Chapter 29: Alphabet Game
The phone in his pocket vibrated. Joey pressed the silence button. It was the third call in the last five minutes, and it was only 9:00 in the morning. He just didn’t want to talk to her. One short buzz-another message. He took out his phone and dialed voicemail. He hung up. He just didn’t want to hear her voice. He went to bed the night before and tossed and turned. He thought a lot about his life. When he woke up, after a brief nap, he realized he didn’t love her. He had never loved her. The realization left him empty. His phone buzzed again. He silenced it. No message this time. Another short buzz, a text message. He looked.
“Stranger,” The text read.
“Stranger?” Joey typed back.
“I already said that. I win,” the text read.
“What?” Joey typed back.
“When,” the text read.
“Huh?” Joey was in no mood for games.
“Not a “w” word. I win,” the text read.
“Amarea?” Joey wrote.
“No names. I win,” the text read.
“Huh?” Joey typed.
“Honey,” the text read.
“What are you doing?” Joey typed.
“Playing a game. You lost again,” the text read.
“What?” Joey typed.
“Watermelon,” The text read.
“Who is this?” Joey was beginning to get annoyed.
“Why?” The text read.
“Amarea,” Joey typed.
“I win,” The text read.
“Who is this?” Joey typed.
“Me,” The text read.
“Me who?” Joey typed.
“Me me,” The text read.
“Amarea?” Joey typed.
“Yes. I got a new phone,” Amarea typed.
“Cool,” Joey typed.
“Cucumber,” she replied.
“Crazy,” Joey typed.
“Canterbury,” Amarea typed.
“Cantelope,” Joey replied.
“Cantaloupe,” Amarea corrected. You spelled it wrong.
“Oh,” Joey typed.
“I win,” Amarea typed. A huge smile on her face.
“Win what?” Joey asked.
“The game,” Amarea typed.
“What game?” Joey texted.
“Alphabet Text,” Amarea typed. She was so excited to have a new phone. When the guy at the store told her about the Alphabet Text Game, she was so excited to play. She had tried playing with her mom and dad, but they took too long to play, and she always won.
“What are the rules?” Joey asked. He figured it was some made up game with no real rules, something Amarea just created.
“Start with a letter and come up with words that start with the same letter. No names or proper nouns,” She typed. It took a minute or two for her to type it all in.
“Ok,” Joey texted.
“Octopus,” Amarea replied.
“Orange,” Joey texted.
“Olive,” Amarea replied.
“Ok,” Joey texted.
“I win!” Amarea typed.
“Why?” Joey replied.
“I said ok already,” Amarea replied.
“Oh,” Amarea texted, you also have to write back right away, or I win.
“Look,” Joey texted.
“Love,” Amarea replied.
Amarea waited. After 5 minutes she texted, I win, but Joey didn’t respond. She dialed his number, and it went straight to voicemail. He must have pushed the reject button. She didn’t leave a message. She’d call him back later.
Joey placed his phone behind the back tire. He heard it scratch down the driveway. He felt a slight bump as the tire squashed his phone.
Mrs. Moore stopped the car at the end of the driveway.
“Isn’t that your phone?” his mom asked.
“I must have dropped it,” Joey said as he got out of the car and picked up his phone.
“Did you break it?” she asked as he got back in the car.
Joey shook his head. “It’s fine.” There were 23 messages and 56 texts waiting.
“Mom, I’m not feeling well,” Joey lied.
Joey’s mom felt his forehead. “You’re not hot,” she said. Joey opened the car door and vomited.
“Oh,” his mom said, as she pulled the car back into the driveway. “Go back in the house!”
Joey left his phone in the car. He went to his room and fell into a fitful sleep. He woke up to the house phone ringing. Amarea. He turned over and pulled his pillow over his head.
The doorbell rang. Joey rolled over and looked at the clock, 4:00 p.m. He’d been asleep all day.
“He’s not feeling well,” Joey heard his mom say.
Joey? Amarea called out.
Amarea? Joey said lamely.
Who else? Amarea grinned. She was standing by the front door.
Sorry, Joey replied. He pulled the pillow over his head.
What’s going on? I’ve been trying to reach you all day, she said.
I don’t feel well, Joey groaned.
That’s what your mom said, Amarea replied. I’ve called and left a message.
“A” message? Joey stressed the “a”.
Ok, Amarea blushed, more than one, but who’s counting?
The message counter, Joey said rather snottily.
Are you really sick? Amarea doubted someone that sick could be so snotty.
I threw up, Joey shrugged.
I saw, Amarea shivered.
What? Joey asked.
The street, Amarea fought the urge to vomit.
Oh, Joey blushed, I should probably go clean that up.
It’s going to rain later, Amarea offered.
Ok, good, Joey rolled over. He heard his mom knock on his door. He groaned.
Are you avoiding me? Amarea asked.
No, Joey said.
Are you mad at me? Amarea asked.
No, Joey replied.
What’s going on? Amarea asked. She heard his voice talking to his mom, but she couldn’t hear what they were saying.
Nothing, Joey said simply, I just don’t feel well.
You were fine on Friday, Amarea offered.
I started to get sick yesterday, he said.
Do you need anything? Amarea asked. Mrs. Moore had come downstairs and told her that Joey wasn’t feeling well and that he would call her later.
No, Joey covered his head with the pillow, after he heard the front door close.
Have you heard from Maddie? Amarea asked as she walked down the walkway.
No, Joey snapped, why would you ask that?
I thought you knew, Amarea said cautiously.
Knew what? Joey sat up.
Her mom got arrested Saturday morning, Amarea said. She was walking really slowly to the car. Her mom was giving her a strange look.
Oh. No. Joey searched for his phone. His mom had placed it on his night stand. He grabbed it and began reading his messages. He called his voicemail. By the fourth message, he really felt nauseous. Maddie was “going away for a while to spend some time with her cousin,” she had said. Joey was miserable and strangely relieved. He was such a jerk, and he knew it.
Why? Amarea asked. She had stopped walking and was pretending to tie her shoe.
What? Joey replied.
Why are you a jerk? Amarea asked.
I just am, he said simply. He fell back on his bed.
I know, Amarea joked.
Joey didn’t respond.
I was just kidding, Amarea said lamely. She finished pretending to tie her shoe and got into the car.
I’m not in the mood today, Joey rolled over and covered his head with the pillow.
Ok, Amarea conceded.
I don’t feel well, Joey said.
Ok, Amarea replied.
I just want to be left alone, Joey sighed.
Ok. See you Monday? She watched his house disappear behind her.
Maybe, Joey said.