Sometime in the night Dixie realized she hadn’t called to check on Kenny during the previous afternoon, as she had intended. Her mother’s story and Bo’s accident had taken up her attention. She rolled over, untangling her legs from the sheet and bedspread. 3:21 am, the clock read. It was going to be a hard day at school tomorrow if she didn’t get some sleep. She would check on Kenny over her lunch break, or at least stop by after school.
Lying there in the moonlight Dixie couldn’t help retracing the crazy course her day had taken. She was still processing her mother’s confession. Did her brother know? She had forgotten to ask her mother if he did. Should she try to find Kyle? Did she want to meet him? Her heart said yes. But she wondered if it would unnecessarily open up old wounds. On the other hand it might help her mother heal if she could see that her son was doing okay. She doubted her mother was ready to face her past being known by anyone but family. Hopefully freedom would come in time, but Dixie was smart enough to know she shouldn’t force that issue.
It seemed as if she had been asleep just a few minutes when the piercing tone of her alarm jolted her awake. 6:30 am. Dixie jumped up. She showered and dressed in record time, taking a moment to only partially dry her wild mop and put on some lipstick and mascara. Pulling on skinny jeans and brown leather boots she finished her outfit with a long emerald green sweater.
On her way out the door she grabbed her usual yogurt and diet coke. The drive to school gave her a moment to collect the scraps of her thoughts and attempt to put them in order. It took effort not to text or call one of the Sheridans to check on Bo; she knew it was still early for that. She would just have to wait. Ugh, she hated waiting. By lunchtime she was driven to distraction. Liz’s voice calling jerked her out of the absent wondering she’d gotten stuck in.
“Dixie, Dixie.” Dixie’s head shot up from the paper she had been staring at, but not reading. Liz was looking at her quizzically.
“Dixie, where have you been?”
Dixie arched her brows, confused. “Right here.”
“No you’re not. Your body may be here but your mind’s not. What’s bothering you, girl?”
Dixie smiled, she’d been caught. It was true, she was distracted. “I was just thinking about my friend, Bo, who had the accident yesterday. I had hoped I would hear something about his condition by now.”
“Well, why don’t you take a minute to check on him. You have 20 minutes until the next bunch of wiggle worms get here. I can get the class started if I need to.”
Dixie shot Liz a grateful look. “If you’re sure.” Liz nodded. “Okay, thanks. I’ll be right back!” Dixie grabbed her phone and her jacket and headed down the hall.
Cool air bathed Dixie’s face as she pushed open the door at the end of the hall that led to the back parking lot. She gulped a big breath. It hadn’t occurred to her that she had been holding her breath. Quickly she dialed Linda’s number. One, two, three times it rang. After the customary greeting she got to the point.
“How is Bo? I’ve been thinking about him all morning.”
“I know you have, sweetie. It’s been busy here and I haven’t had a chance to let people know how he’s doing yet. The last doctor just left though. They’re afraid he’s most likely going to need a kidney transplant.”
Dixie’s heart dropped to her stomach. She could hear the weariness in Linda’s voice. “What does that mean? When will they know for sure?”
“They’re still watching his kidney function but it’s not improving. He’s not in much pain due to the pain meds they’re dosing him with. The family will be tested to see if we’re candidates as kidney donors, in case a transplant is necessary.”
Dixie said, “If you’re not matches Dad and I thought we’d round up friends from town to be tested as donors. Let me know if you need us to do that. Is there anything you need today? Are y’all eating? Did you get any rest last night?”
“You’re a sweetheart. We’re doing fine. The girls went home to sleep last night. They brought us some breakfast this morning. I’ll probably go home in a little while to shower and grab a nap. I’ll let you know what we find out about the transplant and if we need to look for other donors if no one in the family is a match.”
“Okay, thank you for taking the time to answer my call. I’m praying for you all.”
“You’re welcome sweetie. Thank you for calling. We’ll be in touch. Bye.”
A tear traced its way through Dixie’s maze of freckles. She wiped it away and drew a ragged breath, expelling it in a prayer. What should she pray? All she could think was, “Jesus, help.”
As she turned to go back inside her phone vibrated. It was Sadie. Dixie took another deep breath and answered. “Hello?”
“Hey Dix. I heard about Bo. Why didn’t you call me?”
A flare of anger flushed her face. She swallowed it back like distasteful food. It was going to take a lot to keep her temper under control. Her voice was calm as she answered, “Sadie, you had asked for some space. I was respecting your request.”
“But Bo! I would have wanted to know. I thought you would know that. He means a lot to you.”
“He does mean a lot to me. More than I’d realized. But how was I supposed to know there were exceptions to the rule?” She tried to keep the irritation out of her voice. The irritation and fatigue.
Sadie’s voice was quiet. “I know Dixie. I’m sorry. I’ve been a real pea ninny.”
She didn’t know what to say to her friend. The fight drained right out of her. If she could forgive her mom, and if she could love Kenny, then she could forgive Sadie too.
“I’m planning on heading over to the hospital this afternoon when school gets out. Do you want to go with me?” Dixie asked.
“Yeah, Dix, I would.”
They made plans to meet at four and said goodbye. Dixie looked up at the brilliant autumn sky. The blue made her heart ache it was so perfect. She needed to clear her head and get ready for the next class. Rolling her shoulders up and back she tried to work the tension out of her neck. It was going to be a long day.
She made her way back to the classroom, glad at least to know Bo was holding steady, for now. Hearing the chorus of little voices making their way down the hall to her classroom she put thoughts of the afternoon out of her mind. Right now she was going to focus on her job. She was going to teach music. Besides, Gabriel was in this class. Seeing him would cheer her up!
After class, as the third grade class was leaving, Dixie stopped Gabriel for a hug. His blue eyes glinted merrily. The two had begun to share a bond. An understanding, not spoken but felt. As he limped away at the back of the line she watched him and imagined, for a moment, what her newly discovered brother’s life had been like. Quickly the introspection passed and she began preparing for the next class. The rest of the day was more manageable. After talking to Linda she found herself better focused on her tasks. A nagging, gray cloud hung at the back of her mind, but it was no longer all consuming. Before she knew it the last bell rang, signaling the end of the school day.