The Art of Being Okay

Chapter 5

Dictionary: Fun

1. An enjoyable activity

2. Something that brings feelings of happiness

3. An emotion, positive and often associated with laughter

Synonyms: amusement, entertainment, lark, joy, boisterous, tomfoolery

Antonyms: boring, dull, annoying, tiresome


Jamie had been right. Kat was overcome, practically, when she heard that he'd not only met Jack Frost, but was being mentored by him. And it was such fun, too. Jamie couldn't honestly think of a time when he was happier. And besides, his story was wrapping around nicely. Sort of.

Jack was cool and everything, and Jamie was getting a lot of work done, he just didn't see how he'd ever be able to get the thing all done-done.

But, Jamie told himself, that was probably just an adult thing. A boring, grown-up thing that all this work was tricking him into thinking. Of course he was going to finish. He felt a little silly for doubting it. Jamie berated himself for almost letting real life get in the way of fun. That should never happen.

Besides, Jamie was – both already and only – two weeks in. He had time, and he couldn't give up now. And Jack was such an awesome mentor.

Jamie remembered talking to him the other day. Jack was making him do another weird writing exercise that was supposed to, and probably would, if Jamie was being fair, (which he wasn't) improve his writing.

"This seems so pointless."

"It's not. I don't think. It'll help. Probably. Maybe. Some dude on the internet said it would, and we all know the internet never lies," Jack had deadpanned.

"Wow. I'm really glad I'm doing it now, Jack."

There was a beat. "I feel like I'm one of the creepy wise guy in those movies, y'know? Like, 'be one with the paper, student'. And 'there are many aspects of writing within yourself you must discover'. All 'do this seemingly pointless activity because it's going to save your life in the final scene and totally get you the girl'."

"I hope you know I'm picturing you as an old guy with a cane right now."

"I'd be sexy old guy. And I've got the hair."

"Let's get you a cane, Jack!"

"No. Padawan, you must first complete your task."

"It'll be fun." Jamie had wheedled.

"Okay." Jack had given it a second of pretend thought before agreeing. "Love playing hooky."

"Thought you didn't go to school?"

"Oh, I didn't. I still found ways …" and their voices trailed off as they wandered about looking for a stick. They hadn't ended up finding anything that day.

Jamie kind of missed that Jack. He figured it was like, life or something, but Jack seemed tired now. And a lot thinner. With bags under his eyes. Maybe his story wasn't working out as well as Jamie's.

Jamie had asked how he was sleeping once, and Jack had told him he was worried about his sister. But five days ago, Jack had run up to him and hugged him, explaining that his sister was going to be released from the hospital soon and the next day, the bags were still there.

And even though it was summer, Jack always wore the exact same blue hoody. With the neat ice patterns. New York summers were hot as hell, pardon his French, too.

The first time they'd talked about that had been a couple of days ago and it hadn't gone well.

"Jack, aren't you hot?"

"I'm always hot." Looking up jokingly at Jamie from under his eyelashes, Jack was grinning forcefully.

"No, I mean, under the sweater. It's summer. We live in New York."

Jack laughed, but it sounded kind of hoarse. "And I'm Jack Frost. I'm naturally cold. Don't worry about me."

"Seriously?"

"I'm never serious!" Jack proclaimed.

"Aren't you roasting?"

Jack sighed. "No. When I said I was naturally cold, I wasn't technically kidding. I'm anemic."

"Isn't that the thing where teenage girls don't eat food and die?"

For whatever reason, Jack's response seemed oddly stiff. "No. That's … um, anorexia. Anemia is … it's like my body doesn't have enough red blood cells, so I'm tired and cold a lot. Like, sickle cell anemia but you don't die."

"I don't think you die from sickle cell anima."

"I think you do."

"We just learned about it in bio. I think you just have to do stuff and then you don't die. Ish. Something like that."

"Well, with that convincing piece of evidence, I must now bow down to your superior knowledge." Jack's sarcasm made Jamie feel a little more comfortable.

"Well, then how come you know that stuff?"

"My sister," Jack sat up straighter, speaking proudly. "Pippa's smart. She's going to be a doctor."

They're sitting down and there is silence. Jamie wasn't quite sure how long the silence lasted or how it started, but it looked like things had gotten serious, even with Jack and it felt wrong to break it.

Eventually Jack had. "Boys get it too, you know."

Jamie had lost track of the conversation at that point. "What?" he asked, confused.

"Anorexia," Jack replied, quickly, looking away from Jamie, pulling his hand around in vague circles over his head.

"Oh." Jamie paused and thought that over. "The not-eating and dying thing?"

Jack sighed, and leaned back. "Yeah."

"Oh." Jamie couldn't think of anything else to say, so he said it again: "Oh."

And there was silence again. Jamie decided that the sweater was a sore point, and resolved not to ask about it again, because this was really depressing, but Jack ate lunch with him that day and for some reason, that made Jamie really happy.

Even if Jack was quite possibly the slowest eater ever, and would, like, lose to a turtle. A turtle! And he ate, like, a fourth of what Jamie ate!

Still. Regardless. It was nice.

Jamie thought that was the only time he'd seen Jack eat, but he didn't really care about those things, so he wasn't sure.

He remembered him not eating a bunch, and remembered North getting frustrated with him about in, near the beginning of the program.

Jack had been waiting for Jamie to get back from getting his food when North had approached him.

"Jack! Why do you not eat?"

"I'm not really a lunch person, North."

"Or a dinner person? Jack, you must eat. Get big. Strong."

"I do eat, North. Don't worry about me. I'm fine."

"But you are so skinny!"

"Not that skinny. And I've got a fast metabolism."

Jamie shows up at the point that North was shoving up Jack's sleeves. Jamie felt uncomfortable, before he had accidentally seen Jack's arms. It was awkward, and North's fingers curling around Jack's wrist seemed almost comical, and thus, he had laughed.

Jack had let out his own laugh, that seemed more relief than joy, but he was laughing, which meant he was happy.

That was the first lie Jamie told himself about Jack Frost.

There was that little moment in the bubble, before North spoke again. "Jack. Eat peanut butter sandwich. You are working very hard. You deserve it."

Something, somewhere, was off after that. Jack's mind was frozen, playing those last lines of North's over and over again. Jamie thought that something was up, something was weird about what North had said, but Jack had joked and laughed and giggled and snorted and Jamie snickered with him and it had been fun.

Jack had mentioned Pippa and how the doctors told him that the current treatment appeared to be working really well, (apparently she hadn't been released – Jamie wasn't sure why he didn't ask, but he didn't) and they'd all forgotten about the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches – which, let's face it, aren't that good or hard to forget.


...

Jamie and Jack would spend most of their time outside, in warm places, because Jack got cold easily.

Jamie wanted to say something about that, and almost did, a lot, and then he did and it went terribly and serious and whenever he wanted to do it again, he just remembered the sweater incident and didn't.

Jamie would think of Jack, and feel sad sometimes, even though he didn't really know why. He kind of guessed it was because Jack was so lonely, with only his sister and the staff at Guardian. He'd think that and know it was more but leave it at that because it was easier, and he trusted that Jack could handle whatever it was without his help.

That night, two weeks into the program, Jamie had gotten back, and he was talking with Kat and she was trying to convince him to let her meet Jack.

"It isn't fair – I loved him first! I mean, I'm the one who introduced you to his books! You should be the one to introduce him to me!"

"Yeah, but Kat, we're supposed to be working when I'm with him."

"So? You always have these crazy stories of running off and going to amusement parks, or of teepeeing Rise."

"It wasn't really teepeeing. Like Jack said, it's more of redecorating. Giving the place and nice, white, wintery change of pace."

"That's not the point Jamie!" Jamie thought this may be a fight. He didn't think he'd had one, not with her. Not a real one, anyway, where there was actual anger, burning like hot coals through snow and hurt like sunburns that don't fade.

Jamie felt proud of his mental similes right then. Narrating his life in his head had kind of been a thing he'd always done, which was why he thought writing came so naturally to him. Another thing Jamie thought was that it was funny how noticeably better his narrating had become in just two weeks.

"Look. I know you want to meet him. I don't think he'd go for it. It seems we're at what they call a standpoint."

"Standstill."

"Shut up, Kat."

"Jamie, just ask him. Please? For me?"

Jamie didn't want them to argue. That's why he was doing this. Really. Such was the lie Jamie told himself. "Alright, fine! Chill, Kat. I'll ask. Don't be upset if he says no, though."

"Jamie Bennett, you are the absolute greatest!" And that definitely had nothing to do with why he'd agreed so easily.

Jack had been unsurprisingly resistant to the idea, but he'd agreed in the end. He'd only argued for an hour and a half, which had to be the quickest anyone had ever gotten Jack to do something he truly didn't want to do. Possibly the only time.

Jamie felt special, and thought it was him, and didn't even know how true and how much of a lie that was simultaneously.

...


...

WikiHow: Creating a Budget

Step 1: Balance. A budget is all about balancing sums between your income and your outcome.

· The final result of your budget should be zero or above. Or, in other words, the amount of earn should be equal to or greater than the money that you spend.

· Once you've determined a balance, you have a workable budget.

· If you're budget doesn't work itself you evenly, you will have to look back over the entire sheet (it helps to keep a list of everywhere you're getting and spending money) and figure out how to balance it.

Step 2: Removing unnecessary expenses. Often times, when a budget is unbalanced, it means that there are some unnecessary expenses that you can stop paying for.

· Make a list of everything you end up paying for. Start with the most important things (such as: food, electricity, house, ect.) and underline them. These are the things you cannot survive without.

· Double underline those things that are important, but, if forced, you could survive without for a measure of time.

· Finally, circle the things you don't need or use daily but enjoy. The things you don't want to live without.

· Look back over you lists, and start getting rid of expenses, starting with the ones that aren't marked, and then moving up through the circles and then double lines until your budget is balanced. Try not to eliminate any of the items with one line underneath. If you have to do that, you might want to find another source of income.


North looks up from the paper. "This is going to be lot of work, yes?"

The empty room glares judgmentally at him and agrees. North doesn't sigh, but it's a close thing. Large hands reach, surprisingly gentle, for the half-moon spectacles and he slips them over his eyes and turns his attention once again to Guardian's admittedly very lopsided budget.

It wasn't like they didn't have a budget. It was more that North was apparently very bad at creating budgets, and had ended up creating a new budget each night. He felt that doing this slightly defeated the point of creating a budget.

North was getting annoyed with budgets and had resorted to using WikiHow. This was, he acknowledged, quite the blow to his honor. The reverse, of course, was that continued attempts at budgeting were quite the blow to his sleeping. After almost two weeks of sleep deprivation, North was willing to look elsewhere for more permanent budget.

It had, of course, nothing to do with the fact that he'd had to release his midgets and missed them.

Or that the electricity bill was starting to look like mountain.

Or his growing fear of IRS taxes.

Obviously, admitting any of that would be somewhat shameful, and everyone lied to themselves.

Thus, North was, for the sake of his comfort and sanity, learning how to build a better budget. At the very least, Tooth would be proud. Or maybe upset that he hadn't asked her, but she was incredibly busy making a case from them.

Early that day, Bunny had suggested they might want a lawyer.

It had been hours ago, and North could still hear Tooth's voice ringing in his ears. They weren't going to get a lawyer. They were not going to talk about getting a lawyer. They were not going to think about lawyers period.

Jack had glared at all of them and had followed after her when she fled.

Tooth had made it about half way down the block when Jack caught up with her.

"Toothiana?"

She stopped, mumbling something, but didn't turn around.

"What?" Jack leans casually up against the building, in order to properly smirk at Tooth, frazzled and tense in the middle of the sidewalk.

"You look like you should have a staff or something right now."

Jack grins wolfishly. "Alright, Tooth. What was up there?"

"It's just the pressure. It seems like this entire place, this place we've worked so hard for, is crashing down around us. You don't understand, Jack. I love children. I got this job, because I wanted to help children. And … and I never really got to be one. And now that's being taken away from me."

"We can fight this, remember, Toothie –"

"But that's just it Jack! What if we can't? What if we don't? What if Pitch wins?"

"What if you die in a car crash, tomorrow? What if aliens attack, because they've done all the abductions they want to and mutilated all the cows they never wanted to?"

Tooth starts to smile a bit. "Don't you mean mutilated all the cows they wanted to?"

Jack looks at her like she's completely lost it. "No." He says, slowly and incredulously. "Why would anyone want to mutilate a cow?"

Tooth's really giggling now. "They're aliens. Who knows how they think?"

"Exactly. Now, tell me what's really wrong."

The smile drops into a scrunched up frown. "Jack Frost, you brilliant, skinny boy." She catches a weird look on Jack's face when she says that, but it's gone and she looks away and continues. "It's nothing. Really."

"You know, I can't actually recall when I last heard something less convincing."

Their eyes lock fiercely and quietly, but the silence seems to yell with secrets and layers and all the words they'd been choking back since they met. It seems to vanish, however, plaintive cries unheard, into a roar. Blood, Jack is sure, is rushing to his face.

Tooth breaks first with a sigh. "It's … Sandy. He has cancer."

Jack starts, genuine shock flitting across his face. "Sandy?" He can't quite explain why he's so horrified, other than that he's gotten used to the little guy, with his note cards, bobbing around everywhere in that ridiculous shade of yellow that actually matched his hair.

He can't explain it, because that would mean that he's gotten attached, and getting attached only takes him further and further from the self-destructive, independent (alone) street kid he's always only ever been.

Friends, attachments, make him something else, make him want to be something else.

Something that can eat dinner without breaking down, something who can go into a donut shop and buy a donut without throwing up later, something that didn't have to laugh so as not to cry, something that fell in love, something that did stupid things for not because he didn't have any other reason to live, but because he did.

But Jack's got Pip, and that was the start of everything. It wasn't a girl struggling in a hospital from a bad beating, like he told himself. It wasn't going to be better in week, or an hour, or anytime soon, like the doctors like to tell him.

It was a pale, wild eyed and shaky girl screaming when the nightmares came. It was his older sister unable to progress past childhood. It was the reason they'd been abandoned – and that messed Jack up more than he'd ever admit – on the street.

The truth was a lonely little girl, locked up in New York's finest mental asylum too late, because Jack hadn't ever had money until now.

The truth was that nothing Jack wrote could ever come close to what his sister saw.

The truth was that sometimes she was so lost in her world she couldn't see him, or hear him but sometimes she was so doped up on medications and she couldn't recognize him then either.

The truth was that Pippa was crazy, and Jack knew he was too.

Jack doesn't much like the truth and this is why: the truth left Pippa alone.

The more people Jack had who cared, and the more he cared about, the more people who he wanted to fight his crazy for.

But the worst truth was that if he did that, if he wasn't crazy anymore, Pippa would be all alone.

And that's something Jack couldn't ever do.

Jack hated the truth, because all it told him was that he couldn't be loved and he'd always be broken.

"Jack? Jack? Jack?! Oh, my, God. Oh, oh. Breath. Okay, one, two, three. Breaths. In and out. You can do it. Just lean against the wall –" It is Tooth's voice that pulls him back to reality.

"Aw, Toothie. Think you're having a bit more trouble than me," and Jack can even summon up a tired smile and a light titter. (It takes him more effort than it usually does, but he ignores that.)

Tooth gasps deep breaths of air in. She swallows. Vaguely, Jack becomes aware that he's crouching up against the wall to Guardian – and there's that little pang because the wall, right then, is the closest thing he has to Sandy and he doesn't want to care.

"I mean, really, he's fine. And when I say fine, it's not like I'm making light or lying, it's really more of a," Tooth is babbling and it's kind of cute so Jack is smirking instead of sobbing, but her voice dips, and it's different and she's sounds scared and Jack is too. "It's definitely malignant, and it's in his esophagus. Apparently, they can't get at with surgery, not without major risk."

Tooth's speaking in a way that's not quite mechanical and not quite normal, but somewhere in between that makes her sound really, really boring. Teachers, in Jack's opinions, are the only ones who have that voice down better than Tooth.

They probably practice every night. They probably have to demonstrate their boring voice at job applications, and the only way to guarantee you've got the job is to put the interviewer to sleep.

There's a laugh bubbling up at the back of Jack's throat, and he thinks of Sandy and it turns around and wraps itself into knots.

"It's been begin for a while. But they haven't been able to risk surgery because of where it is. Sandy's starting chemo today."

Jack wishes he could laugh, but his entire body seems to be working on those knots and getting tangled up and his head is aching and his legs feel weak and he can't stop caring and "I … I have to go."

"Jack? Jack!"

Jack fled.

...



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