The City Girl

Mother Knows Best

Riley's POV


I believe in superstitions and ghosts and luck. Maya thinks it's stupid but I truly believe things happen for a reason. I have my lucky gold pin (which ran out of luck when I came here), a pack of tarot cards I got from a middle school carnival back in New York, and my rabbit's foot. And ever since Lucas landed in a coma two months ago, I've been wasting all my hope on making sure he wakes up. I've even been making little bets with myself.

If two boys wear red shirts in class today, Lucas will wake up.

If it rains during math class, Lucas will wake up.

If Maya makes fun of me doing stupid bets, Lucas will wake up.

So far, all points say Lucas will wake up. But whenever I go to the hospital and visit him, he's still lying there, motionless. Occasionally, there's the flutter underneath his eyelids, the wiggle of his big toe, even the rare, optimistic groan. But then all his movements cease and he goes back to silence. I read him poetry and magazines every day after school, give him news about school (like the candlelit vigil Missy threw for him, yet she didn't invite me or any of Lucas's real friends), and even try to play a little music for him. Maya, Zay, Brandon, and Farkle often join me, but eventually the hospital just becomes too depressing for them to come. I'm the only one who still believes. Dr. Meyer tells me it could be any day now but weeks are passing and there's still nothing. All I could do is pin my lucky clover onto Lucas's hospital gown and stay there with him until the nurses kick me out after 8 pm.

"It takes a lot of optimism to still hope for Lucas," Maya comments as we walk around Austin. "I think that's what Lucas loved about you."

"I wonder if he stopped loving me," I mumble under my breath.

"Are you still blaming yourself for this?" Maya asks.

I slowly nod.

Maya slaps her forehead. "If Lucas could hear you now, he would be screaming at you. You're Riley, the most hopeful sixteen-year-old girl in Texas. If you lose hope now, Lucas will never wake up."

"I'm trying, but it's hard to be optimistic when you still remember Lucas screaming at you two months ago," I sigh.

"Are people still congratulating you for 'staying strong'?" Maya asks.

"I'm beginning to get sick of it," I laugh. "Why do complete strangers mourn for Lucas when they couldn't care less?"

"They believe they're being sympathetic, and people live for charity because it makes them look good," Maya says.

"What hypocrites," I mutter.

"Look at that," Maya says and she points to Lucas's front yard. In front of Lucas's porch was a gigantic shrine plastered with photos and candles. Flowers that had long gone wilted and baskets of presents surrounded it.

We march over to shrine and peer into the baskets. There were cigarettes (Lucas didn't smoke), stained letters of sympathy, and even little gifts of chocolates and cookies (most likely from children). Everything was addressed to either Lucas or Mr. Friar.

"Cute idea," Maya says, "Except for the fact that these things have been popping up everywhere."

"Lucas would love this," I giggle as I picked up a card read "I didn't know you existed but my mom made me write this."

Maya takes a box of chocolates and tastes one. She gags and says, "These people don't know Lucas at all. I—I mean, he hates coconut."

I begin to laugh and then another voice interrupts us.

"You're the one leaving this house."

Charlotte.

Another voice responds to her. "What makes you think I'm going to listen to you?"

Mr. Friar.

"This was always my house and you just invaded it eleven years ago," Charlotte refutes.

Maya and I look at each other in panic. We duck behind a bush when Mr. Friar opens the door. He carried a suitcase and a can of beer.

"Don't think this is the last time you see me," Mr. Friar snarls.

Charlotte smirks. "If you ever try to come back, I'm calling the police. You've been controlling me for fifteen years. I'm no longer your puppet."

She closes the door and Mr. Friar stares viciously at the Lucas shrine on the porch. He takes one of the cigarette packs and kicks at the framed photo of Lucas. He then takes his car and leaves.

Maya peeks her head out of the leaves and says, "It was that easy to kick him out?"

"I'm just glad he's gone," I say.

I look back into the house and see Charlotte unpack her bags. She wipes away at the blood on her ear which tells me that maybe kicking out her husband wasn't so easy after all.

"She's not that bad of a person," Maya says.

"She's human," I say. "Humans make mistakes, but we have the ability to fix them."

I could only hope that I can fix my mistake.

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