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

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45. Reunion 2.0

45. Reunion 2.0

Maia set down her cell phone next to her notebook and continued writing the last question to another history assignment. She had made it up to November in assignments for her language classes and was rather proud of herself. Mattie and her sister just texted her about the rubric for those assignments, reminding Maia to cite her sources using the MLA parenthetical documentation. She took a post-it and wrote ( ). and put it in the notebook so she would go back and do that before handing them in for grading next Monday. Mattie had two more PowerPoint presentations from that semester for her and said she would bring them to Mass on Sunday. Angie would not like that Maia needed to go to Mass this weekend, but she had to get those notes from her friends. Besides, it gave her time to practice her prayers and use the Missal. Elly volunteered to take them to Mass since Paul and Joey would probably be on the slopes with the guys.

Maia was reading one of her essay drafts from the printer tray when Joey knocked on the opened bedroom door. There sat Maia in her usual place, at her desk, still in yesterday’s clothes of leggings and the Winston sweatshirt that Paul bought her last week when they were on campus. Every time Elly had washed it, she put it on until Joey fussed at her to take a shower and change clothes almost two days afterward. Her hair was unkempt and barely a brush had been run through it.

“Hey,” she said, not looking up.

“Mack and Paulie just left to pick them up at the airfield.”

“Gosh, really?” she asked, looking at the time. “I gotta shower and do my hair yet.”

Maia flipped through the notebook in front of her searching for something. Finding it, she typed it into the file on the computer and Joey shook his head.

“Maia, did you hear me? You got to get in the shower. They will be here soon.”

“I just have to fix this citation,” she said, typing, “Then this whole paper is done. Well, almost, I have to read it and make sure it’s perfect. I hate my conclusion.”

As she revised a sentence on the computer, Joey walked to the closet and set out an outfit for her, hanging the blouse and jeans on the door to the bathroom and got a bra and panties from her drawers as well.

“Maia, I have to help Elly in the kitchen, and I’m not leaving this room until I hear the shower going. Please put down your paper and pick up a loofah. You need to shower every day. You are a maturing young lady. We have had this conversation before.”

“Ugh, Joey, I know, I know.”

“Then let’s go, let’s go. You don’t want Paulie involved, do you?”

“No, just a second. I need to print this, so I won't forget to edit it later.”

Within moments, Maia had saved the file and hit print. While she gathered her books and notebooks, the printer had spit out the essay. She read it over as it did so and picked up a pen. She made markings on the page with a red pen and wrote editor’s shorthand and put it on top of the rest of the notebooks.

“Thanks, Joey, I will be quick,” she said, hugging him, and then rushing into the bathroom.

Joey perused the charts strewn out on the bed. He couldn’t believe how far she had progressed, seeing the black sharpie lines that had crossed out the assignments on each day, the big black X’s across whole days when they were completed. Around her room, on the bed, the dressers, the ottoman, and the soft chair were the new wire-bound notebooks they purchased not even a week ago that already was a third to a half full. He was intrigued by her flow charts and Cornell notes. Her use of color and the way she wrote, in all caps, but the first letter of a sentence, was larger than the rest, like reading a comic book.

Joey left her and went downstairs to help Elly finish lunch.

“How’s my baby?” asked Elly.

“She’s just getting into the shower.”

“Mack says they are waiting for Alex’s jet.”

“That’s a first, for Alex. Gives us a couple of minutes to breathe.”

“Mitch and Andy will be here soon, too. Thankfully, Mitch is always late, and Andy will bring him.”

Five minutes later, Joey’s phone rang. It was a panicked Maia. “Are you okay?”

“I need you,” she said, panting.

“On my way, calm down and use your inhaler.”
Joey grabbed his med bag by the sideboard and bounded up the stairs two-by-two to find Maia dressed, her hair wet and her toothbrush in her mouth. Seeing him, she went in to spit and rinse out her mouth. A perturbed Joey followed her into the bathroom. “What’s going on? You can’t do that! If it’s an “I need you,” that’s an emergency.”

“It is an emergency, Angie will be here any minute, and I’m still not ready. Help me do my hair, please?”

Joey laughed. “A hair emergency does not qualify as an “I need you.” I will do your hair, but don’t do that again.” He hit the intercom.

“Elly, she’s fine, just needs me to do her hair.”

“Lord have mercy, Maia Catrina!”

“Let me know when they get here.”

“Mack said they are still waiting. Everything is fine, they just are flying into a southern wind.”

“Thank God,” said Joey, looking over to Maia who was back at the desk reading her essay.

“You know, no one ever called me that before I got to New York,” she said, as Joey plugged in the blow dryer and put the curling iron and its silicone mat on the countertop.

“What?” he asked her, getting the mousse and hairspray from the lower cabinet.

“Maia Catrina.”

“You wait until you get your confirmation name, then you will have three, and then we get to call you by your Christian name.”

“Who names me that?”

“You. It’s a saint’s name. When you study the saints, you need to find one that you resonate with. You take that saint’s name.”

“What’s yours?”

“Both Paulie’s and my Christian name is Michael.”

Maia had the essay in one hand and her red pen in the other.

“Maia, leave that on your desk. “Put down the paper and get into the bathroom if you want your hair done.”

“I can at least read it aloud while you are doing my hair.” Joey acquiesced as she finally walked into the bathroom.

“I have to read this conclusion to Jonny, it just doesn’t work. I’m up against a word count, so I can’t elaborate more to explain it better,” she said with a sigh.

“I think you are a great writer,” he said to her. “Much better than I was.”

“I excelled in math and sciences, more than humanities,” she said.

“Have you ever thought of becoming a doctor or a scientist?”

“No, music is my life,” she said. “This,” she said, holding up her paper, “is my way to conservatory.”

Maia carried it into the bathroom with her and as Joey armed himself with the hairdryer, she read the paper aloud to herself, marking something in it than reading it again. Joey shook the mousse before he ballooned the white foam into his hand and scrunched it into the ends of the hair then lightly dried it some more until it was firm curls. He smoothed out her bangs and put a small alligator clip in them to hold them to the side as Maia liked it. She was still reading the paper and reread the conclusion as he sprayed her hair.

“Does that sound right?” she asked him about the conclusion he was hardly paying attention to since he was rushing to curl her hair. Maia didn’t care they had a house full of company coming and he had yet to get the salads on the table for lunch. He had to leave Elly down there to finish on her own and still needed a few minutes to get the ice water pitchers filled and on the table.

“It sounds fine to me. Don’t forget your moisturizer.”

“I already did it. Thanks, Joey.”

Joey heard the gate buzzer from downstairs.

“Mitch and Andy must be here already.”

“Okies,” she said as he shut the door.

Maia sprayed on the flowery body spray Joey bought her and put on her Chapstick before following him out to the bedroom.

Maia’s phone rang. It was Jonny. “Hi, Jonny.”
Joey rolled his eyes. “Don’t be long,” he said to her. “I’ll be back up in five minutes if you aren’t down there by then.”

“I’m going to read him my conclusion,” she whispered, covering her hand with her phone.

“It’s just not right.”

“That will take an hour!” he said in a whisper.

“No, it won’t! I will be down in a few minutes!” she returned in a matched tone.

“How are you, Jonny?”

“Gggg--ood.”

“Hey, awesome.”

“Are you...are you—"

“What?”

“G--gggo…going to school...on...on...Mon--day?”

“Next Monday. They have winter break this week.”

“What…what time...does...school...sss-tart?”

“I don’t know, I better find out!” Jonny laughed with her.

“What did you do today?”

“I... I ... had Phys—fizz-fizz ah--cal ther...therapy. I ssttt-ood up!”

“You stood up! That’s awesome Jonny!”

“I... I... had help.”

“It’s okay! Nothing wrong with help! Joey still helps me.”

“How...are...you?”

“I’m better, my oxygen is half from when I came home. I might be off before I start school next Monday. I see the doctor again on Thursday.”

“Good...girl.”

“Jonny, Angie is coming today. She will be here soon. I’ve been doing homework to get caught up.”

“What are...you www...www..working on?”

“Art history.”

“Www...wwwhh...what era?”

“It’s an elective class on the Renaissance. I’ve been reading Oliver Stone’s Agony and the Ecstasy.”

Jonny laughed. “Grr--eat book.”

“I know, right? It’s probably for entertainment since the textbook is so boring. We are going to the Met in May.”

“You...you...www...will love it.”

“I know. We are arriving the Sunday afternoon and going to some nighttime Mass then we go to the Met after breakfast. We are going to see a show then drive home the next morning.”

“Ffff...ffff...fun.”

“I think so too. I have a paper I’m finishing, and I can’t get the conclusion right. I have rewritten it like three times already and I’m like two words from the word count. Can I read it to you? I think it’s awkward.”

“Yes. Go.”

Maia began to read the conclusion to Jonny. Before she finished the first sentence he said “Stop.”

Maia stopped. “Rrrr...the RrrEee, Read mm…me Read Me the TThh-EEs-is—Read me the thesis,” he said, triumphantly.

Maia read the thesis statement to him.

“Stop. Ggg Oh. Go Bbb…back. St... Start kkk, kkk, con—clu—sion again.”

“Great job, Daddy!” Maia exclaimed before she read the first sentence of the conclusion and stopped.

“Go!” he said, although glad for the praise, Jonny longed to hear her paper and be a part of her education again. Anyone’s education would be wonderful. Anything other than just trying to do basic things. How he missed his former life.
Maia read the second sentence.

“Go.”

She read the third sentence.

“Stop. Ppp…. Pass—”

“Passive voice?”

“Yes,” he said. “It mmm…makes it Ahh Ahh Kah Ahh kah wwward—”

“Awkward construction,” she said. “Okay, so I need to flip the object and subject.

“Yes,” he said. “It’s ttt….too lll…long. Ffff-fix it…lll…late…rrr. Go.”

She read the next sentence.

“Go.”

She read the last sentence as Joey entered the room.

“Good job. Are yah… no, yyy…your…Sss…Ssss... I… Citations done?”

“Yes. MLA.”

“Good job. Fix it. Rrr…read ppp…ppp…paper to me, to…to…to… tomorrow. I’m ttt…tired.”

“Good job, yourself, Daddy. Thank you for your help. I really appreciate it.”

“I love you, Maia.”

“I love you too, Daddy, I got to go.”

Joey leaned on the doorjamb perturbed with her. His arms crossed in front of his black Under Armor shell that showed off his chiseled form, he was not going to let up and she was going to leave this room if he had to drag her down by her jetpack.

“Bye, Daddy, I’ll call you tomorrow and read you my paper.”

“Bye Bye!”

“Byes!” Maia hung up.

“How is he?” asked Joey as she rewrote the sentence on the blank portion of the printed paper.

“Good, he had speech therapy. He’s supposed to talk with someone for a while afterward to keep practicing. Jimmy’s teaching this afternoon, so he called me. I forgot to tell you he was calling me, I’m sorry.”

“It’s all good, we just have a houseful of company, and they all want to meet you,” Joey sarcastically replied. “How does he sound?”

“Better,” she said, continuing to write. “He stood up today, with help.”

“That’s awesome, now Maia, please put down the pen. The guys are here. They want to meet you.”

Maia looked in the mirror over the dresser. She reapplied her Chapstick.

“You look great.”

“Thanks to you.”

Joey grabbed the jet pack so that her leash extended and gave her a slight tug towards the door. She sighed and put down the paper, following him out the door.

As she walked down the staircase with Joey, the front door opened, and Angie bounded through. Hey girl!” said Angie, dropping her backpack and running towards the stairs. Her black hair had purple streaks from the crown of her head down to the jawline of her round face. The rest of her black hair was left loose and hung below her shoulders.

“Hey!” said Maia rushing down the stairs, extending her leash and forcing Joey to rush down as well. They were quickly hugging. “I missed you so much!”

“I missed you more!”

“I got you something.”

“What?”

“You got to open it.”

Maia opened the gift bag to find truffles and hidden under another bit of tissue paper was a pack of Marlboro Menthols. Maia pulled out the truffles to show them.

“For studying.”

“Oooh,” said Joey. Maia thanked her as Alex and Paul entered.

“Hey,” said Mitch and Andy coming into the living room again. They had Yuengling lagers in each hand and gave one to Paul and Alex as they all hugged.

Maia and Angie stood on the staircase and watched them. There, within feet of her were Mitch Miller and Andy Blake. She knew that Cat would die a second death seeing them this up close. Andy’s long wavy blonde hair reached his shoulders. Clad in another one of those Under Armor shells, this one in red, he was muscular and had a broad chest, unlike Paul, Joey, and Mitch who were very skinny and weren’t at all like the bodybuilder Andy Blake was. Andy looked up at her, his piercing blue eyes that reminded her of Ramona’s husky, Mickey, met hers and he smiled his gleaming smile, elbowing Mitch to look up and see her.

“Maia?” asked Joey as she froze in place. Paul and Alex talked loudly with them and their voices rose to her, and she could hear what their speaking voices were like, trying to discern their singing voices that she had heard since she was a toddler.

“I had all of their albums,” Maia whispered as she turned her face to him. Her eyes pleaded with him to let her escape to her room and hide out.

“What?” asked Joey, grasping her hand, so she didn’t bolt from him. Seeing his concern, Angie reached for her other hand. Maia exhaled and knew she had to explain. She was trapped and her room seemed so far off from her right now. “You’re okay, Maia. Breathe,” said Joey. “Tell me what’s going on.”

“I had all of the Heartbeat albums, and Cat loved Mitch and Andy, so she kept buying theirs, and Paulie’s albums for me.”

“Oh, I get it now,” said Angie, as Joey and her eyes met. It’s no wonder Maia was procrastinating this morning. She was anxious about meeting them. “C’mon, they won’t bite.” Angie hooked her arm with Maia’s and took her to Paul to make the introductions with Joey behind, still carrying the jet pack that he put on the floor at her feet, and stepped back towards Paul, whose arm went around his back.

“Guys, this is my little sister, Maia.”

Andy and Mitch said hello to her, and a blushing Maia smiled and said hi back as an awkward silence filled the space. Mitch took a swig of beer and Andy winked at Angie to signal her friend needed help. Mitch smirked at her with his brown eyes filled with amber specks that matched the beer bottle he drank from. Their eyes locked in a moment until he broke the stare. Like the others, he wore one of those lycra shells, but he was in bright royal blue. His long black hair slicked back in a low ponytail like Father Tim wore, showed the crow’s feet forming at his temples.

“Hi Maia,” said Alex, touching her shoulder.

“Hi Uncle Alex,” she said, quickly hugging his side. “How’s my favorite godfather?”

“I’m good,” he said, bending down and kissing her on the cheek. “How are you doing?”

“I’m okay,” she said, hugging him again around the neck.

“You okay?” he whispered in her ear. She nodded and sighed. “I brought you your magazines.”

“Thank you so much,” she said, as they parted.
“Angie has them in her backpack,” he said as Angie hooked her arm in Maia’s again, drawing her away from them and the uncomfortable nature of this introduction.

“C’mon Maia, show me your new room,” said Angie, grabbing her backpack that was now at her feet. She tugged on Maia to get her out of the living room. Maia picked up her jetpack and followed Angie up the staircase.

“Is she usually this shy?” asked Andy, in her hearing. Maia walked faster so she didn’t have to hear Paul’s response or any excuse Joey could dream up for her lack of conversation.

“She owned every album you guys and Heartbeat put out,” filled in Joey.

“Oh, wow,” chuckled Mitch. “So, a little fan did climb into your cargo, eh Paulie?”

Paul smirked. “She’s not that big of a fan. Her mother, Cat, owned them. Maia’s world revolves around classical, not popular music, so I’m going to apologize in advance for whatever comes out of her mouth of criticism. I told her already that was off-limits, but lately, she has defied everything.”

“She’s just acting her age,” said Andy.

“Maia will warm up to you, it takes a bit,” said Alex.

“Unless you are her godfather. Maia adores you, Alex,” said Joey.

“She likes you better than her father,” said Paul.
“I can’t blame her. Sorry Paulie, but I never liked your old man either, and even less after I found out what he did to Maia all these years,” said Andy. “I’m shocked that Maia is still on oxygen.” Mitch nodded in agreement.

“Poor kid,” said Mitch. “Little Orphan Annie is still experiencing culture shock to the good life?”
Ignoring Mitch’s crass comments, Joey replied for Paul, “She should be off this week. The goal is before she starts school. And yes, it has been a hard adjustment for her amidst the overwhelming grief of losing her mother.”

“School? Where?” asked Mitch.

“St. Nick’s,” replied Paul, ready to hear it from his lapsed Catholic friend.

“Man, Paulie, what a way to fuck up a kid even more,” he replied.

“Just because you aren’t a fan, Miller—” said Andy.

“Uncle Joey!” exclaimed Angie from the top of the stairs.

“What on earth?” asked Joey. “Coming,” he said, rushing the stairs. She motioned for him to hurry up. He took the stairs by two, alerting Paul who excused himself from the rest.

“I love this room! Will you redo mine?” she asked, seeing Paul at the base of the stairs alarmed. Joey stopped on the stairs and put his hands on his hips. Why did she let out such a ghastly sound when she was being her gregarious self? Paul laughed and walked back to the guys, who shook their heads at typical Angie drama. She motioned Joey to hurry up, that this was more than praise for his design work. Joey then rushed up the remaining stairs until he was at the top in a few steps and quickly followed Angie rushing into Maia’s room already, with Joey on her heels. Once he was in there, she shut the door to prevent anyone else from hearing.

Joey entered and Maia wasn’t there. “Where is she?”

“In the bathroom crying,” said Angie, closing the bedroom door.

Joey knocked on the bathroom door.

“Maia, open the door. It’s Joey.”

Maia opened the door, and her face was flushed with tear trails staining her face.

“What’s wrong?”

“I—I—I went to the bathroom—and—" Maia hugged Joey and sobbed into his shirt. He held her and looked to Angie for clarification.

“Her first period,” said Angie. “Do you have stuff for her?”

“Yes, it’s in the cabinet next to the toilet.”

“Ok. Tylenol?”

“Medicine cabinet in the bathroom.”

“I got this. Can we eat up here?”

“Sure. I will bring your lunches up.”

“Thanks, Uncle Joey.”

It struck Joey that was what was behind Maia’s moodiness this week. She was PMS’ing and did not know how to manage it, nor did they for that matter. With all of Maia’s mental health issues, this was the last thing they needed to be added into the mix. He had no idea what kind of sexual education Cat and the guys had done with her, or if she had learned it in school at all, the way she skipped classes and changed schools all the time.

“Are you okay, Maia?” he asked, bending down to her. Her arms wrapped about his neck and she buried her face between his neck and his shoulder until he stood up, picking her up in his arms and holding her light frame, sitting down on the ottoman to her big chair with her in his lap. Even though today she became a woman, he still held her like a crying child. He motioned to Angie for the tissues, and she held the box out to Maia who took a couple and blew her nose, and wiped her eyes.

“No, I wish Cat were here. Then again, she wanted to throw some moon party whatever the fuck that is.”

“My mom wasn’t there when mine started at boarding school,” said Angie, sitting on the other side of the ottoman and rubbing Maia’s back.

“At least Angie is here,” said Joey. “Did it just start?”

“First time I meet them, my period starts.”

“Don’t tell them that,” he said.

“God no! Do we have to tell Paulie?”

“No, please, let’s not,” said Joey. “That’s not a conversation I want to have with him this weekend.”

“Don’t you have cramps?” asked Angie.

“Stomach cramps, yes, I’ve had them for like two days.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” asked Joey.

“I thought it was because I finished the antibiotics. My gut always has issues readjusting. Besides, it wasn’t like it was important, so I just kept doing homework.”

“I will bring up your lunches. Take some Tylenol, and I told Angie where the supplies are.”

“I already found them and took care of it. Thanks, Joey,” said Maia hugging him again.

Joey hugged Maia once more, reassuring her that her secret was safe with him and of course, Elly. He left them and went down to help Elly put lunch on the table for the guys. Once they were eating, he would make the girls' lunches and bring them upstairs.

Angie shook out a couple of Tylenol into Maia’s hand. “I don’t know if you were told this, but we are breaking a major rule of reunion.”

“What’s that?”

“Being here at all. It’s only them. Not us. I was already warned about it on the way here. No thanks to the wind, I had to hear it for almost a half-hour more than usual.”

“I don’t understand. Why can’t we be here?”

“It’s for those guys to have their time together. This is a no kids or spouses allowed reunion, and they can be kind of jerks about it. Joey sometimes goes on vacation during the reunion weekend, so he doesn’t have to put up with them, but Uncle Paulie’s hosting this year, so Joey stayed home to help Elly.”

“Oh, I get it. Maybe next year Joey, you and I can go somewhere together.”

“Maybe so, that would be cool, but Megs will get mad if we don’t include her, so it might be four of us.”

“Where does Joey go?”

“He likes spas and his books. I like to do things. Joey would rather have a massage, a mimosa, and a book.”

Angie searched the room while Maia collected her books and notebooks and put them on her desk. “Where’s your TV?”

“In that cabinet,” said Maia, about the flush cabinet above her short dresser’s mirror.
“Where’s the remote?”

“In the nightstand drawer,” said Maia. “Don’t ask me how to open the cabinet or turn it on.”
Angie opened the drawer to Maia’s nightstand, and inside she found the two remotes and a channel guide. She held up both to Maia who clutched her lower abdomen and exhaled.

“You mean like this?” asked Angie, hitting the button and the cabinet fronts folded back to the sides, as Maia almost jumped out of her chair.

“Whoa,” said Maia with a laugh, as Angie shook the remote at her. “What else does that magic box do?”

Angie played with the other buttons on the room remote and found that they could adjust the heat in the room, close the shades, turn out the overhead light and open the television cabinet. She handed it to Maia to check out while she turned the television on to watch music videos on VH1. After opening and shutting the blinds and lowering it enough to take the glare off her computer monitor screen, Maia set the remote on the short dresser and watched how animated Angie was when she chattered about Miley Cyrus. Neither caring nor understanding what she was saying, Maia smiled and pretended to be attentive to her when she wanted to get back to fixing that essay’s conclusion.

“Maia, you need to pay attention. I’m trying to help you here,” she said, as Joey entered the room with a tray in hand and Elly behind him with one in hers.

“I don’t care about pop stars,” said Maia, “other than Paulie.”

“Listen, you got to be able to talk with other kids your age. You like music, so use that as a bridge.
“I like classical music.”

Joey chuckled and agreed with Angie. “Keep on her, Angie.”

Maia moved her books so they could set the trays on the desk.

“I’ll be right back. There’s an extra desk chair in the guest room,” said Joey, leaving them.

Elly hugged Maia. “Are you okay, baby?” Maia shook her head. “No? Why not?”

“Cat’s not here. She should have been here—"

“I know sweetheart.”

Elly held onto Maia for a moment more. “I’m going to finish feeding those boys and see them off, then I’m bringing up chocolate cake and coffee.”

“Yes!” exclaimed both girls.

“How do you like your coffee, Angela?”

“With three sugars and cream.”

“All righty then,” she said making the girls laugh.

“She’s been hanging out with Maia too much already,” said Joey, parking the chair on the other side of Maia’s desk, then he made a beeline for the hallway.

Elly stopped, before exiting the room, but Joey was in the hallway already. “Joey, wait, come back,” said Elly.

Joey followed her back into the room, and Elly shut the door. “Ladies and Joey—"

“What? I’m not a lady? I’m offended,” said Joey, feigning offense. The girls laughed at him.

“Maia’s period does not leave this room. It is not discussed in mixed company. Not even Paulie. He does not need to know about this, nor will he want to this weekend. Agreed?”

“Agreed.”

“Good. Now I’ll be up later.”

“What’s for lunch?” asked Angie.

“She baked a turkey yesterday. I think it’s turkey sandwiches.”

“OMG, homemade bread. That’s from Uncle Andy’s maid, Sarah. She’s an incredible bread baker. Wait, something’s different about you.”

“What?” asked Maia, wiping the mayo from her lips. “My hair?”

“No, something else.”

“I have only changed my hair.”

“OMG, did you get boobs?”

“I got fake ones. I had to have a bra for school, and it was the only one that fits right and in white.”

Angie laughed. “Well now that your period is here, you will finally get boobs.”

“Maybe so.”

“Will you be glad to be off the oxygen?”

“Yes, I have to go in next Thursday for another chest X-Ray and blood gases test and see if they will take me off completely.”

“You seem better.”

“I am.”

“Any word on your case?”

“I’m supposed to get arrested and read my rights and released to Paulie. The amount of damage assessed by police, thanks to my attorney, was for 9k, so it’s not a felony charge. It’s a misdemeanor. Paul’s going to pay it from my trust, and I have to do a diversion.”

“What’s that?”

“I go before a review board and admit what I did, do whatever hours of community service they require, and keep my nose clean until I’m eighteen, then I can have it expunged.”

“Wow, that’s it?” Maia nodded. “Good attorney. What about your lawsuit?”

“It’s up to the DA if Simpson gets criminally charged. My dads’ friend Bert is filing suit on DSHS at the Attorney General’s office the day after my deal is signed.”

“When are you doing it?”

“April. Spring Break.”

“Tell Uncle Paulie to pick me up.”

“I’m going to stay the weekend with Jimmy and Jonny at their new place. I won’t be much fun.”

Angie stabbed the tossed salad with her fork. “I love Elly’s green goddess dressing.”

“I do too. I love it with those baby carrots. I now have Paulie hooked. We can polish off a bag in two days. Joey says I’m a good influence on him.”

Angie nodded and looked up at the television and turned it up with the remote.

“Who is that?”

“Grant Matthews,” said Angie, turning up the volume on the television.

“He’s okay, I’ve heard him before. He looks like an ass,” said Maia.

“He is,” said Alex in the doorway. Instead of the jeans and sweater he had on before, Alex was dressed in ski pants and a tight-fitting lycra top that was not as flattering on him as the other guys. He had his ski jacket in one hand and juggled his hat, gloves, and goggles in the other.

“Hi, Uncle Alex.”

“Hi there. We’re off to the slopes. Brandon texted me. You didn’t pick up—”

“My ringer is on—"

“Your room?” he asked, with a furrowed brow. Angie’s messy room was a bone of contention, whether it was Anna or Brandon, that he was constantly reminding her to be neat and pick up after herself.

“Oh, that.”

“Please call and apologize to him.”

“Okay, okay, I will.”

“Nice room,” said Alex, checking it out.

“Can I have one?” asked Angie.

“What? You have two rooms already, and you don’t even keep either of the clean.”

Angie rolled her eyes. “I’m talking about a canopy.”

Alex laughed. “Angela, could you imagine a canopy in our house? Your little sister would use it as Kleenex, and you would schmutz with charcoal, pastels, or markers.”

Maia and Angie laughed. “Guess not,” Angie replied, as Alex stepped forward and kissed her cheek.

“You can come here and sleep in mine.” Maia’s eyes brightened as if she had just remembered something and Alex had sparked it.

“Did you give Maia the Billboard?” he asked, as Paul found them.

“No,” said Angie, pulling it out of her backpack and handed it to Maia as Paul entered the room in his ski attire as well.

“What’s in Billboard this week?” asked Paul.

“Black Violin,” she said, gleefully turning to the article about them and showing it to Paul and Alex.

“Oh, the amped classical thug group,” said Alex.
“I think even I would go to one of their concerts. They do good work with the schools and music education. One of these days I’m going to have an artist who wants to give more time to music education.”

“Hey, work on Miller. Andy works for cancer kids, I’m working for homeless kids, you do AIDS. Miller does nothing but sit around and smoke weed.”

“Miller isn’t on my label, remember?”

Angie interrupted them. “I forgot the Rolling Stone.”

“You can only read my new issue. It’s on my desk in the study. Put it back and don’t cut from it until I read it.”

“Okies,” said Maia. “Geez, it’s Father Tim’s fault.”

“This I got to hear,” said Alex, as he followed Paul out of the room.

Maia finished eating her salad while Angie ate the rest of her chips.

“Okay, let me see it.”

“What?”

“The journal.”

“I told you I’m artistically challenged. Maia put the dishes together on one tray and stacked the trays together and set them on the dresser. Maia handed the journal to Angie who paged through it and saw a few magazine pictures glued in, but the rest of the pages were nothing but writing on two-thirds to three-fourths of each page.

“Okay, yeah you are like black and white here. I need a pencil and paper. Maia handed her a legal pad and some copier paper and pencil.

“Now, get your own. I’m not drawing these for you.”

“Oh, come on, you love to draw,” sighed Maia, retrieving another legal pad and a pencil. Angie started to teach her basic doodles.

“Here Maia, make a spiral,” said Angie, drawing a small one on her paper. Maia watched her do it and then copied it onto her own.

“Good, now little thin pedals around it. No, skinny ones, like mine,” she admonished. Maia quickly erased the thick petals she had drawn and looked at Angie’s before drawing them again.

“Oh, a daisy.”

“Right, but that’s going to be the center of the flower.”

“No way, how?”

“Like this: draw five lines equally distanced apart around the daisy. Cool, now you are going to connect them with camel humps.”

Maia watched as she did so and copied her as best as possible, but her humps were uneven and she erased one and tried again.

“There you go, you got it,” Angie said, watching her. “Ta-da! It’s a hibiscus. Now make the camel humps darker, like outlining them for depth, like this.”

Maia slowly followed her lead. “Oh wow, I drew a flower!”

“We’re almost done. On each petal, you are going to put a little W near the little petals at the center and tiny dots for the pollen.”

Maia was pleased with her work. “Is that it?”

“Pretty much, you just need leaves and those are just hearts.”

“Okies,” she said, watching Angie make a pair on the side.

“We are going to make a bouquet of them next,” said Angie, starting another spiral close to the other flower’s petals. Maia watched her with great interest and saw how Angie made another flower so that it looked as if the petals were tucked up under the other flower.

“See how their petals overlap?”

“So cool!”

“Remember that flowers have odd numbers of petals.”

“Right,” said Maia, erasing her lines and restarting, making five instead of four. Still drawing her bouquet, while Angie was already drawing the leaves around it. She reached for the colored pencils and outlined each part with the color pencil and shaded in lightly. Maia watched Angie color her bouquet and Angie handed her a color pencil.

“Where are you putting this one?”

“I think here,” said Maia, turning the pages in the journal to a summary of the Beatitudes. “But there’s so much room here,” she said, showing it to Angie.

“Okay, we could put a banner here, and you could write a word or something inside.”

“That’s a great idea.” Angie drew the banner for her like a scroll, and Maia was tickled.

“What do you want to write inside?”

“Blessed, but I will write it.”

“Cool,” said Angie, handing the paper over to her. Maia wrote Blessed in her banner and wrote over with a thin black sharpie marker. Angie cut out both of her bouquets, hers and Maia’s, and set them on the journal. When Maia finished coloring the banner, Angie glued them in with the glue stick, flanking her bouquets on both sides of Maia’s drawing.

“Awesome, one down, twelve to go.”

“Pick one,” said Angie.

“Let’s do the feeding of the five thousand.”

“Awesome, I know just the thing to draw.”

“What?”

“French fries.”

“What?” asked Maia with a laugh. “French fries instead of fish and bread?”

“Yup! Right here we are putting a knocked-over box of fries that had spilled out.”

“Show me how!” The two laughed and giggled while drawing together. They were just gluing Maia’s French Fries picture into her journal when Elly entered with a tray of two slices of chocolate cake and two latte mugs of coffee. She put her reading glasses that hung from a beaded chain about her neck on her nose and peered at their handiwork.

“You girls drew French fries in the Bible journal?” chuckled Elly.

“It was Angie’s idea.”

“What’s the verse?”

“It’s about Jesus feeding the five thousand.”

“And you didn’t draw loaves of bread and fish?”

“Nope, French fries,” giggled Maia. “I don’t like fish.”

“There’s never enough French fries,” said Angie.
“Maybe if Jesus were here, we’d have enough.”

Elly took Maia’s med box from her apron pocket.

Maia shook them out and swallowed them with her leftover soda from lunch.

“The boys won’t be back until later so I’m not serving their supper until 8. When would you girls like your take-out?”

“Sure, I’m down,” said Angie. “What’s good up here that’s Asian?”

“Mr. Yong’s is where the boys always order from.”

“Is that the place where Uncle Andy’s picture is on the wall?”

“Yes, Mrs. Yong loved Andy. She died a couple of years back. The family has all kinds of pictures of her with customers. He would go see her every week for lunch on Tuesdays if he were in town.”

The house phone rang. Elly pulled one of the cordless phones from her apron pocket.

“The girls want Mr. Yong’s, tonight,” she said to him. “Do you know what you want?”

“I’m not hungry yet,” said Maia.

“Can we go eat there? Just us girls go out together. Like in an hour?” asked Angie.

“I don’t see why not, do you, Mack?”

“Not at all. I’ll be glad to chaperone,” he said.

“I’ll see them in an hour.”





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