarea was becoming a muddled mess in his mind.
Give me a sec, ok? He asked.
Ok, Amarea replied cheerfully.
Joey signed his name on the late sheet and headed for homeroom. He realized he only had a couple of minutes left before the bell would ring for first period, so he decided to head there instead. When the bell rang, he quickly ducked inside, hopeful he wouldn’t see Maddie in the hall.
Joey? Amarea asked after fifteen minutes. She sounded worried.
Yes, Joey replied.
How much have you gotten done? Amarea asked.
Ah, Joey paused.
None? Amarea said incredulously, you haven’t even started yet, have you?
Nope, Joey replied. He felt miserable. He was failing at life and at school.
Joseph! Amarea cried out.
Can you come over after school? He already knew her answer. He also knew he didn’t even have to ask. She wanted to help him. She wanted to be around him. She actually liked him.
Sure, Amarea replied happily.
Thanks, Mar, you’re the best, Joey said half-heartedly. He really didn’t deserve a friend like her.
Amarea showed up at 6:00 with a stack of magazines. “I thought I’d read while you work,” she smiled.
“Thanks,” Joey said flatly. He had spent the remainder of the day trying to avoid Maddie. He seemed to be somewhat successful. He had dozens of calls and texts on his phone, but he just turned it off and didn’t read any of them. What was she thinking anyway? Why would he be jealous?
You’re welcome. She plopped down on the couch and started flipping through a magazine.
Joey sat and watched her for several minutes. Who was this girl? Why was she sitting in his living room? What was she to him? Did he love her? No, he shook his head, they were just friends.
Write, Amarea commanded. The thought jolted him from his thoughts.
Help, Joey shrugged.
I am, Amarea replied with a smile.
I got it! Amarea threw the magazine towards Joey. Page 47, check it out.
Joey turned to page 47. It was a picture of a guy sitting in front of an old gas station. His head was in his hands, and he looked miserable. Joey looked at Amarea.
“He’s your subject,” she said. “Write about his life.”
How? Joey asked.
“How did he get to this point in his life?” she asked.
I don’t know, Joey shrugged.
Yes, you do. Look at him. Amarea pointed at the picture.
“He’s a guy,” Joey said.
And, Amarea said.
He’s like 25 or so, Joey replied.
And, Amarea said.
He’s miserable, Joey replied, just like me.
And, Amarea said.
He hates his life, Joey answered. Joey stared at the man. This could be him in a few years.
Why? Amarea prodded.
It’s not what he wanted to do, Joey replied. How did this guy end up so miserable and alone?
So why is he doing it? Amarea asked.
He didn’t have a choice, Joey replied.
Why? Amarea smiled.
Joey picked up a pencil and began to write. Three hours later, he put his pencil down. Amarea pushed the off button on the remote and set it on the table. She looked at him, a weird sort of smile on her lips.
Finished? Amarea asked.
I think, Joey smiled. He felt exhausted. Like he had just run a marathon, or at least what he thought he would feel like if he ever ran a marathon.
Gimmie! Amarea reached out to grab the papers.
Joey handed the pages to Amarea.
She read slowly, completely.
I love it! She exclaimed.
Really? Joey raised an eyebrow in disbelief.
Yes! She exclaimed again.
Really? Joey was looking intently at her.
Yes! She handed the paper back to him, Now get busy typing!
After some food. I’m starving! Joey took the paper and set it on the couch.
Amarea called home as she munched on leftovers. Her mom arrived at a little before ten.
Amarea was surprised to see Joey in the same clothes as the night before. He looked exhausted.
What happened? She asked.
What didn’t? Joey sighed.
Huh? Amarea furrowed her brow.
I got halfway done typing, and the computer crashed and I had to retype the whole thing, Joey replied.
Didn’t you save it? Amarea questioned.
Not the first time, he shrugged.
Oh, Amarea replied. The bell rang for homeroom and Amarea started to move towards her homeroom, but Joey just turned and leaned against his locker.
Then the printer ran out of ink. And so did Wallyworld, he said.
Huh? Amarea asked.
The store didn’t have the ink I needed, Joey explained.
Oh! Amarea exclaimed. Why didn’t you go to another store?
At one in the morning? Joey rested the back of his head on his locker. He stared up at the ceiling.
Oh! Amarea exclaimed, again. The hallway was beginning to clear. You are a really slow typist.
I didn’t start typing it until after midnight, Joey admitted.
What? Amarea was shocked. What did he do for two hours?
Anyway, Joey shrugged, so then I thought I saved the file to my flash drive.
Oh, oh, Amarea said. She began moving towards her homeroom. Joey turned his head and looked at her. She stopped.
But I guess I didn’t, and when we got to the all night print store, the flash drive was empty, and we had to go back, he continued.
We? Amarea asked.
My dad, Joey replied.
Ok, Amarea said.
So we went back to the store and printed out the file, he said. As we were driving back, I realized I didn’t print all of the paper. The last page was missing. So we went back.
Oh, Amarea said. She moved next to Joey.
Somewhere, Joey continued, between leaving the store and driving down the street, my flash drive disappeared.
No! Amarea exclaimed. What happened to it?
I have no idea, Joey said. The late bell rang. He put his arm around Amarea’s neck and turned towards the cafeteria. We went back to Wallyworld and bought another drive. We went home, copied the file, drove back to the print store, and printed the entire file.
Good, Amarea smiled.
Bad, Joey frowned.
What? Amarea asked. She liked his arm around her. She snuggled closer to him.
I decided to make the pages look old, he replied, as he pulled her closer.
Oh, no! Amarea gasped.
With fire, Joey explained.
Fire? Amarea asked.
Yup, I tried burning the edges. Let’s just say it was windy last night, he shrugged. They arrived at the cafeteria, and he dropped his arm.
No! Amarea cried. She wasn’t sure if it was because he dropped his arm or because he burned his paper.
Yes, he replied sadly.
Your poor dad, Amarea smiled.
My mom, Joey replied. He stood behind her in line. At one point he put his hand on her hips and pushed her forward.
Huh? Amarea blushed. She was glad he couldn’t see.
My mom took me back to the print store, Joey said.
Ever hear of the word enabling? Amarea smiled.
Shut up, Joey smiled.
Did you forget your flash drive? Amarea asked. She bent over to sign her name to the list and bumped into Joey. She blushed again.
Actually, Joey began, the guy had a copy waiting for us when we got there.
Amarea laughed. What time did you get to bed?
5:30 a.m., he replied.
You got an hour of sleep? Amarea asked.
Yup, he said. He bent down to sign his name and Amarea waited for him. He went over to a table and sat down. Amarea followed.
Can I see it? She asked.
Joey was resting his head on the table. He lifted his head and looked at her. He rolled his eyes and reached into his backpack.
She laughed as she read the title. The Can’t-erbury Tale. Nice.
A huge pain, he put his head back down on the table.
Ms. Furr will love it, Amarea said a minute or two later.
Ms. Furr doesn’t love anything, Joey replied sleepily.
True, Amarea agreed, but, I think she will love this.
We’ll see, Joey said. The bell rang and Amarea stood to go. Joey was snoring softly. She tried to wake him up, but he was sleeping soundly. Joey woke up when the next bell rang. He missed first period, but that was ok, he didn’t feel like doing math anyway.
Monday morning, Ms. Furr handed back the Canterbury Tales. Her comments were negative and derogatory, her typical remarks. Every member of the class was unimaginative and dull.
“There’s one tale,” she began, holding a paper in her hands.
Joey realized all the papers had been handed back but his.
“This tale,” she continued, Joey slid down in his chair.
“This tale,” she shook the paper, Joey slid even further into his chair.
“Is amazing,” she paused, Joey slid up slightly.
“I read it, and I laughed,” she said, Joey slid up farther.
“I read it, and I cried,” she said, Joey just stared at her.
“I reread it and was completely amazed,” she said. She smiled at Joey. He had never seen her smile before. He sat straight up in his chair.
“Simply amazing,” she said, as she handed Joey his paper.
“Thanks,” Joey blushed.
“Everyone needs to read this tale,” she pounded her finger on the paper. “And learn from it.” Joey blushed deeper. He looked around the room and was met with glares of disgust and envy.
Wow! Amarea exclaimed. She really said that?
Yes, Joey replied. He was still in shock.
Amazing? Amarea asked.
Yes, Joey smiled. The bell rang, and he headed towards the cafeteria.
Can I say it? Amarea asked. She loved being right. She saw Joey coming around the corner.
I don’t know, Joey smiled. Can you say it?
It, Amarea blushed.
Darn, Joey said.
I told you so! Amarea gloated.
Joey laughed. Thanks, Mar.
For what? She shrugged.
Your help, he replied. He reached for her hand.
I didn’t do anything except find a picture, she blushed again.
An amazing picture, Joey said. He took her hand and held it between his.
Just a picture, Amarea said. You told a great tale.
Thanks, Mar. He squeezed her hand, you’re amazing.
Amarea smiled. Joey liked seeing her smile.
Maddie bounced up behind Joey. “I just heard,” she said. Amarea pulled her hand away from Joey. He frowned at her.
Joey turned and hugged Maddie. “Heard what?”
“You made Ms. Furr cry,” she said.
“Who told you that?” he asked.
“The whole school’s talking about it,” she replied.
“I didn’t really make her cry. She read my paper and cried,” he said.
“It was that bad?” she said.
Amarea laughed. See you later. Joey gave her a funny look.
“Want to read it?” he asked Maddie.
“I guess,” Maddie said. She took the paper and spent less than a minute reading it. She handed it back to Joey.
“So?” he asked.
“It’s ok,” she replied. She reached up and kissed him. “This is good,” she said. “We should do more of this.” She smiled a sly grin.
“Yeah,” Joey replied. “Maybe later.” He was relieved to hear the bell ring. He kissed Maddie quickly and headed off to class.