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

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39. Changes


Maia was tired and leaned against Joey and slept with his arm wrapped about her in the third bench seat of the Suburban. It had been a busy day at the children’s hospital filled with doctor’s appointments and x-rays. Tired from being poked and prodded as well as gawked at as she walked with Paul down the corridors where he was stopped by fans, specifically children that he would stop and visit with while the rest walked on without him.

“I think it went well,” said Ruby. “You got a good team here. He has a therapist there in town for her to see who specializes in surviving sexual assaults. He’s going to keep a close eye on her with the meds, which is good. I agree with him. Don’t push school this year if she is not ready for it. She has enough hurdles to overcome with court and grief that she avoids addressing.”

“I agree, said Joey, “but I think she needs to be with kids and have some normalcy in her life. School seems to be what she enjoys, and we should let her have that.”

“That and piano lessons,” said Paul.

“I’ll see what Jimmy says when we chat tonight.”

Paul checked his phone that buzzed with a text message. “Father Tim just confirmed that he is coming to supper on Wednesday.”

“That ought to be fun. I’d like to be a mouse in the corner for that,” said Ruby.

“I’m going to remind her daily that she will not play stump the priest. I told him already she’s challenging and knows more about the Bible than we expected her to.”

“That’s an understatement,” said Joey. “She told me the story of Rahab this morning when I was doing her hair.”

“Rahab, the prostitute that saved Joshua?” asked Ruby. “She really knows all of the good stories, doesn’t she?”

“And she’s also listed in the genealogy of Christ,” said Joey.

“Unbelievable,” said Paul, “of course she would know that.”

Maia started to cough and shook herself awake and sat up quickly. Joey handed her the Kleenex and trash bin. She wheezed after.

“Hey,” said Joey. Her breath labored.

“It hurts so much.”

“It’s the pleurisy. You got this,” said Joey, putting the inhaler in her hand. She used it and leaned on Joey and folded her arms in close to her. “Are you cold?”

She nodded, and he put his arm about her and covered her up with the small throw blanket that was folded on the seat back there.

“Go back to sleep. I got you.”

Maia closed her eyes and Joey listened to her wheeze as she slept.

Paul looked back at him with concern. He shook his head. “Tough stuff,” he said.

“Will you be glad to be home?” asked Paul of Ruby.

“Yes, I will. You are doing a great job, both of you.”

Maia woke to the sound airplanes and when the door opened, it took her breath away at first.

“Ruby is leaving us,” said Joey to her.

Maia woke up and reached to her for a hug. “Bye Ruby, thank you for everything,” said Maia.

“You can call me anytime, Sugar, you got my digits in your phone.”

“Okies, byes Ruby,” she said as Ruby parted from her.

“Byes,” she said laughing.

“What airport is this? It’s real small,” asked Maia as Mack opened the back for Ruby’s suitcase, catching her breath again.

“This is an airfield. That’s Paulie’s jet,” said Joey, pointing to the Lear Jet near them.

“A jet? No way! Can I see it?”

“Another time. Ruby’s got to go,” said Paul.

“Byes Ruby!”

“Byes Maia! Be good!”

“I will try my best!”

“When can we fly in Paulie’s jet?” Maia asked Joey, as Paul walked out onto the tarmac with Ruby and Mack.

“When we go to Chicago. That will be coming up soon.”

Maia nodded, feeling anxious about going to court for her infractions. The only good part of returning to Chicago will be seeing Jonny again, and Paulie promised her a few days to stay with Jimmy and Jonny instead of a few hours.

She had just started to breathe easy again when her phone buzzed in her pocket.

Maia reached for it, seeing Angie’s name pop up on the display.

“Hey you,” said Angie.


“What did the doc say?”

“Pleurisy. Nothing new. I get it all the time.”

“Where are you? It’s so loud.”

“Ruby is leaving on Paulie’s jet right now.”

“My dad has one.”

“Is it cool?”

“I love it, though Paulie’s jet is very cool too. He has an X-Box on his.”

“Paulie has an Xbox?” asked Maia of Joey who smirked. “Where is he hiding them?”

“Ask your brother, I’m not getting I the middle of this.”

“Paulie has all the gaming systems. He hasn’t shared his toys with you yet? They are in the theater in the basement.”

“What theater? We have a basement?”

“I can’t talk long, I’m between classes. When are you going to school?”

“I don’t know yet. I have to meet the priest first.”

“He’s so cool. Wait until you see his hair! Omg he’s so cute!”

“Wait...a cute priest? How old is he?”

“Maybe 30.”

“He’s young?”

“Why he took a vow of celibacy is lost on me,” sighed Angie.

“Wait, wait, hold up say that again?”

“Vow of celibacy.”

Paul climbed back in the car and shut the door. “Oh, the no sex thing for priests? So dumb. Like they think Jesus didn’t have sex? He was human and a guy after all.”

Paul shot her a look while Joey tried not to laugh. “Mother Mary Joseph,” muttered Paul as he buckled his seatbelt. Joey reached for him and patted his shoulder. “Welcome to life with a teenager,” he replied as Paul rubbed his temples.

“Do you go to mass?” Maia asked Angie.

“Only under duress.”

“Sounds like me with hideous plaid skirts and cardigans.”

The bell rang. “Byes!”

Maia coughed again harder than before and she dropped the phone. This time the wheezing took over. Joey pulled out the inhalers and tried to decipher which one was the rescue inhaler and how to open it.

Maia took it from him, cocked it, opened it, and sucked in. She did it twice with no avail and reached for the albuterol in her pocket and hit it three times, putting her head against the headrest of the seat and tried to breathe normally. Her face was flushed and mad.

“They gave me the wrong one. ‎That’s not rescue—that’s medication.”

“Wait, let me see,” said Joey, rifling through the bags. She picked up the purple disk. “This is medication, this inhaler. It has steroids in it. Let me see this mess.”

“Gaah, that doesn’t work,” she said handing the bottle of pills to him. “You don’t want me on that. I don’t sleep. It feeds into my OCD and anxiety and you won’t be able to stand me.”

She found the rescue inhaler in the bottom of the bag. “This one is good, keep that one. That’s the one I was needing.”

“This one, no, it’s a waste of money. It works for like a week, and then it doesn’t do crap for me.”

“W‎hy didn’t you speak up?” asked Paul.

“I did and was ignored. He kept talking over me. When I’m fourteen, they can’t talk over me.”

“Why?” asked Paul.

“HIPPA,” said Joey. “Medically she will be at the age of majority and can decide who knows information about her.”

“They can’t tell you anything unless I agree to it. Not that I wouldn’t.”

‎Maia tried to breathe easy and held up her hand to see if it was shaking. Five hits on two inhalers was way too much for her. “I hate steroids. They make me jittery and mess up my fingerings,” she said, shaking her hands.

‎Maia coughed again. “How far are we?” She wheezed.

“Seven minutes. Are you okay?” asked Paul.

“Fine, I just got to pee.”

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