Maia sat the keyboard playing from one of the books that Paul had picked up from a music store near the hospital. He took selfies with the teachers and students that afternoon and had created mayhem that set off lessons and schedules. While searching the stacks of piano books, other students were recommending their favorites to him, but what they liked was very elementary to Maia’s expert level. He found a book of the Hungarian Dances and called to see if she ever played them. A jubilant Maia said only one excerpt and that she had wanted to play them for a long time now. After paging through it and finding more black notes than white staves on the page, he realized that if he thought it would be too challenging for him it would probably be just right for her. In his quest to help her act her age, he also picked up a book of popular music pieces as well just for fun.
When Alex and Angie arrived, Maia was at the keyboard playing from the popular pieces book.
”Green Day, sweet,” said Angie, as she and Alex entered the room, startling Maia until Paul reassured her that it was okay. Maia played it through to the end, her eyes on the girl with purple streaks in her black curly hair that hung at her shoulders, tucked behind one ear, exposing the silver rings that climbed from her earlobe to around the top of her ear. In her nose was a small diamond stud and Maia almost messed up her fingerings feeling inferior to this girl in front of her. In the girls' hand was a bright pink gift bag that said PINK on it.
While Angie’s eyes watched Maia, the adults greeted each other. Maia felt that Angie and Alex were an unlikely pair. While she favored him in her looks, the black ripped skinny jeans and vintage Led Zepplin T-shirt shirt beneath a long ecru sweater that seemed to dwarf her.
"Hey," said Angie. "I'm Angie."
"Hi," said Maia. "I'm Maia."
"Hi there, Maia,” said Alex, returning to her side and bending down to her. His large frame beside her made her feel small as a bit of panic quickened in her and she calmly suppressed, remembering that Paul would pound anyone who touched her.
“Hello, Uncle Alex. How are you?”
“I’m good, you look much better than the last time I saw you. this is my daughter, Angie."
“I brought you something,” said Angie, holding a gift bag. Maia got up from the keyboard. There were too many people in her room and she felt overwhelmed. Maia moved towards her bed that was next to the keyboard and sat on the side of it as Angie handed it to her.
Maia opened the bag to find a short lilac chenille robe and matching slippers.
“Wow, thanks,” she said, as Joey helped her put it on and slide the IV through the armhole.
“You’re welcome,” she said. “There’s more.”
Maia reached into the bottom of the bag and found a smaller black box tied with a light pink satin bow of a wide ribbon. When Maia untied the satin bow, she lifted the black lid to find an iPod and headphones.
“Oh wow, thank you!” she said.
“It’s the only way to survive parents.”
Maia laughed. “I miss my iPod. It got stolen when I was on the street.”
“You can reload all your music again with your old account. Do you remember it?”
“Oh yeah,” said Maia. “Of course.”
“We can set it up while they are gone.”
“Gone? Where are they going?”
“They are leaving with my Dad for lunch. Bye guys,” she said, waving them off.
When the three of them left a few minutes later, Angie closed the drape and shut the door.
“Are you hungry?” Asked Angie.
"I could eat."
Angie pulled from her backpack a pair of hoagies wrapped in newsprint.
"I hope you like pastrami."
"Hell yeah," said Maia unwrapping hers.
"Coke nothing in it?" She asked, handing Maia a 20-ounce bottle.
Angie and Maia sat cris-crossed on Maia’s bed with the bedtable between them, eating the sandwiches and drinking their cokes.
"Ohmygod, this pastrami is so good," said Maia.
"Jewish deli. You are a fucking badass, " said Angie, breaking open a bag of potato chips so that the bag became a piece of foil between them.
"What?" asked Maia with a laugh, as she wiped her mouth on a napkin then grabbed a chip.
"You are! I can’t believe you got into tour cargo."
"At least it was warm in there."
Angie looked at Maia's hand that popped the end of half of her sandwich into her mouth. "You lost fingernails?"
Maia nodded. "Frostbite."
Angie reached for Maia’s hand and looked at it.
"How old are you?"
"Fourteen in March."
"You are like ten in size."
"Nah, I’m at least twelve, " said Maia retracting her hand and picking up the other half of the sandwich.
Angie laughed and she sucked down some of her Coke when the drape got pulled back by a nurse.
"Maia--oh you are eating!"
"This is Angie, Alex Corwynn's daughter."
"Nice to meet you. Don’t suppose those are low sodium lunchmeats?"
"Better not be," said Maia.
The nurse and Angie laughed.
"Okay girls, enjoy your food."
Maia and Angie smirked at each other.
"So how did you get in there and not get caught?"
"I spent six nights in the cold hiding in a cardboard box. I’d watch the crews, security guards, and trucks."
"I was safe in the box. They couldn’t find me there. I was on the other side of town. As long as I was hidden I was safe."
"Who couldn't find you?"
"It felt like everyone. The cops, CPS, this dealer named Nico that wouldn't leave me alone, and my former foster father who was trying to sell me to some rich guy in Thailand."
"Damn girl. Does Uncle Joey know?"
"Yeah, he gets all papa bear on anyone who comes near me."
"He acts all passive most of the time until you cross the line. He takes no shit from fans either. Uncle Paulie won't admit it but Uncle Joey has saved his ass on occasion."
"I didn't know Uncle Alex had a daughter."
"I came into this family only a couple of years ago. He let my mom get away with too much shit and kept me from him. I ran away from boarding school with Connor and my Dad had to rescue me."
"The reggae artist?"
"I don’t know much about popular music."
"Oh well...my dad came and got me, and it was the first time I ever saw him."
"Your dad is V cool."
"Oh hell yes he is. Trust me, I got many amazing men in my life who love me like their own niece or daughter. So answer the question. Why don’t you like them?"
"Who says I don't like them? They are okay. I just want to go back to Chicago and Paul says I can't go back."
"And you want to go back."
Maia nodded. "So would you if you were me. I lost my mom. Jimmy and Jonny were gone, I had no one. I thought they were never coming back or worse--"
"Then foster care."
"What do you know about it?"
Angie nodded. "Only what I can overhear. I heard how you fucked up that caddy."
Maia smirked. "Hell yeah. Do you smoke?"
"Fuck I want one. Can’t do that on O2."
They finished their sandwiches and Angie put on the TV.
"Thanks for the sandwich and coke. I've been jonesing that and Big Macs."
I’ll bring you one on Wednesday."
"Awesome, fries, and a chocolate shake too?
"Sure. Is it true you are great at math?"
"I hate math."
"Trig. Dad let me skip it today to come to see you."
"Is it in your backpack?"
"I will look at it if you set up my iPod."
"Deal, " said Angie, popping off the bed to get her backpack. Maia handed her the iPod box, and Angie handed her the trigonometry textbook with a graded test sticking out of it, bent up from being stuffed into a backpack instead of a folder.
Maia shut off the TV. With the bed table between them and their sandwich and chip wrappers in the trash, Maia taught Angie while her account downloaded her playlist onto the iPod.
Maia had done each problem on the test that Angie missed on the test, showing Angie where she had gone awry on each equation. She was working through one of the last problems when the guys walked in.
"What’s that smell?" Asked Joey, already knowing the answer.
"Who had pastrami without me?" Asked Paulie.
"With toasted French bread and melted provolone cheese with grilled onions, mayo, and Dijon?" said Maia.
"Where’s mine?" Asked Paulie, making the girls laugh. "Was it good?"
"Fantastic, " said Maia looking over the next equation. "Whoa, wait, the order of operations."
"What?" asked Paulie, as Maia wrote BEDMAS in the upper margin of the notebook paper.
"Oh, that!" said Angie.
"You got to do it in order: Brackets, Exponents, Division, Multiplication, Addition and Subtraction, " said Maia. "You left out the exponent."
"Daniel will be so glad not to do Trig tonight," said, Alex.
Maia coughed and reached for a Kleenex. She had just handed Angie back the bloodied test covered in red ink with a 63% on it. She closed the notebook and gave it and the pen back to Angie, who stuffed it into her backpack before her dad could see it, certain that he was too busy talking to notice. Maia handed Angie her phone to put her number in and once Angie had done so, she could hear a phone ring and buzz until Angie shut it off.
"Now I have your number," she said adding Maia as a contact.
"Good, now maybe you could give Daniel a break from tutoring you. I'd like to see you graduate in June, so how about you get that up to passing?"
"I got the love letter from Mr. Johnson yesterday."
"Ugh, I forgot midterm progress reports went out this week."
"It's in my briefcase for you to take back to him tomorrow. Remind me to sign that test on our way back to Brandon's brownstone."
"Is it okay to go home with you tonight instead of Uncle Brandon's?"
"Uh oh, are you hiding out from Brandon?" Asked Joey.
"No, we're cool. I just need something from home for school--one of my early pieces. I need it for my senior project."
"That's fine. You should call Megs first."
"It's all good. We talked earlier when I couldn't find it at Uncle Brandon's. I could drive back to Manhattan in the morning with my car so not to put you out of getting me to school on time."
"Nice try. Your car is staying parked until there is a C in Trig and Civics."
"I'll help you get your car back," said Maia.
"Thanks I need all the help I can get. Will you read my Civics paper tomorrow?"
"Sure! Civics and Big Macs?"
"Hell yes, Big Macs and Civics. Fries, chocolate shakes and trig. Early dismissal tomorrow, so I will be here by two."
"Awesome! See you then!"
"Call me!" Said Angie, making the telephone sign with her hand.
"Byes!" said a jubilant Maia waving as all three men smiled, knowing that Angie was just what Maia needed.