Chapter Five

It is Tuesday and Mrs. Cadwell is heckling me again.

"Did you send in the registration? The deadline is in a few days, you know. Also, if you can't go for a whole year, the semester, which is, of course half a year, deadline is in about two months. I really want you to go. You are a very smart kid, and you would be a good person to represent our school." She smiled at me and I nodded.

"My parents weren't really for the whole year, but they are thinking about the semester. I'll try to have it in as soon as possible." I lie, again. She nods, and moves to start class.

Sighing I open my book. I really had intended to pay attention in class today, but then she had to go and put that on my mind. Don't I have enough to think about? I wonder, how many things can you fit inside your mind until it explodes. That is, if you still can't access that like, half of your brain or whatever. I soon realize that I am also too restless to read, so I just one third pay attention, a third doodle, and a third think about things. There are a ton of posters spouting kindergarten crap, like 'You can't spell silence without listen' and 'Give your best and you'll get success!'. Meanwhile Mrs. Cadwell is blabbing about Julius Caesar, and how Cleopatra whore'd him up. I think it would have sucked to be his wife at that point. Sure he was really important and stuff, but while she stays home and is all faithful, hes out partying, lovin' up some other woman, and possibly having a child with her. Well, kudos to her... Calpurnia I think her name was. I would have smacked him dead flat (and probably be executed or something afterward.)

At lunch I realize Ronnie isn't there, so I have the freedom to talk, and to not feel suffocated by his presence. There is a plan being made in my head to get a picture of Anila. I figure I can just ask my dad if he has a yearbook. Genius, right?

The twins seem to notice how restless I am and ask me to join them after school for a game of kickball.

"We just barely have enough for two teams, and you would make it even." Ellie smiles. I promise them I will try to make it out, and I probably will. Not like I have some importantly busy life or anything.

I go through in my head when my mom comes home. Its usually around two to three days for the baby, and one for the mother, but since there were problems they want to keep them both there an extra day. That means in about two days I won't sleep again for about a year, until this thing stops crying, and I will never again have the privacy of both parents being out. One cold and relentless, the other worried and overprotective. I know, suddenly, I can just feel it, that if I don't get out of here, this town this state this country, then I will shrivel into a nonexistent being. Someone trapped, who's here, but not really. One way or another I will get to Greece. Even if I have to fight with my nails and teeth to do it.
I'm running, ear buds in, sweat dripping everywhere, when I get the feeling someone is following me. I turn quickly, but see no one, so go to investigate the alley a few steps away. I am breathing heavy when I whip around the corner and almost have a heart attack. Ronnie jumps out and scares me. An elder couple glances over concerned, but just keeps walking. His reward is a quick slap to the face. Then my breathing slows and my heart stops racing, and I blush, realizing who I slapped.

"If I had known you would do that, I just would have went for the straight approach." He grumbles. I shrugged.

"Hey, can I run with you? I'm bored, and need some exercise, and you are a hot, sweaty chick who's all lonely. I can give you some company." He winked and waggled his eyebrows. I rolled my eyes, flipped him off and started to run again.

"No, wait! I'm kidding. But seriously, Asili, can we please hang out? I really am bored, and I really do want to be your friend." I am a sucker for sincerity and he sounded so sincere, that I nodded quickly and we turned back to run to my house. He kept quiet the whole run back, waiting until he drank two cups of water to start.

"So, are your parents still at the hospital?" I nodded and laid down on the couch, making him take the chair. He seemed actually nervous, and let his act drop. When we were alone, it seemed, he turned into an actual bearable person. Not some irritatingly pushy bad guy.

"Well, was everything ok? I mean, I know things weren't going very well. I mean, I don't mean to pry, you don't have to tell me." He added the last part when I gave him an uncertain look. I shrugged. Got a piece of paper and wrote.

Everyone's fine. My sister probably has down- syndrome though

I hadn't really planned on telling him, but I figured, what the heck? Its not like its some secret.

"Oh... I'm sorry. You didn't have to tell me if you didn't want." He looked away but then gave me a big smile.

"But then again, you did tell me, so you must be starting to like me." He was graced with the ever popular eye roll. At this he laughed, "Okay, okay. I won't push it. So what do you do for fun? I mean, you seem like a person with some cool hobbies." I shrugged and wrote:

I like to read, can't really draw or write. Never actually tried an instrument.

"Well I play the guitar and the piano if you want to learn something. I could teach you anytime. I'll even do it for free, but I mean, if you insist on pay I could take it..." He winks, and I smile.

You would teach me the piano?

He laughs at my hopeful look and nods. We set up a date for the first lesson and I am too excited to care that I will probably regret this. I get tired of answering questions, so we go in the kitchen and I scour the kitchen for stuff to put in a smoothie. When the search ends I have a banana, a bag of grapes, some cherries, blackberries blueberries and raspberries, and some strawberries. I look at him quizzically, as if to say, what do you want in yours.

"Throw them all in." He grins, and I can't help but do it back.

In the end me and Ronnie are sitting on my couch, watching Scooby-Doo and drinking our jumbled smoothies. In that good moment when we're having fun and I'm actually enjoying myself, is when my dad decides its time to come home, bringing with him my loving mother and baby sister.

"Asili, who is this, and why is he in my house when no adult is home?" Mom asks coldly. I can't answer, just look at my hands in my lap.

"Answer me when I am talking to you."

"This..."My voice is low and scratchy so I clear it. Ronnie looks at me in surprise."This is my friend Ronnie."

"Well thank God we got home when we did. Who knows where this would have gone. What are you thinking acting like this?"

"I'm not a... a whore mom. We're just friends. I was lonely so I invited him over for a little. I'm sorry." She scoffed.

"I think I should go." Ronnie said quickly. "Goodbye Mr. and Mrs. Davids, sorry if I did anything to disrespect you. See you in school Asili." He left quickly. I glare at my mother. How could she act like that in front of anyone? I have never been so angry and embarrassed in my life. Tears threaten to spill over, and I run to my room. Then in my upset state it registers that drinking a smoothie is practically like eating, and the bathroom seems more fitting. That is why at seven at night I am leaning over the toilet with my finger down my throat.

While I am getting ready for bed, my dad slips in the room and sits on the bed, rumpling the bedspread.

"Honey, you're mother is very sorry for the way she acted this evening. You will have to excuse her, it was the pain medication they have her on. It makes her very irritable, and not quite aware of what she is saying. We can invite you're friend back over for dinner in a few days, when she isn't taking it so much. An apology dinner. But Asili, I still wholeheartedly agree with her. You may not have a boy over when there isn't another adult around."

"But dad, what if I like girls?" He glares at me.

"I'm being serious. But if that were the case then I would say no girls allowed over unsupervised." I tell him that that's fine and I won't invite a guy over without an adult. Finally I get him to leave, and snuggle under the sheets, thinking back on my day. Because of my parents, the no talking spell was broken. Ronnie now knows that I can speak, and he will probably never leave me alone about it. I can only hope that he won't remember my voice, at least. Or that the Ronnie he showed me, will stay and not turn back into the prick he usually is.

Jessamine starts crying then, and I get up to go to her, hoping that will help my mom to be nicer. When I get there, though, my dad is already rocking her, singing her a soft lullaby. I don't feel like a confrontation, so I creep back to my room. I can hear the hum of cars passing, and underneath all of that is the constant chirp of crickets. All of this is my lullaby, and I thank it as it sings me into a dreamless sleep.

~•~•~•~•~•~•~•~•~•~•~

When I get to school the next day Ronnie catches up to me almost immediately.

"Hey, I just wanted to say sorry for getting you in trouble, and I guess I kind of get why you don't want to talk. So I just want to tell you that you don't have to talk, and I'll pretend I don't know." I smile in relief and nod my head.

"Thank you." I say it under my breath, but he hears and smiles, then heads to his homeroom. He's now officially surprised me with the most kindness probably anyone has shown me in a while.

The skylight above the commons shows nothing but gray, promising a big storm. Everyone unconsciously hurries to their classes, the gloomy feeling dripping into their normal routine. That's why the halls are nearly empty as I rush to my locker. The secretary just called me in and said my dad was on his way. She refused to tell me why though, just said my dad wished to tell me himself. I was confused, not sure if I should feel dread or excitement. I settle on dread, so as to not be disappointed if it is bad. A million things could be wrong; the baby could have died, or something happened with my mother. My dad could have some deadly disease, or someone we are close to, like In the family could have done something horrible, or worse, be framed for something. Have I done anything wrong and they found out about it? I wonder. Shaking my head, I wander back to the office. No way to find out but to wait for my dad to say.

Hes sitting in one of those crappy orange plastic chairs with chunks mysteriously snapped off when I get back. He looks horrible, and I'm glad I decided to go with dread, not excitement. His eyes are bloodshot, and he has bags, his face looking older and more saggy than it should.

"Whats wrong dad?" I ask anxiously.

"Oh, the baby just kept me up all night honey." I gave him a doubtful look, but nodded. I knew he would tell me on his own time.

The car was whining, bumping along the narrow road. Wherever we were going, it had a lot of country to it. The fields that weren't already infested with little cornstalks, had miles of yellows and lavenders and a rosy like brown. I love wild flowers, and am a few times tempted to yell out to my dad to stop, because I just saw the most beautiful flower and need to pick it, but I don't think he'd appreciate that. On to more pressing matters, I lied. There are also now fields of dead grass and scraggly bushes, where cows roam, pooping on innocent plants, and infecting the air with its stench. We roll up the windows, but the smell seems to have gotten stuck in our noses, so we roll the windows down again, because hey, why have them up when we can still smell the poo. At least live in some form of comfort. Occasionally we pass an old farmhouse and barn, with big, brown horses outside of it. All this time, so many horses, and not on of the white. I've seen light tan ones, spotted ones, black ones, and brown ones. I wonder about that for longer than necessary, but there is nothing else out here to occupy my mind.

"Asili, honey, your mother is at the hospital. She started having bad stomach cramps in the middle of the night, then when you left for school she was throwing up and well, not feeling well. A little while after that, blood started coming out with the vomit." He bit his lip and looked worried.

"What about the baby?" He motioned the back seat, and I realized she had been back there the whole time. Her eyes were closed, and she wasn't crying, so I suppose she is sleeping. Her already dark brown hair curls slightly in small poofs, and her chubby hands are clenched tight.

As suddenly as we were in the country, we got shot out back onto the highway. About ten minutes of a million cars zooming past, we turned into the hospital parking lot.

"Dad, why is she at a different hospital than last time?"

"Oh, well apparently they didn't like what they found, and suggested this place. Told me it would be better suited for what she needs."

"Dad? Will she be okay?"

"Of course honey." He didn't though, look too convinced.

~•~•~•~•~•~•~•~•~•~•~

I spend all day taking car of Jessamine in the waiting room, while dad stays with mom. Occasionally him or a nurse will come out and spout big words at me that I pretend to understand. I don't really get why all medical related words have to be huge words that no one normal can understand. I get the basic gist, which is that the doctors missed something that went wrong, and now they have to fix it. That is about all I can gather from their useless prattle.

"Hey, I'm going to take you home now. We can stop and get something to eat on the way home. I can't stay overnight, but I can stay pretty late, so you'll probably be asleep when I get home. Come on." Dad summons me. We head out the heavy glass doors, and I briefly wonder why they are so heavy. Probably so some old patient doesn't try to escape. I imagine an old man running around the highway, his backside hanging out of the hospital gown, and I giggle.

"Dad, I really just can't eat right now. I'm too worried, It'll just come right back up." I am lying once again to dad. Well some of it is the truth. I am worried, and it will come right back up, but these things have nothing to do with the other.

"Well, ok. I understand that." He finally left me to my own devises and drove back to the hospital, while I went to shower. I stripped down to my underwear in front of the mirror, and opened my eyes fearfully. They were still there. The dreaded little pockets that ruined my figure, marking me fat and undesirable. In fact, they look like they have grown, instead of shrunk. I step onto the scale quickly, hoping, and at least get a better number. The dancing numbers rest on 96.4 and stop. I smile, and wonder how far down I'll have to go to get rid off all this fat.

Whatever it takes, I'll get there. Running, I know will help, so I put my clothes back on and prepare to sweat buckets.

Same as last time, in almost the same place, I am intercepted. By, of course, the same person.

"Hey, can we hang out today? It can be at my house if your parents aren't home." I breath heavily for a minute, then nod.

"I have to run for a little longer, but then I can head back to my house. Be there at 7? I'll cook dinner. My parents won't be home, but my dad won't be back til late."

"Is Asili Davids actually asking me on a date? Where she cooks me dinner? I couldn't miss this." I punch him in the arm and roll my eyes. "Well I don't want to get you in trouble. But why must you keep running? And what about your mother?" He's smiling, probably from the fact that I am willingly talking to him. I laugh.

"One at a time, jeez. I won't get in trouble. My mother is in the hospital." I cut him off with a glance when his face flashes concern and opens his mouth to fore off more questions. "And, I have to keep running because I have to lose weight." This makes him laugh.

"You're like, the skinniest person I know. Why would you need to lose weight?" I shrug.

"I'm in a wedding in a few weeks, and I gained weight since I got the dress, so now I need to lose it again, or I won't fit." It surprises me how easily the lies come, and how believable I can make them with so little time to think.

"Well, whatever mystery girl, I won't bother you further. See you at seven." He waggles his eyebrows and his finger, while trying to do some moonwalk type thing backwards, but trips over his feet. I laugh, and continue running.

~•~•~•~•~•~•~•~•~•~•~

At 7:15, you would find me sprinting to my house, hoping Ronnie will still be there. He is sitting on my doorstep, tossing gravel when I arrive red faced and sweating.

"Good evening your majesty, rough night?" I stick my tongue out and unlock the door.

"Hey, I am sweaty and I smell, so amuse yourself while I go shower." He sits down to watch TV While I take the fastest shower in know history. Five minutes later I am rifling through the kitchen to find something to make. Finally I just chop up some beef, and fry it with some mushrooms and onions. While that is cooking I make the ever handy instant mashed potatoes and kool aid. After this quick and painless dinner is made, I set a plate for one and bring it in to the living room.

"Ohh, that looks yummy. Where's yours?" He's eying his food like hes one step away from attacking me over it.

"I ate before I went running. Not very hungry now." He scrutinized my face.

"Are you sure this isn't you're whole diet thing gone too far?"

"I'm sure." I rolled my eyes at him. He shrugged, seeming to accept it, and resumed devouring his food.

"Is there any more?" He asked sheepishly.

"Yes, jeez. You act like you've been starved for three weeks."

"Actually... I had dinner before I came here." He grinned sheepishly, and I could only stare at him. Then I burst into hysterics.

"I... will...never...understand...men." I gasp out between my laughs. Of course because I'm already laughing, and not guarding myself, he deems it the perfect time to start stabbing me in the sides, making me shriek.

"Stop...tickling...me! I'm going to...pee...myself!" He slacks off a little, and I take my own opportunity to pounce on him, and do the same. I gain much satisfaction from the little girl shriek he gives. Finally we are both panting and have ceased fire. I then realize I am beside and practically on top of him. With so much grace I am wondering why I am not in ballet, I jerk back, and of course, fall off the couch. And smack my head off the end table. Really, Anna Pavlova would have been proud.

"Are you ok?" He leans over the couch with an anxious face. I nod, and his face lights up with a lazy grin. I roll my eyes, which seems to be becoming a signature move for me.

"Oh my God! You're head is bleeding. Where do you keep.. bleeding fixer things?" He says frantically. I hop up off the floor, but am not otherwise concerned, so I just mock him.

"'Bleeding fixer things'?" I raise my eyebrows. "Yeah, we have some of those."

"Well... Lead the way chief." He salutes me, then tries to hurry me, but of course he has no idea where hes going so he ends up pushing me the wrong way.

I get us going the right way, to the bathroom closet.

"Um... I guess we have to drip this anesthetic onto the wound. Wheres it bleeding from?" He shuffles through my hair, now slick with blood.

"Crap! I love this shirt and blood doesn't come out. Turn around!" I whip off my shirt, and stand there for a few seconds in my bra, unsure of what to do next. I finally find an old black sleep shirt in the dirty clothes basket.

"Ok, now look of the would. Wait.. should we get it to stop bleeding first?"

"I don't know! How do we do that? Why's it bleeding so much? Oh my God!"

"Ronnie! Would you stop freaking out? Please. Head wounds always bleed a lot. And I'm not sure, I think putting pressure on it helps. So Here... um, don't look at me!" I whip my shirt back off, figuring my bra isn't one of those showy ones, and it would be like him seeing me in a bathing suit. He takes it and presses it into the general area of the injury. I wince, but don't say anything. After a few minutes, he tells me that he thinks it might be done with at least the profuse bleeding.

"Well... Then put the anesthetic on it." He rifles through my hair again, and yells 'aha' when he finds the small gouge.

The anesthetic burns. And when I say burns, I mean, I almost cried. But of course for the sake of my own dignity I held it and settled for making pathetic whimpering noises.

"There, I'm done. I'm not really sure what else to do, I mean I can't really put a band-aid on it. So, I guess just try not to mess with it." I turn around to thank him, then realize I'm still not wearing a shirt. He blushes and turns around.

"I'm going to go get a new shirt from my room. I'll be right back." I run up the stairs and grab a sleep shirt that doesn't look too grungy. It is black and has pirates of the Caribbean on it.

"Well you look... interesting." Ronnie said helpfully when I got back downstairs.

"Oh, shut up. Listen, I don't know when my dad will be home, but you have to leave soon. And I have to go try and clean blood off the carpet. And think of a believable lie."

"Alright, my mom will be mad enough at me for walking home in the dark anyways." I walk him to the door.

"Hey, Ronnie? Could you still pretend you think I can't talk? Only in school though." He searches my face for a minute, then nods slowly.

"Of course. Anything you need, just ask." I nod, and give a small smile, and stand on the porch watching him walk down the road. His hand lifts slightly in a wave, and mine returns the favor. The night is cool with a small crescent mood, and a million stars in the sky. His shadowy figure fades suddenly into the night, but I don't budge. I am lost in thought, staring at where his figure disappeared for a long time. I finally shake the silly thoughts out of my head, and head back into the house.