The Art of Being Okay

Chapter 10

Fictional Writing: Excerpt by Jamie

The fight of epic proportions, where they stabbed the enemy multiple times and blew lots of stuff up, was over. All other members of their rebel camp were on clean-up and salvage duty. It was a very important duty because treasure and because you could always use more weapons.

Best friends Bill and Conner, however, had been assigned to getting the fires going at camp and sorting through the weapons.

It wasn't the most interesting job, but if everyone worked impossibly hard and did their little bit, Bill knew that they could defeat the psychotic overlord.

Bill and Conner were sitting down when Vivian, one of the hand-to-hand combat fighters (Bill and Conner are with the second arrow division) wanders by. "Still sitting on your rumps, boys?" She called, sashaying past Bill.

Vivian is beautiful.

"N-no," Bill tries to explain himself, " we were … armies … sticks – job – but – no – wait …" Bill trailed off while Conner smirked and rolled his eyes. Vivian was already gone.

Bill slumps back

...


...

"Jamie Bennett, you are writing a chick-flick!" Kat exclaims from behind Jamie.

Jamie spins around in his spinning chair. "Wha – no, I'm not – there are – armies – rebels and …" Jamie trails off hopelessly, unaware of the beautiful, literary parallel as Kat flounces off. He chooses, instead, to look confused. "What are you even doing here?"

"I saw the poster for your show this Thursday. And," Kat looks down before continuing with great reluctance, "I've been acting like a child about the whole fight thing."

Jamie grinned.

Then Kat did a double-take. "Wait, what are you doing here? I was here to surprise you when you got home, but that's not supposed to be until four. What the hell?"

"Kat!" Pointing as his sister, "Sophie. Language." Jamie reprimands. "There was this girl …"

Kat smirks, though she looks a bit pained. "Oh, I see how is." She winks at him and Jamie hits her, lightly.

"Not like that. I mean, she just took me home –"

"Oh, I'll bet she did –" Something about her voice is off, but Jamie doesn't dwell on it.

"Shuddup, Kat." Jamie grumbled at her. "It was Tooth's little sister."

Deep brown eyes fly open. "Tooth?!" Kat practically screaks. "Tooth, as in Toothina, Tooth. As in, Jack Frost's publisher, Tooth?"

"I think so." Kat glances down at her phone and ignores about five different texts. Jamie is obviously new to this whole fangirling thing, but Kat didn't mind. He would learn. It wasn't even going to be a choice. Jamie Bennett would learn the ways of the fangirl.

She's patient; she would teach him eventually.

And not just because she has a crush on him, though that had a lot more to do with it than even Kat liked to consider, but because Jamie was working with Jack freakin' Frost.

And to Kat's fourteen year old brain, you just couldn't get much cooler than that.

Ninety years later, Kat would die with the certainty that it really didn't get much cooler than that.

He's Jack freakin' Frost!

"… I mean, they're always chatting when we're supposed to be on lunch break, and sometimes I help Jack prank her – which is really fun, because she just gets so mad –"

Abruptly, Kat cuts him off. "Stop trying to make me jealous," she teases.

"Kat, I work with Jack Frost on a daily basis. I believe that I don't have to try." There's not even half a second's pause before Kat is changing the subject.

"So, that girl …?"

"Right, apparently Jack had some last minute things to take care of regarding the show, so I go out early."

"What's her name?"

"She … um … I'm not telling you!" Jamie finally burst out, somewhat unexpectedly.

"What?" Kat's sure her face is only reflecting a really, really confused face, because she's really, really confused.

Defiantly Jamie crosses his arm. "I'm not telling you and you – you can't make me."

Taking that for the challenge that it obviously was Kat pounces at Jamie, grabbing at his midriff vaguely. Jamie stumbles backwards, attempting to maintain his balance, while twisting his body dominantly over hers.

"Ouch! My elbow!"

"Sorry," sheepish.

"…"

"Fuck."

"ARGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGH!"

"Oops?" Grinning.

"Oh!"

"Ah!"

"Fuck. Again. Fuck."

"Langu – AH! – age!"

There was, as a sort of background music to the painful dialog above, a series of loud crashes, several bangs whose frequency sped up near the end, a great deal of rolling around on the floor, and an orchestra of grunts.

Limp and panting, as per usual, Kat had won and was currently straddling Jamie's chest. Kat felt her breath come back, but she didn't speak.

"Ha! Sex! You naughty!" And Sophie, ever such a dedicated cockblock, arriving gave way to Jamie and Kat springing apart and awkwardly muttering apologies and excuses to themselves.

Or the air.

The air is a perfectly valid character to mumble lies to.

"How," Jamie enquired, outraged, as Sophie waddled into the next room, "Does she even know about that?"

"Maybe," Kat replied slowly, stifling giggles and smiling as if she was telling him the password to a secret club that he didn't know existed, "she learned it from the pizza man?"

Jamie officially did not want to be a part of that club.

Kat was part of some weird-ass clubs.

"Okay, moving past the part where my younger sister knows more about sex than me, why don't we get to the part where I'm done early?"


...

Autopilot.

God, just the word made Babytooth want to cry (again) but she didn't know where Tooth was and she didn't know what to do.

Jack Frost was something to her, something important. Jack was someone she wasn't in love with but simply loved platonically and now he was on the ground in front of her and she wasn't helping him and she didn't think she could.

Someone could walk in.

Lunch was only an hour.

Jamie would probably be confused.

People would be worried.

Babytooth couldn't think of a single one of the consequences, because her brain was still on Jack, on the floor, right next to her.

Babytooth closed her eyes, remembering the first time this had happened, remembering just how dead a twelve year old girl could look and thinking about how Jack had always looked like he that.

Ultimately, that was what snapped her out that it, because Babytooth wasn't going to let what happened to Katie happen to anyone.

She unfroze, and checked Jack's pulse on autopilot, relieved to find it there but alarmed at the extreme slowness, at lack of frequency in his heart beat. Temporarily, she pushed the problem aside, as her doctor training took stalk of the situation.

Jack need to get to a hospital and he needed to be kept there.

Abruptly, Babytooth remember Nicholas North.


...

Pitch Black was smiling.

He was not smiling in a nice way. For men like Pitch Black, there was no nice way to smile, not that they knew of, because no one had ever smiled at them. They were scary, scary men who hid from the sunlight and ran the world from their indoor computer.

Mostly, these men, these fearlings, managed to skate by on the right side of sane.

Pitch Black barely managed to scrape by just the wrong side of insane. That was because Pitch smart as hell and his opponents never seemed to catch onto the idea that there wasn't a line.

Pitch Black never crossed any lines because he never learned to draw any. You know, in that space where a person's values and moral code is supposed to go? That chalk outline of who they are that separates them from who they'll never be? Honor among thieves?

That integral part of the human psyche – the "line". Pitch didn't have one, filling McNoughtinton's law perfectly in that he simply didn't have the gear, the ability, to tell right from wrong.

In simpler speak, Pitch was not only mentally insane but legally insane and thus, unlikely to ever go to prison. Except, this was America and people just got arrested in America. Even people with diagnosed psychological disorders. They just got arrested. In a very, matter-of-fact, American way.

Pitch had to be smart about things, but he's got his excuses ready for when the shit starts hitting the fan.

But back to the ice-cube-down-the-back, terror inducing smile of Pitch's.

It wasn't, contrary to common assumptions, because Rise had fallen.

That was last week's news and last week's success, and the entire thing was just running on desperation and hope, so it was realistically a matter of time.

Nonetheless, it was a victory and Pitch was going to relish any and all victories at the current moment, because Pitch Black might be a psychotic son of a bitch, but he liked to win.

He'd beaten Rise.

And now, he was smiling, because he had the key to beating Guardian. Everything lay in their show.

The show that they had been advertising for throughout the city, promising to have the children reading exerts from what they have done, with the author they'd been working with.

The kids were cute, but not a big seller in New York, and neither were improvised writers. New York had enough of both on their own and the combination was not a winning one.

But promises of meet-and-greets with the biggest names in literature? With crazy successful writers helping improvised kid writers?

That was a hook, and a lure, and the feeling that you were a good person once you donated ten dollars to enter.

Pitch, upon first hearing about this wonderful idea, had thrown a complete fit, calling his minions – other workers, – on principle alone, Pitch refused to refer to them as co-workers in anyway –minions, same difference really – and yelling at them until he felt better.

He did. Especially after one of the interns jumped out the twentieth story to avoid him.

He had died, in case you care. Which, for the record, Pitch doesn't.

But things weren't so bleak anymore and Pitch was willing to admit to the possibility that he might have overreacted.

Things weren't as bleak because of the biggest lure: the elusive Jack Frost.

All Pitch had to do was find Jack and knock him out of the game.

And then, Pitch discovered that Jack had knocked himself out of the game and Pitch could not have been more delighted. As long as Jack stayed down for the count – and he could guarantee that, starting with that little half-bit psycho sister of his – he was golden.

Pitch had plans for that show.

Big plans.

And Frost was going to stay out of them, or Pitch was going to make him.

Cue evil, melodramatic laugh.


...

Babytooth talks to North that afternoon, while Pitch is cackling away in his coffin, or wherever he lives.

"Jack's passed in the bathroom. On the first floor. I need you to take him to a hospital."

"What!" North rises out of the ornate, royal chair behind his simple, wooden desk, surprise obvious in bearing. "What happened? Is he good?"

"He," And here Babytooth traverses the lines between the truth and what she could hardly admitted herself, body tensing and drifting closer hesitantly. "He … It's probably the heat. Just drop him by the hospital and …" The weight of the truth sunk into Babytooth and she could bear the lies no longer. "I've got to go!"

Babytooth fled.

It was an immeasurable period of time that Babytooth spent, not doing much of anything but clutching her head dizzyingly and thinking through tears.

Eventually, they stop, as Babytooth remembers Jamie. She'll take him home. She'll deal with the rest – later. She'll deal with the rest later.

Tooth calls something out to her as Babytooth leaves, but Babytooth is still holding everything off with promises of later.

...


...

The drive the hospital is terrifyingly quiet. Jack, North knows, was never a quiet person.

Sometimes, North would catch him talking to himself if no one else was around, and occasionally, when he was talking to North or someone else, one on one, they'd reply and Jack would get this look of utter shock on his face, like he can't believe he is talking to someone real.

It's these times when North wonders why they've never met Pippa and how good she really had been for Jack.

Didn't the girl ever talk to him?

But Jack did. Jack talked at Pippa while she screamed herself hoarse, too busy with what wasn't there to hear Jack. And Jack would talk to her when the doctors said she showed signs of improvement and she just sat there, like a still-life, like a fake, like a stone Pippa that would never move or laugh or smile at Jack again.

North didn't know any of that. But North could guess and think and wonder and watch Jack all the more closely – for all the good that did.

They show up at the hospital and meet with a Doctor Smith who takes Jack. ("Like the famous writer? My daughter loves his stuff." The doctor confides while North just smiles sardonically, ignoring the fear crinkling up his eyes.

"Yes. Like famous writer.")

He puts Jack in a room and several nurses begin running tests while North frets, mother henning in the way that only a six foot seven Russian man can do.

It occurs to him that he should probably at least let Tooth know, or swing by Sandy, but for now, Jack needed to be in a hospital. Babytooth had been so scared and so convinced of that; it was enough to worry North, but not enough to prepare him for Doctor Smith's expression after performing tests on Jack. Heart arrhythmia, was one of the words North caught, and that played into his paranoia that this wasn't just a simple case of heat stroke.

"What can you tell me about Jack, Mr. North?"

"I am sorry." The older Russian man winces, still too loud for the waiting room he is in. He watches the nurses rushing around Jack and stabbing bags of liquid in him. "Not sure what you mean."

"His eating habits," Doctor Smith clarifies.

"I do not see Jack much during day. He eats dinner with Pippa. He part of program. For young writers. He eat lunch with Jamie."

"Do you have any proof of this? As in," Doctor Smith sat down across from North, in an uncomfortably small plastic chair that had previously held tiny diseased children and grasps North's hand in a misguided attempt at understanding, "have you ever actually seen Jack eat?"

North thinks this is when the puzzle pieces started connecting. However, no one would want to believe an eating disorder of a friend, a son.

Denial pushes North into stubbornly insisting that Jack eats. He persists with this line of argument –

"I'm trying to save your friends life." Doctor Smith removes his hands. "You need to tell me the truth, Nicholas."

"No! I have not seen him eat." North replies, somewhat shamefully. "But that does not … is not … means nothing!"

"Mr. North, I'm afraid – well, there's really no easy way to put this. Your friend Jack has an eating disorder – anorexia nervosa, to be precise. Anorexia nervosa is classified by the victim's psychological inability to eat food and long period of starvation …" The doctor's voice starts to get fuzzy and North simply walks away.

He calls Bunnymund, first, shakily, after that.

He hangs up on the second ring and watches Jack's heart fail through the window.


...

It's early the next day and Jamie is showing up at Guardian to nothing.

To nothing but North with bags under his eyes and a deeply solemn look, and a "We talk," softly – North, soft? Jamie thinks hysterically, unable to do anything else – coming from his lips as he leads the boy around.

...



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