Free to a Good Home, Book 2 of the Heartbeat Series

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33. Big Macs and Civics

33. Big macs and civics

"Okay, okay, your problem with your paper is that you are all over the place," said Maia, reading the teacher's comments on the rough draft. "You need to organize your writing and we got to fix these citations. You are on the verge of plagiarism here."

"Oh shit, how do I fix that?"

"It's easier than you think. I need paper and a pen to start. Do you have your sources on you?"

"Yeah," said Angie, pulling out her folder with stapled and highlighted articles.

Maia took a sip of her Coke and took the pen. She drew a large circle in the middle of the clean sheet of notebook paper. "Okay, where is the essay question?"

Angie pulled out the list of essay questions and handed it to Maia. "It's the third one. It was the easiest."

Maia read through the questions and smirked, then read the third question of how adding a third party affects the election process. "So the question wants you to outline these three things. Write each of them here," she said, making four large circles in each of the four corners with lines connecting them main circle. "Take what you wrote and put it in each of these categories."

"Ugh, really?"

"Do you want your car back or not? How can you come to see me if you don't have your car?"

"You're right," sighed Angie, tucking her hair behind her ear, flashing the cascading silver hoops, distracting her. "So wait, there's not enough room to write these here. You're basically saying that I need to rewrite my paper."

"Not all the way. You got some good stuff here. Do you got any highlighters?"

Angie handed her four different colored highlighters, seemingly new and hardly used when Maia opened each and outlined each of the circles.

"Why did you put four circles when there are only three points?"

"Points one through three and the fourth is for your thesis. Write your citations on the back of this page." Maia flipped to the end and rewrote an article's citation on the back of the page. "You forgot the date on this article. Where is it?"

Angie handed it to her. Maia highlighted the date in the web address to show Angie where to find it, then she fixed the citation.

"How did you learn all this?"

"Jonny is an English professor. I have helped him grade papers since I was eight."

"Ohmygod, Maia. I was playing with Barbies when I was eight."

"I never had one. Cat wouldn't let me have one. She said it gave young girls a skewed example of a woman's body and unhealthy expectations of career opportunities."

Angie looked at the clock. She needed to go home within a couple of hours and still had a stack of homework to do. "Did you take a language in school?"

"I tested out."

Angie chuckled and shook her head. "You would. Of what, Latin?"

"That too. Italian actually," said Maia hearing the commotion from the elevator.

"Paulie’s here, we might see him in an hour. He goes to see the cancer kids first."

"Wait, you speak Italian?"

"And French and Spanish."

"Cool, will you look at my Spanish homework before Uncle Joey kicks me out of here? I know Uncle Brandon has already hassled him by now."

"Sure," said Maia handing Angie the writing web. Angie had markered up the five-page paper with the four colors. She held it up to Maia.

"Great, now write your points here, on the arms of the web, like branches on a tree. Then circle them and put the name of the author for sources cited."

"You should be a teacher. You are so good at this."

"Thanks, where is your Spanish homework?"

Angie handed the Spanish textbook to Maia with her homework started on a bent piece of notebook paper sticking out of the book. It had her name and the first two written on the page. In the margin was a doodle of a cat in a sombrero.

"Irregular verb conjugation. 100% memorization."

"Flashcards are useless and there's like fifty of these to memorize for the test in two weeks."

"You got to break them up and learn them every day. Muscle memory will be your best bet since you have to write them on the test, right?"

Angie nodded and looked at Maia who reached for another piece of paper from the opened binder on the bed.

"Write them over and over until you remember them. You got peppermint gum?"

"Sure, want some?"

"No chew it while you write the conjugations. It helps you remember. Then chew it during the test."

"Wait, hold up. Why peppermint gum?"

"It was some college study done. They proved it. Jonny said it was just an excuse for me to get peppermint gum at the store." Maia wrote out the first conjugation for Angie after folding the paper longways. "Then without looking, you write it here. What you don't know, write like five times and then quiz yourself again."

"Ohmygod, Maia. This is so much work!"

"You need to stop stressing. if you put in a little work every day, it doesn't mound up." She continued writing the conjugations and checked the book to make sure she was right. "See, these are the same as Italian verbs," she said as Paulie entered with a shopping bag in his hand with Joey behind him.

"Okay, here," he said to Joey, handing him the bag. "Ti stai ancora divertendo?" asked Paulie, "are you having fun yet?" to Maia, kissing her on the cheek as he hugged her.

"Si, cosa c'e nella borsa?" she asked, wanting to know what was in the bag.

Joey cleared his throat. Paulie rolled his eyes and replied in English. "Clothes. We are trying to figure out your size. I got kiddos to see, so I'll be back soon."

"Let’s see!" exclaimed Angie.

"Soon, let’s finish your paper outline first, Uncle Brandon is going to be calling soon," she said as Joey's phone rang, and he followed Paulie out into the hallway.

"I'm going to end up rewriting this whole paper. I just know it."

"Nope, I promise you won't.

Angie did and Maia reached for Angie’s pencil pouch. She grabbed the four and outlined each of the four bubbles on the writing web. She took Angie's paper and showed them to her.

"‎Use these in your draft. Highlight all of the sentences for each subject. Then, make paragraphs with your sentences and write between them to tie them together. Then you write your thesis and conclusion. Read it out loud when you are done to see if it makes sense. Fix what doesn’t and you are all set. Call me and read it to me." Maia added it to Angie's To-Do list.

"‎‎Wow, that's it? So I don't have to rewrite it?"

"You might have to revise it some, but you have good work here, it's just disorganized."

"Can we be done now?


Angie packed it all in her backpack and put the bag of clothes on Maia's lap.

"Now try on your clothes."

‎"Okay, fine.

Joey returned just as Maia opened the shopping bag. "That was your Uncle Brandon," said Joey, shaking his phone at Angie.

"Could I please keep Maia until June?" asked Angie of Joey.

‎‎"Right, like Brandon needs two of you to chase."

‎"Nope, we are getting our own apartment. I’m going to NYU and Maia’s going to Juilliard," said Angie as Paulie entered.

‎"For her MFA? Sure," said Paulie using hand sanitizer as he entered the room.

"You're back soon."

"Courtney is sleeping and Jose is at treatment. Their moms will come to get me when they want to see me today."

Maia reached for another hug, surprising him. He stepped around the bed and as he embraced her, she smelled his Jean Paul Gaultier cologne and cocked her eyebrow at her.

‎"What?" He asked.

‎"No cigarette--"

‎"I got patched, just for you and oxygen."

‎"Best big brother ever award," said Angie.

‎"Don't let him fool you. It was finally time to give them up. He smokes on tour, gets pneumonia, comes home sick, and throws a hissy fit when it’s time to quit. This time he got two more weeks than usual because of your dramatic entry."

‎"And he accuses me of being dramatic," said Paul as the girls laughed at Joey.

‎"Your dinner will be here soon."

‎"I ate McDonald’s."

‎"Not good kiddo," sighed Joey.

‎"C'mon, Maia, let's see what you got!"

‎Maia opened it and took out a soft lemon and white cotton baseball jersey top that said "New York" in script on it and a black tracksuit with a yellow stripe on the jacket and pants.

"That's cool, thanks. I appreciate the lack of pink."

‎"There are some underwear and a bra in there too," said Joey. Maia pulled them out and Angie laughed at Maia's embarrassment at the matching bra and panty set that Maia would only wear under duress.

‎"I don’t wear bras. I don’t have anything to put in one. They ride up on me."

Angie laughed. "Nice try, guys," she said.

She set them aside and pulled out the Nike sneakers in black and yellow.

"Now those are cool."

"Try them on. Paulie and I are going out to get a coffee and see the kiddos in the playroom. Angie can help you try them on and then she can get us. Don't come out with the street clothes on."

"Is she going home?" asked a deflated Angie. This last week with Maia was awesome, and she was not ready for her new friend to leave her.

"Tonight, when the floor is quiet. It's our secret and the nurses do not know yet."

‎Angie pulled the drape and helped Maia maneuver the IV and oxygen tubes. The three-quarter length sleeves hung below her hands and the tracksuit was too long in both the sleeves and pants.

‎When Joey saw it, he couldn't help but laugh. "I should’ve gotten a short sleeve shirt instead."

‎"When I went down for my x-ray, there was a cute one in the gift shop window with sea turtles," said Maia.

‎"Yep, it was there," said Angie, taking out a small paper bag from her backpack and handed it to Maia.

‎Maia opened it and squealed, and then hugged Angie as Joey looked at the baby blue shirt with a realistic sea turtle swimming near a coral reef.

‎"I didn't know you like sea turtles," said Joey.

‎"I think they are so cool. I've always wanted to see them hatch."

‎Joey smiled and winked at Angie, who picked up her iPhone and flipped through pictures and handed it to Maia.

"Like this?" asked Angie.

‎"OMG, Angie! When did you, where, oh wow, look at them! Who did you go with?" she asked, flipping through them as the next picture was of Angie with Paulie and Joey.

"Joey is all sunburnt," said Maia.

"That was last year. We all went together."

‎Maia stared at the pictures as she flipped through them again. "Who is that?"

‎"My stepmom Meg. She's awesome most of the time. She plays the piano too."

‎"I want to try on my shirt. Can you help me with it?" Joey, seeing the mess they made of the lines, untangled them and helped her slide the shirt on as Joey navigated the IV bag and cords.

‎"Oh, it's so cool, and it fits."

"That's a child’s extra-large," said Angie. "The pants are too long for her."

"Good thing I brought my sewing kit, said Joey.

"You could take them back," said Angie.

"We are out of time. She's going home tonight and I'm in no mood to go back to that store any time soon."

Paul entered the room seeing Joey pinning the legs of the pants from the underside with safety pins.

"I knew that would be huge on her."

"They had pink in her size in the girls' section, so we went to juniors for any color but pink, and the smallest they had was a 3."

"She needs a double zero, I think," said Angie. "Uncle Joey, when are you cutting Maia's hair?"

"When we get home."

"I thought you were a nurse," said Maia.

"I put myself through nursing school while cutting hair."

"We met because my hairstylist quit and I needed someone to go on tour with me. Joey could just leave for the Summer, so he became my stylist and the rest is history," said Paul.

"Uncle Joey is awesome at hair. What about a pixie cut on Maia? She's got a side part here," said Angie playing with it. Joey put down the pins and stood up to see what Angie was talking about. Make it go to the side and wispies right below the earlobes and stack the back. It's thick enough she will have some volume with some mousse."

"After the hack job that was done to it, her hair will need it stacked until it can grow out some."

"I never had short hair before."

"Wait, hold up," said Angie. "You are such a tomboy who has only had long hair?"

One of the mothers came for Paul just as Maia was about to change and Joey helped Maia back into her hospital gown. Maia reached for her locker key and took out her backpack and pulled out the clamshell photo of her medals and showed them to Angie.

"OMG, you look so different! Girl, you are too skinny. Elly will put some weight on you. She's an awesome cook."

"She most certainly is," said Joey.

"You didn’t try on the shoes," said Angie, as Maia sat on the bed.

Maia unfolded the socks in the box and put the shoes on as Paulie entered the room again, hitting the hand sanitizer before Joey told him to do so for the umpteenth time.

"They fit!" said Maia. "Thanks, they and the clothes are great."

"Hey," said Paul seeing the T-shirt from Angie. "Cute shirt!"

"Angie got it for me."

"Do you like sea turtles?"

"I love them."

"I will take you to Florida to see them when you are well. I promise. I have a friend with a private beach where they like to nest."

There was a knock at the door and it was Jose's mom. Paulie left them again.

"I’m sad," said Maia, as Angie picked up her backpack.


"I won't see you every day."

"I’ll come to see you as soon as I get my car back. Besides, their reunion is in 2 weeks, so I’ll be up. You need to rest and get pampered. Get well, talk to your therapist, sort shit out."

Angie reached for Maia and hugged her. Maia's small frame melted into her and Angie whispered to Maia, "Give them the chance and its okay to love them too. You can love more than just Jonny and Jimmy. It's going to be okay, Maia."

Maia sighed and started to cry. "I just wish you were going with me."

"You will be okay. Really, Maia. I’ll be up soon."

Unable to stop herself, Maia kept crying and Angie looked to Joey for help. He nodded at her reassuringly.

"Hey, none of that. If you cry, then I will cry, then Joey will cry, and Uncle Paulie will get all pissed off and tell us to cut it out."

Maia smirked and then got a case of the giggles.

"If I didn’t have to hand in this paper tomorrow, I would ditch school and go with you."

A knock came to the door and it was Mick, one of Paul's security guards in that hadn't been there for a few days.

"Hey Miss Maia," said Mick, "it's about time you two girls met up. Good to see you, Angie."

"Mick!" They said, seeing the younger and cooler security guard in an ivory velour tracksuit and a matching beanie.

"Say, Mick, could you drive Angie home to Brandon's in Manhattan? You could take the Landrover. It's getting late and I don't want her on the subway," said Joey.

"Yeah, sure, Mr. Cravens. Are you ready to go Angie?"

"Unfortunately, I have a paper to write tonight." Angie hugged Maia again.

"I've got a book to finish," said Maia, picking up the paperback that belonged to the hospital library cart as the dietary aide brought in Maia's tray.

"And Maia's dinner is here," said Joey, waving them off after a quick hug from Angie. "Find your Uncle Paulie and give him a hug and say good-bye to him."

"We got the keyboard and our luggage in the trunk of the Landrover," said Paul. "Mick has the Landrover and we will be leaving with Mack in the Hummer limo. Ruby will be here soon."

"I already got the meds," said Joey patting his carry-on bag from when he would stay with Maia at the hospital.

"My backpack," said Maia as they took it out of the locker. Joey took hers and put it on the couch with his and the carryon bag then pulled the curtain shut.

Maia handed him the peak flow meter from her bed table and her Snoopy book and pen from Jimmy. She took out her bottles of seasoning from the drawer and handed them to Joey.

"I got to finish this before we go. It's the hospital's book," she said about the book that she hadn't picked up since Angie arrived that day.

"How many pages are left?"


"My phone and iPod chargers," she said, pointing to the wall outlet. Paul unplugged them and put them in her backpack. Maia looked to the clock. It was seven-ten and she still hadn't called Jimmy yet.

"OMG, the time!"

"Breathe. Do not tell Jimmy you are going home tonight. You tell him tomorrow."

"Why?" asked Maia, suspicious of Paul's response.

"Just listen to me on this one. I'd like to get out of here without a media frenzy. We are not even breathing the words discharge right now," whispered Paulie, sitting on the bed next to her.

"You want me to lie."

"I want you to tell them tomorrow morning that you left in the middle of the night. This is for your safety, Maia."

Maia said nothing at first and bit her lip. "What should I say?"

"Everything is the same as it was yesterday. Nothing has changed. Go ahead, Maia. Call Jimmy. Wasn't Doc supposed to come home today?"

"Oh right, he was!" she said, dialing the cell phone.

Maia called.

"Sorry, I was tutoring Angie," she said, her eyes on Paul as Joey refilled her water cup. "Is Jonny home?"

"No, he’s been admitted to a rehab center for a couple of weeks."


"He needs more help than I can give him right now. They are going to get intensive physical therapy to be able to walk and write. Being unable to do either is killing him, Maia. I just can't do it by myself any longer."

"I wish I was there to help you guys."

"We will be fine. You need to focus on getting better and out of the hospital."

"How are you doing? How was your day?"

"Good, I’m teaching at UC as of today."

"You are? That's wonderful! How many classes?"

"Dr. Kona broke her hip. I’m finishing up her three classes this quarter then teaching her three classes for the Spring quarter."

"I’m really happy for you."

"Me too, however, Jonny is not talking to me."

"Because of the rehab center?"

"And you. He wants you here."

"Will I be able to call him?"

"His phone will be installed tomorrow."

Maia wiped a tear from her eye and Paulie handed her the Kleenex box.

"Don’t cry. Its okay, Maia. How are you feeling?"


"Too much salt and sugar. You know how you get."

"Yeah, I know."

"What did you tutor Angie in?"

"Spanish, Civics, and Trig."

"Full plate."

"She’s almost done with the trimester. She will be off when her dad comes up to ski in February so we will get 4 days together."

"That will be nice for you. Do they have any idea when you will be discharged?"

"Hopefully any day now. I'm doing so much better. But I have to go home with oxygen. Dr. Shahere says I need respiratory therapy for a couple of months yet. How are you going to manage the stairs to the apartment and Jonny?"

"I have to find us an apartment while he’s there and get us moved and set up for him before he comes home."

"You have so much to do. I wish I was there to help."

"Hard to believe that it has been fifteen years. Just to get us ready to move I have a lot to do."

"The books--"

"Yes, the books. How are the sonnets?"

"I haven’t started."

"Don’t break his heart, Maia."

"I’ll do the first one before I call him tomorrow night."

"Okay, well, I love you, I got to read this chapter of the textbook and prepare my lecture for tomorrow."

"I love you too. Have fun. I'm proud of you, Jimmy. I just wish I could be there to help you."

"You get well. I love you too."

"Please call me tomorrow with Jonny's number."

"Of course, baby. Good night."

Maia ended the call and looked at Paul who nodded.

"Everything okay?" he asked. Before he knew it, a sobbing Maia was telling him everything and he gathered her up and held her.

"Tell you what, let's take care of business here, then when we get home, we will figure out how to help them. Family takes care of each other, Maia. You need all four of us and that hasn't changed. I need you to calm down and rest so they don't change their minds."

"Why don't you finish your book?" asked Jimmy. "We got some time yet."

"I'm going to watch the Knicks game," said Paulie, reaching for the remote as Mack entered the room.

"Tell me something good, Mack."

"We are good to go, Mr. Lenci."

"Excellent. Is Mick on his way back yet?"

"He's stuck in traffic but should be here in a half-hour."

"We should have had him accompany her on the subway instead," it would have been faster."

Paul smirked. "I'm sure Angie enjoyed having Mick to herself."

"Why?" asked Maia.

"Mick stops for coffee or ice cream, and plays rap music."

"He volunteers with teenagers at the youth center and he talks their language," said Mack. "I've yet to meet a kid who didn't like Mick. He's a kid magnet and a great dad."

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