Chapter 33: Bad News
Amarea had been sick all day. Joey didn’t think too much of it. She had not been feeling up to her usual bubbly self, lately. When Joey got home, he saw his mom and dad sitting at the dining room table holding hands. It wasn’t a picture of romance, more like fear and panic.
“What happened?” Joey asked, panic edged his voice. “Is she ok?”
“Is who ok?” his mom asked, confused.
“Amarea, is she ok?” Joey demanded.
“She’s fine, as far as I know,” his mom replied.
“Son,” his dad began, “You need to sit down.”
Joey knew that something big was coming, but as long as Amarea was ok, he could handle almost anything. Almost.
“Son,” his dad continued, “times haven’t been good with the economy.” Joey knew that. Everyone knew that.
“Last month, I got laid off,” he finished.
“What?” Joey asked. He thought back to the last few weeks, he didn’t remember his parents acting weird. “You can get a new job, can’t you?”
“I’ve found a new job,” his dad said slowly.
“That’s great!” Joey replied. “What’s all this drama about?”
“The job,” his mother said, “is in Washington.”
“What?” Joey asked. “Like Washington, DC?” DC wasn’t that far away.
“No, son, we are going to have to relocate to Washington State,” his dad said. born
“Move?” Joey asked. “You mean leave?” Leave? I can’t leave. My whole life is here. I was born here, I plan to die here, well, I wouldn’t go that far.
You are so melodramatic, Amarea smiled.
Amarea? Joey asked. He turned and looked around the dining room.
Who else would it be? Amarea asked.
Did you hear what’s going on? Joey asked.
Nope, she said, I entered in with the part about planning to die in this little obscure town.
So you don’t know? Joey breathed a sigh of relief.
Know what? Amarea shrugged. That you need to get out and see the world before you die?
Where are you? Joey asked.
My mom just dropped me off. I thought we were going to study, she replied.
I thought you weren’t feeling well, Joey said.
I’m better, she smiled, let me in.
Joey went to the front door and let Amarea in. Her smile quickly faded when she saw the concern etched on his face.
“What’s going on?” she asked, placing her books on the dining room table.
“You need to sit down,” he told her.
“Ok,” she replied, “You’re kind of scaring me.”
Joey led her into the living room and motioned for her to sit in the chair. “My dad lost his job,” Joey said the fact sinking in.
“Oh,” Amarea replied, as she sank back into the chair.
“He’s found a new job,” he said.
“Great!” she replied. She almost jumped up from the chair.
“No, not great,” Joey replied.
“I don’t understand,” she said. She sank back.
“It’s in Washington,” he replied.
“DC?” Amarea asked. She turned her head, like she didn’t understand what he was talking about.
Joey shook his head no.
“Like the state?” she asked.
“Yes, like the state,” he replied.
“Oh,” she said simply. She pulled her math book out of her bag and opened it. “We better get studying.”
You don’t have anything else to say? Joey said.
What exactly is there to say, Joseph? Amarea asked, trying to hold her emotions in check.
This is horrible news! Joey replied. Be upset or something!
Why, it won’t change anything, she replied.
“Fine, whatever,” Joey said, “What chapter are we on anyway?”
“Thirteen,” she replied.
“Perfect,” Joey said, opening his book. They worked quietly for several minutes. Amarea put her pencil down and stared at the family pictures on the wall.
How old is Miriam? She asked.
What? Joey questioned.
Your sister, she repeated, How old is she?
Joey turned to look at the pictures. Miriam was 21 when I was born. So, she is 36 or 37 now. He pointed to the next picture. Hiram, you’ve never met him or my other brother, Thomas. They were 23 and 18 when I was born, so they are 38 and 33. Why?
Where are they now? She asked.
Hiram is in the Marines. He’s a career man, he said, he lives on base in the Philippines with his family. Thomas is in Wyoming. He has a ranch up there. He raises horses.
Really? She replied.
Yup, he replied, kind of crazy, huh?
At least you will be closer to him, she said.
I’ve never really been close to either of my brothers, Joey admitted. Thomas was a senior in high school, and Hiram was already in the Marines when I showed up.
Oh, she said.
Did you know that Miriam was pregnant with Michael when my mom was pregnant with me? He asked.
Amarea shook her head. That’s really weird! She replied. You’re close to Miriam aren’t you?
Not really, he replied. They’ve moved around a lot because of Jameson’s schooling.
You’re friends with Michael, aren’t you? She asked.
Kind of, he’s 8 months older than me, Joey replied. What’s up with all the questions?
Just thinking, she replied.
About what? He asked.
A place for you to stay, she said.
I seriously doubt my sister would let me stay, Joey admitted, she’s already got a full house.
It wouldn’t hurt to ask, she replied hopefully.
It wouldn’t do any good, he replied.
What about Aunt Judy? Amarea asked.
Nope, Joey replied. She has this one kid rule and right now that one kid is Jimmy.
Are you sure? Amarea questioned.
Yes, Joey confirmed.
Amarea closed her math book, “I’m done for the day,” she said. “Why don’t we watch something on TV?”
“Ok,” Joey said, closing his own book. “I’ll make some popcorn; you choose the channel.”
A week later, the moving van was loaded, the house was empty, a for-sale sign posted in the front yard. Joey couldn’t believe he was moving half way across the country. It was crazy! He didn’t understand why his father couldn’t find a job closer.
He was going to hate his new school and his new house. He hated the thought of being away from all that he loved. He actually thought he hated his parents.
Goodbyes sucked. Maddie cried and clung to him. It was kind of embarrassing. An impatient man, Joey had never seen before, honked the horn repeatedly before Maddie let go of Joey. Joey assumed he was her foster parent.
“I love you,” she said through her sobs. Joey just hugged her. She waved out the window as the man drove her away.
Miriam’s family exchanged hugs and goodbyes. Meghan told Joey to come back and visit so he could take her back to the museum. He promised he would.
Amarea’s family was last. Mr. Dustin shook Joey’s hand and wished him well. Mrs. Dustin gave him a big hug. Amarea just stood in the driveway with a silly smile on her face. Joey put his hands in his pockets and stood in front of her.
You didn’t say you loved her, she said softly.
Who? Joey asked. There was a look of confusion on his face.
Never mind, Amarea replied. Promise to call? She asked.
I’ll try, he replied.
Emails, texts, something? She asked.
I’ll try, he repeated.
Mr. Moore cleared his throat.
I guess it looks like we are just staring at each other, Amarea smiled.
“Goodbye, Amarea,” Joey said.
“Goodbye, Joseph,” Amarea replied.
Joey turned and walked away. Amarea heard Mr. Moore say, “What? No hug?” Joey just shrugged.
Amarea bravely waved to them as they drove away. She didn’t cry until she was sitting with her back to her bedroom door. Powder gingerly licked her tears. She thought of Tracy and Melissa. At some point, she must have crawled into bed. She woke up to find a plate of macaroons sitting on her bedside table. She cried herself back to sleep.